Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A Surprising and Disturbing Ancestral Discovery

I came across a transcription of a will of one of my 5th great-grandfathers the other day and its contents surprised me. In the 1806 document he left seven of his surviving adult children a “negro” boy or girl. It is the first reference I have found that one of my ancestors owned slaves and it was (still is) a shock.

I understand that south of the Mason-Dixon Line – this family lived in Kentucky – slave-ownership was not uncommon in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of us probably think it was always someone else’s family that participated in this abhorrent practice, so it is all the more disturbing to find it was present among your own direct ancestors.

There is no changing history and no use in trying to apologize for someone who lived over two hundred years ago. The facts, in this case a will, are part of a public record and there no point in trying to hide it. In this case I have no need to publish the man’s name (I will just refer to him as “Grandfather George”) as there may be other direct descendants who may feel more sting because their surname is the same as his.

This ancestor left an estate comprised of a “plantation” of 108 acres, surely a farm of good size for the area and time. The eldest son received those lands in total as was the tradition and law of primogeniture. His siblings each were “given” a slave (there is no other word to describe them), four of them girls and three, boys. What is jarring to read is that each of the people handed over in the will firstly were named, reminding us that they were real people, and, at the same time, equated to each having a value of 80 pounds, demonstrating to us that they were considered chattels.

Grandfather George also gave two women slaves “their liberty to be under the control of none but the laws of the land & supported in their decline of life by exers”, presumed to mean that these people would receive monetary and other assistance from the estate. I suppose this might demonstrate that Grandfather George had some sort of compassion for the people he “owned” and who had served him, perhaps not always commonplace among such men.

There is no mention of other slaves having been owned by Grandfather George but it is hard to imagine a 108-acres farm being handed over without most of the labour force that had been in place at the time. The 1810 US census for Bourbon County, Kentucky, shows the family of Grandfather George’s eldest son, who had inherited the farm, had two slaves – another shock once I realized this was probably my ancestor.

A slave owned by a daughter of Grandfather George also was granted freedom, such event to occur upon her death. A “Deed by Heirs” was executed by the children of this woman in 1828, 14 years after the death of their father who had “expressed a wish that said Isaac should be set free and emancipated at the death of” their mother. The mother did not die until 1849, however, so it is unknown whether Isaac was still owned until then or even alive when she passed on. At any rate, the document does reveal that at least some members of the family were still slave-owners well into the 1800s. I will look for other descendants of Grandfather George now to see how many were involved in the practice.

As a Canadian prairie boy born in the mid-20th century, this is not a subject I am familiar with, nor comfortable about. As I indicated, it is part of history, though. We cannot pretend it did not happen but we can be still be startled by a discovery that some ancestors played a part.

I am learning about slavery in Kentucky on these websites:


Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

My Great-Great-Great-Grandfather was a Publican

Thomas Pearson was born and raised in Sheldon parish, Warwickshire. He married Mary Smith in nearby Solihull parish in 1823. Their only child, son Charles, was born in Tile Cross, Sheldon, in 1828. Charles’ baptism entry says his father was a victualler, living in Tile Cross. A victualler was also known as someone who operated a pub.

There are documents in the Warwickshire County Council record office that show the names of victuallers in the early part of the 19th century. Thomas’ name appears on the list from 1824 through 1828. The 1826 entry specifically shows the pub name was the White Hart. The Tithe Apportionment list shows Thomas occupying a place called White House Public House, also in Sheldon, which may have been the same place. On the 1841 census for Sheldon, only Mary and Charles are shown, and she is listed as a Publican.

Thomas, Mary and Charles moved to Leamington Prior around 1845 where, according to the 1851 census, he ran another pub called Railway Tavern on Leam Terrace East. By 1861 it appears Thomas had got out of running a pub and was now a full-time baker. Charles eventually took over the business following his father’s death.

The White Hart Inn is still in operation on Gressel Land, in Tile Cross, now part of greater Birmingham. It was originally a timber-framed building erected in the 1600s.
 

Street view of While Hart public house (from Google street-view) – looking north across East Meadway
Street view of While Hart public house (from Google street-view) – looking west across Gressel Lane
I am still looking for the building that housed the Railway Tavern. It appears the whole block may have been redeveloped into residential housing in the 1900s so the original unit is gone. It may have been near the one that was occupied by the bakery, at 58 Leam Terrace East, later and pictured below.
 
Former Pearson home and bakery at 58 Leam Terrace East, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
I had another great-great-great grandfather, Samuel Davis, who was also a publican/victualler, in a village called Radford Semele, just a few minutes down the road to the east from Leam Terrace in Leamington. His daughter, Susannah, married Charles Pearson in 1851. I wonder if they met through the common business interests of their fathers – something to ponder. The pub in Radford Semele did not survive into the modern era. I am still looking for where exactly it was located, which might form the basis of a future blog post here.


Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Mothers’ Day

This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day which, for genealogists should perhaps more properly be called Mothers’ Day because we have all found so many mothers in our families.

I am very lucky because I have photos of many mothers going back several generations. So what a treat it is today to share them.

This is my mother, for whom – for me at least – Mother’s Day was invented. She has not been with us for a very long time but she lives still in my heart and in my memories.
 
Norma Mable (Miller) Shepheard 1917-1974.
I knew both of my grandmothers though did not appreciate who they were and what they had accomplished in their lives until they were gone and I was researching my ancestors. Both were born in the US but chose to come to Canada – fortunately for me as my parents got to meet each other.
 
Grandmothers: left – Martha Alwilda Jane (McDaniel) Miller 1875-1956; right – Carrie Jane (Thompson) Shepheard 1889-1959
This photo of my two grandmothers was actually taken on Mother’s Day, 1940. It is a very unique and special remembrance of them.


A lady who became a mother to me, especially after the loss of my own mother, was the mother of my wife, Linda. She was someone very special to our whole family.
 
Jessie Walker (Cooper) McKay 1908-1998
I never met any of my great-grandmothers. They were all gone by the time I was born. But I do have photos of three of the ladies, so I can see, at least, what they looked like.
 
Great-grandmothers, left to right: Mary Elizabeth (Pearson) Shepheard 1866-1891, my paternal grandfather’s mother; Margaret Mary (Anderson) Thompson 1857-1919, my paternal grandmother’s mother; Alice Jane (Keith) Miller 1846-1914, my maternal grandfather’s mother
Learning about the families of my 2nd great-grandmothers has been fascinating. I am lucky to have photos of some of them that have survived the years.
 
Great-Great-Grandmothers, left to right: Mary Crispin (Carpenter) Shepheard 1830-1890, a great-grandfather’s mother; Hannah Tunsal (Mayfield) Miller 1815-1909, another great-grandfather’s mother; Susan (Phillipo) Anderson 1836-1905, a great-grandmother’s mother; Sarah Jane (Baker) Keith 1823-1919, another great-grandmother’s mother
And then, of course there is the mother of my children. My mother loved her almost as much as I do. She has been there for me, in thick and thin, truly! She is my partner, my love and my best friend.
 
Linda (with Keltie)
Last, but not least are the mothers of my grandchildren. They are very important people in my life and in the family as they continue the roles of “Mother”.
 
Alice and Tamara
Among my family memorabilia are a number of cards and letters that go back several years. This one was sent to my grandmother, Carrie Jane Shepheard, by her daughter, Ethel Mae, in 1952, just a year before she, herself, became a mother.



To all the mothers, past and present, HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY!


Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated