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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

November 7, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

What You'll Learn from Muster Rolls

Q: I am a fairly new genealogist who is researching my 2nd great-grandfather. So far, I haven't been able to get past one 1870 census of this person. Here is what I know. On the Kaufman County, Texas census I found a Jas F. Stanley (b. abt 1839) and his family that I am certain is my family. I believe the Jas is short for James because on his daughter's death certificate it states that his name is James Stanley and he was born in Mississippi. He was married to Elizabeth Susan Buie (a very well researched line). James F. Stanley listed his occupation as teacher on the 1870 census and his birthplace as Mississippi as well. He was married in Kaufman County, Texas and all his children were born there. I do know James Stanley died before 1880 because his family moved in with the mother's Buie Family by 1880 and the wife remarried a few years later. So far, I haven't been able to find a gravesite. I've been all through Kaufman cemetery records and am now starting on the surrounding county cemeteries. One challenge is that I don't know the exact year of death, I just know that it was sometime between 1875-1880. I was told there were not any tax records for the time period — is that true? I found a James F. Stanley on a military roster with the counties of Kaufman, Van-Zandt and Henderson in May 1861 and suspected this could be a match. So I looked up the military records and learned that he enlisted July 6, 1861 in Dallas, Texas for 12 months. He was with the 3rd Cavalry Texas (aka South Kansas Texas Reg't Cav) and even the age of the solider matches up with my James F. Stanley (he would have been 23). These records show the company muster rolls and pay periods. The pay periods are a little bit confusing because they are sporadic (for example, June 13-Aug 31 1861, Nov & Dec 1861, May & June 1862, etc.) and the last page of the records appears to be the discharge type page. It says that he was on a roll of prisoners dated in Mississippi on May 13, 1865 and that his last known residence was Kaufman County, Texas. It also said that he left the military as a Sergeant in Co G. I'm now wondering where this person was between pay dates? My James F. Stanley married Susan Buie on April 20, 1864. Does this gap mean he wasn't paid or that he was off duty (so to speak)? If it means off duty type work, then he was in the right county at the right time to be married to Susan Buie. Do you know where else I could find out information on my James F. Stanley in other records for that county. I'm wondering where he was a teacher and for how long. -- Tara

A: The muster rolls that you found usually don't tell us much, other than when a person was there to pick up his pay. The purpose of the muster was to gather the troops together to count the number of soldiers, check their current condition physically as well as the condition of their gear. It was from this roll that the paymaster would issue pay.

There are different types of Muster rolls including the Muster-in roll and the all important muster-for-pay rolls. In addition to these rolls you may also find descriptive rolls listed among these records. The descriptive rolls are those that list the physical description of an ancestor. While these won't supply you with his ancestry, they do give you a good idea of what he looks like. Usually the muster and descriptive rolls will supply you with the soldier's place of birth, age at date of muster, previous occupation, color of hair and eyes, complexion, bounty paid and amount due, clothing accounts, and remarks. Do any of the records you currently have in your possession list the previous occupation of the James F. Stanley who was being paid? That, combined with place of birth and his age would make a convincing argument that it was indeed your ancestor.

The soldiers in the Regular Army usually mustered for pay on the last day of February, April, June, August, October, and December. Seldom have these records survived completely, especially where the Confederate Army is concerned. So it is possible that your ancestor was there and there is just no surviving record. I would re-examine the muster rolls that you have to see if his company changed or if there is a difference in enlistment date. I know many who enlisted for a short time, mustered out and then re-enlisted. So it is possible that this explains his gaps. Your message said that he enlisted on 6 July 1861 for a period of 12 months. This would mean that he could muster out in July of 1862. The list of dates though is pretty consistent for the years of 1862 and 1863.

The records that you viewed on microfilm are no doubt the compiled military service records for Confederate soldiers, found for Texas on National Archives microfilm publication M323 on 445 rolls of microfilm. These records are the result of a concerted effort to enhance the records surrendered or captured after the Civil War with other records found either found or copied later on. It was not until 1903 though that the War Department in Washington began to compile these records. As a result, it is possible that the gaps are simply the result of missing records.

Even if he was still in the Army, this does not mean he could not have received a leave to go home and marry Susan. Leaves were granted for many different reasons, and soldiers sometimes left even if they were not granted a leave. Many of those fighting during this time were not career army, but instead those who were conscripted. The Confederate States passed three conscription laws. Looking at the details, you'll see that as the war progressed they became more hungry for men to fight it (this is evidenced by the increase in age of eligibility with each additional law):

  • 16 April 1862: males aged 18-35
  • 27 September 1862: males aged 18-45
  • February 1864: males ages 17-50

In addition to the records compiled by the federal government, you may find more on your James Stanley through state records. After the war, the federal government did not grant pensions to those who fought for the Confederacy until well into the 1900s. As a result Confederate soldiers who were, as a result of the war, disabled, had to turn to the state governments for financial aid. Most of these records are now found in various state repositories. For Texas, you would need to contact the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. On their Web site, they offer a number of useful databases including ones to Confederate pensions and adjutant general's service records. Also, you will want to note the mention of tax lists, as you had specifically asked about these. According to the site, with few exceptions, there are tax lists from the inception of the county to about 1901 available on microfilm which can be requested on interlibrary loan for those who do not have access to the State Archives.

The Late Mary Brevoort

Q: I have an ancestor named Thomas Brady who was witness to a 1795 New York City Letter of Administration. The record itself reads as follows: "John Brevoort, Wheelwright of NYC, LOA bond issued to Mary Brady", then it goes on to say, "Mary Brady, the late Mary Brevoort, Thomas Brady, Zeno Weeks, and Thomas Ellis, all of NYC". The original record does not identify Mary Brady. There was not any mention in the original record whether she was the widow of John, or whether the Mary Brady mentioned, was also the late Mary Brevoort. How do I figure out who Mary Brady was? I know she was the wife of Thomas Brady at this time, but was she the late widow of John, or a daughter of John? -- John

A: On an initial reading one would assume that the late Mary Brevoort is the widow of John who has remarried to Thomas Brady. Of course making assumptions isn't a good thing, especially when it comes to genealogy. Assumptions in genealogy often lead the researcher down the wrong path.

One of the first things to search in this case would be the probate packets. New York is one of the states with excellent probate records available on microfilm. The probate packets generally offer more than just a will or in your case the letter of administration. There are often newspaper announcements, receipts, and other records that may help you in determining the relationship of those named.

Another approach is to research the family of the deceased even if you do not think you are directly related. A search for John Brevoort online revealed information on the American Lines of the Brevoort family. This search revealed that there is a John Brevoort, also listed as Johannes Brevoort, who was baptized in 1700 and died in 1795. He married Annetje Idesse (or Annetje Van Huysen) who was born in 1703 and died in 1730. While not mentioned John must have had another wife because he has seven children, baptized from 1727 to 1781. It is possible that the compiler of the information has somehow confused Johannes Brevoort with another John Brevoort, and this would certainly need to be investigated, but the oldest child is a daughter, Marytje, who was baptized in 1727 and may have married Thomas Brady. You may want to do a similar search and see what you can find (a good place to start is Genealogy.com's Family Finder).

You may also want to search land records. They are often a good resource for finding connections to individuals. A search for Thomas Brady and also for the Brevoorts in the area might help you in determining the relationship of Mary Brady and the late Mary Brevoort to see just who Mary is and how she relates to both Thomas and John.

Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory

Q: I have found an ancestor in subject index. How do I get to the source online? The source is Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory for 1871 by John Lovell, Montreal, 1871, page 290. -- Myrl

A: While more and more data is finding its way online, there are still many records and resources that we need to use that have not been made available in any digitized format. This is true of many things, including directories such as Lovell's.

Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory for 1871 is the result of the ambitious project of John Lovell a printer and publisher in Montreal. The directory contains the names of professional and business men and others living in the cities, towns and villages throughout the "province," which at that time included the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Each entry consists of the man's name, followed by his occupation or business.

While you can't find the directory online, it is available on microfilm through the Family History Library. You can borrow it to your local Family History Center for a nominal fee. You can then have access to it at your Family History Center for about 30 days. The Family History Library film numbers for the Directory are FHL #1421580, items 6-7 - Volume 1 (contains Newfoundland) and Volume 2 (contains Prince Edward Island) and FHL # 1307687, items 7-9 - Volume 3 (contains Nova Scotia in three parts).

Once you know where your ancestor was living in Canada, you can then turn to the 1871 Canadian census to get more identifying information on the man and his family, if he had one in 1871. While the Directory establishes residency, it will not tell you much more about your ancestor than the occupation. However, the census will supply you with ages, place of birth (the province or country), and the religion of each person in the household. Armed with this information you may be able to turn your attention to other records, such as civil registration or parish registers to find exact dates of birth for the children and the date of marriage for your ancestor and his wife.

Understanding Cousin Relationships

Q: I'm having trouble figuring out the terms "once removed," "twice removed," etc. My 4th great-grandfather, Warner Washington, was President George Washington's 1st cousin. So, does that make George my 8th cousin? -- Kris

A: You are not alone in your confusion. Many people have trouble deciding if the person is a 4th cousins or a 2nd cousin twice removed. In determining any relationship the first step is to determine the common ancestor. In the case of you and George Washington, that common ancestor is his grandparent and your 6th great-grandparent. One of the easiest ways to determine the relationship is to work it out on paper. At the top in the center, write the name of the common ancestor. Along the left side of the paper write your 5th great-grandparent, then below that write your 4th great-grandfather, and below that your 3rd great-grandparent and so on until you get down to yourself, each name below the one before. Along the right side of the page write George's parent, and then write George's name directly below. You should be able to see that George and your 4th great-grandfather are first cousins, because that is an easy one to figure. The parent on the left and the parent on the right are siblings, making their offspring first cousins.

Now, there are no more generations on the right side of the paper because your interest is in your relationship with George. Because there are no more generations on his side to count, you begin to count in "removeds." Your third great-grandparent is George's first cousin once removed, because there is one generation that separates the third great-grandparent from George. You are George's first cousin six times removed because there are six generations that separate you from George.

Figuring out the relationship is done first by counting cousins as long as both lines have an equal number of generations. You begin to count in "removeds" once one line stops.


Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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