Sunday, December 22, 2013

I'll Be Home For Christmas


“I’ll be home for Christmas.” As the song played softly on the radio, stirring up memories of my childhood and of days when our own children were home,  I felt the familiar lump rise in my throat. That song has been responsible for many tears over the years.  It made me cry when I was away at college and longing for home.  It made me cry the first year after I was married when we lived too far from my parents and siblings to visit, and now I cry because I miss both my childhood Christmases as well as the days when my own sweet children were at home.

The words ring true for me, I will always be home for Christmas, even if it is in my dreams and I know I am not alone in feeling that way.  While I now create new memories with family,  life is perpetually changing and I will always cherish the memories of past Christmas. 

While Christmas traditions have varied greatly over the years, one theme seems to always be consistent and that is that Christmas has always been a time to gather with family and friends.  For that reason, the Christmas of 1886 must have been particularly difficult for my great great grandparents, John and Olivia (Rainwater) Ganus.  Having left their native Georgia on the 16th of November,  John and Olivia, along with their sons and their families, spent December 1886 on the cold wind swept plains of southern Colorado.  Nearly 1500 miles from “home,”  they were far from their extended family and lifelong friends.


Trena Ganus, Sanford, Colorado
View looking across San Luis Valley, Colorado,
 Taken August 2013
By Trena Ganus

They were totally new to the wide open spaces of the west and, while I personally love the valley where they settled,  not much about Southern Colorado would have reminded them of “home.”  The seemingly unending fields of grassland stand in stark contrast to the Haralson County area of Georgia with its hills and pine forests.  While Georgia’s low temperatures can dip as low as the mid 30’s during December,
temperatures in the 30’s are frequently the high for Southern Colorado with temperature sometimes dropping as low as 40 below zero. Were John and Olivia prepared for the harsh winters of their new home?  Did they have adequate clothing and bedding? 

Many of the foods of Southern Colorado reflect the heritage of the Mexican people who originally settled the area, in addition to foods typical of the Scandinavian and English people who settled the area prior to the arrival of the Southerners. These foods were vastly different from the foods most often enjoyed by the southern people.  I can only assume that the Christmas traditions also reflected the cultural heritage of the earlier settlers and were also somewhat foreign to John and Olivia.

Having left all extended family behind,  there would have been no family near by that December to drop by John and Olivia’s home for a visit or to drop off even a simple gift or homemade goodie, nor would there have been invitations to extended family gatherings. On Christmas day, long before the days when home phones were common place,  there would not have been calls made to brothers and sisters back home to help ease the homesickness. I wonder, how did the Ganus family feel that Christmas season?  Did they reflect on past Christmases?  Did they long for family and friends left behind?   

Over the years, the Christmas Season has become exponentially bigger, louder and brighter.  Despite the aggressive sales campaigns, Christmas music blasting in the stores way before I want to hear it and the traditional colors of red and green now sharing the stage with hot pink, purple and lime, one thing seems to remain the same and that is the desire to be with family.  I suspect that at Christmas time I will always reflect over the memories of past years with parents, siblings and our children and that just as the song says, " I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."  

May your Christmas be filled with the love of family and of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013


 Top left:  "Farmyard in Winter" by George Henry Durrie, 1858 PD Art, courtesy of Wikimedia; in public domain.   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Farmyard_in_Winter_by_George_Henry_Durrie,_1858.jpg

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tar and Kerosene--Just What the Doctor Ordered

File:Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret - An Accident - Walters 3749.jpg While standing at the grocery checkout recently with people coughing and sneezing on either side of me,  I could not help but wonder how many varieties of germs I had been exposed to.  It’s that time of year again.

  Today people use everything from antibiotics to essential oils in dealing with illness, but many years ago our ancestors dealt with illness in many different ways.  I can’t help but shudder as I  look at some of the old time family remedies that have been handed down on both sides of my family .

In my rather large file box of recipes I recently came across several such family “recipes.”   I remember copying these recipes years ago from my mother’s cards,  not because I planned to try them anytime soon, but because they were “family recipes” and I found them intriguing.
Aunt Sylvia’s Canker Medicine
1 pt. water
3 T. sage (rubbed)
1 T. alum
1T. borax
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp. golden seal
Boil water and sage together about 5 minutes.  Cover and let set to steep.  Strain and cool.  Add alum, borax, honey and golden seal. 
Throat Swab
1 pt. iodine
6 pts. glycerine
Mix well and paint throat.
Earache
16 drops glycerin
1 drop carbolic acid
Drop in ear
Curious, I did a search in Google books and found several very similar recipes, predominantly from the 1890’s.

In a three ring notebook, I also have a collection of family stories and recipes that have been shared with me from distant cousins in my patriarchal line.  Among the recipes,  I found instructions for a “poultice.”  The recipe directed you to go to the woods and get pieces of pine.  Next you were to dig a hole “in a clay bank on the side of the road” and place the pine inside the hole with a pan placed beneath the pine to catch the tar.  Next, you were to cover the hole in order to keep the heat inside.  The tar would then boil out of the wood and run into the pan.  Next  you were to saturate the cloth with the tar and melted lard.  (Instructions indicated that the lard helped to keep the tar from blistering the skin.)  This poultice was then placed on the chest of the ill person to draw out the congestion.  Another recipe prescribed a cloth saturated with kerosene and melted lard that was then placed on the sick person’s chest.  I assume that these were the precursors to the Vicks my mother use to put on us when we were sick and, while we hated the smell and the sting of the strong salve, I can see that it was a definite improvement over earlier times.

As much as I fear the flu today, I think I would have feared it more years ago knowing that along with the misery of being sick, I would be subjected to such “cures."   What remedies have been passed down in your family? 

Picture: Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret  “An Accident”  Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Okie from Muskogee


I clearly remember singing with great enthusiasm  "I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee," to a new girl in school who had just moved to our little California town from Oklahoma.  Although I didn't know much about Oklahoma at the time, we had all heard the Merle Haggard song played on the radio and it seemed somehow appropriate to serenade our new classmate with the popular tune. Little did I know then that they might as well have sung it to me, as I have my own Muskogee, Oklahoma roots.

Sarah E. Faucett, Orson Ganus, Heber Ganus
Sally with twins Orson (L) and Heber (R)
It was there that  forty-five year old widowed Sally Faucett Ganus passed from this life on March 17, 1909, leaving behind  three young sons. Sally and husband, Frank, had moved to Oklahoma approximately ten years earlier from Manassa, Colorado.  Seven hundred and thirty miles from her nearest blood relative, Sally was, in many ways, quite alone.  Because Frank had preceded her in death three years earlier, their children, sixteen year old Ernest and eight year old twins, Orson and Heber, were now left orphaned.  I’ve always wondered who was at Sally’s side in her final moments?  Were her children there?  Were there others?  Was there someone there to embrace her children and dry their tears?

Although she was my great Grandmother,  I really know very little about Sally Faucett Ganus.  I don’t know any of the little details about her that could help me to envision her as a person.  I don’t know what she liked to eat,  what she liked to do with her time and I have never heard a single story about her.

