Wednesday, October 6, 2010
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.