Providing practical, down-to-earth advice for family historians since 1995, online since 1985.
Is Southern US research impossible?
From: Barbara Lewis Gates
They were no more successful in finding my father's lineage than I was. I was told, "This is as close to a dead end as we ever see, and without Divine assistance, we do not recommend you try to pursue this line any further. At least, not until more records are uncovered-perhaps ten years down the road."
I found this to be very disappointing and did not want to give up, so I continued researching every Lewis family in the state of Tennessee I could find. But the naming patterns made it almost impossible to determine who was who, because every male Lewis named their sons after their fathers, grandfathers, brothers and uncles.
I found many individuals who could easily have been David Lewis's brothers, but have no connections to anyone. There are tons of "Lewis" information on the internet. But nothing connects. I even sent a DNA sample from a Lewis cousin of mine to the University of Arizona for analysis, and they had nothing that would match this line.
I've always been told, "NEVER GIVE UP!" (and I don't want to), but I just don't know what to do next.
Is it time to throw in the towel on my father's line?
Last week's DearMYRTLE's FAMILY HISTORY HOUR discussed a Tennessee apprenticeship phenomenon noticed by compiler Dr. Alan Miller who explained "RE: Apprentices from 1778 to 1911: the practice of apprenticeship 'spread to the colonies along with other English customs but gradually became less of a method of training in the professions and crafts, developing instead into a system whereby children who were or were likely to become indigent could be supported without cost to the local government.' In Tennessee, in fact, the term "orphan" was broadened to include not only parentless children but also "any child as bindable whose father had abandoned him or utterly failed and refused to support him [...]
Since apprentices were separated from their families at an early age, if your ancestor was apprenticed, his/her record could serve as the "missing link" to generations of elusive ancestors. It is sometimes possible to find a county's records of indenture in the original. However, as in Mr. Miller's case, even when those records have disappeared, you can reconstruct them by combing through the original court minutes of the pertinent counties themselves."
2 of the 3 books by Dr. Miller on this topic include:
MIDDLE TENNESSEE'S FORGOTTEN CHILDREN: Apprentices from 1784 to 1902 - "This second volume of Tennessee's "forgotten children" contains some 7,000 apprenticeship records scattered among the minutes of the county courts for Middle Tennessee. These records span the period from 1774 to 1902 and list in tabular form the apprenticeships created in the following 35 Tennessee counties: Bedford, Cannon, Cheatham, Clay, Coffee, Davidson, DeKalb, Dickson, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Jackson, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Montgomery, Moore, Overton, Perry, Robertson, Rutherford, Smith, Stewart, Sumner, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne, White, Williamson, and Wilson." http://www.genealogical.com/item_detail.asp?afid=&ID=9838
EAST TENNESSEE'S FORGOTTEN CHILDREN: Apprentices from 1778 to 1911 - "These 11,000 records bear reference to apprenticeships created between 1778 and 1911 in 29 Tennessee counties. Mr. Miller has arranged the records by county and thereunder chronologically. For each record we are given the name of the apprentice, a date (either the date of the original bond or indenture, or a subsequent date), age at apprenticeship, name of the master, and miscellaneous information ranging from the name of the mother or a sibling, race, cause of apprenticeship (e.g., orphan), his/her trade, etc." http://www.genealogical.com/item_detail.asp?ID=9259
One thing that might be of value is to study the history of the county where your LEWIS ancestor lived. These tend to mention things like where people migrated from 'who settled in the SW corner of this county,' etc.
Have you considered whether your Mr. Lewis served in the military? You might consider consulting Mrs. John Trotwood Moore's RECORD OF COMMISSIONS OF OFFICERS IN THE TENNESSEE MILITIA, 1796–1815. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing, 1977. (FHL book 976.8 M2m; computer number 255483.)
Happy family tree climbing!