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.

18 April 2017

Paula Wright, Our Deaf Ancestry

I'm very thankful Paula Wright found me and started sharing her stories with me. I asked if she would be willing to let me post her story on this blog, and here it is! Paula and I share Gray and Jones ancestry. A Census she references is at the end of the post. Enjoy this story I feel is amazing, fascinating, informative with Virginia pioneer/frontier spirit. --Julie

Why I am Deaf
by Paula Wright
April 2017

The Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind (VSDB) is located in Staunton, Virginia (VA) and is an institution for educating deaf and blind children. The Virginia Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind was originally named and was established in 1839.

I have two hearing and two deaf brothers. L. Earl, Mike and I were born deaf. Our hearing parents sent us to the VSDB. We completely graduated there. Also, we went to Gallaudet University which is the world’s only university for the education of the Deaf and hard of hearing located in Washington, D.C.

My family sometimes discussed how my brothers and I became deaf. My parents said we have other deaf ancestors and relatives. According to the Gallaudet University, researchers at the Medical College of VA and Gallaudet University studied causes of hereditary deafness for over 30 years in which a nationwide study began in 1969. Connexin 26 is a genetic cause of congenital sensorineural hearing loss. The study of one specific gene, connexin 26 genes began in 1997. The researchers recruited deaf and hard of hearing individuals and families who were interested to be a part of a genetic study. L. Earl and I decided to participate in the study. We had blood samples. A genetic counselor contacted us and asked questions for us to answer. In 2007, we received a letter from the genetic counselor stating we both have connexin 26 genes in which it caused deafness. In fact, my parents have recessive genes.

I was retired from the federal government in March 2012. I began researching my genealogy. My hearing brother, Scott already built a family tree which helped me to start my family history journey. In 2016, I took the Ancestry DNA test. A result of my ethnicity estimate is Great Britain (33%), Scandinavia (21%), Europe West (17%), Ireland (16%), Europe East (6%), Iberian Peninsula (5%) and Italy/Greece (2%).

I have a several deaf cousins living in VA, North Carolina (NC) and Kentucky. But, it is possible that I have more distant deaf cousins out somewhere they are living today. My deaf cousin from NC told me that our cousin, Leonard Spence attended the VSDB in the early 1900’s. I confirmed, via the 1920 Federal Census report that Leonard was in fact, was a deaf pupil in the VSDB. I have not found his deaf brother, James where he went to school nor did he go. Leonard’s deaf sister died young. The other deaf cousin, Grady Spence was one of deaf pupils at the VSDB in 1941. Sally Tanner, my third cousin, was the VSDB alumna, too.

I traced my mother’s Moseley’s lineage to the Bollings. There was just not only my grandma's lineage to Bollings. I found a lot of surprises in my family tree. Also, my grandpa, Charlie Thomas's ancestors included Bollings, Joneses, Kennons and Clacks. For example, via my grandma’s lineage, I have a William B. Jones (my 5th great-grandpa), a son of William Jones (1737-1818) and via my grandpa’s lineage, I have a Frederick Jones (my 4th great-grandpa), a son of William Jones. On another side of my father, I have a Richard Jones (4th great-grandpa), a son of William Jones.

Colonel Robert Thomas Bolling (my 9th great-grandpa under my mother’s line) was born in London, England on December 26, 1646. On October 2, 1660, he arrived in the colony of VA when he was fourteen years old. About 1675, he married Jane Rolfe (my 9th great-grandma). They had two children, Jane (my 8th great-grandma) and John Fairfax Bolling (my 9th great-uncle). Jane Rolfe died as a young mother at the age of 21.

On my father’s side, I have another Bolling family. Colonel Robert T. Bolling is my 8th great-grandfather. He married his second wife, Anne M. Stith (my 8th great-grandmother).

According to the Histories of American Schools for the Deaf, 1817-1893 by Edward Allen Fay (Volta Bureau, published in1893), in New York, the Rev. John Stanford made the first effort to give instruction to the Deaf in America about the year 1810. It is quoted “the unsuccessful attempts made two years later by John Braidwood, Jr., a grandson of the founder of the Edinburgh school, to establish schools in Virginia and in New York are described in the histories of the Virginia and New York Institutions. Braidwood also attempted to found a school in Baltimore, Maryland, but failed there for the same reason as in Virginia and New York.”

The bronze Cobbs tablet is displayed inside the Main Hall building at the VSDB. You may have heard a story about “Cobbs” School for the deaf. “Cobbs” was the home of the Bollings and the site of the institution for teaching deaf pupils in America in the early 1800’s. The site is located near Petersburg, VA.

Via my grandma’s lineage to the Bollings, Major John Fairfax Bolling (my 9th great-uncle) lived, died and was buried there on April 20, 1729. He married Mary Kennon on December 29. 1697. They had at least seven children. John Kennon Bolling (the son of John and Mary Bolling) married Elizabeth Bland Blair on August 1, 1728. They had at least nine children. Their son, Thomas (my 2nd cousin 8x removed) and his wife, Elizabeth Gay (his first cousin) had several children, three of whom were deaf. Before the 1800’s, John, Mary and Thomas, Jr. (my 3rd cousins 7x removed) were sent to Edinburgh, Scotland for school at the Braidwood Academy for the Deaf and Mute. Thomas Braidwood, the well-known instructor of the deaf and dumb, took care of them. The three Bolling children returned to VA following the Revolutionary War in 1783. They became ill. John died on October 11, 1783.

William (my 3rd cousin 7x removed) was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth. On February 23, 1798, he married his first cousin, Mary Randolph. They bore five children, two of whom were deaf, William Albert and Mary (my 4th cousins 6x removed). About 1812, John Braidwood discussed with William Bolling who wanted to open a school for his deaf children. In 1815, the Cobbs School was established. It was closed in 1816, but the deaf Bollings were continued to go to a different school for the deaf in Manchester, VA where it was conducted by John Braidwood and the Rev. John Kirkpatrick for a few years.

In conclusion, that’s why I am deaf because of the hereditary. I am proud to be deaf.
Research your genealogy – Family Tree is amazing!

1920-Leonard Spence at VSDB, line 48

26 March 2017

Current projects for blog posts

Me on a visit to Richmond, VA-Mar 2017
Lots of cool posts coming soon. I have several blog posts composed in my mind. I have stacks of interviews and stories to type up and share. I've been discovering lots of new resources, that I want to tell people about. It's very easy to get impatient with myself, because things now take much longer than I want them to. I've been trying to learn personal things for my health things as fast as I possible, so I can get back to more of what I love. Family history and genealogy feel like they are a part of me and my soul.

I have an electrolyte disorder that affects my muscles, including my vision and speech. I permanently went into a wheelchair last March. (2016) My hands are not strong enough for hand controls, to allow for driving. So, I also stopped driving then. I had so many places I wanted to see for my research! I live in between Washington DC and Richmond, Virginia. Both of which have libraries and museums I love. Public transportation doesn't come as far as my house, I'm still in a rural area. But there is a train station about a 10-minute drive from here. My doctor helped me with handicap paperwork to get disability transportation passes. I got train passes this month, so I can try to get out and about again a little easier.  I've gotten much better at balancing my electrolytes so I don't feel sick as much, and I feel safer to go out. I can also finally type on the computer longer periods of time again.  My wheelchair has made life much better and easier for me. These things have been a huge boost to my confidence and feeling more independence.

My Gray line from Mecklenburg, Virginia was from County Armagh, Ireland. (Immigrated 1838) After getting my DNA done on Ancestry.com, I discovered I'm more Irish than I thought and have found more Irish ancestors. Last week, my husband took me to Library of Virginia (state archives), and I got to see a presentation from the Ulster Historical Society, on St Patrick's Day. They sent us home with several folders worth of resources.  I also copied two very large chancery cases that day.  This month, I've learned a lot from Dear Myrtle's Irish Gen study group, on Google +. I've been rather immersed in Irish research this month and loving it! I also have some things I'm working on with Polish ancestors, so I'm planning a visit to Washington DC.

I made a list of dozens of webinars I want to watch. I've been shown dozens of new websites and resources just this month.  I plan to type up things I've been learning for my blogs. This past year, I got all my old archived emails into Evernote to tag and organize. I've also moved notes from personal messaging systems like FamilySearch, Ancestry and Face Book, into Evernote. The more I tag and put my notes into notebooks, the more I see more blog post ideas; As well as questions that I want to go back and ask people, now that I've learned more things the last few years.  Of course, as with life in general, these things are always a work in progress. I'm going through my notes and getting things into my computer a little at a time so it's easier to share. I'm thankful that I am still moving, not feeling stuck,...even though it's a slower pace than I prefer. Much more coming soon, ...a little at a time.

(This post was created for all 3 blogs: My Virginia blog, Polish blog, and simplifying-health blog)

09 February 2017

DNA- I'm more Irish than I expected

Ancestry.com says I'm 42% Irish! My Ancestry DNA posted about a month ago. I previously tested (May 2015) with 23andMe, which My Heritage partnered with for the tree part. Now My Heritage is doing their own DNA. On 23andMe it grouped Irish and English together; On Ancestry, it listed Irish separately. I expected to be a lot more English, because I know several lines that came over from England. I expected to be mostly English, with some Irish, Welsh and Danish. The more I read about history though...there was a lot of back and forth in those countries, people moving and who was in charge. It appears further back, those English guys of mine might have been ethnically more Celtic. Or I just carried/inherited more of the Irish pieces of DNA.

My Grays, before their arrival in Mecklenburg worked at Colonel William Blacker's estate, in County Armagh. I was thinking our locality was Seagoe because of the church, but now I'm thinking that looks more like a parish area name not really a place name. I read that if you were at that estate, you were really considered part of Portadown. This month I purchased 3 books from Ireland with pictures and history. Was fun to see "Printed in Armagh" on the title page. I've found the history really interesting; I'm learning a lot of new things. One thing that surprised me is the place names and surnames. Many of those same names I'm familiar with from Mecklenburg and Brunswick.

I started looking more closely at other family lines to see if I could find more Irish lines. I found another side of my family immigrated from Ireland about 1860. I have no idea where from yet. I'm really looking forward to seeing where these DNA results can lead. I have matches to people who never left Europe, but it must be farther than either of us can document. I hope eventually DNA will give us more Gray DNA matches. A match back to Ireland would be extra cool. So would a match to Francis Gray's family that we still haven't been able to find.

I'm at home watching RootsTech videos this week. There's lots of the latest about DNA presentations scheduled.  Lots of DNA tests for about half price there, and drawings for free kits/tests. Ancestry recently reached 3 million tests. Will be fun to see lots more people testing, leading to lots more possibilities for matches. The Ancestry Insider blog did a recent post about the innovator awards finalists. I checked out two of them and they were really amazing and helpful, especially with older (colonial) records. I might do a post on those ideas soon. Yesterday I went to message someone on Ancestry.com. A message came up that I did not have a DNA match to the lady I was messaging, or she hadn't taken a DNA test yet. I can see that being a very helpful tool. On Ancestry.com I made a tree that's just my pedigree lines. No second spouses or other children. Just the pedigree line. In Mecklenburg I know my families are very connected. Everyone in a small geographical area is related by marriage or blood. I have more detailed trees I can direct people to with my sources. Looking forward to the new things in DNA and genealogy this year!