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John Hilyard Family ca. 1909

Monday, March 5, 2018

52.10: Strong Woman; Haney Mozingo McKinney

This post is part of a project called "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" created by Amy Johnson Crow.

I have a confession: I don't keep a research log.

I can tell you in general where I went, probably the decade I went there. If I photocopied something (pre-digital days), I tried to write the name of the book on the copy. 

So, the actual day I first met Haney McKinney is lost to history. I was with my cousin Jane; we traveled to Frankfort, Kentucky, to the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Probably in the early 2000s. I think we went with the intention of researching our shared line, the Tarrs/Torrs.  We happened upon an index reference to some court cases involving that name, and requested to see them. Little did we know the treasure trove heading our way.

Jane and I share as common ancestors John Tarr and Hannah McKinney. The Tarrs, also found as Torr and Toor, are shrouded in genealogical mystery. As for Hannah, we didn't really know anything about her before her marriage to John which took place in Shelby County, Kentucky on October 19, 1804. We weren't particularly focused on her line.

The court case files brought to us were in archival boxes, the cases separated into folders. The folders we opened that day were of our ancestor, John Tarr, suing someone named Haney McKinney, and of Haney McKinney's countersuit. It turned out Haney McKinney was his mother-in-law, and they were scrapping over the estate of her son John McKinney.

As part of the case, Haney was awarded a dedimus by the court. I had never seen that word before. According to Merriam-Webster, it means a writ to commission a private person to perform some act in place of a judge (as to examine a witness).

Leaving her home in Shelby County, Kentucky, Haney McKinney traveled to Culpeper County, Virginia, a distance of over 500 miles. On March 25, 1806, she gathered testimony from several people at the tavern of Burtis Ringo. It is through these testimonies I learned about Haney's early life. I know of no other source for these stories. I'll let them speak for themselves, interjecting occasionally to clarify. The spellings are left intact.

"The following depositions was taken at the house of Burtice Ringo in the Town of Woodville in the County of Culpeper this 25th day of March 1806. To be read into evidence in a sute now depending in the Shelby Circute Court wherein Haney McKenney is plantiff and John Tarr Defendant in pursuance of the Anexed Commission and Notice."

The first testimony came from Haney's brother, John Mozingo.
"John Mosingo aged forty two years being duly sworn before us Daniel Brown & James Green Jnr. Two of the Justices of the peace for the county of Culpeper in the State of Virginia, deposeth and sayeth that about twenty two years ago John McKenny and Hany McKenny (who were then man and wife) did about that time part and as I understood by mutual consent and did also divide what property they then had by concent also and that after about Twelve months from the time of this parting the said Jno. McKenny left this part of the country and as I understood went to Greenbrier County. I have since understood that he and a woman which went off with him died. I further know that the property which the said Hany McKenny had out of the Estate of the said Jno McKinny was very little and that she had debts to pay which the said John McKenny had created and that she had very little left after paying them, and further this deponent sayeth not.

1st question by the plaintiff:
Do you not know that Hanie McKenny’s Father became security for her in the year that she parted with her husband for the purchase of corn.

Answer: I know he did

And further this deponent sayeth not.
John Mosingo    his  X   mark"

The next witness was Nancy Mozingo, married to Haney's brother Charles.
"Nancy Mosingo alias Williamson aged forty two years being duly sworn before us Daniel Brown and James Green Jr. Two of the Justices of the peace for the county of Culpeper in the State of Virginia. This deponent deposeth and sayeth I lived with John McKenny and Hany his wife at the time they parted and that they did by mutual concent part and divide their property and that the property which was left for the said Hany McKinny was three cows three yearlings and one calf. Two Hogs and one pig and  few articles in the house which in all were not in my opinion worth more than twenty shillings out of which property she was to pay the debts due by the said John McKinny, which were as follows Five pounds to Elijah Chich, Twenty six shillings to William Brodley which she had the cost of a petion to pay ____ Boon Between three and four pounds beside several other small debts for which she was warranted and had to pay, and further this deponent sayeth not.
Nancy Mosingo   her X Mark Alias Williamson"
Haney's brother George Mozingo testified:
"George Mosingo aged forty six years being duly sworn before us Daniel Brown and James Green Jr. two of the Justices of the peace for the county of Culpeper in the State of Virginia. This deponent sayeth that Haney McKenny had very little property left her at the time of her parting with her husband I know she had no horse kind nor do I believe she had a bed. She had some stock of cattle and hogs and to very little amount. I further know that she had several debts to pay which John McKenney her husband had contracted and that some of the property left with her was taken to satisfy one of them. I further know he left her little or no corn and that she was assisted by myself and others with that article on account of her distressed situation. I further know that by her Industry and care she acquired property to considerable amount before she left this country and further this deponent sayeth not.
George Mosingo  his  X   mark"

There are some other depositions, but they all agree with those given here. Haney Mozingo was married to John McKinney, I estimate around 1777. They had five children that I know of when they agreed to separate in 1784, most likely all under the age of six or seven. Although the testimonies say they split their possessions, it sounds as though Haney was left with the debts. She didn't have enough money left to buy corn to plant the next year's crop. Through a loan from her father, and help from her brothers and others, she was able to get through that year.

