Freaky Friday’s ~ The Name Game

freaky-friday-logoHave you ever come upon an ancestor whose last name is slightly different from their parents? Names like “John/Johnson, Anders/Anderson or perhaps, Issac/Isaacson”? Cultures that traditionally used patronymic family names gave the child the father’s first name then added the word son to it. In Norway, each son of Anders was an “Andersen” and every daughter was an “Andersdatter”.

The first known Patronymic naming of a child was in 1612. It became a very popular custom for those who had ventured to the New World. Many of the immigrants came seeking a new life or a new start so with that came a new variation of their name. I have one such ancestor name, John Dods. He was born in Great Neck, Yorkshire, England in 1571. He arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and married a woman named Jane shortly after that. When they began to have children (I only have proof of 2 sons) the boys were named Jesse and Benjamin Dodson.

Following this principle, I started doing some research into other cultures naming traditions. Basically, I was hoping to find any information about one of my brick wall ancestors, Jane Virtchworth. There is absolutely no documentation to be found for her. The source of Jane’s name appears to be a private letter written more than 100 years ago which stated, “Benjamin Goodin came from Wales and settled in Baltimore, Md ca 1750. He was m in Va in 1762 to Jane Virtchworth. He d. aged 101”. This information comes from “Descendants of James (Timothy) McClintock and Some Related Families…” by A. Louise (McClintock) Shelton, published in 1985. See footnote on page 19 for more details regarding the source of this letter. So during my research, I came across the following information:

Among the Welsh, every male child of David would be an “ap David” and everyWalesMap daughter a, “virtch David”. Using this information we could assume that Jane Virtchworth was really Jane virtch Worth. Her father’s first name was “Worth” and his family name — a patronymic — would have been “ap [what ever his father’s first name was]”. So my next step will be to search records in the Culpeper County, VA, and the Maryland area sometime between 1750 and 1762 to see if there may be an immigrant who arrived from Wales and has the first name of Worth with a daughter named Jane. This will be a tedious task and there is no guarantee that this method will work. However, I believe it would be worth a try.

I wonder how many other “Freaky” ways of attempting to tear down brick walls there are?


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.

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.

Favorite Discovery ~ That 20 Year Brick Wall ~ #52Ancestors Week 7

favoriteMy maternal Great Grandparents Pleasant Smith and Sarah Jane Page had been a solid brick wall since I began researching over 20 years ago. Basically, all I had to go on were their names and dates of birth that had been handwritten in my baby book. I had one story about my Pleasant that my mother had told me while growing up, however, it was a wild tale that will probably never be proven. I spent so much time searching for Pleasant that I rarely looked for Sarah, but when I did nothing came up.

About 4 years ago I made the decision to make more of an effort to find Sarah. Before when I couldn’t Pleasant Smith Sarah Jane Page MLfind anything I would get frustrated and move on to my dad’s side of the family. So I began with renewed focus and determination. For weeks I searched using variations of her name, her date, and place of birth and the estimated date of marriage using my Grandfather’s birth date. I searched on many different sites but to no avail. I don’t really remember what I did at the time but suddenly their marriage information popped up. Her name was listed as Sarah J. McDowell! She had been married before Pleasant. I quickly looked for her previous husband and after I verified the information I added his name to the tree. I was surprised at all the information I found.

Sarah Jane Page HS with James NewhouseSarah married the first time when she was 16 years old. I couldn’t find a divorce record so I researched her husband, James McDowell and found he had been remarried before Sarah married Pleasant so I assumed there had been a divorce. I mentioned earlier about the wild tale I was told about Pleasant, well maybe some of it had been true. I have never found a death record or any record for him after the birth of my Grandfather. What I did find was Sarah had been married a total of 4 times, once before Pleasant and twice afterward. Her last husband James Newhouse was her longest one with 44 years of marriage and it was also the one that led me to her Fathers name!

From there I have been able to trace this line back to 1525 in England. The family arrived in Colonial America in 1645 and produced many statesmen and prominent men in the State of Virginia. Many fought in the wars that came and several served in the legislature. I am so glad I didn’t give up trying to find Sarah!

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.

Saturday’s Dilemma ~ Lewisa Bean

question markThis is the ancestor that I have the least amount of information about. There has been a lot of debates on concerning her name, year of birth, and marriage. Let’s take a look at what I do know about her.


My 3 x Great Grandmother, Lewisa Bean as born in 1860 in Shenandoah County, Virginia. She married John Parrott, the founder of Parrotsville, Cocke Co, Tennessee, on June 27, 1881. Reverend Jacob Snyder performed the ceremony. She was John’s second wife.

Over the next 17 years, the had 5 children. The 3 sons were Joseph, Larue, and Jacob. The 2 daughters were Rachel and Catherine. Catherine is my 2x Great Grandmother.

She apparently died in Parrotsville, TN. Date unknown.

There is great controversy as to her name. First the spelling. In most of the Ancestry John Parrott Lewisa Bean MLtrees, I find it listed as Louise or Louisa.  Some of them have the name, Louisa Lucy. I understand that there are different ways to spell names and Louise or Louisa could be another way of writing Lewisa. However, as of this writing, I only have one document pertaining to her and her name is Lewisa on it. I have never found anything with either of the other 2 spellings or with the middle name of Lucy. That brings us to the year of birth and the year she got married.

Lewisa Bean John Parrott ML.I found one “record” of their marriage in the publication “A History of Shenandoah County, Virginia”. It states that they got married at the date listed above. It has her name spelled as “Lewisa”. However, there is a “U.S. and International Marriage Record” that has a Louise Bean marrying a John Parrett in 1861. If this was Lewisa she would have gotten married when she was 1 year old!  Also, her last child was born in 1899 so calculating this she would have been anywhere between 55 to 60 years old when Catherine was born. One thing that people keep pointing out to me is the marriage month and day are the same on both “records”, just the year is different.

So, as you can see, until I find more concrete documentation I am at a standstill. I have turned off the comments on Lewisa’s page so I don’t continue to get harassed because of these discrepancies.

Does anyone have any suggestions of where I may look for more information on her?


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.







Something to Ponder Next Time You Get Stuck in Your Family History


Yesterday my husband and I went to the Arizona State Fair. Each year one of their biggest attractions is the Native American Dancers that perform throughout the day. I enjoy taking photos of the colorful costumes and of their dancing. Growing up my Mother had told me that I was part Creek Indian. Her SONY DSCGrandfather, Pleasant Smith, was supposed to have been a full-blooded Creek. I have never been able to prove or disprove this as he is one of my solid brick walls. I believe my interest and appreciation for Indian Culture comes from the hope that maybe I am Creek.

SONY DSCThe dancers who performed at the fair were all from tribes here in Arizona. One was Navajo, one was Hopi SONY DSCand one was Zuni. They sang, beat the drums, played the flute and danced. It was wonderful! After the performance we went to talk with the young men and during the course of the conversation the Navajo, Lane Jensen, mentioned that his Ancestors had all been Hoop Dancers. Ancestors? Did I hear him correctly, Ancestors? This is not a word that can just be used lightly around a Genealogist. I began asking him questions explaining that I am a Genealogist and I write a blog. He was more than happy to answer my questions.

SONY DSCThe Navajo Nation consists of about 90 “Clans”. When a Navajo baby is born, he or she belongs to the clan of the mother. The clan names always passes on to the next generation through the Mother. Whenever a young man or woman gets married they are not allowed to marry anyone within their Mothers Clan. This is also the line that they trace their Genealogy through, the maternal Clan line. Whenever a Navajo meets another Navajo they always include an introduction of their clans. They would say they were born to (their Mothers Clan name) and that they were born for (their Fathers Clan name). This way another Navajo would precisely know who they are.


So why do I say this is something to ponder when you find yourself “stuck” or hitting a brick wall? Well according to Lane, all people within a Clan are related. In the Navajo way, two Navajos of the same clan, meeting for the first time, will refer to each other as “brother” or “sister”. Navajos that are cousins to each other in the American sense, think of each other as “brother” or “sister” in the Navajo sense. Father’s and Mother’s cousins in the American way are thought of as aunts and uncles in the Navajo way. Grandparent’s brothers and sisters in the American way are thought of as Grandmas and Grandpas in the Navajo way. So let’s say in my case my Grandfather had 10 siblings so therefore I would have 4 more Grandmas and 6 more Grandpas in my line. This would be so confusing.  Then add in all the “Brothers”, “Sisters”, “Aunts” and “Uncles” and your Family Tree would jump by hundreds.

Although this concept is actually very wonderful because this way of life makes everyone related and they all have the responsibility to take care of one another, to a Genealogist this way of labeling family could become a nightmare! So the next time you get stuck just remember the Navajo and how much more difficult your tree could be.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, 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.

Just Dig A Little Deeper


Digging for answers.As we all know records like Birth, Marriage and Death can have some discrepancies in them. If we just take them at face value we can end up with errors in our trees. So, what else can we do to determine if the information provided by these documents are true? Census records can help but again there could be some errors there as well. Of course if our Ancestor left a Will then we have hit a gold mine, but unfortunately not everyone left a Will

One way to determine if the documents that you have are correct or not is to consider looking at other information recorded at or near the time of the event. On death records for instance, we know that that date of death and cause of death would be correct, as would the residence at the time, name of the informant, name of the funeral home and name of the cemetery (if given) would be factual. The other information; date and place of birth, names of parents and marital status would have to be verified some other way as the informant may not know the correct answers to these questions or they could be too distraught to remember.

This is the time when we will have to dig deeper, using new ideas and sources. One way to do this is to learn more about the history of the town, city or particular location. We will have to step outside the normal routine of collecting documents and harvesting other information, like exploring the history that surrounds an individual or a particular family, we may be surprised at what we may find. It is amazing how many books there are on the history of families and State counties on Google books. Many of them are free. This would be an excellent place to start.

Another way to do this is to focus on the questions of Who? What? Where? When? and Why? Genealogists are good at answering the first four questions, but they frequently ignore the “Why?” When we seek answers to a wide variety of “why” questions, we can uncover some fascinating data. Example: Did your Ancestor move from one State to another? Why? Was there financial reasons? Did they go along with several other members of their family, or did they start out on their own?  Finding the answers to the “Why” can open new doors of research.

It also means identifying and studying the geographic histories where an ancestor lived. It may include such items as:

•        Town histories

•        County histories

•        Church histories

•        Trade and occupation histories

•        Ethnic histories

Exploring these can lead us to more specific resources, such as diaries, newsletters, special gazetteers, business records, and school records. As with any detective work, the evidence we gather will likely lead to further discoveries.

directoryDon’t forget about using City Directories. They have been in use for over two hundred years. The obvious usefulness of the directory is that it has alphabetical listings of names of people residing in a given location that can help us determine where our ancestors lived at a particular time. Very often it contains the person’s occupation, as well as both business and home addresses. Women are often referred to as the “widow of . . .,” thereby supplying us with a time frame as to when a male member of the family had died. An occupation may assist us in determining which person was our great-grandfather or maybe which one certainly was not.

City directories are being used to reconstruct the 1890 census. More than 20 million records have been identified for inclusion in this collection and additions will be made regularly as they become available. This in itself shows how important those directories can be.

As we search for our Ancestors remember that it can be a good thing to “think outside the box” and dig a little deeper. When we do so we may find those hidden treasures we all want to possess.

If you use any of these hints and find some valuable information on one of your Ancestors please let me know. I would love to hear about it!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, 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.


Go Ahead..Ask for Help!

I have a “Solid” Brick Wall that I have been chipping away at for over 10 years. My mother passed away almost 15 years ago. She was not the type to talk about her family although she did share a couple of stories about her childhood and her Grandfather (which turned out to be untrue) with my sister and I as we were growing up. The one thing I have, which I consider true beyond a shadow of a doubt, is my Baby Book that had a “mini” Genealogy written in it. All the information for my Grandparents on both sides were correct, as well as the names and dates for my paternal Great Grandparents. However, I have had so much trouble verifying my maternal Great Grandparents information.

I finally decided to ask for help in one of the Missouri Genealogy groups I am a part of on Facebook. One woman gave me a lead on my Great Grandfathers possible brothers so I took it from there. Darn, it was a dead end. Yay, in searching for my Great Grandfather Plesent Smith I found a 1900 Census that not only had my Grandfather listed but my Great Grandmother as well. At least I thought it might be her, but her last name wasn’t Smith. So off I went doing more searches and coming up empty. Don’t you just hate that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you think you will never find what you are looking for?  As I sat there feeling disappointed the thought hit me. Maybe if I use the name on the Census and look up the Missouri death records, maybe if she died sometime after 1910, maybe just maybe I will find something. Eureka! Sarah Jane Newhouse was in the database. Her birth date and place of birth matched what I had in my Baby Book exactly. Her parents were listed and her maiden name matched the father’s last name. I have finally found her.

From her marriage to a James Newhouse in 1894 I now at least know that my Great Grandfather died sometime before that. I have found my Great-Great Grandparents names and also the names of her 3 sibling. I also found out that Sarah had had 6 children by the 1900 Census and only 1 had lived…my Grandfather. I am now having an exciting time finding an entire line that I had no clue of just 24 hours ago.

The moral of this story is to not be afraid to ask for help. Utilize the varied Genealogy groups that are on Facebook or that are online.  Even a Professional Genealogist needs a little help sometime.