Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 132

I can't believe we are to the end of October. Anne and I left Hardinsburg this morning and found Horsley Chapel. The Holt windows look lovely in this Methodist Church (not Presbyterian as I thought).

From there we decided to head east. Nothing of great interest seemed to be open in Louisville on a Sunday so we went to the Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill. It was the last day for demonstrations and all the buildings were open. Crunchy leaves underneath as we enjoyed this 3,000 acre community. The buildings are, for the most part, original to the early 1800s. The furniture and accessories are simple and rich in wood and natural materials. It was the perfect end to our trip. Tonight we are in Louisville and Anne goes home in the morning. I will stay one day here at the Filson Library before heading to Henderson on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 131

It has been a u-turn day. We went to the post office, made a u-turn to get to the historical society. It was manned by an ancient southerner who spoke slowly and heard even slower (is that an ear u-turn?). However, we did find that the alter rails from Judge Holt's church (built across the road from the mansion and constructed for his mother) were now in the historical society's museum. The rest of the church is in Owensboro, KY. The Mennonites bought it and moved it there. They didn't want the stained glass windows (too much color) so they were stored for several years in a tobacco barn. When the Presbyterians built a new church, here in Hardinsburg, the stained glass windows were installed there. We will try and get a glimpse tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we hit the grocery store for fruit and an ATM. No luck on the ATM and you can only get $25 above your grocery purchase. U-turn to WalMart. I got cash. Anne couldn't remember her pin number. Meanwhile, I had used the restroom and my jeans zipper got jammed in the down position - U-turn back to the motel for new jeans.

Finally, on the road at 11am looking for Edward DeHaven's grave. We have the AAA Kentucky map. We have the Breckinridge County map from the court house with the grave site marked by the archivist. We have the xeroxed map of Hancock County from the public library. We have Fiona. We have Google Maps. We have written directions to the cemetery from the cemetery book. And we still left town going the wrong direction. We get to the correct roads and no cemetery. We look in every possible direction. Read and interpret the instructions 6 different ways. We saw gorgeous, quiet scenery - but no graves. After 2 hours, you guessed it, u-turn for Hardinsburg, grabbing a salad and using the restroom before heading north to find the old Sterrett homestead and graveyard.

We found the correct roads and drove them from one end to the other. Fabulous views of the Ohio river. The perfect sites for any home - no house that fit the description. We ended back in Cloverport and did find the Black cemetery - but no Sterretts or anyone else we knew. U-turn - back on the road looking for the cemetery. Again - no sign of graves at the appropriate spot until we got out to the main road. And there it was. The perfect little cemetery up on a knoll. We whip a u-turn, park and go bounding up the hill ... and it is not our cemetery. U-turn. Finally we headed to Owensboro to see the sights. It is 3pm.

We arrived in Owensboro at 3:45 - just in time for 15 minutes at the art museum and... a bathroom stop. We then head to the public library. No relevant genealogy but a great new library facility and librarians willing to give us private tours and information. Good food for thought on library facilities and innovation. We left just at closing with directions to a local BBQ place. Drove confidently past the street - by several miles - before completing 2 u-turns and arriving at the restaurant at 7pm. Good dinner. 2 u-turns on one-way streets to get out of town, 1 u-turn on the highway when Fiona tried to send us down a back road, and the strangest NPR program ever heard to keep us awake on our way back to Hardinsburg. We are now safely tucked in. Hopefully our journey to Louisville tomorrow will have more straight lines.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 130

Short Blog. Busy day. Lots of good luck.

We found:
  • 5 wills for various family members

  • numerous marriage records

  • gravesites for my 4 g grandparents - William Haynes Bowmer and Margaret Sterett Bowmer in Cloverport, KY - (see below)

  • The Bowmer House in Cloverport - we think - based on a 1903 photo - with gorgeous views of the slowly moving Ohio River 300 feet from the front door. (see yellow house below)

  • The Holt House mentioned yesterday - halfway between Cloverport and Stephensport. The house has been preserved but much restoration needs to be done. It would be a good volunteer fundraising effort. (see large house below)

  • Joseph Holt's grave site (see below) along with those of his parents, John W. and Eleanor Stephens Holt

The morning was very cold but the afternoon lovely. The weather made it perfect for an afternoon in the outdoors. Our trek to the Holt house emphasized the absolute quiet of the location except for occasional bird songs (and the train). No children, cars, voices, or disturbing sounds. The Holt house has a large ginkgo tree in the back yard full of green leaves that glimmered as the setting sun shown down. We picked up a number of the leaves which, unfortunately, I think Anne is allergic to. She is sitting in bed with benadryl and gloves on her hands.

Tomorrow - the local historical society, the post office (I have found a house to rent when I get home so am mailing the lease), and then back out to more grave sites.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 129

A very full day today. We left Berea before 8am heading west for two sites Anne wanted to see. By 9am we were in Danville and saw Centre College. It is a small liberal arts school begun in 1820 for well-to-do families. Several of our ancestors are graduates - not because they were well to do but because it was one of the few in Kentucky. All the buildings are brick and well maintained on this small campus. No good signage which is annoying. From Danville, we coasted through the rolling hills of Kentucky towards New Hope and New Haven. It is a very Catholic area of the state which plays host to several priories and a monastery of Trappist monks (our destination). Anne had done some reading on Thomas Merton who had lived at the monastery and was curious to see this location. It is peaceful and quiet - reminiscent of my stay in upstate New York. The monastery supports itself through retreats and the making/selling of food products (fudge, cheese and fruitcake).

Finally we headed towards Breckinridge County arriving just before 2pm at the court house in Hardinsburg. Big thrill - we had crossed into the central time zone so gained an hour of research time. The archives ladies were very helpful as we delved into the Holts, Steretts, Bowmers, Stephens and DeHavens. So many lines to trace but we found good information on nearly everyone.

For me, the best information was finding that Judge Joseph Holt's home near Stephensport, KY was actually constructed by his parents - John W and Eleanor Stephens Holt, our 4 g grandparents. The house, recently rescued from ruin, has 3 stories of brick, metal and lumber and was constructed by slave labor in the 1830s. Joseph Holt inherited the house. He was Lincoln's Judge Advocate General and the house became a stop on the Underground Railway before and during the Civil War. Abutting the Holt land was that of Capt. Richard Stephens. His land grant (new sources today say 90,000 acres) extended along the Ohio River from just below Louisville to the Cloverport area. It is Richard's daughter Eleanor who married her neighbor John Holt.
We also found information on the Sterett family including this picture of John, our other 4 g grandfather on the Bowmer side. John purchased and traded land near the Ohio river. In 1822, he was taxed as a joint holder of 4,000 acres with Joseph Allen. In the same year he purchased an additional 9,000 acres. Much of the land was deeded or sold to his children leaving him with approximately 500 acres in Hancock County just over the county line from where I am in Breckinridge County. His home, called Walnut Hill, commanded a panoramic view of the Ohio River. The house stayed in the Sterett family until the 1960s. We hope to find the exact location of the property when we search out John and Sarah DeHaven Holt's graves on Saturday (probably on what was a portion of the old homestead).
Tomorrow- back to the courthouse for wills and marriage bonds. We hope to get to Cloverport to look for Bowmers and various graves.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 128

Another great day plus BEAUTIFUL fall weather - warm breezes, blue sky. Who could ask for more?

Anne and I left early for the Lancaster County Courthouse arriving just after 8am. We started searching probate records - wills for various Kennedys and Letchers. To give you an idea of small town courthouses, there are no security checks, no leaving your bags and coats in a locker, you have free access to the vault and just join the employees in using the copying machine. As we began, Gordon from the Property Valuation Department asked who we were researching. We told him Thomas Kennedy. Turns out he is descended from Thomas' sister Margaret - so he is about a 6th cousin. We shared some family stories and research information. We then got talking about the location of the Kennedy mansion and Uncle Tom's cabin. He knew right where they used to be, went to his office and printed out a colored map with directions!! Yahoo!!

Meanwhile, Anne and I were in the vault for 4 hours (they close at noon on Wed.). We ran up and down the rickety library ladder that clung to the ceiling of the vault and had one wheel that didn't quite reach the floor. I grabbed metal boxes (much like ammunition cases) full of wills and estate papers. Most had signatures of Benjamin Letcher - 5 gg who was the county clerk in the 1790s or his son Stephen G. Letcher who was county clerk in the 1820s and 30s. About 11:15 we started on marriage records. Staff showed us the metal staircase complete with creaky door that led from the floor of the vault to the basement. The lights DID work. We found the marriage bond for Thomas Kennedy and Edna Withers - 5 ggrandparents. We staggered out at noon headed for a well deserved lunch.

After lunch we drove down the street and took photos of the Letcher home then proceeded to the Lancaster Cemetery. There we found the graves for General Benjamin Letcher, his wife Margaret Robertson Letcher, and Stephen Giles Letcher. (gravestones are sideways - sorry)
North out of town we followed Gordon's directions to "The Poplars" - Kennedys homestead. The land is rolling and the house would have faced east. Beyond the edge of the plantation was Kennedy's station - the property purchased by Thomas' father John and their first home after leaving the Boonesborough/Stroud Fort area 8 miles east.

I then showed Anne the Paint Lick cemetery and Thomas K's gravesite (see photos from my blog a month ago when I was in Lexington). Anne got the kinks out of her back lying on one of the stone slabs. The end of the day was spent investigating a few places in Burea, a salad dinner, and catching up on practicalities at the hotel. We are off to Hardinsburg and its only hotel (22 rooms - $50/night) tomorrow to look for Holts, Bowmers, Stephens, DeHavens and Haynes in Breckinridge County, KY.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 127

Wow, what a day. Anne and I drove to Boonesborough, going to the original fort site on the Kentucky River and then touring the reconstructed fort. We saw the plaque for John Kennedy, one of Daniel Boone's "30 guns" who widened the Wilderness Road for the Transylvania Land Company and opened KY for settlement in 1775. John's father and brothers joined him by 1776, moving their families to the wilderness. We watched wood working, candle making, weaving, and "white" smithing exhibitions. The whitesmith worked with tin, brass, and copper making everyday implements. The metal working process required solder but not a hot forge like blacksmithing.

During the morning we noticed that the wind had picked up and by the time we stopped for lunch it was pouring rain. Only then did we access the weather channel to find out that the worst storm in 70 years had hit Chicago and we were feeling the fringes of that disturbance. I hope Pam, Jay, Lois, and Jan G. are all surviving safely.

After lunch we headed south towards Garrard County and its capital, Lancaster. 45 minutes of windy driving got us to - Paint Lick -what a surprise - exactly where Mom, Liz and I visited a couple of weeks ago and the second home to Thomas Kennedy (after his Stroud's Fort location near Boonesborough). We couldn't see much of the countryside in the rain but enjoyed the back route to Lancaster.

The Lancaster Historical Society was womanned by 80 year old Margaret Simpson. A southern dynamo, she welcomed us in out of the weather and talked nonstop about the Kennedys. Evidently, nearly everyone in Garrard County and many in neighboring Madison County are related to the Kennedys - except her. She showed us a picture painted of Thomas Kennedy's old home (c. 1800- red house) with the slave's cabin out back that belonged to the individual on which Uncle Tom (Harriet Beecher Stowe) was based. The Historical Society also has a piece of wallpaper from the original Kennedy home (demolished in 1930).

