Sunday, October 2, 2011

Church Record Sunday – My Cousin Julia

On a Sunday at the end of January of this year, I met my cousin Julia online. In 2009, she had posted a query on the Watts Genforum looking for living relatives of her grandfather, Samuel Lindsey Watts. She stated that she was “just searching for distant cousins,” as her dad, Howard F. Watts, was an only child. I sent a reply to her asking if she was still looking for relatives as my grandfather was one of Howard’s cousins. This makes Julia and I second cousins one generation removed.
Looking back over my records, I realized that I never knew Howard Watts had children. He was buried with his parents in Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and I just assumed he never married. Turns out he married three times and had two children, one of whom was Julia.
She and I started a correspondence back and forth with me filling in information about the Watts family. Last week, she mailed me a couple of photo albums that were her grandmother’s to see if there were any I’d be interested in copying or could help identify.
Many of the photos were labeled which was good. But when you know nothing of the family, labels do not always help in figuring out who’s related to whom. There were several photos in the album of a woman named Golden Severance. Julia told me that Golden was a cousin of her father Howard’s. Julia said if I didn’t recognize the name, perhaps it was a cousin on his mother’s, Mary Alma Wortham, side. I didn’t recognize the name so I figured she wasn’t kin to me.
The Wortham and Watts families lived in the Sinking Fork area of Christian County, Kentucky.  I’m familiar with the neighborhood although I never lived there myself. My father was born on the farm there but joined the Navy at the age of 16 and never lived there again. His parents sold the farm and moved “to town” (Hopkinsville) shortly before I born. But we’d visit my grandparents every summer and every once in a while take a trip out to the old home place.
We still have kith and kin living out that way, such as Odell Malone. Odell’s husband was raised by my grandfather’s Aunt Ora and continued to farm the area until his death a few years ago. There’s also Betty McCorkle who went to school with my Uncle Doug and Yvonne Cameron who was my dad’s first girlfriend. Betty & Yvonne moved to town, too, but we always kept in touch because of our entangled roots and shared love of family history.
Betty McCorkle compiled the book, Sinking Fork Christian Church Disciples of Christ 1893 to 1996: A History (published by Christian Women’s Fellowship, 1996). The information chronicles the church’s members taken from the old membership register from the time of the church’s organization. Over six hundred and fifty names are listed with vital statistics of most such as birth and death dates, the names of parents and spouses and where they were buried. This information was gleaned from the church records, census records, cemetery records, birth records, marriage records and family records. The earliest birth date given was 1827 (ironically for one of my ancestors, William C. Stiller).
It is from these wonderful church records that I was able to identify Golden Severance. Listed on page 66 as member #309, Golden joined the church in 1929. The record shows that she was born in 1908 to Robert L. Wortham and his wife Hattie Mabry. Robert was the brother of M. Alma Wortham Watts, indeed making Golden and Julia’s father Howard cousins on his mother’s side.
But the kicker is a shining example of tangled roots. I also discovered from these church records that Golden was really related to me after all (another new-found cousin) although through my grandmother not my grandfather. Her mother, Hattie Mabry, was the daughter of Daniel Mabry and his wife Cornelia Stiller. Cornelia was the daughter of William C. Stiller who was member #4 of the Sinking Fork Christian Church and my fourth great-grandfather. That makes Golden a second cousin, three generations removed.

Cousins Howard Watts & Golden Wortham

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