Thursday, May 31, 2012

Don't Cry for Me Argentina

I wrote another story a while back about finding a photo of a distant relative from old Passport applications. I happened on another file for Guy Willis from Carteret County, North Carolina. He would have been my first cousin, 3 times removed. He was born in 1881 and died in 1946.

His mother, Susan Fulford Willis was the sister of my great great grandfather, David Fulford. As far as I know Guy never married. He was always listed as single on census records and on his death certificate.

In 1921 he was working as an accountant for Armour and Company of Chicago, Illinois and they sent him on an extended trip to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. I found the original passport application he sent in on September 24, 1918 and then this one, dated April 17, 1921.

He had been living abroad for two and a half years and lost his passport. So had the US Embassy in Buenos Aires replace it so he could go home.

The Armour Company was a meat packing company and slaughterhouse that was started in Chicago in 1867. I guess they sent Guy to South America to keep up with the finances of animals or meat they were sending to the US.

An interesting story about the company is that they started making consumer products from what was left over after they sent the good parts of the animal to the butchers. In 1948 they figured out how to put an anti-bacterial agent into the mix and named it Dial soap. Maybe you can find some of it in your shower.

When he died in 1946 Guy Willis was listed as the Credit Manager for the company.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Who do you think you are?

I wrote about the Melungeons of East Tennessee and Appalachia several years ago after doing some research for my Dad's cousin Hubert.  He asked me to find out if his great grandmother Eleanor Marzenah Bunch was Native American. 

I came across the story of the Melungeons because her family name, Bunch is associated with the group. The stories said they were descendants of either Native Americans or early Portuguese explorers. My research showed no connection between Marzenah's family and the Bunch family in East Tennessee.

Well now they have released DNA test results on dozens of people who had family ties to the Melungeons and all the tests show their ancestors came from Africa not Europe.

In fact, offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women. There have been court cases going back 150 years where family members successfully argued they were not black but Portuguese. A necessary claim to live in peace during the slavery and post Civil War era.

DNA doesn't lie, you don't always get results that are this definitive from the tests for genealogical research but you always find out something you didn't know before.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hell would be to rent out

William Alexander Lafayette Rawls was married to Eliza Matilda Graham, the sister of my great great grandmother Vashti Graham Wilson.

He was born February 4, 1840 in Tallahassee, Florida and died in Myakka, which was then in Manatee County Florida on January 10, 1907.

In between those 67 years he fought in the Florida Indian Wars, spent four years in the 7th Florida Regiment during the Civil War and then settled down in Manatee County, married Eliza and had nine children with her.

A few years before his death the Manatee River Journal ran a small article about him which ended with the statement in the title of this post. I don't remember how I found the article but thought is was a nice tribute.

I found this photo of him and Eliza in my great grandmother's papers.

October 18, 1903 Manatee River Journal

W.A.L. Rawls of Miakka is in some respects the most remarkable man in Manatee County, if not in the entire state.

He has been a citizen of this county as long, perhaps longer than any other man now living, coming from Leon County in the early '50's and settling first on the Manatee River, where he remained but a few years before removing to Miakka, then inhabited solely by wild bears and game.

Mr. Rawls has surrounded himself with the necessaries of life, raised a large family to man and womanhood, has never been spoken evil of by any one, and has never in all his life employed the professional services of a doctor or lawyer.

Although he possesses a fair education when we consider the opportunities of his day, he has not written a letter, business or otherwise, since he wrote home to his friends from the battlefields during the Civil War, in which he spent four years a brave and valiant soldier.

Some wag has said, "If all men were like Bill Rawls, Hell would be to rent out."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Truck Farmer

You start to see the term on census records from the 1920s and 30s, Truck Farmer. I guess you could say my grandfather Millard Fillmore Green had a truck farm, except he didn't have a truck or a car either. He just found family or friends to help taxi his crops to market.
He grew vegetables on a couple empty lots next to his house in Perry, Florida and sold the produce to the local grocery stores. He did it up until he turned 90.

I've seen several other relatives who had Truck Farmer listed as as their occupation. Several are listed that way on the 1940 census that was just released.

When we moved to our house in Memphis the neighborhood was being developed on land that used to be a farm. There was an old abandoned truck on the other side of the lake, half buried in the mud. It stayed there for several years until they started building houses around it.

After 15 years of development, landscaping, etc the only thing left visible from the old truck or the farm, is this one piece of sheet metal.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Don't blame me, but...

I wrote a story about Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren recently and the problems tracing her Native American family tree. Well, there has been a firestorm over her Teepee since then.

News folks from both paper and the web have been lambasting her claim and have now confirmed the 1894 marriage license application never existed. They didn't even have application forms until around 1950 in Oklahoma.

In fact her proof came down to a family tree some guy put on!

Give me a break, who pays attention to online family trees anymore? This is the source of her claim and why Harvard University listed her as their Native American Law Professor?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Rewrite the History Books

It's fun finding a piece of history about your family that was lost to current memory. Several years ago I located a reference in an 1893 New Bern, NC newspaper to a distant grandfather being recognized as the first white male born in the Carolinas. I later found the same fact in a book written by the North Carolina Division of Archives. Certainly no one living in my family had ever heard of this.

Another North Carolina family connection to a piece of US history is the location of the Lost Colony settlement. We grew up being taught they started the first colony on the shores of Roanoke Island in the late 1500s. I recently came across folks who are certain the 115 colonist from Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition were actually setting up housekeeping on Cedar Island, located in the northeast corner of Carteret County, NC.   My wife and I drove to Cedar Island when we were visiting the area several years ago, just to see the coastal highway.

I had no idea there was a 400 year old controversy brewing there at the time. One of my distant cousins, who follows this blog, sent me an email about the story a while back and I decided to look into it. Jean Day wrote a book called "Cedar Island Fisher Folk" in 1994 that tells the Lost Colony story that had been passed down in her family for generations.

In fact there have been scholarly reports that proposed the Lost Colony settlement location was really on Cedar Island going back to at least the 1940s. They based this on the journals that survived, measurements and descriptions of the island, the physical layout of the North Carolina Coast and the currents and tidal action around Roanoke Island that would have not allowed the English ships to get close to it but match Cedar Island perfectly. There are also a Spanish explorer's report from 1606 about finding white men in the Cedar Island area.

So how do white settlers stay in an area so close to the later expeditions and remain hidden from view? The local account is they decided to live with the Indians, taking Indian wives and enjoying the land they had found. That is after all what their original purpose was in crossing the Ocean. They raised their families, planted crops, fished and lived out their life, happy to be in a good place. If you want to read all the technical arguments, pick up Day's book or find a copy of "Riddle of the Lost Colony" by Melvin Robinson, or read the many newspaper articles about the Cedar Island connection using Google news. There is also a recent  news flash about an old map supposedly with invisible ink showing the secret location of the Lost Colony, not at Roanoke Island.

For me the interesting part is the strong belief that has carried down over the centuries from those who live on Cedar Island. They have documentation of place names and deeds going back to the 1700s in the names of Berry, Smith and others who were part of the colony and the same names are found there today. Many of these are related to my family via multiple marriage connections. That is what happens when they stay in the same place for centuries.

But for the folks who live on Cedar Island today, there is no question where their ancestors came from. They've always known they were from the Lost Colony settlement! They tell you, their folks were never lost, they always knew where they were, it was the English explorers and financiers back home who were lost.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Luther's revenge

I wrote a story several months ago about my grandmother's cousin Luther Wilson who most of the family would probably just as soon forget. One of my Wilson cousins did some checking after seeing it and found the Orlando Sentinel had written a couple stories about the Deputy he killed in 1919 after one of his jail breaks. Their articles were published in May of 2011.

The reporter tried in vain to determine what had happened to Luther Wilson but the Florida Prison officials couldn't find the records. That should come as no surprise since they had such a difficult time keeping track of Luther or keeping him on the right side of the prison bars.

I helped the reporter with the rest of the story and they published it as an update.

The paper's interest in the story was to get Deputy B.C. Wilcox's name added to a Fallen Officer Memorial in Tavares, Florida.

Lake County Florida added another name to the memorial for a Deputy who was killed in 1929 and then the paper came across the story of Deputy Wilcox who's name had been omitted also. Well this week, 93 years later, the name of  Deputy Bob C. Wilcox was added to the memorial.The ceremony included a bagpipe tribute, Three volley rifle salute and helicopter flyover.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cherokee Nation

In case you missed it, there was a funny story coming out of Massachusetts this week and it had nothing to do with Mitt Romney, his wife or his dog.

The leading candidate for their US Senate seat, Elizabeth Warren was caught red handed, or not. She has been claiming Native American ancestry for over 25 years in several jobs at major universities. Harvard, the Vanderbilt of the northeast has her listed as their diversity program poster child as a Native American Female Law Professor.

Unfortunately in a big money political campaign people check out your resume. If you give her the benefit of the doubt, she is really only 1/32 Cherokee. That is the same as my wife and her five siblings but they have never been able to turn it into a job preference. We couldn't even get a tuition break at Florida State University for my daughters, where they do everything they can to enroll Native Americans. I wrote about my wife's Cherokee ancestor in another story.

I suspect there will be several cases of white-out sold in Boston this weekend since there is no proof of Elizabeth Warren's Native American ancestry. She claims there was a marriage application for one of her great grandmothers from 1894 that said she was Cherokee. So far, no one, not even researchers at the New England Historical Genealogical Society can find it. Some of the press accounts (no doubt from Warren's PR team) said the Society had verified the record but they came out with their own press statement later and said that was not true. My wife at least has a paper trail to her Native American ancestor!