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One step closer

Let there be no question about one fundamental fact: The Legal Genealogist loves cousins.

First, second, third, fourth, doesn’t matter one bit, as long as (a) they are willing to donate just a little tiny bit of their DNA to the cause of family history and (b) that little tiny bit of their DNA just happens to match other members of the gfamily.

Which is why, today, The Legal Genealogist is oh so very grateful to a Battles cousin named Jack.


The Battles connection for me is one of the most difficult ones. That’s because of what is at least a single and maybe a double out-of-wedlock situation. In a county where the courthouse burned. Twice.

I’ve written before about my third great grandmother, Margaret Battles, who married Daniel Shew sometime before 1849, most likely in Cherokee County, Alabama. There’s no record of their marriage; the Cherokee County courthouse burned twice, in 1882 and 1895.1 They had one child, William, by the 1850 census2 and two more — Gilford and Martha Louise — by 1860, when Margaret appeared as head of household on the Cherokee County census, apparently a widow.3

We’re pretty sure of Margaret’s maiden name, but proof is hard to come by. It comes to us really from two sources: oral history passed down to Eula’s daughter Opal;4 and the death certificate of her son William.5

And there was only one Battles family in Cherokee County, Alabama, at any time that could have included Margaret, and that’s the family of William Battles, who was enumerated in Cherokee County in 1840,6 1850,7 1860,8 and 1870.9

It isn’t clear who Margaret’s mother was. William was married twice. His first marriage, to Kiziah Wright, resulted in a messy suit she brought against him for divorce that was finally dismissed in 1829, apparently when Kiziah died.10 His second wife was Ann Jacobs. They were married on Christmas Day 1829, and showed up on the 1830 census with — count ‘em — five children.11 One of whom, I do believe, and born most likely before that December 1829 marriage, was Margaret.

And there were two older boys that, we firmly believe, were Margaret’s older brothers. One was George Battles, the other Guilford/Gilford Battles. These two show up in the records in so many ways that suggest a very close family relationship, with perhaps the most significant single piece of documentary evidence being the land records.

When we look at the federal land records at the Bureau of Land Management website for Cherokee County, Alabama, the Battles men — William, the man we think is the father, and George and Guilford, the ones we think are the sons — what we see is land claim after land claim right next to each other. Two of George’s land claims from 1852 share at least a corner, if not an entire boundary, with William’s 1850 land claim; Guilford’s land claims are nearby, with another of George’s.12

With no other Battles family in Cherokee County at the time, and a host of other tantalizing hints of a family relationship (like Margaret naming a son Gilford, and a grandson of Guilford and Anne Keener Battles listed as a cousin in the household of a grandson of Daniel and Margaret Battles Shew in 1930 and…), well, it sure looks good.

But stopping there would be doing too much of “the name’s the same” thing. And the fact that records are hard to come by in this burned county doesn’t mean there isn’t any evidence.

Evidence like those little tiny bits and pieces of DNA.

Because just this week the results came in for a documented descendant of George Battles, that oldest boy we think is Margaret’s oldest brother. If we were right, then Jack — the descendant of George — should match neatly to everyone else you see in red on the chart above.

He would be a third cousin to Thelma, Margaret’s great granddaughter and my grandmother Opal’s first cousin. He would be a third cousin once removed to Michael, David, Carol, Mike and Trisha — Margaret’s 2nd great grandchildren. And the odds are good — 90% for third cousin matches, a bit less for third cousin once removed.

A strong solid match to everybody would pretty well cement that George and Margaret were brother and sister, leaving us just the one more piece we need to find to tie us to William.

And… oh my … did we ever get that strong solid match.

Six of Jack’s top seven matches — all predicted in the second to fourth cousin range — are the six third cousins and third cousins once removed we hoped he would match. And reviewing Jack’s paper trail, there is no other shared family line that could possibly be the source of all that lovely shared DNA.

From a family story that Margaret’s maiden name was Battles to solid DNA evidence that Margaret’s brother was George Battles of Cherokee County in one fell swoop.

DNA test results don’t get much better than that.

Now to find a few more descendants of William… and Ann Jacobs … to test…


  1. Alabama Courthouses Destroyed by Fire,” Alabama Department of Archives and History ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014).
  2. 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, 27th District, p. 136 (back) (stamped), dwelling 1055, family 1055, Danl Shew household; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 3.
  3. 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 315 (stamped), dwelling 829, family 829, Margaret Shoe household; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 5.
  4. Interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell (Kents Store, VA), by granddaughter Bobette Richardson, 1980s; copy of notes privately held by Judy G. Russell (also a granddaughter).
  5. Texas Department of Health, death certif. no. 10077 (1927), W.W. Shew (10 Mar 1927); Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  6. 1840 U.S. census of Cherokee County, AL; 1840 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 116 (stamped), line 17, Wm Battles household; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication M704, roll 3.
  7. 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., 27th Dist., p. 136 (stamped), dwell. 1052, fam. 1052, Wm Battles household.
  8. 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., p. 314-315 (stamped), dwell./fam. 825, Wm Battles household.
  9. 1870 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., Leesburg P.O., p. 268(B) (stamped), dwell. 26, fam. 25, W Battles household.
  10. Transcription, Records of the Blount County Circuit Court, 1824-1829; Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Oneonta, Ala.; transcribed by Bobbie Ferguson; copy provided to J. Russell and held in files.
  11. 1830 U.S. census, St. Clair County, Alabama, p. 252 (stamped), line 24, William Battles 2nd household; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Mar 2014); citing National Archive microfilm publication M19, roll 4.
  12. The land records can be reviewed with a search for the surname Battles in Cherokee County at the Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office, website.
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