When Your Family Tree Becomes All Hung Up

There are several places up my family tree where I’m completely stuck when it comes to figuring out the preceding generation. Some of these places will continue to be dead ends since documents just don’t exist. Others are possible to find out about as new records present themselves and continued searching may bear fruit in the future. But sometimes you have to just admit, your ancestors really didn’t want you knowing everything you’d like to know about them. And maybe there’s good reason for that. My grandfather used to warn me not to go looking too far up the tree. “You might find something you don’t want to know.”

Like for instance, I’ve been searching for years for the origin of the paternal roots of one particular ancestor. Her name was Lucinda A. Brickey. She hails from Scott County, Virginia. Records exist showing her as being 1 year old in 1850, the first year children are listed with adults in the census record. She is living in the household of Elijah and Jane Brickey (who are 46 and 48 years of age, respectively). The others in the household are Sarah E., age 20, and Polly J., age 17. At first glance, it appears Elijah and Jane had a baby pretty late in life, but that isn’t the case. Lucinda belongs to Sarah E., their daughter, who is still living at home. Where’s the daddy? This is where I’ve been stuck.

Lucinda married William B. Greear, from Scott County, VA. She had a good life, lived in Kentucky several decades, and returned to Virginia where she died in 1933 in Norton. She was buried in the Greear Cemetery in Wood, in Scott County, Virginia, on top of a hill overlooking the Clinch River. Here’s her burial stone:

Now, to the questions of her origin. Sarah E. Brickey seems to be related to the household of Elijah and Jane Brickey, probably a daughter. No marriage exists between her and anyone prior to her marriage to a man named Rufus Sluss in 1851, the year after that census when she was living at home with her daughter in her parents’ home. She was 21 when she married Mr Sluss. He was born in 1811, making him around 40 years of age at the time of his marriage (which was his second marriage, having married Mary Burton in 1830). Often widowers would take younger wives, especially if the first wife died and they were left with children to raise. In fact if you had children from a prior relationship, and you were female, oftentimes the children from the first marriage would be adopted out to family members, like grandparents. This is what happened with Sarah. Lucinda, her daughter from a previous relationship, was raised by her grandparents, Sarah’s parents, after 1851 when Sarah married Rufus.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. I’ve searched for information on Sarah and any possibility of a prior marriage. It just doesn’t show up anywhere. At least not until I saw Lucinda’s death certificate. On it a father is listed. The name is Elijah Jessee. Now two things are possible. Elijah could have been someone who met and fathered a child with Sarah, and then died or moved on or something. I can’t find him in early census records. If he was in the area before 1850 he would have been a son to someone with a surname “Jessee” and would not have appeared on his own. He isn’t present in 1850 near the Brickey household, so one is led to believe he either died or relocated prior to that census.

The second possibility, and one that is a little harder to stomach, is that Sarah had a child with her own father as the child’s father. In other words, as the result of incest. Elijah Brickey was sometimes listed as Elijah Jesse Brickey. Lucinda has a son with William B. Greear who is Elijah Jesse Greear. Is she honoring a grandfather? Or is she recognizing her own father? Or both?

Here’s Lucinda’s death certificate:

As you can see, legal documents are good, but they also present more questions sometimes. This is the closest thing I have to a proof of paternity for Lucinda, but it still doesn’t answer everything. The certificate was filled out by a physician who got the information from the person listed as the “informant.” That is W. B. Greear, Lucinda’s husband. His knowledge of her paternity would have been taken from her during her life and he would have been recalling it. Memory could have mixed things up, or it could be 100 percent accurate. Which is which is anybody’s guess.

The bad thing about AncestyDNA is that even though it could answer some questions, the further back you go in generations, the further you get away from strong DNA evidence, so even that is a partial answer, and not reliable.

So we are left to guess, and wonder and contemplate who fathered great great grandmother Lucinda Brickey Greear in 1849. And we will probably never know the truth.

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About Brad Scott

An Appalachian CrossFitter who loves Jesus and is happily married to Tammie. I have a son and a fine little grandson. In the peak of middle age, trying to figure out the rest of this journey.
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