Monday, September 26, 2011

Internal Clues

I’ve done presentations to various organizations over the years on the topic of identifying old photographs. I’ve been fortunate to have a nice collection of family photographs in various mediums used throughout the history of photography, so I’ve been able to share some good examples of most types of photos from different time periods. The one exception is the daguerreotype for which I have no personal examples of. I wonder if they were as popular down south as in the northern section of the country or was there another reason my ancestors didn’t seem to have ever sat for a daguerreotype? David Rudd Cycleback has a great website on how to date and identify old photographs at I’ve used that website several times for help in dating an old photograph and was directed back there again recently when I googled “kodak velox” for help in determining a date of an old snapshot I have of my grandfather’s cousin.  
During my presentations, I often stress not only using “external” clues to help identify an old photograph such as the type of material it was made from, but also using “internal” clues as well. My favorite story to illustrate this is from my mother’s side of the family.
My grandmother passed away in Florida in 2007. My sister and I flew down for the funeral, but I was not able to stay for long. My aunt who lived there was taking care of the estate and my sister was able to fly back down just a few weeks afterwards for a planned vacation. I told her that I wanted any photos that our aunt would share. “I don’t care if it’s a photograph of a tree, I want it,” I told her. For all I knew, that tree might hold a clue to our family history, and I didn’t want to miss anything.
Well, my sister went through some of the photos with my aunt and brought back a box of them, many of them that auntie didn’t care to keep especially ones she didn’t recognize. Going through them, I didn’t find any tree photographs but there were many interesting ones nonetheless. There was an 8x10 one of an unidentified infant. Baby pictures are notoriously hard to identify. My sister told me she had asked our aunt but she couldn’t identify it. I rummaged around some more and found a nice snapshot of my grandmother with her two sisters and a sister-in-law. Four baby pictures could be seen mounted on the wall above them. I recognized the first baby picture on the far right as that of my mother. The copy I had was probably that very one. I wasn’t sure about the other three, but the third from the right was the same baby picture we were just trying to identify. Since my mother was the oldest child, I deduced that the next one was probably her brother John who was the second-born. The other two would have been auntie and another uncle. From this I was able to deduce that the baby picture that auntie couldn’t identify was her!
Grandma (far right), sisters & sister-in-law

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Autumn Tree

I’ve known for a long time that I’m a morning person. I tend to be too cheerful for some as I flit around in the morning, but once I’m fully awake, I’m ready to face the day. My best ideas come in the morning, too. I know that’s a great time to tackle a creative project such as a twenty-page essay or report.
The muse struck again this morning, though admittedly a little earlier than usual. As I write this, it’s 4:45 am and I was originally awake to wait for a teenager to finally make it home. To pass the time (and keep from worrying too much), I jumped on the internet.  I went to my newly-created blog to add some things. This blog is not that old. I created it at the beginning of September, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while. I confessed to Donna Pointkouski how I’d been lurking  around her What's Past is Prologue blog for awhile and that she was my inspiration for starting mine in the first place.
I knew about the Carnival of Genealogy from Donna’s blog and was eager to add my own submission now that I have a blog of my own. I needed guidance on how to figure out what next month’s topic was, but I got it figured out eventually. When I did find out this month’s topic, I was stumped, though. It did not immediately lend itself to any creative ideas in my head. I’ve been pondering it for a couple of weeks now.  But after surfing genealogy weblogs in these wee hours of morning before the sun comes up, I found inspiration, ironically on Jasia’s Creative Gene blog, the host of the COG.
What tree best represents my family? When I think of my family, my thoughts go from my immediate family to the many branches I’ve discovered over the years. All these branches seem different, from my father’s southern roots to my mother’s Dutch heritage. What one tree could I say represents all these variations? Should I focus on one particular line? Which one? Nothing resonates.
When I think of the Watts family, I think of tobacco plants since they were tobacco farmers for years and years. Not exactly a tree. Wisteria, the name of my blog, is sort of a tree/vine, but that says more about my feelings of wistfulness and nostalgia than anything about my family. Actually, according to Wikipedia, wisteria is a flowering plant in the pea family. Not really tree material either.
Jasia’s post on her Creative Gene blog from last Sunday, September 18, 2011, talked of the changing seasons and how after great summer weather, she will start to focus on family history as the leaves fall from the trees once again. That’s when it hit me. My family is like a tree in the autumn season. The varied fall colors of each leaf are unique and beautiful just as the different branches of my family tree are unique. As the family historian, I have been the one to gather these falling leaves and remember their beauty.
The fall season itself brings to mind the reflective longing I feel about earlier generations. It also brings back memories. I vividly recall taking a trip to Virginia in October about twenty years ago to stay with my brother-in-law and his family just outside of Washington, D.C. I lived in Florida at the time (where there are only two seasons, scorching hot and bearable). As I approached the Georgia state line, I finally started to feel a touch of fall weather that was missing further south. Once I got to Virginia, I spent the week traveling back and forth to Richmond daily to take advantage of the state archives. There was quite a distance between my brother-in-law’s and the archives but I enjoyed the drive. The autumn view was at its peak and the trees along I-95 were just “gaw-jes” as one of my southern friends would say.
I don’t think I’ve ever spent such a concentrated amount of time on genealogy since. It was a very rewarding experience. The work I did in the Richmond state archives is the bulk of my research and writing on my Watts family.
Fall also reminds me of the last time I spoke with my grandfather. He turned 96 in October of 1995 and I called him on his birthday. I was about six months pregnant with my second child. He talked of how he missed me and my daughter, who was about two then. He mentioned once being sad because he was afraid she wouldn’t remember him.
During our telephone conversation, he complained about the cost of bread (oh, granddaddy, if you could see the prices now!) and asked me, “When’s that baby coming?” “Not until January, Granddaddy.” I said. “I can’t wait that long.” He replied. He had a heart attack the next morning and died shortly thereafter.  
But he hasn’t been forgotten. My job as the family historian is to not only remember past generations, but to remind future generations of where they come from. His baby picture hangs on the wall in the computer room, the photographic family tree hangs on the wall at the foot of the stairs and a plaque I gave my father on the father’s day following Granddaddy’s death is now in my living room (following my father’s own death two years ago). I would venture to say that it will eventually go to my oldest daughter since the plaque holds a photograph of her and Granddaddy taken when she was two.
Seasons come and seasons go. Leaves fade and fall away, but their beauty is not forgotten.
I should have gotten up at 4:00 in the morning sooner…

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Zetta Daniels Letter

I was always somewhat curious about the past even when I was younger. (I think it had to do with reading the Little House on the Prairie books and watching The Waltons on television.) When my grandmother died in 1989, several things happened as a result of that event that eventually launched me into what has been so far a never-ending journey into exploring my family history.

We drove in from out of town for the funeral as did several other family members. We stayed at my grandparents’ house and I listened in on many of the conversations that occurred among family and friends that were gathered. Family history was mentioned and the next thing I knew, a photocopy of an old letter was pulled out of a dresser drawer.

The original letter was written in 1969 by Zetta Daniels to Russell Vaughan and apparently copies had been made and passed around to various family members. Zetta chronicled the families of three Chaffin sisters of Halifax County, Virginia. Two sisters married Moorefield brothers and one sister married a Watts. Zetta was the granddaughter of Radford Moorefield. All three families migrated to Christian County, Kentucky. Beginning with that information, I started asking more questions, dragged my grandfather through fields to uncover local family cemeteries and tried to write everything down.

I’ve written the following analysis in an attempt to gather more complete information on the Radford Moorefield family. My curiosity was aroused by the statement in the letter that a daughter of Radford’s, Josephine, “burned to death at 13 or 14.” The letter did not list birthdates for the children in this family and so there was no answer as to when this event may have happened.

Radford Comby Moorefield married Frances Elizabeth Chaffin in Halifax Co, VA in 1860. They moved to Christian Co, KY around 1869, probably with his brother Charles Moorefield. Radford’s family was enumerated there during the 1870, 1880 and 1900 federal census. Radford was probably also there in 1910 as well but I have not retrieved that data yet. Radford died in Christian Co, KY on 26 November 1918. His wife apparently died between 1880 and 1900; she is listed in 1880 but he is listed as a widow in 1900.

