Orange County, Virginia, Chancery Records on LVA

The Library of Virginia Chancery Court records website has added images of court records for Orange County, Virginia, to their website. Counties are being added on a continual basis. This is an excellent way to preserve these records and make them available to researchers.

There is one court case in which I’m particularly interested: one over the will of Benjamin Hawkins (LVA case number for Orange County 1796-012 ) We will be discussing this case in an upcoming post. The will only names some of Hawkins’ family, but his other heirs appear to be listed in the list of parties directly involved in the case.

The packet of papers contains an unsigned copy of his will and depositions regarding the content of the will, it’s drafting, and Benjamin’s intent. These case files are a wonderful augment to court order books and other transcriptions.

The will and accompanying documents suggest that court order books and land records for this family also need to be utilized.

Stay tuned.


Across the Road

The photograph of my Mother pushing a doll in a stroller was taken in the 1940s. That I’m sure of. What I am less certain of is the location. Given where Mom and her grandparents lived, I’m reasonably certain the photograph was taken in Hancock County, Illinois. But where within the county I am not so certain.

The road isn’t a huge clue. The picture is somewhat blurry, and I can’t be quite certain if the road is dirt or gravel, although I think the chance it is paved is fairly slim.

I don’t think the picture was taken in Mom’s paternal grandparents yard as, based on the property they owned across the road and how long they had owned it, I doubt there would have been a fence line running perpendicular to the road right there (the barns were on the same side of the road as my mother would be and livestock were pastured on pasture they owned that was not across the road). The farm ground behind the road gives (to me) the impression that it was owned by two different individuals at the time the picture was taken or at least reasonably close to when the picture was taken. That’s not the case with the property across the road from her paternal grandparents’ home/front yard.

It could be in her maternal grandparents’ yard, but it would have to have been the side yard and not the front yard–there was a state highway, paved since the 1930s (road maps verify this–not just my second/third hand knowledge). The road does not appear to have been a state highway. I think the road on the side yard road was gravel and need to look at a county map in the 1940s to be certain. But upon further reflection it could not have been in their side yard either because of the fence in the background. My great-grandfather’s brother’s home would have been in the background if the photo had been taken in the side yard.

I’m left with concluding that the picture was likely taken where her parents lived in the 1940s.

Background in pictures can be helpful in determining where a photograph might have been taken. If you think you know where a picture was taken, see if the background matches (at least reasonably closely) what should have been there at the time. In this case, county plat books or atlases could have been helpful. Road maps would also have been useful in determining what type of road was in use at the time.

Also do not jump to conclusions and give yourself some time to analyze something. Upon first analysis, I forgot that my maternal great-grandfather’s brother’s was to the east of his and, given it’s location across the road, should have appeared in a picture taken in their side yard.


Jamboree Schedule Live!

The schedule for the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Genealogy Jamboree has gone live and registrations are now being processed.

I’ll be giving two talks. One is on converting ancestral stories to children’s stories and the other is on DNA analysis when you have quite a few double and triple relationships to reasonably close cousins.

More details are on the Jamboree website.


What Have You Shared?

I recently rediscovered a letter my grandmother’s niece wrote to her in 1938. A little Google searching determined that the niece recently passed away and I decided to reach out to her one grandchild. I mentioned the letter and offered to share pictures of it if she was interested.

She was happy to get a copy of the letter written by her Grandma when she was 16 years of age. Our brief email exchange caused me to remember several stories about the niece’s mother (my Grandma’s sister) that I had nearly forgotten. Those all got written down in my own family history.

I’m glad I shared the letter. I know that I would be grateful if someone shared a similar letter with me. The jogging of my own memories was an added bonus.

What item do you have that could be shared with someone?


What I Know I Know

This was a little thought exercise I undertook partially for my own entertainment and partially to remind me of what people could know–particularly information in county histories and other published materials written before they were born. My knowledge of any years of birth in this discussion are, by the very nature of time and the fact I am discussing my grandparents, secondary.

