Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Stories Their Faces Tell

Robert Lee Ganus, Roderick Ganus, Newton Ganus, John Monroe Ganus, John Thackason Ganus, William Franklin Ganus
Tow Row, L to R:  Robert Lee Ganus, Roderick  Monroe Ganus, Newton Lafayette Ganus
Bottom Row, L to R:  John Monroe Ganus, John Thackason Ganus, William Franklin Ganus
As much as I love the stories that I uncover, I think I almost love the pictures more. I find myself sitting and studying my ancestors' pictures and wondering what stories their faces tell? What do their eyes say? What caused that wrinkle in their brow?  What does the way they hold their mouth and their hands tell me about their life and what they were like?  It's all speculative, but it's a game I like to play.  

I particularly love it when someone shares a story to go with a picture. Such is the case of the picture of John and "his boys"  shown above.  I can't help but notice that Roderick (center back) obviously had his own ideas about how to dress for a picture. Story has it that while his father, John, and his brothers put on their “Sunday best”  for the picture, Roderick had been working in the field and said that he was not going to spend half the day dressing and undressing for a picture, so he came as he was.  The story makes me smile and reminds me that that ole Ganus spunk had trickled down through yet another generation.  

Newton L. Ganus
Newton L. Ganus
When my father first shared this picture with me, I noticed that while five of the men wore the typical solemn expressions, one son seemed not to care about how long he had to wait for the camera, nor whether the social norm dictated that a proper picture be taken in a somber manner and devoid of a smile. Newton's smile stretched from his lips to his eyes and seeing that solitary smile among the six men never fails to make me smile. When I show this picture to others, they are often quick to point to him and say things such as  “He looks like fun.”  The truth be known, Newton had experienced more than his share of heartache, but for some reason, he broke tradition, smiled for the camera and made us all want to know more about him.

Newton Lafayette Ganus and his twin, Frances Olivia Ganus, were born the 17th of July, 1867 in Pine Bluff, Jefferson, Arkansas to John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater. I am not sure how long Frances lived, but I do know that she had died by 1870 when the family returned to Haralson County, Georgia.  The Ganus family would remain there until November of 1886, at which time they migrated by train to Colorado. Later, in about 1897, the Ganus family moved on to Oklahoma where John, Olivia and all of the sons lived until they died.

Not much is known about Newton’s childhood although most of his siblings' descendants were told the story that when Newton was a child, he was kicked in the head by a mule.  In addition, all seemed to have been told that he was very smart when it came to math.  We do know that Newton never married and that he lived with his parents until their death, at which time, his married brothers took him in.  But life with Newton was not easy and it became more trying with time.  Among other issues, Newton had bouts with terrible headaches and when he did, he became angry and was difficult to deal with.

On August 30, 1921, at the age of 54,  Newton was taken to the Eastern Oklahoma State Hospital for the mentally ill at Vinita and examined by Dr. Hayes along with two other doctors.  Prior to that time, Newton had spent a year in Fort Supply, which was the first mental hospital in Oklahoma.  His brother, Robert, felt concerned enough about Newton's mental state that he had traveled a little over 100 miles from his home in Okmulgee to take him to the hospital in Vinita, which was no small distance at that time.

When examined by the doctors there, Newton was asked if his mind was as good as any body else’s and he responded that he did not know.  According to records,  Newton said, “Seems like my head hurts me right smart.  I don’t know what causes it.”  Newton also indicated that he did not believe that his "mind would be as good and stout as one not in any misery."  When asked why he had been sent there, he said, “For bad behavior I reckon.”  The doctor then asked Newton  if he had been bad and Newton indicated, “Not bad, I don’t think, just this misery and anger like I cursed a little but I don’t think I done bad.”

Newton L. Ganus
Newton L. Ganus
The doctors asked Newton a variety of other questions, including a series of mathematical questions.  Newton responded correctly to questions such as "if he received .125 cents an hour and worked 8 hours, how much would he have?" It is interesting that he was able to answer correctly every mathematical question  asked, yet his history indicated that he only had a 1st grade education.  By his responses to other questions, some of which were quite basic, Newton seemed to sometimes be a little confused and forgetful and yet his responses did not appear to be very far out of the ordinary.  I wonder what additional information may have been supplied by Newton’s brothers? With all three doctors in agreement, Newton was admitted and for the next 32 years, the hospital was his home.

Eastern Oklahoma State Hospital Cemetery
Thanks to John Schehrer for sharing the photo
On December 19, 1953, at the age of 86, Newton died of chronic myocarditis in Eastern Oklahoma State Hospital.  He was buried among countless other hospital patients on the hospital ground cemetery.  Confined for much of his adult life in the hospital, Newton had managed to outlive all of his brothers and died without any descendants of his own.  I find myself wondering just how he spent his final days? Did he have any visitors?   Did he have friends?  Did anyone weep when he was gone? 

I have one additional picture of Newton and this time he is alone.  While I can't be sure, I suspect from his clothing and his age that it was likely taken in the hospital.  This picture is a stark contrast to his picture from earlier days where he is seen smiling alongside his father and brothers. In fact, the first time I came across this picture, I was surprised to flip it over and read that it was in fact Newton. As with most of us, he had changed a lot over the years. This picture shows an older, thinner Newton, a Newton that no longer felt compelled to smile for the camera.  This time his face tells a different story, a story that I wish had had a happier ending.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

But . . . . What Happened to Marthy?

Notes found among
my Grandma's belongings
As I scanned the list of those who had migrated with my Ganus family from Georgia to Colorado in December of 1886,  I could not help but notice that Marthy was not listed.  Family lore indicated that my Great Grandfather Frank Ganus had married sisters, and since his deceased first wife Matilda Roberts’ only sister was Martha Emma Roberts, I assumed that they meant her.  An entry in the J.J. Pledger Murphy Journal indicated that Marthy Roberts had cooked dinner for them on October 22, 1886,  prior to the Ganus family leaving for Colorado on December 2, 1886.  Not only did I take note that Marthy was still alive and present  at the end of October, but also that she was still a Roberts at that time.  I guess it is possible that she had married her widowed brother-in-law Frank Ganus and then died between October 22nd and December 2nd,  but somehow I didn't think so.

The scant penciled notes on scraps of paper, on the backs of old envelopes and scribblings on torn pieces of notepads continued to encourage me to dig deeper to either prove or disprove their varied claims.  Because my grandfather had been orphaned at such a young age and had not been reared near other Ganus family members, I recognized the fact that his limited knowledge of his family meant that we in turn knew very little about the extended Ganus family.  I assumed that some of what he had believed to be true was likely shared with him by his older brother Earnest.  While Earnest was seven years his senior, Earnest was only sixteen years old when they were orphaned and sent hundreds of miles away to live with their mother's family, the Faucetts.  While some of what my Grandpa believed about his Ganus family proved to be fact,  I wasn’t so sure about this piece of information.

Besides wanting to prove or disprove the claim that my great grandfather had married both sisters before marrying my Great Grandmother Sarah Faucett, I wanted very much to know what happened to Martha Emma Roberts or Marthy as she was called.  Marthy was another character that intrigued me but I knew very little about her.  Sisters, Mary Matilda born in 1856 and Martha Emma born in 1857, were born to Nicholas Roberts and Mary E. Meadows, who were married  the 23rd of February, 1847, in Madison, Georgia.  Nicholas and Mary's family had consisted of six children, James N., Joseph, William B., and Thomas E. Roberts and then the two girls, Mary Matilda and Martha Emma. 

The girls' father  had  followed their mother in death, leaving the girls orphaned by 1866. The guardianship papers filed in 1869 in Floyd County, Georgia where the family had lived, indicated that the girls were to be bound to John D. Green for their care and while Marthy is found in the John D. Green’s household in 1870, Matilda, however, was living in a household consisting of her and her three older brothers, James, Joseph and Thomas.  By 1880 Matilda had married Frank Ganus and was living in Haralson County, Georgia and Marthy, a single woman,  lived alone next door.  Apparently the girls had been separated long enough and while their marital status differed, they chose to remain as close to each other as circumstances would allow. But soon things changed. Matilda died and Frank left with daughter Ollie and the rest of the Ganus family for Colorado.  But what happened to Marthy?  Where did she go? 

Marthy seemed to have just disappeared.  I could find no record of a marriage or a death in Georgia.  There were many Martha Roberts on census records, but none of them seemed just right and of course I considered the fact that she possibly was married and had a different surname, yet I could not find a marriage record for her in the general area.  Off and on I would search for Marthy, but always I would eventually put her aside out of frustration. Yet, I couldn't seem to leave it alone and curiosity kept bringing me back, feeling the need to know what happened to Marthy?  There was no indication that Marthy had gone west with others in 1886 and yet I could find nothing that indicated that she had died around that time period either. Where was she?

Then one day while waiting for one of our daughters, I decided to putter on my computer for a few moments. Doing a general search on the main page of Familysearch, I put in only Marthy Roberts and  her approximate date of birth.  I was totally surprised when a record popped up for an Alabama death certificate!  The index showed "Marthy Roberts", born in Georgia, her mother was listed as a Meadows and her father Nicholas Roberts---it was a great fit, but definitely not where I had expected her to be. Some of my family had bobbed back and forth across the Alabama/Georgia border at varying times, appearing in Cleburne or Calhoun, but Marthy had died clear up in Marshall County.  What had she been doing there?
Aunt Marthy Roberts and brother Joseph Roberts
Martha E. Roberts
and brother J.O. Roberts
 
I obtained a copy of her death certificate and noted that it indicated that Marthy Roberts was single, had been a nurse and that she died of Tubercular kidneys contracted in Georgia.  I decided to consult message boards to see if there were others researching the Roberts family in Marshall County, Alabama and found a sweet woman that not only knew something of Marthy and her history, but was generous enough to share a picture of her as well.  That was the frosting on the cake!

This Roberts descendant told me that Marthy had never married and so when she had become sick, she had gone to her brother’s home in Alabama and had died there.  She told me that Marthy was buried in Union Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Marshall County,  so I consulted the website  Find a Grave where I found that R. Bailey had generously taken a picture of her headstone and had placed it on the website.  I am so grateful to the many volunteers on Find a Grave such as Mr. Tidmore who created the memorial and R. Bailey who took the picture, who so generously give of their time.  I did notice that the headstone appears to be a little more recent but was obviously contributed by loving family and I was touched by the tender inscription—”Aunt Martha Roberts.”

Aunt Martha Roberts grave
Martha Robert's Grave
Union Grove Baptist Cemetery
Marshall County, Alabama
So finally I knew at least some of what happened to Marthy.  I have found nothing to support the story that she ever married my Great Grandfather.  I do think that the two sisters were extremely close as long as they both lived. I know that Marthy became a nurse, that she lived in Georgia for the majority of her life and that, when her health began to decline, her brother generously took her in so that she did not die alone. 

Once again, I was able to piece all of this together thanks to many generous volunteers, beginning with FamilySearch indexing volunteers, a descendant that shared with me Martha’s picture and what she knew of her story and finally Mr. Tidwell who took the time to take a picture of her headstone and upload it to Find A Grave.  Thanks to a wonderful community of genealogists, I finally know what happened to Marthy. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

All About Family


Rick and I at SLIG
(Picture taken by Roylene Bailey)
I have been a little slow on posting these past couple of weeks due to several issues.  The main reason being that we are dealing with a family crisis that is taking a lot of our time and emotional resources. While I have felt the tug to write my stories, I also know that there are times when the dead truly have to take a back seat to the living.  So I will continue to post as I can, but possibly the posts will be a little fewer in number for a time.   After all, it truly is "All About Family."

Despite the current craziness in my life, I was actually able to attend the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy this past week which is held annually at the Radisson in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I attended my first SLIG back in 2009 and took the course "Research of the Gulf South" with Mark J. Lowe .  It was such a wonderful experience that I have made it a tradition to return to SLIG each year.  Last year I was able to take Advanced Methodology with  Tom Jones and this year I took Forensic Genealogy with Melinde Lutz Byrne . I highly recommend SLIG to anyone who enjoys the opportunity to ramp up their learning and who loves an excuse to gather with other genealogist.  I have gained so much from taking classes from some of the finest genealogist in the country, in addition to learning from the experience of others who are traveling the down the same path in research.  While we all have varying levels of expertise, I learn something from everyone and welcome that opportunity. 

In addition to daytime classes at SLIG, there is the opportunity to take a variety of one hour classes offered in the evenings.  I couldn't resist the chance to attend Mark J. Lowe's lecture entitled "Whiskey, Brandy and Family Migration."   Mark has a wonderful ability to entertain while he instructs and I enjoyed his lecture very much.  His class reminded me that I need to share a story or two about my Alabama moonshiners!   Stay tuned for that post!

This year I had the added benefit of meeting a couple of bloggers whom I follow and admire.  Judy G. Russell of The Legal Genealogist and Anne Gillespie Mitchell  from Finding Forgotten Stories were both in attendance and were just as wonderful in "real life" as they are on the internet.  

I can't talk with other genealogist without noticing their love of family.  They truly love family---the living and the dead.  This year at SLIG, a friend made the comment that as we work and associate with each other over the years we all become family too---we feel those connections with each other, we care about and worry about each other and those ties to each other become strong, whether we share a common ancestor or not.  As I have watched the events unfold around the country this past year, the good and the bad, from personal triumphs to tragedies of all kinds, my thoughts have often gone to those that I know from that particular part of the country and then to the people and families that live there in general, most of whom I do not know.  As I have formed relationships with both those that I work with on my family lines and those that I have met online or at the various genealogy events I attend, I see that genealogy has not only helped me to know and love those that have passed onto the other side, but it has made the world a smaller and friendlier place in general.  So while I love researching in the dusty records of repositories, I will continue to find ways to connect and interact with othes because after all, it truly is "All About Family."


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013