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The Lost Colony Research Group

Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology


November, 2010

Lost Colony Research Group Receives Prestigious Awards


We are exceptionally honored to receive not one, but two awards from the North  Carolina Society  of Historians. 


Our group received awards in two categories.  The Malcolm Fowler Society Award was awarded for the research of the group as a whole.  In addition, our newsletter won the Joe M. McLauren award, unanimously voted by all of the judges, in the Newsletter Category as well. 


Our own Jennifer Sheppard attended the banquet to accept the awards on our behalf.  In addition to the group awards, my paper titled Where Have All the Indians Gone?  Native American Eastern Seaboard Dispersal, Genealogy and DNA in Relation to Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony of Roanoke, was awarded the Barringer Award of Excellence.  Jennifer herself was also presented with an award for a series of articles published in a number of journals and magazines.  I asked Jen to share her experience with us, and she has done so in the following articles.

I'd like to thank all of our contributors, Jennifer, the North Carolina Society of Historians and Elizabeth Bray Sherrill, their current president.


You can read more about this nonprofit group and support their efforts at



Lost Colony Group Receives

Malcolm Fowler Society Award

By Jennifer Sheppard


The North Carolina Society of Historians held its 69th Annual Awards Banquet October 23rd 2010 in Mooresville, NC at the Hilton Garden Inn. Awards were presented in several historical and genealogical categories relating to local, regional or statewide people, places or events in the following categories: History Books, Publishers, Multimedia, Journal, Newsletter, Society, Religious History Books, Newspaper & Magazine Articles, Family History Books, Historical Fiction and Museums. The multimedia category includes historical plays, videos, oral histories, poetry, music, web sites, brochures, pamphlets, demonstrations, etc. A Presidents Award was given to the President’s personal choice of all entries that won by the unanimous decision of a distinguished panel of judges. Only one prestigious Historian of the Year Award was presented this year.


The society was formed on December 26, 1941 by a group of men whose main goal and interest was to collect, preserve, share and promote North Carolina history. This year there were a total of 729 entries with only 95 winners. The judges (which number from 3 to 5) are all experts in their field, are not members of the society and do not know the officers or the directors.


Following are the Judges collective comments: “If any group can solve the mystery of the so-called ‘Lost Colony,’ we believe this group can. In reading all of the information provided to us about the colony, it still puzzles us as to why the Croatoan were not followed. If this knowledge was known, as is stated, why did research not begin with them, or has it? And, it seems probable that if the colonists did migrate with the Croatoan and were assimilated into the local Indian population, that they produced descendants. A DNA study will prove valuable in determining these descendants when DNA from colonial ancestors can be located”.


“And, we feel that this research group is serious enough, determined enough and has enough energy, curiosity and persistence to answer any long-asked questions. We hope to continue to visit the group’s website to stay abreast of any new findings. Every aspect of this organization fascinates us, and what we have learned thus far only saturates us with questions that we hope will be answered in the future.  We wish them luck in their quest? (sic) And, we thank them for being brave enough to take on one of the oldest mysteries in North Carolina and the surrounding states.”


The photo above is Jennifer Sheppard with Elizabeth Bray Sherrill, the president of the North Carolina Society of Historians.

Lost Colony Group Receives

Joe M. McLaurin Newsletter Award

Roberta Estes, Editor


The North  Carolina Society of Historians held its 69th Annual Awards Banquet October 23rd 2010 in Mooresville, NC at the Hilton Garden Inn. Awards were presented in several historical and genealogical categories relating to local, regional or statewide people, places or events in the following categories: History Books, Publishers, Multimedia, Journal, Newsletter, Society, Religious History Books, Newspaper & Magazine Articles, Family History Books, Historical Fiction and Museums.


The judges collective comments were:  “This is a magnificent newsletter that keeps its members well-informed as well as educated about the ‘Lost Colony.” It is not your typical newsletter in that it has the layout of a mini-journal; however, due to the many technicalities involved in this type of historical and genealogical research, a ‘typical’ newsletter would not be suitable. Members are ‘educated’ with exceptional research, data re: web addresses of sites that inform about…Dare Records, Colonist Family Locations, Welsh Surnames and Research, William Powell’s Papers, the Berry and Lowry Families, the Berry an Payne Families….Where Have All the Indians Gone? Buxton Research, Articles include; How Many Colonists Were There? Who Else Was Lost? Christmas Wish List (in which the Editor makes a plea to readers to help provide research books and materials for further research).


“She covers the Colonists’ surnames, their origins. There is a ‘Demographic Summary,’ color-coded maps; warnings about DNA scams; and, a vast amount of information regarding surname research. We found the newsletters to be very scholarly and fascinating. This entry won by unanimous decision.” There were 44 entries in this particular category with 7 winners.


Roberta J. Estes

Receives Barringer Award of Excellence


The North Carolina Society of Historians held its 69th Annual Awards Banquet October 23rd 2010 in Mooresville, NC at the Hilton Garden Inn. Awards were presented in several historical and genealogical categories relating to local, regional or statewide people, places or events in the following categories: History Books, Publishers, Multimedia, Journal, Newsletter, Society, Religious History Books, Newspaper & Magazine Articles, Family History Books, Historical Fiction and Museums.


Roberta J. Estes was honored with the Prestigious Paul Jehu Barringer, Jr. and Sr. Award of Excellence in grateful recognition of her Dedication and Devotion to Preserving and Perpetuating North Carolina’s Rich History. This award was conferred for her academic research paper,  Where Have All the Indians Gone?  Native American Eastern Seaboard Dispersal, Genealogy and DNA in Relation to Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony of Roanoke, published by the Journal of Genetic Genealogy.  It can be read here:


These are special awards given to those doing outstanding or unusual work on behalf  of North Carolina history, genealogy or preservation. These entrants “fall between the cracks” of the other award categories and the Historians of the Year Awards. There were 22 entries in the particular category with 6 winners.   


Jennifer Sheppard, Editor,

Martin County Historical Society Receives

Joe M. McLaurin Newsletter Award


The North Carolina Society of Historians held its 69th Annual Awards Banquet October 23rd 2010 in Mooresville, NC at the Hilton Garden Inn. Awards were presented in several historical and genealogical categories relating to local, regional or statewide people, places or events in the following categories: History Books, Publishers, Multimedia, Journal, Newsletter, Society, Religious History Books, Newspaper & Magazine Articles, Family History Books, Historical Fiction and Museums.


The judges’ collective comments: “This newsletter combines news with historical information that is “newsworthy.” It keeps members informed about upcoming events; gives updates from past events; announces publications that are for sale and new books that have been published; any changes that are to take place or have taken place with regard to the group; news regarding officers, directors, historical groups in the area, historic buildings, etc; calendar of events; items for sale; and, each newsletter boasts colored pictures or photographs. It has a very creative layout and design; is very concise; and, evidently, a wonderful editor! Kudos, Ms. Sheppard, for a job well done. Your society and you are doing an exceptional job keeping your members informed and educated.”


Roberta's note:  For those who don't know, Martin County plays an important role in the Lost Colony mystery.  Martin County borders the Roanoke River and was the original home of the Tuscarora tribe.  Many county residents carry Native American heritage and some also carry an oral history of Lost Colony descent. 



Angel Awards


Angel Awards are a way of saying thank you to someone who has helped a great deal by doing a "dirty job".  As a volunteer organization, we are grateful for all who contribute, but occasionally, there is a really awful task that needs to be done, and in three cases this past month, I have been extremely grateful for three of our volunteers who stepped up to the plate expecting nothing in return.


