How They Moved Around

For my current genealogical research project, which I’m calling Over the Hill, I’m researching how my ancestors (generally 3rd great-grandparents) moved from the eastern seaboard, where all of my family lines lived before the American Revolution, to the West – the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys – by 1830.  I think I’ve figured out one thing today that I want to share with you and get your reactions.

I have ancestors who lived in Maine and Vermont in the 1790s or so and ended up in Ohio by 1830.  An overland route seemed very difficult.  So I began looking at possible water routes.

Lake Champlain (on the border between Vermont and New York) connects to the St. Lawrence River by the Richelieu River.  I thought that they maybe could travel north to the St. Lawrence and then west through the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie to Ohio.

Then I discovered a couple of things:

  1. The Champlain Canal (connecting Lake Champlain with the Hudson River) was opened in 1823, on the same date the Erie Canal was opened.  This provided a water route between Lake Champlain and Lake Erie.
  2. The Erie and Ohio Canal (in Ohio, eventually connecting Lake Erie and the Ohio River) was opened between 1825, and the first leg of this canal went from Lake Erie to Newark, Ohio, in Licking County (which is where my ancestors moved to when they left Maine and Vermont.)
  3. If they went up the Richelieu River to the St. Lawrence and then west by boat to Lake Ontario, they would then have encountered the need for a portage around Niagara Falls, between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie on their way west. But the Welland Canal, which completely bypasses Niagara Falls to provide a navigable waterway between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, was also built around 1830.

So what do you all think of this as a possible route for people to get from east to west in the 1820s and 1830s?




BREAKING DOWN THE BRICK WALLS: Brick Wall Number Seven: Cyntha Lambert

  • 3rd great-grandmother on my mother’s side
    • Mother of my 2nd great-grandmother Susan Amesley Overman
    • Susan was the mother of my great-grandmother Martha Elizabeth Kyle
    • Martha was the mother of my grandmother Susan Vernon Anthis
    • Susan was the mother of my mother, Violet Henrietta Workman
  • I don’t really know who Cyntha’s parents were. Several family trees indicate that her father was Jeremiah Isham Lambert and Sally Blanton, but I have no documents to prove this.
  • Cyntha married William Sutton Overman in Virginia in 1823
  • Cyntha and William had 11 children; they moved to Missouri by 1850
  • William died somewhere along the line and I don’t have information about Cyntha ever remarrying
  • Cyntha died in Texas in 1880 after living with one daughter in Missouri for a while and then living with another daughter in Texas at the end of her life.

Things I need to know about Cyntha:

  1. When and where was she born?
  2. Who were her parents?
  3. What happened to William?


  • 2nd great-grandmother on my mother’s side of the family
    • Her son Thomas Calvin Workman Sr. married Mary Elizabeth Thomas
    • Their son Thomas Calvin Workman Jr. married Susan Vernon Anthis
    • Their daughter Violet Henrietta Workman married Lloyd Cecil Arnold
    • I am their second child
  • She was born in Overton County, Tennessee, in 1825
    • I don’t know for sure who her parents were
      • Some sources suggest that her parents were John and Sarah Kitchen..The only John and Sarah Kitchen anyone cites were born in England and I don’t think they are the correct John and Sarah Kitchen.
      • John was a private in Capt. Trimble’s Tennessee militia in the War of 1812. Sarah got a widow’s pension based on this service, but I can’t find the date John died.  I can find a James Kitchens in the roster of TN War of 1812 militia but not John
    • She married James Abraham Workman (sometimes referred to in the records as Abram) in Overton County, Tennessee, in 1847
    • She died in 1859. James soon remarried, to Adeline Buck, who was 13 at the time of their marriage

Things I need to find out about her:

  1. Who were her parents? When and where were they born?  They would be my 3rd great-grandparents, the generation which is the focus of this research project.
  2. Did she have any siblings?


BREAKING DOWN THE BRICK WALLS: Brick Wall Number Two:  George Washington Thomas

2nd great-grandfather on my mother’s side of the family.

  • I don’t know when or where he was born
  • I don’t know anything about his parents
    • These would be my 3rd great-grandparents, the focus of my research on this project.
  • Married Carolyn Roberts in 1852 in Morgan County, Illinois
    • Had one child James Thomas in 1853
    • Had two more children. Twins, I think, in 1859
      • Mary Elizabeth Thomas, my great-grandmother
      • George W. Thomas, who I think died young. I have found him in the 1860 census but not in the 1870
    • I believe he was dead by 1860, when Caroline married Eliftet Taylor, although I don’t know that for sure. I’ve been looking for him in Civil War Records but I haven’t had much luck.
      • In the 1860 census, Caroline is noted as living with her father Wiley Roberts and her three children in Christian County, Illinois.
      • By 1870 Caroline was living in Christian County with her 3rd husband John F. Watkins (or Wadkins), whom she married in 1869 after the death of Eliflet Taylor
      • By 1880, Caroline was living in York County, Nebraska with her children Mary Elizabeth and James, along with two other children, Minnie and Wiley. I think Minnie is the daughter of Caroline and Eliftet, and Wiley is the son of Caroline and John.  In the 1860 census, John Watkins is also shown as living in Nebraska, but in Seward, about 30 miles from York.  In this census he identified himself as a widower.  One story I have found suggests that John left Caroline and that she raised her children by herself.

What I need to find out:

  1. When and where was he born? Who were his parents?  Did he have siblings?
  2. What can I discover about his parents? His parents’ generation is actually the focus for this project and they’re the only 3rd great-grandparents I’ve been unable to identify at all.
  3. Where was he living before he married Caroline Roberts?
  4. When and how did he die? Where is he buried?


