Posted in Ancestor Stories

Revolutionary Man – John “Raccoon” Miller

We all have what I like to call a “gateway ancestor”. You know the one ancestor that as you were researching you realized that you actually like genealogy. For me, that ancestor was John “Raccoon” Miller. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about how my mom got me started in genealogy, but it wasn’t until I started researching John Miller and reading his stories that I became truly hooked. Let me tell you a bit about this revolutionary man.

Who was John “Raccoon” Miller?

John Miller was born in 1747 with the exact location still up for discussion. Some say he was born in South Carolina. Others state that he was born in Holland. Nobody has any proof to back up those claims. I tend to lean to the third opinion. That he was born in Scotland. If you know the history of the Scottish coming to American, you know that North Carolina was a hotbed for Scots to settle. Also, I have found a document placing a John Miller being born in 1747 in Scotland. The only problem is, with such a common name, it is hard to say with 100% confidence that this is him.

Documents for John Miller are a bit scarce until he shows up in Haywood County, North Carolina in 1776. At this point, the American Revolution is in full force and he is serving with the North Carolina militia. However, he does find time in his busy schedule to marry Eve Weidner. Together they have seven children; John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Rachel, Elizabeth, and Jacob. The family will eventually make their way across the mountains and settle in the State of Franklin (modern day East Tennessee).

It’s War Time

When the American Revolution made it’s way to the North Carolina back country, John Miller did not hesitate to join. Enlisting in the North Carolina militia, John was able to encourage others to join the cause due to his standing in the community. He fought bravely in many battles, the most notable being the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Artist painting of The Battle of King’s Mountain

John not only served his county proudly, but he made some useful connections along the way. One of his new friends was future Tennessee governor, John Sevier. John soon found himself as one of Sevier’s trusted companions. So much so, that Sevier made John a Captain in the militia. The two would remain friends after the American Revolution. The would both be instrumental in what would be known as the State of Franklin.

It’s Peace Time

After the war, John would find himself with significant land holdings in both North Carolina and Tennessee, thanks to military land grants. John would hold onto most of the land, allowing it to pass down the generations. However, always being one up for a good story, there is a rumor regarding John and the land he owned in what is now Middlesboro, Kentucky. Supposedly, John was given an offer he just couldn’t refuse and “sold” the town for a bottle of moonshine. I have yet to find any documentation that this actually happened, but I feel like if moonshine is involved it may have been an “under the table” transaction.

One of John Miller’s land deeds

John was also quite the entrepreneur, not just with land but with some unique items. He took it upon himself to buy some silkworms and set them up in his barn. John then proceeded to sell the silk to local merchants to make some extra money. Nobody in the area had ever grown silkworms or even knew what to do with them. But, in true John Miller fashion, he figured it out and turned that silk into gold.

The Legend of John “Raccoon” Miller

Nobody really knows how John Miller was given the name “Raccoon”. The most logical story that has been handed down is that since there was another John Miller in the area, he was given a nickname in order to distinguish between the two. Whatever the reason, the memory of “Raccoon” Miller still lives on in East Tennessee. If you ever find yourself in Maynardville, Tennessee, you will see Raccoon Valley Road which runs though that acreage that belong to John. You will also find a highway maker that shows the location of Miller’s blockhouse.

Highway Marker in Maynardville, TN

John Miller passed away on August 25, 1832 in Maynardville, Union County, Tennessee. He is buried along side his wife, Eve, in Ousley Cemetery in Maynardville.

John and Eve’s headstones in Ousley Cemetery, Maynardville, TN

I think it is safe to say why John Miller caught my attention. He was the first ancestor that I really got to know. Researching John is the reason I joined the Daughter’s of the American Revolution. I guess you could say that even in death, John “Raccoon” Miller is still making his presence known.

My Daughter’s of the American Revolution pin

Make sure to read the stories of my other revolutionary ancestors.

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Revolutionary War Soldier – John Hanna

In case you couldn’t tell, the Revolutionary War is my jam!  I mean, if I could find some magical stones and travel though time, this is without a doubt the era that I would want to land in.  I love hearing the different stories of my ancestors who were alive during this time.  It makes me wonder what part I would have played in this part of history.  Today, I’m digging into my ancestor, John Hanna.

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Who was John Hanna?

