Saturday, December 31, 2011

Surname Saturday - William Thacker, the Last and the First

William Thacker's headstone, courtesy of
No, this post isn't about anything in the Bible. It's about something I came across while finishing up my review of the McFarland-Red Corn family documents. Yes, I have finally finished going through all the documents I have on my wife's family! Can't believe it took as long as it did, but I learned a lot about them in the process, and got to see a lot of new document types along the way. This week, I found myself looking at the last document (hence the "last" in the title of this post) - the death certificate for William Thacker, son of Samuel Thacker (my wife's 3rd-great-grandfather) and his second wife Nannie Roberts. He died at the age of 39, and was apparently married at the time (it lists Lucille Thacker, wife, as the informant). When I looked at the cause of death, it listed three causes. The primary cause was pulmonary embolus, which my medically-inclined family and friends told me means a clot in the lungs. There were also two secondary causes, which brought on the clot - the first was mesenteric thrombosis. Again turning to my friends and family who know about such things, this was another clot, this time in the arteries supplying the intestines. (As a side note, when asking your family and friends about mysterious medical terms, make sure you let them know up front where you got the terms. That way, no one will freak out thinking that you have these problems.) Both of these causes were likely brought on by the third cause - "gunshot wound abdomen".

I did a double-take when I read those words. Gunshot wound? Abdomen? I remember thinking "that doesn't sound like an accidental wound." That's when I noticed the entry in section 21A of the death certificate. Where the certificate asks whether the death was an accident, suicide, or homicide, it said homicide. William Thacker was murdered! It was an awful thing to read, and the first time I've ever encountered a murder in my genealogy research (hence the "first" in the title). Going through the rest of the death certificate, I saw that the gunshot happened on May 5, 1951, in a public place, but not at his work. He was taken (I'm sure he was in no condition to transport himself) to Knoxville General Hospital, where they discovered he had a perforated colon and liver. He died 8 days later, on May 13, 1951. He was also a veteran of World War II, as the death certificate gives what I assume is an enlistment date of March 2, 1944, and his headstone states he was a private. (The actual wording is "Tn Pvt 33 Sig Training WWII". Anyone with military knowledge care to translate this for me?) I find it tragically ironic that he survived World War II, and whatever dangers he may have encountered during his military service, only to be murdered back here in the States.

Unfortunately, that's all I know of the story so far. I haven't been able to find anything further on Google, Mocavo, Ancestry, FamilySearch, or Newspaper Archive, and I don't have time or means to get to an actual repository or library this weekend. I would assume there was a story in the newspaper about the event, but haven't been able to find one so far. I might try contacting the hospital, see if they have anything they can release to me (William died 60 years ago this past May, so hopefully that puts him past whatever statute of limitations they may have on records, if they have any remaining). I just find it very interesting that right as I'm about to finish up my work on my wife's family, at least for now, I stumble across probably the most interesting story of them all, and now feel compelled to get out there and find the rest of the story.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - the Forgotten Children

David Lanz is probably my all-time favorite piano player. I have a few of his CDs, and I just love his music. I'm not advertising for him, I just really like his music. He has a great Christmas CD, and one of the best songs on there is called "Dream of the Forgotten Child". There's a story behind the song, but I can't remember it, and can't find it online. One person on Youtube did say it was about homeless children at Christmas, and I think Mr. Lanz was thinking of what a child would feel if he/she were forgotten on Christmas. He wrote the song, if I remember correctly, because it helped him get over the thought of any child being forgotten.

In my research in my wife's ancestry recently, I've come across a number of death records, including several records of children or infants. With my family having just gotten my kids over being sick (not fun, especially just before Christmas), the thought of losing either of my kids is just overwhelming. So, at this Christmastime, I'd like to remember these children, and all other children, who didn't get to share many, or any, Christmases with their families.

Baby Patterson (boy), born 25 April 1915, died 25 April 1915

Baby Thacker (boy), born 8 February 1915, died 8 February 1915

Louis Junior Patterson, born 2 November 1925, died 2 November 1925

Pearl Worthington, born 27 August 1920, died 16 October 1923

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

Monday, December 12, 2011

And the real Jane Thacker is...

Once I'd gathered all these records on Jane Thacker, I started comparing them, seeing what they told me and whether they were talking about the same person. I started dividing them into two groups - those that defined Jane McFarland, and those that defined Jane Thacker/Patterson. The first group was larger, so I'll start with what those documents told me.

The Jane McFarland group included a marriage bond for her marriage to Allen McFarland, three census records (1910-1930), a photograph of her headstone (obtained from my wife's cousin, Diana Moss-Clark), and a memorial for her on The marriage record is the only one that mentions her maiden name of Thacker. No in-laws, siblings, parents, or other relatives appear in the censuses; it's just her and her kids (and her husband in 1910). Her headstone simply gives her name, Jane McFarland, birth and death dates, and the inscriptions "MOTHER" and "Asleep in Jesus". The Findagrave memorial is likewise brief - it transcribes the birth and death dates and the inscription of "Mother", and gives the headstone's location as Indian Creek Cemetery, Anderson County, Tennessee.

The Jane Thacker/Patterson group included one census (1900), death certificates for Prior Patterson and Jannie Patterson, and a series of emails from Sharp's Funeral Home. The census lists Jane as the daughter of Samuel and Margaret Thacker, living in Roane County, Tennessee, with Jane's siblings and step-siblings. It also gives her birthdate as June 1891. All these details match very well with the death certificate for Jannie Patterson. The death certificates for Prior and Jannie establish their marriage, though they don't help in determining when that marriage took place. Jannie's death certificate states she was buried in Cove Cemetery, Oliver Springs, Tennessee, which is where Prior Patterson was buried, according to his death certificate. And, as it turns out, Oliver Springs is pretty unique town - it is simultaneously part of three counties - Morgan, Anderson and Roane.

As far as I could tell, nothing in group A overtly conflicted with anything in group B. But neither was there a "smoking gun" - a document that explicitly linked Jane McFarland to Jane Thacker/Patterson. But one thing that helped me make the decision on whether these two women were the same person was the series of emails I mentioned. Jannie's death certificate said that her undertaker was Sharp's Funeral Home in Oliver Springs. A quick Google search led me to the Sharp's Funeral Home website, complete with contact information! I sent them a short email asking if they had any information on whether the Jannie Patterson they provided funeral services for could be the same person as Jane McFarland, and whether Indian Creek Cemetery was also known as Cove Cemetery. Ninety minutes later (yes, that fast!) I had a response! They did not have any funeral records on Jane McFarland, but they did show Jannie Patterson as being buried in the Indian Creek Cemetery. They also said that Indian Creek Cemetery was also known as Indian Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, Cove Cemetery, and the Cove Road Cemetery. This meant that Prior Patterson and Jane Thacker/Patterson were buried in the same cemetery as Jane McFarland.

So, while I still don't have that smoking gun, I think I have enough evidence to make a conclusion. Given the location of burial for Jane and Prior; the coincidence of Jane's birth and death dates between census records, the death certificate, and the headstone; and the lack of significant conflicts between the data in these records, I have concluded that Jane McFarland and Jane Thacker/Patterson are the same individual.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Which Jane Thacker are you?

I'm still pushing my through the documents I have on my wife's family, about two months after I started on them. I know I said this last time, but I still can't believe how long this is taking - I didn't think I really ever sat down and did a ton of research on them, just grabbed a few records here and there, based on the info I got from my mother-in-law. I'd made it almost all the way through all of the census records for both my father-in-law's and mother-in-law's families, when a branch of my FIL's side stopped me cold yesterday.

The Thacker line in my wife's ancestry has always puzzled me. I don't know what it is, but every time I try to sort things out, I come out feeling more confused than when I started. But, now that I'm trying to be more serious about doing really good, sound genealogy, I figured I'd do what I've heard the pros say over and over - start with the most recent generation and work back from there. That meant starting with Jane Thacker.

From what my MIL gave me, Jane was born 15 June 1891 in Roane County, Tennessee, to Samuel Thacker and Margaret Vann, and lived her whole life in Tennessee. She married Allen J. McFarland in 1908 and had four boys with him - Walter, James, Edward, and Charles. Allen died in 1919, leaving her a widow to raise the boys alone. She died 11 Aug 1946 in Roane County, Tennessee.

To back this up, I had previously found the marriage bond for Jane Thacker and Allen J. McFarland, showing their marriage took place on 9 May 1908 in 1910 and 1920 censuses, with Jane and Allen living with their oldest son Walter in 1910 (along with Allen's two daughters from his first marriage), and Jane living as a widow with sons Walter, James and Edward in 1920. That agreed with the 1919 death date my MIL had given for him, and decided to keep looking. With a little digging, I found the 1930 census, and Jane was again listed as a widow, still living with her son, Walter. So far, so good, but I wanted more info on Jane. I figured FamilySearch would be a good place to look, so I started browsing their Tennessee collections on birth, marriage, and death records for Jane Thacker or Jane McFarland.

I didn't find anything at first for either name, so I started searching for a Jane that died in Tennessee in 1946. That returned way too many results, so I filtered them down by adding variations on her father and mother's names, Samuel Thacker and Margaret Vann. That did the trick - I found a death record for a Jannie, daughter of Samuel Thacker and Maggie Vann that matched the death date exactly, the birth date was just a couple days off, and the county and state matched, though not the city. There was a problem, though - it was for a Jannie Patterson, not McFarland. It even listed that she was a widow of Prior Patterson. Could this be the same Jane Thacker?
Photo courtesy of
I went back to the 1900 census I had found earlier on Jane Thacker's family. It listed Samuel and Margaret Thacker, with children Jane, Emma, and Elijah, and stepchildren Nancy and Mary Turpin (from Margaret's previous marriage). Jane's birthdate is given as June 1891, the same as the Jannie Patterson death certificate. The link between the two seemed obvious, too much information matched. So if Jane Thacker, daughter of Samuel and Margaret, was married to Prior Patterson, was she the same Jane Thacker that married and had children with Allen McFarland?

