Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Orphans and Orphans: Searching for Preston Moore

I just wanted to find my great-grandfather’s oldest brother, Preston E. Moore.

It seemed that this should not be too difficult. I was flush with success at finding my great-grandfather Harlston Perrin Moore on a Texas Death Certificate and then, not long afterwards, finding his family in South Carolina – just where my mother had always said we “had family.”

There were two main possibilities: Preston had stayed back in South Carolina with the rest of the Moore family, or he had come out to Texas with his brother Perrin Moore. The first did not seem likely: my third cousin Jo Ann S., a skilled and tenacious researcher, had not been able to turn him up after the 1860 census as she had the other three children in the William Spencer Moore and Emily Tarrant family – Anna Jeusha Moore, Commodore Worth Moore, and William Brewster Moore.

However, Jo Ann had also lost track of Perrin Moore after the 1860 census because he had gone out to Texas in 1877 and nothing she had found before this indicated that any members of this family had gone to Texas. Ergo, Preston Moore must be in Texas. So the first thing I did was to look in Texas, specifically the Dallas area, for Preston E. Moore.

A glance at the date of birth of Preston Moore – circa 1843 – suggests a strong third possibility: lost in the Civil War.

But I was optimistic. Didn’t families tend to travel in groups when they migrated? As it turned out, Harlston Perrin Moore and Martha Lewis Moore did travel in a family group – with Martha’s Lewis siblings. I could not find Preston E. Moore in Texas.

After I obtained a copy of H. P. Moore’s Confederate Pension Application from the Texas State Archives, I realized that I would have to start searching for records of Preston E. Moore’s Civil War service. H. P. Moore was just old enough to have served, and his service was in one of the “old men and little boys’” units, the 2nd South Carolina Reserves. His older brother Preston, however, would have been old enough to have served in a regular unit.

Preston became my first “reverse orphan,” and I became a little obsessed with learning his fate. I spent much of my first Memorial Day after getting hooked on genealogy searching for Preston Moore in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System. There were no Preston Moores from South Carolina. There were, however, P. Moores and P.E. Moores. However, I could not really match up any of the P. or P.E. Moores listed with South Carolina units with our Preston; I could eliminate some who were identified in unit histories as being other people, but believed that I would have to wait to find more detailed histories of the other units until I could know where to start tracing what happened to Preston. Preston would have to remain “in limbo” for a while.

A few months after this I obtained a copy of the will of William Spencer Moore, the father of Preston and H.P. Moore. I tore open the envelope and read: “…should my said wife ever marry then I will and bequeath that said Estate both personal and real be sold and the one third of the proceeds thereof be given by my hereinafter Administrator to my said Wife and the remainder thereof be equally divided among my beloved Children Share and Share alike Viz Preston E. Moore (should he be living), Harlston Perin Moore Commodore Worth Moore William Brewster Moore & Anna Jerusha Moore.” That brief parenthetical phrase – “should he be living” – made my heart sink.

The will was dated 25 July 1865, more than two months after the end of the war. I had to face the fact that the most likely scenario was that Preston E. Moore had died in the Civil War. But how could I find him among all the P. Moores and P.E. Moores from South Carolina?

Once again, I let Preston languish in limbo for a while; and to be honest, I had just about given up hope of finding him. But I could not forget him. I always dutifully entered his name in the search box of any new database I came across that had any remote chance of turning him up.

This was the first thing I did when I learned that there was a Civil War Prisoners of War database on Ancestry, and two hits came up: the first brought up an image from a list of prisoners of war at Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania, with Preston Moore’s unit given as the 37th Virginia. The second had a Preston E. Moore from Anderson District, SC (this piece of information was what made me dance with joy in the certainty that this was “my” Preston Moore), with his unit listed as the 37th Virginia, followed by two words which were difficult to distinguish. A check on Footnote turned up a number of pages in the Compiled Military Service File pointing to quite a checkered history: illness, AWOL, desertion and capture, taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and enlistment with the U. S. Marine Corps as a condition for release. Preston was even incorrectly identified as killed in battle at the Rappahannock River, only to turn up again on a Receipt Roll for clothing at Guiney’s Station right around the time Stonewall Jackson died there.

There was so much information on Preston Moore!

There was too much information on Preston Moore.

The Two Preston Moores

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