Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

Where Did You Come From, William Myers?

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My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all named William Myers. Beyond that, though, the line goes dead in terms of anything I can prove. It’s very frustrating since it’s my name!

In doing genealogical research, we start with the most recent information we can find and work backwards. My grandfather William Myers doesn’t appear in any contemporaneous records with his parents because birth certificates weren’t required in 1906 when he was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina. His mother Josephine Emma Goodwin died in March 1909, followed by her husband William Myers in October 1909. There are no death certificates for either one, depriving us of another source of information, but family lore says they died of the flu. No wills, orphans records, or burial records have been found.  My great-grandmother’s sister Lurinda Goodwin Curtis took in orphaned William, Percy and Nellie Myers, who grew up with her family. They are listed together in the 1910 census.

Myers 1900 census

So let’s see what else we can find by going back to the 1900 Census.  William Myres (38), his wife Josephine (26), and son Percy (3) were living in Bethel, Perquimans County, North Carolina. William and Josephine had been married for 6 years; she had born two children, only one was still living.  All of them were born in North Carolina of parents also born in North Carolina. William was a farmer on rented land. His birthdate is listed as January 1862 and hers, December 1873.

No North Carolina marriage records were found, but my grandmother remembered that her husband’s parents were married in Virginia and not North Carolina. Why she remembered this is a mystery; her husband was only 3 years old when his parents died in 1909, so he barely knew them and she never met them. But remember she did, and it opened possibilities.

William Myers and Joseph [sic] Emma Goodwin were married on 27 Dec 1893 in Suffolk, Virginia, about 55 miles from their 1900 home in Bethel, North Carolina. The marriage record shows that William, age 26, was born in 1867; his parents were listed as David and Margaret Myers. Joseph, or Josephine, age 20, was born in 1873 to parents Lemuel S. and Mary J. Goodwin.

Already we have a discrepancy. The marriage record gives William’s birth information as 1867 while the 1900 census, taken 7 years after the marriage, gives the date as January 1862. Josephine’s information is consistent across the two records. Her parents, Lemuel Goodwin and Mary Jane Thach, grew up in Perquimans County but had moved to Suffolk, Virginia, sometime before December 1893. The Myers were more elusive. In fact, they’re missing.

One of the benefits of online rearch is the ability to do “sounds like” searches, which is handy when there are many ways to spell a name. And there are many ways to spell Myers, among them Meyers, Meyer, Myer, Mayer, Meirs, Mears, Maiers. Unfortunately for me, I found no marriage record for a David Myers (of any spelling) and anyone named Margaret in North Carolina or Virginia. I also found no William Myers (of any spelling) born in 1867 in North Carolina or Virginia.

One promising William Myers (born to David Giles Myers) was born in 1861 in Davidson County, North Carolina, but follow-up research showed he lived and died in Davidson County and married someone else completely.  There is, though, a David Myers born about 1837 in Chowan County, right next to Perquimans County. He appears in the 1850 census at age 13 in the home of Thomas Myers, his wife Minnie, with siblings Alexander (21) and Harriet (15), living in the District Below Edenton.  In 1860, the only David Myers in the county appears in Edenton, where he was age 24 and working and living as a bookkeeper in a hotel.

MYERS N.D. - NC Civil War Roll of HonorDavid Myers enlisted in as a private in Company M, North Carolina 1st Infantry Regiment on 29 April 1861 and mustered out on 12 Nov 1861. His name on the Roll of Honor appears as N.D. Myers. And then he disappeared from Eastern North Carolina.

One Nathan David Myers died on 18 January 1917 in Kinston, Lenoir County, North Carolina. According to the obituary in The Kinston Free Press on 20 January 1917, he was a native of Edenton and had served in the Confederate Army. Sound familiar? He has a widower who died childless; his wife Eveline Dunn Myers died in 1894. I believe that this man was the David Myers who we found in the 1850 and 1860 census records in Chowan.

Meanwhile, back in Perquimans County in 1870, Alexander Myers lived with his wife Harriet and children William (10) and Margaret (9). There was only one Alexander in Chowan and Perquimans County; he is presumed to be the son of Thomas and Minnie Myers, parents of N. David Myers already discussed. William is also living with Alexander in the 1880 census as well. His birth year of 1860 or 1861 is consistent with the birth year of William Myers found in the 1900 census but not consistent with the birth year of William Myers on the 1893 marriage record.

Do we have an explanation? No. One possibility, however, is that Willliam was actually the son of David Myers who was raised by his brother Alexander. I have no proof of that at all and it may be far-fetched. DNA evidence does connect my father William Myers with a known descendant of Alexander Myers and another descendant of Whitaker Myers, who was related to Alexander’s father. It proves nothing but it certainly is interesting!

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