Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Is Southern US research impossible?

From: Barbara Lewis Gates
In 1995 I hired a professional genealogy research firm in Salt Lake City to extend my pedigree, specifically my father's line. Surname: Lewis. Date of birth of the earliest ancestor was 1798. The census record said he was born in Tennessee. (Yes, one of those "common surname" nightmares. And the local was the Deep South, where so many court house records were burned during the Civil War.)

They were no more successful in finding my father's lineage than I was. I was told, "This is as close to a dead end as we ever see, and without Divine assistance, we do not recommend you try to pursue this line any further. At least, not until more records are uncovered-perhaps ten years down the road."

I found this to be very disappointing and did not want to give up, so I continued researching every Lewis family in the state of Tennessee I could find. But the naming patterns made it almost impossible to determine who was who, because every male Lewis named their sons after their fathers, grandfathers, brothers and uncles.

I found many individuals who could easily have been David Lewis's brothers, but have no connections to anyone. There are tons of "Lewis" information on the internet. But nothing connects. I even sent a DNA sample from a Lewis cousin of mine to the University of Arizona for analysis, and they had nothing that would match this line.

I've always been told, "NEVER GIVE UP!" (and I don't want to), but I just don't know what to do next. Is it time to throw in the towel on my father's line?

Well, first consider that we "NEVER GIVE UP." Secondly, much HAS come to light in the last ten years. Though DNA is useful for comparing two individuals for parentage, and for common lineage hundreds of years back, it doesn't answer the lineage questions you have at this point. It would be impossible to provide a definitive list of research goals without:

-- a file of the full name of the ancestor, his wife and children
-- detailed listing of records previous searched & results
-- proven pedigree to this point
-- details of specific locality (town, county in Tennessee)

Last week's DearMYRTLE's FAMILY HISTORY HOUR discussed a Tennessee apprenticeship phenomenon noticed by compiler Dr. Alan Miller who explained "RE: Apprentices from 1778 to 1911: the practice of apprenticeship 'spread to the colonies along with other English customs but gradually became less of a method of training in the professions and crafts, developing instead into a system whereby children who were or were likely to become indigent could be supported without cost to the local government.' In Tennessee, in fact, the term "orphan" was broadened to include not only parentless children but also "any child as bindable whose father had abandoned him or utterly failed and refused to support him [...]

Since apprentices were separated from their families at an early age, if your ancestor was apprenticed, his/her record could serve as the "missing link" to generations of elusive ancestors. It is sometimes possible to find a county's records of indenture in the original. However, as in Mr. Miller's case, even when those records have disappeared, you can reconstruct them by combing through the original court minutes of the pertinent counties themselves."

2 of the 3 books by Dr. Miller on this topic include:

MIDDLE TENNESSEE'S FORGOTTEN CHILDREN: Apprentices from 1784 to 1902
This second volume of Tennessee's "forgotten children" contains some 7,000 apprenticeship records scattered among the minutes of the county courts for Middle Tennessee. These records span the period from 1774 to 1902 and list in tabular form the apprenticeships created in the following 35 Tennessee counties: Bedford, Cannon, Cheatham, Clay, Coffee, Davidson, DeKalb, Dickson, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Jackson, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Montgomery, Moore, Overton, Perry, Robertson, Rutherford, Smith, Stewart, Sumner, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne, White, Williamson, and Wilson.

EAST TENNESSEE'S FORGOTTEN CHILDREN: Apprentices from 1778 to 1911
These 11,000 records bear reference to apprenticeships created between 1778 and 1911 in 29 Tennessee counties. Mr. Miller has arranged the records by county and thereunder chronologically. For each record we are given the name of the apprentice, a date (either the date of the original bond or indenture, or a subsequent date), age at apprenticeship, name of the master, and miscellaneous information ranging from the name of the mother or a sibling, race, cause of apprenticeship (e.g., orphan), his/her trade, etc.


From this I discovered that "Mary B. Kegley's SOLDIERS OF FINCASTLE COUNTY, VIRGINIA, 1774. Dublin, Va.: M. B. Kegley, 1974. (FHL book 975.5 A1 no.12; computer number 215250.) The record is arranged by companies and gives name, number of days served, rate, and amount paid. The record may include men living in the territory that later became the State of Tennessee. This record includes an index."

-- One thing that might be of value is to study the history of the county where your LEWIS ancestor lived. These tend to mention things like where people migrated from who settled in the SW corner of this county, etc. Check P. William Filby's BIBLIOGRAPHY OF AMERICAN COUNTY HISTORIES. I've also seen Austin Powers Foster's COUNTIES OF TENNESSEE. 1923. Reprint, Greenville, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1990. (FHL book 976.8 E2fa; computer number 647574.) You'll also want to observe the change of country boundaries using AniMap from and the review maps drawn by William Dollarhide, published in MAP GUIDE TO THE US FEDERAL CENSUS 1790-1910, with fellow compiler William Thorndale. The new 11th Edition of THE HANDYBOOK FOR GENEALOGISTS from lists each county in Tennessee in alpha order, with website and contact info in addition to listings of which records have survived and who is maintaining them. It also lists the parent counties.

-- Have you considered whether your Mr. Lewis served in the military? You might consider consulting Mrs. John Trotwood Moore's RECORD OF COMMISSIONS OF OFFICERS IN THE TENNESSEE MILITIA, 1796–1815. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing, 1977. (FHL book 976.8 M2m; computer number 255483.)

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
DearMYRTLE, your friend in genealogy.

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