Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Burell Family in Attala County - 1860s

By the time the U. S. Census of 1860 was taken in Mississippi, the number of Burell family members living in Attala County had increased to thirty-one, and according to the census, over one-half of the individuals enumerated had been born in Mississippi. James and Elizabeth Burell, now 66 and 65 years old, were living in Attalaville, where James still farmed. Also living in their household were James Jenkins, 15, born in Georgia, and Mary Jenkins, 11, born in Mississippi.

Living next to the household headed by James Burell was his brother, Thomas H. Burell, now 60, and his wife Margaret (Greely) Burell, age 43. Since Thomas Burell was not enumerated in Attala County in 1850, the family was likely on its way to Mississippi from Georgia sometime during those years. Others living in the household with Thomas and Margaret were Maria Shoat, 22, born in South Carolina, and four children, Thomas M. C., 14, Sarah M., 11, James F., 7, and Frances, age 3. According to the census record, the two oldest children had been born in Georgia, and the the two youngest were born in Mississippi.

Attalaville, like the community of Newport, had many residents who migrated from South Carolina and settled in Attala County after the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed in 1832 and lands previously occupied by the Choctaw Nation were opened up for settlement. Neighbors of the Burell families, according to the census in 1860, included the families of Alexander Parker, Daniel Underwood, Albert Briscoe, and James Criswell, all of whom were born in South Carolina.

John and Mary Burell, mentioned in yesterday's post, along with William and Ann Burell, were also listed among the residents of Attalaville. John and Mary still lived next door to Samuel Jenkins and his family. The two Burell brothers and their wives were now in their forties, and each of their families had grown in size during the previous ten years. The family of John and Mary included these children: John B., 15; Samuel J., 13; Ephraim J., 12; Elizabeth J. 14; Amanda A., 1; John Coldwell, age 15, a laborer on the farm. Everyone in the Burell household, including John Coldwell were born in Mississippi, except for John and Mary.

In 1860, William, 42, and Ann Burell, 43, had a total of twelve (12) children. Their names and ages were: Elizabeth, 22; Hanna, 20; James, 18, Druesila, 16, William, 13, John 12, Eliza, 9, Alexander, 8, Lewis, 7, Robert, 4; Green, 6; and Elvira, one month old. Since William and Ann now have a child named "Lewis," it is likely that William's brother, Louis/Lewis died in Hog Mountain, Georgia between 1850 and 1860, and the child was named in his honor.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Burell Family in Attala County, Mississippi

In the last two posts, I wrote about the Burel family in America, beginning with the emigrant, Jean Baptiste Elzeard Burel, his wife, Patience Hannah Bird Burel, and their six children. At the end of my second post, I had detailed the movements of Dr. Jean Burel from his homeland of France to Germantown, Pennsylvania, and his subsequent migration with his wife and six children to Union County, South Carolina.

Although Dr. Burel and his wife remained in Union County, South Carolina the remainder of their lives, several of their children, including their oldest son, Louis, and his wife Sara Margaret Jenkins, moved farther south to Gwinnett County, Georgia, near Hog Mountain. The U. S. Census taken in 1850 for Hogmountain, Gwinnett County, Georgia, shows that Lewis Burel, a 64-year old farmer whose real estate was valued at $80, headed a household that included his wife, Margaret, 56, Martha, 33, Randle, 23, Samuel I, 21, and Margaret, age 16.
According to the census record, all four of the younger Burel family members had been born in South Carolina.
Louis ("Lewis") and Margaret Burel continued to live in the Hog Mountain area until their deaths, and the graves of their numerous descendants can be found in Duncan Creek Cemetery and in the cemetery at Hog Mountain Baptist Church. Today, many living descendants still call the state of Georgia "home."
Although the exact date that James Burel and his wife, Nancy Elizabeth Darby, arrived in Mississippi is unknown, the U. S. Census of 1850 shows they were already living in Attala County. According to the census, nineteen Burel (then "Burell") family members, enumerated in three separate households, were found to be living in the Newport area of Attala County.

The oldest of the heads of households listed was James, whose wife was Nancy. A farmer who owned real estate valued at $100, James and Nancy were 60 years old. Also living with James and Nancy was James, age 18, born in South Carolina, Lucinda, age 20, born in Mississippi, James, 5, and Elizabeth, 1 1/2 years. The birthplace of each of the two young children was shown to be "
Mississippi." Based on the information available on the 1850 census record, the relationships of James, Lucinda, and the two young children, to each other, and to James and Nancy, cannot be determined. Without a doubt, however, James and Nancy Burell were the same couple who lived in Gwinnett County, Georgia and known there as James P. and Nancy Elizabeth Darby Burel.

A second Burell household was headed by William, 33, and it included his wife Anna, age 34, and their six children, Elizabeth, 12, Honor, 7, Dasilla, 5, William, 4, John, 3, and Nancy M., shown on the census to be "0."

John, age 31, headed a third Burell household. Enumerated in his household was Polly, his 28-year old wife, John, age 5, and twin boys, Jenkins and Samuel Burell, age 2.

William and John were both shown on the census as farmers, each owning real estate valued at $250. Although the relationships of John and William to each other and to James and Nancy Burell are unknown, it is likely these two young men were brothers and the sons of the elder Burells. Interestingly, two of the names of John Burell's children indicate a familial connection to the Jenkins family. Even more interesting is that Samuel Jenkins, 64 years old and born in South Carolina, lived "
next door" to John Burell and his family.
Although many of the Burell families' neighbors had been born in other states, a fairly large number of them, according to the census, had been born in South Carolina. The names of a few individuals born in South Carolina were Roger and Patsey Barfield, William and Debby Burden, Oliver Greely, John Hearst, Jefferson and Sarah Jenkins, John and Isabella Jenkins, Samuel Jenkins, Robert and Vina Lepard, and Samuel Porter and Mary (Middleton) Porter (my great-great-great-grandparents.

Tomorrow: The Burel Migration to Mississippi Continues

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Burel Family - Pennsylvania>Union County, SC>Gwinnett County, GA

Yesterday, we left the Burel family living in Germantown, Pennsylvania. While still living in Pennsylvania, Dr. Burel and Patience Bird Burel had six children, all born in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These children were: Louis Burrell, b. June 25, 1786; James P. Burrell, b. about 1790; Elizabeth "Betsy" Burrell, b. about 1792; John Honore Burell, b. about 1794; Thomas H. Burrell, b. about 1800; Margaret Epps Burrell, b. Aug. 1, 1804.

By 1812, Dr. Burel, who had now anglicized his name to
John Burel, had moved his family to Union County, South Carolina, where they settled in Goshen Hill. Little is known about why and how the family migrated to South Carolina, but like so many others during the early 1800's, John Burel may have gone to South Carolina to claim land opened up by the U. S. government for settlement. Union County, South Carolina deed records show that John Burel was already in the county on December 2, 1812 when he sold a tract of land on the Enoree River to James Flanagan of Newberry County. Patience Hannah Burel, wife of John, released her dower rights to the land on the same day. (
Union County Deed Book "N," p.94
Shortly after the Burel family's arrival in South Carolina, Louis Burel, the oldest son, married Sarah Margaret Jenkins, born about 1800, and the daughter of Deborah Elizabeth Darby and Randel Randolph Jenkins, another landowner and resident of Goshen Hill. John Burel's connection to Randolph Jenkins is evidenced in Jenkins's will, which stated that "John Burel to live where he now lives for five years from the time he went there to live he is to cultivate and clear as much land as he pleases in the coarse (sic ) of five years but not to rent or lease it to no person I do (not) nominate." In 1829, Randolph Jenkins, the son of Randolph who mentioned John Burel in his will, was appointed the administrator of the estate of John Burel. Although Dr. Burel's exact date of death and place of burial is unknown, he likely died in 1829 and was buried in Union County, South Carolina.

After their father's death, several of the Burel children sold their Union County land and moved with their families to Gwinnett County, Georgia, settling in the Hog Mountain area. Louis Burel, however, must have remained in South Carolina until at least 1840, as he was enumerated in the U. S. Census of 1840 as still living in the county.

John Burel's widow, Patience Hanna Bird Burel, was still living in the Union District of South Carolina in 1848, when she applied for a widow's pension based on Jean/John Burel's service in the Revolutionary War. In that application she declared that she "is the widw of Dr. John Burelle who was a surgeon in the French Army & Navy in America under Major General Lafayette & served in that capacity with the Allied forces from the time he entered the service in 1778 until the French Army was discharged at the close of the War, and was present at the surrender of Lord Cornwallis to the Allied forces of France and America under General Washington and General LaFayette & other French officers at Yorktown." She enclosed a certificate of her marriage and John's French medical license, which prove that Jean Baptiste Elzeard Burel of Ollioules Frances and John Burel of Goshen Hill were the same individual. According to those who have written about Jean Burel's life and history, the certificate and license are in the archives of the Veterans' Administration.

James P. Burel, married Nancy Elizabeth Darby, a relative of Deborah Elizabeth Darby, in 1815. Nancy was born about 1792 in South Carolina. Their children were John "Jack" Berry Burel, born 1819 in South Carolina, William Riley Burel, and Isabella Abilla Burel. Around 1848, James and his family migrated to Mississippi.

About 1834, Thomas H. Burel married Margaret Greely, born about 1811. In the 1850's, after spending some time in Gwinnett County, Georgia, Thomas and his wife, followed his brother James B. Burel, to Mississippi, where Margaret died in 1878.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Burrell, the third child born to Patience and John Burel, allegedly ran away to marry a stagecoach driver, B. B. Turner.

John Honore Burel married Vasti Darby, born about 1808, and John died on September 16, 1844 in Abbeville, South Carolina. Burel researchers have written that Vasti Darby may have been the illegitimate daughter of Deborah Darby Burel's sister, who may have been renting ahouse owned by Samuel Jenkins, who lived nearby.

Margaret Epps Burrell, was married twice, first to James Hunter about 1825. Hunter, born about 1781, died in 1846. Later that same year, she married Jesse Rogers, who was born about 1804. Rogers died about 1891, and Margaret died November 21, 1879, in Union, South Carolina.

Sometime after 1840, Louis (known also as "
Lewis") and his wife, Sarah Margaret Jenkins Burel, moved to Gwinnett County, Georgia, where they operated Hog Mountain House and Trading Post, a stagecoach stop on the mail route that went through that area. Louis/Lewis Burel died in January 1872, and Sarah Jenkins Burel died in 1895. Before his death, Louis donated land to the old Hog Mountain Baptist Cemetery, near Lawrenceville, Georgia, where two of his grandchildren, Martha and Mary Teagle, who died on September 10, 1843, were among the first buried. Louis and his wife, Sarah, were later buried in the same cemetery where their young daughters had been buried years earlier.

Children of Louis Burel and Sarah Margaret Jenkins Burel were Nancy E. Burel Teagle, Sara Ann Burel Glover, John Louis Burel, Randel Jefferson Burel, Samuel Burel, Drucilla Burel Waldrop, Frances Burel, Patsey Burel, Lucy Burel Davis, Charlotte Burel Waycaster, Polly Burel Hughey, and William Burel.