What is not secondary is the fact that I know that these individuals acted as if they were siblings, were accepted as siblings, and were acknowledged by others in the communities. Their births all took place between forty-four and seventy years before my own birth and nearly one-hundred-and-twenty-five years before the time this post is written. That’s something to think about when I see a county history published in 1880 that references relationships of individuals born at the end of the 1700s and the beginning of the 1800s. That does not mean that those relationships are correct or that the person’s memory was infallible.

It just gives me perspective.

This exercise required me to try and put aside what I know from having been involved in genealogy research. That was, to be honest, difficult. I tried to think of times I met these people and things I knew or heard before I became involved in genealogy. The years my grandparents were always known to me–my family was never one to hide anyone’s age.

I tried as best I could to concentrate on what I knew because it was repeatedly told to me or repeatedly implied by the actions of others. This includes family gatherings, numerous funerals, various celebrations, random family visits, discussions about who was not speaking to whom, conversations where family members gossiped about their siblings (let’s be honest), and other stories I was told.

I know who all my paternal grandfather’s siblings were. I know my Grandpa was born in 1903–that was something I heard repeated numerous times. I know he was the oldest in his family and that he had two younger brothers and a younger sister. I know that his brother Herschel was the youngest of the entire family and that his sister, Nellie, was born before the youngest brother. That leaves his brother Ralph to have been the second oldest child. My grandfather died when I was six months old–I have no firsthand memory of him. I knew all three of his siblings having met them numerous times and always heard them refer to each other as siblings and to my grandfather as their oldest sibling. Even without genealogy, I knew the first names of each of my uncle’s wives and the first and last name of my grandfather’s sister’s husband.

I know who my paternal grandmother’s siblings were, but my knowledge there is not the same as it is with my grandfather. I know names of Grandma’s siblings: John, Luella, Babe (might have remembered his name was really Carl, but maybe not), Elmer, Lillie, and Pete (probably would have remembered his real name was Cecil). I only remember meeting Luella, Lillie, and Pete (all of whom I met numerous times). I would have known John was the oldest and that he died during the Depression in a car crash. Aunt Luella’s year of birth I would have remembered, but only because she was born in 1900 and her age “went with the years” as Grandma (and my Dad) would say. The youngest three children were (in order) Lillie, my Grandma, and Pete. Lillie was older than Grandma by a bit, and Pete was the baby of the family. The two older brothers birth order eludes me. They always acknowledged each other as siblings and were known as siblings.

I knew all my maternal grandfather’s siblings. I always knew my Grandfather was the oldest (born in 1917), that his sister Ruth was the youngest, and that their brother Herb was born before Ruth. There were two other brothers LeRoy and Alvin, but to be honest I always get mixed up which one of them was oldest. I met all of them numerous times as they all were alive when I was born as were their spouses. Their mother was actually alive until I was in my late teens. This is probably the family where I have the most first hand knowledge of everyone in the immediate family.

My maternal grandmother was the youngest of seven children born in 1924. If asked only to rely on memory, I would know all their first names (although it might take me a minute to get all of them, but I can always remember there were a total of seven): Margaret, Greta, Ruth, Anna, John, Edward, and Dorothy (my grandmother). Uncle Ed was closest in age to Grandma and I think Anna and Margaret were the two oldest children. I’d be reasonably certain of the names of the spouses of most of the ones who lived near where I grew up (Ruth, John, and Edward). Margaret lived in the town where I grew up, but her husband passed well before I was born.

Of course, thanks to genealogy research I have filled in the blanks in these families. This little exercise was just to help remind me that what I know is similar to what someone else may not. I also have to be aware that my experience may be unique and that not everyone may know as much about their grandparents’ siblings as do I. My knowledge is a factor of many things and I need to remember that as well.

Something for me to think about when I analyze something written in an 1880 biography. It doesn’t mean what aspects of it are true and what ones are not–but that I need to think about what the informant might have reasonably known.

My knowledge of the years of my grandparents’ birth is only as reliable as their knowledge.

What do you know and how do you know it?


John Tinsley, Signing for his Son James

Part of the Agreement the heirs of Isaac Rucker entered into in 1799

It was December of 1799 and the family of Isaac Rucker, Senr., of Amherst County, Virginia, wanted to allot his widow, Mildred, her dower in his farm and allot to his children their proportion of the estate.

Final part of the Agreement the heirs of Isaac Rucker entered into in 1799

Isaac’s widow and her children signed the document. Her sons actually signed the document. It was different for her daughters. Achilles Reynolds, married to Isaac’s daughter Elizabeth, signed for that share of the estate. The other daughter, Susanna, was married to James Tinsley. Apparently neither of them were present at the Christmastime 1799 Rucker family meeting. So instead of Susannah signing in her own right–which she could not do because she was married–or James signing for her share, James’ father, John Tinsley, signs for him.

Signatures on the 1799 Rucker heir agreement

There’s no power-of-attorney from James to John given. But John Tinsley is styled as the father of James Tinsley, husband of Susannah Rucker (daughter of Isaac). He signs the document as John Tinsley “for his son James.”

There are several James Tinsleys in the Tinsley family of Amherst County. This document makes it clear that the James Tinsley who married Susannah Rucker was the son of John Tinsley. I wish I just had other documents as detailed as this.

There’s a little more work I need to do with this James Tinsley–particularly to see if there are other documents in this court case that help pinpoint just where he was in December of 1799 when he was not at the Rucker estate discussion.

The Ruckers, in their 1799 agreement, appointed Colonel Ambrose Rucker, Spencer Norvell, James Hill, Phillip Johnson, and Reuben Norvell to create the allotment for Mildred and the children without an order of the court. As fate would have it, they ended up in court anyway.

More about that in our next post.


Thomas J. Rampley died in 1823

We aren’t always able to get time frames when people die in locations and time periods when vital records are not recorded. In some cases, other records allow us to ascertain a specific date of death for an individual. The date a will was signed often can be a “last alive” date for an individual. But not everyone who dies leaves a valid will. Fortunately Thomas J. Rampley of Coshocton County, Ohio, left enough assets and obligations when he died in probably Coshocton County, in 1823.

The last known record presumably done while Thomas was alive was when he loaned $20 to John Salmons and a note was signed to confirm the debt. By early August 1823, Thomas Rampley was deceased.

Coshocton County, Ohio, Will Records, Volume 1, page 376:

On 7 August 1823 letters of administration were issued to James Shores by the Court of Common Pleas for Coshocton County, Ohio–indicating Thomas was dead by that date.

Coshocton County, Ohio, Will Records, Volume 2b, page 401:

The inventory of the Estate of Thomas J. Rampley, dec’d., indicated as one of the notes due Thomas one one of John Salmons “bearing date of April 18th 1823…”

Assuming Thomas was alive on the date the note was signed, he would have last been alive on 18 April 1823. He would have been dead by 7 August 1823 according to the date letters of administration were issued to settle his estate. It’s likely he had been dead at least a few days before letters were issued to settle his estate.

Court was not held every day and the Rampleys would have had to wait until the next term of court to petition that the settlement of Thomas’ estate begin. But there’s nothing in the record to indicate how long Thomas had been dead. State statute likely had terminology indicating within how many days of a death an estate proceeding had to begin.

But all we know is what is in the records. In April of 1823 Thomas loaned a likely neighbor $20. By August he was dead.

Come to think of it, we don’t really know it was a neighbor that Thomas loaned money to. There’s nothing in the record indicating where Salmon lived at the time, but it likely was nearby. He’s not a known relative of Thomas or of Thomas’ wife Christianna.

When one combs through all the estate accountings, there are sometimes more than just financial details in that list of debits and credits.