Monday, October 15, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - Parish Records - English Style

First let me say sorry for being absent for the past bit and not posting on this our beloved blog. Life gets in the way of things we love doing and so it has been. Andrea has kicked me in the can, so to speak and we are back in swing and hopefully posting at a more regular interval!

Second WE HAVE A NEW WEBSITE!!! LOCATED HERE... Love love love it! I won't talk too badly of our last website hosting place other than to say we had two varying opinions on what "professional" should look like, so we chose another and have been feverishly building a new one for ourselves and our clients, so ENJOY! We believe the new hosting will bring our clients closer to realizing our potential as Genealogists and gives us a greater web presence! Genealogy services, Native American Research, English Research, Headstone Photography.

OK!! Parish Records! WOW, there is a lot to talk about in this area. A few things records are so vitally important in this thing we do called Genealogy studies, without them we wouldn't be able to honestly trace back with proof our ancestors and things about them. Another thing is that prior to 1733 unless you can now read Latin or old Latin, you won't be able to actually use the document itself unless it has been transcribed. That is a whole other blog, hundreds and hundreds of years of records for each continent and the millions of people who have walked this earth...what. a. task!

Ok, back to records, in the early 1500's the old King, Henry the 8th, set out to rule that Priests record Marriages, Baptisms, burials for each of their communities. Some were astute at keeping weekly records of these events and turned them in as stated. Others were not so astute in keeping tidy records and either didn't do them on a consistent basis or as some records show, only recorded partial records.

Let me point something out here in regards to these records, you will note that it says Baptisms and Burials. Sometimes children weren't baptized straight away, sometimes even as far out as a year or two, so if you are looking for birth records and cannot find them, be aware that if the Parish record has a date, it doesn't hold as a true "birth date" of a child. The other thing is burial dates, again these are recorded as actual dates the person was commissioned to their resting place. Depending on the time, the traditions a person might have died days, a week before this actually burial record time. So again, a cautionary tale on using and looking for exact dates with these types of records. Marriages you get an exact date, what you lack here are again depending on the year, the brides maiden name, her parents names, and the area in which they lived when they were joined in marriage.

Over the years, changing of Kings, rules and regulations information that was very lacking early on had increased over the years and a wealth of knowledge can be gleaned from them. The English civil war lost many records and also resulted in very poorly kept records. Then there are the times when the Church of England took rule and the churches deemed Non-Conformists kept strict records of their parishioners but those papers were kept hidden for fear of persecution.

There are a few places you can locate free records... but for the most part, like here in the states, these records and their transcriptions are generally on paid subscription sites.

Here you can access 'official' records

I have included some examples of Parish Registers so that you can see the differences in styles and how information had changed over the years. The hardest thing is translating Old English or even Latin and the fact that thousands and thousands of records are sitting waiting to be scanned or they are lost. So here is to your hunting and if you need assistance, contact us!!!

HAPPY Hunting
~Alisha and Andrea

image courtesy of

images courtesy of

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday - In the Words of Rev. Joseph Smedley (my 4x great grandfather)

I wrote a few weeks back about the lovely man who contacted me regarding letters and a sermon he stumbled upon that are in the hand of my 4x maternal great-grandfather, Rev. Joseph Smedley. Let me give you a small background, Rev. Joseph was born in the United Kingdom (1790), he went to school there, went to a seminary (of sorts), became a minister, met and married his wife Mary Ann Ratcliff (1820), they soon started their family. He came to America in 1830 on the Ship the Arab via Philadelphia. His wife Mary Ann and 6 of the children came to America a few months later in 1830 on Brig Agnora via New York. They maintained a life and church family in Pennsylvania up until 1834 when he was acknowledged and commissioned not only as a teacher by the US Government (for the Native Americans being moved to Oklahoma), but also as a missionary for the Methodist faith. Rev. Joseph and Mary Ann went on to have two more children, she passed and Joseph was left to raise his children, teach, preach and live among the Native American peoples, specifically the Choctaw in what is now Le Flore County, Oklahoma and a 50 mile circuit of stops he made on horseback.

So, back to those letters I would like to share a letter and its translation. This is TRULY a family Treasure!!! P.S. There are VERY historically famous people mentioned herein.


To The Hon Choctaw Council:

I beg respectfully to present this appeal to your Hon. Body for the following Reason. The Treaty of 1864, says That all Missionaries to the Choctaws who have been such five consecutive years, shall be allowed a gr. sec. of land as as a home for themselves and families. The following facts will shew that I have been such a Missionary from the year 1844 till the commencement of the War.

"To all those it may concern. I hereby certify that the Bearer, the Rev. Joseph Smedley, this sixteenth day of Sept. 1844, was duly appointed Missionary to the red people, particularly the Choctaws West of the State of Arkansas, by the Board of Managers of the American Indian Mission Association in Louisville in the State of Kentucky. Isaac Mc Coy, Cor. Sec"

I continued my services to your people till Nov 27, 1855, and then was reappointed by the Rev. Joseph Walker, together with seven Choctaws, as Missionaries to their own people, as follows, Joseph Smedley 600 dols a year _ Peter Folsom as Interpreter 400 _ Lewis Cass 100 dols _ Shoonuby 100 dols _  Simon Hancock 100 dols _ Ishiatuby 100 dols _ Artumley 100 dols _ Atrumely's Brother 100 dols.
Apl 27, 1855, Mission Rooms, Marion, Ala. Joseph Walker Cor Sec.

The above Missionary services were independent of my employment as a Teacher in pay of the U. S. Government. I located a piece of land without interfering with any ones improvement; and all I ask of your Hon. Body is to allow me, in any way your wisdom may deem fit, to occupy the improvement I have made, till the Country becomes sectionized.

With sentiments of the highest esteem,
yours faithfully,
Joseph Smedley

P.S. I have four surviving children namely, John Ratcliff Smedley, Benjamin Bucknall Smedley, Samuel Henry Smedley, and Narcissa T Goddard_ all with families except to Samuel H.

As a side note of family history here, Benjamin was allowed to live on the land but it was eventually taken away from him by the Choctaw Nation and given to someone of Blood to the Nation.

Next week I will post and translate his sermon on the Lord's Supper, it's beautifully written.

Please note these letters are nearly 160 years old.

Happy hunting,

~ Alisha

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wacky World of Headstone Styles

As you wander among headstones there are varying types, styles, colors, fonts, shapes, sizes, and on and on and on. One thing specifically to this area, is the lack of even basic information. Now that could be for many reasons, one may have been money, then the lettering was hand chiseled, one may have been people didn't see the importance of having so much information. Now, some of the more recent headstones seem to be placing more of an emphasis of leaving information behind for others, but those 1800-mid 1900 stones it just wasn't seen as often in this area.

Now let's look at the ones from England, FULL of information not only about that person, but the person's family. How incredible is that? When the first settlers came to this country from Europe and their burials commenced, they carried on with this tradition of including these wealth's of information. Somewhere along the way as they moved west, those traditions seemed to die out. Was it because of money or the lack there of, was it because they didn't have those with the skills they were used to, as seen below, back in Europe? If you look closely, now remember this was in the 1800s, there were no lasers to complete these pieces of art. Look at the precise lettering, the scroll work, and not to mention those stones were hand carved into those shapes!

We definitely haven't found anything like this in Oklahoma, at least in the part that I am in, but Andrea's cemeteries in the United Kingdom are filled with them. One day I would LOVE to go visit them there and also I would love visit the Northeast portion of the US and Virginia where the settles came and started their lives and found their resting places here. I'd love to photograph those headstones and cemeteries.

We hope you enjoy the photos, Andrea's are from St. Andrew's Church, Netherton, Dudley, United Kingdom.

Happy Hunting,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Travel Tuesday - Hi from The Sanatorium Postcard

My recent run in with Mr. Robert from Texas, the man I previously wrote about that not only came upon but sent me original letters and a sermon from my 4 x great grandfather, he also sent these to me. I love looking at old things, old pictures, imagining what it must have been like to live in that time, those days and conditions. I treasure these new found goodies from Robert! Thank you again for your kindness and going way above and beyond!

From Alma Smedley at the State Sanatorium to Mr J H Smedley in Mansfield Arkansas.
Stamp dated Feb. 10, 1937.

             This is the postal side of the card.

This is the image on the opposite side of the card (it took me a minute to figure out what was going on in the image).
The bottom says "Keeping flies off the Mellon, State Sanatorium, Arkansas" 

The following images are the buildings on the Sanatorium grounds. These are the flip cards inside the actual post card itself.

