I realized quickly that I’d have to “think outside the box” to learn about my ancestors. I LOVE to interview people, and listen to stories about "the older days" when life seemed a little slower and simpler. I study USGS maps, plats, read chanceries, look for long forgotten cemeteries and try to help preserve memories people share with me. This blog is ad free, so it's easier to focus on sharing stories. Feel free to sign the guestbook, or join the FaceBook group. Even if we aren't related by DNA, I'd still love to hear about your research efforts and family stories. I am interested in posting (to this blog) stories relevant to the Mecklenburg-Brunswick families.

02 October 2014

Francis Gray Brown, adopted

Francis Gray 1912
Here is what Francis Gray looked like when our family last saw him in 1912. He is the son of Alginon Gray and Martha Dortch. His father had died, his mother was living with her parents and brothers and sisters close to her age, in a hotel in Kankakee, IL that his grandmother Tennessee Jordan Glover was sole proprietor. (Martha's mother).

Francis' mother was about to remarry and Francis and his brother Hoyt went to temporarily visit or stay with another relative who had children. Sally Dortch Vick (Martha's sister) was waiting to see her nephews. She found the boys hadn't arrived, but instead the relative meeting the boys took the boys all the way to Richmond, VA to be adopted. Sally telegraphed the news to Martha who arrived on the train, with a picture of the boys, most likely this one, to try to find the boys but it was too late.

The people who adopted Francis and Hoyt were Howard Henry Brown and Alice Lucas Johntson. They had a fruit orchard farm in Crozet, VA, part of Albemarle, VA, a little ways outside of Charlottesville, VA.  The Browns had never been able to have children. When Francis turned 21, the Browns had searched and found Martha Dortch, living in Winston Salem, NC. They took the boys to meet their mother. Martha's oldest child from her second marriage was named Virginia. She was about 16 years old. She told me what had happened, because our family (Francis sister Fannie Gray) only knew that the boys were taken and put in an orphanage in Richmond, VA. When the visit with the Browns and the boys was over, Virginia went back and spent an enjoyable summer in Crozet with her brothers and the Browns. Virginia said Francis kept in touch with them, but she lost track of Francis about 1950. Virginia said Francis named a daughter after her.

I found someone in Hoyt Gray's family. Hoyt junior and his wife went to visit Francis in Washington DC, the "Home for the Incurables" hospital. He was dying from cancer, late 1957. This was all we knew about Francis. We knew he was married, but no clue what his wife's name was. He married after the 1930 Census.

I found out that Washington DC death records are public 50 years after the date of death. I found online death records and burial permits, even for the year 1957, but could not find Francis Gray or Francis Brown. So I wrote to request the record. I stated that he was illegally adopted and met his birth mother, so I wasn't sure which info would be given on his record and gave the info for both parents.
Brown's house that Francis & Hoyt were raised at

The death certificate was found, I got it yesterday! The informant was Grace Omohundro Brown, his sister in law. The Browns were listed as parents. He died in Sept 1957 and is buried at Mt. Olivet cemetery, same place as Grace. The only thing incorrect was that he was listed as born in North Carolina. Hoyt was born in Roanoke Rapids, but Francis was born in Knoxville, TN, I have his birth record. Francis was listed as married, and that his wife was Olive Barnett. He was an auto mechanic. I hope to one day find his family to learn more about him, and tell him more about us. 

PS. My family is Fannie Gray, daughter of Alginon Gray and his first wife Theresa India Dortch. Theresa and Martha were sisters.

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