The first is Nancy Frey.  She is helping moderate the Yahoo group, and as people have joined the DNA projects, they haven't always been invited to join our Yahoo group.  That's not her issue, by the way, it's mine.  The Yahoo group was intentionally set up as private to prevent spammers and such.  The down side is that every individual must be invited to join the group.  Nancy sent e-mails to over 400 people to invite them to join the group.  Nancy - here's your halo!!!


The next one goes to Jennifer Sheppard.  The website was missing information in some categories, and I needed someone to go in and check every single kit number to see if it was on the site, if the proper into was there, and if the links worked.  Jennifer tested each one - like Nancy - over 400.  Jen, here's your halo. 


Finally, we have Nelda Percival.  Nelda deserves a halo every month, but this project to update each kit has been particularly taxing.  Not only does she have to update the kits, but we had to determine a new way to account for the mitochondrial DNA kits and the Hatteras projects.  The mtDNA kits are particularly problematic because the surname changes in every generation.  Our solution was to list the mitochondrial DNA kits by kit number.  You can then use your browser's find function to search for any surname and can click on the links to view the genealogical, DNA and research information for that kit. Click the link below to see the new format.  Nelda, here's your halo.



Demystifying the UK Parish Registers

By Nancy Frey, UK Genealogist,


The country is correctly stated as the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.  But most people just say 'UK' and that's the term I will use for brevity.  It includes England, Wales & Northern Ireland.


The country is divided into Counties and then Hundreds for ecclesiastical purposes.  All records until the 19th century were based on Parishes, which is the subdivision of a Hundred.  When a person told you where he was from, he usually gave his parish, not his village.


Today these records are kept at places formerly all known as Record Offices but they are slowly changing to call themselves Archives or History Centres.  Each County will have at least one Record Office (RO).


Parish Records contain the baptism or christening, marriage and burial of people that took place in the parish.  Early records are written in Latin but that was prohibited in 1733.  Most are handwritten, making them difficult to read and transcribe.


After civil registration came to the UK in 3rd Qtr 1837, you are searching under a different system, although many families still baptised their children and married in the church.  It is wise to always look at parish records  This will be discussed in a later article.


When searching for parish records in the UK it is very important to know the possible location of an event.  Maps are essential so that you know the name of the county, hundred & parish that you need to look at.  My first resource is always GENUKI which is divided into Counties, then parishes & villages.  Some counties are better covered than others and Devon even has an image for each parish.  In addition, you can use sites such as Google UK and Bing UK (formerly Multi-map) for the current maps.


If you do  not find the record you are looking for in the parish you think  your subject should be, try parishes within a ten-mile radius.  A good program for doing this is Parish Locator (for PC only) which can be downloaded from their site.  You can prepare a list of the parishes of interest, along with the dates their records are extant, and can use it as a checklist.


Remember 'Google (or any other search engine you prefer) is your FRIEND'.  Use it as often as necessary, and when you find an interesting website, save it to your Bookmarks or Favorites in your browser and be sure to create Folders so that you can find them again.


Once you know where to look, you will find FreeREG a great resource.  It is one of the three volunteer sites, the others being FreeBMD (Civil Registration) and FreeCENS (Census).  Another good resource is the Online Parish Clerk scheme (OPC).  Some counties have transcriptions online, others you need to contact the OPC directly if there is one.


One thing to keep in mind is the religious situation at the timeframe you are searching in.  In July 1535, Henry Vlll, by virtue of the Act of Supremacy, appointed Thomas Cromwell, who was at that time Lord Privy Seal, to be his Vicar-General.  Three years later, Cromwell issued injunctions to every parish in England and Wales, ordering the parson to enter every Sunday in the presence of the wardens, or one of them, all the baptisms, marriages, and burials of the previous week, in a book which was to be kept in a two-locked coffer, under pain of a fine of 3s. 4d. [3 shillings, four pence], to be applied to the repair of the Church.  Initially, these records were kept on loose leaves, but the rules were later tightened by James I ordering the records to be kept in parchment books. His order stated that all previous entries, back to at least the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth in 1558, must be transcribed into the new books.  Unfortunately, many parish clerks only did as instructed and the 20 or so years previous to 1558 were lost when the originals were destroyed.  Some do remain (about 800) complete back to 1538 - this explaining the variations in the start of parish registers.


By the Act of Supremacy, the only legal church in the UK was the Church of England for many years (Jews and Quakers excepted).  Later Non-Conformists were allowed to baptise, but even though you might find a child baptised in a non-conformist (Methodist, Baptist etc.) church, they might have to be baptised in the Church of England to get married, depending on the views of the Vicar who is asked to perform the marriage.


Knowing the history of religion in the UK is a very important element in UK genealogy.  At one time there was a fee to be paid to the church for baptism, and at another, a statute that said you had to be buried wrapped in woolen cloth   Notes about these things appear in the parish registers.  From the time the tax on baptisms was imposed until it was repealed, many families refused to have their children baptised, so you will find hundreds of baptisms all in a short period of time for children and adults alike, and some registers failed to make a note of the age of the person being baptised.


I'm sure you are aware of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saint's site, referred to as the LDS.  Their International Genealogical Index (IGI) is used by genealogists all over the world, and their UK records are fairly comprehensive.  Their new Beta site, Family Search Labs is expected to have even more records available as they are transcribed.


One word of caution here is that on the original site there are two different types of records.  One was 'extracted' by LDS transcribers, the other submitted by Patrons.  While the former are, for the most part reliable, the latter must be confirmed by other sources.  The records on the Beta site give you the LDS film number as their source, but it could be an extracted entry or a patron submission.


Another excellent source for parish register transcriptions is Internet Archive.  Old transcriptions of parish registers are available to read or download, many of them having been published before the parish registers were lost or destroyed.  Often these old books are the only sources remaining.


The more you work with the parish registers, the more you will find that the originals, and often early transcriptions are a wealth of knowledge about the family you are researching.  I find one of the lighter sides of genealogy is reading the comments made by some clergymen when entering information in the parish registers.  They are well worth the read.



1.         The History of the Parish Registers in England, etc. by John Southernden Burn published by Edward Suter, London 1829.

2.            Religion in England by Jean Wood (unpublished)

3.         Notes Regarding Parish Registers at Ancestry UK

4.         The Parish Registers of England by Charles Cox, LL.D. F.S.A. published by Methuen & Co. Ltd., London 1910.



Y-Line DNA Results - What Do They Mean and What Do I Do With Them?

By Roberta Estes.


DNA testing for genealogy celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.  Most of us, by now, are familiar with Y-line DNA testing.  These families are relatively easy to follow because the Y chromosome also follows the paternal surname.  If a male Estes tests, for example, then his Y chromosome, and therefore his test results, should be the same as his father, his grandfather and so on, with maybe a mutation or two on upstream.  The Y chromosome follows the surname so the genealogy is easy - or as easy as genealogy ever gets.


This is actually where the challenge begins.  How can we use these DNA results to further our genealogy?


What does it mean when we match someone?  What do mutations mean from a genealogy perspective?  And what can we do to further our research?


DNA is a wonderful tool in the genealogists toolbox, but it's not an absolute answer.  Let's look at the information we received from Family Tree DNA relative to Y DNA and see what is to be learned.


The first thing most people want to know is if they are Indian, African or European.  Generally, this is quite straightforward and easy to determine.  The haplogroup gives us that answer.  Haplogroups C and Q are Native American.  However, not all C and not all Q subgroups are native.  In particular, haplogroup Q1a1a is Native, and Q1a1 may be in some instances.  Haplogroup C3 is also Native. 


Haplogroups A, B and E are African, but subgroup E1b1b is also Mediterranean.  Haplogroup O is Asian.  The rest are found in Europe, or are rare and not isolated to any one location.  Occasionally haplogroups C and Q are also found in Europe.


Haplogroups are assigned based on a certain type of mutation found in your DNA.  This type of mutation is called a SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) and is used only to determine haplogroups.  These are available to be tested at Family Tree DNA via the deep clade tests.


A different type of mutation is used to compare your results genealogically.  These mutations are called STR (short tandem repeat) mutations.  These are the results you see when looking at your results page at Family Tree DNA or any other testing company.  Now is probably a good time to point out that not all testing companies "count mutations" in the same way, so your results from Family Tree DNA and another testing company may not be comparing apples to apples without a conversion. 


The values shown look something like this:






In this case, the DYS in the name of the allele, or location, which is 393.  This individual has a value of 13 in that location.


This means that he has 13 repeats of the same DNA in that location.  Think of this as a stutter.  In some cases, you lose a copy, so you will only have 12, or you may gain a copy, so you will have 14.  This is how the Y-line DNA changes over time.  These particular allele locations have been selected because they tend to accumulate changes over a relatively short period of time.  Now short in this instance is relative - meaning over hundreds of years.  The SNP locations used to determine haplogroups are extremely stable, and if they mutate, it's a once-in-the-history-of-mankind type of event.


When you combine all of your locations together, it creates a unique DNA signature for you - well - almost unique.  Better stated, it creates a unique DNA signature for your family.  In the Estes family, we are fortunate to have several rare values so we can easily tell who is a member of our family, genetically, by comparing our unique DNA signature.


This works well in Y-line DNA because the surname is also passed on in the same way the Y chromosome is - male to male in perpetuity.  Here's an example of my own Estes line, beginning with my grandfather.


Name of Ancestor

Birth Date

Birth Location

Death Date

Death Location

Spouses Name

William George Estes


Claiborne Co., Tn.


Harlan Co., Ky

Ollie Bolton

Lazarus Estes


Claiborne Co., Tn.


Claiborne Co., Tn.

Elizabeth Vannoy

John Y. Estes


Halifax Co., Va.


Montague Co., Tx.

Ruthy Dodson

John R. Estes


Halifax Co., Va.


Claiborne Co., Tn.

Nancy Ann Moore

George Estes


Amelia Co., Va.


Halifax Co., Va.

Mary Younger

Moses Estes


Amelia Co., Va.


Halifax Co., Va.

Luremia Combs

Moses Estes


King & Queen Co., Va.


Halifax Co., Va

Elizabeth ? possibly Webb

Abraham Estes


Nonington, Kent, England


King & Queen Co., Va.

Barbara ?

Sylvester Estes



Bef 1649


Ellen Martin

Robert Estes

C 1555

Ringwould, Kent, England



Anne Woodward

Sylvester Estes


Deal, Kent, England


Deal, Kent, England

Jone ?

Nicholas Ewstas


Deal, Kent, England


Deal, Kent, England

Anny ?


Be open to surnames being spelled variantly.  Estes is spelled Eastes, Estis, Eustace, Ewstas, and other ways. There are also Easter men who are Estes descendants, but there is an entire group of Easter men, also found living near Halifax County, Virginia at the same time as our Estes men, and they are not from the Estes line.


The Estes DNA has changed somewhat over time.  Using a method called triangulation, we know what the DNA signature of Abraham Estes looked like.  We determined this by using the DNA of three of his sons descendants.  Knowing this, we can then determine specific mutations that have developed in his various sons lines. 


Abraham had 8 sons.  The descendants of his son Elisha match the original Abraham DNA signature, so there have been no mutations in that line that have been discovered to date.  However, in his son Moses' line, the value of location 458 is 17 in all 4 individuals who have tested, as opposed to 18 in Abraham's DNA signature.  So the value of 17 at 458 is a line marker mutation for the Moses Estes line.  For those who don't know their genealogy, line marker mutations can be a very important clue.


How can we use this information to further our genealogy?  First, look at the lines you don't match.  The Estes line is rather unique because other than undocumented adoptions, there appears to be only one source of this surname, in Kent, England.  However, in my Moore line, there are almost as may different DNA lines as there are Moore men.  In the case of the Moore DNA, discovering which lines you DON'T match is as important as knowing who you do match.  This information can save you years of barking up the wrong genealogy tree.


Second, and this probably goes without saying, but contact your matches.  Put together a simple to read chart, something like the example above, and send it to those you match.  Locations are important too, so don't neglect those.  Your matches may have information that may help you immensely, including information about your ancestors overseas homeland.  In the case of my Moore line, I'd give almost anything to match someone overseas.


Other data bases hold clues and possible matches as well.  You can enter your DNA information at Sorenson at  Sorenson does not facilitate matches with individuals, but they do provide a genealogy along with the DNA information.  If you find a line you believe you connect to, you can then peruse the various forums such as lists and boards and boards to find information about that line or someone who connects.  You can also check for genealogy information at and if you are a subscriber, at as well.


Another DNA resource is  You can upload your information directly from your Family Tree DNA matches page to YSearch.  The key here is that you are looking for people who did not test at Family Tree DNA, as your results are already being compared to those who did.  Sometimes the information found here for those who you match at Family Tree DNA is important as well, as participants can enter their oldest ancestor and some additional information not available through Family Tree DNA directly. 


A final resource is  Click on the DNA tab at the top and enter your DNA information.  Unfortunately, Ancestry does a very poor job of both haplogroup assignment and matching.  They show  a wide variety of matches with far more mutations that are practical, but better to have too much information rather than too little.  Once your matches are displayed, click on "download".  A spreadsheet will open, and you can easily review the results to eliminate nonrelevant matches.  You will have a small subset remaining.  Use that subset to initiate contacts with those individuals.  To do that at Ancestry, click on the name of the individual, and then click on "contact" and a message form will appear.  You cannot contact them directly, but a message will be sent to them through Ancestry and they can choose to respond or not.   I always put my own e-mail address in the message hoping they will contact me directly.


The great thing about DNA is that even if you don't have any matches today, your DNA is out there "fishing" for you every day, 24X7.  One day you'll receive a match notification from Family Tree DNA, and you never know what tidbit of information your match may have that will help one of your brick walls fall.  Be sure to check the alternate data bases regularly.  While Family Tree DNA notifies participants of matches, the others don't, so check your matches when you change your smoke detector batteries.  Your ancestor may be waiting for you!


Thomas and Bethany Midgett Slave Families

Slave records are so very hard to come by. These have been provided to me as part of the DNA project, and I am including here in the hope that they can help someone.

Thomas Midgett died in 1788 and Bethany in 1794 on Hatteras Island. Notice the maternal naming patterns. Slaves took the surname of their mother because they were the property of the mother's master.

Slaves: and their owners:

MARICAY MIDYETT: Was owned by Thomas Midyett who left him and his
wife Hannah to his wife Bethaney. Bethaney Midyett gave them to Daniel
Midyett Who freed them in 1808.

CHARLES MIDYETT: The son of Maricay was owned by Bethany Midyett
who gave him to her son Banister Midyett.

AMERICA MIDYETT: The son of Charles Midyett was owned by Banister
Midyett America Midyett Sr.died in about 1849 and is buried in the
Nathan O'Neal Cemetery at Mount Pleasant (Hyde Co. NC.)

DAVID MIDYETT: The son of America Midyett was owned by Banister Midyett.

WM. RODGER SMITH: The son of David Midyett was owned by Peter Spencer.

MAHALIA GREENE: The wife of Rodger Smith was owned by Calib Spencer
who died in 1859, the blacks he owned was divide among his heirs. Mahalia
was valued at $ 250.00 and given to Peter Spencer.

TAMER McCOTTER: Was owned by William Gibbs who sold her to Archibald
McCotter. In 1833 she was left to Burney McCotter by his father Archibald. Archibald
and Burney are the Great grand father and grandfather of Dr. St. Elmo
McCotter.(of Bayboro).

SAMUEL McCOTTER: The son of Tamer was owned by Archibald McCotter.

ANSON GIBBS: Was owned by Benjamin M. Gibbs, In 1859 he left him
to his four youngest children.

ADAM GIBBS: The son of Anson was owned by Benjamin M. Gibbs who left
him to his son William H. Gibbs.

LORY SLADE: Was owned by John Bell who left her to Henry Slade and
Asa P.Slade in 1846. In 1856 Henry died and left her to be sold
to pay his debts. On May 16, 1856 she was sold at Public auction
in Sladville NC. to Asa P. Slade, for $ 674.00.

JOANNA WARNER: the daughter of Lory Slade was owned by John Bell
who left her to Sarah and Mary Moore, in 1846

SPENCER CLARK: The son of Keizah Eborn was owned by William Clark,
who died in 1806, and left him to his daughter Polly Clark.




Figuring Dates When No Birth or Death Records Exist

By Jennifer Sheppard


For most genealogists, learning the names of our ancestors is quite simple, as is finding the birth and death dates for them, except in North Carolina.  Usually, a family member can provide names but they may not have a clue as to when that person was born or died, especially if the family member lived several generations ago. 


In North Carolina, researchers are hindered by the lack of vital records because our state didn’t require the recording of births and deaths until 1913.  Consequently people in my generation who get back beyond our grandparents often have a problem finding those particular dates for their predecessors. 


            Please note: North Carolina does have Delayed Birth Records, which may help in some situations.  When certain benefits became available, people were required to provide copies of their  birth record to secure those benefits.  Since none were recorded prior to 1913, in this state, a person could request that a birth record be created for them by providing proof of birth.  The state accepted a person’s high school record, family Bible record, life insurance policy and affidavits from persons who knew the birth date of that person, as proof.  Unfortunately, the state saw fit to destroy that verification after a certain number of years.  How I would have loved to have a copy of those records.


As we move back in time, we are required to use other records to establish birth/death dates of our ancestors.  Another place where you may find those dates, would be in a family Bible, if you are lucky enough  to locate one of those.  However, in my family no family Bible is available on either side because if one existed, it has long since been lost or destroyed.  Church records are another good source for birth and death dates and should be searched as well. 


            We are able to use dates from other documents we locate as substitutes for those birth and death records, even if the event occurred over 100 years ago.  The marriage records beginning around 1882, in Martin County, North Carolina show whether or not the father and mother of the bride and groom were living at the time the marriage license was applied for.  So when you find a marriage record for one of your ancestors’ children, you may use either the date of the marriage application or the marriage date, for a death date for your ancestor. 


            For instance my Great Grandfather Zebulon Zackariah Price’s marriage recorded in Martin County, states in part that “Noah T. Reddick having applied for a LICENSE for the Marriage of Zebulon Z. Price of Martin County aged 23 years, color white the son of John D. Price and Talitha Price  the father Living the mother Dead, ……….And Laura D. Gurkin ………daughter of Zackariah Gurkin and Sarah Gurkin, the father Dead, the mother Dead,, resident of……….”


            A death record was not available for Talitha Haddock Price (proof of maiden name was found in another document) because she died before 1913.  I needed to narrow down when she could have died and according to the information above, she was already deceased when her son, Grandpa Zeb Price’s marriage record was applied for on January 4, 1886.  That gives one possible date which would be expressed as: “died before 4 Jan 1886”. 


            However, I found the John D. Price and Talitha family in the 1870 Census (which was enumerated on 6 Sep 1870) but since Talitha didn’t appear in the 1880 census with her husband, I surmised she died before 1880, then I found him listed with second wife Gaberiler (sic) in 1880.  The enumeration date of that census was June 7, 1880 and since that date is earlier than the marriage date of their son, and closer to the event, I used “died before 7 Jun 1880” as Talitha’s death date. 


