Sunday, April 26, 2009

Madness Monday: Emily Tarrant

Emily Tarrant was my great-great-grandmother. She was married to William Spencer Moore. This family was outlined in my latest Featured Family Friday.

Emily Tarrant was one of my earliest discoveries, and she was something like a “trading card” for me when I first started corresponding with other researchers in the fall of 2005. I don’t mean that I used her like a trading card, but she was a piece of the Moore family puzzle that I had to contribute at that time so that I didn’t totally feel like a beggar receiving alms when other researchers generously provide me with information on this family. I had found her name listed as the mother on the death certificate of my great-grandfather, Harlston Perrin Moore.

The problem is that since that time neither I nor anyone else has learned much about Emily Tarrant. We do not know her exact date of birth, her date of death (we believe it was between 1870 and 1880), or her parents’ names. I suppose you could say that some progress was made when I discovered that Spencer Moore’s family came from Greenville; since there was a large concentration of Tarrant families there, we are proceeding on the assumption that Emily came from one of those families. However, I have not seen any research that lists her as a daughter of any of those families. A third cousin has posted some inquiries in the relevant places, but so far no one has replied.

Most of the information that we have on Emily Tarrant Moore comes from four censuses. The 1840 census for W. S. Moore in Anderson County, South Carolina lists three females living with him, 2 of whom are between the ages of 20 and 30 and on between the ages of 10 and 15. Spencer’s sisters Elizabeth and Susannah, who are shown living with Spencer and Emily on the 1850 and 1860 censuses, would be right for the older females, but 10 to15 is too young for Emily. There could be several explanations for this. (1) There could be a mistake on the census. (2) Spencer and Emily’s oldest known child, Preston, was born in around 1843, so perhaps they were not yet married and the younger female is some other female relation. However, land records would indicate that Spencer moved to Anderson County from Greenville county in around 1836 and the most likely scenario would be that he and Emily were already married by that time (this is not a certainty, of course). (3) Perhaps only one of Spencer’s sisters was living with them, Emily was the second female between 20 and 30, and the younger female was some other family relation.

On the 1850 Emily’s age is given as 35. On the 1860 census her age is given as 31 (or perhaps 37; this census does not seem to give correct information for Emily or Spencer (37), who is double-counted over in Greenville next to his brother’s widow and has a more probable age of 46 shown for him there). Finally, on the 1870 census, her age is shown as 57.

Emily is mentioned in Spencer’s July 1865 will; Spencer died in 1871. My great-grandfather is shown as the owner of the family farm on an 1877 map of Anderson County and he moved to Texas in that year, so I believe that Emily probably died before this.

My approach to solving the mystery of Emily Tarrant will involve “sorting out” the Greenville Tarrants. I will also be working on “sorting out” the Greenville Moores, so this work will probably be done simultaneously.

Somewhat on the subject of Genealogy Prompt #17 (make a research task list), I have in mind the tasks involved in this research. However, these are not short-term tasks. Some involve ordering or finding materials and some will definitely require some on-site research in Greenville (something I am really looking forward to doing some day!). For both the Tarrants and the Moores I need to:

1. Record and correlate land transactions, noting and cross-indexing all the other names mentioned. Locate a very detailed map of Greenville County and plot the locations of the land on it.

2. Find and transcribe the wills for Greenville Tarrants and Moores as well as for families that appear to be closely associated with them. Continue to cross-index new names mentioned in these wills.

3. Continue my research for my “Descendants of Samuel Moore of Greenville, South Carolina” project, report on it in my blog, and post queries on the families involved in the various genealogy discussion boards. Post inquiries for the Tarrants.

4. Create as much of a Greenville Tarrant family tree as I can and identify “promising” families for Emily Tarrant.

I have already made a start on task #1 by purchasing a couple of Greenville land deed books and will be ordering some more. The Greenville Library has some online images of wills and land transaction indexes. Land records and wills have already provided some tantalizing clues and I will be pursuing these.

So why does Emily Tarrant drive me so crazy? I suppose it is because the answer to her mystery seems so close and yet so far away. I feel like one of those TV detectives who keeps looking at the available information but just cannot figure out how to put it together. And I am haunted by the thought that Emily may just be one of those women who leaves behind very few traces of her existence.


  1. Greta, this is a great plan to have! You are on the right path! I highly recommend reviewing all the wills you can get your hands on.

    Also, some of the deeds will tell you familial relationships - and in some states it will say who the wife is and if she is relinquishing her right to dower.

    Usually I use the census reports to map out all the families of a particular area, but it hard to do before the 1850 census report.

    I look forward to hearing about your "A Ha" moment when you place Emily Tarrant!

  2. OK, now I want to find Emily Tarrant. [lol] You are so organized and your action plan looks great. I've had to do some regional surname cluster searching to find some more clues before. It's amazing what you can find when you cast your net a little wider! Good luck @ let me know what happens...


  3. Thank you both for your kind comments and wishes. As soon as I get any kind of breakthrough on Emily I will definitely put up a post about it right away. It may be a while before I get down to SC, but that' on the top of my list of genealogy road trips.