Monday, June 20, 2016

When was Lela Ann Loveless Lancaster born? A QuickLesson13 Example

I am participating as a panelist in the DearMyrtle study group, studying Elizabeth Shown Mills' QuickLessons.* This week is QuickLesson 13: Classes of Evidence--Direct, Indirect, & Negative. Since I am writing about my grandmother's mother, I felt I should post this in the blog I write about her ancestors.

We learn from QuickLesson 13 that Sources give us information that can be used as evidence but in order to use that evidence we must have a research question. One piece of information may be used as evidence to answer one question and another piece used to answer a different question. This evidence is then categorized as Direct, Indirect, and Negative.

Direct Evidence
Most of the time we conduct our research hoping to find that piece of information that will directly answer our research question.  If our research question was “When was John Smith born?”, our evidence could come from a birth certificate that gives of the complete birthdate or a census record that gives of the ancestor’s age at the time of the census, which can help us calculate the birthdate. Both sources give us direct evidence for the date of birth.

Indirect Evidence
This type of evidence does not answer our research question directly on its own, but rather in combination with other indirect or direct evidence.

Negative Evidence
This is evidence that can answer our research question when information we expect to be there wasn’t there.

My research question for my great grandmother is:
When was Lela Ann Loveless, who married George Warren Lancaster, born?
I have several pieces of information pointing directly to her birth:

Her tombstone listed complete birth and death information.[1] The informant was probably her husband, who was still living.

The death certificate only listed her age at death: 55.[2]  The informant was the hospital records. With this age, her birth calculates to around 1896.

1900 census, closest to her birth, gave her age at 5 years and birth in Apr 1895.[3] This conflicts with the tombstone date by one year.

Completing a chart for the remainder of the available census records for Lela Ann Loveless Lancaster:

Census Year
Year born
Date of census visit
Calc. Year if Apr 2 is birthdate
Apr 1895
16 Jun 1900


10 May 1910

11 Mar 1920

8 Apr 1930

10 Apr 1940

These records give direct evidence that Lela Ann was born in April 1895 or 1896.  The only one conflicting is the date closest to her birth. We don’t know who the informants were for each of these census records, except for 1940. The informant was her daughter, Pansy L. Johnston.

Indirect or is it Negative Evidence?

I have another document that can point to a possible age. Lela Ann Loveless married George Warren Lancaster on 15 December 1912.[8] According to the chart above, Lela would have been 16 years old if her birthday was April 1896 and 17 years old if her birthday was April 1895.

There was no other notation with this marriage license and return to indicate a parent or guardian gave permission for Lela Loveless to marry. There was no indication on the license as to her age.

However, according to Texas law, females under 18 and males under 21 needed parental permission to marry.[9] If this was the case, and permission was not needed, then Lela would have been 18 years old at the time of her marriage, making her date of birth about 1894. This birth conflicts with the records after her marriage, giving her birth consistently around 1896.

There was a statement in the law under the same article (4611) that stated, “… and if there be any doubt in the mind of the clerk of the county court issuing such license, he shall not issue said license unless there shall be presented to him a certificate under oath from their parent or guardian…”[10] 

Since the clerk issued the license, then he must not have had any doubt that Lela Ann Loveless was of age. Did she or her future husband, George Warren Lancaster, state her age at 18? Or did the clerk assume her age of 18 without asking?

Couples often lied to get marry. They sometimes traveled to county courthouses where no one knew them. They could have gone somewhere where the clerk wouldn’t question them. Perhaps, they knew this clerk would say nothing about Lela’s underage. Her mother had died in Arkansas three years earlier. Perhaps her father wasn’t in town to give the permission. Perhaps there was a verbal permission that was not recorded. I should research additional marriage records to see how underage marriages were handled in Erath County, Texas.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 13: Classes of Evidence—Direct, Indirect & Negative,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( of Evidence—Direct, Indirect & Negative : accessed 18 Jun 2016).
[1] Find A Grave, database with images ( : ), Memorial# 17927168, Upper Greens Creek Cemetery, Stephenville TX, Lela Ann Loveless Lancaster.
[2] Texas Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate #27274, Wichita Co, 1951, Lela Ann Lancaster; digital image, FamilySearch ( : 22 Jul 2013), citing FHL film 2074696.
[3] 1900 U.S. census, pop.sched., Faulkner County, Arkansas, East Fork Township, ED 29, sht 12B, dwelling 201, family 204, Ebenezer Loveless, digital image, ( accessed 19 Nov 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), T623, roll 58).
[4] 1910 U.S. census, pop. schedule, Erath Co., Texas, Stephenville, ED 19, sht 14a, dwelling 230, family 230, Ebby Loveless household, digital image , ( 20 Jun 2016); citing NARA, T624, roll 1550.
[5] 1920 U.S. census, pop. sched., Erath Co., Texas, Dublin Public Highway, ED 7, sht 3A, dwelling 44, family 45, Warren Lancaster, digital image, ( : 20 Jun 2016); citing NARA, T625, roll 1801.
[6] 1930 U.S. census, Erath Co, Texas, ED 3, Stephenville, sheet 7b, dwelling 172, family 172, G. Warren Lancaster, digital image, ( accessed 26 Apr 2005); citing NARA T626, roll 2326.
[7] 1940 U.S. census, pop. sched, Erath Co, Texas, Stephenville, ward 2, ED 72-7, sht 4A, household 75, Warren Lancaster; digital images, ( : accessed 3 April 2012); citing NARA T627, roll 4029.
[8] Texas, Erath County, Marriage Records, Book M, p. 278, 1912, Lancaster-Loveless; FHL Film #1428410.
[9] John S. McIlwaine, Vernon’s McIlwaine’s Pocket Digest of Texas Laws, Annotated 1912, 2nd edition, (Kansas City: Vernon Law Book Co, 1912), p. 556, referring to Title 68, chapter one, Article 4611 (2957) (2841) (as amended 1911, p. 63).
[10] Vernon’s McIlwaine’s Pocket Digest of Texas Laws, Annotated 1912, p. 556.

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family