Friday, November 29, 2013

It must be in the Genes!

In my last post I mentioned the importance of building out your tree with the hopes of finding a set of ancestors in common with your DNA matches. This has been working especially well for me, not to mention it has gotten me “back in the saddle again.” One of the recent matches to my grandmother has a set of WATSON ancestors from South Carolina. It is a long shot, but there is a remote possibility that his WATSONS were connected to my WATSONS of Laurens County, South Carolina. All I know is that his ancestor was Leroy WATSON. Leroy WATSON was born 1795 in South Carolina and he died 1872 in Jonesville, Florida. His descendants lived in Georgia and Florida.

My oldest known WATSON was John WATSON who was born 1788 in South Carolina. He married Nancy JEANS and their daughter Rachel WATSON married Elijah HILL prior to moving to Arkansas. 

Most of this information I got from the online trees posted to, now, back in 2005. These trees were created from GEDCOMS that individuals made from their genealogy software and uploaded to the site. I went back and reviewed the notes and sources attached to these trees and found the JEANS family mentioned in a book Maryland and Virginia Colonials: Genealogies of Some Colonial Families, Volume I, by Sharon Doliante, on pages 560-561. 

Here are the digital images of pages 561-561 that mention the JEANS, WATSON, and HILL families: 

 Maryland and Virginia Colonials: Genealogies of Some Colonial Families, Volume I 
by Sharon Doliante, p. 560; digital images downloaded from, 26 November 2013

Maryland and Virginia Colonials: Genealogies of Some Colonial Families, Volume I 
by Sharon Doliante, p. 561; digital images downloaded from, 26 November 2013

Here is some transcription from pages 560-561: 
viii. Martha Odell, mentioned in Distn. of Estate papers of her deceased father in 1779 as "Martha Jeans." Her husband was Joseph "Joe" Jeans. (This surname sometimes given as Janes/Jones, but Jeans or Jeanes was apparently the correct spelling. He d. testate bet. dates of July 21, 1826 & Sept 7, 1826 (dates of the writing & proving of his will), but the Laurens Co., will is listed as that of "Joseph Jones." Issue:
i. Joseph Jeans
ii. John Jeans
iii. daughter Jeans, m. _____ Duncan. Issue:
    A. Leander Duncan
iv. Ann "Nancy" Jeans, m. John Watson, Issue:
  A. Thomas Watson
  B. Rachel Watson, m. Elijah Hill. Issue:
    (A) Thomas Hill, m. Jane Edward of Ashley Co., AR
    (B) Joseph W Hill, m. Miss J. F. Cox of Greenville Dist., SC, dau of Robert Cox. He seems to have been the compiler of the "Hill Notes," c1885, presently owned by Mr. Otis Duncan, of SC. These are a compilation of genealogical notes on misc. upper SC families.
    (C) Martha E Hill
    (D) John L Hill
    (E) Elliot E Hill, m. ____ Scott of Hardeman Co., Tenn
    (F). Levi Hill
    (G) Nathan E Hill
  C. Joseph Watson m. Betsy Ferguson
  D. Harrison Watson
  E. John Watson, Jr
  F. Elisha Watson, m. Martha Jeans
  G. Milton Watson
  H. Martha Watson

This book has a LOT of in-text references to deed books, will books, estate and court records. However, there are no footnotes or a list of sources at the end of the book. There is enough source information given, though, for the reader to locate primary records to support the information provided.

For example, the four names of the children of Martha Odell and Joseph Jeans were pulled by the author directly from the will of Joseph Jeans. Although she did not include a transcription of the will itself, it wasn’t too hard to find. In the transcription above, the author mentioned his name – Joseph “Jones,” the dates his will was written and probated in 1826, and the county – Laurens. I logged in to the site, clicked on the Search link, then clicked on the United States browsable collections link, then clicked on the South Carolina link.

There are two sets of probate record collections for South Carolina that are browsable on the website. There are the bound volumes and the loose papers. I found the will of Joseph “Jones” in the bound volume collection in the “Estate Records, 1826-1834, Volume F” bound volume.

Here is a digital image of the microfilmed copy of the will as it appears in the Bound Estate Record Volume F, page 43:

Laurens Co., SC, Estate Records, 1826-1834, Volume F: 43, Joseph Jones, 7 September 1826 (probated); digital image, "South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes 1671-1977," downloaded from 26 November 2013).

In the name of God Amen
I Josheph Jones of Laurens District and State of South Carolina being of sound and disposing [?] mind and memory but weakd in body and caulling to mind the unsertenty of life and being Desirous to dispose of all such worley Estate as it saith pleaseth God to bless me with do make and ordain this my last will and manner following that is to say ---
I give to Nancy and John Watson one Negro woman named Renae to them and thare assigns for ever and my said Negro Max James to make his choyce of my children who the said James will serve and to be appraised and assised to them their heirs and assigns for ever.
To my son Joseph Jones, I give my Negro woman Molly and her increase to him his heirs and assigns for ever and my waggon and hind geer to my son Joseph and my crop on hand who I give to my son Joseph.
I give to my grandson Leander Dunkin my Plantation to be sold and the money to be put to in trust untill Leander Dunken shall come to lawfull age to receive thanse.
I give to my son John Jones one Dollar the ballance of my Property to be sold and pay for just debts and funderal espenses to be paid and the ballance to be equally divided between the rest of my children and if the said Leander Duncan shall die without heirs, the sale of my land to be equally paid between John Watson Children ---

And lastly I do constitute and appoint my said son Joseph Jones and John Watson executors of this my last will and testament hereby revoking other and former testaments by me hioeafter made for testimoney whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 21 day of July 1826 and in the fifty first year of the Independence of the United states of America.
Signed, Sealed, published and declared As my Last Will and Testament of the above Names Joseph Jones in the presence of Us:
Benj. Duckett Esq
William Duckett
George Smith

Signed Joseph X (his mark) Jones

Joseph Jones' will was proved in the Laurens County Court of Ordinary on September 1st, 1826 by Benjamin Duckett, one of the subscribing witnesses. Joseph Jones and John Watson were also qualified as executors of the estate.

Here are some of the things I learned from the will of Joseph Jones:

  • He wrote his will 21 July 1826 and it was proved 1 September 1826, therefore he died between these two dates
  • He asked that money be set aside for funeral expenses, therefore I believe he had a funeral, probably at a church and was buried in a church cemetery (versus being buried on the family farm)
  • His wife Martha Jeans was not mentioned, therefore she had probably died prior to him writing his will
  • Joseph had two known sons named Joseph and John and a daughter named Nancy who married John Watson
  • Joseph had another daughter who had married a Duncan and had a child named Leander Duncan; this daughter was probably deceased and could not receive her share which was then passed on to her son Leander
  • Joseph's grandson Leander Duncan was still a minor and could not inherit his share until he came of age
Although I did not answer the direct question of whether or not my grandmother's match's ancestor, Leroy Watson is related to my Watson line, I was able to go back one more generation in my tree with the discovery of the Joseph Jones/Jeans will and family and added two additional surnames - JEANS and ODELL! Even though I found this family information originally in a book whose digital images were uploaded to, I did not assume this information was correct. Instead I obtained additional evidence supporting the information published in the book and made my own conclusions about the information provided within. 

Future Research: 

For the next step in this process, I will look for the will of my ancestor John Watson. This has been on my "To-Do" list for quite a while now anyways. With the digital images being uploaded to all the time now, I am able to find these documents faster and cheaper. 

