Tuesday, March 8, 2011

WHO Is He and Where Is He?

I have a great grandfather (well I have four, just like everyone else); but this one is a mystery to me!

His name probably is William T. Dorrance; the T. may stand for Tully. He may have been born in Connecticut and may have served in the regular army. He is said to have married Mary Murphy in New Orleans before they moved to Missouri. Mary Murphy (she's a mystery also) is said to have come to the U. S. from County Cork, Ireland. She is supposed to have entered the country through New Orleans. The foster mother of her younger son may have arrived in the U. S. on the same boat.

As you can tell, what I have to work with is family stories; there is not one single proven fact in the above paragraph. The probable cause of this collection of non-facts lies in the words "foster mother." My grandfather was young when his parents died (although probably not as young as family stories say — again, I don't know). I DO HAVE a copy (positive form) of a microfilm of the will of my grandfather's foster father. These papers include the bonds for guardianship from the guardians of Henry Dorrance, my grandfather, and Wm Dorrance, his (older?) brother. I remember my mother and her sisters talking of "Uncle Will" and I also remember meeting "Mr. Lloyd, my foster brother" one day at my Grandfather's house.

These bonds for guardianship were filed Oct. 5, 1863 (when James Henry Dorrance was 9 years old). I know that this date is a clue to the deaths of "William T." and his wife, "Mary;" but I DO NOT know where to go next! How much time elapsed between the death of the parents and the authorization of the guardianships. I know that this procedure varies from state to state. Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy says that in Missouri these records are under the jurisdiction of the County Probate Court; Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook has less than that on the subject (unless, of course, I have misused the index). Where do I look next?

I suspect that I should be looking at probate records and land ownerships in order to establish the Dorrance family in Jefferson County in Missouri. How do I do that? (Well, I DO have some ideas on this one. I'm learning from the online sites of the Jefferson County Historical Society and the Jefferson County Genealogy Society and I have locations I can travel to where I can examine the society holdings for each group. I have joined the MOJEFFER group at RootsWeb. Also, I have met a librarian in Jefferson County, who has charge of one of these collections, and who can probably direct me to the best local places for my research in that area. I can reach her quickly via Facebook, which should save valuable time ffor the people who may be dealing with my searches — as well as for me,)

In the meantime, being poorly organized, I forgot to begin at the end of Mr. Dorrance's life. Instead, I began by looking into the military service. And I DID find some records which may belong to my William T. Dorrance.

These records confused me. Today we spent about an hour at our local family history center getting help with these records (which appear to be in Salt Lake City, among other places). I learned several things. 1) Although the clue to these records came to me through those "leaves" at Ancestry.com, Footnote is a better place to search for military records. I have a Footnote subscription, I just didn't think to go there. 2) Be more flexible! I love my laptop, which is "my" primary computer, but the screen on my "husband's" desktop is much larger. If I sign off access to my accounts on my machine, I can go to his larger screen in order to read those two-page wide records that are too difficult to follow on my smaller screen. (Now WHY didn't I think of that!). 3) There is a button pointing to additional information on some of these screens that just didn't make an impression on me. Be more thorough!

Concerning these military records: since I HAVE gotten to them, I should record the information (with sources), save it to my records as TENTATIVE information, and then put this line of research on hold while I return to my great grandfather's death and trace him backwards in time.

I have had lots of help this week and I have learned a lesson or two (which is indeed valuable and much of the fun of genealogy for me), BUT William T. Dorrance (or whoever) is as enigmatic as he was last week.

Here's to facing our frustrations,
Frustrated Sue


  1. I don't know if you are aware of it or not, but your grandfather's death certificate is available online for free. It lists his parents as Tullus Dorrance, born in Hartford, CT, and Mary Murphy, born in Cork, Ireland.


    Given that the date on the guardianship bonds is in the middle of the Civil War, I would consider the possibility that your great grandfather may have served or even died during the war.

  2. Dee, thank you for telling me of this location. Although I HAVE seen this record, telling me of it or reminding me of it, is always a friendly thing to do. Sometimes I overlook the most obvious items!

    In this case, the problem with the entry is that it was supplied by my mother's oldest sister. She could only enter the hearsay information that came to my grandfather. My grandfather was — at the oldest — only 9 when his parents died. I doubt he had much first-hand information from his parents.

    Thanks again for the heads-up.
    Frustrated Sue

  3. I really enjoy reading your blog and I am sure you have received a lot of nominations, but I am nominating you for the "One Lovely Blog" award. Check out my post here: http://leavesfortrees.blogspot.com/2011/03/awards-for-blushing-blogger.html
    Take care!

  4. Heather,
    Sorry to be so late in replying. As my newest post indicates, I've been slow in posting here because I've been somewhat unwell (the hazards of age). Thank you for the nomination. I've been to your sight and have become a follower of it. Lot's of thought provoking comments.