Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dig old newspapers? Look no further...

Last week, I shared my findings from a new (to me!) website called Elephind.

Fellow genealogists will not their heads in agreement...sometimes, after hitting brick-wall after brick-wall, discovering an obituary, story, or social pages snippet mentioning a particular ancestor can be a genealogical gift.  Wrapped in a bow.  Sealed with a kiss! Context to add a little something-something to the names, dates, and places of birth on a paper tree.

Likewise, when I've taken a break from serious document searching, and I need a little inspiration, newspaper snippets are just the thing to get creativity flowing again. 

Have you ever heard of  If not - CHECK IT OUT.  That's an order.  Fulton History has been on my radar...but I admittedly haven't spent time searching its archives.  Working completely from home, website founder Tom Tryniski has scanned over 22 million historic newspaper pages!  THIS ARTICLE was shared today via one of my favorite genealogists' Facebook page, and I was immediately inspired to give his search engine a check.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I usually start all new database searches using my husband's surname - Melvey.  Its uniqueness lends itself to near instant genealogical gold, as most results are usually related to his family.  Happy to report my first interesting find after just a few minutes of searching on FultonHistory:

Four Deer Find "Home Sweet Home" Best Place (date unknown - estimated 1910-1920).  St. Hilaire Spectator. Retrieved from

 Trying to imagine Moorhead, MN townspeople "shooing" these four deer into freedom - elsewhere.  A cost saving measure aimed at eliminating funds spent on feeding deer in the Moorhead Zoo completely backfires...and now, the park commissioner (my husband's paternal great-grandfather) finds himself having to potentially ask for donations to feed the domesticated animals.  One of my favorite aspects of this article is the glimpse of compassion and empathy we can detect from his actions.  A fascinating peek into the life of an ancestor!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Fargo Carpenters On Strike

Family Tree Magazine (I enjoy my subscription to the e-reader version!) mentioned an new-to-me website in their most recent edition.  Just HAD to check it out during my quiet time this afternoon.  Oh yes.  Quiet time - otherwise known as nap time or Mom's Sacred Time in this household.  Savoring every last two-hour nap time until our youngest grows out of it!  When people ask me how I possibly find time to accomplish anything with three little boys in the house under the age of seven, my answer is always "nap time".  Holy, holy nap time.  Want to know the opposite of nap time?  It's called Mommy is seriously cranky because she hasn't had enough time to herself.  Let's not go there.

ANYHOW...back to the genealogy website.  Elephind.  Ever heard of it?  It's a FREE (yay!) collection of newspaper archives from domestic and international sources.  There is just absolutely nothing like finding a fascinating article about an ancestor to add a little spice and intrigue into your research.

I usually give any genealogy database a test run using my husband's paternal and maternal surnames - Melvey and Morben.  Their uniqueness ensures that all "hits" I get are in a manageable group - and most are usually connected somehow.

Today's find:

Paul's paternal great-grandfather, Nels N. Melvey (1867-1942), was a resident of nearby Moorhead, Minnesota at the time.  This is the first time I have heard mention of him serving as president of the Fargo/Moorhead Carpenters' Union.  Newspaper archives contain nuggets of contextual treasure just waiting to be discovered!


Fargo Carpenters Out On A Strike (1909, July 21).  Bismarck Daily Tribune.  Retrieved from

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chicken or Duck?

I'm feeling a little scattered these days.  Could be the breezy Fall weather - a wonderful sight after three long years in Sicily's arid climate.  Instead of olive and blood orange trees, I'm gazing out of my kitchen window appreciating our collection of hardwoods.  Leaves are everywhere, and the piles are only going to get bigger.  I am treasuring every last one.

My research brain is also a bit scattered.  A little genetic genealogy over here...a little "other people's genealogy" over there.  Most of this is flat-out procrastination from dealing with the pile of photos I need to archive and the folder of newly-located probate records to transcribe. 

There's also that little thing of needing to manage my household.  Oh, and clean.  And feed children :).

