Surname Saturday: My Matrilineal Line, Starting with MASSEY

I have always been closer to my mother’s family than to my father’s, primarily because my paternal relatives were much older – my father was 10th of 13 children and my paternal grandparents were already gone long before I was born. In addition, that family was fairly far-flung, whereas my mother’s family tended to all live near home, or visited often, especially during the summer months. I spent at least some time with nearly all of my maternal cousins, but only knew a few of the younger paternal cousins.

Because I was closer to my mother’s family and enjoyed spending time with my grandmother during our visits, my interests in family history have always focused more keenly on my maternal lines. I have made an effort over the years to also follow through on my father’s family lines, but to be honest, my tree still leans heavily toward my mother’s side!

Having recently had my DNA testing done, I’ve developed a strong interest in pushing through brick walls on my matrilineal line. Specifically, I would love to take my mother’s-mother’s-mother’s line back as far as I can. Currently, I can go back to my 5th great-grandmother, Catherine Massey.

My known matrilineal line is as follows: Catherine Massey, mother of Catherine Barrier, mother of Malinda Baker, mother of Isabell Vaughn, mother of Laura Jones, mother of Magoldia Abbott, who is my mother.

My knowledge of Catherine Massey is fairly limited. Of course, this is not unusual for women of her time as there is typically little to be found of them in the written record during the time she lived in. Fortunately, Catherine lived a long life, surviving beyond the 1850 Federal Census, allowing for additional clues of her life to be made available.

I will begin at the end, as we tend to do in genealogical research.

September 1855: According to the death records available on ( Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1953 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007), Catherine Barrier died on the South Fork of the Cumberland River in Wayne County, Kentucky in September 1855. Catherine was an 87 year old widow and a resident of Wayne County, Kentucky. According to the database, Catherine died of old age. Her mother is not identified; her father is listed simply as “Massey”.

catherine barrier death 1855 copy

Records such as this, indexes built from original records, are only as accurate as the original information given and the accuracy of the information transcriber, so, there are of course opportunities to question the correctness of this information. For instance, this same record does indicate that Catherine Massey Barrier was born in Wayne County, Kentucky. This would not be possible, however, as neither Wayne County, nor Kentucky actually existed at the time Catherine would have been born (1768). As a matter of fact, Catherine’s birth predates even the formation of Kentucky County, Virginia which was formed in December 1776.

Obviously, Catherine was not born in Kentucky.

I have seen her grave site – she is buried next to her husband Richard Barrier, who died in July 1854 in Wayne County, Kentucky at age 86 of old age dysentery.

1850 Federal Census: Catherine, aged 82 and Richard, aged 81, reside together in Wayne County, Kentucky. They are the only two listed in the household. They both identify “Kentucky” as their state of birth, although we know this is not really possible.

1840 Federal Census: Richard Barrier heads a household in Wayne County, Kentucky that includes one free white male, age 70-79, a free white female, age 70-79, a free white male age 15-19, and a female slave aged 55-99.

One individual in the household in Wayne County, Kentucky is employed in “agriculture”, one is employed in “learned professional engineers”. One white person over age 20 cannot read or write. Richard was known to have been a Baptist Minister and officiated a number of marriages in early Wayne County, Kentucky history; I assume he is the learned individual. As the other male is aged less than 20 years, and the 4th person is a slave, I believe that Catherine is the individual over age 20 who is not able to read or write.

1830 Federal Census: Richard Barrier (Byers, an alternate spelling) heads a household with a 60-69 year old male and a 60-69 year old female, as well as one free white male age 15-19 and one female slave, aged 24-35.

1789-1830: It is not yet entirely clear to me where Catherine Massey Barrier and her husband are at this time; I am currently researching the records. There are a number of Massey households in the Lincoln County, North Carolina area in the 1790 Census.

1789, 20 August: This is the date for a marriage bond for Richard Barrier and Katrine Messey in Lincoln County, North Carolina. I need to see the actual documents for this marriage, as sometimes additional information is to be found that is not reflected in the indices available on

1768: This is the approximate year of Catherine Massey’s birth. As I do not know her father’s first name, nor the name of her mother, Catherine Massey remains a brick wall for me.

I hope additional research and review of original records will allow me to identify her parents’ names. I would especially love to find her mother’s name, of course.


One thought on “Surname Saturday: My Matrilineal Line, Starting with MASSEY

  1. What a coincidence! I also have a maternal ancestor from Kentucky whose death certificate simply states “Massey,” But it’s her mother’s maiden name. Her father’s name was Joseph Marcum. Minerva Marcum Stevens was my 2nd great grandmother. She died in Union County, Kentucky in 1917 at the age of 72.


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