I am going to cheat a little for this post and talk about one of my husband’s ancestors, Hans Michael Hold, Sr., and his involvement with the Hebron Lutheran Church. The Hebron Lutheran Church is located in Madison, Virginia, the original building built in 1740 is still standing, and the church itself is the oldest Lutheran church still in use in America.
Hans Michael Hold is the 8th great grandfather of my husband, and I have just recently researched this line and am proud to say that I have complete documentation in place from my husband to Hans Michael. This is often hard to accomplish when living far from the states where the records exist, but I have managed it this time!
Hans Michael has a very compelling story, and we are fortunate that 1) the American records are readily available 2) the church records in Germany are in tact and 3) there is a whole society dedicated to the research and preservation of the settlement where Hans Michael lived after newly arriving from Germany.
Hans Michael was baptized on 30 Dec 1696 in Stetten am Heuchelberg in Baden, Germany, the youngest child of Martin Hold and his second wife, Anna Maria Brückmann. Martin Hold died in 1710, and 7 years later, his widow, her new husband, and son Hans Michael attempted to immigrate to Pennsylvania with other Germans with the same religious convictions. However, their ship captain sold the passengers on board as indentured servants to Alexander Spottswood (a governor of Virginia) to clear his debts. Not speaking any English, the Germans, including Hans Michael and his family, were trapped.
They served out their terms of seven years at the Germanna settlement in Virginia where Spottswood ran an iron works. An amazing part of this story is that the site has been preserved and can be visited! (Put that on my list of genealogy relate sites to visit.)
Understandably, after Hans Michael finished his servitude, he moved his family to the Robinson Valley in present day Madison, Virginia. While there, Hans Michael joined the other German families in a new Lutheran congregation called Hebron. The congregation needed funds to build a church large enough to house the 274 worshipers, so in 1734, Hans Michael and two other members, Reverend Johann Caspar Stoever and Michael Smith, traveled to London, Germany, and Holland, to raise the funds. They raised the money, but Hans Michael and Stoever had an argument during the trip and Stoever died on the return journey to Virginia. The church was built in 1740 and originally measured 50 ft by 26 ft but several additions have been made to the structure over the years.
This beautiful church my husband’s ancestors helped build and where they worshiped is still an active place of worship. We are both hoping to visit the church and the area in the future. It’s always such a treat to be able to step into a place where ancestors lived and breathed; it somehow provides a special connection to them that isn’t attainable when looking at records. I think this is particularly true for this church and Hans Michael. His Lutheran faith was obviously so important to him and his family that he left Germany for it and later willing returned to Germany and London (where his future as an indentured servant was sealed) in order to provide a house for his religious community. A meaningful place to him will be a meaningful place to us.
Well…it has been a LONG time since I last wrote a blog post for 52 Ancestors. This year, like every year I suppose, has been very hectic, and some unexpected medical problems dominated the second half of 2019. So, I will be playing catch up with these prompts for a while.
Today’s topic (or rather last April’s topic) is DNA. I will confess that while I have taken the Ancestry.com DNA test (and forced the rest of my family to do so as well) and the Nat Geo test to find out my maternal haplogroup, I have not really taken advantage of DNA as much as I should have. But, from what little I have done, I have found some “new” cousins, shared and received great information and photos, and have learned about my deep roots.
I originally tested with Ancestry.com back in 2014. There have been several updates since, so over the years I have gained, lost, and regained regions. As of 2020, My ethnicity regions are: Great Britain/Northwest Europe 85%, Ireland/Scotland 12%, and Germanic Europe 3%. No surprises here, in fact this is very expected. The majority of my tree is dominated by people of English descent, with plenty of Scots and Irish, and quite a few German lines as well. In fact, I did expect the German to be a larger part of my DNA results, but some of that is probably reflected in the Great Britain/Northwest Europe category.
Over the years, I have made some great connections through the DNA feature. I met one cousin who was able to supply me with a photograph of William Althauser, one of my very favorite ancestors, as well as a deposition in which he gave an account of his life for his naturalization application. I met another cousin who helped me find William’s mother’s family in Cincinnati. I also found a DNA connection to two of my friends at work, which was pretty incredible.
So far, I have not found any big surprises or crazy stories like some people have, but honestly, I am happy just to see that the records seem to match the science.
NAT GEO Results
After taking the Ancestry.com test, I read The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes, and that inspired me to take the Nat Geo DNA test so that I could find out my maternal haplogroup. I was so curious! Which of the seven daughters would I be descended from??
The answer: none of them. Instead, I am a part of the Ulrike group, which is a subgroup of Ursula, one of the seven daughters. So, it seems I am a descendant of Ursula, but when a mutation occurred, then Ulrike was produced. My haplogroup is U4c1a, so if anyone is a part of this group, let me know! U4 is relatively rare in modern populations and is most often found in Scandinavia and the Baltic states. I have not traced anyone on my mother’s direct line to either of these areas, so this line may have migrated to Scotland or Ireland with the Vikings, which is really fun to consider.
DNA results have been fun to see and learn about, but I really do need to take advantage of the resources I have to help my genealogical research. Hopefully I will have more time this year to devote to studying DNA!
This week, I took some inspiration from the “10” prompt from 2018, which featured my 10th great grandfather, Nicholas Spencer. So here is “12,” a post about my 12th great grandmother, Dame Anne Gostwick.
Connection to Nicholas Spencer
Going back 12 generations is a very difficult task, especially early in the colonial period when records in certain places are now somewhat scarce. I have managed to go back this far for a few family lines, and the Spencer line is undoubtedly one of my favorites, not least because it is full of fascinating characters. This line is special to me because not only did I research stateside, but I also had the opportunity to research it in England. That experience was unforgettable!
I have written several posts about the Spencer/Ariss/Moss/Swift family for this challenge, but the one with the most relevance to Dame Anne is the post about Nicholas Spencer. At the beginning of that post, I gave some information pertaining to Nicholas’s family background. His most distinguished line came through his mother, Lady Mary Armiger, whose parents were Sir Edward Gostwick, baronet, and Dame Anne Gostwick, nee Wentworth. Dame Anne Gostwick, therefore, is Nicholas’s maternal grandmother.
