I am documenting my family history, not just my pedigree.
So my collateral relatives are documented as well.
Some of those families have what appear to be very tragic stories.
One example is the family of James Joshua Ashmore (my second great granduncle), and his wife, Ardena Mahala (Matthews) Ashmore Stewart.
James Joshua Ashmore was the son of Andrew Sawyer Ashmore and Elizabeth McCarley, born in Lawrence Co., TN on 16 May 1821.
He was 17 when his family made the ambitious move from Lawrence County to Pope County, AR.
Ardena's parents were Steven John Matthews (born in Lawrence County) and Sarah Perkins. If the Matthews family was not part of what I have now come to understand was a sizeable migration to Pope County, then they came shortly afterward, because James and Ardena were married in Pope County on 7 Jan 1842, when Ardena was 18.
Working their land, they began having stair-step children - eight in all, over the next 11 years.
Stephen Robert Ashmore was born in 1842;
William James Ashmore was born on 22 Nov 1843;
Sarah Elizabeth Ashmore was born on 14 May 1845;
Mary Louisa A Ashmore was born on 7 Sep 1847;
Martha Jane Ashmore was born on 12 May 1848;
Joanna M Ashmore was born in Dec 1850;
Georgia Ann Ashmore was born on 21 May 1852; and
Margaret Alice Ashmore was born on 21 Jan 1853.
And then, James Joshua Ashmore died, on 18 Mar 1856. He was buried in the McCarley family cemetery,
on his parents' homeplace, where his father had been laid to rest a couple of years earlier, and where his mother would be buried in 1875.
Ardena's youngest child was 3 years old, and her oldest - son Robert - was just 14.
She had a farm to work and children to raise. She needed some help.
On 25 Nov 1856, Ardena married Robert H Stewart. Two years later, Ardena died.
What would happen to the children, the oldest of whom was only 16?
The extended Matthews family - and some of their in-laws
- stepped up to the plate.
In the 1860 census, four of the Ashmore children were living with their maternal grandparents. Robert, Martha, Georgia Ann and Margaret had a home with Steven and Sarah Matthews in Gum Log, not far from their family farm.
Sarah Ashmore had married (at the age of 14), on 14 Aug 1859, to William H Hall. She was not found in the 1860 census living with him. She and her brother, William and sister, Joanna were living in the home of William and Lucinda Gideon.
Lucinda (Matthews) Gideon was their great grand aunt. It is possible that Sarah was either widowed and pregnant (she would have a son, James H Hall in 1861), or William Hall was away fighting in the Civil War and was not present for this census. Joanna Ashmore later married George Henry Gideon, one of the sons of William and Lucinda Gideon.
Mary Louisa was living with Claiborne Harrelson in 1860. Leroy Matthews, her maternal uncle, had married Claiborne's daughter, Lavena, in 1854, and the couple made their home with Lavena's father.
Three families re-arranged their households and took in the Ashmore kids.
Because that's what families did.
All eight of the children of James Joshua Ashmore and Ardena Mahala Matthews lived to adulthood, and raised large families of their own.
Two of the sisters - Mary Louisa and Margaret - married Bowden brothers, James and Charles.
All of the Ashmore children lived in or around Pope County their entire lives, close to the place familiar to their parents - the place two families in a wagon train chose in 1838 to make a new home.
And tragedy turned into triumph.