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Are You My Cousin?: April 2009

Are You My Cousin?

Discovering My Ancestors -- One Cousin at a Time

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

I tell the stories of my ancestors’ lives. Whether they lived 20 years ago or 200 years ago, they each have a story to tell. Some ancestors tell their stories willingly. Others must have their stories carefully teased from the records. Sometimes the stories are sad. Sometimes the stories are happy. Sometimes the stories are just funny. Regardless, my ancestors’ stories shaped their lives and the lives of those that followed. Come and share in the tales!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Emma D. Thomas Howard

Emma D. Thomas was the wife of Allen Suggs Howard and the mother of Connie Howard. She was born 25 May 1858 to Mary Jane Thomas. She married Grandpa Suggy 28 Dec 1879 and passed away at the age of 71 on 10 Aug 1929. According to her grandson Otis Kelly, she died of a gum infection.
Emma's parentage provided me with a bit of a mystery. Early on, I had no idea of who her mother was. A copy of her death certificate on microfilm at the NC Archives listed her mother as Mary Jane Thomas. Her father was listed as "unknown". (More on this later.) Searching the census records of Moore County and consulting with another researcher in that area, it is believed that she is indeed the (illegitimate) daughter of Mary Jane Thomas, and granddaughter of Anderson and Temperance Thomas of Moore County, NC. (This Thomas line has been well researched by another Lee County researcher and can be seen on
A strong oral history in our family tells us that Dr. James Lamar Sheppard is Emma's father. No definitive proof exists to support this information, however circumstantial evidence has Dr. Sheppard and Emma's mother living in close proximity as well as attending the same church. Both Dr. Sheppard and Mary Jane Thomas are buried at Salem Church cemetery at one end of Buckhorn Rd in what is now Lee County. It would be interesting to find out if the Sheppard descendants are familiar with this story as well.
The above picture is a copy of the original that hung in Emma's daughter's Whitey's bedroom. Otis Kelly is the only living relative that has memories of Emma. He smiled as he talked about her stating she was "a good woman" and "a great cook".
The "Cherokee grandmother" is believed to have been through Dr Sheppard's line. I'll post my thoughts on that next time.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Allen Suggs Howard

I introduce you today to Allen Suggs Howard, my great-great grandfather. Grandpa Suggy (as he has always been called) was born 26 Oct 1858 and passed away just shy of his 97th birthday on 24 Oct 1955. While I never knew him, what I have learned about him comes from the stories of his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren.

Grandpa Suggy spent his entire life in the Buckhorn Rd area of Lee County near Broadway. At the time of his birth, this was actually Moore County. Lee County did not come into being until the early 1900's. He was the second child of Caswell Suggs Harward (Howard) and Mary Adline Thomas. His father died when he was about 13 years old. The family was living in the edge of Harnett County at the time and I believe that Mary Adline moved her family back to Moore County near her parents. I have to note that this is my theory and as of yet, I have not confirmed it fully.

On 28 Dec 1879, Suggy married Emma Thomas (daughter of Mary Jane Thomas and James Lamar Sheppard--That's another story for another posting.) They had eight children: Ammie, Britton, Pearlie, Whitey, Connie, Clyde, Alberta, and Redin.

When I asked the older family generations about Granpa Suggy, one phrase repeatedly came out: He "never worked much". I'll confess, I'm not sure exactly what that means. I've also been told he liked to talk--alot. In his later years he used to sit on his front porch with a spitoon never far away.

Grandpa Suggy was a farmer and also a sawmill operator. From Lester Howard's journal, I learned that Grandpa Suggy had a still in which he made government approved turpentine. The process involved topping pine trees and turning the sap (?resin) into turpentine. According to grandson Otis Kelly, Grandpa Suggy gave up the sawmill/still when the still blew up. The cause of the explosion was never known. I do find it interesting the two of his grandsons both mentioned the unknown cause of the explosion. Makes one wonder what really happened.....

One little known story among my generations is that Grandpa Suggy had an illegitimate son named Bruce Douglas. His mother's identity is not definitively known. Suggy readily claimed Bruce as his son as confirmed by my aunt and cousins. Bruce moved to Georgia as a young man where he married and worked in and owned a turpentine plant. Pictures of Bruce show a strong resemblence to Grandpa Suggy and other male Howard cousins.

As many of you know, names and spellings of those names have fascinated me since I embarked on my genealogical journey. Grandpa Suggy's name is no exception. Starting with his last name first, he was fairly consistently known as a Harward in his early years. As he became a young man, I found he (or I should say "the record keepers") freely interchanged Harward and Howard. His middle name Suggs is after his father's middle name. Taking Suggs back further finds that his paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Suggs from Wake County, NC. I believe that his name Allen is after his father's brother Allen Mays Harward. As to the correct spelling of Allen, well like most of the names, I'm not sure of the original spelling. I've seen both Allen and Alan used. One last thing to note is that on his gravestone his name is carved as Suggs A Howard.

I look forward to learning more stories about Grandpa Suggy as I continue to visit with my cousins including those I know and those I've yet to meet.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Connie Maise Howard

Connie Maise Howard was my great grandfather. Connie was born 15 Nov 1891 in Jonesboro, Moore, NC and was the fifth child of Alan Suggs Howard and Emma Thomas. He siblings included Mary Ammie (Aunt Ammie), Britton (Uncle Brit), Pearlie, Whitey (Ommie Whitey), Clyde (Rosa Clyde), Alberta, and Redin (George Redin).

On my side of the family, Connie is referred to as Big Grandaddy. This nickname originated with my brother, who used the nickname to distinguish between his grandfather (Lester) and his great grandfather (Connie). The nickname stuck and continues to be used today in our stories. Another interesting fact is Connie's middle name. I have seen it spelled Maise and Maize in various documents. I believe this name may have been originally Mays-- a family name several generations further back on a maternal side. Also of interest is that Connie had a great uncle named Allen Mays Harward. As of now, I have not heard any theories for the origin of his given name Connie. Interestingly, Connie is the first ancestor to consistently spell (or have his name spelled) as Howard. Most generations before him interchange Howard and Harward easily. (Once I figured that out, research went a lot quicker!)
Connie's first wife was Mattie Maddox who I introduced in an earlier entry. She died at a young age leaving Connie to care for his 4 children. Cousin Brenda sent me the following she copied from a card that Mattie wrote to Connie. He kept it in his little special box of things:

When the golden sun is setting

And you face no more I see,

Of ever a thousand things your thinking

Will you one time think of me.

You I love and you alone

You may change

But I will never.

Connie's second wife was Lily Gordon. They married in May 1929 and their daughter Joy was born in 1930. Sadly, Lily and the baby left the family returning to her family in the West End area.

Lily Gordon Howard

Connie's third wife was Thelma Parker Poole more often known as Bubbles. Her marriage to Connie in Sept 1936 was her second marriage and she added her daughter Aunt Tiny (Mary Frances) and her son to the family as well.

Connie's fourth wife was Lucille. Unfortunately, no one readily remembers her maiden name. (One more research question for me.) I attended their wedding as a small child and was quite unsure what I thought about the bride not wearing white!

Connie lived a long and full life. Like the many generations before him, longevity was on his side. He passed away 10 Jan 1995 at the age of 103.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Elias Elliott

Elias Elliott was the father of Harriett Ann Elliott and my great x3 grandfather. He was born about 1832 presumably in Virginia. The earliest record I have for Elias is when he appears on the 1850 federal census in the 22nd Regiment District, Mecklenburg, VA. Members of the family include his mother Elizabeth Elliott (listed as head of household), his sister Dorothy (age 23) and Elias (age 18). Based on her age in the census, Elizabeth's birth year appears to be ~1796.

Elias is next found in the 1860 census in the Southern District, Halifax, VA. He is listed with his wife "Panthia" and their son Camillus (age 6 mos). The young family is living with Panthea's mother Sinthia H Overby. Elias's mother Elizabeth is listed several houses away with her daughter and son-in-law.

By 1870 Elias and Panthea are living in Clarksville, Mecklenburg, VA. Three more children have been added to the family: John L, Ransom, Synthia E. Elias is listed as a farmer.

The 1880 federal census tells us a little more about this family. More children have been added- Harriet (my great-great grandmother), Elias, and Sam. Elias continues to farm, but of interest is that a housekeeper has been added to the family. Panthea is listed as having "no occupation" and is checked in the category "maimed, crippled, bedridden or otherwise disabled". Wonder what happened?

The only other record for Elias that I have seen referenced is his marriage bond to Panthea Overby. The couple married in Halifax County, VA on 25 Nov 1859. Only his mother Elizabeth is listed as his parent. No father is listed.

So, at this point in the Elliott line, I have hit a "brick wall". Until Elias's father is identified, this line cannot be traced futher back. Likely, his father died prior to 1840. Looking at the collateral Elliott lines may provide some clues, however, I've had no luck so far. If Elias's father did die, hopefully some estate papers or guardianship papers for the children were generated. A road trip one day.....


Monday, April 13, 2009

Harriet Ann Elliott Richardson

Harriet (Hattie) Elliott was the daughter of Elias and Panthea (Overby) Elliott born 14 Oct 1871 in Buffalo Springs, Mecklenburg, VA. She married Daniel Thomas Richardson about 1895 in Pittsylvania County, VA. In the 1900 and 1910 federal censuses, Daniel and Hattie lived in the Dan River District of Pittslyvania County. In the 1920 census, Hattie is listed as the head of household and living in the Clarksville, Mecklenburg, VA. This is consistent with the fact that Daniel died in 1912. In 1930, she is living in the home of her son, Norman along with his wife, daughter and Hattie's youngest son Ellwood. Hattie died 13 Nov 1932 and is buried in the North Danville Cemetery in Danville, VA.

After her daughter's death in 1923, Hattie kept up correspondence with her son-in-law Bossy and her grandchildren. Letters indicate that both Elma and Crafton visited their grandmother at various times. Also in her letters, she described farming life. Her husband had been a blacksmith (and bootlegger according to Elma Talbott). Upon his death, Hattie supported herself on the farm, at times quite difficult.

One thing I've noticed about Hattie's pictures is that she always seems to be smiling--even feeding chickens!

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Esther Lee Richardson Talbott

In today's post I've switched sides of the family and will introduce one of my great-grandmothers on my dad's side of the family. (I'm really not trying to confuse anyone.)

Esther Lee Richardson was born is 21 Nov 1896 in Ringgold, Pittsylvania, Virginia. She was the daughter of Daniel Thomas Richardson and Harriet Ann Elliott. Her siblings included one sister Katie and four brothers Rueben, Norman, Willie and Ellwood. She married Bossy Talbott in Nov 1915 and they had four children Crafton, Elma, Virginia Ruth, and Garnet Rueben. Esther is another one of those mystery women in our family tree. Sadly she died at the age of 26 in Jan 1923 during an influenza outbreak. She left behind her husband and 4 young children--the youngest two to succomb to influenza a year later.

While there is no one alive today who remembers Esther, her character shines through in her multiple letters and postcards she both wrote and received. Bossy saved all of her correspondence after her death. My father tells me that Bossy kept Esther's things in a trunk that was treated with a shrine-like quality. Fortunately for us, Esther was a prolific writer. I am fortunate enough to have many, many postcards and letters that she wrote. Predominantly she corresponded with her first cousins on the Richardson side of the family as well as some of her Elliott cousins. They appear to have been close and visited as often as they were able. Of course, she also corresponded with Bossy! There are even a few from admirers before Bossy came into the picture! In letters to her mother, she tells of her children and describes their life on the farm. I hope to one day transcribe all those postcards and letters--most are written in pencil.

Esther also left behind lots of pictures. A few have labels, a few family have been able to identify, but many pictures remain a mystery. Mostly I think the photos are of Richardson and Elliott cousins, though a few Talbotts have been identified. I continue to search for clues and maybe one day........

This is one of Esther's postcards to Bossy dated 27 Jan 1915 when he was living in Jeffress, VA. It reads:


How are you enjoying this rough weather. I am in Danville and having a nice time. Guess I will stay a while.




PO Box 42


I hope you've enjoyed a little of Esther's story.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Maddox Sisters

Viola Maddox was the youngest daughter of James T and Martha Jane Maddox. She was born 28 Feb 1889 and died as a toddler on 02 Jun 1890. I found out about Viola quite by accident. You see, no one in the family remembers hearing of her. She appears in no written records. The only possible public record in which she would have been listed was the 1890 federal census. Unfortunately, this census was destroyed by fire. I found her in the Moore Union Christian Chruch cemetery, along side other Maddox family members.

