Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Slave Name Roll Project* : Estate of John Ballenger, Spartanburg District, South Carolina, 1848

"Power of Words" by Antonio Litterio,

Details found in the Estate of John Ballenger, Spartanburg District, South Carolina, petition for probate filed 18 Dec 1848.1 Included in the listing of bills of sale for this estate were a number of records of the sale of slaves from Ballenger's estate. These individuals are listed below.

[sold] to B. F. Montgomery, a boy Clark, [sold for] $666
to Wm Ballenger, a girl Mary, $301
to Thurren Montgomery, a boy Elias, $250
to Andrew McMakin, Sary and child $505
to T. C. Carson, a Negro boy Frank, $315
to Jno. Wheeler, a boy Edmund, $550

Blogger Schalene Dagutis, through her blog Tangled Roots and Trees, developed the Slave Name Roll Project in 2015. This project is a means for listing the names of slaves as individual names are located through our research of wills, probate records, and property records. It gives us the opportunity to provide information so that present day descendants can make a connection to their enslaved ancestors.

1 "Administrations, Boxed 1-3, 1804-1847," South Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1670-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Operations, 2015, citing original date: South Carolina County, District and Probate Courts.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Taking a Closer Look ... at Ruth Edith Smiley

Ruth Edith Smiley Andrews
from personal collection of Mary P Nelson

March, being Women's History Month, seemed like a good time to look more closely at the lives of some of my female ancestors. And in looking, I learned a few things that have somehow never registered with me as I focused on learning more about my Great Grandmother Ruth Edith Smiley Andrews and my 2Great Grandmother Minerva Melvina Hammond Smiley.

My first task for Ruth Edith Smiley was to locate some census records that I had missed for her timeline. I had previously found her living with her parents, Thomas Bainbridge Smiley and Minerva Melvina Hammond Smiley. The census records for 1870 and 1880 had provided that information. 

What was missing for Ruth Edith Smiley, however, was a census record for 1900, the first census record following her marriage to my Great Grandfather William Howard Andrews.(1) Edith and Howard were not to be found anywhere using any variation of their names in their home county of Crawford, Pennsylvania. 

Pointing me in another direction was the transcript of a letter Edith had written in December, 1900, to a relative. According to the letter, given to my mother at an Andrews family reunion in the 1990s, Edith and Howard were living in Celina, Tennessee that December. She mentioned that the family had
"spent three months on the farm with our folks this summer. I sold our Bradford house and went home to wait for my husband. He had come here [Celina, TN] last year to get cross ties ... We moved here the last of August [1900]."(2) 
I headed back to census records for Bradford, Pennsylvania, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and Celina, Tennessee, looking without successful for any mention of Edith or Howard, or their being listed with an incorrect surname as living with or near Edith's parents back in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. I still have not located that elusive 1900 census record for the family, but I have come away with a new admiration for Edith selling her home and dealing with six young children back in Pennsylvania while her husband Howard was traveling in and from Tennessee in his business as a lumber dealer. Not an easy situation in today's time or in 1900.

Fast forward to 1930, the year of another missing census record for Edith. My Great Grandfather Howard had died in 1928, and this would have been the first census record of Edith as a widow. Previously the census records had always listed Edith as Ruth Edith or Ruth, but I decided to search this time for her as Edith Andrews as this was the way she had signed the 1900 letter. And surprise, there she was, continuing to live in the family home at 1312 Woodland Street, Nashville, Tennessee. And this time, I learned something I had never heard before about Edith. According to the 1930 census, in addition to her 20 year old daughter Edith, there were five women, ages 26-40, each listed as a "roomer" in the house.(3) Remembering this house from many family visits there through the years, I can easily image the boarders staying probably two or three to a room in the spacious upstairs bedrooms, sharing the one upstairs bathroom.

I wondered how long Edith had been having boarders in her home so I looked through several years of the Nashville city directories available on According to the 1929 city directory, Edith was the only person listed for the 1312 Woodland Street address. Again she was the sole listing for 1931. In addition, none of the boarders were listed in the 1931 city directory which suggests that the five boarders resided in the home only in 1930.

By 1933, according to the city directory, Edith's daughter Bessie Andrews and her husband Herbert Andrews were now living with her in the family home.(4) And yes, Bessie Andrews had officially become Bessie Andrews Andrews when she married a husband who shared the same last name, a fact my uncle Herbert liked to smile about. Bessie and Herbert Andrews, along with their growing family of four children, lived with Edith until she died in 1940, and then Bessie and Herbert continued living in the family home until near the end of their lives. The family home, built according to family information in 1903, had served the Andrews families well for close to 70 years.

According to my Great Grandfather Howard Andrews' will, the house had been left to his wife Ruth Edith.(5) I also spent time looking at both Ancestry and Family Search will and probate records in hopes of finding a will for Edith following her death in 1940. Although I spend the better part of a day browsing the available online will and probate records for Davidson County, Tennessee, I was not able to find any record of a will or probate proceedings for Edith in either 1940 or 1941, the last year of accessible online records. For now, I do not know the details of how or when Bessie and Herbert became owners of the family home. Visiting there as a child, the house was always referred to as Bessie and Herbert's house. It was some years later when I began to hear stories of Edith and Howard from my mother and other family members.

Taking a closer look at Ruth Edith Smiley involved some fruitful research as I finally found that 1930 census record and learned of the boarders in her home. There was also that negative research as I still cannot locate a 1900 census record or will / probate information following her death in 1940. When I really gained with a closer connection with a Great Grandmother who, like me, dealt with selling a house, moving away from family, and raising young children in a home where her husband was away from home on business at various times, as well as making adjustments in her life following her husband's death. I am also so appreciative of the Andrews relative who had that 1900 letter Edith wrote, transcribed the letter, and shared it with other family members years ago. Census records, a letter, city directories, and court records, all part of Edith's story, all making her more real to me.

