Family Tree Ghosts

Isaac Anderson Henry?  or Isaac VanHoozer?  The lover of Matilda or her son?  Maybe no relation at all.

Isaac Anderson Henry? or Isaac VanHoozer? The lover of Matilda or her son? Maybe no relation at all.

People often comment how far I’ve gotten in genealogical research  in the few short years I’ve been doing it.  My dear departed friend Sandy, was into genealogy for decades and couldn’t build her family tree as much as I did mine in the first year.  The thing is – I was standing on the shoulders of generations of genealogists in the various families.  I was blessed with a family that seemed to have one history buff that was into researching the family or documenting it every generation.   I just had to pull it together.  Yet there are two things that lurk in the tree – walls and ghosts.

Walls are people you just can’t seem to get past.  You can’t find documentation as to who their parents were, where they came from, or how they just showed up to start that branch of the family.  One of my walls is Jordan Temple, my 3rd great grandfather.  I have much documentation on him after he married my 3rd great grandmother, Matilda Henry,  in Greene County Tennessee on the 11 Feb 1836.  Then his disappears into Loudon County, Tennessee after her death.  It’s as if Matilda made him a person – before and after her he didn’t exist.

Ghosts – no not the spooky ones – the people that you find hints about in your research but never quite get documentation to firm them up and put them in the tree.  There’s two related to Matilda – Isaac VanHoozer and Isaac Anderson Henry.  Let’s go back to those genealogists whose shoulders I stand.  One has put Isaac VanHoozer as Matilda’s first husband.  Others have noted him as the father of her son Isaac Anderson Henry.  All seem to agree that the birth took place in Greene County, Tennessee.  When I saw that I was thrilled. Not just that I grew up in Greene County go back there regularly to visit my folks thus have a chance to research this but Greene county is blessed with intact records that go back to its founding.  There have been no courthouse or record fires in its history!  To add to my good luck they have a genealogy library that has a great staff to assist you!  I should find something right?

Wrong.  I did find the VanHoozers and several Isaacs of the right age to father a child by Matilda.  There was no record of Matilda marrying anyone but Jordan.  So the marriage thing might just have been a polite way to establish Isaac Anderson’s parentage.  Next stop was the Bastard Index.  Back then if an unmarried woman had a child out of wedlock a man had to go to court with her to declare he’d be responsible for the child.  I’d guess either her father, William Henry, or the father of the child, Isaac VanHoozer, would have done this.  No, no record of that.  Next was the Indentured Children Record, these were the sad children, usually non-declared bastards meaning no man took responsibility for them in court. They became what we’d call ward of the court.  Back then they were hired out to work for room and board usually on farms.  Think – Cinderella type story.  Nope didn’t find him there.

I thought maybe he went with his father.  Why that would be and he’d not take his father’s name I wasn’t sure.  However. my bad luck trying to find this ghost continued.  That section of land left Greene County to become part of another county during that time.  That county has had record fires.  So another dead end into ashes.  **sigh**

I did get a hint in some other genealogists research that Isaac Anderson was indentured when his mother married Jordan.  That would make sense as he doesn’t appear on the census in his mother’s or his Henry grandparent’s households.  The other hint was he was a Confederate in the Civil War, if he was this would add to the rift as the Temples were staunch Unionist.  Following up on that I did find an Isaac A H VanHoozer that was a Confederate from East Tennessee.  Now if it’s him or another of the plethora of Isaac VanHoozers – I don’t know.  He had the right initials and was the right age.  I followed him in records hoping at some point he’d have to state his parents names.  Not found it yet but did find a picture related to the search of Isaac A. H. VanHoozer – him? probably the man whose records I’d been following. If he was Matilda’s son, I don’t know.  He wound up in Arkansas after the war.  It seems many East Tennessee Confederates went there not being welcome in their home area any more (remember East Tennessee was Union).

That is where I currently sit.  Looking at a cyanotype of a rugged man whose face speaks of a hard life and wondering if that life included being abandoned by his mother when she married a man that wouldn’t accept her non-declared bastard. Then, rejected by the community to which he never belonged due to his birth circumstances, he chose the opposite side in the war only to lose and be further ostracized.  Or is this just my writer’s imagination filling in the blanks? Am I taking scraps of information and weaving them together? As it is I don’t even have proof Matilda gave birth to an Isaac Anderson Henry beyond a few notes of hobby genealogists like myself pondering this mysterious link. Like all ghosts, it’s just a glimpse of something. One that might mean something or just be my imagination running away with me.

Until next time.

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