Where Do I Find The Petition Men? Start With A Cluster of Martins in the 1830 census.

I have 29 men, some I think I know, some I have no idea. The petition submitted to the SC General Assembly was written in 1834, and according to the SC Archives, these men are inhabitants of York County,  SC.  So it seems reasonable to look in York County and the census seems a likely place to start, namely 1830 and 1840.

This will not be quick, easy or exact.  But quick, easy and exact is not worth writing about. 🙂

I’m going to start in 1830 and start looking for Martins. Ancestry tells me there are 11, more than are in the petition, but given that it is a surname in my tree and there aren’t a lot of them, it seems reasonable to take a bit of a detour here and figure out who all 11 are if I can.

There are 3 Thomas Martins in the 1830 census.  Because, why not?

I start there and find six listed together; three of them are Thomas.  Scanning these census pages, I see that the entries are not semi-alphabetical, so it suggests that these men might have lived in the same general area or were at least on a path that the census taker took.  They very well might be related.  Or not.  But it is highly likely they knew each other.

I’m going to assume that each of these six men were the oldest males in the household.  Yes, I am well aware this may not be the case, but if you don’t make some assumptions you will probably get nowhere. So here are the six ordered by age:

  • Thomas Martin Sr is between 70-80, born between 1751-1760
  • Thomas Martin Jr is between 50-60, born between 1771-1780
  • John Martin is between 40-50, born between 1781-1790
  • William is between 20-30, born between 1801-1810
  • Absolom is between 20-30, born between 1801-1810
  • Thomas  Martin is between 20 to 30, born between 1801-1810

Looking at what I have on my Martins, I think I can identify who some of the men are:

The oldest Thomas is Thomas (1756-1835); the second Thomas is his son, Thomas (1778-1855); the third Thomas is the son of the second, Thomas Mart (1806-1855).

John Martin is most likely the son of the oldest Thomas, John (1784-1864).  Notice there are two John Martins in that family.  The first one died very young, and they named the next son John.  Obviously an important name to the family.

So who are William and Absolom?  Both names appear on the petition. Are they sons of the oldest Thomas and the dates are just wrong on the census?  Why is this always so messy?  Oh right, it’s genealogy!

If Your Document Has At Least Two People, Well It’s A Cluster

Yesterday, I started writing about how I have been mulling and pondering about what is in my genealogy toolkit.  And I came up lacking on tools to help me understand documents as clusters.

I was looking at a petition that some of my ancestors had signed asking the SC General Assembly not to change  the SC Constitution. By the way, that petition did not work out, the General Assembly was still all about nullification and states rights and changed the SC Constitution.

Twenty nine men signed this document.  So how do I understand who they were?  I’m going to start by relating them to one person, in this case Bird Martin, my 3rd great grandfather. Just something simple and just starting with my best guesses based on who I have in my tree:

And my first guesses to who these men are may be wrong. But I can now start to pull more evidence and wrap more thought around it.  And it’s a place to start.

Any document with at least two people in it is a cluster.  One is too lonely a cluster to consider. 🙂

Let’s take another example, a deed that includes Bird Martin and Jesse Blanton.  Neither is a primary person in this deed. Bird is a witness; Jesse has neighboring land.  But this document makes them a cluster, and Bird and Jesse are in the petition cluster so it is relevant. In 1846, John Wood sold land to Peter Sepaugh.  I’m going to start creating summary pages for deeds and the like on my blog, such as South Carolina, York County – 1846 – John Wood to Peter Sepaugh

Who are all of the people in this deed and how do they relate to Bird?

And neither of these list is verified or something that I would bet my life on.  It is a starting place for us to start learning about these people and their place in the community.

Next up, using census records to determine identity.

Mulling and Pondering My Genealogy Toolkit

South Carolina Department of Archives and History, S165015: Petitions to the General Assembly, Inhabitants of York District, Petition Against the Proposed Altering of the State Constitution, 21 Oct 1834

I was poking around on South Carolina Department of Archives and History  looking through their online digitized images, specifically looking for transcribed wills. And I discovered Petitions to the General Assembly while searching for my ancestor Bird Martin.

And I found this entry: Inhabitants of York District, Petition Against the Proposed Altering of the State Constitution.

It’s an interesting document.  South Carolina in the 1830s and 1840s was all  in an uproar about tax tariffs and this  brought on the Nullification Crisis. In 1843, South Carolina wanted to update its Constitution, specifically, Article IV to be a little bit more state centered.  (Different post, coming later to this blog.) And these gentleman disagreed with the idea  of amending the constitution.

Looking at the document, we see that the petition itself is type written.  This suggests other counties and groups may have been given this petition as well to circulate and gather signatures.  While most of the names are in different handwriting, the names of John Mooreland, all the  Martins, and Ransom Collins, who was married to a sister of the Martins, looks like  it was written the same person.

Now to be honest, this document doesn’t do much to help me fill out the family tree of Bird Martin.  No relationships are stated.  It puts Bird in a place and time, but there are other documents that do that as well. If I was looking for evidence to create an indirect proof that Bird was related to the rest of these Martins, I could use it along with other documents.  But  I have better documents for the family relationships.  Bird’s father Thomas died intestate and you know what a great source of information that is.

I really don’t learn anything I don’t already know about Bird’s family relationships.

But I can’t be done with this document.  It’s really interesting, at least to me. I went digging for the South Carolina constitution in around that time looking for the differences.  I read up on the Tariff issues that preceded this.  But what I don’t have is a way to store it.  We all have a construct to show parents and previous generations, i.e., the family tree.  And it exists in a wide variety of places: online, desktop software, and hand written forms.  We have another construct to show the family unit, which is the family group sheet.  Not as common, but it exists in multiple places.

I created a timeline, which is a great tool in looking at a person’s life.

Timeline for Martins in York County, SC

But there is more on this document.  There is a cluster of men who lived in York County, SC that believed a specific thing at a specific time.  And that tells me something about my ancestor and this cluster of men that I didn’t know.  Where is the tool or form that records cluster information?  How do I know  what information I’m supposed to collect?

I use Family Tree Maker to store my genealogy data.  And I’ve attached this document to all the men I could identify on the petition.

Creating a cluster of sorts in Family Tree Maker
Creating a cluster of sorts in Family Tree Maker

But when I’m doing cluster research or FAN research or whatever you want call it, what exactly should I be collecting?  And how should I store it so it is useful to me? And how do I use cluster data to tell the story of my ancestor?  Where are the tools  to help me put that together? And a Kinship Determination Project is a report, not a tool or set of tools to pull this together.

I feel like we are missing a few things in our genealogy toolkit.  Standards and forms that help us collect cluster data. And tools that tie it all together.  Standards, forms and tools that can be easily explained and easily replicated.  If you have forms or other tools you use to collect this information, let me know.

But I’ve been Mulling and Pondering (h/t to J Mark Lowe) for a long time.  And I’m on a mission to try and figure it out.


So That’s What She Looked Like!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had pictures of all of our ancestors? One of the joys of being on Ancestry (note: they employ me!) is that you can connect with so many people.  I met a cousin a while back and we messaged back and forth.  Lovely lady.

And a week or so ago, she said she had a picture of Elizabeth Jane Wallace.  Now Elizabeth, my 2nd great great grandmother, doesn’t even have a grave marker.  This was too much to hope for, but sure enough here it is:

elizabeth jane wallace and martha cash

Elizabeth is in the lower left, her mother Martha Jane Cash, is in the lower right.  Is it me or do they appear to be short a few teeth?  Upper right is Aurelia Donald Brogan, upper left is is Ethel Jane Brogan.  Martha died in 1913, so it was taken before then.  Ethel was born in 1890, so I would guess the picture was taken between 1905 and 1913.

What a delightful to have!


Who was Ruth Rouse and why should you care?

Photo by Lewis Wickes Hine, taken May 1913 ( Ruth Rous, on loc.gov )

If you are looking for your southern ancestors’ story, you need to know about the textile mills.  Join me at NGS in Raleigh May 9-13, specifically Thursday Morning at 8am (yes, you can do it!) for The Industrial Revolution Comes Home: Textile Mills and Your Ancestors and we will talk about Ruth, murder, communists, and many other things that impacted your post Civil War Southern family.  See you then!

Where You Will Find Me Speaking


I have 3 conferences scheduled this year (so far) where you can hear me speak.

bE2_W402_400x400At RootsTech I am doing a couple of military talks including one on my favorite subject, the Civil War!  And  I have three talks scheduled for NGS.  The era of the textile mills is really fascinating and has an interesting history in the North and South Carolina area.  And it’s a new talk.  And the Research Guides talk will be a bit of a different take.  Promise!  I don’t have the titles for the Texas Conferences but the subjects are Tax Lists, which are an excellent resource in Texas and Collateral Research.

Hope I see you somewhere!


Slides and Template from San Diego Genealogy Day!

photo by J Paul Hawthorne
photo by J Paul Hawthorne

I had a great time with the San Diego Genealogy Society and San Diego Historical Society!

You can find the slides from my lectures How Do I Know I Am Right and Finding and Researching Women on my Slides and Presentations Page. (Note: I updated the How Do I Know I’m Right so it works!)

Also, I will be in Annadale, Virginia doing an all day presentation for the Fairfax Genealogy Society on October 29th.

Register today at Fairfax Genealogical Society 13th Annual Fair for:

  • Finding Forgotten Stories
  • Researching Your Southern Ancestors Online
  • Cousin Bait: Make Social Media Work For You
  • Putting Food on the Table & A Roof Over Their Heads



Jumpstarting Your Genealogy Brain

Amy Johnson Crow wrote about Breaking Out of Your Genealogy Comfort Zone. Seemed like a good idea. I’ve felt a little bit uninspired in my genealogy research lately.  I needed a new approach.  Amy broke out of her comfort zone by taking a non genealogy class and improving her social media skills.

yale-courseSo this idea has been rolling around in my head: Where do I need to improve my skill set? As I wrote up my proposal for a Civil War class for NGS 2017, it occurred to me, that I focus on researching Civil War and the records, but what about the war itself?  The years leading up to it, the years after it?  And how did it change the lives of my ancestors? Context is everything.

I turned to The Google and found this gem: Hist 119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877  It’s a free college course taught by Yale Professor David W Blight.

Yes, please. 🙂

Even if I never watched a single session, the required texts alone are worth it!  No discussion of records or the GPS, but lots of discussion about the mindset of the people on both sides.

And understanding our ancestors in the context of their time and place will make us better genealogists.

And I’ve gained some new inspiration to tackle old problems with some new ideas.  How do you break out of your comfort zone and learn new things?


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