dee_burris: (Default)
2013-08-25 11:11

Sometimes the answers are on the other side

Have spent a lot of time the past two weeks on several family trees.

For the ones unrelated to my own family, there are friends looking for answers.

They didn't even know there were questions, because - well, every family has some secrets. If not created in recent generations, then the secrets of the ancestors can be startling and unwelcome surprises to their descendants.
I have no farther to look for evidence of family secrets than my own great great grandfather, who had an entire second family a half mile away from his farm.

For at least 14 years, James Littleton Burris had a relationship with a woman young enough to be his daughter. They had at least 5 children together, possibly more.

You can't really call that a fling. So I wonder...did my great great grandparents have some sort of understanding? Our family lore says Elizabeth Adeline Ashmore walked beside James Littleton Burris on almost the entire journey from Lawrence Co., TN to Arkansas in 1838, and fell deeply in love with him. So, did she just look the other way when he left to go see his other family three decades later? Was my great great grandpa polyamorous, and his wife accepted that?
Then, there are the other families...

The yearning and pain I see in the eyes of two half-brothers, who desperately want to find the body of their half-sister who just disappeared one day, and whom they fear was murdered by her own parents...

A dear friend who didn't find out until he was in his 30s that his grandmother stabbed his grandfather to death with a kitchen knife. Had she finally decided, after leaving him and moving to Memphis with their daughters, that she just wasn't going to take one more beating after he arrived drunk at her house that Saturday?
Sometimes the answers died with them.

But it doesn't make me stop wondering. And if nothing else, I'll ask them on the other side...
dee_burris: (Default)
2012-09-02 09:09

Sentimental Sunday: Thinking about Hetty Hill...

Over at 2338 W Washington Blvd., Margel wrote about the struggle of a widow to get financial support from her deceased husband's estate, finally having to sue.

It's a very interesting post, and according to my own family research, not an uncommon event. There are widows in my family tree who, having been given the family home and land, had no financial means to pay the taxes, hire the farmhands, or whatever was needed. In some cases, after debts had been paid, there was only a pittance in cash left over. Some of those widows applied for their husband's military pensions (as their widows), and then had to fight to get more than a few dollars a year.

Margel listed some of the expenses of the estate, with scans of receipts. One of the expenses she mentioned was for the burial of Thomas Gilshannon - $35 for a shroud, coffin and box.

I noted in a comment that the funeral expenses for Hetty Hill were included the 1897 accounting of the guardian of her brothers as an expense against their deceased mother's estate. (And Margel, I was wrong - $7.50 was half the cost of her coffin. My great granddad - the boys' guardian - paid the other half.)
The psychological specter of Hetty Hill continues to flit in and out of my thoughts.

She was the only daughter of 5 - or perhaps 6 - children my g-g-grandfather, James Littleton Burris had with Martha J F (Vick) Hill between 8 Apr 1869 and 10 Mar 1883.

While he was still married to my g-g-grandmother, Elizabeth Adeline Ashmore.

I wrote about my discovery of granddaddy's other family, our 150 year old Burris family secret, in the fall of 2010.

The whole thing still bugs me.

But Hetty is one of the parts of it that bug me the most.
According to a cemetery book painstakingly researched and published by Lina and CL Boyd, Martha J F Vick Hill is buried beside her youngest son, Charley L Hill, in St Joe Cemetery. Not far from where my dad lives.

The book says there are no dates of birth or death for her from the records of her burial.

And there is no marker. There is a rock deliberately placed in the ground next to Charley's grave.

So in records of the cemetery, Martha's burial is simply noted. That's all.

And I don't care what century it was, or how anyone might have felt about Martha and James screwing around...if you can call evidence of a relationship that lasted at least 14 years (and probably all the way up to her death in 1893) screwing around.

That's just wrong.
But what about Hetty?

Where is she buried?

The 1897 annual estate accounting lists Richard and Charley Hill's half share of Hetty's coffin as $7.50. George W Burris, Sr., the guardian, paid the other half.

That accounting was filed with the Clerk of Court on 28 Jan 1897. So Hetty died before that date.

I don't know if she was married or not at the time of her death. The itemization for the expense simply says, "Coffin for sister (1500) 1/2 of which is $7.50."

According to the 1880 census, Hetty was 5 at the time the census was enumerated. So if she were born in 1875, and died before 28 Jan 1897, she would have been 21 or 22 at the time of her death.

And there is no record that I can find of her burial.

But there are a few more "deliberately placed" rocks in the area of Charley, James (and wives) and Martha Hill's graves.

And all over the cemetery. Every time I walk through there, taking photographs, I have to pause by one and another of a few those rocks that are just out on their own - not close to any family plot.

And I wonder. Is Hetty buried under one of those?
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-12-03 18:21

More new (to me) Burris family photos

These are courtesy of a newly discovered cousin who found the blog.

Photobucket
George Washington Burris Sr., and wife Mary Mathilda Wharton, undated photo

Photobucket
George Washington Burris, Sr., undated photo

Photobucket
Left to right: Dora Emma (Burris) Crites, Ottis Gileston Burris and wife, Gertha Leah Hill, on the occasion of what we believe was Ott and Gertha's 55th wedding anniversary in 1971.


Thanks to my cousin for sharing.
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-10-16 16:58

It's raining new-found cousins...

A probable Meek cousin, from some of my entries at Find a Grave...

A for real second cousin of the Burris kind, whom I'll get to meet in person on October 28, when we rendezvous at a gas station at the Atkins exit of Interstate 40, on our way to St. Joe Cemetery...

And bless his soul...a cousin several times removed, who found my online tree and is now catching up on the 140 year old Burris secret after emailing me to ask if I knew who his grandfather's father was...His grandfather was James L Hill.
If you've been putting your family history out on the internet and are wondering if it's worth all the time and effort you've put into it...

Let me assure you, it is.
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-07-26 20:09

Treasure Chest Thursday: Lina Hill Holmes

This is another of my recent eBay purchases.


Photobucket


Back of the photo was labeled.
Photobucket

And ding! ding! ding!

I think we have a winner.

According to several Ancestry family trees, this was probably a young Lina Blanche Hill, daughter of William F Hill and Mildred Collins.

According to those trees, Lina was born on 24 Jan 1891 in Westford, Crawford Co., PA, and died 31 Jan 1979 in Holidaysburg, Lycoming Co., PA. She married John B Holmes on 27 Nov 1912 in Crawford Co., PA.

So I'm off to see if someone would like to add this photo back into their treasure chest...
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-02-20 18:45

"You mean you really blog about that?"

Keep the secret or not...that is the question.

I've discovered secrets in my family - on both sides. Some of more gravity than others.

But yeah...I blog about them.

And in some instances, I have questions...why did so-and-so do thus-and-such?

In most cases, I will never know the answer to that question.

Because most of the time, I lack the context in which to frame the answer to this...gee, do I think that was right or wrong?

So I really ought not to judge, huh?

It's also good to remember that they were then just like we are now. Most of them dealt the hand they were played.

Some better than others.


Yes, I write about things that were kept quiet for years - things that I or others have discovered.

From multiply married and murderous Chapins, to Burrises with multiple families or the mid-19th century bad boy Callaway who died so young and had a mysterious wife named Mary, my family tree provides me with countless opportunities to mutter, well, would ya look at that?

My newest curiosity is over a mystery Burris child, whom I would not be at all surprised to find was another of James Littleton Burris' sons.

The discovery of the Mountain Meadows massacre was probably the most shocking surprise I had one Saturday morning in my slippers, with coffee and cigarette...

No one in my family for four generations ever mentioned that.

Maybe they were just trying to forget.

It worked.


Some of the family secrets and mysteries are having an effect on lives today.

I know firsthand of multiple individuals who have questions about true parentage. The people about whom they have questions have been dead for decades - in one case, for over a century.

If there's information out there to help them establish *who they are* - their identity - then, I won't be keeping secrets about my family, and hindering that.

I won't attempt to draw some moral conclusion about my ancestors without knowing the context of their situation. Did James and Adeline have an "understanding" that they didn't blab to everyone else because it was none of their business?

They could have. I don't know.

But I also don't know that they didn't. That's not the point.

The point is - someone out there needs the facts in order to find out who they are.

Good enough for me.
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-02-20 11:48

Oh heavens...another mystery Burris child...

Funny thing about dreams...

I had "one of those" dreams last night.

The kind that just pop up out of the blue, and when you wake up from them, you're thinking, now where did THAT come from?


I wasn't even thinking about Burrises last night when I went to bed. Or Hills.

I was thinking about Callaways.

That's what made it so weird to wake up - completely awake - at 3 a.m. this morning with the feeling that I needed to go back and look up that mystery Burris kid in the 1880 census.

The one I asked my dad about two or three years years ago when I first found him. Neither of us had ever heard anything about a child born after Richard, who was the youngest of James and Adeline Burris' children.

He was as clueless as I was. Still is.


Nancy Elizabeth Burris was the oldest daughter of my g-g-grandparents, James Littleton Burris and Elizabeth Adeline Ashmore, born on 1 Apr 1845 in Pope County, AR.

On 2 Nov 1865, she married William Calvin Jones in Pope County. They had a daughter, Mary Jane, who was born on 12 Oct 1866.

Calvin Jones died of dysentery on 31 Jul 1879 in Conway County, AR, and was buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery, Conway County, AR.

