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Welcome to "Grays Going Back", a family history site about descendants and ancestors of Nathan Munson [or Monson] Gray.  Although my current research focus is the life and times of J. K. Gray, the site also contains information about Ellis, Howard, Kepford, and Childress/Childers families.  Site manager is Tom Gray . If you have any information about individuals in this tree, please email me.


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 Recently I combined the Millet Cemetery section of the Alberta Genealogy Society's Cemetery Project with the Town of Millet Cemetery Index and uploaded them  to Find a Grave. Many Gray family members are buried there.  Check it out, and feel free to correct or add information and photos.


 Larry Haynes has posted a number of new photos over at Jenny's site.  Be sure to check them out, and tag the people in the photos.


If you're a MyHeritage user, you'll like the new Record Matches feature that lets you extract data into all family members.  It's still clunky, but it's better than it was.   Read my review.


Have been spending most of my family history time organizing family letters and papers, and writing a biography of John Kepford Gray.  This project will incorporate all of the research I've done since the 1970s, will be fully illustrated and annotated.  I'm doing it offline and will probably offer it as an eBook when finished.  Any member who'd like to see a rough draft is welcome to contact me.  In the meantime, see my blog.

Munson or Monson?  We've always taken our line from Nathan Munson Gray.  But recent evidence suggests that the name may have been MONSON.

WE'RE MOVING.  Because of problems with Family Tree Builder and the software from MyHeritage, I'll be migrating over to  I think the URL is so go check it out.  It's not as friendly or pretty as this one, but it works better in so many ways.
 Skeletons in our closet:

"Grays Going Back" is devoted to decendants and ancestors of Nathan Munson Gray, but also contains information about Ellis, Howard, Kepford, and Childress/Childers families.  Site members are welcome to post photos and to verify data by posting copies of documents.
If you have any information about individuals in this tree, please email me.


Check out these articles:

  • Skeletons in our closet: The Demented Dynamiter
  • The Great Gray / Gramwatt Mystery - who are the Gramwatt boys who llived with the Grays?
  • Millet Through 100 Years - Gray ancestors were early settlers in Millet, Alberta, Canada at the start of the 20th century, beginning with JK Gray who received a land grant in 1904. Check out this review of the area and time.  Look at Stories (top right in the menu).  Many of the images concern Gray family members  (Thanks to Evelyn Lawrence Bell for tipping me off to this!)
  • Who's Your Daddy?  - Many sites give John Gray & Jannett (Jennett, Janet) Greer (Grier) as the parents of William Penn Gray, with links going back to English royalty.  But where's the proof?
  • A Family Tragedy -  Family history research turned up the sad story of a family that lost eleven of fifteen children. Unusual even for those days of high infant and child mortality.
  • The Many Wives of Byron P. Gray  - Did Byron Perry Gray (1844-1921) really  have four wives?   Chasing down family history is a bit like being part of a historical detective novel.  There are clues found in old documents, but how do they fit together?
  • Famous Ancestor?  We've often wondered if we were related to famous inventor Elisha Gray.
Our family tree is posted online on this site! There are 1316 names in our family site.

The site was last updated on July 25 2015, and it currently has 69 registered member(s).

If you wish to become a member too, please click here.   Enjoy!

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Media:Millet Alberta Virtual Museum
Posted by: Tom Gray on Dec 12 2012 15:31

Gray ancestors were early settlers in Millet, Alberta, Canada at the start of the 20th century, beginning with JK Gray who received a land grant in 1904.

Check out Millet Through 100 Years for a review of the area and time. Look at Stories (top right in the menu). Many of the images concern Gray family members.

Thanks to Evelyn Lawrence Bell for tipping me off to this!

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Genealogy:Will the Father of William Penn Gray Please Stand Up?
Posted by: Tom Gray on Dec 10 2012 10:40

The oldest direct ancestor that we can confirm is Nathan Munson Gray. We have reasonable confidence that NM is descended from James Gray and William Penn Gray. You can look these fellows up in the family tree part of the site.

