52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #35 – Sarah “Sally” White

Sarah “Sally” White was born about  1805 in South Carolina. It is not currently known who her parents were. Some people have listed her parents as Hiram and Tabitha King White but since they would have only been about ten at the time of her birth, that seems unlikely.

Little is known of her outside of her marriage certificate showing her marriage to Jacob Sanford on July 4, 1824 in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama,and the 1850 and 1860 census records from Fayette County, Alabama and Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, respectively. Unfortunately little information was provided in those early census records – only her name, general age and birth location.

Her known children were my great-great-grandfather, Asa (1826), Tabitha Caroline (1828), John Rufus (1832), Martha (1833), Larkin L (1834), and Absalom (1837). Where there are gaps in birth years, there may have been other children as yet unidentified.

No specific birth or death date records have been located and no burial information is available. Her death prior to 1869 is assumed based on her husband’s second marriage about 1869. Since many of the people in her immediate family are buried at the El Bethel (Buncomb) Methodist Church Cemetery in Tuscaloosa County, it seems likely she is buried there.


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



52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #34 – Jacob Thomas Sanford

Jacob Thomas Sanford, my third great-grandfather, was the son of Absalom Abraham B. Sanford and Sarah Catherine Snider. He was born February 19, 1804 in South Carolina; some researches show his birth in Lexington District but I have not yet seen documentation to verify that.

Family tradition states several families including a number of Sanfords moved from South Carolina to Alabama about 1819. Although I have not been able to find any census records on Jacob or his father for the 1820, 1830 and 1840 censuses, all later census records for Jacob’s children list their births in Alabama beginning with Asa’s in 1825. On a trip to Alabama in 2010, my daughter and I went to the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse where we found the filed record of Jacob’s marriage to Sally [Sarah] White, which took place on July 4, 1824.

SANFORD Jacob Thomas & WHITE Sally marriage license-cert 1824 July 4 Tuscaloosa Co AL crop

The 1850 census lists John and Sarah/Sally and their last three children, John Rufus (18), Larkin L. (15) and Absalom (13). 1850 censusThe census identifies Jacob’s occupation as a hatter. Although I have not yet been able to discover very much about his occupation, I know from multiple census records and from conversations with Sanford descendants that this was a family business. They apparently made felt hats in a bowler style with a fairly wide brim. I have been told there is a photo of several of the Sanford men in front of the hat store each wearing a hat made by them in addition to a photo of one of their hats in one of the editions of the Heritage of Fayette County book; I have not been to get copies of either of the photos so far.

In looking at the occupation of hatter, some interesting pieces of information surfaced. The Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is at least partially based on an historical medical result of making felt hats. To make felt, fur was first treated with a solution of nitrate of mercury. Working inside in poorly ventilated workshops could and did result in mercury poisoning. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include emotional instability, cognitive and memory loss, shyness, speech problems, a lack of muscular coordination and sensitivity to touch. Since most census records were inconsistent in listing their occupations as either hatters or farmers, perhaps they were outdoors in the fresh air enough to at least somewhat counteract any long-term effects of the mercury.

Jacob’s wife, Sally, died sometime before 1869. They had six known children: in addition to those listed in the 1850 census there were Asa [my great-great-grandfather] (1825), Tabitha Caroline (1828), and Martha (1833).

Jacob married Elizabeth Taylor in 1869 when Jacob was 61 and Elizabeth was 20; they had five more children: Willis Henry (1870), Harmon A. (1872), John William (1874), Mary Ann (1876) and Sarah Katherine (1878). He died January 20, 1883 and is buried at El Bethel (Buncomb) Methodist Cemetery in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. ???????????????????????????????

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.


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

52 Ancestors #8 – Mary Monroe Sanford Welch

Mary Monroe 'Mollie' Sanford Welch croppedMary Monroe Sanford Welch was my paternal grandmother’s mother [my great-grandmother]; she went by the nickname of Mollie. Mollie was born to Asa and Martha Ann Jean Sanford in Moore’s Bridge, Alabama on February 22, 1857; today is the 157th anniversary of her birth.

As is the case for all my ancestors, everything I know about Mollie has been learned through discovering records that detail events in her life. The 1860 census lists her as the fourth child of her parents with one older sister and two older brothers, as well as one younger brother. She apparently had another older brother who was not enumerated with the family; her father had been married before to Mollie’s mother’s sister who had died shortly after the birth of their son. 1860 censusAlthough not shown in this census clip, Mollie’s family lived near extended family members and her father, although a farmer, also participated in the greater family’s trade of being hatters – makers of hats.

The 1860 census indicates her father was born in Alabama, her mother in Tennessee, and all her siblings in Alabama, but the 1870 census listing does not show the same birth locations: her father and mother and first two siblings are listed as being born in Tennessee, Mollie and her older brother in Mississippi and the remaining children in Alabama. 1870 censusThe ability to read and write is mixed in the family, as evidenced by the tick marks in the right-hand columns, with Mollie, her father, and two of her siblings being unable to read and write, while her mother and two oldest siblings could read and write.

Mollie married William Thomas Welch on January 5, 1879 in Fayette County, Alabama in a ceremony performed by Robert Berry who was a Justice of the Peace. I have no idea how they met since Mollie’s parents remained in the rural countryside northeast of Tuscaloosa and Tom’s family lived in the western portions of Fayette County, a distance of 60 miles or so. The 1880 census shows Tom and Mollie living between her Uncle Rufus and her cousin, Sarah; perhaps Rufus and Sarah had already moved to Fayette County and in visiting them, Mollie and Tom had met.

Although the 1890 census does not exist, both the 1880 census and the 1900 census show that Tom and Mollie continued to live in Fayette County – all their children listed on census records were born in Alabama. During the years between 1879 and 1900, Tom and Mollie had nine children: Mellie Jane (1879), James William (1881), Nathan Asa (1883), Martha Ann (1886), Jessie Ellis (1888), Dena (1889), Lovie Bell (1893), Fenie Estelle “Essie” (1895) and Myrtie Mae (1899).

Sometime between the 1900 census and the 1910 census, Tom and Mollie moved their family to Itawamba County, Mississippi near the town of Fulton, a community about 80 miles northwest of Fayette, Alabama. Melly and James William both married in Fayette County between 1900 and 1904, while Dena married in Itawamba County in 1906, Nathan in 1907, Martha “Annie” in 1908 and Jessie after the 1910 census was taken. Those marriage locations help identify that the family moved to Mississippi between 1904 and 1906. The 1910 census is difficult to read but does show Mollie as the mother of nine children, all of whom were still living; Jessie Ellis, Lovie, Fenie Essie and Myrtie were still living at home.1910 census The 1920 census shows they had moved back to the Webster community of Fayette County in Alabama and, again, lists divergent locations for their births; this time, Mollie’s birth location is listed as Tennessee and Tom’s father’s location is listed as Mississippi rather than Alabama. 1920 censusBy 1930, Tom and Mollie had moved back to Itawamba County. As is way too often the case for census records, the details are mixed in accuracy. This time birth locations are accurate for all but Mollie’s father while Mollie’s middle initial is inaccurate and Tom and Mollie’s ages are reversed. Additionally, Tom and Mollie are both listed as being able to read and write [the yes in the column to the left of center where the birth locations are listed], which was not previously the case. I do not know if they actually learned to read and write during the 1920s or if the census enumerator recorded this detail in error.1930 censusMollie died on May 22, 1931, less than a year after the 1930 census. She is buried in Union Grove Cemetery in the community of Tilden in Itawamba County, Mississippi. When I wrote about my great-grandfather, her husband, I included photos of their double headstone and grave site; those can be reviewed here.


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


Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Genealogy Database Statistics

Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun for this week is genealogy database statistics. My genealogy database management program is Legacy. Until 2008, I was just a research helper to my daughter so didn’t have our genealogy information other than an occasional hard copy Kay printed of direct line people. We were on a research trip and I asked her if it were possible for me to have a copy of the database to be able to look things up without having to wait for her to get home from work. Our hotel room had WIFI access so we searched for free genealogy database programs and chose Legacy. I installed the program while Kay converted her family file to a GEDCOM and saved it to a USB drive. We then loaded the GEDCOM into my new program and I had my own copy.

Since I was not our major family researcher and our programs weren’t synced I didn’t do anything but access the program for a year or so, but finally I began putting up an Ancestry.com free tree. After a while, I would occasionally access Ancestry on Kay’s account where I discovered I could attach records in support of what we were learning about our family members. Soon, I was having so my fun, I got my own Ancestry account and started into full research mode.

Currently, the statistics for our Ancestry.com tree are as follows:

Ancestry Stats

Through connecting with other researchers in one of my family lines, I received another GEDCOM for the people on my paternal grandmother’s mother’s family line. This GEDCOM was a compilation of the work of a group of Sanford families in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where my family was from; at the time I got it was quite large. I made a separate merged file of both databases and the resulting statistics for the Legacy database are as follows:

Legacy Stats

One of the things I’ve learned by keeping a database and searching for the documentation that is the framework of what we are learning is that genealogy isn’t just a matter of putting names and dates on a tree, but it is learning something about the people who made up the heritage that led me to be who I am and where I am.

My Family – 100 Years Ago – Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

Randy Seaver in this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun has given us this mission:

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible! music) is to:

1)  Determine where your ancestral families were on 1 January 1913 – 100 years ago.

2)  List them, their family members, their birth years, and their residence location (as close as possible).  Do you have a photograph of their residence from about that time, and does the residence still exist?

3)  Tell us all about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook Status or Google+ Stream post.

My grandparents, Zed Hamp and Mellie Jane Welch Willis were living in New Salem Precinct, Itawamba County, Mississippi April 23, 1910 when the census enumerator listed them. Their children at the time were Franklin (7), Thomas (6) [my daddy], John (4), Earnest (3) and Ruthy (1 yr 8 months). Mellie would have been early in her pregnancy with the next son, Rufus Rex who was born in December 25, 1910. They were family number 155 while family number 158 was Mellie’s brother, James W. Welch, and his wife, Pearlie, and their 3-year-old daughter, Brazzie.

On a visit to the library in Fulton, Itawamba, Mississippi in 2002, we found a 1912 listing of school students and all but Ruth were listed as students in Township 10, Range 9 of Itawamba County. This would have been two to three miles north of New Salem where they were for the 1910 census (Township 11, Range 9). I found an old Itawamba map that shows the township/range on it; I copied just that section to have some idea of where that was.1912 Township 10, Range 9 Itawamba County

By the time of the 1920 census they were just south of the New Salem location in Smithville, Monroe, Mississippi, which might indicate they were somewhere within a 25 to 30 mile straight line  in eastern Mississippi. However, another child, Lee Roy, was born May 17, 1913 and his birth location was Fayette County, Alabama, which was the marriage location as well as the birth location for the first three of their children (the first daughter died in infancy). Whether they had moved back to Alabama for a brief time between 1912 and May 1913 or whether Mellie had delivered a baby on a visit there is not known, although we did find a quit claim deed for 40 acres of land in Township 10, Range 9 that was conveyed in May 1919, which would indicate they were most likely living there from 1912 through 1919.1919 May Quit Claim Deed

Zed Hamp’s father and my great-grandfather, James Franklin Willis was born and died in Fayette County, Alabama. J.F.’s wife had died about 1883  and his mother sometime between the 1900 and 1910 censuses but he lived until 1926. On a trip to Fayette County in 2010, a second cousin, Charles Burns, drove us along Old Gin Road and pointed out locations where JF had lived. The land was totally overgrown with no homes anywhere along Old Gin Road. At the end of the road, we made a right turn onto Ballenger Road and Charles drove us by the last home location for JF when he lived with his son John William. We do have a photo of that home taken in 1961.

John Willis Home ca 1961

Although J.F.’s wife and my great-grandmother, Mary Jane Buckner Willis, had died sometime after 1883, and her father died during the Civil War, her mother lived until 1917. Nancy Foster Buckner Watkins Saling moved to Wise County, Texas sometime around the middle of the 1890s where she married for the third time in 1897. According to a Civil War pension file dated December 1913, Nancy had resided in Decatur, Texas for 20 years. On a trip to Wise County in 2011, we drove through areas we had found records about her and visited Oaklawn Cemetery in Decatur, Texas where she is buried.


My paternal grandmother Mellie’s parents, William Thomas and Mary Monroe ‘Molly’ Sanford Welch were living in Fulton, Itawamba, Mississippi at the time of the 1910 census. Also enumerated in the family home were Jessie Ellis (21), Lovie (16), Essie (15) and Myrtie (11). We do not have any photos of their home. Today would have been their  134th wedding anniversary, having married January 5, 1879 in Fayette County, Alabama at the home of his brother, James Alexander ‘Bud’ Welch. Mellie’s grandparents were both deceased prior to 1913 (in 1907 and 1911).

My mother’s parents, Jacob Wesley and Eva Keithley Lineberry were living in the Capitol Hill area of Oklahoma City. There are city directories for almost every year available on ancestry.com and the majority of them show them living at 318 Avenue D, which is approximately the 300 block of SW 26th Street in Oklahoma City. In 1908 he was a carpenter, 1910 a dairyman, 1913 working in feed and coal – from letters he wrote to his brother, he was actually working in feed and coal in Cushing, Oklahoma and only managing to come visit his family in Oklahoma City periodically.

1913 OKC Directory Listing

The children living in the home on Avenue D would have been Willie (11), Bernita (9), Johnnie (7), Leonard (5), Joe (3) and George (1); my mother would not be born for another year. We were sent a photo of their home by a distant relative who found it in a box of photos in Galax, Virginia, which is where Jacob was from – he had presumably sent it to his sister.

Eva, 3 kids & other woman OKCThe woman on the left is unidentified but the woman on the right is Eva and the children are Bernita, Johnnie and Leonard in Eva’s arms; the picture would have been taken about 1909.

Jacob’s father, George Alex Lineberry, had remarried in 1896 after the death of Jacob’s mother. George (67) and Amanda (37) and their five living children were enumerated the 1910 census in Sulphur Springs, Carroll, Virginia. He was a farmer in the Blue Ridge mountains and we do not have any pictures of his home.

1910 Census Clip

Eva’s parents were both deceased prior to 1913; her mother sometime around 1890 and her father in 1911. Her father was living in Joplin, Jasper, Missouri at the time of his death. Her paternal grandmother died in Lewiston, Fulton, Illinois in May 1912 and we have no information on her maternal grandparents.

None of the residences of my grandparents and great-grandparents still exist and I’ve never seen any of them; in fact all but Zed Hamp died before I was born and he died when I was one year old.