Thursday, June 13, 2013

John W. Perdue's Unlucky Family

Some time ago I went to Iowa on a graveyard tour of my ancestors. In that time, my mother and I visited so many graveyards and hunted down so many graves that a few were bound to fall through the cracks and of course there were some I didn't know to look for until after we went home. John W. Perdue falls into the latter category.

John Perdue married Ora May Morrison, whose mother was Lydia Josephine Gammon - my great-great-grandfather's sister. I have a photo album in my collection with Ora's name carefully written on the inside cover. It helps me date it between 1902 and 1904, but I'll get back to that in a minute. Before today, I thought that John and Ora moved from Iowa to Kentucky and had four children, the eldest of which was Roy, born in 1904.

John & Ora's marriage certificate (My photo; Ringgold County Courthouse)
When I found out he was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, I put in a request on for a volunteer to take a photo of his gravestone for me. (By the way FindAGrave is a fantastic resource with tons of dedicated and amazing volunteers across the country). It took a while to come back to me, as they often do, and I completely forgot I'd made the request. The notification email came in telling me the request had been fulfilled by a volunteer and it sat in my inbox for days before I took the time to look at it and save the photo to my family tree.

When I went to reconcile the vital data, I ran into a few problems.

I put in Ora's death date from the stone without giving it much thought, and then realized that one of the census records I had saved to her couldn't be right - it was from fifteen years after she'd died. This led me to discard the whole idea of Kentucky and the three younger children. Ora and John's son Roy was on their tombstone, so I added his death date too. The tragedy began to emerge.

Ancestry immediately calculated Roy's age at death for me - he was only nineteen. I got a number of hints for state census records and began saving them to him and browsing for his parents. It was only then that I realized his mother was missing from them. I went to check her death date, remembering it was much earlier than her husband's, and realized that she died on January 10, 1904 - just five days after her son's birth.

I went back and checked her marriage to John, wondering how likely it was that they had more children. They were married on March 10, 1902, so the odds are pretty low that they had another child. Even if they did, it probably died in infancy because there's no record of another child.

Poor John Perdue. He married Ora May when she was 20 and he 23. Not two years later, what should have been a joyful occasion - the birth of their first child - turned tragic when Ora died five days later, probably due to complications. John was left a widower with an infant to care for. He never remarried, and appears in all the census records alone with his son Roy. That is, until Roy's untimely death at age nineteen in November, 1923. John didn't make it another five years from there. He passed away at age 50 in June, 1928, and was buried with his wife and son.

The gravestone that told their story.
Photo: Barbara McCully
I realize there is nothing happy to gather from this story, but I don't think I often write about the sad things and I felt that I should. A good portion of what genealogists learn is bound to be sad, and those stories deserve to be told, too. John has no descendants to remember him, so I will take up the role.

I suppose if there is a moral, it's pay attention to dates. I have a tendency to gloss over specific dates - it's an occupational hazard of working with things that usually come in ranges - but in this case actually looking at the dates changed the personal meaning of this photograph drastically. And if nothing else, now I know the window in which Ora must have made her photo album because she was a Perdue for less than two years. If only I could figure out how the album came into my hands...

Reference Links:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fearless Females, March 4: The Gammon-McKee Wedding

Yesterday I posted about Carrie Bernice McKee, the great-grandmother after whom I was named. Today I'm going to write about her wedding. She married my great-grandfather James Mathias Gammon on November 6, 1921.

On their wedding day, on the porch:

Their wedding was at her father's house, 1815 Westmoreland Boulevard, in Los Angeles, California. It was a gorgeous, huge Craftsman that still stands.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fearless Females, March 3: Carrie McKee

Today's prompt:
Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern. If not, then list the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.

I do actually share a name with an ancestor, but it isn't my first name. My father's father's mother was Carrie Bernice McKee. She was born in Wayne City, Illinois on June 24, 1887, after four older brothers. Her father Albert Finley McKee Senior was from Chagrin Falls, Ohio and her mother Sarah Helen Smart was from Newmarket, New Hampshire. The family moved around a lot but eventually Carrie moved to Los Angeles, where she met and married my great-grandfather James Mathias Gammon on November 9, 1921 at her father's house. They were both 34 years old. They had two sons: my grandfather Howard and my great-uncle Newton (who died in 2005).