From the historical society we moved to the public library. The library has as much material as the historical society or more and we delved into Kennedy surname files. However, the great finds were in the Letcher surname files. We found letters, genealogies written 100 years ago, and much more. Even information on the elusive Robertson family. We also found the home of Nancy Kennedy and James Hughes Letcher. It is quite near the library and is where the young couple lived for 10 years ~1850. Robert P. Letcher had lived there prior to his election as Kentucky's governor in 1840 and must have let Nancy and James live there or purchase it. (white house above)

We are overwhelmed with the amount of data but intend to go back tomorrow for more. We also found that Benjamin Letcher (a general in the War of 1812 and father of James Hughes Letcher) and his wife Margaret (Peggy) Robertson Letcher are buried in Lancasteer. This means a cemetery run in Lancaster and out at Thomas Kennedy's grave in Paint Lick.

We ended our day at a country dinner in Lancaster - $4.95 for Anne's liver and onions. $5.95 for my lasagna. The price also included sides and a salad. Can't beat it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 126

We awoke to rain, low clouds and fog. We left Asheville about 9 and headed up into the mountains. The trees were brilliantly colored despite the rain.

We crossed from NC to Tennessee to Virginia and into Kentucky emerging through the Cumberland Tunnel. The stops up and through the mountains were beautiful but Cumberland Gap was disappointing. We made our way to the Cumberland Gap National Park Visitor's Center where we saw a wonderful movie on Daniel Boone and the movement of the white man into Kentucky. The ranger then sent us up the mountain to see the views that Boone and early pioneers saw. These were much more satisfying, looking out over TN and VA into Kentucky. The forest was quiet with a slight breeze and quietly chattering animals and birds. You could see how ancestors anxious for more space and new adventures would view Kentucky as the ultimate challenge.

Anne and I then headed back down the mountain to take a 1.2 mile walk (uphill, both ways) to the actual Cumberland Gap and Wilderness Trail. With two days of long walks, Anne may be doubting the wisdom of coming on this venture.

Then it was off to Berea, KY. We arrived here by 5:15 and found a nice, inexpensive motel for the next two nights. This evening was spent sorting out all the KY relatives and attaching them to our map. Tomorrow - Boonesborough and the Garrard Co. Historical Society.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 125

The day began with a crisp walk in the cold dawn. The reds, yellows and oranges from the maple and sweet gum trees lined my route up the hill. Quiet roads glistening with a full moon and the sun's new rays made a welcoming path.

After breakfast Anne and I made for the Visitor's Center and signed up for a trolley tour. We took in the sites through the town's rolling hills. In downtown Asheville we hit a book store, art galleries, and a natural foods restaurant for a light lunch. We visited a funky general store and then headed for Biltmore Village. Wrong area -full of chain stores when all we wanted were interesting folk art. The trolley pickup was an hour away so we decided to hoof it to the next trolley stop, see the historic home and get ahead of the game. WRONG! Over the bridge, along the railroad tracks, up the hill, through the community college campus, up the hill, and finally found the McDowell-Smith House - about 10 minutes after the trolley left. We spent an hour covering about 3 miles and saved ourselves no time. However, we did wear off all of our lunch and had a fine sheen of salty sweat on our makeup.

The McDowell House was interesting with several periods of furnishings presented although the tour guide was a bit boring. The trolley finally arrived and we were thrilled to just sit down and head back to the Visitor's Center. From there we drove to the Thomas Wolfe house. They have a nice video on his life and the writing of Look Homeward Angel. We then had a nice tour with the state parks guide - a knowledgeable English-major/graduate from Georgia.

Finally back to the hotel and a simple supper from the cooler. Tomorrow - off to the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 124

Anne and I managed to get out of the house by 8:30 this morning! Fiona was cranky and wouldn't accept my fingers. I would hit the s button and she would input d. I pushed E, she recorded w. GRRR! She finally redeemed herself and got us safely to Salisbury - Rowan County. Salisbury is a small town (15,000 people) but has a booming downtown, lots of art, young and oldsters alike frequenting the shops and businesses.

We went to the marvelous public library. The second floor is devoted to genealogy. The Kennedy surname files had one tantalizing bit on our relative - Thomas K. At some point in the 1760s-1770s, Thomas was caught in an Indian fight and wrestled with a warrior tumbling head over tea kettle down a hill before finally killing him. Whew - nice to be 20 and fit! We also found dozens of land grants - military and purchases - that Kennedys, Holts, Stephens, Robertsons and Robinsons made in Kentucky. This will help us pinpoint the areas to search because each grant specifies the creek or waterway on which the grant was given.

During the afternoon, we made our way into the mountains. The leaves are at their peak - brilliant reds, oranges and yellows. When we stopped at a national park Artists Exhibit I collected a whole hand full of leaves and have them pressed in the AAA guidebook. Tomorrow is a free day to explore the area and mountainsides.

Uncle Carl seems to be surviving without Anne - attending a showing of Boris Godunov. Happy Birthday to Rachel - Next year is the big 4-0! My Karl is in Minnesota at a wedding - hope there is no snow. Mom, Liz and Ann are plotting to take over the horse world - hope today's meetings were successful.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 123

Anne and I made it through all the binders! I have about 20 to take home with me. We emptied one, trashed another. There are nearly 20 binders of photos and memorabilia from my grandparent's trips. Anne will take samplings, winnowing down the stack to 1. Then she will tackle splitting up all the photos from my mother's generation. The goal - by end of winter - is for her to be down to a manageable 20 binders - or so......

I have wonderful letters, a poem written by a Civil War prisoner of war, and lots of photos. Now the issue is how do I organize and present a coherent story. Anne and Carl are both creative so we have had a lot of discussions on this issue. I am still thinking but hopefully will get some writing time during my last week so I can at least create a framework.

Meanwhile, Anne and I are off to Rowan County tomorrow, looking for any information on relatives moving west towards Kentucky. We then will head (Monday) through the Cumberland gap and start serious grave site reconnoitering near Boonesborough and Lexington. From there we will head towards Louisville, Cloverport, Stephensport, and Henderson. We have a lot of area to cover in the next 10 days. I hope the weather holds. Around Nov 5, I will head back towards Frankfurt and spend some in-depth library time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 122

Fun day in the NC sun with aunts and uncles. Sightseeing, walking, eating, shopping, eating, visiting with friends, eating - I am stuffed. Along the way, we saw Hugh and Diane's beautiful campsite on Jordan Lake. The camping spaces are tucked in amongst the trees and quite hidden from each other. The lake front is totally owned by the state so access to the water is easy.

This evening we went to the Roost in Fearrington Village. They have evening beer, cheese, wine, and music outside under the stars. Many of Anne and Carl's friends dropped by including Ann Angers - Hugh and Anne's childhood friend from Westfield, NJ. I haven't seen her in 20 years and she hasn't changed a bit. Lots of fun - and more eating. I will have to walk six miles in the morning to make a dent in my caloric intake. Tomorrow - back at the genealogy information and photos as Anne and sort what to take, what to save and what to send to others.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 121

Just a short blog tonight. I spent most of the day at the library but didn't find anything too exciting. I have an approximate location for Michael Holt's plantation and property purchased in the 1750s, 60s and 70s - just down the road from Aunt Anne. I know where the Holt's were buried - across from the almshouse (do we even have those anymore?) but the tombstone inscriptions are no longer readable. I know that Richard Stephens' land grant in Kentucky was 4,666 acres - not 10,000 or 100,000. And I was able to handle 200 year old estate papers belonging to Joseph Kennedy - my gggg uncle - who was the first physician in Mecklenburg County, NC. Not a bad day's work.

I arrived back in Pittsboro about 4pm followed shortly by Aunt Diane and Uncle Hugh. They are travelling in their motor home between their summer location in Vermont and their winter home in Florida. So nice to see them and catch up on what they have been doing since I saw them in July. I also spoke with my mom tonight. She has safely arrived home in Seattle after putting 5,400 miles on her motor home (round trip to Kentucky).

Tomorrow is a play day with aunts and uncles, then Anne and I are off to Kentucky on Saturday. - Yahoo!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 120

The NC State Library and Archives is the perfect set-up for genealogists. The mezzanine level is devoted to family records with 2-3 helpful librarians staffing the room six days per week - and xerox copies are only 10 cents a page!!!! Upstairs on the second floor are the closed stacks and manuscripts. I will head there tomorrow to find some loose (unbound) deed and probate records.

Today I focused on finding traces of the Holt and Kennedy families in NC. The Kennedy's spent less than a generation here and almost all moved onto Kentucky. There are few land records for them as the area they occupied (Rowan County) was in the flux of moving from English patent land to statehood. Most residents merely occupied the land and at statehood (1778) stood in line for a deed. By that time Kennedys were already headed for KY. I have some land deeds for Kennedys but mostly they seemed to put up their horses and cows as collateral to purchase more property and never really made a go of it here.

In contrast, the Holt's occupied land in Orange County - the Raleigh area. They were here for several generations. I have probate records for both Michael I and Michael II and confirmation that Joseph was born here but moved to Kentucky. Michael II accumulated quite a bit of property including some down here in Chatham County where Anne and Carl live. No one seems to have grave sites in either family. I think they were probably buried on family land and the tombstones were long ago destroyed.

After my research, I headed to Durham and Duke University. The daughter of good friends, is a minister at the Duke Chapel. I was lucky enough to be there for a service she officiated and then she gave me a private tour of the chapel. We were going to take the tiny elevator to the top of the tower but figured that since the repairman was stuck in it, we would pass. Instead, we ate Thai food and caught up with each other's lives. A nice day all around.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 119

Anne and I spent much of the day going through notebooks. These are ones I had already examined and which have pieces relevant to family history. Now we have to decide what she wants to copy, what is coming home with me, and what might go to other cousins. Some notebooks go quickly. Some are a slow sort and decision process. Of course we interrupted this effort with a nice lunch with several people from the new library Anne help build.

This evening we enjoyed more notebook sorting. We found a letter from gg Frank H Williams to his parents in 1877. A nice accompaniment to old photos. I retrieved some letters from my dad to my grandparents. Dad was always such a good letter writer. It is fun to re-read the 40 year old news.

Tomorrow I am back in research mode at the state archives and then will have dinner with Meghan Feldmeyer, daughter of my good friend Elissa. Onward and upward!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 118

Today was easy - just hanging out with Karl. We did some car servicing and then spent two hours at he airborn services museum in Fayetteville. If you ever get a chance to visit, this is a wonderful facility. It is sponsored by the Army and is open to the public a no charge. It traces the air services, particularly from the paratrooper's viewpoint, from its beginnings in WW II to present day. The exhibits flow easily from one to the next with realistic sounds, detailed explanations, good maps, and contextual verbiage. We could locate where my dad parachuted in to St. Mere Eglise and where Chuck's father was located in the Pacific. Very informative.

I left Karl about 3:45 and headed back to Anne and Carl's in Pittsboro. We caught up on the doings and had a nice dinner. Tomorrow - back to genealogy with several days in the NC state library this week. I hope to make good progress

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 117

Just short tonight. Karl and I had a wonderful day. We ran errands and then headed for the countryside. Near Mount Gilead, NC we made our way to the Town Creek Indian Buriel Mounds. This site has a 2,000 year history that began simply and graduated to square pyramid formations used for spiritual ceremonies. The tribes in around 1200 - 1400 AD had lovely pottery work, built palisades, and constructed daub and wattle buildings with smooth plaster interiors that kept the homes and meeting areas cool and created surfaces for painting.

Late in the afternoon Karl and I toured through the countryside just enjoying each other's company. Good Mexican food for dinner and interesting PBS this evening. A really nice time that future generations studying us will only be able to guess at - unless they read the blogs. :-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 116

It is Friday and has been a day of odds and ends. Anne and I met with a friend of hers this morning - Sue Clark has a number of original journals from the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s regarding her family in Kentucky. It turns out that we are related - very distantly. The same generation and family that produced John and Robert Letcher (both governors) was also the birth family of her relative - the 12th child in that family. That girl was orphaned at a young age and Gov. Robert Letcher and his wife took her in and raised her. It was fun to see the family journals and hear some of their family stories. It is a small world.

This afternoon I sorted all 95 binders into separate piles as they require different decisions. Of course I found one binder I had overlooked. It contained a lot of background information on the Sargood family in Australia so it was good reading.

Late in the afternoon I headed 90 minutes south to Fayetteville, NC. This is Karl's new home. We had a great BBQ dinner, grabbed some groceries and are now ensconced in his lovely apartment. I have a huge bedroom and my own private bath!! We should have a fun weekend.

No more genealogy reports until Monday night but will let you know what trouble we get into.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 115

It has been a long day. Lots of rain this morning. At noon, some people Anne met on her Costa Rican trip with grandchildren joined us for lunch. In between I finished looking through the remaining binders and photographing items for posterity.

The most wonderful find of the day were a series of letters from my grandfather to my grandmother the summer before their marriage in 1928. We knew Gramps as a solid businessman in the steel pipe industry. Maggie was the consummate hostess and community volunteer. In the letters, Gramps shows his passion and love for the woman of his dreams. Maggie must have felt like the most cherished fiancee in the world. The letters were saved in plastic sleeves in a binder. Maggie obviously intended for us to read them after she was gone so we would understand what an extraordinary marriage they had for more than 60 years. She would have never been able to say the words herself.

Other great finds were a newspaper Maggie wrote in elementary school which includes an original story, grocery ads, and a social column. War letters between Maggie and a young woman in the British army corps during WWII were fascinating. Photos of various gg grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles are always wonderful. Below is my GG grandfather Edward Atkinson and his wife Nannie Letcher Atkinson, their living children and all their grandchildren in 1919.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 114

It has been a long day looking at family albums. Many are photo albums of the current generations. Some are "trip" albums from my grandparents. Then there are the gems - the unobtrusive old black binder with Geils family information. This is our great-grandmother's family on Grandpa Williams' side. They left Germany in the late 1800s for New Rochelle, New York. Everyone seemed to have had at least two marriages and the photographs often contain wives, sisters, step-children and neighbors. It is hard to sort them out. We are making progress. Thank goodness Gramps labeled many of the photos plus made a trip to Germany to try and trace a few generations.

The next gem was an album labeled honeymoon 1928, Europe 1937, etc. The first section contained the diary notes Gramps made while he and Maggie were on their honeymoon. It wasn't anything I expected to find but was fun to read - nothing racy. I did learn that Gramps called our grandmother Margo. I don't think that nickname lasted long. I never heard him refer to her as anything but Margaret.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the albums - took almost 500 digital photos today of documents (including GG Atkinson's Spanish-American War enlistment papers and a relative's character reference written by Rutherford B. Hayes) and pictures. Labeling the photos will be the killer.

One last item that Anne brought out was a beaded flapper dress - all black and crystal beads in intricate patterns. The picture doesn't do it justice - and it doesn't seem to want to upload tonight. Another time. We think the dress belonged to Maggie (my grandmother) but are not sure. It is very heavy and I can't imagine moving or sitting in it.

We had a friend over for dinner and Anne is hosting a couple and their friends tomorrow for lunch. Busy days.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 113

Today we have mystery ladies. We have a lovely photo of 3 ladies in about 1850 or 1860 wearing their finest. The photo is on glass or porcelain and framed in an elaborate case. Our best guess is that one of the women is Grandpa Williams' grandmother Anna Hinken and the other two are her sisters. We also believe the photo was taken in Germany. If any relatives know more about this photo, please email me.

Also found today was the wedding photo for my great grandmother, Grace Catherine Geils (Grandpa Williams' mother) who was married Oct. 12, 1900. This is certainly "Grannie Williams" at her best. Later photos are much grimmer. Thanks to Aunt Anne, we also found and labeled photos of Grace's sister Marguerite and half sister Agnes plus her half brothers John and Henry. These have always been mystery people to me so it was nice to put faces to names.

We also found a photo of Grandpa Williams that looks much like my Karl, dozens of photos of my mom as a baby which I had never seen, and photos of my grandfather as a child in Florida. Much fun. In between all this, I managed to have the car serviced, see cousin Helen's soccer game (they won 4-0), enjoy a great car ride and conversation with cousin Matthew, and have a great dinner (including serenading by Helen and her friend) with Cathy and Rick's family. A day surrounded by family. And not to forget - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO LIZ

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 112

I am drowning in family information and photographs. It is fabulous. I can't wait to open the next notebook. New names, dates and clues have emerged on the Steretts, Haynes', and Jennings, - lots of wonderful leads and tantlizing threads. It is late and I don't have the several hours to label everything and write a long blog. Instead I will leave you with my favorite photo of the day - my great great grandmother Nancy Letcher Atkinson and her sister Ella - probably taken in he 1920s (despite their dresses).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 111

Here I am on Day 111 on 10/10/10. Somehow this should be auspices.

I made the easy drive from Richmond, VA to Pittsboro, NC. Aunt Anne, Uncle Carl and I had peaceful lunch and chat on their back deck. We then drove towards Raleigh to my cousin Cathy and Rick's home for dinner. My son Karl drove up from Fayetteville to join us. I was great to see him!! We had fun catching up and enjoyed the balmy evening on the back deck. Tomorrow, Anne and I start on the genealogy. She has 95 albums for me to look at. I may be here all winter!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 110

Today was my last one in Virginia. Eight hours searching and copying as much microfilm and family data as possible. From printed sources I found a lineage for Edna Withers, the wife of Gen. Thomas Kennedy of NC and Kentucky. We have never had information on her and now have four additional generations. The probate and marriage records need to be checked but those details were included with the genealogy so it provides a good paper trail for research. Like much of our family, the Withers' go back to 1700 when they emigrated from England. Like much of our family, they married those they knew. Edna's parents, William Withers and Elizabeth Barbee, were first cousins. His mother and her father were siblings. Also like much of our family, they spent several generations in Virginia before winding up in Kentucky about 1775.

