#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Oldest

One of the oldest records that I’ve found for an ancestor is a pension file for my fourth great-grandfather George Cook.

Finding the record didn’t take a whole lot of effort. I talked my mom into giving me a subscription to Fold3, and I searched for his name. It was an exciting find, though, because it included a document that modern veterans would call their DD-214. It’s a discharge paper with basic information about his service.

This tiny slip of digitized paper is the earliest record for his age that I’ve found. It was issued in 1817 and gives his age as 28, from which we can extrapolate that he was born in 1789. It says he was born in Lancaster County, South Carolina, and lists his occupation before enlistment as farmer. It describes him as 5’8″ tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair.

George enlisted in the U.S. Army 208 years ago this month, for a term of five years. I should try to find out if there’s a record of his service. It would be interesting to know what role he played in the War of 1812.

Knowing that he was born in 1789 in Lancaster County, South Carolina, also provides a possible clue about his parentage. There is just one Cook listed as living in Lancaster County in the 1790 Census, and the record shows said William Cook had three children under the age of 16. Of course, George could be wrong about where he was born, or maybe the family moved just before the census, or maybe his parents avoided the census taker.

More genealogical work to do!

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Should Be A Movie

Some posts for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge come easy. I see the prompt and I know instantly the story I want to tell.

Other times, like Week 39: Should Be a Movie, I find myself stumped. I can’t think of any earth-shattering events that my ancestors were involved in. I’ve already written about the two family members who were killed in shootouts; it might be possible to dig up more stories about the people involved. It’s quite a “wild west” tale, even though it was in Georgia.

Auriette at MTV Offices in California

I had a chance to visit the MTV offices in California when I won a contest that allowed me to make my own short film.

As I thought about it, though, any one of our lives could be a movie. It may not be a blockbuster action movie. We, and our ancestors, have all experienced ups and downs. I’ve had interesting times, won cash and a trip in sweepstakes, made a movie, been through major hurricanes (and could face another one in the next week or so), lost loved ones, and dreamed many dreams that will never come true.

The lives of my Mam-ma and Pap-pa during their first few years of marriage could be a movie. They experienced tragedy, when Mam-ma’s sister died unexpectedly during pregnancy. It changed the course of their lives, because that’s when Mam-ma decided to have a baby, who would turn out to be my mother. They worked hard and managed to save and build for the future.

Mam-ma’s grandfather, Isaac Pittman was born in the Florida Territory in 1841. He lived at a time when Florida was a wild and untamed place, where there were hostile natives, pirates plying the Gulf of Mexico, and no National Hurricane Center to tell you when a bad storm was coming.

Isaac later lived with his in-laws and worked as a teamster, like several others in the Thompson family. What adventures might they have had on the road driving stagecoaches or loads of valuable goods through Alabama after the Civil War?

The movie of our lives, or our ancestors, could be a slice of life film about hardship and happiness. It could be a comedy or a tragedy. Some families certainly have blockbuster stories in their histories. Others are indie films, short films, maybe a Netflix series.

The important thing to remember is that we all have stories to tell. Record yours while you can. Preserve the memories of your parents’ stories and your grandparents’. They may not ever be made into a movie, but they will be important to future family members who wonder what our lives were like in the “olden days.”

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: On the Map

I have some catching up to do. “On the Map” is the Week 38 prompt for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, and she posted it September 15th – the day Hurricane Sally was bearing down on Northwest Florida. The storm made landfall in the wee hours of September 16th, and by that time, the power was out at my house, and I was working 12-hour shifts anyway. The power came back on a week later, but internet was out for a few more days. Now things are back to normal, and hopefully I can get posts for week 38, 39, and 40 completed before #41 comes out next week.

When I saw the prompt, I knew instantly what I wanted to write about. My grandparents have a street named after them in Escambia County, Florida. Unfortunately, the sign is long gone. My mom and I drove back there not too long ago; the area is overgrown and there’s just one little house, not in great shape, still back there.

It’s called Cook’s Court, and it still appears on Google Maps.

Cook's Court on Google Maps

Cook’s Court still appears on Google Maps, even though the street sign is gone.

When my mom was little, in the early 1940s, Hoyt and Willie Cook lived at 4103 North Palafox Street, about four miles north of downtown Pensacola. They bought quite a bit of property in that area, and my grandfather built several houses that they rented out. Only that one, in the overgrown field down Cook’s Court, still remains. Yes, I still need to get a photo of it.

The map below is from MapQuest. it doesn’t even show Cook’s Court, but I have labeled some of the locations important to my family. The red dot is 4103 N. Palafox. While my dad was stationed in Scotland, my grandparents sold the house and it was moved to a different location. They sold the property separately, and that’s now the address of an auto painting business. The green dot is where Willie Cook’s mother lived. My mom and dad built a house right behind her on Mason Lane, where mom still lives today. The blue dot is Brentwood Elementary School, where my grandparents taught, my mom and her brothers went to school, my mom did some teaching there before my dad went back in the Navy, and I went to school there, off and on.

Map showing where Hoyt and Willie Cook lived, where they taught school, and where Willie's mother lived.

This is the neighborhood that’s always been home.

I have wondered, if I were to contact Escambia County and tell them the street sign is down at Cook’s Court, would they bother replacing it, with only one old house down the lane? I sure would love to see my family’s name on a street sign. Even seeing it on Google Maps is pretty cool.

As of last year, an oak tree planted by my mom’s youngest brother Howitt in around 1953 was still standing by where their home used to be. I have not been by there since Hurricane Sally to see if it survived the storm.

Oak Tree Planted by Howitt Cook when he was around 8 years old.

A tree planted by my mom’s youngest brother when their house was on the site.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Back to School

As I delve into these 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompts, I have been mostly focusing on stories about my ancestors. Very rarely, I write about my own life. In part, it’s because I really don’t have strong memories.

Sure, I can recall scenes from movies I saw once decades ago (I recently rewatched “Where Have All the People Gone” – a 1974 TV movie that I saw once when it premiered – and was surprised how much I remembered about it), but my own life is a blur.

For the most part, the first day of school was like any other day. The only one that stands out was in sixth grade, I think. We were in Pensacola and my mother wanted me to go to Brentwood Middle School, but we lived in the district for Workman Middle. She took me to Brentwood and dropped me off. I sat in the office most of the day, waiting for her to pick me up. Some girl came in who had started her period, and that is mixed up in my mind with the time my red pen leaked in the purse I had made from a cut-off pair of blue jeans.

Kimberly, Auriette, and Pauline

Kimberly, Auriette, and Pauline at a party in Scotland. Note the Pin the Tail on the Donkey poster on the door.

My very first first-day-of-school was not the first day of school at the school. My dad was stationed at Holy Loch in Dunoon, Scotland.  This was in 1970. I had two friends who lived on the same street. Pauline was my Scottish friend. I think her last name was Morris or Morrison. Kimberly Batts was my American friend. They both started school on the first day of school. My fifth birthday, however, was a day or a few days after the cut-off. My mother talked to the headmaster, which is what they call the principal over there, but he was an older man and very the-rules-are-the-rules. My mom, however, looked out for me. She somehow found out what the books were that were being used in first grade and where she could buy them, and she taught me at home. We would ask Pauline and Kimberly what they learned that day, and that would be my next day’s lesson. Then, a couple of months in, the old headmaster retired and a new young man came in. My mother took me in and convinced him that I was up with the class, and he saw no reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to enroll.

Memories of that first year of school:

  • Standing in line for my turn to talk to the teacher, to ask if I could go to the restroom, and I didn’t make it. I learned if it was important, I could bypass the line.
  • Making butter and watercress sandwiches.
  • Walking to school in the snow. (It was only uphill on the way home.) My mother told

    Auriette, Kimberly, and Pauline on the street where we lived in Dunoon.

    Auriette, Kimberly, and Pauline on the street where we lived in Dunoon. That’s the low stone wall that had the snow on it.

    me not to touch the snow or I’d get my mittens wet, but before I got a block down the street, I touched the snow on the top of the low stone wall. If she saw me, she didn’t say anything.

Over the years, I only remember the names of a few teachers. I mean, there were many years that I went to three different schools because of moving around, so how was I supposed to keep track?

