More Opportunities at RootsTech 2023 – Book Signing & Booth Lecture Sessions

There are even MORE virtual and in-person opportunities at RootsTech beginning on March 2nd.

Collage graphic courtesy of Dr. Penny Walters

This is sort of like Where’s Waldo, except it’s “Where’s Roberta” at RootsTech 2023.

I’m giving my three RootsTech sessions of course, but that’s not all. I’m appearing for presentations in both the FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage booths, plus having a book signing for my book, DNA for Native American Genealogy.

Unfortunately, none of my RootsTech sessions are livestreamed, so please attend in person if you’re in Salt Lake City.

The Expo Hall vendor floor plan is here.

The entire floor plan, including the session rooms is here.

Here’s my schedule, followed by the FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage booth schedules. Both have wonderful, free, DNA and genealogy sessions.

Roberta – Thursday March 2

9:30 – 10:30 AM – DNA for Native American Genealogy – 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor – Room 155A

1 – 1:30 PM – Time Travel with Your Ancestors – MyHeritage Booth

3 PM – DNA Journey – Follow Your Ancestor’s Path – Room 255B

Roberta – Friday March 3

1:30 – 2:30 PM – Big Y DNA for the Win – Room 150

4 PM – AutoClusters for the Win – MyHeritage Booth

Roberta – Saturday March 4

1:30 – 2:00 PM – Native American AMA (Ask Me Anything) – FamilyTreeDNA Booth

2:00 – 2:30 PM – Book Signing – DNA for Native American Genealogy – FamilyTreeDNA Booth

About the Book Signing

It’s unfortunate that there won’t be a book vendor at RootsTech this year, but I’ll have some copies of my book along for purchase and signing.

For right now, plan on bringing either $30 in cash, or a check. I’m trying to work out credit card processing, but no promises.

If I run out of books, the show-special pricing of $30 will be honored by the publisher if you order and pay at the book signing.

I’m bringing book plates to sign so I can sign the plate for you, even if you need to order.

If you already purchased the book, come on by and I’ll be glad to sign a book plate for you as well, at least until I run out😊

Expo Hall Opportunities

Many vendors will be offering sessions in their booths, both in person and virtual. Please check them out.

You can register for RootsTech for free which gives you remote access and also access to the Expo Hall if you attend in person. Of course, the paid registration gives you access to the in-person sessions at RootsTech.

I wrote about how to sign up and navigate the RootsTech site, here.

There are a lot more sessions available in the Expo Hall, both virtual and in person, in the vendor booths.

I’m highlighting both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage since they both focus on DNA and have scheduled free sessions from their own specialists plus industry leaders. Most booth sessions tend to be about half an hour.

MyHeritage Hall Lecture and Booth Schedule

Click to enlarge

I’m sure after the virtual Expo Halls opens, their schedule will be available there too.

FamilyTreeDNA Hall Lecture and Booth Schedule

FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) published two blog posts, one about the free virtual RootsTech sessions, here, and one about the in-person sessions, here. If you subscribe to their blog, here, you’ll received updates during the week as they feature different sessions. Also, check their virtual booth after the Expo Hall opens.

SLC Local Time Thursday March 2 Friday March 3 Saturday March 4
9:30 (AM) Y DNA: An Overview of your Results – Katy Rowe – Ballroom A – livestreamed Let’s Play Connect Forefathers! -Sherman McRae – Ballroom A – livestreamed
10:30 What You Can Do with DNA – Katy Rowe – FTDNA Booth Native American Roots – Janine Cloud – FTDNA Booth Which Test is Best for Me? – Janine Cloud – FTDNA Booth
1:00 PM FamilyTreeDNA Sponsor Spotlight – Main Stage Y-DNA AMA (Ask Me Anything) – Dr. Paul Maier, Goran Runfeldt, Michael Sager Mitochondrial DNA AMA (Ask me Anything) – Dr. Paul Maier, Goran Runfeldt
1:30 Unexpected Y-DNA Result – Sherman McRae – FTDNA Booth Just in Time for Groups – Jim Brewster – Virtual Live Demo through FTDNA Expo Hall booth Native American AMA (Ask Me Anything) – Roberta Estes – FTDNA Booth
2:00 Book Signing – DNA for Native American Genealogy – Roberta Estes – FTDNA booth
3:00 Unexpected Y DNA Result – Sherman McRae – FTDNA booth
4:00 Which Test is Best for Me? – Janine Cloud – FTDNA Booth

Rootstech Live Webinars Versus Livestreamed Sessions

There has been some confusion about the difference between RootsTech Live Webinars and Livestreamed sessions, and how to access each. I know this is confusing, so bear with me.

  • It appears that the free virtual registration will give you access to the live webinars, because the speakers and their sessions are listed both under the in-person and the virtual on-demand classes, here.
  • The paid registration gives you access to the sessions that will be given in person and also livestreamed.

There is no list (or filter ability) of livestreamed or live webinar sessions, but it’s easy to see if you go to the list of in-person sessions, here, and look under location where it will say “Live Webinar” if the session is just a webinar. However, this list does NOT tell you if the session is livestreamed.

Let’s look at an example.

Here are the first two sessions for Thursday.

Click to enlarge

The first session listed is a Live Webinar, meaning there is no in person room to visit. This sessions ALSO appears on the virtual list of classes, if you look there.

The second session physically takes place in Ballroom A. If you click on the session, and scroll to the bottom, you’ll see this statement about livestreaming. That means you go to Ballroom A if you are in SLC or you can view the session by visiting this link and clicking at the red arrow to join. I believe these will be available later too, but I have no confirmation of that.

This session is NOT listed in the free “on demand” sessions, so I believe any in-person session is only available with a paid registration.

The message is to plan your RootsTech sessions in advance.

Over and Out Until RootsTech

How can it possibly just be just four days until RootsTech. The suspense builds every single day because we know there will be announcements and it will be wonderful to see our genea-friends in person again. It feels like it has been forever.

This is it for me until RootsTech. My schedule is absolutely jam-packed slammed busy, but I will try to write and publish something everyday so you folks can “come along” with me.

I have a media pass this year, so I’ll be trying to grab photos of people, including the main stage speakers, and asking what are hopefully relevant questions. Maybe some behind the scenes things too. I’m not sure how much access we have.

There are sure to be some interesting surprises, planned or unplanned. There always are. Personally, I’m just extremely grateful that RootsTech wasn’t this week, given their 2 feet of snow, or I would have been interviewing people in the hotel lobby and maybe coordinating games of Euchre or perhaps modifying Jeopardy for “Who’s Your Ancestor?” “I’ll take pilgrims for $200.”

It would be miserable to be snowed in literally one block from the FamilySearch Library and not be able to get there. Mother Nature, hopefully, has gotten this out of her system as this week promises to be less weather-challenged. Knock wood!


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Ancestry to Delete WorldConnect Trees and Shut Down RootsWeb Mailing Lists – Prepare NOW

This is a dark day indeed.

Ancestry, who acquired RootsWeb, including the mailing lists and WorldConnect Trees back in the year 2000 is going to delete both.

The original purchase agreement reportedly included the provision to keep both free, but I never heard anything about a provision to keep them intact. A lot changes in 23 years in terms of technology, but other companies have updated infrastructure and maintained service for their customers. Ancestry can too.

The RootsWeb mailing lists will be gone April 6, and the WorldConnect trees on April 15th.

Ancestry has removed many RootsWeb features over the years. Blogger Margaret O’Brien reviewed what was left in October 2020, here.

This isn’t the first time Ancestry has deleted an essential database. In 2014, they deleted their own Y and mitochondrial DNA database, followed by the Sorenson DNA database in 2015, despite petitions to reconsider and offers within and outside of the genealogy community to keep both alive.

Here we are again. Another crushing blow to the genealogy community in terms of irrecoverable record loss.

You can read more about Ancestry’s corporate, acquisition and product history, here.

RootsWeb Mailing Lists

You’ll see this notice if you go to the main RootsWeb page.

What I don’t know is whether this means that the RootsWeb lists will be entirely deleted, or they will be kept intact in a similar format as Ancestry did when they purchased, then shut down the trees, articles and forum in 2003.

I would think that if Ancestry had planned to keep anything in place, or maintain the RootsWeb list information in any way, they would have said so. The posting functionality has been gone for years, but we were still able to find information posted previously.

If you need something from the RootsWeb lists, assume that Ancestry is doing exactly what they said, and obtain it NOW!!!

WorldConnect Trees

The WorldConnect trees will be gone too. Back in April of 2019, Ancestry substantially changed the format of the trees, along with the web links. People could not find their way “back” to trees through links they had previously used.

Worse yet, tree contributors often included substantial notes, plus sources. In the “new” format, all notes were deleted, and sources, when included, were incomplete.

For users, this purge was gutting when so much information was included, and then, was entirely gone. Genealogists used to be able to contact tree-submitters, and even download some trees, but that functionality has been gone now for years.

Case in point, I’d love to find or make contact with Jim Weber who maintained an absolutely wonderful tree, above, complete with both text and sources for Medieval genealogical individuals.

If you know Jim Weber, PLEASE put us in touch.

Now, Jim’s tree will be gone and according to Ancestry, WorldConnect trees will be ported to Ancestry later in 2023. I can only HOPE that Ancestry replaces the text they stripped out in 2019 which removed a huge amount of Jim and other people’s work. However, that’s doubtful.

I wonder if these trees will be available for free or only to paying subscribers.

RootsWeb Message Boards and Hosted Webpages

The intertwined history of Ancestry and RootsWeb websites is complex and confusing. FamilySearch provides background information, here.

It’s unclear what will happen to the Message Boards and RootsWeb Hosted Websites.

For example, this unpublished manuscript of Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers of Southwest Virginia 1773-1794 by Emory L. Hamilton is invaluable and the Russell County, VA site is the ONLY place this is document available.

The Russell County site is a VAGENWEB site but it’s hosted by RootsWeb.

If you’re depending on any RootsWeb hosted site, I’d be making alternate plans.

Here’s the GenWeb index site with the following notice.

I can’t imagine that Ancestry is going to invest any resources in anything RootsWeb anymore, although I have not heard chatter from GenWeb site administrators.

Steps to Take NOW

The best plan of attack is to recover and save anything you can from RootsWeb lists, meaning locations or surnames of interest.

The index of RootsWeb Mailing Lists is here.

Make Your Voice Heard

It’s difficult to provide feedback to Ancestry, but try.

At the top of your Ancestry page is a Help button which includes a Support page which has a Chat Bot, but no phone numbers.

I could not find a support phone number on my page, but I found 1-800-615-6560 and 1-800-262-3787 as their corporate numbers.

The Ancestry CEO is Deb Liu.

Don’t Rely on the Wayback Machine

Don’t rely on the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive for two reasons. The Wayback Machine is a wonderful archival resource, but the sites have to be crawled to be archived.

The WorldConnect trees were never crawled and those links are not there today. I tried that to find Jim Weber’s original tree entries with their wonderful notes – to no avail. Entering the current page links produces the same result. It’s easy to prevent the Wayback Machine from crawling sites and Ancestry has apparently done so.

For sites like the Russell County GenWeb site, the primary page itself was crawled, but the sections of the Indian Atrocities book were not. So if the site disappears, you’ll be able to see what you want, and used to be there, but can no longer get there. The Wayback Machine doesn’t always crawl buried links.

Time is of the Essence

Begging and pleading with Ancestry, including petitions from the genealogy community, have been of absolutely no use in the past. Let’s hope that perhaps this time is different and an organization like FamilySearch or the Library of Congress or even the Allen County Public Library will be selected to be an electronic repository for the RootsWeb list contents.

Don’t count on it, though, and do what you need to do for your genealogy, now.

Ancestry – It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

It really doesn’t have to be this way. There is absolutely no benefit to anyone by deleting this information forever when there are other viable options with non-competitors.

Ancestry can position themselves as responsible stewards and write their corporate legacy in a positive way instead of creating a nightmare scenario.

I hope Ancestry preserves this priceless information contributed over three decades by thousands of researchers, many of whom are deceased now. That an entire generation of information that is irrecoverable. It’s literally erasing our family history and burning the digital genealogy library of Alexandria.


Ancestry, if you’re not going to preserve the lists in any format, at LEAST donate the information to FamilySearch to incorporate into the FamilySearch Library.

That’s the responsible stewardship approach, rather than having a huge digital bonfire, again.

I’m sure FamilySearch would gladly preserve these records and make their contents available to everyone, honoring the original intent and all of the contributors who trusted Ancestry.


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You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

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Margaret Herrell Bolton’s Deposition – 52 Ancestors #390

Recently, we discovered that one of Michael McDowell’s daughters was unknown, and he had three sons attributed to him that weren’t his children.

A chancery suit file from Hancock County, TN included a deposition from Michael’s son, John McDowell that was chocked full of wonderful information. I just wish he had told us who his mother was, but I digress.

That wasn’t all though. There was even more unexpected information buried in that file.

Michael’s Granddaughter – Margaret Herrell

Michael McDowell sold a significant amount of his land before his death, including two acres of land at the mouth of 4 Mile Creek to his granddaughter, Margaret Herrell, who was married to Anson Martin at the time. It’s unclear why he only sold two acres of land at the mouth of the creek. Did they construct a mill, perhaps? Two acres is not nearly enough to farm.

Two acres is about 208 feet by 416 feet, or the size of about two football fields. Of course a log cabin and barn would have been built there too.

We don’t know the shape of their two acres, but it would have been about this much land at this location, with the Powell River at right.

Anson and Margaret were married about 1828, but Anson died about 1845. In the 1850 census, Margaret, age 38, is enumerated with her 8 children in Hancock County, TN, next door to her parents who lived adjacent to Michael McDowell, her grandfather. Of course, next door probably didn’t mean literally. It probably meant that no other houses had been built between those homesteads. Next door could have been up the path along the river and around the bend, or even across the river. In fact, we know positively that Michael did live across the Powell River on Slanting Misery. Trust me, it was aptly named.

At one point a swinging rope bridge existed across the river at McDowell Shoals where the islands remain, today. I’m sure that swinging bridge was preferable to fording the river, especially since there was only one possible location and only when the water was low.

Regardless, I’d have stayed on shore. It’s a LONG way down. I can feel that bridge creak and swing, just sitting here. (Shudders!)

Margaret probably walked it unafraid. Maybe even helped to construct it.

This survey shows the various bends in the Powell River. McDowell Bend is located right next to Harrell Bend. The river snaked its way between the mountains on either side.

The 1850 Census

In the 1850 census, Margaret’s neighbor, Joseph Bolton was living with his first wife, Polly Tankersley who would pass away shortly thereafter, probably not long after June 1850.

Based on the birth date of Margaret and Joseph’s first child, it appears that were married by late 1850. Both had small children to raise, he had 7 and she had 9 that we know of, and the couple had likely known each other for the decade since Joseph and his wife, Mary, arrived from Virginia and became Margaret and Anson’s neighbors.

Joseph and Margaret’s first child together, Mary, was born in September of 1851 and their second and final child, named Joseph Bolton after his father arrived two years later.

In April of 1861, Margaret Herrell Bolton and John McDowell, her uncle, both gave depositions about Michael McDowell’s land.

