22 October 2020

The Dilemma

File this under “Everything is NOT on the internet” or “Don’t believe everything you see on the internet”. 

Honest Abe meme
Honest Abe was ahead of his time!

 This case involves one of my great grandmothers.  She would be my mothers’ paternal grandmother.  My mom was lucky enough to know all four of her grandparents.  So I can trust the information she gave me verbally before she passed away.  All she could recall with certainty were their names and where they were born.  She had rough ideas about dates of birth and places, so I had good starting places for my research.  I never met either of my grandfathers and have very few recollections of my maternal grandmother.  My paternal grandmother was well known as she lived with my family for many years. 

The lady in question here is Julia “Jewel” Sawyer.  The nickname Jewel is a thing I truly love.  I hope to someday find a picture of her.  I’m sure she will be a jewel.  Jewel married Daniel P. Hicks.

                Julia “Jewel” Hicks, born 16 March 1871 in Marion County, South Carolina.  She died 1 February 1963in Dillon County, South Carolina.

                Daniel P. Hicks, born 1 December 1877 in Mullins, South Carolina.  He died about 1944, in South Carolina. 

                They married about 1898.

The reason there are so many “abouts” in the dates is trying to find any data from South Carolina online is next to impossible.   I have no hints or ThruLines in Ancestry for several of my South Carolina lines.  It’s not just South Carolina either.  It seems that Pennsylvania is not much better at digitization of records.  At least that’s what I’m finding since that’s the two states most of my direct ancestors lived in.

Now here’s the dilemma.  I have two Julia Sawyers in my tree.  Their birth and death dates are close.  The only record I have that has exact dates for either lady is a death certificate.  All other dates are estimates based on census data.

Let’s start with Jewel’s information.  The first census records I can find that is reliable proof is the 1900 census.  In this record is from Reaves Township, Marion, South Carolina, which was enumerated on 16 June 1900.  I use this as a base since it shows my grandfather as a son.  So my confidence is high that this is the correct family.  It has that she was born March 1876.  For now I have to use that date.  I don’t know if she gave the census worker the date herself, or if a family member gave the date, or even if a neighbor was asked.

I need her maiden name before I can go much farther.  Luckily, my mom remembered that her father, the son listed in the 1900, census died in VA hospital in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  That was an easy search.  My grandfather’s given name of Talmadge is not that common, along with the location and a date range of “not long after your dad and I were married (1946)” and I was off.  I was really lucky that his death certificate even has her listed as Jewel Sawyer.  You don’t get confirmation like that everyday.

Death Certificate for Talmadge W. Hicks
Talmadge Hick's Death Certificate

Working backwards, the next census is 1880.   The 1890 census was lost in a fire, so only parts of it are available.  Naturally, not the parts I need.  If the 1876 birth year was correct, then in 1880 she would be around 4 years old, plus or minus a year.  The only census record I can find that matches the name and approximate age, is in Le Getts, Marion County, South Carolina.  Le Getts is very close to Reaves Township.  In the 1880 census for Daniel I find him in Anderson, Williamsburg, South Carolina which isn’t all that close.  I am unsure if this is the correct family.  In this 1880 census Julia is listed with the family of William H. and Treacy Sawyer.

The 1880 Census Showing the Sawyer Family, with Jewel.
The 1880 Census Showing the Sawyer Family with Jewel

I found Jewel’s death certificate, and this is where the fun begins.  On this certificate, with a Mrs. Hugh Bradshaw as informant, her mother’s name is “? Dozier”.  I have no idea who Mrs. Bradshaw is.  Not that it matters all too much who Mrs. Bradshaw is or was, that Dozier surname throws a big red flag on the family I found in the 1880 census.

Jewel Sawyer's Death Certificate
Jewel Sawyer's Death Certificate

So, let’s see what the 1870 census shows.  Anybody who has done any family research knows that a proposition like that can only mean one thing.  A dilemma.  Because yes I can find a Julia Sawyer in the 1870 census.  She is listed as Julia V. Sawyer and her parents are Thomas and Elizabeth C. Sawyer.  Not William H. and Treacy. 

I do not find a Julia V. Sawyer in any other records, with any parents.  Here is what the 1870 census tells me.

                Julia V. Sawyer age 1 year, female, born in South Carolina.

Not much to go on, is it? However, that does tell me the approximate birth year is 1869.  A good 2 years different from Jewel’s death certificate, and 6 – 7 years from the 1880 and 1900 census records.  Sheesh…

The 1880 Census for Julia V.
The 1880 Census for Julia V.

Through other research it would seem that the two fathers I have for these ladies may be related.  Julia V.’s father might be an uncle to Jewel’s father. But maybe not.  Keep reading.

One of the sisters listed in the 1870 census to Julia V. has a William Sawyer and Katheryn Dozier as parents on her death certificate.  Wait. William Sawyer is her father?  William is Jewel’s father.  If Lena Dozier Sawyer (the sister to Julia V.) is a full sister, shouldn’t Thomas Sawyer be the father? If her son was the informant you'd think he knew his grandparent's names.  But then, so many families hide so much from other family members, it's not uncommon to find incorrect information on any document.  Including documents that people give their own facts wrong.  Many folks lie about ages often, and for many reasons.

Lena Sawyer's Death Certificate
Lena Sawyer's Death Certificate

And to make things even worse, I can find a death certificate for a Julia Hewitt that lists William H. Sawyer and Treacy Turbeville as parents.  The date of birth is given as 25 July 1876, close to what the 1880 and 1900 census records have.  However, the date she died is 23 June 1955, quite different than the death certificate I am using.  I'm pretty sure that the blurry middle name is Sawyer.  But wait, there's more!

Julia Hewitt's Death Certificate
Julia Hewitt's Death Certificate

I have not been able to find any additional data on Elizabeth C. Dozier online.  With other resources I can safely say that the full names for Jewel’s parents are William Henry Sawyer (about 1849 – before 1900) and Therese A. Turbeville (April 1850 – about 1900- 1910).  Therese’s name can be found as Treacy, Tressie, Tresy, etc.. etc..

Julia V. Sawyer’s parent will be Thomas Sawyer (March 1827 – about 1910) and Elizabeth Catherine Dozier (about 1836 – unknown).   Thomas did have a second wife, Sarah Hewitt. So why then does Julia Hewitt's death certificate have Tressie Turbeville as mother? 

One thing to note is that I have many autosomal DNA matches with folks with a Turbeville surname, and no matches with anyone of the Dozier or Hewitt names.  See this post.

My questions are twofold.

1.       Are the two Julia’s the same person?  Or does my line come from Julia V. Sawyer and the Julia Hewitt I found is the one I current have as my great grandmother? Then why so many Turbeville DNA matches?  And who is Julia Hewitt???

2.       Did William H. Sawyer have two wives?  Or are William H. and Thomas the same person?

OK, that’s more than two questions.  But I’m so confused over this, I can’t even count.

I think this should actually be filed under “A Silent Plea For Help”.  If any more experienced genealogists out there happen upon this, please, please, offer some advice on how to solve this riddle.  I am open to suggestions.  Well, most suggestions anyway.  Any resources other than the big guys (Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, and such), would be welcome.  I’m not asking for anyone to do any research for me (although that would be nice), just some pointers on where to look.  Also, please let me know your thoughts on how these ladies relate to each other.  Do you think they are the same person?  Questions are fine too, in fact I'd welcome questions.


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P.S. If anyone can find Alexander to cut this Gordian knot, I’d appreciate it.