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From Richard Bynum:

My 2nd Great Grandfather, Hillery, was born during the last decade of slavery and (through by grandmother) suggested he was raised by his older brother Booker. My grandmother has also shared the names of several cousins in he small town in Tennessee where my maternal line is from.

While I've been able to "connect" several of these cousins to Hillery in generations after his birth, there are other sets where I can find no sourced connection (other than my grandmother). In looking through many sequential 1870 census pages, all of these people lived with walking distance of each other. That, and my G-mother's insistence, leads me to believe that they are all related.

What are some strategies that might help me make these connections in a primarily online fashion? Career, family and social obligations make it difficult to travel for genealogical reasons at this point in my life. Thanks for any assistance.
We're looking for some Tennessee researchers.
Richard will undoubtedly supply us with some more pertinent information to go on!

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks George. A few specifics. My 2nd Great Grandfather was Hillery Gould Brown (you can read some details of his life here) lived his entire life (to my knowledge) in Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tennessee. As I stated earlier, family stories say that Hillery was raised by his older brother Booker Brown. My grandmother suggested in an early interview that she has a cousin named Eva Mai Smith. Eva's mother was Elizabeth (Lizzie) Brown married to Jessie Smith. In 1880, the family lived with Lizzie' mother, Amy Brown. Amy was born in 1843 (according to the 1870 census record) and lived a street away from my definitive Brown ancestors. There was another Brown in the vicinity, a gentleman named Stephen Brown. This is interesting to me because I've only been able to trace Hillery back to the 1880 census. In my research, I came across Stephen because the only Hillery I could find in Rutherford County, TN in 1870 lived in his house. Several of the other names in the household (Paralee, Fannie and Charlotte) are well documented family names. This could be a complete red herring, but I'm surmising that they are all related, I just have no way to prove or source it. By the way, my grandmother has no memory of a Stephen Brown and believes completely the story of Booker raising Hillery. Ok, that's all I can think to type at the moment, but if any one has any thoughts, ideas, insights, etc. or would like more information please let me know. Thanks much.
First question,

Your blog states that Hillery is your 3rd great grandfather.
Which is it?

Second question,
Is Amy Brown a widow?
Hillery is my 2nd Great Grandfather (changed the caption on the site, thanks for the catch).

Yes, according to both the 1870 and 1880 census records, she was a widow.
Hello Richard,

You stated you were an Ancestry subscriber. You have used the African American Filter on Ancestry when searching census records, right? I use this technique when I'm searching a surname for a given area over a period of years. Of course this may be expanded to all AA surnames for the area which allows you to follow the daughters and marriages into other surnames for that area.

Example using your Brown surname for TN and Rutherford Co. I find ALL AA Brown's for each census year from 1850-1930 in Rutherford Co. You can then look at each census year and zero in on Murfeesboro Brown's and follow them for each census year.

6 1850 United States Federal Census
148 1870 United States Federal Census
190 1880 United States Federal Census
168 1900 United States Federal Census
140 1910 United States Federal Census
124 1920 United States Federal Census
51 1930 United States Federal Census

In the above listing I notice there were FPOC Brown's in Rutherford in 1850. I looked at the 1870 and found your Booker w/family.. he was born in 1836..... then forwarded to 1930 and found your Hillary w/wife Bettie. and family .. Hillary was born in 1863.

Don't know if this technique will be of help to you, but it works for me.

Best Wishes in your Research,

Art Thomas
Thanks Art. I generally follow the path that you outlined above and have located census records for Hillery from 1880-1930. Hillery's birth date moves around a bit and I log it as 1859 (the first date I came across and sourced). For Booker, I have him in census records from 1870-1910; but never in the same household as Hillery. I have sourced their connection (Booker witnessed Hillery and Bettie's wedding and I have a copy of the marriage certificate). My grandmother insists they were brothers, but with evidence I could be convinced that Booker was Hillery's uncle (the difference in ages has always bothered me for brothers).

Good luck with your research as well,
Richard, Just a thought-TN state wide registration of births and deaths begin in 1914 compliance achived by 1920. Early attemps were made at recording these events. They are fragmented-early as 1778. They are kept by the counties level then. Check with the county courthouse, local history society for rutherford and the state archives.

This is how I spotted my Great great grandmother in KY. If you are lucky the last owner recorded his birth. For these records it all depended on the owner to record if TN did. The age diffrence might not mean much about a 7 year diffrence in the age on the 1870 census depends on the census taker and what your relative remembered about the year he was born.

Remember to think in the 1800's not 2009. Girls/women had children at a very early age and had children about every two years. A male several each year. They could have the same father diffrent mother. Also remember we had extended families then not like now. Just a few thoughts.
A bit of an update....some family business took me to visit my mother and Grandmother last week. I asked my G-mother about Hillery's connections to the cousins I've located. She reiterated that Hillery was raised by Booker, but also that he was significantly younger than the rest of his brothers and sisters. Based on that, I asked a few direct questions about names and this descendant chart is the result of what I believe to be the connections of that generation.

While I'm reasonably comfortable with using my G-mother as a source, any thoughts (beyond census records) about how to find additional sources to validate this new information? Thanks for all the replies so far.
Hello Richard,

I would follow up on Angela's advice with regards to the USCT.
Additionally, I think your next steps will be in chasing after birth & death certificates of your Ancestors.

At the Random Acts Of Genealogical Kindness site,, there are a couple of folks who do 'Public Records lookups and copying' in Rutherford county. They volunteer but typically charge for copying and mileage.

Let us know!
Hello George,

Considerng all of the Civil War activity in Tennessee---any chance that some of the males in this line could have served in the US Colored Troops? Several of the units from TN, and AL contained soldiers who were TN based after the war. I would check the USCT database (Soldiers & Sailors System) to see if your folks served. If they did, you might get some data if any of them filed for CW pensions.

Just a thought.

Thanks George and Angela. Booker did several (albeit for a very short period) in the USCT and is memorialized on the monument in DC. I've got his USCT military record, but nothing there listed family members. It did verify the age for Booker and I've sourced it as such. I've developed a relationship with the director of the Rutherford County Archives in Murfreesboro and he has provided me some documentation including the marriage certificate for Hillery and Bettie which lists Booker as a witness. I'll check in with the link you provided for Thanks again!
Richard---what unit did he serve in?
Civil War is another one of my areas of interest (I have 9 ancestors who were USCTs) and one of my Tennessee lines produced 4 soldiers from the same family. Murfreesboro TN was the home of a good number of men who were CW veterans. (My ancestors all served in the 111th and as a result that is one of the units that I study closely.)

Do you know what unit your ancestor was in? If he lived for a while after the war, then he might have a pension file and they are rich with data. Did Booker receive a pension?


Booker served (for a very short period of time) in the 17th U.S. Colored Infantry, Murfreesboro, TN.

Given the short period of time he served, I've never explored whether he sought a pension. I believe he lived into his 80s, so if that type of record exists, I'd really be interested in it. What's the best source to find that information? Thanks for replying Angela.



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