Saturday, July 18, 2009

What's in a Name?

The other evening -- well, very early the other morning, like about 2 a.m. -- I finally opened up some of my own family history and did a little more work. I explored a great-great-great grandfather I hadn't done much about, named Francis M. Wright. He is on my mother's side, born in Ohio and lived most of his life in Indiana. I traced him back to his father, whose name was Merritt Wright. And thereby hangs a tale of names.

My great-great grandfather, grandson of Francis M. Wright via his daughter Clarissa, was Francis Harvey Reed. He and his wife, Florence Elizabeth McKee, had ten children, many of whom had interesting names drawn from history and literature and, as I found out the other early morning, family history. One of those children was Merritt Wright Reed. By the way, he died in 2004 at the age of 104 or some such! I did not find this out until a few years after that, and heartily kicked myself for not investigating him earlier, for what information could he have given me about the Reed family?

Thus by investigating this Wright line, I found the origin of the name of Merritt Wright Reed and of the first name of Francis Harvey Reed (called "Frank"), whose middle name derived from his own father, Harvey Reed. Some of the names of Frank H. Reed's sons are rather obvious in their origin: Benjamin Franklin Reed (my grandfather), John Ruskin Reed, and William Ewart Gladstone Reed. That tells me a little about Frank H. Reed's education, as well as that of Florence Elizabeth McKee, who had become a school teacher at the age of 17 to help support her mother and brothers when her father, Nelson Reed McKee, had abandoned the family in 1879.

I have not yet investigated Nelson Reed McKee's lineage, though it intrigues me. Where did the Reed as his middle name come from? An offshoot of the same line that brought forth Frank H. Reed? Or was this another line?

Another thing I ponder about names is: What was going on in the midwest in the 19th century? There were a whole lot of men running around the midwest with the same name! I once was contacted by another researcher looking into her line from a Nelson Reed McKee. We compared dates and locations, and had to conclude that we were not talking about the same Nelson Reed McKee. What was really odd was that each of our N. R. McKees had a son named Charles Preston McKee! I should revisit that, though, and be sure the other investigator had the right dates. I have documentation to back mine up.

Likewise, I have found three or four Francis M. Wrights, and at least two of these (including my g-g-g-grandpa) were named Francis Marion Wright. Francis Marion, of course, was the famed "Swamp Fox" of the American Revolution, who ran the British ragged in South Carolina, being a particular bane to Colonel Banastre Tarleton ("Bloody Ban"). Apparently, the midwesterners liked their history (and literature). There were all these Francis Marions, and there were scores of Benjamin Franklins (including my grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Reed, and including a son of Nelson Reed McKee, Benjamin Franklin McKee).

Also on my mother's side lies the origin of my middle name, LeSueur. The spelling varies through generations. My mother was an intra-family adoption, as I have discussed in a previous blog post. Her father -- the above-named Benjamin Franklin Reed -- was killed in a railroad accident in 1917. The Reed family saw to it, according to my Aunt Margaret, my mother's sister, that my mother was adopted by my grandfather's oldest brother, Perry Wilmer Reed (no idea yet where his name came from) and Perry's wife, Mary LeSourd. That is how she spelled the name that was handed down to me as LeSueur. That name also appears as the middle name of Perry and Mary's ill-fated infant son Wilmer LeSueur Reed, who died in infancy of an acute gastritis in 1909. Spelling of that name has been a bugaboo; it is misspelled on my birth certificate.

My mother was named Martha Shideler Reed -- giving her a middle name she hated. I was not terribly fond of mine, either, as a child, but doing genealogy has reconciled me to it. My mother was named for a young reformer in turn-of-the-century Logansport, Indiana -- Martha Shideler. I have a newspaper clipping from 1908, which is rapidly deteriorating, about this young woman. Apparently, my grandparents found her an admirable namesake.

As for my father, he was named for a dairy. That line's names will be the subject of another blog someday.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tools of the Trade

I have just installed an add-on to my Firefox browser, called ScribeFire.  It is a tool to allow me to compose my blog entries offline and on the go.  I have tried composing my posts in Microsoft Word 2007, my word processor, and it is a lot of trouble!  I have never seen so much "gunk" in a document in my life as comes over to a Blogger post from Word!  All sorts of formatting stuff that I had to either take out manually or destroy my post and start all over.  So here I am with ScribeFire.  This is a test, because this is the first post I'm making with this tool.

We live in an age when not only do we have to know the tools of the genealogy trade -- vital records, newspaper records, church records, and all the rest -- we also have to know the tools of modern communications.  We have to know cell phones and web browsers and blogging software and our genealogy program software and . . .  My head is hurting! 

And we have to know how to operate a computer, a difficult task for some of the members of our genealogy society.  I got my husband involved in the society I have belonged to for the past several years.  He is a retired federal civil service computer programmer and whatever-else-needed-to-be-done (like installing LANs and monitoring security), and he is a certified computer security professional.  So he became the society's computer security officer and has now had his duties broadened to include overseeing the installation and running of our society headquarters wi-fi.  And part of his duties also include conducting training for members in how to hook up to the wi-fi and use their computers in their research.  This is an area which is definitely terra incognita to many members -- and we have some members who stoutly refuse to even use a computer!

Last month, I gave a presentation to our society about even more tools: blogs, podcasts, and Twitter.  The face of genealogy, as with just about every other aspect of our lives, is changing at an ever-increasing pace.  Not every one interested in tracing their family histories is going to be interested in using these 21st century tools to do it.  But for those of us who are comfortable with the new technologies, they're wonderful tools indeed to help us accomplish our research goals.

We have one more tool to use, probably the most basic one of all:  our curiosity.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Time Travel

Randy Seaver, whose blog is Genea-Musings, posted last night a challenge:

"1) Let's go time travelling: Decide what year and what place you would love to visit as a time traveller. Who would you like to see in their environment? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

2) Tell us about it. Write a blog post, or make a comment to this post, or on Facebook, or in Genealogy Wise."

I'm a bit late, because we are still catching up from having been in Atlanta and North Carolina for a week. Here is my response:

The person I would like to have visited would be my grandmother Ruth Nave Reed Pennington White, and the time between 1930 and 1951, the year of her death. The place: Logansport, Cass County, Indiana.

Ruth Nave married my grandfather Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Reed on 25 November 1913. They had three children: Donald, Margaret, and my mother Martha, who was born 20 December 1916. Now, it is possible that these three children were all crowded into that three years, but it is also possible that the bun was already in the oven. The couple made their application, got their marriage license, and were married all in one afternoon, at the St. Joseph County Courthouse, South Bend, Indiana.

Sometime after my mother died in 1980, I visited my aunt Margaret in Orlando, to get some answers I needed before it was too late. My mother would not talk about her mother, retaining some anger all her life at the feeling that her mother had abandoned her. She was adopted and raised by her uncle Perry Wilmer Reed and his wife Mary LeSourd, in a loving home, with Perry and Mary's own children Robert and Elizabeth. But still she carried resentment.

I asked my aunt Margaret about my grandmother, and she said that the Reed family had "ganged up" on Ruth and taken the children away. She said that the Reed family did not like my grandmother, and it is possible that if her marriage to Frank Reed was a hurry-up thing, that there is the reason. The Reeds were good people, but could be rather snooty on certain matters of "place." Another reason they may not have liked Ruth Nave is that Ruth worked as a telephone operator in an age when "decent" women stayed in the home.

I think my mother never gave my grandmother any understanding. She may have felt that if she, widowed at 38 years old with three children, could keep the kids together, then my grandmother should have done, too. However, conditions were not the same in 1913 as they were in 1954, when my father died. And my mother had nothing but support and love from her in-laws, not the apparent hostility my aunt alluded had been the case for my grandmother.

My grandfather died in a railroad accident in October of 1917. My grandmother married again, twice, but my aunt said that grandmother had a very sad life. She died in 1951, and is buried next to her first husband, her first love, in Mount Hope Cemetery in Logansport, Indiana.

The question I would like to ask my grandmother is: "What really happened with mom and Aunt Margaret and Uncle Donald?" I'd like to know the story behind the facts.

The irony is that even though the Reeds, Frank's parents, made the funeral arrangements and had the funeral conducted from their home, my grandfather and his wife are not buried in the Reed family plot, but with Teter and Elizabeth Nave, Ruth's parents. Seems to me it might have been their way of saying, "You made your bed, now you lie in it."

Or it could have been that they relented a bit and granted a wish from their scorned daughter-in-law.


Frank Reed and Ruth Nave, Applications for marriage license, marriage license, and marriage certificate. 25 November 1913, St. Joseph County, Indiana, Clerk of Circuit Court, Marriage Book 26. page 88.

Elizabeth Nave household, 1930 U.S. Census of Population, Indiana, Cass County, Logansport, 1st Ward, Enumeration District 9-10, Dwelling number 76, Family number 76, National Archives Microfilm Publication T626, Roll 579, Sheet 38, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. In this census, Elizabeth's daughter Ruth is listed as Ruth Pennington.

Ruth White, death certificate, official transcript, Logansport, Cass County, Indiana, Book 16, page 115.

Mount Hope Cemetery database, Logansport, Cass County, Indiana, online: http://www. Section 12, Lot 0607, spaces 03 and 04.

Martha Reed, birth certificate, registered number 24565, 20 December 1916, State of Michigan, Department of State, Division of Vital Statistics, Lansing, Michigan.

In re adoption, Martha S. Reed, In the Circuit Court of Escambia County, State of Florida, First Judicial District, 15 June 1920.

Benjamin Franklin Reed, death certificate, Registered number 10695, 20 October 1917, State of Michigan, Department of State, Division of Vital Statistics, Lansing, Michigan.

Now, who was saying that genealogical blog posts are unreliable because they don't post their sources?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Asheville Public Library Genealogy and Local History Collection

My husband and I have come to Asheville's main public library, known as the Pack Memorial Library of the Buncombe County Public Library System for a little internet time. So I took the opportunity, as a visiting genealogist, to browse the local history and genealogy collection. It is located on the main floor, in the reference department.

They have an extensive collection of North Carolina regional histories, providing wonderful coverage of all parts of the state. They do, of course, have a concentration of materials on Asheville and Buncombe County, of which it is the county seat. Buncombe County is the origin of our word "buncombe" or "bunkum," meaning nonsense, information with no foundation whatsoever. The term was applied to a particularly hot-air-filled state legislator, the gentleman from Buncombe, whose inflated prnouncements led to the use of the county's name as a synonym for bombast and hokum.

One of the highlights is the Pack Memorial Library Newspaper clipping collection, consisting in several volumes of photocopied newspaper clippings about the area and its people. Prominent among them in the volume covering the "Pa" part of the alphabet, is George W. Pack, local resident in the early 20th century, described by one of the newspaper articles as "the greatest public benefactor" in Asheville's history. The articles are arranged alphabetically by subject, with a table of contents at the beginning to indicate the contents of each particular volume.

Also wonderful is the postcard collection, kept in binders, again arranged alphabetically. The collection does not consist in actual postcards, unfortunately, but only in black and white photocopies of them. Arranged by subject, the postcards reflect decades of Asheville area history, covering the city, the people, places, and the surrounding National Park areas which include the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mount Pisgah National Park.

Photocopying the newspaper articles and the postcards is a way of preserving them. The newspaper articles, especially, are subject to deterioration and subsequent loss. Photocopying the postcards not only preserves the images from deterioration, but also from pilfering by light-fingered people, the bane of any librarian's existence.

Censuses are naturally a part of the genealogy collection. Census microfilms are available, and there are transcriptions of most of the censuses, as well. The library also subscribes to the library edition of

City directories form part of the collection, from the mid-1800s onward. This library has also bound copies of their telephone directories from the mid 20th century onward. I know of few libraries which have taken the trouble to do that, but it is a boon to genealogical researchers attempting to fix their ancestors in place and time.

People wishing to trace western North Carolina ancestries could do well to stop by at the Pack Memorial Library in Asheville.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

On the Road

I have been disconnected from the Internet since Thursday, which is why I haven't had a blog since last week. We have been on the road, having left Thursday for the business part of the trip -- a speaking engagement for me. We are now in the pleasure part, though I have to say that the business part did turn out to be an immense pleasure for me, as well.

My husband accompanied me, and we headed to Atlanta for the national convention of the Sons of the American Revolution, where I spoke on the subject of Paleography in their genealogy programming track.

The SAR had called the genealogy society we belong to, the Southern Genealogist's Exchange Society in Jacksonville, Florida, looking for two speakers for the genealogy part of their convention's program. They had one speaker from Family Tree DNA and another from Samford University in Birmingham. The two speakers SGES sent them were me and Jim Vearil. Jim is an engineer by profession, but is also , like me, a student at the University of North Florida, majoring in history.

Our presentations were on Friday morning. jim went first, gallantly, as I am not a morning person. My husband and I got up and had breakfast buffet, then we went in and heard Jim's talk on using social history to understand your Civil War ancestors. Then I was up.

I wasn't sure how interested the audience would be in paleography, that is to say, old handwriting, especially when I started out with Spanish! I had talked to the program coordinator, Joe Dooley, a month or so before. When I was asked to talk and chose the subject of paleography, I had it in mind to talk just about British and American colonial paleography, but I let it out that my specialty is Sixteenth-century Spanish paleography. Joe said I should talk about that, too, as many SAR members are tracing Spanish lineages from colonial Florida and Louisiana.

So I worked up a program to discuss general considerations in paleography, the training and tools of the scribes, a little Spanish 16-th century stuff to show some letter forms and other quirks (many of which will also be found in English paleography of the period), some late 18th and early 19th century Spanish to demonstrate the changes, and then I talked about the British and American handwriting.

Once I got going, I saw some audience members nodding at what I was saying, and they began to look interested. I was able to put a few humorous comments in, and that got things rolling. I was in the groove after that. After my talk, I did receive many compliments. That is a great feeling, I have to tell you. I also got some terrific questions from the audience, which showed that they were interested in the topic.

I didn't get to hear the rest of the speakers. We were heading to Asheville, NC, to visit my husband's sister, so we had to get on the road. We'll only have a week there. Family commitments back home limit the time we can stay away.

The hotel wanted to charge what we thought was too much for their internet connection. This is a higher-end hotel, and we've been in many midgrade ones where the internet connection is free. And this hotel was charging more than the Walt Disney World resorts charge for their connection! So we decided not to do it. And my husband's sister does not have an internet connection at her home. So here we are at Panera.

It was a successful trip, professionally speaking. I got to speak to a national audience, and was in company with some experienced professional speakers. I was running with the big dogs, and I think I showed doggone well.