Family History Moment: Woman’s 2-Year Search Finally Yields Answers

Contributed By Marsha NcKneely Ault, Longview Texas Stake

  • 8 August 2017

A FamilySearch.org entry and a kind volunteer help a woman complete her search for an ancestor.

On April 8, I noticed on my third-great-grandmother’s FamilySearch.org page that a man named Charlie Black had added two new sources. I sent him a message asking if he was kin to Hannah Lawson. He quickly replied, “No, but I may be distantly related to her husband.”

I was so excited. He shared with me that he had just found a petition to probate a will for a John D. Lawson in which there were more than 70 Lawson descendants named.

For over two years, I had been searching for Hannah’s husband. I found in census records that Hannah was a widow. She was born in 1794 in Dutchess County, New York. She lived in Seneca, New York, for more than 30 years. She died there in 1862.

She had an unmarried daughter named Norilla who lived with her. She was also the mother of my great-great-grandmother Frances Susan Lawson, who married George Perry Knight.

In the early 1850s, George and Frances moved by covered wagon to Bexar County, Texas, leaving their youngest son, Francis (Frank), with Hannah and Norilla. I know that it had to be a crushing decision for Frances to leave her baby in New York knowing she most likely would never see him or her mother again in this life.

Later that Saturday night, Charlie put the original copy of the handwritten petition online so I could magnify it and read it for myself.

He told me that Hannah’s husband, James, was a brother of John D. Lawson. Hannah’s name was not in the will, but it referred to “James Lawson deceased who left eight children.” Then, seven of the eight children were listed, one son and six daughters, including Norilla Lawson of Geneva, Ontario, New York, and Frances S. Knight, wife of George Knight of Canandaigua, Ontario, New York.

I shed tears when a few weeks later, with the help of patrons and workers in the Houston Texas Temple, they became a forever family. I felt Hannah near. For two years I had felt her presence in my life. I will not stop looking for number eight.

Charlie Black is not a member of the Church, but he volunteers at a Church family history center in South Carolina. He was indeed an answer to my prayer.