#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Tragedy

Every family endures its share of tragedies, from severe illnesses and early deaths to disaster-related losses of property. In many cases, the tragedy is that we don’t even really know what we’ve lost, because our loved ones failed to keep track of their ancestors or pass along the knowledge.

On my mom’s side of the family, I’ve filled in the family tree back to my 2nd Great-Grandparents. At the next level, I’m missing three names. I have eleven blanks at the 4th Great-Grandparent level, and a couple of others have names on the FamilySeach Family Tree, but without any supporting evidence listed.

John Cook’s father is unknown because his mother never married. Family lore says all her children had the same father, but his name is lost to history. John Cook married Lucinda Ryals, whose father’s name is sometimes given as Royal or Royals in documentation. His parents’ names are unknown. I have a promising DNA match that might be able to help, if the account manager would respond to messages. Sadly, the tester was elderly and may no longer be with us.

Jane Coursey is another brick wall. She seems to have been married to a Dickerson before having three children with James Bruce. No marriage record has been found for James and Jane.

William A. Stephens either died or divorced Mary Reid. I haven’t found a death record. They married in Conecuh County, Alabama, and there are a couple of possible William Stephens or Stevens in that area who could be him, but no evidence to support one or the other. I feel fairly confident about the Reid and Russell lines.

Someone added Jacob Ward and Elizabeth Collier as the parents of my 3rd Great-Grandmother Elizabeth Ward. No explanation or sources to explain why these would be the right parents. William Thompson’s wife is another one for whom I have no hard evidence of who she is.

Elizabeth Lawrence Rikard (or sometimes Rickard) is a pseudo brick wall. I know her mother was listed in various Census records as Dosha, Dotia, or Theodosia, and sometimes used the middle initial P. I have found a male Rikard in a Baldwin County Census, but no evidence to support that he is Elizabeth’s father. I also have no indications of what Theodosia’s maiden name is. Could that “P” be the first letter? Could Elizabeth’s middle name Lawrence (as listed in a family Bible, according to one of my Thompson cousins) be a clue?

My paternal great-great grandfather William F. Hahn remains a mystery. My dad’s brother took a Y-DNA test for me recently, so I hope that may shed some light on that family line. I’m pretty confident in his wife Ary Loper’s parents. Some DNA matches seem to prove a connection to the Bergsteiner family. I’m less certain about Joseph and Jane Pippin – and if Jane is my ancestor, who were her parents?

The Cooper family is well documented. Arminta continues to be listed on many family trees as a McKenzie, despite plenty of evidence that he was her stepfather. I don’t know her father’s first name, but he was a Stephens, and I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out who his parents and siblings are. The Givens family has been well-researched, which is terrific since Joseph Harvell Givens and Mary Susan Holland appear in my tree twice. I haven’t done much work on the Holland family and documentation is limited on James David Holland and Nancy Patsie.

The Silcox line is tough. I’m confident in William H. Silcox (some cousins say the “H” stands for Henry; my great-aunts say it’s Hampton). His death certificate gives his father’s name as John, but his mother was widowed when William was a small child. What are the chances his children didn’t know their grandfather’s name? There is a William and other children with the right names and ages to be this family in the 1860 Census living with the widowed Sarah Sylcox. Cousins have presented credible evidence that Wade Warren Silcox was her late husband. Wade has a brother named John, though, and both possible trails lead back to John W. Silcox and Amelia Ann Cordery. If the trees can be believed, several DNA matches confirm descendancy from that couple.

I have no confidence in Sarah’s maiden name and have not researched that line myself at all.

I believe the parents of Dorithea Duck (pronounced Drathey by my great-aunts) are correct based on documents and DNA matches.

Here we have the Givens-Holland lines again. Evidence is solid for the Parker and Manning fathers, but very limited for the mothers.

We have such incredible tools now for keeping in touch with relatives and for sharing what we know about our family history. Hopefully the work we are doing now to build accurate and well-sourced trees will help avoid the tragedy of lost history for future generations.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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1 Response to #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Tragedy

  1. Barb LaFara says:

    I like your take on tragedy. Thanks for sharing.

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