I thought researching Prior Patterson a bit might help answer the question, so I started looking for info on him. I was able to find a bit - he appears in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses, and his death certificate was in the same database Jannie Patterson's was in. From these records I learned he was married twice before Jannie, and both of those wives died, as he was listed as a widower with two children, Melvin (8) and Addie (4) in 1910; married (but no spouse listed) with four children, Melvin (18), Adda (13), Clifton (5), and Maggie (3) in 1920; and widower again in 1930 with his two youngest children, Jennie (13) and Clifton (17). I couldn't find the mother of Melvin and Addie, but I did discover who the mother of Clifton and Maggie/Jennie was - Emma Thacker, sister of Jane Thacker!

Photo courtesy of
Prior and Emma had married on 19 Feb 1911 in Anderson County, Tennessee (according to FamilySearch's Tennessee marriage database). Thus he was still single in 1910. However, I soon found Emma's death certificate, and saw that she died 23 April 1919, a full year before the 1920 census. Perhaps the census taker misunderstood Prior's marital status, or Prior may have still been grieving the loss of his wife, especially given her cause of death - child birth. Of all the ways to lose a wife, that would have to be one of the worst. Not only that, the couple had already suffered the loss of another child back in 1915, when a baby boy was stillborn. So Prior had a pretty rough life - between 1906 and 1919, he lost two children and two wives. Still, he was willing to get married again, and sometime between 1930 and 1940 he married Jane Thacker, sister of his second wife Emma, and stayed married until his death in 1940.

So back to Jane Thacker. Now that I knew all this info about Prior Patterson, it seemed clear that the Jane Thacker my MIL had attached to Allen McFarland was the same as Jannie Patterson, widow of Prior Patterson. The major question in my mind at this point was - were there two Jane Thackers? Stay tuned to see what I found!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Madness Monday - I knew I was behind, but this is just sad

For the past year and some, I've been going through all my old files, and trying to make sure every document I've gathered over the last 11 years is noted in my database. I've found a few censuses and letters and such that I missed, but by and large I've been pretty good about getting things entered. Or so I thought.

The last six weeks I've been working on entering the documents I've collected on my wife's family. I had a lot more than I thought, and I never thought it would take me this long. I remember getting a gedcom of her ancestry from her mom not too long after the wedding, and going through Ancestry and grabbing whatever I could find - SSDI references, census records, WWI draft registrations, etc. I filed them all away to be entered soon (at least, that was the intention). I did go back and enter some of them, as I've discovered in going through my files the last few weeks. But a lot of them never got entered - particularly the censuses for my wife's Osage Indian ancestors (probably due to the fact that the censuses were annual, so there's a lot of them).

Now, five and a half years later, I'm finally getting around to entering them. Some of the people I downloaded censuses for I no longer remember how they are connected, and I don't have any emails or notes on them. I must have heard something from my mother-in-law on them, but since I didn't write it down, and my memory of stuff I just hear is pathetically short, I don't know who these people are any more. Luckily, my MIL is just an email away, so I can ask her again and (hopefully) she can tell me what she knows about them. But if this had been info from a grandparent or other older relative that was now gone, I'd be sunk. And the worst part is, it'd be my own fault.

My main problem is when I get on a research kick, I collect documents, but don't enter and file them right away. I also don't yet have a good way of noting where exactly I found something if I don't take the time right then and there when I find it. If you have any ideas on how to organize your findings so that you remember both where you got them and to enter them sooner than five years after you collected them, I'd be very interested in hearing them.

Little side note on the Indian censuses - they don't note everyone in the household every time. My wife's great-grandfather's brother, Wakon Iron (or Wah-kon-te-ah, his Osage name) and his wife Ida had a son named Walter Iron in 1914. Walter is listed in every census after his birth that I have for the family - 1915, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920, and others. Walter and Ida had another son named Owen Woodrow Iron in April 1918. The family of four appears in the 1920 US Federal Census, but only three of them in the 1919 and 1920 Osage census - Owen is nowhere to be found. Likewise my wife's grandfather, Douglas Red Corn, who was born 1918, doesn't show up in the 1919 or 1921 Osage censuses (his first appearance is 1924). What was the deal with leaving some babies off the census but not others? Walter made it in the census the first year after he was born, but his cousin Douglas took several years, and his little brother never did. I know very little about the Osage tribe in general, so there may be a perfectly logical explanation. Just one more thing to look up, right?