Thursday, February 27, 2014

#52Ancestors #9 Mary Hilliard Thomas: The Story in the Will

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. Amy Crow has posted a challenge on her blog 'No Story To Small'.

It can be hard to find the story of our female ancestors, especially when we go far back in time. I began with facts of my maternal 6th great grandmother and found a very descriptive story of her adult lifestyle.


  • Birth name:   Mary Hilliard born 1739
  • Parents:        Jeremiah and Mourning Pope Hilliard
  • Spouse:        Reverend Jonathan Thomas
  • Children:       Elizabeth, Charity, Teresa, Christian, Mary, Sarah, Jonathan, and Mourning
  • Religion:       Christian/Baptist
  • Will:               May 29, 1802 and proved August 1802
  • Death:           Bef. Aug 1802, Edgecombe County, North Carolina
  • Burial:           Toisnot Cemetery, Wilson County, North Carolina
                                I descended through her daughter Teresa.

Early Years and Marriage

Mary's father died when she was about two years old. Her mother would remarry three times. Mary was raised in North Carolina by her mother and two of her step-fathers.

Mary married the Reverend Jonathan Thomas on March 1, 1757 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. All of their children were born in Edgecombe.

It's at this point that I asked myself....what is her story and where do I find it? There are several documents concerning Mary: Sons of the American Revolution Applications (her husband served in the American Revolution), dedicated headstone, the Last Will of her husband and Mary's Last Will. The documents concerning Mary were just dates...except for the wills. I asked myself: Who? What? When? Where? and How?

I took a closer look at their wills and some of the items they gave to their children. This gave me a visual look into Mary's home, lifestyle, and her story.

(The underlined words below are terms mentioned in their wills.)

Home Sweet Home

Their plantation was located along Toisnot Swamp in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. Boundaries have changed and today it's in Wilson County. A visitor approaching their plantation would see cattle, hogs, horses, sheep, a vegetable garden, corn growing in the field, a herb garden, orchards, and if the season was right, a field of flax.

Some of their horses were named: Champion, Deck, Bolton, Blaze, and Beaty. Mary used a sidesaddle which allowed her to ride a horse in a very fashionable and feminine way.,_printed_1889.jpg

Meals were cooked in a hearth. Mary used pots and hooks to prepare the meals. The hooks were used as handles to avoid touching the hot pots and for hanging the pots on the hearth.

The food was seasoned with herbs from the garden. The herbs would be stored until dry then Mary would crush them using her mottle spice mortar.

The family dined at the walnut table.  Meals were served from pewter basins (bowls) and large pewter plates (platters). The food was eaten from small pewter plates.

The tea kettle was used to heat water for tea. Mary and Jonathan would likely have an after dinner drink of Brandy that had been made in their Brandy still.

There was no shortage of featherbeds in their home. They gave away twelve featherbeds, bedding, and furniture in their wills.

Many of Mary's days were filled with making clothes, bed covers, and other cloth items for her family and home. Everything was made from scratch. Flax was prepared by breaking, separating the impurities, and then Mary used her flax hackle to split and straighten the flax fibers. Then the fibers were used on her spinning wheel. Once the flax was spun Mary would use her cloth loom to weave it into linen. The linen was used to make hand-sewn clothing and other household items.

A similar process was used to make woolen winter clothes. Instead of using her flax hackle, she used cotton cards. The card was pulled back and forth to clean the sheep's wool before spinning the wool.

Laundry had to be done. Once the clothes were hand-washed and dried outside in the sun a flat iron would be heated on the hearth and used to iron out the wrinkles in their clothes. Some of the items may have been stored in a pine chest.

Mary did not do all the work by herself. Her daughters would have helped as well as two slaves named Lettice and Phyllis. The family had five slaves. I will publish the slaves names in hopes that some of their descendants will be able to find their ancestor. Their names were Lettice, Gem, Dick or Deck, Phyllis, and Samuel.

Their property adjoined the property of the Meeting House. The Meeting House was also known as a Particular Baptist Church and Toisnot Baptist Church. The church has since been moved closer to Wilson. Mary would have been an active member of the church since her husband was the minister.

Mary's husband died in 1775 at the age of thirty-nine. She was left a widow with eight children whose ages ranged from four to seventeen.

Mary survived her husband by twenty-seven years. She never remarried and spent the remainder of her years on their plantation. Mary died in 1802 at the age of sixty-three. She is buried alongside her husband at the Toisnot Baptist Church Cemetery.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

#52Ancestors #8 - Robert Vernon: History survives 319 years later

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. Amy Crow has posted a challenge on her blog 'No Story To Small'.

County of Cheshire in England

Robert Vernon was born in the county of Cheshire in England. I have estimated his birth year as 1657 based on his marriage. He married Elinor Minshall on April 20, 1678. Their marriage record was recorded by the members of the monthly meeting of Hardshaw West. Robert and Elinor were members of the dissenting Christian group known as Quakers or Friends of the Society. They are my paternal 7th great grandparents.

Robert and Elinor's first two children were born in Cheshire. Their birth records show John Vernon born June 13, 1679 and Jacob Vernon born October 11, 1680. Both children were born in Cheshire.

Robert has two known brothers: Thomas and Randall.

Religious Persecution

The Quaker's presented a challenge to the social and political order of England. They refused to take an oath of allegiance to the king. Robert's oldest brother Thomas suffered religious persecution in 1678/79. Soon after the persecution William Penn established Pennsylvania. The Vernon brothers prepared their families for a voyage.

                                This Pennsylvania property was purchased while Robert was still living in England. 

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission


Robert, Elinor and their two sons boarded the ship Friendship. They arrived in Pennsylvania on August 14, 1682. Robert was granted 285 acres but he chose to purchase an extra 315 acres for a total of 600 acres. The land was located in Nether Province in the county of  Chester, Pennsylvania.

A resurvey of the property of Robert's brothers was issued on September 16, 1702. This survey shows where the three Vernon brothers lived as well as Robert's son John.

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

It took almost ten years from the time of purchase until the land was actually surveyed.

Life, Family, and Church

Robert and Elinor had five more children: Isaac, Rebecca, Thomas, Alice, and a daughter whose name has not been proven. These children were all born in Pennsylvania. Their son Thomas is my paternal 6th great grandfather.

They lived in a borough known as Rose Valley. It was originally a part of Chester County but today it is in Delaware County. It's name derived from the roses that grew in the area. The history of Rose Valley can be read here. Robert and Elinor were active members of the Church and sometimes hosted the monthly meeting. 

This house was built ca. 1695. Robert was the property owner when the house was built and he was probably the builder.

The house is located at 5 Old Mill Lane. The two-and-half story home was built using unhewn rubble (stone).  The porch and tiled roof were added in later years by Mr. W. L. Price. The house is currently referred to as the 'Bishop White House'. 

There is an awesome map that shows where all the settlers lived. Robert and Elinor are located just above "Nether Province" in between Middleton and Springfield. 

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Robert died after 1710. A death record can't be found. Elinor died July 24, 1720.

It amazes me that such a wonderful part of my family history has survived for at least 319 years or maybe longer.

Beam me up Cathy - (back to top)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

#52 Ancestors #7 - Hill: The missing link and dna (advice needed).

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. Amy Crow has posted a challenge on her blot 'No Story Too Small'.

I'm hoping some of you may be able to give me advice on researching my third great grandparents.
The parents are unknown for my 2nd great grandfather Josiah B. Hill. The problem is I'm fairly certain of his grandparents but no names for his parents. I have three dna matches that are third cousin matches leading me to believe that Josiah's grandparents are William and Elizabeth Cope Hill. His parents are a mystery that I have not been able to solve.

There are several leads through other marriages in the same area but let me begin with a timeline of my 2nd great grandfather Josiah B. Hill.

Birth:              Records vary between 1817 and 1821. His military record shows him born in 1821.
                      All records show his birth place as North Carolina.
1840:             Josiah B. Hill married Louisa H. Jennings on November 11, 1840 in Maury County, Tenn.
1841:             Their first daughter Nancy was born in Tennessee.
1844:             Their second child, Elizabeth, was born in Arkansas. Her records consistently show
                      her birth place as Arkansas. There are a lot of Hill families in Arkansas and without
                      a city birthplace for Elizabeth this lead is dead. (My three dna third cousin matches are
                      to descendants of Mark Hill who died in Johnson County, Arkansas. Mark is believed to be
                      a son of William and Elizabeth Cope Hill and possibly a brother to my Josiah.)
1846:             His father-in-law made his will on December 5, 1846 in Maury County, Tenn. The will
                      states 'to Louisa Hill wife of Josiah P. Hill of the state of Mississippi'. The will shows his
                      middle initial as 'P' but all other records show it as 'B'. It is probably an error on the part
                      of the person who wrote the will. So Josiah and Louisa moved from Arkansas to
                      Mississippi between 1844 and 1846.

1850:            By 1850 they were living in Robertson County, Texas with three new additions to the
                     family: Sarah and William (twins) and Sion. All three were born in Texas.
1860:            The family lived in Falls County, Texas and had three more children, all born in
                     Texas: Pinckney, Levi, and Josiah. 
1864:            Josiah enlisted in the Civil War. I believe he may have enlisted twice. The first time was
                     1861 and the second time was January 1864. Their last child, James, was born in 
                     August 1864 while Josiah was away at war.
                     His wife Louisa died sometime between August 1864 and before the 1870 census.
                     There is no death record or burial records for her. Some researchers show that she returned to
                     Tennessee and married another man. There is no proof of this at all. 
                     The reason their trees are shown that way is because a Louisa Hill married a Mr. Blessings and
                     after his death this Louisa was living in the household of my Louisa's sister. I believe the Louisa
                     living in that household is a cousin by marriage named Louisa Caldwell Hill Blessings.        Texas, Muster Roll Index Cards, 1838-1900 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011; <>; accessed 7 February 2014

1870:          His wife Lousia is not shown on the census with the rest of the family. Josiah and his two 
                   youngest children are living in the household of  William H. and Barbary Bailey and their 
                   married daughter Louisa Bailey Bird.

Josiah B. Hill died between the 1870-1880 census. His youngest son is shown as an orphan on the 1880 census and living with the Taylor family. The Taylor family is an associated family through various marriages.


1)  As stated earlier, I have three third cousin dna matches to William and Elizabeth Cope Hill. I have my dna listed on three different websites and they all show the same. These are strong matches that I believe to be correct. I also have two fourth cousin matches to William and Elizabeth Cope Hill. I have ten plus matches, fifth to eighth cousin predictions, to Robert and Mary Webb Hill. Robert is progenitor of the Hill family and came to the Isle of Wight, Virginia about 1642. Is it possible that these third cousin predictions are actually fourth cousins instead?
Assuming the third cousin matches are correct, my Hill lineage would be like this:

2)   I also have dna matches to the female surnames listed above; Cope, Green, Smith, and Webb but I have not been able to sort them out as yet.

3)  Documents are a problem. Early census records indicate William and Elizabeth may have had eleven children but only one can be positively identified. William Hill was last located in the 1840 census living in Hickman County, Tennessee. Almost all documents for that county were burned in a courthouse fire. There are no wills or other significant documents that will be of use. Did William Hill die in Hickman County or did he just move? 

4)  William lived Overton County, Tennessee before moving to Hickman County. I thought there might be a will for him in Overton but there was not. He was executor to the will of his father-in-law Thomas Cope, Sr.

5)  William's wife, Elizabeth Cope Hill, lived with their son William Sion Hill. She is shown living with him on the 1850 census in Overton County, Tennessee. She is still with their son on the 1860 census, age 93, Fentress County, Tennessee. There is no will available for her. Her father is Thomas Cope, Sr.

Year 1860; Census Place: District 11, Fentress, Tennessee; Roll: M653_1249; Page: 62; Image 130; Family History Library Film: 805249; <>; (accessed 8 Feb 2014)

6)  Other marriages in Maury County, Tennessee about the same time my Josiah and Louisa married:

  • John M. Hill m. Susanna Rail on November 22, 1840. This is the same date my Josiah and Louisa married. Are Josiah and John cousins? According to other researchers he is not Josiah's brother.
  • Ashley Hill m. Mariah T. Jennings November 5, 1840. Mariah is my Louisa's sister. Are Josiah and Ashley cousins or maybe even brothers? The parents of Ashley are not known by me or his descendants. There is no information available about his parents. Ashley Hill was married a second time after the death of Mariah. He was a ruling elder of his church for thirty-four years as well as a Mason.
I feel that I have exhausted all I overlooking something? Are records stored somewhere that I'm not aware of? What does one do in these cases? I'm not a quitter. I sometimes take a break from a family but always return to them hoping to find something new.

Do you have any advice to give me?
Beam me up Cathy - (back to top)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

#52Ancestors #6 Rosanna Jane Johnston Herring: Living in a Rented Store Building

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Amy Crow has posted a challenge on her blog "No Story Too Small".

(L) Rosanna (R) Martha

Rosanna Jane Johnston Herring

Rosanna is my paternal grand aunt and sister of my grandmother Martha Johnston Sowders. Aunt Rosie did a wonderful job of 'filling in' after the death of my Grandmother. She has no children or grandchildren left to keep her memory going so it's important for me to share that knowledge so that she will not be forgotten.

