Monday, January 27, 2014

52 Ancestors: #4 Mary F. Morris

A picture of two stuffed ducks may seem like an odd graphic for a story about my 2nd great-grandmother but they are connected and I'll explain how a little later. 
Mary F. Morris lived her entire life in Harlan County, Kentucky. She was born about 1830 in the Watts Creek area to Littleton Morris and Martha Mark. As with most Marys in that time, she was usually called Polly. 

Polly became the third wife of John Covey Howard on 10 Mar 1856 at the home of her parents. Six years before that she gave birth to her first child, Emily Sylvania. From all indications, Polly and her daughter's father were not married but, according to Emily's death certificate, his name was Enoch Ball. 

Polly was half John Covey's age when they married. His first wife disappeared in 1849 or 1850 leaving him with 11 children, five of them under 10 years old. His second marriage only lasted two or three years but added two more children. Polly and John Covey had seven children together giving her a total of eight and him 20. 

This picture is supposed to be John Covey and his first wife, Matilda Brock. I'm not convinced that this isn't Polly. When Matilda disappeared, she was about 39 years old and had just given birth to her 11th child. John Covey was 43. This couple looks much older than that to me. His second wife wasn't around long and was under 40 during their brief marriage. One of Matilda's descendants had this portrait and she believed it was Matilda. While there doesn't appear to be 20+ years difference in their ages, I think it's possible this is Polly. 

John Covey and Polly owned at least 150 acres at Wallins Creek in Harlan County. His occupation in census records from 1850–1880 was farmer. If you've been to Wallins Creek, you know there wasn't much farmland there. (Just look at this Google Map view.) I don't know what kind of farmer John Covey was (something else for the to-do list) but most of their "farm" was mountainside. 

After John Covey's death in 1899, Polly lived with their daughter, Lucinda Hopkins and her family. When they left Harlan County for Rockcastle County (and better farmland) about 1901, she moved in with another daughter, Sarah Brock and her husband. 

Polly's date of death is unknown but she apparently died between 1910 and 1920. At least, she wasn't with any of her living children in the 1920 census. The burial location for Polly and John Covey is unknown. 

Now about those stuffed ducks. . . 

While I don't know what kind of farmer John Covey was, I do know the Howards raised sheep. Whether that was a few for personal use or a large number, I do not know. Polly spun their wool, dyed the yarn and wove her own fabrics. When my grandfather (Polly's grandson) died in 1980, two wool throws Polly had made were among his things. My mother has two sisters. That's two throws divided by three great-granddaughters. 

Their solution. 

Cut each one into three pieces. 

My mother made the ducks from her pieces to keep the fabric from unraveling over time. 

A close-up look at Polly's work

Written for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge at No Story Too Small. 

Polly was my 2nd great-grandmother through her daughter, Lucinda Howard.

Monday, January 20, 2014

52 Ancestors: #3 Rhoda Ann Lavender

Very little is known about Rhoda Ann Lavender. At least, I know very little about her. As I skim through my tree looking for ancestors to feature in this 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from No Story Too Small, I'm finding I say that about too many ancestors. And this is just week #3.

Rather than skipping over those folks and continuing to ignore them, I'm going to look at what I need in order to do justice to their story. I'm not the only one facing this problem of too many holes in my research. That sneaky Amy Crow has put us all to work in 2014 with this challenge. Thanks, Amy.

Now back to Rhoda.

Rhoda was married twice and had five children. She married Stephen Bradford Lair on 25 Aug 1829 in Lincoln County, Kentucky. Their sons, William Thomas and Jerome Burke, were born about 1830 and 1832. Family stories say Stephen died when the boys were very young. Rhoda married Thomas Ramsey on 20 Jan 1839 in Lincoln County.

Rhoda and Thomas were living in Rockcastle County, Kentucky in 1840. They had three children together — Margaret born in 1840, Joseph Love born in 1842 and Harriet born in 1844. I don't know when Rhoda died but she wasn't with Thomas and the children in the 1850 census.

Her youngest granddaughter, Janie Ramsey (who was born about 50 years after Rhoda died) said that Rhoda's father was John Lavender of Lincoln County and that John had four other children — Joseph, Elizabeth Jane, Allen and Amelia. Janie did not know the name of Rhoda's mother.
Janie also said that the family lived in this house that was on the corner of Main and Richmond Streets in Mt. Vernon and Thomas had his blacksmith shop behind it. (There is a parking lot there now but I remember that house.) And finally, according to Janie, Rhoda and Thomas were buried in the oldest part of Elmwood Cemetery in Mt. Vernon without markers.

Not only do I not know much about Rhoda. I'm know sure how accurate most of what I "know" really is. I never met Janie. Her information came to me second or third or maybe fourth hand. People who knew her say she was a wealth of family history knowledge. Turns out I don't even have a record for either of Rhoda's marriages — just an entry in an index. (Discovered that when I looked for them to use with this post.) I haven't looked for any of these folks in Lincoln or Rockcastle records.

Rhoda doesn't appear by name in a census record. There may not be much out there to fill in the blanks of her life but it's obvious that I haven't really looked. Yet.

Written for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge at No Story Too Small

Rhoda was my 3rd great-grandmother through her daughter, Margaret E. Ramsey.

Monday, January 13, 2014

52 Ancestors: #2 Samantha Angeline Petty

On the day Samantha Angeline Petty married Thomas Leander Hankins in Hopkins County, Kentucky, J. E. Day was appointed as her guardian. My best guess is that she needed someone to give consent for her to marry at 18 years old (although there is no record of such consent in the Hopkins County records).

The surety for Lee and Samantha's marriage bond was John Day. The same person? Probably. Maybe. I don't know yet.

I've often wondered where Samantha lived between the time her mother, Margaret Thomas Petty, died on 28 Jul 1876 and her marriage almost three years later on 14 May 1879. It's unclear exactly when Samantha's father, John R. Petty, left Hopkins County but he remarried in Whitfield County, Georgia on 26 Apr 1878 so he was long gone by Samantha's wedding day. There is no indication that he took any of his nine children with him to Georgia. The six younger children were all in Forsyth County, Georgia by 1880, five living with Margaret's sister, Mary Thomas Echols, and one with an unrelated family.

It appears that Samantha and her older brother, Henry Milton, remained in Hopkins County when their father left for Georgia. At least, she was there in 1879 to get married and spent the rest of her life there. Milt was in there in 1880, listed as an inmate of the Poor House in the census. The Hopkins County Clerk has Poor House records but the earliest ones available are a couple of years after Milt died in 1893.

Just who was J. E. Day? Was he a relative? Did Samantha live with him? Had she been in his care since her father left Hopkins County soon after (or even before) her mother died in 1876? Was he a Hankins family friend? Was he just someone hanging around the courthouse that day who did her a favor?

I can't answer any of those questions today but I've started researching J. E. and John Days from Hopkins County. Yes, of course, there was more than one. I plan to document that research here as it progresses. Stay tuned.  

Written for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge at No Story Too Small

Samantha was my great-grandmother through her daughter (my paternal grandmother), Verda Waller Hankins. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

52 Ancestors: #1 Emma Ewers Taylor Hopkins

My maternal grandmother has been the topic of numerous posts here. She's really responsible for my interest in genealogy even though that interest didn't develop until more than twenty years after she died. For that reason, it feels right that she's the topic of the first post in this series.

Emma became the postmaster at Loyall, Kentucky in 1937. That is a fact I've mentioned in other posts but never really explored. According to information she recorded in a fill-in-the-blanks family tree book, she held that position from March 1937–September 1941.

Emma behind the counter at the Loyall Post Office.

This record of Appointments of U.S. Postmasters for Loyall in Harlan County, Kentucky gives more detail than she provided.

Mrs. Emma E. Hopkins: Nominated Mar 1, 1937; Confirmed Mar 4, 1937; Recess or Acting apptd Pres Mar 10, 1937; Commission Signed and Mailed Mar 31, 1937; Assumed Charge Apr 4, 1937; Cause and Date of Vacancy Com. Ex. [Commission Expired] The next line shows her successor assumed charge Oct 1, 1941.

If her copy of that commission still exists, someone in the family is holding out on me. My guess is that it was destroyed along with so many of my grandparents' papers and photos when the Cumberland River flooded Loyall in the spring of 1977.

Did the Post Office keep copies of those commissions? You can bet finding out is now on my to-do list.

Source:  Records of the Post Office Department, "U.S. Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832–1971," database, Ancestry ( : accessed 3 January 2014), Loyall, Harlan County, Kentucky; citing National Archives and Records Adminstration microfilm M841.

Written for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge at No Story Too Small

Saturday, January 4, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

I've been thinking about a weekly topic that could be the foundation for this blog in 2014 and get me back on a research track.

When Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small issued a challenge yesterday to write a blog post each week about a specific ancestor, I knew that was it. Check out the details of Amy's challenge in her post Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

Over the past four years, I've written about a number of ancestors here and I'll probably re-visit some of those stories for this series but I'll also cover new ground. No doubt along the way, some holes in my research will show up and that is a good thing.

The series starts here on Monday. Follow No Story Too Small for a weekly recap with links to participating blogs.

*Graphic by Amy Johnson Crow.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Four Years of Blogging and a New Year!

Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that I wrote a 3rd Blogiversary post about how I'd neglected this blog and hoped to get back on track in 2013? No. It was over a year ago. It's already 2014. Really? Wow. Where does time go?

I had good intentions back on December 27, 2012 but my "getting back on track" only lasted two or three months. If not for a This Week in the Family History series I resurrected from 2010, there wouldn't have been anything going on here the past few months. Heck, I even forgot my 4th Blogiversary last week until I saw it on the Geneabloggers calendar.

It's no big mystery why my blogging has stalled. My research has stalled. It's that simple. Oh sure, there is plenty of material in my tree if I went digging around for it but it's just more fun to write about the new stuff. So. I need to devote some time to looking for new stuff and the blogging will happen.

What I also need is better time management skills. In 2013, I took on the job of chairing the Kentucky Genealogical Society's Technology Committee. That turned into giving several presentations for 2nd Saturdays and putting together a monthly newsletter. My KGS volunteer time will only increase in 2014 with the office of Vice President which includes chairing the Program Committee.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I don't have time for genealogy because I'm spending some time doing society work. I'm saying I waste too much time when it's my own research and not some deadline I need to meet that affects others. (BTW, no matter how big the Internet gets, I believe genealogists will always need societies and they can't operate without volunteers. If you aren't active in your local or state society, it's time to get involved.)

I'm going to make time for research in 2014.

Wish me luck. And have the happiest new year.