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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.

Thank You and Good-bye to a Cousin

About thirty years ago I met two of my father’s cousins, Alta and Leslie. This acquaintance opened huge doors into my genealogical research because they had been working on our family line for years. They gladly shared everything they had with me, and a long collaboration began.

Leslie passed away several years ago, but not before giving me a copy of his genealogy database. Alta shunned computers and typed up all her records. As of last week, they are all mine, too. No one in their family has an interest in genealogy.

Alta passed away on May 15 at the age of ninety-three. Her papers date back to 1939 when she began doing genealogy at the age of eighteen. She had a huge library of genealogies and books of records from our ancestral states. Sifting through all this will be a monumental job. What joyful work!

As I dig in, I will miss her and her enthusiasm for genealogy so much. She kept at it until the very end. To her chagrin, she never did positively identify our mysterious Reed and Carter immigrant ancestors from colonial times, so I will continue the search. I owe her that, and so much more. Rest in peace, Alta.

Don’t Forget County Death Records

Most genealogists know that state registration of deaths usually did not begin until the early 20th century. So we are out of luck in finding these vital records for people who passed away before then, right?

Not so fast! Individual counties began keeping records of local deaths earlier than the states did. These listings often provide surprisingly complete information on the deaths of a persons in the county. Usually the counties began recording deaths in the 1870’s or 1880’s, so you can reach back another 25 years or so from when state registration began.

Although Illinois did not initiate death certificates until 1916, Coles County began keeping a death register in 1878. Many people in my Reed and Carter families lived in Coles County from 1878 on, and many died there. I have found several of their death records.

Yet, many other family members are missing from the register. These include:

  1. Susan Carter Austin, died 3 May 1884
  2. Henry Paul Bovell, died 3 June 1886
  3. Eliza Reed Walton, died 20 September 1886
  4. Martha Jane Collins Carter, died 11 January 1888
  5. Emma Jane Reed Dudley, died 13 June 1888
  6. Albert M. Reed, died 8 March 1890
  7. Shelton Carter, died 25 May 1890
  8. Robert A. Wright, died 27 March 1895
  9. James Galbreath, died 19 April 1896
  10. Jane Reed Galbreath, died 11 October 1899

All these people lived in and were buried in Coles County, but after careful review I did not find their names on the Death Register. Why not?

My best guess is that compliance with the registration requirement was spotty in those days. In the early days of registration, when a person passed away out in the country people probably did what they always did. Perhaps they never thought to notify the County Clerk. Unless a physician filed a report, no one added the death details to the county register.

I am grateful to have found all the Coles County death records from the 1870’s – 1900’s that I did. It was so easy; I simply ordered the microfilm from Family Search. I just wish the deaths of the missing 10 people had been recorded as well.

Early Deaths

This week I made my way over to my local Family History Center to view a microfilm that I had ordered. I looked at the earliest death register for Coles County, Illinois where my Carter and Reed ancestors were original settlers.

Coles County began registering deaths in 1878. They did a good job, too, because the register contains quite a bit of valuable information for each decedent. I can learn the person’s place and date of death, age at death, place of burial, birthplace, current residence, and marital status.

The register also has a column for cause of death. This provides a little window into the times of my ancestors. So many children in the 1800’s died of diseases that we can prevent today—diphtheria, whooping cough, measles.

What heartache our ancestors must have endured when a child suffered and died. Sometimes entire families were wiped out in a couple of weeks when an epidemic struck.

These sicknesses were terrible and ruthless. I know that when I came down with measles when I was 10 years old, I was the sickest I have ever been. My mom, recalling her own battle with this fearsome illness, took all of my siblings for gamma globulin shots. These boosted their immune systems so they would not contract the disease. Of course they despised me for creating a need for shots, but my mom’s action protected them. Pioneer women did not have this option.

Parents today can be proactive. Vaccinated children today can count themselves fortunate that they will not suffer an early death from these preventable diseases.

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 Catharine Carter and George N. Young

  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.