Haney Mozingo McKinney never remarried. She raised her children, moving from Culpeper County, Virginia to Shelby County, Kentucky around 1800. 

In the lawsuit that started all this discovery, Haney's son John McKinney had died, and her son-in-law John Tarr was settling his estate. Haney said one of the horses listed as inventory was hers, John Tarr disagreed. She was willing to put up quite a ruckus to get this horse back, and through that I learned a lot about her.

I have collected several other documents and sources for Haney McKinney over the years. I'll close with her final one, an indenture that reads like a will:
"This indenture made this 4th day of October 1819 between Haney McKinney of the County of Shelby State of Kentucky of the one part & John Skelton of the same County of the other part witnesseth that the said Haney for & in consideration of the sum of one Dollar to her in hand paid for & in consideration of  the natural love & affection which she hath doth bond to her grandson John Skelton hath granted bargained & sold & by these presents doth convey unto the said John & his heirs forever the following property to wit: Bena & Rose two negro girls together with all my house hold furniture & stock of every Discription & all & every species of Property belonging to me. & it is to be understood that said John Skelton is to give at my death to Charles Weathers the above named negro girl Rose or $300 in cash which ever the said John Skelton may choose. To have & to hold the said negroes & Other property to him the said John Skelton & His heirs & the said Haney McKinney for herself & her heirs hereby agrees to warrant & Defend said property against herself & her heirs & against the claim of all other persons whatever. If said John should die without lawfull Issue the said property is to Decend to Wilmoth Weathers heirs In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal the date above. Test Geo W. Johnston
                                                                                Haney McKinney {seal}"
This came from the Shelby County, Kentucky Deed Book Q, p. 168. 

Haney Mozingo McKinney led a hardscrabble life. Based on the number of lawsuits she filed, I'm not sure she was the most pleasant of people, but she was one strong woman I am certainly glad to claim as my ancestor.

Monday, February 26, 2018

52.9: Where There's a Will; "A Dutiful and Obedient Child"

This post is part of a project called "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" created by Amy Johnson Crow.

One of my favorite wills, or rather the equity case surrounding it, is that of my 5x great-grandfather Ambrose Smith.  He was born March 1, 1756 in Virginia and died March 25, 1839 at the age of 83 in Logan County, Kentucky.  He served in the American Revolution and received a pension for his service.

Ambrose moved to Logan County between 1810 and 1811.  At some point, he wrote a will and it was entered into probate and written into Logan County, Kentucky's Guardian Book B, on page 27:
Will of Ambrose Smith as entered into Logan County, Kentucky Guardian Book B, p. 27
Here is my transcription of the will (a little easier to read, my spacing added for clarity):
“To all whom their presents shall come:  Greeting.  Know ye that I, Ambers Smith of Logan County state of Kentucky, knowing that it is appointed for all unce? to die and being sound in mind and memory do make an ordin this my last will and testament holey revoking all former wills. 
First, that my body decently buried in a Christian like manner and my funeral expenses to be discharged.
Fanny Brooks I give ten dollars of my estate for her portion.
James A. Smith to have my plantation tools. Mary Grinter, Nancy Buckannon, William Smith, Isabella Lee, J. A. Smith that is to have my estate to bee equally to bee divided between them.  James A. Smith, Mary Grinter, Nancy Buckanon, William Smith, Isabella Lee except one hundred dollars of Izabella Lee’s portion is to come to Louisa A. Smith for her maintaine untill she comes of age or marry. 
I do hereby constitute James A. Smith Robert Grinter to bee Executors of of my estate.  This is my last will and testament.
                                                                                                             Ambers Smith
Wm. Harkreadder
William Young
At my death Peggy my black woman is to be free.
Wm. Harkreadder
John H. Young
Logan County Court, March Term 1839 At a county court held for Logan County at the court house in Russellville on the 25th day of March 1839 the within last will and testament of Ambrose Smith decd. was produced in open court and proven by the oaths of Wm. Harkreadder and Wm. Young two subscribing therto to be the last will and testament of said Smith.  Whereupon the same together with this certificate hath been duly admited to record in my office.  Given under my hand the date above.                        M. B. Morton”

Oddly, there is no date on the will.  There is also no wife mentioned so she probably died before Ambrose. There aren't any relationships explained either.   