As for her mother Minerva Melvina Hammond Smiley, that will be a story for another day.

#AndrewsGenealogy #SmileyGenealogy #GenealogyResources

(1) Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1885-1950, Crawford County Marriage License Docket, license #473, W H Andrews and Edith R Smiley, m 23 Dec 1886; accessed on
(2) Letter from R. Edith Andrews to Aunt, 9 Dec 1900, transcription in personal collection of Mary P Nelson.
(3) 1930 US census, population schedule, T626, roll 2241, Tennessee, Davidson, Nashville, p 122, dwelling 43; accessed on
(4) Polk's Nashville City Directory, 1933, p 120; accessed on
(5) Tennessee Wills and Probate Records, 1727-2008, Davidson County Tennessee, Will Book #45, 1928-1929, p 398, will of William Howard Andrews; accessed on 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Who ARE these people?

This picture is a real family treasure. That is, except for one thing. I don't know who everyone in the photograph is or even might be. I recognize my Great Grandmother Kari Syverdatter Myren (#3  front row) from the different pictures I have of her. As for the other eight ladies, I have no idea who they might be. 

On the back of the picture, my mother had carefully written the following note "Grandmother #3 Kari Myren, LaCrosse, WI". Looking at the remaining women, I do not recognize any of my Myren aunts (Kari's daughters) nor do I have any information in my research of Myren or Syverson/Syvers family living in LaCrosse, WI, in the 1930s. The 1930s time period is my guess based upon the fashions and Kari's death in 1938.

So, if anyone recognizes any of these women, I would love to hear from you. This mystery is almost enough to make me start labeling every photograph in our house with names, date, and place. In the meantime, perhaps I need to look more closely for any relatives who might have been in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, all those years ago. 
#Myrenancestors #whoarethesepeople #LaCrossWIgathering #mysteryphoto

Monday, January 1, 2018

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, One Year Later

What a different a year makes! My first entry in my new Genealogy Bullet Journal was made on January 1, 2017. In it, I recorded information about the family I had been researching in some JSTOR journals and that I had (finally) spent 15 minutes filing some of my pile of documents. But then, life happens.

For our family, 2017 left us pummelled by the unexpected. We were faced with the impact of the deaths of three wonderful family members, one of whom was my husband. And so, I've been on a break from research and blogging for a while. And genealogy and my genealogy bullet journal and many other parts of my normal daily life had been pushed aside. I continued to deal with probate documents, marriage certificates, deeds, titles, but now as a part of dealing with life itself.

Time to start back. Lately I have been feeling the desire to get back to researching my family and that of my husband, and my genealogy bullet journal is starting to prove helpful in ways I had not previously anticipated, including such things as

  • I can look back over my last entries written months ago and pick up on that train of thought. 
  • I can glance at my efforts documented in parts of 2017 and consider where I had success, what resources I may want to further explore, and whether I want to continue pursuing certain questions.
  • I still have that section of possible research questions that can provide a different starting point for my research.
  • My Genealogy Bullet Journal will help me corral my thoughts, especially while I am still so sporadic in my research time and efforts.

Time for Goal Setting. One of the first things I hope to do in the coming weeks is to use the Goal Setting Worksheet  developed by The Occasional Genealogist. This document, available when you subscribe to her blog, looks like it will help me focus on what I have done as well as what I hope to accomplish. My bullet journal will be just the place to record and keep this information for future reference.

Time for a new journal. With only a few blank pages remaining in my 2017 Genealogy Bullet Journal, I knew I would be needing a new journal soon after the start of 2018. Whenever I was in a craft or office supply store in the early fall, I had been looking at their journal offerings. I finally decided to purchase the TUL discbound notebook system several months ago when I found the one I wanted on sale.  I chose to move to a discbound system for the ease in adding and removing pages such as copies of maps, calendars, family record sheets, even pages from the collection section of my old Genealogy Bullet Journal. I can just trim the copy, punch holes along the side, and then add the additional pages into my new Journal without having to hand copy the information into the new journal. Admittedly, I also love the size (A5) and feel of my TUL, and the color of the cover (rose gold) is just right. And yes, I splurged and bought a special hole punch to make things easier.

Time for some changes to my journal. There is one more big change I'm planning to make with my new discbound journal. I'm actually going to consider it as two different journals, both housed in one book. I will be adding a cardstock divider between my 2-page weekly spreads and the Collections section of my journal. I've realized that my weekly work is somewhat temporary, referred to within a more recent time period while my Collections tend to be permanent, resources to which I will continually add information and use. Each of the Weekly and the Collections sections will have its own index and numbering system. I'll probably number pages in one section in black, the other in blue ink. That way should a page come loose or be removed from the journal, it should be easy to return it to its proper place. This is a change I have been mulling over for six months or more. We'll see how I like this plan by the end of 2018.

So, once again my Genealogy Bullet Journal is proving to be an important tool in my genealogy research. It has been a part of what I have done in the past year, and it will continue to be a part of what I do in the future. Even writing about my journal has given me more of a desire to venture back into research again. 

On a more personal note, my separate, personal bullet journal has also been an important part of my life as it helped me keep up with the myriad details following my husband's death, keeping up with the who, what, when, where, and why of appointments, legal documents, and to-do lists. Both journals have been part of keeping up with life. My genealogy bullet journal focuses on the past; my personal one deals primarily with the present and future. All in all, a bullet journal can be just as individual as the one who creates it and uses it. I'm proof of that.

#bulletjournal #genealogybulletjournal #genealogyresources