Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Aunt Harriet

The topic for the 116th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene is "Picture/Story for Women's History Month." March is Women's History Month and we will once again honor a woman from our family tree by featuring her in the COG. This time we will do so by starting with a photograph and telling either the story of the photo and/or a biography of the woman pictured." 

Harriet Ramsey Proctor - 1844-1915
This is a picture of Harriet Ramsey Proctor. I'm not sure who wrote "Aunt Harriet" across the top but it was likely either her niece, Martha Ann Taylor Riickert, or Martha's daughter, Rosie Riickert Thompson, since Rosie's son shared it with me several years ago. I don't know when or where or why this picture was made but I do know a little about Harriet. 

Harriet's childhood was probably more difficult than that of the average child growing up in rural Rockcastle County, Kentucky in the mid-1800s because both of her parents, Thomas and Rhoda Ann Lavender Ramsey, died when she was very young. 

Thomas was a blacksmith and the family lived in a two-story house on the corner of Main Street in Mount Vernon. Rhoda Ann was a widow with two young sons when she married the much older Thomas in 1839 in neighboring Lincoln County. That was Thomas' third marriage and he had an adult son from his first marriage. Together Thomas and Rhoda had two children, Margaret and Joe, before Harriet was born on 19 May 1844, probably in that house on Main Street. 

The exact dates that Rhoda Ann and Thomas died are not known but Rhoda died before 1850 and Thomas around 1852. By the time Harriet was eight years old, they were both gone. I don't know what happened to Harriet, Margaret and Joe immediately after Thomas died but they surely went to live with a relative since they were 12, 10 and 8 years old. Margaret married in 1855; Harriet and Joe were living with their half-brother, Tom Lair, in 1860. Tom's wife, Patsy, was Thomas Ramsey's niece so they may have taken in all three children after their father's death.

Tom and Patsy Lair both died before 1870. In that census, two of their daughters and Harriet (who was now 25 years old) were living with Patsy's parents. Patsy's father, Frank Ramsey, was Thomas Ramsey's brother so he was Harriet's uncle. 

Sometime between 1870 and 1880, Harriet became a live-in housekeeper for John J. Proctor and his mother, Millie. John was 42 years old and his occupation was shoemaker. On 4 April 1883, Harriet and John Proctor were married but their marriage lasted less than ten years because John died on 20 December 1892. They had no children.

In the 1900 and 1910 census, Harriet was a widow, living alone. Her sister, Margaret, died in 1892 and her brother, Joe, in 1901. Harriet died on 13 March 1915 and was buried beside her husband in the Ramsey-Taylor Cemetery. She was 70 years old. 

The Mt. Vernon Signal noted her death on March 19: 
"Aunt Harriatt Proctor died last week of cancer. She had been as sufferer from that awful disease for many months."

It seems like Harriet was a sufferer of great loss throughout her life. 

Sources can be found at Harriet's page on my website. Harriet's sister, Margaret Ramsey Taylor, was my 2nd great-grandmother. Photo from George Frederick Thompson.


  1. What an interesting story. And yet, to look at her picture, she looks like she's not afraid of life. It's hard to imagine that all her dreams came true, but some people just seem to find their own happiness in this world. A lot to admire there!

  2. A poignant story, Linda - thanks for sharing. One does wonder how some people simply get up and get on going... day after day.

  3. She does have an air and look of underlying sadness. The photo is quite remarkable.

    1. I've always been intrigued by this picture. I wish I knew how old she was.

  4. I am not an expert in dating hairstyles and dresses, but this picture is similar to one I have that was taken in the late 1860s --- there are some great sites on the web that can help you date the photo more precisely --- also Maureen Taylor is a great sleuth in this area. That said, this is wonderful story of how some women just keep getting up and going on --- a beautiful, strong woman she was, this Harriet of yours.

  5. Linda, your photograph of Harriet is beautiful. Her hair style is amazing. There's not a hair out of place! She looks like a lovely lady. Her biography makes me realize how important women friends must have been in the latter part of the 19th century century (well, they always are, but perhaps even more so then); and, of course, how important family is in every century. Though her life was difficult, I hope she found joy. Thanks for sharing her with us.