Will the real Thomas Babb, please stand up?

Franklin Cleveland Babb (aka Raymond James McKee)Today I am working to help a member understand the Babb ancestry of her grandfather Franklin Cleveland Babb, who was adopted in 1895 at the age of 2. His adoptive parents renamed him, Raymond James McKee; a name that would stick with him until the end of his days. Though his friends just called him Ray.

There were questions about what his father’s name really was, but it was believed to be Thomas Babb (Possibly Thomas Van Meter Babb). There were questions about why this child was given up for adoption and none of his other 4 living siblings. Little information was available to start my search, but we did have the original adoption records and found that it was an “Open” adoption, where both parties are privileged to know the identity of the other parents.

Through a stroke of luck/fate the person who had posted the Adoption record also had a variety of family pictures which showed that a relationship between the birth mother was maintained and provided the identity of his siblings. The mother is named as Irena, but as it all too common with peculiar first names, they are often misspelled. Progressing through the research, I’ve found her name spelled in a variety of ways, but most commonly as Arena. This presents a challenge when searching. Additionally, the 1890 Census burned many years ago and is not available for research. The father (presumed to be Thomas) isn’t listed, which indicates he was already out of the picture by 1895. Was there some dark family secret of infidelity that was hidden away and out of view?

The document helps us establish our fist facts about Arena. She is living in Des Moines, Iowa in 1895, so this is likely where she lived when separated from Thomas. It also establishes an approximate date of birth for Franklin (Ray) of 1893 (2 years old in 1895).

Franklin Babb adoption to McKees

The pictures unveiled a volley of information that helped me to reconstruct the family unit and validate the information we had about Franklin/Ray as he grew up. First amongst the pictures is an image of Arena with 5 of her 6 children (one died young). Franklin/Ray is the infant seated on her lap, so the picture dates to approximately 1893. His older siblings are: (Back Left) Harriett “Hattie” Eliza Babb, (Back Right) James Thomas Babb, (Front Left) Emma B. Babb and (Front Right) William Benton Babb. So far, I still didn’t have a date of birth for her, but knowing just Franklin’s date of birth gives me a good idea of the age of the woman I am looking for.

Arena (Liggins, Babb) & children

Next, there is an adorable picture of what appears to be a school play. Franklin/Ray is 2nd from the left on the back row. I’m not exceptionally good at Military History, but I think they are Union soldiers surrounding Uncle Sam. This would have been taken circa 1897. It doesn’t provide any context, but was so cute I had to add it.

Franklin Cleveland Babb (aka Raymond James McKee)-School Play

In the next photo, circa 1906, we find a treasure trove of family data. This photo begins to unwind the family story. Starting along the back row we first find Arena (listed as Arene J. Babb now Gorton) seated, holding a baby. The next 4 people are a family unit. Celeta L. Joynes (on Arene’s lap), Daniel Joynes III, Harriet “Hattie” (Babb) Joynes, Leona A. Joynes  on Hattie’s lap.

Franklin/Ray is the one the looks dejected and is sitting next to his Nathan C. Garton (Gorton) who I soon find was married to Arena on 09 May 1897. Along the front row is Catherine M Joynes, William Benton Babb, James Thomas Babb & Emma B. Babb.

This picture shows us a number of things. It shows that Franklin/Ray knew his birth mother and biological brothers and sisters, though he doesn’t seem to happy about it in this photo. The person who posted this photo provided general birth and death info for each of the people in it and shortly afterwards I was able to located Daniel Joynes III and prove his marriage to Hattie.

Arena (Liggins, Babb) Garton & Babb Family

Not able to adequately search on Arena’s first name and having been left a clue to to who Nathan C. Garton was in the notes of the picture, I set off to see if they were still together in the 1900 US Census. Using the location provided on the adoption records (Des Moines) I searched for Garton variations with the first name of Nathan and come across this record which gives me for the first time dates and places for most of the family members. Arena was born in May 1865, has been married for 6 years and 5 of her 6 children are still living. She is from Indiana, with her father and mother being from Indiana and Kentucky respectively. Nathan was unemployed for 10 of the last 12 months at the time of the Census. Curiously, it states that she can both read and write, despite signing her mark “X” on the adoption papers. I have no answer for that one.

1900 Census Arena Babb-Des Moines

Taking this new information, I still find that I’m unable to easily search using her name. Nathan’s last name is difficult, but less of a mystery. So, I start on a track to research the other children listed in the pictures. I easily find Hattie & Daniel Joynes III as his line is easily tracked due to the suffix. I then move on to William “Bill” Benton Babb, using the assumption that Bill’s, and his brother Jim’s, family tree is less shrouded in mystery and will be easier to track. I locate this Iowa State Census (two pages) which shows Bill’s family unit and on the 2nd page lists his parents! Bingo!!

From here the pace quickens as the discoveries come quickly. The 1925 State Census shows William’s father to be….Thomas Babb (born in Missouri). No age is listed, indicating that he has already passed away. Whoever answered the questions for this Census record did not know the name of the mother, but states that she was born in Missouri.