The Letcher family continues to be elusive. Despite having well known progeny, Giles and Hannah Hughes Letcher are tough to trace. Giles Letcher emigrated from Ireland to America about 1740. He established himself as a merchant in Petersburg, VA (same as Edward Cunningham 50 years later). Shortly thereafter, he lost all his business and personal property in a fire. I found and copied a land deed - 137 acres - purchased from James Wads for 37 pounds on 17 Nov 1741. Giles was living in Henrico County (the area around Richmond including Petersburg) but the land purchase was in Goochland County, where he ended up moving. So far - no marriage records on Hannah or Giles. Also no will, no probate - a bit elusive.

With no viable business from their father, the sons earned their living via farming and manual labor. Son William married his cousin (on the Hughes side) - Elizabeth Perkins. Of course William's brother Stephen Giles Letcher also married his cousin, another Elizabeth Perkins, as we learned yesterday. I now have a copy of the marriage registration - 20 Jan. 1767 - between SG and Elizabeth. William married and then headed towards Kentucky but stopped on the east side of the mountains. He built a home in 1780 in the SW corner of Patrick County, VA. Unfortunately, Tories were active in the area and objected to William's support of the new nation. William and his family were threatened, burned out and in August of 1780, William was assassinated.

On to better thoughts. I also searched through Mecklenburg County records. I have his marriage bond signed by John Holloway and Richard Hanserd for 50 pounds. A bond was provided before each marriage in case there was someone who objected to the marriage and the case was brought to court. From all the ones I have read, the bonds seem to be posted only a day or two before the marriage. If no one objects and the marriage takes place, the signers are off the hook for the bond. I also have a copy of the permission letter submitted by Ann Starling's father so she and John could marry. Also copied are various court orders for Ballard and Holloway relatives, helping document their everyday lives. And finally - I have the will of James Holloway (brother or father, I think, to our John, Sr.) dated 14 May 1778. His wife had probably predeceased him because she is not mentioned. His property is divided between his children - a daughter Ashley and his son - wait for it - ARCHER!! You can never get away from those family names. :-)

Tomorrow - off to North Carolina.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 109

Today was sunny and bright. I was off to Goochland County and its Historical Society. The place was hopping but the volunteers bent over backwards to help the several of us doing research. The best news of the day was a volunteer who came in specially to talk about photographing graves at Howard's Neck. This individual has taken on the challenge of photographing every grave stone in the county. However, he has never had a valid reason (e.g. a relative like me) to request permission from the owners. His wife went to school with the daughter of the owners (Hobsons). Both Hobsons have passed away. The daughter (who must be in her late 60s) lives in Goochland and her brother live at Howard's Neck. The wife will call the friend who will call the brother and the Matt the volunteer will photograph the graves and then - he will email me copies of the photos! Yea!

I didn't find anything new in the surname files. They don't even have one for the Letchers. However, the Historical Society did have parish records (everyone was Church of England) from the minister who served the county's 3 churches. I found the marriage record for Stephen G. Letcher and Elizabeth Perkins - 22 Jan. 1767. I also found birth and baptism records for some of their children - Benjamin - 22 Nov 1767; John (who became governor of VA) - 19 Dec 1769; Hannah - 5 Nov 1771; Stephen Giles - 26 Jan. 1774; Mary - 23 April 1776. All these dates are new information for our records. FYI - Hannah and Mary must have died as young children because they don't show up in later records with the 12 living children. Also another son (Robert P. Letcher) became the governor of KY - amazing!

From the same source I found death records for Constantine and Stephen Perkins (6 G and 5 G grandfathers) and the marriage record for Stephen Giles Letcher's sister Sarah. Now if I could just find some record of their parents, Giles Letcher and Hannah Hughes.

In a separate set of publications I found the marriage registration for John Holloway Jr. and Anne Starling in Mecklenburg County with the permission by her father William Starling. I also found some tantalizing references to Rebecca Ballard's family (5G grandmother and mother of John Holloway Jr. It may be that Rebecca was born here rather than England! I found various references to a William and John Ballard as early area settlers (by 1750) with 700-1400 acres each. - More looking.

I was back to Richmond by 5 but spent another 2 hours setting up research for tomorrow, my last day in VA.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 108

Just a few quick notes tonight.

It was another long day. No exciting finds just lots of dotting "i"s and crossing "t"s. A few tidbits.

1. I finally finished the relevant Perkins/Hughes/Letcher files. There are tons more but I think I got most of the most critical details. I did find that Mr. William Robertson Perkins (author of all this paperwork) was a NY lawyer in the 20s and 30s with an office on 5th Ave. He hired a researcher for at least 12-24 months to track down every deed, will and court record in the relevant VA counties. In addition, Mr. Perkins benefit ted from decades of research by Ms. Lucie Perkins Stone, a college professor who had worked on the Perkins family genealogy. We are lucky to have so much leg work done.

2. I have a copy of Edward Cunningham's will. His 3 sons each received $40,000 plus slaves and property after he passed away in 1836. Within 4 years, all the boys plus Edward's brother Richard had to effectively declare bankruptcy. Changes in the tobacco market and excessive spending did them all in. Businesses were sold, partnerships dissolved and plantations broken up.

3. The inventory valuation from Richard Cunningham's will was a great look at daily items. Here are a few - values in pounds and shillings: 23 double bolted pad locks (= 7/6); 4 pair money scales (5/6); 2 damaged ink stands (5 cents); 1 pound of glue (2); 146 pounds of chewing tobacco (9 pounds).

4. No luck on finding information on Robertsons, Robinsons, Haynes', Stephens - hopefully I can make some progress on Saturday.

5. Finally, we have a copy of Edward Cunningham's Oath of Allegiance. This was a declaration immigrants had to make to the new country, America. It effectively was their naturalization record.

Tomorrow - off to Goochland County!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 107

It was a long, great day but I am exhausted tonight.

The morning started with a workout and laundry. Then I was off to the Virginia Historical Society. Located on Richmond's north side, the neighborhoods are full of lovely, large town houses, well maintained and shaded by lots of trees. A nice contrast to my airport location.

The Historical Society librarians had the pictures of Howard's Neck (Edward Cunningham's home) ready for me. The house was designed by the same architect used on his home in Richmond and who designed Monticello for Jefferson and the Washington Monument. Edward purchased the property (848 acres) in 1807 for $15,333 and then had the house constructed about 1817.

I requested several other books and files, looking for potential family threads. I found 6-8 letters - 200 year old correspondence from Edward Cunningham and John Randolph (Roanoke and Washington, DC). They are difficult to read but I photographed them anyway. These two individuals were obviously involved in many trade deals and politics as well as being good friends.

I then went looking for the Letchers. There is actually very little information at the Historical Society on the early Letchers - most of it focuses on John Letcher, Gov of VA during the Civil War. However, I found a file called the William Robertson Perkins papers with references to Letcher and Perkins genealogy. After 15 or so minutes, the librarians started hauling in large boxes - 8 of them. The contain 100+ files each stuffed with letters and deeds and genealogy from 150-250 years old. The head librarian apologized because only about 25% of the material is sorted and organized into cross-referenced categories. I told her I was looking for the connection between Letchers and Perkins (Stephen Giles Letcher married Elizabeth Perkins - 5g grandparents on the Atkinson side). She picked a couple of boxes and a couple of additional files that she thought would be the best bet. And so I started.

Thank goodness most of the material was typed and not hand written. What I had to read focused on the Perkins family which emigrated to the US in 1640. Reading page by page, I finally found Elizabeth Perkins married to _________ Letcher. Right time frame but the dates were a bit screwy and she only had one child with him before marrying a second time. Hummmm. That didn't fit what we know and there was no reference to KY. So, more files. Finally I discovered that Elizabeth married Col. William Letcher - Stephen Giles Letcher's brother. So how could both boys marry Elizabeth Perkins (and no, her second marriage was to a Mr. Ellis)? More files, more reading, more sorting through family lines all over Virginia and into Tennessee. I wondered if I was wasting my time and thought about moving to other manuscripts. However, the Perkins information was compelling and I figured at least the oldest data would probably apply to us. Finally - gold. The right Elizabeth Perkins married to Stephen Giles Letcher. Confirmed by her father's will where he gives her a "negro" and SGL, his son-in-law, is an executor of the estate. It turns out that the 2 Elizabeth's were cousins and both did indeed marry the two Letcher brothers.

Now I must quote from some other material in the Perkins file - it is oddly appropriate: "The Perkins family is supposed to be Russian in its origin. This seems highly probably as the names Nicholas, Peter and Constantine frequently appear in its genealogical records [I got very excited here - new, non-English blood!]. The American branch however is said to have come immediately from Wales, their ancestors having emigrated from Russia to that country." Oh well. Another quote "The members of the family have intermarried a great deal. Each generation following the custom already established by their ancestors." Oi!

One other interesting item. The Cunninghams at Howard's Neck resided in Goochland County, VA. Also in Goochland were the Letchers, Perkins, and Hughes (from whom we derive the James Hughes Letcher middle name and who married into the Perkins family). Also of note - Howard's Neck was originally the property of the Hughes family who built a home there in the 1760s (which still stands). The files I read also confirm that Benjamin Thomas Letcher married Margaret Robertson (not Robinson) and that her parents were Alexander Robertson and Margaret Robinson (yes - now you know why I am having trouble sorting out that group!).

Back to the Historical Society tomorrow. I have more files to read.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 106

I'm tired tonight. I don't know if I can write a very coherent blog but here are a few highlights.

1. Found great information on the Starling-Holloway family. The individual who wrote the research (in 1874) was born in 1809. Suzanne Lyne and William Starling (our 6G grandparents) were his grandparents and he knew, met and interacted with most of the people who populate that strand of the Atkinson line. What was wonderful was that the Starling information I found yesterday actually came from this book. So I now have additional information on Holloways and Lynes. Besides filling in blanks and pushing lines back to where and how people came to the new world, I recognized the Holloway family chart that Maggie and Gramps had given me originally came from this book. However, instead of 1 page it is 3- John Holloway and Anne Starling had six children, not four. I just had never seen the rest of the chart!

All of these families were agrarians and merchants. Many well-to-do in VA before going to Kentucky. William Starling's parents died when he was young. Col. William Lyne (Suzanne's brother) was the parents' physician. He took on the guardianship of William and his brother and sister, raising them to adulthood. When William was 18, he married Suzanne (age 17). This angered her father (old William Lyne Sr.) so William and Suzanne moved to Mechlenburg Co, VA and then Kentucky. They never reconciled with old William but seemed to correspond regularly with her siblings. BTW - for my boys - William Starling (b. 1756) was 6'3". His sons Lyne and Edmund were 6'6". Guess we know where some of the tall genes come from.

2. We are clarifying the Holt line. It looks like two groups came - one from England and one from Germany. We are from the German line (I now have several generations with dates and places in Germany.) A group of Germans (the Germanna) came in three waves to VA - they were recruited as experienced iron workers. Michael Holt, his mother and stepfather were part of the group that arrived in 1717. They were suppose to go to Philadelphia but instead many perished on the trip and the remaining 100 were sold into indenture for 8 years to the Gov of VA - Spotswood. Michael worked off the indenture, married and acquired several hundred acres of land in what is now Madison County, VA. He and his wife Elizabeth Scheible then moved with their children to North Carolina (~1767-69).

Michael Jr. married Margaret O'Neill, from a well-to-do Irish family. Their son Joseph S. Holt (b. 1755) moved to KY and I believe was the father of John W. Holt and grandfather of Joseph Holt (Advocate General on Lincoln's cabinet) and Elizabeth Holt, our ggg grandmother on the Bowmer side. I probably can't prove this until I get to KY and find the probate records. The lineage is confirmed through wills and deeds down through Joseph Holt Sr. as is his move to KY and the fact that he is an ancestor of Judge Joseph Holt. Now I just need to link the KY residents.

To bed.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 105

It was a long day at the library. Seven solid hours of looking through manuscripts and files. The goal was to see if I could pick up some threads on some of our lines that just list a name, a date, and a location but few details. Because many areas did not keep vital statistics it is frustrating trying to move the Atkinson and Bowmer lines backwards - with confirming details - no just guesses.

I did have one lucky break. I found several generations of of the Starling family. Anne Starling married John Holloway. Their daughter Lucy married George Atkinson. I knew that Anne's parents were William Starling and Suzanne Lyne and a few dates but no location other than Virginia and no other generations. I found that William's father was William Starling of King William County, VA. They were a well known Virginia family. His father was Roderic, his grandfather William, and his gg grandfather was Sir William Starling - knighted in 1661 and served as mayor of London in 1670. Now that I have a lineage and location, I will look for probate records for confirmation/connectivity between the generations.

Tomorrow - back to look at microfilm and do more research. Wednesday I will head to the VA Historical Society. They are holding photos from the Howard's neck Plantation for me plus some other manuscripts.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 104

Just a short blog tonight. I set off to find Howard's Neck, Edward Cunningham's plantation. The route northwest was convoluted and time consuming. It quickly became obvious that our ancestors must have come up river by boat - not overland. Howard's Neck sits above a large switchback on the James River and must have a gorgeous view. The residence is a Federal house, 2-story with four chimneys. The property also contains a one-story frame house from the colonial times, and three log slave quarters. Although this sounds like I saw the plantation, I found the location but was unable to get very close. The best I could do was drive across country along some abandoned railroad tracks but was unable to see up hill through the vegetation. I chickened out on trespassing. I guess I needed a co-conspirator. Maybe the Historical Society will have photos.

I then made my way south of Richmond to the city of Petersburg. This is the original immigration point for Edward and his brothers. The city was a key hub for commerce in the 1700s - much bigger than Richmond - and is situated near the confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers. During the Civil War, 5 railroads met at the city which made it a prime target for Grant's northern armies. They city suffered a huge fire in 1815 so most of the buildings are from that era but it provided an overall view of what our raw businessman must have seen as they sailed into port. I have attached a historical marker which has some interesting information relating to the use of slaves.

I took an hour to tour the Blandford Church and Cemetery. This church was established in the early 1700s and became the site for 30,000 Civil War burials after the end of the war. It took 15 years to recover all the bodies in the area. The church has 15 Tiffany windows commemorating the southern states and the men who gave their lives during the long fight. The windows are glorious. Tiffany made them from flat and rolled/twisted glass. The pieces vary in thickness from 1/4" to 1.5". The cemetery is the 2nd largest in Virginia - after Arlington.

Back to the library tomorrow. Hope I find good leads.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 103

I spent the morning getting my records organized for the Richmond experience. It is always interesting going to a large, regional library. You never know what you will find or whether it will be available. Taking back streets, I was in downtown Richmond in 15 minutes and - gloriously - there is a free parking garage for the Library of Virginia.

Combing through the online catalog, I found microfilm of some of Edward Cunningham's accounts and letters. Edward Cunningham and his brothers emigrated from Ireland in the last quarter of the 1700s. They established a variety of businesses that dealt with the raising, growing and exporting of tobacco, wool, and cotton. They were highly successful and moved from rural Virginia to Richmond and later established plantations along the James River. Edward's sister Sarah married John Atkinson in Ireland. Their son George was born in 1793. By 1803, George was orphaned. He came to America on his own and was taken in by his uncle Edward. Edward treated George like a son, sending him to the best schools and giving him practical experience in the family's import-export business. As importantly, he connected George with key movers and shakers - e.g., James Madison, Chief Justice Marshall, and John Randolf of Roanoke.

Back to today - the letters on microfilm. The letters were written by Edward on visits to London, Dublin and Church Hill, County Down, Ireland. Church Hill was the Cunningham family homestead and several of the letters reference the estate of John Atkinson, George's father. I haven't had time to read through all the letters but am excited to learn more about the relationship between the Irish and American parts of the family. The rest of the afternoon was spent compiling references on other manuscripts to read - a To Do list for Monday. I am also requesting some manuscripts and photos pertaining to Howard's Neck, Edward Cunningham's plantation on the James River. I am heading that way tomorrow but I don't have much confidence that I will get close to the property since it is privately held. Unfortunately, the family cemetery is also on the property.

At the end of the day I made my way to the site of the old Tredegar Iron Works. A former flour mill was purchased by Edward and John Cunningham in the 1820s and called the Virginia Foundry Company. The foundry combined with rolling mills to create Tredegar which eventually became the largest iron works in the south and the 3rd largest in the US. After some faltering in the 1840s and 50s, Tredegar made cannons for the south during the Civil War and was key to Richmond's choice as the Confederate capital. After the war, Tredegar changed to railway components, switching back to munitions for the two world wars. The picture below is what I could take, staying outside the "no trespassing" signs.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 102

Up and out this morning I headed south again hoping to find more information on Robertsons and Robinsons in the New River area. I stopped at the Wilderness Road Historical Museum in Polaski County and the Wyeth County Historical Society but no luck either place. By early afternoon, I decided I was spending too much time chasing small leads and needed to just head to the major source for information - the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

I took the backroads enjoying the countryside and listening to a book on tape. I stopped somewhere and in a parking lot pulled out my computer and portable internet access card to find a hotel room. It makes a huge difference in cost (often nearly 50%) to make an advance reservation rather than just pulling into cold. I ended up with a 10 day reservation at a very nice hotel in Richmond for an average of $60 per night because I got 3 nights free. I am going to enjoy the luxury!

Since the VA Library is open tomorrow, I will make my first foray into downtown. Hopefully, there will be less traffic on Saturday so I can get my bearings. Then Sunday - some sightseeing or go north of the city to find the plantation home of Edward Cunningham. We shall see.