Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015 - Ways to Remember Our Veterans

Iwo Jima Momument, Marine Corps Base Quantico
personal photograph

On Veterans Day in the United States, there are numerous ways people choose to honor and remember the veterans who have served in the military of our country. Parades. Flag lined streets. School assembly programs. Special gestures extended to today's veterans.

Blogging also provides additional ways for many of us to remember and honor our military ancestors. During the past year, I had four such posts, each written for a different reason.

A recent visit to the Resaca Confederate Cemetery in Georgia reminded me of the sacrifices made by many unknown soldiers who fought of both sides during the Civil War. The story of how this cemetery came to be is also the story of how one person can make a difference in keeping individuals and events from fading from our memory.

It was exciting to look into the life of the young Revolutionary War spy, John Howard, while trying to verify a family story. Learning that a 15-year old was a real spy might just be the hook to grab the attention of some of the younger members of our family and help them see history through the life of a relative.

I still find myself thinking about the life of a Confederate soldier and relative, Samuel G Slade. Learning more about his military service, his injuries, and his later life was a reminder that there are too frequently personal battles fought long after the war is over. Today's headlines about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or long waits for veterans  to receive proper medical care were foreshadowed by what Samuel Slade and countless others went through in their day.

My fourth post concerned one of the Camp Family Letters housed in the Manuscript and Rare Book Library of Emory University near Atlanta, Georgia.  The letter of Thomas Camp to his wife is one more reminder that our veterans are also someone's spouse, parent,sibling, or child. Our veterans are not only soldiers, they may also be part of our family. They are our friends and our neighbors.

To all of veterans today, thank you for your service to our country. For our ancestors who served, we will remember your actions, your efforts, and your place in our country's history.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Samuel Howard, Could You Be Any More Specific?

Power of Words by Antonio Litterio.jpg, via Wikimedia Commons

It started as a simple project. Look for online will and probate records for each of my 4 GreatGrandfathers. First step was to make a 5 Generational chart of each of my four grandparents using one of the simple forms available through the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Step two was to search and browse through the will and probate records accessible through both and One 4GGrandfather had no will or probate information, one died intestate but there were a few probate records detailing what happened to his personal property.

Then I came to Samuel H Howard. My 4GGrandfather Howard died in 1853, leaving an extremely detailed will.(1)  Item two of his will was such an example. As found in so many wills of that time period, he left his house and household items to his wife Polly for her life or widowhood. Samuel apparently was not content with such a vague statement. Instead, he spelled out that Polly was specifically to receive

  • all the plantation utensils, farming tools, and blacksmithing tools,
  • all his household and kitchen furniture,
  • her choice of seven or eight head of cattle, 10 sheep, and as many of his hogs as she wished to keep,
  • specific slaves by name as well as the names of those who were to be kept together if Polly later decided to sell any of the slaves,
  • his road wagon and harness.

Next Samuel dealt with the distribution of his real estate upon the death of his wife Polly, detailing how it was to have its value assessed, by whom, and the amount of money to be given to son Abner who would not share in the inheritance of certain property.

Samuel Howard had a sister Avis living nearby who had inherited property from their father John Howard. The will described the location of the property by naming the property owners to the north, east, south, and west of it, and which of his sons would assist Avis as caretaker of the property. He did not even own this property but apparently wanted to be certain that his sister had someone to help her as presumably Samuel had done in the past.

He also named one son to receive his desk, bookcase, library, and the family Bible upon the death of his wife Polly. Two sons were named to look after his wife Polly and his sister Avis.

All of Samuel's specific directions came to a screeching halt, at least for me, when I read Item 10. "It is my absolute will and desire that my estate shall be divided into 11 equal parts ... The one eleventh part of my estate I set apart as an undivided part to be managed as I shall herein direct." OK so far.

So why eleven parts? Samuel Howard and his wife Polly had 12 children (Elizabeth, Thomas, John, Abner, P E Augustus, Moses, William, Amelia, Samuel, Harriet, Mary Ann "Polly", and Avis).  Son Thomas and daughter Harriet had both died before Samuel had written this will, so there were 10 living children when Samuel signed his will in 1852. The will stated that an eleventh share was to go to "the legal heirs of [the] body" of daughter Harriet. No mention, however, was made of any provision for the children of son Thomas. Ten surviving children plus a share to Harriet's children does equal eleven shares.

The surprise, for me, is that neither the ten surviving children nor Harriet's children are named specifically. You would expect a will to contain a list of named individuals whenever there is a division of property involved. After all of Samuel's specificity throughout his will, the absence of the names of those to receive a share seems almost out of character. Samuel did, however, state that the executors of his will were to manage the funds for Harriet's children until they came of age.

Samuel concluded his will with the forgiveness of $800 owed to him by his son Moses, forgiven, that is, by the share of the estate that Moses would receive.

Finally, in Item 13, returning to his detailed directives, Samuel had a plan as to how any dispute over property value or shares would be handled. Three respectable land holders (not the executors) would assess the value of the property then make their decision. Any one of the eleven shareholders who disagreed with this decision would simply forfeit his/her share of the property except for $5. There. Samuel had spoken!

Like that old quote, the devil was in the details. Because Samuel Howard was so specific in writing his will, I ended up gaining a much clearer picture of my 4GGrandfather, his life, and his family. And I had thought that reading wills and probate records would be boring!

(1) South Carolina, Wills and Probate, 1670-1980, "Greenville, Will Books, vol C-D, 1840-1867", p 468-472; accessed on

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tuesday's Tips : Research Tote, Version 2.0

photo posted on "Writing a Dissertation Literature Review - Tips to Consider"
by Fidel Martin, photographer unknown

This summer Mocavo posted a great Genealogy Research Guide. It contained tips for planning a research trip as well as a helpful section on things to carry with you.

Reading that guide prompted me to consider the things I use on a research trip. One of my early posts mentioned things I had in the research tote I carried with me to libraries and other research centers. That was three years ago. Now it is time to take another look at what is in my tote today.

