Monday, May 30, 2011

The Courtship of Esther

Esther L Richardson
My great grandmother had her choice of suitors. Would it be Howard, Luther, or Willie? Would it be William, or Roddie or Ira? Would it be the mysterious NWC or the ever popular “Guess Who”. The answer is “none of the above.” Though declaring their intentions and sometimes love in letters and postcards, Esther chose another. She chose Boss.

I set out recently to get to know my great grandmother Esther Lee Richardson (21 Nov 1896 – 5 Jan 1923). Her parents were Daniel T Richardson and Harriet Elliott. She grew up in Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties, Virginia. I have always known her name and vital statistics. I grew up hearing the story of her death from influenza at the age of 27. But my study of her this time was different. I wanted to know her. I wanted to know her beyond the basic vital statistics.

There is no one left that remembers Esther. My source of information about her came from the large collection of postcards and letters she received and sent. The earliest postcard is postmarked 1901 and the series continued up until her death in 1923. The collection passed through several family members before coming to me. I spent a weekend organizing and reading each postcard and letter.

Reading each postcard, I stepped further into Esther’s world. I entered the world of an early 1900’s teenager. In a time before cell phones, facebook and twitter, Esther managed to stay every bit as connected as her great-great grandchildren do with their friends today. I kept a list of every sender and of each person mentioned in the postcards and letter. As expected I found cousins, aunts, and uncles mentioned. I also discovered that Esther was very popular with the boys. She had about a dozen suitors declaring their intentions between 1911 and 1915 until her engagement. I am not sure what surprised me more: the fact that she had that many suitors or the fact that she kept all their letters after she was married! (Of course, that means that her husband kept them with her things after she died. Hmmmm……I wonder if he read them.)

Who were these suitors?

Willie W.

Willie W sent Esther several cards between 1911 and 1912. I have not been able to fully identify Willie, but I do have a few clues. Willie’s cards were postmarked from News Ferry, VA. News Ferry is located in Halifax County and the area where Esther’s Elliott relatives resided. Perhaps Willie was someone she met while on a visit. Mostly Willie asks about the weather. He does write in one card about having the “hoping cought” [whooping cough] and that he is looking forward to seeing her when he is well again. I love what he wrote to her in Oct 1911:
When you are sitting all alone and thinking of the past,
Remember that you have a friend as long as life shall last.

Willie W

1911 Postcard from Willie W
 Follow the story of Esther’s suitors in upcoming posts.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Can You Spell "Haley"?

One of the family lines that currently takes up much of my research time is my Haley family. This would be my great-grandmother Winnie Haley Carr’s line. As anyone researching genealogy quickly learns, one must be imaginative with a surname’s spelling to find your ancestor. I thought I’d share some of the fun spellings I found for the Haley surname.

Hall (This one took me a while to unravel.)
Kealy (Those “K”s and “H”s can look very similar sometimes!)

I'm sure there are more out there I have not encountered.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Enjoying the World of Blogs

I enjoy reading blogs. Sometimes I get so involved reading other people’s blogs, I forget to write my own! Obviously most of the blogs I read are about genealogy, but I also enjoy blogs geared toward moms and homemaking ideas. I am rather “old fashioned” in that regard. Perhaps that’s why I relate to my female ancestors so well. I like to think we are not that different.

I like seeing what other bloggers are up to as well as their thoughts on current genealogical trends or new databases. Genealogy bloggers are a source of education for me. When someone posts about how they overcame a brick wall in their research, I often pick up hints or tips to try when attempting to scale my brick walls.

If you are looking for genealogy blogs to read, I encourage you to check out This is a great site with a frequently updated listing of over 1,000 genealogy related blogs. If you are looking for genealogy blogs of a certain type or category, you can search the listing that way as well.

So, what are some of the blogs to I read?

Have You Seen My Roots? By Cheryl Cayemberg

Elyse’s Genealogy Blog by Elyse Doerflinger

The We Tree Genealogy Blog by Amy Coffin

Greta’s Genealogy Blog by Greta Koehl

Adventures in Genealogy Education by Angela McGhie

DearMyrtle by Dear Myrtle (I was thrilled to meet Dear Myrtle at the NGS conference in Charleston earlier this month!)

