I’m a pretty active member on a number of family genealogy Facebook groups. These groups continue to be a source of pure gold. Even if I don’t immediately realize it sometimes.
The other day, a member of one of these groups shared the obituary on the left, which lead to a pretty exciting discovery. I was able to reconnect a lost branch of my Holloway family to my overall Edgefield County, South Carolina family tree.
Sometimes it’s easy and straightforward to peel back the generations to connect a newly found branch to my family tree. This wasn’t one of those time. It was a pitched battle of wits going back in time, generation by generation. For whatever reason, this branch of the Holloways stubbornly tried to keep its secrets of how, exactly, I was related to this family group. I’m a Holloway in more ways than I care to think about thanks to endogamy. So I was like a dog with a beloved bone…there was no way I was letting this mystery go. I was going to find Willie’s place in my tree.
In this case, for whatever reason, there was a complicated rhythm to unravelling this mystery. I had to use a unique combination of Newspapers.com, Google Books, FindAGrave, FamilySearch, and AncestryDNA. Umm hmm, I was that determined to crack this!
In broad strokes, these were the steps:
- For whatever reason I had to start with a search for an obituary on Newspapers.com. This provided vital information about:
- The date of death, an age (which you can estimate, if an exact birth date isn’t provided – e.g. 2010 (death date) – 69 (age at death) = an estimated birth year of 1941);
- Children, both living and deceased. This is especially helpful when it comes to daughters, who usually appear under their married names. Marriages mean records and records will (hopefully!) have information like a mother’s maiden name…which helps you find a marriage certificate for a person’s parents. It’s always easier if you have the mother’s correct maiden name along with the father’s name. These records will also have information about: A) birth counties; B) County of Residence at the time of the record; C) names of parents and thier county of residence, etc. These are all vital research clues; and
- An ancestor’s siblings, which you can use to find birth, death and marriage certificates…which will also, hopefully, have information about parents.
- My next stop was FamilySearch. Armed with specific key ancestry dates, I found the vital records I needed. I added these to each person’s page on Ancestry.com. This has to do with the database algorithms ancestry and FamilySearch use. Sometimes, it’s far easier for me to find the records I need on FamilySearch in the first instance. Once I enter the information in Ancestry, the same record usually appears afterwards. It is what it is and I have learned to live with this.
- Once I had specific vital information, then – and only then – did Ancestry begin to provide the records I needed. There are times, in my experience, when Ancestry can be very awkward to work with. This was one of those times. For whatever reasons, Ancestry was suggesting records for everyone and anyone other than the specific person I was initially researching. It was only when I had exactly, precise information, that I was able to finally locate correct records on the service. This time around, the various Social Security records were the last records Ancestry provided. I needed to all of the vital information possible in order for the correct social security record to finally appear in order to prove I was indeed making the right connections for the individuals in this family group.
- In a handful of instances, I had to surf over to FindAGrave and view the Liberty Springs Baptist Church cemetery records to find one or two additional pieces of information. In one instance, a family history book on Google Books providing the missing key to unlock records on Ancestry.
I knew I was on the right track from the beginning. Willie Thomas Holloway was buried at Liberty Springs Baptist Church Cemetery. This church and this cemetery has a long, long, long association with my Edgefield family. This was clue #1 that Willie was definitely a cousin. There were family names that immediately leapt out from the news clipping: Scott, Gaskin, and Quarles. I was related to these three Edgefield families in a number of ways.
I haven’t been able to connect Willie to my tree via his Holloway line. His grandfather, George Washington Holloway, is a stubborn brick wall. His grandmother, Annie Smith, is also a brick wall. For now.
However, I was able to find Willie’s place in my tree via his mother, Susie Anna Scott. This was the exciting discovery bit. It turns out that Susie Anna Scott was the great grand-daughter of my 4th great grand aunt, Anna Peterson.
Anna Peterson has been a mystery and a brick wall for years. Me, and a hard working core of Edgefield cousins, spent years trying to find Annie in official records. In the end, we gave up. We simply couldn’t find her. There were simply too many Annie Petersons from Edgefield who were born around the same time as our great aunt Annie. We just couldn’t be 100% certain we’d found the right records for the right Annie Peterson. This was more than a little frustrating as we were able to trace the lines for all of her siblings. Annie’s line was the only lineage we couldn’t find. Until now.
In the end, it was a series of marriage records, death certificates and obituaries which finally led back to our Annie. Think of this like reverse engineering, genealogy style. Sometimes, you have to take a shot in the dark and work backwards from a latter record in order to scroll back through the generations to get to where you need to be. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And there were times when I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to crack this.
I was fortunate. Due to location, family names and a family associated church, I knew this wouldn’t be a wasted research exercise.
Now it’s time to return to the drawing board to find Willie’s place in the family tree via his grandfather, George Washington Holloway!