Don’t Pluck the Daisy: Look at all the Candidates.

Anytime I have a difficult-to-prove Virginia genealogy research problem and I am searching in local records of any kind, I take all the surname entries out–for the primary name and for closely allied names as well.
  1. I don’t want any surprises–who is there? When I evaluate the data and draw conclusions, I don’t want to discover later that there were persons I did not consider.
  2. The naming patterns in families can be very important.  For example, Jeremiah Pierce is found in your line of descendants.  Jeremiah Pierce is found with William Pierce on the “western waters.”*  And there are entries in the Virginia indexes for Jeremiah Pierce.  The only way you can tell, if the Jeremiah in Northern Neck Virginia is the same, or related, is to search.  The similar name, gives you the reason.

  3. By reviewing every person of the surname, you can often track migration trails and identify other areas that may be important to your family genealogy. For example, there is a Col. William Pierce from Westmoreland County VA whose entries in the Orange and Culpeper records reference him “of Westmoreland.”  Who is he? The Northern Neck of Virginia is a conduit from the Chesapeake Bay to the upper reaches of the Potomac River.  There are no major rivers to cross (no bridges!, no mountain ranges, no geographical barriers to migration, up that whole neck.)  And many persons from Westmoreland move west into other Northern Neck counties. You can also see when people from one county, where your family resides, are present in the other places too.

  4. If there are two or more persons by the same name in the same documents, you will spot them.  I am almost positive that there are three Thomas Stantons mentioned in Thomas Stanton’s will:  1) Thomas Stanton, dec’d.   2) Thomas Stanton, his son.  3) Thomas Stanton Jr., who is a witness to the will.  Almost never, under English Law, will you find a son witnessing a will in which he is named.  Compare these three names from the will with the entries in the Antient Press index (see–note especially the entries for OE (Orange County)–you will see that there is a William Stanton who dies in the same volume that Thomas Stanton does.  William has a son named Thomas Jr.
  5. Then I like to map where the persons in the records lived–so I can see the clusterings of the names and the relationships that probably cluster too. You can look carefully at maps of the local area–specially those that name the watercourses.  I mark the place names associated with William Pierce in Wythe County–one tax district where he is listed includes Mack’s Run and Pine Run with Reed Creek.  Jeremiah Pierce was constable and militia Captain for the district that included the Lead Mines. These districts pin-point the exact area where we can expect to find their lands, their cemeteries, their churches.
  6. Which persons stand out as potential ancestors or relatives or close friends?
    One person who stands out in these pages is William Herbert.  He is an early settler there.  He acquires a lot of land and William Pierce is an assignee of his.  William is also included in his militia company–1771-73.  You can watch for him in the indexes too.  You will have to go back in the indexes to determine where he comes from, since you didn’t know about him to begin with.

    Another person is John Pierce, who in 1749 is a member of the Loyal Land Company.  There is no evidence that he ever went to the western waters.  Where is he in Virginia?  The original records of the Company may name his place of origin since Kegley just lists the names.

Break your losing streak!

Take out the records of every person with the same surname as your ancestors and evaluate them carefully too.  Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Stay tuned for additional examples of actual ancestors in other episodes of this blog.

*That portion of western Virginia where the waters run west into the Mississippi drainage system instead of east into Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

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