Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Alone, but Not Forgotten

By all appearances, he was alone.  While there are some experiences that must be faced alone, its when we face the critical crossroads of life that we generally hope that someone will be there beside us, helping us to take that next crucial step.  Such is the case with death and so it pains me to think that as Sanford Rainwater approached his final threshold,  no one was there to help ease him across.  No one wants to die alone.

While I do not know his full story or if even the story I think that I see is accurate, I will share what little I have found about Sanford Rainwater, with the hopes that maybe someone else has a puzzle piece or two that they can share to help complete the picture.

Sanford Rainwater was my first cousin 3 times removed, which in ways doesn't sound very distant and yet, the distance is significant enough that I have no personal knowledge of him at all.  

As I learned about him,  there were several things that troubled me, but it was his death certificate that bothered me the most.  With just enough detail to help me determine that it was indeed "him,"  it was the following information on the certificate, or should I say, lack of information, that really tugged at my heart. 

Sanford Rainwater

Seeing "not known" beside birthplace and even beside "name of father" and "maiden name" of mother is really not that unusual,  but seeing the word "none" for his informant was heart wrenching to me. Was there really no one living nearby that knew him well enough to provide information for the death certificate?  Was there no one that could provide some of the most basic facts of his life?  Was he really that alone?  Other records seemed to confirm that he had been alone for some time.

Sanford Rainwater was the oldest of two children born to John and Bargilla [Moore] Rainwater.  Sanford's father, John Rainwater was a younger brother to my 2nd great grandmother, Olivia Rainwater Ganus.  Born in February of 1866 in Georgia, Sanford was likely born in Haralson County.  By 1869 John and Bargilla (or Barzilla, records vary)  had moved their family to Upshur, Hamilton County, Texas, along with John's brother, Abner, and his family, as well as John's father, Joshua, who was then a widower.

Sanford's mother became a widow when in 1890 John died and was buried in Hamilton, Texas.  In about 1894, when Sanford was 28, he married Alice Atkinson.  The couple had two children together.   A daughter, Minnie Jane, was born in1896 and a son, Jessie, was born in 1898.  By 1900, Sanford, Alice and their two children had moved to Creek Nation, Indian Territory, an area that would later become Oklahoma.  It was fun to discover that Sanford and Alice were living next door to his aunt and uncle,  (my 2nd Great Grandparents) John and Olivia [Rainwater] Ganus. Both families had moved from Georgia with John and Olivia first living in Colorado before settling in Indian Territory, whereas Sanford's family had initially moved to Texas.  Apparently the families had maintained enough communication to be aware of each other's location. 

Sanford's wife, Alice,  was the daughter of Reverend Alonzo Atkinson.   Family lore indicates that Alice's parents were not too crazy about her marriage to Sanford and I wonder if that contributed to their move to Creek Nation.  Sadly the relationship did not last and by 1910, the couple had divorced. Sanford is shown on the 1910 US Federal Census divorced and living in Sherman, Texas as the head of household and his 71 year old mother Bargilla was living with him.   Alice however had remarried by then and was living in Mills, Texas.  While I eventually tracked down their daughter, Minnie, as a married adult, I have never been able to locate son Jessie beyond the 1900 census when he is shown with his parents and sister.  It troubles me that at the ages of 12 and 14, neither children were listed with either parent in 1910 and also do not appear to be with either grandparents, aunts or uncles.

Star indicates location of Parker County, Tx
Red county on the gulf is San Patricio
Wikimedia Commons

I was able to find Sanford in City Directories in 1903 and 1910 in Sherman, Texas,  and in 1912 in San Antonio.  In each location, his mother Bargilla was living with him. Bargilla died in 1919 and from that point on, Sanford is shown living alone in Aransas Pass, San Patricio, Texas.  In 1920 he was working with the railroad and in 1930 he was doing odd jobs. Every indication is that he never remarried following his divorce from Alice. 

I did locate the death certificate for Sanford's daughter, Minnie.   Her husband was the informant and while it lists her mother's name as Alice Atkinson, her father is listed simply as "Rainwater." This leads me to believe that at least as an adult, Minnie maintained some type of relationship with her mother, but likely little if any contact with her father.  Distance alone would have made it difficult to see much of her father.  On the map above, the star indicates Parker County where Minnie lived most of her adult married life and where she died.  The red county on the gulf is San Patricio where Sanford spent the last 20+ years of his life and where he died.   Why did he choose to live so far from his only daughter and grandchildren? 

