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Ruling out one candidate

It’s always nice when a genealogist can rule out one of two candidates to be the father of a known ancestor.

Of course — sigh — for The Legal Genealogistsigh — that usually means ruling out the one with the good records.

And that’s the case, once again, with the John Bairds of Wilson County, Tennessee.


The known ancestor is Hiram Baird, a boot- and shoemaker, according to a profile of his grandson Madison Hiram Baird.1 Hiram Baird was born around 1792 in Tennessee or North Carolina and was enumerated as a shoemaker in Cherokee County, Alabama, in 18502 and in Marshall County, Alabama, in 1860.3 DNA links us to this line with matches to multiple descendants of Hiram Baird and his wife Mary, with no known alternative common ancestors who might explain the shared DNA.4

Our working theory, supported with land and military records, is that this Alabama Hiram is the Hiram who came from Wilson County, Tennessee and, if that’s right, then Hiram’s father was John Baird. We can say that because, when that Hiram sold his own land in Wilson County right at the time our Hiram moved to Alabama, the deeds of sale described one parcel as “part of the tract of land formerly owned by my father John Baird”5 and the other as “deeded to said Hiram by his father John Baird.”6

The problem, of course, was the — count ’em — one, two, three, four John Bairds in Wilson County, Tennessee, enumerated on the 1830 census when Hiram was recorded as well.7

Now we eliminated two of them by age and other factors, leaving two: one with a ton of documented family history and one — well — without. And it seemed likely that it was the one without the documented history that was mine, but hey — a girl can always hope, right?8

Not any more.

Wilson TN deed

Thanks to a prototype search feature that FamilySearch has been kind enough to let me help test that searches unindexed names in US wills and deeds, another deed has surfaced. This one isn’t one we would have found easily, because it’s not a Baird land transaction. It’s a deed from Ridby B. Wynn to Frances and Allen Avery, where two Bairds — Hiram and John — were merely witnesses.9

And the proof of that deed is pure gold.

It notes, first, that “John Baird Jr. one of the subscribing witnesses” came into court on 4 July 1836 and attested to the execution of the deed by Wynn. And then it says that Zebulon Baird came into court on 12 June 1837 and John Baird on 4 June 1838, “and say they were personally acquainted with the said Hiram Baird (the said Zebulon being a brother & the said John the Father of the said Hiram) and with his hand writing & from their knowledge of his hand writing they believe his signature to this deed as a witness to be genuine that said witness lived the last account beyond the limits of this State.”10

So Hiram had a brother Zebulon. And, possibly, a brother John who would have been that John Jr.

And, of course, not only does the well-documented John not have any record of a son Hiram, he doesn’t have any record of a son Zebulon.

Which pretty well means we can eliminate that John from even wishful-thinking contention.

Which leaves us with the other John.

The John Baird of Wilson County, Tennessee, as to whom we have no absolutely clue of his origins.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “The other John,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 26 Aug 2023).


  1. “M.H. Baird,” in Dallas T. Herndon, editor, Centennial History of Arkansas, 3 vols. (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publ. Co., 1922), 2: 865; digital images, Internet Archive ( : accessed 26 Aug 2023).
  2. 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 44A (stamped), dwelling/family 594, Hiram Baird household; digital image, ( : accessed 26 Aug 2023); imaged from NARA microfilm M432, roll 3.
  3. 1860 U.S. census, Marshall County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 136 (stamped), dwelling 219, family 191, Hiram Baird snr.; digital image, ( : accessed 26 Apr 2023); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 16.
  4. Just using Ancestry’s ThruLines feature, my mother’s brother and sister match descendants of six of Hiram’s known children.
  5. Wilson County, Tennessee, Deed Book N: 483, Hiram Baird to Peter Mosley, 8 Aug 1829; digital images, DGS film 008265178, image 255, ( : accessed 26 Aug 2023).
  6. Ibid., Deed Book N: 540, Hiram Baird to Peter Mosley, 22 Dec 1828; digital images, DGS film 008265178, image 283.
  7. 1830 U.S. census, Wilson County, Tennessee, p. 114 (stamped), Hiram Baird; digital image, ( : accessed 26 Apr 2023); imaged from NARA microfilm M19, roll 182.
  8. See generally Judy G. Russell, “If this was easy…,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 17 Apr 2021 ( : accessed 26 Aug 2023).
  9. Wilson Co., Tenn., Deed Book R: 452, Wynn to Avery, 19 Nov 1831; digital images, DGS film 008142718, image 246, ( : accessed 26 Aug 2023).
  10. Ibid.
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