Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ancestry Toolbar - New, Released Today released a new tool today...the Ancestry Toolbar. It can be used with Internet Explore, Firefox, etc. and shows up under the box where you enter in a web address. The toolbar allows you to copy photos or text into your online tree at It also saves a link to the source as a sort of citation. You can also choose to just save the link and associate it with anyone in your file.

I do not know if there are any limits to what or how much you can copy. I am going to download the toolbar today and play with it a little. I will pass along what I find through my fiddling around. I gather that it only adds data to a family tree that you host on I do not think it will import the data to your Family Tree Maker software.

If anyone out there gives the toolbar a try, let me know what you think. If you do not have it yet, you can click any of the highlighted links in the posting to download it now.

Joseph Aeperson Lett of Mecklenburg County (September 1855 - December 10, 1896), obituary and some estate records

As of 2003, Brenda Kelley of Titusville, Florida had a photograph of Joseph Lett. According to her, "...the background is very dark except over his left shoulder, the face has been 'cleaned.' My aunt Iva gave this picture to me about 30 years ago and amazingly it has traveled up and down the southeast coast from Ft. Meade, Maryland to Florida several times and still did not damage the glass or frame!" I used a pencil on this copy to try and redefine some of the lost features.

Richmond Dispatch, Saturday, December 12, 1896:
"FATAL BOILER EXPLOSION IN MECKLENBURG. - BOYDTON, VA., December 11. - (Special.) - A terrible boiler explosion occurred at the saw-mill of Mitchell & Jones, near Baskerville, this county, yesterday afternoon. Mr. Joseph H. (sic.) Lett and Jim Blackford, a colored fireman, were instantly killed. Mr. Lett had just reached the mill on business when the sad fatality occurred."

According to Charles Richard Dunn, III, Joseph went to the mill on business and his wife waited for him along the road side. As he approached the mill, steam was building in the sawmill's boiler. Its pressure release valve failed to open and the boiler exploded. A piece of flying metal struck Joseph's head, taking off the top of his skull. Mollie rushed to her husband's side but it was too late. The only thing she could do was to put his brains back into his scull and tied it together with her scarf.

Joseph was supposedly buried across the street from the main Lett cemetery on highway 669. Charles Dunn told me that he would take me to the site but died before he got the chance. I was taken to the area in the late 1990s by John D. Hightower. He said that a foot marker still existed in the field but we could not find it, despite burning off a large portion of the growth. He told me that it used to be a full cemetery there until Charles Dunn plowed it over. No wonder her knew where the cemetery remnants were located, he was the one who destroyed it! Charles is now deceased so I have no way to ask him about it.

According to a 1905 deed Mollie Lett reserved 1/8 acre, of a tract she sold to James T. Cole, as a family cemetery. The property was located in Buckhorn magisterial district, adjoining W. A. Lett, L. H. Hayes and others. The land formerly belonged to Dr. Peter E. Lett. It would seem logical that Joseph was likely buried in this cemetery. However, despite several efforts, it has not been located to my knowledge and would most likely not be the same cemetery as the one mentioned by Charles Dunn.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book 27, p. 102:
On December 21, 1896, Joseph's mother-in-law, E. M. C. Puryear, was securely named as executrix of his estate.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book 27, pp. 134-135:
An appraisement of the estate of Jos. A. Lett, deceased was returned to court in February 1897. He did not possess a lot of items but those he had were respectable. He owned several wagons and carts, including a surry (covered) coach. It appears he also owned one-third interest in some type of business, perhaps a saw mill, since his estate included one-third interest in a log cart, shop, ox and two certificate of deposits. There were also two bonds due, one versus J. E. Powell for $16.00 and one versus Andrew Sizemore for $350. Joseph's estate appraised for a total of $1,191.51. Not included in this total was a tract of land, worth $600, with no encumbrances.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book 27, pp. 291-292:
An accounts current for the estate of J. A. Lett, deceased was created on January 23, 1898 and was returned to court on August 15, 1898. At the time of his death, Joseph did not have many debts of which to speak. Instead, there were a few bonds owed to him which the estate was able to collect. In the end, Mollie received $358.94, Mattie and Lillie each received $179.47 and Kissie and Lucie each received $179.48.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A couple, random Lett-related obituaries

Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 12, 1937:
"MRS. M. E. LETTE - Mrs. M. E. Lette died Sunday at 209 South Third Street. She was the mother of Miss Lucy A. Lette. The body was taken to the residence of Mrs. Richard F. Gaskins, 2904 Griffin Avenue. Funeral arrangements will be announced later."

Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 12, 1937:
"LETTE - Mrs. M. E. Lette, widow of the late Joseph A. Lette and daughter of the late Dr. Peter Edward Lette and Emma Fennell Lette of Mecklenburg County, died January 10, at 11:30 P. M. at her home, 209 South Third Street. Surviving her are three daughters, Miss Lucy A. Lette of this city, Mrs. A. E. Amundsen of Little Falls, Minn.; Mrs. G. A. Mosley of Hopewell, and one sister, Mrs. Imogene D. Queen of Man, W. Va. Services at Chase City Baptist Church today at noon. Interment in Chase City."

Mollie is buried in section E, lot 33, grave E of Woodland Cemetery in Chase City, Virginia. There are six graves in the section but only two are listed as being filled. Neither grave has a stone according to Carolyn Davis.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 17, 1957:
"MRS. MATTIE E. MOSELEY - HOPEWELL, April 16 - Mrs. Mattie Emma Moseley, 79, died here Tuesday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. C. H. Boone. She is survived by two other daughters, Mrs. M. J. Harmon and Mrs. G. L. Liverman of Richmond; a son, Earl J. Moseley of Front Royal; a sister, Mrs. A. E. Amundson of Glendale, Calif.; nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Gould Funeral Home, with burial in Appomattox Cemetery."

Mattie is buried in division A, block 36, grave 2 of Appomattox Cemetery in Hopewell, Virginia.

Little Falls Daily Transcript, December 27, 1943:
MRS. AMUNDSEN DIES SUDDENLY - The death of Mrs. A. E. Amundsen suddenly Friday evening at her home came as a shock to the community which she has served in a civic way during her 24 years of residence in the city. She died early in the evening at her home after she had been at the doctor's office, where she served as an attendant, throughout the day and was apparently in her usual good health. Funeral services will be conducted by Rev. J. W. Zneimer Tuesday at 2:30 p. m. at the Church of Our Saviour. Friends may call at the Thompson Funeral chapel until Tuesday at 1 p. m. Mrs. Amundsen was an ardent worker in the American Legion Auxiliary and after serving as unit president she went on to state honors as department president. While Mrs. Amundsen was unit president she devoted much of her energy to improving Memorial park and she instigated the building of the section which lies south of Broadway. A lover of trees and flowers she was also instrumental in the horticultural improvements at the Town and Country club golf course. For many years she took a very active interest in the club and served as president of the women's division for a term. During her term of office as president of the Musical Art club she organized the choral club and a civic orchestra under Musical Art club sponsorship. Mrs. Amundsen held a number of offices in the Bethlehem chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star before taking the office of worthy matron. She was also a member of the Upper Mississippi Medical Society Auxiliary, St. Margaret's Society of the Church of Our Saviour, the Past Matrons club and the Past Presidents club of the Legion Auxiliary. Karjolaine Mae Lette was born in Mecklinburg county, Va., Feb. 10, 1888, the daughter of Dr. Jos. A. and Mary E. Lette. She lived in Chase City, Va., from 1908 to 1912 when she moved to Richmond. In 1918 she went to Lynchburg, Va. Her marriage to Dr. Albert E. Amundsen took place at Warren, May 4, 1918, and they settled in Little Falls in 1919. Surviving besides her husband is a sister, Miss Lucy Aeferson Lette of Richmond, Va."

The Hemet Newspaper, June 27, 1974:
"LUCY AMUNDSEN RITES FRIDAY - Funeral services will be conducted in the Memorial Chapel of the Greenlawn Funeral Home Friday at 10 a.m. for Lucy Lette Amundsen, 83, of Hemet, who passed away June 26 at Hemet Community Hospital. The Rev. Roy F. Schippling of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd will officiate. Private internment will follow in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale. Mrs. Amundsen was born in Virginia on November 7, 1890 and lived in this area for 10 years, in the state, 30 years. She was a member of the Episcopal Church of Glendale. Survivors include the widower, Albert of the home address."

Dr. Peter Edward Lett / Lette estate records, Mecklenburg County, died July 11, 1876

[Photo of Emma M. C. Fennell Lett and Dr. Peter Edward Lett, sometimes seen as Lette. This photo was sent to me several years ago by a Fennell researcher. Emma later married Hezekiah Puryear.]

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book #23, page 474:
"In the name of God Amen, I Peter E. Lett of the County of Mecklenburg, Virginia make this my last will and testament to wit. Item 1st. It is my desire that all my just debts and funeral expenses should be paid. Item 2nd. It is my wish that my property should be kept together until my youngest child married or is eighteen years old, then my wife if she be living to take one third to have and to hold and do as she please with. The remainder to be equally divided between my children or their heirs. Item 3rd. I appoint my wife Executrix of this my last will and testament and guardian for my children she is not to be required to give security for her management of my estate. Given under my hand and seal this 17th December 1866. Peter E. Lett. Witness: James J. C. Fennell, C. E. Abernathy.

Mecklenburg County Court August 21st 1876. The last will and testament of Peter E. Lett late of this county deceased was this day presented to the court and fully proved by the oaths of James J. C. Fennell and C. E. Abernathy the subscribing witnesses thereto and was thereupon ordered to be recorded. Teste. R. P. Hughes, Clerk."

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book #23, page 474 (margin):
"Mecklenburg County Court September 18th, 1876. The last will and testament of Peter E. Lett late of this county deceased was this day again brought into court. And on the motion of John P. Smith who made oath as the law directs and entered into bond in the penalty of $1,500.00 conditioned according to law with H. E. Smith, A. H. Bracey and J. Priest, Jr. his securities therein who testified on oath as to their sufficiency and which said bond being acknowledged by the obligors therein is ordered to be recorded. Certificate is granted the said John P. Smith for obtaining letters of administration on the estate of the said Peter E. Lett late of this county deceased with the said will annexed in due form. Teste. R. P. Hughes, Clerk."

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book #23, page 474 (margin):
"Mecklenburg County Court February 17th, 1877. E. M. C. Lett widow of P. E. Lett by her letter to the court renounced the provision made for her by the above will of her deceased husband P. E. Lett deceased which is recorded on page 527 of this book. Teste. R. P. Hughes, Clerk."

Religious Herald, July 27, 1876:
"Died, on the 11th July, of paralysis, Dr. P. E. Lett, at his home, Mecklenburg County, Virginia, aged 63 years. He leaves a devoted wife and two interesting daughters to mourn their irreparable loss; but their loss is his gain. He was truly a Christian gentleman, and leaves behind him an unspotted reputation. He had been a member of the Baptist church for more than 45 years. May his children emulate his many virtues and meet him in heaven. Freind."

According to a 1905 deed Mollie Lett reserved 1/8 acre, of a tract she sold to James T. Cole, as a family cemetery. The property was located in Buckhorn magisterial district, adjoining W. A. Lett, L. H. Hayes and others. The land formerly belonged to Dr. Peter E. Lett. It would seem logical (or at least possible) that Peter was likely buried in this cemetery. However, despite several efforts, it has not been located to my knowledge.

[Home of Dr. Lett, near Baskerville, Mecklenburg County, Virginia.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ghost Dog in Hollywood Cemetery of Richmond?

I have been running with the Halloween theme lately...and I am not going to stop now!

Yesterday I wrote about the Vampire of Richmond and its ties to Hollywood Cemetery. While I was in the cemetery this past Saturday, I witnessed something that could be considered strange. It was odd enough where I lost interest in getting out of the car, at least for rest of that trip.

To tell the story fully, I need to back up to Saturday morning. A friend called and asked if I knew about the W. W. Pool/Poole crypt and where it was located. I had never actually looked for it so I went online to see if anyone else had. I found some photos of the crypt but no directions on how to find it. I did however find a lot about the Hollywood dog, a metal statue guarding the grave of a child. I knew all about that one so I was not terribly interested. I did however find a few interesting items about in the cemetery.

A few "sources" indicated that at least one woman was buried in the cemetery with her dogs. You can reportedly hear them barking in the cemetery. As for the metal dog that I mentioned, he supposedly rotates around, changing the direction in which he faces. In general, you get the idea that there are some strange dog happenings at Hollywood.

Well, fast-forward to lunchtime and I am driving around inside of the cemetery. I pass a funeral and end up where Hollywood borders Riverview Cemetery. There is a chain-link fence that divides the two cemeteries, of an average height. Anyway, I was looking toward that fence when I noticed a black dog stand up behind one of the stones in Hollywood. In all of my years in downtown cemeteries, I have never seen a dog. That in itself seemed strange to me.

My initial thought was that it was a stray and the dog did look rather thin and had a gray patch under its chin, showing his age. It was probably a black German shepherd but I am no dog expert. It looked kinda like the one in this photo that I found on Wikipedia.

The dog started jogging toward my car as soon as he saw me...odd behaviour for a stray. My window was down so I did not know if I should roll it up or what. The dog came right up beside my door but never paid me any attention. He never looked at me or acknowledged that I was even there, aside from running up beside me. I wondered for a second if I were dead and he could not see me?

As the dog passed I remembered the funeral down the hill, in the direction the dog was headed. I thought about the way a wild dog might disrupt the services or scare the attendees so I turned around in one of the circles there, expecting to follow the dog and steer him away from the funeral. However, in a matter of only the few seconds it took me to turn around, the dog was gone! I drove around for the next fifteen minutes looking for the dog and never found him again! Now my mind really got to thinking...

I sat there and thought everything through logically. Where the dog was sitting meant that he either walked all the way through the cemetery, from the gate to that point, he swam through the river and climbed a huge embankment or he jumped the fence from Riverview. If he had jumped the fence, he would have still had to walk from their gate or climb up from the James River. It did not make sense as to why he would be there.

In driving around for about an hour, I covered all of the cemetery and did not see anyone who was walking a dog or may have lost one. It was cold and rainy so no one wanted to be out that day, at least not strolling in the cemetery. There are no real food sources to attract dogs and in all of my years and visits, I have never seen another dog in any of the local cemeteries. I have seen drug dealers but no dogs!

Logically I know this was just a dog, albeit a strange place for such a dog. However I am not beyond believing that this could have been a ghost dog, perhaps one buried along with its owner. I wonder if anyone else out there has seen the same thing in Hollywood?

On Halloween night I will post my final ghost story of sorts, I even caught it on film and will show you the evidence. This incident also took place in Hollywood and has thrilled me for years. I show the photo to people all of the time and they have to admit that it is pretty neat. It has a great genealogy story behind it so you will probably find that one quite interesting.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Vampire of Richmond

I thought I would give you a little Halloween treat, a Richmond ghost story of sorts that is mostly fact!

I am a big fan of Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond...I even bought my own spot in their mausoleum. It is a beautiful place, full of history both local and national. One of the great Hollywood stories involves the crypt of W. W. Pool. I have seen the name spelled as W. W. Poole but his crypt says Pool.

In 1925 a train tunnel collapsed in Church Hill and buried a large work crew along with their locomotive. I think they were patching brickwork in the ceiling when it all came tumbling down. There was no saving the unlucky souls, even the ones who survived the initial collapse. The train is so well buried that several attempts, even one as late as 2006, could not get the train out. Engineers have pretty much ruled it impossible.

Shortly after the actual collapse a creature of ungodly description clawed its way out of the tunnel. It was charred, bloody and had jagged teeth. It was so frightening that it was chased by armed men through the streets until the creature reached Hollywood Cemetery. Just inside the cemetery gates is located a crypt, dug in the side of the hill, the resting place of W. W. Pool. The creature dashed into the unlocked crypt and disappeared.

Now, let's tell the other half of the story. There really was a disfigured being that crawled out of the rubble. It even had jagged teeth and was covered in blood. That being was Ben Mosby, a worker on the train who was scaled by the steam. He made it out of the tunnel and died a short while later in a local hospital. Ben was buried in Hollywood. Who knows where the vampire legend came from but it is at least partially true. I do not know how W. W. Pool got involved but I am sure there was a reason.

With all of the publicity, W. W. Pool has become a major attraction at Hollywood but in a bad way. People go to his grave to perform satanic rituals and leave all kinds of crazy stuff at his grave. I have heard that his body was stolen so many times that they finally buried him somewhere else.

I found the crypt the other day but did not get out of the car. The next time I am at the cemetery with someone else, I will go check it out in detail. I had something else happen at Hollywood that day which made me a little uneasy with getting out of the car. I will tell you about that in my next post.

If you would like to see the grave of Ben Mosby, you can click here for his memorial at Find-A-Grave.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Civil War Museum at the Exchange Hotel of Gordonsville

It has been ten days since I last posted anything. You probably thought that I was dead since I have been really good about posting daily as of late. I am still alive but I have been in New York on business and the Holiday Inn that I stayed in did not have Wi-Fi! I think it was supposed to have it but the darn thing was not working during the entire time. It was a pain in some ways but a nice vacation in others.

Tonight we went to the Civil War Museum at the Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville of Orange County. The hotel was built in 1860 and served both the Virginia Central Railroad and the Alexandria Railroad. The main purpose of the hotel was short-lived as it became the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital during the Civil War, caring for nearly 70,000 soldiers by the end of the war. Amazingly only about one percent of these soldiers died at the hospital, around 700 in all. They were originally buried on the grounds but later moved - Confederate soldiers were moved to Maplewood Cemetery and Union soldiers to the national cemetery in Culpeper.

After the war, the Exchange became a Freedman's Bureau Hospital and later returned to use as a hotel. It has now been restored as a museum and historical society of sorts. I did not get to spend much time looking at their collections but the museum seems to have a large reading room with old maps, newspapers and hospital records pertaining to the hospital, hotel, town and county. I imagine if you visited during normal hours, you would be able to view their holdings. They also had a large collection of Civil War-related books and a gift shop.

The reason we went to the Exchange tonight was for a ghost tour, in honor of Halloween. This was their eighth annual tour, taking place on October 24th and 25th. It cost $12 for myself, my wife and our two young children. They gave us free cider and coco plus cookies for the kids. The tour took us through the top two floors of the building, with reenactors in each room. They tried to reenact the death scenes of people who died in the hotel and supposedly now haunt the grounds.

Overall it was okay. I mean, they only do this two nights per year so you cannot set the bar too high.
It is probably a major fundraiser for the museum so I can definitely support that. If you are looking for a haunted house or a true ghost tour, this would not have been for you. I mean, if the place was haunted you would never know it with all of the reenactors stomping around. Again, not that anything was wrong, it just was not a ghost tour as much as a history lesson about hospital life and death during the Civil War.

In looking at the museum's website, I did notice that they have a list of the dead. I do not know how complete it is but you can view it by clicking here.

And, just in case you were wondering, I did not see any ghosts. I even got to spend a little quite time in one of the rooms...alone. I was in there for about ten minutes and even tried to provoke any spirits that might have been there. I watch Ghost Hunters on SciFi...I know the deal. I asked them to please make their presence known, to give me some small sign. Once that did not work, I tried to be a little more aggressive and tick off anything that might be there (but again to no avail). If there are any ghosts at the Exchange Hotel, they must have taken the night off.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Using old maps, Google Earth, deeds and census records to find your ancestral home place

One of the neatest things in genealogy is finding the actual homes or land where your ancestors used to live. You never know if the old ancestral home is still standing or if perhaps there is a family cemetery on the property. The problem is that most old deeds were written in such cryptic language that the average person cannot figure out what they were saying. All of those metes and bounds get rather confusing. However, there are some was to cut through the confusing terminology and find the old home place. I have done it many times and here is an example that you can use as a road map to finding your own.

When I look at an old deed, the only things I really focus on are the date, county, name of neighbors and any creeks, rivers, roads or other named boundaries. These are all you need to get started. Forget about how many poles and rods there were along one boundary line. Unless you are trying to redraw the entire property, all you need are the aforementioned items.

I am going to show you an example of how this works, using my ancestor Royall Spain of Mecklenburg County, Virginia as an example. I started by finding all of the deeds that showed him buying or selling any land in the county. His case is kinda simple because he bought only three tracts of land and basically sold only one.

In Royall's case, he bought part of the estate of his mother and father-in-law, Ann and William Harris. He then proceeded to buy land adjoining his property, to make one large tract that totalled roughly 155 acres. Royall later sold the entire tract to his son-in-law, Joshua Spain.

Here is a rough summary of each deed, providing the year, parties involved, the number of acres and the body of water upon which they were located. I did not include the names of neighbors in this example but you should jot those down as well.
  1. 1821, Harris to Spain, 57 acres on Butcher's Creek
  2. 1826, Norment to Spain, adjoining Spain, 66 acres on Middle Bluestone Creek
  3. 1827, Harris to Spain, adjoining Spain, 31 acres on Middle Bluestone Creek
  4. 1866, Spain to Spain, half of 155 acre tract where he now lives
  5. 1870, Spain to Spain, remainder of 155 acre tract where he now lives
The main things that sticks out are the names of the creeks, Butcher's and Middle Bluestone. Looking at a topographic map of Mecklenburg, it does not take too long to find the named creeks. Sometimes you have to look at contemporary maps because names change, creeks get diverted or what have you. I know that the land I am looking for has to pretty much touch both creeks, or at least be between or around them. Zeroing in on that area is a good start.

Seeing that Royall lived on the land between 1821 and 1870, I can look at census records and get the names of his neighbors in at least 1850, 1860 and 1870. Those might come in handy later...

The next step is a bit tougher but you need to find a good map of the county in question, made near the time of the deed transactions. In this case, I know that Gilmer maps exist for Mecklenburg during the Civil War period. The Virginia Historical Society and the Library of Virginia both have copies to review. You cannot copy the ones at the Library of Virginia but the Virginia Historical Society offers copies for sale at their facility. (You should read an earlier article I wrote on the Gilmer!)

Using the creek names and the names of neighbors I picked off of the 1860 census, 1870 census and the actual deeds, I find that there is a Spain farm named right on the map. There are lots of Spain farms throughout the county but I can pretty much rest assured that the one in question is the Royall Spain farm. There are other family names as neighbors, including Lawson and Harris. If you recall, the Spain farm was part of the larger Harris farm. Royall's daughter also intermarried with the Lawson family. Add to that the proximity to Butcher's and Middle Bluestone Creeks and I have a preponderance of evidence here to prove that this is the farm I am looking for!

It is great to find the farm on an 1860s map but that does not help me much today. A lot of the roads and landmarks have changed so I need to turn the old map into a new one. I do this using Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth. I used Google Earth to find a modern satellite photo of the area with the roads and churches called out. I saved it to my computer and went to work.

I opened the satellite photo, along with a scan of the 1860s map, in Photoshop and shrunk the Google map until it was roughly the same scale as the 1860s map. I then changed the transparency of 1860s map and laid it on top of the modern image. It took a little adjusting but I had New Hope Baptist Church and two roads as fixed points on both maps. After about five minutes of fine-tuning the scale and transparency, I came up with one image that merged the old and new maps into what I would call...perfection.

Just look at the way the old farms fit perfectly within the modern tree lines. Look at the Harris, Spain and Lawson farms. You can tell that they fit within the boundaries of the woods like a glove! I was impressed myself over how well this turned out.

I now know that the Royall Spain farm was located near the intersection of modern-day New Hope and Skipwith Roads , specifically 36°43'58.74"N, 78°29'31.68"W. I have not gone down to the site to check for an old home or cemetery but I will eventually, powered by the knowledge of knowing where to look.

I realize that a lot of pieces fell into place in my example but it took more effort than I make it sound like. I had to go find the deeds and the maps. I had to do census research and a good bit of photo-editing. I make it sound easy but I admit that this type of research can be quite challenging. It might seem a daunting task to find the home of an ancestor that lived over 100 years ago but it is possible. When you do find it, with all of this work behind you, the reward is all the more sweet as opposed to someone just telling you where it was!

Will of Bartlett Cole of Mecklenburg County, died 1282

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book #11, page 399:
"In the name of God amen, I Bartlett Cole of the County of Mecklenburg and state of Virginia being sick and weak but of a perfect mind and memory, thanks be to God for it and calling to mind the mortality of the body and that it is appointed of God for man to die do make this my last will and testament. Item my will and desire is first all my just debts be truly and punctually paid. Item my will and desire is that after my just debts are all paid that my well beloved wife Viney Cole shall have the loan of the reside of my estate during her natural life or widowhood. Item my will and desire is after the death or marriage of my wife Viney Cole that the residue of my estate be sold and if sufficient, I give and bequeath to my two daughters Polly Cole, Phebe Cole one hundred dollars to be equally divided between them and then if any part of my estate still remain my will and desire is that the whole thereof be equally divided between my four children namely Edward Cole, John Cole, Phebe Cole and Polly Cole. Lastly I appoint my son Edward Cole executor to this my last will and testament. In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand seal this 14th day of April 1828. Bartlett Cole. Signed sealed in presence of: Samuel G. Johnson, James Johnson, Zach. Curtis.

At a Court held for Mecklenburg County the 18th August 1828. The foregoing last will and testament of Bartlett Cole, deceased was produced into Court and proved by the oaths of James Johnson and Zachariah Curtis subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded. And [on the motion of] Edward Cole the Executor therein named appeared in Court and refused to take upon himself the burden of the executor thereof. And on motion of Samuel G. Johnson who made oath and together with Samuel Young and Edward Cole his securities entered into and acknowledged bond in the penalty of $3,000 conditioned as the law directs. Certificate is granted him for obtaining letters of administration on said estate with the will annexed. E. L. Tabb, Cl."

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book #14, page 19:
On August 30, 1828, an inventory and appraisement of the property of Bartlett Cole was recorded. It was submitted into Court by James Johnson, J. Brown and Crawford McDaniel on November 16, 1835. His estate included many household and farm items as well as a parcel of wheelwright's tools, a lot of wheelwright's timber and a pair of cart wheels indicating Bartlett may have been a wheelwright.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book #14, page 20:
Bartlett's estate sale was held on August 30, 1828 and was entered into Court on November 16, 1835. Those that purchased items included Edward T. Cole, Phoebe Cole, Nancy Whittimore, Mary Cole, Robert B. Crews, Peter T. Furgeson, John Curtis, W. V. Jackson, James J. Johnson, A. K. Green, Alex Johnson, Green Jackson, Alfred Vaughan, R. C. Tucker, Augustin Smith, J. M. Curtis, John T. Cole, T. Cole and P. Cole. Most of the items were common goods but Peter Furgeson purchased Bartlett's saddle and Alfred Vaughan bought a pair of compasses. The sale brought a total of $31.

Family Tree Maker 2009 Platinum, Deluxe & Essentials plus

I finally remembered what I wanted to write about yesterday...Family Tree Maker 2009. I was in Staples the other day and noticed that they had Family Tree Maker 2009 for sale. As a matter of fact, it was on sale. I do not remember the specifics but I think it was like $30 off or something for the Platinum edition.

The thing that caught my eye was the free, 6-month membership to In my book, that makes it a pretty good deal, especially with the rebate/discount that the store offered. Again, do not quote me on the exact price, but I think it was about $60 for the program and the six-month membership...a pretty good value after the money off.

I started checking around online and found that there are at least three versions of FTM 2009. They are Platinum, Deluxe and Essentials. There are several difference between the three packages and I will go ahead and list them below. I am taking this part from the product descriptions at
  • Platinum - Includes a six-month subscription to, interactive training tutorial, The Family Tree Maker Little Book of Answers, a 25% off coupon for Ancestry DNA and a 15% discount on a professionally printed family history book or poster
  • Deluxe - Includes three-month subscription to, interactive training tutorial, The Family Tree Maker Little Book of Answers, a 25% off coupon for Ancestry DNA and a 10% discount on a professionally printed family history book or poster
  • Essentials - Includes one-month subscription to, interactive training tutorial and The Family Tree Maker Little Book of Answers
That seems like a pretty sweet deal in the long run. Family Tree Maker 2009 is sorta pointless if you do not have a membership to in my view. Maybe that is a bit of an overstatement. You can use FTM 2009 without an Ancestry membership but you would loose a lot of the bells and whistles. It would be like driving a convertible that you could not put the top down.

If you were thinking about buying FTM 2009, now seems to be a good time. I would try going to Staples first and checking to see if the still have the rebate. If not, click the link below and buy it from the Ancestry Store.

Family Tree Maker 2009

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Census Day...why is the exact date important?

One of the most fundamental things you need to know with American genealogy would be when and what is census day. Census day is the exact date upon which a decennial (10-year) United States Federal Census reflects an image of the nation's people. It is a snapshot of the US population on that given date in time.

This is the key thing to remember....there are two dates on every page of the United States census. Those dates are the census day and the date on which the census was taken. THESE ARE TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT AND SEPARATE DATES!!!

Think of it like this...

There was no possible way for every person in America to be recorded on the census on just one day. It took weeks, perhaps even months, to record everyone in a major city or sprawling county. The date that census taker actually recorded a household is written in his handwriting at the top of each census page (at least after 1850). This date does not really mean anything to a researcher. The only date that matters is the "census day" date and here is why...

For example, in 1850 census day was June 1. If someone died on June 5th and the census taker showed up on June 10th, the deceased person would have been included on the census as if they had not died! They were alive on census day, the day that was "frozen" as an image of the United States and its population.

What does this mean to a researcher? If a person was listed on the 1850 census, you cannot assume that he did not die between June 1 and the date of the census enumeration.

Let's imagine that I had an ancestor that I knew died in 1910 from his tombstone but it did not give the specific date. After looking at the 1910 census, I find my ancestor living in Mecklenburg County. The census page was dated May 12th. I might therefore begin to search for an obituary or death record between May 12th and December 31st of 1910 BUT I WOULD BE WRONG!!!

You see, my ancestor actually died on April 15th and was only recorded on May 12th as alive because census day was April 1st! If I started looking for death records after the recorded date, I would never have found anything. I needed to have started with the actual census day and worked from there toward December 31st. It is therefore imperative to understand that census day is far more important than census date.

As a point of reference, here are the census day dates for all of the major United States Federal Censuses taken between 1790 and 1930.
  • 1790-1820 - First Monday in August
  • 1830-1900 - June 1st
  • 1910 - April 15th
  • 1920 - January 1st
  • 1930 - April 1st

Mail Goggles...Google's new way to prevent drunken mistakes!

I just found out that Google has launched a new feature for their G-mail, e-mail service...Mail Goggles. The idea sounds crazy at first but the feature is designed to prevent you from sending tasteless or hurtful e-mails when you are drunk. The feature turns on late at night and on the weekends, when you are most likely to be intoxicated. You can also change its hours if you prefer to drink on weekdays.

Mail Goggles does not prevent you from typing an e-mail, it just makes it harder to send. You can type up a note and, when you try to send it, you are faced with five math questions. You have about one minute to enter the five correct answers or it well tell you to drink some water and go to bed.

Not that any of my readers need this service but I thought it was interesting enough to pass along! What will they think of next? If only Google could use their powers for something really important, like digitizing all of the public records in America. That would be a good use of their time and efforts but I guess I am biased, seeing as though I am a genealogist (and I do not drink)!

Best brick wall genealogy advice I can offer...

I had a reader write in and ask for help with a brick wall situation. They seem to have been quite thorough in their research and have tried to cover all of the known sources. Despite all of their efforts nothing has paid off to date. I offered them the following advice and thought I would pass it along to all of you as I think it is pretty good...
"...The best advice I can give you is to let it alone for awhile. Walk away from that family for a year and do not look back. Give it twelve months and then start searching Google, Ancestry and other sites for new clues. In a year's time, lots of new records will come online. Others may have transcribed something of interest to you or new records could have been discovered. There is no sense in beating a dead horse that might wake back up if left alone. I have found some of my biggest finds, years after looking for them. Sometimes you get so involved with a brick wall that you lose sight of what is around you and you begin to miss things. Take a break for awhile and let things settle down...I am not telling you to give up hope or anything. I am simply suggesting that you hold off on hiring a researcher and wait and see what pops up naturally. Put posts out on the internet that you are looking for this person and see if anyone responds..."
I have had cases where I ran myself ragged trying to find a specific bit of information, to no avail. I give and and BOOM, five years later, I find it by accident. It's like genealogy karma! Good things will come to those who wait!

250th post, new Virginia genealogy & history calendar

This is my 250th blog post on the Virginia Family Tree site. I had a great idea a few minutes ago but totally forgot about what I was going to write. My mind has a very short-term memory. I can remember the date that my great-great-great-great-grandfather died but I cannot recall what I was thinking five minutes ago! My long-term memory is wonderful, it is the recent stuff that I forget!

I do know that I wanted to mention I have added a calendar to the right-hand side of the blog. You click on the icon there, about half-way down the page, and it will take you to the calendar. I am putting any Virginia-related genealogy and/or history events that I find on there. If you know of anything, please pass it along so we can let others know who might be interested in that event.

I guess I am going to take a break and see if I can remember what I was going to write about! So much for a killer 250th posting!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ancestry U.S. School Yearbook Collection free until the end of October 2008

Just thought that I would pass along that Ancestry is offering their newly updated high school yearbook collection. It has over six million records and is growing every day. I did a few searched and found my wife's grandmother in the John Marshall High School of Richmond, Virginia for 1943! That was a pretty neat find. You can check out the collection for free between now and the end of October. Just click the link below for more details...


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Johnnie and Bettie Lett Family Reunion, taken circa 1935

I found this old photo awhile back and just came across it again. It is from the Johnnie and Bettie Lett Family Reunion, taken circa 1935 at a park in South Hill, Virginia. The family got together every year to celebrate Grandma Lett's birthday. From as best as I can figure, the photo contains the following people:

Left to Right, Top Row (Standing)
  • Clyde Augusta Williams
  • Amy Leigh Lett
  • Adella Grey Lett
  • Mary Elizabeth Cole
  • Irma Ingram Lett
  • Gerald Ingram Hightower (baby)
  • John Bailey Hightower, Sr.
  • Pearl Melissa Lawson
  • John Walter Lett, Sr.
  • Mary Hazel Lett
  • Charles Emory Marion Wall
  • Estelle Hart Tucker Lett
  • James Marvin Lett
Left to Right, Middle Row (Standing)
  • Harry Botley Hightower
  • Elizabeth Thomas
  • Lennis Lett Thomas
  • Betty Jean Lett
  • Lois Lee Lett
  • Ronald Edward Lett (grabbing Walter’s leg)
  • James Hart Lett
  • Mary Ann Lett
Left to Right, Bottom Row (Sitting)
  • Shirley Hightower
  • Mary Jane Hightower
  • (Probably) Charles Wall (barely visible)
  • John Walter Lett, Jr.
  • Clyde Henry Lett
  • John Bailey Hightower, Jr.
  • Joyce Wall

James Pennington will & estate records, d. Bet. September 1802 - June 1803, Mecklenburg County

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book #5, page 58:
"In the name of God amen I James Pennington of the County of Mecklenburg being lame in body but sound memory but calling to mind the uncertainty of human life do make and ordain this my last will and testament in the following manner to wit. Item I give and bequeath to my son James one Negro man named Daniel to him and his heirs forever. My desire is that the said Negro be hired out ten years if not called for sooner and the money and Negro devised therefrom to my son James and his heirs forever. Item I give and bequeath to my son Phillip one Negro woman Peg and everything I have lent to him to him and his heirs forever. Item I give and bequeath to my daughter Sarah one Negro man named Austin and one mare called Pall and one bed and furniture. My desire is if my daughter dies without lawful issue of her body that the said Negro Austin and mare shall belong to my son John Thomas and his heirs forever. Item I give and bequeath to my daughter Faitha Nance one Negro woman Judy to my daughter Faitha Nance and her lawful issue of her body and at her decease if no issue then living then the said Negro to be divided among all my children also one cow and calf, one bed and furniture now in her possession. Item I give and bequeath to my son Henry two Negroes named Edmund and Dilsey and what I have lent him before to him and his heirs forever. Item I give and bequeath to my daughter Mary one Negro man named David one bed and furniture and one woman's saddle also the third choice of my horses. If she dies without lawful issue of her body the said Negro to be divided amongst my children, except son John Thomas. Item I give and bequeath to my daughter Lewcy Smith one Negro man named Ben, one bed and furniture, one woman's saddle and one cow and calf as she has now in possession to her and her heirs forever. Item I give and bequeath to my granddaughter Pegga Pennington one Negro girl named Viney and one bed and furniture and if she my granddaughter Pegga should die without lawful issue the legacy left her shall belong to my son Phillip and his heirs forever. Item I give and bequeath to my son John Thomas six Negroes namely Jacob, Nancy, Antony, Moses and Aron and George, three beds and furniture my cart and wheels and one yoke of oxen, one mare and colt that's called now his to him and his heirs forever. My will and desire is that John Hall Junior may keep sixty five acres of land as he bought of me lying on the south side of Mitchell's Branch which is one line and my old patent line the other line and the balance of my land I give to my son John Thomas to him and to his heirs forever; also my plantation utensils and one third of my pewter. The balance of my pewter to be equally divided between my two daughters Sarah and Mary. Also I give my three children John Thomas, Sarah and Mary all kitchen furniture equally divided also I give Sarah one chest and Mary one chest also my chairs to be divided between John Thomas, Sarah and Mary. Also I give my son John Thomas one cow and calf. Also I give Sarah and Mary each of them one cow and calf all the balance of my cattle to be equally divided between my five children John Thomas, Faitha Nance, Lucy Smith, Sarah and Mary. Also my sheep to be divided between Lucy Smith, Sarah and Mary. Also I leave my stock of hogs and my crop to pay all my just debts and the balance to support my three children John Thomas, Sarah and Mary. Also all my fowls to support the plantation. Also my two horses not before willed I give Lewcy Smith choice and John Thomas the other horse with my saddle and gun. Also my wearing apparel to my son Henry. Also my will and desire is that Robert Pennington may keep two beds and furniture as I bought for him as he has them now in possession to him and his heirs forever. Also it is my will and desire that my two daughters Sarah and Mary may have the small room of my dwelling house during their natural lives or marriage. Also it is my will that my two daughters Sarah and Mary have free privilege of working their two Negroes on the said plantation during their natural lives or marriage. Lastly I appoint my son Phillip and my son John Thomas executors of this my last will and testament revoking and disannuling all former wills by me made. In witness I have hereunto set my hand and seal this twenty-seventh day of September in the year one thousand eight hundred and two. James Pennington. Signed, sealed and declared in presence of us: John Northington, William Ladd Taylor, Samuel Butter, Sterling Northington.

At a court held for Mecklenburg County the 18th day of June 1803. This will was proved by the oaths of John Northington and William Ladd Taylor witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded. And on the motion of John Thomas Pennington the surviving executor therein named who made oath thereto and together with John Northington and Jabiz Northington his securities entered into and acknowledge their bond in the penalty of ten thousand dollars conditioned as the law directs. Certificate was granted him for obtaining a probate of the said will in due form. Teste. William Baskervill, Cl. Cur."

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book #5, page 161:
An appraisement and inventory of James' estate was taken on July 27, 1803 by John Hubbard, John Nance, William Bugg and John T. Pennington. Its total value was given at 998 pounds, six shilling and nine pence. It included such items as goats, cows, geese, a gun, four horses, various furniture, various plantation utensils and Negroes named Jacob, Edmund, Austin, Daniel, David, Ben, Anthony, Moses, Aron, Pegg, Dilsey, Viney, Nann and her child.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Genealogical and Historical Society Link Section

I have added a new section to the right-hand site of the site, toward the bottom. There is now a list of all the genealogical and historical societies that I know of for Virginia. There is one big catch...their website has to be current and maintained. There are other societies out there that have websites but they have not been updated since like 2001. I am only including sites that are well-maintained by the society or group. What good is a calendar of events from 2005 anyway? If they do not take the time to update, I am not going to take the time to include them here.

Below is the list as it stands today. If you would like to suggest another site for inclusion, please do as I would love to add them. I am sure there are other, great sites out there that I missed but this is a good start.

Library of Virginia Facing Budget Cuts

The Commonwealth of Virginia is facing a budget shortfall of around $1.5 Billion going into the year 2010. Governor Tim Kaine has made the first of three rounds of budget cuts. The last time this happened (2001), the Library of Virginia was forced to close one extra day per week and to reduce spending on certain projects. The first round of cuts this time does not include any closure or layoffs. It does however reduce overall funding by $600,000.

Here is a summary taken from the governor's plan.

"The Library of Virginia - Reduce discretionary spending ($600,000). Reduces spending through attrition, limiting the purchase of equipment, supplies and library materials; significantly scales back preservation contracts; and reduces travel."

This does not sound too bad at this point but keep in mind that 2/3 of the shortfall have yet to be resolved. No one wants to raise taxes so look for the Library to get hit hard in the next two rounds.

Beaverdam Heritage Day, Hanover County, Virginia, October 11, 2008

I heard on the radio yesterday that Beaverdam, Virginia in Hanover County was having a heritage day on Saturday, October 11, 2008. Sorry for the late notice but I just heard about it myself. I found that they have a web site for the event...Beaverdam Heritage Days Foundation. I am not sure what type of events are going on but it might be of interest if you have roots in Hanover County.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

W. W. Foster Glass Plate Negative Collection at the Virginia Historical Society

I have been racking my brain, trying to figure out some great nugget of genealogical wisdom that I could pass along and make your life easier. That is a pretty difficult thing to do sometimes. Everyone out there says the same thing over and over again, with just a little bit different spin on it. What could I possibly tell you that would make a difference in the way you perform genealogical research? What could I write that would help you solve some age-old mystery and simply make your day? The answer...I don't know. I have so much going on inside of my head and just cannot get it out some times. I did however think of one great resource that could make a huge impact on someone out there...the Foster Collection.

Walter Washington Foster was a photographer in Richmond, Virginia between 1876 and around 1935. His major significance is that he maintained all/most of his glass plate negatives and they were donated to the Virginia Historical Society around 1972. There were roughly 65,000 prints and 100,000 glass negatives in the collection (one sources says there are only 30,000). A lot of these prints and negatives were labeled and can be searched on the VHS website. Some of the items may have scanned images but most have to be viewed at the society.

I discovered the collection several years ago and searched all of my family surnames. Surprisingly I did not find anyone from the Richmond area but I did find my wife's great-great grandparents from Stafford County. Their daughter lived in Richmond and the photos were probably taken during a visit. These were the only known photos of these particular people, at least in our line of the family, so it was a great find.

After finding them in the index, I contacted the VHS and made an appointment to view the negatives. I think they are in deep storage and have to be dug out so it might take a few days. When I arrived, I was taken to a storage room and shown the two glass plates. The images are basically etched on he glass and there is a milky film on the surface of that glass. I was told that the photographer would wipe some type of cream on the glass to cover up wrinkles and blemishes on the faces of the subjects. Who would have thought that the old photos we find were in fact "touched-up"! Great-grandma had more wrinkles than you ever thought.

Just looking at the glass, I could see an absolute family resemblance so I knew I had the right people. The index only had their last name and first initial but their names were so strange, there was no question. My wife and her brother look exactly like the man, Stonewall Jackson Musselman.

From that point I paid to have prints made. Back then I think it was around $20.00 each but now I think it is $32.00 each. It took a few days and I had to pick them up in person. The copies turned out wonderfully and are now truly family heirlooms. I know they are just copies but they are copies off the original negative. They are probably better copies than the "original" copies printed back in the day!

The Virginia Historical Society is pretty tight about allowing reproductions of reproductions. I am not allowed to make copies or publish the photos without paying additional fees. I can understand their need for funding and to control what their holdings are used for in the public media. If you want additional copies, I would order them all at the same time.

Okay, before I give you a link to the index, a few words of advice:
  1. From the main search page, click on the "Search Museum and Photograph Collections"
  2. Click "Combination Search"
  3. In the "Artist/Maker" field type just the word "Foster" (no quotes)
  4. In the "Keywords" box type the last name of a person you would be trying to find. Do not put a first name as most names are only given as a first initial or "Mrs." for women.
  5. Check all of your surnames for anyone in Virginia between say 1880 and 1930. They could have visited Richmond and taken a photo.
  6. If you find someone of interest, contact the VHS and for further information.
  7. If you remove the word "Foster" from the "Artist/Maker" field, you can search all of the photos that the VHS has in its collection (but there are lots)!
  8. If you do find something of major importance, let us know!
The link that you need is here: Virginia Historical Society Museum and Photograph Collections

I think you will have hours of enjoyment and excitement going through the index. Even if you do not find anyone, it is fun exploring a new resource. The Virginia Historical Society has other collections that you can search but this is my focus for today. And best of all...the economic downturn should have little or no influence on your search! Forget Wall Street for a little while and lose yourself in genealogy!

The Great Depression, Dollar-Cost-Averaging

If you are not interested in hearing more of my financial insight, stop reading now and skip this post. As is still the case with much of the past two weeks, everyone seems to have put genealogy on the back burner. I am going to make a good genealogy post after this one but, for now, this is what was on my mind...

I heard something on the radio last night that was pretty good. The commentator on NPR was talking about a possible depression because stocks had dropped around 30 percent, comparing what we are going through with the depression of our grandparents era. The expert on the phone told her that she was pretty much crazy! The expert noted that the stock market back then fell 85-90 percent and that there was no comparison between the two. I really did not know that the "Great Depression" was even that great (and I was a history major in college)! I am feeling pretty good about the markets after hearing that statistic.

I also heard someone say on NPR this morning that we really have not lost a dime, that all of the losses are on paper. If you think about it, he was correct. You have not lost anything until you actually cash out. I guess that supports the theory of riding it out as long as possible.

I am actually trying to put more money into the stocks that I already own, buying more shares for less money. This is called dollar-cost-averaging. If you bought one hundred shares at $50.00 and then fifty shares at $25.00 you now own 150 shares and paid only $6,250.00 for all of them. Your average investment per share is $41.67. You could therefore wait for the stock to rebound to only $42.00 and not lose anything, despite paying $50 for more than half of your shares. This is how you make money with the stock market (or at least reduce some of your losses). A good drop in price is healthy some times. (Maybe not this much of a drop but there is money to be made if you play your cards right)!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008 Reveals Who Would be King of America and Candidate Roots as Presidential Election Approaches

I thought this was a neat press release by, quite appropriate for an election year.

"What If America Had King Paul Instead Of President McCain or Obama? What Family Ties Do Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin Have in Key Election Battleground States and to Royalty?


PROVO, Utah, Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- If George Washington had been America's king instead of its first president, an 82-year-old retired regional manager from San Antonio, Texas would be King of America today. As red and blue battleground states emerge in the upcoming presidential election, Americans may be interested to know that Senator Barack Obama has deep roots in Ohio or that Senator John McCain has family members from North Carolina on both sides of his family tree. And research into Governor Sarah Palin's family history revealed she is the 10th cousin to Lady Diana Spencer, Britain's beloved Princess Di, as well as a distant cousin to Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of the country's most popular presidents.

As the country prepares to elect the 44th U.S. president, genealogy experts at, the world's largest online family history resource, researched answers to some interesting questions surrounding this year's landmark presidential election. From the lineage of the first president, to the family roots of today's presidential and vice presidential candidates, the findings may evoke an interesting debate.


Many Americans are fascinated by the British royal family -- but what if America had its own Royal family? The experts at asked, "Who would be sitting on America's throne today if George Washington had become the king instead of the first U.S. president?" After countless hours of research to trace Washington's family lineage, the following facts emerged to determine which of his descendants would likely be King of America today had the U.S. become a monarchy rather than a democracy in 1789:

-- King George? - According to sources, Washington's leadership during and after the Revolutionary War was held in such high esteem, there were those who suggested he become America's first king.

-- Wading Through the Washingtons - George Washington had no children, so researching the descendants through all of his half- and full-siblings meant approximately 8,000 people could factor into the succession equation, with less than 200 of them bearing the Washington surname.

-- Would-be Royal - Since George Washington had an older half brother and a younger full brother, ultimately there were four possible succession paths. Two of the four paths, with male-only heirs, converge into one heir -- Paul Emery Washington, 82, of San Antonio, Texas -- making him the strongest candidate for king today. Paul Emery Washington also has a son, Bill, who he affectionately calls "Prince William."

-- Valley Forge Connection - Paul Emery Washington was a regional manager at Certain-Teed Corp., a manufacturer and distributor of wholesale building materials for 40 years. The company was headquartered in Valley Forge, Pa., where coincidentally General Washington and his army camped during the difficult winter of 1778-79.


In every presidential election, certain U.S. states emerge as critical battleground states key to winning the White House. The experts at researched the family history of the presidential and vice presidential candidates to learn which of the often referred to battleground states could claim the candidates as their own, with some surprising discoveries.

-- Senator John McCain - McCain has North Carolina roots on both sides of his family tree, extending to the mid 1700s. He is also connected to the state of Arkansas through his paternal grandmother, Katherine Vaulx, a teacher who was born in Arkansas. Katherine's parents, James Vaulx and Margaret Garside, were long-time residents of Arkansas where James was a minister. Family members in his tree served in both the military and the financial sector: his father and grandfather both had careers in the U.S. Navy and great grandfather John S. McCain is documented in the 1900 U.S. Census as the treasurer of Carroll County, Mississippi.

-- Senator Barack Obama - Obama has deep roots in the state of Ohio that go back to 1850. Obama's heritage can be traced back to Ireland, to the small towns of Moneygall and Shinrone in County Offaly, Ireland. Obama's third great-grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, immigrated to the U.S. at age 19, landing in New York harbor on March 20, 1850 and then settling in Fayette County, Ohio among Irish relatives. In addition, Obama has roots extending into the swing states of Virginia, Indiana and Missouri.

-- Senator Joe Biden - Biden also has a strong Irish heritage; his ancestors arrived in the U.S. within six months of Obama's Irish family. Both Obama's and Biden's Irish relatives were shoemakers by trade. Biden has deep Pennsylvania ties: Patrick and Catherine Blewett, Biden's 2nd great-grandparents, settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania, around 1860, where Patrick worked as a surveyor and a civil engineer.

-- Governor Sarah Palin - Palin has roots in several battleground states, including Ohio, Minnesota and Virginia, however, most of her roots are planted in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Palin descends from three consecutive generations of Michael Sheerans, who originate in Ireland; her great-great-grandfather Sheeran ran a firm called Sheeran & Filler Bottling Company, which shipped products across the Northwest. According to published family and local histories -- through a common ancestor, Rev. John Lothrop who arrived in Massachusetts colony in 1634 -- Palin is a distant cousin to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who is touted in history as one of the country's most popular presidents. Gov. Palin is also a 10th cousin to Lady Diana Spencer, Britain's beloved Princess Di, through common ancestors John Strong and Abigail Ford.


According to a recent independent survey from, Americans would choose to be a member of the Obama family more than any of four other prominent political families.(1) When asked which family they would like to join most, 21 percent chose the Obamas, followed by 15 percent for the Palins and 15 percent for the Clintons, 14 percent for the McCains and 3 percent for the Biden family. Nearly one-third of Americans surveyed (30 percent), however, said they wouldn't want to become a member of any of these political families.

"Most presidential elections bring up issues about where we've come from and where we're headed as a nation, and this election year is no different," said Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for "This is an ideal time for our family history experts to play historical what-ifs and conduct research to answer intriguing questions, as well as look into the family trees of our candidates to learn about where they come from and the ties they have in our great country."

To learn more about how to start researching your family history, log on to and sign up for a free two-week trial. It's possible that a famous ancestor or past presidential or vice presidential candidate is in your family tree and waiting to be discovered.

About the Ancestry Global Network

The Ancestry global network of family history Web sites is wholly owned by The Generations Network, Inc. It consists of nine Web sites -- in the U.S., in the UK, in Canada, in Australia, in Germany, in Italy, in France, in Sweden and in China. Ancestry members have access to 7 billion names contained in 26,000 historical record collections. Tree-building and photo upload are free on all Ancestry websites. To date, users have created more than 7 million family trees containing 700 million profiles and 11 million photographs. Nearly 5.8 million unique visitors logged onto in August 2008 (comScore Media Metrix, Worldwide).

(1) Ipsos Public Affairs, September 2008.


CONTACT: Sara Black of PainePR, +1-213-618-1501,, for

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

DNA Test Update - "Your result failed to produce a clear result in this run"

I received some bad news from Family Tree DNA regarding the DNA test we had Charlie Brock take on August 20, 2008. I received the following e-mail today and republish it here in its entirety:

"A very small percentage of the tests we perform do not return conclusive results the first time we test. In these cases, the samples do not produce a reading that allows our lab to determine with 100% certainty the values for one or more markers or regions. When this happens, we re-test the sample. We repeat this procedure up to 3 times after the initial test fails to give a clear result.

Your result failed to produce a clear result in this run. Below is a status update for your kit number, ######, as well as an estimated time of when the next rerun is expected to be completed:

STR - 10/17/2008 This test failed to yield results for your sample. Your sample is being rerun now. Results from this round of testing are expected by this date.

Family Tree DNA"

We will have to wait and see what happens at this point. The new results should be back within ten days. I never had this happen before so I do not know what to expect if the next set of test fail. I guess they will give us a new test kit but we will have to wait and see. Have any of you had this problem in the past? If so, how was it resolved?

Genealogy Fair at the Family Life Center of Fincastle, Virginia, October 11, 2008

I wanted to pass this along. I am going to try to attend but I do not know that for certain at this point...

"October 11, 2008 - Genealogy Fair being held at Fincastle in the Family Life Center at the corner of Church & Academy St, Fincastle, Va. Hours 9-3 . Plenty of free parking available.

Our speakers are, Pam Young will talk about the holdings in the Virginia Room at the Main Library in Roanoke on Jefferson St., The Botetourt Historical Society will tell us about early Botetourt County and their holdings in the museum, Loretta Caldwell will tell about researching Botetourt County Courthouse Records, Susan Mason will give a short lesson on writing your personal history, Harry Gleason will talk about the history of Buchanan, & Sally Eads about Colonial Women.. The Botetourt Genealogy Club will be showing photos from the cemetery photograph project all day. There will be a book vendor with local authors and Botetourt history. Botetourt Genealogy Club, Botetourt Historical Society & Museum, Alleghany County, Rockbridge County, and Bedford County Historical & Genealogy Societies along with several about 20 researchers have tables with many Botetourt County surnames .. There will be a large display of churches, schools and people in the African American Communities. A tour of Fincastle will be provided, weather permitting. We will have some door prizes for both the vendors and the public. The event is Free. Donations accepted.

Friends of the Fincastle Library will serve food. Funds from the sale will be earmarked for the Fincastle Library Genealogy Room.

The Courthouse is open 8:30 - 4:30 Monday - Friday. The library is open 9-9 Monday & Thursday, 9-6 Tuesday & Wednesday, 9-5 on Friday. Normal Saturday hours are 9-1, however the day of the fair the library will be open 9-3. The Museum is open 7 days a week. 10-2 except Sunday 12-4.

I hope this helps you with your plans to visit Fincastle."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Genealogy Bail Out

The world of genealogy has been a little slow lately. It seems like there has been no major industry news to pass along in the past two weeks. Maybe everyone is too worried about their money and not so much their ancestors. I have actually spent the past two weeks running around the state looking for some ancestral graves along the Virginia/North Carolina border. I did not let high gas price slow me down. I got a hot tip about where to find a grave of one of my ancestors so I had to go.

I am probably an exception to the rule. A lot of genealogy buffs are retired and cannot afford much of a "genealogy budget." I am fortunate enough to be young, working and my wife and I have great jobs. We have two children and a reasonable amount of "expendable" income. We do not have enough to throw away but we do have enough for me to spend some on genealogy excursions. One of us would probably have to lose our jobs for me to really slow down. (Even then I probably would not have to quit all together.) She understands my passion for this hobby and it would take a lot for her to ask me to give it up.

Continuing from above, with the help of cousin Ed Coleman I was able to track down the grave of our ancestor, Creed Thomas Haskins. Creed lived in Palmer's Spring of Mecklenburg County but was buried in Warren County, North Carolina. The church he attended was across the state line and only a few miles from his home. I never would have checked there if it were not for Ed and some critical information that he had been told about the grave location. There turned out to be an entire family plot there with two of Creed's children, in-laws, grandchildren, etc. It was a great find (and well worth the $38.00 in gas money!)

Getting back on topic, I would like to know how the current economic conditions have really influenced the amount of time and money you spend on genealogy. Please click on the comments link for this article and let me know your thoughts. Do you feel that we are in a short skid or is this going to be long-term? Are we going to end up in soup lines and get to/have to experience what our ancestors did during the Great Depression? I know that sounds extreme but it could happen, anything is possible.

I personally think a lot of the panic is self-induced and fueled by negative media. I am not one with much sympathy for the big banks and lending intuitions that helped get us here. I do however understand that perhaps we should do something, ie a bail out. I am a Republican but I have to say that I agreed with something Barack Obama said the other day. He described the Wall Street bailout as something along these lines...

"If your neighbor’s house is burning, you’re not gonna spend a whole lot of time saying ‘well, that guy was always irresponsible. He always left the stove on. He always was smoking in bed.' All those things may be true, but his house could end up affecting your house. We’ve got to make sure that we put the fire out and then go start making sure that these folks stop leaving the stove on.”

That resonated with me and made sense to me.

I do not claim to be an expert on the situation but I am faithful that the situation will work out. I learned this lesson many years ago with baseball cards. People get too affixed with price guides and what a card was "worth" in the Beckett (a trade publication). I never fell for that because I knew that a card was only worth what someone was willing to pay you for it. Everything in the world is like that and, if things get "over valued" by its owners, the market will correct itself.

I am personally just sitting back, rolling with the punches. My 401-K is tanking but I have time to ride it out. I feel sorry for those people in retirement who have to live on that money, who HAVE to take it out in such a devalued state. I know that a lot of my readers probably fall into that category so you have my thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Neta Lawson McCargo obituary, 1979

The South Hill Enterprise, South Hill, Virginia
Wednesday, February 28, 1979

"Neta McCargo - CHASE CITY - Mrs. Neta Lawson McCargo, 85, of Chase City, widow of Thomas P. McCargo, died Monday, Feb. 19, 1979, in South Boston General Hospital. Funeral services were held Wednesday afternoon at Newcomb Funeral Home, with burial in Woodland Cemetery."