Thankfully, Fanny Brooks wasn't happy with her ten dollars.

Fanny, a daughter of Ambrose Smith, and her husband Allen Brooks filed a suit against all the others named in the will. They claimed many things, among them that Ambrose Smith was incompetent to make a will, that the will had been altered without Ambrose's knowledge, and that Ambrose had been forced to make the will.  Her claim is this:
"...your oratrix had always been a dutiful and obedient child  there is only left by said pretended will to your oratrix the sum of $10."
Ambrose Smith named as one of his executors Robert Grinter, who happened to be his son-in-law (and my next ancestor in line). Robert married Ambrose's daughter Mary on March 22, 1813. As executor, Robert led the response to the charges laid down by Fanny. I have no idea what he was really like, but I picture a solid, reasonable man, quietly irritated by all of Fanny's outrageous claims. I think what really wound him up, though, was the "dutiful and obedient child" business.  He let her have it in his response:
"He denies that said Fanny had always been a dutiful and obedient child, but on the contrary she had been a most undutiful and disobedient one so far as to become almost a common prostitute and give birth before she was married to said Brooks to two or three illegitimate children. Your respondent admits that there is only left said Fanny $10 by said will but denies most positively that the amount given to her was fraudulently torn out and altered to $10 and he denies that it ever was any other or larger sum."
 He also defends his father-in-law's state of mind:
"He denies the allegation in the Bill that it is not the last will of said Smith and says that it is his last will and Testament.  He denies that as far as he possesses any knowledge said Smith was induced fraudulently to sign said will...  He denies any knowledge that any influence was exercised to induce said Smith to disinherit said Fanny or that any person interested or not interested in the Estate possessed the unbounded confidence of said Smith so as to be able to induce any particular disposition of his property, your respt believes that he was influenced entirely by her bad conduct to take the course he did pursue.  Your respt admits that said Smith was not one of the strongest minded men and that he sometimes dissipated to some extent but he denies that said decedent was incapable of disposing of his property by will or otherwise on account of old age, bodily infirmity dissipation or any other cause at any time within his recollection and he also denies that said Testator was wholly deranged at the signing of said paper or at any other time as far as he has any knowledge or belief..."
The others named in the suit adopted Robert Grinter's response as their own. The case went up before the court.

There is a lot of legalese, coupled with very bad handwriting, but the bottom line is that Fanny and Allen Brooks didn't have a leg to stand on. They contested her father's will, and lost. The will stood as submitted and the Brookses were ordered to pay the defendants' court costs.

This will stands as one of my favorites because of all the details gleaned from the equity case file that followed. When Fanny challenged the will, everything was dissected. One paper in the file is what I call the "score sheet", outlining all the players in the will and case, who they married, if they died during the case and then who their heirs were.  What I like even more are the character sketches laid out: Fanny's challenge to her father's capacity, Robert's defense of it; and whatever everyone thought of Fanny.

This case also taught me not to stop with the will book entry. There may be oh, so much more to find!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

52.8: Heirloom; Cherry Chest of Drawers

This post is part of a project called "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" created by Amy Johnson Crow.

My favorite heirloom is also my biggest.
Moore Family Chest of Drawers

This chest of drawers is made of cherry and is over 200 years old. It sits quietly in the corner of my spare room, waiting for me to come in and admire it from time to time (which I do quite frequently).

I saw a very similar chest on Antiques Roadshow once. According to the appraiser, they are quite common and not of great monetary value. This cherry chest, though, is priceless to me.

Family lore says this chest was made by my Moore ancestors and came with them on a wagon from North Carolina to Indiana. It has been handed down each generation to the oldest male child ever since.

Sounds simple enough, right? Maybe, but look a little more closely.

First, at when and how it was made.  The family that made the trip to Indiana was that of Edward and Pharaba (Pearce) Moore.  I estimate they were married about 1788 in North Carolina, based on the birth of their first child Martha in late 1789. The family moved to Indiana sometime after the birth of their last child Thomas in early 1811, and in time for Edward to appear on the Militia Roster for Harrison County, Indiana Territory in 1812.

The construction of the chest is interesting to my modern eyes. Of course there were no power tools then. The nails are square; each drawer has dovetailed joints.
Square nails and board salvaged from repair work needed on the chest
Closeup of dovetail joint
I admire the craftsmanship for each step of its construction. Did they use stain then? What is the finish? 

