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.
[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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