So, in the 1880 census, Nancy Jones was a widow, raising her young daughter, Mary Jane, in Griffin Township, Conway County, AR.

And a little brother, Irving Burris, who was 27 years her junior.

Huh?

Photobucket

Photobucket
She knows her little brother, Irving, was born in Arkansas and that he is 8 years old. But she doesn't know where his parents were born.

Sure she doesn't.


I moved on to Nancy's parents, James and Adeline.

In the 1880 census, they were still on the homeplace in Griffin Township, Pope County.

Photobucket

Jeff Burris, their son, and Lucinda Burris, their daughter, were still living at home.

In addition, they were supporting Porter McDonald Burris, James' grand-nephew, because his mother, Sarah Ann Harrelson, had died in 1878. Porter's father must have been very ill. Two days after this census was taken, Porter's father, John Crockett Burris, died.

Photobucket

This was probably the smallest household James and Adeline had in many years.

So why was there no room at the inn for Nancy Burris Jones' little brother - and their son - Irving Burris?

Irving coincidentally fits very neatly into the birth order of Martha (Vick) Hill's children by James Littleton Burris, between Benjamin Flemons Hill and daughter, Hetty.

Only I don't believe in coincidence.


Preliminary searching in the wee small hours this morning was a big zero.

I cannot find Irving Burris, Irving Hill, * Irving Burris, * Irving Hill, or any of those other wildcard combinations in the 1900 census - in Arkansas, or in any other state, born in 1872/1873 in Arkansas.

I'll look in the other usual places - like the World War I draft - later on today.

For the mystery Burris child...
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-02-09 20:27

George Washington Burris, Sr.

He was my great grandfather, the son of James Littleton Burris and Elizabeth Adeline Ashmore. In the line-up, he was their sixth child, and fourth son.

Photobucket


I got a scan of the photo above - a much earlier one than I had ever seen before - when I was allowed to go through family papers and photos at the home of one of my aunts.

Below is the photo that I was used to seeing.

Photobucket


The obvious age difference aside, he doesn't look as serious in the first one as he does in the second.

I've been pondering that.


George married Mary Mathilda Wharton on 7 Oct 1877 in Pope County, Arkansas.

They had their first child, Richard Benjamin Burris, on 3 Oct 1878, just about about nine months before George's father had his fourth child with his girlfriend down the road.

Since they all lived so close together, that had to be at least a little awkward.

A few months after George and Mary had their third child, Walter Monroe, George's final half-sibling was born. (I say that assuming that I have identified all the children Martha Vick had with James Littleton Burris, and also assuming he had no other girlfriends.)

Right about the time George and Mary's eighth child, Ottis Gileston, was born, Martha Vick died. James Littleton Burris obtained guardianship of his two minor sons, Richard and Charley Hill, on 1 May 1893.

When James L Burris died two years later, Richard and Charley will still minors. Someone had to step up to the plate.

Care and control of his minor half-brothers fell to George. He was granted guardianship of both boys two months after the death of their father.


Naturally, I have all these unanswered questions.

First of all, why George?

He had three older brothers. And he certainly had enough on his plate. By 26 October 1895, George and Mary had seven living children of their own, and had just buried their infant son, James Thomas Burris, four days before George's father died in August.

I looked to the other brothers.

George's oldest brother was John Thomas Burris. He served as a federal marshall for 14 years, so it could have been that he wasn't around much to be able to rear a teenaged boy and his pre-teen brother. John and his wife buried their young daughter, Roxy, on 5 Oct 1895. Maybe their grief was just too fresh.

James Franklin Burris (next in line), lost his wife in 1894, and probably needed some help himself raising their three young children. (He would remarry in 1897.)

I know the next brother, William Andrew Burris, and his wife Maria Isabella Wharton, had already moved to the Chickasaw Nation in Indian Territory (later Oklahoma), because that's where their seventh child, Ira Herbert Burris, was born in 1891. So Bill wasn't around to help out.


George carried quite a weight on his shoulders. Until 1901, he was guardian of two of his half brothers. The court discharged him and dissolved the guardianship in the April session.

Shortly after the 1920 census, there was not a single child of James L Burris and Martha J (Vick) Hill left in the hills of Pope County, save daughter Hetty, who died between 1896 and 1897, and is most likely buried in an unmarked grave not far from the Burris homestead.

I have to wonder if that has anything to do with the serious look on his face.

I'll probably never know.
dee_burris: (Default)
2010-11-01 18:32
Entry tags:

When secrets are exposed...

It started a few weeks ago with an email I got from a young woman trying to break down a brick wall in her own family history.

Little did either of us know that we were getting ready to uncover a 140 year old secret.

Cut for length... )