Stumbling Blocks with the Hughes Family



Other Hughes Researchers:

Judy Hughes Opitz  <[email protected]>
Lynda Figueroa <[email protected]>

Stumbling Blocks with the Hughes Family

        For many years I knew very little about my Hughes family.  My mother had written down the date of birth for her grandmother, Nan Hughes Swift, as January 20, 1861.  Her death certificate from the State of Missouri stated her date of birth as January 21, 1863, but it did give a major clue in the place of birth as Athens, Limestone County, Alabama.  After posting to a RootsWeb list on the internet, a fellow Hughes researcher, Doris Cope, a descendant of William H. Hughes, contacted me with the news that she had a picture of Nancy Jane Swift and brothers, George W., Silas R., and William H. Hughes.  Due to the wonderful age of technology and email, I was able to receive the picture immediately.  Suddenly I was staring into the eyes of my mysterious great grandmother, Nancy Jane, and could not help but notice the family resemblance between she and my mom.  The assorted pieces of silverware, bearing the initial of N, passed down in our family now held new meaning for me.  Nan Hughes now had a face.

          As time passed, we again found ourselves perplexed with the Hughes .  The Decatur County, Tennessee provided Doris with information that W. H. Hughes had once lived in that county.  I also knew, due to my mother's notes, that Nan Hughes had married James Tate Swift on May 31, 1882.  The marriage ceremony was performed by Squire Duck in Scotts Hill, located on the shared borders of Henderson County and Decatur County, Tennessee.  After a search of the cemetery records for Decatur County, I found Hughes, S. R., 1849-1933, "Father" [Odd Fellows symbol]/Amanda J., 1858-1942, "Mother," buried in the Scotts Hill Methodist Church Cemetery.  Because we had no dates on the birth of Silas R. there was no way to know if this was the Silas R. who was a brother to Nan and William H.

        With the 1850 census records of Limestone County, Alabama finally available on the internet, Doris was able to locate the following:

Jackson H. Hughes 26 School Teacher AL
Susannah E. 35 AL
Milton C. 6 AL
William H. 3 AL
Silas R. 1 AL
Sarah Ann 18 AL

         From additional census records we assumed  the father of Jackson H. to be William Hughes, shown in the 1850 Limestone County census to be 67 years old and born in South Carolina.  His wife, Lydia, was 66 years old, also born in South Carolina.  The location of surrounding Hughes families indicated that additional sons of William and Lydia were John W., Jesse, Aron, William C., A. W., and Anderson C. Hughes.  Somehow, I stumbled across a will of William Hughes located on the Giles County, Tennessee website.  His heirs included wife, Lydia, daughters Faith Lusby and Elizabeth Hardiman, and sons John W. Hughes (his heirs), Aron E. Hughes, J.E. Hughes, A.W. Hughes, William C. Hughes, J.H. Hughes, and Anderson C. Hughes.  His son, Aron, and Anderson Hardiman, possibly his son-in-law, were appointed executors of his will.

        Also, the census records provided a clue to the birthdates of George and Silas that we had not previously had.  George was born about 1851, and Silas was born about 1849.  The year of Silas' birth corresponded with the year on the tombstone.  This was indeed our Silas Hughes. 

          It was at this point that I stumbled again.  In the 1860 Giles County, Tennessee census, I found:

Susan A. E. Hughes 36 M AL 
Milton C. Hughes 15 M AL 
William H. Hughes 13 M AL
Silus R. Hughes 11 M AL
George W. Hughes 9 M AL
Robert Hughes 6 M AL 

        Jackson is no longer living in the home with his wife and children.  It would naturally be assumed that Jackson had died by 1860.  My Nancy Jane was born in January 1861 or January 1863.  If the death certificate had the right date then Nancy could not be the daughter of Jackson H. and Susan A. E. (believed to be Susannah).  Again, I had come to the proverbial brick wall.  Was I to find that Nancy was a half-sister to the Hughes boys, and if so, why was her last name Hughes?  Could Susannah have married another Hughes?  Had I hit another brick wall?

        There comes a time in everyone's life when they have to sort through their parents possessions.  That time has come for my sister and me, even though we are fortunate to still have both of our parents.  My mother has been stricken with the ravages of old age, diabetes, and alzheimers, and she can no longer enjoy the piles upon piles of magazines, letters, scrapbooks, obituaries, and notes she has kept during the 90 years of her life.  As the alzheimers gradually worsened, she would sort thru all of her prized possessions, removing pictures from albums and scrapbooks, and placing them in a "safe place", between all the stacks of magazines.  Therefore, each and every item has to be searched completely.

        I have, however, found a new respect for my mother's pack rat tendencies.  The obituaries provide a world of information for an amateur genealogist.  And so, as we sort through every piece of paper my mom kept, my sister and I watch for the obituaries.  It was one of the obituaries that provided my next clue to the Hughes family.  

Decaturville - Mrs. Ola Hughes Alexander, 84, of Decaturville, died Saturday at the Lexington-Henderson County Hospital after a long illness. Funeral services will be held at 2 PM Monday at the Scotts Hill Methodist Church with the Rev. W. C. Ivey and the Rev. J. W. Hanna officiating. Burial will be in the church cemetery with Scotts Hill Funeral Home in charge......the widow of Frank Alexander, and daughter of the late Silas and Amanda Hughes.  Survivors include two sons, O. C. Alexander of Decaturville and Max Alexander of Parsons; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

        Bingo!  Eureka!  At least now, I knew that Silas and Amanda had children.  My mother had unknowingly saved a link to the long lost Hughes family.  Ola was buried in the cemetery with  Silas and Amanda.  Husband Frank is  buried in the Peace Chapel Cemetery in Decatur County along with what appears to be an entire clan of Alexanders.  While searching through the Decatur County records, I ran across another interesting Hughes.  I found Hughes, Margaret, 1856-1945\Hughes, George W., 1851-1930 buried in the Prospect Cemetery.  Could this be George?  The birth year of George corresponded with census records so I believe this is our George Hughes. 

        As a descendant of William Henry, Doris had provided me with what is known about his family.  He lived in Decatur County, Tennessee for sometime before moving to Missouri.  William Henry and son Clyde appear in the 1920 Pemiscott, Missouri, Godair Township census:

William Henry Hughes 77
Clyde 15

Other Hughes in the same census include:
Roy 40

Walker 26
Bulah 26
Bernice 3 1/2 
Theron (O'dell) 6 mo.

        Nancy and husband James Tate Swift lived in New Madrid Co., Missouri for some years.  Nancy is buried in the Portageville Cemetery.  Her husband, Jim, was taken to California after her death and cared for by some of his children.  Jim Tate Swift is buried in Sacramento, California.

       My sister found another clue to the Hughes family connection-a picture of Nan with two men.  Written on the back of the picture is Silas ??  Grandma's half-brothers.  So Grandma Nan is indeed not the daughter of Jackson H. Hughes.  Who then is her father?  Nancy Jane Hughes Swift remains hidden behind her brick wall.  Time, so far, has not allowed an extensive search of the 1870 censuses of Giles and/or Decatur County, Tennessee.  But, in the meantime, there is always the hope that we will find another obituary, another picture, another lead to the illusive Hughes family.  We're keeping our eyes wide open.


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Information on this website belongs to Jane Watson Ellis and descendants of the families included.  It is intended for the personal use of the guest.  Please note that all material has not been verified by me.  To include your related line and/or make additions or corrections,  please e-mail me at [email protected].  You may also contact me at P. O. Box 524, Bald Knob, AR  72010.