V is for Very Confusing


This is my 22nd post for the April A-Z Challenge.  I have been writing about my grandfather, Mershell C. Graham’s possible family several times during this challenge.  At times it is a very confusing search.  I have put the various documents into a collage, which you can enlarge by clicking on it, to see if that would make it easier to understand. What do you think?

The red arrows point to information that hints at a connection between my grandfather and Annie and Abraham Graham.

The Search – Step by Step

  •  I found a little New Testament in my grandfather, Mershell C. Graham’s things.
  •  I wondered who the Jacob Graham that the Bible was dedicated to and how he was related to my grandfather.
  •  Since I had Jacobs birth date I looked for him in the 1900 US Census in Elmore County, Alabama.
  •  I found him.  Although there were two other children and an adult, none of them were my grandfather or the people he named as his parents. I thought I remembered a sister named Annie.
  •  I sent for Jacob’s death certificate. Unfortunately it did not name his parents.
  •  I wondered if perhaps the other boy in the household in 1900, name of Abraham, was, perhaps, my grandfather identified by another name. I searched for Abraham and sent for his death certificate. His descripiton on the WW1 and WW2 draft registration forms matched my grandfathers. The names of his parents on all documents was the same as those given by my grandfather. He wasn’t my grandfather, I soon found out, because he had a complete life of his own.
  •  I decided to follow the girl in the 1900 household. She had 4 children and the youngest was named Michele, which was my grandfather’s original name. I found she lived on the farm as a servant of the woman who was the daughter of the people I thought may have been the slave holders of my grandfather’s mother, Mary Jackson.  I found a photograph of some children taken on the Oscar Barron farm ( husband of woman I mentioned above, from slave holding family.)
  •   Although I found much interesting information and some things that seem to tie this household to my grandfather, I have no proof that they are related. They never appear in documentation in the same place.
  • I don’t know what to do or where to look next.

24 thoughts on “V is for Very Confusing

  1. I think this rates two “very’s”–This is very, very confusing!

    Sometimes when I can’t make sense of some research, I set it aside for awhile. When I come back to it at a later date, I often either have additional information or new insights that help me make sense of the information.

    1. I have had this sitting to the side for awhile, until I decided to write it up for the challenge. Now that I’ve written it up, I am going to put it away again and hope I find something new one day. Right now, I think you’re right, time to put it to sleep. I do like the red arrows though 🙂 I just discovered how to do them.

  2. I like the collage. I think it’s a pretty clear visual of your process and the resulting confusion.

  3. Best of luck, I’ve been down those paths of similar name, location & etc. only to find a totally different person! Now what indeed… back, forth, up, down, sideways…

  4. Thank you for the list. I’m more verbal than visual, so it was easier for me to follow. There is something here, I feel sure of it. I haven’t read far enough back in your blog to have the big picture, but could it be something like Jacob Graham was some kind of benefactor, or foster/adoptive parent? Could Abraham have been adopted into Graham’s family even though he might have been your grandfather’s biological (or adoptive?) brother? Can’t remember whether Michele’s parents matched your grandfather’s. . .
    Obviously I don’t know what I’m talking about–don’t laugh!

    1. I’m not laughing, but I am smiling. Zachries was listed as father in the 1900 census, when Jacob, Abraham and Annie appear as children. Jacob, Abraham and Annie were all within a few years of my grandfather’s age, so none could have been a father figure. Jacob was younger. Michele’s would be my grandfather, Mershell’s (formerly Michele) nephew because Annie (the possible sister would be my grandfather Mershell’s sister. Annie’s parents do match Abraham’s and my grandfather’s parents and Abraham’s physical description also match my grandfather. Unfortunately, Annie and Jacob didn’t have draft cards so no description for them. 😀

  5. It is very frustrating when you think you are close but can’t quite tie it together. I really like the way that you joined the house together in the collage.

  6. Kristin, this mystery really is a doozie. I’ve looked at it each time you’ve written about them and I’m still confused….even very, very confused. I think I’ll print this one off and have a look another time. It may be that there wasn’t a connection but it does seem odd. Maybe Mershell just picked up that New Testament because of the name connection. Maybe, ….???

  7. I read this last week, decided I was a bit confused and then for some reason thought of your dilemma again today and had another look at the post.

    I love the collage (and the red arrows!) and this certainly helped.

    My advise would be seperate the family – research each individual as though they are completely new to you rather than try to make a connection. Start with what you know and then follow each individual through the records and census. Perhaps go back a generation and see if that links into a connection.

    The reason I mention this is that I spent a lot of years looking for a marriage of a John Butcher (illegitamate) to a Mary – John’s mother had the surname of Woolgar and I knew from a will that named him as the correct individual. Also John’s parents did eventually marry when John was 6 years old.

    I searched every parish within a 20 mile radius of the rural Surrey parish in England where they lived. In 1841 I found a John Woolgar and Mary in a nearby parish. I followed the family through the BMDs and Census records and found that these were 2 seperate individuals rather than my John switching back to his mother’s maiden name. From a later Census John’s wife says born in Alphington Surrey ( a small hamlet outside Guildford). After 24 years of searching I found the marriage of John Butcher in the parish of Allingham Sussex just over the border.

    Names reoccur in families, I have no less than 7 George Ellis’ each marrying a Sarah. You can imagine the headache that was to unravel, each George and Sarah producing children and then using the same names – so it is possible that Jacob is a cousin (even distant) or an adopted relative. If I think of anything further I will drop you a message.

    1. Julie, You’re right. One reason I wrote it all up, confusing as it is, is the hope that somebody who is descended from this line will get in touch with me and help untangle the mess.

      I have researched them as separate but did come to the same names on the death certificates. It’s really too bad that the 1890 census is lost to us due to a fire. That would be the one where everybody was just a couple of years old and probably with whoever their parents were.

  8. Writing it up certainly can pay off. I wrote about John Butcher and his wife and some one contacted me who descended from the wife’s line and confirmed all the details that I had uncovered.

    What a shame about the 1890 Census. Are there any court records or poor law type records? Also what about newspapers? If something happened to his parents it might be documented?

    1. They lived on a farm. I will have to look and see what papers were in that area at that time. They might report something spectacular.

        1. I don’t think there would be a name for the farm. They were just poor black farmers in rural Alabama. There is a way I could find the tax records and such but I have not got that figured out. There are several places I would like to find who the owners are. I need to take some time and learn how to do it.

          1. Just a sudden thought. This is almost within living memory. Have you considered sharing the details with a local history group or church in Alabama. Someone may recall something? Fascinating quandary!

  9. Julie, I will have to see if Coosada has a local history group and what are in the area. Maybe looking at which cemeteries those who died there are buried in would give me a hint. If someone had started looking in the 1960s there would have been more hope of finding somebody. So many moved to the city or north.

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