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A DNA Test Pays Off

Some time ago I asked my dad to take a DNA test. All my brick wall ancestors lurk in his side of the family, so I keep hoping a DNA match will turn up to help resolve questions on these family lines. Dad does not use a computer, so I manage his DNA accounts for him.

Over time, we have worked with a few of our identified matches trying to figure out how we are related. Generally we have identified a common ancestor and then gone our separate ways. Most of these people seem to have done DNA testing mostly to learn about their ethnic heritage, not because they have a deep interest in genealogy.

That changed a few weeks ago. A third cousin contacted us because her DNA test identified a match to us. We exchanged some information via e-mail. Then we agreed to a phone call to talk over our mutual family history. We learned that we live within driving distance of each other, and we both know a local professional genealogist. We decided to meet for lunch.

Yesterday we shared a meal and spent two hours exchanging more family information. We agreed to work together in our research on our Reed and Carter family lines.

I am thrilled to have a new research partner for this branch. For years I had worked with a couple of my dad’s cousins on these same lines, but both of them have passed away now.

Advice I received years ago has paid off again. Vern Tomkins, a former President of the Colorado Genealogical Society always said, “Keep contacting your cousins. You never know what they may have.” And then there is the corollary stated by Terry Quirk, a former Vice President of the Society, “Contact the oldest and sickest ones first.”

My newly-identified cousin and I are not particularly old or sick, but I am sure glad she contacted me.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks no. 15—Caleb Reed (1818-1903)

A large extended family of Reeds began with the birth of a baby boy near a small Kentucky stream on 1 December 1818. At a farm along a waterway called Elk Creek southeast of Louisville, Kentucky, Caleb Reed came into the world that day.

The Elk Creek area was part of Shelby County at the time, but the state later split off lands from Shelby, Nelson, and Bullitt Counties to form the new Spencer County a few years later in 1824. Thus, we find Reed records in two Kentucky jurisdictions even though the family did not move.

At the time of their son’s birth, parents Thomas Reed and Ann Kirkham Reed already had three other children, Robertson (b. 1808), Eliza (b. 1810), and Jane (b. 1817). The family later added another brother, William (b. 1822).

Baby Caleb became one of many family members to share the same name. His paternal grandfather was also named Caleb Reed. That Caleb had a son Caleb C. Reed (our Caleb’s uncle). Our Caleb later had a nephew, Caleb R., son of his brother Robertson. Subsequent generations would continue to use the name. Our Caleb would have two grandsons who shared his name: Caleb Logan Reed and Caleb Reed Wright.

Some uncertainty surrounds Caleb’s full name. The family Bible simply gives his name as Caleb with no middle name. His marriage record lists his name as Caleb Samuel Reed. A different name appeared in his obituary where the informant reported his name as Joseph Caleb. Neither of these full names is corroborated by any other source.

Caleb lived his first decade in Kentucky until his parents decided in 1829 to move to lands newly-opened for settlement in Illinois. On his eleventh birthday the family left the state of Kentucky to find a new home in the wilderness. The journey consumed nearly a month.

Arriving in Edgar County, Illinois, they spent a few days. About New Year 1830, they went westward on to Coles County. They settled about one and a half miles from of the village of Ashmore. Caleb Reed later owned that farm.

At some time during his life, Caleb learned to read and write. If he attended school in Illinois, perhaps he went to the first school in Ashmore, located at the southwest edge of town. It was a fair weather school made of logs and had an earthen floor. The three sided structure opened to the south with a split log shelf along the two sides. The seats were crude split logs with pegged legs. The building also served as a church.

When Caleb was 25 years old, he married a neighbor girl, Jane Carter, daughter of John Carter and Mary (Polly) Templeton Carter. Caleb and Jane wed on 22 February 1844 at Coles County, Illinois where they were united by a Justice of the Peace. They eventually had eleven children: Samuel (1845-1928), Mary (1847-1855), Martha (1849-1918), George (1851-1886), Thomas B. (1853-1854), Emma Jane (1855-1888), John (1857-1921), Thomas L. (1860-1925), James (1862-1864), Ida May (1864-1954), and Albert (1866-1890).

Even before Caleb married Jane, he began accumulating land holdings. At the age of twenty-two he went to the federal land office at Palestine, Illinois on 20 May 1841 and bought the SESE/4 of Section 6, T12 N, R14W, Coles County, Illinois. He received an adjacent 177 acres of land in Section 6 from his father in 1847. On 1 February 1850 he bought the NESE/4 of the same section. At the time of the 1850 United States census, their nearest post office was in Hitesville, a town about 2 miles southeast of Ashmore. It no longer exists.

Caleb’s younger brother William died in 1845, and his death left four surviving Reed siblings. When their father Thomas passed away a few years later in 1852, Caleb inherited a 1/4 share of the family farm. He and his brother Rob then purchased their sisters’ shares. Caleb settled in to life as a farmer and stock raiser. He never sought official positions because he felt his farm of 430 acres required his entire attention. He and Jane lived on the site of his father’s original settlement.

By 1860, Caleb owned $1200 worth of livestock. He was a farmer with $6000 in real estate and $1000 in personal property. Today the farmland alone is worth over $3 million, and Caleb’s descendants still own it. In May and October 1864, when an income tax was briefly enacted to fund the Civil War, Caleb paid tax of $9 and $15 to the assessor.

The Masons organized in Coles County during the Civil War in 1863. Caleb Reed together with Jane’s brother-in-law Robert Boyd (her sister Nancy’s husband) became charter members of Ashmore Lodge, No. 390. Caleb was elected Junior Warden, and Boyd served as tiler or guardian to the entrance of the Lodge.

Coles County furnished more than its quota of soldiers for the Union Army during the war years, but most volunteers were from the western part of the county. On the eastern side, where the Reeds and Carters lived, there were many rebel sympathizers who had come from Kentucky. These people hated abolitionists and the draft. Although Caleb Reed did register for the draft as required in June 1863, there is no record of his eligible son Samuel registering or serving from Coles County.

As the war progressed, troops constantly moved through the Ashmore area. Local farmers supplied corn at the high war price of $.60 per bushel. Perhaps Caleb was able to add to his wealth by selling farm products to the Army.

In March 1864, Caleb and Jane must have watched with interest as tensions between Union soldiers and local insurgents known as Copperheads heightened in Coles County. On March 28, 1864, violence erupted when the former sheriff of Coles County and the Copperheads attacked a group of soldiers in Charleston, the county seat 10 miles from the Reed farm. In the end, 9 people died, 12 were wounded, and 29 men were arrested in what became known as the Charleston Riot. Among those apprehended was John Galbreath, a relative of Caleb’s sister Jane Reed Galbreath.

After the war, Caleb and Jane continued living on their farm. In 1878, Caleb was appointed by the Coles County Board of Supervisors to serve as a Grand juryman from Ashmore Township for the November term.

At some point, the Reeds decided to retire from the farm and move into Ashmore. They lived in one house for a while and then traded houses with their friend Newt Austin for a home located mid-block west of the Presbyterian Church. Newt was related to Jane’s sister Susan Carter Austin.

The Reed’s grandchildren visited often, and Jane would send them to the butcher shop to buy for the noon dinner. Some of the grandchildren complained about having to visit because they found nothing to do there. The only entertainment was to watch the trains come into town. The only reading material was the Sunday School newsletter.

By 1902, Caleb’s health was beginning to fail. He sold some of his land to his sons T. L. Reed and John C. Reed. The following year, he sold land in Section 7, Twp. 12 North, Range 14 West to his daughter Ida May Thompson for $1.00.

In the spring of 1903, the Mattoon, Illinois newspaper reported that Caleb Reed had taken quite sick on the previous Saturday, May 16, and remained in feeble condition. The following week he was no better. Ida Thompson visited her parents and then returned home to Indiana. Later that summer, she was again at the bedside of her aged father who was in very poor health.

On 10 November 1903 at his home in Ashmore, Caleb ate a hearty breakfast. He felt as well as usual but continued to be ill with kidney trouble. After his meal he went to take his customary rest while Jane was in another room attending to her household duties. Thinking that he had slept long enough she went to rouse him and found that he had passed away at the age of eighty-four.

Two days later on the day of Caleb’s funeral, the family sat at the house in an uncomfortable hush until it was time to go to Ashmore Cemetery. A few, including his widow, went by carriage, but the others walked behind the men carrying the casket. As one bearer tired, another stepped up to take his place. There was a graveside prayer.

Caleb left behind a large family clan that became known to later generations as the Reeds of Ashmore. Although he had outlived six of his eleven children, he had numerous descendants in Ashmore and beyond.

Uncovering Jane’s Life

As is my custom, this holiday season I will add a chapter to my ongoing family history project. Each year I choose an ancestral couple, write their story, and compile relevant photos. My subjects this year are my great-great grandparents Jane and Caleb Reed of Ashmore, Illinois.

Through 2015 I have worked mostly to research Jane and her family because so much was already known about Caleb. I even had the opportunity to visit Jane’s birthplace in Wayne County, Kentucky.

Towards the end of the year I thought I had uncovered all the information I could about her. Then I decided to dig into a Boyd notebook left to me by a relative who passed away earlier this year. Jane had a sister who married a Boyd.

The notebook was not about those Boyds, but it did contain a remarkable document. In 1988, Jane’s great-grandchildren through another line had compiled a lengthy family history of their own, A Wright Interesting Story by Jean Greggs Wright and Mary Jane Wright Coartney. It contained a lot of their grandmother Martha Reed Wright’s memories of Jane, stories that had not come down through my own family.

Armed with this information, I can now prepare a much more personal account of the lives of my great-great grandparents. Before my discovery, I knew just the dates and places for Jane. Now I feel like I know her a little bit.

This discovery just goes to show the importance of searching for collateral relatives. Had I not sought to look for more information on Jane’s Boyd in-laws or recognized her daughter’s married name of Wright, I would not have found this information. My own family history will be the richer for it.

Genealogy Serendipity Strikes Again

Earlier this spring I inherited the genealogy library of my father’s cousin, Alta Marie (Reed) Kaessinger. Over the summer I have cataloged most of her 400+ books, and now I have begun to look through her numerous file folders and notebooks.

I made a delightful find in a notebook this week as I pulled one labeled Boyd from the shelf. It caught my eye because I had recently discovered two Boyd cousins who reportedly perished in the Civil War. Unfortunately, this notebook mentioned nothing about them, but it did contain a family history of my great-great aunt Martha Ann Reed Wright (1849-1918), first cousin of the Boyd brothers through their mothers, Jane and Nancy Carter.

A Wright Interesting Story, prepared in 1988 by Jean Greggs Wright and Mary Jane Wright Coartney, relates much about Martha’s life. It lists her descendants, with many photos, as known when the document was written. Best of all, it provides a great deal of information on her mother (my great-great grandmother) Jane Carter Reed.

This fall, I plan to write a character sketch about an ancestral couple, as I usually do for the holidays. I had already chosen my subject for this year, Jane (Carter) and Caleb Reed. What a serendipitous find this family history makes! I now have a great deal more material for my writing project than I ever dreamed I would have. Alta collected an amazing amount of information, and it needs to be shared. Jane Carter Reed’s half of the story landed on my bookshelf just at the right time.

Our Lost Boys

The Civil War has always fascinated me. Like so many families, we suffered some of the 250,000 Union losses. Perhaps that is why I feel a personal connection to the war.

Recently I discovered two more possible Civil War casualties in my family tree. If proven, both of them were first cousins of my great-grandfather Samuel Harvey Reed.

Samuel’s maternal aunt Nancy Carter married Robert Boyd in 1840 in Coles County, Illinois. This couple had four known sons. According to 1850 and 1860 U. S. census records, their two oldest children were boys, G. R. born about 1843 and Jas born about 1845. Both these boys were the right age to serve in the Civil War. Their younger male siblings, Caleb (b. abt. 1857) and John (b. abt. 1859), were too young. Why do I believe the two older sons perished in the Civil War (1861-1865)?

I have the following evidence:

  1. Neither G. R. nor Jas has been found on the 1870 U. S. census. Perhaps they died before that date.
  2. I have a photocopy of an undated scrapbook page created by Olive Rector, a great-great-niece of Nancy Carter Boyd. She wrote that two of Nancy and Robert Boyd’s sons, Robert and Riley, were killed in the Civil War—one at Shiloh and one at Fort Donaldson (sic).
  3. The Regimental history for the 8th Illinois, Company C (raised in Coles County) lists two Boyd casualties. Private George R. Boyd was killed near Vicksburg on 1 July 1863 and is buried there. Robert Boyd died about 20 Feb 1862 of wounds received at Ft. Donelson.

Although interesting, this evidence does not make the case that Nancy Boyd’s sons died in the war. Too many questions remain:

  1. The names do not match up perfectly. I can hypothesize that the G. R. named on the census was George R. Boyd. Maybe the initial R stands for the son Riley mentioned by Olive Rector. Secondly, perhaps Jas was the Robert who died of wounds received at Fort Donelson. His full name could have been Jas Robert or Robert Jas. But without further proof, it is a stretch to conclude that the boys listed on the census are the Boyd casualties from the 8th Illinois.
  2. Olive Rector claimed that one of the sons died at Shiloh. George R. Boyd fell at Vicksburg. Was Olive mistaken about the site of the battle, or are these records for two different men? Civil War casualty lists for Shiloh do not include anyone named Boyd. A great-great-niece, writing many years later, could have named the incorrect battle.
  3. Our Boyd cousins may have served in a regiment other than the 8th Illinois.

Without further proof I cannot conclude that my great-grandfather lost his Boyd cousins in the war. If he did, I cannot say for certain which son died at which battle. I need a little more evidence to substantiate this sad conclusion.

Following in the Footsteps of the Rich and Famous

Recently we returned from a driving trip through the upper South. Along the way, we visited places where my ancestors had lived. As always, I found it moving to walk on the same land where they walked.

On this trip, I learned that several of these ancestors may have rubbed shoulders with notable people of the time. Some examples:

  • John Day (1760-1837) was born near Patrick Henry’s home in southern Virginia.
  • Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and his wife Ann Kirkham (1782-1869) married and began raising their family south of Louisville, Kentucky at the same time a boy named Abraham Lincoln was born nearby.
  • My great-grandparents Samuel Reed (1845-1928) and Anna Petronellia Sherman (1865-1961) already farmed about 20 miles from Mansfield, Missouri when Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder moved there in the mid-1890’s.

Finding these connections provides much context for the lives of my obscure ancestors. The lives of famous people living nearby, often heavily-researched and with available biographies, provide insight into the lives and activities of my own people.

As we visited the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln with its tiny log cabin, I tried to imagine Ann and Thomas Reed living in similar surroundings. At the Laura Ingalls Wilder home I picked up a book by her daughter, the writer Rose Wilder Lane. Our Home Town contains a wonderful chapter on daily life in the Ozarks at the turn of the last century.

Whenever I discover an ancestor at a new time and place, I look at the local history to see if anyone famous lived nearby. For example, I know that my family and the Lincolns were also neighbors in Hingham, Massachusetts and in Coles County, Illinois. Following these parallel lives helps me understand the lives of my own ancestors.

They Followed the Waterways

I have always lived in states that use the Public Land Survey System. This surveying method organizes land into neat squares by Section, Township, and Range. Initially proposed by Thomas Jefferson, this system describes most American land west of the original thirteen colonies. It makes perfect sense to me.

My family, however, did not always live in the West. Like many pioneers, they landed on the east coast and worked their way westward over several generations. To research these families, I need to look at their land records.

Those records look very different from the ones in use where I live. They describe lands using a metes and bounds system whereby property lines often follow the contours of the earth. Many mention waterways.

Later this summer I will travel through some of the states that use this system. States where my ancestors lived. States like Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.

I want to visit the spots where my forebears made their homes, but I am not sure where to look. I have learned that they often settled along waterways. Now I am making a push to identify those waterways. So far, I have come up with a few:

  • John Carter (1790-1841), a War of 1812 veteran, settled along Harmons Creek in Wayne County, Kentucky.
  • John Day (1760-1837), a Revolutionary War veteran, lived along Caney Creek in Morgan County, Kentucky.
  • Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1832) moved from Pennsylvania to live in Kentucky for several years. He resided variously in Shelby, Spencer, and Nelson counties, as new counties were carved from the old. Old deeds that I have not had proper time to review mention Elk or Elkhorn Creek.
  • Daniel Sherman (abt. 1800- aft. 1863) conveyed land on Clear Creek in Madison County, Kentucky after living in several surrounding counties.

As I drive through these states and counties this summer, you can bet I will be on the lookout for these waterways. I may not yet know precisely where my ancestors lived, but with these creek names, I am zeroing in.

 

Summer Genealogy Plans

Our Colorado Genealogical Society has a Lunch Bunch group that meets monthly. We select different restaurants around the Denver area where we can enjoy a meal in a historical setting and discuss our research progress. This month we gathered at the Bull & Bush, a long-standing pub in south Denver.

It being June, the conversation turned to summer research trips. Everyone around me had something planned:

  • One woman will head to Texas for a family reunion. While there, she plans to visit a tiny library that holds a rare copy of a county history not available via inter-library loan.
  • Another woman has discovered second cousins she never knew. She plans to meet them this summer.
  • Yet another woman embarks soon for a visit to repositories in Ireland.

We genealogists love to take these research trips. I, too, am getting ready for summer discoveries on the road. We will loosely follow the trail of the Reeds and the Carters, driving in reverse order of their westward migration.

Colorado to Virginia is a long drive. Like everyone else at lunch this week, I am eager to learn something new about my family.

Obituaries Galore

This week I continued my search for Reed and Carter family information in the Mattoon, Illinois newspaper database found on Newspapers.com. I sought obituaries for family members of my great-great grandparents, Jane Carter and Caleb Reed.

Some I already had, thanks to diligent research by cousins in an earlier day. Now I hoped to fill in gaps in my data. Success!

I located obituaries for several of their children’s spouses:

  • Elbridge Dudley (husband of Emma Jane Reed) died 26 October 1927.
  • Elizabeth Davis Reed (wife of George Robert Reed) died 26 January 1934.
  • Mary Christina Scheer Reed (wife of John Carter Reed) died 26 December 1943.
  • Myrtle Redden Reed (wife of Thomas Logan Reed) died 27 July 1953.

In addition to the death dates, I gleaned additional family information from these obituaries. They sometimes provided cause of death and burial information. They listed the names of their surviving children (if any) and where they lived.

I learned that the Reeds were pretty much Presbyterian except for those who married Dudleys.

The Dudleys were Baptist and had generously donated land near Ashmore, Illinois for a Baptist cemetery (Enon). A few of my family members are buried there—Samuel Reed and his first wife Nancy Jane Dudley, and Emma Jane Reed and Elbridge Dudley. The obituary for Elbridge Dudley even told me that he had served for twenty-five years as the Superintendent of the Baptist Sunday School.

Sadly, I did not find any obituaries for the Carter clan. They lived further away from Mattoon, so perhaps their news did not find its way into the Mattoon paper.

All in all, I searched the database for over twenty-five people. I filled in many gaps on my family tree. This database allowed me to quickly and efficiently do newspaper research from home.

Newspapers: a Window to the Past

Recently I received an offer to subscribe to Newspapers.com at a discounted rate. I decided to give it a try.

When I logged in, I found it easy to zero in on a geographic location. I started with Coles County, Illinois, where my Reed and Carter families lived in the 19th century. I did not expect to find much for this very rural area.

I knew that their Ashmore Township had little in the way of newspapers so many residents looked across the state line to Indiana to read the Terre Haute paper. No luck there finding anything about my family.

Next I turned my search westward to the Illinois newspapers for the smaller towns of Mattoon and Charleston (the county seat). There I hit pay dirt.

The Mattoon newspapers mentioned my great-great grandparents, Jane Carter and Caleb Reed several times:

  • Caleb was appointed to serve as the Ashmore Township representative on the Grand Jury in 1878.
  • Caleb’s real estate transactions were reported.
  • Visits by my great-grandfather Samuel and his sister Ida during Caleb’s last illness in 1903 were reported.
  • Although I already had Caleb’s obituary from the Charleston paper, I found that a more detailed one appeared in the Mattoon paper.
  • Jane’s declining health was reported during her last months in 1907.

Needless to say, I am thrilled to have these little windows into the everyday lives of my ancestors. I plan to look up the names of every relative who lived in the area to see what more I can find out about these families. I am so glad I subscribed to this database.