John is my 6th Great-Grandfather on my paternal side. This line, according to records I have so far, originated in Ulster, Ireland. John was actually born on a ship in 1756 as his family made their way to America from Ireland.  His parents, James A. Hanna and Anne Johnson had six other children; Elizabeth, James W, William, David, Joseph, and Martha.  The first three children were born in Ireland while the last three were born in Virginia.  I suppose John being born at sea was in true middle child fashion.  The family arrived in Pennsylvania and made their way south where they settled in the Virginia colony.

John’s Revolutionary Experience

John enlisted in the Continental Army in Greenbrier County, Virginia in 1777.  He joined as a private under Captains Samuel Lapsley and Alexander Breckenridge.  He saw quite a bit of action during his time in the army.  He fought at the Battle of Monmouth, the Battle of Point Pleasant, and the Siege of Charleston (South Carolina).  If you’re a Hamilton fan, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Battle of Monmouth.  I’m looking at you, Charles Lee.

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At the Siege of Charleston, John was taken by the British Army as a prisoner of war.  He was held captive for about eighteen months.  Unfortunately, there are no records of where John was held or what the conditions were.  It seems that after his release, John was honorably discharged from the Army by Captain Breckenridge. 

Post-War John

After the war, John settled in Augusta County, West Virginia.  While living there, he met and married Jane Graham.  Jane and her family were also from Ireland.  If history teaches us anything, it seems more than likely that their families were from the same area of Ireland.  They married in 1787 and together had seven children; John, Robert Graham, Jane, Christopher, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Martha.

In 1825, John applied for his Revolutionary War pension.  According to the documents, John considered himself poor and desperate needed the money to support his family.  Both of his daughters, Elizabeth and Martha, were living with him as well as four grandchildren.  John also states that while his occupation is that of a farmer, he is physically unable to do the work.  He lists all of his assets, as well as items that he has sold, to prove to the court that he needs this money.  His pension is approved on July 6, 1825.

One page from John Hanna’s pension application.

John and Jane eventually moved their family to Jackson County, Ohio.  The children would scatter to different states after that.  You have to think that John was proud of this fact.  He had fought for this country and the right for his children to explore it.  John Hanna passed away on April 11, 1845 at the age of 89.  I think it’s safe to say that John lived a long and eventful life!

The headstone of John Hanna. He is buried in Fairmount Cemetery in Jackson, Ohio.

Read about more of my revolutionary ancestors…

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Robert Messer: North Carolina Regulator

The big moments in history are often the only moments we talk about.  The Sons of Liberty, George Washingon, and The Battle of Yorktown seem to get the most press when talking about the Revolutionary War.  What about all of the moments that happened before the war even started?  What about the story of the North Carolina Regulators?  Here is the story of my 7thgreat grandfather and North Carolina Regulator, Captain Robert Messer.

Who was Robert Messer?

Captain Robert Messer was born in New Bern, Craven, North Carolina in 1734. History tells us that New Bern was named after the town, Bern, in Switzerland. While I have yet to prove that the Messers came from Switzerland, it is safe to say that they did come from the Germany/Switzerland area. Not much is known about Robert’s family. I have yet to find any information on his parents or if he had any siblings. We do know that Robert married Mary Ann Basket. There are rumors that say Mary was at least part Indian and that her Indian name was “Little Flower”. Now I’m not sure how true this is. Maybe Mary was part Indian or maybe somewhere down the line somebody thought “Little Flower” and Basket went good together.

Robert and Mary Messer had 6 children; Christian Sargent, Joseph E, Tipton, Jarred, Mary Ann, and Solomon. Christian is my 6th great grandfather, and along with Robert plays an important roll in some pre-Revolutionary folklore.

The Regulator Movement

In the early 1770s, the colonists were beginning to become dissatisfied with the British Crown. In North Carolina, this led to the formation of the Regulators. While the Regulators are usually ignored in Revolutionary War history, it is safe to say that the battles involving the Regulators are basically the beginning of the Revolution.

Highway marker in Alamance County, North Carolina

If you are an Outlander fan, who may recognize the story of the Regulators, after all Murtagh was one.  You also know that the series covers the Battle of Alamance and even mentions the notorious Herman Husband.  Husband was one of the most well known Regulator leaders and is often credited for the documents produced by the movement.  Governor Tryon had his sights set on Herman Huband even before the Battle of Alamance occurred.  For the record, I kept waiting for them to mention Robert Messer in one of the Outlander episodes.  Sadly, he didn’t make the cut.

