Samuel Byrd and the Texas Taxman

You can learn a lot from tax records.  Consider Samuel Byrd.

This Samuel Byrd was born in Tennessee on April 14, 1814.  He was the son of David Byrd and Jane Morehead.  His grandparents were Richard and Elizabeth Buster Byrd.  He (this Samuel Byrd) is one of my great, great grandfathers.  I say “this” Samuel Byrd because he’s often confused with his son Samuel Zedock Byrd (1852 – 1938) by people building online trees.  We know much about this son.  I visited his and his second wife’s grave a few weeks ago in Collin County, Texas.  I also, quite by accident, came across his first wife’s grave in a Hunt County, Texas cemetery while looking for another great, great grandfather.  His death certificate records his name as S.Z. Byrd.  There’s a good article about him and his family in a book on Collin County families.   (Collin County Texas Families, Alice Ellison Pitts and Minnie Pitts Champ; Cutis Media, Hurst, Texas; pages 69, 70.)  The article was written by Bryan Vicars, a proud family descendant.  I can’t prove some of the statements in the article (In fact, I can disprove some and doubt others.), but I do know “this” is Samuel Zedock Byrd, the son of my great, great grandfather Samuel Byrd.

I’m very interested in “my” Samuel Byrd.  I know so little about him.  I know more about his wife Elizabeth Horn Byrd.  I know a lot more about his other children.  I’ve spent considerable time trying to know him yet he remains distant and illusive to me.

Some say Samuel Byrd migrated to Texas in the middle 1850’s.  Someone reported on Find a Grave that he died September 11, 1857 and is buried in historic Pecan Grove Cemetery in McKinney, Texas.  I cannot confirm either of those statements.  The cemetery association was “officially” formed in or after 1870.  It is believed however that people have been buried in those grounds since the 1850’s.  According to land records, the land was originally owned by the McFarland and then fairly soon purchased by the Davis Family.  Both of these families previously lived in Wilson County, Tennessee before migrating to Texas.  It is believed by some that both Jeremiah and Elizabeth Horn were born in Wilson County.  Could their families, the Horns, McFarlands and Davis’s, known each other in Tennessee?

I know my great, great grandmother Elizabeth is buried in Pecan Grove.  I know her second husband Thomas Rodman is buried beside her.  I once thought my 2 x great grandfather Samuel was buried there in a vacant space on the other side of Elizabeth.  I no longer do.  Here are some reasons.

  • There is no record of his burial there. He is not in any plot records including the hand written originals in the cemetery’s safe.
  • The cemetery personnel believe someone may be buried in that vacant space but have no way of knowing who. It’s not in the records.  The plot is actually still for sale.  I give more weight to Samuel and Elizabeth’s six year old son Jeremiah David Byrd being buried there in 1861 and may explain Elizabeth’s decision to return here to bury her second husband and later have her children bury her there.  The name on those occupied plot deeds is Elizabeth Rodman dated from the 1870s.  She only purchased 2 plots when she certainly could have afforded 3 and a headstone for her first husband.  (BTW, my “abt” and “aft” date of 1855 for Samuel’s death date on my family tree is based on Jeremiah David’s 1855 birth date.
  • There are no records of any kind for “this” Samuel Byrd in the State of Texas.   No census.  No probate.  No obituaries.  No bank records.  No land records.  No tax records.  There is nothing you would expect from a man settling in to a new place…or dying!  And, I can find some or all of these for Elizabeth and her children in Texas beginning in 1860.

Death and taxes are the two certain things in life.  The tax man always cometh.  When I thought about this, I decided to firm up my suppositions with “negative proof”.  I would need to show myself there is no evidence “my’ Samuel Byrd ever arrived in Texas –  tax records.  Samuel Byrd was never to my knowledge, and I searched four likely counties, charged a tax in Texas. That means no taxes for land, occupation, income, etc.  None.

But, here’s something interesting.  I began tracking Samuel’s father-in-law Jeremiah Horn and his sons George and John’s tax records.  They began paying taxes in 1846 in Collin County and continued to pay taxes through 1857.  These included taxes on their wagons and we know they were teamsters and had a freight business.  Then in 1858, I lost them and did not pick them up again until 1860.  Why?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it was an oversight on my part.  But it wasn’t just Jeremiah, it was Jeremiah and George and John.  All three owned original survey land in Collin County.

OK, I don’t know what happened.

Here’s something I know.  In the 1860 Federal Census, Elizabeth and her children are living in Collin County near the Lebanon Post Office.  She is the head of her household and works as a weaver.  The community of Lebanon was named after Lebanon, Tennessee the previous home of many of the early settlers in this part of Collin County.  That’s Lebanon in Wilson County, Tennessee.  She lived about nine miles south of her father’s home place and about five miles west of another property once surveyed for him.  She was about nine miles north of her “missing” husband’s cousin James Byrd in north Dallas County and about eleven miles east of her son Pleasant Wesley’s future wife’s family in Denton County.

What if Samuel Byrd, yes “that” one, died in Alabama?  What if the Horns made the trip to where Elizabeth was living in order to help her, her five girls and young sons, finish crops, sale land, pack up and make the move to Texas in 1859?

I don’t know.  I really don’t.  I’m open to new documented evidence.  But here’s what I know so far…the Texas taxman never came for Samuel Byrd, but death did.


Have you ever used tax records in your family history research?  Interested?

Check out Susan Jackman’s great article on using taxes in your genealogical research.

http://www.archives.com/experts/jackman-susan/tax-records-in-genealogical-research.html

Advertisements

Doing Genealogical Research in North Texas: a surprise, the status quo and a gem

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.

The Surprise

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.

W. Walworth Harrison Public Library   

#1 Lou Finney LaneW. Walworth Harrison Library

Greenville, Texas 75401

Hunt County

903-457-2992

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.)

Roy & Helen Hall Memorial Library

101 East Hunt St.

McKinney, Texas 75069

Collin County

972-547-7323

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”.

The Gem

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.

Haggard Center emblem
Click for more details

Haggard Library       

2501 Coit Rd.

Plano, Texas 75075

Collin County

972-769-4250

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.

Happy Hunting!