And that is the end of the trail!  Other than his death certificate, I can find nothing more about Sanford.  Even online family trees fail to provide any photos, hints or further insight to his life.

On February 2, 1940, at the age of 61, Sanford Rainwater passed from this life and while all clues seem to indicate that he lived much of his life alone and even died alone,  for me, he is not forgotten and hopefully someday I will know more.  

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Shoot Out at the Double Cabin

I love a good story. Sometimes I find myself chasing a story even after the trail leaves behind my own family, just because the story is interesting.  And truthfully,  I know I am not the only genealogist that does that.  Genealogist love stories, especially when there is a mystery involved.  The story I am about to share is complete with romance, action and of course some mystery, ending as many of my genealogy adventures seem to end, with more questions. This story actually begins with my half great aunt, Martha Olivia Ganus.

Martha Olivia or "Ollie" was the daughter of William Franklin Ganus, my great grandfather and his first wife Mary Matilda Roberts and I shared some of her story here.   Martha lost her mother, "Tilda," about 1886 and later that same year,  she and her father, along with her Ganus grandparents,  aunts and uncles all boarded a train bound for Colorado.   The Ganus family settled in Manassa, Colorado initially and remained there for a few years.   Sometime before 1900 the Ganus family moved to Oklahoma where Ollie met and married Henry Edgar Howell on 16 March 1896.

Henry and Ollie settled down in what was then Creek Nation, Indian Territory and began a family. According to Henry's obituary from October 1951, in about 1891, when Henry was approximately 16, his family moved from Illinois to Oklahoma.  Henry's family was then comprised of his parents, Henry Harrison Howell and Amelia Louisa [Turner], and his siblings  Katherine, Elroy, twins Lily and Lillian, Lela and Pearl.  Later Willis and Minnie would join the family.

As I learned a little about Henry's family, for some reason, it was his twin sisters that initially caught my attention.  Lillian and Lily Howell were born 13 June 1883.  Lily only lived to age 16, but Lillian lived to adulthood, married and reared a family in Oklahoma.  It was Lillian's marriage that intrigued me.

Because my 2nd great grandmother was a McCleskey (Elizabeth McCleskey) and because I have yet to determine who her parents were, I am ever on the lookout for any connection to McCleskeys.  So you can imagine that while admittedly the connection was somewhat distant, I nonetheless sat up and paid attention when I realized that Martha Olivia's sister-in-law, Lillian,  had married a McCleskey, a McCleskey with Georgia ties no less!

Lillian Howell married Benjamin Green McCleskey.  Benjamin was born 18 July 1871 in Parker County, Texas, the son of George Walter McCleskey and Eliza C. Bumgarner.  Ben's father,  George was born in Hall County, Georgia 1838 to Benjamin G. McCleskey and Martha Mahuldah Boyd. George eventually joined with others in the move to Texas and settled in Parker County, Texas where he married Eliz Bumgarner and they settled down and began their family. And herein lies a story.
From Wikimedia Commons

The story takes place in Weatherford, Texas in 1873.  George W, and Eliza[Bumgarner] McCleskey had two children at the time, six year old May and one year old Benjamin. Because there had been a great deal conflict between settlers and the local natives of the area, many preferred to live in town where there was safety in numbers.  But the McCleskeys and the Bumgarners lived out by Holland Lake.  In July of that year,  John Bumgarner and his son-in-law George planned to go out on the range and bring back some of their cattle (some versions say horses).  The men decided that in order to get an early start the next morning, George would spend the night at his father-in-law's cabin.  The following morning the men rose to drizzly rain, but opted to go anyway.  As they began saddling up their horses, some of local natives were waiting and opened up fire. A shoot out ensued and George was shot.  John drug his daughter's husband, George inside the cabin, where George died a short time later.  The cabin remains standing and it is said that you can still see the bullet holes in the walls of the cabin.  You can read more about the incident at the following links:

Thirty three year old Eliza was left a widow with two young children to raise alone on the frontier. Heat, relentless winds, tornados, copperheads and rattlesnakes were just a few of the challenges settlers of the area faced and it could not have been easy for a woman alone.  Sometime before 1880, Eliza died, leaving Benjamin and May orphaned.  Family stories say that their Uncle Hubbard Bumgarner took the children in and the 1880 Parker County Census does show 12 year old May and 9 year old "Green" (Ben's middle name) McCleskey living with their Uncle Hubbard.

