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Carter Cousins II

Recently I wrote that my great-grandfather Samuel Harvey Reed (1845-1928) had several Reed cousins known to me. He also had numerous Carter cousins on his mother’s side of the family, but I knew virtually nothing of them, not even their names.

Well, throughout the month I have looked at many U.S. census records, and I think I now have a pretty complete list of the Carter cousins in Samuel’s generation. A revised list follows, with new names in bold:

Children of Susan Carter and John Austin

  1. James Austin
  2. Mary Austin
  3. William Austin
  4. Edith Austin
  5. Thomas Austin

Children of Shelton Carter and Eliza Jane Ashmore

  1. Joseph B. Carter
  2. Jane Carter
  3. James Carter
  4. Mary Carter
  5. John W. Carter
  6. Samuel Carter
  7. George Robison Carter
  8. Edith Carter
  9. Jane L. Carter
  10. Louis S. Carter

Children of Nancy Carter and Robert Boyd

  1. Susan C. Boyd
  2. Caleb Boyd
  3. G. R. Boyd
  4. Gus Boyd
  5. Tabitha J. Boyd
  6. Mary Ann Boyd
  7. John Boyd

Child of Bailey Carter and Mary Ann McAlister

  1. John M. Carter

Children of Thena Carter and Solomon Collins

  1. John J. Collins
  2. Elijah Collins

Children of Joseph Carter and Martha Jane Collins

  1. William J. Carter
  2. Thomas B. Carter
  3. David W. Carter
  4. Mary J. Carter
  5. Alice M. Carter
  6. John A. Carter
  7. Delilah B. Carter
  8. Jacob S. Carter
  9. Margaret Ellen Carter

Children of Elizabeth Carter and James Cox

  1. John W. Young
  2. Susan J. Young
  3. Harvey Young

To this list, I should add the names of Samuel Harvey Reed himself, as well as the names of his own siblings, the children of Jane Carter and Caleb Reed:

  1. Samuel Harvey Reed
  2. Mary C. Reed
  3. Martha Ann Reed
  4. George Robert Reed
  5. Thomas B. Reed
  6. Emma Jane Reed
  7. John Carter Reed
  8. Thomas Logan Reed
  9. James N. Reed
  10. Ida May Reed
  11. Albert M. Reed

So this makes a list of 48 grandchildren for the Carter patriarchs, Mary Templeton and John Carter, Illinois pioneers of 1830.

Illinois Research—Genealogy Trails

My roots run deep in Illinois. About 1830, my great-great grandparents, Jane and Caleb Reed, moved from Kentucky to Coles County, Illinois. Young children at the time, they traveled in covered wagons to their new home with their parents, Ann (Kirkham) and Thomas Reed, and Mary (Templeton) and John Carter.

The families settled near each other, and descendants remain in Coles County today. Consequently, I am very interested in Coles County records from inception to the modern day. I love when I locate something online.

One source that I have found quite valuable in researching my Reed and Carter families is Illinois Genealogy Trails ( About 15 years ago, volunteers dedicated to putting historical and genealogical information online began this wonderful website.

This week I have spent time pulling marriage information from their online index to Coles County marriages. Both Jane and Caleb came from large families, and I found the dates and spouses for all their siblings’ marriages.

This marriage index offers just one example of the information one can find at Illinois Genealogy Trails. You can bet that I plan to spend more time on this website. They encourage submissions by users, too, so I may contribute an obituary or two.

Sites like Illinois Genealogy Trails make needed records so much easier for us to find. We can quickly move ahead in our research with all this at our fingertips. I feel fortunate that my ancestors chose Illinois.

My Irish Heritage—Or Not

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up next week, I began thinking about all those Americans who celebrate their Irish heritage that day. I used to be one of them.

I grew up in a small Wyoming town among many Irish-Americans. The locals even chose the name for my high school, Kelly Walsh High School, to honor of one of them. The Irish had settled in Wyoming over a hundred years earlier when they arrived to work on the trans-continental railroad.

Surrounded by so many Irish descendants, I probably felt like I fit in better if I, too, had Irish ancestors. Besides, I thought I had understood my paternal grandmother to have told me so.

Turns out, she claimed nothing of the sort. She said that our Reed family was “Scotch-Irish”. In my naiveté, I took this to mean we were Scotch and Irish. Never mind that Scotch is a beverage, not a nationality.

Only years later did I learn that the correct term, “Scots-Irish” referred to the American descendants of the Ulster Scots of Northern Ireland. These Presbyterians had come originally from the Scottish Lowlands to settle on the Irish plantations. Later, many of them moved on to colonial America. There they lived mostly on the frontier, as my family had.

I should have shown more suspicion about my supposed Irish roots for that and other reasons. Our family did not have a recognizable Irish surname (Reed?). My dad’s family was mostly Presbyterian, and we have not a Roman Catholic to be found.

Although I can no longer celebrate an Irish heritage, I can and will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I have pulled out my St. Paddy’s Day decorations and purchased my corned beef. My grandson and I have baked cookies decorated with green sugar. We are ready. Erin Go Bragh!

Publishing Your Research: Harder Than It Looks

We genealogists spend hours and hours (and even more hours!) on our research. We interview relatives, wade through online databases, visit courthouses and cemeteries. All of this results in mountains of information for our family trees.

What should we do with all of it? Professional genealogists exhort us to publish, publish, publish our family histories. They advise us to disseminate our information as widely as possible in order to preserve it. Heaven knows our own kids will likely throw out all the lovingly-collected documents and family group sheets once we are gone.

Last weekend I attended a workshop hosted by my local genealogy Computer Interest Group (CIG) on how to take a family history from computer to published page. The idea was that periodically along the way a genealogist should stop and compile the research results so far. Take these and use an online service to prepare a small book for relatives and for placement in public genealogy collections. No need to wait until the research is finished to do this. We all know we never will be finished with it.

For the workshop I attended, the presenter had a family line all ready to go to the online publisher. She has done this several times before. Before the seminar, she had taken her manuscript to a local printer to get a test copy, and everything looked beautiful. As we watched in a live presentation of how to build this into a keepsake book using a well-known online publisher, the service refused to accept her work. They deemed it too short for the book dimensions she had always used before.

What changed, and why? The site gave no warning of new rules. Our speaker now needs to go back and re-format everything to a different size that we hope will be more acceptable.

The first session of this workshop had given me several good ideas for books I could make to preserve histories of my own family and precious belongings. Now I wonder if I can face the same disappointment with the online publisher that we saw at this seminar.

Rules change, seemingly arbitrarily, and with no notice. Taking time to prepare a work that is accepted one day and not the next is a huge waste of one’s time. This experience makes me very wary of trying this myself.

Carter Cousins

My great-grandfather, Samuel Harvey Reed (1845-1928) came from the small town of Ashmore, Illinois. I always knew he had a big family there.

Mostly, I knew of all the Reed cousins. One Reed descendant wrote a book called The Reeds of Ashmore back in the 1980’s. He traced our Reed line from Samuel’s grandfather Thomas, an original settler in Ashmore. I have used this book a lot, and consequently I am familiar with the names of Samuel’s cousins on his father Caleb Reed’s side:

  1. Daniel Reed
  2. Nancy Jane Reed
  3. Caleb Robertson Reed
  4. William Fred Reed
  5. Mary E. Reed
  6. James Reed
  7. Kate Reed
  8. Susan Ann McAlister
  9. Thomas Alison Walton
  10. Nancy Jane Walton
  11. Jerome G. “Aris” Walton
  12. Martha Ellen Walton
  13. Nevada Dorcas Walton
  14. James Thomas Galbreath
  15. William Riley Galbreath
  16. Anna Eliza Galbreath

All these cousins lived near Ashmore, and Samuel obviously knew them well. In 1872 he even served as a witness for Mary Reed’s will shortly before she died at age nineteen.

These Reed cousins comprise only half of Samuel’s extended family. His mother Jane Carter, also from Ashmore, had many siblings, too. Thus Samuel had Carter cousins as well. This year I am finally working to identify the grandchildren of John Carter (Jane’s father), and so far I have this incomplete list:

  1. Edith Austin
  2. Susan C. Boyd
  3. Caleb Boyd
  4. G. R. Boyd
  5. Gus Boyd
  6. Tabitha J. Boyd
  7. Mary Ann Boyd
  8. John Boyd
  9. John M. Carter
  10. John J. Collins
  11. William J. Carter
  12. Thomas B. Carter
  13. David W. Carter
  14. Mary J. Carter
  15. Alice M. Carter
  16. John A. Carter
  17. Delilah B. Carter
  18. Jacob S. Carter
  19. Margaret Ellen Carter

I am confident I will find the names of even more Carter cousins. I am in the process of working through the census records for all of Jane’s siblings to see how many I can locate. Samuel Reed must have been related to nearly everyone in Ashmore!

Genealogy Comes To Me

Several times recently, an opportunity from genealogy world has landed in my lap. This happens because of doors I have opened. It works this way:

  • When took down the genealogy message boards last year, I followed the advice of several genealogists to make final posts before the boards converted to a read-only format. I put updated queries and contact information on the boards for each of my surnames. Since then, several Carter researchers have contacted me. One provided an extended Carter DNA analysis with a hypothesis as to where my branch fits in to the Carter family. This provides a wonderful start to my Carter research this year.
  • Last month I began attending the Norwegian Cultural Skills group for genealogy offered by my local Sons of Norway lodge. There I met a woman whose Norwegian family settled in the same county in Montana where my Bentsen family homesteaded a hundred years ago. She owns the out-of-print, three-volume history of Sheridan County, Sheridan’s Daybreak. She has offered to do some look-ups for me! I hope she can find information on some of my collateral relatives. All of my grandfather’s siblings married into families (Bedwell, Fleming, Leader, Overby, Scollard) that also settled in Sheridan County.
  • On a sadder note, I learned this week that the Colorado Genealogical Society will lose its meeting site next year. The Board has decided to move to the Denver Public Library and gather there on Saturday mornings. After more than twenty years as a member of this organization, I have decided not to follow them in this move. I prefer an evening meeting, and my Saturdays are already too full. This decision to discontinue my membership will free up some time and money for other genealogical pursuits.

So the work continues to move ahead. Sometimes I just have to do something to nudge it along.

The Widow Carter

In American research, we have a notoriously difficult time documenting the lives of our women ancestors. They obscured their birth families by taking a married name, and they left few footprints in the records available to us.

This week I have encountered a problem with one of my female ancestors. Her name was Mary/Polly Templeton Carter, and at least I know her maiden name.

She and her husband John left Wayne County, Kentucky to become pioneer settlers in Coles County, Illinois about 1830. John died eleven years later, in 1841. She lived on until 1857. Both are buried in the Ashmore, Illinois cemetery.

By my calculation, Mary/Polly lived for sixteen years in widowhood with several minor children. Yet I cannot find them on the 1850 U.S. census. Where were they, and how did the family earn a living?

I know that three of the young daughters, Thenia, Jane, and Elizabeth, married and set up households in Coles County during the 1840’s. Thenia and Elizabeth died before 1850, and Jane (my ancestor) is listed on that census with her husband Caleb Reed. Two other daughters, Nancy and Catherine, were still young enough in 1850 to be living with their mother. Because Mary/Polly was buried at Ashmore, it seems likely they would have remained in that area. But I find no record there of any of the three.

I have a few options as I research this question of what happened to them:

  • Look at the 1850 households of Mary/Polly’s married children for a parent and nieces. I already know they were not living with Jane and Caleb Reed.
  • Search for Mary/Polly on the Illinois State census for 1855.
  • Search for a probate record for John Carter for clues.
  • Search the Coles County land records for clues.

I enjoy working on these genealogical puzzles. Surely Mary Carter generated some records during the years between her husband’s death and her own. I just have to find them.

Find A Mug Book

Genealogists doing research on people who lived in the nineteenth century need to look for a mug book.

By “mug book”, I do not mean the collection of photos of criminals kept by the police. I mean the kind of books put together by towns and counties in the late 1800’s to preserve the history of their pioneer days. Genealogists call these publications mug books.

These books offer a gold mine to the genealogist. They include information on families that settled in the locality, the history of the area, and descriptions of the local geography. Often they include valuable lists, too, like names of those who served in the Civil War, or names of all the pastors of the local churches.

This week I have spent time reviewing a couple of county histories from Coles County, Illinois. My Carter, Reed, Kirkham, and Templeton ancestors settled in Coles County when the area first opened for settlement about 1829. The county histories, or mug books, date from 1879 and 1905. The children of the original settlers were still living then, and they may well have contributed information to these books. From these, I gleaned family information that otherwise was lost.

I learned that John Carter was from Kentucky. He worked occasionally as a blacksmith but did not follow it as a regular business. He gave it up for other pursuits when another man set up shop. Forty years later, John’s daughter and her husband continued to live on the same land where John built his first cabin.

I learned that Caleb Reed was a charter member of the Freemason Lodge in 1863, and he served as Junior Warden. His father Thomas, a pioneer settler, came from Kentucky, too.

One of the books, the 1879 History of Coles County, includes wonderful anecdotes of pioneer life. Unfortunately, the writer attached no names to the stories.

For example, the book tells of a local minister’s preaching tour where he stopped in to visit various settlers and to share a meal. At one backwoods cabin he found the parents relaxing by the fire and smoking cob-pipes. The daughter was cooking a meal of stewed coon and buckwheat batter. The book goes on to relate that “A portion of the hem of some of her undergarments had been torn from its native place and was dangling within an inch or two of the floor, and as she would move about the fire, it would now and then draggle in the frying batter…When dinner was announced a little later, he could eat but a few mouthfuls.”

Was this my family? I will never know, but stories like these give us a great picture of the everyday lives of our ancestors. When doing research in the 1800’s time frame, especially in the Midwest, is usually pays off to consult a mug book.


A Successful Approach to Foreign Research

This weekend I will attend a meeting of Norwegian genealogy researchers. As I prepare for the meeting, I began thinking about what a great opportunity it is.

Here in the melting pot of America, many genealogists descend from more than one ethnic heritage. Once you “jump the pond” you must learn to do research in foreign countries. Unless your family was British, these records are not in English. What do you do?

Aside from hiring someone else to do your research, you must learn to do it yourself. My husband/tech advisor and I have encountered this challenge with our Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, German, Norwegian, and Scottish lines. We have followed several strategies for learning to do our foreign research:

  • We join local groups that focus on a specific ethnicity. Our Sons of Norway lodge includes a genealogy club (the one we will attend this weekend) for pursuing our mutual interest. WISE (Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England) and a Germanic research group both meet monthly at the Denver Public Library. A local Finnish club offers one-on-one help with document translation.
  • We attend genealogy conferences targeting an ethnic audience. Our local Palatines to America chapter holds twice-yearly seminars that educate us on Germanic research. The National Genealogical Society annual conference in the states often includes a research track for some ethnic group.
  • We consult the research wiki on the Family Search website (
  • We take advantage of opportunities for collaboration with genealogists in our countries of interest. For example, we have found Norwegian research help and other researchers via the DIS-Norge website (

People will tell me that I also should be on Facebook to find like-minded researchers. This resource probably helps a great many people, but to me it looks like quite an eater of time. Not appealing to me.

Instead, I will trot over to the Sons of Norway research group on Saturday and interact face-to-face with other researchers. We will trade research tips, tell a Norwegian joke or two, and enjoy some Norwegian-style fellowship. This is my type of social network, and I know it will help me along with my own research.

A Grave Beginning

This week I am spending my time in a virtual graveyard. Although it sounds morbid, a genealogist usually loves a place like this.

It began as I sorted through the information I had gathered on my Carter family of Coles County, Illinois. I came across a list of family members buried in the Ashmore and Enon cemeteries of that county.

My distant cousin Dr. Michael Hayden, author of The Reeds of Ashmore, had walked these cemeteries in the 1980’s. He transcribed the cemetery markers for all our Reed and Carter family members buried there. I counted over 150 names on his list. The burial dates begin shortly after the settling of Ashmore Township around 1830.

This week I am putting the names and dates for all the Carter descendants into my database. Many of these graves do not appear on the FindAGrave website. Maybe someday I will build online memorials to these people.

For now, getting the data onto my own website publishes the information and provides a jumping-off spot for further Carter research. I am off to a grave, er great, start.