Sunday, March 31, 2013

The more I learn, the worser my family gets

I am trying to get my act together for the trip to Tennessee to track down the missing answers. I think I've read somewhere my gg grandfather was adopted so that's a dead-end although I plan to really check that out. When my mom did the trip in the 1980's, there wasn't as much documentation.

So I hit RootsWeb. I didn't realize that it was possible to search by name, by county. Imagine my surprise when I found these two tidbits. 

Martha Priscilla Rhea
BIOGRAPHY: She was a twin and her twin brother was named Aquilla and they were Herb Doctors. The common talk or story was that one of Priscilla's brother's did not like her husband and had killed him and put him in the river.Her brother helped her raise her twins James and John Jr.

John McCollom
BIOGRAPHY: His occupation was a music master. He died of unknown causes. He disappeared one day and never was found. He probably was taken by Indians who were raiding in the area at that time. As a young man he came and boarded at the Rhea Station, which was south of Sneedville, Tn. and across the Clinch river. It was the first home of the Rhea family. He met his wife Priscilla Rhea at this Station. 

I have a death date (not verified) for John McCollom. Now, it might be bogus and has to be added to the list of questions to answer. The note on RootsWeb does not identify the brother who didn't like John but it leads one to wonder if if might be John Elijah Rhea Jr. His son, John Carter Rhea, married Martha Jane Rhea, the daughter of the twin, James Northcross McCollom.

It took several days to unravel the relationship between Martha Jane Rhea and John Carter Rhea. They were second cousins. Now it gets even more sticky if indeed the brother disposed of Martha Priscilla Rhea's husband and not Indians as the other note suggests. However, the Indian story also holds some merit because Martha and John Elijah's mother was Indian.  

Friday, March 29, 2013

I'm going to Tennessee!

Due to my gracious cousin Patty, we are making a pilgrimage to Tennessee to see where our grandfather grew up and to understand the area that made him who he was. We are going to the Historical Society to see what we can find about our great grandmother. We have a cousin there who is going to show us where the Rhea land grant was so we can see where they lived. This is more exciting than I thought because I never believed I would have this opportunity.

There is so much that I want to know. Facts and records tell only part of the story. I want to walk on the land, take in the sights and hear the river. I want to walk in their footsteps.

We never went to Tennessee as children. Our parents (my dad and her dad) never took us to see where Grandpa was from. We didn't hear much about that side of the family and it was only when my parents went there in the 1980's that we had any pictures or ideas what it was like. We heard the stories that were passed down and it wasn't until recently that we were able to confirm them.

The thought of going there makes me weepy. How much richer could our lives have been if we knew that part of the family? My mother had a large family in Texas and we were there a lot. My dad's family was only his parents and two brothers. We spent time with our grandparents, cousins and two uncles but never with any of my grandma's or my grandpa's extended families. We knew they were out there but only as abstracts. 

We have a short amount of time and lots of places to visit. I firmly believe that to write my great grandmother's story, I need to understand her surrounding. This is a gift that I am going to take full advantage of.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Taking a "Rhea" break, spending a moment with the "Yeakley's"

I have been doing some research on my cousin's family tree. Her family is really interesting with multiple wives, Salem happenings and Mayflower descendents. It took a lot longer to go through her tree because there were so many interesting things to read as I did each family. Every time I found something that I thought would interest her, I sent it on. I did tell her that I was jealous because she has Mayflower descendents and some great uncle who was accused of witchcraft in Salem. We only have preachers and farmers. Her family is also Mormon and Annie Clark (her great grandmother) wrote a book that is used in their university. Patty's family is so much easier to document because the Mormon's were wonderful record keepers.

I can't seem to track the Rhea's back that far. I do need to look at the family in Pennsylvania and how they are related to the Ephrata Cloister but I think they landed in America much later than 1620. 

So I went looking at the Yeakley's and found that they were also Mayflower immigrants. I am still verifying my sources because in the middle of the family they seem a little thin. Still, I don't believe that I am too far off.

It seems that we may be related to William Brewster who was the Elder of the community. His daughter Patience Brewster married Thomas Prence who was the Governor of Plymouth and at one time presided over the Salem trials.

When we went to Plymouth, I didn't even consider checking to see if we were related. Plymouth is a fun place on its own and just being in that part of history was enough. Now I wish I'd spent more time. I was disappointed by the small size of Plymouth Rock but now I know it was divided four times. I learned that they didn't go directly to the mainland. I was appalled by the size of the Mayflower. It is really, really small. We are history buffs and love all those details.

I am going to continue looking for sources. If I find myself satisfied with the results, I will attempt to join the Mayflower Society. I don't so much care but my grandson (who is 12), finds it fascinating and they have a Junior Membership. It is a teachable moment and a connection to the past that affects him directly. We can have fun learning about the Pilgrims in more detail. What a great thing to share with him.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tracking down records - It helps to pay attention to detail

I have an account with It is not new and I am really good at navigating their resources. However, I am not so good at paying attention to detail when it comes to outside sources. You would think that trying the same thing over and over again would net me new results. DUH

I am going to Tennessee with my cousin who is also interested in family history. We have our own history. We are one day apart in age and grew up spending a lot of time together as children. As adults, we haven't seen each other in more than 30 years so this will be an interesting reunion on its own. What we have discovered is that we are just older versions as our younger selves so I a really looking forward to this trip.

In preparation for this trip, I am gathering notes on missing data which brings me back to paying attention  I have searched the records for the birth and death records of the Tennessee family. There are none to be found so I thought we might need to go to the Tennessee Archives and search there. I had assumed (you know what that means, right?) that they just had not been filmed or Tennessee had not released them. Again...DUH!

