Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: Genealogy Mysteries

Every genealogy, indeed every family, has a mystery. For researchers these are called brick walls.
Grandma Thompson 1811 - 1900 has been my brick wall for a long time.
Grandma is buried in the cemetery in Meade, Kansas along with her daughter, son-in-law and many others and granddaughter; my great grandmother, Nellie Keith Martin, who I'm written about in many posts.

My Grandmother Jennie told me who Grandma Thompson was and how she was related and I realized the stone was put on about the same time as Nellie's; 1964.

I couldn't find a death record, or even her name, for a long time. So I went on about my researching. I traced the Keith's back along the wagon trail to Illinois and found Grandma Thompson again. And now she has a name...Jane Thompson married to Soloman Thompson. WooHoo. Progress.

As research progressed I learned Jane Thompson's maiden name was Malone and she was born in Tennessee sometime around 1811, Solomon died on September 9, 1871 and Jane, at age 79, made the choice in 1884 to travel west with her married daughters and sons-in-law.

I have her homestead papers from Kansas. On this page it describes her house as  made of sod, 16 x 18 feet with 1 door and 1 window. She had a sod hen house that was 12 x 12. That's almost as big as her house! It also says her house is "habitable all seasons of the year." I wonder if any of us would agree.
The next document shows us Jane was illiterate as she signs with "her mark." The clerk would have signed her name and then she made her mark in the middle. She could probably recognize that much.

So I don't know much more about Jane. I don't know her parents. I don't know when or where she was born. But I do know that she was one tough woman to emigrate to Southwestern Kansas in the 1880s. Although she was illiterate she managed to keep up her household. She remained close to her family daughters until she died.

Do you have a mystery in your family? Have you tried to track it down. It's taken a lot of work to find out these things about Jane but I'm happy to know more than what was one her gravestone.


  1. This story is so inspiring.

    Unfortunately, many of my family's records were lost during WWII, in Europe, so we can't document much past 3 generations. But we are preserving everything we know of for our children and theirs.

  2. It sounds like you've actually learned quite a bit about Grandma Thompson! Can you imagine living in a sod house that size, all year round no matter what the weather? That homestead record really gives you an inside look at her life. Fascinating!

  3. My mystery is on my mother's side. First, I know that her father's parents died when he was a boy and he was adopted, but I don't how they died or who adopted him. An even bigger mystery for me is that a mitochondrial DNA test I took seemed to indicate a different background than I know anything about. I'd really like to go back further in time and find out how that happened!

  4. you are so good with this
    my grandparents were always so talkative about our families
    maybe that's why i am so into a lot of stories about how we came to be but what i would like is to own some original documents besides pictures and then that can start something i guess like what you are presenting us here
    you are really good on this

  5. I am trying to find a Polly Thompson who married/partnered with Lemuel Keith and had a son named James Keith. I thought these names might be familiar to you.


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