Have you ever discovered an important clue while reviewing the sources you already have for a research subject? It’s somewhat common for those following the research like a pro process to discover a vital piece of information during the timeline creation and analysis. This is exactly what happened to me as I reviewed the sources I had on Sally (Keaton) Reeves and her family.
The third part of the 14-day Research Like a Pro challenge after forming an objective1 is to create a timeline with the known information. Reviewing the starting point for a research project is important. It guides the research and helps you determine the next most efficient steps to find the answer to your question. My research objective is:
Identify the 1830 residence of Sally (Keaton) Reeves, who was born about 1799 in Pendleton District, South Carolina, to William Keaton and Katy Gresham, and married William Reeves before 1830. Sally and William lived outside of South Carolina in 1830 when William Keaton’s estate was distributed.
I used Airtable to create a timeline. Using the 2024 version of the RLP with DNA Airtable template, I added the sources to my research log table first, then added information and events found in those sources in the timeline.
For the timeline’s source column, I simply linked to the research log table so I didn’t have to enter the source URL, citation, or analysis (original, derivative, authored) more than once.
As I was gathering sources and adding information to my timeline, I reviewed the transcript of Sally’s father’s estate file. I had already found that two of the 56 images included a mention of Sally. I added those to my timeline in rows 7 and 8 – Proof of Absent Heirs and Notice to heirs. I did a ctrl+f search of the transcription document (a 42-page Google Doc), and found no other entries with the name Sally or Rives/Reeves/Rury. I didn’t search for William because there were 67 instances of that name on the transcription from William Keaton and William Keaton Jr.
Then I got thinking about the probate process. Why was Sally only listed on these two pages? Usually there was quite a bit of accounting about who received their distributive shares toward the end of the probate process. I went to the end of my hurried transcription from several years ago and found a list of all those who received shares of William Keaton’s estate. Sally and William Reeves were not listed – probably because they didn’t live in the state and didn’t respond to the notice to heirs to appear. Only 9 of the 13 children of William Keaton received their shares, along with Catherine Keaton, his widow.
The next page was titled “Absent Legatees.”2
In my original quick transcription of these 56 images, I had not transcribed one of the absent legatees correctly. Instead of Reeves, I had transcribed River, but based on what I learned in my analysis of the handwriting in days 1-2 of the challenge, I determined it says Reeves. The list didn’t include the first name – just Reeves. This was an exciting moment – not just because I found that Sally and her husband were listed on one more image, but because this absent legatees paper listed their location – Tennessee [W.V.? or US.A.?].
Jesse lives in Alabama
Ephraim Mississippi Monroe
Andrew Ohio Jackson
James Mississippi Monroe
Abner do do
Reeves Tennessee [W.V. or US.A.?]
Legatees of Wm Keeton dec
Does this answer my research question?! Already? The paper is undated, but the document before it bears the date of 1843. The paper after it is dated 1830. Dates in William Keaton’s estate file go from 1830-1843, so I know that Sally (Keaton) Reeve’s relatives believed she lived in Tennessee at some point between 1830-1843. This is exciting! I found direct evidence to answer my research question just by going through the sources I already had. My research question isn’t answered, because I don’t know at what time they lived there, and I’d like to know specifically where within Tennessee they resided. And there’s the question of that abbreviation after Tennessee. It looks like W.V., but West Virginia wasn’t a state until the 1860. Perhaps it refers to Western Virginia? Or maybe it’s a sloppy U.S.A., perhaps indicating that the Keaton family wasn’t sure which state Sally and her husband moved to, but somewhere in the USA?
Analysis of Sources, Information, and Evidence
The next task for the 14-day challenge was to analyze the sources information, and evidence I already have in my timeline. This helps us determine the reliability of our starting point information. For the Absent Legatees document, I determined the following:
Source: Image of an original document
Information: Undetermined; the informant wasn’t listed, but it was probably Archibald Keaton, the petitioner in the estate case. Archibald was Sally’s brother, and would have been a firsthand witness to Sally moving away from South Carolina, but if he still lived in South Carolina, perhaps he hadn’t had further news about Sally’s new home, whether they stayed in Tennesse, or moved on somewhere else in the U.S.A.
Evidence: This document provides direct evidence that Sally lived in Tennessee.
This process was repeated for the other rows in the timeline and research log. All my sources are original, so I don’t need to worry about finding originals from derivatives at this point.
As part of day 4, I reviewed the timeline and listed sources that could help fill gaps and answer questions that arose during the starting point analysis. Here are some of the ideas I brainstormed:
- 1830 census – look for William Reeves in Tennessee or Virginia (perhaps the USA or W.V. meant Western part of Virginia, which was a common migration route from Virginia into Tennessee)
- 1820 census – Sally didn’t live in her father’s household in 1820 – she was probably newly married; look for William Reeves in SC and expand to southern states, esp. TN
- Marriages – check for Sally Keaton and William Reeves marriages in SC and then expand to VA and TN. Check the Pendleton Messenger marriage and death notices book of abstracts for marriage notices.
- 1800 census – John Reeves and Burgess Reeves were on the same page as William Keaton in this. Review their household makeups and see if one of them was old enough to be the father of William Reeves who married Sally Keaton.
- Also 1790 census William Keaton’s neighbors included John Reeves.
- Wills and Estates for Reeves men in Pendleton District / Anderson County, SC
- potentially the father of William Reeves could be listed in a will or estate with more information about his residence.
- Tennessee Tax records – 1836-1837 tax records are generally available for TN – look for William Reeves
- Land sale of William Reeves sometime between probable marriage in Pendleton before 1820 and 1830 when they lived elsewhere.
- Pendleton Messenger at Genealogy Bank – search for Reeves, or Wm Reeves/Rives, search for Sally Keaton marriage announcement – https://www.genealogybank.com/explore/newspapers/all/usa/south-carolina/pendleton includes Miller’s Weekly Messenger which became the Pendleton Messenger
If you’re struggling with a challenging research question, spend some time gathering all your known sources on the research subject and their family. You might find an invaluable clue to guide your research!
- Nicole Elder Dyer, “Who Was Sally Keaton? Determining Unique Identifiers for a Research Objective,” 23 January 2024, Family Locket (https://familylocket.com/who-was-sally-keaton-determining-unique-identifiers-for-a-research-objective/ : accessed 25 Jan 2024).
- Anderson District, South Carolina, estate packets, no. 362, William Keaton, Absent Legatees, 1830, document no. 25, image 53; image online, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QHV-V38V-JGYF?i=271 : accessed 24 Jan 2024), digital film 8702522, images 271-272 of 802; citing Anderson County, South Carolina, estate papers packets, FHL microfilm 1572233.