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Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Family Legend - Is It True?

A family legend in our family is the story of David Henricks (also spelled Hendricks, which can add to the confusion of finding the right relatives!). David was the family “black sheep” who is said to have stolen a neighbor’s horse and wagon and headed West to Colorado. My great-grandmother, Edith Henricks (she was David’s daughter) is said to have received a post card telling her “Yer Pa is daid”, circa 1886. My Grandma said this story was true and I NEVER knew her to tell me anything but the truth.

After receiving David Henrick’s Civil War pension file, I learned he had “hearing loss” and “lung trouble” (which usually meant tuberculosis). I began to wonder if the story of the stolen wagon was really true. I speculated that maybe he had gone to Colorado for treatment of his “lung trouble”. I knew that he died in Denver, but wondered if MAYBE he had taken a train since he was sick, maybe traveling by horse and wagon would have been hard for him.

I WAS SO WRONG! I should never have doubted my Grandma!

Last summer, while researching the Henricks family at the Shelbyville Genealogy House, I found the terrible truth about this ancestor that I had felt sorry for.

Printed in the September 6, 1886 issue of the Shelbyville Republican was the story of David Henricks. He had died in Denver two years after he “fled the county (in 1884) being guilty of forgery and other crooked business transactions”.

OH NO! I was shocked! Now I knew that the story of the theft of the horse and wagon must have been true as well. How very tragic for David’s two young daughters which he had left behind in Shelby County after their mother had passed away. What a sad story.

When I told my cousin in Shelbyville about this newspaper article, he wasn’t surprised. He said that not only did David steal the neighbor’s horse and wagon, but the wagon was “loaded with wheat”.

Our “black sheep” story was true. Now I could put that legend to rest. Sadly……..

If you have a family legend, good or bad, remember one thing: it’s only a legend until you check it out and find the true story. And, if you have ancestors from Shelby County, the Shelbyville Genealogy House is the place to make your discoveries!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Circle is Complete

When I moved to North Carolina 'way back in 1967 I wasn't interested in finding my ancestors. I was interested in being a cool teenager, listening to rock music, and trying to make friends in a new town, in a new school.

In the 1980s I began to explore my family tree. My Grandma told me lots of stories about her life and what she knew about her family. I was hooked! Many years later, after working on her family (the Stewards, Lishers, Hendricks, and another Williams line -- more on these folks next post), I started researching my Mom's family.

Mom didn't know a lot about her ancestors, but the little bit she shared with me was all I needed to get started. Although all of my ancestors lived in Shelby County, Indiana, many came from other parts of the country. In my Mom's family, two lines came from North Carolina - the Kerrs who lived in Guilford County (about 30 miles from where I now live) and the Sanders who lived in Wayne County - about 5 miles from where my brother now lives in Goldsboro.

Learning that these direct family lines had once lived where I currently live took a lot of research and filling in many blanks. (I still have blanks!) Using Revoluntionary War pension records, the U.S. Census, and online sites (the US Genweb site for Guilford County was especially helpful), I slowly put the pieces of Mom's tree together. I travelled to assorted libraries in the area and found land, church, marriage and cemetery records. I learned that Mom's ancestor, David Kerr, was buried not far from an interstate highway near Greensboro (a road I travel frequently). Of course I went to the old cemetery at Alamance Presbyterian Church and found his grave. His grave was one of the oldest in the cemetery - David died in 1804. There were many other members of his family who were also buried there. It was a special experience for me to find David Kerr -- and then recently to find his son, William Kerr's grave, in Dearborn County, Indiana. (William was in the Revolutionary War and has a DAR marker on his grave stone.)

I'm sure this is not a unique experience, as many Americans move often. But, in my experience, finding the roots of my Indiana ancestors so close to home in North Carolina was completing a circle. It was very fulfilling to locate the graves of these two pioneers - one in North Carolina, one in Indiana.

Another interesting story of Shelby County roots in North Carolina must also be shared. My wonderful cousin, Kitty, has traced her Shelby County Plummer family to Davidson County, North Carolina. This is the county where I now live. Kitty lives in Henry County, but her family was from Shelby County. When she asked me to do some research for her, I used our library here, the courthouse, and another great library in Rowan County. We were able to discover a maiden name for her Briles ancestor and a copy of a will for her Plummer family. How rewarding it was to help her. Kitty is in her 90s and is still excited about her family history! I hope she will always be -- it is the experience of a lifetime.

I would like to add a note with this post -- I'm now available for research projects here in North Carolina. I know that MANY Shelby County families have roots here in North Carolina. If you are interested in contacting me, please use this email address: jw62002@yahoo.com. I have over 30 years of research experience and am very familier with many research facilities here in North Carolina.

Happy hunting!