Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Deciphering the Dennis Family

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Everyone!
It was a busy week at the Space Center with double field trips stretching from 9:30 A.M. to 6:30 P.M. then private programs afterwords, giving me little time to do anything else so I apologize for the absence of posts. This week offers a reprieve so I should have the odd hour or two to push onwards to find those who came before.

Today I'd like to post another family mystery and see if anyone has suggestions or opinions. Yesterday afternoon I pondered over the family tree (the official tree - click on the tree near the top of the right side bar). I felt a sense of accomplishment with the fully developed lines (lines stretching back to Europe), coupled with frustration at other branches that dead ended prematurely somewhere back east. The Dennis and Crippen branches are two examples.

Our Great Great Great Grandparents, Levi Dennis and Sarah Crippen seem to be parentless. All searches to date have ended with frustration and the overwhelming urge to place one's entire leg through the computer screen after several hours and several Diet Mountain Dews. Cousin Angie has taken it upon herself to adopt GGG Grandmother Sarah and force her way through time and space in a heroic attempt to discover her lineage. I decided to do the same with her husband, GGG Grandfather Levi Dennis.

After spending several hours in the hunt I feel I have a few promising leads that I'll share with you.

Lead 1. The Marriage Certificate:

This is the marriage certificate for Levi Dennis and Sarah Crippen. They were married by William Sharp, Justice of the Peace for Grainger County, Tennessee in November 1842. The top of the certificated says "Know all men by these presents, that we Levi Dennis and William Dennis......". I'm assuming that Levi and William guaranteed that there was no known reason why Levi Dennis and Sarah Crippen couldn't marry.

Levi and William both signed the certificate. The question arises whether the Levi who signed the document is the same Levi that married Sarah or could it be a relative? The next question is the identity of William Dennis. Is William Dennis Levi's Father, brother, or cousin? My gut feeling tells me the groom himself signed the guarantee.

Lead 2: Sarah's Will

This will was recorded in Grainger County, Tennessee. This is a strange short document. It appears to be signed on March 26, 1843, one year after the marriage of Levi to Sarah. Who is the William Dennis she calls her beloved? Notice the witnesses' names: William Sharp, Levi Dennis, William Dennis Sr. and John White. Remember, William Sharp was the Justice of the Peace that married Levi and Sarah (from their wedding certificate).

Levi Dennis died in 1846 after having moved the family to Sullivan County Missouri. Sarah married Samuel Bingham in 1847. Notice the will was recorded on November 8, 1850. So it was signed while Levi and Sarah where married and recorded a few years after Levi's death.

The Marriage Entry for Sarah and Samuel Bingham

Lead 3: The 1840 Federal Census

The 1840 Federal Census records the following Dennis Heads of Households in Grainger County, Tennessee (Remember, the census was taken two years before Levi married Sarah, thus I assume Levi wouldn't be listed as a head of house because, being a single man, he was most likely living in his father's home and working the farm).
  1. Eli Dennis
  2. William Dennis
  3. Thomas Dennis
  4. Caswell Dennis
So, in all of Grainger County there were four Dennis households. Here we find William mentioned again.

Lead 5

This is the Ancestry Information on Thomas Dennis. He was born in North Carolina along with his wife, Charity Beason. They were living in Grainger County Tennessee. Look at the names of their children.

  1. William Dennis born 1813.
  2. Abby Dennis
  3. Eli Dennis
  4. Caswell Dennis
  5. John Dennis
At the bottom of this entry someone posted a comment that reads, "They had 12 children". Our GGG Grandfather was born in 1812. Who are the other children and why aren't they listed?

So, from the evidence at hand I'm guessing Levi belongs to this Grainger County Tennessee branch of the Dennis family. I'm guessing William to be his brother. I'm guessing his parents were Thomas and Charity Dennis from North Carolina. Yes, I'm assuming a lot but look at the evidence.

There is another clue still waiting to be investigated. Levi and Sarah's firstborn was my Great Great Grandfather John Mayberry Dennis. Where did the name 'Mayberry' come from? I'm guessing it came from the first or last name of a relative.

I'll continue looking and perhaps will one day find Levi's name on some family relationship chart. Until then, the search for the people that gave us life continues.


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