Dame Anne Gostwick was born Anne Wentworth to John Wentworth, Esquire and Cecily Unton.  Anne’s mother, Cecily Unton, had a quite impressive pedigree. She was the daughter of Sir Edward Unton and Lady Anne Seymour, Countess of Warwick.  Last year, I wrote a post about Lady Anne Seymour, which can be found here. She was the daughter of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and his wife, Anne (Stanhope) Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. Both were descended from Edward III. Queen Jane Seymour was Edward’s sister, and Queen Catherine Parr was his sister-in-law. This made Edward and Anne Seymour’s children, including daughter Anne, first cousins of King Edward VII. Lady Anne’s first husband was John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, turning Lady Anne into a countess.  Dudley died young, and her second husband was Sir Edward Unton, a gentleman from a well-established family in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, though the marriage was a lowly connection in comparison to the Seymours and Dudleys.  Lady Anne and Sir Edward Unton’s oldest daughter, Cecily, married John Wentworth, Esquire of Gosfield Hall in Essex in 1580. 
The Wentworth family was situated in Gosfield, Essex. John Wentworth was his father’s heir, and on his death in 1588, he inherited Gosfield Hall. John was a descendant of the De Spenser family, as well as the Boleyns. His great grandfather was Queen Anne Boleyn’s second cousin. 
John Wentworth and his wife, Cecily, were the parents of Dame Anne, the subject of this post.
Early Life and Clandestine Marriage
John and Cecily Wentworth’s oldest daughter, Anne, was born at her father’s estate, Gosfield Hall, Essex, and was baptized on 3 March 1589/90.  Anne had two older brothers, John and William, one older sister Mary, and four younger sisters, Diana, Cecily, Elizabeth, and Catherine.  Anne and her siblings grew up at Gosfield Hall, a beautiful house built in 1545 which had hosted Elizabeth I on several occasions. The Hall is still standing, has been added onto over the years, and is now a wedding venue.
Where and how Anne met her husband, Sir Edward Gostwick, is a mystery. Sir Edward was the son of Sir John Gostwick and his wife Dame Jane Owen, herself a descendant of Edward III, Owen Tudor, the Woodville family, and the Dukes of Stafford.  Sir Edward attended Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1606, though he only remained at the college for a year. Likely, he attended to make connections. He was subsequently knighted at Whitehall Palace in 1607.  As Willington, Sir Edward’s home, and Gosfield, where Anne was born, are rather far apart, it is quite likely that the two met in London. In fact, Anne’s sister Diana married in London in May 1608 and Cecily married there in 1609.
The marriage of Anne Wentworth and Sir Edward Gostwick was laballed a “clandestine” marriage, according to the entry in the Gosfield Parish records. Here it is in Latin:
D[omi]nus Edwardus Gosticke, Miles, duxit [in] uxorem Annam Wentworth, filiam Joh[ann]is Wentworth, arm[ige]ri, 11 die Aprilis, clandestine in aedibus dicti Joh[ann]is Wentworth, Thomas Banbridge, p[res]bitero, dictum matrimon[ium] celebranti, 1608. 
Master Edward Gosticke, Knight, took to wife Anna Wentworth, daughter of John Wentworth, armsbearer, 11 of April, surreptitiously in the said house of John Wentworth, Thomas Bandridge, priest celebrating the marriage.
At first, this sounds quite scandalous, but what did “clandestine” mean in the 17th century? A clandestine marriage was one that was missing several elements of a typical marriage: banns were not read, a marriage license was not obtained, the marriage did not take place in one of the parishes from which the bride or groom was from, and/or the marriage did not take place in a church. The only requirement that could not be neglected was that the couple was married by an Anglican priest.
In Edward and Anne’s case, it seems it was deemed “clandestine” because they were married at Gosfield Hall rather than at the parish church. I wonder why they chose to do this? Gosfield Hall was of course Anne’s home and it is absolutely beautiful, but why would they choose a clandestine marriage over a traditional one in the local church?
One of the main reasons for clandestine marriages was to avoid parental consent issues. As Edward and Anne were married at Gosfield Hall, does that mean that it was possible Edward’s parents, Sir William Gostwick, Baronet, and Dame Jane Gostwick, did not approve of his marriage to Anne, whose father was not titled though he bore his family’s arms? I suppose this is quite possible. Even though his parents were titled, Anne’s family was impressive.
Another reason for clandestine marriages was to hide a pregnancy. Again, this is another possibility for Edward and Anne. However, I have not seen any evidence that this was an issue.
I may never know why they chose a clandestine marriage, but it adds something very unique to their story!
Baronetcy and Children
Sir Edward had been knighted by James I before his marriage to Anne, but he did not succeed to the Baronetcy until 19 September 1615 when his father died. By then, his three oldest children had been born. 
Anne gave birth to at least 8 children who grew to adulthood: Elizabeth, Mary, Edward, William, Thomas, Anne, Jane, and Frances. The children were named in her will, and her monument in Willington Church recorded that she had 3 sons and 5 daughters.
Elizabeth: Baptized 17 March 1611 in Willington, Bedfordshire 
Mary: Baptized 26 December 1612 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) 
Frances: Baptized 19 February 1615 in Bisham, Berkshire 
William: Baptized 12 September 1616 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) 
Jane: Baptized 20 October 1618 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) 
Edward: Baptized 30 March 1620 in Gravely, Hertfordshire 
Thomas: Baptized 3 July 1621 in Gravely, Hertfordshire 
Hannah: Baptized 9 December 1622 in Gravely, Hertfordshire 
Anne: Baptized 12 August 1624 in Gravely, Hertfordshire 
William: Baptized 17 October 1630 in Willington, Bedfordshire 
As a second William was born in 1630, the older William must have died young. Hannah was not mentioned in her mother’s will, which means she is not one of the 5 daughters referenced on her mother’s monument. All of the above children’s baptismal records listed Edward Gostwick as the father, but only the baptisms that took place in Norton also listed Anne.
Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s Deaths
Much of Dame Anne’s adult life was probably spent moving around the Gostwicks’ property, giving birth to her children, raising them, and then helping with their marriages. Sadly, Sir Edward died on 20 September 1630 at the age of 42, 15 years to the day of his father’s burial.  He was buried in Willington Church in the Gostwick Chapel. A beautiful monument affixed to the wall exhibits statues of him, his wife Anne, their 5 adult daughters, and 2 of their sons.
One of the saddest parts of this story is that Sir Edward died a month before his youngest child, William, was baptized. It is possible that he met his son before his death, but it is equally as possible that he missed his birth and baptism. This would have been such a difficult thing for Dame Anne to endure.
Dame Anne only lived another three years. She died on 6 July 1633 and was buried with her husband. The most remarkable part of their deaths and burial is their burial monument. The inscriptions give such a sweet glimpse into their personal lives. Here is the first inscription:
To the memories of Sir Edward Gostwyke Knt. and Baronet, and Dame Anna his wife, eldest daughter of John Wentworth of Gosfield in Essex, Esqr., by whom he had issue 3 sonnes and 5 daughters. (They lived vertuously and died religiously). Shee in her widowhood like a true Turtle never joying after his departure till her dyinge Day.
Here is the second inscription:
On the death of Sir Edward Gostwyk Knight and Baronet. Chronogram. – Edward Gostwyk died 20th September, 1630, aged 42.
On the death of the most select Lady. Chronogram. – And the wife hastens to join her husband 6th July, 1633, Aged 42.
As a bright example of fidelity and social love, this marble is inscribed with the name of Gostwyk. They lived equal in piety and second to none. The one was quite wrapt up in the love of the other. He first yielded to fate, that she might not yield. She, however, was not a whit behind her husband in love. He, when he had numbered both thrice and four times six years (42), said, ‘O Anna, I have lived out my days,’ and fell asleep. She, when she had completed the years of her beloved husband, said, ‘O Edward, I have lived out mine,” and fell asleep. Thus they lived alike in mind, husband and wife; thus in life and mind alike they fell asleep. 
Isn’t that just beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful? They must have been truly in love with one another, and it was quite apparent to whoever commissioned the inscriptions.
A Few Observations
– The “turtle” mentioned in the inscription is actually a reference to a turtle dove, known for “the constancy of its affection.” Another sweet testament to their love.
– Thinking back on their clandestine marriage, the inscriptions shed a new light on the circumstances. I would be willing to assume that Sir Edward and Dame Anne were quite in love with one another, and perhaps the his parents in fact did not approve of their marriage. Whatever the reason, they were definitely in love and were ready to get married.
Dame Anne’s Will
Sir Edward did not leave a will, but Dame Anne did. I am always thrilled when I find a will for any family member, but for me, it is incredibly special when I find one for an ancestress. For many women, it is one of the few places where their voices can truly be heard. Even better, Dame Anne left a will in 1633. 1633! That is 386 year ago!
Below are a few of the most important or genealogically interesting sections of her will:
In the name of God Amen, The fifteenth day of May in the year of our lord God according to the computacion of the Church of England one Thousand five hundred therty three I Ann Gostwicke widdowe late wyfe of Sr Edward Gostwicke of Willington in the County of Bedford beinge att the the time in reasonable helth and perfect Remembrance for which I doe blesse and praise Allmighty God…
I bequeath my soule to Allmighty God…
My body I committ to the earth from where ytt came to be privately buryed in the Parish of Willington in that Church so neare my dear husband as…will permitt and appoint my beloved Cosen Mr William Ashwell Gentleman and Merchant of London to bee my sole Executour…
I doe bequeath to Mr Hoyvill Preacher of Gods word in Willington the summe of fforty shillinges to Mr Cookson Minister twenty five shillinges to Mr Rydings Minister twenty two shillinges to my Cosen Panmer minister twenty two shillinges to buy them gold Ringes wth deathes hands
I doe bequeath to my sister…my ringe sett wth greene stones and three other ringes I have allready given wth my owne hands
the rest of my Jewells I doe give my Daughter Elizabeth and Ffrancis Gostwicke to bee equally devided
I doe bequeath my sister Katheryn Wentworth a silver porrindge of forty shillinges
I doe bequeath my dahter Mary Spencer my two silver candlesticks
I doe bequeath to my sister [Diana] Bowles fowre children twenty two shillinges a peece
I doe bequeath to my Gentlewoman Mary Payne my gowne and petticote of black satten and the summe of Tenn poundes of lawfull English money
all my other apparell I doe bequeath to my fowre daughters Bes Ffrank Joane and Anne to be distributed Bes to choose first then Frank
I doe bequeath all my child bedd linen…to my house of Willington and all damaske and diaper and all sets of table linnen whatsoever all holland sheetes and pillow…to be safely kept to remain to the house as long as they will endure wth carefull usage
and for all the ordinary howshowld sheets I doe bequeath to my two daughters Bes and Ffranke to bee equally devided but not to bee given them till they bee maryed
I doe bequeath to my servant Ffrancis Reade the summe of forty shillings and to my servant Masson twenty shillinges and to my two Chambermaydes each of them twenty shillinges and to the rest of my yearly servants tenn shillinges a peece and to the poore of Willington yf I bee buryed there fforty shillinges yf I die in London forty shillinges to the uphowldinge of that Parish Church in which God called mee all the rest of my estate whatsoever I doe bequeath to my Executor performinge my will as for the goods I tooke to my owne use I can owne — money uppon them consideringe I have kept all my Children in meate and apparell even since the diparture of their deare ffather…
Signed Anne Gostwick 
Dame Anne’s Will – Observations
What an amazing will! There are so many points to discuss!
After reading through the will again after writing about the burial monument, the sincerity of her use of “dear husband” or “deare ffather” really struck me. It seems that she was very much in love with him, and her request to be buried as close to him as possible was very sweet.
There were several people missing from her will: her sons! Not one of her sons was mentioned in her will. I suppose this is because the 13 year old heir, her son Sir Edward, would automatically inherit the majority of his father’s property. Her other two sons, Thomas and William, were both under 10 years old. I am wondering if some other provisions were made for the sons elsewhere. This will go on the list of “things to research!”
Daughters and Bequests
She was sure to include all of her daughters: Elizabeth, Mary, Frances, Jane, and Anne. I love that she used some her daughters’ nicknames rather than their full names: Bes for Elizabeth, Franke for Francis, and Joan for Jane. That brings a bit of personality and private life to a very formal document.
Both Mary and Bess were married. Mary (my 11th great grandmother) married Nicholas Spencer, Esquire on 20 January 1629 in Ravensden, Bedfordshire. Mary’s wedding was the only one attended by both of her parents.  Bess married Miles Matthews on 13 March 1632. Their license, issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is quite informative:
1632-Mch. 13 – Miles Matthews, of Bishop’s Hatfield, co. Herts, Esq., Bachr, 33, & Elizabeth Gostwicke, Spr, 23, dau. of Sir Edward Gostwick, late of Willington Herts, Kt & Bart, decd., with consent of her mother Dame Ann Gostwicke, of Willington afsd, Widow, at St. Faith’s London, or Wormleigh, co. Herts. 
This is definitely my Bess, as the parents listed in her license leave no room for doubt there. In Dame Anne’s will, she states that if she dies in London, etc., so she must have been traveling between Willington and St. Faith’s Parish in London. St. Faith’s Church is longer standing, but it was attached to the old St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is likely the Parish church to which Dame Anne was referring in her will. Notably, Dame Anne gave her consent for their marriage, different from her own clandestine marriage.
Mary only received silver candlesticks, but she had likely been given other items upon her marriage. Her sisters received clothing, jewels, and ordinary house linen. As the main house in Willington would go to her son, Dame Anne wanted all the best linen to stay with the house.
Bequests to Servants
Dame Anne also left items and money to her servants. This gives me just a little insight into Anne’s daily life. As the wife of a Baronet, she was constantly surrounded by servants who helped her care for her children, run her house, and run her estate.
She names first her gentlewoman, Mary Payne, to whom she bequeaths a gown and petticoat of black satin and some money. A gentlewoman, used in this context, refers to a lady’s companion. A lady’s companion was a woman of genteel birth whose social status was slightly lower than the lady whom she was serving. Mary Payne, therefore, was probably from a respectable family, and though she wasn’t a serving girl, she was not the social equal of Dame Anne. Her main duties would include spending time with Dame Anne, reading to her or with her, providing conversation, and general companionship. She would be paid an allowance, would sleep in nice rooms in the home, help entertain, and accompany her mistress to social events. It seems that Dame Anne was a bit sad and lonely after the death of Sir Edward, so Mary Payne probably helped cheer her.
Dame Anne needed other female servants to perform other tasks within the household. Francis Reade was also given money, and was simply called a servant. She was likely the woman who supervised the other servants within the house, purchased items for the house, and kept accounts. Frances could possibly be a lady’s maid, who would have been in charge or dressing Dame Anne, caring for her clothes, running errands, and taking care of any personal issues her mistress might have.
Dame Anne also mentions two chambermaids, but does not give their names. The chambermaids would have been in charge of taking care of the rooms within the house, tending the fires, changing linen, and other small tasks the mistress needed completed.
The only male servant named was Masson, and he could have been tasked with any number of things, from accounts to horses.
Dame Anne also employed an unspecified number of other servants who she engaged on a yearly basis. These servants were probably house maids, kitchen maids, grooms, and page boys. These servants could also refer to any person who worked on the estate in any capacity.
I think it is fair to say that Dame Anne lived a life that was materially comfortable. She born into some luxury, married a baronet, and had a gaggle of servants to see to her and her family’s every need. Dame Anne is a good example of a 17th-century, noble woman who lived a fairly typical upper class life.
This was such a long post, so thanks for staying with me until the end! The more research I conducted on Dame Anne, the more I came to really connect with her. I think her love story is so sweet, especially for a the 17th century, though incredibly sad at the same time. Her will is definitely a treasure, and it provided such a fantastic window into the life of a noble woman. I am certainly fortunate to have found so much information about an ancestress who lived so long ago.
1. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 30th p., Anne Wentworth baptism (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.
2. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 46.
3. Westminster Abbey, (Westminster, London, England), Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset monumental inscription, read by R. Vaughn, 23 April 2018.
4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 48.
4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 42-48.
23. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.
24. The Home Counties Magazine, Devoted to the Topography of London, Middlesex, Essex, Herts, Bucks, Berks, Surrey, and Kent, vol. 9 (London: Reynell & Son, 1907), 154.
25. Dame Ann Gostwicke will, Willington, Bedfordshire, 1633; PROB 11/163/736, Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Wills and Letters of Administration, The National Archives, Kew, England; imaged at “Discovery,” database, The National Archives (https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D866438 : accessed 11 May 2019).
As everyone can probably see, I have used the past few days to play “catch up” with my genealogy posts! This spring has been surprisingly busy for me, and yesterday was the first day that I took some time to work on a project. Two of my project stars, Thomas Bills and Mary Collins, will also be the stars of this post!
Looking at my family tree, my ancestors either had very large families (I will call 8 or more large), or they had very small families (1 or 2 children). Very few fall in the middle ground, which to me is quite fascinating. Thomas and Mary Bills fall in the large family category, being the parents of at least 11 children that lived to adulthood. This definitely qualifies as a large family!
Who Were Thomas and Mary?
As I said earlier, Thomas and Mary are two stars of my most recent research project, and I find them particularly interesting because Thomas Bills was a Quaker and Mary Collins was not. Thomas’s paternal family were originally from Monmouth, New Jersey. In the 1760s, the Bills moved to a Quaker community in Surry County, North Carolina, and they eventually made their way to Maury and Marshall Counties, Tennessee. Thomas’s maternal family were also Quakers for many generations, but they came to North Carolina from Virginia.
Mary Collins is a bit of a mystery for me. I know almost nothing about her background except that she was not a Quaker. I have seen potential parents on other researchers’ trees, but as I have not been able to research her myself, for now, I will just leave that part of her story out. She was born in North Carolina between 1794 and 1799 (her ages are not very consistent throughout the census records).
Thomas Bills and Mary Collins became acquainted with each other while living in Surry County, and their courtship and marriage caused some ripples through the Quaker community. The younger generation of Bills were marrying men and women outside of the faith, which resulted in their dismissal. Twelve Bills cousins were dismissed between 1794 and 1816, including Thomas.
Thomas married Mary Collins on 11 Feb 1813. His bondsman was his uncle, Gersham Bills, one of his father’s younger brothers.
On 3 April 1813, Thomas was dismissed from the Deep Creek Quaker community:
Move to Tennessee
I wonder how Thomas’s parents and grandparents reacted to his marriage. Were they unhappy? Were they shocked? Were they mad? Whatever their feelings, the whole Bills clan packed up and moved to Tennessee in about 1816 or 1817. Even if his marriage was controversial, the extended family did not split up and no visible ruptures (at least, from what I can see) happened to the family.
About three years into their marriage, Mary gave birth to their first documented child: Jonathan D. Bills. Jonathan was the only child (whose name I have found) who was born in North Carolina. The next documented child, Lucinda, was born about 1817 in Tennessee. Below is the 1820 Census:
Thomas Bills is the male between 26 and 44, and Mary is one of the females between 16 and 25. One of the males under 10 is Jonathan D., and one of the females under 10 is Lucinda. So that leaves 3 people unaccounted for: 1 male under 10, 1 female under 10, and 1 female between 16 and 25. Who are these people?
This will require some more research, but the older female could be one of Thomas’s sisters or one of Mary’s sisters (if she had any). The other two children could be the other female’s children, or they could be two of Thomas and Mary’s children who were alive during 1820, but whose names I do not know. By 1830, the mystery daughter has disappeared. If they are Thomas and Mary’s children, that means Mary might have given birth to 13 children!
Ten years later, the family had grown larger:
Thomas is the male between 30 and 39, and Mary is the female between 30 and 39. Jonathan D. is the male between 10 and 14, and Lucinda is the female between 10 and 14. That leaves 1 male between 10 and 14 whose name I do not know. He is likely the same child as the one in the 1820 census under the age of 10. The new children include: Daniel and Matthew (ages 5-9), Rachel and Annie (under 5), and William J. (under 5). This leaves 1 male between 5 and 9 who is another mystery. The count now is 14 children, 3 whose names I have not been able to determine.
After another 10 years, the household has grown once more. First, the easy ones to identify: Thomas is the male between 50 and 59 and Mary is the female between 40 and 49.
The oldest son, Jonathan D., is one of the males between 20 and 29. Again, the mystery other older son is recorded, also between 20 and 29. Daniel is one of the males between 15 and 19, and the other mystery son in the same age range is also recorded. Matthew is the male between 10 and 15, and William J. is the male between 5 and 9.
The daughters are a little easier to identify. The little girl alive in 1820 never makes another appearance, so I can assume that she died early. Lucinda and Rachel are the two daughters between 20 and 29, Annie Catherine is the daughter between 10 and 14, Mary and Sarah are the females between 5 and 9, and the youngest daughter, Alsey Mahaley, is the youngest child under 5.
And here is my large family in 1850. Immediately, I spot an issue with Mary’s age. It is listed as 35 which, of course, cannot be possible. This is just a census taker error. The newest addition is John C., born in about 1842.
Some Observations – Marital Status
After combing through theses census records, what I found most interesting was how old many of the children were to still be living at home, unmarried!
The oldest son, Jonathan D., married for the first time when he was 57 in 1873.
Sadly, I lose both Lucinda and Rachel after 1850, so either they married and I haven’t found records for them, or they both died before 1860.
Daniel W. never married, and lived with his mother, brother Jonathan, and Jonathan’s wife during his adult life.
Sarah also remained single and lived with her mother and unmarried siblings.
The other children were a bit more conventional; they married in their late teens and twenties, and had children. This large family expanded some in the third generation, but not as much as might be expected.
More Observations – Naming Patterns
The Bills family were very close, and this is possibly best demonstrated by their naming patterns. Here are four generations of the family:
Daniel Bills m. Deborah Denman, whose children were:
William, Gersham, Hannah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Isaac Newton, Rachel, Patience, Daniel, Jonathan D., John
William Bills m. Susannah Hutchins (daughter of John Hutchins and Alice Stanley), whose children were:
Gersham, Daniel Baxter, Jonathan D., John, Deborah, Thomas, Mary Jane, and Alcey
Thomas Bills m. Mary Collins, whose children were:
Jonathan D., Lucinda, Rachel, Daniel W., Matthew W., Annie Catherine, William J., Sarah H., Mary J., Alsey Mahaley, and John C.
Thomas and Mary’s children were clearly named after family members. Mary J. shares a name with her mother and paternal aunt, while William J. has the same name as his paternal grandfather. Jonathan D., Daniel, and John were all named for their paternal uncles, paternal great uncles, a great grandfather, and a great-great grandfather. Alsey was likely named for her paternal aunt and her paternal great grandmother, Alice, and Rachel for her paternal great aunt. (As you can see, everyone mentioned is named for their father’s side because I don’t have the maternal line to compare. Hopefully I will make the maternal connections in the near future!)
There are so many benefits that come from researching ancestors with large families and extended kin networks. Much of a direct ancestor’s motivations, personality, and life experiences are shaped by his or her family members. Thomas and Mary’s family are a good example of this and having 14 children certainly qualifies as large. I hope to add more information to their large family’s story soon!
One of the best parts of genealogy (for me anyway) is traveling all over the U.S. and abroad to research in person! I also prefer to research locally rather than on the state level unless I have multiple counties to cover in a short trip, and in many cases, especially in the south, this means going through records at the local courthouse. While I could highlight interesting records I have found there, I instead want to highlight an ancestor who spent a lot of time at the courthouse as his position as the sheriff: Mark Washington Wimpee.
In a previous post, I introduced Mark Washington Wimpee as the father of my great great grandmother, Maud Melissa Wimpee. Mark was one of 16 children (yikes!) born to Mark Ragan and Mary Ann (Jester) Wimpee. Six of Mark’s siblings died young, and I do not know the names of any of them. His remaining siblings were: Melissa, Francis, Martha, Sarah, George, Benjamin, Cora, John, and Riley. Mark R. Wimpee was a carriage and wagon maker, and he and his large family moved around through the years, presumably as Mark R. looked for work. Around Mark W.’s birth in 1859, they were living in Polk County. In 1870, they were living in Warren County, Kentucky, and by 1880, they were living in Dirt Town, Chattooga County, Georgia. This is where he married Amanda Alice Scoggins on 13 March 1881.
Like his father, Mark W. moved his family around for better opportunities. He farmed in Chattooga County for a while, and in 1896 he purchased 160 acres near Huntsville, Alabama. By 1900, he had returned to Georgia, putting down roots in Trion where he worked as a blacksmith at the Trion Cotton Mill.
Sheriff of Chattooga County
The earliest evidence that I have found of Mark W. serving as the sheriff of Chattooga County is in a newspaper article concerning an accidental wound he sustained while sheriff. Soon after the incident, a rumor spread that the Deputy Sheriff J. W. Alexander, and one of Mark’s close friends, shot him, and to out an end of this rumor, D.S. placed the following in the newspaper:
After he placed his denial in the paper, Alexander was relieved of his position, and Sheriff Mark placed his version of the story in the paper, which was also supported by witnesses:
This conflict seems to have driven the two men apart, and in January 1914, both men announced that they were running for Sheriff:
Fortunately for Mark, he won re-election as Sheriff of Chattooga County, despite the problems between him and his former deputy and running mate.
Sheriff Mark was involved in some interesting cases during his tenure as sheriff. One concerned Frank Matthews, a Texas man who robbed the Lyerly Bank and whose trial was held at the Summerville County Courthouse. Sheriff Mark was in charge of moving Matthews from Fulton County to Chattooga County, but as can be read in the following article, somehow Matthews left the train when it pulled into Rome and Sheriff Mark failed to stop him. Matthews did arrive in Summerville for trial, but his “escape” became a point of contention during the 1914 sheriff race.
Another notable case was the Floyd-Anderson murder, and the details can be found the in following article. It seems that Mrs. Floyd and Mrs. Anderson began the argument, and it ended with William Anderson fatally shooting Rob Floyd, which he claimed was self defense.
Anderson turned himself in to Sheriff Mark, who promptly escorted him to jail. Luckily, Sheriff Mark did not lose this prisoner.
The Anderson-Floyd case was likely the last major one of Sheriff Mark’s career. Just a few weeks later, Mark was forced to resign because he was suffering from some health problems. J. W. Anderson was likely thrilled, as he became sheriff upon Mark’s resignation.
At the end of 1914, Mark was in ill health, but likely so was his wife, Amanda. She died in August of 1915 and was buried in Trion.
I have yet to locate Mark in the 1920 census, but by the late 1920s, he had remarried and was living in Mobile, Alabama. He died on 2 May 1932 in Mobile at the age of 72, leaving his second wife a middle-aged widow.
Although Mark only spent a few years as sheriff, they were quite eventful in and out of the courthouse.
Genealogy comes with many challenges, doesn’t it? There are research challenges like burned courthouse, ancestors dying intestate, reading particularly bad handwriting, and financing research trips, just to name of few. Then there are challenges that our ancestors faced like immigration, deaths of spouses and children, and war.
Another challenge that comes with the territory is reconciling family stories, newspaper reports, and other second hand information with historic documents like baptisms, immigration records, and death certificates. I came across this situation a couple of years ago when I first began to seriously research my German Althauser ancestors. I know that I have mentioned in other posts how much I love researching my German ancestry, particularly the Althausers, for a variety of reasons. At first, I think I was so drawn to them because they were such a mystery, and unlike most of my other ancestors, they immigrated in the 19th century (the majority of the others came in the 17th and 18th centuries).
This post covers multiple challenges: reconciling facts, researching in another country, and deciphering records in a foreign language. It also highlights the challenges faced by immigrants, especially since the immigrants highlighted here were a single mother and young children, none of whom spoke English.
Goodspeed’s History of Tennessee Article on William Althauser
When I began researching William, the only record I had was a short article written about William in Goodspeed’s History of Tennessee in the section on Robertson County. Goodspeed’s included a who’s who of each Tennessee County, so I was very fortunate to find William there. Here is the article:
William Althauser, foreman and book-keeper of a registered distillery, was born in 1847, in Baden, Germany, and is one of a family of five children born to Jacob and Anna (Krieg) Althauser. The father and mother were natives of Baden, Germany.
The father was a cooper by trade, and in connection did farming. He died about 1850. The mother was born in 1807, and came to North Carolina in 1852, locating in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she died in 1880.
The subject of this sketch was reared without a father’s care or training, being only three years old at his father’s death. He received his education in the schools of Cincinnati, Ohio. At the age of nineteen he commenced keeping books for S. N. Fowler, a distiller at Cincinnati, but after two years he engaged himself to Mr. Charles Nelson as book-keeper, and has proved so trusty and efficient that to compensate him for this he has been made foreman of the entire establishment, it being the largest distillery in the county.
September 25, 1873, he was married to Mary F. Swift, a native of Tennessee, born in 1847, and the daughter of Richard and Mary F. Swift. To Mr. and Mrs. Althauser have been born five children: Nathaniel L., Robert P., Anna M., William E. and James A. Garfield.
Mr. Althauser has control of the entire business, and looks carefully after the interests of his employer, and nothing is done unless under and by his personal supervision. He is a member of the German Lutheran Church, and his wife a member of the Baptist Church. In politics Mr. Althauser is a stanch Republican.
What a great starting point! At least I had some information about his background, parents’ names, and nativity as well as dates. What I was going to learn was that second hand information, especially when you don’t know where the information originated, is sometimes helpful but it can also be quite wrong.
I then turned to the census records. I knew to begin with the 1900 census because a.) he was alive and b.) that census year gives specific information about immigration. The 1900 census which listed William Althauser, his wife Mary, and their children William and James living in Robertson County, Tennessee. My family knew that he worked as the foreman for a large distillery in Robertson County, so in this case, the family story and his occupation on the census record aligned. In the census, William reported that he was born in Jan 1846 in Germany, both of his parents were born in Germany, and that he immigrated in 1851.
Goodspeed’s Article vs. 1900 Census Record
There are some major differences between the census and the article. When I first looked at these records, I assumed that William gave the information for both sources; now, I do not think this is correct.
Birth date: The article says 1847, and the census says January 1846. Not a very big difference, but a difference nonetheless.
Birth place: This wasn’t necessarily a difference, but the article narrowed the search to (what was at the time) the Grand Duchy of Baden rather than Germany as a whole.
Immigration: The census record gives his immigration year as 1851, but the article says his mother immigrated in 1852. I believe the article implies that William immigrated with his mother, but it is not very clear.
Death Certificate vs. Census vs. Article
My next step was to locate William Althauser’s death certificate. The Tennessee State Library and Archives has a list of early death certificates on the website, and not knowing exactly when William died, I checked each year until I found him in 1922. I then scrolled through the microfilm at the Archives until I found his death certificate. His son, Nathaniel, was the informant.
The death certificate gave me new information that I now had to compare with everything else I knew:
Birth date: Given as 25 January 1846, which matches the census record. So, here, the article in Goodspeed’s was likely incorrect.
Birth place: Given as Baden, Germany, which matched the Goodspeed’s article and was consistent with the census record.
Father: Nathaniel apparently did not know or could not remember the name of William’s father. According to the article, the father died in Germany when William was very small, so perhaps William did not speak very much about his father. Or perhaps Nathaniel wasn’t paying attention. The only name I had was Jacob from the article.
Mother: Nathaniel named Mary Krieg as William’s mother. This is different from the article, which states his mother was Anna Krieg. Luckily, the surnames matched, so I hoped that the surname was correct.
Passenger Lists vs. Death Certificate, Census, and Article
My next challenge was to find the immigration record. I was very worried about finding the passenger list because the earlier the passage, the harder it can be to find.
I knew that William came from Germany, he arrived in 1851 or 1852, he was likely traveling with his mother and some of his siblings, and that his mother was either Mary or Anna. The article stated she entered the country through North Carolina, which sounded odd to me, but I checked all passenger lists coming into New York, New Orleans, Massachusetts, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
Finally, I found a passenger group that seemed to best match my William and Mary/Anna.
Immigration date: Ship Helvetia arrived in New York City harbor on 28 November 1853. 1853 is different than both 1851 and 1852, but it is close.
Immigration place: New York City, not North Carolina as stated in the article.
Place of origin: Baden, Germany, which is consistent with the census, article, and death certificate.
Mother: William’s mother’s first name is Anna, not Mary.
Mother’s age: Given as 44, which meant she was born about 1809. This is two years difference from the birth year given in the article.
William’s name and age: His name is actually Wilhelm in German, which is never referred to in documents created in America. He is 7 years old, which is consistent with the 1846 birth year.
Siblings: Here was another challenge. I couldn’t read several of William’s siblings’ names! I could read Anna, Pauline, and Wilhelm, but I struggled with his brothers’ names for a while. I later determined that the captain had written their names as Andre, Jacob, and Johann. However, there were five people who looked like they were Anna’s children, which was consistent with the article.
For several years, I was stuck at this point. I knew when William immigrated, his mother’s name, his siblings’ names, and I found him living in Cincinnati in 1860 and 1870, before he moved to Tennessee. However, I was no closer to finding out more about William’s early life and his ancestry. It makes it quite difficult when you don’t know the hometown of the immigrant.
But, after some research, I finally located William’s naturalization documents! I was beside myself with happiness because not only did they tell me where William was born, but it included his personal statement. William stated that he believed he was already naturalized because he entered the U.S. as a small child. I was incredibly fortunate that William was under the impression that he was naturalized at this time because if he had realized his mistake earlier, the documents might not have been as detailed.
Birth date: Given as 25 January 1846. Consistent with the death certificate, census record, and passenger list. At this point, I assumed the birth date was correct.
Birth place: Given as Opfingen, a small town in the Grand Duchy of Baden. This little bit of information sent my research in a very specific direction. Baden was also consistent with the passenger list, death certificate, article, and census record. This was also the piece of information I was most hoping to find!
Father: No name given, but he stated that his father died when he was three or four years old in Germany. His death in the Goodspeed’s article was given as 1850, and if William was three or four when his father died, this would be consistent.
Mother: No name given, but he stated that she, himself, and his siblings immigrated on the Helvetia in 1853 and arrived in New York City. This is all consistent with the passenger list and the Goodspeed’s article.
Requesting Records from Germany
Here was a brand new challenge for me: ordering records from Germany. Doing some initial research, I learned that in some German states, including Baden, citizens who wished to immigrate had to apply for permission. I hoped that the Althausers applied and that the documents had survived. The local archives is the Landesarchiv Baden-Wurttemburg, and the website included some of the larger record groups for each small community. To my surprise, the permission to immigrate records were listed by each individual. It is actually quite fascinating. You can see all of the families who wanted to immigrate from that community during the 19th century. Here is the entry for the Althauser family:
It reads: Immigration of the widow of Jacob Althauser, Anna Althauser, born Krieg, with her children to North America to her siblings.
Names: Jacob and Anna Althauser. The names match the ones in the Goodspeed’s article as well as the name of the mother on the passenger list. Anna is called a widow and her birth name is Krieg, both of which are consistent with the article.
Immigration application year: 1853. This is consistent with the passenger list and William’s statement in his naturalization application.
I contacted the Archives and asked if they could supply me with copies of the permission to immigrate papers. They very graciously replied yes, and after I sent the fees, they sent me digitized copies of the records. I was very proud of myself for emailing them in German and deciphering the records request forms. I had no idea that the forthcoming records would be so detailed and informative!
Translating the Documents
I now had the documents! But I couldn’t read anything. Although I have a minor in German, at the time, I could only read German written in modern day lettering. In the 19th century, German was written in Kurrent, an old style of lettering. Below is an example of the alphabet written in Kurrent.
As you can see, it is quite difficult to read, especially when the letters are written close together. Some letters are quite difficult to tell apart, particularly e, c, m, and n. My other issue was that spelling could be a bit different in the 19th century, so it was very difficult for me to not only transcribe the letters but also translate them. I am not ashamed at all to admit that I contacted someone who specializes in translating German records to transcribe the records into modern day German. What I found out caused me to have conflicting emotions. Reading the words was so heartbreaking and sad, just to think what Anna and her children went through prior to immigration. I was also so excited because I was learning new information that no one in our family knew about.
The documents revealed that Jacob and Anna Althauser were quite poor, and she and the children were relying on money from the almshouse for support. Reasons for their poverty have been discussed in other posts, so I will not rehash those here. Jacob died on 9 July 1852 at the age of 44 and was buried two days later. Anna reported that her siblings wanted her to come to the United States (they had already immigrated), and they helped pay for her passage. At the end, both Anna and her daughter Pauline signed the document. (I was so surprised that they could both write! I later discovered that they both attended school.)
The last page was one of the most important in the whole packet. It was a transcription of the church records that gave the births, death, marriage, occupation, and parents names of both Jacob and Anna as well as the births of all of their children!! I couldn’t believe my good fortune.
You can see Wilhelm at the bottom of the page. It reads Wilhelm was born on 11 January 1846.
Permission to Immigrate vs. Other Records
William’s birth date: January 11? William reported that his birth date was 25 January on his naturalization petition, and his son Nathaniel gave the same date on the death certificate. The church records, and the permission to immigrate papers, clearly state that he was born on January 11. Church records also show that he was baptized on 7 February. I am inclined to believe that the church records would be the most accurate, as it was not uncommon for people to report different dates for their birth date. But it seems strange that both William and Nathaniel would agree on the wrong date.
William’s parents: Finally, the mysteries surrounding William’s parents were solved. William’s parents were Jacob Althauser and Anna Krieg, which aligns with the Goodspeed’s article. Jacob died in 1852, not in 1850 as the article alleged. Interestingly, the article reported that the family immigrated in 1852, and that was the year of Jacob’s death. Whoever gave the information knew the essence of the story, but did not have all of the correct facts.
Parents’ birth dates: The permission documents also give the birth dates of Jacob and Anna. Jacob was born on 11 October 1807, and Anna was born on 8 February 1808. The article reported that Anna was born in 1807, which was close to her birthday, but Jacob was in fact born in 1807. Again, the article was very close, but not quite accurate.
Researching William Althauser was challenging for many reasons, which include:
1. Reconciling facts from a second or third hand account to facts from other records.
2. Searching for the birthplace of an immigrant.
3. Ordering records from a different country and attempting to transcribe/translate them.
This research journey has also exposed the challenges that faced the immigrants themselves, both before they left for the US, during the journey, and after they settled in the US.
I also learned a valuable lesson: continue to question records, especially if they were made in an unofficial capacity, like the Goodspeed’s article. Obviously, someone who knew William well supplied the information, but I don’t know if that person was in fact William. It is curious to me that William would state that his birth year was 1847 when he clearly reports it as 1846 in other records, that he immigrated in 1852 when he reported 1853 on his naturalization paperwork, that the family entered the US through North Carolina rather than New York City, and that his mother died in 1880 when she died in 1877. William, from what I could tell, was a very careful person, and I don’t believe he would give all of this incorrect information in the 1880s but report everything correctly (or most of it) in the 1910s.
This made me wonder if his wife, Mary, gave the information to Goodspeed’s. All the information about the present – name of his wife, their marriage date, her parents’ names, their children’s names, and their church attendance – was all correct. If Mary did supply the information, it would be reasonable that she knew the basic story but the exact dates and some locations were incorrect. These inconsistencies only helped fuel my search for the truth, and the end result was very exciting and satisfying.
I believe that the most challenging cases can turn out to be the most rewarding and even the most interesting.
Happy New Year! I am very excited to start a second year of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I only hope that I don’t run out of ancestors or stories to tell! If anything, this project has showed me how much more research I need to do on all of my family members!
My “first” post is about my first foray into genealogy and my early discoveries that got me hooked on researching my family.
My fourth great grandparents, McCama and Margaret Robinson, had 8 children. Two died as children, one was killed in the Civil War and was unmarried, two daughters never married, and two other daughters married but never had children. This leaves only one son, Samuel, who married and had one child. Over the ensuing 115 years, each new generation produced only one child. So when I came along, I was the first girl born into the Robinson family since 1846!
This is both a fortunate and unfortunate situation. Fortunate because my parents inherited everything that belonged to the Robinson family, including the family Bible that Samuel gave to his wife Sallie on her birthday one year. Unfortunate because we don’t have any Robinson relatives on that side to the family! We have a few relatives on each of the wives’ sides, but that is it. This means we only have family stories told by my direct ancestors; nothing from brothers or sisters of any generation who might have had different stories, different opinions on family events, or different insights into the family in general.
But back to the fortunate. One of my favorite family heirlooms is the Robinson family Bible. It is quite large, heavy, with beautiful embossed leather. On the front, it is inscribed to Sallie C. Robinson for her birthday in 1875. Six generations of Robinsons are recorded in the Bible, but sadly, Samuel did not record his parents or Sallie’s. The only clue to their residence was a notation on the marriage page which said it took place at No. 63 Spruce Street in Nashville. I also have one newspaper article which announced Samuel and Sallie’s marriage. Luckily, it gave the name of her father, T.D. Cassetty, but it failed to give the name of her mother or anything about Samuel.
I knew about the existence of this Bible for many years, and no one in our family knew anything about Samuel or Sallie’s origins. So when I decided to begin researching our family, I started with Samuel and Sallie, my first brick walls.
Before I went to the archives in Nashville, I purchased an Ancestry.com subscription and searched the census records. I knew I was looking for a Samuel and Sallie Robinson in Nashville. As they were married in 1869, I began with the 1870 census. I found a “Sam and Sallie Robison” aged 34 and 28 respectively, living in a very large household. It included T.D. Cassetty, a magistrate, his wife Matilda, their five children, four borders, and five domestic servants. At first, I remember being really discouraged. By 1870, Samuel should have been 38 and Sallie 29, and Robinson was spelled incorrectly. Did I have the right people? The names and ages were close but not perfect. After reaching out to a fellow Cassetty researcher, I learned that ages were often wildly incorrect and names depended on what the census taker heard. That was my first lesson: historical records are not always perfect.
After I got over my initial hesitation, I couldn’t believe my luck! Not only did I find Sam and Sallie, but they were living in the same house as T.D. Cassetty, who was named as Sallie’s father in the marriage announcement. I was pretty sure that I found Sallie’s parents, but more information about them would take more research.
Ecstatic, I then searched the 1880 census for Sallie and Samuel. I found them living in Nashville with their 7 year old son in the house of a dry goods merchant. I later learned that Samuel never bought property; instead he moved from place to place, always renting.
The census records also told me something none of my family knew: Samuel Robinson was a printer. This was a huge discovery because my father and grandfather both owned printing companies, but neither of them knew that families members were involved in printing in the 19th century!
Sadly, Sallie died in 1886 and Samuel in 1891, so my census research could not go any farther into the future. At the time, Samuel remained a brick wall, but I did find Sallie living with her parents in the 1850-1860 censuses.
Another major research first came soon after: my first visit to the archives. I spent a day at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, which was only 30 minutes from my house, trying to find as much information about Samuel, Sallie, and the Cassettys as I could. The TSLA staff were so kind and helpful, that by the end, I had more information than I knew what to do with. I remember struggling to make the microfilm machines work, using the reference guides to find newspapers and death records, and pouring over the records to located their names. That day I found:
Death notices for Samuel, Sallie, and Sallie’s parents
City death records for Samuel, Sallie, and Sallie’s parents
Nashville City Directories that gave their addresses during their residence in Nashville.
I remember going home that night just so excited about what I had found out about the Robinsons. After that, I was completely hooked. I had to know more and more! To this day, the Robinsons hold a special place in my heart as the first part of my family that I researched. I was so inspired by my research that I later used Samuel’s grandmother, Ann Dixon, as the focus of my Master’s thesis. I think it is fair to say that genealogy changed my life and set me on my current career path. So cheers to a new year, and I hope I experience many more “firsts” in the year to come.