52 Ancestors #12 – Martha Ann Jean

Martha Ann Sanford nee Jean, who was my great-great-grandmother, was [according to the 1900 census] born in February 1826 in Tennessee, probably in Lincoln County.  According to chapter 4 of a reasonably well-researched book prepared by members of the Jean family, she was the fourth child of John Jean and Ann Shaw [other family trees list other sets of parents: Thomas Jefferson and Martha Larkin Jean or David Elroy and Grisella White Jean].

Martha’s story is one that illustrates that, even though we live in a time of easy divorce and ever-changing relationships with varying degrees of relationship stability, not all of our ancestors lived lives of marital constancy.

Martha’s younger sister, Sarah, married Asa Sanford in 1846. Sarah died within a short time and on December 24, 1850, Martha married her former brother-in-law.SANFORD Asa & JEAN Martha A. marriage cert  1850 30 May Lincoln County TennesseeThe 1850 census lists Martha and Asa living between her brother Jessie and his family and her father, John and his new wife Martha Taylor – with the last name spelled as Jane rather than Jean. I believe this proximity is an indicator of the family relationship between John Jean and Martha Jean Sanford. Her younger siblings, Elizabeth Jean and David Jean, were living with Martha and Asa. This record also adds the details that Asa was born in Alabama and his occupation was listed as hatter.1850 censusBy the 1860 census, Asa had moved his family back to Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, near a small community known as Moore’s Bridge, which was where he was born and most of his extended family still lived; he also continued with his family’s business of being hatters. In the decade between 1850 and 1860, Martha and Asa  had five children: Sarah, William, Jacob, Mary (my great-grandmother) and John Wiley. Some records for William have an 1853 birth date and some have an 1847 birth date. If the 1847 date is accurate, it is possible that William was the child of Martha’s sister, Sarah, and Asa.1860 censusThe decade between 1860 and 1870 added two more children to the Sanford family: James and Jessie. There is another John Sanford enumerated with the family but since their son John Wiley was born in 1860, it is unlikely the John Sanford listed as born in 1868 was a child of Asa and Martha.1870 censusA few years back, I made contact with a Sanford researcher who was born and raised in the Moore’s Bridge community and returns home a couple of times a year for family reunions. He told me about Martha’s husband, Asa, maintaining a long-term relationship with another woman, Ruhama Oswalt who also lived in the Moores Bridge community, and with whom he had three children. When I questioned him about sources for such a relationship, he stated it was common knowledge within the community and descendants of that Oswalt/Sanford relationship still attend the Sanford reunion.

The 1870 census was mostly done with initials and was therefore inconclusive for Ruhama but I will put the 1880 censuses for both families one after another. Ruhama and her three children were still living with her parents and the next farm to Martha’s nephew, William Larkin Jean. Asa and Martha lived in the Moore’s Bridge community while the Oswalt family and William Jean family lived about 35 miles north in the Ridge Community of Fayette County, Alabama.1880 Sanford 1880 OswaltIt was helpful to me to see the births of the children of the two women side by side to gain a clearer insight into the family dynamics. Children

There were no census records from 1880 until 1900, so no information during that 20-year period. Cemetery records show Ruhama died in 1883 at the age of 46. No records indicate whether Asa and Martha ever separated during his years with Ruhama, however, in spite of his ongoing relationship with Ruhama, Asa and Martha were enumerated together in the 1900 census. Their daughter, Sarah, was still living at home and they were enumerated next to their son, John Wiley and his family. The 1900 census notes that Asa and Martha had been married for 51 years and she had borne eight children, seven of whom were still living. Since I only have a list of seven children, the deceased child was likely born during the years between one census and the next, having lived less than ten years.1900Asa died on April 24, 1907 leaving Martha a widow at 81. The 1910 census showed Martha living with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren after the death of her son, James, in 1903 . During the decade of 1900 to 1910, in addition to her becoming a widow, two more of her children died.1910Martha died October 20, 1911 and is buried next to her husband in the El Bethel Methodist Cemetery near where all the Sanford family had lived since the early 1800s [since there are other El Bethel cemeteries in the area, it is also known as Buncomb]. One of the Sanford descendants who came for a reunion a few years ao noted the headstone for Asa and Martha was either non-existent or in very poor condition; he ordered a replacement headstone, seen in the photo below. 2010 101 Asa & Martha Jean croppedAnd as you view the headstone, if you walk a few steps to the right, another tombstone marks the resting place of Ruhama Oswal apparently not far from Martha in life and still nearby in death.

