Friday, June 14, 2019

2019 #52Ancestors: Week 7 - "Love"

Week 7 of the #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge featured the theme of "Love" (since it was supposed to be written during the week of Valentine's Day). My family tree features hundreds of love stories, but I decided to take the theme in a slightly different direction and write about my great-grandmother, who actually had "Love" in her name: Ella May Lovejoy Kessinger.

Ella as a teenager, before her marriage
in 1897.
Because of two large generational gaps in my family (my grandfather was born when Ella was 41, and my father was born when his parents were about 39), there is a lot more of an age difference between me and Ella than between the typical great-grandmother and great-granddaughter. In fact, Ella would have been 140 this year! And although she died before my father was even born, I think about her a lot. I look at my friends and family who have small children and how hard they work as parents, and I think, "My poor great-grandmother had FIFTEEN children. How on earth did she do it all!?" I'm fortunate to have several photos of her throughout the course of her life, including a couple of her when she was young in beautiful Victorian and Edwardian clothing. But I am most fortunate to have a recording of her from a cottage prayer meeting that was made in 1950, only two short years before her death. In the recording she talks about her love for God, and how she was praying for several of her children, who were not attending church at the time. Many people whose great-grandparents lived at the same time mine did don't even have photos or recordings of them, so these are things that I treasure dearly.

Ella Lovejoy with husband Clifton
Kessinger on their wedding day:
October 31, 1897.
I am also fortunate enough to have several letters that were written to Ella from various family members, and several that she wrote. They are collected in one annotated volume that was compiled by my cousin, the author Linda Lenhardt. The book is called Cliftons and Kessingers: Their Kin, Their Letters, Their Stories, and is available on Amazon. One piece of memorabilia stood out to me in particular: a postcard from Ella to her husband, Clifton, postmarked from City Hall Station 5, NY on September 26, 1927. The postcard had a photo of the Statue of Liberty on one side, and a short note from her on the other that reads: "Dear Husband, I have been to the top of this statue today. You must know I feel better. We took a boat ride over there. I enjoyed myself. Your best friend, Ellie." I teared up when I saw the photo of this post card in the book while looking for info for this post, because about a year ago I too rode a boat across New York Harbor to see the Statue of Liberty. I had no idea that Grandma had ever been to New York City. (She might have been visiting her son, Archie, who apparently lived in NYC for awhile. There are letters from Archie to his parents that have a NYC return address.) The idea that I shared this same experience with her, 91 years later, was just amazing to me.

Ella May Lovejoy was born on Mary 7, 1879, to Alfred Lovejoy and Sophia Lavinia McFarland of Poca, Putnam County, WV. She was the second-youngest of fourteen children. Her mother, Sophia, died when Ella was only two years old, on September 22, 1881. Her father, Alfred, remarried to Mary Elizabeth Wade in 1885, so Ella was raised by her stepmother during most of her childhood. For a long time I believed that Alfred passed away in 1886 because of information found on the tree of a fellow researcher, but according to Ella's marriage record she was married at her father's house in 1897. Alfred does not appear in the 1900 census, so I believe that he passed away between 1897 and 1900.

The Kessinger Family on May 6, 1922: Allie Violet's
wedding day.
Ella was married to Clifton Kessinger on October 31, 1897. They originally lived in Poca, Putnam County, WV, but moved to Kanawha County, WV by 1920. They first lived in Kelley's Creek, but then moved to Ruffner Hollow (now Greenbrier Street) by 1930. Their last residence was on Oak Ridge Drive, where several of their descendants still live to this day.

Ella and Clifton had fifteen children together, thirteen of which lived to adulthood. Their first child, Virgie Violet Kessinger, passed away at 3 months old. They went on to have fourteen more children: Allie Violet, Roy Sleigh, Archie McClung, Calvert Donnelly, Willa Grace, John Thomas, Alva Lee, Alfred Arnold, Gladys Marie, Harley Canalis, Mary Elsie, Robert Hulling, Juanita Ruth, and Harold Warren (my grandfather). The youngest daughter, Juanita Ruth, passed away at age three from a burn injury. The injury happened on her older sister Allie's wedding day, on May 6, 1922. She passed away nine days later on May 15, 1922, at Saint Francis Hospital. The rest of Ella and Clifton's children lived good long lives; five of them lived to be 90 or older, and most of the others lived well into their 80s.
Ella with her husband, Clifton, in their later years.

Ella passed away on November 14, 1952 from congestive heart failure. She was buried in the Kessinger Family Cemetery in Poca, WV. Although she died before my father was born, he remembered hearing about a strange occurrence that happened on the night of her death. She had been sick for a long time, and had been in a tremendous amount of pain. When she finally passed away, the family members in the house shortly afterward heard a strange rattling and dragging sound on the steps leading down to the house's basement. When someone went to check who or what was there, they found nothing. My grandfather said that he believed it was the Devil making his way back to his domain, having done his worst to torment his mother and ultimately lost, since she went on to her Heavenly reward when she passed.

The few pieces of information that I've put together here are only a shadow of the wonderful life that Ella lived. It would take years to thoroughly research documents and anecdotes and compile them into a thorough account of her life. If any family members have stories about her, please share them in the comments, so that they can be preserved for future generations!

~ ~ ~

My descent from Ella May Lovejoy is as follows:

Ella May Lovejoy (1879 - 1952)

Harold Warren Kessinger (1920 - 2012)
Son of Ella May Lovejoy

Joseph Wayne Kessinger (1958 - )
Son of Harold Warren Kessinger

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Joseph Wayne Kessinger

Saturday, June 8, 2019

2019 #52Ancestors: Week 6 - "Surprise"

For this week's theme of "Surprise," I have a story that should be read as a cautionary tale to all genealogists, be they young or old, new or experienced. When I first began my genealogy research in 2010, I was unfamiliar with many of the sources that researchers use to find and confirm their connections. I was young and new to the field, and I foolishly took the word of other researchers as gospel because I figured that they knew better than I did. So when I found an Ancestry tree that listed Alexander Kidd and Mahalia Adeline Slinker as the parents for my great-great-grandmother, Nancy Kidd, I accepted it as truth, added it to my tree, and moved on. And I was happy to do so, considering that one line of Mahalia Slinker's ancestry connected to a noble gateway ancestor, which led that line all the way back to the Norman Invasion in 1066.

My great-great-grandmother, Nancy Kidd.
A year or two ago I decided that I was going to try to go through all of my leaf hints on Ancestry (an endeavor that I soon realized was overwhelming in a tree containing thousands of people). Starting with the most recent generations and working my way backward, I soon arrived at Nancy Kidd. While looking through her leaf hints, I quickly realized that something was very wrong. All of the records I was coming across were listing James Kidd and Delilah Turley as her parents, not Alexander Kidd and Mahalia Slinker. After looking at the census, birth, death, and newspaper records, I had to conclude that the researcher whose work I had consulted was wrong. Alexander and Mahalia Slinker Kidd did indeed have a daughter named Nancy, but their Nancy Kidd did not marry Morris Midkiff and become the mother of eight children, including my great-grandmother, Louise Midkiff Hudson. My Nancy Kidd was indeed the daughter of James Kidd and Delilah Turley.

After kicking myself for awhile and mourning the loss of a line that went all the way back to 1066, I set out to research my newly-found 3rd-great-grandparents and their ancestry. As it happened, James Kidd's line ended up going back to a noble gateway ancestor as well, so I didn't lose that noble and royal ancestry after all. I found a fellow researcher's tree on RootsWeb that was actually well-researched and thoroughly sourced (unlike the fateful tree that I followed so blindly), which took some lines of the tree well past the year 1000AD. I am still in the process of verifying and adding all of this valuable information to my own tree, and I regularly find names that I recognize from English history.

Nancy Kidd's obituary. She
is referred to as "Mrs
Meyers" because she had
remarried to Joseph Meyers
in 1911.
During my frantic research to confirm Nancy's true parentage, I also found a surprise that was not as pleasant as having a whole new line of ancestors to find. I found a newspaper article and an obituary that told an incredibly sad tale of how Nancy passed away. On December 10, 1935, Nancy was walking down the sidewalk on MacCorkle Avenue in her hometown of Charleston, WV when she saw her son walking on the other side of the street. She began to walk across the street to greet him when she was suddenly struck by a car. The car was driven by her grandson-in-law, George Tilgham. Tilgham said that he did not have time to stop, as he was only a few yards away from Nancy when she suddenly stepped into the street. He was arrested and charged with manslaughter, but I was unable to find any records that tell us whether he was convicted or acquitted. Nancy suffered some broken bones and lacerations as well as severe shock, and was rushed to Kanawha Valley Hospital where she unfortunately passed away about 40 minutes later. She was laid to rest at Mount Joy Cemetery, where several members of her family are also buried.

This whole experience, while nearly causing me to have an ulcer when discovered, made me grow significantly as a genealogist. I learned to never take someone else's work at face value, especially if they do not have sources to back up their work. And even if they do have sources, it is still advisable to independently verify everything, just to make sure. Genealogy is a science, and as such it must be based on evidence; without evidence, the work is meaningless.

So let this be a lesson to you: surprises in genealogy can be a good thing, but none of us want surprises that are the result of shoddy research. Don't do what I did - verify, verify, verify!

~ ~ ~

My descent from Nancy Kidd is as follows:

Nancy Kidd (1854 - 1935)
2nd great-grandmother

Louise Midkiff (1884 - 1971)
Daughter of Nancy Kidd

Edna Josephine Hudson (1921 - 2011)
Daughter of Louise Midkiff

Joseph Wayne Kessinger (1958 - )
Son of Edna Josephine Hudson

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Joseph Wayne Kessinger

Thursday, June 6, 2019

2019 #52Ancestors: Week 5 - "At The Library"

Week 5's prompt was another one that I struggled with. Although I love going to the state archives' library to research, I rarely get the chance to do so due to a very demanding work schedule. As a result I don't really have any stories about big genealogical revelations that happened "at the library."

So instead of writing about a find that occurred at a brick-and-mortar library, this post will focus on how I found an amazing first-person anecdote about my 4th-great-grandparents, Joseph Moore and Hannah Cady Moore of Pocahontas County, WV. This treasure was found in a vast virtual library that is available to everyone and is an incredibly valuable resource to genealogists: Google Books.

If you have never used Google Books in your genealogy research, now is the time to start. Google books has over one million books in its database that are in the public domain, and can be viewed in their entirety online or downloaded (you can also save them to "My Library" via Google Play: Books). Millions of other titles feature a preview or a "snippet view," which is a very limited preview. 

The best part of Google Books is that the vast majority of titles in its database are fully searchable, even if the title only has preview or snippet view available. When using this feature I usually search the names of two ancestors together (usually a husband and wife), then review the results from there. If you are lucky, as I was in the case of Joseph Moore and Hannah Cady Moore, you may find your ancestors in a book that is available in full text. 

If you find them in a book that is only available in preview or snippet view, don't be disappointed: it's still a win! Google Books has a link on each book's profile that reads "Get this book in print." This link will show you several websites where you can purchase the book, or find the book in a library near you. 

Front Cover of Historical Sketches...
by William Thomas Price
My Google Books search for the term "Joseph Moore and Hannah Cady" turned up a wonderful book called Historical Sketches of Pocahontas County, West Virginia by William Thomas Price, published in 1901. The book contains an entry five pages in length of memories that the author had of Joseph and Hannah, which was surprisingly detailed (albeit with a few small inaccuracies). He tells us who Joseph's parents were, names his brothers and sisters, and even describes where his parents' home was and where their graves are located. He goes on to name each of Joseph and Hannah's children, names spouses for some of them, and tells where each of them ended up settling down.

The above information in and of itself is more than so many people have for their 4th-great-grandparents, but the entry doesn't stop there. Price tells us that Joseph Moore was a soldier in the War of 1812, and that he met Hannah Cady, whose family was from Vermont, while he was in the army. He tells us that "Joseph Moore, Esquire" was at one time a high sheriff and justice of the peace, and that he was frequently consulted regarding legal matters and documents. He tells us that Joseph and Hannah were both school teachers, and that they loved to study and work with their students. And finally Price tells us a couple of personal stories about Joseph, which really showcase what a colorful personality that he had. 

One paragraph in particular stood out to me as the saying of someone who had some strong and controversial opinions. Joseph is quoted as saying, "Now you must excuse me, William, when I say to you that in my private opinion there can not be much in the Christian religion if it puts its most earnest and zealous professors to wearing out the knees of their pants in religious services in the fall and winter, and then lets them turn over and wear out the rest of their breeches backsliding during the spring and summer. Somehow, William, it does not prove out to suit my notion of what religion should be." 

In the previous paragraph Joseph was quoted as saying that "There are people who think I am an infidel, because I sometimes make remarks they do not agree with." I can certainly see how he might have ruffled some feathers in his day! 

If not for Google Books, I would probably have never found this amazing wealth of information about my 4th-great-grandparents. It is a fantastic tool for every genealogist to have in their arsenal. Many thanks to all of the fine people who spend so many hours scanning and indexing, so that we can have this amazing resource available to us!

~ ~ ~

My line of descent from Joseph Moore is as follows:

Joseph Moore (1795 - after 1860)
4th great-grandfather

Josiah B. Moore (1825 - 1911)
Son of Joseph Moore

John Harmon Moore (1888 - 1957)
Son of Josiah B. Moore

Madaline Eva Moore (1923 - 2017)
Daughter of John Harmon Moore

Phyllis Carolyn Hunt (1943 - )
Daughter of Madaline Eva Moore

Lora Marlene Quinn (1961 - )
Daughter of Phyllis Carolyn Hunt

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Lora Marlene Quinn


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