Recently, I read a post on a GenWeb message board from Pat Garrison, who volunteered copies of cemetery pictures of Burel family members who were buried in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Thanks to Pat, I now have photos of Burel family grave stones located in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Beginning today, I will be posting some of these pictures on my other blog, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek, and I invite you to stop by and view the pictures.
Monday: The Burell/Burrell Family in Mississippi


Sloan, E. D.,
privately published paper: "Jean Baptiste Elzeard Burel (Dr. John Burel): His Life, Ancestry, and Descendants."
Paquet, Bertrand: "Burel-Burrel-Burrell," published 2005

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dr. Jean Burel - From Ollioules, France to Germantown, PA

Jean Baptiste Elzear Burel was born in France, the son of Jacques Burel, born circa 1732, and Madeleine Francoise Portalis Burel, born May 1731. Baptized on November 1, 1757, in the Church of St. Laurent, likely just a few days after his birth, Jean was the only one of his parents' children to survive infancy. Present at his baptism and named as his godparents were Elzeard de Flotte, son of Jean Baptiste de Flotte, and his father’s sister, Marie Anne Burel. Although there is no evidence to prove the fact, Jean was likely given his third name of "Elzear" at the time of his baptism to honor Elzeard de Flotte, his godfather.

By family tradition, Jean was destined to be trained in the medical field. For five generations, his Burel paternal ancestors had been apothecaries, and several of his cousins had been medical students at the University of Montpelier, approximately 100 miles west of Ollioules. Living near Toulon, on the Mediterranean coast, some of Jean's male relatives had also been involved in the merchant trade for years. At the time of Jean's birth, his own father was the commander of a merchant ship.

Jean Buel followed tradition and enrolled in the University of Montpellier, Section of Medicine, in France, where he graduated in 1770. In 1775, Dr. Burel was licensed by the Masters of Surgery at Marseilles to serve as a physician on merchant ships. According to some accounts, Dr. Burel sailed to the colonies with Lafayette as a member of the French Royale Marines and served in some medical capacity, allegedly at Yorktown, during the Revolutionary War. Years later, when Dr. Burel's widow filed for a pension based on her husband's service in the war, no records of his service were found, and her application was denied.

After the war, Dr. Burel settled in Philadelphia, where he was counted in the census taken in 1780, living in the Germantown area with the occupation of "
physician." According to “Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia,” available on Google Books, “John Burelle a native of France” married Patience Hannah Bird, on February 22, 1785, without publication of the banns. Witnesses: Luke Pea and Catharine Boudrot." In 1790, in the census taken that same year, Dr. Burel was again enumerated in the Germantown area of Philadelphia.
Available records reviewed by family historians who have written about Jean Burel and Patience Bird establish that her parents were Jonathan Bird and Marie-Blanche (Ebair) Hebert. Blanche was Acadian and had been deported to Philadelphia from Nova Scotia by the British in 1755, with her first husband Jacques Cellier, and their children. Jacques died, and on July 1, 1761, she married Jonathan Bird. Interestingly, records show that Patience Bird and Jean Burel were married by Father Farmer, rector at St. Joseph's Church, the same rector who had performed the marriage ceremony between her parents years earlier.

Marie-Blanche Hebert's parents were Louis Hebert dit Baguette and Anne-Marie Labauve. They were married May 18, 1722 in Port-Royal, Acadia, now known as Nova Scotia. Louis Hebert's parents were Antoine Hebert and Jeanne Corporon, who married about 1691. Antoine Hebert's parents were Etienne Hebert and Marie Gaudet, who married about 1650 in Port-Royal, Acadia.

The Burel/Burell/Burrell story will continue here tomorrow with "
Dr. John Burel Moves His Family to South Carolina."


E. D. Sloan,
privately published paper: "Jean Baptiste Elzeard Burel (Dr. John Burel): His Life, Ancestry, and Descendants."
Paquet, Bertrand: "Burel-Burrel-Burrell," published 2005
Consentino, Lucie LeBlanc: Information received from Stephen White, Genealogist, Center for Acadian Studies, Moncton University, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, supplied by to GenWeb Forum in message dated 09/27/07.

Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia," available on
Google Books, accessed March 24, 2009.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jean Baptiste Elzear Burel, French Emigrant

Tomorrow, I will begin the first in a series of posts about the patriarch of the Burrell family in Mississippi. The story begins with Jean Baptiste Elzear Burel, a French physician, who emigrated to the Colonies during the American Revolution. Photos of the graves of two of Jean's descendants buried in Fellowship Cemetery in Attala County, along with some information about the migrations of this family, have been posted today on Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Please join me here tomorrow to read the first part of this family's French-American story.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Residents of Attalaville, Mississippi - September 1860

Recently, Duncan C. Covington, who compiled and edited a book entitled "The People of Shrock," provided me with a list of Attala County residents who are buried in Fellowship Cemetery, near the extinct town of Attalaville, Mississippi. Duncan also emailed me copies of photographs that he had taken of the grave markers in that cemetery. I have posted both the list and the pictures on Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek, and they can be viewed here.

Among those buried in the relatively small Fellowship Cemetery are some of Duncan's Covington ancestors and one of my own, James M. Porter, my paternal great-great-grandfather. As I read through the list of names, I wondered how many of these families were neighbors or had familial ties to each other in this particular area of Attala County. With that question in mind, I began a search of U. S. Census records, starting with the 1860 census conducted for Attalaville during September of that year. (The history of the early development of Attalaville can be found here.)

Enumerated in Attalaville, Attala County, Mississippi, in 1860, were thirty-three (33) separate households. Seven of the households had the same surnames as some of those buried in Fellowship cemetery : Allen, Burell, Jenkins, and Porter.

Census details for these seven households are shown below.

Allen, James P., 40, farming, $1,480, Georgia
Cicely, 38, Georgia
Franklin, 16, laborer, Miss
Mary E., 14, Miss
Martha, 10, Miss
Ann E., 7, Miss
Georgeann, 4, Miss
Juanita, 2, Miss
Parker, John, 19, laborer, Florida

Jenkins, Samuel, 66, farmer, $1,500, SC
Nancy, 40, SC
Elizabeth, 35, SC
William, 19, labor in farm, SC
Joseph, 16,labor in farm, SC
Dick, 11, Miss

Burell, John, 41, farming, $1,700, SC
Mary, 41, SC
John B., 15, SC
Elizabeth J., 14, Miss
Samuel J., 13, Miss
Ephraim J., 11, Miss
Amanda A., 1, Miss
Caldwell, John, 15, farm laborer, Miss

Jenkins, E. Jeffs., 39, farmer, $21,415, SC
Sally 42, SC
Samuel O., 17, farm laborer, Miss
Peggy A., 15, Miss
David Spiars, 55, Carpenter, SC
George P. Jackson, 14, Ala
Wm. A. Jackson, 18, labor in farm, Ala

Porter, James M., 37, farming, $1,700, Miss
Eliza, 24, Miss
Sarah E., 5, Miss
Wm. R. E., 1, Miss

Porter, Jane M., 25, farming, $30,000, Miss
Porter, Laura E., 20, Miss
Hamilton Cottrow(?) 13, Miss

Porter, William, 22, overseeing, $150, Miss
Mary E., 23, Miss
Lilian V., 9 months, Miss

My research for more information about the Allen, Burell, Covington, Jenkins, and Porter families who lived in Attalaville is far from complete. And as it continues, I plan to post the results here and at Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek. I hope you will stop by again to visit.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Candles That Burn"

Last week, I ran across a book entitled "Candles That Burn," a compilation of poignant poetry by Aline Kilmer. One of her poems, "Remembrance" touched me in such a way that I decided to share it here today. Although the poem is a simple one, I think most of us who have ever revisited our childhood home, especially after being away for some time, have experienced feelings of both happiness and sadness. And in some way, each of us can identify with the sentiment expressed in this poem.

by Aline Kilmer

I went back to a place I knew

When I was very, very small;

The same old yellow roses grew

Against the same old wall.

Each thing I knew was in its place;

The well, the white stones by the road,

The box-hedge with its cobweb lace,

And a small spotted toad.

And yet the place seemed changed and still;

The house itself had shrunk, I know.

And then my eyes began to fill—

For I had always loved it so.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Froggie's Friday Book Review - "The South"

Although I am Southern by birth and personally lived the "southern experience" for at least a portion of my life, I still consider myself a student of Southern culture. And I always welcome the opportunity to learn more about the part of this country that I love best.

Recently, I discovered a book entitled simply "The South." Primarily intended as a reference book, it is one of eight volumes included in a set known as The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Studies. The set covers every geographic area of the country, and each volume contains something for everyone, regardless of which state you may call home. Each book contains resource material written by various authors who cover a variety of subject matter, ranging from architecture, art, ethnicity, and folklore, to food, language, literature, music and religion. The facts and the stories presented in "The South" allow researchers and readers alike to examine the heart, the soul, and the diversity of the residents of this historically significant geographic area.

As a researcher, I highly recommend The Greenwood Enclyclopedia of American Studies. And as a reader of books about the South, its culture and its people, I recommend the volume entitled "The South." As a southerner, it was within this book's 508 pages that I found exactly what Eudora Welty referred to as "a sense of place."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Are you a Meme, Gigi, Ganne, or Just Plain Grandma?

Spring Break is this week, and we were fortunate enough to have a short visit with five of our eleven grandchildren. Making up the group of five are one girl and four boys, ranging in age from four to eleven years old. Two of our four daughters are their mothers. To all of them, we are "Meme" and "Pop." Although we always enjoy time spent with our grandchildren, I have to admit that we usually need a nap after they leave!

By age two, most grandchildren have already started referring to their grandparents by nicknames. Although a majority of nicknames are actually selected by the parents, occasionally a grandchild develops a unique name based on the grandparent's actual name.
The grandchildren of one of my friends refer to her as "Gigi," a name that she decided on when her first grandchild began calling her by her given name that starts with the letter "G."

One of the sweetest and most unique names for a grandmother that I have ever heard is the name "Ganne," a name given to Mississippi author, Anne Hughes Porter, by her grandchildren. Click here to read a poetic tribute written by Anne's granddaughters
on the occasion of her 75th birthday last year. The poem was re-printed, with permission from her granddaughters, on my old blog Attala County Memories in 2008.

While growing up, my siblings and I referred to our mother's mother as "Grandma," and to our father's mother as "Nanny." True to their mother's Southern upbringing, my own children refer to their grandparents on both sides of the family as "Mamaw" and "Papaw," followed by the appropriate surname to distinguish the correct grandparents.

I have found that grandparents' names, at least in the South, have changed little throughout the years, and now I am hearing our grandchildren use names that are identical to ones I recall growing up, Grandma, Grandpa, Mamaw, Papaw, Nana, and Granny.
When I became a grandmother, I decided early on that I did not want to be called "Grandma" or "Granny," and that I preferred "Nana" or "Meme," instead. And my children and I made a mutual decision that I would be called "Meme." Whatever name our grandchildren end up calling us, however, becomes music to our ears, and the reason for the name itself soon is irrelevant.

But where did these names for grandparents originate, and what do they mean? When I sought answers to my own questions, I found that grandparents' nicknames have long been steeped in tradition and may even offer insights into families' ethnic origins, a boon for family history researchers like me. A great reference for seeing the variety of grandparents names that exist and for some information about their ethnic origins can be found on an internet version of The New Parents Guide. Maybe you will find your nickname there, too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Vicksburg National Military Park

The entrance to Vicksburg National Military Park and Vicksburg National Cemetery, located in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I took this photograph on an early Spring morning in April 2008 and was fortunate enough to catch a glimmer of a pink sunrise in the distance and a whisper of early morning mist rising from the deep ravines near the entrance and throughout the park. For more information about the Vicksburg National Cemetery, I invite you to visit Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Our Roots Are Showing......

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you who have found your Irish roots and to those of you who are still searching. Even before I began my own family research, I knew that we had some Irish blood. When I was young, growing up in Mississippi, I would ask my mother, "Where are we from?" And my mother would always answer, "We are English, Scotch, and Irish." When I asked my father the same question, he added that (his) "Grandma told me that we have German blood." My paternal grandmother's response to my question was (her) "Papa's family was Black Dutch from Pennsylvania," and (her) "Mama's grandfather was a full-blooded Indian."

The truth is that each of their answers was, in part, true, although my great-grandmother's grandfather was not Native American. I do not have all the answers yet for this particular ancestor, but it appears that his South Carolina heritage was likely a tri-racial one that possibly included some Native American blood.

Now that I am older, when I think about the names of families in my childhood neighborhood and of my classmates from school, l realize that so many of them were Scotch-Irish names. Names that began with "Mc," or an "O" followed by an apostrophe, may have outnumbered even the Smiths and the Joneses in Mississippi during those days. With over ten years of research behind me, and with a family tree that includes the names Atwood, Baldridge, Coggins, Gibson, Meriwether, Pettus, Porter, and Ragland, it seems that my mother's answer to my childhood question was the correct one.

And now that my brother has three sons with red hair and two of my own grandchildren have beautiful red hair, I do believe that our Scotch-Irish roots are "starting to show."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vertie's Ring - A Story of Lost Love

This is a picture of my paternal grandmother's sister, my great aunt, Vertie Porter. Born September 22, 1896, in Attala County, Mississippi, Vertie was named for her maternal grandmother, Malverda (also spelled "Melverda" and "Melvertie") Gibson. During the early portion of her adult life, Vertie was a schoolteacher. After teaching school in several places outside of Mississippi, including Stuttgart, Arkansas and in St. Louis, Missouri, Vertie moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There she worked at the University of Tennessee Dental School and lived with her older widowed sister, Etta Porter Parker, until Etta's death from cancer in October 1966.

Although Vertie was an attractive and educated woman, she never married. According to family stories, Vertie had fallen in love with someone in her early twenties, and the couple became engaged to be married. But before they were married, Vertie lost her husband-to-be in an automobile accident. I don't recall ever hearing her fiance's name, so unfortunately I am unable to include it in this post. It seemed that Vertie never met anyone else who could measure up to her beloved, so she never married.

For as long as I can remember, Vertie still wore the beautiful platinum filigree and diamond engagement ring her deceased fiance had given her as a symbol of his devotion. As a young girl, I believed Vertie's ring was the loveliest one in the world, certainly the most beautiful I had ever seen at the time. And on a few occasions when I was young, she even allowed me to try on the ring. My, how it sparkled! When I asked my mother some years ago if she knew what happened to Vertie's ring, she told me the sad story of how Vertie had given it to a niece who allegedly had later sold it.

Recently, I found the second photograph in this post while going through a box of uncatalogued old photographs that belonged to Vertie's sister, my paternal grandmother. Although there are no clues written on the back of the photograph, I believe it is a picture of Vertie and her fiance, and likely one of only a few that may exist. Based on the manicured foliage in the background and the pergola under which the couple were photographed, my best guess is the pictures were taken in the Spring in a park.

Vertie lived almost fourteen years after her sister, Etta, died in Memphis. After retiring from her job, Vertie later returned to Mississippi to live near relatives. And in August of 1980, one month short of her 84th birthday, Vertie Porter died.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

'Lil Elvis and "The King"

Last evening, something very special happened. For the first time, we had the pleasure of seeing our 6 year-old grandson perform as 'Lil Elvis. A serious Elvis fan for over a year now, 'Lil Elvis occasionally joins an adult-size Elvis impersonator who sounds remarkably just like "The King" when he appears at a local restaurant on select Saturday nights. Residents of all ages from nearby neighborhoods flock to the restaurant when "Elvis" is in the house, making it a real family affair.

Above: The show opens...

'Lil Elvis takes a final bow

And the performance last night was absolutely wonderful. Appearing with a new Elvis-type hairdo and remarkably authentic-looking aviator sunglasses (with sideburns, even!) 'Lil Elvis wowed the crowds with his well-rehearsed moves, as he sang along with the adult Elvis-impersonator. No "lip syncing" here....this guy's voice sounds just like the real thing. At the end of the evening, the two crooners even dedicated a song to us, and 'Lil Elvis placed a blue lei around his proud grandmother's neck.

Call me biased if you will, but what a show and what a kid!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Southern Jewish Experience

Recently, I became aware of two museums in Mississippi that deal with the state's history. Unlike many of Mississippi's older, more established museums, these are fairly new, having been around only since the mid-1980's. They are not, however, Civil War museums, museums that showcase Native American history and culture, or museums that chronicle the history of the music phenomenon known as The Delta Blues. They are museums that have a mission "to document and preserve the rich history of the Southern Jewish experience."

If you are among those who may be searching for information about Southern Jewish ancestors, their lives, and their customs, the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life
, or "ISJL," may just be the place to visit. Two locations now exist, the original location in Utica, Mississippi, near Jackson, and a newer site in historic Natchez, Mississippi. The ISJL's website describes the original museum facility as sitting on "a beautiful rural setting on the 300-acre site of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi.....with exhibit galleries and a central sanctuary that is actively used for programs and services."