I don’t remember that first grade teacher or any of my second grade teachers. I did, like, half a semester at Pensacola Christian School, where one day I didn’t have any paper with me, and we had a substitute that day, and she made me dig through the trash for something that I could use. Another time, we had a picnic with hamburgers, and we had to go through the line and pick up a hamburger off a metal tray that had been in the oven. I was small for my age, and no one was bothering to move the burgers closer to the edge, and I had to reach way back to get one, and my arm touched the edge of the pan. The burn puffed up probably a quarter inch high, but I didn’t tell anyone because I thought I would get in trouble. I think I fell out of my seat later that day, and the teacher saw it. Anyway, that was a horrible school.

In third grade, I had Mrs. Sadie Craft at Brentwood Elementary in Pensacola, but just for part of the year. I remember her because she was my “Aunt” Sadie, a very close friend of my grandparents. I also attended Brentwood Elementary in Charleston, South Carolina, and that might have been the year I did six weeks in Georgia as well.

I did at least part of fourth grade at Brentwood, Pensacola. My teacher was Mrs. LeMaster. I hit her with my purse one day. Couldn’t tell you why she made me mad, but she did. I think I had a Mrs. Hammond at Brentwood for fifth grade. Mr. Pierce may have been the P.E. teacher’s name. Rita Sorrentino taught music, and we sang popular tunes like “Killing Me Softly.” I liked her.

Back to sixth grade, and when I got to Workman Middle School, they put me in Miss Wilson’s home room. I loved Miss Wilson. She had an end-of-year pool party for us at her apartment complex, and she told us she wouldn’t be back the next year because she was getting married.

I did part of 7th grade in Norfolk, Virginia, and part at Workman in Pensacola. I was seated at one of those big four-students-to-a-table desks in science class and the two other girls at the table were nice at first, then they started ignoring me, or would talk about me like I wasn’t there and say really mean things. I have no idea who they were or what I could possibly have done to offend them, but they hurt me deeply.

Sixth and seventh grade math, I had Mr. Waters. Around that time, I got a calculator, and he would allow the use of calculators, which was very cool.

Young Auriette

My friend Diana Reardon took this picture. I’m honestly not sure if it was Virginia or South Carolina. We kept in touch for a while.

Eighth grade, I did part in a Virginia middle school. The bus ride was so long, we would start singing “99 Bottles of Beer” when we left campus and we would almost be done when we reached my stop. I was only there about the first eight weeks of school. Then we moved back to Charleston. I did the rest of eighth grade and ninth grade at Gordon H. Garrett High School. My best friend was another Navy brat named Denise Hosea. People thought we were sisters, especially when we dressed alike for Twin Day. Then my dad got stationed in Panama City. I begged my mother to leave me in Charleston to finish high school. I mean, I was 13 years old. I could take care of myself. But my mother insisted I move with them, and I wrote to Denise, but I never heard from her again.

My mom and I lived in their house in Pensacola, and Daddy lived in our motor home in Panama City, coming home just on weekends and holidays. I went to Washington High School for tenth grade through my senior year. In the summer of 1980, I took P.E. in summer school, so I wouldn’t have to worry about dressing out during the year, and some other smart kids did as well, and they were the best friends I had. They were my age, but because I had started school early, they were the year behind me. I really didn’t have much of a social life, and what little I had was really because of them. Patricia Lee, Astrid Palme, and Sheryl Ward are the names I remember.  At the end of junior year, I tried out for a pep squad/dance group called the Pom Kats and I got the call that I actually made it and that I’d be notified when rehearsals would start. I was so excited. I even had a pom-pon girl on my class ring. Only, I never got the notice about rehearsals. It was a new thing, and I thought that they must have just decided not to have it after all. So imagine my surprise and how hurt I felt when they performed at the first pep rally.  I don’t know if they tried to call and no one was home or what. I never followed up. I mean, I had no proof that I really made the team, just my memory of the phone call. I wear my class ring to reunions, but it still hurts to see that pom-pon girl on the side of the ring.

Those last couple of years, I tried really hard to belong. I joined clubs, but I was so introverted that I couldn’t even get voted Shyest in the Senior Superlatives.

And no, I didn’t go to prom. But, one of the worst parts of senior year was yet to come. Seniors got released earlier than the other classes, and the yearbooks weren’t in. We didn’t get them until graduation. After we turned in our robes. I got a few signatures, but it was chaotic, of course, and most people were going to graduation parties or beach houses they had all rented together, and that was it.

