Thursday, February 27, 2014

52 Ancestors: #5 - The Hunt for James Parker Continues

I'm officially behind in my 52 ancestor posts ... but I knew that would happen. I'm just going to keep plugging away as best as I can, and hopefully I'll catch back up before summer.

Do you have that one elusive ancestor, that makes you want to tear your hair out? Me too!

But I know the answer is out there somewhere ... and every so often I do a quick search in Google for:
"James Parker"+"DeKalb County"+TN+genealogy
just hoping my brickwall ancestor will find a way to contact me from the Great Beyond ... through all the ports and plugs that make up the vast World Wide Web.  Usually, its fruitless but every so often I come across new material ... or a new researcher .... with the same brick wall. ;o) (Misery loves company)

Well, during one these random "while I'm waiting for the microwave to finish" searches I came across some new information in the form of a genealogy report of the Descendants of James Parker which had been uploaded by Deborah Hills Nichols sometime in November of 2012. And her "James Parker" is from ... DeKalb County, TN. 

This could be promising ... 

My "James" first shows up in 1852 in DeKalb County, TN when he marries Catherine Burton.  Since I have no birth date or age at death for him, I've had to make some general assumptions as follows:  
1) His wife, Mary Catherine Burton was born about 1834-1836 ... I figure he had to be near her in age ... so I've estimated that he was likely born between 1830 and 1835.  
2) I've also made the assumption that James likely met Catherine Burton through neighbors or church affiliations (meaning they likely lived near each other and perhaps attended the same church in 1851-52).  So if the Burton family lived in Liberty District, DeKalb County, TN during the 1850 census ... perhaps James is related to another "Parker" family living nearby.  
3) It is also entirely possible that my "James Parker" was an outlaw with a made up name, who showed up one day looking for work at the Burton family farm ... and ended up with a shotgun wedding a few months later ... if so, then all bets are off.  

But if not .... He has to be out there in some record .... somewhere .... Right?? (just nod please)

Let's just brainstorm a little using the Parker family list created by Deborah Nichols.  Her report provided information on over eight generations of Parker descendants who could all claim her "James Parker" from DeKalb County, TN as their common ancestor.  Of course, my James Parker was not listed among them (why couldn't it be just that easy?) ... but it did get me thinking about additional ways to research this brickwall ancestor that I had not tried yet.  Namely, which Parker families can I trace from the area ... 

Since I have not been able to to find my "James Parker" listed in the 1850 Census of the DeKalb County, TN area. Nor have I found a "James Parker" in one of the nine counties surrounding DeKalb County, TN that might be a possibility ... I need to refocus my "Parker" research into what I can figure out ...


First I needed a better understanding of the geography that I was working in.  Having never been to this area ... I really needed to use as many maps and historical information that I could find.  

I know my Burton branch intersected with my Parker branch at some point on a farm in Liberty, DeKalb County, TN sometime before 1852.  So when did DeKalb County, TN become an official county? And what County did "Liberty" fit into before DeKalb County was formed.  To answer some of my questions, I visited the Newberry Library - Atlas of Historical County Boundaries website and generated the following three images.  

I've determined that Liberty Township falls approximately at the "E" in the word DeKalb  in these images.

Overlay of DeKalb County, TN Borders 1800

According to the Atlas, in 1800 the Liberty Township area was part of Wilson County, TN.  Now, I don't know how early my "Parker" branch came to DeKalb County, but Deborah Nichols family branch for her James starts in the late 1760s in Smith County, TN which bumps up to Wilson County at the "K" in DeKalb.  So it is possible that our branches may be related as far back as the early 1800s.

Overlay of DeKalb County, TN Borders 1830
Since my "James" was likely born in the early 1830s, I need to make sure I'm looking in the correct location for possible birth records.  The Liberty area appears to actually be located in Smith County, TN during the 1830s.  And I hadn't looked for a birth record for "James" in Smith County, TN yet.  So there's another possible resource to check out.

Overlay of DeKalb County, TN Borders 1840
And by 1840, DeKalb county was officially formed and looked closer to what it looks like today.

Deborah Nichol's information goes on to mention that a few early births were in a location called "Dismal Creek".  A Google search turned up several suggestions, including a map and a book.  The map pinpoints to an area called "Dismal Road" which is north of Liberty by about 2 or 3 miles and runs along the Smith Fork River.  There is also a cemetery marked on the Google map called "Tubb Cemetery", which gives me even another possible resource for tracking down more "Parker" family information.  Which would be very helpful, especially if I can find a connection between my James and Deborah's James.

Google also gave me a link to the text of a book by Will T Hale, called the The History of DeKalb County, TN, published in 1915.  Again, this was a new resource I hadn't found before.  To my joy, the text is searchable and appears to have information on several "Parker" families who were pioneers in the area. Now, it appears that it is computer generated text from a scanned book, so it's not formatted like a book with pages, so it may take me some time to fully digest and analyse.

But again, it's more information than I had this morning. And that is a good thing.

Bottomline ... I've got some new resources to pursue on this branch once again.  I'm still pushing forward with my plans to do a DNA test this summer, but there are no guarantees that I will connect to anyone with a better documented Parker branch going back to Adam ... at least not right away ... and with my luck lately, it's more likely that if we do connect ... they are stuck with the same brickwall as me.

Meanwhile ... the hunt for James Parker continues ...

Love & Aloha,


  1. Enjoyed reading your blog. Good luck with your research.

  2. The area in present day DeKalb Co TN called "Dismal Creek" could be associated with the Dismal Swamp area in North Carolina where many Parkers could be found in the early 1800s. While no connection has yet been found between the two Dismals, the possibility that James Parker could have come from North Carolina and brought the name "Dismal" with him for his new locale is certainly intriguing.


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