The Natchez museum is located at 213 South Commerce Street at Washington Street, and houses an exhibit that documents the history and everyday life of Natchez's Jewish families, beginning with the arrival of the first Sephardic Jewish families in the late
1700s. Of interest here, is the fact that the oldest Jewish congregation in Mississippi was housed at the temple in Natchez. Behind the stained glass windows and historic walls of Temple B'nai Israel are a century-old organ and an ark made out of marble.

For readers who live outside the State of Mississippi, it may be a surprise to hear that the Magnolia state would have enough Jewish population to warrant these two museums. But the fact is that Jews have lived in the South since the 18th century. A large portion of that population likely resulted from the mass emigration of Jews from the Alsace-Lorraine region in Europe to the United States during that time period. And many of these families migrated further south. This theory is supported by information on the museum's website that states "as early as 1820, more Jews lived in Charleston, South Carolina than in New York City."

If you haven't visited Mississippi's wonderful museums, I encourage you to do so.
And don't forget to include the ISJL. These museums will certainly be worth the "southern experience."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Froggie's Friday Book Review - "Black Indians - A Hidden Heritage"

Almost ten years ago, after finding that I had a Gibson ancestor, I began researching South Carolina records for information about John P. Gibson, my great-great-great-grandfather, born in that state about 1799. One of the first references I found to the Gibson family in South Carolina was in a book entitled "White Over Black," by Winthrop D. Jordan. Included in that book was mention of the South Carolina Gibson family headed by Gideon Gibson and a discussion of the family's questionable racial heritage. Since then, I have continued to research and read any historical reference materials I can find that relate to South Carolina's so-called "tri-racial isolate" groups, in hopes of piecing together the ancestry of Gideon Gibson, identifying his descendants, and hopefully, finding out more about my own Gibson family.

It was the search for more Gibson family history that led me to the book reviewed here today, "Black Indians, A Hidden Heritage," by William Loren Katz. During a visit to Albuquerque a few years ago, I was wandering around the University of New Mexico bookstore and happened upon the book, which I immediately bought and read on the plane on the way home. Copyrighted in 1986 by Ethrac Publications, Inc. and published by First Aladdin Paperbacks in 1997, this 198-page book explores the inter familial relationships of Native Americans with other ethnic groups in early North American settlements.

In his book, Katz uses actual photographs and illustrations to help tell poignant stories that are both revealing and enlightening. Beginning with settlements in early British colonies, including the Pee Dee River area in South Carolina, Katz chronicles the life, customs, and movements of Native Americans from colonial areas into Indian Territory, to Texas, and on further west. Katz has included profiles and often, photographs, of men with mixed racial ancestry who became leaders in areas occupied by Native American tribes. Among the profiles contained in the book are life stories about Edward Rose, George and Stephen Bonga, and James P. Beckwourth, and how their ancestries, familial relationships, and occupations were deeply intertwined with Native Americans.

Katz has presented the results of his research in a book that is both straightforward and easy to read. Although the book is not lengthy, only 198 pages including its bibliography and index, it is a most powerful one. I highly recommend the reading of "Black Indians - A Hidden Heritage" to anyone who is seeking to explore the relationship of tribal heritage and racial ethnicity in the United States

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ragland Relatives - The Search Continues

This is yet another installment about my search for Ragland ancestors, and unfortunately, I still have not determined the names of Winiford Ragland's parents.

Since I have been unable to locate Arthur C. Ragland on a census record in Mississippi between 1820 and 1880, I can only assume that he was counted under another name that I would not recognize, possibly one that began with his middle initial of "C." Another possibility, of course, is that he died sometime after 1841, the date he was issued patents for land in Attala County.

Yesterday, I decided to review again Edward Branch's War of 1812 records that I obtained from the National Archives. Although I had some information about Edward Branch to begin with, photocopies of the documents in his war and pension file have given me data and insight into his life that, otherwise, I would not have.

Included in the pension file was a copy of the Application for Widow's Pension filed by Winiford Ragland Branch after Edward's death on October 28, 1874. It appears from the documents, that when the pension office in Washington, D.C. requested proof of her marriage to Edward, Winiford was unable to provide a copy of the document. Apparently, the record of her marriage to Edward was either lost or destroyed during the Civil War, and all that remained at the Hinds County Courthouse in Raymond, Mississippi, was a copy of a marriage bond that was posted.

Edward's file documents show that Bryan Tyson, Esq., representing the pension office in Washington, wrote to Winiford's attorneys in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Butts & Scarborough, requesting a signed affidavit from two individuals who could attest to the fact that the marriage had actually occurred. A copy of the affidavit submitted, signed by Robert W. Ragland and Sarah Haxall, who stated they were each present and saw the couple married, is among the pension file documents. Now I have another Ragland name to include in my search. In addition, other members of the community who had known the couple for many years submitted separate affidavits attesting to the public's knowledge of the existence of the Ragland-Branch marriage. Two such individuals were Charles R. McNeal and Thomas W Evans.

Here is a look at the affidavit, signed by Robert W. Ragland and Sarah Haxall, that bears the seal of an Attala County Justice of the Peace, R. N. Ousley:

So now it's back to census searching, this time for Robert W. Ragland. Apart from the affidavit, one othe item of interest I found yesterday was that a member of the Ragland family in Hanover County, Virginia, Evan Ragland, alledgedly married Susannah Pettus. If you have been following this blog, you may recall that my maternal line includes the Pettus family, who lived in Kent County, Virginia before migrating south. Possibly, a connection between these two families existed in Mississippi, as well, since I have now found a Pettus family and a Ragland family living in 1860 near Paris, a community in Lafayette County, Mississippi. I am anxious to see where this research leads me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Claudia Baldridge Branch and Her Only Son

Pictured here are my paternal great-grandmother, Claudia Baldridge Branch, born September 9, 1879, and her only son, Clark Commander Branch, who was born on August 9, 1899. In addition to Clark, Claudia and Edward Arthur Branch had four daughters, Ezma, Catherine, Laura, and Stella. I have previously written posts here about both the Branch family and the Baldridge families.

