Kinsearching May 30, 2010




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     As they spread out into other areas of what is now the United States, settlers seeking a new life often followed established trails. In the eastern half of the country, for example, pioneers heading southward may have used routes like the Great Wagon Road or the Natchez Trace. As families and individuals migrated westward, they also traveled along known paths.

     One of the longest commercial routes prior to the era of the railroads, the Santa Fe Trail originated in Franklin, Missouri, although Independence was the “jumping off point” for many travelers. From Independence, the route stretched 780 miles to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Volume 17 of the 1984 edition of THE WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA furnishes on page 104 this brief description of the route as it left Missouri: “Caravans...traveled to Council Grove, Kans., and on to the Cimarron Crossing of the Arkansas River near Cimarron, Kans. There the route divided. One branch led up the Arkansas to Bent’s Fort (near La Junta, Colo.), then turned southwest across Raton Pass to the upper Canadian River in New Mexico. The other route cut across the Cimarron Desert. This one was shorter, but Indians made it more dangerous.” (Editor’s note: For a map and a more detailed description of the trail and its history, go to the Wikipedia website and type in “Santa Fe Trail.” Scholarly information may be found by going to the website and typing in “Santa Fe Trail.”) First utilized by William BECKNELL as a trade route in 1821, the Trail increased its importance as a thoroughfare for people in the 1850s and 1860s.

     Genealogists whose forebears used this famous road will want to see if there is any information on their ancestors in Wagon Tracks, the quarterly published by the Santa Fe Trail Association. Over the years it has contained numerous articles useful in Hispanic and Anglo family research as well as obituaries of members of the association. Pages 9-17 of the August 2002 issue (Vol. 16, No. 4) of the periodical, for instance, reproduces the report of army officer Alphonso WETMORE’s 1828 journey to Santa Fe. Harry C. Myers, who edited Wetmore’s account, gives in his introduction a brief biographical sketch of Wetmore, who was born in Connecticut in 1793. Myers also provides interesting annotated footnotes. He explains in footnote 40 that the “Jornada” was a waterless stretch of the route between the Arkansas and the Cimarron rivers. “The caravan started at four in the afternoon in order to march at night when it was cooler.” In footnote 44 he supplies information about the deaths of Daniel MUNRO and Robert MCNEES, both from Franklin, Missouri, in 1828.

     Pages 22-24 of the May 2005 (Vol. 19, No. 3) issue of Wagon Tracks contains Richard Louden’s introduction and footnotes to a 1933 interview with Marion Sloan RUSSELL, whose family moved to New Mexico in the 1850s. His introduction tells about Marion’s family background. Born in 1845 in Peoria, Illinois, Marion was the daughter of Ohioans William SLOAN and Eliza ST. CLAIR (whose second husband was Jeremiah MAHONEY). In 1871, Marion married Richard D. RUSSELL and moved to Colorado.

     Since 2010 is the year for compiling another federal population schedule, genealogists may enjoy reading “Taking the Census and Other Incidents in 1855, Part II” by James R. McClure. The conclusion is on pages 16-20 of the May 2005 issue. (Editor’s note: For a few other articles with different perspectives on the census, see Kinsearching column dated 23 May 2010.)

     The November 2009 (Vol. 24, No. 1) issue of Wagon Tracks contains two articles that may be useful to genealogists. One concerns Josefa ORTIZ, “member of a leading New Mexico family,” and her New Englander husband, Sylvester DAVIS. The other pertains to the HICKS family from Central Missouri. This line traces back to Absalom HICKS, born about 1774, probably in North Carolina.

     Individuals interested in the Western legendary outlaw known variously as William H. BONNEY, Henry MCCARTY, and William Henry ANTRIM will certainly want to read “James Bonney, Santa Fe Trail Pioneer, New Mexico Settler (Was He the Grandfather of Billy the Kid?)” by Doyle Daves. The fascinating piece appears on pages 9-12 of the February 2009 (Vol. 23, No. 2) issue of Wagon Tracks.

     The above mentioned articles in the Santa Fe Trail Association’s quarterly serve as examples of the gems of data that may be found in historical society periodicals. By delving into quarterlies like Wagon Tracks, family researchers may discover facts not found elsewhere concerning their progenitors and will certainly gain a better understanding of what it meant to have lived in the “good old days.” Genealogists should not overlook these publications as resources in their search for those “elusive” ancestors.

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