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 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.
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:
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Genealogy is full of surprises. It could be finding out that you are related to someone famous. I have also seen where two friends ended up being distantly related! There are all kinds of fun surprises and for the most part, that is what keeps a genealogist going.
What happens, though, when those surprises seem a little off-putting? What if you’re related to the biggest traitor in American history? (Yeah, let’s not talk about that one). What do you do if you find out your parents are related? Yep, this was my big surprise moment. What in the world do I do now? Does this explain why some of my joints a double-jointed?! Genealogy is just like life, you have to take the good with the bad.
*Cue the Facts of Life theme song here*
First of all, let me start by explaining that where my parents are connected is far enough down the line that it really doesn’t matter. They are somewhere in the arena of 8th cousins and many, many, many times removed.
I began this discovery by researching my maternal Baker line. My 2nd Great Grandmother was a Baker (Stella Alice Baker) and her line had me researching in the Eastern Kentucky area. I was curious to see where exactly this line would take me. I found Stella’s father John William Baker who lead me to his father John Baker and then to George Thompson Baker and on to Brice Baker. It was my discovery of Brice Baker that gave me a little pause.
It seems that Brice, my maternal 6x Great Grandfather, married a woman by the name of Mary Arthur. Wait a second, I thought, I’m an Arthur. Is it possible that I’m just related to Arthur surname on both sides of my family?! This wouldn’t be the first time. I have several surnames that appear on both my maternal and paternal side of may family. As I’m sure most who are doing their family research have discovered. So, just out of curiosity, I hopped over to Mary’s family to see what I could find out about her Arthur line.
I didn’t find a connection anywhere until I found Mary’s 2x Great Grandfather, Thomas Barnabus Arthur (1680-1715). When I attempted to enter Thomas’ information into my tree, it showed that he was already there. That was strange! When I looked at his children, it seemed that I was already related to his one son, John Arthur. After connecting the dots, John was my 8th Great Grandfather on my paternal side. That meant that Thomas Barnabus Arthur was the bridge that connected my maternal and paternal sides! Talk about mind being blown!
After sharing this information with my family, a new joke started. They like to tease me and say that if I keep researching, I’m going to be my own Grandma!
I love to read and I love to learn. These are not things that I have come to love by accident. Education has always been something that my family has held in high regard. Even when opportunities were not obvious, my family has always been the type to make the most of a situation. Education to my family doesn’t necessarily mean school as it can come in many different ways.
Education was extremely important to my Great Aunt, Margaret Charlotte Robinson Jones. Margaret grew up and lived in Harlan County, Kentucky, an area not known for numerous educational opportunities. That didn’t stop Margaret from not only educating herself, but helping to educate the community.
Around the Harlan community, Margaret was known for her work on the Harlan County Book-mobile. The Book-mobile was like a food truck of today, but with books. Harlan County is a very rural and mountainous area and many people didn’t have the means or the time to come into town to go to the library. For some, reading was a luxury that just wasn’t part of their every day life. Margaret and her Book-mobile changed that. She brought books and knowledge to people’s doorsteps. The Book-mobile was used to reach children, elderly, disabled, and the poor. The Book-mobile even visited the local prison. Nobody was turned away from the Book-mobile. If there was a way it could it to you, Margaret and her driver would make sure that it did. It was opening the whole world at people’s doorsteps.
The Book-mobile was not all serious and no fun. Margaret would tell the story of some of the elderly ladies in the community. They would ask her to bring them some “dirty” books. The ladies were too embarrassed to come to the main library to check them out. The “dirty” books it turns out, were Harlequin romance novels. I love this story and the fact that it shows the innocence of a time gone by.
In order to provide the people of Harlan County to be blessed with the Book-mobile, Margaret had to educate herself. This required her to attend a conference at Moorehead University. Through the Personal Development Institute she completed a certification process along with other public and book-mobile librarians.
Margaret had a deep passion for her work on the Book-mobile. She loved being able to reach people who may not of otherwise had the opportunity to hold these books in their hands. Sadly, Margaret’s life was cut short as she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and passed away at the age of 47. Without a doubt, her legacy carries on through the many lives that she and her Book-mobile touched.
Asking me what ancestor I’d like to meet is like asking me what my favorite dessert is (and if you know me at all, you know I love all things sweet!). As you can tell, it’s taken me a bit to make this decision. I thought about narrowing it down to two, flipping a coin, and then just going with whoever fate told me to, but then I stopped and really thought about it.
I’ve decided that I’d really like to meet my 3x Great Grandfather, Elias Sheridan Carroll. While I know quite a bit about Elias, I feel like there are so many questions I would have if I ever got to meet him. So many questions that documents just can’t answer. Also, since I’ve never seen a picture of him, I’d love to know what he really looks like!
Elias Sheridan Carroll was born on February 8, 1838 in Anderson County (what would become Union County) Tennessee. His parents were Jesse Carroll and Catherine Wilson. There is some debate on if Catherine is actually his mother, but all research that I have points to this being the case. Elias had one brother, James, and three sisters; Elizabeth, Sarah, and Emiline.
On November 13, 1865 in Union County, Tennessee, Elias married Rachel Irene Sharp. Rachel was the daughter of Alfred Sharp and Elizabeth Loy. The Sharp family name held a lot of weight in Union County. Rachel’s father Alfred was considered a prominent member of the community. Not only did Alfred own several hundred acres of land in the county, but he also served as Judge. According to Alfred’s probate records, it appears that he was the one in the community that people came to when needing to borrow money. There are approximately five pages listing people who owed him money. This list included his son-in-law, Elias Carroll.
Elias’ family was not as well off as Rachel’s. That’s not to say that Rachel married down, necessarily, but I think it does help to paint a picture of what their life was like. When the Civil War started, Elias, like many other men in East Tennessee, joined the Union Army. What was different in Elias’ case, was that when he enlisted, he entered the Army as a 1st Lieutenant. This was unusual for someone without a high economic standing. My guess is that Elias wanted to join the cause, and to keep him safe, Alfred pulled some strings to get him enlisted as an officer. Even though Elias and Rachel were not married at the time of his enlistment, Union County was a small enough community to say that Elias and Rachel were more than likely involved at the time.
If keeping Elias safe was Alfred’s goal, he didn’t succeed. In February 1864, Elias was stationed at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee and doing communication work for the Union Army. While no major skirmish took place at Cumberland Gap, it was a very popular thoroughfare for both sides during the war. While the details are not known, somehow Elias found himself captured by Confederate soldiers. He was taken to Bristol, Tennessee and then on to Richmond, Virginia where he was confined. A few months later in May, the Confederate army decided to move their Richmond prisoners to Macon, Georgia. While making the long trip, Elias escaped custody of the Confederate army near Columbia, South Carolina. By March 1865, a little over a year later, Elias was back with his Company in Tennessee.
Elias submitted his resignation in December 1864, but stayed with the Army until June 1865. To me, this shows that loyalty was an important virtue to Elias. After everything he had been through, it would have been easy for him to just walk away. It is also safe to say that Elias was eager to get back home and marry Rachel. He had more than proved himself worthy of her hand.
Together, Elias and Rachel had 10 children; Perilana, Alfred B, Florence, Sarah Elizabeth, Susan Jane, Cansadia, William West, Lafayette Hauk, Harriett, and Jesse Leroy. After the war, Elias went back to Union County and began farming. Life was not easy for Elias and his family. In 1880, two of his children, Perliana and Alfred, had typhus fever. Fortunately, it appears that both children survived. By 1890, Elias had developed lung disease. This was just the first of Elias’ illnesses. In 1902, Elias applied for an Invalid Pension. According to his application, he was “totally unable to earn a support by manual labor by reason of disease of lungs, disease of heart, general debility and scurvy.”
Elias was already receiving his pension for serving with the Union Army and had already borrowed multiple times from his father-in-law. It seems that the Invalid Pension may have given him more money, therefore he was now doing whatever he had to do to provide for his family. His application stated that he still had four children living at home that he needed to be able to take care of. It’s unknown if Elias received an Invalid Pension as there is no record that I have found that shows he received this money.
Elias Sheridan Carroll died on July 8, 1911 in LaFollette, Campbell County, Tennessee. To provide for herself, Rachel applied for a Widow’s Pension. The 1910 census shows that Elias was no longer working and that his sons, William and Lafayette (who were both working at the iron furnace) were still single and living at home. One can assume they were living there to help to provide for their parents. I would love to meet Elias and talk to him about everything that he experienced in his lifetime. From his relationship with his father-in-law, to being a prisoner of war, to his struggles to make ends meet after the war, I feel that his life is full of important lessons.
This week our family lost Mabel O. Leckie Strunk. Mabel was born on September 25, 1937 to Isaac Leckie and Delia Price in Harlan County, Kentucky. She passed away on January 24, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
I wasn’t privileged enough to have met Mabel (my first cousin, 2x removed), but I have heard many wonderful stories about her from my grandmother. My favorite is when my grandmother talks about their first tube of lipstick. The girls were not allowed to wear lipstick, but they were able to buy one tube without their parents finding out. My grandmother says that they would take turns carrying the lipstick and wearing it. The girls loved to feel fancy and to pretend they were movie stars.
Mabel is the loving mother of Betty (Bill) Miller, Norma (Dale) Boggs, Michael (Mary) Strunk, Joyce (Thomas) Ferris, and the late Patricia Strunk. She is also survived by nine grandchildren and many other family and friends.
Mabel was the light in her children and grandchildren’s lives. She will be greatly missed. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days. Rest in peace, sweet Mable.