Sure, I still have my legal pad, pens and pencils, sticky notes, a bookmark, and blank note cards. Today's tote also has some additional items including:

  • a jump drive - I'm finding that more and more libraries are allowing users to download resources, offsetting the cost of maintaining public access copiers. Other research locations have allowed me to e-mail pages from online resources to my e-mail address for this same reason.
  • my smartphone - So it's not in my tote, just always with me, but it has become my primary camera for screen shots of pages. I try to make sure I capture the page number on a shot whenever possible, taking several shots of a page to get the page number when it is available. Once home, I can look at the pages, expanding each to make it readable, then delete or print as needed. My smartphone also allows me access to my Ancestry tree so I can quickly check on birth / death dates, names of spouses, and other specific information that I need in my research.
  • my Flip-Pal - Nothing can beat my Flip-Pal for taking pictures of large pictures, maps, or documents. The stitching feature of Flip-Pal's software enables me to end up with a great reproduction.

I've also added a few new techniques which I use along with my research tote. Among them are:

  • using Google Drive - My Research Log is on Google Drive so it is conveniently with me as long as I have internet access. Another Google Sheet is an ongoing list of newspaper articles I want to locate and read as well as a Sheet of books not available for interlibrary loan, only for on-site use. When I know I will not have internet access, I print out the necessary sheets to take with me in my tote.
  • documenting title page info - When I take pictures of a resource, the very first photo is always of the title page and then a shot of the library's info (library location, call number, etc.). This way I know that the next 27 pictures are all from this book and where to find it should I need to use it again. This also provides information for a source in my genealogy software as well as a listing in my Research Log.
  • better notetaking - Once I've taken the title page photo, I start taking brief notes. First I list the title, then start a list of the person, place, reason I take each successive shot. Just brief notes, p 37 - Landmark Baptist Church, p 412 - John Ragsdale's property, etc. This way if it is days (or weeks) later when I finally look back at those photos, I know why I took them in the first place and can more easily find the information they contain.

These are just a few changes I've made over the past three years. Who knows what new tools and techniques I will add to my research tote in the next three.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Now I'm Three!!!

photo by Debbie Chialtras,

Today is my blogiversary. Three years ago, I decided to start writing a genealogy blog, and I'm still at it, two hundred and fourteen posts late.

Looking back over the past year, I am glad that I took part in Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over, being part of Round One. Through participating, I found that I have developed some new habits that have led me to be more focused in my research. I am also glad I chose to focus the GD-O on researching my Norwegian ancestors. Otherwise there would probably still be many blank areas in that section of my family tree.

Another side benefit of the GD-O came through the numbers of you who read my weekly posts on aspects of the GD-O. In terms of readership, this year's Top Five Posts were:

  1. Nana, Why Do You Write Stories About Dead People? explaining genealogy to a grandchild
  2. No Need to Stop Fueling the Find participating in FamilySearch Indexing
  3. Getting Ready to Get Started GD-O
  4. Dealing With All Those Bookmarks GD-O
  5. Tracking My Research GD-O

This year I also found myself working on several series of posts. In addition to my posts related to the GD-O, I had another series of posts titled "Did You Hear the News?" This gave me a way to focus on how much information can be gathered by reading newspapers articles. Now, I'm constantly finding new treasures as I explore various wills and probate records which I am finding online. I'm all for trying to learn more about an ancestor's life, more than just the Birth/Marriage/Death records.

I truly appreciate all of you who follow me, who read my posts, and who comment on them. Thanks for being part of this with me. Now, I'm off to read another ancestor's will and plow through some probate documents ...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Learning Even More About Lemuel Dean

Will of Lemuel Dean, signed 28 Feb 1879 (1)

Just when you think you have a good picture of an ancestor, along comes another resource that adds a few more brush strokes to the picture. The Will and Probate Records accessible through and continue to provide a number of genealogy nuggets that merit closer examination. That was certainly the case with the will of my 3 GreatGrandfather Lemuel E Dean.

Lemuel Dean was a complicated individual, and his will supported the impression I have of him. The first part of my closer look was to transcribe his will using Transcript 2.5 software. This made it much easier to read the terms of his will.

Item One of his will gave his home property and twenty acres of farm property to his wife Nannie E Jones Dean. It was helpful to note that his will described the exact location of his home property and described the area of the farm property. Nannie was also to be provided with furniture and household goods as well as a cow and cattle. These were for her use until she died or remarried. This was a fairly standard directive found in wills of that day.

Item Two stipulated that all his real and personal property be sold. Because Lemuel owned extensive property in Atlanta, in Fulton County Georgia, and in other areas of Georgia, I now better understand why it took so many years for his estate to finally be settled. After all his debts were paid, the proceeds of the sales were to be added to any money due him and the resulting fund divided into seven equal shares. The shares were to go to his four living sons, one share each to two of his grandsons, and the remaining seventh share to be divided among four other grandchildren. Nothing ever seemed simple with Lemuel. At least, though, I had the names of six of his grandchildren and more information to add to my family tree.

Item Three was filled with directions should his wife Nannie die or remarry. In either event, everything left to Nannie was to be sold then distributed into the seven equal shares. This part wasn't so unusual but what followed was something I had not seen in other wills. The will also gave very specific instruction as to how his two youngest sons would be living in the care of their mother, his "beloved wife Nannie E Dean" unless his two older sons acting as his Executors felt it was necessary to remove the younger boys should "their welfare require it". That one sentence suggests there is surely an interesting backstory to that stipulation.

In Item Four Lemuel appointed his two older sons as guardians of the property for the two younger sons and five of his six grandchildren until each reached the age of twenty-one. One grandson, however, was to be allowed to select his own guardian.

After reading the will, I took a closer look was to see if any of his children had been left out of Lemuel's will. Lemuel Dean and his first wife Elizabeth Howard had 11 children. Seven had verified death dates prior to Lemuel writing this Last Will and Testament, two sons were named as the Executors, and the grandchildren named in the will were listed as children of two deceased daughters and one deceased son. Lemuel's second wife, Nannie C Price Jones Dean had two sons, both of whom were named in the will. No mention was made in the will of Nannie's three children from a previous marriage. At least all 13 children born to Lemuel were accounted for in his will.

A fun part of looking at Lemuel's will was trying to locate his property on an Atlanta map. Using Google Maps, I found the approximate location of his home property on the present day map shown below. It dawned on me that I have probably driven right past the property while hunting for a parking place near the Georgia Aquarium. Small world.

Approximate location of property at the corner of Marietta Street and Jones Avenue today
located using Google Maps Engine Lite

Trying to locate Lemuel Dean's home property back in 1880 was a little more difficult. Using an 1888 city map of Atlanta found on Wikipedia Commons, I think I tracked down the location of Lemuel Dean's home. The orange block shows the approximate location of the property given to his wife. Because this is Atlanta, after all, I made sure that two of the many Peachtree Streets were visible on the right side of the map.

Atlanta Street Map, 1888, from Cram's Standard American Atlas
source: Wikipedia Commons

I was not as successful trying to locate the 20-acre farm located "in said County of Fulton on the Water of Procter Creek and known as the "Dunahoe Mill Place".(1)

Looking closer at this will provided me with a variety of information. The will gave a more detailed property description than I had seen previously in census records or in city directories. It also sent me looking for past and present maps of the area. Also, the will listed the names and parents of six of my First Cousins, 3 times removed. And finally, it added more questions as to the complexity of Lemuel Dean and his family's relationships as he expressed concern about the possible welfare of his younger sons being raised by their mother after his death. Some stories just never seem to stop.

(1) Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992, Fulton County, Wills, Book A, 1854-1882,  p 400-402, Lemuel Dean will, signed 28 Feb 1879, accessed on

Friday, October 2, 2015

Where There's a Will, There Might Be a Way ...

Will of Elijah Ragsdale(1)

When I first started looking through the collection of wills and probate records available on and, I was anticipating that it would be very dry reading. Instead I've discovered what a wealth of information might be found in a close reading of a will. Just looking at the will of Elijah Ragsdale, my 4GGrandfather, provided a way to find things such as ...

1. approximate date of death. Many of the wills I have been reading from the mid- to late-1800s start with a paragraph mentioning "being of advanced age and knowing that I must soon depart this life" and end with the date the will was signed. This can help to establish an approximate date of death. In this case Elijah Ragsdale would have died on or after 16 Apr 1858.

The next step is to locate the document in which someone had filed the will for probate or applied for letters to administer the will. The next page after Elijah Ragsdale's will was the probate filing. That document contained the reference to "Elijah Ragsdale, late of said county deceased" and had a filing date of 7 Jun 1858 written at the bottom of document. This provided the second part to bracketing Elijah Ragsdale's date of death. Using the date from his will and the date the will was recorded for probate established that Elijah had died between 16 April and 7 June of 1858. Having a narrow time frame is a plus when a grave marker has only the year of death.

2. spouse's name and date of marriage. Here again, I love the flowery language used in many 19th century wills. In the will, Elijah mentioned his "beloved wife Mary with whom I have lived in strictest quiet for fifty-nine years". This sentence points to a probable marriage date sometime in 1799. The information in the will also corroborated what I had read previously in a Ragsdale Family History book.(2)

3. specific property owned by the deceased. Item Four of Elijah's will left property to his wife Mary. The lot is described as being "Block C, no. 15" in "Dallas, Paulding County, Georgia" and "containing 40 by 80 feet".

Probate records sometimes include estate inventory reports. It is one thing to note on a census record that an ancestor's personal estate is valued at $400. The inventory reports provide a much more vivid picture of the deceased and his time period as it lists each piece of furniture, numbers of books, descriptions of guns, the family Bible, a looking glass,and other items which comprised the personal property of an ancestor.

4. family relationships. In the his will, Elijah names two executors, his wife Mary and his son Sanders W Ragsdale. I've read other wills listing an individual as a son-in-law or the child of a daughter who was deceased or other similar descriptions.

And sometimes you find other interesting information in a will including ...

5. names of other friends, neighbors, and relatives. One interesting part of seeing an actual will (or copy of it) is noting the names of the witnesses to the signing of the will. Sometimes they fit Elizabeth Shown Miles' FAN principle of Friends, Associates, and Neighbors. Four men witnessed Elijah sign his will, John Jensen, Duncan Bohannon, John H Williams, and Jeramiah Weisner. With this will, the four witnesses remain strangers to me. They weren't census neighbors, spouses of relatives, known business partners of this farmer, or otherwise easily connected to Elijah Ragsdale. In other family wills, however, the witnesses were census neighbors, relatives not named as heirs within the will, or individuals appearing on the same church membership register as the deceased.

Because my husband and I both have deep North Georgia roots, I was not surprised when I saw my husband's  3GGrandfather Samuel Hillhouse, along with his 2GGrandfather Elijah Hillhouse, and two Hillhouse aunts listed as witnesses on the will of my 5 Great Uncle Richard Ragsdale. Small world.

6. tidbits of family history. I've come across family wills that make a distinction in the amount of money or property to be given to different children based on having given one child part of the inheritance previously. And sometimes you come across instances in which the deceased sought to speak from the grave, chastising a child for past sins, or giving very specific instructions as to a redistribution of property should the surviving spouse ever remarry.

Other wills contain the provenance of family items, describing a piece of furniture as having been made by a relative or mentioning that a coat with brass buttons has been worn during the Revolutionary War. Because I have been examining a number of wills from Georgia, I have read several wills that contained references to slaves of the deceased. Some even contain very specific instructions that a certain male and female slave were to be kept together as a family and were not to be separated from each other or from their children.  It is all part of a family's story.

If you have not taken a look at wills and probate records, I urge you to consider exploring these resources. Examining a will might provide you with another way to learn additional information about an ancestor or relative.

(1) Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992 [database on-line], "Paulding County, State of Georgia, Will Records and Estate Records, 1850-1877", accessed on
(2) Van Leer, Mrs. Blake Ragsdale. The Ragsdale Family in England and America. Canton, GA : Industrial Printing Service, 1975.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Those Places Thursday : Resaca Confederate Cemetery

The Resaca Confederate Cemetery is not like the huge military cemeteries I had visited before. Hundreds or thousands of white crosses placed in straight lines. Names or numbers on each cross or marker. Instead, this cemetery is a small, quiet place located just a few miles off I-75 in Georgia about midway between Atlanta and Chattanooga. There is no sign at the exit to let passersby even be aware of its existence. It is also the place where I found a story, just not one I had expected to find.

