When A Wild Goose Chase Isn’t A Wild Goose Chase

Some Lessons from Our Pursuit of Egans Gines

We had started out to get past the brick wall of my great-grandfather, Richard William Gines, who was born in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, in about 1860.  After years no success either on the ground (we visited Bossier Parish as well as Caddo Parish in 2004 to research this matter) or online, we decided to take the long way around by studying a presumed collateral relative.  That person was Egan Gines, whose 1948 death certificate we found in the Louisiana State Archives. We chose him because he was not previously known to us, whereas all the other known collaterals had led us back to the brick wall!

We drilled into a number of databases and records and learned a few things about Egans Gines.  For example, we learned that he was born in Tensas Parish, but probably not in 1872 as his death certificate states.  We learned that he was the son Julia Turner Gines of Tensas Parish.  We discovered that his siblings were Tillmon, Zeke, and Jeff Gines. We found him in no census records.  We found no marriage license for Egans and discovered no apparent children.  We did not learn his father’s name, although we fingered a suspect (who is presumed innocent until paternity is “proven” by the Genealogical Proof Standard).

This “collateral” investigation took up a fair amount of time, and we came up for air, it seemed that we were no closer to Richard William Gines than we had been before.   Or were we?

One of the most useful bits of information to come out of the Egans Gines investigation was that he was born in Tensas Parish.  Some years ago, I had come across a transcription of the 1899 tax rolls for Tensas Parish. The transcription listed, among others, four people with the surname Gines. Two of them, “Don” Gines and Becky Gines, were living on a plantation called Marydale.  Both were denoted as “colored.”  Two others, Elisha Gines and Caroline Gines, resided at a place described as “Evergreen Plantation.”  They also were “colored.”

Those years ago, I couldn’t quite connect these folks with the other Gines families I was researching.  For one thing, I had a difficult time finding them in the census records.  Now, however, thanks to Egans, I can draw some things together.

In the search for Egans, I found in the 1870 census some other Gines families.  For example, in Tensas Parish’sSubdivision 105, there reside Milford “Guines,” 21 years old, Beckey “Guines,” 25, and Jane “Guines,” age 6.

1870 U.S. Federal Census; Subdivision 105, Tensas, Louisiana; Roll M593_532; Page 332; Image 664.

Following this family through the years, we find them in 1880 enumerated in Tensas Parish’s 4th Ward thusly:

Guions, Milford    B    M    27    Laborer                       Miss    Miss    Miss
Guions, Rebecca    B    F    30    Keeps House                  La    La    La
Guions, Ellen    B    F     6                                                        La    Miss    La
Guions, Mary    B    F     5                                                       La    Miss    La
Guions, Charles    B    M     9                                                 La     Miss    La
Guions, Dorsey    B    M     2                                                 La    Miss    La

Note the change in spelling of the surname.

1880 U.S. Federal Census; 4th Ward, Tensas, Louisiana; Roll: T9_472; Page: 164.1000; Enumeration District: 81; Image: 0330.

[Interestingly enough, it appears that Jane “Guines”, who was counted at Milford and Beckey’s home as a 6 year old in 1870, is in 1880 at age 15, living in the nearby home of Elijah and Caroline  “Guions” as their daughter-in-law.  She is apparently married to their son, Benjamin.]

And then twenty years later in 1900, in Tensas Parish,


(click to enlarge image)

1900 U.S. Federal Census; Police Jury Ward 3, Tensas, Louisiana; Roll T623_583 Page 10A; Enumeration District 110.

[Note yet another change in spelling].

There in Line 1, Dwelling #211, is Milford and Beckey’s son Charles, now grown with a wife and two daughters. (He married Luellen Roach of Tensas Parish). Scroll down a bit, and we find Milford and “Beckie” in dwelling #217 with sons Dorsey, 22, and Austin, 17 (he’s been born since the 1880 census, obviously).  And what of daughters Mary and Ellen, who would be in their mid-twenties now?  Ellen married one John David Jones in October of 1893 (she was 19 years old). In 1900, the Joneses still live in Ward 4 with one of their two children, Alic, who is six months old.

and Mary

Next, look at the next household, #218.  There’s Jane listed as a widow, and residing with her son Milford (named after his maternal grandfather), daughter Caroline (named for her paternal grandmother), and Nancie.  Three other children are listed with Jane: Alford Gines, Elnora Hill, and Isic Hill.  All three have been born since 1890. [What makes this interesting is that there exists a record that shows a Jane Gines marrying one Dave Banks in 1892 in Tensas Parish. So what happened to him and who are these children?  But that’s another story!]

Finally, in 1910, Milford and Rebecca live with a grandson, whom we’re unable at this point to identify further.  And the spelling of their name has “stabilized.”



Nearby are son Charles and his family, whose name spelling is also “modernized.”



Also close by is a Harry Gines with wife Jacklin and children Sara, Daniel, and Ella.  We’re not sure to whom this family is related.



Milford Gines (the elder) died in 1930 at the age of 81.  Becky Gines then apparently moved to live with her son, Milford (the younger) in neighboring Madison Parish.  She died there in 1931 and her age was given as 90.





Louisiana State Archives Death Records Database

(click on image to enlarge)

So why isn’t this a wild goose chase?  We still don’t know a lot more about the way around Richard William Gines, do we?

Well, sometimes brick walls come down a brick at a time.  Consider what we now know:

  • Significant numbers of people named Gines lived in Tensas Parish.
  • Gines-surnamed people apparently lived on two plantations, Evergreen Place and Marydale in Tensas Parish.
  • The surname Gines has a number of variant spellings and is also mis-transcribed in creative ways.

These are important steps forward and advance our flanking movement around the brick wall. So let’s keep going–you won’t believe what’s just ahead!

Next: The Plantations

Then: Bring out the Jackhammers! Time for this wall to fall!


3 Responses to “When A Wild Goose Chase Isn’t A Wild Goose Chase”

  • Jennifer says:

    I totally agree about the importance of collaterals. I only studied my direct line for years, but have really enjoyed my research much more since adding the study of collaterals. Knowing who collateral relatives or possible collateral relatives married and who they associated with can help tremendously in connecting a direct line relative to his or her parents. If I had never studied the sisters of my great-great-grandfather, I would have never known that they were living with a suspected first cousin in the 1910 census. This aided in the confirmation of the hypothesis I already had about the identity of my great-great-grandfather’s father.

  • GrannyPam says:

    Thanks for the detailed explanation of your research steps. I suspect many people will benefit from your carefully recorded research path.

  • Another very interesting breakdown of your research. Very encouraging!

May 2009
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