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.

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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

 

Posted in Ancestor Stories

The Baker/Arthur connection

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*

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Posted in Ancestor Stories

At the Library

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.

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Article from the Harlan Daily Enterprise

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.

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Article from the Harlan Daily Enterprise

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.

 

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Ancestor I’d Like To Meet

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.

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Marriage record of Elias S. Carroll and Rachel I. Sharp

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.

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A snippet from Alfred Sharp’s probate inventory.  Notice the highlighted entries at the bottom show where Elias Carroll borrowed $20.00 and $30.33.

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.

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Elias Carroll Muster Roll

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.

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Elias S. Carroll is buried at Sharp Cemetery #3 in LaFollette, Campbell County, Tennessee

 

 

Posted in Ancestor Stories

In Remembrance – Mabel Owedda Leckie Strunk

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.

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From L to R: Betty Jane Leckie, Delia Cansadia Price Leckie, Issac Hamiltion Leckie, Mabel Oweena Leckie

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.

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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.

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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.

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Unusual Name – Crookshanks

When I was trying to decide what “unusual name” to choose, I kept coming back to those of my ancestors who had unusual surnames.  When you spend a vast amount of time researching men named John Miller, you get really excited when you find a surname that sticks out.  While scrolling through my ancestors list, I kept thinking of the name Crookshanks.  This was, without a doubt, an unusual name so I decided to dig a litter deeper and find out more about this part of my family.  Ironically enough, I connect to the Crookshanks through my 6x Great-Grandfather, John Miller.

As I was learning about the Crookshanks family, I felt myself drawn to one family member in particular.  I found a bit of myself in my 5th cousin 2x removed, Janet Sue Crookshanks.  Janet was born March 17th, 1946 in Chilicothe, Missouri to Joseph Vernon Crookshanks and Helen Virginia Stewart.  Janet had two younger sisters, Mary Marie and Donna Jo Crookshanks.

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Joseph Vernon Crookshanks

Janet was raised in a Catholic family.  She and her sisters attended St Joseph Academy in Chilicothe.  While in school, Janet was a member of several organizations, including the National Honor Society, the pep squad, the glee club, CYO, and the Legion of Mary.  Janet had high aspirations, even though she was small in stature.  According to a newspaper article written her senior year of high school, Janet was “only 5 feet and one half inch” which made her a “small bundle of energy”.  Janet also had unique goals for herself.  Her dream was to go for work at a metropolitan daily newspaper as a sportswriter.  Remember this was long before the women sportscasters of today were even born!

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A photo of inside a classroom at St Joseph Academy

After graduating high school, Janet attended Avila College and studied English.  Focusing on her studies and serving her community were Janet’s main focus.  This desire to serve would continue throughout Janet’s life.  Janet completed her studies at Avila and graduated with an English degree.

It’s not know if Janet ever had any luck in reaching her goal of becoming a sports writer.  After graduation, she went to work for the Mobil Oil Corporation in Kansas City.  Soon after starting her career, she became engaged to Edward P. Milbank.  Edward was a graduate of Yale University.  During his time at Yale, Edward also studied at Cambridge University.  After Edward graduated, he became the vice president and director of Milbank Mills, Inc in Chilicothe.

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Milbank Mills, Inc

Janet and Edward were married on August 8th, 1970 at St Columban’s Catholic Church in Chilicothe.  They would not have any children.  Janet and Edward were both considered outstanding citizens in Chilicothe.  The two of them were constantly volunteering and serving their communities in numerous ways.  Janet was a member of the Daughter’s of the Revolution and also served as a board member for the Chilicothe YMCA.

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Article from the Chilicothe Constitution-Tribune November 9th, 1983 (page 11)

Janet Sue Crookshanks Milbank passed away on Sep 5th, 1992 in Chilicothe, Missouri.  It’s funny when even distant cousins feel like close family.  I never knew Janet, but her aspirations aligned with mine.  When I was in high school, my goal in life was to also be a sports writer.  While neither of us may have reached our original life plans, we both are determined women, making our own way in the world.

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Burchfield vs Henderson

Illegitimate children, by definition, are a challenge.  Especially when you are a genealogist and especially when all the parties involved have passed away.  Add in some surname swapping and changes in spelling and you may have an idea of my current challenge.  Really, my challenge for the last several years.

My 2x Great Grandfather, Abraham Benjamin Price, was born in 1878 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  Cocke County is located in East Tennessee, about 45 minutes east of Knoxville.  After the Civil War, like other counties in the area, it was a time of rebuilding.  The only problem is, Cocke county is located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.  This meant that the county was isolated from not only it’s neighbors, but also from new industry.  Many who lived in the area struggled severely with making ends meet.

