To use or not use a published family history?

My father-in-law gifted me with his copy of “The Ellerbe Family History” by Ronald William Ellerbe, published in 1986. [1] The book is “a compilation and interpretation of all of the discovered references to the Ellerbys/Ellerbes/Ellerbees in America.”[2]   References are listed at the end of the book.  Specific references are not tied to each fact or story.  I consider the information as assertions and seek to prove, or not prove, those assertions.  In this post, I present background information and describe my research approach for the Ellerbee family tree.  Future blog posts will report selected findings related to specific people and families.

family history book image

The work of others is useful in genealogy.  The Board for Certification of Genealogists addresses the issue [3]:

“Genealogists ethically, lawfully, prudently, and respectfully use other’s information and products. . . . Their data collection includes (a) providing full attribution to the originator, (b) accurately representing the originator’s information, and (c) honestly assessing the information’s nature and significance.”

Another relevant concept is evidence correlation.  Compare and contrast items to “discover parallels, patterns, and inconsistencies, including points at which evidence items agree, conflict, or both.” [4]

Chapter 14 of the Ellerbe book outlines our branch of the family, i.e. those who spell the surname ELLERBEE. The book’s author believes that we descend from a John Ellerby, “who died in Anson County, North Carolina, in 1752.”[5]  Although not the author’s primary line, I commend his extensive reporting.  He described four branches of the Ellerbee family:  Upson County, Georgia; Bulloch County, Georgia; Burke County, Georgia; and Tishomingo County, Mississippi. [6] My husband’s specific branch appears to be the Burke County, Georgia, branch with the patriarch being John Ellerbee (1808-1884).

When I started working on the Ellerbee family tree, I relied heavily on the Ellerbe book.  Specifically, I copied names and dates.  Then, I hunted for sources.  Whenever possible, I linked sources to copied information.  I can verify much of the information reported by Mr. Ellerbe.  I added 30+ years of updated information to my personal family tree.  I remain impressed by the amount of work that went into this book, especially since the work predates the internet!

Now, as I begin to clean-up my Ellerbee family tree, I have decided to step back. Instead of using the book as ‘fact’ and attempting to prove those facts, I temporarily put that information aside.  Previously, I asked “Does this information fit what’s in the book?”  This may not be the best approach.  I need to look more critically at each piece of information.  A new set of questions emerge:

  • Does this piece of information fit other information ?
  • If so, how?
  • If not, what are the differences? Can I explain those differences?

After answering those questions, then compare information to what is in the book.

Pretend that I am the subject of a genealogy television show. Typing my father-in-law’s name (Jerry D. Ellerbee), birth year (1938) and birthplace (Texas) in a online genealogy database reveals:

  • Texas Birth Index for Jerry Donald Ellerbee[7]: born 16 January 1938 in Jefferson County.  Parents: James Dreebon Ellerbee and Clara Doris Simmons.
  • 1940 Census[8]: 2-year-old Jerry D. Ellerbee , grandson, and 25-year-old Doris Ellerbee living with head of household,   Walter Ellerbee, age 67, and  wife, Katherine D. Ellerbee, age 60.

Generation 2 & 3:  James Dreebon Ellerbee. Name from Texas Birth Index and interview with Jerry Donald Ellerbee.

  • Texas Death Certificate for James Drebon Ellerbee[9]. Born 30 March 1915 in Texas. Died 29 April 1973 in Lufkin, Angelina county, Texas. Parents: James Walter Ellerbee and Katherine Powell.
  • 1920 Census (closest to James Drebon’s birth year)[10]: Dreebon Ellerbee, son, age 4, born Texas, in Cherokee county, Texas with J.W. Ellerbee, head, 48, born Georgia; wife, Kate, 40, born Texas; 4 siblings and Wright R. Ellerbee, 44, brother of J.W. Ellerbee.
  • Texas Death Certificate for J.W. Ellerbee.[11] Died 9 September 1942. Born 7 December 1872, Georgia. Father: Jim Ellerbee. Mother: Elizabeth Hayes.

Generation 3 & 4:  Click on J. W. Ellerbee in 1920 census to find record closest to his birth year of 1872:

  • 1880 census[12]: 7-year-old James W. Eleby, son, born  Georgia, living in Damascus, Georgia, with Elizabeth A. Eleby, age 33, head, widowed, born Alabama plus 5 siblings and 67-year-old Moses Hayes (female), mother [of head of household, Elizabeth], born Georgia.  Suggests that  Elizabeth’s husband, Jim Ellerbee, died before 1880.

