Notes from the past…


The WOW! Category

My blog is organized on two levels, first by category, which describes what I am currently researching/blogging about, and then by tags, which are the specific surnames I am working with. Things run pretty smoothly this way, and I can usually find what I am looking for pretty quickly through the Search Box.

This morning, I found myself in need of a new category to describe my research activities: the WOW! category.

The WOW! category will be used to document the type of genealogical item that I stumble onto totally by accident, or when I find what I am looking for, but the actual find causes me to gasp, stare, or stop breathing altogether! This morning’s item certainly fits this category…

Isaac T (“Ike”) Turner was the 7th of 14 children of my great-great-grandparents, Isaac Turner and Sarah Sharpe Vance. Eleven of the children were born in Tennessee and the last 3, including my great-grandmother Mary Tennessee, were born in Hill County, Texas. Thanks to what’s left of the Turner family Bible, I have names and BMD dates on all 14. Pretty neat!

But like most Bibles I have seen, there are no details. Birthdates, marriages, dates of death, all faithfully recorded in the Bible.

But why did William Turner die at age 17? An accident, or maybe the Typhoid that killed his father? Or how about little Sallie Turner, who died just 1 month and 1 day after she was born? I can’t imagine losing a month-old child! Why did these people die so young?

Isaac T Turner died on Christmas Day, Dec 25, 1900. Amidst all the joy of the holiday, suddenly unfathomable loss. 32 years old and in what should be the prime of life…

This morning, I was searching for a cause of death for Isaac and decided to check out GenealogyBank. They have a wonderful collection of old newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News going back over 100 years. Hill County, Texas is very close to Dallas.

I put his name into the search box and look what popped up:

I just stopped and stared and read those few lines over and over and over. OMG! What a horrible death!

For years I have wondered what happened to Ike, enumerated in the 1900 Federal Census as a merchant dealing in confections. A man with a sweet tooth! Only a few months after that census was completed, Ike was dead. But how?

Now I know… and WOW!


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The 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment, U.S.A. and the Internet

My second great-grandfather Isaac Turner is my only ancestor (so far) to have fought on the Union side during the Civil War. My family is filled with Southerners, so it came as quite a shock when I found his index card in Ancestry’s Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 a couple of years ago.

I eventually got his entire pension file from NARA and it told quite a story, not so much about Isaac and his military career, but about his family and the hardships they endured after his death.

But this was his pension file, not his active military file. I have yet to find that file, as it is not available at Ancestry, Footnote or FamilySearch Record Search. But I think it will appear in the not-too-distant future.

Why do I think it will soon be available? Because early this morning I found several original (compilation 1890) documents concerning Company E of the 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment, Isaac’s old unit, at the Internet Archive’s Allan County Public Library collection!

I had previously set up an RSS feed for this site, and this is the title that appeared yesterday and that I found when I got home from work at 2AM:

Compiled records showing service of military units in volunteer Union organizations [microform] (Volume Reel 0190 – Compiled records showing service of military units in volunteer Union organizations – TENNESSEE Fourth Infantry, Fourth Mounted Infantry, Fifth Infantry, Fifth Mounted Infantry, Sixth Infantry, Sixth Mounted Infantry, Seventh Infantry, Seventh Mounted Infantry, Eighth Infantry, Eighth Mounted Infantry, Tenth Infantry Co. A, East Tennessee National Guard Capt. Beaty’s Independent Scouts (Mounted) TEXAS First Cavalry Second Cavalry Second Cavalry (1 Year, 1865) Gen. Hamilton’s Body Guard, Cavalry Vidal’s Co., Independent Co., Partizan Rangers, Cavalry)

Wait a minute! Did I just see Tennessee Fourth Mounted Infantry???

I did!

And this is one of the images that I found when I clicked on the title:


This file has over 1300 pages. There is a search box but it really doesn’t work too well. So I’ll have to browse each page to find any actual mention of Isaac, although I think this file only deals with the individual military units, not the individual soldiers. My initial find of 6 pages shows places and dates of service for the 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment. What a wonderful find!

For the past couple of weeks, this RSS feed has been showing various 1850 Federal Census state files. I haven’t been too excited about this data, since it’s already available at Ancestry ($$$) and FamilySearch Record Search (free). But Civil War documents that I haven’t seen anywhere else… now that is exciting!

In fact, I just checked the feed again this morning (sleep, what is sleep?) and now it is showing Index to War of 1812 Pension Application files!

Pardon me, I’m drooling again… :)

(By the way, to set up an RSS feed for the ACPL Collection at the Internet Archive, go to this page and click on the RSS icon that’s just a little way down the page. DO IT NOW!)

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Tombstone Tuesday: Graham-Mason Cemetery

G-M Cem Graham-Mason Cemetery is located 1 1/2 miles southeast of the little hamlet of Irene in Hill County, Texas. It contains less than 30 marked graves and is the final resting place of Jennie Margaret Melton, the wife of my great granduncle Francis Lee Turner. Jennie Turner was only 23 years old when she died in 1887, leaving 3 small children behind.

Graham-Mason is a wonderful example of a restored and well-kept rural Texas cemetery.  The Graham-Mason Cemetery Association is very active in both the care of the cemetery and in following the many descendents of its first “inhabitants’, the William Graham family. The Association’s yearly meeting occurs in the spring, usually in April, when the Texas Bluebonnets are at their finest!

The lovely photo above was taken by Judy Graham in 2003.

mary The oldest headstone here is that of 6-year-old Mary H Graham, who died in 1866. Her original headstone is almost unreadable and had been replaced with a beautiful granite marker.


According to the family history, slaves and former slaves are buried in the cemetery proper and also in the woods nearby. There is at least one grave marked only with rocks.

Graham-Mason is believed to be the only rural cemetery in Texas to display both a Texas Historical Marker and a Texas Historic Cemetery Medallion.