Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In The Beginning...... Year 2: What's More Important?

So, which is more important: Genealogy or Family History?

Today begins my second year in documenting our family history through blogging and, although I didn't plan it this way, I find myself back at the true beginning. As I said a year ago in my very first blog post, the Diary of Oliver Morton Wallen, my paternal great grandfather, was what piqued my curiosity about my own ancestors and was what eventually led me to a full blown obsession with finding out all I could about both my and my husband's historical past. This week I once again found myself engulfed in Oliver's diary, or at least the first four short pages of it. As it turns out, because of missing punctuation and what I can only describe as a brain fart on my end, I had overlooked an important clue about the death of Oliver's maternal grandfather and I realized I'd also dismissed someone who was very important in his life and in the life of his family.

It all started this past weekend while I was using Google Earth to explore parts of Rockcastle county in Kentucky where Oliver grew up. I realized that I had thumbtacked the town of Negro Creek as the home of his maternal grandfather, Uriah Sutton. But I noticed on page 1 of Oliver's diary that he said that in 1875 his family moved onto the farm of his grandfather Sutton "1 mile S.W. of Maretsburg" which was quite a distance to the southeast of Negro Creek. I went back to check the 1867 tax record and realized it was the Negro Creek watercourse that was named, not the town. Well, how far did that watercourse run and where to? So, I contacted the man I knew who was most knowledgeable about the area and explained what I needed to know. Jeff Renner told me Oliver was geographically correct. The Negro Creek watercourse ran south of Maretsburg and near there it ended and the Skeggs Creek watercourse began. Great. I moved my thumbtack and flew down to street level approximately one mile S.W. of Maretsburg. At that point there appeared a very old farm. I couldn't see it clearly but my imagination was full. From the air, there were more buildings further back. Was this part of Uriah's farm? Maybe someday I'll know. For now, I dream.

Old farm approximately one mile southwest of Maretsburg, Kentucky
 via Google Earth street view

Oliver was 5 years old (1875) when they moved to Uriah's farm. He was the oldest of three siblings at the time and his mother would have been pregnant with the fourth. Six years and four more children later his father (and I'm not sure what other family members) moved to his paternal grandmother's farm and it was this sentence in the diary that made me realize the error of my ways: "In the folowing Dec. (of 1881) father moved on the farm of Grandma Wallen, the old home farm grandpa having died some time previous to this grandma was alone, and I staid with her."

I felt stupid and elated at the same time. Oliver was talking about two different grandmothers! Yes, there's a lack of punctuation, possibly left out or faded with time, but what I failed to see was that Oliver stayed and his father left. William Wallen, Oliver's father, went to live at his own childhood home with his mother, Louisa Tyree Wallen, aka Grandma Wallen. William's father had been dead about 4 years, therefore I assumed Oliver was talking about his paternal grandfather Jesse B. Wallen when he said "grandpa having died". Before now I'd had no clue as to when Uriah died but he was listed as "disabled" in the 1880 census so I only knew he died between 1880 and 1900. Now that I realize Oliver was talking about two different grandmothers, I know that Uriah died between mid 1880 and the end of 1881. This gives me a much more narrowed timespan for Uriah's death than the 20 year span I had previously.

But, to me, the more important thing I received from that simple little sentence was a wake up to the fact that I'd been putting blood as "all important" and had barely glanced at family history. The grandma that was alone and that Oliver stayed with was Oliver's step-grandmother. I am ashamed to say that, because she is completely unrelated to me, I have dismissed this woman as unimportant for the past 16 years. After I did a timeline I realized that Telitha (Clark) Williams Sutton was the only maternal grandmother Oliver and his siblings ever knew. Uriah's first wife, Euna Delaney Sutton, died the year after her 11th child was born and Uriah married Telitha a little over 4 years later. He was married to Euna 18 years before she died and married to Telitha about 22 years before he died. He and Telitha had no children together and therefore I did not consider her important; not until I read that one sentence and had my eyes opened to who she really was and her place in the family. All I knew was that her first husband, Simeon Williams, was shot and killed the very same month he and Telitha were married, and I knew who Telitha's parents and siblings were. In other words, I knew her bare genealogy. In my opinion, that was a big mistake. Now, at least, Telitha will not be quite so forgotton and those of my family who read my blog will know the importance of her place in our family history. My apologies to Telitha! R.I.P.

And now I'd really like to find out the scoop on the murder of Telitha's first husband. I smell an interesting story!



  1. What a great way to start year 2! Can't wait to read all about it.

  2. Kudos on the anniversary. I've enjoyed following your work.

    This post is the reason. Really wonderful job. Telitha's spot in your family is recorded, you give a great example of the value of revisiting old documents, AND it's a fun read.

  3. I hadn't even thought of using google earth in rural areas. I'm going to have to give that a shot. Nice post -- as usual.

  4. Happy Blogoversary Lisa!! Great post, I always enjoy reading your blog :)

  5. happy blogoversary. I usually have to reread data and for some reason a new frame of mind lets a new inspiration hit me. And sometimes it's the same thought. You just never know what you may be inspired about again.

  6. How exciting to find your blog!!! You are to be commended for your through family research. I am Henry Gerald Hester, first born son of Vivian Geraldine Wilson, daughter of Amanda Ursula Burnett Wilson {my grandmother}. I new Aunt Sula Splitik, well, since she and my grandmother were very close. It was always exciting when she and Frank would come to Ky to visit. My grandmother even made a trip or two to Calif. to see them. I am thrilled to see some of this, I am in the early stages of working on my families geneology. I look forward to hearing from you. Best, Jerry Hester

  7. What a great surprise! I have you in my data base Jerry! I will contact you tomorrow via e-mail!