Sunday, August 30, 2015

52 Ancestors #35: Yearbooks for Personality has a collection of school and college yearbooks that includes priceless information about nearly 300 million people. I consider them priceless because they do a few things for my research I like very much:
  • Pinpoints a person and likely their family in a specific place at a particular time that is often in between when the decennial census are enumerated
  • Often includes a photograph
  • Identifies whether they played sports or joined a club, indicating the interests of an ancestor
I enjoy adding these little snippets of personality to my tree and my blog writing. Here are a few examples of adding personality type color to your tree from recent research I'm doing for my aunt.

My Aunt Katherine's 3rd cousin; image courtesy

Husband of Aunt Katherine's 2nd cousin once removed; image courtesy

And my personal favorite from the 1920 Salem College Yearbook, Sights and Sounds:

My 4th cousin once removed; image courtesy of

MAE HAIRSTON, Danville, Va.
Deal little Mae, the youngest member of our class. Smart? Well we'll say she is! Mae hails from Ole Virginia, and a more loyal soul of that dear old state never breathed. Everyone loves Mae; loves her generous heart and unspoiled frankness. Who would dream that in her heart she desires "Rights for women"? Well she does and we're proud of her!

More about Mae

I do have a few issues with how prompts us to use these sources:
  • After reviewing the record, they want to add it to my ancestor's timeline as a Residence fact. Frequently, in a large city that would be correct. If, however, it is a college or university yearbook, then the ancestor's residence is not always the city in which the institution of higher learning is located. This also applies to rural counties. The school may be located in the county seat, but my ancestor lived elsewhere in the county. I would prefer it if the school yearbook source citation would be added to the timeline as an Education fact.
  • is not smart enough to calculate the age based on the grade the person is in when they appeared in the yearbook. Instead, it assumes all people attending school are 16 years old. So do not expect the birth year associated with the record to be extremely accurate.
I usually add an Education fact to the timeline and go to the Facts and Sources tab to edit the source citation so that it is associated to the new Education fact and then go back to the timeline and delete the erroneous Residence fact.

To search this collection for your ancestors, click SEARCH >> CARD CATALOG from the navigation menu; enter School as your search term; and click U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012. Or from an ancestor's detail page click the Search Records link under their name near the top of the page.  Then click Schools, Directories & Church Histories from the Search Categories in the left column.

Happy hunting!

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

An Early Feminist of the Very Best Kind

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Guest Blog: A Star in Heaven: Chelsea Ann Tucker (1989-2015)

Chelsea Tucker would have been 26 years old today. She was beautiful, vibrant and tragically was killed earlier this year. Chelsea was my brother's niece. Aunt Celeste and Uncle John loved her very much and wanted to share their memories of Chelsea on this special day. I am honored they asked if they could do so by posting a guest blog.

Chelsea Ann Tucker (1989-2015)

By John and Celeste (Tucker) Jennings

Aunt Celeste remembers...

I remember when John and I took you and Heather to Disney World three months after we were married. Yes, we were brand new newlyweds. Heather was 12 and you were 9. We took you guys to eat at the Pizza Hut; and, when the waitress took our drink order, I told her I wanted the biggest beer she had. Boy, did I get a look from her! We left Orlando and drove all the way to St. George Island, driving across the whole state of Florida. You and Heather sat in the back seat, singing at the top of your lungs and singing different songs, of course. That was when Walkman's were popular.

Heather and Chelsea at Disney World; personal collection

Heather and Chelsea clowning around at Disney World; personal

I remember the time when our family went to St. George Island, Florida, over the 4th of July. We were all sitting around drinking fuzzy navels, not paying you any attention. You picked up someone's drink and started drinking it. Your Daddy wasn't very happy when you did that. So he carried you up to bed and you looked up at him and asked, "Is this a waterbed?" You were a little bitty thing then.

I remember you had a little bit of tomboy in your blood. You and your Daddy loved to go dove hunting together. He would shoot a dove and you would go retrieve them. He even bought you a gun and gave it to you. I didn't know they made guns that small with barrels so short. I don't think there was anything you wouldn't try. You were something else! Definitely a Daddy's girl; both you and Heather loved your Daddy.

Chelsea and her Daddy, Mark Tucker

I look to the stars in the sky in heaven on this day, which would have been your birthday, and send love, hugs and kisses. I miss you like crazy!

We remember...

I remember not long after your Daddy died, we took you, Heather, your Mom and MaMa to visit Washington, DC. We all stayed at Pete and Schalene's (Uncle John's sister) house, but spent most of our time sightseeing. All the usual stuff...the monuments and museums along the mall, etc. We also toured a winery (whoever thought northern Virginia had wineries?) We all favored the white wines over the reds. We went to Mount Vernon -- George Washington's house -- where an impromptu concert by period musicians caught everyone's attention. We had dinner, our last night in Washington, at an authentic Chinese restaurant in Chinatown where the world's largest margarita was liberally shared. WARNING: photograph may be incriminating!

Heather and Chelsea at a Chinatown restaurant in Washington, DC;
personal collection

Uncle John remembers...

I remember when you were 10 or 12, you came to Anniston, Alabama, to visit usYour Aunt Celeste looked at me and we said, "What are we going to do with a kid? What is there to do in Anniston?" We took you to a local baseball field to watch a Little League game. At least you would be around kids your own age. We sat in some folding chairs along the fence just past the end of the dugout. The players soon caught sight of you. One boy would peek around the corner at you and then go back to tell his friend -- a whisper and a sly pointing of his finger towards you. Then another boy would come around the corner of the dugout for a glimpse. At the on-deck circle, they had their chance to impress. The boys would come out, head held high and chest out, pick up a bat with more practice weights than they could handle and take a Major League swing. You know how boys are when they are trying to impress! Next, they would take a peek over their shoulder to see if you were watching. You created a buzz at the Anniston Little League baseball field.

Chelsea, her MaMa, and Aunt Celeste; personal collection

I remember when you bought your first car -- not the first car you drove, but the first you bought -- a black Acura. You asked for help and advice negotiating the purchase, so several of us went with you to the dealership. You got a LOT of advice, didn't you? Most of it was contradictory. You wanted the car but were worried the insurance premiums might put it out of reach. Some of us encouraged you to buy the car and go with your heart. As your cold, analytical, dispassionate engineer-type uncle, I counseled you to wait until you knew all the facts before you bought the car. You listened to all of us, then worked out a way to take the car home but not purchase it until you figured out the insurance premiums. I was so impressed by how you handled the situation and thought you had such a good head on your shoulders.

