Momma moves in

A parent moves in with one of the children. Generally, the move comes after their spouse dies. Safety and/or health reasons often precipitate the move.  Other times, financial well-being is a major consideration. Loneliness can be another factor.  Any combination of these or other reasons occur.  Genealogists look for residence patterns. Does the older person stay with one child or appear in different homes? What prompts the move to one place or another? These are the family stories to be explored and told.  In this post, I give two examples from our family tree.

Census and other records show an older person living with a younger person. When there are 20 or more years difference in ages, we often guess that the older person is a parent of the older relative. Did the older person move in with the younger person? Did the younger person move in with the older person?  What factors determined the action?

EXAMPLE #1: Unmarried child as designated caregiver for older parent

Wright Roswell Ellerbee, born in 1875, was 6th of seven children born to James John Ellerbee and his 2nd wife, Elizabeth Hayes. James John died in December 1877[1], leaving his wife with 6 children and her aging parent, Moses Hayes in Georgia. [2]  Within a few years, Elizabeth joined her stepson, William Green Ellerbee, in Cherokee county, Texas.  The 1900 census [3] shows 24-year-old Will [Wright] R. Ellesbee [Ellerbee] as head of household with his mother, 58-year-old Elizabeth and his brother, Asa, age 23.  Next door lived  Wright’s brother, James Walter Ellerbee, and his family.

Roles reversed for the next census. E. Ellerbee, widow, is now listed as head of household with Wright, her 35-year-old son. [4]  Again, the two brothers, Wright and James, lived close to each other.  Elizabeth died in 1917.[5]  Wright continued to live with his brother, James Walter Ellerbee, until Wright’s marriage about 1934 to Effie Susan Wesley.[6]  Wright delayed marriage while his mother was living and did not marry until he was in his 50s. Wright died in Cherokee county, Texas in December 1940 at the age of 65. [7]

Wright Roswell Ellerbee was the only unmarried child. Did he remain single from a sense of responsibility for his widowed mother?  He lived with his brother, James, for about 15 years after the death of their mother.

EXAMPLE #2:  Parents living with child, widow remains with same child

Mary Ann Selman Holcomb, age 64 and her husband, 79-year-old George Creager Holcomb, were recorded as living with their son, Garrett, in 1900.[8]  After George’s death in 1902, [9]  Mary Ann remained with Garrett, his wife, Minnie, and their seven children according to the 1910 census.  [10]  Presumbly, Mary Ann lived with Garret until her death in 1913 in Cherokee county, Texas. [11]

When did Mary Ann and George move in with Garrett? Garrett married about 1892. He and Minnie may have moved in with his parents or vice versa.  George’s advancing age likely determined this living arrangement .  Was Garrett living on the family homestead or in the family home? Did George and Mary have a closer relationship with Garrett than other children? Answers to these questions remain speculative. A will, probate file and cause of death for George Creager Holcomb may give clues.

I recall seeing other examples on our family trees, such as:  

  • Adult child moves in with parent after death of other parent. Sometimes this child was a widow or widower, with or without children.
  • After death of spouse, remaining parent moves in with child
  • Widow/ widower moves from home of one child to home of another child


My examples give only the barest facts.  I plan to expand on these facts later.  To tell the story, follow journalistic guidelines and search widely:

  1. Who is the parent? Who is the child? Is the child oldest, youngest or in-between? Later census records show relationship between the head of household and others. In some cases, a parent is listed as a ‘boarder’.  An older person with a different surname is most likely to  be the wife’s parent but could be a relative of either spouse.
  2. What reason is suggested for the move? What is the child’s marital status? What are the ages of both the parent and child?
  3. When did the move occur? Estimate the time frame. Look for those wonderful newspaper tidbits – “Mrs. Mary Jones visited her daughter, Wilma Stone, this weekend then returned to her home in Wabash where she lives with her son, Phillip.” Obituaries give clues – “Mrs. Mary Jones died yesterday at the home of her son, Philip, where she had been living for the past 5 years.”
  4. Where were both parent and child living before the move? Where are they living now? Look for similar addresses.
  5. Why did the move occur? Consider elderly parent’s age, declining health, no longer being able to work, financial status. Look for cause of death as reported on death certificate as a clue. Is the child the only one still living on the family farm or in the family home? Consider this clue- “The daughters of Philip Jones are the 4th generation to live in the family home.”
  6. How did the move occur? Was it a fairly simple matter of moving some furniture from one place to another place in the same community? What type of transportation would have been used – wagon, car, truck, train, other?  Consider the effort of downsizing and the effects on the whole family.

In summary, look beyond the basic facts of an elderly person, or other relative, living with a younger person. If the census does not give relationships, consider whether the older person is really the parent of the younger person. Delve deeper into these stories to enrich your family’s story.  Even a best guess may have some truth in it!

For additional information about writing a story, read this article: How to write like a journalist


The topic for this post came as we prepare a room in our home for my mother-in-law. My father-in-law died last year. Since then, my mother-in-law requires more help to care for her home.  She maintains most of her self-care.  Social isolation associated with Corona virus accelerated her decision. Yes, my mother-in-law and I get along. Both of my parents are deceased.

As usual, as I write for my blog, I make progress on cleaning up paper and digital files. Five census records, 3 cemetery records, 2 marriage records, 1 death record done and 100s to go! This post helps me to do more than simply recite facts.  

What I learned:  Aging parents living with children was not uncommon. In one case, the parent lived with a different child over a 30-year period (3 decennial censuses). I have to look through all of my files to find that one again!  I realize that there is more to each story than what the census records tell.

What helped:  family tree with names and dates already recorded. Sources listed for facts.

What didn’t help:  Incomplete citations.  Not all information in the records had been transcribed to computer-based family tree.  

TO-DO:  Include living arrangements and my best guess in notes.  Write stories that go beyond the facts. Begin journal about current move.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2020


[1] Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986), pp. 14-42 & 14-43.

[2] 1880 U.S. Census, Early Co, Georgia, pop. sch., Damascus, enumeration district (ED) 026, p. 214A, family #, Elizabeth Eleby; digital images, (  : accessed, downloaded, printed 4 September 2011); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. NARA Roll 144..

[3] 1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, pop. sch., Justice Pct 8, enumeration district (ED) 30, p. 284A (printed), Family #22, Wright Ellerbee (head); digital images, (  : downloaded & printed 4 September 2011); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll: T623_1619..

[4] 1910 U.S. Census, Cherokee County, Texas, pop. sch., , enumeration district (ED) 24, p. 14B, family #272, E. Ellerbee, head; digital images, ( : downloaded 2012); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., Microfilm publication T624_1619.

[5] Find a Grave. Elizabeth Ellerbee. Find A Grave, database and images (  : viewed 8 August 2020), memorial page for Elizabeth A Hayes Ellerbee, Find A Grave Memorial # 35222677, citing Mount Hope Cemetery (Wells, Cherokee, Texas), memorial created by Wanda Karr Ellerbee, photograph by Wanda Karr Ellerbee..

[6] Marriage of Wright Roswell Ellerbee to Effie Susan Wesley estimated from 1940 Census showing Wright, wife Effie and son, Omar Lee, age 5.

[7] Texas Death Index. “Texas Death Index, 1903-2000,” digital images, Ancestry (  : accessed 8 August 2020), entry for Ellerbee, Wright Roswell; citing Texas Department of Health, State Vital Statistics Unit, Austin, TX.; page 7166, certificate no. 54106.

[8]  1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Alto, enumeration district (ED) 20, p. 13A, dwelling 221, family 227, George Holcomb age 79; digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed 8 August 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T623_1619.

[9]  Find A Grave, database and images (  : viewed 8 August 2020), memorial page for George Creager Holcomb, Find A Grave Memorial # 32434400, citing Shiloh Cemetery (Alto, Cherokee, Texas), memorial created by Susan Harnish, photograph by Denise Brown Biard Ercole.

[10]  1910 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Alto, enumeration district (ED) 0014, p. 20A, dwelling 367, family 371, Mary Ann Holcomb age 74; digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed 8 August 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T624_1538.

[11]  Find A Grave, database and images (  : accessed 8 August 2020), memorial page for Mary Ann Selman Holcomb, Find A Grave Memorial # 01196611 , citing Shiloh Cemetery (Alto, Cherokee, Texas), memorial created by Judy Murphy, photograph by Judy Murphy.

Who’s the Daddy (of Thomas Postens)?

My brother and I have an ongoing debate. Who is Thomas Postens’ father? My brother believes that his name is William. I believe that his name is Richard.  Thomas is our earliest known ancestor. Born in New Jersey in 1782, Thomas died and is buried in Pennsylvania. This post summarizes evidence for both sides of the debate.

Thomas Postens was born near Englishtown, Monmouth County, New Jersey on 14 July 1782.  Three sources support this assertion.  First, a 1908 newspaper article about Posten family reunion reported this information. [1] The history was compiled by John Posten, grandson of Thomas Postens and son of James Posten, Thomas’ youngest son. This is a secondary source with indirect information.  Second, the 1850 census shows Thomas Postens in Hamilton, Monroe county, Pennsylvania. [2] This primary source shows Thomas’ age as 68 (consistent with birth year about 1782) and birthplace as New Jersey.  The information is possibly direct, i.e. reported by Thomas to the census taker.  Third, Thomas’ gravestone in the Friends Burial Ground at Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania, is engraved with his birth and death dates. [3]  The assertion about Thomas’ birth at New Jersey in 1782 is, therefore, certainly true. The exact township and county of his birth are apparently true.   

With this information, I pose my first question:  Did Richard Postens and/or William Postens live in New Jersey in the 1780s?  Evidence was found in tax records for New Jersey dating from 1780. [4] (Note: I recorded names as spelled on the records). Specifically,

  • Records for Richard:
    • 1780 – Richard Paeston, Newark Township, Essex county, New Jersey
    • 1780 – Richrd Posten, Freehold Township, Monmouth county, New Jersey
    • 1781 & 1782 – Richard Postens Freehold Township, Monmouth county, New Jersey
    • 1784, 1785, 1786- Richard Postins, Freehold Township, Monmouth county, New Jersey
    • 1789- Richard Postens, Freehold Township, Monmouth county, New Jersey
    • 1790- Richard Postins, Freehold Township, Monmouth county, New Jersey
  • Records for William:
    • 1779 – William Postens, Dover Township, Monmouth county, New Jersey
    • 1781, 1782, 1784, 1785, 1786, 1789-  William Postens, Freehold Township, Monmouth county, New Jersey

Another contender, Charles Postens, also paid taxes in Monmouth county, New Jersey in 1779, 1781 and 1782. This man was ruled out as Thomas’ father based on the Revolutionary War Pension application[5], filed by his wife, Hannah in 1842. In her statement, Hannah reported one son, “born just previous to the breaking out of the war whose name was William who died in the City of Philadelphia sometime in the winter of 1809 and left a widow whose name was Mary Postens.”

Analysis:  Both Richard Postens and William Postens lived in Monmouth county, New Jersey, circa 1782, the date of Thomas’ birth.  Freehold, New Jersey, and Englishtown, New Jersey, are about 10 miles apart.

Question 2: Where did Richard Postens and William Postens live in 1790?

According to New Jersey tax records, Richard remained in or near Freehold, New Jersey.  The 1790 U.S. Census shows William Poste in Bucks county, Pennsylvania. [6]  The record lists one free white male under 16, one free white male 16 and over and 4 free white females.  Birth year estimate for the younger male is between 1774 and 1790 and the older male was born before 1774.  A similar census record for Richard has not been found. 

Analysis:  William Postens in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, circa 1790, had a son born between 1774 and 1790.  William’s former residence is not known from this record.  Richard Postens still lived in New Jersey in 1790.

Question 3:  Where did Richard Postens and William Postens live in 1800?

The 1800 U.S. census shows Richard Postens in Lower Smithfield, Northampton county, Pennsylvania. [7] The family consisted of: one male under 10, 1 male aged 10 thru 15, one male aged 16 thru 25, one male 45 and over, 1 female under 10, 1 female 10 thru 15, one female 16 thru 25, and one female 26 thru 44.  Birth year for male, aged 16 thru 25, calculates as between 1775 and 1784.

William Posty is listed in the 1800 census for Springfield, Bucks county, Pennsylvania.[8] This family consists of one male, aged 10 thru 15 (birth years 1795-1790), one male aged 16 thru 25 (birth years 1775-1784), 2 females aged 16 thru 25 (birth years 1775-1784) and 1 female aged 45 and over (birth before 1755).  With no males born before 1774, this William Posty is definitely not the same person as William Postens recorded on the 1790 census. Since only heads of household were recorded, the oldest male is probably William.

Analysis: Richard Postens in Northampton county, Pennsylvania, circa 1800, had a son born between 1775 and 1784. William Posty, age between 16 and 25, is probably the head of a household in Bucks county, Pennsylvania. That William is the son of William Postens from 1790 census is plausible but needs to be tested.

Conclusion:  Based on these records, neither Richard Postens nor William Postens can be ruled out as father of our Thomas Postens.  Both men apparently lived at Monmouth county, New Jersey, reported birthplace of Thomas, in the early 1780s. Census records suggest that both men had a son born between 1774 and 1790.  A search of New Jersey Quaker records may yield new information.

ADDENDUM: A few other records hold clues but don’t seem to answer the question of Thomas’ parentage. Marriage records of the Dutch Reformed Church at Monmouth county, New Jersey indicate a 1770 marriage for Richard Prest and Jenny Van Der Rype and a 1771 marriage for Wm Posty to Anne Coovort.  [9]  From the New Jersey Index of Wills, William Postens Jr died in 1794 leaving his wife, Anney, as administratix. [10] Is this the same William Posty who married Anne Coovort in 1771? Is this the same William Postens who paid taxes in Monmouth County from 1779 through 1789?  Could this couple, William and Anne, be Thomas’ parents?  Is it possible that our Thomas migrated to Pennsylvania with a relative? If so, did he live with a Postens family or another family? All of these are intriguing questions.


I have gone over these records multiple times. I keep searching online databases for new information.  I am beginning to think that only a trip to Monmouth county, New Jersey, would yield new information.  I seem to be no nearer the truth than I was 10 years ago.

What I learned:  I was so certain that Richard had to be Thomas’ father!  The evidence is not clear. Either Richard or William could be Thomas’ father. Consider also that Thomas’ father could be another person entirely!

What helped: extensive records and notes in both paper and digital files. As usual, writing the post put things into perspective.

What didn’t help:  scattered notes, undated items.

To-do:  Keep looking! Keep detailed, extensive notes. Date each item as I find it.  Review files periodically.


[1] “Posten Family Reunion,” The Wilkes-Barre Record, 11 September 1908; online images, ( : accessed & printed 18 August 2017).

[2]. 1850 U.S. Census, Monroe county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamilton, p. 17B, dwelling 220, family 220, Thomas Portons [Postens]; digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed, downloaded, printed 1 July 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M432_798.

[3]. Friends Burial Ground (Stroudsburg, Monroe, Pennsylvania), Thomas Postens, stone marker; photographed by Jerry L. Ellerbee, 14 August 2017.

[4] “New Jersey, Compiled Census and Census substitutes Index, 1643-1890, “ database, Ancestry (  :  accessed  8 June 2020). Entries for Richard Postens, William Postens, William Poste and Charles Postens.

[5]. “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files,” , database with images, Fold3 (  :  accessed 1 July 2020), Charles Postens, New Jersey, W3157; citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M804, roll 1957.

[6] 1790 U.S. Census, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, no town given, page 112, line 5, William Pofte[Poste]; digital images, Ancestry ( : viewed & downloaded 30 January 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M637, roll 8.

[7] 1800 U.S. Census, Northampton county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Lower Smithfield, p. 618, line 24, Richard Postens; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed & downloaded 29 May 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M32, roll 37.

[8].1800 U.S. Census, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Springfield, page 282, image 124, line 22, William Posty; digital images, Ancestry ( : viewed 13 June 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M32, roll 282.

[9] Holland Society of New York,  “U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989: Freehold and Middletown, Part 1, Book 61A,” digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed & printed 29 March 2020), pg. 270, entry 111, Richard Prest to Jenny Von Der Rype; citing Dutch Reformed Church Records from New York and New Jersey, The Archives of the Reformed Church in America, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

[10] “New Jersey, Abstract of Wills, 1670-1817,” digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 July 2020), pg. 287, entry for 1794, Oct. 18. Postens, William, Jr.; citing New Jersey, Published Archive Series, First Series (Trenton, New Jersey: John L. Murphy Publishing: no date); New Jersey State Archives.

A different standard for remembering Union and Confederate veterans?

“The ladies. . . decided to lay a few stems for those men, too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American.”  –

President Barack Obama, 2010 Memorial Day Address, relating an event in 1866 when women of Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

“It is estimated that one in three Southern households lost at least one family member.”

“Civil War Casualties: The Cost of War: Killed, Wounded, Captured and Missing,” American Battlefield Trust : accessed 9 July 2020.

Yes, soldiers on both sides were Americans. Each side carried a different flag. So, why can’t we honor each one with the appropriate flag?  Our family tree has both Union and Confederate soldiers in it.  I feel that recent protestors want us to forget our Confederate ancestors. We can’t change our ancestry. We can’t change the choices they made. We can try to understand the societal and historical events that shaped their lives. I believe that history lessons should include both good and bad as well as divergent viewpoints.  This post is my reaction to current events.

The protests began as a reaction to the death of George Floyd and police brutality. Demands for removing statues of Confederate soldiers and slave holders increased. Protestors spray painted statues and physically removed others.  Even a statue of George Washington, our nation’s first President and a slave holder, was not exempt. Protestors seemed to ignore history as they defaced a statue of an abolitionist.

History typically relates the broad picture and tells about the people who influenced that history.  Stories of the common people ( i.e., those whose lives were directly and indirectly influenced by those in power) are less often told.  In my opinion, our job, as genealogists, is to tell the stories of those common people, our ancestors and their families.

Read this heartfelt article, published in 2017:  George Burrell, “Confederate and Union Flags of the Civil War,  Century City News (Los Angeles, California), 21 August 2017,  (

In response to someone else’s blog, one person noted that only a few of her 3X great-grandfathers actually fought for the Confederacy.  One of my 8 great-great grandfathers served in the Union Army.  For my husband, two of his 8 great-great grandfathers and one of his 16 great-great-great grandfathers served in the Confederate Army.  Many more in both family trees were of any age to fight. My sons carry genes from persons who supported both sides of the conflict.

According to the American Battlefield Trust  (, there were 1,089,119 Confederate soldiers. Of those, 490,309 were reported as killed, wounded, captured or missing.  Millions of Americans are descended from these soldiers. Now, some people want to prevent the simple act of placing a flag on a veteran’s grave.  Denying this right sends the message that Confederate veterans are not worthy of being honored for their sacrifice.

Some demand the removal of statues, memorials and other reminders of the Confederacy as these are seen as symbols of slavery, racial segregation and white supremacy.  One example of this view is Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent proposal. Read this press release. Posted 30 June 2020:  “Warren delivers floor speech on her amendment to rename all bases and other military assets honoring the Confederacy,” Elizabeth Warren website (  :    accessed 2 July 2020).

An NBC journalist presented the opposite view: Sophia A. Nelson, “Don’t take down Confederate monuments. Here’s why.” Posted 1 june 2017, NBC News ( : accessed 2 July 2020).

How will our descendants look at the current events a hundred years from now? Will we be lauded for our efforts? Will we be criticized? Will our descendants even know about the Civil War and its controversies? Will our descendants be aware of the multiple perspectives surrounding the current debate?

My hopes for the future?  I DON’T WANT my descendants to be ashamed of their Southern heritage. I DON’T WANT my descendants to judge their ancestors’ choices based on current values and belief systems. I DO WANT my descendants to have the freedom to acknowledge that they have ancestors who fought in the Confederacy. I DO WANT my descendants to relate circumstances that created the rift between Northern and Southern states. I DO WANT my descendants to recognize the values and beliefs that guided their ancestors’ choices.  I DO WANT my descendants to compare and contrast the various perspectives surrounding current 21st century issues. I DO WANT my descendants to have the freedom to honor their Confederate ancestors by placing a Confederate flag on the graves of those ancestors.  In short, I DO WANT my descendants to remember the history of the Civil War and that soldiers on both sides fought for a cause that they believed in.  In the same way, I DO WANT my descendants to recall that, in 2020, people held differing beliefs about how the United States should remember those who fought in the Confederacy and the Union.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots Blog, 2020.

Connecting the dots: Posten families

Remember dot-to-dot pictures?  Each dot has a number, letter of the alphabet or other logical system for you to follow.  The dots don’t appear to make sense at first. However, when you connect the dots correctly, a picture emerges.  My current genealogy research efforts seem like that. Each piece of information is a dot. All I have to do is go to the next logical dot and a family picture will emerge. But, the dots don’t always present themselves in a logical manner. Dots are missing. The resulting picture looks more like a scribbled mess. In this post, I describe the status of my Posten files. Think of each file as a dot on the overall picture.

Early in my research, I discovered several published genealogies of Poston families. These narratives outlined Poston families who originated in Pennsylvania but subsequently moved south. One author even stated: “There are no Postons listed in the Pennsylvania census for that year [1790] .” [1]   While that may be true, families with a similar surname, Posten (my maiden name) and its variations, lived in Pennsylvania from 1790 on.  Are the Poston families and Posten families connected? I am not sure and keep an open mind.

Summary of my Posten files:
  1. Dad’s direct ancestral line. I can trace our branch of the Posten family from Dad to Thomas Postens, born 1782 at New Jersey and died 1854 at Monroe county, Pennsylvania. Census records, birth and death certificates prove the lineage. With few exceptions, Dad’s family, including Dad’s siblings, lived in Pennsylvania from the 1800s to the present. I am working on collateral lines. In August, 2017, my husband and I visited the graves of Thomas and his wife, Esther Brown at Friends Burial Ground in Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania. [2] 
  2. New Jersey Posten families. Posten men paid taxes in New Jersey in the 1780s and 1790s. [3]  I believe that at least two of those men – Richard Postens and William Postens- moved to Bucks county, Pennsylvania by 1800. [4], [5]  Either one, or another man, could be Thomas’ father.  Samuel Posten, born about 1794, has been identified as progenitor of a Posten family which still resides in Monmouth county, New Jersey. [6] 
  3. Jacob Postens and Anne Burson.  Jacob, born about 1755 In New Jersey, identified as our family’s ancestor by an elderly aunt. [7]  When I wanted to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, I pursued this assertion but found it to be false.  Dad’s family is definitely NOT descended from Jacob and Anne. Given Jacob’s reported birthplace of New Jersey, my Posten family and Jacob’s family could still be related.
  4. Elihu Posten family.  Elihu lived in Monroe county, Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. (Note: Recall that Thomas Postens died in Monroe county).  Elihu’s first wife was Eleanor Transue and they had nine children.  Eleanor died in 1841 and Elihu married Elizabeth Eilenberger about 1842.  They had two children.  William Posten, son of Elihu and Elizabeth, moved to Wisconsin. [8]  Elihu and our Thomas could be brothers.
  5. Benjamin Avery Posten (1839, Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania – 1905, Pulaski county, Missouri).  A chance meeting between Dad and one of Benjamin’s descendants led me to search for this family.  The genealogy from Benjamin through the 20th century is fairly clear. Researchers differ as to the identity of Benjamin’s parents.
  6. Posten families in Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania. I started this file as supplement to Benjamin Avery Posten’s file.  Names from the early to mid-1800s include, among others, Cornelius Posten, Peter Posten and several men named William Posten. Research on these families is ongoing.  Relationships are still tentative.
  7. James Posten and Rhoda Shaffer, Iowa.  James Posten (1790, Pennsylvania –           ) [9]  I believe that James is the son of Peter Posten, found in Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania in 1800 and 1810.  Both Peter and James were recorded next to each other on Licking county, Ohio, census in 1820.  [10]  Five of James and Rhoda’s six children were born in Ohio.  Earlier this year, I was contacted by a descendant of James and Rhoda but we don’t share any DNA.  On some online trees, James Posten of Iowa is mistakenly identified as son of Jacob Postens and Anne Burson. Jacob and Anne had a son named James but he never left Pennsylvania.
  8. Miscellaneous Posten families. This file contains a mix of records for persons with Posten surname in various places including Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky.  I haven’t followed up on any of these.

Are any of the Posten families named above related to Dad’s family? That question, my friends, is unanswered.  Each file contains multiple dots (i.e. discrete pieces of information such as census records, BMD certificates, wills, letters, etc.).  For some files, the picture is emerging nicely. In other files, it’s still a scribbled mess.


This post summarizes personal research on my Posten line.  I wrote it as a ‘note to self’ type memorandum as I veer off in other directions.  When I come to a hurdle for one person or family, I put it aside and move on.  My 2012 Posten history now seems vary amateurish and incomplete. I was definitely a novice and amateur genealogist when I wrote it!  I have a lot more information now about each family.  As far as revising 2012 Posten history, I am stuck on Thomas and finding his parents.

What I learned:  I have made good progress for some families, not so much for others. Goal of revising my 2012 Posten history led me to re-open files and look more critically at what I have.  My analysis and research skills have improved over the years.  Take extensive notes about searches, findings and initial analysis. Research logs are a must!

What helped:   paper and digital files for each family group, including family trees in RootsMagic.

What didn’t help:  Items in files with no idea about source. Incomplete source information. Sources that seem to have disappeared. Minimal and/or no research logs. Items not organized in any meaningful way. But, I guess that’s the way many of us start – copy an item and file it, organize later.

To-do:  Record notes about searches and results. Continue to create research logs. Organize individual items in each file by family group or category—lots of paper clips! Continue revision of 2012 Posten history but leave chapter on Thomas for now.


[1] Erma Poston Landers, A Poston Family of South Carolina:  Its Immigrant Ancestor and some of his descendants:  A Family Genealogy (Atlanta, Georgia:  Erma Poston Landers [Lake City, South Carolina], 1965].  Digital copy accessed & printed, Ancestry (  : 24 March 2010), page 5.

[2] Friends Burial Ground (Stroudsburg, Monroe, Pennsylvania), markers for Thomas Postens and Esther Postens; personally read, August 2017.

[3] “New Jersey, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1643-1890, database, Ancestry (  :  accessed multiple dates, May and June, 2020); citing Ronald V. Jackson, Accelerated Indexing Systems, “New Jersey Census, 1643-1890,”, data from microfilmed records including indexes to 1772-1822 tax list.

[4] Richard Postens, 1800 census. 1800 U.S. Census, Northampton county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Lower Smithfield, p. 618, line 24, Richard Postens; digital images, Ancestry (  : accessed & downloaded 29 May 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M32, roll 37.

[5] William Postens, 1790 census at Bucks county. 1790 U.S. Census, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, no town given, page 112, line 5, William Pofte [Poste]; digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed & downloaded 30 January 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publicaiton M637, roll 8.

[6] Personal correspondence with [Name withheld for privacy], Monmouth county, New Jersey, circa 1990s.

[7] Typewritten genealogy, Posten family tradition regarding lineage of John Posten to Jacob Posten (b 1755) as reported by Ruby Gardiner, granddaughter of Daniel Posten & Phoebe Fulkerson to Vera Posten Brooks, ca. 1989; privately held by Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. Copy sent by Ms. Brooks to Ms. Ellerbee about 1990.

[8] Wisconsin, son of Elihu and Elizabeth. 1880 U.S. Census, Grant county, Wisconsin, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 116, Millville, p. 243A, dwelling 6, family 6, William Poston [Posten] ; digital images, Ancestry (    : accessed 22 June 2020 ); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 1427.

[9] Susan Posten Ellerbee, James Posten-Rhoda Shaffer Family Group Sheet, Family charts and Group Sheets, privately held by Ellerbee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Yukon, Canadian, Oklahoma. In vertical file, “Iowa Posten Family”, data collected circa 2000-2020.

[10] 1820 U.S. Census, Licking county, Ohio, population schedule, Franklin, page 21, image 35, line 10, Peter Posten, line 11, James Posten; digital images, Ancestry (   : viewed 12 June 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication, M33_94.

Midyear review, June 2020

Time for midyear review of my 2020 genealogy goals. My overall assessment?  Distracted. Minimal focus. Why? Multiple factors but nothing specific. I feel like I am in a rut. I have run out of steam to complete various projects.  Due to possible impact of Corona virus? We are blessed that none of our immediate family here have been directly affected. One of my second cousins, who lives in another state, contracted the virus but isolated at home. An elderly relative suffered other health problems and the doctor deferred hospitalization due to Corona virus.  She required 24/7 in-home care for several weeks.  

I feel overwhelmed by the constant negative reports on the news. Perhaps that negativity bubbles over into my genealogy work?  I continue to do some genealogy every day but lack momentum. Current work seems rote and routine – complete family group records, create and fill in research logs, clean up paper and digital files. Yet, these tasks are necessary to leave a coherent trail.

As I review my 2020 goals, I have made progress. I completed some goals quickly- copying BMD certificates from a Posten relative and responding to cousin requests for Tucker family.  I sent my DNA to a third company based on request from a possibly related Posten descendant with Pennsylvania ties. Result? No shared DNA. But, we are still hopeful for a common ancestor!   

Family cookbook project is almost done. So far, about 1/3 of total recipes are desserts. Shows obvious preference of our family and friends!

I received death certificate for Mom’s great grandmother, Anna Wolf Klee Mϋller/ Miller.  Anna died in 1883 at New York City. I plan to write a blog post about the process and information on that certificate. Two death certificate requests, both from New York, are still pending. New York state has so many other issues than responding to genealogical requests!  Because of Corona virus, I will defer making any more requests this year.  

I started work (again!) on revising Posten history, initially written in 2012. Last year, I took an online genealogy writing course and revised outline for book. I realized how sketchy much of the information is. I am still looking for Thomas Postens in 1830 and 1840. This entails page-by-page search of those census records because Ancestry and Family Search yield no hints, even when I use variations and asterisks. No results found in Northampton, Monroe or Pike counties, Pennsylvania. Expanding search to nearby counties- Bucks, Chester, Luzerne, Wayne.  I carefully document my search efforts and results.

I admit to following some rabbit trails in this search. I found some leads about Richard Postens and William Postens, either of whom could be Thomas’ father.  I may have found three daughters of Richard Postens – Elena (baptized 1774), Jane (born 1785) and Elizabeth (born circa 1795-1802).

Last week,  I followed a rabbit trail for Cornelius Postens who lived in Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania. Huntingdon county is in western part of the state. Cornelius was born about 1778 in Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Rachel, had at least three children- John, James and Charles. Cornelius died about 1852. I am still piecing their story together. The Huntingdon County branch could be related to Dad’s family.  

I am keeping a personal Corona Virus diary that I do not plan to publish. Daily entries have been reduced to once a week, or even less. I scanned and added articles from our local newspaper.  Perhaps one of my descendants will find it interesting.  I will probably print it and place with other personal papers at some point in the future.

To review, perhaps I have made more progress than I thought. My initial feeling of inertia is gradually being replaced by slow and steady.  Daily research efforts aren’t totally without focus but have been scattered between different families. My original set of 26 goals now seems too ambitious.  I continue to forge ahead.

As usual, writing my blog post helped. I see where I’ve been and the progress that I’ve made.  Emotionally, I still feel overwhelmed but less so. What did I learn from this reflection?

  • Recognize the challenges to identify family members who lived in late 1700s and early 1800s. 
  • Re-focus, set a specific research goal for each session.
  • Work in short spurts – maybe only 20-30 minutes at a time instead of hours! 
  • Keep extensive notes.
  • Review information already in files before each session (i.e., avoid duplication).  
  • When a specific goal seems unattainable or gets me bogged down, take a break then work on another question.

Apparently, others are experiencing similar issues.  Read Thomas MacEntee’s “10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Genealogy”, posted 4 June 2020.

Blog posts that I found helpful:

Amy Johnson Crow, “Avoiding distractions in our genealogy”, blog post, 19 August 2019, Modern Genealogy Made Easy  (  :    accessed 4 May 2020).

Amy Johnson Crow, “Genealogy Research:  The WANDER Method,” blog post, 17 January 2020, Modern Genealogy Made Easy  (  :  accessed 4 May 2020).

“The Shiny Object Syndrome in Genealogy and How to Cure It,” blog post, 28 January 2019, Family History Foundation (  : accessed 8 June 2020).

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2020

In memory: William Posten, gunner, died ca 1779

Private William Posten died during the Revolutionary War.  ‘William Posten (gunner), dead’ is listed on the rolls of Captain Willing’s company of marines, who served from January 1778 to June 1779. [1]  What is his story?

William’s story is also the story of the United States Marine Corps.  Did you know that USMC traces its history back to the American Revolution? The Continental Marines protected ship captains and officers among other duties. One author described these men as “half soldier and half-sailor”[2]  The Continental Marines formally existed from November 1775 to 1783. In 1798, the service branch was re-created as the United States Marine Corps.

Captain James Willing’s story must also be told.  James Willing belonged to a prominent Philadelphia family. He received a commission “through the influence of his brother, Thomas, and a close friend, Robert Morris.”[3] Drawing soldiers from Fort Pitt (current day Pittsburgh),  Captain Willing’s orders included travel down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to deliver supplies and win assistance of persons who lived on the east bank, then return to Fort Pitt.  A boat named Rattletrap, with Captain Willing and 34 men, left Fort Pitt on 10 January 1778 and arrived at Natchez in February.  Continuing to New Orleans, the journey was marked by looting goods, stealing slaves and burning property of British sympathizers along the way. The marines returned up the Mississippi “under Lieutenant Roger George in order to join General George Rogers Clark in the Illinois territory, while Willing himself departed by sea for the east.” (Smith & Waterhouse, 1975).  William Posten, gunner, was killed during the journey.

Map provided courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. United States, ca 1796. Call no. X912.13c18a. “Fort Pitt” added by Susan Posten Ellerbee. Source: : accessed 25 May 2020.

What were the duties of a gunner?  “The gunner took charge of the ship’s guns and all the implements needed to work them.” [4] A gunner was an officer and others (gunners’ mates, gunners’ yeomen, and quarter gunners) assisted him.  An interesting document, found on the Naval History and Heritage Command website, outlined the specific duties of men on ships of war. [5]  Since William’s rank is listed as private, he possibly held one of the lower assignments.  

A Revolutionary War company muster roll yielded information about Wm. Poston, a private in a Virginia regiment. [6]  From October 1778 to March 1779, he appeared on a roll for Fort Pitt. The form includes this remark: “wth C Willing”. Enlistment in a Virginia regiment suggests residence in that state. Is he somehow related to my Posten family which has resided in Pennsylvania since the early 1800s?  An ongoing boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia makes this plausible. (For more information, read “The Boundary Controversy between Pennsylvania and Virginia, 1748-1785” by Boyd Crumrine in Annals of the Carnegie Museum, Vol. 1, 1901-1902,  pages 505-524, available from Internet Archive,  accessed 25 May 2020).

Analysis: William Posten served as a gunner with Captain Willing’s company of marines. William died about 1778 – 1779. William was probably from Virginia.  The men were recruited from Fort Pitt which explains the listing in Pennsylvania Archives.

On this Memorial Day, 2020, I honor William Posten (gunner), who died during the American Revolution. I still don’t know his whole story and I don’t know if we are  related.  Plundering the homes of British sympathizers was accepted during this time period. He is one of  millions who died fighting for this country we call America and for the freedoms that we enjoy today.   Thank you, William!


Again, I took one piece of information and expanded on it.  When I did my initial research 12 years ago, I was sure that William Posten (gunner) was somehow related to my family. I based that assumption solely on the entry in the Pennsylvania Archives.  I began to question my reasoning until today when I discovered information about the border dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia during the late 1700s.  There is always so much more to every story!

What I learned:  History of U.S. Marine Corps, duties of a gunner on a war ship. Consider both the information and the source—look deeper! Boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia in late 1700s.

What helped:  Entry found previously, online access to Naval and Marine Corps history.

What didn’t help:  Assumption that listing in Pennsylvania Archives meant all names were of persons from Pennsylvania. Even that is in question!

To -do:  Search for more information as BSO item.


[1] ‘Journals and diaries of the War of the Revolution with lists of officers and soldiers, 1775-1783.”   In Pennsylvania Archives, Series 2, Volume XV, pages 658-660.  Accessed 12 December 2011 from ; p. 659

[2]Edwin Howard Simmons, The United States Marines: A History, 4th ed. (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1998); (  :  accessed 24 May 2020), page 1.  

[3] Charles R. Smith & Charles H. Waterhouse, A Pictorial History, The Marines in the Revolution (Washington, D.C. : U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975;  : accessed 22 May 2020).

[4]E. Gordon Bowen-Hassell, Dennis Michael Conrad & Mark L. Hayes. Sea raiders of the American Revolution: the Continental Navy in European waters. Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, Dept. of the Navy, 2003.. Page 8: Life on Board a Continental Navy Warship.

[5] Thomas Truxton. “A short account of the several general duties of the officers, of ships of war, from an Admiral, down to the most inferior officer. Placed on the Books of the Navy, according to the British Regulations. Arranged with additions, &C. “ (no date). Naval History and Heritage Command  (  :  accessed 24 May 2020).  Note:  search term “gunner American Revolution”; one of 9 documents under Category: American Revolution.

[6] “Compiled Service Records of Soldiers who served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War,” database with images, Fold3 (  : accessed 23 May 2020), entry for Wm Poston, Virginia, imaged index card; citing Compiled service records of soldiers who served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783, M881 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration [n.d.], roll 1060.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots, 2020

White carnations on Mother’s Day 2020

Mother’s Day 2020.  A bittersweet day in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic.  With social distancing, many mothers receive only virtual hugs from their children.  For others, like myself, I wish that I could even do that. My mother died in January 2007. My image for the day is carnations, honoring mothers.

Facts about Mother’s Day:

  • 1914:  Woodrow Wilson signed law recognizing 2nd Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis is honored as the woman who began the tradition of wearing flowers to honor our mothers.  Source: “Mother’s Day 2020”,
  • Carnations are associated with motherhood traits including faith and charity. A red flower shows  respect for a living mother.  A white carnation remembers a mother who has died. Some people prefer pink as a sign of gratitude.  Source: Tradition of Red & White Flowers on Mother’s Day  ( )

I am also thinking about all of the mothers in my family tree.   Women who bore sons and daughters and eventually became our ancestors.  Our family’s heritage reflects the diversity that is America.

  • My mother’s mother, Amalie Charlotte Maurer, granddaughter of German immigrants.
  • My dad’s mother, Jennie Ash Richards, granddaughter of a woman who died a week after giving birth to her only child, a son. The woman’s ancestors included early Dutch settlers of New York.
  • My mother-in-law’s mother, Mabel Venette Reed, descendant of a Revolutionary War Patriot whose family originally came from England.
  • My father-in-law’s mother, Clara Doris Simmons, great-granddaughter of Georgia planters with English and Irish origins.

 I don’t have any famous women in my family tree. But, each was famous in their own right. Without each of those women who became mothers, I and my husband would not be here.  I believe that all of my fore-mothers showed a strength of spirit and endurance.  They cared for the daily needs of their family and looked to the future.

To finish, I’m reminded of an old poem written by Rosemary Benet, “If Nancy Hanks came back as a ghost”. Nancy Hanks, Abraham Lincoln’s mother, died when Abe was 9 years old.

So, I salute all mothers and tell them that their children did, indeed, “get on”.

“White carnations on Mother’s Day 2020,” Blog post, Posting Family Roots, 11 May 2020

Challenge or invitation? Search for C.W. Black

Pick a word to describe a difficult genealogy task. Here are some of my choices -challenge, convoluted, dare, elusive, incentive, invitation, obstinate, resistant, provocative, recalcitrant, reluctant, uncooperative. Most have negative connotations. The terms incentive and invitation shed a more positive light.  I described the task of finding C.W. Black, reported father of Nellie Black Johnson, my husband’s great-grandmother, as a challenge. Looking at it as an invitation into his life could reveal new insights.  In this post, I invite you to follow one possible lead with me. 

William and Mary Black, Falls County, Texas

I discovered this hint early in my search. I disregarded it until a blog follower reminded me about it.  Remember Nellie’s reported mother, Mary Bull? Falls county, Texas, was home to several Bull families. I found William and Mary Black in Falls county, Texas, in 1900 [1] with their family:

  • William B. Black, head, age 49, born April 1851 in Texas, married 35 years (? 25 years). Father & mother born in Alabama;
  • Mary A. Black, wife, age 43, born 1857 in Texas, mother of 6 children, 5 living. Father born in Georgia; mother born in Alabama;
  • Pearl Black, daughter, age 18, born 1881 in Texas;
  • Elisha Black, son, age 14, born 1885 in Texas;
  • Nellie Black, daughter, age 13, born February 1887 in Texas;
  • David C. Black, son, age 21, born November 1878 in Texas, married 2 years;
  • Nellie M. Black, d-in-law, age 18, born Feb 1882 in Texas, mother of 1 child, 1 living; and
  • Vera M. Black, g-daughter, age 1, born May 1899 in Texas.

C.W. ‘s middle name could be William. Nellie Black, daughter, born February 1887 per this census record. According to our Nellie’s death certificate[2] and other records, she was born January 1888 in Montague county, Texas. The birthdate inconsistency led me to initially discount this family as belonging to our Nellie.

Elisha Black’s death certificate[3] presented interesting information.  Elisha’s parents are recorded as W.B. Black and Mattie Bull.  Elisha lived in Montague county, Texas at the time of his death.

Mary A. Black’s birth information is partially consistent with an 1870 census record for Marianne Bull. [4] (NOTE: Based on DNA match and other records, I believe that Marianne Bull is likely Nellie’s mother.  Read “Who is Mary Bull?” for more information).  

In 1900, Mary A. Black’s age of 43 places her birth year as about 1857 and lists her birthplace as Texas. In 1870, Marianne Bull’s age of 15 places her birth year as about 1855 and her birthplace as Texas. The two year age discrepancy is not unreasonable but sheds some doubt.

Marianne Bull’s presumed parents, Isaac Bull and Sarah Neel, were born in Mississippi per 1860 census.[5] This fact presents another discrepancy.  Mary A. Black, wife of William B. Black in 1900, reported that her parents were born in Georgia and Alabama. Mollie Black’s parents (from 1880 census) were reported as born in Texas.  

Several online trees connect the William B. Black family on 1900 census, cited above, with a family headed by William Black, in Montague county, Texas, 1880. [6] 

  • 1880: William Black, age 25, born Texas; father & mother born Alabama. Wife, Mollie, age 24, born Texas; father & mother born Texas.  Children, William, age 6 and Corbin, age 3. Rosie Williams, age 6, niece and James Williams, age 4, nephew.
  • 1900[7]: William B. Black, age 49, born Texas; father & mother born Alabama. Wife, Mary A. Black, age 43, born Texas; father born Georgia, mother born Alabama.

Age discrepancies on subsequent census records are not uncommon. The reported birthplace of William’s parents as Alabama appears to be the only connecting data. Family trees are built on such slim links.

To reconcile these differences, I searched the 1870 census. William Black, age 20, born in Texas, resided with James and Mary Black.[8] His age is consistent with the 1900 census but not the 1880 census.   The record shows James Black, age 49, born in Tennessee and Mary Black, age 44, born in Alabama.  Further down on the same page and continued on the next page are entries for James Williams, age 19 and Georgiana Williams, age 17, married in August.   

Hmm! undefinedRosie and James Williams, niece and nephew, are listed with William and Mollie Black on the 1880 census.

Step back another 10 years. In 1860, James and Mary Black lived in Bell County, Texas[9] with 6 children- J.W., age 13; J.M., age 11, Wm, age 8, Georgiana, age 6, E.E., age 4, and Benjamin, age 1. Names and ages are consistent with children listed on 1870 census. James reported as born in Tennessee and Mary reported as born in Alabama.

To summarize, three census records (1860, 1870, 1900) support William’s birth year as circa 1850 or 1851. Three census records (1860, 1870, 1880) suggest that William Black and Georgiana Black Williams are siblings.  William’s father’s birthplace as Alabama (1880 & 1900 census) is inconsistent with reported birthplace of Tennessee per 1860 and 1870 census.  Mary’s birthplace is listed as Alabama on all these records. Conclusion:  The 1880 and 1900 census records for William Black apparently represent the same man with two different wives.  Mary A. Black, wife in 1900 census (born Texas, parents born Georgia and Alabama) does not appear to be the same person as Marianne Bull (born Texas, parents born Mississippi).  

What about Pearl Black and David C. Black? Online searches haven’t yet revealed any relevant information about the name of their mother. Specifically, because of inconsistent data, I believe that William B. and Mary Black (as recorded on 1900 census cited above) are probably not Nellie’s parents.


I revised this post more times than usual. As I wrote, I saw new patterns and pursued those clues. An initial discovery of Mattie Bull seemed promising. Men named William Black who married women named Mary or Mollie produced an almost unsolvable puzzle. I feel like I am running in circles.  I am ready to move on.

What helped: Lessons learned through Genealogy Do-over. Using Research logs, family group sheets and other research notes.  Reminder from blog follower to look at 1900 census again.

What didn’t help:  Repeated viewing of the same documents confused me more. Time for a break.

To-do:  Take a break from this search. Keep copy of this post with paper files for later review.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2020                                                                                                                                                                                                         


[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Falls County, Texas, population schedule, Marlin, Enumeration district 0016, sheet 6, , dwelling 107, family 113, Nellie Black, age 13; William B. Black, head; Ancestry (   : accessed 4 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication T623.

[2]“ Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed & downloaded 27 February 2020), entry for Nell Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; certificate no. 37422.

[3] “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (   : printed and viewed 27 February 2020), entry for Elisha Monroe Black (1885-1957); citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas, certificate no. 39398.

[4] 1870 U.S. Census, Falls county, Texas, population schedule, Precinct 4, page 15 (ink pen);  sheet 91A (stamp), dwelling 121, family 122, Isaak Bull, age 41; Ancestry (   : accessed 4 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication M593_1584; includes Isaak, born Mississippi; Mariane, age 15, born Texas.

[5] 1860 U.S. Census, Falls county Texas, population schedule, Marlin post office, page 149, dwelling 84, family 84, Isaac Bull, age 28; Ancestry (   : accessed 4 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication M653_1293.

[6] 1880 U.S. Census, Montague county, Texas, population schedule, Precinct 3, page 47 (ink pen), page 418C (stamp), dwelling 363, family 364, William Black, age 25; Ancestry (   : accessed 9 April  2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication T9.  

[7] 1900 U.S. Census, Falls Co., TX., population schedule, Marlin, ED 0016, sheet 6, dwelling 107, family 113, William B. Black, age 49.  

[8] 1870 U.S. Census, Falls County, Texas, population schedule, Precinct No. 4, Marlin post office, page 25 (ink pen), dwelling 191, family 193, William Black, age 20; Ancestry (   : accessed 9 April  2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication M593_1584. 

[9] 1860 census for Jas & Mary Black. 1860 U.S. Census, Bell County, Texas, population schedule, Belton post office, page 463 (ink pen), page 317 (stamp), dwelling 298, family 295, Jas Black, age 38;   : accessed 19 April  2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication M653. 

Promising lead or brick wall? Continuing search for C.W. Black

Names, dates and places look promising. Is this the person and family that I’m looking for? Maybe. Each lead requires additional research before confirming.  When I have some information, confirmation flows easier. When I know little, this process is more challenging. “Challenge” certainly describes the task presented by C.W. Black, reported father of Nellie Black Johnson, my husband’s great-grandmother. In this post, I present some findings for C.W. Black and evaluate them.

Lead number 1: Charles and Mary Black, Texas

1870 census, Limestone county, Texas: Chas Black, age 23, born at Louisiana and Mary Black, age 26, born at Tennessee.  [1]  This was one of the first hints presented on Ancestry website. C.W. ‘s first name could easily be Charles. Maiden name of Nellie’s mother is reported as Mary Bull. [2]  Mary’s identity as the daughter of Isaac Bull and Sarah Neel is likely but still needs to be proven. The family could have originated in Limestone county where Nellie lived from 1910 until her death in 1960.  As they say, “follow the paper trail.”

The paper trail led to 32-year-old Charley Black, born Louisiana, and 36-year-old Mary E. Black, Charley’s wife, born Tennessee, at San Saba county, Texas in 1880. [3]  Names, ages, place of birth are consistent with 1870 census.  If these are Nellie’s parents, then Mary was about 44 years old when Nellie was born in 1888.  Childbearing is still possible for many women in their 40s.  No children listed. I am reasonably certain that Charley and Mary E. are the same couple as Chas and Mary in 1870 census.  Nellie’s reported birthplace of Montague county,[4] Texas, does not preclude Charley and Mary from being her parents.

Next stop on the paper trail? 1900 census. Again in San Saba county, Texas, Charles Black, born February 1847 in Louisiana and wife, Mary Black, born September 1843 in Tennessee. [5]  No children listed. Mary’s childbearing history? Mother of 4 children, none living. Also of interest, Charles and Mary are recorded as being married 25 years suggesting marriage about 1875. Recall Chas and Mary living together in 1870. Are these truly the same people?  No children, no Nellie. I tentatively rule out Charles and Mary as Nellie’s parents.

One more item in the paper trail – 1910 census. Charley Black, age 63, and Mary Black, age 66, still living in San Saba county, Texas. [6]  Places of birth reported as Louisiana and Tennessee, respectively. Mary listed as mother of 4 children, 0 living. Years married? 40 or married about 1870. Looks like marriage information on 1900 census was not accurate. Given that no living children are recorded on the two censuses, I conclude that this couple are not Nellie’s parents.

I feel the need to finish Charley and Mary’s story. Find A Grave provided closure of sorts.

  • Mary E. Black. Born 1 September 1848. Died 3 July 1914. Buried Varga Chapel Cemetery. Bowser, San Saba county, Texas. [7]
  • Charley Black. Born 22 February 1847. Died 6 May 1921. Buried Varga Chapel Cemetery, Bowser, San Saba county, Texas. [8]

Perhaps someone else can claim them as relatives.

Lead number 2:  C.W. Black, Fort Worth, Tarrant county, Texas

This Ancestry hint from the 1880 census popped up early in my search. The census shows C.W. Black, age 36, widower, born Tennessee, living in Fort Worth, Tarrant county, Texas. [9] So far, nothing inconsistent with other data. But certainly not confirmed. No other hints presented themselves.

A search of local newspapers provided one clue. In the Fort Worth Daily Gazette on June 20, 1890, this story- “A tragedy. C.W. Black gives up his life- John Yarbrough Arrested.”[10] Details included:  

“John Yarbrough shot and killed C.W. Black last night about 10 o’clock at the residence of the former, on the southeast corner of Peter Smith and Hemphill streets. . . . C.W. Black was an old resident of Fort Worth. He came here when only a mere hamlet . . . . Previously to coming here he was merchandising in Memphis, and he has a couple of children in St. Louis. He was about forty-seven years of age.”

Fort Worth is about 80 miles south of Montague county, Texas, Nellie’s reported birthplace. C.W. would not be the only man who had a family in two different states.  Based on the two snippets of information, I do not believe that C.W. Black of Fort Worth, Texas, was Nellie’s father. However, I will keep an open mind if other evidence surfaces.

Lead number 3: William and Mary Black, Falls county, Texas[11]

This is another of those early hints that I discounted at first.  One of my blog followers reminded me about it. Closer perusal and follow-up suggests a connection.  Remember Nellie’s reported mother, Mary Bull? Falls county, Texas, was home to several Bull families.  The path is winding and too long for this post. Stay tuned!

In summary, I classify the first two leads as negative results. Charles and Mary Black, the first lead, are certainly not Nellie’s parents. C.W. Black of Fort Worth, Texas, is probably not Nellie’s father. These findings underscore the importance of tracking and recording all findings even if they are negative.  Primary reason is to keep you from re-looking at the same findings. Others should be able to retrace where you’ve been and follow your contention.

However, keep an open mind because new evidence may surface that turns a negative into a positive.

For more information about negative results:


As I mentioned earlier, finding C.W. Black is one of my more frustrating and challenging genealogy journeys. What does “C” stand for? What does “W” stand for? Did he go by his first or his middle name?  Was Nellie’s father really “C.W.”?  Wouldn’t be the first time that a name was reported wrong. There is a clue out there—I just need to find it!

What helped:  online resources, notes from previous searches, writing the blog post. Keeping record of searches and criteria used.

What didn’t help:  frustration that no records seem to fit. Even Find A Grave yielded no clues. Maybe I need to try different search criteria.

To-do:  Review notes and other records for William and Mary Black again. Search for more information about their children.  When did William and Mary die? Where are they buried?

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots, 2020


[1] 1870 U.S. Census, Limestone County, Texas, population schedule, District 48 West, page 109 (ink pen), dwelling 485, family 525, Chas Black; Ancestry (  :   accessed 29 Feb 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M593_1596.

[2]. “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed & downloaded 27 February 2020), entry for Nell Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; certificate no. 37422.

[3] 1880 U.S. Census, San Saba County, Texas, population schedule, Precinct 4, Enumeration District (ED) 116, sheet 444C, dwelling 128,  Charley Black; Ancestry (  :   accessed 29 Feb 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T9, roll 1326.

[4]. “Funeral services for Mrs. Johnson set for Wednesday,” obituary, Mexia Daily News, 3 May 1960; digital image, (  : accessed & printed 6 March 2020); citing Mexia Daily News (newspaper), Mexia, Texas.

[5] 1900 U.S. Census, San Saba County, Texas, population schedule, Precinct 2, Enumeration District (ED) 0131, sheet 20, dwelling 328, family 331,  Charles Black; Ancestry (  :   accessed 29 Feb 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T623.

[6] 1910 U.S. Census, San Saba County, Texas, population schedule, Precinct 2, Enumeration District (ED) 0215, sheet 7A, dwelling 74, family 74,  Charley Black; Ancestry (  :   accessed 29 Feb 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T624_1584.  

[7] Find A Grave, database with images, (  :  accessed 7 April 2020), memorial 44224900, Mary E. Black (1848-1914), Varga Chapel Cemetery, Bowser, San Saba County, Texas; gravestone photograph by Sharon Crowder; created and maintained by Gaylon Powell.

[8]. Find A Grave, database with images, (  :  accessed 7 April 2020), memorial 44224899, Charley Black (1847-1921), Varga Chapel Cemetery, Bowser, San Saba County, Texas; gravestone photograph by Sharon Crowder; created and maintained by Gaylon Powell.

[9] 1880 U.S. Census, Tarrant County, Texas, population schedule, Fort Worth, Enumeration district 089, sheet 31C, dwelling 44, C.W. Black; Ancestry (   : accessed 10 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication T9, roll 1328.

[10] The (Fort Worth, Texas) Gazette, 20 June 1890, p. 8, col. 2, “A Tragedy, C.W. Black gives up his life-John Yarbrough arrested,” Chronicling America (   : accessed 10 March 2020).

[11] 1900 U.S. Census, Falls County, Texas, population schedule, Marlin, Enumeration district 0016, sheet 6, , dwelling 107, family 113, Nellie Black, age 13; William B. Black, head; Ancestry (   : accessed 4 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication T623.

The genealogy goes on. . . with negative findings

Review any death certificate and obituary.  In many cases, the person’s birth information, including names of parents, is correct. You can easily find more about the family from census and other records. What if the information is not that easy to find?  Negative evidence and information can still provide clues. In this post, I describe my frustrating search for C.W. Black, presumed father of Nellie Black Johnson, and one of my husband’s maternal great-great grandfathers.

According to Nellie’s death certificate[1], her parents were C.W. Black and Mary Bull. Nellie’s oldest daughter, Katie Jean Johnson Brannon, provided the information.  Nellie’s obituary[2] stated that she was born in Montague county, Texas and spent most of her life in Limestone county, Texas.  I begin an attempt to prove that the information is correct.  A DNA Match with Nellie’s granddaughter (my husband’s mother) led to the possible identification of Marianne Bull, born about 1855 and daughter of Isaac L. Bull and Sarah Neel, as Nellie’s mother.

Discovering C.W. Black has been more difficult. What can I expect to find? Start with the 1900 census.

  • Evidence for Nellie’s birth year of 1888:  Census records for 1920 through 1940 plus Nellie’s death certificate support this date, plus or minus one year.
  • Evidence for Nellie’s reported birth place: Nellie should be with one or both parents in either Montague county or Limestone county, Texas.  Search criteria:  families with Black surname, females 11 or 12 years old with first name of Nell, Nellie or Nettie.


Transcription errors are possible. Handwriting can be hard to read. Faded ink creates illegible entries. Online databases do not always capture the person or family that you are searching for.  I searched the 1900 census for selected Texas counties page-by-page.  So far, I found six families with surname of Black in Montague county and 19 families with surname of Black in Limestone county.  I recorded all individuals on blank census forms. [3] Results to date?  None that described Nellie or her reported family.

These are negative findings.  According to Elizabeth Shown Mills, negative findings are “the absence of information we hoped to find.” [4]  I hoped to find Nellie and at least one parent in either Montague or Limestone counties.  Negative evidence, as defined in Genealogy Standards, is “a type of evidence arising from the absence of a situation or information in extant records where that information might be expected.”[5]  My search is not complete so I cannot label it as negative evidence.

Example, 1900 census form, Montague county, Texas, families with Black Surname. Compiled by Susan Posten Ellerbee, March 2020.

One genealogical standard is termed “evidence mining”.[6]  We look for items to answer our research questions. In this instance, the findings are negative.  The standard encourages us to not ignore any potentially useful evidence or information even if it’s negative. Pay attention to all of the evidence not just evidence that is direct or indirect.

These preliminary negative findings suggest that Nellie and her parents did not live in either Montague or Limestone counties in 1900.  At this time, I cannot confirm where they lived in 1900.  Alternative hypotheses:

  1. Nellie and her parents (or at least one parent) lived in another county in Texas in 1900.
  2. Nellie and her parents (or at least one parent) did not live in Texas when the 1900 census was taken.
  3. Nellie and her parent/ parents were not counted in the 1900 census.
  4. Nellie’s father died before 1900 and her mother remarried. Nellie is listed with surname of her stepfather.
  5. Both of Nellie’s parents died before 1900. Nellie lived with another family.

My research question remains the same:  Where did Nellie and her parent/ parents live at the time of the 1900 census?  Where to next?  Search Falls county, Texas, home of many in the Bull family, and next door to Limestone county.

As my frustration mounts, I temporarily halt this search. Next post:  My continued search for C.W. Black.  


This post is shorter than many. I am stumped and need to take a break. These negative findings take more time than expected as I process the information.  Searching census records page by page is not difficult but is tedious. Initially, I wrote a short post about genealogy during this Corona Virus crisis but decided not to post it. Others have done so. I just keep on working.

I questioned my mother-in-law about her dad’s mother’s family. She does not remember Nellie’s family ever being discussed or visited – no mention of aunts & uncles or cousins. Nellie died when mother-in-law was in her early 20s. I don’t remember if I knew the names of my great-grandparents when I was that age. But, my parents freely shared that information with me later.  And, I heard the names of cousins, aunts and uncles (such as Dad’s Uncle Frank, his mother’s brother) on both sides.  Tracing my parents’ families seems easy compared to this brick wall. Was there some scandal? Possible that Nellie was an only child? Possible that Nellie’s mother died in childbirth and Nellie was taken in by other family members? Possible that Nellie might be found in an orphanage in 1900? Is Nellie’s maiden name really Black? Given the DNA connection, I believe that Nellie’s mother was a Bull. The identity of her father remains a mystery.  

What helped:  Blank census forms from NARA, mostly legible handwriting on census records.

What didn’t help: feeling overwhelmed by this and our nation’s current health crisis.  

To-do: Search 1900 census in Falls county, Texas for families with Black surname. Complete page-by-page search of 1900 census in Limestone and Montague counties. If no relevant findings, expand searches to other counties. Write post about limited findings for C.W. Black as found in online databases.

©Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Your Roots blog, 2020.


[1] “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed & downloaded 27 February 2020), entry for Nell Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; certificate no. 37422.

[2] “Funeral services for Mrs. Johnson set for Wednesday,” obituary, Mexia Daily News, 3 May 1960; digital image, ( : accessed & printed 6 March 2020); citing Mexia Daily News (newspaper), Mexia, Texas.

[3] . “Resources for Genealogists, Charts and forms, Federal Census Forms, 1900 census,” The National Archives and Records Administration (  :  accessed 1 February 2020).

[4] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained, 3d ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015), 25.

[5] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2d ed. (New York, New York: Turner Publishing Company, 2019), 81-82.

[6] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 24-25.