Genealogists and family historians ask questions, lots of questions. When and where were they born? Who and when did they marry? What were their names and when were their children born? When did they die and where are they buried? The answers to these questions outline a life once lived. They tell a story. That story is somehow incomplete if we can’t answer the last question.
My quest began with my mother saying something like, “I don’t know. He was a Byrd and some say a prominent Methodist minister in Wise County. He’s in a book there in the library.”
We were talking about her grandfather, my great-grandfather, whom she did not know. He died 18 years before her arrival on the planet and for whatever reason(s) the family knew little about one another. I did not grow up spending much time with extended family. Part of my interest in family history is to connect my children and grandchildren to their roots.
I entered and exited childhood in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. Born in Ft. Worth, I lived in Arlington and Euless before moving to Denton to attend 2nd grade and eventually graduate High School. We saw my dad’s parents and sister’s family the most, though that was not very often. We saw my mom’s brothers Charles and Loal Byrd and their families a few times. My dad did not know the name of his dad’s dad until I told him three years before his death in 1988. We weren’t very connected and from my point of view, not very curious as a family.
Imagine my surprise 40 years after high school to discover I had dozens of relatives buried within easy driving distance of Denton. Some of them had been in North Texas since Texas was a Republic. Some had fought in the War of 1812, some in the Mexican-American War and some in the Civil War. Two of my 3rd great-grandfathers had original Texas land grants with the Peters Colony. One was in Denton County (!) and the other one was next door in Collin County! One of my 3rd great-grandmothers had an original land grant located mostly in Dallas County with about a fourth of it in Denton County. And, my 3rd great uncle, James Byrd, owned over 1800 acres in today’s north Dallas. 640 acres of that was an original Peters’ land grant. He died in California during the gold rush but his wife and many family members are buried in north Dallas within a 35 minute drive of where I played baseball as a child. I drove across one of their grants playing football in Carrollton. I drove across another one of these original land grants every time I drove from Denton to Dallas on Interstate 35. I drove by a third one every time I took Hwy 380 east to or through McKinney, Texas. And I’ll tell you I followed that “trail” many times. Stop today at the new Taco Bueno across from the new Walmart on Hwy 380 East and you’re there. You’re on part of Jeremiah Horn’s original land grant! Who knew?
It was a natural progression and gradual revelation. Find my grandfather Byrd’s father. Pleasant Wesley Byrd was in fact a well-known Methodist minister in Wise County, Texas. Hwy 380 West traverses this county traveling west out of Denton. He was in fact in a book in the library. Got him. Find his father. Samuel Byrd was a bit more elusive and remains so. But, I found him. His wife, my 2nd great-grandmother Elizabeth Horn, “introduced” me to her father Jeremiah. His story is not so common. Now, where did they put him?
As stated, you’d like to tie up all your genealogical quests with a nice bow. Have a birth date and place, etc. and put a period on it with a “spot”. You want to know. Where is the victim, I mean loved one, buried? Where did they put him/her? (It dawns on me that the growing popularity of cremation in our culture is going to drive future family historians crazy!)
I began my online search for Jeremiah Horn’s burial place in 2012. I was so pleased and pleasantly surprised to rather quickly find the Horn Family Cemetery just west of McKinney. As you can see in the picture, it even had the year of Jeremiah’s death on the gate. He must have been the “first in”. However, it wouldn’t be THAT easy. Jeremiah Horn’s body is not planted in this place. In fact, the two well-known Horn families in Collin County have not been able to genealogically connect their families. This in spite of the fact they both had family in Wilson County, Tennessee prior to their arrival in Texas and before that, in North Carolina. How could they not be connected? But, that’s another quest for another year. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, where did they put Jeremiah?
Jeremiah Horn was said by some online seekers to be buried in the Hunt Cemetery. And somebody, somewhere wrote or said the Horns and Byrds first came to Hunt County, Texas near the Collin County line and then on to Collin. I was surprised again. The Hunt Cemetery of Collin County is on the opposite side of the county and south of the community of Rheas Mill making it closer to the Denton County line than the Hunt County line.
I found the Hunt Cemetery on MapQuest. I found it on Find A Grave. I found a record of the deed for the cemetery land. On a trip to North Texas I looked for the cemetery. I could not find it. I showed the location to my sister. When she and her family had moved back to North Texas from Arizona they bought a home within a few miles of the cemetery! Incredible. Jeremiah Horn’s resting place was there all the time. Using her phone’s GPS she located the cemetery in a grove of trees on private property (on the original Horn land grant). When she asked the family’s permission to visit the cemetery, they did not even know it was there! It was overgrown and a storm had blown down many trees sometime after these first photos were taken. But she found it!
I visited the site the next winter. Boy Scout Troop 289 and the Prosper Historical Society had taken on the cemetery as a project. They cleaned, cleared the area and reset the stones that were down. It was beautiful. They are to be commended.
Here are the GPS coordinates, latitude: 33.22940, longitude: -96.73310. Please ask permission before driving across the land owner’s pasture to get to the cemetery.
Find a Grave says there are fourteen graves identified in the cemetery. I count sixteen. One of them is my 3 x great-grandfather Jeremiah Horn. I found his burial site. I can “put a period” on his story. But of course, Jeremiah Horn has many more tales to tell.
If you have family or research family history in North Texas, this blog post is for you. These resources will make your research more productive.
Dee and I recently used the genealogical sections of three North Texas libraries. One was a surprise, one was status quo in our experience and the third one was a gem. Here’s our report with some basic information on these resources plus tips for researching any library in any place.
We were in McWright Cemetery in Hunt County, Texas looking for the final resting ground of my 2 x great grandfather William Henry Price. Three of us were looking (including my sister Debbie from Collin County), but we could not find him. It’s a large cemetery and has been in use since the 1800’s. It’s possible his burial marker had been destroyed by time. I wondered and then hoped someone had recorded the graves earlier before there was a Find A Grave. That’s when a car pulled into the cemetery occupied by two elderly sisters. They had lived near the cemetery all their lives, but they could not recall the Price name. They did remember there was a book in the Greenville library with a listing of all of the graves in the cemetery at the time the book was published and suggested we look in that book for William Henry Price.
Greenville, Texas 75401
Hours: Monday – Wednesday, 10am – 6pm, Thursdays, 12 pm – 8pm and closed Sundays.
I was surprised by such a large, modern facility in such a small place. I was also surprised by the generous genealogical holdings secluded in their own room. The library has a public break area with vending machines, very nice for long hours of research. The staff on duty this day did not seem particularly knowledgeable in the field of genealogy and appeared to be pre-occupied with preparing to watch basketball on the computer. So, be prepared. You may have to provide for yourself. (see below). We found the book our good Samaritans told us about but did not find William Henry in it. We did however find several other useful facts about other family members. If you’re researching family in Hunt County, you’ll want to visit this facility.
The Status Quo
We were looking for old Collin County, Texas tax records. When I say old, I mean from the beginning of the county (1846). I was looking for evidence my 2 x great grand father Samuel Byrd made it to Texas before his death. I was pleased to discover the microfilm of the earliest tax records was available in McKinney near my family’s residences. It would not be necessary (as we had been told by the county officials) to travel to the library at the University of Texas at Arlington. (BTW, I found no evidence that day or any other day that Samuel Byrd made it alive to Texas in spite of what someone posted on the Find A Grave website.)
101 East Hunt St.
McKinney, Texas 75069
Hours: Mon.-Thu: 10 am – 9 pm, Fri.-Sat.: 10 am – 6 pm, Sun.: 1 – 5 pm
This library is modern and spacious, pleasing to the eye. The genealogical section is good on Collin County and fair on the surrounding counties. There is, as there is in most Texas libraries’ genealogical sections, as smattering of books on the states from which Texas settlers came. The second floor space is shared by an open computer room where it appears mostly young adults are checking Facebook and playing computer games. There has been an attempt to tuck the research tables back into a corner away from distractions. This provides a place for others to talk and text away from the crowd. The staff from which we requested assistance did not come across as knowledgeable of their genealogical holdings or how to operate the microfilm viewers. It was a fairly standard experience and thus the term “status quo”.
And then you find that special place with special people. I’m talking about the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas. I speak specifically of the basement in this library and the people who work there. The basement? Sounds rather dark and damp. I assure you it’s neither.
2501 Coit Rd.
Plano, Texas 75075
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 9am – 9pm, Fri. 9am – 6pm, Sat. 10 am – 6 pm, Sun. 1pm – 5 pm
The genealogical section of the Haggard Library is in the basement. It’s large, comfortable, well stocked and well staffed. I could spend a long time here and I did spend most of a day and part of another. You need to plan your visit or you’ll be going from “one shiny thing” to another. There’s plenty here for the history hound and the family historian. And then there’s the staff. They are knowledgeable, courteous and considerate. Considerate? Yes. When I’m researching I generally have goals and don’t have time for chit chat. I need the staff to be knowledgeable, but share with me only the knowledge I request. Otherwise I need them to simply give me space and solitude. I’ve just described the five staff I met working the basement in my two days at the Haggard Library. And the gem of this gem was Genealogical Librarian Cheryl Smith. She is a wonderful and respectful resource for family historians and genealogist researching North Texas families. She is especially knowledgeable of Collin County. Thanks Cheryl! I smile when I think of the staff — and that basement!
My one complaint about Haggard is the lack of a public break area. Researchers may be in the stacks for long hours and need regular breaks to stay nourished and hydrated. This would be a nice addition to the library and provide additional income.
Preparing to research a library:
- Have research goals. What do you hope to find or accomplish with you visit?
- Know before you go. What is available? What is allowed? What are the hours? Where is it located?
- Search the online catalog. Have your titles and call numbers ready. What questions do you have for the staff? Prepare your research log in advance.
- Don’t forget your equipment. Notebooks, computers, cameras (know their policy) and money for the copier
When you’re there:
- Be courteous to the staff and considerate of others. Allow them to do their work. Don’t distract others around you.
- Follow the library’s protocols. Don’t reshelf the books. Place your used materials on the carts if they’re provided. Know how to use the equipment and properly use it. Ask for help if you don’t.