Category Archives: County Histories

Beyond Vital Records: Dulworth Family and Goodspeed’s Mug Book

Yesterday, I shared the family sketch of James Dulworth and Elizabeth Gwinn Spear of Cumberland County, Kentucky. While Cumberland County has some extant vital records, it has some major gaps, too.

Long ago, I found one resource that often made me jump for joy – county histories and/or paid “mug books” (books mainly published for profit in the later 1800s, financed by individuals who paid a fee to have their family story published in an article).

It just so happens that the Goodspeed volume that includes Adair County, home of Jacob Dulworth in the 1880s,  was one of those books that brought on the genealogy happy dance.

That’s because Jacob Dulworth, son of James and Elizabeth, had the financial means and desire to have the Dulworth story told. I’ve found a number of these articles in various books, but Jacob’s, I think, might have been published to honor his father.

James Dulworth died in 1887 – the same year this book was published – and Jacob’s entry tells a lot about his parents and siblings. It wasn’t “all about him.”

Kentucky: A History of the State, Perrin, Battle, Kniffin, 4th ed., 1887, Pages 104-105Adair County.

JACOB DULWORTH, a native of Cumberland County, was born February 6, 1835. His father, James Dulworth, was born near Knoxville, and was a farmer in fair circumstances.  He began the battle of life without a dollar, and when in his twenty-fifth year married Miss Elizabeth Gwinn Spears, a daughter of Benjamin and Naomi (Crabtree) Spears, the former of the Old Dominion, the latter of Kentucky.  Benjamin Spears was the son of John Spears, a Revolutionary soldier.  To James Dulworth and his wife were born six children: Benjamin, Jacob, Mathias, John, Abraham and Nancy M., wife of James R. Coe.  John and Benjamin are now dead.  Mathias Dulworth served as a private in the Fifth Kentucky Federal Cavalry, but on account of his health was not able to serve out his term of enlistment.  James Dulworth was brought to Cumberland County by his parents.  He owned about 600 acres of fine land in the southern part of the county worth about $6,000, and he gave his estate, with the exception of 200 acres, to his children.  Mrs. Dulworth, who was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, departed this life in 1878, about sixty years of age.  Mr. Dulworth afterward was married to Miss Ibby Williams, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth (Spears) Williams, natives of Cumberland County, Ky.  Mr. and Mrs. Dulworth, both of whom are members of the Christian Church, still live at their home in Cumberland County, Ky.  John Dulworth, grandfather of Jacob Dulworth, had emigrated from Germany to the United States, and settled in Tennessee, where he was a farmer.  Benjamin Spears, maternal grandfather of Jacob Dulworth, was a native of the Old Dominion, and for sixty years he was a strict and consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  Before his death he divided his estate, which was small, consisting of 200 acres of land and $1,000 in cash, among his three children, two of whom were daughters, and several years before his death lived with Jacob Dulworth.  In youth Mr. Dulworth acquired a moderate English education in the common schools of his neighborhood, and remained at home working for his father until twenty-four years of age. He then, in 1858, emigrated to California, but after working unsuccessfully nearly two years, both in California and Vancouver’s Island, returned home in 1859, and went into brandy distilling.  Prior to emigrating he owned and ran three whiskey distilleries.  He quit distilling in 1860 and turned his attention to farming entirely.  The first farm Mr. Dulworth owned was in Overton County, Tenn., and it consisted of 180 acres, and was worth $2,500.  In 1870 he removed to Adair County, and purchased 200 acres of fine land on Green River, where he has since resided.  November 6, 1860, he was united in marriage to Miss Hannah, daughter of Burrell and Jane (Smith) Willis, natives of Overton County, Tenn.  Burrell Willis was a farmer, and the father of ten children, only two of whom were sons, John and Charles Willis.  John Willis was a veteran of the Mexican war, and served as private in Gen. Scott’s army.  Charles Willis was a private in the Fifth Kentucky Cavalry, Federal Volunteer service, and served until his death in 1863.  To Mr. and Mrs. Dulworth have been born nine children: Martha, wife of George A. Fease; James A., Joseph M., Leslie, William B., Rufus M., Jane N., Marietta and Rosa Belle, all of whom are living.  Mr. Dulworth is a member of the Masonic order, and of the Democratic party.  He began life with $640 in 1856, and is now worth $12,000, which is all the result of his own industry.  His farm comprises 576 acres of fine land on both sides of Green River, some of which is worth $100 per acre, and he has 200 acres of this tract in cultivation.  He first lived in a log house, but five years ago erected a frame two-story residence.  Mr. Dulworth does a great deal of trading and has been very successful in it–especially in tobacco and mule trading.  He has bought 25,000 pounds of tobacco this year, and now has on hand thirty-two young mules, which he bought when colts, and will sell when two years old.

This is one of my favorite finds of all time, as it tells me so many details that I’ve been able to verify through other sources, but adds information about which I had no idea. For example, Jacob’s brother Benjamin is in the 1860 census of Calaveras County, California, but I had no idea that Jacob had also gone to California.

On caveat about this mug book articles – sometimes families purposely exaggerated (or outright fibbed) about details or they were just plain mistaken. For example, Jacob’s grandfather, Benjamin, is well documented in North Carolina and his family migrated from Maryland. He wasn’t from the Old Dominion – but the Crabtrees – his wife’s family – did move to Kentucky from Virginia. Before that, they, too, were Marylanders.

Even though these volumes are long out of copyright, I haven’t always been able to find digital versions online. I think that may be because some of them have modern reprint versions. However, if you haven’t ever sought out these books, you might be missing an opportunity for your own genealogy happy dance!

All 50 States Completed – Digitized County History Links

Just a quick announcement – my project to collect links to digitized county histories for all fifty U.S. states is finished.

Hawaii was #50 and it posted this morning.

To simplify finding the links, there is a County Histories tab at the top of my home page, just under the header photo of the Empty Branches tree.

It opens as a drop down menu with states listed in ABC order.

I hope you find lots of good “stuff” to add to your family trees.

Be aware, though, that biographies in these books tend to be as accurate as online family trees. Some are 100% correct, while others are embellished stories told by family members to the salesmen who collected their stories to publish.

Use due diligence in proving all the details, as they are CLUES to be followed.

Have fun!

Hawaii: Links to Digitized County Histories

Well, we’ve reached state #50, which also happens to have become our 50th state – the gorgeous state of Hawaii.

As you can imagine, since the peak of county histories was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, long before Hawaii’s statehood in 1959, there is little in the way of digitized histories.


1. While every county in the state is listed, links are only provided for titles that no longer fall under U.S. copyright laws. All (almost) links connect to free websites.
2. There are a few instances when a book has been digitized, but is only found on a paid site. In that case, no link is inserted, but a note as to the website where it has been found is given.
3. When a state history has also been found in digital format, it is listed in the STATE section that precedes the county list. I have limited STATE entries to those with county histories/biographical volumes in them.
4. There are a number of counties that DO have histories written, BUT they remain copyrighted material. Therefore, if a county has NONE after its name, it doesn’t mean there is no county history, just that none has been digitized. It’s also possible that the only digitized county history is included in one of the state volumes, so be sure to check those entries.
5. If the book is on FamilySearch, you will need a free account to access it. This list does NOT include town histories.
6. When all fifty states have been completed, I will post a PDF of them all.
7. One last note – it is very possible that a book is digitally available on more than one website. I’ve only included links to one site per book.


STATE – The pilgrims of Hawaii: their own story of their pilgrimage from New England and life work in the Sandwich Islands now known as Hawaii, Orramel Hinckley Gulick & Ann Eliza Clark Gulick, Fleming H. Revell Company, New York, 1918.
STATEMen of Hawaii: being a biographical reference library, complete, John William Siddall, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Ltd., 1921.

HONOLULU – Experience of a medical student in Honolulu and on the island of Oahu, 1881, Lloyd Vernon Briggs, David D. Nickerson, Boston, 1926. [FamilySearch Film 1321394, Item 8]
MAUI – Hawaiian homesteading on Molokai, 1877-1896, Felix Maxwell Keesing, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1936. [FamilySearch Film 1011807]

There you have it. Lnks to all 50 states’ worth of county histories can be found under the COUNTY HISTORIES tab under the header photo above.

I’ll be sharing my experiences about this 2 month project very soon. I learned a lot about history and geography.