Saturday, December 15, 2018

2018 #52Ancestors "Practice Post": Week 50 - "Naughty"

This is the first of the 2018 "Practice Posts", in preparation for the 2019 #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge! 2018 Week 50's theme is "Naughty" - as in something that would have put your ancestor on Santa's infamous Naughty List.

My family tree is full of people who did some less-than-reputable things, but one in particular stands out: William Newberry (c. 1750 - 1823), who in October of 1822 was tried and convicted of the September 1822 murder of James Parker. William was found guilty of murder in the second degree, and sentenced to 8 years in prison, with the first 8 months to be served in solitary confinement and on a diet of bread and water.

The trial is described in Order Book 1, Page 442, (1810-1823) of the Superior Court Franklin County, Virginia.

"At a Superior Court of law for Franklin County continued and held at the Courthouse the 26th day of  October 1822

Present (The same judge as on yesterday)

William Newberry late of the County, labourer, who stands convicted of murder in the second degree
was again brought to the Bar in custody of the keeper of the Public jail of this County, and thereupon 
it being demanded of him if anything for himself he had or knew to say why the Court to Judgment and execution against him of and upon the premises should not proceed and nothing being offered or alleged in delay of judgment therefore it is considerered by the Court that the said William Newberry be imprisoned in the  Publick Jail and Penitentiary house of this Commonwealth for the term of Eight years the period by the Jurors aforesaid in their verdict ascertained and that he be kept in solitary cell in the said Jail and Penitentiary house on low and coarse diet for the space of one twelfth part of the said term.

And it is ordered that the Sheriff of this County do as soon as possible remove and safely convey the said William Newberry from the jail of this County to the said Publick Jail and Penitentiary house,therein to be kept imprisoned and treated in the manner directed by the act entitled, an act to reduce unto one act the several acts and parts of Acts for establishing a Penitentiary house and for the punishment of crimes.

And in pursuance of the said Act the Court doth certify that nothing appeared to the Court either in aggravation or extenuation of the offense of the said William Newberry nor did it appear before the said commission of the said murder that he was of a bad or good character or had ever been tried."

The exact year of William's birth is unclear. On August 8, 1785, he married Jane Taylor (often listed as Jane Whorley/Whirley on various trees, for some reason) in Campbell County, VA. They had three children: Thomas, m. Sarah Vier; Levi, m. Elizabeth Boyd, and Sarah, m. William Boyd.

Jane must have passed away prior to 1813, because on May 22, 1813, William married Margaret Martin. At this time, I know of no children that came from this union.

William died in prison in 1823, having served only a fraction of his time.

~ ~ ~

My descent from William is as follows:

William Newberry (1750 - 1823)
5th great-grandfather

Sarah Newberry (1789 - 1854)
Daughter of William Newberry

Rosanna Boyd (1810 - 1850)
Daughter of Sarah Newberry

Joseph Patterson Hudson (1839 - 1914)
Son of Rosanna Boyd

Joseph P. Hudson (1881 - 1954)
Son of Joseph Patterson Hudson

Edna Josephine Hudson (1921 - 2011)
Daughter of Joseph P. Hudson

Joseph Wayne Kessinger (1958 - )
Son of Edna Josephine Hudson

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Joseph Wayne Kessinger

Monday, November 19, 2018

William Hancock (1580-1622): Participant in the First Thanksgiving

In honor of Thanksgiving, the following post is dedicated to my 11th-great-grandfather, William Hancock, who immigrated to America as a member of the Virginia Company on the ship Margaret in 1619.

When the Margaret landed in Virginia after a grueling 90-day journey at sea, the voyagers honored the wishes of the Virginia Company proprietors, who had instructed that "the day of our ships arrival . . . shall be yearly and perpetually kept as a day of Thanksgiving." The first Thanksgiving celebration took place at Berkeley Hundred Plantation on December 4, 1619, nearly one year before the Pilgrims of the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in November of 1620 (source).

