Sunday, January 1, 2012


The story is handed down...

Back in the late 1970's my parents took our family on a trip to see Ralph Sterling Bartlett (my great-grandfather) in Chillicothe, Missouri. My grandparents, Wayne and Rita were there also and I have a picture taken during the visit. In this picture are four generations of Bartlett's in the same place, at the same time. We were all there to attend an Albertson family reunion. Ralph's wife (my great-grandmother) was Floy Albertson. Unfortunately, I was never able to meet her, as she had passed before I was born. This event may have been one of the first times that four generations of direct Bartlett descendants had ever met in our particular branch of the family tree, at least in the history that I've researched, it was. During our visit I was captivated by what a time capsule his house was. He had lots of old pictures, furniture, and a large wooden console radio from the late 1930's. I was absolutely convinced that if I had turned it on it would have played music from that era. Being there felt as if I was being taken back in time. This made a huge impression on me and it began my fascination with family history and history in general that continues to this day.



Four Generations of Bartlett's

[Back] Tom, Wayne, Ralph
[Front] Brian, Mike, John

Ralph always seemed to have a tie on and he always had a story to tell. A lot of those stories were about our Bartlett family history. During this particular trip, he told me about Josiah Bartlett, who he said was a grandfather of ours and that he lived during the Revolutionary War. He told me that Josiah was a famous patriot and that he had been a signer of the Declaration of Independence and that his name was signed right under John Hancock's. Ralph knew how to tell a story. He had been a school teacher at one time and he obviously loved to talk about history. Ralph had also made a living as a salesman during the Great Depression. And judging from how good he was at telling a story, I'll bet he did pretty well back then. His mere presence commanded attention, and I was all ears. I never thought to look into our history any further, because I had heard it straight from my great-grandfather and that was good enough for me. I must admit that after that trip, I couldn't wait to tell all my friends at school that one of my great-grandfathers had signed the Declaration of Independence. My great-grandfather told me so, had to be true...right? I didn't give it a second thought. I had gone almost 30 years believing that.

Ralph passed away a few years later. But, before he did, he made one last visit to Wayne & Rita's house (my grandparents) and shared some more of our family history. This time he focused on his grandfather Solomon and his grandmother, Elizabeth (Braden). He spoke of how Solomon had died in the Civil War and he even had framed pictures of them. Those pictures seem to have been lost to our branch of the family for the last 25 years since his passing. After Ralph died, I would hear more about Ralph's life and how he had once gone off to work in Alaska and that he had also run for a local political office. But I still don't know the details of those events. Now that I'm older, there are so many more questions I wish I could have asked him. Ralph was blessed with a long life. He lived to the age of 93 and he still remains the longest-living Bartlett patriarch in our family line. I was honored to know him and I will always have fond memories of him. I've obtained copies of Solomon & Elizabeth's pictures through Ronald Braden Bartlett, a cousin of ours who descends from Hugh Marshall Bartlett, brother of Addison. Addison, of course, was Ralph's father. Those pictures along with other items including newspaper articles written by Ralph are included later in this history and were also provided by our cousin Ron. I'm very thankful to him for the information he was so gracious to share with our branch of the family.

Separating Fact from Fiction, Myth from Reality

It's fun to think that someone in your family is famous. For some, having the same last name is all the confirmation that you need. But the older I became, the more I started to wonder just who came before us that I didn't know about yet. How Many great-grandfathers did I have to count before I came to Josiah? I finally decided to find out. Famous Bartlett's include: Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire, the most famous of all Bartlett’s; Signer of The Declaration, famed doctor, judge, governor and patriot. Another would be the John Bartlett who created “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations”. Then there’s the Bartlett (Enoch, from Massachusetts) who named that pear after himself. There are other famous Bartlett’s I’m sure I’m forgetting as well. Now, I really hate to have to tell you this, but the only thing those Bartlett’s have in common with us is that we share the same last name. The “Josiah Myth” it seems runs in most families with the last name of Bartlett. Only a few Bartlett’s can actually claim him as a direct descendant since he left few male heirs. Unfortunately, we are not among them.

In researching family history, it is amazing to see how much a family can branch out. When you consider that there are a thousand-plus years since the Bartlett name originated, the number of Bartlett’s today are endless. Attempting to link together the many branches of this family seems unattainable now, even when researching the first Bartlett’s to come to the New World. So many of them came over at different times and at different locations it becomes an impossible task. One of the first Bartlett’s to cross the ocean was named Robert, who came to America from Puddleton, Dorset, England on the ship “Anne” in 1623. Robert happened to travel on the “Anne” with a Mary Warren who along with her mother and four sisters made the trip to meet up with their father Richard Warren, who came over on the Mayflower three years prior. Robert and Mary were married in 1628 in Plymouth, Massachusetts and had eight children (two sons and six daughters). It is this family that many American Bartlett families hope to claim as their own and it is here where the claim to be a “Mayflower Family” frequently ends in frustration without any verified link.

It has been said that all Bartlett lines could eventually be linked together going back to England and possibly even further back to Adam de Berthelot in Normandy to the year 1066 when he invaded England with William the Conqueror. And yes, that could mean that we would have to claim some French in our family origins. Claims could even be attempted all the way back to the original Berthelot, nephew of Charlemagne, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire born around the year 800 A.D. But….I’ll just take their word for it. Who’s got time to check into that? The lack of a paper trail can make researching family history an extremely frustrating experience. My search certainly has been affected by the lack of available records as well as the commonality of first names used by Bartlett’s through the generations. My personal brick wall currently preventing me from going back any further than the mid-1700’s is named Nathaniel, or is his name Thomas? Nathaniel and Thomas were two of the most popular names at that time. Even more amazing was the number of Nathaniel’s and Thomas’ that had sons named John. Finding the right ancestor is made even more difficult when it is unknown exactly where they lived at the time. Before Kentucky, John lived in North Carolina and prior to that, most likely Virginia. But his father could have hailed from Virginia, Maryland or elsewhere.

Thanks to websites devoted to family genealogy it’s possible, even for novices like me, to go back 200-plus years. But there is still the danger of believing everything you read. Many of these sites are filled with the same incorrect information handed down from generation to generation. Only now it’s in an even more user-friendly form ready to be immediately added to your family history whether it’s true or not. It is important to consult multiple sources and to cross-check names and dates no matter how tempting it may be to add a story or famous relative to your family’s back-story. You are only depriving yourself of the truth and causing potential embarrassment to future generations who are all too eager to brag to their friends all about their famous ancestor over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the school lunch table. One such entry I came across was on a Bartlett Family Research site. It included a Biography of Frank B. Beauchamp, M.D. It mentions his mother, Lydia and her father, John. What I found sounded too good to be true. Here is the mention of John taken directly from the biography written in the late 19th century.

Dr. BEAUCHAMP's mother was born in South Carolina, and was a daughter of John BARTLETT, who married a Miss FALKNER, a native of South Carolina came to Kentucky about 1792, and later in life located at Skagg's Station, in Green County. While a boy he was captured in the mountain regions of South Carolina by Indians and held captive five years. He was a captain in the war of 1812, was at Chippewa Plains, and, it is said, was the first discoverer of gold in North Carolina. After a number of years' residence in Kentucky, he returned to North Carolina and explored the gold fields, and during these explorations died. John BARTLETT was a son of Nathaniel BARTLETT, of Welsh descent.

Well, it would appear that it is too good to be true. John, you see, is the oldest known link in our family line. John did marry a Miss Priscilla Falkner from South Carolina and their family did move from North Carolina to Kentucky at some time in the late 1780’s or early 1790’s, eventually ending up in Green County. As I mentioned earlier, John’s father appears to have been named Nathaniel according to several different sources. But claims exist that his name was Thomas. Beyond what I’ve mentioned, this blurb about Lydia’s father seems extremely embellished. It is hard to believe that John could’ve been captured by Indians and held for five years...and lived to tell about it, but what a story that is! John, from evidence that I’ve found, was most likely a soldier during the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, this fact has yet to be positively confirmed. Regardless, John died long before the War of 1812, around eleven years prior. And if John being captured by Indians isn’t enough, also being the first discoverer of gold in North Carolina seems to send this completely over the top. I would love nothing more than to prove the claims of John’s Indian capture and his finding gold to be true. But I’ve yet to find any evidence of this whatsoever. Claims of this nature should be chalked up as pure fiction until proven otherwise. Whatever John’s real story, the mystery of his origins continues to feed the legend.

It’s no wonder that so many family myths and assumptions have been created over time. Early family history was mostly handed down in the verbal tradition over the years. No pictures, no family movies, no world wide web. There was no easy way to check for accuracy beyond the word of a relative, who had that story passed down from another, and so on. This, I would assume, would have been how great-grandpa Ralph obtained much of his information. He did claim to have done some research, but his resources would not have been nearly as numerous or accessible as they are today. Many records are now available through online state archives or genealogy websites. The information I’ve put together here is as correct and as accurate as possible. I’ve left out some information for lack of any credible second or third sources. Even some of what I’ve put together from corresponding sources still has a sense of mystery; especially some of what’s presented before 1800. Not being able to be present at these events in our family history, nor having any surviving first-hand accounts written by those generations, leaves us to fill in the blanks with any surviving documents and using locations and dates to establish a plausible storyline.

If I am eventually to be found wrong about anything at least there is some documentation that would support what I believed to be true rather then just taking someone’s word for it. What I’ve assembled here has been researched to the best of my ability but should still be considered a work in progress. As such, it is subject to revisions and corrections as other facts become available. I want this to be as correct a family history as possible and that may take some time to sort out details that have yet to be discovered. What I’ve found is pretty interesting even without stories of Indian capture and finding gold. If you have any doubts regarding this history I’m presenting, then I encourage you to not just take my word for it. It sure would have been nice for an ancestor of ours to have already written all this down, but the challenge is there for you to fill in the blanks and the truth is out there somewhere waiting to be discovered.

You are more than welcome to use this information as a starting point for your own search. After all, this is our family history. In my research, I have come across many distant family members on various genealogy sites researching our common ancestors. None of them have gone back any farther than I have with any certainty. So we are not alone in our continuing quest to find our family’s first Bartlett(s) to cross the ocean or whether we can positively, without a doubt, claim a family participant in the Revolutionary War. The embellished biography entry previously mentioned does state that John was a soldier, but it placed him in war he couldn’t possibly have participated in. I am currently researching information on John and the events that brought him and his family to Kentucky. Hopefully, more research can finally bring some closure to John's origins and allow us to expand our history even further.
I’ve divided our family history by state of residence and decade. This starts with The Bartlett’s of Kentucky, which covers the years 1790 - 1855. This documents our family after their arrival in Kentucky. It includes their history in Green, Barren and Monroe Counties and covers events up until their move to Missouri in 1855. The next is The Bartlett’s of Missouri during the years 1855 - 1899 and 1900 - 1950. These two sections include our history in Sullivan and Livingston Counties. It covers details of Solomon Bartlett’s service in the Civil War. It also later includes some of Wayne Bartlett’s experience in World War II. At the end of these sections is a family line chart simply stating names and order of descent. Our history post-Missouri should be considered common knowledge to this point so I will leave it to a future family historian to continue our story where I’ve left off.


A section on Ralph S. Bartlett (my great-grandfather & the inspiration for this project) includes letters written by Ralph and published that recount his early years in terrific detail . Also included are some of his personal genealogy research and letters. The Research section is simply a place to share some of the ongoing research I've been working on. My current research is in regards to John's whereabouts before our family entered Kentucky. This information contained in this area is not to be considered a part of our actual family history...yet. Please take whatever is contained in this section with a healthy dose of skepticism. For now, we’ll begin in the early 1790’s with a man who still holds the answers to our family’s early history in America. His name is John.