Cornelia Maddox (also known as Aunt Cornie) was the oldest daughter in the Maddox family. She was born 15 Jan 1879. She and her younger sister Mattie were very close often appearing in photos together. Their resemblence is striking! Cornie married Johnston Hughes on 25 Feb 1914 and lived in Florida where their four children (Robert, Florence, Betty, and a young brother) were born. Upon her husband's death, Cornie and the children returned the Lee County area.

Mattie, Cornie and Unknown Man

Johnston Levi Hughes


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meet Mattie Maddox Howard

Meet Mattie Maddox Howard

Mattie Maddox was my great-grandmother and in many very real ways a mystery woman. Mattie was the mother of James Lester Howard and for years he had her portrait propped against the wall in his walk up attic. As a child, I frequenly visited Grandaddy's attic. It was always lots of fun to see the Christmas decorations stored away or the knick knacks Grandmother put away for another day. But always, I studied the portrait of Mattie and wondered about her. Perhaps I thought if I stared long enough, she would tell me her secrets....

Mattie didn't tell me her secrets in that attic, but oral history and photos, along with historical records revealed much about her. She was born in Chatham County, NC 22 Mar 1881. Her mother was Martha Jane Lett (1851-1935) and her father James Tarlton Maddox (1844-1892). She lived on a 275 acre farm known as The Maddox Farm located on the banks of the Cape Fear River. She had two sisters-- Cornelia and Viola (who died as a young child) and 7 brothers--Calvin, Thomas, James Arthur, Bertis, Clenon, Jonah, and Curley. She lost her father at a young age and according to her son Lester Howard, she worked very hard helping her mother on the family farm. She was also close to her sister Cornelia (known as Cornie) and many pictures show Mattie and Cornie together. I guess with 7 brothers, they had to stick together! Lester Howard remembered the family was religious and faithfully attended Moore Union Christian Church along with other Maddox and Lett relatives.

Mattie married Connie Maise Howard on 8 Mar 1914 in Lee County, NC. They had four children: Lester, Walter, Jewel and Clayton. Mattie died at the age of 46 on 30 Jul 1927. My grandfather was 12 years old. Why Mattie died is a bit of a mystery. Oral history, along with children's journal entries offer vague facts. We do know that she was in the hospital in the Sanford area prior to being transferred to what is now Rex Hospital in Raleigh, NC. When her children were brought to see her before her move to Raleigh, she did not even recognize them. What a sad, confusing time for my grandfather and his siblings. Oral history tells us that Mattie died from "brain surgery". As a child I also heard that it was sinus surgery. No one knows for sure, however about a week before her death, she was moved to the state hospital (what is now known as Dix Hospital) where she died in the early morning hours of July 30th.

As I go over the stories several things stand out to me. First, in 1927 brain surgery would have been in its infancy and was not done often. According to her death certificate, no surgery proceeded her death. Her cause of death is listed as exhaustion with psychosis of unknown origin. During an interview, Otis Kelly (her nephew) has no recollection of "Aunt Matt" having had surgery. He does remember that she could not be left alone just prior to her hospitalization in Sanford. Others in the family remember Big Grandaddy (Connie Howard) as saying she probably had some kind of cancer. Putting all this together it is likely that Mattie had some type of brain tumor or cancer which certainly would account for any mental status changes. Whether she had surgery or not ever be known for certain. Unfortunately, the end result is the same--a young husband lost a wife and four young children lost a mother.

To end on a much lighter note, Mattie is well remembered as a good cook and a wonderful seamstress. Her daughter Jewel proudly reported to me that Mattie made all her own clothes. Otis Kelly remembers her as "a good woman!" Mattie was known to be the first to show up to care for sick family members and doing the cooking, cleaning and whatever was necessary. Mattie was also known to have a beautiful alto singing voice. It was recently discovered that there are many alto choir members in our family!

Enjoy Mattie's story. I'm sure there is more "out there" to discover about her. I'll keep you posted.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Beginning

I began my search for my ancestors almost two years ago as a summer project with my children. We stumbled around the internet and had almost immediate success. I was hooked and I've never looked back. (My children have wandered on to other pursuits.) I am quite happy to spend hours in the state archives, walking through old cemeteries and studying pictures of unidentified relatives. Of course, the best part is renewing relationships with cousins, as well as meeting new cousins.

This blog is my attempt to share what I've learned. While many of my family have the family trees that I've put together, I feel a simple family tree does tell the story of the individuals. So... I hope to use this forum to introduce to my/our family ancestors. While I've done the most research on my maternal Howard (actually Harward) line, I have lots to share on many lines.

James Lester Howard

Lester Howard was my grandfather and the first child of Mattie Maddox and Connie Maise Howard of Lee County, NC. He was born in a two room tenant house his grandfather's (Grandpa Suggy's) farm. He and his three siblings, (Walter, Jewel, and Clayton) were raised by their parents until their mother's death in 1927. Lester was 12 years old. At that time, he, Walter and Jewel went to live at Elon Orphanage while their brother Clayton went to live with their Grandpa Suggy Howard and Aunt Ammie (Connie's sister). Once his father remarried to Lily Gordon, Lester made the decision for the three siblings to leave the orphange so they could live as a family. In 1930, a sister Joy was born. When Lily (and Joy) left the family, Grandaddy reports that the Depression had begun. Work for his father was sporadic and Grandaddy sold newspapers to help support the family. Grandaddy reports in his journal, that eventually the children were split up to live with relatives. Grandaddy went to live with his mother's brother Uncle Curly Maddox. Living with Uncle Curly appears to be when Grandaddy learned to grow crops. He tells in his journal:

Uncle Curley would give me a field of cotton which would amount to one Bale. Then Lawton (my cousin) and I would have about the same amount divided between us. The last year I farmed he also gave me a field of corn in the Creek low ground a very rich soil no fertilizer when planting but at hill up time the last plowing I put 200 lbs of nitrate soda around it costing $4.95 cents. I left for the CCC Camp (Nov 1933) before the corn was gathered I sold it to my Aunt Cornie who was a widow and lived on this farm with three children a son Robert, Florence and Betty for $5.00.

As many of us remember, Grandaddy always planted a large garden providing not only for his family, but freely sharing with others.
Grandaddy joined the CCC Camp in Nov 1933. I'll let him tell the story in his own words:
A Mr Cashier [? Name] who came down to fish and hunt told us about the CC Camps. I had never heard about. Had just started about six months before paying thirty dollars a month. We would send 25 dollars to our family and we got 5 dollars. I sent mine to Aunt Ammie. She a widow living on the farm with Grandfather Howard and helping to care for Jewel and Clayton. The five dollars took care my cigarettes. ( I smoked at that time.) Hair cut and maybe a date or two. A movie cost 10 maybe fifteen cents popcorn-five cents. Drinks five cents. Any sandwich ten cents hot dog five cents.
After signing we were sent to Fort Bragg for physicals about 3 weeks. This was Nov. 1933. I chose to go to Old Fort from there. So did Robert. I had never been to the mountains. Icles hanging off those cliffs six feet long. I began to wonder if I was in the right place. At this camp we did five [or fire] trails, built roads. I worked in the Forest about a week then on Sunday I did KP duty. Monday morning I did not get out of bed. When I did not report the CO and company Dr A Captain Kerr came to check. After examining me I was sent to the hospital with phneumonia for five weeks. I was very sick. High fever and packed in ice for several days. The doctors did not give much chance. After the hospital I did not have any duties for some time. About April a crew was discharged. I then was made a second cook on three meals and off three. The following spring we were transferred to High Point after a few months there, Twenty-five of us were transferred to Yanceyville. There I was made first cook $45.00 per month. We cooked in a tent on field ranges until the kitchen and mess hall was ready. When all Buildings were ready about two hundred plus men came. I was there two years. While there I sold Belt Buckles and fancy pillow covers making extra money. Some of the men had cars (parked off base) and some local guys worked at the Camp. Also a company truck would drive to Danville Va-about 15 miles for a movie or other entertainment.

On June 10, 1939, Grandaddy married Cecile Clara White (of Surry County, NC) in Danville VA. They were married for 43 years.

Cecile and Lester Howard

Lester, Walter, Jewel and Clayton Howard