Brick Wall Case Studies #20: Finding a Tennessee woman's parents without a birth record

Prudence was born before birth records were kept in Tennessee and wasn't listed on any census records with her parents. Studying the families in the area where she married, census records, Revolutionary War pension files, and Daughters of the American Revolution records led to her probable father.

What We Knew

  • According to family documents, Prudence Ross was born 18 April 1808. She married William T Cypert on 27 February 1825 in Wayne County, Tennessee. She died 6 June 1875 in Searcy, White, Arkansas.
  • Prudence was listed in the 1850 census with her husband and children in Tishomingo County, Mississippi. She was listed as age 41 born in Tennessee.
  • Prudence was listed in the 1860 census with her husband and children in the 1860 census in Searcy County, Arkansas. She was listed as age 33 and born in Tennessee. (Her age was clearly listed incorrectly in this particular census as every other record listed her as born in 1808.)
  • Prudence was listed in the 1870 census in Searcy County, Arkansas. She was listed as age 62 and born in Tennessee.

Records We Located

  • Because we knew that Prudence Ross was married in 1825 in Wayne County, Tennesse we looked at the 1820 and 1830 census for Ross families in the area. There was only one Ross family in the 1820 census in Wayne County and that was the George Ross family. He had daughters, one that matched the age of Prudence. In 1830 this same George Ross was listed in the 1830 census in Hardin County, which was next to Wayne County. (The Cypert family that Prudence married into was also listed in the Wayne County in the 1820 census.)
  • Because George Ross seemed the most likely candidate as the father of Prudence, we looked for more information about him. We learned that George Ross had been a Revolutionary War soldier. He filed a pension which we located on Though the pension file didn't name his wife and children it did state that George Ross came from South Carolina, that he also lived in Maury County in Tennessee and also that he lived in Hardin County where he died.
  • We looked at the databases of the Daughters of the American Revolution. They had 7 documented children in their database including John, Charles, Sarah, Eleanor, Morgan, Elizabeth, and Isaac. The documented children matched the known census records, except for one daughter who was not identified yet matched perfectly someone the age of Prudence. There was also a gap in the known children of George Ross in 1808 when Prudence was born. So it seemed very likely that Prudence did belong to this family.
  • Autosomal DNA evidence of descendants of Prudence was found to match known children of George Ross. mtDNA evidence is still in progress as well.


The parents of Prudence Ross appear to be George Ross and Edna Elizabeth Walker. The documents and sources we gathered are found on the person page of George Gray and his family members in the FamilySearch Family Tree, ID LZGM-SFJ.

Need help finding more records? Try our genealogical records directory which has more than 1.3 million sources to help you more easily locate the available records.

Related Topics