My ggrandmother Georgia Harris’ line has always been a challenge to research. But it reminded me of the fact that when we are searching parents, that parents often move with their children.
Awhile ago, I made some headway in tracing her roots. She was not from Jacksonville (Duval County) Florida, as oral history said. She was from Madison County, which is over 100 miles west of Jacksonville. (See Northern Florida map above).
Georgia was married prior to her marriage to my great-grandfather. I discovered she had several children by that first marriage. No one in my family knew that.
I also found Georgia’s mother, Matilda, her stepfather, Perry Davis, and sister Ruth also in Madison County. After that, the trail ran dry. I specifically wanted to find her mother Matilda. Finding Matilda would enable me to trace the family roots back to 1870.
Sideways Research: Sister Ruth
I decided to finally research Georgia’s only known sibling, Ruth Harris. Siblings should always be researched thoroughly in all of our research, so this was not a novel approach.
In Familysearch, I found a marriage between Ruth Harris and a man named “Nish Torence” in 1910. A search for his (thankfully) odd name in the 1920 census uncovered the couple living in…drum roll…Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!
The names are mangled, but guess who I found living in their household? Ruth (and Georgia’s) mother Matilda! This of course isn’t surprising, since parents often move with their children.
Matilda’s relationship as “mother” is supposed to be to the head of the household Nish. However, it seems reasonable that this was really his mother-in-law. She was really Ruth’s mother.
By 1930, Nish moved to Camden, New Jersey. Ruth died and Nish remarried. Nish worked on the railroad which likely explains his constant moving.
I am still surprised that so many of my ancestors moved around as much as they did. They are all over the place. And that’s a major reason many of us lose track of them.
Big cities usually mean more and better records. Now I can research what is available in the city of Philadelphia, between 1920-1930.
I hope to find death certificates for Ruth Harris and Matilda Davis. City directories an birth records also come to mind.
(Update, 10/2018: I found Ruth’s death certificate, but Matilda’s complicated journey took longer to unravel. Her journey also explains why she appears in the census above with the surname “Garvin.”)
From the SSDI, I discovered Nish lived in Camden until he died in 1970. His World War II draft card also confirmed this was the right family through the Madison, Florida birthplace:
I found a picture of Nish’s home on Google Maps–it’s the one in the center:
Nish and my ancestor Ruth had at least five children. I hope to find some Torrence descendants that may still live in Camden or perhaps in Philadelphia. (Update, 10/2018: through the science of DNA, I have connected with a descendant of Ruth and Nish!)
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.