Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Look a Gift Family Tree in the Mouth!

For several years I have maintained online family trees at, including four for each of my grandparents and two for my husband's side. I determined this was the easiest way to share with distant family members, accommodate my and my husband's divorced parents, and also to not provide unnecessary information to fellow researchers. During this time, I have added many census images and other documents to the trees taking care to make sure I have added correct information, just as I do with my RootsMagic database which should mirror the online trees.

Recently has created an RSS feed for any Member Connect activity. In other words, through Google Reader I receive updates of any other member that attaches the same documents to their trees. In what I am calling the "WDYTYA Effect", I have seen a recent uptick in the a lot. Many of the matches are for collateral lines that I am less interested in following, but occasionally I see a match that could be very helpful to my research and in turn I may have something to share with the other researcher.

Just such a thing happened about three weeks ago. This person appeared to be researching a surname to which I am not blood related. However, this person's ancestor and my ancestor have siblings that married. I had done some looking at his ancestor in order to determine descendants of the siblings. Confused yet? So I send this person a message through the online message system on I waited. Finally yesterday he replies telling me "thanks for the info" but that he was only researching his ancestor's sibling (that married my ancestor's sibling) in an effort to understand the generation before that. He also stated that he hadn't really looked at any of the sibling's descendants because he was focused on their father.

I do have a local county history that is only about 30 years old that would help this guy out. And I believe I have a photo or two of the children of his ancestor's sibling and my ancestor's sibling. Had someone told me that they had that kind of information about my own family when I was starting out, I would have jumped at the opportunity. In fact, when it happens even now I am thrilled to receive info and to share back.

I realize this guy may be new to family history and may not understand the importance of researching the whole family, so I will make one more attempt to contact him. And even if he's not interested now, I'll still be here when he figures out that going sideways and down can be just as important and fruitful as going up the family tree!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Finds

This week has Finds from Kansas and Niagara, Ontario.
  • I am very excited to see that the Johnson County [Kansas] Genealogy Society now has a blog. I have quite a bit of my Scott and Greathouse lines that are located in this county and the Johnson County Genwebsite has been one of the most helpful in my search.
  • Two other great bloggers have Niagara, Ontario connections: Kindred Footprints and Gen Wish List.
  • Through their blogs, I discovered the Niagara Public Library's Historic Niagara Digital Collection. You can search through historic newspapers and request scans of those articles. The library will post the image on their website as well as send you an email notifying you when the image is available. I have already found an obituary on one of the Arnold siblings and am waiting for several others. Additionally they have an image database that is fascinating. It is definitely worth the time to check out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: An Arnold Sibling

We believe this photo to be of Ellen "Nellie" Arnold Carpenter, sibling to Fannie Arnold Harmon. Ellen was born 27 April 1863 in Warwickshire, England and died 26 Jun 1927 in York, Ontario, Canada. She married John Carpenter on 21 October 1908.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Finds - All Things Southern

This week I would like to begin something new entitled "Friday Finds". I am a follower of Julie Cahill Tarr's GenBlog and I really like this idea as a way to share a few interesting tidbits.

This week's focus is on All Things Southern. I have extensive North Carolina ancestry and am always curious about stories that involve this state or often just the South in general.

  • Interesting article by Craig Manson on black Confederates and whether their service was voluntary.
  • "The Southern Cemetery" is a fascinating look at traditions in Southern states. I can say that some of these obviously carried over to other places, including the wife-to-the-left notion, which is very common where I live. I have ancestors buried in eastern South Dakota and that cemetery has a arched gate entrance as mentioned in this article. Two of the most noted things that I haven't seen in local civic-owned cemeteries is bare ground or mounded graves. Our local cemeteries are grassy and flat. Some cemeteries only allow flat headstones that a mower can go right over while others will allow upright stones.
  • I am thrilled to see the blog Asheville and Buncombe County as that is the last known place my grandfather Lee lived in North Carolina. There are many wonderful posts including this one on the Civil War noting that the western counties were not always Confederate-leaning.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm a little green

Today I'm feeling a little green and it's not because of any Irish blood coursing through my veins. At this point in my research, there doesn't appear to be any Irish ancestors. The closest I can come is to my Scots-Irish McNeills.

The real reason I am feeling a little green is with envy. I envy those researchers that have a wealth of family nostalgia to sift through, stories of the long-deceased to write down for the yet unborn, close cousins, or best of all, photos of their people.

I was robbed of this to some extent. I haven't seen my father in over 30 years and since I'm only in my 30s, you can see the significance of this. I didn't have a father around to share his memories of his childhood or the stories of his parents. To some extent, my father was robbed of the same thing including our true surname. My grandfather Lee separated himself from his family in the 1930s never to see them again, nor speak of them again, nor use their name again. That was his choice, but it has impacted all of his descendants. It most certainly would not have been my choice.

One silver lining in all of this is I do have a relationship with my paternal grandmother, but we have lived hundreds of miles apart all of my life. On the few occasions I have visited her there have been some stories or a handful of photos to look at, but she's not really a saver like that. She left her own Kansas home in the 1940s for the riches of California and lost track with many of her extended family.

On my mother's side, she's an only child so no cousins for me. She had six cousins of her own who are now scattered all over the Midwest and West. If it wasn't for email and mine and my sister's diligence, we would probably have no contact with them except the annual Christmas letter. On this side of my family, I am fortunate to have photos and stories and even a few pieces of memorabilia. But that is only 50% of who I am.

I guess that's why everytime I make a small, minute discovery of some long-gone ancestor, I get excited. It's those little nuggets of information that piece together someone I never was given the opportunity to even know about. Those little nuggets slowly fill that pot of gold awaiting me at the end of the rainbow.

Treasure those family history nuggets for they could lead you to your own pot of gold.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Woody Surname of Western North Carolina

I have previously written about my 2nd great-grandmother, Mary Jane Woody, and her father, William Woody, who died serving in the Confederacy in May 1862.

The Woody line has been thoroughly researched and documented by Dave Woody who has assembled his data (and that of others) on his website, Woody Family Roots. If you have Woody ancestry, it is well worth your time to visit his site.

My Woody line is as follows:
Mary Jane Woody, my great-great-grandmother, was the daughter of
William M. Woody (married to Marginia Thomas) who was the son of
Josiah Woody (married to Marjorie Wilson) who was the son of
Wyatt Woody (married to Mary Robertson) who was the son of
Henry Woody (married to Susannah Martin).

Henry fought in the Revolutionary War from Virginia and has several descendants who have obtained membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. I hope to be able to do that one day if I can overcome the hurdle of my grandpa Lee's name change.

If you have any Woody connections to Mitchell and Yancey counties in North Carolina, I would appreciate sharing information. Please contact me using the yellow contact button to the left of this blog.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Fannie Arnold Harmon

Fannie Arnold Harmon
7 Nov 1856 - 12 Jun 1945
She was born in Berkeswell, Warwickshire, England, the daughter of Edward Arnold and Emma Smith. She went with her family to Niagara, Ontario, Canada in about 1867. She left Canada in about 1881 or 1882 and came to Whiteside Co, Illinois where she met and married Walter Harmon in 1882.
"Little Grandma" is the nickname my grandfather, Fred Harmon, had for his paternal grandmother. She came in at a whopping 4' 10" or 11".

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Marginia M. Thomas Woody Jones

In my previous post, I wrote about William and Marginia Woody's family and his brief service in the Confederacy that ultimately cost him his life. In this post, I hope to describe some of the information I have obtained on Margie and the children after William's death in May 1862.

In the 1870 Federal census, Margie can be found in Brush Creek Township, Yancey Co, North Carolina. She is listed as 33 years old, W[hite], F[emale], keeping house, born NC [North Carolina]. She has three children listed in her home: Emily, age 12; Matilda, age 8; and Sherman, age 4. I believe this Emily to be Creeney E. as listed in the 1860 census. Matilda is the right age to be a child of William, so I assumed this was their last child together. Based upon her death certificate, that is the case. Matilda was born several months after her father's death. That brings us to the question of who is Sherman? I have searched in subsequent census years to no avail. I have come to the conclusion that he must have been illegitimate and died before 1880. The only other possibility is that he went by a first name other than Sherman and I don't think I'll ever have a way to find him.

I have been unable to locate their daughters, Kisiah C., Harriett L. or Mary Jane anywhere in the Mitchell or Yancey county censuses for 1870. I know that Mary Jane marries Isaac Grindstaff, but I have no idea what became of the other two sisters. Kisiah would have been old enough at 18 in 1870 to have been married, but I suspect that Harriet may have been too young to be married by then.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to share information with a woman named Melody from the Detroit, Michigan area. She was trying to work backwards on a Margie Jones who may have been a Woody before she married a Jones. I was trying to work forwards on Margie Thomas Woody. Our paths collided and we began to share information. It seems that Margie Thomas Woody married a John Sydney Jones, a man over 20 years her senior, on 7 July 1872 in Washington Co, Tennessee. By 1880, John and Margie were living in Sullivan Co, Tennessee with their son, Dick, age 5. As a descendant doing the research, Melody had discovered that Margie may have had an entire family before marrying John Sydney Jones, a fact that was unbeknownst to all of the living descendants of Dick Jones.

According to the Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002 database at, the marriage of John S. Jones and Margie Woody was solemnized on the 7th day of July 1872 by Robert H. J. Hackers [sp?], M.G.

By October 1896, John Sydney Jones had died. I have been unable to locate Margie in the 1900 census. In 1910, she is listed as a boarder in the Thomas Dixon household in Civil District 12, Sullivan Co, Tennessee. She is listed as widowed and born in North Carolina as well as her parents. Unfortunately, it does not list the number of children that she gave birth to or how many are still living. According to the death certificate provided by Melody, Margie died 26 Jan 1914 and is buried with John Sidney Jones in Kingsport, Tennessee. It also lists her birthplace as Mitchell Co, North Carolina and her parents are John Thomas and Sindia [Lucinda] Wilson. In addition to the death certificate, Melody also provided me with a headstone photo, and an old photo that may possibly be Margie. Because I have lost touch with Melody, I won't post them here without her permission.

So was the marriage of Margie and John Sydney a marriage of convenience: he needed a wife to keep house and she needed financial security? Or was it a love match? Either way, why did none of Dick's descendants know of Margie's first family or only have a slight inkling that somehow she used to be a Woody? Was Margie able to keep in touch with her Woody children and her own Thomas family from a couple of counties away? Whatever became of little Sherman and who fathered him? And most of all, how was Margie able to survive after William died in the War?

So many questions and so many answers that probably went with Margie to the grave.

If anyone has information on this branch of the Woody line or more specifically what became of Harriett, Kisiah, Creeney Emily and little Sherman, I would appreciate hearing from you. I have quite a bit of information on my ancestor, Mary Jane, and some on the other sister, Matilda, who went on to marry James P. Thomas and had at least nine children.

And Melody, if you are still out there, please contact me again.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Kate Nellie Arthur

Kate Nellie Arthur Harmon (1889-1974)
My Great-Grandmother

She would be thrilled to see the ease of availability of genealogy information today. In the weeks to come, I plan on scanning and photographing pages she prepared of genealogy information for my grandfather, her youngest of three sons. That is what helped me get my start with the Harmons and Arthurs.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

William Woody and Marginia (Margie) Thomas

William M. Woody and Marginia M. Thomas are my 3rd great-grandparents. I have written previously about their daughter and my ancestor, Mary Jane Woody Grindstaff.

William M. Woody was born about 1836 likely in what was Yancey Co. which later became Mitchell Co, North Carolina. His parents were Josiah Woody and Marjorie Wilson. William was one of at least five known (to me) children.

Marginia M. Thomas is believed to be the daughter of John Thomas and Lucinda Wilson. Marginia was often referred to in records as Margie. I believe her birth to be 31 Jan 1831 in Burke or Yancey Co, North Carolina. Her father, John Thomas, is one of the many children of Aaron Thomas and Elizabeth Hunsucker. The parents of Lucinda are unknown at this time.

William and Margie married in the early 1850s, though an exact date is not known at this time. They were parents to the following five daughters:
  • Kisiah C born abt 1852
  • Mary Jane, my 2nd great-grandmother, born 11 Jan 1853 and died 26 Jan 1946.
  • Harriet L. born abt 1857
  • Creeney Emily born abt 1859
  • Matilda born 25 Oct 1862 and died 22 Mar 1942. She married James P. Thomas.

