My great great-grandparents Archie and Sallie Killion/Killian Sawyer were my largest stumbling blocks in researching my mother's family when I started in the 1980s. My great aunts, when questioned, never knew the names of their grandparents but knew we were "kin" to the other Killions or Killians in the area. One of my first successes was identifying Sallie's parents, David and Barbary Killian. Identify as in "I am sure these are her parents but I don't have any document naming them as her parents".
Census records identified David and Barbary as the only Killians old enough to be her parents in Cocke County at the time Sallie and Archie were married and starting their family. Their sons were the only other Killians appearing in 1840 and 1850 Cocke County censuses. They were neighbors, enumerated on the same pages in 1840. David actually signed a bastardy bond for Archie when he was hauled into court after an apparent fling (making him one generous father-in-law). Archie and Sallie named their first daughter Barbary. All the Killions in the area descended from David and Barbary's sons. The circumstantial evidence goes on and on. But there was nothing in writing.
Until this. A family record written in my great-grandfather Gee Sawyer's funeral home book. A record that names Sallie Killion's parents as David and Barbara Killion. Now I know it's written generations later, and yes, I can see their names were added even later to this record (in pencil, at that). The handwriting is shakier than any other in the funeral home books and seems to be that of an elderly person. It is entirely possible that my great-aunt wrote this in the '80s after I told her of my theories, or that my great-grandmother knew the information and added it later. And it is true that my elderly great-aunts did not know or remember this when we talked in the 1960s and 70s and 80s. But it is the ONLY time I've ever seen their names written in any of the family documents I've inherited.
So it's a keeper - with asterisks galore***.
Doughty-Stevens Company (Greeneville, TN). "Jehu S. Sawyer Memorial Books." Digital Image. Privately held by Susan Clark. 1996.