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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

henderson amanda with husband phillip holderman
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


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.”

vera and frank
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!

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.

price taft with vera (1)
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.

martin vera (1978)
Vera Elizabeth Martin