Friday, February 3, 2012

Just One Thing

Just one thing. Sometimes that all it takes to rocket you into the past. One little detail can make all the difference. In this case it was a name. Ellington.

The Minton family of Rockingham County, North Carolina, was a frustration to me. I knew that Sally Maud Minton Beaman (1890-1972) was from North Carolina. She met and married Oscar Wakefield Beaman (1888-1975) there, then moved to West Virginia. I had lots of Beaman data, but the Minton family eluded me.
Years ago, before the proliferation of online information, I located the family in North Carolina, in both the 1900 and 1910 U.S. census. I was sure it was Maud’s family; the little information I had fit the census listing. I knew that Sally Maud had two brothers, Giles and Plummer. What puzzled me- there was no Mame in the census. Maud had a sister named Mame, or Mamie, as she was fondly called. I know for certain she lived in Huntington, West Virginia, during the 1950s and 1960s; I know the house she lived in. The females of the family in the 1900 Rockingham County, North Carolina, census are Susan A., the wife, and daughters Lessie, Mary E. and Sallie M. Where was Mame? 

Using the names from the census did not get me very far. The father, whose name appears to be Jn R, was only found once, in that 1900 census. I thought he must have died between the 1900 census, the only mention I had of him, and the 1910 census, where Susan was a widow. No information about Susan A. Minton was located after the 1910 census, even with the explosion of information and actual records on the internet. I figured she died soon after John.
I gave up for a while; put this family on the back burner. Last summer, my sister spoke to a cousin, and remembered to ask her about Mame. Ellington, she said, that was Mame’s last name.

At Last! The name was Ellington. That’s all it took. I discovered Mame was, in fact, Mary Elizabeth. Mary Elizabeth, AKA Mame, and her husband were enumerated in the 1910 North Carolina census, then in Virginia, in 1920. Finally, they were in the 1930 census in Huntington, West Virginia. And there, listed as David’s mother-in-law, was Alice Gordon. Gordon? Alice, David’s mother-in-law, Mame’s mother? The age works, Alice works, (Susan A. is Susan Alice), and she was born in North Carolina. I had found Maud’s mother!
Since then, I’ve located a Susan Gordon, with her husband Aaron Gordon, in Huntington in the 1920 census, which led me to a potential marriage for the two. It’s not a perfect fit, Susan, if it is her, is listed as Sarah, and her birth place is incorrect. This is just a listing in the marriage register; if the license exists it might provide better information. It’s on my to-do list.

Just the name Ellington led me to new records and helped to verify information I had.

  • I learned that Mame was Mary Elizabeth
  • 1910 Census- Mamie, her husband, D.E, and two children
  • 1920 Census- Mary E. and her husband and children
  • 1930 Census Mary E., her husband, and Mame’s mother, with a new last name
  • 1920 census, Susan Minton Gordon and husband
  • Possible marriage, Susan Minton and husband Aaron Gordon
  • Death certificates Susan Gordon, Aaron Gordon and David Ellington
  • Cemetery information for all three
  • Possible 2nd marriage for Mame

This list is just for the records I found the day I learned the name was “Ellington”! Since then I have moved back in time, and found more generations.

The name Ellington has led to more puzzles too.

David Ellington and Mame Minton were supposedly married when very young. The 1910 census reports D. E. Ellington and his wife Mamie have been married seven years. However, I found, in West Virginia, an entry for them in a June 1943 marriage register. David E. Ellington & Mary E. Ellington; penciled lightly next to the entry were the words “please don’t publish”! What does that mean? All sorts of explanations come to mind, but I won’t discuss them here. I wouldn’t want them to become” fact” on the internet! If do find an explanation I’ll let you know.

You never know where just one isolated bit of information will take you. That’s part of the allure of genealogy isn’t it? You don’t know where the path is going, but it’s exciting to follow it. Something wonderful might be just around the corner.


  1. Thanks for reminding us that patience can also be a virtue in family history! I, for one, keep forgetting that. Great research technique and instinct - do what you can, when you can - but always keep it ready for when the knowledge and opportunities ripen. Great lesson!

  2. Thanks

    Patient sounds (is) better than frustrated.
    And I got to do the "happy dance"!