Generation 4:  Click on Elizabeth A. Eleby for next census record.

  • 1870 census[13]: Miller county, Georgia. John J. Eleby, age 31, born  Georgia; Elizabeth , age 27, born Georgia;  5 presumed children, ages 4 months to 11 years.

Clicking on John J. Eleby and Elizabeth Eleby yields no immediate hints.  Clicking on oldest presumed children, Sarah E. Eleby, age 11, and William G. Eleby, age 9, also yields no quick hints except to other online family trees. My initial quick search ends here.  Information gleaned from this quick search:

  • Jerry Donald Ellerbee. Born 16 January 1938 in Jefferson county, Texas. Parents: James Dreebon Ellerbee and Clara Doris Simmons.
  • James Dreebon Ellerbee. Born 30 March 1915 in Texas. Died 29 April 1973 in Lufkin, Angelina county, Texas. Parents: James Walter Ellerbee and Katherine Powell.
  • James Walter Ellerbee. Born 7 December 1872 in Georgia. Died 9 September 1942 in Wells, Cherokee county, Texas.  Parents Jim Ellerbee and Elizabeth Hayes.
  • Jim Ellerbee (a.k.a. John J. Ellerbee, possibly John James or James John), born about 1839 in Georgia. Wife, Elizabeth Hayes, born about 1843.
    • Ages of children in 1870 were 4 months, 2 years, 3 years, 9 years and 11 years. Possible explanation for gap of 6 years (about 1861 to about 1867) is Jim’s absence during Civil War.
    • Alternative explanation for gap: Elizabeth was Jim’s 2nd

With this information in hand, return to Ellerbe book, pages 14-41 to 14-45:

  • _____ Jerry Donald Ellerbee not mentioned.
  • 7977 Dreebon Ellerbee.  [Son of]
  • 7945  James Walter Ellerbee (1872 -1942) and
    • 7970 Kate _____________.
    • [James Walter son noof ]
  • 7917 James John Ellerbee (1836-1877) and
    • Elizabeth Hayes (2nd wife). Married 2nd November 9, 1865, Georgia. *New information suspected but not confirmed during quick record search.
    • 1st wife: Sarah Bailey, married 1858, Calhoun County, Georgia. Died ca. 1863. *New information not found during quick record search. To be confirmed.
    • [James John Ellerbee son of]
  • 7910 John Ellerbee (1808 – 1885) and
    • 7911 Martha ________, 1st wife
    • 7912 Elizabeth _______, 2nd wife
    • * Information about John Ellerbee and his wives did not pop up during my initial quick online search on one website.

Quick online search of first four generations followed same basic lineage as Ellerbe book.  Kate’s maiden name of Powell was added.  The rest of the information requires more research and sources.  I now have confidence in at least some information in the Ellerbe book.

For more information:

Published Family Histories: An Under-Tapped Resource by Susan Kriete, April 26, 2018.  https://www.nypl.org/blog/2018/04/26/published-family-histories

Finding and Using Published Genealogies by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, CG, No date.   https://www.genealogy.com/articles/research/77_carmack.htm

Using Published Genealogies by David A. Fryxell, August 2, 2011. Published in November 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine.  https://www.familytreemagazine.com/premium/using-published-genealogies/

Reflection:

I have encountered multiple published and private family histories. I approach each with some skepticism.  Sometimes, I work from the published history and attempt to connect my family to it. The desired connection isn’t always there.  I now try to look at each data set independently as I look for consistent and inconsistent information. Am I duplicating the works of others? Probably.  But, in the long run, I can identify consistencies and differences. Hopefully, my blog posts have enough detail so future researchers do not need to search for the same records.

What I learned:  Different approaches to work done by others.

What helped:  Ready access to online genealogy databases and a print copy of family history.

What didn’t help:  Trying to clear my mind and temporarily “forget” what is in the Ellerbe book.

TO-DO:  Continue critical examination of information related to this family in print sources.

SOURCES:

[1] Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, Maryland: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986).

[2]  Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. i.

[3] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy standards, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Ancestry.com, 2019), p. 16.

[4] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy standards, p. 27.

