Freaky Friday’s ~ The Name Game

freaky-friday-logoHave you ever come upon an ancestor whose last name is slightly different from their parents? Names like “John/Johnson, Anders/Anderson or perhaps, Issac/Isaacson”? Cultures that traditionally used patronymic family names gave the child the father’s first name then added the word son to it. In Norway, each son of Anders was an “Andersen” and every daughter was an “Andersdatter”.

The first known Patronymic naming of a child was in 1612. It became a very popular custom for those who had ventured to the New World. Many of the immigrants came seeking a new life or a new start so with that came a new variation of their name. I have one such ancestor name, John Dods. He was born in Great Neck, Yorkshire, England in 1571. He arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and married a woman named Jane shortly after that. When they began to have children (I only have proof of 2 sons) the boys were named Jesse and Benjamin Dodson.

Following this principle, I started doing some research into other cultures naming traditions. Basically, I was hoping to find any information about one of my brick wall ancestors, Jane Virtchworth. There is absolutely no documentation to be found for her. The source of Jane’s name appears to be a private letter written more than 100 years ago which stated, “Benjamin Goodin came from Wales and settled in Baltimore, Md ca 1750. He was m in Va in 1762 to Jane Virtchworth. He d. aged 101”. This information comes from “Descendants of James (Timothy) McClintock and Some Related Families…” by A. Louise (McClintock) Shelton, published in 1985. See footnote on page 19 for more details regarding the source of this letter. So during my research, I came across the following information:

Among the Welsh, every male child of David would be an “ap David” and everyWalesMap daughter a, “virtch David”. Using this information we could assume that Jane Virtchworth was really Jane virtch Worth. Her father’s first name was “Worth” and his family name — a patronymic — would have been “ap [what ever his father’s first name was]”. So my next step will be to search records in the Culpeper County, VA, and the Maryland area sometime between 1750 and 1762 to see if there may be an immigrant who arrived from Wales and has the first name of Worth with a daughter named Jane. This will be a tedious task and there is no guarantee that this method will work. However, I believe it would be worth a try.

I wonder how many other “Freaky” ways of attempting to tear down brick walls there are?


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Uncertain ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ #21

Uncertain signI know that everyone has at least one ancestor that they are “Uncertain” about. I have 2 that have driven me crazy for years. The first one I have written about a few times before. Pleasant Smith is my maternal Great Grandfather. He was born February 14, 1853 in Hazel Hill, Johnson County, MO and he married my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page (1860-1938) on April 13, 1882 in Lafayette County, MO. They had my Grandfather, John Pleasant Smith Sr. on September 8, 1882. This is basically all I am positive about. In the 1900 Census it has Sarah and my Grandfather living with John’s brother whose name is Pleasant. So, I can guess that Pleasant Sr. had been married before and had a son that was named after him. He is also missing from all Census records after 1880. This is what I know as fact, everything else is uncertain!

 My second uncertainty is also on my maternal side. Francis McGowan was born in Francis McGowan Common PleaCounty Dublin, Ireland in 1794. I don’t know when he arrived in America, but I do know he made a “common plea for naturalization” in Philadelphia, PA on March 3, 1811 at the age of 17. Sometime before 1830 he married Margaret L. “Peggy” Divine. According to the 1830 Census he was living in Monroe County, TN and he was a farmer. Each Census after this states the same. In the 1862 U.S. IRS, Tax Assessment Lists he owned 245 acres of land. Francis died in April 1871 at the age of 77.


Brick wallIn 2010, my husband and I made a trip to Missouri where I met my only McGowan cousin. She had been researching Francis for many years and she gave me a packet with lots of information concerning him. Most of it was transcripts of court cases in Monroe County, TN in which Francis was accused of fraud, selling his property to 3 different men over the course of 4 months and him being sued. I was fascinated by what I read! It wasn’t until I started to do a more comprehensive study into Francis that I realized that my cousin hadn’t sited her sources for all of the lawsuits. I have spent a multitude of hours looking through court records looking for proof, but none has been found. I contacted my cousin and she said she would send the sources to me, but since that was 7 years ago and I still haven’t received them, I won’t be holding my breath! So, at this point I am uncertain about the accuracy of the information I received and I will have to keep chiseling away at this enormous brick wall.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Saturday Dilemma ~ One Less Brick in this Brick Wall

Brick wallA week ago Wednesday I wrote a blog for the 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks about my favorite discovery. I wrote how, after over 20 years of searching I finally found information on my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page. I also express my frustration with the fact that I still had no leads on my Great Grandfather Pleasant Smith. It is amazing what a difference a week can make.

I am still missing a huge amount of documentation and facts about Pleasant but last Pleasant Smith burgalar 22 March1890 Lex Intelligencerweekend when they offered the free searches on, I took advantage of it. Let me tell you a little background before I move forward. I have Pleasant’s date of birth because it was written in my baby book. I know this is not evidence nor proof however all of the other names and dates have proven correct, so I believe this one is also. I do have my Great Grandparents’ marriage records and his name on my Grandfathers death certificate. I also have the wild tale my mother had told us when we were growing up. It was that Pleasant had been a Creek Indian and he was murdered, dismembered and placed on the railroad tracks because he had left the tribe. His remains were found before the train came. No time frame was given so from Sarah’s marriage to her third husband in 1894 I assumed he must have died prior to that.

Pleasant Smith burgalar 25 Jam 1890 Lex Intelligencer CaughtNow to my latest discovery. I knew that my Great Grandparents had lived in the Dover Missouri area. So, I looked in the Lexington Intelligencer newspaper for his name and gave it a 10-year window from his death date estimation for searching. Imagine my surprise when a Pleasant Smith popped up. I read the short article and thought this can’t be him. This person had been arrested in 1890 for burglary and larceny of a store in Waverly, Missouri. He was being sentenced to 3 years at the Missouri State Penitentiary. I started to “turn the page” when I noticed one of the men who were also named in the article. The name was John Page. I realize this isn’t solid proof, but Sarah had a brother named John! I kept searching and found 2 more articles about the burglary and sentencing. I then went to the website for the State Penitentiary and found his intake information. Again, not proof but it described Pleasant as fair-skinned with blue eyes.  My Grandfather and my mother had fair skin and blue eyes. At least I have a lead I can try to follow.

I contacted the Missouri Historical Society which holds the Penitentiary files and theyPleasant Smith Prision Record discharge date told me they will send me all the information they have on him. I am excited to see where this may lead. Now I am thinking that the “story” my mother told us was either part of her mental illness or it may be that the family was so embarrassed by Pleasant’s actions that they made up the story. I also am thinking maybe Pleasant and Sarah got a divorce before she got remarried and he wasn’t dead.

I anxiously await the information from the Historical Society and now I believe I have been able to knock one more brick off Pleasant’s wall.

My dilemma is: where to go next in finding his death information. Any Suggestions?



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Favorite Discovery ~ That 20 Year Brick Wall ~ #52Ancestors Week 7

favoriteMy maternal Great Grandparents Pleasant Smith and Sarah Jane Page had been a solid brick wall since I began researching over 20 years ago. Basically, all I had to go on were their names and dates of birth that had been handwritten in my baby book. I had one story about my Pleasant that my mother had told me while growing up, however, it was a wild tale that will probably never be proven. I spent so much time searching for Pleasant that I rarely looked for Sarah, but when I did nothing came up.

About 4 years ago I made the decision to make more of an effort to find Sarah. Before when I couldn’t Pleasant Smith Sarah Jane Page MLfind anything I would get frustrated and move on to my dad’s side of the family. So I began with renewed focus and determination. For weeks I searched using variations of her name, her date, and place of birth and the estimated date of marriage using my Grandfather’s birth date. I searched on many different sites but to no avail. I don’t really remember what I did at the time but suddenly their marriage information popped up. Her name was listed as Sarah J. McDowell! She had been married before Pleasant. I quickly looked for her previous husband and after I verified the information I added his name to the tree. I was surprised at all the information I found.

Sarah Jane Page HS with James NewhouseSarah married the first time when she was 16 years old. I couldn’t find a divorce record so I researched her husband, James McDowell and found he had been remarried before Sarah married Pleasant so I assumed there had been a divorce. I mentioned earlier about the wild tale I was told about Pleasant, well maybe some of it had been true. I have never found a death record or any record for him after the birth of my Grandfather. What I did find was Sarah had been married a total of 4 times, once before Pleasant and twice afterward. Her last husband James Newhouse was her longest one with 44 years of marriage and it was also the one that led me to her Fathers name!

From there I have been able to trace this line back to 1525 in England. The family arrived in Colonial America in 1645 and produced many statesmen and prominent men in the State of Virginia. Many fought in the wars that came and several served in the legislature. I am so glad I didn’t give up trying to find Sarah!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Saturday’s Dilemma ~ Lewisa Bean

question markThis is the ancestor that I have the least amount of information about. There has been a lot of debates on concerning her name, year of birth, and marriage. Let’s take a look at what I do know about her.


My 3 x Great Grandmother, Lewisa Bean as born in 1860 in Shenandoah County, Virginia. She married John Parrott, the founder of Parrotsville, Cocke Co, Tennessee, on June 27, 1881. Reverend Jacob Snyder performed the ceremony. She was John’s second wife.

Over the next 17 years, the had 5 children. The 3 sons were Joseph, Larue, and Jacob. The 2 daughters were Rachel and Catherine. Catherine is my 2x Great Grandmother.

She apparently died in Parrotsville, TN. Date unknown.

There is great controversy as to her name. First the spelling. In most of the Ancestry John Parrott Lewisa Bean MLtrees, I find it listed as Louise or Louisa.  Some of them have the name, Louisa Lucy. I understand that there are different ways to spell names and Louise or Louisa could be another way of writing Lewisa. However, as of this writing, I only have one document pertaining to her and her name is Lewisa on it. I have never found anything with either of the other 2 spellings or with the middle name of Lucy. That brings us to the year of birth and the year she got married.

Lewisa Bean John Parrott ML.I found one “record” of their marriage in the publication “A History of Shenandoah County, Virginia”. It states that they got married at the date listed above. It has her name spelled as “Lewisa”. However, there is a “U.S. and International Marriage Record” that has a Louise Bean marrying a John Parrett in 1861. If this was Lewisa she would have gotten married when she was 1 year old!  Also, her last child was born in 1899 so calculating this she would have been anywhere between 55 to 60 years old when Catherine was born. One thing that people keep pointing out to me is the marriage month and day are the same on both “records”, just the year is different.

So, as you can see, until I find more concrete documentation I am at a standstill. I have turned off the comments on Lewisa’s page so I don’t continue to get harassed because of these discrepancies.

Does anyone have any suggestions of where I may look for more information on her?


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.







Saturday’s Dilemma ~ Peter Walt, Where Are You?


Peter Walt is my Maternal 2x Great Grandfather. I haven’t had much luck finding information or documents on him. Here is what I do know.


Peter Walt was born in Nov 1839 in New Germany, New Brunswick, Canada.  He immigrated to America in 1857 at the age of 18. He arrived in St. Clair Co. Illinois

Peter Walt 1850 Census

In 1860 (Census) he was living in Grape Grove Missouri. He is listed as being 20 years old and working as a carpenter. He is living with a friend John Taylor aged 21 also a carpenter. John was born in England.

Peter married Elizabeth Marsh in 1861 in Ray County Missouri. Elizabeth was born December 31, 1841, in Chillicothe, Livingston County, Missouri to Henry Marsh and Elizabeth Chestnutt.

They had their first of 10 children, my Great Grandmother Asenath “Dolly” Walt on February 27, 1863, in Camden, Ray County Missouri. Dolly married John Henry McGowan in 1887.

Peter Walt 1863

He registered for the Civil War Draft in Camden in 1863. He is listed as an Alien born in Canada.


From 1863 until 1900 they resided in Camden.  In the 1900 Census, they were living in Richmond, Ray County, Missouri.

This is where Peter’s trail ends. In the 1910 Census, Elizabeth is living with her son John and his wife in Kansas. She is listed as being a widow. So, Peter died sometime between 1900 and 1910. The state of Missouri has a wonderful collection of death certificates available for free online. Unfortunately, they only go from 1910 to 1969 so he died before 1910.


I do not have proof of his birth date nor his death date and location. According to the Civil War Draft Registration Records, he was born “Abt” 1840. I only have his city of birth in Canada because his son, John listed it in one of his Census’s.


Just writing this out like this has given me some new ideas of where I can search. Any suggestions you may have as to where I may find more information on Peter would be greatly appreciated. Wish me luck!


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Fresh Start ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks


I decided to participate in the 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge this year. I tried it a few years ago and although I enjoyed it I didn’t complete it. Let’s see how far I get this time!

The theme for this week is “Fresh Start”. I have hundreds of Ancestors who had fresh starts. Many came to Colonial America looking for a better life, and many more of my family moved west for the same reason.  Some remarried after the death of a spouse. So, the problem was, which one should I write about? After much thought, I decided to take a different look at a “Fresh Start”.

You see, I have one brick wall in my maternal line that has driven me batty since I first began researching my lineage. I have tried every method that could find and I did make a few minor finds, but I still only have minimal information on him.


I decided to make a “Fresh Start” in the hunt for my Great Grandfather, Pleasant/Plesent Smith born February 14, 1853, in Hazel Hill. Missouri. My goal is to revisit all the information I currently have and to start thinking outside the box, looking for new ways to obtain what I need.

I have also made the decision to release my quest for trying to verify the family lore concerning him. I believe this may be what is hindering my searching.  The following is the story my mother told us about him when we were young children.

creek indianPleasant Smith was a Creek Indian Chief who left the tribe to marry my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page. They had one son John Pleasant Smith. Sometime after this, he was found murdered. His body was discovered dismembered and placed on the railroad tracks to make it look like he had been hit by a train. He was found before the train was to pass through town. The murderers were never found. A few years after his death my Great Grandmother received a letter from the Creek Tribe addressed to Pleasant Smith, but she never opened it. She sent it back to the addressee.

Let the journey to find the real Pleasant Smith begin!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

The Importance of Family Interviews

We moved to our new house a little over 3 months ago. I have been slow to get some things unpacked so I thankfulmade the decision a month ago that I would get my stored Genealogy research out of the shed and put it away. Of course, you know how that went. Once I got it all in the house I HAD to take a look at it and I spent hours browsing. Lo and behold, I found something a cousin gave me almost 10 years ago when I visited her on a trip to Missouri.

Rosie and baby
Rosie Hayes

One of our cousins, John Duane Willard had the foresight to interview the last living child of my Great Grandparents Hamilton Hayes and Elvira Register, Rosa “Rosie” Lucille Hayes (1901-1988). The interview took place shortly before her death so she was about 87 years old. She gave information on the family and told some great stories. Because of her age, some of the facts were off a bit but it inspired me to take a closer look.


Elisia Jane White Register pic
Eliza White

Since she provided information on both my Hayes and Register lines I have had fun with the research. Reading through the two paged typed transcript I noticed a few things I didn’t see the first time I read it. One discovery was that Elvira’s mother Eliza Jane White had lived to be 99 years and 9 months old! It also listed her two siblings which I never knew of. Eliza has been one of my brick walls, so because of this interview, I now have vital information to work with. I have found her Grandparents information and I am working on finding more. I was also able to add two more generations to the Hayes side.

Matthew Arvin Register pic THIS ONE
Mathew Register

The stories are insightful as well. From what she said Mathew Register, Elvira’s father was quite a character. He transported horses, cattle, and supplies from St. Joseph Missouri to the Cherokee Strip in eastern Kansas. After years of doing this, he established a career as a vocal music teacher. He was supposed to have had an exceptional singing voice. He grew tobacco and Hemp on his farm. As an old man, he owned an apple orchard near Hodge Missouri. He raised Golden Seal apples and ginseng root. Rosie helped him wash the root so they could be sold to the public.

All this (and the other information given) would have been lost to ours and future generations if John hadn’t taken the time to sit with Rosie and write down her stories. I believe so much of our history is gone forever because we didn’t listen to the stories or information told to us as we grew up or that we have neglected to ask someone what they remember about the family while there was still time. I interviewed my in law’s a few years ago while working on my husbands’ Genealogy. I taped it so I could hear it, again and again, to make sure I got it right. Almost 3years ago my father-in-law was killed in an auto accident and I am thankful that I have his stories recorded for future generations.