I was glad to find a microfilmed record pertaining to her death at the Family History Library.  I learned that G. H. Bloom’s funeral home records from Muskogee, Oklahoma are among the few to survive from that time period, so I did feel fortunate that they were microfilmed and that there was an entry for her.  However, as is too often the case, the find left me with as many questions as answers.

image

It was disappointing to note that Sally’s record was the only record on that page that did not indicate the cause of death.  Was her death sudden and the cause unknown?  Her son, Heber, recorded in his life history that she had requested before her death that her sons be sent back to live with her brother in Colorado.  That suggests to me that she had some idea that her death was imminent.

I also noted from the record  that her body was shipped to Okmulgee for burial.  It troubles me that I have no idea where in Okmulgee she was buried, and no one else seems to know either. While there are a few early Ganus family members buried at Little Cussetah Cemetery in Okmulgee,  she is not listed among the dead there.

Sarah Faucett
Sally Faucett Ganus
“Cemetery Records of Okmulgee Oklahoma,” published by The Genealogical Society of Okmulgee, Oklahoma in 1974, included a survey of a small family cemetery located northwest of Okmulgee, called Berryhill Cemetery.  Among the six people buried there is “W. F. Ganus.”  His date of birth and death match the known dates for Sally’s husband “Frank” or William Franklin Ganus, my great grandfather.  Jessie Ganus, daughter of Robert Lee Ganus (Frank’s brother)  is also buried there along with four Berryhills, with whom we have no known connection.  Attempts by family members to visit that cemetery have been in vain.  The little burying ground lies on private land a short distance from the road and signs stating “No Trespassing” are clearly posted at the fence.  Efforts to contact the current land owner for permission to access the cemetery have failed.  So, many questions remain, including why was Frank buried there and just where is Sally? 

As genealogists, we all seem to feel driven to find our ancestor’s final resting place.  Standing at their headstone and reflecting on whatever small bit of information we may know about them somehow helps satisfy that inner need to be close to them, to connect to them, to honor them and to acknowledge that they lived and that they mattered.  And so, I continue to look for Sally, my Okie from Muskogee.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gurganus, Ganus, Ganues and Gainus--What?


imageNestled in the woods near Shadinger Lake, just a couple of miles outside of Carrollton, Georgia, is Tallapoosa Primitive Baptist Church.  The cemetery lies beside the church and is the final resting place for many who once gathered there as family and friends to worship and socialize.  It is there that Rebecca Ganus Lee is buried alongside her husband Samuel Solomon Lee and many of their children.

Rebecca Gainus was the fifth child and third daughter of James and Elizabeth (Gur)Ganus.   Born in 1836, she was ten years younger than her brother John Monroe Ganus who was my third great grandfather. Interestingly enough, her father shortened their surname from Gurganus to Ganus around 1840, and while most of his descendants spell their surname Ganus, some chose other spellings. Rebecca and her descendants spell their surname as Gainus and her brother Jackson and his descendants spell it Ganues.

image“Rebecker” grew up outside of Fayetteville, Georgia and as a child, she likely worked alongside her sisters Mary, Margaret, and Martha, as they helped their mother Betsy.  Girls generally helped their mothers with household duties such as cooking, cleaning and washing clothes, in addition to other chores such as feeding the chickens and light farm duties. Census data implies that Rebeca could read and write, so whether she attended school or was taught at home, she received some education. 

On 30 October 1853, at the age of 17, Rebecca married Samuel Solomon Lee in DeKalb County, Georgia. and it was there that they began their life together.  Samuel farmed and Rebecca managed the household and cared for their children.  Typical of the times, Samuel and Rebecca had a large family to feed and care for, but large families were a blessing in many ways as they worked together and supported each other in every aspect of life.  Samuel and Rebecca eventually settled in Carroll County, Georgia a little over 60 miles from Dekalb County where they had married.

At twenty-five years old, Rebecca had buried several babies and was caring for their five children when husband, Samuel Solomon Lee, enlisted with the 63rd Regiment Company C on 27 November 1862.  I marvel at the endurance of the women of that era.  Rearing a large family was not an easy task at any period of time, but caring for the children, the home and the farm, while a husband was away at war was a particularly difficult and demanding undertaking that required a great deal of inner fortitude and determination.  In addition many families lived in constant fear of the enemy troops who continually passed by and through their farms.

The war went longer than any of them could have imagined and the cost to lives and property was high.  Rebecca’s brother became one of the casualties of that cruel and devastating war and several other brothers never fully recovered.  She was one of the fortunate ones, however, because Samuel did return home. Together Rebecca and Samuel resumed their life through lean times, raising their children and farming.  They added three more children to their family and lived out their life in Carroll County, Georgia where some of their descendants live today. Their family consisted of Ann T., Roena J., Leonidas, John Franklin, James Marshall, William Thomas, Charles Mentor, Tobeus A., and Emma E. Lee.

On 10 October 1889, at the age of 53, Rebecca passed away and was buried in the Tallapoosa Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Carroll County, Georgia.  Samuel lived an additional eleven years and died on 16 Nov 1900.  He was laid to rest beside Rebecca.

image
Samuel Solomon Lee and Rebecca, along with their children, spouses and a grandchild.



All pictures were  generously shared by descendent, Margie Dietz. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Come Out, Come Out, Where Ever You Are

image
Jan Verhas –Hide and See
Wikipedia Commons  In Public Domain
Sometimes I envision myself playing the childhood game of hide and seek with my ancestors.  Despite my best laid plans and no matter how determined I sometimes feel, I just can't seem to find much about my Betsy McCloskey. I know she existed, but what I know is sparse. Who were her parents?  Who were her siblings?

Betsy was my third great grandmother  and here is what I do know.  Elizabeth, or Betsy  as she was sometimes called, was born about 1810 in South Carolina.....I think.  One census entry for her indicates that she was born in Georgia instead.   Her last name was McCloskey, McCluskey or McCleskey----I'm not even sure exactly which.  The only known indication of her last name is from her son John Monroe Ganus' church membership record and on that record, it appears to be McCloskey.  However, the name McCleskey or McCluskey seems to be much more common during that time period in both South Carolina and Georgia.

image

On the 1850 census she is recorded as “Betsy.”  As for the 1860 census, thanks to a census enumerator with little regard for detail, she is simply “E”.  By 1870 her husband James is living with their oldest daughter Mary Ganus Cook and I have assumed that she has died.  Sadly, I have not been able to find a final resting place for either Betsy or James.

Betsy married James (Gur)Ganus about 1822.  I have not been able to find a marriage record for this couple....anywhere.  I've done extensive searches of the McC*skeys in the areas of Bibb and Monroe Counties of Georgia where the family lived about the time James would have married and in the area of Edgefield and Abbeville, South Carolina areas where the Gurganus family lived prior to moving to Georgia, but with no success.  I've searched in DeKalb, Fayette, Campbell, Henry and surrounding counties.  I did find potential siblings for Betsy in the approximate area where my Ganus family lived, and through wills, deeds and census records have been able to prove their connection to each other, but until this date I have not found a link between any of them and my Betsy.

I know to look at Betsy and James’ friends and neighbors as I've been taught by some of the best, but my problem stems from the fact that from one census to the next, James and Betsy are never living near the same group of people.  While I have found deeds for their children, I have never found ONE DEED for James.  I have searched for him among a variety of records, including military records but he is not to be found. I scratch my head and ask, "Did they have friends or associates?"  I've often called them my gypsies, but even gypsies traveled in a band.

Years ago I had the privilege of emailing  briefly with Walter Scott McCleskey who compiled the information for the book “The McCleskey Family in Georgia.”   Knowing how thoroughly he had researched the McCleskey family in Georgia and how much his books are respected and used by many Mc-researchers, I had hope that in his researching he had perhaps come upon my Betsy or might have an idea to whom she might belong.  He responded that he had no idea where she might fit in.

It’s discouraging, but I know I am among good company when it comes to looking for an elusive ancestor.  Like so many others who continue to search and who refuse to give up, I look and hope and some day I just might find her.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Intensity of His Gaze


John Thackason Ganus
John Thackason Ganus
From Original in possession
of Michelle Ganus Taggart
I'll never forget the first time I saw the picture of John Monroe Ganus with his five sons as seen at the top of this page.  Each man with his coarse wavy hair, each sporting a mustache and each with other shared family characteristics and yet, as with each family, each person had something uniquely theirs.  While all but Newton maintained the typical solemn countenance, John Thackason's  expression struck me as a bit more intense than the rest.   I've often wondered if the intensity of his gaze was indicative of his state of mind or just a product of the times.  As I've gotten to know him a little better and of the heartache that he endured during his life, I suspect it is a little of both.

Born 22 April 1855 in Haralson County, Georgia, John Thackason Ganus was the second child born to John Monroe Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey.  He grew up in a household of boys on a small farm in rural Georgia.   While Georgia was home for much of his childhood, over the course of his life the family lived in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma.

By the time John T. was  five years old, his family had moved to Alabama, but they would remain there only a few years before picking up and moving to Arkansas, where they once again remained for only a few short years.  By the time John T. was 15, his family was back in Georgia and was among the many southerners trying to make a life on the heels of the devastating Civil War.  About 1876, John and Mary M. Chisenhall, daughter of William Chisenhall and Sally Reed, married in Haralson County and within a few years they had begun their family.

John followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and farmed, but farming in postwar Georgia was not an easy undertaking. Providing for one's family was nearly impossible for someone without means to obtain his own land or a way of obtaining goods to sell or trade.  The 1880 Non Population Census for Haralson County indicates that John T. “rents for shares,” implying  that he fell into that group of folks, both black and white alike, that in desperation turned to sharecropping as a way of providing for their family, albeit a very difficult way of life.  (For more information about sharecroppers and their plight in post war Georgia, see this article.)  

In 1887, John and Mary, along with John’s parents and siblings and their families boarded a train bound for Colorado, where they remained until about 1897 at which point they moved to Okmulgee, Oklahoma. 

I have been told that John T. and Mary had a dozen children but according to both the 1900 and the 1910 censuses, John and Mary actually had 13 children, with only five surviving to that point.  (I wrote about Mary and the death of one of their children in this blog post: http://www.asouthernsleuth.com/2012/09/revisiting-sources-case-for-mary-m.html.)   I have known people who have suffered the loss of a child and know that the grief that accompanies that loss compares to none other.  I can not even begin to comprehend the heartache that John and Mary experienced with losing eight children.

Old Manassa Cemetery
Old Manassa Cemetery
Manassa, Colorado
Their first son, John William, lived to be 11 years old and was buried in the Old Manassa Cemetery. I visited the cemetery a year ago August and was touched by the desolation and loneliness of the old cemetery which sits just outside the small town of Manassa, Colorado.  While there are still a few who choose to be buried there, it is essentially an old neglected cemetery as seen in the picture.  As I walked the rows and viewed the aged and varied headstones of some of the early pioneers of the San Luis Valley, I ached to know more about their lives, knowing that the stories would be about hope, sacrifice, joy and hardship.
John William Ganus

John William and his brother Morgan Lafayette Ganus were among those listed on the stone plaque at the entrance to this cemetery.  On that plaque is a rather extensive list of some of the known un-marked graves of that cemetery.  It saddens me to know that there is nothing marking the exact final resting place for so many individuals, including several of John and Mary’s children.

John and Mary’s known children are the following:
John William Ganus b. 1878 Cherokee, AL  d. 1889 Manassa, Conejos, CO
Marthy Ganus b. 1880 Haralson Co., GA     d. 1880, Haralson Co., GA
Walter Scott Ganus b. 24 Mar 1882 Polk Co., GA   d. bef. 1900
Minnie Delanie Ganus b. 2 Jul 1883 Haralson Co., GA  d 12 June 1977 Okmulgee Co., OK
Roderick Elvin Ganus  b. 18 Apr 1885 Polk Co., GA  d.  bef. 1900
Morgan Lafayette Ganus  b. 20 Oct 1887 Manassa, Conejos, CO  d. 1888 Manassa, CO
Lola Bell Ganus  b. 1 Oct 1889 Manassa, CO  d. 18 Jan 1970 Okmulgee, OK
Sterling Robert Ganus  b. 23 Feb 1891 CO,   d. 5 Dec 1971 Sacrament, CA
Elvyn Monroe Ganus b. 5 Feb 1898 Indian Territory, Creek Nation, OK d. 5 Dec 1971 Sacramento, CA
Claud Mitchner Ganus  b. Apr 1900 Indian Territory, Creek Nation, OK d. bef. 1910
Elmer Russell Ganus  b. 17 Sep 1905 OK  d. 29 Oct 1941 Kern Co., CA
If anyone is aware of John and Mary’s other two children, I would love to hear from them and to be able to add their names to the family. 

The final record that I have for John Thackason Ganus is an Okmulgee Cemetery Record Card.  It indicates that John died 23 November 1926 at the age of 70 and was buried two days later in the Okmulgee Cemetery.  The cause of death is listed as “Paralysis.”

While we see evidence of joyful events in John T's life such as his marriage and the birth of children who lived into adulthood, we also see evidence of great poverty, loss and suffering.  Could these be the things we see reflected in John's gaze?  As always, I never feel like I know quite enough and  would love to hear from anyone that could share more about John Thackason Ganus and his life.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dressing the Nine


Dressed to the nines has long been a phrase used to describe individuals dressed up and stylish.  Today, in our affluent society it is not difficult to find those that can be described in that way. The phrase came to mind today as I considered a particular family in my line, although knowing their circumstances, it most certainly could not have applied.  Rather the family I was considering had nine children and and I found myself wondering how in the world they managed to feed and dress their nine, although families of that size were fairly common up until the mid 20th century.  In fact as I look through my family tree, it is full of individuals that reared large families during the most difficult of times.  
Martha Elizabeth (Ganus) Brock
Martha Elizabeth (Ganus) Brock

Born 12 April 1846, Mattie Ganus, grew up in the small rural community of Fayetteville, Fayette, Georgia.   Formally named Martha Elizabeth Ganus, she was the ninth of ten children born to James and Elizabeth (McCloskey) Ganus*.  Reared on a farm, she would have learned the basics of cooking, sewing and helping to care for some of the small farm animals from the time she was little. Undoubtedly these skills helped her later in rearing her own large family.

As one of the youngest children in a large family, the family structure was ever changing as older siblings married and moved away.  She was four years old when her oldest sister was married and only six years of age when her oldest brother, John Monroe Ganus, my 2nd great grandfather, married and moved away.

By the time Mattie married and left home at the age of 20, only she and her younger brother Addison were still at home.  She and William Cohen Brock tied the knot on 24 of December in 1866 in Coweta, Georgia, on the heels of the Civil War and during the period of Georgia’s painful reconstruction.  Bill was a farmer and undoubtedly dealt with crippling poverty, the difficulty of obtaining seed for crops, and the struggle of paying taxes as typically experienced by families of that time and location.

Bill and Mattie’s first known child was Joseph B. Brock born in 1871, a full five years after their marriage. Typically couples of that era began families within a few years of marriage, so I suspect that there was possibly some heartache and disappointment as they anticipated their first child. 

Mattie’s mother, Elizabeth, died sometime between 1860 and 1870, so Mattie would have faced childbirth and raising children without the benefits of her mother there to support and help her.  Perhaps she leaned on her oldest sister, Mary, who was 22 years older and who had married and left home when Martha was only a 4 year old child.  According to the 1880 census, Mary and Mattie lived only about six doors from each other.  Mattie’s brother, Addison, and his wife, in addition to her sister, Rebecca, and her husband also lived nearby. 

Martha Elizabeth Ganus Brock's Headstone
Martha E. Brock
Died 25 May 1909
Buried: Tallapoosa Primitive
Baptist Church Cemetery
Carroll County, Georgia 
Between the years of 1871 and 1888,  Bill and Mattie had a total of nine children, seven boys and two girls.  This meant nine children to dress, feed and educate.  They had nine children to house and nine children to care for emotionally as well as physically.  But for a farmer, it also meant nine sets of hands to help with the daily chores of running a farm.  In the process of being needed, the children learned to work, to help and the value of teamwork. 

Additionally, Mattie and Bill managed to instill in their children the desire for an education.  In fact, of their nine children, two pursued Dental school.  One son, Leon Cliff Brock, purportedly died while attending Dental School, but another son, Lloyd Jefferson Brock, finished and became a dental surgeon and additionally became a member of the House of Representatives. Their son Edgar Caloway Brock became a school teacher. With a love of the outdoors, several of their other sons followed in their father’s footsteps and farmed.  While living in trying circumstances during hard times, truly Bill and Mattie (Ganus) Brock took their charge seriously and managed to teach, care for and dress their nine.



*Mattie’s father James Ganus shortened his name in approximately 1840 from Gurganus to Ganus. 


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Gift of Time

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Time.  From the time we are born until the time we die, our life is broken up into increments of time.  While we are all given 24 hours a day, the total time that we spend on this earth and how we spend it, varies tremendously.  For each of us, the time to which we are born and live creates the stage for our life and determines much of what we experience. The way we spend our time creates who we are.

Recently, one of Roderick Monroe Ganus’ descendants shared with me pictures of Roderick's pocket watch that he had inherited.  As I looked at the pictures of the beautiful old timepiece, I wondered what filled the minutes of Roderick's life?  How did he spend his time?

Born on 23 June 1863 in Calhoun, Alabama to John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater, Roderick, was the fifth child of eight born to the union, although only five sons actually survived to adulthood.

For the first few years of his life, Roderick’s family lived in Calhoun County, Alabama before moving to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where they lived for about three years.  By 1870, John and Olivia returned to their home state of Georgia, with their four sons, William Franklin, John Thackason, Roderick Monroe and Newton Lafayette.  Soon after their move back to Georgia, their last son, Robert Lee, was born. There in Haralson County, Georgia,  Roderick grew up with a house full of brothers, worked on the farm, learned to hunt and enjoyed the close proximity to aunts, uncles and cousins.  While they did the best they could with what they had, life following the Civil War was a difficult  time of  "Reconstruction"  for those in Georgia and  the Ganus family was no exception.

In November of 1886, at the age of 23, Roderick, along with his parents, siblings and their families, boarded a steam locomotive bound for Colorado where they would remain for the next ten years. Then in about 1896, Roderick accompanied his parents and siblings in a move to Oklahoma where they would all live for the remainder of the lives.

I wish that I knew the story behind Roderick's watch.  Did Roderick buy the watch for himself or was it a gift?  imageAs I studied the pictures and thought about what the watch might have meant to Roderick, I was glad that this precious possession had been preserved and had made its way into the hands of a beloved great grandson.  I am equally grateful that he generously shared pictures of the watch with me and others.

Curious about how old the watch might be,  I checked a database for pocket watches to see what information might be available. Based on the make and serial number, the estimated production year for the watch was 1909.  I knew that in 1909, Roderick was 46 years old and had been married to Carrie Melinda Davis for 4 years. (Carrie was the subject of posts here and here.)  By 1909, Roderick and Carrie were living in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and had  two children, John William and Bertha Mae. 

Wanting to know more about Roderick during that time period,  I looked for him on the 1910 census.  As I pulled up the image on Ancestry and saw  Roderick’s household, tears immediately filled my eyes and began to slide down my cheeks.  Along with Roderick and Carrie were their children John W. and Bertha, but in addition,  listed in their household was my grandpa, then nine year old Heber, his twin Orson and Roderick’s thirty-eight year old brother, Newton.  (I shared Newton’s sad story in this post.) 

The finding confirmed what my grandfather had written in his life history.  After the death of his mother in 1909, which followed just three short years after his father's death, it was Roderick that had taken him into his home. Years ago, when I shared that story with one of Roderick’s descendants,  he indicated that Roderick had never had very much in material goods and had always struggled to make ends meet.  He didn’t know how Roderick could have fed another mouth, so I was shocked to learn that Roderick didn’t feed just one extra mouth, but he had fed three!  He had taken in two energetic young boys, who likely had bottomless pits for stomachs, and Roderick's adult brother.  The census was taken in April of 1910,  which was a little over a year after the death of Heber and Orson’s mother, meaning this had not been a short visit for them.

As I pondered Roderick’s life in terms of time, finding that he had taken in his two nephews, Orson and Heber, and his thirty eight year old, mentally ill brother, Newton, spoke volumes about Roderick's use of his time.  Fast forward to 1930 and from that census I learned that at the age of sixty-six, in addition to providing for his wife and four children, Roderick had taken in his daughter-in-law, Thelma, and grandson, Carl.  Truly Roderick made time and space in his life, in his heart and in his home for those in need at many stages of his life. 

I’ve always felt drawn to Roderick.  When I look at the only known picture of him, I see a tenderness and a kindness in his face.  Roderick’s life and experiences spanned from the raging brutality of the Civil War in the the South to the harshness shown by Mother Nature in the days of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.  Yet from all indications,  rather than allowing the struggles of life to harden him, Roderick seemed to instead be more sensitive to the vulnerability and delicateness of the human condition, ever willing to give of  his time to alleviate the sufferings of others.

As shared in his obituary:
[Roderick] was an upright and worthy citizen and loved and respected by those who knew him.  His being translated into the new life will leave a vacant place not only in the hearts of loved ones but in his wide circle of friends and neighbors . . . “
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While I do not know the story behind Roderick's pocket watch, I am grateful that his great grandson shared pictures of it with me.  Doing so caused me to take the time to look at Roderick's life a little closer and in the process I was able to see evidence of his generosity and kindness and the way in which Roderick used his time to lift and bless others in their need.  It seems only fitting that a pocket watch has been passed down through generations as truly his use of his time ultimately defined him.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013



Pictures of Roderick's watch and headstone generously shared by Great Grandson, Lloyd Ganus.

Obituary shared with me by descendants, but source not recorded.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Giggling With The Pig


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I’ll always remember the day we drove into a small little West Texas town on our move  from California and spotted a Piggly Wiggly sign.  Our family had never seen a Piggly Wiggly, much less heard of that particular grocery store chain and so my brothers and I did what came most natural to us kids, we laughed ourselves silly. 

After years of living in the Texas, we grew accustomed to the name and joined the locals in shopping there.  Years passed and eventually my family moved away and I’ve never seen a Piggly Wiggly since.

Recently as I was going through some family pictures, I came across this picture of my Grandpa’s twin brother, Orson Merritt Ganus, driving a Piggly Wiggly truck.  I couldn’t help but smile at the site of the Piggly Wiggly logo on the side.

Orson Merritt Ganus
Orson Merritt Ganus
I wish I knew the full story behind this picture.  Was it possibly taken on Orson’s first day of work at Piggly Wiggly? Dressed in a suit and tie, this job was in stark contrast to the farm life he had experienced in Colorado as a young man and I wonder if he felt an anxiety over that difference.  Was he excited and hopeful for a future in a new career?

While I am unsure exactly when this picture was taken, based on pictures of grocery trucks found on the internet, my best guess would be that this picture was taken in approximately the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.  I turned to the census to see if I could find any clues about when Orson worked with Piggly Wiggly.

In 1920, Orson was living in Sanford, Colorado where he worked as a farm laborer according to the census.1    But by 1930, Orson had moved and was living in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.  Orson married Frieda Hembree in May of 1924 and by 1930 they had one son, and were expecting their second child.  On the 1930 census, Orson is listed as a salesman for a grocery store and Frieda indicated that she was working as a sales girl at a dry goods store2. This seems to support the possibility that the picture of Orson was taken around 1930, give or take a few years.

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imageHad Orson taken a job as a salesman with the hope of being able to better provide for his growing family? With a second child on the way, was he looking for a job with a higher earning potential?

Being a  salesman did not become a lifetime pursuit for Orson, however, as evidenced by the 1940 census, where he is no longer listed as a salesman, but is listed as a filling station attendant.3

Did the job of salesman not suit him?  Were the hours too long?  Was there too much pressure or was wearing a suit too foreign? While I may never know any more about Orson’s time as a grocery salesman or why he didn’t continue in that job, I am grateful to have a copy of the picture of him driving a Piggly Wiggly truck.  This image adds dimension to Orson’s life and makes me think that he was willing to try different things in an effort to support his family. In addition, the picture reminds me of time with my brothers and when something as simple as a sign seemed hysterically funny.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013


1.  1920 U.S. Census,  Sanford, Conejos,Colorado, population schedule, Sanford Town, Enumeration District (ED) 35, sheet 6-B, p. 6B; 35; p. 120 (stamped)  dwelling 114, family 118, Orson Hanus, (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 May 2013) citing National Archives microfilm publication T625_157.

2.  1930 U.S. Census, Okmulgee, Okmulgee, Oklahoma; population schedule, Okmulgee City, Enumeration District (ED) 56-28, sheet 8-B, p. 88 (stamped) dwelling 185, family 190, Orson Ganus (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 May 2013) citing National Archives microfilm publication T626

3.  1940 U.S. Census, Okmulgee, Okmulgee, Oklahoma, population schedule, Okmulgee City, Enumeration District (ED) 56-30, sheet 7-B, p. 408 (stamped), line 72, Visited No. 149, Orson Ganus (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 May 2013) citing Nation Archives microfilm publication T627_3319 .
Piggly Wiggly sign and Piggly Wiggly store front pictures from Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spring With Forty Acres and a Plow

imageI am always thrilled when I see the first crocus poke its head through the soil …..it brings with it anticipation and excitement for spring and warmer weather.  As I recently drove  to the nursery to select plants and seeds for my garden, I wondered what spring meant to my ancestors. Many of my ancestors were Georgia farmers and so I suspect that for them spring meant work, hope and anticipation for a bountiful harvest.

Here we plant most of our garden after Mother’s Day, so I was surprised to learn that in many areas of Georgia they plant some crops as early FEBRUARY!  So while I am still watching the snow drifts pile up, they are preparing soil and sowing seeds . When I am looking through the starts at our local nursery, in many parts of Georgia, they are beginning to harvest crops such as sweet corn, peaches and squash.

According to the 1880 Agricultural Census 1 John Monroe Ganus was the owner of his farm, which included 18 acres of Indian corn,  2 acres of oats, 2 acres of wheat, and 18 acres of cotton.  He also had 5 barnyard poultry, 8 swine and one milch cow in addition to one other cow.
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While this was not a big farm, by any standards, as I recently surveyed my cluster of simple raised garden boxes and thought of the time required to care for them,  I could not help but wonder what farming was like for John and how he managed to care for all that he had.  Farming is demanding for the farmers of today, but I can not imagine how grueling it must have been for the farmers of the late 19th century, void of the benefits of modern day equipment.

In 1880, John and Olivia had sons living at home who may have been a source of help.  At that time, their two oldest sons, William Franklin and John Thackason, were both married, had families and were farming nearby. The three sons still at home, were Roderick Monroe who was 17, Newton Lafayette who was 13 and Robert Lee who was 10.  I also know that for a period of time in 1882, John had help from an Mormon missionary serving in the area at that time.  I am so thankful for the insight that the John Metcalf’s journal2  provides into John’s life as a farmer.

According to his journal, when Elder Metcalf visited John ‘s home on May 19, 1882, he learned that a frost had killed some of John’s cotton and corn.  Farmers have always been vulnerable to the unpredictability of the weather, but that wouldn't have softened the disappointment of such loss.  From what I know about John, he was never particularly well off, but had to work hard for most of his life in order to provide for his family, so I am sure that losing crop came as a blow.  The next next morning, John got up and did the only thing that he could do and that was to get to work.  Elder Metcalf recorded that the next day he helped John to plow, indicating that they plowed half a day and were so busy, he ended up staying the night with John and Olivia.  A few days later, John had wheat to bind and Elder Metcalf returned to help.  On July 28, Elder Metcalf helped John “plow cotton”  and the men once again worked long and late into the evening.
 
As  crops were harvested, the farmer was not yet “done," as the fields then had to be cleared and cleaned.  Elder Metcalf found John in the field doing exactly that on September 9, and once again, stepped in to help him.  The following day, September 10,  it rained all day and  Elder Metcalf recorded that consequently they just “waited it out”.  I can almost picture the men, anxious to complete the task, periodically peering out the window for any indication of a break in the storm.  The following day, the rain stopped and they were able to return to the field to continue their work.  In my mind, I can see the steam rising from the field as the  hot Georgia sun warmed the drenched soil.  I also can imagine John and Elder Metcalf returning to John’s house at the end of the day, sunburned, tired and muddy from a full day’s work.  For three back breaking days, John and Elder Metcalf worked to clear the field. 

September 14, Elder Metcalf helped John pull fodder. After harvesting corn, farmers use to “pull fodder”, which involves pulling the blades off of the cornstalks and gathering them into bunches to dry in the sun. The fodder was then stored to be fed to the cows later. It was difficult work and the sharp edges of the corn blades often sliced their hands in the process.
 
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Sugar Cane
According to the  journal, John raised sugar cane that year and Elder Metcalf was there to help John cut the cane on September 28th, 29th and 30th  and again on October 2nd, and 3rd.  Cutting sugar cane was also difficult work, in which each stalk was cut individually from the ground and then at the top, after stripping off the foliage along the sides.3    

As they came to the end of the growing season, John Metcalf returned to John’s farm one final time on October 31 and helped John "pull and haul corn."

While Elder Metcalf continued to visit John’s home, no further mention was made that year of helping him on the farm and so for a few months at least, John continued to feed and care for his handful of livestock until the following spring, when he would once again begin the process of plowing, planting and harvesting.


1. Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880 database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 May 2013, entry for John M. Ganus, District 1143 Haralson, Georgia; Archive Collection Number:  T1137; Page: 08; Line 10

2 Journal of John Edward Metcalf, Mission to the Southern States.  No longer available on the internet. (bulk of material for this post was taken from entries in this journal).

3   Cultivation of Sugar Cane;  William Carter Stubbs; Daniel Gugel Purse, Savannah, Morning News Print, 1900, page 144, found on www.books.google.com

Pictures from Wikipedia Commons, all in Public Domain.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Are You Missing Out?

What would he be like?  Would he look like his pictures?  How comfortable would it be to visit with him?  Would we have anything to say after the initial polite introductions?  I had butterflies in my stomach and many questions running through my  mind as I drove down to the Family History Library recently to do research and meet a distant cousin.

Back in 2000, Claude and I began emailing while searching for more information about Martin Ayers. I had shared some information about Martin on  Rootsweb  and Claude saw the information and contacted me to see what the connection was. We then began the typical exchange of sharing information and working together to try and fill in the blanks on our family trees. As is so often the case, he had things I did not have and visa versa, so we were able to help each other.  We have continued to stay in touch for 13 years now.
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Claude and I with our spouses at
This is the Place Heritage Park

Martin Ayers was born in 1796 in Greenville, South Carolina and his wife, Sarah Simmons, was born 13 July 1800 in Greenville, South Carolina.  They married 31 August 1817 in Greenville, but eventually moved to Georgia, where they were living when they died.  They are both buried at the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery in Haralson County, Georgia.  A picture of the cemetery and their headstone can be found here.

Claude was researching Martin and Sarah’s daughter, Mary Anne Ayers, who married William W. Johnson and I was interested in Martin Ayers for several reasons.  Martin and Sarah’s daughter Nancy E. Ayers was the first wife of James W. Ganus, who was brother to my 2nd great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus. In addition, Martin and Sarah’s son, Reuben Ayers,  married Frances L. Rainwater, who was sister to my 2nd great grandmother, Olivia Rainwater Ganus.  Claude generously shared pictures of descendants and pictures from his trip to Georgia and I shared information that I had been able to find at the Family History Library.

A few weeks ago Claude and his wife flew in with his local genealogy society for a week of research at the Family History Library and so, after all of these years, Claude and I were able to meet.  The initial nervousness left as soon as I met Claude and his wife.  Their kindness was immediately evident and their deep Texas drawl warmed this displaced southerner to her very core. 

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View of Antelope Island
From the marina at the Great Salt Lake

We spent time researching at the library together while sharing more information and enjoyed going to lunch and getting to know each other better.  In addition, my husband and I were able to spend some time showing Claude and his wife some of the local sites. I had a great time and was so grateful to finally meet this distant cousin and his wife.

From family reunions to research field trips, there are many opportunities to step outside of court houses and libraries into the present and make connections with cousins---opportunities that I don't want to miss.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Piecing Together Their Lives ---Part 3

It’s been eleven years since that first email that marked the beginning of  Karen's and my genealogical journey together.  Since that time, we have continued to share our research and so much more.  And while there still remains unanswered questions about Margaret, we have learned a lot about her and together we have pieced together the following story.

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Margaret Ganus Blackmon
(Only known photo) Contributed by Karen
as shared with her by Darlene Emmert
Margaret Ganus was born about 1832 and married James Blackmon on the 16 December 1857 in Fayette County, Georgia.  For some time, James and Margaret remained in Fayette County where Margaret had grown up and where her parents and several siblings continued to live. There, James farmed and Margaret undoubtedly was busy caring for their house and their children .  They had been married for about five years when the events leading to the Civil War began to unfold.  Loyal to the Confederacy, James joined countless others in enlisting to fight for the southern cause.
 
On a spring day in 1862,  Margaret watched as her husband, James  Blackmon, her brother David Ganus, and her brother- in- law, Burton W. Cook, all  boarded the train bound for Richmond, VA.  Alongside their neighbors and friends, the men had enlisted on  May 1, 1862 with the Fayette Planters, Company C, 53rd Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry.   I can imagine the two sisters and their sister-in-law standing with their arms around each other and their children gathered close as the train carrying their husbands, fathers and brothers chugged out of the station.   I am sure that they felt some anxiety as they said their goodbyes, but many southern families believed that it would be a short battle and that soon their loved ones would return home and life would resume.

The Civil War deeply impacted Margaret’s family in many ways, as it did most families on both sides of the conflict.  Margaret had both brothers and brothers-in-law enlist.  Her brother David, never returned home, but died of pneumonia while at Camp Fredericksburg, a story I shared in an earlier post.  Her brother, William, had many health problems incident to the war and died at the age of 33, leaving behind a widow and four young children.  Her brother James, also developed health problems as a result of his service and suffered for the remainder of his life.  In addition, James Blackmon's brother, Edmond, suffered with bilious fever and other ailments during his service, and his brother-in-law, William Speight, died of disease at Knoxville, leaving behind a young wife who delivered their baby girl a month after his death.  According to James Blackmon’s pension application, he was wounded in the left arm and shoulder in 1862 at Spotsylvania, injuries which continued to plaque him until the end of his life. Additionally, his service records indicate that he was frequently ill while enlisted.  I can't imagine the grief and worry that Margaret felt each time she received word of a loved ones' death, injury or illness, while she herself continued alone to bear the heavy weight of feeding and caring for herself and their children.  

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James Blackmon was among those captured at “Gaines Farm,”  which was at the center of the battle of Gaines Mill, or First Battle of Cold Harbor.  He and brother-in-law, Burton Cook, were then taken as prisoners to Point Lookout, Maryland.  A month later Burton and James were transferred to Elmira, New York, which was nicknamed  “Helmira” by the prisoners, due to the deplorable conditions there.  As I shared in a previous post,  Elmira had the highest death rate per capita of northern prisons.  I know that mental attitude can make a difference for those that are imprisoned and forced to endure such horrible conditions and so I wonder whether Burton and James pulled together and helped each other to have the will and determination necessary to survive the months of deprivation.

At the same time, I wonder if  their wives, Mary and Margaret (who were sisters), were truly aware of the extent of their husbands suffering during their imprisonment.  I wonder if the sisters wept together, consoled each other, and prayed together for better days to come.  Did they help each other care for their children?  Did they work together to find ways to feed their families?   Both Margaret and Mary lived outside of Atlanta and undoubtedly endured a multitude of hardships in the years that followed.

James was released on 7 July, 1865, nearly a month after brother-in-law Burton Cook.  It was likely difficult for Margaret when Burton returned home to her sister, while her own husband remained at the prison camp.  Did Burton share what they had endured or did he spare Margaret of any additional worry?  When James Blackmon was finally released, he signed the required “Oath of Allegiance,” and thankfully from it we have an idea of what he looked like as his physical description indicates that he had a dark complexion, dark hair, grey eyes and was 5 feet 9 inches tall. 

While I know that life following the Civil War was never the same for the southern people, I am amazed at the resiliency these families showed as they picked up and moved on with life.  James and Margaret remained in Georgia for at least twenty more years, had  five known children and James somehow managed to provide for their family by farming, which was no small feat in post Civil War Georgia.

For some unknown reason, by 1888,  James and Margaret had moved to Blount County, Alabama.    They were living there on a 200 acre farm near “Joy” when James died 11 September 1903.  Karen shared his very short death notice that appeared in the September 17, 1903 edition of The Southern Democrat.  It simply stated “James Blackmon, 66, died last Friday, near Joy.” 

On 11 July 1905, Margaret’s Civil War Widow's Pension Application  indicated that she had absolutely nothing and had never remarried. Several of Margaret's children were living in the area and hopefully they were a source of help and support for her in the winding down scene of her life. While we are unsure of exactly when Margaret died, we believe that it was sometime after her filing in 1905 and before 1910. 

Margaret saw and endured a great deal of hardship during her lifetime.  She sent a husband to war, buried at least one child and managed to care for their other children while James was in a Civil War prison camp. Living in an area frequented by tornadoes and hail storms, she and James faced the elements, even though weather frequently threatened their farms, their homes and their very existence. While her life was full of many trials and hardships, I am sure that it included many joys as well.  James and Margaret remained by each other's side for 46 years and brought five children into the world.  They lived to see and enjoy grandchildren,  lived much of their life surrounded by extended family, and were able to somehow always provide for themselves.

Although families today don’t always remain in close proximity to each other as they did so many years ago, thanks to the internet the world has become a little smaller and we are able to feel a closeness to distant "kin" regardless of our distance.  Over the years, Karen and I have shared family history and so much more.  We have shared good times and hard times, prayed, laughed and cried together.  We've emailed, Facebooked, texted and talked on the phone.  Despite the odds and the distance, we found each other and have become an important part of each other's lives.

Karen wrote in a recent email:
I think Margaret, my ancestor, and her brother John, your ancestor, would be very pleased to see that their "children" love each other so much and have found each other across the years and miles. So many times since then, you and I, and our families, have leaned on each other through heartbreak and celebrated our joys together.
She went on to say:
Thank you, Michelle, for "keeping it real" for me--- because that is what genealogy is all about-- understanding that our ancestors were more than just dates on a census record, but real people who held on to each other for support and invested their hearts in each other--- just as I have with you.
I could not have said it better. Genealogy connects us to our dead whom we never knew and in the process, it can connect us to the living as well. It helps to provide us with a sense of belonging and family in a world that is increasingly disjointed. As we piece together dates and places, I know that we also piece together lives of both the living and the dead.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

PHOTO:  Wikipedia Commons.  Gaines Mill by John L. Parker, 1887

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Piecing Together Their Lives part 2

 
imageReceiving an email from Karen, indicating that we had a connection, was a great start to my day!  It reminded me of the childhood game “Old Maid” —I  was holding a hand full of ancestor cards and finally someone had given me a match!

Of course I immediately responded to Karen and that began an exchange that would not only lead me to learn about Margaret, but also about her descendants.

Karen shared her remarkable story.  She  had been researching her paternal great grandmother,  Margaret Blackmon.  One day as she searched through indexed marriage records, she came across a record for a Margaret Sams that had married James Blackmon.  Of course having a Margaret married to a James Blackmon peaked her interest and so she then researched the Sams family of the Fayette County area.  However,  try as she might, Karen could not find a Margaret Sams in any of the families . After a great deal of effort and frustration, she turned to forums in hopes of finding someone else with information about Margaret Sams, but did not have any luck. She did, however, find find me searching for a Margaret, but I was searching for a Margaret Ganus, not Sams.
Karen then shared with me:
Something just wouldn't leave me alone about it as I went to bed one night. Then, I woke up in the wee hours (as I often did when an epiphany would hit me in my sleep that I could not see during the daylight hours), and I realized that I needed to see the actual marriage record to compare the last names.
She also told me that the thought that came to her with great force in the middle of the night was that Margaret was a Ganus, not a Sams.  Genealogy is full of such stories----some call it serendipity and some call it inspiration.  They seem to come most often when we least expect it and when we begin to feel we are at the end of our rope.  When Karen got up the next morning, she returned to the forums, found my email address and shot me an email.

Knowing where I live, Karen asked that I look up the marriage record for Margaret “Sams” at the Family History Library and so I drove down to the library and pulled the film. Yep---there was no doubt in my mind, looking at the actual marriage record I could see that the record was for James Blackmon and Margaret Ganus, not Margaret Sams, but I sent a copy to Karen who also examined it and confirmed that she too believed Margaret was definitely a Ganus. The G had been incorrectly transcribed as an S and the way the n and u ran together it apparently had been read as the single letter “m”.   This experience is another testament to the fact that as wonderful as indexes can be, it is important to go to the original source and view it ourselves.

Once we knew that “our” Margaret married a Blackmon, we were able to see that she was listed RIGHT NEXT  to her parents on the1860 census. The census enumerator had used initials rather than first names, which made it difficult to make that connection without knowing Margaret’s married name, but armed with that information, it was easy to see.

Karen had been working for some time with her cousin, Leelan Blackmon.  He had been researching the family for years and had a wealth of information about the Blackmon family and had graciously shared what he knew.  Piece by piece, with each of us adding what we had, we were beginning to uncover Margaret’s life.  I will share her story in the coming post.   

