Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wormhole Genealogy

Last night I had one of those out of body, out of time genealogy adventures. In the end it was more fiction than science, but what a ride! 

I began by revisiting my great-aunt Mary Kathryn's mysterious husband, Heiskell (now Hascal) McKenzie. I knew he was a devastatingly handsome man "from" Lenoir City (Loudon County, TN), that they married when my mother was a teenager (1940s) and that he died soon after from alcoholism. I have never found a marriage record for them and decided to see how Ancestry's search feature would work with the elusive Mr. McKenzie. 

Sometime later (on FamilySearch) I found him in the 1900 census living with his grandparents in Cocke County, TN. This was a revelation to me, for I had no idea he had local roots. I was even more surprised that his mother's parents were Abe and Jane Dawson, part of a large Dawson clan that contributed many in-laws to my Sawyers and Conways. 

I wandered a bit further and discovered that Jane Dawson, Hascal McKenzie's grandmother, was born Jane Precilla Ren in January, 1837 which is when Mary Kathryn's grandfather, Archie Sawyer was being hauled into court to support an illegitmate child born to Scintha Ren. This was when my brain took off and the ride become more carnival roller coaster/side show than actual research. I leapt, wondering if she was the child (probably not). I found a Priscilla Ren living with Jane in 1850 and suspected she was the errant Scintha, neglecting to notice she was in her sixties in 1836. I discovered that Jane's purported father Joel Ren was married to an Elizabeth Killion, prompting visions of Archie's sister-in-law marrying into the other woman's family and raising his spawn. 

At which point I decided I'd best go to bed.

Today, after sleep and copious amounts of caffeine I realize that I don't know if Archie and Scintha Ren's child was a boy or a girl. I don't know if the child survived. I don't know what happened to Scintha Ren. I have yet to find a record that I can confidently tie to Scintha. I even wonder now if Archie and Sallie's son Andy could have been Scintha Ren's son, for I have no marriage record for Archie and Sallie. 

What I do know is that Archie and Sallie's FAN club has grown, giving me lots more to work with. Joel Ren was born in North Carolina. Did he migrate with the Killions? Did he know the Sawyers before landing in Cocke County? Who is the Priscilla Ren I was so eager to label as the other woman in Archie's life (wouldn't that have been an accomplishment)? Is Elizabeth Killion Ren one of the tickmark daughters of David and Barbary Killion? 

I also know that falling into those wormholes is tremendous fun. I started looking for a 20th c. in-law and landed back in the 19th c. hills circling near my favorite mystery grandfather. 

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  1. Susan, what a wild ride it was, indeed! Sometimes those late-night research journeys can be quite hair-raising.

    I had to laugh when you mentioned your great-aunt's husband Heiskell was a "devastatingly handsome" man. I can't tell you how many times I've told my own husband that very same thing ;)

  2. I do the late night genealogy thing sometimes, too, and then I get a horrible night's sleep wondering how to proceed to "prove" whatever it is my mind has concocted. I hope you got a good night's sleep!

  3. Tra la, I love late night research! I hope you're able to find answers to all the questions evoked by slipping into the wormhole.

  4. Sounds like a wild ride! But where is the diagram?? And I'm glad you've given us a new name for this activity that we ALL get sucked into (shots of rye or not) ~ WORMHOLE GENEALOGY. I love it!!


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