Geneablogger’s Carnival Week #12: In need of a brick mason, please!

Geneabloggers was founded by Thomas MacEntee to unite people globally through their love of genealogy and blogging.  Members are spread all across the world and united with these common bonds and a fantastic FaceBook group!

MacEntee cites:

The purpose of Geneabloggers? Well we have lots of people new to blogging and genealogy. Geneabloggers offers them a community of helpful people who were once at a starting point too – we offer advice, tech tips, and organize group events such as Tombstone Tuesday, etc. This helps people post on certain topics especially when they don’t know what to post about. The level of involvement from bloggers is varied and there are really no requirements for membership – free and easy I guess.

Week #12 topic: Use your blog to break down a brick wall. Posting a name may ring a bell with a reader. Maybe you’ll make a connection in 5 minutes. May be it will take 2 years. Either way, asking for help is the first step to knocking down that wall.

Might be the next hardest thing to the Berlin Wall

I was blessed with a fantastic family history.  What I love best is that there’s a little bit of everything.  If you go way back on my father’s side you have rich planters who were at the forefront of America’s most formative years.  I also have ancestors who were commoners who were tenant farmers.  One thing’s for sure, I’m a Southerner through-and-through.  I don’t think that there’s a single relative who I can claim came over on the Mayflower.  But Jamestown… I always knew there was a reason I was drawn to that area of the country for archaeology.

Unfortunately, one of the things that often challenges us Southerners is the common phrase from courthouses, “Sorry, we had a fire.  All our records before 1890 were destroyed.”  In fact, the courthouse where my grandmother’s birth certificate was housed burned in the mid to late 1930s.  The replacement birth certificate that they issued barely looks like a high schooler practicing their typing skills (though it does contain an official signature of sorts, or so we believe).  All those missing records just make genealogy that more fun and exciting when you finally break through that brick wall that’s been plaguing you.

“Brick wall?” you ask.  Of course, silly me, I didn’t even think to be courteous enough to introduce you to our terminology.  An author of ProGenealogists‘s blog does an excellent job of describing this particular phenomenon:

“Brick wall” problems are those genealogical research problems that seem too hard to solve. Wherever we look, we find no answers. Perhaps the name we are tracing is too common, and we cannot sort out all the “John Smiths.” Perhaps the family lived in a “burned county” in the South, and the records all seem destroyed. Perhaps we are looking for an ancestor’s wife, and we don’t know her surname. Perhaps the ancestor is an immigrant, and we don’t know where he came from in Europe. Perhaps, … well, you get the idea.

Kory L. Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA, Overcoming “Brick Wall” Problems

Like every genealogist (professional or avocational), I have my own brick wall problems.  I’d like to introduce you to two of them today.  And to be fair, I’ve selected one from my maternal side and one from my paternal side.  No need to take favoritism when it comes to difficult genealogy questions!

Chasing the Holladays

C.E. Holladay and Bertha Lynch HolladayI would like to introduce you to Columbus Evans Holladay, affectionately and simply called C.E. among my family, and my Great-Great Grandfather.  C.E. Holladay showed up on the Lynch ranch near Corsicana, Texas some where around 1896 and as the story goes the hospitable Mr. Grief Lynch allowed the traveler to spend the night.  C.E. took one look at Mr. Lynch’s stunning daughter Bertha Lynch and he just never left.  C.E. and Bertha were married on the Lynch ranch 27 August 1896.  They remained in Texas and had 7 lovely children, including my Great Grandmother Gillis Holladay.  C.E. died 23 December 1948 from a heart attack and his death certificate lists him as a retired stockman.  Interestingly enough, his birth date is listed as 4 July 1864, though it’s family lore that he never divulged his true age to Bertha or her family for fear they would think he was too old for her!  His birth date is also incorrect on his tombstone.  We believe from census records that he was actually born somewhere around 1858.  Already you can see that those Holladays were tricky!

C.E.’s death certificate also lists his father as being James Holladay.  But really, that’s where the trail goes cold.  We can find C.E. and his father, James, living in Monroe County, Mississippi in 1870.  James’s wife was Tranquilla (how’s that for a family name!) and other than C.E. they have four other children (James Jr. ? C.E.’s older brother ? and Mary, Alla, and Francis the younger sisters).  From what we know about James, Holladay researchers have been able to trace him back to the 1850 U.S. Census where he is explicitly listed with his brothers (Columbus and Green) and his mother, Eliza Ann.  This is where the problem comes in.  Eliza has remarried to a man named Kibble Terry, and she probably did so just before 1840 (the 1840 U.S. Census for Marion County, Alabama lists Kibble Terry with children who would have matched the ages of James and his brothers as well as a wife who matches Eliza’s age).

It’s this mystery Mr. Holladay that I’ve been seeking.  There is quite a bit of circumstantial evidence (lots of work done by David E. Taylor – see here and here) that points to a William Holliday who’s brothers served with Kibble Terry under Captain Darrell Upright Hollis’s Company in the Creek Indian War of 1836.

If anyone has any additional information about these Holladays / Hollidays from the area of Marion County, Alabama I would love to hear more!!!

Oliver Cromwell, the Scoundrel

Actually it’s Oliver Cromwell McAfee that I’m speaking of.  At least the “real” Oliver Cromwell didn’t have a blight on his family life like my ancestor did.

There’s no nice way of putting it, so I’ll just come right out and say it… Oliver Cromwell McAfee was a bigamist and a womanizer.

Actually, Oliver Cromwell McAfee is less of a mystery than Mr. Mystery Man Holladay.  He does pose some potential brick wall problems, however.  The sweet and simple fact is that he married a woman in North Carolina, honestly, and then some years later he left for an unknown reason to Louisiana (in the 1840s this wasn’t particularly strange, especially since the great territory of Louisiana was just a mere 40 years old).  While in Louisiana he met Sarah Elizabeth Feazel, daughter of George Feazel and Margaret Pear Feazel who were pioneers in this new land.  Sarah was grief-stricken over the recent death of her husband and two young sons.  The dashing Oliver Cromwell McAfee swept her off her feet and before she could inquire about any previous wives that he might have left behind in his homeland, they were married.

Eventually though, the story leaked to Sarah and she found out about her beloved husband’s other family.  Furious, she filed for divorce in Union Parish, Louisiana in 1846 (scandalous!) after only five years of marriage, but not before she’s already had four children (who I suppose could be considered illegitimate since their marriage was not valid).

My problem is twofold.  First, in trying to prove a Daughters of the American Revolution lineage through that particular line, I need to prove this whole nasty mess so that I can ensure that Oliver Cromwell’s and Sarah’s children are truly matched to their parents.  And as you’ll note, most of this took place in Louisiana, which is firmly seated in the South before the beginning of the Civil War.  Courthouses of that era are prime targets for burning!  Second, because Oliver Cromwell McAfee was quite tricky I believe he may have attempted to conceal his identity after leaving North Carolina.  There is no trace of him in any of the U.S. Census records after 1830 (he appears in the Lincoln County, North Carolina 1930 U.S. Census records with his first wife, on the same page as his father Abner McAfee).  Some of the North Carolina records reference an Oliver C. McAfee and an Oliver Calhoun McAfee, are these men all the same scoundrel?

I’m hoping that a trip South to the home country might turn up some information that others have missed.  Though that seems nearly impossible since Carolyn McAfee, the resident expert seems to have combed through everything with a flea comb!

You can read everything you ever wanted to know about the McAfees at the McAfee Family GenForum site.

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  1. [...] husband Oliver Cromwell McAfee is that he apparently was a bigamist.  You may remember from my brick wall post that Sarah and Oliver got divorced after she found out that he had another family back in North [...]

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