Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's almost not fair

Doing genealogy research today is so much easier than in years past if you use the resources available online. The software I use, Family Tree Maker allows me to highlight a person and search online for any record about them at with one click. Anything I find is then added to their record in the database.

In the past you would have to search microfilm records for hours to locate one census record on the family you were looking for and then have to transcribe it.

I just started using a new software program called GenSmarts that is supposed to take my entire database of 60,000 people and locate records on them from any online source. I haven't used it enough to figure out how well it works but the concept is amazing.

There are so many other records online that for most people looking for family history there is no reason to go to a court house or library anymore. Social security death records are published each month and put online for free. Cemetery records are available for free at and several other places and literally thousands of records are being added each day.

For those who spent their entire genealogy career doing research with paper and microfilm records the advances would probably be considered unfair. But our goal is to locate information on our ancestors and using what is available is the way it has always been done. We just have the fortune to see the resources online.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Trail of tears

My wife Mary and I took a vacation to Mentone Springs, Alabama two years ago during spring break. We had a great time staying at a small B&B that was once a hotel, built over 120 years ago.

The spring that gave them the name was destroyed by a CCC water project in the 1930s. We were there during their off season so had the place to ourselves.

The Mentone Springs Hotel has a lot of antiques and interesting decorations. Mary found an old "Uncle Sam" quilt and has now made one just like it, using our photos as the only pattern. After she has made quilts for pretty much all our family and friends, I told her this one was mine.

Mentone Springs is a few miles from Fort Payne, Alabama which was one of the main army forts used to imprison Cherokees prior to their removal to Oklahoma. We were surprised there wasn't much of a recognition of this in the community.

We found a small road marker and that was about it. They have dozens of billboards and a big museum honoring the band Alabama which was from the area but not much for one of the big events in the history of the South. Moving the Cherokees out of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee allowed it to be settled by whites, the creation of the large farms and plantations and set the groundwork for the economy for the next 100 years.

While at Mentone Springs we took a day trip about 20 miles away to Stevenson, Alabama where her Longacre ancestors were supposed to have lived. We had only vague information about a cemetery where Thomas and Judith Ireson Longacre were buried. Amazingly we found Longacre Cemetery very quickly.

Thomas and Judith are the only Longacres buried there so I guess it was named for them. They owned land in the area and it looks like their graves were the oldest.

Judith Longacre died in 1858 and Thomas died in 1863. His marker has been broken but is still readable. Judith's has ornate carvings.

Their children left Alabama around 1860 and moved to Texas and Missouri. I doubt their children ever came back to see their grave markers so we were probably the first relatives to see them in over 100 years.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Church built of the Rock

My wife's ancestor, Jesse Caraway donated the five acres of land to build the Rock Church in Hood County Texas on the bank of the Paluxy river in 1875.

Hood County was still Indian Territory when Caraway moved there from West Tennessee. They had to build structures they could defend from attacks. They built the church building out of rocks they quarried from the nearby river.
The deed called for the church building to also be used as a school and the second floor of the building as a Masonic lodge.

For five years it was open to any Christian faith and then reverted to use of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. This was the denomination formed in 1844 in southern States to continue support for slavery. It operated until 1939 when it merged into the Methodist Episcopal Church and later was called The United Methodist Church.

In the early 1900s the community built a suspension bridge across the river to get to the church. It has since fallen onto hard times but is still standing. Jesse Caraway and his wife, Elizabeth Keathley are both buried in the church cemetery.

Know all men by these presents that I Jesse CARAWAY of the County of Hood and State of Texas for the purpose of having a church / a school house and a Masonic Lodge in my neighborhood on [the] Paluxy in Hood County [have] given / donated and conveyed and do by these presents give / donate and convey unto my neighborhood and the following named Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church South namely A. JACKSON / C.A. CRITES / Jesse V. BROOKS and their successors and to the Literary School house and Masonic Lodge the following tract or parcel of land to-wit: It being a part and parcel of the J.S. Black survey deeded to me and a part of the identical tract of land on which I now reside Beginning at a Black Jack marked XX standing N 75 E 43-5/8 varas from the South East chimney of said house Thence South 240 varas to a stake a live oak brs S 60 E 8 vrs Thence N 50 W 120 vrs a pile of rock a live oak brs N 70½ E 19½ vars Thence North 40 E 240 vrs to a plum tree marked XX thence S 50 E 120 to the place of beginning Containing five acres of land.

