Using a Timeline for Genealogical Research: William Sturgell

A timeline is a valuable tool in genealogy research. It’s one of my favorites, but a timeline isn’t necessary for each and every ancestor in the family tree!

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How Do I Use Timelines?

The passage of time can be a huge help when researching a person or family, but it can also be a giant hindrance. Each of these situations provide perfect opportunities to use a detailed timeline.

Time is my friend when families stay in one place for years or even decades. I rarely use timelines in this scenario unless I want to write a specific story with many details.

On the other hand, when a genealogical subject refuses to stay put, like William and Isaac Sturgell, for example, a timeline is a visual display of known facts. A timeline can point the way from beginning to end and it can highlight gaps in knowledge and documentation.

Tech tools make creating timelines simple, whether using an Excel database or Trello with its cards or with an online program such as Visme or SmartDraw.

However, my preference is actually a Word document. I like the clean look (no databoxes as I’m working), I can cut and paste rows to keep chronological order and I can add details as I like. timelines can be created vertically, in a graph format, with years along the bottom and facts extending vertically upward, but the way more useful display for genealogy is to have the years and facts set up horizontally.

For whatever reason, the Sturgell ancestors been calling my name lately – hence the posts about all my loose ends in this family.  William Sturgill, who I believe to be the father of Isaac Sturgell, seems to be a fitting subject for a timeline table.

William Sturgill/Sturgion/Sturgell is a man who left a small paper trail. At least, it’s small in terms of what I have found. He’s an excellent timeline subject, as he was probably born in and lived first in North Carolina before he migrated into Virginia and then Ohio before reportedly dying in Arkansas or Missouri before 1850.

A timeline puts all the facts together in one succinct visual display, which I love. The Sturgills might have been living over the state line in Virginia in 1790 and 1800, as they are not in North Carolina. Virginia is missing those census records.

I need to begin my timeline with William’s reputed father, Francis Sturgill and then add William to it as he comes of age.

1782 – Francis Sturgeon appears on tax list of Montgomery County, Virginia. Grayson County, Virginia was eventually set off from part of Montgomery County.

1785Approximate birth year of William Sturgell, probably Wilkes County, North Carolina (parent county of Ashe) or in Virginia

1798 – Francis Sturgill bought land from Zachariah Wells in Wilkes County, North Carolina (Ashe County set off from part of it in 1799).

1804 – William Sturgill reportedly married c1804 to Sophia King. Family lore places her as daughter of a Newport, RI doctor, which is a bit outlandish given the time period and distance. One Edward King lived in Morgan, Ashe, North Carolina in 1800. House had 1 male over 45, one female 26-44, 1 male 16-25, 2 females 10-15, 1 female under 10. One of the females 10-15 could be supposed daughter Sophia. Unfortunately, Edward King died 1800-1804, so wouldn’t name Sophia as Sturgill if there was a will or land sale. His apparent administrator was widow Phebe, who sold land to Edward King in 1804. Deed was witnessed by John KingCourt minutes don’t begin until 1807.

1810W. Sturgill in Ashe County, North Carolina, male 16-25, female 16-25, 3 females under 10; also in Ashe County are J., J, R., J. and F. Sturgill.

1820 – Wm Sturgill, Ashe County, North Carolina, male 26-44, female 26-44, 2 females 10-15, 2 females under 10, 2 males under 10

1822 – 5 March – State of North Carolina to William (X) Sturgill, 165 acres in Ashe County

1830 – William Sturgen, Grayson County, Virginia, male 40-49, female 40-49, 2 females 20-29, 1 male 10-14, 1 female 5-9, 1 male 5-9 (thought to be Isaac), 3 males under 5.

1837 – 5 August, William Sturgill, Chillicothe Land Office, Ohio River Survey, T5, R17W, S10 in Lawrence County, Ohio

1837 – September – William Sturgill to William Jones, NW1/4 of SW1/4 T5 R17 S2, Lawrence County, Ohio. Alvin and William both signed (X), but Alvin not recorded as seller in the deed text.

1830-12 March 1839 – First wife of William Sturgell died.

1839 – 12 March, Wm. Stirgill married Catherine Elizabeth (Yingling) Brown, Lawrence County, Ohio

1840 – Wm. Sturgen, Symmes, Lawrence, Ohio, male 50-59, female 40-49, 3 males 20-29, 1 female 15-19, 1 male 15-19 (Isaac), 2 males 10-14

1844 – 24 June – Wm. Sturgill mentioned in court minutes with Joseph Yates.

1844, 24 June – 1850 – William Sturgell reportedly died in sawmill accident in “Arkansas or Missouri” according to family lore.

1850 – 14 October – Elizabeth Stergion lived in Aid Twp., Lawrence County, Ohio with son Milton Brown’s family.

1850 – 29 August – Isaac Sturgion and family lived in Barry County, Missouri, which borders Arkansas and is in the Ozarks.

As you can see, I have a decent set of documents relating to William Sturgell, his purported father, Francis Sturgill, and probable son, Isaac.

What is missing is a definitive place of death, although it seems certain that he died before the 1850 census, when Catherine was living with her son’s family in Lawrence County, Ohio.

I also feel the Isaac Sturgell’s settling in Barry County, Missouri, near no known FAN club of his or his wife, Mary Bandy’s, is pointing the way to a possible trip to the Ozarks with William, Isaac and possibly Alvin, who was older than Isaac.

The mystery now and a great research question is: In which county of the Ozark Mountains did William die and is there any court record or probate, particularly if he hadn’t purchased any land?

My timeline has helped solidify the possibility that his first wife was Sophia King, but not a child of a Rhode Island doctor, and strengthened my belief that my husband’s 2X great grandfather traveled to southern Missouri with his father. Then, after William died, Isaac stayed in the area for the rest of his life because he liked it.

What do you think? Has this timeline helped you to visualize the life of William Sturgell?



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