Monday, November 29, 2010

Memory Monday: The Flower Bowl

The inspiration for this story was provided by “The Pink Bowl” at Karen's Ancestor Soup.

It is amazing what emotions can be inspired by a simple piece of crockery.

The bowl itself both is and is not part of a set. It is part of a set because it is one of eight Corelle bowls that we picked up at reduced prices in one of those promotional sales grocery stores have. It is not part of a set because it is the only bowl that does not match the other seven. You know how it is – you start collecting one design in dishes, and the next Saturday when you go food shopping, the store is featuring a different design. “We don’t have any more of the green ones.”

So you resign yourself to having one bowl and three coffee cups with green flowers and the rest of the dishes in the set with a single red stripe. The three coffee cups died the death cheap dishes often meet, but the flower bowl soldiers on.

One bowl has a red stripe at the top, the other green flowers at the bottom – a huge difference

It’s not as though most of our non-holiday dishes aren’t odds and ends, anyway. There are two Mickey Mouse tumblers picked up at a dollar store whose bouncy “old” Mickey has long since faded to ghostly outlines from repeated washings in the dishwater. There is my old chipped coffee cup that has always been one of my favorite gifts from my mother. A very nice, solid off-white dessert plate from a neighbor who sent over a piece of cake and then moved before we had a chance to return the dish. A knife that belonged to an old boyfriend’s mother; it has the initial of her maiden name.

The flower bowl, perhaps by virtue of its “uniqueness,” at least in the eyes of my daughters when they were very young, had a status enjoyed by few other household items or even toys in our home.

It was the dish to have at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The arguments over it started when my younger daughter was barely old enough to speak in full sentences, let alone have the judgment or patience to be able to wait for her turn to use it. And there was often confusion over whose turn it was. If Mom had served lunch, how would Dad know at dinner who had last eaten from the coveted dish? And if Little Sister was demanding and whiny, Big Sister was sneaky.

One day the usual argument erupted. It had not been a good day. Both daughters had long since used up all of their good behavior credits and gone deep into debt at Mom’s Bank of Good Will.

“You had it this morning. It’s my turn.”

“Wanna have it. My turn.”

One double grab for it, an overturned milk glass, and a high, piercing wail later, Mom was at the table with eyes glaring and mouth pursed into that grim line that meant only trouble and sorrow for all concerned.

I let silence fill the air for several seconds as my daughters turned to look at me with wide, alarmed eyes.

And then I let loose. On only one other occasion has the Mom Screech ever been so loud and so long. (It was in the car, after a long day, with two mindlessly arguing children. Oh, so you’ve been there, too.)

Only one lucid sentence was among the outburst of tired, mindless fury: “I am putting Flower Bowl away in the attic, and neither one of you will ever get to eat from it again.”

At the end of it, it was not the “reasonable” older child who broke the second long stretch of silence following this tirade, but the daughter who I thought would never emerge from irrational toddlerhood:

“Please, mama, don’t put it away. She can have it.”

The ensuing sound that resembled air escaping from a balloon was my indignation evaporating. I put the bowl up in the cupboard and cleaned up the milk, with the girls’ help. The next day the flower bowl was out again at breakfast and resumed its daily routine of being passed back and forth between the daughters from meal to meal.

It was sometime after my older daughter started middle school that the carefully kept schedule gradually faded away, though I noticed that whichever daughter set the table for dinner usually gave herself the honors.

And these days, when I put up the dishes from the dishwasher as my last chore in the evening before going to bed, I put the flower bowl at the top of the stack of bowls.

Because tomorrow morning I will take it out and have my cereal in it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Some of My Favorite South Carolina Resources

As I went through all of my bookmarked links for South Carolina so that I can update and supplement the links on my blog, I copied them into a Word document. It occurred to me when I looked at all the links that I might as well post some of these.

Since a lot of my current research is focused on Anderson and Greenville Counties, those account for a lot of the links I’m going to post, as does a predecessor entity, Pendleton.

And, of course, it should be mentioned, the best resources of all are found by actually visiting the areas in person. However, you can still get a lot of preparatory research done through these websites.

The South Carolina Department of Archives and History

This is the place to start for SC research online. There are a number of documents held at SCDAH that appear on searchable (by name and location) indices or even have scanned images you can bring up on the website.

My South Carolina Genealogy

One of the most extensive listing of South Carolina links.

SC Historical County Lines

This website contains links to various historical maps, including county formation maps (such as SC’s map at FamilyHistory101) and maps of battles.

David Rumsay Map Collection – Pendleton District, South Carolina

South Carolina GenWeb

Lists of useful links in four major categories: SC County Sites, Statewide Records, Reference and Research Helps, and Essays and Special Research Topics.

Ancestors: Resource Guide – South Carolina

Part of BYU’s state-by-state listing of resources.

Rootsweb’s list of South Carolina-related mailing lists 

Upstate Ancestry

Provides some research links for the Upstate area.

South Carolina Genealogy: The Andrea Files

Leonardo Andrea was a professional genealogist who researched a number of SC families. This site does not contain links to the actual research files, but instead describes and classifies how his research was carried out. There are useful indices to family files and folders so that you can find out whether your family might have been among the families he researched.

ABP Abstracts

Dr. Bruce Pruitt has written up abstracts of land documents from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. I find these very useful in my research. This site has links to lists of these abstract books by state that contain purchasing information.

South Carolina in the Civil War

An excellent list of links.

War Between the States in South Carolina

Anderson County

Anderson County SC GenWeb

Like the Greenville GenWeb site, this is an active GenWeb site and is very helpful.

Anderson County Chapter of the South Carolina Genealogical Society

Includes a clickable index to archived newsletters.

Anderson County, SC Book-of-the-Dead Tombstone Inscriptions

A digital version of Ross M. Smith’s project for transcribing all the known tombstones in Anderson County. Tombstones are cross-indexed by name and cemetery – extremely useful!

Anderson County Library’s South Carolina Room

Greenville County

Greenville County Library System

A fabulous resource, both online and onsite. One page that I find particularly useful:

Obituary index

Greenville County Historical Records

Posted on the Greenville County government website courtesy of the Greenville County Library, this is a definite “must” site for all Greenville researchers. Many of the microfilmed records of the county – estate records, indices of land records, etc. – are posted here. Not every microfilmed record is here, but there are enough to seriously cut down the amount of onsite research time you will need to spend (not that I consider research time in Greenville a hardship) and the indices, in combination with the Greenville Library’s online finding aids, are indispensable in planning out a research trip.

Greenville County South Carolina GenWeb

This is one of my favorite GenWeb sites. It is definitely worthwhile to check out each one of the links in the green column on the left. For instance, you might think “I have Ancestry (or Heritage Quest), so I don’t need to check out the census links.” But the links here have a number of heads of household who have been crossed-indexed from one census to the next on the early censuses, and also have neighboring families listed. An invaluable resource!

Greenville County Chapter of the SC Genealogical Society

Pendleton District

Pendleton District, SC – Part of the American Local History Network

Old Pendleton District Chapter of the SC Genealogical Society

Other Links in the Region

The Piedmont Historical Society, South Carolina

Going through bookmark files and pages is usually a rude awakening and this is no exception. Many of the URLs for pages I had bookmarked under Genealogy > South Carolina are no longer valid. A number of Pendleton District links and all of my Williamston links are gone. I can see that I’ll have to do some googling to rebuild these links.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

You Are Missing Out on All of the Best Stuff

if you read my blog, find your ancestors, and do not get in touch with me.

I find myself returning to a theme I posted on back in June: “About that Paragraph at the Bottom of This Page.” That post included the following two paragraphs:

“So there is no reason to be shy: please do not hesitate to contact me!  I post the information and you are free to copy it. But there is more where that came from; these are only the “bare bones”!  If the feeling that you are a beginning researcher and don’t have much to contribute is holding you back, don’t let it!  I still consider myself a beginning researcher, and once I was a real newbie.  I basically knew my parents’ immediate families and little else.  Yet I dared to write to a couple of experienced researchers who I was certain had information on my mysterious great-grandfather.  I had one piece of information to trade:  I knew his mother’s maiden name.  And we continue to trade information.

“But you do not need even that.  I am simply happy to find out a little about you and your family connection, if that is all you know.  You may have a piece of information I have been searching for. And I also believe that I should treat people searching for information with as much consideration as those first two contacts and many others have treated me.”

The inspiration to bring this subject up once again was provided by Leah at The Internet Genealogist in a post earlier this month that was innocuously titled “November To-Dos” but started with a very justifiable rant about people who end up on her blog from a Google search for shared ancestors but never get in touch with her.  There was also a comment from Lisa Wallen Logsdon of Genealojournal and Old Stones Undeciphered about a program called Tynt that tells her how many times material has been copied from her blog and pasted elsewhere and also creates a (removable) link to her page.

That got me to thinking.  What things do I share freely and what things do I mind being copied? The information itself I share freely, though if it is used in anything that you publish, formally or informally, it would be nice to have my blog cited.  When the actual word-for-word content is copied in splogs and other uses that qualify as plagiarism, then I definitely mind.

But it is still the people who consider themselves family historians/genealogists who find my blog through a search and do not contact me that are of the greatest concern to me.  If you just have a passing curiosity, perhaps the few items you find here are enough.

If you are serious, however, you are really missing out on a great deal of information and enjoyment. Because the descendant reports that I publish in features such as Surname Saturday and even the juicier posts (such as “What My Ancestors Did for Entertainment” and “The Other Thing My Ancestors Did for Entertainment”) are just the tip of the iceberg.  I am no longer able to keep up with posting all of the material that I and my “research cousins” are turning up.  For several of the families I am researching, my cousins and I maintain informal mailing lists so that we can exchange information.  Sometimes there is so much information to convey that we have to have a "Texas telephone call."  The “cousin bait” that I put out on the blog has brought in a couple of “cousin ex machina” solutions to brick walls.  I even went on a research trip with cousins that I met online!  Other cousins send me scans of family photos and tell me family stories.  I regularly send out scans and hard copies of documents I have located.  Only a small portion of this makes its way to the pages of this blog.  If you want to be where the action is, contact me!

Copyright (c) 2010 Greta Koehl

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Newsletter and Follow News 26 November 2010

This Week in Genea-Blogging

The Journey Begins …

the one many of us have waited to read about … with Big Butt and Tana! Oh, yes, and with Carol and Man, too. This is the kind of trip many of us dream about, one with no firm plans, deadlines, or destinations, just taking it one day at a time. Read about the beginning in “THE Trip, And, We Are Off” and “THE Trip, Silos, Folk Art and The Windmills of Indiana” at Reflections from the Fence (as well as in subsequent installments).

“I LOVE the citizens of Lincolnville, Indiana!”

So begins a wonderful postscript on Lisa Swansom Ellam’s saga of the photo of a reunion of her Brane family – how these kind people were instrumental in saving a part of Lisa’s family heritage is described in “Why a 150 year old piece of log cabin is sitting in my kitchen” on Lisa’s blog, The Faces of My Family.

An Amazing Story

Angela Walton-Raji at My Ancestor’s Name came across the story of Moses McElroy in a book by Emilee Mason and found it so compelling that she has started to do some genealogical and historical research on this story, which actually has a connection to one of her ancestors. I’m not going to give the story away; read about it in “The Story of Thomas ‘Moses’ McElroy – An Arkansas Tale of Civility in the Civil War.”

A Voice in the Wilderness

James Tanner at Genealogy’s Star writes in frustration about “Some of the many things I don’t understand about genealogy.” He’s not alone. But then again, we have the company of our fellow genealogists and family historians, who do understand. That’s why I read blogs, go to genealogical society meetings, and attend genealogy conferences. I guess it’s as much to keep me sane is it is for educational purposes.

Why I Am Not a Professional Genealogist

Not that I don’t want to get the education of a professional, but as a pro I would end up doing exactly what Sheri Fenley writes about at The Educated Genealogist in “Client Work – A Love/Hate Relationship?”

This Stuff Is Going to Affect Our Research

Dear Myrtle at DearMyrtle’s Genealogy Blog provides a real eye-opening write-up of the NARA users’ group meeting she attended in “Why I learned at the NARA users group meeting Friday.” I am so happy to see that members of the genealogy community (a number of them are members of the Fairfax Genealogical Society) attend these meeting and represent our interests.

(Myrt also reported on the following very informative presentations sponsored by the Fairfax Genealogical Society: at the monthly meeting, by Jennifer Dondero on “What I learned from Jennifer Dondero about DAR Apps,” and at the monthly workshop, by Leslie Albrecht Huber in “What I learned from Leslie Albrecht Huber on Saturday.”)

The Thanksgiving Challenge

Susan at Nolichucky Roots took up Cynthia Shenette’s challenge from last week’s post “Reflecting on My American Experience This Thanksgiving” at Heritage Zen and wrote “Thanksgiving: Our American Story.”

Why We Need Family Stories

Diana at Random Relatives has a great post on why we need family stories in “Treasure Chest Thursday – Family Stories.” While we may never get the “whole story” (my recent posts on my ancestors’ court cases and crimes are certainly a case in point), we can keep looking for it, and Diana shows why it’s worthwhile.

One of my favorite features at one of my favorite blogs

‘Cause it’s so appropriate in my case:   “Me Either and Notes to Self” at Lori’s Family Tree May Contain Nuts. If I posted every stupid thing I’d done that fits into this category, I could post every day for the next year.

Last But Not Least

“The Second Great Local Poem and Song Genealogy Challenge” is here at Bill West’s West in New England!

And finally … one more thing

If you do not get your submission in to the 100th Carnival of Genealogy at Jasia’s Creative Gene (deadline is December 1), you are simply going to be missing out on the genea-blogging event of the decade. That’s all I’m sayin’….

Happy First Blogoversary to J. M. at Tracing My Roots!

For more suggested blog reading, check out Best of the Genea-Blogs at Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings, Best Bytes for the Week at Elizabeth O'Neal's Little Bytes of Life and Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere at Susan Petersen's Long Lost

This week I started following these blogs:

They Came Before (thanks for the link, Elizabeth!)

And a blog just made for me:

A Linguist’s Guide to Genealogy

A Sense of Family


Bridgwater Gene Pool

Caro’s Family Chronicles

Casey’s Genealogy Blog

Cowie and Shields Genealogy

Fairfax Genealogical Society Blog
(How could I not follow this one? It’s my home genealogical society. Great job, Myrt!)

Family Tree Firsts

Fantastic Family Findings

Footsteps of the Past

Gee I Love Genealogy

Northeast Alabama Genealogical Society

Tackling Brick Walls One Brick at a Time

The Gray Taylor

The Hunt for Henrietta

The New England House Historian

They Came Before

Wow! That’s a lot of blogs!

My Research Week

A spooky occurrence on Ancestry

You know how on your home page they have a section entitled, “Recent Member Activity,” supposedly based on your own downloads, etc.? Well, I saw an entry for an Elizabeth Lyons in this section on my page, and I didn’t remember that as a name I had added to any of my family trees (or even as anything I have in my genealogy program), so I clicked on it.  Her husband was Stephen Paton Smith.  This is my favorite candidate family for my big brickwall, Susan Elizabeth Smith!  I must have downloaded something at some time, perhaps something I saved to my Shoebox. But still, it was spooky … Is this a message?  Kerry, what is that psychic’s name, again?

OCR is not always your friend, or: Why I can't find my family names on Genealogy Bank

Some headlines I turned up on Genealogy Bank:

“Shot by Buragina” = Shot by Burglars

“Killed Man and Wipe” = You figure that one out.

Time for some sprucing up

Somthing I noticed this week: my blog needs a lot of maintenance.  I have long meant to add some links, and I also need to update some of my pages, particularly “The Texas Team” and “The Carolina Crew.” Perhaps this weekend….