In the meantime, I stumbled upon a snippet from the Reading Times (A Web Footed Chicken (1890, August 4).  The Reading Times, p. 1.  Retrieved from

Sarah M. LUDEN is a 4th great-grandmother on my mother's side of the family.  Over the past couple of years, I have written several posts about Sarah Ann Musser Luden, including THIS ONE and THIS ONE.  Overall...the woman had a very fascinating life in Reading.  Enough to fill at least one season of Days of Our Lives - Victorian style.

Let's add genetic mutation in poultry to the list of exciting events at the Luden household!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Photo Repatriation - Part I

Dear ______,

My name is Sarah Melvey, and I am writing in regard to the Howell branch of your family. I currently live in Williamsburg, Virginia...and while browsing through one of our many local antique shops, I came across a beautiful baby portrait taken in the late 1890s with the name "Josephine Fulton Howell" written on the back. Out of curiosity, I decided to put my genealogical skills to work to try to identify as much as possible about Miss Josephine - mainly in an effort to identify current living relatives (potentially with family trees in Ancestry). My goal is to repatriate or re-home the photo and make sure it returns to the family...

Genealogical serendipity.  I have been on the receiving end of so many research hand-outs that I only thought it worthwhile to attempt to pay it forward in my own little way.  Enter Josephine Fulton Howell - the beautifully staged baby in the portrait above.  Note the detailed background - the flowers on the sideboard, the tufted velvet settee.  She gazes lovingly and curiously to the side (maybe mother is making silly faces?).  What's not to love?

I was heartbroken to discover that Josephine died in 1907 in Philadelphia - of a cause I cannot yet determine (without purchasing and ordering her death record).  The indexed version gives no clue as to cause of death, though I do know that Philadelphia suffered a large Typhoid fever outbreak in the early 1900s.  Her parents, Charles and Mary Howell, had two remaining daughters - Louise and May.  It is my greatest hope that I can locate a next-of-kin willing and appreciative enough to accept this original photo or a digital copy, for that matter.  Time will tell!  I sent the note above to a likely candidate via  Fingers crossed - and I promise an update as soon as possible...

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Gardener and Our Driveway - William W. Wyatt (1902-1971)

My family and I are fortunate enough to spend the next couple of months living in a historic home on our local military installation until we close on our new, permanent home a few minutes away.  Our time here will total five months; plenty of time to enjoy the views of the York River and the spring greening taking place more and more each day.  The house itself is an entity.  Huge, overwhelming, and beautiful.  Dusty, creaky, and drafty.  Almost like living in a museum.  Wind blows off of the water at the end of the day, whistling through the windows.  Stinkbugs surprise me at every turn.  Sun shines through the entry windows in the morning to create a warm glow that will stay with me forever.  It was the best of was the worst of times shall we say?

Now, what I do absolutely LOVE is the yard.  This lovely piece of property - and the acres surrounding this area - are supremely historic.  It would take me an hour to type out the history, so feel free to read about it HERE.  And do!  It's truly amazing!  I walk the dog each morning around the yard, breathe the fresh air, and think about the footsteps walking this property hundreds of years ago.  A casual glance at the bare earth beneath the trees hints at communities past...from the glass fragments to the salt-glazed pottery the arrow points. 

Something that intrigued me as soon as we arrived was the street sign at the beginning of our driveway - "William Wyatt Lane".  A quick online search yielded a few answers HERE.  William Wyatt (1902-1971) was once the gardener employed by the installation to care for the beautiful landscape.  I'm not 100% sure if he had another position on base, but most of what I found shows that he was the gardener here.  During his tenure at Navy Mine Depot Yorktown (now called Naval Weapons Station Yorktown), he was able to meet several distinguished guests.  Most famously, he presented then President Harry Truman with fresh rockfish he himself caught in the York River:
10 Oct 1950, "The Daily Notes", Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

According to an article I found in the Fredericksburg, VA "Free Lance-Star" published on 5 October 1950, Truman was enjoying a woodland stroll through the base along with Commanding Officer Captain William Longfellow (pictured above) when Mr. Wyatt met up with them and surprised Truman with the fish.  A touching moment captured in time.  Longfellow apparently was the catalyst for naming the driveway leading to the commanding officer's quarters after gardener William Wyatt. 

SO - genealogical work put to the test.  What could I find out about Mr. Wyatt?  My main reason for writing this post is that this street name is honorary and is not searchable on any map.  Extended family might not even know about this sign or history.  Why not preserve it for future Wyatt generations?  A pay-it-forward sort of thing :).  I've been on the receiving end many times of genealogical serendipity.  My time to serve!

Here's what I know.  William and wife Mattie Wyatt lived in the area just outside of the military installation - an area called Lackey.  In 1930:

US Federal Census, Nelson District, York County, VA accessed via

...and in 1940:

US Federal Census, Nelson District, York County, VA, accessed via

They had two children, Theodora and Norman.  William Wyatt's highest level of education was 8th grade - and he and his parents were all born in Virginia.  I looked further  back to try to locate William in the 1910 and 1920 censuses, but I couldn't find a record I could identify 100%.  There are a handful of William Wyatts in Virginia...and I'll have to evaluate the records to be concise.

Mattie and William are both buried at the Rising Sun Baptist Church cemetery:

Rising Sun Baptist Church Cemetery, Lackey, VA, from  

Here's to hoping that someone - anyone - from William Wyatt's family tries to search for information about his work at the Navy Mine Depot and finds this blog post :).  Now that we are in the middle of spring, I enjoy his handiwork daily as I admire the blooming bulbs and flowering trees.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Camp Butler - Newport News, Virginia

In my previous post I introduced my third great-grandfather - Hachaliah McMath, Jr. (1840-1916) - and his experience specifically at the end of the Civil war as a prisoner of war. 

Context: Hachaliah McMath, Jr. is my 3rd great-grandfather on my father's maternal side of the family.

After his capture in Farmville, Virginia following the Battle of Saylor's Creek, McMath was transferred to City Point, VA (Grant's headquarters) and then on to Newport News, Virginia.  From what I can determine, the Newport News area was occupied by Union troops for a large portion of the war.  Camp Butler was heavily fortified, as seen in the lithograph below - from the "Civil War in Newport News" collection of the Newport News Public Library System:

Image Source
From what I understand, the Prisoner of War camp was created alongside of Camp Butler to accommodate excess Confederate soldiers captured toward the end of the war.  Essentially - the POW camp in Newport News served to solve an "overflow" of prisoners.  My relative only spent 2 short months at the POW camp until his oath of allegiance and eventual release. 

While this lithograph was created in 1861, it still gives a great overall impression of the look of Camp Butler in 1865.  Views possibly similar to those seen by my 3rd great-grandfather during his time as a POW.

Hachaliah McMath, Jr. (1840-1916): Prisoner of War

April 9, 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of  Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  This seems like such little time - and such a long time all at once, yes?

It dawned on me this week that last week also marked the 150th anniversary of my 3rd great-grandfather's capture after the Battle of Saylor's of the major turning points in the ultimate demise of Lee's Army.  This battle fractured his starving, weary troops just days before the inevitable end.  On April 6, 1865, Hachaliah McMath, Jr (1840-1916) - a sergeant in the 11th Florida Infantry Regiment - was one of many (almost three quarters of Lee's entire remaining Army, from what I've read) captured. 

Context: Hachaliah McMath, Jr. is my 3rd great-grandfather on my father's maternal side of the family.

McMath and other prisoners were sent to City Point, VA (Grant's headquarters) on April 14, 1865 and then on to Newport News, VA to be interred as a prisoner of war at Camp Butler.  Ironically, this is just minutes from my current house!

Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861-1865 -

From McMath's Civil War Service Record - detailing date of capture, transfer to Newport News POW Camp

Scanned image of a family photo kept by my father

More information about the Battle of Saylor's Creek - as well as a map of the engagement - can be found HERE.

On my agenda for the coming week: a visit to the site of Camp Butler, the prisoner of war camp located in Newport News, VA where Hachaliah McMath, Jr. signed his Oath of Allegiance to the Union on June 15, 2015.  He was then released to return home, though I am still trying to located information pertaining to how he managed to travel from Hampton Roads in VA all the way back to Henry County, Alabama.