Nurses Home

                    Administrative Building

                    George B Brown Building

                       Meriweather Hall

                       John Stewart Building

                         Office Building

Bird's eye view of State Sanatorium, Arkansas

Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium

The Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium was established in 1909 about three miles south of Booneville (Logan County). Once fully established, the sanatorium was the relocation center for all white Arkansans with tuberculosis. By the time the facility was closed in 1973, it treated over 70,000 patients, and in time, its main hospital, the Nyberg Building, became known worldwide for its tuberculosis treatment.
With the passage of Act 378 of the General Assembly, a board of trustees was created to oversee the search for land to build a sanatorium. This was a very vital start to create a facility that would, in fact, quarantine a highly pathogenic disease. Tuberculosis, which caused scarring of the lungs and led to many deaths, was spread by the fluids of the respiratory tracts of infected persons; the bacteria that caused it could become airborne when those fluids dried. Before the sanatorium, the mortality rate of the disease was eighty percent. The sanatorium helped to reduce that rate to ten percent.
The search for land began in March 1909, and the site south of Booneville was selected by October. The first patient was admitted in August 1910; by year’s end, the population at the center had reached sixty-four. In 1924, the Belle Pointe Masonic Lodge in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) constructed the Mason’s Building for children, and in 1927, a school was added for the young patients.
In 1938, the legislature passed the Nichols-Nyberg Act, which funded the construction of a new hospital building on the grounds. The act was promoted by Phillips County Representative Leo E. Nyberg, who had tuberculosis and lived at the sanatorium, and by Logan County Representative Lee Nichols. The hospital building, probably the most notable on the grounds, is 528 feet long and five stories tall with a full basement and housed 511 patients. The building also housed doctors’ offices, X-ray facilities, and the employee cafeteria and kitchen, and while it was not common knowledge, the sanatorium morgue was housed there also. The building was named for Nyberg, although he passed away before it was completed in 1941. The facility became known worldwide for tuberculosis treatment as it was one of the most modern and successful facilities of the day. Today, half of the first floor is used for offices, and the rest of the building is closed.
Besides the Nyberg Building, the facility had many structures, including dormitories, staff entertainment buildings, a chapel, a laundry, water treatment plant, and even a fire department. Today, most of the structures are used, and in fact, the fire department still operates within the grounds, and until recently, the Benedictine monks of Subiaco Abbey and Academy (Logan County) operated the chapel. The complex was self-sustaining, housing nearly 300 staff members at the height of its use, and the total population of the center at the time was greater than that of Booneville in the valley below.
In the 1950s, new drugs to treat tuberculosis had resulted in a decline in the center’s patient population. It was decided by the sanatorium administration to operate it as a children’s colony as well; this continued until the facility closed in 1973. In 1971, the General Assembly dissolved the sanatorium as an independent agency and created the Department of Health to oversee it. At the time, the health department was also left in charge of the sanatorium at Alexander (Saline County), which was the relocation center for all non-white people with tuberculosis.
On February 26, 1973, the last seven patients were discharged, and on March 13, the legislature approved Act 320, authorizing the facility’s closure and the transfer of control from the Department of Health to the Board of Mental Retardation. On June 30, 1973, the Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium officially closed, and the main gates were left unlocked for the first time in more than sixty years. Today, the facility operates as the Booneville Human Development Center and is classified as a historic site.
While most people who were condemned to live at the center considered it the equivalent of a death sentence, in actuality, the outdoor air on the top of the mountain benefited patients. Treatment—consisting of fresh air, bed rest, and drug therapy—usually lasted from ten months to two years, although some people did stay longer.   PAGE INFORMATION

Thank you for stopping by again!

Happy Hunting,

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Withering Away ~ St. Andrews Church Cemetery Netherton United Kingdom

There are times when traversing cemeteries that you feel somehow inspired, somehow in awe and then.... there are sometimes you feel complete and utter sadness at the state of things.

As I have mentioned before my business partner slash best friend, Ward, lives in England, Netherton to be exact. These pictures are ones she took this morning and I converted to a video to share with you all. You see, it isn't just in the US that there are problems with the state of cemeteries being left in a shambles. This seems to be an international issue, one that could so easily be remedied.

This particular cemetery is at St. Andrews Church in Netherton, it is a church cemetery. "Netherton's parish church, St Andrew's, consecrated in 1830, is situated on Netherton Hill at the highest point in Netherton. It was originally just a chapel-at-ease to St Thomas's of Dudley, only becoming Netherton's parish church in 1844. The church is surrounded by the gravestones of many of the former residents of the area. The churchyard also contains the mass unmarked graves of the victims of cholera that struck Dudley in 1831 and 1832." (Wikipedia)A As you can see there are MANY fallen marble tablet headstones, brick undercarriages that are falling and breaking under the headstones, weeds that are the size of trees, just all around disrepair. 

There is so much history in that cemetery, there are so many people there who I am sure thought they would be taken care of, watched over and remembered. It seems they have been forgotten, or life is too busy or maybe it is in the churches responsibility and it has failed its parishioners? All I know is that whether in America, or England, or Timbuktu, these precious souls need looking over, their graves cleaned up and at the least some semblance of respect shown to them and the lives they had here. How sad for these people, for their memories, for their passing. 

