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Are We Related?: Nation

January 17, 2024

Some surnames are more difficult to find in our collection than others. There are many reasons this may be the case, but in this instance, it is the fact that the surname is also a commonplace word: Nation. Not only is it a word in its own right, but it is also a common word ending -nation (abomination, nomination, national …). Trying to wade through the instances of ‘Nation’ when you aren’t seeking a particular given name can be trying. However, I did find a couple of instances in our holdings and one’s associated imagery was fantastic. Above is the portrait of J. R. Nation.

The search for this name began with a list from my colleague, Eleanor. This was one of several Indiana-based surnames found in her family history. While searching through them all, with such a clear image of J. (James) R. Nation, there was something compelling that made me want to know: are they related?

James Nation served in the Civil War, specifically in Company G of the 121st Infantry, better known as the 9th Cavalry of Indiana. In James Nation’s line, his was the first generation born in Indiana. During his wholly Hoosier life, he lived in Delaware and Howard Counties, with ties to Henry and other Indiana counties as well. Of James’ six known children, five preceded him in death, four passing as children. The two children that survived into adulthood were Effie and Ethel. Their Nation surnames were relegated to maiden name status upon their marriages. While maiden names come up in lots of ancestral records, the name is lost to continuation on that line.

Image of Kitty (Nation) Waybright, with son, John, 1908. Courtesy of Eleanor and Family.

As with the other families I have sought, I was able to piece together both the family of my coworker and that of James Nation. Using Ancestry Library edition,, a general search engine, and Eleanor’s family knowledge, I was able to draw up a quick lineage. Eleanor’s closest Nation ancestor was Kitty Claypool Nation, born in 1885. As a woman, when she married, Kitty became a Waybright, and her maiden name was lost to my associate’s direct line.

Presbyterian Church Records for Greensburg, Indiana showing the Waybright/Nation marriage in 1907. Accessed via Ancestry Library edition.

Therefore, just one generation apart the Nation name was gone from both lines I was researching. Today, many women choose to keep their family name upon marriage, likely changing how we will research families in the future. With the regular loss of the familial name to marriage, however, it did not mean a loss to the connection. The family’s traits, characteristics, and ties live on in further generations regardless.

As you have likely already guessed, these two Nation families ARE related. More specifically, the last Nation’s in these direct lines, James R. Nation and Kitty Claypool Nation were 3rd cousins, 1x removed, making Eleanor and James 3rd cousins, 4x removed. Below is a side-by-side comparison of Eleanor, James, and Kitty. I see a resemblance around the eyes and brow line with all three. Between Eleanor and Kitty, though, I give them doppelganger status, so many similarities.

Three descendants of Christopher Nation (1717-1799) originally of New Jersey: my colleague Eleanor, James R. Nation (1837-1908), and Kitty (Nation) Waybright (1885-1956). Image 1: Courtesy of Eleanor; Image 2: Indiana Historical Society, P0319; Image 3: Courtesy of Eleanor and family.

For other blogs in this monthly series, take a look at the most recent blog from December: Are We Related?: Stanfield where you’ll also find the links to the first two in the group.

Amy Vedra

Amy Vedra is the director of reference services. She is currently reading her way through the Great American Reads list.

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