Follow the road to Buckeye, Alabama

In last week’s post I introduced readers to a marriage record of two ancestors who married in Alabama. The record contained ambiguous language concerning the place of marriage. Further study indicated the event occurred within the community named Alabama Furnace instead of at the site of an iron-making blast furnace of same name. I gained a valuable education to learn that my ancestors were not as atypical in a marital sense as I had initially perceived—or so I thought.

Contrarily, today’s post features a research example in which another couple did in fact pursue, very convincingly, a most unconventional place to wed.

Taylor-Camp marriage recordYears ago while searching marriage records in Clay County, Alabama, I encountered the record of my maternal great-grandparents, Thomas Taylor and Bellzora “Bell” Camp.1 It revealed a “situation” previously unknown by me. At the time it was discovered, I found the information on that unique record to be both shocking and hilarious.

You see, the clerk who recorded the marriage record was gracious enough to indicate Tom and Bell were married by C.W. Swann, a local minister, N.P., and ex officio J.P., “at in the middle of the public road near Buckeye, Ala…” As you can imagine, I didn’t see that one coming! No church wedding. No expensive gown nor bridesmaids. No best man. No mounds of flowers to shower the bride and groom. No trading of vows at the house of the bride’s parents. No sir. Choosing instead to dodge the social-column tidbits in the local paper, those rascals legitimated their vows in just a plain, old fashioned, can’t-wait-to-get-hitched, roadside affair. What a mental picture. I can just see them now, lying in wait, ready to ambush that poor, unassuming preacher on his way to town!

Taylor - Camp marriage record - insert

It would have been real easy for me to have swept some of the undesirable evidence I had discovered under the rug.  I could have refrained from telling all and partially revealed to interested parties in my family that Tom and Bell were simply married by a minister or county official in Clay County on such-and-such date. It would have been the truth—yet only half the truth. Fortunately, I avoided that temptation. When it came to crunch time, I did what I knew was the ethical thing to do: I accepted my ancestors for who they were, warts and all, regardless of what the “record” said. I didn’t try to impose any modern, political correctness or social etiquette to their marriage situation.

The word “sanitize” conjures up lots of interpretation when it comes to genealogy. We “clean up” photographs with digital-editing software prior to sharing, believing that a manicured photo is more desirable than one which displays defects. Digitized documents are cropped to remove areas we deem less important or not applicable. We even reduce our findings during research to “abstracts” which reflect only a portion of the evidence we find. You’ll agree, those are legitimate examples in which noise, clutter, or the likes are removed in a preferred fashion from our artifacts, documents, and research.

On the flip side, I’ve known of persons who doctored their research conclusions to fit a certain legacy or story, knowing all the time that they were cleaving to something that was profoundly untrue. Why heck, I even know about a person who wrote their own obituary—later published at death (1990s)—which contained events, occupations, and such that the decedent had never experienced. Talk about sanitizing…

Sweeping data under rugLike me, if you research long enough, you’ll eventually encounter unexpected “situations” in your own pedigree as well. Then you too will be faced with the same question about how to respond and treat the evidence you’ve discovered. When it occurs, don’t fall prey to the temptation to sweep undesirable or embarrassing information under the rug. Refuse to “sanitize” your perception.

Whenever a source reveals evidence about an ancestor that disappoints our human expectations, don’t fret. Avoid the inclination to accept any evidence at face value. Learn to be a diligent skeptic. Always subject your evidence to further research. Who knows, in time, new, comparative evidence may reflect a different meaning, perception, or interpretation. But if it doesn’t, just remember that our forebears weren’t perfect. We’re forever the product of their legacy—a fact that will never change—regardless of the size of our broom!


1. Clay County, Alabama, Marriage Records, Book H (1901-1904): 234, Tom Taylor to Bell Camp, 1902, license, return, and bond (not filled in); Probate Judge’s Office, Ashland.

Educational value of marriage records!

When you think of researching and obtaining copies of historical marriage records, what’s some of the thoughts that cross your mind? If you’re like me, you envision a notable document recorded somewhere on a mysterious page in one of those big ol’ heavy books down at the courthouse. To obtain a photocopy, you simply venture to the county courthouse. You photocopy the record and head back home. Pretty simple.

I know what you’re thinking. “Wait just a minute. Nobody goes down to the courthouse nowadays to get a copy of a marriage record! Haven’t you heard of the Internet?”

You’re absolutely right. Most of us have transitioned to the digital age in which older marriage records are now downloaded at the click of a mouse. The manner in which we access marriage documents is very important. Abstracting precise vital dates and the names of various parties named within marriage records is also a critical aspect of our research. Most important, however, we should study each and every marriage record we encounter in its entirety to gain the whole story. As the following recorded event attests, sometimes we encounter an unexpected story of matrimony that goes far beyond the minutiae expressed on the recorded page. It is a great example of the educational value of marriage records.

I arrived early that morning just when the courthouse door opened in Talladega County, Alabama. I made a beeline straight to the probate judge’s office. Upon consulting the marriage indexes, I located the marriage of my ancestors, James “Jimroe” Taylor and Susan Garmon. Taylor-Garmon marriage record Next, I identified the appropriate marriage register which reeked with smells of the bygone past. Lifting the bulky book from its shelf, I turned to the proper page and eagerly stared at the record.1 “Wow. They got married…in 1874…uh, where? Yep, I should have guessed,” I thought to myself. As I continued to read, it stated they were married “at Ala. Iron Furnace.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I first reacted in disbelief. Then, I surmised, “My ancestors may have been anxious to get hitched, but choosing to elope and wed at an iron-making blast furnace of all places was taking the idea of marriage to a whole new level.” My curiosity was now stirred for sure. I just couldn’t wait to learn more about this outdoor “furnace.”

With photocopy in hand, I proceeded to the local public library. It didn’t take long to find out that in my rush to judgment, my premature conclusion was all wrong. From information gathered by Eugene Allen Smith, state geologist, Talladega’s sole iron furnace during the Civil War was destroyed by Union forces but was rebuilt by the Alabama Iron Company in 1873.2 (Please note that this furnace was rebuilt one year prior to James Taylor’s marriage to Susan Garmon.). Smith stated its location was in Section 17, of Township 17 South, of Range 7 East [of the Huntsville Meridian (in the upper, northeastern area of Talladega County)]. In March 1873, the town of “Alabama Furnace” was incorporated by the Alabama Legislature.3 The language of the act indicated that its corporate limits were to “…extend three miles in every direction from said furnace, near Salt Creek, on the line of the Selma, Rome and Dalton railroad…” It was to be no closer than one mile from the center of the town of Munford.

Further research revealed that one month later, in April 1873, a post office was established at Alabama Furnace.4 It serviced the community which surrounded the iconic iron-manufacturing facility. A historical map published in 1878 indicated that the town and post office were located in Township 17 just south of the Rome and Dalton Railroad line near Salt Creek, between the towns of Munford and Silver Run.5 On 18 February 1884, the name of the Alabama Furnace community post office was changed to “Jenifer.”6 The town was named after Jenifer, mother of Samuel Noble, the new corporate owner of the furnace.7

Today’s Lesson
So there, we now have the rest of the story concerning this confusing marriage record. Consequently, James and his bride had not tied the knot at an industrial edifice after all—it occurred somewhere within its surrounding community which also bore the town name and post office of same name. Yippee! I dodged a negative social bullet on that one, ’cause I had initially thought my “Jimroe” was a rather strange ancestor. The lesson to be learned is simple. We should never jump to premature conclusions in our research—even if the record we are viewing is original. If we don’t conduct thorough study before postulating our conclusions about the evidence in hand, we may get the “wrong picture.”

Next week, I’ll continue this discussion about marriage records and their “educational” value…


1. Talladega County, Alabama, Marriage Book D (1872–76): 239, James Taylor and Susan Garmon, 1874, recorded license, return, and bond (not filled in); Probate Judge’s Office, Talladega.

2. Geological Survey of Alabama, Report of Progress for 1875 (Montgomery: W.W. Screws, State Printer, 1876), 133, 149–151; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 23 November 2015).

3. Acts of the Session of 1872–1873, of the General Assembly of Alabama held in the City of Montgomery, commencing [18 November 1872] (Montgomery: Arthur Bingham, State Printer, 1873), pp. 280–81, “An Act To incorporate the town of ‘Alabama Furnace’ in the county of Talladega” (Act no. 274); digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 23 November 2015).

4. “U.S., Appointment of U.S. Postmasters, 1832–1971,” digital image, Ancestry ( : accessed 23 November 2015), Talladega County, Alabama, 7 April 1873, Alabama Furnace, search path: Start > Alabama > County > Marion-Winston > image 402 of 603; imaged from Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832–September 30, 1971, microfilm publication M841 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service, 1973), roll 3.

5. U.S. General Land Office, State of Alabama (New York: Julius Bien, 1878); digital image, David Rumsey Map Collection ( : accessed 23 November 2015), search path: Start > Alabama > When [left menu] > Show More > 1878 > map 5 of 5.

6. “U.S., Appointment of U.S. Postmasters, 1832–1971,” digital image, Ancestry, Talladega County, Alabama, 18 February 1884, Alabama Furnace (late) to Jenifer, image 402 of 603.

7. Ethel Armes, The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama (Birmingham: Chamber of Commerce, 1910), 316; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 23 November 2015.

Welcome Genealogists!

Welcome genealogists to my SoutheasternRoots Genealogy Blog!

My name is James Mitchell Brown. I’m a novice to the blogging community, yet I have much knowledge to share with you about genealogy.

I’m a native Texan but was raised in Gloucester County, Virginia, in the tiny oyster and crabber community known today as Glass. It is situated on the historic Severn River on a peninsula formerly known as old “Saddler’s Neck.” As a matter of pedigree and residency, at one time or another my paternal and maternal direct-line ancestors collectively occupied every southern state from Virginia to Alabama (with the exception of Florida). So, as you naturally might suspect, my expertise resides in genealogical research of the Old American South.

Regarding education, I believe we can agree that family history research is not a static endeavor, as we never quit learning. Any genealogical subject of value will be fair game for me to share on this blog. I especially enjoy state and local records. Those include vital records, land records, probate material, and tax records. The topic of DNA and its use in family history is intriguing to a growing audience. I’m also a stickler for methodology, so I’ll share posts on the how-to as well. Of course, I’ll certainly include moments of research humor, travel to historic sites, terminology, etc.

Even if your ancestors resided outside the region, that doesn’t mean that the content of my posts will be irrelevant to you. Federal records encompass all forebears who resided in our great country—regardless of where they may have lived. Therefore, I’ll also feature treatment of various types of government records too. So, if you suspect an ancestor may have made a temporary “flying visit” to the region or just simply passed through as a part of the general westward movement, there’s something here for you as well.

This introductory post represents the first of many informative and entertaining tidbits I hope to upload in the weeks and months ahead. My plan is to share new posts on a weekly basis, so I hope you will stop by often. If a featured post strikes a chord with you, feel free to share your comments.

So, sit back and enjoy the ride with me. I hope you’ll make my blog one of your favorite places to visit.

Thanks for stopping by.