I’m just popping by to point out that I found some of my West family living a few doors down from the “Clampitt” clan in Franklin County, Arkansas. The origins of the famous Clampetts, late of Beverly Hills, has oft been in dispute. Maybe I just found them?
Tl;dr – I’m looking for a genealogy app or software for Mac that’s really heavy on place and migration route research. Know of anything?
So you guys know that I’m an amateur genealogist. And like any amateur, I find myself starting out with cobbled together tools. I use Ancestry.com a lot, just because it’s so handy for accessing so many databases, and I have the Mac version of Family Tree Maker, which I rarely use because it isn’t use-friendly AND it hogs resources. I also use Evernote and a complicated system of digital folders to keep track of various research about families and places. Oh, and some paper folders for copies of things I haven’t gotten around to transcribing yet.
So basically my research is spread over 4 places. I’d like to firm that up a little bit.
Second of all, what I’m really most interested in is the history of the places my people came from and their migrations. Family Tree Maker attempts to address this a little bit, but I would love some kind of software that allows me to layer migrations and places where I knew my ancestors to be on top of one another so I could really study them (I.e. Why did 3 of my 4th great grandpas end up in Place X? Aha there was a gold rush!)
I’d also like a way to make notes on the various migration patterns, not just the people themselves. But I want to be able to do it visually, and to keep all my information together.
So, does anybody know a really geographic/place-heavy genealogy software ideal for the Mac? Is or this something that has yet to be created? Is there any program that perhaps integrates Google Earth so I could do this myself? Am I asking too much? What’s the meaning of life?
(Okay, I’m done now.) Happy Detecting!
If you’re like me you’re grateful when you find a relative in a census or other source holding an occupation anything – ANYTHING – other than “farmer” or “farm laborer.”
…But a book I’ve been wanting to read for over a decade and somehow finally just procured has me realizing that – like with just about everything in the entire history of the world – there’s a lot more to “farm laborer” than milking cows and putting by crops for Pa.
I’m talking about The Confessions of Edward Isham: A Poor White Life in the Old South. If you have antebellum ancestors in the South, this book’s dissection of a short, brutal life will give you a first person peek into what those lives might have been like.
Now, I’m not saying our “farm laborer” ancestors were all Edward Isham’s. Isham was a landless white man from Carroll County, Georgia who made his way through life working itinerant jobs and/or taking up with women. Oh and gambling. And a bit of robbing. Also lots of fighting. We know all of this because in 1859 Isham found himself on trial for his life for murdering a North Carolina farmer, who he claimed cheated him out of his fair wages.
You know that old saying, “Nothing else can kill you when you’re born to be hanged?” Well, I won’t give away the ending, but…
So, sure, not all poor white landless men in the South were Edward Isham’s, but the book does make a good case that fighting and frolicking were par for the course for pre-Civil War poor whites. For example, apparently men used to keep their nails long and sharp, as a handy eye-gouging weapon. Seriously.
I’ll detail the things that struck me about this book, with an eye toward family history, in no particular order.
Working Poor White Men in the Old South
As a student of American history, I vaguely remember all of those mini-depressions and financial crises the U.S. suffered through in our short history until the Glass-Steagall Act stopped that boom and bust cycle. (Until it was repealed. Don’t even get me started.) As they always are, these recessions were hardest on people who didn’t have much to begin with.
Isham and his fellow laborers were no exception. Then add geography into play. Isham was born about 1826 and his father moved the family to Carroll County, Georgia after making a successful draw in the 1832 Georgia Land Lottery. By Edward’s own account, his father, Edward Sr., was a “dissipated” man who moved the family frequently and taught Edward how to fight at a young age. Edward grew up in Carroll County when it was a mining area and where a man could make a living independently scratching for gold.
As Edward grew up, the wild Georgia frontier was slowly tamed, and the chances for a man to make his own way in the world independently slowly dried up. Many landless white laborers were forced to trade their mining kit for bosses and wage labor.
How working under a landed farmer’s stern eye must have stung after you had spent the first part of your life making your own way staking out your own claims. (I feel it. It’s why i’d rather sleep in a cardboard box than sign on as someone else’s employee ever, ever again.) The whole time I read this book, this song keep running through my mind:
Oh, and then there are the other laborers in the South at the time – slaves.
“The existence of black slavery in the South dictated the kind of occupational and geographic mobility experienced by Edward Isham and other poor white laborers. Slavery both stunted the growth of industrial wage positions and limited the need for white workers, as well as the wages paid to them, in the region. Because many Southerns who needed additional labor for their various enterprises relied on slaves, the market for white labor in the antebellum South was one of infrequent work and low pay.” (Charles C. et al. 1998)
Interestingly, the paradox that landless white laborers faced back in the day reminds me of the paradox that “unskilled” workers of all kinds often face in the U.S. now. (I put “unskilled” in quotes because I’d say that breaking your back, enduring physical hardship and swallowing a whole lot of crap to keep a roof over your family’s head is certainly an admirable trait, if not a skill.) The jobs that would pay decent wages go overseas or to undocumented or otherwise disenfranchised immigrants willing to work for low wages, further depressing the economy. One hundred and fifty years later we don’t blame the enslaved for the state of the antebellum economy. Will it take another 150 years for us to figure out who to blame for today’s economy? Probably so.
The editors make it plain that not all landless whites in the old South were like Edward Isham. For one, Isham took up with a lot of women but didn’t ever let any of them tie him down. Most other men weren’t so lucky… I mean, most other men worked alongside their nuclear families. In fact, when seeking out farm laborers, the landed gentry often looked for men with families because they could benefit from the labor of the wife and children as well. Single male workers like Isham were probably the least desired class of worker, but would do in a pinch if you needed a ditch dug or a fence built.
The Women of Edward Isham’s Confessions
The book includes Edward Isham’s 25ish page confession, and several essays parsing the document, including “Mothers, Lovers, and Wives: Images of Poor White Women in Edward Isham’s Autobiography” by historian Victoria Bynum.
Edward Isham “married” a couple of times, and also took up with a lot of women. There are so many consorts in the text that I actually lost count. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Isham, as a wanted man, was described as “rather good looking” with “light hair.” (No know pictures of Isham exist. If you can’t quite conjure up a mental image of Edward Isham, just check out Thomas MacEntee’s My Daugerreotype of Guy pinboard and take your pick.)
The editors posit, and I agree, that the marriages were probably common law rather than state sanctioned. He seemed to abandon his wives and consorts as he found better work opportunities. Interestingly enough, he does admit that some women had power over him. He courts one woman, leaves after some trouble with the law, comes back and steals her from her husband, finds himself cuckolded, and then apparently tries to get her back again but ultimately fails.
Isham also shows a little tenderness toward some women in his life. His 3rd reported wife died in childbirth shortly before he committed the murder that eventually did him in, and he reports being feeling low and drinking a lot during that time.
In other words, if you had any illusions of the prim and proper Victorian lady dwelling in the Georgia frontier, read this primary source for a clearer picture. Times were tough for everyone and people made choices about marriage and mating for a variety of reasons.
Now, every time I come across a male ancestor living with another family in a census or a female ancestor living back home with mom and dad and her children, my imagination will add a more colorful spin to the circumstances. I’ll never look at the “farm laborer” or “laborer” occupation in the census the same way again after reading the Confessions of Edward Isham. I hope, if you come from a family of boring old famers and farm laborers here in the South, that you’ll give this amazing primary source a read, and then you won’t either.
Bolton, Charles C, and Scott P. Culclasure, eds. The Confessions of Edward Isham: A Poor White Life in the Old South. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1998.
As I approach my 50th blog post, I realized I haven’t done a Follow Friday in forever. …So here goes!
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend – Admit it. You thought Robert Cornelius, the photographer of the very first selfie back in 1839, was hot. (To me he looks like what Heathcliff should look like.) Well, this Tumblr compiles Cornelius and all of your other daguerreotype boyfriends together in one handy reference list.
Also, you can submit your photos. If it isn’t too squicky for you, maybe your hot daguerreotype ancestor can become someone’s daguerreotype boyfriend. Speaking of historical hotties, check out young Joseph Stalin at #9. (This link goes to Cracked.com which will always, at some point, become NSFW.)
The Lewis Hine Project – Labor Day just happened, so what better time to anxiously peer at photos of child laborers? I’ve already written about Shorpy.com, a historical photograph website inspired by a photograph of Shorpy Higginbotham, a tiny little boy working in a mine in Alabama. If you’re interested in more of Hine’s work documenting child labor, check out the Lewis Hine Project, run by historian Joe Manning. The site also features some mystery photos. Can you help identify these people?
Addie’s Sojourn – After serendipitously finding some old family letters, I’ve been especially interested in older personal writings. That’s why I was delighted to discover that my friend Liz Loveland (@Lizl_genealogy on Twitter) had inherited a copy of her ancestor, Addie Sturtevant Burnett’s diary, kept during her time as an American living in Paris from 1889-90. Addie was a well-educated, if, in Liz’s words “ethnocentric” woman who made an extraordinary decision for her time. The historian in me is especially drawn to issues of race and class, so it’s interesting to see phrases like “We met four people and two Chinese that came over with us on the Gascoygne.” Two Chinese indeed.
4YourFamilyStory.com - I griped and griped about how I didn’t have any time for genealogy for about 6 weeks due to a big work project. So when I dug my way out, I was happy to see that Caroline Pointer (@FamilyStories on Twitter) had started posting a daily “# Things You Need to Know about Genealogy This Morning” post. Now I’m all back up to speed. Whew.
So I’m giving you about 12 minutes notice that the National Archives is holding a virtual genealogy fair today. Yep – we can get all of the goodness of a genealogy conference without leaving our messy desks. (Okay, well mine is messy. Maybe some of you guys are members of The Organized Genealogist on Facebook.)
How to Participate
Participation is simple!
1. Check out the NARA virtual genealogy fair schedule at the National Archives website.
3. Create an account or get signed in at UStream.
4. Follow the National Archives account at UStream.
5. Tune in at 10am for the first session!
Sessions for Everyone
I have to work today, of course, but I plan to hit as many sessions as possible.(I’m self-employed, so I have 12 bosses. I work everyday!)
I’m going to try to listen in on all sessions, but my “absolutely can’t miss” sessions are:
10am – Introduction to Military Records at the National Archives with John Deeben
12pm – A-Files (Alien Files) with Elizabeth Burnes
2pm – National Archives Online Resources for Genealogy with Nancy Wing
10am - Genealogy and the Freedman’s Bank: Records of the Freedman’s Savings & Trust Company with Damani Davis
11am - Military and Civilian Personnel Records: The National Archives at St. Louis with Ashley Mattingly and Theresa Fitzgerald
1pm – Federal Penitentiary Records with Jake Ersland (I have two unrelated relatives who were both rumored to have been in the federal pen for bootlegging…)
The Twitter hashtag for the conference is #GenFair2013. Connect with me on Twitter at @JennealogyStory and let’s be a boisterous backchannel!
After doing so much research in Forsyth County, GA (where old newspapers are few and far between), I was delighted to discover that the Keowee Courier from Pickens County, SC has been printing almost continuously since 1849. Yay!
This little gem comes from the Keowee Courier’s very first issue on May 18th, 1849.
Tl;dr “Take your hats ALL the way off, people.”
African-American History Canton Georgia, African-American history cherokee county georgia, Black History Canton Georgia, Black History Cherokee County Georgia, Canton Georgia, desegregation Canton Georgia, desegregation Cherokee County Georgia, North Georgia
This historian’s heart was gratified today to see a firsthand account in our local newspaper, the Cherokee Tribune, of some of the troubles Canton experienced during the Civil Rights era. Though we still have a long way to go (see: internet comments, ugh), it’s heartening to see my little town having an open discussion and getting past the racial divide that must have seemed insurmountable back in the early 1960′s. (I’m also proud to say that I know and love the Tanner family of Canton, Georgia featured in this article!)
To quote from the article by Joshua Sharpe:
Unrest in Canton
On Aug. 11, 1964, four young men attempted to integrate the Canton Theater on Main Street, and white residents of the city weren’t happy about the coming progress.
The Atlanta Constitution wrote at the time of the incident that the young men were met with much resistance that night.
“The Negroes were peppered with eggs and tomatoes from a crowd of about 700 white persons as they came out of the theater on Main Street,” the Constitution’s Aug. 12, 1964, article stated.
Ozella Tanner said at the time, non-white residents were only allowed to sit in the balcony at the theater.
When word spread that the young men were trying to change the policy, she said she knew something bad might happen and jumped in her car to go pick them up.
As she drove through downtown Canton, she saw that she was right to be worried.
“They were lining the street,” Ozella Tanner said of the hundreds of angry white residents unhappy with the protest. “They threw rocks at my car as I was driving through town.”
Find out what happens next in the Cherokee Tribune Article.
Of course, I can’t help but wonder what stories from this era have still gone untold. What about school desegregation? Restaurant desegregation? When were black people allowed to take jobs at one of the two Canton Cotton Mills? It’s something I sure would like to know more about. If you have a story, or are researching the Civil Rights era in North Georgia, please Contact Me.
Don’t stop reading! I know the topic of this blog post sounds technical and deadly boring, but it may be vital to your continued success as the genealogy world moves increasingly online. Especially if you run a genealogy website or work as a professional genealogist. So hear me out here!
What the Heck is Going on Here?
ICANN, the body that governs and organizes domain names (i.e. web addresses, such as “www.familysearch.org” or “jennealogy.wordpress.com”) has decided to release a whole bunch of new “generic top level domain names.” In other words, instead of just .com, .net, .org, etc. we are now going to be able to buy domain names that end in things like .inc, .llc, and .plumber. (Yes, .plumber.)
Why do I Care About a Bunch of New Domain Extensions?
In my opinion, people who own businesses, provide services or spend a lot of time maintaining a well-respected website should care quite a lot about these new GTLD’s.
Because .Com’s and Friends are Vanishing
If you’ve tried to register a new domain name in the past few years, chances are you didn’t get your first choice. The world of domain names is getting pretty crowded. There’s no way any regular person is ever going to get pizza.com or pets.com. And forget scoring YourName.com. It’s just barely ever going to happen anymore. If somebody else with your name hasn’t already scored the domain name then domain squatters have bought it up with the intention of reselling it to you… for a steep price.
Because You Need Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
At the same time, search engine optimization (SEO) has increased in importance. In other words, if you want to get found online you need to handle your business and make sure that you show up high in search engine rankings when people search for websites like yours. This is especially true when someone is using a search engine to find a local business or professional. I see stats on this vary, but the general consensus seems to be that about 60% of consumers search online at least once a month to find a local business.
Example: You are a genealogist in Atlanta, Georgia and you want private clients to find your lovingly-crafted website and give you a call or email. Even better, if someone searches “Atlanta Georgia genealogist” or “genealogist in Atlanta Georgia” on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc. then you want them to find you first. Not your competitors, and not the Georgia Genealogical Society. (Not knocking them. And hey, they come up as #1 for this search. Good work, guys!)
(Is all this SEO talk making your eyes cross? Sign up for my bite-sized emails with online marketing tips just for genealogists.)
To make sure your website appears up high in the rankings when a potential customer seeks you out, you have to follow several steps. They include providing great content, updating frequently and making sure that your domain name represents what you do. Aha! This is where those pesky GTLD’s come in!
The first thing a search engine like Google looks for when someone performs a search is the domain name. If someone is looking for pizza in Akron, Ohio then Google will immediately know that “Akronpizza.com” is more likely to return the results that that searcher wants than a site named “APZ.com.” The APZ.com site could represent the best pizza joint in Akron, but Google won’t know that. The domain name doesn’t help Google do it’s job.
If you were forced to buy a domain name that doesn’t express what you do – like “SGTD.com” or one that is so long that it doesn’t even fit on business cards – like ”RhodeIslandGenealogyisAwesomeHireMe.com” then these new domains are your chance to start over with a clean slate. …And a domain name that will help your target customers find you through online searches.
Possible New Top Level Domains for Genealogists
The reason I’m writing this post in the first place is that when I’m not geeking out over family history, I own Social Street Media and I’m busily marketing my clients online. One of my clients, GoDaddy, has put together a great resource on all the new generic top level domain extensions. There’s no “.genealogy” (bummer!) but there are a few that you might consider if you’re in the market for a new domain name:
- .family – For family based sites. I think this one, above all others, is also best for genealogy sites in general!
- .forum – If you run a discussion-forum based genealogy site, like the Guild of One-Name Studies.
- .global – You run a site with a global focus.
- .news – Your site is news-based.
- .bio – A biography based site. I feel like this one would be great for a site that focuses on one ancestor or relative.
- .church – For church or religion based sites.
- .community – For community based sites.
- .group – For groups or organizations that can’t secure the .org domain extensions.
- .book – For book websites.
This is only a smatter of the many top level domains soon to be released into the world. Check them all out at GoDaddy’s GTLD Watchlist.
When You Shouldn’t Buy a New Domain Name
We all want the great family history research we do, the great books we write or the great analyses we spend hours on to be found and appreciated. But if you aren’t trying to market a service or business, it may not be worth your while to spend money on a new domain. After all, not only will you have to pay for it, you’ll have to take the time to redirect your old website to your new domain name, and perhaps even change business cards and other marketing materials.
On the other hand, if you ever want your genealogy work to be more than just a hobby, I highly recommend securing a descriptive, unique top-level domain name now – before they all disappear like the dodo and the .com!
For More Information
If you’re interested in finding out more about marketing your genealogy site, please sign up for my mailing list here. I send out easy-to-digest tips from time to time and promise never, ever to spam you or send you something you won’t find useful.
Andrew Carnegie, census records, English language, genealogy, genealogy and spelling, John Berry Duncan, John P. Gravitt, Social Security Administration, spelling, standardized spelling, Teddy Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt
This is something that most people who’ve been digging through genealogical primary sources already know, but I’ve found myself having a conversation about this with a bunch of interested family members and friends lately, so I thought I would write a post about this.
More than likely, your name is spelled the way it is because of a fluke. That’s right. the spelling of your name probably wasn’t standardized until the 20th century. If you think you’re the “Smyths” or the “Brownes” with an “e” then think again. You may very well be as closely related as 3rd cousins with people who spell your last name entirely differently than you do! Bear with me here.
A few months back I was with my ex at the driver’s license office. He had to show documentation for his license and the clerk noticed that his name was spelled differently on his social security card than on his birth certificate. She warned him that he’d better get that fixed right away because it could mess with his social security, taxes, credit scores and background checks. Needless to say, he went to the social security office and made the change to the official spelling of his first name. Otherwise his whole life could get screwed up, right?
In the nineteenth century, nobody had this problem. First of all, what social security? What social safety nets? There was no real reason to require a standard spelling of a name.
Further, a lot of people didn’t read and write and so when they had to write their name – which wasn’t often – they did the best they could. If they went for years between writing their names, the spellings they chose could easily change. Not to mention that the English language didn’t really have standardized spelling yet. (Figures as recent as Teddy Roosevelt and Andrew Carnegie wanted to simplify English language spelling because it is just too darn hodgepodge.)
Sometimes people didn’t write their own names at all. Sometimes their names were written by census takers or other public officials who did they best that they could with the spelling of unusual (and not-so-unusual) names. Check it out:
Same guy, same family, three different censuses, three different spellings of their last name. Today, we use the “Gravitt” spelling but we are more than likely related to Gravetts, Gravits, Gravets, Gravots, and more as different families descended from the same ancestors changed the spelling of the name down through the years. It really is just a fluke that we ended up sticking with “Gravitt.”
The same thing happened with first names. Jennet Cowen West and her daughter Edith West lived together in 1888. But Jennet spelled her son’s first name “Paskill” while Edith spelled it “Paschal.” Census records, land records and civil war pensions show Pascal spelled almost every possible way.
Name Spelling in Primary Sources
This is not to say that your relatives didn’t know how to spell their names or didn’t have a preference. One thing to remember when looking at primary source research is that more often than not these records were written by people who were not your relative. Census takers, county clerks, and other assorted bureaucrats often wrote your relative’s name down for them. That’s why it’s always so amazing to find something written by the actual person you are researching. You can get that info straight from the horse’s mouth, for once.
This is my 3rd Great-Grandfather John Berry Duncan’s signature in 1910 when he was 88-years-old. You can see he forgot the “n.” That doesn’t mean our name is really “Ducan.” Nah, it’s just that spelling wasn’t as important back in the day.
I hope this helps! (I especially hope this helps my friends who maintain that they can’t be related to anybody with the last name “Stevens” because their last name has always been spelled “Stephens.”)
Althea West, Althie West, Andrew H. McClure, Edith Harris West, Edith West, Edy West, Edy West Harris, Elizabeth West, Elizabeth West Humphrey, Forsyth County Georgia, George W. West, George W. West b. 1819, Jennet Cowen, Lightner West, Sarah Jane West, West, William McClure, Yell County Arkansas
How are you guys today? I am pleased to write that I am tolerably well and I hope you are well, too. (Sorry, I can’t help it. After getting buried in all of these old West family letters I want to talk like the writers do!)
This letter is from my 3rd Great Aunt Edith West Harris in Forsyth County, Georgia to her brother, Paschal P. West in Yell County, Arkansas. Elizabeth West, mentioned in the letter, was their younger sister. I have to admit that this is the West Family letter that did me in.
Without further introduction I’ll just get on with it. ( I’ve kept the original spelling, but added punctuation and paragraph breaks.) Warning: have tissues ready.
My Transcription of a Letter from Edith West Harris to Paschal P. West and Rebecca Westray West
July the 2, 1882
Dear Brother and Sister,
I once more embrace the opportunity of dropping you afew lines to let you no that we are all tolerably well. I am not well myself. Truly hoping these lines will reach you due time and find you all well.
Well Paschal I have no good news to rite. It is sad news must reach your ears in this letter. I am sorry to say to you all that Elisabeth has parted from us in death. This is sad news to rite to you all. She died last Sunday morning, about 10 o’clock. She died here at Pap’s. She died with consumption. She had been feeble and cofing for along time and after she married she got wors and wors til she was oblige to give up. She had three good doctors to wait upon her but none of them could do her any good.
She suffered dreadful before she died. She died in her rite mind. She was happy for over a week before she died. She pointed out the road she was going to and all. I wish you could have all been here her talk about her sweet home she saw in heaven. She said she saw so many pretty things up there.
She saw a little baby on the foot of her bed. She saw it there all night. She told mother it was her baby and come after her and was waiting for her to go. She would take spells a shouting and would talk about her sweet home as long as she could talk. She loved to talk about things above.
She was so willing to die we ought not to grieve after her, but nature binds us so close we can’t help it. She told us not to grieve after her for she was going home to rest. She bade us all farewell and told us all to meet her in heaven. What a blessed thing it is to have ding(?) grace when she saw Maryan on her bed. Mother asked her if she saw Lightner two. She said no she did not see him but she said he was up there she would soon see him two. Her last days was here happiest days here on earth.
She died so easy. She closed her own eyes and folded her hands across her chest and fell asleep in Jesus.
Paschal, all that we can do is to try and prepare to meet her in heaven. That was her dying request. It was hard to give her up, but she is gone the way we all have to go.
We received your last letter but still kept waiting thought Lisa would get better.
Becky, I saw your pa an Gosy last Monday at the buriing (burying). They are all well. Your pa looks very well.
We are having plenty of rain here this summer. Crops is looking well so far. Pap has not had his wheat threshed yet. I can’t tell how much he will make. His wheat is very good.
William, I want to say a word or two to you. I am sorry you caused your mother to see so much trouble, but I hope you will come back this fall to see her. William, I wish you and all the rest of you could have been here to see your Aunt Elisabeth talk. She took mother by the hand and said “Goodby, Mother. Meet me in heaven.” Also took Pap by the hand and said “Good by Pap. Meet me in heaven.” Them was the sweetest words I ever heard spoke.
Paschal, I want you to come to see us one more time and bring Becky with you. I would be so, so glad to see you all coming.
Althie, I wish I could help you eat some of your honey. I want you to send me all of your pictures when William comes home. I will send my little girls’ in this letter according to promises. I want you to rite as soon as you get this letter and let me here from you all. Rite long letters. I will anser ever one that I get. I love to here from you all. Read this if you can. So I must close. Rite soon. Goodby to all.
Edy Harris to Paschal and all
Details of this Letter Deciphered (Tolerably Well)
I’ll wait for you to stop crying and for these letters to unblur themselves.
So this letter is basically one sister’s way of processing her grief over her sister’s passing. You can tell that she is reliving the events of last Sunday in her mind as she gives details in short, clipped sentences and sometimes circles back to think – and write – again on what has transpired.
I can only image what a horrible week Elizabeth suffered through and how difficult and also oddly comforting for her family as she spoke of heaven, of seeing the baby Maryanne, who had died in 1863 at just 3 years old, and of knowing that their oldest son, Lightner (my 3rd Great-Grandfather) was in heaven waiting for her, too.
A lot of evidence – the fact that Edith always wanted to live at home, even while married, the fact that a married Elizabeth came home to her parents’ house to die (if she ever left at all), and even the fact that Elizabeth hallucinated her little sister Maryann – demonstrates that this was a very close and loving family.
A lot of people and events are mentioned here so I’ll try to go over them:
I am sorry to say to you all that Elisabeth has parted from us in death. This is sad news to rite to you all. She died last Sunday morning, about 10 o’clock.
According to census records, Elizabeth West was born about 1855 and this letter shows that she died on Sunday, June 26, 1882. I was never sure if the Elizabeth West mentioned in Forsyth County Marriage Records was our Elizabeth, but since Edith mentions that Elizabeth’s illness worsened after she married, I think Elizabeth must be the Elizabeth West shown in the Forsyth County, Georgia Marriage Books as marrying William O. Humphrey on Dec 18, 1881. I’m not sure what became of him after this.
She had three good doctors to wait upon her but none of them could do her any good.
In her letter to Paschal and Rebecca West, Paschal and Edith’s mother Jennet Cowen West also talks about having 3 doctors attend her. I guess my ancestors trusted doctors about as much as I do.
She was so willing to die we ought not to grieve after her, but nature binds us so close we can’t help it.
That’s just beautiful writing.
Mother asked her if she saw Lightner two.
Lightner West was Edith’s and Paschal’s oldest brother and my 3rd Great-Grandfather. He died in the Civil War at Tazewell, TN in 1863. I’m so glad he was mentioned in this letter, because I’ve never found very much about him at all.
We received your last letter but still kept waiting thought Lisa would get better.
I think they must have called Elizabeth “Liza” (though Edith consistently spelled Elizabeth with an s.)
Becky, I saw your pa an Gosy last Monday at the buriing (burying).
This was Rebecca Westray West’s father and sister, Josie.
William, I want to say a word or two to you. I am sorry you caused your mother to see so much trouble, but I hope you will come back this fall to see her.
I really, really want to know what William did to make his mother suffer! From later writing, we know that William is Edith and Elizabeth’s nephew. I think she must be referring to William McClure (b. 1862), the son of Sarah Jane West McClure and her husband Andrew H. McClure, Paschal and Edith’s oldest sister. I know that the McClure family was in Arkansas along with Paschal and Rebecca by 1900, but they may have still been in Georgia in 1882, when this letter was written and when William was 20. If so, it would make sense that perhaps William ran off to Arkansas and should return home to see his mother. There was a lot of “going West” back in those times.
An agricultural census shows that a Sarah Jane West owned land in Forsyth County, Georgia in 1890 even though William W. West (her brother?) is listed as her agent. It’s also a little strange that she’s listed as Sarah Jane West rather than Sarah Jan McClure, but since they lived on the “West land” it may make sense that the census taker may have just slapped the West surname on everyone.
This is an interesting mystery and I hope to get to the bottom of it. Also, if this is the same William I’m thinking of, he went on to become a doctor in Arkansas so I guess his mama probably forgave him.
Althie, I wish I could help you eat some of your honey.
I imagine Althie is Althea West (b. 1865), daughter of Paschal West and Rebecca Westray West. I guess she kept bees? There’s also an Althie McClure in the family, but she was only about 2 years old in 1882 and I suspect they still lived in Georgia at that time anyway.
This is such a wonderful find, I’m — once again — extremely grateful to my cousin Ron West and his aunt Jessie West Newman for finding and preserving these letters.
The Original Letter
I only have a copied version of this letter and page 2 is pretty wonky, but this is the best I could do. Good luck deciphering!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this letter as much as I have (and cried a lot less than I did.) If you’re a relative or just want to say hi, leave a comment or Contact Me. Until next time, stay tuned and happy detecting!