Monday, December 27, 2010

Looking Back at 2010 - Part 1

To say that I will miss 2010 as a whole would be a lie.  While I will miss the ages that my children are at the moment (6 and 2) and the funny things they have done this year, the rest of 2010 can just go away as far as I'm concerned.  Between car accidents (my sister's and my husband's), my grandmother's health, my work that has kept me busier this year than in the past, along with a plethora of other unexpected things, 2010 has been a blur.

Because of all the extraneous stuff that has occurred, I also have sort of lost that urgent desire to work on my genealogy.  The first half of the year I continued documenting and researching and then June came along and it was downhill from there.  So when I set my 2010 goals, I was clearly being optimistic!  When I started writing today's post, I figured I would be very embarassed to say that I didn't do anything on my goals that I set a year ago.  However, I can honestly say that I did make some progress, small though it may be.  Here is a recap of where I am on my 2010 goals:

1.  I am continuing sourcing records in my database.  I have approximately 1900 individuals in my database and I left off sourcing at the 1880 census.  That means I still have 1900 through 1930 to go.....will I make it before the 1940 census is released?

2.  I wanted to complete the Illinois Prairie Pioneer Certificate on my ancestor Walter Harmon and his wife Azubah Hyde Harmon.  I made it as far as printing out the application and filling out a draft in pencil.  I did this so I could see what pieces I was missing.  Unfortunately, there was more missing than I thought and so it sat to collect dust.

3.  My third goal was to sort old photos with my mom and grandmother.  This is easier said than done.  We did spend several hours in late May sifting photos and trying to identify people, years and locations.  We laughed and shed a few years.  It was a nice way to spend a few hours.  I left my grandmother's with some things to scan.  And that's where this project ends for 2010.

4.  I set a goal to continue writing mini "bios" on my ancestors.  During 2010, I managed to do at least three more of these in addition to posting some updates on previous bios.  I was expecting to do more of these, but part of the problem lies in the need to scan some documents to add to the posts.

5.  My last goal was to write a few sentences on a near daily basis of what was happening in our lives.  I was able to maintain this for a few months and then chaos took over.  My entries became more sporadic and highlighted the "big" things and fewer of the daily tidbits of life with two small children.  Please read Part 2 of this series of posts to see how I am continuing to document our lives for the future generations.

There are a few other accomplishments that are worthy of a mention.  I have been attending a RootsMagic User Group at my local Family History Center.  I also attended the 2010 Fall BYU-Idaho Family History Conference in October and attended five very worthwhile classes.  Lastly, I know my blogging (minimal as it has been) has been worth it.  Several distant cousins and fellow researchers have contacted me regarding some of my posts.  Creating "cousin bait" through blogging has most definitely been worth the effort.

While my 2010 goals weren't a complete failure, they weren't a roaring success either.  Therefore, I bid adieu and good riddance to this year.  May 2011 be more successful.

©2010, copyright tracysroots

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Carnival of Genealogy #100: My Family and a Murderess

This is written for the 100th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy entitled "There's One in Every Family".   My take on this theme is that every family has a sensational story, one that has morphed over time into something juicier than it probably was. It is my heartfelt sentiment that the story I present here absolutely does not happen to every family!

My Family and a Murderess.  That sounds just like a title for a fictional murder mystery.  Alas, this story is very true.  For anyone that lives outside of the state of North Carolina and perhaps more so out of the western North Carolina mountains, you've probably never heard of Frankie Silver, known as one of the few women in the state to be hung for murder.  I know I hadn't.

As I began my Mitchell County, North Carolina research, I tried to gain a general overview of the area, the people, the work they did, and what brought them there.  I don't even recall when I first heard about the story of Charlie and Frankie (Stewart) Silver, but I remember seeing snippets of information here and there alluding to the notorious crime.  Out of morbid curiosity, I searched the internet for information and read some books only to discover a sad story from the 1830s, and much to my surprise, with connections to my own ancestors.

On a cold December day in 1831, a nineteen year old Charlie Silver was murdered by his wife, eighteen year old Frances "Frankie" Stewart Silver. Charlie was hacked to death with an ax and dismembered in their cabin in the mountains of what was then Burke County, North Carolina (now Mitchell County).  The story goes that Charlie had gone out hunting though Frankie may have suspected drinking and carousing.  He came home, perhaps drunk, an altercation ensued, and the result was the death of Charlie.  The facts are not all clear, but Frankie may have been protecting herself and their toddler from Charlie's violent behavior.  Or perhaps Frankie had just had enough and in a fit of rage attacked her husband.  Apparently aware of the violence she had committed and for the need to dispose of his remains, she cut up his body and burned it in their fireplace.

In any case, it was not disputed that Frankie bundled up her daughter and went to her in-laws home the next day asking for the whereabouts of her husband.  They hadn't seen him for a few days, since he had left on his hunting trip.  Apparently she then went to her parent's home.  The Silvers and other neighbors became worried when Charlie didn't return and a manhunt began.  Perhaps Frankie's story began to unravel then but suspicions were definitely aroused.  His remains were not immediately found, but an oily residue in her fireplace and the fact that a weeks worth of firewood was gone were strong suspicions for something amiss.  The very clean floorboards were lifted up in their small cabin and blood stains were found on the ground beneath. 

There are a variety of things that cause great speculation even all these 179 years later. It was said that Charlie had a tendency towards alcohol, towards abusing his wife, and towards messing around with other women. There was speculation that Frankie may have acted in self-defense, or to protect their baby, while Charlie was on a drunk. Alas, no one knows what ever happened that night to cause her to ax him to death.

About a week after the murder, Frankie, her mother and her brother were arrested and taken to the jail in Morganton, Burke Co, North Carolina.  An inquest followed and her mother and brother were later released for lack of evidence, but Frankie was held over for trial.  She had a young lawyer who may not have fully explained her rights or what was likely to happen to her.  Since court met infrequently (usually quarterly), she was in jail for some time and quite a distance from her family.

A jury of Frankie's peers, all men, was gathered and the evidence presented.  Because of the laws at the time, a defendant was not allowed to testify on his or her behalf.  The conviction came swiftly with the jury never hearing from Frankie. Death by hanging was to be Frankie's fate.  At some point while awaiting execution, Frankie stated that she acted in self-defense.  Seven of the twelve jurors then came forward to petition to overturn the conviction.  An appeal was made to the state's Supreme Court.  Friends and neighbors of the Stewart family came forward on her behalf.  During the time leading up to her hanging, her family helped her to break out of jail.  She was found wearing a man's hat and coat walking behind an uncle's wagon when officials caught up with them.  But all these efforts were to no avail.

It was a warm July day in 1833 when the hanging occurred.  Legend has it that her father stood in the assembled crowd and yelled up to Frankie as she stood on the gallows.  His supposed words:  "Die with it in you, Frankie."  A lot could be read into that statement and it has probably morphed into more than what ever really occurred that day.  What appears to be fact is her father was there to take her remains home to a final resting place.  Due to the rugged mountain conditions and the summer temperatures, it was a slow trip home.  As a result, she is supposedly buried in an unmarked location on the road outside Morganton.  A memorial has been erected in her memory near where she is believed to have been buried.

So what does this all mean to me?  First, I should begin by saying that at the present time I have not found any direct genealogical connection to either Charlie or Frankie.  However, my ancestors were neighbors of both the Silver and Stewart families.  As I was reading Perry Deane Young's book, The Untold Story of Frankie Silver, I discovered that some of the members of the inquest, a prosecution witness, and petitioners to the governor were my ancestors. 

My fourth great-grandfather, Isaac Grindstaff, appears as a witness for the defense.  According to Young, Isaac later identifies himself as a member of the inquest jury.  It should be noted that there was more than one Isaac Grindstaff in this area, but for this time frame, my ancestor seems to be the likely Isaac.

My fourth great-grandfather, Thomas Howell, served as a witness to the grand jury and later as a witness for the prosecution.  Thomas was a blacksmith and apparently made Charlie Silver's shoe buckles which were identified amongst the burned remains.

My fourth great-grandfather, Hector McNeill, as well as a John McNeill, a Dim McNeill and a Malcolm McNeill all signed an undated petition to Governor Montfort Stokes requesting he pardon the prisoner.  The document states that many of those signers were neighbors of the defendant and knew her to be of good character.

My third great-grandfather, Archibald McNeill, was the son of Hector and son-in-law of Thomas Howell.  Archibald's second marriage was to Sarah Ann Sparks Silver.  Sarah was the widow of Reuben Silver, brother to the murdered Charlie.  According to Cabins in the Laurel by Muriel Earley Sheppard, Arch built a cabin backed up to the same chimney where Frankie committed her crime.  Sheppard writes the original cabin was gone but the chimney and fireplace were in strong condition.  She goes on to state that Arch's wife (Sarah) found one of Charlie's "shoeheel irons jammed into the stones of the fireplace."  The said victim was Sarah's former brother-in-law and were made by Arch's former father-in-law. 

Oh what a tangled web.  And such a sad, sad story.  This month marks the 179th year since this crime occurred.  The truth behind the murder may never be known and speculation still runs rampant.  I hope the victims, for I believe Charlie and Frankie were both victims, rest in peace.

I know that I have not done justice to the story of Frankie Stewart Silver.  Any errors in the above information are mine.  For further information, please consider reading the following books or visiting these websites.

The Untold Story of Frankie Silver by Perry Deane Young.
Wikipedia's page on Frankie Stewart Silver
Charlie's memorial at Find A Grave
Frankie's memorial at Find A Grave
A summary from the North Carolina Museum of History.
For a fictional account, I recommend The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb
The Burke County Visitor's center has an article
The Frankie Foundation which produced a play describing these tragic events
Cabins in the Laurel by Muriel Earley Sheppard

December Dates in My Family History

6th - anniversary of Porter J. Harmon and Rebecca Armstrong, my 3rd great-grandparents, in 1849 in Whiteside Co, Illinois

9th - anniversary of Rev. Isaac Grindstaff and Mary Jane Woody, my 2nd great-grandparents, in 1872 in Mitchell Co, North Carolina

13th - death of Solomon Scherer or Sherer, my 4th great-grandfather, in Nodaway Co, Missouri

25th - anniversary of Robert Nelson McNeill and Margaret Ledford, my 2nd great-grandparents, in 1877 in Mitchell Co, North Carolina

28th - birthday of Sarah Jane Johnson, my 2nd great-grandmother, in 1856 in Randolph Co, North Carolina

Monday, November 1, 2010

November Dates in My Family History

5th - birthday of Kate Nellie Arthur, my great-grandmother, in 1889, in Moody Co, South Dakota, just three days after statehood

7th - birthday of Fannie Arnold, my 2nd great-grandmother, in 1856 in Berkeswell, Warwickshire, England

19th - birthday of Bertel Scott, my great-grandfather, in 1884

25th - death of Porter J. Harmon, my 3rd great-grandfather, in 1897 in Clark Co, South Dakota

26th - anniversary of Bertel Scott and Frona Rebecca Greathouse, my great-grandparents, in 1907 in Kansas City, Missouri

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Memory Fading

In the last few years I have noticed my grandmother's memory becoming a bit more precarious.  Things that happened many years ago were very clear while what happened a few days ago was not.  When I have mentioned these issues to my mother, she didn't notice them as much because she sees my grandma on a more regular basis.  However, in the last 12-18 months, it has become more of a concern.  Her father suffered from "senility" which we would now term to be some form of dementia, so we knew the likelihood of her suffering from memory loss was pretty great.

As a result of these circumstances, my mom, sister and I have tried to get more stories recorded, more old pictures looked over, and more things written down.  Over Memorial Day weekend, we sat with a big pile of photos, some more labeled and some not.  We worked to identify some of the people in the photos and I took notes.  They were also preparing to leave for their June trip to South Dakota so I went to the Clark County Genweb site and printed the cemetery transcription where I knew a vast majority of our relatives were laid to rest.  My mom helped my grandma and her brother as they discussed the names of the burials.  Mom took notes of who the people were, how they were related or if they were just a family acquaintance.  I now need to update my database.

For a long time I have been contemplating how to document my mother's childhood.  She was like an "army brat" in that she attended 13 different schools from Kindergarten to her Senior year of high school.  However, my grandfather wasn't in the Service during those years.  He worked in construction, specifically welding which was a trade he learned during his years in the Army stationed at Warton Air Base in England.  As a result, his life work included working at the Naval Base in Bremerton, Washington, he spent several summers in the 1950s working in Alaska, and later with a company named Chicago Bridge & Iron where he became a job foreman. 

My solution to document the schools my mother attended as well as the myriad of places my grandparents lived and worked was to come up with a spreadsheet.  I broke it down into each year from the time my grandparents married until the early 1980s as I know where they were after that period.  I was primarily trying to get her to write down where they lived from roughly 1946 until my early childhood when they were more stationary.  I listed each year on the left side providing two or three lines of space for her to write.  Across the top I put columns for the city and state they were living, the job he was working on, and any significant memory from that location.

A recent memory came just a few weeks ago after the devastating gas explosion and fire in San Bruno, California.  About 1967 or 1968, my grandfather was building a tank for Pacific Gas & Electric just a few miles to the north of where the recent explosion occurred.  She described the job site, how their trailer was parked on the site, what they did on the weekends, etc.

I also prepared a spreadsheet for my mother listing years along the side and columns across the top.  Because she remembers where she attended school each year and can sometimes even remember the month they moved from one place to another, I wanted them to work together.  I knew that my mom could prompt grandma's memory.  I also wanted my mom to list her teacher and a significant memory from each of those places.  She still speaks fondly of the woman who read "Little House in the Big Woods" to the class.  She made sure my sister and I read those stories as children and now I am beginning to read them to my oldest daughter.

It has been probably three weeks since I gave those pages to my mom and grandma.  We haven't really talked much about them and I hadn't asked about their progress.  Last night my mother called me as she was on the way to taking my grandmother to the emergency room.  My mother suspected she had a mini-stroke.  My mother's suspicions were confirmed as the doctor diagnosed a TIA and gave them instructions on follow-up appointments for today.  As I write this, I am waiting for another update.

If there is a moral to this story it is this:  do not wait.  Do not wait to document stories.  Do not wait to label photographs with the only person who knows who is in the pictures.   And above all else, do not wait to visit the doctor.  Go now to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked and whatever other pertinent screenings you need.  Your family will thank you.

©2010, copyright tracysroots

Friday, October 1, 2010

October Dates in My Family History

6th - death of Eunice Brown, my 3rd great-grandmother, in 1867, in Northfield, Rice Co, Minnesota, just three days shy of her 18th wedding anniversary. 

9th - anniversary of Thomas Arthur and Eunice Brown, my 3rd great-grandparents, in 1849.  They were married in Trumbull Co, Ohio

22nd - death of Robert Nelson McNeill, my 2nd great-grandfather, in Asheville, Buncombe Co, North Carolina

29th - birthday of Robert Nelson McNeill, my 2nd great-grandfather, in 1858

31st - birthday of Isaac Harmon in 1773.  I believe Isaac to be my 5th great-grandfather, through Walter Harmon (1798-1865)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Edward Joseph Harmon and Kate Nellie Arthur

 Edward Joseph Harmon and Kate Nellie Arthur are my great-grandparents, through their youngest son, Fred.  They had both passed on by the time I was born but my mother remembers them well and has shared many stories with me.

Edward Joseph Harmon was born 9 January 1883 in either Morrison or Round Grove, Whiteside Co, Illinois to Walter and Fannie (Arnold) Harmon, the first of five children.   When he was perhaps a year or so old, Walter and Fannie left Illinois and homesteaded in Clark Co, Dakota Territory.   He was raised on a farm in or around the community of Clark.  

Kate Arthur Harmon,
date unknown
Kate Nellie Arthur was born 5 Nov 1889 on a homestead near Trent, Moody Co, South Dakota, just three days after South Dakota achieved statehood.  Her parents were Homer Eugene Arthur and Amanda Savilla Myers;  she was the fifth of six children.  Her parents later left Moody Co. and traveled north to Clark Co. where Homer obtained more farmland.

Ed and Kate were married 30 November 1910 about six miles east of Clark, presumably at one of their homes.  They lived in Clark Co. or neighboring Codington Co. their entire married life with the exception of a short stint in Santa Cruz, California in the late 1930s.  They had three sons:  Kenneth, Harry and Fred, my grandfather.  Seven grandchildren would follow in later years.

Obituary for Edward Joseph Harmon
found in Fred Harmon's personal papers,
newspaper unknown, but likely a Clark
or Codington County, SD newspaper

Ed suffered a stroke and for several years was cared for by Kate in their home, but eventually he had to be moved to a nursing home.  He died 31 Jan 1960 in Watertown, Codington Co, South Dakota.  Kate lived to the age of 84 and died 21 Sept 1974 in Clark, Clark Co, South Dakota.  They are laid to rest in Lorinda Cemetery, Graceland Township, Codington Co, South Dakota.

I remember my grandfather talking about his parents often.  His father was strict and expected hard work from his sons.  I speculate that the sense of humor my grandfather had came from his father.  I think my mother and I both have some of it and I can see those same things coming out in my oldest daughter.  We often refer to it as the "Harmon sense of humor."  His mother, Kate, was the family historian and photographer.  My grandfather was given a family history record for Christmas 1955 that we still have today.  In it, Kate painstakingly laid out her son's pedigree, listing birth, marriage and death dates and locations, all the way through his great-grandparents.  Without her information to get me started, it would have been a much slower process to gather the data I have today. 

We have copies of many of the wonderful photos that Kate took over the years.  Apparently she liked to catch you unawares and take your picture, often times by coming around the corner of the house and taking the photo.  Some of her grandchildren later termed this "shooting from the hip" as she'd hold that camera against her hip, look down through the view finder, and capture the image.   One of the other memories my mother shared with me was Kate's love of books.  Mom remembers she had stacks of books upstairs in her house. 

My grandfather, Fred, had a terrible sweet tooth and he and his mother would make homemade ice cream.  They would eat the whole container just the two of them.  Apparently my grandfather used to crack jokes that we "gotta get ready for the 4th" [of July] in imitation of his mother.  Now I always remember him as a sort of "bah humbug" about 4th of July but as a child his parents would have a celebration that required some big preparations.  I understand one of those was hand cranked ice cream so his sweet tooth was established early in life.

I'd like to think that my love of books, family history, and photos comes from Kate.  I was born just a few short months after her death, but she knew that my mom, her youngest grandchild, was going to have her first baby.  My research would be nothing without the wonderful documentation Kate left behind.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

This post should more aptly be called "Why I Haven't Had Time to Blog".  Since the beginning of June, the following things have happened, both genealogical and non-genealogical, and in no particular order:
  • Kindergarten graduation
  • two weeks of tennis lessons
  • swim lessons
  • our thirteenth wedding anniversary
  • my husband was involved in a small car accident (he was fine)
  • car shopping (the car was not fine)
  • a few days spent at Tamarack Resort in beautiful Donnelly, Idaho with my husband's father and his wife
  • some volunteer work
  • I have been attending a new RootsMagic User Group recently established in my area.  There have been monthly meetings held at our local family history center.  I have been the only non-LDS person in attendance and also the youngest.  I was very flattered when the organizer asked me to present a topic on color coding, a feature I use and love.
  • My mother and grandmother took a trip to western South Dakota to visit my mother's first cousin on her paternal side (Harmon), and then off to eastern South Dakota to visit with all of the remaining family from my grandmother's side (Hiby and Hanson).  I had prepared a list of cemeteries for her to visit and photograph the headstones with her new digital camera.  She had done this for me 6 years ago, but it was on film.  She was hoping to avoid doing this again, but I convinced her digital images would be better!  :)
  • One week prior to my mom's departure in June, I received an email from a Clark County, South Dakota resident who was writing on behalf of a woman without a computer.  As we wrote back and forth, it was determined that his friend, Mary Lou, was a granddaughter of Homer Arthur (my 2nd great-grandfather), making her my late grandfather's first cousin.  It was an absolute thrill and the timing couldn't have been better, but I had to scramble to gather data to send with my mom.  As a result of all the back and forth emailing, my mother and grandmother were able to meet Mary Lou, her husband, and later her brother and his wife.  There were many stories shared back and forth, of what the rumors were on the family, and even a few photos.  My research to establish Homer's parents as Thomas Arthur and Eunice Brown was new to her and she was excited to know this piece of information.
  • a road trip from our home in southwest Idaho to the Oregon coast.  This long of a trip was a new experience for our two- and six-year old daughters.  The older one actually made it four hours before asking "Are we there yet?"  We stayed with a college girlfriend of mine in Vancouver, Washington and then met up with my mother-in-law, her husband, and our two nephews (ages three and six) at the Portland, Oregon airport.  We spent the next five glorious days taking in the sights and sounds of the coast from Tillamook to Newport, with our home base in a beautiful house on Siletz Bay in Lincoln City.  It was truly a wonderful way to relax and watch our daughters play with their grandparents and cousins.
  • school supplies and clothes shopping
  • and finally, the first weeks of a new school year.  It is a big transition going from half-day Kindergarten to all-day First Grade.  She loves school and her teacher said she is a "reading rock star".  We are very proud of her.
So I am in "catch up" mode and will get back on track with sharing some information.  My intent is to switch gears and focus on the Harmon and Arthur lines as some exciting discoveries have been made recently.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Dates in My Family History

Important dates for September in my family history include:

10th - death of Iver Hiby, my 2nd great-grandfather, in 1951 in Hamlin, South Dakota

21st - death of Kate Nellie Arthur, my great-grandmother, in 1974 in Clark Co, South Dakota.  She was married to Edward Harmon.

22nd - anniversary of Abraham Lincoln Greathouse and Sarah Jane Johnson in 1910.  They were married in Kansas, likely Johnson Co.  Sarah was my 2nd great-grandmother.  Abraham is the brother of Sarah's first husband, William Michael Greathouse.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August Dates in My Family History

As in July, this month only has a few dates in my family history.

4th - birthday of Homer Eugene Arthur, my 2nd great-grandfather, in 1850.  He likely was born in Trumbull Co, Ohio where his parents, Thomas Arthur and Eunice Brown were married in 1849.

8th - anniversary of Conrad Coons Scott and Zerlinda Jane (Jennie) Pitts, my 2nd great-grandparents, in 1869 in Nodaway Co, Missouri

30th - death of Walter Harmon, my 4th great-grandfather, in 1865 in Whiteside Co., Illinois.  He is buried in Round Grove Cemetery in the same county.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July Dates in My Family History

Only a couple of dates in my family history for July:

10th - anniversary of Absalom Stroud Pitts and Medina Sherer, my 3rd great-grandparents, in 1853

16th - death of Lee McNeill, my grandfather, in 1971 in Sacramento, California

31st - death of  Archibald McNeill, my 3rd great-grandfather, in Mitchell County, North Carolina.  He is buried in what is called McNeill Cemetery in Mitchell Co. with his second wife, Sarah Ann Elizabeth Sparks.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June Dates in My Family History

1st - birthday of Fred Joseph Harmon, my grandfather, in 1921 in Clark Co, South Dakota

2nd - birthday of Titus Brown, my 4th great-grandfather, in 1792 in Connecticut

6th - death of Walter J. Harmon, my 2nd great-grandfather, in 1921 in Clark Co, South Dakota

12th - death of Fannie Arnold in 1945 in Clark Co, South Dakota.  She was married to Walter Harmon (above) and they were my 2nd great-grandparents.

13th - birthday of Frona Rebecca Greathouse, my great-grandmother, in 1890 in either Webster or Wright Co, Missouri

14th - birthday of Isaac Grindstaff, my 4th great-grandfather, in 1773 in North Carolina

24th - anniversary of Porter J. Harmon, my 3rd great-grandfather, and Margaret Houston in 1880.  I believe Margaret was his third wife.  They were married in Whiteside Co, Illinois

25th - birthday of Eunice Brown, my 3rd great-grandmother, in 1826 in Ashtabula Co, Ohio.  She was the daughter of Titus Brown, above, and the wife of Thomas Arthur

25th - death of Bedie Buchanan, my 3rd great-grandmother, in Bakersville, Mitchell Co., North Carolina.  She was the wife of Henry Grindstaff.

29th - death of Frona Rebecca Grindstaff, just two weeks after her 81st birthday, in Sacramento, California

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Finds

  • First off this week is a fascinating article that Dick Eastman noted on his blog.  The article is from an L.A. Times reporter on the history behind his own unusual surname, Mozinga.  This just goes to prove that we are not all what we think we are.
  • Michael Hardy takes a look at a long-held myth of why Mitchell County, North Carolina was formed.  Most believe its formation in 1861 was a stance on secession and the impending war, but he discusses that the county formation didn't just happen overnight.  He does state that those counties closer to the Tennessee border (of which Mitchell was one) did tend to lean Union, but he also notes that according to an 1862 tax list there were 65 slaves in the county.  Very interesting article on an area where so much of my heritage can be traced.
  • And from the Davie County, North Carolina Genweb site is a link to the marker for Daniel Boone's parents, Squire and Sarah Boone.  My dear friend and fellow Grindstaff researcher, Anita, took those photos several years ago while on vacation.  When I first begin my research, I was told we were descendants of Daniel Boone's.  The reality is we are not and I haven't found a Boone connection at all, but it seems apparent that my ancestors were contemporaries of the Boones. 
  • Here is a very interesting post from the National Archives on finding Civil War pension files.  If I had only known some of this info a few years ago.
  • Lastly, be sure to read Miriam's article on the Mt. St. Helens explosion 30 years ago this week.  I was only five, but I do remember hearing my mom and grandparents talking about it as well as all the news reports.  At the time, we lived on the Idaho/Oregon border on the banks of the Snake River.  I distinctly remember the ash falling from the sky and landing on my mom's car.  Her windshield was covered with a fine layer of ash.  The other distinct memory I have is the gray sky for weeks afterward and the hazy, fiery orange sunsets that followed for several years.  As I progressed into later grade school years, our teachers spent a lot of time focusing on Mt. St. Helens during the volcano segments of our science classes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: #19 NARA Military Resources

Week 19 of Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy brings us to NARA Military records.  The instructions are as follows:
"Examine the “Genealogy and Military Records” page on the National Archives page. (Non-U.S. folks: examine the military records information from your country’s national archives.) Click the links and read everything you can. If you’ve ordered a military file before, read this page again and refresh you memory so you can help others. Authors of genealogy blogs can write about records they’ve received, comment on the National Archives page, or ask questions of their readers via their blog."
I have had great success with ordering military records from the National Archives.  I have four ancestors who served in the Civil War and I have been able to obtain their military records and/or pension files by completing the appropriate form and submitting to the NARA in Washington, D.C.  If I recall, the documents were received within the stated amount of time and I had no problems.  They are fascinating accounts of their service records and their struggles with the Federal Government to obtain their pensions.  The red tape existed back then, too!

On the other hand, I have had one less-than-positive experience concerning my grandpa Lee's military records that I wrote about here.  I still don't know what to do about this.  I had some email communication with the personnel in St. Louis but it was to no avail.  If I want to pursue this again, I have to submit a new request.  I wonder if they have the capability of searching their database for just a date of birth and first name.  I can't imagine that many men named Lee having his birthdate served in the Navy in the 1930s....I mean what are the odds of that?  If that was possible, I bet he could be found.

My most recent encounter with military records happened today as I completed the Standard Form 180 to request my grandpa Fred's WWII records and my great-grandfather, Helmer Hiby's WWI-era records.  They were both in the Army so I sent the forms to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (the same people who can't find Lee).  I hope to write again soon about the discoveries I made about their military careers.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to read the instructions carefully on the necessary forms.  If you do your part correctly, your success will be much greater!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Niagara of the West

Taken at Shoshone Falls, Idaho, May 2006

This powerful waterfall provides hydroelectric power for thousands of people.
Looking across the canyon through the mist.
Downstream....looks so peaceful.
The view just as the water tumbles over.

Shoshone Falls is located outside Twin Falls, Idaho.  It is often referred to as the "Niagara of the West" coming in at 212 feet, which is actually higher than the real Niagara Falls, and it has a higher water volume.  The best times to view the falls are during the spring and early summer when runoff is still high and before irrigation water is drained from the river.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Last fall, I was contacted by the webmaster for the Neel Family organization website.  He had found my father's YDNA profile on Ysearch and found many similarities to the Neel research on their website.  For the last several months, they have been putting together a database for their Neel DNA research with particular emphasis on the Southern states.  Even though my YDNA surname is McNeill, they are looking for all Neel derivations that have Southern ancestry from prior to 1900.

For further information, please visit their website:  For more information on their published Neel research visit here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Dates in My Family History

This is an all grandfather month:

10th - death of William M. Woody, my 3rd great-grandfather, in Ashland, Virginia.  He was serving in Co. E 6th Infantry North Carolina when he died of the measles.

12th - death of Thomas Arthur, my 3rd great-grandfather, in Northfield, Rice Co, Minnesota in 1903.

12th - death of Charles Lafayette McNeill, my great-grandfather, in 1970 in Concord, Cabarrus Co, North Carolina

14th - birthday of Walter Harmon, my 4th great-grandfather, in 1798 in Tyringham, Berkshire Co, Massachusetts

14th - birthday of Porter J. Harmon, my 3rd great-grandfather, in 1819 in New Marlborough, Berkshire Co, Massachusetts

19th - birthday of William Michael Greathouse, my 2nd great-grandfather, in 1853, Missouri

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reflections on the First Year

Today is my first blogiversary! I can't believe a whole year has gone by and I've managed to keep this going. I will admit there was a lot of self-doubt in the beginning that this was going to last. I am INCREDIBLY technologically challenged so overcoming many of the "techy" aspects of this has been a great learning experience.

So here are some things I have learned during this first year, in no particular order:
  • Blogging is time consuming....but worth every minute.
  • The Geneablogging community is very warm, welcoming, and incredibly helpful. We all jump for joy with great discoveries and shed a tear over a tragedy.
  • I still probably shift tenses and dangle prepositions, much to the dismay of my high school English teachers. Alas, twenty years later I still don't always recognize when I make those errors.
  • Writing the stories, or even just the facts, of our ancestors has created conversations with my sister over our heritage. She has always been interested but doesn't want to partake in the research. However, some of the things I have written have prompted her to talk about it with me.
  • You never know who you might be related to or where you might recognize a common surname.
  • That writing about my ancestors would lead to connections with distant cousins, and that those new-found relationships can lead to photos and documents and history that I would have never otherwise obtained through traditional research.
Many thanks go out to those of you who follow my blog and leave an occasional comment. That in and of itself is motivation enough to keep going. I hope you will join me for Year Two. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Woodland Cemetery, Ashland, Virginia

Back in early March, I wrote a post on my 3rd great-grandparents, William M. Woody and Marginia M. Thomas.  I was thrilled to receive a comment from Rick Walton, a Historian for the 6th North Carolina Troops, which included the infantry unit that William served in during the Civil War.  At the end of my post, I stated that I did not know where the men from the 6th were buried that had died at the hospital at Ashland, Virginia.  Rick was kind enough to provide that information and so much more.

Grave 198 at Woodland Cemetery in Ashland, Virginia is the final resting place of William.  The graves are unmarked but the roster of those buried at the cemetery lists some familiar names to Mitchell and Yancey county researchers, including my ancestor Archibald McNeill's brother, Daniel, in Grave 194.  It should be noted that the soldiers buried in this cemetery are not just from North Carolina, but also include troops from Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and a handful from Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, and Tennessee.  There are 8 for whom the state is unknown.

Additional information on the 6th North Carolina Troops can be found at their website:

Many thanks to Rick for sharing this information with me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I am Ancestor Approved

This is a long overdue thanks to Carol at Reflections From the Fence and Yvonne from Swedish Thoughts, who awarded me the Ancestor Approved award. I am very honored and humbled that they considered me worthy of this award.  As I read Carol's list, I was surprised to see so many similarities to my own family.

As a recipient of this award, I am to list 10 things I have learned about my ancestors that have surprised, humbled or enlightened me and then pass the award on to 10 other genealogy bloggers who I feel are doing their ancestors proud.

1. I was surprised (more like shocked) to learn a very close relative was born "three months premature" in the 1920s at, of course, a very healthy birth weight.....

2. I was surprised (more like appalled) when an ancestor was digging through a pile of old black and white photos (about 3x3 inch size) looking for photos of her husband as a child when she came upon a couple of photos showing a KKK group dressed in full garb.  I think I was rendered speechless (hard to do for me) and never did really ask if she knew if there was a family member in that photo as that seemed like the only plausible explanation for why she'd have such a thing. I suspect it was from somewhere in Missouri because that is where her family is from, but that is only a suspicion.

3. I was surprised to learn recently from a fellow descendant of Thomas Howell that he fathered *at least* 19 known illegitimate children. I knew there were about five or six but am rather stunned at 19. What is even more stunning/disturbing/annoying is that he was unable to help his son-in-law, Archibald McNeill, by providing an affidavit for Arch's Civil War pension that could have helped provide details of the time in question that was the primary reason the government kept denying the pension. But yet he had 19 illegitimate children! FYI - the lady that shared this information and I both descend from legitimate children from his first marriage to Piety Wilson.

4. I am humbled by my ancestors who left their homeland to come to a country unknown on the hope and a prayer of a better life. It makes me realize how cushy I have things and I don't know if I'd ever have half the courage these individuals had to have had to come to this new world.

5. I am humbled by all the ancestors that have served our country in the military, including countless WWII soldiers, including my grandfather and his two brothers; a great-grandfather that served stateside in WWI; at least four ancestors served during the Civil War on either side of the battle; and at least four known ancestors served as Revolutionary soldiers.

6. I am continually surprised at all the distant family of my grandfather Lee McNeill that is out there and seeking our mutual ancestors. I am humbled when I am asked to help provide information as I distinctly remember when I started out that I was the one asking ALL of the questions.

7.  I am humbled at all my grandmothers who bore countless children with little to no medical help, raised their large broods without modern conveniences (the washing machine comes to mind here), or worse yet had to bury their babies or young children.  One distant grandmother gave birth to 13 children and only one a set of twins.  In her case almost all survived to adulthood.  It just makes me very thankful for modern medicine and conveniences.

8.  It was surprising to learn that my most recent immigrant ancestor came to the United States in about 1881.  From where you might ask?  Canada.  Of course Fannie Arnold Harmon had originally come from England in about 1867 to Niagara, Ontario.  I think based upon my public school history classes I assumed that I had Ellis Island people.  Instead I have colonial people by the dozens.

9.  I had a moment of enlightment several years ago when I realized that I could no more take credit for my ancestor's victories than I should take blame for their faults (see #2 and #3 above as well as to some extent #1).  I think it helped make me more objective as I try to assemble the story of the family's life.

10.  It is very humbling to know that I am who I am because of all those that came before me.  My upbringing is a result of my parents and grandparents, and their upbringing as a result of their own parents and grandparents.  To paraphrase what Glenn Close said in "Faces of America", we are all products of those that came before us.

Now because I am long overdue in acknowledging this award, I have no idea who has and hasn't received it.  If you have not yet been a recipient, please consider yourself honored.  I would love to hear about your list.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.....

Life in the last few weeks has been hectic, to say the least.  I have just concluded my busiest time of the year at work and am frankly exhausted.  Last week was the culmination of nearly three months of hard work and I wasn't sure how I would make it to the end.  I have just spent this first free weekend since January with my family doing mundane chores, enjoying the beautiful sunshine and even a trip to the local zoo with my kids.  It's amazing to see animal life (or any other kind, for that matter) through the eyes of two curious children. 

I also spent this weekend almost entirely away from the computer.  It was a refreshing change after having been stuck at my desk for three months plugging away on the keyboard.  Please bear with me as I regroup from my work season and my focus turns back to writing about my long-gone ancestors.  During the last few months, I have received some fabulous information on my North Carolina ancestors, "met" a new cousin (via email), and even saw some new photos that put a few missing pieces of the puzzle together.

I have much to share so stick with me as we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Dates in my Family History

This month is light on birthdays and is dominated by deaths it seems.

3rd - this would have been the 63rd anniversary of my maternal grandparents. They only made it to 47 though.

3rd - death of Betty Presnell or Pressley, my 4th great-grandmother, in then Yancey Co, North Carolina. She was the wife of Hector McNeill. She died the day after giving birth to a daughter, Elizabeth.

4th - death of Rev. Isaac Grindstaff, my 2nd great-grandfather, in 1936 in Bakersville, Mitchell Co, North Carolina.

9th - death of Sarah Ann Sparks Silver McNeill, the second wife of my ancestor Archibald H. McNeill, likely in Mitchell Co, North Carolina

21st - anniversary of my 3rd great grandfather, Archibald H. McNeill, and his second wife, Sarah Ann Sparks Silver in 1864 in Mitchell Co, North Carolina

25th - birthday of Bedie Buchanan, my 3rd great-grandmother, in 1829 likely in Burke Co, North Carolina. She married Henry Grindstaff.

25th - death of my grandfather, Fred Harmon. He served a pivotal role in my life as the father figure I needed but didn't have. This was a devastating day for our family following a six-month battle against brain cancer.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Look a Gift Family Tree in the Mouth!

For several years I have maintained online family trees at, including four for each of my grandparents and two for my husband's side. I determined this was the easiest way to share with distant family members, accommodate my and my husband's divorced parents, and also to not provide unnecessary information to fellow researchers. During this time, I have added many census images and other documents to the trees taking care to make sure I have added correct information, just as I do with my RootsMagic database which should mirror the online trees.

Recently has created an RSS feed for any Member Connect activity. In other words, through Google Reader I receive updates of any other member that attaches the same documents to their trees. In what I am calling the "WDYTYA Effect", I have seen a recent uptick in the a lot. Many of the matches are for collateral lines that I am less interested in following, but occasionally I see a match that could be very helpful to my research and in turn I may have something to share with the other researcher.

Just such a thing happened about three weeks ago. This person appeared to be researching a surname to which I am not blood related. However, this person's ancestor and my ancestor have siblings that married. I had done some looking at his ancestor in order to determine descendants of the siblings. Confused yet? So I send this person a message through the online message system on I waited. Finally yesterday he replies telling me "thanks for the info" but that he was only researching his ancestor's sibling (that married my ancestor's sibling) in an effort to understand the generation before that. He also stated that he hadn't really looked at any of the sibling's descendants because he was focused on their father.

I do have a local county history that is only about 30 years old that would help this guy out. And I believe I have a photo or two of the children of his ancestor's sibling and my ancestor's sibling. Had someone told me that they had that kind of information about my own family when I was starting out, I would have jumped at the opportunity. In fact, when it happens even now I am thrilled to receive info and to share back.

I realize this guy may be new to family history and may not understand the importance of researching the whole family, so I will make one more attempt to contact him. And even if he's not interested now, I'll still be here when he figures out that going sideways and down can be just as important and fruitful as going up the family tree!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Finds

This week has Finds from Kansas and Niagara, Ontario.
  • I am very excited to see that the Johnson County [Kansas] Genealogy Society now has a blog. I have quite a bit of my Scott and Greathouse lines that are located in this county and the Johnson County Genwebsite has been one of the most helpful in my search.
  • Two other great bloggers have Niagara, Ontario connections: Kindred Footprints and Gen Wish List.
  • Through their blogs, I discovered the Niagara Public Library's Historic Niagara Digital Collection. You can search through historic newspapers and request scans of those articles. The library will post the image on their website as well as send you an email notifying you when the image is available. I have already found an obituary on one of the Arnold siblings and am waiting for several others. Additionally they have an image database that is fascinating. It is definitely worth the time to check out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: An Arnold Sibling

We believe this photo to be of Ellen "Nellie" Arnold Carpenter, sibling to Fannie Arnold Harmon. Ellen was born 27 April 1863 in Warwickshire, England and died 26 Jun 1927 in York, Ontario, Canada. She married John Carpenter on 21 October 1908.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Finds - All Things Southern

This week I would like to begin something new entitled "Friday Finds". I am a follower of Julie Cahill Tarr's GenBlog and I really like this idea as a way to share a few interesting tidbits.

This week's focus is on All Things Southern. I have extensive North Carolina ancestry and am always curious about stories that involve this state or often just the South in general.

  • Interesting article by Craig Manson on black Confederates and whether their service was voluntary.
  • "The Southern Cemetery" is a fascinating look at traditions in Southern states. I can say that some of these obviously carried over to other places, including the wife-to-the-left notion, which is very common where I live. I have ancestors buried in eastern South Dakota and that cemetery has a arched gate entrance as mentioned in this article. Two of the most noted things that I haven't seen in local civic-owned cemeteries is bare ground or mounded graves. Our local cemeteries are grassy and flat. Some cemeteries only allow flat headstones that a mower can go right over while others will allow upright stones.
  • I am thrilled to see the blog Asheville and Buncombe County as that is the last known place my grandfather Lee lived in North Carolina. There are many wonderful posts including this one on the Civil War noting that the western counties were not always Confederate-leaning.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm a little green

Today I'm feeling a little green and it's not because of any Irish blood coursing through my veins. At this point in my research, there doesn't appear to be any Irish ancestors. The closest I can come is to my Scots-Irish McNeills.

The real reason I am feeling a little green is with envy. I envy those researchers that have a wealth of family nostalgia to sift through, stories of the long-deceased to write down for the yet unborn, close cousins, or best of all, photos of their people.

I was robbed of this to some extent. I haven't seen my father in over 30 years and since I'm only in my 30s, you can see the significance of this. I didn't have a father around to share his memories of his childhood or the stories of his parents. To some extent, my father was robbed of the same thing including our true surname. My grandfather Lee separated himself from his family in the 1930s never to see them again, nor speak of them again, nor use their name again. That was his choice, but it has impacted all of his descendants. It most certainly would not have been my choice.

One silver lining in all of this is I do have a relationship with my paternal grandmother, but we have lived hundreds of miles apart all of my life. On the few occasions I have visited her there have been some stories or a handful of photos to look at, but she's not really a saver like that. She left her own Kansas home in the 1940s for the riches of California and lost track with many of her extended family.

On my mother's side, she's an only child so no cousins for me. She had six cousins of her own who are now scattered all over the Midwest and West. If it wasn't for email and mine and my sister's diligence, we would probably have no contact with them except the annual Christmas letter. On this side of my family, I am fortunate to have photos and stories and even a few pieces of memorabilia. But that is only 50% of who I am.

I guess that's why everytime I make a small, minute discovery of some long-gone ancestor, I get excited. It's those little nuggets of information that piece together someone I never was given the opportunity to even know about. Those little nuggets slowly fill that pot of gold awaiting me at the end of the rainbow.

Treasure those family history nuggets for they could lead you to your own pot of gold.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Woody Surname of Western North Carolina

I have previously written about my 2nd great-grandmother, Mary Jane Woody, and her father, William Woody, who died serving in the Confederacy in May 1862.

The Woody line has been thoroughly researched and documented by Dave Woody who has assembled his data (and that of others) on his website, Woody Family Roots. If you have Woody ancestry, it is well worth your time to visit his site.

My Woody line is as follows:
Mary Jane Woody, my great-great-grandmother, was the daughter of
William M. Woody (married to Marginia Thomas) who was the son of
Josiah Woody (married to Marjorie Wilson) who was the son of
Wyatt Woody (married to Mary Robertson) who was the son of
Henry Woody (married to Susannah Martin).

Henry fought in the Revolutionary War from Virginia and has several descendants who have obtained membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. I hope to be able to do that one day if I can overcome the hurdle of my grandpa Lee's name change.

If you have any Woody connections to Mitchell and Yancey counties in North Carolina, I would appreciate sharing information. Please contact me using the yellow contact button to the left of this blog.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Fannie Arnold Harmon

Fannie Arnold Harmon
7 Nov 1856 - 12 Jun 1945
She was born in Berkeswell, Warwickshire, England, the daughter of Edward Arnold and Emma Smith. She went with her family to Niagara, Ontario, Canada in about 1867. She left Canada in about 1881 or 1882 and came to Whiteside Co, Illinois where she met and married Walter Harmon in 1882.
"Little Grandma" is the nickname my grandfather, Fred Harmon, had for his paternal grandmother. She came in at a whopping 4' 10" or 11".

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Marginia M. Thomas Woody Jones

In my previous post, I wrote about William and Marginia Woody's family and his brief service in the Confederacy that ultimately cost him his life. In this post, I hope to describe some of the information I have obtained on Margie and the children after William's death in May 1862.

In the 1870 Federal census, Margie can be found in Brush Creek Township, Yancey Co, North Carolina. She is listed as 33 years old, W[hite], F[emale], keeping house, born NC [North Carolina]. She has three children listed in her home: Emily, age 12; Matilda, age 8; and Sherman, age 4. I believe this Emily to be Creeney E. as listed in the 1860 census. Matilda is the right age to be a child of William, so I assumed this was their last child together. Based upon her death certificate, that is the case. Matilda was born several months after her father's death. That brings us to the question of who is Sherman? I have searched in subsequent census years to no avail. I have come to the conclusion that he must have been illegitimate and died before 1880. The only other possibility is that he went by a first name other than Sherman and I don't think I'll ever have a way to find him.

I have been unable to locate their daughters, Kisiah C., Harriett L. or Mary Jane anywhere in the Mitchell or Yancey county censuses for 1870. I know that Mary Jane marries Isaac Grindstaff, but I have no idea what became of the other two sisters. Kisiah would have been old enough at 18 in 1870 to have been married, but I suspect that Harriet may have been too young to be married by then.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to share information with a woman named Melody from the Detroit, Michigan area. She was trying to work backwards on a Margie Jones who may have been a Woody before she married a Jones. I was trying to work forwards on Margie Thomas Woody. Our paths collided and we began to share information. It seems that Margie Thomas Woody married a John Sydney Jones, a man over 20 years her senior, on 7 July 1872 in Washington Co, Tennessee. By 1880, John and Margie were living in Sullivan Co, Tennessee with their son, Dick, age 5. As a descendant doing the research, Melody had discovered that Margie may have had an entire family before marrying John Sydney Jones, a fact that was unbeknownst to all of the living descendants of Dick Jones.

According to the Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002 database at, the marriage of John S. Jones and Margie Woody was solemnized on the 7th day of July 1872 by Robert H. J. Hackers [sp?], M.G.

By October 1896, John Sydney Jones had died. I have been unable to locate Margie in the 1900 census. In 1910, she is listed as a boarder in the Thomas Dixon household in Civil District 12, Sullivan Co, Tennessee. She is listed as widowed and born in North Carolina as well as her parents. Unfortunately, it does not list the number of children that she gave birth to or how many are still living. According to the death certificate provided by Melody, Margie died 26 Jan 1914 and is buried with John Sidney Jones in Kingsport, Tennessee. It also lists her birthplace as Mitchell Co, North Carolina and her parents are John Thomas and Sindia [Lucinda] Wilson. In addition to the death certificate, Melody also provided me with a headstone photo, and an old photo that may possibly be Margie. Because I have lost touch with Melody, I won't post them here without her permission.

So was the marriage of Margie and John Sydney a marriage of convenience: he needed a wife to keep house and she needed financial security? Or was it a love match? Either way, why did none of Dick's descendants know of Margie's first family or only have a slight inkling that somehow she used to be a Woody? Was Margie able to keep in touch with her Woody children and her own Thomas family from a couple of counties away? Whatever became of little Sherman and who fathered him? And most of all, how was Margie able to survive after William died in the War?

So many questions and so many answers that probably went with Margie to the grave.

If anyone has information on this branch of the Woody line or more specifically what became of Harriett, Kisiah, Creeney Emily and little Sherman, I would appreciate hearing from you. I have quite a bit of information on my ancestor, Mary Jane, and some on the other sister, Matilda, who went on to marry James P. Thomas and had at least nine children.

And Melody, if you are still out there, please contact me again.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Kate Nellie Arthur

Kate Nellie Arthur Harmon (1889-1974)
My Great-Grandmother

She would be thrilled to see the ease of availability of genealogy information today. In the weeks to come, I plan on scanning and photographing pages she prepared of genealogy information for my grandfather, her youngest of three sons. That is what helped me get my start with the Harmons and Arthurs.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

William Woody and Marginia (Margie) Thomas

William M. Woody and Marginia M. Thomas are my 3rd great-grandparents. I have written previously about their daughter and my ancestor, Mary Jane Woody Grindstaff.

William M. Woody was born about 1836 likely in what was Yancey Co. which later became Mitchell Co, North Carolina. His parents were Josiah Woody and Marjorie Wilson. William was one of at least five known (to me) children.

Marginia M. Thomas is believed to be the daughter of John Thomas and Lucinda Wilson. Marginia was often referred to in records as Margie. I believe her birth to be 31 Jan 1831 in Burke or Yancey Co, North Carolina. Her father, John Thomas, is one of the many children of Aaron Thomas and Elizabeth Hunsucker. The parents of Lucinda are unknown at this time.

William and Margie married in the early 1850s, though an exact date is not known at this time. They were parents to the following five daughters:
  • Kisiah C born abt 1852
  • Mary Jane, my 2nd great-grandmother, born 11 Jan 1853 and died 26 Jan 1946.
  • Harriet L. born abt 1857
  • Creeney Emily born abt 1859
  • Matilda born 25 Oct 1862 and died 22 Mar 1942. She married James P. Thomas.

Their life was dramatically altered by the start of the Civil War. William joined the Co. E, 6th North Carolina Infantry, a Confederate unit, as a Private on 8 March 1862 in the newly-formed Mitchell County, North Carolina, for the duration of the war. Per his military records held at the NARA and found online at, he was absent from duty beginning 6 April 1862 where he was "sick at hospital." Like many other members of his unit, he contracted measles. The mountain boys who joined up were exposed to many new illnesses for which they had no immunity. William "died of measles at General Hospital at Ashland VA May 10th 1862" just six short months before the birth of his fifth child, Matilda. One wonders if he even knew of the impending arrival at the time he enlisted in early March.

The records further detail his physical description. He was age 27, with grey eyes and dark hair, dark complexion, and 6 feet tall. Another document in the military record packet describes him as age 25 in 1862.

Sometime after William's death, Margie applied for the unpaid portion of his pay. He was entitled to two months and four days pay amounting to $23.46 and for "commentation of clothing" in the amount of $25.00. She received a total of $48.46 on the 28 Sept 1864, nearly two and a half years following his death. The amount was made payable to her attorney, Samuel D. Byrd, of Burnsville, Yancey Co, North Carolina.

I do not know where the Confederate soldiers were buried for those that died at the Ashland, Virginia hospital. I would appreciate any information that could lead me to William's final resting place.

In a second post, I will describe what happened to Margie and her five daughters following William's untimely death.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Dates in my Family History

March has a lot of activity for births, marriages, and deaths in my family tree:

1st - death of Della Winnie Grindstaff, my great-grandmother, in Concord, Cabarrus Co, North Carolina in 1979 just two weeks prior to her 86th birthday. She married Charles McNeill.

1st - death of Catherine Ella (or Ellen) Struble, my 3rd great-grandmother, in 1921 in Clark Co, South Dakota. Catherine was the wife of Samuel Myers.

4th - anniversary of Jonathan Cox and Sarah Wierman Cox who married in Orange Co, North Carolina in 1819. They are my 4th great-grandparents.

7th - death of Homer Eugene Arthur, my 2nd great-grandfather, in Santa Cruz, California.

7th - death of Piety Wilson, my 4th great-grandmother, in Mitchell Co, North Carolina in 1874. She was married to Thomas Howell and was buried at Gouge Cemetery in Mitchell Co.

11th - birthday of Zerlinda Jane "Jennie" Pitts, my 2nd great-grandmother, in 1854 in Lee Co, Iowa. She was the wife of Conrad Scott listed below.

15th - birthday of Conrad Coons Scott, my 2nd great-grandfather, in 1845 somewere in Missouri. He was married to Zerlinda Jane Pitts listed above.

15th - birthday of Della Winnie Grindstaff, my great-grandmother, in 1893 in Mitchell Co, North Carolina.

15th - death of Sarah Jane Johnson, my 2nd great-grandmother, in 1938 in St. Clair Co, Missouri. She was the wife if 1) William Michael Greathouse and 2) Abraham Lincoln Greathouse.

23rd - anniversary of Isaac Grindstaff, my 4th great-grandfather, and his second wife, Sarah Hart in 1809 in Burke Co, North Carolina.

25th - death of Edward Arnold, my 3rd great-grandfather, in Niagara Township, Ontario, Canada.

26th - anniversary of Titus Brown and Lucina Hopkins, my 4th great-grandparents, in Ashtabula Co, Ohio in 1820.

27th - birthday of Bernice Hanson, my great-grandmother, in 1903 in Clark Co, South Dakota. She married Helmer Hiby.

28th - death of Bernice Hanson, the day after her 79th birthday in 1982.

31st - anniversary of my great-grandparents, Helmer Hiby and Bernice Hanson. They married in 1926 in Clark Co, South Dakota.

31st - death of Rebecca Armstrong, my 3rd great-grandmother, in Round Grove, Whiteside Co, Illinois in 1876. She was the wife of Porter Joseph Harmon.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Winter Games 2010 - Days 6 to the End

My Winter Games progress has been impeded by my very busy work schedule and two sick children, one worse than the other. What started as a simple head cold morphed into an ear infection and bronchialitis caused by RSV. Nobody is getting much sleep because we have to do nebulizer treatments every 4 hours, day or night! This is definitely something to document in my journal for little M. Hopefully she recovers quickly.

So a recap of my medal standing:

Category 1. Cite Your Sources: I have managed to cite six census entries, which also includes a transcription of the family, so it's time consuming. Not what I wanted, but it's six more than when I started. It also means I finished all the citations for the 1860 census that I have been working on as part of my database overhaul included as part of my Resolutions.

Medals Earned: none

Category 2. Back Up Your Data: I backed up my blog and my RootsMagic database. I also have backed up various files on my flash drive. My pictures were previously backed up on an external hard drive and I have added no new ones since that time.

Medals Earned: Gold (but I feel like I should have started at Bronze)

Category 3. Organize Your Research: I took a big (and I mean BIG) stack of papers and organized them into file folders by surname. Much more refined organization will have to take place at a later time, but at the present they are organized so at least I can find all relevant papers on a family line.

Medals Earned: Bronze

Category 4. Expand Your Knowledge: No changes here
Previous Medal Earned: Silver

Category 5. Write, Write, Write: No changes here
Previous Medal Earned: Silver

Category 6. Reach Out and Perform Genealogical Acts of Kindness: I found several "new to me" blogs to comment on and I found another way to give back as noted here.

Previous Medal Earned: Silver
Current Medal Earned: Gold

Congratulations to everyone who participated. Much was accomplished in the last two weeks!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter Games 2010 - Days 1-5

Here is a recap of my activities for Days 1 through 5 of the Geneabloggers Winter Games:

Category 4:
Task A: I used Google Maps to locate the various residences of my Grandpa Lee.
Task E: I created a Wordle of all the surnames I am researching which can be seen here.

Medal Earned: Silver

Category 5:
Task C: I have prepared several posts that will be published in March.
Task F: I participated in Challenge #7 of 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy using Google Maps.

Medal Earned: Silver

Category 6:
Task D: I have been doing some online parcel research in an adjacent county to where I live for a fellow geneablogger. I researched the county assessor's webpage and worked towards determining a cross street position so I could figure out what area of the city the property lies in. I communicated via email with the other researcher what I had found and how parcel maps could be obtained online through the county system. I also worked on another parcel to identify it's location in another Idaho county. I have not been as successful with locating this one, but will keep working on it.

Task G: I am following 11 blogs using the Follow feature on Blogger. Most of these blogs were not new to me. I hope to add some new-to-me blogs in the coming days.

Medal Earned: Silver

Not too shabby considering I have been working 10 hour days and spent Sunday being wife, mommy, and chief laundress.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: Google Maps

Challenge 7 of the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy is to make a Google map using addresses important to my family's history.

About three weeks ago, I spent some time reviewing the city directories on for Stockton, California. My grandfather, Lee McNeill, ended up in Stockton by 1937 and was there through the early 1940s.

I found him living at the following street addresses:
635 E. Main
1406 E .Poplar
844 Sierra Nevada (don't know whether this was North or South - I picked North)
443 N. Aurora
825 N. Commerce

What I found most fascinating about this task is that I think that most of the residences are still there, likely without substantial change, assuming that the street numbers haven't changed. The buildings that were photographed by Google appear to be houses or buildings that would be appropriate for the era or earlier. The Main address is currently for a hotel but was likely an old apartment-type building. The Commerce property is by far the best maintained and the surrounding homes look to be as well. The Poplar address and the N. Sierra Nevada address are adjacent to one another. Not sure if the house at N. Sierra Nevada is where he lived or if the Poplar apartment building's current parking lot had a building on it.

Overall, I am very pleased with this feature of Google and will most definitely be using it again.

View Lee's residences in Stockton in a larger map

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Surname Silliness

After much struggle and with the help of my husband, here is my surname collage listing 27 of the names I am researching.

And this is all I have completed for the Geneabloggers Games Day 1. I spent the rest of my day at work and then with my family.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Let the Games Begin!

I have had a long love for the Olympic Games, both Winter and Summer, so I am very pleased to participate in the geneablogger community's Winter 2010 Geneabloggers Games. I am at my busiest time of the year for my real-life job, so if I am able to get anything above a Bronze medal in any of the events, I will consider it an accomplishment. And I also will challenge myself to work towards completing any of the challenges I am unable to do later this year.

Here is my flag representing my heritage from the countries of Norway, Great Britain (English and Scots-Irish) and Germany. To make it all fit I rotated the three bars of the German flag to fit vertically on the right rather than their typical horizontal display. I am 25% Norwegian through my maternal grandmother. All of her ancestral lines are from Norway and after they immigrated to the United States, those individuals married others from Norway. I have several lines of English and German descent from the remaining three grandparents. My paternal grandfather's line is Scots-Irish. And additionally my married name is German.

