So I’m tracing my Perry ancestors back from my grandfather Frank Maxwell Perry (1910-1970) to my great-great-great grandfather Joshua Perry (1805-1866) & his wife Louvicia Anne Wade Perry (1806-1884), my brick wall. Last post I reached my great-great grandfather William Preston Perry (1839-1908) and his two wives, the sisters Georgia F. Cutts (1849-1869) and Elizabeth Margrette Cutts (1854-1923).
Making use of the kind contributors to FindAGrave.com I found pictures of the tombstones of William P. Perry Georgia, his first wife Georgia F., in the Salem Cemetery in Edison, Calhoun County, Georgia. Elizabeth’s tombstone wasn’t there, though, so I looked back at the census records again. From his tombstone we know that W. P. Perry died in 1908. So I found him and his family on the 1900 census living in Edison, in Calhoun County, Georgia, right where you’d expect him to be. For the 1910 census I searched instead for Elizabeth Perry. I found one Elizabeth Perry, of the right age, widowed, but living down in Mitchell County. Not surprising since my grandfather grew up in Mitchell County and my great-grandmother died there. So I broadened my FindAGrave.com search and located a listing for Elizabeth Cutts Perry in the Sale City Cemetery, Sale City, Mitchell County.
Now that I know Elizabeth Perry died in 1923, I made another search of the Georgia Death Certificates at the Georgia’s Virtual Vault from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Remember there is a limited window where the death certificates have been digitized and posted to the Virtual Archive. In this case a quick search was successful and I have Elizabeth Perry’s death certificate. There isn’t much immediately useful here, but I made note that the informant was H.H. Perry (she had a son, Henry Holcombe Perry), that her middle name was probably Margrette (Martha is scratched out) and in place of the scratched out “don’t know” her mother’s maiden name is written as “Miss Scarbrough.” It also provides additional corroboration of date of birth, and the date of death confirms the tombstone.
Now, look back up at W.P.’s tombstone. It not only give his birth and death dates, but adds “Son of Joshua and Anne Perry.” I’d like to use the census to confirm William’s relationship to his father and mother in the same way that I traced John I. Perry back to William and Elizabeth. I know that in 1870
William was living with Louvisa A, Francis M & William T Perry (see Jan 12th post). So I look for Joshua Perry in the 1860 census and find him as his family living in Calhoun County. The family consists of Joshua, Lonvicia A, Francis M & William P Perry and a child Sarah A E Collier (who is a granddaughter, but that’s another story). On the 1850 census I find Joshua living in Early County. A quick Google check shows multiple sources noting that Calhoun County was formed in part from Early County in 1854, so that works. The family consists of Joshua, Lavisa A, Julia, John J, William P, Thadeous J & Francis M Perry. The names and ages are consistent, though it’s important to point out the spelling variations that occur with Louvicia/Lavisa … This also ties back into the 1870 census where Louvisa A Perry was living with William P Perry; even though the 1870 census did not show the relationship of household members to the head of household, it’s now apparent that she could easily be his mother, and the 1850 and 1860 censuses, in conjunction with W.P.’s tombstone, increase the likelihood to a near-certainty.
I added the 1840 census to this list to demonstrate an important point. The 1850 census was the first census to list members of a household. In 1840 and earlier only the name of the head of household is listed, and then the ages (by age group) and genders of free and slave members. I’ve built a mostly-solid foundation of evidence getting from my grandfather, Frank M. Perry, to my 3g-grandfather (that’s shorthand for great-great-great grandfather), Joshua Perry. Prior to about 1918 it’s impossible to obtain birth and death certificates, and many marriage licenses are missing, but census records along with other references fill in nicely. They aren’t conclusive by themselves, but they add to the “preponderance of evidence” in helping to reach or prove a conclusion. Unfortunately it appears my progenitors were not fond of creating wills, but I’m still hopeful that when I locate property records (deeds, mortgages, etc.) I’ll have more clues, and I’ll revisit them at that time. I’ll be relying on the Family History Center and Family Search for those records.
I didn’t show you how I made the jump from Early County in southwestern Georgia to Screven County the other side of the state, but that’s a tale for the next post as we finally hit the wall!
Here’s your summary:
- You should learn about the limitations of the census records, and the various additional questions asked each decade. A good introduction can be found on the Ancestry.com Learning Center article on census records.
- The Family History Center, the Family History Library and Family Search, a closely related set of resources from LDS, are invaluable. You should find your local Center, and get to know both the individual search and the library search. The volunteers at your local Center will be glad to help you.
- Don’t forget to Google your ancestors’ names. Yes, you’ll get a lot of chaff, but if you learn to use Advanced Search, and add keywords and place restrictions, you’ll be surprised at what you can find. Remember, even if you can’t use an index as a primary source it’s still a valuable pointer to the sources themselves.
- FindAGrave.com is an excellent resource online, not only for locating the place of burial, but particularly for obtaining pictures of your dearly departed. It's all done by volunteers, so if you make extensive use of the pictures, please consider volunteering in your own area to take cemetery pictures for others. And always give credit for any pictures you use in your research.