[5] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p. 14-1.

[6] Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, p.  14-2.

[7] Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, “1938 Births,” digital index, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed, downloaded, printed 15 July 2019), p. 561. entry for Ellerbee, Jerry Donald.

[8] 1940 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, pop. sch., , enumeration district (ED) 37-31, p. 14B, family #258, Jerry D. Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed & printed 15 July 2019); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll T627_4005.

[9] “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry  http://www.ancestry.com   : downloaded & printed 15 July 2019), entry for James Drebon Ellerbee; citing Texas Department of Health, Austin, TX.

[10] 1920 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, pop. sch., Justice Precinct 8, enumeration district (ED) 35, p. 14A, family #253, Dreebon Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.comhttp://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed 15 July 2019); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll: T625_1787.

[11] Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982, digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : downloaded & printed 15 July  2019, entry for  J. W. Ellerbee, citing Texas Department of Health, Austin, TX.

[12] 1880 U.S. Census, Early Co, Georgia, pop. sch., Damascus, enumeration district (ED) 026, p. 214A, family # 242, James W. Eleby [Ellerbee]; digital images, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 15 July 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T9, Roll 144.

[13] 1870 U.S. Census, Miller County, Georgia, population schedule, p. 15 (ink pen), family #120, John J. Eleby; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, viewed, downloaded 25 July 2019); National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.  microfilm publication M593_165.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2019

“Mother’s daddy was Clay Simmons”

“Here’s my mother’s parents—Clay Simmons and Deedie Bailey.”  My father-in-law, Jerry D.,  paused before the granite grave marker at Mount Hope Cemetery in Wells, Texas.  Having just begun doing genealogy, I feverishly wrote the information in my notebook.  We visited multiple graves that hot summer day in the late 1990s. This post describes, in chronological manner, what I discovered about Clay Simmons and his family.  Throughout the post, I reflect on how my research practices changed.

SimmonsClayDeedie11July2013MtHopeCemWellsTX009

Clay & Deedie Simmons grave marker.  Mount Hope Cemetery, Wells, Cherokee county, Texas. Picture taken by Jerry L. Ellerbee, 11 July 2013. [1]

 

Jerry D. recalled only that his maternal grandfather’s name was Clay Simmons. [2]  He did not know the names of Clay’s parents.  So, Simmons ancestry became my focus of inquiry in January 2013.  A scrapbook, presented to Jerry D. as a Christmas gift that year, described my findings.  My husband and I traveled to east Texas in July 2013 to search further.

Start with what you know. I began with Clara Doris Simmons and her father,  Clay Simmons.  A file review yielded previous online searches and a Texas death certificate for “H.C. Simmons”. [3] An early record shows the name “Richard”, followed by a question mark.  Was Clay’s other name Richard or one that begins with “H”?

Simmons_HC_b1885_d1946_DC

Disclaimer: This work was done PGDO (pre Genealogy Do-Over). I did a lot of point-click-save genealogy.  As I found documents, I printed and placed in a folder.  I did not keep a research log or a list of what records I found. Fortunately, most databases also printed names and  dates on the page.  I did not recognize the value of thorough and systematic record-keeping until much later!

In January 2013, I printed an online gravesite index which listed his name as “Henry Clay Simmons”. [4] I still needed proof.   Note:  We again visited his grave, among others, at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Wells, Cherokee county, Texas during our genealogy field trip.

A marriage record index entry for H.C. Simmons and Dedie Bailey offered little new information[5]. We obtained a copy of the original certificate on our genealogy field trip.  The certificate is now scanned and  in an acid-free sleeve.

Using “Clara Simmons” as key word, I had previously found 1930 census record for the family. [6]

Simmons, Henry C., head, age 43. 
Deedie D, wife, age 40. 
Lester, son, age 20. 
Otha F, daughter, age 18. 
Morris C, son, age 14. 
Clara D, daughter, 14. 
Mildred, daughter, age 13. 
William J, son, age 8.

“Henry C. Simmons”?  Yes, this could be Clay’s other name instead of Richard.  Maybe the online grave index entry was correct? I don’t have any notes about my initial review of this record. Did I even recognize his name? Now, I mark or highlight the name and write a note or analysis in research log. Notes include comments about the consistency or inconsistency of information.