The first car Chelsea bought; personal collection

I remember you were the first to call me "Unc John." I remember it well. We were at your house on a Sunday afternoon.  Celeste and I were still just dating at the time. When Chelsea called me Unc John, Celeste told her quietly behind my back "Don't call him that, you might scare him off."  She didn't know I heard. I smiled to myself: there was no scaring me off by that time. Before long I was shopping for a ring and a bottle.
I remember Celeste and I took you and Heather to the Atlanta Zoo.  You were both young kids at the time.  After a long day of walking around the zoo, looking at all the different animals, we got back in the car to head home.  I pulled off at an exit in Jonesboro.  At the stop light at the end of the off ramp I announced it was time to eat and asked everyone what they wanted.  "Chucky Cheeeeeeeeeze!" came the reply in unison from Heather and Chelsea --the 'cheese' being drawn out in a long, excited, high-pitched syllable.  Celeste and I didn't know what Chucky Cheese was, so out of total ignorance we agreed.  We soon learned that Chucky Cheese is a place parents take their kids when they want to quit being parents for an hour or two.  The kids were literally wilder than the animals at the zoo.  I think the lions would have been afraid of them.  I'm happy to say you and Heather were the best behaved children there.  We left full of extra cheesy pizza and with a ringing in our ears of a thousand screaming kids.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Last of the Covered Wagons: An Age of Optimism at the Turn of the Century

My AncestryDNA test results have led to many interesting discoveries but one of the earliest connections I figured out was with a fifth cousin once removed. Her tree included many wonderful old photographs of her mother's Beard family, the line we share, and letters they wrote. Perhaps, the most treasured outcome of this cousin connection was the gift of friendship. My "new" cousin has shared many things about her life, including a book her uncle, Clarence Mern Beard, wrote about his family's trip west in a covered wagon at the turn of the century. Railroads already linked east and west so the trip was unusual in that the family was still traveling by covered wagon in the late 1890s. She has graciously allowed me to share portions of the book on my blog.

Clarence wrote about the mood of optimism that gripped the country at the beginning of the twentieth century, a time when man thought science would triumph over nature. This portion of Clarence's book provides an interesting contemporary glimpse into those times.

"The first move of the McKinley Administration [note: inaugurated 4 May 1897] was that of placing a heavy duty on all imports, which were in competition with abundant American home products and high on the list was a tariff on wheat. As a result, the price of this grain shot up to a dollar a bushel. Now this move raised the price of bread and other cereals throughout the nation and aroused the indignation of the cotton-growing South. But since Colorado was one of the main producers of wheat, this high price brought a boom to the state, which was more substantial than the hoped for silver bonanza.

The effect of this stimulus did not become apparent until mid-summer, and in the meantime our finances during the winter and spring of 1897 receded to an all-time low. Then almost imperceptibly, we noticed that people were beginning to call, by asking for help and offering better pay. In fact, there was talk of importing Mexicans from south of the border. Father landed a job with an artesian well-drilling outfit at a dollar a day, and this work lasted for the balance of the summer.

In the early autumn, the San Luis Valley Graphic carried a feature article congratulating Bill Telindy, our landlord's son, upon his foresight in ordering the latest threshing equipment in anticipation of the tremendous harvest at hand.

This consisted of a J. I. Case, sixteen-horse-power tractor engine that was the last word in dynamic energy! Its companion was an advance separator, which was equipped with a cyclone stacker. This was a blower device that hurled the straw out through a pipe and replaced the endless-belt conveyor. This gaudily painted wonder-unit stood on exhibition for several days. One old timer in the admiring crowd was heard to say, "Gentlemen, this is progress! Only a short generation ago we had to cut our grain with a scythe and thrash it out by hand with a flail. I'm sure glad I lived to see this day!"

Schematic of a J. I Case threshing machine; image courtesy of Ralston

But like the shadow, which stalks every man's tracks, the rising cost of commodities managed to keep pace with that increased revenue. In fact, all America began to wrestle in earnest with the basic problem of society, which is the art of holding the ascending spiral of prices down to a point within the limits of the income. Economists began to use the term, "family budget."

The study of the law of cause and effect and the influence of action upon reaction became the vital issue of the day. Politicians and statesmen suggested ways and means whereby initiative could be encouraged and industry stimulated without establishing monopoly or sacrificing independence. The question was how to secure efficient management without encouraging oppressive and unscrupulous manipulation. The objective was to guarantee sustained and stable prosperity, and devise a system, which would save the country from these periodic waves of depression.

Everyone recognized the fact that America had entered upon a stage of transition and a general feeling of optimism prevailed. Some farsighted thinkers suggested that the machine, instead of throwing men out of work, would make mass production possible and create more and better jobs at the same time shortening hours and increasing wages. So there was general agreement that the new century would introduce an era of steady advancement and unlimited achievement.

During the closing years of the nineteenth century, the accent was upon invention and the development of novel ideas. We eagerly studied such periodicals as Scientific American, which described the construction and uses of the latest machines registered at the U.S. Patent Office.

One day we had the opportunity to observe the most glamorous of all new inventions at first hand. A man stopped at our house for the purpose of inviting us to attend a novel entertainment he was to give at the schoolhouse that night. There were to be colored magic lantern slides, but the feature was a talking machine that he called a graphophone. He told us the name was coined from the Latin word "grapho" (to write) joined with the Greek word "phone" (voice) and was literally, "written voice." The admission price was $0.10; but when mother told him it would be impossible for us to attend, he offered to play a few of these records for us in exchange for his lunch and feed for his horses -- a proposition which we readily accepted.

Graphophone circa 1901; image courtesy of Wikipedia

He asked for a tin dishpan, which he turned upside down and upon which he set his machine. He explained that the vibration of this pan acted at accentuate the tone and volume of the sound produced by the instrument. And he was right about the quality of the music; for I was transported into a new world when the diamond touched the wax cylinder and a cultured voice announced, "A march, 'Columbia the Gem of the Ocean,' played by the New York Military Band. Edison Record." Instinctively, I closed my eyes and as I did so I seemed to visualize the bright lights and sense the vibrant life of the great metropolis. My mind was projected into the future and I was certain that with improved methods of sound reproduction and the perfecting of this device, the whole nation would be introduced to the great masters and hear the world's finest artists interpret their compositions. This machine would convey the best efforts of the centers of culture conveyed to the very outposts of civilization. We had entered the golden age of inter-communication."

Last of the Covered Wagons: Duck and Cover
Last of the Covered Wagons: Meeting a Rattlesnake
Last of the Covered Wagons: The Black Rim Canyon

Sunday, August 23, 2015

52 Ancestors #34: John Wesley Riggin's Farm

Ancestor Name: John Wesley "Wes" Riggin (about 1835-before October 1886)

One of my great great grandfathers was John Wesley "Wes" Riggin. He was born about 1835 in Illinois, likely Madison County, to Alfred and Sarah "Sallie" (Piper) Riggin. He married Mary Ramsey in 1858. When the 1860 census was enumerated, they had a 5-month-old baby named Josephine and John owned a farm valued at $800. His personal property was valued at $135.

Ten years later, he was a widower with three children and lived with his younger brother, William, who was the head of the household, his widowed mother, Sallie, and sister, Mary Jane (Riggin) Horton, and her young son.

Wes married Clementine Wells later that year. During the course of their marriage, they had six children -- five boys and one girl, who was my great grandmother, Ida Mae Riggin. Wes was a farmer until his death, which likely was sometime in 1888 before October. That month Clementine went to court to become the legal guardian of her minor children.

In an earlier blog post, I described the family farm in this way:

"The Riggin farm in Pin Oak Township was 38 acres, which Wes rented for shares of products he produced on the land. While on the small side, the farm seemed to be a going concern, used primarily to raise cereal crops, such as corn, oats and wheat, and Irish potatoes. Only two acres were wooded. Farm stock included 2 horses, 7 swine, and 23 chickens. The farmed produced about $400 a year in income and Wes hired hands for two weeks out of the year during harvest time."

How did I get such a specific description of the farm worked by Wes Riggin?

That's where the 1880 U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules came in handy. Wes Riggin's farm was enumerated in that schedule on 3 June. I use another document, Agricultural Census 1850-1900 to explain the various fields on the schedule, which helps me describe ancestors' farms when I write. It was critical to even reading the schedule for Wes Riggin as the image was so poor.

1880 U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedule for Wes Riggin, a
farmer in Pin Oak Township, Madison, Illinois; image courtesy of

Let's break it down into the four parts of the schedule...

1880 Statistics of Agriculture: Schedule 2, first section of form; image
courtesy of

The Census Act of 1879 provided for a more elaborate collection of statistics, and a new schedule for agriculture was adopted. This contained 100 questions related to 25 subjects. Although the sheets were of blanket form, but 20 farms could be entered, 10 on each page. The most important additions to this schedule were the questions of land tenure and those relating to the areas of the various crops. Inquiries for rice, cotton, and sugar cane were printed on the schedules for Southern states only.

For John Riggin, the following information was included:
  • The Name: John Riggins
  • Tenure/Owner:
  • Tenure/Rents for fixed money rental:
  • Tenure/Rents for shares of products: X (Yes)
  • Improved: Tilled, including fallow and grass in rotation (whether pasture or meadow): [illegible], but I have settled on 38 after close examination of how enumerator wrote numbers and the number of acres planted in specific crops
  • Improved: Permanent meadows, permanent pastures, orchards, vineyards:
  • Unimproved: Woodlands and forest:
  • Unimproved: Other unimproved, including "old fields" not growing wood:
  • Farm value/Of farm, including land, fences, and buildings: $1,800
  • Farm value/Of farming implements and machinery: $50
  • Farm value/Of live stock: $100
  • Fences/Cost of building and repairing in 1879:
  • Cost of fertilizers purchased in 1879:
  • Labor/Amount paid for wages for farm labor during 1879, including value of board: $10
  • Labor/Weeks hired labor in 1879 upon farm (and dairy), excluding housework: 2 weeks
  • Estimated value of all farm products (sold, consumed, or on hand) for 1879: $400
  • Grasslands/Acreage, 1879/Mown:
  • Grasslands/Acreage, 1879/Not mown:
  • Grasslands/Products harvested, 1879/Hay:
  • Grasslands/Products harvested, 1879/Clover seed:
  • Grasslands/Products harvested, 1879/Grass seed:
  • Horses of all ages on hand June 1, 1880: 2
  • Mules and asses, all ages, on hand June 1, 1880:
1880 Statistics of Agriculture, Schedule 2, second part of form; image
courtesy of

  • Neat cattle and their products/On hand June 1, 1880/Working oxen:
  • Neat cattle and their products/On hand June 1, 1880/Milch cows:
  • Neat cattle and their products/On hand June 1, 1880/Others:
  • Neat cattle and their products/Movement, 1879/Calves dropped:
  • Neat cattle and their products/Cattle of all ages/Purchased:
  • Neat cattle and their products/Cattle of all ages/Sold living:
  • Neat cattle and their products/Cattle of all ages/Slaughtered:
  • Neat cattle and their products/Cattle of all ages/Died, strayed, and stolen and not recovered:
  • Neat cattle and their products/Milk sold or sent to butter and cheese factories in 1879:
  • Neat cattle and their products/Butter made on the farm in 1879:
  • Neat cattle and their products/Cheese made on the farm in 1879:
  • Sheep/On hand June 1, 1880:
  • Sheep/Movement/Lambs dropped:
  • Sheep/Movement, 1879/Sheep and lambs/Purchased:
  • Sheep/Movement, 1879/Sheep and lambs/Sold living:
  • Sheep/Movement, 1879/Sheep and lambs/Slaughtered:
  • Sheep/Movement, 1879/Sheep and lambs/Killed by dogs:
  • Sheep/Movement, 1879/Sheep and lambs/Died of disease:
  • Sheep/Movement, 1879/Sheep and lambs/Died of stress of weather:
  • Sheep/Clip, spring 1880, shorn and to be shorn/Fleeces:
  • Sheep/Clip, spring 1880, shorn and to be shorn/Weight:
  • Swine/On hand June 1, 1880: 7
  • Poultry on hand June 1, 1880, exclusive of spring hatching/Barnyard: 21
  • Poultry on hand June 1, 1880, exclusive of spring hatching/Other: 2
  • Eggs produced in 1879: 180
1880 Statistics of Agriculture, Schedule 2, third part of form; image
courtesy of

  • Cereals/Barley, 1879/Acreage:
  • Cereals/Barley, 1879/Crop:
  • Cereals/Buckwheat, 1879/Acreage:
  • Cereals/Buckwheat, 1879/Crop:
  • Cereals/Indian corn, 1879/Acreage: 21 acres
  • Cereals/Indian corn, 1879/Crop: 1,000 bushels
  • Cereals/Oat, 1879/Acreage: 4 acres
  • Cereals/Oat, 1879/Crop: 100 bushels
  • Cereals/Rye, 1879/Acreage:
  • Cereals/Rye, 1879/Crop:
  • Cereals/Wheat, 1879/Acreage: 10 acres
  • Cereals/Wheat, 1879/Crop: 200 bushels
  • Pulse/Canada peas (dry) in 1879:
  • Pulse/Beans (dry) in 1879:
  • Fiber/Flax, 1879/Acres in crop:
  • Fiber/Flax, 1879/Seed:
  • Fiber/Flax, 1879/Straw:
  • Fiber/Flax, 1879/Fiber:
  • Fiber/Hemp/Acres:
  • Fiber/Hemp/Tons:
  • Sugar/Sorghum, 1879/Acres in crop:
  • Sugar/Sorghum, 1879/Sugar
  • Sugar/Sorghum, 1879/Molassas
  • Sugar/Maple, 1879/Sugar:
  • Sugar/Maple, 1879/Molassas:
  • Broom Corn, 1879/Acres:
  • Broom corn, 1879/Pounds:
1880 Statistics of Agriculture, Schedule 2, fourth part of form; image
courtesy of

  • Hops, 1879/Acreage:
  • Hops, 1879/Crop:
  • Potatoes (Irish), 1879/Acreage: 1
  • Potatoes (Irish), 1879/Crop: 20 bushels
  • Tobacco, 1879/Acreage:
  • Tobacco, 1879/Crop:
  • Orchards, 1879/Apple/Acres:
  • Orchards, 1879/Apple/Bearing trees:
  • Orchards, 1879/Apple/Bushels, 1879:
  • Orchards, 1879/Peach/Acres:
  • Orchards, 1879/Peach/Bearing trees:
  • Orchards, 1879/Peach/Bushels, 1879:
  • Orchards, 1879/Total value of orchard products of all kinds sold or consumed:
  • Nurseries/Acres:
  • Nurseries/Value of produce sold in 1879
  • Vineyards/Acres:
  • Vineyards/Grapes sold in 1879:
  • Vineyards/Wine made in 1879:
  • Market gardens/Value of produce sold in 1879:
  • Bees, 1879/Honey:
  • Bees, 1879/Wax:
  • Forest products/Amount of wood cut in 1879: 2
  • Forest products/Value of all first products sold or consumed in 1879: $12
This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Non-Population.

Other posts about Wes Riggin's family include:

Photographs of My Great Great Grandmother
The Too Brief Life of Ida Mae (Riggin) Muir
An Adoption on a Train

Friday, August 21, 2015

Killed During the Battle of Guam

During a recent Lange Cousins Reunion, Aunt Katherine asked me to look into her father's family as she knew very little about them. She gave me the name of her father and who she believed his parents to be and off I went. Along the way I "met" many interesting ancestors of Aunt Katherine and even a few heroes. Today, I'd like to introduce Aunt Katherine, and you, to one of the heroes -- her second cousin once removed, John Franklin Walter (1924-1944).

John was born on 16 June 1924 in Redland, Maryland, an unincorporated place in Montgomery County. His father was  George Cloudsley Walter, a farmer, and his mother was Edna Mae (Zimmerman) Walter. John was one of thirteen children, although two sisters died in infancy. When the 1940 census was enumerated John was 15 years old, had completed the 8th grade and worked as a farm hand on his father's farm.

Two years later he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in October as a private. He was assigned to Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines (reinforcing the 21st), 3rd Marine Division and trained at New River Marine Corps Air Station in Onslow County, North Carolina, and Camp Dunlap in Niland, California. According to the muster rolls for John's unit he was a truck driver for Battery F, a 75mm pack howitzer company.

12th Marines (Artillery) firing a 75mm pack howitzer on Bougainville;
photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

Portions of the 3rd Marine Division had echeloned to Auckland, New Zealand, between January and March 1943. The division moved to Guadalcanal in June 1943 for additional training. John and his unit likely joined the division in New Zealand or Guadalcanal as his muster roll for April 1943 listed him as being "in the field."

The 3rd Marine Division saw action in the battles of Bougainville and and Guam. During the Battle of Bougainville division troops made an amphibious landing on the beaches on the night of 1 November 1943. It took about three and a half months of bitter fighting before the island was securely in the hands of Allied forces. The Japanese made a counterattack in March 1944 but were repulsed. Nearly 400 Marines were killed during the battles.

Japanese antiaircraft gunners on the beaches of Bougainville, which opposed
the American amphibious landing; photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

In January 1944 3rd Marine Division returned to Guadalcanal to rest, refit, and train. Next, the division took part in the Battle of Guam. According to Wikipedia, this battle took place from 21 July to 10 August 1944. The 3rd Marine Division landed near Agana at 8:29 on the morning of 21 July. By nightfall the beachhead was between 6,000 and 7,000 feet deep. During the night the Japanese infiltrated the Allied lines but were driven back with heavy losses in men and equipment. For the next several days the 3rd Marine Division, the 77th Infantry Division and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade deepened their penetration and repulsed the enemy. It was during this period of fighting that PFC John Franklin Walter was killed. Two days after his death the three beachheads were joined on July 28 and Allied forces turned north to sweep the island of the enemy.

Map showing the progress of the Battle of Guam; courtesy of Wikipedia

The muster roll for 3rd Battalion for the period 1 July through 31 July 1944 listed John F. Walter, PFC as "died" and went on to say "see paragraph 2(c) of secret letter from commanding officer, this organization, to Director of Personnel, Marine Corps, dated 25 October 1944."

John's body was interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on 1 December 1949.

John Franklin Walter headstone; image courtesy of and the
Honolulu, Hawaii, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
(Punchbowl), 1941-2011, record collection

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

The other day, I was working on the husband of my Aunt Katherine's second cousin once removed. Confused yet? It gets worse. While his name, George F. Ballenger, didn't ring any bells, his mother's name, Annie Spencer did, especially since George married Loraine Spencer. What was going on?

I looked at the 1920 census record for George again and noticed he lived with his mother and step-father, James D. Spencer. That's when all the puzzle pieces clicked together. James D. Spencer was a name I remembered. (I had a lot of trouble finding his death date.)

So George married the granddaughter of his step-father! Sometimes you just need a picture, or diagram, to keep all the relationships straight:

Relationship between George F. Ballenger, Jr., and his wife,
Loraine Spencer

A picture is worth a thousand words!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Weather Outside Was Frightful

Hurricane Camille made landfall in Waveland, Mississippi as a Category 5 (on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) storm on 17 August 1969.  In all nearly 300 people were killed in the U.S., over 8,900 were injured nearly 6,000 homes were destroyed, and approximately 14,000 severely damaged. Estimated total damage costs were $9.13 billion in today's dollars, making it the second most expensive hurricane in history up to that point.

Track of Hurricane Camille; map courtesy of Wikipedia

Luckily, for the residents of Louisiana, they were on the western side of the hurricane. Yet, the death and destruction were still intense. Winds gusted up to 125 miles per hour in Slidell, Louisiana, where many members of the extended Muir family lived. Louisiana experienced storm surges of 10 to 16 feet of water, which can be catastrophic for low-lying coastal areas.

Eastbound lanes of U.S. Highway 90; image courtesy of Wikipedia

It was the last killer hurricane to make landfall with only last-minute warnings. While the use of satellites was in its infancy at the time of Camille, the storm intensified in the Gulf of Mexico and defied predictions that it would hit the Florida panhandle. The science and technology used to predict hurricanes has rapidly advanced since Camille, which makes the devastation in the wake of Katrina all the more inexplicable.

Ship was part of the destruction caused by Camille; photograph courtesy
of the Times-Picayune

This post was originally published as part of my multi-volume book, The Descendants of Robert Muir (c1800-1869)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

52 Ancestors #33: Blind Since Birth

Ancestor Name: Abner Beard (1812-before 1900)

In FamilyTree Maker (FTM) I created a Documented Facts report, which turned out to be 26,103 pages long. I searched it for "1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes" and found Abner Beard.

Abner had some pretty interesting sources citations. He was a plaintiff in a chancery court case  brought by his uncle against the heirs of his father and he was born blind and, therefore, was listed in the 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes.

He was born in 1812 in Franklin County, Virginia, to Robert Mitchell and Nancy C. (Webb) Beard. His father was a professor of religion and a veteran of the War of 1812 having served in the 121st Regiment, Virginia Militia.  Abner was their eldest child. He married Martha Hale in 1843 in Franklin County. They had two children by 1860, Robert M. (1854) and Mary A. (1856) and Abner worked as a potter. The value of his personal property was $100. He was 48 years old and blind.

In 1870 the family lived in Blackwater, Virginia, and Abner did not work. Two more daughters were born since the previous census, Celestia (1860) and  Sally (1865), so the family now consisted of four children. Abner's blind condition is once again noted on the census form. So it's not surprising that he would be listed on the special schedule for the 1880 census.

Abner Beard in the 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent and
Delinquent Classes; image courtesy of

Abner was enumerated in 1880, along with his wife and three children, Robert M., Celestia, and Sally. Abner's occupation was listed as pipe maker, and he was again listed as being blind. The special census indicated Abner was partially self-supporting, his blindness was from birth and was total, and he had never been institutionalized for his condition.

Things get kind of murky after 1880 and what I wouldn't give for an 1890 census! Robert M. Beard, their only son, disappeared after the 1880 census; their daughter, Mary A., after the 1870 census. Celeste married Lewis Hale in 1886.

Robert's widow, Martha, lived with her brother David Hale and his wife in 1900. By 1920 she lived with her daughter and son-in-law, Celestia and Lewis Hale. Martha died later that year.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Defective, Dependent & Delinquent.

The Court Case Regarding the Slaves of Mary (Mitchell) Beard

Thursday, August 13, 2015

In Dogged Pursuit

Many of my cousins ask me how I find information about our shared ancestors. Sometimes it isn't easy. I'll use a recent example of sorting out Aunt Katherine's first cousin twice removed, William J Walter and his wife Lucy Mary Hann. At a family reunion last month, Aunt Katherine, who is 93 years old, asked me to look into her father's family as she didn't know anything about them. She gave me her father's name, Millard Aloyius Walter, and the names of who she thought his parents were. Aunt Katherine is my mother's brother's widow. So I am not related to the Walter family by blood, only by love and affection.

When I started researching William J. Walter, his wife Mary L. Walter and daughter Mary V., I ran into problems. There were several men named William Walter living in Adams County, Pennsylvania, during the same time as my William J. Walter. They are likely all related but the sheer number of men with the same name was giving me fits.

How William J. Walter was related to my aunt's father, Millard
Aloyius Walter

My issues were many:
  • I had no maiden name for William's wife
  • Daughter Mary V. was born about 1878 according to the 1880 census
  • Daughter Mary R. was born in August 1891 according to the 1900 census; Sophia Hann, mother-in-law, lived with William J. and Mary L. Walter. Was Hann Mary's maiden name or had her mother remarried?
  • I couldn't find the family in the 1910 census
  • Two grandsons, Samuel (9) and James (8) Vaughn, lived with William J. and Mary L. Walter in 1920
  • Where was the family in 1930?
  • Why was I getting a 1940 census hint for William and Mary Walter in Erie County, Pennsylvania? Did they really move halfway across the state when they were 90+ years old?
  • I could find no record of William J. Walter's death even though he lived his entire life in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  • Were all these records even for the same person as Walter and Walters were used interchangeably as surnames?
  • Four unsourced public trees listed his wife as Mary Lucy Hann, not Mary L. Walter. Could they be correct?
The Gettysburg Times is available on and it has been my go-to source for the Walter family when the going gets tough. I quickly found this record, which I thought explained the grandchildren and gave me a marriage date for Mary R.

The Gettysburg Times, dated 9 August 1929

  • Was daughter Mary R.'s middle name Ruth or was her name Ruth Mary Walter?
  • Why did they get married 19 years after their son Samuel was born?
  • Why is the surname listed as Walters instead of Walter? Am I even tracking the right family.
Scanning the entire page of the newspaper, I realized this article was a continuation of the "Out of the Past Twenty Years Ago" column. So the marriage of Miss Ruth M. Walter occurred in 1909. With her married name, I was able to find her death certificate and the relevant census records. I learned that her widowed mother, Mary L. Walter lived with Ruth and her husband in 1930 and 1940.

With that information, I was able to find a death certificate for Lucy Mary Walter, who's parents were listed as Philip and Saria (Robertson) Hann. This confirmed her maiden name. Once I had a death date, I was able to locate a Find A Grave record. Her name was Lucy M. Walter on her headstone. She was buried St. Francis Xavier Cemetery in Gettysburg. I looked through the memorials of people buried there but no William Walter born in the correct time period was buried there or in any cemetery in Adams County, Pennsylvania, where Gettysburg is located.

Lucy Mary (Hann) Walter's headstone (year of birth is incorrect);
photograph courtesy of Find A Grave volunteer, Karen Hess

I have found a Gallia County, Ohio, burial record for a William J. Walter (1853-1930), which could be my William J. Walter, but a Find A Grave search quickly told me that record was for a William James Walter and should be ignored.

I still don't have a date of death for William J. Walter and Mary V. Walter's fate hasn't been definitively determined but the rest of the family got sorted out. And that how it goes sometimes...every new bit of information has been hard won!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Court Case Regarding the Slaves of Mary (Mitchell) Beard

Mary (Mitchell) Beard of Bedford County, Virginia, died 28 July 1843, twenty-nine years after the death of her husband, Samuel Beard. He had served on two separate occasions in the Revolutionary War and during his last term of service as a Captain. Mary had collected a military pension since 1839. Together Samuel and Mary had seven children who lived to adulthood and were heirs to their estate. Part of the property in the estate included four slaves held in dower by Mary (Mitchell) Beard.

The four named slaves were: HENNY, WALLACE, DICK, and RACHEL.

The children of Samuel and Mary (Mitchell) Beard and heirs to their estate, which included the above mentioned slaves, were:
  • James Harvey Beard married 1) Mary McMullin or McMullen and 2) Rhoda Parker
  • Elizabeth "Betsey" Beard married Rufus Thomas
  • Robert Mitchell Beard married Nancy C. Webb
  • Nancy A. Beard married Mitchell Ewing
  • Frances G. Beard married William C. Mitchell
  • John Beard
  • Mary "Polly E. Beard married Bird S. Webb
Robert Mitchell Beard had moved from Bedford County and became a professor of religion in Franklin County, Virginia. There he married Nancy C. Webb. Robert died on 19 January 1837 at the age of 53 years. His widow was a native of Franklin County and she left with their children, likely the year after her husband's death, for Missouri in a wagon train. Bird S. Webb and Robert's widow were siblings and Bird's family joined the wagon train.

Conestoga wagon; image of painting courtesy of Wikipedia

Robert and Nancy (Webb) Beard's children were entitled to their father's portion of the estate of Samuel and Mary Beard since their father was alive at the time of Samuel's death. Polly (Beard) Webb was also entitled to a portion. That was a problem for the other siblings; they had no idea where those heirs were. The other issue they had was how to equitably distribute four slaves among the 13 heirs (children of Samuel and Mary Beard and children of Robert Mitchell Beard). The children of Robert Mitchell and Nancy C. (Webb) Beard were:
  • Abner Beard married Martha Hale
  • Samuel A. Beard
  • Ferdinand Beard married Mary Wyatt Howell
  • Sarah Ann Beard married Henry S. Howell
  • John C. Beard married Mildred A. Allen
  • Amanda Beard married Henry S. Howell after the death of her sister, Sarah Ann
  • Robert H. Beard
  • Harvey C. Beard married Tabitha M. (Jacobs) Howell, a widow
So the siblings who lived in Bedford County took the matter to Chancery Court and filed an initial bill of complaint soon after Mary (Mitchell) Beard died. In that bill, they asked the court allow the slaves to be sold so the proceeds could be distributed among the lawful heirs. They also wanted the heirs of Robert Mitchell Beard to be named as defendants so that a notice could be published which would seek their whereabouts. The requested notice was published in the Lynchburg Virginian on two successive months. The heirs for Robert M. Mitchell did not respond.

Heirs of Samuel and Mary (Mitchell) Beard and their relationship
to the decedents.

Some explanation is likely in order. Those people with a relationship to RMB are the children of Robert Mitchell Beard, a son of Samuel and Mary (Mitchell) Beard. Abner Beard remained in Franklin County and his location was known to his aunts and uncles. As a result he was a plaintiff in the case. Mary "Polly" (Beard) Webb moved to Franklin County when she married and she and her husband went to Missouri, thus while a daughter of the decedents, she became a defendant in the case as her whereabouts were also unknown to her siblings. Robert Mitchell and Nancy C. (Webb) Beard had a son named Harvey C. Beard in 1837. He was likely born shortly after his father's death. I believe he was not named in the case because his existence was unknown to the plaintiffs.

As a result of that non-response the court appointed two commissioners to oversee the sale of the slaves and conduct the sale at the best possible time and with the best publicity possible. Those commissioners conducted the sale on 20 February 1844 at the Bedford County Courthouse in Liberty.

Snippet from Chancery Cause No. 1852-049 (page 14), which was
the Commissioners report to the court regarding the sale; image
courtesy of the Library of Virginia

John Beard purchased HENNY for $58.

Richard D. Watts purchased WALLACE for $402.

Robert Allen purchased DICK for $475.

Rufus Thomas purchased RACHEL for $16.25.

There is no record of the proceeds being distributed to the heirs. The last page in the file was an affidavit from the administrators of the long-lost heirs, the children of Robert Mitchell Beard. In that affidavit they wanted to know how much money the heirs they represented would receive.

So while we learned who the new owners of the four slaves were, which may help their possible descendants, those descendants of the defendants have no idea whether their ancestors received a portion of the proceeds. Granted, a small loose end in the grand scheme of things.

The big thing for my research is that this court case proves James Harvey Beard is the son of Samuel and Mary (Mitchell) Beard, which is all I needed in order to submit Samuel to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) as a proven Patriot.

Slave Name Roll Project
Proving James Harvey Beard's Father

Sunday, August 9, 2015

52 Ancestors #32: The 32 Great Great Greats

It would have been so easy to reprise a 27 December 2013 post about Henry Crawford Tucker and his 32 children, but I will adhere more closely to the optional prompt and write about my 32 three-times great grandparents.

Fan chart of my family tree made several months ago using  and my partialtree on

The two halves of my tree -- Dad's side and Mom's side -- could not be more dissimilar. On Dad's side, all but four of my 16 three-times great grandparents came from families that have been in what became the United States of America in Colonial times. I could keep the Colonial Dames (CDA), Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), United States Daughters of the War of 1812, and other lineage societies busy for years submitting applications. The 4 three-times great grandparents, who were "outliers," came from Scotland. Their children, James Muir and Margaret Semple, married in 1873 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1887.

Mom's side of my tree, on the other hand, is filled with unknowns. Mom considered herself to be 100 percent German yet no one has any idea from where in Germany her ancestors originated. Her mother's parents were German Baptists, who lived in the Russian Empire (it is now Ukraine), and immigrated to Canada in 1893 due to religious persecution. Previous to Russia, they lived in what is now Poland. I suspect there is some Polish blood thrown into the mix. What I know about my maternal grandmother's ancestors is due in large part to Lucille Marion (Fillenberg) Effa (1934-2015) and her 2003 book, Our Schalin Family. It proved to be an invaluable starting point for my research.

Lucille Marion (Fillenberg) Effa; courtesy of the
Vancouver Sun

Mom's Dad immigrated to Canada from the same region of Russia in 1911. His family was Lutheran but had a similar history. I know even less about them. My big breakthrough to date was learning the names of his four grandparents, which I never would have accomplished without joining the Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe (SGGEE). Such a small, small step forward in what will be a long journey.

Dad's Side

  1. John William Jennings, Sr. -- born about 1777 in Amherst County, Virginia; married Anna Mariah Waldron, 1805; served in Captain William Flood's Company, 5th Infantry Regiment, Virginia Militia during the War of 1812; died 19 December 1858 in Amherst County
  2. Anna Mariah Waldron -- born in 1782 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia; married John William Jennings, Sr., 1805; died 24 October 1868 in Amherst County
  3. Thomas Jewell -- unknown birth date; died before 1833 when Jesse, James and Terisha Jewell were made guardians of orphaned Catherine Jewell in Amherst County
  4. Unknown -- but may have been Sarah "Sally" Guilford, who would have also died before 1833; I am still working on proving this theory
  5. James Harvey Beard -- born 7 September 1780 in Bedford County, Virginia; married Mary McMullen or McMullin, 1811; served in a Virginia Militia artillery battalion during the War of 1812; died 26 September 1781 in Bedford County
  6. Mary McMullen or McMullin -- unknown birth date; married James Harvey Beard, 1811; died before 1850 when her husband married Rhoda Parker
  7. Daniel Mitchell -- born about 1781 in Virginia; married Sarah "Sally" Wood, 1816; died after 1860
  8. Sarah "Sally" Wood -- born 1792 in Virginia; married Daniel Mitchell, 1816; died after 1860
  9. Robert Muir -- born about 1800 in Northern Ireland; married Henrietta Brown, 1828; died 20 April 1869 in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, Scotland
  10. Henrietta Brown -- unknown birth date; married Robert Muir, 1828; died before 1856 in Scotland
  11. Peter Semple -- 5 May 1822 in Dalserf, Lanarkshire, Scotland; married Janet Torrance, 1844; died 29 March 1904 in Dalserf
  12. Janet Torrance -- 27 July 1825 in Stonehouse; married Peter Semple, 1844; died 16 November 1896 in Dalserf
  13. Alfred Riggin born about 1811 in Tennessee; married Sarah "Sally' Piper, 1833; died after 1850 
  14. Sarah "Sally" Piper -- 7 March 1813 in Ohio; married Alfred Riggin, 1833; died 30 July 1887 in Troy, Madison, Illinois
  15. James Wells -- born about 1808; married Mary Hearelson on an unknown date; died 19 July 1861 in Troy, Illinois
  16. Mary Hearelson 8 November 1814 in North Carolina; married James Wells on an unknown date; died 12 December 1882 in Troy
Memorial monument for Peter Semple, which is located in the Dalserf
Parish Church Cemetery; photograph taken for me by Andrew Scorgie
in 2013 while in Dalserf photographing my ancestors' home town

