Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Come Out, Come Out, Where Ever You Are

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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.

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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