This post originally appeared on one of my other blogs. Since that blog has moved in a different direction I am experimenting with moving all genealogy-related posts here. I am the author of the original article and am editing and updating it for publication here.
Part 1: Setting the Stage
In the pursuit of ancestors I often encounter a person that is difficult to trace. This is not the “brick wall” type that signals the end of a certain familial branch, but an enigmatic individual whose life’s events are hard to construct via the usual means.One such person in my family tree is Zedekiah Ledbetter. Like a ghost, his name appears and disappears in numerous locations during the early years of US expansion. My fascination with him was renewed when I first read about the Ledbetter DNA project in the Summer edition of the New England Ancestor in 2006. I began again to research Zedekiah even though he is not specifically mentioned in the article. His father, however, is.
Besides organizing the Ledbetter DNA project the author, Kenneth E. Haughton, had written a book titled Ledbetters Revisited in 2000. This book both corrected and expanded some of the findings in the 1964 book The Ledbetters of Virginia written by Roy C. Ledbetter. The DNA project further corrected both of them. One of the most notable findings from the DNA study was that there are at least 2 distinct Ledbetter lines in America disproving the theory that all with that surname came from a couple of distantly related immigrants.
I corresponded briefly with Mr. Haughton to discuss his findings. Although I am no expert, I find DNA results to be fascinating as they pertain to the field of genealogy. While it is true that some of the more “interesting” findings might be what are euphemistically termed “non paternal events” they can also be used to place random individuals into an extended family. I had already seen such an “orphan” placed from my husband’s pedigree through a surname DNA study even though the details are missing to bridge the gap between the generations. My interest in the Ledbetter study was piqued for somewhat the same reason.
Unfortunately, as of 2006 no one of direct male lineage had come forward claiming descent through Zedekiah Ledbetter or even through his father, Charles, so there is no way for Zedekiah’s descendants to be represented in the study. In fact, the only documented offspring of Zedekiah’s are female even though it could be assumed that he had male children as well. (That will be discussed further in Part 2.)
What really can we say with any certainty about Zedekiah Ledbetter? Lacking DNA evidence researchers must rely upon the time honored method of paper documentation. And that is where things get a bit confusing.
While the Internet has helped to revolutionize the availability of genealogical information it has also helped to spread the virus of misinformation like a plague. Personally, I prefer to take the information found there as clues for further primary or secondary research. There is nothing like holding real documents found in an archive’s repository to substantiate a claim! In the absence of such, indices and transcripts found in books or databases must suffice. But never should a genealogist take another’s word for something without a shred of proof. Sources are essential!
Again, Zedekiah Ledbetter is the perfect example of this. Several family trees at various sites state that he was born anywhere from 1745 to 1758 and that he died after 1811 and was buried in Montgomery County, North Carolina. Can anything about his birth or death be proven? And what other facts can we find pertaining to Zedekiah? These are all details that I wish to examine about a man that I think makes an interesting case study.