The Turning of Generations by Michelle Goodrum

Life From the Roots by Barbara Poole

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to sit down with a big cup of coffee and visit. (You might even find a cousin in the mix.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

New In My Genealogy Library

Anyone who knows me knows that I love books. I always have loved to read and I am sure I always will. While at the NGS conference last week, I purchased a few books to add to my genealogy library. (I did manage a feat of self restraint to not purchase many more!) I have not read these yet, but I will share my thoughts on them as I do.

I first added The Journey Takers by Leslie Albrecht. This is the story of her immigrant ancestors and her search to find them.

I next added You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. No explanation is needed here.

Finally I added Life in Civil War America by Michael Varhola.

In addition I have the syllabus book from the National Genealogy Conference containing the syllabi of all the lectures presented over the four days. Obviously I will not be lacking in reading material in the near future.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday A Southern Welcome

The Southern Plantation Singers welcoming genealogists to Charleston, SC in song.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Back From Charleston, SC

I spent most of most of last week in Charleston, SC at the National Genealogical Society Conference. I am now back home and trying to assimilate all that I learned and put my new knowledge is some type of order so that I can begin to use it.

During the opening session we heard from Buzzy Jackson who wrote Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist. I had read Buzzy’s book when it first came out, so I found it interesting to hear her talk about how the idea for the book came about and her thoughts on writing it. She really caught my attention with her “take away” message: If you wait until your family tree is complete, you will never get it written down. We (I) need to write it down now, even if it is a family snapshot and not a formal portrait.

I attended a variety of lectures during the four days of the conference. Here is just a sampling:

Finding Newspapers using Online Resources by Barbara Renick

When Sources Don’t Agree, The What? By Thomas Jones

Analyzing Deeds and Wills: I See What It Says, but What Does It Mean? By Elizabeth Shown Mills

Reporting the Facts: Record as You Go by Pamela Boyer Sayre

Back to the Future: Finding Your Past in the Present Through Descendancy Research by Tim Bingaman

This is only a small sampling of the many lectures I attended. I tried to choose a variety of lectures that would improve my research skills as well as my reporting skills. In between the lectures I happily browsed the exhibit/vendor hall exploring a multitude of books and products.

Each evening I returned to my hotel intent on reviewing my notes of the day and blogging my experiences at NGS. Alas, the best plans go awry sometimes. Blogger was down for several days preventing any posting, and well, as to reviewing my notes. I did do that, and then went to bed  a little cross-eyed.

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's Not What You Think

Chatham, VA., Sept 24, 1912

D. T. Richardson,
Ringgold, VA

Dear Sir,

Please let me know when you can pay me the balance on the J H Mills execution which I paid for you last spring. The balance due amts to $15.08. Please let me hear from you by return mail and oblige.

Yours very truly
J A Heodwell Dpty Sheriff
Chatham, VA

As you can imagine, this document referring to an execution caused quite a bit of interest and speculation ( and concern) when found. This document was among papers that once belonged to my great aunt Elma Talbott Solomon, daughter of Esther Lee Richardson and Boss Henry Talbott. D. T. (Daniel Thomas) Richardson was Esther Lee’s father.

In this instance, execution is a legal term referring to “the carrying into effect of a sentence or judgment of a court” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1910). This letter would indicate there was a judgment between D T Richardson and J H Mills. Hopefully a search of Pittsylvania County court records will turn up the nature of the suit and settlement. The Richardson family lived in Pittsylvania County, VA and a search of turned up a J H Mills also living and working as a farm laborer in Pittsylvania County. No other connection between the two men has been found (yet).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

I have been having fun lately making collages with Picasa.  On Mother's Day, what better time to make a tribute collage of my female ancestors staring with my grandmothers and including even some great x 3 grandmothers!  So often I trace my male ancestors because they show up in the records more frequently; however today I celebrate my female ancestors on both sides of my family tree. 
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