The original hardware was removed and replaced by my grandfather, Lee Moore. He was a janitor at Paoli High School and had someone in the wood shop make round wooden pulls for the drawers. I'd love to put the old hardware back in if I had it, but the wooden pulls are now part of the story.
Original hardware removed and filled
"New" wooden pulls replaced the original hardware

So how did this chest, allegedly subject to the rules of primogeniture (passing to the oldest male Moore child), make it to a female named Heverly? Let's follow it.

I traced the male Moore descendants in a previous post.  They are a rare breed indeed. Edward and Pharaba Moore made the trek to Indiana, as stated before, around 1811. They had nine children ranging in age from 22 to about 1. The oldest girl, Martha was newly married but her family came to Indiana as well.

Here's where the family lore breaks down. My next ancestor in line, Edward Windsor Moore, was not actually the oldest male child. He had an older brother John who lived to a ripe old age. much for family lore? I'm not sure what to make of it.

Edward Windsor Moore, subject of many blog posts starting here, was the father of William Bryant Moore. Though he also had an older brother named John, this John died as a boy.  William Bryant Moore holds the title of my shortest-lived ancestor. He died at the age of 20 while working in the newly-constructed Orange County Courthouse.
Orange County Courthouse in Paoli, Indiana
Photo by Vonda Heverly, taken on a research trip in 2016
William Bryant left behind a 17-year old widow, Mary, and 15 month old son, William Braddock Moore. Mary remarried to Henry Pierce Breeden, and they had five children of their own.

Sadly, all six of these children were orphaned when Henry and Mary Breeden died within a few months of each other in 1862. William Braddock Moore was 13, and did not qualify for any of his stepfather's Civil War pension. He seems to have lived for a time on his grandfather Edward Windsor Moore's farm, but I think he had to grow up pretty fast. 

Someone (I would guess his grandfather) took charge of the chest until he established his own house by marrying Martha Ann Tillery in 1870. From there the chest had a mostly uneventful life, traveling to the home of William Braddock Moore's son Fred, to his son Lee, and finally to my uncle Bill.

My uncle Bill has no children. I had heard about the chest over the years and wondered what would happen to it. By this time I was grown and had my own house. My mom asked Bill about the chest, and he agreed I could have it since I was interested in it. 

One small problem:  while Bill was moving, the chest fell off the truck and suffered some minor injuries.  One drawer was busted and the back panel broken. I didn't care; I wanted it anyway!

My father took on the repair job. He had to construct a few new pieces. I believe he used some old yellow poplar to craft them.  He kept all the old pieces, which I hang on to, just because.
Board replaced by my dad
I am a historical re-enactor, and I keep much of my clothing and blankets for this hobby in the chest. It seems fitting that it holds linen and wool, like it did when it was new.  Every time I open the chest, I think of all my ancestors who have opened it, and I feel a connection to them.

Monday, February 19, 2018

52.7: Valentine; Mary Ann Valentine Hilyard Neely

This post is part of a project called "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" created by Amy Johnson Crow.

The prompt this week is "Valentine". I actually have ancestors with the surname Valentine, and I blogged about the reluctant immigrant, Barnabas Valentine, a few years ago.

One thing I like about the 52 Ancestors project is that it is making me write about things that I don't feel are "ready." Usually when I blog, I have a fairly complete story to tell on a topic I have researched. Here, I am gathering up what I know about someone and presenting what I have. I hope it will produce some leads.

Today, with the Valentine prompt, I will tell you what I know about the granddaughter of the above mentioned Barnabus Valentine. She was my 3x great-grandmother, Mary Ann Valentine. I have a bit of information on her, but so many more questions that I have been unable to answer.

Mary Ann was the daughter of Barnabus Valentine's son John Valentine and Agnes Neeley.  Both John and Agnes, who went by the nickname Nancy, were married previously and left widowed. They were married 15 Oct 1818 in Fairfield County, Ohio. They each had one son from their first marriages.
John Valentine married Nancy McCrory (nee Neeley)
Fairfield County, Ohio Marriage Book 1800-1836, page 165
If the information on her gravestone is correct, John and Nancy Valentine had their first daughter Mary Ann on 13 Mar 1819, five months after their marriage. This was most certainly in Fairfield County, Ohio, as that was where the couple was married as well as where they were living in the 1820 census. As a side note, I would like to point out that before writing this blog post, I had Mary Ann's birthdate as 13 AUG 1819 in my database, but no source. A careful look at the gravestone gave me what I suspect is a more accurate date, and one I can at least point to a source for.

Shortly after her 10th birthday, Mary Ann's father John Valentine died, on 20 Jun 1829.  This left Nancy Valentine with seven children to raise, the oldest being her stepson age 16, down to a daughter only nine months old. Nancy never remarried, and I'm sure she had a difficult, work-worn life.  Her story will be for another post, however.

About 1838, a family moved in near the Valentines in Rush Creek township of Fairfield County, Ohio by the name of Hilyard. Thomas and Elizabeth (Haught) Hilyard came from Fayette County, Pennsylvania. I believe at the time they moved they had 17 children with them. Their oldest son was already married, and some children were not yet born.  I imagine a match was welcome from both families.

Jeremiah Hilyard married Mary Ann Valentine on 14 Mar 1839 in Fairfield County, Ohio.

Jeremiah Hillyard married Mary Ann Valentine
Fairfield County, Ohio Marriage Book 1835-1869, page 100
The couple is listed adjacent to Nancy Valentine on the 1840 census of Fairfield County, so they may have initially lived with or near her. I believe they stayed in the area for about 10 years before moving west to Allen County, Ohio. Although Jeremiah purchased land in Allen County on 30 Mar 1850, the family was still located in Fairfield County at the time of the census on 30 Aug 1850.

1850 Fairfield County, Ohio Federal Census, Auburn Township, p. 410B
Full image found on

Jeremiah Hilyard died a few years later, on 2 Apr 1855, at the age of 37. The widow Mary Ann was 35.  Just like her mother before her, she had seven surviving children (having lost a girl a few years earlier), and was now living on a farm over 100 miles from her mother and other family.

However, Mary Ann did not follow in the footsteps of her mother Nancy by remaining a widow and raising the kids on her own. Nine months after the death of Jeremiah Hilyard, Mary Ann remarried to what still strikes me as a surprising choice.

Mary Ann Valentine Hilyard, age 36, married Samuel Neely, age about 18 (I don't know his exact birthday).  While it was certainly not uncommon to remarry at that time, and sometimes quickly after a spouse's death,  it was usually a man to a younger, and sometimes much younger, woman. This is one aspect of Mary Ann I have so many questions about.  Was this a love match? How did they meet? What were they thinking?? 

Here is the family in 1860:
1860 Allen County, Ohio Federal Census, Amanda Township, p. 146
Full image found on
Samuel is listed as the head of household, but Mary Ann owned the land (the "1500" refers to the value of her real estate). The others in the house are Mary Ann's children; she and Samuel did not seem to have had children together.

Sam Neely enlisted in the Civil War. In fact, he fought in the same regiment and company as his step-son Thomas Hilyard (only two years his junior):  the 81st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, company E. You can read some about Thomas Hilyard's Civil War service in this blog post. Very little is known of Samuel after this. According to service records, Sam enlisted on 1 Sep 1861 and mustered out 10 Sep 1864, serving his three-year term. The only other record I have found for him is in his mother's will dated 1866, she leaves him one dollar. There's another question: what happened to Samuel Neely?

By the 1870 census, Mary Ann had taken back the surname of Hilyard. I never would have found her before the advent of digitized/indexed censuses. She was living in Fawn River Township, St. Joseph County, Michigan with three of her sons. Another son, John, lived in the same area with his wife.
1870 St. Joseph County, Michigan Federal Census Fawn River Township, p. 106A
Full image found on
Why did they go to Michigan? What brought them back?

By 1880, Mary Ann, now using the surname Neely and marked as being a widow, was back in Ohio. She is listed in her own household, but the two previous entries are for her sons John and Ephraim and their families.
1880 Allen County, Ohio Federal Census Amanda Township, p. 3
Full image found on 
Why Neely? Was she really widowed?

The only other record I have found for Mary Ann is her gravestone. She shares a stone with her first husband, Jeremiah Hilyard. 
Gravestone of Jeremiah and Mary Ann Valentine Hilyard
Allentown Cemetery in Allen County, Ohio

Mary Ann's side of the stone
Died Sept. 13, 1888; age 69 YRS 6 MO
Because of the stone having both Jeremiah and Mary Ann on it, plus a poem about mother and father, I feel it was placed after Mary Ann's death, not Jeremiah's three decades prior.

And that's all I have on Mary Ann Valentine Hilyard Neely. Two marriage records, four census records, and a gravestone. And questions. So many questions. I'll leave you with a picture said to be Mary Ann's oldest daughter, Nancy Ann Hilyard. It was shared to Ancestry by user Dennis Kendall, and I so appreciate it. Perhaps Nancy took after her mother:

Nancy May Hilyard (1842-1877)
who married Joseph Brenneman

Monday, February 12, 2018

52.6: Favorite Name; Pettypool

This post is part of a project called "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" created by Amy Johnson Crow.

Ursula Wilkerson Wilson, daughter of the subject
Martha Pettypool Wilkerson

The prompt this week is "Favorite Name." I've already blogged about my ancestor with the best first name. You can read about Cinderella McIntyre Wilson here, in my post about her brother Daniel Boone McIntyre (also a cool name).

Like many others participating in this challenge, I am plagued with the usual Johns, Marys, Williams, and Henrys. So, I turned to last names. I recall the delight I had when I discovered an ancestor with the surname Pettypool.

It's fun to say. Pettypool. I've never met anyone with that name in all my travels. I learned early on that many Pettypools shortened the name to "Poole" or "Pool" as time went on.

There is an excellent website on the early Pettypools; if you are interested in this family it is a must-read. At this site there is a direct link to an article written in the Virginia Genealogist about the Pettypools with great documentation.

My last Pettypool ancestor was Martha "Patsy" Pettypool. Patsy was born February 6, 1787 according to her gravestone. Her parents were Stephen Pettypool and Margaret Halliburton.  Although the 1850 census lists her birthplace as Virginia, her father Stephen Pettypool was living in Granville County, North Carolina around that time, and I think it is likely she was born there.

While still in Granville County, Martha Pettypool married Joseph Pumphrey Wilkerson, son of Francis and Ursula (Satterwhite) Wilkerson. The following marriage bond was executed by Joseph Wilkerson and Logustin Pool on November 8, 1804.

Marriage Bond of Joseph Wilkerson and Martha Pool
Source: Granville County, NC Marriage Bonds on
The Logustin Pool giving bond was Martha's uncle, Logustin Pettypool. Logustin married first a Satterwhite and later a Wilkerson, and joined in the multi-family migration to Kentucky.

Like most women in my family, Patsy's life was measured out by her marriage and the births of her children. She should appear by name in two federal censuses; I've found her in the 1850 but not yet in the 1860.  I don't have any pictures of her, nor do I know of any that exist.

However, she did one thing a little unusual for her time. On August 12, 1864, she wrote a will. Well, she dictated her will. It was signed with her mark, indicating her illiteracy.

Martha died two months later, on October 2, 1864. Her will was recorded on October 10th, in the Breckinridge County, Kentucky Will Book 1, pp. 308-309. I have transcribed it here:
"Know all men by these presents that I Martha Wilkerson of the county of Breckinridge and State of Kentucky being of sound mind and disposing memory do make and constitute this my last will and testament.
1st: I will and bequeath to my son A.J. Wilkerson my entire estate interest in and to the farm upon which I now reside and said interest being one eleventh part of said farm said A. J. Wilkerson is to have the said interest upon the following conditions to wit: that he shall pay to my other legatees hereinafter to be named the sum of eighty five dollars six months after my death said eighty five dollars I desire shall be equally divided among my legal hereafter to be mentioned. I also give and bequeath to my son aforesaid my old slave woman Mima it being her desire to be with him. I request that he shall take special care of her during his life.
2nd: I desire that all the rest of my property of evry discription whatsoever after the payment of all my just debts funeral expenses &c shall be equally divided among the following of my children to wit: Polly Milner, Ursula Wilson, Jane Wilson, A.J. Wilkerson, Joseph P. Wilkerson, Anslem W. Wilkerson, and Joannah Carden. It is my wish will and desire that my slaves shall not be sold out of my family. I desire that my body shall be interred by the side of my husband's grave, and that my executor shall have both enclosed in a good stone wall arched over. This I make as a charge on my estate to be paid as part of my funeral expenses. 
I hereby appoint and constitute my son A.J. Wilkerson my Executor, hoping that he will faithfully carry out my last wishes in regard to my worldly affairs. Witness my hand this 12th day of August 1864.
                                                                       Martha  X  Wilkerson
Wm. Davison"
Concerning her property, I still need to investigate deed records on this family. As to her slave woman Mima, I wonder if this is the same person name Jesseminah or Jessemimah willed to her by her father in 1837?  I have the 1850 slave schedule for Martha Wilkerson, and her oldest slave at that time is a black female aged 45. If this is Mima, she would have been born about 1805, making her almost 60 when the will was written.  Less than one year later, the ending of the Civil War would have given Mima her freedom. I wonder if she lived to see that?

Regarding the last part of her will, Martha gave instructions about her burial. I have not yet found a listing on the FindAGrave website for Joseph and Martha Wilkerson, but I did locate photos of their gravestones on Though they are closeups of the stones, a stone wall with metal fencing is clearly visible in the background. I am seeking permission to use those photos here.

Lastly, while googling for this post, I found I am related to the Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell! You can read her blog post on her Pettypool line here. Our lines diverge at her 6th great-grandparents, John and Sarah Sanford Pettypool; my line comes down through their son Stephen, above mentioned.

Monday, February 5, 2018

52.5: In the Census

This post is part of a project called "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" created by Amy Johnson Crow.

The prompt for this week is "In the Census."  I know in my decades of doing genealogy, there must have been many "aha" moments while squinting at census records on the microfilm readers.  For the life of me, I can't bring any one to mind.

However, I recalled this census record had a lot to offer:

1870 Federal Census Orange County, Indiana
Jackson Township, p. 15
Found on
I was trying to find my 2nd great-grandmother, Martha Ann Tillery (born 1853) before her marriage to William Braddock Moore. Here she is! Great. But who are all the people with her, and why should I care?

The 1870 census does not state how members of a household are related, so don't make any assumptions.  People with four different surnames with ages spanning several decades are all living together (I'll also note, there is a James A. Dishon age 6 on the following page included as part of this household.)

This record actually represents a family matriarch, Rebecca Hobson, with several of her children and grandchildren living together on the same farm. She was born Rebecca Turner Kearby in 1815 in Kentucky. She married her first husband John Tillery (1810-1854) on March 30, 1833 in Dubois County, Indiana. Living with her in 1870 are three children from this marriage: Martha, Alfred, and Nancy Dishon. Alfred and his wife Catherine have two children at this time. Nancy Dishon was widowed and had four children living there. As of this time, I do not know who the two Lutrel children are.

The widowed Rebecca Kearby Tillery married her second husband, Mark Hobson, on April 24, 1858 in Orange County, Indiana. He died ten years later, leaving her a widow once again. They had one children together, the girl Rachel seen in this census.

So what at first glance looks like a boarding house is actually a pretty solid family unit. But what else can be learned? Don't just look at your family. Check out who is on the page with them, and the pages before and after.

1870 Federal Census Orange County, Indiana
Jackson Township, p. 15
Found on
You might just find a husband.

The orphaned William Braddock Moore is living right next door, working on the farm of his cousin James A. Moore. I guess this is how he met Martha Ann Tillery; they were married later that year on October 30, 1870 in Orange County, Indiana.

When searching the census records, figure out who everyone in the household is. Check out the families living nearby. A little detective work can uncover a previous generation to investigate.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

52.4: Invite to Dinner; Alys Dickey Hilyard

This post is part of a project called "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" created by Amy Johnson Crow.

The prompt for this week is "Invite to Dinner". Meet my grandmother, Alys Dickey Hilyard.
Alys Duane Dickey 1924
What inspired me to choose her for this particular prompt are stories my parents tell of huge dinners she made for her family. Before I describe the dinners she made, I'll tell you a little about her.

About a year ago, my genealogy partner-in-crime Deidre asked the family to post on Facebook little things they remembered about Alys, along with a picture representing that memory. She got some great responses.

Lots of our memories revolve around food. Alys and her husband Vaughn always had a big garden, and she preserved a lot of foods.  Her oldest granddaughter, Rita, recalled she always had a bag of dried apples in her pantry.
Apples from the orchard
Deidre, her great-granddaughter, attributes her love of peanut butter and honey sandwiches directly to Alys.
Still yummy today!

My own memories of her big pantry include a jar of chewable vitamin C which I pilfered from regularly, and weird-looking quart jars of what I was told was delicious beef.
Canned beef? Not sure about that!

Her daughter-in-law Ruth recalls being lucky enough to visit on the days Alys baked homemade bread, and usually eating the whole warm loaf while they were there.
Can you smell it?

Another granddaughter, Jill, remembers tomato gravy, still a favorite of mine. I think it is an old German recipe.
Tomato gravy in a cast iron skillet

Ruth remembers this: "About the tomato gravy. Usually when she cooked a meal she left the pans on the wood stove to stay warm and save on dirty dishes. They didn't have water in the house until they were pretty old. But when she did put the meal on the table, she served the gravy in a beautiful German bowl that I would never have used. I still have it sitting safely in my cupboard."
Beautiful bowl Alys served her tomato gravy in

Jill also has memories of the flower beds being filled with pretty flowers. And of the clunky black shoes Alys always wore.

Another great-granddaughter, Amanda, too young to remember Alys, could vaguely recall a "green house on a hill?" (It was actually blue, and sat atop Grease Gravy Hill.
Vaughn and Alys Hilyard, showing the house, flower beds, clunky shoes, and Dandy the dog
Rita remembered, "She wore a white gown and matching bonnet to bed...I'm sure she handmade them. They only had one heater and a fireplace in the living room so that big room always stayed warm but the bedrooms were freezing cold in the winter. She stored much of her canned stuff under the beds to keep them cold." Ruth noted the gown and bonnet were made of white feed sacks.

There was a small box of old toys, including a book called The Little Red Hen. After posting my memory of it, my dad let me have it.
Not my copy, but very similar

Deidre asked the older generation to describe her personality. I noted that as a grandmother, she was "business-like." Rita, who knew her much better, had this to say: "She was a hardworking woman but she was pretty much no-nonsense. Very petite, always wore a dress and most times an apron. She taught school and had beautiful handwriting. She wore hair nets...she drove a car...ate cottage cheese and saltine crackers...played the organ and sang...maybe where I got my love of music."

The organ she referred to was an old pump style. I had it for awhile, and then my cousin Jack took possession of it. Ruth also noted she played the flat-top guitar. Her grandson Steve, a talented guitar player, treasures her guitars now.  This one she purchased new from a Montgomery Ward catalog in 1922.
Alys' 1922 guitar
Once we primed the well, memories started flowing. Rita recalled, "She would make a skillet of cornbread to feed the chickens...she tied one end of a string to the momma hen's leg and the other end to a stick so she knew where she and the chicks were...she gathered eggs and used her apron as a basket."
Alys' glass nest eggs
Her grandson Craig shared this memory: "One time me and her were in her chicken coop and saw a snake with a bulge halfway down its body. Somehow she knew it had swallowed one of her glass nest eggs. She got her hoe, chopped the snake in half, popped out the egg, wiped it off on her apron, put it back in the nest, then chopped off the snake's head. I was amazed. She was so humane she would shoo a fly out the door rather than swat it. Seeing her brutally murder that poor snake seemed very out of character."

Craig shared another memory, and oddly enough when I asked his brother (independently) for a memory, he recalled the exact same story.  "Us boys and paw were sitting at her table eating. For some reason paw hit me on top of the head with a spoon. Mammy came up behind him and cracked him really hard with a big wooden spoon and asked, "How do YOU like it?" In Steve's version, Alys hit their dad on the bottom, with a plywood hot pad grandpa Vaughn had made.

Alys was in her 30s during most of the Great Depression. Rita: "She took all the little pieces of bars of soap and tied them up in a nylon stocking to use completely up...she didn't throw anything away if it had a purpose.  They would butcher a cow or hog in the fall and would can or freeze everything but the oink or moo. She made her own lye soap with the fat I think."

Ruth:  "She made little cakes for her dogs (dog bread) out of old grease and leftovers. She kept them by the back door. I loved them and pinched off a bite quite often. That's the only time she ever got after me. For eating her dog bread! She never let the dogs come in the house, but Dandy was scared to death when it stormed, so she let her come in and lay under the cookstove, and she never moved. Laid right there till the storm was over.  When she did the laundry they had to haul the water, heat the water, and she used a wringer washer. We have it so easy!" She says this is just what the washer looked like.

Imagine the work!
She also cooked on a wood cookstove. This type of stove takes a lot of finesse to bake in it; you have to be able to get the oven up to the right temperature, and maintain that temperature consistently over the time needed to bake the bread. This is the only picture I can find of her actual cookstove.
Great-grandkids of Alys in front of her cookstove, about 1988
So, back to what inspired this blog post in the first place.  Alys would frequently have her family over for Sunday dinner. If both her sons were there with their wives and children, that would be a dozen or so people.

Now on a holiday, that number might swell to 35 or 40 people. She would make a traditional holiday dinner in her big country kitchen. The family ate in shifts around the kitchen table. The men got to eat first, then the kids, and lastly the women.  Alys was cooking these dinners when she was in her 50s and 60s.

I had planned to focus on the meals my grandmother made, but this turned into a little character sketch of her, and I like it.  This petite powerhouse of a woman, a well-educated school teacher with no running water and a wood-powered stove and oven, was compassionate to frightened dogs and houseflies but unafraid to mete justice upon egg-stealing snakes, and cooked in cast iron but could serve in beautifully painted ceramic. 

If anyone deserves an invitation to dinner, it is Alys Dickey Hilyard. I'd want her to sit back and enjoy letting someone serve her. I could learn a lot from her.
Alys Dickey Hilyard