Sunday, October 19, 2014

How to Build a Brick Wall

English Bond Brick Wall
source: Wikimedia Commons

We spend a lot of our research time trying to break through brick walls.  Sometimes, though, our time is spend building them.  That is what has happened concerning my 3 GGrandmother Penelope Willingham Camp.  As long as I'm going to construct a brick wall, it might as well be a good one.

In 1840 Penelope Willingham Camp and her husband Edmund Kennedy Camp were living in Walton County, Georgia, according to the federal census.  The tally marks on the census page show they had 6 children under the age of 15.  When Edmund died in June of 1848, the family appeared to then be living in Cobb County, Georgia as Edmund was buried in Citizens Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.(1)  Penelope was left a widow with three children who were probably still living at home, Mary age 15, Josiah age 13, and Lydia age 11.

My brick wall started to be constructed when I tried to locate Penelope, Mary, Josiah, and Lydia Caroline over the ensuing 20 years.  I have used a variety of research strategies in its construction over the past six months.

Technique 1:  Look for Penelope Camp using a variety of spellings for her name, especially searching for Kamp and Kemp.  Granted, I primarily used census records on, but I was not able to find any listing for Penelope Camp in either the 1850 or 1860 census records.  Furthermore, I did not locate Mary, Josiah, or Lydia Caroline in the 1850 census.  A mother and three children shouldn't just disappear like that.

Technique 2:  See if Penelope Camp was living with any of her children.  By 1850 three of Penelope's children were living away from home, two of them married with families of their own.  However, there was no census record indicating that Penelope was living with her older sons Raleigh Spinks Camp, William Brooks Camp, or Thomas Lumpkin Camp.  In the 1860 census Penelope was still missing.  Again, no record of her living with sons Raleigh, William, or Thomas.  In addition, two daughters were now married, but Penelope was not listed in the 1860 census as living with Mary Camp Adams or Lydia Camp Hardage.  Like Penelope, son Josiah Camp was nowhere to be found in the 1860 census, probably because Josiah was on his way to Texas.

Technique 3:  Check if Penelope Camp was living with any of her siblings.  This part of the wall took a while to construct as I hadn't spent much time researching Penelope's parents and siblings, almost all of whom were living in Walton County, Georgia for the 1850 census.  And none of them had Penelope or her younger children living with them.  Not brothers Raleigh Willingham, William Brooks Willingham, or sisters Lucretia Willingham Needham or Mary Willingham Burnham.  The same was true for the 1860 census.  No record of Penelope living with the previously mentioned siblings or with brother John Kyle Willingham or sister Rachel Willingham Davis.  Where was Penelope?

Technique 4:  Search different databases.  Because I have a subscription, I generally start my online research with  After striking out there in my search for Penelope, I turned to and then the basic portion of  I even used the Genealogy Search Engine of Genealogy in Time.  Still no trace of Penelope between 1848 and 1860.

There is one small hole in the brick wall.  The records for Josiah Camp include a statement filed in Cobb County, Georgia, on 11 Nov 1862.(2)  This is the statement of Penelope Camp to secure a pension following the death of her son Josiah Camp.  At least in Nov of 1862, Penelope Camp was in Cobb County, Georgia.

Technique 5:  Read through the Camp Family Letters.  During the past year I transcribed the letters in the Camp Family Papers of Emory University.(3)  They provided material for a number of posts I wrote between April and June of 2014.  I decided it was time to read through all the transcriptions once again, looking for references to Penelope Camp, the mother of Raleigh, Josiah, and Thomas, authors of the majority of the letters.  Here I found a few interesting tidbits that referred to Penelope Camp and her unsettled home life.
  • On 19 Nov 1860, Josiah Camp wrote to sister-in-law Mary "you dont know how I hate to hear of my Dear Mother being without a Settled house this way"
  • On 5 Dec 1862, Raleigh Camp wrote to sister-in-law Mary "[I] want you to tell Mother not to leave for home as I am very anxious to see her indeed".  [So where was Penelope?]
  • On 25 Jun 1864, Thomas Camp wrote to his wife Mary "Mother and Polly had to leave home; they have been of late on the old home place. ...They were moved by the government." 
  • On 27 Jun 1864, Raleigh's wife Laura wrote to Mary Camp "The last [Raleigh] heard is that his mother and Polly have taken refuge at Mr. Molls, having been ordered to leave their home."
  • on 10 Oct 1864, Thomas wrote to his wife Mary "Lydia says she want you to write to Mother and for Mother to get her things from Uncle Kiles [Penelope's brother John Kyle Willingham]."

By 1870, life for Penelope seemed to be more stable.  She is recorded in the 1870 census as living near her widowed daughter-n-law Julia Miles Camp in Marietta, Cobb County, Georgia.

Just where was Penelope Camp between the death of her husband in July 1848 and her pension application in November 1862?  I still don't know.  For now, the brick wall remains.  If anyone has a sledge hammer or even a small chisel to pass on, I'll be glad to put it to use on my brick wall.

(1) FindAGrave. Memorial #54854143 for Edmund Kennedy Camp. : 2014.
(2) "Josiah Camp", Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Georgia. : 2014.
(3)  "Camp Family Papers". Manuscript and Rare Book Library, Emory University, Decatur, Georgia.

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