Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mabry Family in Mississippi

Like so many other families that migrated to Mississippi, the territory and the state, the Mabry family came from Virginia. Although I am not directly related to the Mabry family, I have heard the name mentioned by my Attala County relatives most of my life. Also, I have often seen the name in many family history resources I have searched on my quest for information about my own ancestors.

One of these resources was a book entitled, "Brunswick County, Virginia 1720 - 1975, Revised to 2000," written by Gay Neale, a gift from a distant Branch relative whose parents grew up in Southside Virginia.
Ironically, Joel Mabry, Hinchia Mabry, and my great-great-great-grandfather, Edward Tillman Branch, were all residents of Southside Virginia. Even more ironic is the fact that Mabry and Branch descendants have been residents of Attala County, Mississippi for well over a century.

Beginning next week, I plan to publish a series of posts about the Mabry family of Attala County, Mississippi. Also, on Mississippi Memories's sister blog,
Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek, I will be posting a series of photos of Mabry family grave stones in cemeteries in the Attala County area.

I hope you will join me here next week to read about this Attala County family.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fall Foliage Trip

Recently, we took a short road trip to the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas to see the fall foliage. Although we were a couple of weeks early for seeing the colors at their peak, and weather conditions caused the area to be blanketed with fairly heavy morning fog, we still had a great time. Our home-away-from-home was a two-bedroom, two story cabin (we traveled with another couple) on the edge of a meadow surrounded by over 400 forested acres. Situated near the base of Rich Mountain, the cabin's setting can best be described by two words: peaceful and serene. Our cabin, one of four, each separated from the others by dense woods and a long walk, was well-appointed and contained all the comforts of home, except WiFi.

The photo above shows an early morning view near the peak of Rich Mountain, about 2600 feet in elevation. The lake in the upper right background is Lake Wilhelmina.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"One Night of Madness" - A True Account of the Leon Murder Case, by Stokes McMillan

Several months ago after I had written a post about an infamous Attala County murder case, the Leon Turner case, Ann Breedlove, genealogy researcher in the Kosciusko, Mississippi Library, told me that an Attala County native, Stokes McMillan, was writing a book about the murder case. At that point, Stokes was still writing the book, hoping to get it published before the end of this year. Recently, Ann contacted me again and told me that she had been in touch with Stokes, who told her that publication of the book, "One Night of Madness" was near. Ann wanted me to know that she had given Stokes my email address, thinking that I might want to profile his book on Mississippi Memories. Twice during the past two weeks, Stokes and I have communicated by email about his book, and he was kind enough to share with me the following information, taken from the book's preface:

"In 1950, a small-town Southern newspaper photographer snapped a once-in-a-lifetime photograph of the capture of two killers. Taken in a farmyard setting deep in the heart of Mississippi’s pine forests, the photo exudes activity and danger. Two men are being frisked as they lie on their stomachs spread-eagled in the dirt. Between them, a rough-looking character in convict’s striped pants stands guard with a pistol in each hand, a bloodhound at his side. Months after this dramatic picture first appeared in a low-circulation, country weekly newspaper, it garnered the prize as America’s best journalistic photograph of 1950 by the prestigious National Press Photographers Association, beating out six hundred entries from newspapers around the country, including the biggest and richest. This award-winning photo is on the cover of the book. Naturally, the honored photographer's wife, who also happened to be the daughter of the newspaper's editor and publisher, was proud of her husband's major accomplishment, and she decided to build a scrapbook about the photo. Her scrapbook would contain the blue-ribbon picture and the story behind it: a story of mayhem, murder, posses, and trials as recorded by articles from several national newspapers and shown by numerous 8 x 10 black-and-white glossies taken by her husband. When the material she gathered outgrew the grossly undersized family album, she pasted everything into a 30 x 30 inch behemoth normally used for page layout at her father's newspaper."

The photographer who took the photo (
seen below) and who won the award, and his wife who built the scrapbook, were Stokes McMillan's father and mother.

According to Stokes, his father was present at the capture of the murderers, pictured here in this photo that won the National Press Photographer Association's Best Photo of 1950 Award.