During a recent trip to Georgia, my husband and I made a short visit to the cemetery. It was a familiar place to my husband; after all, he had told me about his walking around the cemetery grounds to gather information for a high school project years ago. Plus, a brother-in-law had mentioned that their grandmother had relatives buried there. A beautiful day provided us with a good opportunity to visit the Resaca Confederate Cemetery.

The cemetery itself is small and covers less than three acres. The picture above shows almost all of the cemetery's property. Resaca Confederate Cemetery contains less than 600 graves, a combination of short upright markers, flat ground level markers, and a few more ornate monuments. Fewer than 150 are marked with a name, initials, or any personal information. The remainder of the graves, 424 of them, have only simple markers to the unknown Confederate soldiers who were buried there.(1)  Today small Confederate flags or single artificial flowers decorate most of the graves of the unknowns.

Signs on the archway to the cemetery and inside the cemetery tell the story of what may have been the first confederate cemetery in the country. The cemetery is located on property that once belonged to the Green family. Following the Battle of Resaca, the family returned to their home and found that some of the soldiers killed in the battle had been buried on their family property. One of the family's daughters, Mary J Green, helped by a sister, buried two more soldiers there. Later Mary Green, with the assistance of others, moved the make-shift burials into a flower garden near their home. Green then started a move to honor these soldiers with a proper burial in an actual cemetery. Her efforts involved letter writing and fund raising, all with the goal of establishing an official cemetery for the soldiers buried on the family property. In 1866, Mary's father, Col. Green, gave her two and a half acres to be used for a cemetery. The property became where the bodies were finally laid to rest in an orderly arrangement in an actual cemetery. The cemetery was officially dedicated on 25 Oct 1866.(2)

Posted on the information board at the entrance to the cemetery are lists of the known soldiers buried there. I took pictures of the lists and once back home, tried to see if I could find the names of any of my husband's relatives. FindAGrave has 141 interments listed for the cemetery, a few more names than are posted at the cemetery, but no names listed were those of relatives.

I searched through the Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia, 1861-1865 which I have in my Civil War Collection on HaithiTrust. I was able to use their "find in text" feature to look for "Resaca" information. The roster provided information concerning soldiers wounded in the Battle of Resaca, those transferred to the field hospital in the Resaca, and some listed as being buried at Resaca. Although I did find a few new names listed in the rosters as having been buried at Resaca, I was not able to find any relative's name using that resource. Perhaps the relatives who may be buried at the Resaca Confederate Cemetery are among the 424 unknown soldiers.

This genealogy trip did not lead me to any new family links. What I did find, however, was the story of Mary J Green. Her desire to honor the dead and provide a proper burial for them shows how one person's efforts can make a difference for many others. That's a story worth celebrating.

(1) "Resaca Confederate Cemetery",
(2) "Honoring the Fallen", The Civil War in Georgia,

Friday, September 18, 2015

Is That Albert Peeping Through a Crack in the Brick Wall?

Albert Bell Vaughan Jr
My Great Grandfather, Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr, is someone about whom a lot has been written. Several articles written about this Baptist minister mention how he had been apprenticed as a painter in Jackson, Tennessee in the early 1870s.(1) His early stint as a painter had fascinated me. He left this occupation after just a few years then attended college and became a full-time minister, educator, and college president. Talk about a career change.

I had been trying for some time to learn more about the "painter years", especially since he seemed to have vanished during the 1870 federal census. He wasn't listed as living with his family, nor could I find him living on his own. Articles sometimes mentioned that he lived in Jackson, Tennessee during this time in his life, but no Albert Vaughan seemed to be listed in an 1870 Tennessee census record.

Recently I tried a slightly different search technique in's 1870 census records. Instead of searching for his last name, Vaughan/Vaughn, I just searched using his first name of Albert, his birth year, and the Georgia birthplace, no surname. I filtered the search to view only Tennessee records.

1870 Federal Census, Jackson, Madison, Tennessee, accessed through

Eureka! I finally found a possible Albert Vaughan in the 1870 Tennessee census. Granted the census record I found listed an "A Vann" rather than Albert Vaughan, but the age, occupation, and birthplace agree with my Albert Vaughan. He was living in the household of another painter, a circumstance that was quite probable for a young apprentice, and he was living in Jackson, Tennessee.

So now, I have a possible 1870 census record for 18-year-old Albert, the apprentice painter. One possible answer had lead to several new questions. Who in the world were the Huddlestons? They were about the same age of Albert's parents, Albert Bell Vaughan, Sr and Charlotte Slade Vaughan. Could M Huddleston have been a relative or at least a close friend of either Albert Sr or Charlotte? And what about Mary Huddleston? She was the age of Albert Jr's grandparents. Could she have been a relative of Albert Jr's?  I keep wondering if there might be some family connection. After all, it is hard to imagine sending a teenager several hundred miles away to live with strangers. Surely, there were other painters living closer to the family in Georgia with whom Albert could learn the painting trade.

I'm calling this census record only a crack in the wall, not a wall buster. After all, one line of census information is already leading me to more questions about Albert and this period in his life. The questions don't end, but then that's a reason researching our families can be so interesting.

(1) Memoirs of Georgia: Containing Historical Accounts of the State's Civil, Military, Industrial, and Professional Interests and Personal Sketches of Many of Its People, vol. 2. Atlanta: Southern Historical Association, 1895. accessed through Google Books.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Rest of the Story : Samuel G Slade's Children and His Estate

Gordon Institute, 1887 Catalog
source: Gordon State College web site

Sometimes timing is everything. Right after I wrote about the unfortunate events in the life of my 3rd Great Uncle, Samuel G Slade, I had the chance to learn more about things following his death. had just released thousands of will and probate records on its website, so I had to see what I could find there. The same records had already been available through, but now they were indexed on

Soon I found myself using "a second pair of eyes" by also browsing through the same collection of records on, readable page by page but without any index. This allowed me to find some additional information that did not show in Ancestry's index of the records. I'm putting all the information together chronologically to show what happened in the Slade family in the years following Samuel G's death.

Samuel G Slade had died on 28 February 1880. By 2 March 1880, six men from Pike County applied to the court for letters to administer his estate.(1) The application indicated that Samuel G had died intestate, and the gentleman agreed to relinquish their letters of administration should a will be found prior to the settling of his estate. Later through FamilySearch I found that the Ordinary of Pike county had appointed Thomas Barrett from this group of six gentlemen as the temporary administrator of the estate until the official executor could be determined.(2) This was probably the same Thomas J Barrett who was married to Minerva Ann Slade, one of Samuel G Slade's sisters.

On 5 April 1880, one month later, James W Means also applied for letters of administration for Samuel G's estate.(2) Browsing through the pages, I could not find that the original group of administrators had been dismissed, but all future records showed only James W Means as the executor of the estate. Incidentally, this same James W Means was later the ordinary of Pike County so I had lots of opportunities to see his name on probate documents.

Sometime that same day, 5 April 1880, James W Means applied for legal guardianship of fourteen-year-old Ella Slade.(3) It was almost four years later that James W Means applied for the guardianship of her siblings J C, John Edward, and Annie.(3) All the children were listed as being the wards of James W Means in the 1880 census, but for some unknown reason, there was not no legal document awarding guardianship for the other three children until 1884.

As required by law, James W Means had to file annual reports of his expenses in the settling of Samuel G Slade's estate.(4) The annual report for 1880-1881 alone covered 16 pages. It provided details about the physical care of the children, the management of the Slade farm, and insight into life in the early 1880s. His report made for some interesting reading.

Return on behalf of children of Samuel G Slade filed 1 Apr 1881
School supplies and personal items for Edward Slade, 1885.

Means apparently was paid room and board for all four children. Records also show that he sent spending money to Ella when she was away at school. Another section of the report listed expense vouchers for additional purchases, things like a boy's suit, four collars, and two collar buttons; payments to a dealer in millinery and fine goods; the purchase of fabric, thread, and needles; new shoes; and a long list of school supplies - paper, ink, tablets, and books. Other vouchers were presented for dental work and medicine for the children.

From the vouchers, I also learned that the four children attended school. The oldest child Ella attended Wesleyan Female Institute in Staunton, Virginia, and her brothers and younger sister were students at Gordon Institute near the Means' home in Barnesville, Georgia.

Management of the Slade farm and mill seemed to be an ongoing operation for Mr. Means. Vouchers showed purchasing seeds and fertilizer, agreements to sell cotton, buying tools and necessary farm equipment as well as paying those who worked on the farm and at the mill. And then there were the notes for money borrowed by Samuel G Slade prior to his death, notes which James W Means paid from the farm income. A touching note was to see voucher #50, the payment for fixing the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Slade and a child.

Appraisers submitted their evaluation of Samuel G Slade's estate in May of 1880, giving the total estate a value of $12,347.81.(5) A year later, in May of 1881 the appraisers awarded $1000 from the estate for a year's support of the children and authorized the use of a number of pieces of furniture by the Slade children.(5)

The Slade children continued under the guardianship of James W Means until each was of legal age. As guardian, he submitted an annual report to the Pike County Ordinary for each child as well as a report covering expenses related to the farm and mill. It struck me as interesting that each of the four Slade children was already married at the time his or her legal guardianship was dissolved with Mr. Means. Documents in which the guardianship was dismissed seemed to match the times when J C, Edward, and sister Annie each turned 21.(6) For some unknown reason, his guardianship of Ella was not concluded until she turned 25. By the time the guardianships had been dismissed, all four children were adults, with their own families and their own lives.

Lessons Learned (and relearned): There is no substitute for looking at original documents or their readable copies. It is one thing to know that James W Means was the children's guardian and the executor of Samuel G Slade's estate. It is quite another thing to see pages that show the extent to which James W Means was involved in the lives of the Slade children or on their behalf for so many years.

Taking the time during this research to become more familiar with the Ancestry indexing and with the variety of records available through FamilySearch will prove useful whenever I use the same records to learn more about other relatives. I gained some skill in using the various indices within a volume and then skimming over documents to find the phrase "administer the goods, chattel, and credit of -------- -------- late of this county deceased" to locate the probate records for a specific individual. I also learned to look at additional pages in the book because sometimes notes concerning one estate were written on the back of the documents for another person.

Now I have a list of other names to search in the Pike County, Georgia records. Then a list for Jones County followed by a list for Monroe County, and that's just for researching my Slade ancestors. And then ...

(1) Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992. Pike County Administrators Bonds 1829-1962; accessed through
(2) Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990. Pike County Administrators Bonds 1829-1897; accessed through
(3) Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992. Pike County Guardians Bonds 1829-1955; accessed through
(4) Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990. Pike County Returns 1878-1882 vol P; accessed through
(5) Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990. Pike County Inventories and Returns 1861-1883 vol BA; accessed through
(6) Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990. Pike County Letters of Dismission, 1881-1962; accessed through

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bits and Pieces* : What's In Your Proof Box?

By Lidingo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week our local genealogy society had an interesting program concerning ways to organize our genealogy and research materials.  The speaker had a number of helpful suggestions, many coming back to one point -- "organize the way you think, otherwise, it won't make sense to you".  She mentioned organizing materials by surname, by location, or by topic. Then she mentioned a new-to-me term, a Proof Box.

She spoke of keeping certain things in our Proof Box, those things that cannot be replaced or would be extremely difficult to replicate. This is the box, container, or maybe a briefcase that we grab and take, along with our personal and financial papers, if we have to quickly evacuate our home. The speaker mentioned some of the contents in her Proof Box, things such as the original marriage certificates of ancestors and an important letter written by another ancestor. Precious treasures that are also proof of genealogical facts.

This is an idea I'm starting to mull over. I think another good item to include in my Proof Box will be the jump drive backup of my genealogy software and my genealogy software itself. One document that I may include is the Variety Book (diary) written by my Great Aunt Miriam Vaughan. I previously have written about Miriam's book and how it detailed family relationships and a year in the life of my aunt. I will probably include my mother's citizenship papers since she had held dual citizenship for a number of years. The envelope of paperwork includes correspondence with two different consulates, cites federal statutes, and includes a letter concerning the status of her then unborn child - me.

