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Month: July 2006

Huff Family Mystery

Posted in Research Questions

Yours truly finally subscribed to I fought it for a long time because the main reason for subscribing is access to census records, which are available in some libraries and other various places for free. I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t have to pay for access to them. However, the subscription price is less than $13 per month. I realized that I would spend a lot more than that in transportation to the nearest place that has census records, not mention the time it would take to travel to such places. allows me to access actual census record scans from 1790 to 1930. After thinking about it, I decided’s subscription price was a deal. I am not going to make this post a plug for, but I must admit the wealth of information I uncovered has made the subscription price well worth it. Who knows when, as a mother of three and full-time teacher, I might get a chance to hunt through the microfilm at the National Archives in Morrow? Plus I get access to all the censuses for every state, which not all libraries have. Enough raving about how happy I am with

I have uncovered a Huff family mystery. My husband’s family has lived in Tennessee for generations. My husband was born in Nashville. He was able to provide me with enough information to go on about his grandparents, but knew little about his great-grandparents, William Martin Huff and his wife Sallie (whose maiden name I do not know). I located them with Steve’s grandfather Ben Martin Huff on the 1930 census and the 1920 census. I had trouble going further back. I found a record for a Willie M. Huff in the household of his step-father Lee Roy (or Roy Lee) Huff in 1900, but I couldn’t be sure it was the same person, despite the fact that both William Martin and Willie M. lived in Williamson County, which was rural and much more sparsely populated than it is today, probably thanks in part to the Saturn (automobile) headquarters located there. I found a few candidates for William Martin Huff on the 1910 census, but they were fairly far from Williamson County. He was most likely not living with his parents anymore, but I do not think he was married yet, either.

I was becoming increasingly frustrated trying to learn anything about this line and felt I had hit a brick wall until my husband told me he was sure his grandfather had an aunt named Verda. You can tell my husband’s not a genealogist, having neglected to share this crucial bit of information with me until now, knowing I had been trying to find information about the Huff line for some time. Verda is not such a common name. I felt confident I could locate her on the 1900 or 1910 census, as I had narrowed down the family’s origins to Williamson County.

Sure enough, I found Verda in the home of Lee Huff in 1910. She was 11 years old, so she most likely had been born in 1898 or 1899. Her mother was listed as Mary F. Huff. Steve told me her married name was Fulghum. I found her Social Security Death Index record, which listed her birthdate as May 1, 1898. Furthermore, her last residence was Thompson’s Station, Williamson County, Tennessee. Steve concurred with me that we could be reasonably confident this was his aunt Verda. I searched the 1900 census for her father. I noticed no Verda listed in his home, but there was a Eula born in April 1898. I believe this must be Verda and the name Eula is either a misinterpretation of the writing on my part, a transcription error on the census-taker’s part, or perhaps she was called by her middle name either in this census or in later ones. The Social Security Death Index was no help here, as she is listed as Verda H. Fulghum. The “H” could refer to a middle name or her maiden name.

Lee Roy Huff is listed as L.R. Huff in the 1920 census, with a wife Mary. The children all have the same names as on the 1910 census, with the addition of Louise, who had not yet been born in 1910. Going back to the 1900 census, Lee Roy’s name is indecipherable because the census-taker wrote something over the top of it, but it looks like it could say “Roy Lee.” His wife’s name was Mary. I found a WWI Draft Registration Card for Lee Roy Huff that listed his wife’s name as Mary Frances or Mary Francis (it’s hard to see if that’s an “e” or “i”). The birthdate is some two years off from that given in the census, but as I joked with Steve, his family had a habit of changing vital information about themselves depending on what year they were asked that makes tracking them infuriating.

Armed with this information, I believe that Willie M. Huff is William Martin Huff, step-son to Roy Lee or Lee Roy Huff on the 1900 census. William Martin Huff was born in June 1890. Depending on when the census was taken in 1890, he may have appeared on the census. His parents were most likely married by the time the census was taken, and with some detective work, I may have been able to find out who William Martin Huff’s father was. Unfortunately, the 1890 census was almost completely destroyed in a fire in the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. in March 1896.

It will be difficult to find out who William Martin Huff’s father was, but perhaps not impossible. Birth records for the state of Tennessee in this time period may be available from state archives. It is possible my letter to Steve’s grandmother will be a fruitful source of information, but as Steve seemed to be unaware his great-grandfather was adopted by his step-father (and hence, may not have been born a Huff), I’m not sure the information was common knowledge to his grandfather’s wife. Steve’s grandfather was also an only child, so there are no brothers or sisters or cousins to assist me in getting to the bottom of this mystery.

I do, however, find it intriguing that the name “Martin” seems to be popular in the Huff family for generations back. Tantalizingly, there is a Leroy Huff listed as son of Samuel Martin Huff in the 1880 census, Williamson County. The age of Leroy corresponds to that of Lee Roy Huff as given in other censuses. Samuel Martin Huff also had an older son named T. William Huff.

I am speculating about two things. Perhaps William Martin Huff was not adopted by Lee Roy Huff. I made that leap based on the fact that their last names were similar. What if Lee Roy Huff was his uncle and married his mother after the death of his father? It is not unheard of. If his father were T. William, it could be the genesis of his name, William Martin — William for his father, Martin for his grandfather, Samuel Martin. Unfortunately, I can’t find a marriage record or birth record at that corroborates this theory, and the theory that he took his step-father’s name is just as likely.

Lucille Inez Willis Thurman

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, and Photographs

Lucille Inez Willis ThurmanMy great-grandmother, Lucille Inez Willis Thurman, passed away on February 19, 2006. Because she was my longest-lived great-grandparent, I have more memories of her than any of my other great-grandparents.

Lucille Inez Willis was born on March 19, 1914 to Grover Cleveland Willis and Melvina Meeks Willis in Marietta, Love County, Oklahoma. Her father was born in Belgreen, Franklin County Alabama in 1886, and her mother was born in Oklahoma in 1887, when it was still Indian Territory. There is a possiblity that Melvina Meeks has Native American ancestry through her Graham family, but it is not certain. I am not sure when Grover Cleveland Willis left Alabama for Oklahoma, but he was certainly there by 1905 when he married Melvina Meeks. Grover Cleveland Willis and Melvina Meeks were the parents of Myrtle Willis Vinson, Joseph Clinton Willis, Clarence O. Willis, Addie Willis Watkins, Lucille Inez Willis Thurman, and twins Willard Olen Willis and Wilma Willis McFadden. This is a picture of Grover Cleveland Willis and Melvina Meeks Willis:

Grover Cleveland Willis and Melvina Meeks Willis

I’m not sure when the photo was taken, but I estimate it was some time in the 1940’s.

Granny married Elmer Theodore Thurman (Ted) in Madill, Marshall County, Oklahoma on September 29, 1929. They had the following children: Doris LaNell Thurman Cunningham, Willis Floyd Thurman, Billy Loid Thurman, twins Minnie Lou (Penny) Thurman Paul and Winnie Sue Thurman Bolding, and Lynn Doyle Thurman. This is a picture of the Thurman family, taken between 1946 and 1948:

Thurman Family

From left to right, bottom row: Lynn Doyle, Doris, Ted, Lucille, Willis; top row: Winnie, Penny, and Billy.

When I was little, Granny and Grandpa Thurman lived in Amarillo, Texas. For a while when I was a teenager, they lived in Indio, California. Toward the end of their lives, they lived in Carlsbad, Texas, next door to their daughter Winnie and son-in-law Arvel Bolding. I can’t recall exactly when, but I think they lived in Ardmore, Oklahoma for a time when I was a child. I remember visiting the Ardmore area when I was a child. We visited Granny’s sister Myrtle Vinson, who has us help her shell peas. I also remember visiting the Little Brownie Bakers, who make Girl Scout Cookies. They are located in Marietta, Oklahoma. I remember Granny taking us to this bakery, raving about their great cookies. She didn’t realize they were Girl Scout Cookies. I am not sure if Little Brownie Bakers still sells directly to the public.

When Granny lived in Indio, she had a chicken that used to come into the house. I think she fed it cat food or dog food.

One of the things I will always remember about Granny is that she had more refrigerator magnets than anyone else I knew. Her refrigerator was covered with them. Most of them looked like food. I remember one in particular looked like a chocolate chip cookie; that one was my favorite. She used to let me play with the magnets when I came to visit her. She always had Dr. Pepper in bottles in her fridge, and she never failed to ask, “Do you want a Dr. Pepper, Sugie?” whenever I came to visit.

Granny also used to put out hummingbird feeders; she always had a lot of hummingbirds to watch outside her window.

When Granny lived in Carlsbad, her home was on a dirt road out in the country. Arvel Bolding had some goats that used to crop the grass, and one of them was named Lucille for Granny. There were a lot of mesquite trees and prickly pear cacti around her home.

I vividly remember going to Granny and Grandpa Thurman’s 50th anniversary party in 1979. My mother’s cousins were all there. I was eating nuts from a tray, and my mother’s cousin Billy Thurman (son of Billy Loid Thurman) told me that I couldn’t have any more because I was eating too many. I was so surprised when my grandfather’s parents, Herman and Annie Jennings Cunningham came to the party. It didn’t occur to me that my grandparents’ parents knew each other.

I was not able to go to Granny and Grandpa Thurman’s 60th anniversary party, but my mother went. I did go to their 65th anniversary in 1994. My daughter Sarah was just a baby. We had a nice family reunion with some great mesquite barbecue, and I remember Grandpa Thurman was thrilled to have his first great-great grandchild in attendance.

I also went to their 70th wedding anniversary party. There were quite a few more great-great grandchildren in 1999! Granny’s obituary stated that she had 21 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren, and 20 great-great grandchildren.

Granny was very funny. She liked jokes and had a great sense of humor. Mom recalls that she like wrestling and used to go to matches. She read wrestling magazines when I was little.

Granny always seemed so spry to me. She was one of the toughest people I knew, and I know she hasn’t had an easy life. Grandpa Thurman died in 2003. After Grandpa died, Granny developed leukemia. She fought it for some time, but finally, she told her family that she was tired and ready to go see Ted.

Note: This post is Part 3 in a series on grandparents and other relatives I remember personally in my lifetime.

Scrapbooking Your Family History

Posted in Archiving

Scrapbooking is a very popular hobby. Many scrapbooking enthusiasts create scrapbooks to document events in the lives of their children, vacations, or other special occasions. Genealogy is a tailor-made subject for scrapbooks. Scrapbooking photographs and other mementoes is an excellent way to preserve family history for generations to come. In addition, it is an attractive way to gather information from records, histories, photographs, and other items essential to preserving family history.

Many scrapbooking companies now create product lines just for family history scrapbooks. Try looking in the scrapbooking section of your local craft store or visit one of the many scrapbooking stores. Some alphabet stickers and stamps have been designed to match antique photographs. Special papers and other embellishments can also be found.

A note about materials: in times past, folks used to tape, glue, or rubber cement photographs into albums. These materials are damaging to photographs. Make sure all paper you use is acid-free and lignin-free so that your photos will not be harmed. Use inks that are acid-free, archive quality. Make sure you use glue that is made for scrapbooking, too. Some glues can harm your photographs. There are a wide variety of archive quality glues available. Your safest bet is to choose all materials from the scrapbooking section of your craft store.

Scrapbook pages generally come in two sizes: 12 x 12 inches or 8½ X 11. I prefer to use 12 x 12 pages, which allow more room for creativity. I have also found a wider selection of papers and scrapbooks available in this size. Papers come in a variety of colors. Family history embellishments are often in sepia tones. I have found that these tones look very nice with sepia photographs. However, you are only limited by your creativity. For example, my husband gave me a picture of himself that his grandmother had labeled “Almost two” on the reverse. This is what I did with the picture:

Almost Two

I found some red paper with an interesting texture for the accents and cut out a four-inch strip to run along the side. I found an embellishment that was literally a photgraph of overalls — it was on photo paper. If I had wanted to get really interesting, I might have been able to find an old pair of the kids’ overalls to cut. I trimmed the parts of the photograph I wouldn’t need. I glued the red paper on top of 12 x 12 navy blue card stock, then glued the overall picture on top of the red paper, aligning the edges. I cut out a “frame for the photograph,” glued the frame to the cardstock, and then glued the photo to the frame. I cut out a small piece of paper and stamped “Almost Two” in dark blue ink. I found a cowboy hat embellishment and glued that near the title of the page. It was one of the first scrapbook pages I did.

If you don’t feel very creative, there are a number of scrapbooking magazines and materials that demonstrate how to create layouts. All you need to do is copy the layout.

Suggestions for inclusion:

  • A family tree
  • Recipes
  • Histories and/or biographies
  • Photograph stories
  • Birth, death, marriage, and other vital records
  • Baptismal, confirmation, bar/bat mitzvah records

It is a good idea to handwrite some of the information in your scrapbook. It lends a personal touch, and the generations that follow may appreciate having an heirloom in your own handwriting.

Here are some more samples from my Family History scrapbook:

Glamour Girl

For this page, I used archive paper designed to look like an old newspaper, not an actual newspaper. Newspaper is made on low quality paper with low quality ink (which is why it fades and smudges so easily). If you want to save a newspaper article in a scrapbook, I would suggest making sure it doesn’t touch photographs or other mementoes. Be aware that there might not be much you can do to preserve the newpaper’s quality, but you might try techniques mentioned here and here. I glued the picture of my great-grandmother to the paper, then I cut a small piece of brown paper and hand-lettered the words “Glamour Girl,” copying letters from a computer font. Then I hand wrote “Lucille Inez Willis, age 13, 1927.” I glued the brown pieces of paper above and below the photograph.


This is a very special picture of my great-grandfather, Herman, and his son (my great-uncle Alvin). Alvin had joined the Army in WWII, and my great-grandfather pulled out his WWI uniform. They posed in their respective uniforms for this picture. You may be able to tell that the background paper I chose for this has a military theme. I used a dark brown card stock for the frame. I cut out the frame and glued the picture to it, then I glued it down on the scrapbook paper. Then I spelled out the word “Uniforms” in old-fashioned alphbet stickers onto a piece of the dark brown card stock. Then I trimmed the card stock around the letters and glued it to the page. For embellishments, I chose a postcard sticker written in French “Carte Postale” and handwrote “Herman and Alvin Cunningham — World War Veterans circa 1941.” I placed the sticker on the page. Finally, I found a sticker of a French stamp and put it near the bottom of the page. I chose the French postcard and stamp because much of both World Wars were fought in France. I do not know that Alvin was in France in WWII, but I know Herman was in WWI.

Paper Dolls

For this page, I found two pictures of my mother and her paper dolls. I created a paper doll out of card stock and made a dress for the doll with a different color and some stickers. I spelled out the words “Paper Dolls” using old-fashioned looking alphabet stickers and placed all the items on the page at angles.


For this page, I created frames out of parchment card stock. I glued the photos to frames and embellished them with button stickers. I spelled out the Jennings name and year in old-fashioned alphabet stickers. I am not certain about this day, by the way; John B. Jennings and Lucinda Fannie Curry married in 1865 and he was killed in 1875. I split the difference. If anyone has a correction for me, don’t hesitate to let me know. It is an easy matter for me to correct the date. Often, scrapbooking stickers are easy to peel off without damaging paper or photos underneath.

