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In my email yesterday was one from the sole surviving sister of Joe Thomas Meek, who wrote a very interesting letter in 1983 about a trip he had taken to Mississippi to see the graves of his great grandfather (my second great grandfather) James Alexander Meek, and James' parents.

After studying that letter in more depth for almost a year, I put forth a theory about why Joe Meek's grandfather had decreed that [n]one of the family can ever be named JAMES or ALEXANDER again, as my grandfather (William Thaddeus Meek) promised.

According to my correspondence with my second cousin, once removed, I was right.
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Genealogy bloggers have all sorts of reasons for blogging about family history. I blog to get accurate information out on the web about my family. I love it when people find entries through Google or other searches and contact me to exchange information.

I also blog random information about other people's families, often gleaned from photos of people unrelated to me found among my ancestors' possessions, or the lone orphaned photo that calls to me from a rack or plate in a flea market stall. I usually tag those entries with the phrase bits and pieces, if you want to see if I found any of your family photos among mine.
In addition to my own family, I do family history research for four other friends of mine. The links to the results of that research are contained in their online family tree links in the left sidebar of this blog.

One of those families is the Turney family.

And in their case, the reason for this post is much different than usual. There are living descendants of Cleone Ruth Henrichs and Charles Leroy Turney who want answers to questions that have been dogging them literally all their lives. One of them hopes that with this blog entry, someone will have information that will be useful to their descendants.

This post is intended to be captured in Google searches on either or both names. There is some publicly available information already on the web about this couple, but some of it is not factual.
Cleone Ruth Henrichs was born on 29 Jun 1931 in American Falls, Power Co., ID to Myron Jacob Henrichs and Dora Leone Floyd. Ruth had a younger sister.

Sometime before the 1940 census, Ruth's parents divorced. Both parents would later go on to remarry. Ruth lived with her father for a period of time, and as a teenager (possibly shortly after the time of her father's remarriage in 1942) she lived with her mother in Twisp, WA.

A July 1946 photo pictured Ruth (far left) with her mother and maternal grandmother.
 photo July1946RuthEvaRae.jpg

On the 4th of July in 1947, Ruth met the man who would become her first husband, Fred Beeman. (Although he apparently called her Cleone, Ruth preferred her middle name, and that was the name she used on multiple historic documents.) Fred Beeman and Ruth married and had a son together. Shortly after her son's birth, Ruth became involved with the man who would become her second husband, Ronnie Conner. She left her infant son and Fred Beeman at Christmas in 1949.

Ruth became pregnant with the first child she would have with Ronnie Conner - a daughter named Beverly - before her first divorce was final. She and Ronnie Conner married, and had another child, a son named Robbie. By August 1956, Ruth had another daughter with the surname Young. One of the things unknown to Ruth's surviving children is the full identity of that child's father.

And it was during this period of time that Ruth met Charles Leroy Turney.
Charles Leroy Turney was born on 31 Jul 1935 in Hickman Co., KY to Lee William Turney and Sarah Elizabeth Owen. He was the eldest son of three documented children born to Lee and Sarah Turney.

Charles Leroy Turney, 26 Sep 1956.
 photo CharlesLeroyTurney.jpg

Not much is known about Charles Turney's childhood. All the history his children have about him seems to begin and end with the turbulent relationship he had with Ruth Henrichs - a relationship that lasted in some form for nearly the rest of both of their lives.

When Ruth married Charles Turney, she brought three children to the marriage. She and Charles had six children together, born from 1958 to 1968. One of those children, a daughter named Deborah Louise, drowned at the age of 8, six months before the last Turney child was born. Two of their sons died as adults.

But somewhere along the way, first Robbie, and then his sister, Beverly Conner, disappeared. That's disappeared as in, one day each of them was there, and the next day they were not.

It is possible that this photo of Charles Leroy Turney, and all three of Ruth Henrichs' children from previous relationships, may be one of the only pieces of documentation that little Robbie Conner ever existed, as he "disappeared" at a very young age.

Photo taken in October 1956 at an amusement park in Long Beach, CA. Robbie Conner (born in 1953) is at left, Charles Turney is holding Ruth's infant daughter from her most recent relationship, and Beverly Conner (born October 1950) is at right.
 photo October1956.jpg

One of the other known facts about Ruth Henrichs and Charles Turney is that they divorced in California in February 1966.

But they got back together again, and went on to have another child. They also changed the family surname to Conner, with Charles completely adopting the new identity of James Allen Conner. The family moved multiple times to multiple states.

Why? The surviving children know what they were told and what they've heard. Although suspicions run high, none of the stories they've been told have been proven - or not.

Among other questions, one looms the largest.

What happened to Robbie and Beverly Conner?
If you have any information to share, you can reply to this entry or email me at sharpchick13 at hotmail dot com.
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This is a photo I estimate to be circa 1868-1875 of the millinery shop owned and operated by my great-great grandmother, Mary Emily (Conner) Meek in Grenada Co., MS. (Click here to read more about her.)


From comparing the only known photo I have of her to this one, I think grandmama was the lady seated to the right of the post.

But I can't be sure.

This is a Sepia Saturday post, republished on 26 Oct 2013 for Sepia Saturday 200. Head over there for more wonderful photos.
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Find a Grave volunteer Larry Hart went back to Union Cemetery in Panola Co., MS, and got the rest of the gravestone photos in what must have been the Conner family plot.

He emailed me to let me know, so I could create memorials for them.

Then he posted his photos.

William Henry Conner, 1808-1858, my 3rd great grandfather.

Elizabeth Curtis Conner, my 3rd great grandmother.

Henry Conner, 1874-1874, and Claudius Conner, 1876-1876, baby sons of James Alfred Conner, one of William and Elizabeth's sons.
And then he sent me the photos he took by email.

You just don't very often run across people like Mr. Hart.

When you do, you've found a real gem.
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This post is not a fond remembrance of my great great grandmother. I can't remember a woman who died 45 years before I was born.


Her grandson, Jo Duffie Williams, was 10 years old when she died. I don't know - and he didn't ever say - if he attended her funeral, held in Sardis, MS.
For years, I wondered where she was buried. Her death certificate gave me the answer, and I created a memorial page for her on Find a Grave.

I made a request for a photo of the stone.

Just a little over two years after I created the memorial, another Find a Grave volunteer got the photo.

Here Lies With Hope in Jesus Christ Her Saviour
Emily Conner Meek Webb

Not only that, but after I thanked him, Larry Hart emailed me all the shots he had taken to get a photo he felt best captured the inscription on the stone which has fallen into the ground after nearly a century. In one of them, you can see that he had to kneel on the grass to get his shots.

He gave me his written permission to use the photos in any way I wished.
The stone is interesting.

The family Bible and her death certificate give Mary Emily Conner's date of birth as 12 Apr 1837. The stone says 1838.

And since her first name isn't on the stone, I wonder if she was called Emily all her life.

This Sentimental Sunday, I am thinking of the great great grandmother I never knew, and a man who knelt patiently in the grass one autumn day to provide her granddaughter a photo of her grave.
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Sometimes, I am a bit dense.

Last winter, I blogged about this really neat letter from Joe Thomas Meek I'd found in the massive Meek genealogy (authored by Melton P Meek).

In the letter, Joe had described a trip back to Mississippi, home for nearly a century to our direct Meek ancestors.

Joe Thomas Meek was the great grandson of James Alexander Meek, who was my great great grandfather.

Joe's grandfather was William Thaddeus Meek, 10 years older than his baby sister, Maxie Leah, who was my great grandmother.

As I was embedding some html code into the note field of my GEDCOM on several Meek entries, I re-read that letter, written in 1983.

And two paragraphs really hit me. (Parenthetical names added by me.)
None of the family ever saw old JAMES (James Alexander) after 1868, when he
and great grandmother
(Mary Emily Conner) parted.

None of the family can ever be named JAMES or ALEXANDER
again, as my grandfather
(William Thaddeus Meek) promised. An old lady at Oxford
gave us his picture, a little old man with the other old soldiers
in front of the old CourtHouse at Oxford in 1911.
I had it put in a nice frame to hang in my father's room
(Joseph Thaddeus Meek)
besides his favorite picture of his old grandmother, but he
would not have it. The Irish have long, long memories and
never forget any wrong, however remote.

None of the family ever saw old JAMES after 1868, when he and great grandmother parted.

What could have incensed William Thaddeus Meek so much about his father? Something so heinous that the rage was passed down to the next two generations?

Could it have been that William's father, after having been gone for three long years during the Civil War, deserted his pregnant wife?

My great grandmother, Maxie Leah Meek, was born on 10 Feb 1869 in Grenada Co., MS. Her mother, Mary Emily Conner, had been supporting her son William during James' Civil War service with her millinery shop, and continued to support both her children in that fashion after James left.

I had always assumed that James was around for the death and burial of his first daughter with Mary Emily Conner - a three year old named Lizzie - short for Hettie Ann Elizabeth (who must have been named for James' own mother).

Lizzie died on 28 Sep 1868, and is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Sardis, Panola Co., MS.

But perhaps James wasn't around for that event either.

If that is true, it certainly could account for the bitterness over the "wrong, however remote."

And I have to wonder if James' POW experience had lingering consequences for him.
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I have a fair number of photos of my family decked out in their hats.

I even have an ancestress who made them.

The millinery shop of my g-g-grandmother, Mary Emily Conner, in Grenada Co., MS, about 1870-1875.


My grand-aunts, Ocie (left) and Arkie Burris, photo about 1909.


My grandfather, his brother and their double cousins, Elbert and Earl. Photo about 1905.

Left to right - Elbert Burris, Homer and George Burris,Jr. (brothers) and Earl Burris (brother of Elbert)

This is a Sepia Saturday post. Head over there for more cool old photos and postcards.
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Browsing the 1940 census, and found my great-great grandparents, Jo and Maxie Williams, living at 2310 S Ringo in Little Rock.

This house...

With them was a 76 year old widow, Belle Webb.

Grandma Maxie said Belle was living there on 1 Apr 1935. So Belle was a long time lodger.

I looked in the 1940 Polks Directory for Little Rock. Belle Webb, widow of John T., was listed at 2310 S Ringo.

Now I am very curious.

Maxie's mother, Mary Emily Conner, married Samuel Webb, just two weeks after she divorced Maxie's father in 1871.

I'll have to look for the connection to John T Webb...
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Last night, I had another one of those moments.

The one where you are looking for one thing, find another, exclaim over it, and then spend the next - in my case - two and one half hours engrossed in something else altogether.

~The genealogy ADD kicked in again.~
In my den, I have this bookcase.


It is deep enough to stack rows of books two deep. I also keep some files in there. One of my shrines is on top of it.

I went into it to clean out some previous years' tax returns.

As I was digging around, and giving things a good dusting at the same time, my half hour project blew up on me.

Because I found a very well-wrapped, astonishingly heavy parcel slumbering in the back recesses of the bookcase.

I took the parcel over to my coffee-table sized footstool and unwrapped it.

It was the Williams family Bible - the one I said DID NOT exist in this post.

Apparently, I wrapped it up in 1998, stowed it in the nether regions of the bookcase, and forgot about it.Maybe I forgot because of the condition of the Bible.

It was coming apart in chunks. The covers had detached themselves from themselves from the chunks of pages decades ago.

I went for the middle - and hit pay dirt.
The Bible was given to Maxie Leah Meek and Jo Desha Williams by Maxie's mother, Mary Emily (Conner) Meek Webb, for Christmas in 1890.


Maxie had immediate entries to write in it. Her marriage to Jo Desha Williams on 11 Feb 1886.