Having a small Proof Box or case is definitely food for thought and a prod for action.  What should be in your Proof Box?

* A series of quick looks at new genealogical ideas, resources, or techniques.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday : That Old Red Notebook

Never judge a book by its cover, even if it is just an old Blue Horse Class Notebook with a 25 cent price printed on it. Recently, I was loaned the notebook pictured above. It was a remnant of the contents from the home of a deceased relative. Somehow it was one of those things left behind, something no one seemed to want, and I had the chance to browse through it.

The first few pages of the notebook were blank, but then it was like opening a treasure box. That red spiral notebook turned out to be a handwritten book of basic Whittemore family information. Ancestors. Children's names. Marriages. Birth and death dates. All stuff worth noting and checking to see that it was recorded in my copy of Family Tree Maker. I even looked through Evidence Explained as I tried to construct a source citation for the notebook.

The real surprise was seeing that parts of the notebook were written in first person, "my Grandmother Parthenia", "my Mother and Father". My favorite note was the statement that "if they [relatives living elsewhere] are still there, I am going to get in touch with them". Several times the writer seemed to add information at a later date, evidenced by a change in ink color, arrows, or relationship notes. And like any notebook, there were things written on the back of a page or on a scrap of paper placed between pages.

The notebook also mentioned a long-standing brick wall concerning a Whittemore brother who apparently left home in the mid-1800s, and the family "never heard of him any more after he left". All of this has given me a real connection with the writer, my husband's Great Aunt, about whom I had previously only heard of her sweet, gentle nature. Now I feel she was a kindred genealogy spirit.

The information in the notebook appears to have been the foundation for a family tree drawn years ago by two of the writer's sons. My photocopy of the notebook will now share the folder with my copy of that family tree. Because of the notebook, we now have an idea as to how the information in the family tree may have been gathered. I'm just glad that old red notebook wasn't tossed into a trash can, and that it can continue to share family information.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sometimes Life is Just Hard ...

Samuel Bernard Slade, infant son of S G and F C Slade,
findagrave memorial #119440666; photo by Lisa G

Some relatives are just plain fun to research; they draw you by their interesting lives or exciting adventures. Sometimes, though, a relative will grab my attention for other reasons. Samuel G Slade, my third great uncle, is one of the later. I first came across him while searching for military records for the Georgia Slades. Each new thing I learned about Samuel G and his hard life kept me digging to learn more about him.

Samuel G was the youngest of the 11 children of my third Great Grandparents, Samuel Slade and Chloe Harrison. He was born and raised in central Georgia. At the age of 19, Samuel G and his bride Mary C Smith were living with his parents at the time of the 1860 census. It looked like a bright future for the young couple. However, according to information on the Slade Genealogy website, Mary Smith Slade died early in their marriage, and the couple did not have any children.

In July 1861, Samuel G joined other men from Pike County, Georgia, when he enlisted to serve in Company A, 13th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, CSA.(1)  During the Battle of Monocracy in July of 1864, Samuel's leg was wounded such that it had to be amputated below the knee. After his capture by Union forces at the Battle of Monocracy, he was sent to the Military Prison at Hampton, Virginia, then involved in a prisoner exchange later that summer.(2) By February of 1865, now back with the 13th Georgia, Samuel was placed on extended medical furlough.

Samuel G Slade, record of diagnosis, 22 Aug 1864 (2)
Apparently Samuel G was in Georgia long enough to marry Fannie Coker in January of 1865.(3) By the 1870 census, Samuel G and Fannie had three children with two more born in the 1870s. Things seemed to be looking up for Samuel G and Fannie.

The couple's seemingly peaceful life started a downward slide in September of 1878 when their year-year-old son, Samuel B, died.(4)  Several unsourced online family trees mention that a second son also died during that period. Then, about a year later, Fannie Coker Slade passed away due to a fever.(5) In November of 1879, Samuel G was a widower, left to raise four children, all under the age of 13.

Samuel G Slade, application for payment for limb

Although Samuel G's leg had been amputated during the Civil War, he had not received an artificial limb or military pension from the government. About a month after his wife's death. Samuel G applied to the state of Georgia for a $75 payment for a leg.(6) Samuel G's file contains only this application and one supporting form attesting to his condition. Nothing more. His file was in all likelihood closed soon after it had been opened. In February of 1880, Samuel G Slade died. The cause of death listed on the 1880 Federal Mortality Schedule was suicide.(4)  Not yet 40 years of age, Samuel G had lost two wives and at least one young child, as well as having a lasting disability from his war injury; apparently he must have felt that life was just too hard to continue.

The impact of these events has caused me to spend some time researching the lives of Samuel G's four surviving children. They were first cousins, three times removed, not close enough to ordinarily be a high research priority, but as a mother and a teacher I've found myself wanting to know more about them. What would life hold for these children who had known such upheaval in their lives, losing a brother (or two), their mother, and their father, all in less than a two-year time span?

Thankfully, there were some bright spots in the adult lives of the Slade children. Within a few months of their father's death, all four children were living with the James W Means family in Pike County.(7) They were listed in the 1880 census as Mr. Means' wards so apparently they were all together, in a home with food and, hopefully, care and attention. This also probably meant that neither 14-year-old Ella or 12-year-old J C Slade was put in the position of having to raise the younger siblings while themselves still children.

One of the Slade boys became a teacher, a school board trustee, and even served as the county Sheriff. Another Slade brother went in the lumber business. Both of the sisters married and had families of their own. Life did go on for the Slade children, sometimes for the better. At times, life is just hard for an individual or within a family. And sometimes a spark or concerned individuals can help people not just endure but perhaps even thrive.

