What is a “Lucky Find” and what do I do with it?

On this site, I’ll use the term Lucky Find several times. We all have them. It could be a little fact in the family tree that great grandma wrote from memory, that everyone else in the family has forgotten about. It could be a clue in a photo, when examined closer, that leads to a big discovery. It could be connecting with a cousin who is a DNA match, and they have information about an entire branch of the family tree that you are missing.

A Lucky Find is some seemingly small clue or fact that leads you to a bigger find. It may be coincidence, or your lucky stars. It doesn’t matter what brought it to us, what matters is what we do with it once we come across it.

I have a series on this blog called Lucky Find about some of the Lucky Finds I have come across that have helped me in my research. Luck Find is a tag word, and can also be used in the search box for this site. Read them, they’re lots of fun!

And you can let me know what Lucky Finds you have also come across!

Ray Family

My Grandma Cross was born a Vessels in Kentucky. Her mother, known as Granny Vessels, was born Sarah Catherine Ray. The Ray family is a prominent ancestor line in our family.

The Rays also started in Maryland in the early years, before the Revolutionary War. In the late 1700s they moved to Kentucky. There was a large group of Catholics, many families, mostly our ancestors, that moved from Maryland to Kentucky. Why did they move? Many reasons, it turns out.

The Rays also had lots of land in Maryland, grew tobacco on plantations, and had slaves. Many of our ancestors were Catholic, and Maryland was a place of religious tolerance. But, when we were colonies, the British monarchs sometimes hated Catholics and sometimes tolerated them. Often, the Catholics were double taxed for the only reason that they were Catholic. It was a financial hardship to be Catholic. Also, Catholics were often prohibited from having public office; to be elected or to hold any public office meant to take an oath denying the pope and the Catholic faith. This goes back to Henry VIII who wanted a divorce, the pope said no, so Henry started his own church and called it the Church of England, sometimes called the Anglican church. To this day, the monarch is the Head of the Church of England. No pope, no one else ever, will tell the sitting monarch what to do when it comes to religion. Also, to this day, if a prince or princess is in line for the throne, if they marry a Catholic, they are disinherited and are no longer in line for the throne. No monarch can have any affiliation with the Catholic church. There is much hatred there. Which is why Maryland as a colony of religious tolerance was so appreciated.

Also, the British tried to swing a deal to sell Maryland tobacco to France, but the deal fell through. But Britain still enforced a monopoly on the Maryland tobacco, after all Maryland was a British colony. If the tobacco plantations could sell their tobacco to the highest bidder, they could make more money on the open market, but Britain prohibited that.

So, the Rays, and many of our other ancestors, left Maryland for Kentucky for many reasons.

Some of these pressures were relieved when America won the Revolutionary War. But many of our ancestors already had it in their mind to move to Kentucky. Several of our Ray ancestors had already made several trips to Kentucky in the late 1700s, and sometimes even owned land in Kentucky while still living in Maryland. Some were surveyors, who determined whose land belonged to whom. In Maryland, the land was pretty much all eaten up by the large tobacco plantations and there was no more available land. In Kentucky, there was abundant land available.

The trip from Maryland to Kentucky was a long and winding journey. No interstates, no freeways, no railroad. They went by land, with sometimes unmarked roads, to Pittsburgh. This took 5-9 days. From there they got on a flatboat to travel down the Ohio River to Kentucky. This took another 9 days. Right about Louisville they came to “the falls” and the boat could not travel downstream any more do to a rocky falls area, which is a big reason Louisville exists where it does. They then travelled, by land or by flatboat, on smaller rivers, inland from the Ohio River, to the part of Kentucky where our ancestors lived for generations in Kentucky, and where Grandma Cross, born Virginia Vessels, was born.

Lots of other researchers have been stumped by who was the immigrant ancestor who came to America. Our earliest Ray ancestor is William Ray, my 8th great grandfather. He died in Maryland in 1760. Other details are unknown; don’t know when or where he was born or where he came from. His son was also William Ray, he was born in 1705, likely in Maryland, and died in 1782, also in Maryland. But where did they come from? That’s the next research question to answer.

This kind of research is fun, and I’m learning a lot about our ancestors!

I have full source citations on my ancestry.com online tree. Go to my contact page and shoot me an email, and I can invite you to my tree.

Stevens will

In my research, I have been lucky to have so many family trees written by other people. From there, I have two jobs; 1) prove the work they did with sources, and 2) expand on their work, finding earlier ancestors and filling out the family tree.

The Cross Family Tree, as written by Samuel B. Cross, is quite a work. But there are really no sources, so we don’t know where he got his information. Does not mean he is not accurate, just means it is not proven. I have proven much of it, but not all. The parents of Andrew Cross (my 3rd great grandfather), for example, are not considered proven by myself and several other family genealogists. He names the parents as Cornelius Allen Cross and Mary Stephens. And Mary Stephens’ parents were Leonardt and Elizabetha Stephens. But where did he get this information?

But I recently found two documents that help in this matter.

I recently found a will of Elizabeth Stevens in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. She was the grandmother of Andrew Cross. Her will states and proves the names and relationships; she says her deceased husband was Leonard Stevens, her daughter Mary Ann Stevens is the wife of Allen Cross. Allen Cross is sometimes called Cornelius Allen Cross and is the father of Andrew Cross.

I did contact the Clearfield County Historical Society, and they have the original Cross Family Bible, which names the parents of Andrew Cross as Allen Cross and Mary Cross, and I now have a photocopy of that Bible page.

The will was important, because I sometimes had the name spelled as either Stephens or even Stepheus. I think the Stepheus was a typo and the u is really an n. But the suggestion was their name was German, so Stepheus was a possibility. I now know their name, in America, was Stevens. Previously, possibly in Germany, there was an alternate spelling, but that is not examined yet.

Leonard and Elizabeth Stevens are the grandparents of Andrew Cross. His parents were Cornelius Allen Cross and Mary Ann Stevens.

So, it seems the work of Samuel Cross is accurate and parts of it are now proven with a few documents. We have the parents of the wife of Cornelius Allen Cross. Who are the parents of Cornelius Allen Cross? Is the next question to answer.

I have full source citations on my ancestry.com online tree. Go to my contact page and shoot me an email, and I can invite you to my tree.