Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Finding the Right Grandfather Cornelius Feather

I received an email several weeks ago from a fellow in Huntington, West Virginia, who had found photographs in an estate sale.  Here are the front and back of one of the photos:

So the photograph of a relatively young looking man (25 to 40 years old?) is identified as "Cornelius Feather, Grandfather."

There were also photographs of two older men identified as "Uncle John" and "Uncle Jim."  Those photos seemed to be from the 1900-1930 time frame, in my judgment.

My correspondent wondered "Who is this Cornelius Feather, and how did these photos end up in Huntington, West Virginia?"  So he Googled "cornelius feather" and my Genea-Musings blog popped up with stories about my 4th great-grandfather, Cornelius Feather (1777-1853) of Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  And the blog posts had my email address, so he emailed me.

I like research puzzles like this, so I grabbed the photo bait and decided I would try to answer my correspondent's question.  

First, I looked in my RootsMagic database.  There were three persons named Cornelius Feather:

*  Cornelius Feather (1777-1853), my 4th great-grandfather.  Since photographs were not in wide use before 1850, the photo is certainly not of him.

*  Cornelius Feather (1844-1862), who died in the Civil War, probably unmarried.  I'm pretty sure that the photo is not of him.

*  Cornelius A. Feather (1836-1873), son of John and Phoebe (Condit) Feather, who married Anna McQuillen (1838-1926) in 1861 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  They had four children.  He is my primary candidate for being the relatively young man in the photograph, even though he died in 1873.  At least that was in the age of photography.

*  Some other Cornelius Feather not in my database.  I searched on for other persons with the name, and found a few more, but none that made sense.

Another clue was that there were "Uncle John" and "Uncle Jim" in the photos.  They might have been from the Feather family, or not.  Who knows?

A third clue is that these photographs ended up in Huntington, West Virginia.  Perhaps a descendant of the grandfather Cornelius Feather.

I realized I needed to expand my search to all possible Feather families and descendants (since there is no indication that the grandchildren had Feather surnames) in the post-1850 time frame, probably in the area of Pennsylvania and Virginia/West Virginia. 

I already had dozens of Feather persons in my database, all of them descended from Stephen Feather (1736-1804), father of my 4th great-grandfather and John Feather (grandson of Stephen Feather), who died in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania (the southwest corner of Pennsylvania).

From there, I performed these operations in my Descendants of Stephen Feather research:

*  Matched all of my Feather persons with profiles in FamilySearch Family Tree.  Added spouses and children for those who were in the FSFT to my RootsMagic database.  I did this for four generations past the children of Stephen Feather, which got me into the 20th century.

*  TreeShared my RootsMagic database with my Ancestry Member Tree.  Immediately, Ancestry provided record hints, including Member Trees, for the persons.  For each person, I added events and sources for the persons in RootsMagic and gradually built up profiles for the RootsMagic persons.

*  When I ran out of Record Hints, I searched Ancestry for the end of line persons in census, military, vital and burial records, and added their spouses and children to the RootsMagic database, then TreeShared and received Record Hints, and added those to the new profiles in RootsMagic, then added them to FamilySearch Family Tree.

I concentrated on the descendants of Cornelius A. Feather (1836-1873).  He and Anna McQuillen had four children, all born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania:

*  Elizabeth D. "Lizzie" Feather (1864-1870).
*  Frank Condit Feather (1866-1948); I could find no marriage or children for him.
*  Mary Phoebe Feather (1868-1947), who married William Clark Coulter (1865-1929) in 1889, and had seven children.  The first four of these children were born in Nebraska, and the last three were born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
*  Lillie Luella Feather (1874-1910) who married Frederick Leander Stright (1863-1942) in 1893, and had four children born between 1894 and 1902 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

Two of Lillie's children were John Orville Stright (1899-1983) and James Leander Stright (1902-????).  Could these be "Uncle John" and "Uncle Jim?"  Perhaps.  The uncles could also be sons of siblings of William Coulter's, or of Cornelius A. Feather's siblings, but I didn't find both a John and James in any one family.

The key to the puzzle is, I think, the death record for George William Coulter (1892-1952), the son of William Clark and Mary Phoebe (Feather) Coulter.  He died in Huntington, Cabell County, West Virginia.  He was in several Cabell County records residing there from 1930.  He married Christine Rowan (1896-1981), and they had three children in Pennsylvania before 1930.  Christine died in Huntington, West Virginia in 1981.

George William Coulter's maternal grandfather is Cornelius A. Feather (1836-1873).  George's wife lived until 1981, and it may be her property that was obtained in the estate sale at some time since then.  It may be that one of the three known daughters of George and Christine Coulter died recently and the photographs were part of her collection.

All of that took about one week to puzzle through.  It's a decent example of the Descendants Research I am performing as I go through my 4th great-grandparents and their descendants and building up my RootsMagic database.


Copyright (c) 2017, Randall J. Seaver

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1 comment:

Diane Gould Hall said...

Good work Randy. I would lean toward that photo being in the 1870-1880 time frame based in the collar, the lapel and the tie. That’s just from memory after having looked at Maureen Taylor's posts for so many years. I have her books here if you would like me to double check the clothing and time frame.