So I was filling out my family group sheets, minding my own business, when I opened up a census record from 1850 I had categorized for Richard Wright, father of Sarah Ann Wright. That was when I noticed another set of names that I didn't expect to see.
|1850 Census for Grayson County, VA--Note families of Richard Wright and James Williams|
Richard Wright's next-door neighbors are James Williams, his wife Priscilla and their children. His daughter Margaret Williams was the one who married James P.W. McKenzie. I haven't had any sort of documentation for Margaret Williams' family at all--and suddenly I find her family next door to some ancestors I already had?
So I started working it out on paper, and after several minutes finally figured out what didn't seem right...
That's right. Stephen Bartlett and Emma McKenzie were already related when they got married. His grandmother and her grandfather were siblings.
When I was putting the information for these individuals in my Ancestry.com family tree, I discovered that I already had some information for Mary Polly Williams. I had copied the maiden name "Webb" from some tree on Ancestry.com back when I thought that was a good idea, so I set out to see what I could document.
A crucial source in helping me to do this was New River Notes, a fantastic resource which documents the history of several southwestern counties in Virginia and northwestern North Carolina. The fabulous historians behind that site have done an excellent job of sharing their wealth of records, knowledge, and expertise. I run into their digitization everywhere in my research, and their site provides access to records that either no longer exist, or would be inaccessible in any other way.
The 1850 census was the one that roused my suspicion that there might be some inbreeding going on, so I decided to fill in more of the blanks using Heritage Quest. While that resource is free through most public libraries, and I find their search feature superior despite its simplicity, their image quality certainly leaves a lot to be desired. I usually check FamilySearch for more pristine copies once I know exactly what I'm looking for.
|James Williams and family on the 1860 Grayson County, VA Census|
|Richard Wright and family on the 1860 Grayson County, VA Census|
|Families of Richard Wright and James Williams appear on the same page for the 1870 Census of Grayson County, VA|
|Richard Wright and family on the 1880 Census for Grayson County, VA|
|James Williams on the 1880 Census for Grayson County. Note that his wife Priscilla has died, and he lives with his son Greenberry|
While those records go to prove that they've been neighbors for a long time, it doesn't prove whether or not there's any sort of inbreeding going on. So the next stop for me was to start looking for burial information. Here's where New River Notes enters.
[Note: Some people would say that just because you find information like this, you can't take it seriously as a source. You need more, harder evidence--a document or a photo. But what these individuals fail to recognize is sometimes that kind of proof just doesn't exist anymore. While you certainly need to myth test your sources before you trust them, there comes a point where you can trust a resource after it repeatedly proves to be accurate. In my opinion, New River Notes surpasses that standard.]
The have digitized copies of the Wright and Williams cemeteries which fill in crucial details on parents and relationships. This website possess more information at this time than FindAGrave.com does. I filled in some of the blanks for my ancestors, and put in some photo requests. I'll be happy if I see results from those. But they provided the parental information I need to begin documenting the relationship between James Williams and Mary Polly Williams.
Their parents are Henry Williams and Sarah Kinworthy. I'm looking forward to exploring more to see what I can find on them. Their line is coming to the point where they either have to jump the pond soon, or I'm simply going to run out of records. I'm always excited to see which one it turns out to be.
So, moral of the story: Pay attention to neighbors on the census records you collect. You may be related to them. And if you pay even closer attention, you may discover that you're related to them twice.