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Family History

This work is dedicated to my great grandfather, John Moses Karnes

"I am a product of Nature. I have traveled Nature's road from the time I was born until now, and will continue to travel Nature's road through life. Then what? I do not know. I learn more in silent communication with the great, noble and wonderful powers of Nature than I do from all other sources."

- John Moses Karnes


In tracing my family name, most of my initial information was provided by my father. As he is an only child, and his fathers family was relatively small, there was not a lot of information for me to go on past what he had originally provided. What I knew from my father is that my family had roots in western Tennessee near the town of Milan. There was a marriage record in Gibson County, Tennessee on July 21, 1851 for John Karnes and Cynthia Sainford (or Sanford). According to family history and the autobiography of John Moses Karnes (my great grandfather), John Karnes and family moved from western Tennessee to southeast Missouri (Pemiscot County) before the Civil War in approximately 1860. The family then moved again to Dunklin County, near Senath, Missouri, in approximately 1869. John Moses Karnes, the youngest child of the family, was born in Missouri on October 15, 1864. All of his siblings had been born in Tennessee.

Perhaps the greatest single source of information that I've found to date is the autobiography of John Moses Karnes. This document, while only a few pages, is a wealth of information on his family, siblings, aunts and uncles, and the history of the area near Senath, Missouri, from approximately 1860 till the 1940s. It seems almost every time I read this document I find another name, reference, or connection that I've managed to miss in the dozens of times I've read it before. I've transcribed the original document, and using the link above you can get an electronic copy which is great for searching on individual names or locations.

In an effort to find more family information pre John Moses Karnes, I traveled to Milan, Tennessee, in early 2002. While there, I went to the county library and found several entries for Karnes in various census records. I made copies of all the information I found, but haven't reconciled that information with my other data or posted that information online at this time. Based on information I had located on the Internet, I also visited an abandoned cemetery. In the cemetery, I found two Karnes family headstones, Abraham Karnes (December 15th, 1819 - June 7th, 1876), and Martha N. Karnes (February 9th, 1878 – September, 8th, 18??). This corresponds to the Abraham Karnes that I already knew of as a brother to John Karnes (My great-great grandfather), although I had his birth in 1820. The headstone for Abraham Karnes also indicated that his wife's name was M. A. Karnes. I do not know the relation between Abraham and Martha N., but one would assume from the proximity of the stones that they were related, perhaps Martha N. was a granddaughter or even great-granddaughter.

(Images can be clicked for larger versions)

I'd like to return to the cemetery at some point, as it was nearing the end of the day when I visited the first time, and I was not able to conduct a thorough search before dark. Many headstones had fallen and were covered in leaves and dirt, so it is quite possible that there are additional Karnes headstones located there. The cemetery has obviously been abandoned for many years and is actually in the middle of a small stand of trees on a farm.

In June of 2006, My father and I traveled to Senath, Missouri, to visit his childhood home, visit some land that we still own in the area, and also to look for more family history. The trip provided more information than I had imagined, and included locating the headstones for my great-great grandfather, John Karnes, two of my great grandfather's brothers, Adam S. Karnes and James T. Karnes. It also allowed me the opportunity to photograph the headstones of John Moses Karnes and all of his family. Much of the detail provided here and nearly all of the headstone pictures I have to date are a result of this trip.

At this time, the information I have on my great-great grandfather, John Karnes (June 27, 1831 - June 27,1887), and all of his descendants is nearly complete. As far as the family name Karnes is concerned, my information is complete and from this line, my father and I are the last to carry the Karnes name. There are several other descendants of John Karnes still living at this time (2006), but through marriage, none of them still carry the Karnes name. The main goal of my remaining research is to continue finding detail on the siblings of John Karnes and their descendants; his father, Moses Karnes; and if I'm very lucky, on family prior to Moses Karnes.

From what I have pieced together, it is almost certain that Moses Karnes was born in the United States sometime in the 1790s. There is a fair bit of information available on the Karnes family in Virginia, and based on his final home in Western Tennessee and information I've been provided on a marriage in Kentucky in 1815, it is reasonable to assume that he may have started in or near Virginia. I have also run across information from time to time regarding a Moses Karnes from Virginia that could potentially be the father or even grandfather of my great-great-great grandfather Moses Karnes.

Based on the information I have, I have constructed the following timeline to give a general frame of reference


Full detail and all family information including spouses, siblings, children, pictures, headstones, and other information where available, can be found through the following links which represent my direct line to Moses Karnes.

Moses Karnes (1794 – 1865)

John Karnes (June 27, 1831 - June 27,1887)

John Moses Karnes (October 15, 1864 - December 22, 1946)

John Senter Karnes (March 28, 1905 - February 2, 1946)

John Paul Karnes (1929 – Present)

John Andrew Karnes (1971 – Present)