Mom's Side

  1. Unknown Lange -- father of Friedrich Lange, who died before 1866
  2. Unknown -- mother of Friedrich Lange
  3. Unknown Schenschke -- father of Wilhelmina Schenscke, who died before 1866
  4. Unknown -- mother of Friedrich Lange
  5. Unknown Ludwig -- father of Gottfried Ludwig
  6. Unknown -- mother of Gottfried Ludwig
  7. Unknown Irgang -- father of Ernestine Irgang, who died before 1866
  8. Unknown -- mother of Ernestine Irgang
  9. Johann Samuel Schalin born 26 August 1796 in Maliniec, Poland; married Anna Elisabeth Buech, 1822; died 2 December 1847 in Maliniec
  10. Anna Elisabeth Buech -- born 18 April 1802 in Gross, Poland; married Johann Samuel Schalin, 1822; died on an unknown date
  11. Johann Gottfried Zander born about 1796; married Susanne Wilde on an unknown date; died on an unknown date
  12. Susanne Wilde born about 1805; married Johann Gottfried Zander on an unknown date; died on an unknown date
  13. Unknown Fabriske -- paternal grandfather of Auguste Fabriske, my great grandmother
  14. Unknown -- paternal grandmother of Auguste Fabriske
  15. Unknown -- maternal grandfather of Auguste Fabriske
  16. Unknown -- maternal grandmother of Auguste Fabriske
The registration of the marriage of Carl August Lange and Carolina Ludwig,
which gave me the names of their parents, my only breakthrough to date
on my maternal grandfather's side of the family; image courtesy of SGGEE

Mattias Steinke, of the German Genealogy Facebook Group, graciously transcribed the record for me:

nr 307 Lange, August residing in Ludwischin Schepple (Ludwiszyn-Szepiel), county of Luck, son of the deceased Friedrich Lange and his deceased wife Wilhelmine nee Schensche, born in Kamen, (russian) province of Petrikau with Caroline Ludwig, daughter of Gottfried Ludwig and his deceased wife Ernestine nee Irgang of Adnarka (?) county of Luzk, born in Grabina, province of Petrikau, bride of lutheran confession. Groom is unmarried and 25 years old. Bride is unmarried and 19 years old. The banns were at the 7th, 15th, and 22nd September. When and where the marriage were: the seventh October 1886 in the church of Rozyszcze by pastor Kerm.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme 32.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Headstone Inscription that Led to Discovering a Tragedy

As I was transcribing the headstone of Jay Edwin Rauch into my family tree, I read it and was brought up short. What could it possibly mean?

Jay Edwin Rauch headstone; photograph courtesy of Find A Grave volunteer,

He carried on though his heart was broken.

Further investigation revealed his wife, Irene St. Clair Beard, who was a twin sister of Inez Fleming Beard and my first cousin twice removed, and their only known daughter Martha Anne Rauch, were killed in a automobile accident on 25 November 1967 near Roanoke, Virginia. This was just two days after Thanksgiving and one month before Christmas.

Irene (Beard) Rauch was 59 years old when she died and daughter Martha Ann, a student at the University of Richmond, likely home for the holidays, was just 23.

Twin sisters, Inez and Irene Beard; photograph courtesy of Mary Logan
Eubanks via member Sophia143Martin

Martha Ann Rauch from the 1964 University of
Richmond Yearbook,  The Web; photograph courtesy of

ROANOKE -- Police yesterday identified Mrs. Rauch and her daughter, Martha, as the victims of a head-on two-car crash Saturday night on State Rt. 117, just north of Roanoke.

Treated at Community Hospital for injuries they received in the crash were Ralph T. Moses, 35, and his wife, Mrs. Angaline K. Moses, 30, of Staunton.

Trooper H. T. Haskins said Moses was the driver of of a 1962-model auto which was in a collision with a 1963-model car driven by either Mrs. Rauch or her daughter.

Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 27 November 1967.

Such a short, terse article to describe an unimaginable tragedy as Jay Rauch lost his entire family in the blink of an eye.

Jay Edwin Rauch was struck by a driverless rolling car on 15 January 1970 and died two days later at Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He was buried beside his wife and daughter in Evergreen Burial Park, Roanoke, Virginia.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Governor Dick, Runaway Slave

Pete and I spent a long weekend in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, learning about the Amish and doing several interesting tourist-y things. One afternoon we ventured into Lebanon County and visited the Cornwall Iron Furnace. The furnace produced iron from 1742 to 1883; the process required many employees from unskilled to very skilled. Early in its history slaves were used to cut down the timber required to turn wood into charcoal.

Cornwall Iron Furnace main building, which dates from the 1850s; image
courtesy of Wikipedia

One such slave, DICK, also known as GOVERNOR DICK, ran away in 1796. An advertisement was placed in the newspapers for his return; hence, we know his name.

One of the exhibits at the Cornwall Iron Furnace
Visitors' Center; personal collection


Ran away from Cornwall Furnace, Dauphin County. on Sunday the 17th of April last, a Negro man, called Dick, (alias) Governor Dick: he is an elderly man, bald headed, about five feet ten inches high, stout made, has a down look, is slightly marked on each side of his temples with the small scores usual to some of the natives of Africa, has large feet, and a remarkable scar on the great toe of his right foot, occasioned by its bulging split with an axe. He is by trade a rough carpenter, and values himself greatly on his dexterity in that occupation. Had on when he went away, a new drab-colored coat, with metal buttons, jacket and overalls of the same, a new wool hat, and took with him some old clothes. As he lived in the early part of his life in Hartford county, State of Maryland, it is probable he has shaped his course to that quarter. Whoever secures the said Negro so that the owners may get him again, shall receive the above reward, and reasonable charges, if brought home.

