L.B. Hamb(right)


The other day I wrote about a new project that I am undertaking which examines slavery in Catoosa County. Part of the project includes a desire to digitize and reformat a lot of the primary source materials such as census schedules. An issue with that is the quality of the handwriting and the quality of the documents. A smudge can reduce the legibility of a name or a number. When I reformatted the 1860 Slave Schedule for Catoosa County I indicated any of those aforementioned issues by typing “(?)” next to what I believed to be an illegible word or number. Such as the case with L. B. Hambergh(?) [sic].One thing I’ve learned about reading cursive writing is sometimes a deal of interpretation is involved. Take for example the image above. When I first read the census I could not quite make out the name. I noticed the crossed ‘t’ and thought perhaps it might be Hambergt. I also thought about the name Hambregh. Ultimately, I decided to match the name to the 1860 Free Inhabitant Schedule of the Federal Census. Unfortunately, the name is blotched by an ink smudge. When I re-recorded my information onto a spreadsheet, I simply wrote the last name as Hambergh(?). The question mark indicated my unsureness and showed the name was my best guess at the time. Once I reformatted everything, I posted everything online and shared the post on Facebook.

Not long after posting the information, I received a comment from a self proclaimed ancestor of the individual in question suggesting that the name might be “Hambright.” The commenter added that there are a good number of Hambright graves in Dogwood Valley (an old settlement area in Catoosa). I did some digging around and found a Confederate Pension, Citizen’s File, and Muster Card; all of these listed the name as L. B. Hambright. Thanks to the power of social media, a mystery is solved. I’m also going to make it a mental point to constantly post updates about the project to various Catoosa County Facebook Groups. H/t to Kris Nash for the suggestion.


  1. Welcome to the world of working with the census. There are all sorts of problems that turn up with names — sloppy recording by hurried enumerators, inaccurate spelling by the family members providing the information, or limited literacy all-around. It can really really be a mess.

  2. My mother’s family name is Holtsclaw. I was able to trace the family back to Germany using census records, a few Bible’s, and some stuff on Ancestry (I verified everything through documentation. I am a historian, ya know). I could not figure out anything prior to 1870 because I could not find any Holtsclaws so I accepted the family legend that they came over on a ship at that point from Germany. Yet, in the back of my mind I knew that was not true because there were far too many holes in that story and there were no records. Other relatives said Kentucky, but that’s all they had.

    Once I became a historian I learned a few more things and found some Holtzclaws in the history books. That got me to wondering if a Z had been changed to an S. I entered Holtzclaw into the system and voila! there they were. A complete match in the census from 1870 to 1860, from Missouri to Kentucky. The entire family was there and at that point I started finding more documentation to support the lineage. Now the mystery is why did the Z became an S? I am certain the Civil War was involved with that.

    I need to go to Kentucky and do some digging because the answer is there.

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