Monday, October 31, 2011

The Search for Thomas Maness — Which Way Next?

I'm having so many genealogy brainstorms I feel like my mind's about to short out.

First, to wrap up my last post: I found the Brady family book in Asheboro, with information about Sarah Brady, Swain Maness' last wife, which I followed up back home with a death record and obituary. Sarah not only outlived Swain Maness, she remarried, had more children, and lived until 1964. I had never been able to find Sarah Maness because she had become Sarah Jones!

Oh, remember that real estate ad I printed out, where their daughter Cora Brown lived? The address on Sarah's death certificate seemed familiar, so I flipped through my notebook. Yes, she died at her daughter's house. A serendipitous find became a nice corroboration to prove that I had found the right woman.

Now, back to those brainstorms. I have so many directions to go next, with none of them a really strong lead. But at least I have possibilities — instead of facing a brick wall, it's more like driving on a double-highway cloverleaf with too many exits. I just don't know which ones might lead me to a dead end or a rabbit trail.

1. Through census records and the obituary, I learned that Sarah and Swain had another daughter, Oppie. I found out who she married, but I'm not sure if it's worth looking for descendants. Remember, Ms. Myrtle would be their cousin, and she told me that her grandmother lost everything in a house fire.

2. I learned last month that Swain's sister Lundy Jane had descendants (his brothers died in or as a result of the Civil War), and many of them live in Randolph County (not far). So many I don't know where to start. My only hope would be to find a genealogist in the family, or someone who has old pictures.

3. Looking back through last year's e-mails, I caught the name of another wife, possibly Swain's first wife (married in 1866). Census records indicate they had three children, including two boys. My next step is to look for descendants. If a male line descendant exists, his DNA would give us crucial information.

4. I've learned just enough about DNA to be dangerous — I've been ignoring the smaller marker matches because the odds say those people might be related to us in the past 1,000 years, while I'm looking for someone just four generations back. I don't want to contact all these random people that may have no connection. However, two names keep coming up in the medium marker matches: Hooks and Vance. (On the theory that our ancestor either lied about his surname or had an illegitimate parentage) I plan to contact them and see if they have any useful information.

I drew up a chart of Swain's family because I had information overload and needed to see things. I used a highlighter to trace branches that had come up as DNA matches with each other. What I learned, from this visual family tree, was that the man with whom we originally compared our DNA is definitely in the Maness family — no unknown illegitimacy among his "known" ancestors. But neither Swain, nor his father Henry, have had any descendants tested.

5. Our Thomas Maness said he was from Arkansas, and wrote on his marriage license that his parents were George and Mary and he was from Moore County. There was a George Maness in the Union Calvary in Arkansas. I am trying to find information about him and his family.

6. And a final wild hair thought: Some branches of the Maness family went to Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas. Of the DNA "matches" so far, only a few people have posted a family tree. I clicked on several of these (men with other surnames, that is) and most of them had ancestors from Tennessee, and Kentucky, and Arkansas. While I'm not keen to contact them just yet — that's a broad geographic area, after all — I think I'll draw another chart, with locations and years, and see if any more bright ideas come to me.

I needed to jot these ideas down, especially since I'm switching gears in November. It's back to research on the English family, but this time, during the Revolutionary War.

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