Ignoring the wisdom that says nobody cares about your dreams or your genealogical quests, I have been doing some work on the family tree for the past three or four years. This started when my son had to fill out a family tree chart in Junior High school. While there was a lot of information from my family, my dad could not even tell me the name of his grandfather - only the vague news that he had fought in the civil war for the Confederacy. I knew that my Dad's family had come from Mississippi, so I started there, and contacted the Mississippi State Library and Archives.
A few weeks later, they sent me a copy of the 1880 census, showing my grandfather Arthur Julian Ballard, living with Thomas A. Ballard and Safrona Ballard. They could find no record that Thomas had applied for benefits as a Confederate veteran. I had a hard time convincing my dad that Thomas was his Grandfather. He remembered an Aunt Ethel and an Uncle Thomas, but knew none of the other names (Henrietta, Lurah) on the 1880 census.
The matter was clinched in the Spring of 1998. I had a business trip to Nashville and took out a day to visit Northern Mississippi to see Mount Pleasant and Slayden for myself. By then, (And thanks to the good people at the Marshall County Genealogical Society who worked with me over the Internet) I had located a 2nd cousin on my grandmothers' side who took a morning off to show me around. In the Mount Pleasant graveyard, we found four tombstones in a row - Brother Thomas, Sister Ethel, Mother Sophronia and Father Thomas. That was that. Intestingly, Sophronia lived until 1928 when my dad would have been 7. I asked him if he remembered his dad being upset when his mother died. He said he did not. We had a mystery here.
Back to the primary sources. A letter from my Dad's oldest sister said that Sophronia was the second Mrs. Ballard. So my grandfather was not upset at Sophronia's death, even though she had raised him - she was a stepmother. On a second visit to Tennessee, I visited the Tennessee State Library and Archive a few times. In a book of marriage records for the state, I found it. T.A. Ballard married Laura J. Hicks in 1874. Arthur was born in 1876. That turned out to be a coincidence of names. The Mormon database, which recently went onine, showed three marriages for Thomas - all in Marshall County, Mississippi. The first was to Margaret Meador in 1867, then Mary Jane Graves in 1870, and Sophronia in 1880. Since my grandfather was born in the 1870's it appears that Mary Jane was his mother and Lurah's. Thomas and Ethel were Sophronia's children with Thomas. In the Fall of 1999, I happily found researchers who were working on this line. I found out that Thomas and Sophronia had one other child - a daughter named Bell. One mystery solved, but I still haven't found out what happened to Lurah or Henrietta. One of them likely got pregnant and was banished from the family forever, judging from a story that my Aunt wrote us.
In a visit to the National Archive in Washington, I guessed that Thomas' father was Henry M. Ballard, who was living with wife Elizabeth, son Thomas, and many daughters in the 1860 census of Haywood County, Tennessee. I guessed wrong. The researches I just found have compelling evidence that my great-grandfather was Thomas Almon Ballard, and his father was Walter Alvis Ballard. Walter was the grandson of Owen Ballard, born in Warren County, North Carolina around 1766. This is taken from family bibles,which carries more wait than my guesswork. Also, we know that Thomas and Sophronia had a son named Thomas Alvis Ballard, so that strengthens the connection with Walter Alvis.
My dad's half sister Alma had a list of family names - the only one I didn't have a line on was "Grandpa Brittenum." It turns out that Brittenums were one of the pioneer families in Mt. Pleasant, so my guess was that my grandfather married a Brittenum before he married my Grandmother. Once again, bad guess. At a family reunion in 2001, I found out from Uncle John's kids that their grandmother was the former Laura Bogard, who died around 1905.
As of 1998, there are 5 Confederate veterans that are direct ancestors of mine. My great great grandfather Alexander Valentine died at Gettysburg. My great great grandfather Dempsey Eure Curl also got captured and spent some time at Fort Delaware. Thomas's son Arthur married Dempsey's granddaughter Ruby Valentine many years after Thomas died. Don't know if they knew each other in Fort Delaware. One thing for certain is that they are spending eternity in the same graveyard in Mount Pleasant, Mississippi. A fourth veteran, and a very sad story, is Joel Weems, Jr., my great great grandfather on my mother's side. He was captured and held in the prison at Alton, Illinois. After surviving unbelievable hardships, he died early in 1865, months before he would have been sent home. He had one daughter, who married Burrell Anderson, Sr., who died under very mysterious circumstances in Tyler, Texas. Finally, on my mother's side, her great-grandfather Thomas Jefferson Anderson was a likely veteran in Georgia's 23rd Infantry - serving through the entire war.
Since Dempsey came back from the war and resumed his life as a prosperous Mississippian, he resented the attention that George Washington Valentine, son of Alexander, paid to his daughter Sarah. Eventually, Sarah ran off with George, had many children (including my grandmother Ruby Valentine Ballard), and lived in the same town, Dempsey would never speak to them again. They even invented a smear campaign that George was a "Carpetbagger," which was faithfully repeated by my dad's sisters. The Valentines were original settlers in Mount Pleasant, so that one does not pass the smell test.
More recently, I got a major hit on the Curls when I contacted the people at the Chatham County Genweb. They produced the following document from William Curl - his will, which was written the year he died:I sometimes wonder what these ancestors would think about their descendant Terry Ballard reversing their steady Southwestern push and relocating to New York. Maybe I'll find out someday.
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