Project Success Stories

Shaking the Tree

My father died at age 45, his father at age 51 and his grandfather at age 60.  My grandfather's mother died in her early 30's and when his father remarried and moved from Hardeman County, Texas to Oklahoma in 1903, my grandfather and two of his five siblings stayed in Texas with their father's brother in Quanah, Hardeman County.  My great grandfather died in Arkansas in the early 1920's.  I have yet to find his grave but in the 1920 census he was in Pike County, Arkansas. 

About six years ago, when I got the "itch" to find out something about my ancestors and those of my wife, I had little to work with on my paternal line. The only thing I had was an article from the Foard County, Texas Historical Society about my grandfather Arthur Phillips.  The article had been written several years after my grandfather's death and the information consisted primarily of "family tradition".  Unfortunately, that tradition proved to be about 90 percent incorrect.  It said that my grandfather, Arthur Phillips was born at Nashville, Tennessee in December 1866 to Charles W. and Betty Phillips and that the family had moved to Texas in the early 1900's. 

 Unable to find the family on the 1900 census in any Tennessee county, I finally tried Clay County, Texas where I had heard that the family was living when my great grandmother Betty (actually named Elizabeth) died.  The family was listed there and my grandfather Arthur was shown as being born in 1865 in Tennessee and his brother William being born in Texas in February, 1887, thus indicating that the family moved to Texas sometime in 1886.  Since I knew that my great grandfather Charles was born in December 1860, I began searching data for the area around Nashville.  I discovered a Charles W. Phillips in Bedford County, TN just south of Nashville born circa 1861.  I proceeded to research that family and was able to trace it back to Pembrokeshire, Wales.  I was still unable to connect from that Charles forward as birth data was not available prior to 1903.  Finally I was able to make contact with a lady who was related to that Charles.  She told me he deserted the Confederate Army and his wife and family in Tennessee and went to Illinois and remarried without benefit of divorce.  After two years of searching I was back to square one, but I did learn a valuable lesson; never rely on one source, always get confirmation from other independent sources. 

Because I did not know exactly when or where my great grandfather had died, I could not get a death certificate so I finally decided to try to get a certificate for his brother John Marion Phillips who died in Hardeman County, Texas.  When I received it, it said that he was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee to John L. and Lockie Crawford Phillips.  The next step was to look at the 1860 census for Rutherford County and I found a J.L. Phillips, age 22 with wife L.E, age 19.  The two adjacent households were the families of W.J. Phillips and Martha Crawford so I was confident that I was on the right track.  A review of the 1850 census confirmed it and indicated that William J. Phillips, age 45 was born in Virginia.  The 1830 census for Rutherford County also showed a W. J. Philips.  I was then able to find marriage data for both my GGG grandfather William J. and my GG grandfather John L. Phillips. Now the question was; "From where in Virginia did William J. Phillips migrate"? 

I actually went to the Dallas Library Genealogy Section and also to the Regional National archives in Fort Worth and filled many, many legal sized pages with ANY Phillips family in ANY county in Virginia in the 1810 census that had a male child under age ten.  Knowing the propensity of Southern families to name their sons after the father, I was particularly on the lookout for any such family with a William as head of household.  I did not find any William that I could hang my hat on, but in Brunswick County, Virginia I did find a Nancy Phillips with four young children and remembered that in checking the 1820 and 1830 Rutherford County TN census there was a Nancy Phillips with children.  I was then able to find that a William Phillips married a Nancy James, daughter of Carey James, Sr. in Brunswick County, Virginia on February 6, 1796.  Subsequently, through help of several other descendants of William J. Phillips' ancestors, I located a will dated 1805 for William that named wife Nancy and four children, including William J. Phillips.  Those same descendants provided me information about William's parents and siblings. 

After being severely disappointed once, I decided to verify through DNA testing that this was indeed my line of descent and so entered the Phillips DNA program.  I was pleased to see that through matches with descendants of Sterling, a brother of William, my line was now confirmed back to Joseph Phillips, father of William, who died in 1777 in Brunswick County, Virginia. 

In the interest of brevity, I have not mentioned the great number of people who provided vital information during my search, many of whom are not related to my line.  Without them I would have never reached this point.  That same spirit of cooperation still exists as I continue to try to reach further back.