Because my match's ancestor was born in 1795, he would more likely have been a brother of my ancestor John Watson who was born probably in the 1780s-1790s. In this case, I would need to look for men living in the Laurens County district around this time who might have been picked up by the 1790 census, just got married and started having children. I would then have to comb the wills of all of the Watson men to see if I could find one who had a son named John and/or Leroy. But first I would need more information on this Leroy Watson - where did he live and when? What county in SC was he from? When did he move to FL and GA? Who went with him? As you can see though, I'm learning just as much stuff about my own family as I am about his! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Get Into the Cycle

If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to, you can blame it on FamilyTreeDNA and their darn Family Finder test. Chasing after all the matches of my of two 6th cousins, three grandparents, two parents, and one friend is almost as bad as chasing down those little green leafs in my tree. If I’ve learned anything at all from this experience, (1) it is VERY time consuming and (2) YOU HAVE TO BUILD YOUR TREES! The latter has brought me the most success. I know it may seem counterproductive since the whole point of taking a DNA test is to help you with your genealogy…but once you get into it, it eventually begins to make sense.

You might even see a cycle form:

Here are some tips to help get you started. 
  1. Go back through your notes to see if you missed anything
  2. Talk to old contacts to see if they’ve found anything new
  3. Take advantage of the online trees that are posted with your match’s profile
  4. If you and your match’s ancestors with a common surname lived in the same place at the same time, chances are, they were connected
  5. Don’t just build your tree – build theirs too and look for an intersection between your family lines

You can download your match’s online tree from your ftDNA match page by following these easy directions: 
  1. Click the little green pedigree icon beside your match’s name 
  2. When the new page opens, right click then select to “view page source”
  3. Click Ctrl + A then Ctrl + C to copy the entire page
  4. Go to James Kelly’s website and paste the source code into the box and click the submit button
A GEDCOM will download. You can then import the GEDCOM into your genealogy software. I usually create a new file in my Family Tree Maker software then use to build it out. 

Check out my latest post about finding a new Nix cousin through DNA testing and genealogical research – DNA Testing – My Closest Match Yet

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Barney Benson & Eva Dennis

Dbl Headstone of Barney & Eva Benson at Duncan Municipal Cemetery in
Duncan, OK, taken by Audrey Calger, FAG contributer, 22 November 2013. 

Barney Benson and Eva Mae Dennis

They were my 2nd great-grandparents on my Mother's side. Eva Mae Dennis was born December 24th, 1889 in Paris, Texas to Reuben Dennis and Lucenda Gentry. Barney Benson was born February 19th, 1884 in Fort Smith, Arkansas to T. J. Benson and Lulu Bulllington. They met in Garrett's Bluff, Texas and married at the home of Barney's sister May Benson and brother-in-law Bert Wheeler in Boynton, Oklahoma in 1911. 

Eva and Barney lived mostly in Oklahoma where they raised 8 children, including my great-grandmother, Louise Benson. Barney worked in the oil fields and Eva stayed at home and raised the children. Unfortunately, their time together was cut short when Barney died suddenly from a heart attack while visiting with family in California in 1952. His remains were returned to Oklahoma and his wife Eva was buried beside him when she died 30 years later in 1983. 

Headstone of Barney S Benson at Duncan Municipal Cemetery in
Duncan, OK, taken by Audrey Calger, FAG contributer, 22 November 2013.

Headstone of Eva M Benson at Duncan Municipal Cemetery in
Duncan, OK, taken by Audrey Calger, FAG contributer, 22 November 2013.
Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. The marriage License of Barney Benson's parents - TJ Benson and Lulu Bullington of Washington County, Mississippi
  2. Headstone photo of TJ Benson and Lulu Bullington of Lamar County, Texas
  3. Letter from Eva Benson
  4. What's in a Name? - post about what really is TJ Benson's name

Friday, November 8, 2013

DNA Testing - My Closest Match Yet

My grandfather got a “close match” recently, falling between 2nd and 4th cousins on FamilyTreeDNA. Out of all eight kits that I manage, this is the first time I have seen a “close match.” I didn’t pay it much attention at first because the surnames he had listed were Davis, House, and Nix which I’ve found are common in just about every single one of my grandfather’s matches. But I kept it in my radar because his match also listed Missouri in his location list.

A couple of months went by and then I received an email from this match’s wife. She was proposing a possible connection based on some documentation she also sent to me. Her husband’s ancestor was Winnie Frances NIX Crafton. She wanted to know if it was possible that Winnie was the daughter of John NIX of Marshall County, Tennessee, and if so, did my Nix ancestor also happen to descend from the same John Nix.

The John NIX she referred to was enumerated on the 1870 Obion County, Tennessee Census Report.[1] According to the census report, John was 45 years old, placing his date of birth around 1825. Although relationships are not indicated on the 1870 census, it is implied that the next person in the list, Elizabeth Nix, is his wife. She was ten years younger, born about 1835 in TN. There were ten additional people listed in the household, including my ancestor, Dora G NIX, 6 years old, born approximately 1864 in TN. Also living in the household was a Winnie F NIX. According to the people who transcribed this census report, her name looked more like Minnie and was indexed as such. Someone made a correction to her name, though, and changed it to Winnie F NIX. Winnie F Nix was 13 years old, born about 1857 in TN.

1870 Obion Co., TN Census Report for John Nix

Here is an abstract of the above census report -

1870 Obion Co., District 3, TN census report:
21 July 1870 225/225
John Nix, 45 yo (b. abt 1825), TN
Elizabeth Nix, 35 yo (b. abt 1835), TN
Milton M Nix, 16 yo (b. abt 1854),  TN
Mary S Nix, 15 yo (b. abt 1855),  TN
Winnie F Nix, 13 yo (b. abt 1857),  TN [Indexed as Minnie] ← My match’s ancestor
John Robert Nix, 12 yo (b. abt 1858) TN
Minerva P Nix, 9 yo (b. abt 1861),  TN
Sarah I Nix, 8 yo (b. abt 1862), TN
Dora G Nix 6 yo (b. abt 1864),  TN ← My Ancestor
Tennessee F Nix 3 yo (b. abt 1867),  TN
Zilpha L Nix, 2 yo (b. abt 1868),  TN
Acy N Nix, 7 mo (b. abt 1870),  TN
NARA Film M593, Roll 1552, Page 91 (penned)

In 1860, John and Elizabeth NIX were living in Marshall County, Tennessee, which is located in the middle of the State of Tennessee. Evidently they moved “West” between 1860 and 1870 as Obion County, where they were enumerated on the 1870 census, is in the North Western part of the State. There are about 225 miles between Marshall and Obion Counties today.

According to the 1860 census [2], John NIX was 36 years old, born about 1824 in Tennessee. “Winnie” NIX was 3 years old, born about 1857 in Tennessee. My ancestor, Dora NIX, was not yet born. Monroe, Mary, John and Minerva were also living in the household along with his presumed wife, Elizabeth NIX. They were still living in the house on the 1870 Obion County, Tennessee census as well, so I’m certain these two families are one and the same.

1860 Marshall Co., TN Census Report for John Nix

Now you might be wondering how we were so sure that this was the right family for our Winnie and Dora Nix. Good. Because I did just that too. If you question your own work, that means others will question it too. And if that happens, then that just means you haven’t built a solid enough case to prove your point. And we don’t ever want that to happen, now do we? The key to conducting good research is to follow all leads. In this case, that means looking at the other family members.

My ancestor Dora Nix married to William or James Davis about 1882. To date I have not found any documentation of this marriage which probably took place in either TN or AR. The date of 1882 is estimated from the birth of their first known child, Lou Ella Davis. She was born either 1882 or 1884 in Hardy, Sharp County, Arkansas. Her date of birth is unclear because her death certificate says she was born in 1882 [3] and her headstone says she was born in 1884 [4]. But that’s a story for another day. Also, it is unclear what the name of Dora’s husband was because the death certificates of her two daughters had two different names listed - one said Bill Davis [5] and the other said James Davis [6]. I will eventually need to come back to this conflicting information and resolve it. But for now, let’s move on.

On February 12th, 1890, Dora remarried to William Carpenter in Sharp Co., Arkansas [7], with whom she had four more children, and they were enumerated together on the 1900 Sharp Co., Arkansas Census Report [8].

