Friday, December 16, 2011

Death Location vs. Burial Location

When you find a grave marker, it is easy to assume that the person died close to the place where they were buried.  This can be a bad assumption, though.  Here is an excellent example.

Edmonds-Amanda-Davis_0800-cropAmanda H Edmonds (nee Davis) was born in Alabama in 1861.  In 1892, she married Augustus Newell Edmonds and returned with him to Hill County, Texas.  Augustus Edmonds was widowed and had 8 children by his first wife.  Amanda and Augustus had two more children (Loyd and Blanche).

About half of the public trees on show her to have died in Hill County, Texas; the other half show her to have died in Fayette County, Alabama.  She is clearly buried in Texas (Grandview Cemetery, Johnson County, Texas) as I have seen and photographed her grave marker.  Augustus (who died years later) is buried between Amanda and his first wife Elizabeth McDuff.  It is easy to think that the report of death in Alabama might be a mistake.  However, the fact that she is buried in Texas, does not mean that she died in Johnson County, or even in neighboring Hill County.

Here is the story:
For Christmas 1901, Augustus, Amanda, Loyd, and Blanche travelled back to Fayette County, Alabama, to visit family.

Augustus’s sister Ella wrote:
On December 23rd, we looked out from our humble home and saw the hackman drive up to the gate; and oh, how our hears were made to leap with joy, when we saw that the passengers were our dear brother, wife and two little children….But alas!  In a few days all the family were sick, caused by the sudden change of climate.  And how said it is to say that death claimed for his victim the Wife, the Mother, our sweet sister."

An account in her hometown newspaper in Itasca, Texas, indicates that she lived only 30 hours after becoming “suddenly ill with congestion of the bowels”. Some suggest that it may have been appendicitis, but that doesn’t fit with her sister-in-law’s account that the entire family was ill.

On a recent trip to Fayette County, Alabama, I found a photocopy of the original death register.  It lists her death on January 5, 1902 of “congestion of stomach”.  image

Augustus relayed information of his trip back to Texas in a letter to the editor of the Fayette Banner newspaper, published on January 21, 1902.
Please allow me to inform my Fayette friends, through the columns of your paper, of my safe arrival at home from Alabama, with my wife a corpse, on Wednesday the 8th. We were met at the depot by a great number of people, who marched to the grave to pay the last tribute of respect to my bosom companion who departed this life at 8 o'clock p.m. on Sunday the 5th….I wish to specially thank Propst Bros. and J. P. Dickinson for their noble deeds of kindness to me. I, perhaps, would have had to bury my wife at Cordova, had it not been for brother Dickinson. At that point we were transferred from the Southern to the K. C. R. R., a certificate had to be signed, and I thank God that brother Dickinson volunteered to sign it and let me through with my little children and corpse of my wife. My home is a lonely home now; a vacant chair at the fireside, at the table, at church and at Sunday school, and everywhere I go I miss Amanda. But there is one consoling thought and that is, she is at rest from the cares of this troublesome world and that I was permitted to bury her where she so much desired to be.

There you have it.  Amanda died in Fayette County, Alabama, and her body was returned with her family via railroad to Texas, where she was buried in Johnson County, which is neighbors to where she lived in Hill County.

In my records, I now enter a Death fact and a separate Burial fact.  I find that I often have evidence of the date of death but not the place, and of the place of burial but not the actual date.  However, this technique helps me avoid adding incorrect details to my family tree.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mother Lode of Cemeteries

I recently took a brief trip to Fayette County, Alabama, where my great grandfather (Augustus Newell Edmonds) and his second wife (Amanda H Davis) grew up.  Although he left the area for Hill County, Texas, in the 1870s, there are many family roots in the county.  I planned to search for a few key grave markers and take pictures of any one I saw with a related family surname.

My first stop was Find A Grave to figure out which cemeteries to visit.  Much to my surprise, there are 218 cemeteries in Fayette County.  With a county population of just over 17,000, and an area of 628 square miles, that makes for one cemetery for every 79 living people, and more than one cemetery per three square miles.  I compare this with my own county in Texas:  169 cemeteries, 782,000 people, 850 square miles.  That’s one cemetery for every 4600 living people, and one cemetery per 5 square miles.

As I entered the county by country roads, I was taken by the presence of so many cemeteries.  Most were beside small country churches.  I loved the fact that residents were laid to rest where they had worshipped.

I ended up visiting and taking pictures at 7 cemeteries, including taking pictures of every grave marker at 2 of the smaller cemeteries.  I would love to return some day, take more pictures, and learn more about my roots.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Watch Out: Census Pages Out of Order

I recently found the following census index listing on


It seemed very odd to have 6 young Appling children living with Melton Keesmon. 

The first Appling I found here was Aretha.  Since I was looking for Althea/Aletha, I first assumed that this was not the person I was looking for.  Then I realized that Nancy, John, Americus, and Oscar were siblings of Aletha, as listed in the 1860 census.  Hmmm. Seems like the right family.  But what’s with the head of household Melton Keesmon?

Since the children’s father was William Burrell Appling, I looked at his 1850 census listing.  I found him with his wife and 4 children, ages 14 through 21.  But who are Isabella and Eliza King?


The answer to both mysteries comes from realizing that the pages are out of order.

Melton Keesman is listed in family # 690 at the bottom of image 100 .

Burrell Appling, with his family # 717 is listed at the bottom of image 104.

The Appling children (Nancy, Cordelia, John, Americus, Oscar, Aretha) are listed at the top of image 101 with no family number.  However, the family immediately following them is numbered 718.

Similarly, the King children (Isabella and Eliza) are listed at the top of image 105 with no family number.  The family immediately following them is numbered 743, so presumably they are part of family # 742.

Mystery solved:  image 101 should follow image 104.  This is one more reason to look past the index and review the scanned document, especially when the information provided in the index seems a little fishy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You can’t always believe what you read

As family historians, we’ve all been told that you can’t believe everything you find on the Internet.  It’s easy to believe that a fact must be true because we find it in several places, but it is possible that they are all derived from the same faulty source.

One place that we often find errors is in the census.  Usually one family member gave the information to the census taker, and he or she might not actually know the facts.  For instance, a wife who is at home when the census taker arrives may not know the birthplace of her husband’s parents.

It is easier, though, to believe that a “fact” in print is accurate.  However, there are many reasons that an incorrect “fact” can creep into a printed work as well. 

Consider the following confusion that I came across.  A self-published (comb-bound) family history book states the following:
Clarence Gordon Self was born 28 March 1893 in Grant, Oklahoma, to Berry Crenshaw Self (born 14 November 1856 in Cumberland County, Kentucky to William Jennings and Marry C. “Polly” Guinn Self) and Viola Frances Bledsoe Self (born 5 March 1873 to George Chilton and Nancy Sloan Bledsoe in Russell County, Kentucky).  Clarence lived with his family in Kentucky from age two to nine, where he spent time with his uncle Jim Self, a lawman of some repute.

The 1900 Census states that Clarence was living with his parents in Creelsboro, Kentucky, and that he was born in Kentucky.

The 1910 Census shows that he was living with his parents in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, and that he was born in Texas.

In the 1920 Census he is shown living with his widowed mother in Washita County, Oklahoma.  His birthplace is unreadable, but appears to have been Kentucky overwritten by Oklahoma.

The 1930 Census shows him married, living in Washita County, Oklahoma, and with a birthplace of Oklahoma.

His WWI draft registration card shows that he was born in Creelsboro, Kentucky.

My first inclination would be to believe that Clarence Self was born in Kentucky – because the census closest to his birth indicated so, and because he listed Creelsboro, Kentucky, on his draft registration card.  Since he filled out the registration card, you would think that would be correct.  However, the author of the book, a relative, seems to have “insider” information.

When you find conflicting evidence like this, you just have to consider all to be candidates until some conclusive evidence arises.  Texas doesn’t seem like a very convincing candidate, but Grant, Oklahoma, and Creelsboro, Kentucky, both seem viable.  Until someone comes up with a birth record from one of those places, this fact needs to stay in the “inconclusive” category.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Case of the Comingled Service Records (Mystery Monday, Military Monday)

Recently I wrote about my discovery that John A Edmonds of Fayette County Alabama had served for both the Confederacy and the Union during the Civil War. Thanks to reader Cedar Posts, I have now done even more digging.

Cedar Posts and I both assumed that the John Edmonds of O’Neal’s 26th Alabama Infantry, Company A, was our relative. However, we each assumed that the John Edmonds was a different person.

It turns out that there really were two John Edmonds from Fayette County Alabama in Company A. However, there is only one set of consolidated records for John Edmonds in the Compiled service records of Confederate soldiers from Alabama units at The entries for John Edmonds and John A Edmonds at Civil War Soldiers and Sailors cross-reference each other.

In my previous article, I mentioned that genealogists easily confused the 2 John Edmonds from Fayette County. It looks like the confusion goes back many years.
First of all, I’d like to remind us of a few things:
  • The absence of a middle initial doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist. “John Public” could be “John Public, no middle initial” or “John J. Public” or “John Q. Public” or…
  • Misspellings are commonplace in old records, especially handwritten or transcribed ones.
I’ve pulled the information on the two John Edmonds to see how they compare.
John Edmonds, Son of Nathan Edmonds John A Edmonds, Son of William A Edmonds
Born 1833-1835 in Georgia per census records Born 1841—1842 per census records
Enlisted in Company A, O’Neal’s 26th Alabama Infantry on October 3, 1861.
There is only one record of enlistment, possibly because they were combined.
Enlisted in Company A, O’Neal’s 26th Alabama Infantry on October 3, 1861.
There is only one record of enlistment, possibly because they were combined.
One of them was admitted to a hospital in Virginia on October 16, 1862 and returned to duty on December 17 or that year. Since no initial is listed, this was probably the older John, son of Nathan.
Captured at Gettysburg on July 4, 1863
Another record indicates he was captured on July 2nd
Captured at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863
Another record indicates he was captured on July 2nd
Transferred to Fort McHenry, Maryland on July 6, 1863
Transferred to Fort Delaware between July 7 & 12 1863 Held at Fort Delaware from July 6 through October 20 1863
Transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland, on October 20, 1863
Entered the US Service on July 15, 1863 as a Private in Ahl’s Delaware Heavy Artillery for a term of 3 years or the end of the war. Joined US Service January 29, 1864 as a Private in Company D of the First Regiment US Volunteers for a period of 3 years.
Union Records indicate birth in Pike County, Georgia. Union Records indicate birth in Wilkes County, Georgia.
Mustered into service at Fort Delaware on July 27, 1863 Mustered into service at Norfolk, Virginia, on May 1, 1864
Promoted to Lance Corporal on May 16, 1864
Promoted to Corporal on July 1, 1864
Spent time at Fort Benton, Minnesota Territory, May through July of 1865.
Deserted September 11, 1865 from Fort Rice, Dakota Territory
Mustered out of service at Wilmington, Delaware, on July 25, 1865 Had he not deserted, he would have mustered out at Leavenworth, Kansas on November 27, 1865
Drew a pension for his service for the Union
Married Manerva Kilgore Studdard in October 1866
Died November 7, 1910 and is buried at Natural Bridge, Alabama Death and burial unknown

Given that even the government seems to have confused/combined the two John Edmonds from Fayette County, Alabama, who served in the same company of the same regiment in the Civil War, and who were both captured at Gettysburg, and who both subsequently served in the Union Army, it is no wonder that distant relatives and genealogists have confused the two.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Whatever Happened to John A Edmonds? (Mystery Monday, Military Monday)

“Whatever happened to John A Edmonds?” has long been a family mystery. John A Edmonds was the older brother of my great grandfather Augustus Newell Edmonds, the first-born son of William A Edmonds. John was born in 1842 in Georgia shortly before William A Edmonds and his wife Mary Frances Appling moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, then to Fayette County, Alabama. William and Mary Frances had 10 more children, most of whom survived to adulthood. John is listed in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in his father’s household, then poof!  He disappears from common records.  In A Memorial and Biographical History of Johnson and Hill Counties, Texas [1892] , John’s brother Augustus Newell Edmonds listed him as “whereabouts unknown”.
Note: There was another John Edmonds living in Fayette County in 1850, the son of Nathan and Eleanor Edmonds. He was a little older, having been born in about 1835. Although apparently missing from the 1860 census, he shows up again in 1870 and later, having married Manerva Kilgore in 1866. Edmonds researchers have often easily gotten the two John Edmonds confused.

Given that our John Edmonds “disappeared” in the 1860s, one must consider the possibility that he was a Civil War casualty.

There was a John Edmonds who enlisted in Company A, 26th Alabama Infantry (O’Neal’s) clip_image002October 3, 1861, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Tuscumbia, Colbert County, is a few counties away from Fayette County where John Edmonds lived. However, histories of the 26th Alabama Infantry indicate that “men were recruited from Fayette, Marion, Tuscaloosa, Walker, and Winston counties.”  This seems like our John Edmonds, but we can’t be sure yet, especially since the other John Edmonds was also from the area. [Extensive Civil War records can be found at, formerly]

imageThe 26th Alabama Infantry fought in the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and suffered losses of 7 killed, 58 wounded, and 65 missing. John Edmonds’ Confederate records show him captured at Gettysburg and a Prisoner of War at Point Lookout, Maryland. They also mention that he “joined the U.S. Service”.
Now it’s time to look in the Union Civil War records. Found: John A Edmonds who enlisted January 29, 1864 at Point Lookout, Maryland, in the Company D, 1st Regiment US Volunteer Infantry. These Union records show that John A Edmonds born in Wilkes County, Georgia, was 22 years old at the time, and was a farmer. This fits our John A Edmonds exactly. He is also listed as 5’ 10” tall, light complexion, hazel eyes, and sandy hair.
The 1st US Volunteer Infantry was made up almost entirely of captured Confederate soldiers who were given the opportunity to enlist for the Union in order to get out of Prisoner of War camps. These soldiers were dubbed “Galvanized Yankees”. However, they weren’t sent to fight against the South -- they couldn’t be trusted for that. Instead, they were sent to guard forts in the Dakota Territory.
imageJohn A Edmonds’ records show that he was promoted from Private to Corporal on July 1, 1864. On September 11, 1865, he was listed as “deserted” from Fort Rice, Dakota Territory.
John A Edmonds wasn’t alone in his desertion.
Many deserted—as men chose home or the gold fields over another winter of death at Fort Rice. Eleven percent of the command had died the previous winter, and all who survived still suffered from scurvy's lingering effects.
Like volunteer troops elsewhere, the First U.S. Volunteers believed that they had earned the right to go home—especially since their former prison comrades had been released in the spring. The ex-prisoners of war had requested through channels to be mustered out when news of Appomattox reached the Upper Missouri, only to be turned down by the War Department.

[Prologue Magazine; Winter 2005, Vol. 37, No. 4; Trading Gray for Blue
Ex-Confederates Hold the Upper Missouri for the Union
Desertion might not have been such a bad choice. John A Edmonds and other Galvanized Yankees weren’t exactly welcome back in their home states in the South. Likewise, they didn’t have much in the way of ties to the North. The West may have looked like a good opportunity to start a new life.
I would love to find John A Edmonds in records in California or elsewhere in the West after 1865.  These findings may not take me to John Edmonds’ eventual rest, but they do add a few more exciting years on to his history.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Marriage Hints in the US Census

Censuses are commonly used to find names, birth years, occupations, and family members.  How much do you use them for marriage information?

1850 Census

The 1850 Census, the first to list people other than the head of household, contains an often overlooked bit of information.  Column 10 asks whether the individual was married within the year.

The following example shows that David S Woollery and Caroline were married during 1850.image
The enumerator’s instructions do not say whether “within the year” means the calendar year or the last 12 months.  Either way, it gets you close.

The marriage information can also give a hint to a second marriage.  In the following example, the apparent parents (Wm B Field and Mary Field) were married within the past year, but there are several older children living in the household.image

1860 Census

The information in the 1860 Census is similar to that of the 1850 Census.  Column 11 indicates whether the individual was married within the year.

In the following example, the 22-year-old John H Gilbert and his 15-year-old wife Sarah J Gilbert were married in 1860, and were living in the household of Isaac Dickens.  It is logical to guess that Isaac Dickens (age 39) may be Sarah’s father; her maiden name might be Dickens.image

1870 Census

The 1870 Census brought a slightly different twist on the question of whether or not the respondent was married within the year.  Instead of a tick mark, the enumerator was asked to record the month (Column 14).  This is an improvement!

In this example, the physician Mick Curtis and his wife Sue were married in May of 1870.image

1880 Census

After a brief step forward to include the month of marriage, the 1880 Census again only includes a tick mark to indicate whether or not a couple was married within the year (Column 12).  In a stroke of inefficiency, this census uses tick marks and three columns to indicate marital status (Column 9 for Single, Column 10 for Married, and Column 11 for Widowed/Divorced).

Interestingly, people often weren’t marked as “Married” if they were “Married within the year”.

In the following example, Willis C Grider was living with his new bride, Laura E, in the house of Willis’s parents, Waitsville and Sabrina Grider.image

1890 Census

We usually skip over the 1890 Census since so little of it still exists.  However, for those who are fortunate enough to find pertinent surviving records, there are some marriage tidbits.

The 1890 Census is arranged very differently that what we are used to, as you can see.
In this example Leanna T Hughes (Person 11 of the family) is listed as a daughter-in-law of the head of household (Row 3) and is listed as married (Row 7) and married between June 1, 1889 and May 31, 1890 (Row 8).  Her husband, Erasmus D Hughes, isn’t listed on the same page, or even adjacent (Person 3 of the family) but you can tell that he is most likely her husband because his entry also lists him as married within the year.

1900 Census

The 1900 Census is the first census that we typically think of as having useful marriage information.  Column 9 shows Marital Status; Column 10 shows the number of years married.  With a little simple math, you can figure out the year in which the couple was married.

In this example,George W Barie is shown as 42 years old and had been married for 10 years.  Tina Barie was 26 years old and had also been married for 10 years.image

The math:
1900 (year of the census) minus 10 years = 1890

George and Tina were married in 1890.

1910 Census

The information in the 1910 Census is similar to that in the 1900 Census.  Column 8 shows the marital status, and Column 9 indicates the number of years of the present marriage. 

In this example, K.H. Parker is 55 and married for 32 years.  His wife Emanda B Parker is 52 and also married for 32 years. You’ll also note that this enumerator has listed “M1” as the marital status, indicating that this was the first marriage for both K.H. and Emanda B. Parker.image

The math:
1910 (year of the census) minus 32 years = 1878

K.H. and Emanda B. Parker were married in 1878.

1920 Census

Sadly, the 1920 Census shows only marital status and relationship to the head of household. There is nothing to indicate when a couple was married.

1930 Census

There are several pieces of information in the 1930 census that can be pieced together to reveal a marriage year:  Marital condition (column 14), Age at first marriage (column 15), Age at last birthday (column 13), and Relationship to head of household (column 6).  Unfortunately, it requires a little more math than some of the other censuses.

Consider this example:image
A. B. Collins was 68 when the 1930 census was taken and married.  He was 23 when first married.  His wife, Mandie J Collins, was 70 and had been 25 when first married.

The math:
68 years old minus 23 years old = 45 years ago
70 years old minus 25 years old = 45 years ago

Since they match, there’s a good chance that they were married to each other.

Now, to find the marriage year:
1930 (year of the census) minus 45 years = 1885

A.B. and Mandie J Collins were married in 1885.  I happen to know that this is correct because I also have copies of Family Bible pages that show that A.B. Collins and Amanda Jane Perryman (Mandie) were married on July 30, 1885.  The math works!  Try it.

1940 Census

The 1940 Census is not yet available to the public due to the 72-year privacy rule; however, blank forms are available for review.  This census takes another step backward in marriage information.  It lists Marital Status (Column 12) but no other information directly related to a marriage.

You can do your own census research has just announced that it now offers the complete United States Census collection (1790 through 1930).  Check it out at

Monday, August 29, 2011

Same Props (Mystery Monday)

Here are two photographs, both Cabinet Cards, with different subjects but the same props.  There’s a hint!

Male-01-smallerBoth of these photographs came from the collection of Amanda H Davis Edmonds.  Amanda was in born Fayette County, Alabama but moved to Hill County, Texas when she married.  The photographs in her collection would likely be friends or family of the Edmonds, Davises, or Olives (Amanda’s stepfather). 

The photo of the young man is clearly marked as being from Texas, but up until this week I had thought that the photograph of the woman was from Alabama.

I was thinking about using the woman’s photograph for a Mystery Monday post, but decided to send it to a distant cousin who still lives in Fayette County, Alabama, first to see if she looked like his branch of the family.  No resemblance.
While I waited for a response from Alabama, I looked through more of my old photographs because I thought the small table in the photograph looked familiar.  Amazingly, I found a match.  If you look even closer at the two photographs, you’ll notice that the backdrop is also the same between the two.  Bingo!  Even though the photograph of the woman is not marked, it was likely taken by the same photographer.

The woman’s blousy sleeves place the timeframe in the 1890s, and the markings on the young man’s photograph puts the location in Hill County Texas.

Now, instead of looking among the Alabama relatives for the woman, I know to look in Texas.  The world just got a little smaller.

Hmmm…Maybe she’s his older sister…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Volunteers

This past week I was the beneficiary of the efforts of a Find A Grave volunteer who went over and above the call of duty.  I just had to give him a shout out.

Uriah Collins, 1955Grammy sometimes spoke of her “Uncle U”.  His name was Uriah Collins, and he was actually her great uncle, her grandfather’s brother. During part of her childhood, Grammy lived with her grandparents (Albert Buell Collins and Amanda Jane Perryman Collins).  Uncle U lived down the road in Hidalgo County, Texas.

Uriah Collins and his wife Ida Barber Collins are buried in Abilene Texas.  I discovered that their oldest son was also buried in Abilene Municipal Cemetery through Find A Grave, but here was no photograph.  I requested a photo of Ralph Stillman Collins’ grave marker.

If you are unaware, Find A Grave has a matching system that notifies volunteers and photo requests based on where the volunteers live and where the cemeteries are located.

I quickly forgot about my request as I worked on other parts of my family history.

Ralph CollinsThen I got the notification that a volunteer had posted a photo of the stone for Ralph Collins.  I excitedly clicked on the link for the James Faulkenberry, the volunteer who uploaded the photo, to post a “thank you”.  End of story, or so I thought.

James shared with me his story of the search for Ralph Collins’ grave.  He found a large Collins marker and stones for Uriah and Ida Collins and suspected he was in the right place.  However, there was no stone for Ralph.  Ralph Stillman Collins 2Determined, he returned the next day with his shovel, hoe, and probe.  His efforts paid off, however – he found Ralph’s marker long covered by grass and dirt, 2 to 3 inches down.  He cleared the stone and took the photo.

Besides the obvious extra effort, there are a couple of other things that I’d like to point out about James.  First of all, he is not related to the Collins.  He did this purely out of a volunteer’s generosity.  Secondly, this was Abilene in August.  The temperature was in the triple digits both days he was out there at the cemetery.

When I asked James for permission to use his name in this post, he granted it and said,
I really try to go the extra mile when the cemetery web site says there is a marker and I can't find one!  That's why I try to have a hoe or shovel in my pickup when I go. 
I look for a grave marker in the section where someone is buried, even if the website says there is no marker.  A couple of times, even after 10 or 20 years, the funeral home marker is still there and still readable!

He also sent me pictures of his adventure, including this one that shows how the graves are arranged.

Ralph Stillman Collins 1
Here’s sending a big shout out to James Faulkenberry for his extra efforts to help a stranger and preserve a grave marker.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mystery Soldier (Mystery Monday, Military Monday)

It has been said that many Civil War soldiers had their pictures taken in uniform.  There are several Confederate Soldiers in my family tree, only one photograph of a young man in a Confederate uniform.

What we know:
  • Male-04-BackThe photo was taken in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at Magee Photographic Art Studio.
  • The original is a Cabinet Card (4 1/4” x 6 1/2”).
  • The photograph should have been taken between 1862 and 1864 based on the subject matter.  However, Cabinet Cards weren’t introduced until 1866 in America.
  • The photo was part of the collection of Amanda H Davis Edmonds.  Amanda Davis was born in 1861, so the photograph must have come to her indirectly.  Amanda grew up in Fayette County, Alabama, and moved to Hill County, Texas, when she married Augustus Newell Edmonds.  They had friends and family in both states.
  • Likely candidates are family or friends of the Davis, Edmonds, or Olive families.  (Amanda’s mother married an Olive after the death of Amanda’s father.)

The leading candidates:Edmonds-Augustus-Newell-From-Flickr
  • Augustus Newell Edmonds (1846-1920).  Husband of Amanda H Davis.  Company K, 8th Alabama Cavalry.  Unlikely due to lack of physical resemblance, but the photo could be of a brother or cousin. 
  • William T Olive (born 1838, died after 1910).  Stepfather of Amanda H Davis.  Company H, 41st Alabama Infantry.
  • Meedy White Melton (born 1832, died about 1876). Uncle of Amanda H Davis (brother of her mother).  Company H, 41st Alabama Infantry.
  • John A Edmonds (born 1842).  Brother of Augustus Newell Edmonds.  Company A, 26th Alabama Infantry.
  • Wiley Dyer Bagwell (1842-1923).  Husband of Elizabeth Menervy Edmonds who was a sister of Augustus Newell Edmonds.  Company G, 1st Alabama Partisan Rangers.
  • Reubin Davis (1840-1922).  Distant relative.  Company I, 26th Alabama Infantry.
  • Eli Montgomery Davis (1837-1908).  Distant relative.  Company F, 41st Alabama Regiment.

The obvious mystery here is “Who is in the photograph?”  There’s a secondary mystery as well:  “Why is a man posing in a Confederate uniform after 1866?”  Is it possible that it’s not actually a Confederate uniform?  If not, maybe identifying the uniform can help with identifying the soldier.

Comments welcome!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday: Perryman Quilts

Grammy’s Aunt Beulah (Beulah Collins Williams) tells the story of the family quilts.
Beulah's quiltQuilt made by my mother Amanda Jane Perryman [1860 – 1945] about 1883.  She married in 1885.

The cotton for lining and padding was grown on her father’s farm in Kentucky.  She carded the cotton, spun it into the thread for sewing and also for weaving the lining.

She made 3 of these quilts, different patterns but same qualities.  They were given to my 3 brothers.  Oldest brother died in 1908 and quilt was given to me.
quilt-1885 - Carlos
I do not know who currently has Arthur’s/Beulah’s quilt.  I assume that it is loved by one of her grandchildren.

The photo at left is the corresponding quilt that was given to Carlos Collins.  Grammy still has it.  The quilt is about 125 years old.

The remaining quilt was given to Ray Collins.  Grammy says that it was well loved and eventually “used up”.

Grammy’s tip:  One of the best ways to store an heirloom quilt is laid flat on an unused bed.  She doesn’t have an unused bed, so hers is rolled in white cloth and stored in a closet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Copiers and Scanners

Among the many family history documents and artifacts that I have received from Grammy, I found the following typed note:
The following is transcription of a piece that my grandmother, Amanda Jane Perryman Collins, wrote many years ago.  The document was in my possession for years.  Then I made a typed copy and sent the original to my uncle, Ray Collins.  That was before the days of easy photocopying.  Several years ago, 1984 or 1985, I was able to obtain the original document again and have since made a photocopy.  The original was written on cheap tablet paper and did not copy well because of yellowing and disintegration.  However, having the original document plus research enabled me to read it with more understanding concerning names etc.  Research has shown that not everything is correct but even that gives worthwhile clues.  As near as possible spelling, etc., is as it was in the original document.  I have added punctuation in some cases to make it easier to understand.
In this day, having a quality scanned copy of a document or photo is almost as good as having the original.  When you have the original, one of the first things you want to do is scan it anyway!

