Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rachel Luttrell and Her Widow's Pension Woes-Part 1

Rachel (Schmuck) Luttrell was the wife of Hugh Lawson Luttrell. When he died 23 July 1886 she applied for a widow's pension. She had to jump through a lot of hoops to get it too. The file is over one hundred pages and packed with all sorts of information, that I have been combing through the past few days. One page jumped out at me in particular and made me smile. It is a general affidavit dated 10 September 1888 from William J. Hutton, age 43, from Osceola, St. Clair County, Missouri. His voice comes through very clear and his statement also proves my suspicions about Hugh being in Missouri by 1856. I thought I would share it with you.

"I knew Hugh L. Luttrell during his life time and first became acquainted with him in 1856, he was then quite a young man. I was then quite intimate with him and learned his history quite well. He and I frequently met in society and together called upon young ladies in the community where we lived, and I know from the facts aforesaid and from my whole acquaintance with him that he was never married until he married Rachel Smuck [Schmuck] sometime in the year 1867 or 1868 or 1869. This was the only woman he ever married, and I further served with him during the war. He was in the 8th M.S.M. and I was in the 6th M.S.M. yet we were frequently thrown together and had he ever been married further than stated I would have known it. I knew his wife Rachel Smuck and do not think she was ever married until she married Luttrell, or I should have heard of it."

I can only imagine how he must have been around the young ladies in the community! This was one of many affidavits that Rachel would collect.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Writing As You Go Drives Your Research

In one of my blogs during the week of IGHR at Samford, I mentioned a presentation given by Elissa Scalise Powell that was about writing as you research. I experienced first hand today why this is a good idea. It drives your research and points out the holes that need to be filled in your ancestor's life story.

What became glaringly obvious to me today, was my lack of Civil War knowledge. I don't mean common knowledge either. I'm talking about the intricate workings of the military specific to the Civil War. My focus is Hugh L. Luttrell who was in Co. C, 8th regiment, Missouri State Militia Cavalry. He started out as a Sergeant and quickly worked his way up to 1st Lieutenant and Adjutant. I was able to view his service cards from Footnote. When I was critically reviewing them today I found I had more questions then answers. How did he get promoted so quickly? Was this common during this time period? At one point he was transferred? Why? Then at another time he was "on special duty Judge Advocate General Court Martial." What does that mean?? Was he a witness or was he the one being court martialed? He was also given a commission by the governor of Missouri after somebody resigned from their post. Was this common procedure for a governor to do or something out of the ordinary?

Needless to say the questions continue to mount. I'm not even sure what book I could read to find answers to some of these questions. It is on my list to find out, as well as talking to somebody who is very knowledgeable about the Civil War.

By writing down my findings from this one source it has driven my research into a direction that I didn't really expect. I know what my next step needs to be and have clear questions that I want answered. I've also realized how important it is to do this every time! Not only for each piece of evidence regarding Hugh, but for my other ancestors as well. Boy, I've got my work cut out for me.

Monday, June 27, 2011


It has been a little over a week since I returned home from IGHR at Samford in Birmingham. Sadly, I haven't done as much writing as I would like. However, I have had time to reflect on what I learned. My expectations were met in the writing course. I expected to become a better writer. What little writing I have done has improved. The editing process I put my writing through is with a more critical eye. I have a better understanding of technical writing. Those numbers that you see when reading genealogical histories--well I know what those mean now.

What I didn't expect was to become a better critic. I participate in a study group that reads NGSQ articles, and meets online once a month to critique/discuss a specific article. I've noticed that I'm picking up details better when reading these articles. I dissect them better. Somehow it is a much more fluid process for me. This is a good thing and I'm excited about it.

Tomorrow both of my boys are at camp, and I will start writing a short biography on one of my ancestors. Sitting down with a blank screen is always a little daunting, but having a quiet house time limit will help motivate me. It will be the beginnings of a first draft, which means the end product may only have one sentence left untouched through my editing process.... maybe. I'll let you know.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Migration and Taxes

In 1850 Hugh Luttrell was a young lad of 15 living in Knox County, Tennessee with the rest of his family.  When troops were being mustered in 1861 Hugh signed on in Polk County, Missouri. His family was still in Knox County. So questions came into my brain fast and furious. Why was his family still in Knox County? Who did he move to Missouri with? Why did he move to Missouri? When did he migrate?

