dee_burris: (Default)
They say patience is a virtue. If so, then I'm not so virtuous. I also haven't mastered that thing about becoming more patient as you get older.

Right now, I am waiting on several phone calls and emails to connect some more dots in three [different] family trees I research.

Although I am not feeling very patient, there is one thing I've learned over the last decade of shakin' the family tree.

If I gather up several different requests and spend an evening emailing, filling out forms and mailing them with $10 checks, then I'll get a consistent dribble of responses over a period of weeks.

And the neat ones that yield certificates and land deeds, or detailed information about who is buried in that cemetery with that surname will make up for the ones that say...

I'm sorry but we couldn't find the record you were looking for. Thanks for the $10.
dee_burris: (Default)
Something in Jenny Lanctot's March 22 Ancestor Spotlight post caught my eye.

Aside from the fact that the post was interesting and well-written. Jenny sets the bar pretty high in that regard.

No, it was what she said before she ever started telling the story of Charles Crowe.

For now, I will try to spotlight at least one ancestor per month, (hopefully) alternating branches of my family. I think they get a little touchy when I spend too much time on the "other" side, which is why I think I have such a hard time finding information. (My emphasis added.)
No one really talks - or blogs - about that.

You know, those "moments" when something unexplainable happens while you are plowing - or plodding - along on your research...

Like the time I was trying to figure out where the family of my maternal great-great grandmother, Catherine C Mueller was in between 5 Sep 1832, when they stepped off the boat in New York, and sixteen years later, when Catherine married Jacob Williams in Franklin Co., KY.

I was using Ancestry to search historic records for each member of the family listed on the passenger list for the ship Elisabeth, which had sailed from Bremen, Germany.

And I looked up from the keyboard and saw that all the search fields were written in another language. I knew it had to be German, even though I don't speak, read or write German.

But Catherine did.

Instinctively, I knew I was entering the correct data in those fields. ~ tab, type, tab ~

As I stared at the computer monitor, I got that prickly, tingly feeling in the crown of my head that I nearly always get when something otherworldly occurs.

And I knew the moment was about to end if I looked away.

It did as soon as I did. Back to English.

I could only recall three fields. I scribbled them down on my handy-dandy scratch pad, and went to Google Translate.

Geburtsdatum - date of birth
Geburtsort - place of birth
Todesdatum - date of death

I've kept that piece of scrap paper in my hard copy Mueller family research file. For years.

I've never been able to re-create the anomaly.
Then, there are the dreams.

Especially the dreams that occur just before or after unexplainable events.

I have a Black and Decker programmable coffee-maker. Over the years, I've had several of them. What can I say? It's my brand, and I like having my coffee ready when I rise in the morning.

I stayed up way too late one night shakin' the family tree, looking for some Wingfields. When I realized how late it was, I got my butt in gear and shut down the cottage for the night.

Including setting up the coffee-maker.

I had a dream. Three of my ancestors showed up to confront me.

Including the woman on the left in this photo, looking much as she does in the photo.


She was my paternal great-great grandmother, Mary C Dunn Callaway Williams.

I don't know who the other two were, but Grandmother Mary wasn't pleased.

She told me not to forget her (she's one of my toughest brick walls). She also said I was spending too much time on "those people." I protested meekly. She was having none of it, and repeated herself.

When I awoke the next morning, the coffee-maker had not. I got the prickly, tingly scalp feeling, but told myself it was late when I went to bed and I probably had forgotten to program the appliance.

That night, I made sure I hit the program button, and wrote it on a post-it note that I stuck to the kitchen counter in front of the pot.

No coffee the next morning either.

Since that time, I've plugged that pot - and two other identical ones - into outlets in three locations in my kitchen.

When I don't get my morning coffee automatically, I know I need to pay some attention to the Callaways...the pot works fine after that.
Sometime, I'll tell ya about my haunted printer.

I have a witness to its hijinks.
The journey is good.

The ancestors will guide us if we let them.
dee_burris: (Default)
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...
dee_burris: (Default)
It started with an email message from my Callaway cousin, Joe.

I wasn't online when he sent it, so he followed up with a phone call.

I need you to figure out if Elihu Francis is related to us.

Joe knows that I have carried my family tree out to include collateral relatives, because I can't just confine myself to linear relationships and call it good.

His urgency was evident in the tone of his voice. I asked for some detail.

In the wee hours of the morning on 3 April 1914, Elihu's wife and three young children were murdered with an axe. The house, in rural Clark Co., AR, was then set on fire to cover up the crime.
As I started looking, I found news reports from all over the country.

The Lincoln Daily Star, 4 Apr 1914:


Mother and Her Children Killed by Ax Murderer
Little Rock, Ark., April 4 - An unidentified assassin early yesterday murdered with an ax Mrs. Elihu Francis and three of her children in their home near Fendley, having previously set fire to the house, according to reports received here. Mr. Francis, the husband and father and a fourth child, narrowly escaped the same fate.

According to statements made by Francis, he was awakened about 4:30 in the morning by the barking of his dog, and found his house in flames. About this time, Francis said, he saw a man enter his wife's room carrying an ax. Believing the intruder was searching for him, Francis said he ran into the yard in an effort to draw the man away from the house, but the slayer remained and killed Mrs. Francis and the three children, ranging in age from two to six years.

Francis stated he then ran to the house and the assassin disappeared, the flames by this time had completely enveloped the house and he was unable to enter the room where lay the bodies of his wife and children. He succeeded, however, in rescuing the one year old baby from another room.

Great excitement has been aroused in the vicinity of Fendley by the crime. Bloodhounds have been sent from this city.

That story must not have sat well with the sheriff.

Indianapolis Sunday Star, 5 Apr 1914:


Father Held for Slaying Wife and Three Children
Arkadelphia, Ark., April 5 - On the recommendation of the coroner's jury, Elihu Francis is held in jail here today, charged with the murder of his wife and three children, whose charred bodies were found yesterday in the ruins of their home near here. Francis declared his wife and children were murdered wiith an ax by an unidentified man who set fire to the house and fled.

Three neighbors, who rushed to the Francis home when they saw the flames, testifed they saw no one leaving the place. An ax bearing blood stains and which Francis said belonged to him was found in the ruins of the house.

Other news reports of the time say that Elihu was bound over for trial, but was then committed to the Arkansas State Hospital for Nervous Diseases, where he died of tuberculosis in 1916.

Elihu's niece, Ada Elizabeth Francis, married William Andrew Callaway, who was Joe's grand uncle.

So technically, no - we are not related to Elihu Francis.

But the story still begs a question that transcends any bloodline...

What on earth would cause a 24 year old man to murder his own wife and children?
dee_burris: (Default)
Just got a FAG correction.

For Luvina Burris.

My good Samaritan told me that her parents were John Sherman Burris and Mitti Belle McElroy.

That little email solved a mystery.

I've had Mary L Burris (born about 1916) in John and Mitti's family for years.

Just never knew what happened to her - or whether she married or had kids.

She is buried in St. Joe Cemetery, as are her parents.

Now I wonder why she died at the age of 23...
dee_burris: (Default)
Got a Find a Grave correction today on a Burris entry in Oakland Cemetery in Russellville, Pope Co., AR. It was about my entry on Ethel Burris, wife of Robert Elbert Burris.

The email said, Hello! Ethel was born Ethel Dixie Harrison. Her parents are Esther Hornbeak and Garret Powell Harrison.

Oh, cool. I went to correct the entry and then got into my software. Ethel had been a MNU for so long, and I just love to give MNUs their rightful identities.

So I did. And bonus - I had her parents, too.

Then, I signed on to Family Search to see if I could find the marriage record.

I did.

Both of the marriages to Ethel. Or Ethels.

Were they Ethel plural? Or the same gal?

Help me out here...



Call to Dad. Did Elbert have three wives? And if not, why would he marry Miss Ethel McHon in 1926, and Mrs. Ethel Harrison in 1931? And if they aren't the same Ethel, then what happened to Miss Ethel McHon, and where is she buried?

And what's up with the do not publish written on the 1931 record?

It's definitely the same Elbert - he was born in 1888. He was 38 for the 1926 license, and 43 for the 1931 license.

Dad couldn't shed any light on the question.

My Burrises are driving me crazy at a gallop.

My son says it will be a short trip.

Anyway, happy Wedding Wednesday, Elbert. You can bet this whole side of the family will be digging into your past.

If there are any still alive who can remember it.
dee_burris: (Default)
He is descended from David Andrew Williams, and is my cousin by way of David's marriage to my great-great grandmother, Mary C Dunn.

And he has been burning the midnight oil, searching for Mary's kin. He found my blog entry with the photo of Bob Dunn and Mary during our recent record snowfall (when everyone was housebound), and ran with it.

He has some very intriguing thoughts about the possibility that Bob could have been Mary's brother.

And as with Mary, he can't find any parents for Bob either.

Maybe the two of us will, as he said in his very well-written and researched email, "figure it out one day."
dee_burris: (Default)
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)
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.



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.


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.


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...


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Dee Burris Blakley

August 2017

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