The first death since their marriage - that of their one day old daughter, Mildred Imogene, on 28 Jan 1890...

It was from that page that I found the date, although not the place, of death for Jo's brother, Lucien Eugene Williams, on 27 Dec 1900.

I loved the birth has the undated news clippings of the arrivals of some huge Williams babies.

At his birth, Cedric Hazen Williams weighed a hefty ten pounds.

Paul Meek Williams, born on Christmas Eve 1894, weighed in at ten and a half pounds.

And omigosh...My grandfather, Jo Duffie Williams, weighed twelve pounds.

No wonder Maxie was done after Jo...
LC, you were right.

Cousins, right click and save...
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An excellent source of genealogical information for researchers of the Guy Meek family is a book written by Melton P Meek, Vol 2, Guy Meek Family, Descendants. It was digitized by Brigham Young University and is available on their website.

On page 569 of the book, I found a letter written in 1983 by Joe Thomas Meek to Melton P Meek, providing Melton Meek - and me - with some more insight into my Meek family, particularly what appears to be the the complete and total estrangement of my great-great grandparents, James Alexander Meek and Mary Emily Conner, after their divorce in 1871.


That is in America. We found the old grave of SAMUEL MEEK,
brother to ALEXANDER (Samuel, forebear of Dr. Rider). We
went to Alexander's grave and found a cow scratching on the
Italian marble stone and raked a hundred years & more debris
from the old stones.

We found the graves of old JEFFERSON J. and HETTIE at old
Sardis (MS) and that of GREAT Grandfather JAMES at Oxford (MS).

None of the family ever saw old JAMES after 1868, when he
and great grandmother parted.

None of the family can ever be named JAMES or ALEXANDER
again, as my grandfather promised. An old lady at Oxford
gave us his picture, a little old man with the other old soldiers
in front of the old CourtHouse at Oxford in 1911.
I had it put in a nice frame to hang in my father's room
besides his favorite picture of his old grandmother, but he
would not have it. The Irish have long, long memories and
never forget any wrong, however remote.

Now I am the last of my family, glad to have come and unafraid
to go, but no one remains to carry on this history,
this tradition.

So, Dr. Meek, if you like it, here's several pages written
on a dull, wintry day to add to your collection. Shakespeare
said "What assurance against the ravages of time except to
breed". Another famous writer one commented "I wrote it all
so that I wouldn't utterly perish." And so will I, if you
will put it in the ringed notebooks and add it to your 30
feet of shelving.

Now for a good meal, and a long winter's nap.

Yours Truly, Joe T. Meek

...glad to have come and unafraid to go...

Would that we all felt that way.

Joe Thomas Meek was born 5 Oct 1928 in Pope Co., AR, and died there in 1987.
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With a couple of exceptions, I haven't been able to bury myself in the family history this week.

I did receive a couple of email contacts though. From a man who seems very insistent that I have incorrectly identified the wife of one of my Conners.

He left two post-its a couple of minutes apart on Margaret E Blann's individual record, saying she was not a Blann, but a Hays instead.

The problem with that is that her FAG memorial says her stone is inscribed, Daughter of J and L Blann, wife of J A Conner. (J A Conner is James Alfred Conner, my second great-grand uncle.) I've replied to him with that information. I can't change the gravestone inscription, and since it was "carved in stone" at the time of her death, I tend to place more credibility on Blann as her maiden surname than his cryptic post-it, which offers no sources at all.

I know he's been in FAG, because he also told me - in a separate email - I had misspelled the name of the cemetery, and referred me to two FAG memorials in that cemetery as proof of the correct way to spell the name of the cemetery.

They are my memorials, and the name of the cemetery is misspelled in FAG. I can't change that, either.
Maybe it's just a difference in style of approach.

When I find something online that looks like the same person in my tree, but different information, I poke around for hours trying to see how the other person might have arrived at the conclusions s/he reached before I make contact.

And in my email, I cite the sources I used to draw my own conclusions.

