Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Do Some Random Research

Hey genealogy buffs - it's Saturday Night and time for more Genealogy Fun! Play along with us and tell us about it.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to follow Chris Staats' rules (from Freaky Friday: Random Research Reports) for picking a random person's name and then doing some online research about that person.

Here are Chris's rules:1. Go to The Random Name Generator and click the red “Generate Name” button at the top of the screen

2. Go to and enter your generated name in the search box on the main search page. [Randy's add: If you don't have, go to and do it there - it's free.]

3. From the results, your research target will be the first census result for your generated name.

4. Using whatever online resources are at your disposal, see what else you can discover about your random person and write about it. It can be a formal report complete with footnotes, or just a “research story” about what you tried, problems you overcame, or success you had. Maybe you want to create a research plan for practice?

5. Post about it on your blog or wherever you wish, and link here to tell Chris about it. Tell Randy about it too as a comment here or a comment on Facebook or Twitter."

The name I got was: Harris Watson.

Starting at Ancestry dot com, the first census result was 1930. My Mr. Harris M. Watson was married to Lily and they had an 8-year-old adopted son, Henry. In 1930 they lived in Militia District 1199, Brooks, Georgia. Harris was 59, so born in about 1871. Lily was 45, so born about 1885. As I mentioned, Henry was 8, so born about 1922.

In 1930, Harris owned the farm they lived on. He’s a white male, who was 27 at the age of his first marriage. Lily was 16 at the age of her first marriage. Since when Henry was 27, Lily would have been 13, I’m not sure it fits that this is their first marriage. All three of these Watson family members were born in Georgia, as were their parents. Harris says he is not a veteran.

I thought I’d walk you through my process. Since I like to timeline my victims ancestors, I started by working backward in the census files.

In 1920, Harris and Lily are in Quitman, Brooks, Georgia. I made a note to research Brooks, Georgia to see if this place and the 1930 place are the same place, as Harris is listed as an owner of a farm here, as well. Harris is 49 and Lily is 36. Harris can’t read or write, but Lily can.

In 1910, they are in Barney, Brooks, Georgia. Again, look this up to see if it’s the same place, as this one is also owned. Harris is 39, Lily is 28 and Jesse, Harris’ brother is living with them (Jesse is 24). Harris and Lily say they have been married for 12 years, so I guess someone was wrong in 1930 when they said they were 16 at the age of their first marriage… also, I should note that “Lily” has been spelled differently in every census so far. 1930 it was Lily, 1920 it was Lilly, and 1910 it was Lillie.

In 1900, I can’t find Harris in the census. After doing the 1880 census find, I found the father and family in this census. But no Harris Watson. He would have been married right around this year, so I’ll skip this for now.

In 1880, there is a Harris Watson of the right age (9 years) in Quitman, Brooks, Georgia. Brother Jesse is in the 1900 census with brother Elzia that was in this census, so I’m pretty sure it’s the right family. His parents are William and Margarette. William’s father was born in North Carolina, while his mother and he were born in Georgia. Margarette and her parents were born in Georgia.

Since all of our Watson family seems to be in Brooks County, I put that into Ancestry as a generic search with Watson as the surname. Normally, I would go straight to usgenweb for this, but since I want low hanging fruit for my new Watson kin, I’ll stick to Ancestry for now.

Nothing easy in birth, marriage, death, but I did find a family tree that looked promising. The Wade Family tree lists Harris with no dob, but a marriage date of 2 Jan 1898 in Brooks County, GA. His parents are listed as William Watson and Margarette Watson. His spouse is listed as Lillie Spell. When I click on it, their sources are all the same census records I have. However, I would now take this as a clue to Lillie’s possible maiden name and look further into that.

But since it’s 9:20pm and I have genealogied out for the day, I’ll sign off here with “my” Watsons.

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