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Archive for the ‘Reed’ Category

New Clues in Old Kentucky

This year I am focusing my research on my third great-grandparents, Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869).

The first step was to review and analyze all the material I have collected concerning their children. They had five who reached adulthood:

  1. Robertson Mitchell Reed (1808-1871).
  2. Eliza Reed McAlister Walton (1810-1886).
  3. Jane Reed Galbreath (1817-1899).
  4. Caleb Reed (1818-1903).
  5. William Reed (1822-1845).

To accomplish this task, I emptied my Reed bin of everything concerning Thomas and his children. I also pulled all the pertinent Reed folders from the genealogy filing cabinet I inherited from a Reed cousin.

Much of her material duplicated my own research, and I was able to discard many extra copies of documents. Then I made sure to enter all the evidence into my database.

In the filing cabinet, I found a few papers I had not seen before.

One was an 1817 Kentucky land conveyance to Thomas Reed and his two brothers Caleb and John. The grantor parties included a man named Robert Robertson. I know nothing of this man, but I have often wondered why Thomas named his eldest son Robertson. Was the Robert Robertson in the land transaction the inspiration for Robertson Reed’s name? Was he related to Reeds?

The other discovery I made concerned a childhood friend of Thomas’ son, Caleb. The friend’s name was Robert Boyd, and I learned they had known one another in Spencer County, Kentucky. The two of them relocated to Coles County, Illinois and eventually married Carter sisters.

Now I am wondering whether Caleb Reed and Robert Boyd were more closely related than just in-laws. Caleb’s maternal grandmother was Jane Boyd, so it is possible that Robert Boyd was a member of her family.

A Boyd researcher has told me that they have reached a brick wall with the Kentucky Boyds. This line is crying out for further research. Perhaps the Reed/Kirkham connection to the Boyds offers a valuable clue.

Reviewing Reed documents already in my possession has uncovered some interesting avenues for learning more about the Reed family. The Robertson and the Boyd affiliations might give me a better understanding of my Reed line.

It Runs in Families

This year I am focusing my research on my third great-grandparents, Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869). They were among the original settlers in Coles County, Illinois in 1829.

One of their closest neighboring families, the McAlisters, settled there about the same time. The eldest two of the Reed children married McAlister siblings.

Healthwise, these marriages did not turn out well. The McAlister family had a pattern of early death:

  1. Robertson Reed (1808-1871) married Nancy McAlister (1815-1853). This couple had five known children before Nancy died at age 37. All but one of their children died young, too, including Daniel at age 23, Nancy Jane at age 34, William Fred at age 30, and Mary E. at age 19. Nancy Jane was the only child from this marriage to wed, but both her children died in infancy. Robertson and Nancy (McAlister) Reed have no descendants.
  2. Eliza Reed (1810-1886) married John Mitchell McAlister (1812-1836). The had one daughter before he passed away around the age of 24. The daughter Susan Ann (1835-1856), along with her only child, died from complications of childbirth when Susan was 20 years old. Eliza (Reed) and John McAlister have no descendants.

These Reed siblings who married into the McAlister family experienced much heartache. Robertson Reed lost his wife and outlived his oldest son. Several of his other children died about the same time he did. Eliza Reed McAlister witnessed the deaths of both a young husband and their daughter.

Both Robertson and Eliza remarried after the deaths of their first spouses. Their second marriages produced more children who lived long lives.

And what of the McAlisters? I have not done much research on this family. Their name does not survive in Coles County. Perhaps they died out, or maybe the surviving family members moved away.

The Reeds and the McAlisters had become fast friends when they first settled in Illinois. They must have had high hopes when their children joined in marriage. Those dreams were dashed when the McAlister grandchildren did not survive. Death at a young age stalked their family.

Robertson Reed Family Unveiled

Caleb Reed (1818-1903) was my second great-grandfather. He had an older brother named Robertson Reed (1808-1871). The details of Robertson’s family have eluded Reed researchers over the years.

Turns out that the reason for including little of their information in the 1988 The Reeds of Ashmore by my distant cousin Michael Hayden is that Robertson left few, if any, descendants.

Robertson lived in Ashmore Township, Coles County, Illinois. He was married twice and had seven children:

  1. Daniel. The unsourced Reed history calls him Daniel T. Reed (1836-1859) and says he never married. Daniel was listed on the 1850 US census as a 14-year-old in his father’s household. In 1860, a Dan Reed was on the Coles County mortality schedule. Dan P. Reed, 23, of Pleasant Valley Township had died in March (1860?) of lung fever. Were Daniel T. and Dan P. the same person? There is a FindAGrave memorial for Daniel Reed who was buried in the Reed Cemetery, but it claims the child lived only 2 months in 1837. Although these records conflict, it does seen clear that Robertson’s son Daniel had no children.
  2. Nancy Jane. She (1838-1872) and her husband Hezekiah Ashmore remained in the Ashmore area and had seven children. Robertson Reed may have Ashmore descendants.
  3. Caleb Robertson. “R” (1841-1903) inherited his father’s land. He never married.
  4. William Fred. This son (1844-1875) left Ashmore and went to Texas to work. He died there having never married. His body was returned to Ashmore to be buried there.
  5. Mary E. This young woman (1852-1872) never married.
  6. Joseph Van. He (1857-1936) survived the San Francisco earthquake and settled in Eugene, Oregon. He had a step-daughter.
  7. Anna Belle. This daughter (1860-1927) proved tricky to trace. A county history claimed she married Skyler Glassco from a local family. Further research revealed that she had not married a Glassco but instead a Glasgow. Anna Belle and Schuyler Glasgow eventually settled in Texarkana, Texas and had at least three children. One, Clara Glasgow Ellis, is buried near where I live. Anna Belle may have had other descendants as well.

From this, we see that of Robertson Reed’s seven children, only two daughters had families. There were no Reed-surnamed descendants, only Ashmores and Glasgows.

If Robertson has descendants who are living today, they have not turned up as DNA matches to my father or me. I still do not know whether Robertson’s line has just daughtered out or has ended altogether.

The Reeds and a Natural Disaster

American Ancestors, the family history center for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, puts out a genealogy related survey every week. Not long ago they asked whether an ancestor had been involved in a natural disaster.

I answered “no” because I was not aware of anyone who had been so affected. This week I learned that I may have such a connection after all.

I have come across an intriguing obituary that mentions my grandfather’s second cousin, Margueritte Reed (1894-1985), and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Here is the backstory. Our common ancestor Thomas Reed (1783-1852) settled in Coles County, Illinois. I am descended from the second son, Caleb (1818-1903). Caleb’s older brother and Margueritte’s ancestor was Robertson Mitchell Reed (1808-1871).

Robertson was married twice and had two families. When the Reeds in Illinois attempted to put together a family history during the 1980’s, they could find little information on the second wife, Margaret Potts (1819-1871) and her children. No one seemed to know how many children there were or what became of them.

An article in The History of Coles County, Illinois (1876) claims Robertson and Margaret had 4 children: James W. (1857); Kate L. (1859); Joseph V. who married a Gould and went to Eugene, OR; and Anna Belle who married Schyler Glassco and went to Alabama. I decided to search again for the fate of these children, beginning with boys since they are easier to trace.

I found no record of James W. Reed born in 1857.

I did locate Joseph Van Reed, son of Margaret and Robertson Reed, who was born that same year. Could these sons, James and Joseph, be the same person? At least one Reed descendant thought Joseph was nicknamed James, but I have found no proof of this.

Leaving that question aside for now, I continued to look into the life of Joseph Reed.

Further investigation told me that Joseph left Coles County for New York where he perhaps married into the Gould family. A daughter Margueritte was born in New York City in 1894. Her obituary does not tell me her mother’s name.

By 1900, Joseph had removed to the west coast where he was working as a restaurant keeper in Portland and living in a boarding house. He had no wife or daughter with him, and the census listed him as a single man. Sometime later he returned to Coles County where he married Mamie C. Emerson in 1905.

Both his obituary and that of his daughter say the family (presumably Joseph, Mamie, and Margueritte) lived in San Francisco after the marriage. Margueritte’s article goes on to say the family left there after the 1906 quake to settle in Oregon.

The Joseph Reed family probably resided in San Francisco during the historic earthquake. I do not know how they were affected by it, but perhaps its aftermath was the reason they left the area and resettled in Oregon.

Did the Reeds in Illinois know of Joseph Van Reed’s time in San Francisco? The county history mentioned only that he went to Eugene, OR. By the 1980’s the Reed family members who remained in Illinois did not know even that much about their cousin Joseph.

My quest to learn the fate of Joseph V. Reed has given me an outline of his life and uncovered an interesting connection to a famous natural disaster.

Did Robertson Reed and Margaret Potts Have Sons?

Over thirty-five years ago, a distant cousin wrote a genealogy of my Reed family. The Reeds of Ashmore by Michael Hayden traced the descendants of Thomas Reed (1783-1853), an original settler in Coles County, Illinois in 1829.

I descend from Thomas’ middle son Caleb, but he had two other sons as well, Robertson and William.

Robertson Mitchell Reed (1808-1871) was married twice. The Reeds of Ashmore includes extensive information on the family from his first marriage to Nancy M. McAlister but not so much on that of his second wife Margaret Ann Potts. The family genealogists at the time had difficulty learning whether there were 2, 3 or even 4 children. They had no idea of what became of them.

This week I decided to revisit this question. I began by searching for Robertson’s sons from the second marriage, reportedly James W. Reed (b. 1857) and Joseph M. or Joseph M. V. Reed (b. abt. 1860). These names came from census records and other county histories.

I needed to look at sources that have come available since then. I turned to a different county history, the Find A Grave site,, and

A clue in the History of Coles County, Illinois (1876-1976) seems to have been overlooked by previous researchers. It reported two sons, James W., born 1857, and Joseph V. who married a Gould and went to Eugene, OR. This was only a starting point because other family information in this source is unreliable and needs independent verification.

I proceeded to uncover the following records:

  1. I located a grave for Joseph Van Reed (1857-1936) in Eugene, Oregon. The site linked to his wife Mamie Reed (1871-1907), buried in the same cemetery.
  2. Ancestry had an Oregon death certificate for this Joseph, and it states that he was born in Illinois. He was predeceased by his wife Mamie. The informant was Mrs. Clayton R. Jones.
  3. showed an obituary for Joseph V. Reed. It did not include information on his family other than a surviving daughter, Mrs. Clayton R. Jones of Portland.
  4. Ancestry also had a 1905 marriage record for Joseph V. Reed and Mamie Emerson. They were married in Coles County, Illinois. The record states that Joseph V. Reed was the son of Robertson Reed and Margaret Potts.

These sources make it clear that Robertson and Margaret had a son, Joseph Van Reed, born in 1857 who married Mamie Emerson in Coles County in 1905. The couple then relocated to Eugene, OR where they remained for the rest of their lives.

So far I have found no record of another son named James W. Reed.

The earlier Reed researchers had thought Robertson Reed had two sons, James (1857) and Joseph (1860). Now I know that Joseph was the boy born in 1857, the purported birth year of James. No census record lists a James in the Robertson Reed household.

I believe Robertson Reed had just one son with Margaret Potts. He was Joseph Van Reed who may have been married more than once. His surviving daughter was too old to be the daughter of Mamie Emerson. After Joseph’s marriage to Mamie, the family went to Oregon to seek their fortune in gold. When she died a short time later, Joseph and his daughter Margueritte lived out their lives in that state.

Emptying the Reed Bin

Each year I select one family line for my research. When I run across material for other lines, I toss it into a stackable bin to be addressed later.

In the years since I last researched my Reed ancestors, their bin had started to overflow. I was eager to see what treasures were stored in there when I resumed the Reed research this year.

I began by sorting items by generation. Not only did I take papers from my own Reed bin, but I also pulled Reed research files compiled by a cousin. I found documents ranging for several generations back from my father:

  1. Earl Reed (1927-2017)
  2. Owen Herbert Reed (1896-1935)
  3. Samuel Harvey Reed (1845-1928)
  4. Joseph Caleb Reed (1818-1903)
  5. Thomas Reed (1783-1852)
  6. Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1835)
  7. Thomas Reed (dates unknown)

Throughout January, I analyzed and filed the documents from my father’s and grandfather’s generations. I tossed duplicates from my cousin’s files.

As for the rest, I found several treasures including information about a cousin’s time at the Merchant Marine Academy and an uncle’s cattle brand used while he homesteaded in Wyoming.

My bin of papers included numerous research notes for my great-grandfather Samuel Harvey Reed. He lived in several states, and much more investigation into his activities could be done. But he is not my research subject this year, so I will move on from him for now.

This month I will turn to his father’s papers to see what I can file, what can be tossed, and what needs to wait until a later time.

Once I accomplish this, I can begin the research on my intended topic for this year, Thomas Reed (1783-1852). He was born in Fayette County, PA. The family relocated to Spencer County, KY where he raised his family. When land further north opened for settlement in the 1820’s, Thomas did not follow the rest of his family to Indiana. Instead, he moved with his wife and children to Coles County, Illinois.

That is where I will pick up the research on him and his life.

Emptying a Cousin’s File Cabinet

An old filing cabinet in my office has four drawers. They are crammed full of folders. They contain the lifetime genealogical research of my dad’s first cousin who began the work when she was 18 and died at ninety-three. Seventy-five years of loving, careful investigation and documentation. I face the job of reviewing it all and disposing of these papers in some way.

Our common ancestry is our Reed line, and much of the material in the cabinet pertains to that lineage. This cousin often sent me copies of her work, and I suspect I have duplicates of many of her documents in my own files.

Merging our work has seemed a monumental task, and I have put it off for a very long time. The cabinet continues to sit there, challenging me to do something with it.

As I have resolved to continue the Reed research this year, I decided to begin at last by pulling the Reed files from her cabinet for review.

The first folder included everything she had collected on her brother, Leslie H. Reed (1924-2008). It included so many treasures—his original birth and death certificates, newspaper clippings of accomplishments such a graduating from the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy, and his marriage record from Italy.

This week I verified that all this information has been entered into my own database. I made copies for my own records of any document I did not already have.

Now, the question arises of what to do with the originals. Should I return them to Leslie’s children who have no interest in genealogy? Should I add them to my archival box of Reed original documents?

I am still pondering this question.

In the meantime, the filing cabinet contains one fewer file folder.

A Different Sort of Genealogy Project

New year, new project.

Last year I finished the research on the last of my second great-grandparents. This year I will begin working on third great-grandparents. I have 16 sets to choose from.

Since my maiden name is Reed, I will begin with those ancestors. I hope to learn more about Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869) this year.

Since the last time I visited this bunch, I have collected a lot of Reed material. I tossed it all in a stackable bin to wait until I am ready to analyze it. The paper pile reached several inches high. In addition to all this, one of my Reed cousins left her research to me. I have Reed file folders and notebooks from her to review, too.

Much of her material duplicates what I already have. I can discard those pages.

The rest I am sorting into generational piles. Working backwards, I will enter the information into my database until I reach Thomas and Ann. Then I can begin with new research.

This year’s project will not only give me a chance to learn more about earlier Reeds, but it will also purge a lot of paper from my office. A happy new year, indeed.

The Genealogy Stacks Disappear

The stacks of work-in-progress and other paperwork to be filed have disappeared from the table in my office. It did not happen by magic. I spent December, as I do every year, cleaning it all up.

It takes some time. I scrutinize each page, discard some, and file the rest in neat folders. I made new ones for all the Lawless and Ryan ancestors I discovered this year.

This tidying leaves clean work surfaces available for me to mess up again in 2023. I have 8 inches or so of documents for my Reed line waiting for attention. My father’s cousin left behind notebooks full of Reed information, too.

The first step in the Reed project will be to review these documents and add the information to my database. When I have accomplished this, I will begin some fresh research on this line, starting with my third great-grandparents, Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869).

They were original settlers in Coles County, Illinois in 1829. They will be my focus next year.

This will be my first attempt to do a research project on ancestors born in the 18th century. This couple grew up during the early Federal period. Records I am accustomed to searching did not exist at that time, and I will need to practice some new research techniques. It promises to be an interesting challenge.

The office is ready and waiting for me to begin in January.

Turning the Page on the Ryans

A year and a half ago, DNA testing identified my great-grandfather’s Ryan family. I have worked since then to fill in his branch of my family tree.

This new-found great-grandfather was last year’s subject for the annual biographical sketch I circulate at Christmas time.

I continued my research on the family in 2022. This year I have written about the previous generation, my great-great grandparents Daniel Ryan (1829-1863) and Jane Lawless (1826-1853).

This research required me to learn about Irish history and record-keeping. I attended several seminars and webinars on Irish research.

The Lawless family proved simple to track. They immigrated together. The ship passenger list gave me the names of the entire family. That allowed me to locate them in County Louth, Ireland.

The Ryans presented a more difficult research task, and I still have not found a family for Daniel Ryan. DNA matches point to an origin in Tipperary or Limerick.

As I approach the end of 2022, I am writing what I know about Daniel and Jane. The research on them is far from complete, but now my time with them is ending.

With this couple, I have completed biographical sketches of all my 2nd great-grandparents. Next year I can move back to an earlier generation with a set of 3rd great-grandparents.

I am tired of wrestling with the Irish. I have a bin of unprocessed material for my Reed line, so I will leave the Ryans behind and tackle the Reeds next.

This will be my first time with the Reeds, my direct paternal line. Cousins have done the heavy lifting on researching them back to the early 1800’s. I am curious to see what I can find about them in before 1800, where my cousins hit a brick wall.

Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869), I am eager to meet you.