Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Father's Day

I put this up on my Facebook page but decided to post it here, too, as one last homage for Father's Day.

John William, Another Farthing

As discussed in my last post, my great-great-grandfather Ruben T “Fred” Farthing (1857-1932) was a blacksmith.  This is an important link in tracing his ancestry, because starting with his parents and working backwards it gets increasingly difficult to pin down any facts with certainty.  Records are scarcer, and prior to 1850 the US Federal Census listed only the name of the head of household.  Fortunately he appears on both the 1860 and 1870 censuses with his parents John William and Louisa [Cheek] Farthing.  “Fred” was their second child, and the oldest son.

Part of Orange County Marriage Records
John William Farthing (1820-aft1880) and his wife Louisa Cheek (1825-aft1880) were my 3g grandparents (that’s 3 “greats” before the word “grandparents”!)  John William’s early years are somewhat uncertain, but based on census and marriage records he appears to have been born in 1820 in Orange County, North Carolina.  I have a family tree, undocumented and with no citations, which says his parents were Reuben Farthing and Joanna “Anne” Holloway.  There is a listing in Marriages of Orange County, North Carolina, 1779-1868 (Holcom, Brent H.; Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001; and available with subscription to at this link) that shows a Reuben Farthing and an Anne Holloway showing they married in Orange County on 12 Dec 1816 with Thomas Holloway as best man.  The same source and page is the first reference to John & Louisa, stating that John Farthing and “Louiser Cheek” [sic] married on 7 July 1849 in Orange County, North Carolina, with James F. Gattis as best man.  As a side note, the Farthing family tree I have says that there is a will for Reuben Farthing filed in Orange County on 30 May 1839 but I haven’t seen or ordered that will yet.

The first federal census I have for John shows John Farthing, aged 30 and a blacksmith, with Louisa Farthing, aged 24. living in Orange County, North Carolina, on 16 July 1850.  If the birth years of 1820 and 1825 are correct this means that John’s birth date falls in the first half of the year and Louisa was born in the second half.   Interestingly, they live next to James H. Gattis (39), a carpenter, and his wife Nancy Gattis (also aged 39).  Was there a transcription error in either the marriage listing or the census record?  Could this be the same James Gattis that was John Farthing’s best man?  There is probably no way to know for certain, but it’s an avenue for future research.  One thing is clear from the census records of 1850, Orange County, North Carolina, was just brimming with Farthings.  So John packed up and moved southwest to the state of Georgia.
Census images courtesy of
The 1860 census, on the eve of the Civil War, show John & “Luisa” [sic] living in or near Monticello, in Jasper County, Georgia, with their children Anna, Reuben and John W.  In 1870, the growing family now lives in Rockville (near Eatonton), Putnam County, Georgia, and consists of John, Louisa, Annie W, “Frederick” [i.e., Ruben], John W, Mary H, Lucy B, Ada C and Wm [William].  By 1880 they’ve moved again.  Now living in Morgan County, Georgia, in Militia District 397 (southwest of Madison), the family is listed as containing John, Louisa, Annie, Molly, Lucy and Ada, along with Louisa’s father Stanford Cheek, and two boarders, William Clay, a 24-year-old blacksmith, and “Thos. F. Davis” [Thomas F. Davis], a 21-year-old farm laborer from South Carolina.  It’s possible that William Clay was apprenticed to John Farthing.  If so, there may be court records of the indenture in either Putnam or Morgan Counties, so that’s another avenue for future research.  I also need to keep these surnames in mind as I research future collateral lines; they may be relatives of John or Louisa, or one or both might marry into the family at a later date.
Census images courtesy of
SideTrack: OK, here’s why it sometimes takes me so long to write these posts!  I couldn’t leave it alone.  A quick search for “Clay” in the Morgan County marriage book for 1879-1907 on Georgia’s Virtual Vault website turned up W.F. Clay marrying Lucy Farthing on 14 Jan 1886 (page 99).  By 1900 (there is no surviving 1890 census here) William & Lucy Clay have moved to Fenter Township, Hot Spring County, Arkansas, where they live out the remainder of their days and raise a fine family.  Their oldest daughter Mamie Clay was born in November 1889 or 1890, depending on the source, and the next child, son John Clay, was born in Arkansas in October 1894, so they moved during that 4 or 5 year window.  In my quick detour here I found 3 census records through, two tombstones (one for William & Lucy on and one for daughter Mamie by following one of’s “shaking leaf” links; Mamie apparently married a Hunter Andrew Tyler in 1906 and they share a headstone).  I haven’t confirmed any of this with additional research, but the leads look promising, and you can see how easy it is to get distracted from your primary goal.  That detour took a couple of hours by the time I had entered the new information into Ancestry, saved a few images, and made a few notes for further research.

As rewarding as such meandering may be, though, I need to finish up with Mamie’s parents, John William and Louisa.  One reason for following up with Mamie, a process I will need to repeat with each of their other children, is that the 1880 census is the last record I can find of them.  It’s entirely possible that they passed away by 1900 (John would have been about 80, and Louisa about 75 by then), but I don’t have anything to prove that.  I can’t find any cemetery record or gravestone posting that belongs to them.  It may be that they are buried in Morgan County.  It may be that there is an extensive cemetery survey for Morgan County such as I’ve found previously for other counties.  But I haven’t located any yet.  I’m still searching.

There are discrepancies, of course, from decade to decade on the census, and from source to source.  Lucy Farthing, for example, is given the middle initial “B” on the 1870 census, but every other census that gives her middle initial and her gravestone give her middle initial as “T”.  Sometimes people gave their first names to most census enumerators, but most other records have the middle name they generally were known by.  It can get confusing, but you have to make a judgment call as to where most of the evidence is, or sometimes even against the prevailing tide of most evidence (such as ancestors who seemed to get younger and younger with every census year!)  you don’t want to make a decision too soon, but don’t be afraid to make your best call if the situation seems to warrant it, as long as you note the discrepancies and why you made your decision.  And don’t be afraid to go back later and change that call if you find additional evidence later.

That’s about it for now.

Here’s your summary:
  • Always cite your sources, even in your research notes.  It’s amazing how much you can forget about where you read or heard something, even after just a short time. (I’m repeating this one and the next one because they’re so darned important!)
  • The U.S. Census is still probably your most valuable source of information (after family resources) for the period from 1850 to 1930.  Just exercise some caution and common sense, weigh the possibilities, and remember the census isn’t perfect.  Even with a relatively uncommon name you can find people with the same name or initials.
  • Marriage and death records can often be found online at Georgia’s Virtual Vault, a digital document resource from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.  It’s worth a quick search many times before pursuing other avenues, especially when you’re trying to chase down female lines.  Unfortunately most books don’t have “bride” indexes, but it’s still worth a search if you have a likely groom candidate in mind.
  • Don’t ignore all the “shaking leaves”, or hints, on  Just treat them with care as you would any unverified lead until you find proof to support the claims.  Even if you have ten or twenty bum leads in a row, the next one just might provide the hint you need to go to the next step in your research.

 Later y’all,


Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Few Farthings More

My great-grandfather Irving Colquitt Farthing (1885-1974) was the fourth of twelve children – six boys and six girls.  He was probably born in Putnam County. (Because there were no birth certificates yet, and no 1890 census survives, we assume the family was still living in the same place as in 1880.)  I did have a note that he might have been born in Morgan County, just north of Putnam, but it’s unsourced, so I’m not sure where that came from.  NOTE: Always source your notes, even if you think the information is tentative, or even if you’re sure it’s wrong.  Most of his friends and associates just called him I.C.

I.C.’s father was Ruben Theodore “Fred” Farthing, born 24 Feb 1854 in Orange County, North Carolina, and died 22 Jul 1932 near Brooklet in Bulloch County, Georgia.  Ruben was a blacksmith, the last in a line of blacksmiths stretching back as far as I can trace them, 3 or 4 generations altogether.  Nobody seems to know why he was called “Fred”.  One story is that there were so many Rubens and Reubens in the family that they called him that just so they’d know which one they were talking about!  There are worse nicknames to be stuck with, I’m sure.

By the time Ruben was three, in 1860, his father John, also a blacksmith, had moved the family to Georgia.  In 1860 they show up on the census for Monticello, in Jasper County, Georgia.  In 1870, they are living in Rockville, Putnam County.  In 1878, Ruben got married to Martha Jane "Mattie" Alford.  The Alfords are a fine old family with roots throughout the south and beyond.  In fact there is a family history association, The Alford American Family Association.  I got some information and some confirmation from their website at  I still have every intention of joining this organization, I just have it on my list of things to do after the car and home repairs that always crop up when I think I’ve got a little extra money!  According to their website, Ruben and Martha (or Fred & Mattie if you’re family) were married 19 Dec 1878 in Dublin, Laurens County, but I have yet to locate a marriage record of any kind.  In any case, Fred and Mattie were living in Glades, Putnam County, with their eldest son John William when the 1880 census was taken.
Census images courtesy of (click view a larger image)
Apparently Ruben continued a family tradition of moving regularly because in 1900 the census shows them to be living in Stansells District, Newton County (remember, the 1890 census did not survive in most places) with their NINE children, and then in Dudley, Laurens County by 1910.  By this time Mattie has had 12 children, but only 11 survive.  The family likely moved to Laurens County well before 1910 because at some point my great grandparents met and wooed and wed in Dublin, Laurens County, in 1907, and by 1910 IC & Mamie Farthing were living in Savannah.  I can’t locate Ruben and Martha Farthing anywhere in the 1920 census year.  I can find several of their children and grandchildren, but apparently they were missed, on the move again, or their names are so seriously misspelled that it will take a page by page search of the census records to find them.  One of these days I’ll tackle that.  Also in the middle there was a little thing called The Great War (now we call it World War I).  The War lasted from June 1914 to November 1918, but the United States didn't get officially involved until April 1917.  All the Farthing boys registered for service, and I believe two of them actually served in the Army, but I have to confirm that.

I did find them in 1930, though, living in the Brier Patch area of Bulloch County, Georgia, on a farm with son John W and daughter Emmie.  According to the census, John apparently got married about 1915, but is now (1930) widowed, and Emmie has never married, but I haven’t yet thoroughly investigated all those collateral lines.  That’s quite a lot of work, as you can imagine, with 10 surviving brothers and sisters.  Ruben seems to have finally retired (he is about 73 afterall, give the man a break!).  Based on Martha’s obituary, where it says on 1 January 1958 that she "had been living in Bulloch County for the past 33 years" it appears that Ruben and Martha moved there about 1925.  Ruben died in 1932, two years before my mother was born.  Martha Jane “Mattie” Alford Farthing lived on another twenty-five-and-a-half years, until 1 January 1958.  Martha is the only one of my sixteen great-great grandparents to live past my date of birth (not that either of us would have remembered meeting, even if we had).  Strangely, her son, I.C., my great grandfather, is the only one of my eight great grandparents I ever met; all the others died before I was born.
Census images courtesy of (click view a larger image)
If you look for these areas on a map of Georgia, say through Google, you’ll find some of them, but others will never turn up.  That’s because Georgia’s federal census, as well as taxation and other government functions, is organized by “militia district” which is unique to Georgia.  There are a lot of sources which help you find out where those militia district lines were drawn, but none online that I’m aware of.  There is a good background article at the Georgia Archives website: .  Other than that, the Georgia Archives sells a state map with county lines and modern militia districts by number.  Usually the census forms will provide you with the number as well as the name of the district.  I don’t know if they offer it by mail, but you can contact them to find out.  For the eastern third or so of Georgia, there’s the excellent book Atlas of East and Coastal Georgia Watercourses and Militia Districts by Paul K. Graham, which I’ve mentioned previously.  Paul Graham is a Certified GenealogistSM and his website is  The link from the book title takes you to, or you can order from Amazon by clicking on the link on the author’s website.  (I don’t get a kickback either way, so whichever you choose is OK by me.) 

Another source for historic towns and settlements is Georgia Place Names by Kenneth K. Krakow.  I was attending Mercer University in Macon when Mr. Krakow released this book, and I bought a copy of the first edition and had him autograph it for my mother.  From what I understand, the book is currently not in print, but Ken’s sons have graciously created a website and made the entire contents of the third edition of the book available online as PDF documents (  While you’ll still find missing names, and not every militia district name is covered, this is still my go-to site for finding out just where the heck something was, and it’s a great place to waste an hour (or an afternoon) just perusing the pages.

One last bit of strangeness.  Ruben Theodore Farthing was buried in the Emit Grove Baptist Church graveyard in 1932.  In 1958, however, Martha Alford Farthing was buried in the Brooklet Cemetery in Brooklet, also in Bulloch County.  We couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t be together until I found her obituary.  The obituary states the she “was a member of the Brooklet Methodist Church.”  That explains it.  Many churches, even today, have policies that restrict burials to current members, and that practice was even more common 80 years ago.  So now we know why Martha was buried in the city cemetery with three of her children, the widower John W (known as “Uncle Willy”), Emmie (who married at least twice) and Elmer L (“Uncle Lamar”, who never married). I'd like to offer a special thank you to Find A Grave user nu2ga (aka Allie Woodard) for posting Martha's obituary to her Find A Grave memorial.  Allie cites her source as "From Obituary File - Statesboro Regional Library - name of publication not given."  Thank you Allie!
John W[illiam] Farthing, Emmie Farthing Weston Burnam, Martha Alford Farthing, Elmer L[amar] Farthing
I’ll tackle more Farthings next time, unless I get sidetracked again.

Here’s your summary:
  • Always cite your sources, even in your research notes.  It’s amazing how much you can forget about where you read or heard something, even after just a short time.
  • The U.S. Census is still probably your most valuable source of information (after family resources) for the period from 1850 to 1930.  Just exercise some caution and common sense, weigh the possibilities, and remember the census isn’t perfect.  Even with a relatively uncommon name you can find people with the same name or initials.
  • Google your surname and the phrase “family association.”  You might get lucky!  And don’t forget those collateral lines when looking for other family research groups.  Just because they aren’t in your direct line, or are in a maternal line, doesn’t mean they won’t have information that can point you in the right direction, inspiration to search in a new area, or even documentation that you might otherwise never find on your own (such as family bibles and letters between family members).  Just don’t balk if there’s a small fee to join; cataloguing, preserving and presenting all this data is not cheap, and not every group has an “angel” to pick up the tab.  
  • Georgia Place Names by Kenneth K. Krakow is hands down my favorite resource for exploring bygone towns in Georgia.  You might find a copy in a used book store, but the entire contents are available online at  There are other similar resources out there, such as The Dead Towns of Georgia (Travel in America) by Charles Colcock Jones and Charles Jones (which is also available for free download from Amazon Books) and Cities, towns, and communities of Georgia between 1847-1962 by Marion R. Hemperley (check Amazon or your local library or used bookstores for availability, in or out of print).

 Later y’all,


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

SideLine: Robert D. White

Robert D White, ca. 1935
In genealogy, a collateral ancestor is the brother or sister of your direct ancestor and a collateral line is his or her descendents.  Researching your collateral ancestors can often lead you to details about your own ancestors that you might not otherwise discover.  In addition, adding their stories to your research makes for a fuller telling of your family history.  Plus sometimes they are just so darned interesting!  I can sometimes get distracted for days reading about a collateral ancestor such as the Rev. Dr. Henry Holcombe, a great Baptist preacher of the first decades of the 19th century in Savannah and Philadelphia who was my 4th great grand uncle.  Another great reason for taking a detour into your collateral lines is to find distant cousins who can hopefully help you when you hit one of those pesky brick walls.  I have such a brick wall, so I’ll take a break from the Farthings here to talk about the family of I.C. Farthing’s wife, Mamie.
Mamie Clyde White (1884-1957) – “Mamaw” – was my maternal great grandmother, my mother’s mother’s mother.  She died about four months before I was born.  Based on what my mother told me, I was searching for Mamie’s parents Robert Alfred White and Elizabeth Rozier.  Except I was also told that Mamie’s mother had died when she was a little girl, and that her father had remarried, to a woman name Valeria.  Oh, and Mamie had one brother, also named Robert.  My mother doesn’t recall ever meeting Mamie’s father or stepmother, but “Uncle Robert” visited a couple of times.  We actually found a picture of him with my grandmother and grandfather and my mother, which was probably taken in 1935.  (We don’t know who cut the picture or when, but we do have both pieces!)

I started my search in the Census indexes for 1900.  This is a rather targeted way to search, but since I knew that Mamie was born in the 1880’s and there aren’t any surviving records for the 1890 census in Georgia I was hopeful that I would find her family in 1900.  I also had already located the record of her marriage to I. C. Farthing in 1907 in the digitized microfilm of the Laurens County Marriage Book N on the Georgia’s Virtual Vault website.  So I focused the search even further to Laurens and surrounding counties in Georgia.  And I was successful.  I found a family of four listed in Dodge County, Chauncey District consisting of Robert A White (age 39), Valeria White (22), Robert A White (17) and Mamie White (15).  The 1900 census is valuable for the additional information it contains.  For example, it gives the month and year of birth as well as the age for each individual, the number of years married for couples and the number of children born/still living for the wives.  Robert A and Valeria have only been married 7 years, so it’s obvious she couldn’t be Robert D and Mamie’s mother.  And she’s only 22, so she’s more a big sister than a mother.  No wonder I heard a couple of stories that Mamie didn’t particularly care for her step-mother.  Of course, you can’t always depend on the dates or ages reported on the census, or the other information without corroboration.  For example, Valeria supposedly has had 2 children and 2 are living, but none are in the house of an appropriate age.  Did the census taker just put her down as the mother without asking any other questions?  We’ll never know.  The census form also indicates that Robert A was a teamster, and his son Robert D was already a laborer in a saw mill at 17 years old.

And that’s about it for Robert A White, my great-great grandfather.  The 1900 census indicates he was born in October 1860, so there’s no chance of finding him in the 1860 census, but I’ve also been unable to locate him with certainty in the 1870 or 1880 censuses.  My mother had written down Mamie’s mother’s name as Elizabeth Rozier, so I went to the Georgia’s Virtual Vault website again, searching for two marriage records for Robert A, again focusing on Laurens County first.  I rather quickly located a marriage license issued to Mr. Robert White and Miss Valeria Warren, married in Laurens County on 19 February 1894, so the 1900 census was wrong; they had just celebrated their sixth anniversary, not their seventh.  Finding the record of his first marriage was a bit more difficult.  I wasn’t even sure of the year.  Looking at the 1900 census again, it says that Robert D was born in May 1883 and Mamie was born in October 1884.  I started with January 1883 and started working my way backwards.  I found a record for a Mr. Robert A. White who was married in Laurens County on 18 July 1880, but his wife is listed as Leona Rozar.  So far I’ve had no luck tracing any of these three people back before their marriage licenses, or forward past 1900, with one exception.

1910 US Census, Georgia, Laurens County, Dublin, Ward 3 (courtesy of

In the 1910 census for Dublin, Laurens County, I found a family of four again.  This time they were listed as Robert D White (Head; 28), Lula E White (Wife; 27), Vida Pearl White (Daughter; 2) and Robert A White (Father; 51).  Now the ages of the two Roberts are one year older than I would expect to see based on their ages an years of birth in 1900, that isn’t unheard of.  This census uses M1, M2, etc. to indicate how many marriages a person has had.  Robert A has M2, indicating two marriages.  It doesn’t indicate he’s widowed, but it does say 12 years for the length of marriage.  Again, an understandable error, particularly if this is a transcribed copy of the enumerator’s actual form … heck sometimes I mix up my own 2’s and 7’s!   I can’t find a “suitable” Robert A White in any succeeding census, but Robert D shows up in 1920, still living in Dublin, Laurens County with his family: Robert D White (38), Lula C White (37) and Veda P White (11).  And in 1930, once again in Dublin, it’s Robert D White (48), Lula White (48) and Pearle White (20).  The 1910 census said that Robert D & Lula had been married 5 years, but the 1930 census says that they have been married 22 years.  More transcription errors?  A search of the Virtual Vault turned up a marriage license issued by Laurens County to Robert White and Lula Gay indicating they were married on 2 October 1904, so 5 years as of the date of the 1910 census would be correct, and the 1930 census should have recorded it as 25 years.

That’s assuming these are the correct people, of course.  My mother didn’t think “Uncle Robert” had ever been married.  I haven’t located death records or gravestones for any of these people.  I can’t find a marriage record for a Vida Pearl White in the vicinity of Dublin or the neighboring counties.  In this case collateral research has not paid off entirely, though it has given me some interesting leads and raised other questions.  For example, whatever happened to Valeria (the second wife)?  Did Robert A die between 1910 and 1920?  Georgia hadn’t yet mandated death certificates, so there doesn’t appear to be any hope of one of those.  Who were Robert A’s parents?  Who was Elizabeth/Leona Rozar/Rozier?  There are quite a few Rozars in and around Laurens county, but I haven’t found a likely candidate for her in the 1870 or 1880 census.  What happened to the daughter, Vida Pearl?  Did she ever marry and have children?  Did any of the possible children inherit family memorabilia that might shed more light on the Whites of Laurens and surrounding counties?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Sorry to say, I’m leaving this detour with more questions than answers, but it was interesting nonetheless, and I did learn a few things which point to other possibilities.  Hopefully more information will come to light some day soon that will allow me to break through this wall.

* Marriage license images are from the Georgia's Virtual Vault website, courtesy of the Georgia Archives.

Here’s your summary:
  • Exploring your collateral ancestors and their descendents can often be a rewarding effort.  Sometimes you will even acquire information that will help you break through brick walls on your other lines.
  • Census forms, particularly from the decades surrounding the turn of the last century, are often rich in details which can add to the texture of your family history.
  • Don’t forget to try to confirm facts with multiple sources.  Tombstones, marriage records, death records, family Bibles, census forms and family histories should all be weighed and considered carefully.  No single document can provide all the evidence you need, but each is a piece of the puzzle.

 Later y’all,