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- A Genealogical Sojourn -

How I Got Started With My Search

Background: In the fall of 1976, while attending Florida Jr. College, I was invited to dinner at a friend's home in Jacksonville, FL. He had invited two of us to join his family for Sunday dinner. The other guest was a young lady from Palatka, Fl, who just happened to be a Middleton. We were almost through dinner before we realized that we had the same last name. After this revelation, she mentioned that she was related to Arthur Middleton, signer of the Declaration of Independence. I exclaimed that I had been told the same thing, which would make us cousins. She (I forget her given name) invited me to visit her family in Palatka and said that I might want to borrow a book that her father had on "The Middleton Family." Well, that's cool! We rated a book!

My First Trip: Early the next week I pointed my '68 VW Bug south on U.S. Highway 17 and drove the 60 miles to Palatka. As I drove toward the center of town it became apparent that the family I was going to visit was a prominent family in the area. I passed the Middleton Shopping Center, noticed a Middleton Real Estate office, and met my friend in a 2-story boathouse overlooking the St. John's River where her father was living. After a few hours of small talk and family trivia I borrowed the book and headed home.

My Middleton Line: I spent the next few days pouring over the book looking for tidbit of information about my family. All I really knew about my Middleton heritage was that my father was born in Frisco City, AL, and everyone I met there called him by his middle name: Emmit. Since my parents were divorced I didn't see my Father, or anyone on his side of the family very often. I had managed a few visits to my Grandfather's house in Frisco City before he died in the mid-fifties. I have fond memories of my few visits. I can still remember the wonderful smells of the kitchen, with its wood burning stove, where Miss Emma cooked Sunday dinner. I can remember the huge, wrap-around, 2-story porch on this, the largest house in town. I can remember chasing Papa Fate's young bull one year, and being chased by the bull on my next visit. Why was there no mention of my Alabama Middletons in "The Middleton Book?" (picture of my Grandfather's house.)

Family Input: Over the next few weeks I made phone calls to family members that amounted to interviewing my Aunts and Uncles. I was able to piece together a tree that didn't go very far, but had a lot of branches. Then, someone told me about a cousin, Winifred Tallman of Archer, FL, who had been working on our family tree for years. I made telephone contact with Winifred and drove to Archer for a visit. Her input allowed me to skip back another generation to Henry Holloway Middleton, my Great Grandfather.

The Search Begins: Armed with this information I visited the Main Branch of the Jacksonville Public Library where I started my search. This library has an excellent Genealogy Section. I had access to all census record from 1790 to 1870 on microfilm for the state of Alabama. I started with the 1870 Soundex that was a product of the depression era where the entire 1870 Census was placed on index cards. This is a great starting point for research because it tells you in which Census Beat the family resided. This information allows you to find your family much more easily in the census. I spent a few weeks searching census records finding lots of Middleton's living in the Monroe County area. But, I could not tie them together.

My Next Trip: I can't remember when I returned the Middleton Book to Palatka, but I must have. I wanted my own copy which, prompted me to contact the author, Beth Bland Engel. She was very gracious and invited me to visit and pick up a copy. Beth was living in Brunswick, GA, which was only an hour away. I figured it was a chance to get the book and to quiz her on my Middleton line. Armed with my files I headed up I-95 on my next genealogy related trek.

WOW!: Beth lived in a beautiful Victoria brick home near downtown Brunswick. She had furnished her home with some of the most beautiful antiques I had ever seen. We chatted about her adventures writing her book. It was interesting to learn that many early Middleton first went to Barbados, before coming to the colonies. It seems that there are a lot of graves with Middleton headstones in Barbados. She talked about the LDS library in Salt Lake City, UT, and people she met in England. But, she knew nothing about the Middleton's of Alabama. During my visit I was also introduced to Beth's Mother: Ina Middleton Bland. Ina was nicknamed "Sweetheart"

I Found it!: Beth allowed me to search through her files where she kept hundreds of letters that she had received while researching and writing her book. All I could do was look for letters that had references to names that I already knew, or that mentioned Alabama. After many hours of reading I found a typed note from Lillie Mae Middleton dated March 21, 1963. I remember her as being my Father's 1st cousins, and Winifred's Mother. In the middle of the page was this information: "His Grandfather was Jeptha Middleton, born Jan 20th 1812." Beth had underlined all references on the page in red. Nowhere on the page did it say that this Middleton family was from Alabama. No wonder Beth knew nothing about us.

This is easy!: Armed with this new information I poured over the census records again, but was still having trouble. I was comparing names in each family from census to census, but could not find a match for Jeptha showing my Gr-Grandfather Henry H. Middleton in his household. Then I tried a trick that I had read about and pronounced the names of the children; a match jumped out. It seems that in 1850 Jeptha Middleton was listed as Joseph Middleton and many of the children's names were misspelled. Cynthia Middleton's first name was listed as Syntha. I was able to determine that Jeptha was born in SC and that his wife Rebecca was born in GA from census information.

More searching I spent at least a year trying to find out where in SC Jeptha was born. I visited Monroe Co., AL, where I went from town to town asking about the Middletons. I was able to find out a lot of information about descendants of Jeptha, but no one knew his ancestors. Someone told me about the house where Henry H. Middleton had lived and about a cemetery in a field behind the house. It was in the Old Texas area off of the Old Federal Highway. I found the house and the cemetery, but I only remember one small headstone. It was the burial site of Judge E. Middleton, who died before the age of 3 on January 30, 1879. He was a son of Henry.

The Brick Wall I was becoming very frustrated with the lack of results. I felt that my efforts had run into a brick wall. I had no idea where to turn for help. So, doing the only thing that sounded reasonable I quit, packed up the pages of research and started playing with computers.

A Lesson Learned One thing I learned in my quests that was a startling revelation: some family members could care less about their family heritage! My Uncle Bob was one of those. It took me a while to accept that. I found that others can talk about the family forever. So if you have older living relatives, talk to them now and write down everything they have to say. When they are gone it is too late, and regrets don't help.

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