Monthly Archives: February 2011

William Payton Atwood and the Sam Bass Gang

William Payton Atwood is my husband’s great great grandfather.  He was born 25 July 1849 in Laclede County, Missouri – the oldest son of Thomas Jefferson Atwood and Matilda Hough. 

William Payton Atwood

By the time William was 11 years old the family had relocated to Texas and can be found there in the 1860 census living in Erath County, near Stephenville.  William lost his mother early in life.  He was only 15 years old when Matilda died in 1864.  After the death of his mother, William can be found in the 1870 census with his father and his brothers in Hays County, near San Marcos indexed as a “stock dealer.” 

On 28 Aug 1873 William Payton Atwood married Ellen Elizabeth West in Williamson County, Texas – we presume somewhere near Round Rock.  I find it simply amazing that these things transpired in Round Rock 138 years ago – and here we are living our lives in the exact location where they lived theirs.  Ellen West was the daughter of Willis D. West and Delania Johnson – born on 22 Dec 1850 in Calcasieu County, Louisiana.  She was one of ten children.  The West family genealogy is very interesting.  Ellen can be traced back to Governor West – Governor of Colonial Virginia.  Her particular family line can be traced back to William the Conqueror through The House of Plantagenet.

Ellen Elizabeth West Atwood

The couple lived in the Round Rock area for about ten years before relocating and settling in Cross Plains, Callahan County, Texas. They had eight children: John Ashford in 1874; Rosa Lee in 1877; William Riley in 1879; Minnie Hannah Viola in 1882 (all of these children born in Williamson County) and Laney Bell in 1885; Manda Elizabeth in 1888; Columbus Eugene in 1890; and Edgar Claude in 1893 (all of these children born in Callahan County).  

For those of you familiar with Texas history, you will enjoy this:  In 1878 William Payton Atwood and his oldest son, John Ashford, were in town (Round Rock) to buy new boots on the day that the outlaw Sam Bass was killed in a shoot-out with local lawmen and Texas Rangers. Killed in the shoot-out was gunslinger Sam Bass and Williamson County Deputy Sheriff, A. W. Grimes

In an article written in The Lubbock Morning Avalanche on 20 Aug 1954 in honor of John Ashford Atwood’s 80th birthday, this was written:  Atwood says he saw the posse go in after Bass, but didn’t see the actual killing because he ran. There was some speculation that he was celebrating his 80th birthday because he did run !   William Payton Atwood’s father, Thomas Jefferson Atwood, is buried in the Round Rock Cemetery – very near to the outlaw Sam Bass. 

John Ashford Atwood went on to state that his father, William Payton Atwood, was friends with Kit Carson.  Kit grew up in Franklin, Missouri in the same general area that William Atwood was born. Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson was an American frontiersman. How his path may have crossed with our William Payton Atwood is unknown.

William Payton Atwood died in Callahan County on 17 Oct. 1917 at the age of 68. He is laid to rest in Cross Plains Memorial Park. His wife, Ellen Elizabeth West Atwood died in October of 1925 and is buried with him in Cross Plains Memorial Park.

Cross Plains Cemetery


Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Atwood


Tags: , , , , , , ,

William F. Curbow – Son of Tilman Curbow

William F. Curbow was the fifth child born to Tilman P. Curbow and Elizabeth Box.  It is likely that he was named after Elizabeth’s father, William Bolton Box.  His middle name is unknown; however, Franklin seems to be a family name – and a possibility for William’s middle name.  His older brother, Oliver, named one of his sons Charles “Franklin” and his younger sister Isabell named one of her sons William “Franklin.”  Perhaps these siblings were honoring their brother who died young? 

William Curbow’s year of birth is only an estimate based on the census records – he was born sometime around 1853 in Mississippi – most likely in Itawamba County.  He was with his family in the 1860 census when they were present in Ouachita County, Arkansas (where he was 7 years old).  During the Civil War, in 1864, he was present with his mother and siblings in Bowie County, Texas (where he was 11 years old).  After the war, when the family had settled in McLennan County, he is again present in the 1870 census (where he is 17 years old).  He was present in McLennan County, Texas in 1874 and 1875 because he can be found there in the tax rolls.  He was indexed as W. F. Curbough both times.  He was taxed for the value of one horse. 

I cannot locate William F. Curbow in any record after the 1875 McLennan County Tax Roll where he was about 22 years old.  Unless another record surfaces, I am working under the assumption that William may have died early in life.  I do not know where William Curbow is laid to rest.

Any McLennan County researchers out there that want to take a second look for me?  Any help appreciated!   

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Brick Walls, Curbow


Tags: ,

Harmonizing Ham Family

If ever there was a family that had musical talents, it surely is the Ham family. 

My father-in-law fondly remembers his Uncle Mack and Aunt Ruby beautifully singing in the church quartet at the Nazarene Church in Brownwood.  Uncle Mack was Samuel David “Mack” Ham (1891-1976 – son of Robert Montgomery Ham and Tabitha Clementine Kenady), and he was the Pastor of the Nazarene Church in Brownwood, Texas.   Aunt Ruby was Ruby Dora Barnett (1898-1989 – daughter of Berry Alexander Barnett and Elizabeth Martin). 

Uncle Mack and Aunt Ruby – on their wedding day – 1915

Uncle Mack and Aunt Ruby passed their musical talents on to their children.  Their son Norman Neely Ham (1923-1997) and wife Martha Eunice Sparkman (born 1928 – daughter of William Travis Sparkman and Alice Head) were very involved in the Texas gospel music scene, and in fact, were inducted into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame.  

Family of Norman Neely Ham

Norman Neely Ham and Martha Eunice Sparkman produced some talented boys!  Their son Warren Lee Ham was born in Tarrant County in 1952.  Warren is a gifted musician who has played along side of Cher, Donna Summer, Amy Grant, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross and Olivia Newton-John, just to name a few!  He plays the saxophones, harmonica, flute, keyboards – and as is the family tradition – he has a great voice!  During the early 1970s, Warren and his brother William Mack “Bill” Ham formed The Ham Brothers Band.  When Kerry Livgren left the rock band Kansas to form his own Christian rock band (AD), Warren went with him as the new band’s lead singer.

The attached video from YouTube is rather silly; however, it is Warren Ham singing with Olivia Newton-John – and he has a fantastic voice.  Listen for yourself:




Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Blair, Ham


Tags: , ,

Lenora Adelina Ham

Lenora Adelina Ham was the second daughter born to Joel Ham and Mary Emily Montgomery.  She was born in Mississippi on 31 July 1846, probably Yalobusha County.  She came to Texas with her family some time around 1858 – and we can find her there in the 1860 census residing in Titus County.  

Blair Family – Photo from the collection of Lucy Echels Blair

(This photograph is from a book entitled, John Blair of Guilford County, North Carolina, written by Lucy Echels Blair.  It states that on the back row are:  Helen Blair, James Hester Blair, Nora (Lenora Adelina Ham).  In front are:  Effie Calidonia and Garrett Blair.  I believe the picture is mislabeled – Effie Calidonia was the older of the two girls.  Consequently, Effie is on the back row and Helen is on the front row.  The family looks very relaxed and comfortable together, don’t you think?)

On the 28th of December 1878, when Adelina was 32 years old, she married James Hester Blair in Johnson County, Texas.  James was the son of John Dickey Blair and Clarissa Fineta Leach, born 18 Feb 1843 in Gibson County, Tennessee.  John Blair was a Confederate soldier who enlisted into the CSA on 19 Mar 1862 out of Hill County, Texas.  He served with Company H of the 12th Texas Infantry (Young’s Regiment). 

Some time around 1903 the Blair family left Texas and relocated to Texico, Curry County, New Mexico which is about 15 miles southeast of Clovis, New Mexico.  Curry County borders the State of Texas.  We drove through Texico last year on our way to Santa Fe – and I have to ask – what were they thinking?!  It’s very un-lovely out that way 🙂

Curry County, New Mexico

James Hester Blair died there shortly after the move on 28 November 1906.  Lenora can be found living with her daughter Helen Norris and family in 1910 census and is listed as head of house and a widow.

Lenora Adelina Ham Blair was 71 years old when she died on 15 Jan 1918 in Texico, Curry County, New Mexico.  She is laid to rest in the Texico Cemetery with her husband.

Lenora Ham Blair - Texico Cemetery






Lenora and James had three children:

  • Effie Caledonia Blair was born 6 November 1879 in Johnson County, Texas.  (I am not 100% sure of the spelling of her middle name.)  Effie was only 20 years old when she died of measles on 12 Feb 1900.  She is laid to rest in Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Franklin County, Texas.  It is unknown whether Effie married before her death.  Some members of the family maintain that she married to “Unknown” Rodgers, and had a son named “Jesse Rodgers,” the “radio singer.”   
  • Ethan Garrett Blair was born 16 Feb 1881 in Johnson County. Texas.  In 1911 he married Nettie Ola Balch.  The couple had three children:  Doris, Joseph and Helyn.  Ethan was the vice-president of Curry County National Farm Loan Association.  Ethan Garrett Blair died 14 March 1955 in Texico, Curry County, New Mexico.  He is laid to rest there with his family in the Texico Cemetery.  
  • Helen Blair was born in Quitman, Hill County, Texas on 11 Aug 1882.  She married John Calvin Norris on 29 Mar 1906 – he was about 24 years her senior.  This couple had two children:  James Henry Norris in 1907 and Beulah Beatrice Norris in 1910.  After the death of her husband in 1920, she married John E. Bingham in 1925.  Helen is also buried in the Texico Cemetery. 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Blair, Ham


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Lydia Alveretta Spencer

Lydia Alveretta Spencer was the fifth child born to John Henry Spencer and Lucy Lodica Elmer, and she was my great grand aunt.  Lydia was born in Payson, Utah on 21 May 1873.  Sometime around the time that Lydia turned four years old, the family relocated to Sanpete County, where she spent her childhood.  On 1 Jan 1899, at the age of 25, Lydia married John Wesley Tidwell. 

Lydia Alveretta Spencer Tidwell - from the collection of Blaine Spencer

 John Tidwell was born 22 January 1861 in Pleasant Grove, Utah County, Utah to William Nelson Tidwell and Mary Elizabeth Reynolds.  John had previously been married to Mary Rosetta Gardner, another of my great grand aunts from the Gardner family line, who died in 1892. 

John Wesley Tidwell - from the collection of Blaine Spencer

By the time the 1900 census had been enumerated, both of Lydia’s parents were dead.  She was with her husband in Sanpete County, and their first daughter Bertha had been born.  Her younger brother Elmer Bert Spencer is living with the family.  Lydia’s father’s “other” wife, Jerusia Spencer is living nearby with her minor children. 

 When we find Lydia and John in the 1910 census, we see that they have relocated their family to Marysville, Freemont County, Idaho.  Lydia tells the enumerator that she has given birth five times and that three of the children are living: 

1.   Bertha Tidwell (1900-1989 – married Howard Lawson White Craven);
2.   Teresa (1906 – ?);
3.   Lydia Lodica (1909-1998 – did not marry);
4.   Thomas Elmer Tidwell was born 1903 in Utah and died 1909 in Idaho; and
5.   Vera Tidwell was born 16 Jan 1908 in Idaho and died that same day; and

By 1920 the couple has added another daughter, Effie (1911 – ?). 

Lydia and John owned their own farm – and we can always find John Tidwell listed as “farmer” on the census records.   

By the time the 1930 census rolls around – John Tidwell continues to have a house full of women!  The family is still present in Marysville, Idaho.  Lydia is 56 years old; John is 69.  They state that they own their own home worth $500 – and that it is not a farm.  John lists his occupation as farm laborer.  Also in the home are Bertha, age 30 and Teresa, age 25 – both state they are married – but no husbands are with them in the census.  Younger daughters Lydia Lodica,, 20 and Effie, 18 are also in the home. 

John Wesley Tidwell died seven years later at the age of 76.  He is laid to rest in the Pineview Cemetery in Ashton, Freemont County, Idaho. 

Lydia Alveretta Spencer Tidwell lived another 25 years.  She died at the age of 89 on 18 Dec. 1962 in Ashton, Freemont County, Idaho.   She is also laid to rest in Pineview Cemetery.

Lydia Alveretta Spencer Tidwell - Pineview Cemetery


Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Spencer


Tags: , , , , , ,

Mystery Woman – Ham/Ballard Family Line


Leave a comment

Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Photographs - Unidentified



A Photo Really is Worth a 1000 Words!

The adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, rings true for every family history researcher on the prowl for old family photos!  You know who you are.  😉  I am very blessed – my family tree on now contains well in excess of 5,000 family photographs – gathered and collected over some period of time – and shared with me through the generosity of so many family members both near and far.

As a small child a favorite pastime of mine was to leaf through the family picture albums.  Over time the faces in those photographs came to be like old friends to me.  I cherished every one of them along with the stories that my parents told me about them.  Now as a family researcher, it helps me to put a face to a name.  It is a special thrill to come across a family photograph of someone that I have been learning about. 

Family photos – whether old or new – are a treasured part of each family’s history.  However, and unfortunately for us, most of them don’t come with neatly typed labels on the back detailing the names and dates and places!  Your unidentified vintage photograph will surely have a story to tell you and a mystery to solve – but about what?  And whom?! 