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This blog was prepared as a part of Amy Johnson Crow’s  No Story Too Small 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.

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52 Ancestors #5 – William J. Willis

My great-great-grandfather was William J. Willis. I know very little about his life. We have four records that we can tie directly to him, none that let us know specifically where he was born or who his parents were.

The one most clearly identifiable is the 1850 census for Fayette County, Alabama. William Willis 1850Although the last name is spelled Wilas, he is identifiable because of the names of two of his children, Jabus G. and Edy C., that we have been able to link to my great-grandfather, James Franklin Willis, as being his half-siblings. The things we learn from this census about William is that he was born about 1805 in South Carolina and that he could read and write. We also learn the family moved to Alabama between 1831 (Jabus’ birth in South Carolina) and 1834 (Martha’s birth in Alabama).

The female listed below him is not one of his children; although he married about 1829 and had a daughter born about 1830, this female was born about 1826. William’s second wife was my great-great-grandmother, Amy E. Collins, who was born about 1826 in South Carolina and I assume the difficult-to-read name that may be Amia is likely her. Family tradition states his first wife was Amy’s sister, Judah Collins, who had died sometime between the birth of Anna (shown above to be about 1842) and the time of the 1850 census. Additional support for identifying William is that the families enumerated on either side of him were the families of Judah’s and Amy’s brothers John W. Collins, Alexander Collins and sister Sarah Collins Dodson.

William Willis 1840Moving backward in time, the 1840 census for Fayette County, Alabama, which only provides the name of the head of household and tic marks representing gender and age ranges of members of the household, shows William, born between 1800 and 1810, and his wife also born between 1800 and 1810, one son born between 1830 and 1835, two daughters born between 1835 and 1840 and one daughter born between 1830 and 1835. Those ages are consistent with what we know about William and Judah and their children: Jabez (born about 1830); Martha (born about 1833), Sarah (born about 1835) and Edy (born about 1839).

Census records for Fayette County provide evidence that a fairly large number of the families had moved from Spartanburg and Union Counties in South Carolina between the 1830 and 1840 censuses, including the Collins, Ballenger, and Bobo families with which my Willis family has intermarried.

William Willis 1830An 1830 census for Spartanburg, South Carolina shows William Willis born between 1800 and 1810, a woman also born between 1800 and 1810 and a female born between 1825 and 1830. Because this is a tic mark census and because the 1840 census for William Willis does not show a daughter born between 1825 and 1830, and because of the Spartanburg County connection to Fayette County, I am assuming this is my William Willis and that their first daughter died between 1830 and 1840 and that it is possible or likely he was born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina.

Census records for 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 in Spartanburg only two Willis families: Richard and Drucilla Pearson Barnett Willis and their children and, for a short time his brother William Willis. William only had one son who moved to Kentucky. Only one of Richard’s sons’ families, John and Martha Patsy Smith Willis, was married, living in South Carolina, and shows sons born between 1800 and 1810. Several Willis family trees list one of John and Martha’s children as being a William born about 1813. Even though these trees provide no information other than a name and approximate birth with no supporting documentation, I still have to question where that connection arose and, if they are accurate, then there is no room for another William within that family.

On the other hand, my brother provided a Y-DNA sample, which we submitted to the Willis DNA project. Based on similarities and dissimilarities with the other DNA samples, it supports the likelihood that we are a part of the Richard and Drucilla Pearson Barnett Willis family, which leads me back to the only census records within that family where William might possibly fit and that is John and Martha Patsy Smith Willis.

The 1860 census for Fayette County lists Amy Willis as a widow with a son, James Franklin, which places William’s death between the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Although William did not leave a will, administration papers were filed with papers dated between 12 April 1855 and February 1857 and naming his son, Jabez G. Willis as administrator. With these papers we learned William had been treated with quinine, morphine and medicinal powders for a year before he died. The net result of the accounting of his property, sales of crops and outstanding debts was a declaration of insolvency. None of his children are listed in any of the papers, other than Jabez as administrator.

We found some references to Jabez Willis that seemed to refer to the father rather than the son. Because of these references, we believe William’s full name was William Jabez Willis.

The Willis family in Fayette County has had a long relationship with the Mount Lebanon Baptist Church and family tradition states that William was buried in the original cemetery grounds along with his first wife, Judah. On a trip to Fayette County in 2010, my daughter and I visited the Old Mount Lebanon Cemetery with a second cousin who is still a member of that church; I took photographs of the area where they are believed to be buried. 2010 153 William J Willis Traditional spot smallerThe unmarked location is only supported by family tradition but is just a few feet to the right of the location of the rest of the Willis family buried there, including his second wife, Amy, and his son, James Franklin.

I have been unable to find any information on his daughters, other than Edy Caroline who married James Hamilton Ballenger. Early marriage records for Fayette County are very spotty and there are none I have found for Martha, Sarah or Anna Willis. Jabez G. Willis died during the Civil War and his widow, Mary Priscilla Middleton Willis, remarried into the Miles family. Oftentimes, daughters keep family heirlooms and it is possible information regarding William and Judah or photographs of them exist in the hands of descendants of his daughters. I would love to hear from anyone who might have more information on William Jabez Willis, his parents or any of his children.

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This blog was prepared as a part of Amy Johnson Crow’s  No Story Too Small 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.

Can Read, Can’t Write?

Everything I’ve ever known about education – curriculum – is that children begin to learn to read and write simultaneously from their very first days in elementary or grammar school. In transcribing information about my ancestors into my genealogy database, I’ve noted and wondered about those who recorded they could read but not write.

Beginning in 1850 and running through the 1880 census, one of the question sections was whether the person enumerated could read and/or write as well as if they had attended school within the past year.  Again, because of the current educational requirements, I would have expected every person between certain ages to have been checked for attending school and being able to read and write. However, that is not the case at all.

For example, in the 1870 census below, my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Farquhar Welch Jackson is shown by a slash mark (in the far right column) that she cannot write. The column just to the left of the slash mark indicates she could read. Her second husband, James Jackson, can both read and write. Her four children from her first marriage are all checked as having attended school within the year; Jane (18) and James (16) can both read and while Isabel (14) can read but not write and my great-grandfather Thomas (12) appears to have slashes indicating he can neither read nor write (later censuses indicated he could both read and write as was the case with the remaining children). educationParticularly intriguing to me is that sometimes even within the same family not all children had attended school within the past year. Sometimes it might be the youngest, say an eight-year-old, who hadn’t attended school within the year but those up to perhaps 18 had attended. With the current education system having had kindergartens for more than my lifetime and a requirement to begin school by age five or six, depending on where one’s birth date falls, I always wonder what family story might explain educational disparity within one family.

The 1940 census, which became available a little over a year ago, identifies the highest education level achieved for everyone within the household. This also sheds light on one’s family heritage. For example, I’ve known most of my life that my mother was orphaned before she turned eight and was sent to her father’s extended family in Carroll County, Virginia, where she did not attend school from 1922 until 1929, although due to her having attended school in Oilton, Oklahoma prior to that move, she was already able to read and write.

In reviewing my direct and indirect family lines by way of the 1940 census, I could see that the majority of the people in that Virginia community had between zero years of education and, perhaps, four to six, with an occasional exception.

Seeing these education levels sheds light on a major theme my grandfather, Jacob Lineberry who was from Carroll County, wrote in letters written around the turn of the 20th century to his brother still living in Virginia; for example, “… [I] hope people they will go to school and try and get an education. I find a man without education is like a horse without harness.” And again when he asked about his youngest brother, “Does Alex go to school I surely wish Papa would send him to school and let him get an education. It is a poor thing to start a boy out now without an education he will be doomed for hard work all his life And the hardest of the work.” In a later letter he said, ” I hope the little Brothers and Sisters will get a good education I think is worth more than a Father can give to a child. if Papa had given me a good education I would thank him for a thousand times but we was raised up like kins that is not sent to school. I hope he will try and send the other children to school if he will spend any money on them that is the only way and Leander try and send your children to school. I have tried enough of the world to know what a man needs.”

My mother apparently caught enough of her father’s attitude toward education that when she returned to Oklahoma, after a 7-year lapse in schooling while in Virginia, she began school in the third grade at age 15. As her teachers saw she was grasping concepts, they advanced her through the grades and within a year she was in the sixth grade. She continued with school until the tenth grade when lack of money to buy books and materials forced her to drop out.

Today, as I was reading some transcriptions of full newspapers from Lamar County, Alabama, which is a community in which I have had indirect family living, I noted the following article from the November 26, 1880 issue of The Vernon Clipper[1], which may shed some light on how it might happen that someone could read but not write.education

The first thing to notice is that the ad specifies the school is for both male and female students. From today’s perspective, we would never think about making sure to specify that girls were to be included in this educational opportunity. Second is that the school is not scheduled to open until November. With our schools opening in late August or perhaps the first days of September, it seems particularly odd to begin a school year in November. I would suppose the demands of crops and farm life established the optimal time for education.

Although this school’s divisions into Primary, Intermediate, Grammar and High School would not translate into anything comparable to grades within our education system, I would suspect Primary might be grades 1 and 2 and possibly 3; Intermediate might be grades 3, 4 and 5, with Grammar being what we might refer to as Middle School. The first educational thing I noted was that writing was not taught at all in the Primary grades; it was not begun until the Intermediate grades.

If Intermediate grades didn’t begin until, say, the fourth grade, that might explain why Isabel could read but not write at the age of 14 and perhaps why, if Sarah had only gone to school for the first two or three grades, that as an adult she might read but not write. It doesn’t, however, explain why Thomas might not have been able to either read or write at the age of 12, although there is some sort of mark on the census for him that makes it difficult to interpret what may be present in those boxes.

Additionally, note there is a fee for education versus the publicly funded education that has been available for everyone throughout my lifetime. Many families enumerated in these early censuses had as many as twelve or thirteen children and income was very limited. My great-grandfather J.F. Willis was a part-time minister. We found the minutes from one of his churches listing his salary for four separate years [it was unclear if these were annual salaries or monthly salaries, although most church budgets were annualized]:

salaries

The fee scale for the school was monthly and graduated based on education level. With J.F.’s income for the time period in mind and the fact he had seven children, his possible fees for one school year might have been 2 Primary students [$1.50 x 8 months each student] $24.00; 2 Intermediate students [$2.00 x 8 months each student] $32.00; 2 Grammar students [$2.50 x 8 months each student] $40.00; and one High School student [$3.00 for 8 months] $24.00. The annual cost for educating his children would have been $120.00 a year.

From this review, I now know children didn’t necessarily begin school at five or six and they didn’t learn to write at the same time they learned to read, all of which provides some insight into the education levels within my historical family.

 

[1] http://www.newspaperabstracts.com/link.php?action=detail&id=17809

Tugging on Clues

I was searching for Farquhar family when I noted a Welch family on the same census page and decided to record that information while I was there. The next thing I knew, I was sidetracked from Farquhar to Welch. One of the daughters in this Welch line is a great illustration on the complexity of the search for ancestors  and why it is important to look for more than just an ancestor’s name and absolutely necessary to follow crazy-seeming clues to gain a more thorough view of an ancestor [so I decided to get sidetracked again and write a blog].

1870 CensusThe 1870 census was slightly confusing because the columns, in order, represent Family Number, Surname, First Name, Age, Gender, Race, Occupation, Value of Real and Personal Property and State of Birth. In the Race column, this family is listed as Black,which should have indicated this is not my family line.  However, because in previous  and following censuses, the names and relative ages of these, family members were not black, I had to assume this was an enumerator error, probably caused by not completing the census during the interview but filling in columns at a later time.  The family members are John (75), Sarena (35), Cranner/Dianner (11), Malissa (9), and William (4) Welch. [by searching multiple years of censuses and death records, the Cranner/Dianner name was ultimately shown to be Milly Diana, but also shows a southern pronunciation characteristic of names ending in ‘a’ taking on the ‘er’ sound].

1880 Census

The 1880 census indicates this is a white family and again, with minor changes or additions, they appear to be the same people: John (87), Serena (45, Milly (19), Malissa (17) and William R. (14). Birth locations are the same as in 1870. The daughter Cranner/Dianner from 1870 has an additional name of Milly.

1900 Census

When I had done what I could with finding information on John and Serena [Serena, by the way is a second wife and I have information on John and his first wife and children as well], I looked at some of the trees on Ancestry.com to see if there might be clues to tug on. I found Milly Diana with a husband still listed as living and therefore private, so couldn’t see his name; however, the above 1880 census was linked to her so I was able to pick up a name for her husband, Rosco Davis. Additionally, Diana’s sister Malissa was living with them so I found her as well.

When I finished with Diana and Roscoe whom I discovered from more clue tugging was actually Richard Oscar Davis, I moved on to see if I could find a marriage for Malissa. One of the Ancestry.com trees had her married to a Thomas J. Davis, so off for more tugging.

I prefer to find information in date order, but I didn’t find a census for 1910, but I did find a 1920 census.

1920 CensusThomas is 20 years older than Malissa and I now have a middle initial ‘C.’ to add to my search clues. I checked out FindAGrave and got a full name for her husband, Thomas Jefferson Davis, and discovered by links there that he was a brother to Milly Diana’s husband Richard Oscar Davis. I also got birth and death dates for both of them. Once I plugged in death dates in Ancestry.com, I was rewarded with a transcription from their Alabama death certificates; in Malissa’s case, it confirmed she was the daughter of John Welch, although his birth location was listed as North Carolina rather than South Carolina.

Another clue popped up as a pension application. Thomas died in 1923, which left Malissa as an unemployed/unemployable woman with no income and no children to support her. Thomas had served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and had been receiving a pension. In the pension application, Malissa (who referred to herself as Malissie) noted she married Thomas on January 29, 1901 on one application page and January 30, 1901 on a different application page. She also listed a middle name of Caroline.

From FindA Grave, the person who prepared the memorials had linked a previous wife, Catherine, to Thomas and had her death date as 1899. The 1900 census had Malissa living with her sister and brother-in-law as a single woman, so I knew their marriage had to have taken place after those 1899 and 1900 events. As I reviewed marriage documents, I noted one for Fayette County between Thomas J. Davis and Sallie Welch on January 30, 1901. Both the date and the maiden name seemed worth looking at, so I plugged it in and found the 1910 census I had been unable to locate.

1910 CensusThe ages are slightly different from the earlier-discovered 1920 census – 74/54 versus 60/40 but the same 20-year difference is present. This is clearly the couple in the marriage license because in the 5th small column over it lists a 9-year marriage, although the enumerator noted it was the first marriage for both of them. The two zeros are on the wrong line but indicate the wife has not borne any children and no children are living.

With the name of Sallie as a new and totally unexpected clue, I searched for Sallie Davis for a 1930 census and found one I’d seen before, but just didn’t know to look for Sallie.

1930 Census

When I recorded the 1930 census for Malissa’s sister, Milly Diana, I noted a sister-in-law to Richard named Sallie Davis was living with them; however, a sister-in-law could have been his brother’s widow. But with the information from the marriage license and the 1910 census, the Malissa Caroline “Sallie” Davis circle was completed.

Malissa Caroline 'Sallie' Welch Davis FAG HS

Malissa Caroline “Sallie” Welch Davis, daughter of John Sanders and Serena White Welch, and wife of Thomas Jefferson Davis was born September 11, 1863 in Bankston, Fayette, Alabama and died April 1, 1938 in Berry, Fayette, Alabama. She is buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Berry, Fayette, Alabama.