Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Was Wrong -- Once Again . . .

From the Letters of William E. Probert to His Wife, Polly   1836-37

A few posts ago, I suggested that my newly-discovered ggg-grandfather, William E. Probert, was a "poor" father for leaving his wife and four young children to be a "Fife Major" in the War for Texas independence. I could not think of any legitimate reason why a man would do this with his wife's agreement, knowing the burden that it would certainly be.

Once again, the amazing people at the Texas Archives were able to straighten me out. In discussing a "League and a Labor" in the previous post, I realized that it took an act of the Texas legislature for the Probert heirs to get the certificate for the 4000+ acres of Texas land that had been awarded to William.
I spoke with one of the archivists who suggested that I followup with a division that housed "Memorials and Petitions." Shortly after contacting them, I was told that they had a file that contained correspondence between W.E. and his wife, the names of his children, information on his discharge from the Texas Army, and documentation of his death. They told me I could have copies of the entire file for $3.66.

My cousin, Barbara, and I then began a four-day vigil at our respective mailboxes. The information was priceless.  Not only did it provide proof that he was our ancestor, but it listed all of his children. And even better, I now knew why he was willing to leave his wife and children for this one-year period. I will discuss that in the next post.

I thought, however, that I needed to correct my perception about William E. Probert.  Throughout his letters, William spoke lovingly to his wife and expressed his desire to get back to her as soon as possible. He was concerned about their children and expressed interest in their schooling.  In true parental form, he asked for a letter from his oldest son, Thomas, in his own handwriting. He was making a sacrifice for what he and his wife believed would be of benefit to the whole family.

So, William, I'm glad to get to know you -- and I'm proud to have you for an ancestor.


  1. Wow - a whole different perception of an ancestor here, Kathy. I can't wait for a further post on Wm Probert. Certainly demonstrates the power of "ask" & you shall likely receive! Cheers.

  2. Pleased to hear you were proved wrong and that William's reputation has been salvaged.

  3. Celia and Jill,
    It's not the first time that I've written something based on the "facts" only to be proved wrong. It's so hard to try to portray them as they really were based on the limited information at our disposal.

  4. Kathy,

    I second Celia on the WOW. How wonderful to find such as treasure as the file of his correspondence with his family. Looking forward to hearing more about William Probert.


  5. A wonderful story and so special to have all the documentary evidence. It confirms what I always feel about investigating family history - we can find out the who, when and where, but often can only hazard a guess at the "why" and sometimes can be wrong in our assumptions.

  6. Great story, Kathy. I loved the idea of you and your cousin sitting vigil at your mailboxes! And I LOVED the treasure you received for you investment of $3.66!! Holy Cow. Wish we were all that lucky!

  7. I have been folowing your " Probert " stories and I have to say that you have a way of bringing great stories out !
    Loved the screenshot graphic above too.

  8. What a find! And for $3.66! Amazing.


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