Wednesday, May 18, 2011

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends”

A short break turned rather longer than planned.  My apologies.  Much like Lemony Snicket I was confronted with a series of rather unfortunate events, some personal, some family, some professional, and in the middle of it all I went on a planned two-week vacation and recovered from a computer crash.  Among other things I’ve learned is not to wait to back up digital files on at least one other medium (thankfully I recovered from that near-loss), and I can no longer type for long periods on my laptop.  Next time I travel I’m going to have to take along an extra full-size keyboard and plug it in.  The trip to Georgia also reinforced my belief that we have a long way to go yet in digitizing the historical and ancestral records and making them more widely accessible.  I also found myself impressed again and again with how nice and helpful most of the people I encountered were, from the professionals employed by libraries, repositories and court houses to the chance encounters with strangers in cemeteries across the state.  Without exception I found them to be generous with their time and knowledge, and downright apologetic that they couldn’t provide more information!

One other observation: Most of my research has been confined to the internet, libraries and microfilm at the local Family Search Center (aka Family History Center).  This is simply due to the fact that I live in Wisconsin and I grew up in Georgia.  But there is a definite emotional impact derived from a visit to actual sites associated with my family, whether a cemetery, a home or a now-empty plot of land.  Just knowing that I’m walking where my ancestors walked is very special indeed and not to be discounted.  I have a deeper understanding of the reactions of people who visit England or Germany or Italy or wherever, and of how big an impact it has on them.  But for me, for now, it’s back to the long-distance research.   

I’m still sorting and cataloguing my “finds” during the trip to Georgia, but one key research goal went unrealized, and I made another key discovery. 

I’ve previously mentioned the problem I’ve been having in trying to conclusively identify the parents of my great-great grandfather Mathew “Mack” Jones.  I thought I had uncovered a major clue last fall when I found a 2001 posting on the Jones mailing list archive (JONES-L Archives) on Rootweb.  In the opening sentences it states:
I found this in the Atlanta Archives [sic]. Hope it helps someone, I copied it verbatim:
Nancy Hendricks b. 2-17-1820 d 8-8-1907 married William M. Jones b 11-24-1813 d 8-25-1877
Their children:
Mathew E. "Mack" Jones b 1835 married in 6-7-1860 to Emily "Emma" Neville b 1839
Mary E Jones b 7-12-1838 d 1927 married Thomas Neville b3-12-1808 d 10-21-1870 she also married Norman Rushing

I had planned a day at the Georgia Archives in Morrow, Georgia, specifically to try to locate the document transcribed by the original Rootsweb poster, Nancy Hicks.  When I contacted her to ask for more information about her find she did confirm that she did mean the file had been at the Georgia Archives, but was unable to provide any more details.  I spent six of my eight hours at the archives searching for this document but was unsuccessful.  I still hope that some day someone else will find and publish the document, or possible even a photo of it, that it is merely misfiled or located in a file that I didn’t think to search.  My biggest fear is that some unscrupulous “researcher” decided that his or her need of a trophy far outweighed the interests of future generations in the document and made off with it and that it is thus lost to us forever. 

William & Nancy Jones, 1850 & 1860
(click for a larger image)
Even if I had been successful in locating the document, however, I would still be faced with corroborating the family tree it presents.  I have a probable 1850 Lumpkin County census for William and Nancy “Janes” and an 1860 Bulloch County census for “Wm M” and Nancy Jones.  Neither lists Mathew or Mack with the family.  The earliest census form I have listing Mack & Emma Jones is 1870.   They were married 7 June 1860 in Bulloch County.  Emma is listed in her parents’ household in the 1860 census because, though the enumeration was made on 2 July 1860, the instructions for column 3 state “The name of every person whose usual place of abode on the first day of June, 1860, was in this family.”  “Emely” is also listed as the eldest child of Jacob & “Elvina” “Nevill” on the 1850 Bulloch County census.  I still haven’t located similar census records for Mack Jones in 1850 or 1860 in Liberty or Bulloch counties, though I’m still searching page by page.  I’m also pursuing a search of the Bulloch County Deeds & Mortgages books for the relevant decades.  If I can find a “deed of gift” or other document which mentions Mack and one of his parents I will have made a giant step forward in proving or disproving this theory of his parentage.  A similar search of wills and probate records has thus far been fruitless.

In the earlier post I also stated that “So far I haven’t found a marriage record or gravesites for [William or Nancy Jones]. “  But whether or not William and Nancy turn out to be related to me I can say that I did manage to find their gravesite.  The Statesboro Regional Library (124 S. Main St, Statesboro, Bulloch County, Georgia), has a wonderful multi-volume set of bound typescripts containing surveys of the cemeteries of Bulloch County.  The surveys were done over a period of twenty-something years from the late 1960s to the late 1980s or early 1990s by numerous people.  In the rather limited time availale I paged through all the volumes, hurriedly scanning the entries for the various surnames I thought I might find there.  In one of the books I found a single page listing for the burial site on Peter Nevil’s farm.  Here’s the transcription of that listing:

Demsey Riggs
Born 8 Jan. 1808
Died 25 June 1874

William A. Sumerlin
Died 26 April 1892

William Jones
Born 24 Nov. 1813
Died 25 Aug. 1877

Nancy Jones
Born 17 February 1820
Died 8 August 1907

Calley D., dau. of
S.E. & M.E. Jones
Born 18 August 1883
Died 25 October 1886

Charles J. P. Nevil
Born 13 1863
Died 22 June 1872

Joseph L. B., son of
Thomas & Rachel Nevell
Born 9 October 1840
Killed 28 August 1862 in
second battle of Manasses, Va.
His remains are still there.

Jacob Nevil Jr., son of
J. & Rachel Nevil
Born 27 July 1838
Died 23 May 1861

Mrs. Rachel Nevil,
wife of T. Nevil
Born 30 October 1818
Died 12 July 1859

Thomas Nevil
Born 12 March 1808
Died 21 October 1870

The gravestone of William & Nancy Jones
There it was in black and white.  The graves of William and Nancy Jones, and they were listed in close proximity with the Nevils into which family one or more of their children had married.   The property wasn’t far from Statesboro so I decided to try to find the site on my way out of town.  Luck was with me that day, and I was fortunate to meet members of the Nevil family who still own the property and was given permission to view and photograph the graves.  So, even if I’m not related to them I still managed to locate their tombstone, and that was immensely satisfying!

Here’s your summary:
  • Even though they are usually very suspect and you must validate the information with your own research, the family trees posted in,, and other online websites and forums can provide valuable pointers when you might otherwise be at a dead end.  Don’t ignore them completely just because they often don’t cite sources.  Evaluate them as you would any other reference you find.
  • There’s nothing like a visit to the locale in which your ancestors lived to breath life into their stories.
  • To quote a favorite movie out of context: Never give up, never surrender!
  • The websites for the Virtual Vault, the Georgia Archives and the Digital Library of Georgia are useful and valuable resources for research.  If you get the chance and you plan ahead, an in-person visit to the Georgia Archives building in Morrow, Georgia, can be equally rewarding and personally satisfying.  Sorry, I’m a bibliophile at heart; as much as I love digital research there’s nothing like the smell of old paper and leather to set my heart racing!

 Later y’all,


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