In May of 1771, the Battle of Alamance took place in Orange County, North Carolina. Captain Robert Messer fought along other Regulators against Governor William Tryon and his militia. While the Regulators lacked the supplies and organization that Tryon’s militia had, they were able to hold their own during the early part of the battle. Unfortunately, the battle turned and ended in the favor of Governor Tryon. In the end, Tryon took 13 Regulators prisoner…one of those being Robert Messer.

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In the days after the battle, Tryon killed one of the prisoners to make an “example” of what would happen to someone taking a stand against the Crown. The other 12 were told to take an oath in order to show their allegiance to the Crown. Only six of the Regulators took the oath while the others were on their way to stand trail for treason.

It didn’t take Tryon long to decided that the six remaining Regulators were guilty of treason against the Crown. Judge Richard Henderson handed down the judgment of violating the Riot Act to Robert Messer and the five others. Messer and the other captured Regulators were to be hung for their crime. Like many of Tryon’s acts, this was to be a public hanging with hopes of putting a stop to the Regulator uprising.

Let’s Make a Deal

The most gut-wrenching part of the story would happen next. In hopes of a last minute pardon, Robert Messer’s wife, Mary, and son, Christian (who was around 11 years old at the time), made their was to Orange County. In the minutes before the hanging was to occur, Christian Messer, threw himself at the mercy of Governor Tryon. It is said that Christian begged Tryon to take him instead and allow his father to go home and continue to provide for his family. Legend says that Christian told Tryon he was worried about what would become of his mother Mary if Robert was to be killed.

Article from The Daily Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina) July 23, 1934

Tryon’s assistant, Colonel Fanning, stepped in and convinced Tryon to momentarily pardon Messer. Fanning came up with the deal that if Messer could find Herman Husband and bring him back to Tryon, then Messer could have his freedom.  (Sidenote:  while Herman Husband was at the Battle of Alamance, he did not actually participate in the fighting.  He was a Quaker.).  Messer took the deal and set off to find Husband.  To keep Messer honest, Tryon held Robert’s wife and son as hostage until he returned.

Messer was able to track Husband down just across the border in Virginia.  The only problem was that Messer was one man and had no way of actually bringing Husband back to North Carolina.  Realizing that he had run out of options, Messer made his was back to Tryon empty handed.  Tryon then proceeded to arrest Messer and release his wife and son.  Tryon took no pity on the Messers, and along with the 5 other “traitors” Robert was killed.

Headstone that marks the place of the Regulators hanging in Hillsborough, North Carolina

If you ever find your way to Hillsborough, North Carolina, there is a marker in a field where the hanging took place. This is the one place where I can go and actually feel a connection to my ancestors. It’s strange to stand there and think what was going through Robert’s, Mary’s, and young Christian’s mind. I’m very proud of my ancestors for standing up for what they believed in, regardless of if all the stories are in fact true. Stories like this make spending countless hours in a library well worth it.

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Check out some of my other revolutionary ancestors.

Posted in Ancestor Stories, Revolutionary

Eve Weidner: Revolutionary Woman

Often, when we think about the Revolutionary War, we only think of the men who fought.  We focus on the battles and who won or lost.  We talk about the men who were Generals, the men who enlisted, and all the men in between.  We tend not to talk about the women and how important their role was in winning America’s freedom.

Who was Eve Weidner?

Eve (or Eva) Weidner was born to Ludwig (Lewis) Weidner and Barbary Boyer on January 31st, 1751 in Lincoln County, North Carolina.  While little is known about her mother, Ludwig was of German descent and held his German traditions close to his heart.  Growing up, the Weidner’s were known revolutionaries living in a county full of loyalists.  This more than likely made growing up challenging for Eve.  This is why the Weidner family started moving towards western North Carolina and the Tennessee border.

Like Father, Like Son-In-Law

Records for Eve become a bit scarce until she marries John “Raccoon” Miller on March 1st, 1776 in Haywood County, North Carolina.  The Millers would move on to Hawkins County, Tennessee and eventually settle in Union County, Tennessee.  Once settled, Eve and John would have seven children: John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Jacob, Elizabeth, and Rachel.

If legend is true, John Miller seems to be a lot like Eve’s father, Ludwig.  They were both revolutionaries and participated in battles with local militia.  One of the most notorious stories of Eve is when she was left at home with the children while John was off on one of his excursions.  The story says that the family dogs started barking and going crazy while Eve and the children were inside.  Living in known Indian Territory, Eve immediately had the children hide while she grabbed a shotgun.  Eve then went outside to defend her home against the said Indians.  While not much is known about the actual encounter, I think it’s safe to say that the Indians probably thought twice before messing with Eve again.

