Monday, May 7, 2012

Mystery Monday - A Love Triangle

As a newbie genealogist, I received information that Alexander Gandy (son of Jacob Gandy and Lucinda Elliott) married Tamson Cary (daughter of Ephraim Cary and Matilda Gandy) on 21 December 1853 in Union County, Ohio. The only other information I had was that Tamson died in 1855 in Pike’s Peak, Colorado, and that Alexander died in Jerome, Union County, Ohio. Of course, I entered this information into my database but, since they are not my direct-line ancestors, have never spent any time verifying the information I received or researching this couple. Until now….

In trying to prove the relationship of Rhoda Cary (Tamson’s sister) to her father Ephraim Cary, I have been researching all of her siblings trying to find clues to prove that parental relationship.

In my searching, I came across an article posted on an Ancestry Member Tree stating that, following her husband’s death in an attack by Indians on their wagon train, Tamson Cary had run off with a man, Robert Phares Kirby of DeWitt County, Illinois, sometime in the late 1850s, went with him to Texas, married and had several children, and died there in 1911! Wow!

After picking myself up off the floor, I continued my search and found a message posted by another researcher looking for help in trying to determine the truth behind the story. If the story is true (and it appears to be), how did Alexander and Tamson Cary Gandy come to be in DeWitt County, Illinois, where Robert Kirby lived with his wife Phoebe and their children?

Alexander has not been found in the 1860 census. He married Eliza Johnson on 9 March 1861 in Union County, Ohio. He enlisted in Company I, Ohio 121st Infantry Regiment, on 11 September 1862, and was mustered out 27 May 1865 at Louisville, Kentucky. By 1870, he and Eliza had three children and were living in Union County, Ohio. In 1880, Alexander was enumerated in De Witt County, Illinois, while Eliza and the girls were in Champaign County, Ohio. By 1888, Eliza was in Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio; she and Alexander were enumerated there for the remainder of their lives. But their youngest daughter Pet married Fred Magill in 1889 and lived in De Witt County until her untimely death in 1907.

No marriage record has been found for Tamson Cary Gandy and Robert Kirby, but in 1880, they are enumerated together with seven children ranging in age from 5 to 19 in Bexar County, Texas. Tamson Kirby died in 1911 and is buried in Atascosa County, Texas; I have not located a death certificate. The death certificate for their youngest son Volney D. Kirby states his mother’s maiden name was Tamson Carey.

After hours of sorting through various Gandy families (all with sons named Abijah, Henry, and Shepherd!), I have found that a good many of Alexander Gandy’s kinsfolk were in Winnebago and DeKalb counties in northern Illinois by 1850. Ten years later, some were still in DeKalb County, one family was in De Witt County, and still other families had moved on to Kansas and Texas. There appears to have been ample opportunity for Alexander and Tamson to end up in De Witt County.

But why did Alexander and Tamson go to Illinois in the first place? Why would Tamson have run off with a married man twenty years her senior? Did she know he was married? Was there an Indian attack and she truly thought Alexander dead? Did Alexander tell his family that Tamson died in Pike’s Peak so as to keep his story a secret? Why was Alexander in De Witt County in 1880 and how did his daughter Pet end up marrying a man from that county?

So many questions. My fellow researcher hopes to find the truth. I am not sure we ever will.

© 2012 Denise Spurlock


  1. Wow -- this is too big for just Mystery Monday -- this could consume Mystery Week or even Mystery Month! Why is it the most interesting ancestors seem never to have real records that you can put your hands on. I'm hoping you will be able to post a follow-up soon.

    1. There are so many possibilities here...I do have some more information that I'll be posting in the next couple weeks.

  2. Replies
    1. I'm glad I discovered it. If I hadn't been trying to prove my 2nd great grandmother's relationship to her father, I probably would never have learned about the "other" story about Tamson.

  3. How about this... I scanned a photo of Tamson at my wife's mother's home a few weeks ago. Her great uncle was John Vernon Kirby and Tamson's name was written in his handwriting on the back of the photo. I also, have a picture of Robert Phares Kirby and a picture of Phoebe Graham his first wife in Illinois.

    1. That is so cool! Would you be willing to send me a copy of both photos (and the backs if you scanned them also)? I would really appreciate it. My email address is dspurlock(dot)ancestraltrees(at)gmail(dot)com