Tuesday, January 31, 2012

112 years ago today....

Today is the 112th anniversary of my grandmother Iva Williams Sawyer's birth. She lived a long life and we had many opportunities to celebrate together.

The last two milestone birthdays we gathered for were her 85th (a memorable, rowdy surprise party - all the greater because it was in the early spring when it was easier for us all to travel) and her 90th (a much quieter gathering with dinner at the Little Dutch).

She presents something of a challenge for me. Our relationship was complicated. But as I've looked through the pictures today it's clear how much she and her children cherished, loved and flat out enjoyed one another. That her grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue to gather, love and enjoy one another is surely a testament to her and her girls.

Happy birthday, Grandmother. I'm grateful for all the years we had together.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Home Place Brought Home

Memories of my grandfather's Sawyer brothers and sisters are fixed in one spot - the farm house near the Nolichucky River their parents, Gee & Catherine Conway Sawyer built. As a girl I would sit on the floor or the porch steps as they rocked and laughed and told stories of long ago frolics. As I grew up we gathered there for weddings, birthdays, reunions and funerals. My children slept upstairs in the rooms the aunts and uncles had occupied 90 years earlier - probably in the same beds.

That house in Warrensburg is my home place - the spot were I feel most connected with my Tennessee family and history.

The family sold the house and farm after the last aunt died. Since then I've carried the home place with us as we've moved. Catherine's milk pitcher (filled with sea glass from Cape Cod) is in the living room. Gee's powder horn and shoe forms sit on the family room bookshelves. Quilts the aunts made are in the guest room.

But my favorite piece of my Sawyer home is the pie safe Catherine's father, Porter Conway, made for her when she was married in 1886. Aunt Mary Kathryn gave it to me a couple years before she died. Bless station wagons. I piled the luggage on the car seats with the children and put the safe in the back, wrapped in blankets. We drove home to Michigan where it sat in our family room filled with cookbooks and table linens. Today it's in our kitchen in Missouri. Someday it will be in my daughter's home.

It's a primitive oak cupboard and more than well used. No original patina here. It was painted, stained, stripped and repainted more times than I could ever count. The hinges were replaced when the doors fell off (ten children raiding a pie safe will do that) and fake wood knobs were added at some point. I hate them and keep meaning to replace them with something fun or funky. Odds are my daughter, like her great great-aunts Selma and Mary Kathryn, will paint it when it becomes hers. As she should. She remembers Mary Kathryn and while her memories and feelings about the home place are far different from mine, she still hears the Tennessee voices in her head.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blasts from the Past - Tuesday's Tip

I've been on a newspaper binge since revisiting Old Fulton NY Postcards over the weekend while playing with Caroline Pointer's too addictive 48 Hour Genealogy Ephemera Challenge (seriously fun, by the way). One thing led to another and four days later I'm still obsessed with the Binghamton Press of the 1920's, 30's and 40's.

I found an article about the citizenship course my grandfather was taking on the same page as three stories about the repeal of Prohibition. Another article about a cousin's junior high graduation below a story about the Lindbergh kidnapping. Talk about historical context!

The best part, however, has been sharing some of the articles with my senior relatives. I'm blessed that my father, uncle and aunt who were growing up during those days are tech savy. I've emailed them copies of articles and been delighted with their responses. Phone calls, lengthy emails, quick thumbs ups and thank yous have been coming in. They have shared memories - or the lack thereof - sparked by virtual clippings of property transfers, school performances, wedding announcements or church dances. And they're asking for more! It's been a grand way to spark dialog.

So, today's tip - act as a virtual clipping service for your relatives. Don't inundate them - one or two a week is more than enough. You may learn far more than you imagined!

Photo Credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by ancient history

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Grave Concern - Amanuensis Monday

Thanks to John at Transylvanian Dutch who originated the Amanuensis Monday meme, providing a framework (and nudge) for transcribing family records, news clippings and other treasures.

This is another transcription of a document from the papers of Maria Lee Palmer Smith (1844-1931), my husband's great-grandmother. It is a letter from the men acting as her uncle Thomas Meredith's executors addressed to Maria's mother, Margaret Meredith Palmer. Punctuation, format and spelling are retained from the original, though line breaks have been altered.

Baltimore 31st March 1854
Mrs Margaret M. Palmer
Frederick Md   Dear Madam

Your letter of  the 28th inst
has been received -
In reply  we would respectfully suggest, with your concurrence,
that Thursday the 20th April be fixed for the interment of the remains of your deceased husband.
As regards the remains of our most estimable friend Thomas
Meredith; as far as we can ascertain, we believe it is determining that they shall remain where they now are, in the vault of his brother in law Edward Jenkins.
If you should desire to be present, at the internment of 
the remains of your late husband, the day and hour may be fixed with you, after your arrival in Baltimore
                                                                 Very Respectfully

                                                                    Wm Kennedy          }        Executors
                                                                    MCourtney Jenkins  }   Thos. Meredith

Notes: This letter answered one question and posed so many more.  

The family has long wondered what happened to the gravestone of James Palmer who died in 1847. We assumed he, like most of his family, was buried at Clifton in Kilmarnock, VA even though there was no stone. 

One of my husband's cousins told me that Margaret's grave was "scanned" (I have no idea what technology was used) when the family put up a new marker to replace one that had eroded and that another, small unmarked grave was next to hers. They were hoping to find James' grave but decided the second grave was too small to be an adult. 

After discovering a handwritten family record in Maria's papers I believe the small grave may be that of Maria and James' stillborn daughter. But James was a mystery. 

From this letter, written a few months after her uncle Thomas Meredith's death, it seems James Palmer was buried in Baltimore in 1854 - more than six years after his death

I do not know which cemetery the executors were referring to (on the to do list), but I strongly suspect it was a Catholic cemetery. The first one I will check is the one associated with Baltimore's new cathedral - a project Meredith actively supported. I also suspect the reason Palmer was not buried in Virginia was that there was no Catholic church or cemetery near his home at the time of his death. 

Of course, the real question is where was James Palmer's body those six years? 

Source: Kennedy  & Jenkins, (Baltimore, MD) to Margaret M. Palmer. Letter. 31 Mar 1854. Privately held. Frederick, MD. Published with permission. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Pereksta Information - Surname Saturday

A brief Pereksta review (or an abundance of Georges)...

Most Perekstas in the United States descend from two men:
  • Ivan or Janos Pereksta (1857-1933) who was from Prislop in what's now far northeastern Slovakia. Four of his children (Mary, John, Sue and Anna) settled in the US.
  • George Pereksta (1878-1938) who was from either Prislop or nearby Starina. George and his wife Nellie ended up in the Cleveland, OH area.
While I assume there is a relationship, I have no idea what it might be other than George is not Ivan's son. (Ivan did have a brother George, however.) There are also other Perekstas from the same villages who settled here.

A George, another Anna and a William from Starina show up Danbury, CT in early 20th century census and immigration records. While the records suggested they were siblings, I did not know if CT George was the same man as OH George. For there are other Georges...

There is a George Pereksta enumerated in Pennsylvania in the 1910, 1920 and 1930 censuses. A George Pereksta traveled from Prislop to the U.S. with Ivan's daughter Mary Pereksta in 1901. There are at least three other immigration records for men named George Pereksta.

New information sheds some light...

Happily, a recently discovered obituary clarifies the Georges (some) and the family relationships. Anna Pereksta Pastorok (the Anna of the Danbury, CT records) died in Binghamton, NY on 27 May 1950. Her obituary names two surviving brothers - William Pereksta of Passaic, NJ and George Pereksta of Koppel, PA.

So there is another Pereksta family in the United States:
  • Anna Pereksta Pastorok (1870-1950) ended up in Binghamton, NY where Ivan's daughters lived. They called her tall Anna (which doesn't mean she was all that tall).
  • George Perekesta (1877-?) lived in PA. His last known address was in Koppel, PA. 
  • William Pereksta (1880-?) lived in Passaic, NJ near to Ivan's son John.
These three are not children of the above Ivan, nor are they siblings of OH George. They all named Starina as their home in immigration records. For the moment I am calling them the Danbury/Starina Perekstas. 

For the record, I am deliberately not including sources. Ornery I know. But I really, really, really want to communicate with descendants of any of these families. I promise I'll share. You just have to press the email link in the right column.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Will of Nicholas Currell (1801 Virginia) - A Friend of Friends Friday

My husband's 5th great-grandfather Nicholas Currell of Lancaster County, Virginia died in the spring of 1801 leaving a large estate. His will named most of the slaves he bequeathed to his children and grandchildren. Those men and women who already working at his son-in-law Thomas Lee's plantation were not named.

In the name of God amen. I Nicholas Currell of Lancaster county being sick and weak of body, but praise god of sound sense and memory and knowing the uncertainty of this life, and divine appointment for us mortals to die, do constitute and ordain this my last will and testament: first I give my soul to almighty god who gave it me, hoping through the merits of christ our saviour to find eternal rest with god, my body to the earth to be buried at the discretion of my executors hereafter named, and as for what wordly goods it hath pleased God to bless me with I give and advise as follows viz:

I give and devise to my son James Currell my Kentuckey land to him and heirs forever also the following negroes, Patty and all her children, Kendall, Spencer Hanna, Rachael, Richard and Lettice and their increase forever.

I give and bequeath to my son in law Thomas Lee all the negroes that he has in his possession that formerly belonged to me, forever

I give and bequeath to my daughter Ann Ball the following negroes viz Oliver, Sarah Lavinia, Susanna, Eliza, Patty, Hiram, Ailce, Henry, Mariner, Spencer and Samuel, Henry, Daniel, Fielding, David and Agatha and their increase forever
also 1 of the best feather bed, and furniture 1 pied cow and calf 1 yoke of steers my gray horse, five silver table spoons & 1 case with bottles and 1 silver headed cane, forever,

I give and bequeath to my grand daughter Margaret Steptoe Lawson the following negroes viz: Robin Solomon and Sarah, 1 of the best beds and furniture 1 mare the second choice of a yoke of steers forever

I give and bequeath to my grand daughter Ann Currell Lee, the following negroes viz. William, Thomas and Henry, and 1 horse colt to her heirs forever

I give and bequeath to my grand daughter Margaret Steptoe Ball one negroe girl named Mary and her increase forever

It is my desire that my three old negroes named Hannar, James and Esther be free, and in case they should not be able to maintain themselves they shall be maintained out of my estate

I give and bequeath to Jane White Ford 1 heifer

All the rest of my estate not before given in three parts, one to my son one to my daughter and the other to my two grand daughters, Margaret Steptoe Lawson, and Ann Currell Lee after my Just debts are paid

And I do hereby nominate constitute and appoint my two sons in law Joseph Ball and Thomas Lee and Capt. Henry C. Lawson my executors of this my last will and testament. I hereby revoke all my former wills.

In witness whereof I have set my hand and seal this sixth day of May and of our lord one thousand eight hundred and one
Signed sealed and acknowledged                  his
in presence of Geo. Ford        Nicholas {X} Currell [seal]
                         Henry Lawson                       mark
                         Lawson Hathaway

At a court held for the county of Lancaster on the 15th day of June 1801, This last will and testament of Nicholas Currell deceased was proved by the oath of George Ford, Henry Lawson and Lawson Hathaway the witnessses thereto and ordered to be recorded --

                                                                       James Towles cler

Notes: Currell's will has been abstracted and those abstracts appear in on-line family trees and message boards. The abstracts suggest that Jane White Ford was a granddaughter and that Henry Lawson was a son-in-law. Henry Lawson was, in fact, married to Currell's granddaughter Margaret Steptoe (Lee) Lawson. I am unsure who Jane White Ford was (I suspect a goddaughter), but since the other granddaughters were clearly indicated, and her inheritance was so much smaller than the others, I believe she was not Currell's granddaughter. 

