I love a good mystery.
It’s a passion that, through my school’s 4-H program, has kept me knee-deep in old records for a two-year genealogy project. The result? I’ve learned to root through census records (among many other sources) to collect information and piece together stories. Along the way, I’ve tracked down members of my own family dating back to the early 1600's.
Needless to say, I was quite excited when Mr. LaRue asked me to research the people who were laid to rest in the elusive Potters Field section of Good Hope Cemetery.
With a list of gravestone names recorded by my classmates in hand, I headed to my first stop in the research process – our local library. I pulled the 1880 census information and searched for all of the names I was given. I also worked my way through microfilm for each. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find all the names, but I was able to gather some interesting information on three families – the Martins, the Galloways and the Lyles.
The first family I found, the Martins, was a large African-American family. James Martin, 70, was the leader of the household, and it was noted that he made a living as a local farmer. He was born in Kentucky and eventually moved to Fayette County. According to the census record, there was no wife living in the household at the time. James had one son, Scott, who was 24 and also a farmer. He also had four daughters: Mary, 17; Ella, 15; Dileina, age unknown; and another with an unknown name and age. Dileina was listed as “keeping house.”
The Galloways were the exact opposite of the Martins. Listed as Caucasian, their family was very small. Joseph Galloway, 27, was the only male in the household, and his occupation was noted as laborer. He was born in Pennsylvania and married to Amy Galloway, 26. Amy was listed as “keeping house.” She was born in Ohio. At the time of the census, Joseph and Amy were the only two people in their household.
Lastly, the Lyles had a four-person household consisting of a father, a mother and two daughters. The father, 26, was a farm laborer, and his wife, 24, was the keeper of the house. Their daughters were very young at the time of the recording; Alice Lyle was 2 and Emma Lyle was barely 1.
After finding all of this interesting information in the 1880 census, I decided to expand my search to other years. I started looking in records from 1870 and the early 1900's. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my hands on the 1890 census because it was destroyed in a fire many, many years ago. I was able to find a family in the 1900 records that I believe to be the Lyles. I’m not 100% sure, but I have some reasonable facts to suggest that it is. For instance, the information from 1900 is exactly 20 years apart from my original 1880 source, and all of the ages noted reflect that same difference. Also, in the 1900 census, they have a daughter who is 16 years of age. This makes sense because she would have missed the 1800 records by four years.
At the end of the day, I wish I could have crossed a few more names off of my original list, but that’s how research goes. However, I hope the information I uncovered will be a good jumping off point for future curious minds.
And the mystery of Potters Field continues...
- Bryan R.
Bryan R. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. For the remainder of this semester, he'll be working with his Research History classmates on a variety of preservation projects, including documenting and preserving local cemeteries like Good Hope. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.
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