a tree-rific journey into family history

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

The Growing Popularity of Genealogy: why it’s a good thing

I read an article today that confirms what many of us have now suspected for a few years: genealogy has become a mainstream hobby. According to the author, family history is now a billion-dollar industry that is America’s second favorite pastime (behind gardening). I imagine people have always been interested in their heritage, but technology has made this information well within reach. People want to know where they come from and how they got here. This mass interest in family history is good news, right? It depends who you ask.

I’ve heard the cynical mutterings from experienced researchers: “Nowadays, everyone’s a genealogy expert.” The commercials make it seem so simple. Just click a few leaves, and you’re a genealogist. I am taken aback sometimes by the user trees I find where the researcher has little or no sources and seems to have just blindly copied things they found. I am a bit suspicious when someone traces their lineage all the way back to Noah’s Ark in one afternoon. Skilled researchers, please rest assured that your abilities are needed as much as ever before. Here are a few reasons why this new-found popularity is good news for those of us already deeply entrenched in genealogy.

1)      Networking opportunities are at an all-time high. While local genealogical societies and workshops are still useful, mass communication has made sharing your family’s story a global endeavor.  As more and more family historians set up blogs, Twitter accounts, and newsletters, we are able to connect as never before. This can enhance our skill set and give us an appreciative audience.

2)      Professional researchers (and amateurs who don’t mind a little extra cash on the side) should view this as good for business. Growing interest in your field of expertise may bring competition, but it also means more potential clients. Even if people can find some of their story on their own, most will recognize their own limitations.

3)      The more people who contribute to the conversation, the more media and documents become available. The commercial success of genealogy means more records will be digitized and made available. And that random guy who starts a family tree with no analytical skills or understanding of sources may be the same guy who has your great-great-great grandmother’s portrait in a family Bible in his attic. So use caution, but embrace the popularity!

I found these pictures in my great-grandmother’s stuff. The more popular genealogy becomes, the better my chances are of finding out who they are!



Henry Strickland Jr. and Pauline Hardiman: tracing the tracks of a railroad family

Henry Strickland, my wife’s great-grandfather, was born in Arkansas around 1900 to Henry Strickland Sr. and Ora Leverett Strickland. The Stricklands came from Gwinnett County, Georgia, and the Leveretts were from Anderson County, South Carolina. Ora Strickland died when Henry Jr. was a teenager. Henry Sr. worked for the railroad until pneumonia took his life in 1929.  Like many people in Conway County, Henry Jr. tried his hand at farming before he ultimately went to work for the railroad.

Henry Strickland, Jr. and his oldest daughter, Elizabeth “Aunt Sister” Thurman.

Pauline Hardiman was born October 27, 1907 in Plumerville, Arkansas to Rev. Sampson Henry Hardiman and Pauline McFall Hardiman. Her father’s family came from Tate County, Mississippi, and her mother’s family from Greenville County, South Carolina. Pauline Hardiman was born as Pasalogna or Partholona but later took her mother’s name. Most people remember her simply as Grandma Pauz. When Pauline was 13, her mother died, and she married Henry Strickland Jr. a few months later on April 23, 1921. The Conway County marriage record lists her as 18 instead of 13.

Pauline Hardiman Strickland AKA Grandma Pauz

Together, Henry Strickland Jr. and Pauline Hardiman Strickland had seven children: Ollie Bell Strickland (1922-1990), Henry Strickland III (1924-1924), Elizabeth K. Strickland Thurman (1925-2005), Laberta Strickland Jackson (1928-2007), Willie Hamp Strickland (1929-1992), Walter Strickland (abt 1930-abt 1930),  and Earl Strickland (born 1931). Henry’s job with the Missouri Pacific Railroad caused the family to move around. Pauline Strickland later remarked to her grandchildren that they “lived like gypsies.” The family spent significant time in Van Buren, Arkansas before settling in Coffeyville, Kansas in the 1930s. At only 43 years of age, Henry Jr. died of a heat stroke and is interred at Edmonson Cemetery in Plumerville.  Despite being only 35 and having children at home, Grandma Pauz never remarried. I like to imagine she was a strong, independent woman, and that Henry Jr. was simply irreplaceable. City directories show Pauline working as a motel cook a few years following Henry’s death. Some of Henry’s sons would follow in their father and grandfather’s footsteps by working for the railroad.  Pauline Hardiman Strickland died on November 7, 1989 and is interred at Fairview Cemetery in Coffeyville, Kansas.

Henry Jr. and Pauline’s five children who survived infancy: (back row) Earl, Elizabeth, Ollie Bell
(front row) Laberta, Willie Hamp

City Directory for Coffeyville, Kansas in Montgomery County, 1939 (click to enlarge)

Unhappy Endings: researching your tree may require tissues

Family history is often uplifting, motivating, and inspiring. We tend to view our ancestors’ stories as triumphant, rags-to-riches, beating the odds success stories. We are impressed with their ability to seemingly overcome all sorts of harsh adversity to pave the way for us. Unfortunately, not every story in the tree has a happy ending. Some are just downright depressing.

