The subject of our monthly genealogical society meeting today was "Brick Walls"--you know, those things you can't go through (unless it's the one at Platform 9 1/4, and you're Harry Potter, et al.). In genealogy, a 'brick wall' is one of those points at which you can't find anymore information on your ancestor--or you can't prove with a primary source what you think you've found. It's the point where genealogists gnash their teeth, tear their hair, and wail.
Let me introduce you to my brick wall: meet Mr. Jones. Mr. Freeman Jones of Lowndes County AL, born around 1822-23 and died between 1865-1870. I presume he died. He was listed on the state census in 1865 but not the federal census of 1870. I've found no will, no probate papers, no cemetery with his grave, no family stories of his untimely demise--or even a timely one. I don't care. I just want to know what happened to him and who his parents were! There are plenty of Jones families in the vicinity of Lowndes County in the years he lived. Some of them have children with the first name Freeman, so they may be related. But how?
I know a few things about Mr. Jones (or great-great-grandpa if you will). His brother William married Mary Hanna on January 14, 1844. A year to the day later, Freeman married Mary's sister, Martha Ann. They had 7 children I can account for. He was a 'small-time' farmer and in 1860 owned four slaves: a woman and three children (likely hers).
By the time daughter Mary Eliza Jones married, only four children remained, and Freeman was gone. Martha Ann was so distressed at the prospect of her daughter being removed to Texas, that the young bridegroom packed up the entire family and brought them along. However, my grandfather told me that his grandmothers (Martha Ann and Julia Ann) had been 'schoolgirls together' back in SC, so the two families weren't strangers. In fact, Martha Ann's oldest daughter (born circa 1847 but not listed on the 1860 census) was named Julia.
So what happened to Freeman? I can't account for any Civil War service, and he was listed on the 1865 state census, so he wasn't a fatality. If he's in a cemetery in the county, his grave isn't marked. Likely he was buried on his own land and is lost to the ages. But he's the 'brick wall' I've been beating my head against for quite some time now. Online records aren't helping. I need to go back to Lowndes County yet again. I understand their old records have been organized and preserved, and I won't be knocking a dirt dauber's nest out of a box (brought down from a high shelf at my own peril) to pick through ancient, crumbling papers.
Until then, picture me sitting at the foot of the impenetrable wall--looking pitiful.