Solving a Brick Wall with the Research Like a Pro Method
Today I’m sharing two pieces of exciting news: I solved my Keaton brick wall, and Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide is now available on paperback! After editing, formatting, and preparing work samples for the book for the last two months, I have become very familiar with the process. To check it out, click here: Research Like a Pro on Amazon.
Learning to research like a pro is what helped me solve my brick wall, and that’s what I’m sharing in this post. I’m so excited to share how I solved the brick wall of my 3rd great grandmother Lucinda (Keaton) Welch’s parents! I’m currently doing the Research Like a Pro method for the third time, in the third Research Like a Pro study group. I selected finding Lucinda Keaton’s parents as my research question. Lucinda was born about 1805 in South Carolina and married George Welch in about 1824. I had been been trying to solve this brick wall problem for the past several years. In years past, I had:
-found Lucinda’s maiden name from her youngest daughter’s death certificate: Keaton
-found Lucinda’s husband, George Welch on the census in Anderson District, South Carolina in 1830 and 1840
-searched for possible candidates for her father in her census reported birthplace of South Carolina
-found that all Keatons in the 1810 census in South Carolina lived in Pendleton, South Carolina
-selected the most likely candidate for her father – William Keaton – because he had a daughter the right age bracket to be Lucinda
-learned about Pendleton district, found that it changed into Anderson District, which turned in Anderson County
-found a marriage announcement for Lucinda’s daughter in Pendleton, South Carolina in 1843 in “Pendleton Factory”
-searched for Keatons in land conveyance records and found a record of George Welch and William Keaton conveying land together in 1833
-found a DAR article in a 1902 newspaper about the Greshams submitted by a DAR member that said “Katy Gresham married William Keaton, Pendleton, S.C.” and that Katy Gresham’s parents were John Gresham and Barbara Burdine.
-I researched Katy Gresham in online family trees and found that many people had her mother’s family – including Barbara Burdine’s father, Richard Burdine/Burdyne.
-found an AncestryDNA match who descended from Richard Burdyne which gave me a clue that this could be our possible common ancestor, if my hypothesis was right
-made a detailed timeline for Lucinda and analyzed all the records I had about her and her husband and children (view my timeline spreadsheet here: Lucinda Keaton Timeline Analysis)
-noted that Lucinda was also known as Cindrilla and Cynthia on census records.
Beginning the RLP Process
When I started the Research Like a Pro process, I had done a lot of searching online for clues that would prove Lucinda Keaton’s father was William Keaton. I wasn’t following a plan, I was just searching randomly for more clues. I was resigned that I would only find indirect evidence to prove the relationship and that I’d have to do a big DNA project testing several descendants of William Keaton to prove the hypothesis.
Then, I started working on my research question in the third Research Like a Pro study group. For the first assignment, I analyzed everything I had already found and created this objective:
Determine if Willam Keaton, born about 1756-1765 and married Katy Gresham in Pendleton, South Carolina, was the father of Lucinda (Keaton) Welch. Lucinda was born about 1805 in South Carolina and married George Welch. Lucinda and George resided in Anderson District, South Carolina in 1830.
I created a chronology of sources about William Keaton (William Keaton Chronology) as well as a timeline (William Keaton Timeline Analysis). I wanted to be as thorough as possible. To estimate a possible birth year range for William Keaton, I calculated his age from each census 1790-1820. I also transcribed each of these censuses into a table in the chronology, and determined that based on the tick marks, he likely had 13 children – 10 male and 3 female. I took note of neighbors and associates.
As part of the chronology, I transcribed the land conveyance record that mentioned William Keaton and George Welch in 1833. As I transcribed it, I realized that it gave me an important clue that could lead to more records – it mentioned that William Keaton (deceased) formerly resided on the land being sold. The two men selling the land were George Welch (Lucinda’s husband) and William Keaton. At first, I thought this was William Keaton Sr., but then I realized that although it didn’t specify Jr. and Sr., that one William Keaton in the deed was deceased and the other one was selling the land. This record helped me understand that I should be searching for records of land ownership, estate division, and probate for William Keaton before 1833. I also noticed in my timeline that William Keaton did not appear on the 1830 census in Anderson District, further evidence that he died before 1830.
The next assignment for the Research Like a Pro study group was to create a locality guide for the area. This was the most helpful assignment in the process. I created a guide for Pendleton, South Carolina. This place was a town, a county, a district, and then was replaced by Anderson District. I knew there were a lot of changing jurisdictions for William Keaton’s timeline, and I needed to understand it better. I started learning everything I could about the place and created this: Pendleton District, South Carolina Locality Guide. I also created a general South Carolina guide: South Carolina Locality Guide. The best discovery I made while created the Pendleton District guide was that GenealogyBank had a collection of indexed, digitized newspapers from Pendleton in 1807-1841, called Miller’s Weekly Messenger (also Pendleton Messenger). I quickly signed up for a subscription and searched the collection for the surname Keaton. I found an exciting article!
This article gave me evidence that William Keaton had an estate file in Anderson District. As I finished my locality guide, I went through everything in the FamilySearch Catalog for Anderson District. In the probate section, I saw a collection called “Anderson County, South Carolina estate papers packets, 1828-1915.” Half of the microfilms had been digitized, and the half that would contain William Keaton’s file was not. However, I knew that he would be on the microfilm.
The next assignment for the study group was to create a Research Plan. I prioritized the estate packets within the top five of my plan. See my research plan here: William Keaton Research Plan. I enlisted my mother to go to the Family History Library since I’m down in Tucson, AZ, and waited impatiently until she could go a few days later. She found a 56 page file and sent it to me the next day. I quickly flipped through the images until I found a list of all William Keaton’s heirs:
On line 5, I noticed “George Welch and Cindrilla his wife.” I was thrilled! It wasn’t until I went back and transcribed the document that I realized it actually said “Lucindrilla.” I could not believe it! Lucinda Keaton’s full name was Lucindrilla. It made perfect sense now why she went by both Lucinda and Cindrilla. See my transcription of the estate papers here: William Keaton Estate Papers Transcription and my research log: William Keaton Research Log.
My last step is to write a report. I found a description of probate laws in a South Carolina digest of laws from 1822 which stated,
“Where any person shall die intestate…the judge of the court of ordinary of the district having the right shall grant administration of the goods of the testator, or intestate, to his, or her, relations, in the order following, in exclusion of all other persons, to wit: first, to the husband, or wife, of the deceased; and, if there be no such, or they do not apply, then to the child, or children or their legal representatives…” 
I will use this in the report to conclude that each of the 13 people listed as heirs in addition to the widow, Catherine [Katy] Keaton, are William Keaton’s children. Four references throughout the estate papers reference “the children of the real estate of Wm Keaton,” providing evidence that the heirs were William Keaton’s children and not some other relatives.
The Value of Original Records
During the 4th study group session about source citations and research logs, one of the group members asked about the reliability of online trees since much of that information is copied from user to user, like at Ancestry. Diana answered that she often uses RootsWeb family trees since they are often more reliable. Users actually uploaded gedcoms instead of copying information from others’ trees. I immediately typed William Keaton’s name into the RootsWeb database and found a a family tree which contained a list of William Keaton’s children as obtained from his estate file. Instead of Lucindrilla, it listed her as “Drucilla.” I’m so glad that I viewed the original record before I saw this. Seeing that there was no Lucinda in the list might have deterred me from pursuing my hypothesis. But because I viewed the original source and recognized my ancestor’s name as Lucindrilla, the wife of George Welch, it proved my hypothesis! I have definitely learned to always check the original record and not rely on derivatives.
I am thrilled that the Research Like a Pro process was so successful in helping me break my brick wall! I had been searching for years, but a knowledge of what record collections were available and a focused research plan were what I lacked.
Check out the book here: Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide.
Notes Benjamin James, South Carolina, A Digest of the Laws of South-Carolina: containing the public statue law of the state, down to the year 1822; a compendious system of the general principles and doctrines of teh common law, the law of courts martial, and a great variety of forms: the whole being designed, chiefly, for the instruction and use of the private citizen and inferior magistrate (Columbia: Telescope Press, 1822), 130; image copy, Google Books (https://books.google.com : accessed 13 May 2018).