The will makes clear that Currell's wife, Margaret Steptoe Lawson Currell and daughter, Elizabeth Currell Lee had already died. 

Source: Lancaster, Virginia, Will Books, 28: 49-50, Nicholas Currell; Library of Virginia, Lancaster Reel 21. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Slaves named in 1862 Guardian's Record - A Friend of Friends Friday

Last summer, while researching at the Library of Virginia, I copied several documents reporting financial accounting by guardians to various county courts. The documents recorded details about expenses paid for the orphans, including medical care, clothing and education, that were of interest. The documents also included income statements.

For some children their primary income came from renting out slaves inherited from their parent(s). This was the case for my husband's great-grandmother, Maria Lee Palmer and her brother, John T. A. Palmer. The following list of slaves, together with the names of the Northumberland and Lancaster County, Virginia men or women who paid for their services in 1862, is from an accounting dated 15 November 1862 and recorded in the Northumberland County Court on 9 February 1863.

[in left margin] 1862, July 1st ~ Nov. 15
By balance brought Forward                                           $2940.03
By rent of Clifton 2/3 for 1892  to  Jas Hurst     $300.00
 "  Hire of Negroes for 1862 viz:
       Spencer          to E O Robinson                4500
       B___ick          to J B James                      5500
       Nancy             to R Rose                            1200
       Vilette             to Wm C Currell                4000
       Warren            to Thos Borum                  6000
       Mary               to R E Beane                      2500
       Dick                 to A L Carter                     2000
       Paulina           to P Towles                         4000
       Jed                   to Tho B Payne                  6000
       Letty                to A L Carter                      3000
       Winnie             to Mrs Meredith               0000
       Daniel              to Mrs Wilder                   1500
       Rachael           to Wm L Stakes                 4000          
       Polly                 to C C Flowers                 2000
       Anna                to C C Dunton                   1000  
       Gary               to Mrs. Shearman               0000
                                                                          772 00
Maria L entitled to half                                     386 00         386.00
By Interest on $2940.03 due July 1st 1862 to }
this time Nov 15 1862                                       }                        66.15
By Excess of Income over Expenses per contra}
                                          brought here                }  244.70            
                                                                                $3184.73  $452.15
[in left margin] 1862, Nov. 15th
By Balance due Ward per contra                     $3184.73

State of Virginia
                  Returned into Northumberland County Court
the 9th day of February 1863 and ordered to be recorded.
                                                      M. B. Cralle cc

Further details about the men and women named in this record can be found on my WeRelate page Slaves Referenced in Family Research. The information there is derived from Chancery Court records in 1848/49 following the death of James Palmer, father of Maria Lee and John T. A. Palmer.

While I have not searched for each of these men and women in the 1870 census, I have checked for some. A Warren Davenport, black male, born 1820, is enumerated living at Burgess Store (Fairfield, Northumberland, VA) with a household. The 1848/49 records show a high valuation, suggesting he was an adult male at that time. This document shows he (and one other man) earned the highest income for the Palmer children of all their slaves, again suggesting he was still a strong adult male.

Northumberland, Virginia, Fiduciary Records: Guardianship Accounts Book 4, 480, John T. A. Palmer account, 9 Feb 1863; Northumberland County Courts, Heathsville; Library of Virginia Northumberland Reel No. 45.

1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Fairfield, Northumberland, Virginia, p. 19A, dwelling 265, family 268, Warren Davenport; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 Jan 2012); citing NARA microfilm M593, roll 1669.