Notes from the past…


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A birthday party notice… and the names of over 30 relatives!!!

My 3rd great-grandmother Serena Jane Brown died at age 99 1/2 in San Saba, Texas. She had moved there with her parents in the 1850′s and was actually the first child baptized at the newly created Baptist Church in 1857. When she died in 1942, she held the record for the longest continuous church membership in Texas. In short, Serena was a “big-wig”, a prominent citizen of San Saba.

So when her 99th birthday arrived, naturally it made the front page of the local newspaper.

This article (click on the image for larger view), from the 25 Dec 1941 edition of the San Saba News, contains the usual bio details, and it also contains names and locations of relatives. A lot of names of relatives: kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, even a half-sister! And also many long-time friends and neighbors who could also be of genealogical value.

I found this newspaper article at the Library of Congress Chronicling America website:

Search America’s historic newspapers pages from 1836-1922 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.


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Happy Dance Time, or… maybe James Bennett, Jr was a killer!

James Bennett, Sr was my 3rd great-grandfather. The Bennetts were well-to-do cattle ranchers in late 19th century San Saba County, Texas. Well, most of the Bennetts were cattle ranchers. James’s 2nd son Thomas became a prominent physician and eventual president of the Texas Medical Association. Another son, Benjamin, tragically gained fame in another way, becoming a murder victim in 1930 New Mexico. And then there was James Bennett, Jr….

When I first began to study the Bennett Boys a few years ago, I met another Bennett researcher online who told me an interesting, but unverified story about James Bennett, Jr. The family lore states that James Bennett, Jr, known as Jim Bennett, had killed a man in San Saba in the late 1880′s and escaped to Wyoming and Montana where he was involved in several bank robberies before finally being killed in a bank robbery in Glendive, Montana in the early 1900′s. A regular Butch-Cassidy-and-The-Sundance-Kid sorta guy!

All very interesting and exciting, but was this just another family legend? Where was the proof?

Well, I’ve been looking for “the proof” for some time now, but really didn’t expect to find it. 130 years tends to blur the facts, that is, if this entire story was even true….

Tonight I was researching another line from the San Saba area, the Carrolls and ran across a reference to a Carroll who had been “shot” in 1906. A Google search revealed a couple of books that outlined Texas Supreme Court rulings, and one of those rulings dealt with my Carroll murder. Pretty cool! That more detailed information allowed me to check GenealogyBank… and wow, 3 articles about my Carroll murder popped up! This is great…!

Wait a minute…I haven’t researched the Bennetts in a while…a long while, actually…let me run a quickee search on GenealogyBank, using the keywords “Bennett”, “San Saba” and “killed”….

This from the Dallas Morning News, dated 5 July 1889:

How exciting! After I finally got finished jumping up and down, screaming and, yes, dancing, I went to the Library of Congress’ site Chronically America. This site has the San Saba newspapers 1876-1891, browsable only.

Guess what I’ll be doing for the next few evening?