The perfect storm of no money and no opportunity lead many women in the county to either marry at a very young age, or do whatever they had to in order to provide for their family.  This lead men in the area, who may have lacked gentlemanly morals, to take advantage of these women. The environment in Cocke County caused an uptick in illegitimate children.  Either the mother’s of these children didn’t know who the father of their child was, or the father denied the child’s existence.

This should paint the picture of what life in Cocke County was when Abraham was born.  His mother, Lydia Price, was 20 years old and unmarried (according to census records) when Abraham’s bother, Ruben, was born.  Two years later, still unmarried, Lydia had Abraham.  In the 1880 census, Lydia, or Letty, is living with her mother (also named Lydia) along with her two sons.  Also living in the household is Letty’s sister, Nancy, who has what appears to be an illegitimate son also, Moses Price.

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1880 Census – Cocke County, Tennessee

Remember that census records can be deceiving. If you look at the 1880 census, both Letty and Nancy are listed as being children of Apollos Bryant.  This is not true.  Apollos is Lydia’s second husband with which she had no children.

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Lydia Price’s marriage license with William Howard Henderson

In 1884, Letty married a man by the name of William Howard Henderson.  They had five children together; Lydia, James, Delia, Amanda, and Winnie.  Two of the children, Lydia and James, would flip back and forth between surnames.  On one document, they would be going by the surname Henderson, while on other documents, they would be listed as Burchfield.  To make matters more confusing, sometimes their surname would be spelled B-i-r-c-h-f-i-e-l-d or B-u-r-c-h-f-i-e-l-d.  It does appear that Delia and Winnie always went by the surname Henderson, while Amanda was the forgotten sibling that not too many knew about.

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Amanda Henderson and her husband, Phillip Holderman

At this point, I was completely confused.  Why were all these children switching up their surnames whenever they felt like it?  Come to find out, William Howard Henderson was also illegitimate.  He did not know if he was really a Henderson or a Burchfield either!  With the research that I have done, it appears that his father was possibly John Henderson, who married Elizabeth Jane Birchfield.  If this is in fact true, things get even more complicated considering John’s parents are Thomas Birchfield and Polly Henderson.

I’ve tried to unravel this spiderweb of illegitimacy by looking into DNA.  I had a male cousin on this line take a yDNA test.  The result were mostly matches with men who had the surname of Burchfield.  So, at first glance, it appears that Abraham Benjamin Price should be Abraham Benjamin Burchfield. Could Abraham’s father have been William Howard Henderson?  This would mean that Letty would have had to “have relations” with William before they were married and when William was only 12 years old.  While this is a little difficult to wrap my head around, given the atmosphere of Cocke County, it certainly a possibility.

Another angle that I have been working has to do with a decedent of Abraham’s cousin, Moses Price.  Remember that  Moses is also illegitimate.  It does not appear that Abraham and Moses have the same father.  At one point, it was believed that Lydia’s second husband, Apollos Bryant, could be the father of both boys.  However both DNA and document research points to that not being true.

I could go on and on about more theory’s on the parentage of Abraham Benjamin Price, but that’s all I have right now…a theory.  Many DNA matches are in the same boat that I am, with no idea of how to piece together the Henderson/Birchfield family tree.  Even reaching out to some cousins have led to dead ends with communication being cut off after digging a little too deep.  Whatever happened back then is leading me on the greatest challenge of my genealogy career!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

First

I debated for a while who I would profile this week for the #52Ancestor challenge.  There were so many different ways to interpret to the theme of “first”.  Should I talk about the first ancestor I ever researched?  Should I talk about someone’s first job?  So many decisions!  For some reason, I kept coming back to my great-grandmother (my maternal grandmother’s mother).  I knew she was the “first” of 13 children to survive, but was that enough to write about her?  I think it is.

Vera Elizabeth Martin was born on November 17th, 1912 in Harlan County, Kentucky.  Her parents were Frank Martin and Stella Alice Baker.  As I stated earlier, she was the oldest of 13 children (Frank and Stella’s first child was stillborn).  The age difference between her and her youngest brother, 24 years!  Vera always made it clear that out of all the children, she was “Poppy’s [her father] favorite.”

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Vera, with her younger brother, William Franklin Martin

Growing up on a farm and surrounded by younger siblings, Vera did not have much time to herself.  However, this did not stop her from pursing an education.  School was very important to Vera.  After finishing her morning chores, she would take the train into the town of Harlan in order to attend school.

“I was so embarrassed, ” Vera would say, “showing up to school and smelling like cow tit.”

According to her report cards, she was a very good student.  Unlike most girls her age, she completed the 10th grade.  The opportunities were few and far between in Harlan County.  Most families couldn’t afford for their children to go to school, either due to monetary reasons or for the fact that they couldn’t do without the children helping around the farm.