I may never find the answer as to why the rest of the family stayed behind or why he moved, unless I am lucky to find letters preserved somewhere. It could happen, but I'm not holding my breath. Trying to figure out when he migrated is an easier question to tackle and find a decent answer to. I turned to the tax records of Knox County.

To do this I went to the Tennessee State Library and Archives. They have the microfilm of these records and a very helpful staff to point you in the right direction. The Luttrell family and its branches are large, and they had a terrible habit of using the same names over and over. When viewing the microfilm it seemed this had potential to confuse the officials too. There was a notation next to Hugh's father, James C. Luttrell, of "Jr." William Luttrell was the father of James, so he was not technically a "junior." However, James had an uncle named....wait for it.... James C. Luttrell. It didn't help that there seemed to be a few people named Hugh. It is enough to make your head spin.

Anyway, I finally figured it all out and the last record I could find Hugh listed on was in 1854. The records then skipped to 1856 and he is not there, nor in the following years. So it seems he left some time between the two tax records. To confirm this I will have to turn to the Missouri tax records. First I will have to figure out what county he was living in. I haven't found him on the 1860 census yet. That may take a little time.

So the point is; if your ancestor shows up in two different places consecutive census years and you want to figure out when he moved, look at the tax records. The government was very diligent about wanting their cut, even back then.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday-Whitsett

Father's Day is always a strange time for me. My parents divorced when I was a year old and I never knew my father. Through genealogy research in December 1999, I discovered that he had died in 1983. The Social Security Death Index gave me that clue, but nothing else. Where should I start looking for a death certificate?

I ordered his Social Security application. It was issued in Virginia, stated he was born in Bronx, New York and gave his mother's maiden name (which turned out to be wrong). I tried to order his birth certificate, but was told I needed his death certificate to have access to it. I looked to Florida where I knew he had lived. Jackpot! I found his death certificate and discovered that he had remarried. The certificate gave his wife's maiden name (an unusual last name) and his mother's maiden name (different than that on the SS application). So I searched....for years. Finally, I discovered his marriage record. His wife's maiden name was on it of course, however this time it was spelled differently (making it more unusual) than it was on the death certificate.

I sat back for a moment after this new discovery. I wondered if she had remarried. Did she go back to her maiden name? To this day I cannot fully explain why I did the next action. I typed her maiden name, as it appeared on the marriage record, into Facebook to search. It came back with an exact match. I sent her an email and she sent one back. The final result... I met my grandmother, uncles, aunt, and cousins for the first time last year on Father's Day weekend, at a cousin's wedding. I also discovered I have two half-brothers whom I haven't met yet, but hope to some day.

Last August we went on a family vacation to Disney. While there we took a side trip to visit my father's grave. It was emotional of course. All of the things that could have been, but were not. My sons laid stones on his grave, then proceeded to climb the trees and mess around with everybody else's gravestone. I think they had the right idea. Life goes on. Finally, I took a photo and said good-bye.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

DNA and Genealogy

Well my genealogical education did not stop with Samford. Today I attended a lecture by J. Mark Lowe on Understanding the Basics of DNA Testing for Genealogical Research at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. This is a subject I find fascinating. I've read Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak, and have been following Amy Coffin's blog at on her DNA testing experience.

Mark discussed Y-DNA and mtDNA. If you are interested in finding out information on the male line of the family then you test the Y-DNA, for the female line then you test the mtDNA. Now having said that, men can test their Y-DNA and women can't since we don't have a "Y" chromosome. The "Y" being the gene that has been passed down from father to son through the generations. This is only the men, so by doing this test you will not find out anything about your great grandmother on your father's side. The "mt" part is inherited from your mother. By testing this part you can find out about the mothers in your line on your mother's side. Women can only test their mtDNA, but men can test both. Mark also mentioned a test for Autosomal DNA. This can give you some information on both parents and is a new test being offered by Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA is the company that has the largest database in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. it is Roots for Reel. Mark suggested to start with a 12 marker test and then upgrade to a 67 or 111 marker test, as that may be more cost effective. The higher the marker test you get the more specific the results will be.

When the lecture was over my hands were itching to get a hold of microfilm and do some research. However, after being away all week I wanted to spend time with my boys and husband. So it was off to Chuck E. Cheese's for me with DNA on my mind.

Friday, June 17, 2011

IGHR-Day 5

Today was the last day of Samford and it was bitter sweet. Being around so many like minded people is thrilling. However, I don't think I could have kept up this pace of intensity for much longer.

Our first session today was with Craig R. Scott, President and CEO of Heritage Books. Craig is one of the leading publishers of genealogical literature. He presented A Strategy for Marketing Your Self-Published Materials. It was very interesting to hear Craig discuss the business aspect of writing and getting your product out there.

Our last two sessions were with Tom Jones, who presented Aesthetics of Writing. This lecture dealt with the layout of a page and how to make it visually appealing to the reader. He also covered the various rules of layout structure on a page. Then it was time for our certificates of completion. It was a proud moment for all of us, filled with a sense of accomplishment.

I am still in awe and somewhat humbled by my fellow classmates. Our class consisted of a Jean Thomason Scholarship award winner, 3 people who received awards from Elizabeth Shown Mills last night for their achievement in her class last year, editors, published NGSQ writers, and others who have numerous achievements. To be in their presence was inspiring and educational. I look forward to seeing them again next year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

IGHR-Day 4

Today has been a wonderful day. With the homework assignments behind us, we were a very relaxed and happy group. Although one could also say that we were all so exhausted from staying up late doing the assignments, that we were a little "slap-happy." Never-the-less we reviewed our homework with anticipation and I was very pleased with the outcome. It wasn't perfect (I didn't expect it to be) but it was close enough on point that I felt it was respectable. Phew!

After reviewing the homework Tom Jones presented, Writing Articles for Publicaton. He discussed different journals to submit work to on a national, state, regional, and local level. Each publication has its own focus of interest. He advised to review the journal before blindly submitting your work, to make sure it is a good fit. There was a lively discussion regarding genealogical societies needing and wanting article submissions. Write your family history and submit it!!

The next two sessions were presented by John Colletta, From Proposal to Product: Working with a Genealogical Publisher, and Writing a Narrative Family History: The Challenges, Pitfalls and Rewards.  John did not disappoint. His lectures are informative and entertaining. I would tell you more, but he swore us to secrecy. You'll just have to take this course and see for yourself.

Our last session for the day was presented by Elissa Scalise Powell, Using Micorsoft Word As A Writing Tool. This was very helpful for me. I'm not very technically inclined and now I have some instructions to take home with me to help.

Finally tonight was the banquet night. We all got to dress up, and have conversations without the looming pressure of homework. I was very lucky to sit across from Tom Jones, learn more about him and be inspired. The speaker tonight was David E. Rencher and he was very entertaining. David shared his adventures and misadventures in his genealogical work. Trying to track down ancestors for years with no luck, only to come across information by chance while researching another line. Kismet. Synchronicity. Whatever it is, it is part of what fuels us as genealogist. The thrill of the find.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

IGHR-Day 3

Today was by far the toughest day yet. The morning started out pleasant though. Our first lecture was given by Elissa Scalise Powell on Compiling Source Materials For Publication. The point being that your writing needs to be presented in a way that is clear and makes sense to the reader.

John Colletta took over for the next session, Principles of Good Writing and Good Storytelling. I can't think of anybody who is more capable of giving a lecture on this topic. He doesn't focus as much on giving technical writing advice, but just as important is breathing life into the story. Making it engaging for the reader.

Then the afternoon sessions. We had back to back sessions with Tom Jones about Organizing Your Ancestors in Genealogical Formats. My head was spinning afterwards and I'm not sure it has stopped. Tom showed us how to use the genealogical superscript, the NGSQ format and the Register format. Whenever you read a genealogical piece of writing and you see all of those tiny numbers between names, then numbers and roman numerals next to names -- that is what he taught us. I don't think anybody was disappointed to see this particular session end.

After dinner I attended an evening lecture given by Paul Milner called Genealogical Wikis: A Personal and Customizable Research Tool. This lecture was enjoyable just to listen to Paul's Scottish brogue. In this lovely brogue he discussed the FamilySearch Wiki, Wiki, WeRelate, and a few others.

Finally time for the homework. I buddied up with a fellow classmate (two tired brains are better than one) and we muddled through it together. We spent hours hashing out this assignment in the library and I think we have something that we won't be embarrassed about tomorrow. Now I'm off to get six hours of sleep and start this whole crazy process over tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

IGHR-Day 2

This morning in class we got right down to business with a review/discussion on the citation homework. I am happy to say that I did okay, which makes me pleased. The rest of the morning and a portion of the afternoon Tom gave lectures on Creating Prose, Analytical Writing and Editing Yourself. Some of this brought back memories of high school English and sentence diagrams. I suppose it sounds rather dry and possibly boring. However, technical writing is, well...technical. It doesn't include flowery prose that is poetic.

By the afternoon break I think we were all a bit cross eyed. Fortunately, John Colletta was our next speaker. His lecture was Turning Biographical Facts Into Real Life Events: How to Build Historical Context. John is a theatrical presenter and injects a lot of humor into his talks. I've always heard glowing reviews of his lectures and I agree that if you have the opportunity to see him, go!

I didn't attend the evening lectures tonight. Instead I went to the library and did some research on my Kirby line. I didn't have much success. Argh. So it was back to the dorm to work on my homework. Tonight's assignment was to edit a 500 word piece of my own writing. I started out with 524 words (sshh...don't tell) and managed to get it down to 278 words. I hope it still makes sense and isn't completely awful. I'll find out tomorrow.

With my remaining time tonight, I'll try to get a jump on tomorrow night's homework. It looks long, complicated, and I've already heard horror stories about this assignment. Then I will set my alarm for 6:15 a.m. and try to get some sleep.

Monday, June 13, 2011

IGHR-Day 1

On Sunday I drove down to Birmingham, which was an uneventful and pleasant drive. Once here I went through the whole registration and checking in routine. This always takes longer than I think it will. The exciting part of the day was attending the ProGen study group gathering. I met Angela McGhie who coordinates and runs the whole program, and one of my fellow group members.

Today, Monday, was sunny bright and hot. Tom Jones' writing class started at 8:00 a.m. and the theme for today was footnotes. Perhaps not a scintillating topic for some, but it is very important to genealogical writing. The point being if I cite my sources properly and well, five generations from now my descendants will not have to do the amount of work that I currently am.

We also had a session from Elissa Scalise Powell called Write As You Go! The premise of this session was not to wait until you have completed your research to write it up, do it along the way. This is a weak area for me and one that I really must focus on in the future. After all, the notebooks, binders, and file folders will mean nothing unless I put it all together in a narrative format. Write your family history!!

Finally, we got to the portion of the day regarding homework. The assignment tonight is time consuming and hair pulling. We have ten sources that we need to write 3 different types of citations for... each.  Technically that is 30 citations. From what I understand this isn't even the heavy homework night. Yikes!

The highlight of my day was having dinner with Dear Myrtle. I really enjoy reading her blog and it was such a pleasure to meet her. I'm still excited about it! I wish I could have talked to her more, but we were all attending the evening lecture on Google Earth, presented by Rick Sayre and Pamela Boyer Sayre. This lecture was amazing! They showed how to take old maps (such as Sanborn Maps) from the 1800s and overlay them onto Google Earth. By doing this, you are able to compare the property your ancestor lived on back in the day, to present times. It was pretty cool.

Overall, a very full first day. Now I have to tackle my homework and somehow get enough sleep to pay attention for tomorrow. Oh boy.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Samford, Here I Come!

I've been preparing this whole week for IGHR, held in Birmingham, Alabama. The Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) is held at Samford University every year in June, otherwise known in my house as Genealogy Camp. There are ten different courses offered and I was lucky enough to get into Tom Jones' writing class. I am very excited about this. However, my week has been somewhat chaotic. Summer camps for my two boys are in full swing, so I have been shuttling them around, and prepping the house for my departure.

I'm staying in the dorms, so my list of things to pack is lengthy, and there is a growing pile of items being collected from around the house. My husband is a good sport about this collection and doesn't say too much other than to make an occasional observation of said items, some of which have been pilfered from my sons. Other preparations have been to have on hand a 500 word writing sample of my own (check!), pre-read two articles written by Tom Jones (check!), and prepare for my own personal research at the Samford library (in progress).

The branch that I am focusing on during this trip will be the Kirby line. Delila Caroline Kirby was born 6 August 1838 in Birmingham, Alabama. She is my gggg grandmother. There have always been rumors about this line having Cherokee Indian connections to it. My mother remembers hearing whispered conversations about it as a child. Various people descending from this line, that have never met, also say there is a Cherokee link. None of us have been able to prove it. Maybe it is true and maybe it isn't. This is not an uncommon rumor for families to have in their oral traditions. My goal is much more simple, or at least it would seem to be. I want to find primary evidence of who Delila's parents are. By the 1850 census Delila is living with her older brother George W. Kirby age 22, and other siblings. Presumably their parents are dead. What happened to them you may be asking? I have no idea. Another mystery in this line to figure out. Hopefully the Genealogy Gods will smile down upon me in Birmingham, and I'll get some answers.

Meanwhile, I'm off to the grocery store to stock up the house, type up my two boys' itineraries for the week, do laundry, and finish up my packing. Samford, here I come!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Kids and Travel

Yesterday I drove home from a family weekend trip to Atlanta. Overall we were in the car for about 4 1/2 hours. Not too long, but with kids it was long enough. My boys were very good. They had a movie playing on the dvd player, new toys from the Lego store, magazines and catalogs from the lego store, and an endless array of snacks. Since they were content I had time to think about road trips when I was a kid.

I remember not having a/c in the car and the windows being open. There were only a few radio stations to chose from, but certain songs I hear today bring back snippets of memories from those times. My entertainment came from coloring books, playing I Spy, counting how many different states on license plates you found, and watching the scenery.

All of this made me wonder about the pioneers, or even just getting around pre-engine years. Richard Gunter, whom I've mentioned before, was never in the same place for any given census year. Charles Brumbaugh, my gg grandfather, lived in Pennsylvania and travelled frequently to Colorado. My great Aunt Maude, his daughter, said he had gold fever and she travelled with him a couple times as a kid.

So this thought led to the question, what did the kids do? I imagine they bickered about the same things and annoyed their siblings the same way kids do now. After all, kids are kids, and I don't think they've evolved in that area too much. I'm sure they explored the scenery or terrain as much as they could. How did they pass the time walking next to a wagon all day? I realized I have no idea what the answer is. I'd like to find out though. Hhhmm, another subject to research.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Information Is Only As Good As The Source

[Names have been omitted for privacy.]

Not so long ago I was conducting research on my husband's side of the family. After speaking to my mother-in-law (MIL) whom I adore, I decided to try and flesh out details about her father. He had passed away some years earlier. It didn't take long to find him. I found him listed on a death index, a record of his divorce from my MIL's mother, but I also found a record of another marriage.

This made me sit back and pause. MIL hadn't mentioned this. Did she know? Was she supposed to know? Did she want anybody else to know? Would this be a traumatic revelation? What to do? After a day of pondering these questions I called her. We exchanged the usual banter and finally I asked if she knew anything about her dad getting remarried to a woman named____? The second of silence was followed by a big intake of breath and the exclamation of, "He told us he got remarried, but we didn't believe him!"

Conducting interviews are great, and they give you details that you might not otherwise find. We are usually cautioned that memories are faulty or details may be embellished over time. In other words, find supporting evidence!

I never considered that my source wouldn't believe information told to her by a primary participant--her father. Mostly I'm relieved this wasn't an awful revelation, and we've all gotten a good chuckle out of it. For me it was a good lesson in source reliability.