Notes from the past…

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The Ancestors’ Geneameme

This one sounds really fun, as well as a great way to assess your research progress. Thanks, Geniaus and Randy!

The Ancestors’ Geneameme

Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?
  1.  Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents- 14 out of 16 documented
  2.  Can name over 50 direct ancestors- Yup!
  3.  Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents- 5 (possibly 7) out of 8
  4.  Have an ancestor who was married more than three times- Oh, yeah! My great-grandmother Dovie McBurnett had 6 (and counting)!
  5.  Have an ancestor who was a bigamist- Not that I know of
  6.  Met all four of my grandparents- Yup
  7.  Met one or more of my great-grandparents- My 2 great-grandmothers, Mary Tennessee Turner and Marie Mistrot Carrico
  8.  Named a child after an ancestor- Not exactly…my oldest daughter is Sarah, because I like the name…later found out that there are several Sarah’s in the family tree, the closest is my 2nd GGM Sarah Sharpe Vance
  9.  Bear an ancestor’s given name/s- I am named after my great aunt Ruth Ann Starr
  10.  Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland- Suspicions….
  11.  Have an ancestor from Asia- Not yet
  12.  Have an ancestor from Continental Europe- More suspicions…
  13.  Have an ancestor from Africa- Not yet
  14.  Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer- Most of my 19th century ancestors where farmers in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and Texas
  15.  Have an ancestor who had large land holdings- My Turner ancestors from DeKalb County, TN were prominent land-holders pre-Civil War
  16.  Have an ancestor who was a holy man – minister, priest, rabbi- My 2nd great-granduncle Daniel Brevard Vance was an ordained Baptist minister
  17.  Have an ancestor who was a midwife-?
  18.  Have an ancestor who was an author-Yes, my 3rd GGF Nathan Blunt Kennedy was a published poet!
  19.  Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones- Several Smiths
  20.  Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng- Nope
  21.  Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X-Nope
  22.  Have an ancestor with a forename beginnining with Z- My great-grandaunt Zora Belle Turner!
  23.  Have an ancestor born on 25th December- I actually have 4 ancestors born on Christmas Day!
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year’s Day- None…
  25.  Have blue blood in your family lines- A couple of folks who seemed to think they were royalty… :)
  26.  Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth- Nope
  27.  Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth- Nope
  28.  Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century- Yup, my earliest documented is 4th GGF Miles Chappell, born in 1790 in Amelia County, VA
  29.  Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier- Working on that…
  30.  Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents- Yup, from GGF Charles Arthur Rogers and GGM Dovie McBurnett
  31.  Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X- Nope
  32.  Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university- Several physicians in the family, including 3 GGF Nathan Blunt Kennedy (Tulane University School of Medicine, Class of 1860) and 2GGU Thomas Joshua Bennett (Tulane University School of Medicine, Class of 1883)
  33.  Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offense- If they ever caught him! My 2GGU James Bennett, Jr (brother of Thomas Joshua) was a documented murderer, horse thief and bank robber in 1880′s San Saba, TX and Wyoming and Montana.
  34.  Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime- My 2GGU Benjamin Bennett (James’ brother!) was murdered in Hobbs, New Mexico in 1930 and another 2GGU, Pat Carroll, was murdered in March, 1906 in San Saba, TX.
  35.  Have shared an ancestor’s story online or in a magazine (Tell us where)- Not yet…
  36.  Have published a family history online or in print (Details please)-Does this blog count?
  37.  Have visited an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries- No
  38.  Still have an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family- No
  39.  Have a  family bible from the 19th Century- I wish!
  40.  Have a pre-19th century family bible- I really wish!


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There it is!… or Jane is not your aunt or your wife, SHE IS YOUR MOTHER!!!

I was working on my Kennedy line last night. My 3GGF, Dr Nathan Blunt Kennedy was born in Sumter County, Alabama and moved to Hill County, Texas in about 1875. Nathan had six siblings and 2 of his brothers also became physicians. According to an old Hill County history book, Nathan’s sister Jane also married a physician, a man named Edward Tandy Easley.

Trouble is, that old book has been the absolute only reference to Jane Kennedy that I have been able to find. The earliest census record I have of the specific children of the Kennedy family is the 1850 enumeration, and she is not listed with her family. I have always thought she had probably married and moved out of the house before 1850.

I had searched and was however able to find quite a bit of data on Edward Tandy Easley. He was prominent in the early years of the American Medical Association and died in 1878 while helping victims of the Yellow Fever epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to going to Memphis, he had practiced in Dallas, Texas and Little Rock, Arkansas. I have census entries, his Civil War records, numerous references to him in medical journals of the time (again, Google Books!), even a tax listing from Dallas County, Texas.

And not one documented connection between Dr Edward Tandy Easley and Leah Jane Kennedy!

I had about decided that Jane Kennedy was one of those ancestors who simply vanishes. The one that you know shoulda been there, but wasn’t. And last night, I was just fixin’ to shut it down and go to bed….

But before I give it up for the night, one last search… A Google Books search… and…


If you click on the first page, you will see a larger, readable page from Transactions of the State Medical Society of Arkansas, dated 1879:

Jane Kennedy didn’t marry Edward Tandy Easley… SHE GAVE BIRTH TO HIM!

Jane Kennedy married Tandy Walker Easley, also a physician, in 1840. Edward Tandy Easley was born of that union in 1842.

Well, I guess I gotta update my RootsMagic database. I wonder how difficult it is the change a woman’s husband into her son… Anybody got Bruce’s cell number?


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Using Google Books in your genealogy research: an example

A couple of years ago, I blogged about the 1886 adventures of my 3GGM and the Texas Supreme Court. I had put her name into the search box on the Google News Archive page and found a transcript of the Court’s decision in the case of Kennedy vs Upshaw. Wow! Pretty exciting!

Only problem was… I couldn’t understand much of the paper’s language! Apparently lawyers speak (and write) something other than English :)

In a nutshell: the lower court determined that part of the will was a forgery and therefore invalid and my 3GGM appealed, with the case eventually reaching the Texas Supreme Court.

Flash forward to yesterday.

I was updating my 3GGM Susan William Lee Martin in my RootsMagic database and did a routine Google search, looking for anything new.

To my surprise and delight, Google Books found another transcript of the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in this case, more of a review actually, written in plain English!

From this new “translation”, I learned the case apparently dealt with a codicil to the last will and testament of my 3GGM Susan William Lee Martin’s father, James Harris Martin. In the original will, James Martin’s estate was equally divided between my 3GGM and his other daughter. The codicil (a document that amends a previously executed will) added about 2 weeks before James’ death and witnessed by Susan Martin and her husband Dr N B Kennedy and signed in the Kennedy home, changed the distribution of the estate. Susan would continue to get her 50% of the estate, with the other 50% to be divided between Susan’s 2 kids and the other daughter!

James Harris Martin was apparently quite ill at the time the codicil was signed (according to his attending physician’s testimony) and his hands were very shaky. Martin’s signature on the codicil was “written in a smooth and regular hand”, unlike the signature on the original will, thus it came into question and was determined to be a forgery.

The Supreme Court did not question the final verdict in the case, but did find several mistakes in the way the trial was conducted and returned the case to the lower court for retrial.

What was the genealogical value of these documents?

The transcript that I found 2 years ago gave me the full name of James Harris Martin ( I previously had James H Martin, from his 1850 Federal Census entry) as well as the date and location of his death (28 Mar 1883 in Hillsboro, Texas). Armed with these new details, I was able to locate Martin’s burial location and headstone photo at Find-A-Grave, which contained his exact birth date, 21 Jun 1807. All that from a court transcipt… AWESOME!

And what genea-goodies did I get from yesterday’s “translation” document? Remember the other daughter who was originally supposed to get half of Martin’s estate? Martin’s 1850 Federal Census enumeration lists his kids as Susan W L and Sarah A D (apparently this family had a thing for 2 middle names!). Susan was of course my 3GGM and I have been able to follow her life and amass quite a bit of data on her. But what of Sarah A D Martin? We all know the difficulties in tracking down female family members, especially from this time period. I have found essentially nothing on Sarah and even thought she might not have survived childhood, as frequently happened in those days.

Thanks to Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Texas, Volume 66 , Sarah A D Martin is now Mrs S. A. D. Haigler! I now have her married name! This is a major find for me, as hopefully it will begin a new line of research!