Thursday, October 17, 2013

McCurdy's of Escambia County, Florida

Elijah McCurdy of Escambia county is the progenitor of many descendants in the panhandle area. Born in 1793 in South Carolina (place varies by the document in his army records), his past is elusive. No one to date has been able to trace him further back. There is little doubt that he is a relative of the other McCurdy's in the South Carolina and Georgia area, but exactly how is the question.

Most of us feel that William H. McCurdy whose in Escambia in 1820 is probably his brother, and though I haven't changed the data in my tree, I am no longer sure that Nancy, the wife of Joshua Bowen is a sister of Elijah, though she may be.

We know that Elijah's first wife was Mattie Bowen. Mattie had a child prior to her marriage to Elijah though, Cleopatra Bowen Brewster who married Willis Jones. Add to the fact that Basheba's death certificate names her father as William and not Elijah, it made me reevaluate Anna McCurdy, the wife of Thomas Sunday.

We all know the oral history (and I am not talking about the "brother's from Scotland") that Elijah ran out on Mattie and married Barsheba Sunday who was his ward, and so they used the last name Sundike to help hide it. The history also says that Mattie and Joseph lived across from the river and that Joseph was the only child. I don't think so.

I think Anna McCurdy is a daughter of Elijah and Mattie Bowen. I think Mattie probably died before the marriage of Elijah and Barsheba/Barbara Sunday. Here's why. If you look at the 1840 census, Elijah is in Conecuh. The household appears to have some of the Sunday's in it, as there are more children than he had. Living next door to Elijah is Willis Jones. In 1838 or 39, (I did not check my records) Anna married Thomas Sunday (as Mary McCurdy). In 1850, Thomas Sunday and Anna have Joel Bowen (Mattie's father) in their home, he is 91. (In 1840 Willis Jones has a male corresponding with that age in his home). Next to their home is Willis Jones once again.

Anna and Thomas also name a daughter Cleopatra. So the fact that Nancy Bowen is living in their home in 1860 could be that Nancy is her Aunt by marriage. Or it could be that she's her Aunt. We aren't too sure, and as of yet, there is simply no way to find out.

Switching Anna for Basheba puts Elijah McCurdy's grandchildren in total I believe to 98. 28 of these grandchildren were the progeny of my ancestor, William Marion (desputed Jackson) McCurdy and his two wives, (one of whom also is a grandchild of Elijah), Amanda Beck and Florence Morris.

Although each generation as we reach the current ones does have fewer children, it still leaves a large number of descendants. The McCurdy family intermarried heavily with the Ard, Penton and Malone families, and has links to just about every large family in the Northern Escambia county region.

A group of my distant cousins and I are discussing having a reunion for the McCurdy family of Alabama (Escambia and Baldwin) and Florida (Escambia and Santa Rosa). We have formed a facebook group by the name of McCurdy Family of Alabama/Florida reunion. If you are a McCurdy of this family and are interested in joining us, please do so. We are in the very early stages, so nothing is definitive at this time, but we look forward to meeting our cousins.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"My Grandma's a full blooded Choctaw from New York"

If I said that, "my Grandma is a full blooded Choctaw from New York" every one who has any Choctaw would be up in arms. Why because no, Choctaws weren't in New York. Just like they weren't in South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, etc.

If I have a pet peeve, it's just that. With all of the wonderful things we can find now, all of the awesome digital collections, the access to data researchers had to travel to get, people just don't do proper research.

Proper research? What I mean is that, first, just trace your family. Don't worry if they were Choctaw, Cherokee, Pink or Blue, just look for them. When you have verifiable information, because genealogy without documentation is mythology, then dig for their racial history, or their culture. But look at where they are. Then research that area.

Oral history is a starting point, not the end game. What I mean is that, oral history is like that game of telephone we played as kids. Where you get a line of say 20 kids and whisper something in the first one's ear, and have them repeat it all the way down, and by the time you get to the end, the kid says what he heard, and it's nothing like what it started as. That's oral history in a nutshell. There is usually some grain of truth to it. It's not the gospel truth.

While I am on that subject, any documentation (such as an affidavit) that occurs over 100 years later isn't worth the paper it's written on. If you weren't alive when the event occurred you can only repeat what you heard (or oral history). So that means that once again, it's not the truth, and the whole truth, it's someone's version of it.

We have all had people in our lives, who retell events and we are like, that's not what happened. Well why in the heck do you think that every oral history tale can't be like that? That people can't embellish what they pass on? It's no different. To be effective as a researcher, you need to be open to doubts about what you find. You need to be able to question your research, and look at all the first and second sources. And sometimes then, you have to make a decision.

I have conflicts. So what is the truth? You have to reason and explain the conflicts. That is the truth to genealogy. It's not all first sources. It's not all black and white. But, when you get to the grey, you need to recognize it, document it, and if you theorize, then say so. And give credit to others. That's just the right thing to do.

You can find second hand accounts of Native American history. In books, in newspapers, in diaries, and sometimes in letters. Or you can find nothing. And whether that happens depends on who you are researching.

I think it's important to remember racism also. In 1910, my great great grandmother's sister lives in South Dakota (there are indians there). She is listed as a mulatto. When my grandparents moved to Los Angeles, my dark skinned black haired grandpa with his fair blond, blue eyed wife could only find housing in the mixed neighborhoods. Racism did exist. It didn't just include looking down on you because you were Indian or Black, the same thing happened if you were Chinese, Hawaiian, Italian, Irish, Catholic, Jewish, etc.

It's really important to recognize that when you research. A full blooded Indian is never going to be mistaken for white on a census. Prior to 1900 they may be called mulatto, cajun, black, but rarely indian. If you don't believe that, search for race in censuses 1850-1880. See how many you get for Native American. It's not a lot.

There are hundreds of Native American tribes in the United States. Some were extinct by the 18th century, but others thrived until the 19th century, and the idea of Manifest Destiny started taking hold in this country. You can find data on some of these lesser known tribes that are from South Carolina, or North Carolina, or New York, Ohio, etc. Don't be pigeon holed into believing you have to be a tribe because that's all you know of.

Understanding your past tells you your own story

People who don't do genealogy don't get those of us who do. They don't understand why genealogists love what they do, why we don't mind visiting dusty libraries and spooky cemeteries. Why discovery of a long lost picture or relative makes us reel with excitement.

Our history, isn't just about our DNA. The stories of the lives of our ancestor's is part of who we are. Just as things like abuse, violence, addiction and mental illness can be passed down in families, so can things like work ethics, occupations and a love for arts, education and family. Maybe something that occurred 100 years ago has no impact on our lives, but maybe it does.

The role of family has evolved and changed over the last few hundred years. In Colonial america we were nuclear families. Parental involvement and attachment to their children isn't the idea that we expect. We went from a place where only the eldest son inherited to a place where all children could inherit. Nuclear families to extended families, neglect and abuse to close knit and loving. The events of the time affected the family dynamics, just as much as today.

Immigrant families were shut off from their families and cultures, so enclaves of their culture developed where they settled. Brave souls set off for the wild, untamed lands to the west. Groups of families moved together and formed new bonds.

War tore us apart. From the American Revolution, which contrary to what we were taught, was not supported by a majority, to the Civil War, family fought against family. The support felt for whichever side was strong enough to break family bonds.

Lawlessness as a result of the wars brought a new chapter to our history. We all know of Jesse James, John Wesley Hardin, and the Younger brothers. The events of their lives formed the basis of this lifestyle, their history shaped them.

The industrial age, prohibition, all these things helped shape our families, but it is how they dealt with it, and what they did that shaped the next generation, and so on, until we come to our grandparents, and our parents and our lives.

How much education did they receive and why didn't they get more? Were they rich or poor? Were they raised by their parents, relatives, or left to fend for themselves? Did they attend the school of hard knocks? Were they in trouble with the law? Were they adored by their family?

These questions are the kinds of answers you can get from genealogy. Sometimes people ask should we share the bad stuff? Well, I don't think we should ever violate someone's privacy, but we should be true to the story as recorders of history. We just don't have to publish it when it affects someone else. I also think, that knowing that cycles of dysfunction can continue, we have the responsibility to recognize them and be honest about them. If we want to make the future better, we have to be open about the past.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

More on the early Pyburn's

A time line will follow.

Most likely Lewis and Elias are brothers. Ben Jr is probably their brother. Are the also my Jacob's brother? And is the James whose stealing in GA a relative?

Questionable as to there relationship to Richard. Is he a cousin or brother tp Elias?

Benjamin and Richard in SC in 1790 could be Benjamin Jr and Richard who was in KY (and seems to return). I suspect this is the Benjamin who stole the horse and not Benjamin Sr on Am Rev paperwork.

Speculate Nancy the wife of Jacob Pyburn is a Choate which is how Austin Jr and Omi Pyburn are cousins, explains the name of Christopher Pyburn also. Because the source of Austin Sr married to Elizabeth Naomi Pyburn has no factual information attached to it, I am seriously doubting it's accuracy. I suspect that someone years ago ran across the Eastern Cherokee Applications of the children of Edward Choate and Elizabeth Cole, which state that Austin jr and Omi Pyburn were cousins, and that he was half indian and she was full. We know she can't be full indian because none of the Pyburn's were indian, they were English/Scottish. We don't know enough on the wives of generation 2 to say if they married an Indian or not. Christopher Choate, the father of Austin Sr is supposed to have married a Cherokee woman Prudence. If this is true, then Austin Sr and his sister (by my guess, not proven) Nancy Choate are part Cherokee and so the cousins would have been equally Cherokee, not one half the other full.

These are the folks that descend from William and Mary Pyburn of Maryland.
Generation 1
John B 1686
Richard n 1686
Edward (baptisms in 1720's mean he shouldn't be son of John or Richard)

Generation 2 (males only)
Jacob (Richard) b. 1722
Jacob (John) at least 21 by 1747 (before 1725)
Benjamin (before 1725)
John (before 1725)
Thomas b. 1729
Joshua on list of 1757.. has to fit into the 2nd generation as a son of ? Edward or Richard. Assume if he can sign a lease he's 21 or born prior to 1736

The question remains which Jacob and.or which of the cousins are the parents of Generation 3. One cannot assume because John and Benjamin are in Bedford that Jacob is there brother and not their cousin. We know that his sons were of age to be executors (over 21) in 1747, so that means that both Jacobs are likely close in age. We have Thomas showing up there by 1775 so it isn't like they were strangers.

Generation 3
Jacob born 1745-1757 goes to MS
Jacob marries Nancy (probably Choate) (born 1745-1760)
Benjamin stole horse (born before 1754) should be brother to Lewis and Elias
Elias (born before 1754) should be brother to Lewis and Benjamin
Lewis (born before 1754) should be brother to Elias and Benjamin
Richard (?son of Thomas) age 60-69 in 1830 I Indiana puts birth about 1761-1770
Sarah (dtr of Jacob) m Charles Eades (born 1760 ish) (which Jacob is her father?)
James Pyburn (born before 1764)
John? Pyburn listed as VA solder am rev (find nothing on this gentleman)
Richard Pyburn 60-69 in MO in 1830 ??? household doesn't match the other Richard. I find a Frances Pyburn a widow in Illinois in 1840 age 50-59.

Generation 4
NC Jacob
Jacob who marries Mary Webb (Probably son of Jacob and Nancy)
Christopher (Prob son of Jacob)
Edward /Ned (son of Jacob)
Omi Pyburn (dtr of Jacob) m Austin Choate
Nancy Pyburn (dtr of Jacob) m Christopher Choate
? husband of the widow Sarah Pyburn

AL Jacob
Jacob b 1777
Phoebe b 1779
James b 1780 ish
Mary b 1784
Benjamin b 1786

Lewis Sr.
Lewis Jr
Enos (age 26-44 in 1810)

William (TN/AR) (1840 his widow? Under Wm in Ar)
William (MO)
Amon (MO)
Richard Jr (IN)
Riley (TN)
Lone (TN)
these in Arkansas in 1840 could be next generation..
William (AR)
John (AR)

Benjamin (AR)
1750's John Pyburn Constable in Bedford
1758 John Pyburn militia in Bedford
1765 John Pyburn caught in NC accused of Murders and atrocities (probably hung)
1769 Jacob Pyburn land Bedford
1773 Thomas Pyburn in Bedford
1775 Benjamin Pyburn land in Washington Co, TN
1777 Elias, Lewis, Benjamin Jr and Benjamin Sr Pyburn on list of expenses for Am rev War
1777 Payroll James Knox Co, 8th VA Reg Benj Pyburn deserted May 20 1776
1778 Washington Co Benj Pyburn stole a horse from John Steel (he escaped the gaol)
1779 Watauga TN Benj Pyburn sold 480 acres to George Webb

1779 Jacob Pyburn and his wife Nancy sell land in Bedford
1780 Lewis and Richard sign a petition in Kentucky

TN soldiers in AM Rev John and Benjamin Pyburn

1782 Benjamin and Jacob Pyburn militia in NC (Harpers)
1783 Court Record (Dropped Stitches in Tennessee History)
Lewis and Elias Pyburn hiding from law. Appeal for right to post bond and return home.
Case against Elias Pyburn was for horse stealing.

Prior to 1784, James Pyburn named as a person stole a slave with John Lawrence in what is now Bulloch, Georgia. (Spanish Archives)

Dec 1784 Jacob Pyburn signs oath to Spanish King, Tensaw
1785 Jacob Pyburn Tensaw (four minor children)
1786 Jacob Pyburn Tensaw
1787 Frances Paiban Tensaw
1789 Frances Paiban Tensaw

Another entry 1790, Elias Pyburn punishment was to have his ears nailed to a board, cut off and then be branded with an H and T on both cheeks.
1790 Richard Pyburn in SC
1790 Benjamin Pyburn in SC
1790 Jacob Pyburn in NC
1791 Elias Pyburn listed on Conways Regiment US Levies

1797 Jacob Pyburn listed in Tensaw age 20, wife 18

1797 Petition signed by Jacob Pyburn and Webbs (knox), records found for these folks in Buncombe and Washington and White co TN during this time.
April 1, 1799 Jacob Pyburn signs petition in TN (presumed Knox county) However this is also signed by Christopher and Austin Choate Jr who we know are in NC with a Jacob Pyburn. Edward Uborn is probably Edward Pyburn who also signed petition. Found a second petition dealing with Knox for this year signed by Jacob and Ned Pyburn

1800 Lewis and Richard in Kentucky
1800 Jacob and Christopher in NC

1805 Am State papers lists Frances Steel and Benjamin Pyburn (alabama claims)

1810 Christopher Pyburn in NC
1810 Sarah Pyburn in NC
1810 Richard Pyburn in KY
1810 Edwin (Edward?) Pyburn in NC
1810 Frances Steel formerly Pyburn, Baldwin Co, AL, 1 male over 21 1 male under in home
1812 Christopher Pyburn tax list of Warren County, TN

Lewis Pyburn Sr 1812, Baton Rouge land claim
James Pyburn Baton Rouge land claim 1818
Robert Pyburn 1812 Baton Rouge Land claim

War of 1812
Lewis Pyburn in LA
Jacob Pyburn in MS

1816 Jacob Pyburn executor of Merry Webb's estate, mentions dtr Mary Pyburn in Marion Co TN

1820 Baldwin County, Al (state census) Jacob Pyburn
1820 Christopher Pyburn TN
1820 Sarah Pyburn TN
1820 William Pyburn TN
1820 Enos Pyburn LA
1820 Richard Pyburn in KY
1822 Jacob Pyburn mentioned as early settler of Hardin County, TN
1825 Christopher Pyburn land in Harden County, TN
1830 Christopher Pyburn land in Wayne County, TN

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where do you find this stuff?

I hear that question a lot.

There is sometimes a vast amount of information that can be found online. Sometimes there is just nothing. It depends. Aside from and, where is a good place to search for information?

For digital newspapers, there are paid services online, like and, but there are a lot of free papers too. Here is just a few

1. California
2. Texas
3. Florida
4. Oklahoma
5. National (not all states)

If your state isn't listed, it just means I haven't researched there. To find a newspaper digital collection, search exactly that and the state, you may be surprised what comes up.

State Archives are wonderful resources, some have added digital collections online, others have little to offer online but an index. Some of my favorite collections are, the chancery court records online for the Virginia Archives, the transcripted wills for South Carolina, the Spanish land grants for Florida, and Florida's Civil War Pensions at the Florida Archives. Tennessee and Alabama have instead partnered with and so you can find some of their collections online there instead of on their sites. is a great site for books, but so is this one I found. It has the collections from plus more. It is kind of a clearing house for online books. One of the great collections here is the territorial papers of the United States. Online and viewable. I tried searching within the collections for a surname, and yes, it works.

There is of course online google searches. I caution anyone from using as gospel someone else's research. First you need to verify what they have yourself. You want to make sure that the information is accurate. If you have a theory, it's okay to share the theory, just make sure you say it's a theory, or explain yourself. Make sure you search google books. Sometimes play around with your searches, get creative. You may be surprised what you find. Like, for example, the Choctaw mission information I found on Google Books.

For published government periodicals, so far the best place, aside from here, has been Though you have to pay for it, and the search function isn't all that easy (you get way too many results sometimes), it does have publications that you find not digitalized on google.  Several universities have digital collections that are including more historical works, sometimes even the collections or papers of an individual or family. With this you can find some great stuff. The best site for me is the University of Oklahoma's collection, but, unfortunately, the collection I most want to see has some problems online at the moment. The Peter Pitchlynn Collection works and should not be missed.

Fortunately, sometimes the collections will pop up when you search a name. I have found some great stuff in Mississippi, Oklahoma and Alabama at archives and universities this way.

The Bureau of Land Management's available (not all states) land patents, military bounty land grants, etc are awesome. Sometimes though, it seems like a regular search of a state doesn't give me my guy, but if I search by authority, like military bounty land, or Choctaw Scrip, then I get my answers. Don't forget to check the survey images for the township and ranges that you can access from the results. Sometimes there is some great stuff on those images. You can find the BLM site here. (Apparently with the government shut down, this isn't working because it worked two days ago).

That brings me to the big one. It's free, which is great. It has images of marriage records, which is awesome. It now has several links that send you to it's sister sites and (which are owned by the Church), but there are some great collections you can browse. It takes time, patience, and a good internet connection.

Some of the great collections are, the United States Land Bureau plat books, the Draper Collection, Probate records for almost all states (though incomplete counties for some), Mississippi Various records (which includes counties in Alabama when it was Mississippi Territory). Don't miss these collections, because what you find can be invaluable.

For native american indexing of the Dawes rolls, the best site is still They have other records besides native records, but they were one of the first free sites out there.

Good luck, and happy searching. .