Monday, March 31, 2014

#52 Ancestors #13 - Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Pittman: Parents Lost in the Genealogy Abyss

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Amy Crow has posted a challenge on her blog "No Story Too Small".

Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Pittman is my paternal great grandmother


Mary is one of my great mysteries. I don't know who her parents were other than a death record that shows her father to be William Pittman.

Mary was born November 10, 1860 in Alabama. Her death record and census records are consistent in showing her birth in Alabama. The first record available for Mary is when she married John P. Johnston on September 25, 1876. in Limestone County, Texas. All census records showing the birth of her parents are inconsistent.

1880 - Father born Georgia - Mother born Georgia
1900 - Father born Tennessee - Mother born Tennessee
1910 - Father born Alabama - Mother born Alabama
1920 - Father born Alabama - Mother born Alabama
1930 - Father born Texas - Mother born Alabama

The informant for Mary's death certificate was her son John Clark Johnston. Mary died April 26, 1935 at Kosse, Limestone, Texas. She was living with her daughter Rosanna when she died. The death record shows her father was William Pittman birth place unknown and her mother is shown as name unknown and birth place unknown. 

This death certificate only shows the handwriting of two people. The doctor and the person who completed the certificate. The informant line shows J. C. Johnston. He did not sign this. He signed his his World War I Draft Registration and the signature does not match the one on the Mary's death certificate. I sure wish Rosanna would have been the informant. I'm sure Rosanna knew their names.

I have tried to track all Pittman's living in the vicinity of Limestone County, Texas. None seem to be Mary's father.  Surely they must at least be cousins to Mary but I can't connect to them.

My Dad said every single person living in Kosse in the early 1900's was related to us "if not by blood then by marriage". There were some Pittman families living near Mary on the 1900 census. They lived in the same precinct. I feel this J. W. Pittman may be related to Mary. Other researchers show his name as Joseph Wesley Pittman b. 1840 in North Carolina. Some of them have a brick wall on his lineage while others show his father as Wesley Pittman b. 1812 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina.

My Mary is not the daughter of this Wesley Pittman. I went back one more line in his tree. Wesley's father was Joseph Pittman. This Joseph did have a son named William b. 1815 in Edgecombe. Could this be the father of my Mary? He reportedly died 1861 in Edgecombe. It appears that he never left North Carolina. Of course that's using other trees as a guide. Possibly they are wrong. Possibly he moved (?). It's highly doubtful that he is her father unless he was in Alabama when she was born.

On my list of questions I added "Did her father die and her mother remarry and is living nearby?". That is impossible to answer since I don't have the name of her mother.

There are other Pittman's in Limestone, Navarro, and Leon counties but none of them seem to be my Mary's family as far as I can tell. I'm sure I have overlooked some little clue down the line!

My DNA matches to 34 trees on Ancestry. They are all very distant cousins with the exception of one who shares the same line as me. I also have 10 matches on FTDNA. Almost all of these matches have a William Pittman as a direct ancestor or as a cousin. None of these William Pittman's can be linked to my Mary.

Mary's daughter Rosanna Johnston Herring and my Dad's sister, and my Dad were walking, talking, encyclopedia's of family history. They would tell stories of all the family as well as cousins. They never wrote any of the information down but they knew the family history fairly far back in time. I remember much of the genealogy and stories. Unfortunately, by time I began my family tree they were not here for me to ask questions about Mary. I have no memory of the stories concerning Mary Pittman. I feel certain they knew who Mary's parents were and I regret not asking questions while they were all still living.

I am impatiently waiting for the Genealogy Abyss to open it's mouth so I can find Mary's parents.

Beam me up Cathy - back to top

Saturday, March 22, 2014

#52Ancestors #12 John Polk: Polk Station Tennessee

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. Amy Crow has posted a challenge on her blog 'No Story Too Small'.

John Polk is my paternal 4th great grandfather.

John Polk was about fifteen years old when he left his hometown located on the Emerald Isle (Ireland) with his parents William and Elizabeth as well as his two brothers Charles and William Jr. Their ship arrived in South Carolina about 1794/95. 

John married Agnes Brown about 1804. Their children are Elizabeth, Mary, Thomas, Alexander, George, Catherine, William, and James. I descend from their daughter Elizabeth.

The Polk family loaded up their wagon and headed west to Obion County, Tennessee. The Goodspeed Publishing Co. states that John Polk arrived in Obion County about 1833. However, John took the Oath in Obion County on May 14, 1834. The court record states that John had been living in Obion County for three years so he arrived in Obion County about 1831. 
took the oath to become a citizen of the United States. He was born in the Kingdom of Ireland, a part of the dominion of the King of England. He came to this country when but a boy with his father who came to South Carolina and he believes that it was antecedent to the 29th of January, 1795. . . a resident of Obion County for three years…"  (tngenweb )
John and his family settled about three and one-half miles from Troy, Tennessee where John purchased 840 acres. Today it is known as Polk Station and was named after John's son James.

John was fifty-years old when he became ill. There was a man named William H. Massey in Obion County who wrote letters to his brother. Someone was kind enough to transcribe those letters and post them on the internet. William H. Massey wrote "Old man John Polk died night before last with the fever". The letter is dated October 16, 1837. (

John Polk made his Will on October 5, 1837 and died October 14, 1837.

Beam me Cathy - back to the top

Saturday, March 15, 2014

#52Ancestors #11 Thomas Tinsley: Double the bloodline

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. Amy Crow has posted a challenge on her blog 'No Story Too Small'.

Thomas and Sarah Jackson Tinsley: My paternal and maternal 7th great grandparents.

Map created by David Benbennick; Widkipedia; Creative Commons license

Thomas Tinsley is my 7th great grandfather. Actually it could be said that Thomas and his wife Sarah Jackson Tinsley are my ancestors two times over. He was born about 1660 at St. Peter's Parish,  New Kent County, Virginia. His parents Thomas and Elizabeth Randolph Tinsley were immigrants from Yorkshire, England. They arrived at Jamestown in 1638. Sarah's father was Isaac Jackson who immigrated from Lancashire, England.

Thomas and Sarah settled in St. Anne's Parish in Old Rappahannock County, Virginia after their marriage. They had eight children: David, Phillip, John, Thomas, Ann, Edward, Mary, and Isaac. I descend from two of their sons - John and Edward. It's not unusual for us to have double relationships in our lineage due to intermarriage between cousins but in this case it was not cousins. John is my maternal 6th great grandfather and his brother Edward is my paternal 6th great grandfather. My parents are cousins to each other, they are my cousins, and I am my own cousin!

Old Rappahannock County is known as Essex County today. Thomas owned a transport ship. It is not known if he was the ship master or if he hired someone. He probably was a merchant and used to the ship to transport merchandise. He definitely transported people. 

Thomas was granted land on at least two occasions for transporting people to the Colony. One grant was for fourteen-hundred acres for transporting twenty-eight people. The other grant was for one thousand acres for transporting twenty people to the Colony. The names of those he transported are listed on the grants.

Their property was on a southern branch of the "Portobacco Creek" which was given it's name for the Portobacco Tribe. It was a perfect location for Thomas and his family. They had access to the waterways that were used for shipping tobacco and transporting people to the Colony.

The nearest church was Vauter's Church which still stands today. A wing was added on in 1731.

In April 1714 Thomas Tinsley, planter of Essex County, sold several pounds of tobacco and several tracts of land totaling one thousand twenty-five acres.

He made his Last Will and Testament on November 25, 1715 naming his wife Sarah as executor. His will was proven by Sarah on February 22, 1715/16.

If I were a child again I would say I have "bunches and bunches" of Tinsley dna.

Beam me up Cathy - (back to top)

Friday, March 7, 2014

52#Ancestors #10 Rosanna Harper Harper: The Trailblazing Widow

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. Amy Crow has posted a challenge on her blog 'No Story Too Small'.

Rosanna Harper is my paternal 4th great grandmother.


Rosanna Harper was a Christmas baby. She was born to Robert and Agnes Harper on December 25, 1774 in South Carolina. Her parents were born in Ireland and came to the United States in 1767 along with their siblings and other family members. We know from her father's will that her family called her 'Rosey'. Her father left her ten pounds to be paid in two cows and calves.

Rosanna married her cousin Henry Harper. He is the son of Benjamin and Mary Knox Harper. His parents came to the United States from Ireland along with Rosanna's parents. Very little is known about Henry. He and Rosanna are listed on the 1800 and 1810 census.

It was customary for the spouse of females to 'collect' any inheritance the female received. Henry was given the ten pounds due Rosanna from her father's estate.

.."South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Feb 2014), Chester > Probate records, 1805-1810, Vol. D > image 159 of 239.

The inheritance was collected about 1808. Henry died sometime between the 1810 and 1820 census. They had a total of seven children: Jane D., Robert, Margaret, Mary L. (Polly), James B., one son name unknown, and two daughters names unknown. Their son Robert is my third great grandfather.

Rosanna is listed as a widow on the 1820 Lancaster County, South Carolina census age forty-six. The children in her home ranged from ages six and up and the oldest daughter had married.

Wagons Ho!

It was after the death of Henry that a group of people from York County, South Carolina decided to migrate west. The party was made up of family, friends, and neighbors. Rosanna, her children, and son-in-law William Hutchison made the decision to go with them. It's believed that her cousin/brother-in-law, James Knox Harper, lead the wagon train. Much of their journey is given in the obituary of Rosanna's daughter Mary L. (Polly) Harper Hogue. (Mary will be discussed later).

They headed for Tennessee. According to family stories the wagon train stopped in Tennessee and was to told to continue west to the area now known as Obion County, Tennessee. Upon arrival in Obion County they had to cross the Obion River. Mary's obituary states they used their 'bed cords, lashed the timber together' and built a raft. They crossed the Obion River near the town of Rives.

Obion River

Rosanna entered a large tract of land near Troy. They camped until a few acres of the heavily forested land was cleared and a home could be built. They were burning trash after the home was built when one of Rosanna's grand daughters fell into the fire. The child's funeral was the first one held and buried where they had camped. (Source: Obituary of Mary Harper Hogue).

Rosanna is mentioned in several lawsuits in Obion County. These were debt charges. Rosanna was the plaintiff. She won some cases and lost some.

Rosanna never remarried after the death of Henry. The Associate Reform Presbyterian record shows her death date as November 2, 1855.  Her burial place is not yet known.

She must have been a wonderful person because she has many namesakes in my direct lineage as well as other relatives lineage.


There is a discrepancy in the obituary of Rosanna's daughter Mary L. (Polly) Harper. The newspaper article first states that Mary's mother was Susanna. Later in the article it states her mother was Rosanna. I found no records for a Susanna. The article also states two things that confirm Rosanna was her mother:

  1. "The widow Rosanna Harper located on the place near Troy where her grandson Jas H. Hogue (James) now lives...."
  2. It mentions Uncles Ben and W. W. Hutchison (Benjamin and William W. Hutchison). They are the sons of Rosanna's daughter Jane.

Rosanna has many namesakes. Some in my direct line and others in the lines of my cousins. In my lineage we have:

Nancy Rosanna (Rose) Harper (1827-1895) my second great grandmother
Rosanna C. (Rosie) Johnston (1863-1881) Nancy's daughter; my great grand aunt
Rosanna Jane (Rosie) Johnston ((1877-1962) my grand aunt (read about her living in a store building here)

Unknowingly my sister and great niece received the middle name Rose. Now that my family knows Rosanna's story, I hope they will pass the story to future generations and keep her name or a form of her name in our line for many generations to come.