Vera did not go back to school in the fall of 1927.  She had met her first husband, Roy Robinson and they were married on November 16th, 1927 in Harlan County.  Vera was only 14 years old at the time (she wouldn’t be 15 years old until the day after her wedding) and because of this she needed a note from her parents to get married.  Her parents signed the note, although whoever filled out the marriage bond stated that Vera was 16 years old.  Oops!

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Vera Martin and Roy Robinson’s marriage bond (left) and the note Vera’s parents wrote giving permission for her to get married (right)

A little over a year later, Vera gave birth to her first child, Roy Franklin Robinson (25 Nov 1928).  Unfortunately, her son, Roy, was still born due to asphyxiation.  The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. Another year passed, and Vera gave birth to a daughter, Margaret Charlotte Robinson (14 Nov 1929).

Vera, Roy, and Margaret would enjoy life as a family a three until October 1931 when tragedy would strike again.  On October 14th, 1931, Vera’s husband, Roy, passed away.  His appendix ruptured and there was nothing that the doctors could do.  Knowing that should couldn’t turn to her parents for help, since they were still in the middle of raising all of her siblings, Vera took a job at a boarding house in the area.  This allowed her to provide for herself and her young daughter.  With her first paycheck she bought Margaret a new dress and new Mary Jane shoes.

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Margaret Charlotte Robinson

Vera would find love again, this time with William Howard Taft Price (my great-grandfather).  Taft, as he was known, was friends with many of Vera’s brothers.  Supposedly, her brothers were very impressed with Taft and would talk about him all the time.

“All I would ever hear my brothers say is ‘Taft Price says that’s great!” Vera would say.  “Who is this old man?!”

Turns out, that old man was only two years older than Vera. When they say opposites attract, it seems they are talking about Vera and Taft.  Vera was strong, stubborn, and a bit stoic.  Taft was hardworking, fun-loving, and sensitive.  One of the best stories that showcase just how opposite they were happened when Vera and Taft were in a back bedroom.  All of a sudden everyone in the house heard a slap.  Convinced that Taft has just slapped Vera, her brothers came running into the bedroom.  When her brothers arrived, they found that it was Vera who had done the slapping, and Taft who was escaping through the bedroom window.

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Vera and her second husband, Taft Price

They were married on November 6th, 1932 in Harlan County.  Taft embraced Vera’s daughter, Margaret, as if she were his own. They would also have three children together; William Paul (b. 1933), Carl Edward (b. 1935), and Dorothy Jean (b. 1937).  One of the things that Vera and Taft could always agree on was the fact that they never wanted their children to feel that they were poor.  They did whatever they could to stretch a dollar as far as it would go.

Other than her family, Vera had a great love for the Lord.  Her faith was something that never faltered, even during the most difficult times of her life.  Vera struggled with health issues her whole life, but this never kept her from taking care of her family and serving the Lord.

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Vera, her daughter, Dorothy, and her husband, Taft Price at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, Kentucky

Vera’s mother was a dedicated Sunday School teacher, and passed that dedication down to her.  Not long after Vera dedicated her life to the Lord, she began teaching Sunday School class at the mission near her home.  Whenever she moved to a new community in the county, she would join the local church and continue teaching classes.  Around 1933, Vera began working with Women’s Missionary Union (WMU).  While she did take some time off due to her health, Vera was integral in organizing WMU chapters in several churches in the Upper Cumberland Association.  Beginning in 1957, Vera became a member of the Sunshine Baptist Church where she served as the WMU Director and Assistant Church Clerk for 26 years.  For 16 of those years, she also taught the Adult Ladies Sunday School class.  In 1968, she became the director of the Upper Cumberland Association of the WMU.

Vera took her Sunday School teaching duties very seriously.  My mother likes to tell the story of all the really neat Sunday School stuff she had, like felt boards and craft supplies.  Vera used most of this for her classes with the children at the Christian camp, Camp Howard.  Never were any of the grandchildren allowed to play with her Sunday School supplies.  To this day, my mom still complains about that!

As Vera got older, some of her stoic ways started to fade.  One of her favorite shows was Dallas, and she would have weekly phones calls with her son-in-law (my grandfather) to discuss what happened.  She loved to sit and watch what was going on in the neighborhood.  Nothing would get by her!  She also developed a dry sense of humor that would surprise most people.  My personal favorite story of her, is when I was about 8 years old.  She had a Dustbuster hanging in the hallway.  After eating her dinner in the living room, she asked me to go get the Dustbuster and vacuum her off!

Vera Martin, by no means lived an easy life, but she never seemed to complain.  She was the type who would take the good with the bad and keep pushing though.  While most did see her as a strong and focused woman from an early age, her siblings could always bring out her young and carefree side that she would keep hidden from most.  Vera passed away on October 29, 1997.  She was a woman that never left the comfort of her home county, but had a big impact on the world around her.

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Vera Elizabeth Martin