Welcome!

Welcome!
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.

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!

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