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Month: August 2006

Roscoe M. Payne

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

In researching my great-great-grandmother’s former beau, John William Tolleson, I was most interested to discover some of his family members living today are genealogists. My grandfather’s cousin Mary had some letters that she believed were from John William Tolleson; however, once she took them out of storage, she realized they were actually from Roscoe M. Payne. It turns out that my great-great-grandmother Stella was popular!

After reading the letters, I can verify that Stella was, indeed, engaged to Roscoe M. Payne. It seems that their falling out had something to do with his running a pool hall, which was associated with other vices such as alcohol; however, it is not clear (and he vehemently denies) that Roscoe M. Payne himself had a drinking problem.

As with John William Tolleson, I was able to discover at least one genealogist related to Roscoe M. Payne, with a Family Tree Maker website. It was last updated two years ago, but I will try to contact the page’s owner, Ora Mae Byers. If you are descended from Roscoe Payne or related to him, I would love to hear from you.

I located Roscoe M. Payne in a One-World Tree family tree. A caveat: information in these trees varies from the precisely accurate to the totally inaccurate, depending upon the genealogist compiling the information. It would appear that the genealogist(s) concerned with this branch of the Payne family descend from Roscoe’s sisters Terry Alberta Payne and Belle Payne.

According to this family tree, Roscoe Miller Payne was born January 20, 1864 in Texas. His father was Jones William Payne, who was born August 6, 1830 in Bridgeport, Jackson County, Alabama, and his mother was Harriet Smith, who was born July 19, 1834 in Smithfield, Henry County, Kentucky. They married in Rockwall County, Texas on April 29, 1855. I verified this information through‘s U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900.

One curious coincidence: Stella’s father was named William Jones Bowling and her beau Roscoe’s father was named Jones William Payne. Stella had an aunt named Panthea Kennedy who married a George Payne. I do not know if he is related to Jones William Payne, but according to the family tree I found, he does not have a brother named George. However, I must emphasize again that the accuracy of these trees varies widely, and often researchers do not include family members from whom they do not descend.

Stella does mention Roscoe in her diary:

  • November 28, 1893: In eve Uncle Jeff came by and brought me two letters, one from Rosco & one from Sadie & my Chautauquan
  • December 10, 1893: Wrote to Rosco.
  • January 19, 1894: At noon came up to house & had two letters one from Rosco other from Edna.
  • January 20, 1894: Rosco came down to Aunt P. and invited us to a party at Mr. Payne’s [this is probably Jones William Payne].
  • February 4, 1894: Finished my letters to Edna and Rosco and wrote one home.
  • February 14, 1894: Valentine’s Day, I received a letter from Rosco, one from Mary Hutton & one from Annie Price.
  • March 4, 1894: Wrote a letter home & one to Rosco.
  • March 28, 1894: Wrote to Rosco and told of my going to marry.
  • April 24, 1894: Wrote to Rosco and started to write to Mary but did not finish.
  • May 25, 1894: Got a letter from Rosco.
  • June 5, 1894: I got a letter from Sarah Buster & one from Rosco they [the letters] had been sent to Allen.

Though the spelling Stella uses is different from that used in records I found, I believe this is probably the same person. Stella was inconsistent with spelling (and, indeed, so are many official records of the era). I do find it interesting that Roscoe visited Stella’s aunt Panthea Kennedy Payne with an invitation to a family at Mr. Payne’s house. I do believe there may be a connection between Roscoe’s family and Panthea’s in-laws, but I do not know what it is just yet.

Let’s go backwards with the most recent census record I could find. This is Roscoe M. Payne and family in the 1920 census of Rockwall County, Texas (City of Rockwall):

R.M. Payne, 1920 Census, Rockwall County, Texas

From this census, we learn that Roscoe Payne was 54 years old, owned his home on Fannin St., and was a Real Estate Agent. His father was born in Alabama, and his mother was born in Kentucky, but he himself was born in Texas. This means that his family came to Texas relatively early.

Roscoe’s wife Lula was 48. She was born in North Carolina, as were both of her parents. Roscoe and Lula had two sons living with them — Frank, who was 17 and a clerk, but I cannot read the type of workplace, and Jimmie, who was 12. Both children were born in Texas.

In 1910, we find Roscoe Payne and family in the same town and county. He is not yet on Fannin St., but must be nearby, because Fannin St. families appear just before families on his street in the census. The name of Roscoe’s street is indecipherable, but starts with San–.

Roscoe M. Payne, 1910 Census, Rockwall County, Texas

From this census, we learn that Roscoe is 45. His birthplace and parents’ birthplaces are the same as on the 1920 census, but it appears the census-taker originally wrote “Pennsylvania” for his father’s birthplace and wrote “Alabama” on top of it. His occupation as listed on this census is Deputy Sheriff for Rockwall County.

Roscoe’s wife Lula E. Payne was 39 in this census, and her birthplace and parents’ birthplaces are the same. She and Roscoe have been married 15 years (which dates their marriage to about 1894), and she has given birth to five children, four of whom survive. In this census, we find two more sons that must have moved out and established their own homes by 1920. These are Roscoe and Lula Payne’s children in 1910:

  1. Roscoe B. Payne, age 14
  2. William L. Payne, age 12
  3. Frank C. Payne, age 8
  4. Jimmie S. Payne, age 2

All of the children were born in Texas. I think it is safe to assume that these four children are the four surviving children referred to on the census.

Interestingly, two prisoners were enumerated with Roscoe’s family: Dee Pipes, a black male, age 30, who was married, born in Texas, parents born in Texas; and Maynard Abe, a white male, age 65, single, born in Texas, parents born in Texas. Also interesting is that Roscoe Payne’s neighbor is a Real Estate Agent. Could his neighbor have convinced Roscoe to give this career a try after his tenure as Deputy Sheriff ended?

In 1900, we find Roscoe and family in the same town and county.

Roscoe M. Payne, 1900 Census, Rockwall County, Texas

In this census, Roscoe is said to have been born in Jan. 1865 (family researchers believed it to have been 1864, and I am not sure which year is correct). He is 35 years old and has been married for five years. His birthplace and that of his parents is the same. His occupation is “Jailor.”

Lula Payne’s birth month and year was listed as March 1871, and she is 29 years old. I believe her birthplace and that of her parents is the same, but it does appear that her birthplace could read “South Carolina.” The writing is difficult to read. In this census, she has two children, two of whom survive. Their names are Buford (age 4, born July 1895) and Leroy W. (age 2, born September 1897). Both boys were born in Texas. Though the names are different, I believe these children are Roscoe B. Payne and William L. Payne, listed in 1910. It is possible that the older son was “Roscoe Buford Payne” and the younger was “William Leroy Payne” or “Leroy William Payne.”

Once again the Paynes have a prisoner enumerated with their household: Will Woods, a black male, born unknown, married for 6 years, born in Texas, father born in Virginia (mother’s birthplace unknown).

The 1890 Census is unavailable.

In 1880, Roscoe is living in the village of Servisville (most likely this is Lewisville, but if so, the “L” looks a lot like an “S”) in Denton County, Texas with his parents, Jones W. (age 50) and Harriett (age 45). Jones Payne and his parents were born in Alabama. This is interesting to note, as Panthea Kennedy Payne’s family lived in Lauderdale County, Alabama for some time. It may be a clue as to a connection between Panthea’s in-laws and Roscoe’s family. Harriett Payne is said to have been born in Kentucky and her parents in Virginia. Jones W. Payne is a farmer. Jones and Harriett Payne have the following children, all born in Texas:

  1. M. Belle Payne, age 19 (daughter)
  2. Roscoe M. Payne, age 15 (son), assisting on farm
  3. Fannie Payne, age 10 (daughter)
  4. Jones M. Payne, age 8 (son)
  5. T. Alberta Payne, age 6 (daughter)

Enumerated with the family is also Frank McClure, age 22, Servant, born in Texas. Here is the image of that census record:

Roscoe M. Payne, 1880 Census, Denton County, Texas

Jones W. Payne and his family appear in the 1870 Census of Kaufman County, Texas. Jones W. Payne is 39 and a farmer. His real estate was valued at $1500 and his personal real estate was valued at $500. He was born in Alabama. His wife Harriet is 35 and born in Kentucky. A note about the different spellings of Harriet’s name: I am not sure whether it is correctly spelled with one “t” or two, but such errors are relatively common in historical records. I transcribed the spellings used in the records. I have learned not to be bothered by such inconsistencies in historical records.

Jones and Harriet had the following children, all born in Texas:

  1. Emily J. Payne, age 13
  2. Melissa B. Payne, age 9 [most likely the M. Belle Payne listed in the 1880 census; the age fits]
  3. Roscoe M. Payne, age 5
  4. Fannie Payne, age 1/12 (born in May)
  5. Mary Davis, age 14

Census image:

Roscoe M. Payne, 1870 Census, Kaufman County, Texas

I have seen some references in the One-World Family Tree files for this family that seem to indicate Harriet may have been married to a person with the surname Davis prior to marrying Jones. She is variously named “Harriet Davis,” “Harriet Smith” or “Harriet Smith Davis.” However, the marriage record I found for the Paynes was dated 1855. I discovered Jones and Harriet Payne in the home of their son-in-law David McCombs in 1910 in Kent County, Texas:

Jones W. Payne, 1900 Census, Kent County, Texas

According to this census record, Jones and Harriet Payne had been married 53 years. Their probable year of marriage according to this record was 1857. If the 1857 date is correct, it would seem that the dates on the other census records indicate a blended family, with Emily J. Payne possibly being their first child together. At any rate, the 1910 census does indicate that Harriet Payne’s marriage to Jones is her second, while it is his first. Harriet gave birth to 10 children, 5 of whom still survive in 1910.

According to Ora Mae Byers’ website, Roscoe Miller Payne died June 6, 1930 in Abilene, Taylor County, Texas, which may explain why I didn’t find him on the 1930 census. Byers believed his wife’s maiden name to be Lula Ellen Holt. I can find no reference to a Lula or anyone surnamed Holt in Stella’s diary.

I believe that I have identified all of my great-great-grandmother Stella’s fiancés at this point, and I must say, learning more about her life before my great-great-grandfather Amos Cunningham has been very interesting, and I want to thank my grandfather’s cousin Mary and fellow genealogists (not to mention for making my search so fruitful.

Blogging Family History, Part 2

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, and Genealogy 101

Computer GenealogyI have been thinking about how to respond to Jasia’s call for posts about writing the family history for the Carnival of Genealogy. In some ways, I do feel like I began a discussion of writing the family history in a recent post about blogging family history. However, I noticed that in that post, I mainly celebrated the fact that the Internet made it possible to access and share information so quickly and that I was enjoying other genealogy blogs.

Jasia asks genealogy bloggers whether they have tried to write the family history. I suppose I would argue that the purpose of this blog is just that. It isn’t linear, however, because I write about several families, and I basically post stories about people and events that interest me at the moment. Therefore, I don’t have a family history that starts out “The Huff family originated in Tennessee… blah, blah, blah.” Instead, I have a hodge podge of documents, letters, photographs, and accompanying stories.

It didn’t occur to me to use a blog to publish this sort of thing until April 2005, which was when this particular blog was born. When I started blogging about genealogy, I could find few other genealogy blogs. Now there are countless genealogy blogs. I think blogging is a great platform for publishing the family history because I can share it with a lot of people in a short period of time and it’s relatively inexpensive. In fact, there are many blogging sites that are free. I happen to own my own domain, but my fees are small. However, I think that sharing the family history this way — even in its non-linear fashion — has allowed me to make connections that would have been impossible otherwise.

When Jasia asked the question, it seemed clear to me that she meant publishing the family history in a book. Genealogy is something that’s fluid — it’s never done. I created a book with my genealogy software for my grandfather, but I imagine I have since discovered countless errors and learned many new things. His book is probably close to obsolete. With a blog, however, I can update and make changes easily, and the history can grow in an organic fashion. I think blogging is an exciting and powerful medium for sharing the family history. It allows me to quickly disseminate new information and expound on what I already knew. If readers want to, they can print and bind the posts I write so that they have a hard copy. I can also get immediate feedback about errors so that I can make corrections. As most genealogists know, once an error creeps its way in, sometimes it can take years to correct. One of the things I like about blogging the family history is that I am not pressured to make it complete. Instead, I can publish what and when I like, and others can read it instantly.

I think blogging also makes it easy to connect with distant relatives and others I might never meet. I have found reading about techniques others use and learning their family stories to be fascinating. My distant cousin Joe Bowling, whom I was only able to find in this age of computer genealogy, recently paraphrased Alex Haley in an e-mail that he sent me: when an older person dies it is just like a library burning. I have to say that the wealth of information I have learned about my family from others bears this out. I suppose that’s one reason why I feel the need to share what I learn here. Maybe others, like me, will find those stories interesting. But even if they didn’t, I would still write. I do this because I love learning about it, and I think I would still feel driven to share it if no one else but me read it.

John William Tolleson

Posted in Photographs, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

John William Tolleson, courtesy Nancy LewisJohn William Tolleson is not my ancestor. If my great-great-grandmother’s life had turned out a bit differently, however, I wouldn’t be here. She was once engaged to John William Tolleson.

In my great-great-grandmother’s diary (PDF download), she only mentions him six times:

  • December 2, 1893: “Wrote to J.W.T. and Mary Hutton.”
  • December 12, 1893: “Got a letter from J.W.T.”
  • December 16, 1893: “Helped clean up and wrote a letter to J.W.T.”
  • January 5, 1894: “Uncle Jeff came for me late and had two letters for me from Mr. Custis telling of the marriage of J.W. Tolleson & Minnie Mathis and the other from Mary.”
  • January 14, 1894: “Cleaned out my trunk and hunted up J.W.T.’s letters which were in No. [she left off the count].”
  • February 4, 1894: “After my usual prayer, I retired. Mr. A- and I burned my letters from J.W.T. 44 in No.

Even in her diary, Stella rarely vents her personal, private thoughts, but reading between the lines, it looks as if the engagement was already over or going sour by the time she began the diary. I did find it interesting that a little more than a week after she heard of his marriage, she pulled out J.W. Tolleson’s letters to her and re-read them. In a symbolic act to sever ties to the past, she and her fiancé Amos Cunningham burned some letters from J.W. Tolleson. However, I understand that some of these letters survived the purge.

I am not sure how long the engagement lasted or whether Stella and J.W. Tolleson kept in touch. On a lark, I decided to see if I could discover what happened to him. I was armed with a fair amount of information from Stella’s diary.

  1. I knew his initials and last name.
  2. He had married a woman named Minnie Mathis.
  3. Stella seemed to know Minnie.
  4. He was probably about the same age as Stella.

I searched and found him on the 1910 and 1920 censuses with his wife Minnie (click thumnails for larger images).

Tolleson, 1910 Census

Tolleson, 1920 Census

Based on information from these census records, I was able to learn his first name was John, and that he was born in about 1865, which made him about two years older than Stella. I also learned that he moved to Oklahoma. On the 1910 census, his occupation is “Superintendent” at the “City School” in Byars, McClain County, Oklahoma. In 1920, his occupation is listed as “Teacher.” Stella Bowling also taught school before she married my great-great-grandfather Amos, and I speculated that she may have met J.W. Tolleson when they were in school together.

My grandfather’s cousin recently sent me a photo of Stella at the Parker Institute in Whitt, Parker County, Texas in 1891 or 1892 (Click for larger version):

Parker Institute, 1891-1892

Stella is in the middle row, far left side. She has a dress with buttons that form a “V” across her chest. I decided to see what I could learn about this school. This is what I discovered (via Handbook of Texas Online):

Parker Institute, the first school to offer college-level classes in Parker County, was established by a Mr. and Mrs. Bales in 1881 at Whitt in northwestern Parker County. In 1884 the Northwest Texas Methodist Conference selected the institute to be its flagship college in North Texas. The conference appointed Amos Bennett, a graduate of DePauw University, to be director of the school. For nine years he served as the institute’s administrator and only full-time faculty member. Assisted by instructors who had been his students in Kentucky and Texas, Bennett developed a curriculum that stressed traditional classical subjects, including Greek and Latin. Parker Institute graduated three or four students during its twelve years of existence. The first was Beulah Sprueill, who became a member of Parker’s faculty for some time. Two later had distinguished careers in the field of education. Jefferson Davis Sandefer, who graduated in 1892, served as president of Hardin-Simmons University for thirty years (1909-40), and Charles Shirley Potts, who graduated in 1893, served as dean of the Southern Methodist University law school for twenty years. Parker Institute was not able to compete with the growing number of colleges that appeared in North Texas in the early 1890s. It surrendered its charter in 1893 and became a public school.

The first graduate mentioned, Beulah Sprueill, was a friend of Stella’s. She mentions writing letters to her or receiving letters from her several times in her diary.

At, I found a family tree that included John William Tolleson and Minnie Susan Mathis, so working on the hunch that the information about his middle name was correct, did a Google search for John William Tolleson. I found a post at the Tolleson Family Genealogy Forum ( written by Nancy Lewis who was looking for information about the Tolleson family. I replied to her post, and we have been conversing over e-mail today.

Nancy pointed me to her Family Tree Maker Genealogy Site. While perusing her site, I discovered the following photo of John William Tolleson and wife Minnie Mathis Tolleson with their children (click for a larger version):

Tolleson Family

After studying this photo and the school photo, I think J.W. Tolleson is in the Parker Institute photo. It is hard to tell with 100% certainty, given the differences in light and the age difference in the two photos, but I believe that he could be the tall man with a mustache in the top row. It is even harder to determine whether or not Minnie Mathis is in the photo, but she resembles the woman on the far right, front row.

I was very interested to connect with relatives of Stella’s former beau, and I invite any other Tolleson researchers to connect as well. I also want to thank Nancy for sharing her family with us. To me, one of the great things about genealogy is being able to make connections like these.

Herman Cunningham: World War I

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Genealogy and History, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Herman Cunningham, WWIMy great-grandfather Herman Cunningham served in the Army during WWI. Thanks to Randy Seaver, I recently learned how to obtain his service records (for free!), but I also learned that there was a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missiouri in 1973 that destroyed the records of Army personnel discharged from November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960. According to NARA’s website:

No duplicate copies of the records that were destroyed in the fire were maintained, nor was a microfilm copy ever produced. There were no indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available. Nevertheless, NPRC (MPR) uses many alternate sources in its efforts to reconstruct basic service information to respond to requests.

What this means is that I may be able to obtain some information about my great-grandfather’s service, but probably not much. However, considering I was never able to ask my great-grandfather, I know a good deal about his WWI experience — my grandfather has shared it with me.

My Dad was drafted in WWI and was sent to Camp McArthur near Waco, Tex. for training. He was sent to Camp Dix in New Jersey where he was then sent to Newport News, Virginia where he was shipped on a boat to St. Nazairre [St. Nazaire], France.

My grandfather’s cousin Mary Davis sent me this picture of my great-grandfather (on right) with John Roy McCravey of Floydada, Texas (left):

John Roy McCravey (Floydada, TX) and Herman Cunningham (Whitfield, TX)

I am not sure who John Roy McCravey is, but I speculate that perhaps they had their photo taken because they were from the same general area of Texas. At the time this photo was taken, Mary Davis noted that Herman Cunningham was from Whitfield, Swisher County, Texas. Floydada, where John Roy McCravey was from, is located in Floyd County. If any of his descendants happen by here, I would love to hear from you.

According to my grandfather,

Dad hadn’t been there [France] long when he contracted meningitis. At that time there was no cure for meningitis. They were sent to a church (French) for care until they died. As you mentioned, only Dad and another soldier (Negro) from Little Rock survived. When Dad left the hospital he was returned to a “replacement depot.” The war was over so it was merely awaiting a ship for home. Well, Dad came down with the mumps. He turned up his coat collar and wouldn’t go to the medics for fear they would put him in the hospital again — The ship took them back to Virginia and then by train — home.

I managed to find a copy of my great-grandfather’s WWI Draft Registration Card on, but the quality is poor and it is difficult to read:

Herman Cunningham, WWI Draft Registration Card

The Card had the following information:

Name: Herman Cunningham
Age: 22
Address: Clarendon, Texas
Date of Birth: Mch. 16, 1895
Natural born
Place of Birth: Denton Co., Texas
Occupation: Farmer
Employed by: Self
Where employed: Donley Co.
No dependents
Marital status: Single
Race: Caucasian
No prior military experience
Did not claim exemption from service
Medium height
Medium build
Blue eyes
Brown hair
Not bald
No loss of hand, foot, eye, both eyes or other disability
Precinct: 2
County: Donley
State: Texas
Dated: 6/5/1918

The information presented on this card would seem to indicate that Herman Cunningham was living not in Swisher County, but Donley County at the time of his induction. You can click here to see a map of Texas counties that will show you how close Swisher, Donley, and Floyd Counties are.

My grandfather related a funny story about my great-grandfather’s trip home:

The train had a lay-over in New Orleans so Dad was able to try fried oysters. He had heard his buddies talk about how much they wanted to eat oysters. The waiter asked how many oysters he wanted. Well, Dad didn’t have a clue what an oyster was so he said “a couple dozen.” That was two plates piled high. Poor Dad got very sick after eating them. To his dying day he never ate another oyster.

Years later, my great-uncle Alvin Cunningham (Herman’s son) would enter the Army and fight in WWII. Here is a picture of my great-grandfather Herman Cunningham in his WWI Army uniform, posing with his son Alvin in his WWII Army uniform:

Herman Cunningham and Alvin Cunningham, 1942?

I found Alvin’s WWII Army Enlistment Record at

Name: Alvin H. Cunningham
Birth year: 1921
Race: White, citizen
Nativity State or Country: Texas
State: Texas
County or City: Floyd
Enlistment Date: 10 Oct 1940
Enlistment State: Texas
Enlistment City: Fort Bliss El Paso
Branch: No branch assignment
Branch code: No branch assignment
Grade: Private
Grade code: Private
Term of enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
Education: 2 years of high school
Civil occupation: Geographer
Marital status: Married
Height: 00
Weight: 060

Clearly the height and weight are mistranscribed or an original error, but I think the rest of it is correct. According to my grandfather:

I just read your comments on the web sites and wish to add to your data. Mostly trivia — Alvin didn’t go to France. He went to the Pacific theatre of operations. He was in the “Americal” division as an assistant machine gunner. When they were in combat on Negros Island a mortar shell landed near their gun emplacement and killed the gunner and an ammo carrier. Alvin being the assistant gunner took over as gunner. He was injured by the blast but could function. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart that day. When the war ended he went to the Tokyo area of Japan and served the 1st Cavalry Division in the motor pool as a mechanic. Alvin was a very quiet person and seldom discussed his war experiences.

While Alvin’s war record is somewhat unrelated to the post at hand, I will probably not have occasion to post it elsewhere. My mother told me that Alvin used to come and visit my grandfather (his brother) often. The two of them would sit in silence for most of the visit until Alvin would announce he’d better go. I think it is interesting that they felt so comfortable in their silence. Alvin died very young of a brain aneurysm, so I never had a chance to meet him, but based on my grandfather’s letters, I believe that he looked up to his older brother a great deal and that they were close.

If I am able to learn anything more about my great-grandfather’s service record, I will post it here.

Portions of this post quote a letter from my grandfather:

Cunningham, Udell. Letter to the author. July 2006.

Letter From Udell Cunningham, July 2006 Part 3: Generals in the Family

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Doris [my grandmother] has two relatives that reached the General ranks in the Air Force. She had a cousin in Ardmore named Jack Thurman. He was in the Seabees during WW2 and was a 2nd Class Petty Officer. He had two sons that went to West Point Military Academy. One of the boys reached Brigadier General. He was the commander of Zweibrucken AB Germany when Wayne [my uncle] was stationed there. The other one reached Major General. Wayne has a book written by a (now deceased) General that was the first commander of Space Command at Colorado Springs. Well, in his book he told how General Thurman was used as the pit bull of the Air Force. If the Air Force had a base commander that the gen. staff at the Pentagon wasn’t pleased with they sent Thurman to the base. He would go there and find enough to fire the commander. What a job. I knew old Jack, he was a butcher at a grocery store. He must really be proud of his sons to make flag rank (general or admiral).

Note: You can read more about Major General James D. Thurman, one of the men referenced in this section of my grandfather’s letter, at his Ft. Hood, Texas biography page. He is currently — I believe — Commander of the Multinational Division, Baghdad, commanding 29,000 troops from all nations allied with America and fighting in Iraq. He is not in the Air Force, but rather the Army. An informative article, Why I Serve: Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, helps unravel more details about Maj. Gen. Thurman’s background:

Major General James D. ThurmanFORT HOOD, Texas, Aug. 26, 2004 — “I came from a very patriotic family,” explained Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman on why he joined the Army.

“When I was just a little guy, I remember going to Memorial Day with my grandfather, a World War I vet, and the whole town would turn out,” recalled the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division. “He didn’t talk much about being in war, and he didn’t ask for medals or recognition. He made me realize early in life that the liberties and freedom we enjoy are not free.”

In the northwest corner of Thurman’s office, a rubber chicken hangs on a polished wooden plaque. The message is simple: “There ain’t no free chicken in the world, you’ve got to work for stuff.”

He said the quote represents a lesson he learned from his grandfather during his upbringing in the rural Oklahoma town of Marietta, population 3,000.

Framed flags, certificates, awards and photographs cover the walls of his office; memorabilia from almost three decades of service to his country.

“There are memories and people attached to everything on these walls,” Thurman said recently. “They represent something positive to me, even the rubber chicken.

Thurman’s father and three uncles served in World War II and Korea. And Thurman still vividly remembers the day in 1966 when his older brother arrived home from college and told his parents he was leaving school to serve in Vietnam.

“There are values and a sense of duty and responsibility to this country that I was raised with,” he said.

“There are 10 divisions in the Army and I have the honor to command one. Being with soldiers and being out there making a difference in the world, that’s why I serve. The most precious thing we have are the sons and daughters of this country and I am proud to serve with them.”

(Tam Cummings is editor of the Fort Hood, Texas, Sentinel News.)

More links:

A Google search will return a lot of sites mentioning Major General James Thurman, as he was recently in the news when he ordered an investigation into the killing of of a family of four in Mahmoudiya. I can’t find any information on a second general in the family, but did find several references to two Thurman brothers who were generals in the Air Force. They were born in North Carolina, and I am not sure I am related to them for that reason — as far as I know, the Thurmans in my family lived in the Oklahoma/Texas areas in the last 100 years. In a recent e-mail, my fellow Thurman researcher and second cousin once removed, Chris Stofel, said, “I’m attaching a letter I sent to our cousin Jerry Thurman, grandson of Albert, a little while back. Jerry’s brother Jim (James D.) Thurman is a general in the army.” Maj. Gen. Thurman and his brother Jerry would also be my second cousins once removed. My information is that Jerry Thurman is a retired colonel. I think it could be that our cousins, James and Jerry Thurman, were confused with the Thurman brothers General Maxwell Reid Thurman and Lt. General John R. Thurman, III (who are no relation as far as I know). Doing some digging, I was able to find references to the book my uncle has. It must be From One Stripe to Four Stars by Gen. James V. Hartinger, who was the first commander of Space Command at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, but I can’t search inside the book to see the full name of the General Thurman he referred to. It is probable that it is either General Maxwell Reid Thurman or Lt. General John R. Thurman III rather than my own relative, Maj. Gen. James Thurman.

Click on the thumbnail below to see an image of Albert James Thurman’s WWI Draft Registration Card (Albert James Thurman was the grandfather of James Thurman and Jerry Thurman). Note: It is a poor quality image and difficult to read.

Albert James Thurman, WWI Draft Registration Card

I located Albert James Thurman on the 1930 Census with his wife Mollie. Open this thumbnail image and scroll down to line 58 (near the top):

Albert James Thurman, 1930 Census

He has a son Jack W., who is 6 years old. This is my grandmother’s cousin Jack that my grandfather referred to in his letter. Here you can view Albert James Thurman’s 1920 census record:

Albert James Thurman, 1920 Census

I think this is an interesting example of how a story is passed down or told in a family, and details change or are otherwise unclear, which can result in conclusions that may not be correct.

Elmer Theodore Thurman

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, and Photographs

Elmer Theodore ThurmanMy great-grandfather, Elmer Theodore “Ted” Thurman, passed away on October 22, 2003 at the age of 93. He had been in poor health for some time, suffering from diabetes and Alzheimer’s. I have more memories of him than I do my Cunningham great-grandparents, but not quite so many memories as I have of Granny Thurman, who lived the longest during my lifetime (and in any case, was a personality to be reckoned with!).

Elmer Theodore Thurman was born on June 5, 1910 in Roby, Fisher County, Texas, to John Edward Thurman and Mary Shelby McDaniel Thurman. His father was born in Illinois in 1871. According to my great-grandmother, he was born in Chicago, but other family researchers believe it may have been Evansville. His mother, who was known by her middle name Shelby, was born in 1873 in Sulpher Springs, Hopkins County, Texas. It is said that John Edward Thurman was an only child, and his antecedents are unclear, but it is believed his father’s name was John Edward Thurmond. His mother is believed to have died in childbirth. At the age of 16, John Thurman took a train to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), debarking at Overbrook, north of Marietta. He worked for a doctor there for some time, then made his way to Sulpher Springs, Texas, where he met and married Mary Shelby McDaniel.

Mary Shelby McDaniel was the youngest child and only daughter of Shelby McDaniel (born 1833 in South Carolina) and Mary Bates (born September 24, 1842 in Arkansas). Her father was murdered before her birth. Her brothers were named David McDaniel (born 1860), John McDaniel (born 1867), and Greenberry McDaniel (born 1870).

John Edward Thurman and Mary Shelby McDaniel Thurman were the parents of fourteen children:

  1. Albert James Thurman, born May 1, 1894, died July 15, 1959
  2. Mary Alice Thurman, born December 16, 1895 (married Bill Pittman)
  3. Dewey Thurman, born May 20, 1898. Dewey drowned between the ages of 4 and 6.
  4. May Belle H. Thurman (called Mable), born June 4, 1900, died 1995 (married Elbert Foster)
  5. Levina Thurman, born July 2, 1902 (married Gaddy Young)
  6. Addie Pearl Thurman, born October 2, 1904 (married Chesney Colston)
  7. Quinton Edward Thurman, born April 1, 1906
  8. Annie B. Thurman, born May 8, 1908, died January 1, 1990 (married Preston Harris)
  9. Elmer Theodore Thurman, born June 5, 1910, died October 22, 2003
  10. Rawleigh W. Thurman, born 1914
  11. Melvin Green Thurman, born September 5, 1915, died March 3, 1994
  12. Woodrow Arthur Thurman, born December 5, 1917
  13. Arthula Christine Thurman (called Artie), born June 21, 1920, died 2006
  14. Edyth O. Thurman, born February 8, 1921, died 1921

All of the Thurman children listed above have passed away, but I do not have death dates for each of them yet. Artie was the last surviving sibling and passed away earlier this year.

Grandpa married Lucille Inez Willis on September 29, 1929 in Madill, Love County, Oklahoma. They had the following children: Doris LaNell Thurman Cunningham, Willis Floyd Thurman, Billy Loid Thurman, twins Winnie Sue Thurman Bolding and Minnie Lou “Penny” Thurman Paul, 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, and I remember going to visit them. When I was a teenager, they lived in Indio, California (I lived in Anaheim), and we sometimes traveled out to the desert to visit with them and Aunt Penny Paul. Toward the end of his life, he lived in Carlsbad, Texas and died in nearby San Angelo, Texas.

I remember being a bit afraid of Grandpa when I was very small. He had some form of hand tremor. I am not sure if this condition was ever diagnosed, but it appears to be genetic, as both my grandmother and Aunt Penny also have it. It is not Parkinson’s Disease, but it is possible that it is a form of Parkinsonism. He had red hair, and even in his advanced age when I knew him, it was still easy to discern his whitening hair had been red. He also had blue eyes. My grandmother, mother, sister and I (as well as my daughters) all have very large blue or green eyes, and my mother believes this round-eyed trait may come from Grandpa Thurman.

Grandpa loved to reminisce with my grandfather Udell Cunningham, his son-in-law, about people and places in the past. As his Alzheimer’s progressed, he was unable to remember more recent events, but it seemed to me that he recalled events from 50 years ago with perfect clarity.

Grandpa loved politics and was a staunch Democrat. He loved to discuss politics with my grandfather, too. My mother has told me that she has never in her life heard Grandpa say a bad word about anyone. I believe this admirable trait may be common in the Thurman family, as my cousin, Chris Stofel, says the same thing about his grandfather, Melvin Green Thurman. Certainly, I always saw my great-grandfather as very kindly and mild. It’s difficult to imagine that he ever raised his voice or became angry.

Grandpa was immensely proud of my daughter, Sarah. She was his first great-great-grandchild. She was born in 1993, and he first saw her in 1994 when the family gathered for a celebration of Granny and Grandpa’s 65th wedding anniversary. I will always remember him talking with his brother, Woodrow one day during that visit. He pointed at Sarah playing on the carpet nearby and said to Woodrow, “You see that little girl right there?” Woodrow nodded. “That little girl is my GREAT-GREAT-granddaughter.” Woodrow responded, “Well, Ted, you’re getting old.” Grandpa added, “Not too many of them get to see their great-great-granddaughter.” Before he died, he had many more great-great-grandchildren, but his Alzheimer’s had set in and he did not really remember them the way he remembered Sarah, whom he met before the disease began to take its toll. In fact, he remembered who Sarah was long after he forgot who I was, which I think is a testament to how proud he was to have a great-great-grandchild.

Granny and Grandpa Thurman were married for 74 years before he died in 2003. The last time I saw him was at a family gathering in celebration of their 70th anniversary. His health was declining. I have only had intuition that I might not see a person again three times in my life, and each time (so far), this intuition has been correct. The last time I saw my great-grandfather, I had this strong feeling that I wouldn’t see him again. It was such a strong feeling that even though we were all trying to pack into the car and leave for home, I went back into the house and hugged him a second time. I think he was confused, and he no longer remembered who I was, but I have always been glad I did that. He passed away about four years later, but I did not have a chance to visit him again beforehand.

I think my great-grandfather had a very hard life. He worked hard all of his life until he became too ill. Despite this, I never sensed from him any resentment. He’s one of the few people I’ve ever known that I’ve never heard anyone say a negative thing about. He was a very kind, very good man.

Letter From Udell Cunningham, July 2006 Part 2

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Perhaps I should list the jobs I have had in my military career.

  1. Ditch digger and pipe installation on Attu perhaps this makes me a pipe-fitter.
  2. Rigger on Mobile crane — Philippine Islands . Since the Navy bestowed the rank of MoMM3C (Motor Machinist Mate Third Class) I was supposed to be a mechanic.
  3. Mechanic at Motor pool on Hensley Field, (AF Reserve unit or sometimes called “week-end-Warrior.” This base was between Dallas and Fort Worth.
  4. Photo lab at Vance AFB, Enid, Oklahoma.
  5. Photo lab at Perrin AFB, Sherman, Texas.
  6. Photo Instructor at Lowry AFB, Colo.
  7. Technical Writer of Air Force Manuals and Training courses at Lowry AFB, Colo.
  8. NCOIC of Photo Lab at Toul Rosiers AB France.
  9. NCOIC of Manual Processing division at Schierstein, Germany. Also called IRCEP Intelligence Research Center — Exploitation Photo. We had a Machine secion for aerial reconnaissance film. I put in lots of time processing photos from spies behind the Iron Curtain. Yes, lots of Russian military were also US spies.
  10. Technical Writer at Lowry — again!
  11. Command Manager of all AF photo labs in Europe. 13 labs from Turkey, Spain, England, Germany, Italy, and Holland.
  12. Retired from AF at Lowry AFB.

My job in USAFE was in Recce operations, Europe under a Col. Andrews and our next in command was Major General Creech. He was later a full General in charge of the AF in Germany otherwise called CINC USAFE.

Another Johnson Franklin Cunningham

Posted in Genealogy and History, Photographs, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Slavery was a fact of life in the South before the Civil War. My family on my mother’s side is predominantly Southern, having traveled the traditional migration routes from Virginia and North Carolina to Georgia and Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and ending up in Texas. Some of my ancestors owned slaves.

I will never forget an incident that happened about ten years ago, when my ex-husband, who was in the Coast Guard, was stationed in North Carolina. Our Coast Guard station was small. When a family was going to be transferred, the wives all went out to lunch. When a new family came to the base, all the wives invited her to lunch. So it transpired that our leaving coincided with another family’s arrival, so our lunches were combined. I never met the woman’s husband, who was actually the one in the Coast Guard, and her name escapes me now, but I remember she said she was from Georgia. I told her I was too; I had gone to UGA. I asked her where in Georgia she was from. She told me there was no way I’d have heard of it, it was such a small town. I told her to try me. She told me from Maxeys. Well, I actually did know where Maxeys was, you see, because my ancestors in one branch of the family hail from Oglethorpe County, which is where the small town of Maxeys, Georgia is located. When I told her this, she asked my ancestors’ last name. I told her it was “Cunningham.” The look on her face spoke volumes. She was very quiet about Maxeys and Georgia and my ancestors for the rest of the meal. It was because the Cunninghams she had known in Maxeys were African-American.

I think sometimes genealogists do not like to confront negative elements in their ancestors’ pasts. It can be difficult to learn that a revered grandfather was in the Ku Klux Klan, as Joe Chapman of the Amarillo Globe News recently discovered (free registration required or use Bug Me Not). It is important to remember that people have always been a complex blend of good and evil, and I don’t think that discovering your ancestor did some things you’re not too proud of necessarily negates the good things you’ve learned about him or her.

I recently wrote about my great-great-great-grandfather, Johnson Franklin Cunningham. I’m going to tell you about another Johnson Franklin Cunningham. Here he is, pictured below with my great-great-grandfather Amos Blakey Cunningham (click to see a larger version).

Johnson Franklin Cunningham and Amos Blakey Cunningham

This photo was taken on August 10, 1952 at a family reunion in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. My great-great-grandfather Amos returned to Georgia to visit his sister and see his former home, which he had not seen in 70 years. Johnson Cunningham was a childhood playmate. At that time, he lived in Lexington, Georgia. I decided to see what I could find out about Johnson Franklin Cunningham.

I located him on the 1880 Census with his father James and mother Charlotte in the Grove Creek area of Oglethorpe County, Georgia. The census was enumerated on June 11, 1880. I was unable to locate him (or his parents) on the 1870 census, but I do believe he had been born by the time the census was taken. In 1880, he was 11 years old and worked on his family’s farm. If you click on the thumbnail of the census image below and scroll down to line 6, you will find his family.

James Cunningham family, 1880 Census of Oglethorpe County, Georgia

I was unable to locate him on the 1900, 1910, or 1920 Census, but I don’t believe that he moved. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I suspect that racism may have played a part in whether or not Southern census-takers were diligent about counting African Americans. At any rate, I found him again in the 1930 Census with his wife Eliza in the same area — Grove Creek, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. This census was enumerated April 14 and 15, 1930. What I was able to learn about him from this census is that he was 61 years old, owned a farm, could read and write, had an adopted son named Carey B. Cunningham and two adopted daughters named Mamie Armstrong and Annie B. Cunningham, and lived on Lexington Road. He probably married about 1902 to Eliza. The entire family was born in Georgia, and both Johnson and Eliza’s parents were born in Georgia as well. If you click on the thumbnail below and scroll down to line 71, you will see Johnson Franklin Cunningham and his family.

Johnson Franklin Cunningham family, 1930 Census of Oglethorpe County

Given that Johnson Cunningham’s age in 1880 was 11 and in 1930 was 61, I believe he was most likely born in some time between June 1868 and June 1869. Family members believed him to be 81 to Amos’s 80 years of age, but if his age on the two censuses is correct, then he would have been 83 when the photo above was taken.

I found a Georgia death record for J. F. Cunningham on

Name: J F Cunningham
Death Date: 13 Oct 1958
County of Death: Oglethorpe
Gender: M
Race: C
Age: 90 years
County of Residence: Oglethorpe
Certificate: 25882

This would indicate that Johnson F. Cunningham was born in 1868, which would seem to match the information found on the censuses. In fact, it would seem likely that if all three documents are correct, then Johnson Cunningham was probably born between June 11 and October 13, 1868.

It would most likely be difficult locate his family past the 1870 census. Probably the best bet would be to search through will books, as slaves were often named in wills. No James was mentioned in the will of Barbara Williams (see entry on Johnson Franklin Cunningham in wills). However, a Charlotte is mentioned as the child of Louiza. It is possible this is the same Charlotte. My ancestor Johnson Franklin Cunningham married Mary Ann P. Anthony, who is mentioned in Barbara Williams’ will. In fact, Barbara Williams bequeathed Louiza and her four children Charlotte, Elizabeth, Robert, and Henrietta “and the future increase” to Mary Ann P. Anthony “and her heirs forever.” It is plausible that Charlotte Cunningham, if not her husband James Cunningham, entered the Cunningham family through this will and the subsequent marriage between my great-great-grandparents. Unfortunately, the 1860 Slave Schedules of the U.S. Census did not enumerate African American slaves by name. They are listed under the names of their owners and by age and sex. Click on the thumbnail below to view the 1860 Slave Schedule listing for Johnson Franklin Cunningham of Oglethorpe County:

Johnson Franklin 1860 Slave Schedule, Oglethorpe County, Georgia

Assuming (and this is a big assumption) that the U.S. Census lists the correct ages for Johnson F. Cunningham’s parents James and Charlotte Cunningham, then James Cunningham would have been about 31 in 1860 and Charlotte Cunningham would have been about 19. According to the 1860 Slave Schedule above, there is no male of that age, but there is a 19-year-old female. This may be Charlotte. There are also other candidates close in age. Another piece of circumstantial evidence is that James and Charlotte Cunningham had a daughter named Louisa in the 1880 Census. It is possible that James Cunningham was not one of Johnson Franklin Cunningham’s slaves; the Cunningham family in Oglethorpe County was large even at that time. However, it does seem likely that Johnson F. Cunningham’s mother Charlotte Cunningham was owned by my great-great-great-grandfather Johnson Franklin Cunningham prior to the Civil War.

There are no Cunningham slave narratives (that I could find) at either Oglethorpe County’s Gen Web site or, but it is possible there may be other documents available in Oglethorpe County libraries or another good genealogy library. I have to admire African-American genealogists who are able to trace their family histories. It’s a daunting task in the face of so many holes and incomplete or uninformative records.

I’ll close with a second picture from the family reunion. This picture features, from left to right in back, Johnson F. Cunningham, Dessie Cunningham Gray (Amos’s daughter), Amos Blakey Cunningham, Prentice Elder (Amos’s son-in-law), Velma Cunningham Elder (Amos’s daughter), Lillie Manila Cunningham Case (Amos’s daughter) with her husband Luther Clifford Case and son Virgil Case in back of her, and in front, Cadelia Elizabeth Cunningham Burkhalter (Amos’s sister) and Mary Elder (Amos’s granddaughter). This one also appears to have been taken in front of the Cunninghams’ old barn. You can click on the image to see a larger version.

Cunningham Reunion, 1952

Letter from Udell Cunningham, July 2006 Part 1

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

In this continuation of writing about thing[s] I recall I may write about things previously written. Please remember that old men suffer from memory lapse. Also, I may even embellish tales previously written. These two faults were discussed recently on a T.V. program. Historians say that us old WW2 Vets do this a lot. We tend to remember a little but lie a lot and we tend to embellish stories every time we repeat them. These were discussed at length when the Smithsonian tried to put the Enola Gay B29 bomber on display with the placards saying that the U.S. did not need to drop the A-Bombs as Japan was ready to surrender. They implied that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed needlessly. The uproar from WW2 Vets made them change their stories. [See Wikipedia’s article on the Enola Gay for a discussion of this exhibit.] On the personal side of the issue I am thoroughly convinced that the A-bombs saved my life. I was in training at a base on Samar for being used as an underwater demolition job in Tokyo Bay during the second invasion of the Mainland of Japan. (The First was down on the very south island.) UDT men or commonly called Frogmen have a very short life. They were met by Jap frogmen who had spear guns — or from the demolition charger. When I was not needed to give my life during the planned invasion I was returned to “Seabee” duty. We — those in training — were placed on inter-island Ferry boats and taken to Cavite Naval Base in Manila Bay.

At Cavite we were placed on trucks and taken on the route to the big naval base at Subic Bay. Along the route the commander of the Convoy of truck[s] tried to “give” us to other units along the way. He couldn’t give all of us away and we wound up [as] surplus work slaves to existing unitls at Subic Navy Station. I was assigned to a work crew at the “lumber yard.” Actually I was called a rigger on a mobile crane used to lift lumber off trucks. Then the Filipino workers sorted and stacked the wood. The main job I did was play cards — to be interrupted when a truck of lumber arrived. Really rough duty.

Census Trail, Will Martin Huff

Posted in Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

My husband’s grandfather, Ben Martin Huff, was born on February 22, 1912 in Tennessee to Will Martin Huff and his wife Sallie. Following Will Martin Huff’s paper trail has not been easy. According to his WWI Draft Card, he was born June 18, 1890. The absence of the 1890 Census has made discovering information about his parentage particularly hard. Even if he had not been born when that census was taken, it is possible his parents would have been married and appeared together on the census.

The first place I started was the 1930 census, where I very quickly found William Martin Huff, his wife Sallie, and son Ben Martin Huff, living in Williamson County, Tennessee (see their information starting on line 1; click on thumbnail to see larger image):

William Martin Huff 1930 Census

I tracked back to the 1920 census, where W.M. Huff, wife Sallie, and son Ben were living in Williamson County:

W.M. Huff 1920 Census

Will Martin Huff was 27 on the 1920 Census and 38 on the 1930 Census. Dates on the census should be taken with a grain of salt, as mistakes were often made; however, his age is consistent across both censuses, which led me to believe that perhaps the date on his WWI Draft Registration Card was incorrect:

Will Martin Huff WWI Draft Registration Card

I thought perhaps I might find him in the home of his parents in the 1910 census, but I was not able to. I did find a candidate for Will Martin Huff in Obion County working as a hired man for the Parrish family:

Will Huff 1910 Census

As you can see, he is 17 and born in Tennessee, so the details fit; however, I wondered why he was in Obion County when all of my other data seems to indicate he spent all of his life in the Williamson County/Nashville area. I am not 100% certain that this Will Huff is the one I’m looking for.

I was a little more fortunate on the 1900 Census, as I was armed with a clue. Steve told me he was certain that his grandfather Ben Martin Huff had an aunt named Verda Huff Fulghum. I located her with her parents L.R. Huff and Mary F. Huff [maiden name Price], in Williamson County in 1920, starting on line 33.

L.R. Huff 1920 Census

As you can see, Will Martin is not living in the home (he was married and had his own home), but I felt I at least had parents’ names to work with. Here they are in 1910. Again, Will Martin Huff is not in the home, but it seems reasonable to assume he was old enough to leave home (as young as 17 or as old as 20).

Lee Huff 1910 Census

Searching the 1900 census proved more difficult, as it appears the census-taker wrote over the top of L.R. Huff’s name (and every other head of household’s name, too). However, the wife is Mary, there is a step-son Willie M. Huff and a daughter Eula. I think this must be Verda based on the birthdate, but I don’t know why she is listed as Eula here. It could be a first name or middle name, or simply an error. I do feel reasonably confident that this is the correct family:

Huff 1900 Census

Because the 1890 Census was destroyed in a fire, this is as far back as I can take Will Martin Huff. Assuming he was born in 1890, as his WWI Draft Card indicates, then he probably was not even on the 1890 Census. However, his parents might have been married. Note that his birth is given as Jan. 1891 on this census. The month is the same as the draft card, but the year is off by one.


  • The 1930 Census on which William Martin Huff appears was enumerated in April. His January birthday would already have passed. He is 38 years old on this census, which would indicate he was born in 1892.
  • The 1920 Census on which W.M. Huff appears was enumerated January 13, 1920 — five days before Will Martin’s birthday as given on his WWI Draft Card (January 18). His age is given as 27. This would indicate that Will Martin Huff was born in 1892.
  • The 1910 Census I have tentatively identified as showing Will Huff lists his age as 17. It was enumerated on April 26, 1910. This would indicate that he was born in 1893; however, it should be emphasized that I am not certain I have the same person here.
  • The 1900 Census including Willie M. Huff was enumerated June 27, 1900. His age is given as 9 and birthdate as Jan. 1891. Of course, this would indicate he was born in 1891.
  • The WWI Draft Registration Card indicates his birthdate as January 18, 1890.

Because we have conflicting information, and, I might add, I haven’t yet found a birth record, I am unsure whether Will Martin Huff was born in 1890, 1891, or 1892. Because I am not sure 1910 Will Huff is the Will Huff I’m looking for, I’m setting aside 1893 for now.

I found it curious that Willie M. Huff is listed as step-son to L.R. Huff on the 1900 Census, so I investigated. I discovered that L.R. Huff is Lee Roy (or Leroy) Huff, the son of Samuel Martin Huff and Martha Harris of Williamson County, Tennessee. I didn’t know if he took the name Huff from this stepfather, but I thought it possible that he didn’t — otherwise, he might have been listed as L.R.’s son. When my grandfather was adopted, he was listed with his adopted parents’ last names and described as their son. The fact that Willie M. Huff was listed as a step-son indicated to me that he may not have been adopted by L.R. Huff, but instead had already been a Huff before his mother married L.R. Huff. My mother-in-law indicated that this was indeed the case:

“Also, you were asking about Will Martin. His mother married Will Martin’s uncle so he was already a Huff” (letter to the author from Margaret Lane Huff, August 7, 2006).

Naturally, I assumed, given the time period, that Will Martin Huff’s father had died and his bereaved mother found comfort in the arms of her husband’s brother, whom she later married. This does not seem to be the case. According to Rose Walls, another Huff researcher:

There is a divorce around 1897 I will have to look for again, Mary Price Huff was deserted by her husband William T. He took her and her child to her brothers house in Maury County and never came back for her. I did not read the whole thing. (e-mail to the author, August 12, 2006)

Update 11:34 P.M, August 14, 2006: According to a new e-mail from Rose Walls to Jackie Pace, forwarded to the author:

I looked at the divorce I told you about today at lunch: Mary F. (Price) Huff Vs William T. Huff – Dated 1893 — They had married in 1888.

I found Lee Roy Huff listed as Leroy Huff in the home of his father, Samuel Martin and mother Martha in 1880:

Huff 1880 Census

Notice that Martha’s name is written as J. Martha and her son as T. William. I looked at a few pages to be sure my hunch was right — the census taker wrote middle initials as first initials — J. Martha Huff instead of Martha J. Huff and T. William Huff instead of William T. Huff. I speculated that this William T. Huff might be Will Martin Huff’s father. Rose’s e-mail would seem to indicate that this is, indeed, the case. The 1900 Census listing for Lee Roy and Mary Huff indicated that they had been married three years, which would mean they married about 1897.

What I am wondering is why is Lee Roy Huff listed alone on the 1930 Census, clearly stating he is married:

Lee Huff 1930 Census

While his wife Mary lives in Nashville with some of her children, stating that she is widowed?

Mary Huff 1930 Census

Sometimes genealogy makes me feel like I’m shaking skeletons out of the closet, but I must say, that makes it all the more interesting.

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