This photograph, taken around 1951 in front of our house in the Mississippi Delta, is the only one of just Clark and his mother that I know exists. At the time, Grandma Claudie, as she was known to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, was living in Goodman, Mississippi. and was likely visiting our family at the time.

Although I was too young to know the value of asking Grandma Claudie questions about her family and her life before she died in 1964, I have always thought she must have been pretty proud of her son. After she lost her husband when Clark was only 15 years old, as the only son, he became the primary breadwinner for the family, and a farmer like most of his own ancestors. And during his life, it was evident to me that Clark's sisters, too, admired and respected him, not only for his role as a father figure growing up, but for the honest, hardworking, and loyal man he
became as an adult.

Clark Commander Branch died on January 19, 1979, in Jackson, Mississippi, of complications from heart disease, the same disease that had caused his mother's death. He is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery, Holmes County, Mississippi, next to his wife of 56 years, Lelia Porter Branch, and near Claudia, his beloved mother.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Searching for Ragland Ancestors

Someone once told me that if we trace our family tree back as far as the beginning of time, each of us is related to 1, 011,001 other individuals. Although this is a fascinating story, the number is not an even one, and I simply don't understand the math. But you will have to agree, it certainly explains why a genealogist's search is never complete.

Recently, I began a serious search for my Ragland ancestors. When I say "serious" it means that I have searched before, several times before, in fact, but each time I ran up against those so-called "brick walls." This time, I hope to be more resourceful, more productive, and end up with several Ragland family members that I can add to my tree.

One of the first bits of genealogical data that I discovered when I began to research my family history was that Edward Tillman Branch's wife was named Winiford Ragland. Edward and Winiford were my fourth great-grandparents. Shortly after I found Winiford's name, I searched Mississippi marriage records for the date of her marriage to Edward Branch. According to Hinds County, Mississippi marriage records, Edward and Winiford were married in 1830, when Winiford was barely 18 years old. Born in 1798 in Virginia, Edward was almost 15 years older than his bride.

According to the 1850 U. S. Census taken in Attala County, Mississippi, "Winney" Ragland was born in "LA," but ten years later, her birthplace was shown as "Mississippi." Further research at that time was fruitless, and I was unable to determine neither Winiford Ragland Branch's place of birth nor the names of her parents. I put the information aside, vowing to continue the effort when time allowed.

Later, I was fortunate enough to locate Edward's records of his service in the War of 1812, and to obtain photocopies of the documents from the National Archives. Based on affidavits that Edward submitted in connection with Edward's application for a pension, I found names of some Ragland family members. I put those documents aside for later reference and more research.

Sometime later, while examining deed records for the mid-1800s in Attala County, Mississippi, I accidentally found that Winney Ragland Branch's father may be Arthur S. Ragland. Ironically, Arthur is a name that has been passed on to male Branch family members for several generations now, beginning with one of the sons born to Winney and Edward, Joseph Arthur Branch, my third great-grandfather, and to one of my own brothers. At this point, I knew I was on the right path. But I didn't follow-up. There were other ancestors whose information qualified as "low hanging fruit," and I followed those research paths, instead.

Today, I made a promise to myself that I will complete the Ragland family research that has been started for so long. And I began with a search of Mississippi Land Patents Database. What I discovered was that almost 400 acres of Attala County lands were transferred to Arthur S. Ragland on February 27, 1841. These lands were described as the following:

02/27/1841, 158.88 acres in Section 17, T12N, R5E
02/27/1841, 79.44 acres in Section 17, T12N, R5E
02/27/1841, 159.4 acres in Section 8, T12N, R5E
Now I know that Arthur S. Ragland lived in or near Attala County in 1841, and tomorrow, I plan to begin a search of census records. In a few days, with some diligence and hopefully, some good luck, I may know the name of Arthur S. Ragland's wife, and the name of my fifth great-grandmother.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Smile For The Camera, 11th Edition - My Bubba and Me

The word prompt for the 11th Edition of Smile For The Camera at
Shades of the Departed is Brothers & Sisters.

My submission here is a photograph of my brother, James, and me. I called him "Bubba" until he was old enough to be embarrassed by the nickname and shortened it to "Bub" after we started school. Fortunately, it never caught on with his friends, who called him James, Jimmy, or Jim. The photograph was made on Easter Sunday morning when he was 4 1/2 years old, and I was almost 6, in front of the fence that surrounded our front yard where we lived in the Mississippi Delta. My paternal grandmother was the photographer, and she used a Brownie camera that I recall from my childhood.
Since we grew up on a working farm and spent many hours playing outside, I am certain that our grandmother enjoyed snapping a picture of us when we were "all cleaned up." I can still hear her say to me "o oui" when I got "all dressed up," meaning " O yes - you look so pretty." My mother, a talented seamstress, made almost all the clothes we wore during our early childhood, and the white organdy dress and petticoat that I am wearing, as well as my brother's dress shorts and white shirt, were most certainly products of her handiwork. Unfortunately, our younger brother, who was still a toddler, was not included in this picture.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Froggie's Friday Book Review

Last week here I reviewed Gena Ayers Walls' book, "The Netherland Leatherlin Legacy and Allied Families Crane and Walls." When I opened my email a couple of days ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see an email from Gena, advising me that she had stumbled upon my blog and thanking me for reviewing her book. Also, Gena mentioned that she still has a number of books that are available for purchase. The cost of the Netherland book that contains 175 pages of documents and photographs and mentions over 10,000 names, is $65, with shipping and handling included.

From Gena's email I learned that she has now published a second family history book, entitled "Franklin Folks, Descendants of Job and Hannah Wheeler Franklin." Gena's new book chronicles this large family of Habersham, Georgia, beginning with Job and Hannah and their seven children, Nancy, Jeremiah Richard Warren, Wesley, Thomas Alfred, Jonathan Mitchell, Sarah Jane and Moses. According to Gena, Job and Hannah Franklin's seven children produced a total of 54 grandchildren, and today these descendants have familial links with almost everyone in Habersham County, Georgia. Published by Gateway Press, a division of the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore, the 600 page book is 8.5 x 11 inches, hardbound, and contains 280 pages of photographs and evidentiary documentation.

The index included in "Franklin Folks" is a handy reference itself, since it contains over 10,000 names that represent approximately 1150 families. Among the surnames in the book's index are Allen, Adams, Barron, Belew, Benefield, Brown, Burrell, Carter, Church, Davis, Dawkins, Dodd, Dover, Edmonds, Fry, Garrett, Henderson, Ivester, Loudermilk, Rudeseal, Shirley and Shore families. "Franklin Folks," like the Netherland family book, can be purchased directly from Gena Ayers Walls for $55.00 plus $5.00 shipping and handling.

Gena's books, comprehensive and well-documented with copies of photographs and actual family records, are indeed finds for family researchers everywhere. If you have ties to Crane, Walls, Leatherlin/Neatherlin/Netherland, families, or to the Franklin family of Habersham, Georgia, these two books are must-haves.

To order a copy of either of these books by Gena Ayers Walls, please contact Gena by email at,
or by snail mail at: Gena Walls, 7418 Swanson Drive, Richmond, Texas 77469.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Battle of the Bottle

August 6, 1966 was an infamous day in Greenville, Mississippi, as it was in the State of Mississippi. As the historic marker pictured above states, the "Jigger and Jug," owned by the Azar Brothers, became the first legal liquor store in the state. Still in business today, the store is advertised in McRae's Business Directory as a "specialty" retail store that sells liquor.

It is difficult for many people my age to remember that manufacturing and selling liquor was illegal in Mississippi for over half a century. But the fact that liquor was not legal in Mississippi did not prevent those who wanted to buy a "bottle" from making a trip across the Mississippi River Bridge to a liquor store in Louisiana or from buying from local sources known as "bootleggers."

Throughout the prohibition years, local law enforcement officers and political and religious leaders alike waged very public wars against the sale of alcohol while often looking the other way when dealing with those who were selling it. Non-drinking private citizens, some with both money and influence, often took up the controversial cause. One of those private citizens was Hazel Brannon Smith, a newspaper editor who owned the Lexington (MS) Advertiser. Mrs. Smith's frank and revealing editorials in the 1940's eventually led to the arrests of a number of Holmes County bootleggers.

The illegal sale of liquor, however, continued until the law was changed in the mid-sixties. When the new local option law became effective on July 1, 1966, Mississippi entered a new era: it became the last state to end prohibition.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dances with Daffodils

"For oft when on my couch I lie,
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."
- William Wordsworth

With snow blanketing many parts of the country last weekend, my thoughts have turned to spring again. And it is definitely encouraging that instead of having snow today, we are seeing a few more signs that spring is truly on its way. Spring to me means new life, flowers, fresh-smelling new green grass, birds, baby animals, and Easter - life's simple things. It is a joy to watch the palette of colorful flowers unfold around me, and to see the lovely wispy blossoms appear almost overnight on flowering pear, peach, and plum trees is a delight. Just this morning, I saw another lovely sight, more confirmation that winter is gone for another year. A small flock of migrating goldfinches were feeding on their delicacy, black Niger seed, at the yellow feeder outside the breakfast room window.

Maybe tomorrow my tulips will be blooming.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Names, Places, and Most Wanted Faces

On February 20th, an article posted by Craig Manson on GeneaBlogie describes a way for geneabloggers to enlist the help of readers in locating difficult to find ancestors. The idea is to publicize surnames and locales in the hope that others will have some information about these same people. Craig's suggestion sounds like a good one, so here is my list:

Surnames and Locales:

ATWOOD: Mississippi (Attala, Carroll, Madison Counties)
BALDRIDGE: Mississippi (Carroll, Madison, and Leflore Counties)
BRANCH: Mississippi (Attala, Holmes, and Madison Counties)
COGGINS: Mississippi (Holmes and Madison Counties)

GARRARD: Louisiana (Parish Unk) Mississippi (Holmes County)
GIBSON: Mississippi (Calhoun, Carroll, Monroe Counties)

JEFFRIES: Mississippi (Adams, Washington, Madison, Attala Counties)
MARBLE: Mississippi (Carroll, Madison, and Montgomery Counties)
MERIWETHER: Mississippi (Calhoun and Carroll Counties)

NETHERLAND: Mississippi (Amite and Holmes County)
PETTUS: Mississippi (Attala, Holmes, Lafayette Counties)

PINKSTON: Mississippi (Attala and Madison Counties)
PORTER: Mississippi (Attala, Chickasaw and Holmes Counties)

RAGLAND: Mississippi (Attala, Leake, Madison, Montgomery Counties)
THOMAS: Mississippi (Attala, Holmes Counties)
TRIGLETH: Mississippi (Holmes County)
WILLIAMS: Alabama (Dallas County) Mississippi (Monroe County)

MOST WANTED ANCESTORS: Parents of John P. Gibson, b. 1799 in South Carolina; Parents of Margaret J. Williams, b. circa 1820 in Alabama; Parents of Wilds Meriwether, b. circa 1870 (state unk,) died circa 1930, possibly KY)