Monday, January 26, 2015

Just Grunt Through It

Sometimes, the only way to face up to the tedium of genealogical research is to sit down, roll up your sleeves and do it. Just do it.

I took a deep breath and did just that, yesterday.

Well, let me amend that: I took a very deep breath and began this process of genealogical grunt work. This will be a long slog. There are kazillions of Taliaferros. And I am setting out on a task to document them all.

I had thought it might be brilliant to isolate all the Taliaferros who had been married—along with my (possible) third great grandmother, Mary—in the Georgia county of her marriage to Thomas Firth Rainey. At least, then I’d have some strands to trace backwards through time to their Taliaferro parents. It would give me a snapshot in time of which of the family members were living there in Oglethorpe County at the same time.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Using several digitized copies of old genealogies, I tried re-assembling the family line. I started out with three books: Pilcher’s Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families, Ivey’s Ancestry and Posterity of Dr. JohnTaliaferro and Mary (Hardin) Taliaferro, and Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, by George R. Gilmer. For good measure, I threw in Genealogies of Virginia Families from the William and Mary College Quarterly, volume II, to double check those auxiliary lines.

Let’s go back to the marriage records. The Georgia marriage collection included nine entries—although several duplicates were included—that fit my search parameters. The trouble was, once I moved beyond the Oglethorpe County records I was seeking for Taliaferro weddings, comparing the details with those in the published genealogies brought more frustration than resolution.

Perhaps I just need to remind myself that, from our computerized vantage point, we have instantaneous access to more records than the average researcher in the early 1900s could ever hope to have.

Perhaps I can set the record straight on some of these lines.

Perhaps, though, I need to tread carefully and not assume I’m just setting things straight. Even government documents have been known to contain errors—not to mention their transcriptions.

And so I went, carefully treading through the text of four different publications, toggling back and forth between the open tabs on my computer, seeing which author said Person A married Person B when another author insisted it was really Person C. For now, I’m banking on the government documents being the voice of authority—but I’ll sure be open to the possibility that it was otherwise. I’ll take time after going through this mind-numbing process to run the names through newspaper archives and other resources to see if I can find any further mention confirming correct names and identities.

I have to remind myself of my underlying purpose for all this. Sometimes, when we get mired in the overwhelming details of the search, we need to cling to that all-important purpose. It’s the anchor that lets us hold firm to our resolve, no matter how much we might want to give it all up.

In the case of this Taliaferro chase, I’m seeking the identity of my third great grandmother and her kin for two reasons:
·       First, to break through the brick wall ancestor that may help me connect with my mystery cousin—and adoptee—with whom I share exact mtDNA results
·       Second, to fill in as many blanks as possible to give me the genealogical road map to navigate through all my autosomal DNA matches I’ve received since testing last December.

In the meantime, I’ll continue the search under cover. No need to dread countless posts recounting endless details. You know how I’ve compared watching genealogical research unfold with witnessing sausage-making. Neither does genealogy lend itself well to becoming a spectator sport. But if I stumble upon something interesting or exciting, you can be sure I’ll bring it up.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Perhaps it was with a certain smug satisfaction that I concluded yesterday’s post—a little too prematurely. Yes, I discovered a record showing Thomas F. Rainey marrying someone named Mary E. Talafero in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. And yes, I’ve seen indications that that same Mary Taliaferro might have been sister to Charles Boutwell Taliaferro—the man who took in two of her unmarried children after her passing. But to find a Mary and Charles who are children of the same Georgia Taliaferro family? Well, that’s the catch.

There is more work to be done. Apparently, that is what the old reports are telling me.

Or, perhaps genealogies published by brick and mortar establishments of bygone years are no more infallible than are e-genealogies shared online today.

Let’s take a look at what can be found on those hallowed pages of another century's researchers.

The first task, logically, would be to seek the parents' names of siblings Mary E. and Charles Boutwell Taliaferro. A number of researchers have assumed a specific Taliaferro parent, but now that I’m trying to plug these two descendants into the larger Taliaferro picture, I’m not so sure.