While I am sure most of our ancestors led reasonably happy lives, I am always taken aback at the poverty, infant-mortality rates, short life spans, abuse, and tragic deaths that seem commonplace just a few generations ago. The hardships that the average person endured were very different than the world I live in. While their lives were simpler (my 5x great-grandmother did not have to memorize twenty log-in passwords or worry about her caloric intake), these predecessors dealt with hard realities. Knowing their plight helps us understand the remarkable triumphs in our tree and helps us appreciate some parts of modern life. Here are a few stories:

1) Myrtle Woods, my first cousin 4x removed, was born in 1892 in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Her grandfather, James Goodloe Woods, is my 4x great-grandfather. Myrtle’s mother, Mattie Nevels Woods, died shortly after Myrtle’s birth. Myrtle married Matthew Rowzee when she was fifteen years old. Her only child, Margaret, was born in 1909. Myrtle died at age 18 of tuberculosis, and her daughter died the following year around her second birthday.

Tennessee death record for Myrtle Woods Rowzee

2) Tabitha C. Hill is the sister of the 4x great grandmother of my wife’s double 1st cousin once removed. A daughter of Milton and Mariah Hill, she married A.F. Inman around age 13 on September 18, 1890 in Perry County, Arkansas. Ten years later, in the 1900 census, she is a widow working as a servant in someone’s house. She is 22 years old and has lost a husband and four children. The trail runs cold after 1900. In a nearby county, a Tabitha Hill (not Inman) marries in 1904. The groom is widowed by 1910.

3) Benjamin Cohee (1843-1903) of Clinton County, Indiana is my first cousin 5x removed. His father and my 4x great-grandmother were half-siblings. He served in the Civil War and fathered nine children with his first wife, Elma Hoover (1850-1898). He later married Lizzie Hurst and committed suicide a few months later. I imagine his war service, the loss of his wife, and his own infirmity led to his decision to end his life. Although suicide is not an indicator of a tragic life, it does suggest an unhappy finish. The Frankfort Banner ran a lengthy article on his death.

PLANNED HIS OWN DEATH: BENJAMIN F. COHEE SOUGHT RELIEF FROM PHYSICAL SUFFERING. Appalling Early Morning Discovery By Members of His Family-Tragic Close of a Well Spent Life.

The self-inflicted death of Benjamin F. Cohee, the splendid citizen and prosperous dry goods merchant, which occurred Sunday morning, was a crushing blow to his family and a decided shock to the entire community in which he has been so long and favorably known. Although he planned the taking of his life with a deliberation and caution such as a sane person would be expected to make use of, the fact that he had been in ill health for a considerable time, suffering from a malady that affected his brain, working disastrously upon his nerves and causing him to suffer the horrors of insomnia, it is but reasonable to suppose that the rash resolve was taken and executed at a period of acute mental derangement, or to end the sufferings which would not yield to treatment.

He arose about 7 o’clock Sunday morning and despite the fact he had not rested well during the night seemed to be in fairly good spirits. Mrs. Cohee, who is suffering from an affection of the ear, and who also had a wakeful night, was advised by Mr. Cohee to remain abed a few hours longer in the hope that she might get much needed sleep, he remarking that he would replenish the fire and get the house warmed up before calling other members of the family. The indications go to show that he very soon afterwards formed and carried out the resolve to put an end to his life.

Being unable to sleep, Mrs. Cohee arose shortly after the conversation had with her husband and in the course of time noted his absence from the house. She looked into all the rooms where he might likely be and inspected the out premises, but could discover no trace of him. Thinking that perhaps he might have gone to the home of one of his sons she telephoned to Bret Cohee and learned that he had not been there. The son seemed intuitively divine that all was not well with his father and hastened to the Main street homestead. He also made a through search of the house and grounds with no better success, until his attention was attracted to a door in an addition on the northwest corner of the house and which he found to be fastened, apparently from the inside. There are two apartments in this addition, one used as a store room, the other for a wood house. It was the door leading to the latter that was secured. After repeated efforts Mr. Cohee succeeded in forcing this door open to be met with the appalling sight of his father’s body suspended by a cord from an overhead beam. A step ladder which was resting against the wall told too plainly the means employed for carrying out the dreadful design. A cord such as used for suspending window weights, had been tied around the beam and the distance properly measured to prevent his feet from touching the ground. The door had been fastened by a stake which was securely driven into the ground.

When discovered the body was still warm, and hoping that there might be a spark of life remaining Mr. Cohee with assistance released his unfortunate father and carried him into the house and summoned a physician. Every effort was made to resuscitate him, but without avail. The cruel cord had done its work effectually. It was about 9 o’clock when the discovery was made, indicating that considerable time had elapsed between the performance of the deed and the hour that Mr. Cohee arose. Corner Brown came about ten o’clock and viewed the body, being in the county attending a patient when first summoned, and gave permission for its preparation for burial.

Mr. Cohee had been an invalid for several weeks and during the early stages of his illness was in a critical condition for several days. He suffered terribly from some ailment of the nerves and muscles of the back and neck which affected the brain. Superinduced by this affliction, he was a slave to that dread foe of health, insomnia. It had been noted, however, that he seemed much improved during recent days and the family had urged him to take a trip south, which he was considering, it being thought that a change of climate and relaxation from business cares would prove beneficial. Saturday he was quite cheerful and complained less than usual which was taken to be an encouraging sign and the family was wholly unprepared for the crushing sorrow which fell upon the hitherto happy household Sunday morning. The funeral was held from the residence, 358 South Main street, Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock. The services will be conducted by Presiding Elder C. A. Brooke and Rev. H. G. Ogden, pastor of the Methodist church. Internment at Bunnell cemetery.

Benjamin F. Cohee was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Jonathon Cohee and was born in Rush county, Indiana, Sept. 28, 1843. He grew to manhood on a farm and when the call was made for soldiers to suppress the rebellion he enlisted as a private in Co. D, 68th Ind. Vol. Inft., serving three years. At the close of the war, his father having located in Frankfort, Mr. Cohee came here and took a clerkship in the store then operated by his father and Wilson Cohee, an uncle of the deceased. In 1867 his uncle retired and the deceased became a partner in the business which then as now was situated on the southwest corner of the square. After the death of his father he was in partnership with his brother, W. H. Cohee, for a time, later acquiring full ownership of the prosperous business. As his sons grew to manhood they were admitted to partnership in the business and for many years the firm has been styled B. F. Cohee & Sons. He was one of the most familiar men of the county and the store which he helped to establish has grown to metropolitan proportions and is a monument to his thrift, enterprise and sterling character as a citizen and business man. On Sept. 20, 1868 occurred his marriage to Miss Elma Hoover, whose death occurred about six years ago. Nine children were born to this union, two dying in infancy, a third, Katie Cohee, passing away after the death of her mother. The surviving children are Albert B., Edgar M., Walter B., Rolland F., Edith and Velma. He is also survived by two sisters and one brother, Mrs. John W. Newhouse, Mrs. James F. Hoath and W. H. Cohee. Sept. 17, 1902, he was married to Mrs. Lizzie A. Hurst, at Elwood, Ind., who survives.

He was for a number of years a member of the city council and since the operation of the new reform law had been a member of the county council, having been re-elected at the last election. Mr. Cohee was not a member of any secret fraternity but belonged to the Methodist church and contributed liberally of his means to the support of that denomination. He was a man of spotless character, honest and just in his relations to his fellow man and true to his obligations as a citizen. It was in his home life, however, that his character shone in its brightest splendor. No man loved his home more than he and his thoughts were always for his children. In return for his parental regard they gave measure for measure in filial respect and esteem, loving their own firesides but never losing their love for the hearthstone of the family homestead.


The list of unhappy endings could go on and on. For information on one particularly ill-fated branch, read A Cougar and Her Cubs: the children of Martha Altic Aitkens.  I hope this post has not been too depressing!

Elder James Goodloe Woods: busy with business

James Goodloe Woods, my great-great-great-great grandfather, was born February 1, 1823 in Franklin County, Tennessee to William C. Woods (1776-1840) and Mary Harris Woods (1782-1838). His father was a large landowner of Scotch-Irish descent who ministered in the Primitive Baptist Church. James Goodloe Woods was a grandson of Archibald Woods (1749-1836), a Revolutionary War soldier and settler of Boonesborough, Kentucky alongside Daniel Boone.

James Goodloe Woods married Susan J. Boyce (1824-1865) on November 30, 1843, and they soon moved to Fayetteville, Tennessee. Six children were born to this union: James H.C. Woods, William Ed Woods, Joseph Goodloe Woods, Mary Ann Woods, Martha E. Woods Fleming, and Archibald M. Woods. After his wife’s death, James Goodloe Woods married Louisiana S. Webb (1824-1905). What I find most intriguing about James Goodloe Woods are his many business ventures and occupations. Like his father, James Goodloe Woods was a minister in the Primitive Baptist Church, a member of the Masonic Fraternity, and a farmer. He partnered with James H. Cobb to operate a saddlery, tanning, and harness business. They also bought and shipped produce. They built the first livery and feed stable in Fayetteville. Elder James Goodloe Woods also served as justice of the peace and constable before opening his own law office. He was director and president of the Winchester & Alabama Railroad. According to his granddaughter’s obituary, this was the first railroad in Central Tennessee. He also served as director and president for the First National Bank for many years. Elder Woods died October 19, 1895 and is interred at Rose Hill Cemetery in Fayetteville, Tennessee.

William Ed Woods (1851-1889) is my great-great-great grandfather and a son of James Goodloe Woods. He and his wife Belle Feeney Woods (1854-1943) had five daughters.

Can you read the writing at the bottom of James Goodloe Woods’s grave?

Post Navigation