You have four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, 32 great-great-great-grandparents…the list goes on and on with each generation. Think of all the people you descend from. Doesn’t it boggle the mind?
Anderson, Bing, Brown, Bryan, Chisholm, Crockett, Dungee, Eunice, Johnson, Kelley, Martin, Mundell, Nicholas, Wall and Williams. These are just the known surnames of my direct ancestors from the South and from Jamaica. There are countless names that I don’t know. I’m especially interested in finding missing maiden names 0f many of my female ancestors.
Currently, I’m trying to pinpoint the maiden name of my great-grandfather’s grandmother, Mrs. Eliza Johnson. She shows up on death certificates and marriage records of her offspring, but only by her first name or married name thus far.
The one tidbit passed down from my great-grandfather, who died four years before I was born, was that Eliza looked Native American. But we don’t have any ancestral data on her to back that up. In 2009, I acquired a photograph of Eliza via a distant cousin I found through Myfamily.com. The photo (below) shows Eliza in the early 1900s with one of her grandsons. This was a wonderful find because it’s the only photo of a great-great-great-grandparent that I have.
Eliza was born circa 1830 in Virginia. I’ve tracked her up to age 90 in Virginia, living with her eldest daughter. Eliza doesn’t show up in the 1930 census, so I suspect that she died before 1930. So far, no death certificate has materialized in Virginia.
According to the 1900 census, Eliza married her husband Jacob around 1859. This spring, I’ll explore if their union was registered with the Nelson County, Va., Freedmen’s Bureau. That will require a trip to the National Archives.
In the 1870 census, Eliza, Jacob (head of household), and their children resided with a man named Burwell Massie, who was born in 1799. Could this be Eliza’s father? This is one of those times when I really wish the 1870 census listed familial relationships.
I have a few more avenues to explore: Social Security applications of her children, if they exist, might reveal her maiden name.
Or, perhaps a death certificate exists in Maryland. I wonder if Eliza relocated with her daughter to a new state. The daughter with whom Eliza lived in 1920 is living alone by 1930 in Montgomery County, Md.
Patience is key. In time, Eliza’s roots may not be elusive anymore, and I just might be able to add a new surname to my list.