Thursday, February 27, 2014

Out of Africa: Water Buffalo Trouble

My aunt's father was a missionary. He took his family to what was then known as British East Africa in 1920 and they lived there for nine years.  My aunt's brother, Homer Bailey, wrote an unpublished autobiography, which I was able to track down. In this story, Homer and his brother try to help some goat herders.

Goats go for bushy wild sorts of country -- the denser, the better. They even do a bit of climbing in a goat-y kind of way. Reaching those higher branches is a fine way to get a first course in the morning. With not a fence for miles, just bush for them to eat, this was for goats, the perfect life. Always with the goats were the herdsmen, mostly young boys, following along, going with the goats. This bright morning as the goat bells chimed there in the back of the beyond, they bumped right into a water buffalo.

Now, I mean the big, bad, mean kind of water buffalo. The kind that is apt to chase a man around a tree. Their horns curve outward, then downward and slightly backward, turning up at the tips. That is the kind of rascal to fear for he is easily enraged and deadly when aroused. If encountered in the open, he's the kind that just might tromp you, stomp you, and throw you in the air with his wicked horns. The buffalo is a bad enemy, determined to keep on coming at you until one of you drops.

Horn difference between a Cape Buffalo (top) and Asian Water Buffalo (bottom). Image courtesy of

The herd boys bumped into this big fellow about midmorning. The buffalo did not seem to mind the small, noisy goats nor did he really object to the herd boys, but they knew better than to get too close. What disturbed the herd boys was the way this buffalo and his relatives came by night, again and again, ravaging and ruining their small vegetable gardens. You have to see a garden after a buffalo goes through it to believe it. For this compelling reason they must try to be rid of this massive water buffalo.

Our family lived among these people not a great distance from the damaged gardens. The young herdsman wondered if we would come to their aid. He would lead us right to the buffalo. My brother and I hurriedly got our guns and ammunition, buckled on our sheath knives, and we were on our way. Soon we were in the forest wilderness. At first there was a path of sorts, but this faded away. Our guide led us through heavy underbrush. We could not see more than a few feet in any direction. Soon our herdsman guide said, "We're getting close, be very quiet." We walked single file as we cautiously edged forward, stopping every few feet to listen.

An aging dog had joined our party. When we moved ahead, he too would advance. When we stopped, he would glance over his shoulder and hold up too. It would have been nice if were it possible to communicate because he had a big advantage over us in the smell department.

Cape water buffalo. Image courtesy of

It seems you are never really ready when the time comes. Things have a way of happening too fast for our minds to act.  All of a sudden, the dog gave a deep throaty growl and came at us in reverse. His hackles were up and his teeth were showing without a smile. In that same second, it seemed, a lot of brush moved toward us. Visibility was nil. We now knew the creature was right there but see it, we could not.

The goat boy dove for a tree, which was hardly worthy of the name. It was a runty sort of refuge but the idea of getting above the ground appealed to me and I followed the boy up the tree. Having thus climbed above the surrounds, my eyes really bugged as I looked almost straight down on a great big blackish body with a set of massive horns. The buffalo was facing straight at us. His body was practically covered in dense growth. Our tree was most inadequate against such a menace. He looked as though he could easily shake our tree to bits.

I stood on a low limb holding on as best I could to the tree trunk and my 4.05 shotgun. It was British made, a combination double barrel shotgun. It was a great gun in its day, but required the use of black powder, which was a limitation. I pulled the old shotgun around, drew a line on the broad back below and fired. I should have set off both barrels, that would have really rocked the buffalo, but it would likely have knocked me right out of the tree.

Photograph courtesy of

The buffalo made a quick decision to get out of there now! Can you imagine a tug boat -- squat, solid and powerful? Well, the buffalo, as it were, called for "full speed ahead." He did a graceful curve, passing off to our right, missing the tree and all of us. As he departed his head and horns spread the brush and shrubs and he sailed away in a sea of green. In seconds his proud stern disappeared in the deep forest.

What had I done wrong? I had certainly blown that one badly. In my climbing, clinging, and firing, I was nervous. Opening the breech of the gun, you will not believe what I found. I had dusted that old buffalo down with shotgun pellets. Hardly could that that have been effective and to the buffalo it was insulting, irritating, but in no way deadly.

NOTE:  Previous "Out of Africa" posts:
  1. Doctor Livingstone, I Presume
  2. The Kikuyu
  3. The Eland Hunt
  4. The Hippopotamus Hunt 
  5. Kagui and the Python 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Worldwide Genealogy -- My favorite Virginia Genealogy Resource

Today is the 25th of the month, which means it's my day to contribute a post to Worldwide Genealogy -- A Genealogical Collaboration. I decided to write about a favorite resource of mine that some people outside the Old Dominion may not know about -- the William and Mary Quarterly. It's been published since 1892 and is loaded with information of value to a family historian or genealogist.

Print of the Bodleian Plate, depicting the colonial architecture of Williamsburg, Virginia. The plate, discovered in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, was critical to the reconstruction of Williamsburg in the early-mid 20th century. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I hope you'll click over to my post, My Favorite Virginia Genealogy Resource and read all about it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

52 Ancestors #8: Immigration Redux

Ancestor Name: Robert Orr Muir Airlie

I almost got seasick following my second cousin twice removed back and forth across the Atlantic. He was born 8 June 1905 at New Aberdeen, Nova Scotia, which was on the eastern tip of Cape Breton Island on Glace Bay. The neighborhood was developed in the late 19th century to house the miners working at the Dominion No. 20 coal mine near West Avenue. His parents lived in Canada for 20 months but had returned to East Whitburn, West Lothian, Scotland soon after his birth.

From Belcher's Province of Nova Scotia map

Not surprisingly, Robert became a coal miner when he was old enough to work. At the age of 24, he made his second trip across the Atlantic aboard the Anchor Line's transatlantic twin-screw steamship Cameronia.

Anchor Line wharf on sailing day

On 3 October 1930 Robert married 19-year-old Annie Lee Muir, his second cousin, at Findleyville, Pennsylvania. Her father had immigrated in 1902 and was working as a miner for Montour Mines at the time of their marriage. About three weeks after their marriage they boarded the Anchor Line's S/S Transylvania in New York. They arrived in Glasgow, Scotland on 27 October 1930 after making stops in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Londonderry, Ireland. This was Robert's third trip across the Atlantic.

Anchor Line Steamship Transyvlania; this is the second Anchor Line ship named Transylvania.
The first sank with loss of life after being torpedoed in 1917

The couple lived in Scotland until 1937. Robert's parents lived at the village of East Whitburn in the parish of Whitburn, West Lothian. Annie's grandparents had lived in the same village. Perhaps they lived there and Robert worked in a mine in the area.

British Ordnance Survey of East Whitburn; the coal mines are just to the north

On 12 November 1937, Annie and Robert boarded the Anchor Line's S/S Caledonia; they arrived in New York 10 days later. This was Robert's fourth trip across the Atlantic. By 1940 they were living in Floyd County, Kentucky, where Robert was a track man at a coal mine. They rented their home and Robert made $570 a month. He had worked for 41 weeks the previous year, which was very good as the Depression was not quite over.

In 1948 the couple made another trip to Scotland, however, this time they traveled by air. They returned to the U.S., leaving Prestwick, Scotland, on Royal Dutch Airlines flight 631 and landed at New York on 12 August. This was Robert's sixth trip across the Atlantic.

By 1958, the couple had moved to Hollywood, Florida, where several of Annie's siblings had settled. Annie's brother, James Lee Muir, owned a construction company, which built several hotels, apartments and churches in the area.

Robert's wife, Annie, died on 5 August 1978 and was buried at Fred Hunter's Memorial Gardens East in Hollywood. The next year on 14 August 1979 Robert married Mary Madeline Kenny. He died on 23 April 1981 and was buried beside his wife.

Fred Hunter's Memorial Gardens

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Robert Orr Muir Airlie was born on 8 Jun 1905 at New Aberdeen, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to Andrew and Martha (Muir) Airlie. He married Annie Lee Muir on 3 October 1930 at Findleyville, Washington, Pennsylvania. They were second cousins. Her parents were Robert and Annie Robertson (Lee) Muir. They had no children. After Annie died, Robert married Mary Madeline Kenny at Broward County, Florida. Robert died on 23 April 1981 at Hollywood, Broward, Florida, and was buried beside his first wife at Fred Hunter's Memorial Gardens East.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Family History Writing Challenge Week #3 Recap: When Records are Scarce

After writing about the places in Scotland where my Muir ancestors lived last week, I started writing about the people in the family this week. Robert Muir, was my three times great grandfather. Not much is known about him and he doesn't appear in many records. I compensated by adding information about vital records registration, history of Scotland, coal mining, and compulsory education.

Robert Muir was born about 1800 in Ireland and came to Scotland sometime before 1828 when he married Henrietta Brown on 28 January in Avondale parish, Lanarkshire. Robert and Henrietta had 11 known children, 9 of which lived to at least young adulthood. Two of their children, Henrietta and James emigrated from Scotland to other countries after marrying. Henrietta, her husband and children went to Australia and were early settlers of Bundaberg, Queensland. James Muir, his wife and family settled in the United States and lived in several coal “patches” in Illinois and Missouri.

In 1854 the Registration of Births Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act was enacted. The law required compulsory registration of births, deaths and marriages at the local parish registrar beginning on 1 January 1855.  Previously, families recorded these significant events at the established Church of Scotland or at their Roman Catholic parish. Many of these pre-1855 records have been lost over time, as they were not required to be sent to any type central repository. This has made tracing Robert Muir and his family somewhat challenging. 

Lanark county, or Lanarkshire, is the area of Scotland in which Robert Muir settled. It was in the central lowlands and was traditionally the most populous shire in the country. From the mid-18th century to the early 20th century Lanarkshire benefited from its rich seams of coal. So it’s no surprise the Muirs were mostly miners. Robert’s occupation is only mentioned in three records: on his daughters’ 1830 and 1834 birth registration entries, he is listed as “coal hewer” and “coal cutter;” and on the 1861 census, his occupation is “formerly coal miner.”

Coal had been mined in Scotland since 1210 when monks at Prestongrange were granted the right to quarry it. During Reformation the mines passed out of control of the church and were owned by landowners. The Act of 1606 bound all miners to the mines and gave coal masters the right to “apprehend all vagabonds and sturdy beggars to be put to labor.” In 1641 the restrictions were extended to those who worked at the surface of the mine. The Act of 1775 freed miners after a period of 3 to 10 years. Four years later, the Emancipation Act was enacted and declared miners free of servitude.  In 1842 the Mines Act prohibited children under 10 and women from working in the mines.

Children were mostly educated in schools run by the established Church of Scotland. However, by 1847 the Free Church claimed over 44,000 children were being taught in their schools. Education did not become compulsory for children aged 5 to 13 until 1872.  Robert and Henrietta’s children could not read or write and signed legal documents by making their mark. Most of their children received at least some education and were literate.

Robert Muir and his family lived in Avondale, Glassford, East Kilbride and Larkhall parishes -- all in Lanark county. After Henrietta died sometime before 1856, Robert lived in Stonehouse parish where he died in 1869.

1845 Map of Lanarkshire, Scotland

On 30 Mar 1851 when the census was enumerated, Robert and Henrietta’s children were living in East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, but their parents were not in the home at the time. It is possible Henrietta was sick, perhaps she never fully recovered from Nathaniel’s birth, and was in a hospital. This is merely supposition on my part.

Children of Robert and Henrietta (Brown) Muir:
  • Elizabeth Muir born about 1829 at Avondale, Lanarkshire; died 27 October 1863 at Dalton, Cambuslang, Lanarkshire. She married Matthew Cassels on 15 December 1851 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire.
  • Martha Muir born 2 September 1830 at Glassford, Lanarkshire; died 6 June 1876 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire. She married John Riddell on7 August 1852 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire.
  • Jean Muir born 8 April 1834 at Avondale, Lanarkshire. She likely died before 1837.
  • Henrietta Muir born 29 January 1836 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire. She likely died before 1841.
  • Jean Muir born 8 October 1837 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire; died 19 August 1856 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire.
  • Robert Orr Muir born 1 October 1839 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire; died 8 July 1917 at Bathgate, Linlithgow, Scotland. He married twice: 1) to Jane Londen (or Louden) on or before 1863 and 2) to Mary Watson Shaw on 23 June 1871 at Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire.
  • Henrietta Muir born 21 May 1841 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire; died 1 September 1929 at Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia. She married James Williamson on 27 September 1861 at Avondale, Lanarkshire. They immigrated to Australia on 6 May 1885 aboard the cargo ship S/S Waroonga.
  • Thomas Muir born 25 November 1842 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire; died 5 May 1901 at Larkhall, Lanarkshire. He married twice: 1) to Janet Scorbie on 6 November 1863 at Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, and 2) to Isabella Moore on 4 October 1870 at Glassford, Lanarkshire.
  • James Muir born on 2 August 1844; likely died on 18 Mar 1926 at Mystic, Appanoose, Iowa, USA. He married twice: 1) to Margaret Semple on 4 July 1873 at Dalserf, Lanarkshire, and 2) to Margaret “Maggie” (McIntosh) Greenbank on 9 January 1913 at Princeton, Mercer, Missouri, USA. He immigrated to the U.S. on 6 June 1887 aboard the steamship Ethiopia.
  • John Muir born 28 June 1846 at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire; died 2 June 1932 at Larkhall, Lanarkshire. He married Lillas Weir 6 October 1865 at Stonehouse, Lanarkshire.
  • Nathaniel Muir likely born sometime in December 1850; died 23 February 1923 at Whitburn, West Lothian (was Linlithgow previous to 1921). He married Janet Shaw 1 May 1870 at Avondale, Lanarkshire.
The children of Robert and Henrietta (Brown) Muir had 71 known children, who lived on three continents.

How did I do?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fitter to be a Gardener than a Governor

Daniel Tucker (baptized 10 Apr 1575, died 10 Feb 1625) was the grandson of William Tucker of Throwleigh, Devon, England and the 2x great grand uncle of Nathaniel Tucker. He was a captain, member of the Virginia Company of London (second charter), member of the Bermuda Company, cape merchant (treasurer) at the Jamestown Virginia Colonly in 1609, and governor of Bermuda from 1616 through 1619.

The arrival of Lord Delaware, 1610; image courtesy Colonial National Historical Park

When he arrived as cape merchant, the Jamestown Colony was in dire straits. He set about controlling the meager stores and built a small boat, or shallop, from which to fish. Percy, president of the colony and the brother of Earl of Northumberland, said, "Daniel Tucker proved himself resourceful, for from a small boat which he had built, he caught fish in the James River, and this small relief 'did keep us from killing one another to eat.'" But Tucker's efforts were apparently not enough. The colonists elected to abandon Jamestown and try to return to England aboard the Deliverance, which was left by Admiral Somers in 1610, and Tucker's shallop. They were headed down the James River when they met the ships of Lord Delaware.  Jamestown was saved and became the first permanent English settlement in what would become the continental United States.

An account of Bermuda, past and present by John Oglivy; published by S Nelms: Bermuda, 1883

King James I granted a charter to the Bermuda Company in 1615, and Captain Daniel Tucker was appointed governor of the island and arrived there in 1616. According to Tucker family papers, he found the people lazy and uninspired. Robert Dennard Tucker's book, William Tucker of Throwleigh, Devon, described Captain Tucker's work on Bermuda:

"He immediately imposed a discipline on the colony that was generally resented. Within a few days of his arrival he had a man hanged for speaking derisively of the new governor and his methods. He cursed, cajoled, and whipped them into shape…He would have the population work if they wanted to be fed. Food, as he knew from his Virginia experience, was essential to a successful colony. He was imperial but effective. Crops were planted, rats reduced, fishing routines established, and living accommodations were built.

Naturally, the company's shareholders were eager for profits. In fact, they were impatient. Captain Tucker, however, insisted on the development of a reliable food and water supply before pearl diving and whaling of the purpose of ambergris. He knew there were no natural resources to provide "quick riches" for the company. He therefore concentrated on the fundamentals and caused his critics to proclaim that he was 'fitter to be a gardener than a governor'."

Daniel Tucker was not reappointed governor. Nathaniel Butler, privateer, became the next governor of the island.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Starving Time at Jamestown

Anyone who has studied United States colonial history knows Jamestown was settled in 1607. But did you know how close it came to being just another failed attempt of English colonization in the New World? Technically, the colony had been abandoned and its settlers were sailing down the James River in hopes of returning to England when they met Lord Delaware's ships, loaded with supplies and new people, which saved the colony.  What caused the early settlers to abandon Jamestown?

The arrival of Lord Delaware, 1610; image courtesy Colonial National Historical Park

A gunpowder burn forced John Smith, the colony's leader, to return to England in 1609; and a boatload of new settlers and supplies sunk off the coast of Bermuda. The winter of 1609-10 became known as the "Starving Time." Disease and hunger ravaged the colony. George Percy described this terrible time in his A True Relation of the Proceedings and Occurrences of Moment which have happened in Virginia from the Time Sir Thomas Gates was shipwrecked upon the Bermudas, which he wrote in 1612 as a rebuttal to Captain John Smith's A General History of Virginia. Smith had questioned Percy's leadership in his popular tome.

"And now, famine beginning to look ghastly and pale in every face…nothing was spared to maintain life and to do those things which seem incredible, as to dig up dead corpses out of graves and eat them, and some have licked up the blood which had fallen from their weak fellows. And amongst the rest, this was the most lamentable: that one of our colony murdered his wife, ripped the child out of her womb, and threw it into the river, and after, chopped the mother in pieces and salted her for food." 

Painting by Sidney King, image courtesy of the National Park Service

Daniel Tucker was in Jamestown during the Starving Time; and Percy, then president of the colony, put Daniel Tucker in charge of rationing the food stores. Percy praised Tucker's work, "by his industry and care caused the same (provisions for three months) to hold out four months." Percy continued, "Daniel Tucker proved himself resourceful, for from a small boat which he had built, he caught fish in the James River, and this small relief 'did keep us from killing one another to eat'."

The work of Daniel Tucker -- food rationing, fish he caught, and the small boat he built -- helped the settlers survive long enough for that fortuitous meeting in the James River with Lord Delaware.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

52 Ancestors #7: A Lover Not a Fighter

Ancestor Name: Charles Edward Jennings

My great grandfather, Charles Edward Jennings[1], enlisted in the Confederate States of America Army as a private on 1 March 1862 at Amherst County Courthouse, Virginia, when he was 18 years old. He served as a private with Company H, known as the Southern Rights Guard, 19th Virginia Infantry Regiment. They had made their winter camp near the scene of the Battle of First Manassas, picking up their new recruits at Orange County Court House, including my great grandfather, and drilled for two weeks. Soon they received orders to march to Richmond, where they boarded three schooners and sailed down the James River to King's Mill Wharf near Williamsburg. The peninsula was wet and sloppy and men fell prey to disease, hurting legs, swollen feet and aching backs.

I imagine the soldiers stopped thinking about personal discomfort and disease when they were attacked by Union soldiers on 26 April near Yorktown. Union forces were trying to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital, by sending ships up the James River and troops along its banks. In quick succession the regiment fought near Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Gaines Mill, and Frayser's Farm (Fraiser's Farm or Glendale).  That seemed to have been enough fighting for Private Jennings!

In July and August of 1862 he was absent from his regiment, at home sick. His Army records are silent about his whereabouts until 13 May 1863. (My assumption is he rejoined his regiment sometime before the regiment returned to Richmond after fighting at Suffolk.) On that date he appeared on the register of the Receiving and Wayside Hospital, or General Hospital No. 9, in Richmond, Virginia. The hospital was also called Seabrook's Hospital and was a warehouse before the war. It functioned as a receiving hospital for incoming wounded due to its being located near the Virginia Central Railroad Depot.

This building served as General Hospital No. 9 during the Civil War
Photo taken shortly after the war and courtesy of Civil War Richmond

On 15 May 1863 Charles Jennings was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital, which was an extremely large hospital constructed in Richmond at the outbreak of the war. Private Jennings complained of dropsy, which was an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin or body cavities.

Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Virginia
Photo by Levy & Cohen, Philadelphia, 1865

He was transferred 18 May 1863 to the Confederal hospital in Danville, Virginia, where he appeared on the register of that facility the same day. He complained of debilities, which was a general weakness, lameness, debility, or infirmity.

Private Jennings' service record includes a tantalizing reference to Special Order 134 issued by General Lee of the Army of Northern Virginia on 18 May 1863. I am trying to locate that order. I do know that he was absent from his company from July 1863 through February 1864 and had been detailed to General Hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he was employed as a nurse.

During this time period his regiment was decimated during Pickett's charge on the third day of fighting at Gettysburg and did not participate as a unit in another battle until Cold Harbor in June 1864. The regiment made their winter quarters at Chaffey's (or Chaffin's) farm. Private Jennings rejoined Company H in March 1864. The month brought extreme hunger. The men lived on cornmeal and later cats, which were skinned, boiled and then roasted. Their taste was compared to rabbits. Private Jennings certainly had enough. On March 31 he was examined by the regiment's surgeon:

"...having applied for a certificate upon which to ground an application for detail to light duty. I certify that I have carefully examined this private and found him incapable of performing infantry duty on account of curvature of the spine which seriously impairs his activity and capacity for labor. I further recommend that he be detailed as a nurse in a military hospital at Lynchburg because in my opinion he is competent to perform such duty. [Signed] James D. Galt, Surgeon, 19th Regiment Virginia Infantry."

Letter from 19th Virginia Infantry Regiment recommending, Private Jennings be detailed to a hospital

Private Jennings was clearly trying to get back to Lynchburg, which was 15 miles south of his home in Amherst County!

He spent the next seven months of the war at Pratt Hospital in Lynchburg and appeared on several muster rolls for the hospital.  He may have participated in the Battle of Lynchburg, which took place in mid June 1864, as several sources said the hospitals were emptied to defend the city. Private Jennings' service record ends on 21 Oct 1864 when he appeared on a weekly report of sick and wounded at the hospital though he had been detailed back to his regiment for regular duty.

If he did return to his regiment after 21 Oct 1864, he would have been stationed at Howlett's Line, entrenched fortifications that extended from the James River to the Appomattox River, fighting at Dinwiddie Court House and Saylor's (Sailor's) Creek where they were surrounded and captured en masse on 6 April 1865.

Howlett's Line, photo courtesy of Civil War Battlefields

I get the distinct impression war was not the grand adventure Charles Jennings thought it would be when he enlisted at the age of 18 or he was a very sickly young man who was lucky to survive the pestilence and disease of Army camps. After the war Charles married twice and had 11 children. I've come to think of him as a lover, not a fighter. 

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

[1] Charles Edward Jennings was born on 23 Sep 1843 at Amherst County, Virginia, to Powhatan Perrow and Catherine B (Jewell) Jennings. He married Nancy "Nannie" Jane Johnston (or Johnson) on 23 Dec 1873 at Amherst County. She was the daughter of William Marshall and Martha Ann (Jennings) Johnston. Nannie was his first cousin once removed. She died on 25 Apr 1892. Charles Jennings married Effie Davis Beard on 2 Jun 1895 at Roanoke (Independent City), Virginia. She was the daughter of David Fleming and Barbara Ann (Mitchell) Beard, both of Bedford County, Virginia. She died on 4 May 1906. In 1911 he committed his youngest living child to the Lutheran Orphanage in Salem, Virginia. Charles Edward Jennings died on 10 Aug 1917 at Erwin, Unicoi, Tennessee. He is buried in Fair View Cemetery at Roanoke beside Effie and their youngest son, Clyde Graham Jennings.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Family History Writing Challenge Week #2 Recap: Places

Yesterday I wrote a blog post about Dixon's Rows, a housing complex owned a coal mining company, which leased the one- two-room apartments to their employees. For my book about the Muir family history, I wanted to bring that housing to life for a modern reader. The source materials I found were quite descriptive but I wasn't sure a modern reader would understand the privations.

Dixon's Rows, image courtesy of Auld Blantyre

Dixon's Rows

Dixon’s Rows were constructed in 1877 and owned by William Dixon Ltd., a company that also owned several coal mines in the area. Evidence presented to a Royal Commission in 1914 described the housing as “the most miserable type of house, thrown together with bricks in the cheapest fashion, with floors consisting largely of flags laid on earth.” It was an extensive housing complex off Stonefield Road. The apartments were one or two rooms and each room had at least one window. Entire families lived together in a unit and a typical family of the time often included 6 or more children.

The housing at Dixon’s Rows did not include indoor plumbing. Families used community washhouses to bathe, which were shared by every 4 two-room units and every 8 one-room unit. And they had to bring their own water to the washhouse! Water closets, or toilets, were also shared; there was one toilet for every 3 two-room units, one for every 5 one-room units. Sometimes 18 or more people shared an outhouse!

While the miners were working deep underground, their wives were working too. There were no sinks in the houses at Dixon’s Rows so the women had to go to standpipes, which had been installed at long intervals along the rows. After the cleaning, cooking and washing, was done, the dirty water had to be taken to an open gutter that ran along the front of each row. Dixon’s Rows included no garden grounds for growing fresh vegetables or coal cellars in which to store fuel for heating. The miners paid for trash removal, called scavenging at the time.

How did I do?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Dixon's Rows: "A Miserable Type of House"

Dixon's Rows was a housing complex at first rented by and then owned by William Dixon, Ltd. The Dixon company owned several coal mines in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Many of my Scottish ancestors were coal miners, worked for the Dixon company, and lived at Dixon's Rows.

In 1910 Dr. John T. Wison wrote "The Housing Condition of Miner's," a report by the Medical Officer of Health. The Scottish Mining Website extracted a description of Dixon's Rows from the report:
  • Erected about 33 years ago -- one story, brick -- no damp-proof course -- walls not strapped and lathed, plastered on brick, a few wood floors, unventilated; majority brick floors -- some walls slightly damp -- internal surface of walls and ceilings good.
  • No overcrowding -- apartments large
  • No garden ground available, wash houses with water, no coal cellars
  • Water closets recently introduced, in the proportion of one closet to every 4 tenants
  • No sinks -- drainage by open channels
  • Water supply from stand pipes in street, the well being at a distance varying from about 12 to 200 feet from the houses
  • Scavenged at owners' expense, but houses are not included in Blantyre Special Scavenging District

Dixon's Rows, Stonefield, Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland;
Image courtesy of Auld Blantyre Mining

In 1914 evidence was presented to the Royal Commission which described Dixon's Rows:

"These rows cover a very extensive area, and are situated in the centre of the Blantyre district. They were erected some forty years ago, and are owned by William Dixon, Ltd. They consist of 157 single- and 149 double-apartment houses. The rent per week is 1s. 11d. for a single-apartment, and 3s. 2d. for two-apartment house. They are a most miserable type of house, thrown together with bricks in the cheapest possible fashion, with floors consisting largely of flags laid down on the earth. They are in a district well supplied with water, but are only served by means of standpipes at long intervals along the row. They have recently been included in a special scavenging district, which as greatly improved the sanitation of the place. There are no sculleries or sinks, consequently all the dirty water has to be emptied into an open gutter that runs along the front of each row. There is a wash house for every 4 and 8 double- and single-apartment tenants, respectively. There is a water-closet outside for every 3 and 5 double- and single-apartment houses, respectively. Dust-bins are in vogue, with a daily collection of refuse. There are no coal-cellars. There is a man employed locally for cleaning up the place."

1897 British Ordnance Survey of Dixon's Rows

By the 1930s the housing units in Dixon's Rows were so old and dilapidated, they were demolished.

My Cassels, Brodie, and Lively ancestors were all coal miners and lived at one time or another at Dixon's Rows.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ancestry DNA: The Ethnicity Update

I convinced my youngest brother to take the Ancestry DNA test not because he's interested in genealogy but because he was curious about ethnicity and what I was learning by watching videos and reading blogs about the topic.   I wrote about the differences between our ethnicity here.

Late last year announced an update to their DNA ethnicity results. And, based on the changes in my test results, it was no minor thing.

My ethnicity when my DNA results first were posted on

My DNA ethnicity before the latest enhancement

My ethnicity after the update:

My DNA ethnicity after the latest enhancement

We all know we get half our DNA from each parent, and they got their DNA from their parents, and so on. Our DNA is essentially a map of our ancestors. When tests your DNA, they compare it against a reference library of DNA from people with deep roots in a particular geography. In a nutshell, increased the size of that DNA reference library, which enabled them to provide customers with more precise and granular ethnicity results. There are now 26 overlapping worldwide regions based on DNA patterns in the reference library. They have also increased the number of separate analyses during DNA testing to 40.

Ancestry's 26 worldwide ethnicity regions

To learn more, I encourage you to read this blog post, Unraveling the Science Ethnicity Estimates or watch this video.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Biblical Plague or a Locust Infestation?

In 1876 the U.S. Congress called the locust "the single greatest impediment to settlement of the country between Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains." Or so I learned when I read Jeffrey Lockwood's 2004 book, "Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier."

This is yet another case when my quirky taste in reading material has helped with my current genealogy obsession. The book was fascinating because the infestation of locusts was simply amazing to imagine. They would be so dense in the sky, they darkened the day, blotting out the sun. They were voracious eaters, and would even eat the fabric of your clothing in their quest for sustenance. Their annual plagues played a large part in the creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, modern agricultural research, and public welfare. It was one of the first times the federal government aided citizens in time of need, though as with today's highly-divided political climate, that aid was not without detractors. Many believed the homesteaders of the Great Plains states, through bad behavior, caused the locust to attack their crops just like the Old Testament Biblical plague. Many of my Beard and Amsberry ancestors were early settlers of Nebraska and would have lived through these infestations.

Photo courtesy of

I was reminded of Lockwood's book after discovering "Compendium of History, Reminiscence and Biography of Western Nebraska Containing a History of the State of Nebraska," which was published in 1909.  The chapter on miscellaneous historical matters included an article, "The Locust or the Grasshoppers." Harrison Johnson wrote:

"During the growing season of 1874 and 1875 the Rocky Mountain locust, or grasshopper, visited Nebraska and did incalculable damage by devouring crops in a large portion of the state. In many sections, more particularly in the western and middle counties, the destruction of crops by these insects was almost complete, not a vestige of anything green being left untouched by them; and as many of the farmers living in the sections so afflicted were new settlers, the total loss of crops upon which they were dependent for the support of their families, was a great calamity and caused much distress and suffering. The destitution was so widespread and so great in some localities that public aid was asked for, for the relief of the sufferers." 

An 1875 map shows the swath of locust infestation that decimated crops and left land barren. Photo courtesy of the Missouri State Historical Society

He then goes on to state:

"While it is true that the damage done by the locust was very great, and caused much genuine distress among the people in several counties, yet the whole matter was greatly exaggerated and enlarged upon by a certain busy class of persons who somehow always come to the front on such occasions actuated generally by to further their own selfish ends than by any kindly, true feeling for the distressed. This blatant noisy class, with their loud demonstrations and universal begging, not only disgusted the more sensible people, did the state an injury next to that of the locusts themselves."

That last paragraph sounded me of boosterism or something the U.S. Chamber of Commerce might have written 100 or so years ago!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

52 Ancestors #6: Humorous William Bull

Ancestor: William Bull

Several weeks ago, I read Traditions and Reminiscences, Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South, including Biographical Sketches, Incidents and Anecdotes, Few of which have been Published, Particularly of Residents in the Upper Country by Joseph Johnson, which was originally published in 1851. The book includes much information about William Bull (1710-1791), the brother of Colonel Stephen Bull of Beaufort, South Carolina, who married Elizabeth Bryan.[1] William Bull was a medical doctor and completed his studies under Boerhaave, the famous Leyden physician. He returned to South Carolina and became one of the colony's most eminent citizens, serving as royal governor several times between 1760 and 1775. In 1782 he went with the British troops to England and died there.

Memorial to William Bull, placed at Ashley Hall by Hannah Beale Bull, 1792. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
"A steady friend and affectionate husband…on this land, part of his estate and place of his birth, this obelisk was erected, sacred to his virtues and her grief, with duty and affection by his disconsolate widow"

Two humorous stories are included in Traditions and Reminiscences about William Bull. A Dr. Samuel Wilson told the author the following anecedote:

While Governor Bull was walking one day before his residence and the State House, he was met by a plain, uneducated back-country man, who stopped and stared at him with open mouth. The governor also stopped and civilly asked the country man, "what is the matter, friend?" The fellow replied, "Really, Mister, you are the ugliest man that I ever saw in my life." The governor smiled as if neither surprised nor displeased, and with much good humor said, "But you would not say so if you had seen my brother, Stephen."

Governor William Bull House, 35 Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina

and…my favorite:

Governor Bull was so great a favorite in South Carolina that parents frequently named their children after him. There was a plain, respectable man then in Charleston, a tailor, named Frog. Influenced by some favor or patronage received from John Walters Gibbs, of facetious memory, Frog asked Mr. Gibbs to be the godfather for his son, to be named John after his proposed godfather. Mr. Gibbs promptly assented, and the day was appointed for the ceremony. When the parties met, and were going up together to the font, Mr. Gibbs asked permission to give the child an intermediate name, after their worthy governor, Bull. Permission was of course granted, and the child was baptized John Bull; the ceremony was over, and the parties separated in great good humor. But when the whole name was pronounced, and the child called, John Bull Frog, the parents were dismayed; the citizens all joined in the laugh and all the Frogs, little and big, hopped off to escape the continued jests.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

[1] Elizabeth Bryan is the great grand aunt of the husband of my sister-in-law's fifth cousin four times removed.

NOTE: William Bull was born on 24 September 1710 at Charleston County, South Carolina Colony to William and Mary (Quintyne) Bull. He married Hannah Beale on 17 August 1746 at South Carolina. He owned Ashley Hall plantation on the Ashley River in Charleston County, South Carolina. The plantation remains under private ownership today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bull served as the royal governor of South Carolina five times: 1760-61, 1764-66, 1768, 1769-71, and 1773-1775. He refused to take an oath of allegiance to the revolutionary government and left for England in 1777. He returned in 1781 during the British occupation of Charleston. Bull was evacuated in December 1782 by British troops. He died in London on 4 July 1791 at London, England. He was buried on 18 July 1791 in St Andrew Churchyard at Holborn, London, England.  He and Hannah had no children.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Family History Writing Challenge Week #1 Recap: Frustration

When I signed up for the Family History Writing Challenge, I thought I was in pretty good shape. I wanted to start with the Muir branch of my family tree. The Muirs were from Scotland, and my great great grandparents immigrated to the United States in 1887. The family includes a long line of coal miners. If there was coal beneath the ground, Muirs likely lived on top and worked below.

Scottish coal miner; photo courtesy of Education Scotland

I wanted my first book project to appeal to my target audience -- my immediate family. None of them, except Dad, is particularly interested in our history. So I needed my book to be compelling, not just a collection of names, places, and dates. It must tell a story and do it well. I've set a high bar for myself, haven't it?

Over the years I've learned a lot about coal and coal mining in several countries. It's hard not to when your family tree includes so many miners and you are by nature a curious person. So coal was going to be the common thread that ran throughout my book.

I decided I would focus the first week of my writing efforts on the places where the Muirs lived. After the first evening of writing, I realized I had a problem. I keep my tree on and work from their website. It's practically impossible on to target one branch of your tree and easily determine where they lived at various times in their life (excluding birth and death) without clicking on each person and looking at their timeline. I had Family Tree Maker installed on my Wintel laptop and enjoyed the custom reporting capabilities, but I don't use that laptop anymore. I've moved on to a Mac; no Family Tree Maker; no custom reports. I got quite frustrated with all the clicking I had to do. That frustration made another problem pretty clear. I didn't make detailed research notes when I first started. So I was difficult to start researching a person for which I'd done some initial research but not completed. (I am easily distracted by Ancestry's shaky leaves.)

Christa Cowan, the Barefoot Genealogist from Ancestry, was right. You should take extensive notes for each of your ancestors about every bit of information from every source document and jot down your working theories and next research tasks. If you do that, then everything is conveniently at hand when it's time to write your family history. Since the online family tree functionality available on doesn't include a great place to maintain these extensive notes, I need to purchase the Mac version of Family Tree Maker.

So I spent the week writing up notes for Robert Muir and his wife, Henrietta Brown and their 11 known children. Next week I WILL make the places at which they lived come to life. When I get my tree exported to the Mac I will upload my new notes and be ready to rock and roll...again!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Today is the one-year anniversary of this blog, Tangled Roots and Trees and my genealogy Facebook page of the same name. When I started, I wasn't sure I had that many stories to tell about my family's history but it turns out I did. And plenty of ideas for more stories and interesting tidbits of family lore and old photos.

During the past year, these posts have been the most popular:
  1. Family Values -- 16 Sep 2013: About my great great uncle's brother-in-law, William Rolfe Kelley and his partner, Dinah Rush, a former slave.
  2. Guest Blog: What's in a Name? -- 8 Jan 2014: About how naming your children after ancestors can occasionally go awry.
  3. Trip Around the World: New York to Egypt -- 6 Sep 2013: About my aunt's family's trip to British East Africa in 1920.
  4. Polio -- The Summer Scourge -- 9 Jul 2013: We always thought my paternal grandfather contracted polio as young child and that's why one leg was shorter than the other. However, his half brother claimed that was caused by measles on the application to commit my grandfather to an orphanage.
  5. Honoring a Union Ancestor on Labor Day -- 2 Sep 2013: About my sister-in-law's grand uncle, president of United Rubber Workers of America Local #45.
  6. A Surprise in My Inbox: Ternes Family Photograph -- 5 Sep 2013: About how I received a photograph about which Edith Mary Madeline (Ternes) Reynolds described in a voice recording she sent to another relative interested in genealogy.
  7. Norman Baker -- Quack, Killer and All Around Scum -- 8 Feb 2013: About the Baker cancer hospital in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Jonathan Hiller's wife died there in 1938.
  8. Dicken's Bleak House Is about My Family -- 25 Feb 2013: Discovering the Jarndyce v Jarndyce case in Bleak House is about the Jennings inheritance "frenzy."
  9. It's Ternes Time…Again -- 31 Jul 2013: About why Christian Ternes went to Panama and his life and death in that country.
  10. Trip Around the World: Egypt to Kenya -- 9 Sep 2013: About my aunt's family's trip to British East Africa in 1920.
I've been fortunate to "meet," usually virtually, with some wonderfully generous people who have been willing to share what they know about our common ancestors. Many of these stories are theirs.

Your Family Tree magazine, December 2013, Issue 136

This blog and other social media activity led to having an article published in Your Family Tree magazine, December 2013 issue, and a request for another article to be published sometime in 2014.

I hope you've enjoyed reading some of the posts as much as I've enjoyed researching and writing them. Roll on year two!