Show Me the Money

John passed away in 1832 and had never applied for his Revolutionary War pension.  Well, Eve decided that she would go for it, twenty years after John died.  It seems that Eve was not a woman who would ever take no for an answer.  I will tell you that people thought that a woman her age attempting to get her dead husband’s pension was crazy!  According to the pension documents, Eve was 100 years and 6 days old when she started the application process.  While there is no documentation if Eve ever received John’s pension, I think it is safe to say that whatever Eve put her mind to she succeed.

An example from Eve Weidner’s pension application.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

Eve passed away on August 12th, 1853 in Union County, Tennessee.  She was 102 years old.  Just a few years ago, a local Daughter’s of the American Revolutionary chapter in Knoxville, Tennessee, recognized Eve for her efforts and support during the Revolutionary War by giving her a new headstone.  It is always nice when women recognize other women!

Eve Weidner’s gravestone.

I feel that it is important that we continue to share the stories of our female revolutionaries.  The Revolutionary War was not just fought on the battle field, but all across the colonies.  These hidden stories need to written to preserve the memories of colonial women.

Posted in #52Ancestors, Ancestor Stories

Let’s Start At the Very Beginning

When deciding what to write about for Week One’s 52 Ancestor challenge, I thought it would be best to start at the beginning. If you’ve been a follower of the blog for a while, you know that I got my love of genealogy from my mother. What you probably don’t know is how she found her way into the genealogy world and became the official family historian. So, here is her story..

Pamela Sue Burkhart was born in 1957 in Detroit, Michigan to Dorothy Jean Price and Vernon Burkhart. Her parents were both from Harlan County, Kentucky. They had moved to Detroit for work by way of the “Hillbilly Highway”. My mom says that when she was growing up, it was just like being in the south. All of her neighbors were either from Kentucky or other southern states. Families in their neighborhood held tight to their Southern traditions. So, while they were living, and working, in the north, most families never really embraced the Michigan way of living.

My mom with her grandfather, William Howard Taft Price

My mom married my dad, Christopher Franklin Arthur, in 1975. His family came from a similar background. They made their way from West Virginia to Michigan for work also. To say that my childhood had mostly southern influences and traditions would be an understatement. In 1991, my dad’s job moved us back to the south. This time, though, we were heading to Tennessee.

About this time, my mom began to hear stories about her 2x Great Grandfather. There was a family discussion on what his name was and which side he fought for during the Civil War. At the time of the war he lived in East Tennessee (Union County to be exact). If you know your Tennessee history, you know that the state was split on who fought for which side. While rumors were that he fought for the Union, nobody knew for sure.

Now that we were living in Tennessee, about 4 hours away from the Knoxville/Union County area, my mom decided to put this “discussion” to rest. She now had easy access to the Tennessee State Archives and, with a little drive, access to the cemetery where her 2x Great Grandfather was buried. Needless to say, she solved the mystery and figured out the Elias S. Carroll was a Lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War.

During one of our many road trips to East Tennessee

She now had a taste for the research and how if felt to solve a family argument. Now she was eager to see what else she could find. Family history had always been important to her, but now it was at another level! This was long before internet research was a thing. I love reading over some of the notes from phone calls and the emails that went back and forth between newly discovered relatives. If she had not laid such a great foundation, I would not be the genealogist I am today.

I asked my mom what advice she would give to someone beginning their family history/genealogy journey. Here is what she told me:

Listen to the stories. Find what they all have in common. Usually there is a least a small nugget of truth in there somewhere. Be patient and be willing to put in the work. It will all be worth it!

My mom and I
Posted in Ancestor Stories

AMMD Pine Grove Project

Sometimes the messages you find in your Ancestry inbox can bring about the best connections. That is how I met my cousin Sonja. We matched each other through AncestryDNA and after a few back and forth messages, we figured out our connection. Sonja is my 7th cousin, 1x removed. While that might not seem like a close connection, it doesn’t matter. We are still family and hopefully someday soon we will move from Facebook family to hanging out in real life family!

As I’ve got to know Sonja better, she told me about the AMMD Pine Grove Project. I fully support any project that seeks to save historical areas/buildings, but this was family! This project is working to save the Pine Grove School. The school was established by free African Americans who wanted to give their children the gift of education. Founded in a rural, segregated, farming community, it is a very important piece of history that needs to survive for future generations.

The Project recently received recognition as one of 2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation Virginia. Preservation Virginia is the premier preservation organization in Virginia. It warms my heart to see all the hardwork paying off! Below you’ll find the press release talking about the designation, and details about the project, written my Sonja’s mother (and another one of my wonderful cousins), Muriel Miller Branch. Also, make sure to check out the bottom of the release to see where you can find more about the AMMD Pine Grove Project and how you can support this wonderful project!

 Muriel Miller Branch, President of the AMMD Pine Grove Project and former student of the Historic Rosenwald School, stands in front of the community’s beloved Pine Grove School in Cumberland County, Virginia as she is creating a video to submit to Preservation Virginia.  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Pine Grove School Community on the                                                       

2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places

May 19, 2020

The cause for today’s celebration (May19th) is to announce the Pine Grove School Community’s selection as one of the 2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation Virginia, the premier preservation organization in Virginia. This recognition coincides with AMMD Pine Grove Project’s vision of “Preserving History, Expanding Community.”

Pine Grove School’s origin is as humble as the former enslaved and free African Americans who established the school  to educate their children in this rural, segregated, farming community.  In 1916, Black residents of the community seized the opportunity afforded them through the Rosenwald Fund and building project, to build a school. They contributed the land, a sizable amount of money, and the labor to build it, and the school opened to students in the Fall of 1917.

Pine Grove School is one of the few remaining Rosenwald Schools established in rural communities throughout the South for the purpose of educating colored children. The brainchild of  Dr. Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears Roebuck Company, both visionaries, devised a plan to build state-of-the art schools for children who would not otherwise have received an education due to Jim Crow laws imposing racial segregation. The two-room schoolhouse served Pre-K to Sixth grade students, who walked up to five miles to attend their cherished school. 

In 1964, after the school closed its doors, a groups of concerned residents of the community, led by Mr. Robert L. Scales, rescued Pine Grove from auction by Cumberland County, and later repurposed  the building to serve as the Pine Grove Community Center for over a decade. However, with the death of many of its members, the School became neglected. Pine Grove School was on the verge of demise until, in 2018, members of the Agee-Miller-Mayo-Dungy families created a grassroots organization to save the school. The newly formed group paid the back taxes and began to visualize a new life for Pine Grove. Shortly after organizing, AMMD learned about the proposed installation of a Mega Landfill adjacent to Pine Grove which would adversely effect both the historical integrity and the environmental integrity of the school and community, and a two-fold fight ensued. Muriel Miller Branch, an alumna, spearheaded the effort to save the school that she, her father, and numerous relatives and neighbors had attended. 

The efforts of the AMMD’s Pine Grove Project have been rewarded many times over by attracting family, alumni, community, scholars, legislators, environmental justice organizations,  and historical and cultural institutions.  It has become a beehive of inspired, willing workers. 

The Mission of AMMD Pine Grove Project is to work cooperatively with a broad coalition of individuals and organizations “to protect, restore, and repurpose the historic Pine Grove Elementary School as an African American Museum and Cultural Center to showcase the contributions of the community that built and sustained it.

For more information, about the AMMD Pine Grove Project, email: ammdpinegroveproject@gmail.com.

You can also follow the organization on Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/ammdpinegroveproject/

https://www.instagram.com/projectpinegrove/

Posted in Ancestor Stories

A Long Line

So many times in genealogy research, we see a long line of males with the same given name.  First there is John, and then another John, and so many more John’s after that.  Add in a common surname and it’s enough to make your genealogy mind go crazy!  One thing you don’t normally see is when the female line of the family uses the same name time and time again.

On my maternal side, I have found that I come from a long line of women named Lydia/Lettie.  I had seen lines of more popular names like Elizabeth and Mary, but for some reason, this naming pattern really stuck with me.  If you look at traditional European naming patterns, the first daughter is usually named after the father’s mother and the second daughter is named after the mother’s mother.  This line kind of followed that pattern, but what do you do when both the paternal and maternal grandmother are named Lydia?

The line begins with my maternal 5x Great-Grandmother, Lettie Virginia Mantooth.  Lettie was born in 1796 in Shenandoah County, Virginia to Thomas Mantooth and Elizabeth Phariss.  She married William Hall and together they had seven children; Samuel, Hannah, Mary, Lydia, Herman, Thomas, and John Hall.  Lettie passed away in 1850 in Cocke County, Tennessee.

