John R Long has been a mystery to my cousin Jim, for the 20+ years he’s researched the Longs. I suspect he has the same feeling I do about my Buchanan’s, where for 25 years I’ve been in the same exact place, with the same names, and no matter how hard I try, I haven’t gotten anywhere. It’s beyond frustrating, as you spend endless hours looking for new info, that never appears, and despite everything you try, you never seem to get even a little lead. Trying the same thing the same way and expecting a different result comes to mind. So that’s what we did.
First, through another project, I learned about YDNA. OMG. *smacks forehead*. If only I’d done this sooner! While I have no one to test, cousin Jim is the exact candidate for our Longs. With first a y-111 yDNA test, then upgrading to BigY (700), we now have our haplogroup for our direct line, as well as some leads, based on the group we fell into (and by ‘we’, I mean Jim’s DNA LOL). So, chalk one up for trying something different. While we have some amazing information once we get into the early 1700’s, we still can’t get before John and his 1800 birth in SC. As a matter of fact, we don’t even know WHERE in SC to start looking, and the name “John” is a repetitive name in our known elder Longs, found through yDNA, so no help there. What could we do next that would change the outcome?
Next, because of the Franklin County AL courthouse fire in 1890 that destroyed all the records prior to this date, and 3 of us, and I’m sure other descendants from our MRCA John, have scoured whatever is available online, with nothing new. A problem (corporate) Ancestry (still) refuses to acknowledge (despite seeing other current complaints as recently as this week) that their software deletes either smaller amounts of, or in my case, majorities of trees I’d made (on my, and several of my cousins’ accounts I manage), I had just days before decided to get back to FamilyTreeMaker (FTM), a program I originally used 20+ years ago, long before Ancestry had their tree program. (Side story: Ancestry actually owned FTM, and then sold it in early 2000’s to MacKiev). Sadly, while I was weeks late for my purchase to prevent loss, I immediately saved my various trees, as well as those of my cousins. Then I swore that I was going to end my relationship with Ancestry after 20 years when my subscription expires (I’d just paid my annual!) (This was both a pledge of determination, but also enough to make a sailor blush, and I’m a Navy brat so I know!) So, now we have DNA and I have a deadline.
I have have been disillusioned in the way Ancestry has dumbed down research. People who are just getting into genealogy, and Ancestry is their only taste, expect that everyone’s trees should be public (OMFG! don’t get me started), that ‘research’ is attaching all the hints, and then copying other’s trees into their own, which now can literally be done with a CLICK! Since I’ve used my advance research skills to the best of my abilities with the records on Ancestry, even FamilySearch, I decided I needed to go back to how I learned at first, which partly was Rootsweb, USGenWeb, and the library. Covid kept me out of the library, but I did go back to the other sites. I also set up paper (what?) profiles on each great grand, in this case, John and his wife, and then each of his kids. I ticked lines for each 10 years following their birth based on census years. I focused solely on 2 generations with intense scrutiny. As I found records, I manually transcribed them, as well as then, once confirmed, added them to FTM and again manually transcribed each and every one. I made sure each of the fields that pertained to the document were sourced, as well as every person mentioned. Yes: lots of extra work, but the data is also embedded in my brain now. I set out to find each of his children, from birth to grave, (see where this term BTG I use comes from now?) I didn’t just take Ancestry’s hint word that the document, or the people in it were ‘fact’. I then backed it up with DNA matches, because remember, all of my Buchanan’s DNA cousins are Longs since John’s 2d eldest child is our great grand, so I have about 15 kits that I have access to full DNA match lists, not just shared matches, and I can also group and notate. If you only manage your own DNA, or even a few people, you’re only seeing a small picture. These extra kits give me various generations, as well as how they come into our families, and because DNA is not inherited equally, each person has more than others, or none, and when then compared to others, who equally inherited their DNA unequally, is a great way to bounce ‘theories’, or prove things that say my sole kit wouldn’t prove. Anyway, that’s another post topic. Simutaneously, I was also working my Buchanans in the exact same way, especially since the same counties applied, especially since my Long ggm md my Buchanan ggf!
Jim sent me his personal paper documents that aren’t online. I scoured each one as I transcribed it while entering it in FTM. Those documents help cement some information we knew, but it also led us in a direction we didn’t know, and we still are trying to nail down, but not anything that would get us back to South Carolina.
Census records became a target, and I started reading them page by page, line by line. Every decade, every division, and surrounding counties. If they had a Buchanan, Long (or Carroll) in them, whether I knew the name was our family or not, I printed the page. I made notes, looked at the relationship to known family in terms of ‘were they living close to any of our known families?’ or using their age and place of birth listed, could they be siblings, uncles, etc. One thing I learned: there’s 5 John Longs in the area of Franklin County, AL and Itawamba County, MS where he lived for close to 20 years, and 2 of those 5 go by John R! Another thing: our John is ALWAYS listed as John R! *except once they add ‘Jud’ to his name on a census, and everyone has that in their name field, as if that was his name. It’s not folks.
There were some awesome finds, and a little bit of new information which was a relief that we were finally getting somewhere. There was also a huge discovery on our Buchanan’s. I found one of my ggf’s brothers, who I had searched under every rock for! With that being confirmed via DNA as well as my fleshing out the tree a bit more, the new information could keep me busy for the next months just adding these new relatives. But John’s life is still a mystery before he comes to Alabama.
Of course as we research, everyone uses ‘search’ or even hints, and a byproduct is usually a top hit of other’s trees, which I always glance at. As a matter of fact, 2 years ago when I first found my cousin Diane, who was the biggest lead in 20 years I had on my Buchanans: my ggf’s parents and even my ggm’s parents, and then she introduced me to cousin Jim. We all had the same thing: John R Long md Sarah Catherine, who too was from SC. During this intense scrutiny of documents, I learned that actually John married twice. First, Catharine, (notice the a not e) was the mother of all, but 4, of John’s 13 known children. When Catharine dies before the 1860 census and John moves to Frankfort by 1860, *which is in Franklin Co in 1860, but where he was, the northern half, becomes Colbert Co in 1867. By the 1870 census, John is now married to Sarah (Gibson) and has daughters. There’s an error on the census, whether it was by the giver or taker I don’t know, but Wm N Long is NOT John’s son, and his name isn’t even Long. It’s Gibson. He’s John’s stepson, Sarah’s son from her first marriage, to her first cousin, Wm Newton Gibson. Both her married and maiden name were Gibson. Wm Jr is the only child of this union as Sr dies while in route to Texas, or so the story goes. Anyway, there is a son of the union of Sarah and John, but sadly this child dies about the age of 4, and in between censuses so he’s a little known part of the story.
One thing I’ve come to hold dear about John and Catharine is they were very family oriented and by all appearances, to have been very religious, something passed to their children. Each of the girls marry all about 20, +/- 3-5 years, and unless their husbands died, each remains married. My ggm, Zana, actually doesn’t marry again at least by 1870, which is almost at most 5 years after the war. (I have no firm documentation about when he dies in the war, just that he isn’t on the 1870 census and family history says he died in the war.)
John’s Long family is a very grounded and rooted family. Their census records seem to always keep the same information, with little deviation on their age or places of birth, which to me is telling of the type of person some people are. The ones that their data is always off, from each census to the next, and I mean drastically, I usually find is hiding something. (My ggf on another line taught me this: I found he was married, and had a child, which he left both and moved out of state and no one in our family were aware. Every census he was from a different state and his year of birth was always, always, different. Oh, and his name was his, but it was always different: First no middle, Middle, no first, or a nickname on one, which I only found because my ggm, his daughter, was on it! It took me 20 years, but I found the sucker… and then I found his secret!) But I have loved researching John and Catharine and can almost imagine what type of parents they were. For that alone I am proud they’re my great grands! Anyway….
I’m not sure where John’s wives became one person, Sarah Catherine, but they are indeed 2 separate women. I have no current indication to believe that Catharine’s name could have been Sarah Catharine, but I have also searched her that way, just in case.
Next was to figure out when John died. I’ve seen it Choctaw, AL 1880 and even Pickens, AL 1901, or Lauderdale (there’s 2). One is a pension record for a John R, which in Pickens is a man who is much younger than our John. The pension record in Lauderdale happens to have a wife whose name is also Sarah, but John would have been 100 years old when he died not to mention 62-66 during the Civil War itself. There’s no indication that our John actually served, however two sons did: Silmon and James W. Two of John’s son-in-laws also served: James and Wm Buchanan. We know for sure Silmon and James were in the Union from their military records that Jim has, however, because the names are so generic, we have no firm documentation on the Buchanan brothers, but family lore has been passed they were in the Confederacy. Wouldn’t that have been awkward around the Sunday dinner table?
I spent a lot of time investigating every single document out there to prove that was our John, but what I know is: he had kids 1864 and after, and he’s on the 1870 with his wife, Sarah, but in 1880 she is now head of house, with her daughters aged 12-18. Now the time frame has narrowed to betw 1870-1880, or more specifically, aft 12Jul 1870 and bef 23 Jun 1880. We know his wife and daughters remain in Colbert until their deaths, except one that moves to Lauderdale, so the family didn’t leave the county, which makes stability another trade mark of John’s rearing. One of his daughters with Sarah filed for pension for her husband’s death and in the application it asks where she was born, to which she answers a log cabin. I love it! It also means, the other documents in Lauderdale, Pickens, and Choctaw can’t be our John.
While we don’t know much more than we started about where John came from, we know so much more about their time in Itawamba, MS and Franklin and Colbert, AL.
Details are important. Every single tick mark! The morale of this story is don’t give up if you aren’t getting anywhere. Change the way you’re doing it and see if that opens a door. Then run through it!