Transcription of Margaret Herrell Bolton’s Deposition

John McDowell he say is 71 years of age and witness for the defendant taken upon notice on the 6th day of April 1861 at my house in the presence of the plaintiff and defendant William McDowel on a entry that he made. He made sugar for many years on it and rails. Michael McDowell made one entry he got his fire wood of it and maid rails of it.

Note – sugar would be referring to maple sugar, and rails would be referencing fence rails.

Margret Bolton witness for the defendant age fifty years. I know they made sugar up in that bent. She made sugar thair two years or more. She says that she got wood of that hill. Anson Martin made rails their.

The said witness being duly sworn to their age.

Margaret’s Signature

I was very excited to see Margaret’s signature, even if it is an ”X.” It’s still her mark, made by her own hand, as she touched this paper, 162 years ago. Other than her DNA that runs in the veins of some of her descendants, it’s the only tangible thing left of her on this earth.

Margaret, Margret or however her name was spelled probably would be shocked that a great-granddaughter, or anyone for that matter, would be looking at this document more than a century and a half later.

It appears that both John and Margaret both had to sign to attest their ages.

I can close my eyes and picture Margaret, at 50, and her uncle, sitting side by side as they gave their testimony to the clerk of court who was writing what they said as best he could. I’d bet her hair was graying and she might have pinned it up on her head so it wouldn’t look disheveled.

In the deposition, it says it is taken “at my house,” but I can’t tell if that mean’s John McDowell’s house or William McNiel’s house, or something else. The deposition is difficult to follow in terms of who is talking. Sometimes William quotes them, and sometimes he talks about what they said.

I wonder if Joseph Bolton hitched up the wagon with a team of horses, picked up John McDowell, and rode to town with Margaret and John. Did they visit William McNiel’s house in Sneedville, or did they simply visit one of the McNiel family homes, much closer to McDowell Bend. Probably down by or even at the old Walker homestead.

The McNiel families lived right across the road from the Walkers, up on the side of Powell Mountain. It would have been a good half-way point.

William McNiel was the only McNiel to live in town, but he surely visited his relatives from time to time and may still have owned family land.

This old cabin is gone now of course, but this old McNiel cabin reportedly belonged to William McNiel’s father, although I have doubts that it’s that old. Back in 1860, it would have been a mansion though, compared to a one room log cabin.

John McDowell and Margaret Harrell Bolton’s depositions were hand-written by William McNiel. I’d wager that was what happened. Everybody probably crowded round the kitchen table, such as it was, someplace nearby. Town was a really long way to go for an old man in his 70s bouncing around in a wagon with no shocks on those mountain roads. That trip would have taken a couple days each way – so better to meet closer to where everyone lived.

A Peek into Margaret’s Life

In her deposition, Margaret told about making “sugar, two years herself.”

Sugar means maple syrup which can only be made from sugar maple trees or their cousins, the black or red maple. Tennessee isn’t known for making maple syrup and is the southernmost part of the US range where sugar maples grow and that is cold enough in the winter.

This means that Margaret would have inserted taps into the maple trees just when the weather began to warm.

She would have hung buckets on the taps, allowing the maple sap to drain into the buckets for collection. Maples must be mature, at least 40 years of age, in order to produce sap, and can be tapped until they are about 100 years old. This means that these maples would have been original growth trees on Michael’s land.

The buckets of sap would have been taken home, probably by horse-drawn wagon, then boiled for hours to days in a “sugar shack,” or perhaps out in the open or under a lean-to, into maple syrup.

The Native people made maple syrup by making V shaped notches in trees and inserting reeds to drain the sap into “sugar buckets,” which is probably how the early settlers learned how to do the same.

Maple syrup and honey were the only ways to sweeten food. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup, or three buckets to a pint. Roughly four maple trees will yield enough sap for a gallon of syrup over the 6-8 weeks that the sap flows in the spring.

Maple syrup was a scarce and cherished commodity.

After gathering gallons of sap, it was brought back and boiled in large cauldrons over an open fire for days until it was thick. The sap had to boiled until it was “just right.” If you didn’t boil it long enough, it would be watery and spoil, and if you boiled it too long, it crystalized into sugar. If you boil it too rapidly, or too slowly, it affects the flavor and texture. If making maple syrup is beginning to sound like a form of food art, you’d be correct. Today, modern measurement equipment allows batches to be boiled accurately and consistently, but Margaret didn’t have any tools – just her own experience and what she was taught by her parents and probably Michael McDowell himself.

You can see a video of sugar-making today in Tennessee, here. It was much more difficult and labor intensive in Margaret’s day. No tractors or modern equipment.

Margaret’s Life with Anson Martin and Joseph Bolton

We know that between 1828 and 1845 when Anson died, they harvested wood and made rails for split-rail fences that would surround their homestead. Those fences would have functioned to keep animals inside, and perhaps to keep some animals out as well.

It’s interesting to note that in the 1850 agricultural census, Joseph Bolton (red underscore at top), who is still married to Mary Tankersley, only has 10 improved acres and 50 unimproved. He had one horse. Farmers worked the land and raised crops, both for food and to sell, by hand using rudimentary horse or oxen-drawn plows and such. The land on “Slating Misery” and that neighborhood earned its name. Farming that rock-strewn soil on those steep hillsides was anything but easy.

Margaret Herrell Martin (red underscore at bottom), a widow, on the other hand had 30 improved acres and 55 unimproved. It’s clear that she and Anson are not restricted to the two acres they purchased from Michael McDowell in 1833. Maybe that was the seed land for their farm.

By 1850, Margaret owned 3 horses, 3 milk cows, 3 other cattle, 4 pigs and 2 sheep – so clearly plenty of animals that needed to be confined within a fence or barn. We always think of the “poor” widow, but in this case, Margaret seems to be better off than her “soon-to-be” husband, Joseph Bolton.

However, after combining their assets and 16 children, they would have had 4 horses, 5 milk cows, 3 other cattle, 14 hogs and 17 sheep living on a total of 40 improved acres and 105 unimproved acres. I don’t know this, but I’d guess that the smaller of their two homes became the “starter home” for their children who were newlyweds. In fact, Margaret’s oldest child, Evaline, married Alexander Calvin Busic sometime in 1851 or early 1852, not long after her mother married Joseph Bolton. Evaline’s first child was born in December of 1852, just 15 months after her mother’s first child with Joseph Bolton.


And so it was on the land across the Powell River from Slanting Misery. The seasons came and went, the sugar ran and didn’t. Babies were born and many died. Families dug graves. Time for grief was short. Too much to do.

The fields were plowed and seeds sewn. Moonshine making followed the fall harvest and butchering season in a mountainous region far from the courthouse were lawlessness and white lightning became an art form.

The passes and valleys along the Powell River were and are steep and treacherous.

Powel River had to be forded, at least once if not twice to get to the McDowell and Herrell lands.

It was a LONG way down to that river. Margaret came from hardy stock who figured out how to make a life, and a living here.

Nobody bothered those tough-as-nails people up on 4 Mile Creek, at McDowell Shoals. Nosiree.

Mostly, they kept to themselves and married their neighbors. Deeds were passed hand to hand for generations.

Life was hardscrabble. People still live in some of those remade one-room cabins where entire families lived together. Children were raised, women wove fabric, made everyone’s clothes, cooked outside and washed in the river. During the all-too-often wars that took the men away, the womenfolk did it all, in addition to defending the homestead. Life was tough and people died young.

Those widows plowed fields, split firewood, and built rail fences, not to mention preparing the ingredients, cooking, making treats like maple syrup, and looking after children. And they did just fine on their own, thank you. I’d not advise poking around on their land or into their business. Just sayin’.

Margaret may not have been able to sign her name, or even know how to spell it, but she had many far more useful skills. Somehow, she managed to feed a passel of kids on just 30 acres of land for years, and maybe helped her neighbor, Joseph, to boot, when his wife was ill. Their decision to join forces and families was probably the best solution for everyone concerned. I’m certainly glad they did. Their youngest child is my great-grandfather, Joseph B. “Dode” Bolton who married the neighbor gal, Margaret Claxton, who lived in the next bend over on the Powell River.

Margaret Herrell Bolton was very clearly a force to be reckoned with. A pioneer woman in every sense and spirit of the word.


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Relatives at RootsTech – How to Use & Connect with DNA

Relatives at RootsTech is back and I’m so very glad to see it.

Let me show you how to use this wonderful tool, including tips for how to get even more out of the experience.

It’s important to start now to accumulate your cousins, because there’s a display limit of 300 in each category, so you’ll want to begin recording your findings so that as more people sign up and are added to your list, you don’t “lose” the earlier relatives.

Let’s start with my link. Click here.

You’ll be prompted to sign in to your FamilySearch account, or create one. If you don’t have an account, create one now.

Right now, the number of participants is doubling every few days.

Let’s take a look at how Relatives at RootsTech works and how it can benefit you.


At first glance, the surname tool doesn’t look terribly exciting, but there’s a hidden gem, especially for newer genealogists.

I entered my surname and one other, knowing there is probably no common locations other than the US. Kvochick is very rare and unique.

The results show two interesting things. First, the genesis of the surname, and second, the total number of people in the FamilySearch tree in both of the common locations for both surnames.

Be sure to try variant spellings too.

After you sign in, you’ll be asked to update your profile which is how you join in on the fun. If you signed up for Relatives at RootsTech last year, that doesn’t count for this year. You need to opt-in for this year’s festivities.

RootsTech Relatives

After you sign in, you’ll see how many of your relatives have joined.

Of the 60,461 total who have joined, according to the FamilySearch tree, I’m related to about 15% of them. That sure gives new perspective to how many people we’re related to. And just think if those brick walls didn’t exist. We’d be related to just about everyone. Far enough back, we’re all related, literally.

Your Relatives at RootsTech are displayed in three ways.

By location, ancestor or family line.

Relatives by Location

Your first view will be by all locations (including people who did not select a location,) but displayed in closest to most distant relationship order. For me, that’s the most interesting part.

These people, my closest relatives, are the people most likely to have critical pieces of information that I don’t have or know about. Like family stories, or photos, for example.

I know one of these people, but not the rest. I’m dying to know who they are and how we are related.

For me, the map itself isn’t terribly useful, but it would be if some members of your family were from distinct locations.

Not everyone opts in to have their location displayed. The “173” in the center is the people who generically selected United States.

Relatives by Family Line

The Family Line display shows you the number of people by parent or grandparent. Unfortunately, you can only view 300 of your matches in each line, which is disappointing.

However, there’s a better way to view your relatives.

Relatives by Ancestor

For me, the best way to view relatives is by ancestor. This also circumvents the 300 limit to some extent, unless you have more than 300 relatives for any one ancestor.

I have two relatives who also descend from Curtis Benjamin Lore. It’s Jen and Jill again, my closest relatives.

I’m quite interested in these people, because Curtis is my great-grandfather and he was a very interesting man. I know Jen and Jill are interested in genealogy too, or they would not have signed up for RootsTech Relatives, this year, in the past few days. This is not a stale list.

I’ll be messaging them as soon as I’m finished with this article!!!

Please note that FamilySearch does not label half-relationships accurately.

Jen and Jill are my HALF second cousins twice removed, which will affect the expected amount of shared DNA. Their ancestors, Edith and Maude were half-sisters through their father, not full sisters. One of the reasons I’m so interested in communicating with Jen and Jill is because I’m not at all sure that those half-sisters knew each other existed.

Maintaining Contact

For each relative found, you can view your relationship, message them, or add them to your contact list. Be aware – your contact list “saves” this person, but it does not tell you how you’re related. That’s where either a Word document, with screen shots of how you’re related, or a spreadsheet where you can detail that information is important.

If you have messaged people in the past, those messages are still in your message box in the upper right-hand corner.

I generally provide my email address when I message relatives.

Displaying the Relationship

If you click on the “Relationship” button, you’ll see how FamilySearch believes you’re related to each match.

My relationship with an Acadian cousin, beginning with our common ancestor, is shown above. Grab a screen shot so you can remember. I drop them into a spreadsheet or Word document.

These matches are based on FamilySearch’s one world type of tree. I don’t have to tell you to be cautious because, like any tree, there are erroneous connections. This connection, at least on my side (left hand,) seems to be accurate. I don’t have Jeanne Chebrat’s second marriage to Jehan Piorier in my file, so I’ll need to check that out. Many times FamilySearch, WikiTree, Ancestry, or MyHeritage has connected documents or sources. In this case, here’s the WikiTree entry for Jeanne.

See, I’ve found something interesting already.

Search for People

On the toolbar, if you click on the right arrow, you’ll notice there’s one more option – Search.

If you think one your cousins might be attending, either virtually or in person, you can search by surname. I entered Estes out of curiosity.

This is quite interesting, because some other poor soul is also named Roberta Estes. You KNOW I’ll be messaging her. I’m pretty sure I know who this is, because we’ve been getting mixed up for years. Unless, of course there are actually three of us interested in genealogy.

However, where this Search option really shines is if you’re looking for males who descend from a particular line as candidates for Y-DNA testing.


I suggest doing this name search for each surname in your tree.

The Share Button is Critically Important

Sharing is the key to encouraging people to participate.

This button on the main page is how I generated the link for you to use to see if we’re related.

There’s a “Share” button in several locations. However, you’ll want to be sure you know exactly what you’re sharing. In some cases, it will be the surname comparison information or other information that you’re viewing. 

However, on the bottom of your Relatives pages, Share will generate a message link to/through several programs or apps so people can sign in to see if they are related to you.

You can also just copy the link and send it to someone in a text message or otherwise.

If you generate a message to share, you’ll see what will be posted, so you’ll know for sure exactly what you’re sharing. I wanted to post the link for my friends on Facebook to see if we are related, and that’s exactly what was generated.

If you follow the link to see if we are related, be sure to tell me, or anyone else whose link you follow.

Next, Connect with DNA

Relatives for RootsTech is a wonderful segway into DNA testing.

Remember, with the 300-relative limit, different searches will produce different results including people that won’t be included due to the 300 limit in other searches. Be creative and search in multiple ways. Add your relatives to your spreadsheet or Word document, then record whether they’ve DNA tested, at which vendor(s) and if you match there.

There are various ways to utilize Relatives at RootsTech for DNA.

  • Y-DNA candidates for the direct paternal line for males – The Search by surname can provide you with Y-DNA testing candidates. They may already have tested their Y-DNA with FamilyTreeDNA or their autosomal DNA with at least one vendor, so just message them and ask. Tell them which databases you’re in. Viewing Relatives by Ancestor can be very useful for this same purpose, especially if you have multiple unrelated lines with the same surname.
  • Mitochondrial DNA – the Relatives by Ancestor tool is very useful for locating mitochondrial DNA testing candidates, especially since you can easily see how they are descended from your common ancestor. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from women through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female. Any of your cousins, of either sex, are candidates so long as they descend from your target ancestor through all females.
  • DNA Pedigree Chart – If you’re building your own DNA Pedigree Chart with the Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA of each ancestral line, consider offering a DNA testing scholarship to people who carry those lines that are missing in your DNA Pedigree Chart.
  • Testing Candidates – Anyone is a good candidate for autosomal testing. No second cousin or closer has ever not matched. Ask your cousins if they have tested and tell them which DNA databases you are in. Furthermore, suggest that they upload their DNA to FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage for free to utilize their tools and find matches that aren’t in the other databases. GEDmatch isn’t a testing company, but is another free database where you may find people who tested at Ancestry. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not provide segment information for matching or painting, so hopefully you’ll be able to find your Ancestry matches elsewhere.
  • Databases – Be sure you’re in all of the databases (Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GEDmatch) so you can be found and you can find your relatives.
  • DNAPainter – If you’re painting your segments at DNAPainter, you can paint your matching segments from 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or GEDmatch. Ancestry is the only vendor that does not provide matching segment information for their customers.
  • DNA Search – If your cousin has used their actual name when registering at FamilySearch, sort by ancestor, then search your DNA matches at the various vendors for that cousin’s name. The beauty of Relatives at RootsTech is that the relationship is already sorted by ancestor, so that piece of the puzzle has already been assembled for you, which is exactly the opposite of most DNA matches. Of course, this does not preclude errors or connections through multiple ancestors.

Limited Time – March 31 is the End

If I had a FamilySearch genie and could get one wish, it would be that they would leave Relatives for RootsTech up and available until the next RootsTech. I need time to work on these relationships.

However, that’s not the case, and Relatives for RootsTech ends on March 31st.

Therefore, it’s important to begin building your spreadsheet, or however you’re going to record your relatives, NOW. Check your list often so none of those precious matches will roll off of your list and become unavailable. Access to the complete relative match list, meaning no 300 limit would be my second wish from the FamilySearch genie.

To preserve the ability to communicate with your relatives, message them now or at least add them to your contact list – WITH A NOTE IN YOUR SPREADSHEET AS TO HOW YOU’RE RELATED. Otherwise, that information will not be available after March 31st.

You’ll want to use the same spreadsheet from year to year, as some of the relatives signing up this year probably did last year too.

Ready, Set, Relatives at RootsTech

Have fun. Be sure to let me know if we’re related and how!!!


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Genealogy Research

Michael McDowell (1747-1840): Children & Land Dispute Revealed in Chancery Suit 21 Years After His Death – 52 Ancestors #389

My wonderful cousin, Tom, found something that doesn’t relate to his family, but certainly relates to mine. Thank goodness he remembered that Michael McDowell is my ancestor.

Tom found this because John McDowell was married to Nancy Busick, a family he is researching.

This 1861 chancery suit in Hancock County, TN was related to land title and begins, here.

William Overton claims that he purchased 97 acres of land from William McDowell on March 20, 1846, but that McDowell did not have clear title to the land. Michael McDowell, the father of William McDowell had grants from the state of Tennessee for a portion of the land sold to Overton; specifically, a grant for 15 acres and one for 25 acres.

Three acres had previously been purchased of Michael McDowell and Overton says he paid Michael McDowell for those acres. That portion is not in dispute.

Overton claims that William McDowell never had title to the rest of the land that was previously owned by Michael McDowell, except as one of the heirs of Michael, his father. The suit complaint stated that Michael, who “died a good many years ago leaving a number of legitimate heirs so that William McDowell’s interest therein was only an undivided portion. He never had any conveyance from his father for the land.”

According to Overton’s court filing regarding the balance of the land, “William McDowell had once made an entry but never claimed the same out of the office and never procured the grant. Some time since William McDowell died, William Franklin McDowell is his executor and brought suit against complainant for the balance of the purchase price.” Overton had stopped paying the note to William McDowell because he didn’t have clear title. Thank goodness for title companies today.

Several depositions were included that indicate that this land had been in dispute for some time already and that the local court had failed to provide the hoped-for relief. Unfortunately, Hancock County’s records have burned, twice. It’s nothing short of amazing that the chancery records survived.

Here’s a transcription of the pages that Tom found, downloaded and sent along to me. This is not the entire suit.


In chancery at Sneedville. [Sneedville is the county seat of Hancock Count, TN.]

William D. Overton vs William F. McDowell

The deposition of John McDowell, a witness on behalf of respondent taken upon notice before me on the 17th day of August 1861 in presence of complainant and respondent’s agent.

The said John McDowell aged about 78 years being duly sworn deposes as follows.

Question 1 by respondent: Mr. McDowell please state how many children Michael McDowell had and also give the name of each child.

Answer: There was 8. Ned McDowell, Michael McDowell, John McDowell, Dolly Herrald, Lute McDowell, Nancy McDowell, William McDowell and Sally McDowell.

Question 2: State where Ned McDowell died and whether or not he left children and how many.

Answer: I think it has been about two years. He left some children but I don’t know how many. When he was out here last he had six children.

Question 3: State how long Michael McDowell Jr. has been dead, whether his children are dead or still living and whether his children left any descendants.

Answer: I can’t tell, but I think it has been 30 odd years and the last account I had from his children they were all dead, but don’t know that it is so. I don’t know whether his children left any descendants or not.

Question 4: Please state if you are the John McDowell you speak of as being one of the children of Michael McDowell Sr. and state your age.

Answer: I am and my age is about 78 years.

Question 5: State whether Dolly Herrold formerly Dolly McDowell is yet alive, how old she is, and state when her husband died. State when she was married to Mr. Harrell?

Answer: She is yet alive, she is about 75 or 6. I cannot tell when her husband died, but I supposed two years next October. The time of her marriage I can’t tell.

Question 6: State whether Lute McDowell is now dead and how long he has been dead, and state also whether he has left any children, giving the number, names and ages.

Answer: I understood he was dead but don’t know it to be true. He had children but I don’t know how many. They had a Syntha, William and John. The rest of their names I don’t know, nor none of their ages.

Question 7: State how long Nancy Bradford, formerly Nancy McDowell has been dead, when she was married to Bradford. State how many children she left and give the names and ages of each.

Answer: I cannot tell, she has been dead a good many years. Don’t recollect what time she was married. I know one of their children’s names, Michael. Don’t know the number nor their ages.

Question 8: State when Sally McDowell died and state whether she was ever married or had children.

Answer: I can’t say how long. She was never married nor had any children.

Question 9: State if the William McDowell mentioned in the pleading in this case as being the testator of William F. McDowell is the same person you speak of as being the son of Michael McDowell Sr. State when he died.

Answer: He is the son of Michael McDowell Sr. He died 3 or 4 years ago.

The depositions are hand-written by William McNiel.

The Survey

One additional item of interest in the chancery suit packet is the survey made in 1867 to sort this mess out.

Today, the aerial of this land looks like this.

The red pin is the McDowell family cemetery where many family members are buried, including John who testified in the deposition.

I cropped and rotated the survey so north is up.

The lands in dispute are the surveys that include the dotted lines. Michael owned more acreage than this during his lifetime, including most of the land in Slanting Misery. Son John obviously wound up owning the cemetery land.

Additionally, John had applied for his own grant in 1825 that included the tip of Slanting Misery adjacent his earlier grant.

Ironically, I have no idea of the outcome of this lawsuit. It was not contained in the packet, which is not unusual. For me, the important part was the historical information in the depositions.

How Does This Information Stack Up?

This was a bit surprising, because there are children of Michael listed that I didn’t know about, and also children who I was fairly certain existed, with names, that John doesn’t list.

I wrote about Michael here, here and here.

I wrote about his wife, Isabel, whose surname is unknown, here.

Let’s compare information.

John’s Deposition Information I Had (Incomplete)
Ned McDowell died circa 1859 – at least 6 children Edward McDowell 1773-1858 Pulaski Co., KY – 12 children
Michael McDowell Jr. died before 1830, children decd by 1861 Michael McDowell born before 1774 – 3 children
John McDowell – gave deposition John McDowell May 10, 1783 – Nov 17, 1877, 11 children
Dolly McDowell Herrald – born 1785/86 – living in 1861, husband died c 1859 Mary McDowell 1785-aft 1872 married William Harrell – 6 children
Lute McDowell – believe dead, had more than 3 children, remembers Syntha, William, John Luke McDowell 1791/2-1879 Dekalb Co., TN – 5 children
Nancy McDowell – deceased several years, multiple children but only one name recalled – Michael Nancy McDowell c 1795-1850/60 DeKalb Co., TN married Thomas Bradford – 8 children
William McDowell – died 1857-1858, at least one son William Franklin McDowell William McDowell 1795-1857/8 Hancock Co. TN – 1 known child
Sally McDowell – never married, no children
James McDowell – born circa 1779 – died circa 1831 Pulaski Co., KY
Nathan S. McDowell born 1797 – no known children
Elizabeth Caroline McDowell born 1789 married John Boyle in 1822 in Wilkes County, NC

I’m presuming here that Ned and Edward are the same person.

James McDowell is found in Wilkes County, NC, in 1801 and a James is found with Edward in Pulaski County, KY in 1820. The James who witnessed the deed in 1801 would have been born in 1779 or earlier. He may or may not have had any connection to Michael.

In 1820, that James is too old to be a son of Edward, so I have no idea who he is or how he connects. These may be two different men. It makes me wonder if perhaps Michael was raising other McDowell children, like maybe nephews. Clearly, John knew without question who his siblings were.

Michael McDowell granted a deed to “W” McDowell and “S” McDowell in 1833 “for love.” No one knew about Sally whose name was probably Sarah before this deposition, and since Nathan’s middle initial was S., it was widely accepted that the “S” who received the land was Nathan. This deposition has caused me to reevaluate that assumption, and at this point, I believe that the “S” was Sally and the “W” was William. Michael, who would have been 86 years old in 1833, was trying to take care of his children, and in particular, his daughter who had never married and would have been about 44 years old. Sally was apparently deceased by 1850 because she is not recorded in the census.

There is no other connection between Nathan and Michael, so it’s certainly possible that Nathan was a descendant of the “other” McDowell Family out of Virginia. He may have circumstantially wound up in Claiborne County.

There is also a John P. McDowell that is associated with Michael McDowell who was born about 1802. It’s unlikely that he belonged to Michael and Isabel, especially since we know that John McDowell is Michael’s son, but he could have been another nephew or a grandson.

I believe Elizabeth Caroline McDowell who married John Boyle in 1822 was simply misattributed as Michael’s child based on the Wilkes County connection. Michael McDowell was not living in Wilkes County in 1822, so it’s very unlikely that his daughter would be marrying there a dozen years after he left. It’s possible that Elizabeth Caroline is somehow connected to the James McDowell in Wilkes County.

Thanks to this deposition, we know which children were Michael’s and which were not.


I’m rather stunned that John gave an approximate age of 78, twice, and not an exact age. Did he not recall? I do realize that ages were much less specific in that time and place. Perhaps people didn’t celebrate birthdays within families. A few months earlier in April 1861, John gave his age as 71 and signed as to his age.

John’s not alone though, because I’ve seen people giving approximate ages for themselves, and, like John, different ages at different times in historical documents. Not much was written down back then. If they didn’t have a family Bible, or it burned, those dates were probably not recorded anyplace and they relied on the “best of their recollection.”

I’m even more surprised that John didn’t know if his siblings were deceased. This also means that my ancestor, Mary McDowell Harrell, whom John called Dolly, also wouldn’t have known for sure if her siblings were deceased. I had presumed that a letter would have been written when someone’s child, or sibling, died, and that everyone back home would have quickly shared the news when the letter arrived. This makes me wonder why that didn’t happen.

In a deposition for Mary McDowell Harrell in 1872, when he says that he is 90 years old, John stated that he was at her wedding in Wilkes County, NC. He gave an approximate marriage date for her of 1809 based on the fact that they left Wilkes County (for Claiborne) in 1810 and they were married about a year before that departure. He didn’t mention that in the 1861 deposition.

We do know that Ned, who was actually Edward, came back to visit according to John. That trip, from Pulaski Co., KY, would have been about 120 miles, so about a 6-day journey each way on horseback. He clearly wouldn’t have returned home often, and it’s unlikely that his family came along, especially given that his wife was not from the Claiborne/Hancock County region. A wagon trip would have taken even longer.

I’m surprised that John only knew the names of four of his nieces and nephews – one of Nancy’s sons who was named after Michael McDowell, and three of Lute’s children, whose name was actually Luke.

I’m guessing that John did know the names of Mary’s children because she and her husband William Harrell were neighbors to Michael McDowell and therefore to her brother John, and William McDowell’s land as well.

Unfortunately, John was not asked about William McDowell’s children. It was probably assumed that topic was taken care of since Overton had sued William’s son.

Based on the census and where John McDowell is buried, in the McDowell family cemetery on Michael’s land, it appears that John lived on at least part of Michael’s original land.

It’s ironic that we only have the name of one of William McDowell’s children, William Franklin McDowell, the man who was suing to collect the balance of the money for the land that his father, William, apparently sold but did not have title to.

Obviously, Mary McDowell’s nickname was Dolly, but never have I seen it recorded as such anyplace. Normally the nickname for Mary is Polly, but unless John was wrong or misunderstood, hers was Dolly. Clearly, in the intervening years since her death in 1859, her descendants living a hundred years later didn’t know her name. The last of her great-grandchildren’s generation was dying by the mid-1900s and many families had moved away. My grandmother died in Chicago in 1955.

I don’t think there was anyone who knew any stories about Mary/Dolly or her life, or even the names of ancestors three or four generations back in time. We found her through genealogical records, not oral or written history. I began doing genealogy in the 1970s and there was no one who knew anything about those people or generations that far back. Not even the nickname the family called her. Ironic that I’ve been calling her Mary as long as I’ve known about her, but her nickname, and the name she was called every day was very clearly Dolly. I can’t help but wonder if she’s breathing a sigh of relief someplace that we finally know her by her everyday familiar name. Or maybe she’s still frustrated because it was actually Polly.

The existence of Michael’s daughter, Sally McDowell was a surprise too. Before the age of detailed census records listing the names of every family member, the only hint as to the existence of a child who never married and never lived on their own would have been a mystery hash-mark entry in the 1790-1840 census for an unknown child, or perhaps a will. Michael had no will and while William McDowell was appointed as his estate administrator, no inventory was ever filed in court. Clearly something was very strange about Michael’s estate and the fact that the court failed to oversee the process. Perhaps this fell between the cracks when Hancock County separated from Claiborne, but that process didn’t begin for another couple years.

Sally is clearly gone by 1850 and I can’t locate her with any of her three local siblings in 1840, so she may well have been deceased by that point in time.

In the 1800 census, Michael McDowell has three daughters which accounts for all three female siblings that John named.

In the 1790 census, Michael has 4 males under 16, so born between 1774 and 1790. In 1800, he has only two boys under 10 who would not have been born in 1790. What happened to the rest of those boys on the 1790 census? We know from later records that at least 3 of 4 didn’t die. We know for sure that Edward, Michael and John were born in the 1780s. Luke and William were both born in the 1790s. That still leaves one missing son born in the 1780s, which we thought was James – but all of the boys born in the 1780s are missing in the 1790 census. No wonder genealogists are so chronically confused.

Additional Records

For those researching the John McDowell family, additional records can be found in the following references:

  • Coleman vs John McDowell – land 1888 & 1890

  • John McDowell – debt 1888

  • John McDowell vs G. B. Short et al 1878 and 1880, answer, order, estate
  • John McDowell vs Josiah Ramsay 1890 debt

  • Catherine Short vs John McDowell 1881, 1882, 1888 civil suit and land


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Preparing for Research at the FamilySearch Library

One of my readers asked about what type of research facilities are available in Salt Lake City (SLC). They are attending RootsTech for the first time.

I’m so glad they asked. This article will answer their question but is also a broader article about how I research specific lineages and locations. Please note that I’ll be including lots of links where you can find additional information.

The FamilySearch Library is extremely useful to genealogists, even if you can’t visit in person. This article isn’t just for in-person visitors, although that’s where I’m focused today. It’s really for everyone and will help you understand how to access the various types of research tools available, and where.

When in Salt Lake City, the Family History Library, now called the FamilySearch Library is THE place to go for research. It’s world-class and equivalent to Mecca for genealogists.

The FamilySearch Library is pictured above. Just a block away, with the red arrow, you’ll find the Salt Palace Convention Center where RootsTech is held. The large silver tower behind the red arrow is the brand-new Hyatt Hotel.

First, we’re going to discuss logistics, then how to prepare for utilizing resources at the library.

Family History Library Renamed FamilySearch Library

Just a few weeks ago, the Family History Library (FHL) rebranded itself as the FamilySearch Library, so you’ll hear both terms. Just know that by whatever name, this is the most comprehensive genealogy library in the US, as well as in the world.

The library is funded and sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Genealogy is a part of their religion, so whether you are of the LDS faith or not, the library is beneficial, welcoming and does not attempt to recruit non-LDS visitors to the LDS faith. The staff and volunteers there are super-friendly and helpful. I am not LDS and I love this library.

The library hosts special hours, here, during RootsTech week, staying open 12 hours per day.

You can see lots of pictures, here and a map to the library, here.

If you haven’t visited in the past couple of years, the library has taken the opportunity to remodel and upgrade during the Covid down-time. I really look forward to visting the new facility.


If you need help or direction, there are multiple ways to receive that, both virtually and in-person. Consultations are free and can be arranged, here.

On the library website, be sure to click on each of these helpful buttons to plan and get the most out of your visit.


Within the FamilySearch Library, there are different types of resources you can access, including traditional books and microfilmed records through their complimentary workstations. The library is divided into sections, and you’ll find an information desk when entering.

Here’s a layout and a site map with additional information.


Please note that while the library does have a breakroom where guests can eat, they don’t have food service. Many library patrons bring something in their bag and simply visit the breakroom quickly to eat. Peanut butter cheese crackers are a favorite of mine, along with protein bars. I refill a water bottle.

The closest restaurant is around the corner in the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel, and the next closest is the Blue Lemon.

However, most genealogists don’t want to pack everything up and then unpack after lunch, so they simply bring something to eat in the breakroom.

I strongly recommend a small rolling suitcase for your research, laptop, notebooks, pencils (I use mechanical pencils) and snacks. You’ll be carrying or pulling everything, all day long.

You may well leave with more than you arrived with, meaning copies.

Also, don’t neglect to bring phone charging cords (with electrical plug-in) in your library bag, along with a spare thumb drive or two. Voice of experience here. Your phone will double as your camera and prevent you from having to make copies. You can stand right at your table and photograph what you need.

Close to the RootsTech Conference

The FamilySearch Library is literally a block away from the Salt Palace Convention Center where RootsTech is held, directly across the street from the Marriott hotel. The Marriott has a Starbucks in the lobby.

The library is within easy walking distance and Salt Lake City keeps the sidewalks shoveled and clear of ice and snow, for the most part. Bring warm clothes that you can layer though, because it is the dead of winter.

There’s a coat check at RootsTech, but I don’t use it. I just wear a thin thermal-lined coat and stuff it in my rolling bag.

A word about parking. Don’t. I use Uber or Lyft. There is also public bus transportation from the airport. I’ve never used that. However, parking is very limited and if you’re going to drive or rent a car, you’ll probably want to park it at the Marriott, the conference center, or other paid parking and walk when you are downtown. Parking is quite expensive, especially given that you’re probably not going to use that car for days. Uber/Lyft is MUCH easier and if you need to Uber/Lyft to a restaurant downtown, it’s just a couple of dollars.

Most of us are so tired we just grab something quick at the end of the day and then just die in our beds. There are food vendors at RootsTech.

Research Prep

Ok, now that we have location and logistics out of the way, let’s talk about how to actually prepare to research.

Go to where you’ll be prompted to either sign in or create an account.

Click on images to enlarge

If you don’t have an account, create one. They are free and there are things you can’t see and do without an account.

Also, you can scroll down to view different kinds of assistance available, including at local Family History Centers and library affiliates across the world. However, this article is about preparing to research at the main FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City.

Having said that, I do suggest you take a look to see where your closest facility is located, because items in the FamilySearch catalog are available:

  • Online plus at the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City and in local Family History Centers
  • At the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City ONLY
  • At the local Family History Centers in addition to the library in Salt Lake City

When in Salt Lake City, you’ll want to focus your efforts on items that are available only at FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City. You can utilize online resources at your convenience, and you can visit your local Family History Center or affiliate library easier than visiting SLC. In my case, I don’t have a local center or affiliated library anyplace even remotely close, so I’ll be accessing everything in SLC. Some local Family History Centers have very limited hours or aren’t active anymore, so check before you assume you can access something locally.

Family Tree

The FamilySearch Family Tree is a collaborate effort. Some people love it, some don’t. I use it judiciously to see if someone has found a record for an ancestor that I have not and attached it to that ancestor’s profile. You can access this tree from home, so I’m not covering it in this article.


What you’re going to do is Search and make a list of items to reference when in Salt Lake City.

I prepare either a spreadsheet or Word document as I search.

Of course, experiment with each search category, including images.

For all county searches, you don’t type the word “county.” Just “Just Hancock, Tennessee” for Hancock County, Tennessee.

Book Search

In the Book search, you’ll generally want to enter one word, such as “Estes” or experiment with the Advanced Search Options.

Click images to enlarge

I was prompted to sign in before I could view this book. Because I can view it online, I’m not going to waste time viewing this book in SLC, but I might use it to prep, or view it later, so I’m adding it to my spreadsheet but not for SLC.

However, there will be books that you cannot view online.

This book is copyright restricted. You will be able to see some highlights, often including the index, but not the entire book. Click on the title to see additional information.

This book is physically located at the FamilySearch Library, so put it on your list for SLC using the:

  • Title
  • Author’s name
  • Title number
  • Call number

If you see a book that is ONLY available in off-site storage, contact the library before your visit to see if they can retrieve it for you. Be sure to record all call numbers on your spreadsheet. If you can’t find a call number, call the library.

Some locations of availability will be local Family History Centers, so be sure to read carefully. Additional books are available through the Catalog Search.

Catalog Search

My favorite search is the Catalog Search.

You can search in a wide variety of ways and combinations. Sometimes one search will pick something up that another won’t, so I use all of the searches.

In this case, I’m searching for items from Hancock County, TN. Sometimes I limit the search to “Online”, then search for “Any” because it’s easy to quickly tell if there is anything in a category that is not available online. For example, there are three items in the Cemeteries category, but only one item available online, I know to look in that category for two things that aren’t available online.

You can expand any of these categories to view the items listed.

By clicking on the title, you can easily see additional information.

The first book (series) is available in a number of ways.

The book volumes are available at the library in SLC, and also on microfiche at the library.

If these little film roll icons were the only availability, then YES, I would want to view these in SLC

The reel means microfilm only, and must be viewed in Salt Lake.

However, at the very bottom, the little camera tells you that some are available online with unrestricted images so long as you are signed into your FamilySearch account. This is why you need a FamilySearch account.

By unrestricted, I mean that you don’t have to be physically IN Sale Lake City to view the images.

This little magnifying glass icon means that the images are available, have been indexed and are searchable. Glory hallelujah.

So, if this is a group of marriage records, you can browse the records themselves, but if you search for a surname in record search with location, you’ll find people of that surname from these records.

Many records are not indexed or searchable, but some indexes have been filmed so you can cross-reference that way.

If you see the image of a camera with a key, that means that the image is ONLY available to view at either a Family History Center or affiliate, or the FamilySearch Library. Generally, that has to do with the license FamilySearch was able to obtain from the owning entity.

You can read more about the availability of catalog items here.

Additionally, sometimes notes are provided that direct you to other viewing opportunities.

Clearly, I don’t need to view this item in SLC.

You may see this note which means you should definitely put this item on your SLC list.

Here’s another article about research methodologies.

FamilySearch Wiki

Additionally, I use the FamilySearch Wiki often. I just type my desired search into Google. “Hancock County, Tennessee FamilySearch wiki”

The FamilySearch wiki not only tells you what’s available specifically for Hancock County, but other relevant record collections not at FamilySearch, and where you can access them.

Additionally, these pages explain about formation, boundary changes, record loss, cities, towns and villages within the county, and neighboring counties. The information is updated regularly, so check back from time to time.

Prep Summary

I find these pages and tools invaluable. I hope you do too and will find goldmines of information just waiting for you that will provide those missing pieces to your ancestor puzzles.

Preparing wisely is the key to getting the most out of your limited research time in Salt Lake City.

Have fun!!!


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Joel Cook (c1745 – after 1805); Sold Out and Disappeared into Thin Air – 52 Ancestors #388

Joel Cook was the father of Sarah Cook who was born about 1775. She married James Lee Clarkson in 1799 in Russell County, VA.

That was the easy part, or comparatively easy.

Joel, it turns out, is quite the mystery man.

Mysterious in that we don’t know where he came from, nor where he went. In fact, we only have about 10 years’ worth of information about Joel Cook, and beyond that, he simply dissolves into the mist.

I don’t like to publish ancestor articles until I have what I think is a “full story.” I’m making an exception with Joel Cook because I’m hoping that someone, someplace can help flesh out this story. There’s power in collaboration!

We are probably looking for Joel Cook’s family in Virginia. We know his daughter says she was born in Virginia in 1775, but Joel could have been anyplace before that. There are a lot of Cook men in North Carolina, and the name Clayton Cook, a man closely associated with Joel, is found there. It’s not the same Clayton Cook, but the name is distinctive. After 1805, we’re probably looking for Joel Cook in Kentucky.

However, nothing, but nothing, about Joel is certain. In fact, I think his middle name is “Uncertain.”

Joel’s First Appearance

Joel Cook first appears in the Russell County, Virginia records in 1795. He was clearly an adult in 1775 when his daughter was born, so he would have been living someplace in the 1790 census. But where?

Utilizing Binn’s Genealogy master list for the Virginia reconstructed 1790 census reveals no Joel Cook, nor a Clayton Cook who is often found with Joel. In 1850, Sarah reports that she was born in Virginia, so it makes sense to look in Virginia in 1790, although there’s nothing that precludes Joel from moving to North Carolina or elsewhere after Sarah’s birth and before arriving in Russell County.

There is a Joel Cook in Bertie County, NC in 1790, but no Clayton which is a pretty distinctive name. Joel does have 3 males under 16, so it’s possible that Clayton could fall in this family group. However, Joel in Bertie married Bellison Floyd in 1784 and continued living in North Carolina through 1805, which eliminates him as our Joel.

Early Russell County, Virginia

Russell County was on the wild, unsettled and dangerous side of the frontier line. A petition was submitted to form Russell County in 1785 by about 300 petitioners, but no Cook was yet living in Russell County at that time.

The petition of sundry inhabitants of Clinch River, Moccasin Creek, Powells Valley, and others, citizens of Washington County humbly represent that your petitioners are situated from the line of Montgomery as it crosses near the source of the Clinch River, down the same eight miles; thence to the extreme settlements of Powells Valley forty more.

The greatest portion of your petitioners have to travel from twenty five miles and some eighty or an hundred; moreover are generally interrupted by Clinch Mountain and the north branch of the Holstein River; the former affording very difficult passes; the latter much danger and difficulty in crossing it in spring and after considerable rains; continuous to its southern bank, a chain of hills almost as difficult as Clinch Mountain; so that great difficulty arises to your Petitioners not only in attending Courts, but Courts Martial. And from the extent of schism between our small settlements make it exceedingly difficult to arrange companies without subjecting some to travel 15 and 20 miles to private mustery. There are two difficulties in the militia law that principally affect your Petitioners. There are evils small indeed to the feelings we constantly undergo when obliged to leave our helpless families exposed at so very great distances to obey the laws of our country. And however evident the danger may appear to us will not certainly on our failure of duty plead our excuse. Circumstance alone is sufficient to claim the human respect of the Legislature to remove the grievance. We therefore pray your Honorable House will take our case into consideration and divide the county. We further pray a line may be fixed along Clinch Mountain to the Carolina line; or with the line at present dividing the county into two regiments to the aforesaid Carolina line; then with the said line to Cumberland Mountain including that existing county between Cumberland Mountain and Montgomery line and Clinch Mountain, or the aforesaid regimental line for the new county and southeast of the said Clinch Mountain remain Washington County; and we your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

Forts and Stations lined the Wilderness road through western Virginia to the Cumberland Gap.

The first mention of a Cook occurred in relation to the Indian incursions.

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, page 39.

From Draper Mss 2 DD 193, is a copy of the pension statement of William Barron, State of Tennessee, Washington County:…on this 23 January 18__, William Barron, aged 78 years…That while living in Montgomery Co., VA he was drafted as he believes in the fall of 17__ and entered the service under Sergeant John Brooley and served about one month. That he again enlisted or volunteered in the company commanded by Sergeant Alexander Neeley (Draper appends a handwritten note “perhaps Alexander Neely) under whom he served between two and three months in guarding the Lead Mines of Montgomery County. That he again enlisted under Lt. Frederick Edwards and served three months under Captain (John) Stevens (at Long Island). That after remaining at Long Island, a few days, an express came to Col. Preston (who was also at Long Island) from Rye Cove Fort on Clinch requesting assistance as the Indians had made some incursions in that quarter and killed a few of the inhabitants. That Captain Stevens Company marched to their assistance affiant being one of them. That after remaining a few days at the Rye Cove Fort intelligence was received that Mr. Cooke, who had been sent out as a spy, had been killed by the Indians that affiant with the balance of Stevens company spent a few days in scouring Powells Valley with the view of discovering the Indians, but failing in this, they buried Cooke and returned to the fort. (Data courtesy of Gordon Aronhim, Bristol, VA)

Who was that Cook man? Cook is not exactly an unusual surname, but neither is it Smith.

In the 1780s and 1790s, many deaths occurred as a result of white settlers settling on land claimed by the Indians.

The Musick Family

Joel Cook settled near the Musick Family, along Musick Spring Branch.

David Musick lived on a farm in the Big A Mountain section in 1792, near present-day Honaker, with his wife, Annie McKinney, and their four children.

His home had been once previously burned, which damaged his gun. On August 12, 1792, David’s sons were surprised by Indians when going for firewood, but made it back to the house. Unable to defend the homestead due to the warped gun, the Indians broke in, killed and scalped David, and kidnapped his wife and children. The Shawnee set out with their captives for the Ohio Valley, on foot.

Thirty miles and three nights later, a posse of settlers caught up with the party and rescued Mrs. Musick and the children, including the babe in arms.

The last Indian incursion in this part of Virginia occurred in April 1794 near Yokum Station in neighboring Lee County, but of course, the people didn’t know it was the last incursion at that time.

It was here, on the dangerous frontier, near the Musick home, that Joel Cook, for some reason long lost to time, chose to settle in 1795.

Joel’s Arrival

We learned about Joel Cook from his daughter, Sarah, in her War of 1812 application for pension and bounty land after her husband, James Claxton or Clarkson perished. James, born in 1775, died in 1815 during the War of 1812, but Sarah’s depositions that provided her father’s name and details of her marriage to James were filed in 1851, many years after James’s death.

Joel Cook was in Russell County by about 1795, although he may have arrived earlier. He was closely associated with Clayton Cook who is believed to be his son. Whether Clayton was his son or another family member, it’s clear that those two men were closely associated.

We believe that Clayton eventually went on to live in Kentucky near Salyersville in present-day Magoffin County.

Please note my “weasel words of uncertainty,” such as “believe.” There’s frustratingly little proven about these connections.

Joel’s Family

There is only one proven child of Joel Cook (the elder), daughter Sarah Cook, born about 1775, who married James Clarkson (Claxton) in 1799 in Russell County. From her 1851 widow’s pension application, we know when and where she was married, and who was present.

A second child is probably Clayton Cook who reportedly went to Floyd Co., KY about the same time Joel Sr. disappears from the records. Clayton eventually settled near Salyersville, Kentucky. Clayton and Joel could be brothers, father and son or some other relationship. It’s likely, given that they witnessed documents together that they were somehow related.

Based on the age of Sarah alone, Joel Sr. is believed to have been born before 1755, but he could have been born significantly earlier. Sarah was born about 1775, married in 1799 with her first child born in 1800. Men in Virginia during that time very rarely married before age 25 and more likely 30, so Joel was probably born in 1750 or earlier.

If Clayton is also Joel’s son, which is certainly feasible, he is on his own by 1794 or so, so probably age 25 or 30 by then, born 1764-1769, pushing his father’s birth to before 1745. I think this is a more likely scenario. One piece of conflicting information is that the Clayton Cook found in Kentucky wasn’t born until about 1777, which means that this Clayton, on his own in 1795 would have had to have been born before 1777. This is just one of about a million frustratingly conflicting tidbits.

Are these two different Clayton Cooks, or is the information incorrect?

We do know that Joel Cook Sr. was living in Russell Co. because Sarah was married at his house.

George Cook and John Cook, also found early in Russell Co., could be related, but we have nothing except their names on the tax list to potentially connect them to Joel Sr.

The 1794 Magoffin County, KY Settlement Attempt

It’s possible that Joel Cook attempted to settle in present-day Magoffin County, Kentucky in 1794. Several settlers from South Carolina, including Clayton Cook, were reported to have settled at Prater’s Fort, only to have been repelled by Indians. They returned in 1800, trying once again.

It’s uncertain if this is the same Clayton Cook as the Clayton Cook found in Russell County with Joel Cook. I have also seen no documentation that the Clayton Cook who attempted to settle in Kentucky in 1794 was actually from South Carolina. It’s possible that the other settlers were, but he was not.

Earliest Land and Court Records and Tax Lists

Lack of records is our biggest impediment in our search for Joel Cook, both in Virginia and Kentucky.

Please note that marriage, birth and death records don’t begin in Russell County until 1853, will and probate books do not exist before 1803 and tax lists are sporadic. Court and land records begin in 1786 and 1787, respectively. No census before 1810. I have created a timeline using all available records related to all early Cook records in Russell County.

  • In 1795, 18 acres to Joel Cook from the WPA book, assignee of Daniel Wilson, on Swords Creek.
  • Joel Cook, grantee, assignee of David Nelson, Russell Co., warrant 13687 issued Aug 3, 1782, 18 acres on the S side of Clinch River, surveyed July 1, 1795.
  • In 1796, Joel and Alexander Cook were on the tax list. Alexander Cook never appears again.
  • In 1797-1799, both Joel and Clayton Cook were on the tax list.
  • Page 156 – December 31, 1798 between Moses Damron, Jr. of Fleming Co., KY and John Tollet of Wythe Co…300 ac granted to John Bredon by patent dated December 17, 1792…on Clinch River…Beginning…corner to John Bredons settlement right…by the ford of the River…to the mouth of a gap of a ridge…through the gap…by Weavers Creek…Signed: Moses Damron & Sarah Damron. Witnesses: John Stinson, C. Holliday, Abraham Musick, Martin Honaker & Joel Cook
  • Court Notes 5 – June 25, 1799 – Henry Smith vs. Joel Cook, debt
  • Court Notes p.23 – Sept 24, 1799 – Joel Cook member of Jury Comm. vs. John Osborne
  • Court Notes p.26 – September 25, 1799 – Henry Smith vs. Joel Cook, debt dismissed
  • Court Notes p. 35 – November 26, 1799 – Walter Preston vs Jeremiah Patrick Jr, dept, Joel Cook undertakes for the defendant.
  • Court Notes p.36 – November 26, 1799 – Henry Smith vs. Joel Cook, debt, Jeremiah Patrick, Jr. undertakes for the def.
  • 346 – Joel Cook – March 25, 1799 – 100 ac – part Treasury Warrant 12364 – on the north side of the north fork of Clinch River – at the mouth of Musicks Spring Branch – corner John Wilson.

Note – I surely wish I could locate Musick’s Spring Branch, today.

  • 346 – March 25, 1799 – Joel Cook – 50 ac – part Treasury Warrant 2320 – on the south side of the Stone Mountain.
  • 1799 – Court Notes p. 436 Martin Honaker vs Clayton Cook, petition and summons, dismissed. There is a town named Honaker today.
  • 17 – January 25, 1800 – Henry Bowen – 500 ac – part of Treasury Warrant 2320 dated November 18, 1797 – on both sides of the north fork of Clinch River – on the bank of said fork in a line of Fowlers Orphans Tract – by the side of a path – corner to a 50 ac tract of Joel Cook – corner to Richard Colier
  • Court Notes p.50 – March 25, 1800 – Daniel Collins vs. Joel Cook, petition & summons
  • Court Notes p.51 – March 25, 1800 – Jeremiah Patrick, assignee vs. Clayton Cook, petition & summons
  • Court Notes p.62 – June 24, 1800 – Joel Cook member of Jury, Comm. vs. Benj. Harris
  • Court Notes p.63 – June 24, 1800 – Indenture between Moses Damron & Sarah to John Tallet “oath of Joel Cook
  • Page 148 – October 28, 1800 – between James Connard and Joel Cook…50 ac on the north side of the upper north fork of Clinch River…Beginning…in a Valley on the south side of the Stony Mountain…Signed: James Kinnard. No witnesses.
  • Page 149 – October 28, 1800 between James Kinnard and Solomon Ward for “…150 ac… on both sides of the north fork of Clinch River … Beginning on the north side of a Cedar Clift … to the mouth of a cove … to the top of the River Hill … at the mouth of a branch then crossing the river … at the foot of Kents Ridge then crossing the River …” Signed: James Kinnard & Molley Kinnard. Witnesses: Joel Cook, John Watson & Claton Cook.

Kent’s Ridge is the ridge running on the south side of the Clinch River but parallel to Stone Mountain.

  • Page 151 – October 28, 1800 between Joel Cook and Henry Smith…18 ac, part of a survey dated July 4, 1795..on the south side of Clinch River…Beginning…along the River Bend…Signed: Joel Cook. No witnesses.
  • Court Notes p.91 – October 28, 1800 – Indenture James Kinnard to Joel Cook
  • Court Notes p 91 – Indenture Joel Cook to Henry Smith
  • In 1801, Clayton, Joel and John Cook are all on the tax list.

  • A petition signed on December 17, 1801 includes the names of both Clayton and Joel Cook, adjacent, along with several of the neighboring landowners. The petition references the incursions of savages, then a road that has been opened in Russell and Lee Counties, except for 10 or 12 miles which the petitioners who live near the border with Kentucky request to be opened.
  • 36 – November 24, 1801 – Andrew Hebourn – 4300 ac – part of Treasury Warrant 1856 dated March 18, 1796 – on the north side of the north fork of Clinch River and on the east side of Swords Creek, including the Stone Mountain – corner to Joel Cook – corner to Henry Bowen – corner to another tract of Hebourn – corner to Patrick Kindrick – corner to a tract of land granted to Josiah Fugate – corner to Fugate & Harry Smith – corner to Jesse Evans – corner to Evans and Richard Smith surveys #1 & 5 of 10,000 ac – corner to Richard Smiths survey of 7223 3/4 ac – corner to Jeremiah Patrick – corner to Harris Wilson – corner to Jeremiah Patrick, Jr. – corner to Patrick Kindrick, Jr. – corner to John Wilson – corner to Wilson & Joel Cookopposite the mouth of a branch in a survey made for Elexious Musick – in a valley.

Please note that while I found the transcribed surveys, I would love to locate the actual drawn surveys which would allow me to pinpoint this land much more accurately. Assistance is welcome.

  • Elexious Musick (1788-1874) was the son of David Musick who died in the massacre. He is buried in the Musick Cemetery, just above Fullers. An earlier Elexious Musick (1718-1798), born in Spotsylvania County, VA died in 1798 in Russell County and was a member of the same Musick family.
  • Joel Cook, grantee, Dec. 11, 1801 – warrant 2320, issued Nov. 18, 1797 – Russell Co. – 50 acres on the S side of the ____ Stones Mountain adjoining his own land (note – see also Cooke it says)
  • Joel Cook, grantee, Dec. 12, 1801 – warrant 12364 May 18, 1782, Russell Co., 100 acres on the N side of the N fork of Clinch River beginning at the mouth of Musick’s Spring Branch.
  • Page 573 – April 6, 1802 – between Solomon Ward & Susannah and William McCormack for “… 150 ac on the north fork of Clinch River … Beginning … at the mouth of a cave … crossing said branch joining James Kinnard & John Wilson … to the mouth of the branch … to Abednego Whites line …” Signed: Solomon Ward & Susanna Ward. Witnesses: George Kindrick, Clayton Cook, Joel Cook.
  • Page 342 – October 26, 1802 between James Connard and Joel Cook…on the waters of the north fork of Clinch River…50 ac…adjoining the tract of land of Connard…Beginning in the road and crossing the road…Signed: James Cannard & Mary Cannard. No witnesses.
  • Court Notes p. 227 – October 26, 1802 – Two indentures from James Canard and Mary, 1 to James Nesbet and 1 to Joel Cook, recorded.
  • Court Notes p. 227 – October 26, 1802 – Indenture from Solomon Ward & Susanna to William McCormick, oath of Joel Cook, continued for further proof.
  • Court Notes p. 229 – October 26, 1802 – George Cook exempted from paying levies & poor rates on account of age & infirmities.

This means George was probably over age 45 and could have been over age 55 or 60. If George was 45, he was born in 1757ish. He was probably more likely born before 1750. The other possibility is that he was disabled, referenced as “infirm.” Of course, we don’t know if he’s connected to Joel.

  • 1802 – Joel Cook, Clayton Cook, George Cook, and John Cook on tax list. This is the first mention of John Cook.
  • 1803 – Joel Cook, Clayton Cook, John Cook, James Cook on tax list. I never find James again.
  • 1803 – 3 Nov., Thomas Cook of Russell Co VA sold 150 ac of land to Thomas Stanley of Iredell co NC originally granted to Henry Cook.
  • Page 450 – March 6, 1803 between Harris Wilson and Richard Wilson…on the waters of the north fork of Clinch River…100 ac, part of a survey of 350 ac granted by patent dated September 23, 1789…Beginning…crossing a branch above Nathaniel Barnetts improvement…a conditional line between Richard & John Wilson…Signed: Harris Wilson. Witnesses: Andrew Shorbridge, C. Holliday, Joel Cook
  • Page 452 – March 6, 1803 between Harris Willson and John Willson…, part of a survey of 350 ac granted to Harris Willson by patent dated September 23, 1789 on the waters of the north fork of Clinch River…100 ac…Beginning at the foot of the Stony Mountain…Signed: Harris Willson. Witnesses: C. Holliday, Joel Cook, Andrew Shortridge
  • Court Notes p.260 – July 26, 1803 – Joel Cook, surveyor of road in place of Harry Smith.
  • Court Notes p. 262 – August 23, 1803 – Indenture from Harris Wilson by oath of Joel Cook.
  • 1803 – Patrick Kindrick will September 10, 1803, beneficiaries children William, Jane Lock, Frances Ritchie, Patrick, Rachel Johnson, George; others, Molly Horton, Isabel Horton; executors, none named but George Kendrick appointed by the court; witnesses Harry Smith, Travis Kendall, Joel Cook, probated June 4, 1805, page 87
  • 1804 – Thomas Cook, Clayton Cook, Joel Cook, and John Cook on tax list. Thomas Cook is never mentioned again.
  • Court Notes p.332 – August 28, 1804 – 2 Indentures, Joel Cook & Aley to Abednego White
  • Court Notes p.332 – August 28, 1804 – Indenture from Sol. Ward & Susanna to Wm. McCormick, oath of Clayton Cook
  • Page 571 – August 28, 1804 – between Joel Cook & Elisy and Abednego White…on the south side of the Stone Mountain…50 ac by survey dated March 25, 1799…Beginning corner to said Cook…near a spring…to the top of the Brushy Ridge…Signed: Joel Cook & Ailey Cook. No witnesses.
  • Page 572 – August 28, 1804 between Joel Cook and Abednego White…on the waters of the north fork of Clinch River…50 ac….Beginning on the top of the Brushy Ridge…on the south side of the Stony Mountain…crossing the valley…Signed: Joel Cook & Ailey Cook. No witnesses.
  • Court Notes p. 349 – October 23, 1804 – Court expenses, Clayton Cook for killing one old wolf
  • In 1805 Joel Cook witnessed a will for Patrick Kerchick or Kerchill.
  • Page 626 – July 29, 1805 – between Joel Cook & Alice and James Canard…100 ac on the north side of the north fork of Clinch River…Beginning at the mouth of Musicks Spring branch…corner of John Wilsons tract of land…Signed: Joel Cook & Alice Cook. No witnesses
  • Page 627 – August 6, 1805 between Joel Cook & Alice and Abednego White…on the north side of the north fork of Clinch River…50 ac…Beginning corner of John Youngs tract by the side of the road…near the mouth of a wet-weather spring …Signed: Joel Cook & Alse Cook. No witnesses
  • Court Notes – August 6, 1805 – Two Indentures from Joel Cook and Alice, 1 to James Cannard and 1 to Abednigo White, recorded

Joel Cook has sold the last of his land by August 1805. He had probably moved on at this point.

However, in 1809, we find Joel and John on the tax list once again. This is believed to be the younger Joel, possibly either a son of the older Joel or the son of John Cook.

  • 1809-1811 – Joel and John Cook on tax list
  • 1812 – Joel Cook on tax list and sporadically through 1820
  • 1812 – James Cook placed under good behavior bond
  • 92 – August 19, 1816 – James Taylor – 330 ac – part Treasury Warrant 11962 dated May 10, 1782 – on both sides of the north fork of Clinch River – corner to a big survey of Andrew Hebourn – corner to John Wilson – corner to Hebourn, James Madison & Harris Wilson – on the west side of a gap – corner to Joel Cook – at the mouth of Musicks spring branch – corner to Abednego White – corner to Henry Bowen.

This is clearly the description of Joel Cook’s original land and involved James Taylor who witnessed the marriage of Sarah Cook. This description does not mean that Joel still lived on this land.

Joel’s Land

The Virginia Archives includes a 1937 record for Joel Cook’s land in their Historical Inventory Project. Apparently, his land included an old Indian campground on the Clinch River where spears and other relics emerged and were plowed up for decades. In 1937, it was owned by Sam Hale.

The challenge is that the road directions are given with some road numbers that have been replaced over time.

On this old map that shows the county road numbers, I was able to confirm the location. Virginia Route 82 is now 67.

How Much Land Did Joel Own?

According to the various land records, Joel owned either 250 or 300 acres. One entry may have been recorded twice as it appears to be very similar. We are very fortunate because these descriptions of Joel’s land that include his neighbors allow us to place his land relatively accurately.

Based on the 1937 historical information, there are only two locations where you can turn left and drive along the Clinch River.

The first is Gardner Road, in green, and the second is Kent Ridge Road, in red which is on the south side of the river, as described in the original land grant and survey.

There are only two locations where there is a valley on the south side of Stone Mountain and a road where Joel could own land on both sides of Clinch River. We also know this is on the east side of Sword’s Creek, which narrows the site to the land with the red arrows.

Stone Mountain is directly north of the red arrows, and east of Swords Creek Road.

It would help immensely if we knew the names of the small creeks to locate Musick’s Spring Branch, but we don’t. Those small branches aren’t labeled, at least not that I can find today.

The most likely location for Joel’s land is at the intersection of Clark’s Valley Road just east of Swords Creek Road for maybe 1000 feet. It’s the only location where the Clinch River is close enough to the road to fulfill the various location criteria, although given that Joel owned at least four pieces of land, he could have owned land in both the green and red locations.

Since Joel Cook had more than one land grant, we can use the locations described in his other grants to assist our search.

TopoZone shows Stone Mountain and the Clinch River, right at the intersection of Sword’s Creek Road.

Based on the descriptions of Joel’s land, we find:

  • Swords Creek
  • North side of the north fork of Clinch River at Musick’s Spring Branch
  • South side of Stone Mountain
  • North side of the upper north fork of Clinch River…Beginning…in a Valley on the south side of the Stony Mountain
  • South side of Clinch River…Beginning…along the River Bend
  • North side of the north fork of Clinch River and on the east side of Swords Creek, including the Stone Mountain – corner to Joel Cook
  • South side of Stone Mountain joining his own land
  • N side of the N fork of Clinch River beginning at the mouth of Musick’s Spring Branch
  • Waters of the north fork of Clinch River…50 ac…adjoining the tract of land of Connard…Beginning in the road and crossing the road
  • south side of the Stone Mountain…50 ac by survey dated March 25, 1799…Beginning corner to said Cook…near a spring…to the top of the Brushy Ridge
  • North side of north fork of Clinch, beginning at mouth of Musick’s Spring Branch
  • North fork of Clinch River…50 ac….Beginning on the top of the Brushy Ridge…on the south side of the Stony Mountain…crossing the valley
  • North side of the north fork of Clinch River…50 ac…Beginning corner of John Youngs tract by the side of the road…near the mouth of a wet-weather spring
  • On the west side of a gap – corner to Joel Cook – at the mouth of Musicks spring branch

Above and below, the intersection of Swords Creek and Clarks Valley Road. This appears to be the only location that includes both a road in the valley, and the Clinch River, that’s east of Sword’s Creek and at the base of Stone Mountain. Kent’s Ridge is also mentioned, and Kent’s Ridge Road is shown on the south side of the Clinch River. This section of road is about 1500 feet west to east, or about one third of a mile. Joel owned significantly more than this, but very likely included this land along the road to the river.

The intersection of Swords Creek Road and Clarks Valley Road is shown above. Joel Cook’s land is found here, but I don’t know the exact location. Based on our several hints, I suspect that Joel’s land is just to the right (east) of that intersection. Gardner Road is just to the left of that mining operation.

The Russell County, VA Surveyor’s Books are available at a Family History Center or Library, so I’ve added these surveys to my research list for February.

Today, the railroad runs along the Clinch river between the road and the river.

Using Google Street View, I “drove” down Clark’s Valley Road heading east from the intersection with Swords Creek.

Clarks Valley road looking at Stone Mountain. Joel’s land was strikingly beautiful and is still very remote and unspoiled today.

Visiting Joel

I visited Russell County in 2009 and located the portion I believe to be Joel’s land on the Clinch River, near Sword’s Creek, according to the various deeds.

In this region, you can’t traverse the smaller roads using Google Street View, which is most of what’s there, so I’m very glad I visited in person.

These pictures that follow may or may not be Joel’s exact land, but it’s close.

The Clinch River area in Russell County is still quite rugged. Much of the mountain area is used for mining today.

It’s interesting that there was a swinging bridge crossing the Clinch on Joel’s land. I have to wonder if this was the location.

Moving On – Someplace

 In 1805, Joel Cook sold his land and moved on, someplace. That million-dollar question is where?

Joel Cook, Cla(y)ton Cook and James Claxton (Clarkson) are found throughout the first part of the Russell County, VA court book in a normal way, meaning the swearing of signing of deeds, witnessing for people, road work, etc.  However, the last entries we find for Joel are in 1805 when he sells his land and after that, there is nothing for Joel. At least not for this Joel.

Clayton Cook, if this is the same Clayton, was supposed to have returned to Magoffin County, KY (then Floyd Co.) again in 1800. However, we find Clayton in Russell County in 1801, 1802, 1803, and 1804. The records could be “off,” or it could be two separate Clayton Cooks. If it’s two Claytons, then were did the Russell County Clayton, and a few months later, Joel, go?

It’s worth mentioning that there is a Clayton Cook in Granville County, NC in 1800, age 26-44, but he appears to have stayed in North Carolina during and after this time.

It’s difficult to know whether this Russell County Clayton Cook is the same Clayton who was reportedly in Magoffin County, KY. The Original Clayton Cook who supposedly attempted to settle in 1794 before Indians pushed the party of settlers back was reportedly from South Carolina. There’s no documentation for the SC location that I’m aware of.

I do know that according to the Cook DNA project there is a Cook line from Anson County, NC that descends from a Clayton Cook born around 1720 in VA, and a separate Cook line from Russell County, VA.

The line for John Cook born in 1804 in Russell Co., VA does not match the above line.

These are very clearly not the same family lines.

I searched my Family Finder matches for Cook males fitting the description of any of these people, with no luck.

We first find Joel Cook on the Russell County tax lists in 1796, which would make sense because his land was surveyed in 1795 and he probably moved onto it at that time. Clayton Cook is on the same list in 1797, so likely has a home of his own and one could surmise is at least 21, so born about 1776ish or earlier.

In 1802 we find a Joel, Clayton, George and John Cook on the tax list, although I don’t know if they are in the same district or not. Unfortunately, the tax lists are woefully incomplete for this timeframe. Note the John born in 1804 was probably the son of John Cook, by process of elimination based on what we know about the other Russell County Cook men. George Cook was elderly, Joel was in his 50s or 60s too, Clayton was young but moved on and would not have left an infant son. That only leaves John as a candidate to be the father of the John born in 1804.

In 1799 (with 2 polls meaning he paid tax on 2 men) we find a William Hullum. The Hullum, Hellom, family is somehow connected to Sarah Cook as she is the estate executor in 1820 in Claiborne County, TN for a William Hellom. Living with her in the 1850 census, John Hellom, a 70 old man, just five years younger than Sarah, is labeled as an idiot.

In 1810 in Russell County, VA we find George, Joel and John Cook, plus William Hullum. This is probably the younger Joel, not Joel Sr.

Joel Cook, Sr. began selling his land in 1801, sold the last of it in August 1805 and disappeared from the records. He had to live someplace and earn a living somehow. Clayton Cook was last found in Russell County in October 1804.

I couldn’t keep the various Joel Cook’s straight, so I created a table and numbered the Joels. Documentation is provided below, followed by the table.

Joel Cook the Elder (#1)

Joel the elder, father of Sarah Cook, had to be born prior to 1755, probably in VA Sarah was born in VA in 1775, which tells us that’s where Joel was in 1775 too, someplace.

If Clayton Cook was born about 1767, and if Joel is indeed his father as well, then Joel the elder was likely born before 1742. Joel the elder disappears from Russell Co. VA in 1805, when he would have been about 60 years old, and we do not find him again.

However, there are some Joel Cooks. Are any of these men possibly the Joel Cook who left Russell County in 1805 or his descendants?

Joel’s Birth

Before we go searching for Joel, what do we actually know unquestionably about his age and birth year?

We know that by 1795, he was living in Russell County and transacting business for land. However, he had been living elsewhere, because his daughter, Sarah, was born in 1774 or 1775.

The youngest Joel could have been was to have been born 21 years or so before his daughter, if she was his eldest child.

In that case, Joel would have been born no later than 1754, and much more likely before 1750, assuming Sarah was his eldest.

If Sarah was his youngest child by his first wife, Joel might have been born as early as 1730.

For purposes of this search, we are looking for a man born in 1754 or earlier.

Let’s start with Russell County, VA, itself.

Russell County Census

By 1820, the older Joel is not found in Russell County. I suspect the entire family moved in 1805 or so, Clayton Cook to Kentucky, James Lee Clarkson and his wife Sarah Cook to Claiborne County, TN.In the War of 1812, a young Henry Cook died, a drummer and fifer, typically a boy between 12 and 15, died in the unit along with Sarah’s husband.

In 1817, the Claiborne Co., TN court shows the State vs Henry Cook alias Hulins. He pled guilty. The word “alias” was often used in early court records to denote a man who was born outside of wedlock. His legal name could have been his mother’s surname, but if he was using his father’s surname without his father legally recognizing him in court, the word “alias” would have been used. The Cook and Helloms family were somehow connected.

In the 1820 census in Russell County, we show:

  • Joel aged 26-45 so born 1775-1794. He has 1 young son, 1 young daughter and possibly an older daughter. This is possibly the son of Joel Sr. or perhaps John Cook. There is no will or estate for Joel Sr. or Jr. that I have been able to find.

This younger Joel Cook found in Russell County after the elder Joel sells his land and leaves is Joel Cook #2.

In 1830, the Russell County census shows quite a few Cook families. But where were they in 1820?

Henry and Jacob are side by side

  • Henry – 20002 10001 (he is age 20-30)
  • Jacob – 00201 age 20-30 and one female 50-60
  • Elizabeth – 0011 0010001 (Elizabeth appears to be 40-50)
  • Joel – 0110001 10111 (he is age 40-50 so born 1780-1790 – so clearly not the father of Sarah)
  • John – Male 20-30 and female 15-20

In 1840 we find:

  • Henry
  • Shelton
  • Anderson
  • Jacob
  • Solomon

By 1850 there is:

  • Anderson Cook age 32 farmer born Russell Co wife Priscilla 28
  • Jacob Cook 42 (born 1808) born in Russell Co.
  • Henry Cook (Polly 45) age 42 (born 1808) farmer born in Russell Co. Va.
  • James Cook (Polly 24) age 24 farmer born Russell Co.
  • John Cook (Hannah 38) age 46 (born 1804) farmer born in Russell Co. (have child Sarah age 6.5)

The only men living in Russell County in the 1808 timeframe that were of child-bearing age were John who appears on the tax list in 1801, and Joel #2 who appears on the 1809 tax list.

In 1860 we find:

  • Joseph 26
  • William 31
  • Henry 32
  • Polly Hannah 56

In 1880 Jacob Cook born in 1808 says his parents were born in VA and W. VA.

The Younger Joel Cook (#2) in Russell County, VA

Joel Cook #2, is the Joel Cook found in Russell Co. in the 1820 census (age 26 to 45) and the 1830 census (age 40-50). He appears to have been born between 1780 and 1790 and is probably the man who married Elizabeth Ring. He is not on the 1826 and later tax lists but is on the 1830 census. All other Cooks are gone or were missed in 1820. In 1830 Joel appears to have either a younger wife (20-30) or possibly a second wife or older daughter. He is on the 1831 tax list, but not on the 1840 census. This family is found in Dickensonville district which is about 28 miles southwest of Sword’s Creek where our Joel Cook lived.

In 1848 a Joel Cook is indicted for assault with Jesse Cook. He has probably the same 4 counts recorded in 1849 and 1850 as well. He is not on the census in Russell Co in 1850. Is this one or two different Joel Cooks? What happened to him, who was his father, and where did he go?

Joel Cook (#2) and Elizabeth Ring – The younger Joel Cook in Russell County married Elizabeth Ring sometime before 1823, the date of Elizabeth’s father’s will. By 1820, they had two children.

A researcher shows a son Joel, with no further information, and one researcher shows a daughter Rachel who is born in 1823, married in 1838 in Carter Co., KY to Andrew Stuart, and who subsequently had children and died in Carter County. This may imply that is where Joel Cook and Elizabeth Ring also settled, given that their daughter married there in 1838. If this is the Joel Cook who died in Carter County in 1854, his father’s name was George Cook.

Given the lack of and spotty documentation, perhaps this would be a good place to start. The Joel Cook who married Elizabeth Ring could well be the Joel with a second wife and family living in Carter County in 1850. He could also be the Joel who was living in Russell Co in 1820 and 1830.

Russell County Virginia Law Order Book No. 7 page 47 March 6, 1823 – It is ordered to be certified to the War Department of the United States that it is satisfactory proven to this court that Rachel Ring is the widow and relict of Stephen Ring deceased late a private in the Army of the United States, that she resides in this county and is unmarried.

Russell County Law Order Bk. 7, pg 47 on 6 Mar 1823 Rachel Ring proven widow of Stephen Ring, “Elizabeth … who hath intermarried with Joel Cook” proven as daughter of Stephen Ring.

Russell County Virginia Law Order Book No. 7 page 233 November 2, 1824

“It is satisfactorily proven to this court by the testimony of Andr. Caldwell and Stephen Gose, Junr. two credible witnesses that Elizabeth Cook who hath intermarried with Joel Cook, Thomas Ring, Delilah Keith who intermarried with William Keith, Jesse Ring, Lavina Ring, Mahala Barty who intermarried with Jesse Barty and Nancy Ring are the sons and daughters and all the sons and daughters and heirs at law of Stephen Ring late a private and who died in the Army of the United States in the late war with Great Britain.”

We find a Joel Cook in Carter County on the 1839 tax list, so some Joel Cook is there by then. What we don’t know for sure is if he’s the same Joel Cook that married Elizabeth Ring.

Where is Joel Cook Sr.?

The 1810 Russell County, VA census is lost, but Joel Sr. sold his land in 1805 so probably isn’t there in 1810 anyway.

The 1820 census shows us these possibilities for Joel Cook Sr, assuming he is still living at that time.

  • Sumner Co. Tn – Joel Cook 1 male 16-26, 1 26-45 (born 1775 or earler), 1 over 45, 1 female under 10, 2 10-16, 1 over 45, 3 people engaged in agriculture. This Joel is later eliminated because this man came from Bertie County, NC and was living there when our Joel’s daughter, Sarah, was born in Virginia in 1775. This Joel married Bellison Floyd on March 26, 1784 in Bertie County, then married again in Bertie County on May 9, 1797 to Patience Brassell during the time when Joel the Elder was living in Russell County. The Joel in Sumner County did have a daughter, Sarah, but she wasn’t born until 1808.
  • Isle of Wight Co., VA – this Joel is age 26 to 45 in 1820 and 40-50 in 1830 so too young. Isle of Wight proved to be a red herring and this Joel is not a candidate.
  • Union, Ross Co., Ohio 1 male 10-16, 1 male over 45, 1 female 16-26, 1 female over 45 and 1 person engaged in agriculture.

This person is enumerated beside Isaac Cook, age 45 and up, with 2 males 10-16, 1 16-18, 3 females under 10, one 10-16, 1 26-45. If Joel is Isaac’s father, and we don’t know that he is, then Joel has to be 65 or older, so born 1765 or earlier. The name Isaac has not been seen before in this family.

The History of Ross County, Ohio states that Isaac Cook is a descendant of Henry Cook who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts. No Joel is mentioned, but a son, Joe is. I believe this family can be eliminated as our Joel.

  • Owingsville, Bath Co., KY – Joel Cook, age 45 or older (so born before 1775) with 2 males under 10, 1 female under 10, 1 female 10-16, 1 female 26-45 – This is probably not our elder Joel unless he remarried to a younger wife, which is not unheard of. This is not the younger Joel Cook from Russell County because he’s listed in the Russell County census in 1820.

The 1830 census shows us the following for older Joel’s:

  • Morgan Co. KY – Joel age 60-70 (1760-1770) with a younger woman, 30-40, probably a daughter or daughter in law, with younger children, 2 males under 5, 1 10-15, 2 females 5-10 and 2 15-50. This is probably Joel Cook #3.
  • Gasconade Co. Missouri – Joel B. Cook age 60-70 (born 1760-1770), wife same age, also a couple age 30-40 and younger children. This man is 70-80 in 1840 but dead by 1850. Our Joel never goes by Joel B., and a later man, probably his son, Joel Burton Cook was born in New Jersey. I am eliminating this man from consideration.
  • Cook – Bath Co., KY listed twice, once with David Young and once with Jonathan Burns – not old enough. Is this the younger Joel?

None of these man can be Joel the elder, and this analysis has eliminated all Joels except the Bath and Morgan County, KY men for Joel #2 and Joel #3, Joels appearing in the next generation.

More (and More) Joels

The two volume “Pioneer Families of Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky” focuses on early adventurers and explorers, pioneers in the region that originally included the counties of Floyd (1799), Knox (1799), Greenup (1803) and Clay (1806), as formed by the General Assembly of Kentucky. Many of the early Russell County, VA families are also found in these early Kentucky counties, including the Honaker family. The crossroads town in Russell County closest to Joel’s land is named Honaker. Joel Cook is mentioned several times.

Clayton Cook is found among the 550 families on the tax list in 1810, but no other Cook family is listed.

Joel Cook #3 is the Joel who died in Carter Co., KY in 1854. He was born in 1767 in Virginia, and may be the son of the George Cook who was indeed elderly (or infirm, or both) in about 1800 in Russell County, VA. There are so many questions.

  • Is this the Joel who was the ordained minister in 1817 in Floyd Co., Kentucky?
  • Is that the same Joel in Bath County in 1820 over age 45 (so born before 1775)? Morgan County was established in 1822 from Floyd and Bath. If so, he is not the younger Joel in Russell County, who is there in both 1820 and 1830.
  • Is he the Joel who is in Morgan County in 1830 age 60-70 (born 1770-1780) with a younger wife (or older daughter,) age 30-40 and either her children from a former marriage or a blended family with new children of his own? The older kids listed in the 1820 census would be gone by 1830.
  • Joel Cook, the minister is mentioned in the Pioneer Families book several times. Is this the Joel who died in 1854 in Carter Co. KY?

The 1854 death certificate of Joel Cook is the source for the following: Cook, Joel (born about 1767) aged 87; d. Aug. 3, 1854; born in Virginia; died in Carter Co., Kentucky. Parent: Father: George Cook. In Russell County, George Cook was exempted from paying levies & poor rates on account of age & infirmities.

Prior to his death, some Joel Cook appeared in the 1820 census (Bath Co.), the 1830 census (Morgan Co.) and the 1850 census (Carter Co.).

By 1839 a Joel is on the tax list of Carter County. Carter was formed in 1838 from Greenup and Lawrence Counties.

In 1850, Joel Cook in Carter Co. is age 83 and born in VA which puts his birth in 1767. He dies in 1854 and his death certificate say his father is George. This Joel Cook was married to Euda Patrick, daughter of Jeremiah Patrick who once lived in Russell VA. Jeremiah’s will was probated in January 1824 in Bath KY. Joel Cook is listed in 1820 in Bath Co., KY census, and Morgan Co., KY in 1830. A portion of Bath in 1820 abutted what would become Morgan, and eventually Carter. This is probably the Joel in Bath County in 1820, but that means he’s not the Joel that married Elizabeth Ring and was living in Russell County in 1820.

By 1850, it’s very clear that our Joel #1 would have been deceased. I was hoping to find some proven family members, or records. Something to connect with our Joel, wife Alice and daughter, Sarah, with other people.

In Carter County on the 1850 census there is a Joel Cook McKinney, age 59 (same as the head of household, Daniel McKinney), that appears to be Joel Cook. The McKinney ditto mark may be incorrect. Researcher Maureen states that Daniel McKinney was from Russell County, VA. In 1860 Joel is in Lewis County & gives his state of birth as TN. In 1870 Joel is in the household of John Dickenson, grandson of Archelous Dickenson of Russell County, VA, and in this census he gives his state of birth as TN. John Dickenson married Sarah Francis Cook on January 10, 1865 in Carter County, KY and Maureen believes her to be the younger Joel Cook’s daughter or granddaughter.

1853 – John S. Cook died on March 6, 1853 at age 25 in Carter KY. Parents listed as Joel & Ealdy Cook. Born Morgan Co. KY 1828. John is living with Joel in 1850, so this pretty much confirms that this Joel is the Joel in Morgan Co. in 1830. However, that means he can’t be the Joel who married Elizabeth Ring because that Joel was still living in Russell County in 1830.

The Bath, Morgan and Carter County Joels, meaning #4 and #5, seem to be one and the same.

1856 – Angelina Cook died on 12 Dec. in Carter County, KY age 15 (born 1841), parents names given as Joel & Elizabeth Cook. Note that in 1850 Angelina Cook is living in Carter County but with John Haney, age 63, two Elizabeth Haney’s, age 28 and 17, one baby Sarah Haney age 1 and then Angelina 8 and Martha A. Cook age 5. This points to a different Joel Cook, not the Joel married to Ealdy, perhaps Joel #2.

John Haney married Elizabeth Cook in 1843. Elizabeth was likely the older sibling of Angelina.

Are these females the children of the Joel Cook who died in 1854? If so, his wife was Elizabeth and she was deceased by 1850. That Joel was 83 in 1850, so born in 1767,

The Elizabeth Cook, wife of John Haney, who was 27 years old in the 1850 census, so born about 1823 in Kentucky, is clearly not Elizabeth Ring, but she could have been the daughter of Joel Cook and Elizabeth Ring, meaning Angelina’s sister. The challenge with this is that Elizabeth claims to have been born in KY in 1823 and the Joel Cook married to Elizabeth Ring was still in Russell County in both 1820 and 1830.

It appears that we have multiple generations of Joel Cooks. All of them confusing.

1850 and Later

By 1850, it’s very clear that our Joel #1 would have been deceased. I was hoping to find some proven family members, or records. Something to connect with our Joel, wife Alice and daughter, Sarah with other family members.

In Carter County on the 1850 census there is a Joel Cook McKinney, age 59 (same as the head of household, Daniel McKinney), that may actually be Joel Cook, and the McKinney ditto may be incorrect.

If so, this man may be the Joel (b KY) age 69 in Lewis County in 1860 with wife Eliza and daughter Louisa age 10, although I feel this is unlikely as Louisa is stated as age 10, not age 9 and in 1850 this man was living with another family.

In the 1870 census, we find Joel Cook in Carter Co., with the Dickison family, age 70, so born about 1800 born in TN. It’s very unlikely that any of these 3 men are the Russell Co. Joel Cook of 1820/30.

In 1871 Joel Cook of Carter County applies for a War of 1812 pension stating that he was drafted in Knoxville. The unit in which he was drafted was from primarily Greene, Sullivan, Washington, Carter, and Hawkins Counties, not Virginia.

The researcher who found this data proposed that this is the Joel that is the father of Sarah, but that’s impossible. Sarah was born in 1775 and all of these Joels were born after her.

The Joel Chart

Groupings are color coded, but open to correction based on additional research. Earliest appearance is shown in red. Highlights in the first row for family clusters.

Year Joel #1 elder – Russell Co. Clayton Cook – Floyd Co. (records < 1808 burned) Joel #3 Floyd Co, KY Joel #2 – the Younger in Russell Co. m Elizabeth Ring Joel #4 Carter County, KY Joel #5 Bath & Morgan Co., KY Joel #6 the Younger in Carter Co. KY Joel #7 Lewis Co., KY
Birth Before 1754, probably before 1750, possibly as early as 1730 Abt 1767-1777 Before 1800 1780-1790 1767 VA father George Before 1775, prob 1760-1770 Born TN 1799/1800 Born TN 1791
1795 Russell Co., VA land
1799 Sarah Cook married James Claxton
1805 Sells last of  land Russell Co., VA
1808 Road work order
1809 Tax list
Tax list
1810 26-44 1765-1784 Tax list
1810 tax list – only Cook
1817 ordained minister
1820 census 26-45 1775-1794 16-45 b 1775-1794 Bath >45 bef 1775
1823 Husband of Elizabeth Ring – father’s will
1830 census 50-60 1770-1780 40-50 1780-1790 Morgan 60-70, 1760-1770, also Bath Co. J. Cook but younger *2  


1831 In Hamilton Co., IN
1839 Tax list
1840 Hamilton Co., Indiana
1848 Assault *5
1850 LaClede Co., MO age 73
1854 Died, father George
1856 Angeline dies father Joel mother Elizabeth
1860 Age 69 b 1791
1870 B 1800 with Dickison family
1871 1812 pension app drafted Knoxville *4
Comment *1 *3

*1 Joel’s daughter reported by researchers to have daughter Rachel born in 1823 married in 1838 in Carter Co., KY to Andrew Stuart.

*2 Morgan Co. formed from Floyd and Bath in 1822.

*3 Carter County formed in 1838 from Greenup and Lawrence.

*4 Knoxville unit in which he was drafted was from primarily Greene, Sullivan, Washington, Carter, and Hawkins Counties

*5 Probably a different Joel.

The Joel Cook Chart Analysis and Discussion

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this chart helped a bit, but not enough.

  • Joel #1 is the Joel we are seeking, of course – meaning him or his descendants. He’s clearly associated with Clayton Cook who disappears from Russell Co., VA and is believed to be the Clayton who appears in Floyd Co., KY. There are no other good candidates for Clayton.
  • We can set aside Joel #6 and #7 because they are later generations.
  • That leaves us with Clayton Cook and Joel #3 who is also found in Floyd Co., KY.
  • Joel #3, associated with Clayton, is the man who is the minister, recorded such in 1817.
  • Joel #3 is NOT the same man as Joel #2, the younger Joel who is living in Russell County in 1820, because they are both on the 1820 census in different locations. They are in the same age bracket.
  • There is also a Joel #5, born before 1775, found in Bath County, KY in 1820, so he is not Joel #2 (who is in Russell County) but may be the Joel #3 (who is in Floyd in 1817.) In 1830, he’s in Morgan County.
  • Some researchers lump Joel #2, Joel #3 and Joel #5 together as one person, but that’s impossible based on the census and the fact that Joel #3 was ordained and recorded in Floyd County in 1817, but Joel #2 is still living in Russell County in both 1820 and 1830.
  • Joel #2, the younger man in Russell County, and Joel #4 who died in 1854 and gave his father’s name as George could be the man from Russell County, EXCEPT, we linked Joel #4 and #5 as the same man and Joel @ and #4 are both in different location in the 1820 census.
  • The connection between George Cook and Joel #1 in Russell County remains unclear, if there is a relationship.
  • However, it appears that Joel #4 from Carter County was living in Morgan County in the 1820s, which introduced another quandary, because it means that Joel #2 and #4 cannot be the same person.

In summary (yea, I know, too late:)

  1. Clayton Cook and Joel Cook #1 are associated in Russell County, VA.
  2. Clayton Cook is associated with Joel #3 in Kentucky. The presumption (dangerous word) is that this is the same Clayton that was found in Russell County, VA.
  3. I have no idea who Joel #5 is, but he’s not Joel #2 and he’s the same age as Clayton Cook, so he’s clearly not Clayton’s son. He’s probably not the man ordained in 1817.
  4. Joel #4 and Joel #5 appear to be the same Joel who was born in 1767 in Virginia to George Cook.
  5. Joel #2 and #4 cannot be the same person if Joel #4 is the same as Joel #5 who was living in Morgan County in 1830 because Joel #2 was living in Russell County in1830.

If you’re scratching your head and thinking to yourself, “what a mess,” I’d certainly concur. I feel like every time I find a sliver of evidence it calls into question or disproves something else that was previously believed to be “proven.”

I’m hoping that by reading the following information that other researchers may have more information than I do, and might be able to piece something together, or have relevant DNA matches.

Floyd Co., KY Extracted Data

Floyd Co. KY records prior to 1808 burned. Floyd County probate records begin in 1812. If Joel Cook from Russell County, VA went with Clayton to Floyd or Magoffin County, KY, around 1805, and died before 1812, we find no record of him.

Magoffin County was created from this portion of Floyd County in 1860.

Annals of Floyd Co., KY – 1800-1826

  • Page 12 – June 4, 1811 – Indenture by William Winslow etc to Mason Williams and Jacob Henry in consideration of $150 in horse flesh for 300 acres of land on Licking River. Attest: William Prater, Claton Cook, Jacob Cook and Elizabeth Stone
  • 13 – June 4, 1811 – Indenture by William Winslow to Clayton Cook and Samuel Hanna in the amount of $150 in horse flesh for 120 acres land on Burning Fork of Licking River. Attest: William Williams, William Prater, Ezekiel Stone
  • 13 – Dec. 18, 1811 – Indenture between Samuel Hannah and Claton Cook, Hannah selling his interest in 120 acres of land on the Burning Fork of Licking River, Witness: Joseph Hannah, Ebenezer Hannah, William Prater and Mason Williams
  • 50 – October 1808 – Court close levy, payment made to Clayton Cook and a long list of others.
  • 56 – Clayton Cook appt surveyor of the road from where the road stricks the last fork of Middle Creek to John Williams to replace the said Williams who resigned.
  • 58 –Oct. 1809 – Ordered Clayton Cook and his hands help James Cope open his road.
  • 74 – May 28, 1811 – Archibald Prater appt surveyor of the road from where the road from the Floyd Courthouse strickes the last fork of Middle Creek to John Williams to replace Clayton Cook who resigned.
  • 104 – July 3, 1815 – Clayton Cook appt surveyor of the road from the Burning Spring to John Williams. Also on Sept 25, 1815, Jeremiah Patrick was subpoenaed to show cause why he failed to give their list of taxable property.
  • 115 – May 19, 1817 – Joel Cook produced credentials of his ordination in the Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • 180 – June 21, 1819 – William Patrick Sr is appt to administrator of the estate of Jeremiah Patrick, decd. Isaac Williams, Clayton Cook, William Carter and Lewis Power are appt to appraise said estate.
  • 210 – August 1823 – Clayton Cook appt surveyor of the road from the Morgan County line to Kezee’s Mill. Daniel Gullet is assistant.
  • 226 – May 22, 1826 – Danie Clark appt surveyor in place of Clayton Cook who resigned.
  • 229 – Aug. 28, 1826 – On the motion of Christopher Gullett, ordered that Clayton Cook, Daniel Clark, James Cook and William Cook view and mark the best way for a road around said Gullett’s farm.
  • 244 – July 20, 1822 – Indenture from Thomas Patrick to John Cook in the amount of $70 for a tract of land on Burning Fork of Licking Creek.
  • 249 – June 24, 1824 – Indenture from Mason Williams of Morgan Co, Ky to Daniel Clark of Floyd Co for $200 for 60 acre tract on the waters of Licking Creek. Attest: John Williams and Clayton Cook. I also noticed that on April 27, 1824 Jeremiah Patrick sold 50 acres on Licking River to Samuel Regen for $285.

The Patrick and Kenard families are the same as had been neighbors in Russell County.

  • 256 – December 7, 1820 – bond by Samuel Kenard and Daniel Gullett for marriage shortly to be had between Samuel Kenard and Joanna Cook. To the clerk of Floyd Co. This will authorize you to give marriage lisons for my son Samuel Kennard and Joanna Cook as I am willing to the mach. Given under my hand this 5th of December 1812. signed James Kennard.  Marriage date is given as Dec. 10, 1820.
  • 288 – Bond dated April 28 1826 by James Cook and James Lacey for a marriage shortly to be had between James Cook and Ealy Ann Lacy. Marriage date is given as April 28, 1826.

County Court Records 1821-1835 Court Records

  • 36 – June 1822 – On the motion of Elijah Prater ordered that Clayton Cook, William Prator, Christopher Gullett, Isaac Adams view road up the State Road Fork to intersect the road leading to Keezees mill.

  • 111 – Daniel Clark appt surveyor of the road from the 22-mile Branch to the forks of the road near the head of the State Road Fork and that he call on the hands of Clayton Cook and Price Baily to assist him to keep the same road in repair according to law 15 and 9 feet.
  • 118 – On motion of C. Gullet ordered that Cook, ? Clark, James Cook and William Cook being first sworn do view and mark a way for a road around his land and report to court according to law.
  • 245 – 1830 or 1831 – Ord that Elizabeth Cook be subpoenaed to appear before the next county court to show cause if any she can or hath to say why her Stephen, Jesse and Eliza shall not be bound out as the law directs.
  • 246 – Elizabeth Cook continued

County Court Records 1835-1847

 105 – 1838 – Commonwealth against Solomon Cook, deft, vagrancy, the def appeared in open court in discharge of his recognizance entered into herein who was craved in custody of the sheriff and being demanded of him whether he was guilty or not guilty.  He stands charged as stated and says he is in no wise guilty thereof and there upon came a jury (names omitted) who say the defendant is not guilty and the def is discharged.


No Cooks

County Court Records 1865-1873

  • 176 – 1868 – Solomon Cook be exonerated from the payment of county levy in the future on account of age and infirmity.
  • 160 – William Cook, Judge in 1871 and forward, did not extract his entries

County Court Records 1873-1880

  • 214 – 1876 special term – Commonwealth of KY against Solomon Cook on a charge of lunacy and jurors impaneled (names omitted) and an attorney appointed to defend for said lunatic…we the jury find the def to be on unsound mind, that he is a lunatic, has lost his mind within the last 6 months, cause not known, was born in Pike Co., KY and has resided in this county 9 or 10 years, owns no estate, parents dead, 3 children living, wife has no estate, Solomon is a pauper, he is vicious and dangerous and uncontrollable and should be transported to the asylum, but not alone. (Part of the last part is half cut off, page 215.)

Note he was age 30 in the 1870 census.

  • 338 – 1879 – Ordered that Thomas Hopkins, Samuel H. Isaacs and Harvy Johnson be appt as reviewers to review a new road beginning at the house of Miles Hall on Right Beaver thence up the same by way of John Henry Cook’s and across the mountain to intersect with the proposed new county road being made by Pike County.

County Records 1897 – 1901

  • 81 – 1898 – George W. Cook in dist 6 stands charged upon the assessors books with personal property amounting to the sum of $247….said Cook has left the county and left no property.
  • 83 – 1898 – N. Cook in dist 6 stands improperly charged upon assessors book for the year 1898 with 35 acres land valued and $77…said Cook is not the owner of any land.

Floyd Co. Marriages 1800-1850

  • George W. Cook married Ealiann Lacy April 28, 1826
  • William Cook m Sally Prater March 22, 1829
  • Samuel Kennard m Joanna Cook Dec 10, 1820 by William Coffee (see file #499) (she age 30-40 in 1840 census, found among the Patrick’s, probably the daughter of Clayton)
  • James Randall m Elizabeth Cook 18, 1859

Deaths 1852-1859

No Cooks

Rev Soldiers

No Cooks

1810 taxpayers – heads of household

Clayton Cook – no other Cooks

Cemetery book is only indexed by cemetery. I did not search those.

Index to Survey Books A, B, C and D

  • Clayton Cook, book A, p 459, 50 acres on Licking River in 1825
  • Pierce Cook, book B, p 278, 200 acres on Dry Creek, 1881
  • Soloman Cook, book B, page 82, 100 acres, Dry Creek, 1869
  • William Cook, book B, page 145, 70 acres on Dry Creek, 1872

Floyd County, KY Census:


  • Clayton Cook 1 male under 10, 2 10-16, 1 16-18, 2 16-26, 1 26-45 (born 1775-1794), 5 females under 10, 1 10-16, 1 26-45 (page 7)
  • Henry Cook – 1 male under 10, 1 26-45 (born 1775-1794), 1 female 16-26 (page 20)


  • Clayton Cook – 1 male 10-15, 1 50-60, 1 female 5-10, 2 10-15, 2 15-20, 1 50-60 (he was born 1770-1780, she was probably born about 1777 given the age of the youngest child, so he is probably older than her so closer to the 1770 than the 1780) (page 27)
  • William Cook lives next door – 1 male under 5, 1 20-30, 1 female 20-30 (likely the son of Clayton) (William Cook married Sally Prater in 1829.)
  • An Elizabeth Cook lives in Prestonburg, 1 male 5-10, 1 10-15, 1 female under 5, 1 15-20, 1 30-40. We know from the court case three of her children’s names.


  • Sally Cook, 1 male under 5, 1 female under 5, 2 5-10, 1 30-40 (page 35) This is the same group of Cooks because she is among the Praters and Patricks where the Clayton group was previously. She is likely a young widow of one of Clayton’s boys. William Cook married Sally Prater in 1829 and this is likely her.
  • The only Clayton Cook in 1840 of the age to potentially be this Clayton is found in Clay, Hamilton, County, Indiana and is age 60-69, so born in 1780-1790.

Tracking Clayton Cook

Clayton Cook is quite relevant to Joel Cook, so let’s track Clayton forward in time.

  • November 19, 1831, Clayton Cook entered a tract in Deerfield Township, Hamilton County, Indiana: The East Half of the Northeast Quarter of Section 9, Township 17 North, Range 3 East, containing 80 acres.
  • Clayton Cook obtained a land grant for 80 acres in Hamilton County, Indiana in 1834 and for 40 acres in Marion County, Indiana in 1837. This Clayton’s daughter, Sally Cook married Fieldon Clark in Marion County, Indiana on August 8, 1833.
  • Hamilton County, Clay Township, Indiana history states that Clayton Cook arrived about 1832 as well as the following people; John Pierce, Elias Harvey, Abraham Jacob, William Jessup, William Hawkins, Jacob Cook, Stephen Hinshaw, Jonas Hoover, Eli Johnson, David Smith, Micajah Elston, Robert Ellis, James Sanders, John Essex, Joshua Wright, Owen Williams, Nathaniel Webber, Henry Davis, Daniel Smith and Absalom Harold.
  • January 19, 1836 Rec. November 8, 1836Book “E” page 230: Clayton Cook conveys to James Cook: A part of the East half of the North East quarter of section number Nine in Township number seventeen north of range three east Beginning a‑ stake on the line dividing section nine and ten where there is two white oak witness trees thence north on said line dividing section nine and four thence west sixty nine poles thence South Eighty poles then East thirty six poles thence south fourteen poles thence east forty six poles thence North fourteen poles to the place of beginning containing forty acres more or less. SIGNED: Clayton Cook, Anna Cook. ACKN0WLEDGED: Clayton Cook and Anna Cook, she being ex­amined separate and apart from her said husband, before Y. Carey Davis, seat, a Justice of the Peace in and for Hamilton County, Indiana.
  • In 1850, a Clayton Cook, age 73, so born in 1777 in Virginia is found in Laclede, Missouri, with a 42-year-old female, Virginia.

WikiTree provides a relatively complete bio for Clayton, here, along with a Find-a-Grave entry, here. Unfortunately, no Clayton Cook descendants are listed as having taken DNA tests at WikiTree.

Are there multiple Clayton Cooks who are intermingled and actually not related?

Do these men descend from one Clayton Cook, born about 1720 in Hanover County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Cook and Martha Clayton? Here’s a great discussion of what is and is not known of this early lineage, and here as well.

Assembling the Pieces

Considering their proximity to each other in Russell Co. combined with the proximity of Joel Cook and Clayton (or Claton) Cook in Floyd County, it’s likely that this Clayton Cook is the same Clayton found in Russell County, and that this Joel in Floyd County is somehow related to Clayton – probably a son. I wish we had more evidence.

The Joel in 1817 who was ordained as a minister is clearly not the elder Joel, but he could easily have been a son of Clayton. Unfortunately, we have no record of what ultimately happened to this Joel.

However, there is a connection between the minister Joel and Russell County, VA. The Montgomery family was found in Russell County in 1799 and also migrated to Floyd County, KY. We find:

I Joel Cook minister of Gospel in the Methodist church do hereby certify that I this day solemnized the Rites of Matrimony between Joseph Montgomery and Matildah Howard agreeable to the ceremonies od said church given under my hand the 29th of Oct 1817.

Kentucky Historical Marker No. 202 in Magoffin County, KY, near the Salyersville City limits states the following:

Archibald Prater, John Williams, Ebenezer Hanna, Clayton Cook and others attempted to settle here in 1794 but were driven out by Indians. They returned in 1800 and settled Licking Station.

If indeed Clayton arrived on the frontier in 1794, he would have been born prior to 1774.

Salyersville was originally called Licking Station and Prater’s Branch is located maybe half a mile east. Henry Scalf, in Kentucky’s Last Frontier, page 120, states that the settlement attempt was made somewhat earlier in time and states that:

“wandering bands of Indians forced them either to retreat back to Virginia or plunge deeper into Kentucky. They decided on the latter.”

This doesn’t say anything about Russell County, but it might well explain why Joel and Clayton both appear in Russell County, VA in 1795, and then a few years later again back in Floyd County, with some families of the same surnames of their neighbors in Russell County before 1808 when the first records appear.

Floyd County records in the Annals of Floyd Co 1800-1826, record court payments to Clayton Cook and various appointments as surveyor for road work beginning in 1808. Claton Cook and Jacob Cook witnessed a deed for 300 acres of land on Licking River in June 1811. Given that Jacob was likely related to Clayton, he had to have been born wherever Clayton came from, because Jacob would have been at least 16, and likely 21 to witness a deed.

In 1810, Clayton is listed in Floyd Co., KY as between 26 and 44 with 7 children and a female 16-25. In 1820, he’s still between 26 and 45 and now has 12 children and a female 26-45. I’m guessing they are both around 45, but if so, Clayton would have been born about 1775. In 1830, Clayton is in Floyd Co. and is age 50-59, so born 1770-1780.

The question is, who is this Joel in Kentucky and how is he related to Clayton. The Joel in Floyd County clearly is not Joel, the father of Sarah who married James Claxton in 1799 in Russell County, VA. And our Joel is not the Joel found in Russell County in 1820 or so.

What happened to our Joel and is he the father of Clayton who went to Kentucky, and then on to Indiana, then Missouri?

Did our Joel the elder die in eastern Kentucky, living near Clayton before 1808 when the Floyd County records begin? Maybe buried along the trail? Or did he go someplace else entirely and perhaps live with a child?

Where did our Joel come from before arriving in Russell County? The fact that the Y DNA lines for different Cook lineages that seemingly “should” be related, aren’t, given the name of Clayton and geographic proximity of Russell County is both confusing and frustrating. Clayton Cook is a very uncommon name.

The family descending from Abraham Cook through son Clayton in early Virginia is one haplogroup, and the later John Cook (born 1804) descendants in Russell County descent from a completely different Cook line.

It’s certainly possible that we have two (or more) distinct Cook families in Russell County. It’s also possible that these lines began as one, but then had a genetic fork in the Russell County group.

Autosomal DNA

Customers can search their DNA matches at Ancestry, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA by Ancestral surname, but not by ancestor. Cook is a fairly common surname, but having the ability to search for either Joel Cook or Clayton Cook would narrow those matches to only those that are potentially significant.

Unfortunately, that’s not an option.

While I clearly wouldn’t match all of Joel’s descendants, I should match some of them. Joel is my 5th great-grandfather, or 7 generations back in time, and I match several people through his daughter, Sarah.

Brick Wall Standing Firm

As of today, we are still firmly brick-walled with Joel Cook in in Russell County, Virginia who disappeared from the records in 1805. I feel like this is more like an infinity knot than a brick wall – no matter where you pull on a string, it only gets tighter. Will Joel ever give up his secrets?

Given that Joel seems to be connected to Clayton Cook who we think is the same Clayton Cook that went to Floyd County, KY, and on to both Indiana and Missouri – I’d love to make contact with any descendants. Also, I’d love to connect with any descendants of the various Joels in Kentucky. Maybe, eventually, multiple relevant autosomal DNA matches will reveal something resembling an answer.

If you descend from any of these Cook families and have DNA tested at any of the vendors, please check and see if I’m on your match list, or anyone with the ancestral surname of Clarkson or Claxton that descends from Sarah Cook and James Lee Clarkson/Claxton. I’d be oh so grateful.

If you’re descended from these lines, please do reach out.


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