Ancestry Roadblocks

I’ve been doing a lot of research on my dad’s side of the family, and I’ve managed to track back all the way to my 4th great grandparents. Most of them were born sometime in the 1st or 2nd decade of the 19th century. I was thrilled to discover how much of my family history was already tracked online by other relatives, but I’ve hit my first roadblock. I’m missing several of my 5th great grandparents, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to find them. I’ve consulted multiple genealogy websites including and, but these are also missing certain relatives.

Mystery #1: Rhoda Hampton

The first mystery is a woman named Rhoda Hampton. She was born in 1795 in Stokes, North Carolina and died in 1839 in Robertson, Tennessee. She is the mother of my 3rd great grandmother Elizabeth Green Kelly. I’m trying to figure out who her parents were and why they’re not listed on any of these genealogy websites.

Mystery #2: Catherine Strain

I hit a similar roadblock with a woman named Catherine Strain (Cheek). She’s the mother of my 3rd great grandfather Edward Mortimer Cheek. There is a lot of information about him including pictures, so I’m surprised I can’t find his maternal grandparents. I signed up for a premium membership on Geneanet and managed to find who I think is her father, but still haven’t figured out who her mother is.

Mystery #3: The Russell Family

Even more difficult is tracking the relatives of my 3rd great grandmother Eliza Jane Russell. She is the daughter of Thomas and Eliza Russell, but I can’t find information on their parents. I also can’t figure out Eliza‘s maiden name which is going to make it extra difficult to figure out who she is and where she comes from. The only information I have on them is that they were born in Tennessee. According to a family tree on, the parents of Thomas Russell are John Russell and Mary Chapman, but it says they both were born and died in England. It says Thomas Russell was born in Tennessee, so something is not adding up right.

Mystery #4: Zadock McDonald

The last mystery I’ve had so far is trying to figure out who the parents of Zadock McDonald are. He’s the father of one of my 3rd great grandmothers and I’ve searched all the genealogy websites and can’t seem to find anything about him. He was also born in Tennessee. Fortunately, there are some steps I can take to try to track more of these families. I consulted some helpful websites:

Name Variations

It’s possible some of these names might be spelled incorrectly. For instance, on one of the websites Rhoda is listed as Rhonda and on another she’s listed as Rody. I’m going to search based on these other names and see if I can’t dig something up.

Record Collections

There are other records that I can dig through. It’s convenient that most of these missing relatives were born in Tennessee. I’m hoping maybe I can uncover some genealogy records or other documents for Tennessee residents during the beginning of the 19th century. I’m not sure if I can find these records online, or if I’ll have to go to a library to find them.

Other Family Members

Occasionally, there are records connected to a sibling of one’s ancestor. I’m going to see what else is listed on the siblings of my third great grandparents and hopefully there is more information.

Consult a Professional

If I get desperate enough, I could hire a professional genealogist to try to track these family records, but it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody already tried. Many of the records I’ve already found online were dutifully tracked by other relatives who share ancestors with me. I’m very grateful for their work, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they haven’t already tried to overcome these roadblocks. It would be so exciting if I uncovered the mysteries and was able to share it with them. But professional genealogists are also very expensive, so I’m not sure if it would be worth my time.

My Quest Begins

The first thing I did was scour every genealogy site I could find to see if I could track down any additional information about these missing relatives. I even signed up for free trials on a few of these sites, but once I realized they had no additional information for me, I ended up canceling the free trial. I also did simple Google searches using the names, variations of the names, and the birthdates. Again, I didn’t come up with much. However, in my quest on, I did manage to track down Thomas Russell and some of his information. Turns out his parents were immigrants from England, but what confuses me is they were both born and died in England. How then was Thomas born in Tennessee? I’m worried there might be a mistake there.

Even more confusing is a marriage certificate I found between Thomas Russell and his wife Eliza (Elizabeth). I thought the marriage certificate would reveal her maiden name, but all it said was Thomas Russell and Eliza Russell, so then I got curious and thought maybe they both had the last name Russell? Stranger things have happened. And I don’t think cousin marriages were entirely uncommon back then.

The next thing I did was try searching the surname by location. All of these missing relatives come from Tennessee, but unfortunately, the United States didn’t start keeping a census until 1790 and this wasn’t done in all locations. Not to mention many records have been lost due to fires at court houses, etc. Currently, I’m stumped when it comes to the parents of Rhoda Hampton (Kelly), Catherine Strain (Cheek), Eliza Russell, Thomas Russell, and Zadock Mcdonald. I’ll keep searching, but I might be out of luck. 🙁

Published by That Hippie Looking Chick

I'm a traveler, adventurer, upcycler, and bus dweller.

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