The New London School – 1937

I stalled on my genealogy tree, so I started working on my husband’s instead. Meeting some of his relatives a few weeks ago, whom he hadn’t seen in over 30 years gave me an incentive.

I now make fun of him, because he seems to be as much of a descendant of Sacagawea (his family legend) as I am of Queen Victoria (my fantasy). And although he’s 100% American, I have more “famous” people, ancestors with a documented history than he does. So I win! I found him a Union soldier, train engineers and dozens of farmers.

Yesterday I was checking out the records on his great uncle, his namesake, his mother’s mother’s brother, who worked in the oil industry in East Texas during the oil boom in the early 20thcentury. He had two teenage sons, Boyd and Loyd. Personally, I find those two names together funny! They also had a younger son. Then, poof, a death certificate shows up for one of them. I expected another middle-aged man dying of mitral insufficiency, or heart attack (since most of his relatives died of heart related conditions), but the cause of death reads “explosion”. Age: 15 years, 10 months and 8 days.  I assure you that stops you in your tracks. Explosion. Gas Explosion. Accident. 1937. I googled his name.

Not even 16 years old yet, Boyd died in the largest school disaster in the US. Gas leaked in the school basement and it exploded, killing close to 300 and injuring at least as many. His brother Loyd was seriously injured.

I found school pictures, written testimonies from the family, and newsreels on Wikipedia on the accident.

Boyd’s brothers got married. Had kids. Grandkids.

Life goes on.

Boyd

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The thieving Baronet

This weekend is “free access to all UK records” on Ancestry.com. This is a nice break for me since I have hit so many dead ends on the American side of my tree. Free is always good!

I found out really early in my research that my second great grand mother, Eliza, was born in England. She’s the ancestor who would lead me to be somehow related to the Bush family. But since the records were unavailable unless you paid for an additional membership, I couldn’t fact check anything further.

British records are so much more fun that their American counterparts. On the US side, my family members are farmers. Or farm laborers. Or farm hands. There is the occasional coal miner since we are from North West Alabama, but there really isn’t much variety. We grew stuff.

My British ancestors, (or those I believe are my ancestors) were book binders, train car conductor, school masters, cigar makers (a women only profession apparently), lace makers, lace menders, dress makers, millners, tailors, teachers, model makers. I have also seen, though they were neighbors only, an office boy, lace manufacturer, shoe makers and scholars, which I think means student. It seems that the trades existed around neighborhoods, since most people on the same street had a job somehow related to one another.

And prisoners. That’s one thing we have in our blood: crime! Dear Edward was convicted of “larceny on the person” in 1856 and sentenced to prison. But I need to double and triple check this one: although I have no doubt that my great…grandfather could have been simultaneously a thief and a baronet (yes, we have our own page on Wikipedia), I want to make sure that:

  • 1- I am indeed related to them (I don’t need any more criminals than the ones I already know);
  • 2- that he is the same Edward S., in all the records, as it is a very common name.

If that is the case, here’s a picture of “our” property:

tiara-matching-castle(image found on Google)

I think it matches my tiara!

They built this city…*

My ancestors were busy bees. They made babies and built cities.

I have had to scratch out most of the work I had done when I found out I was only copying incorrect information, hearsay, family legends and falsehoods. I have forced myself to only write down facts that can be backed up with proper documentation: census, wills, marriage and military records. That applies to vital statistics: name, spouse, parents and offsprings, or “issue” as they’re called. That has scaled back my stack of index cards from over 100 to about 25. That’s a lot of culling, and it’s depressing! I still haven’t found the missing link between my own little self and the Mayflower passengers but I haven’t given up yet.

But there are a lot of stories within the wills, and in the historical archives around the country. My lot is responsible for the creation of 4 towns: Rogersville, Morgantown, Hoschton and Double Springs.

I think.

I am still not convinced. I do enjoy the stories, the high I get when I find an interesting anecdote, but when you take into consideration how common for instance the surname “Morgan” is, it is easy to believe you’re a descendant of “James Morgan” or any other popular names. If Edward Morgan had 10 children, and James is one of the most common names of the time, you’re pretty sure one of his sons will be a James. Does it make him your thrice-removed grandfather? I don’t think so. But a lot of these tidbits of information are available on the internet.

I have always imagined my ancestors, not on the pages of history books, but as the extras in the documentaries you see on the history channel (before it became about pawn shops). My people were the people in the background, the ones no one notices. The secondary characters no one remembers from Steinbeck’s novels. The ones with unmarked graves and without wills, but with loved ones who mourned them nonetheless.

The pictures of my grandmother’s generation look like Dorothea Lange’s work, and I am proud of that.

*on rock and roooooollllll……

 

Elizabeth who?

This is becoming a little repetitive. How many James Averys does one family tree need? And Joseph Morgans? And Elizabeths? I already have 21 women direct ancestors named Elizabeth.

And inter-family marriages? Your wife dies a week after giving birth and you marry her sister that same year? Hew…. And multiple marriages: how many times do you need to get married? The most popular spouse I found was married five times.

It’s also interesting to see the number of applications for membership into the Sons (and Daughters) of the Revolution. If my records are correct, I am pretty sure I would qualify. Someone explains what are the benefits and I may consider it.  One grandpa fought in the Battle of Long Island and the Battle of White Plains. I haven’t found anyone killed in battle yet, though one ancestor received a pension for being wounded as a soldier during the Civil War. 

In conclusion, it’s a bit of a mess. I tried to only record data when I could find specific documents to back it. That works fine when there is Federal Census data, but before that time, I admit I rely on the work of other people on the website.

I am a lazy princess!

 

 

The addiction begins

I spent the first 25 years of my life not knowing I am Cherokee. Then, I met my father, a 6’7” blonde man with blue eyes, who told me the story of his mother: born on an Indian reservation in the South, kidnapped by missionaries and put in an orphanage to become white. 25 years later, it took one afternoon on a genealogy website to kill that family myth. We are white. Snow white. From England on one close relative, but otherwise settled around Jamestown as far back as the 1600’s.

My cousins and I are still reeling over the fact. “But grandma said”, “But they look so Indian” (and they do). We are disappointed. Being Cherokee, or Choctaw, or even Hopi according to whom we talk to, was a nice story, something we held on to, as family folklore and as a part of our identity.

To be honest, that myth is not dead yet, more like in a deep coma. I have one relative whose origins are unknown. Maybe she’s our Pocahontas.

It’s funny what genealogy will do to you. If you get the bug (and I didn’t catch it the first time, about 20 years ago), you will plant your behind on your favorite chair, eyes riveted to the screen, clicking on hints and reading scanned copies of old hand written documents on your phone screen. You won’t shower, won’t get the mail, won’t answer the phone unless you recognize the number, and eat tater tots passed their prime that you found in the back of the freezer, because there is no food in the house and you’re too mesmerized to go shopping. I don’t even really like tater tots!

I started this genealogy research on a whim. A TV ad got me. Free trial they said. As long as you sell your soul to the gods of dead ancestors.

Oh, but the things you will discover. For a second, I was on the boat with the Pilgrims, but I quickly lost track of that ancestor in the mist. No Mayflower for me. My great….grand father was a traitor to the Confederacy. Oh the shame! I am a distant cousin to the Bush family, as in Bush 41 and 43. Not my fault! And since someone was kind enough to trace their genealogy and publish it in a book about ancestors to the US presidents, I know I am a descendant of King Edward I. Ha! I knew it, I always knew it, I am a princess! However, when I went on Wikipedia to read his bio, there isn’t much to be proud of. But who cares, I am a princess!!!!!!!!!!

Sometimes you find photos. I sent one of a great…grandmother to my cousin who instantly called her “Resting Bitch Face”! Not very nice but she’s indeed quite “homely” (the grandma, not the cousin, the cousin is cute as a button). “RBF” may have had a reason or two to not be pleased. First, it was her husband who was the above mentioned traitor, and, she had 19 kids in 28 years. 19 kids. Competing with the Duggars here. If you had over 20 people to feed, with Confederate soldiers planted in front of your house to make sure your husband wasn’t selling away the South, you probably would look rather, let’s say, morose.

I was also told we were Irish on my grandfather’s side. That was trying to explain the blond genes. Not. We are from England. Leicester. Suffolk. And we were ladies, and lived in castles. But that is far back and I want to double-check the data.

And I found out this morning that one head of household owned five slaves. Welcome to the history of this country.

To make me feel better, I am on my way to buy myself a tiara!!!!!!!!!