Now it is understood by this deed that the lower room of the house built on the above land shall be used for a Church by all Christain [sic] denominations for the period of five years from this date and after that time the Methodist Episcopal Church South is to have full control of said lower room of said house except in the matter of the Literary School which shall be controlled by the trustees appointed by the patrons of the school.

It is also understood that the upper room of the house built on said land shall be controlled by the Masonic Fraternity of that neighborhood and may be used if necessary for a literary school room.

Hereby giving and granting unto the Trustees of said house and the parties herein mentioned the above described land free from the claims of myself / my heirs or assigns forever and I the said Jesse CARAWAY do hereby warrant and defend the Title to the above land against the claims of all persons claiming the same or any part thereof.
Witness my hand and seal this May 22nd 1875

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Take me home

Eunice Amelia Thomas was the 2nd wife of James Edward Guthrie, of Cortez, Florida. Jim Guthrie (1857-1924) was one of the early settlers of Cortez, coming in the 1880s from Carteret County North Carolina.

His first wife was Charlotte J. Foreman, first cousin of my Great Grandmother, Sallie Adams Fulford.
Charlotte died in 1893 so Jim went back to North Carolina to find himself another wife. There weren't many eligible women around Cortez at the time. That hasn't changed much in 100 years.

He married Eunice and brought her to Cortez to help care for the two children that Charlotte had born. They had seven children themselves so there was a full house.

Eunice lived in Cortez for 60 years but it must not have ever felt like home. She told her children she wanted to be buried back in North Carolina at the old "home place".
So when she died in 1958 they took her back to the Swansboro Community and she was buried in the Hadnot's Creek Primitive Baptist Church next to her parents.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Doughboy to Flyboy

My dad didn't fly jets like my brother in law Tom but he did fly. His interest in airplanes came about after several years of selling bread. How he got from delivering bread to grocery stores in Jacksonville, Florida to flying for the Army Air Corps in Panama is an interesting story.

Daddy went to the University of Florida after high school, but starting college in 1930 wasn't exactly great timing. He had saved some money and had an uncle who was a history professor at UF but he still ran out of money after one year.

He found a job selling bread and moved to Jacksonville. While there he met Harvey Dobbs, who sold for a competing bread company. He said they used to move each others bread products out of sight or to the bottom shelf since they delivered to the same stores. The competition actually helped them develop a friendship that lasted for over 50 years.

Harvey's father Arthur Dobbs was an inventor and when Daddy went to Miami with Harvey on a trip he met his father and got hooked on airplanes. Arthur Dobbs was mechanically inclined and invented a carburetor system for planes that allowed them to fly upside down. He had his own plane and took my Dad up flying.

Daddy said he decided then and there he wanted to fly planes. He hung around Mr Dobbs for a while, flew every chance he got and even went to New York with him trying to sell the carburetor to the military.

With no money and no experience the only way to fly was to find someone else who had a plane. Uncle Sam was the obvious choice so he contacted an Army recruiter. They of course told him whatever was necessary to get him to sign. He held off when they wouldn't guarantee he could fly and I guess he didn't want to end up cleaning latrines.

Finally he found out he could take a test and qualify for flight school. Having always been a good student he decided to enlist and on July 18, 1936 at 24 years of age joined the Army Air Corps. He was shipped off to the France Field at the Panama Air Depot. He left Brooklyn, New York on September 1, 1936 via a troop carrier. After a while in Panama he was able to fly the WWI era planes they had down there.

His dream was flight school at Randolph Field in Texas so after getting up in the air in Panama he started applying and doing whatever was necessary to get into flight school. Finally on September 30, 1937 he was sent from Panama to the Air Corps Primary Flying School, Randolph Field, Texas.

Unfortunately he found flight school was a lot harder than the flying he had done in Panama and he was now over 26 years old, past the age of other recruits. After six months he was disqualified from flight school for a "flying deficiency." My Dad was not one to give up easily, a trait he never lost. He was sure he could pass flight school, saw others get a second chance and after all his work wanted one for himself.

He contacted an old friend from Perry, Florida who now happened to be a United States Senator from Florida. Claude Pepper went right to the top, Brigadier General James Eugene Chaney who at the time was Assistant Chief of the Army Air Corps. Unfortunately the Army didn't appreciate a lowly Air Cadet trying to pull strings and denied his request. He never got back into flight school but stayed in the military and eventually flew as the bombardier on bombers with the 9th Bomb Group in the Pacific theatre.