Have you had any “break-throughs” recently in
your family-history research? What significant facts have you learned
this past year that opened new avenues for further study?
I believe that the answers to such questions
make good stories for people interested in genealogy or family history.
The part of the story that is of general interest is not necessarily the
names and places but the mechanics of discovery, the types of activity and
sources where important clues are hidden. I hope we can include such
information exchanges in our future Society Meeting Programs, provided by
our own members.
When I became interested in my family history,
much information on the male lines of descent were already available to
me. However, there was one great-grandfather, Willie Worrell, that was a
mystery that no one had been concerned to solve. He died at the age of 33
years leaving behind a wife and three daughters, the eldest being four
years old. His widow remarried and his children had a new father. To my
knowledge there was no contact between my family and the Worrells. When I
asked for information about Willie Worrell, I was told that he was a
sailor. This left the impression that he just came ashore and married my
My research on Willie Worrel was indirect. As
I studied the family members that I knew in more depth, I discovered some
additional information about him. First, his marriage record in
Gloucester County revealed the name of his parents. At first, I was
suspicious about the accuracy of this information because the surname was
grossly misspelled as “Worlds.”
Second, as I was checking the Roane family in
the 1870 census for King and Queen County, I found Willie with his mother
living in the household of Major Hall. They were listed close to the
Charles Roane family on a farm that Willie was share-cropping when he
died. My search for the Willie Worrell family in later censuses failed to
uncover any clues.
Third, the most curious “shot-in-the-dark” idea
was to follow-up on the queer spelling of “Worlds.” I did some searches
on Worlds and did find a Joel World living in Saluda in Middlesex County
in 1850. He was the right age to be Joseph Worrell, father of Willie.
Later, as I was visiting Pat Perkinson, one of this year’s program
speakers, she showed me the newly published book of Middlesex marriages.
Included in this book was the marriage of Joseph Worrell to Mary C. Lewis,
with their parents. Further search of Middlesex records revealed a
transfer of land inherited by Mary.
Fourth, I was browsing through tax books and
surveys of Gloucester County that date back before the Civil War when most
of the county records were destroyed, and I stumbled upon some of the new
family names connected to Willie Worrell. There was a survey dated June
18, 1834, that was pursuant to a court decree with “John Lewis and Lucy
his wife who was Lucy Hall.” John and Lucy Lewis were parents of Mary
Lewis. The survey showed a division of estate of John B. Hall to layoff
the house and plot for his widow, Nancy Hall. Included in the list of
Hall children was Major Hall, mentioned above, with whom Willie Worrell
and his mother were living in 1870 in King and Queen County.
Well, for the new millennium, I have some new
surnames to search. These families were located along the Dragon Swamp
which is the Gloucester-Middlesex border. So far these “swamp people” do
not appear consistently in the official records.