Searching the Tennessee Archives I found this note...

"Births & Deaths Before 1908
There was no official statewide registration of births and deaths in Tennessee before 1908. Four cities did keep some earlier birth and death records, which are available through the Tennessee State Library & Archives."

Sneedville is not among the four cities listed. It is much too small. Martha Jane (McCollum) was born before 1908. So was my grandfather. Knowing that, I actually did some more accurate research (paying attention to detail) and found a birth certificate for my grandfather.

Apparently, Social Security required a birth certificate although there were many who did not have them. In an effort to rectify the problem the State of Tennessee, among others, created programs to add the missing records. 

What I found unbelievable was that my grandfather, born September 15, 1882, did not request his birth certificate until March 19, 1946. He was 64 years old. I didn't find a birth certificate for Martha Jane. I guess it wasn't necessary as she died in 1929 and although I can find a death certificate for another of her sons who died in 1929, there is not a death certificate for her either. 

Going to Tennessee was supposed to help me find these records. Now I believe that they do not exist. Still, there is information to be found so I will continue making notes on other records I am sure I can find. Just going to Tennessee may be enough in itself.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I read a new book - Tell it slant:Writing and shaping creative nonfiction

I wrote a book report on Squidoo for Tell it Slant:: Writing and shaping creative nonfiction. Somehow, I can't seem to say what I want about this book clear enough. I loved it and am reading it again. 

Martha Jane McCollum is my s ubject. I know some things about her and her life and I know what she looks like. What I don't know is what I would need to fill a book. Still, she interests me and her story is one that should be told. The story is not any different than any other woman who has lived through trials and tribulations but it is her will to carry on that I find fascinating.

This book has helped me in so many ways. For example, her picture shows what appears to be a stern woman. Of the three that I have, none of them are smiling and yet, my grandfather smiled a lot so is it safe to assume that she smiled too? In those days, no one really smiled and that was the pose most used. Her mouth is not sunk-in like those who didn't have teeth so I am guessing she had teeth. Her hair is pulled back into a bun so I think it must have been long. 

Tell it slant: Writing and shaping creative nonfiction helped me to determine how far creative writing could go with the facts I have. It's a great book and I hope to learn so much more doing the exercises at the end of the chapters. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to write family history is a story like format.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What I learned from the Family History Writing Challenge

I joined the challenge with a lofty goal to write 1000 words a day for 28 day. It was ambitious and maybe a little out of reach but everyday I attempted to meet the goal. What did I learn?

1. Set the goal high.

I can write a 400 word article with ease. I have been writing them for a long time. I am lazy so to make the challenge work for me, I had to up the anty.

2. Meeting the goal

I only made the word limit on 2 of the 28 days. It was much more difficult than I thought. The material is there but stretching it to meet the word count is not the best way to write. Instead, I gave myself permission to write only what was needed.

3. Life gets in the way

If life got in the way, I wrote about it.  The blog is about family history and trips to the doctor would qualify as a family history for future generations. I don't promote the blog so the only people who read it regularly are family. When writing a family history, life doesn't get in the way, it is current events that will be history tomorrow.

4. There are holes in the story - Creative non-fiction

Martha Jane Rhea did not leave a diary or a blog. Heck, they didn't have electricity. I have learned to accept the holes and realize that if I write her story, some of it will have to be creative. That's not the original plan, it just worked out that way as I tried to imagine the scenes.

5. Read the other blogs

There is a lot of talent out there in blog land. There is also a whole lot to learn from others. I didn't always leave comments but I made it a point to read the blogs of the other Family History Challenge members. Their stories touched and inspired me each day.

6. Challenges are fun, tiring, and well worth the time

The Armchair Genealogist never fails to deliver. I don't know how Lynn does it but there is always something new to learn or enjoy. When I first considered the challenge, it was something new. The thought was since I was only competing with myself, how hard could it be? It's hard but I ended up with is a disjointed 28 days of writing that could possibly be turned into a story. The bones are there. That's so much more than I had before. Can't wait for next year's challenge. 


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Martha Rhea - New photo of my great grandmother

The Family History Writing Challenge is over and I must admit it was hard to write every day. However, after having skipped a day, it somehow just doesn't feel right. Fortunately, on, Ancestry Anne's post today was about posting a picture of you favorite female ancestor. Apparently, it's Women's History Month.

I am not going to spend this month writing about my female ancestors but I do have a new picture of Martha Jane (McColloam) Rhea. It's not the best picture but was taken at the same time as the other family photo I have.

In the family picture, Martha is wearing the white shawl. The small child is wearing a jacket with lots of buttons. Floyd is wearing a dark jacket and a white shirt.

In the new picture, the clothes are the same. The picture was found in a box full of old photos left to Sheldon Livesay by Jewelle Rhea, the daughter of Victor, shown on the top right in the first photo. 

Trying to date the first photo was difficult. My grandfather left Tennessee in 1914 when he married my grandmother in Missouri. In the first picture, we can only guess at John's age but in the Washington Floyd family, the other two children are there. John is the oldest, He was born in 1904. The next child was Guy born in 1906. The baby was Homer born in 1908. 

Homer looks to be slightly more than a year old. That would put Guy at three and John at five. That would make the date of the photo at 1909. My grandfather would have been 27.

This picture is another treasure. We see Martha, John and Floyd again but now have faces for Guy, Homer and Floyd's wife Eliza.

Women’s History Month!
Women’s History Month!