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A Family Divided

We just celebrated Independence Day, and I began thinking about the patriotism of my own family.

The Reeds lived in the northern United States in the colonies of New Jersey and Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War. They moved south to Kentucky in the early 1790s. So, did their loyalties lie with the North or the South seventy years later during the Civil War? By then the family had continued to migrate, and branches of the family lived far apart from one another.

My own line of the Reed family was in southern Illinois. Thomas Reed (1783-1852) became a pioneer settler in Coles County in 1829. Illinois was a Union state, but many residents of the southern counties had come from Kentucky and were Southern sympathizers. The allegiance of these Reeds cannot be assumed.

Thomas’s next younger sister Abigail (1785-1854) moved to Texas with her second husband Joseph Shaw (1789-1865) around 1835. Texas became a Confederate state.

Before their moves, Thomas and Abigail had been close. His wife Ann Kirkham (1782-1869), and Abigail’s first husband John Kirkham (1779-1809) were also siblings. Their families did not relocate in opposite directions until the Reed siblings were in their mid-40s.

Yet they did separate with one going north and the other going south. Why? And what did that mean for the sides they chose in the Civil War?

Thomas’s middle son, Caleb, who was my ancestor, had been just eleven years old when the family parted. His cousins Josiah Shaw and Peter Van Dyke Shaw were about the same age as Caleb. They were all tweens, as we would say, when their families left Kentucky.

I do not know whether they ever saw one another again or if they kept in touch. There must have been some communication because Thomas and Abigail each received legacies in their father’s 1832 will, probated in Indiana.

But how much influence did their family ties have on the thinking of these cousins when the war broke out thirty years later? Longtime Kentucky residents Thomas and Abigail had died well before the conflict began in 1861. Their sons probably knew that their birth state of Kentucky never joined the Confederacy even though many in that state supported its cause. Which way should they turn?

Caleb Reed was 41 years old when the war began. He had lived in Illinois since childhood. As far as we know, he did not serve. Given his Kentucky roots and his location in southern Illinois, he could have supported either side. We do know that his brother-in-law, childhood friend, and neighbor Robert Boyd lost two sons to the Union cause. If Caleb’s family and the Boyds were alike in their politics, perhaps the Reeds were loyal to the Union, too.

On the other hand, Abigail’s Texas family made a different decision and became true Confederates. Josiah served as a Captain in the Texas state troops. Peter was a Lieutenant in Rabb’s Company, CSA.

So one sibling’s (Thomas) family likely stayed loyal to the Union while the other one’s (Abigail) family joined the Confederacy. The explanation lies in their roots.

The Reeds had come from the northern colonies of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Most returned to the north after their stint in Kentucky. Thomas went to Illinois while his sisters Rachel Elliott and Elizabeth Harris and his brother John Reed all migrated to Indiana, a Union state. Their older sister Sarah Johns’ family went to Missouri where three of her sons fought, and one died, for the Union.

Abigail, on the other hand, married Joseph Shaw who was born in Tennessee. He had a deep southern identity and always lived in the South. He spent two years in a Mexican prison while fighting for Texas independence. Abigail and her husband were in Texas when it became a republic. The South and Texas held the hearts of the Shaw family despite Abigail’s family ties.

Thus, the Reed descendants of the Revolutionary War generation had some divided loyalties during the war between the states. Most remained true to the Union. One branch, for understandable reasons, served on the other side.

Revolutionary War Soldiers

As Independence Day approaches, my thoughts turn to those family members who served in the Revolutionary War:

  1. Gershom Hall (1760-1844). This Harwich man served a 90-day stint guarding the Massachusetts coast to prevent a British invasion. I joined the DAR based on his service record.
  2. Robert Kirkham. This Virginian served at Boonesborough. He took part in a raid across the Ohio River to attack a Shawnee village, preventing them from aiding the British. I have a supplemental DAR application based on his service pending at the DAR.
  3. John Day. Another Virginian, he served in the militia. I have not compiled an application based on his service yet. I am not sure I can find the documentation necessary to link up all the generations between him and me.

I have several other ancestors whose lineage and service I have yet to document:

  1. Levi Carter (b. 1737) and Caleb Carter (1758-1811). This father and son probably served from North Carolina or Tennessee. We do not yet have enough information on this lineage or service to submit a DAR application.
  2. Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1832). The Reeds lived in Fayette Co., PA during the War. Caleb’s brother Joshua Reed served in the Virginia militia. Although Caleb was the right age to serve, we have found no proof that he did. I have this lineage proven, so I could submit a DAR application if I could find evidence that he supported the war effort in some other way.
  3. Robert Templeton. He was of the Revolutionary War generation and lived in Tennessee, but I know nothing more about him. I have done no research on the Templetons although my dad’s cousins did. Their papers remain in a file drawer awaiting review.

At the DAR, we can order an engraved pin with our ancestor’s name and service once the application is approved. So far, I have one pin and one pending application. It would be nice to make the case for more and preserve their lineage and service information.

An Old Kentucky Home

Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1832) settled his family along Elk Creek in Spencer County, Kentucky in the 1790s. Family members lived in the area until 1830 or so but left few footprints. I was thus excited to visit a place that dates from their time in the county. An original house with a family connection still stands.

Caleb’s second wife was Elizabeth Van Dyke whom he married in 1816. The Van Dykes were a prominent family who owned a grist mill on nearby Brashears Creek. Their home, built in the 1790s, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

When we visited Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, we decided to stop in for a look. We found Spencer to be a rural county, and we had to drive along many narrow roads, some dirt, to find the house. It lies across the road from the creek and sits back by several yards.

The exterior of the home looked well maintained. A vehicle was parked outside, and building materials were stacked alongside the house. No one seemed to be around.

Then we noticed someone on a tractor cutting hay in a nearby field. He spotted us, too, and drove over.

He was the owner of the place, and we explained why we were there. He was interested to meet people with a connection to the Van Dykes, even if it is just by marriage.

He explained that he is restoring the place in hopes of retiring there. Then he invited us inside for a tour.

What a delightful time we spent there! The original part of the house has two rooms up and two rooms down. He has used reclaimed wood from an old tobacco barn for the floors. The staircase is a rare, split style. The rooms on the ground floor have the original fireplaces, one at each end of the house. He is trying to save the original plaster on the walls.

I wonder if my ancestor Caleb Reed ever visited there. He did marry into the family that built the house. I like to think he may have walked through that doorway.

I was thrilled to see the place, and I owe a big thanks to my husband/tech advisor for driving me to another obscure place to find my roots.

The Corn Stalk Militia of Kentucky

Not often does one run across a new genealogical source. We tend to focus on the familiar ones like census records, vital records, court records, pension records, and cemetery records. But how many of us have consulted or even heard of the records of the “Corn Stalk” Militia in Kentucky?

I, for one, did not know that such an organization even existed. I came across a reference to it while preparing for an upcoming research trip by reviewing the holdings of the genealogy collections in the Louisville and Taylorsville, Kentucky libraries.

The Militia was active from 1792-1811, or from statehood until the onset of the War of 1812. It was created to meet the need for a military establishment on the frontier. It was called the “Corn Stalk” Militia because regimental musters were held in October each year. The troops had no firearms for drills and often used corn stalks in the place of guns.

Free males between the ages of 18 and 45 were liable for militia duty. My Reed family lived in Shelby County, Kentucky during the years of the Militia. Our men would have been eligible to serve in the militia during the years of its existence.

I decided to investigate what records of the militia might be available. On Family Search, I located a digitized book about the Militia. The author, G. Glenn Clift of the Kentucky Historical Society, included a fine index of militia officers. In it, I found the names of several Reads, Reeds, and Reids. It includes names from my own family tree including Caleb Reed and his sons Thomas and John.

Were these militia officers my family members?

The answer will take more investigation. The indexed men served in different ranks from various regiments. I will need to see which Reed militiamen served in Shelby County where my family lived.

If I can make the case that men on the roster were my family members, I can look for records of military actions by their units. These accounts would add some wonderful information to my family story.






A Family Needed for Rebecca Carr Reed

My Reed family preserved information about our ancestors beginning with their migration from Kentucky to Coles County, Illinois in 1829. We knew that Thomas Reed (1783-1852) made this trip with his family when the Illinois land opened for settlement. We did not know who his parents were.

After diligent research in the Kentucky records, my dad’s Reed cousins determined that Thomas was the son of Caleb Reed. They guessed the mother’s name was Rebecca [Carr?], but they never found documentation for this.

Other Reed researchers have made the same claim about the mother’s identity. Rebecca Carr, mother of Thomas and wife of Caleb, appears on the unified family tree on the Family Search website. How accurate is this information?

The first name Rebecca seems correct. Shelby County, Kentucky marriage records contain a permission from Rebecca and Caleb Reed for their daughter Sally to marry Thomas Johns in 1799. This source is cited on the Family Search page for Rebecca Carr Reed. Family Search provides no source for her maiden name.

Much of the other information for Rebecca seems on this site seems suspect. She was purportedly 13 years older than her husband. They went on to have 7 children together beginning when Rebecca was 41 and ending when she was 59. It seems unlikely that she was born in 1740 as the site claims.

Some of the grandchildren carried the middle name Carr, lending weight to the hypothesis that Rebecca was a Carr. The Reeds had Carr neighbors in Kentucky.

If Rebecca was a Carr, more information is needed to verify this claim.

The 1799 marriage permission, signed by Rebecca, was an exciting find. So far, it is the only document we have located that includes her name. Now we need something that provides a better birth date and places her into her natal family.


A Reed Family in Early Kentucky

Thomas Reed (1785-1852) was born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. He grew up in Kentucky and later settled in Coles County, Illinois. My father’s cousins had done a tremendous amount of genealogical work on his family, but newer sources have become available from home since they compiled their information. This year I have worked to see what I can add to Thomas’ story.

We know he went to Kentucky with his family when he was a boy. The family settled there along Elk Creek by 1792, the year Kentucky became a state. Thomas’ father Caleb appeared on the tax list for Shelby County that year. Thomas was about 7 years old.

Their part of Shelby County was carved out into the new Spencer County about three decades later in 1824 while Thomas still lived there. The search for Thomas in the records thus requires work in both counties.

Working backwards timewise, I began with Spencer County. Family Search has several records from this county available online. I was able to view marriages, the Court Order Book, tax records, probate and guardian records, and Commissioner’s deeds.

From these records I learned that Thomas’ older brother Caleb C. Reed died about 1828, a date we did not know before. The Court Order book and the guardian files told me that Caleb’s wife Prudence (Kirkham) Reed was named guardian of their children.

Thomas and Caleb C., along with their younger brother John, jointly owned a tract of land in Spencer County. They had paid for it in installments. When the time came for them to receive the deed, Caleb C. was dead and so were some of the grantors. Title to the land needed to be sorted out by the Court. The story was told in the Court Order Book and the Commissioner’s Deed book. Thomas, John, and Caleb C.’s children received title to the land.

As I continue my search into Thomas’ life, I will turn next to the Shelby County records. The Reed cousins gave me a history of Shelby County, and I have already reviewed it. Over the next few days, I hope to look at Shelby records like the ones available for Spencer County.

Armed with that information, I will head out on a road trip through Kentucky this summer. I plan to stop in Taylorsville, the county seat of Spencer County, to look at their genealogical holdings. I will also spend some time in the genealogy stacks at the Louisville, Kentucky library.

Doing research in the time of America’s early republic is new territory for me. I want to know all I can about Thomas and his life.

WikiTree Finds a Connection

Some DAR chapters run book clubs, and mine has one. This month we read a new biography, The Revolutionary, Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff. During our discussion, one member of the club reported that she is an Adams descendant.

With Massachusetts ancestors myself, I wondered if I, too, might have a connection to this illustrious family. I turned to the Connection Finder tool on the WikiTree website to find out.

I had set up a family tree on this site a few years ago when I began corresponding with some relatives in Finland. They used this site to post our Finnish family tree. I have added other lines since then. Doing so gave me the clue I needed to identify my Mayflower ancestors.

When I ran the WikiTree search for a connection to Samuel Adams, I found no match. I am not related to him.

Next, I queried for a connection to Samuel’s cousins, President John Adams and his son President John Quincy Adams. There I did find a connection, not through the Adams family but through the family of Abigail Adams, the wife and mother of the Presidents.

She was born Abigail Smith. WikiTree located our common English ancestor several generations before Abigail. Our kinship is quite distant, but WikiTree does claim one. It also found a relationship by marriage in a later generation. Whether these connections are valid or not depends on the accuracy of the genealogical work done by the people who posted the family trees.

I hope I am related to this famous First Lady. She seems a worthy family connection to have.

Beware of Online Genealogical Claims

Online genealogy sites can provide valuable genealogical information. People can post their family trees and link their family members to one another on these sites. We can then use this information to help extend our own family lines.

Yet one must be cautious when reviewing this type of information. These pages are secondary sources at best, and facts must be verified.

This week I found Reed family information that I believe is incorrect posted on two such sites:

  1. Family Search. This site has a crowd sourced family tree. There I found my ancestor’s second wife, but she was reportedly married to his son, not him. Caleb Reed (1756-abt 1832) married Elizabeth Van Dyke in Shelby County, Kentucky in 1816. Caleb had a namesake son, Caleb C. Reed (d. 1829), who lived in the same county. The online tree at Family Search claims the son, not the father, married Elizabeth Van Dyke. A close review of Shelby County records reveals that Caleb C. Reed had married a different woman, Prudence Kirkham, in 1812, several years before the Van Dyke marriage. In 1829, Caleb C. Reed’s widow Prudence Reed offered his will for probate and became guardian of his children. Caleb C. Reed did not marry Elizabeth Van Dyke while married to Prudence. Elizabeth was his stepmother after her marriage to his father.
  2. Find A Grave. Sometime after Caleb C. Reed’s death, Prudence relocated her family to Sullivan County, Indiana. She is buried in the Little Flock Cemetery there. Her Find A Grave memorial is linked to that of a purported husband, Caleb S. Reed who was buried nearby in 1866. We know from the Shelby County, KY records that her husband Caleb C. Reed died much earlier, in 1829. Contrary to the information posted on Find A Grave, Caleb S. Reed was not her husband and not the father of her children. The confusion here is understandable because Caleb was a common name in our family.

Whenever I come across mistakes such as these, I sigh and wonder how much effort I should make to correct the information. I do not like to see errors perpetuated, but posting better information takes time away from my own research.

I did send a message to Find A Grave asking them to edit the connection between Prudence Reed and Caleb S. Reed. I may take the time to correct the Family Search online tree because the senior Caleb Reed was my ancestor.

Prudence Kirkham and the Reeds lived long enough ago that they had many descendants. For their sake, the record should be correct.

An Amazing Opportunity Comes My Way

The organizer of our upcoming annual Colorado Genealogical Society seminar called me earlier this month with a request. Would I stop by the hotel on my way to the seminar and pick up our speaker, Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist?

Of course I am more than glad to do this. I have long admired Judy. I keep up with her blog. The opportunity to meet her and talk about genealogy is something I do not want to miss.

Years of following her blog have given me a lot of background information about her. She has roots in Madison County, Kentucky, and I do, too. She is half German, like my husband/tech advisor. We can find common interestes to talk about.

In past years our Society has awarded lunch with the speaker as a seminar door prize. I have never won, and I do not know if that will happen this year.

In any case, I think my chance to transport the well-known Legal Genealogist beats that. I will not have to share her with a group at lunch. We will have time for a memorable (for me!) conversation.

As the kids say, I am so stoked.

A Visit to the South

Now that it is spring, I find myself planning another genealogy road trip. We will go south this time to visit historic sites, cemeteries, and perhaps a library or two.

Our sight-seeing loop will include places I always have hoped to see:

  1. Chalmette National Cemetery in Louisiana. My second great-grandfather, Daniel Ryan, was re-interred here when it was built for Union Civil War dead.
  2. Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi. Another great-grandfather’s cousin, George Boyd, fought and died here during the Civil War.
  3. St. Augustine, Florida. We will tour this oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the United States.
  4. Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The American Civil War began with the battle here.
  5. Cowpens National Battlefield in South Carolina. I do not know whether any of my Carter relatives participated in the Revolutionary War battle at Cowpens, but we will take a look at the area as we pass through.
  6. Fort Boonesborough State Park in Madison County, Kentucky. Several ancestors lived in this county. One, Robert Kirkham, served here during the Revolutionary War.
  7. Lindsborg, Kansas. We will stop here to check out the biennial Swedish Festival. We are not Swedish, but we are part Scandinavian. The food and entertainment should be good.

We have completed most of the planning for this trip. The only detail left to determine is whether to stop at the municipal libraries in the Louisville, Kentucky area.

I need to search their online catalogs to see what they may have that is not available digitally. Family Search has a rich store of records for Shelby and Spencer counties where my Reed ancestors resided. To find anything more than that might require an archival visit. That would be beyond the scope of the trip we envision.