Monday, April 16, 2018

AmericaGen Chapter 4: When did Sarah Smith Marry Laban Price?

AmericaGen Study Group
Chapter 4 Homework 
Marceline Beem

Reference: Greenwood, Val D. “Evidence.” In The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th ed., 79-98-78. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2017.

This chapter discusses the various classifications of evidence used in genealogy research, as well as the need to resolve conflicting evidence in order to meet the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).  It covers a lot of ground, but is well worth reading, especially if you are unfamiliar with how to identify and analyze evidence.  

Laban and Sarah Price moved from South Carolina to Putnam County, Florida before the 1860 census was taken.  Establishing a marriage date for Laban and Sarah is challenging because South Carolina did not require marriages to be registered at the courthouse until 1911.  No marriage record for Laban and Sarah has been found in South Carolina, so they either did not register at the courthouse, or the record no longer exists.

Laban served in the Florida 9thInfantry during the Civil War, and Sarah filed for a widow’s pension in 1903.  To  qualify for new benefits established in 1909 she gave sworn testimony that she married Laban Price “under the name of Sarah Ann Smith” in Marion County, South Carolina on 26 April 1848.1

This testimony is direct evidence given by the bride, making it a slam dunk, right? Um, not so fast, my friend! This testimony was given to establish Sarah’s right to a widow’s pension, and money can be a powerful motivator to give incorrect facts. Or maybe, 60 years later, she couldn’t remember the exact date and gave an approximate date. Or maybe the person recording the testimony wrote in the wrong date. In the absence of publicly available records to establish the marriage date, what other records corroborate the claim?

Sarah Smith Price, enumerated in her father's household in the 1850 census

Laban and Sarah should be enumerated together in the 1850 census, probably in South Carolina. Instead, we find Sarah enumerated in her father’s household under the name Sarah Smith.2Laban and their oldest daughter, Margaretann, are not listed as part of the household. To date, neither Laban nor Margaretann have been located in the 1850 census.

Why is Sarah enumerated with her father, under the Smith surname? Where are Laban and Margaretann? This census record conflicts with Sarah’s 1909 testimony, and cannot be ignored. Even though the testimony is direct evidence, the research is not complete – and thus the research question is not answered - because this conflict needs to be resolved in order to meet the Genealogical Proof Standard.  


1Florida Confederate Pension Applications, Application Number A00698 (1903), Laban Price; Florida Memory, digital images ( accessed 16 April 16, 2018).

21850 U.S. Census, population schedule, Marion County, South Carolina, page 51B, dwelling 770, household 774, James D. Smith; digital images, Ancestry ( accessed 16 April 2018).

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

AmericaGen Chapter 3: Where Did Joseph Horton Live Before Moving to Knox County?

Reference: Greenwood, Val D. “Surveying, Analyzing, and Planning.” In The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th ed., 57-78. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2017.

I was not introduced to the concept of formal research plans until I was in a ProGen Study Group. Although the author mentions the ProGen approach is different, we still followed the same steps of setting a goal, identifying what we already know, conducting a preliminary search, and identifying sources to search.  The main difference is our plan was written in a more formal style, as we were learning to write on a more professional level.

For my ProGen assignment, I focused on Joseph Horton, who I discussed in the Chapter 2 homework.  (You may be tired of hearing about my Horton clan before long, but that's who I have spent all of my research and writing time on for the last nine months!) Writing out the formal research plan helped me focus on specific documents to search. The first part of the plan, listing my research goal, background information, and known facts:

Goal: Determine where Joseph Horton lived before he moved to Knox (later Roane) County, Tennessee

Background: Joseph Horton died testate in Roane County, Tennessee in 1813. Based on the year one of his daughters married (1800), Joseph was likely born before 1765 in some place other than eastern Tennessee. Based on migration patterns into East Tennessee, it is possible that Joseph lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia or in western North Carolina prior to coming to Knox County. Determining where he lived before he came to Tennessee may help me identify his parents, wife’s maiden name, and other relatives.

Known facts:

  • Signed petition in Knox County in 1799
  • Listed as a resident of Roane County in 1802
  • Died testate about 1813
  • Named following heirs in his will:
o   Mary Horton, wife
o   James, youngest son
o   Joseph, son of James
o   Hannah Terry, daughter
o   John Horton, son
o   Polly Gladden, daughter
o   Nancy Cooner, daughter
o   Heirs of William Horton, son
o   Sally Coulter, daughter
o   Rebecca Burk, daughter (m. Robert Burke, 1802, Roane County)
o   Peggy Breshear, daughter (m. Bazil Brashear, 1800, Knox County)
o   Phebe Walker, daughter (m. William Walker, 1802, Roane County)

Alternate Spellings: Hortin, Whorton, Whortin

The sources I want to search are then listed in a table with columns for what, why and where.

Without replicating the table, I’ll hit some of the highlights that relate to this chapter:

  • Because Roane County was formed from Knox County in 1801, and a Joseph Horton signed the petition to create Roane County, my research plan needs to include relevant sources from Knox County.
  • Knowing that the 1830 census is the earliest surviving census for Knox and Roane Counties helped me focus my search on other relevant records from the time Joseph was in East Tennessee.
  • Deed records, Knox County: Joseph owned land in Roane County, but the deed from when he purchased the land was not filed in Roane County. It’s quite possible he purchased the land when it was still part of Knox County.
  • Deeds, Greene and Hawkins County: Parent counties of Knox. To be considered if no deeds for Joseph Horton are found in Knox County.
  • 1850 and 1860 census, Roane and Knox County: Search for Joseph’s children to get approximate birth years and place(s).
  • Hamilton District Superior Court included both Knox and Roane Counties during its existence from 1793-1809. These court records need to be searched for any Hortons and related surnames. A searchable index is available at

The research plan is an “organic” document, meaning it is revised as I go along. As I look at each record, I record the results in the research plan. (I’m terrible at keeping a research log, so this serves that purpose, as well as documents why I wanted to look at a particular record set).  I also update the plan if new evidence suggests new jurisdictions or documents to consider.

I’ve found that creating and following a research plan is extremely helpful, especially with thorny research problems that are not easily solved.  I’ve used the planning techniques I learned in ProGen on several other complex problems, and although the questions haven’t been fully answered yet, I am making progress.