Back another decade to the 1920 census, same county (February 2013):  [7]

  • Simmons, H.C., Head, M W, 34, M[arried], born Texas, father born Alabama, mother born Mississippi.
  • __________, Deedie, wife, F W 29, M[arried], born Texas, father born Texas, mother born Texas
  • _________, Lester, son, M W 9, S[ingle], born Texas
  • _________, Opal F, daughter, F W 7, S[ingle], born Texas
  • _________,  Morris, son, M W 4 6/12, S[ingle], born Texas
  • _________, Dorris, daughter, F W 4 6/12, S[ingle], born Texas
  • _________, Mildred, daughter, F W  3 2/12, S[ingle], born Texas.

Yes, Morris and Dorris are twins (confirmed by Jerry D)!  Their full names are Clay Morris and Clara Doris.  Information is consistent with marriage record, death certificate and 1930 census record.  To summarize, I had found:

  1. Known as Clay by family and friends
  2. Death certificate for H.C. Simmons, buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Wells, Texas. Known burial location for Clay and Deedie.
  3. Marriage record index: H.C. Simmons and Dedie Bailey.
  4. 1930 census: entry for Henry C. Simmons, Deedie, and children.
  5. 1920 census: entry for H.C. Simmons, Deedie, and children.

The search continued for additional documents with both names—Henry and Clay.  We found no new records during our field trip. Finally, Henry’s World War I Draft Registration card surfaced: [8]

Simmons_HC_b1885_d1946_WWI Draft regis_card

Richard can definitely be ruled out as part of Clay’s name.

I presented Henry Clay Simmons, a.k.a. H.C. Simmons, a.k.a. Clay Simmons  in a scrapbook dedicated to the Simmons family ancestry.  Jerry D. said that he had never heard his grandfather called “Henry” or even “H.C.”   After confirming the identity of  “H.C. Simmons”  from  the death certificate found years earlier, I traced the Simmons line from Texas to Georgia to North Carolina in the late 1700s. And, that is a story for another day!

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:

This year, I am reviewing and cleaning up files for families of  my in-laws.  As I pulled files for this story, I realized (again) how inconsistent my recordkeeping has been.  I do not always find chronological records in the exact sequence in which events happened.  In my opinion, keeping track of when you find a record is as important as placing that record within the person’s biographical timeline. Access to records change. Websites disappear or change names.  Records transfer from one agency to another.  Agencies move to another address.

What am I doing different?  Trying to be more systematic and thorough in approach.  I create research logs and/or fill out research checklists and individual worksheets more often.  I track the sequence in which I find records.

What I learned:  Reinforced previous experiences of person being called one name but having one or more additional names.  Keep complete records of all sources and include date on which you accessed the source. Take time with record and file clean-up process.

What helped:  Printed copies of sources and records in file.  Scrapbook done in 2013. Individual worksheets and research checklists begun in January 2017 but not complete.

What didn’t help: Incomplete record keeping and analysis.

To-do list:  Continue file clean-up.  Check scans of certificates. Place originals in appropriate BMD notebook.  Create Research logs for Clay and Deedie – DONE.

SOURCES: 

[1] Mount Hope Cemetery (Wells, Cherokee, Texas), Clay & Deedie [Bailey] Simmons; photograph by Jerry L. Ellerbee, 11 July 2013.

[2] Personal knowledge of [living] Ellerbee, shared with Susan Posten Ellerbee, daughter-in-law, ca. 2010-2011; handwritten notes in vertical file, Clay Simmons family, privately held by Ms. Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. Mr. Ellerbee stated his grandfather’s name of Clay as a fact.

[3]. Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, “Standard certificate of death,” digital images, Footnote (now Fold3) (http://www.fold3.com     : accessed, printed, downloaded 23 July 2011), entry for H.C. Simmons.

[4] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com    : viewed 30 January 2013), memorial page for Henry Clay Simmons, Find A Grave Memorial # 88689404, citing Mount Hope Cemetery (Wells, Cherokee, Texas), memorial created by Eleanor Baker.

[5] Marriage record for Mr. H.C. Simmons & Miss Deedie Bailey, (18 February 1909), Cherokee County Marriage Records: ; County Clerk’s Office, Rusk, Texas; obtained 11 July 2013.

[6] U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 6, enumeration district (ED) 37-34, p.3B (penned), dwelling 62, family 62, H.C. Simmons head; digital images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com     : accessed, printed & downloaded 2011); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T626, roll 2307.

