The Brick Wall–Did We Really Knock It Down?

A week ago or so, I was making noise about hammering down a major brick wall in my research. I was getting ready to do the Genealogical Happy Dance.

I have made a major advance in my research into the Gines family as a result of the research I’ve been describing here over the last several weeks. I’m thrilled about that. But as the dust settles in the harsh light of sober reality (mixing a few metaphors!), it may not be the answer I was seeking.

Recall that the problem has been getting around my great-grandfather, Richard William Gines, born in about 1860 in Bossier Parish, Louisiana (supposedly–more about that a bit later). We have circumstantial evidence that he died between 1900 and 1910, but we have found no records or other direct evidence of the date of his death.

Our efforts took us to Tensas Parish across the river from Mississippi. We discovered that in Tensas Parish, there were a number of people named Gines (spelled various ways at various times). We found out that at least two particular plantations were places where people with the Gines surname were held in bondage. We learned that the Tensas plantations were tied to Mississippi planters, especially in and around Adams County,

Mississippi, and elsewhere in Mississippi’s Delta counties. We know that today there are numerous people with the surname Gines who live in this region.

There were several things that excited me about this. First, the possibility that Richard Gines was born in Tensas parish, and not Bossier, has been presented. Although we have often said in this space and others that he was born in Bossier, a review of the available data provides no evidence of that whatsoever. He well could be a son of one of the Gines families in Tensas.

To some extent, the spelling variations and transcription errors in the census records contributed to my nascent belief that perhaps we had knocked down the brick wall. Here’s what happened; you decide what it’s worth:


Nathan Sims or Nathan Gimes or Nathan Gines?

In the 1900 census of Tensas Parish, there is enumerated a man named “Nathan” whose surname is variously transcribed as “Sims” or “Gimes.” The “Gimes” possibility particularly attracted my attention for obvious reasons, but also for another reason. In’s World War I draft card collection, there is a man whose name is transcribed as “Oscar Gimes.” Now I know this person to be Oscar Gines because his address is the same as that of our subject, Richard Gines. Additionally, Oscar has two draft cards on file; the other record transcription has his name correctly as “Oscar Gines.” So the notion that “Nathan Gimes” actually might be “Nathan Gines” is not out of the bounds of sense.

Oscar Gimes WWI draft card

Oscar Gimes = Oscar Gines

Oscar Gines WWI Draft Card

Then, to pour fuel on this fire, I discovered that in the 1880 census of Tensas Parish there is a man named Dick Simms. So if Nathan Sims—>Nathan Gimes—->Nathan Gines, then why not Dick Simms—->Dick Gines? (Don’t answer that too quickly; there’s more!).


Dick Simms or Dick Gines?

And of course what would be more natural than for Richard (Gines-by-way-of-Simms) to have a son named Richard Gines? (Wait! There’s more!)

Dick “Simms” was born in Louisiana in 1831, so says the census record, and his wife Lucy was born in Georgia in 1845. Now those ages make them old enough to have had a son in about 1860. But (more!) then there’s the matter of where they were born. In the 1880 census of Caddo Parish, we learn that Richard Gines, our subject, had a father born in Louisiana and a mother born in Georgia. And what would be more natural than a man with a mother named “Lucy” to name one of his own daughters “Lucille” as our subject did? Finally, Dick and Lucy “Simms” have a son named “Oscar” who well could be the grandfather of the previously-mentioned “Oscar Gimes”!

Genealogy is art and science. It exists as a field of endeavor because of uncertainty–like all science. And like all science, it offers some answers in which there will be necessarily a degree of ambiguity. “Facts” rely on assumptions and are established within “confidence intervals.”

GeneaBlogie, Sunday 12 September 2004

So to what level of confidence would you assign the proposition that our subject Richard Gines was the son of Dick “Simms/Gines” of Tensas Parish? Or is there something more you’d like to know before attempting to answer that?


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