Family Stories: Sara E. (Turner) Bryan

Family Stories: Sarah E. (Turner) Bryan

Will the Real Sarah E. Turner…. Please Step Forward

 Sarah No. 1 or Sarah No. 2

When I first began researching my great-grandmother, I found her in the 1880 census and listed as age 2. Not knowing about censuses at that time, and how much truth they entailed, or not, and how to look for clues… I listed my Sarah as born 1778/81. Why did I also list 1881, well that was the date I found on her gravestone. I had so many family names to add to my genealogy program, so at that time I didn’t even think to put my genealogy detective hat on, until…

Fast forward now… a cousin recently contacted me through my blog and questioned me on Sarah E. Turner… as to what was her “real” date of birth? I soon began pulling out my books and rechecking my facts.

Just the Facts!

 Death Certificate of Sarah (Turner) Bryan… Sarah No. 2 

Lucky me that I had this document to recheck, but like we all know, the information on a “death certificate” is only as good as the person who gave it. They are just giving verbal information with no fact checking on the part of the person receiving it.

Death Certificate:

  • Sara’s name listed as Sara Elizabeth Bryant (Sarah No. 2)
  • Sara’s age given as 58 years (Sara’s age of 58 puts her born 1881)
  • Sara’s death date was June 20, 1939
  • No spouse listed (well that puzzled me)
  • Sara’s mother listed as Laura Gooch
  • Sara’s father listed as W. P. Turner
  • Sara was born in Lumpkin County, GA.
  • Person giving info was daughter – Myrt Mae Poss (Bryan)

Sarah’s age of 58 was given in 1939 when she died on June 20, 1939. Although the month and year seem to coincide with what is on her gravestone, the “day” doesn’t match; death date on gravestone is June 27, 1939; The information given by daughter, Myrt Mae (Bryan) Poss, is also who also gave me much of my early information on her parents. No spouse was listed and I thought that odd, but it could have just been an oversight, as they clearly knew who their father, William Clark Bryan, was; he was also still living. The parents of Sarah T. Bryan were listed correctly and Myrt even knew her grandmother’s maiden name of Gooch, which was a plus here. The last name was written as Bryant – often I find my Bryan’s listed with the “t” and some of the family has attributed it to as “running from the law” as they moved county to county and changing the spelling of their name.

When I began my research, Myrt was one of the first of my grandfather’s siblings of who I turned to for information. Most all the siblings at that point, in the late 1990’s, still knew of their grandparents, William Pinkney and Laura (Gooch) Turner. They knew where they had lived and even remembered traveling by wagon from Wilkes and Jackson County, Ga. to Lumpkin County for visits. Myrt related to me that her mother piled quilts on top of hay in the back of the wagon for the children to sit and sleep as they traveled. I’d estimate it’s way over 60 miles each way to visit the Dahlonega area; I can’t even imagine sitting on hay, in the back of a wagon, jostling for hours a day.  It probably took more than one day to travel that far, so you also slept in the wagon at night.

When they first began trying to remember the exact name and town spellings, they were way off; it took me awhile to even come up with the correct spellings as I was trying to spell the names I was hearing over the phone. Through many letters and phone calls, they gave me my start in discovering my Bryan links to Dahlonega, Lumpkin Co., Ga.

Gravestones of William Clark and Sarah Turner Bryan

Gravestone Photo:

  • Name on gravestone is listed as Sarah T. Bryan (Sarah No. 2)
  • Birth date listed is Sept. 15, 1881
  • Death date listed is June 27, 1939
  • Buried in Wisteria Cemetery, Union Point, GA.
  • William Clark Bryan (husband) buried in same cemetery plot

William & Lauria Turner

Children: Barney, Missouria, Mary E., Sarah Turner


1880:  Nimblewill, Lumpkin Co., GA. Census – Dwelling / Family No. 99

1880 Nimblewill, Lumpkin Co., Georgia Census

  • Census Recorded June 8, 1880
  • William Turner, white, age 33, , male, farmer, born GA., both parents born GA.
  • Lauria A. Turner, white, age 28, female, keeping house, born GA., Father born N.C. / Mother born S.C.
  • Barney Turner, white, age 10, male, working on farm, born GA., both parents b. GA.
  • Missouria, white, age 8, female, born GA., both parents born GA.
  • Mary E., white, age 5, female, born GA., both parents born GA.
  • Sarah, white, age 2, female, born GA., both parents born GA. (Sarah No. 1)
  • Citation Information: Detail Year: 1880; Census Place: Nimblewill, Lumpkin, Georgia; Roll: 156; Family History Film: 1254156; Page: 305C; Enumeration District: 143; Image: 0155

This 1880 census listed a “Sarah” as the daughter of William and Lauria Turner, and even though the age didn’t match what was on her gravestone, I took her as my Sarah Turner Bryan…. that I had found my Sarah! After all, we all know that census records are another document that is only as good as the “giver”.

