Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Top Ten Genealogical Discoveries--So Far!

After binge watching several episodes of the new season of "Who Do You Think You Are?",  I started thinking of all the genealogical discoveries I've made over the last fifteen years, both big & small.  Which discoveries were the most exciting?   Here is the list I that came up with....

1) Discovering the second life of my paternal great grandfather PHILLIP LUTHER HUBER. Even my grandfather ALONZO COX HUBER did not know what happened to his own father.  PHILLIP simply disappeared without a trace, abandoning my grandfather at a county fair in Iowa in 1882.  PHILLIP was apparently presumed dead. Turns out he ran off, abandoned his wife & three children back in Iowa, went by his middle name, married a much younger woman in Tennessee, and started a second family in Nashville.  While I can't take credit for this discovery (the theory originated with another researcher, and was later proven by DNA testing), this is the big kahuna of genealogical discoveries.  And now one of my newly found  2nd cousins has generously shared a photo of my great grandfather PHILLIP LUTHER HUBER!  So many of my 1st cousins, now in their 80s, have been able to see the face of their great-grandfather for the first time.  Genealogy doesn't get any better than this!

2) Discovering that my paternal grandmother MINTTIE MAY BRUTON was not Cherokee, and in fact not Native American at all.  Neither my brother nor I have any Native American ancestry, according to three different DNA tests (23andMe, Family Tree DNA &  While many from my father's family would argue that the tests must be wrong, and the family stories correct, this is still pretty irrefutable evidence to the contrary. I would love to have more members of my father's side of the family to get tested, but so far no one seems interested or willing.

3) Discovering the maiden name of my great x 3 grandmother HAPPY on an Eastern Cherokee tribal application. In 1906, Grandma MINTTIE MAY, her mother  (my great grandmother) SILOAMA WHITECOTTON BRUTON, and her brother JAMES J BRUTON all applied to the Eastern Cherokee tribe for tribal benefits, as they believed stories from relatives that the WHITECOTTON & STUMP families were Cherokee (their application was denied as this was not true, the WHITECOTTONs & related families were English and the STUMPs were German immigrants--not Cherokee or Native American at all!).

SILOAMA listed her mother HAPPY's maiden name on the tribal application as RIDDLE, and this new information allowed me to connect HAPPY to a RIDDLE family which is known to have Melungeon roots (and lots of women named HAPPY). This may explain the dark complexion and black hair that is so prevalent in my father's side of the family.  However--while many males from known Melungeon lines have Y-DNA that is clearly Sub Saharan African, the RIDDLE males do not.  My brother's DNA admixture shows a tiny amount  > 0.1% of Sub Saharan African ancestry on Chromosome 14--but it does not show up in my admixture.  Hard to know if this is an error, or a reflection of Melungeon ancestry without more relatives testing from my father's side of the family.

4) Discovering my maternal great grandmother MARY ETTA KENNEDY's Canadian roots. Several years ago, a fellow researcher shared a scanned copy of an original 1887 letter written by one of her ancestors HENRY J RINES, who turned out to be the great uncle of my great grandmother,  MARY ETTA KENNEDY.  The letter specifically names MARY ETTA's father THOMAS KENNEDY, son of JOHN KENNEDY & ELIZABETH RINES of Windsor, Hants Co Nova Scotia; Lubec, Washington Co Maine; and Portland, Cumberland Co Maine. The letter also mentioned THOMAS KENNEDY's wife, my great great  grandmother,  SARAH JANE BOLTON.  With the information from this one letter, I was able to trace my KENNEDY & RINES family back several generations in Windsor & Maitland, Hants Co, Nova Scotia.

5) Discovering the identity of the "woman in the picture" found in my mother's treasure trove of family memorabilia.  It took me years to figure out who she was. Only after careful comparison of many family photos did I realize a distinct resemblance to my great aunt, GLADYS BROWN DRYDEN, and a 2nd cousin, GLADYS' granddaughter.

This is my great great grandmother, CORDELIA HICKS RICKARD, who married as her 2nd husband, my great great grandfather HENRY "NEW HAMPSHIRE" (aka H.N.H.) BROWN on June 5, 1857 in Sacramento, California.

She was married previously to HENRY WILLIAM F MYERS, a German immigrant, Jan 29, 1850 in Platteville, Grant Co Wisconsin; they had one daughter EMMA before embarking on an overland journey to California that same year.  Her first husband either died along the way, or they were divorced in California (no records found).  Her brother RICHARD RICKARD, a miner, also made the journey and set up a storefront in the same area as my gg grandfather HENRY "NEW HAMPSHIRE" BROWN.

CORDELIA was born 1829 in Chacewater or Kenwyn Parish, Cornwall, England. She was the daughter of RICHARD RICKARD, a "victualer" who died 1835  at age 57 in Blackwater, Kenwyn Parish, Cornwall, and CORDELIA HICKS, who emigrated to the United States July 1845 on the ship "Henry Clay", a widow with her three youngest children (a 4th son came later). Her five eldest children either died in Cornwall before 1845,  or remained in England with their spouses & families.  CORDELIA , my great x 3 grandmother,  died April 18, 1859 in Dodgeville, Iowa Co Wisconsin.  Her daughter, my great x 2 grandmother CORDELIA, died Jan 23, 1875 in Sacramento, California. 

I have been able to trace the RICKARD & HICKS families back several generations in Cornwall, using the fantastic website Cornwall Online Parish Clerks (OPC)

6) Discovering that my maternal grandmother, RUBY BOLTON BROWN, was a Mayflower descendant.  My immediate family tended to focus on the stories about our ancestors'  unusual adventurous lives in California & Alaska. Apparently no one knew anything about RUBY's extensive New England ancestry--even though we have old photos of RUBY visiting cousins in New Hampshire!  So it was quite a surprise for me to find out  that she was a descendant of JOHN HOWLAND & ELIZABETH TILLEY.  I doubt very much that my grandmother ever knew this herself--she would have definitely mentioned it!  One of my greatest genealogical accomplishments was applying to and having RUBY's pedigree accepted by the Society of Mayflower Descendants in 2011.

7) Discovering that I am a direct descendant of the first female poet in the Massachusetts Colony, ANN DUDLEY BRADSTREET.  Again, this is one of RUBY's ancestors in New England. I was particularly pleased to find this, as I was an English major in college and love poetry!

8) Discovering that my ancestor THOMAS LIGON III of Virginia had royal roots.  THOMAS LIGON was the great x 8 grandfather of my grandfather, RANDOLPH BENJAMIN "ROLLA" MARTINE, through his mother's side of the family; all her ancestors lived in Virginia from the 1600s until the 1840s when her family migrated to northern Missouri.  It was exciting to find a well-documented line from one of my ancestors back to King Edward I of England "Longshanks".  And this was not the only ancestor I found in my family tree with connection to English royalty. For THOMAS LIGON III's pedigree, see "The Royal Descents of 500/600 Immigrants" by Gary Boyd Roberts, or  "Royal Ancestry" Volume III  by Douglas Richardson.

9) Discovering the parentage of my paternal great x 5 grandmother TRYPHENA FISHER who married CURTIS OTWELL.  The Otwells of Maryland have been particularly difficult to research. Records seem few and far between, and the surname is easily misspelled or mis-transcribed  in records.  I am still trying to ascertain whether or not the family was consistently Quaker down through the early generations (in later generations after 1800 they were).

TRYPHENA remained a complete mystery for fifteen years, until I found the 1761 will of her father JOHN PRITCHETT FISHER (mother was REBECCA EDGAR) in Dorchester Co Maryland.  For years I had concentrated on  Somerset Co Maryland, where the Otwells were known to have lived, and later in Sussex Co Delaware.  It was not until I found estate records for CURTIS OTWELL's father in Dorchester Co Maryland, and turned my attention to that county, that I discovered TRYPHENA's family.  Now my burning question is this:  Were the FISHERs and EDGARs Quakers also?

10) Discovering that both my grandfathers had a connection to the earliest Dutch immigrants to New Amsterdam--and that they share ancestors!  This came as a complete surprise. Two men from completely different areas and completely different walks of life.  They were 8th cousins, sharing these immigrant ancestors to New Amsterdam:

What are your top ten genealogical discoveries?

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why It's Really Important to Use Primary Source Documents in Your Genealogy Research!

My ancestor JAMES WHITECOTTON, of the previous post, fought in the Revolutionary War as a private, for three tours of duty: first in 1776 enlisting with Capt William Fountain's Company of Infantry, joining Col Woolford's, which fought at the battle of Long Bridge, Williamsburg with a total term of service 1 year;  second, in 1778 with  Capt Leonard Helm's Co, Illinois Regiment, joining Col George Roger Clark, for a 9 month term of service; and third, in 1779 with Capt Joseph Bowman's regiment, Kaskaskia, Illinois, under Col George Rogers Clark, term of service 1 year. His total Revolutionary War service was 2 years, 9 months.  He never advanced beyond the rank of private.  And this information is from his own Revolutionary War pension application, which can be found in its entirety on the website Fold3.

I received a visit from a Whitecotton cousin yesterday who presented me with some written material (source unknown) showing that there was supposedly a second JAMES WHITECOTTON, who served as a lieutenant under Col George Rogers Clark in Illinois. This second JAMES WHITECOTTON was supposedly mentioned in the Revolutionary War Pension application of a man named Lt John Roberts, who also served with Col George Rogers Clark in Illinois. The reference cited was a book called "Brumbaugh's Revolutionary War Records, Volume 1, Virginia" by Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh, published Washington DC, 1936.

I found a copy of this book on, and found the reference on page 535:

ROBERTS, JOHN; Lieutenant, VA State Troops, Illinois Regiment; Capt Robt Todd's Company of Foot. (No. 8706, Pension Office, April 1852). Mentioned: Col (later Gen) Geo Rogers Clarke; payroll Robt Todd's Company;  Capt Benjamin Roberts; Capt Abraham Chaplin (Chapline);  Lt Anthony Crockett; Lt John Roberts; Ensign William Roberts, et al, of the Illinois Regiment; Gen G. R. Clark. Entire payroll of Capt Robt Todd's company. Lt Col Montgomery; also Stephen Chilton, "soldier", Col Joseph Crockett's Regt; Bland W Ballard; Wm Fleming; John Edwards; Thomas Quick; Maj Inf. James Meriwether, Light Inf;  Mark Thomas, Capt of Inf; Lt Joseph Slaughter; Lt James Slaughter; Lt Wm Clarke; Lieut. JAMES WHITECOTTON;  Henry Foster "soldier". 

Here is a transcription of the actual pension record, from the website "Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters" for Lt JOHN ROBERTS; his widow SARAH HAWLEY ROBERTS later applied for his pension while living in Switzerland Co Indiana.

The Hon. Secy. of the Treasury
I am very respectfully your obedient servant S/ Jas. E. Heath
Upon the Petition of the heirs of Lieutenant John Roberts of the State line, for bounty
The evidence in support of this claim has been presented by the Petitioners

John Roberts was Commissioned, December 31st 1778, Lieutenant in a Company of Infantry in the Illinois Regiment, which company was commanded by Captain Robert Todd. The only Payroll, which has been preserved, of Captain Todd's Company, notices Lieutenant Ro. Roberts thus – "Roberts John Lieutenant – commissioned 31st December 1778 – went recruiting
1 Va. Half Pay See N. A. Acct. No. 874 050 144 Half Pay John Roberts 2
page1image30760 page1image30920
August 17th 1779, and never returned – charged with Paper-money which exceeds the amount of pay" (see Payroll of Captain Ro. Todd's Company – Vol. 1st Illinois Papers) this Payroll comes down to June 1780 at that time Lieutenant Roberts had not returned to his Company.
It appears, that on the 13th of August 1779, General Clarke [George Rogers Clark] issued his general orders, at Fort Patrick Henry in which is the following order, to wit, – "Officers for the recruiting service – Captains – Quirk, Evans, Taylor, Woothington, Kellan, Lieutenants – Roberts, Crockett, Ramsay, Calvet, Ensign – Montgomery" – (see Illinois Papers – Vol. 1st Division No. 2. D.)
Lieutenant John Roberts received, himself, December 10th 1785 a certificate for £129.19.8, the balance of his full pay, for services rendered in the Illinois Regiment, prior to January 1st 1782 – (See Army Register of the State line.)
In the printed list of officers &c of the Illinois Regiment &c No. 4, page 11 – I have reported Lieutenant John Roberts, entitled to bounty land for the war. My reasons for making this Report, I now presume, were the following – that Lieutenant Roberts was commissioned in 1778 – (December 31) – that he received a large sum of money & the balance of his full pay for services rendered before January 1st 1782 – that this proved, that the account given of his services, in Captain Ro. Todd's Payroll above referred to be showed that he was always engaged in the recruiting service – that I had not been able to find any [paper torn and one or more words of text are missing] of his resignation – that there was no proof of his desertion, or of his having been cashiered or suspended. – That Captain Ro. Todd's Company was in service until the end of the war – and that Lieutenant Roberts ought to be presumed to have served to the end of the war, notwithstanding the contents of the payroll above mentioned.
The above stated facts are all, whether supporting or invalidating the claim of Lieutenant Roberts' a heirs for bounty land, which I am able to report to the Governor. They are, without further comment, respectfully submitted
S/ John W Smith, Commissioner
November 4th, 1834 

And here is a copy of the original statement, from the website Fold3:

I have been through the entire pension file, both for JOHN ROBERTS and for his widow SARAH HAWLEY ROBERTS, and I have not found one reference to Lieut. JAMES WHITECOTTON.   Likewise, in the pension file of Private JAMES WHITECOTTON,  I have found no reference to JOHN ROBERTS. There was a JAMES WHITAKER, who signed as county clerk, in the John/Sarah Roberts pension file and I suspect that Brumbaugh mis-transcribed WHITAKER as WHITECOTTON. 

So in my opinion, based on the actual records, there was no second person called  "Lieut. JAMES WHITECOTTON" in the regiment of Col George Rogers Clark in Illinois, and the citation in the book was an transcription error on the part of  Gaius Brumbaugh.

In all other sources concerning Col George Rogers Clark's campaign in Illinois, JAMES WHITECOTTON is listed as a private. He received 108 acres from a 1781 land grant in what is now southern Indiana, that Col George Rogers Clark & his soldiers received from the state of Virginia. Lt. JOHN ROBERTS is on a list of Clark's men who did not receive bounty land from the 1781 grant.

If anyone has any further information or documents, I would love to see them!

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2014