(1) Henderson, Lillian, Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia, vol. 2, Hapeville, GA: Longrine & Porter, 1959-1964; accessed through
(2) "Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Georgia", packet for Samuel G / S G Slade; accessed through
(3) Slade-Harrison Family Bible, transcription and provenance posted on
(4) "Samuel Bernard Slade", FindAGrave memorial #119440666; citing Ebenezer United Methodist Church Cemetery, Lamar County, Georgia; memorial page and photo by Lisa G provide information.
(5) 1880 Federal Mortality Schedule, Georgia, Pike County, District 551; accessed through
(6) Georgia. Confederate Pension Applications, Georgia Confederate Pension Office RG 58-1-1, "Samuel G Slade". accessed through Georgia Virtual Vault.
(7) 1880 Federal Census, Georgia, Pike County, Zebulon; accessed through

Saturday, August 15, 2015

No Need to Stop Fueling the Find

Earlier today I logged into FamilySearch Indexing and received a message that the 2015 "Fuel the Find" worldwide indexing event was over. The week-long event had ended somewhat short of its goal of having 100,000 volunteers indexing records. The good news, though, was that millions of records had been indexed, and these records will soon to be available for searching on FamilySearch, free, no subscription needed, throughout the world.

I've been involved with indexing for FamilySearch for a number of years. The first batch of records that I downloaded for transcription was a collection of school records from Victorian England. Here were lists of little girls with names like Lily, Rose, Iris, Daisy, Pansy, all being enrolled in school. I was hooked as a transcriber.

Admittedly, I transcribe sporadically. Sometimes it is for special push events like "Fuel the Find". Other times I'll transcribe for a while when I've hit a brick wall or otherwise just need a break from my ongoing research. And sometimes it is a way to pay back after I've found some unexpected information on Family Search since some volunteer some time had transcribed the data I was now finding useful.

The real news is that while "Fuel the Find" is over for this year, indexing and transcription needs are never over. There are always new records just waiting for someone to transcribe so that someone else can finally get the answer s/he is needing. It is simple to do. FamilySearch has complete information here including a short video on the indexing process and a "test drive" showing how to index an individual record.

I enjoyed Robin Foster's post, Fueling My Own Finds While Indexing. What an inspiration for all of us to be involved in the simple act of indexing, helping to fuel someone else's find, or maybe even our own.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Have You Heard the News* About the Rev. Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr.?

the Reverend Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr.
photo in personal collection

My GreatGrandfather Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr. spent most of his life preaching the gospel. He preached in Baptist churches in both Georgia and Texas, to large and small congregations, and I grew up hearing many stories about this learned, respected minister. Still, I was able to learn more about him through my newspaper research.

As a college student in 1878, he presented a speech concerning the future of college students at his graduation from Mercer University.(1) In a little over twenty-five years, his oratorical skills lead him to be named to preach the main sermon at the Georgia Baptist Convention of 1905.(2)

One fascinating article was basically a testimonial Rev. Vaughan gave concerning the success of his eye surgery which had been performed by an Atlanta oculist. It read like a news article but in actuality seemed to be more like an ad for the surgery.(3) It was touching, though, to read how the surgery enabled him to then be able to read the New Testament in Greek. You can't help but be impressed by that!

Another interesting article related how Rev. Vaughan visited a young man in jail who had been accused of murder. Following a visit in jail from the Rev. Vaughan, the young man broke down and confessed to the crime he had committed.(4)

I was surprised to read how my GreatGrandfather, the minister of the Baptist churches in both Canton and Woodstock, Georgia, at the time, was also involved in local politics. At a meeting in 1892, Rev. Vaughan was the individual who proposed the slate of candidates to be endorsed by the county's Democratic Party.(5)

News of some of his church pastorates appeared in the Atlanta newspaper. Apparently the local church would have what amounted to an annual reelection of its pastor as when A. B. Vaughan was reelected to pastor the Baptist Church of Canton in 1900.(6) This information, interestingly enough, followed information about cases heard in Superior County Court the previous week and before news of the new telegraph operator for the railroad station in Canton. There were several short articles relating how Rev. Vaughan had turned down the opportunity to become the pastor of other churches.

My favorite article appeared in the fall of 1899. Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr. had been the minister at Canton [Georgia] Baptist Church for 13 years. However, in 1898 a schism divided the congregation over some unspecified issues. (I would love to have found an article about which happened, but there was no word in the paper about the situation in the church.) When he was not able to unify the congregation, Rev. Vaughan left the Canton church and moved to Nacogdoches, Texas to serve a church there. His daughter Miriam wrote of the family's year in Texas in her private diary. After a year, the church in Canton, Georgia, asked Rev. Vaughan to return. He accepted their offer, resulting in this article in The [Atlanta] Constitution.(7) After he returned to the Canton church, he never left the state of Georgia again, only serving Georgia churches until his death.

* Have You Heard the News is a series of posts about family information gleaned from newspapers available through,, the Digital Archives of Georgia, and the Library of Congress Chronicling America.

(1) "Mercer University Commencement Day", The Daily Constitution, Atlanta, GA, 6 Jul 1878, accessed
(3) "A Canton Clergyman Has Remarkable Experience in Atlanta", The Constitution, Atlanta, GA, 16 Dec 1894, p 27; accessed
(4) "Willis" Confession", The Constitution, Atlanta, GA, 2 May 1896, p 3. accessed
(5) "The Democrats of Cherokee". The Constitution, Atlanta, GA, 8 Jun 1892,p 2, accessed
(6) "Was Very Hard Week's Work", The Constitution, Atlanta, GA, 16 Sep 1900, p 8; accessed
(7) "Canton Baptists Are Happy", The Constitution, Atlanta, GA, 2 Dec 1899, p 3; accessed

Monday, July 27, 2015

Have You Heard the News* About Oscar Dean Perkinson?

It turned out that my Great Grandfather William Howard Perkinson wasn't the only family member who had been active in politics. Thanks to my newspaper research, I learned that his son, my Grandfather Oscar Dean Perkinson, was also involved in local government.

Articles in The [Atlanta] Constitution documented my Grandfather's election to the Woodstock [Georgia] City Council in 1903, 1913, and 1914. He was also elected Mayor of Woodstock in 1916, as related in this brief article. It was interesting to see the names of those elected to the Woodstock City Council in 1916. Almost everyone listed was part of the extended Perkinson family or a close family friend. So much for life in a small town.

