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Friday, November 13, 2009

Guest Genealogist Barbara Brown Answer Part 1

Guest Genealogist Barbara Brown tackles this challenging query, in a 2-part response.

Marcia's Question:
I would be very grateful if you could give me an idea as to how to find information on my great-great grandfather's father/mother, and even further back, if possible.

James was born in Fredericksburg, VA, in 1791. He was a participant in the War of 1812. He died in Osborn (now Fairborn) Ohio in January of 1863. He had three brothers:

1. William, born in Fredericksburg, VA, December 25, 1798
2. George
3. John

I don't know his first wife's name, but you printed a letter from his daughter, Elizabeth, entitled, "Letter to Mrs. Eliza Thornton, Alamucha P.O., Lauderdale County, Mississippi, form Elizabeth Baggott, Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio, March 14, 1847." Thanks for that!

James and his first wife had four children:

1. Elizabeth, born April 6, 1826.
2. William
3. George
4. Martha Ann

In the letter, Elizabeth says, "Father is married again." His second wife was Mary Caylor who died in May of 1877. They had six children:

Oliver Perry (my great-grandfather, who fought in the Civil War. I have a copy of his diaries). He was born in Montgomery County (near Dayton), Ohio on September 1, 1840, and died on October 14, 1906, in Anna, IL.

Josephine Boneparte

Charles L. who died March 02, 1898. He is buried in Murphysboro, IL.

Martin VanBuren, born January 30, 1837, died in Cobden, IL.

James K. Polk Baggott

Virginia Helen Baggott

There is this Spotslylania County, VA, will of 1773 with the same names as my ancestors (John, James, George). I suspect they're relatives, but how do I make the connection?

Will: John Baggott, Spotsylvania Co, VA (1773) [Edited]Names wife Margarett Baggot, daughter Ellinor Baggott , four sons as follows: John Baggott, James Baggott, Thomas Bagott, & George Baggott wife Margarett Baggott & James Went Executors
third day of April 1773. John Baggott (seal)
Thomas Ruseley
William Hopson
Nicholas Smyth
Source: Library of Virginia,Spotsylvania Co, VA Will Book E 1772-1798Reel 28, pages 185-186

Guest Genealogist Barbara Brown responds: Dear Marcia,

It is tempting to jump upon a surname associated with familiar family forenames in the hopes that you have made a multi-generational leap in your quest. And the James Baggot who left a will in 1773 may indeed be one of your forebears. But proving it will take a bit more buttressing of facts before we can declare it to be true.

I have a number of Virginia resources to hand and I can tell you that there are quite a few Baggott families in the area at the time your James would have been there.

In order to move confidently from one generation to the next, we need to build a framework. That frame holds every fact we know about an individual, and if something or someone looks promising, we can know at a glance if we are on the right track. The structure gives us an orientation in place and time.

The letter from Elizabeth Baggott to her aunt Eliza Thornton which Lorine posted on her website Past Voices: Letters Home gave you a wonderful starting point. Rarely do genealogists come across such a valuable document.

Elizabeth listed her siblings and their ages, named her father's second wife, named other relatives in Mississippi and Virginia. And there is an implied bit of information as well: Elizabeth complains that she has not ever heard from her grandmother. Which means that one of Elizabeth's grandmother's lived to at least 1830s, when Elizabeth would have been old enough to be aware of such a deprivation.

Before you can confidently look for James' ancestors, you need to fill in all the details for James, his wives and children.

For example, fill in the details on James' children, when each of them were born. Follow the children from the first marriage: they may well have clues to offer about James and his first wife. They may be found living with or near other relatives; they may have left a will naming cousins or aunts; they may have a long a detailed obituary. You can Search Obituaries in or

Where is James in 1820, 1830, 1840?

You state that James participated in the War of 1812. Did he draw a pension?

You do not mention how you know that James had siblings William, George and John, so I will accept for the moment that you have family documents which state that. Have you followed those brothers? They might have lived longer than James, may have left a will or (if you are most fortunate) lived in a locale which had informative death records, and a fully-informed supplier of information who reported their deaths.
The wills may mention "My nephew Oliver" or "My niece Mary Smith nee Baggott, daughter of my eldest brother James." Those death records, if you are lucky may give parents names. And they may have lived in an area where newspapers dutifully reported every social event, and spent much time researching and composing fitting tributes in the form of obituaries.

Every day, more and more early newspapers are brought online, indexed and presented in convenient fashion. But we must have pinned down the relevant locales first. be continued tomorrow

1 comment:

  1. Amazing answer. This is like a genealogy how-to book but with advanced instructins and some suggestions for further research I would never have thought of.

    Will you have Ms. Brown on again?

    Thank you so much.