I am searching for the parents of my fifth great-grandfather, Reuben Owens. I have composed a records timeline to help in my search. I also had my grandmother’s brother take a DNA test to help with my family tree, and what I’ve found is detailed below.
*Records are from Ancestry.com.
February 9, 1814 – Maury County, Tennessee – Reuben Owens marries Polly Randle (alternative spelling is Randall or Randell). They were married by Robert Sellers, J.P.
1820 – Maury County, Tennessee – On the census, “Rabin” (Reuben) Owens and wife are listed as between the ages of 16 and 25. He has four sons under 10.
February 15, 1825 – Maury County, Tennessee – Reuben Owens purchases 50 acres at the headwaters of Swan Creek.
1836 – Maury County, Tennessee – Reuben “Owins” is on the tax list.
1840 – Maury County, Tennessee – Reuben is listed as age 40 – 49, with wife age 30 – 39, and eight children.
June 30, 1840 – Maury County, Tennessee – Reuben buys additional acres by the land he already owns.
1850 – Maury County, Tennessee – Reuben is listed as 65, born 1785 in Georgia. His wife Polley is 65. Three of their children are living with them: Jemima, John and Mary Ann (my fourth great-grandmother). He lives beside two of his sons, Noah and David.
[How did Reuben go from 40 – 49 to 65?! And Polley was 30 -39, now 65?! Clearly wrong ages.]
May 7, 1861 – Reuben is listed as deceased in guardianship records. See below.
1861 – Maury County, Tennessee – Reuben has a file folder in Tennessee Wills and Probate Records dated “1861 Estate” and a list of heirs. Joseph W. Morrow is administrator. The packet claims a total of 305 pages, but included are pages with no clear ties to Reuben. They are unorganized in the file. I think this is an error. However, Reuben’s heirs are listed as:
William Owens (son of Thomas)
Rachel Owens Nance (deceased)
Henderson Pigg (gr. of William)
Martha A Russell
Jemima Russell (deceased)
On page 1973 on Ancestry in this packet, it gives the date of May 7, 1860 and lists Reuben as deceased. He was the guardian for his grandson named William, who was Thomas’s child. Henderson Pigg was appointed guardian.
We have no clear birth date or death date for Reuben. The records do let us develop a time span.
- We know Reuben married in 1814, and I assume he was 18 then. (Birth year of at least 1796)
- In 1820, he listed himself as between the ages of 16 and 25. (Birth year between 1795 and 1804)
- In 1840, he listed himself as between ages 40 and 49. (Birth year between 1791 and 1800)
- In 1850, he said he was 65. (Birth year of 1785 – making him 29 at age of marriage)
My guess is between 1791 – 1796, with about 1795 being a guess as good as any.
The estate packet’s date of 1861 is misleading since Reuben was listed as deceased on May 7, 1860 at the time of the guardianship record. We also know that Reuben was not on the 1860 census. My guess is he died in 1859 or early 1860.
Reuben provides us with an important clue on the 1850 census. He lists his birth place as Georgia.
ANCESTRY DNA TEST
I have opened many doors to my family tree using Ancestry DNA testing. Going on records alone, we really don’t have much about Reuben to use to find his parents. I have been using the DNA test of my great uncle to try to narrow down my search. (He is my paternal grandmother’s brother.)
First, using Ancestry’s shared ancestor hints, I went through and made a note using the note feature of descendants of Reuben.
After noting Reuben’s descendants, I used the shared matches tab to see who else had “Owens” in their family tree. I started picking up a lot of descendants from William King Owens, Reuben’s oldest son. This was great, and confirmed our DNA relationship to Reuben.
Finding Reuben’s parents may prove difficult because he is a third great-grandparent to my great uncle, so his parents would be fourth great-grandparents. That gives you approximately fifth cousin matches. The DNA shared is very low at this point, and you probably don’t share any. If DNA splits evenly, which is DOES NOT, you would get only 3.125% from your third great-grandparents, and 1.56% from your fourth great-grandparents. (DNA inheritance chart here.)
I studied shared matches from all matches I have that list Reuben as an ancestor. I did find a common trend with two Owens brothers who also list their birth place as Georgia: Jabez and Thomas Owens. With birth years of around 1814 and 1810, they could be younger siblings of Reuben. I wrote an article on the brothers, and traced them to St. Clair County, Alabama, then on to Arkansas. While Ancestry trees list their parents as Mosby / Mosbey Owens and Elizabeth Gooch, I have not found any records to tie them together. There are not even any land or census records to put Mosby in Georgia, where we know we was in the 1810s. (Read my article here.)
This is an exciting lead, especially since most family trees list Reuben as a son of William Owens from Paducah, Kentucky, although that puzzles me because I’ve found zero connection to him.
DNA COUSIN COMPARISONS (Under Shared Matches with Reuben’s Descendants)
Cousin A: Third great-granddaughter of Thomas Owens, fourth great-granddaughter of his parents. Estimated fifth cousins. Share 32 centimorgans.
Cousin B: First cousin to “Cousin A”. Third great-granddaughter of Thomas Owens, fourth great-granddaughter of his parents. Estimated fifth cousins. Share 28 centimorgans.
Cousins C: Second great-granddaughter of Jabez Owens, third great-granddaughter of his parents. Estimated fourth cousins once removed. Share 24.9 centimorgans.
Cousin D: Second great-grandson of Thomas Owens, third great-grandson of his parents. Estimated fourth cousins once removed. Share 20.5 centimorgans.
I am still going through my shared matches. Many people do not connect a family tree to their test, and some who do only list a couple of generations back. This makes it harder to trace.
Here is a great tool to use: The Shared cM Project. You can enter the centimorgans (cM) you share to see relationship possibilities.
Do you descend from the Owens family of Georgia or Tennessee? I would love to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated 1/18/2018