Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Surname Saturday - Are We Related?

Surnames I am researching, along with known migration paths, are listed below.  If you are researching the same names, I would love hearing from you. Who knows, we may be cousins!

Atwood - SC>GA>AL>Carroll CO MS
Baldridge - PA>NC>TN>Carroll CO MS
Baskin - NC>TN>Carroll CO MS
Branch - VA>NC>TN>Attala CO MS
Coggins - NC>SC>GA>AL>Holmes CO MS
Fenner - RI>NC>SC>GA>AL>Wilkinson CO MS
Gibson - VA>NC>SC>TN>Monroe CO MS>Calhoun CO MS
Garrard - VA>NC>SC>GA>AL>Holmes CO MS
Marble - NC>SC>GA>AL>Adams Co MS
Merriwether - VA>NC>SC>AL>Tallahatchie CO MS>Carroll CO MS
Middleton - VA>NC>SC>AL>Adams CO MS>Franklin CO MS
Motte - Ireland>Antigua B.W.I.>SC (with some descendants in Franklin Co MS)
Netherland - VA>NC>SC>GA>AL>Wilkinson CO MS
Pettus - VA>NC>SC>GA>AL>Holmes CO MS
Porter - PA>VA>NC>SC>AL>Franklin CO MS>Attala CO MS
Ragland - VA>NC>SC>AL>Wilkinson CO MS>Hinds CO MS>Attala CO MS
Stampley - VA>SC>AL>Adams CO MS
Trigleth - VA>NC>SC>AL>Holmes CO MS
Williams (AL>TN>Monroe CO MS)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"The Diary of a Southern Lady," by Katharine M. Jones

Recently, I agreed to publish a copy of a press release for one of my readers, Katharine M. Jones, announcing the publication of her new book, "The Diary of a Southern Lady." In her book, Ms. Jones, the great, great granddaughter of Georgina Barrett Devlin,  reveals the contents of a previously unpublished diary of a young immigrant mother who lived in the towns of Winona and Yazoo City, Mississippi. Interestingly, the diary covers a sixty-year period of time that includes the Civil War and documents the many changes in transportation during the mid-1800s and the early 1900s.


Previously Unpublished 1852-1912 Diary Now Available

Yazoo City, MS, November 4, 2011 -- In 1852, Georgina Barrett Devlin was a young immigrant from London with small children, living in Yazoo City, Mississippi. She began keeping a journal, at first sporadically but then consistently, almost every day for the rest of her longlife. Now this diary, titled The Diary of a Southern Lady, set in Yazoo City and Winona  and transcribed and edited by her great, great granddaughter, Katharine Jones, has been published by Create Space and is available on Amazon. Early in this period of sixty years she recounts her experiences during the Civil War, when Yankee forces came to her house and she took the children to hide in the woods. After her husband's Yazoo City store burned, the family moved to Winona, Mississippi, where they lived for several years, and then moved back to Yazoo City. In the course of her life story, the reader will read of traveling by stage, then by railroad, by trolley, and by 
automobile. The education of her children and grandchildren is a constant theme. They were at first taught at home or in small neighborhood schools, but were later sent away to boarding schools and colleges as far afield as Tennessee, Virginia, and even Canada. She was interested in the religious and social movements of the day, including Christian Science and Swendenborgian philosophy. And in her later years, her aches and pains and the treatments of the day became more and more important to her. Well footnoted, this diary will be of interest to historians and students of Southern history, theC ivil War and the development of rural and small town life, as well as to the general public.
The Diary of a Southern Lady is available at, on ww.Amazon.comor by contacting the author at

Contact Information for the author is:
Katharine M. Jones
Telephone: 540-686-7285
Mailing address: 146 Stuart Drive
Winchester, VA 22602

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mississippi Index of Wills 1800 - 1900

Yesterday, I received my newest Mississippi genealogy reference book.  Entitled "Mississippi Index of Wills 1800 - 1900," and compiled by Betty Couch Wiltshire, the book was published in 1989 by Heritage Books, Inc. of Bowie, Maryland. Wiltshire's compilation, an invaluable reference for family history researchers everywhere, contains a master index listing testators to over 10,000 wills filed in Mississippi during a 100-year period.  The alphabetical index also includes the date each will was filed for probate, the county in which it was filed, and the reference number for the documents filed. Often, the examination of an ancestor's will can provide a family researcher with names of other family members previously unknown to the researcher, and may clarify questions about relationships within a family. Wiltshire's other genealogical reference works include "Carroll County, Mississippi Abstracts of Wills, 1834-1875, and Divorces 1857-1875," "Marriages and Deaths from Mississippi Newspapers, Volume I: 1837-1837," "Marriages and Deaths from Mississippi Newspapers Volume 2: 1801-1850," and Marriages and Deaths from Mississippi Newspapers Volume 3: 1813-1850."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Elusive Gibsons - The Search Continues

Early this week, I opened my email to find a note from another Gibson family researcher wanting to share information.  It certainly didn't take me very long to answer with a definite "yes."  Now, after several days of  passing information back and forth, each of us is convinced there must be more than one line of Gibson families that lived in South Carolina before migrating elsewhere. Some individuals who are on our genea-radar screens are the descendants of Jacob Gibson and his wife Judith Napier who lived near Fairfield, South Carolina, including their son, Joseph L. Gibson.  Joseph married Lydia Rutland before leaving South Carolina for Tennessee, and finally moved his family to Monroe County, Mississippi, where each later died.  Interestingly, this Joseph L. Gibson, or possibly his son by the same name, posted a marriage bond amounting to $500 when John P. Gibson (my brick wall) married Margaret J. Williams on January 3, 1843.  John and Margaret Gibson were my third-great-grandparents who later moved to the Cherry Hill Community of Calhoun County, Mississippi and likely died in Carroll County. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - St. Mary Catholic Church, Yazoo City, Mississippi

Photo by Father Lincoln Dall, Parish Priest
St. Mary Catholic Church
Yazoo City, Mississippi
Photo by Father Lincoln
St. Mary Catholic Church
Yazoo City, Mississippi

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Natchez on the Mississippi, by Harnett T. Kane

During the past week, I continued researching the surnames Porter and Middleton, South Carolina ancestors who settled in the early Southwest Mississippi Territory. Part of that research included reading through several books that include details about early Mississippi settlers, as I searched for references to either of the two families.  One such book was Natchez on the Mississippi by Harnett T. Kane.  Published by William Morrow & Company in 1947, Kane's book includes over three hundred pages of eloquent details about the history of the Natchez area. Although I did not find references to either the Porter or Middleton names, I immensely enjoyed reading Kane's vivid descriptions of over twenty antebellum mansions, the personal stories of the families that built them, and the individuals who called them home. Of interest to anyone who enjoys history is the fact that many of the individuals named in the book were among those who helped shape the state's history, and in some cases, the history of our nation.  Also included in the interesting and entertaining stories in Kane's book about Natchez are two that garnered national interest in years past, the famous steamboat race between The Natchez and The Robert E. Lee, and the infamous story of Natchez's "Goat Castle."  The index of Natchez on the Mississippi is a special bonus for family history researchers everywhere, since it contains an alphabetical listing of hundreds of family names mentioned in Kane's book.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

They All Stopped at Natchez

"And they all stopped at Natchez." This sentence appears on page 16 of Harnett T. Kane's book, Natchez on the Mississippi, published by William Morrow & Company, New York, 1947. 

During the past several weeks, I have revisited some earlier research and began some new on several lines of my families, including the surnames Middleton and Porter, who settled in the early Mississippi Territory around 1800.  The primary reason for this effort was that I have hit a brick wall in finding the names of the parents of my third great-grandparents, Samuel Porter and Mary Middleton Porter, who later settled in Madison and Attala Counties.

According to a census of the Mississippi Territory recorded in 1790, members of the Middleton and Porter families were already living in the area. In 1810, when a census for the newly-formed county of Franklin was recorded, the two families lived in close proximity to each other and at least one marriage between a Middleton and a Porter had already occurred. Since Franklin County was formed from Adams County (Natchez), it is very likely the families lived in the same place before and after the census recorded in Franklin County in 1810.

Several pieces of interesting information have come out of the review of my previous research, including some new questions and the answer to at least one unanswered question. I am certain at this point, that Mary Middleton who married Samuel Porter in June 1825, was not the same Mary Middleton who married John Porter in April 1808.  According to the ages shown for Mary and Samuel on a U.S. Census recorded in 1850 in Attala County, Mississippi, neither individual would have been old enough to have married in 1808.  In addition, the names of Mary's parents (1808 ceremony) are shown on the Adams County marriage record as John and Elizabeth Middleton.

As my research continued, it was interesting to see how many South Carolina residents, including the Middletons and the Porters, settled in the Natchez area. Some families moved to other areas of Mississippi and Lousiana, and others stayed for the rest of their lifetimes. Some of the Middletons and the Porters were among the latter. Apparently, the Middleton and Porter families were already connected through previous marriages before they left South Carolina. The U. S. Census of 1790 shows that Stephen Middleton and Hugh Porter lived very near each other in Abbeville, South Carolina in 1790, although the familial connections, if any, remain unknown at this time.  Other Franklin County residents, including the Gibson, Porter, Middleton, and Witherspoon families had lived near each other in another area of South Carolina known as the Georgetown District.

Another question remains unanswered concerning the maiden name of Mary Middleton, widow of Willis Middleton, who was shown on the Franklin County Census of 1810 as the head of a household that contained several children, including four daughters. Willis Middleton, according to most researchers was likely a brother to Stephen Middleton, John Middleton, and Martin Middleton.  Some researchers believe the widow Mary Middleton's maiden name was "Motte."  If this is indeed true, she is likely descended from a well-known South Carolinian, Jacob Motte, of Charleston. Researchers have also questioned whether Willis Middleton's widow may have been the Mary Middleton who married John Porter in 1808.  As stated earlier in this post, I believe this is untrue, since the Adams County marriage record clearly shows that John and Elizabeth Middleton are the parents of the bride.

Since I am clearly near a dead end in validating the names of Samuel Porter's parents, I have made a decision to join the Porter Y-DNA Project that I recently found online.  Several of the Porter men who were present in the Mississippi Territory around 1800, including Landlot Porter, possibly Samuel's father, and Landlot's sons, Joseph Porter, John Porter, and William Porter, are already on the list. The process will take some time, since I need a male DNA donor with the surname Porter, but I am hopeful that I will have an answer down the road.  Watch for the results here.

Marriage Records, Adams County, Mississippi, Circuit Clerk's Office
Marriage Records, Franklin County, Mississippi, Circuit Clerk's Office
U. S. Census of 1790, Abbeville, SC (microfilm)
U. S. Census of 1790, Mississippi Territory (microfilm)
Census Records,, Mississippi Territorial Census (1792-1820), Franklin Co., MS
Porter Y-DNA Project, accessed online on September 14, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Middleton-Porter Connections

It appears that several Porter-Middleton marriages already had occurred in South Carolina and in Alabama, before descendants of these two families actually arrived in the Mississippi Territory.  In fact, one of these occurred in Adams County almost twenty years before the marriage of my fourth great-grandparents, Mary Middleton and Samuel Porter, who wed in 1825 in Franklin County, Mississippi. That marriage took place on April 21, 1808, in nearby Adams County, Mississippi, when Mary Middleton, daughter of  John G. Middleton and Elizabeth Middleton, married John Porter. (Since Franklin County had been established from a portion of Adams County, it is entirely possible that both marriages could have occurred in the same location.) The earlier marriage was performed by Shadrack Porter, a justice of the peace and the groom's brother, and both men were sons of Lancelot (Landlot) Porter and his wife Winifred Palmer Porter. According to the U. S. Census of 1810, there were two additional Porter males, William and Joseph, who were enumerated as heads of households in Franklin County, Mississippi.  

At this point, it is unknown how William, Joseph, and my fourth great-grandfather, Samuel Porter, were related to Landlot, John, and Shadrack, or to each other. Nor do I know names of the parents of Samuel Porter and Mary Middleton Porter. One thing is certain, however, the Porter and Middleton families had lived in proximity to each other in at least two states for several decades and continued to do so in southwest Mississippi  until newly formed counties opened up for settlement elsewhere. 

It appears that Samuel and Mary Porter remained in Franklin County for at least five years after their marriage, since Samuel was enumerated on the U. S. Census recorded that year as the head of a household that consisted of one female under thirty and two children, a male and a female, under five years old. The next time that Samuel appeared on a census was in 1837, when he was shown on a state census recorded that year that shows him living in Madison County, Mississippi.

Next:  The Porters of Madison and Attala Counties

Hunting for Bears, comp., Mississippi Marriages, 1776-1935 [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.  Original data:  Mississippi marriage information taken from county courthouse records.  Many of these records were extracted from copies of the original records in microfilm, or book format, located at the Family History Library.  Mississippi State and Territorial Census Collection, 1792-1866 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.  Original data:  Mississippi State and Territorial Censuses, 1792-1866.  Microfilm V229.  3 rolls.  Heritage Quest.  1830 United States Federal Census [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2010.  Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Family Photo Archives
Miles and Miles Away, Many Years Ago.......

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stephen Middleton, Abbeville, SC to Franklin County, MS

According to the U. S. Census of 1790, Stephen Middleton was a resident of Abbeville, South Carolina, part of the "Old Ninety-Six" District.  The census shows the Middleton household consisted of seven individuals, including five free white males under the age of 16, one free white male over the age of 16, and one free white female. It is interesting to note here that one cannot determine by this record alone if the "one free white female" is Stephen's wife, daughter, or another female. The Middleton family, along with many others, were likely part of the "Great Migration" to the Mississippi Territory, since the next time that Stephen Middleton appeared on a U. S. Census was in 1810, when he was enumerated as the head of a household in Franklin County, Mississippi.  Since Mississippi had not yet attained statehood, Franklin County, with slightly less than 2,000 inhabitants, was still part of the Mississippi Territory.  According to the census recorded in 1810, Middleton's family had increased from seven members in 1790 to nine.  Also, Middleton's enumeration showed that he owned 24 slaves.  Other Franklin County heads of households appearing on the U. S. Census of 1810 whose surnames were Middleton were identified as Mary, John, and Samuel.

Next:  The Middleton-Porter Connection

Monday, September 5, 2011

Genealogy and a Priest in the Mississippi Delta

SienaRosone del Duomo. Picture by Softeis

This morning when I signed in to this blog, I found a comment about a post I had written some time ago on my other blog, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.  The post was about the discovery of "The Lady in Red" near Egypt Plantation in the Mississippi Delta.  The comment was written by Father Lincoln, who serves two Catholic parishes in Yazoo City, St. Mary and St. Francis of Assisi, along with the parish of All Saints in Belzoni, Mississippi. For those readers outside of Mississippi, the "Delta" region has a number of beautiful, old Catholic churches that were established by the many European immigrants who settled in that area during the 1800s. In addition to his work in these three Mississippi Delta parishes, Father Lincoln serves as a priest in two prisons located in Yazoo City, a federal prison complex and the Yazoo County Regional Correctional Facility. Although Father Lincoln must be a very busy man indeed, visiting parishioners in hospitals as far away as Jackson, he still finds time to write a blog entitled "A Priest in the Mississippi Delta."  Not only does he include the text of his homilies in these blog posts, Father Lincoln also writes posts about parish members who have died. Now any experienced family history researcher knows that Catholic parish records have always been a vital resource in finding original baptismal, marriage, and death records. But Father Lincoln's blog posts about the lives of those who for whom he has said funeral masses contain much more.  He memorializes their lives, their works, and their good deeds in words, details that parish documents do not contain. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Middleton Family of SC and Mississippi

Yesterday, I made a decision to begin tracing yet another of my early family lines, the Middleton family of South Carolina.  Armed with information that I have known for some time, the facts that my paternal fourth great-grandparents, Mary Middleton and Samuel Porter, were born in South Carolina and were married on May 17, 1825, in Franklin County, Mississippi, I began in earnest to search the Middleton family's origins. Since members of the Porter and the Middleton families were enumerated in an early census of the Mississippi Territory, recorded in 1810, I began my search by reviewing a list of Mississippi Territory pioneers on an invaluable MsGenWeb site about the early southwest Mississippi Territory. On that site, I quickly found the name Stephen Middleton. Could Stephen Middleton be the father of my Mary Middleton?  Although several of his children's names appeared in the detail beside Stephen Middleton's name, the name Mary was not listed.  The information did state that names of other Middleton children were missing, so my next effort will be to search for those missing names.  Since the only names that appeared on census records before 1850 were names of the heads of households, finding the children's names may be a difficult process.  Wish me luck, and watch here for more Middleton research results.

Source:  Mississippi Marriages to 1825 [database on-line.] Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 1997.  Original data:  Dodd.  Jordan R. et al.  Early American Marriages: Mississippi to 1825, Bountiful, UT, USA.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Surname Saturday - Are We Related?

It's Saturday again, and it's been a while since I last posted a list of the surnames I am researching. If you are also searching any of these names and in any of these locations, I would love to hear from you.  Maybe we can exchange some information or offer each other some new research ideas.  So here goes:

Baldridge -  Ireland >PA>NC?>SC>TN>MS(Carroll County) 
Branch -  England >Virginia>NC>TN>MS (Hinds, Madison, and Attala Counties) 
Coggins - Wales>Nash County)>SC>GA>AL>MS (Holmes County) 
Fenner - Ireland >Rhode Island>NC>GA>AL>MS (MS Territory, Wilkinson County)
Gibson - Scotland>VA>NC>SC>MS (Adams, Monroe, Calhoun and Carroll Counties)
Merriwether - England>VA>KY>SC>GA>TN>MS (Calhoun and Carroll Counties)
Middleton - England>SC>MS Territory (Franklin County)
Netherland - VA>KY>TN>GA>AL>MS Territory (Amite County)>MS (Holmes and Yazoo Counties)
Pettus - Norwich, England>VA>KY>TN>AL>MS (Holmes County)
Porter - Ireland>PA>NC>SC>GA>AL>MS Territory (Franklin County)>Madison & Attala Co (MS)
Ragland - Wales>Ireland>VA>NC>SC>GA>AL>MS (Franklin, Wilkinson, Hinds, Attala Counties)
Trigleth - England>VA>NC>SC>GA>AL>MS (Holmes and Yazoo Counties)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

How I Missed My Own Blogaversary

The impetus to write this post is the fact that I missed my own blogaversary this year. How could I have done that?  It was easy....I was preoccupied with other things. I hate to admit it, but it happened.  First, we were on a vacation in early July and drove over twenty-five hundred miles.  Yes, we did have a fun time visiting with friends in another state and visiting relatives on the return home. But after we got unpacked, a wave of family birthdays in July (five, including my own) was heading our way, and a variety of other plans were in the making.  By the time July 23rd rolled around, I just plain forgot.  

At the first of the year, I like to write a post that includes statistics about the past year's activity on this blog. Since I also forgot to do that last January, I thought this "missed blogaversary" post would be the perfect place to include a few blog statistics.  Call me crazy, but I absolutely l-o-v-e analyzing statistics, especially when they are for this blog. My first experience with blog statistics began in mid-2008, when I was still learning how to spell "genea-blogger."  FirstI installed Site Meter (the free version) primarily out of curiosity to track sources of traffic to Mississippi Memories.  Perhaps it was the fact that I was new to blogging, and I was still uncertain that anyone would really want to read what I wrote about my family's history. But this handy little gadget would enable me to see that real people were actually finding my site. Site Meter turned out to be a fantastic tool, and it not only allowed me to determine the number and geographic locations of visitors to my blog, it provided data that contained "search words" that had directed visitors to Mississippi Memories

Later, I installed Google Analytics.  With only a few keystrokes, this tool provided a wide variety of statistics.  Like magic, Google Analytics produced a plethora of neat colored lines and graphs that tabulated information about visitors to my blog.  I could view statistics by the day, week, month and year.  I could see numbers of visitors for specific times of the day, and I could tell what percentage of visitors came from where.  

How had I lived without Google's latest creation, my new blog toy?  

Although Google Analytics may be most useful for gathering data on e-commerce sites, the tool has served me and my blog well.  I can determine what topics were of the most interest to my readers, the peak times that visitors read my blog, and the locations where most of my readers live. Now that Blogger has evolved and has a new and improved format, all sorts of stats about posts, visitors and times are available there on demand.

Maybe like me, you may be wondering just who has been reading this blog, when do they read it, and just exactly what they are reading. Using statistics from the past two calendar years, I know the majority of visitors to my site hail from "East of the Mississippi."  Yes, I do have blog visitors who reside throughout the U.S. (and in several countries) but most of them seem to live primarily along the East Coast and in the South. Another finding is that most readers of Mississippi Memories likely work for a living. And since the statistics show that peak traffic times are 6-9 a.m., around noon, and after 6 p.m., it appears these readers are not using company time to read this blog.  

Topics that have attracted my readers still continue to fascinate me and to prove that posts I sometimes deem blog-worthy often are not that at all.  Sometimes a simple post about a certain surname brings an unexpected surge of visitors to the site.  Good examples of this phenomenon are some of the posts that I have written during the past two years about the Burel/Burrel/Burrell, Netherland, and Conner families.

Although Blog Year #4 is already more than thirty days underway, it seems like only yesterday when this genea-journey began.  I want to take this opportunity to "Thank You, Dear Readers" for visiting Mississippi Memories....I hope you visit again soon.  And I sincerely hope you find a little something here that will help you piece together that family history puzzle. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Alabama Pioneers - A Member's Story

For some time, I have subscribed to an e-newsletter published by Alabama Pioneers, a website geared toward genealogy research in Alabama. Although my initial intent was to use the website to research some of my own ancestors who lived, at least for a time, in parts of that state, those with the surnames of Coggins, Garrard, Pettus, Porter, and Ragland, I have also enjoyed reading about unrelated families. The person behind this fantastic genealogy website is Donna Causey, and her informative blog can be accessed here. One of the sections of the Alabama Pioneers website is entitled "Alabama Memories," a place where a number of members' stories are posted, and the site's e-newsletter often contains a link to one of these stories.  Today's newsletter includes such a link. I invite you to read "The Home Place," an interesting family story written by Annice Graham and submitted by Dorothy Gast, her granddaughter.  Graham's story of her own family's experiences during the depression years is one that will interest anyone who had ancestors who also endured those difficult times.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo by A. Rennie

