Category Archives: McGowan

Uncertain ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ #21

Uncertain signI know that everyone has at least one ancestor that they are “Uncertain” about. I have 2 that have driven me crazy for years. The first one I have written about a few times before. Pleasant Smith is my maternal Great Grandfather. He was born February 14, 1853 in Hazel Hill, Johnson County, MO and he married my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page (1860-1938) on April 13, 1882 in Lafayette County, MO. They had my Grandfather, John Pleasant Smith Sr. on September 8, 1882. This is basically all I am positive about. In the 1900 Census it has Sarah and my Grandfather living with John’s brother whose name is Pleasant. So, I can guess that Pleasant Sr. had been married before and had a son that was named after him. He is also missing from all Census records after 1880. This is what I know as fact, everything else is uncertain!

 My second uncertainty is also on my maternal side. Francis McGowan was born in Francis McGowan Common PleaCounty Dublin, Ireland in 1794. I don’t know when he arrived in America, but I do know he made a “common plea for naturalization” in Philadelphia, PA on March 3, 1811 at the age of 17. Sometime before 1830 he married Margaret L. “Peggy” Divine. According to the 1830 Census he was living in Monroe County, TN and he was a farmer. Each Census after this states the same. In the 1862 U.S. IRS, Tax Assessment Lists he owned 245 acres of land. Francis died in April 1871 at the age of 77.


Brick wallIn 2010, my husband and I made a trip to Missouri where I met my only McGowan cousin. She had been researching Francis for many years and she gave me a packet with lots of information concerning him. Most of it was transcripts of court cases in Monroe County, TN in which Francis was accused of fraud, selling his property to 3 different men over the course of 4 months and him being sued. I was fascinated by what I read! It wasn’t until I started to do a more comprehensive study into Francis that I realized that my cousin hadn’t sited her sources for all of the lawsuits. I have spent a multitude of hours looking through court records looking for proof, but none has been found. I contacted my cousin and she said she would send the sources to me, but since that was 7 years ago and I still haven’t received them, I won’t be holding my breath! So, at this point I am uncertain about the accuracy of the information I received and I will have to keep chiseling away at this enormous brick wall.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Filed under #52ancestors, 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks, Ancestry, Brick Walls, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, McGowan, McGowan Family, Pleasant Smith, Uncategorized

Saturday Dilemma ~ Francis McGowan

Searching McGowanFrancis McGowan is my 3x Great Grandfather and he is also one of my solid brick walls. He was born in Dublin County, Ireland sometime around 1794. He came to America in 1810 and he filed a Common Plea for naturalization on March 3, 1811, in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. After this, he is found living in Monroe County, Tennessee. He eventually married Margaret “Peggy” Divine sometime before 1829 and they had 9 children between 1830 and 1844. He died in April 1871 in Monroe County, Tennessee.

I have a cousin, who is a McGowan, who has researched this line and she found a lot of court documents that didn’t shed a good light on our ancestor. Apparently, he had bought 80 acres of land from a gentleman and never paid him. Sometime between the purchase of the land and the lawsuit Francis transferred the title to his son James. There were more suits brought against him over non- payment of bills.

This makes me wonder if Francis had been one of the Irishmen that were sent over here to fight in one of the ongoing skirmishes with the Native Americans. There is a large gap between his naturalization and when he is found in 1830 Tennessee. I am currently looking for any information about this but have found nothing yet.

My Dilemma is: His name is a common one in County Dublin. I can’t determine which one would be him. As you can see, my “proof” concerning this ancestor is very slim. What I need is to find alternate websites to try to discover where he came from etc.



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancestry, Brick Wall, Dilemma, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Ireland, McGowan, McGowan Family, Saturday's Dilemma, Uncategorized

A “Long Line” of Superstitions #52 Ancestors

superstitionsGrowing up my mother had a superstition for everything. First of all, she was a Triskaidekaphobe. What is that you ask? It is the fear of the number 13. She would not do business with any store where their address had a number 13 in it. She made my dad redo the trellis he built for our patio because it had 13 slats. But mostly she didn’t like me because I was born on the 13th. Her life was controlled by superstitions. We couldn’t tell our Friday night dreams on a Saturday because it would come true. She killed my pet parakeet that my dad gave me for my birthday because a bird in the house brings death. If someone gave us a plant we could never say thank you as that will cause the plant to die.

I always wondered why she was like this. Then I met my Grandpa when I about 10 Food plateyears old. He too had lots of superstitions. If you leave by the back door you have to come back in the same way. If you got up from a rocking chair and it continued to rock it would bring evil to the house. One of the strangest things he did was while eating. He had to have all the food on separate plates because food touching on a plate would make you sick and die. My poor Grandma had lots of dishes to clean.

Over the years I had many of my Smith family tell me stories of our superstitious ancestors. My 2x Great Grandpa James McGowan was Superstitious about his fishing, believing it was very unlucky for someone to ask a man on his way to go fishing where he was going. Any time this happened to him he would turn back because he knew the question was an evil spell.

spilled saltMy Great Grandma Asenath Walt believed that at night demons/ghosts would creep around her home and try to gain access. She kept a large container of salt by both the front and back doors for when visitors came. Upon answering the door she would take a scoop of salt and place it across the doorway. If the person was not a “demon/ghost” they could cross over the salt with no problem. The salt would have kept out any non-human who wanted to enter. I guess she never thought that a “demon/ghost” would probably not come knocking on her door, they would just come in!

My 2x Great Grandmother Elizabeth Marsh believed that Satan inhabited ALL snakes and she was afraid of them. She seldom ventured far from home on foot for fear of encountering one. If she did have to go somewhere she always carried a gun to shot them with.

From my research I found superstitions going back several generations. No wonder I adhered to so many of these growing up. 

Do you have any superstitions in your family?


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Filed under #52ancestors, Ancestry, Death, Dreams, Family History, Family Search, Food, Genealogy, History, McGowan, Memories, Mother, Smith, Snakes, Superstitions, Uncategorized

William Vassall, England to Massachusetts

map_england_1660-1892 (1)William Vassall was born on August 27, 1592, in Stepney, Middlesex, England. He was the son of John Vassal (the builder and owner of the Mayflower) and Anne Russell. The Vassall’s were of French descent. John Vassal who was born in Caen, Normandie, France about 1524 converted from Catholicism to Protestantism and had to flee France due to persecution.

William married Anna King in London, England in 1613. He was a merchant working for the Massachusetts Bay Company. He first came to America in 1630 on the Arabella and he returned to England in the fall of that year.

In July 1635 he brought his wife and 7 children to Massachusetts on the ship “Blessing”. ma bay colonyThey settled in Roxbury, but they moved to Scituate around November 1636. He was the first to build a home here. By 1637 they joined the local Church. He and Anna took the oath of allegiance to the Plymouth colony on February 1, 1638, and they received 150 acres of land for doing so. While living here he was on the committee to consider the division of lands, the committee to resolve orders, he was an arbiter, a deputy, he served on the Council of War and he was listed as one of the men who were able to own and bear arms. They moved to Marshfield in 1643 and William became a town officer.

William did not agree with the attitude of Mass. Bay and Plymouth governments towards persons whose opinions in politics and religion differed from the Puritan line. He used his influences for greater charity toward the Quakers, etc. The elders expressed their disapproval towards his outspokenness. The church of Plymouth sent him a message by way of John Cook, which is recorded in the book of the Second Church, Scituate, dated April 14, 1645; hoping he would desist from proceedings intended, and questioned if they would commune with him if he continued. He went to England in 1646 with a petition to Parliament for the liberty of English subjects.” (NEH&GR, Jan 1863, page 58)

barbadosmapHe returned to Scituate in 1647 however, being provoked by the persecution to which the Quakers were subjected, he returned to England with most of his family. Later he and Anna went to Barbados and he died there in 1657. William’s son, Captain John Vassall, sold the Situate estate in 1661, but the daughters married and remained in this country.

One of William’s daughters, Judith, married Resolved White who came to America aboard the Mayflower with his parents William and Susannah (Jackson) White.

William Vassall is my 10th Great Grandfather.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on History and You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter




Leave a comment

Filed under Ancestry, Barbados, Europe, Family History, Family Search, French Huguenot, Genealogy, History, Massachuettes, Mayflower, McGowan, Smith, Uncategorized, William Vassall

#52 Ancestors – Week #5 – John Henry McGowan: He “Plowed Through” Tradition

farmer_with_plough_horsesWith this challenge I thought it would be easy to find someone to write about. After all the majority of my Ancestors were indeed farmers. So thinking of the term “Plowing Through” I thought about something to do with farming, viola! A match made in heaven. Then I started thinking of the other uses of this term and decided to go in a little different direction.

John Henry McGowan, my maternal Great Grandfather, was born May 10 1863 in the State of Missouri. His Great Grandfather, Francis McGowan had immigrated to this country from Dublin, Ireland when he was 13 years old and became a Naturalized Citizen in 1811 at the age of 17. Francis was a farmer and he owned a considerable amount of land in Tennessee. His son James D. McGowan was born in Tennessee but he moved his family to Missouri after the Civil War. He settled near the Missouri River where he too was a farmer. John was raised on that farm in Camden Missouri. He and his seven siblings worked the farm as was the custom of families in those days. He worked there until he was 24 years old.

Miners photo

In 1887 John married Asenath “Dolly” Walt in Wellington Missouri. He immediately went to work at Harris Coal Mine near Camden. His family had hoped he would be a farmer, but it just didn’t “suit” him. John and Dolly had eight children, one son and seven daughters. They never bought property; instead they lived in rented houses their entire married lives. His wife died in 1931 and he never John McGowan HSremarried. John worked in the Coal Mines for over 45 years. When he retired he bought a small home in Lexington Missouri and he lived there until his death in 1957 at the age of 93.

John “Plowed Through” the family tradition of farming. All of his siblings either continued farming or married a farmer.  He opened up new opportunities for his own family allowing them to decide for themselves what occupation they pursued.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Filed under #52ancestors, Ancestry, Family History, Farming, Genealogy, McGowan, Missouri