Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Journeys in Genealogy

Genealogy is interesting to me.   It is always fascinating to see how connected people are and to read about many of the stories I have come across in my own family tree.  I largely began my research into my own family history about 4 years ago.  My biggest regret is that my father died two years before then and so I wasn't able to share with him what I have learned about his family.  When I started the first record I had to go by were the names, dates of births and deaths that my mom had recorded in their family Bible.  Thanks to ancestry.com, familysearch.org, findagrave.com, and many other resources I have come along way since then.  I have around 5,000 people in my tree currently.

The first connection I was most interested in researching was my great grandfather on my dad's paternal line, Julius Honesta Stevens.  In the family Bible, I didn't have any dates for him, but on his grave, he has two dates of birth.  One is 1836 and the other is 1837.  I'm still not sure exactly which is correct, but I lean towards 1837 because in the 1900 census there is also a month listed, January 1837.  I haven't been able to find a death certificate for him though I did run across an obituary for him which stated that he died on his farm near Indian Rock and that he was a member of Indian Rock Baptist Church.

My older brother had obtained a few years ago, his Confederate pension records.  From that I learned that he had served in the 17th Mississippi Infantry, Company I under R H Cooper.  I had also learned from that he had lived in Marshall county, Mississippi and that he had enlisted at Cockrum in June 1861 and that he was captured in April 1865.  I also knew from those records that he first came to Texas and lived in Johnson county in 1897 or 1898.  I have since learned from other Confederate service records that he was captured on April 6th, 1865 at the Battle of High Bridge in Virginia and that he was taken to Point Lookout prison in Maryland.  He was released on June 30th, 1865 which was also the same day that the last prisoners were released from Point Lookout. 

I am glad he didn't have to be there too long, because from what I've read, Point Lookout was the Andersonville of the North.  A very bad place, where the guards would torment, beat, and often shoot prisoners at random and where the prisoners would have to resort to eating rats to supplement what little food they got.  http://www.plpow.com/Atrocities_OutrageAtPL.htm  Apparently it is debated whether it was worse than Andersonville or not, but to say it was a bad place to be is an understatement.  There were men, women, and children there.  There were both blacks and whites who were imprisoned for serving the Confederate cause.

Going over the history of his regiment, I was surprised to find that they had  served in many battles including Gettysburg.   It amazes me how he was able to survive for so long through the course of the war only to be captured three days before Lee's surrender.

 From his obituary, I learned he died on April 4th 1912 and from the death certificates of his children, I learned that his wife's name was Liddie Dora Watterson.  I knew the Liddie Dora part from the family Bible and from her grave.  My brother had also obtained a copy of a mortuary warrant from when she died in 1924 that gave some more information.

Now even though I had found out much of that beforehand, I still had trouble determining who his parents were.  I knew from an 1880 census that his mother went by the name of E S Fellows although it looks like Fellon.  I will go over how I determined it was actually Fellows in just a moment.  I knew that he had been born in Johnston county, North Carolina because that was on his tombstone and it was in the census records that he had been born in North Carolina.  I had thought that since he had named his oldest son, my grandfather, William Harry Stevens that that may have been the name of his father or something similar.  I had posted a query on a message board asking for information and someone suggested a marriage had occurred between a William Henry Stevens and an Elizabeth Smith Allen on December 20th, 1834 in Johnston county, North Carolina.  I then found the marriage bond for such a record.

This made sense, but I was needing more evidence to link William Henry Stevens and Julius.  I did some research on William Henry Stevens and found that he had a brother named Julius Alexander Stevens and that Julius Alexander had a son named Hannibal Honestus Stevens.  I was sure at that point that I was on the right track because of the name of my great grandfather, Julius Honesta Stevens.

I then took the ancestry.com DNA test as well as some of the FamilyTreeDNA.com tests, and the 23andme.com test.  What I found only confirmed my links even more, because I had 4th to 6th cousin matches with ancestors going back to Jacob Stevens and Belinda Jernigan who were William Henry Stevens grandparents and thus my fourth great grandparents.  I also found matches to Elizabeth Allen's ancestors as well.  The most recent 4th cousin match descended from William Henry's father's other son Needham Bryan(t) Stevens.  William Henry Stevens's father was a Henry Newton Stevens.
I learned that last part about who William Henry Stevens's siblings were through someone who had sent me copies of pages from a book that listed many of the Stevens from that  part of North Carolina.

Now at some point in the 1840's William Henry Stevens and his family moved to Mississippi.  What is interesting is that his brother, Julius Alexander Stevens also moved to the same part of Mississippi.  After 1844, William Henry Stevens disappears.  I think it is likely that he died sometime between 1844 and 1850 because by the 1850 census in Desoto, Mississippi we find E S Stevens raising her children alone.  In the 1850 census we see some sibling for Julius.  One is a William Stephens(possibly William Henry Stevens, Jr.), another is a sister, E Stephens (who in the 1860 census is listed as Elizabeth C R Stephens), and then there is a male about the same age as Julius listed as M Stephens(possibly Milton).  At the time, it wasn't uncommon to confuse Stephens with Stevens and given that Julius's mother is listed as being illiterate in the 1880 census that maybe why.  In 1857, there is a record for a Mrs. E. S. Stevens marrying an L J Fellow.  In 1860, we have the Fellows living next door to Julius and his sister.  I haven't found an 1870 census record for Julius yet, but I did find one showing his mother, Elizabeth Fellows living with his uncle Julius Alexander Stevens.  Then comes 1880 and we have Julius living with his mother.

Julius didn't get married until he was 57 in 1894 and my grandfather was born in 1895.  Julius and his wife had six children.  His mother died in 1897 and is buried in the same cemetery as his uncle.  It was at that point that he moves to Texas at first to Johnson county and then finally to Upshur county.

One of Julius Alexander Stevens's children who is also named William Henry Stevens also moved to Upshur county about the same time.  Now since he was cousins with my great grandfather, I'm sure they knew each other and I wonder if one followed the other.

I should note that in the 1850 census, I said there was another male listed as an M Stephens and the reason why I think his name might be Milton is because Julius named one of his sons Milton.  I have no other record for the M Stephens though.  I later determined from other family trees that Julius's sister was Elizabeth C P Stevens and that she married Captain R H Cooper who Julius served under.  Captain R H Cooper also provided answers for a deposition for my great grandfather's pension.

As you can see I've found out a lot, but this only focuses on one part of my family history.  I've found out much about other branches and perhaps I will share some about them soon.  I would encourage everyone to begin a journey into your family history to see what you find.  I would also recommend taking a DNA test as well because that can go a long way to helping you  confirm links.  I recommend ancestry.com, because it is easier to go through and compare family trees there.

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