In the preface of his new book, Stokes provides some background of the writing of the book:

"As a little boy, I occasionally pulled the scrapbook from its storage spot beneath my parents' bed and gazed over its collection of photographs, but I had no thought of reading the accompanying newspaper articles. My parents told me the rough details of the story, and that was good enough for me. Decades passed. Eventually, I inherited the scrapbook. Like my mother, I kept it beneath my bed, but took no interest other than to pull it out a few times to show the pictures to my children and to share with them what little of the background story I remembered. Then I tucked it back under the bed and relegated it to the back of my mind.

Things changed as the 2001 Christmas season approached. Our middle child, then a college sophomore, stated that his gift wish was to have a poster made of his grandfather’s award-winning photograph. He wanted to hang it in his apartment. A great idea, I thought, so I made posters of that photo and one other from the scrapbook for him and his two brothers. So that I might provide my family with more interesting details behind the photos, I decided to take the time over the holidays to read the scrapbook’s newspaper clippings.

I laid the large scrapbook out on a table and turned to its first page. A headline from the January 29, 1950, St. Louis Post-Dispatch blared “
Murder in Mississippi” in bold print. I began to read, and time melted away as a story of violence, fear, race, love, revenge, politics, and courtroom drama captured me. When I finally closed the cover, I knew that the story of this 1950 event deserved more than to be secreted within the pages of an old scrapbook—it deserved to be told, and ownership of the scrapbook made me the one to tell it."

The preface of the book continues as the author tells a little about himself:

"My mother always said there's printer's ink instead of blood in my veins. My great-grandfather, Wiley Sanders, founded the Kosciusko, Miss. newspaper, the
Star-Herald. He handed it to Stokes Sanders, my grandfather and source of my name. Stokes's only son died young, so ownership of the paper went to my mother. Her husband, my father, became the de facto owner/publisher while mom managed kids at home. Unfortunately, years later, when dad asked his children if we wanted the paper, neither my older brother or sister accepted. I was an early teenager with my eyes on space. I declined his offer and eventually majored in aerospace engineering at Miss. State. I moved to Houston, married a Texan, and went to work for NASA, where I am nearing retirement after working at Johnson Space Center for over 30 years."

Stokes admits that he underestimated the time it would take him to write the book about this event that occurred in his home state of Mississippi. He initially believed that it would take him about 2-3 years. But now, after 8 years, Stokes is looking at an early December publication date for the book. And it sounds as if he has loved every minute of the project.

If you are interested in pre-ordering a copy of "One Night of Madness," a true account of the Leon Turner murder case, please contact Stokes McMillan at

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Genealogy Books about the Franklin and Dodd Families, by Gena Ayers Walls

During a recent contact with Gena Walls, I found that she has written two new genealogy books. The first book is entitled "Franklin Folks, Descendants of Job and Hannah Wheeler Franklin." Based on a flyer that Gena mailed me, the Franklin book is an accumulation of thirty years of research by a great-great-great-great granddaughter, and is a 'must' read for anyone related to Job Franklin of Habersham County, Georgia. Job and Hannah's seven children were Nancy, Jeremiah Richard Warren, Wesley, Thomas Alfred, Jonathan Mitchell, Sara Jane, and Moses. Fifty-four grandchildren made up the next generation, and their descendants' are inter-related by family ties to almost everyone who lives in Habersham County today.

Gena describes the publication as a hardbound, cloth book, containing 600 pages printed on acid-free paper, with 230 illustrations, including charts, copies of documents, and photos. Its index contains more than 10,000 names that represent 1,150 different surnames, all related to Job and Hannah Franklin, either by blood or by marriage.Also included in the book are related families with the surnames Adams, Allen, Barron, Bellew, Benefield, Brown, Burell, Carter, Church, Davis, Dawkins, Dodd, Dover, Edmonds, Fry, Garrett, Henderson, Ivester, Loudermilk, Moore, Rudeseal, Shirley, and Shore.

Dodd family descendants will want to read Gena's second new book, entitled "
Dodd Family History: Habersham County, Georgia."
This book contains the history of the family of James Dodd, who was born circa 1774 in Virginia and died in Habersham County, Georgia in 1852. Included in the book's 800 pages is the accumulation of fifty years of research conducted by Mr. Dodd's great-great-great granddaughter, beginning with Dodd's children, Marilda, James Allen, Green Berry, Jane E., Levi H., and Mary Malissa. Other surnames included in the book and having familial connections to the Dodd family are Ayers, Burke, Carter, Clark, Harper, Perkins, Watson, Westmoreland, and Whitehead. Related families also discussed in the Dodd book are Blair, Bowers, Farmer, Frye, Henderson, Ivester, London, Loudermilk, Magness, Martin, Massey, Morris, Nix, Odell, Rich, Sanderson, Sisk, Sullens, Tate, Thomason, and Yearwood. The Dodd family book, like the Franklin book profiled above, is also hardbound, printed on acid-free paper, and contains a comprehensive index of more than 10,000 names.

In addition, a few copies of "The Netherland, Leatherlin Legacy with Allied Crane and Walls Families," compiled and written by Gena and published by Gateway Press, are still available as a result of a limited publishing.

If you are interested in one of these three family history books, please contact Gena Walls by email at, or she can be reached by regular mail at:

Gena Walls
7418 Swanson Drive
Richmond, TX 77469

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - 2009/Climate Change

In recent years, Mississippi has seen its share of tangible damage caused by the likely effects of climate change. During the last half century, the coastal area of the state has been ravaged by several major hurricanes, including the most recent two, Rita and Katrina, during which many lives and much property were lost.

Although hurricanes are not something new or even uncommon to the Mississippi Gulf Coast area, it does seem as if these storms have become more forceful and destructive during the last decade. Not only have these massive storms affected people, animals, vegetation, and overall economic conditions along the Gulf Coast, they have affected something else - marine life. And a major part of cleanup efforts post-Rita and Katrina has involved cleaning up underwater debris in the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to prevent its potential impact on marine life there.

My earliest memories of the Mississippi Gulf Coast are fantastic memories. But the Coast then was quite different from what I recall in recent years, even before the hurricanes of 2005 changed life there forever. Gulf coast beaches in the 1960's and 70's were pristine and uncluttered by the economic changes of the last two decades. My young memories recall few structures actually built on the beach side of U. S. 90 (Beach Boulevard). And the waste created by the many large hotels, casinos, and restaurants that now line the coast were non-issues. But economic growth along the Coast has had an environmental impact with far-reaching implications, and it is still too soon to know the final results.

Like the high-rise hotels and casinos that cast a daytime shadow over Beach Boulevard, the offshore drilling rigs that shine like Christmas lights on the ocean at night have increased in numbers in years past. One can only wonder their contribution, directly and indirectly, on climate change along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and throughout our world.

Most of us realize that we don't have all the answers when it comes to climate change, its implications, and its overall impact. And most of us certainly realize we don't have the solution. But we do recognize that we should be good stewards and do our part, however small, in protecting this planet.

It belongs to all of us.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Washington County Courthouse, Greenville, Mississippi

Washington County Courthouse, Greenville, Mississippi - Originally built in 1891

Source: Digital Photography Collection (2009) - Privately held by Janice Tracy

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shrock Family in Mississippi - Part 2

Finding the family of Joseph K. and Caroline Fitler Shrock on the U. S. Census of 1870 was difficult. When I did locate the household, I found the surname spelled incorrectly, apparently a transcription error, since it appeared with an "a" instead of an "o." Another transcription error was made when "J. K." Shrock was shown as "J. J."

In 1870, Joseph K. Shrock and his family were living in Beat 4 of Attala County, Mississippi, with a post office address of "Kosciusko." Shrock, born in South Carolina and 49 years old in 1870, was a merchant by occupation. His wife, Caroline, was shown to have been 45 years old when the census was recorded. Joseph Shrock's real estate, according to the census record, was valued at $3,500, and his personal property was shown to be worth $5,000.

Children in the Shrock household included:

H. F. Shrock, male, 20 y/o, W
Wm. F. Shrock, male, 18, W
G. Salley Shrock, male, 14, W
Eliza Shrock, female, 17, W
Louisa Shrock, female, 13, W
M. E. Shrock, female, 12, W

Also enumerated in the household was Louisa Fitler, likely Caroline Shrock's sister or sister-in-law. Another census transcription error existed with the Fitler surname, shown incorrectly as "Fetter."

A six year old black male, Robert Carson, was also enumerated in the Shrock household. Since the household appearing on the census record just before the Shrock household was headed by a 30-year old black farmer named Robt. Carson, it appears that six year old Robert was likely the older Robert Carson's son.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Shrock Family in Mississippi, Part 1

Descendants of Joseph Kilpatrick Shrock have lived in Mississippi for over 150 years, and the Shrock name is certainly familiar to anyone who has roots in Attala County, Mississippi. In fact, my own ancestors lived for many years near the small Attala County community that bears Joseph K. Shrock's name. In 1848, two Pennsylvania families joined when Joseph K. Shrock, born May 6, 1821 in South Carolina, married Caroline Fitler, born circa 1826. Joseph was the son of Henry Shrock, born in Pennsylvania on October 9, 1780, and his wife, Sarah. Henry Shrock and his family, like a number of other families, had migrated from Kershaw County, South Carolina to Madison County where they named their new home, "Camden" for Camden, South Carolina. 
According to the date of death shown on her grave stone in Camden Cemetery in Madison County, Mississippi, Sarah Shrock died on September 16, 1836, over a decade before her son would marry Caroline FitlerCaroline was the daughter of William Fitler, born 1785 in Pennsylvania, and Eliza Fitler, born 1788 in New York. The Fitler family was quite well-known in Pennsylvania, where one of Caroline's ancestors had served as Mayor of Philadelphia. Today, Fitler Square, named for the Fitler family, is a living reminder of that family's contribution to the city. Since Eliza Fitler's household in Madison County, Mississippi, in 1850, did not include William, it is likely that Caroline's father had already died. Eliza, however, lived long enough to see her daughter marry Joseph Shrock, apparently dying in 1853. William and Eliza Fitler are also buried in Camden Cemetery in Madison County, near the graves of Joseph's parents, Sarah and Henry Shrock.
Joseph and Caroline Shrock settled into married life near Camden, Mississippi, where they built their home. Later, in 1862, Shrock built a church, Shrock Methodist Church, and in 1865, he built a store. Shrock Store was a thriving enterprise, known for its varied inventory of merchandise available to residents of this rural and fairly remote area of Mississippi. Shrock Store was a vital part of the community, and at one time, it also housed a post office. The Shrock House, Shrock Methodist Church, and the Shrock Store, now historical structures, still stand. According to the U. S. Census of 1850, the Shrock household enumerated on September 2, 1850, in Attalaville, Mississippi, included these individuals:
Joseph K. Shrock, 29 year old male, merchant, property valued at $800, born in SC
Caroline S., 24 year old female, born in MS
William H., 1 year old male, born in MS
Henry D. Berry, 22 year old male, clerk, born in SC
In 1860, the Shrock household, headed by Joseph K., by then 39 years old, included Caroline Shrock, his wife, age 35. The couple had six children, Henry F.,11, William F., 10, Eliza, 7, George, 6, Joseph, 4, and Mary E., 2 years old. Also living in the Shrock household was Louisa Fitler, 36 years old, and likely Caroline's sister or sister-in-law. Two men, Stith A. Wright, 27 years old, and George Mitchell, 20, shown to be machinists by occupation, were also counted in the Shrock household. Since Joseph Shrock's occupation on the 1860 census record was "steam miller and farmer," it seems fairly certain that Wright and Mitchell were mill employees.
While doing research for this post, I ran across a wonderful book on Google Books by Elmo Howard that included an article about the Shrock home, the man who built it, and the family that lived there. Click here to read more about the Shrock family in "Mississippi Scenes: Notes on Literature and History."

Mississippi Scenes: Notes on Literature and History, by Elmo Howard, Google Books, accessed on October 8 - 9, 2009, Camden Cemetery, Madison, Mississippi, accessed on October 9, 2009, U. S. Census Collection, 1850 and 1860, accessed on October 8 - 9, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tracing Michelle Obama's Biracial Heritage

Today's edition of our local newspaper ran a reprint of an article written by Rachel L. Swarns and Jodi Kantor, first published in the The New York Times. The article details the recent discovery that Melvinia Shields, a former slave on an estate in South Carolina, who later lived in Georgia and Alabama, is the maternal great-great-great-grandmother of America's First Lady, Michelle Obama. The relationship was traced back through one of Melvinia's four sons, Dolphus T. Shields. According to the article, three of these sons, including Dolphus, were listed as "mulatto" on the U. S. Census of 1870.

Research for the article was conducted by Megan Smolenyak, a self-described "
genealogical adventurer" and an "incurable genealogist who loves to solve mysteries." Megan's credentials are quite impressive. She is the Chief Family Historian of, President of, and the Founder of And when Megan isn't busy with those duties and responsibilities, she writes a blog, Megan's Roots World, and maintains a website, Honoring Our Ancestors.

The article states "One (child) was born four years after emancipation, a suggestion that the liaison that produced those children endured after slavery." Apparently, Melvinia "gave her children the Shields name, which may have hinted at their paternity or simply been the custom of former slaves taking their master's surnames."

The context of the article continues with information stating "Melvinia broke away and managed to reunite with former slaves from her childhood on the Patterson estate: Maria and Bolus Easley, who settled with Melvinia in Bartow County, near the Alabama border." Later, Melvinia's son, Dolphus Shields, married Alice, one of the Easley daughters. The article goes on to state that Alice Easley Shields and Dolphus T. Shields are Michelle Obama's great-great-grandparents and further identifies Purnell Shields, a grandson of Alice and Dolphus, as Ms. Obama's maternal grandfather. The story is a fascinating one - a story of the legacy of a biracial child born to a slave mother that spans five generations.

African-American genealogy research is certainly not new, and with online resources that are now available to most researchers, family histories similar to Michelle Obama's are not unfamiliar. But large conferences dedicated to bringing African-American research groups together have been almost non-existent. Later this month that will all change. On October 29-31, 2009, the first International Black Genealogy Summitt will be held at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. According to the announcement, this event "signifies the first time that all of the black historical and genealogical societies in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean will come together to celebrate the joys and challenges of black genealogy."

Today, I read a post published by the You Go Genealogy Girls, nominated this week as one of the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs. One of the authors quoted something that was stated at a recent genealogy conference, and the words caught my eye. The quote read like this:

"Jelly beans are like our family members. Some are sweet and some are more sour. Some of our 'beans' may be white and some may be black, some may have freckles while others may not. Each precious one is an unexpected individual and we love each one for who and what they are. When they are all together, they can become quite a mixed bag......They are the fuel of life ..."

Jelly bean genealogy............I like that!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On The Mississippi

Through wild and tangled forests
The broad, unhasting river flows--
Spotted with rain-drops, gray with night;
Upon its curving breast there goes
A lonely steamboat's larboard light,
A blood-red star against the shadowy oaks;
Noiseless as a ghost, through greenish gleam
Of fire-flies, before the boat's wild scream--
A heron flaps away
Like silence taking flight.

From Prairie Songs: Being Chants Rhymed and Unrhymed of the Level Lands of the Great West by Hamlin Garland, published by Stone and Kimball, 1893. In the public domain.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blog Traffic and New Cousins

This week has been the week for finding new cousins. Technology continues to make our world a much smaller one, and blogging makes it even smaller.

Many of my recent postings have been about my mother's ancestors, including the surnames of Coggins, Pettus, Trigleth, Killebrew, and Neatherlin/Neatherland/Netherland. One of these posts caught the attention this week of a Killebrew descendant who grew up in South Texas and now lives in South Carolina. Interestingly, our great-great-grandmothers were sisters.

According to statistics provided by Google Analytics for the past year, approximately 75% of my blog readership originates from surname searches made using various search engines. This means that my older posts are still being read. One of these searches brought another cousin to this blog....this time a Branch cousin who already lives in Mississippi.

And just last month, thanks to this blog, a Netherland descendant who lives near San Antonio, Texas, found information here about some of our common ancestors who lived in Mississippi almost a hundred years ago. Her email to me and my subsequent phone call to her enabled both of us to engage in a lively and amazing discussion about our families that would not have happened otherwise.

Thank you, cousins, for reading this blog! I hope you will visit often.