I intend to compete in the following categories:

1. Cite Your Sources. I was actually slowly working on this anyway so this will be a good motivator.

2. Back Up Your Data. I plan to complete at least one of these tasks.

3. Organize Your Research. I have some new city directory discoveries that need to be cited and filed away.

4. Expand Your Knowledge. I already have one thing I want to do in this category.

5. Write. Write. Write! I need to pre-post some items for my next two very busy months before I can resume regular posts and research.

6. Reach Out and Post a Genealogical Act of Kindness. I read many blogs but not always good at commenting so that will be my goal here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Ahnentafel

This is my ahnentafel through eight generations. I will link to my articles written about these individuals as they are posted. Additional articles beyond the main biography post will be noted after the person's name and dates.

For any of my readers not familiar with what an ahnentafel is, please look here for an explanation. Basically take the individual and double their number to find their father. To find the mother, take the father's number and add one.

If you see any names with which you are familiar or if you see errors, which there are undoubtedly some, I would love to hear from you. Please click on the yellow Contact Me button to the left of the blog to get in touch with me.

1. Me
2. Dad
3. Mom

4. Lee Wesley McNeill (1912-1971) I have posted multiple times about Lee. Please select the McNeill tag to see posts on him and this line.
5. my grandma
6. Fred Joseph Harmon (1921-1993)
7. my grandma

8. Charles Lafayette McNeill (18 Feb 1886-12 May 1970)
9. Della Winnie Grindstaff(15 Mar 1893-1 Mar 1979)
10. Bertel Scott (19 Nov 1884-20 Aug 1950)
11. Frona Rebecca Greathouse (13 Jun 1890-29 Jun 1971)
12. Edward Joseph Harmon (9 Jan 1883-31 Jan 1960)
13. Kate Nellie Arthur (5 Nov 1889-21 Sept 1974)
14. Helmer Nickolie Hiby (1895-Jun 1982)
15. Bernice Hanson (1903-Mar 1982)

16. Robert Nelson McNeill (29 Oct 1858-22 Oct 1932)
17. Margaret Ledford (24 Oct 1848-8 Jun 1927)
18. Rev. Isaac Grindstaff (May 1852-4 Apr 1936)
19. Mary Jane Woody (11 Jan 1853-26 Jan 1946)
20. Conrad Coons Scott (15 Mar 1845-2 Feb 1904)
21. Zerlinda Jane "Jennie" Pitts (11 Mar 1854-1906)
22. William Michael Greathouse (19 Mar 1853-6 Feb 1906)
23. Sarah Jane Johnson (28 Dec 1856-15 Mar 1938)
24. Walter J. Harmon (1855-6 Jun 1921)
25. Fannie Arnold (7 Nov 1856-12 Jun 1945)
26. Homer Eugene Arthur (4 Aug 1850-7 Mar 1943)
27. Amanda Savilla Myers (1862-11 Feb 1920)
28. Iver Hiby (originally spelled Hoiby) (abt 1865-10 Sept 1951)
29. Sarah Nelson (abt 1866-9 Dec 1930)
30. Albert S. Hanson (abt 1864-1 Oct 1928)
31. Maria Anna Anderson (abt 1866-26 Dec 1949)

32. Archibald H. McNeill (1838-1886)
33. Jane E. Howell (1841-1863)
34. Noah Ledford (1813-23 Jan 1895)
35. Clarissa Grindstaff (1822-15 Apr 1905)
36. Henry H. Grindstaff (12 May 1820-1 Jan 1892)
37. Bedie Buchanan (25 Apr 1829-25 Jun 1919)
38. William M. Woody (abt 1836-10 May 1862)
39. Marginia M. Thomas (17 Jan 1831-26 Jan 1914)
40. David Scott (1814-bef 1880)
41. Malinda P. Jones (1815-bef 1880)
42. Absalom Stroud Pitts (abt 1831-1857)
43. Medina Scherer (also spelled Sherer, Shearer) (24 Feb 1833-21 Feb 1904). See here
44. Thomas Greathouse (1821-bef Jun 1880)
45. Sarah Ann Algood (1821-unknown)
46. John C. Johnson (Oct 1914-after 1900)
47. Jane Cox (Nov 1824-between 1906 and 1910)
48. Porter Joseph Harmon (14 May 1819-25 Nov 1897)
49. Rebecca Armstrong (17 Feb 1825-31 Mar 1876)
50. Edward Arnold (6 Jan 1828-25 Mar 1909)
51. Mary Arnold
52. Thomas L. Arthur (6 Feb 1825- 12 May 1903)
53. Eunice Brown (25 Jun 1826-6 Oct 1867)
54. Samuel L. Myers (abt 1837-1922)
55. Catherine Ella Struble (Jun 1836-1 Mar 1921)
56. Halvor Hoiby (Mar 1825-unknown)
57. Kari (abt 1834-unknown)
58.-59. Unknown
60. Syver Hanson (14 Dec 1841-1 Jan 1912)
61. Ingebor (17 Jan 1845-26 Jun 1933)
62. Anders Anderson
63. Unknown

64. Hector McNeill (abt 1815-after 1880). Also, here
65. Betty Presnell (unknown-3 Apr 1849)
66. Thomas Howell (17 Jan 1805-22 Jan 1891)
67. Piety Wilson (1804-7 Mar 1874)
68. Frederick Ledford (1788-1839)
69. Prudence Curtis (1791-1860)
70. Isaac Grindstaff (14 Jun 1774/6-21 Jan 1866)
71. Sarah Hart (abt 1780-abt 1845)
72. Same as #71
73. Same as #71
74. Unknown
75. Sarah (Sally) Buchanan (1810-unknown)
76. Josiah Woody (1810-aft Jun 1880)
77. Marjorie Wilson (1814-unknown)
78. John Thomas (1799-21 May 1894)
79. Lucinda Wilson (1806-unknown)
80. Samuel Scott aka John Swift (abt 1781?-unknown)
81. Elizabeth Bradshaw (abt 1780-unknown)
82.-85. Unknown
86. Solomon Scherer (6 Jun 1803-13 Dec 1902)
87. Maria (could be Mary Geeding?) (abt 1811-unknown)
88. Michael Greathouse (abt 1797-aft 1860)
89. Debbie Snawder (abt 1824-unknown)
90.-93. Unknown
94. Jonathan Cox (27 Jan 1795-4 Mar 1819)
95. Sarah Wierman Cox (22 Dec 1796-unknown)
96. Walter Harmon (14 May 1798-30 Aug 1865)
97. Azubah Hyde (abt 1799-27 Nov 1875)
98.-99. Unknown
100. John Arnold (abt 1791-unknown)
101. Ann Sharp (abt 1802-unknown)
102.-105. Unknown
106. Titus Brown (7 Jun 1792-unknown)
107. Lucina Hopkins (unknown- bef 1837)
108.-109. Unknown
110. Peter Struble (unknown-1849)
111. Margaret (probably Praughard) (abt 1805-10 Feb 1870)
112.-127. Unknown

128. Neil McNeill (family lore indicates this is the name, but not proven at this time)
129. Unknown McMillan or McMillian (family lore indicates this is the name, but not proven at this time)
130.-131. Unknown
132. James Howell (unknown-abt 1844)
133. Martha "Patsy" Hill
134. John Wilson
135. Unknown
136. Frederick Ledford (abt 1743-30 Mar 1786)
137. Margaret McCurry (abt 1766-unknown)
138. McDaniel Thomas Curtis
139. Unknown
140. Isaac Grindstaff (abt 1754-unknown)
141-149. Unknown
150. William Buchanan (abt 1775-after 1850)
151. Elizabeth Jones (abt 1776-after 1850)
152. Wyatt Woody (abt 1776-aft Oct 1850)
153. Mary Robertson (abt 1785-unknown)
154-155. Unknown
156. Aaron Thomas (abt 1776-1883) These dates are very speculative but apparently he did live to be nearly 100.
157. Elizabeth Hunsucker (1782-1880)
158.-187. Unknown
188. Nathan Cox (1760-unknown)
189. Catherine Moffitt
190. Charles Cox
191. Amy Barker
192. Isaac Harmon (31 Oct 1773-22 Sept 1849)
193. Mary "Polly" Rawson (unknown-1848)
194. John Hyde 2nd (unknown-1838)
195.-211. Unknown
212. Aaron Brown
213. Lucy Sturdevant
214.-255. Unknown