[7],  U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, pop. sch., Justice Precinct 8, enumeration district (ED) 35, p. 6A (penned), family # 103, H C Simmons; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed & printed 22 March 2017); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T625_1787.

[8] World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1919,” digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed ,downloaded 2 December 2013), entry for Henry Clay Simmons; citing United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M1509.

©  Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots, 2019

 

Genealogy Do-Over: Month 1

This post is a summary of my plans and accomplishments for Month 1 of  my Genealogy Do-Over.  First question is:  how did I find out about the Genealogy Do-over?  As I remember (it has been 4 months now),  I knew that I needed to re-organize my genealogy files.  But, I wasn’t sure how or where to start.  The job seemed overwhelming with multiple family lines.  When I converted from Family Tree Maker to RootsMagic™ in January, 2016, I joined the RootsMagic facebook group.  Someone in that group mentioned the Do-Over and I went looking.  At last, structure and directions!

Focus for Month 1 is ‘Setting research aside’ and ‘preparing to research’ (Source: Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-over returns for 2017 ( http://www.geneabloggers.com/genealogy-month-1-january-2017 : accessed 2 Jan 2017).  You mean that I won’t actually be doing any genealogy research for awhile?  OK,  I’m in!   Goals:  organize files (digital & paper), review documents, list current research habits.

DISCLAIMER:  I adapted ideas from others.

Goal #1:  Organize files.

  1. Move scattered media files for each family tree to one location on computer.  Results:  Completed 16 Jan 2017.  Created a media folder for each family tree.  Moved media from various locations to respective media folders.   New research habit: place media item in appropriate media folder as soon as item is copied or downloaded.  Decide rule for naming  media items. Follow rule.
  2.  Color code paper files.  Results:   Purchased colored file folders in January, 2017.  Assigned color to each family tree (father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-IMG_0335law, nephew, brother-in-law).  Filing system:  direct line ancestors in colored folders; siblings, children, cousins, other non-direct line persons in manila folders with appropriately colored dots.   Completed conversion of  files for parents & parents-in-laws to new system as of today (13 April 2017).
  3.  Consistent paper trail for each family/ person.  So many choices!  I have multiple samples of family group sheets, research logs, tracking sheets, migration/ biography sheets.  Executive decision to use these forms:
    1.  5- generation pedigree.  Created from home person (father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in law) for each tree from RootsMagic.  Circled specific generation in the paper file and placed this as first page in each file.   Reason rapid identification of where this particular family fits.   Pedigree file example010
    2. Family Group Sheet: National Archives & Records Administration (NARA).  2- page (or front and back) form with space for 15 children.  Limitation:  No designated space to add compiler & date compiled.  I add this information at the bottom of the sheet.
    3.  Individual worksheet: Midwest Genealogy Center, Mid-Continent Public Library System, Missouri.  Fillable PDF.
    4. Research checklist:   Midwest Genealogy Center,Mid-Continent Public Library System, Missouri . Fillable PDF.
    5. Biographical outline:  Excerpted from The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook, copyright 1996 by Emily Anne Croom.  Used with permission of Betterway Books, a division of F&W publications, Cincinnati, Ohio.  Check your local library for a copy of this book

Goal #2:  Review documents.  Ongoing; subject for a later post.

Goal #3:  List current research habits that need repair:

  • Following leads wherever the search takes me.   Remedy:   Set specific objective for each session.  Stop when objective met.  Repeat as needed and as time permits.
  • Following rabbit trails (aka “bright shining objects” — Thanks, Thomas MacAntee for that insight!).  Remedy:  STOP.  Go to Remedy #1.
  • Inconsistent citations/ documentation of sourcesRemedy: Use RootsMagic source citation templates. (Note: deferred for now).  Buy Evidence Explained book (done); consult EE website as needed.     Document sources immediately.
  • Relying too much on online family trees.  Also, not  transferring data/ documents to RootsMagic trees. Remedy:  Use other resources.  Transfer data/ documents as soon as possible after review, ideally before ending session.
  • Rare use of research logs.  Remedy:    Locate or design research log format.   Test use of research log.  Outcome:  Decided to use research log created by Thomas MacAntee.  Test case:  subject for another post.

Enough for today! Enjoy your weekend!