Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Mystery of William Herbert Peters’ Birth

Today a mystery was solved.

It all started when a woman that I have been exchanging information with for several years now emailed me to say she would be visiting Oregon County, Missouri and wanted to know if there was anything I wanted her to look for while she was there. She said she would be looking for more documents on our Peters and King families.

It just so happens that I had updated my Peters research report back in January and she said she would look it over for me to see if she could find any gaps or offer any suggestions on my next research steps. My Peters line is my dead end or what some might call my “brick wall.” As I was creating an updated narrative report to send to her, I checked the WorldConnect online family tree of my great-grandmother’s half brother, William Herbert Peters to verify some information I had. I noticed the database had been updated in January of 2012, so I re-read his entry. It is always a good idea to re-check information, especially family tree files on the internet because if the owners are anything like me, they are updating their information all the time.

I was originally told by this family tree owner that William Herbert Peters was the son of William Edward Peters (my 2nd great-grandfather) and Matilda Judd. He was born out of wedlock and Matilda was only 16 years old when he was born in March of 1900. In November of 1900, William Edward Peters married my 2nd great-grandmother, Dora King who took in the baby as her own. Matilda Judd married Posey Woodside Willard in 1901. Matilda’s family knew about the baby. My family knew about the baby, however, it was believed that he was NOT the son of William Peters, in other words, he had a different father than my great-grandmother and her siblings. I put this contradiction between the two families' stories aside for a while. 

Six years later, I read in this updated family tree file that William Herbert Peters was the son of Posey Woodside Willard and Dora King and that an affair had ensued and a child had been produced and said child had been adopted by William Edward Peters. Does that name sound familiar – Posey Woodside Willard? – it should because he is the man that Matilda Judd, the woman originally thought to be William Herbert Peters' mother, married in 1901!

Usually the owner of this tree emails me when he finds new information, but I haven’t heard from him in years. So I sent him an email asking how did he learn about this new information and I CC’d the researcher I had been exchanging emails with today. I asked him had he obtained William Herbert Peters’ death certificate?

Well wouldn’t you know it but two seconds after I asked, I decided to look on to see if they had uploaded any new databases recently from Texas. Sure enough, I found “Texasdeaths, 1977-1986” which filled the gap they had previously. The previous database of Texas Death Certificates only went up to the year 1976. This one went a little further. It is not yet indexed, but it didn’t take me long to find the one I was looking for by browsing through the images. I knew that he had died 20 Apr 1979 in Bowie County, Texas. 

Sure enough, his death certificate says his parents were Dora Watson and Posey Willard. His mother’s name was Dora King; however after her father died when she was just 2 years old, her step-father, Samuel Watson, adopted her.

Here is a look at the death certificate (click to make it bigger):

So the mystery of William Herbert Peters has been solved.

Discovering divergences like this and documenting them is essential to building successful connections to your ftDNA Family Finder (or 23andMe) matches. Trying to prove connections is often difficult and discouraging because events like this happen and it appears as if even 2nd or 3rd cousin matches are not possible. So make sure to look for any and all kinds of diverging branches of your tree and document them well!

Citation as provided by webstie:
"Texas, Deaths, 1977-1986." ''FamilySearch'' ([]). Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics. Digital images of originals housed at the State Registrar Office in Austin, Texas. FHL microfilm and digital images. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. William Herbert Peters. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this information. I also have a Peters line. It is my belief, that the originated from Virginia. Hope to learn more.

    1. Hi Yvette, thanks so much for reading! The Peters line is my biggest brick wall as my 2nd great-grandfather, William Edward Peters, the man who raised William Herbert Peters illustrated in the story above seems to have been dropped in the middle of Missouri out of nowhere. I am hoping the Family Finder DNA test will help me break through this wall.

  2. William Herbert Peters is my grandfather. I was born in November 1964. I grew up with William Herbert Peters and Emily Mae Dodd Peters. This research has been a great blessing to me and my half-sister, Heather Diane Blizzard. I also, had many visits as a young child with his half-sisters Mildred and Alice. Also, with his children. Owen Peters, Velma Jean Peters Danahey. My mother, Barbara Sue Peters Jenkins Blizzard Arredondo was his youngest child. Barbara and Owen are deceased and Velma is still alive in a place called "Soldiers Home" in Chicopee, Massachusetts. There is a VITAL piece of information I would like from Herbert's half-sister Alice"s family. The information I need is contact information of her son who was a preacher/funeral director in Thayor, Mo. I am not sure which son it was and hopefully, he is still alive. My grandfather called for him 3 days before he died. That information would be great to have. I did speak to him in 1996, but lost all information. I can be reached at Thank you. Michelle Denise Jenkins Stroud.

  3. So good to hear from you. I emailed you back. Let me know that you received them. Ginger