Saturday, March 30, 2013

Thanks, Grandpa...I think. Some Confusing Clues.

While my genealogy research has resulted in some rich finds, I did a LOT of stumbling around in confusion at first when trying to track down W. Hunter Davis and his military service.

I have to admit, while growing up I had no idea I had an ancestor who served in the Confederate Cavalry.  Even though my grandpa (George L. A. Davis) was alive until I was eighteen, he never mentioned it.  Of course, I didn’t ask either.  And in the last few years of his life he was unable to speak due to problems with his throat muscles.  His mind was still there, and he would write short notes, but that was about it.

When I became interested in my family history while in my early thirties I took on the role as the keeper of family documents, including a letter my mother received from my grandpa when she asked him for some biographical information for a college assignment.  Great primary source documentation! -- for his own life.  He wrote (see below) that during World War I he enlisted in “Troop A, First Georgia Cavalry...the same troop of cavalry in which my Grandfather, William Hunter Davis served as a lieutenant in the Civil War.”

Here’s a transcription of the paragraph:

So this clue led to some confusion, especially when I saw W. Hunter Davis listed  in a published index of Confederate Soldiers as having served in the 1st Georgia Infantry.   It hadn’t dawned on me that men would have gone from one unit to another.  I did keep searching and then the Footnote (now Fold3) database allowed me to find Hunter's cavalry records.  So, my grandpa’s letter was slightly misleading, but still a GREAT clue that gave me some motivation to search for W. Hunter’s military records.  And it underlines the importance of not relying on one source, but looking for multiple sources of evidence for an ancestor’s life story.


Letter from George L.A. Davis to daughter Mary Elizabeth Davis, 11 January 1944, Private collection of Margaret M. Eves

Saturday, March 23, 2013

1 Hatchet, 2 Water Buckets, 1 Broom, a Bride, and a Baby

So in 1850, we find W. Hunter at 12 years of age living in Savannah, according to the 1850 U.S. Census. (See my previous posts for the lead-up to this point.) 

According the the family Bible, his parents, John Washington and Martha Caroline Davis died in 1857 (or 1851, as the handwriting is a bit difficult to read) leaving him without parents at age 19.

I don’t have a firm handle on where W. Hunter was in 1860 at age 22, as it’s hard to confirm his identity in the 1860 census.

Confederate service records show that W. Hunter Davis joined the 1st Georgia Infantry in Way’s Company (Forest City Rangers) in July 1861.  Take a look at the Compiled Confederate Service Records here:

He joined up at Tybee Island, Georgia and served some at Fort Pulaski.  It appears he serves at least his 4-month commitment until 18 November 1861, when his “name appears in col. of Rec’d Payment as Wm. Hunter Davis.”

Thank goodness the copyist (one of the hundreds compiling these service records) footnoted this distinction.

1 Hatchet, 2 Buckets, 1 Broom

It would be easy to confuse “our” William H. Davis with so many others serving in Georgia units, but lucky for us he liked to sign his name “W. Hunter Davis”, like in the Special Requisition receipt below for “1 Hatchet, 2 Water Buckets, 1 Broom” in November 1861 --

So this is why I call our ancestor “W. Hunter”, because that’s how he signed his name!  Perhaps folks called him “Hunter.” I’m just thankful he chose to distinguish himself this way!

I found the above items in the Fold3 database.  But in subsequent searches back for William Hunter Davis, I couldn’t find the supply requisition.  I’m relieved that I saved it.  

I haven’t found documentation about what W. Hunter is doing during the almost three months between 18 November 1861 and 13 February 1862, but I would guess he was spending lots of time with Miss Annie Graham, because they were married on that date in February.

A Bride

My Davis-Armstrong family Bible records show W. Hunter married Annie Rebecca Graham--it’s a little hard to read but it is there.

A published index of Georgia marriages by the Georgia Genealogical Society tipped me off to a possible marriage date for the two.  A trip to the Georgia Archives (thank goodness they were open!) and I found the microfilm of the marriage certificate.  Pay dirt!  His marriage to Miss Annie Graham on 13 February 1862 in Savannah is confirmed!! Again, he appears as “W. Hunter.”

After being married for four days, on 17 February 1862, W. Hunter enlists with the Fifth Georgia Cavalry, Company B (Chatham Light Horse) under the command of Richard F. Akin.

A Baby

Then, according to the family Bible, baby boy William Albert Davis makes his appearance on 11 September 1862.

So you can do the math and make your own assumptions.

Next post we’ll use our Compiled Confederate Service records to see what W. Hunter was doing off at war while his new bride, Annie was pregnant with their son, William Albert and then caring for a newborn infant.


Chatham County, Georgia, Marriage Books, Chatham County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives: Unknown. Compiled Service Records of confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Georgia, M266 (: National Archives (United States), ), 0135, William Hunter Davis, Sargeant, Way's Company, Forrest City Rangers, 1st (Olmstead's) infantry, 1861. Accessed 20 March 2013,

William A. Davis Family Bible. THE-DEVOTIONAL AND PRACTICAL-POLYGLOTT-FAMILY BIBLE. (Cincinatti, Ohio: National Publishing Co. and Chicago, Ill: Jones, Junkin & Co., 1870) Privately held by Margaret M. Eves, Marietta, Georgia.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bouncing Back In Time via the Census

We continue our journey back in time with William Hunter Davis, who I like to call W. Hunter (I'll tell the reason why in a future post).  Let’s springboard through some census records so we can connect W. Hunter to his pre-Civil War self.  

In the 1870 US Census, we find W. Hunter with his family in Savannah.  His son, William A. Davis is seven years old.  Wife "Ann" is 38 (and probably very pregnant).  John Bart isn’t there yet as he won’t be born until August 21st according to the family bible.  The birth dates all jive with the July 20, 1870 ages: William H., 32; Ann, 38; William A., 7.

There is no street name written on the edge of the page or any indication of locale except for Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia.  But they live near St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum, as written on the margin in the previous page.  The census lists W. Hunter’s occupation as RR Clerk, which I'm guessing means Rail Road clerk.  It will be fun to delve into the context and details later, right now lets move on back in time.

I came up with no strong matches for W. Hunter in the 1860 census.  I found a 22-year old William H. with a birthplace of Georgia in Cass County, Texas surrounded by a lot of other Georgia natives.  The age and birthplace match, but not enough for me to say it’s probably our William Hunter Davis.  I’ve encountered too many other William H. Davises, so I can’t quite make that leap.  Also, the Texas William H. Davis has a wife and infant son named William H.

I won’t totally rule them out. I’ll just add "search Cass County records" as another task on my research to-do list.  (He could have had a first wife and child and maybe they both died, who knows.)

In 1850, W. Hunter would be 12-years-old.  The 1850 Census reveals a William H. Davis (age 12) living with his parents John W (aged 34) and Martha C. (age 37) and a sister Georgia A.C. Davis (age 14) in Chatham County, Georgia.  the parents’ names match the family bible.  

So now we have a sister (Georgia!) who we can track down at another time! 

The 1840 census does list a John W. Davis (when W. Hunter would be age 2), but in the 1840 U.S. census only the head of household's name is listed, so the other names of family members only show up  as tick marks under age ranges.

In the next post we’ll make a U-turn and move forward in time, following W. Hunter in Civil War Savannah as he marries Annie and welcomes his first child, William into the world, all while serving in the Confederate infantry and cavalry.


"United States Census, 1850," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 Mar 2013), William H Davis in entry for John N Davis, 1850.  Original data: Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, Roll 64. 1009 rolls); District 13, Chatham, Georgia; Roll:  M432_64;  Page:  259A; Image:  73.

"United States Census, 1870," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 Mar 2013), William H Davis, Georgia, United States; citing p. 201, family 1438, NARA microfilm publication M593, FHL microfilm 545640.

William A. Davis Family Bible. THE-DEVOTIONAL AND PRACTICAL-POLYGLOTT-FAMILY BIBLE. (Cincinatti, Ohio: National Publishing Co. and Chicago, Ill: Jones, Junkin & Co., 1870) Privately held by Margaret M. Eves.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Family Puzzle

So how do I (mostly) confirm the connection from George L. A. Davis to his father William A. Davis and then to his grandfather William Hunter Davis?   I work backwards.  The bible record helps with dates of birth and death, then I work with the census to connect the generations.  I have the census records from 1920, 1910, and 1900 showing my grandfather George L. A. and his brothers living with his father and mother William A. and Florence Davis in various places with their ages appropriate for their birth dates.  

We don’t have the 1890 U.S. census (most of it was lost to fire and water damage).  The 1880 U. S. census shows a 17-year-old William A. Davis and his brother John B. living in Savannah.  

Portion of 1880 U.S. Census page showing William A. and John B. Davis
Portion of 1880 U.S. Census page showing William A. and John B. Davis

The ages work with the dates of birth from the bible record below.  John Bart Davis shows up in the family bible record, that treasure trove of information.  

Because (according to our family bible record below) William Hunter Davis died in 1879, I know he won’t appear in the 1880 census.  

But, as a researcher, I’m lucky that William Hunter Davis died in the year before the 1880 census.  The 1880 mortality schedules list deaths from the year before -- 1879, so I do find him listed as having died from consumption (what we know today as tuberculosis).  Below is a line from an index (Thank you usgenweb volunteers!) for the 1880 U.S. Census mortality schedules.  See the end of my post for a list of sources.

The month and year of death and age, make sense with the dates we have from the family bible.  But the really important piece of the puzzle from the index listing is this bit of information -- the “Family” column.  That number “546” on the mortality index matches the line from the 1880 census entry showing his two sons, William A. and John Bart living with their mother “Harriet.”   In the 1880 census the census taker numbered each family in order of visitation.  (Not the same as the dwelling number). 

BUT WAIT!  Their mother’s name was Annie, not "Harriet!"  When I first saw the 1880 census entry, the “Harriet” listing cast some doubt on whether these were MY ancestors, as William, John, and DAVIS are such common names!  But, census takers did make mistakes for various reasons (misunderstanding name or it could have been a neighbor or servant giving the information).  The ages jiving with information from the family bible and the Family Number matching with the mortality index connects William H. Davis to his two sons William A. and John B on the census.   I’m confident that these Davises are probably MY ancestors. 

Even though I found these records several years ago it took me a while before I made that connection, partly because my research is spaced out over the years.  As I’ve learned from some of my favorite genealogists, it ALWAYS pays to look back over your records for MORE CLUES!

Of course, the index record of William Hunter Davis’s death also raises additional questions and research tasks (Did he die at home or in a sanitarium or hospital? Is his death certificate in Chatham Co. records?  Is there a newspaper obituary? Where was he buried?).  So much family history, so little time.

But for now, we’ll take what records we have and in our next post go back in time to find William Hunter Davis before the Civil War.


1880 Population, Chatham Co, Georgia, pop. sch, , enumeration district (ED) 16, 312A, 546, William A. Davis; digital image, ( : accessed 9 March 2013).

Chatham, GA  1880 Federal Census (Mortality Schedule)  This Census was transcribed by Bob Torbert and submitted to for the USGenWeb Census Project  Copyright (c) 2003 by Bob Torbert

William A. Davis Family Bible. THE-DEVOTIONAL AND PRACTICAL-POLYGLOTT-FAMILY BIBLE. (Cincinatti, Ohio: National Publishing Co. and Chicago, Ill: Jones, Junkin & Co., 1870) Privately held by Margaret M. Eves, Marietta, Georgia.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Layout of a Life

So we’ve seen the three generations of Davis men in my previous blog posts.  The partial pedigree chart below gives a quick overview of the vital statistics.

Also, I’m a big fan of timelines so here’s one showing the lifetimes of these three guys. 

(Of course there were women in this family and, eventually, I am going to write about their lives and the challenges of researching females in a family tree.)

I generated the timeline from my Reunion genealogy software.  Reunion can also create timelines showing historic events, which can help put your ancestor’s life in context and lead you to potential sources for information. For example, William Hunter Davis lived during the American Civil War, so that’s a clue to look for military service records.  George L. A. Davis’s early lifespan was during World War I, so I’ll look for draft cards and military records for him as well.

I’m starting to transition to RootsMagic software, even though I use a Mac.  Reunion is good, and looks great but they still haven’t added source citation templates like RootsMagic offers.  Source citations are essential to doing genealogy.  If you’re not citing your sources you’re making more work for yourself in the future and not helping your current and future family members carry on research. (I’ll hop off my soapbox now.)  RootsMagic has a timeline view which pairs the horizontal timeline with a rundown of the names and facts.  I'm still learning how to use it, but it's a great tool for seeing the layout of a life.

So next post we’ll look at William Hunter Davis and how I discovered some details of his life.