Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of Branches, Twigs, and Roots!

This is the first edition of the expanded, revamped edition of the e-zine. Here's what I propose to do, as far as changes are concerned:

  1. Feature one genealogy tip in each e-zine. Often, it will tie in with the 'brick wall' subject, as it does today.

  2. Provide assistance to one or two of my readers with respect to their 'brick walls'. (That means, of course, that I need your input regarding your own brick walls!) The number featured each month will depend on the complexity of the brick wall.

  3. Update you with respect to any new pages on www.familyhistoryalive.com since the last edition of the e-zine.

  4. Alert you to upcoming webinars, contests, and interesting news stories regarding genealogy

The e-zine will be published monthly, on the first Monday (or, if a holiday, the first working day following the Monday) of the month. (Except for this one - I can't wait! ;) )

There may also be other features, as time goes on. I welcome your input as to suggestions for inclusions, changes, etc., which would make the e-zine more relevant for you, my readers.

To comment on the contents of this e-zine, or to share your brick walls for consideration for possible inclusion in a future volume of Branches, Twigs and Roots, click 'Reply', or send an e-mail to Branches_Twigs_Roots@familyhistoryalive.com.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Genealogy Tip of the Month

The spelling of the same surname can vary considerably,
  • from one region to another,

  • from one generation to another,

  • from one sibling to another,

  • and even from one parish register entry to another
    for the same person!

Keep in mind that, in the English language, spelling was not standardized until the mid-1800s, and most people could not read or write until the early 1900s.

That means, of course, that the same surname often was spelled in many different ways.

So, if you are researching an ancestor whose surname was Henshaw, and you come across a family in your ancestor's hometown whose surname is Hanshaw or Hinshaw, don't immediately dismiss it as not being part of your ancestral family, solely because of the spelling.

Also, remember that there are different accents in different parts of the country. While in most countries today in the English-speaking world, there seems to be a homogenization of the accents within a country, to a certain extent, as a result of television, there are still regional accents.

In some parts of England, for example, the accent is such that words ending with an 'a' will be pronounced 'er'. Hannah would thus be pronounced Hanner, and a person spelling phonetically, hearing it pronounced with the er, likely would reflect the 'Hanner' version on paper.

Also, when we think about the number of different ways that a particular word, pronounced exactly the same way, can be spelled in English (for example, read, Reid, and reed; to, two, and too; sight and site; write, rite, right, and Wright; rain, rein and, reign), it is small wonder that the same surname would be spelled many different ways.

The moral of the story: If you can't find your ancestor using the spelling you are accustomed to for the surname, try some surname variations. You may be surprised what you discover!

Your Brick Walls

Here is the first brick wall I received in response to my request, on the familyhistoryalive.com Facebook page, for my readers' brick wall stories. A big thank you to the contributor! Here is what she wrote:

My great-great-great Grandmother was Dorcas Rose. She married James Henry Clair or Henry James Clair. My grandmother always called her great-grandfather Henry. They had a daughter, Virginia Organ Clair, born in Kentucky, 15 May 1854. They had a son named James or John. Grandma had a picture of him, but I don't know what happened to it after she died.

Virginia married James Solomon Shuff. They lived in Lawrence County, Ohio. Later they moved to Lincoln County, W.Va. Grandpa Jim was born 7 Nov 1852 in Lawrence County, Ohio. He died at his son's home in Logan County, W.Va., on 17 July 1921.

Grandma Virginia died in Lincoln County, W.Va. 27 Apr 1928. Most of my info came from my Grandma. Some came from census records. I know all of Grandma Virginia's children. I even met some as a child. But this is all we can find on the Clair family.

The first thing I note, in this write-up, is that most of the information came from the writer's grandmother. As many of us may be aware, family recollections are notoriously unreliable, although there is always a good deal of the information in them that is correct.

It is not that the person telling or writing their memoirs is deliberately trying to mislead those who will be reading the writings, but family 'legends' get passed down from generation to generation, with the loss, or garbling, of some of the details along the way. The challenge is in sorting out what is correct from what is incorrect.

The first thing I did was search for Virginia Organ Clair's marriage to James Solomon Shuff, as often marriage records provide the names of the parents of the newly-wed pair.

When I could not locate the marriage record, I went looking for additional siblings, and any record, such as a census record, that would place Victoria and her brother into a family grouping. Here is the list of names from a family grouping I found in the 1860 US census, in District 1, Pike County, Kentucky:

James Clear 44
Tabitha Clear 43
Henry J Clear 17
Phoebe J Clear 15
Sarah H Clear 14
Olony E Clear 13
David R Clear 12
Margaret E Clear 11
A N Clear 10
Lucinda C Clear 8
Arminta C Clear 6
Virginia O Clear 4
John M Clear 2

Note the last two children listed.

There is a similar listing for the 1850 census:

1850 United States Federal Census about James M Clear
Name: James M Clear
Age: 34
Birth Year: abt 1816
Birthplace: Virginia
Home in 1850: Pike, Kentucky
Gender: Male
Family Number: 125
Household Members:
Name Age
James M Clear 34
Tabitha Clear 32
Henry H Clear 8
Phuby J Clear 7
Sarah H Clear 6
Orleana E Clear 5
David R Clear 3
Margaret E Clear 1

In both cases, the father's first name matches, but the mother is listed as Tabitha, rather than Dorcas. The eldest son at home, in this census, is listed as Henry, who could be the Henry that her grandmother was talking about. And note the family surname: Clear, rather than Clare.

In attempting to find out if this was the right family grouping, I looked at some of the children, to see who their vital records identified as their parents. Henry, the oldest sibling in this family, has a death record which states the following:

Kentucky Death Records, 1852-1953 about Henry Clore
Name: Henry Clore
Death Date: 13 Jun 1913
Death Location: Boyd
Age: 70
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: White
Birth Date: 26 Jan 1843
Birth Location: Virginia
Father's Name: James Clore
Mother's name: Dorcas Rosy

Hmm... Now we have the mother's first name correct (Dorcas, rather than Tabitha), and 'Rosy' presumably is actually 'Rose'. The father's surname is listed as Clore.

A look at the actual death record indicates that the 'Rosy' is actually 'Rose', although the writer wrote the 'e', and then trailed the pen down to the next line! Also, the father's surname is undoubtedly Clare on the original.

A great example of why it's always helpful to consult the actual original document, rather than the transcription!

So, it looks like we've found the right family. It is not clear, at this point, whether Dorcas Rose was actually named Tabitha Dorcas Rose, and used her middle name for everyday purposes, or whether Dorcas died and James Clear remarried. What is clear is that Henry, and whoever the informant was on the death certificate, knew Henry's mother as Dorcas, rather than Tabitha.

I also found Sarah Helen Clear's death certificate, which again lists Dorcas Rose as the mother.

The marriage record for James Clear and Tabitha Rose gives a marriage date of October 20, 1841, in Tazewell, Virginia. This is in line with the children being born from 1843 and on, although it is possible there was an older child, born in 1842, who did not survive, and thus is not reflected on the census record.

It therefore looks like Tabitha Rose was the mother of both Henry and Sarah Helen Clear. In my view, this points to the mother of the children being Tabitha Dorcas Rose, with Tabitha the 'first name', and Dorcas either the middle name or a nickname, since Henry is the first-born, and Sarah is one of the middle children. Further research is required.

When I searched for James Clear, I noticed a "Private Member Story" saved in someone's family tree, under the name 'James Monroe Clear', which is entitled "From Clearwater to Clear". The title seems to imply that there was a change of surname, from Clearwater to Clear.

As those of you familiar with Ancestry will know, there are two options for storing family trees: public (which anyone can access), and private (which can only be accessed by contacting the owner of the tree and asking for permission to view the tree, or to obtain something in the tree).

I have written to the owner of that tree, who has opted to keep it private, and asked if she would be willing to provide me with a copy of that document. I have also asked her if she has any documentation to corroborate a name change. I have not yet heard back from her, but it's still early. Sometimes it is months before these types of requests receive a response.

There is also a document, which I saved in the tree I built for this research (see the tree here), indicating that some family members preferred Clear, while others liked Clair or Clare, as a surname, and spelled it that way. This again was attached to a tree on Ancestry, and appears to have been authored by the person building the tree. How reliable it is is anyone's guess, but the records I have seen so far seem to support what s/he is saying.

One last document from a similar source appears to indicate that there was some native American ancestry in this line. I do not know whether Clearwater was a native name. But checking the native American rolls at the National Archives, for any of the variations on the surname, might yield some further information.

A useful page on researching native American ancestry is found at ehow.com.

I also found a photograph of James Clear, who was born in 1816, and died in 1866.

As is usual in researching a family tree, further questions arose as a result of finding answers to a particular query. One question which I began to answer, and then realized that I had gone away beyond the scope of the question asked (I do tend to get carried away, and keep on researching, once I start!), includes where the Clear/Clair children were in the 1870 census. That is, Tabitha/Dorcas died in 1860, and James in 1866. Where were the children in the 1870 census? Who took in the children - particularly the younger ones in the family?

I hope that these comments have been helpful to the inquirer, who so kindly shared her brick wall with me. If I have misinterpreted anything in the query, which has led to some false assumptions and incorrect conclusions, please e-mail me.

Again, if you have a brick wall that you'd like me to take a look at (I don't guarantee that I'll find any answers, but I'll take a look, if yours is chosen for the next edition), please e-mail me at Branches_Twigs_Roots@familyhistoryalive.com.

Heard the buzz about the Flip-Pal scanner, that has taken the genealogy world by storm? See my review, at FamilyHistoryAlive.com, or go directly to their site from the link below.

New Content on www.familyhistoryalive.com

The following pages have been added to the www.familyhistoryalive.com website since the last e-zine was issued (the topic, as you can tell, was Canadian Military Records):

Canadian Military Records - an Introduction

Canadian Military Records - British Rule

Canadian Military Records - New France

Canadian Military Records - World Wars I and II

The American Revolutionary War - Fighting for the British

I hope you find their contents useful in your genealogy research!

News, Stories, Contests, etc.

Enter to win a World Deluxe Membership to Ancestry.com! Contest closes March 9. See link, below, for details.



A heartwarming story about a father meeting the son he wasn't sure he had!

Father and son meet for the first time


Complete Welsh BMD registrations (from September 1837 and on) have just been added to www.findmypast.co.uk. Read the article here.


To access this week's webinars, click here

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