Stirpes, Volume 34, Number 1, March 1994 Page: 34
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SAiII MAC 1994.AY%-_
By: Carol J. Renuer
At the age of 72, my Grandpa, James A. Harvey, walked stooped over as though
bowed down by the cares of the world. On the whole, life had not been kind to Grandpa. All
his adult life he had a fight with the bottle and on more than one occasion the bottle won.
Besides that, my Grandpa and my Grandma were oil and water. Because of his problem with
alcohol and the animosity between him and my Grandmother, he retreated from family life. His
sons and daughters grew up and left to have families of their own. Not even the second
generation knew him or his side of the family. Based on what I'd heard, I had only a general
idea about his parents and his siblings.
In 1964, after years of working hard in the West Texas oil fields, Grandpa Harvey
died in Midland. His death surprised none of his family who knew of his peccadilloes and his
bouts with the bottle. I am not sure any one on his side of the family was even told of his death
because no one had kept in touch with his brothers and sisters. Grandpa's funeral was brief and
he was soon forgotten. Even today no headstone marks his final resting place.
I began tracing my roots ten years after he died. I began by documenting the family
stories of births, deaths and marriages I had heard as I grew up. I quickly discovered from the
documents I found that some of the information I had been told about either side of the family
was incorrect. After several wild goose chases, I began to wise up. I realized the value of
starting from scratch and doing my own work. At least this gave me the advantage of verifying
the record first hand.
The release of the 1900 census record enabled me to document the names, the dates
and the places of birth for Grandpa and his brothers and sisters. I soon discovered why I had
not been able to find my great-grandmother's death certificate. Grandpa's mother's name was
not Eliza, as I had always heard it, but Louisa Alma. I had been asking for Eliza Harvey's
death certificate and no such person had existed.
I learned two important lessons right away in my search for the Harveys: first, always
check the closest record to the event and, secondly, always verify the vital statistics with an
official record. Had I had been able to start with the census closest to Grandpa's birth date, I
would have saved myself some wild goose chases, all the wasted fees for fruitless vital record
searches for the wrong name, and, of course, the time I could have used pursuing the correct
It profoundly affected me to see the names of Grandpa's brothers and sisters on the
official record. I held in my hands written proof that Grandpa's family had been living,
breathing souls on a June day in 1900 when a scribe stepped up to their door and said he was
from the U.S. Census Bureau.
From the census record, I not only got the names of Grandpa's siblings, I also learned
that Grandpa's parents, Louisa Alma and William Harvey, married in 1875. This information
enabled me to request William and Louisa Alma Harvey's marriage record from the county
Using the same strategy, I requested the marriage record of William's parents, Lewis
and Margaret Harvey. On the 1850 Illinois census roll, Lewis and Margaret's entry showed
William, a one-year-old baby, who became the father of my Grandpa. The Harvey children
included William's older brother, Basil, who joined the Union Cavalry.
On Oct. 19, 1863, Basil Harvey enlisted in Co. L., 16th Reg., of the Illinois Cavalry.
On Jan. 3, 1864, Rebels captured him and most of his company at Jonesville, Lee Co.,
Virginia, during a raid. He and the others were shipped by boxcar to Richmond, Virginia.
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Texas State Genealogical Society. Stirpes, Volume 34, Number 1, March 1994, periodical, March 1994; San Antonio, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth39868/m1/36/: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Genealogical Society.