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?”
“Who is selling it?”
“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.