My mom, by contrast, went to the same schools her whole life. She still keeps in touch with her school friends, the ones that are still living. She went to Brentwood Elementary, first through seventh grade. Eighth grade, I don’t remember which school she attended off the top of my head, but I want to say Clubbs. Ninth through twelfth she went to Pensacola High School. The final year they moved into a brand new building. She graduated with the celebrated Class of 1954.

Auriette's High School Graduation Photo

Auriette graduated in 1982 from Booker T. Washington High in Pensacola, Florida.

I guess school’s not supposed to be about having fun and making friends. It’s supposed to be about learning, and I earned my degree, and I learned enough that I was able to get into the local college and university. I finished out by looking through my senior yearbook over on Ancestry, and I was involved in chorus and drama club and some other activities. I suppose I did have some good times, but they aren’t what stand out. Thinking about school generally just makes me sad instead of nostalgic.  Maybe that’s as much to do with me as the experiences I had.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Labor

In honor of Labor Day, Amy Johnson Crow has set this week’s 52 Ancestors prompt as “labor.”

I can tell you, most of my ancestors were farmers, but I have found some interesting professions.

Brentwood Elementary School Teachers, 1956-1957

Teachers at Brentwood Elementary School, 1956-1957. Pap-pa is in the front row with Mam-ma (with the glasses) behind his left shoulder.

My maternal grandparents, Hoyt and Willie Stevens Cook were both teachers, although Pap-pa also farmed and did construction. Once he had a job blasting stumps to clear property for 75 cents a day.

Willie Stevens Cook’s father, James William “Billie” Stevens worked at as a sawyer, sharpening saws at the sawmill. Later he sold men’s suits. My mom said he had samples of fabric that he would show the customers. The men would choose their fabric and Billie would take their measurements and send it all off to be custom made.

Billie Stevens’ wife Mollie worked at home. Her father, according to the 1880 Census, worked with his father-in-law Origen Thompson as a teamster. Origen’s brother Eli, in the 1860 Census was listed as a stage driver; his wife was Georgiana Hammond, whose father Elias Hammond ran one of the stagecoach stations in Stockton, Baldwin County, Alabama.

Malzie Silcox Hahn at work at St. Regis Paper Mill, Escambia County, Florida.

Malzie Silcox Hahn at work at St. Regis Paper Mill, Escambia County, Florida.

My paternal grandparents, Charlie and Malzie Silcox Hahn worked at St. Regis Paper Mill.

Charlie’s dad Theodore was a farmer. His uncle George Herman Hahn was a city fireman and his uncle William Bernhardt Hahn was an electrician for phone company.

Charlie’s grandfather, William Hahn is listed on the 1870 Census as a sea captain, and in later years he appears as a bayman or a laborer.

William’s wife Ary Loper Hahn didn’t work outside the home, according to the census, but her sister was Dr. Martha Caroline Loper Neuman, a physician. Their father, William Hamilton Loper was a laborer.

Theodore Hahn’s wife, Maggie Cooper, was the daughter of Henry Merrit Cooper, who did “work in turpentine” according to the 1880 Census.

It often occurs to me that we have it so much easier than our ancestors did. Most of the women didn’t work outside the home, because working in the home was a lot more work than today. Doing laundry took hours, and they would have cooked everything from scratch. Everyone in a farmer’s house probably helped at harvest time, not to mention they would have kept their own kitchen garden and livestock.

To me, my Pap-pa, Hoyt Cook, epitomizes the Greatest Generation. He never got called up for service but he worked for DuPont and helped build Sherman Field at Naval Air Station Pensacola. He made some sort of deal that involved him picking up food waste from the dining halls at the base and used all that thrown-away food to feed his hogs, then he sold the hogs. For a few years, he and Mam-ma ran a fruit stand, selling some of the stuff they grew and some stuff that they bought from other farmers. My mom says when they’d bring a truckload of fruit or vegetables from out of state, like peaches from Georgia, they’d split it up with other farmer’s markets in the area, and the other farmer’s markets would do the same for them. They always worked hard to provide for their family and save for the future.

It’s a far cry from going to an office job and coming home to my washing machine and a fridge full of easy to cook meals.

This Labor Day, I honor my ancestors for the determination and strength that helped build this country from the ground up.

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Growing Your #Genealogy Group

Genealogical societies, like many other organizations, seem to have trouble drawing in active members who’ll help keep it going. The groups I’m familiar with formed in the 1980s or ’90s. The people who started the clubs and served on the board are 30 to 40 years older now. They need younger folks (yes, that’s you, whether you’re in your 20s or your 50s or 60s, you’re younger!) to step in as president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. They need you to serve on the board. They need you to take on some of the business of running the group.

If you’re a member of a genealogical society who’s never served on the board, let an officer or board member know you’re interested. It really only takes a couple of hours a week, if that, to keep the paperwork in order and attend the board meeting.

If you’re a society leader looking for ways to get more people involved, here are some tips.

First, you need to grow your membership. The larger the pool, the easier it’s going to be to find people to step up to lead.

If you use Facebook, be sure to create a Page for your society. Some societies have a Facebook Group, and that’s great for interacting, but a Page has a better chance of showing up in search results. Post two or three times a week. You can sit down for a couple of hours and schedule a months worth of posts in advance, or do it as you go, just don’t forget. The posts can be a an image with a funny genealogy-related caption, or a link to a resource like an archive or digital collection online. You can share history-related events going on in your area or articles related to using DNA for genealogy. Encourage your members to Like your society Page and to click “like” on each post they see. The more people who Like or comment on a post, the more it’s going to show up on other people’s newsfeeds.

Next, create an Event on that Page for every meeting or workshop. I’ve seen several organizations that just do a normal post about the topic of their next meeting. That’s okay, but if you post frequently, it’s going to get buried. Making each meeting an Event makes it easier to find AND if your members Like the Event it will show up on the sidebar on their pages and their friends’ pages. An Event has the potential of going farther than a regular post. I don’t know about you, but if I’m checking out an organization and want to know when they meet, I will click on Events and expect to see their next meeting, fundraiser, or other activity listed.

If your society has a website, be sure it’s up to date. How frustrated do you get when you look up a company or organization’s website and find that it hasn’t been updated in weeks, months, or years?

Watch for opportunities for your organization to participate in community events. Societies I’ve been a part of have sponsored a prize at the county’s school history fair, they’ve taken part in the town’s Christmas celebration, in the library’s Halloween party, and they’ve organized a one-day showcase for heritage and lineage groups. Many areas have fairs or festivals; inquire about setting up a table or exhibit.

Look for ways to tell groups of people about your society. Perhaps you could speak at a meeting of the local service club or include a brochure in a large subdivision’s welcome basket for new residents.

Send press releases to local and regional newspapers, magazines, TV news, and radio stations. Keep it simple.

  • Who – This is your organization and/or the name of a guest speaker
  • What – Tell them about your next presentation, your special event, your milestone anniversary, or your special project
  • When – Time, date, and day of the week
  • Where – Location, including the street address and the name of the building
  • Why – Include a “boilerplate” with three or four sentences about your organization, when it was founded, your mission statement, and where people can find more information (website, Facebook, email address)

Consider also sending a press release when you notice something that could tie in with your organization. Here’s an example – if you live in a coastal community, an historic tall ship may dock for tours for a few days. Is there someone in your organization whose ancestor served on that ship when it was new or even helped build it? If you hear about a new series of one of those DNA or ancestry shows, point out to those local news outlets that your organization can help people make those kinds of discoveries about their own family.

Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a response to your press release, and don’t give up. Sometimes a brief announcement will be made or a calendar listing will be printed, and it’s up to you and your members to find it.  Sometimes the people who receive the news release just don’t “get it.” Maybe they’d like to do a big story but they’re short-handed or it’s a busy news day. Keep pitching the ideas. Someday the stars will align and your organization will get a really nice story in print or on the air. Be sure to share it on your social media pages or your website when it happens.

All these things raise the profile of your organization in the community. As more people find out about your society, you will start to see new faces at your meetings and events. Some of them will join. Some of them will step forward into leadership roles. All this will keep your society going strong for years to come.


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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Unforgettable (#Genealogy)

The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge is one word or a short phrase that’s intended to prompt participants into recounting and recording a memory or discovery about an ancestor or relative. Most of the time, something comes instantly to mind. And I have to admit, something came instantly to my mind with the prompt of “unforgettable” but while it’s a story that’s stuck with me for some 40 years, I will also admit, I really don’t know the details. So rather than set down what I remember – which is probably wrong – I chose to write about something else.

Something else.

I’ve been thinking about this all week, and I couldn’t think of anything else, until out of the blue someone posted something on social media that made me think of the ‘possum story.

Hiram, Ruby, Hurley, Bonnie, and Hoyt Cook.

Hiram, Ruby, Hurley, Bonnie, and Hoyt Cook.

Hoyt Cook, known to me as Pap-pa, always had a dog. When I was growing up, he had two back-to-back that were white with black spots and they were both called spot. This was when they lived down at Lagniappe Beach in Midway, between Gulf Breeze and Navarre in Santa Rosa County, Florida. Their house was on East Bay, and across the road (County Road 399, now called East Bay Boulevard) they also owned quite a bit of property. It was mostly woods, but Pap-pa also planted a garden there, as well.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I was little, and I don’t know how old I was, probably 3rd or 4th grade, in the early 1970s, we were standing on the porch at that house in Gulf Breeze, and Pap-pa was talking to someone, I don’t know who, and he handed me a piece of paper, maybe a wadded up napkin, and asked me to throw it away for him.

The trash cans were right there, just a few steps away, but I wasn’t going to ask Pap-pa why didn’t he just throw the paper away himself. He was talking to someone, and I thought nothing of taking that paper over to the trash can.

This was an old metal garbage can, like the kind Oscar the Grouch lived in. And come to think of it, I seem to recall two trash cans, although, I couldn’t tell you now if I reached for the wrong one at first, and he told me to put it in the other one. I wouldn’t have questioned it if he did.

At any rate, I picked up the lid to throw that piece of paper away, and something big and toothy hissed at me, and I jumped and I dropped the lid with the kind of clang and bang you only get when you slam a metal lid down on a metal trash can.

I doubt that I screamed; my mother did not allow screaming or squealing (although in my adult years, now that I have a husband, I have learned to squeak out a non-verbal call for help at the sight of certain bugs).

I am pretty sure I did throw the piece of paper in after the beast.

Well, my reaction was good for a hearty laugh for Pap-pa and his friend, or maybe it was one of his brothers over for a visit.

Now, here’s the backstory. Sometimes Spot would go out in the middle of the night and tree a ‘possum, and he’d make a racket and Pap-pa would go get the dog. Sometimes he’d bring the ‘possum back and put it in the trash can and use it to play trick on unsuspecting grandchildren.

After the laughter, the lid got lifted off again, and I got a good look at the ‘possum and told him I was sorry for scaring him.  I always did love animals, and ‘possums are kinda cute once you get past the teeth. Later, Pap-pa took the ‘possum back out to the woods and set him loose, none the worse for wear, except for maybe a lingering ringing in the ears.

That was more than forty years ago. Spot and the ‘possum are long dead. Pap-pa’s been gone since 1997. Whoever else was there is probably no longer with us either. I’m the only one alive who still remembers that little unforgettable moment on East Bay.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Chosen (#Genealogy)

This has been a tough prompt to crack. I don’t know of many adoptions in my family tree, at least not off the bat.

I’ve already written about my great-granduncle George Herman Hahn and his wife Elsie Mae, who formed a family with Lillian Del Castillo Michaels after the deaths of Lillian’s parents and her husband.

Since I don’t have anything else definitive to write for this prompt, I’ll explore some speculation.

Followers of this blog may remember Laura Price, who got a land grant under her own name in Missouri. Well, I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough in the past few days, thanks to a family tree on Ancestry. This month, my local library arranged for patrons to have home access to the Ancestry Library Edition. I looked up Laura and found the “Kevin Black family tree.” I have no way of emailing or messaging the owner of this tree; I’m mentioning it here in hopes of making contact.

You see, all I knew about Laura, my husband’s great-great grandmother was:

  1. In 1870, Laura Price was living in the home of William Carter; labeled as house keeper; born 1832 in New York; four children named Price living in the home. (U.S. Census)
  2. In 1880, she and her youngest daughter were living in the home of James P. Creager; labeled as servants; born 1832 in New York. (U.S. Census)
  3. In 1889, she received a land grant. (Bureau of Land Management)
  4. In 1900, she is living with her son, C.L. DeForest Price, on or near the granted land. Birth date given as February 1830, New York. (U.S. Census)

The story my husband heard growing up was that Price wasn’t their real name; they had to change it because someone was a jockey and threw a race or wouldn’t throw a race, and they had to run hide. There was also a story about how they were possibly related to June Carter Cash’s family, but I couldn’t find a connection to any Carters (I kind of didn’t even notice the part about living with William Carter; she was just the housekeeper, after all).

Then I found this Kevin Black family tree — and with actual sources attached! He (from here out, I’ll assume it’s Kevin’s tree) found an 1843 marriage record from Huron County, Ohio, for Joseph Woodford and Laura Price, and an 1860 U.S. Census listing for Laura Woodford and sons Merrick and William, who are the right ages for our Laura’s oldest children, living in Wyandot County, Ohio.

Marriage Record for Joseph Woodford and Laura Price

Marriage Record for Joseph Woodford and Laura Price

The marriage license had a note saying Nathaniel Price had given written consent for Laura’s marriage. More on that later.

I found an 1850 Census for Joseph Wolford, born Ohio, and his wife Laura, born New York, living in Crawford County, Ohio, which is right between Huron and Wyandot. Joseph’s occupation is listed as shoemaker.

Then I noticed that several family trees on Ancestry listed Laura’s death as 1905, instead of 1900, as was listed on FamilySearch. She was in the 1900 Census, and that was the last record any of us had found up until this week.

Using the later death date, I searched newspapers.com and found an obituary in the Shannon County Democrat. It listed a surviving sister, Alice Hunt of Willow Springs. Well, I didn’t find Alice Hunt, but I found Miranda C. Price married to Lewis Hunt. They’re living in Willow Springs, Missouri, and Miranda’s father is Nathaniel Price, born in New York.

Laura Price's obituary published in the Shannon County Democrat.

Laura Price’s obituary published in the Shannon County Democrat.

I went back and forth a couple of generations with the Hunts, and I don’t see anyone else married to a Price. Laura has a daughter named Alice; I suspect the newspaper made a mistake, or maybe there’s another sister who married a different Hunt and it’s just not in the family tree at FamilySearch yet. I do believe this is the same family.

There’s a lot more work to do on this line and the family connections, but this is a huge breakthrough.

So, what does this have to do with the prompt “Chosen”?

Laura chose to use her maiden name for herself and her children after a certain point. The Kevin Black family tree includes speculation that Alice Ola, Laura’s youngest daughter, was the child of William Carter, the man she’s living with in 1870. Since Joseph was not living in the household in 1860, I rather suspect C.L. DeForest Price, born circa 1865, may have been Carter’s child as well. My husband descends from C.L., so it fits in with the family stories about the Carter connection.

Laura also chose to go her own way. I don’t know if Joseph abandoned the family or if she left him because he failed to provide or was abusive. She was able to raise four children and eventually get property of her own in Missouri. That took strength, determination, and hard work.

You can learn more about the 52 Ancestors Challenge at the website for genealogist Amy Johnson Crow.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Troublemaker (#Genealogy)

The Cook family had a couple of troublemakers – or at least they associated with troublemakers – and they were killed in shootouts 19 years apart.

This pair was father and son.

John Cook – my great-great grandfather – was born in Georgia in 1858. He lived with his mother, Frances Cook, and her father, George Cook. You read that right. Frances wasn’t married. We can’t say for sure where he was born, but the 1860 Census shows the family living in Marion County, and that’s where John was gunned down by the Kemp boys in 1898. His youngest child, Emmett B. Cook, was just a year and a half old.

The family story went like this: John Cook and the other fellows got into an argument over a whiskey worm – the coil of copper tubing used in a still – and guns were drawn.

The Enquirer-Sun newspaper reported that Cyle was drinking with three others, Albert Benson and Tom and Frank Kemp, and father John “came up and called him off.” The others got mad and shots were fired. John died from a bullet to the lung, the papers said. Cyle was unhurt, but another of John’s sons, James Robert Cook, was injured.

In January 1899, brothers Tom and Frank Kemp were found guilty of John Cook’s murder and sentenced to life in prison. They broke out of jail in May and were recaptured months later. Benson was apparently never charged.

College of Articles about John Cook's Murder

College of Articles about John Cook’s Murder

Cyle was 41 years old when he was killed in a gunfight.

The Columbus Ledger said Cyle was at a party when three men called him aside and attacked him. The Columbus Enquirer-Sun reported that Dewey and J. Robinson were charged with his murder. Both newspapers said the men were arguing over “moonshine whiskey” and “illicit distilling.” The Ledger wrote, “Some are of the impression that the attacking party regarded Cook as an informer.”

It’s entirely possible the two deadly shootout stories became commingled in the family lore, and it was Cyle’s case that involved the argument over the whiskey worm. Or maybe distilling was the farming family’s side hustle.

I have not been able to find any articles on what happened to the Robinsons at trial. The news coverage I have seen is thanks to my cousin, Pat Lowe, who transcribed the two articles she found and shared them on FamilySearch.

I do have to wonder if John and Cyle would have gotten mixed up with a bad crowd if the elder John had had a father at home. I wonder how he was treated growing up. It wasn’t that long ago that having a child out of wedlock was a serious stigma, and the children were treated just as badly, even though it’s hardly their fault.

My great-grandfather, Arthur Thomas Cook was 9 when his father was killed. A few years later, he got married and moved to Florida. One wonders if he wanted a fresh start where there weren’t so many family scandals.

I didn’t know these stories growing up. I got the first hint at a family reunion in the ’80s, but it wasn’t until I really devoted some time to genealogy that this all really sunk in. You know, I never would have thought of Georgia as being like the wild west, but 100 years ago, I guess it was.


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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Small (#Genealogy)

Most of my second-great-grandparents had big families, with between five and eleven children.  Grandma Muterspaugh, as I always heard her called growing up, was the exception. She had a small family, with only two children, as far as I know.

Before I started my genealogy research, I pretty much only could have told you that she lived with my great-grandmother, Mollie Pittman Stevens, before she died. I knew that because my mam-ma, Willie Stevens Cook, told my mother not to try to care for her at home if she ever got sick, because it was too difficult. Of course, my mother did care for her at home, although she had resources, like home health care and hospice, that Grandma Stevens did not have.

I was always a little confused about where the Muterspaugh came in. As the descendant of parents and grandparents who stayed together until the day they died, I didn’t really think about her having a husband other than my 2x great-grandfather.

Now I know.

Grandma Muterspaugh was born Mary Reid in 1855, the daughter of James T. Reid and Nancy Russell of Conecuh County, Alabama. She was the eighth child of eleven.

When I started researching her, she was an enigma. One marriage record and several DNA matches helped me establish her parentage.

She married William A. Stephens (as spelled on the marriage record) in 1883, and my great-grandfather, James William “Billie” Stevens was born in 1884.

Marriage of William A. Stephens and Mollie Reid

Marriage of William A. Stephens and Mollie Reid

I learned from my mother that she had one more child, Lottie Muterspaugh, who married a Corley. Now I understood. Mollie Reid Stevens had re-married.

Lottie – really Charlotta Rhea Muterspaugh – was born on December 5th, 1894 in Alabama. The 1910 U.S. Census shows her living with her parents, Charley and Mollie Muterspaugh, in Muscogee, Escambia County, Florida.

I began looking for marriage records for Charles Muterspaugh and Mary or Mollie, Reid or Stevens, between 1884 and 1894, in Alabama and Florida.

I found one record for Charles Muterspaugh in Escambia County, Florida, showing a marriage on March 19, 1891, but it didn’t make any sense. It gave his wife’s name as Mary R. Gilmore.

Marriage of Mary R. Gilmore and Charles Muterspaugh

Marriage of Mary R. Gilmore and Charles Muterspaugh

I asked my mom, and she never recalled hearing the name Gilmore in association with Grandma Muterspaugh. I wondered if it could have been indexed incorrectly; then I found the original. Yep, Mary R. Gilmore.

Eventually, I found the record in the middle. On March 7, 1889, Molly Stephens married J.C. Gilmore in Conecuh County.  The record shows that the wedding occurred at the home of “Pink Louis.” Pinkney Lewis was Mary’s brother-in-law.  As far as I know, she and Mr. Gilmore never had any children. Two years later, she married Charley.

Marriage of J.C. Gilmore and Mary Stephens

Marriage of J.C. Gilmore and Mary Stephens

So, three marriages and just two children.

I don’t know what became of William A. Stephens or J.C. Gilmore or Charles Muterspaugh. I haven’t found any divorce records or any evidence that the marriages ended with death. Were the problems in these relationships with the men or with Mollie? Or a little of both? These are questions I hope may be answered someday, with a little more research.

This post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow’s week 32 prompt for the 2020 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge.

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