Less than two and a half years later, William Hancock was murdered in the great massacre that happened at Berkeley Hundred on March 22, 1622. A fourth of the colonial population was killed in this massacre, and those that were victims are said to be buried at Carter Plantation (source). An old Hancock family Bible recorded the incident, saying that "in the year 1620, Wm. Hancock, in search of forests for his building of ships embarked for ye plantations, being one of the company owners thereof, leaving his families in England. On the 22nd of March 1622, he, with others, was massacred by ye Savages at Thorps House, Berkeley Hundreds, fifty miles from Charles City. In 1630, son Augustine came to claim the estate, and died, leaving children (source)." This family Bible was reportedly donated to the library of Randolf Macon College, but it cannot now be located (source).

William Hancock had three sons who later followed their father to the New World. Augustine came first in 1630, in order to settle his father's estate; his brother Simon came in 1635, and William Jr. finally arrived in 1638 (source). My line of descent from William goes through William Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth Cockroft. The lines goes:

William Hancock (1580-1622), m. Susan Poynter (11th-great-grandparents)
William Hanock (1615-1693), m. Elizabeth Cockroft (10th-great-grandparents)
John Hancock, m. Jane Holt (9th-great-grandparents)
Benjamin Hancock, m. Elizabeth Jameson (8th-great-grandparents)
Thomas Hancock, m. Mary Shoemaker (7th-great-grandparents)
Barnett Hancock, m. Mary Scates (6th-great-grandparents)
Malcaijah Hancock, m. Cyntha Bradford (5th-great-grandparents)
Henry Hancock, m. Hannah Adkins (4th-great-grandparents)
Charles Hancock, m. Laura Leftwich (3rd-great-grandparents)
Vazzie Hancock, m. Andrew Hunt (2nd-great-grandparents)
Ernest "Zack" Hunt, m. Madaline Moore (great-grandparents)
Phyllis Hunt, m. Arthur "Jack" Quinn (grandparents)
Lora Quinn, m. Joseph Wayne Kessinger (parents)
Allison Q. Kessinger (myself)

I would like to make it a tradition in my family to not only celebrate the traditional Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of November, but to also have a little celebration on December 4th, in remembrance of the first Thanksgiving and of our ancestor, William Hancock. Without his faith, bravery, and enterprise, we would not be here to celebrate Thanksgiving 400 years later.


Disclaimer: The events described in this post, and the language used in the quoted passage from the Hancock Family Bible, are in no way intended to be critical or derogatory of indigenous peoples. The events described and the passage quoted are to illustrate historic events only, not to provide a commentary on them.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Five Ancestral Societies That You Probably Qualify For

This blog is ordinarily dedicated to my ancestors and how I found them. However, today we will be exploring a topic that for a genealogist can often be as intimidating as it is exciting: proving descent from an ancestor who qualifies you for membership into an ancestral society.

One of the most fun aspects of researching your family tree is learning which ancestral societies that you are eligible to join due to the brave deeds of your ancestors. Whether they fought in a war, helped to found a nation, or were special in some other regard, these groups seek to honor our ancestors and their actions, which helped to shape who we are today. Membership into these societies can sometimes be a daunting task, but the good news is that almost anyone whose ancestors have been here for a substantial length of time will, in all likelihood, qualify for at least one of these societies. 

1. Daughters of the American Revolution

Probably the most well-known ancestral society, the DAR is a strong force in serving our veterans and preserving the heritage of our communities. Each state has several local chapters, each with their own members and leadership. 

According to, "Any woman 18 years or older who can prove lineal, bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence is eligible to join the DAR. She must provide documentation for each statement of birth, marriage and death, as well as of the Revolutionary War service of her Patriot ancestor."

Most people end up having multiple ancestors who served in some capacity during the Revolution, but sometimes proving lineage from each one can be tricky. I have over 20 ancestors who served, but so far I have only been able to prove one to the DAR's satisfaction. The good news is, your local chapter registrar will know all of the tips and tricks to help you with your application!

Please note that there is also a Sons of the American Revolution for our gentlemen revolutionary descendants!

To join the DAR, first seek out your local chapter here.

2. The Jamestowne Society

The Jamestowne Society is dedicated to finding the descendants of Jamestowne's original inhabitants. This society is available to both men and women, and is very active in preserving the early history of Virginia. 

Many people who can trace at least one line of their family back to Colonial Virginia will probably have at least one ancestor who qualifies for membership in the Jamestowne Society. People who are from Virginia or the surrounding states will, in all likelihood, have several qualifying ancestors. 

According to, an ancestor will qualify you for membership in to the society if he or she:

(1) was a stockholder in the London Company or the Virginia Company, or a member of one of the guilds which invested in the above, during the active investment period;
(2) owned land on Jamestown Island or lived on the Island prior to 1700 (owning land in a neighboring area or neighboring county does NOT of itself qualify an individual);
(3) was a resident in Virginia at the time of the 1624/25 Muster or earlier; 
(4) served as Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General, Clerk of the General Court, Member of the Council or House of Burgesses prior to 1700; these persons shall be conclusively presumed to have had their domiciles on Jamestown Island during their terms of office;
(5) was an Anglican Church (Church of England) minister in Virginia prior to 1700; or
(6) served as an official Indian Interpreter in Virginia prior to 1700.  

To inquire for membership in the Jamestowne Society, click here.

3. The Mayflower Society

The Mayflower Society is dedicated to finding the descendants of the 102 passengers who first sailed to Plymouth aboard the Mayflower. Both men and women are eligible to join. It is estimated that 35 MILLION people are descendants of these 102 passengers, which is a very impressive number considering that nearly half of the Mayflower's passengers did not survive their first winter in the New World. If you can trace a line of your family back to Colonial Connecticut, there is a reasonably good probability that you are a Mayflower Descendant.

The Mayflower Society is active in preserving family histories, especially those of New England Families. Like the DAR, many states have their own local chapters, which hold regular meetings. 

To find more information about how to join the Mayflower society, click here.

4. The Associated Daughters of Early American Witches

Perhaps the most recent of the major ancestral societies (founded in 1987), the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches is dedicated to finding the female descendants of all people accused of witchcraft in the American colonies prior to 1700. The most famous subset of this group is, of course, the 200 people who were accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trails of 1692-1693. Of these 200 people, 20 were executed. 

However, far more people were accused of witchcraft in the colonies than just these 200 unfortunate souls, both before and after the events at Salem. The ADEAW is currently aware of 302 accused witches, and recognizes that there are, in all probability, dozens if not hundreds more. If you can trace any of your lines back to New England, and particularly to Salem, there is a good chance that you are descended from an accused witch. 

To find more information about how you can join the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches, click here.

5. The Baronial Order of Magna Charta

The Baronial Order of Magna Charta is a society that the vast majority of people who can trace a line of their family back to England will be eligible to join. According to, "Applicants for membership as a Baron or Baroness shall be those ladies and gentleman who can prove  lineal descent from one or more the twenty-four Barons, and the Lord Mayor of London, who were selected in 1215 to be Sureties for the proper observance of the statutes of constitutional liberty known as Magna Charta, from John, King of England."

Because these ancestors lived more than 800 years ago, The BOMC has compiled a list of gateway ancestors, most of whom lived in Colonial America, that are already proven to have descended from one of the 24 Barons and the Lord Mayor. If you can prove descent from one of these gateway ancestors, you do not need to provide proofs for the remaining generations (which will save you about 400 years worth of research, since many of these ancestors lived in the 1600s). Please note that these gateway ancestors are not the ONLY lines that are accepted, but are merely provided to assist you.

Most people who can trace a line of their family back to Colonial America will qualify for this society, and almost anyone who can trace their lineage back to a noble family in England will qualify. A great many early colonists were second-sons and daughters (i.e., whose who did not inherit the lands and titles) of noblemen, who came to the New World for greater economic opportunity. As such, a great many people who can trace their lineage to early Colonial America are therefor descended from these noble families.

To inquire for membership to the BOMC, click here.


For my quick-start guide regarding how to begin research on your own family tree, please see this post.

