Friday, October 05, 2007

A Brayboy Challenge

One genealogical feature that I've come to enjoy recently is Chris Dunham's "Genealogical Challenge," which appears from time to time at The Genealogue. Chris challenges readers to find some interesting or obscure genealogical information about an historical or pop culture figure.

These challenges and their solutions serve to refine research skills and open up many sources that one might not ordinarily look into. [And the subjects of the challenges are always interesting!]

Since I'm a West Coast resident (and a late-rising one, at that!) I'm seldom among the first few to get the right answer. But I take the challenges on without looking at the solutions in the comments anyway!

It occurred to me that perhaps a "challenge" would be a way to have folks weigh in on a difficult actual research problem. Sooo, here we go . . . .

A few days ago, I heard from one of my New England Brayboy cousins. She was trying to figure out the paternal lineage of one Earley Brayboy, who was born in South Carolina on July 10, 1888, and died in July, 1956. He was born in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, and died in nearby Lake City in Florence County, South Carolina.

I've written about the Brayboys before. My Brayboy line originated in South Carolina on the Darlington plantation of Boykin Witherspoon. In 1854, Boykin Witherspoon re-located his family and slaves to De Soto Parish, Louisiana. In South Carolina there remain a large number of the Witherspoon family and the Brayboys. The descendants of some of the South Carolina Brayboys found their way to the Northeast.

Anyway, in the 1930 census of Williamsburg County, South Carolina, I found Earley "Braboy," age 43, with wife, 33 year-old Elma, living in the town of Sumter. Their children with them at that time were Vernell, 18; "Rolley," 16; Darby, 14; "Blanch," 12; Willie, 9; "Rush," 7; Harold, 5; "Cotell," 3; and "Earl," 2. [An issue researching the Brayboys is the shifting spelling of the surname].

The 1920 census of Williamsburg County shows "Early J. Braboy," age 31, with wife Elma, 22; and children, "Vernel," 8; "Raleigh," 6, "Darbie," 4; and "Blanche," 2.

Then I found the World War I draft card for Earley Brayboy. This document, dated June 5, 1917, indicates that Earley Brayboy had a wife and three children at that time. His occupation is listed as farmer.

After the draft card, records got tougher to find. I went to the SSDI and found death dates for six of Earley Brayboy's children. Then I went to a newspaper archive and found an obituary for Vernell Brayboy. The obit said that Vernell, the son of "Earl J." and Elma Montgomery Brayboy, was survived by six brothers, Harold, David, Willie, Darby, Earl, and Kotell; and two sisters, Blanche Burgess and Annie Laura Dupres. I found in the Connecticut marriage records that Annie Brayboy had married Dupres Branch. [Thus, the obit was in error as to her name.] Then I found in the SSDI death dates for Blanche Burgess and Annie Branch.

None of this was leading back to the main issue--the paternal lineage of Earley Brayboy. So I started going back through the census records. No Earley Brayboy turned up. But in the 1880 census, I found a Jacob Brayboy, age 39, in Williamsburg County, South Carolina. He was married to 23 year old Dora. The age of the children listed suggests that Dora was a second wife to Jacob. The children were: Jessie, 20; Ellis, 19; Billie, 18; George, 15; Margaret, 13; Betsy, 11; "Jennett," 8; "Lela," 7; "Sofronie," 6; and Martha, 1. There is also a step-daughter, Sarah Dinckins, age 7.

This Jacob Brayboy would be old enough to be the father of Earley Brayboy, born in 1888. A way to check if this is the right family is to go to the 1900 census, when Jacob would be 59 and Earley about 12 years old. Unfortunately, no Braboy or Brayboy on the 1900 census seems to match up with Jacob or Earley. And the disadvantage of not having an 1890 census becomes apparent right away.

Not only is Jacob old enough to be Earley's father; he's old enough to be Earley's grandfather. Additionally, in 1888, when Earley was born, Jessie would be 28, Ellis would be 27, Billie would be 26, and George would be 23. Thus any one of them might be Earley's father.

There is one potential hint: in the 1920 census of Williamsburg County, Earley's family lives next door to one James Braboy and family. James is either a year older or a year younger than Eraley. On the other side of Earley's house, Dora Braboy lives as a boarder. Then, in the 1930 census, Dora lives with a 32 year old Sam Braboy and is listed as his mother. In 1930, neither Earlery nor James is old enough to have a 32 year old son. So the suggestion here is that Dora is the mother of Sam, James, and Earley. This would make Jacob their father.

Now who is Jacob's father? The hint is that in the 1850 census, Jacob is listed as a seven year-old in a household headed by Mary Braboy, 52. Also in the household are Samuel Brayboy, 22; Martha Brayboy, 28; Margarett Brayboy, 9; William, 5; and Polly, 3. The 1870 census does not show relationships. There is a strong inference here that Mary is Sam's mother and that Sam and Martha are the parents of the children.

So with this information, one might surmise that Earley Brayboy's father was Jacob Brayboy and his grandfather was Samuel Brayboy.

Am I right? How would you bring this within the Genealogical Proof Standard?

UPDATE (10/06/07, 1:45 PM PDT): In the comments, Teresa says:

I think I've found your folks on the 1900 census in Williamsburg County, SC (HeritageQuest, Series: T623 Roll: 1544 Page: 286) - Jacob must have passed away by then, but Dora is listed as "Dora Braveboy", living with son Elliot. On the next page are: Lela Pendergrass, daughter; Samml B?boy, son; James B., son; Early, son; and Lila (or Lula?), daughter.

Thanks, Teresa! I have a couple of comments on the comment. First, I think Teresa is right. This appears to be the family of Early Brayboy. Second, let me eat some crow here. I certainly knew that "Braveboy" was an alternative name (some say it was the original name from which "Brayboy" and "Braboy" were derived). But I had gotten into the mindset of thinking that by about 1900, the spellings and names had somewhat stabilized and that it would be unusual for a family that had been "Brayboy" to go back to "Braveboy." So much for thinking how smart I am! Third, does not index "Dora Braveboy" or any of her children on the 1900 census, although as Teresa says, HeritageQuest does!


David said...

It's not easy doing small town research online and I'd probably try a few more avenues, even if it wasn't a personal priority. (Urge your cousin to take this further, that what you've found is essentially a rough draft based on common sense and research experience.)

Check with RAOGK or a local society to see what kind of help might be available. I'd try to track down additional obits as well as wills/probate files. Published cemetery indexes sometimes contain little clues like "Jane Doe, wife of John Doe."

Teresa said...

I think I've found your folks on the 1900 census in Williamsburg County, SC (HeritageQuest, Series: T623 Roll: 1544 Page: 286) - Jacob must have passed away by then, but Dora is listed as "Dora Braveboy", living with son Elliot. On the next page are: Lela Pendergrass, daughter; Samml B?boy, son; James B., son; Early, son; and Lila (or Lula?), daughter.

Gary said...

Ancestry lists Dora on the 1900 census index as "Braseboy".

Lindsay said...

People should lobby index providers to create browseable surname listings/indexes. I.e. you should be able to go to the area where you think they lived and get an alphabetical listing of all the transcribed surnames in the area. A researcher shouldn't have to guess what spellings the enumerator may have written or the transcriber may have written, they should be able to browse the list of names in the index which usually allows them to quickly recognize mangled names.
I don't understand why these are so rarely available. I use the surname listings on (Canadian Census) all the time. I am sure Craig would have recognized Braveboy or Braseboy as likely candidates.

Craig Manson said...

A great idea, Lindsay!

George Geder said...


'Our' Brayboys may or may not be connected. There's a zillion Brayboys!

I do have a picture of a Jane Brayboy on my blog.

Do you have any photos Brayboys?

"Guided by the Ancestors"

Anonymous said...

Hey. How you doin? My name is Martez Brayboy and I am from Cheraw, South Carolina. I am looking up my family heritage, as yourself, so as soon as I find out any new material about the Brayboy's I will inform ya. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever heard of there being Native American anywhere in our bloodline ?