Week #15 Genealogy Blogging Prompt

Week 15. List some vital signs. Talk about specific birth, marriage and death certificates. Topics may include misspelled names, fudged dates, other anomalies that stand out in your records.

The two major family lines my daughter has worked the hardest on are my mother’s parents, Jacob Lineberry and Eva Keithley. One of her first roadblocks was with Eva’s grandfather’s marriage records. Kay had discovered his name was Enoch Keithley and that he married Amy Turner in Wisconsin; however, it took a really creative volunteer to find this one. Apparently the recorder had written the marriage record down by sound and had elided the ‘k’ sound in both the beginning of Keithley and the ending sound in Enoch to record the name as Enoch Ethley.

Then, in attempting to find the maiden name of my great grandmother, on a trip to Illinois we got copies of my grandmother’s birth certificate as well as her sister, Violet’s. Both Violet’s birth certificate and death certificate listed the mother’s maiden name as Martha A. Jester while Eva’s birth certificate listed the mother’s maiden name as Marrah Ketheley McCoon – the word at the beginning of the second line isn’t very clear, but Kay thinks it is probably Mother. Property records for the time period of Eva’s birth show her father’s wife’s name to be Martha Ann, which would lead us to expect both Violet and Eva to have the same mother.

Eva Keithley's birth certificate was poorly maintained in the court records.

Eva Keithley's birth certificate was poorly maintained in the court records.

Violet and Eva’s brother, Leo, was born ten months after Eva, also in Fairview, Illinois, but we did not find his birth certificate in the Fulton County records. That might have cleared up our mystery. Kay has recorded the following notes of all the variations in the records she has found so far:

“Martha A. Jester is the name listed on Violet’s birth and death certificate as her mother.

“On Eva’s birth certificate it indicates her mother was Marrah McCoon.

“On Mabel’s [another sister born six years after Eva] marriage certificate her mother’s name was Marth Ann Poren

“Also, have heard her last name was Conn

“The spelling may be Porten, Porter?

“According to Clyde Todd’s [Violet’s grandson] notes:  ‘Violet’s Mother’s maiden name was Patton.  Violet was born 4 Nov 1881 in Peoria, Il.  Violet’s uncle was James A Patton (according to my dad).’ [*Note: Amy Turner Keithley’s sister Mary married a James Patton and was a great uncle to Violet.  I wonder if that is where this name variation comes from.]

“From the land purchases that Joseph made I know that he was married about 1880 to a Martha Ann, she may be the mother of several of the children.

“Marriage record at the Los Angeles County Vital Statistics office:  Catherine I. Sweetman and Leo Keithley were married 2 Nov. 1907. His father is listed as J. H. Keithley of WI. His mother is Martha Conn of NE. His age is listed as 22yrs. born in Illinois and he was a baker. They were married by a Pres.  Clergyman. It is in Book #92 page 39 of the marriage records.”

Kay wrote on her blog a timeline of her search for the maiden name of my great grandmother – the net result of all of this is, we still don’t have a clear idea of who my great great grandmother was.

Smile for the Camera – A Noble Life


12th Edition – Smile for the Camera

A Noble Life

James Franklin Willis (1853-1926), who was my greatgrandfather, was raised by a single mother, Amy Collins Willis, after his father died just before he turned three. During the time of western expansion (always moving on toward a better life) he apparently lived his whole life in Fayette County, Alabama.


Frank served his community as a Baptist pastor during a time when pastors mostly supported themselves and their families by working as merchants or farmers. On a genealogical research trip to Fayette County and over to Birmingham, my daughter and I  found the following information in the History of Fayette County Baptist Association – page 60 speaks about Rev. J. Frank Willis:

“At the session of 1894, J. F. Willis was chosen moderator, and served one term.  He was a member of the Mt. Lebanon Church, and while his church was a member of the Association he was a frequent representative, and always took an active part in the business of the Association. He was a strong doctrinal pastor, and very popular with his people.  His pastorates were confined, for the most part, to the churches of the Harmony Grove and Goodwater Association.  In the powers of deduction and deep-thinking in Scriptural quotations, he was rarely excelled in his day.”

From this document we were also able to put together a chronology of some of the church involvement of J.F. Willis:
1887     Importance of gathering the whole church for the study of God’s word? J. F. Willis.  …”The Sunday School Convention of the New River Association for the 5th Sunday in July, 1887, was held at Mt. Lebanon church, beginning on Saturday the 29th of July.  J.B. Huckabee called the meeting to order, and J. F. Willis in behalf of Mt. Lebanon church, delivered an address of welcome…”

1888 – 1892 Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church (pastor)

1890   J.F. Willis was listed as one of eighteen ordained pastors reported at the 20th Anniversary of the Baptist Association that was held Mt. Pleasant Church beginning October 11, 1890.

1891    Rocky Mount Baptist Church (pastor)

1891    At the 21st Anniversary of the Baptist Association held at the Pleasant Hill church on Oct. 10, 1891, J. F. Willis delivered the opening sermon.

1892    Siloam Baptist Church (pastor)

1894    Union Grove Baptist Church (moderator)

1894    In the Alabama Baptist Oct 25, 1894 the former moderator was absent, J.F. Willis was elected and Bro. Zach Savage re-elected as clerk. … To summarize:  J.F. Willis was elected moderator at the 24th Anniversary of the Association that was held at the Salem Church in October 1894.

1895    Bethel Baptist Church (pastor)

1895 – 1897 Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church (pastor)

1897     J.F. Willis preached at the 27th Anniversary Association on Sunday evening.  He was one of four who preached.

1898    In the Alabama Baptist April 21, 1898 issue it says that the fifth Sunday meeting of Yellow Creek Baptist Association was held at the Fellowship church in Lamar County in May 1898.  “The introductory sermon by J. F. Willis; subject, What is the church? For criticism.”

1898 – 1902 Meadow Branch Baptist Church (pastor)

1903 – 1905 Bethel Baptist Church (pastor)

1909 – 1910 Meadow Branch Baptist Church (pastor)

Samford University in Birmingham has historical records of Baptist church minutes where we found the following interesting insights into the way country pastors were paid:

Meadow Branch Church – Sunday, August 29, 1898, J.F. Willis was elected as pastor. His salaries were listed as:

1898 – $12.25 (paid by individual members)

1899 –  1900 – $11.00

1901 – $13.00

J.F. Willis and his wife, Mary Jane [Buckner], had six children; Zelda, Margaretta E., John William, Rufus B., Zedic Hamilton (known as Hamp) and Thomas R. Both J. F. and Mary Jane are buried in the Old Mt. Lebanon Cemetery, where he had served as pastor.

Week #13 – Sharing My Expertise

In response to the Week #13 Blogging Prompt, I decided to write a little about researching and using music in fleshing out the lives and characters of our ancestors. Though it’s never been my day job, my education/avocation has been music, and specifically vocal music. For most people, enough information can be gained from relatively brief Internet searches. In the past couple of years I’ve noticed movies and books where music of a wrong time period has been used and, for me, that indicated a lack of research diligence or even a “who cares” attitude. A movie illustration was a John Wayne cavalry-type picture that had the military guys marching while singing a ditty that wasn’t written until a later war.

A book illustration is Rilla Askew’s Fire in Beulah, about the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma race riots. This is a very well researched and written fictional account of that ugly time – except for this one little musical misstep. In describing a worship gathering in a small black church, Ms. Askew said they were singing Victory in Jesus. Having been raised as an Oklahoma Southern Baptist and a musician, I knew this had been written by Eugene M. Bartlett, Sr. and, though I was unsure, I strongly suspected 1921 was a too early time frame. A minuscule Internet search by song title revealed it had been written in 1939. Obviously, Ms. Askew assumed the song had been around longer than it had.

After my daughter and I began to put together some basic information about my grandparents, I began to fill out their lives with my own imaginings and it wasn’t long before I started writing a fictional story based on the facts we’d been accumulating. We had heard from my Mother that my grandmother, Eva Keithley, and her sister, Violet, had sung duets. When I arranged, in my fictional account, for my grandparents to meet, it was natural for me to utilize singing as a part of the story. Because they must have met sometime in late 1899, that entailed doing some music research to find an appropriate song for Eva and Violet to sing.

One of the first websites I found was Oremus, which has a number of hymnals available. The one that included 1899 includes the hymnal song texts and midi files. There is also the cyber hymnal, which has a searchable listing of hymns with brief composer notes and dates as well as lyrics and midi files.

Because I wanted to know how my grandmother might have obtained music for performance purposes in 1899, I had to do a little background research. For popular music, one of the sites I used was History Matters. Here’s a quote from that site that gave me a background on the transmission of music in the era in which my grandmother lived: “American song in the second half of the nineteenth century underwent a tremendous commercial expansion, which extended into the twentieth century and indeed has not abated today. Initially, sheet music and pocket songsters were the primary means of circulating songs, since many Americans played and sang music in their own homes. The music publishing industry was increasingly concentrated in New York City’s famous ‘Tin Pan Alley’ by the 1880s. After that point, however, songs also came to be bought, sold, and preserved in a succession of new media: sound recordings and player pianos in the 1890s; radio in the 1920s, movie sound tracks in the late 1920s…”

A fun website for finding music in the public domain (meaning you can use the lyrics and melody without permission) is Public Domain Music. Though searchability is limited at this site, you can find music by some specific American composers or examples of types of music as well as examples by time period.

YouTube can also be a fun source for inserting performances into your blogs. In a tribute to my Mother, I found and inserted a video clip from a 1929 movie she had seen and then, by her own account, performed the music at her grade school.

By utilizing the websites above in selecting music for my grandmother and her sister to sing in church, I was a little surprised to discover a Christmas song I particularly like, O Holy Night, had been composed by the mid-19th century (both the lyricist and composer had died by that time) and was therefore an appropriate choice to use for my fictional account. Utilizing the lyrics as well as vocal characteristics allowed me to flesh out the characters of both my grandmother and grandfather.

For those of you who would like to see an illustration of adding music to a fictional account, I’ve added a page to my blog site of the chapter where I’ve used O Holy Night as a part of the development of my grandparents’ characters. Much of the thought processes in my grandfather’s mind was based on letters he wrote to his brother, Leander Lineberry, from 1895 until his death in 1915. Those letters can be viewed at my daughter’s genealogy website, My Tree House.