This project has led me to recognize some brick walls in my research — people whose lives I have found difficult to document. For the next few blog posts I’ll be writing about these brick walls. If anyone reading this has ideas to help me find the information I need, please let me know!

Wiley Roberts (1783 – 1878)(I think)

North Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, and Kansas

  • 3rd great-grandfather on my mother’s side of the family.
    • His daughter Caroline Roberts married George W. Thomas in Morgan County, Illinois, in 1852
    • Caroline’s daughter Mary Elizabeth Thomas married Thomas Calvin Workman, Sr., in Hastings, Nebraska, in 1887
    • Mary Elizabeth’s son Thomas Calvin Workman, Jr., married Susan Vernon Anthis in El Campo, Texas, in 1919.
    • Thomas Calvin’s daughter, Violet Henrietta Workman, married Lloyd Cecil Arnold in Tucson, Arizona, in 1940. Violet and Lloyd were my mother and father
    • I was born in Arlington, Virginia, in 1947
  • Born in North Carolina in 1783
    • I believe he was the son of Solomon James Roberts and Sarah Ellis. I need to find out more about his parents and where they came from
    • Married in North Carolina
      • One possible marriage: Polly Blankenship, marriage date 1808
      • A second possible marriage: Nancy Marcrom (or Markham), marriage date 1812. I think this wife in the one I’m interested in. One problem – the birth dates of their three children were spaced out between 1817 and 1832. I haven’t found information about children who did not survive, so this number of years before their first child and the years between their subsequent children leaves me with some questions.
      • My problem here – I think there were actually two men named Wiley Roberts in North Carolina at this time. My best guess is that Nancy is actually the mother of Caroline Roberts, but I’m not sure.
    • Served in the War of 1812 in Captain Clarke’s unit in a Wake county detached militia unit
    • In the US Census
      • 1820 – Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
      • 1830 and 1840 – Overton County, Tennessee
      • 1850 – Morgan County, Illinois
      • 1860 and 1870 – Christian County, Illinois
    • Died in Osage Mission, Neosho, Kansas, on December 26, 1878

I’m pretty certain about the course of Wiley’s life once he’s in Tennessee. I understand his move to Illinois and I think I understand how he came to die in Kansas. The 1875 Kansas State Census shows his daughter Caroline living with her third husband and her three children (including my great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Thomas) in Osage, Kansas. Wiley doesn’t appear on this census but it makes sense to me that he might have been either living with the family or visiting them when he died. His other daughter, Martha, was living in Kansas by 1880.

What I need to find out:

  1. Who were Wiley’s parents? Where did they come from? I have some evidence that they came from Virginia, but I’m not sure.
  2. Who was Wiley’s wife? I believe it’s Nancy Marcrom (or Markham), but I need to figure out with certainty which wife is associated with MY Wiley Roberts.
  3. Once I identify Wiley’s wife, what can I find about her parents. Who were they? Where did they come from?

Over the Hill: The Story of My Family in Antebellum America (Introduction)

When I began to research my family history, I did what everyone does:  figure out HOW FAR BACK I could trace my roots.  Lineage organizations abound to encourage researchers to do this.  There is the DAR, the Mayflower Society, the Jamestowne Society, and many others.  I found some interesting things in this effort to move backwards.  My family roots go more deeply into American History than I had ever imagined.  I do in fact have ancestors in Plymouth and in Jamestown – in fact, in all but two of the colonies before the American Revolution.

In pursuing these ancestors, I skipped through the intervening generations – except for the occasional Civil War veteran – and gave these folks little attention.

In 2018, I decided to take a slice of my family story and focus on where everyone was in a pivotal year.  I chose 1900.  Focusing on my family at this time in their evolution was revealing and fascinating.  I worked on this project for almost 2 years, enhancing my research with a research trip to the three locations (western Illinois, central Oklahoma, and southeastern Texas) where my great-grandparents lived in 1900.

I now turn my attention to another pivotal point in my family’s story:  the time when they decided to leave the east coast environment where they had settled and developed over 150 or more years.  They all moved west – over the mountains, to the Ohio River Valley and beyond.  Of the families that had settled in the original colonies in the 17th and early 18th centuries, none of my direct ancestors were still living in these original states by 1830.

In reading a fair amount of genealogy writing over the past several years, I have found “stay in place” families.  These families are even today living in the communities their pre-Revolutionary ancestors founded.  Some are living in family homes that have housed generations.

My family was clearly not among the “stay-in-place” group; instead, they were a family on the move.  Each branch had its own reasons for moving, but it seems to be related, more than anything else, to the fact that I am descended from younger sons of younger sons, or of women who married the younger sons in other families.  In that time of large families with many children, it was important that the land owned and farmed by the earlier generations remain intact.  Dividing up the land among many sons would mean that none of them would actually have enough land to support their family.  So the younger sons received little when their fathers died, and they moved on.

I title this project Over the Hill: The Story of My Family in Antebellum America.  The focus of this book is my 3rd great-grandparents, born between 1775 and 1820.  Some of them were born west of the Appalachian Mountains; more of them were born east of the mountains and were soon living in the newly opened West.  All of them died in the west.  I know the names of all but two of the 32 people in this generation.

One of the barriers to this research is that the new frontier communities that attracted these pioneers were not great record-keepers.  I have many brick walls to deal with as I research these elusive ancestors.

These charts show the names of my 3rd great-grandparents on both my mother’s and father’s side of the family.  These charts represent the state of my research at this time.   I’m pretty sure about most of them, although I have a few questions about some of them.  There are two names I don’t know at all.  So off I go!  My first task will be to work on a couple of brick walls.

Workman side charet
This is my mother’s side of the family — her name was Violet Henrietta Workman. This is a working draft


Arnold side chart
This is my father’s side of the family — his names was Lloyd Cecil Arnold. /this is a working draft.