William Carpenter had also been previously married to a woman named Catherine Warren. Their daughter Ellenora Carpenter married Dora and Winnie Nix's brother John Robert Nix about 1880. They had six children before Ella Nora died in 1898. She was buried in the Old Baptist Cemetery in Ash Flat, Sharp Co., Arkansas along with her father William Carpenter, husband John Nix, and several children [9].

Did you catch the fact that Dora Nix's brother John married to Dora's step-daughter? Sigh. Well yeah, that's how things were done back then I guess.

Back to the DNA....

I gave you the story about Dora and John Robert who both moved from Tennessee to Arkansas, but what ever happened to their sister Winnie Frances Nix? Well we know that she got married and had children because one of her descendants came back as a DNA match to my grandfather. It just so happens that Winnie married to William Robert Crafton in 1871 [10]. They had six children together, all born in Tennessee. In fact my grandfather's match's family remained in Tennessee while my family remained in Arkansas. There is no indication that the families knew one another.

Before I learned about my grandfather's match, I had no information about his ancestor, Winnie Nix. After corresponding with his wife, however, I was able to fill in a good chunk of information about her and her family, thus expanding my tree out even further. This is the fun part about corresponding with your matches. I also learned that my grandfather and his match are third cousins once removed. This means they share the same set of 2nd great-grandparents. However, because they are "once removed," my grandfather's match has one more generation between them; therefore John and Elizabeth Nix are his 3rd great-grandparents. I have included their relationship report below:

Relationship Report between my Grandfather and his match

Family Tree DNA predicted they were 2nd to 3rd cousins, so an actual relationship of 3rd cousins, once removed falls right into line with that prediction. They share a total of 126 cM of DNA between them with the longest segment of 29.39 cM being on Chromosome 1.

I hope this blog post will help to encourage you to work with your matches and to keep digging for those common ancestors. More and more testees are being added to each of the three testing companies' databases each month. I know it is overwhelming at times, but finding a connection such as the one outlined in this post can be very rewarding!

I'd love to hear your success stories. Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me.

[1] 1870 US Federal Census, Obion County, Tennessee, population schedule, District 3, Troy and Union City, Page 91 (penned), dwelling 225, family 225, John Nix; digital image, ( : downloaded 24 September 2013); NARA Film M593, Roll 1546.
[2] 1860 US Federal Census, Marshall County, Tennessee, population schedule, District 12, Page 11 (penned), 105 (stamped), dwelling 92, family 75, John Nix; digital image, ( : downloaded 4 November 2013); NARA Film M653, Roll 1265, FHL Film 805265.
[3] Oklahoma State Department of Health, Death Certificate No. 10879, Ella Otten, 1 August 1947; Vital Records Service, Oklahoma City.
[4] Lou Ella Otten grave marker, Fairview Cemetery, Shawnee, Oklahoma, Photographed by Ginger Smith, researcher, November 2007.
[5] Death Certificate of Ella Otten, 1947.
[6] Los Angeles County, California, death certificate (22 March 1955), Oceola Clark; County of Los Angeles, Registrar-Recorder / County Clerk, Norwalk. (See her post here)
[7] Michael L Peters, grandnephew of Lou Ella Davis.
[8] 1900 US Federal Census, Sharp County, Arkansas, population schedule, Highland Township, enumeration district (ED) 119, page 44, William Carpenter; digital image, ( : accessed 08 November 2013 ); NARA Film T623, Roll 77.
[9] Old Baptist Cemetery, Ash Flat, Sharp Co., AR. Visited by author, May 2009. Also, see Find-A-Grave Memorial No. 21767505.
[10] 1910 US Federal Census, Houston County, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 4, enumeration district (ED) 71, dwelling 112, family 112, William R Crafton; digital image, ( : accessed 23 October 2013); NARA Film T624, Roll 1565, FHL Film 1375578; William Crafton was listed as having been married 39 years which in 1910 would have put their date of marriage around 1871.