Saturday, November 06, 2004

A Multitude of People

The first recorded family history opens with the words, "In the beginning . . . ." And in the course of that genealogy, the admonition is given to build a great nation:

And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people . . . .

Gen. 28:3. Twelve tribes sprung from Jacob's fidelity to this admonition and the rest we well know.

I'm not a Biblical scholar at all and this is not a religious treatise, but one cannot help but admire that Great Family History in its style, language, and lessons.

Conveniently enough, my family history (at least recently) centers on twelve families. Their surnames are: Bowie, Brayboy, Bryant, Gines, Johnson, LeJay, Long, Manson, Martin, McCray, Sanford, and one uncertain other. Naturally, there are many other surnames in my direct line (for instance, Beall, Calvert, Evans, Mirabeau, Moore, Pottinger, Ramsey, and likely, Hardaway, Lewis, and Rutland; perhaps Fleury, to mention a few others). The Twelve, however, are the best point of reference for the uniquely American nature of my multitude of people.

Finding The Lost Tribe

The one uncertain surname belongs to the family of Sarah, the wife of Ezekiel, patriarch of the Johnsons. I may have mentioned this before. Family lore says her name was Sarah Gibson. However, I've been unable to find a record of "Sarah Gibson" of the right approximate age around Kansas City in the mid-19th century. I did stumble upon a marriage record, however, in Clay County, Missouri, for "Ezekil" Johnson and Sarah "Gilbert." (Clay County is part of the Greater Kansas City area). Could the record be wrong? (Possibly. See, for example, the mangling of Quentin Manson's name in the marriage records of Aransas County, Texas). Or is the family mistaken? (Not unheard of, especially under the circumstances--nobody from my immediate family is in touch with anybody from Sarah's family of origin.)

So I asked my aunt Delorise, keeper of the oral traditions for the Gines, Johnson and Long families, about the discrepancy. She said, "I really don't know. That's back when somebody was an Indian." (Family tradition holds that Sarah was a Plains Indian).

I've been perplexed by this issue for sometime. I thought I might be on the track to an answer when I discovered a 15 year old Sarah E. Gilbert in the 1860 federal census of Henry County, Missouri. Henry County is about 70 miles southeast of Kansas City. This Sarah Gilbert was living with a family named Wall. The Walls were slaveowners of some means, and no ready explanation appears of why "Sarah Gilbert" was in one of their households. But my semi-informed hunch was that this was not "my" Sarah Gilbert. My vexation continued.

Now I've got another, more promising lead: the 1860 census of Platte County, Missouri shows a 16 year old Sarah Gilbert in the town of Ridgely, Missouri. This is more likely our ancestor. Platte County borders on Clay County, where we found the marriage record.

I'm not ready to call it a conclusive match, but I hope soon to finally name the lost tribe.

No comments: