Monday, June 6, 2011

Inferential Genealogy Course in Second Life - Case Study 2

Tonight I attempted to work through Case Study # 2 in the Inferential Genealogy Course on If you haven’t heard about this Inferential Genealogy Study Group that we are holding in the virtual world of Second Life, you can read about it here. Tonight’s homework was to work through Case Study # 2 in determining who the parents of Obediah Overton were using the 5 steps of Inferential Genealogy that Tom Jones has been showing us:
1.       Define research goal
2.       Do a broad search
3.       Analyze the documents
4.       Correlate the evidence
5.       Write your results down

In this case study we were presented with a man named Obediah Overton who has been traced to Orange County, Virginia. No one document specifically states who the parents of Obediah Overton were.  However, many documents researched have identified several possibilities.

We start off with our Research Question – Tom Jones’ focused research question was to identify the parents of Obediah Overton of Orange Co., VA. I like to take a little bit of a different approach. I asked who were NOT the parents of Obediah Overton? Sometimes it’s easier for me to prove someone is NOT the parents – they might not be old enough or might not have had any children and so forth.

We looked at 8 different documents. I took screenshots of each document and what I wrote in my journal so I could go back and reference them easily and quickly and then compare to what Dr. Jones discerned from each document. Let’s take a look at the documents…

Document # 1: Deed from George Overton and Mary his wife to Benjamin Massey and Thomas Moore. 1795. Dr. Jones said there was no record of George Overton ever paying taxes on this land. This might have to be addressed later on in our conflicting evidence section.

Document # 2: Tax records showing Benjamin Massey and Thomas Morris paying taxes on land bought of George [Harrison]. This part of the video was kind of confusing to me because when I read the record, it looks to me as if it says George “Harrison” which is why I put it in [brackets] above. However, when describing the record, Dr. Jones said it was land purchased from George “Howerton.” For the sake of this exercise, we have to assume it says “Howerton.” Dr. Jones also said that previous tax records listed a George “Howerton” as having paid tax on this land. This document, in combination with the first one, is important in correlating a name change between Overton and Howerton.

Document # 3: Deed in which [James] [Overton] gives land to his son George Overton in Spotsylvania County, VA. Again, this was kind of confusing because Dr. Jones described this as a deed in which “John Howerton” gave land to his son George Howerton, however you can clearly see from the scan that it says “Jas Overton.” This document is important because it establishes a relationship between John (or James) and George Overton.

Document # 4: A petition that was signed taken from the Orange County, Virginia History book listing George Overton, Obediah Overton, and Thomas Morris as signers of the petition, establishing they were in the same location at the same time.

Document # 5: 1842 deed from the heirs of George Overton of land to Willis Overton, signed by Willis Overton, John Overton, William Carmmack, William Davidson, and an attorney for Wish H Overton and George.

Document # 6: A deed that John Howerton witnessed. Here we see the “Howerton” name again. Also, we can use this document to assume that John Howerton was at least 21 years of age when he witnessed this deed. Dr. Jones said this would make him old enough to be Obediah’s father, however we were not given a date of the document, so I personally can’t say for sure. That seems to be a vital piece of missing information.

Document # 7: Tax records – there were a couple different scans that rotated through this view and unfortunately my print screen did not capture the correct one that showed two Willis Overtons listed – one was said to be “son of George” and the other was “son of Obediah.” I’m not yet sure of the significance of this document as I have not been able to get any further in the video due to technical issues FamilySearch is having at this time. - Update from my 2nd time around reviewing this case: This document was important because it indicated a similar naming pattern between the two men - George and Obediah who both named one of their sons "Willis." 

Document # 8: The Will of John Howerton, written 1791. Dr. Jones said that it listed several of John’s descendants, however the scan does not show any descendants’ names. It only shows the witnesses’ names which were David, Samuel, and Sam G Partlow Jr. I figured this must be significant somehow, but at this time I have no idea how or why.

Unfortunately, due to technical issues with the video, I was unable to finish the correlation part of the video and to see what Tom said about each of the documents. I did get to the first correlation, however. I have listed it below.

Correlation # 1:
The first two documents – the Deed from George Overton to Benjamin Massey and Thomas Moore and the tax list in which Thomas Morris and Benjamin Massey pay tax on land purchased from George [Harrison]/Howerton shows a correlation between the two names Overton and Howerton and how they might have been used interchangeably.

In order to put things in context, Dr. Jones showed a table of occurrences of both of the Overton and Howerton names. You can see from the table that most men used the Howerton name in the first 10 years and then switched over to the Overton name in the last 10 years of the time period that was studied. What a great visual representation!

Regarding the will of John Howerton, whom is believed to be the most likely candidate to be Obediah's father: We know from Dr. Jones that John Howerton did not name a son, Obediah Howerton in his will. Dr Jones also told us that John Howerton mentioned a granddaughter, without mentioning her parents, therefore we already know that John has left out at least one son or daughter's name from his will. We cannot assume that Obediah is NOT the son of John Howerton simply because he was not named in John's will!

I hope to have access to the video tomorrow before class to hear what Dr. Jones had to say about the documents. If so, I will post my findings as an update to this post. If not, I will wait until we meet in SecondLife at the Genealogy FirePit at 9 pm EST to hear what he had to say and then voice my opinion then. I will post my thoughts as an update following that discussion. 


  1. I would be very interested in knowing the outcome of this study. I am at this time exploring the possibility that Reuben B. Overton born ca 1775-1788 VA may be the son of Obediah. A connection to the Overton/Howerton line is evidenced by a DNA match From one of Reuben's descendants.

    Thank You
    Ann Wilson

  2. thanks for all your work. i am related to the overtons through my great-great grandmother.her mother sarah jane who was a great great greatgrandmother to me murderd her husbund in custer county nebraska in 1887. his was was name was north lefler overton. she commited suicide in 1888 whie serving a 25 year sentence. north father goes back to thomas howerton [1664 (englad} death 1700 virginia, essex county,va.

    1. Hello thanks for writing and sharing about your ancestors Sarah Jane and North Lefler.