Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Children of Nimrod Nicholas and Frances J. Thacker

Finally, finally, thanks to help from some fellow Thacker researchers, I feel confident that I have identified 12 of Nimrod and Francis Thacker’s children.

Okay, so you’re not impressed by this bit of news, but when you have a ton of Thackers living in the Wilkesville area of Vinton County and the Ray area of Jackson County with a penchant for naming their children a handful of names (Sarah, Catherine, Mary, Martha, David, Hiram), it’s not all that easy to figure out who belongs to whom.

Francis Thacker was enumerated in the 1900 census, and at that time, she said that she had 13 children and only 8 were still living. I’m still missing the 13th child, and unless someone comes up with a family bible, I don’t think I’m going to be able to find this child. I’ve been to Curry Cemetery where four of the children are buried, and there appears to be no marker for this last child.

The known children are:

!. Clarinda Thacker born March 1841
2. Martha Ann Thacker born Sept 1844
3. David Thacker August 3, 1846
4. Algerine Thacker approx. 1848
5. Sarah J. Thacker October 23, 1849
6. Ambrose C. Thacker approx. 1851
7. Nicholas Thacker March 24, 1852
8. Mary Francis Thacker May 19, 1854
9. Catherine Thacker March 03, 1855
10. Hiram N. Thacker April 14, 1858
11. Hannah N. Thacker approx. Feb or March 1860
12 Louise E. Thacker August 14, 1861

Over the next few posts, I’ll be discussing each of these children along with the source of my evidence, which will allow you to evaluate the information for yourself.

At the time of Nimrod N. Thacker’s death in July of 1893, letters of appointment indicate besides his widow, Francis J. Thacker, the following individuals were said to be his only heirs at law:

Clarinda Markham – Daughter
Martha A. Thacker – Daughter
David Thacker – Son
Sarah J. Waldren – Daughter
Catherine Thacker – Daughter
Nicholas Thacker – Son
Hiram Thacker – Son
Louisa Garrett – Daughter
Viola Thacker – Granddaughter
Claudy Thacker – Grandson

A big tip of the hat to Judy for providing me with the information on the Letters of Appointment – this confirmed the identities of a couple of the children and took away any lingering doubts. Thanks Judy!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Little Hand-Wringing Angst

You will notice, of course, that I have not written a post on this blog for quite some time. It was intentional, the not writing, that is. There were individuals in my family who very gently told me that they were uncomfortable with my poking around in our racial stew. Live relatives or dead ancestors, well, the choice is obvious. Live relatives win hands down.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I have stopped the search. I haven’t. I’ve just self-muzzled myself with what I have been finding. I’ve missed the writing. It’s my own way of sorting things out, hoping for a brief moment of self-enlightenment here and there.

I had a bit of hand-wringing the other day when I accidentally discovered that my blog was listed under the category “African American genealogy.” It made me uncomfortable on several levels, not the least of which was that I knew there might be certain family members who would not be happy with that characterization.

The second issue was that I felt like an imposter. I don’t know that my ancestors had African American blood flowing through their veins, and the labeling of my blog as an African American genealogy blog made me feel as if I had been let into an exclusive club under false pretenses.

On the other hand, the classic definition of mulatto is a person of mixed black and white ancestry. So the fact that my fourth great grandparents, Nimrod and Frances Thacker, had an “m” beside their names in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 census made my protesting that the family may have been NA as opposed to AA seem like I was just another white chick living in denial. Sending the message that having a Native American background is preferable to having an African American background hasn’t been my intention.

For someone whose only goal has been finding the truth, I seem to have been permanently perched on the edge of racial incorrectness.

At the very end of their lives, my “m” ancestors, Nimrod and Frances became “w’s.” On both of their records in the Death Register at the Probate Court in Vinton County, Nimrod who died in 1893 and Frances who died in 1901 are listed as white.

If the whole discussion of the racial make up of my ancestors creates such confusion and angst for yours truly, you have to wonder what it was like for Nimrod and Frances who lived it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Nothing More, Nothing Less

A transcription found of St. Mary's Parish of Minerton, Ohio, records a baptism of Sarah Thacker performed on April 17, 1868. Sarah's birth is listed as about 1871 (that date is about a decade off) and her parents are listed as John and Anna Lemay. The baptism took place at the home of Nicholas Thacker.

It is likely that either Sarah’s baptism took place at home due to her own illness or perhaps, she was in imminent danger of dying. The 1840 census indicates that Sarah had a large number of children and the fact that she was at the home of Nicholas and Frances Thacker indicates that either Nicholas or Frances was the child of Sarah and David Thacker.

The information from this one record links my family line back through a series of wills and marriages to Sally Lemay Thacker then to Annis Branham Lemay then to Frances Gibson Branham and finally, to Gilbert Gibson of Louisa County Virginia.

The significance of this, is that a group of mixed race individuals lived in the area of Gibson's Mill in Louisa County and Gilbert Gibson himself is thought to have been a mixture of white and either African or Native American, or possibly both.

It also means, according to Gilbert's first will (which was later voided), dated December 17, 1756 that not only do I descend from a mixed race line but I also descend from slave owners.

My Pennsylvania Dutch roots and my pacifist Virginia Brethren roots have allowed me to feel clean handed when it came to the issue of slavery. I liked that feeling and took comfort from it.

While I've found myself with a slow growing banked ember of rage as I have read about the Black Laws in both Virginia and Ohio, I now find this paradoxical truth.

Where once I thought these were bad laws, I now FEEL that they were.

Where I once I felt complete and growing sympathy for my ancestors whose life and livelihood were governed by the hue of their skin, I now feel revulsion for those who participated in the evil that was slavery.

Where once I was eager to embrace, now I am eager to reject.

Where once my familial hands were clean, they are now forever stained.

And yet, these are my ancestors, for better, for worse. I will never know the number of decisions made, both good and bad that in the end, insured my own existence.

I can neither lay claim to the best among them, nor be responsible for the worst. Though we are genetically entwined, each of us who travels this world is responsible for our own lives. The debt we owe to our ancestors is the same debt our descendents owe us – existence – nothing more and nothing less.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lesson One - Free Colored in Virginia?

In the years leading up to the Civil War, you would expect to find free men and women of color living in non-slave states. Depending on the year and the state in question, the designation between white and free colored could mean the difference between the ability to vote or not, having your children educated or not, being required to have certified documents attesting to your freedom or not, and being allowed to legally live within the boundaries of certain states or not.

But would it surprise you to know that there were free persons of color living in the Southern States prior to the Civil War? A survey of the 1850 census records on gives the following information for four of the Southern States.


Individuals listed as free black, colored or mulatto 3. 287
Individuals presumed white 429, 413
Individuals counted as slaves 312,997


Individuals listed as free black, colored or mulatto 983
Individuals presumed white 299, 825
Individuals counted as slaves 293, 235


Individuals listed as free black, colored or mulatto 27, 657
Individuals presumed white 554, 708
Individuals counted as slaves 289, 002


Individuals listed as free black, colored or mulatto 54, 847
Individuals presumed white 949, 261
Individuals counted as slaves 421, 542

Let’s contrast this with two of the Northern States – Ohio and New Jersey.


Individuals listed as free black, colored or mulatto 25, 157
Individuals presumed white 1, 860, 501
Individuals counted as slaves 0


Individuals listed as free black, colored or mulatto 25, 393
Individuals presumed white 467, 859
Individuals counted as slaves 235

So how is it that roughly 3.84% of Virginia’s citizens were classified as free colored, black or mulatto before the civil war?

The answer falls into one of four categories.

1. The first, and by far the most controversial reason, is that while the indigenous Native American population technically no longer existed in the State of Virginia, there were those who had assimilated into the population as a whole. Many had intermarried with both European and African American inhabitants, and since they were not white by their white neighbors’ standards, they were considered free black, mulatto or colored.

Not all scholars agree with this assessment, and the idea is disputed by some.

2. Some slaves who fought in the Revolutionary War were given their freedom at the close of the war, contributing to a free colored class within the state.

3. Sometimes masters, for whatever reason, emancipated their slaves.

4. In the very beginning, the early African American arrivals to the Virginia colony were considered indentured servants not slaves. When their time of indenture was over, they were freed in the same manner as their white counterparts. Though even with this freedom, they still led more restricted lives than their white neighbors did.

By the late 17th century, the law changed so that the term of indenture for African Americans was extended for life, in other words slavery. But that first generation of Black settlers was free, and more importantly, so were their descendents.

Note: Figures used were based on’s indexed returns of the 1850 US Federal census, and 1850 US Federal Slave Schedules for the states of Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey. The term presumed white is used to mean individuals listed either as white or no racial information given.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Genealogy Trip – Not Your Storybook Ending

Ugh! I’ve been putting off writing this post. I loved my trip to Southern Ohio but as far as finding useful information on the Thacker clan I came up – EMPTY HANDED! David Thacker apparently sold the land he owned before his death so I found bumpkis at the Jackson County Probate Court and ditto at the recorder’s office

So, I’m banging my head on my desk, trying not to whine (not too hard) and trying to formulate my next strategy.

My biggest disappointment came before the trip. I wrote to the Gallia County Genealogical Society about the Edwill Thacker vs John Hawk case from 1842.

The case goes something like this.

In 1840, Edwill Thacker was barred from voting by the registrar of the county, one John Hawk. According to one account, Edwill was “visibly white” but John knew of his Negro background and refused him a ballot.

The case went before the Gallia County Common Pleas Court. The judge instructed the jury that if Edwill had any black blood, then he was considered a Negro and therefore was not allowed to vote. Because of these instructions, the jury sided with the registrar maintaining his decision to bar Edwill from voting.
The case then went before the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1842 and they overturned the judgment of Gallia’s Common Pleas Court, sighting that the judge had issued incorrect instructions – that if Edwill was less than ½ black, he was therefore more white than black and therefore, would be considered white and should therefore have been entitled to vote.

I’ve been able to read copies of the Supreme Court of Ohio’s opinion, but for my purposes I was more interested in testimony about Edwill’s ancestry, hoping it would give me some clue to possibly my own heritage.

I contacted both the Genealogical Society and the clerk of the Common Pleas Court. The Genealogical Society had the Ohio Supreme Court decision and sent it to me. The clerk of Common Pleas showed the case in their index but could not find the case itself.

A week before my trip the clerk wrote me a second time to let me know that they still were unable to find the original case. I feel like I was so close to some answers – though I don’t know how Edwill was related to my Nimrod, it still would have been useful in putting together a profile for the Thacker family.

If anybody out there has any further ideas on where to find details of this case, I would be happy to hear them. I certainly could use some suggestions.

I did find a copy of Frances Thacker and Nimrod Thacker’s marriage license along with Edwill and Polly Napper’s license also. Patsy was the daughter of Sarah Napper (alias Gibson) and David Lemay. I believe my Nimrod is the son of David Thacker and Sally Lemay Thacker. David Lemay and Sally Lemay Thacker were the children of Annis Branham Lemay and John Lemay, thus making Patsy and Nimrod cousins if my theory is correct.

I know I always say that if it were easy, genealogy wouldn’t be any fun, but come on genealogy gods, give me a break!

Okay, this is mean whining and signing out for now.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My 1800 Census Miracle

Okay, this never happens to me, but this time I have gotten incredibly lucky. According to another researcher in Virginia, during the war of 1812 all the 1800 census forms were burned EXCEPT for two counties. And I can hardly believe it myself, but Louisa County, Virginia happens to be one of the two counties not burned. What were the chances?

She has already let me know that all the Gibsons, Nappers, and Thackers listed are all listed under white persons in that census. However, Annis Lemay, is listed as not white.

Now Annis is the mother of David and Sally Lemay. According to Napper researchers, David Lemay is the father of the Napper children who came to Gallia County with David Thacker's family and Malachi Dorton's family.

Sally, of course, married David Thacker whom I believe to be the father of Nicholas Thacker, my gggg grandfather. According to a Land Deed, David Thacker, as well as Malachi Dorton among others are the children of Mary Dalton.

According to my friend in Virginia, who is a Dalton researcher, Mary Dalton was Mary Branham, daughter of Benjamin Branham and Frances Gibson. She was also the SISTER of Annis Branham Lemay, which means if all of this is correct, David and Sally were first cousins.

Okay, I have to stop here and go do the genealogical happy dance!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Field Trip!

So, I 've talked my husband into going down to Southern Ohio for a few days vacation next month (read - I twisted his arm until he cried "mama"). Actually my favorite guy is really cool about cemetery hopping unless there are a lot of bugs on the scene.

The deal is that I get to do some down and dirty research in each of three counties I need to visit in order to quench that thirst my Thacker obsession has created. He will drop me off at the appropriate building in the morning and come back and pick me up at noon. Then we will go tombstone searching, or whatever else strikes our fancy.

Because I am limited on time, I'm going to have to be super organized and pick which pieces of information are the most important to pursue.

For example, in Gallia County, I am on the hunt for the Edwill Thacker vs John Hawk court case that occured in about 1841. This case went on to be heard by the Ohio Supreme Court and clarified Ohio's Black Laws.

In Jackson County, I am looking for probate records or land records for David Thacker. I believe David to be the father of my Nicholas Thacker. Since David farmed and owned land he either had to leave a will or the land that he owned would have been subject to right of inheritance. What this hopefully means is that I may be able to find out if Nicholas is his son and who the siblings of Nicholas were.

Also in Jackson County, I want to get copies of several Thacker marriages. Then if I have enough time, I would like to find out where David and Sally Thacker are buried and go to the cemetery.

In Vinton County, there are marriages, newspaper announcements and death records I want to lookup. Curry Cemetery has a lot of Thacker burials - so that afternoon, I know I will be busy!

To be honest, for the last three months, it has been all that I can do, NOT to jump in my car and head south. You have no idea, how hard it has been to work, write and take care of business when all I can think about is - hmm.. what's the best way to approach this research problem, or how can I go about solving that part of the Thacker mystery. And each time as I figure out which path I will take to solve each new problem, I want to get started on it right then and there. Ah, real life is such a pain when I have genealogical puzzles to solve!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Am I A Racist?

So let’s get this out of the way – right now. Am I a racist? If you mean that, I think one race is brighter, smarter or any “er” than another, then the answer is a resounding no. If you mean, by a racist, that race does sometimes “color” (pardon the pun) my thinking, well that is an altogether different animal.

For example, it would feel good to vote for Obama, – as if I were taking a personal stand on the topic of race. But in all honesty, though I think he is great speechmaker, and that he has a lot of potential, I think he just isn’t there yet. So does voting for him make me a racist feeling the way I do? Or does not voting for him make me a racist? Or does just asking the question make me a racist?

So, why is it that I am not publishing my “Thacker Chronicles” on the News-Messenger’s blog? I could give you some very concrete reasons – like I think the topic rates it’s own blog, that it would only have limited appeal to readers, that I can have the freedom to add pictures and posts in a way that I can’t with the News- Messenger gig. And they would all be true, but they are not the main reason, that I have stuck this blog in a small out of the way corner of the Internet.

The truth is that after the initial surprise at finding that I have a bi-racial limb on the family tree, I’m actually excited by the prospect. The perfect scenario for me – that I find I have, along with my European roots, both African American and Native American roots. If I find that one of those racial roots do not exist in my family history, I will be sad in the same way, you feel that momentary pang when the doctor says “You have a boy (or girl)” and you have to say goodbye to the imagined daughter or son you will now never know.

But I share that bi-racial twig with others on the family tree. Do I have the right to decide that they all should be as excited as I am about my find? Some of the immediate members of my family have greeted the news with a “how cool” attitude – others are merely blasé. Still others didn’t want to hear what I had to say on the matter, but I think they are coming around.

But do I really want to break the news to cousins I never talk to by putting it on a newspaper blog – a blog that the editor often puts portions of in print? I don’t think so.

So am I a racist – well I don’t know, maybe. But I think if you want to call me anything, the word coward might be appropriate. I prefer the term sensitive – sensitive to other people feeling differently than I do.

What do YOU think?

Monday, April 21, 2008

So, I begin

Marriage Bond of David Thacker and Sally Lemay

Okay, one of things I love about the Library of Virginia is the inter-library loan program. I have an easier time accessing County records of Virginia than I do the ones right here in the State of Ohio!

I took a day off of work on my birthday (April Fool's Day, appropriately enough) and I went to Birchard Library and ordered three county films from Louisa County, Virginia. The total cost to yours truly, $2.45 which was the cost for Birchard Library to insure the return of the three films to the Library of Virginia.

I thought carefully about which films I would order. I finally made my selection:

1. Reel 52,Marriage Bonds, 1813-1818, No index

2. Reel 12, Deed Book U, 1833 - 1835, Unpaged index, 619 p. & Deed Book V, 1835 - 1837, Unpaged index, 600 p.

3. Reel 27, General Index to Wills, No. 1, 1742 - 1947.

I know that the Thacker, Napper and Freeman clans came to Gallia County in the mid 1830's. I can trace my ancestors back only to Nimrod Nicholas Thacker and his wife Frances who were married in Jackson County, Ohio. I suspect that Nimrod - ok from now on I'm calling him Nicholas, is the son of David Thacker and Sally Lemay.

Near the time of her death there is a record of Sally Thacker being baptized into the Catholic Church at the home of Nicholas Thacker in Vinton County. It gives Sally's parents as Anna and John Lemay. I had read that Sally Lemay and David Thacker were married in Louisa County. I knew that information had to come from somewhere so I started with the marriage bonds.

All I can say is after going through each frame of the Marriage Bond film, I was oh so happy to move on to the Deed Book which was blessedly indexed.

You can see that I found the marriage bond, and I found a lot of other little goodies that I will post on as time permits. So, I now have confirmed one piece of my puzzle - I just don't know how important the piece is.

Notice that it lists Annis Lemay as the mother, and William Gibson is listed along with David Thacker as giving bond.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Prologue - It was Only a Little "m"

In that first breath of exuberance on finding my great great grandmother Francis Thacker, I failed to notice it – that little “m”. In fairness, it was sloppily written, I wasn’t looking for it, and my excitement was so high that my failure to notice was completely understandable. But it was there - sitting patiently in the 1880 census waiting for me to come and find it.

In the 1870 census, the “m” didn’t exist, so there would have been no way for me to notice something that wasn’t there. It wouldn’t be until I started tracking back to Fannie’s mother and grandparents that I would come face to face with the “m.”

The “m” I am talking about is the one that stands for mulatto.

I don’t consider myself an especially stupid person; I get the meaning of mulatto, but for some reason, as I suddenly stared at the page it just didn’t compute. I wrote to another Thacker researcher that I was in contact with and I asked her what she made of this information.

Her answer was sweet, blunt and confirmed what I already knew – “I hope this doesn’t shock you,” she wrote. And then she told me that a branch of the family tree contained an African American limb.

The week following this revelation found me staring thoughtfully into the bathroom mirror. Maybe the lips, I would think. Maybe I can see it in my lips. When I told my youngest sister and my daughter, their reaction was the same – “that explains my hair!”

If you are not who you think you are, then who are you? I was not the merely the product of centuries of European unions. I was, though several generations removed, also the product of a bi-racial line.

In the almost three months since the revelation, there have been very few days that this has not been on my mind. It is like a rash that you keep telling yourself ‘Don’t itch” yet unbidden your fingers keep straying to the very spot.

Some of the research I have been reading indicates that the background is Native American, not African American. There exist written “shouting” matches for those who fall on either side of the explanation.

Someone on one of the message boards said something to the effect that in decades past when a genealogist found the “m” in their own family line they would simply drop genealogy as a hobby. It was implied that most “whites” would rather the “m” stood for a Native American background than an African American one.

For me, my one and only goal is the truth, whatever that may be. I sit here today breathing air, because somewhere in Virginia, centuries ago one of my European gene-pool ancestors created a child with someone of another race. I suspect that each of us have such mixed origins if we travel far enough back on our family trees. My biracial background may just be a little “fresher” than yours.

Having read as much as I have been able to find on the Internet, I’m not certain what the racial background is of my Thacker family line. So I begin. And this, The Thacker Chronicles, is the record of the journey.

It was only a little “m.” It was nothing; it was everything and it is the genesis of my journey.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Prequil: An Ah-Ha! Moment

So, I learned a few days ago that my great-great-grandmother Fanny McCune, whom I had been unsuccessfully looking for the last seven years, actually was Fanny Marcum — which explains why I couldn't find her! Technically her name was actually Francis Thacker. Her mother, Clarinda Thacker, had Fanny (or Francis) four years before her marriage to Enos Marcum.

My family had discovered the McCune name from her daughter's death certificate. Having recently purchased “Evidence Explained,” I was being a dutiful family historian and adding my huge backlog of death certificate information to my software database.

I had done about three of these, when I came to the death certificate of Lizzie Cope Smathers, Fanny's daughter. Hmm, I said to myself, looking at the record under 200% magnification, that McCune doesn't look very clear.

So, I went to take a quick confirming look at the death certificate of Lizzie's brother — John Ceope. (No, that's not a typo; this family started adding an extra “e” to their name — no doubt just to confuse me.) John's daughter, Claudia, had been the informant and she had listed the name Fanny Marcum for the mother of John.

Now, I'd like to say that this was the “AH-HA!” moment for me, but no, it wasn't. Because instead of thinking Ah Ha, I was thinking — Hmm, the granddaughter didn't realize that her grandmother's last name was McCune.

So, I set aside Lizzie's death record, and went on to the next one. A little while later all that putting sources and citations into my database was getting a bit old, and I was itching for a reason to stop. So, on a whim, I went onto and typed in “Francis Marcum,” and as I expected no viable candidates appeared in the search results. Not wanting to end my little break quite that quickly, I then typed in “Fanny Marcum” and once again, as expected, no match for my Fanny.

Still not ready to face the large stack of death certificate input that lay ahead of me, I typed in “Francis Markum,” and there she was aged 16 in the 1880 census. Some simple searches on, a cross check to the Vinton County Web site and some more searching on Ancestry and things that hadn't made sense before now suddenly did.

So about 45 minutes after I should have had my “AH HA!” moment, the light bulb finally went on. Funny to think that if I hadn't gotten “Evidence Explained,” hadn't been taking care of database housekeeping matters, hadn't had online access to Ohio Death Certificates, hadn't subscribed to and hadn't been looking for an easy distraction, it might have taken another seven years for me to solve the riddle of Fanny McCune/Marcum. Sometimes, genealogy is just like that.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, January 25, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

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