Here are some resources for scrapbooking your family history:

Annie Lola Jennings Cunningham

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, and Photographs

Annie Lola Jennings CunninghamMy great-grandmother, Annie Lola Jennings Cunningham, died when I was ten. As with my great-grandfather, Herman Cunningham, I don’t have many memories of her because I lived in Colorado and she lived in Texas, but, as with my great-grandfather, I do remember her.

Annie Lola Jennings was born October 4, 1899 in Tulia, Swisher County, Texas. Her grandmother, Lucinda Fannie Curry Jennings, moved west to Texas from Alabama in the summer of 1880, after her husband, John B. Jennings, was murdered. Family legend says she feared her sons would seek revenge against the man who killed their father one day unless she moved them away. John B. Jennings and Lucinda Fannie Curry had five children: Alpha Jennings, Daisie Z. Jennings, Veto Curry Jennings (Annie’s father), Richard Otto Jennings, and Worth Alston Jennings.

One of the things I will always remember about Granny (as I called my great-grandmother) is that every time I visited her she told me that her father had the same birthday as I did — September 17. I was a child and couldn’t be less interested in some old dead man’s birthday (as I thought at the time). I could tell that Granny thought this was special, and also that she didn’t realize she had already told me (or else thought I didn’t remember). Now I feel ashamed of feeling like that, but I was just a child, so I suppose I can be forgiven. Later, when I found my great-grandmother on the 1900 census, I found in the row next to her father’s name that he was born in September 1869. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. I realized, looking at the microfilm, that I knew exactly what day in September because Granny had told me so many times. For the first time in my genealogical research, I connected these names with living, breathing people. It was a profound moment for me.

Veto Curry Jennings married Mary A. Silla Stallings (b. March 31, 1872) on December 2, 1888 in Fannin County, Texas. They had six children: Lennice Jennings, Lee Orman Jennings, Frank Gray Jennings, Annie Lola Jennings, Daisy Eysel Jennings, and Mary Ethel Jennings. There is also a Lela May Jennings born September 13, 1892 buried in the family plot at Rose Hill Cemetery in Tulia, Swisher County, Texas. She may be a daughter who died at birth or shortly thereafter.

Granny’s grandmother, Lucinda Fannie Curry Jennings was living with her son Veto Curry Jennings at the time of her death on September 18, 1912. Granny and her sisters found their grandmother. Mary A. Silla Stallings Jennings, Granny’s mother, had died two years before on June 18, 1910. Veto Curry Jennings remarried Venera L. Cluck . She was known in the family as “Aunt Jenny”; it was she who suggested the name Udell for my grandfather after a book she liked, Harold Bell Wright’s That Printer of Udell’s.

Annie Jennings became a teacher and met her future husband, Herman Cunningham, when she boarded at the Cunningham house. It was in this same way that Herman Cunningham’s parents, Amos Blakey Cunningham and Stella Ophelia Bowling met; she was a teacher and boarded with a number of county families, including the Cunninghams, in the 1890’s.

Annie Jennings and Herman Cunningham married on June 20, 1920 in Tulia, Swisher County, Texas. These photographs were taken on their wedding day:

Cunninghams' Wedding

Cunninghams' Wedding

My mother’s cousin Connie Luene Reed Bertrand, is currently in possession of Granny’s wedding dress. According to Connie Lue,

It is navy with handmade pleats and lace and all. It is in pretty bad shape, but I can’t throw it away.

It seems that after Papaw [note: I have only ever seen Herman’s nickname spelled Pa Pa, and this is how I remember it being spelled on the funeral wreath at his wake/viewing] died, Granny may have taken his death worse than any of us knew. Carolyn [Carolyn Cunningham, Annie’s daughter] came home from work one day and found this wedding dress in the trash barrel. Luckily, Granny had not burned the trash (you may not know that in the olden days, folks around here burned their own trash and garbage in large metal barrels). Carolyn didn’t ask her about it. She just took the dress out of the trash and hid it from Granny until she came to work, here in Floydada, the next day. Carolyn called me and I came to get it and still have it.

We thought that maybe she was angry with Papaw for dying. I’ve heard of that and it would make sense that she did do that. As far as I know, she never mentioned throwing the dress away to anyone and never knew that Carolyn had saved it.

If you ever are in the neighborhood, you MUST come by and see this dress. Mom showed me some of the features of the dress and explained why it was made the way it was. One of the features is a maternity feature. She made it for an “all occasion” dress since they were poor. It is very ingenious. And it is very beautiful.

I know that my great-grandmother and her daughter Flois were both seamstresses. My grandmother told me about showing Granny some dresses she had made for my mother in order to earn her approval. Granny was somewhat notorious in her dislike for her daughters and sons-in-law; she had been known to refer to them as her “out-laws.” My mother, however, says that she was very loving and gentle with her grandchildren, and that is how I remember her, too.

Mom says that when she was little and scraped her knee, she preferred to go to Granny to get fixed up rather than her own mother. She insisted that although Granny and my grandmother did the same thing — put Campho-Phenique and a bandage on the scrape — Granny blew on it, which Mom insists prevented it from hurting.

Granny always sent me a card for my birthday. I remember one year that she sent me some toy cars as a gift; I can no longer remember if it was a birthday or Christmas gift, but I think it was Christmas. I wrote a thank-you note and showed it to my mother. Mom was aghast because she felt that my letter was rude. I remember what I said, and Mom was right. I told Granny “Thank you for the cars, but we are not boys.” Mom made me rewrite it, so thank goodness I never sent that rude letter to my Granny! My edited letter was much more gracious.

I will always remember Granny in her kitchen. Even in her 80’s, her hair was jet black. My grandfather heard the family had Cherokee ancestry. He believed himself, according to family legend, to be 1/8 Cherokee through his mother’s family. If this were true, Granny would have been 1/4 Cherokee, meaning one of her grandparents — John B. Jennings, Lucinda Fannie Curry, John Thomas Stallings, or Sarah Long Thomas would have been full-blooded Cherokee. I can find absolutely no corroboration for this. I don’t entirely discount that there may be Cherokee ancestry, as my grandmother had dark skin, eyes, and hair, as well as high cheekbones, that are common features of Native Americans, but I can find no proof that Annie had a Native American grandparent, and such stories should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

Granny used to make orange Kool-Aid for Pa Pa (my great-grandfather). My mother asked Granny if she might make another flavor some time, but Granny insisted that was what Pa Pa liked.

Granny also used to tat lace. She tatted snowflake Christmas ornaments that several family members have. She also used to crochet. She made booties for me when I was a baby. I still have one bootie (it’s mate, sadly, has been lost in various moves we have made). It is in good condition except the ties used to have balls on the ends that have fallen off. My own daughters wore these booties, but the mate had been lost by the time my son was born.

I only remember visiting Granny a few times before she died on April 8, 1982. She had a stroke. My aunt Carolyn found her when she came home. She entered the hospital and had a second stroke some days later, which was the cause of her death. Many family members believe that she simply didn’t want to live without Pa Pa. He died eight days before their 60th wedding anniversary.

I remember going to her funeral, but not as clearly as Pa Pa’s. For instance, I do not remember going to a viewing, though we probably had one, and I do not remember the service at all, as I remember Pa Pa’s. My recollections are very vague.

As with my great-grandfather, I wish I had been able to know her better, but I suppose I am fortunate to have known her at all.


Bertrand, Connie Lue. “Cunningham Picture.” E-mail to Dana Huff. 5 Aug. 2005.

Jennings, Jan. 2006. Descendants of John B. Jennings. (PDF version of document sent in e-mail to Dana Huff, 24 Jul. 2006).

Note: This post is Part 2 in a series on grandparents and other relatives I remember personally in my lifetime.

Herman Cunningham

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories

Herman CunninghamMy great-grandfather, Herman Cunningham, died when I was not quite nine. I don’t have many memories of him, as he lived in Texas and I lived in Colorado. However, I do remember some things, and this post is a biography of my great-grandfather focusing on all of my memories with a bit of what I’ve learned from others.

Herman Cunningham was born on March 16, 1895 in Lewisville, Denton County, Texas. The Cunninghams had moved to Texas from Georgia, where Herman’s father Amos Blakey Cunningham, was born. I am not certain when the Cunninghams moved to Georgia, mainly because of the loss of the 1890 Census, but I am certain it was between 1878 and 1894, as Herman’s parents married that year in Collin County, Texas.

Herman served in the Army in World War I. He spent most of his tour of duty in the hospital with spinal meningitis. My grandfather told me that Herman was one of only two who survived this meningitis outbreak; Herman exchanged Christmas cards with the other survivor for years.

Herman met his future wife Annie Jennings while she was boarding at his parents’ house. Annie was a school teacher. Herman and Annie married on June 20, 1920 in Tulia, Swisher County, Texas. The Cunninghams lived in Tulia until 1931; their first three children, Alvin, Udell, and Flois, were all born in Tulia. Nelda Gene and Carolyn were born in Lockney, after the family moved to Floyd County.

My grandfather also told me that his father worked for the W.P.A. during the Depression:

My dad worked on the W.P.A. He rode a truck to Lubbock where they were making what turned out to be Lubbock Air Field. It is now the municipal airport. Reese Air Base was 10-12 miles west of Lubbock.

I can recall visiting my great-grandparents’ farm when I was small. By that time, it was somewhat run down. There was an old windmill that I used to climb with my second cousins, Angie and Misty Bertrand, and there always seemed to be kittens in the barn. All of my great-grandfather’s grandchildren called him Pa Pa, me included. Pa Pa smoked a pipe most of his life. His farm was littered with discarded Prince Albert tobacco cans. Pa Pa used to whittle. He created all kinds of interesting things out of pits, seeds, shells, and bits of wood. I remember he used to hollow out walnut shells so they looked like basket s and glue blue Tic Tacs inside to look like robin’s eggs. He also carved peach pits into tiny baskets. He made tiny owls out of wood and some type of seed or pit I couldn’t identify. My most special memory of Pa Pa involves him taking me out to the side yard personally, and pointing at a hole in the tree. He smiled as I looked inside and found one of his little owls. I remember feeling special to have been singled out for attention from my great-grandfather. I also remember feeling like showing me the owl was a present. I remember Pa Pa’s smile so clearly.

My mother reports that Pa Pa only liked orange Kool-Aid, so that was the only flavor Granny (my great-grandmother Annie) would make. I recall when I went to visit them that they always seemed to have those little red hot candies in their candy dish, so Pa Pa must have liked those, too.

My great-grandparents’ house was very old. It had no hallways: each room opened into another. It was quite small. My grandfather told me his parents paid $500 for the house some time in the 1930’s. The one feature that stood out to me as a child was that the bathroom had one of those commodes with the tank up high. You had to pull the chain to flush. It was a real novelty to us kids!

The house also had a really low-slung tree in the front yard. The trees where I lived were all too tall to climb, but this one was easy to climb. I loved to get into the tree and see how high I could get.

I remember how surprised I was when Granny and Pa Pa appeared at the 50th wedding anniversary party of my other great-grandparents, Ted and Lucille Thurman (my grandmother’s parents). It never occurred to me that they knew each other! I realize now how silly this was, as they lived near each other in Lockney for some time and their children had married, but as my own maternal and paternal grandparents had no interaction, I suppose I thought everyone else’s were like that.

Pa Pa also used to grow sunflowers. My daughter Maggie, who is currently five, selected sunflowers to grow in her garden this year. We planted them late — about a month ago. I have been watering the flowers every day. They are about a foot tall now. Every time I see sunflowers, I think of my great-grandfather, so he has been much on my mind lately.

I do clearly remember going to his funeral. Pa Pa died of emphysema. He was 85. I recall seeing one of those funeral wreaths with a large ribbon that said “Pa Pa” across it. The wreath was near his casket during the viewing, which as a small child, I remembered being somewhat scary and disturbing (hence, my own desire not to have anyone looking at me after I’m gone). I do recall my grandmother and mother crying during the funeral, and I felt very bad that I wasn’t. His was the first funeral I had gone to.

I do wish I had been able to know him better, but I suppose not that many people get to know their great-grandparents well, and I was fortunate to have some time with him.

Note: This post is Part 1 in a series on grandparents and other relatives I remember personally in my lifetime.

Penelope Who?

Posted in Research Questions

I have a long-standing mystery on my hands. As I noted in my post showing my relationship to Mark Twain, I descend from the Clark family, Quakers who emigrated to Virginia via Barbados. Christopher Clark was born in 1681 in Nansemond County, Virginia, following his family’s immigration. His wife was named Penelope, but aside from this fact, we know very little about who she was. There are three main theories as to her birth family, but none have been proven conclusively using primary sources.

The most accepted theory is that Penelope was Penelope Johnson, daughter of Edward Johnson and Elizabeth Walker. There is only one recorded transcription in St. Peter’s Parish’s register listing the name Penelope:

Penelope Daughter of Edw’d Johnson Eliz. Na– ye 4 day of Agost & bapt. Ye 17 of ye instant, 1684.

This Penelope is of the right age and in the right location to be Mrs. Christopher Clark. One early source for Penelope as a Johnson is the work of Lorand V. Johnson, a doctor whose interest in genealogy led him to trace his family history to the 1300’s in Scotland. Unfortunately, there may be holes in Dr. Johnson’s research. For example, there is scant proof that Penelope’s father, Edward, was the son of Dr. Arthur Johnston as reported by Dr. Johnson. Acceptance of Edward Johnson as a son of Arthur Johnston hinges primarily upon a letter by Elizabeth Forbes Johnston Keith, who is proven to be Arthur Johnston’s niece, daughter of his brother William Johnston. Elizabeth wrote a letter to Mary Harris, a Quaker missionary, before the 1686 meeting in which she referred to “my cousin Edward Johnston,” who would be accompanying Ann Keith to Virginia. Researchers have sifted through Johnston family records in search of another Edward who could be the cousin Elizabeth refers to no avail. Edward could not have been Elizabeth’s second cousin, as her grandfather had no siblings. Thus, Edward must have been her first cousin. However, this is not conclusive proof of Edward’s connection to the Johnstons of Caskieben.

The second theory is that Penelope was Penelope Bolling, daughter of Major John Bolling and Mary Kennon. So far, researchers have been unable to locate a Penelope who could be the daugther of John and Mary Bolling in records. Strong circumstantial evidence for this theory is that the given name “Bolling” for sons was prominent in the Clark/Anthony allied families for generations.

  1. Bolling Clark, son of Christopher Clark and Penelope, 1720-1813
  2. Bolling Clark, son of Bolling Clark and Winifred Buford, dates unknown
  3. Bolling Clark, son of Micajah Clark and Judith Lewis Adams, 1751-1818
  4. Bolling Anthony, son of Joseph Anthony and Elizabeth Clark, 1769-1827
  5. Bolling Blakey, son of Churchill Blakey and Agnes Anthony, abt. 1793-?

There may be many more Bollings in the family that I have not found as my focus has been on my direct lineage. The preponderance of Bollings in the family suggests some strong connection between the Bolling and Clark families. It need not be relation, but it should be noted that the name Bolling as a given name is certainly rare enough that it is safe to say our first Bolling Clark was named for someone with the surname Bolling. To many, it makes sense that this is his mother’s maiden name. The absence of a Penelope Bolling in Bolling family records and official records is troubling. If Penelope is connected to the Bollings, she would descend from Pocahontas.

The final theory is that Penelope was Penelope Massie, a descendant of Sir Anthony Ashley. His daughter Ann Ashley married Sir John Cooper. They were the parents of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the Earl of Shaftsbury. All of the Massie lines connect to this line. Tradition in the Moorman family (Christopher Clark’s mother was Sallie Ann or Sarah Moorman and his daughter Rachel married Thomas Moorman) says that there were three Massie women who descend not from Anthony Ashley-Cooper’s direct line, but from those of his sister. One woman, Sarah, married William Johnson, who was the father of Benjamin Johnson. He married Agnes Clark, the daughter of Christopher and Penelope. A second Massie married a Moorman. The third Massie woman was said to be Penelope. Johnson tradition holds that Benjamin Johnson married his first cousin, which Agnes would be if her mother was a Massie and sister to Sarah Massie. The name Penelope does seem to occur throughout the Massie family, despite the fact that researchers have said no Penelope Massies could be found in Virginia records. Sarah Penelope Massie was born in 1672 to Peter Massie and Penelope Ashley-Cooper (said to the the illegitimate daughter of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, First Earl of Shaftsbury. However, as the Johnson and Massie lines appear to be related, it stands to reason that Penelope could likewise have been a Johnson. No information I could find relates that Peter Massie and Penelope Ashley-Cooper had a daughter named Penelope.

The problem is that many records from Colonial Virginia have been lost. In the words of Linda Starr, researcher into the Clark/Moorman lines,

Almost twenty years ago when I became interested in genealogy, I rather quickly backed my mother-in-law’s line to Breckinridge County, Kentucky. The Archives there located a pedigree chart in their surname file, taking the Clark line back to Virginia. Although it was bare-boned, showing names but few dates and even fewer county names, it did go back to Christopher and Penelope Clark, Charles and Elizabeth Moorman and Robert and Mourning Adams. For Penelope’s surname, the compiler appended a brief note: “either Massie, Bolling or Johnson.” And that’s where we still are due to the destruction of relevant records. Some members of this group lean toward her being a Bolling, others are firmly convinced she was kin to Lord Shaftsbury, and still others think she was a Johnson.

Researchers at Colonial Virginia Connections, who rely on “primary and ‘good’ secondary sources” and are required to “cite their sources” seem to feel that Penelope is most likely a Johnson, although, as we have seen, researcher Linda Starr admits that “we have no documentary proof for any of these [lines].”

One thing we do have in our favor is the propensity in these families to name children after relatives. The name Penelope occurs again (the first two are Penelope ? Clark’s granddaughters):

  • Penelope Clark, daughter of Micajah Clark and Judith Lewis Adams, 1747-?
  • Penelope Anthony, daughter of Joseph Anthony and Elizabeth Clark, 1748-1822
  • Penelope Blakey, daughter of Churchill Blakey and Agnes Anthony (Penelope’s granddaughter), abt. 1803-?
  • Mary Ann Penelope Anthony, daughter of Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony and Ann Blakey Roberts, 1835-1917

If we can, as researcher Heather Olsen noted, find a family with a number of Penelopes in it, we may be able to connect that family to our Penelope.

Mary Ann Penelope Anthony descends from Christopher Clark and Penelope ? through three lines:

Christopher Clark (1681-1754) and Penelope (presumably 1684-1760)

+ Micajah Clark (1718-1808) m. Judith Lewis Adams (1716-?)

++ Elizabeth Ann Clark (1754-after 1810) m. Joseph Anthony (1750-1810)

+++ Micajah Anthony (1782-abt. 1850) m. Rebecca Williams (1782-1832)

++++ Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony (1808-1868) m. Ann Blakey Roberts (1810-1873)

+++++ Mary Ann Penelope Anthony (1835-1917)

+ Elizabeth Clark (1721-1825) m. Joseph Anthony (1713-1785)

++ Joseph Anthony (1750-1810) m. Elizabeth Ann Clark (1754-after 1810)

+++ Micajah Anthony (1782-abt. 1850) m. Rebecca Williams (1782-1832)

++++ Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony (1808-1868) m. Ann Blakey Roberts (1810-1873)

+++++ Mary Ann Penelope Anthony (1835-1917)

++ Agnes Anthony (1761-?) m. Churchill Blakey (1760-1837)

+++ Elizabeth Blakey (1788-?) m. Thomas Roberts (1785-?)

++++ Ann Blakey Roberts (1810-1873) m. Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony (1808-1868)

+++++ Mary Ann Penelope Anthony (1835-1917).

Mary Ann Penelope Anthony is my great-great-great grandmother and is picture below in the middle of the bottom row.


I think all three lineages for Penelope are equally interesting and would be proud to claim any one of them. I just wish I knew which one to claim! Chances are I never will.

Presidential Genealogy

Posted in Genealogy and History

I stumbled upon the Wikipedia article detailing relationships between presidents of the United States. I found this snippet interesting:

The most recent common ancestor of all persons of Western European descent may be as recent as 1000 AD, according to mathematical modeling (from Comments on Royal Descent at Computational scientist Mark Humphrys believes that everyone in the West is almost certainly descended from Charlemagne, and nearly as certainly descended from Muhammad, or even less well-known historical figures such as Strongbow (from The “Bush is Descended from Strongbow” Media Flurry of Jan. 2005). Many family trees going back ten generations or more will connect to more than one dozen U.S. Presidents, if all female ancestors and their descendants are traced. This list should be of the closer, more significant relationships that have notable qualities.

I remember how excited I was to find my own connections to Charlemagne and Strongbow, among other illustrious antecedents. Somehow it comforts me to see that just about everyone else can make those connections, too.

Update: Thanks to Chris, I found another interesting article in the same vein.

Way More Than Six Degrees, Part 2

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories

Tennessee Williams I recently posted about my distant relationship (Twain would laugh about it, I’m sure) to Mark Twain. Imagine my surprise to discover I am connected to another of my favorite American writers, Tennessee Williams.

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was born Thomas Lanier Williams to Cornelius Coffin Williams, a traveling shoe salesman, and Edwina Dakin Williams. His troubled family life proved fertile ground for his writing later. Tennessee had an older sister, Rose, who suffered from schizophrenia and served as the model for Laura in The Glass Menagerie. Rose spent most of her life in mental hospitals. She never recovered from a lobotomy in 1943. Tennessee also had a younger brother, Walter Dakin (known as Dakin).

Cornelius Coffin Williams (1879-1957) was born to Thomas Lanier Williams II (1849-1908) and Isabella Coffin (1853-1884).

Williams' grandparents

Tennessee’s grandfather was the Commissioner of Railroads for Tennessee.

Thomas Lanier Williams II was born to Col. John Williams (1818-1881) and Rhoda Campbell Morgan (1819-1867).

John WilliamsJohn Williams was born to John Williams (1778-1837) and Melinda White (1789-1838). John Williams, Sr. was known as “Prince John.” He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and served in the U.S. Senate from 1815-1823. Melinda White’s father was General James White, who founded the city of Knoxville, TN.

John Williams, Sr. was born to Col. Joseph Williams (1748-1827) and Rebekah Lanier (1757-1832). Joseph Williams was known as the “Duke of Surry.” His family settled in Surry County, NC. Col. Williams was a colonel in the Colonial Army, but resigned his commission when the Revolutionary War broke out and became a colonel in the Continental Army.

Joseph Williams was born to Nathaniel Williams (1712-1763) and Elizabeth Washington (1717-?).

Nathaniel Williams was born to John Williams (1679-1755) and Mary (most likely Mary Keeling, 1684-1730). John Williams emigrated to America from Llangollen, Wales, most likely in the 1690’s. He first settled in York County, Virginia, on Queen’s Creek. He later moved his family to Hanover County, where he built his home, “Studley,” before 1712.


The above drawing of “Studley” is from Appleton’s Cyclopedia, 1888, via Early Descendants of John Williams, “The Wealthy Welshman” of Hanover County, Virginia.

John Williams was also the father of my ancestor, Joseph Williams (1721-1792). Many of my ancestors allied with the Williams line, including the Anthonys, moved from Virginia to Georgia and settled in the Wilkes/Elbert/Oglethorpe/Madison counties. Joseph Williams married Henrietta Jouett, a descendant of Daniel Jouett, who emigrated to Plymouth, England after the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685. Jouett later emigrated to Rhode Island (1686), and it is said that he is the ancestor of most Jouetts/Jewetts in America.

Joseph Williams and Henrietta Jouett were the parents of Matthew Jouett Williams (1749-1818). Matthew Jouett Williams married Barbara Walker (1754-1817). Matthew Jouett Williams was apparently visiting relatives in Surry County, NC. when he died. His will was proven in Elbert County, GA. on January 15, 1819.

Matthew Jouett Williams and Barbara Walker were the parents of Rebecca Williams (1782-1832). Rebecca married Micajah Anthony (1782-about 1850), son of Joseph Anthony, Jr. (1750-1810) and Elizabeth Ann Clark (1754-after 1810). Micajah Anthony and Rebecca Williams were the parents of Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony (1808-1868).

Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony married his second cousin, Ann Blakey Roberts (1810-1873). They were the parents of Mary Ann Penelope Anthony (1835-1917). For some strange reason, it seems to be through this ancestor that most of my really “interesting” ancestors and connections form.

Mary Ann Penelope Anthony married Johnson Franklin Cunningham (1823-1899) in Madison County, Georgia in 1851. In the picture below, Johnson Franklin Cunningham and Mary Ann Penelope Anthony Cunningham are seated in the bottom row.


In the back row on the far right is Amos Blakey Cunningham (1871-1962). He married Stella Ophelia Bowling (1867-1938) in 1894.

Cunningham wedding

They were the parents of Herman Cunningham (1895-1980). He married Annie Lola Jennings (1899-1982) in 1920.

Herman Cunningham and Annie Jennings were the parents of my grandfather, Udell Oliver Cunningham.

Herman Cunningham was the sixth cousin of Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams; thus, I am Tennessee Williams’ sixth cousin three times removed (see chart below).

Relation to Tennessee Williams

Yes, in other words, hardly related. I still think it’s cool. And I have a feeling if ol’ Tennessee were still around and I ran into him somewhere and told him I figured this out, he’d get a kick out of it. He was “openly proud” of his family history (Leverich 9). However, I have a feeling Mark Twain might have agreed more with Tennessee’s father Cornelius on the matter — “Bragging about ancestors is like bragging about potatoes: The best part is underground” (qtd. in Leverich 9).


Leverich, Lyle. Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995.

Williams, Scott K. Early Descendants of John Williams, “The Wealthy Welshman” of Hanover County, Virginia. 22 Mar 2006. 18 July 2006 <>.

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