Rudolph Kelker, Jr.
8th July 1796


Slave Name Roll Project

Monday, August 3, 2015

From Prominent Lawyer to Murderer

When you are researching your family history, you sometimes get shocked along the way. That happened recently as I was researching one of the wives of Miles David Blankenship (1941-2004) for the book I am writing, The Descendants of Robert Muir.

Miles David Blankenship married Harriet Naomi Hott on 29 August 1977 at the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Buchanan County, Virginia. They had each been married twice previously. Harriet's second husband was John Bruce Johnson. They were married on 21 September 1968 at the Southern Baptist Church in Honaker, Virginia. Each had been married once before. John and Harriet lived in Columbus, Ohio, at the time of their marriage but returned to John's home town for their wedding ceremony. Their marriage must have been pretty short lived because John died in 1975 and was divorced when he died.

John was the youngest of five children and son of prominent attorney Henry Stewart and Mattie Belle (Davis) Johnson. His grandfather, Granderson, had also been an attorney and his great grandfather a highly regarded medical doctor. Virginia death records indicated John's parents died on the same day in 1936 when John was five years old. What in the world could have happened? has recently added large collections of Virginia birth, marriage, divorce and death records, many include the actual images of the original record. They have enriched my research tremendously since my father's family had deep roots in the commonwealth.

Mattie Belle (Davis) died of a gunshot wound and Henry Stewart Johnson committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a .32-caliber revolver. Next I found a newspaper article that described the tragedy.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph
8 November 1936; image
courtesy of


Honaker Attorney Takes His Own Life Saturday Afternoon After Killing Wife; Tragedy Shocks Community

Mrs. Henry S. Johnson, 36, was shot and killed about noon yesterday at the home of her mother, Mrs. J. E. Davis, in Honaker, Va., by her husband, a widely-known Russell county lawyer, who a few minutes later took his own life.

News of the murder-suicide shocked the entire southwestern Virginia because of the prominence of the family.

The couple had been estranged for about a month and Mrs. Johnson had been at the home of her mother during that time. Since the separation, county authorities said, Johnson had been drinking heavily, although he had never displayed any indications of violence.

At noon yesterday he went to the Davis home and called his wife out onto the front porch. As she walked from the door he placed a revolver to the side of her head and fired a single shot. Mrs. Johnson fell upon the porch and was dead in a few moments.

Leaving the Davis home, Johnson went immediately to his own home. He went to his room on the second floor, locked the door and there took his own life.

The Johnsons had been residents of Honaker for a number of years.

Mrs. Johnson, before her marriage, taught school in Russell county for several years after her graduation from Redford State Teachers' college.

Mr. Johnson, who was a graduate of Washington and Lee university was the son of G. B. Johnson, one of the oldest attorneys of Russell county and a distinguished citizen of southwestern Virginia. Henry Johnson was associated with his father in the practice of law under the firm of Johnson and Johnson. They maintain offices in Honaker, Grundy, and Richlands.

G. B. Johnson was in Dickinson county, Virginia, at the time of the double tragedy.

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are survived by five children, the oldest being 15 years of age, and the youngest 5 years old.

Funeral arrangements for the couple had not been completed last night.

As published in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph on 8 November 1936.

As always I am left with more questions but I believe they are unanswerable.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

52 Ancestors #31: Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

Ancestor Name: William Raiford TUCKER (1898-1991)

I've written several posts about how hard it can be to find an elusive ancestor. My Scottish immigrant Muir line (Dad's side) have given me the most trouble, surprisingly once they came to the U.S. In
Scotland, I didn't have much trouble post 1855. When I say trouble, I mean you can find things, it's just hard work. I am not including my completely "invisible" Dagutis line or my similarly invisible Lange line -- both with origins in eastern Europe.

Sometimes, though, the research is much, much easier. My sister-in-law is a 5th generation Georgian of the Tucker family. They are a fascinating family, which I've written about several times[1]. Once I thought I had cracked a brick wall regarding her six times great grandfather, Benjamin Tucker (1704-1778), but DNA testing has me back to Benjamin Tucker.

Benjamin Tucker's home in Southampton County, Virginia;
photo circa 1990 and courtesy of Robert Dennard Tucker

Three years ago I ordered a book entitled History of Colquitt County Georgia by W. A. Covington, which was originally published in 1937. The book included biographical sketches of several Colquitt County citizens, including my sister-in-law's third cousin three times removed, William Raiford Tucker, Sr. The book provided three generations of his paternal and maternal genealogy and information about his wife and children.

Once I entered all the information into my tree, the green leaves went crazy. After looking at all the hints, double checking them to ensure they were correct and supported W. A. Covington's book meaning what I had entered into my tree was correct, I have a very complete picture of William Rayford Tucker's life. The major documentation I am missing are his birth and death certificates. Information about his naval service became available when I re-searched while writing this post. His service card is part of the Georgia World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919, collection, which Ancestry made available to subscribers on 21 October 2013. A good example of why I always say our research is never done.

William Rayford Tucker after processing the hints recommend by

I looked at other family trees that included William Tucker and found photos of he and his wife as well as their marriage license. So in 60 or 90 minutes, I'd pretty much completed my initial online research on this particular Tucker. There is still more I could do offline.

Vera (Page) Tucker, William Tucker's wife

William Tucker was a meat cutter and operated a meat market in Moultrie, Georgia, for many years. He was born and raised in Colquitt County and spent his life there except for his time in the Navy during World War I. He and his wife, Vera (Page) Tucker, raised six children.

One of his grandchildren has an extensive Tucker tree and I have contacted that person in hopes of learning more. You never know where you may find your next research collaborator!

I just love ancestors with names that are difficult for someone else to mis-index or transcribe and lived in one place all of their lives.

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

[1] You may locate my previous posts on the Tucker family by clicking the Tucker label in the right-hand column.

William Raiford Tucker was born on 4 October 1898 in Colquitt County, Georgia, to John Crawford and Sara "Sallie" Ann (Newton) Tucker. William's father owned a farm in the Mill Creek area of Colquitt County.  On 12 November 1918, William registered for the World War I draft. He was unmarried and already serving in the U.S. Navy as an apprentice seaman. His appearance was described as tall and slender with blue eyes, light hair, and no distinguishing physical marks, scars or other defects. He was discharged on 17 March 1919. William married Freddie Vera Page on 15 June 1919 in Colquitt County. They had six children together between 1920 and 1932. William and Vera lived in Funston and Moultrie, Georgia, both towns in Colquitt County. William worked first in a packing house (or slaughter house) and then as a butcher in a meat market. In 1940 he worked as a meat cutter in a retail grocery owned by Colonial Stores, which was based in Atlanta. William and Vera lost their eldest son on 28 December 1941. He was in the Army Air Corps, training in Kissimmee, Florida, when he was killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of 21. William's wife, Vera, died on 8 April 1975 and he never remarried. He died on 13 January 1991 at the age of 92 and was interred in Funston Baptist Church Cemetery beside his wife and son.