Getting to the bottom of your unidentified photograph may require some persistence, some knowledge of your family’s history and some good old-fashioned detective work.  These are some of the things we consider when trying to identify a photograph:

  • First, where did you get the photo?  Does that person have first hand knowledge of the photo’s history?  This fact will at least tell you which family line you are dealing with.
  • What type of photograph is it?  Daguerre type?  Tin type?  (This could pinpoint the time period of the photo.)
  • Who was the photographer? (This could pinpoint the location of where the photo was taken.)
  • Does the background or setting give you any hints?  
  • What types of clothes are the subjects wearing?  Hair styles? (Again, this could help you pinpoint the time period.)

Good luck !


Come look with me inside this drawer
In this box I’ve often seen,
at the pictures, black and white,
Faces proud, still and serene.

I wish I knew the people,
These strangers in the box,
Their names and all their memories,
Are lost among my socks.

I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I’ll never know their ways.

If only someone had taken time,
To tell, who, what, where and when.
These faces of my heritage,
Would come to life again.

Could this become the fate,
Of the pictures we take today,
The faces and the memories,
Someday to be passed away.

Take time to save your stories
Seize the opportunity when it knocks
Or someday You and Yours,
Could be Strangers in the Box

Author Unknown


Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Photographs - Unidentified


Tags: ,

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

In my never-ending quest for information about our ancestors, I am usually not content to settle on their statistics – birth, marriage and death, etc.  I want to know more – who they were, how they lived their lives and what challenges they faced along the way.  In looking for clues about their lives – I think about some very strange things – take hygiene for instance.  This morning as I showered, applied my wrinkle cream and painted my face I got to thinking about how difficult these simple tasks must have been for our ancestors. 

Bathing – face it – it didn’t transpire on a regular schedule.  The enamel bathtub wasn’t invented until 1883.  Up until then, most people bathed in wooden or metal tubs.  Those that had washtubs would bring water in by bucket, and then it had to be heated on the stove, and usually more than one person had to use the same water.  I would avoid bath time as well if I had to go through that much trouble!  In our neck of the woods (Texas, New Mexico, Utah) bathing was often done in streams or ponds.  For some folks, a bath consisted mainly of a pitcher of water and a washcloth every now and again.  I imagine it was a stinky affair!  

Toothpaste was developed in the 1820s and then mass-produced in the 1870s; however, it was not widely used during that time period.  The more likely scenario for our family members was that they resorted to stripping a tender twig from a tree or bush and then they commenced to scrubbing their teeth with it.  If you were extra lucky your household had some baking soda to use with that twig!  Dentistry has been available for many centuries; however, preventive dentistry was something not practiced.  Most people only had the resources to go to the dentist when the need was dire.

In the 19th century, a pale appearance was a highly desirable physical trait in a woman.  Women risked their health by using dangerous cosmetics including “whiteners” which contained substances such as zinc oxide, mercury and lead.  Some women even ate chalk or drank iodine to achieve this desired whiteness.  Alternatively, lip and cheek color were considered scandalous.  

Now are you ready for this?  We should get on our hands and knees and thank God that we were born in this century!  As if the chamber pot and the dreaded outhouse aren’t bad enough – did you know that most people living in rural areas used corncobs for toilet paper?  Seriously.  Most rural outhouses had one hanging on a string.  Did they reuse them?! 

For those folks that had access to it, paper from old books and/or newspapers  was used as well.   Even if you didn’t place an order, the good old Sears & Roebuck catalog always served its purpose.   








So, as I’m laying here in bed with my lap top….freshly showered, shampooed and deodorized (yes, that’s two showers in one day!) I am forever grateful for the life and luxuries I’ve been granted. 

….these are the things I think about when I get bored…..


Leave a comment

Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Odds and Ends, Times and Places


Russell Columbus Atwood

Russell Columbus Atwood – known as “Lum” to family and friends – was the middle son of Thomas Jefferson Atwood and Matilda Hough.  Russell was born in Laclede County, Missouri on 12 Apr 1853.   

Laclede County, Missouri

Russell Columbus Atwood married Amanda “Mandy” Waters on Christmas Day 1873 in Hays County.  The family spent some time in Callahan County before settling in Eastland County, where they spent the rest of their lives. 

Eastland County, Texas

Russell was always indexed as being a farmer.  I am uncertain how many children this couple had.  In the 1900 census Amanda states that she has given birth 10 times and that 8 of her children are living; and in the 1910 census she states that she has given birth 9 times and that 7 children are living. 

These are the children that I have been able to document:

 Matilda Rosalee Atwood (born 1875)

Columbus Eugene “Gene” Atwood (1877-1933)

William Lafayette “Fate” Atwood (1879-1946)

Arthur R. Atwood (1880-1908)

Jennie A. Atwood (1885-1968)

Naomi Ellen Atwood (1887-1945)

Ida Atwood (1889-1890)

Daniel Elmer Atwood (1891-1962)

Clarence Ford Atwood (1897-1955)

Russell Columbus Atwood died in Pioneer, Eastland County, Texas on 23 June 1919 at the age of 66 years.  He is laid to rest in the Pioneer Cemetery.

Pioneer Cemetery

 Please contact me if you have any information on this branch of the Atwood tree. 

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 22, 2011 in Atwood


Tags: , , , ,

Joanna Elizabeth Ham

Joanna Elizabeth “Jo” Ham was the first daughter born to Joel Ham and his wife Mary Emily Montgomery.  She was born in Mississippi, probably in Yalobusha County, on 31 Aug. 1843.  Joanna can be found there with her parents in the 1850 census.  By 1860, the Ham family is in Texas, and we find Joanna there with them in Mount Vernon, Titus County.  There she grew up and met Benjamin Franklin (known as Bing) Edwards whom she married on 3 Jan 1862 in Hopkins County, Texas.     

Bing was born in 28 September of 1840 in Cherokee County, Alabama.  He is one of the sons of Gideon  and Jane Edwards.  Bing served the Confederacy in the Civil War.  He was a Sergeant in Company K, 19th Texas Infantry.  His tombstone states that he was a “Badge of Courage” recipient. 

The family spent time between several different counties in Texas – 1870 they were in Hopkins County; 1880 they were in Johnson County; and in 1900 they were in Hill County.

To say that Jo and Bing had a large family would be a huge understatement.  In the census records Joanna advised the census taker that she had given birth 14 times and that 11 children survived.  Now…I don’t know about you – I barely managed to bring forth one child.  Can you image what it was like to be pregnant 14 times?!  And to give birth 14 times?!  And all this without prenatal care?  And then to lose three children – what heart-break. 

 These are the children that we know about:

  1. Calidonnia “Donnie” Mansfield Edwards (1864-1939)
  2. Alice Lenorah Edwards (1866-1946)
  3. Mary Udora Edwards (1868-1943)
  4. Sara Edwards (1871-?)
  5. Joanna Elizabeth “Betty” Edwards (1872-1930)
  6. Ninnie M. Edwards (1875-?)
  7. Benjamin Franklin Edwards, Jr. (1877-?)
  8. Lula L. Edwards (1879-?)
  9. William Arthur Edwards (1880-1898)
  10. Robert Eston Edwards (1882-1974)
  11. Ola Etna Edwards (1885-1971)
  12. Thomas E. Edwards (1886-1950)

Joanna’s husband, Benjamin Franklin Edwards died in Hill County, Texas on 4 July 1910 at the age of 69.  He is laid to rest in Derden Cemetery in the county.  That same year in the census record Joanna is living with one of her daughters, Ola Etna Edwards Mabe and her husband Clarence.  Joanna died five years later at the age of 72 on 20 Sept 1915 in Buel, Johnson County, Texas.  She is laid to rest in the Buel Cemetery.  Her death certificate below is a rare find.  Even though death records were sometimes kept as early as 1900 in Texas – it is unusual to find one this early (1915).  

Joanna Elizabeth Ham Edwards - Texas Death Certificate

This branch of the Ham family tree frankly still needs a lot of work.  We don’t have much information on any of Joanna’s children and no photographs.  For those of you that know me – you know I love the old family photographs most of all.  It helps to put a face to a name when researching a family line.  Theoretically, there should be a lot of descendants out there!  We would love to hear from any of you that are interested in exchanging information on the Ham family genealogy.  

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Civil War, Edwards, Ham


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Another Miller Break Through

Little Jessie Miller in the 1880 census turns out to be Jessie Eugene Miller born 22 Oct. 1877 in Waco, McLennan County, Texas to Elijah Spencer Miller and Harriet Curbow.  He is the first cousin (3x removed) to my husband – that’s getting out there – but we’ll take them any way we can get them!  We don’t know a lot about him, but based on some of the records I found we do know this:

Sometime around 1907 he married Hattie – her last name is unknown to me.  In the 1910 census he was living with her in Collin County, Texas.  The couple had four children:  John S. in 1907; Fannie Mae in 1909; Enola B. in 1912; and Bethola M. in 1914.  I don’t know if Hattie died or if the couple divorced because by the 1920 census, Jessie has remarried to Susie Annie Hyden.  His children are with him.  Jessie and Annie had six more children:  Archie B. in 1918; James Ira in 1919; William Franklin in 1921; Vera Belle in 1922; Clifton Eugene in 1924; and Doris Evelyn in 1928. 

When Jesse filled out his World War I Draft Registration card in September of 1918 he stated that he was a self-employed farmer.  He described himself as being of medium height and build with gray eyes and brown hair.  His grandfather Tilman Curbow had gray eyes. 

World War I Draft Registration Card

The family lived in Collin County until 1923 when they relocated to Live Oak County.  

Live Oak County, Texas

Jessie Eugene Miller lived the rest of his life there until he died of tuberculosis in George West, Live Oak County, Texas on 28 July 1939.  As an aside, the town of George West was founded by George Washington West and Katie West, land venturers and cattle barons.  I am sure they some how fit into our West family – but that is another research project for another day !

Texas Death Certificate

Jessie Eugene Miller is laid to rest in George West Cemetery.

In tracing some of the Jessie’s children – I found that Archie B. Miller lived and died in the Giddings/Lexington, Lee County area – which is not far from where we are.  If any of the children and/or grandchildren of Jessie Eugene Miller or Archie B. Miller come across this post – we would love to visit with you to share information on the Miller/Curbow genealogy.

Onward –  breaking down those brick walls is so much fun !


Posted by on February 19, 2011 in Curbow, Miller


Tags: , , , , ,

George Francis Spencer

George Francis Spencer was my great-grandfather – and one of the 12 children of John Henry Spencer and Lucy Lodica Elmer – born in Payson, Utah County, Utah Territory on 30 Jun 1870.  George’s father was a member of the Mormon sect.  Imagine how puzzled I was when I first started studying the census records of that time period….more wives and children and confusion than I could count.  It finally dawned on me – my great great grandfather was a polygamist!  Accordingly, in the childhood census records of George Francis Spencer, he is always present with his mother and father AND John Spencer’s first wife  Jerusha Kibbe Brunson Elmer and her 14 children, George’s half siblings.  Whew….Now that we’ve got that sorted out…let’s continue ! 

George Francis Spencer from the collection of Blaine Spencer

Sometime around the time George turned 7 years old, his large family relocated to Thistle/Indianola, Sanpete County, Utah.  This is where he met and married my great-grandmother, Sarah Elsie Gardner.  The Mormon records indicate that they married 22 Oct 1987 – when Sarah was only 15 years old.  However, the 1910 census indicates that they had been married only 10 years – putting the marriage closer to 1900.  Sarah was the daughter of Henry Erastus Stanley Gardner and Mary Rosetta Patterson. 

Sarah Elsie Gardner from the collection of Blaine Spencer

 George and Sarah had five children: 

Earl Francis in 1903; married Margaret “Mollie” Mack; died in Utah County, Utah in 1964;

Mary Lodica “Aunt Marie” in 1905; married first James Patrick Hyland and second Paul Allias; died 1999 in Salt Lake City;

Ernest Richard in 1907; married Mary “Honey” and Cleotha Peterson; died 1960 in Utah County, Utah (my father named after him);

Elmer Bert in 1908; married Peggy Marie Barnett; died in Kerrville, Kerr County, Texas in 1999; and

Pearl Eva in 1914 (my grandmother); married Jose Celestino Montoya; lost her life in a car accident at the age of 34 in 1949. 

It appears that the marriage of George and Elsie might have been a rocky one – on again and off again.  In the 1910 census they are together – in 1920 George is alone with the four older children and is indexed as divorced – Elsie is in another county with youngest daughter Pearl Eva and is living with another man (Carl Persow) – later she leaves Pearl with her father and goes to California where she died young in 1925.  It is assumed that George and Sarah were together until at least 1914, when my grandmother, Pearl Eva Spencer was born.  It is not known if the couple actually divorced or only separated.  Her headstone carries the “Spencer” name – and she is listed as “wife” of George Spencer on his death certificate.  The family story states that George Francis Spencer was a sheep herder – and that Elsie wanted a better life than that could afford her.  The 1910 census states that he was a laborer doing “odd jobs”; the 1920 census that he was a laborer working for the “steam railroad”; and the 1930 that he was a laborer working on a farm.

It appears that George Francis Spencer spent the remainder of his years in Indianola.  In his old age, George Francis Spencer, was wheelchair bound.  His death certificate states that he was “an invalid for 27 years prior to his death.”  He lived in the home of one of his sons – probably Earl Francis Spencer – and he had rooms at the back of that house.  He died in the Utah County Infirmary at Provo, Utah at the age of 73 on 22 Apr 1944.  He had been a resident at the Infirmary for ten months prior to his death.  

George Francis Spencer is laid to rest in Payson City Cemetery in Payson, Utah County, Utah. 

George Francis Spencer - Payson City Cemetery


Posted by on February 19, 2011 in Spencer


Tags: , , , , ,

Opa Geier’s AhnenPaβ

Kurt Willy Geier

The Ahnenpaβ was a standardized booklet that was issued during the reign of the Third Reich of Nazi Germany.  In this booklet the citizens were required to record their ancestry in order to prove their pure Aryan blood.  For the average citizen, usually no more than four generations were required to avoid being categorized as non-Aryan – in other words “non-Jewish.”  The word Ahnenpaβ  translates to “ancestor passport.”   

Front Cover of Kurt Willie Geier’s AhnenPaβ

Despite the atrocious and brutal purpose of this document, an Ahnenpaβ, as I have found out, can be an excellent source for genealogical data, because it forced the citizens to vigorously search for and document their ancestors.

I am so unbelievably lucky in that I have a color copy of my grandfather Kurt Willy Geier’s Ahnenpaβ.  It was given to me and transcribed by my uncle – Wolfgang Geier.  My grandfather’s Ahnenpaβ sources and documents ancestors back to 1773. 

The Ahnenpaβ confirms his full name:  Kurt Willy Geier
Born 12 Nov 1908 in Lengenfeld, Germany
He was the son of Johann Heinrich Geier, “Laborer/Worker”
and Anna Lina Geier (born Kutscher)
Kurt Willy Geier married:  Anna Martha Lipsdorf  (b. 17 Aug 1906 in Hohndorf near Wittenberg) on 3 Sept 1930 in Elster
(She was baptized 15 Sept 1906 in Hohndorf today Muhlanger)
Her father was Hermann Franz Lipsdorf (railroad worker)
and her mother as Wilhelmine Aguste Anna (born Rostel)
All Protestant

I am just now delving into the German family research.  I feel like I’ve become an old pro at finding ancestors here in Texas – but the German research is proving to be a bit more of a challenge for a variety of reasons. 

  • Locating records – Prior to 1871, Germany consisted mostly of “kingdoms” such as Bavaria, Saxony, Prussia, etc. – each with its own record keeping system.  After World War II Germany was divided up once again.  The end result is that records on my German ancestors may or may not even be found in Germany.  They could be found in Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Poland or the USSR.  Then to make matters even more complicated – most German records (such as birth, marriage and death) are not centralized – they are kept on the local level – so it becomes nearly impossible to trace your ancestors in Germany unless you know their home town.  I’ve been told that the records are spotty at best.  Some date back to the Napoleonic era – but some others only date back to around 1870. 
  • Census records – Censuses were conducted, but again, the records are not centrally located.  Additionally, German law does not permit the release of the census information until 30 years after the ancestor’s death (or 110 years after the ancestors birth if you don’t have a death date). 
  • Church and burial records – Some church records date as far back as the 15th Century.  My next stop will be the nearest LDS Library to see what they have for me there.  Cemetery indexes from Germany are almost impossible to find and are not useful.  My mother has been telling me for years that the grave sites are “reused” in Germany.  I never really understood what that meant until I read in an article that most burial lots are leased to families for a number of years – and then if and when the lease isn’t renewed, someone else can be buried there. 

I would love to hear from any of you that are researching your German ancestors.  Any tips, success stories, encouragement and/or advice would be welcomed and appreciated !

1 Comment

Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Geier, Lipsdorf


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Aunt Francis – Maria Francisca Montoya Sanchez

Maria Francisca Montoya was known to my father as “Aunt Francis.”  She was one of the daughters born to Maximiano Montoya and Juana Martin in Bosque, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico on 3 Aug 1900.  The Montoya families were members of the Catholic faith, and thus, shortly after her birth on 8 Aug 1900 she was christened in the San Juan de los Caballeros Catholic Church in Rio Arriba County. 

Aunt Francis with her brother Jose Celestino Montoya and husband Abel Sanchez in the background

At the age of 16, on 29 Jan 1917, Aunt Francis married Jose Abel Sanchez.  The marriage took place at (and is recorded in the marriage books of) the San Juan de los Caballeros Catholic Church.  Abel, the oldest son of Luis M. Sanchez and Maria Ascension Martinez, was born in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico on 28 Sept. 1890.  When Uncle Abel filled out his World War I Draft Registration Card on 5 June 1917, at the age of 27, he lists himself as “married,” and a railroad track man by occupation.  He is employed by The New Mexico Lumber Company in El Vado.  He described himself as being short and with medium build with black hair and brown eyes.

 In the 1920 census period, Aunt Francis and Uncle Abel are still in Rio Arriba County – living in El Vado.  El Vado, once the “company town” for R.G. & SW rail line and a booming and bustling lumber center in northern Rio Arriba County is now a ghost town.  In the census, Uncle Abel is listed as a “section foreman working for the railroad.”  It is assumed that he was employed by R.G. & SW.  

El Vado Lake - near the defunct lumber/rail town of El Vado, New Mexico

 In 1930, Francis and Abel are still in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, and in fact, I believe they lived their entire lives there.  Interestingly, all of our Hispanic ancestors in New Mexico are listed as “white” because they are of Spanish descent.  According to this census, Francis and Abel owned their own home (which is a farm); but, do not own a radio.  For some strange reason – this was one of the questions on the 1930 census! 

 Aunt Francis and Uncle Abel had the following known children:  Luis in 1918; Augustina/Filomena in 1920; Orlesta in 1922; Delfin in 1924; and Arturo in 1928. 

 This is the last known record that Maria Francisca Montoya Sanchez left us.  The Social Security Death Index has a listing for:  Marie F. Sanchez – 29 Oct. 1988 in Chimayo, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.  I feel this is probably her – but, unfortunately, the birth date does not match – so I cannot say for certain.  The family recollection is that Aunt Francis died around 1986 in nearby Ojo Caliente. 

Abel Sanchez died 28 January 1978.  His Social Security card was issued in Colorado.  When the railroad town of El Vada shut down in 1923, they moved their operations to Colorado.  So it is very likely that Abel spent some time working in Colorado between the 1920 and 1930 census period. 

I know next to nothing about the children of Francis Montoya and Abel Sanchez.  I assume that there would be some descendants – and that they would probably be living in the Rio Arriba County area of New Mexico.  If any of the children and/or grandchildren of Francis and Abel stumble across this posting – I would love to hear from you !


Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Montoya, Sanchez


Tags: , , ,

Our Roots Run Deep

The latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are featuring Tim McGraw’s discovery of his family’s “rags-to-riches” story with ties to George Washington got me to pondering about our collective families and the role they played in shaping our nation.  Several of the family lines that we are working on have deep roots – in fact they were present here even before America became a nation. 

Brothers, Joseph Curbow (1755-1850) and William Curbow (1757-?), were both Revolutionary War soldiers who served on the North Carolina Line.  According to William’s pension papers, the family home in North Carolina was burned to the ground by the British.  William also spent the brutal winter of 1777-78 in Valley Forge with General George Washington.  The family story that has been passed down is that both Joseph and William were present at the British surrender in Yorktown in 1781.  Fact or fiction?  I don’t know – but it is fascinating to contemplate, don’t you think?

Edward Grantham (1643-1704) is my son’s 9th great grandfather.  He was known as Old Edward.  He lived in Surry County, Virginia.  The family home was known as Grantham Reeds and was located directly across the James River from Jamestown, which was founded on May 14, 1607, and is the first permanent English settlement in what is now America! 

My husband’s gg-grandmother was Ellen Elizabeth West.  The West family has a long and interesting history in America and in England.  John West (1590-1659) was the colonial Governor of Virginia from 1635-1637.  He was the fourth son of Thomas West, 2nd Baron De La Warr.  Did you know that this is where our state “Delaware” got its name?  John West’s plantation is the site of present day West Point, Virginia.  One of the sons of Governor West was Lieutenant-Colonel John West.  He was married to Unity Croshaw, a granddaughter of Raleigh Croshaw, one of the founders of Jamestown, Virginia.  Time and legend have not been kind to Unity – it has been reported that she was a shrew, and that she divorced her husband for adultery when he left her to live with Cockacoeske – Queen of the Pamunkey  – and purportedly a cousin to Pocahontas.  Again – fact or fiction?  I don’t know.

Meanwhile, out west, Bartolomé de Montoya, a Spanish Conquistador arrived in New Mexico on 24 Dec. 1600.  The family came as part of the second Onaté  expedition, whose colony consisted of 65 settlers.  The Montoya family brought with them 25 servants, cattle and equipment needed to start a new life in Nuevo España.  From the family of Bartolomé de Montoya the Montoya surname was firmly established in New Mexico – and virtually all Montoya families from New Mexico descend from him.  

And yes, in case you are wondering – we have our fair share of lunatics – thieves – and drunkards in our family tree too.  Trials, tribulation, tragedy and drama were often the norm – divorces, family feuds, unplanned pregnancies, “bar-room difficulties” and the like have been uncovered.  Our Ham family can be tied to the outlaw Jesse James; and our Curbow family can be linked with the gunslinger John Wesley Hardin.  It’s all good though……they’re family!


Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Curbow, Grantham, Montoya, Odds and Ends


Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: