Monday, March 20, 2017

Amanuensis Monday: Spotlight on Samuel Watts, Sr. of Halifax County, Virginia

 On the 18th day of July 1810, Samuel Watts Sr. of Halifax County, Virginia “for consideration of the natural love and goodwill which he hath for his daughter Polly Shaw at present the wife of Joseph Shaw as also all the children she may have” conveyed slaves he owned to James Eastham and John T. Palmer. These slaves were described as: "a woman named Nancy, a girl named Beckey, a girl named Jane and a boy named Burwell together with their future increase." In the deed, Samuel first reserved the use of those slaves so long as he lived and directed that after his death Eastham and Palmer were to dispose of said slaves for the use and benefit of Polly Shaw and her children. At her death, Eastham and Palmer were authorized to “deliver up such of the aforesaid slaves as may be then remaining in their possession together with their increase and to divide the same equally among all the children of the aforesaid Polly Shaw and their heirs begotten of their body.” This was recorded in Halifax County Deed Book 22, page 340 and witnessed by Nathaniel Barksdale, Laban Palmer and Benjamin Conner.

This transaction created a lot of controversy in ensuing years by the descendants of Samuel Watts, Sr. Seven different chancery cases were brought before the court stemming from this one transaction. The details of these chancery cases are quite interesting. I will talk about just a couple of them in this post as follows.

First, in the regular county court records, a suit was brought against Joseph Shaw and Polly his wife, Betsy and Moses Shaw, James Eastham and John T. Palmer twice in the year 1812. The plaintiffs were listed as Thomas Watts, Joseph Watts and William Watts the heirs and children of Samuel Watts Sr. and Sally Watts, the widow of Samuel Watts the younger as well as the children of Samuel Watts the younger. The first suit was dismissed by the plaintiffs attorney (Halifax County, Virginia Index to Court Orders).

In the chancery court index for Halifax County, we find that on 28 January 1812, a summons was issued to these defendants to appear before the justices at the courthouse in Halifax County to answer a bill in chancery by the fourth Monday in March. There is nothing else in this digital record but the cover of that summons and the index page.

The next chancery record spells out the complaint of the plaintiffs. The essence of which being that Samuel Watts the elder, deceased, had, "a considerable time before his death due to the effects of disease and his great age," become greatly impaired so that he was incapable either of managing in disbursing his estate with understanding and was easily influenced to do acts which were indiscreet and irrational, that great influence was frequently made over the said decedent by one Joseph Shaw and Polly Shaw the daughter of the said Samuel and a short time before his death when his intellect was greatly impaired the said Joseph Shaw and Polly Shaw did prevail upon him to execute a deed whereby he conveyed he whole of his slaves and personal estate to one John T. Palmer and James Eastham as trustees.

On November 23, 1812, the trustees John T. Palmer and James Eastham answered saying that Samuel Watts the elder did convey to them in trust several slaves as appears by deed recorded at the county clerk's office but that these respondents were not present at the executing of said deed and therefore are not able to say whether the said Samuel Watts was of a sound disposing mind or not but supposed he was weak like most other men of his age but further answer they prayed that if the aforesaid conveyance be considered good and sufficient that the court supply their places by appointing other trustees in their places.

On November 26, 1812 defendants Joseph Shaw and Polly Shaw answered that they never exercised any influence or used any artifice by persuading Samuel Watts the decedent to execute the deed of trust mentioned, that the conveyance was made after much reflection and deliberation and was an act founded in reason, that the said Samuel Watts the elder lived with these defendants two years before the execution of the said deed of trust [1808] and three years afterwards until his death that the said Samuel Watts the elder never murmured or repined for having made the said deed of trust, but in his life time always said that it was just and reasonable that he should secure the property mentioned to his daughter Polly and her children as a reward for her unremitted [sic] attention, kindness and affection to him in his old age when he was neglected, ill treated and deserted by the rest of his children. These defendants further answering say that Samuel Watts dec'd was aged and infirm many years before his death but was not incapable of managing and disposing of his estate with understanding and discretion and at the time of making the said deed of trust and afterwards was sane, rational and in every respect competent to dispose of his property. They further reported that the said Samuel Watts used great precaution to prevent the defendant Joseph Shaw from possessing any part of his estate as the said Samuel Watts would often declare that the said Joseph Shaw was so idle, careless and extravagant that he would in a short time waste the whole property and the said Samuel Watts frequently expressed much concern to have his negroes conveyed to the defendant Polly and her children, denying all confirmation they pray to be here dismissed.

On March 20, 1813 Thomas Seamore gave deposition that he had been a “nigh neighbor” of Samuel Watts for some time before his death and it was his impression that the old man's mind was rather unsound at the time of his death and had been so for some time before, that he was extremely forgetful and uncertain in his movements. He always, though, understood that the old man intended to give the negro woman and her increase to Mrs. Shaw his daughter and he had been a neighbor of Watts for four years.

Laban Palmer gave deposition at the tavern of James Mullins May 21, 1814 that he has known the old man Samuel Watts for 7 or 8 years and that he was witness to the deed of gift from the old man to Joseph Shaw's family, that he saw no deficiency in the intellect of the old man and that he appeared to be as much in his senses at the time of signing the deed as he was before since the deponent knew him.

On the same day and place, Nathaniel Barksdale gave deposition that he was employed to write a deed of gift from old Samuel Watts to Joseph Shaw's family – the old man while deponent was employed in doing the writing seemed to act as if he was in his senses – he gave directions, he freely of his own accord, undirected [sic] by any other – this deponent after he had finished the deed had not pleased the old man whereupon the matter was suspended for about ten days when he was again called upon to again draw up a deed, which finally gave satisfaction to the old man – at both meetings the old man appeared to this deponent as being the same thing as to his senses and appeared at both times as if he was in his senses.

On the same day and place, Jeffery Palmer gave deposition that he had known and been acquainted with old Mr. Samuel Watts for 45 years [1769] before Watts death and that the old man was at his house [emphasis added] when he executed the deed of gift to Joseph Shaw's family that the deponent believed the old man then was as much in his senses as he ever had been and continued to as far as the deponent believed until his death – in fact he saw no change in the old man's senses of any consequence from the time he first became acquainted with him until his death.

Mrs. Patsy Oaks on the same day and place gave deposition that she had been intimately acquainted with old Mr. Samuel Watts for twenty or twenty-five years [1790s]. She saw the old man a few days before he executed the deed of gift to Joseph Shaw's family. He conversed with her a good deal on the subject in which his intention was clearly expressed to give the property to his daughter. The old man seemed to talk as much in his senses as he ever had done before since the deponent knew him. She could not discern any alteration in him more than old age generally produces. She signed "Martha Oaks, her mark X."

Lewis Hardwick gave deposition at the same place on the 20th of March 1813 that he was at Halifax Court at the time he understood old Mr. Watts intended to record his will. He saw old Mr. Watts and he is convinced the old man on that day was out of his head but he believed it proceeded from intoxication.

Littleberry Owen gave deposition at the same place and same day that he had been a neighbor for several years of old Samuel Watts. His impression and belief was that the old man was out of his mind at his death and had been so for some time before his death. Particulars he was unable to give, only his general opinion.

John Nichols Sr. gave deposition same place, same day that he had known old Samuel Watts for he believed 20 years [1793]. His impression was that the old man for some time before his death was at times not exactly right in his mind. The particulars he was unable to give but his general opinion was that the old man was rather deranged.

Benjamin Conner gave deposition on May 21, 1814 at the same place that he had been acquainted with old Mr. Samuel Watts for he supposed twenty years. He saw the old man a few days before he executed the deed to Joseph Shaw's family, that he had a good deal of conversation with him on the subject in all of which the old man appeared to be as much in his senses as he ever had before quite as much as he appeared to deponent to be sufficient to dispose of his estate understandingly. In the course of his conversation he took occasion particularly to express his intention of giving the property to his daughter Polly and her children, giving his reason that he had given the rest of his children of their just properties [?]

William B. Banks gave deposition at the store house of Clark and Bailey that one time five or ten years application was made by an old man named Watts to enter into a deed of gift to one of his children (the name he cannot remember) that some person whom he supposed to be children or near relation of the said Watts were present at the time. That the deponent was ready to have proceeded to write the paper but for some reason was declined. The deponent well remembered that the said Watts was a very old man, the – of his understanding from the effects of old age he thought to be considerably impaired and perhaps owing to that circumstance the deed of gift was not written. March 28, 1814.

Capt. William Bailey gave deposition at the store house of Clark and Bailey that he was well acquainted with Sam'l Watts dec'd for three or four years before his death, that about 4 years before his death he applied to this deponent to write his will which he declined doing. At the time he said he wished to give his property to Wm. Watts and Joseph. That some twelve months afterward he again applied to this deponent to write his will which to gratify him he did. he then gave it to Thomas Watts and Polly Shaw and this deponent believed from the state of his mind at the time that if he had requested him he would have given him any part of his estate that he appeared then to be completely in his late age and continued until his death as far as this deponent knew or believed that he saw him frequently in his latter days and saw no change in him. 23rd May 1814.

28 March 1814 at the store house of Clark and Bailey, Elisha Palmer gave deposition saying that some 3 or 4 years before the death of Saml Watts, he applied to deponent to write his will. Deponent thought at the time that his mental faculties were so feeble apparently from old age as to be incapable of making a will but to gratify the old man told him if he would come another day he would write it but he did not come according to appointments. Deponent frequently saw him at other times until his death and always thought his mind worse that he believed he gradually declined until the day of his death.

Finding these chancery records have been quite a boon. It is taking some time to transcribe the records and then process the information and compare to what has previously known about these Wattses in Halifax County. I have researched this particular family for all of my adult life and rarely does so much new information come to light. I still have yet been unable to identify any further generations back from the first Samuel and still cannot get out of Halifax County, but the knowledge that I have gleaned is helpful nonetheless to have a fuller picture of these early lives.

The information given in the depositions, etc. over the chancery suit about Samuel's conveyance of slaves to his daughter Polly Shaw shed more light on who Samuel was and how the family interacted. These records show clearly that Samuel was an elderly man before he died around the year 1812 (I put his age at about 74 which was quite old back then). It also indicates that his wife was more than likely dead by then as well. She was not a party to the original transaction wherein Samuel conveyed those slaves in trust for his daughter in 1810. Indeed, the daughter mentioning that Samuel lived with her and her family about two years before that transaction took place (1808 by inference) may indicate that Samuel's wife was already gone by then and Samuel needed someone to take care of him.

