I love Elizabeth’s July blog party theme – inviting our most aggravating ancestor to the party and then shoving him/her into the pool! The only hard part about this is choosing the best candidate and I have several in mind:
In my family:
James Astle, Loyalist with a name totally unique in the colonies but so common in England that no one has a clue as to his origins, even with DNA testing
Anders Molin , last found in 1785, 200 miles from home in Marstrand, Sweden, aged 46, having left his wife and children and then disappeared into history. He was a master mason and would have had the social status and tools to have left a probate entry somewhere, but nothing has been located.
Robert Carlisle, called a Loyalist, but lived in Nova Scotia during the Revolution, where he helped guard the waters. There is absolutely no clue as to his origins or the maiden name of his wife, Catherine.
Walter Stewart, another Loyalist from Dutchess County, New York, who married Elizabeth Briggs. He is said to have farmed with his brothers, but I have found no trace of him or his family and origins in New York
Dave’s family has lots of aggravating ancestors and it’s quite difficult to narrow down that lot because they lived in every majorly burned county in Virginia and/or moved to the frontier and left few records. Here are just a few of the candidates:
Abraham Palmer, who exists in only one document on earth – the marriage permission form for his daughter Vianna to marry Amos Hamby in Christian County, Kentucky on 1 January 1822. He has never been found anywhere, before or after that date.
Eramanthus Elizabeth Scott, born about 1831, who married James Holland on 10 June 1847 in Howard County, Missouri. There is a widow in Howard County in 1850 who could possibly be her mother, but not a single record has been found tying her to any parents.
Jacob Miller, Revolutionary War soldier, born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. I suspect that he might be the son of a Henry Miller of that county, who died leaving young orphans, but I can’t find documents conclusively tying my Jacob to Henry, even though Henry had a son named Jacob of the right age to be the soldier.
In spite of all of these terrific choices, I am going to choose yet another ancestor, Dave’s supposed 3X great grandfather, William Sturgell/Sturgeon, through his mother’s line. One important piece of information to know about the spelling of this surname is that Sturgill, Sturgell, Stodghill and Sturgeon are all common variations, although not all found with this name are necessarily related.
He’s actually my choice for several reasons. First, I have only circumstantial evidence linking him to Dave’s 2X great grandfather, Isaac Sturgell/Sturgeon, who married Mary Bandy in Lawrence County, Ohio on 27 June 1844. My only pieces of evidence are the 1840 census and Isaac’s marriage record:
William Sturgeon is the only man found in Lawrence County at that time with any variation of the Sturgell surname. He is 50-59 years old and has multiple young males living in his household in 1840. Isaac Sturgell was born about 1822 or 1823, making him about 17 or 18 in 1840. The male age category of 15-19 has one slash mark in 1840. Andrew Bandy, father of Isaac’s 1844 bride, is enumerated on the page before William Sturgeon.
Isaac’s marriage license gives his surname as “Sturgeon”:
Isaac Sturgeon & Mary Bandy, 27 June 1844
So exactly why would I want to toss William Sturgeon into the pool? There is one more piece to this story which you need to know about. There was a researcher, who shall remain nameless and who passed away a number of years ago, who worked on this family for decades – back into the 1940s.
I corresponded with him over a period of several years and even provided information about my mother-in-law’s branch of the family, which ended up totally garbled in his book. He tried to convince me that my Isaac was from Letcher County, Kentucky. There was an Isaac there and was about the same age as mine, but he married someone else and is documented.
However, Mr. X, as he shall be called, shared some information about William Sturgeon/Sturgill, including his wife’s name and the names of their children, but provided no documentation. After he, Mr. X, passed away, I contacted a family member to ask about sources and the answer I got was that Mr. X “kept it all in his head.” Not comforting when I saw how he mixed up the family information that I provided in writing. I don’t doubt that Mr. X collected a lot of valuable family information, as some of the relatives he interviewed were born in the 1800s. I have to admit, though, that because he not only didn’t document, he rarely took notes, that I would be up for tossing him in the pool ahead of William Sturgeon.
Now, back to William. One interesting bit of family lore that Mr. X passed on to me was that William died in a sawmill accident in the late 1840s either in Missouri or Arkansas. I always wondered how Isaac and Mary ended up alone with no Bandy or Sturgell family members anywhere near them in Barry County, Missouri.
Barry County is right on the border of northern Arkansas! Isaac spent the rest of his life living in various counties on either side of the Missouri-Arkansas state line.
Could William and Isaac have migrated together to that area? It’s very possible as the timing is absolutely on target.
I have checked probate records and court minutes for Barry County and the several counties in Arkansas where Isaac is known to have lived, but I have found no mention of William Sturgell/Sturgeon anywhere. He left a widow, Catherine, his second wife, who was enumerated back in Ohio in 1850. There is no evidence saying either way whether Catherine went with them and later returned to Ohio, or any mention of William and his estate in Lawrence County.
The paper trail is dead cold. That would be plenty reason for me to throw him in the pool – no known proof of his children, aside from supposition for several Sturgeons that married in Lawrence County in the 1840s, but his aggravating behavior doesn’t stop there.
Who was his first wife and who were his parents? Mr. X provided more undocumented information, stating that William’s first wife was Sophia King and that William was the son of Revolutionary War soldier Francis Sturgill and his wife, Rebecca Hash. He claimed that land deeds filed after Francis Sturgill’s death in December 1807 conclusively identified 11 of his 12 children.
There is a William Sturgeon//Sturgill who shows up in some census record, like in 1810 and 1820 in Ashe County, North Carolina, where Francis is supposed to have died in 1807. Have I found any evidence that Francis is the father of William? Nope. Not a court record or land deed to be found naming ANY of Francis’s children.
This family lived in Montgomery County, Virginia during the Revolution and then in Grayson County, Virginia and Ashe County, North Carolina, supposedly moving around the frontier near the state lines. On top of that, the early censuses for Virginia are all lost for that area.
William is the key piece in this puzzle. If he had thought about all of his descendants that would be looking for him, he might have realized that he needed to leave more than one or two bread crumbs along the trail. I have no reason to believe that Isaac isn’t a son of William and William isn’t a son of Francis, but I have found absolutely no proof that these relationships are more than circumstantially true.
William Sturgeon AND Mr. X – into the pool you go! It’s ready and waiting, so come just a little bit closer: