by Connie Sue Latta, Branch 52 Captain

Issue 18 - Fall 2002

When someone asks about starting a family tree, or to begin genealogy, it appears that the same answer is given to almost everyone.  Start with your family that you know, your living relatives.  Basic questions are asked; where were you born?, where did you live?, where were your parents born, etc. It is not easy for a beginner to ask for a copy of a birth certificate or a death certificate, or even for a copy of a marriage license, but if asked in general conversation, without sounding like you are prying into a private life, it will save a lot of time later.

When you are with a family member, especially an older one, they often like to talk about the past and often divulge information that may have been a block wall in your research.  I had that experience and will share with you my findings.

Searching the Latta family of Oklahoma/Arkansas for 30 years, I was not able to get past 1914, which is fairly current.  Claud Latta could not be located on the census, telephone books, SSDI, or Internet, when, at last, I had an untimely breakthrough.  In 1993, a family member found information on this person who was his long, lost father of 56 years by searching a CD that was available at his local library called a People Locator.  Finding this information opened the door for many answers of genealogy and put together pieces to a puzzle of his life. His father unfortunately had died in 1992, but through obtaining a death certificate, we were able to contact this family and join together three families that did not know each other existed.  Located also were brothers, Frank Latta and Howard Latta, who knew a lot more about their Latta family.  We all decided to meet in person at the Latta Reunion in Prairie Grove, Arkansas in 1994.

At this meeting, I thought I had covered every question possible and heard family stories that had never crossed my mind.  I asked all the usual; Born where? Married where? In the Military at what time? Lived where? Parents who? Children?

We parted with a warm feeling in our hearts and really happy that we had met each other, however, when I got home there were still a lot of unanswered questions for my research.  One of the big questions was on Andrew Jackson Latta. I was happy to hear his name and knew that somehow to locate this ancestor would close a big gap in this lineage.  Great notes were taken and when we returned home, I wrote for every death certificate, birth certificate, etc. that I could, to document this family's history.

The realization of five or six Andrew Jackson Lattas from the same area did not cross my mind until the documentation came to that specific point.  Books on Oklahoma and Arkansas are not that plentiful at my local library.  Except through census records, his name, for that time frame, was not to be found.  One night, while online, I found an Andrew Jackson Latta with a record located in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.  I wrote for it and impatiently waited five weeks for the document to arrive.  Knowing they were some kind of court papers, to say I was shocked at their contents would be underestimating anyone's imigination as to what they contained.  After reading them through several times, double checking the dates and the time frame, my body signed a great relief that he was not my ancestor.  This only left a question, since this is not my ancestor, where is he?

On our next trip to Oklahoma/Arkansas, August 1999, we again visited Frank Latta of Harrison, Arkansas.  Again, questions flew about our family, as he was the oldest living direct relative that we had, and in passing he said something that was like a huge heart flying through the sky. He said that his father, Henry Latta, told him that he only had one regret.  When he (Henry) returned from the war (WWI) in March 1919, he was a month too late from seeing his father alive (Andrew Jackson Latta), and his Dad died in February 1919. WOW!  I couldn't believe it!  A simple sentence in the middle of a conversation about his Dad revealed what I had been looking for, for several years.  The next question was; did he know where his Grandfather had died and he told me yes, Yuma, Arizona, while visiting his daughter.  I wrote for a copy of his death certificate that confirmed the census records documenting what I had heard from Frank Latta.  The moral of this story: be sure to listen, listen and listen.


(The research of Connie Sue Latta lead to the discovery of a whole branch of the Latta Family. Connie continues her story of Branch 52.  See Branch 52 for more information on Andrew Jackson Latta)