Sunday, January 1, 2012

End of the Line Descendants: Sarah Ann (Harrison) Sellers (1850-1921)

We all have "end of the line" ancestors, those great+ grandparents of how-ever-many-generations that we either have not yet traced, or who seem to be our brick walls.  They are the pot of gold we so often seek.

But what about the "end of the line descendants" - the people on our family trees who never married, or if they did, had no children?  They may be identified with a name, birth date, and death date on a family group sheet, but like Rodney Dangerfield used to say, they otherwise seem to "get no respect."  But they were real people, with real lives, real joys, and real sorrows, and they deserve to have their story told.

It isn't unusual for me to find myself piecing together the life of a distant cousin, aunt, or uncle only to have it finally click in my brain:  that person left no descendants.  Who will remember them and tell their story?  Perhaps I'm subconsciously drawn to them because some day, I will join their ranks.

One such distant shirttail relative of mine was Sarah Ann Harrison. While at least ten public trees at Ancestry name Sarah's father, Henry Brooks Harrison, only six record her name.  Of those, only one person (who has two at least partially duplicate trees) has attached any census records, and he identified just three of the six censuses on which she should appear.  One tree names her husband as John Sellers, and none include a source citation for her marriage to Hiram Sellers.  No single Ancestry public tree included her complete date and place of birth, the date and place of her marriage, the name of her husband, and the dates and places of her death and burial, even though most of the information is readily available online.[1]

Although this level of incompleteness is not unusual for many online family trees, it may be especially common for "end of the line" people like Sarah.  So, to set the record straight, Sarah Ann Harrison, the only child of Henry B. Harrison and his first wife Euseba Evans, was born probably on 10 Oct 1850 in Greene Co., Tennessee.[2]  Her parents had married nine months earlier on 19 Jan 1850 in Greene County.[3]  Sarah married at the age of 35, on 1 Nov 1885 in Harrison Co., Missouri, the widower Hiram C. Sellers.[4]  She died on 29 Jun 1921 in Ridgeway, Harrison Co., Missouri and was buried the next day in the Ridgeway Cemetery.[5]

I can't tell Sarah's full story without research in records not available online, but I can easily develop a basic timeline that tells me where geographically to look.  If you have access to, you can see the rest of that outline here.[6]  If you don't, here is what it more or less looks like (you can read this chart, at least on my set-up, by clicking on the image, then right click, View Image, then enlarge):

Unfortunately, when a public tree profile is printed, the links to websites outside Ancestry, like Sarah's burial information at FindAGrave and the Harrison County, Missouri USGenWeb page, are not included.

From the online databases and images that formed the basis of this outline, the bits and pieces of a story for Sarah begin to emerge.  As is often the case, there is conflicting evidence to be resolved, such as whether she was born in 1849 or 1850.  I will demonstrate how to begin to tell a more complete story for Sarah and resolve the conflicts in a subsequent post.

[1] Data based upon a search completed 31 Dec 2011 using the Recent Member Connect and Family Tree Hints feature at
[2] "Missouri Death Certificates," digital images, Missouri State Archives, Missouri Digital Heritage ( : accessed 31 December 2011), death certificate 14635 (1921), Sarah A. Sellers.
[3] "Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002," database and images, ( : accessed 31 December 2011), for Henry B Harrison and Eusebia Evens (1850); citing Tennessee State Library and Archives microfilm, not further identified; from unspecified Greene Co. marriage register, p. 332, marriage 1759.
[4] Harrison Co. Genealogical Society, Harrison County, Missouri Marriage Records (1881-1899) (Bethany, Missouri: n.p., 1988), p. 49; citing Book 1, p. 416.
[5] "Missouri Death Certificates," death certificate 14635 (1921), Sarah A. Sellers.  Also, Phil Stewart, cemetery surveyor, "Henry or Ridgeway Cemetery, Harrison County, MO," database, Harrison County, MO Cemeteries ( : accessed 31 December 2011), for Sarah A. Sellers and ( : accessed 31 December 2011), Find A Grave Memorial# 21747604 for Sarah A. Sellers.
[6] Connie Sheets, "Milligan-McCollum Families of Greene Co. TN and Harrison Co. MO," database, ( : accessed 31 Dec 2011), for Sarah Ann Harrison.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful words about "end of the line" descendants. I am aware of several in my family, and I have thought I would like to write a tribute to them. One I knew personally, my father's spinster aunt, was an important person in my life; also, my mother's married-but-childless aunt was an important mentor to her.

    I am curious about how widespread it is to have no descendants (whether that means no children, or children but no grandchildren, etc). I was trying to find information on this when I came across this page. It's easy to find information on who IS an ancestor, but not on who IS NOT an ancestor. As you say, these were real people with meaningful lives, and they deserve our respect.