14 June 2024

Biggest Brick Wall: Abijah LeRoy

Image by Ray Shrewsberry • from Pixabay
I've had a solid brick wall at my maternal 2nd great-grandparents since the day I started researching, over 10 years ago. My research started with a family story (now disproven by DNA). The Native American connection I spent years searching for does not exist. My maternal DNA shows primarily England, as well as  Sweden/Denmark, Scotland, Ireland and Norway. Once I had my DNA results in hand, I mistakenly thought removing Native American heritage from the equation was going to lead me somewhere fast. Boy was I wrong. It's like this couple was never born, they seem to appear out of thin air.

The known, my 2nd great grandparents had 6 children. Part of this comes from an elusive message board post about a family bible....though there is no documentation to substantiate, and no information on where I might find a copy of this bible. But, in conjunction with viable census records, the names seem to be accurate (as far as I can tell, one census has nothing but initials for given and middle names but they do line up pretty well.). I've pieced together the following children:

  1. Elizann E LeRoy (1839– )
  2. Amos Jasper LeRoy (1840–1904)
  3. W A LeRoy (1842– )  "A" may stand for Abijah or Arthur
  4. Benjamin Franklin LeRoy (1843–possibly1900)
  5. Elizabeth Jane LeRoy (1844– )
  6. John Robert LeRoy (1847–1927) -  my great-grandfather
From the census records and death certificate of John Robert LeRoy, I believe my 2nd great grandmother was Nancy Williams (possibly middle name Jane if you believe an 1870 census with Benjamin and John in the household also showing someone named Jane and being the correct age). From the same death certificate, his father was listed as Abijob LeRoy. However, other family lore shows Abijah, so I choose to use it (for now, cause I'm not at all convinced it was his given name at all). Abijah does not appear in any census records I can find. 

I've seen old Ancestry message board posts with others looking for Abijah, with the same Native American story in their family lore. Every tree I look at has him listed with no viable documentation, other than the death certificate of his son I've already located. In some trees, Abijah is shown as John or Luke. His father is sometimes attributed as John. But in NONE of the trees do I find any useful documentation. Sure there is an 1830 census record for a John LeRoy in Georgia (where I know he lived), but there's nothing show it's the LeRoy I'm looking for. And at best, I'll still only have numbers of people of various age ranges in the household. It's before the birth of his children...so...no clues to match with anything else. I'm not at all comfortable at this juncture using the 1830 census for anything. 

You'd think DNA results might point me in a direction right? Nope! I have 42 matches to the supposed Abijah (or Abijob or John or Luke) LeRoy and Nancy Williams. I have 39 matches to his supposed father, John. Nothing else. No DNA matches to an as of yet unidentified child from the father John. Everything ends with Abijah and Nancy. To make it more frustrating, all my DNA matches to Abijah are from his sons only (leaving me with questions about his daughters, since they have very similar names and could end up being the same person). It seems strange for a time period around the early 1800's not to have matches to some other children of Abijah's father. Why is Abijah the only child of theirs with DNA matches? Sure, it could be no one has tested. It could be the parents died and he was orphaned...or he legitimately may have been the only offspring (although I tend to doubt this). It just seems very odd to me. 

I've searched all kinds of different ways. I've only found one obit for a child of Abijah and there's no mention of the parents (but it does verify some of his siblings). The death certificate I've located is the only one I've found for any child showing parents. The one brother with the obit did have a death entry but it was just a record book, and parents weren't listed. The obit, from Tennessee, did say the son (Amos) was born in Banks, Georgia...while the majority of records I have are from Whitfield, Georgia... but it hasn't unearthed any new clues for me. All of the children were born prior to the start of birth records in Georgia.

With all my subscriptions, you'd think I'd be able to find obits for a few more of his children. Though, even if I did, they might not mention parents. Southern records of the time are less than detailed. I've considered some records might have been destroyed. And while the FamilySearch wiki shows the Whitfield, Georgia county courthouse was burned in 1864, there was no reported loss of records. I've also considered the family may have migrated from another state (I already know the family lived in and around Georgia and Alabama, but some also lived in Tennessee or had records created there), but broadening searches to nearby states has yielded nothing. FamilySearch shows Abijah born in South Carolina, but there's no documentation there either, save for the same single death certificate of John Robert. 

I checked for any wars during the time I suspect he lived, and the only one was the Mexican-American war. It seems unlikely he'd have had any reason to leave Georgia for this event. There were certainly lots of diseases at the time, he may have died....but there's no burial I can find. He may have left the family and started over under a new name (his son Amos left his family for a time per his obit, but eventually returned), but why no records before then? Perhaps the surname should be LeCroy, Leeroy, Lerry, Lukeroy (yes, I've seen records with all kinds of spellings) or even Lecroix. I've used wildcards and "sounds like" with no success. I'm finding nothing...nothing!...to connect any dots. 

The FamilySearch full text search potentially yielded some Whitfield Georgia deeds with LeRoy's in the right time frame (1850's range) when I "think" Abijah may have died based on no children born after 1847, but to be honest, there were quite a few with the same or similar names (none of them being Abijah or Nancy). Most are showing a John receiving the property, and there's nothing at all to suggest the John in these records is my great-grandfather. Amos and Benjamin were farmers for a time per non-population schedules and property tax digests. The property tax digests just confuse things more because there's one from 1873-1877 showing both a Benjamin and Luke in Cobb, Georgia. But Benjamin is sometimes called Luke (and unless he had multiple personalities, he can't be both Benjamin and Luke on the same record, and there's no other brother named Luke). The record is well after I believe Abijah to have died. I'm not finding deeds with the names I'd expect, and there's nothing in those deeds to help terribly much. I am not skilled with land records and deeds, but I may have to spend some time on them just to disprove them. 

Could it be there simply aren't records? I tend to doubt it. Sure, the southern states do seem to be more scarce on documentation than say Ohio (who kept wonderful records) but I feel like I just haven't found the right search yet. The family was scattered across Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee during the time. Maybe I'm just being too narrowminded. And don't forget thet bible published in Louisiana and the Louisiana Confederate money I found clearing out my parents house. Maybe they're a clue? So far, I've not tied the family at all to Louisiana, though there was a big LeRoy presence there, but they primarily hailed from France where I have no known DNA ties on the maternal side. To be fair, there could be a French connection not indicated by DNA, but I can only use the known, and France isn't part of the equation at this point.

So my brick wall still stands firm. I'm constantly thinking about other approaches to break it down, but so far nothing has worked. I kick my toe painfully against this wall every couple of weeks, but it refuses to crack. I won't give up, one day I'm confident I'll find the record I need and when I do, it'll be the biggest genealogy happy dance ever!

11 June 2024

Talk to the Tree?

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay
I'm sitting here wondering if anyone else ever talks to the people in their tree? Or am I just weird? Not pick up the phone, sending an Ancestry message or writing an email talk...I mean talking to the names on the screen as you work on them.

The other day, I was trying to find the given name of a (presumably) living husband in my tree. I'd added him based on the wife's surname shown in one of her parent's obits. More often than not, people I add this way have hints show up or I can tease out the answer relatively easily. But a few are proving very stubborn and I'm spending quite a lot of time trying to pin them down.

So I was researching...clicking thru various search results...refining my searches and trying again...and again. I looked on FamilyTreeNow.com, hoping he'd show up in family or known associates of the wife or their children. Frustratingly, nothing was working. 

Then, as if by magic (well, actually it was the magic of searching for a specific street address in the keywords search field of public records), I found the record I was searching for! I can show the person lived at the same address as the wife. And I had a given name! 

Without missing a beat, I caught myself whispering under my breath "...there you are...", as if he had simply been hiding just out of view, like a naughty child. Is it just me or do you occasionally talk to the people in your tree? (And just to be clear - no, they don't talk back). 

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay