That is the question that keeps me up at night. I’m starting to think that I have looked at the “facts” in this case for so long that I can no longer be objective about it. It’s quite a tangled mess of possibilities that all seem to be impossibilities, but I’m going to try to explain things and see what you think.
Thomas J. Lanier and Theodocia Smith were married on 13 Jan 1897 in Branchville, St. Clair County, Alabama. Both were of age and had never been married. George Smith signed their marriage bond along with the groom. George’s middle initial is D in part of the form probably completed by a clerk at the courthouse. His middle initial is not so clear in his signature. It looks more like a T than a D to me, but I might have been influenced by census records (I’ll get to that later).
T. J. and Theodocia moved to Monroe County, Mississippi with his family later in 1897 or sometime in 1898. They had one child, but I have no idea if it was a girl or boy. The child was probably born in either St. Clair County, Alabama or Monroe County, Mississippi, but all I know for sure is he or she was born before September 1900.
T. J. and Theodocia should have been listed in the 1900 census living near his parents, Joseph and Nancy Jane Lanier. But they weren’t. Or maybe they were, just with completely wrong names. Listed right after Joseph and Nancy Jane’s household is a James Thomas living with his wife, child, and brother.
Obviously, the name is wrong but the household breakdown is at least interesting. James Thomas was listed as a farmer, age 25, born April 1875 in Alabama. His wife was Elizer Thomas, age 21, born May 1878 in Alabama. She was the mother of one child. Their son, George D. Thomas was born in Dec 1898 in Mississippi. Also living with them was James’ brother, Lee Thomas, who was born in May 1880 in Alabama.
Could this be some kind of big mistake by the census taker? T. J. and Theodocia had been married for 3 years by this time, but the Thomas’ 2 years is close. T. J. (full name Thomas Jefferson Lanier) was born in March 1875 in Alabama so the birth info is also close. T. J. didn’t have a brother named Lee but he did have a brother named George Washington Lanier who was born in June 1880 in Alabama—again the birth info is close. Both T. J. and George were listed in their parents’ household in this census, but they listed all of their living children, regardless of where they lived. It’s definite that two of the daughters listed as single and living with them were both married and living in other places and that is likely for a 3rd daughter. They even listed T. J. as single even though he was definitely married.
Another thing that is odd about this Thomas family is their connection to Alabama (just like the Laniers). Almost everyone else living anywhere near Joseph and Nancy was born in Mississippi. Yet here is this household where three people were born in Alabama but their son’s household, that should be listed next to them, isn’t listed in the census at all. And don’t forget about this child named George. There’s another one later in this story.
One thing I know for sure is that T. J. and Theodocia were no longer together after 1902. By 1904, T. J. was living in Kentucky and had re-married but Theodocia and their child haven’t been located. The logical theory would seem to be that she returned home to her family in Alabama. The problem is, I can’t find her family because I don’t know who they were.
Only two possibilities for Theodocia and her family have been identified and there are problems with both of them.
By the way, James, Elizer, George, and Lee Thomas have not been located in later census records.