Their life was dramatically altered by the start of the Civil War. William joined the Co. E, 6th North Carolina Infantry, a Confederate unit, as a Private on 8 March 1862 in the newly-formed Mitchell County, North Carolina, for the duration of the war. Per his military records held at the NARA and found online at, he was absent from duty beginning 6 April 1862 where he was "sick at hospital." Like many other members of his unit, he contracted measles. The mountain boys who joined up were exposed to many new illnesses for which they had no immunity. William "died of measles at General Hospital at Ashland VA May 10th 1862" just six short months before the birth of his fifth child, Matilda. One wonders if he even knew of the impending arrival at the time he enlisted in early March.

The records further detail his physical description. He was age 27, with grey eyes and dark hair, dark complexion, and 6 feet tall. Another document in the military record packet describes him as age 25 in 1862.

Sometime after William's death, Margie applied for the unpaid portion of his pay. He was entitled to two months and four days pay amounting to $23.46 and for "commentation of clothing" in the amount of $25.00. She received a total of $48.46 on the 28 Sept 1864, nearly two and a half years following his death. The amount was made payable to her attorney, Samuel D. Byrd, of Burnsville, Yancey Co, North Carolina.

I do not know where the Confederate soldiers were buried for those that died at the Ashland, Virginia hospital. I would appreciate any information that could lead me to William's final resting place.

In a second post, I will describe what happened to Margie and her five daughters following William's untimely death.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Dates in my Family History

March has a lot of activity for births, marriages, and deaths in my family tree:

1st - death of Della Winnie Grindstaff, my great-grandmother, in Concord, Cabarrus Co, North Carolina in 1979 just two weeks prior to her 86th birthday. She married Charles McNeill.

1st - death of Catherine Ella (or Ellen) Struble, my 3rd great-grandmother, in 1921 in Clark Co, South Dakota. Catherine was the wife of Samuel Myers.

4th - anniversary of Jonathan Cox and Sarah Wierman Cox who married in Orange Co, North Carolina in 1819. They are my 4th great-grandparents.

7th - death of Homer Eugene Arthur, my 2nd great-grandfather, in Santa Cruz, California.

7th - death of Piety Wilson, my 4th great-grandmother, in Mitchell Co, North Carolina in 1874. She was married to Thomas Howell and was buried at Gouge Cemetery in Mitchell Co.

11th - birthday of Zerlinda Jane "Jennie" Pitts, my 2nd great-grandmother, in 1854 in Lee Co, Iowa. She was the wife of Conrad Scott listed below.

15th - birthday of Conrad Coons Scott, my 2nd great-grandfather, in 1845 somewere in Missouri. He was married to Zerlinda Jane Pitts listed above.

15th - birthday of Della Winnie Grindstaff, my great-grandmother, in 1893 in Mitchell Co, North Carolina.

15th - death of Sarah Jane Johnson, my 2nd great-grandmother, in 1938 in St. Clair Co, Missouri. She was the wife if 1) William Michael Greathouse and 2) Abraham Lincoln Greathouse.

23rd - anniversary of Isaac Grindstaff, my 4th great-grandfather, and his second wife, Sarah Hart in 1809 in Burke Co, North Carolina.

25th - death of Edward Arnold, my 3rd great-grandfather, in Niagara Township, Ontario, Canada.

26th - anniversary of Titus Brown and Lucina Hopkins, my 4th great-grandparents, in Ashtabula Co, Ohio in 1820.

27th - birthday of Bernice Hanson, my great-grandmother, in 1903 in Clark Co, South Dakota. She married Helmer Hiby.

28th - death of Bernice Hanson, the day after her 79th birthday in 1982.

31st - anniversary of my great-grandparents, Helmer Hiby and Bernice Hanson. They married in 1926 in Clark Co, South Dakota.

31st - death of Rebecca Armstrong, my 3rd great-grandmother, in Round Grove, Whiteside Co, Illinois in 1876. She was the wife of Porter Joseph Harmon.