Zetta Daniels (1969) ltr, part of page 3

The children are listed with notations as follows in the Zetta Daniels letter:

1.       Sallie – died in Virginia about 2
2.       Betty James – married Walter R. Dawson (this is Zetta’s mother)
3.       Edmonia – married Jim Richards
4.       Florence       } died about 5 & 6
5.       Thomas
6.       Maratha Susan (Aunt Duck) married Hershal Renshaw
7.       Captolia (Aunt Dove) married Sam Northington
8.       Annie married Walter Ward
9.       Robert Chaffin married Alberta Higgins, Virginia Cook, Myrtle Murphy
10.   Josephine – burned to death about 13 or 14
11.   Wyatt – died in a few months

In 1870, the family is found indexed under Rad Morefield with the following children:

1.       Bettie, age 7, b. VA                                                   [b. ca. 1863]
2.       Joe, age 6, b. VA [Josephine?]                                   [b. ca. 1864]
3.       Fannie, age 5, b. VA                                                   [b. ca. 1865]
4.       Jane, age 3, b. VA (Edmonia?)                                   [b. ca. 1867]
5.       Lizzie, age 6 mos. , b. KY [must be Martha S.]           [b. 1869]

 Joe is listed as a male, but could this be Josephine? More information is still needed.

In the 1880 census, the family is enumerated there as follows:

1.       Bettie age 16                                              [b. ca. 1864]
2.       Dindil (?) age 14 [Fannie/Florence?]          [b. ca. 1866]
3.       Arlie (?) age 12 [Edmonia?]                        [b. ca. 1868]
4.       Dora age 11 [must be Martha S.]               [b. ca. 1869]
5.       Florence age 9 [must be Captolia]             [b. ca. 1871]
6.       Annie age 7                                                [b. ca. 1873]
7.       Tom age 5                                                  [b. ca. 1875]
8.       Rod age 3                                                   [b. ca. 1877]
9.       Corrah age 1                                               [b. ca. 1879]

The next census available is twenty years later and a lot has happened in that time. Rad is widowed and has his son Robert C. Moorefield living with him and also his daughter Annie L. who was married to Walter Ward. From this census, we find Robert’s birth date is September 1878 and Annie’s is February  1873. Two households before this one is Herschel Renshaw and his wife Martha S. whose birth date is listed as January 1869. In another district in Christian Co. we find Sam Northington with his wife Captolia with a birth date of March of 1871. The household before this was James Richards and his wife Lula with a probable birth date of May 1867, although it’s somewhat difficult to read. They were married for three years and the census listed that she has 0 children being born to her, although on the next page is a son William born August 1899. Lula’s parents are listed as being born in Kentucky. This may not have been Edmonia, but a marriage between James Richards and Edmonia Moorefield is listed in Christian Co as occurring on 31 Oct 1888 which would have been three years prior to this census. I also found a James Richards listed in the Powell Cemetery (I believe) with a Lula Dawson Richards. I need to check on this further. I couldn’t find Walter Dawson readily in the census index. It was definitely Lula Dawson who is listed on a Rootsweb WorldConnect submission as the wife of James W. Richards. It would appear that Edmonia didn’t live very long at all if this Jim Richards married Lula, their marriage date was around 1888 also. They were married 13 years according to the 1910 census. This Jim Richards and family lived in Stewart Co, TN in 1910 and 1920.

An online message board called Morefield Homeplace indicated that Betty James’ was born October 1863 in Halifax Co, VA.

It would appear that I have most of the known children listed for Radford accounted for in census records. I don’t know what happened to the child Corrah. It appears that maybe the Fannie listed in 1870 is the same as Dindel in 1880 (Dindel doesn’t seem right, but it’s all I can decipher). This may be the Florence from the original list, but if so she didn’t die until she was in her early teens at least. The only child I can place as Josephine is the one in the 1870 census with a birth date around 1864. This would mean the fire took place about 1878.

Putting this all together, we have the following:

1.       Sallie Moorefield born ca. 1861 and died in Virginia about 1863.
2.       Betty James Moorefield, born October 1863 in Halifax County, Virginia; married Walter R. Dawson.
3.       Josephine Moorefield, born ca. 1864; burned to death age 13 or 14 (ca. 1878).
4.       Florence born about 1866; died around 1872.
5.       Edmonia Moorefield, born around 1867; married Jim Richards.
6.       Martha Susan Moorefield (Aunt Duck) born 28 July 1869 Christian County, Kentucky; married Hershal Renshaw.
7.       Captolia Moorefield (Aunt Dove) born March 1871; married Sam Northington
8.       Annie L. Moorefield, born February 1873; married Walter Ward.
9.       Thomas Moorefield, born about 1875; died around 1880.
10.   Robert Chaffin Moorefield, born September 1878; married Alberta Higgins, Virginia Cook, Myrtle Murphy.
11.   Wyatt Moorefield, born about 1880; died in a few months.

In another post, I’ll explain my interest in the fire that took the life of Josephine.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Naming Customs in the Netherlands

It’s a real boon for genealogists researching their Netherlands roots to have so much great information listed on websites such as and These sites have digitized thousands of vital statistics on the people of the Netherlands.
Several naming customs have been helpful to know about in my experience researching my Netherlands roots as well.
Netherlanders did not have surnames until 1811. They instead used a patronymic naming system, using their father’s given name as a second name. A variation of this is found in Scandinavian countries such as Peder Anderson and Brigit Pedersdatter which in essence says ‘this is Peter, Ander’s son and Brigit, Peder’s daughter.’ In the Netherlands, particularly in the provinces of Friesland and Groningen, they only used the father’s given name, with the addition of an ‘s’ on the end, and usually did not indicate the sex of the child by using the son or daughter suffix. For example, on the baptism register listing my ancestor Harm Kiel, he is recorded as ‘Harm, son of Hindrik Harms and Geesjen Lammerts, born 18 February 1808.’ Knowing about the patronymics can be very helpful in researching a Dutch family.  With this baptism record alone, I know the infant Harm’s paternal grandfather was also named Harm and his maternal grandfather was named Lammert.
Harm Hendrik Kiel's baptism, 1808

When Napolean took over the country in 1811, he required all Netherlanders to register a fixed surname. Records relating to this can also be found on some of the websites listed above. For example: on 29 January 1812, Geert Halbes of Westergeest [Friesland province, Netherlands] registered his surname as Dijkstra. He listed his children (who would also use the surname of Dijkstra) and their ages: Albert 28, Froukjen 24, Halbe 20, Hendrik 16, Lieuwkje 13, Jan 7, Anne 5, Gerrit 2. In some cases, the actual name register has been scanned and uploaded for viewing. This way I got the added bonus of obtaining a copy of Geert’s signature.

Signature of Geert Halbes (Dijkstra), 1812
These surnames often had to do with occupations or areas of residence. In the province of Friesland, the additional endings sa, ga, inga, ma, sma and stra were added. Dijkstra, Zijlstra and Terpstra are three of my family names from the Friesland province.
I’ll discuss naming patterns that have significance for Netherlands family in another post.     

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Thing of the Past

Lately I’ve had more time for genealogy-related activities (and my other hobbies which include miniatures and scrapbooking). That’s one of the reasons I decided to start this genealogy blog.
Time flies when you’re having fun, or even just living life. I’ve been marveling at the fact that after twenty-two years, I still have a “thing” for genealogy. I’ve been doing it for so long that some of my research notes deserve a place in the family archives.
Recently, I went back through my research notebook on the Smith family of Ontario, Canada and found my notes from when I took my then four-month-old daughter across the Canadian border. With me was her father and his grandmother, Mabel. Mabel was showing us local cemeteries in the area where her family members were buried. Mabel passed away about ten years after that, my daughter is now eighteen and her father and I have been separated and divorced for about eight years. We just never know what the future holds, I guess. I’m so glad I took the time then to find out what I could about the past. My notes show that even what we consider the present eventually becomes a thing of the past.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Beginnings

"Each moment is pregnant with new possibilities waiting to be born, alive with new beginnings, God’s secrets not yet heard, God’s dreams not yet fulfilled."

I'm so excited! I did it! I finally stepped into the blogging world. I've had my eye on blogs and their potential for a number of years. In the last year, I kept coming back to the idea of doing a genealogy one of my own. Now that I've recently completed my graduate degree, I'm hoping to have the time to devote to this.

I even made my first contact with a fellow blogger today. I stumbled across the blog by Christine Sine just this morning and thought her quote (above) on awakening creativity was perfect for my first post. She graciously allowed me to use it. Thanks, Christine.

Having been working on my family history and others since 1989, I have lots of plans for this blog. From my father's southern roots to my mother's Dutch heritage, there's a plethora of possibilities in store. Follow me as I explore this medium for sharing family history, old photographs and more.