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The missing fathers on Father’s Day

Like every family history researcher, The Legal Genealogist has them.

Those “man holes” in the family tree.

The places in the branches where a father should be.

And on this Father’s Day here in the United States, taking stock of just how many holes there are to be filled with documentation of the fathers in my line just out to the fourth great grandfather level is more than a bit dismaying.

It’s bad enough that my documentation as to my direct paternal line ends abruptly with the man on the right here, my great grandfather Hermann Geissler, born 20 April 1855 in Ossig, now in Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany:

Hermann’s baptismal record in the Lutheran Church in Ossig identifies his mother clearly: Friederike Geissler. Father… well, the column entry is simply abbreviated “unehel.” — illegitimate.1

Which means I have seven “man holes” in that line alone: an unknown second great grandfather; two unknown third great grandfathers; and four unknown fourth great grandfathers.

And yes, before you ask, since this is DNA Sunday around here, I have tested my brothers. They match each other nicely.2 They don’t match anybody else at a level that might put it anywhere within a reasonable genealogical timeframe, but hey… At least they match each other.

On the side of Hermann’s wife, Emma Louisa Graumüller, I do better, but because the church records in Thüringen, Germany, are not yet available on microfilm, I have two unknown fourth great grandfathers in her line.

It’s not all bad on that German side, though. My paternal grandmother’s ancestors were almost all from Bremen or surrounding towns, and those records are terrific. I’m at 100% documentation out to the fourth great grandfather level on that side.

On my mother’s side of the family, I can smile looking at my maternal grandmother’s side of the ledger. I’m missing only one fourth great grandfather on that side: whoever sired William M. Robertson, who was born in North Carolina around 17943 and died in Mississippi in 1864.4 Who that might be, we haven’t a clue. Where in North Carolina, we haven’t a clue.

But on my maternal grandfather’s side…

Not so good.

First off, we have my favorite rascal George Washington Cottrell, a second great grandfather who never told the truth about anything as far as I can tell who may have been born in Kentucky sometime in the early 1800s.5 Exactly when, or where, or to whom he was born… um… nope. Dunno. Which means a missing third great grandfather and two missing fourth great grandfathers there.

Then there’s Matthew Johnson, another second great grandfather, likely born in Virginia around 18136 and died most likely in Pulaski County, Kentucky, around 1863.7 Where in Virginia? No idea. To whom? Ditto. And with a last name like Johnson… Right. Which means another missing third great grandfather and two missing fourth great grandfathers there.

And then there’s Jesse Fore, a third great grandfather, who’s probably the son of Archelaus Fore of Union County, South Carolina, but… there’s no documentation of that.8 So while maybe not entirely missing, I have to count that fourth great grandfather slot as a man hole as well. And we don’t know who Jesse’s wife’s parents were either, so that leaves another fourth great grandfather slot vacant.

So… nine on the paternal side, eight on the maternal side.

Seventeen “man holes” in all.

Sigh…

A genealogist’s work is never done.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “The man holes,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 19 June 2022).

SOURCES

  1. Evangelische Kirche Ossig (Kr. Zeitz), Taufregister 1855 nr. 4, Hermann Eduard Geissler; Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1799-1874 (Staatarchiv Magdeburg); FHL microfilm 1,335,488.
  2. Thank heavens.
  3. See 1850 U.S. census, Winston County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 373(A) (stamped), dwelling 809, family 816, William M. “Robinson”; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 June 2022); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 382. Also, 1860 U.S. census, Attala County, Mississippi, Township 14, Range 8, population schedule, p. 76 (penned), dwelling 455, family 494, Wm. M. Robertson; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 June 2022); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 577.
  4. See Diary of Jason Niles June 22, 1861–December 31, 1864, p. 204, entry for 26 June 1864: Electronic Edition; Documenting the American South (https://docsouth.unc.edu/ : accessed 19 June 2022).
  5. See Judy G. Russell, “George Washington Cottrell of Texas: One Man or Two?,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 105 (Sep 2017): 165-179.
  6. See 1850 U.S. census, Pulaski County, Kentucky, population schedule, Somerset, p. 2 (back) (stamped), dwelling/family 27, Mathew Johnson household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 June 2022); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 217. See also 1860 U.S. census, Pulaski County, Kentucky, population schedule, Somerset Post Office, p. 2 (penned), dwelling/family 8, Matthew Johnson household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 June 2022).
  7. His widow Mary replaced him on the Pulaski County tax lists in 1864. For 1863, see Pulaski County, Kentucky, Tax List, 1863, alphabetically arranged, p. 38, entry for Matthew Johnson; FHL microfilm 8212, citing Kentucky State Historical Society, Frankfort. For 1864, see ibid., Pulaski Co., Ky., Tax List, 1864, alphabetically arranged, p. 40, entry for Mary Johnson.
  8. See generally Judy G. Russell, “A DNA whyne,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 16 Jan 2022 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 19 June 2022).
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