I have come across only a few, so far, that have been in disrepair, or completely forgotten. Generally what I come across are individual stones that have been let go, grown over or just all together fallen apart. This is the first time seeing another countries cemetery and the state in which it is being left. Ward says there are a few thousand people buried here, aside from the mass cholera grave no one seems to know the exact location of there on the grounds.

All I know is that the dead as well as the living should be treated with a much greater respect than this. I am absolutely starting to join the side of the "clean these precious places". As opposed to the
people who believe they should be left to age. To me, there is nothing gracious or respectful about letting these last resting places go to ruin.

Thank you to Ward for supplying us with these images.....

Happy Hunting,


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thankful Thursday ~ Gift from Beyond

I am not quite sure how to start this, which is a shock cause I never have trouble talking, I think because it is SUCH an UNBELIEVABLE event that I still have yet to wrap my head around it.

Three days ago I received this contact in my messages, along with a return email. ( I didn't want to get my hopes up as I have had MANY disappointments in my recent past, so I just let the chips fall where they might, BOY did they FALL!)

I have some documents written by Joseph Smedley, one is a hand written copy of his appeal that was given to the Choctaw council. And others.
I would like to get these into the family hands. Will give longer story if you are interested

THIS is my reply


I am a direct decedent of Joseph Smedley, he is my Great x 4 Grandfather and I would ADORE anything that has to do with our family! I am very interested in the documents but also how you came to get them. I love stories about how things get around to others, vintage shop sales and the likes. I appreciate you contacting me, please let me know what you have and how or what you would like to do with them.

Thank you,


THIS is his reply

Ready for the long story, as I talk a great deal when speaking of genealogy and family history.  This week end at the annual reunion of graduates of Phillips High School. This is a school that used to exist 3 miles North of Borger, Texas in the Texas Panhandle.  After the regular meeting some of us from the class of 1960 had lunch and I went back to the motel where a classmate was staying. In the great room at the entrance of the motel were numerous tubs of stuff from an estate. The stuff was the leftovers of Ronnie H. and his wife. According to a friend, Ronnie and his wife had passed very young with only one child. The child took what she wanted and these tubs of stuff remained in Les Hargis’s possession for perhaps the last 20 years. So Les, who is married to a Phillips grad, got tired of keeping the stuff. Since the motel was full of people who knew Ronnie H., Les said “ everyone take what they want and the rest goes to an antique dealer( also a graduate) to sell for whatever.
As a collector, I thought I had died and gone to heaven( thinking what left this tub in the days before). One tub was completely full of photos, many school pictures, carte vistas, cabinet cards, one tin type. Most of the older photos and real photo postcards were not identified( as you know is the usual case). I spent over an hour looking at the tub.

MY next reply

I am in tears and have the shakes and am GIDDY all over! I can't tell you what this means to me, I am 39 a family historian and Genealogist, I blog about the things I do and the journey I am on. I ADORE this on so many levels I can't even explain! I just read it to my mother and she is tickled too. I can't tell you what this means to me, to us, to our family. I will protect them, get them scanned safely and see about getting the copies shared with our extended family and the research community. 

I sent him a reply and a link to this blog and his reply

Wow, Alisha.
After seeing your blog I realize that I have gotten the documents to the right place.

I received those PRECIOUS documents in the mail today, I am a BALL of emotions. I have in my hands something not only from 1840-1850, but it is my 4th grandfather, his writing, his words, his thoughts, his deeds, his actions. VERY seldom am I at a loss for words, but this just takes it, it takes my breath away.

Rev. Joseph Smedley, as you will see below in my quick tree to him, is my 4th great grandfather. He was also the first Smedley to come to the states from England. He was a teacher, and a missionary to the Choctaw people as they came off the Trail of Tears. He lived among them, became part of their families, and raised his 7 children with them. I am beyond excited to have such a person in my family, but equally as excited that he accomplished all the things that he did, that he passed on his love for being a missionary to his children and their spouses and children, another blog post. He was a pioneer to this area, to the Choctaw Nation and its people. I can see a Rev. Joseph Smedley blog post in my near future!

In the coming days I will be transcribing, posting, and sharing these documents with you all here on the blog and my family across the country. I have had family documents 'kept' from me and I just don't believe in it. They are precious gifts to be shared, not horded away from those who will treasure and share them.
                                                Rev. Joseph Smedley

Joseph B. Smedley Rev. (1792 - 1877)
is your 4th great grandfather
Son of Joseph B.
Son of John Ratcliff
Son of William Leslie
Son of Walter Lee
Daughter of John B.
( ME)

I had the privilege of visiting and photographing his resting place, next to several of his children, not far from me.


Happy Hunting,

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Sunday Lunch at Grandma's

As a kid Sundays meant getting up, excitedly, going to my maternal grandparents for Sunday lunch. It also meant me making the mashed potatoes and sweet tea (my appointed tasks as I got older), and licking the cake bowl, can't waste that yumminess!

Let me tell you that grandma, Elsie, not only was she older, she was in her 80s when I was a young child, in my 10-12 years of age, she was an AMAAAAAAAAZING cook, baker and canning queen! Besides on Sundays, I LOVED hanging out with my grandparents. Grandpa and I spent lots of time in his garden, he carried a pocket knife in his pocket and I remember snacking on turnips, cucumbers, tomatoes off the vine! I also adored his stories, oh those precious stories. Us kids loved eating off their peach tree, the pear tree had some of the best pears in town! Grandma and I were in the kitchen, I watched with great intent as she baked and cooked. I get my love for cooking and baking from her, this I know!

So, back to Sundays! I was there early in the kitchen, eating breakfast with them, fried eggs, toast were the norm, although on special days grandma would make chocolate gravy and biscuits. HOMEMADE, everything!!!! Oh how I MISS her cooking, their company. Grandpa would tell stories of the family, times growing up, living in California and what it was like going through the Great Depression, getting around before cars, working old farms and old living.

My Aunt who lived behind them would come in around 1030 or so to help grandma, not that she needed it but that's just what we did. My sister hid out in her room, of course I was always bugging her, cause that's what little sisters do best! Then my other aunt and her family of 6 would arrive, at this point there are about 15 people there, and this was normal. Let me point out a few things, grandma cooked on a 4 burner cook top for us, a few things, the food was ALWAYS HOT, and there were ALWAYS leftovers. 20 could show up, or 15 and there would be leftovers. A table FULL of food, then half a table of desserts. How on earth she managed it, I don't know but I saw it Sunday after Sunday. Oh the Holidays were RAMPED up and even more food and more people wandering in and out all day! Football on the TV, kids in the kitchen at the kids table, the adults in the dining room at the adult table. Grandma and grandpa sat in their respective seats in the living room and had theirs.

There were never two nicer, nor two people, aside from my father, that I miss more on this earth, than these two beautiful souls and the tradition of Sunday lunches at their house. They have left me some of the BEST memories of my childhood, they inspire me daily as I continue on this journey to bringing others pasts to their present.

Grandpa John and Grandma Elsie Smedley - You are missed and loved!

I hope your family has left you with fond memories and traditions.

Happy hunting,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Photographs, Paper, Pen, Clipboard and COPS, OH MY!

Well as the title eludes I am still working, in the heat of this wonderful Oklahoma summer, on photographing, documenting all the cemeteries in Le Flore County. Now, that might not seem too large a task when you visit your local cemetery, but on average cemeteries here have around 200 internment's that are identifiable. Those have to be photographed, some require a few shots to discern the writing, then there are making all the notes (thus the paper, pen and clipboard in the title of this blog) because sometimes no matter how you turn your head, stand on your tip toes, down on your knees in the ant piles, leaning down looking under leaning stones looking for clues, pressing yourself into bushes and thorns, you just cannot make out what those precious things say...sigh

As I was bending, twisting, turning, writing this very morning in a local cemetery, I hear a vehicle (Ward's favorite word I say HA, British think we use funny words here lol), behind me which isn't all too unfamiliar a sound. I normally wait and hear someone walking then make sure I am not in a place that they are trying to get to. Sometimes I am asked what I am doing, I take a minute to explain. Usually to the tune of a smile and a nod, a time or two it has been an "Oh, that's wonderful", followed by the quizzical look of, hmmmm, what is she thinking?

Today, however, I hear the vehicle, I listen for footsteps, none. So I just turn slightly to see, no matter where you live you still have to be aware of your surroundings, and there looking puzzled in a uniform, badge, GUN, is a local police officer. Now, I have no issues with police in general, as with any position (even in nursing there are people who get a big head and think they are WAY more than they are) there are some that go a bit overboard. I was greeted with a sorta smile and a "Good mornin." I returned the "Good morning" and turned back around as to get busy again and then I heard the footsteps. So, I turned again to him, and his now partner getting out. I am thinking, "ummmm, am I REALLY being talked to by the police"?

He goes on to say that apparently some neighbors were concerned as there was a car and someone with something in their hands walking around the cemetery. I smiled and explained what I was doing, then I showed him my business card, which I keep one in my pocket just in case. I showed him my papers that I had been working on and he was pleasant enough with me and said that I was doing a good service for the community and to carry on. Like I wouldn't have anyways, but hey, I suppose it made him feel alright giving me permission to do what I was going to otherwise!

I sent Ward a text about my little run in and I think we both had a great laugh! Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed, some days interesting things happen that turn into blog material! HA

Since you all know I am doing cemetery work, I can't go a blog and not introduce you to one of our recent discoveries!

Native American Burials

Happy Hunting,

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday ~ The Stewart Family and The Reed Family

I come across headstones, obviously, on a nearly daily basis, some are beautiful with elaborate writings and pictures, signatures, photographs, nick knacks, and little trinkets left behind signifying they are loved and remembered. Some are left with little bits of humor, in a funny epitaph or cute little picture. Then, there are those that are 10-20 years old that still have the little tin or plastic cemetery marker, some with a stone and no name, some in cement with hand drawn names and dates, folks doing the best they can with what they have to make sure their loved ones are remembered. Then there are some, usually small children or someone whose family has moved away, who are alone in the cemetery, no family close in the cemetery itself, no flowers, overgrown weeds and what not. I feel for them, being left behind or no one around that remembers or takes time for them in this busy old world.

Then there are ones like the Stewart and the Reed families, as seen below. Now, death is sad, please bear with me on that sentiment, but it is a part of living, the dying and the leaving people behind. I have faced great loss at a very early age, as have many, so I do understand the impact that losing a loved one has on a person, on a family, even the dynamics of a family can change when certain people are no longer a part of their everyday routines.

I love that not only are they buried together in the same place, but they share a resting spot. I find that somehow comforting that as in life, in death they are surrounded by the people that meant the most to them and that they will never be left. Maybe that sounds a bit silly seeing how they aren't really aware of that fact, but maybe it is my own comfort knowing that those people had loved ones, ones they in life were beside and also in death. Having people in your life that mean so much to us, who we would give our lives for, resting next to us is somehow very peaceful to me.

It is my fond hope that each of us have at least that one person in our lives that no matter what we can count on them to always be there, and in death beside us in our final resting places.

Meet the 5 Family Reed's

I would love to point out all the little trinkets and flowers left for this precious little family. It really makes my heart swell!

Meet the 4 Family Stewart's

This BEAUTIFUL monument for this wonderful little family stands out among the ones around it. The single red rose to let them know that someone is still coming to visit and love them.

Happy Hunting,

Monday, July 9, 2012

Makeover Monday

I have decided that a few days a week will be theme days here on our blog. Monday as you can see, is Makeover Monday. I wrote an article recently talking about to "Clean or Not to Clean" and I have to say that that the more I see these stones wasting away, information being lost, I am of the mind that cleaning, without harming is ok!

I have to think of this a few ways, yes, these are private pieces of property and while caring for them I cannot and will not do anything that harms, defects, or defames the nature of the stone or its information. I in no way want to disrespect the person, or the family that this stone is placed for and above. So in keeping with that, I feel it is my responsibility to research ways, safely, to remove mold, mildew, crusty stuff, and in a way that does not destroy the integrity of the memorial.

So, below you will see a Before and an After shot from this morning. Now, I have to say that it has been D.R.Y. here in Eastern Oklahoma, we are under burn bans in fact. Last night a storm came roaming through and gave everything a good soaking. Because the heat indexes have been in the 100+ range I get out and about early to capture my images before the day gets on too hot. Well, now I have attempted with a soft bristle brush before, to remove this particular type of fungi/mold, with very little luck. It seems once it set in it wasn't budging. Now, when it first starts into the cracks and crevices you can at times, read them a bit easier with the creature in there. Once it takes over though, the words and names and dates are long gone.

Back to that rain, well this creature on this precious stone had been completely saturated the night before and the sun hadn't quite made it up enough to dry it back out. I gave the creature a nudge with my brush and what normally doesn't happen, happened, it budged! Not only did it budge, it basically wiped itself off! I think I shouted out loud with glee!

Tell me what you think...


After (now it is still wet and I didn't wait til the sun dried it to see the full outcome but I think you can see)

No fluids (other than the rain), no metals, no scrub brushes were used, just at tiny soft bristled rubber brush and elbow grease.

Well, what do you think? Worth the Makeover?

Happy Hunting,

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Native American Oklahoma

Three very powerful words that stir up different emotions in different people. For the Native American and their ancestors, it is a set of words that starts with a pride, a pride deeply seeded in a people that for the whole of their existence up until 'white men' settled in, had been mostly a demure society driven only in the ideals of its people and its nations. Sure, some tribes had reputations for less than what now would be deemed civil moments in history.

I am not quite sure how savages and other terms such as this crept into existence when referring to Native Americans, I am a Native American/Caucasian person, but I do know that historically speaking no one race has really been a 'peaceful' race. They have all had their moments of unrest, disobedience by another groups standards, and yet when Native Americans are mentioned to someone, lets say someone in the UK (since my best friend is there and we do have these discussions), a picture of a savage riding on a horse and scalping people pops up. True, the media has had a lot to do with that, old westerns as well, but when someone truly delves into Native American history they were no more civilly disobedient or murderous or lawless than any other group of people living and moving about this nation at that time.

Why am I talking about the Native peoples? Well, our Genealogy business not only specializes in the photography of headstones that you see, but we do general Genealogy family searches from all walks of life, including UK (Go Ward), but most Genealogists find a 'specialty' a niche or two that they really hone in on and study and work with. One of ours, outside the headstones and cemeteries is Native Americans.

Why you ask? Well, in part because of where I was born and raised, the end of the Trail of Tears is less than 20 miles from here, the lands upon which this town, Poteau, this county Le Flore, are built were once part of Native lands promised by the government for those Native Americans involved in the removal processes from Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas. Millions of acres they left behind to come here to start over, in a land they did not know, nor did they really desire. Many tribes felt it inevitable so in the face of losing many, or losing the promise of lands, they against their hearts desires, came here. Many died along the way, many precious families had to leave their loved ones alone along a road, a stream, in a field or forest. Studying Native Americans you know just how important burial and being near your loved ones is, so that must have been very tormenting for them to experience.

Needless to say the promises did not unfold as they were told, no wagons to carry them, no horses, not much in the way of food or shelter, even upon arrival the things they were promised, even in the written treaties were not to be.

So, all that said, Gosh, I was on a rambling roll today, Andrea and I are doing family Genealogy for the Chiefs of the Native American Tribes that moved to Oklahoma. We are tracing back and forward as far as we can. We have the Chief Peter Pitchlynn (Choctaw) family 1674-present, we just completed the Chief William McIntosh (Creek) family 1758-present, we are working on Chief Secoffee-CowKeeper (Seminole) family. In the coming weeks we will work also with a Chickasaw and Cherokee family. We are coming across dozens of roll numbers, and families that might not be aware that they are in line for Native American Enrollment.

I will be photographing the headstones (Like the one below), of the families and the Chiefs themselves, as I am able to locate them.

If you or someone you know may have family associated with a Native American Tribe, or one of the families mentioned above, and would like to inquire as such, please have them contact us here, under the AA Genealogy Consulting tab above! We'd love to get more Native Americans connected with their pasts!

Happy Hunting,

May I introduce,
Honorable Edmund McCurtain (soon to be on our list of families to trace)

b. 4 Jun 1842       d. 4 Nov 1890 at (Skullyville) Scullyville, Indian Territory (Oklahoma)

His life was devoted to the service of the Choctaw people, whom he served as Judge, Superintendent of Education, Principal Chief, and Senator. 
He filled every office of honor or trust in the gift of the people, from Representative to Principal Chief. He was also a Delegate in Washington for 4 years. One half his life was spent in the service of his country and during all this time his actions were governed by as pure a patriotism as the Choctaws will ever know. While Superintendent of Schools he sowed the seeds of Education among his people that still blossom and bear fruit as long as his Nation shall stand. He deserves above all others to be called The Friend of His People. He was kind and generous as the brave only can be. When the years have come and gone and the Choctaws shall be few, this stone shall mark the place of one of the purest, bravest, and most patriotic sons of that Nation. If there be a place where the kind, the noble, and the honest, shall rest when life is ended, he will enjoy its happiness because he made so many happy on this earth.

(Epitaph across the white, mid section of his Headstone)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Slaves and Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes - Burials

Some posts are fun to write, about our journeys and my lack of direction. Some posts are of a more solemn nature, when posting about loss of loved ones, especially children. Then there are posts, like this one, that NEED to be written.

I by NO means claim to be an expert in this area, I have since encountering the below photos, read up more and I will include some links here to people who are experts in this area, and historical documents to back up information that I put forth. Again, I am not claiming to be an expert in the topic but what I am an expert in is human nature, and when something I see just about brings me to my knees.

I am becoming more an expert in Native American studies, particularly Mississippi before the move west, Oklahoma (where I am born and raised) where the Trail of Tears ended. I have read about Freedmen and Native Americans who owned slaves prior to the civil war, but again, my area is the Native American and only reading with brevity about the slaves they had among them. I have since changed that way of thinking and am more studying the WHOLE of the Native American life to include those they enslaved. SLAVERY

I was interested in going to the site of Skullyville, the point at which the Trail of Tears was the destination and the Agency for them to check in and receive their land grants was. There is a Choctaw Nation Burial site with purportedly hundreds of 'only' Native American peoples. I did go there and photograph and see people who were on the Trail of Tears, absolutely fascinating and another blog post! 

Now, BEFORE anyone gets too stirred up, I am of Native American descent, I do comprehend the idea of the things they faced being forced to move from their homes, the lands of their people and what that must have been to them, this is not about them. There will be a post about them, this is about those they enslaved and their resting place.

What I also saw, and had briefly read about, was this...."Outside the formal confines of the Choctaw National Cemetery, at Skullyville, there is an adjacent area of burials, which, if not actually part of the present entity of Skullyville Cemetery, is obviously associated with it historically. It is apparent that some of the earlier burials are freedmen, and that some of the more recent burials are descendants of freedmen. "

A Fence? After all these years, after the prices they paid, the families paid, why still a fence? Why separate them in death as they were in life?

Well seeing to the other side I had to find a way in to see it. I could see that it was mowed but my finding the entrance was less than easy. There is NO entrance from the Choctaw side to the Freedmen side, so there must be a road, there must be a marker, there must be a sign!

Around the corner from Skullyville, I found a dirt road that veered off into the direction I knew the Freedmen Cemetery to be, so I took it. That sign you see is for a Chicken farm, not the Cemetery itself.

Down a dirty dirt road, about .4 of a mile, still no sign, no nothing to tell me or a visitor they are heading to the resting area of loved ones. Only the now wafting smell of chicken houses looms in the air, sighs... (If you are from this area you know and cannot forget that smell once you have had it once in your lifetime).

FINALLY....I Made it???

Those posts? Yeah those are to keep the semi-trucks hauling feed and chickens from hitting those 5 precious resting spots at the front of this cemetery.... Still, no signage!!! DOUBLE sigh....

I have to say it had in the last few days been mowed, but I also have to say, not weeded, and there were, of the supposed 100 or more once headstones that were visible, now about 20-25. Unfortunately a good 5-6 flat ones had met the wrong end of the powerful mower blades like the below photo. 

I was able to clean off and get photos of about 25 headstones with family information that can be of use historically for families. I also included above a link to a page someone, 10 years or so back, photographed the stones when there were around 100 still visible. 

This post is meant to be informative, to remind people that equal treatment in death, is just as important as it is in life. Dignity does not die at the grave, it lives on in these resting places, in the families and friends left behind, in the legacy of the lives they lead, the lives they touched, the history they formed. It is my HOPE in posting this that the next time you, or someone you know, goes to a resting place, treat it and the people in it with the dignity they so richly deserve. Their lives, their deaths, their resting places are to be treasured, no matter who, what tribe, what nation, what race, or what label they have had attached to them. 

Happy Hunting,

Below are some informative links to information regarding this population of people. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

To Clean or Not to Clean...

I have recently seen a few 'debates' on cleaning versus not cleaning old headstones. I can see both sides, when the cons side says it changes the 'old feel' the antiqueness of the stones, the tone of the cemetery changes, apparently someone in a northern town went beyond pulling weeds, dusting off headstones, but basically "power washed" headstones and brought them back to as close to pristine as they could be.

Now, some might argue messing with the integrity of the already weathered and aging headstones, while others would say that being able to read the information and enjoy them for many more years is better. Some believe that these aged cemeteries gain a character in the aging of the stones and changing that 'look' changes the character of the cemetery. I am still out on that whole line of thinking, maybe because I can see it both ways.

What I do is allow my experiences and photos maybe show you the side of one way of thinking and let you decide if 'harm' has come from what was done here in the following photos. I have to think that families would be happy they can see the stones once again, find them, and know that someone who didn't have to, did care enough to straighten them out a bit. Enjoy the before and afters, leave me a comment on what your thoughts on the subject are, help me see more your side to the thinking!

In this first set of pictures I walked upon the first photo and knew there must be a 'few' people resting here. Count the names and tell me how many I ended up with! I was even a bit surprised!

Did you end of counting 4 names? Just a bit of uncovering, weeding, troweling with a non-metal trowel as a few were covered in several inches of dirt, these beauties were resting underneath!

Now, these next two, I used a soft bristled brush to brush off some of the nasty mold growing about it, yes I have my mouth covered, being a nurse I definitely know not to breath in unknown mold and dust spores! ICK! SO let me know what you think of the before and after!

So, what do you think? Was the extra 20 minutes or so worth it? Would you if you saw either of these settings? Just a thought and an action can change so much! Let me know your opinions!

Happy Hunting,