Wednesday, June 8, 2011

SideLine: Robert D. White

Robert D White, ca. 1935
In genealogy, a collateral ancestor is the brother or sister of your direct ancestor and a collateral line is his or her descendents.  Researching your collateral ancestors can often lead you to details about your own ancestors that you might not otherwise discover.  In addition, adding their stories to your research makes for a fuller telling of your family history.  Plus sometimes they are just so darned interesting!  I can sometimes get distracted for days reading about a collateral ancestor such as the Rev. Dr. Henry Holcombe, a great Baptist preacher of the first decades of the 19th century in Savannah and Philadelphia who was my 4th great grand uncle.  Another great reason for taking a detour into your collateral lines is to find distant cousins who can hopefully help you when you hit one of those pesky brick walls.  I have such a brick wall, so I’ll take a break from the Farthings here to talk about the family of I.C. Farthing’s wife, Mamie.
Mamie Clyde White (1884-1957) – “Mamaw” – was my maternal great grandmother, my mother’s mother’s mother.  She died about four months before I was born.  Based on what my mother told me, I was searching for Mamie’s parents Robert Alfred White and Elizabeth Rozier.  Except I was also told that Mamie’s mother had died when she was a little girl, and that her father had remarried, to a woman name Valeria.  Oh, and Mamie had one brother, also named Robert.  My mother doesn’t recall ever meeting Mamie’s father or stepmother, but “Uncle Robert” visited a couple of times.  We actually found a picture of him with my grandmother and grandfather and my mother, which was probably taken in 1935.  (We don’t know who cut the picture or when, but we do have both pieces!)

I started my search in the Census indexes for 1900.  This is a rather targeted way to search, but since I knew that Mamie was born in the 1880’s and there aren’t any surviving records for the 1890 census in Georgia I was hopeful that I would find her family in 1900.  I also had already located the record of her marriage to I. C. Farthing in 1907 in the digitized microfilm of the Laurens County Marriage Book N on the Georgia’s Virtual Vault website.  So I focused the search even further to Laurens and surrounding counties in Georgia.  And I was successful.  I found a family of four listed in Dodge County, Chauncey District consisting of Robert A White (age 39), Valeria White (22), Robert A White (17) and Mamie White (15).  The 1900 census is valuable for the additional information it contains.  For example, it gives the month and year of birth as well as the age for each individual, the number of years married for couples and the number of children born/still living for the wives.  Robert A and Valeria have only been married 7 years, so it’s obvious she couldn’t be Robert D and Mamie’s mother.  And she’s only 22, so she’s more a big sister than a mother.  No wonder I heard a couple of stories that Mamie didn’t particularly care for her step-mother.  Of course, you can’t always depend on the dates or ages reported on the census, or the other information without corroboration.  For example, Valeria supposedly has had 2 children and 2 are living, but none are in the house of an appropriate age.  Did the census taker just put her down as the mother without asking any other questions?  We’ll never know.  The census form also indicates that Robert A was a teamster, and his son Robert D was already a laborer in a saw mill at 17 years old.

And that’s about it for Robert A White, my great-great grandfather.  The 1900 census indicates he was born in October 1860, so there’s no chance of finding him in the 1860 census, but I’ve also been unable to locate him with certainty in the 1870 or 1880 censuses.  My mother had written down Mamie’s mother’s name as Elizabeth Rozier, so I went to the Georgia’s Virtual Vault website again, searching for two marriage records for Robert A, again focusing on Laurens County first.  I rather quickly located a marriage license issued to Mr. Robert White and Miss Valeria Warren, married in Laurens County on 19 February 1894, so the 1900 census was wrong; they had just celebrated their sixth anniversary, not their seventh.  Finding the record of his first marriage was a bit more difficult.  I wasn’t even sure of the year.  Looking at the 1900 census again, it says that Robert D was born in May 1883 and Mamie was born in October 1884.  I started with January 1883 and started working my way backwards.  I found a record for a Mr. Robert A. White who was married in Laurens County on 18 July 1880, but his wife is listed as Leona Rozar.  So far I’ve had no luck tracing any of these three people back before their marriage licenses, or forward past 1900, with one exception.

1910 US Census, Georgia, Laurens County, Dublin, Ward 3 (courtesy of

In the 1910 census for Dublin, Laurens County, I found a family of four again.  This time they were listed as Robert D White (Head; 28), Lula E White (Wife; 27), Vida Pearl White (Daughter; 2) and Robert A White (Father; 51).  Now the ages of the two Roberts are one year older than I would expect to see based on their ages an years of birth in 1900, that isn’t unheard of.  This census uses M1, M2, etc. to indicate how many marriages a person has had.  Robert A has M2, indicating two marriages.  It doesn’t indicate he’s widowed, but it does say 12 years for the length of marriage.  Again, an understandable error, particularly if this is a transcribed copy of the enumerator’s actual form … heck sometimes I mix up my own 2’s and 7’s!   I can’t find a “suitable” Robert A White in any succeeding census, but Robert D shows up in 1920, still living in Dublin, Laurens County with his family: Robert D White (38), Lula C White (37) and Veda P White (11).  And in 1930, once again in Dublin, it’s Robert D White (48), Lula White (48) and Pearle White (20).  The 1910 census said that Robert D & Lula had been married 5 years, but the 1930 census says that they have been married 22 years.  More transcription errors?  A search of the Virtual Vault turned up a marriage license issued by Laurens County to Robert White and Lula Gay indicating they were married on 2 October 1904, so 5 years as of the date of the 1910 census would be correct, and the 1930 census should have recorded it as 25 years.

That’s assuming these are the correct people, of course.  My mother didn’t think “Uncle Robert” had ever been married.  I haven’t located death records or gravestones for any of these people.  I can’t find a marriage record for a Vida Pearl White in the vicinity of Dublin or the neighboring counties.  In this case collateral research has not paid off entirely, though it has given me some interesting leads and raised other questions.  For example, whatever happened to Valeria (the second wife)?  Did Robert A die between 1910 and 1920?  Georgia hadn’t yet mandated death certificates, so there doesn’t appear to be any hope of one of those.  Who were Robert A’s parents?  Who was Elizabeth/Leona Rozar/Rozier?  There are quite a few Rozars in and around Laurens county, but I haven’t found a likely candidate for her in the 1870 or 1880 census.  What happened to the daughter, Vida Pearl?  Did she ever marry and have children?  Did any of the possible children inherit family memorabilia that might shed more light on the Whites of Laurens and surrounding counties?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Sorry to say, I’m leaving this detour with more questions than answers, but it was interesting nonetheless, and I did learn a few things which point to other possibilities.  Hopefully more information will come to light some day soon that will allow me to break through this wall.

* Marriage license images are from the Georgia's Virtual Vault website, courtesy of the Georgia Archives.

Here’s your summary:
  • Exploring your collateral ancestors and their descendents can often be a rewarding effort.  Sometimes you will even acquire information that will help you break through brick walls on your other lines.
  • Census forms, particularly from the decades surrounding the turn of the last century, are often rich in details which can add to the texture of your family history.
  • Don’t forget to try to confirm facts with multiple sources.  Tombstones, marriage records, death records, family Bibles, census forms and family histories should all be weighed and considered carefully.  No single document can provide all the evidence you need, but each is a piece of the puzzle.

 Later y’all,


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