Taking An Alternate Route to Find Your Ancestor

17 Jun

I have recently been doing research for a client in order to try to find the parents of her ancestor, William Stepp/Stapp who was born about 1803.  The first real proof we had of him was his appearance on the 1850 census in Floyd Co., IN.  He was listed as 48 years old at that time.  His birthplace was given as NC.  He again appeared in Floyd Co. in 1860 and 1870; and died there in 1873.  The 1860 census gave his age as 57; and his birthplace as TN.  The 1870 census gave his age as 65; and his birthplace as NC.  So….  we have 3 census records which list a birthplace.  2 of those show NC.  This tells me that it is very likely he was born in North Carolina; but probably had been in Tennessee prior to his arrival in Indiana.

Early on, I searched for other Stepp/Stapp households in Floyd County; hoping to find other possible relatives.  Unfortunately; there were no others there.  So…. I proceeded to do a thorough analysis of the census records of William’s household.  According to the 1850 census, William’s oldest child; Minerva was born in Tennessee.  She was 16 years old at that time.  This told me that William was in Tennessee by or before 1834; when Elizabeth was born.  The children following Minerva were ages 14, 13, 10, 8, 7, 5, 3 and 2. All of those were born in Indiana.  This told me that William was in Indiana by about 1838.

Knowing William was in Indiana before 1840, I then proceeded to search for him on the 1840 census in Indiana.  There were no Stepp/Stapp households in Floyd County in 1840.  However; I found a William Stepp in Pike County, Indiana; whose age was in the correct category to be this William.  His wife’s age was also in the correct category.  Additionally; the sex and ages of the other children were also a match.  I knew this must be him.

I decided then to search for other Stepp/Stapp’s in Pike County.  Once again, I found no others!  I needed a lead.

From other records, I knew that William’s wife was Elizabeth Turley.  I also knew from census records; that she was born in South Carolina.  Nothing else was known about her or her family.  Since Turley seemed to me to be an uncommon surname; I decided to check the Floyd County census records for Turley’s in 1850.  I found only one person by the surname of Turley.  This was an Elizabeth Turley; who had been born in SC!  She was 55 years old in 1850; and was living with a Leonard and Permelia Shaw.  Permelia was 27 years old.  I immediately suspected that Mary may have been Permelia’s mother.  A search of the Floyd County marriage records revealed that Leonard Shaw indeed married Permelia Turley in 1843.

At this point, I have evidence to suggest that William’s wife, Elizabeth Turley; may have been a sister of Permelia; and a daughter of Mary.  Now I need to try to find out who the husband of Mary was.  Since Permelia married in Floyd County in 1843; there was a good chance that his family was in Floyd County in 1840.  A quick search of the 1840 Floyd County census revealed a Charles Turley household.  Charles was 50-59 years old.  He had a daughter 15-19 who matched the age of Permelia from the 1850 census.  Additionally; Shaw’s were living nearby!

Now I have a pretty good hypothesis as to who the father of Permelia was; and probably Elizabeth’s father.

I decided at this point to try to find other clues as to Charles Turley.  Doing some creative searching online; I found a family tree someone had posted in which they claimed another daughter of Charles Turley had married in Rhea County, Tennessee in 1828.  Since I was at the library that day; I immediately went to the bookshelves to the section where the Rhea County books were.  I found a book of transcribed marriage records of Rhea County; and indeed verified that a Malinda Turley married there in 1828.

I then searched for Charles Turley on the 1830 census in Rhea County.  I did not find him there.  In fact; I could not find a Charles Turley in Tennessee anywhere in 1830!

My client already “suspected” that another William Stepp; who was living in McMinn County, Tennessee in 1830; may have been the father of her William Stepp.  Prior to the creation of Meigs County in 1836; McMinn County bordered Rhea County.  Although I could find no Charles Turley in McMinn or Rhea County in 1830; I still suspected that he was there; and probably indexed incorrectly on the ancestry census records.  Since I had already searched the 1830 census in Rhea and McMinn counties for other possible spellings of Turley; I decided to take things a step father.  I searched the McMinn County census (1830) for only the first name of Charles; and noticed ancestry listed a Charles “Parley” there.  I immediately knew I needed to take a look at that census; and did so.  Looking closely at this Charles; his name was Charles “Turley”.  His age and the ages and sex of his children matched those from the 1840 Floyd County, Indiana census.  And; because he had a daughter that had married in the bordering county of Rhea in 1828; I knew this must be him.

Okay…… back to our real subject of interest; William Stepp.  Although we had no marriage date for William Stepp and Elizabeth Turley; I knew they must have married about 1831 because their first child was born about 1833/34.  Unfortunately; no marriage record was found for William and Elizabeth in Rhea County.  Having found Charles Turley (likely father of Elizabeth) in McMinn County in 1830; I decided to check those marriage records.  Unfortunately; only a few of the earliest McMinn County marriage records exist.

Now the big clue!  Charles Turley was found living right next door to the William Stepp whom my client suspected was father of her William Stepp (born 1803)!  This pretty much clinches it.  Charles Turley was found in Floyd County, Indiana; where William Stepp and his wife, Elizabeth Turley were living by 1850.  I knew William Step and Elizabeth had their first child about 1833 in Tennessee.  We suspected William was a son of another William Stepp found in McMinn County, Tennessee in 1830.  Finally; I found Charles Turley living next door to this elder William Stepp in McMinn County in 1830.

Without finding a document that absolutely states that William Stepp was the son of William Stepp; this evidence is about as strong as it gets.  There is little doubt now that William Stepp (1803) was the son of William Stepp.

The end…

Be sure to check out my main website where I offer many free lookups and well as “research” at


Posted by on June 17, 2014 in General Genealogy


6 responses to “Taking An Alternate Route to Find Your Ancestor

  1. Mike

    June 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Enjoyable & informative as always

  2. digginbones

    June 19, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it, Mike.

  3. Alex

    February 21, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    I found this article very informative and interesting, especially as I am an ancestor of William Stepp and Elizabeth Turley. I have been doing a lot of research on William (I hope to become a professional genealogist myself); unfortunately, I have not been able to trace the line any further back than you have here. Thank you for the information!

    • Judy (Stepp) Flook

      June 1, 2015 at 5:48 pm

      My grandfather was George Dallas Stepp. His parents were William (born 1802 in NC. and Elizabeth Turley born 1814. Children were Minerva 1834, James 1835, Jacob 1836, Henry 1840, Polly 1842, David 1843, Crawford 1845, George Dallas 1845, William 1848, Lavinia 1851, Peter 1855, Albert 1856. This information came from the Library in Fort Wayne Indiana. William is buried in Clark Co. Indiana and died in 1873. Hope this helps!

      • digginbones

        June 1, 2015 at 11:13 pm

        Hi Judy. I appreciate your taking the time to reply to this article in my bog regarding the Stepp family. In this case; my client already was aware of William Stepp and Elizabeth Turley; as well as their children. The specific goal with the research in this case, was to find the parents of William Stepp. According to my research (details in the article in my blog); it appears that the father of William Stepp (born about 1803) was likely another William Stepp; who was found living near Charles Turley in McMinn Co., TN at the time of the 1830 census.


        June 2, 2015 at 1:27 am


         In my comment I made a typo. George Dallas Stepp was my Great Grandfather. Not Grandfather. My grandfather was his son, George Norris Stepp.


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