The trouble with family history research today, more than ever, is that for any given person in one’s family tree, one can find multiple ancestors. Not multiple in the sense of two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents. Multiple in the sense that my 3x Great Grandmother Arminta Alice has two men listed as her father: Daniel McKenzie and her mother’s first husband, unknown-first-name Stephens.
The misinformation makes it even harder when you’re trying to do DNA matching. After all, finding the connection with a DNA cousin requires finding your common ancestor. If either one of you has one person wrong, even if it is just an honest mistake, you’ll be left scratching your head.
Take the case of my husband’s great-grandmother Martha J. Ball Lindsey, 1838-1897. That’s Martha J. Ball of the Lee County, Virginia, Balls. Boy, are there a lot of Balls in Lee County, Virginia, and I have no idea what her parents’ names are. Tim gets a lot of DNA matches with trees that lead back to John Ball and Mary Polly Yeary, but is he really their descendant or are his matches’ trees inaccurate.
I know now that some of them are wrong, and really mine was, too, for a while. I was so sure that Robert Ball and Sarah Napier were his 2xGG. I mean, there’s Martha Ball right there in the family! Sure, it says she’s 10, according to the information I have she’d be 12, but we know the ages on Census forms aren’t always right. But someone else had their Martha attached to Robert and Sarah’s profile on FamilySearch. How could I prove mine was the right Martha. I heard about a book called “John Ball of Lee County, Virginia, and his Descendants” and I just knew it held the key. Well, yes it did, but not in the way I had hoped. A kind librarian in Kentucky scanned the pages listing Robert Ball’s will, and in it, he listed each of his daughters with their married name, and – you guessed it – Martha’s married name was not Lindsey. There are trees out there that have the wrong information, and even if I try to contact them all, there’s no guarantee they’re even checking their accounts or would update their trees.
On the other side of my husband’s family, I’m quite confident back to John A. Raney (1834-1890). When I first started researching online, no one had a father for him. Then I saw one or two trees that listed and Ezekial Raney and Alva Black as his parents. That soon multiplied as Ancestry et.al. started passing out the hints. And that could be right, but it doesn’t feel right looking at the information. I found a William Rainey (1795-?) from the right part of North Carolina, with an 1850 Census showing little John with the family. It all makes sense, in combination with other records, but I’m still not sure.
What I feel pretty confident about is that the Rainey/Raney family is the connection between my husband and his mother and my mother, who show up as distant cousins in DNA. That’s the only family name we have in common (s0 far). I even found one family tree that linked up my mom’s Raineys and Tim’s Raneys, but it didn’t have any good sources, so who knows?!
Hopefully, someday, I’ll find the key sources that will help me whittle all these multiple possible ancestors down to just the right one.
This post was inspired by a prompt in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.