To ask for my help with getting started on your tree, brick wills, or for any other inquiries, please feel free to contact me at

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Nancy Jane "Bradley" (1855-1926): Daughter of James Pettry (1831-1909)

*Edit* With the help of my wonderful readers, I found out that Joshua Bradley had actually passed away by the time that Nancy Jane "Bradley" was born, and that was why it was recorded that Nancy was "sworn to James Petry." I will leave the post here for archival purposes. Many thanks!

In this blog I ordinarily feature ancestors who have proven to be a challenge to research, so that the methods used to find them might help someone else with a similar issue. The ancestors written about in this post weren't particularly difficult to research, but the situation does present a certain mystery. This case is unique in that the mystery lies not in the who, but in the why.

Many years ago, when I first became interested in genealogy, I found my name in a descendant report for Martin Pettry, who was supposedly an ancestor my Great-Grandpa Quinn through his mother's side. Grandpa Quinn's mother, Nancy, was listed as the daughter of James Pettry and Lucinda Brown. Being a newby genealogist, I took this as fact and didn't question it. When I decided that I needed to start keeping all of my genealogy info in one place and started using, I was surprised to find that all of the hints I was getting for Nancy Jane Pettry referred to her as Nancy Jane Bradley.

Nancy Jane Petry Quinn,
circa 1920.
A look at the records provided by Ancestry's hints told me that Nancy's father was apparently Joshua Bradley, who was indeed married to her mother, Lucinda Brown, at the time of her birth. Nancy's death record and Social Security index record both listed Joshua as her father. Mentally chiding the researcher who had put together the Pettry report, I changed Nancy's last name in my tree to Bradley and continued to work on Joshua Bradley's branch - some parts of which went back for many more generations.

After successfully joining the DAR last month, I started looking around in my tree for ancestors that I could easily find records for in order to submit as supplemental ancestors. I decided to get records together for James Madison Crews, an ancestor of Joshua Bradley; since he already had many descendants listed in the DAR's database, I knew that they would have many of the records that I needed in order to prove descent. I began working from myself backward, making sure that I had birth, marriage, and death records for each ancestor in the line of descent.

Nancy "Bradley"'s birth record
When I looked up the original image of Nancy's birth record, my heart sank. Her name was indeed listed as Nancy Bradley, but in the space designated for the name of the father was written "Bastard (sworn to James Pettry)". Her mother, Lucinda Bradley, had been the informant.

A look through my mother's DNA matches turned up about half a dozen forth cousins who all descended from James Pettry's father, and none that descended from Joshua Bradley's father. The DNA evidence confirmed Nancy's birth record - she was the daughter of James Pettry after all. The original researcher who made the Pettry descendant report had been correct, and I had to do some major editing to my tree.

Lucinda Brown Bradley with
her husband, Joshua Bradley.
After the initial shock and subsequent excitement (after all, I had a whole new branch of ancestors to find!), I started to wonder about the circumstances that lead to the writing on that birth record. Lucinda had made sure that her daughter's birth date was recorded, and she made sure that James Pettry was recorded as her child's biological father. Why would a woman do such a thing in 1855? Surely she would want everyone to believe that her husband was her daughter's father?

Was Lucinda assaulted, and this was her way of making sure that James was held responsible? Did James' family have money, and this was a way to make sure her daughter was provided for? Was it as simple as Lucinda having an affair? All of these thoughts and emotions ran through my mind when I saw Nancy's birth record. I'm still not sure what to think or feel, but I desperately want to know why Lucinda made sure that James was recorded as Nancy's father. I will never know for sure, but I can at least try to make an educated guess.

Can anyone give me some insight into this situation? Why would a woman purposefully admit that she gave birth to an illegitimate child out of wedlock in 1855, when the model of femininity was the "Angel in the House"? Please let me know what you think.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

DNA - Good Enough for the DAR?

Part of the fun of being a genealogist is being familiar with all of the societies that you are eligible to join as a result of your descent from certain groups of ancestors. I am being officially inducted into the Anne Bailey Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution next month, along with my mother and grandmother. I also have ancestors that make me eligible for most of the other major societies, including the Daughters of 1812, Daughters of the Confederacy, Associated Daughters of Early American Witches, Winthrop Society, Colonial Dames of the 17th Century, and the Jamestown Society. Much to my aggravation, I have yet to find an ancestor making me eligible for the Mayflower Society.

All of these societies require documented proof for each generation that connects you to the qualifying ancestor, including birth, marriage, and death information. This information can sometimes be very challenging to obtain for various reasons - courthouse fires, lack of proper record-keeping, and name misspellings are the usual culprits. Sometimes, if you're lucky, family genealogy books tracing a single family name or all of the descendants of one ancestor were written before the original documents were destroyed; but even then, the books are only accepted in specific cases. In many cases, you might know that you descend from a specific ancestor because of family tradition, letters, Bible records that are no longer accessible to you, etc., and not have the official records to prove it because of one of the reasons listed above.

This person who matches my grandmother's DNA descends
rom John McClung, the father of our DAR ancestor, 
Samuel McClung. This is an example of an ancestor
"hint" received on Ancestry when two DNA matches
have the same ancestor in their tree.
There have been so many occasions when I wished that the DAR (or any of the other societies) would accept Ancestry DNA results as proof of lineage. Ancestry has a "hints" system in its interface for DNA matches, which points shows you how you are related to someone that you match with. If you and the DNA match have the same ancestor in your trees, you both receive a "hint." Not exactly 100% concrete with just one match, but if you have several hints that all connect back to the same ancestor, I would say that it is beyond reasonable doubt that you are both descended from the same ancestor. 

The DAR began accepting Y-DNA results (which can only be carried through direct male lines) as a supplement to applications in 2014, but you still have to have exact documentation for every generation. As far as I know, the DAR is the only society that accepts even Y-DNA, although I'm not really sure what the advantage of submitting it would be. This is the explanation that the DAR gives: 

"DAR begins accepting Y-DNA evidence, effective January 1, 2014, in support of new member applications and supplemental applications. DNA evidence submitted along with other documentation will be considered along with all of the other source documentation provided to prove heritage. Y-DNA will not be considered as stand-alone proof of linage because, while it can be used as a tool to point to a family, it cannot be used as absolute proof for an individual. For those applicants wishing to submit DNA evidence as proof of lineage along with their other traditional proof documentation, they must submit Y-DNA test results from at least two test subjects following criteria outlined in the guidelines and test requirements for Using DNA Evidence for DAR Applications." (The source for this quote can be found here.)

I hope that at some point in the near future, genealogical societies will begin to take autosomal DNA results (the scientific name for Ancestry DNA, which can be carried through men or women) as an acceptable proof of lineage, or perhaps in support of other documentation that is less exact, such as census records prior to 1850. Perhaps the following rules could be put in place:

1. The DNA matchs must be within a certain number of generations (say, no more than 8).
2. You must produce at least 3 DNA matches who descend from the same ancestor.
3. At least one of the DNA matches must already be a member.

What are your thoughts on genealogical societies accepting autosomal DNA as proof of lineage? Please let me know!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ka-Okee: Daughter of Pocahontas or Genealogy Legend?

The internet is now full of stories about Ka-Okee, the supposed lost daughter of Pocahontas and her first husband, the warrior Kokoum. While many people embraced the story immediately, others have been quick to immediately dismiss it as the stuff of genealogical fairy-tales.

The only portrait of Pocahontas made
during her lifetime.
I first found the story of Ka-Okee when researching a line of my own family. If the pieced-together pedigrees are to be believed, I am descended from Ka-Okee through her daughter, Christian Pettis, and her granddaughter, Ann Martin, who married Edward Watts.

The line has been researched and documented with primary source documents by me up through the marriage of Ann Martin and Edward Watts. When I did a Google Books search for the two names together to see if anything else would come up, I came across the book Shawnee Heritage IV by Don Greene, who connected the couple to Ka-Okee via Christian Pettis. When I saw that Ka-Okee was apparently the daughter of Pocahontas, I had to know more.