William and Sarah (Turner) Bryan

1900: Civil District 10, Polk County, Tennessee Census – Dwelling 321 / Family No. 324

1900 Civil District 10, Polk County, Tennessee 

  • Census Recorded June 25, 1900
  • William Bryan, white, born April 1876, male, age 24, married 2 years, born GA., both parents born GA., works for RR, L&N (The Louisville & Nashville Railroad), rented a house.
  • Sarah Bryan, white, born Sept. 1880, female, age 19, married 2 years, born GA., both parents born GA., no occupation given. (Sarah No. 2)
  • Miligan Cantrell, white, boarder, born May 1860, male, age 40, widowed, born GA., occupation – carpenter.
  • Margaret Heir, white, servant, born March 1865, female, age 35, widowed, born N. C., occupation – housekeeping.
  • Etter Heir, white, boarder, born May 1896, female, age 4, single, born Tennessee.
  • Citation Information: Detail Year: 1900; Census Place: Civil District 10, Polk, Tennessee; Roll: 1592; Page: 19A; Enumeration District: 0129; FHL microfilm: 1241592

This is my Sarah E. Turner (Sarah No. 2) married to William Clark Bryan, but I’m puzzled as to who the other three boarders/servant listed are; maybe they rented out rooms in their house to make ends meet. This census proves my Sarah (Sarah No. 2) was married to William Bryan (marriage license in files). Many Bryan families relocated to work for the L & N Railroad such as Winston Bryan, Gabriel Milligan Bryan, and Martin Bryan – all brothers of William Madison Bryan and sons of Berrian Clark Bryan. My William Clark Bryan was the son of William Madison Bryan. Possibly that is why William and Sarah relocated for a short time in Polk Co., Tenn… because the family still resided there.

William’s daughter Myrt (Bryan) Poss often told me tales of her father working in the copper mines in Copperhill/Ducktown Tenn. She remembered him sitting at the table talking about seeing the dead being removed from the mines from accidents; he often didn’t like to talk about those years. I had expected to find him listed as a miner on this census, but instead, it shows he worked for the L & N Railroad; he possibly worked for both the railroad and the mines. I contacted the Copperhill Mine Historical Society; they did not find his name listed as a miner.


1900: Nimblewill, Lumpkin Co., GA Census – Dwelling 148 / Family No. 151

1900 Nimblewill, Lumpkin Co., Georgia Census

  • Census Recorded June 20, 1900
  • Laura A. Turner, white, female, born April 1848, age 52, widowed, six children born to mother, 4 children living, born GA., both parents born GA., occupation – farmer, owned farm, farm schedule No. 137 (Note the underline – the clue!)
  • It seems that Laura was a strong woman, owning land and farm, and being listed as a farmer; all three children worked on the farm.
  • Barney Turner, son, white, male, born April 1870, age 30, single, occupation – farm laborer.
  • Missouri Turner, daughter, white, female, born Oct. 1871, age 28, single, occupation – farm laborer.
  • Dolly Turner, daughter, white, female, born Dec. 1882, age 17, single, occupation – farm laborer.
  • Citation Information: Detail Year: 1900; Census Place: Nimblewill, Lumpkin, Georgia; Roll: 209; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0100; FHL microfilm: 1240209

Laura A. (Gooch) Turner is my Sarah (Turner) Bryan’s mother and in this census year, it was asked how many number children born – 6 children listed – then asked number of those children living –  4 living children as of 1900. This census I am taking for proof that the Sarah No. 1 listed on the 1800 Lumpkin Co., census is not my Sarah. That Sarah most likely died before 1881 and “my” Sarah E. Turner (Sarah No. 2) is the one born Sept. 15, 1881. It was common in those times, that if a child died, their name was used until a child lived to carry the name. While it sounds morbid, and I can’t imagine renaming the next living child with the last deceased child’s name – it happened. This is the only way I can account for the two Sarah’s in the Turner family; adding Sarah No. 1 to this family completes the family of 6 children.

Not one of my grandfather’s siblings ever mentioned to me that their grandmother, Laura A. Turner, had more than 4 children. I would think that if Sarah No. 2 was named for a deceased sister, that there might have been a mention of this at some point, but maybe their mother wanted it kept secret, or it just wasn’t unusual to them to even think to mention. Two of the children, Barney and Missouria, were 10 and 9 in 1880 and clearly old enough to know of a sisters death and remember, but again with it being a common practice, it just wasn’t worthy to pass the information along through the years.

I do believe that I have solved the question as to which one of the Sarah’s was my great-grandmother – Clearly, She is Sarah No. 2.

Just the other day, I received an email from Amy Johnson Crow on the Top 10 Genealogy Tips: A Year-end Wrap Up. If only I had had Amy’s emails when I began years ago, I would have realized that my 1880 census and the others census years would have been the red flags in her No. 8 tip; the tip that would have sent me searching for an answer then… and not sit unanswered all these years… until now!

This is one of the reasons I blog, to post family information, also called “cousin bait”, in hope that new family members interested in their family history… will contact me. And because of the new family that contacted me – and had questions on Sarah No. 1, it made me relook again at old information in order to finally research and resolve the problem.

What I hadn’t paid attention to in my early years of genealogy was the “red flag” in the 1880 census; I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the facts. As Amy said in her post, “don’t look at facts in isolation”… and that is certainly true. In order to fully see and compare, you must list the facts from all records in order to weigh the facts. Hopefully one day, I may even find where Sarah No. 1 is buried.

I owe a big “Thank You” to my new cousin in asking those questions on Sarah… it was those questions which caused me to revisit the census and recognize the “red flag“.       I stopped… compared… and weighed the facts….with the end result proving which Sarah was my great grandmother – Sarah No. 2!

© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved






About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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2 Responses to Family Stories: Sara E. (Turner) Bryan

  1. Evelyn Smith says:

    Nice story and congratulations on solving a mystery.
    Lately, I begun thinking I need to look at Census records more closely to see what I can find that may have slipped by me all these years.
    Yeah, I didn’t know about those Census’ when I first began my searches and am still learning as I continue. Many things I’ve learned from you and I thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We’ve all learned much more since our beginnings


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