Genealogy as Family History, Not Genetics

I was reading some articles about the writing of the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, co-written with her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. On a discussion board, a couple of scenes were mentioned where someone asked for or demanded to have the baby or child of another person. A few people mentioned how this used to be common for people to ask for and raise other people’s children.

There were various reasons for this. A couple who couldn’t have kids might have wanted a kid. Also, because of farm life, having lots of kids around was necessary. And there were many reasons for a couple to give up a kid. They might have been compensated for giving away their child. Or they might simply have hit hard times and couldn’t afford all their children. Or one parent got sick or died.

It was a rough world in centuries past with sickness and death being a near constant factor in people’s lives. Most people didn’t live long and many women died in childbirth. Kids being raised by people who weren’t their parents was extremely common. And no one thought much about it. People used to be a lot less sentimental about children and childhood, largely because most children died in the first few years. For this reason, it was common for children not to even be given names until they survived past toddler age.

This made me think about the problems of genealogy research. It is usually impossible to prove your actual genealogy more than a century back. In the past, birth records, baptismal records, etc were rare. And until the latter half of the 19th century, wives and children weren’t even named in the United States census records. Plus, proving paternity was impossible until the recent development of genetic tests. I remember reading about how many men came home after the Civil War to find their wives pregnant or with children who were born while they weren’t around. The same thing happens in every war, especially major wars like the two world wars. Most people don’t talk about such things, much less leave records indicating questionable paternity.

Most of genealogy is probably fictional. It represents generations of family identity, not genetic inheritance. An child who is adopted or of uncertain paternity is still part of the family they were raised in. That is what genealogy is about.

Deep Roots in Dark Soil

In doing genealogy research, I’ve made many connections to American history, some of it quite dark and much of it not that far back in time. It is something that has been bothering me for a while. I had a longer series of posts I was writing about it, but I got bogged down with the topic. It’s overwhelming and hard to grapple with. So, let me keep this post simple and to the point.

Possibly the earliest line of my family that came to America was the Peebles. They were Scottish and, maybe for siding with the king, they arrived in the Virginia colony (1649 or 1650) during the English Civil War. David Peebles, the patriarch, came with some help (either indentured servants or slaves) and built a plantation. Later generations of the Peebles were definitely slave owners and they fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

The family across the generations drifted further South and West, ending up in Texas. That is where my paternal grandmother was born in 1912, well within living memory of slavery and the Civil War. The last Civil War veterans died in the 1950s, the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade between Africa and the United States died in the 1930s, the last American born into slavery died in the 1970s — the latter happening just a few years before I was born and about a decade before my grandmother died. None of this is ancient history. It’s possible that if my grandmother had bothered to ask that there were people in the family who still remembered owning slaves.

Also, the early twentieth century was a time of the last of the Indian Wars. There were major battles that happened in that part of the country when my grandmother was a child. The last significant altercation in the United States happened in 1924 when she was twelve years old and that is the age when kids begin to gain awareness of the larger world. But there were Indian holdouts who kept fighting in Mexico and weren’t defeated until nine years later in 1933. My grandmother was twenty-one years old at that point and so this was part of the world she was entering into.

David Peebles himself had been an Indian fighter, a captain in the Virginia militia. He was a well respected man. As reward, he had been given a Native American captive and I’m sure that person was treated as a slave. It’s assumed that David Peebles received an injury from fighting and he slowly disappeared from the records. Between those first Peebles in America and my grandmother, I’m sure there were numerous Indian fighters in my ancestry. After all, that part of my family was involved in the push Westward, as Native Americans retreated or were forcibly removed. And then they ended up in the region of the last battles with the last free natives.

All of this national history is intimately intertwined with my family history. And much of it was still living memory into my grandmothers childhood and even into her adulthood (in some cases, even into my parents’ adulthood). More importantly, it was an ongoing history. The struggles of blacks didn’t end with the Civil War any more than the struggles of Native Americans ended with the Indian Wars. I could understand how much of this history was hidden at the time, even as the suffering and oppression continued. Native Americans, after all, were forced onto reservations that made their plight practically invisible to the rest of the country. It was a problem that wasn’t seen and so didn’t need to be thought about. But the problems facing blacks would have been impossible to ignore for those living in the South and also in the North.

In the South my grandmother grew up in, Jim Crow was in full force and blacks had for decades faced re-enslavement through chain gang labor. My grandmother was a few years old when the Second Klan was founded. The Klan was a growing force during her childhood and was at its height in her teenage years: “At its peak in the mid-1920s, the organization claimed to include about 15% of the nation’s eligible population, approximately 4–5 million men” (Wikipedia). I have no doubt that many generations and many lines of my family were involved in the various incarnations of the Klan, along with other violently racist organizations and activities; but there is no family stories about any of this, as it’s one of those things that people don’t talk about.

When my grandmother was eight years old, a short distance from her childhood home the Tulsa race riots occurred where white mobs rioted and terrorized the black population. It was an actual battle with whites and blacks fighting in the streets (many of them WWI veterans, including black veterans who took their military weapons home with them), snipers were positioned in buildings shooting at people below, airplanes firebombed the wealthiest black community in America at the time (Black Wall Street), and belatedly troops were sent in to restore order. Hundreds of blacks were killed, hundreds more ended up in the hospital, 6,000 black residents were arrested and detained, and in the detention centers blacks were forced to do labor. In the aftermath, most of the black population became refugees who had lost everything and thousands of white residents in Tulsa joined the Klan.

It was one of the most violent and destructive events in American history. Yet it was erased from public awareness almost instantly, as if it had never happened. “The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place” (A.G. Sulzberger, “As Survivors Dwindle, Tulsa Confronts Past“, NYT).

This was just one of many race riots and other acts of mass racial violence that occurred in the decades before and following what happened in Tulsa. Violence like this, including lynchings, would have been common events for the first two-thirds of her life. After her family left Oklahoma, they moved to a part of Mississippi that was a major center of the Second Klan. Then as an adult in 1940, she moved her own young family to Indiana, the headquarters and epicenter of the Second Klan, during a time when the last vestiges of the organization were still to be seen. It was in the 1950s and 1960s when a splintered KKK reasserted itself in fighting the Civil Rights Movement.

Indiana is close to the South and not just geographically. It’s been culturally and economically connected to Kentucky from early on. This area is sometimes referred to as Kentuckiana. Much of Indiana’s population originally came from Kentucky and that has made Indiana the most Southern state in the Midwest (my maternal ancestry includes Indian fighters who came to Kentucky shortly after the American Revolution). A generation after my mother’s family left the border region of Kentucky and Indiana, she grew up in a large industrial city in central Indiana and yet she maintained a Southern accent well into her twenties.

Indiana was a destination of many white Southerners looking for work. Yet Southern blacks knew to mostly avoid Indiana, except for Northern parts of the state closer to Chicago. This wasn’t just a vague notion that blacks had about Indiana. The local white population, Klan and otherwise, made it overtly clear they weren’t welcome in most parts of the state.

My father was born in small town Indiana and then moved to another nearby small town. They were both in an area of much racism, but the second town where he spent most of his early life was a sundown town. When my father and his family moved there, a sign warning blacks to stay away was still visible on a major road into town. My father would have been too young to understand, my Southern grandmother could not have missed something so obvious. They had to have known they moved into a sundown town. Did my father know about this? No. Did his mother, my grandmother, ever talk about it? No. It wasn’t talked about. As my grandfather was the town minister, he could have challenged this racism from the pulpit. Did he? No. The reason for this is that my grandfather My was a racist, although like many he softened his prejudiced views later in life. Still, that doesn’t change the moral failure.

My grandmother was always a religious and spiritual person, moreso than my grandfather despite his being a minister. She grew in that old time religion, Southern Baptist church. When she moved to the West Coast, she became quite liberal and joined extremely liberal churches, such as Unity Church and Science of Mind. It was because of my grandmother that I was raised in the same kind of liberal churches. This led me to become the liberal I am today. Even so, my grandmother never spoke of our family’s ancestral sin of racial oppression, even though she had spent so much of her life right in the middle of it.

My father went off to college at Purdue. The city, Lafayette, had been a sundown town at one point. The systemic racism was lessening there by the time my parents attended, but the black population remained low. While they were at college, the Civil Rights Movement was growing and violence was happening. Professors and college students from Purdue even joined in some of the major events of that time. The world was changing all around my parents, but they apparently were oblivious to it all. When I’ve asked them, they had only slight memory of what was happening at the time, other than some brief news stories that they paid little attention to. It didn’t seem all that important to them, as white conservatives in a white conservative state with a hopeful future before them.

Systemic and institutional racism continued in some parts of the country long after the death of MLK. Blacks were still fighting for basic rights and demanding that laws against racism be enforced, well into my own lifetime (in fact, the struggle for justice continues to this day). For my parents, living in Ohio after college, that was a happy time of their life. As their children were born, protests and riots were going on around the country (including nearby), but it all seemed distant and insignificant, maybe a bit incomprehensible. After that, during the 1980s, our family moved to Deerfield, Illinois — a Chicago suburb with a history of keeping blacks out, something my parents were also unaware of. Then we headed to Iowa, which at the time was a demographic bubble of whiteness.

In my own childhood, I don’t recall my parents or other adults talking about race and racism. I also was oblivious to it all, until we moved to South Carolina when I was thirteen years old. It was a shock to my system. I didn’t grow up with that world and so I saw it with fresh eyes in a way someone wouldn’t have if they had grown up with it. Even then, amidst obvious racism and an overt racial social order, few people talked about it. I saw blacks at school, but no blacks lived in my neighborhood or went to my church. Black kids didn’t come home with me nor did I go home with them.

I was facing generations of denial in my own family. No one gave me any tools to deal with any of it. If not for genealogy research, I might never have realized how close to home all of this comes. Even now, I live in a liberal college town where at an earlier point in time a racist mob chased out of town the radical abolitionist John Brown, shortly before his execution. And a muted form of that old racism lingers still.

How do we deal with the legacy of centuries of oppression when it’s almost impossible to even publicly acknowledge what has happened within living memory? How do we come to terms with the fact that the legacy continues with systemic and institutional racism? How do we open up dialogue? How do we move forward? If more people simply dug into their own family histories, what might they find? And if they put that into context of the larger national history, what understandings might they come to?

My eternal refrain: Then what?

I’ve gained this knowledge and it was no easy task, as I had to find it for myself through decades of obsessive research and intense study. Generations of my own family have avoided this knowledge, built on centuries of ignorance and denial, supported by a vast social order designed to maintain the status quo. So, here we are. Many others like me are looking at these hidden truths now brought to light. What are we supposed to do with it all? How does a society come to terms with collective guilt?

William Faulkner spent most of his life a few counties away from my great grandmother’s home in Mississippi, the last place my grandmother lived before adulthood and the area she returned to after college to work a teaching job for a couple of years, around 1935. That is where my father would visit as a child and where he saw his first “colored” water fountain. Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun was set in that part of Mississippi, as were other of his novels. The events in the story were fictionally placed in the years immediately following my grandmother’s departure. The world that Faulkner described was the world that shaped my grandmother, a world she couldn’t leave behind because she carried it with her.

One of Faulkner’s best known lines comes from that novel. He wrote:

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

My grandmother was an educated woman, a teacher in fact. I wonder. Did she ever read those words? And if so, what did she think of them? Did she ever look to the past, her own past and that of her family? Or was she trying to escape the past by getting as far away as possible, ending up in the Northwest? It’s ironic that she spent the last years of her life in Oregon, the only state in the Union that was once fully sundown, excluding blacks entirely.

From what I gather, my grandmother was a kindhearted woman, but that could be said of many people. Few white Americans are overtly mean-spirited. People simply try to live their lives, and yet their lives exist along a moral arc bending from the past into the future. How often do any of us consider our place in the larger scheme of things and wonder about what future generations will think of us?

Mid-Atlantic Ancestral Homeland

New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Pennsylvania. Those are the states my family and I visited recently, more or less in that order. It was a return to one of my ancestral homelands, the Mid-Atlantic region. The trip actually only involved part of my family, only one brother and one parent. My father was finally feeling nostalgic in his old age. So, he was our tour guide for much of the trip.

The last stretch involved some brief driving through Vermont and a stop at the Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Vermont was beautiful, exactly as I imagined it would be. And the Gettysburg battlefield was fascinating, similar to a tour years ago of Little Big Horn where Custer had his infamous last stand. As a side note, Custer had been on the winning side at Gettysburg and played a significant role in stopping the Confederate advance, but almost everyone remembers him solely for his later defeat and death. The guy deserves some credit. Enjoyable as it was to see some beautiful countryside and explore an important part of American history, it was the personal side of our East Coast travels that interested me the most. This was first and foremost a tour of family history.

Our first destination was New Jersey. We headed to Morristown. It was in Morris County that my father’s paternal grandparents were born. That is part of the New York Metropolitan area. Morristown itself has been a place since the colonial era that attracted the wealthy (it is still a place of money), but my family wasn’t wealthy and so they lived out in what was the surrounding countryside. Morristown was also a major center for the American Revolution, a meeting place for important figures and a headquarters for George Washington.

My paternal great grandmother is Matilda Reinthaler. Her father, Charles, escaped the Austrian Army, when he was an officer sent to Italy (I guess it was the Crimean War). His men were forced to wear heavy uniforms and, though it was hot, they weren’t allowed to unbutton to cool off. He refused to follow orders and, facing court marshall, was forced to flee, ending up in New York and then New Jersey. Matilda’s mother, Caroline Lindenmeyer, left Bavaria for unknown reasons, but probably related to the 19th century wars and revolutionary fervor.

We found their home and the one room school house she would have attended, still standing down the road. Even with new houses having been built, there was a sense of the rural clinging to the former country road. She had a more stable childhood than experienced by her husband, my paternal great grandfather, Charles Salvester Steele. His grandfather came from Pennsylvania and his mother’s family had been in New Jersey continuously since the colonial era (one line of my own mother’s family, the Hawks, also came from colonial New Jersey, but we didn’t visit that part of the southern part of the state). Charles’ mother died when he was young and, since his father couldn’t afford to raise all the children, he was sent to live with the Shakers somewhere near Rochester.

That particular Shaker village has since become part of a prison. The only way to visit the buildings my great grandfather spent time in would be get arrested for a serious crime. Later on in the trip, we visited a different Shaker village that is still standing in Hancock, Massachusetts. It was part of a complex of villages along the border of New York and Massachusetts. The Shakers were a fascinating group, highly innovative and technologically advanced, business leaders in agriculture and industry. Even the design and quality of their buildings is impressive, such as the round barn we saw which is the most practical barn I’ve seen in my life. They knew how to run an operation and they had no desire to cling to the past, like the Amish. Growing up there would have been simple, but deprivation in any form would not have been an issue. The Shakers for much of their history were successful and wealthy.

My great grandfather’s childhood was a not unusual fate for many poor kids of the time. The Shakers on a regular basis legally adopted children given to them, a practice that continued until the federal government made it illegal for groups to adopt children and thus officially doomed the abstinent Shaker communities. Once reaching adulthood, the children raised were given a choice to stay or leave. My paternal great grandfather was living at the Shaker village at a time when they were already in decline. He decided to leave and that Shaker village closed not too long later.

It seems he returned to Morristown, probably because it was the only other place he knew. He remained in contact with his family, but one gets the sense that the contact was limited. His wife was also from that area and so one might presume that is how they met, although there is no family info about this. My paternal great grandfather would have learned a trade or maybe multiple trades when with the Shakers, as they put heavy focus on practical knowledge and skills. As an adult, he probably did some farming; certainly, the Shakers were famous for their agriculture. While living in this area, he took a large wagon into nearby New York City to sell produce and it likely was produce that he had grown himself.

As part of our family pilgrimage, we headed into New York City. It’s hard to imagine what it must have looked like back then. When my paternal grandfather was younger, he would travel there sometimes, since an uncle had a grocery store in Brooklyn. My family and I only had a day in the city and so we didn’t see much, besides the standard tourist sights, although not even having enough time to visit the 9/11 memorial. The most exciting part was taking the Staten Island Ferry where could be seen the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, famous landmarks for incoming immigrants, although both from an immigrant era that came after my own immigrant ancestry.

Later on following marriage, Charles Salvester Steele worked doing professional gardening and lawn maintenance in Connecticut. He also entered into flower shows, which is where the wealthy Benjamin DeWitt Riegel met him and hired him as the estate superintendent and head groundskeeper. That is how my grandfather ended up growing up on a Long Island Sound estate where, later on, my father in his own childhood would spend his summers.

That estate is apparently known as Xanadu, but my father recalls that to his family and the Riegel family it was simply known as “The Place”. It was still in Riegel ownership until recent years. About a decade ago, my father and uncle were able to get hold of Mr. Riegel’s daughter, Katherine Riegel Emory (she remembered it as “The Place”, when my father mentioned it). She was a childhood playmate of my grandfather, until teenagehood when the fates of the classes diverged. My father and uncle knew her as Mrs. Riegel when they visited in the summers of their youth. In those last years of her life, they were given permission to walk the grounds of the estate one last time, not that they realized it would soon fall under new ownership.

Years of talking about the place was a major reason for this trip. My father has for a long time wanted my brothers and I to see the place of his fond childhood memories. There was no longer a way to get on the estate by invitation with new ownership, but there is a public road that is along one side of it and two public beaches adjacent to it. At low tide, we were able to walk the rocky beach directly between the estate and Long Island Sound, making possible a clear view across the vast lawns my great grandfather once maintained. My dad pointed to all that he remembered from his childhood, along with stories his own father had shared with him, such as the time as a child when my grandfather built a contraption attached to a cable secured to the top story of the barn and stretched taut to the beach upon which the two of them rode it down barely missing a wall in the process. By the way, an article stated that my great grandfather (referred to by his work title, not his name) used to gather the eggs from the chicken coops near the old barn, but according to my father it was in fact my great grandmother who did this — just wanted to set the record straight.

The Xanadu estate is in Fairfield, Connecticut. It is another old area, inhabited long before Europeans settled there in the early colonial era. Before the Riegels bought the property, it was a gentlemen’s horse farm and at some point an onion farm. There was a village nearby that had been almost entirely burned down by the British during the American Revolution, the British having landed right around where the estate is located. As with many places on the Eastern seaboard, there is much history there.

It was nice to finally see this place I’d heard so much about all my life. The Place! I also saw the school my grandfather went to. One time walking to school, the Riegel’s chauffeur drove by on the road splashing muddy water onto my grandfather who thought it was done on purpose. My grandfather grew up with Riegel children and lived a protected life during the Great Depression, but he had an inferiority complex living on the periphery of great wealth. He spent the rest of his days being extremely class conscious and always wanting to enjoy the good life. It was even passed onto his children, including my father who likes nice things (i.e., classy cars, large houses, manicured lawns, expensive resorts, and such), not that my family is wealthy enough afford many nice things.

It would be strange growing up as the son of the help on an estate or even visiting such a place as a child. My dad recalls as a child telling a close friend back in Alexandria, Indiana (“Small Town, USA”) that he spent the summer at an estate and his friend called him a liar. Life on an estate is not an experience most of us ever have.

One thing stood out to me. There are, as I said, two public beaches on either side of the estate. They are fairly nice beaches for the area and when we first arrived many local people lounged around on the sand and played in the water as people do. However, directly on the waterfront of the estate, there is almost nothing other than rocks. This is because the Riegel family had built a seawall that caused erosion of the sand and disallowed the beach to naturally rebuild itself. This is a great example of the opposite of the tragedy of the commons. In trying to protect their private property, they destroyed the beach along their property, while on either side are two popular public beaches with lots of sand forming popular beaches.

After my grandfather graduated college, Mr. Riegel offered him a job as night superintendent at one of his mills in order to get trained. His job was to manage the factory during the night shift. It was the Trion factory in Georgia and my grandfather was one of the fair-haired boys that Mr. Riegel sent down from New York. It was at Trion that my grandfather met his first wife and my grandmother, Billie Jean Nye, who was working as a school teacher employed by the company in the company town. You can see pictures of the mill town at this article, including a picture of the hotel where lived the unmarried employees like my grandparents, the place where they first met, and a picture of the school where I assume my grandmother would have taught.

He had felt socially obligated to accept that job. Mr. Riegel, after all, was not only his father’s boss but also the owner of the house his father lived in. It would have been an offense to decline an offer of such a good job, at a time not long after the Great Depression when the economy was getting back on its feet. Still, my grandfather hated the job, as it was his responsibility to pick the workers for the week out of a crowd of men desperate for a job, deciding who would get work and who wouldn’t. During the Great Depression, my grandfather had lived a protected existence on the estate. Before working at Trion, he probably had never seen much extreme poverty and unemployment. Also, that company town would have still been recovering from recent conflict. In 1934, a year or two before my grandfather arrived, the town had been the site of labor conflict and violence:

“1934 marked the 3rd closing of the plant for any length of time. Throughout the South unions were making a strong push to organize factories and mills. “Flying Squadrons” of union activists were sent into mill communities to gain support. The large group of employees working in Trion was high on their list. Led by a group of people from the Rome Foundry, along with some local people, a mob literally tried to take over the mill. Trion’s Chief of Police, Mr. Hix, was killed attempting to protect the mill. Others that had come on to work that day were beaten or roughed up. Eventually the National Guard was called in. The mill remained closed for approximately six weeks.”

It was the kind of clash of the classes that happened in places like that. In controlling employment, the company had total power over people’s lives. It was the largest employer in the area and still there were more people looking for work than there were jobs available. As an interesting side note, this was all going on in the last years of Mr. Riegel’s life. He had contracted some disease, maybe polio, and was kept alive with an iron lung. In 1941, back on the estate, a storm had hit and the power went out. The iron lung was run on electricity and apparently they had no backup generator. My great grandfather was sent for and he tried to hook up the iron lung to the engine of a Model A truck, but it was too late. Mr. Riegel had suffocated to death. Along with the ending of his life, it was the ending of an era.

Anyway, in those remaining years of Mr. Riegel’s life, my grandfather didn’t last long at Trion. He realized there weren’t many respectable ways he could quit without offending Mr. Riegel. He could join the military or he could become a minister. He chose the latter and took his wife with him to Indiana. But Mr. Riegel was still immensely disappointed, having given this son of the help such a rare opportunity to move up in the world.

I could imagine the sense of expectation and conflict. While at Trion, my grandfather managed the mill during the evening shift. Some new advanced machinery had been installed and, along with another guy, my grandfather had to learn how to operate it and keep it running non-stop. The problem is no one had been sent to show how it all worked and something went wrong, destroying the equipment. My grandfather was horrified about the incident, but after an investigation no one was blamed. Mr. Riegel had put immense trust and responsibility onto my grandfather’s shoulders, and he obviously looked to him with great promise. After all of that, it must have seemed ungrateful for my grandfather to quit.

Even so, the training my grandfather received didn’t entirely go to waste. There was a tomato canning factory in Geneva, Indiana where the family (including my father as a young child) lived for a time. It operated seasonally after the tomato harvest and my grandfather, while not doing his ministerial duties, worked there as a temporary factory manager.

My father without realizing it followed in his footsteps when he later became a factory manager, a family tradition that began with with the Riegels. Then my father also fell into the same pattern when he refused career advancement in order to look for other work, initially having considered the ministerial option as well until he decided to become a professor in order to preach at students instead. Like his own father, he found stressful the cutthroat world of business and the harsh reality of controlling the fate of workers, in personally determining who would be hired and fired. My family apparently doesn’t have the right kind of personality traits to be part of the wealthy business elite.

Later on, my great grandmother died on the estate in 1954, when my father was twelve years old. A few years later, the Riegel family asked my great grandfather to leave the property. He was around eighty years old and had spent half of his life working and residing on the estate. It was his home and, from the way my father talks about it, I get the sense that he was heartbroken. Mr. Riegel had promised that he would always be taken care of, but Mr. Riegel died in 1941 and had never wrote anything down. His word-of-mouth promise apparently meant nothing to the heirs of Mr. Riegel or maybe it never came up. Whatever the case, my great grandfather wasn’t given any retirement package or even a place to live. He  was just told to immediately leave the home he had known and loved for so long.

As a comparison, on the other side of the road was the estate of Harold Gray, the comic strip artist of Little Orphan Annie. My great grandparents were good friends with some of long term help at that other estate, only a few minutes walk away. When Gray’s long term help retired, he bought them an expensive house. My great grandfather was probably expecting something similar, as the Riegels were surely even wealthier. Instead, he was forced to move in with his son and died shortly later.

That part of my family has always felt distant to me. This trip was the first time, since I was a baby, that I’ve visited this part of the country. There are still some of the extended family living around there, but we’ve had a hard time contacting them. My father hasn’t seen his extended family on that side since he was a kid. Yet that part of the country is so key, both to my family history and to American history.

As I mentioned, one line of my mother’s family (originating with Sampson Hawk) came from colonial New Jersey. Like my father’s family, they were likely of Germanic ancestry. The difference was that they early on headed for the frontier, whereas the New Jersey lines of my father’s family didn’t venture far. The German-American Riegel family were also from New Jersey, along with Pennsylvania where Mr. Riegel was born. My own surname has an early Pennsylvanian background, although I don’t know the ancestral source of it.

Like the Midwest, the mid-Atlantic region was ethnic American (i.e., non-WASP) territory. Specifically, it was one of the areas where German-Americans were the majority. But none of this comes up much in official histories and collective memory, as cultural amnesia is almost complete. My father has a vague memory of his grandparents having some kind of accent, whatever it was. They weren’t that far from the immigrant experience and they lived in a place where the immigrant experience should have been close to the surface. Even so, my father doesn’t recall anyone ever discussing such things. The oppressive world war era had stigmatized and erased so much of the former ethno-cultural diversity. That makes me sad, as it is a loss of part of the ancestral history that shaped my family.

Visiting New Jersey, in particular, gave me a glimpse of the world that once existed there. I have more of a sense of the place. But family history came to life even moreso in our visit to Connecticut. My father doesn’t get too excited about genealogy, maybe having to do with particular disconnections over the generations. Talking about the estate, though, allowed me to see another side of him. The estate was something personally real and important to my father’s life, one of the fondest connections he has to his family history. And for me, the stories I’ve heard for years suddenly had physical locations that I can now see in my mind’s eye.

Family Connections and Disconnections

I’ve been working on genealogical research. I’ve spent most of my time on my mom’s family. That is largely because my mom was more interested in her own family.

Growing up, we spent more time visiting my mom’s family and my mom’s family spent more time visiting us. We also would visit more often the places of my mom’s past and that of her family. We went to the parks that she went to when she was younger. And on numerous occasions we traveled to the places where many of her ancestors settled in Indiana, including a place that became a state park and working village. I’ve seen the old homes where they lived and, in some cases, were born. I’ve walked on the land that they walked on and I’ve stood before their gravestones.

I have a tangible sense of my mother’s family and the world they came from. Many of the states they lived in are states I have lived in, visited, and traveled through. My mother’s family is a product of the Upper South and Lower Midwest, most specifically what some refer as Kentuckiana. I have a personal sense of that place. It feels like my ancestral homeland.

My dad’s family is different, though. I’ve become aware of this as I’ve tried to get motivated about doing genealogical research on his side. I realize I have so little personal connection to his family and so little sense of where his family came from.

My dad’s father and siblings rarely visited in the past. His father is dead now, but his siblings are still alive. My aunt lives on the West Coast and so it is far away. My uncle, however, has remained in the area. He recently visited my parents and that was the first time I’d seen him in more than a decade. The only family member on that side that used to visit regularly was my paternal grandmother, but she died when I was young and so I barely remember her.

My paternal grandmother came from the Deep South. And my paternal grandfather came from the East Coast. Besides a trip when I was an infant, I’ve never visited the parts of the country where my paternal grandparents were born and raised. Even the part of the Deep South I lived in (South Carolina) was a world away from the part of the Deep South my grandmother’s family was from (Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississipi), although many generations before her a line of her family lived a short distance from my home in South Carolina, a fact that my dad didn’t know until recently.

For some reason, my dad’s family isn’t close. Maybe it makes sense, considering the family history. He and his siblings were born and raised far from where their own parents were born and raised. Unlike my mom, my dad didn’t grow up with extended family living nearby.

Also, there were other sad breaks from one generation to another. His mother’s father disappeared when she was a girl and it traumatized her for life (records apparently show that he abandoned his family and started a new life, including a new family—a fact that would have broken my grandmother’s heart, had she known about it). Almost nothing is known about him or where he came from. As for his father’s father, he was given away as a child to a Shaker village and he never fully reconnected with his family. Then, when my dad was hitting young adulthood, his parents divorced with his father heading back to the East Coast and his mother leaving for the far away West Coast, taking his sister along with her. So, there were multiple generations of broken families.

This probably explains a lot. My dad and my uncle would go back to visit their father’s childhood home. It was on an estate on Long Island Sound, where their grandparents lived for most of their lives, their grandfather having been the head gardener. Yet it never occurred to my dad to bring his kids to see the place of his fondest childhood memories. We never even took trips to that part of the country, except for that one time in my infancy. I guess it didn’t seem important to my dad at the time. We are finally planning a visit later this year to visit. But we won’t be able to get onto the estate, because there are new owners.

I recently contacted a long lost relative on that side of my dad’s family, a cousin that is maybe two times removed. He never knew this person, although he does remember some of the same East Coast relatives and places that this person remembers. I got my dad to email this guy, but that was it. The guy gave his phone number months ago. My dad has yet to call this guy. He told me that he didn’t know what to talk about, if he did call. I found that bizarre. This guy is family and so you’d talk to him about family. It’s not complicated.

The real issue is that my dad lacks the motivation. This has been true even for the genealogical research. Trying to get my dad involved in looking into his own family history has been like pulling nails. It seems that part of him doesn’t want to know about his own family, not that he would ever admit this.

My dad’s lack of interest makes it hard for me to get interested as well. I’d like to have a better sense of my dad’s family, where they came from and what shaped them. But at present the personal connection is lacking. There is no living sense of kinship. It’s an emotional dead end, which is sad.

William Clouse of Kentucky, 1805

Possible Residences, Marriages, and Children/Siblings

The 1830 census (Jessamine KY) for William Clouse (20-29) shows an adult female (20-29), presumably his wife Patsy Fain, and two (free white) persons under the age of 20. One of those should be James Wesley Clouse when he was around 4 years old, but the other is unknown. Another child?

In the 1840 census, William Clouse (30-39) is shown living alone in a neighboring county, Garrard. It isn’t known when his wife died, but it could have been before this time. Also, James Wesley Clouse at age 14 or so could easily have had an early unknown marriage or found work somewhere else. The other possible sibling might have been even older. Or maybe William Clouse was simply away from the Jessamine house while doing a job.

One intriguing hint is an 1850 census for Union, Montgomery, Indiana. There was a William living there with an Elizabeth and four children. The father, age 44, was born in Virginia, the wife in Indiana, and all the children were born in Kentucky. Other records show that William Clouse and Elizabeth Williams were married in Montomery in 1842. This is interesting as the last record we have for my ancestor, William Clouse, was last known from that 1840 KY census when he was living alone. Did he move and remarry? Did he have other children that he brought with him to this other possible marriage?

I have no records for when and where my William Clouse was born, although I’ve come across it being stated he was born in 1805 in KY. I don’t now recall where I’ve seen that stated and so I wouldn’t rely upon its accuracy at this point.

There were many people around at that time going by the name William Clouse. There is also a white William Clouse living in Richland, Rush, Indiana in the mid to late 1800s and who has same approximate birthdate as the Jesamine/Garrard William Clouse and the Montomery William Clouse; but this Rush William Clouse was born in Tennessee which is the location where some people claim my Clouse family came from. Also, in 1830, there was a free black family living in Scott KY which is very close to where my free white William Clouse was living. Is there a connection there? Were there slaves in the family that were freed?

I’m trying to figure out more about the Clouse family in general. I’d also like to know more about Patsy Fain. Where did she come from and what happened to her? Where did William Clouse and Patsy Fain die and where were they buried? Along with Patsy Fain, where was James Wesley Clouse and the other ‘child’ in 1840 as I don’t know of J. W. getting married until 1848? I’m fairly sure that 1830 Jessamine census is when all these people were living together as a family, but I can’t prove it as this is just circumstantial evidence.

I did further research. I found another 1840 census that fits better for my Clouse family. It has a William Clouse living with children. Two of these children fit the age range of James Wesley Clouse and the other ‘child’. The next three children were all under 10 years old and so were born since the last census. This would also further strengthen the potential connection to the 1850 Union IN William Clouse, as the two older children would have been gone and the three younger children fit the ages with another child having been born. I’m not sure how to verify or disprove this hypothesis.

Apparently, in 1840, there was a William Clouse in Jessamine KY and a William Clouse in Garrard KY, neighboring counties. Both were around the same age. Were there actually two people with the same name, around the same age, and living in the same immediate area? Or did somehow the same person get counted twice, once with his own household and another time while visiting/working in the next county over? There is a headstone for a William Clouse in Garrard, birth and death unknown.

* * *

Here are some of the relevant names in my family tree from census records:

1810 Garrard census: some Burton, some Teter,
1810 Jessamine census: one Close household (Mary with children), some Finn, (Welch, Penix)

1820 Garrard census: no Close or Clouse, some Burton, no Fain, no Teter or variant
1820 Jessamine census: some Fain, (Walters, Welch)

1830 Garrard census: no Clouse, some Burton, some Fain, no Teater
1830 Jessamine (much of it illegible): one Clouse household (William), no Burton, some Fain, no Teater,

1840 Garrard census: one Clouse single person (William), some Burton, some Tater
1840 Jessamine census: one Clouse household (Wm), some Fain (Welch)

1850 Garrard census: one Clouse household (William 20, Mary 19), one Clouse household (James 34, Catharine 25, Isham 1), one Clouse household (James W 22, Sarah A 22, Will E 1), some Teeter, some Burton, (Welch)
1850 Jessamine census: , some Fain, some Burton, some Teter, (Welch)

1860 Garrard census: one Clonce household (James, Catharine, Allen, John D, Wm F, Nancy, Lucy) some Burton, some Teater and Teates and Teeter, some Finn
1860 Jessamine census: some Fain, some Burton, some Teter

In the late 1800s, all of the Clouses began leaving the area. My family line then moved to Southern Indiana. It’s quite close by, just a few counties away.

My Preoccupied Mind: Blogging and Research

I haven’t been posting as much to my blog lately. I wanted to explain my reasons, in case anyone cared to know.

I’ve been thinking a lot about some related things.

A while back, I started a post about the radicalism of the Enlightenment. Many people, especially conservatives, forget how violently the traditional social order was overturned, in order to create the world we know today. Modern capitalist society may be many things, but it has nothing to do with any traditional social order and the same goes for modern conservatism that aligns itself with capitalism.

That led me to other topics. I was reminded, among other things, to some of my earlier thinking on the Axial Age, Julian Jayne’s breakdown of the bicameral mind, etc. I’ve always sensed a hidden connection between that earlier era of transformation and the radicalism of the Enlightenment, the latter being a greater expression and fulfillment of what first emerged more than two millennia ago.

With all of that in mind, I was looking many different articles and books. My curiosity has been in full gear ever since. I’m in research mode, which for me can be quite an obsessive and time-consuming activity.

This was made worse because I got into a discussion about shame. While putting the radicalism post on the back burner, I looked into this other topic, as I had never explored it before. It turned out that shame is a lot more fascinating than I had considered.

My investigation into the meaning of shame once again led me back in the same direction that the issue of radicalism had brought me.

Julian Jaynes had written about the comparison of shame and guilt cultures. He was influenced in by E. R. Dodds (and Bruno Snell). Dodds in turn based some of his own thinking about the Greeks on the work of Ruth Benedict, who originated the shame and guilt culture comparison in her writings on Japan and the United States. Benedict, like Margaret Mead, had been taught by Franz Boas. Boas developed some of the early anthropological thinking that saw societies as distinct cultures.

Connected to these thinkers, I was reading Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes the World. I realized a connection to my own speculations about symbolic conflation, about which I recently wrote a post. I explored that in a fair amount of detail, but it only touched upon one area of my mind’s focus as of late.

As you can see, I was exploring the connections of scholarly thought, but also the connections of different time periods. The past speaks to the present, whether the past of centuries before or millennia before.

At the same time, I feel like I have a family obligation to finish up the genealogy research I started years ago. I got distracted by other things. I do enjoy genealogy, but it is difficult and requires total focus. I have barely even started on my father’s side of the family.

I have my hands full. I enjoy blogging and will continue to do so, but it might be sporadic in the immediate future. I’m not sure what I might blog about, when I do get around to it. I’m known for being easily distracted and writing about such distractions.

The Many Lewis Families of Many Places

I’m still slugging away at my genealogy research. After solving the mystery of Thomas H. Lewis, I was faced by the mystery of his parents, claimed to be Simeon and Barbara Lewis.

If you have no interest in Lewis family history, this is fair warning that the following will bore you to tears. My purpose here is purely practical. Having done extensive research, I found many records on various Lewis family lines and possibly they are all related. This research would likely be helpful to others who have been faced with the same or similar confusions involving the Lewis family from Virginia and Kentucky.

I haven’t researched all the available records. My focus was on my own family. So, the records I was looking at mostly had to do with people who could be confused as the same person or related people. In trying to make sense of it all, I inadvertently ended up researching several distinct Lewis family lines. I had to figure out who wasn’t my family in order to figure out who was.

I didn’t know what to do with all this extra research I had done. It seemed like a shame to just throw it away, as it might be exactly what others are looking for. I decided to present all these family lines, as best as I can reckon.

* * *

My Lewis ancestry was first researched by my second cousin, i.e., the son of my mother’s first cousin. He is from the Wininger side of my mother’s family. His mother’s paternal grandfather, Rollie Franklin Wininger, is also my mother’s maternal grandfather. The generations beyond that, Rollie’s mother was Eliza Elizabeth Lewis and her parents were Thomas H. Lewis and Sarah Wininger. Yes, there were multiple lines of Wininger family and, yes, they were all related.

My second cousin did a lot of research and the family tree he filled out is quite large. Some of the family lines he researched in great detail, including traveling to other countries to look at records firsthand. I’m not quite that dedicated.

In our shared Lewis ancestry, he has told me that he has only personally researched up to the point of Thomas H. Lewis and his parents. I don’t know all the records he used in verifying the claims about those family members, but I do know that he had seen the transcription of the Sarah Wineinger Lewis Bible. In that, the earliest family members mentioned are Simeon and Barbary (Barbara?) Lewis and the birthdate of February 9, 1821 is given for their son, Thomas. No siblings of Thomas are mentioned. Also, no further pieces of data are given for Simeon and Barbary, just their names. Furthermore, the person who recorded all the births, marriages, and deaths in the family Bible didn’t consider the importance of offering such details as the location of these events. It would be nice to know where Thomas was born.

I was more than a bit perplexed when researching Thomas H. Lewis myself. In the end, I seemed to have simply proved the claims my second cousin made based on his own research. But I did so by looking at many records he probably never saw. It was worthwhile, even if I simply reinvented the wheel. You never know what you’ll find, until you look.

The issue of the parents and grandparents of Thomas H. Lewis is even more perplexing. My second cousin ended up taking info from other family trees he found, but he wasn’t able to verify any of it. I’ve also struggled with trying to ascertain the identities of these more distant generations.

My second cousin has Thomas H. Lewis as the son of Simeon B. Lewis and Barbary/Barbara Campbell. This Simeon is claimed to have been born about 1790 in Culpepper county, Virginia and was the son of Henry Lewis and Linda Cleggett. This is the beginning of a case for a particular set of people. In the family Bible transcription, it refers to Simeon without any middle initial and refers to a Barbary without any last name, both of unknown origin. What might be the source of further info on these people? What records are available to make this case?

Let me get to the meat of issue with the claim that Henry Lewis and Linda Cleggett were the parents of Simeon B. Lewis. I seem to have found the information that this is based upon. It is found on ancestry.com and comes from a record with the title “Family Data Collection – Individual Records about Simeon Buford Lewis”:

Name: Simeon Buford Lewis
Spouse: Nannie Maple
Parents: Henry Lewis, Volinda Claggett Linthicum
Birth Place: Nelson, Bardstown, KY
Birth Date: 17 Jun 1813
Death Place: Bardstown, Nelson, KY
Death Date: 1898

This is cited in some family trees for the parents Simeon Lewis who is the father of Thomas H. Lewis. It is a sizable chunk of info about a single person. At first glance, this does seem to match the family tree. The father is Henry Lewis as claimed and the mother’s name is close to Linda Clegget.

However, the first thing that stands out is the spouse. In my family tree and hence in my second cousin’s family tree, the spouse is supposedly Barbary/Barbara Campbell. This doesn’t mean much by itself for multiple marriages weren’t uncommon, either because of divorce or death. But who this Nannie Maple might be and where she came from, I haven’t a clue and I suppose it doesn’t matter.

The second and most important thing that stands out is the birth information. My family’s Simeon Lewis was supposedly born in Virginia, not Kentucky. Also, he would need to have been older than that. Having been born in 1813, what is the likelihood that he had a son in 1821 when he was around 8 years old? This is why a record like a family Bible can be invaluable. If I didn’t know when Thomas was born, it would be extremely difficult to discern which records matched or not.

Anyway, let’s set aside that particular record. But I will return to it later when disentangling the various Lewis families.

* * *

This brings me to the other claims made in other family trees. By the way, there seems to be hundreds of family trees for this family line on ancestry.com, but all that I looked at followed a few basic variations. I noticed several interesting things.

All of them include the basic relationship of a Thomas H. Lewis to a father named Simeon B./Buford/Beauford Lewis and to a mother named Barbara Lemons/Lemmons/Lemmon, Barbara Campbell, Barbara Sarah Campbell, Sarah Barbara Campbell, or just plain Barbara. Interestingly, any of these names would fit what little is known in the transcribed records of the Sarah Wineinger Lewis Bible. But very few of these family trees mention the info in that Bible.

Two records are referred to support the above names. Several of the family trees mention a death certificate of a Lucy, presumedly a sister of Thomas H. Lewis, that in particular is used to support the claim of Barbara’s last name as Lemons/Lemmons/Lemmon; but the URL to the source that is offered is a dead link. Another set of sources is a couple of marriage records. There is a marriage between a Simeon Lewis and a Barbara Campbell in 1800. Also, there is a marriage between a Simeon Lewis and a Sarah Campbell in Madison County, Virginia on the date of October 13, 1800. Are these two records of the same marriage? Was she Sarah Barbara Campbell or Barbara Sarah Campbell?

A number of family tree uses these two marriage records to form such a composite name. I’m inclined to accept that it is likely the same person. There often are multiple records for the same marriage. That isn’t unusual. Also, people recorded by different names in records isn’t unusual. Either way, how do we get a Barbara Lemons/Lemmons/Lemmon out of this? I guess the hypothesis is that Campbell was the name she got from a previous marriage. I don’t know what to make of that, since I haven’t seen the records to support the claim.

Most interesting and significant is the marriage record of Barbara Campbell. My second cousin listed that as the wife of Simeon B. Lewis and the mother of Thomas H. Lewis. That record fits those claims. So, far the Bible records combined with the marriage record(s) is the best starting point I’ve found, but there are many other records that form a jumble of puzzle pieces. Depending on which puzzle pieces are used and how they are put together, many pictures might form.

 

* * *

Before I get to my own research, let me further explore these other family trees. A diversity of claims and records were used to create the profiles for the family members. With looking at these family trees, the person I was most focused on was Simeon Lewis.

The profiles for Simeon B./Buford/Beauford Lewis all show him as having been born in Virginia (several listing the location as Culpepper county), which is also what my second cousin had written down. From there, they all list Simeon having moved to Kentucky (several listing the location as Hart county). After that, there is disagreement. Some claim he returned to Virginia, Culpepper or maybe some other location. Others claim he moved to Orange county, Indiana and/or Missouri where he died or else then having returned to Virginia where he died. In between all of this, a few additional locations of residences offered are Caldwell, Nelson, Barren, and Jefferson counties in Kentucky.

Simeon’s parents are shown as one of three couples. A fair number of family trees list the parents as the above mentioned Henry Lewis married to Volinda Claggett Linthicum, Linda Cleggett, Linda Cleggette, etc. Many give the names as Thomas Buford Lewis and Ann Rice. And the rest state them as John William Lewis and Mary Polly Brown or William Lewis and Mary Brown.

* * *

Each of these names has a profile page on each of the family trees. A decent number of these profiles cited sources and most of these sources were records on ancestry.com. I looked at every available record that was being used. It seemed like a total mess. On an intuitive level, it seemed unlikely that the exact same people were being referred to with various names, across four states, and from the late 1700s to the late 1800s.

I decided to print out all the records. I looked for the patterns across all the data: birth dates and death dates, marriage dates and names of married couples, named members in census-recorded households, locations of residence, etc. I started grouping them together.

Let me make the case for what I think is my family. Then I’ll make the case for what are separate families. The main basis for each of these cases will be location. All of the families appear to trace their origins back to Virginia. That is the initial confusion, upon which all other confusions are built. I’ll begin the case for my own family with Virginia.

The primary record I’ll rely on is the family Bible where the following is written:

“Thomas H. Lewis son of Simeon and Barbary Lewis born February the ninth day
in the year of our Lord 1821”

Let me consider the research I’ve done on Thomas H. Lewis as a starting point to connect backwards. I know Thomas spent many years in Orange county, Indiana where he is found on an 1850 census record and where he married his second wife. He spent most of his life around that area, including the two adjacent counties of Martin and Dubois. Census records also show that he was born in Kentucky, although specifically where is unknown. The earliest records I have shows his 1840 residence in Dubois and his 1840 marriage in Dubois to his first wife, Sarah Wininger (whose descendants are of my family line).

In the 1830 census, there is a Simeon B. Lewis in Orange county. He is listed as a free white male, between the age of 30 and 39 years old. The free white female living with him, I assume his wife Barbara, is also of the same age range. Four free white children are living with them. One child is a male, aged 5 to 9, which fits Thomas H. Lewis’ birth date of 1821. Also, Simeon B. Lewis was issued 40 acres of Orange county land in 1837 and again in 1838, the years prior to Thomas getting married in nearby Dubois county.

I haven’t discovered any further records of Simeon B. Lewis in Orange county or in that area. However, I found a Simeon B. Lewis in Munfordville, Hart, Kentucky in 1820. That is the census directly before the Orange county residence which offers possible evidence for when the family moved. In this census record, a free white male (16-25) is living with a free white female (16-25). This was the year before Thomas H. Lewis was born. Could this be his parents? If so, it would seem that he was their firstborn or else their first child to survive.

I’m tempted to connect this Simeon and Barbara Lewis back to the 1800 marriage records in Virginia. Is it possible that they had no children or no surviving children in the first two decades of their marriage? Or is it possible that they had children that had already moved away or were living with relatives? If those possibilities are discounted, is it a stronger case to connect the Orange county IN Simeon B. Lewis to the Hart county KY Simeon B. Lewis or to the 1800 Madison county, VA Simeon Lewis? Or is there not a strong enough case to be made at all to connect any of these people? It seems likely that my Lewis family came from Virginia and through Kentucky on the way to Indiana, but I haven’t found any data that would prove it.

To offer another hint of a connection, there is an early military record for a Simeon Lewis. He fought in the War of 1812. The company he was in is named as 2 Regiment (Thomas) Mounted, Kentucky Vols. That Simeon Lewis was in Kentucky nine years before Thomas H. Lewis was born. Considering all the other people around named Simeon Lewis, it seems a stretch to try to connect such a random piece of data, but it is data to be kept in mind.

Anyway, that is some of the best evidence I can provide at the moment for my own Lewis lineage.

* * *

Now, I’ll make the case for several other Lewis families that were from Virginia. Many people in making their cases about some these same people have used certain of the records above and combined them with the records of what I think are entirely separate families. Let me try to disentangle the rest of the verified data.

I’m going to go through all the records. I’ll group them according to matching data. This mostly means grouping them according to particular locations of births, marriages, residences, and deaths. I sometimes am able to more directly connect names of parents and children from certain kinds of records.

* * *

For the earliest family records people confuse with mine, let me begin with a different Madison VA marriage. This is from another record of “Family Data Collection – Individual Records”. The person listed is William Lewis: birth date as April 8 1763, birth place as Spts St Geo Parish VA, parents Henry Lewis and Anne Buford, spouse as Mary Polly Brawn (probably Brown), marriage date as 1783, death date as 1851, and death place as Culpepper (I assume in VA).

These names are all familiar from some family trees.

That data is supported by other records. There is a membership application for the Sons of the American Revolution. It lists the father as unknown, the mother as Ann Buford, the spouse as Mary Brown, and a child as John Lewis. The birth date is approximately the same, just stating it as April 4 1763 instead of April 8 1763. It also adds further detail to the death date by specifying it as June 6 1851. The marriage record for John William Lewis and Mary Brown also has the same basic info in less detail. However, it claims the marriage date as 1782. On top of that, an 1840 federal census and an 1840 VA pensioners list has a William Lewis (born about 1763) in Culpeper county.

This same William Lewis is still in Culpeper in 1850. His wife is probably dead. He is living with a Simeon B. Lewis (55) and an Alexander B. Lewis (39). After his death, Simeon Lewis and Alexander B. Lewis (both 30 years older) have remained in Culpeper.

Let me jump ahead in time and place by considering a death record. Buford Lewis of Caldwell, Kentucky was born about 1781 and died on March 3, 1854. His parents are stated as John and Mary A. Lewis. That seems quite similar to the marriage record of John William Lewis and Mary Brown. His headstone, however, states his birth year as 1786.

The 1850 census has a Buford Lewis of the correct age living with wife, Mary, and children in Caldwell. The children are Sarah (22), William (20), Henrietta (18), Nancy (14), Abram B (12), James (10), and Zachary Taylor (4). It states that Buford was born in Virginia. That would also fit his parents being the aforementioned John William Lewis and Mary Brown. Buford Lewis and household is found in Caldwell both for the 1840 and 1830 censuses. Prior to that in Caldwell, Lewis Buford was married to Polly McCarty on November 25, 1824 and earlier to Rebecca Johnson on October 3, 1816.

That would seem to connect a specific family line from Virginia to Kentucky. The above records would date the move as having happened before 1816. This seems to be the family that some people are using in part.

The case is that some seem to be making is that this Buford Lewis is the same as Thomas H. Lewis’ father, Simeon B. Lewis (with the middle initial being for Buford). The connection would be the 1830 census which does show a free white male at around the right age (5-9) for an 1821 birth. Another piece of evidence is that Simeon B. was a family name, as shown with the 1850 Culpeper census with William Lewis. The problem is there is no direct connection between that Simeon B. Lewis and that Buford Lewis or a connection of either of them to Simeon B. Lewis of Orange county, Indiana. None of the ages or locations are the same.

It just doesn’t seem to match up. Nonetheless, the Simeon B. Lewis is an intriguing clue about a common family name. Maybe this family is somehow connected to my family somewhere along the line. The two families could have split apart in Kentucky or before that in Virginia, but that is speculation. There is no clear reason to make such a case for a family connection. Commonality of names isn’t by itself all that useful for genealogy research.

* * *

The next case for a particular family line likewise begins in Virginia. In a marriage document, a Thomas Lewis married Ann Rile (Rice?). The document doesn’t give a marriage data, but it does give Thomas a birth year, 1765, and a birth place, Virginia.

To make a slight leap, there is a Thomas Lewis on a 1792 tax list for Kentucky. An 1810 census shows a Thomas L. Lewis in Bardstown, Nelson, Kentucky. This 1810 Thomas L. is the right age (45 and over). He appears to be living with wife and children, and slaves are also listed. The 1820 census seems to show the same Thomas, named without the middle ‘L’, at the same location and of course still in the 45 and over age range. The family and slaves are still present. To clinch it, there is a grave in Nelson county for a Thomas Lewis who was born September 2, 1765 and died August 10, 1839.

To connect this to the next generation, there is another grave in Nelson county for a Simeon Lewis who was born in 1787 and died in 1861. There is also a Kentucky death record for this person with a death of July 18, 1861 and a birth about 1788. The parents are named as Thomas Lewis and Nancy Lewis. Simeon Lewis is the head of household in the 1830 and 1840 censuses for Nelson county, respectively in West Division and in Eastern District. The problem with these census records is that he is the only free white person living with a group of slaves. There is no wife or children at that location, although it’s quite possible his family was living somewhere else such as a Summer home or place in a nearby city.

On a related note, there is the record I mentioned above that many people have used in their family trees for Simeon Lewis or Simeon B. Lewis, father of Thomas H. Lewis. It is the record of a Simeon Buford Lewis (1813-1898), spouse of Nannie Maple and son of Henry Lewis and Volinda Clagget Linthicum (typically referred to as Linda Clegget). What is interesting about this particular Simeon is that he was born and died in Bardwstown, Nelson, KY. It is highly probable that is part of the same Lewis family as seen above in Bardstown.

But who is this Simeon Buford Lewis? I’ve ascertained that he isn’t likely the Simeon B. Lewis of my family, as he was so young when Thomas H. Lewis was born. For my purposes here, I want to connect him to some family.  My Simeon B. Lewis was in Orange Ky at least by 1830 and was there throughout the 1830s, but I don’t know for certain where he may have been before and after that. Interestingly, for this Bardstown Simeon B. Lewis, I don’t know where he was in the 1830s.

A death record shows a Simeon B. Lewis having been born about 1812 in Nelson KY and died October 23, 1898 in Jefferson KY. This more likely than not is the same as the Bardsford Simeon Buford Lewis, even though the death location is different. Jefferson and Nelson counties are so close to one another that they are almost adjacent.

If we look to Jefferson county, we do find a Simeon B. Lewis on two records for 1850. both for District 2 of that county. He is on a census record (born about 1813) with a wife Emily (36) and children: Edward (12), Addison (8), Alex (4), Henry (1), and Edward (26); along with a maybe unrelated Wm Bishop (28). The second record is a  slave schedule for a Simeon B. Lewis as the slave owner of 12 slaves. That would fit the Nelson Lewis family who were also slave owners.

On September 5, 1859, he married Ellen Shrader in Jefferson. A year later, he and his new wife are found on the 1860 census for the same location, along with Edward E. Lewis (21), Alexander Lewis (12), George H Lewis (9), Addie Lewis (1), Henry Long (46), Wm Clemons (32), Joseph Withrow (22), and John Williams (24). I assume this was a wealthy family living on a plantation with quite a few slaves and other workers.

Now, the 1870 census seems to show the same person again, but with yet another wife, Nannie, who is the spouse named on the record that gives Bardstown, Nelson, KY as his birth and death place. Even some of the same names come up on this 1870 census, as well as some new names: Alex (23), George H (21), Adah (12), Henry Long(48), Thos Gregory (56), J M Harthge (57), Wm Williamson (26), Geo Tretman (23), Martin Lewis (15), and Mary Jane (35). This clearly is the same is the same person. The Civil War has ended and they lost their slaves, having replaced them with almost twice the number of paid workers, but obviously still a wealth family.

After making all those connections between Virginia and two counties in Kentucky, I still see no way of connecting it to Simeon B. Lewis in Orange, IN.

* * *

Here is the last Lewis family in Kentucky that I’ll discuss. They also originated from Virginia, but I don’t have the specifics on that aspect. All that is available are census records and one land grand record, both for Barren county, Kentucky. Some family trees have this Simeon as the father of Thomas H. Lewis.

In 1820, Simeon Lewis is living in Barren with 9 free white persons and 16 slaves. A short time later, on April 19 1822, some Barren property was surveyed as part of a land grant to Simeon Lewis. I wonder if this was a military land grant. If so, this could be the same Simeon Lewis who was in the War of 1812, but then again many people named Simeon Lewis could have been in that same war.

In 1830, Simeon Lewis is still there, but now with 8 free white persons and 13 slaves. In 1840, there were then 5 free white people and 6 slaves. It is likely he was giving slaves to his children as they moved out onto their own. Or else hard times had arrived. If one were to speculate, one could point out the economic problems that involved the Panic of 1819 and persisted through the early 1820s, but that is neither here nor there for the purposes of genealogical research.

Simeon Lewis was getting old in that 1840 census. He was between 50 and 59 years old. And so was what appears to have been his wife, of the same age range. As seen in the 1860 census, Simeon (65) was living with his son’s family: Simieon C Lewis (33), Mary E (27), Simeon T. (6), John (3), and Mary C (1). The name Simeon was definitely a family name, just as seen with so many other Lewis familes in the area.

This Barren county Simeon Lewis was born in Virginia, as shown in the 1850 census. This is like so many other members of the various Lewis families. There is a strong connection between Kentucky and Virginia, but the connection to Indiana gets tricky.

This Simeon Lewis is apparently not the same as the Simeon B. Lewis in Orange IN. I assume this couldn’t be the father of Thomas H. Lewis, but that is based on the assumption that the Orange county Simeon is the father. These seem like safe assumptions, since Thomas H. Lewis was connected to Orange county. I’m not sure how to connect the Lewis family in Indiana back to Kentucky in any specific way. All that I know is that Thomas H. Lewis was claimed to have been born in Kentucky, but that isn’t much information to work with.

* * *

This is the very last Lewis family will conclude my research on Lewis families, at least in relation to Simeon Lewis and Thomas H. Lewis. This Lewis family is found in Missouri. The main couple in question is a Simeon B. and Barbary Lewis.

A land grant is given him for Franklin county, Missouri on November 1 1851. Another land grant is issued on September 1 for Phelps county. In 1860 and 1870, they are living in Phelps; the former lists them as S B Louis and B Louis and the latter lists them by their full names of Simeon B Lewis and Barbary Lewis, but both list them as being born around 1798-1800, Simeon having been born in Virginia and Barbary in Kentucky. A Missouri state census shows a Simeon Lewis in Phelps in 1876.

The last record showing Simeon B. Lewis (80) is an 1880 census. He still is in Phelps, but his wife is missing and he is labeled as a widower. He is now living with his son’s family, which includes a grandson named after him: Abraham Lewis (41), Julia Lewis (41), Nathan Lewis (19), Sarah J. Lewis (18), James H. Lewis (16), Simeon B. Lewis (14), W. Edward Lewis (12), Joseph R. Lewis (8), P. thomas Lewis (5), Delbert D. Lewis (3), and Edney Thornhill (59, Julia’s mother). This is the first census that shows his occupation and it is described as “Minister Of The Gospel”. There are other records that show him as minister and justice of the peace. As with Simeon B. Lewis the elder, his son’s wife and his son’s mother-in-law were born in Virginia. However, like his own wife Barbary, his son Abraham wasn’t born in Virginia with Barbary coming from Kentucky and Abraham from Indiana.

 

This family comes up on a massive number of family trees. There is a simple reason for this. As with the Sarah Wineinger Lewis family Bible, this Missouri couple is named Simeon and Barbary Lewis, and I think these are the only two examples of couples by these names that I’ve so far come across. This is also close to the Virginia marriage record of a Simeon Lewis and Barbara Campbell, although that marriage is approximately the same time as when the Missouri couple was born and so it can’t be the same people, despite some genealogists having used them as combined evidence. To further connect this couple to many other Lewis families, including mine in Orange IN, this Simeon Lewis has ‘B’ as his middle initial.

There is good reason to see a possible connection to at least some of the families I’ve shown here. The census records do show this Simeon B Lewis to only be residing in Missouri quite late in life. In all the records, he is stated as having been born in Virginia and his wife, Barbary, in Kentucky. To make it even more interesting, at least one of his children was born in Indiana around 1839, the year after a Simeon B. Lewis is last recorded to have been in Orange county IN and 18 years after the birth of Thomas H. Lewis. And for his son to have been born in Indiana, it implies that this Simeon B. Lewis was living in Indiana at that time, which was approximately a decade before he shows up in Missouri. However, the Simeon B. Lewis in Orange IN was a farmer and the Simeon B. Lewis in Phelps MO was a minister. It isn’t unreasonable to speculate that a farmer might later on in older age become a minister, but I have no way of proving that happened in this case.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this Missouri family. I can’t directly connect them back to any specific family in any of these states. No record states which counties they came from, much less when they were living in those places. Without some personal documents such as a family Bible, a journal, or some letters, I don’t see any way of discerning which Lewis family these Missourians descended from.

One could hypothesize that these are the parents of Thomas H. Lewis. If we dismiss the Virginia marriage records, they could even be connected to the records for the Orange IN family. The last records I have for Simeon B. Lewis in Orange county is from 1838. The earliest records I have for Simeon B. Lewis in Missouri is 1851. To strengthen the case for this, the ages are about the same for both. The census records for Orange county, IN say that he was born sometime between 1791 and 1800. And the census records for Phelps county, MO say that he was born about 1799-1800.

A case could be made and has been made by many. I can’t disprove such a claim, but I’m not quite ready to accept it.

* * *

That is where my research ends for now. To summarize:

I feel certain about the claims made in the Sarah Wineinger Lewis family Bible. I feel certain that the Orange county, Indiana records of Simeon B. Lewis is the same as the father of Thomas H. Lewis listed in that Bible. And I feel certain that Thomas H. Lewis in the same area of Indiana, including Orange county, is the son of that Simeon B. Lewis.

I don’t feel strongly certain that any of the Virginia and Kentucky records refer to my family. However, a decent case can be made for the Simeon B. Lewis in Munfordville, Hart, Kentucky since it is that person is found there in 1820 and not in 1830 when another Simeon B. Lewis shows up in Orange IN. Likewise, the Missouri records of a Simeon B. Lewis seem to fit as he appears there following the other one going missing in Orange county. All three locations refer to the exact same name and all of the dates match up.

If so, the Virginia marriage of Simeon Lewis and Barbara Campbell would be an entirely different couple. Getting rid of that record would solve the issue of the 21 year gap between marriage and the birth of Thomas H. Lewis. Just because a record is found it doesn’t follow that you must connect it to your tree.

From Virginia to Kentucky, from Kentucky to Indiana, and from Indiana to Missouri. That might be the best case I’ll ever be able to make. I can’t prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, but then again I can’t disprove it. Everything seems to fit. Often, that is as good as it gets in genealogy research.

The Case of Two Families: Who is Thomas Lewis?

If you have done or plan on doing genealogy research, you might find this interesting. What I discuss here is an example of the difficulties and confusions a researcher can come across. What at first appears correct sometimes turns out to be false or uncertain. And at other times, the apparent confusion only exists in your own head.

Previously, I showed another example, even more perplexing than what I’ll present here. Both examples are also connected, which demonstrates how problems overlap.

* * *

Mildred, Grandma Eliza Lewis Wininger.,Pete, Cleo

My maternal grandmother, Mildred Wininger, on the left with her paternal grandmother, Eliza or Elizabeth.

I’m preparing for a visit to Kentucky. I’m excited to go. I have been there before, but I’ve never spent any time exploring the state. It is mostly a foreign place to me. I know of it from history books and from genealogical research. For this trip, I want to get a more personal sense of the place.

I’ll be traveling to the areas where much of my mother’s family comes from, mostly the central region of the state, from Jessamine County down to Pulaski County. The main preparations I’ve been doing involve clarifying the locations of where my ancestors were living and when. I need to know which records I lack in order to know which records I’ll need to look for locally and the precise counties in which to look for them.

The past week I’ve been focusing on the maternal side of my mother’s family. I already knew the paternal side had many lines that came through Kentucky because I’ve spent most of my time researching those names, but it seems many lines on the other side may also have come through there as well. This maternal side I’m less familiar with for the family tree we have for it came from someone else, my second cousin, who researched it years ago.

I don’t have access to all the records and orally-shared information. He was able to speak directly to a number of people on that side of the family because, living in Indiana, he grew up around them. I’m not entirely sure about how he went about doing his research and what he was relying most upon. I need to verify his research on ancestry.com in order to get this all more clear in my own head. I need to see the connections in terms of what is available to me.

Most of this research isn’t difficult, just tedious. I’m being systematic about it. I go down each line looking for possible links to Kentucky. The genealogical company ancestry.com simplifies this process by offering hints and showing related documents. My second cousin didn’t have access to ancestry.com or anything similar when he was doing research. He was forced to do a lot more traveling than I’ve had to do. I’m not sure I’ll find much new info by visiting Kentucky, but it is partly just a vacation to see the area and to hopefully get some pictures of headstones.

Thomas Lewis_1

Thomas H. Lewis

The difficulty arose when I got to Thomas H. Lewis. According to the previous research, he was married to Sarah Wineinger/Wininger (I’ll just use the Wininger spelling for the sake of simplicity). They had a daughter named Eliza Elizabeth Lewis, the name Eliza I assume being a nickname for Elizabeth, although I’m not sure.

The Wininger aspect is what interested me previously. Thomas supposedly married a Wininger; and, likewise, his daughter Eliza also married a Wininger who was a convergence of two Wininger lines. The three Wininger lines then converged in Eliza’s children, including Flossie Shipman who was my mother’s maternal grandmother.

George Wininger 1855-1919 & Eliza Elizabeth Lewis 1856-1926

George Alexander Wininger and Eliza Elizabeth Lewis

What confused me was that I kept seeing the same names as I went back. It took me a while to realize that all three lines descended from the same original line. It was all the same Wininger family marrying back together after several generations. They probably didn’t know they were related. There were a lot of Winingers around in the area.

It turns out that one of these lines may not be my family, after all. I came to this suspicion by looking at federal census records, marriage records, and headstones. There were many people involved and I was trying to see what matched and what needed disentangling. There were many records for a Thomas Lewis sometimes with the last spelled ‘Louis’ and sometimes with a middle ‘H.’. A few of these didn’t seem to be the same person. Even though they were all living in nearby locations, the places of their births were different and the places of their parents births were different. It wasn’t just that an individual person was being counted multiple times in the census.

However, a researcher should take census records with a grain of salt. Who gave the information to the census taker may have not been the person in question. The informant could have been any of the people in the household. They may have not known or could have misremembered such details as the age of a person or their birthplace. Two different census records, even when the information isn’t exactly the same, could refer to the same person.

The most confusing part in my research was the marriages. Three marriages I found in southern Indiana were between a Thomas Lewis and women with three distinct names and at three distinct times: first with Sarah Wininger (1840, Dubois Co. IN), second with Eliza Jane McGregor (1856, Clark Co. IN), and third with Lavica Pinnick (1877, Orange Co. IN). Dubois and Orange are adjacent counties and Clark is one county over from Orange. Was this the same Thomas H. Lewis who remarried? It is possible. The marriages with Sarah Wininger and Lavica Pinnick were both with a Thomas H. Lewis, which strengthens the case that it was the same husband in both cases, just at different times.

For my purposes, I’ll ignore for the time being the marriage with Lavica Pinnick (who, as a side note, is probably the same as Levisa Giles in the 1840 Orange Co. marriage to Isaac Pinnick). Her marriage to Thomas H. Lewis is too late to be relevant. Even if she did later marry the Thomas Lewis of my ancestry, my family line doesn’t descend from her. Looking at her records would only be helpful if it clarified who this or these people who went by the name Thomas Lewis, but old marriage records offer little in the way of useful info.

Also, I’ll be ignoring lots of other records and narrowing my focus. In the mid-to-late 1800s, there were possibly hundreds of people in Indiana going by the name Thomas Lewis/Louis, some with middle initials and some without, of varying ages and locations, and quite a few with daughters named Eliza or Elizabeth. One early federal census for a Thomas Lewis (or Louis, depending on how one interprets the handwriting) is from 1840 in Dubois Co, and it doesn’t say much beyond that besides mentioning that a few other unnamed people were living with him. This is problematic for research purposes and daunting for even the most intrepid of genealogists. These early censuses show almost no information beyond the name of the head of the household. It is near impossible to determine that you have the right person. The 1850 federal census is the first to show all the names at a particular residence along with other useful points of reference. So, let me skip forward to that more genealogically profitable era of 1850s onward.

One 1850 census record shows a Thomas Louis (age: 30; birth year: about 1820; birthplace: Indiana; occupation: cooper) living in Monroe, Clark Co, IN with apparently no wife present, at least on the day the census was taken. He is living with an Emily Louis (7) who likely is his daughter, a Martha Louis (73), and a Thomas Sparks (18). That doesn’t give me much information to work with. This could be a Thomas Lewis, as spellings of names wasn’t of great concern of many people back then. There was the Thomas Lewis who in 1856 married Eliza Jane McGregor in the same county and even the same town. That would make sense if he was without wife in 1850. In the 1860 census for Thomas and Eliza Jane Lewis (same location), there is no record of the previous child, Emily, who would then be 17 and likely either married or otherwise living on her own.

I’ll discuss that 1860 census further down a few paragraphs, but let me first consider a different record that fits some of the data claimed in my tree.

Another 1850 census record shows a Thomas H. Lewis (age: 29; birth year: about 1821; birthplace: Kentucky; occupation: farmer) living in Orange Co. IN with a Sarah Lewis (age: 29; birth year; about 1821; birthplace: Tennessee), presumably his wife who was born a Wininger, and a bunch of children: Amanda M. Lewis (9), Elizabeth Lewis (8), William F. Lewis (5), Thomas Lewis (4), George Lewis (3), and Bara E. Lewis (1). At first inspection, this seems to match what is known about my family, including Eliza Elizabeth Lewis. The complicating detail is that this Elizabeth Lewis is eight years old in 1850, but the Eliza Elizabeth Lewis in my family apparently wasn’t born until 1856 or so it is claimed on her headstone:

Eliza Elizabeth <i>Lewis</i> Wininger

Emmons Ridge Cemetery, Martin Co. IN

What appears to be this same family is found on the 1860 census for Martin Co. IN (adjacent to Orange Co.), although Thomas Lewis is listed without the middle ‘H.’. Also, some other info is different for him (age: 46; birth year: about 1814; birthplace: Missouri; occupation: farmer) and different for his wife, Sarah (age: 43; birth year: about 1817; birthplace: Indiana), which is significantly different as according to the previous census they should both now be 39 years old, but I wonder if people didn’t keep track of ages very closely back then, especially of older family members. As for the differences of birthplaces, that is much more difficult to explain away. Looking at the original documents on ancestry.com, I suspect there is a lot of error going on — the ages could have been informant error, if the census taker was talking to an older child who happened to be the oldest adult home at the time, and that supposed Missouri (Mo) birthplace easily could be transcribed as a sloppy Indiana (Ind).

I would doubt it was the same family, if it weren’t for the almost exactly matching info for the children. Most of the same children, all ten years older, seem to be present along with some new children that were born since the last census: Amanda Lewis (19), Delphia A. Lewis (18), Wm Lewis (16), Thomas Lewis (14), Geo Lewis (13), Borbara A. Lewis (10), Sarah A. Lewis (9), John Lewis (8), Eliza Lewis (6), Lucy A. Lewis (3), and Thomas Self (21). The Elizabeth Lewis who was eight years old in 1850 would be eighteen years old in 1860, and so it is unsurprising she is no longer living there. Interestingly, there is now an Eliza Lewis listed who is closer to the age of Eliza Elizabeth Lewis in my family. This Eliza is stated as having been born about 1854 which isn’t too far off from 1856.

Thomas H. Lewis

Wininger Cemetery, Dubois Co.

To challenge this claim for our ancestry, there is the other 1860 census I mentioned above for Clark Co. IN. This record also has a Thomas Lewis who is around the same age and same place (age: 40; birth year: about 1820; birthplace: Indiana; occupation: laborer), and that matches perfectly with the 1850 census for Thomas Louis. He was then living with an Eliza Jane Lewis (age: 24; birth year: about 1836; birthplace: Pennsylvannia) who probably is the Eliza Jane McGregor who married a Thomas Lewis in 1856, also Clark Co. (As a side note, an Eliza McGregor from Pennsylvannia can be found in the 1850 census record for Ohio where she was then living with her parents.) The children listed for the 1860 census are all under four years old which matches the 1856 marriage date. What catches my attention most of all is the oldest child who is also named Eliza Jane Lewis. This Eliza is claimed to have been born about 1857 which is even closer in birth year to the headstone of Eliza Elizabeth Lewis. Also, this Thomas Lewis has a closer matching birth year.

I wasn’t able to find an 1870 census for Thomas and Sarah Lewis. However, there is one in Monroe, Clark Co, IN for Thomas Lewis (age: 51; birth year: about 1819; birthplace: Indiana; occupation: farmer), his wife Eliza Jane Lewis (age: 35; birth year: about 1835; birthplace: Pennsylvannia), his daughter Eliza J Lewis (age: 13; birth year: about 1857; birthplace: Indiana), and four other children: William B. Lewis (10), Martha E. Lewis (7), Georgetta Lewis (5), Thomas H. Lewis (2). It basically fits the previous censuses, other than Thomas changing professions.

Now onto the 1880 census. This year seems to be the deciding factor.

I know that my maternal grandmother’s paternal grandparents are George Alexander Wininger and Eliza Elizabeth Lewis. The marriage record shows a George W. Wininger and a Eliza Lewis being married in Martin Co in 1876. The ‘W’ is probably a transcription error, but I’m not sure as I don’t have access to the original document. There is an 1880 census record that lists a George A. and Eliza E. Wininger living in Martin Co. with their first two children, and all of those named are definitely my family.

Sarah Wininger supposedly died in 1876. If that is true, we shouldn’t find her on the 1880 census with Thomas Lewis. I couldn’t find such a census record, which doesn’t absolutely prove anything. It would be nice to have a death record for her or a picture of a headstone. Even lacking that, I do have other interesting records. There is that 1877 marriage between Thomas H. Lewis and Lavicka Pinnick (or Louisa, once again maybe transcription errors). The middle ‘H’ is an important clue. The case for this being the same Thomas H Lewis who first married Sarah Wininger is strengthened by the fact that the Lavicka/Louisa marriage happened a year after Sarah Wininger’s claimed death. The 1877 marriage happened in Orange Co. Next door in Martin Co, the 1880 census shows a Thomas H Lewis living with a Louisa Lewis and a child with the last name Pinnick. Like the 1850 census for the exact same name with the middle ‘H.’, it is stated that Thomas (then living with Sarah) was born about 1821 in Kentucky.

We at least have connected the two marriages for a Thomas H. Lewis. More importantly, it is shown that in 1880 his daughter Eliza was no longer living with him. And at the same time, it is shown that my great great grandmother Eliza was married and living in her own house at the time. This seems to confirm that this Thomas H. Lewis is my ancestor.

Let me verify this further. Also, in the 1880 census, it is found that the other Eliza daughter was still living with her parents, Thomas and Eliza Lewis. Based on that simple fact, she couldn’t be living at home while also living with her husband and children. I can’t see any way that this other Eliza and her parents can be of my family line, unless there was a single Eliza who was double-counted, but that doesn’t make sense as the one living with her parents is listed as single while working as a teacher whereas the other is a married housewife. Even so, it is odd that both Eliza daughters were 23 in 1880 and both of their fathers were also around the same age.

That is the confusion, but my certainty has grown to the point of dispelling any reasonable doubts. The most probable conclusion is that, as was originally claimed on my family tree, Thomas H. Lewis is my ancestor along with his wife Sarah Wininger. The other Thomas Lewis and his daughter apparently was just a strange coincidence of a parallel life. Of course, I could try to spice up my family tree by claiming that he was the same person who was a bigamist with two wives simultaneously in nearby counties and who used the same name for two of his daughters that were the same age. That is an interesting theory that technically can’t be disproven, but life is already complex enough without the need for multiple wives.

It seems I was on a wild goose chase. That is the way genealogy works. It was worth the effort, nonetheless. A researcher should never accept any unverified claim. I found the data to back up what was already in my family tree. I’ve presented my evidence and made my argument. Case closed.

To keep the practical in mind, the whole point of all this research was my upcoming visit to Kentucky. This Thomas H. Lewis was born in Kentucky. After all that work I did, I’d definitely like to find some local records or headstones in Kentucky that are related to him and his family line. Unfortunately, the county he was supposedly born in won’t be close enough to where I’ll be spending most of my time. Maybe I’ll have to do another trip sometime.

Westerly Migrations

My research on genealogy and family history has shifted gears, that being the proper metaphor to describe my recent family road trip.

The traveling party included my parents, my second oldest brother and myself; although my brother only came for the first half of the trip. It was a long trip, but I didn’t mind too much. I get along well enough with my parents and it was nice to spend some quality time with my brother who, these days, is usually busy with his own family.

It was a trip with family and largely about family. There was much discussion. I prodded my parents with many questions and took extensive notes. My motivation to learn about my extended family is that I didn’t grow up around them nor did I ever see most of them on a regular basis. They are strangers to me, strangers because of distance and time. Some of them, specifically three of my grandparents, were dead before I had become an adult.

I grew up feeling detached from family. As I wasn’t raised with extended family, I wasn’t raised with the belief being overtly instilled in me that there was much value to extended family, my own parents willingly having left their families behind other than for brief visits. There was never a sense of closeness. No big family reunions and holidays. No grandmother next door, no cousins in the neighborhood, not even distant relations in nearby towns.

My parents didn’t consciously choose this, but on some level I’m sure they understood the choice they were making for their children. They had conflict-ridden or even distant relationships with their own family, especially their parents, and so they did the opposite of prioritizing extended family. Career always came first, a choice that was easily rationalized out of a sense of parental responsibility and duty to self-development. This just makes my parents normal according to the standards of modern American society.

My parents have always wanted normalcy or a close approximation to it. They grew up with the nuclear family fantasy of those early black and white tv sitcoms. That is what they internalized and then modeled in their own adult lives. They just wanted to be good people, responsible adults, dutiful parents. It was a role that society told them to play and they played it well. I make these observations with deep empathy for I understand the pull of wanting to fit in and be accepted, to be perceived as a worthy human being and a valued member of society. It just so happens to be a role I’m not very good at playing. If not for depression, I very well might have followed right along with a career, house, wife and 2.5 kids.

The destination for the road trip was California. It was a journey that followed in the footsteps of family members before me, some of the family I never knew or barely knew. California is a state that for some reason was where several lines of my family ended up in or passed through, not unlike many other Americans. California, the land of new beginnings, the birthplace of the suburban dream.

While in California, my mom visited a cousin she hadn’t seen since childhood and I visited a cousin I hadn’t seen since childhood, two reunions from each side of the family. Along the way, we stopped in a town where my dad recalled visiting a great uncle (where a great aunt also lived nearby) and we stopped in another town where he once visited his mother after his parents divorced.

All of them had their reasons for leaving their families behind. My mom’s cousins ended up there either because their father was escaping debts or because it was suggested that a change in climate would be beneficial for some illness in the family. My dad’s mom simply went for the supposed perfect climate of the bay area, illness not being the motivating factor. My cousin has been there because he has a good job in Silicon Valley. My dad’s great uncle and great aunt moved there for reasons unknown.

California is a place that hasn’t held any personal significance, but this trip has changed that. Starting in the most southern area and heading up just past the Bay area, I was able to get a glimpse of what life is like there — the geography and history, the culture and ethnicities, the settlement patterns and imperial remnants. No doubt it is very much symbolic of America and the American Dream. A society on the move. A people of progress. Keep going West until you can’t go any further. Then what?

My Inheritance, North and South

Inheritance is an odd thing.

We take on so much from others and from the world around us. Most of the time we aren’t even aware of it. We are just who we are. We think of ourselves as indidviduals with lives built up from choices we’ve made, but ultimately we are just a conglomeration of factors that came together in a unique way, none of the factors being what we can take credit for. We may have some choice in the arrangement, not necessarily much else.

I’ve thought about this in many ways. As I’ve aged, I’ve become increasingly aware of how much I’m a product of my environment, a result of the past. This life I was given certainly wasn’t of my own choosing, even if not to claim being a mere victim of circumstance. It’s more of an experience of being humbled by how immense and complex is the world. All of society (countries, ethnicities, communities, religions, families, etc) has been built up over centuries and millennia, shaped by the hands of forgotten generations of people.

The most obvious inheritance is that of genetics. Through genetics or other pathways, I’ve inherited all kinds of personality traits, cognitive patterns and behavioral tendencies. I’ve also inherited much from the culture around me, from being a part of Western civilization and specifically from being a descendant of immigrants from Northern Europe and the British Isles, from being a citizen of the United States which is a country that arose directly out of Enlightenment thinking, from having been brought up in the New Thought Christian Unity Church which itself came out of the Evangelical tradition during the Populist Era, from being born into Generation X as the Cold War was coming to an end, from being raised a Midwesterner right dab in the middle of the origin of Standard American English, from having spent many years of my formative youth and young adulthood in the South, etc.

There is, of course, an endless list of things I could add. It’s hard to imagine who I’d be if I changed even a single one of those factors.

Let me share more specific examples.

I have my mom’s scatterbrained mind with a certain kind of mental focus that has the potential for being nearly obsessive-compulsive. I have my dad’s intellectual curiosity and emotional sensitivity, of which he inherited from his parents; and apparently somewhat skipping a generation I manifest his mother’s spiritual sensibility and predisposition of laziness/efficiency along with shyness and a need for privacy/personal space, although my social awkwardness also seems to come from my mom. I have a large helping of depression and moodiness from both sides of my family. Sadly, I have a bit of an unforgiving nature and occasional interpersonal bluntness which goes along with the depression and moodiness of my mom’s family.

As for physcial attributes: I definitely have the features of my mom’s family, mostly seeming Germanic: large bones, big feet, long toes and fingers, thick hair, hazel eyes, bump on the ridge of my nose, and receding chin. But when younger I had features from my dad’s family (Steele) which seem more English such as straight, blonde hair, although oddly when really young I had eyes slanting in the way common with Asians.

For whatever reason, my mom’s genetics seem to be overall more pronounced in me. I do feel more of a connection with my mom’s family, partly just because I saw them more often growing up. I must admit that I have mixed feelings about the Clouse family on my mom’s side. Her dad was definitely a patriarch and acted that way (her mother playing the submissive wife). He was an alcoholic which was probably his way of self-medicating depression. I can understand the self-medication part and I understand the addictive aspect of alcoholism, although alcohol has never been my preferred addiction.

I was particularly thinking about the Clouse tendency toward grudges that go on for years. I know I have some of this capacity as well and I’m not proud of it. It’s very sad the kind of impact it has had on my mom’s family. Her brothers and her dad were always fueding and sometimes refusing to speak to one another.

My mom’s dad didn’t even know the name of his grandparents and I suspect the reason for it wasn’t a happy incident. Interestingly, a lady on ancestry.com contacted me who is related on my mom’s side through two separate lines, Clouse and Edwards, which makes her both a third and fourth cousin of my mom on each of those lines. My maternal grandfather’s (Charles Eugene Clouse) grandfather was Charles E. Clouse who married Lucy Hawk. This person from ancestry.com is descended from James Clouse who was the uncle of Charles E. Clouse and who married Lula Hawk, Lucy’s sister.

(For anyone interested: The Clouse lineage descends from James Wesley Clouse of Kentucky and the Hawk lineage descends from Sampson Hawk of New Jersey. I figured both family lines were of German origin, but there are family rumors of Hawks having Indian blood and there is a photograph supposedly of Lula Hawk that could be interpreted as showing some Native American features. As for the Edwards lineage, this lady from ancestry.com and I share the same converging three lines. One descends from Hiram Edwards of Connerley Switch, Indiana whose father may have been from or at some time living in Kentucky. The other two descend through Thursie Mae Edwards of Indiana whose father was David B. Edwards of North Carolina and grandfather was Young Edwards of North Carolina and, on her mother’s side, whose grandmother’s mother was Susan Edwards of North Carolina, possibly descending from another David Edwards of North Carolina. Hiram Edwards’ son, Charles Lester Edwards, married Thursie Mae Edwards. The three Edwards lines then converged in their daughter, Inez Rosemary Edwards, who married Willie Clouse, the son of Charles E. Clouse. They also had another daughter, Jessie Ann Edwards, who is the person who is the ancestor of the ancestry.com lady. Thus, the Clouse and Edwards lines came together in at least two separate marriages just as did the Clouse and Hawk lines.)

This lady and I began corresponding about these links. I mentioned to her about my grandfather Clouse not knowing the names of his own grandparents and I told her about the Clouse inclination toward grudges. Her dad is a Clouse and she mentioned that her part of the Clouse family had the same inclination, her father not talking to his sister for years and not going to his sister’s funeral.

So, separate parts of the same family, unknown to one another in recent generations, manifested the same character trait. I’m sure at least some of it is genetics, but I doubt all of it is. I was wondering if it could be partly cultural. My mom’s family spent many generations in Hoosier Southern Indiana and before that many generations in Appalachia Kentucky. Their inclination toward grudges could be explained by the Southern culture of honor.

My mom’s dad was a very giving person, but it was the type of giving that established a hierarchical and paternalistic relationship for he would never accept charity from anyone else. He expected gratitude and deference for his gifts, maybe even a sense of indebtedness. He wanted to be respected and worked hard to escape the poverty of his working class family. As such, he wanted to be treated with respect and not be challenged. To have his authority, position or opinion challenged couldn’t just be forgiven and forgotten.

Maybe there is some predisposition of this in me, but it doesn’t manifest in this exact same way. I do have a mental checklist where I keep tabs on what people do and don’t do, say and don’t say; I can’t help it for such details of behavior just stick in my memory. And when someone crosses some particular line, I can be one of the most unforgiving people in the world. The difference maybe is that I didn’t grow up in that Southern/Appalachian honor culture and so my grudge-keeping tends to be more mild and suppressed.

It is the Southern/Appalachian culture with which I’ve tried to come to terms. It goes beyond my extended family. I too am partly a Southerner. Despite my self-idenifying as a Midwesterner and chosing Iowa as my home, I must admit that the South shaped me as well and probably in ways I’m unaware of. From 8th grade to graduation, I lived in South Carolina and went to desegregated public schools. I didn’t even know that regional differences existed prior to that time and it was a shock to my system when I first moved there, but after a while it became normal to me. I spent many years in the South following that time while in college in South Carolina and while working in the buckle of the Bible Belt in North Carolina.

So, my experience of the South is very personal. My best friend was a redneck and I dated a girl who came from a hillbilly lineage (I don’t use those terms in a disparaging way). I even learned to talk Southern. I used to fall into a Southern dialect without even trying, especially when talking to my redneck friend. To this day, I can unintentionally speak in that dialect for brief moments.

I am and I am not a Southerner. There is both much that I like and much that I dislike about the South.

It’s because of my personal experience, both North and South, that I’ve come to self-consciously identify as a Midwesterner. The South is part of me, but I know that I’m not fully a part of the South. I don’t know it in the way someone knows it who was born and raised there, who lived there for their entire life.

Plus, I never experienced the full reality of what the Deep South once was. I arrived on the scene long after the Civil Rights movement. In high school, I knew kids who dated across the race line and it didn’t seem like a big deal. But hints of the Old South were still around such as my best friend’s mom referring to blacks as “niggers”. I was living in Columbia, South Carolina which is much more cosmopolitan. And in North Carolina, I lived near Asheville which is fairly liberal and alternative, especially for that area.

However, I know the Carolina region of the South better than I know the Mississippi Delta over to the Southern Border. My dad’s mom was born in Texas, lived in Oklahoma until her early teens, and went to high school in Mississipi. She then went back to Oklahoma for college and after that taught for some years in Mississippi and Georgia.

She died when I was so young that I hardly remember her and I’ve never visited any of those places she lived in prior to her moving to Indiana. So, the culture of that area isn’t familiar to me and didn’t influence me in any direct way.

Even as a Northerner, I know the Carolina region of the South better than the entire Northeast. My dad’s dad grew up in New England. But I’ve never visited there either. The closest I’ve come to New England is living in Iowa City which is a New England style college town (i.e., a small town dominated by a single college and surrounded by rural farmland).

My inheritance from my dad’s family feels rather skimpy on the cultural front. Identifying as a Midwesterner, one would think I’m culturally more similar to my Grandmother’s Oklahoma and my Grandfather’s New England… and maybe I am in some gneral ways, but those states aren’t part of my most personal sense of America. I don’t culturally identify as a Southerner in any broad sense and yet the South is intimately connected to who I am, even though I sometimes use it as a contrast to clarify my Midwestern sensibility.

I have lived in Iowa longer than anywhere else. Iowa is unique as part of the Lower Midwest. It is the only Lower Midwest state that isn’t on the borderlands of Appalachia and the only Lower Midwest state to be West of the Mississippi. Just follow the river south and there is the Mississippi Delta (much cultural diffusion went up and down the Mississippi river, in particular the 1927 flood in the Mississipi Delta sent many blacks to the North). Also, Iowa is the Lower Midwest state that is the most influenced by the Yankiedom of the Upper Midwest. The culture of Iowa is massively different than that of South Carolina. The only way to feel culturally further away from South Carolina would be to move to the West Coast.

Generation after generation, my mom’s family slowly drifted westward and northward. Finally, with my brothers and I, our family fully escaped the remnants of Southern culture that pioneers had carried with them into parts of the Midwest such as Indiana. I blissfully was ignorant of the South up to the beginning of my teens, but then my parents brought the family all the way down to the Deep South.

Moving to the South made me self-conscious about regional cultures from a fairly young age. Still, I didn’t begin to feel the depth of the differences until I got a summer job at a YMCA camp in North Carolina. As it was a YMCA, I was surrounded by Christians which in and of itself didn’t bother me. However, as it was in the Bible Belt, I was surrounded by Fundamentalists which made understand how far was the religious right or at least how far right were some of those part of the religious right. The religious right was a worldview that was outside my zone of familiarity. Living in the South, I heard the fire-and-brimstone preaching on the radio, but I had no direct contact with it. The girl I dated there was from a Fundamentalist family. Talking to her family gave me my first experience of a culture that seemingly had little respect for or interest in intellectuality and the broader world of knowledge.

After spending three consecutive summers at that YMCA camp, I permanently moved back to Iowa. In the following years, I was still visiting my parents and the contrast of the two worlds slowly formed into a distinct sense of difference about these cultures. Maybe I was becoming more influenced by the political moderateness of the Midwest and maybe I was becoming more influenced by the liberalism of Iowa City. At the same time, it seemed even more clear that my parents were becoming more stridently conservative the longer they lived in South Carolina. My parents were losing their Midwestern moderateness, although never coming close to the radicalism of God n’ Guns Fundamentalism.

Now, my parents have also moved back to Iowa City. I see them regularly which hasn’t been the case since the mid 1990s. We’ve been coming to terms with our differences which at times has been challenging, but other similarities have made it less difficult. This process, along with recent genealogical research, has forced me to also come to terms with these differences within myself.

How do I grasp all these influences? How do I contain within myself such diversity? What exactly have I inherited?