I have decided that I am going to be more diligent with my seeking out the older generation that is left in my family to see what they may have been told or what they remember about our Ancestors. As we all know, tomorrow is not guaranteed so we need to do it while there is still time.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

In My Wildest Dreams

Ok, this title sounds kind of strange coming from a Genealogist. It does make you wonder what kind of dreams do people in this profession have and why would they write a blog about it?

bg-dreamcloudActually, this blog is about a dream that I would love to have come true! A couple of weeks ago I was walking through the cemetery where my grandson is buried. We live close by, so quite often I walk over, and I spend time looking at the headstones and the flowers left by loved ones. I find it peaceful and it gives me a chance to just think. This cemetery was built-in 1883, a youngster compared to other parts of the country. There are many types of headstones of various shapes and sizes. I sometimes contemplate as to why the family chose this particular one. I may be odd, but these things fascinate me.

I came across a headstone and thought “If only I could find one like this in my family!”. IElla McGowan Smith headstone have been cross-country, visiting the cemeteries of my ancestors and taking photos. They usually look like the one I posted here. This is my Grandma Smiths stone. It is very plain and has just the basic information on it. Name, Date of Birth and Death and the word “Mother” on it. Don’t get me wrong I was thrilled to find it in a little graveyard in Buckner Missouri. But it was nothing like the one I just found.

Digital CameraLet me introduce you to Rosalie Nichols Woods. In this one headstone, I was able to garner quite a bit about her and her family. First, her maiden name was Nichols. Second. Her husbands’ name was Murray Edwin. Third, since there is no death date on Murray’s’ side, I assume he is still alive. Fourth, the date they got married, June 6, 1947, is included on the front as well as the normal dates of birth and death. This gave me a small look into their lives.

I walked on by and I happened to look behind me and there it was….my dream. On the Digital Camerabackside of the stone was listed the names of their 6 children and their spouses! 3 boys and 3 girls. What a nice, big family they had. I then started thinking of all my deceased ancestors where I have had problems verifying a family connection because I don’t have some of the children/sibling’s names or marriage date. With this headstone, there would be no doubt of the connection. I wonder if Rosalie loved Genealogy.

What is your “wildest dream” when it comes to Genealogy?



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


The Broader Technique

My Maternal Great Grandfather, Pleasant Smith has always been a mystery. When I first broaderstarted my research over 20 years ago, I only had his name, date of birth and the name of my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page. I had a few stories that my mother had told me about him when I was younger, but I couldn’t find anything that would validate them. So, I continued to search in hopes of a breakthrough.

I would love to report that the solid cement wall that blocked me from finding any shred of information had fallen down and the life of Pleasant had been revealed. But I can’t. What I can say is I do know a little more about his life thanks to the broader technique.

Sarah Jane Page ML James Newhouse 2It all started when I was trying to break through my Great Grandmothers brick wall a few years back. She was 22 years old when she married Pleasant. Back in the mid-1800s, that was a little late for a woman to get married. I decided to take a second look at the “hints” that came up when I entered her information. I discovered she had gotten married and had a daughter when she was 16.  Her husband died when she was 21 and she then married Pleasant who was 29 years old. Once I had her previous marriage info, I was able to find her parents, her grandparents, etc. I also found her siblings names. As a result, I found that one of her younger sisters had also married a Pleasant Smith! As a matter of fact, after Sarah became a widow she got married again and, on her marriage license, I found that the ceremony had taken place at the home of  Pleasant Smith.

I began to broaden my search into this “new Pleasant Smith”. That is when I found that he was the son of my Great Grandfather and his first wife Charity. I still felt like I did not have sufficient proof that the two Pleasants’ were father and son. I continued my search and found the younger one’s death certificate. His parents were listed, and they matched. However, it was solidly confirmed when I saw that my Uncle was listed as the informant on the certificate.

I am still looking for more records on the elusive Pleasant Sr. I know someday I will find what I am searching for. Because of this experience I have applied this “Broader Technique” to some of my other brick walls with great success. When I find any name that is listed on marriage licenses, wills, deeds etc. I make a note of them along with any dates or where they lived. Then I take the time to research that person. You never know who your ancestor may have crossed paths with. You can also use the U.S. Federal Census as a guide. Research your ancestors’ closest neighbors. Sometimes they have had interactions that have been documented and it may lead you to new discoveries. Sometimes we need to broaden our search field to find the hidden treasures!


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.