Thursday, May 20, 2010

Things have been quiet here, but busy behind the scenes

I realized that I hadn't posted here in a while so I thought I should get an update together. Things have been crazy! I was waiting until I had more concrete info to post here but I'll start now and when I have more, I'll post that too. First, I'm still working on my NGS HCS assignments, specifically the lesson on Census Analysis and Migration. My focus is on the family of Emsley McMasters who moved from Randolph County, NC to Parke County, IN right after the Civil War. His was a former Quaker family from Pennsylvania who moved to NC after being read out of his Quaker meetings because of his Great Grandfather's marriage to a woman who was not a Friend (this info was reported through a family website, and I still need to find the Quaker records to verify it). I've been doing some reading on Randolph County and discovered that most of the families who settled there were Quakers or had Quaker connections which made the county mostly anti-slavery and pro-Union at the time of the war. I've got several articles, found through Persi (available through Heritage Quest at my local library) and also a couple of books ordered through my library's interlibrary loan that are about the Quakers in the area and the climate of Randolph County and North Carolina in general during the 1850s and 1860s. The goal is to determine why the McMasters left North Carolina, though the image is becoming much clearer; the Civil War had a tremendous impact on the county and touched the McMasters personally since Emsley was recently found to have been in a Confederate senior reserves unit at the very end of the war. His Confederate service record is available through footnote. Page 5 is his oath of allegiance, shown here

So research into Randolph County in the 1850s and 1860s and trying to find out what was happening there at the time the McMasters left has been occupying a lot of my time. I've also been looking at Parke County, IN, their destination, for clues on why they might have chosen that area. While info on Randolph County has been easy to obtain, info on Parke County, IN has been scarce. There is very little that can be found about it at the time, either online or through Persi. Most of the information regarding Indiana during the Civil War focuses on the brief conflicts that occurred on Indiana soil, but not in Parke County. All I've been able to find out so far is that the land was good for farming and available for purchase at the time. But the most significant snippet that I've found mentioned a tie in Parke County to the Underground Railroad, which was established in Randolph County, Indiana by the Coffin family. Apparently, a member of this family settled in Parke County prior to the McMasters arrival, thus making it a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Coffins were neighbors to the McMasters back in Randolph County, NC, as established by the neighbor identification required by the lesson. This information regarding Parke County as a stop on the Underground Railroad is only from one or two websites with no great detail available, and I haven't been able to find other, more specific information. I'm still looking though so hopefully I'll come across something soon.

So beyond the McMasters and the NGS course lessons, I've also been working on my Pro Gen assignment for this month, editing and proofreading the research reports submitted by my group members. Last month's assignment was to write up a research report so now that everyone has their reports up, we have to go back and read through them and proofread them. So that will keep me pretty busy for the next week or so as well.

Finally, I had my monthly chat for the NGSQ article group this week. This group meets to discuss various articles from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. The article for this month was "A Family for Suzanne" by Ruth Randall. It was the 2007 Family History Writing Contest winner and great example of a four generation kinship project. It traces the family line beginning with an enslaved woman, named Suzanne who was born around 1796-1797 and lived her life in Missouri, which was then part of the Louisiana Territory. The article abounds in a knowledge of local law and succeeds in finding Suzanne's family, though she herself was traded at the early age of 3 1/2 years to the family whose surname would evermore be attached to those of her descendants. Her biological parents will probably never be known, the earliest record relating to Suzanne offers no clue as to her parentage, but through this wonderfully and diligently researched article we can place her with her known family. The article tackles the difficult subject, both emotionally and methodologically, of slave genealogy and it recommended both to those interested in the subject as well as those who are interested in Missouri history and genealogy as it offers a great deal of information and helpful hints (through the use of sources, cited in the footnotes) for research there.

I'm exhausted but also excited with all of the work. This month has been full of a lot to discover and research and I'll happily be working on some of this for a while so if I'm quiet, it just means I'm working and I'll get back to the blog as soon as either I can, or I have some new info to talk about.

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 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 , 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 :)