Visit to Long Island and the Land of “Turn”

Shelter Island Marina

Shelter Island Marina

I was in Long Island this last week and was able to visit a few historical sites as well as enjoy the natural surroundings of island. Long Island is steeped in history and despite its close proximity to New York City, in many locations it is still rural, quiet and feels like much of it’s past is still present. I only had a few days in town, but here are the highlights:

1) A ferry to Shelter Island…very different than Washington ferries, these fit about 15 cars and gets you are across the water in just a few minutes. There are so many bays, harbors and marinas filled with boats throughout Long Island, it was easy to imagine how fishing and boat building were profitable industries in the 18th and 19th centuries. Regret: I wish I had time to visit one of the 21 lighthouses on the island.

2) A visit to Old Westbury Mansion Gardens. A beautiful turn of the century mansion owned by the Phipps family who through wise investments survived the 1929 crash. The gardens are lovely!

Old Westbury Mansion and Gardens

Westbury Gardens

Westbury Gardens

Abraham Woodhull's Gravestone

Abraham Woodhull’s Gravestone

3) Setauket – My favorite history excursion was going to Setauket where Abraham Woodhull lived and created a spy network during the Revolutionary War. He and his fellow spies gathered critical intelligence about the British and passed it on to Major Benjamin Tallmadge via courier Caleb Brewster. Abraham is buried at the Setauket Presbyterian Church where Benjamin Tallmadge’s father was the minister. The Brewster House is just down the road from the church where Caleb Brewster’s cousin lived and where he visited regularly.  It was fun to see the town of Setauket and compare the area to “Turn” the AMC TV show.  The show definitely takes a lot of artistic license in the plot, but it is still does a good job of portraying the personalities and tensions of the time.  For those you who are interested in what is fact and what is fiction, you should read the blog “Turn to the Historian” by SpycuriousJ.L. Bell’s articles on the “Den of Geek” or the book Washington’s Spies by Alexander Rose.  Definitely fun for the history nerd!

I hope my travels take me back to Long Island again.  It’s a wonderful place to see all time periods and to relax in the present.

Posted in American Revolution, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Legacy of Slave Ownership – Matthew McCrary’s Slaves Part 2

Dr. Lyman B. McCrary 1860 Slave Schedule

Dr. Lyman B. McCrary
1860 Slave Schedule

Slave ownership is sticky and not in good way.  I wanted to know what happened to Matthew McCrary’s slaves when he died (see past post). I haven’t found a document that told of the final disposition of his slaves in the court records yet.  I did find a record that stated that the intention of the heirs was to sell the land and investments, but to not sell the slaves.  My assumption has been that they most likely divided the slaves among Matthew’s wife Mary and his 7 living children: Louisa, Reason, Irvin/Irwin, Thomas, Matthew, Lyman and America.  This led me to the 1850 and 1860 slave schedules to support or dispute my theory.   I found that Louisa (Matthew’s oldest child) and her husband Thomas Davis are the only ones who owned slaves in 1850 and appear to have the same slaves in 1860 with one additional child. None of the other heirs owned any slaves in 1850, but by 1860, all of them owned slaves. It is likely that some/most of the slaves were inherited from Matthew’s estate.   Either way, whether they inherited or not, what it does confirm is that they all participated in the institution of slave ownership.  There was not one dissenter who chose not to own slaves.  Yes, slavery is very sticky.

Matthew McCrary's Family Slaves Ownership in 1860

Matthew McCrary’s Family
Slaves Ownership in 1860

This begs all sort of questions and I may or may not ever find out the answers to:

  • Why did they have these slaves?
  • Did they use them for farm labor or house slaves?
  • Did they consider their feelings and desires when making decisions?
  • When some of the family moved to Arkansas and Tennessee prior to 1860, did they honor family units or split families up?
  • Did they believe in the institution of slavery or were they just too morally lazy to take a stand?
  • Were they non violent owners or were they cruel?  It seems ridiculous to say kind and owner in the same sentence.

So, I am taking a small break from this research – quite frankly it makes me profoundly sad.  I will return, but I need something to pick up my spirits…so moving on to Civil War doctors and nurses.  [Picture smiley face]

Posted in Civil War, McCrary Family, Slavery, Southern Ancestors | Tagged | 4 Comments

Genealogy Do Over Week 9 & 10 – Back at it again!

I returned to Genealogy Do Over this month with Week 9 & 10.

Week 9

Conducting Cluster Research

Dey and Radel Marriage Certificate 1885

Dey and Radel Marriage Certificate 1885

This is the concept of looking at your FAN club ala Elizabeth Shown Mills – Friends, Associates and Neighbors. It is something we should do every time we research a family group. Notice the people who are living near by, witnessing documents, going to the same church/school or go into business with the subjects of our research.  I need to use this method on some of my old brick walls. ex.  Margaret Radel – even though she came from Germany alone without family members, maybe there were people from her church or neighbors from Berlin that traveled with her?  I am adding this to her research plan: Check ship manifest against New York City directory to see if they lived in the same apartment buildings. Also, I haven’t ever researched the witnesses on their wedding certificate from New York City. Perhaps there is more of a connection than “just” neighbors.

Organizing Research Materials: Documents & Photos

Family Binders

Family Binders

I still like paper….sacrilege! I have binders for all my families that I have researched.  It just the way my brain works and probably says a lot about what generation I come from. However my “original” documents are scanned and are available digitally.  With that said, I am comfortable with my organization.

One issue remains: I do have about 6 boxes of photos in the garage to go through (I have been avoiding this until the cool air returns maybe by October here in Tennessee?)  When it does…designate one day a month to:

  • Organize the photos by year
  • Throw away photos that are duplicates, blurry, trip photos that are not important to save etc.
  • Scan photos that I haven’t made electronic copies of yet
  • Plan scrapbooking projects for old photos

Week 10

Reviewing DNA Testing Options

Margaret Radel Dey and Minnie Dey

Margaret Radel Dey and Minnie Dey

I finally took a mtDNA test at the beginning of the year from Family Tree DNA.  I received the results in April and I had one match.  Yes one!  Out of the whole world who has tested on Family Tree DNA, with all the possibilities of women giving birth for centuries, I have one person I match with so far.  I had pinned a lot of hopes on the results of this test to solve my brick wall of Margaret Radel (see blog here). I took the plunge and wrote to my one match who lives in Sweden.  She has been very generous with sharing her own research and giving me suggestions on where to start researching in Sweden for Margaret’s mother and even name possibilities for Martha Nelson – Marta/Marit Nilsson/ Nilsdotter.  I have been watching Family Tree DNA videos on u-tube and reading various blog postings to understand mtDNA better.  My Swedish “cousin” is actually a genetic distance of 2, which from what I can tell depending how volatile my mutations are, could mean we are related from the current generation up to 3,700 years ago!  But, it is still the best hint I have had so far and the next steps are to look for marriage licenses in Sweden for Martha Nelson and William Radel.

Organizing Research Materials: Digital

Hunterdon Frame Factory, Glen Gardner NJ

Hunterdon Frame Factory, Glen Gardner NJ

I started my digital organization “fresh” at the beginning of this year when I began the Genealogy Do Over which also coincided with buying a new computer.  I feel like this has given me a chance to rethink my strategy for organizing and saving documents.  Everything I have done since the beginning of the year is “organized” as well as my original documents mentioned above. They are all backed-up 3 different ways etc.  However, I am still not complete with records that I accessed digitally via Ancestry, Fold 3 and Family Search for the last 10 years.  Thomas MacEntee suggests marking a couple of hours each month to catch up on your organization, so I think I will do that, one family at a time!  I am starting with the Hunts.  A very sweet historical society member from Glen Gardner NJ recently sent me some documents and photos, so I will start with them and do all their census records etc. at the same time.

