Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Grandma Foster and her Apprentice

As I fill in the names on my family tree, some ancestors seemingly call to me, bidding me to learn about them and then to share their story. Such was the case of Minnie Ganus, daughter of James Ganus and Frances. James was the brother to my second great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus, so although she isn't in my direct line, I've felt drawn to her since I first heard about her years ago. 

As so often is the case, some of the story passed down proved to be somewhat different from the actual story that emerged, although portions of it were correct.  As I shared here in an earlier post, Minnie didn't appear on the 1870 census with her family, yet according to the story shared with me, Minnie's mother died when she was little and her father James Ganus left her with extended family as he went off to fight in the Civil War. The story also indicated that he had gone back for his son after the war, but left his daughter Minnie with others to raise. While there were several versions of the story, everyone seemed to be in agreement that James had not kept and reared his daughter, although there were discrepancies as to why and what ultimately happened to her. 

George Hardy (1822-1909)
Next I looked for Minnie on the 1880 census. The only Minnie Ganus in the area was in the household of Nancy Foster, a 60 year old widow living in Campbell County, Georgia. The household consisted of Nancy Foster 60 years old, Mary, a 25 year old daughter, Willie J., a 24 year old son and Minnie Ganus, listed as Nancy's 9 year old grand daughter. If this was "my" Minnie, she was born about 1871, which would explain why she wasn't with her family on the 1870 census, and it also clearly meant that Minnie was born well after the Civil War. 

As I looked for more information, I discovered an interesting document pertaining to Minnie.  In the Campbell County Administration and Guardian bonds 1868-1890 found on FamilySearch, Nancy E. Foster applied to have grand daughter Minnie Elizabeth Gainous apprenticed to her in 1875. The court document read: 
"Now five years old on the 20th day of October 1875 bound as apprentice unto the said Nancy E. Foster until said girl arrives at the age of eighteen years; now the said Minnie Elizabeth Gainous shall well and faithfully demean herself as such apprentice during her respective term obeying and fully observing the commands of the said Nancy E. Foster and in all things deposing and behaving herself as faithful apprentice should do and is not to leave or absent herself from the service or employ of the said Nancy E. Foster without her consent, during her respective term of apprenticeship . . ." 
Visions of grandma unselfishly taking in her grand daughter seemed to be vanishing into thin air. Why did Nancy apprentice her granddaughter and what were the circumstances? Reading on, additional information was provided in the documents.
"It being made known to the ordinary of said county, by satisfactory proof that Minnie Elizabeth Gainous a minor child five years old October the 20th 1875 is now living with her Grand Mother Nancy E. Foster and ever since her mother's death, which happened some three years ago and it further appearing that said minor's Mother gave and requested that her mother said Nancy E. Foster should Raise and train her Daughter Minnie Elizabeth Gainous, and further appearing that the Father James Gainous have since the death of his wife (the mother of said Minnie Elizabeth) have intermarried with another woman and now living in the county of Carroll in this state, and Mrs. Nancy E. Foster the Grand Mother as aforesaid of Minnie Elizabeth Gainous, now wishing to have her bound to her under laws of said state: [1]

I will be honest, this left me scratching my head and wondering why five year old Minnie was bound out to her grandmother as an apprentice! Why didn't Grandma Foster just take her in? 

Although I didn't know, I knew who would. Judy Russell addressed a similar issue on her blog The Legal Genealogist. The post, dated October 7, 2013 was entitled  "The apprentices" and can be found here and is well worth the read (as are all of her blog posts.)  

If you scroll down to the comments section of that post, you will find I posted a question asking Judy about Nancy and Minnie's situation. I felt troubled and wondered why Nancy would have her grand daughter apprenticed to her. Judy responded to my question:
"Remember that a guardianship in that time frame was only for property. To assign legal responsibility for the child, the binding out was needed. So it still could be a kindness by the grandmother to take her, and the legal responsibility for her."
I felt relieved to know that apprenticing Minnie to her grandmother did not necessarily indicate a lack of love or maternal concern for little Minnie but was a legal issue and how the law handled such situations at the time. 

I now knew a little more about Minnie and her situation as well. Information in this document provided Minnie's date of birth, as well as her grandmother's claim that Frances had died when Minnie was about 2 and that Frances' desire had been that her daughter be reared by Nancy, her mother and Minnie's grandmother. 

In 1875, Minnie's father, James, married Nancy Ayers in Carroll County, Georgia and by 1880 he was living in nearby Haralson County, with his new wife, Nancy and his son from his first marriage, 13 year old James. James, Nancy and son James remained in the area until at least 1883 when James Ganus last appeared on the Tax Rolls for Haralson County.  By 1899 James was living with his wife and son in Cullman, Alabama, where they remained the rest of their lives.

So Minnie was raised by her grandmother and much of the time lived only a short distance from her father and brother. Did she have much contact with them? Did her grandmother rely on her to help with much of the household work or did she spoil her? Did her grandmother tell Minnie stories about her deceased mother and help her to feel a connection to her? I likely will never know the answers to these questions, but there is more to Minnie's story and I will share the remainder in my next post. 

1. Campbell County, Georgia Estate Bond Book C: Pages 1-4, ,indenture dated 4 December 1875; digital images 7-12, "Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1900," FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 5 June 2015).


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mothers Helping Mothers

A health crisis in our family has made it necessary for me to help with grandkids frequently over the past few years. As much as I love these sweet little gifts from heaven, I must confess that days of chasing little ones, cleaning up messes, and settling disputes between siblings has left me feeling every year of my age.

George Hardy (1822-1909)
Throughout time women have helped each other with children. I see women in my family tree who helped others with their children, and I suspect you likely have such women in your family as well. Some took the children into their home and completely assumed the role of mother while others were available here and there as the need arose.

I would like to share what I know about one such woman, although I know there are others.

Early on as I researched my Ganus family, a story was shared with me about James W. Ganus, my second great grandfather's brother and it went something like this. James W. Ganus, born 1841, married and had two children.  One was a little boy named James C. and the other was a little girl, named Minnie.  I was told the little girl was always referred to as "Minnie Diggs," although the person sharing the story wasn't exactly sure why. One person I talked to surmised that perhaps Minnie's maternal grandmother had been a Diggs.

As the story went, James' wife died and, feeling that it would be too difficult to rear the children, he took them to their grandmother's home (they didn't know her name) and off he went to fight in the Civil War. Family lore indicates that when James returned from the war, he picked up his son, James C., and went to Alabama, but left Minnie behind in Georgia with her grandmother. No one knew exactly what had become of Minnie. Every bit the genealogist, I had to see what I could find.

The records reveal a slightly different twist to the story.

Living outside of Atlanta, John and Nancy Foster, reared seven children,  Sarah, James Robert, Frances, John L., Mary, Edward W., and William J. Foster. In about 1864, when daughter Frances was about 19, she married James W. Ganus in Carroll County, Georgia. James was a farmer and the son of James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey. He was a younger brother to my 2nd great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus.

In 1870 James and Frances are shown on the census living with their 3 year old son in Carroll County, Georgia. James was a farmer and living in relatively close proximity to several of his siblings.

But as you may have figured out, this is where fact and family lore parted ways. I will share how in my next post. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Remembering Robert, Part 2

Finding ancestors' and relatives' names in records is always fun for a genealogist, but nothing compares to finding living who actually knew them. My recent experience in corresponding with living individuals who knew Robert Lee Ganus has been a testament to the value of blogging and social media. 

Born May 29, 1870 to John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater, Robert Lee Ganus was their youngest child and the youngest brother to my great grandfather, William Franklin Ganus. I was thrilled when three of Robert's grandchildren, Floyd Ganus, Mary Tedder and Dorothy Davis introduced me to Robert through their memories of him. Today I share the second part of his story. (You can find part 1 here.)


"Robert , known to some as Bobby, was a well respected civic leader in the community near Grovania Church. He was in charge of the annual road building crews there. Each summer all adult men in the community had to work 3 weeks in building local roads. This occurred in late summer after the crops were laid back waiting for harvest. He was also the election judge for the local voting precinct. This meant he ran the local election and made sure all ballots were correctly counted. He would read aloud each ballot vote to at least 2 counters who would tally the votes. If both agreed on the count then the vote was final, and he sealed the ballot box with tally sheets to the county courthouse. Also as election judge he was responsible for collecting the local poll tax. He had to keep meticulous records as the poll tax determined who could vote in the election and he had to pay this to the county commissioners.  
"I believe he would be horrified to know the toll tax is now considered to be a discriminator to keep African Americans and poorer people from voting. I was always told he was a leader in encouraging non-discrimination against Native Americans and African Americans. I was told he believed that all cemeteries should allow all races to be buried there. Whenever he hired a black man to help, he would have them sit with the family at lunch. However as was the custom of the time, at harvest time with mixed crews the African Americans were set a table outside. My father also told of race troubles on the county road crews, which Robert averted by arming the white workers with pick handles (pick handles are easily separated from the pick and are similar to a bat in size). So although he was a forward thinker, he was also a man with beliefs of this time. He was not active in church activities although he always claimed his church was Mormon. Being over 5 miles from the church in times before automobiles and married to Stella who claimed to be a Methodist may have contributed to this.

"A family story often retold is about his friendship with Chief Berryhill, chief of the Creek Nation. When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, Indian rolls were created to identify the Creek Indians. Chief Berryhill offered to put Robert on the rolls so that he would be eligible for future Indian benefits. He refused to put his name on the rolls, because of his honesty.

"He was an accomplished farmer for his time. He and Stella always had a big bountiful garden. He had a blacksmith shop and was capable of metal working tasks. He had an orchard, including peaches, apricots, and black walnuts. The farm was well kept with well-built buildings and shade trees. In 1931 or 1932, he suffered health problems, which prevented him from doing the arduous tasks on the farm. From that point until his death, Floyd or Monroe farmed the property.

"To all of us grandchildren, he was a very quiet person who rarely spoke. He was that person in the background who was looking out for the safety of us grandchildren. Thus rarely would any of us get away with not abiding his unsaid rules for our safety without him yelling for us to quit, get out of there, etc. Also a good example would be where he rushed to shoot the rooster which attacked his grand daughter. He sat in his chair in the corner of the living room with his radio tuned to the 6 o'clock news. He would often drink a glass of Alka Seltzer before retiring.

"In March 1952 he suffered major health problems. All three daughters came to care for him and the front room was converted into a hospital for him. The three sons checked on him daily. For the final week he was in a comma with the doctor saying that he could not do anymore to help him. He died 25 March 1952 at the age of 81. He was buried in the Okmulgee City Cemetery."  

Thank you Floyd, Mary and Dorothy for helping me to get to know Robert.




Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved