How one book helped me prove my father-in-law wrong

Let me preface this post by telling you how much I love MPG’s Daddy … I’m sure they’ll both read that title and wonder about me! MPG and I have been together for 15 years.  In those early days when I was trying to get to know the family, I would ask questions about family history, etc.  Every time I asked about the Davis family and who we were related to, I received a resounding “nobody around here”.  Ha!

My parents-in-law live about 30 minutes northeast of me as the crow flies, and I knew full well there were other Davis’ in this neck of the woods, it was just a matter of making the connection.  In those days, internet genealogy was barely available, and limited even so. I was only able to trace back a few generations of Southern Illinois Davis’ until I found myself stuck.  I was really only able to track those few generations because MPG’s grandpa, Max Davis, had an album of photos of his parents and grandparents.  That’s where I ended … and I never really picked it up again. Until … 

This past summer, I visited the Jackson County, Illinois Historical Society and purchased a few books. Among them was the 1878 History of Jackson County, Illinois and 1907 Atlas of Jackson County, Illinois (2 books in one).  Let me say, if you visit with the folks who staff any historical society for a bit, you’ll learn a lot … sometimes more than you want .. especially when it’s in the town where you were raised!

I initially purchased this book to search for my Douglas and Lindsey roots in Jackson County. I found what I was looking for, but then decided to take a peak at the index for Davis’.  Much to my surprise, right there they were!  I was nearly giddy as I began reading about the Davis men who settled in Elk Township, Illinois. It was easy to put 2 and 2 together, knowing that MPG’s grandpa Max had been raised in Elkville (was then Elk Township), so I kept reading and digging and finally was able to connect the final dots.  The book left off on one end where I had been stuck on the other end!

William and Catherine Davis

William and Catherine Davis of Elk Township, Illinois, Early 1800s

The short story is that James Davis (1759-1843) and his son, William (1788-1868), settled in Elk Township in 1817 after having lived in Murphysboro (about 30 minutes south of Elkville) for about 10 years.  They were farmers and William made a small fortune raising corn and hogs.  By all accounts, William was an avid hunter, killing as many as 120 deer in a single season. Now, I’d like to have that man in my life! Oh, wait … I kind of do!

After William came Thomas Davis (1826-1873), Ephriam (1861-1931), Walter (1896-1949), Max (1918-1951), then my father-in-law, Tom, then Jeff and Phoebe (my Noodle).  Incidentally, I’m one of those genealogists who’s always looking for the family resemblances … I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember.  I can see MPG in his 4th great-grandmother, Catherine (Woolrick) Davis.  It’s uncanny  … same mouth and eyebrows … and it’s fascinating to think about all of the pieces of our ancestors that come together to make us who we are. 

This book is an absolute treasure! I highly recommend starting a collection of historical society books centered around where your ancestors lived … you never know what you’ll find. This book is full of facts, stories, photos and maps … and I love it!



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