Monday, November 2, 2009

Madness Monday - Samuel Luther Lawrence Payne

Madness Monday for genealogy enthusiasts is a chance to vent about the brick walls that are inevitably encountered. Some walls present a temporary obstruction as additional records are found, allowing you the researcher to move on.

Other walls are a bit more stubborn, proving to be a thorn in the side, but with a little luck and a lot of effort (and the discovery of more records to research!) you can wear them down.

And then there's the intractable walls that defy even the loudest of Joshua's horns. These are the walls that you chip away at, celebrating minimal advances and the tiniest increase in historical understanding. With these walls however, every step forward inevitably raises one or more additional mysteries! These are the most frustrating of walls; at the same time they are your greatest challenges. Ultimately, they can be the most rewarding, as your paleogeneaological efforts can lead to completely unexpected rewards.

Such a wall is the life of my grandfather, Samuel Luther Lawrence Payne.

I never met my grandfather Samuel Payne as he died in 1950, 5 years before I was born. Moreover, my father had moved over 1800 miles from his home in Oklahoma to the deserts of Washington State. My grandfather had never married my grandmother Ida Perry, so there was never any mention of him during our yearly visits to my grandmother's house. Likewise, my father never, ever mentioned anything about my grandfather, other than his name, Samuel, that he was full-blood Cherokee and there was some vague indication that Samuel had not gotten along with his parents, having left them as a young man and never returning.

All I knew of my grandfather was from the photo you see here. (I found the photo as a kid one day when I was bored and rifling through my father's dresser drawers looking for anything even remotely interesting. At the bottom of neatly folded clothes were this photo and a steel-blue .45 pistol (yes, it was unloaded!) that I knew wasn't my father's gun as he never showed any interest in firearms. (Those that know firearms know that the .45 I found isn't the gun Samuel's holding in the photos.) I always assumed that this photo was taken in Oklahoma.

So I knew when I started my genealogical journey that Samuel Payne might be a challenge. I had no idea...

When my father Earnest Payne died in 2004 I ended up with a suitcase of photos and memorabilia in which I found the telegram that my father received when his father died. So I knew that Samuel had died in 1950. I also came into possession a copy of my father's birth certificate (thanks to my sister Mary!) on which Samuel had indicated he was born on January 26, 1879 in Park Hill, Oklahoma. So armed with this information I set off to scale the wall (which of course I didn't yet know existed!)

Working backwards, I quickly found him in the 1930 Federal Census, with his wife Hattie, and three children - none of which were my father (who lived with his mother.) Growing up I was only aware of my father's siblings from his mother - two aunts and one uncle. And now, in a simple keystroke (from my perspective!), I had another uncle and two more aunts. And then vague images begin to float up through my memory of faces I couldn't quite picture, but my adult realization was that at some point during my childhood we had actually visited some of these people on isolated occasions; I had never realized they were my father's brothers and sisters! So at the age of +50 I suddenly had a new uncle and aunts, with the logical conclusion that there must be cousins and family out there I had never met.

(Actually, this wasn't the first time that such a thing had happened in my life; the same thing happened with my biological mother Virginia Gulick when I was in my 20s - but that's a story for another post...)

I also quickly found Samuel in the 1920 Federal Census, with his wife Minnie, and two children (the youngest was born after the 1920 Census). Hmmm... Minnie in 1920, Hattie in 1930. Both had the middle initial E... was this the same woman? But the ages didn't match, so I concluded that Samuel had remarried during the 1920s (and so he had...)

I couldn't find any trace of Samuel or Minnie in the 1910 Census (and still haven't to this day...), and as the oldest child was 9 and therefore born about 1911, I wasn't certain if Samuel and Minnie were married in 1910.

The 1900 Federal Census turned up nothing. And we all know about the black hole that is 1890.

Finally, I could find nothing in the 1880 Census when Samuel would have been 1 year old.

All of this was not too surprising, as my grandfather was as I said Cherokee, and I surmised that either records weren't taken or were kept elsewhere for the Native Americans of Oklahoma. Oklahoma wasn't a state until 1907, being Indian Territory before then.

So I researched the Dawes Rolls that enumerated the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma. Nothing... (although I did find my Shawnee grandmother, her parents and her siblings.)

So, I was stuck as far as the Censuses (Censusi?) went. For myself, when I get stuck at a wall, it's best to work for awhile on a different branch and let the wall stew for awhile - until you come up with a new avenue of research. I eventually decided to tackle Samuel's children... to find out any information I could as to what might have happened to them.

(In the interests of manageable assimilation, to be continued...)


  1. Samuel has a WWI registration card. Did you get his death certificate? His marriage certificate with Minnie? There is a Samuel L. in Arkansas of the right age in the 1910 census with another wife. He claims to be born in Indiana, but could that be a clerical error for the Indian Territory, which was how Oklahoma was designated pre 1907?

  2. Douglas, I enjoyed reading about your family history research. I too have done some research in my father's line. My mother did over 50 years of research on her's. I just received a letter from my father's sister in which she said their maternal grandfather was an Indian Chief. It has my interest. They are from the Kentucky area. Happy hunting. Peggy Aspinwall (ASA)