Genealogy work is never done!

Posted in DNA, Genealogy Do Over, Hunt Family | Tagged | 2 Comments

The McCrary Slaves – Who Were They?

It all started with finding out about Martha, the 14 year old black child who was “deeded” over to Mary Jane Kellum McCrary from her father Thomas R. Kellum.  See past post here.  This had me digging into additional records to find out what other slaves Irvin and Mary Jane McCrary owned. It has become a major research project that I am still in the middle of, but I wanted to share the process thus far.

From the 1849 and 1850 tax assessments, I determined that the Irvin McCrary family owned no slaves, but by 1854 they owned Martha (perhaps others?) and then by the 1860 Slave Schedule they owned 12 people.  But no names and then the Civil War happens and I lose them.

Irvin McCrary Slaves

Irvin McCrary Slaves

But wait, there is another clue.  Just how did they get so many slaves in such a short time? Well, I believe they may have inherited some of them from Irvin’s father Matthew who died in 1855.  And in these records for Matthew there are names for the slaves he owned.

This is the 1848 tax assessment for Matthew McCrary:

Matthew McCrary 1848 Tax Assessment

Matthew McCrary 1848 Tax Assessment

The 1849 tax assessment for Matthew McCrary:

Matthew McCrary 1849 Tax Assessment

Matthew McCrary 1849 Tax Assessment

The 1850 Slave Schedule for Matthew McCrary:

Matthew McCrary 1850 Slave Schedule

Matthew McCrary 1850 Slave Schedule

The probate document listing all the slaves that Matthew McCrary owned at his death:

Matthew McCrary 1855 Probate Record pg 40

Matthew McCrary 1855 Probate Record pg 40

So what does this mean?  I created a table trying to see who these people were, what were their names were and when were they born.  It’s not perfect and I am guessing that that the slave schedule and tax records were about as accurate about age as the U.S. census records were!

Matthew McCrary Slaves

My next task is to try to find these people in the 1870 census records and the Freedmen’s Bureau records which are not all indexed.  I might just have to join the Freedmen’s Bureau  Project to help this along…anyone want to join me?  If anyone else has ideas on other records I might look at, I would love suggestions.

Posted in Civil War, Slavery, Southern Ancestors | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Manhattan Project and the Oak Ridge Bus Tour

Y12_shift_change circa 1945

Shift change at the Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge in 1945

Since moving to Knoxville, the Manhattan Project has become more than interest and moved into a “hobby”.   It has all the elements of a compelling story: WWII, scientific discovery, human drama, conspiracy and ethical decisions. In high school we were taught that “the bomb” brought the end of the war and in college we debated if that was really true based on the historical evidence. You can spend a lot of time in that arena of thought, but that isn’t what gets my history “spidey senses” going.

What gets me – is that the government took over a small, remote farming community in Tennessee, brought in over 70,000 people from around the country, who worked around the clock (most of them without a clue what they were working on) and took a theory of something never done before and made it happen.  They were able to create something so significant, that it changes the course of global relations, all in under 3 years – and they did in secret!

Letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt 2 Aug 1939

Letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt 2 Aug 1939

Very Short Timeline

  • 1934 – Fission produced by Enrico Fermi
  • 1938 Dec – Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discover fission in uranium.
  • 1939 Aug – Albert Einstein writes letter to Pres. Roosevelt expressing concern about the research in atomic energy and the potential for new types of bombs to be created. He gives recommendations about speeding up the experimental research. His last paragraph is a warning about Germany taking over the uranium mines in Czechoslovakia.
  • 1939 Oct – Pres. Roosevelt set up Uranium Committee.
  • 1939-1941 – Lots of research on feasibility of the bomb by scientists and the methods to produce plutonium.
  • 1941 Dec 7 – Pearl Harbor
  • 1942 Jan 19 – Pres. Roosevelt approves production of atomic weapon.
  • 1942 Sept 19 – Col. Leslie Groves head of the “Manhattan Engineering District” selects Oak Ridge as the site of the pilot plant.
  • 1942 Nov 25 – Los Alamos, New Mexico chosen as the “bomb laboratory” where scientists will work out their designs of the bomb.
  • 1943 Jan 16 – Hanford, Washington selected for plutonium production.
  • 1943 Nov 4 – Oak Ridge produces first plutonium.
  • 1944 Feb – Oak Ridge send 200 grams of uranium to Los Alamos for testing of bomb prototypes.
  • 1945 Feb – First plutonium sent to Los Alamos.
  • 1945 Aug 6 – Hiroshima bombed with uranium bomb “Little Boy.”
  • 1945 Aug 9 – Nagasaki bombed with implosion plutonium bomb “Fat Man.”

The Tour

So, you can actually take a tour of Oak Ridge which is still a Department of Energy facility. The American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge leads the bus tours with the cooperation of the DOE.  At the Oak Ridge National Lab (formerly X-10)  they do cutting edge research using things like the “Spallation Neutron Source” (don’t ask me what it does exactly) but it’s the most powerful one in the world and researchers from all over the world compete to be able to use the facilities. The Y-12 National Security Complex has a Visitors Center and small museum. And the last area of Oak Ridge is K-25, where they are completely demolishing the buildings to make the East Tennessee Technology Park Heritage Center.  There is quite a bit of security to get on campus and you are only taken to a few places, but what a unique opportunity to see where history like this happened.

Graphite Reactor - Where plutonium was first made successfully in 1943 (with maniquins to display how it would have looked)

Graphite Reactor – Where plutonium was first made successfully in 1943 (with mannequins to display how it would have looked)

Bethel Valley Church Strange sites like a church and graveyard serve as a reminder that used to be houses and farms from the communities that used to live here.  The parishoners are allowed to still bury their family here.

Bethel Valley Church
Strange sites like a church and graveyard serve as a reminder that there used to communities that lived here.  Property owners received a letter notifying them to vacate their businesses, homes and farms in just a few weeks with promise of reimbursement.  The former parishioners are allowed to still bury their family here.

K-25 Historical Sign

K-25 Historical Sign

Genealogy Impact – Many of the people who work at “the lab” today, or live in the area, have family that worked on the Manhattan Project. Oh the stories they tell!  In the town of Oak Ridge where the people lived (they were bused to the factory sites where they would go through security), there are still houses and community buildings that are used today. To get an idea of what it must have been like from the woman’s point of view, I encourage you to read Girls of the Atomic City by Denise Kiernan (one of my favorite books of 2014).





Posted in American Museum of Science and Energy Bus Tour, Knoxville Tennessee, Tennessee Genealogy, WWII | Tagged | Leave a comment

Alabama Memories: IGHR and the Kellum and McCrary Families

IGHR at Samford University June 2015

So where have I been all these weeks? In the first part of June, I was in Alabama finally attending the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s been a goal to do it and I finally was able to make it happen.  My friend Kathy joined me in taking “Research in the South” taught by J. Mark Lowe, Dr. Deborah Abbott, Linda Woodward Geiger and Michael Hait. The course focused on researching in the states to first settle the South: Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The class also spent much of the time on how to best approach your research in South e.g. migration patterns, settlement of the land, family connections and religious affiliations.  All things you would do in the North, but they take on a different tone in the South.  It really is the “soil” as Mark kept telling us. They were primarily farmers and they moved and made choices of where and how to live based on what they could grow on their land. The people who weren’t farmers were merchants and craftsman that supported the farm economy.

Picking cotton near Montgomery Alabama, 186-, Lakin, J.H. LOC

Picking cotton near Montgomery Alabama, 186-, Lakin, J.H. LOC

Dr. Abbott’s first lesson was on the records of slavery and how they can solve many genealogical problems for both the descendants of slaveholders and slaves. In fact it is the connections between the two that can help prove the ancestor.  It is the FAN principle in action. What kind of records will you find? Before 1865, most African-American people in the South were considered property.  They were bought and sold.  They were left as property in deeds and wills.  They were measured by their production and detailed records were kept about their financial worth. They were the “economy” and therefore they created records. It is a difficult and uncomfortable truth. Acknowledging it may help us all heal as we discover our relationships with one another. She also gave additional lectures on accessing manuscripts and what they can reveal that other “easier to get” to records will not.   All of the instructors gave us much to “mull and ponder” (a Lowe popular saying) and perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to sit down and write.

Holland Cemetery, Lawrence County, Alabama

Holland Cemetery, Lawrence County, Alabama

After the seminar, Kathy and I headed up to the northern part of Alabama where we could research our different lines.  We had one day to go to cemeteries together. Thank you Kathy for traipsing through who knows what in the Holland Cemetery! (Remember to wear closed shoes, long sleeve shirts and pants, a hat and insect repellent when going on cemetery excursions…luckily no ticks, snakes or chiggers were found in the search of graves!) We went to  Winston County, Alabama for Kathy’s cemetery to find graves for her Union ancestors.  Yes, in Winston County they where they were known as the “State of Winston” during the Civil War, because they fought on the side of the Union.

Lawrence County Alabama Archives

Lawrence County Archives, Alabama

And then I had one day to research at the Lawrence County Archives for documents for my Kellum, McCrary and Holland families. I have been doing a little research on and off with my southern line, but most of it was using sources I could find on line at Ancestry, Family Search etc. and some trips to Salt Lake and Washington D.C. Finally, I could look at the original records to see if they could fill in the gaps between censuses and give clues on who these people really were. What I knew:

  • Julia McCrary (1864-1895) was my 2nd great grand-mother.  She was born in Alabama and died in Texas.
  • Julia’s parents were Irvin P. McCrary and Mary Jane Kellum.
  • Irvin and Mary Jane McCrary had census records in Lawrence County, Alabama for 1850 and 1860.
  • Irvin and Mary Jane McCrary moved to Henderson County, Texas sometime after the Civil War.
  • Irvin McCrary died sometime before the 1880 census.
  • Mary Jane Kellum McCrary died sometime after 1880, but I haven’t been able to find out where/when yet.
  • Irvin’s parents were Matthew McCrary and Mary “Polly” Holland, who had also lived in Lawrence County, Alabama.
  • I had information on the McCrary and Holland Families from a book by Frances Bryant Corum that I had found at the DAR Library, but I needed to validate many of the facts.

One of my primary goals was to determine who Mary Jane Kellum’s parents were. I had a marriage record that gave her maiden name, but no records with the names of her parents. After a few hours at the archives, I did find a record that named Mary Jane Kellum’s father and everything that Dr. Abbott taught us was made crystal clear.  What did I find? The only record I could find that named Mary Jane Kellum’s father was a deed. A deed transferring ownership of the 14-year-old black slave girl Martha, from Thomas R. Kellum to his daughter Mary Jane Kellum McCrary in 1854.

Kellum and McCrary Deed 1854

Thomas R. Kellum and Mary Jane Kellum McCrary Deed 1854, Lawrence County Archives, Alabama

So, ironically the key to answering my genealogical quandary was dependent on a document of slavery, that proved my ancestors were slave owners. The Kellum’s were slave owners and the McCrary’s were slave owners.  Their prosperity and livelihood was dependent on the work and labor of the slaves they owned.  They created records because of it.  There are tax records, deeds, wills etc. all discussing their slaves.  These human beings had names – Tess, Sara, Martha, Fanny, Nancy, Lucinda, Rachael, Albert, Dave, Tilda, Jim, Noel, Ester, Charles, Maria, Matthias, Nelson, Patsy, Sophia, Terry, Rhoda, Adkins, Edmund, Peggy and Ann.

It is a strange feeling to read about something so abhorrent that it chills me. No, I am not responsible for my ancestor’s actions 150 years ago. However, I am responsible for writing about it and telling the whole story. I also want to find out what happened to these people after the Civil War.  Where did they go? What did they do?  What last names did they take?  What happened to Martha? She would have been 25 years old at the end of the Civil War. Did she go to Texas with the McCrary’s? Did she stay in Alabama? I will let you know what I find out.

Posted in Civil War, Slavery, Southern Ancestors | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Objects of Love and Memory

The Secret Life of Objects by Dawn RaffelI have recently read a book of short essays called The Secret Life of Objects by Dawn Raffel.  The author reflects on objects around her home that have significance.  These are things she inherited from her mother who recently passed away, that were given to her by her grandparents and that she has collected as an adult.  She writes about her memories of the objects and what she was doing when she acquired them in various stages of her life.  I have thought how marvelous that her children will have this book to refer to when going they are going through her belongings when she dies.

Why do we hold on to certain objects and what memories to they possess? As we all attempt to declutter our own houses and deal with aging/deceased parents, what is kept and what is given away? To know what was important to our loved ones and why, makes the decision so much easier.  Would your children and descendants know what is important to you in your home and why you kept it?  Shouldn’t we write it down?

I have started to look around my house and see what I have collected in my 50+ years and to think seriously about what I would want my children to save when I am gone. Of course there are the photos of ancestors and treasures that I have inherited from the great-grandparents via my grandmother and my mother. There are very few items, when you consider that I have 30 direct ancestors from the previous 4 generations, most who died less than a hundred years ago.  I have said that I have come from ancestors that were “movers”, not “stayers” and with that comes a mentality of looking forward and not holding onto land, memories, stories or “things”.   So, true “antiques” are at a minimum, but I am working on documenting each one and what I know about their history.

Springer Spaniel and Books

But what about the things from my generation? I have tried to be thoughtful about what I kept from my own life when I packed and moved across the country, already thinking about what my children would potentially need to deal with when I go.  These are the things that aren’t necessarily old, but are attached to memories from my life.   My children will be lucky in one way; I do not collect nick knacks and hate things that require dusting regularly.  With that said, I hold on to the English Springer Spaniel statues that my grandmother brought back from at trip to England, because they remind me of her and seeing them on her fireplace mantel when I was growing up.  They are next to the old books that she gave me, some we bought together at an antique bookstore in downtown Los Angeles and a few from my great-grandparents.  (Dear children, if you are reading this…I promise to haunt you if you give away any of the old books on my shelves.)

Dad’s Tommy Bahama Shirt

Then there is one of my Dad’s Hawaiian shirts. When my dad died, my step mom had us all pick out one of his Hawaiian shirts to remember him by and to wear at his wake.  When I see this Tommy Bahama shirt, I picture him in it, cooking fish stew or some new recipe he was trying out from the Food Channel.  I cannot bear to part with it.

Mom’s Beaded Spoons

These serving spoons are a gift from my mother.  She was glass artist and made jewelry among other crafty pursuits.  She went through a period where she decorated serving utensils with glass beads and gave them as wedding and house warming gifts.  I commissioned Mom to make numerous sets for me to give to give to friends who got married because they were beautiful and a way to support my mom’s business.  I couldn’t seem to find a full set of mine when I was taking pictures.  Wonder where they are?

My Rocking Chair

My Rocking Chair

This is my rocking chair from when I was a child.  It was part of an all white bedroom set that included a dresser, a bed frame and a rocking chair.  It is a miracle that I have this chair (I don’t have very much from my childhood, but that is another story).  Somehow my Dad and my step-mom had it and she painted it dark brown.  When I was married and started to have children, she sent it to me.  At least that is what I think it is from….

So what objects do you keep and what would you want your children to hang on to? Perhaps it is time to start taking pictures of them and writing why they are important to you.  Leave a little bit of yourself behind to remember.

Posted in Books, Genealogy General | Tagged , | 2 Comments