And The Wall Came Tumblin Down

Farmer - Frances Elizabeth

When I was young my aunt sung me an old spiritual about “the wall came tumblin’ down.” That’s what happened tonight. You see, family research can become an addiction. I’ve been at this for 6 hours straight. But let me explain.

This all began 46 years ago when I was about 23 years old (yes, I’ll be 70 next year). My father’s family had been well researched for decades but no one had ever researched my mother’s family. I wanted to know more about my grandfather’s mother, Fannie Farmer.

Two aunts and an uncle had all known Frances Elizabeth Farmer. Unfortunately, no one had ever written down her parents’ names. Genealogists call that a “Brick Wall.” We love it when walls start tumblin’ down.

In 1972 Aunt Pearl told me some of Fannie’s siblings were John, Walter, and Addie. for over 40 years that’s all I knew. Then one day I discovered a record on Findagrave.com. It mentioned Fannie’s parents names.

You’d think I’d get excited but false “information” comes along all the time. Someone found something somewhere where someone put something on some website. Overnight it’s a “fact.” Try buying property on that basis.

“Where’s the property located?”
“Somewhere.”
“Who is selling it?”
“Someone.”
“Where’s proof they can sell it?”
“Oh, I have proof. I found it on the internet!”

Yeah, right. Good researchers need proof. I searched FamilySearch.org’s death records. Nothing. Tonight, I searched Census records and there it was — like getting hit in the head with a falling brick — from a tumblin’ wall — some place.

The father’s name was butchered. Of the 4 records I found, no 2 spelled his name the same way. His wife’s name was Martha. Thank goodness it’s hard to mess that up.

The 1880 Chilton County Census listed Fannie and the 3 siblings Aunt Pearl mentioned. All 4 names were there. Proof like that is a gold mine. Bricks just started tumblin’ down all over the place.

You would not BELIEVE how messed up the spelling was. Fannie’s dad’s name was spelled “Memery Farmer”, “Meaury Farmer”, and “Maueary For…” Yep that’s the letters “F”, “o”, and “r” followed by 3 dots. Try searching the net for that!

On official records, Fannie’s married name was spelled “Worren” instead of “Warren.” Her mother’s maiden name was “Culoen” instead of “Cullen”, and Fannie was buried at “Cooletan Hill.” Hahaha. That’s a riot.

The place used to be called “Carlton Hill” but the name was been changed to “Cahaba Valley” to avoid confusion with another church named Carlton Hill on Hwy 25 near Brierfield, Alabama.

My cousin Judy and I and our families have visited Cahaba Valley Church Cemetery many times. She and her daughter Rachel took photos of it last time they were there. It’s taken nearly half a century to find out who Fannie’s parents and siblings were. They’re shown this way on the 1880 Census:

Maury (or Memory) Farmer b. 1837
Martha [Cullen?] b. 1840
John Farmer b. 1861
Dora Farmer b. 1863
Walter Farmer b. 1863
Frances Farmer b. 7 Apr 1865   [date from tombstone]
Addie Farmer b. 1867
Ella Farmer b. 1868
William Farmer b. 1868
Julia Farmer b. 1877
Nannie Farmer b. 1890   [from 1920 Census]

Was Martha 50 years old when Nannie (from the 1920 Census) was born?  Did she have 2 sets of twins then died in childbirth when Nannie was born?

The 1920 Census also shows Maury (listed as “Memery”) and Ella, both with the correct birth year.  Ella’s birth year was misread by the indexer because it’s a “5” that looks a lot like a “2” or a “3”.

Maury (or Memory) Farmer told the 1920 Census taker he was a widower.  Did he outlive two wives?

There’s still some unanswered questions but this is a lot more than we knew.

When starting family research, you learn some things right away. One of them is patience. Some puzzles just take you a few years to figure out.

5 comments on “And The Wall Came Tumblin Down

  1. Amazing…and awesome work. It has been suggest that “Frances Elizabeth Farmer” was half Native American Indian, possibly Choctaw. What DNA evidence have you discovered? You reference a connection to England. If she was from England it would seem unlikely that there would be any Choctaw bloodline connection. Your thoughts.

    Tim

    • Tim, it would be a worthy goal for us to research this possibility. In my most recent interview with your mother and her brother Charles, your mom’s sister, Violet, told me she heard it from her mother Lillie’s own lips that Fannie was from the Choctaws.

      Because our genetics are a random admixture from the DNA of all 4 of our grandparents passed down randomly through all 8 of our great-grandparents (and so on, ad infinitum), she could have been talking about any of Fannie Farmer’s ancestors. It would be difficult and expensive to prove which one, if any, was a Choctaw.

      The least expensive and most effective way of course is to prove it through traditional research then confirm it through DNA testing. Confirming a Native American ancestry is often best done via mtDNA testing of the mother’s mother’s mother’s line (and so on).

      The person submitting the test sample can be male or female, but must be descended from a matriarchal line of females that traces back to the target female, in this case, Fannie’s mother. If it was her dad who is part Choctaw, the mtDNA sample would have to come through his mother’s or sister’s line. We don’t know which it is. Either line or both may carry the Choctaw lineage.

      Unless some rich relative wants to pay for DNA testing of all possible descendants of Fannie’s parents hoping it will reveal something, the place to start would be through traditional family research. That’s what I’ve been doing for nearly half a century. Maybe one day we’ll make a Choctaw discovery.

      In the meantime, DNA research for genealogy is a very young science, only about 15 years old. Minor new discoveries are being made almost weekly with major discoveries happening on a regular basis. It might not be too many years down the road that the DNA samples already submitted by your relatives could answer this question.

  2. Okay, so Mildred and Doris Warren’s maternal grandmother was Fanny Farmer, and this couple, “Maury” Farmer & Martha “Cullen” Farmer were their maternal great grandparents, Oney’s grandparents?

    • Oney’s grandparents? No. We’re talking about the Warrens. Oney was a Blake. She and Lillie married Grover Warren and his older brother, Sam. Oney and Grover had two daughters, your grandmother and my mother.

      We’re talking about Grover’s mother, Fannie. She was born as Frances Elizabeth Farmer. She married Grover’s father, Lafayette Leonidas Warren. I discovered that her parents birth names were Maury or Memory Farmer (he’s listed both ways) and Martha Cullen. An index of Select Alabama Marriages from 1816-1942 shows that Martha Ann Cammilla Culver married Memory Farmer on 18 Sep 1861 in Coosa County, Alabama. Census records for this couple show some of their children’s names match those that Aunt Pearl gave me so I know it’s the same couple. Dates, multiple names, and places all match. Again, these are Grover’s parents. His dad, Lafayette was married twice so there’s the possibility that Fannie’s children were not the only children that Lafayette fathered. We need more info.

      Grover married Oney Blake (my mother’s mother). Her parents are well known. They were Joseph Benjamin Blake and Lillie Smith. The Smiths are another brick wall that’s not likely to come down in my lifetime, maybe yours. It will take more records coming forward and some very good DNA research (somewhere besides Ancestry.com) to bring that wall down.

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