Rosanna Jane Johnston
b. 1 Oct 1877 Eutaw, Limestone, Texas
m. Abt. 1912 to Asa William (Ace) Herring
d. 10 Aug 1962 Farmers Branch, Dallas, Texas
She had one child born between 1913-1919.
Her husband and child died before 1920.
No information is available for her husband and child.
Aunt Rosie

Aunt Rosie lived in a rented store building located in downtown Kosse,Texas.  I don't know why or when she moved into the building but it was after 1940 or maybe 1950.  I suspect it was for convenience. It was a great location for a senior citizen. Everything she needed - food, banking, post office, and other basic needs - was a few steps away. I have no memory of her living anyplace except in the store. It was her home.

Going to visit Aunt Rosie was always an exciting experience that I will never forget.

Kosse is a very small town located in Limestone County, Texas. The old buildings makes one feel they are stepping back in time to the good ol' Western days. Adjoining buildings line both sides of the downtown area. The sidewalks were made of wooden planks similar to the ones you see in Western movies. Hitching posts were still available when Aunt Rosie lived there. She lived next to the Jewelry store. The building on the other side of her was vacant. (The image does not show all the buildings on her side of the street. Today the bank is located on the opposite side of the street).

Aunt Rosie's front door was centered between two large showcase windows. She was an excellent seamstress and made heavy drapes to cover the large windows. The building was very long with no partitions to section off rooms. It was like living in a wide, open space. Curtains dangled from rails that were mounted on the ceiling. One for each bed. The curtains were pulled around the bed at nighttime just as you would in a hospital room.

Everything within eyes view and everything touched was antique. Rocking chairs, dressers, tables, and even the bed frames with double mattresses. It all seemed appropriate for living in a store. Photos covered the plywood walls; some with elegant gilded frames and others with thick expensive wood. The shapes varied; oval, square, and rectangular. It would have made an excellent antique store.

(L) Me (C) cousin (R) my sister Cindy

The kitchen was at the back of the building. It was Aunt Rosie's favorite place to sit. Her treasured pot-bellied wood stove sat in the middle of the kitchen near two tables. The beans cooked on that old wood stove were the best I have ever tasted. She had a butane stove, too. She cooked cornbread in an iron skillet to go along with the beans. That was always topped off with a slice of delicious home-made pie or Aunt Rosies favorite -  vanilla ice cream. Sometimes we had both! We ate at the 'kids' table that was protected with cheesecloth tablecloths.

Aunt Rosie had a way of making everyone feel special. She had a beautiful set of dishes with tiny roses around the edges. Daddy's fingers were too large to use the cups so Aunt Rosie reached into the back of the shelf and pulled out a 'man size' cup for him to use. Of course, I wanted to join the coffee crowd. Aunt Rosie would fill the little cup with milk and add a few drops of coffee just for me.

Aunt Rosie was kind, gentle, and very loving. She always made me feel like I was an adult. I was like a little chihuahua nipping at her heels. Every step she took, I took. The post office was located inside the bank. She would take me with her to 'collect' the mail. She allowed me to use the key on the post office box and carry the mail back to her home.

She would give me and my little sister a nickel each so we could go to the hardware store and get a soda pop and candy. Yup. A nickel. Four cents for the soda and a penny for the candy. Ahhhhh... those days!

Aunt Rosie and me

Aunt Rosie always smelled like flowers. She had vases of fresh-cut flowers spread throughout the building. She is holding flowers in almost every photo I have her.

We always visited Eutaw Cemetery where most of our family is buried. Of course, that meant more flowers.

We didn't have freeways so the trips to see Aunt Rosie took much longer in comparison with today. Our visits were limited to two or three times a year. As she grew older, Daddy encouraged her to come live with us. She refused to leave 'home'.

One day in late May 1962  Daddy received a phone call stating Aunt Rosie had been placed in a nursing home located in Groesbeck. Daddy was furious. We didn't even know she was sick! We piled into the car and drove to Groesbeck. Daddy asked her once again if she would come stay with us. This time she consented. I patted her hand all the way back to Dallas.

A downstairs room was emptied and prepared especially for her. Our family doctor, Dr. Heaberlin, agreed to make house calls. Mama took leave from her job and nursed Aunt Rosie.

Aunt Rosie weakened quickly as the cancer took it's toll. She reached a point to where she didn't want anything to eat except vanilla ice cream. The doctor said that was normal and just give whatever she wanted.

On August 10, 1962 Mama tried to get her eat soft vegetables. She refused. She told Mama she just wanted 'a little bit of vanilla ice cream'. Mama went to the kitchen to get the ice cream and returned to find Aunt Rosie limp and not responsive. That day we lost the sweetest 'Rose' that ever bloomed.

Family, friends, and neighbors gathered in the old store building after the funeral. 
Many memories were shared that day. 

I will never forget my great grand Aunt Rosie. She was truly a 'grand' Aunt.

Beam me up Cathy -- (back to top)