An early Christmas present

This week I ordered a book from Amazon (Marketplace - for used books) and it just came a couple of days ago:  Conversations with Kid Cougar and Lim Hang High, by Joseph Faulds. It's the book about Bun and Square Brinlee that I mentioned in my post about the brothers.  It's a great read, both for getting a feel for the brothers' personalities and for some genealogical nuggets as well.

Monday, November 22, 2010

There’s One – Or Two – In Every Family: A Visit with Bun and Square Brinlee

My recent research on three of my main family lines, carried out with the help of cousins, has been a lot of fun. In addition to the usual “names, facts, and figures,” we have uncovered some family rifts and scandals.

But amidst all of these peccadilloes, alienations, and transgressions, and among all the rapscallions, scapegraces, and criminals, I would like to take a break and just enjoy some lovely characters: people who were loved by and left a positive mark on those around them, in their own unusual way.

It’s time to write about the Brinlee brothers: Guy Leon Brinlee and Vernon Argos Brinlee, aka “Square” and “Bun” Brinlee.

Fortunately, quite a bit has been written about the Brinlee brothers (you can see the list of sources at the bottom of this post), especially in newspaper columns and the like; a book was even written about them. Unfortunately, a lot of this material is contradictory from one source to the next. That seems to be a natural result of being a local legend: everyone seems to have his or her own idealized, larger-than-life image of the two men. And, it must be admitted, the brothers do not seem to have been averse to engage in a little bit of “leg-pulling” with their interviewers. I tend to give the most credence, however, to a couple of gentlemen who were boys and young men when they got to know and visited the brothers: Richard Van Dyke, with whom I have corresponded, and Joseph Faulds, the author of the book about them, Conversations with Kid Cougar and Lim Hang High. While both idolized the Brinlees, they seem to have been careful in correspondence to sort out the exaggerations and hooey from the way the brothers actually were.

But instead of trying to distinguish truth from fiction, perhaps a better way to get acquainted with the Brinlee brothers would be to imagine a visit to their ranch. This visit would have taken place in the 1970s, when the brothers were in their 70s and retired from all occupations except taking care of the farm. (Square was born on October 17, 1899, and Bun was born November 9, 1903.)

First we have to get there, and that isn’t always easy, especially in bad weather.
A 1976 article (by Holly McCray in The Times of Blue Ridge, cited below) describes the route to their house:

“Guests must turn off a gravel road northeast of Blue Ridge and drive a mile and a half along a dirt road which steadily becomes narrower and more overgrown with brush and trees. They cross two rickety wooden bridges and make a sharp S-turn [which curved, Van Dyke points out, in order to get through the trees] before reaching the home. When it rains, the dirt road is impossible to travel, and those who do attempt to drive it become hopelessly bogged down in black mud. But the Brinlees are always glad to see people when they do arrive.”

Dallas Morning News columnist Frank Tolbert describes their farm, located northeast of Blue Ridge in Fannin County, Texas:

“They live happily on their 457 acres, inherited from their pa, the late Hoss Brinlee, off in the back roads of Fannin County, between the hamlets of Nobility (population 21) and Frog Not (population 6).

“The house is served by no utilities and with no plumbing and an old-fashioned well over a spring for their water supply.”

The newspaper writers loved to emphasize the fact that the brothers had no utility bills to pay. McCray reports that the brothers made the decision not to wire the house for electricity when their elderly parents were still alive:

“The brothers bought the wire and meter box many years ago to wire the house for electricity. Bun said, ‘Mother and Daddy were invalids and we were gone working a lot. I told Square, what if the house was to catch fire and they were to burn up. You know, that’d be pretty hard to take. So I just never wired it up.’”

Tolbert recalls the old house and the adventures one could encounter in getting there:

“I drove through some of the Brinlee boys’ woods the other day and entered the clearing around the old bachelors’ 1857 dwelling, a mauve-colored frame which seems to ‘grow’ out of the wintery landscape. Those 457 acres have a lot of varmints in residence, especially in the timber of Indian and Pot Rock Creeks, for the Brinlees don’t ‘bother’ the coyotes, bobcats, raccoons and other wild creatures.

“When I honked, the Brinlees’ pack of savage dogs set up a harsh, yet somehow harmonious orchestration." Tolbert and others speculated that some of the dogs were products of interbreeding with local wolves and coyotes: “… when I came down the final quarter mile of spongy-looking roadway in the creek bottom I saw a large, orange-colored wolf or half-breed coyote trotting casually in a pasture about 10 yards off the lane. He didn’t increase his pace at the sight of me.”

Van Dyke recalls their pack of feral dogs: “When we [teenage boys] would walk up, the dogs would hardly look up. Lord help an adult come up.”

Memories of the pleasant atmosphere of the farm and house seem to coincide. McCray describes it thus:

“The Brinlees burn wood [allegedly only from dead trees around the farm or scrap lumber brought by friends] in a sheet iron heater and cook on a wood-burning stove. The rich smell of wood smoke permeates the air around their home. Kerosene lamps provide their light, and a well off the side of the porch furnishes their water. ‘Well water is just as wet as it can be,’ Square joked.” Van Dyke also remembers the well water as the “coolest and best tasting drinking water anyone ever had.”

Contrary to Bessie Sims Sheppard and some of the newspaper accounts, the farm wasn’t quite a “no-kill zone.” The Brinlees allowed young visitors to fish in the “The Falls” with its giant catfish and also to hunt, mostly for food to bring back home to their families. However, the laissez-faire attitude with regard to the wildlife of the area was apparently true. The brothers had a great respect for and rapport with animals; Faulds noted that they shared his high regard for horses as “just four-legged people.”

Visiting took place mostly on the famously rickety front porch or in the main room (one of three rooms in the house) around a pot-bellied stove which gave out a hickory-scented fragrance. One of the questions jokingly asked of the brothers was: “Who has fallen through your front porch lately?”

Inside the house were mementoes from the brother’s varied former professions: cowboy gear including chaps, ropes, and bridles, as well as sombreros and rodeo posters. Though in later years Bun was slowed down by old injuries and Square had arthritis, they had been very active in their younger days. Bun spent 16 years on the rodeo circuit (according to some visitors, both brothers did); his rodeo name was “Kid Cougar.” Both brothers shod horses for a number of years and played music at square dances. One of many explanations for Square’s nickname was that he had been a square-dance caller. In addition to working as a barber, Square was a vaudeville dancer who went under the stage name “Lim Hang High.” He claimed that at one time he could do “35 different professional dancing steps.”

In addition to their respect for animals, abstention from cutting live trees, and life in a house with no running water or electricity, a couple of eccentricities were ascribed to Square in McCray’s article:

“’I eat raw eggs,’ he said. ‘ Three or six at a time, right out of the shell. They’re good for you.’

“Besides unusual eating habits, Square has a unique handwriting style which he developed himself. ‘We’re original-minded men. We don’t copy nobody,’ he said. Individual letters of the alphabet are drawn and shaded in with meticulous care, and Square draws pictures to illustrate various events, such as a wild animal’s head to show what animal he saw by their home one day, or a log to record that they chopped wood. He keeps a record of what the brothers do each day, who visits them and what the weather was in his special writing style on a wall calendar.” [These entries in the squares of the calendar dates are another explanation for his nickname.]

There were numerous rumors and legends in circulation about the brothers when they were alive. Van Dyke respected the brothers’ honesty and Faulds praised their values and spirituality, and both tend to believe the stories of the brothers scaring off visitors who were not honest and did not have honorable motives for their visits.

As one family story I have heard goes, Bun allegedly married a girl in secret, then was too afraid to tell his parents, so he just came home and pretended that he had never married. Bessie Sims Sheppard did write in her article that he married a Mary Josephine MacDonald on 17 September 1928, and I did find a person named Mary Argos Brinlee on Ancestry who theoretically could have been a daughter (Argos was Bun’s middle name), but Bun appears on the 1930 census with his parents as single. This is one mystery that I’d definitely like to find the answer to!

More than one guest noted that visiting the Brinlee brothers was like visiting another century, more like 1876 than 1976. And visitors were keenly aware that the brothers were a connection to a world, time, and way of life that was fast disappearing.



William L. Brinlee household, 1900 U.S. Census, Collin County, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 8, dwelling 40, family 40; National Archives Microfilm Publication, Roll T623_1621; Page 2B; Enumeration District 24. Accessed via

W. L. Brinlee household, 1930 U.S. Census, Fannin County, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 3; dwelling 217, family 224; National Archives Microfilm Publication, Roll 2331; Page 11A; Enumeration District: 18. Image: 151.0. Accessed via


- From The Times, a Blue Ridge, Texas newspaper:

“For the Brinlee Brothers of Blue Ridge: Water and Light Bills Zero!” by Holly McCray, 7 March 1976.

- From “Tolbert’s Texas,” a column written by Frank Tolbert for the Dallas Morning News:

“Styx town named for river in hell,” 21 March 1976.

“About the lifestyle of Bun and Square,” 23 March 1976.

“An Indian poet’s book on two old palefaces,” 15 July 1976.

“Around the wood stove with the Brinlee boys,” 6 January 1977.

“A low, soggy Indian visits Brinlee ranch,” 27 October 1977.

- From Alice Ellison Pitts and Minnie Pitts Champ, eds., Collin County, Texas, Families, two volumes (Hurst, Texas: Curtis Media, 1994):

“Brinlee, William Leon (Hoss),” by Bessie Sims Sheppard, p. 49, Volume I.


“Bun and Square,” e-mail exchange between Richard Van Dyke and author, 16-17 May 2010.

“More information about Bun and Square,” e-mail exchange between the author and Richard Van Dyke, 17 May 2010

“Brinlee cousins,” e-mail exchange between the author and Richard Van Dyke, 21-22 May 2010

“Bun and Square Brinlee,” e-mail exchange between the author and Richard Van Dyke, 29-30 May 2010


World War I Draft Registration Card of Guy Leon Brinlee, National Archives Microfilm roll 1953353. Accessed via

Guy Leon (Square) Brinlee obituary, Farmersville Times, 17 November 1978.

Submitted for the 100th (!!!) Carnival of Genealogy, fabulously hosted by the inimitable Jasia, whom I thank for all the encouragement she has given and continues to give to her fellow genea-bloggers. Speaking of people who give encouragement, thanks also to the one and only footnoteMaven for the really neat poster for this COG!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SNGF: A Genealogical "Gratitude Check"

Randy Seaver’s instructions this week at Genea-Musings are:

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1) Make a list of Genealogy-oriented people or things that you are thankful for. Any number -- 1, 10, 100, whatever.

2) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook comment or Note.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

My answers:

1. Interesting families to research.

2. A generous and knowledgeable History Husband who not only indulges my desire to go on genealogy-related trips and buy genealogy stuff, but also thinks up stuff on his own that would be useful to me in genealogy and buys it for me (this year it was my fabulous wand scanner).

3. Two daughters who, while not yet hooked on genealogy, don’t sniff or laugh when I talk about it; in fact, the older one nudges me to help her host mother in Saint Petersburg to find the branch of her Ukrainian family that emigrated to the United States.

4. Generous and adventurous cousins; just to name some I’ve met or reconnected with this year: Paula and Carolyn, who were my fellow adventurers in Greenville South Carolina this year; Rich and Randy, who generously provided me with scans of some amazing documents about and by our Floyd family; Eunice, Pat, and Jim, who have heroically been digging up, printing out, copying, and sending me court records; Raymond, George, Gale, and Edna, who keep me current with All Things Brinlee; and Richard Van Dyke, who is not a cousin but was a good friend to Bun and Square Brinlee and provided me with invaluable insights into these amazing gentlemen.

5. Fellow family historians and genea-bloggers who are so generous with their encouragement and information; a special shout-out to Cynthia Shenette at Heritage Zen for helping me with the Stepanishens.

6. Getting to take not just one, but two incredible genealogy-related trips this year: one to the FGS Conference in Knoxville and one to Greenville, South Carolina. I am especially thankful for the chance to finally meet some wonderful fellow genea-bloggers and also for the wonderful and helpful staff at the Greenville Public Library.

7. Families who lived in various interesting locations that I look forward to visiting.

8. The opportunity to belong to a great genealogy society, the Fairfax Genealogical Society – great members, officers, and resources, and an excellent way to get a genealogy education.

9. Living near Washington, D.C and what it has to offer genealogists: the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the DAR Library, and many other resources.

9. Fabulous resources on the Internet to use in genealogical research when I can’t get downtown, to a library, or go on a research trip.

10. Amazing volunteers who transcribe, enter, and post information for others to use, who engage in RAOGK, and perform other wonderful feats.

11. Knowledgeable and helpful librarians, museum docents, and others who help us in our research.

Thanks for a challenging "gratitude check" of an SNGF, Randy!

The Other Thing My Ancestors Did for Entertainment

The Brinlees had a somewhat different view of entertaining pastimes than the Floyds had. The Brinlees preferred murder, or to put it more delicately, killing.

One of the first things I did after subscribing to Genealogy Bank was to enter “Brinlee” for a search of all Texas newspapers that are on Genealogy Bank. I haven’t waded through the entire set of articles that popped up, yet, but fully half of the ones I’ve checked involve Brinlees committing some sort of crime. Mostly murder, though.

Not that we weren’t aware that Brinlees have a strong penchant for this type of activity. Starting with the earliest Brinlees:

- We know that George and Hiram Sr. were tried for several counts of murder and attempted murder in the days of the Republic of Texas.

- And then there are the stories that one of Hiram’s sons was tried for murdering a man in Montague County and that Hiram Sr. spent much of his fortune on lawyers for his son’s defense (perhaps that is why an article appears about him losing his property in Red River County….)

- We also know of the modern-day (1970s) “Bristow Bomber” – Rex Brinlee – who tried to blow up a witness who was to testify against him in a criminal trial and ended up killing the man’s wife, instead.

But there were even more cases that showed up on Genealogy Bank. Here are a few highlights:

Case # 1 – W. C. Brinlee, lawman of Westminster, Collin County, Texas

“Examining Trial of W. C. Brinlee Set for Today” (from the Dallas Morning News, 25 September 1917)

“The examining trial in the case against W. C. Brinlee, charged with the murder of J. Boss Hughes by complaint filed in Justice Stewart’s court, was continued until this morning when called yesterday. The absence of an important witness caused the delay. District Attorney Lively announced that he would resist the granting of bail in the case.

“Hughes, a resident of Roff, Ok., was shot and killed at 10 o’clock Saturday night and Main street at Central avenue. Brinlee was arrested by police.”

“Jury on Brinlee Case Had Not Reported at Midnight” (from the Dallas Morning News, 29 November 1917)

“The murder case against W. C. Brinlee, charged with killing Jesse Hughes on September 22, was submitted to the jury in Criminal District Court No. 3 at 3:45 o’clock yesterday afternoon. Most of the day was consumed in arguments. At the close of the case Judge C.A. Pippen complimented the attorneys on their uniform courtesy toward the court and each other and on their expedition in trying the case.

“Brinlee relied upon a plea of self-defense, his witnesses testifying that he was attacked by Hughes before he shot and that a companion of Hughes, who was present at the time of the killing, had threatened his life. Brinlee is City Marshall of Westminster, Collin County, and a number of witnesses from that county testified that his reputation there is good.

“The jury was still out at 12 o’clock last night.”

“W. C. Brinlee Found Guilty and Given Suspended Sentence” (from the Dallas Morning News, 30 November 1917)

“A verdict finding the defendant guilty of manslaughter and fixing the penalty at a suspended sentence of two years, was returned in the Criminal District Court yesterday morning in the case against W. C. Brinlee, City Marshall of Westminster, charged with the murder of Jesse Hughes of Oklahoma. Hughes was shot and killed at Central avenue and Main street on the night of Sept. 22. Brinlee pleaded self-defense. The jury had been out since Wednesday afternoon.”

[The suspended sentence hints that the jury may have recognized some merit in the plea of self-defense.]

Case #2 – William and Dave Brinlee (presumably William Hiram and David Francis Brinlee)

From the San Antonio Express, 2 June 1870:

“Killed. – We have learned with regret that on Friday last (29th ult), a young man by the name of George Walters, a citizen of this county, was shot and stabbed by William and Dave Brinlee, at a Mr. Fitch’s, 10 or 11 miles north east of this place. We are informed that Walters has since died and that the Brinlees, one of whom was wounded by young Walters, have gone to parts unknown. – McKinney Messenger

From the Dallas Weekly Herald, 16 July 1870:

“Last week, Capt. Bush, Sheriff, learned from some sources that the Brinlees who killed Waters [Walters?], a short time since, were in Dallas county, and made an attempt to catch them. Procuring assistance from Dallas, he in connection with Deputy Sheriff Nicholas, of Dallas, surrounded the house in which they were supposed to be, but when the place was searched next morning they were gone. He, however, found a man named Anderson, a brother-in-law of Brinlee, who offered resistance and was shot in the thigh by one of the posse. Anderson stands charged with a crime in Fannin county. Captain Bush, after having the wounds examined by a physician, proceeded to bring his prisoner to this county, transporting him in a wagon. He, necessarily had to travel slow, supposing his prisoner to be worse hurt than he really was, and only reached the neighborhood of Plano the first evening. Here he stopped for the night, and while he was eating his supper, his prisoner sprung from his pallet and made his escape from his guards. This is the first one who has made his escape from the new sheriff, and, from what he says, as he is disposed to censure himself more than anyone else, it will make him doubly vigilant in the future. One thing is being demonstrated by him, and that is that those who violate the law cannot consider themselves safe when they pass the county lines.

“Captain Bush speaks in very high terms of the officers and citizens of Dallas County, who promptly rendered assistance when called on. – McKinney Enquirer.”

[This could possibly be the same as the case of the son alleged to have murdered someone in Montague county.]

So there you have it. My ancestors liked to sue each other and shoot people for entertainment.

(While I have written this with a little sarcasm in the tone, it is not a light or humorous subject. I knew that there were some killings in the Brinlee history, but have been shocked that it was more than just a few, and that the ones I have found may only be scratching the surface. No wonder Grandma Brinlee gave up family research.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What My Ancestors Did for Entertainment, or: Things You Don’t Want to Read About Your Great-Grandfather

Lawsuits. They loved lawsuits. Or at least the Floyds did. Or at least they sued one another, and other people, a lot. Why do something so much if you don’t derive some sort of pleasure from it?

“Mr. C. A. Floyd will please state…”

It must have come from the Floyds’ love of drama; many members of this family are known to have been “high-tempered” or “high-strung.” (Not me, though – my hair-trigger temper comes from the Brinlees.)

After my great-great grandfather George Floyd’s death, my great-grandfather Charles A. Floyd sued his stepmother Elizabeth Floyd for taking possession of a parcel of land that he felt was rightfully his. The court case dragged on for several years and apparently got quite heated.

Things you don’t want to read about in the cross-interrogation of your great-grandfather:

“Cross Interrogatory 4th:

"Mr. C. A. Floyd will please state whether or not he is acquainted with his own general character for truth and veracity in the neighborhood where he lives and if so state whether the same is good or bad; and also state whether or not his testimony has been impeached in any court of justice in the State of Texas; if so when and where and in what court was his evidence so impeached, he will please answer these questions without evasion.”


“It was attempted to impeach my veracity and [reputation], but it ignominiously failed. I have a list of one hundred and twenty of the names of some of the best citizens in my neighborhood – good men who live immediately around me, sustaining my character, and impeaching those four who are my bitterest enemies – who tried to impeach my veracity.”

[Charles’ reply appears to address the question, though that “four of my bitterest enemies” part is disturbing in a paranoid kind of way (shades of "the mess boys...").]

“Cross Interrogatory 6th:

Mr. C. A. Floyd will also state how many if any Bills of Indictment have been found against him for theft by the Grand Jury of Dallas County.”


“There are one or two. The Court and Juries decided that they were false, and they were not sustained.”

[Only one or two?]

“Cross Interrogatory 7th:

"He will please state also if he has been tried and convicted upon charge of theft in Dallas County and if so how many times at what times where and in what court of Justice.”


“I never was convicted on any charge at any time or in any place.”

[But you sure were tried a lot of times.]

“Cross Interrogatory 8th:

"He will also state whether or not he has threatened Elizabeth Floyd with violence if she did not deliver to him the property sued for in this cause, and if he did not threaten her with violence if she attended the trial of this cause.”


“I never even thought of making any threats against Elizabeth Floyd at any time, on any account.”

[Never even thought of it? Just a teeny bit?]

And Charles gave the following reply in response to interrogation about not suing his father George Floyd when the latter remained on a parcel of land that was included in the area partitioned among his sons:

“Interrogatories 7th and 8th:

If you did not take possession of all said portion, state why you did not? If because Geo. Floyd objected, state why you respected said objections?”


“I did not take possession of said twenty-five acres above-mentioned because my father refused to give it up, and I did not wish to have a law suit with my father, so I humored him.

[Didn’t want to sue his father? Um … then why did he and his brothers do that very thing right after their widowed father married a much younger woman following their mother’s death?]

And my cousin just e-mailed me with the wonderful news that she has 230 more pages of court documents to send me! Maybe those will have a clue as to who Charles A. Floyd’s “four bitterest enemies” were.

[The above excerpts were taken from the Dallas County District Court Case Papers for Case No. 4321, C.A. & A. E. Floyd vs Elizabeth Floyd et al, which my cousin Eunice kindly printed out from microfilm at the Dallas Public Library.]

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Newsletter and Follow News: 19 November 2010

This Week in Genea-Blogging:

There were lots of fabulous posts this week on the Atlanta Family History Expo; you can find a report and links to these articles at Amy Coffin's We Tree Genealogy Blog in "Fun and Friends at the Atlanta Family History Expo."

One theme that turned up this week was not just “getting organized,” but specific “monster” areas that present challenges for us, such as photos and e-mail:

Michelle Gudrum at The Turning of Generations asked an important organizational question in “Sorting Sunday: You’ve Got Mail!”: what is the most efficient and effective way to handle our genealogical e-mail? (You can also read my embarrassing answer in the comments.)

At Long Lost, Susan Petersen muses about what to do with all those tons and tons of photographs our families have taken over the years in “Sentimental Sunday – Those Kodak Moments.” Ugh, a chore we all have to confront sooner or later. I think I need a sabbatical to deal with mine.

Hop topics of the week:

Data sharing among researchers using different genealogy software sharing programs; among those weighing in on this subject were James Tanner at Genealogy’s Star (“Understanding the controversy surrounding GEDCOM”) and Dear Myrtle (“Do we need a genealogy sieve?”).

Google and Ancestry; Thomas MacEntee wrote about it in " and Google Marriage?" on GeneaBloggers and Dear Myrtle wrote about it in "Should Google be interested in" Check out the comments, too.

Ouch! Too true – Kerry Scott at Clue Wagon asks “What Would Genealogist Barbie Look Like?” I think she’s onto another item to add to The Genealogist’s Gift Store.

More great advice from Paula Stuart-Warren at Paula’s Genealogical Eclectica: “First impressions should be captured.” Sometimes I think that my first impressions of new documents are all over the place, but upon reflection, I think Paula is right – some of these ideas could lead to a productive avenue of research later on.

A neat story about a very special act of genealogical kindness is developing over at Lisa Swanson Ellam’s The Faces of My Family – the name of the blog, by the way, is very appropriate to the subject: How to identify the numerous people in an old family reunion photo? Find a genealogical angel to show it all over town! Read about this great story in “Why a 92 year old photograph is keeping me up at night – Part 1” and “Part 2.” And finally, "Brane Family Reunion Photo - 1918."

Cynthia Shenette has written a wonderful post on what she is thankful for in the experience of her ancestors and extended family in coming to this country in “Reflecting on My American Experience This Thanksgiving” at Heritage Zen.

Another must-read post on genealogy and health is at Kathleen Brandt’s a3 Genealogy: “Medical Genealogy.”

This week I am recommending that you check out some stunning pictures; the first two are featured at ‘On a flesh and bone foundation’: An Irish History in “Fizzy Friday: Looking back from whence we came: The Wicklow Mountains, Ireland.” And more in "Those places Thursday: some of 'Our' Ireland in Stills." Wish I was there…. And then at Becky Wiseman's kinnexions, check out the fog-drenched scenery she captured at Lake Lurleen State Park in Alabama in "Greetings from KenTennMissAla."

On a “personal connection” note, Jen’s “There’s One in Every Family” submission for the 100th COG at Climbing My Family Tree mentions a Moorman connection that I am pretty sure is my same set of Moormans, so I think we’re cousins. (I have since heard from her and she confirms it.) And, BTW, Vickie Everhart over at BeNotForgot is also connected to the Clarks who are connected to those Moormans. Now I feel as though I really do belong among the GeneaBloggers who have a “Cousin Club” within the genea-blogging community.

For more suggested blog reading, check out Best Bytes for the Week at Elizabeth O'Neal's Little Bytes of Life and Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere at Susan Petersen's Long Lost

This week I started following these blogs:

A Geek Girl Does Genealogy


Genealogy: Pilgrimage Through the Past

Genealogy, Technology And a Whole Lot More

MK’s Family Page

Penrose Mornings: Blood Family Blog

South Carolina Pioneers

The African-Native American Genealogy Blog

The Journey Takers Blog

My Research Week

This has been a fairly productive, if somewhat scattered, week. I’ve caught up a bit in some of the areas where I fell behind after the trips to Knoxville and Greenville. Research on the Floyds (looking up Floyds on Genealogy Bank and transcribing 200+ pages of court materials sent to me by my cousin Eunice) and Brinlees (finding and entering information on the family of my great-great grandparents’ Hiram Brinlee Sr. and Betsey McKinney – the last of my known “great-greats” for whom this has to be done) is going full-blast.

For my husband I am assembling my gggg-grandfather William Lewis’ Revolutionary War service record on Footnote so that he can look over the documents, try to figure out where he was and when, and also figure out how long he spent in a British jail in Charleston after being taken prisoner. Unfortunately, I don’t think these documents are going to help; most of the information I am finding covers the years up to 1779, before his capture. While the compiled service record indicates that in addition to the 1st Regiment he also served in the 10th and 3rd Regiments (due to reorganizations), I haven’t found him on any of the documents for those units, yet. Perhaps when (if?) we are in Charleston next May, he can find some local resources there to help him out.

In my last couple of Friday newsletters I forgot to mention the fabulous Fall Fair put on by the Fairfax Genealogical Society on 30 October. The four presentations of the day were given by Loretto Szucs: “What’s New at,” “Hidden Sources,” “The Ancestry World Archives Project,” and “Dead Men Do Tell Tales.” These were cram-packed with information and a pure delight to listen to; and I just don’t know where Lou gets the energy and endurance! (She also delivered the presentation at our monthly meeting on the previous Thursday – a real Energizer Bunny!)

And Jasia - I'm working on my submission for the 100th Carnival of Genealogy!  Really!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ballad of Naomi Wise

This is for for Bill West’s Second Great American Local Poem and Song Genealogy Challenge at West in New England.

This song, which is tied to the Deep River area in Randolph County, North Carolina, is also known as “Poor Omie Wise.” You can find a number of performances of the song on YouTube here and a rather in-depth discussion of the history and evolution of the legend and song here, at Notes on the History of Randolph County, NC. The song is considered to be the oldest American murder ballad.

I don’t know yet whether I have any ancestors in this area, and the John (Jonathan) Lewis mentioned is not related to my Lewises (as far as I know), but I chose this song because John Lewis was related to the “other” set of Lewises in Anderson County, South Carolina with whom “my” Lewises often get confused – I found out about the song when I was checking this group out. My Lewises were a little bit tamer than this group, and it’s probably just as well. I already have plenty of “bad boys” among my ancestors. I also chose this song because I grew up hearing lots of #3 songs (= real, REAL, REAL sad songs).

The tragedy to which the song refers was said to have taken place in 1807 or 1808. According to more recent versions, an orphan girl named Naomi Wise was seduced by a good-for-nothing named Jonathan Lewis. When Lewis learned that she was pregnant, he decided to persuade her to run away with him and then kill her. (One version says that his mother wanted him to marry a wealthier girl instead.) Later research seems to indicate that Lewis was actually a clerk, that Naomi Wise already had illegitimate children, and that she wanted Lewis to marry her rather than post a bastardy bond. Lewis was arrested, jailed, escaped, re-arrested, brought back to trial, tried, and acquitted.

There are many different variations of the lyrics; below are two.


Oh, listen to my story, I'll tell you no lies,
How John Lewis did murder poor little Omie Wise.

He told her to meet him at Adams's Springs.
He promised her money and other fine things.

So, fool-like she met him at Adams's Springs.

No money he brought her nor other fine things.

"Go with me, little Omie, and away we will go.

We'll go and get married and no one will know."

She climbed up behind him and away they did go,

But off to the river where deep waters flow.

"John Lewis, John Lewis, will you tell me your mind?

Do you intend to marry me or leave me behind?"

"Little Omie, little Omie, I'll tell you my mind.

My mind is to drown you and leave you behind."

"Have mercy on my baby and spare me my life,

I'll go home as a beggar and never be your wife."

He kissed her and hugged her and turned her around,

Then pushed her in deep waters where he knew that she would drown.

He got on his pony and away he did ride,

As the screams of little Omie went down by his side.

T'was on a Thursday morning, the rain was pouring down,

When the people searched for Omie but she could not be found.

Two boys went a-fishin' one fine summer day,

And saw little Omie's body go floating away.

They threw their net around her and drew her to the bank.

Her clothes all wet and muddy, they laid her on a plank.

Then sent for John Lewis to come to that place --

And brought her out before him so that he might see her face.

He made no confession but they carried him to jail,

No friends or relations would go on his bail.


I'll tell you a story about Omie Wise, 

How she was deluded by John Lewis's lies.

He promised to marry her at Adams's spring; 

He'd give her some money and other fine things.

He gave her no money, but flattered the case. 

Says, "We will get married; there'll be no disgrace."

She got up behind him; away they did go 

They rode till they came where the Deep River flowed.

"Now Omie, little Omie, I'll tell you my mind: 

My mind is to drown you and leave you behind."

"Oh, pity your poor infant and spare me my life!

Let me go rejected and not be your wife."

"No pity, no pity," the monster did cry.

"On Deep River's bottom your body will lie."

The wretch he did choke her as we understand;
He threw her in the river below the mill dam.

Now Omie is missing as we all do know,
And down to the river a-hunting we 'II go.

Two little boys were fishing just at the break of dawn; 

They spied poor Omie's body come floating along.

They arrested John Lewis; they arrested him today. 

They buried little Omie down in the cold clay.

"Go hang me or kill me, for I am the man 

Who murdered poor Naomi below the mill-dam."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Memory Monday: Fire

My family lived in a succession of houses and a couple of apartments when I was growing up. All were rentals except for one – the house in Highland, California.

That house started very modestly – two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen-dining room combination, and small living room. It was located in a not very posh neighborhood that still retained a rural feel to it; there were a couple of houses on our street that were not much more than shacks. That’s probably why my parents could afford to buy it.

A few families in the neighborhood carried out improvements on their houses and my Dad began to think about doing the same with our house, but we just didn’t have the money. Then my Dad broke his back on a construction job, and the disability check from the accident gave him enough of a nest egg to put an addition onto the house.

The centerpiece of the addition was a living room, and the centerpiece of the living room was a large fireplace with a raised hearth, which extended out in front and to the sides so that there was plenty of room to put firewood or potted plants or even sit down on it. The bricks were carefully chosen in different shades so that it didn’t just look like a solid block of bricks, and artfully interwoven with the brick exterior of the chimney both inside the house and out were igneous rocks of striking shapes. Dad had definitely cashed in some chips with his brick mason friend to get this level of craftsmanship.

It was magnificent. It was the closest I ever felt to being rich and living in a fancy house.

The problem was, Southern California is a rather warm place for most of the year. Sure, there are some colder nights and even a freeze or two. I remember snow once; it melted as it hit the ground, but my friends and I were incredibly excited nevertheless. We danced around and stuck out our tongues to catch the falling snowflakes. 

This dearth of cold-weather days meant that any night on which the temperature dipped under 45 degrees dictated a specific routine: clean out the ashes of the previous (perhaps long-ago) fire, gather some firewood and old newspapers, find the popcorn popper and marshmallow skewers, and light that fire.

It was sort of like a little worship service at the hearth. Finding kindling and firewood was almost never a problem, since we had lots of scrub trees on our property and my Dad knew several firewood haulers who owed him favors. And there was always a hopeful pile of newspapers on the hearth, ready to go into service. Finding the stowed away popper and fresh popcorn, not to mention marshmallows that hadn’t hardened into rocks, was sometimes a challenge, but at least the grocery store was not far away.

Dad and I preferred our marshmallows burned, and the popcorn not burned, though the bottom kernels usually got singed no matter how much we shook the pan. Though the grease and sticky factors were high, it was a delicious meal. And especially on nights that were rainy and actually cold, we felt that we had conquered the elements. It was definitely better than turning the furnace on.

When my husband and I bought our house, there was no question or debate – the house had to have a fireplace. And while the rest of the house was somewhat ramshackle, I think our stone fireplace is magnificent. (See “Tinner Hill: Desegregation, Graveyards, and My Fireplace.”)

But I still get a twinge of envy when I think about the fact that someone else – someone who did not build that fireplace – is worshiping at that raised hearth back in California.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Surname Saturday: James Thomas Wicker and Geneva Helen Brinlee

James Thomas Wicker
b. 9 Aug 1877, Tennessee
d. 15 Mar 1962, Terrell, Kaufman, Texas
& Geneva Helen “Sis” Brinlee
b. 19 Jan 1884, Van Alstyne, Grayson Co., TX
d. 20 Oct 1957, Fannin County, Texas
m. 27 Oct 1906, Collin Co., Texas
|--Bertha May Wicker
|----b. Texas
|--Alice Estelle Wicker
|----b. Texas
|---& William Harvey Brown
|--Ida S. Wicker
|----b. Texas
|--James C. Wicker Jr.
|----b. Texas
|--Mary E. Wicker
|----b. Texas

This is the family of my grandfather Lawrence Carroll Brinlee’s half-sister Geneva Helen Brinlee. She was the youngest child of Hiram Carroll Brinlee, Jr. and Diza Caroline Boone. As you can see, I am still missing a lot of information on this family (though I do have at least approximate dates of birth for the children, which I have not included since they might conceivably still be living).

I would love to share information with anyone related to/researching this family; you can contact me at my e-mail address, which can be found by going to my profile page (there is a link to that page in the About Me section to the left).

Online Newspaper Archives

As I dig up more and more dirt, er, information on my ancestors through online newspaper archives, I have become interested in finding out exactly what resources are online that I can use in my research.

I originally chose Genealogy Bank over Newspaper Archive because it seemed to have more newspapers to search and they recently had a great sale. However, I kept Newspaper Archive in mind for a future subscription. When I found that a cousin had already found a couple of the articles in Newspaper Archive that I had forwarded to her from Genealogy Bank, I decided to check Newspaper Archive out to see exactly what newspapers they had. A decent collection, but not really focused on the areas I need right now.

A Google search for “online newspaper archives list of newspapers” pointed me to Ancestry’s newspaper page (under the list of ads on the right). The directions under “Search Tips” are to go to the Card Catalog Page, then select “Newspapers and Periodicals,” then “Newspapers,” and from there filter the results by location. (You can also filter by spans of years.) Instead, I decided to scroll through the complete list to get a good idea of which locations are best served by this collection.

On Ancestry, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa seem to have quite a few newspapers represented. There are a decent number of Texas newspapers, but not so much for the areas that I am most interested in. However, there are a few for cities where some branches of my families ended up, and I recently had very good luck with Abilene newspapers there.  Arkansas and Oklahoma seem to have only a few newspapers.

Since my cousin had used the Newspaper Archives database through her local library, I decided to check out my local libraries to see whether they carried the database. I usually access Heritage Quest through the nearest library to me, the Falls Church Public Library. On the library’s website, Heritage Quest used to be listed on the “Genealogy” page with a few other resources, but it now has its own page and I saw no other resources (except ProQuest) listed on the website. 

I then looked up the website of the Fairfax County Library system; I am aware that the main library of the system has a wonderful historical and genealogical resource in its Virginia Room. That in turn led me to a YouTube video about the Virginia Room. There is also a list of online databases accessible through the Library; it includes Accessible Archives (a collection of historical materials previously available only on microfilm), ProQuest, Heritage Quest, Historical Newspaper Index (for nine local newspapers), and NEHGS; some of these are accessible only from the Virginia Room. It does not appear that either the Falls Church Library or Fairfax County Libraries have Newspaper Archives.

I have previously used Chronicling America with good results and plan on checking them out again to see what is new. Miriam Midkiff already has quite a few links up on her website, the Online Historical Newspapers Website. There is also Google News Archive Search.

Wikipedia has a page with a list of free and pay online newspaper archives here. And, of course, for the most complete list, Cyndi’s list has a page here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Newsletter and Follow News: Life From The Roots

Life from the Roots

This week I’d like to write about one of my favorite genealogy blogs, Barbara Poole’s Life From The Roots. Barbara is a lady of many talents; her writing is crisp and to the point and her photography bursts with color and what I think of as a “tactile” quality (see the “dress photograph” in “Ellis Island Dress and American Jewish Historical Society”). Even photographs of a depressing subject (“Wordless Wednesday – The Damage Is Done”) capture a certain moody beauty. Also check out her blog Flowers from My Area for more beautiful photography.

Barbara has led an interesting life, including work at the Veterans Administration and the DAR; I loved her post “Sentimental Sunday – My First Job” and it inspired me to write about my own first job. Her DAR job and 20+ years of experience with genealogy are evident in the informative content of her articles. She can also write for fun (see her “Top Ten” lists), and she never seems to run out of interesting ideas and topics for her posts.

This Week in Genea-Blogging

One of the issues of the week was copyright; the following blogs featured stories on a couple of the more egregious violations associated with plagiarism of online content:

At GeneaBloggers - "Cooks Source: The Web Is Considered Public Domain"

At Roots and Rambles - "It could happen to you"

There was a wealth of outstanding Veterans Day-themed posts on Thursday. One that caught my attention in particular was Michelle Gudrum’s “Veterans Day – WWI Service in Russia” at The Turning of Generations. She tells us about Roy Bindon’s services with the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia in 1918 – a fascinating story!

At It’s All Relative, Laura has written a very moving and perceptive post on the role of the family genealogist/historian when there is a death in the family in “Silver Linings.” For her this is a subject that is unfortunately of recent experience, as she lost her beloved father last month (“To Daddy with love”).

At We Tree, I have enjoyed reading about Amy Coffin’s “Family History Library Research Retreat,” and in Part 4 she presents a useful summary of what she learned from this experience.

At Daniel Hubbard’s Personal Past Meditations: A Genealogical Blog this week you have to check out his article “A Line to Draw the Time,” and specifically, take a look at the time line. Timelines are helpful, especially in proving that something just could not have happened, but too often we may assume that they prove that something did happen when all they indicate is that it was possible; proximity does not prove causality.

One of the must-read articles this week is footnoteMaven’s “Annotate Your Sources – It Can’t Hurt and It Just Might Help,” wherein she gobsmacks us with the shocking news that there is no such thing as the Citation Police (or, as Randy Seaver refers to them, the Citation Secret Police). fM provides a great explanation of the usefulness of citations and as well as an illustration of how we might annotate our citations. (While I have not done this formally, I do include comments on some of my main sources in the “Notes” section on my genealogy program, both to give credit where credit is due and to be able to retrace the process and logic of my own research.)

An interesting development on Donna Pointkouski’s theme of “Colonials vs Immigrants” is presented at Steve’s Genealogy Blog in “How Many of My Ancestors Have I Documented?” Steve Danko demonstrates through numbers that while there is joy to be had for some lines in some areas, the ratio of found-to-total ancestors definitely takes a sharp nosedive pretty quickly for those immigrant lines that are not nobility.

At Staats Place, Chris Staats explains how his plan to prove the existence of Santa provided a good lesson in what does and does not constitute exhaustive research in “What Santa Taught Me About Genealogical Research.”

For more suggested blog reading, check out Elizabeth O'Neal's Best Bytes for the Week at Little Bytes of Life and Susan Petersen's Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere at Long Lost

This week I started following these blogs:

Christ Paton: Walking in Eternity

An English Jewish family’s quest for their roots

Free Genealogy Guide

Genealogy Stories

In Black and White: Cross-Cultural Genealogy

Shakin’ the Family Tree

The Genealogy Mad Scientist

The O’Neill-March Family History

My Research Week

For the last couple of years, one of the things I have done on Veterans’ Day was to call my Uncle Bill Brinlee, who served in the Navy in the 1950s and 1960s. Uncle Bill died last January, so this year I decided to spend Veterans Day in a manner similar to my custom for Memorial Day: researching an ancestor’s military records. On Thursday I worked on my gggg-grandfather William Lewis’ Revolutionary War service records. There is a lot of material on Footnote, and I still haven’t finished.

I also continued to look up articles on Genealogy Bank, mostly for the Floyds and Brinlees. I'm afraid some of it is not very ... flattering. Will have to write an article on this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The following press release was received from

Site Commemorates Veterans Day with Free Access to Entire U.S. Military Records Collection

PROVO, UTAH, November 10, 2010 -, which has the largest online collection of historical military records, today added more than 115,000 U.S. Military Academy Cadet Application Papers from West Point to its online collection of military records to commemorate Veterans Day.

“Handwritten cadet application papers are true gems in family history research, as they provide such depth and personal insight into the military veterans that came before us,” said Quinton Atkinson, director of content acquisition for “It is a treasure when we can see personal letters and records intersect with our shared history as a country. This Veterans Day, we hope this new collection will allow millions of Americans to explore their military ancestry, while inspiring them to discover the rich history of our nation’s past military leaders.”

The West Point Application Papers include letters from applicants from 1805-1866 requesting appointment, letters of recommendation and notification from the War Department if the candidate was accepted and letters of acceptance from the candidate. Over 115,000 candidates are listed and include well known graduates of West Point, including:

· William Tecumseh Sherman (1835) – known for his outstanding military strategy as a Union Army General during the Civil War, this collection contains several letters of recommendation for Sherman from his guardian, Thomas Ewing. Ewing’s letter praises 16-year-old Sherman as a “stout athletic lad, and very well prepared for entrance, a good Latin, Greek & French scholar… His father died insolvent… [and] it was his father’s wish… that he should receive an education which would fit him for the public service in the Army or Navy.”

· Thomas J (Stonewall) Jackson (1842) – one of the most well-known Confederate commanders, eighteen-year-old Stonewall Jackson was the subject of a nomination letter for West Point from South Carolina Governor F. W. Pickens. In his letter, Pickens asks if there are any vacancies at West Point for the state of South Carolina, and requests a copy of the department rules and qualifications for admission. Jackson went on to graduate 17th out of 59 students in the Class of 1846.

· George Pickett (1842) – an acceptance letter now available on shows that Pickett, known for leading the appropriately named “Pickett's Charge” at the Battle of Gettysburg, was accepted as a cadet at West Point in 1842. Also included in the collection is Pickett’s resignation letter from the US Army’s 9th Infantry in 1861 to join the Confederate army, which also shows that upon resignation from the Union army he owed $96.38 in “expenses recruiting.”

· George A Custer (1856) – most remembered for a disastrous military engagement at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer’s nomination letter describes him as “17, 5’ 9¾”, good health, no deformity, reads well, spells correctly, writes a fair and legible hand, able to perform with facility and accuracy the ground rules of arithmetic, fully possesses all the qualifications physical, mental, and moral required.” This nomination letter sent to Jefferson Davis was written and signed by Congressman John A. Bingham, the judge advocate in the trial of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and a principle framer of the 14th amendment. Custer went on to graduate last in his class at West Point.

The collection includes many other records and letters relating to artist James Whistler, Dupont dynasty heir and Civil War veteran Henry Dupont, and Union Army Major General George B. McClellan.

The West Point Cadet Application Papers are part of’s U.S. Military Collection, which includes 100 million names that span more than three centuries of American military service.

In honor of America’s military heroes, the entire U.S. Military Collection on can be searched free from Veteran’s Day through Nov. 14. To begin exploring your family’s military heritage, visit

Monday, November 8, 2010

Memory Monday: Voting

The first election I remember was the Kennedy-Nixon faceoff in 1960. I had never heard my parents express political views before (I was only about six, so no surprise there), but I actually heard my father voice his opinions of the candidates during the nightly news. My parents were still Texan enough to be “yellow dog Democrats” and were not bothered by the fact that Kennedy was a Catholic, though my Dad didn’t think much of Joseph Kennedy.

But what really made me remember that election was the fact that my friend Janie and I got into trouble for creating our own play version of an election debate. If adults could go on TV and argue with one another, then we could ape them and add a few childish twists of our own. We decided, cartoon-style, that we would jump up and down on the sofa, shooting water guns and hurling insults at one another. We thought it was hysterically funny; we cracked ourselves up.

But not my Dad. He did not think that it was funny. And my mother did not think getting her beautiful new sofa wet was in the least bit humorous. Janie and I received a severe chastening. No screaming, no punishment, just words. Janie was a much better behaved child than I, and this probably came as a shock to her. Even I had the wind taken out of me. I came away with the impression that elections and new sofas were serious things.

When I went off to college in 1972, the newly lowered voting age of 18 had been in effect for a couple of years. So that was the first time I cast a vote.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember much about it. I cannot remember whether I voted through absentee ballot in Texas or directly at a polling place in Washington, D.C., where I attended Georgetown University. But I do know that I voted, because my college friends and I were all excited at being able to do so.

And Nixon was still around.

For years now, I have voted at a local community center that used to be an elementary school. It is now being remodeled back into an elementary school, so this year we voted at another nearby elementary school. I wondered whether it would feel strange to vote at another location, even though I am familiar with the school from the year or two that my daughters were in Brownies there.

But some of the people handing out sample ballots were familiar faces, so it felt perfectly comfortable. I accepted my “I voted” sticker after voting, and felt a little wistful that my daughters were no longer young enough to fight over who would get the sticker when I got home. In fact, my husband and I realized with some chagrin that our younger daughter turned old enough to vote several days before the election and we could have taken her to register to vote.

Our older daughter was set to vote in the 2008 elections, but on the day before the elections she received her crumpled application with a note saying that it had been submitted too late. She had filled it out and sent it off in late August to change her voting place from Virginia to Philadelphia and apparently someone had misplaced it until it was too late. Next time she’s voting absentee from Virginia.

So neither daughter got to participate in what should have been their first election. We’ll see to it that they vote in the next one.