Stay tuned as I share more from these old chancery records to shed more light on the lives of these long ago ancestors.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Faces from the Past: Moorefield

I am perusing through old photographs from my paternal grandparents side these days. In essence, I have been visiting Kentucky although really only in my mind. Things like this come and go in spurts. I have not looked at the research I have done on these lines in a number of years but every now and them something draws me back.

What pulled me this time was an email from a gentleman who saw a photograph on my blog that was taken by Randolph in Cadiz, Kentucky (see the photo here). This gentleman informed me that he and another local historian were doing research on this photographer who did work in Cadiz from about 1893 to 1913. He wanted to know if I would share an electronic copy of the photograph and also asked if I had anymore photographs taken by Randolph.

I hunted around and found one more. This is a photograph identified by my grandfather as "My daddy's first cousin [John Willis Watts], Otis Moorefield."

Otis Moorefield (1875-1958)
Until I put the two together, it never occurred to me that the young girl in the first photograph might have been a Moorefield. Over the years I have asked a number of my older Watts kin if they knew who this young girl might be, but I have not been successful in identifying her. I most often put her in the Sizemore files, but she could just have well come from the Moorefield line which ties into my Watts family. My great-great grandmother, Emily Jane Chaffin Watts, had two sisters who married two Moorefield brothers.

I am hopeful that by sharing the photograph of this girl with these researchers, someone yet might be able to identify her. Interestingly enough, the other researcher, Kim, shared that there is a connection between this Moorefield family and the photographer, whose name is Mamie Randolph. Mamie had a son named Jack who married Bessie Bagby. According to Kim, Bessie's mother was Fannie Moorefield Bagby, one of Otis Moorefield's sisters. Fannie would have also been my great-grandfather's first cousins. How ironic! It makes me think more than ever that the girl may have also been Moorefield kin.

A day or two later, I realized that I just might have more photographs taken by Mrs. Randolph. You might recall that a couple of years ago, I came into possession of a photo album once owned by my grandfather's sister, Ivy Watts Diuguid (see original post here). I looked through my original scans of the photos from that album and identified four more that has Mrs. Randolph's imprint as well.  I plan to scan them again at a higher resolution and share them with those researchers. I am delighted to be able to help someone with a local history project such as this and is one of the reasons for sharing this on my blog.

(l to r) Howard Marshall Freeman (born 1904) and Levingston Lindsey Freeman (born 1902)
sons of Levingston Lindsey and Elsie Diuguid Freeman;
Cabinet card photo taken by Randolph, Cadiz, KY 1906


possibly Willie (b. 1893) or Robert (b. 1891) Diuguid;
sons of George Marshall & Henry Ada (Quisenberry) Diuguid
Cabinet card photo taken by
Mrs. Randolph, Cadiz, Kentucky

Unknown group of women; Cabinet card photo taken by
Mrs. Randolph, Cadiz, Kentucky

Jessie Martin Freeman b. 15 June 1906;
3rd child of Livingston Lindsey & Elsie (Diuguid) Freeman
Cabinet card photo taken by
Mrs. Randolph, Cadiz, Kentucky


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Talented Tuesday: “A Woman that Understood Something [of] the Nature of Phisick and a Tolerable Good Nurse”

As I continue to look through these chancery court records available for Halifax County, Virginia, I am finding wonderful tidbits of information that help provide a clearer picture of the lives of those who lived there so long ago, especially for women who so often did not have a voice in any extant records. Since it is women's history month, I thought to highlight what I recently found out about a collateral ancestor of mine:

Image from ushistoryimages.com

Sally Burchett was married to Samuel Watts Jr. who was born around the year 1767. Their first child was born about 1785. Samuel Watts Jr. died in 1805 and Sally was administratix of his estate. In 1812 she married James Mayne. A marriage bond was dated April 3, 1812 and five days later on April 8, the two had an agreement recorded wherein they “agreed to be joined together as man and wife” and said Mayne “wished to claim none of the property belonging to said estate but at her death go to her children.” These actions would lead one to believe that she was a smart woman. A further record shows that she was a skilled nurse as well:

On November 12, 1819, Rowling [sic] Watts gave a deposition to Matthew Rowlett, a Halifax County Justice of the Peace, in reference to a chancery case between Elizabeth Majors by etc. against Phillip Majors (page 37 of 98). In his deposition Rowling stated that he was an overseer for Phillip Major “this present year” and was frequently in and about the house and on the 14th day of February, Phillip Major was very sick “and I thought he would die” “and he Philip Major wanted me to go for Col. Coleman as I expected to do some writing for him (but did not say what writing)...” Rowling (known variously in records as Roling, Rowling, Rowland, Ryland) said that he sent for his mother, Sally Mane, as she was “a woman that understood something the nature of Phisick and a tolerable good nurse...”

Sally Main also gave deposition herself on the same day to Matthew Rowlett saying “that sometime last fall Mrs. Elizabeth Majors was sick and and Philip Majors sent for me by [a] negro boy of his to come immediately to see his wife...” She went on to say that she “gave her some drops that night and next morning I gave her some pills and she got better...” Sally also explained that “last spring Mr. Majors was taken sick” and “he sent for me by Rowland Watts and I came with him...” Sally noted Mr. Majors' symptoms and asked for honey to make a mixture for him, telling him what she was “going to make for him to take was very bad and if I made it he must take it and he told me he would...” (page 15 of 98, note the Main surname was unindexed in this file). 

Sally's husband was the brother of my direct ancestor, Thomas M. Watts, whom I have discussed in my book and in a recent blog post. In that post, I wrote about how I discovered information that shed more light on five of Thomas' daughters. These chancery records have turned into a real boon in regards to documenting women's lives. I will share more as time allows and hope to do so within this month to celebrate Women's History month.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Amanuensis Monday: Watts Chancery Records in Halifax County, Virginia

I mention in my Watts book that the search for the parents of my ancestor Lindsey Watts led to research on all the Watts families that lived in Halifax County and became the basis for that publication. Since around 1989 when I started researching, I have not been able to find any record that directly names Lindsey as the son of Thomas M. Watts and his wife Sarah “Sally” Overton but all evidence points to that conclusion. I believe I have done a reasonably exhaustive search over the years to develop this assertion.

So after all these years have I finally found such a record? Well... maybe.

Let me first provide here my bare-bones narrative on the family of Thomas M. Watts and Sarah “Sally” Overton his wife from the latest edition of my book. (You can contact me or check the book for the source citations.)

Thomas M. Watts, son of Samuel Watts Sr., was born around the year 1765 and died between May and September of 1819 in Halifax County, Virginia.

He was married to Sarah Overton on 15 November 1792 in Charlotte County, Virginia by the Reverend Thomas Dodson of Hunting Creek Baptist Church. Sarah, called Sally, died after 1860 and was the daughter of William Overton and Judith Brumfield, daughter of William Brumfield.

Circumstantial evidence has indicated a relationship to either Thomas, Sally or with one another in records of the following persons:
  1. Elizabeth Watts, born about 1797; married Billington Owen bond dated 14 September 1814 Halifax County, Virginia.
  2. Lindsey Watts, born about 1800; married Phebe Rickman bond dated 29 November 1819 Halifax County, Virginia; died 9 November 1852 Halifax County, Virginia.
  3. Charity G. Watts, born between 1793-1800; married Joseph Ashby Jr. bond dated 9 December 1824 Halifax County, Virginia; died after 1860.
  4. Sarah Watts; married Berry Nichols 3 August 1825 Halifax County, Virginia. No further information.
  5. James Watts; married Philadelphia --- before 1829; died before 1850?
  6. Samuel G. Watts, born about 1803 Halifax County, Virginia; married Katherine Ann Faulkner before 1834; died between November 1866 and May 1867 Halifax County, Virginia.
  7. Richard M. Watts, born around 1815-1818 Halifax County, Virginia; married first Christeann Chissum bond dated 27 June 1836 Halifax County, second Emeline Sneed 14 October 1867 Halifax County; died by April 1878 Halifax County.
In 1829, Sally Watts and Joseph Ashby Jr. mortgaged sixty-two acres that was laid out as her dower. Apparently Billington Owen purchased the property and let her continue to live there. He later sold it to Joseph Ashby, Jr. and they then mortgaged it. There was no record of the release of this mortgage. The mortgage described this property as sixty-two acres more or less bounded by the lands of Miss Martha M. Clark, James Hill and others along with personal property. [Halifax County, Virginia Deed Bk. 36, p. 579 "Sally Watts, etc. to Thos. G. Coleman, Tr." dated 2 January 1829, recorded 12 January 1829.]
This transaction suggests a connection between Sally, Joseph Ashby Jr and Billington Owen. The likely connection is that of mother-in-law and son-in-laws, coupling this deed with the fact that Joseph and Billington both married Watts women. Elsewhere in my book, I explain other connections and clues, such as the fact that Elizabeth, Thomas M. and Sally Watts all signed consent for Elizabeth's marriage to Billington Owen. From all the records researched I was able to compile this probable family group with some assurance of its accuracy.

Recently I learned from a post on the Facebook page of Halifax County VA Genealogy and History that the chancery court records from that county have been scanned and are available online at the Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory web page(http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/default.asp#res)

Never one to pass up an opportunity to research in original records, I looked up the surname Watts. I originally searched for Watts as a plaintiff as well as defendant and came up with 6 records altogether. At first, I was using the search engine wrong if I wanted all records that included the Watts surname. There were 14 records altogether when I searched for just the Watts name as plaintiff, 8 records when I searched Watts as defendant (of course these would both include the 6 from my original search). I found a whopping 73 records with Watts as surname one and two (and that worked whether or not I had the name Watts in one or both of those surname categories.) These show if the surname Watts is listed in the chancery record whether a witness or other relation and will be interesting to read through as time permits.

While I have gathered records on all Halifax County Wattses over the years, my primary interest has been my direct line of Lindsey Watts and Thomas M. Watts, so I focused on those names this first time around. I found a chancery record regarding the heirs of Lyndsay [sic] Watts, but it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know from previous research in a deed record of the heirs selling land and a court minute book record. The other Watts names I was not interested in as much. Thomas G. Watts, James H. Watts, Joseph W. Watts and Joseph H. Watts were all listed under defendants. Out of curiousity, I did go back to look at the entry for Thomas G. Watts. I was pleasantly surprised to find this was actually in regards to my ancestor Thomas M. Watts. Several times in this record he was listed as Thomas G. but with all the other evidence, there is no doubt in my mind that in reality it references Thomas M. instead.

Halifax Co, VA Chancery Record Index No. 1837-009, no original case number listed, Sarah Watts, etc. against Admr of Thos G. Watts, etc, p. 4 of 39, 3 August 1831, online from Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory online digital collection: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1837-009]. 

The records show that in January of the year 1831 Richard R. High, admr of Thomas G. [sic] Watts, dec'd., Nathaniel Barksdale and William Abbott were summoned to answer a bill in chancery against them by the following:

Sarah Watts
Gilly Watts
Billington Owen and Eliz his wife
Lindsey Watts
Joseph Ashby and Charity his wife
Samuel Watts
Littleberry Nichols and Sally his wife
Nancy Watts
Delpha Watts
Jane Watts
Richard M. Watts
Narcissa T. Watts

The records also states that Jane, Richard M. and Narcissa T. sue by “their next friend” Samuel Watts. This wording indicates that these three Watts were underage at the time. The bulk of the records are summonses ordered at each term of court from 1831 through 1837. Finally, in December of 1837, a letter was sent to the court clerk by Billington Owen authorizing and requesting the suit be dismissed.

Halifax Co, VA Chancery Record Index No. 1837-009, no original case number listed, Sarah Watts, etc. against Admr of Thos G. Watts, etc, p. 2 of 39, 23 December 1837, online from Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory online digital collection: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1837-009].
As you can see, this is the same family I have put forth for Thomas M. Watts:

The administrator of his estate was Richard R. High, his wife was Sarah and he had children
Elizabeth Watts who married Billington Owen;
Lindsey Watts;
Charity G. Watts who married Joseph Ashby Jr.;
Sarah Watts who married Berry (or Littleberry) Nichols;
Samuel Watts;
Richard M. Watts.

What is also interesting is that this record uncovers several more children previously unknown or not correctly identified:

Gilly Watts
Nancy Watts
Delpha Watts
Jane Watts
Narcissa T. Watts

Thus I now revise the family of Thomas M. Watts and his wife Sarah “Sally” Overton to the following:
  1. Gilly Watts, born ca. 1795; died by 1848 (when Elijah Hundley was appointed administrator of estate). Gilly Watts (and other spelling variations) was listed as head of household for 1820, 1830 and 1840 federal census in Halifax County with only females old enough to be head. She was likely named for her mother's aunt, Gillie Brumfield who married Carolus Featherstone (see the will of William Brumfield, Charlotte County, Virginia Will Book 2, pg. 158-159; a transcript can be found here).
  2. Elizabeth Watts, born about 1797; married Billington Owen bond dated 14 September 1814 Halifax County, Virginia.
  3. Lindsey Watts, born about 1800; married Phebe Rickman bond dated 29 November 1819 Halifax County, Virginia; died 9 November 1852 Halifax County, Virginia.
  4. Charity G. Watts, born between 1793-1800; married Joseph Ashby Jr. bond dated 9 December 1824 Halifax County, Virginia; died after 1860.
  5. Samuel G. Watts, born about 1803 Halifax County, Virginia; married Katherine Ann Faulkner before 1834; died between November 1866 and May 1867 Halifax County, Virginia.
  6. Sarah Watts; married Littleberry or Berry Nichols 3 August 1825 Halifax County, Virginia. No further information.
  7. Nancy Watts. She was probably the Nancy Watts born 1812 in the home of Martin Canada in Halifax County, Virginia during the 1850 Federal Census (see page 26 of my Watts book). Nancy gave a deposition in the chancery matter of William Stegall and wife Elizabeth [nee Shaw] against Williamson [and Martin] Canada, 6 August 1854 [Halifax Co, VA Chancery Record Index No. 1854-023, original case no. 021, William Stegall and wife against Williamson Canada, p. 20 of 32, taken at the office of John L. Pleasants, online from Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory online digital collection: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1854-023].
  8. Delphia Watts, b. ca. 1813. Although her children identified their parents as James and Delphia, it appears that Delpha was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah. The chancery record does not list her as the widow of a Watts. A chancery record in 1854 named her as “Miss Delphia Watts.” [Halifax Co, VA Chancery Record Index No. 1854-009, original case no. 021, Thomas Johnson against Moses Shaw, p. 12 of 26, deposition of Miss Delphia Watts, et al. taken in the store house of Clement M. Adkisson at Mt. Laurel 27 April 1854, online from Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory online digital collection: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1854-009].
  9. Jane Watts, born ca. 1814. This is the Jane Watts who married William Lax 19 September 1838 (see page 152 of my Watts book). The family was listed in Halifax County during the 1860 federal census. A death record at Familysearch.org lists Jane W. Lacks who died in Petersburg, VA 23 October 1889. She was listed as age 85, born in Halifax, parents Thos. (another entry says L) and S Watts. The age is off by about 10 years but everything else fits. She was buried in Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg City according to Find-A-Grave. She has not been located on any other census after 1860.
  10. Richard M. Watts, born around 1815-1817 Halifax County, Virginia; married first Christeann Chissum bond dated 27 June 1836 Halifax County, second Emeline Sneed 14 October 1867 Halifax County; died by April 1878 Halifax County.
  11. Narcissa T. Watts, born between 1815-1818. Died young?
There is lots more to uncover from these chancery records. I will share more as time allows.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Sibling Saturday: Neighbor Children?

I am going through some photographs that originally belonged to my paternal grandparents. These two that I post I have been unable to identify. They are both RPPCs (Real Photo Post Cards) and have an Azo stamp box on the reverse with 4 triangles facing up. This identifies them as having been taken between 1904-1918 according to Playle's Guide to Real Photo Post Cards.

The one of the three children has "Ruby and Amie" written in pencil on the back by an unknown hand. Ruby (born in 1898) and Amy (born in 1902) were my great-aunt and grandmother, daughters of William Lewis Hardy and his wife Alice Samantha Lovelace. I am guessing that we might be able to narrow it down to about 1917 or before. I base this on the fact that Ruby married and had her first son by December of 1917 (Amy married in September of 1918). I am supposing that it is a probability that the postcard was given to both of them when they were both single.

During the 1910 federal census, Ruby and Amy along with their younger brother Willie were living with their aunt and uncle James L. and Mary (Hardy) Sadler. Also in the household was Jim and Mary's daughter Vara, Mary's sister Elizabeth and Mary's mother Martha (Sizemore) Hardy. The family lived in a house with a later mailing address of 1580 Clark Store-Sinking Fork Road, Cerulean, Kentucky. Amy was also a member of the Sinking Fork Christian Church Disciples of Christ.  I am thinking that these children may have been neighbors of the family or possibly attended the same church.

Although the child in front on the left at first glance appears to be a boy judging from the short hair, I'm more inclined to believe it's a girl. The hair is parted in the middle which is most often indicative of a girl (note the boy on the right has a side part). The shoes also appear to be a girl's style.

Unknown children, RPPC ca. 1904-1918; Christian Co, KY.
Unknown children (older two are boys), RPPC ca 1904-1918; Christian Co, KY.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Brown Neighbors not Brown Kin

RPPC verso, Postmarked Great Valley, Oct. 14, 1907 to Miss Anna Brown, 151 St. James Pl, Buffalo NY.

On October 9, 1907, a woman from Great Valley, New York penned a few lines to Miss Anna Brown, who was then residing at 151 St. James Place in Buffalo, New York. The woman wrote that she received Anna's card and that "it was very nice." Obviously referring the photograph of the house on the front of the card, she wrote: "This is like the card you see in my book, part of our house and Nellie's." She signed off "I remain your friend, Grace."

Close to one hundred and ten years later, the real photo post card (RPPC) passed by my desk, lent to me for study by local friends who know my keen interest in history. Just a few weeks earlier, another friend had asked if anyone was aware of there being a house on her family's property before the second world war. She had already asked some of the locals, but no one could recall. When her family purchased the property, there was no house. In dismantling a small structure they had put up a few years ago, signs of a house foundation, a silo foundation and an intact bottle were unearthed.

I have always been intrigued by the large house across the road from this property, but knew little of the area which is part of what is called Willoughby, on the Humphrey Road. I tucked these questions in the back of my mind.

Working with the Great Valley Town Historian, I helped put on a genealogy fair for the town of Great Valley on Saturday, January 7, 2017. Before and after my presentation, I tried to speak with as many attendants as I could to talk about their Great Valley connections but I did not take any notes and eventually names and places blurred together. I thought I had specifically asked one gentleman about the large house on Humphrey Road and was given the name "Oyer." Later, one of my co-workers who was at the fair reminded me that the home her parents lived in was owned by an Oyer family, only this house is on another road. I remain unsure if I heard the name Oyer in connection with that large house then or not, but I need to back track in the research story first.

A few days ago, I sat down to study this RPPC. I knew that Anna Brown was probably of the William Brown family who resided in Great Valley during that time period. This RPPC was in an envelope along with a cropped RPPC showing three women, two identified as Dorothy Wilson and Ada Marble. Another small photograph in the envelope shows a family group with identified members of the Brown family taken about 1920. From other research done, I know that Dorothy Wilson was the daughter of Horace Aumock and his wife, Rose M. Brown. Rose Brown was a daughter of William Brown. (I also know Rose's mother Augusta was the sister to Ada Marble's mother, Hannah Herpst Nagel, but that is too many twists in the family tree to sort out right now.)

William J. Brown, born in July 1847, immigrated with his father John from Wurttemburg Germany in 1852 and settled in Ellicottville, Cattaraugus County, New York as early as 1855. William was in New Albion, Cattaraugus County, New York during the 1870 federal census, living with and near others also from Wurttemburg, doing farm work. He settled in Great Valley as early as 1875 and was enumerated there that year during the state census with his wife Augusta and young daughter Juliet, 5 months old. Augusta eventually was the mother of twelve children altogether, with ten surviving to adulthood. In addition to the Rose Brown mentioned earlier, they also had a daughter Anna C. Brown, born June 1884 who eventually married Harlan Meacham.

This Anna Brown was the recipient of the RPPC Who was the sender, Grace, I wondered. Typing in "Grace" in Great Valley, NY between 1905-1910 in the search engine at familysearch.org yielded a few prospects. Most intriguing was that of Grace Oyer who lived on Humphrey Road in 1910 with her parents Smith and Ruth Oyer, a brother Wallace and Smith's widowed mother-in-law, Juliette Brown. The Oyer family was living on the Humphrey Road during the 1905 state census as well. Grace was 19. Next door to them was 28-year-old Charlie Lougee and his 24-year-old wife Nellie.  Do we have our Grace and Nellie? Is there a family connection with the maternal grandmother Juliette Brown? The answer is yes and no.

My brain was now mulling over this RPPC. Then it finally dawned on me that the house pictured is the large house I have been curious about! In re-examining the photo, I see that I am looking at Humphrey Road and that the house on the other side, Nellie's, is proof that there was a house during that time on my friend's current property! At this time, I have not tracked down land ownership records, but another friend tells me that Jack Ehman owned the large house. He remembered being taken up in an airplane by Jack Ehman fifty-seven years ago. He was not sure but thought a Clarence and Eva owned the house before Jack, maybe they were Jack's parents. This may not be quite accurate, but will be left for a further historical excursion.

RPPC, Postmarked Great Valley, Oct. 14, 1907 showing the home of Smith David Oyer on the Humphrey Road.

I wanted to know more of the connection between Grace and Anna. Were they Brown kin? Grace's father was Smith David or David Smith Oyer. His obituary is listed in the June 19, 1929 edition of the Ellicottville Post newspaper. He died in Salamanca, leaving his widow Mrs. Ruth Oyer, one daughter Mrs. Chas. Lougee and two sons, Clarence and Wallace, all of Salamanca. Clarence Oyer purchased the old Smith Oyer farm in December of 1929 according to the December 25th edition of the Ellicottville Post. In first looking at the obituary, I thought our Grace was married to Charles Lougee, but it turned out it was her sister Nellie who married him instead. Tragically, Grace succumbed to influenza and died in Great Valley in October of 1918 according to a death notice in the Ellicottville Post on October 23, 1918 and so was not a survivor listed in her father's obituary.

Although Grace was buried under the surname Oyer as seen by a findagrave.com listing, there is a marriage record listed on familysearch.org of Grace Oyer to John Mack that took place in Limestone, New York on January 8, 1917. The record indicates Grace, born about 1887 in Great Valley, was the daughter of Smith Oyer and Ruth Ellen Brown.

Grace's father was the son of the late Peter A. Oyer and his wife Rachel Vedder of Ellicottville according to his obituary. Ironically, Peter and Rachel Oyer lived next door to William J. Brown's father John Brown and family during the 1855 state census in Ellicottville. If we go trying to prove that Ruth Ellen Brown was related to these German Browns, though, we would be barking up the wrong family tree.

Instead, we find another Juliette Brown in Great Valley during the 1875 state census. Remember, 5-month-old Juliet, daughter of William and Augusta Brown? Living just four households away from them is an older Juliette Brown, wife of Sheldon P. Brown. Also in the household are Sheldon and Juliette's children Mary, Ruth E. and James D. along with James' wife and two young sons. Ruth E. Brown was later to become the wife of Smith Oyer. The father of Sheldon P. Brown is identified as David M. Brown, a native of Londonderry, New Hampshire in the Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial of Cattaraugus Co. NY, ed by William Adams and published in 1893. According to this biography, in 1842 David Brown, "while on a visit to brothers on the coast of Maine," "secured the carcass of a whale 48 ft in length, which he had prepared and transported on wagons and canal boats, exhibiting it throughout the country. He finally sold it for $8000, and it is still exhibited as a curiosity."Although not proven, it can be speculated that from the money secured from his curiosity, David may have had the fine home built on the Humphrey Road. We do know that Smith Oyer had experience in building houses as evidenced by a notice in the Ellicottville Post (found on fultonhistory.com) in July of 1891 that he and J. Deininger both of Great Valley were engaged by A. Ward to build his residence. We will leave further speculation for another time.

To conclude, we see that there were separate Brown families living as neighbors in the area of Willoughby in Great Valley, New York in the early 1900s. Though not kin, Anna Brown and Grace Oyer were close in age and close in vicinity to each other. Having this real photo post card surface, solved this mystery as well as answering the question about a house in the vicinity during that time period. I would just like to know what happened to Grace's book she refers to in the post card. Might that surface one of these days, too?


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Sharing From Another Memory-Keeper

I describe my historical research work as attempts to add knowledge to a foundation on which others may have laid or added to before. Mary Carr Dineen was one such previous foundation-layer or memory-keeper. Born in 1900, she was much loved by her family who mourned her passing in 1983. I never knew her, but became friends with her granddaughter some twenty years after Mary's death after having moved to the area where Mary's ancestors and descendants live.

As I noted in my profile, I bloomed where I was planted. Soon after arriving to the area, I joined the local county genealogy society (now defunct) and began editing the society's newsletter. I wrote a story about how I was helping my friend with her family history research in the November 2005 edition of the Cattaraugus Genealogy News. It started with my friend telling me about her grandmother and where the family was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery of Ellicottville, New York. I went on from there and continued to do research off and on over the years. My friend was always very much interested. She later shared with me some of Mary's old photographs and other memorabilia. Her uncle Dick had shared them with her as he lived in his mother's house after her passing. Judging from the stuff she kept, Mary was a memory-keeper and had many old interesting photos and other items passed down to her from earlier family members as well.

I continue to be fascinated with local history. Research is a great way to pass the time during the cold winter days in this Northern country. I eventually became involved with the Ellicottville Historical Society. With my friend's permission, I was able to share some items Mary kept as they were part of that town's history. I think Mary would have been pleased to find that the history she carefully saved and laid aside still means something to others years later. So from a closed dark box, we can now bring to light and illuminate pieces of local history to share with others.

RPPC from the Mary Carr Dineen collection.
 This Real Photo Post Card (RPPC) was postmarked Ellicottville, NY July 27, 1915 and sent to Miss Mary Carr of Franklinville, NY. Young Mary, whose ancestors originally came to the area from Ireland, would turn fifteen in November of that year. She would later go on to marry a man by the name of Thomas Ralph Dineen, also of Irish descent. Their marriage took place at the Catholic Church in Ellicottville, NY. Thomas R. was the son of Thomas L. Dineen and his wife Mary (Ida) Simmons.

Back of RPPC. 

The author of the post card was Gertrude "Gert" McKernan. We can find her listed at the age of 12 in the 1915 NY state census on Main Street in Ellicottville. She was living with her parents Thomas and Mary McKernan and her older siblings Anna, William E, and Leo J. Thomas and Leo were listed as farmers. William was listed as a printer apprentice. According to this census, her mother and sister did housework while Gertrude attended school.

Gert writes: "Hello Mary! What do you think of this? This is where I live down here, Mother, Marion and Genevieve Koopman of Buffalo and myself. Do you know me? The one on the left with the big tie. Gert." In the upper margin she also writes: "Guess what color the house is? Write to me sometime. The X is over me Ha Ha"

If you look closely on the front of the post card, you can see an X marked above the girl pictured on the left. The writing is in blue ink as is the X and the words "Main St" in the bottom left corner on the front. The notation "Thos. McKernan, Ellicottville, NY" is in white and part of the original print on the post card.

Just five years earlier, during the 1910 federal census, the Thomas McKernan family lived in the Devereaux area in the town of Franklinville. The census indicates that the mother Mary was the mother of eleven children with eleven living. Gertrude is the youngest of seven children enumerated in the household. Her sister Annie is a teacher of public school, while her father and older brothers Edward and George are dairy farmers.

We can deduce from these records and the post card a likely scenario of Gert and Mary being childhood friends together in Franklinville before Gert and her family relocated to nearby Ellicottville around 1915. Indeed, a 1907 school souvenir saved by Mary shows that some of her school chums were Gert's older siblings, Leo, William and George.

From the Mary Carr Dineen collection. 1907 School Souvenir.  
It is assumed that this is a photo
of the teacher, listed on the inside
as Ivah B. Kelley


















But just like all families in communities with connections to this person and that one, Mary later winds up with other ties to the McKernan family. Another photograph found among her possessions is quite old, a tintype, carefully labelled by Mary to say "Jim McKernan (on the right), Harry's grandfather."

Tintype from the Mary Carr Dineen collection.
Jim McKernan on the right, other gentleman unknown.

I mentioned before that Mary's husband was Thomas Ralph Dineen. We have to dig through his family history to find the connection: Thomas' mother was Mary Ida Simmons. According to family information, she was born in February 1860 to Samuel W. Simmons and Anna Murphy. They were married in Ellicottville in December of 1853. Other children included a son Samuel, a daughter Harriett, and daughters Ann, born on March 23, 1855, and Hannah on December 3, 1858, both in Great Valley, Cattaraugus County, New York. A son Thomas, born in 1852, appears to have been from a previous marriage of Anna's. The daughter Ann went on to marry Perry Henry. Hannah went on to marry Michael W. McKernan.

Hannah, the wife of M. W. McKernan, died in June 1929. Her obituary was listed in the Ellicottville Post on June 19, 1929. It names her children as Hugh, Samuel, Harry, Roy and a daughter, Mrs. Anna Duhan. Here we discover who Harry McKernan is, a cousin of Mary's husband, Thomas Ralph Dineen.

A biography from the Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial of Cattaraugus County (Adams, 1893) listed the following on page 660 in the History of the Town of Franklinville:

Surnames: McKERNAN, PHILLIPS, WILLIAMS

Thomas McKERNAN, son of Thomas, was born in County Caven, Ireland, in 1823, and came with his son Hugh to Scottsville, N. Y., in 1848, where he was engaged in manufacturing barrel hoops. His wife, Ann PHILLIPS, whom he had married in Ireland, came to join her husband in 1849, bringing with her their children, James and Mary. After residing in Scottsville, Holley, and Eagle for brief periods the family moved to Ellicottville in 1866 and settled on a farm, where he died Oct. 18, 1879. His wife died Nov. 5, 1880. Children: a daughter who died in infancy, Hugh, Joseph, Frank, Thomas, John, Michael, and James. James McKERNAN was born Nov. 12, 1846, and Oct. 6, 1867 married Susan M., daughter of S. R. and Prudence WILLIAMS. Children: William, Joseph, John, Thomas, Catherine, Simeon, Helen, James, and Josephine.

The tintype would have been taken sometime in the 1870s or 1880s. The time period makes sense for it to be Jim (or James) McKernan judging from his age ascertained from this biographical entry. Jim would not have been Harry's grandfather though, he was Harry's uncle and brother to Michael who married Hannah Simmons. Harry's grandfather (Thomas McKernan born in 1823) would have been a much older man at that time.

There is more that could be researched and recorded regarding this family and probably even more research already out there, but I will leave that to others to add. I thank my good friend and in turn her grandmother Mary for being a memory-keeper. I have taken the things she left, combined them with a little records research, and illuminated some family and community connections to share with others. If the time is right, I hope that others out there will look and see what they might have in attics, cellars and boxes and likewise do the same. Someone down the road will be glad you did