Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pye Chart - (Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Among Maria Lee Palmer Smith's papers I examined this summer were hand drawn pedigree charts outlining her husband's family. Based on the handwriting, I believe they were prepared by a Washington DC genealogist, Katherine C. Dorsey, who did research for Maria Lee and had extensive correspondence with her during the 1890s.

This chart outlines the ancestors and descendants of Roger Pye of the Mynde. My husband has one Pye ancestor listed in a respected (but unsourced) family history prepared several decades ago - his 4th great-grandmother, Elizabeth Pye. I have not yet examined or evaluated the research in Maria Lee's papers to see how Elizabeth may connect to these charted Pyes, but I treasured seeing these century old pedigrees.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Making Connections in 1928 - Amanuensis Monday

Thanks to John at Transylvanian Dutch who originated the Amanuensis Monday meme, providing a framework (and nudge) for transcribing family records, news clippings and other treasures.

This summer past I spent a week examining and digitizing papers belonging to my husband's great-grandmother Maria Lee Palmer Smith. Maria Lee was a dedicated family historian and archivist and her papers include many letters from other researchers and family members. This letter, from a cousin reestablishing connections, is one of my favorites.

“Two - mile House”
Carlisle Pa
April 2 . 1928

My dear cousin : -

After hearing from Mrs. West the other day, I had made up my mind to write to you as she enclosed you letter saying you would be “glad to know who Mrs. Beyea is”, & I thought I would explain us – both.

Yes, we are “Jimmie” Meredith's children, & I remember seeing your mother at my grandmother's in Balto. When I was a very little girl. She looked tall to me, and a little severe & I think her hair was parted in the middle; and she wore a long gold chain around her neck & there was a watch on it that slipped into her belt, & it seems to me her hair was not white but very dark, streaked with gray & I was rather in awe of “Aunt Palmer” as she was called in the family – after all these years. I wonder if these recollections are correct, or if I may have confused her with someone else in the family. I used to hear my father speak of “Mollie Palmer” & it is from a letter of his written in 1912 that I got your name and address to send Mrs. West

My father died in 1916 and if he had lived would have been eighty one I think. My Aunt, Kate Meredith – died several years ago. We only have one Meredith descendants to carry on the name – Richard Screven Meredith (now at Yale) a son of my brother Philip T. Meredith.
My other brother Harry P. Meredith died a year and a half ago - & left three girls & my third brother, Howell Janvier Meredith died when he was 24 years old, unmarried.
Mrs. Beyea (Elizabeth Janvier after my grandmother ) is a widow with two boys & two girls. “Jim” is like my father, but the Meredith name is gone. I also have a son & daughter & one grandson about 4 years old; but this does not carry on the name!

I married, the first time, John Mather Wallis of Baltimore, nephew of general Teackle Wallis – whom may have known as he was a well known lawyer of Baltimore – so my children are Wallises – Mr. Moore and I have no children.

And now that I have told you all my family history, I want to thank you so very much for your letter, and for taking the trouble to write out my “tree” for me.

I never knew which one of my great-grandfathers wives I was descended from until I got your letter, nor did I know that my great-great grandfather was William. Thank you so very much. Before this I have always had to confess that I didn't know who my great-grandmother Meredith was - and so have to thank you for Mary Dillard.

I don't think my father knew either as he speaks in this letter of his “grandfather John Meredith and his various wives” being buried I Lancaster Co. etc.

My father used to speak of “Uncle Tommy”. He must have been Aunt Palmer's brother. Then there was “Father Meredith”, he must have been the son of John Meredith and Anne Brent & a half-brother of Aunt Palmer's of my grandfather's. I have only heard of these various names – as a child, and never saw them on paper before & was therefore always a little hazy as to the relationship.

I also, have always heard we were Welsh, & I there is a Meredith coat-of-arms, which my brother Harry had become much interested in tracing, but after he became ill he was unable to continue it. Some friend of his in Detroit Mich. Had shown it to him & it was used by the original Meredith who came to this country in, I think, 1669. His name was I believe Jonathan. I can hunt this up if you are interested as I made some notes at the time my brother sent the coat-of-arm on for me to see. You know so much more than I do, that I am afraid I can never be of any help.

Do you ever take any motor trips? If so, won't you get my “cousin William” to bring you up here this summer? We live just outside of Carlisle, on the Chambersburg Highway, on an old stone house that was a tavern - “that's why” the Two-mile House, the original name. I should so much like to know my two cousins, whom I am so glad to have found.

I hope I have not bored you with too much detail & family.

It was so nice of you to write. I shall send your letter to my sister as she will be as much interested as I am.

With much love, I am your cousin
Alice Meredith Moore.

I am wondering if I maybe doubly connected, as I am on my mother's side a direct descendent of La__gra_ Thomas Smith – of S. Carolina however their name is legion, so that is just a chance.

My sister's address is
Mrs. Henry D Beyea
323 Midland Ave
Wayne Pa

I forgot to mention that my daughter is grown and has been married for several years, so I am not really so young after all!



Alice Moore and Maria Lee Smith were technically half first cousins once removed. The half is a distinction never seen in any of Maria Lee's papers. Her mother, one of four known Meredith children born to John Meredith by three different wives, did not distinguished her half-brothers from her full brother in any of the letters I've read. 

This is the first description of Smith's mother Margaret Meredith Palmer that I've read. Knowing the Palmer and Smith families I find it hard to believe that she was tall. I've towered over most every family member I've ever met. Perhaps to a child. 

The letter contains information that I believe to be incorrect. A Mary Dillard did marry a John Meredith (1782, Lancaster, VA) but I believe it was not Margaret's father John Meredith she married, but her great-uncle John Meredith. Uncle John died in 1795 leaving a will naming his wife Mary and three young daughters. Maria Lee Smith knew little of her Meredith or Palmer background. Other correspondence in the collection involves her hiring researchers in Lancaster County to search for marriage records. At this point I do not know the name of John Meredith's first wife, the mother of Thomas James Meredith (Alice Moore's grandfather). 

Finally, I wish I knew the source for "the original" Meredith! Not to mention who he was... 

Source: Moore, Alice Meredith. (Carlisle, PA) to Maria Lee Palmer Smith. Letter. 2 April 1828. Privately held by Smith's granddaughter. Frederick, MD. Published with permission. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Soapbox Saturday

Once in a while (like if there's a moon or sun or cloud in the sky) I pretend I'm standing on Hyde Park Corner railing against whatever power has sparked my wrath.

An aside - my husband's friends had a game they played when we were in college. It was a contest to see who could get me up to a full head of steam the fastest. It never took long. Phil was the champion.

The sun's peeking through the clouds today and there are issues taking up enough mental energy that I cannot focus on my goals. Lucky you!

First the easy one. This is Banned Books Week. YouTube is featuring short readings on the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out channel. Included are excepts from children's classics and many books I read growing up. Books that have lingered in my memory far longer than others. Books that forced me to examine my own life and the world around me. Clearly dangerous.

I have to share my shock (channeling Claude Rains here) at the announcement that Russia's President Medvedev wants Putin to run in 2012. Not much can make me look favorably on our own political morass, but Dmitry pulled it off.

As to our own body politic - not going there. Ditto the economy.

Which leaves me with ... Facebook. I'll try and keep this short, but you might want to get comfortable.

I was slow to see the value of social media. It took my far-flung family sharing photos of weddings and babies to get me onto Facebook. I pleaded for photos to be emailed to no avail. So I caved. Then I began to add genealogy friends, getting  to "know" the people behind the blogs I so enjoy. I drank the Kool Aid and loved it.

For those of us passionately interested in areas that bore our real world friends to tears, who don't always fit in the slots we occupy, social media is a chance to connect with those who share our passions. I've gotten great advice, encouragement, even prayers when needed from people I may never see face to face. It's gotten to feel like Cheers - a spot where everybody knows your name.

Yes, I know it's a public forum and that anything I post could be shared or broadcast the world over. I am reasonably circumspect - no photos of drinking games or silly hats or wet t-shirts (that would be a picture!). I don't check in or use Foursquare. Don't broadcast my occasional Scrabble triumphs or "like" dozens of pages. But I do chat. And tease. And vent. Things I might do sitting on a bus, or at a bar knowing the people around me could overhear. Things I'm MUCH less likely to do with a camera pointed straight at me recording and broadcasting my every movement to the world. There is a difference between knowing my chatter could be public if another person was determined to seek it out (a talent my geneafriends have, I might add) and having it presented to anyone walking by - now or ten years hence. Instead of having a bit part in Cheers, I'm suddenly in The Truman Show.

My readers and genealogy buddies know how tentatively I've gone public. It was over a year before I wrote using my own name. There is no post-1960 photograph of me here. I don't even do frequent whatever clubs because I don't like the information being tracked.

Yet I persuaded myself that Facebook was a safe place where I could keep up with family and get to know other genealogists. I no longer believe that to be true. I have removed the link to my Facebook profile from this blog. I plan to limit my contacts to family and intimate friends (though I hope I can persuade them to leave).

So where does that leave me? I drank the Kool Aid, remember. I like the virtual social relationships I've formed. It leaves me with Google+.

My initial reaction was that was too public, that I wanted more "privacy". Delusional. Repeat after me. There is no privacy online. If I want virtual relationships I need to realize they are public. That said, every Google+ post includes a choice of who to share it with AND the ability to prevent it being further shared. Do I want my comments about the St. Louis Cardinals or a local art show to go to everyone? Do all the genealogists I "know" need to see my chatter with the few I have a more personal relationship with? Do I share political links with the world or only those I'm hoping to convert? It's not a bad thing to pause and think about who I'm talking to.

It's taken time to set up my Google+ circles. I'm still thinking about how I receive and share posts. But I'm the one making the decisions, deciding on the limits of the relationships. If there were a Facebook "like" button I'd push it.


These posts are worth looking at if you want to read more about the changes at Facebook:

If you're curious about Google+ check out these links or pull up a bar stool and find me there. The first drink's on me.

Photo credit: By Shuttleworth Foundation via Flickr.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Disunion & Emerging Civil War - Follow Friday

The sesquicentennial of the Civil War has prompted me to focus on the conflict and its effects on the families I explore. Initially, much of my research has been examining the War in Tennessee, Kansas, Maryland and Virginia where our kinfolk lived during the conflict.

Two blogs have been more than helpful - they're so well written and engaging that they've become must reads for me. I've mentioned the fabulous Disunion posts at the New York Times and the Emerging Civil War blog written by National Park Service historians before. I'm doing so again.

Read these blogs. Seriously - though the blogs are not always serious. There are moments of humor and even whimsy. My latest favorite post at Emerging Civil War is a set of photographs Antietam Remembered. I will not forget the image of the Union soldier reenactor and his cell phone. I loved Roxana Robinson's post on coming to terms with her Great-Aunt Hattie's legacy at Disunion. Hattie, by the way, is more commonly known as Harriet Beecher Stowe. Great stuff.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Of Wagons, Indians and Gold – Part II

Continuing Alan McAdam's story of his mysterious uncle, James McAdams. You can read the first part here.

One of two scenarios takes place here.  Either James had told something of a tall tale to his brother, with respect to this Indian story, or Gum and Robert were attempting to pull a fast one, as I found out later on (keep reading), that James was just a hired driver for this trek – the losses were not his, personally.
Then I found a probate report from Madison County, Montana.  This record makes for some pretty good reading.  The court appointed administrator determined that James owed quite a bit of money and his assets were not worth that much.  He had stake in two different gold mines, but the administrator could not get bids on either holding.  There are genealogical goodies in this report though.  At one point the administrator writes:  “Refusing to retire from the contest bootless, I contacted a cousin of the deceased, Robert Renshaw of Deer Lodge, MT.”  This would be Robert McAdams Renshaw, son of Hosea Renshaw and James’ aunt, Nancy.
What little personal property James had went to his landlord. Charges of the newspaper were settled with an old buffalo robe belonging to James. 
Again, I wonder if James inflated his gold mining success to his brothers.  Newspaper articles at the time said that Gum and Robert T. went to Montana to settle his estate.  Surely they would not have made that trip had they known that their brother had no estate worth exploring.  Maybe James had borrowed money from them after inflating his own wealth?  There were unpaid doctor bills and a claim against the estate by Robert McAdams for $245.00.
Here comes the good part in my research on old James:  I was just doing some idle “Googling” on the internet, and had plugged in James McAdams, Mules, and Freight.  I came up with excerpts from an autobiography written by a Utah pioneer named L. H. Kennard.  This man was a Civil War veteran from Ohio.  After the War he came west, first to Missouri.  Along the way, he became friends with our James McAdams, and together they made a trek from Sonora MO., via Brownsville and Omaha, NE to Salt Lake City.  Our James went from Salt Lake on to Montana.  Mr. Kennard at first intended to follow him, but ended up staying in Salt Lake, marrying a Mormon woman and converting to that faith.
Mr. Kennard’s story tells of when he and James McAdams shared travel time together.  His arrival in St. Joseph makes some good reading. He walked from St. Joe to Atchison County to save travel expense, spent some time teaching school, and made a foolhardy trek across the Missouri River on thin ice! 
What I love about this story is that it comes close to bringing our James to life!  When Mr. Kennard decided to go west, he had no idea how he was going, he just took off.  He took a steamboat from Sonora up the river.  At the Nebraska City wharf, he found James McAdams, the only familiar face in sight.  James had been in Nebraska City a few days boarding.  One gets the sense that if you weren’t working a steamboat whistle would draw all the locals to the wharf to see who was getting off the boat.  You can almost hear James speak as he invites L. H. Kennard to come west with him and share expenses.
I sometimes wonder why James stayed so long in Montana. According to what I’ve studied, the gold rush began playing out in the 1870s.  James is found in the 1870 census.  There are long lists of Chinese people.  The census taker evidently gave up understanding them, because there are pages where all that is written is “Chinaman”, no age, no names, followed by endless ditto marks. Many other trades are in Virginia City, Stage coach drivers, watch makers, wagon makers, and wheel makers.  The sheriff, jailers are listed as well as the inmate population.
By the 1880 census, the population had pared down quite a bit.   The census taker has even started recording some of the Chinese names. Several women are recorded with their trade; prostitute.  James is here, in a cabin in a residential neighborhood, families around him, still listed as a placer miner.
I suspect one of those life experiences where James manages to eke out enough gold to make a meager living, and just becomes too comfortable with neighbors to try moving on.  He must have stayed in contact with relatives, however.  In the early 1880s, I found a brief blurb in a Rock Port, MO newspaper.  It details how Thomas McAdams and Frank Shaver are leaving town for Virginia City, Montana.  Thomas would be Gum’s oldest son, the one who would go get his body in St. Joe in another 10 yrs.  Later on the same paper announces a letter from Thomas:  The boys have arrived in Virginia City, find work to be plentiful and high paying.  Their spirits are “way up yonder!”  In a few more weeks though, the boys are back home.  Maybe they did not like the Montana winters?
Wish I had a picture of James.  I have a couple copies of unidentified photos I’ve received from fellow researchers that may well be James; but they are not identified – just found with other McAdams photos.
Hope you enjoy these stories of a man that used to be largely forgotten – his only memento being an “old buffalo robe”. 

Note - Alan refers to an autobiography written by L. H. Kennard. The book, Leonidas Hamlin Kennard - his family : a selection of narrative histories, is available through the Family History Library. It has also been microfilmed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Of Wagons, Indians and Gold

Years ago, when I first discovered genealogy message boards and RootsWeb, I was in touch with a wonderful McAdams family researcher. We shared information in the old fashioned way – snail mail. Through her I became aware of other McAdams researchers.
Recently one of those other McAdams researchers emailed me, Alan McAdams. I'd read articles he wrote in the now defunct McAdams Family Newsletter and knew what a wonderful researcher he was. We share a common ancestor – my 5th great-grandfather Thomas McAdams (d. abt. 1813, Washington County, TN). While my family remained in Tennessee, his boarded flatboats and headed west, settling in Missouri. We've been emailing, exchanging information – actually he's been sharing and I've been oohing and aahing.
With Alan's permission I am sharing one of his McAdams stories. We seem to share a soft spot for our reverse orphan kinfolk.

Of Wagons, Indians and Gold
Or……When Life leaves you With Just an Old Buffalo Robe………..
James W. McAdams,  1836-1891

When I was growing up and we made trips to Tarkio’s Home Cemetery, my father would give us little history lessons detailing those buried on the “Home 40”.  Our beloved were interred in two different plots, each with 10 grave spots.  One plot, Dad referred to as the Wood Lots; these were purchased by Dad’s maternal grandfather, Francis Marion Wood.   The other plot was called the McAdams Lots, and was purchased by his paternal grandfather, William Montgomery, “Gum” McAdams.   Dad would give us a bit of history about each of the occupants, and then told us that he was aware of one grave that was not marked.  He did not know who was in it.  He said his uncles may have told him at one time, but he could not remember what they told him.
Years later, my oldest brother, Charles Miles McAdams “Bud” entered the genealogy field.  I went with him to the funeral home once, and we asked to see their records.  The mystery person was identified!  He was listed as “Mr. McAdams”. 
A few years later, Bud found a newspaper article from a March, 1891 edition of the Tarkio Avalanche.  Paraphrased, it went like this.  W.M. McAdams sent his eldest son, Tom to St. Joseph yesterday with a team to pick up the body of Mr. McAdams’ brother.  The brother will be interred in Tarkio until his relatives can pick him up.  This was done before copy machines, etc., so Bud only has his own transcription.  I tried some time ago to access this newspaper, but the newspaper told me these papers had been sent to the state archives for microfilming.  I’ve still not been able to find it in either location.  
When I entered genealogy, I solved some more of the puzzle.  I found a biographical sketch for Gum’s brother, Robert T. McAdams, a banker in Peru, NE.  In a family listing, Robert mentioned brother James Madison McAdams.  James was born in Tennessee, went to Colorado in 1849, to Montana in 1866, engaged in gold mining and in failing health, returned to die at the Ensworth Hospital in St. Joseph, MO.  With this information, my brother Bud, bought a temporary marker to put where we now knew James to be.  Hope we can find a way to fund a permanent marker eventually.
James was born in Washington County, TN. On 8 June, 1836 to William S. McAdams & Eleanor McNeal McAdams.  He had Brothers, James McNeal, Robert Thompson, and William Montgomery “Gum”, my g-grandfather.  Also a sister, Anna Eliza. The father, as well as having endeavors in farming and cabinetmaking, was also engaged in the flatboat trade with his brother Thomas, brother-in-law John McNeal and others.  He died in 1842, leaving his wife with five young children to what must have been a hardscrabble existence.  In 1853, these flatboat men loaded up their families and left East Tennessee for Sonora Missouri. Eleanor and her children, now teenagers, went along.  The McNeal history book says that Eleanor had property on the Southwest corner of Watson, MO.  According to land records I’ve found, that acreage was in Robert’s name.  The boys and Anna Eliza all eventually married, except for the subject of this sketch, James.  As far as I’ve determined, he remained a bachelor all of his life.  Can’t figure out the reference to “his folks” in the article Bud cited. 
Later on, I found a court document in Nemaha County, NE, Probate Court wherein Gum McAdams filed a claim for losses suffered to the late James M. McAdams under the Indian Deprivations Act of 1891. He detailed how James was an owner or part owner of a train of mule teams that was attacked by Indians in Western Nebraska and suffered losses claimed to be nearly $ 8,000 dollars.  Can’t find that anything ever came from this petition. 
The story is continued here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stephenson~Cloyd 1808 Marriage Bond - Amanuensis Monday

Thanks to John at Transylvanian Dutch who originated the Amanuensis Monday meme, providing a framework (and nudge) for transcribing family records, news clippings and other treasures.

During my summer research travels I stopped at the Rockbridge County (VA) Clerk's office and asked to see the marriage bond for my 4th great-grandparents'. They brought out the document, encased in mylar (I hope) and allowed me to handle it carefully and photograph it.
Stephenson~Cloyd Marriage Bond

Know all men by these presents that we John Stephenson & Joseph Cloyd are held and firmly bound unto Wm. H. Cabell governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia & his successors in office for the use of the commonwealth in the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars to ___ which payment well & truly to be made we bind ourselves our heirs executors & jointly & severally firmly by these presents Witness our hands & seals the 13th day of Septem 1808  The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas there is a marriage shortly intended to be solemnized between the above bound Stephenson and Elizabeth Cloyd, Daughter of David Cloyd, decd ______
If therefore there shall be no lawful cause to obstruct the same then this obligation to be void otherwise to remain in full force and virtue
J Stephenson {seal}
Jos Cloyd {seal}
Teste William Anderson

Notes: Joseph Cloyd was Elizabeth's brother. Her mother, also named  Elizabeth was still living. John and Elizabeth were married by his maternal uncle, Rev. Samuel Houston, at Natural Bridge. It was Rev. Houston's habit to marry couples outdoors at Natural Bridge. I took the picture below the same day I photographed the marriage bond. The small white dots at the foot of the bridge's arches are people. It's hard to imagine a more majestic setting.

Source: Rockbridge, Virginia, John Stephenson/Elizabeth Cloyd Marriage Bond, 13 Sep 1808; Rockbridge County Clerk's Office, Lexington.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Will of John Meredith, 1830 - Friend of Friends Friday

This is the part of a series of transcriptions and abstracts of records involving slaves that I copied at the Library of Virginia during my summer research marathon. My husband's 3rd great-grandfather John Meredith wrote a his last will in 1830, before the birth of his last child, William Vincent Meredith. He named his wife, one adult and two minor children, his brother and two young slaves, Henry and Maria.

From Lancaster County (VA) Will Book 28, pages 327-328 (LVA Film #21)
     In the Name of God Amen I John Meredith of the County of Lancaster and State of Virginia being at this time in tolerable health and of Sound mind and knowing the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death do make and ____ this instrument my last will and testament revoking all others that I have heretofore made -
1st. It is my will and desire that my loving wife Ann Steptoe Meredith have and enjoy the use of all my estate both real and personal during her Single life for the purpose of Supporting maintaining and educating my younger children Margaret Maria and Thomas Wm. Meredith and Such other child or children as it may please God to bless me with by her Should however my relations think it best on Consulting with my said loving wife to Send them out to School or otherwise to take care of them, then and in that case instead of her having the use of my whole estate, She Shall have the use of one third of the Same during her natural life for it is my desire not to leave her worse off than I found her but rather better, She has been and continues to be, a most affectionate wife, as as well as mother to my children --.
2nd. I give and bequeath to my Son Thomas Jas. Meredith the plantation on which I live my negro boy Henry and my negro Girl Maria to him and his heirs forever any thing in the first item as above to the contrary notwithstanding, but he is not to have the possession of the said plantation till the Single life of my Said loving wife should terminate or the changes take place as above mentioned, he is however to take possession of above named Negroes as Soon after my decease as may be --.
3rd. The balance of my estate (in all cases my Just debts first to be paid of every description) I desire may be equally divided between my two younger children the Said Margaret Maria Meredith and Thomas Wm. Meredith and Such other child or children as I may have by my said loving wife --.
Lastly I hereby appoint my said loving wife Ann S. Meredith my brother Joseph Meredith of Totuskey Bridge and my Son Thos Jas: Meredith of the Same place my Sole Exors. To this my last will & testament. In Testimony whereof I have hereto Set my hand & affixed my Seal (the whole being written by my Self) this 9th day of July in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty --.
Jno. Meredith {S.S.}
At a Court held for the County of Lancaster on the 16th day of June 1834. This last will and testament of John Meredith decd was this day produced in open court, and being proven to be wholly in the proper hand writing of the Said decd by the oaths of Addison Hall & Ralph Edmonds two respectable witnesses was ordered to be recorded.
Teste,  Benjamin M. Walker cl.
Notes: I have not transcribed the estate records of John Meredith yet. There were other slaves named in later records. I have not researched Meredith's son Thomas James Meredith's estate which would have been recorded in Baltimore, Maryland. It is not clear whether the slaves Henry and Maria remained in Lancaster County (probably being rented to local land owners), moved to Totuskey Bridge (Richmond County, VA) where Thomas James Meredith was living, or were sold. I did not find record of such a sale in Lancaster County records. 

This is the first will I have transcribed where provisions were made for removing the children from the widow's care. In this case the children named were not her natural children, but the children of Meredith's previous wife, Ann Currell Lee Towles Meredith. Meredith had been married a year and a half when he wrote this will. The children did, in fact, remain in her care until her death in 1835. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

One final look at FGS 2011

I've had a few days to catch my breath and reflect upon my first national genealogy conference. I'm still dazed by the experience. So this is going to be one of those pick your superlative posts. Toss in a few adjectives for emphasis and you have my slack-jawed, newbie perspective.

Conference chairs Paula Stuart-Warren and Josh Taylor put on an outstanding conference and weren't a bad stand-up act either. I'm sure they had help from hundreds of people. I thank them all. Hard to see how FGS 2011 can be topped (and yes, I do know about RootsTech, and yes, I do want to go someday).

The courses were and always will be the main draw for me. I may be new to conferences and blogging, but I've been researching for decades and have well defined objectives and obstacles. I'm not interested in broad topics or even case studies (unless Thomas Jones is speaking). There were enough narrowly focused courses covering topics of interest that I could have attended two courses each session and still missed a few I wanted to hear. And they were really, really good!

As it was, I crawled out of Springfield exhausted, but thrilled to have gotten introductions to records that may hold information I've been seeking for many years. The syllabi will be a fabulous resource. I even purchased recorded copies of several classes I could not attend.

That said, I can't imagine doing this every year. The costs, while reasonable, are a factor. If it comes down to visiting my family (the living ones) or a genealogy conference, family wins. It was enormous fun to meet virtual friends and make new ones. But this was so big, with so many options, that I was frustrated at not being able to do it all. Six classes were scheduled on Friday and Saturday. I managed to get to five on Friday and three on Saturday before I surrendered and headed back to St. Louis. The pace was grueling. There are people I truly wanted to meet that I didn't. My fault for not seeking them out.

Next time I'll do better. For there will absolutely be a next time. I'll whip myself into shape (maybe even lose a couple pounds in the process). I'll make a point of connecting with the people I really want to meet. I'll have more realistic expectations, a better grasp of the pace. 160 class offerings over four days - I'll only schedule 4 or 5 each day. Throw in a couple breakfasts, luncheons or evening receptions and I should have at least 12 minutes free each day.

Here's to Fort Wayne in 2013!  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

'Tis the season - Wordless Wednesday

My great-uncle Phil Sawyer played football
at Milligan College near Johnson City, TN, c. 1919.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Samuel Doak - Tombstone Tuesday

1749             1829
Samuel Doak
Salem Church, 1780
Washington College, 1795

Samuel Doak Chapter, Daughters
American Revolution, Morristown, Tenn.
Assisted in Erecting this Monument

This monument, standing in Salem Cemetery on the grounds of Washington College, southeast of Jonesborough, TN, was erected in memory of the Rev. Samuel Doak, an early Presbyterian minister in East Tennessee and the founder of the first college in Tennessee. Rev. Doak is twice my uncle by marriage, having married first Margaret Houston McEwen, sister of my 5th great-grandmother Alice Houston Stephenson, and second Esther Houston Montgomery, Margaret and Alice's aunt.

He was a towering figure in the early history of East Tennessee -  preaching at Sycamore Shoals to the Overmountain Men, founding Salem Church, two schools and a staunch abolitionist.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The last day - FGS 2011

I had an ambitious schedule laid out for the last day of the FGS conference - six classes before driving home to St. Louis. I got to three.

Part of the problem was the time it took to recover from spending Friday evening parked in the deep freeze masquerading as the northwest corner of the Springfield Hilton Ballroom. Never go there. The chandelier crystals were blowing horizontally over our heads. We complained. Repeatedly. Those of us staying at the Hilton ran to our rooms and brought down sweaters, hoodies, wraps and coats. Only my deep respect for FGS organizers stopped me from bringing down the bathrobes and blankets. I have never been colder. It took two hours huddled under blankets sipping hot water to recover. I slept in the next morning and missed the first class.

I did attend Jay Fonkert's class on midwestern geography Porkopolis to Bonanza Farms. The topic was a bit ambitious for one hour, but his bibliography recommendations and syllabus were superb. It would be great to hear this broken into two classes. His discussion on the rise and fall of the midwestern cities was marvelous. An aside - I've long wanted the National Geographic Society's Historical Atlas of the United States, but Fockert convinced me it's a must have.

Next, I went to Linda Woodward Geiger's Evidence: Guidelines for Evaluating Genealogical Sources. This was the one course I took that was a refresher course for me, but I'd been to two of her earlier classes and completely enjoyed them. As I did this one. Don't blame her if I talk about primary sources or derivative information. This is one of those areas I need a cheat sheet in front of me to keep the terminology straight.

After a quick lunch with Geneablogger buddy Margel I headed back for Dean Hunter's Locating American Scots-Irish Families in the Records of Ireland and Scotland. I've not crossed the pond with any of the colonial lines I research but if I do, Ireland and Scotland are where I will land. Hunter's overview (and again, bless the wonderful syllabus) was a peek into an area I've feared to tread. Completely new records to explore. Estate records there mean land, not what's passed on after death.

It was three o'clock when this class finished and whatever spongelike qualities I had when the conference began were long gone. I looked at the schedule, looked at the map, grabbed two candy bars,  a caffeine ladened soft drink and headed for home.

I don't think I moved for two hours once I got home. I wouldn't have moved then except the dog peed all over my suitcase still parked in the front hall. He missed me!

Photograph by future15pic

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I remember

Wtc arial march2001

I never liked the World Trade Center towers. They were built while I was growing up outside New York City. They were out of scale with the rest of the Manhattan skyline, dwarfing the skyline of my childhood where the Empire State building reigned.

But these last ten years, all I can see when I look at that skyline is the spot where they stood. And I wish so very much that they and all those who perished that day were still standing.

Photograph by Jeffmock (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, September 9, 2011

This is Why I Came to FGS!

Beyond a burning desire to meet Geneabloggers I'd only known virtually, beyond my deep admiration for Mr. Lincoln and Springfield's resources, beyond the fact that this year's FGS conference was so close to home I could almost walk here, what sold me on this conference was the breadth of the course offerings.

They have not disappointed. I attended two Thomas Jones lectures yesterday, Lisa Alzo's Immigrant Cluster Communities and Debra Mieszala's Disappearing Dude lectures. All very well done and all emphasizing the need to approach research from far more than the birth, marriage and death record perspective. Understanding context, gathering details to construct a biography, tackle a brick wall or build collaborative research communities that reflect earlier immigrant communities - the theme of the day was broadening research and telling the stories.

Today my classes were all record based - very detailed and very informative. The theme today was knowing the lay of land - both in terms of navigating the record collections and understanding the geography of the area being researched.

I have mined all the obvious records for my especially challenging research targets. I've done the census records, the deeds, vital records, etc. The people I need to find are all born in the 18th c., all living on the frontiers where few records were kept or survive. I have new tools now!

Linda Woodward Geiger's U.S. Territorial Papers course introduced me to the records kept in the frontier areas and offered information on various finding aids to help dive into the various collections. I'm not likely to find vital records, but court cases, petitions, even postal records will provide context - and with luck one or two of my guys.

Craig Scott provided an overview of military records, both regular Army and local militia units, available for men who fought in the Indian Wars before the Civil War. For one who has avoided military research it was a bit overwhelming (I am following all those pre-conference recommendations to check out unfamiliar material!). But, I have a good beginning bibliography (first purchase is Military Service Records: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications - once it's available again), an awareness of what I need to start looking AND links. First stop is The U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Territorial and military records are almost completely new to me, and daunting enough. But I've actually tried to dig into the Draper Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Think quicksand. 491 volumes or 130 reels of microfilm covering decades of Drapers research on the Trans-Allegheny West. Unindexed (mainly).

I was overjoyed to see a lecture by James Hansen introducing what he referred to as the (In)famous collection. I am not the first to find it intimidating. Hansen suggested that Draper himself was overwhelmed with the amount of material he gathered. Decades of research led to one book. I harbor a sneaking suspicion I may be afflicted with Draper Disease - always collecting, never producing! There are no shortcuts with the manuscripts, but there are finding aids and guides that can point one in the right direction. And, as Hansen pointed out, the material is fascinating. It may take days to pour through a small portion, but it'll be a good read.

This was a fabulous day. Technical, geeky, detailed and more exciting than I can express.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Loving Lincoln and more - FGS 2011

I'm easing myself in to the FGS conference in Springfield this week. I've spent much of the last two days reviewing microfilm on my husband's Jones ancestor in preparation for Thomas Jones' The Jones Jinx class tomorrow. I don't think I've found anything groundbreaking, but I did discover our Jones was quite the land trader - 21 deeds over 35 years. I'm hoping there's a nugget in one of them that's gold.

Last night I was able to meet some of the Geneabloggers here face to face at the FamilySearch reception. Plenty of bloggers are giving a rundown of the Conference. I'm not going to even attempt that. But I am grateful to FamilySearch for the chance to visit with people I only know through social media. I was also blown away by their efforts at bringing new records online. Their Field Express project is getting newly digitized records online within a month of being recorded. They have cameras around the globe - including Ukraine which made my heart leap. I'll be watching those new records.

This afternoon I (and 39 others) took one of the behind the scenes tours being offered by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Conservation labs, manuscripts, and a visit to the closed stacks - it was enough to thrill this library rat. Once again - blown away. If the rest of the conference is a complete bust (not likely, they're serving ice cream tonight) learning more about this resource was worth the trip.

The library is so much more than a Lincoln reference site - though that would be interesting enough to warrant a visit. Its collection dates back to 1889 when the Illinois State Historical Library was created and is a fabulous genealogical research resource.

Our guide Gwen Podeschi outlined several databases and indexes that are available online for those out of the area or to use in planning a trip.
  • The Law records of Lincoln database is online. Lincoln practiced law here for decades. If you've family who were in Central Illinois at the time they may have served on a jury or been a witness in one of Lincoln's cases.
  • The Library is charged with preserving Illinois newspapers by microfilming as many as it can. It has the largest collection in the world of Illinois newspapers dating back to when Kaskasia was the capitol. 
  • The Boys in Blue is a database of the names of 7,000 Illinois Union soldiers whose photographs have been cataloged. Haven't hunted that one yet, but it's on the agenda.
  • Their Obituary Index has been compiled from research done and information donated. Obituaries are not available, but citations are. It is not a complete index of all obituaries appearing in Illinois newspapers, but what a great place to start.
Obviously so much more is available at the Library - 12 million papers in the manuscripts collection, hundreds (was it thousands?) of maps. While I was standing in the Reading Room I couldn't help but notice a set of books "Medical and Surgical history of the Civil War". With at least two Civil War era physicians in the family it might be worth a look.

My favorite part of the day was the realization that living in St. Louis I am actually close to some resources that will be enormously helpful. I've given the midwestern branches of our family short shrift over the years. It's time they got a little attention.

Old and young, 1941 - Wordless Wednesday

My great-grandmother Catherine Conway Sawyer and her eldest great-grandchild, c. 1941 at home in Warrensburg, TN. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lancaster County, VA 1833 - Amanuensis Monday

Thanks to John at Transylvanian Dutch who originated the Amanuensis Monday meme, providing a framework (and nudge) for transcribing family records, news clippings and other treasures.

During my research at the Library of Virginia last month I was able to copy more than one hundred pages of wills, deeds, marriage records, even voting lists. This page, from Lancaster County (VA) Deed Book 34, p. 159, may be my favorite. Other pages have more information but here, in separate entries, two of my husband's 3rd great-grandfathers are named.

Lancaster County to wit --
                  We John Meredith and James Harding Justices of the peace in the County aforesaid in the State of Virginia do hereby certify that Elizabeth Vowell, the wife of Valentine H. Vowell parties to a certain deed bearing date the 8th day of March 1833 and hereto annexed, personally appeared before us in our County aforesaid and being examined by us privily and apart from her husband and having the deed aforesaid fully explained, She the said Elizabeth Vowell  acknowledged the Same to be her act and deed and declared that She has willingly, Signed SEaled and delivered the Same, and that she wishes not to retract it--   Given under our hands and seals this 15th day of March 1833.
Jno: Meredith
James Harding
At a Court held for the County of Lancaster on the 15th day of April 1833
The deed from Valentine H. Vowell and Elizabeth his wife to William Gresham was proved in open court by the oaths Ezekiel G. Shearman and Robert H. Tapscott two of the witnesses thereto --
and at a Court held for the County of Lancaster on the 20th day of May following the said deed was further and fully proved by the oath of William Boyd the other witness thereto - and together with the Justices certificate of the privy examination of the Said Elizabeth was ordered to be recorded --
Benjamin M. Walker, c.  c.              

For and in Consideration of the Sum of one Hundred and fifty Dols: to me in hand paid, I have this day bargained and sold unto Cols: Armstead J. Palmer all my right, title claim interest and demand that I now have or hereafter expect to have in the personal Estate of Joseph Carter Jr: decd the right to Said property I warrant and defend unto Said Palmer free from the claims of all and every person or person whatever -- as witness my hand and Seal this 15th day of Feby: 1833.
Robert C Clarke                              Jno: Lunsford {seal}
At a court held for the County of Lancaster on the 20th day of May 1833
This Instrument of writing from John Lunsford to Armstead J. Palmer was acknowledged in open Court by the Said Lunsford and Ordered to be recorded --.
Teste, Benjamin M Walker c c

Notes: There is an marriage record for Jno Jr. Lunsford to Lettice L. Carter on 17 Nov. 1817 in Lancaster County. One online tree names her as a daughter of a Joseph Carter who died in 1815, but Joseph Lyon Miller's The Descendents of Capt. Thomas Carter of Barford, Lancaster County, Virginia...  names different children (p. 357). I am curious what if any relationship existed between Palmer and the Carter family since Palmer's son purchased a large tract of land from the family in 1843.

This is the first reference I have for John Meredith serving as a Justice of the Peace.

Source: Lancaster, VA, Deeds, Deed Book 34:159; Library of Virginia, Reel 12.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What I read on Wednesday - Follow Friday

I've never done a "Best of the Blogs" post and truly had no intention of doing one Wednesday night when I sat down to do some catch up reading while listening to the Cardinals actually win a baseball game. But I have never read so many extraordinary posts at once. There was some inspired writing this week. I even missed several key plays, though not the unlikely grand slam by pitcher Jake Westbrook. A wonderful evening.

So, with no promises for future "Best ofs", here are the blogs that I found informing, entertaining, moving or all of the above on Wednesday night.

There were two wonderful posts sparked by researchers revisiting information.
Stephanie Goldberg at acquamarinesteph took a different tack in researching her great great-grandparents and found new material in Conliffe update, part 1: AKA Start With What You Know
Lessons Learned by Taco Goulooze at all makes census shows what can happen when you examine everyone in a census listing. And isn't that the greatest blog title?
I'm about to dive back into genetic genealogy after taking the summer off and loved Daniel Hubbard's clear writing on the subject in Holes in my Genes at Personal Past Meditations.

I've definitely noticed the occupations listed on's World War II enlistment records database and added a few to my data. Might need to check again according to John Newmark at TransylvanianDutch. Read his post Civil Occupation Codes: What's Going On Here? for more information.

Heather Rojo has written about her Hawaiian kin many times at Nutfield Genealogy. But she was surprised by the amount of new information and connections made when a Facebook group started for Hawaii's Holt Family.

There were two posts that made me grin, then laugh out loud.
Mindie Burgoyne's The Vacation of Many Cars with Teenagers from Hell at Who Cares What I Think? brought back memories of some tortured trips of my own - both as intrepid chauffeur (but never as intrepid as she) and as Satan's spawn. 
Dee Burris of Shakin' The Family Tree has found one of the all-time great criminal pardons and shared it in What a hoot.... Now if only she can figure out if there's a connection to her Burris kin. I do hope so!
The Civil War Sesquicentennial has sparked some great reads.
If you haven't already found and been reading the New York Times' Opinionator/Disunion series it's time to do some back reading yourself. Wednesday's Baltimore's Unlikely Confederates was just the latest of their superb offerings.
The last paragraph of John Hennessey's The final journey of Capt. Edward P. Lawton (part 2) makes a strong point about Civil War history and commentary today. The blog, Mysteries and Conundrums, is written (unofficially) by the staff at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial.
Finally, Mel Wolfgang celebrated his first blogoversary at Mnemosyne's Magic Mirror with another perceptive and beautifully written post - And Still I Write. Each time I read one of his posts I see an eloquently developed thought - a sculpture rather than the block of marble that often rests upon my shoulders. I wish I thought and wrote as he does. That will never be, but I am ever grateful he shares both.

Quite an evening. No surprise that I'm finishing this in the wee hours of the morning full of admiration for those bloggers who manage this each week. I've no idea how they do it!