Friday, January 22, 2010

And the walls came tumbling down . . . well, maybe!

Anyone who has attempted to research their family tree for any length of time has encountered what are known as "brick walls." This term applies to those ancestors who seem to take great delight in thwarting all efforts to trace their roots. When you've been pursuing genealogy as long as I have, you start collecting quite a few of these nuisances.

One of my most frustrating forebears has been my third-great-grandmother Mrs. Martha J. Macy of Pine Castle, Florida. According to family tradition, her maiden name was DEAN. But, while compiling documentation for the General Society of Mayflower Descendants several years ago, I uncovered something of a scandalous discrepancy in the marriage records of Orange County, Florida. They revealed that Martha did not marry my assumed ancestor William H. Macy until 1874--some six years after their son Paul Macy was born. Further, the marriage certificate listed her as MRS. Martha Jane Dean, which left me questioning Paul's paternity. Was he really a Dean by birth, who assumed the Macy surname of his stepfather?!

Over the years, I have undertaken an exhaustive search of the local records, and those of surrounding counties in an effort to solve this mystery. While those efforts proved mostly fruitless, I did discover that Martha and William Macy were living together as a married couple for several years before making it a legal arrangement. They signed deeds together, and were listed as man and wife in the 1870 census of nearby Volusia County (page 739a) . . . though their surname was recorded as MASON instead of Macy!

Recently, that census record and subsequent enumerations encouraged me to pursue a different tactic in the ongoing effort to break down the brick wall. All of these records agreed that Martha, whatever her maiden name was or whoever her first husband may have been, was born in Tennessee about the year 1835. I had already found her second husband William H. Macy living in Tennessee before he came to Florida. So, I began wondering if perhaps the two had known each other up in the Volunteer State, and if records there might reveal not only information about Martha's first marriage but also give some clues about her parentage.

Long story longer, the 1860 enumeration of Germantown (near Memphis) in Shelby County, Tennessee, includes not only the household of William H. Macy and his first wife (nee Mary J. Brandow, Hudson, New York) on page 351. A few pages earlier (331) it also included this family:

* Dean, Galston B., age 32, farmer, born in Tennessee.
* Dean, Martha, age 25[?], born in Tennessee.
* Dean, William, age 5, born in Tennessee.
* Dean, Amanda, age 4, born in Tennessee.
* Dean, Desalma, age 2, born in Tennessee.

Obviously, further research is needed to firmly establish that Galston B. Dean's wife Martha is the same woman who later married his neighbor William H. Macy in Florida some 14 years later. But, this is the first good lead I've had in quite some time!

I did find that G.B. Dean served in Compay I of the 38th Tennessee Infantry Regiment (CSA) during the Civil War. So, it is entirely possible that he left Martha a war widow . . . (See .)

If all this bears out, I also see that another researcher named Angela Wilhite has identified Dean's wife as the former Martha Twyford, and carried her ancestry back to the 15th Century at

I'll keep ye socks posted on the progress of this ongoing search!

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