Paying Attention to Details in Your Family Research

“God is in the detail” or “The devil is in the details”.  Both expressions infer the same thing.  Details are important and those attentive to them are rewarded.  The details of our family history research are a rich source of information and clues to find additional gold.

Following my great-grandfather John Anderson Roberts’ death in 1901 his son W.W. Roberts was made my grandfather Gus Roberts guardian.[i]  They were half-brothers separated by thirty-six years.

Late last week I began writing a piece on my grandfather Gus.  While reviewing the legal papers surrounding his guardianship, I came across a document which had, for me, a very important detail.  I had missed it!  I first saw the document in 2014 in the records of the Lamar County, Texas courthouse.  I scanned it quickly with my eyes, making certain it pertained to my family before obtaining a copy.  When I arrived home I read the document but did not transcribe it.  Last week I finally saw the detail.  It was there all the time.

W. W. Roberts is made guardian of Gus Roberts on December 3, 1901
W. W. Roberts is made guardian of Gus Roberts on December 3, 1901

There are five signatures on the original document recorded by the county clerk who bind themselves to pay the court $2,000.00 if W.W. Roberts does not faithfully execute his responsibilities as the guardian of Gus Roberts.

  • W. W. Roberts
  • J. B. Lassiter
  • J. D. Hull
  • T. F. Roberts
  • D. J. Hull

The detail was there all of the time!

When I began my genealogical backtracking in 2012 I did not even know my great-grandfather’s middle name.  After visiting his grave for the first time that year, I still did not know his middle name.  I knew so little about him.  Dee and I made one of our research trips in 2014.  We learned so much more and enjoyed meeting Lassiter cousins.  Even before we made the trip, I knew my great-grandfather had left two brothers behind in Calloway County, Kentucky to come to Texas.  When people asked me about other Roberts family members in Texas, I answered only those from my grandfather Gus.  I was wrong.

In 2015 I made contact with Linda Strickland McDonald through DNA testing.  She and her brother Gary Strickland were previously unknown cousins to me.  We’re related through a man named James Richard “Dick” Roberts.  He was the son of my great-great-grandfather John Rivers Roberts’ brother Newton.  I was excited.  I began telling people we did have other members of my Roberts extended family in Texas by the 1890s.  They lived near the community of Deport, Texas on the Lamar and Red River, County lines.

My cousin Deborah Outland of Lexington, Kentucky was pleased to hear this previously unsubstantiated news.  Prior to 2013 she was an unknown cousin who would connect me to my Kentucky cousins.  But she also told me she believed there were other Roberts belonging to us who migrated to Texas before 1900.  She was right!  Did you see it?  His name was right there all of the time – T. F. Roberts.

When I first SAW the name T. F. Roberts on the guardianship document, I asked myself, who is T.F. Roberts?  I didn’t remember that name.  I first assumed he must be one of the children of Dick Roberts of Deport who was born in 1851 in Williamson County, Tennessee.  Nope.  Dick’s father had moved to Kentucky along with his brother and nephews before Dick moved on to Texas.  I began to review my other suspects and there he was!  Thomas F. Roberts, the son of Thomas Paschal Roberts and grandson of my great-great-grandfather John Rivers Roberts.

To know this for certain, I had to separate him from two other T. F. Roberts contenders from early Lamar County history.  The first one arrived too early to be the T. F. Roberts signature on our document.  But I will tell you, he’ll receive much scrutiny in the future.  He appears to be in the Texas Territory by 1836.  What if he’s actually the first of our Roberts to arrive in Texas?  I regress.

The second T. F. Roberts in Lamar County records arrived too late to be our T.F. Roberts.  He was an eye doctor and was in the county by about 1911, too late to be the signer of our document.  But not too late to receive further attention in the future.  Who was he?

Our Thomas F. Roberts was born in Calloway County, KY on January 31, 1861, eleven months before his cousin W.W. Roberts.  He was the son of Thomas Paschal Roberts and Frances E. Holland.[ii]   I haven’t located him in the 1900 census.  I have him signing our document in 1901.  He’s in the 1910 Lamar County census.[iii]   Besides these documents, I’ve found him in the City Directories for Paris, Texas for 1908, 1911, 1914, and 1917.[iv]   In the census and directory records he is laborer making wagon handles and teamster.  He works in the freighting industry.  He marries Cynthea Belle Morris prior to 1892.  She also was raised in Calloway County, KY and born in 1866 according to her Texas death certificate.[v]   Though I suspect she was born a couple of years earlier.  Thomas and Cynthea move their family to Hunt County, Texas and are farming there in 1920.[vi]  Thomas dies in 1929 and is buried in the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Wolfe City, Lamar County, Texas.[vii] [viii]

It was a single detail, a simple detail.  We have to “mine out” all of its significance.  If we discover the earlier T. F. Roberts of 1836 Texas had a father or grandfather born in Lunenburg or Charlotte County, Virginia we’ll really have something!

Details, details, details, they’re critical.  Join me in paying closer attention.

Now, who is J.D. and T.J. Hull?

[i] From a scan of a document originally obtained by Gary and Dee Roberts from the county court records of Lamar County, Texas in February of 2014.

[ii] Source Information: Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.


[iii] Source Citation:  Year: 1910; Census Place: Paris Ward 3, Lamar, Texas; Roll: T624_1571; Page: 4B; Enumeration District:0080; FHL microfilm: 1375584


[iv] Source Information: U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.


[v] Source Information: Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.


[vi] Source Citation:  Year: 1920; Census Place: Justice Precinct 5, Red River, Texas; Roll: T625_1841; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 153; Image: 462


[vii] Source Information: Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.


[viii] Find A Grave Memorial# 8929705

8 Replies to “Paying Attention to Details in Your Family Research”

  1. How easy it is to assume. I’ve missed details in our documentation. On further examination, I discovered an unsolved murder. Now that makes for a great follow up blog post… 🙂


  2. It’s so easy to miss the little details, especially when someone’s name is just initials, or, in the case of some of my research, when a name has been misspelled.


  3. OK, Gary, I’m trying to catch up on the blog posts. By saving them and reading later, it’s like reading a novel. lol Wow! Loved this one on details. So now I’ve discovered there were 2 Thomas P. Paschal’s — driving me “crazy” with the details trying to correct them in my tree!! Thank goodness I have yours to check — yet, I see I have quite a few more corrections to make. I need to print this monster out and put it into a diagram — I “see” things laid out visually!!
    Thanks again for all of your “digging.” –your heard work is appreciated by all of us who can’t get out and put our steps into the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Linda. Now I’m laughing. I can assure you I’m always making corrections. I don’t believe anyone gets it ALL right. We just all need to keep looking for the truth and adjusting. Thanks for reading the blog.


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