Sunday, May 2, 2010

New Territory

Ok, so as you ProGen 3'ers know, this month's assignment was to write up a research report on either a simple or complex issue based upon the models given in the chapter and/or the models given in the BCG Standards Manual. I chose a pretty simple issue to be solved and ended up finding myself in brand new territory.

My focus was to find the William Williamson family of Parke County, Indiana in the 1860 census. I had found them in 1850 and believed I had them pegged in the 1870 census, though the family group was drastically different, but couldn't find a single family member in the 1860 census no matter what name variants I used in the search box on ancestry.com. So my first instinct was to draw up a neighbor list and right off the bat I hit paydirt recognizing the Samuel McMasters family within a page of the Williamsons in the 1850 census and only two households away in the 1870 census. The surname was dead giveaway that this family was the key because I knew that in 1871 William's son, Perry, married a Susannah McMasters. Playing the name game, along with the neighbor lists, won the race and I was able to draw up a pretty neat report complete with thoughts for future research.

What brought me into what I have deemed "new territory" was trying to figure out who in the world Samuel McMasters was. I know what you're thinking, "since Perry married Susannah McMasters in 1871 and the family was living so close together for so many years, wouldn't he have been Susannah's father?" Big fat negatory on that one. I already knew that Susannah's father's name was Emsley McMasters from Randolph Co., North Carolina. So I say again, who in the world is Samuel McMasters? And what about the other McMasters families living in Parke County, Indiana between 1850 and 1870; Lewis McMasters and James McMasters, especially. Lewis, James and Samuel all appear on the same census page in 1860, all in close proximity to the William Williamson family, including Perry. But none of these men is the father of Susannah, thus placing her as one of Perry's closest neighbors (though they did live in the same township between the above years).

Well after some serious census searching, and the assistance of a wonderful family website at http://www.jamesmcmasters.us/ , I was able to piece together the family group. James McMasters, b. abt 1791, was the father of Lewis, b. abt 1817 NC, and of Samuel, b. abt 1826 NC, and they all came to Parke County together. Susannah's father, Emsley McMasters, b. abt 1817 NC, was James' nephew through his other brother, Elisha, b. abt 1789. Did ya get all that? Yeah, I didn't either the first 1000 times I was trying to put it all together. I had to draw myself a couple of diagrams complete with a ton of ink scratch-outs. Understandable or not, the bottom line is that the Williamsons were surrounded in their neighborhood by a large family group for more than twenty years and though they may not have been "next door neighbors" to the parents of Perry's future wife, they were "kissing close" to her uncles and cousins.

So now my research is taking me into North Carolina, and this is an entirely new realm for me. I know absolutely nothing about the genealogy of that state. On the up side, it does look like the McMasters family has been researched quite a bit in the past so getting caught up on all of the research should be an interesting path.

My other surprise, stemming from what was initially thought to be a simple research problem, is that it appears that James McMasters' grandfather, also James McMasters, is DAR eligible and led a fairly interesting life. Though he did not actively serve in the Revolutionary War as a soldier, he falls under the eligibility requirements because he appears in the payment rolls for "services rendered"; according to the James McMasters website, given above, he appears to have given the revolutionaries use of one of his horses. He was also apparently blind for the majority of his life and may even have had roots near Chester County, PA, where I have other family ties.

So quite a bit has already come from this "simple" problem for a ProGen homework assignment and so far I think this may be one of the most rewarding practical assignments in the course, as of yet, because of it. You really just never know what you're going to stumble into and genealogy is one of those things that takes every opportunity to remind you of that fact. And now it's time to go, I've got to learn everything I possibly can about 18th and early 19th century North Carolina records and genealogy :)

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