Photocopiers are great.  They provide an easy way to get the entire context of a document that you can’t physically possess.  They also allow you to make a copy to highlight and markup; you certainly wouldn’t want to mark on the original.  But the quality of standard black-and-white photocopies gets worse with each copy.  A copy of a copy of a copy of a copy might not even be readable, especially if the original photocopy was made with earlier copier technology.

But scanners are even better!  Now I can make a digital copy for myself, share it with relatives, and attach the image to my family tree.

I am very thankful for scanners.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mystery Monday: Mystery No More

These photos were among ones that I obtained from Grammy earlier this year.  Based on the context, they were probably taken in Hill County, Texas, around 1900 but I did not know who the family was.

  • Both photographs are clearly of the same family. Same number of people, same relative ages, same general appearances.
  • Neither photograph was taken in a studio. They both appear to have been taken on a farm. Perhaps they were taken by a traveling photographer.
  • Although the baby looks to be about the same age in both photos, I am guessing that the sepia photo (below) is later because the son appears to be wearing the same jacket as in the other photo, but is outgrowing it.  He is also taller in relation to his seated father.
  • The mother is wearing the same dress in both photos, although she is wearing a tie at the neck in one photo but not the other.. The quilt behind her is also the same.
  • The father is wearing the same suit. His hair seems a bit longer in the first photo (above). Perhaps he got a haircut.
  • In both photos, the father is holding a folded document of some sort.  This was often done to indicate an educated person.
The more I looked at these photos, I began wondering if the father might be Charles William Edmonds, born Fayette County Alabama, lived in Hill County Texas.  I sent the photos to my second cousin Beverly and her husband Fred to see if they knew who the family was.  Beverly is a descendent of Charles William Edmonds.
Bingo! We now have names!
  • Father:  Charles William Edmonds
  • Mother:  Manerva Josephine Davis Edmonds
  • Older son:  Curtis Leon Edmonds
  • Older daughter:  Abba Gertrude Edmonds
  • Younger daughters:  Hestra and Celestia Urline Edmonds
  • Baby:  Augustus Hill Edmonds
Knowing who the baby is also gives a relatively short timeframe for the photographs.  Augustus Hill Edmonds was born in August of 1893, so the photos were most likely taken in 1894. 

Fred and Beverly believe that the photos might have been taken on the same day, perhaps on Augustus Hill’s christening day.  What do you think?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Keeping the Departed In or the Cattle Out

We’ve long heard jokes about cemetery gates and whether they are intended to keep the living out or the departed in.

EntranceCropped_1030I recently visited Rogers Cemetery, a rural cemetery in Rogers, Texas (Bell County) to see the graves of Grammy’s great grandfather (John W Prince) and great grandmother (Mary Childers).  The photos were available on Find A Grave, but I wanted to see them myself.

When I arrived, the caretaker was mowing and had the small drive blocked.  I parked on the side of the road, and ventured in.  I carefully crossed the entrance in my shorts and flip-flops and spoke with the caretaker.  Unfortunately, he didn’t recognize the names or gravestones that I was looking for.  Unfortunate, since there are over a thousand graves in this cemetery.  The most he could do was point me in the direction of where he knew at least one Civil War soldier was buried.  That was helpful, since John W Prince was a Civil War veteran.

CattleCrossingCropped_1031I headed in that direction, but was bothered by the rough, dry grass on my nearly-bare feet.  No rain and 100+ temperatures for over a month makes for a parched cemetery.  I decided to return to the car and switch to sneakers.  That’s when it dawned on me that the entrance was a cattle guard!

I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me.  In rural areas of Texas, cattle guards are common.  I have usually seen them at the gates of ranches with the intent of keeping the ranch’s cattle from straying outside of the gate.  Why not for a cemetery?  Except here, the intent was to keep stray cattle out instead of in.

For the record, I was successful in finding the graves:  John W Prince, wife Mary Childers Prince, daughter Helen Prince Treadwell, and son-in-law Anderson Barclay.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Jeweler’s Clock

Sometimes in the movies the story is told backwards.  That’s how I’m going to tell this true story.

A fascinating old clock hangs on the wall at my brother’s house.  Grammy passed it on it to him some 20 years ago.  The clock is a pendulum wind-up clock with gold leaf lettering from the establishment where it once hung:Jewelers Clock
J. Levinski Co.
417 Austin St.
Waco, Tex.

Prior to keeping time at my brother’s house in Tennessee, it hung on the wall in my parents home in Oklahoma.  Prior to that, it hung on the wall at Aunt Nettie’s house in Fort Worth.  Nettie Wilma Fitzhugh Lessor was my father’s stepmother’s sister.

We visited at Aunt Nettie home in the late 1960s.  The first thing my dad saw when we entered the house was the Jeweler’s Clock hanging over the fireplace.  He  complained that the clock was his and therefore shouldn’t be hanging at his aunt’s house.  Aunt Nettie was gracious and gave my dad the clock that day.

Aunt Nettie had probably had the clock for at least 20 years.  Her sister, my dad’s stepmother “Mother Nell”, had given it to her while my dad was in the US Navy during World War II.  Even in the mid-1940s, he had been upset and concerned that his parents had given away or disposed of some of his belongings in his absence.

The clock had no direct ties to the family back then.  From 1940 through 1943, before becoming an officer in the Navy, my father, Lee Edmonds, attended Baylor University, the hometown college, and commuted on the bus. In a family of 5 students (he was the middle child) money was tight, and he worked off some of his expenses with a campus job doing janitorial work.  As part of the job, he found the discarded clock in a closet on campus, inquired about it, and was allowed to keep it.  He lugged it home on the city bus.  That’s how the clock came into our family.

I found myself wondering about “J. Levinski, Jeweler” and did a little research.  I found a photograph of the interior of the jewelry store taken in 1907 in Waco Texas: A Postcard Journey by Agnes Warren Barnes at Google books.  In order to respect the copyright, I won’t include the picture here, but you can follow the Google books link to see it.

Jacob (Jake) Levinski is listed in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 census at 724 N 19th Street in Waco with his wife Sarah, daughter Ruth, and sons Julian and Philip.  His occupation is listed as owner of a jewelry store and his sons also worked at the store.  Bingo!  Depending on which census you want to believe, he was from Germany, Poland or Russia.  Further investigation turned up a 1892 Passport application which lists Prussia, in Germany, as his birthplace.  Russia on the 1910 census was probably just a misunderstanding.

According to that passport application, Jacob Levinski was 5 feet 6 inches at 31 years of age.  He had blue eyes, a large nose, a small mouth, around chin, an oval face, dark brown hair, and a dark complexion. 

Jacob Levinski died in September of 1939.  Jacob and his wife Sarah are buried at Hebrew Rest Cemetery in Waco.  Assuming that his sons did not take over (or succeed at) the jewelry store business, it probably closed shortly after his death.  This would explain the abandoned clock, but does not explain what it was doing in a closet at Baylor University.Colonial to Levinski map

Since there has never been any indication of a connection between the Edmonds family and the Levinski family, there is a another strange coincidence that I’d like to point out:  The Levinskis lived just 3 blocks from the Edmonds family.

Any curious researching souls are welcome to add comments about any tidbits regarding Jacob Levinski and his jewelry store.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mystery Monday: Mystery Couple

Among the hundreds and hundreds of black-and-white negatives and photographs that I have scanned over the years, I found this one.  I have no idea who this couple is, but they definitely are handsome!

Here are some facts that I do know, based on the other photographs in the batch and on visual cues in the photo:Myster Couple - Cropped
  • The photograph was likely taken in Waco, Texas.
  • Either the woman, the man, or both, are likely friends or relatives of the Lester Loyd Edmonds family of Waco.
  • The picture was not taken at any of the family homes that I know of in the city.  There is a chimney (cropped out) that is different.
  • The photograph was likely taken in the early 1940s.
  • The couple does not appear to be married.  No wedding ring.
  • The man is not wearing a belt, but does have a lapel pin.  Can’t tell whether he is wearing a white tie, or no tie at all.

I’m sure there are plenty of cues in the clothing that could more precisely pin down the date.  Comments are welcome.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Remembering Disc Negatives

Genealogists and historians often look back at the early days of photography and consider the type of photograph when determining the date when a particular photograph was taken.

When perusing old family photographs, we may see ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, tintypes, and cabinet cards – all from the 1800s.

Although most of us use a digital camera – no film – these days, we are familiar with 35 mm cameras and their film.  We remember Polaroid instant photographs.  Some of us may remember 110 and 126 film as well.

Recently, while scanning old photographs, I came across an envelope of photos along with the Disc negatives.

In 1982, Kodak introduced the Disc camera, aimed at the consumer market because of it's ease of use.  The Disc camera’s weren’t around too long, officially discontinued in 1999; however, I don’t think they were readily available for even that long.  Although I have no proof, my guess is that they were popular for Christmas 1982, then rapidly faded in popularity. 

One of the key reasons for the demise of Disc cameras would be the extremely small negative size:  just 11x8 mm.  That’s less than half the size of “pocket instamatic” 110 film, which I thought was really small.  A small negative typically yields a grainy photograph.  The ones I found were definitely grainy.

I’m definitely glad that I had the photographs, and not just the negative, though.  I don’t think there’s a consumer-grade scanner anywhere that would effectively scan these negatives.

For your entertainment, though, I scanned a whole cartridge and its sleeve.
Disc Negative #1Disc Negative #2
Interestingly, the images here are about the actual size.  Fifteen photographs in that one small space.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Collins Family Chest

I have never seen the Family Chest in person, but I hope to some day.  The story of the chest comes from the hand of my great grandfather, Albert Buell Collins, and was handwritten by him in 1922.  I have modernized the spelling and punctuation, and have added just a few editorial comments in [braces].

AB Collins Chest - ClosedThe tree that this chest was made from grew on my father’s, Thomas A. Collins’, farm in Russell County, Kentucky.

This farm was transferred to my brother, Samuel B. Collins sometime in the seventies [1870s].  It furnished shelter and shade for my brothers S. B. and Uriah when we were boys.  Uriah and I left there in the early eighties and went to Texas.  Sam remained on the old homestead or a part of it. 

After I had been away for about thirty six years, Wife [Amanda Jane Perryman] and I went back to visit our old homes, and while there found the old cedar grove nearly all gone.  In looking around, I found the trunk of one tree that had been cut about two years but in good condition.

AB Collins Chest - OpenWife and I conceived the idea of having a chest made of it.

We told Sam our plans and he said, “I am delighted with it and I will haul it to my sawmill and saw the lumber for you”, which he did. 

Then we told my sister Susie Antle about it and she said, “My husband, Sampson Antle, who is a carpenter, will make it for you.” When she told him about it, he seemed to be delighted and took great pains with it.

Then my niece became interested – Kate Browning – and said, “I will have my husband Sam Browning to haul it to the station for you.”

After we got home in Texas, we decided to give it to our only daughter, Beulah Emma Williams who was living in New Mexico at that time.  Two years later, she came to visit us, at Abilene, Texas.  We presented it to her with this little history, hoping it will remain in the family as long as possible.

As you can see from the story, this is truly a Family Chest, as many family members participated in its creation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

83 Years Ago Today

1928 was a tough year in Grammy’s family.  Two children in the family died in separate accidents that summer.  One of those children was Grammy’s only sister, Carolyn.

Carolyn CollinsGrammy and Carolyn’s mother had died in 1927, leaving Grammy’s father as a single parent.  Single parenting isn’t an easy job now; it was at least as hard if not harder back then.

Probably because of the family situation, Grammy and Carolyn spent the summer of 1928 with their grandmother, Susan Emma Prince, in the Boulder Colorado area.
Carolyn Car

One day that summer, the family was driving through the mountains – possibly in this car – and stopped to stretch legs and take in the view.  Carolyn ran across the road to join her Uncle Arthur, and was hit by a car.  She was not quite 5 years old.

We don’t talk about Carolyn much in the family.  Certainly her death was tragic and painful to all involved; however, I think the reason we don’t speak of Carolyn is that we never knew her.

We remember you today, Carolyn, 83 years after your left this world.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Adopting Grave Memorials

Recently, I’ve been “adopting” gravesite memorials at Find A Grave.  There are lots of generous people out there who have uploaded whole cemetery’s worth of memorials, including those of many who are strangers to them.  We can show our appreciation by adopting the memorials of our ancestors.

When adopting a memorial, the current custodian needs a few pieces of information:  your name, your Find A Grave id (accounts are free), and your relationship to the person whose memorial you want to adopt.

The best way to request a transfer is to do the following:
  1. From the particular memorial page, click on the Edit tab near the top.
  2. Click on the “Suggest a correction or provide additional information” link.  This brings up an e-mail entry form.
  3. Provide the needed information:  your relationship to the person of the memorial, your name, your Find A Grave id number.
  4. Click on the “Send This Message” button.
Here’s a sample e-mail text that has worked well for me:

If you are not a relative of John Parker, who was my 2nd great grandfather, I would love to take over responsibility for the memorial.

Your name here
From one memorial to the next, the only thing you would need to change are the parts in italics:  the name of the person memorialized and their relationship to you.
If you’re adopting multiple memorials, it is polite to send a message for each memorial.  Asking someone to do something like “transfer all of the Perrymans in the Oaklawn Cemetery” places a burden on the current custodian and should be avoided.
Sometimes you will find that the memorial is already maintained by a relative.  When that happens, you can get excited – you have just found a distant cousin.  I recommend contacting them via e-mail and sharing your connection.  You’ll likely receive a timely, equally excited, response.
Here are some graves that I have recently adopted:

By adopting memorials on Find A Grave, you can take ownership for the accuracy and completeness of the information online, and long lost cousins may also find you some day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Looking for a Billion Graves

Find A Grave boasts over 64 million grave records.  I use it all the time as one source for birth and death dates.  I’ve used it to connect with a distant cousin.  I’ve even helped out someone I don’t know who lives half-way across the US by taking a few gravesite photographs at their request.  There's something very personal about Find A Grave – people create “memorials” for relatives who have passed on, and leave virtual flowers.

However, there is a new website in town for recording and researching graves sites:  Billion Graves.   I’d like to compare the two sites.

Find A Grave
Billion Graves
Mission / Purpose
Primarily, to provide a graves registration website.
Secondarily, to provide a site for memorials and remembrances.

Third, to provide a genealogical resource.
To provide an expansive family history database for records and images from the world’s cemeteries.
1995, first focused on the graves of famous people
Number of gravesites
Over 64 million
Process / Participation
Contributors add biographical information for a memorial.  Optionally, the creator or others can follow-up with photographs.
Contributors take photographs with cell phones, automatically uploading to the site.
Contributors also transcribe uploaded photographs.
What makes it unique
Strong emphasis on famous people.
Easy to add biographical information over and above what is on the grave marker.
Satellite images of cemeteries are available.Photos are geo-coded and can be located on a map or satellite image.

Ease of use
Easy to register a grave.
Only one photo can be uploaded at a time. 
Common-sized photographs must be manually made smaller before uploading.
Uploading a photograph via cell phone app (Android or iPhone) is easy.
Transcribing is as easy as the clarity of the photographs.

Search by any combination of facts:  name, cemetery location (country, state, county), year of birth, year of death.  Search by name within cemetery.  Several other searches.
Search by cemetery OR person’s name.  No combination searches.

One of the most helpful features is the geo-coded map.  A pin is shown on a satellite image showing exactly where the photograph was taken.  This is the feature that will make Billion Graves stand out.  At right are the markers for the photographs or graves that I took on July 3.

All in all, I think that Billion Graves has promise – but the website needs more work.  Here are some things that I would like to see the owners of Billion Graves address:
  • Session timeout is too short.  It should give me the opportunity to save my user id and password for a longer period of time.  It’s not my bank account after all.
  • The website needs the ability to search by person name AND location and by person name WITHIN a cemetery.
  • The link to view a single grave on the map was not working when I last checked.

I wish Billion Graves the best of luck.  I’m all for anything that gives me even more ways to locate my ancestors.