Archive for the ‘family history’ Category

Because I have been spending so much energy on this genealogy thing lately, I have not been attending to my studies as I should. I was sitting in pathophysiology class last night daydreaming about family history. We were discussing congenital and genetic disorders. The subject of the first part of the lecture was mendelian genetics and inheritance. (It was a review for me so I felt ok about daydreaming.)


<boredom alert> 


In a nutshell, each one of us has two chromosomes, one contributed by mom and one contributed by dad, for each trait we inherit. Some chromosomes are naturally dominate. Let’s consider eye color. Brown eyes are dominate, blue eyes are recessive. In order for you to have blue eyes, both parents have to carry the recessive chromosome and pass it along to you. (Gregor Mendel didn’t know about chromosomes and genes so he called them alleles or traits, same thing for our purposes.) Let B represent the trait for brown eyes and b represent the trait for blue eyes.

BB represents someone that inherited the brown-eyed trait from both parents. This person has brown eyes.

bb represents someone that inherited the blue-eyed trait from both parents. This person has blue eyes.

Bb represents someone that inherited both traits from their parents, one from each. This person has brown eyes (they’re dominant) but also carries the blue-eyed trait that can be passed along to their children (the grandchildren).


I’m still daydreaming but now I’m watching the professor drawing on the whiteboard.


When calculating the probability of producing a brown-eyed child or a blue-eyed child, it starts to look like this.


BB   +   BB   =>   BB   BB   BB   BB

Both parents have brown eyes with no recessive trait for blue eyes: 100% of their offspring will have brown eyes, none are able to pass along blue eyes to their children.


bb   +   bb   =>   bb   bb   bb   bb

Both parents have blue eyes with no dominate trait for brown eyes: 100% of their offspring will have blue eyes, none are able to pass along brown eyes to their children.


Bb   +   BB   =>   BB   BB   Bb   Bb

Both parents have brown eyes, one carries the recessive trait, one does not: 100% of their children will have brown eyes with 50% inheriting the recessive trait for blue eyes.


Bb   +   Bb   =>   BB   Bb   Bb   bb

Both parents have brown eyes, both carry the recessive trait: 25% of their children will have brown eyes with no recessive trait, 50% of their children will have brown eyes with the recessive trait, 25% will have blue eyes.


Bb   +   bb   =>   Bb   Bb   bb   bb

One parent has brown eyes and carries the recessive trait, one parent has blue eyes: 50% of their children will have brown eyes with the recessive trait, 50% will have blue eyes. (Here are the light Jordans and the dark Jordans, 50/50.)


Here’s where I actually become engaged in the lecture.


James Jordan, according to the family oral history, was fair, red-haired and blue-eyed. Martha was darker, raven-haired and brown-eyed. Some in the family say Martha was native american indian. If she was 100% indian, the children would have all looked like her because she wouldn’t have carried the recessive traits for blue eyes and red hair.

A few years ago, another researcher provided some info on Martha’s family. Supposedly, (I say supposedly because I have no evidence as yet. I’m still stuck in Arkansas and Texas.) her father was Robert Bull, a physician of English descent. Her mother was Susannah Sullivan, the daughter of a man named Sullivan and a Creek mother. This makes sense and validates Aunt Jip’s claim that the Bulls were English. It also validates the story that Martha was indian.

I’m taking notes now. This is strictly speculation.


                               Sullivan father          Creek mother

                most likely Bb or bb          +          BB   (Is Sullivan Irish?)


                   Robert Bull         Susannah Sullivan

   most likely Bb or bb      +       BB or Bb   (Most likely Bb if dad was bb.)


James Jordan          Martha Bull

         bb            +            Bb       


9 children – roughly half resembling Jim and half resembling Martha


The big question is, did Martha have siblings with blue eyes or were they all brown-eyed? This is where my esteemed professor, while still lecturing, wandered to the back of the room and glanced over at my notes. Was I the only one writing furiously? <nervous grin>

I think I’m ready for the exam now.


