07 October 2013

William Newton Morris

I got a huge lead this week from an obituary that was posted online. The obit was for Ethel Marie Gage Morris Yancey. She was married to Orville Merian Morris. Orville was the youngest son of William Newton Morris and Mary Adline "Mamie" Witcher. William Newton Morris and my 2nd Great Grandfather, James Robert Morris, were brothers.

Ethel Gage Morris Yancey
(Photo by MACW)

The obituary, dated 1995, listed four surviving children, all residing in Arkansas. With the help of whitepages.com, I decided to see if I could find a phone number for any of the kids that were listed in the obit. I called a number listed for one of the sons and no one answered the phone. So, I looked for a number for the other son and, sure enough, someone said, "Hello."

Now, I'm not a big fan of making 'cold calls,' because you never know how they are going to go. Thoughts went through my mind, like, "These people aren't going to talk to me. They're probably too busy. They're going to think I'm crazy. Nobody does this." But, I've found, the more you make them, the easier they are to make.

I said, "Hello, is this Dub?" The aged voice on the other end said, "Yes, who is this?" I told him my name and that I thought we were related. He was immediately interested and wanted to know the connection. I told him that our great grandfathers were brothers and verified with him the links from them to us. He was able to confirm my suspicions.

Dub is 77 years old and never knew much about the Morris family. It turns out that his parents divorced when he was young and his dad moved off to Florida and his mother remained in Arkansas. I gathered that Orville didn't have much to do with his family after he moved away. Therefore, Dub never learned about his fathers side of the family.

Our conversation went on for the next twenty minutes, or so, and in the end, Dub was very thankful that I gave him a call.

Moral of the story: don't be afraid to pick up the phone and make that call! You never know what you'll learn.

William Newton Morris with Grandchildren
(Photo by gailg500)

10 September 2013

Charles Thomas Wright, DDS

I found this newspaper advertisement for my ggg-grandfather, Charles Thomas Wright, in the Mayfield Messenger. The ad ran in 1888. Dr. Wright was a "circuit dentist" and would travel all around Western Kentucky. As the ad mentions, he was in Mayfield "the first week in each month."

I thought it was ironic that his office was located above "Stark's Confectionery."

01 October 2011

Headstone WIN!

Why can't any of my ancestor's have this much information on their headstones?

Elizabeth Adalean Brierley Stephenson
Maplewood Cemetery - Mayfield, Graves, Kentucky, USA

I guess it would make my job too easy...

26 September 2011

Insurance Maps 101

I have been interested in family research for several years now and love finding new approches to finding information about my family. I had never heard of fire insurance maps before taking a class in my final semester of college, last semester (Spring 2011). The class was titled Local and Oral History and focused on obtaining and preserving items of local historical interest. To be honest, one of the main reasons that I took the class was to see if I could discover new (to me) resources that would help me in my pursuit of researching my family tree.

While learning about downtown historic district preservation I was introduced to the Sanborn maps. In case this is new to you, too. The Sanborn maps were maps drawn by the Sanborn Insurance Company from 1867 to 1970. There purpose was to estimate fire insurance liabilities. The most common years range from 1900 to the 1930s. These maps include detailed information about homes and businesses for over 12,000 US cities and towns. They list building materials used (brick/wood), heating sources, names of business owners for larger businesses, and more.

I immediately went home and googled Sanborn maps for Mayfield, Graves Co., Kentucky. I could not find a free central database that contains all of the maps, so finding the maps for the city that you want takes a little bit of searching. I finally found a website that had the maps that I was looking for. It actually has maps for many Kentucky cities (the maps are on the Kentuckiana Digital Library website). For Mayfield, the website has maps for 1886, 1892, 1897, 1901, 1905, 1910, and 1916.

Earlier I posted a picture of my 3rd Great Grandfather posing in front of his grocery store. The back of the photo, which was made into a postcard, says that the grocery store was located on West Broadway in Mayfield. So, my first mission was to find my grandfather's store on the map. The photo is not dated, but based on several things I believe it to be from the 1910s or 1920s. He died in 1932.

I started my search with the 1901 map, searched every building on West Broadway and found... nothing. So, I went to the 1905 map. Again, nothing. I had the same response from the 1910 and 1916 maps. I felt like the store had to be there somewhere. So, I changed my approach and decided to look on East Broadway. Since I still had the 1916 map still up, I started my search there. Sure enough, I found a building that matches the description of my grandfather's store. It is the very last building on the right of the map. It almost didn't make the cut!

Source: Kentuckiana Digital Library.

The building is labeled 'gro.,' is made of wood, is rectangular, and has a front porch. It lists the address of the grocery store as 700 East Broadway. From there, I went to Google Maps and searched the address and looked at the Street View (since I don't live near Mayfield). The site is now a parking lot for a pawn shop. I'm sure grandpa would be proud :)

Source: Google Maps.

I'm not 100% sure that this was where my grandfathers store once stood. But now, at least, I have an address that I can research at the county courthouse! I can't wait to see what I can find!

For me, finding the Sanborn maps was worth the price of the course.

19 September 2011

Countdown to the 1940 Census!


20 August 2011

Sometimes You Get What You Pay For!

For several years I have been researching information about my 4th Great Grandfather, William Thomas Morris. His trail ends with the 1880 census (like so many others) in Mayfield, Graves, Kentucky. I have no death or burial information for him or his wife, Sarah Goad.

One thing that I have been able to do, with some success, is find information about his children. I have ten of them recorded. Of the ten, I have been successful finding sufficient records for five of them. I wanted to share some insights to how I found information for these. Maybe I can work backwards and find more information for William and Sarah.

According the 1880 census, William's youngest daughter, Celestia, was born in Arkansas in 1873. At the time her and her family were living in Graves County, Kentucky. That's were, until recently, the trail ended for her. Naturally, I would spend the vast majority of my energy looking for her in Kentucky.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a guy through a message on Ancestry that asked if I had information on a Selestia Garner whose maiden name was Morris. He said that she was born on 20 Jan 1874, possibly in Kentucky. This immediately sounded good to me. Maybe this was my Celestia. I sent him the limited information that I had for her and he sent me his information. But, I still was not 100% convinced.

He also added that his died in Greene County, Arkansas in 1936. I was looking in the wrong place. This was making more and more sense to me. Sometime prior to the 1870 census, William moved his family to Arkansas. However, by 1874 (Celestia's birthday), the family was back in Kentucky. Over the next few years, some of the children moved back to Arkansas. Celestia's older brother, Jasper L., was one of them. I found him several years ago. He and his wife are buried in, you guessed it, Greene County, Arkansas. Why didn't I think of looking for Celestia in Arkansas a long time ago? I wish I would have!

When I do my research, I have to have facts. Some people are satisfied with possibilities, but that's not me. I want some proof. Sometimes that proof costs a little bit more money. But, to me, it's worth it. I went to VitalChek and ordered a death certificate for Selestia Garner. A few days later, I received the certificate in the mail and, sure enough, Celestia and Selestia was the same person. Her DC lists her father and mother as William Morris and Sallie Goad. Money!

What did I learn for this experience? Several things. First, when you run into a dead end, look to where siblings moved. Selestia wasn't born in Arkansas, so she really didn't have any connections there except for the fact that her older brother lived there. It turned out that's where she was. Second, messages and message boards work. Don't be afraid to send messages, even when you don't have a lot of information. The person who messaged me had very little information. He had a birthdate, maiden name, and a wrong place of birth... that's it. But, I was able to piece things together and in the end it really helped both of us out. Sometimes it ends good like this; more often it doesn't. But, it's always worth a shot. Last, sometimes you have to spend a little bit to get the answers you need. I place a lot of stock in death certificates. I have found that they rarely have incorrect information. Whereas census and other records are often wrong. In this situation, the death certificate sealed the deal and provided the answers that were needed.

While sometimes you have to pay for the good stuff, sometimes you can get lucky and find the information for free. My #1 free go to is FindAGrave! I love that website. I find as many family connections through email from FindAGrave as I do through Ancestry. I also just learned that if you need Texas death certificates, FamilySearch is your place to go. A lot of times I think that if it's not on Ancestry, it's probably not out there. I'm learning more and more that that's not true. Ancestry doesn't have very many, if any, Texas death certificates, but most of the ones that are available can be found for free on FamilySearch.

08 July 2011

Kissing Cousins

I know that most families have at least one couple in their tree that along with being husband and wife also happen to be first cousins. Although, it may not have been too unusual a century or so ago, from today's viewpoint, it is still a shocking discovery.

I recently discovered just that sort of situation. The most shocking thing about the find is that is came from a side of the family that I would have never expected. The Wright's of Graves County, Kentucky, were by most accounts, very upstanding citizens. The local precinct was named after them, one donated the land and building for the community church (of which he served as pastor), one was a dentist, ect. So here is what I found...

William James Wright and Catherine Sibert were the parents of Josiah Thomas Wright. William's brother was Rev. Robert Thackston Wright. He and his wife, Eleanor Brame, had a daughter named Fredonia. When Fredonia was 23 years old she married her first cousin, Josiah Thomas Wright. He was 22.

07 January 2011

Family Friday: Rose

This is a family Bible that I have had in my possession for several years. This Bible was printed in 1812. It is the family Bible of Timothy Rose that was born 1 Jun 1762 in Granville, Massachusetts. He was a member of the Licking Company that founded Granville, Ohio. He was also a Revolutionary War soldier. The Bible contains the Apocrypha and family records.

I have contacted the Rose Family Association in an attempt to return the Bible to the Rose Family.

ETA: I decided to donate the Timothy Rose Family Bible to the Granville Historical Museum. The museum was very pleased with the donation.

04 January 2011

Wordless Wednesday

My Grandfather, William Herman "Billy" Morris (1933-2004)

Tombstone Tuesday: Thomas Bannister Morris

Thomas Bannister Morris (1809-1886)
Thomas Bannister Morris is the furthest back that I have been able to trace back in my Morris Family Tree. He moved his family from Graves County, Kentucky to Van Zandt County, Texas in 1858. He and his wife, Sarah (1808-1866), had, at least, seven children:

William T. Morris (1829-)
A. Morris (1833-)
Lucy Ann Morris (1835-1885)
Melissa Morris (1838-)
Elijah Newton Morris (1841-1916)
John Polk Morris (1844-1921)
T. B. Morris (1846-)

The Morris Cemetery in the community of China Grove is named after Sarah Morris.

23 December 2010

DNA Dilemma

For several months I have contemplated doing a DNA test for genealogical purposes. But my dilemma is trying to determine which one to take. I know that there are several legitimate companies out there that offer this service, but I have narrowed it down to just a few.

1. FamilyTreeDNA seems to have several great benefits. I like the way that the haplogroups are organized. They also create a fund that members can contribute to so that other family members can take a test at discounted rates. I can take a 37 Marker Y-DNA test for a discounted rate of $119.00.

2. 23&Me also seems like a good deal. Their website states that their test is normally $499.00, but is on sale for $99.00 through Christmas Day. The only catch is that you must enroll in a $5/month subscription service. I also could not find how many markers are tested.

3. Ancestry.com also offers a DNA testing service. You can get a 33 Marker test for $149.00 or a 46 Marker test for $179.00. I currently have an Ancestry account, so the integration would be seamless. However, you can manually import your DNA results from other companies and still utilize many of Ancestry's benefits.

Have you used one of these services or possibly another? I would love your feedback. As of right now I am leaning towards FamilyTreeDNA.

ETA: I decided to go with the FamilyTreeDNA test. It has been ordered (24 Dec). I will post the process.

15 December 2010

Wordless Wednesday

James Robert Morris standing outside his grocery store on West Broadway in Mayfield, Kentucky.
Date and exact location unknown.

14 December 2010

Tragic Tuesday

While I was researching some of those that are buried in the Wright's Chapel Cemetery in Graves Co., Kentucky, I came across a death certificate that said Cause of Death: "Drowning Suicidal." Her name was Josephine "Josie" Stubblefield Jones.

Josie was the wife of Luther David Jones. He died on 24 Jul 1909. I emailed Bill Foy, a volunteer at the Graves County Library, to see if he could find out anything about her death. I received an email back with the following newspaper article attached.

It reads:

Mrs. Josie Jones Suicides By Drowning

Mrs. Josie Jones, living south of the city, near the home of J. T. George, was found dead early Sunday morning, where she has drowned herself in a pond some time during the latter part of the night.

It seems that she had walked into the water, which was about four feet deep, and took her life by holding her head under the water until life was extinct.

Her body was discovered by her brother and wife while making a search for her. The body was in a partial standing attitude.

Mrs. ones had been in slightly ill health for the past year, but had every appearance of enjoying the perfect health. She had not complained, but acted rather unconcerned and strangely for the past few days. She was about 36 years of age and was a daughter of Tandy Stubblefield, living west of Mayfield, where a big birthday dinner was given last Friday and which Mrs. Jones attended.

It is thought that she left her room sometime after midnight Saturday and walked to the pond. She had taken a braid off her head and laid it down near the water. The pond is near the house. 

She is survived by one son, Alton Jones, aged about 15 years.

The funeral will be held Tuesday morning at 10 o'clock at Wright's Chapel.

Coroners Verdict.

"We, the jury, find from the evidence that Mrs. L. L. Jones came to her death on the night of Sept. 11, 1915 by drowning herself in a pond. No person was present when it happened.

A. L. Wilson,
H. C. Warren,
G. O. McPherson,
B. T. Byrd,
R. L. Bennett,
S. A. Cross.


The question that is always wondered in these type of situations is, "Why?" It will probably never be answered. Maybe the stress of raising a teenage boy alone was too much to handle. Maybe other things were in play. Who really knows what a person is dealing with?

13 December 2010

Missing Piece Monday

Every genealogist comes to the place where the road simply stops. For me, the road stopped with my 4th Great Grandfather, William T. Morris.

What I do know is that William T. (possibly Thomas) was born abt 1829 in either Tennessee or Kentucky (depending on which source you are looking at). In the late 1860s he moved his family from Graves Co., to Independence Co., Arkansas. For the past two years that is all the information that I could find.

I have researched libraries from Graves Co., KY, to Batesville, AR, looking for any information that I could find. I always came up empty-handed. The thought even crossed my mind to hire someone (a "professional") to help me out. But what kind of a researcher would I be if I let someone else do the work for me? So, for two years I have gone without any answers.

The 1870 US Census shows WT's family as:

William T Morris, 41
Sarah M Morris, 38
Caleb B Morris, 15
Mary Morris, 13
John F Morris, 12
Martha B Morris, 10
James R Morris, 8
William Morris, 7
Louisa J Morris, 2
Jasper E Morris, 2/12

I have only been able to find information for two of the children, James R. and Jasper E. James Robert was the easy one. He is my 3rd Great Grandfather. He was businessman in Graves Co., owning a small grocery store on West Broadway in Mayfield. The grocery store must have been outside the city limits as he is not listed in the City Directory in 1928 or 1930. More to come...

10 December 2010

Lost In The Woods

Over Thanksgiving Break I began the process of restoring the Wright's Chapel Cemetery in Graves Co., Kentucky. It is located six miles northwest of Mayfield on Highway 80. The cemetery contains over 40 known burials.

Josiah McGehee Wright came to Graves County from Warren County, Kentucky, in 1837. He and his son, William James Wright, bought 480 acres of land four miles east of Fancy Farm. He was a devout Methodist and since there was no church nearby, he offered his home as a meeting place for the traveling circuit rider.

In 1845, a log schoolhouse was built in the neighborhood that had become known as the Wright's Chapel neighborhood. Two years later the church was officially organized and met in the schoolhouse. In 1866, a new church building was built. That same year Josiah McGehee Wright's son, Robert Thackston Wright, became the pastor of the church, a position he held for 65 years.

The schoolhouse and the church are all now long gone. All that remains is an abandoned cemetery that is... lost in the woods.