Continue onto Piecing Together Their Lives, Part 3 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013


Photo from Wikipedia Commons and in Public Domain

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Piecing Together Their Lives - Part 1

imageWe all have them.  Those individuals in our family tree that seemingly disappear into thin air. I have many such souls in my tree and each and every unwritten story troubles me.  Among my “missing” was Margaret. 
Margaret Ganus was born in 1832 and grew up in the Fayette County area of Georgia.  She was a younger sister to my second great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus, and the third child of James Gurganus and Elizabeth McCluskey in a family of ten children. 
On the 1850 census,eighteen year old Margaret was shown living with her parents and the eight siblings still living at home.  By the 1860 census, however, she was no longer shown living at home.  I realized that in all likelihood, if she had lived until 1860, she was most likely married, but I could not find a marriage record for her.  Margaret’s three sisters, Mary, Martha and Rebecca, all had recorded marriage records which of course helped me to follow them as they established their homes and had their children. But no marriage record could be found for Margaret.  Some speculated that Margaret had died young, but I could find nothing conclusive.
I imagined Margaret to be much like any little girl growing up in mid 19th century Georgia.  I could almost see her running and playing alongside her brothers and sisters in the warm Georgia sun. Growing up on a small family farm, she would have had her share of chores,  helping with everything from the household duties of preparing food and washing clothes to milking cows and feeding the chickens. The day likely began early each morning and the the work would have stretched on until the sun dropped beneath the rolling hills and dense trees that define that region.  At night Margaret likely climbed into a bed shared with several of her sisters.  
Knowing that southern families were tight knit and often lived in close proximity for much of their lives,  I looked for Margaret in Fayette County as well as in neighboring counties, but could find nothing.  For years, her unfinished story was part of my growing pile of genealogical mysteries and just one more frustration. 
I mentioned in a previous post, the value of collaborating with others along the way.  So often other individuals hold critical pieces of information not found in any publicly held document. In this case, posting a query made all the difference. 
On the 17th of October 2002, I received an email from Karen, whom I did not know.  My heart jumped as I opened her email that began with, “I am almost 100% sure that we click.”  I will share what I learned from Karen in my upcoming post.  

Note: Picture The Old Quilt by Walter Langley found on Wikipedia Commons and in Public Domain.
           Continue onto Part 2 of Piecing Together their Lives

          Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013




Saturday, April 13, 2013

Clouds That Forebode the Greatest Evil

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Wikipedia Commons
Public Domain

As a child, I loved the movie The Wizard of Oz.  While the movie fueled our young, active imaginations, it also generated a whole new set of fears.

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My brother and I 
In parts of California, springtime often brings large fields of beautiful orange poppies.   I  remember being horrified when my mom wanted to take pictures of us out in the poppy fields.  Did she remember what happened to Dorothy while in a field of poppies?

Additionally, the movie also taught me to fear tornadoes, witches, and of course the thing that all children of that era feared…..flying monkeys!!

While my Georgia kin had little to fear from poppies, witches or flying monkeys, they did, however, live with the very real fear of tornadoes, or cyclones as they were sometimes called.

The University of Oklahoma maintains a great online digital book collection that includes the book,  “Tornado” written by John Park Finley.  Finley was an American meteorologist who was among the first to study tornadoes in depth.  Finley's book, published in 1887, educated people about the dangers of tornadoes as well as how people could anticipate and protect themselves during a tornado.1


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Illustration from Finley’s Tornadoes2

Describing the eerie cloud formations that often precede tornadoes, Finley stated that  “the dark clouds at times present a deep, greenish hue, which forebodes the greatest evil and leaves one to imagine quite freely of dire possibilities.” 3

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Illustration from Finley’s Tornadoes5
Finley also indicated,  “Another and invariable sign of the tornado’s approach is a heavy, roaring noise, which augments in intensity as the tornado-cloud advances.  This roaring is compared to the passage of a heavily loaded freight train moving over a bridge or through a deep pass or tunnel.” 4  I enjoyed reading through this book to see what was believed and known about tornadoes at that time, as I had ancestors that lived in many of the states considered part of “tornado alley.” 

The Friday, June 10, 1887 edition of the Carroll Free Press,  which was published the same year as Finley's book, carried an article about which citizens of the Carroll County community had received the most damage during a tornado and hail storm that hit there. 6   The article also mentioned a “Citizens’ Meeting” held to discuss measures to provide aid to the victims.  A resolution was adopted to collect funds and distribute them to those who had received the most damage. Included in the list of citizens needing relief were P.H. Chandler, B.W. Cook and G. P. Chandler, all people in my family tree.

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Picture of home following a tornado that
hit the Atlanta area
Late 1800’s or early 1900’s. 
7
B.W. Cook  was Burton W. Cook,  who married Mary Ganus, daughter of my third great grandparents, James and Elizabeth Ganus  and sister to John Monroe Ganus.   G.P. Chandler  was George P. Chandler, son of Philo H. Chandler and Nicie Jane Reid (the same P.H. Chandler named in the article).  George P. Chandler  married Mary Cook, daughter of Burton W. Cook and Mary Ganus, thereby making her a grand-daughter to James and Elizabeth Ganus.

The article also indicated who had donated money, how much they donated and who received the financial aid and how much they received.  A committee had distributed the donated funds to those that were in the most need and had not already received help from others of the community.
 
As I scanned the list of citizens who had received financial help, I found that B.W. Cook, G.P. Chandler and P. H. Chandler were not included.  Did that indicate then that they were among those who had received help from others?   Living in Carroll county at that time were Mary’s siblings, Martha Ganus Brock, Rebecca Ganus Lee and Addison Ganus and their spouses and children.  Living in neighboring Haralson County were Mary’s other siblings, John M. Ganus, as well as Margaret Ganus Blackmon  and James W. Ganus and their spouses and children. True to typical southern culture, the siblings had remained in close proximity to each other.

Did the Ganus siblings help repair damage sustained to Mary and Burton’s home?  Did they help fix barns and outbuildings, locate scattered livestock, and replant crops if needed?  Did they bring in meals and share of what they had?   I would like to think that  Burton and Mary did not need aid from the community because they received help from their family. I would like to think they were living close to one another not only for the social advantage but also so that they could provide help and support through good times and bad.  

Given the history of tornadoes in the south, I am sure that this was not the only time that the Ganus family was impacted by the wrath of a storm.  I am confident that each member of that family faced many storms during their lifetime, both physical and emotional in nature and hopefully each time they found their greatest source of support and strength in their family.    



1.  Finley, John P., Tornadoes. New York:  The Insurance Monitor, 1887. Digital Images.  History of Science Collections, The University of Oklahoma Libraries. http://ouhos.org/2010/06/19/digitized-books/

2.  Ibid. at p. 40

3. Ibid at p. 29

4.  Ibid at p. 30

5. Ibid at p. 44

6.  USGenWeb Archives,  Carroll County Georgia, Newspapers, Carroll Free Press, Issue of Friday, June 10, 1887.  File was contributed by Judy Campbell.
http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/carroll/newspapers/ju87.txt

7.  Photograph of home of Oct(via) Kite blown away by tornado, Fulton County, Georgia, ca. 1897-1903, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Vanishing Georgia. http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/vanga/query:gk%3A+%28octa+kite+tornado%29


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013