Wednesday, March 10, 2010


After several postponements, it appears that finally a trip to St. Clair County, Alabama will be made next week to check out the local records for the Dulaney and associated families who moved from Alabama to Itawamba County in the 1830s. In preparation for the trip, which will involve only a couple of days of research (all we could squeeze in), I've been trying to get organized and familiarized with the families that lived there during the 1810s and 1820s. Family legend indicates that Thomas Dulaney, father of the three Dulaney brothers who came to Itawamba County, died and was buried in St. Clair County.

Various census records have placed other Dulaney kin in St. Clair County, as well as in nearby Talladega and Benton/Calhoun Counties. Surprisingly, however, it seems that the familes are found most often in Jefferson County. Thomas Dulaney acquired and sold land in Jefferson County during 1825 to 1827, and his wife's name, Rhoda, appears on the 1823 member roll for the Cahawba Baptist Church, later the First Baptist Church in the town of Trussville. Trussville is primarily in present-day Jefferson County but also spreads into neighboring St. Clair County. One of Thomas Dulaney's sister married a Truss (of Trussville!) and Thomas and Rhoda's son, John, was married in Jefferson County. So, instead of two days in St. Clair, one day will instead be spent in Jefferson County.

When researching any family history, it is important to understand the current environment during the time of your research. If you're lucky, the county lines only changed once, or maybe twice. Once Itawamba County was formed in 1836, its boundaries stayed the same for thirty years, until 1866 when Lee County was formed out of parts of Itawamba and Pontotoc counties. Then, in 1870, a narrow band of land across the northern border of Itawamba County was given to Prentiss and Tishomingo counties, but since that time, no other changes have been made to Itawamba's borders.

That's the official version of changes to our county's borders, but unfortunately there are other situations that may cause your ancestor to show up somewhere other than Itawamba County. An early, incorrect survey caused the border between Alabama and Mississippi, along the Itawamba and Monroe county lines, to be wrongly included in the state of Alabama. The confusion persisted for several years, and when it came time for the census, parents often didn't know if their children had been born in Alabama or Mississippi. Also, consider this: there were no "Welcome to Mississippi" signs in those days! I've also found some Itawamba ancestors included in the Monroe County census even though they lived in Itawamba County - the census taker didn't know the difference.

Still, contrast Itawamba's border history with that of the area where the Dulaneys lived in St. Clair and/or Jefferson County in Alabama, and your head will get dizzy. The area went back and forth between those two counties three times, and some of St. Clair was taken to form Benton County and Etowah County. Benton County later changed its name to Calhoun and gave some of its land back to St. Clair. Etowah gave some of its land back too. I've found Dulaneys in all of the above counties, and it is hard to know if they did a lot of moving or if the lines moved around them. The moral of the story is that you have to look in all the places in order to gain a complete collection of records. I suspect when all is said and done, we'll be able to take a compass and form a few-miles radius, and within that circle will contain the majority of the early Alabama Dulaney families, regardless of what county they may be found in over the years. In addition to the Dulaneys, we'll probably find Martins, Hoods, Johnsons, Minyards, and others.

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