            I later found Talitha’s actual death date in some Church records. She died on  3 May 1874.  So that verifies she died after 6 Sep 1870, when she was enumerated with her husband and family and before 7 Jun 1880, when her husband was enumerated with his new wife and his children, and Talitha had disappeared from the census.  Talitha’s death date changed three times as I found each record to determine a time frame for her, ending with the actual birth date in the Church records. 


            Another example is one Imri Spruill, who was a wealthy landowner in Martin County, North Carolina.  He didn’t leave a will but I found him in the 1850 and 1860 censuses of the county.  He was born abt 1790.  His birth year is figured from the 1850 Census of Martin County, wherein he is listed as a 60-year-old farmer.  He had real estate valued at $3,000.00 in 1850.  You subtract his age (60) from the census year, 1850 and you get 1790.  Fortunately Imri’s age is consistent in the 1860 census, which as every genealogist knows, is somewhat unusual because there are many inconsistencies in the censuses.  In 1860, Imri’s age is given as 70 years old which when you subtract 70 from 1860 – you get a birth year of 1790 as well.  So the birth year for Imri would be written as ca  or abt 1790. 


            With the birth year of Imri pretty well established we turn to estimating his death date. He is not found in the 1870 census of Martin County, but we know he is listed in the 1860, Hamilton, Martin Co., NC census. In this census he is reported as having $2,300.00 in real estate and $15,000.00 in personal property.  To determine his death date, we use the enumeration date of the 1870 census for the area in which he lived, in the previous census, the last known record in which he appears.  The 1870 Census for Hamilton, was taken on  6 July 1870.  So we can use this enumeration date as a death date for Imri Spruill.  It would be expressed as d bef 6 Jul 1870, (died before 6 July 1870).  We have determined that Imri Spruill died between 26 Sep 1860 when he was enumerated in the Hamilton Census and 6 July 1870, the enumeration date of the following census in which Imri is not found.


            Another example is the Emuell Williams' family on whom I’ve done research.  This is one of the African-American families I’m including in my next book.  This family was found in the 1870 Census so the same technique was used for this individual as was used for Imri Spruell.  Emuell Williams was born abt (about) 1783 (that date was figured by subtracting his age 87, from the year 1870).  Since this is the earliest record found for Emuell, we use that date as his birth year. 


            Emuell’s wife was Dinah and their known children are Manuel Williams, Cugar Williams and Ashley Williams.  This couple and two of their three sons were named as slaves, in Samuel Williams’ will dated 30 Mar 1850.  Son Ashley is enumerated in the 1870 census, whose age is given as 13 (b 1857).  This explains why he wasn’t named in Samuel’s will that was probated in Apr 1850. 


            Since no birth record exists for Manuel or Cugar, we can use the date of the will, and list it as - b bef 30 Mar 1850 (before 30 Mar 1850) as their birth dates.  Of course using 1850 as the two sons birthdays may be way off, because we don’t know how old they were when they were named in Samuel’s will but at least it provides a date until we can figure a better estimate for the birth year.  Using the 1850 Slave Census would be of no help either because all slaves are listed under the names of their owners by gender and age and not by name.  Or we can take the research further and look for them in the 1880 Census, as heads of households,  to get a better idea of their birth dates, which would be the next step.


            These are good logical ways to identify approximate dates when you have no idea when someone was born or died.  It isn’t fool proof but it gives you at a “guesstimate”.  It also helps fill in the blanks on family group records and pedigree charts thereby providing a snapshot in time. Remember, to begin genealogy research you need three important elements -  a name, a place and an approximate date.   Good luck and happy hunting.



Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County in 1745- 1800, by Lyman Chalkley - Extracted surnames of the Lost Colony and Families of Interest, by Judith Hough. 


A note from Roberta - A second really big thank you to Judy for compiling this information from Volume 2.  Volume 1 was published in the October newsletter and Volume 3 will appear in the December issue. 







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