07 October 2015

Are beds essential? A divorce chancery case

Awhile ago, I saw some names that looked familiar in the Virginia chancery index (on the LVA website). I went to the Library of Virginia and asked to see the file, because Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties are not digitized yet. The time period was about 1890. The chancery case ended up being a divorce file. In Virginia, divorces were part of chancery records. Back then, women had to "prove" there was adultery or abandonment to be given a divorce.  (My North Carolina divorce cases went before a jury.) Family members and neighbors gave depositions. The case I was reading, was talking about having a bed. It was part of the proof for adultery.  The woman was beat badly and kicked out of her house, so she ran to her father's house. Her husband then moved a mistress into the house. Her father was explaining he was very poor, and that he felt her husband should financially provide for her, because the husband had more money than him... because he could afford a bed. The father had 5 children at home and no bed. I hadn't really thought about life without beds before!

I looked up these family members on the Census, because the names weren't quite matching my family names, yet they were in the same location. It turns out the case was for an African American family, not mine. But I started asking people about beds. Many white families were also very poor in Virginia. After the Confederates lost, it was financially devastating for our state. The majority of people of all races were affected financially, for decades. I also learned that blacks could appeal to chancery courts, even if they were slaves, and they were treated fairly.

Some people told me their grandparents (white) didn't have a bed, with a frame. Maybe a cot by the fireplace. Or maybe like you think of Laura Ingalls Wilder family. You slept up in the loft on stuffed mattresses you made, using sewing material (like ticking) and filling it something like corn husks or straw. Farm hands sometimes slept in barns. People slept on bed rolls, like you might think of cowboys using. But before the Industrial Revolution, in a lot of places like the frontier, it appears beds were a luxury. I heard about one of my families traveling during their move (1920's) from the Chicago area to Winston Salem, NC. They travelled by wagon. They had a tent. They knocked on farmers doors, saying they were passing through. They asked if they could camp on their farm for the night, and maybe have a few ears of corn in exchange for doing farm chores? People respected where farmers planted their crops, and this was a way of hospitality and survival.

I love that there are amazing things technology can do, like keeping in touch with family and friends around the world. But sometimes life can feel so fast paced and just crazy-busy. I love reading and learning about when life was a little slower and simpler. What did people do for fun without electronics and TV? I love the story "Little Men" by Louisa Alcott for that reason. Sometimes we need to re-think what is really essential in our lives, to simplify life a bit. Or to feel gratitude instead of entitlement. I'm grateful I have the luxury of owning a bed for myself and my children!

22 September 2015

Books on FamilySearch

I wanted to share a link to a story on Eastman's blog: Arizona books-Eastman post
This talks about FamilySearch digitizing 5,000 books and making them available for free to the public. Family Search did not charge for this. A huge part of their purpose is preservation and accessibility to everyone, for free. I hope with a success like this, that other State Archives may join in this as well. Already many historical societies and smaller groups have partnered with FamilySearch for digitization and free accessibility to records.

There is one other thing I wanted to mention in this post, and that is how to find the books already in FamilySearch. The books in the Salt Lake Family History Library that are free from copyright, are all being digitized and made available. Normally when I do searches and the subject is "Mecklenburg, VA" I rarely get any results. But when I typed that here, under the books section, I got 3,780 results!! I figured they must be Mecklenburg, North Carolina or Meckleburg, Germany. But no, it meant Mecklenburg, VA! There were lots of small books written and submitted by families from Mecklenburg, Virginia, decades ago! Here's how you find and search for that:

 Go to FamilySearch.org
Click on the word search, and select "books"
This is the screen you'll see. Type in your surname, location etc. Results show which library and resource the books are in.
Happy Searching!!

21 July 2015

Project Ireland XO

I recently read something on Dick Eastman's blog I was really excited about, and wanted to share. Here's his write up about this amazing project!  http://blog.eogn.com/2015/06/29/ireland-reaching-out-creates-reverse-genealogy/

Here is a direct link to the project: http://www.irelandxo.com/

I registered and signed up for updates on the Seagoe parish in Armagh County. The site recommended posting a note about your immigrating ancestor on the parish message board, to increase chances of someone in Ireland being able to help you connect. So I posted a note about John Gray, his wife Ann Purdy, and that Nicholas Purdy and his family immigrated with John Gray. I stated the date they left and where they settled in the USA (Mecklenburg, VA). I also stated that John Gray was a weaver at Col Blacker's estate.

The part I think is really great is that even if you don't know where your family is from in Ireland , you can still sign up, and other researchers will help you make connections. I don't know anything further back than John Gray, and I can't quite figure out the connection between John Gray's wife Ann Purdy and his friend Nicholas Purdy, or confirm if there is a connection. Hoping this site will help me with that some day. I'm also looking forward to information they post about Armagh and Seagoe.