Sometimes a name travels down through the family, at least a generation or two, and it can be key to helping a genealogist make connections.
Take my husband’s grandfather, John Crittenden Raney. I knew very little about him when I started researching the family tree. He died more than a decade before my husband was born. I found John pretty quickly on FindAGrave, and that gave me a birthdate of March 5, 1880 and death date of December 9, 1951. My mother-in-law told me he was born in Russell County, Kentucky, and she remembered him talking about his mother, Loretta Belle.
It took me a while of trying different search combinations before I finally found a likely pair for his parents. Loretta B. Harris married William J. B. Raney in Russell County, Kentucky, on June 3rd, 1880.
Wait, what? That’s three months after little John C. Raney was born. Now, I haven’t found a birth certificate, so maybe the date listed on all the other dated records I’ve found has been off by a year.
Now, I have to say, after researching my Alabama ancestors, seeing a marriage record with two pages of details filled my heart with joy!
Then I started reading. William J. B. Raney?! Why didn’t you give your age? Or the birthplaces of your parents? Were you not being cooperative? At least I knew Loretta’s age and where her mother was born. Oh wait, here’s a clue — to be married at John J.C. Harris’ — could that be her father? And, look, John J. C. Harris also officiated. Hmmm, maybe this was a shotgun wedding!!
I began to look more into Loretta and the mysterious John J. C. Harris, and I found them in the 1880 Census. Indeed he was her father, and his occupation is listed as preacher. The enumeration date of the census was June 1, 1880, and there’s no baby in the household, leading me to think John C. Raney was really born in 1881, which would have put his birth exactly nine months after the wedding. Maybe dad didn’t have to be led to the alter after all.
The evidence was starting to fall into place, but I still wasn’t 100% sure I had the right family until I found John J. C. Harris’ profile on FamilySearch. That gave his full name as John Jefferson Crittenton Harris. Profiles on other family tree sites have the spelling as Crittenden.
I believe the name Crittenden/Crittenton came from Kentucky statesman John J. Crittenden. According to Wikipedia, he was born in 1787 in Kentucky, son of a Revolutionary War veteran. A few years before John J. C. Harris was born, John J. Crittenden was nominated for U.S. Attorney General, and at the time of Harris’ birth, Crittenden was Kentucky’s U.S. Senator.
That the middle name’s the same convinced me that I was on the right track.
Members of the Raney and Harris families later moved from Kentucky to the same part of Texas around the same time. Also in the past five years, I’ve found quite a few DNA matches leading back to John Jefferson Crittenton Harris, further verifying my research.