'Knobstick Wedding,' Shotgun Variety

Question: My research has taken me into old English records where I found a reference to a "Knobstick Wedding." What on earth was that?

Answer: That was a wedding of a pregnant single woman to the putative father-to-be, under pressure from the parish vestry. The church wardens attended to see that the ceremony was performed, and its name was derived from their staves of office.

Q: I have traced my great-grandfather back to the Civil War. He served in U.S. Colored Infantry (Tennessee) and his pension records state he was born a slave in 1846 on a plantation in Huntsville (Madison County), Ala., and was owned by Levi Donaldson. After the war, he lived in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama and a place called Browns Corral, which I'm unable to locate.

I haven't found him in any records between 1865 and 1880. Enclosed is what I've done so far. Any help you can give me would be most appreciated.

A: Tracing black American ancestors is most difficult, as you've discovered, though you should be able to find your family in several records in the 1865-1880 time period.

There is a Brownsboro in Madison County, Ala. It might be the "Browns Corral" locale you referred to. Some names are hard to decipher.

You mentioned several "requests for search of land and tax records--no success," but you failed to provide sources searched and reasons for the negative reports.

No one is going to research your family as diligently as you will. County clerks are overworked, and seldom have time to check anything except indexed records such as marriages or deeds.

Your ancestor should appear in the 1880 census as a 34-year-old, and since he was married in 1875, he probably had two or three children by that census, so consult 1880 Soundex for him. You may have to check Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, but it will be worthwhile, even though it may take some time if he had a common surname.

The Freedmen's Bureau, created in 1865, may have records pertaining to your family. These records are in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.; those that have been microfilmed are available at regional Federal Records Centers. The bureau issued rations and clothing to needy freedmen, operated hospitals and relocation camps, found jobs for freed slaves, established schools, and leased or supervised the working of abandoned lands. It also legalized marriages entered into during slavery and reunited families split through sales and estate transfers of slaves.

Other sources to locate and consult are the plantation records (many of these are in state archives), and search for information pertaining to the Donaldson family in county records, especially probate court records, administration records and inventories.

Q: I would like to start a newsletter called Piper Pursuit, since I have about 20 people who are interested in sharing their research. What is the best way to get the word out to others who have Piper(s) in their family tree?

A: Advertise in the Genealogical Helper and Heritage Quest magazines. Send announcements about your new publication to all the major genealogical societies' editors.

Information about all family associations and family periodical publications is included in the May/June issue of Genealogical Helper every year.

Also notify the editor of Directory of Family One-Name Periodicals and Family Assns., Societies and Reunions, both published by Summit Publications, P.O. Box 222, Munroe Falls, Ohio 44262, of your endeavor.

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