The [Atlanta] Constitution, 5 Jan 1916, accessed through

Finding these articles about local politics helps me understand why my Grandfather probably decided to attend the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson in 1913. That event turned out to be yet another unexpected story!

* Have You Heard the News is a series of posts about family information gleaned from copies of Atlanta newspapers available through,, and the Digital Archives of Georgia.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Have You Heard the News* About Paul Myren's Accident?

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."(1) This unofficial motto of the US Postal Service covers a lot of conditions. But what about fire?

My Great Uncle Paul Severin Myren was a rural postal carrier in Traill County, North Dakota, for many years. A brief newspaper article told of his brush with a fire in which he was seriously burned. Apparently getting rid of weeds so that the mailboxes remained accessible was part of the job for a rural mail carrier in those days.

Pioneer Express, 17 Nov 1922(2)

Fortunately, this accident did not end Paul's long-time career with the post office. In fact, at the time of his accident, Paul was serving as President of the Rural Letter Carriers in North Dakota.(3)

Lessons Learned: That wonderful picture of Paul found at the beginning of my post was one I obtained some years ago, back before I realized how important it was to keep up with sources. The picture came from a local history book probably written in 1930-1940 in Traill County, North Dakota. Online I had come across an index to the book, saw Paul listed, and wrote to ask if someone could send me a copy of the picture. A look-up volunteer promptly honored my request. I'm just sorry that I cannot tell you the title or compiler of the book or anything about the photograph. Lesson: as soon as you find or receive information, attach a source to it. If only I had followed my own advice.

* Have You Heard the News is a series of posts about family information gleaned from copies of newspapers available through,, and Chronicling America by the Library of Congress.

(1) "Postal Service Mission and 'Motto'",
(2) "State Summary", 17 Nov 1922, Pioneer Express, Pembina, ND; accessed through Library of Congress Chronicling America.
(3) "State Summary", 30 Sep 1921, Pioneer Express, Pembina, ND; accessed through Library of Congress Chronicling America.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Military Monday : Following the Trail of a Spy, John Howard

John Howard might have been only 15 at the time, but he had his place in the events of the Revolutionary War. It turns out that young Howard was a spy for the colonial troops along the North Carolina / South Carolina border. This story about my 5 Great Uncle has been told with this one sentence in many places, but I wanted to see if I could learn more about him.

My interest in John Howard started as I was looking for more information about the family of my 3GreatGrandmother Elizabeth Howard. It was not too difficult to move back another generation and find her father Samuel Howard, his brothers (among them John Howard), and their father John Milton Howard, thanks to a will transcription I found online.(1)

Later, looking at several sources for burial information, I found a photo of the grave marker for John Howard with a birth date that matched what I already had known about John. His marker was clearly one that had been added long after his death, and it appeared to be a military-style marker.

John Howard, 1767-1851
FindAGrave memorial #108835867, photo by "cliffoflancing"

Knowing he had been in a soldier lead me to explore the Revolutionary War resources available on What I found was a 56-page folder of papers related to John's filing for a soldier's pension in 1832. It also included various paperwork filed on behalf of his wife Nancy for a widow's pension through the years after John's death in 1851.(2)

There was so much information contained in the file that I ended up putting pertinent information into a timeline spreadsheet. That way I had a clearer picture of what went on in the lives of John and Nancy since the files themselves were not in chronological order. It was worth looking over each document in the file in order to get all of this information.

1767Feb 11John Howard bornLawrence County, SC
1781abt Feb - OctJohn entered service in Rev. WarLawrence County, SC
ca 1782-1892John resided in Laurens, SC for 20 yrs after the warLaurens, SC
ca 1800-1809John Howard in KentuckyChristian County, KY
1810January 29Marriage bond for John Howard and Nancy HowardKnox County, TN
ca 1810-1811Marriage of John Howard and Nancy HowardKnox County, TN
     1814-1815John and Nancy moved from Knox to Morgan County
ca 1832-1833John started receiving military pension under act of 1832, $20 per yearMorgan County, TN
1851April 9John Howard diedMorgan County, TN
1853Mar 23Nancy Howard applied for widow's pensionMorgan County, TN
1855Apr 11Nancy Howard applied for widow's pension Morgan County, TN
1860Sep 4Restoration of pension for NancyMorgan County, TN
1862Jul 14Nancy Howard applied for restoration of pension Morgan County, TN
1866May 28Certificate of Widow's Pension Morgan County, TN
1872Mar 22Nancy had ?s about losing her pension certificateMorgan County, TN

It was a special moment when I found the following statement in John Howard's application for a pension. In it, he has sworn that at ...

Here was John Howard's statement that he had been a "volunteer indian spie" during the war and that he had served under Capt. Berry and Lt. William Brown. The document was written by his lawyer and related the various events John provided as proof of military service. This is probably the same document that someone else found years ago, added to an online family tree, then had it repeated (but without a source) on countless other family trees. At least, there is a source for saying John Howard had been a spy.

I decided to pay another visit to J D Lewis' information-packed website Carolana, the place where you can find  "almost everything you ever wanted to know" about the Carolinas. Here I also found verification of John Howard's military service. In the database of "The Privates, Horsemen, Fifers, and Drummers", I found a listing for John Howard which indicated that he enlisted in the New Acquisition District Regiment in 1781, completed his service in 1781, and served under Capt William Barrey and Lt. William Brown during these months.(3) This agreed with the statements in Howard's pension application plus provided the name of the regiment in which he served.

Trailing this spy lead me to learn more about his military service, his marriage and the various places where he lived. It also explained why I had found marriage, census, and burial information in Tennessee instead of near his birthplace in South Carolina. If so many people had not noted his service as a spy, I might never have taken the time to even look for information about this John Howard. Now, I need to start looking for more about his father, my 5 GreatGrandfather, also named John Howard, but who was apparently not a spy.

(1) West, Mary E, "Ancestors & Descendants of Thomas and Harriet Compton Howard", accessed on the website of the Hamilton County Tennessee Genealogy Society,
(2) "Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files", folder for John Howard, publication M804, National Archives Catalog ID 300022, record group 15; accessed through
(3) Lewis, J D. "The American Revolution in South Carolina,  The Privates, Horsemen, Fifers, Drummers, etc",