Tracing Female Ancestors Through A Child’s Records
Tracking down our female ancestors requires thinking “outside the box”. Always focusing on her may not yield the desired results. By taking our focus off of our female ancestor, we can be sure of exhausting all possibilities of finding her in the records.
We’ve discussed shifting our focus to your elusive female ancestor’s children in a previous post.
[Go ahead and click over to read it. I’ll wait.]
Now that you are convinced of the need to shift your focus off of the female ancestor you are researching, let’s take a closer look at this in action.
Tracing Female Ancestors Through A Child’s Records
We are starting with John White (~1775-1840) of Surry County, North Carolina. John by himself has been difficult enough to research. (Could there be a more common name in NC and VA!) Once John White himself was sorted out, the question became:
Who was the WIFE of John White?
Earlier research into John White revealed he came to Surry County, NC from Caswell County, NC where he lived on the Caswell and Rockingham County line. He had several known children: Etha Malinda, Nancy Ann, Albert, John, and Joseph. Other children have been attributed to him, but not definitively proven to date. Evidence also indicated John was pre-deceased his wife.
Along with these facts, oral history stated John’s wife was Elizabeth. Many researchers believe this was Elizabeth Callahan, but again, no evidence has been found to support her first or last name.
Worse, still? The research options were slim!
Who was this elusive wife?
In an effort to learn more about John White and his family, the couple’s known children were thoroughly researched themselves.
Traditional genealogical records for the children including census records, marriage records, death records, etc were used. This was not a quick process. Little in genealogy research is.
Records for only one of John’s children proved fruitful in our search. Nancy Ann [White] Moore provided the needed information to identify John’s wife.
As a bonus, the needed information came from John’s daughter’s records. Another female in the family tree will not go undocumented!
What did Nancy Ann White have to tell us?
Nancy Ann White married Charles Moore in Surry County, NC in 1818. The couple eventually migrated to Georgia where they raised their family. Three of Nancy’s sons were Methodist ministers. Her 1873 obituary appeared in the religious periodical Southern Christian Advocate Obits 1867-1878 and read:
Mrs. Nancy Moore the wife of C. F. Moore and was the daughter of John and ELIZABETH WHITE. Nancy was born in Caswell County, N. C., August 5, 1796, and died in Walker County, Ga., October 13, 1873….
Now John White’s wife’s first name is confirmed as Elizabeth.
Half way there…..
Elizabeth is still a common name.
Could the research be taken further? Searching the marriage records for Caswell County, NC was a logical next step in the research process. Because the family lived close to the Rockingham County line, marriage records for Rockingham County would also be considered.
A marriage bond dated 26 Oct 1796 was found in Caswell County, NC for John White and Elizabeth Williamson.
Now I realize the dates are a bit off . The obituary states Nancy Ann White was born in August 1796. John White and Elizabeth Williamson were married in October 1796. Assuming the marriage and birth events happened in that order, the discrepancy required further attention.
Nancy White Moore obituary’s is considered a secondary source. She certainly was not the one providing the information. The informant is not actually known, but was likely someone close to the Moore family given the details that are provided. Did the informant know all of the details on Nancy’s birth? The very real possibility exists that Nancy Ann White’s reported birth year could be off by a year or so.
The Next Steps in the Research
Other sources of Nancy’s birth year were sought. The 1870 census is the last census record Nancy appeared in before her death. In 1870 Nancy was living with her husband Charles Moore and daughter Etha A Moore in Walker County, GA. Nancy is listed as 71 years old indicating Nancy was born in 1799.
Notice Etha A Moore in the Moore household. John White had a known daughter named Etha White. Etha A Moore is likely named for Nancy’s sister.
The 1860 census shows Nancyann [White] Moore living with her husband C. F. Moore in Walker County, GA. Nancy is listed as 62 years old indicating a birth year of 1798 in NC.
The 1850 census record further indicates Nancy [White] Moore’s birth date is later than 1796. She is listed as 50 years old indicating her birth date was ~1800 in North Carolina.
Based on the census records from 1850-1870, Nancy’s birth date is consistently after the 1796 dated stated in her obituary. Her birth date ranges from 1798 – 1800 – well after the 1796 date when John White and Elizabeth Williamson were married. Add to the information that John White had a known daughter named Etha White and an Etha Moore shows up in Nancy’s household as a daughter further supports my John White and his wife Elizabeth Williamson were the parents of Nancy White Moore.
Who was the WIFE of John White?
ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON is the wife of my John White. Now to get researching that Williamson line!
Other Posts of Interest
- How To Use The Pre-1850 Census to Find Your Female Ancestors
- How To Confidently Research Your Ancestor’s Marriage Records – Part 1
- How To Confidently Research Your Ancestor’s Marriage Records – Part 2
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Thank you. This is good information to have. I’ve often relied on the 1880 census, where people gave their mothers’ and fathers’ birthplaces.
Two of my elusive ancestors were also from Surry County, NC. THOMAS ARMON was born in 1752. He joined the army in Botetourt County, Virginia, in 1777 and served in the Revolutionary War. He was captured by the British at Charlestown. He married CHARITY DOWLIN on 29 Jan 1790, in Surry County. Thomas was a farmer. The couple moved to Rutherford County, NC, where Thomas claimed 100 acres as a veteran’s bounty. While there, they had two daughters, Mary and Nancy. The family moved to Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky, about 1793. There they had three more children, Henry, Elizabeth, and Thomas Jr. Thomas died on 12 Aug 1833, in St Francois, Missouri. Where Thomas spent the years from 1781 to 1790 is a mystery.
Thomas was literate and spelled his name Armon. In the Revolutionary War roster he is listed as Thomas Erman. Somewhere along the way my family began to spell the name Arman. My gggrandfather, Thomas Armon Jr, died in 1844 in Illinois. I have no paper documentation of his connection to the elder Thomas. However, my relationship to Thomas Armon Sr was documented by a DNA connection with a descendant of his daughter Mary, who stayed in Kentucky with her husband Charles Ashley.
There were at least two Dowlin families in Surry, NC, and I don’t know whether Charity was from either of them. She would fit into the sequence of children of John Dowling Sr and Lettice Spilman Dowling of Surry County, but there is no documentation. I haven’t found any Armons, but there was a Thomas Norman in a tax list in the 1780s. There were also Harmans in Surry.
I’ve researched all the Armans, Ormans, Harmons, Dowlins, Dowlings, Doolins, etc., I’ve been able to find in areas where Thomas Arman and Charity Dowlin lived. I don’t know whether Thomas was French, German, or Irish. Armon/Arman isn’t a common name, and was very unusual in the colonies until after the Revolutionary War, when many immigrants from Germany by that name began to arrive. I suspect Thomas or his parents went to Virginia or North Carolina from Pennsylvania.
I can’t find any connections with any Dowlings in subsequent years, except an attorney, John Dowling of St Francois, MO, who represented Thomas at one time. His wife, Jane “Jennie” Greenstreet, was from Kentucky, and said her parents were both born in Kentucky. The couple married in St Francois County. John died before 1880, so I don’t have information about where his parents were born. After John Dowling’s death, Jane lived next door to Henry Arman in Breton, MO, before she remarried.
In Missouri, Thomas Arman’s family was closely associated with a man named Willis Armon, who I believe was probably a relative of Thomas. Willis Armon was born in Kentucky about 1811. The only Armon I’ve found so far in Kentucky who might have been his father was William Armon/Ormon, born 1780 in Virginia. William Ormon or Armon was a resident of Charleston, SC, in 1800 [William Orman]; Tennessee in 1805 [birth of daughter]; Campbell County, KY, in 1810; Wayne County, TN, in 1820; and Greene, NC, in 1830. I think he had a daughter Elizabeth, born abt. 1811, who died in St Francois, MO, in 1850.
Thomas Armon died in 1833, so never said in the census where his parents were born. All his children died before 1880, so never said in the census where Thomas was born. Charity died in 1845, and Kentucky didn’t start keeping death records until 1852.
Now I’m going on to research Armans and Dowlins in Virginia.
You’ve done extensive research! Researching the Armans and Dowlins in Va sounds like a good next step.
I can’t say how amazing finding this link has been. I’ve also been researching my great-great-great grandparents, Thomas Arman & Charity Dowlin Arman. Margaret, your comments filled in many gaps of information I was seeking. I will continue to search & if I find anything else, I’ll be sure to get back to you. Thank you again. Dd