I quickly came upon two blog posts on the subject - one embracing it as truth, and one instantly and flippently dismissing it as fiction. It was clear that I wasn't going to get unbiased opinions here, so I set out to find the truth of the matter and to draw my own conclusions.

I quickly found the original Patawomeck Tides newsletter where the story of Ka-Okee made its debut. The basic premise of the tribal historian, Bill Deyo, seemed to be simple enough: he knew of several families who claimed descent from Pocahontas according to their family traditions, but none of them descended from the Bollings (the family from which all of Pocahontas' documented descendants come, via her granddaughter, Jane Rolfe, who married a Bolling). They did, however, all descend from the Martin and Pettus families. There was already a long-standing oral tradition in the Martin family that one of their early colonial ancestors had married a Native American girl named Ka-Okee. Deyo knew that Ka-Okee must connect to Pocahontas somehow, but he did not know exactly how.

It was then that Bill Deyo discovered the book The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History by Dr. Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow and Angela L. Daniel "Silver Star." In this book, Angela L. Daniel recorded the sacred oral history of the Mattaponi tribe, as told by Dr. Custalow, their chief. The oral tradition had been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years, and had never before been recorded in writing. The Mattaponi people were the tribe of Pocahontas' mother. The book confirmed what Deyo had already been thinking - that there must have been another child besides Thomas Rolfe, the child of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Deyo then concluded that as all lines led back to the Martin family, the child must have married into the family at some point, and that this child must have been Ka-Okee, the Native American ancestor that had been part of their family traditions for generations.

After purchasing the book and reading it, I confirmed one interesting point. As Bill Deyo points out in the Patawomeck Tides newsletter, the tribe really did not know much about the child of Pocahontas and Kokoum, other than the fact that a child existed. In the timeline at the end of the book, the authors state that "[between 1610 and 1612] Pocahontas came of age. She was about thirteen years old. Pocahontas fell in love with and married Kokoum, an elite Patawomeck warrior and a guard at Werowocomoco. They eventually moved to the Patawomeck tribe and had a child. Because the baby's name is not known, he is referred to in the manuscript as "Little Kokoum." If the name of the child was not known, it is reasonable to speculate that the gender of the child might also have been unknown; the child could just as easily have been a daughter as a son.

Up to this point, I have only given a summery of what I found while researching. Here is my interpretation of the information found, and my opinion on Ka-Okee:

  1. The book The True Story of Pocahontas should be considered a credible source, and the assertion that Pocahontas and Kokoum had a child together should be taken as fact. The book was originally a dissertation, written as the final step in Angela Daniel's requirement to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology from the College of William and Mary, an Ivy League institution (see the acknowledgements at the end of the book). This manuscript had to go through a rigorous processes of review from a dissertation committee made up of experts in the field, and everything in the manuscript that could be confirmed via documentation was in fact documented. If a committee of experts in the field are willing to accept these assertions from the Mattaponi tribe as fact, so should we.
  2. William Strachey, a member of the Virginia Company, wrote in 1612 that Pocahontas was married to Kokoum for at least two years. Two years is plenty of time in which to have a child. Yes, the couple would have been very young; but during the early 17th century, young girls were frequently married in their early teenage years and bore children soon thereafter.
  3. All of the families mentioned by Deyo in the newsletter do descend from the Martin and Pettis/Pettus families. William Pettus, an accomplished genealogist who has published two volumes on the Pettis/Pettus family, has accepted the Ka-Okee story as true. You can read his comments on the story here.
  4. Whether the child was a boy or a girl, the child most likely does have hundreds of descendants by now. The number of Pocahontas descendants who descend from Thomas Rolfe number in the thousands, including two former first ladies of the United States. It would be reasonable to assume that the first child's descendants would be similar in number, and likely have a few notables among them.

Based on the available information, I absolutely believe that Pocahontas and Kokoum had a child. I believe that it is very likely that this child was female, and that this is a huge part of the reason why this story has not been known until now. I believe that it is very possible that the child was the Native American woman who apparently married Thomas Pettus, known as Ka-Okee.

Will we every know the story in it's entirety? No. Will we ever know for sure if the child was male or female? With the advances in Ancestry DNA testing, it's quite possible. Will we ever find a contemporary written reference to any of this? It's possible, but probably not.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this story, particularly if any professional genealogists ever happen across this page. It is an intriguing story, and one that, if proven true, could change our entire outlook on early colonial Native American genealogy.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Rebecca J. Ratliff (c.1852-1927): The Mystery Solved

In October I wrote this blog post about my third-great-grandmother, Rebecca J. Ratliff Moore, and how the identities of her parents have been a mystery for decades; in fact, they were apparently a mystery to Rebecca's own children. For years and years I searched, hoping to one day get to tell my great-grandmother who her great-grandparents were. Unfortunately, she passed away before I got the chance to do that.

The previous post explained a wild theory that I had about Rebecca, but of course it could only ever be a theory at best. I had almost given up hope of ever knowing for sure who Rebecca's parents were. Every time I went back to work on it, I would simply get frustrated and put it away again.

A few days ago a contacted a fellow researcher on Find-A-Grave who, as it turns out, I was loosely acquainted with in real life. I had originally contacted her about the matter of linking John Harmon Moore's (Rebecca's son) profile to that of his half-sister, Martha Moore Backus. She decided to do some background research on them, and happened across my original blog post about Rebecca. The mystery intrigued her, so she decided to look into it for me. And all I can say is: God bless this woman.

She told me that when researching in the Pike Co., KY area, she always checks the surrounding counties as well, because within 20 miles or so three states border one another: Pike Co., KY; Buchanan Co., VA, and Mingo Co., WV. So she searched records in Buchanan Co. for Rebecca's family, and I'll be if she didn't solve a decade's long search in a matter of hours.

Richard Ratliff's family, listed in the 1860 census.
She found a six-year-old Rebecca Ratliff in the household of Richard and Matilda Jasper Ratliff in Buchanan Co., VA in the 1860 census, along with siblings Wilbourn and Sarah (among others). She went on to find that Wilbourn, whose name is often mistakenly written as William, moved to Clay County, WV and married a woman named Mary Catherine Bird, and that Sarah married a man named James Hackney and moved to Blakely, WV: which is where Rebecca was living when she died.

The researcher gave a number of other records to support her findings, but as soon as I saw that Wilbourn and Sarah were her siblings and who they had married, I knew that we had the right family. My grandmother, my mother, and I all have many DNA matches that descend from Wilbourn and Sarah. In fact, I had even looked into both couples myself in the past, but although I knew that they had to somehow connect to the same family, I couldn't see past the "Pike Co., KY" info listed on a couple of Rebecca's records, and therefore couldn't come to the conclusion that they were siblings. It took a set of fresh eyes with a fresh idea to make everything fall into place.

After reading the researcher's email, I burst into tears. I couldn't believe that after all this time, I finally had the answers that I had sought for so long. My second thought was that I wished that my great-grandmother had been here to see this. But, I have a feeling that she knows.

For those who read my first post about Rebecca, you may remember that I had said that I had DNA matches that descended from the grandparents of the "other" Rebecca J. Ratliff, who had married Nathan Frasher. As it turns out, the two Rebeccas are third cousins. They had the same Ratliff great-great-grandfather. No wonder DNA didn't help me much with my initial search...

I am still experiencing so many emotions because of this discovery, and I am amazed and overwhelmed by the generosity of the researcher and her willingness to help a near-stranger without even being asked. It's the moments like this - the discoveries, and the people who help us make them - that make this entire endeavor worth it. And now, I am SO happy to say in writing, for the first time ever, that:

Rebecca J. Ratliff (born between 1852 and 1854, died May 6, 1927) was the daughter of Richard Ratliff and Matilda Jasper. She married Josiah Moore, son of Joseph Moore and Hannah Cady, on February 3rd, 1887. They had two children: John Harmon Moore (1888-1957) and Luthara Grace Moore (1889-1952).


Welcome to Rooted Heritage Genealogy! This blog is dedicated to both telling my ancestors' stories and to helping others to do the sam...