Friday, December 28, 2012

The Whys of It All

When my husband and I were first married, we were in our final years of college and we lived in an apartment close to the university.  One of our neighbors had an adorable little boy who was about three years old at the time.  Whenever I sat out on our little patio, I could count on a visit from the cute little guy.  I will never forget his steady stream of questions, and how he asked “why” following almost everything that I said.  It quickly helped me to realize just how little I really knew about the world. I have thought about him a lot lately as I have frequently asked myself  “why?”  Why do some people seem to have more to deal with than others?  Why do some seem to get so much more done in a day ?  Why must it snow for three days nonstop?
      
Martha Olivia Ganus
Martha Olivia Ganus
Although asking “why” for many questions does not produce an answer and is not necessarily even productive, I have found the opposite to be true in genealogy.  It’s in asking “why” that I have been led to some of my greatest finds.

It was in asking “why” John Monroe Ganus and wife Olivia were living in Alabama in 1860 instead of their home state of Georgia, that I learned they were there living among Olivia’s family, and I shared that story in this post. Asking why they were there led me to learn more about my Great Great Grandmother, Olivia's family, the Rainwaters.  And it was because I wondered “why”  I could not find more about my Gurganus family in Macon that I searched faded, difficult to read, microfilmed court records for hours, which in turn led me to the sad finding of a murder trial involving my family, which I shared earlier.  And, it was in asking “why” Grandma had faintly written in the corner of a little piece of paper, “John M. had a brother Jim that went to Alabama,”  that I began to search for Jim Ganus and that ultimately led me to not only Jim, but Jim’s descendants and I shared what I found in this post.  In addition, a picture of an unknown woman in my Grandpa Ganus’  papers led me to ask "why" her picture was among his few possessions and  led me to information about my Great Grandfather William Franklin’s first wife and their daughter, Martha Olivia Ganus.  I am saving that story to share at a later time.  I have truly learned that with genealogical research, asking the questions helps me to stop and evaluate what I know and what I want  to know and that ultimately leads to new information. 

I have witnessed a fair amount of banter among individuals recently over various issues of genealogical importance and as a result, I have looked at my own research and asked another "why."  Just "why” am I doing genealogy in the first place and am I on the road that will lead me to my desired goal?  Have I lost site of my original purpose and if so, "why" and what do I need to do about it?   I plan to set some genealogical goals for this coming year and as I do, I certainly plan to evaluate what I do against  “why” I am doing it and hopefully that will help me remain focused, lead me to some great finds and keep me out of trouble.

That curious little neighbor boy from so many years ago has long since grown up to be a man and I am sure that he has his own little children that sometimes ask him "why."   I am just as sure that he has long forgotten me and has no idea that I often think of him as I ponder issues in my own life and ask  "why?"

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas is Coming, the Squirrel is Getting Fat?


Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please to put a penny in the old man’s hat!

I remember singing that song as a child and thinking that it was a strange song. Why were we singing about a fat goose and putting pennies in an old man’s hat and just how did that relate to Christmas?

Christmas was magical as a child.  Things were a bit simpler then, but even so, I couldn’t have loved Christmas more. 

As simple as Christmas was for me as a child, I know that in earlier times, it was even simpler.  I do confess however, that thanks Christmas by the fireto old movies, I tend to romanticize it a bit, envisioning a family gathered around a roaring fire in a large rustic fireplace, real stockings hanging from the mantle and a freshly cut pine decorated with a few simple homemade ornaments standing beside it.  In my mind, their meal was composed of some type of bird and a few tasty yet simple fixings.  One thing is for certain, I’ve never pictured them gathering for a dinner of squirrel or including sardines!

So as I browsed through a few journals that I have copies of, I was surprised to read what they did in the days leading up to Christmas, as well as Christmas Day itself. 

From the biography of Henry Newton Cochran of Campbell County, Georgia:
December 24 1918
Tuesday “Christmas Eve”, It was very rainy last night, but has ceased this morning, but still cloudy. . . . The boys are preparing to go with a Lackie crowd serenading tonight. they went.
December 25, 1918
Wednesday-Christmas. We are all fine this morning, but I don’t know where or how we will be next Christmas Day.
That’s it?  No mention of exchanging gifts or a festive meal? The next two entries come from the journals of men serving as missionaries in the Haralson County area of Georgia in the 1880’s.

From the Journal of John Edward Metcalf:
December 25 1881
Sunday & Christmas day did not hold meetings ate some squirrel for breakfast, commenced to rain it rained without secession for twenty-four hours a very dismal Christmas read talked sung hymns 
And from the Journal of John Joseph Pledger Murphy I read the following:
December Friday 24, 1886
Christmas eve and uncle John is very buisy all day Selling candy Sardines Soda water & cigars to those that are having Christmass  I was also very buisey all day cooking & Eating.  uncle John & I continue to talk on the Principals of the gospell.  We hold Prares & go to bed & have a good Rest & Feel Refreshed.
Again, no mention at all about gifts!  No mention of decorations or big parties. I was struck by the simplicity of the day and although I did not include any entries for the days leading up to Christmas, I assure you that their entries were uneventful and full of typical daily activities.  There was no mention of a frantic effort to create the perfect holiday season or days full of shopping and spending. While I recognize that these entries may not fully reflect society as a whole during that era,  I do think it reflects a difference in how many people viewed the day.

I can’t help but think back to my own growing up years and see the contrast between then and now.  While we certainly celebrated Christmas and had fun activities with family and friends, the thing that stands out in my mind are the simple things.  We had many quiet evenings at home together as a family, enjoying games or an occasional special on TV.  I remember the peace of the program at church and that Christ was at the center of the holiday.  While I anxiously anticipated Christmas morning and a visit from Santa Claus, the expectations pale compared to what most want and receive today. The season didn’t seem to include the noise, the frantic determined search for the perfect gift, or the expectations for elaborate ornate holiday gatherings.   How did things evolve to where they are today? 

It has given me something to think about.  While I have definitely tweaked things the past few years to return the season’s focus to what Christmas is truly all about, I think I still have more changes to make.  One thing is for certain however, whatever else I choose to change, my family can rest assured that simplifying will not  include shopping for sardines on Christmas eve or serving squirrel for Christmas Day breakfast! 

Merry Christmas!

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012


Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Eye for an Eye and an Ear for an Ear?

We all knew kids that bit other children.  One of our own sweet children often resorted to biting and sometimes for no apparent reason.  It was humiliating to have a teacher bring her to me during church, indicating that she had bitten....again.  But thankfully, with some creative persuasion techniques and time, she did outgrow biting and she is a wonderful woman today with her own children.  The point is, she did outgrow it and found other ways to communicate her displeasure with other's behavior.

Apparently, that is not always the case for everyone. While researching my Rainwater family in Anderson County, South Carolina court records, I found the following:

State of South Carolina
Appeared personally Mishack Deale and David Heaton before me, A.J. Liddell one of the Justice of the peace in the District aforesaid and after being duly sworn on their oaths said that they were present at a fight that took place between Jesse Jolly and Solomon Rainwater some time in the month of June 1816 and in the affray the deponents saith that Jesse Jolly did bite the ear off said Rainwater or part of the right ear of said Rainwater.  Sworn and subscribed before me this 14 day of Nov 1817.

A.L. Liddell J.P.
Recorded 15th Nov. 1817

I really wish I knew the full story of what transpired both before Solomon had his ear partially bitten off and afterwards.  This appeared in court records in November, about five months following the June incident, so both Solomon Rainwater and Jesse Jolly had had time to think about the issue and apparently had not resolved it on their own.  I couldn't help but remember an incident in 1997 when heavyweight Mike Tyson bit off a portion of his opponent Holyfield's ear in the ring. But again, this was at least in the ring.  What would provoke a grown man to bite a chunk of another man's ear off out in public?

This Solomon Rainwater was born about 1799 in South Carolina and was the son of Solomon Rainwater and Ruth Felton, whom I've mentioned before.  He was also brother to Joshua Rainwater who is my third great grandfather. This younger Solomon  married Nancy Linn about nine years after this fight on 18 Dec. 1826 and they had 11 children, Leander, Amanda, Naomi, Cimantha, Nancy, Solomon, Charity, Cicero, Isabel, Virgil and Horace. By 1821, Solomon and Nancy were living in Hancock County, Georgia where Solomon passed away in 1858.

Solomon's older brother, Job, had married Didama Hembree in 1800 and her sister, Winnie Hembree, had married David Heaton in about 1813.  So, Job Rainwater and wife Didama nee Hembree, as well as  David Heaton  and Winnie nee Hembree were married at the time of the fight, although Solomon was an unmarried young man about 18 years old and still living in his father's household. So, whatever the circumstances were, Solomon had a connection with David Heaton and my guess is, likely at least knew Mishack Deale as well.

 Hopefully the issue was resolved and life resumed, although with a portion of his ear missing as a reminder, it's unlikely that the incident was ever totally forgotten.  While a bit tedious, I love researching in court records because you never know what you might find.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012



Friday, December 7, 2012

Blood is Thicker than Water

On Wednesday, I attended the funeral for a cousin of mine.  He was still relatively young, had children at home and his passing was unexpected, so it was a hard day.  As I walked into the church, I was greeted by other cousins, some whom I had not seen for some time and it was a bittersweet experience.  While we were glad to see each other and grateful to be able to be together and provide support to each other, it was nonetheless a very solemn occasion as we said goodbye to a cousin, brother, uncle, husband and father.
Nephi Glen Hostetter, Maud
Hostetter Gathering in Colorado mountains

As I listened to the speakers share experiences from this remarkable cousin's life, I felt cheated that we had lived so many miles apart during our adult years and so I consequently knew very little about his more recent life.  I kept flashing back to childhood family gatherings.  My family lived out of state, so our association with cousins was limited to our yearly family vacations.  During those visits, we "helped" (or so we thought) cousins during the day as they gathered eggs, milked cows, baled hay and moved the sheep and cows.  Nights and weekends were filled with kick the can, riding tote gotes, softball games and sometimes a picnic in the mountains.  Grandmas and aunts on both sides of the family would fry up chicken, whip up tasty sandwiches or some delectable main dish, make salads and side dishes galore and top it off with the best desserts imaginable. Summers were heavenly and I remember wishing they would never end.

Because I loved those summer visits,  I started to count down the days to our next trip almost as soon as we waved goodbye to Grandma each year. I can remember that the tears began almost the second we pulled out from her house and would continue off and on during the thousand mile road trip home.

Me with mother, my brothers and Grandma Ganus,
my aunt and a cousin
Blood truly is thicker than water and that has always been the case.  I see evidence of families remaining close to each other as I research my various family lines.  Families used to be an "all in one" deal, living close to each other and providing everything from safety to friendship.  I was reminded of this as I searched for my second great grandfather in the 1860 census. John Monroe Ganus was born in Georgia in 1826 and could be found in Georgia Census records prior to 1860,and then again in 1870 and 1880.  But initially I couldn't find him in 1860.  When I finally did find him, he was living in Calhoun County, Alabama, across the border from his previous home in Georgia.  At first I couldn't imagine what he was doing there and then I realized that John and Olivia were living among Olivia's family.  The census entries surrounding the Ganus family are full of Browns, Baileys and Ayers, all who tie into the Rainwaters.  Living a few doors down is Olivia's sister, Frances, and her husband Ruben Ayers.  It was this sister, Frances, that Olivia visited a few days before she and John left Georgia to move to Colorado.  It's more than a little apparent that these sisters enjoyed each other's company and consequently their children had the advantage of being able to interact with each other, which was demonstrated in the story that I shared in a previous post.  So family at least played a part in John and Olivia's move to Alabama and that realization helped to solve that mystery.

But there is one other mystery associated with that 1860 census record.  Listed as living in the Ganus household is John Ganus 32, Olivia who was 27, William F. who was 6 and was my great grandfather, John T. who was 5 years old, another brother, James R. who was 2 and then lastly, Henry who was 19.  Each name following John's has ditto marks in place of their last name, suggesting that each member had the same last name as the first entry, which was "Ganus."  Each person is familiar and seems to belong until I come to Henry, and I have to say, finding a Henry listed with this family has actually kept me awake at nights.  I do not have a Henry listed anywhere in my database under any surname!  Who in the world is Henry?  Is he really a Ganus, or are those ditto marks following his first name just evidence of a lazy census taker? I know that families stuck together and often took in other family members and so I have searched the 1850 census many times to find other Ganus families, as well as other known relatives with a "Henry,"  who would have been approximately 9 years old in that earlier census, but have not been successful.  If anyone is aware of a missing Henry, please let me know.  

While that may sound like a silly thing to ask, it actually was a previously unknown cousin who provided the solution to another similar mystery.  Early in my research, she contacted me as a result of my post on a forum and told me that she believed that she descended from James and Elizabeth's "missing" daughter, Margaret. I, as well as several other researchers, had begun to assume that Margaret had died as a child, but thanks to the email from this distant cousin, I learned that Margaret was actually living next door to her parents with her husband and two children in 1860!! While the census taker had elected to use only initials for those he enumerated, making it a little trickier to piece together, with help of  this cousin's information, along with other records, we were able to confirm that this was "our" Margaret living next to her parents.  This was my introduction to the fact that families, particularly in the South, had a tendency to live close to each other and it helped me to understand the importance of carefully analyzing neighbors for potential relationships.

1860 U.S. Federal Census
Fayetteville, Fayette, Georgia 

Knowing that families used to live in such close proximity and knowing how dearly I love my own cousins,  I can't help but feel a little envious of earlier times. In many instances, cousins were able to provide a lifetime of strength and support to each other.  It's so different from today's world where many,  if not most people, live some distance from family and where gatherings are often limited to holidays, summer vacations and the occasional reunions.  I do have to say that social media has provided an outlet for staying in touch and that some of my cousins and I  have enjoyed interacting and sharing pictures through Facebook, texts, email and other means never imagined by our 19th century cousins. While these means hardly take the place of living close to each other, I am grateful that we have found some way to stay in touch across the miles, because I believe that while times have changed,  we truly do still need each other and that even in today's world, blood is thicker than water.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012