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

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
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.

marriage
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

George Thompson Baker: Age Doesn’t Matter

This week’s “Sunday Spotlight” is George Thompson Baker, the son of Brice Baker and Mary Arthur.  Thompson Baker was born in 1809 in Knox County, Kentucky and was the youngest of seven children.

Thompson married Nancy Henderson on October 31, 1829 at her father’s (John Henderson) home in Knox County.  Thompson and Nancy would have a total of 11 children: John (m. Elizabeth Rogers), James Madison (m. Martha Agnes Butcher), Mary, Andrew Jackson, William (m. Emily Martha Tompkins), Emily (m. William Clark), Mahala (m. John Clark), Elizabeth, Pleasant Martin, Eleanor, and Nancy.

The most notable aspect of Thompson Baker was his support of the Union army during the Civil War.  It is noted that in his community in Knox County, he was known as a staunch Unionist.  His views on the War would cause him to do something that most men his age wouldn’t dare.  At the age of 54, Thompson would accompany his son, Andrew Jackson, to Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky to enlist in the Union army.

Shortly before he was mustered into the Army, Thompson wrote his will.  In it he stated, “Expecting in a short time to be exposed to many dangers and being desires to settle my worldly affairs have made and ordained this my last will and testament…”  It seems that Thompson knew how dangerous the war would be for a man his age.  Thompson and Andrew would be officially mustered into the Union army on September 22, 1861.

Thompson and Andrew, along with the rest of the Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, would see action in not only Kentucky, but also Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi.  In 1863, Thompson would fall ill to smallpox and be treated at a hospital near Louisiana.  A few months later, Thompson was transferred to the R.C. Wood Military Hospital Steamer on the Mississippi River just outside of Memphis, Tennessee.  According to documents, Thompson would die in June of 1863.  The official cause of death was listed as dysentery.  It seems that Thompson knew his fate was sealed when he wrote his last will and testament.

Thompson’s widow, Nancy, did not find out about his death until a year later.  It is noted that the body was never returned home.  It is more than likely that Thompson is buried at one of the “unknown” sites in the Memphis Military Cemetery.

While there isn’t too many details about why Thompson was such a staunch Unionist, you have to respect a man who will stand up for what he believes in.  I would be interested to know if he joined the army because his son Andrew did, or maybe it was just something he felt strongly that he needed to do.  While we may never know what led to his decision, George Thompson Baker is definitely an ancestor to be proud of and one that did not let his age stand in his way.

George Thompson Baker’s lineage is:

George Thompson Baker – Nancy Henderson

I

John Baker – Elizabeth Rogers

I

John William Baker – Melissa Charity Tompkins

I

Stella Alice Baker – Frank Martin