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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Genealogical Reality Check

For some reason Owsley County, Kentucky has figured prominently in my discussions with people the last week or so. It all started with helping a friend with his family line with the surname of Morris. We were looking on New FamilySearch and found his ancestor, Thomas Famous Morris supposedly born in Booneville, Bourbon, Kentucky in 1783. Contributors to New FamilySearch had the following list of place where Thomas was born:
  • Booneville, Bourbon, Kentucky
  • Virginia
  • of Kentucky
  • Boonesville, Virginia
  • of Mongalia County, Virginia
  • Paris, Bourbon, Kentucky
  • Boonesville, Territory of Kentucky
Thomas' son, Hyrum Bowles Morris (spelled ten different ways) was supposedly also born in Boonsville, Bourbon, Kentucky in 1821 but with some significant variations also:
  • 23 December 1821 in Boonsville, Bourbon, Kentucky
  • about 1540
  • 3 December 1821 Boonsville, Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
  • 23 December 1821 Bourbon, Kentucky
  • 23 December Bourton County, Kentucky
  • estimated 1843
  • 1850, Rockville, Washington, Utah
The 1850 date is interesting since Rockville, Washington, Utah wasn't settled until 1860. Which brings up the subject of this post, that is, reality. How many of these dates and places survive a reality check?

What do I mean by a reality check? I mean, was the date and place even remotely possible? There are a lot of other reality check kinds of questions also, such as was it remotely possible that this ancestor got married and had a baby at the age of 150 years? Did this couple really get married at age 3? I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Why is it that so many of the dates and places I see every day are so wacko? What is there about genealogy that sends people off into the Twilight Zone of historical facts?

Going back to the Morris family in Kentucky (Virginia? whatever), I haven't pursued the line much at all beyond helping my friend, but the dates and places are a good example of how to do a quick reality check. We have two dates and a reference to Boonsville, Kentucky. Of course, I don't discount the fact that all of the dates and places could be wrong or that some of the other variant might be correct, but I decided to see if Boonsville was possible at all.

First of all, Boonville (or Booneville, or Boonesville etc.) is a popular name for places in the United States with towns in, at least, Missouri, Indiana, New York, California, North Carolina and Texas in addition to Kentucky. By the way, they are all spelled as "Boonville" but the one in Kentucky is spelled "Booneville."

Booneville, Kentucky is the county seat of Owsley County, which was formed on 20 May 1844. So neither of our Morris folks were born in Owsley County. So where what was the county when they were born, assuming that they were born in Boonesville? This turns out to be a real challenge because of the large number of boundary changes in Kentucky through the years. But in consulting with the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries from the Newberry Library, we can find out.

In 1783, all of Owsley County was in Lincoln County. Boonsville was never in Bourbon County, one of the three original counties of Kentucky. In 1783 Kentucky was not yet a state, acquiring statehood in June of 1792. So it looks like Virginia wins the prize. Next question, what about Booneville?

The town was once known as Boones Station from the Owsley County Historical Society and later knows as Moores Station. There is contrary evidence since there is a marker for Boone's Station which is now a Kentucky State Historic Site and is not a community. See Wikipedia: Boone Station. Booneville, Kentucky is 57 miles from Boone's Station.

So where does that leave us? We have no idea where Thomas Morris was born without more research. None of the places listed are in any way accurate and they all fail the reality check. I think this is an interesting issue and will probably keep writing about it for a while.

1 comment:

  1. This has always been a fascinating subject for me. Well, sometimes, frustrating! I now know that you list the location as it was at the time of the event. I did not know this 20 years ago! So I am still cleaning that up. Sometimes you run across someone who says they were born in Kentucky because that is where the location is when they were asked. But at the actual date, it was in Virginia. I have used AniMap many times and it has been a great help.
    I am looking forward to more posts on this subject, Thank you

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