"Sitting on the Dock of the Bay"
Mississippi's Ross Barnett Reservoir
Summer 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer at the Rez

Photo by A. Rennie

Bay Area on Mississippi's Ross Barnett Reservoir

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordy Wednesday With Photos - Tryon Palace and Gardens, New Bern NC

Many Mississippians have ancestors who were born in the State of North Carolina, or at least lived there for a while before migrating further south. My own family tree includes the Fenner surname, a family with strong ties to that state. Here on Mississippi Memories, I have written several recent posts about the family of Richard John and Anne Coddington Fenner, who lived in New Bern, North Carolina in the mid-1700s. 

Earlier this summer, we had the opportunity to visit dear friends who live in New Bern.  Our friends had planned several activities for us during our stay in this quaint, historic town they now call home, and one of these was a Sunday afternoon visit to see the gardens of Tryon Palace. Located within walking distance of New Bern's historic downtown, Tryon Palace is a lovely Georgian style building built between 1767 and 1770 that served as the first permanent capitol of the Colony of North Carolina.  

Open to the public, free of charge on the first Sunday of each month, the gardens of Tryon Palace cover 16 acres that contain magnificent trees, shrubs, and flowers reminiscent of the colonial era.  We entered the gardens through a walkway covered with arches of Yaupon Holly, aptly named the "Pleached Allee."

Digital Photo Collection (2009 - 2011) - Privately owned by J. Tracy

Day Lilies with Old Brick Wall in Background

Digital Photo Collection (2009 - 2011) - Privately owned by J. Tracy

A View of Latham Garden
Digital Photo Collection (2009 - 2011) - Privately owned by J. Tracy

Unique and Colorful Bloom of the Hibiscus Family

Digital Photo Collection (2009 - 2011) - Privately owned by J. Tracy

The Pleached Allee

Click here to read more about Tryon Palace and the North Carolina History Center in historic New Bern, North Carolina.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cafe Du Canton - One Woman's Journey

Early last month, we spent the morning visiting Canton's historic square. It was still early, but the heat and humidity were rising rapidly. Although I had downed a quick cup of coffee before we arrived in town, a second cup of coffee was weighing heavily on my mind. Actually, a cup of iced mocha was really what my taste buds were craving.  As I looked across the square from Canton's historic courthouse, where portions of the movie version of John Grisham's "A Time to Kill" was filmed, the storefront window pictured below caught my eye. So while the rest of my family ventured into an inviting bookstore down the street, I headed out to check out Cafe Du Canton. (Note the cupola of the courthouse in the right-hand corner of the photo and another below.)

Photo by J. Tracy

As I approached the cafe door, I noticed another window sign bearing the word "Village Confections."  Now I knew I was really in for a treat (or two!)  Likely, beignets were not the only confections for sale in Cafe Du Canton and Village Confections, and I knew immediately that I was going to indulge in something really, really, sweet.  After all, I am from the South!

Photo by J. Tracy

Photo by J. Tracy

As I entered the cafe, I was immediately impressed by its bright and cheery painted walls....lively hues of pinks, blues, and greens that framed a black and white checked floor.  And the lady behind the counter who welcomed me asked with a big friendly smile if she could help me.  Immediately, Cafe Du Canton seemed like a happy place! And as it turned out, the cafe and bakery operation is much more than what it appears to be.

Photo by J. Tracy

As I drank delicious and refreshing made-to-order iced mocha, I chatted with the friendly lady at the counter.  I asked her if she had grown up in Canton, and she replied that she had not.  She went on to explain that she and her husband and family were actually transplanted during the aftermath of Katrina, the monster hurricane that took so many lives and changed forever the lives of others along the Gulf Coast. Fortunately, her husband had soon found a job, and she had sought out a place to volunteer in an effort to give back to others.  

As she contemplated where to offer her time and talents, her husband suggested that she consider volunteering at the Christmas Village, a residential program for pregnant women over the age of 18 who are abortion vulnerable.  The program, co-founded by Brenda and Michael Van Velkinburgh, provides needs as basic as a place to live and food, as well as educational assistance and job training opportunities.  According to its website, the Christmas Village states that Village Confections is a "social entrepreneurship where our residents learn job skills," and volunteering at the bakery is a program requirement.

Photo by J. Tracy
Janice ices petit fours at Cafe Du Canton and Village Confections (July 2011)

The lady at the counter has a strong desire to help others.  Her story is one of inspiration, success and happiness, and one that helps others with new beginnings.  I listened intently and with admiration as she told me how the cafe and bakery shop, along with generous donations from individuals, churches, and other organizations, goes to help these young women at Christmas Village who choose life for their babies. (I actually observed townspeople bringing in donated items as we talked.)  Some participants, she said, return to volunteer in the bakery once they have given birth. One such young woman named "Janice," who was icing petit fours during my conversation with the owner, has graciously granted permission to include her name and  photo in this post.

I left Canton with a good feeling - I had learned much during my visit on the square. Not only did I learn about the organization named Christmas Village, but I discovered the people of Canton, Mississippi are doing their part to help young women who are faced with some very difficult choices.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Digital Photo Collection (2009 - 2011)
Privately Owned by J. Tracy

Benevolent Protective Order of Elks (B.P.O.E.)
Historic Building on the Square
Canton (Madison County) Mississippi

Monday, August 8, 2011

Found - Historic Fenner House in New Bern NC

Digital Photo by A. Vaupel

Old Fenner House 
217 Hancock Street
New Bern, NC

Wow!  With the help of someone who works in the City of New Bern's GIS and mapping office, I now know the physical location of "Lot 89," the site of the old Fenner house.  The house on Hancock Street in New Bern, North Carolina, was purchased about 1769 by Richard John Fenner and Anne Coddington Fenner, my fifth great-grandparents.  I descend through their granddaughter Rachel Fenner, who married William Neatherlin and eventually migrated around 1800 to Amite County in the Mississippi Territory.  After finding the lot number of the property in an online excerpt of the book, The Fenner Forebears, I set out to find the actual house. And thanks to a very dear friend of mine who lives in New Bern, I also have a photo of the house itself.  The house is a rather large frame structure built in the colonial style and located on a street where the remnants of train tracks down its center can be seen.  Currently, the house is undergoing some renovation, including a new coat of paint that closely matches the red metal "storm" roof commonly seen on historic houses in New Bern. According to my contact in the GIS office, the property is currently owned by the Fenner Family Fund Partnership.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Digital Photo Collection (2009-2011) - Privately Owned by J. Tracy

Circa 1828
Located in Canton, Mississippi
County Seat of Madison County

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fenner Family of New Bern NC - The Search Continues

Last week, I ran across the name of a book about the Fenner Family, The Fenner Forebears.  Privately published in 1987 by Ruth Leslie Barrett, the book is currently out of print. So on a whim, I called the New Bern Historical Society in New Bern, North Carolina to see if the organization might have a reference copy.  A helpful person who answered the historical society's phone quickly referred me to the Kellenberger Room of the New Bern-Craven County Public Library.  Although the library has a well-organized web site that includes includes online access to reference materials in the Kellenberger Room, I decided to phone the library rather than research online.  Not only did I want to locate an actual copy of the book, I wanted to ask a researcher some direct and specific questions about Richard John Fenner and his wife Anne Coddington Fenner, since I strongly believe these early residents are my Irish-immigrant ancestors. 

My phone call to the Kellenberger Room was promptly answered by a pleasant male voice identifying himself as "Victor Jones."  (According to the website, Victor T. Jones, Jr. is the Department Head.)  Not only did Mr. Jones  confirm that a copy of the Fenner book mentioned earlier in this post is located in the reference room, he volunteered to photocopy pertinent pages of the book and provide me with the copies. Also, Mr. Jones promised to contact me by email within a few days to provide me with answers to the questions I asked, including the actual street address of the old Fenner house (allegedly Lot 89 of the Town of New Bern) and the burial locations for Richard John Fenner and Anne Coddington Fenner.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Digital Photo Collection 2009-2011
Privately Owned by J. Tracy

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Finding the Fenners

Sometimes we stumble upon something simply by chance.  As it has been said so many, many times that one often finds romantic love when one least expects it, maybe finding the name of a previously unknown ancestor falls into this same category of happenstance.  My recent discovery was actually the result of searching for Joseph Fenner, whom I had deemed to be the oldest of three Fenner males enumerated on early census records for Wilkinson County, Mississippi. Joseph Fenner, Sr., an early settler of Wilkinson County, died on August 30, 1840 and left a widow, Rachel, and eight children, most adults. One of these children, William Fenner, through his daughter Rachel Fenner, most likely named for her grandmother, is my maternal fourth great-grandfather.

What I found in my search for Joseph Fenner was really quite unexpected.  I found Fenner surnames in a place that I had not previously searched - Providence, Rhode Island.  My discovery came about while I was reading through references to Fenner surnames in early Rhode Island records, including the Annals of the town of Providence: from its first settlement to the organization of the city government in June, 1832.  An imaged version of this publication, printed in 1843, is available for reading on  In that publication,  I found that Arthur Fenner served as one of the first four representatives to the Providence General Assembly in 1664. The list of representatives also included the names of two other Fenner men, Thomas and Richard, whose relationships to Arthur and to each other are unclear to me at this time. According to the Annals, Arthur Fenner also served as the Town Treasurer in 1662. As I continued to research the Fenner family of Providence, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Rhode Island's fourth governor was Captain Arthur Fenner, a descendant of Arthur Fenner the assemblyman.  

Although finding the Fenner family members in Providence (Rhode Island) was an unexpected and quite unique experience, I now have more unanswered questions than when I began the search. Are Joseph Fenner, Sr., Joseph Fenner, and William Fenner descended from the Fenners who were involved in early Rhode Island politics?  And if so, how are these individuals related to my ancestors who lived in early Wilkinson County, Mississippi?  

Watch for more here as the search continues.

Source: Annals of the town of Providence : from its first settlement to the organization of the city government in June, 1832 [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.  Original data:  Staples, William R., Annals of the town of Providence : from its first settlement to the organization of the city government in June, 1832. Providence: Printed by Knowles and Vose, 1843.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Madison County Courthouse Canton, Mississippi

Source:  Digital Photography Collection - 2009-2011
Privately Owned by J. Tracy

Madison County Courthouse
Canton, Mississippi
Built in Late 1850's

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Digital Photography Collection (2009 - 2011)
 Privately Owned by J. Tracy

Felix Claims New Chair

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fenner Family of Mississippi - Beginning at the End

I now know that my great-great-great-grandmother, Rachel Fenner, is descended from the Fenner family that lived in the early-mid 1700's in Bertie and Craven Counties in North Carolina.  It appears that Rachel's family followed in the footsteps and wagon trails of so many others who left that area searching for new lands and a better way of life in places west and south.  From all accounts, Rachel was born after the family left North Carolina.  Some researchers believe Rachel was born in Tennessee, where some of the Fenner family eventually settled, while others believe she was born in Georgia, as her family traveled further south.  Most researchers, however, agree that Rachel Fenner married William Neatherlin in Georgia, and several of their children were born there before the family moved to the Mississippi Territory after 1790.  Since the family eventually included several more children, it seems likely the younger ones were born after Rachel and William arrived in the territory. The presence of both Fenner and Netherland families in the Mississippi Territory in the early 1800s is validated by territorial census information that shows William Netherland, Joseph Fenner, Sr., Joseph Fenner, and William Fenner enumerated as heads of households in Wilkinson and Lawrence Counties.

Source: Mississippi State and Territorial Census Collection, 1792-1866[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Mississippi State and Territorial Censuses, 1792-1866. Microfilm V229. 3 rolls. Heritage Quest.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fenner Family of New Bern, NC

Source:  Digital Photography Collection (2009 - 2011)
Privately owned by J. Tracy

Fireworks Over Harbor in New Bern, North Carolina

Recently, we were fortunate to be able to visit with some dear friends who moved out of state a few months ago.  Spending some time with them and watching our nation's birthday celebrated with fireworks has become a tradition for our families, one that we immensely enjoy.  But this year's Fourth of July celebration was even more spectacular than ever, since we watched the enormous fireworks display with our friends as we sat beside the beautiful harbor of New Bern, North Carolina. Not only does my best friend now live in this quaint and historic town that is the cradle of North Carolina's colonial and early government, but it is also the town in which one of my maternal ancestors settled. During the next few weeks, watch here for photos of New Bern and posts about the Fenner family of North Carolina and its early American beginnings.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Digital Photography Collection  2007 - 2011
Privately Owned by Janice Tracy

US Hwy 49 and US Hwy 61
Clarksdale, Mississippi

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gibson Family of Craven County, South Carolina

Yesterday was a "South Carolina Research" day for me.  No, I did not travel to South Carolina.  I simply perused online books available through GoogleBooks (quite a few, I might add) about the history of South Carolina.  And yes, I am still looking for the parents of my great-great-great-grandfather, John P. Gibson, born about 1799 in South Carolina. Thanks to bits and pieces of Gibson family history found in one of those online books, I have now confirmed that Gideon Gibson and Jordan Gibson, born in the 1700s, were brothers. I was unsuccessful, however, in uncovering the names of their parents who had allegedly migrated to Craven County, South Carolina from Virginia.  Next, I plan to research the descendants of these two Gibson brothers, Jordan and Gideon - it stands to reason that John P. Gibson, must be one of them.