As adults, both Ben and sister May ended up in Oklahoma.  On 28 December 1902 in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, Benjamin Green McCleskey and Lillian Howell married.  Four children would join that union, Floyd Elmer, Raymond C., Willard and Green Russell.   Ben and Lillian lived out their life in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and it is there in Okmulgee that both Ben and Lillian are buried.

Note location of Okmulgee
From Wikimedia Commons

So granted, it is a little removed, and yet I am intrigued by it all.  Is it just a fluke that several Ganus and McCleskey families ended up living and dying not just in Oklahoma, but a short distance from each other in Okmulgee, Oklahoma?  Is it just a simple coincidence that both the Ganus family and the McCleskey family had Hall County, Georgia roots?  Maybe.....but maybe not.  If I believe in the importance of the FAN club  as taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills, which emphasizes the importance of an individual's family, associates and neighbors, then such connections, however seemingly innocent and removed, warrant my attention.  And questions such as why and how did the Ganus and McCleskey families of Georgia both end up in Okmulgee, Oklahoma need an answer.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Will Our Grandchildren Need Paleography?

Sign found in the mountains of Colorado.
Taken and shared by Trena Ganus

Have I saved letters and handwritten treasures from my childhood for nothing?  Will they be readable and hold any value to my descendants?  I used to think so, but now  I'm not so sure.

I can’t help but notice that as my keyboarding skills and texting speed have increased (no thanks to auto-correct!)  that my handwriting seems much less legible than it used to be. Not only is typing quicker, but as a society we seem to be gaining speed in our efforts to become paperless. While discussing this issue recently with some of my friends, one friend indicated that many public schools no longer even teach cursive handwriting!  I had no idea and initially found it hard to believe, but after a few simple Google searches, I discovered that it is actually true.

While reading more recent handwritten material sometimes presents a challenge due to individual styles or sometimes even the lack of style, we nonetheless are able to read the majority of the handwritten material of more recent times because we are familiar with cursive, which was the accepted standard for many many years.  What will happen when cursive is no longer familiar to those living?  An instructor who works with groups who index documents recently shared with me that many young people actually need a website that shows cursive letters in order to read cursive writing even now.

Paleography, or the study of old handwriting has long been important to the serious genealogist, but it has traditionally been a study of writing from a much earlier time. When I took a Paleography course, I was surprised to see just how much handwriting has changed and evolved over the years, but will paleography eventually have to include what many of us older folks consider simple common cursive writing?

And here comes the troubling part.  Will my descendants even one generation away need a paleography course just to read my handwriting? As I think of  the letters that I have saved over the years such as choice letters from my parents during their missionary service in Papua New Guinea,  letters from my grandmothers and  letters from the boyfriend whom I eventually married, I wonder, will they hold any value to the generations that follow?  Will they be too difficult to read, the writing too foreign to be worth the effort for others to try and wade through them?  I find myself wondering if our grandchildren and their children can't read our precious keepsakes then just what will happen to our letters?

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tula's Incomplete Story

Scotie Hickman and Tula Fawcett
Scott Anthony Heckman
and Tula Faucett
Thankfully grandma's little suitcase still held a few more treasures, and so with pictures of Tula, along with a few records that I have been able to find,  I will finish what I know of  Tula's story.

A little more than a year following the death of her first husband, Charles, Tula remarried on April 18, 1899 in Salida, Colorado.  Her new husband, Scott Anthony Heckman lived in Salida, which is in a mountain valley several hours north of Tula's home in Alamosa.  How they met, I am not sure, but I suspect it possibly had something to do with the railroad.   According to census records, Scott was a brakeman for the railways and with Salida originally being a railroad town, and Alamosa being a rail center for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, I suspect there was opportunity for Scott to have spent at least some time in Alamosa.   

Following their marriage, Tula and Scott settled down in Salida.  The 1900 US Federal Census shows Scott Heckman as head of household with his wife Tula and three year old Ola, Tula’s child from her first marriage.  It would seem that 1902 was the beginning of better things for Tula.  Married, and with a four year old daughter whom she clearly adored, Tula was expecting her and Scott's first child.   Dorothy Heckman was born May 25, 1902, and for a short time, the Heckman household was composed of Scott, Tula, Ola and new baby Dorothy.  But once again tragedy hit Tula's life and just six months after Dorothy's birth, sweet little Ola died.  Tula and Scott took Ola's body back to Alamosa to be buried next to her father, a story I shared in a previous post.

Tula  Faucett Heckman
and daughter, Dorothy Heckman
Specific details surrounding the next few years of Scott and Tula's life are unknown, but according to the 1910 census, Scott continued to work as a brakeman while he, Tula and Dorothy lived in Salida.  The 1920 census shows Scott, who was then 55 still living in Salida  but only his mother is shown living with him. Despite determined efforts, I have not been able to locate Tula anywhere on the 1920 census.  Meanwhile, their daughter, eighteen year old Dorothy, was living in Denver  with her aunt, Mildred Hickman. 

In 1930, Scott, still a brakeman, was living in a boarding house along with other lodgers.  Once again, searches for Tula are not fruitful.  However I was able to find Tula on the 1940 census living as as a lodger in Denver, Colorado.

Scott  passed from this life on May 21, 1938 and A Findagrave entry includes both a picture of Scott’s headstone and a transcribed obituary.  The obituary indicated that Scott left behind his wife Tula, yet it does not appear that they had been living together for some time. I would love to know the full story.  A Findagrave entry for Tula includes a picture of her headstone and indicates that she died 30 August 1949,.  A transcribed obituary also included on that site indicted that Tula had been living in Denver and had died in a Denver hospital, however she was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Salida, where Scott was also buried.

While I know something about the beginning of Tula's life in Georgia and the end of her life in Colorado, there are woefully large gaps in her story. Why wasn't she living with her father when they first arrived in Colorado from Georgia?   Just how did she meet Scott? Where was Tula between the 1910 and 1940 census years? What happened in her life during those thirty years?

Photo: taken and shared by
Trena Ganus 

Thanks to the bond between sisters, Tula and Sarah, my great grandmother, I have pictures that help tell Tula's story.  I have additional pictures that have not been shared on this blog and am willing to share them with others.  My hope is that similarly someone else has details that they are willing to share with me and that those details will help fill in the gaps of Tula's life and therefore complete her story.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Rootstech 2014--Bigger and Better

photo (15)Rootstech 2014 was truly bigger and better than ever in most every way.  The exhibit hall was 50% bigger, the classrooms were bigger, and even, and maybe I should say especially, the CROWDS were bigger!  There was an unprecedented number of adults and youth in attendance this year, but the event was managed well and I was able to see, do and attend everything that I had wanted.
photo (13)
In the opening,

FamilySearch was excited to announce the coming of an obituary project which will add thousands of obituaries to their already huge collection of free online records.  We were told that most obituaries contain at least seven family members (but often more), so this will be a big help to us in piecing together our families.  

The keynote speakers each morning were fabulous and, while varied in experience and approach, each shared things that inspired and motivated us in a different aspect of our family history.  We heard from Stephanie NielsenAnnelies van den Belt,  Ree DrummondDr. Spencer Wells, Todd Hansen and Judy Russell.   Each speaker was great, but as a friend said, Judy Russell really hit the ball out of the park.  Utilizing her great talents as a “Scotch Irish Story Teller,” she encouraged us to take time to record not only our ancestor’s history, but our own, emphasizing that  information about people can become completely lost in as few as three generations unless it is recorded accurately.

As for the classes, I tried to branch out and and take a greater variety this time and it paid off.  I tend to shy away from some of the more techie type classes (I know, I know—that is somewhat the point of a genealogy “tech” conference!)  So I decided to just be brave and to try and learn some things outside of my comfort zone and I was so glad that I did.  I came away with lists of more things to read, apps to download and programs to try.

The Expo Hall was immense and packed full of vendors selling everythingphoto (6) imaginable related to family history. I took full advantage of the opportunity to visit with those manning the booths about their products and services.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about how various things might help me with my passion for genealogy.

In addition, there were some fun things to do.  Large plush couches ensured that we watched demonstrations in comfort and free popcorn and soft drinks were available to all.  FamilySearch had several fun things to do, such as an area where they took your picture and inserted it in an old picture.  Can you pick my face out in the picture below?  (I am the one holding the baimageby.)

And believe it or not, next year promises to be even bigger and better!  Next year, the Federation of Genealogical Societies will hold their National Convention in conjunction with Roostech on February 12-14th in Salt Lake City.

I already have the dates marked on my calendar, do you?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Tula's First Child's Casket"

Ola's casket
“Tula’s first child’s casket,”  was penciled on the back of the faded and well worn picture.  Dirty brown smudges on the once white border, made me wonder how many others had held this picture and felt Tula's loss.  Had they also wondered just as I did,  just who was Tula’s first child?

Photo Taken by Kurtis Shawcroft
Used by permission
When I initially came across this picture and before I had really become acquainted with Tula,  I felt a sadness just knowing that she had lost a child.  But the feeling deepened once I researched Tula and realized that the sweet little tow headed Ola shown in the pictures shared in an earlier post was in fact, Tula’s first child.  It was Ola who laid within this child sized casket piled deep with beautiful flowers, Tula’s final gift to her sweet little girl.  Once again Tula faced heartbreak as she buried yet one more family member.  Ola was laid to rest in the Alamosa, Colorado Municipal Cemetery on the 25th of November 1902, next to her father Charles, just four years after his death.

According to an anonymous contributor on Findagrave, Ola died of spinal meningitis in Salida, Colorado on 23 November.  Although living in Salida at the time, Tula took Ola “home” to be buried in Alamosa.  By the age of 29, Tula had buried her mother, her father, her husband and her child and I can’t imagine the depth of her grief.  

The picture of Ola's casket was among the scant few pictures in my grandmother's suitcase and so I realized that Tula must have sent this picture to her sister, my great grandmother, Sarah Faucett Ganus, who then lived many miles away in Oklahoma.  Once again, Tula reached out to her sister and I wondered,  did Sarah write her back?  How I wish I had the letters those two may have exchanged.   

And with this finding, yet another question surfaced.  Why was Tula and Ola living in Salida rather than in Alamosa where they were living when Charles died?  I will share more of their story in my next post.    

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It’s a Southern Thing

imageThis past week I was able to attend the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.   Having so many southern lines, there  was no question in my mind when I signed up last June but that I would choose the tract  “Southern Research,” with J. Mark Lowe

I have taken courses from Mark before and I knew that in addition to learning the ins and outs of Southern research, I would also learn about the culture and the mindset of the southern people  from a true southerner, accent and all. This week was no exception.

From Mark we learned terms such as  “seasoning”, bran dance, and fictive kin and my “Amazon Wish List” grew by leaps and bounds, as did my bookmarks for my “go-to” websites.  In addition, Mark taught us the value of “mull and ponder,” a step so many of us researchers overlook in our race to acquire yet more information.

In class Mark compared, overlaid and lined up side by side, topographic, physiographic, soil survey and migration maps, in addition to maps showing historic county boundaries. We learned about the geographic features of the states and how those things impacted our ancestor’s daily lives and ability to travel.  Among other things, we learned about wills, estates and guardianship records as well as some of the traditions of the south.  Mark taught us the value of knowing our ancestor’s religion and how we can track down the histories and records of those itinerant preachers that may have performed and recorded the important events of our ancestor’s lives. Mark covered Federal claims, road lists, long hunters, tax records and a variety of records that are unique to the South.  We even learned the history behind such places as Cheek’s Stand (I wasn’t sure I would sleep that night).  And just when we felt our heads might burst, he gave us homework assignments that provided an opportunity to try out some of our newly acquired knowledge.
SLIG 2014
Michelle & Mark Lowe

But as is typical, Mark’s class wasn’t all work.  We enjoyed the opportunity to visit, ask questions, discuss and we laughed…..a lot.  Mark helped us to not only know the South, but to feel something of that wonderful Southern hospitality.  He is as warm and genuine as he is knowledgeable.

At the end of the class, Mark teased that I held the record for taking his classes the most and I think it just may be the truth.  I love my Southern kin, and I long to not only fill my brain with a knowledge of their history, but also my heart with an understanding of their lives. And so I have jumped at opportunities to take classes from J. Mark Lowe, and this week, as always, I left feeling warmly rewarded for the effort. 

Follow Mark at and

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014