Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Genealogy Road Trip

Recently I drove to Covington, Kentucky to do some research on my dad's side of the family. I found a relatively inexpensive hotel nearby in Florence, and spent the night there so that I could get an early start at the Kenton County Public Library the next morning. I have mentioned before, I believe, that my three times great-grandfather is Thompson Hightower. I am confident in the paper trail that leads from me to him, but I have been unable to prove who his parents are. I believe them to be George Hightower, Jr. and Frances Ann (Hall) Hightower. Proving it is another story altogether.

Thompson was born around 1815 in Campbell County, Kentucky. This is well before birth certificates were required by the state. He died of cholera in 1866, which is before death certificates were required. Further complicating the record situation is the fact that Campbell County was divided in 1840, with the Covington area becoming Kenton County. So documentation on the Hightower family may exist in either Campbell County or Kenton County. And another twist is that Kenton County has two courthouses - one in Covington and one in Independence so records could be in either or both places. Lucky me...

George and Frances were in Campbell County along with their children from 1800 until the late 1830s, when several members of the family moved to Adams County, Illinois. A few of the children stayed in Campbell County. George, of course, was not kind enough to leave behind a will when he died in 1845. How tidy it would have been had he mentioned his wife and all his children in a will. The only inkling I have that Thompson is his son is on findagrave.com, where a picture of George's headstone resides along with a brief biography listing all his children including Thompson. The biography was written by a volunteer from Adams County, who has since died himself. I have no way of knowing where he came by the information he put on the website.

Hightower Family File
At the Kenton County Public Library I asked to see a file folder they had on the Hightower family. I couldn't help but wonder if the file would hold the key to my family tree. The first thing I noticed is that the file was pretty thin. Not good. Inside I found two letters from people seeking information on the Hightower family, along with the responses from the librarian. There was no new information for me, but if I end up finding a connection between Thompson and George, these two letter writers are my cousins.

The three librarians in the history and genealogy department were extremely kind and helpful. But despite their (and my) best efforts, we did not find a definitive link between Thompson and George. The department head said that she is sure they are all family, but the exact relationship remains unknown. I pulled all of their books on Campbell and Kenton Counties and looked at the indexes for references to Hightowers. And I did find some citations that I didn't already have, so the time spent there was not wasted. But I have to think about my next step now. I could go to any or all of those courthouses next time I go to Cincinnati to see relatives, but the fact of the matter is that while I might find a land record or something else that refers to Thompson, George was long gone so there would be nothing on him. I might be better served talking to some folks in Adams County, Illinois to see if they have something on George that I might have missed.
Linden Grove Cemetery

After I left the library, I drove to the Linden Grove Cemetery where Thompson is buried. The librarian told me that Thompson does not have a headstone (or it is illegible) because volunteers have indexed all the stones in the cemetery. Because he died in 1866, the records are poor. They know he is buried there in the same grave as his daughter, but they cannot tell me exactly where. But I wanted to see the cemetery nonetheless. Some of the plots have fabulous views of downtown Cincinnati. I guess you could say that have a permanent room with a view.

After the cemetery I went to Devou Park in Covington. Within this park is the area where Thompson Hightower and other men of the Home Guard (militia called into service by an act of the Kentucky legislature) erected batteries to help protect Cincinnati from a Confederate attack in 1862. There were 60 men in Captain Leonard's Company, the unit in which Thompson served. I did not hike back into the wilderness where remains of the battery are still visible, but I certainly enjoyed the view of the Cincinnati skyline from the overlook in the park. It was a thrill to think that Thompson had once walked the same ground that I was on. It was nearing the end of the day, but I would love to go back and visit the museum in the park when I have more time.

Cincinnati skyline
The rest of the weekend I spent visiting with relatives. I stayed with my cousin and her daughter, and we always have so much fun together. They take me to unique places to eat, and we always hit the Findlay Market downtown to do some shopping. This time I picked up some wonderful spearmint tea at a local tea shop, and we bought fresh bread, pasta and sauce to make for dinner one night. We also saw the butterfly exhibit at the Krohn Conservatory, enjoyed beer tasting in an old church that has been converted to a brew house, had breakfast with my mom's two remaining siblings, and dinner with several other cousins. As usual, I feel like I ate my way through Cincinnati. But what memories we created!

1 comment:

Mrs. Wryly said...

A permanent room with a view! Clever! That photo of the black and white butterfly on the yellow flower is to die for!! You eat your way through some of these excursions but manage to stay thin. NOT FAIR! I'm sorry you were not able to establish the connections you were seeking, but the search and the fun will continue. It's the climb, right?