Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A genealogy weekend

This weekend I visited my wife's family in Owensboro, Kentucky. She was there for a cousin's wedding shower. While she was at the shower, I decided to use my free time to try and track down some of the dead ends I had run into in researching her family.

There were three main roadblocks I have encountered in researching her family. First is finding the maiden names of some of the women in her maternal grandfather's family. Her grandfather's family, the Ebelhars/Uebelhors, are German (Actually Alsacian French) Catholics who emigrated to southern Indiana. I know that Catholic churches in the area kept excellent records, and that I would have no problem locating this information if I was to go to the local churches and view the record books. That, however, is something I have yet to find time to do. Fortunately, I spoke with one of my mother-in-law's cousins who has already done much of that work. He offered to exchange information with me next time I am in town. He has a collection of record copies and old photographs that I hope to digitize. He also had quite a few interesting stories to share about his family, such as how his great grandfather was the owner of a rather rowdy saloon, and once shot a man in a barfight.

The second roadblock I addressed was my wife's maternal grandmother's family. Her great grandmother was a Mabel Kelley, born in 1895 in the Owensboro area. I had Mabel on the 1900 and 1910 censuses as a child, but was unable to determine the names of her parents. Mabel was raised by her aunt and uncle, Rose and William Tuck. Her parents either abandoned her to their relatives, or died before she was 5. I found the answer in old, handwritten notes my wife's grandmother's aunt, Sister Elizabeth Kelley. Sr. Elizabeth left 16 pages of meticulous handwritten notes on her family. She even made multiple handwritten copies to share with her family! These notes revealed the names of her parents and grandparents, opening up whole new branches of research for me to explore over the next few months. I took high resolution digital photos of Sr. Elizabeth's notes and will be sharing those along with my own research.

The final roadblock is the most challenging: My wife's paternal grandmother's father. My wife's grandmother was born in 1919 in Arkansas to William Daniel Taylor and Dona Westerfield. Her mother was 16 when she married William D. Taylor, who at the time was at least 50 years old, possibly as old as 55. Even in Arkansas in 1903, a 50 year old marrying a 16 year old girl was not common. Simply put, and without getting into details, William D. Taylor was not a good person. He was also very secretive, which led to much speculation and rumors in his family. We do not know if William D. Taylor is his real name, where he was from, or exactly when he was born.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find any significant information on William D. Taylor prior to his marriage in 1903. My trip only raised more questions about who this man might have been. What I do know about him remains limited. I know he was likely from Tennessee, though he wouldn't even give the census takers a square answer on this question. Other than that, I have only many, many rumors. He may have left Tennessee because he got a 15 year old girl pregnant and was run out of town. He may have served as a water boy for soldiers in the Civil War. He may have briefly been a member of the James-Younger Gang, and participated in a stagecoach heist near Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. He may have had a twin brother whose identity he assumed. He may even have had a second family living in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

That is quite a lot to explore. I could spend years researching to discover which of these stories is true. For now, I am going to focus on finding him on an earlier census and hopefully determining the names of his parents and where he was from.

I'll post more on these families after I get some time to review the information I received this weekend. Unfortunately, my genealogy work might be rather limited for the next few months, as I am headed towards finals, and after that I must begin preparing for the bar exam in July. But I will at least try and post stories on the families I have already researched in the next few months.