Archive for the ‘genealogy’ Category

My first attempt at locating someone on the census was my maternal great-grandmother’s family, the Jordans. That was probably 1994 or 1995, back when a census check involved a microform reader and a pencil. I found her where I expected to find her, in Coryell county with the rest of her family in 1900. It was a memorable moment.

Here she is, Cora Southey Jordan, with her siblings: Thomas Taylor, Eula Lizzette,  Martha Elizabeth and Florence Easley.

I have used Ancestry.com in the past but have not subscribed in three or four years because I felt that it had ceased to be of much use. I picked all the low-hanging fruit as it were. Recently I subscribed again to go back over some old files in preparation for printing some reports and found her again in 1900, this time in Eastland county.

She boarded with a family in Cisco so that she could further her piano studies. This is where she met her future husband, R. G. Moody. They were married 23 Oct 1901 and settled in Cisco. All six of their children were born there.

Granny would have found this amusing. She had a marvelous dry wit and undoubtly would have responded with something to the effect of either being in two places at once or having a split personality. She passed away 15 Jan 1973 when I was 10 years old.

I have heard tales of such a thing happening but never actually saw an example. Has anyone else ever come across this?


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John Perry MayesJohn Perry Mayes, horseman, hunter, cowboy, gold miner, rancher, lawman, banker and all around interesting guy. This photograph is estimated to have been taken in 1946, probably in Rocksprings, Texas and mostly likely by his wife’s brother-in-law, Charles A. Bruce.

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My musings about names and naming traditions have me thinking about a little mystery. Among Bull researchers there has been some debate about Rebecca H. Bull’s middle name. Some think her middle name was Hogan, some think her middle name was Ho(l)mes. While writing my post of Oct 30 about names, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe they both belong to her. There is a “four name” tradition in my branch of the family. Maybe it originated in the earlier generations.

As a child, I knew my great-grandmother as Cora Campbell Jordan, married name Moody. Turns out, and I didn’t know this until a few years ago, she was born Cora Southey Jordan. There was much debate about this in the family which was settled by consulting a great aunt who explained it all. She was named Southey after the English poet. Later in life she adopted the name Campbell, her father’s name, to honor her father. I briefly debated what I would do with this information and decided to acknowledge all of her names. I now list her as Cora Southey Campbell Jordan Moody. To shorten it for convenience would be bureaucratic and would not honor the story of her life.

Some years ago I came across information about her father’s family that included many second middle names that I had never heard. I doubted the information at first. Then I tracked down the cemetery where many of that family are buried and found evidence that at least some had indeed had a second middle name. For instance, Aunt Ann was Margaret Ann Jordan. She was listed on someone else’s family group sheet as Margaret Ann Augustus Jordan. Her gravestone reads “M. A. A. Jordon” supporting the idea that her middle name was both Ann and Augustus.  This still leaves the question of why her married name, Splawn, was left off (maybe they just ran out of room?). She died young, at the age of 37, and most likely the persons responsible for placing the original stone were her parents.

I always say, if unanswered questions drive you crazy, be careful about wishing for answers. Every answer inevitably leads to more questions. However, I know the answer to one question. “What’s in a name?”…the story.

So how am I going to prove or disprove my theory that maybe Rebecca is Rebecca Hogan Ho(l)mes Bull Scarborough Meek(s)?

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I was tag surfing yesterday and came across this post at the weblog of Will Woods. It made me think about how enthusiastic I was when I was beginning my research and how quickly I became disappointed at my slow progress. (It was really slow.) So I wrote a little encouraging letter to the me that was myself back then and came up with what follows.


10 Things I Wish I Knew in the Beginning

1. Go to the library. I am amazed at the number of people that are unfamiliar with their local library. Go there now. Make note of their hours of operation. Get a library card if you do not have one. Find the reference desk. Ask if they have a handout that lists their holdings of use to genealogists/family historians. Ask if they participate in interlibrary loan and what is the procedure for requesting materials. Is there a fee? Find out if there is an employee that has a specific interest in the subject and make an effort to connect with them. Librarians are our best friends.

Don’t overlook specialty libraries, public and private. Our city library has a whole branch library devoted to history and genealogy materials. State and federal entities have archives with reading rooms (NARA, TSLAC). Universities have libraries and you might be surprised at what you can find in them. Churches have libraries (LDS). Fraternal and social organizations have libraries (DRT, Masons). Go now and find them.

2. Join the local genealogy society. The annual dues are dirt cheap, $20 for my local group. In exchange I get a monthly newsletter, a quarterly publication, different speakers at every monthly meeting as well as a help desk, seminars for beginners, “brick wall” seminars, a regional annual seminar and group rates on research trips. This month, the field trip was to Salt Lake City to spend a week at the Family History Center (the big one). You will find all the help you can possibly need. You also have the opportunity to meet some really nice people and give back to the community. These groups are regular contributors of materials and equipment to those aforementioned libraries.

3. Educate yourself. Learn the difference between primary and secondary sources and why it is important to know the difference. Learn the difference between proof and evidence and how to evaluate the information you find. Find a book on citing sources. I have a copy of Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian but there are others.

4. Question what you find. There are published genealogies out there, especially on the internet, with bad information. Transcriptions can have typos. The census can be very helpful and is a lot of fun but it is only a secondary source. I have found many errors in it. It is important to have primary sources and more than one source whenever possible.

5. Prepare to be humbled. What you thought you knew (or what grandma, or anyone else thought they knew) may not be the case. Your ancestors are real people. If it will bother you to find out that your great-great-grandfather was a criminal, in the poorhouse or insane, don’t go looking for him. Human beings are complex creatures. Expect to find joy and sadness.

6. Getting dirty is all the fun. My favorite part, be willing to go to courthouses, sort through dusty boxes in your relatives’ basements and walk around in cemeteries. Wear sturdy footwear and don’t forget to stop for lunch. Think about water, sunscreen and insect repellant.

7. Leave no stone unturned. When you hit the wall, ask yourself, “What am I missing? What have I overlooked?” Always be open to synchronicity, it is a big part of this endeavor. Ask anyone that has been doing it for very long. You’re liable to get an earful. Turn on your intuition.

8. Ask and you shall receive. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Most genealogists are sympathetic to the limitations of distance and time. I once emailed a USGenWeb county coordinator on the west coast to find out if she knew how I could get a copy of an obituary for a long lost relative. The microfilm of the 19th century local newspaper was at a library somewhat near her (non-circulating). I was unable to locate a circulating copy anywhere. Her response, no problem. Next time I go to the library to do my research, I will look for it for you. A couple of weeks later, I received a transcription with citation via email. I couldn’t thank her enough and offered gas money for her trouble. Her response, no thanks, just pay it forward.

9. Don’t expect a free ride. As the owner of a glass shop once told me, there is no such thing as a cheap hobby. Free sources are limited and eventually you will have to spend some money. Fortunately there are many things you can do that are much more expensive. More importantly, if you have received assistance, it is your obligation to find some way to reciprocate. Pay it forward.

10. Publish. What’s the use in doing all this work if you can’t share it with anyone? Start a family newsletter. Create a website. Write an article for your genealogy society’s publication. There are many ways to share what you have learned.


Numbers 2 and 8 came to me very late. There’s something to beginner’s mind though. If you don’t have any preconceived notions, you are open to everything that you find.

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I found this post at The Genealogue validating and enlighting. It is about a jazz singer that relied on her intuition and music to help her past a genealogical brick wall. I’ve often wondered if I am crazy for some of the things I do to try and get unstuck. Sometimes they work. 

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This picture circulated on an email list a few years ago. The young woman is purported to be Martha Bull’s sister, Rebecca Hogan Bull.  Rebecca was 4 years younger than Martha. It’s said she was born in Georgia 18 Jun 1826 and died in Falls County, Texas 10 Dec 1905. I have yet to find her place of burial.

Looks to me like she had beautiful brown eyes and dark hair. Since I have never seen a picture of Martha (my ggg-grandmother), I like to look at it and think that maybe the sisters looked very much alike.


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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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