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).

1 comment:

  1. I too am having an issue finding out about an ancestor from that same area. My mother's father was Linel Hackney. His father was Rufus Hackney and his mother Rosa Farmer Hackney. Rufus' father's name was Alex and Alex's mother is Mary Jane Hackney. Mary Jane was never married but coupled with a man who's last name was Owens and was from Buchanan County, Virginia. Rumor has it he was mixed race and they weren't allowed to marry. Whether this is true I don't know but we don't have a first name for him to find out any more. If your friend is still available and would like to help solve another mystery decades old I'd love the help. Thanks and God Bless.



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