Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
Genealogical Problem Solving
My maiden name is Gant, originally spelled Gaunt. Since it's not a common name, when I began doing family research I thought it would be a fairly easy line to trace. Wrong! For too many years it was a family on which I could make little progress.
I wrote to my father's aunt in the 1960s. She had been born in Virginia in 1886 just twenty years after the Civil War ended. She told me her father was Ambrose Cornelius Gant, born 17 Sep 1757 in Loudoun County, Virginia. His father was also named Ambrose Cornelius Gant but that is where the trail ended. The elder Ambrose was said to have disappeared during the Civil War and nothing was known about him.
She sent me a photo of the log house her father built for the family and also sent some Bible records that eventually led me to a Mayflower ancestor but not on the Gant line. At this time there was no Internet and I had to rely on letter writing or travel to track the family.
Around 1975 I went to Washington, DC. In the National Archives I learned what happened to my second great grandfather who "disappeared" during the Civil War. He was captured by Union forces a few miles from his home as he helped load Confederate wagons. Sent by train to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, he died of pneumonia on December 26, 1863 two weeks after arriving at the camp.
Imagine his wife and five children never knowing what had happened to him. I discovered another of Ambrose's descendants whose family concurred in thinking he just disappeared. This cousin had also found the records of his imprisonment while doing research at the National Archives.
From the Archives records we knew the prisoner Ambrose was born in 1816 in Dranesville, Fairfax County, Virginia. His 1850 census entry revealed he was married but we still had no clues to his parents. There is neither birth record nor marriage record for Ambrose in either Fairfax or Loudoun County. This is not uncommon in Virginia prior to the Civil War.
Since there are no Virginia Censuses extant prior to 1810, tax records are often helpful in some cases but are incomplete or missing in others. I found an Ambrose Gant in the 1810, 1830 and 1830 censuses and in personal property tax records beginning 1810 and ending 1837 after which he must have died. In 1810 he reported one male over 16 (himself). In 1814 he reported two males over 16, evidently himself and a son. He also reported from one to three horses some years, with his tax varying from zero to $.18.
While this Ambrose was too old to be my Civil War Ambrose's father he could be his grandfather with the son in the tax records as the elusive father. So now we have a problem I call "the missing generation" frequently encountered when research proceeds into a period with scanty or no records. In this case, the elder Ambrose was obviously a poor farmer who likely never owned his own land. It's highly unlikely he would leave a will and in this case no will was found.
In nearby Fauquier County I found a May 1787 marriage record for Ambrose Gant and Sarah Vaughan, daughter of Cornelius Vaughan. Could this account for my ancestor being named Ambrose Cornelius? The next column will continue this discussion and resolution of the problem.
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27 February 2011