Carrie and James died in the early 1970s, over a decade before my older brother was born. My mother never even met her, but my parents decided to name both my brother and I after her because she was such an intelligent and powerful woman in the Gammon family. My brother's middle name is McKee and mine is Carrie.

In about a month I will be going down to Maryland to meet the descendants of one of Carrie's brothers. She was the last of the McKee siblings to pass away (she outlived them all by at least 29 years) and when she did, my branch of the family lost touch with the others. It has been a particular joy of my research to rediscover these relatives. I was always very interested in Carrie because I was named after her, and she's always meant a lot to me.

For more photos of Carrie, check out her tag (CBM) on my Flickr photostream.

As a bonus, here are some of the extra-special female names in my family tree: Aralinda, Armilda/Artmilda, Auleen, Calantha, Coloma, Docia, Elender, Erman, Fairy, Firm, Junale, Marilda, Philonise, Philura, Treulie, Wilmartha, Zelina, Zilpha, and Zoa.

Do you have any of these names in your family tree? Have you even heard of them before? I've excluded any that are more modern than my grandparents.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fearless Females, March 2: Jenny Burns

I missed the first day and I have a very busy month ahead of me, but I'm going to try to participate as much as I can in The Accidental Genealogist's Fearless Females daily prompts for Women's History month. 

Today's is simple: "Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?"

Here's my photo:

This is Jane "Jenny" Robertine Burns, my great-great-great-grandmother. This photo is one of my all-time favorites, and has been pretty popular over on my Flickr photostream, too, so it was a natural choice.

I have no idea when or where this photo was taken, but it's by far the youngest picture of her I've ever seen. All I can suggest is that she is not wearing a wedding ring, so the picture was probably taken before her marriage to Thomas Fogden Overington, which took place on June 5, 1855. Long-time readers may remember my post last year about this wedding.

A little more about Jenny:
  • She was born on January 27, 1836 in Frankford, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Her parents were Dr. Robert Bruce Burns, a Scottish immigrant, and Elizabeth Love Yarnall, a Philadelphian woman.
  • She had one older sister and eight younger siblings.
  • She married her husband Thomas when she was 19 and he was 26.
  • They had two sons, John (1864) and William (1871).
  • The family lived at the Overington mansion "Oaklands" at 4606 Leiper Street in Frankford, which is now Overington Park.
  • They attended services at Trinity Church Oxford in Oxford and its daughter institution, St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Frankford (which the Overingtons helped to found).
  • Thomas passed away in 1877 at the age of 48, unusually young for his family (for example, his father passed away in 1892 just a month before his 100th birthday). He was buried at Trinity Church Oxford in Oxford, Philadelphia.
  • Jenny lived another fifty years, but wore a widow's mourning black every day for that half-century.
  • She passed away on September 4, 1927 at the age of 91. She was buried beside her husband.
More photos:

Jenny with her granddaughter Claudia "Poppy" Overington, on or about May 16, 1906

And her gravestone:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

AncestryDNA Reference Post

I've decided that it would be beneficial and convenient for me and my family to have a page where all our AncestryDNA results are listed together, for reference. I also decided that I will make it public because this information is more or less public on already, and perhaps it will be informative to my readers if you are interested in the AncestryDNA test and what the results look like. I've included the modern-day locations of each of these ethnicities, as provided by Ancestry. Results also come with a bunch of information about each of these regions, including details on migrations into and out of the region to help you understand how your ancestors might have ended up where you are.

Some people may wonder what will happen if they get the test and do it wrong. Well, it turns out that I can answer that question. If the sample received in the lab doesn't contain enough genetic material, they will send you an email with a link to order a replacement kit free of charge. We've had this happen with one of our samples, and Ancestry was very good about it. We are currently awaiting the replacement kit.

I will continue to update this page as more results come in. If you are one of the people I have ordered a test for and want to know its status, these are listed at the bottom of this post, below the results. I will update it as soon as something changes.

If you are one of my friends and I manage a family tree for you on and you are interested in this DNA test, please let me know. The test costs $129 when ordered by a subscriber (like me) and $199 when ordered by a non-subscriber so the advantage is obvious. The downside is that the results will be linked to my account and not yours, but I will definitely keep on top of the information and keep you updated if you choose to do the test.