I just figure that's the best way for either of us to make the changes we can...
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I got mail today.

And it wasn't a window envelope.
I'm sure it was in the back of my mind, as are many things in my quest to discover who my people are - whose genes had anything to do with the making of me.

But I had almost forgotten that several weeks ago, I mailed a form and a $15 check to the Mississippi State Department of Health for an uncertified copy of a death certificate for my great-great grandmother, Mary Emily Conner.

I took off work earlier this afternoon, did a couple of errands and came home, looking forward to throwing open the windows of the cottage on this wonderfully cool and breezy day of the autumn equinox.

When I checked the mail, I saw the envelope's return address.

I think others of you reading this will identify with my next move.

I reached in the mailbox and laid my hand on the envelope to feel its thickness.

It wasn't one of those flat, skinny envelopes. I could tell by touch there was more than one sheet of paper - that standardized form letter - announcing, We're sorry but we were unable to locate the record you requested.

And then, they keep your $15 for looking...
Some of you may identify with my next move...

Since I was where my neighbors could see me, and wearing a skirt, I did a restrained happy dance, and came in the house and laid the envelope down on grandma's table.

I decided to savor the opening and discoveries of that envelope.

So I ditched my bra and shoes, quickly did a few chores, got a cup of coffee and kicked back on the couch.

And opened the envelope.
When I sent off for this record, I had hope for the answers to a number of questions about Mary Emily Conner.

Did I have her date and location of death correct? Where was she buried? How had she died? Who provided the information for her death certificate, and what relationship did that person have to her?

Did she die alone?
Most of my direct ancestors have a portrait in my mind's eye.

For Mary Emily Conner, that portrait includes a real visual image. I am lucky to have at least one known photo of her, and I wouldn't be surprised if she is not in some of the unlabeled photos in the Williams family album, although at an older age than the 1873 photo.

I am also fortunate that she was a notable character in a written Meek family history - even though she was an in-law, and then, a divorced in-law at that.

From that written history, I learned that Mary was an educated woman. She was fluent in French.

She was a business woman, and was able to support her family with her millinery business while her first husband, James Alexander Meek, was fighting a lost cause in the Civil War, getting wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, and being held prisoner for nearly two years at Pea Patch Island.

Although I don't know the back-story, the timing of her divorce and re-marriage may also say something about a woman who was able to leave the past behind and move on...she and James Meek were divorced on 10 Oct 1871, and she was married to Samuel Webb (a successful confectioner) on 26 Oct 1871.

And wouldn't I love to have that back-story? Uh huh.
Date and location of death? Check. 27 Apr 1913, in Sardis, Panola Co., MS

Where is she buried? Union Church Cemetery, in Sardis, Panola Co., MS

Cause of death? Diseases arising from old age.

Not attended by a doctor, she died at home. The informant, and physician who signed her death certificate, was William J Hays, her nephew. He was the son of Mary's younger sister, Elizabeth Conner Hays.

He gave his address as Sardis, MS. I know his mother, Elizabeth Conner Hays, died in Sardis.

So although my great-great grandmother may have died at home alone (although the death certificate only says she died at home), another question was answered...

I always wondered when Mary decided to move back to Panola Co., MS after the death of her husband, Samuel Webb in 1882 in Russellville, was she near family?

I think she was...and so the portrait gains another layer, moving into filling out some of the gaps in that third dimension. In my mind's eye, I can see her, sitting and visiting for a spell, with her sister - talking and maybe having some refreshment, as Southern ladies once did. Perhaps Mary's nephew, the doctor, stopped by every once in while to check on his elderly aunt. I can picture her being proud of him...

So cool when it's not a window envelope...
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I found Mary Emily Conner's parents and siblings.

This was a seven year brick wall. And as so often happens, I had to go back and look at records I already had.

The 1900 Russellville, Pope Co., AR.

Mary was a 62 year old widow. Her son and daughter were married and lived with their families in Pope Co. In that census, her 22 year old nephew, Curtis Conner, lived with her.

Only the enumerator had listed him as Conner Curtis, and for seven years, I just blew by that.

So it was on to discover who Curtis' father was, because he had to be Mary's brother.

And he was.

I found a lone family tree at Ancestry that was heavily sourced with lots of details about James Alfred Conner, Mary's older brother. Mary was in the tree, but the tree's owner didn't know anything about her, or many of the other siblings.

There's a photograph of their mother on that tree, in addition to lots of information about James Conner. James served in the Civil War, and I just spent about an hour on Footnote, reviewing muster roll and other military records on him. When he enlisted at Sardis, MS, he was enrolled by Capt. Jefferson John Meek, Mary's father-in-law.

I've contacted the owner of the tree, and offered the information, including photos that I have of Mary.

I just love it when this happens.
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It's another of the undated and unlabeled photos from the Williams family photo album.

If it's around 1870-1875, then I think it's probably a photo of the millinery shop that Mary Emily (Conner) Meek owned in Grenada County, MS.

If not, then I have no idea...
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It happens every time I open the Williams family photo album.

More dry rot, and more photos falling out. It's to be expected from a photograph album that's soon to be 125 years old.

So I dutifully scan.

And mutter under my breath cuss out loud as I do it.

Because Maxie hardly ever labeled a thing.

I get a work out researching photographers and when they were in operation.

Click here to amble through anonymity with me... )
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One of them was Mary Emily Conner, and like the proverbial chip off the old block, her daughter, Maxie Leah Meek, followed in her footsteps.

Mary Emily Conner was born in Hernando, DeSoto County, MS on 12 Apr 1837. I do not yet know who her parents were, but I continue to look.

The day after her nineteenth birthday, Mary married James Alexander Meek, son of Jefferson John and Henrietta Ann "Hettie" (Donahoo) Meek. The Meeks were a large and well-heeled family, but that was not why Mary remembered her wedding day for the rest of her life. In 1910, she recounted how her grandfather-in-law, Alexander Meek, stole her thunder.

A ridiculous figure in a black velvet coat, with knee britches, silk stockings, and silver-buckled shoes, wearing a dusty wig and ill fitted false teeth carved of wood, he played his violin and carried on like an Irishman. From the attention given him, you would have thought him the center of attention instead of the bride. Upon this spoiled day my marriage began. Like all the Meeks, he lived forever and buried his wives. At the last reunion of Revolutionary Veterans in North Mississippi, only three veterans attended; two more carried to the reunion but old Alexander walked and danced the whole afternoon. Source: Guy Meek of Anne Arundel County, Maryland : descendants, intermarriages and neighbors, Vol 2. (1660-2004) by Melton P Meek, at page 405. Digitized at this website.

James Alexander and Mary Emily Meek separated before the birth of their youngest child, Maxie Leah, on 10 Feb 1869. Mary was now functionally the single mother of two children, having lost a daughter, Hettie Ann Elizabeth, before her first birthday in 1868.

The 1870 census found Mary and her children, William Thaddeus and Maxie Leah, in Grenada Co., MS, running a store where she employed a clerk. ...from being able to read French, M E Meek Webb learned how to make hats from a French fashion magazine. This was also how she made her living after the Civil War. She also manufactured cosmetics, a business carried on...for years. The factory was moved to Chicago and discontinued during the Depression. (See the same source cited above, at page 570.)

Mary Emily (Conner) Meek Webb, in 1873

Mary and James Meek divorced on 10 Oct 1871. Sixteen days later, Mary married Samuel Webb, and at some point during the 1870's, the couple moved, with William and Maxie, to Russellville, Pope Co., AR. The 1880 census for Russellville says Samuel's occupation was "confectioner."

Samuel Webb died on 28 Nov 1882 in Russellville, and was buried in Oakland Cemetery there. Although her children continued to live in Pope County, Mary returned to Mississippi about 1912, living in Sardis in Panola County, until her death on 27 Apr 1913.


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Dee Burris Blakley

August 2017

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