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Imperfectly sourced

There is nothing The Legal Genealogist loves more than a good source of family information.

Even when it’s not perfect.

Thanks to a family Bible, kept by my third great grand uncle Josiah Baker and passed down through his family, I can peg when Josiah and his full siblings were born — including my third great grandfather Martin Baker.

According to the Bible, there were seven children born to my fourth great grandparents, David Baker and his second wife Dorothy Wiseman:

Susanah Baker was born Sept 6th 1795.
Martin Baker was born Dec. 9th 1797.
Dorothy Baker was born Aug. 11th 1799.
David D. Baker was born Jan. 9th 1801.
Josiah Baker was born, Oct. 20th 1802.
Sophia Baker was born, July 6th 1804.
Charles Baker was born Dec 2nd 1806.1

It’s not a perfect source, of course: the Bible was published years after any of these folks were born and the entries — likely made by Josiah, since they list his parents and siblings and not anything about his wife Julia’s family — made close to the end of his life.

But as far as sources go, in my family, that’s a good source, and I’m grateful for it. Especially when I can take note of that family birthday — Dorothy Baker, my third great grand aunt, was born 219 years ago today.

But the Bible only gives birth dates for Josiah’s siblings. It doesn’t say who and when they married, or when and where they died.

And there’s no surviving marriage record for Dorothy in North Carolina where she lived.

Oh, there are unsourced published family histories that say she married their cousin David Davenport.2

Now if that’s right, then Martin and his family and Dorothy and her family picked up stakes and moved around the same time, to what was then Macon County (and later became Cherokee County), North Carolina — appearing one after the other on the same page in the 1840 census of the newly formed Cherokee County.3

Martin continued to be on the move, ending up in Texas,4 while Dorothy and her growing family stayed in North Carolina and set down roots, deep into the soil of the westernmost part of that state. They were there in 18505 and 18606 and 1870,7 after their area of Cherokee County became Clay County.8 Dorothy was still there as a widow in 18809 and that’s where she died in 1885.10

From these we know David Davenport’s wife was named Dorothy. But how can we know whether the Dorothy who married David Davenport was Dorothy Baker — and not someone else?

I’ll put my money on it, because, after all, there’s the letter.

1818 Baker letter

It’s not the original letter, of course. It’s a transcription by a man who was a professional geologist — and an amateur genealogist. He was also the second president of Stanford University in California and — not for nothing — a cousin of mine (a third cousin three times removed or a fourth cousin four times removed, depending on which line you’re counting in). His name: John Casper Branner.11

Branner was born in Tennessee in 1850. His mother was a Baker cousin, and late in his life, after writing a history of his father’s family,12 he decided he wanted to know more about his Baker kin.

His methods would curl the hair of any modern genealogist, but he used the tools he knew at the time: he wrote to everyone he thought he even might possibly be related to and gathered up whatever bits and pieces of information and documentation they had.

The results, today, are in what is called the Baker genealogy, part of the John Casper Branner papers, 1882-1921, in the Stanford University Libraries. When I first arranged to acquire a copy, it cost me a fortune in copying costs. Today — sigh — they’re online, free.

And one of those bits and pieces that Branner collected was a copy of a letter, from my fourth great grandfather David Baker — father of Martin and Dorothy and Josiah — to his brother Charles in Georgia. It’s dated the 27th of January 1818, and Branner carefully copied David’s signature.

Now… he may have made mistakes in his transcription. He may have missed something I wish he hadn’t missed. But, overall, the contents ring true to what I know of the family (old Martin Davenport was dead by 1818, for example), and his rendering of the signature matches examples we have of David’s handwriting.

And as to the question of who Dorothy married, it says: “all my Children that is mared is living just by me my Second Daughter by Second wife is mared to David Davenport”.13

No, it’s not a perfect source. But as far as sources go, in my family, it’s a really good source, and yeah, personally, I’m going with it: Dorothy — David Baker’s second daughter by his second wife — really did marry her cousin David Davenport.


  1. Josiah and Julia (McGimsey) Baker Family Bible Records 1749-1912, The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (New York : American Bible Society, 1867), “Births”; privately held by Louise (Baker) Ferguson, Bakersville, NC; photographed for JG Russell, Feb 2003. Mrs. Ferguson, a great granddaughter of Josiah and Julia, inherited the Bible; the earliest entries are believed to be in the handwriting of Josiah or Julia Baker.
  2. See e.g. John Scott Davenport, “Five Generations Identified from the Pamunkey Family Patriarch, Namely Davis Davenport of King William County,” in The Pamunkey Davenport Papers, CD-ROM (Charles Town, W.Va. : Pamunkey Davenport Family Association, 2009), 19. See also Maribeth Lang Vineyard and Eugene M. Wiseman, William Wiseman and the Davenports (Franklin, NC: Genealogy Publishing Service, 1997), 42.
  3. 1840 U.S. census, Cherokee County, North Carolina, population schedule, p. 239 (stamped), line 7, David Davenport household, and line 8, Martin Baker household; digital image, ( : accessed 9 December 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M704, roll 357.
  4. Martin died in Parker County, Texas, in 1868. Baker Cemetery (Baker Community, Parker County, Texas; on Baker Road approximately four miles south of the intersection with Doyle Road, Latitude 323503N, Longitude 0974338W), Martin Baker marker; photograph by J.G. Russell, 3 May 2003.
  5. 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee County, North Carolina, population schedule, p. 25 (back) (stamped), dwelling/family 324, David Davenport household; digital image, ( : accessed 21 Mar 2007); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 625.
  6. 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee County, North Carolina, Shooting Creek, population schedule, p. 168 (penned), dwelling/family 1098, David “Debenport” household; digital image, ( : accessed 10 Apr 2007); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 892.
  7. 1870 U.S. census, Clay County, North Carolina, population schedule, Hayesville Post Office, p. 469(B)-470(A) (stamped), dwelling 40, family 40, David Devenport household; digital image, ( : accessed 11 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 1130.
  8. David Leroy Corbitt, The Formation of the North Carolina Counties 1663-1943 (Raleigh : Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1987), 67.
  9. 1880 U.S. census, Clay County, North Carolina, population schedule, Shooting Creek Twp., enumeration district (ED) 64, p. 457(D) (stamped), dwelling 29, family 29, Dorothy Davenport household; digital image, ( : accessed 12 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 958.
  10. Bethabara, Clay County, North Carolina, “Dorothay” Davenport marker; digital image, Find A Grave ( : accessed 27 Sep 2013).
  11. Wikipedia (, “John Casper Branner,” rev. 23 Apr 2018.
  12. John Casper Branner, Casper Branner of Virginia and his Descendants (Stanford, Cal. : p.p., 1913).
  13. David Baker to Charles Baker, 27 January 1818, transcription by John Casper Branner 1910 of original held by Mrs. Carrie Baker of Tishomingo, Oklahoma; Baker genealogy; John Casper Branner papers, 1882-1921, Stanford University Libraries; PDF of digital images, Stanford Digital Repository ( : accessed 10 Aug 2018). (Emphasis added)
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