Fortunately, we already know part of her name which leads to the next discovery, which is the marriage record for for William B. Babb & Anna (Fannie) Silvereis. At the time of his marriage William Benton Babb was 24 years old and born in Putnam County, Missouri in 1886. His father is again listed as Thomas Babb, but this time his mother’s name is present and revealed as Irene Ligan. This relationship is further confirmed by the presence of Anna’s mother Teraca (Tebrer) Silveris (Silverise) living with the family in various census records. Also, note that other family members of Anna’s appear on the same State Census record a few lines above under the last name Ellis and Rahney.

42563_fp030872_0141-00080To be born somewhere is usually a good indicator that your parents were there. Or at least that your mother was. So, I turn my attention to Putnam County, Missouri where Bill was born. So far, we only know that Bill’s father’s name is Thomas and have no other identifying information about him.

Theorizing that Arena and Thomas likely met before they married and using the conventional wisdom that father’s don’t allow their daughters to pick up and move unless they are already married, I belive this will be a good bet. I first search for the Liggins families of Putnam County, Missouri and find Arena under the name Sarena on the 2nd record. She is living with her parents in in 1880 Census in the tiny hamlet of Elm Township. I now have her parents names as Lewis & Susan Liggins.

I do the same search for Babbs in Putnam County and come up with only one hit, for Thomas Babb! Working to compare the locations I realize that they are on the same page. Thomas is a boarder at a neighboring home and there is no doubt that this is the same person who she later married and bore children with.

From this record we now also know that Thomas was born about 1842. The record does list a different state of birth (Illinois rather than Missouri) than on later records, so more work is needed to fully identify him. So far, this is the only record of Thomas found in his lifetime and given his status as a boarder, he easily may not have been consulted when it was being recorded. Believing that Thomas has passed at this point would be easy. But figuring out which Thomas we have isn’t. At the time of this writing there are 284 Thomas Babbs in the master tree and none of them easily line up with one being born in Illinois in 1842. The same goes for Missouri.


This trail begins to run cold, so I shift gears and move on to the oldest daughter Harriett “Hattie” Eliza Babb. I immediately find her in Des Moines in 1910 along with her husband Daniel Joynes III. But to my surprise I also find her father Thomas V. Babb living with them. This time he is listed as a Widower. He is listed as being born in Ohio, with his father and mother both being born in Virginia.



I never expected that one! I was ready to believe that Arena was widowed herself. But that is the importance of having a wide variety of documents to draw from. This record gives us his middle initial of “V” which we did not have before. This drops the candidate list of possible Thomas’ dramatically from 284 possible Thomas’ to 1.

There is only one Thomas out of that entire list with the middle initial of “V”, which is how the conclusion was likely drawn to Thomas Van Meter Babb. But I want to be certain, so I continue my quest. Thomas’ age is very different in this Census record. Now at the age of 77, his date of birth would be approximately 1833, which is much closer to the Thomas Van Meter Babb date of birth of 1830. Additionally, Thomas Van Meter Babb’s father Thomas was known to have moved from Virginia to Union City, In Clinton, Ohio about 1810.

Why is Clinton, Ohio important? Because that is where Thomas Van Meter was born and married in 1851 (possibly 1855), to what is starting to look like his first wife Sarah A. Myers. So, Van Meter’s chances have improved markedly. There are still a number of Thomas’ who we don’t have middle names for, and he could easily be one of those, so I continue to look for the smoking gun entry.

I now turn my research to Thomas Van Meter Babb himself, to better populate what I know of him. Having done this amount of research, the easiest way to disprove a theory is to find them listed twice in the Census. I realized that I don’t have any records past 1860 for him, so I proceed with filling that out.

First up we have his draft registration record from 1863 in Union City.

US, Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 - Thomas Van Meter Babb

Not finding much else that I could say for sure was definitely Thomas, I set out to use his children to see where they were in 1880. I picked Marion Wilson Babb (1-2-3-1-3-3-10-4)whose name is relatively easy to spell and common enough without being too unusual. I picked up a couple of items that shed light on the entire family. It was another one of those strokes of luck/fate.

First I came across this interesting article written about Marion who ended up as one of the Homesteaders in Oklahoma and was written up in the local newspaper.

In 1880 I found Marion Wilson living with his mother and siblings in Union Township. His mother is listed as Divorced. Her last child is five year’s old, so it stands to reason that She and Thomas Divorced between 1875-1880. As the family went their separate ways he moved to the town of Elm, Putnam, Missouri, met his next wife Alena Liggin. Marrying her between 1880-1883, they had 6 more children and then appear to have divorced by 1895 when Franklin/Ray is put up for adoption. He continued to live with his children from that day forward until his death in 1913. Alena remarried Nathan C. Garton in 1897 and lived out her days with him.

1880 United States Federal Census - Marion Wilson Babb

The case is again bolstered by Thomas V. Babb’s presence on the 1900 Census with his son Marion Wilson. Note that Marion is from the first marriage and Hattie is from the second.


1900 Census-Wilson Babb

So, after all of that, I am able to confirm that Franklin Cleveland Babb’s father is indeed Thomas Van Meter Babb. There is, of course, far more to cover on this newly uncovered branch of our tree. But this is a really good start on it!























2 responses to “Will the real Thomas Babb, please stand up?”

Leave a Reply

Blog at WordPress.com.