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“Be careful, you might find a bunch of horse thieves.” My grandfather startled me with his response. Years ago, when he was still alive and I had not begun to map our family history, my mother and I were having a conversation about possibilities.

My grandfather was not one for political correctness. He loved prodding sacred cows and much to the dismay of my grandmother, could find humor in the darkest of situations. He was serious about the horse thieves though. I thought it out of character for him to express any sort of anxiety about anything. Looking back I think he was trying to say, “Don’t ask questions for which you do not want to hear the answers.” It takes a certain bravery to go looking for what was forgotten.

Humans are extremely resilient and adaptable creatures. Often the mechanism for overcoming adversity is to repress.  It hurt, so I will forget. That which we do not acknowledge cannot hurt us. I think about my great-grandparents living near the coast during the 1900 Galveston hurricane which destroyed their home and took their firstborn. Lives were destroyed and some survivors literally walked away and never returned. (Does that remind you of anything more recent?) I think about my great uncles who served. Even decades after the war, they would not discuss their experiences beyond a certain point. It was as if the story just ended in the middle.

Fortunately time heals even generational wounds. Descendants have the benefit of looking back without the pain of individual experience. Perhaps my grandfather underestimated me. I like to think that I strive to live with open eyes, an open mind and an open heart. I want them all, rich and poor, horse thieves and heroes, beauty queens and beggars, cowboys and indians, slaveholders and slaves, politicians and clerics, midwives and morticians, the sane and the mad. They all belong to me.

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James Anderson Jordan was born in Georgia sometime between 1812 and 1815. Martha Bull was born in Jasper County, Georgia 20 Mar 1823. They married in Pike County, Georgia 19 Sep 1837. Pike County was the home of Martha’s family.

James and Martha had 9 children: Margaret Ann Augustus born 12 Dec 1838, John Robert born 19 Oct 1841, James Holmes born 05 Aug 1843, Mary Jane Jutson born 28 Sep 1845, Campbell Ambrose Bull born 07 Jan 1848, Mary Susan Dorcas born 29 Oct 1850, Thomas Daniel Clinton born 02 May 1852, Rebecca Adline born 11 Mar 1855 and William Daniel born 29 Oct 1857.

By 1850 much of the Bull/Jordan extended family had relocated to Ashley County, Arkansas. Martha’s brother William S. Bull and his family had moved to Bradley County. By 1860 Jim and Martha moved to Bradley County as well. William’s wife, Mary Ann, died sometime after the birth of their last child, about 1856, and before the 1860 census. I believe that Martha moved her family so as to be of assistance to her widowed brother and his 8 children.

It was in Bradley County that the family weathered the civil war. The two oldest boys served in the army. Bob enlisted in the 9th Arkansas Infantry at Pine Bluff 25 Jul 1861. He was killed at the Battle of Shiloh at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee 06 Apr 1862. Jim enlisted in 20th Arkansas Infantry at Warren 28 Feb 1862. He died at Corinth, Mississippi 13 May 1862. Family tradition says he died of the measles. I think that after the death of the two oldest sons and considering the hardships endured in Arkansas in 1862, Jim and Martha most likely sent 14 year old Campbell to visit relatives out of state to keep him out of  harm’s way. As of yet, I have little to support the story of his time spent away.

After the war, Campbell married Alice Martha Taylor in Bradley County 02 Dec 1869. Their first two children were born in Arkansas: James Nicholas born 23 Oct 1870 and Emma Rebecca born 26 May 1872. They moved to Williamson County, Texas in 1874. They had 9 more children in Texas.

It was about this time that Cam’s parents, Jim and Martha, and his younger siblings moved to Williamson County, Texas as well. His sister Mary had married James Harvey Denson, a Texan and a veteran that had served in the Texas cavalry in Arkansas, in 1868 and moved to Williamson County. There were also Bull cousins who lived in Circleville. But more about all that later.

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Campbell Ambrose JordanI’ve heard it said that Granny’s father, Campbell Ambrose Jordan (pronounced Jurden), was a mountain man, resourceful and a hard worker. As a young man he went to live with his mother’s family for a time, possibly in the vicinity of present day Kansas. There is a tantalizing note in a spiral notebook left by my grandmother, “per Cam’s memoirs.” If I had one wish, it would be to find someone with a copy of such memoirs.

Cam’s father was James Jordan from Georgia. He was the product of unknown parentage, a foundling, the soul survivor of an Indian attack on a wagon train. The little red headed, blue eyed infant was adopted. It is not known if Jordan was his birth name or if it was the name of his adopted family.

Cam’s mother, Martha Bull, was Indian. The little spiral notebook notes, “She  must have been born about 1820 because she remembered when the stars fell (November 10-12, 1833). She had dark hair, dark eyes and might have had an accent, reportedly calling her husband “Jeem.” The children remembered her telling them to be proud of their native ancestry because they were kin to the great chief Sitting Bull. Some believed that she was not Indian but French. To further complicate matters, Aunt Jip returned from a trip back east and told everyone she had visited the Bull plantation. She said they were descended from the English Bulls. This seemed even less likely.

Jim and Martha’s children were a mixed bag of his fair complexion and her dark complexion. Even today, older family members refer to the “dark Jordans” and the “light Jordans.” The two oldest boys, Jim and Bob, died while serving in the Confederate Army. Cam returned from his stay with Martha’s family with the intention of enlisting but the war had ended. After Cam, there were two younger brothers, Tom and Dan. There were four girls: Ann, Mary, Susie and Rebecca.

After returning to Arkansas, Cam courted and wed Alice Martha Taylor and they settled on a farm. He built a nice little log cabin with a puncheon floor, a luxury in those days. Their first two children, Nick and Emma, were native born Arkansans. After a few years, Cam got the idea to move to Texas. Their land in Arkansas was wooded and hilly and the men wore themselves out clearing it for farming. The word was Texas had lots of good, clear farmland available. So preparations were made to move the family to Texas. As the time to leave neared, Alice did not want to leave her home. She sat on the porch in her rocking chair as the wagon was loaded. Cam left her a horse and wagon and told her that when she was ready, she could come on. Then Cam, the kids and all their belongings drove away. She sat for awhile absorbing every last detail of her home. After a bit, she put the rocking chair in the back of the wagon and took off after her family heading to Texas. 

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Griffin Lewis Taylor was born in Virginia about 1815 or 1816.  Elizabeth Wardlaw was born in South Carolina about 1822. They married in Greene County, Alabama on November 24, 1841. At the time, Greene County was the home of Elizabeth’s family. By 1849, Lewis and Elizabeth had relocated to Lafayette County, Arkansas. Most of Elizabeth’s family, the Wardlaws, moved to Bradley County, Arkansas. There is more about them on the Bradley County ARGenWeb. A notable exception was Elizabeth’s brother, Addison Wardlaw, who settled in Ellis County, Texas.

Lewis and Elizabeth had four (known) children: Alice Martha born 19 Sep 1849, Emma born about 1852, Griffin Lewis born 02 Aug 1854 and Charles Dillard born about 1857. The birth dates for Alice Martha and Griffin Lewis are from their gravestones. The 1860 federal census records the place of birth for all four children as Arkansas.

The young family must have done well for themselves in Lafayette County, Arkansas. The 1850 federal census for LaGrange Township lists Lewis’ occupation as farmer. The 1860 federal census for Roane Township lists his occupation as overseer.

I put Elizabeth’s death at about 1861, sometime between the 1860 census and Lewis’ marriage to Emeline Munnelly 18 May 1862.

So far, the 1862 Lafayette County tax roll is where the document trail ends for Lewis. The next mention of the Taylors come in 1865 when Emeline Taylor is listed on the tax rolls. I don’t know if we can ever know the circumstances of his death or when and where he was buried. It is quite possible that the story is true and he died in Texas. He had two brothers-in-law in Texas, one in Ellis County and one in Falls County. Both are not so far from Waco, the seat of McLennan County. I’m still looking.

By the 1870 census:

Emma’s husband, J. M. (Jim) Forbes living with 4 month old Cora T.  (Taylor) and Susanna Forbes, 56 in Lafayette County. (Emma died young, either in childbirth with Cora or in the 4 months between the birth and the census date.) The next family is E. N. Taylor, 32, female, born in Tennessee and Munerly N., 11.

Twenty year old Alice is married and living with Cameron (sic) Jordan in Bradley County. They have no children but she must have been pregnant with Uncle Nick by this time.

Fifteen year old Lewis is living with John and Jane Wardlaw, his mother’s brother, in Bradley County.

Twelve year old Charles is living with Nick and Mary Jarrott, his mother’s sister, in Bradley County.

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Among the many family stories I remember from my childhood is that of my great-grandmother’s maternal grandparents. I think it stuck because it sounds as if it came from a screenplay: settlers moving west, family drama, death, heroism and horses. Family stories are often dismissed as something someone made up to kill time or entertain the children. There are some in the family who regularly voice that opinion. I think we view the world (including the past however inappropriate) through the lens of our own experience. Everyone loves “Lonesome Dove” but it is fiction after all, right?

Granny’s mother, Alice Martha Taylor, came from a well-to-do Arkansas family. It was reported that she claimed she was seventeen years old before she buttoned her own dress. She had a nanny to take care of her. She also claimed that she attended a finishing school in New Orleans as a young woman. Such was her station in life.

Alice’s father was Griffin Lewis Taylor from Virginia. He was the son of Richard Taylor, an early settler of Lunenburg, Kentucky. His family was purported to be of English descent, the same family that produced the former president Zachary Taylor.

Alice’s mother was Elizabeth Wardlaw. She was the daughter of William Wardlaw and a Miss Douglas. It was a large family with several daughters. The girls married men with names like Hargraves, Hickman and Jarrett.

Lewis and Elizabeth raised their family on a plantation with slaves. Alice was not an only child, she had a little brother. Unfortunately their mom, Elizabeth died leaving the children motherless. Lewis soon remarried. The step-mother was reported to be unpleasant. She and Alice did not get along at all. For this reason, Lewis decided to take the children with him on a trip to Waco, Texas. He wanted to purchase land there. He also took with him a significant amount of cash, a combination of his own funds and others’, and one of the slaves.

The trip was made on horseback and at some point, Lewis suddenly died in Texas. The cause of his death was lost to time. Making a cross country trip on horseback was fraught with danger. He could have been caught in the open during a storm and become sick. He could have been the victim of contaminated water. He could have crossed paths with the wrong people. Whatever happened, the man accompanying him took the children and the money and made his way back to their home in Arkansas. They travelled at night to avoid trouble as Texas was not the place for a black man with a bag of money and two white kids. They eventually arrived home safely.

My grandmother said that Alice and her husband-to-be, Cam met after the war. He had been away, had come of age and was off to join the army when the war ended, but that’s another story.

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Most people’s response to hearing about my family history/research/library obsession is to yawn. I consider the long hours spent searching and transcribing a tribute to the lives of those who lived at a time when life was much harder and more interesting.

Edwards County Memories – pages I originally put together as an assignment for an html class I took in 1998

Macedonia Cemetery – contains the graves of my great-great-great-grandparents and some of their children and grandchildren

Nolan Cemetery – where my great-great-grandparents and some of their children and grandchildren are buried

Travis County, Texas School Census of 1854 – a transcription I did last year for the Austin Genealogical Society which seems to have disappeared from their website

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