Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Busting Myths about William Steel Reeves

Page from James Robertson bible
William Steel Reeves was born in Pendleton District, South Carolina on 9 March 1794, the son of George Reeves Jr and Mary Polly Steele (surname unproven). His birthdate is recorded in the James Robertson bible.

William Steel Reeves married Nancy Totty in Hickman County Tennessee in 1816. He moved to Crawford County, Arkansas before 1836 and stayed for several years before moving to Grayson County, Texas before 1850.

William Steel Reeves died on 7 June 1872 and is buried in the Georgetown Cemetery in Pottsboro, Grayson County, Texas.

It is in a book called "The History of Grayson County, Texas" where at least two myths about William seem to have gotten their start.

In this book, William's descendant Geraldine Coe wrote the section on the history of the William Steel Reeves family which begins thusly:

My great great grandfather was born March 9, 1794 in Pendleton District South Carolina. His ancestors came from Ireland to S.C. in 1792. He was orphaned at age 3 and his uncle raised him in Nashville, Tennessee.  

In this short excerpt, two myths appear:

Myth #1 -  the family "came from Ireland to S. C. in 1792." They did not. See William Steel Reeves' lineage in the ancestry tree: Reliques of the Rives -- Group 8 DNA.

Myth #2 -- "he was orphaned at age 3 and his uncle raised him in Nashville, Tennessee." This is not true either. His mother died when he was very young, but his father George Reeves Jr remarried quickly to Mary O'Barr while still living in Pendleton, South Carolina." The family later moved to middle Tennessee where William is found in the 1820 census of Hickman County.

Sadly this book is found in libraries all over the country and continues to serve to perpetuate these myths. It never seems to work to put too much faith in genealogy books as so many rely on family lore and unfounded conjecture rather than research and documentary evidence. You must still verify, verify, and verify again.










2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the post on William S. Reeves. I am a descendant of William and his son George Robertson Reeves. You are certainly correct about the family origin. The family came from England back in the 1600s, some five generations before William, and not Ireland. The second myth is still surrounded in some confusion. Some stories have young William being raised by his aunt Charlotte Reeves and her husband, General James Robertson. This comes from the fact William is listed in the Robertson family bible. And, I might add, not listed as a "nephew" or other outside family member. William's father died when William was around 3 years old but it is not know if Mary continued to care for young William. I admit that I have not seen the 1820 census but William would be well into his 20s at that point and not a ward of anyone. So some natural questions come into play such as, if William was not a part of the Robertson household, why was he included in the bible? And why not include Mary in the bible?

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  2. Thank you for the post on William S. Reeves. I am a descendant of William and his son George Robertson Reeves. You are certainly correct about the family origin. The family came from England back in the 1600s, some five generations before William, and not Ireland. The second myth is still surrounded in some confusion. Some stories have young William being raised by his aunt Charlotte Reeves and her husband, General James Robertson. This comes from the fact William is listed in the Robertson family bible. And, I might add, not listed as a "nephew" or other outside family member. William's father died when William was around 3 years old but it is not know if Mary continued to care for young William. I admit that I have not seen the 1820 census but William would be well into his 20s at that point and not a ward of anyone. So some natural questions come into play such as, if Mary was caring for William, why was he included in the Robertson family bible and not Mary? And if William and Mary were included in an 1820 Arkansas census, why would the Robertson family in Tennessee have them included in their bible. (And the notations of William in this bible, with his date of birth, are confirmed).

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