Lettie’s daughter, Lydia Hall (my 4x Great-Grandmother), was born in 1832 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  She married Solomon Price and together they had nine children; John, Lettie A, Sarah J, Nancy, Elizabeth, William, James, Mandie, and Solomon.  Lydia passed away in 1890 in Cocke County, Tennessee.

To make matters a bit more complicated, Lydia Hall’s mother-in-law was also named Lydia.  Lydia Messer was born in 1806 in Burke County, North Carolina to Christian Sargent Messer and Jane Barnett Freeman.  She married Richard “Big Dick” Price on February 11, 1825 in Haywood County, North Carolina and together they had five children; James Turner, Solomon, Sarah, Joseph, and William.  Lydia passed away in 1876 in North Carolina.

 

Now…back to Lydia Hall.  Her daughter, Lettie A. Price (my 3x Great Grandmother), was in January 1856 in Newport, Cocke County, Tennessee.  She married William Howard Henderson on February 24, 1884 in Cocke County and together they had five children; Lydia Jane, James, Delia, Amanda, and Winnie.  Lettie also had two other children with an unknown man; Ruben B and Abraham Benjamin.  Lettie passed away on May 1, 1899 in Cocke County, Tennessee.

Next in line is Lettie’s daughter, Lydia Jane Henderson (my half 3rd Great Aunt).  Lydia was born on March 20, 1888 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  She married Benjamin Lewis Ford on January 21, 1908 in Cocke County and together they had 13 children; Rufus, Martha, Lewis D, Pauline, David, Fanny, Lettie Ellen, Dolophos, James Ike, Creola, Mack, Laurie, and Carrie.  Both Benjamin and Lydia had children from previous relationships.  While they did raise these 13 children together, I am still working on who exactly belongs to who.  Lydia married for a second time to Joe Stokely Shelton on July 24, 1965 in Cocke County.  She passed away on June 25, 1977 in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

The last of the Lydia/Lettie line is Lydia Jane’s daughter, Lettie Ellen Ford (my half 1st cousin, 3x removed).  Lettie was born on October 10, 1914 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  I have not found a record of Lettie being married and her headstone shows her maiden name.  She did have one son, Nicholas Ford.  Lettie passed away on September 18, 1977 in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

I will admit that this line got a bit complicated when researching.  I had to work hard to keep all my Lydia and Lettie ancestors straight!  So, to recap, the line is Lettie Virginia Mantooth to Lydia Hall (who’s mother-in-law was Lydia Messer) to Lettie A. Price to Lydia Jane Henderson to Lettie Ellen Ford.  Hmm…maybe I should change my name to Lydia!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

My Favorite Picture

Choosing my favorite picture is like choosing my favorite dessert.  There are just way too many choices!  Instead of trying to pick just one photograph, I decided to instead think about what I wanted to write.  I figured that would guide me to the perfect picture.

I decided on this one, which is of me and my papa (Richard Burns).  We are in the basement of my grandparent’s condo, putting together our annual talent show.  The talent show was just me and him doing a variety of random things.  There was usually a little singing and dancing, maybe a fashion show, but it was always guaranteed to be full of laughter.  We would set up shop in the living room and put on a full production for the rest of the family.

Arthur Amanda (9)

Some of my best memories growing up were with my papa.  He was the best playmate and the one always getting me into a little bit of trouble with my grandmother.  We had a special bond that nobody could really explain.  The amazing part is that my papa and I share no DNA.  That’s right, my papa and grandmother were married just two years before I was born.  It was a second marriage for both of them.

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I am always fascinated by the nature versus nurture debate.  My relationship with my papa proves that nurture has a big impact on how someone grows up.  I never looked at my papa as someone I didn’t share DNA with.  He was, and still is, as much of a part of me as anyone who shares my DNA.

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I think it’s important to remember these connections when we talk about our personal family history.  As genealogist, we become so focused on DNA matches and our direct lines, that we forget the importance of those who are related to us in a different way.  Sure, these connections may not help us break brick walls or get us into a lineage society, but to say they don’t make us who we are would be a mistake.

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Posted in Ancestor Stories

Fresh Start

I debated a bit on what to write when I saw the topic of “fresh start” as part of the #52Ancestor Challenge.  Was it too on the nose to write about the new year?  Should I find an ancestor who had a great story about starting new?  There were so many directions I could go and so much overthinking on which one to choose.

I decided to go in a bit of a different direction.  I mean, isn’t that what a fresh start is all about?  In my opinion, a fresh start is all about finally doing those things that you’ve been putting on the back burner.  It’s about finally tackling those things that you’ve wanted to do, but just haven’t found the time to actually do them.  It’s about working towards accomplishing what has been sitting on your wish list.

So, that’s what I’m doing.  I’m taking a fresh start on my genealogy wish list.  More specifically, I am going after what I have wanted “The Cool Girl’s Guide to Genealogy” to be over the past couple of years.  I’ve had big dreams for this blog and for my genealogy services, but there’s this pesky thing called life that keeps getting in the way.

I talk about some of this in my January newsletter, but I wanted to write more in depth about it here.  I want this place to be a genealogy community.  I don’t want it to be a “I talk and you listen” place.  I want to take you on my journey of finding my ancestors, hitting frustrating brick walls, and (hopefully) finally finishing my certification.

I want to help you along your genealogy path.  If you have questions, I want to be able to either give you an answer or find the answer together.  I want to talk about the things that you want to know.  If you’re a beginner, I want to be able to help you with direction.  If you’ve been doing this for years, I want to share in your stories of triumph and failure.

I also want to celebrate the voices of other genealogist and those in this field.  If you have an area of expertise, I want to give you a platform. Yes, we may be competitors as far as our genealogy services, but I feel like there is enough room for all of us.  We all have different areas that we research and different experiences in our genealogy endeavors.  It would be a shame not to share all that information!

I would love to hear more about your genealogy goals for 2020.  Post in the comments below and let’s all cheer each other on as we make a fresh start!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Love – Alice Disney

Who doesn’t love a good love story?  While I seem to be destined for a life of single-hood, that does not mean that I don’t love stories about how people met their forever person.  I especially love the stories that are unusual.  Either they met by random circumstance or maybe they had whirlwind romance.  Whatever the case may be, I love to hear them!

I especially loved learning the story of my 1st cousin, 5x removed, Alice Disney.  Alice was born on Jun 25, 1869 in Knox County, Kentucky to Thomas Balton and Rebecca Donaldson Disney.  She was one of eight children born to Thomas and Rebecca.  Alice was considered one of the more popular girls in Knox County, however this didn’t translate to finding herself a husband.  She watched many of her friends and family become married and still did not have that special someone.

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At the age of 21, Alice decided to take things into her own hand when it came to marriage and took a bit of a risk.  She wrote an advertisement for a gentleman correspondent and placed it in a matrimonial newspaper based out of Chicago.  She did it for fun more than anything else, but if something were to come of it, even better!  Alice received numerous responses, but the one that stood out the most was from a gentleman who lived in Texas, Clarence Van Ness.

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Alice and Clarence began writing each other and continued to do so for about six years.  Through the years they developed a friendship which blossomed into a romantic relationship.  Not long after reaching the six-year mark, Clarence wrote Alice a letter proposing marriage.  Alice was now creeping closer to her 30th birthday (she was about 28 years old at this point) and was eager to settle down.  She happily accepted Clarence’s proposal.

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For some reason, Alice decided to keep this proposal a secret from her parents.  It’s unknown the reason why, but she came up with a plan to marry Clarence without her parents knowing.  How exactly does a single lady in the late 1800s get herself to Texas to marry a stranger?  Alice called upon the assistance of her brother, George Madison Disney, who at the time lived in Oklahoma.  Now, if George really knew what was going on, nobody knows.  What we do know is that Alice contacted her him to arrange for her to come visit him.

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Alice made her way to Oklahoma to her brother, and then made her way down to Texas to marry Clarence.  Alice and Clarence were married in Canadian, Texas in May 1897. This was the first time they had ever met! Clarence owned 600 acres of land and had numerous herds of cattle.  Not too shabby of a pick!  After they married, Alice and Clarence moved to Tecumseh, Oklahoma where they had three children.  Alice passed away on April 17, 1944 in Tecumseh.

I’m sure at some point, Alice’s parents found out about her secret marriage.  It’s unknown how they reacted.  It can be assumed that once Alice made her way out west that she never returned, at least to live, to Kentucky.  I think it’s safe to say that Alice knew, without a doubt, that Clarence was the one for her!

Alice Dizney and Clarence Vanness marriage announcement
Hopkinsville Kentuckian, Tuesday, June 1, 1897 Volume 19 Page 11