We can assume, given Charles’ middle name of Boutwell, that he descends from a woman whose maiden name was that same Boutwell—and that we have in the person of the wife of Zachariah Taliaferro (1730 – 1811), named Mary. Given that date range, though, it is more likely that Mary Boutwell Taliaferro would be Charles’ grandmother, not mother. A number of researchers hold the father to be one of Zachariah’s and Mary’s sons, who went by either the name Warren or Warner. I’ve seen both versions—and frankly, looking at the handwriting in some census records, I can see how there could be confusion.

Just to surmount the current distress, let’s assume Charles’ father was Warren/Warner, son of Zachariah and Mary. That would not be too far fetched an assumption. Remember, the cemetery where Charles’ sister Mary was buried was a family burial grounds. If you took a peek at the link I shared yesterday, listing the names of all who were buried at that Johnson Cemetery in Coweta County, Georgia, you’d recognize a resonance in the name of Charles' sister Mary's son, also buried in their plot: Warren Taliaferro Rainey. Who do you suppose that child of Thomas F. and Mary Taliaferro Rainey might have been named after?

In addition, Warren/Warner’s siblings included another sister by the name of Frances, who married someone named Penn. We find her buried, along with Mary Taliaferro Rainey, in that same family cemetery.

All looks reasonably good—until, that is, we head for those time-honored genealogy books.

Before we start entangling ourselves within the annals of family history, let me provide you with a handy online scorecard for the Taliaferro family. No guarantees that this one is totally correct, either, but I like how it provides footnotes for key assertions. From Barbara Breedlove Rollins’ Family Files, you can find the specific section I’m referring to by clicking here.

So, what can we find in the old genealogical reports? Let’s look first at Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families, compiled by Margaret Campbell Pilcher in 1911. If you are on, you can find a copy of the text in question provided here. For those not willing to spring for Ancestry’s subscription fees, you can fortunately also access the public domain text through Internet Archive here.

In dense text at the end of the book, the author reviews the descendants of the Virginia colony’s Taliaferro family. At page 400, she begins a recital of all the children of Zachariah and Mary Boutwell Taliaferro. By page 402, the text covers the children of their son Zachariah—most pertinent to the daughter who married into the Broyles line I’ve been discussing for the past month. Two thirds of the way down page 403, the narrative arrives at that son of Zachariah and Mary we've been discussing today, given here as Warner.

According to Ms. Pilcher, Warner married a woman named Mary M. Gilmer, and together they had four children. Ms. Pilcher identifies those children as Nancy, Charles (Boutwell), Sophia and Polly.

If you arrived at the name of that fourth child, Polly, and breathed a sigh of relief, take it back. According to Ms. Pilcher, Polly married a man by the name of Landrum, not Rainey.

But wait! Another one of those four siblings did marry someone by the name of Thomas Rainey. If you are astute enough to notice that none of the remaining candidates, among those four siblings, was named Mary, you get extra points for your keen sense of the obvious.

Yes. We are in trouble.

Okay, so let’s not be too hasty with our judgments. Let’s cross check the Pilcher tome with another equally long-winded title, The Ancestry and Posterity of Dr. John Taliaferro and Mary (Hardin) Taliaferro. This one, compiled by Willie Catherine Ivey, was the volume I first discovered at the Sutro library in San Francisco during one of my early forays into the treasures hidden in genealogical repositories, years ago. This text, as well, is available through, but unfortunately, the 1926 volume is not accessible in digitized form online (at least that I can find).

According to the Ivey text, the page 105 outline of Zachariah and Mary’s children lists the son in question as Warren, not Warner. Yet his four children are listed with the same names, and are paired with the same spouses as were listed in the Pilcher book.

What are we to make of that? I suppose we can assume that these old volumes were indeed correct, and take our search elsewhere. After all, there are hundreds of pages of genealogical reports of descendants of the Taliaferro line to be had in these volumes alone. Noting these records would, if nothing else, help me navigate the nearly seven hundred DNA matches I’ve been notified about since taking my own autosomal DNA test. At best, they might help me identify exactly which Mary Taliaferro it was who married someone named Rainey in time to give birth to my second great grandmother.

On the other hand, I’ve spotted mistakes even in revered publications such as these. After all—though not in the two titles cited above—I’ve run across reports insisting that my third great grandfather died young in battle, when that was not the case at all. Besides, one thing we have in our favor that these authors from the early 1900s did not have is digitized copies of all the census records. Where they would have had to take hours—no, more likely, days—of grunt work to slog through bound copies of original documents (if those were even accessible to them at all), we can now, with the tap of our finger, call up the documents in question in rapid succession. It is more likely to find all the verification we need now than it was then, closer in time to the occurrences in question.

So, the question at hand now—given this confusing array of conflicting details—is: where to, next?

And the answer is: actually, I really don’t know.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Whatever Became of Mary’s Parents?

Seeking information on Mary Rainey—my second great grandmother, and soon-to-be wife of Thomas Taliaferro Broyles—has been challenging. Granted, tracing her whereabouts via digitized documents has been a boon unlike any experience I’d had in my pre-computer, dusty-archives-crawling days before the 1990s. But still: this ancestor has got what it takes to be a brick wall candidate. Even though I’ve progressed to finding possibilities online, I need to remind myself: these are possible proofs of her existence. I may be totally wrong.

On the other hand, I take my assurances, thinking about that bit of family lore passed down by my mother, years ago. I can just imagine the scenario: my mother, as a young child temporarily being raised by her grandmother, found herself in the same sort of conversation I, a generation later, found myself—asking about her parents. The answer, from my great-grandmother in response to her granddaughter’s question, would of course be about this very same Mary Rainey.

The answer: her grandmother’s mother had been adopted. So, what was there to say?

When I first heard this story, I had assumed the same scenario we now picture when someone tells us that he or she is adopted: the standard closed adoption process where courts seal the agency records and slam the door shut on any possibility of finding one’s true roots. That might very well be the case, if we were talking about someone born in the twentieth century.

I had to remind myself, though, that this person’s mother—my mother’s grandmother’s mother—was not born in the twentieth century. And things before that century were vastly different. Including adoptions.

Sometimes, in previous centuries, parents died young, leaving destitute families behind. Gone were the social services we’ve come to expect now as all-pervasive in our communities. In their place might have been compassionate human services agencies administered by churches or alliances of concerned citizens. But mostly, the “agency” of last resort was extended family: the aunts and uncles and grandparents who would “do their duty” by taking in an extra child, providing a bed and warm meals, likely in return for an extra set of hands helping out around the house or on the farm. If you’ve ever read the oft-mocked children’s story, Pollyanna, you realize that was the premise sending the young heroine on her adventures at the home of her own maiden aunts.

In an era like the 1860s, couple that parental-death scenario with the great disrupter of that decade—the American Civil War—and you likely have a reason why many children became orphans in need of help from compassionate (or at least dutiful) relatives.

In a case like Mary Rainey’s, who would be those likely relatives? Well, they likely would be either Raineys or Taliaferros—especially considering Mary’s mother was supposed to be a Taliaferro, herself. So, finding the young Mary in the household of another Georgia family by the name of Taliaferro would be a good sign. That’s what was so encouraging about finding Mary living with Charles and Mildred Taliaferro in the 1870 census—even though the enumerator represented Mary as merely domestic help in their household.

That discovery also meant Mary’s own parents had to have been gone by that point. So, were they?

If the 1860 census record we had found was the right one for our Mary’s family, it already showed Mary’s mother as head of household. Mary’s father had to have been deceased by that point. Whether owing to a tragic occurrence on account of the war, or for other reasons—I have yet to locate any record of the cause of his death—it turns out that Thomas Rainey, senior, passed away on October 16, 1858. This I know, only thanks to the work of a Find A Grave volunteer, Dianne Wood, who originally set up the memorial on that website for Thomas Firth Rainey, a sixty two year old man buried in Coweta County, Georgia.

Not long after the 1860 census was taken, Thomas’ wife took her place next to her husband at the Johnson Cemetery in Palmetto. She died on March 5, 1863—providing us the explanation for her absence in the 1870 census, and the reason why her younger children Mary and Thomas would be in another family’s household.

Would that be the household of a relative? Only if that mother Mary was a former Taliaferro, herself.

Headstone for Mrs M E Rainey at Johnson Cemetery in Palmetto Georgia
Judging from the list of burials at that small Johnson Cemetery in Coweta County, it may well have been a family burial ground—much like the burials we had seen back in South Carolina for the younger Mary’s future Broyles in-laws—for it is peppered with reoccurring uses of that distinctive “Taliaferro.”

In fact, Mary Rainey’s mother was listed as a Taliaferro, herself. Her memorial on Find A Grave lists her under the entry, “Mary Elizabeth ‘Polly’ Taliaferro Rainey.” Though the memorial doesn’t indicate how that maiden name was verified, one look at the only accessible online index providing marriage records for the era reveals a Thomas F. Rainey marrying a Mary E. “Talafero” on June 9, 1818, in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

For a name traditionally spelled “Taliaferro” but properly pronounced “Toliver,” I’d say that rendition was close enough.

Photograph, above: Rainey family burial plot at Johnson Cemetery in Palmetto, Coweta County, Georgia, from the Find A Grave memorial for Mary Elizabeth "Polly" Taliaferro Rainey; with thanks for permission granted to use photograph courtesy of photographer and Find A Grave volunteer, Dianne Wood.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Keep Looking

I’ll cut to the chase: the moral of yesterday’s story is to never stop looking. Who knows whether the very next search could bring the answer to your question?

Perturbed by my smashing non-success at locating a simple ancestor by the name of Mary—alright, I admit: it was a challenge—I couldn’t quite lay down the quest, even though frustrated. Granted, when a surname has so many spelling variations as to leave me searching for a string that includes more wildcards than alphabetic characters, it does feel like time to give up.

But I couldn’t. I kept staring at that 1850 census result for Coweta County, Georgia. It had all the makings of a promising hit: last name phonetically in agreement with what I was told was my second great grandmother’s maiden name, mother named Mary, and brother named Thomas. It’s just that the ages were all jumbled up.

Rather than trash everything and start again from scratch, I decided to play “What If.” In other words, “What If” I could find the family—or even a portion of them—in the subsequent census? I was game to check.

Searching through the 1860 census possibilities, the only one I could find that remotely matched was a household in Campbell County, Georgia. Not being familiar with the geo-political subdivisions of the state of Georgia, all I could tell was that it wasn’t the Coweta County location where I had previously found a potential match. Nor was it the Muscogee County location of my second great grandparents’ wedding in 1871.

I had no clue even where Campbell County was located. So I looked it up. And no wonder: as of 1931, there is no such thing as Campbell County, Georgia. The county was absorbed, as a cost-saving measure, into Fulton County. For those of you who do know your Georgia geography, you now realize approximately where it was located: near Atlanta.

Actually, though the 1860 census showed residence in a different county than the 1850 census, the distance between the two homes was not that great—only a matter of about ten miles.

There were other differences to note, though. Most significant was the absence of Thomas’ and Mary’s father. Also named Thomas, the elder Rainey had reported his age as fifty three in the 1850 census. For whatever reason, he was totally missing from the subsequent census.

Also missing in this 1860 census—if the families were one and the same—were older son Charles (now about age thirty two) and daughters Sarah (who would now be twenty four) and Mildred (now approaching twenty three). Perhaps these older Rainey children had married and set up households of their own—requiring another search to double check my hunches about these possible relatives.

More significant than that, though, was the absence of daughter Mary. While in the 1850 census, she had shown as a fifteen year old child—and could likely have also been married and removed from the household by now—I had my doubts about any wedding bells in her future. For one reason: there was now a different Mary in the Rainey household.

For whatever reason, the Rainey household—if, indeed, it was one and the same as the one I had located from the 1850 census—now sported a younger Mary. This girl, listed by the name, “Mary W. E.,” showed in the 1860 census at the age of nine.

VoilĂ ! The possibility revives itself! We now have a family constellation which included a son Thomas who was well on his way to becoming the twenty seven year old “clerk” in the Columbus, Georgia, household of Charles and Mildred Taliaferro—and a nine year old Mary who likely was the nineteen year old “domestic” entry in the Taliaferro household, ten years later.

I believe we may have a match.

Above: 1895 Rand McNally map of the former Campbell County, Georgia; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Problem With Possibilities

Sometimes, I wonder if there is an inverse proportion between the amount of genealogical information applied in a search and the number of results that may be gleaned by such a search. Sometimes, I also wonder if there is some sort of perverse genealogical hobgoblin, always ready to stir up the pot and cook up some trouble.

Case in point: try an search. Any search. Enter a few details in the top fields—oh, anything like name and year of birth. Then start piling on the variables: place of birth, middle name, names of family members—you name it: if it is a detail for the family you seek, be sure to add it into your search engine wish list.

Oh, and if you haven’t done so already, check one of those little boxes that require the details to produce an exact match.

Then hit “Search” and see what happens.

Likely, it will be nothing. At least, that is what happens to me.

In my current pursuit of the elusive Mary Rainey, future bride of my second great grandfather, Thomas Taliaferro Broyles, I had hopes that discovering a possible brother—also named Thomas—might help add enough of a variable to isolate this Mary from the many who were out there. After all, the fluctuating spelling of her surname was adding its own weight in confusing variables as it was.

I can tell you already: trying to find a household with a Thomas, born about 1843 in South Carolina, plus a younger sister Mary, born in Georgia by 1851, is no picnic when the surname can be spelled upwards of four different—and not necessarily phonetically compatible—ways.

But I tried. I found, for instance, one Rainey household in the 1850 census that looked promising at first glance. It included a son Thomas, a daughter Mary, and a mother Mary—another requirement for my target household. The bonus was that it was a household situated in Coweta County, Georgia—the same place where Rebecca Taliaferro Broyles’ family had lived at the time.

The drawback: the son Thomas was only five years of age—a bit young for the Thomas we found in the Charles Taliaferro household in 1870, although within the range of possibilities. However, the daughter Mary was already fifteen years of age in that 1850 census—too old for the woman who was to move to Tennessee as the young bride of Thomas Broyles in 1871.

The beauty of this Rainey household would have been that the mother was, herself, a Taliaferro—just as I had been told our Mary’s mother was. This particular Mary, wife of Thomas Rainey the senior, was a sister to Charles Boutwell Taliaferro, in whose household we had just found the Mary “Reiney” we are currently puzzling over. That means she—the elder Mary—was also daughter of Warren Taliaferro, who in turn was son of the same Zachariah and Mary Boutwell Taliaferro who were grandparents of our Thomas Broyles’ mother, Sarah. We are talking cousins, here. Distant, but cousins.

Another possibility I had found was an 1850 census entry in South Carolina—going on the hunch that the family might still have been in the state in which the young Thomas was born around 1843. While this household might have been in South Carolina—a good start—and contain a son Thomas who was then seven years of age, it did not include a mother named Mary, nor an infant daughter by the same name. Yes, there was a daughter Mary, but once again, she was born much before our Mary’s arrival around 1850. This was not adding up, either.

And so it went, adding restrictions to the search—adding more and more, and finding less and less, until I found absolutely nothing that could be of any help at all.

Then what? I started poking desperately at all the databases I could find, such as scouring marriage indices for both South Carolina and Georgia (searching by the term Taliaferro, as the multiple options for Rainey bordered on useless).

But no results. How those old genealogy books, published decades ago—and in some cases, nearly one hundred years ago—could come up with the statement that our Mary Rainey’s mother was once a Taliaferro is beyond me.

It did point out one thing, though: the importance of following my intention to review those old Taliaferro genealogies once found in the research repositories I’ve visited. Granted, some are now online. Others, though, still call for a trip to a genealogical library. I simply need to go back to the time when those old books were published—closer to the dates of these family occurrences—and review the resources and recollections of the authors who gathered that time-worn information closer to the era in which these events occurred.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Census Records and Civil Wars

There’s a troublesome thing about civil wars: they tend to displace families.

Take the William and Rebecca Broyles family, for instance. It hasn’t been difficult to trace the whereabouts of that particular Broyles family over the decades—except for the one immediately following the war. Try as I might to locate anyone from that family, I couldn’t. Not William. Not Rebecca. Not any of their children born before the 1870 census.

Except Minnie. Maybe.

Minnie, born in 1858 in Tennessee, aligned nicely with the scenario we had just uncovered for the Broyles family’s whereabouts for the decade preceding the war. That, as we had already noticed, was when newlyweds William and Rebecca Broyles had moved to Washington County, Tennessee. Granted, for that 1860 census entry, their one child was listed as a son whose name was only given as three initials: M. N. B.

Let’s fast forward to 1870. Here we find, at the home of Rebecca’s parents in Georgia, a twelve year old child, entered as Minnie “Broyes.” She is listed as “going to school,” and she is shown to have been born in Tennessee. Unfortunately, though, that particular census did not include any requirement for indicating the relationship between any of the people in a particular household. There is no way to know why a girl surnamed Broyes would be in the household of a man named “Talliafero.”

Of course, it’s a simple guess that that “Talliafero” would be our Charles’ Taliaferro surname, only slightly mangled in the spelling rendition. There, along with him, is the woman we know as his wife, Mildred B. Taliaferro. These were Rebecca’s parents. But where was Rebecca? Could something have happened to her during the war years? Where was her husband? And what became of all the other children in their family?

The Civil War was the big disrupter of Southern life between the years of 1861 and 1865. While I cannot as yet determine whether William Broyles served in the Confederate Army—there were, after all, many others with that same name having Confederate military records—I do know that he and Rebecca came out, safe, on the other side. It is the 1880 census record for them in their new home in Girard, Alabama, that reveals the names of all their other children—and Minnie.

By then, Minnie was a young woman of the age of twenty two—just the right age to have made her the mystery two year old from the 1860 census, going by the initials M. N. B. A later discovery that her middle name was Nola helps round out the report.

Minnie wasn’t the only one in that Columbus Taliaferro household in 1870, though. There were two other people I’d like to zoom in on for a closer look. One was a twenty seven year old man by the name of Thomas T. Reiney. The other was a young woman named Mary W. Reiney.

Husband and wife? It hardly seems likely, given Mary’s age at the time was nineteen. Perhaps it was more plausible to think of them as brother and sister. At any rate, Thomas’ occupation in the 1870 census was listed as “clerk in store”—a reasonable listing, considering the head of the household was identified as a dry goods merchant. Mary, too, had an occupation listed: “domestic.” It hardly seems likely that a young wife—even one lodging in the home of another—would be listed as having an occupation, rather than the more proper and demure term of the era, “keeping house.”

Yet, if they were siblings in the household of another after the war, what had become of their own parents?

Another interesting tidbit gleaned from this census was the birthplace of each respondent. Charles Taliaferro, as head of household at age sixty one, gave as his place of birth South Carolina—and, as we’ll soon see, that would indicate a strong possibility that he was not only the head of this household, but also possibly a close relative of William, Rebecca’s husband, as well. Remember, William's own mother was a Taliaferro, too—still living in South Carolina.

South Carolina turned out to be the birthplace of Thomas T. Reiney, as well. However, when it comes to reviewing the place of birth of Mary—the other Reiney in this Taliaferro household—there is a little slip of the pen. The enumerator begins to enter “Tenn” for Tennessee—just as he would for grandchild Minnie at the end of the list—but then, something stops him and he crosses it out to replace it with “Geo” for Georgia. While this may be an excruciatingly small point to notice, I’m keeping that one in reserve. I now know I’m looking for a Reiney family which once lived in South Carolina—at least as far back as 1843—but which moved to Georgia by 1851. Could they, too, have gone by way of Tennessee?

Reiney? Remey? Rainey? Who knows. But now, I have one more clue to work with. I’m now trying to piece together a family whose mother’s maiden name might have been Taliaferro, but whose children now rose from a count of one to two. That can be a big assist in moving me beyond the near-hopeless task of searching for someone with a doubtful surname and an all-too-common given name like Mary.

Above: Excerpt from 1870 United States Census for Muscogee County, Georgia, courtesy

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rebecca’s Side

We need to explore the convoluted paths the various Broyles and Taliaferro families took, as they crossed each other on their way from Virginia to South Carolina to Georgia and beyond.

Granted, our first task is to determine how my second great grandfather, Thomas Taliaferro Broyles, met up with his Georgia bride, the Mary Rainey of Columbus, Georgia, whose mother was also supposed to be a Taliaferro.

As we trace down the ranks of the Broyles siblings, though, we find that Thomas’ older brother William also married a Taliaferro from Georgia. It may be worth our while to trace up the Taliaferro tree from the vantage point of William’s wife, Rebecca, and see if we can find any connections that way.

Rebecca was born in February, 1836, to Charles Boutwell Taliaferro and his wife, the former Mildred Barnett Merriweather.

Right away, if you knew the Broyles boys’ mother’s heritage, you would realize the resonance in that Boutwell name. Let me take you through the Reader’s Digest version of their mother Sarah Taliaferro Broyles’ heritage. Sarah was daughter of a Virginia man named Zachariah Taliaferro. He, in turn, was son of another Zachariah Taliaferro. That Zachariah married a woman named Mary Boutwell.

Whether she was the one sporting the maiden name that was carried through the next seventy years to be affixed to the given name of Rebecca’s father, we have yet to see. Remember, I, as the genealogical guinea pig, am taking you on a tour of my family lineage, often unfolding it for you as I go. Let’s just say I haven’t even ironed out the wrinkles from this fold, yet.

By the time of the 1850 census, the Charles B. Taliaferro household was located in Coweta County, Georgia. Along with her six siblings, Rebecca grew up in a large family, not unusual for those days. She found herself third in the household, after her brother Valentine and her sister Eliza.

Not long after that census, Rebecca herself was married. For an as yet undiscovered reason, her husband-to-be came down to Georgia to claim his bride from South Carolina, just as my second great grandfather would do, years later.

By the time Rebecca and her husband, William Broyles, were married in 1857, they likely moved right away to Tennessee, as we saw yesterday. Likewise, Rebecca’s parents and siblings moved, as well—only in a different direction. The Taliaferro family resurfaced for the 1860 census in Russell County, Alabama—though the challenge to find them was owing to an enumerator’s phonetic rendition of their surname as Toliver.

With the 1870 census, we can see the Taliaferro couple had returned to Georgia—as those of you astute enough to prefer your own independent research have already seen. While it might seem as if the family had been frenetically moving all over the place, from Georgia to Alabama and back again, that was not exactly so. Having a map close at hand helps us to realize that they merely crossed the county—and, coincidentally, the state—line to return to Georgia.

Minus all of their children—who had either married or died by this point—Charles and Mildred now had others in their household.

It is at this point that I had originally found them: in the 1870 census. Remember, I had told you I stumbled across this entry, coming in through the back door. It was through my desperation in not finding Charles’ and Mildred’s married daughter Rebecca and her husband William Broyles in 1870—not to mention my overarching concern about whatever had happened to the parents of Thomas Broyles’ bride-to-be, Mary Rainey—that had pushed me to perform one of those “what if” searches. I had entered Taliaferro for mother’s name, along with Rainey and all its spelling permutations, into FamilySearch and until a viable result came up.

That result led me to the very Taliaferro household in Columbus, Georgia, that we've been discussing: the home of Charles and Mildred Taliaferro, Rebecca Taliaferro Broyles' parents. It just so happened that this same home was the one which housed a “domestic servant” named Mary Reiney.

Could that be the Mary Rainey who married Thomas Taliaferro Broyles in Columbus in 1871? We’ll take a closer look at that possibility, beginning tomorrow.
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