Grandma’s middle name

What makes genealogists smile?  Many things. Finding an elusive record online or in a dusty archive is one.  Discovering who has the old family Bible is another. Determining first and middle names often yields surprises.  Jack’s given name is James John and Jack is a nickname.  Betsy’s birth name of Elizabeth is found in an unexpected place.  We constantly search for records to prove or disprove facts.  In this post, I describe the search and discovery of my paternal grandmother’s middle name.

Jennie_copy2_with caption


Jennie A. Richards is Dad’s mother. According to Dad, her middle name was Amelia. I vaguely recall him saying once that her middle name was Ash. Jennie was the youngest child of Ostrander Richards and Amelia Magdelenne LaCoe.  Jennie’s maternal grandmother was Sybil Rone Ash.  Either name makes sense. I don’t remember why I gravitated towards Amelia. Did Dad recite that name most often?

My husband and I attended the annual LaCoe family reunion in August 2017 at Clark’s Summit, Pennsylvania.  While there, a cousin asked about Jennie’s middle name. I related what Dad told me.  Older relatives thought that Jennie’s middle name was “Ash”.  Aunt Mary confirmed that her mother’s middle name could be “Ash.” I was sure that I had a record with Jennie’s middle name!

Back home, I went through my files and notes.  Nothing specific. Only “Jennie A. Richards” and “Jennie A. Posten.”  I emailed my cousin with those results. I added this item to my BSO (bright shiny object) list to be explored another day.

Two years go by and I complete multiple projects for other relatives.  I periodically check websites for information about the Posten family. I do not always search for anything specific. I prioritized another revision of the Posten family history (2012) [1] as a genealogy goal for 2020.  Five relatives have a copy of either the original or one of the three revisions.  I acquire more documents during the intervening years.  Through the Genealogy Do-Over process, my analytic skills improve.

I check hints, a.k.a. ‘shaky leaves’, on Ancestry. I start again with the most recent generation–Dad and his siblings.  A copy of  Uncle Lester’s birth certificate pops up. [2] Lester Joseph Posten was John and Jennie’s first child.  Not a transcript but a photocopy of the original document!  Imagine my surprise and delight when I see the following information on that document:

  • Full name of Child: Lester Joseph Posten
  • Date of birth: June 1, 1911
  • Father, full name: John Ray Posten
  • Mother, full name: Jennie Ash Richards

Lester’s full name and date of birth are not in dispute. I now have primary, first-hand evidence of middle names for both John and Jennie. John and Jennie provided the information for their son’s birth certificate.  Mission accomplished! Remove item from BSO list.  Add birth certificate information and scan copy to RootsMagic program. Send information to cousin who is revising LaCoe family history.

Charlotte Tucker- my maternal grandmother. I briefly reported discovery of my maternal grandmother’s middle name in a 2017 post.  I remembered hearing that Charlotte’s (a.k.a Lottie, ak.a. Gram) middle name was either Anna or Amelia.  Gram’s mother was Anna Klee.  When I received a copy of Gram’s birth certificate, I discovered that her birth name was Amalie Charlotte Maurer.[3]  Gram’s grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in the late 1850s. German children were often called by their middle name, not their first name. My database entry now shows Amalie Charlotte [Maurer] Tucker instead of Charlotte A. [Maurer] Tucker.  Census and other records show her as Charlotte or Lottie.



For some reason, I never doubted Grandpa Posten’s middle name. Dad told me that his father’s middle name was “Ray”.  I accepted Dad’s account without question. No one else asked about it. My cousin’s question at the reunion prompted a careful review of information.  Since then, I have been on the lookout for a document to confirm Jennie’s middle name. Searches have been sporadic. Similarly, I accepted mom’s explanation of her mother’s name.  I wonder if I just didn’t listen close enough!

What I learned: Keep looking! Return to online databases regularly for documents and information added since your last search. Don’t assume that a person’s name on census records is actually their first name. Collect BMD records for siblings of your direct ancestors.

What helped: Availability of documents online. Updating of databases by online sources. Family tree already posted to Ancestry by me.

What didn’t help:  Copying Jennie’s obituary again—I already have a copy in both digital and paper files.

To-do:  Consult files before copying documents. Enter new information and scanned documents to Roots Magic – DONE.  Send information to Posten cousin – DONE.


[1] Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, The Posten Family of Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1st edition, (Yukon, Oklahoma: Published by author, 2012). Tentative title of future editions:  Descendants of Thomas Postens, New Jersey to Pennsylvania.

[2] “Pennsylvania, Birth Certificates, 1906-1911,” digital images, Ancestry (     : accessed & printed 24 January 2020), entry for Lester Joseph Posten; citing Pennsylvania (State). Birth certificates, 1906-1911. Series 11.89. Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

[3] New York, New York City Department of Records and Information Services, birth certificate 5947 (28 May 1892), Amalie Charlotte Maurer; Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers Street, New York, N.Y. 10007. Photocopy of original certificate obtained in 2017 by Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, Charlotte’s granddaughter.

Catherine Deborah Brown Powell Barker: Part 5. Blended family series-Powell, Brown, Barker

Twice wed, twice widowed, twice stepmother to another woman’s chlldren and mother of six.  Those words summarize the matrimonial life of Catherine D. [Brown] Powell Barker. This post is the fifth (and last) in this series about one blended family in my husband’s family tree.  Catherine was second wife of James Thomas Lafayette Powell; Catherine and James are my husband’s great-great-grandparents on his dad’s side.venn diagram_blended family_copy2

Briefly, James T.L. Powell fathered three children with his 1st wife, Deborah Daniel. His 2nd wife was Catherine Deborah Brown, the subject of this post. James died in 1890, leaving Catherine a widow with 3 living children aged 2 to 11 years. Elias Barker fathered six children with his 1st wife, Launa Barber. Elias and Catherine married in 1892 and brought three more children into the world. Catherine is the one person held in common by all of these children.

PROFILE: Catherine Deborah Brown

BORN:    19 November 1860, Mississippi (possibly Simpson county)

MARRIAGES:  1st–22 March 1877 to James T.L. Powell at Cherokee county, Texas. James died 1890 at De Soto, Louisiana. 2nd – 1 September 1892 to Elias Barker at Cherokee county, Texas. Elias died 20 August 1900 at Cherokee county, Texas.

DIED:     10 March 1944, Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas

BURIED: Mount Hope Cemetery, Wells, Cherokee county, Texas

PARENTS:  R.L. Brown & Marguerite Puckett (as named on Catherine’s death certificate)


1861 – 1865:  Civil War. Catherine and her parents lived in Mississippi. Relatives fought on the side of the Confederacy.

30 March 1870 – Texas readmitted to the Union.

October 1870 – Brown family moved to Cherokee county, Texas.

1870s to 1930s – agricultural growth, especially cotton in Cherokee county. Railroad expansion meant that smaller towns disappeared. Sawmill towns proliferated in East Texas.

1930s- farming declined in the area although cotton is still a significant crop. Timber and cattle becoming more prominent.


Catherine barely remembered her life before Texas. She called Cherokee county, Texas, her home for 60 years and that’s where she is buried. Married at 17 to a widower with 3 children,  life revolved around her husband, James Powell, children and step-children.  She loved them all.  She bore the loss of at least one child, possibly two. Then, unexpectedly, James died in 1890. Catherine, only 30 years old, became a widow with three young children to raise. The next years were difficult for the family.

Elias Barker’s family lived near James and Catherine. Remember, ‘near’ in the 1890s meant within a mile or two or on the next farm. When Elias’ wife, Launa, died in 1892, Catherine may have attended the funeral.  However they met, Elias and Catherine married in September 1892 and another blended family was born.  Three children were born to this union: Reba Barker in 1893; Ernest Emory Barker in 1896 and Alpha M. Barker in 1898. Their happiness was short-lived. Elias Barker died in August 1900, only months after the Twelfth Census of the United States.  Ten years after the death of her first husband, Catherine again found herself a widow with young children to raise.

During the next years, the family moved from place to place. 1910 found Catherine as head of household in Wildhurst, Cherokee county, “one of the many sawmill towns in East Texas,”  with her three children by Elias Barker.  Sometime after this, she became dependent on her children.  In 1920, Catherine lived with her son, William Powell, in Alto, Cherokee county,  Texas.  Between 1920 and 1930, she moved to Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, with her daughter, Reba Barker Dennis.  They moved back to Texas by 1935 and resided in Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas in 1940.

Children of Elias Barker and Catherine Brown Powell:

  1. Reba ‘Bertie’ Barker. (5 August 1893 – February 1990). Married Joe Mavert Dennis. Reba and Joe had two children: Lilly Kathryn Dennis (25 March 1915 – October 1993), married in 1935 to Alton G. Hall (1904 – 1985);  Joseph M. Dennis JR (12 September 1923 – 17 November 1999), married to  Betty F. Thomas ( 1924- 2016 ).
  2. Ernest Emory Barker (17 February 1896 – 23 October 1965). Married 4 May 1919 to Willie Etta Mae Chilcoat (1902-1944). Children of Ernest and Willie Etta: Norma Kathryn Barker Carlin (1921-2016); Clara Inez Barker Kelly (1924-2011); Edith Mae Barker Meadows (1926-1996); Billie Nell Barker Benoit (1928 – 1997); James Reginald Barker (1930-1992); Roy Milton Barker (1935 – 2006); Reba Sue Barker Tomplait (1939 – ? ).
  3. Alpha M. Barker (6 September 1898 – 19 March 1991). Married about 1921 to Sherman Albert McCoy (11 Dec 1895- 8 August 1966). Children of Alpha and Sherman: Albert Merle McCoy (1921-1968); Billy O. McCoy (1924 – 1925); Donald Ray McCoy (1938-2007).

Mrs. Catherine Barker died on March 8, 1944, in Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas at the age of 83 years, 3 months and 20 days. Cause of death? Uremia, an elevated level of waste products in the kidneys, usually the result of chronic kidney disease.  She is buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery at Wells, Cherokee county, Texas, near Elias Barker.  Interestingly, her gravestone shows her name as “Kathryn”.  She signed her name as “Mrs. Catherine Barker” on her Widow’s Pension Application and “Catherine” is the spelling that I use.

Journeys taken by Catherine Brown Powell Barker:

About 1870:  Simpson county, Mississippi to Cherokee County, Texas – about 360 miles

1870 to 1920:  Within Cherokee County, Texas – about 10 to 15 miles for each move

Between 1920 &  1930:  Alto, Cherokee County, Texas to Homer, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana—about 180 miles

Between 1930 & 1935:  Homer, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana to Port Arthur, Jefferson County, Texas – about 245 miles

1944:  Port Arthur, Jefferson County, Texas to Wells, Cherokee County, Texas – about 145 miles




This series represents work that began in 2011. I added some details in 2017 and more as I wrote.  Confession time–I consulted more sources than are listed here. I was not as obsessive about listing each source separately. Why? No specific reason. I have the documents and references in my paper and digital files. If you want or need a more complete list, I will provide it to you.  Future posts will revert to  more comprehensive source lists.

What I learned:  There are multiple stories for each person. I enjoyed writing the stories as I tried to personalize the events in each person’s life.  Call the stories ‘historical fiction’ if you like. I don’t have evidence to support parts but the stories are based on real events.

What helped:  Previous work on the Ellerbee family. Semi-complete paper files. Entering information to Roots Magic. Catherine’s middle name from death certificate of daughter, Katherine Deborah Powell Ellerbee.

What didn’t help: Incomplete information about some of the children in each nuclear and blended family.

To-do:  Continue to follow collateral lines at some point in future.  Search for picture of Catherine Brown Powell Barker.  Consolidate all 5 parts into a cohesive document and send for publication in local or state journal.  Consider a ‘process’ post about how I put information together.  Explore Catherine’s connection (1910 census) to Wildhurst, Texas, a town that ceased to exist after the sawmill closed in 1944.


Jefferson county, Texas, death certificates, death certificate #14269 (1944), Mrs. Catherine Barker, 8 March 1944; digital images, Ancestry (  : accessed & downloaded 9 November 2017); citing Texas Department of State Health Services, “Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982”, Austin, Texas.

Catherine Brown & J T L Powell:  “Texas, Marriage Index, 1824-2014,” database, Ancestry (   : accessed 1 February 2020), entry for J.T. L. Powell and Catherine Brown; citing Texas Department of State Health Services and county marriage records on microfilm located at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Catherine Barker widow’s pension: “Widow’s Application for Confederate Pension”, 8 February, 1932, Catherine Barker, widow’s pension application no. 50567,service of James Thomas Lafayette Powell (lieutenant, Co. C, 25th Regiment Georgia Infantry, Civil War); “U.S. Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958,”   Ancestry (   : accessed,downloaded, printed 29 Nov 2012)  citing Texas, Confederate Pension Applications,1899-1975, Vol. 1-646 & 1-283, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.

“Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909 and 1966-2002,” database, Ancestry (   : accessed and printed 29 November 2012), entry for E. Barker and Mrs. Catherine Powell, 25 September 1892; citing Texas Department of State Health Services and county marriage records on microfilm located at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 8, enumeration district (ED) 0030, p. 1B (ink pen) & p. 2A, dwelling 16, family 16, Catherine Booker [Barker]; digital images, Ancestry (   : accessed, downloaded 9 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T 623, Roll 1619.

1910 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Wildhurst, enumeration district (ED) 24, p. 1A (ink pen), dwelling 5, family 5, Catherine Barker head, age 48; digital images, Ancestry (   : accessed, printed, downloaded 11 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T624_1538.

1920 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Alto town, Justice precinct 2, enumeration district (ED) 21, p. 6B (ink pen), dwelling 127, family 131, Barker Katherine, mother, age 62; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed, downloaded, printed   11 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T625_1786.

1930 U.S. Census, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Homer City, enumeration district (ED) 14-16, p. 7B (ink pen), dwelling 145, family 146, Borker [Barker] Kathyrn, mother, age 69; digital images, Ancestry (   : accessed, printed, downloaded 11 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T626.

1940 U.S. Census, Jefferson county, Texas, population schedule, Port Arthur, enumeration district (ED) 123-100, p. 15A (ink pen), dwelling 331, Barker Catherine, age 79; digital images, Ancestry  (       : accessed, printed, downloaded 11 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T0627_04079.

Find A Grave memorials for Reba Barker Dennis, J.M. Dennis, Lilly Kathryn Dennis, Alton G. Hall, Joseph M. Dennis, JR ; Emory Ernest Barker, Billie Nell Barker Benoit; accessed November 2019 through January 2020.

Texas Birth Index entries for Reba Sue Barker, Lilly Kathryn Dennis; accessed January 2020.

John R. Ross, “Cherokee county”, no date, Texas State Historical Association (   :   accessed 15 Jan 2020).

“Wildhurst, Texas,” no date, Historic Texas (  :   accessed 2 February 2020).

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots, 2020