Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Ancestral "Scrabble" Name Game

Earlier generations countered the battle against higher mortality rates by raising larger numbers of children, hoping to beat the odds for surname survival. But that meant having to come up with more names for more children than parents these days generally face.

It reminds me of the period in my life when I was a musher, and when it came time to breed and raise a litter to replenish the ranks of our sled teams, we noticed that other mushers (those who raised multiple litters to use or sell) would often give theme names to their litters. I recall one musher who had dogs with the names Exxon, Texaco, and Mobile (and these littermates clearly looked alike). The solution my first wife, Sharon, had was to call our own little littermates by the names of famous department stores -- hence, our pups received the names Penny, Macy, Bloomie (for Bloomingdale's), Tiffy (for Tiffany's), Alex (Alexander's), and Bucky (a stretch for Sears and Roebuck -- good thing for us the litter only had six pups!)

The experience did, however, give me empathy for what my grandparents were in for when they elected to populate the Texas Panhandle with extra farm hands named Todd. My father's first and middle names (Dexter Lamar) as well as those of his brothers and sisters -- for a total of eight siblings -- are a case in point.

I always marveled at the odd and sometimes strange names my paternal grandparents chose for their children, and a little digging revealed those names were mined (mostly) from my grandmother's side of the family tree. Nonetheless, it's been quite an eye-opener to realize why my grandmother saddled so many of her children with names that sounded like desperation Scrabble words, compelling many of her children to invent alternative nicknames for themselves.

Okay, you get the idea. For other genealogists who wander onto this post, enough said. You get the drift. What follows is perhaps of more interest to the descendents of my own immediate family of Todds.

A.P. and Mae Todd's Children

Let's list my dad's siblings in order of birth, ending with my dad's own name, and including the nicknames many of them adopted. I've emboldened those names on the list that have analogues to earlier relatives (at least, the antecedent relatives I've identified so far).
  1. Maggie Alice (b. 1901)
  2. Thomas Clifton "Cliff" (b. 1903)
  3. Byron Franklin "By" (b. 1905)
  4. Milton Lewis "Bill" (b. 1908)
  5. Cyrus Edwin "Ed" (b. 1911)
  6. Lola Bess (b. 1914)
  7. Hardy Buford "Boots" (b. 1915)
  8. Dexter Lamar "Deck" (b. 1918)
"Mae" (Wilson) Todd
on her wedding day, 1900
A.P. Todd, on his
wedding day, 1900
Certainly, the continuous string of birthdates -- an average of almost one new child every other year for seventeen years -- seems to me sufficient justification for my grandmother, Mary "Mae" (Wilson) Todd, to have earned naming rights. And she exercised that right until the final two children (doubtless too exhausted to care by then), when she seems to have ceded to my grandfather, A.P. Todd, the opportunity to offer a couple of names from his side of the family. But he, too, must have felt compelled to go with his wife's trend of using more -- shall we say, distinctive? -- names from his lineage.

My maternal grandmother's parents were Benjamin Frankin Wilson and Sarah Hoover. (In the late eighteenth century, the latter's surname changed from HΓΌber to Hoover only one generation after that branch of the family immigrated from Bavaria to Pennsylvania, but that curious name-change phenomenon is blog grist for a separate mill.)

Here's the siblings list again, but this time with the antecedent namesakes and relationships to my dad's mother (#s 1-6) and father (#s 7-8):
  1. Maggie Alice (Mitchell) -- Mae's older sister was named Maggie.
  2. Thomas Clifton "Cliff" -- still looking for antecedents for these names.
  3. Byron Franklin "By" -- Mae's father was Benjamin Franklin Wilson. (And the antecedent for her father's name was clearly an homage to the famous eighteenth-century American statesman.)
  4. Milton Lewis "Bill" -- Mae's grandfather was named John Milton Wilson (antecedent given and middle names for the famous English Renaissance poet?) while Mae's grandmother had the maiden name of Lewis.
  5. Cyrus Edwin "Ed" -- Mae's older brother was named Cyrus.
  6. Lola Bess -- still looking for antecedents for these names.
  7. Hardy Buford "Boots" -- AP's father was named Hardy.  
  8. Dexter Lamar "Deck" -- AP's initial's stand for Atha Poindexter. (And the antecedent relative for Atha's first name was his great-grandfather, Athanathan!)
Of the sixteen given and middle names for these eight siblings, half have clear ancestral antecedents within the famly's previous three generations, which is consistent with the common practice of drawing upon the names of forebears as a source of subsequent generations' names.

In my own generation, I got my dad's first name for my middle one (fortunately, my folks refrained from reinstating the "Poin-" prefix for Dexter); to his chagrin, my brother Stephen got his middle name of Watt as a namesake for the nicknames given to our own mother's father and grandfather (their real names were both Watkins but both father and son went by "Watt"); and our sister got our mother's first name of Mary although our sister decided to go by her middle name of Suzanne.

The Ancient Egyptians believed that a person never died as long as their name was spoken by the living. In some ways, the tradition of naming descendents for ancestors accomplishes the same thing. Besides, it's reassuring to realize how our ancestors live on not only in our DNA but also through our names.

* * *
Mark and Kym Todd are volunteers on WikiTree, a project to create the entire human tree.
Profiles, sources, and documents for individuals described above are on WikiTree:


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Pioneering Women - Juliana King and Grizel Sims Cocke

(Woodcut from Narrative of Mary Rowlandson)
Given the patriarchal nature of  historical European and American recordkeeping, it's often easier to document the lives of men rather than women during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in early America.

But on occasion, stories emerge -- even though limited by available statistical and vital records -- that provide glimpses into the courage and determination of our maternal American ancestors.

Two such women came to my attention in the past month during research efforts to chart family records during the Colonial period in American history: the life of Juliana Connor King (my maternal eighth great-grandmother) and the life of Grizel Kessiah Sims Cocke (the wife of a first cousin, six times removed).

Both proved resilient, resourceful, and more than capable of surviving and even thriving, despite the loss of one or more husbands.

Juliana Connor (1637-1680)
(My grandmother Lola Sims Hardin was the daughter of Mary Clementine King, whose fifth great-grandmother was Juliana Connor.) 

Gullian ("Juliana") Connor was born about 1637 in England. Nothing is known of her parents or her circumtances, but she may have secured passage to the New World as an indentured servant.

She sailed from England, apparently alone, to the Isle of Wight, Colonial Virginia, with Capt. William Canfill, who transported her to the westward side of Lyons Creek near Hoggs Island Creek on 24 Jan 1656.

Juliana arrived in Colonial Virginia at about age 19, and she may have sought marriage as soon as possible: Young women were emancipated from servitude as soon as they married, but she also arrived as a "headright," an immigrant entitled to 50 acres of land upon marrying, which would have made her a prize in a world where single women were scarcer than in the colonies further north.

And, in fact, she did marry William Henry King, a planter, that same year of 1656 in Surry, Isle of Wight County, Colony of Virginia, British Colonial Amerca, and the couple had a child, Henry, the next year, 1657.

But her time with husband William lasted only a few years: He died, possibly before 1660 but no later than 1670, which was the year Juliana remarried "since the courts would have appointed a guardian for young Henry and she would have lost control of her son,” according to a King historian, Jeane Austin King Gelau.

Juliana's new husband, Darby Stantlin, ill at the time of the union, recorded in a will on 25 Apr 1670, in Upper Parish, Isle of Wight, Colony of Virginia, "wife Gulian, sick at present time, if she should die, my friend Mathew Waikley [is] to remain on my plantation until Henry King becomes of age; in case of wife's death and of her son Henry King my plantation [goes] to Mathew Waikley."

She survived, but husband Stantlin did not, and that same year on 25 Oct 1670, she once again married, this time to Waikley, according to court records: "acknowledged in open court by Gullian Stantlin and confiremed [sic] by Mathew Waikley her now husband."

Times must have been tough and trying despite her multiple alliances because "Gullian" died in or before 1680, at the age of 43, since Waikley recorded a will on 18 Mar 1680, for which the abstract states, "by noncupative will, whole estate to Henry King."

Juliana's life reveals her ability to navigate legal and civil limitations of the time and the requirements of marriage in order to make her way in the New World from the very start, and to marry twice again to preserve the future inheritance of her son Henry.

Grizel Kessiah Sims Cocke (1768-1820)
(My grandmother Lola Sims Hardin's third great-grandfather, Pariss Sims, was uncle to Parrish Sims, whose wife was Grizel Kessiah.)

Grizel Kessiah was born on in Amelia, Culpepper County, Colonial Virginia.

She married Parrish Sims on family moved to Hawkins County, Territory of North Carolina (later to become Hawkins County, Tennessee, in 1793)

According to Sims historian Almon Sims, "Both Parish and his father were large land owners, had slaves, and were active in the early development of Hawkins County which in the early days included Claiborne, Hancock and Grainger counties, all in North Carolina territory."

Sims Settlement, Alabama
Almon Sims's account goes on to state, "Parish Sims, with his wife Grizel (Kessiah) and their children, his widowed mother and most of his brothers and sisters . . . started from Hawkins County in East Tennessee in the Spring of 1807 with four boats. When the boats had ascended Elk River . . . [they] concluded to stop and settled what was long known as Sims Settlement, in Limestone County, Ala."

Later that same year, on 26 Nov 1807, Parish wrote his last will and testament, stating, "I, Parrish [sic] Simes . . . give to my beloved wife, Grizel, all of my estate." He died only a few months later in Sims Settlement, Limestone County, Alabama.

William Cocke
But Grizel's story cotinues. After her husband Parrish died in 1808, Grizel married William Cocke in 1810. At the time, Grizel was 42 and William, 62 (his first wife Mary having passed away earlier that same year.)

Cocke had spent time trailblazing and settling lands in Kentucky and later East Tennessee in the company of Daniel Boone. According to an entry in Wikipedia, Cocke "was elected a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and a colonel of militia; in 1776, he led four companies of that militia into to what became Tennessee for action against the Indians," who had allied with the British during the War of Independence.

Later, Cocke was appointed as the Agent for the Chickasaw Indians in a First Nations' dispute against the Sims Settlement inhabitants as trespassers.

Almon Sims records, on "September of 1810, a petition was sent to President Madison, and one of its signers was Grizell [sic] Sims, widow of Parish. . . . This petition asked the President not to allow the removal of the settlers even though their purchase of the land from the Cherokees was in dispute by the Chickasaws. This 'trouble with the Indians' is significant in that it may be how widow Grizel Sims, referred to in some records as Kissiah Sims, came to meet and know William Cocke."

Grizel's gumption must have made quite an impression on Cocke since the two married that same year.

The couple later moved to Columbus, Mississippi, where they lived "in the dogtrot cross hall two-story log house on the bluff above the Tombigbee," according to the family records cited by Sims descendent Hershel Parker. Cocke continued a political career and, at times, serving in appointed positions for the President, including a commission as General in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812.

Grizel died in 6 Aug 1820, and was buried in Columbus, Lowndes County, Mississippi, where her second husband was later buried in 1828, and where they share a joint tombstone.

The Lives between the Lines
Available records don't do justice to either of these women, but we nonetheless see glimpses -- albeit at times almost between the lines -- that they were often actors on the stage of early America in ways we can only surmise as compared to the lives of their better-documented husbands. However, they often persisted beyond the lives of those husbands, leaving their own marks in the record books and in the lives and traditions of subsequent family generations.

* * *
Mark and Kym Todd are volunteers on WikiTree, a project to create the entire human tree.
Profiles, sources, and documents for the individuals described above are on WikiTree: