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The Reed Coat of Arms

My Reed family has enjoyed keeping and displaying a Coat of Arms. Although I suspected we have no entitlement to do this, I knew little of heraldry. I wanted to know more about the rules on this subject. Last week I attended an introductory webinar hosted by American Ancestors and learned that I was right.

The speaker began by telling us about the components of a coat of arms. These include:

  1. The blazon, a description of the heraldry image.
  2. The coat of arms, a heraldic design on a shield.
  3. The crest, a complementary design above the coat of arms.
  4. Impaling and quartering, ways to divide images on the shield to show descent from different families.

So, what about the Reed coat of arms? What customs govern whether we can use it?

That would depend on how we acquired it. The United States keeps no registry of heraldry. Any historic coat of arms for my family would have to come from England or Scotland.

The Reed coat of arms was not handed down through my family from our immigrant ancestors. More recent generations found the Reed image in genealogy books.

According to the webinar speaker, Nathaniel Lane Taylor, only known descendants or close collateral kin of the original armiger should use a particular coat of arms. There is no such thing as a same name coat of arms. I am pretty sure we are not entitled to use the Reed coat of arms under this standard.

Furthermore, Mr. Taylor pointed out that one cannot assume that the existence of a coat of arms for one’s surname would point to one’s true family. We must do the genealogical research to find that information.

I have no idea what Reed family first registered the Reed coat of arms or whether they were related to me. I have not yet crossed the pond with this family as I remain mired in colonial records. No Reed researchers related to me have yet identified a Reed forebear in England, Scotland, or Ireland.

As for the subject of heraldry, anyone interested in additional information can find it on the American Ancestors website under Signature Projects (



Where Were the Reeds?

The Reed family lived in Shelby County, Kentucky during the early 1800’s. My ancestor Thomas grew up there surrounded by other Reeds who I assume were his father Caleb’s extended family. Caleb often appeared in the county records, but the others did not. Who were they, and how were they related to Caleb? Why were they scarcely mentioned in the records?

Several Reeds settled along Elk Creek in the early 1790s—Caleb, Barnett, David, and Joshua. We know that Joshua was a brother to Caleb. We do not yet know the relationship between Caleb and Joshua and the other two men.

Caleb seemed the most prominent of these. He was a captain in the local militia, and he owned about 200 acres of land. He married a wealthy widow later in life. His name appeared often in the county records as he served in capacities such as appraiser of estates and executor of wills.

The remaining Reeds rarely appeared in the records although they lived near Caleb for over 25 years. They were on the tax lists until the War of 1812 period. About that time Joshua and David moved on to Indiana, but I do not know what became of Barnett.

As I make my way through the Shelby County Court Order Books, I do not find the names of the other three Reeds. They did not seem to get appointments as road overseers or militia officers. They were not in any estate records.

These men did own land. Barnett had 50 acres, and Joshua had 89 acres. David’s holdings varied with up to 150 acres.

Perhaps their farms required all their attention, and they did not find time to participate much in the greater community. Caleb’s son Thomas was said to be this way, and perhaps he mimicked his uncles. Thomas was described in a county history as a quiet, industrious man, attending strictly to his own affairs and never seeking official positions.

Any Reed man with this personality left little footprint behind for the genealogy researcher.


The New Genealogy Season Begins

The 2023-24 genealogy club season begins in September. Our local societies are giving us a lot to look forward to this month:

  1. Fjelldalen Slektforskningflubb: My husband/tech advisor, who serves as the leader of this Norwegian genealogy study group, already began the new year with a session on how Norwegian immigrants secured land in the United States.
  2. Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society: This group will start off with a help session for those who need assistance in getting organized or overcoming a brick wall.
  3. Colorado Genealogical Society: A local genealogist will speak on parish records.
  4. W.I.S.E.: This British Isles-focused group (get it? Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England) will hear a talk on Welsh legends.

Finally, just around the corner in October, the Colorado Chapter of Palatines to America will hold its fall seminar. The featured speaker will be Michael Lacopo. His topics will include German church records, the German immigrant experience, and more.

I cannot wait!

Treasure in the Court Order Books

My ancestor Thomas Reed (1783-1852) lived in Shelby County, Kentucky during his younger years. As I research his life there, I have been working my way through all the online county records available on the Family Search website. Shelby County Court Order books for the early 1800s are found there.

I began with 1804, the first book on the list. So far, I have not found Thomas Reed mentioned, but I have seen records of his father and his brother, both named Caleb Reed.

Many of the court orders are road entries. They tell us who was appointed to oversee the roads and the names of the landowners alongside whose property the roads pass. These are of little interest except to verify that a man resided at that place during that time.

Other court records offer more insight into a citizen’s life. I found some interesting information about Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1832):

  1. Caleb served as Executor for a woman named Sarah White in 1806. I do not know who she was or how she was related to Caleb, but I believe she must have been a family member. Others mentioned in the record include Absalom Carr (Caleb’s wife at the time was a Carr), and Peter Van Dyke (Caleb later married Van Dyke’s widow). The Reeds, Whites, and Carrs had all migrated from Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
  2. Caleb and his son Caleb (abt. 1788-abt. 1828) both served as witnesses in an 1806 trial. The defendant Jeremiah Webb stood accused of felony stealing of corn. I do not know how the Reeds were connected to Webb.

Family Search does not have an online index to these Court Order Books. One must read them, page by page. It takes a long time.

The entries I have found about the Reeds so far will make it worth the time spent. The stories will add interesting color to my character sketches for these ancestors, and they provide clues for further research.

On Vacation

For the first time in a very long time, I did no genealogy this week.

We went to the mountains to hike and to visit the hot springs, but we did not do research. We did not visit sites associated with our families.

Instead, we relaxed in beautiful southern Wyoming!

Reeds on the Kentucky Tax List

Tax records, when available, can provide year-by-year clues and insight into families in early America. This week I looked for the Reeds on Shelby County, Kentucky lists from 1792-1815.

I found many residents with this name and its variants Reed, Reid, Read, and Ried. They were clustered on different waterways in the county.

Some lived on lands along Clear Creek, Brashears Creek, and Bullskin Creek. I do not know whether they are related to me or not.

My own known group lived along Elk Creek. Caleb Reed (1756-abt 1832) had a place there. Others included his brother Joshua and sons Thomas and Caleb C. I also found David and Barnett. I do not know the relationship between the last two and Caleb’s family. Perhaps they were additional brothers to Caleb and Joshua.

I learned some interesting information about the Reed family from the tax lists:

  1. My ancestor Caleb had more livestock than the others did. He always had at least 4 horses and sometimes as many as eight. The others had 2-3. In the early years, when cattle were included on the tax list, he had over a dozen. The others had fewer.
  2. Caleb possessed a larger farm than the other relatives had. He was taxed in some years for 350 acres compared to 89 for his brother Joshua.
  3. The tax lists confirm the age of Caleb’s son Thomas. Family records say this son was born in 1783. In 1799, a male 16-21 appears in Caleb’s household. The new 16-year-old must have been Thomas.
  4. The tax lists provide a clue to the age of Caleb’s son Caleb C. Reed. Other records offer conflicting information for his birth year. According to the 1820 census, he was born about 1775, long before his father was married. The 1810 census for Caleb’s household includes a son who may have been Caleb C. who was born much later, 1784-94. The 1804 tax list includes an additional male 16-21, perhaps Caleb C. If he turned 16 that year, he was born about 1788, the same date range as the youth on the 1810 census. This would place him between two other known children, Abigail (1785) and John (1794). Assigning a birth year of 1788 makes sense for Caleb C. given the evidence of the 1804 tax list, the 1810 census, and the sibling birth years. The 1820 census must have misattributed his age.
  5. Caleb’s eldest daughter Sarah (Sally) married Thomas Johns in 1799. He appears on the tax list for the first time that year. His last entry is in 1808. He was not in Shelby County in 1810. The tax list provides a more precise year for the family moving away.
  6. Caleb’s second daughter Rachel married Augustine Elliott in 1801. He regularly paid taxes from 1802 until his death in 1808. The following year, Rachel began paying the tax.
  7. Caleb’s youngest daughter Elizabeth married Jonah Harris in 1814. He appears on the tax list for the first time the prior year, in 1813 and again in 1814. I did not find him on the 1815 list. Either he was missed or the family had moved away by then. They do not appear on the 1820 census for Shelby County.
  8. In 1810, Caleb again had a male 16-21 in his household. If his son Caleb C. Reed was born in 1788, he was over 21 that year. The new 16-21-year-old would have been Caleb’s youngest son, John who was born in 1794 according to family records.
  9. In the early years, the tax entries were listed by date paid. This changed in 1813 when the taxpayers were listed by militia group. The Reeds were listed in Reed’s Company of the 85th Regiment. Caleb had been a captain in the Corn Stalk Militia several years earlier, but I do not know whether he or someone else led the company in 1813.
  10. Joshua and Barnett Reed continued to appear on the tax list throughout the period. David last appeared in 1811 and was not replaced by a widow or possible son the following year. Perhaps he moved away.

Going through tax lists can be tedious. I took three sessions to view the years from 1792 to 1815. Yet I found the effort worthwhile, especially for a state where no census records exist for 1790 and 1800.

Two Young Widows

As I continue to do research on the life of my ancestor Thomas Reed (1783-1852), I am finding it helpful to look at the lives of his collateral relatives. He had several sisters, and women can be difficult to trace. But two of these women were widowed young, and their husbands’ estate papers shed light on the Reed family:

  1. Rachel Reed Elliott (1781-1868). Rachel married Augustine Elliott in Shelby County, Kentucky about 1801. They had three children, Alfred (1802), Sarah (1803), and Ludwell (1807). Augustine passed away not long after Ludwell was born. Probate papers for him date from 1808, and Rachel was the Administratrix. My ancestor Thomas was named in the Settlement, receiving a gun. Material goods went to other Reed relatives as well. Rachel seems to have been a capable woman. She never remarried but moved on to Washington County, Indiana where she accumulated a large landholding. Her father Caleb Reed eventually moved in with her, and she cared for him until his death. She left sizable farms to each of her children.
  2. Abigail Reed Kirkham Shaw (1785-1854). Abigail first married John Kirkham, the brother of Thomas Reed’s wife, my ancestor Anne Kirkham Reed (1782-1869). John and Abigail married in Shelby County, Kentucky on Christmas Eve in 1804, but he did not live long. The couple had settled in Nelson County, Kentucky where he passed away before August 1807. Abigail’s father Caleb Reed served as Administrator of the estate. Again, the Reeds received household and farm goods. I have not determined Abigail’s whereabouts for the decade after her husband died. She remarried in Shelby County nearly ten years later in 1817. She and her new husband James Joseph Shaw had five children in Kentucky, Josiah (1817), Peter (1819), Caleb (1821), Mary (1824), and Rachel (1828) before moving to Harrison County, Indiana about 1830. There they developed an interest in Texas, and they moved to Fayette County, Texas about 1835. They were just in time for Joseph and the older sons to participate in the War of Texas Independence. The Shaws became prominent citizens in their county, and their son Josiah served in the Texas Legislature.

These sisters had close dealings with their Reed family while they all lived in Kentucky. The men served as witnesses and bondsmen for one another as needed. Thomas Reed’s name appears throughout the legal dealings of Augustine Elliott and John Kirkham.

Yet life in Kentucky must not have been to their liking because they all left the area between 1815-1830. Perhaps the exodus was due to the tangled land titles in this part of Kentucky.

Thomas went to Illinois in 1829, but no other Reeds went with them. Other early settlers in their area may have been related to Thomas’ mother.

More work remains to be done with his collateral relatives to sort out the family tree. Thomas’ grandmothers were surnamed Boyd and Carr, and numerous people with these names appear in the Illinois records. They were likely relatives of the Reeds.

The Old Home Town

I grew up in Casper, Wyoming. I lived there from 1962-1975 and then again from 1981-85. It was an oil town back then. My father, my father-in-law, and I were all associated with the oil business.

The big producers began to leave in the late 60s, and by the late 80’s were all gone. Two of the refineries closed. The earlier generation of employees retired, and the rest of us moved on as the industry slid towards Texas.

Some of our family members remained in Casper, and we return to visit now and then. We were there earlier this week and drove around to see what has changed over the years.

We passed by several places that had been important in our young lives:

  1. The house I grew up in looks much the same except for a new front porch. The maple tree my father planted in the front yard is quite tall now.
  2. My husband/tech advisor’s family home has not changed much. The family sold it only a few years ago when his mother moved to assisted living. There is a newer, bigger shed in the backyard.
  3. The schools I attended–Fairdale Elementary, East Junior High, and Kelly Walsh High School–have all been torn down. Only Kelly Walsh was rebuilt. These schools stood in a newer part of Casper, and the 1960s buildings did not weather well.
  4. My husband’s schools are all still there. His Natrona County High School dates from the 1920s and will outlast us all.
  5. His church building survives as well. My congregation outgrew the building I knew and moved elsewhere.
  6. The office buildings where my dad and I worked are still standing. I saw a Space for Lease sign atop his.

Casper seems to be growing. At 60,000, the population is nearly twice what it had been when I first lived there. The town spreads east-west along the North Platte River and south towards Casper Mountain. With a dwindled oil business, the large employers are the hospital and Casper College.

Most of the stores we knew have been repurposed into other establishments. The mall stands mostly empty. New retail has been built to the east on land that was open prairie when I lived there. A wind farm dominates part of the skyline.

I enjoyed driving around the city to reminisce. Casper looks familiar to me but not the same. A lot changes in sixty years.

The Reeds and the Kentucky Census

Two generations of my Reed family lived in Shelby (now Spencer) County, Kentucky after the Revolutionary War. They left footprints in the county records, but census records have been more difficult to find.

For starters, the U. S. census records for Kentucky in 1790 and 1800 are missing. The British destroyed the 1790 Kentucky schedules during the War of 1812. The 1800 schedules were lost.

A census substitute for the 1790 census exists in the form of the 1792 tax list for the county. Caleb Reed’s name appears there. He was taxed for land on the Elk Creek watershed. His son Thomas was still a child then.


The first year for which a Shelby County census record is available is 1810. Both Caleb and Thomas had households in the county that year. They appear next to each other on the census sheet.

The male aged 26-45 in Thomas’ household is likely him. There is a female the same age, probably his wife Ann. There are also two boys under 10. We know of only one, Robertson, who was born before 1810. The other boy may have been an additional son who died young and whose name has been lost to us.

Caleb’s household cannot be fully explained with the information we have. He must have been the male over 45 years old. A female the same age resides in the household, too. She may have been his wife, Rebecca whose death date we do not know. Caleb remarried a few years later, in 1816.

There are numerous young people in Caleb’s household. The 1810 census does not provide their names. A male 16-26 could have been his son Caleb C. Reed whose birth year we do not know. A younger male aged 10-16 may have been his son John Reed, born in 1794.

A female 10-16 may have been his daughter Elizabeth who was 13 years old, born in 1797.

That leaves a female 16-26 and four younger children. Who were they?

Two of Caleb’s daughters, Rachel and Abigail, had been widowed by 1810. Abigail was 25 that year, but she had no children with her first husband. If she was the female 16-26, who were the children?

Rachel was 29 that year. Was her age misattributed? She may have been living with her father in 1810, but her children do not fit the enumeration in Caleb’s household. She had 3 children, not four. Her two sons and a daughter all would have been under 10 that year. The census record lists an additional girl under 10. Three of these could have been the known children of Rachel, but who was the fourth girl? Did Rachel have another daughter who died?


This is the last census year in which Caleb and Thomas lived in Kentucky. By 1830, Caleb had moved to join his daughter Rachel’s household in Indiana, and Thomas had migrated to Illinois.

In Thomas’ household, we again find too many children. The girls under 10 would have been his daughters Eliza and Jane. There were also four boys, but we know of only two—Robertson born in 1808 and Caleb born in 1818. Did this family lose 2 sons, or were these other relatives?

Caleb’s 1820 listing was difficult to find. It took an every name search of Shelby County because he was indexed with the surname Rua instead of Reed.

Again, he had a large household. He had married the widow Elizabeth Van Dyke in 1816. They both appear in the household along with three young people under 25. These younger household members would not be Rachel’s family as she had moved to Indiana by 1820 and was enumerated there. Caleb’s other children were married and had their own households by then. Were the unidentified people part of the new wife Elizabeth’s family?

In addition to the unnamed people on the free white persons schedule, Caleb’s household included a slave schedule for the first time. Elizabeth, the widow of a plantation owner, brought these people along to her marriage with Caleb. They may have remained with her Van Dyke children after she had died several years later and Caleb went to Indiana.

These early census records require some close analysis because they do not name everyone in the household. The tick marks after the listing for the head of household present tantalizing clues to the genealogist.

For the Reeds, we are left with several questions. Who were the extra boys in Thomas’ household? Who were the unknown people in Caleb’s? We can only guess. Many people who died during those years in Kentucky were buried on their family farms, and records for them do not survive.

A complete genealogical research plan requires supplementing these early census records with other sources.


Reed, Reid, Read, or Wrede?

My maiden name is the very common surname Reed. The family has spelled it this way since the mid-1800s. But that was not always so.

When they lived in Kentucky (ca. 1790-abt. 1830), many of them could not read and write. They relied on lawyers and government officials to write their names for them. The records for the family turn up with their name spelled in several ways. I keep having to remember to check for alternate spellings.

Usually, the name was the familiar Reed. But often in the land and probate records I am finding Reid. And the family seems to have been a large one.

Now my job is to pick them apart and place them into family groups. There seem to have been two clusters in Shelby County, and I do not know if they were related to one another.

My own cluster lived along Elk Creek in what was then Shelby County but is now part of Spencer County. These members were my ancestor Caleb; his possible brothers Barnett/Barnard, David, and Joshua; and his sons Caleb C., Thomas, and John.

Other Reed/Reid men lived in other parts of the county. The most prominent one was Alex Reid. Their lands remained in Shelby County when Spencer County was carved out in 1824.

I believe I will need to make a spreadsheet to help me sort out all these men. It does not help when half the men in my family were named Caleb. The family in the other cluster did not seem to use that name.

This job will take some doing, but I have an advantage in this. The records from these counties have survived. I do have access to material that will help me create a good family tree for the Kentucky Reeds.