A surprising number of family tree web sites say that Wm. Penn's parents were John Gray and Jennet (or Jannet) Greer. A report that we got back in the 1970s read, "We believe his parents to have been John Gray and his wife, Jennett, who came from Pennsylvania and settled in Greenbrier County, VA in 1780." I don't know the source of that report; we got it from a Martha Courtney of Missouri, but I'm not certain that she wrote it.

You'll still find John & Jannet in my site, but they're not connected to anybody in my direct line right now. Why?

Family history sites borrow information freely from one another -- the software at and actually encourages that -- but most folks are doing this for fun, and I suspect that not a lot of research is involved. So a lot of errors get copied over and over and over. (Incorrect dates for Nathan Munson's death are a good example).

I was recently given information from a book called The Gray Family and Allied Lines by Jo Linn White & Gordon Gray. Thanks to researcher Kenneth Higgins, who passed that info on. This book shows that

  1. John & Jannett had a son William Gray
  2. He wasn't William Penn Gray

The birth and death dates, spouses, and places of residence for the two men are totally different. And I can find census data and other records for both.

So how on earth could anybody believe that William Penn's parents were John and Jannet Greer? I think that at one point, somebody made a mistake. And everybody else simply accepted it without bothering to check.

And they told two sites, and they told two sites, and so on, and so on, an so on....

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This Web site:Too Many John H Grays!
Posted by: Tom Gray on Nov 27 2012 18:58

Let's consider a man named John H. Gray. Rather, let's consider several of them.

  1. John H Gray (2 Aug 1862 - ??) -- On 1 Oct 1885, one Minnie Mack married a John H. Gray, b. 2 Aug 1862 and son of Gilbert Gray and Elizabeth Brown, according to online marriage records in Noble County Indiana.
  2. John H. Gray (Abt 1850 - ??) -- According to Family Central, on 1 Oct 1885 Minnie Mack Married a John H. Gray, of Noble, Indiana, b. abt 1850, son of Thomas Gray and Sarah Houston. They cite as source for this Ruth M. Slevin's book Marriage Records of Noble Co., IN 1859-1899, (FHL#977.276), which I don't have (closest copy is in Montana, according to the World Catalog).
  3. John H Gray (29 Feb 1858-1 Aug 1861) -- Cemetery Records of Noble Co, IN (977.276), Page 118, Fourth entry, left column, John H, son of T & S Gray, died Aug 1, 1861 age 3 yrs 5 mos 5 dys. We assume "T & S" to refer to Thomas and Sarah. Don't think he married Minnie Mack!
  4. John Hamilton Gray (1840 - 24 Apr 1863) -- Son of Hamilton Gray and Mary Jane Meek, we think, based on census records; he married a Harriet O. Howland in 1861 (this marriage from somebody else's tree, perhaps, as I have no citation)
  5. John Hamilton Gray (16 Oct 1859 - 17 Jul 1936) -- Married Mary Edna Reeves in 1888, according to somebody else's tree (no citations)

All of these John H Grays were hanging around Noble County, especially the Wolf Lake area, so the chances are that they're related somehow.

But how?

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Family stories:Haunted by Tragedy
Posted by: Tom Gray on Nov 17 2012 12:25

If ever a family were haunted by tragedy, it is the family of "Elder" David Gray and Susan Ann Diffendarfer.

They married on 9 Feb, 1843 in Allen, Indiana and set out to raise a family and make a living farming in Noble County, Indiana. He was 23, she 19.

Indiana census, birth, death, and cemetery records tell a sad story. First, the census:

  • 1850 - Gray David 28, Susan 24, George 3, Mary 1, Elsey 65.
  • 1860 - Gray David 38, Susan 35, George 13, Mary 10, James 7, Louisa 5, Cecelia 6/12.
  • 1870 - Gray Susan 41, Owen 17. Silla 10 (Noble Twp).

By 1850, within the first seven years of their marriage, David and Susan have lost four children (Henry, Harriet, Philander, and Wm. Benjamin), and were to lose John D that fall. Living with the family is David's mom Alcy (Alse, Elsey), his father William Penn having died four years before the census.

By 1860, the grave has taken Bertus, Sarah Jane, Luella, Celestia, and Warren. James, Louisa, and Cecelia are new names in the census (At this point, in the absence of confirmed death records, it's conceivable some names overlap)

In the 1870 census, we note the absence of David (d. 1865) and Cecelia. Owen James and Priscilla (Silla) remain with Susan. George at 23 might have moved away; we find him married in 1875. Mary at 20 would probably be married.

Now some data from birth, death, cemetery, and marriage records as well as obituaries from the time. Children known or suspected to have died before age 16 are in bold.

  1. Henry, son of David & S. Gray, b. Sept. 1843, d. 1843, age 6 dys
  2. Harriet, dau of D. & S. Gray, b. Jun 19 1845, d. Jul 6 1845
  3. William Benjamin, b. Mar 10, 1846, no record of death but does not appear on 1850 census at which time he would be four.
  4. Philander, daughter of David & S. Gray, b. Mar 10 1847, d. Mar 12 1847.
  5. Phillip - some sources list a son with the same date of birth as Philander, so given the similarity in names I'm assuming this is the same child, though twins are possible. The similarity of dates for Wm B and Philander is also a bit suspicious. I can find no confirmation of the existence of this child.
  6. George Washington, b. Mar 1847 (?! Twin to Philander?) - Marriage record shows him son of David Gray & Sarah Diffendarfer, married Sarah Slusser on 23 Dec 1875
  7. Mary A. Gray, 1849 - 1928
  8. John D. Gray, son of David & S. Gray, d. 1850 age 6 dys
  9. Bertus GRAY, b. 1 Mar 1851, d. 1 Mar 1857
  10. James Owen, b. 8 Oct 1852, m. 1876 to Catherine Birch.
  11. Sarah Anne, dau of David & S. Gray, d. 1854 age 7 mos 14 dys
  12. Eliza Jane Louise, b. Dec 1854 (probably the Louisa on the 1860 census), apparently lived to marry a Charles Giggy, date unknown
  13. Celestia, dau of David & S. Gray, b. 14 Jul 1855, d. 7 Apr 1859
  14. Cecelia - I have this child only from the 1860 census; assuming that she is not the "Silla" of 1870, she lived less than 10 years.
  15. Warren, son of David & S. Gray, d. 1860 age 3 mos 17 dys
  16. Priscilla Ann, dau of S A & B J Gray [Obituary says daughter of Elder David Gray] d. Jun 8, 1875, age 14 yrs 8 mos 11 dys

Of fifteen confirmed children, only four are known to have survived past adolescence.

Today, infant/child mortality is relatively rare but David and Susan buried at least eleven small caskets.

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Family stories:The Many Wives of Byron Perry Gray
Posted by: Tom Gray on Nov 16 2012 11:40

Byron Perry Gray was born 27 Feb, 1844, the son of Stedman Gray and Sophronia Leach. Perry was a merchant in the dry goods business with his father and his cousin William Dyer Gray in Noble, Indiana.

Various records show B.P. with four different named wives.

Perry's first wife was Sarah, as indicated on the 1870 census where we find Byron P, 23, merchant, and Sarah, 18, keeping house. This marriage is confirmed in the Marriage Records for Noble County which lists a marriage on 7 Nov, 1867 between Byron P. Gray and Sarah C. Matthews.

It was a short and tragic marriage; Sarah died in 1871, nine months after the birth of their son Anson (possibly in childbirth?) followed by the death of baby Anson in 1872.

The second wife was a Mary E, who shows up on the 1880 census. Perry Gray, age 36, Mary E, age 36 and daughter Hazel, age 3 are listed next door to Stedman and William D. Hazel would have been born around 1877 (actually 19 Aug 1876), and the marriage to Mary E likely took place around 1875.

Next up is a Nelly May Coutts. She's listed in at Family Central, with the birth of twin sons in 1875 suggesting a marriage around 1874. That's awfully close to the 1875 date for Mary E. Another tragedy?

But wait! The Marriage Records for Noble County list a marriage between Byron Gray and Nelly M. Pool on 16 May 1874. Well, that corresponds to what Family Central has, though how they got the name Coutts is unclear. What is clear is that Bryron married at least one Nellie M!

The wife list now reads

  • Sarah C. Matthews - married 7 Nov, 1867, died1871
  • Mary E. - married around 1875
  • Nellie May Coutts - married ca. 1874
  • Nelly M Pool - married 16 May 1874

Probably Nellie May Coutts and Nelly M Pool are the same individual. I could find no marriage listed between Mary E and Byron. When Hazel married Arthur Graves, the record gives her father as Byron P Gray and her mother as Nellie Pool, not Mary E. Could it be that Mary E was also known as Nellie?

Seems likely. And that would mean that Byron Perry had only two wives, not four.

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Family stories:FAMOUS ANCESTOR?
Posted by: Tom Gray on Nov 9 2012 21:43

I've often wondered if I'm related to famous American electrical engineer and inventor Elisha Gray, born in Ohio in 1835. It's possible. It may even be plausible. Can the relationship be proven?

We do have an Elisha in our tree (#274, born around 1832, son of Hamilton Gray and Mary Jane Meek). Hamilton and Jane were in Pike County, Illinois in 1850, along with Elisha, 18 [b. 1832] ; James, 15; John, 10; Leander, 9; Mary, 8; and William, 5.

Ten years later, the 1860 census shows the family still in Pike. The older boys, James and Elisha, have moved out (and William is no longer listed - deceased?)

That same census shows an Elisha Gray in Oberlin, Lorain County, Ohio, where he is listed as a student, age 24 [b. 1836], one of six in what appears to be a boarding house run by Delia A. Sheppard, 49.

Now, inventor Elisha Gray (check him on Wikipedia) attended Oberlin Collegiate and married Delia Minerva Shepard. Now, it looks pretty likely that this census record is for "the" Elisha -- but is that also "our" Elisha?

  • It's possible. No fact that I have at the moment contradicts it.The difference in birth date is a bit inconvenient, but such variations are common. Other family trees have "our" Elisha marrying another lady but I don't "know" that because those trees cite no source, so they could be wrong, right?
  • It's plausible. "Our" Elisha is no longer with the family back in Pike Co, and here's an Elisha of about the right age living on his own. He's the only Elisha of about the right age that I could find in the 1860 census. Maybe I missed one.
  • Is it probable? I wouldn't go that far! A good biography of Inventor Elisha will probably dash my hopes.

But for now, it sure is intriguing.

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Genealogy:Checking Sources
Posted by: Tom Gray on Nov 3 2012 23:41

MyHeritage links up various family trees with SmartMatch, but as I review the matches I'm finding the same errors repeated again and again.

The SM doesn't often contain sources, so I'm always asking family tree managers, "Where did you get that information?"Too often, the answer is "From somebody else's tree".

Partly this is because many (most?) amateur online genealogists are not familiar with basic standards of research and reporting.

"While I do not wish to discourage researchers from working together, I fear that if we do not try to return to those standards, we will find that the information we share online can't be trusted. If this happens, it will make it almost impossible to use the Internet as a research tool," wrote professional genealogist Rhonda R McClure in 2002. The Internet is a decade older and the mess she foresaw has come about, at least for published family trees.

Even so-called professional sites contain errors. Here's an example. FamilyCentral is a professional site that charges money for research. For a free signup, you can check some samples. For example, Google "William Penn Gray Familycentral" (without the quotes).

Note #8 Thomas Gray (1818-1911) whose wife is given as Sarah HOUSTON. Actually, it's HOUSER, as you can easily tell when you check one of their own sources -- Cemetery Records of Noble County, Indiana, 977.276 V22d -- which plainly says, "Sarah Houser, his wife".

I'm not a pro, so if you find an error in my (amateur) records, please let me know -- and refer me to documentary proof. A book, a written record, an obituary -- but NOT somebody else's website. Cool
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Announcements:Gray Family Reunion
Posted by: Tom Gray on Nov 3 2012 23:20

Many Grays and their kin settled at Millet, Alberta in the early 1900s.

This year, the Millet Museum has selected Enola Lee Gray (wife of William Leonard Gray) to honor as a pioneer woman of significance.

Museum staff are asking for any photos we might have of her and her family plus memorabilia such as personal items for the display such as diaries, jewellery, etc. There will be a poster display and video produced to run by the poster.

If you have any such items, please click here to contact me.

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