Monday, January 29, 2018

Seebell TILMON-EVANS-FREEMAN 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

I Will Send For You Later

Like most family historians/genealogist you come across that one descendant or two that are just so elusive you want to give up ever locating information on them and at various points in your research you put them on the back burner and consider them as your proverbial “brick wall?” I’m no different and there are at least two that have been the thorn in my side for several years. 

Seebell TILMON b. January 10, 1904
This ancestor comes from my mother’s side of the family and it is her mother who has been very elusive or more to the point, her mother’s people have been hiding in places waiting for me to find them and they have been doing a really good job of hiding!

Recently I thought (okay, last week) I would do some more research on my grandmother for this writing exercise and try to research where my grandmother was born, who her parents were and where they came from. Now don’t get me wrong, I had clues but they really didn’t get me to a point that convinced me I had the right people and the information I had may not have been for lack of a better word, “accurate.”

Let me try to explain. My grandmother’s name was Cebell, Seebell, or Sebell you get where I’m going with this one? As my friend Lisa LEE would say speling dozn’t kount, but it wood bee nice if it was consiztnet (I added that last little part.)

For a little background, I met my mother’s parents once, when I was about five or six years old and I still have some memories of them and that visit to Oklahoma back in the fifties but I never really knew them. When Seebell died in 1969 I didn’t travel back to Oklahoma for the funeral because I was trying to make the high school football at the time and didn’t want to risk not making the team, so I stayed home and missed out on time to spend with my grandfather. Turns out I had a hernia and couldn’t play that year so maybe it was karma?

When I began researching the family history one of the things that I had was the obituary from Cebell’s funeral that listed the names of her parents, her brother and the usual cast of characters (family) that obituaries contain. My mother never talked much about her parents and when she died I was not going to have her around to provide answers to some of the questions I would have to determine who HER grandparents were.

The obituary had information I would use to determine the maternal side of my family and as you family historians/genealogist knows, an obituary is notorious for having “dubious” information. Nevertheless this and some oral history was my starting point and this is all that I had to figure out where my grandmother and her people came from.
L-R Jo Helen, James F., Margaret, Joe Freeman, J.B. BOYD, June
Let me back up just a taste! I did have some “oral history” that said my grandmother was born in Plain Dealing, Louisiana and the obituary seem to confirm that. The obit also gave the name of her father and mother as Willie and Maggie TILMON, along with the date of her birth. The date of her marriage to my grandfather Joe FREEMAN (nope, not that one if you read my earlier story; but his grandson Joe FREEMAN.)

I knew my grandmother had at least one brother named Otis WRIGHT and he came to visit us ONCE in Los Angeles and I never saw him again because he lived in Connecticut. Cebell had several other children that I knew and met through the years from their visits or when my mother died and most of her brothers and sisters came to the funeral; Aunt June who lived in L.A we saw frequently. Uncle J.B. who lived up north in San Francisco would visit many times and everybody loved when he would visit because he had that aura about him.

My mother talked about her other brothers and sisters but we didn’t see them as often as Uncle J.B. and Aunt June. Her other sisters were Marilyn and Margaret; her other two brothers were James and Joe Louis. With all of these siblings you would think I would have had this family’s history down but that was not the case because by the time I got interested in genealogical research all but two of them were deceased. So here I was trying to put the history of this family back together with basically this obituary and some sketchy oral history.

I had made some attempts at piecing this puzzle together and I came across some information that got my hopes up. I wasn’t getting anywhere looking for Cebell, Seebell TILMON or Willie and Maggie in Louisiana so I tried a different approach and started looking for these people with Otis WRIGHT in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma. Nothing, nada, zip zilch! So, one day I just sat back and tried to remember some of things I used to hear grown folks say about their kin when moms and pops gave those bid whist and domino parties at the house.

Folks would be fogging up the room with cigarette smoke with “Steal Away” and Little Johnnie Taylor playing on the counsel record player with the mini-bar on the side; while sipping some of the old man’s “home brew.” If you don’t know, you better ask somebody what I’m talking about!

Well I started to remember stuff like my grandfather met Seebell in Clarkesville, Texas right across the Red River from Hugo, Oklahoma. So I started looking in Clarksville for any record that would put Maggie and Willie TILMON in the area. Nothing!

I remembered conversations about Texarkana and for some reason there was this back and forth migration to the area so one day I decided I would look at Arkansas and see what might pop up. It took me awhile, going through page after page after page of census documents searching for Maggie TILMON or Maggie WRIGHT (remember Cebell’s brother Otis, he was a WRIGHT or her “half-brother” and I thought since I can’t find her let me look at someone name Maggie with a son named Otis and a daughter named Seebell. BOOOM!

1920 US Census Roane, Bradley, Lafayette County, Arkansas
 The 1920 census for Lafayette County, Roane Township, Bradley Town, Enumeration District 120 page 4B, lines 91-96 had some names that might be what I was looking for. Antony (Anthony) WRIGHT with his wife Maggie, a daughter Sebel  E. and John TILLMAN as well as an Otis and Ernest WRIGHT. Now other than Maggie, Sebel and Otis none of these other people appeared on that obituary and you are probably wondering why I thought this was the people that have been hiding from me; bear with me it gets better. At the time I found them, I wasn’t sure and even up to last week I was still having doubts that these were the people I was looking for, but as I tell people, things have a way of coming to me when I need them.

I tucked this information away and didn’t say much to anyone about the discovery because I wasn’t sure I had the right folks but sometimes you gotta stash your information and look for other ways to confirm it with a fresh perspective after time passes.

In this case because I had something, I was able to go back quite far on the WRIGHT family but other than Uncles Otis and Ernest the WRIGHTS were not blood but as a genealogist I felt compelled to get what I could on the family because if I’m correct they are still an extended part of my family?

When I looked at the 1920 census I noticed Maggie was born in Arkansas, Sebel was born in Louisiana according to the record; as was her brother John. Otis WRIGHT and his brother were born in Arkansas. You also see that Anthony was born in Louisiana but he was a WRIGHT. I’m still unable to located Sebel’s father Willie TILMON but I do have her as a sixteen year old with the surname TILMON, perhaps validating the obituary information from the funeral I missed. Now she and her brother John TILMON who is two years younger (someone I had never heard about before)) are living with their mother Maggie, and two WRIGHT brothers! These people will do anything to make my search more difficult and confusing but I’m game!

For a few years I was content to sit on this information thinking I finally discovered Maggie TILMON but it didn’t answer a lot of questions and I’m still missing my grandmother’s father Willie TILMON, can’t find a marriage license for Willie and Maggie and no certificates of birth for any of the children; yet!

One of the things I did was look for a wedding license for my grandmother and grandfather and hoped there would be some information on her mother and father and the people could come out of hiding. Fortunately I knew they spent time in Carter County, Ardmore, Oklahoma and that was the most logical place to look for their license other than Red River County, Texas where Clarksville was located.

I guess my family is like that Tina Turner movie, “they cain’t do things nice and easy!” Nope they got to complicate the easy just because they enjoy hiding from me. What the heck is this Seebell EVANS stuff!!! What happened to TILMON hey I’ll take a WRIGHT but noooo; if the spelling of her first name was not enough confusion, now this EVANS surname is something out of the blue and I’m not sure where to go with it. But I chose to research my folks and this is what they left me and I don’t give up that easy.

Whatever is going on with Seebell I have to try to regroup and figure out a different approach to locate her parents and one of the things that was known was Uncle J.B. was not my grandfather’s biological son.

The story goes he was born in Plain Dealing, Louisiana and I could swear there was a story of how HIS grandmother raised him for a time. That would not be unusual because there are other stories in the family where the parents go off to the city or a new state looking for work and leave some of the children with the grandparents until they can send for them. Heck my parents did that to my older sister and brother; left them in Oklahoma with our grandparents while they came out to California trying to get a toe-hole so they could send for them later.

I don’t know what it was or why it happened but the other day I was thinking about my Uncle J.B. and remembered he was in the Navy which meant he may have had a draft registration card. I thought that if there was a card maybe his mother (Seebell) and his father would be written on it. So I did my little FamilySearch thing and not only did I get a hit on his draft card but I was completely surprised to see what was on the card. It was the name of Maggie VINEY!

WHAT THE WHAT! Maggie VINEY!? Okay now it’s really time to regroup and determine where to go with this new found information. First of all, I know this is my Uncle J.B. because he was born the same day as my grandmother January 10th. His step father Joe FREEMAN was from Hugo, Indian Territory and he was an original Choctaw Freedman enrollee. Yep! That’s another story, another time. 

More importantly there are two pieces of information on this card that should help guide me to some of those ancestors who are so determine to hide from me but they must not know WHO I AM! Or maybe they do?

This document requires me to reconsider the Louisiana connection based on his birthplace and the residence of his “mother” Maggie VINEY. The fact that I have a Maggie is one thing but now her surname is VINEY so that means I have to go look for a Maggie VINEY in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, “my life ain’t no crystal stair for sure!”

While I’m messing around in Bossier, Louisiana I hope to locate the father of Uncle J.B. and I’m certain Maggie is not his mother. I’m reasonably sure it’s his grandmother Maggie WRIGHT, TILMON or whatever her name is. In my way of thinking, since I have this new name, let me plug it in and see what comes up… people must have a very good sense of humor or they want to be found and they want to make the journey worth my while?

Okay, this falls in the category of “be careful of what you ask for…” Now if I didn’t have enough surnames and people to contend with Maggie has morphed from Maggie VINEY to Mattie RILEY. If you recall the 1920 census had Maggie WRIGHT with Seebell and John TILMON along with Otis and Ernest WRIGHT so again, I’m reasonably sure these are my people hiding in plain sight in Hugo, Oklahoma.

This also means that the draft registration card on Uncle J.B. with Maggie VINEY as his mother, IN Hugo, Oklahoma has merit. So now I’m looking for Maggie TILMON, Maggie VINEY, Maggie WRIGHT; oh yeah and Mattie RILEY, are they the same person? What do they have in common and what clues did they leave for me to convince them to come out of hiding? 

Before I move on there are two things about one of these school records that did not get by me as unusual. All of the children on the card with Mattie RILEY was born on the 10th day of the month, is that even possible? I know for a fact that Uncle J.B. and Seebell shared January 10, as a birthday but this has to be a remarkable coincidence if true.

The second thing is Seebell is an EVANS not a TILMON now; and that is her surname on the wedding license with Joe FREEMAN in 1926. If TILMON is her maiden name where did this EVANS come from? The plot thickens…

Because of that draft registration card of “my favorite uncle named J.B. BOYD” I can tie a lot of this up, surnames and all…and at least THESE ancestors can come out of hiding...

Part II

I forget exactly in what order all of this occurred because once the wall came down it crumbled with the quickness.

I quickly dismissed the inference that Mattie VINEY was J.B.’s mother and since the draft registration card and the school records tended to confirm this was Maggie TILMON, VINEY I knew I had to start searching for two things, a census record and a marriage license for Maggie with hopes to come up with her maiden name.

The fact that J.B. was registering for World War II because he was born in 1922 the 1940 census seemed to be the first place to look for him and Maggie. On his draft card it indicated he was living in Alden Bridge, Bossier, Louisiana and that is where it indicated Maggie lived, seems like a no-brainer.

Can I get a little Hallelujah chorus, one brick down! Maggie VINEY was living in the unincorporated area of Alden Bridge, Bossier Parrish, Police Jury Ward #3 (somebody is going to have to explain this jury ward thing) with her husband Napoleon VINEY and Uncle J.B. VOID (I’ve seen this spelling before in some of my Indian Territory research, I’ll have to drill down on that later to see if that should be his real surname or is it BOYD?)

Now for the particulars, J.B. as I knew and suspected is listed as her grandson,( another brick if you will.) Maggie’s place of birth is given as Arkansas? Her grandson’s place of birth is listed as Oklahoma (contradicting the Plain Dealing story?) Okay put two bricks back on the pile! However, now that I have a name for her husband and an explanation for the VINEY surname; time to look for a marriage license.

Of course I turned to and according to the Arkansas County Marriages Index, 1837-1957 Maggie RILEY age 38 was residing in Bradley, Lafayette, Arkansas and married Napoleon VINEY age 42 who was residing in Clarksville, Red River, Texas and they were married on December 29, 1925 in Lafayette County, Arkansas…I think I want to knock out twenty bricks on this Maryland Farmer. Of course “we don’t do easy” Ancestry didn’t have a copy of the marriage license but I have information that has answered quite a few questions and I can make some interesting connections to Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas that fit the family oral history. With this new information I’m certain I can knock down a few more walls and add to my brick collection.

Clearly, Maggie married Napoleon later in life and there is no indication he is the father of any of her children because if I’m not mistaken all of the children attributed to her were born prior to 1925. Now that I have what appears to her maiden name (it’s not VINEY, TILMON or WRIGHT from everything discovered so far, so I’m going with RILEY until further notice. Time to do a look-up on Maggie RILEY in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana; I said my life ain’t no crystal stair.

Well, well, well what have we here? In the 1930 census in Red River, Texas is Napoleon and Maggie VINEY and two of her sons; Odis/Otis and Ernest WRIGHT. Also in the household are two of her grandsons; J.B. VOID/BOYD and James F. FREEMAN!!! I think I knocked down at least three walls and I’m selling bricks now; CHEAP!

There are a few things that I must point out in the 1930 and 1940 census records that could explain why Maggie at least is moving from state to state and it may have a lot to do with work for herself and her husband. In the 1940 the family was in an area that appeared to be related to the lumber industry. Prior to that in 1930 you see Napoleon’s occupation listed as a barber.

In the 1940 census it indicated Napoleon and Maggie were living in the Alden Bridge area in 1935 so it had to be sometime between 1930 and 1935 they migrated back to Louisiana from Texas and as we saw earlier from the school records Maggie VINEY spent time in Hugo, Oklahoma. The fact she has her son’s which are identified as Napoleon’s stepsons clearly shows she was involved in a relationship with someone named WRIGHT and that occurred in the state of Arkansas based on the ages and place of birth for Otis and Ernest.

I know Seebell was born around 1904 so she won’t show up in a census record prior to 1910. Otis and Ernest appear to have been born in Arkansas  so they could show up in the Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas or Louisiana 1920 based on the how Maggie moves around from state to state.

No, I haven’t forgotten about Seebell and I knew she appears in the 1930 census in Hugo, Oklahoma married to my grandfather Joe as we saw with their marriage license in 1926 but while I was fooling around looking for Maggie in 1920, I came across another wall that needed some demolition work and this was just too good.

Heck I’m knocking down the walls of Jericho now! The EVANS mystery has been solved. If you think back when Seebell married Joe FREEMAN her surname on the license was say it with me class EVANS!

In Bradley, Lafayette County in the great state of Arkansas on the 19th day of June in 1920 Seebell TILMON/TILMAN age 18 (seems this means she was born in 1901/02 and not 1904 but I’m not bothered by that one little bit) married Henry EVANS age 22.

If you look at the bottom of the marriage license you will see what looks like the name R.W. RILEY along with two other names. I don’t know if this is someone related to Maggie RILEY but what are the odds? Clearly to me, there is a connection to this part of Arkansas and why Maggie seems trapped in the constant moving back and forth between Bossier, Louisiana and Lafayette, Arkansas. BUT THERE’S MORE!

·         Just a little recap I know that Maggie TILMON was more than likely Maggie RILEY.
·         Seebell TILMON was married before marrying Joe FREEMAN but I still don’t know who the father of J.B. BOYD/VOID.
·         Maggie married Napoleon VINEY in 1925 and carried that name evidently into the 1940’s
·         I began with Maggie as the wife of Anthony WRIGHT who more than likely was the father of Otis and Ernest WRIGHT. At some point after they were born she was no longer living with Anthony in Arkansas.

I’m not certain but in the 1910 census I believe with a great deal of confidence that this is the first husband of Seebell TILMON; Henry EVANS living in Mars Hill Township, Lafayette County, Arkansas as a twelve year old; estimating his year of birth circa 1898. With further research I may be able to make the connection and begin including as many EVANS ancestors as I can locate who remained in generally the same area.

As I turn back to Seebell’s mother Maggie I was fortunate to locate documents that appear to tie the various surnames attributed to her and provide substantial evidence to corroborate the information on the obituary from her funeral. I admit at first I was very skeptical of the information in the obituary but the wall that prevented me from accepting that information is revealed in documents that span the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. 

On December 29, 1925 Napoleon VINEY married Maggie RILEY in Bradley, Lafayette County, Arkansas.  This document ostensibly provides the maiden name of Seebell’s mother and we see Maggie at the age of thirty-eight with several children in an area that the family was very familiar with and I hope to locate other ancestors there as I go forward with my research.

Maggie was documented on Uncle J.B.’s draft registration card as Maggie VINEY in 1941, indicating she maintained the VINEY identity at least sixteen years following their marriage.

This marriage document also corroborates the Hugo, Oklahoma School records that have “Mattie” RILEY as the parent of Otis and Earnest WRIGHT and curiously her daughter Seebell EVANS. I say curiously because the school record indicates Seebell is fifteen years of age and her marriage to Henry EVANS is recorded on June 19, 1920. This record was generated approximately six months after her fifteenth birthday in January, curious?

The school record begs the question about the father of Otis and Earnest WRIGHT and after some “exhaustive research” I was able to come up with another document that provides some clarity on that subject and in the process knocks down another wall that had me scratching my head for years.

I can’t tell you how much I was elated to discover this document because I was always perplexed with the obit indicating the parents of Seebell were Willie and Maggie TILLMAN. This Marriage License issued in the township of Bradley, Lafayette County, Arkansas in 1908 substantiates the fact that Maggie RILEY had a relationship that resulted in the birth of Seebell between 1904 and 1908 with the real possibility there was a Willie TILLMAN/TILMON!

This document also confirms the actions I took several years ago when I discovered Maggie and her children living with Anthony WRIGHT in the 1910 census. Let me remind you that this was in the same county and township where she married Napoleon VINEY in 1925.

The last wall that needs a little demolition is the document(s) that provide an answer on the identity of Seebell’s father, Willie TILMON. I have not been able to locate a marriage license for Maggie and Willie and I have not been able to locate a birth certificate for Seebell in Plain Dealing, Bossier, Louisiana but I do have a person of interest that kinda sorta fits the profile for Willie TILMON:

From the little geographic work I did to identify the various Parishes in Louisiana and their proximity to where Maggie RILEY was living in between 1900 and 1910 this is the only Willie TILMON/TILLMAN I found that fits the age, name with the possibility of being the father of Seebell TILMON/TILLMAN. I submit the next census page to be considered strong evidence Maggie RILEY and Willie TILMON had an opportunity to be familiar with one another based on their being in the same Parish and Ward but different enumeration districts.

This will require additional research to confirm these connections but I am feeling 100% more confident I have knocked down some serious walls and allowed many ancestors to come out of hiding. In the process there have been additional people discovered with interesting stories. If they connect to me that will also require some additional research; let me conclude with the caution for family researchers who may have a connection to these folks; don't accept that I have correctly identified the parents and ancestors of Seebell TILMON/TILLMAN. Conduct your own rigorous research and if you come to the same conclusions then I have served my purpose.


  • Alden Bridge, Bossier Louisiana
  • Ardmore, Carter County, Oklahoma           
  • Bossier County, Louisiana
  • Bradley Town, Lafayette County, Arkansas
  • Choctaw County, Indian Territory
  • Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory
  • Clarksville, Texas
  • Hugo, Oklahoma
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Plain Dealing, Louisiana
  • Red River County, Texas
  • Roane, Lafayette County, Arkansas
  • San Francisco, California