Thursday, October 23, 2014

Winter Rainwater Wedding

It was a chilly winter day in Polk County, Georgia (1)   when nineteen year old Frances Rainwater, daughter of Joshua Rainwater and Polly Peterson, married eighteen year old Reuben Ayers, son of Martin Ayers and Sarah Simmons.
Mary (Polly) Peterson
Polly Peterson Rainwater
Frances' mother
Photo shared by: Trudy Capps

I wonder, who was there to witness their marriage?  Did Frances have a special dress?  Did family and friends gather afterwards to celebrate her special day?

Frances was the youngest of the three Rainwater daughters and the baby in a family of six children.  Her family lived along the beautiful winding Tallapoosa River in Haralson County, Georgia. Their father, Joshua, supported their family by farming. Their family was among the early members of the Bethany Baptist Church (2)  located on the outskirts of the current town of Tallapoosa.  If Frances was like other girls of her time, she grew up helping her mother, Polly, with cooking, sewing and caring for their small farm animals.

Bethany Baptist Church, Haralson County, GA
Bethany Baptist Church
Haralson County, GA
(original location but newer building)
Photo shared by: David Rawlings

By the time Frances married Reuben on January 24, 1856, her older siblings Mariah, Abner and Olivia, were married and living nearby with their spouses and children. Siblings Matilda and John were still at home and would not marry for several more years.


In October of 1857, Reuben and Frances welcomed a baby girl to their home. They named her Mary Ann,  but called her Molly.  By the1860 US Census (3), they were living just across the Georgia/Alabama border in the rolling hills of Calhoun County, Alabama and Reuben provided for the family by farming.  Frances' sister, Olivia, and her husband, John Ganus,  and their three sons Frank, John and James R. were living nearby. As a farmer's wife and the mother of a little girl,  Frances settled into life, with her older sister Olivia nearby for friendship and support.


Near Calhoun Alabama  Wikimpedia Public domain
Overlooking Calhoun, Alabama
Wikipedia Commons

By August of 1861, Reuben, Frances, and Molly returned to Haralson county, Georgia where Reuben enlisted with Company A,  35th Georgia Infantry. Although Frances' mother, Polly, had passed away, Frances's father,  Joshua, and several of her siblings lived close enough to be a help and support while Reuben was away at war. Typically soldiers' wives had to care for their farms and their families while they anxiously awaited for any news about their husbands and their regiments.  I am sure Frances was no exception.




Joshua Rainwater Family

Joshua RAINWATER  (b. 13 Nov 1791 SC d. 15 August 1878 Upshur TX) & Mary PETERSON  (b. abt 1794 SC  d. bef 1860 GA
  • Matilda RAINWATER b. 10 Aug 1821 Pendleton Dist, SC - 16 Sep 1904 Haralson Co, GA 
  • Mariah RAINWATER  b. 1826  d 1903 SC - 1903 Talledega, AL
  • Abner RAINWATER b. 1827 d. 1908  b. 16 Apr 1827 SC - 23 Sep 1908 Hamilton, TX
  • Olivia RAINWATER b. 20 Feb 1831 Hall Co., GA  - 12 Sep 1902 Okmulgee, OK 
  • John RAINWATER b. 19 Jun 1832  GA - 14 Jun 1890 Upshur, TX
  • Frances RAINWATER b. Jul 1837 GA  - 1913 Polk Co., GA
1.  Marriage  Reuben Ayers to Frances Rainwater 24 January 1856, "Georgia, County Marriages, 1785-1950," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-25515-21526-85?cc=1927197 : accessed 16 Oct 2014), 0419307 (005191034) > image 94 of 415.
2. Lois Owens Newman and Carroll County Genealogical Society, Haralson County A History (Carrollton, GA: Carroll County Genealogical Society, 1994), 93.
3. 1860 U.S. census, Calhoun, Alabama, population schedule, Oaklevel PO, p. 42 (penned), dwelling 302, family 302, Ruben Ayres; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 23 October 2014); from Family History Library Film: 803004. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

FGS 2015-- Time to Connect, Explore, Refresh


When I first started genealogy about twenty years ago,  I spent most of my time in the quiet recesses of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Granted, the library has a lot to offer and so I was quite content to spend hours spinning through reels of microfilm, examining fiche and studying the vast collection of books.

Initially success came fast and somewhat easily, but as is often the case, the quick, relatively easy results slowly screeched to a halt and I was left wondering what I needed to do in order to take my research to the next level.

It was then that I discovered and attended my first local genealogy conference and a whole new world opened up to me!  Not only did I learn new ways to think and research that helped to propel my research forward, but I had a lot of fun connecting with other genealogist. I was hooked!

Since that first conference many years ago, I have attended many conferences at both the local and national level.  This year I am an Ambassador for the 2015 FGS Conference and am excited to be able to attend.

With the wide variety of classes offered, there will be many opportunities to EXPLORE a vast array of topics pertaining to genealogy.  Whether someone is just beginning their genealogy adventure or is a skilled researcher, there are classes to meet their needs and interests.  I am committed to stepping outside my comfort zone to explore some new topics and hope to leave the conference with new skills in my genealogy tool belt to help me tackle those stubborn brick walls.

In addition,  I am looking forward to the opportunity to CONNECT with others.  It is a lot of fun to visit with other bloggers and genealogist while waiting for a class to start, in the halls and across the lunch table.  Because the conference attendees come from a wide variety of backgrounds, locations and with varied experiences,  I find I learn a great deal from them as well.

And finally, I know I will leave the FGS Conference feeling REFRESHed.  It is easy to fall into the same old routine of doing things the same way and sometimes, do I dare say, my interest in genealogy even begins to wane somewhat.  There is nothing like a conference to help recharge me and get me back on track.


For information and to register, go to Federation of Genealogical Societies


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved





Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Snake Stories

When our kids were little, they used to love to ask me for what they affectionately called "snake stories."  Growing up in the hills of California, and having adventurous brothers, I did have more than my fair share of snake encounters.  Once I somewhat innocently shared a few of those stories with our kids, the stories became favorites, to be retold time and again.

There was the time a large section of a large, old pepper tree fell down in our yard and we begged Dad to just leave it for awhile.  My brother and I took some sheers and chopped and hacked the smaller branches to form little rooms for our "house."  We played all week in that thing and were so sad to discover on our return home from school one day that Dad had some men haul the large section of the tree off. The dismay quickly turned to relief and horror when he told us that as they were removing the tree, the men had discovered a large rattlesnake coiled in the tree.

Despite the fact that I just hate snakes, I have loads of snake stories.  But my real purpose today is to share my grandpa's snake story.

A couple of years ago on our visit to Sanford, Colorado, my Uncle Gaylon shared a story about my Grandpa Ganus and I am so glad that he did.  Grandpa Ganus died when I was little and the stories that I know about him are few and far between.


Sanford, Colorado
Sanford, Colorado
When this incident occurred, my Grandpa, Heber Ganus, was working as a mechanic at a garage in Sanford.  This particular day, Boyd Poulson was pulling weeds down by the river, a little ways out of town when he saw a snake. Water snakes and garden snakes are a common sight there in the San Luis Valley,  so he thought it was just another harmless little garden snake and was not too concerned.  But Boyd was mistaken and he realized his error when the snake struck him on his hand.  He had been struck by a rattlesnake! Boyd was out by himself and seeing no other option, he ran three miles to Sanford.  By the time he reached town, he was woozy and his hand had become very swollen. Frantic, he couldn't think at first what to do, so he ran to the garage where Grandpa Ganus was working.  Grandpa could see how bad the situation was and he hurriedly loaded Boyd up in the car and drove as fast as he could to the nearby town of Alamosa for medical help.  Grandpa's quick action was credited for saving Boyd's life.

Grandpa Heber Monroe Ganus and Grandma Hazel (nee Mickelsen)
Grandpa Heber Monroe Ganus
and Grandma Hazel Ganus (nee Mickelsen)
It's a simple story, but it warms my heart to think that Grandpa's quick action helped to save someone's life.

Occasionally I tell my husband that maybe we need to move to the south where I can do more research and get in touch with my southern roots, but at that point he always reminds me that there is no shortage of snakes in the south.  That always does the trick and for a time, I abandon that aching to return to my roots, although I suspect it would provide me with some great new material for my snake stories.




Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall, The Best Three Days of the Year

Fall never seems to be long enough in Utah and some even joke that it is the best three days of the year.  So when I learned that The Board for Certification of Genealogist would be holding a lecture series at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City this past Saturday, for just a moment I wrestled with the idea of giving up the promise of good weather for a day spent indoors.  It wasn't really much of a wrestle though because with Judy Russell and Elizabeth Shown Mills teaching, I knew my time would be well spent.

Judy G. Russell, BCG Seminar, used by permission
Judy G. Russell
BCG Lecture Series
(Used by permission)
Both Judy and Elizabeth are masters at teaching us how to see and think as genealogists, all while weaving the stories of their subjects' lives through the use of records.  Listening to them is not only educational, but a lot of fun.

And so I got up bright and early on Saturday morning and drove down to the  Family History Library and I am so glad that I did.  As I listened to all of the speakers, I enjoyed the day immensely and am excited to once again pull out some of my difficult-to-solve genealogical problems to see if just maybe I will see and understand things that I have missed in the past.   Thank you ladies for time well spent.    


You can find Judy G. Russell on her website,  The Legal Genealogist and Elizabeth Shown Mills on her websites, Historic Pathways and Evidence Explained

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Oh the places you'll go

Recently lines from the popular Dr. Seuss poem, "Oh The Places You'll Go!" have rattled through my brain:
"You're off to Great Places! Today is Your day!
Your mountain is waiting, So .....get on your way!”
Over the past month and a half, my "mountain" has been discovering Ernest and his life and in the process, Oh the places I have been!

Ernest William Ganus and Heber Ganus
Ernest William Ganus (L)
Heber Monroe Ganus 
Initially knowing very little about my grandfather's older brother, Ernest, who died before I was born,  I expected to write a single blog post.  But one record led to another and little by little, I soon realized that it would take multiple posts to share all that was in my mind and heart.

At times I was perplexed by Ernest’s personal choices,  but seeking to understand led me to yet more discoveries. In addition to his personal trials, I followed Ernest into the newly emerging oil industry, through his service in WWI, and finally through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  With each discovery I hoped that just maybe his life would turn a corner and that he would have a happy ending, but by all appearances, life was never easy for Ernest.  I can only hope that the bleak facts that emerged through the documents were at least occasionally balanced out by some of the simple daily joys of life.  

I read and then I read some more. I visited personal and governmental websites containing information about the era. I looked at pictures, I listened to songs written during that time period, I watched film strips, documentaries and a movie.  

Because of my desire to know more about him, I stepped into his world, a world that I had previously known little about and in the process, I received quite an education.  While the journey enlightened my mind, it also broke my heart.  In many ways,  Ernest represents many of the men and women of that era that were born into hard circumstances and fought every step of the way just to survive. 

Had I been satisfied to simply spit out the most basic facts of Ernest's life, I would have missed so much and in all reality, I would have missed Ernest.
 "The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."  Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You'll Go!
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Do You Remember? Fall Leaves

Do You Remember?

The older I get, the more I love to reflect on the people and events of my past.  I wonder if you have some of the same memories I have? 

I've always loved fall.  I love the colors and the smells and the cool nights.  Do you remember how fun it was to play in the fall leaves? 

Me as a little girl raking the leaves at our home in Bakersfield, California
Growing up, we didn't have the sophisticated toys that kids have today and so we spent a lot of time playing with simple things.  I remember how much I loved it when the leaves began to fall. We would spend hours raking the leaves into huge piles and jumping into the piles. 

I also remember loving the sound of the leaves as they crunched under my shoes.  But even more than that, I loved the way the leaves crunched as my mom walked on them in her high heels and I could hardly wait until for the day I too would wear high heels. 

Do you have childhood memories of playing in the fall leaves? 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ernest's Final Return to Oklahoma

The winds howled as dark clouds of dust and dirt churned and boiled across the wide open plains.  A layer of grit seemed to cover everything in site, both indoors and out. It was the "Dust Bowl" and Ernest Ganus and his family were smack in the middle of it.

Dust Bowl from Wikimedia Commons, Public DomainCrippling drought combined with over-farmed and over-grazed land resulted in dust storms throughout Oklahoma, as well as other neighboring states.  At times the dust and dirt were so thick, the sky was completely black.

In 1930, Ernest, Goldie and daughter, Louise, were living in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and according to the census, Ernest was working as a laborer on the highways.  Between the dust storms and the crippling effects of the Great Depression, I suspect his work dwindled away to little if anything at all.

Whether the mounting financial and emotional stresses played a part in their marital discord, or there were simply differences that could not be resolved, some time during the next few years, Ernest and Goldie divorced and for a time, Ernest was alone again.

Several years later, Ernest met and married Laura Etta Henson, daughter of Jeff Henson and Lucy Ann Sharp.  Then, much like the characters of John Steinbeck's novel,  The Grapes of Wrath, which depicted the plight of those fleeing the dust bowl,  Ernest and Laura joined the hundreds of thousands of dust bowl refugees and headed for California.

In 1940, forty-two year old Ernest and forty year old Laura appear on the US Federal Census living in Los Angeles, California.  Employers successfully lured desperate job seekers to come to work in the fields of California while Hollywood portrayed a land where everyone prospered and thrived in a near tropical climate.  Consequently, the impoverished headed to California with great hope for a better life.

As if he had not already endured his share of heartache, once again Ernest would be hit hard by loss. On the eighth of December, 1942,  Laura died of cancer, leaving Ernest once again, all alone.

By April of that year, Ernest had followed the migrant trail to Tehachapi as is evidence by his registration form for the "Old Man Draft."  On the form he indicated that his place of residence was "Kirschenmaan Camp- Tehachapi, California."

Housing for Oklahoma Refugees, California, Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress
Housing for Oklahoma Refugees, California
Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress 

Approximately 122 miles from his last known residence in Los Angeles and almost 1,500 miles from Okmulgee, Ernest "fit the mold" of the "Okie" on a quest to find employment.

Some  Oklahomans flocked to the areas near Tehachapi to look for work. The sheer number of migrant workers living in makeshift camps created growing concern among many locals. Crowding, inadequate supplies and lack of sanitation often made the camps a dangerous and unhealthy place to live and many communities took steps to close the camps.  In addition, many that had come for work became disillusioned as it became evident that those seeking work greatly exceeded the number of available jobs and that in many cases the pay could not cover even their most basic needs.  For whatever reason, Ernest did not remain in California for long, but once again, returned home to Oklahoma.

At this point the trail goes cold and I know little about the years that follow. I do know that in the early 1950's, when my grandfather, Heber Ganus,  Ernest's younger brother, was suffering from poor health and was advised to go to a lower climate,  he too returned to Oklahoma.  Although Ernest did not have much, he shared what he had and Grandpa lived with him for a short time until Grandma finished the school year as a teacher in Colorado and could join him in Oklahoma.

Ernest lived alone for the remainder of his life.  At the age of 62, suffering from emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis, he was admitted to the VA Hospital in Bonham, Texas.  According to his death certificate he died on March 3, 1956, at 5:40 in the morning of an acute heart attack.  Ernest's body was returned to Oklahoma and he was buried in the Okmulgee County Cemetery near Laura.

Ernest's final resting place was Oklahoma, the place where he had last been with his parents, the place where he had married Goldie and had been with his children, the place where he had met and married Laura, the place where brother Orson had lived for a time and a place where brother Heber had returned as his health failed.....Oklahoma was "home" and Ernest too had returned one last time.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved