Genealogy Wise

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I have always been perplexed, as to why the early ARNEY researchers, assumed Peter Arney left Lincoln County, North Carolina, and went to the area of Wythe County, Virginia, where he supposedly married Margaret (maiden name/surname unknown), began having children, then moved on to the "Cumberland area" between Kentucky & Tennessee, around 1799.
This would mean, that while he was in the "Cumberland area" (between Kentucky & Tennessee), his wife, Margaret, must have stayed in Virginia, while he cleared off the land, and built their home.  This would explain why some of his children were being born in Virginia, while he was in Tennessee.
Now, there were ARNEY families, in both Lincoln County, North Carolina and Wythe County, Virginia, there has not be an actual "tie-in" with these families, though some believe the Sebastian Arney, that lived in Wythe County, VA, may have been a child of Christian "Christy" Arney, Sr..
Sebastian Arney, did have a son named Peter Arney (born in 1801), this Peter Arney was probably the Peter Arney, that married Catherine Fox, in 1827
 
[The only marriage of a Peter Arney, in Wythe County, VA, I have ever found.]
In Octobeer 1787, The Lincoln County, North Carolina Court of Pleas & Quarters, bound Peter Arney, 15, orphaned son of Jacob Arney, deceased, to John Fullenwider/Fulenwider, to learn the trade of a Miller, until age 21.
[Now, whether or not, Peter Arney, stayed with John Fullenwider/Fulenwider, until 1793, we don't know]
I have recently heard from a woman, who "claims" that Peter Arney wrote a "journal", that had information that said he ran away, to the area of Wythe County, VA, to stay with family there, rather stay with John Fullenwider/Fulenwider.  Unfortunately, she claims, some family member stole the journal, and refuses now to admit, that it ever existed.
I truly wish I knew, how researchers tied these children to Peter Arney, in the first place?
After all, they were doing research in the 1950's, way before the Internet, the fire in 1865 of the Overton County Courthouse, destroyed lots of records, marriage, birth, death, etc., not to mention, land deals, etc.
 
Also, the creation of Dale Hollow Lake, in 1942, cost Arney researchers dearly.  Most Arney Ancestors were buried on Arney land, unfortunately most with simple metal crosses painted white.  The Corps of Engineers, were tasked with moving graves, to high ground, they dug and moved graves, before the land was flooded.
So, what records did those early researchers (in the 1950's) use to piece together Peter Arney and his Ancestors ? ? ?
How did they know, who Peter Arney's children were?
Was it a family tree, (verbally) passed down?
Was it written down, somewhere?
After all, Peter Arney, left  no "official Will", instead had drawn up documents, giving three of his sons, Henry, Hiram, and Matthew, his lands and property.  They didn't mention his Wife, Margaret, so "supposedly" she may have passed away before he did.
Do you have any ideas, on how to trace Peter Arney & Margaret's children?
Thank you, for your time, consideration, and cooperation, I truly appreciate it.

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