Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Nanny's kitchen

While out working on leash training our chiweenie pup this morning, these brilliant mushrooms standing out against the gloom of an overcast morning caught my eye. I just had to stop and take a picture, much to the dog's annoyance.

As I continued on, I noticed more and more mushrooms growing in the fresh mounds of mulch surrounding the trees along the sidewalks. Stopping to take more pictures, ignoring the puppy's protests, my thoughts drifted to Nanny's kitchen.

Nanny was Effie Lorraine Parmer Martin, my maternal grandmother. I don't know why she chose "Nanny", but "Grandma" was already taken by her own mother.

Nanny's kitchen was decorated with hand painted wooden plaques which she made herself. They consisted of mushrooms and various garden critters displayed in a line over the kitchen sink and cabinets. She even had a set of mushroom-themed cookware, the kind you could probably only find at garage sales or ebay these days.

Her kitchen wasn't large, but she had a closet-size pantry where, in addition to food, she kept the dominoes, playing cards and poker chips. My parents and grandparents would sit at the kitchen table playing 42 in the afternoon, while my sister and I entertained ourselves in the living room or outside. In the evening they would move to the dining room table on the other side of the kitchen to play poker.

She loved to cook, and try out new recipes she found. Every time we came over, Nanny had some freshly baked treat for us. She made us our first Rice Krispie treats and peanut butter corn flake bars.

So, today, I am thankful for the mushrooms that remind me of Nanny's kitchen, and all the good times we had over there.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Motivation Monday: The science of productivity

I consider weekends family time, because Saturday and Sunday are usually the only days my husband and daughter can be home all day (barring sickness or major holidays). And on weekends, I sometimes find myself browsing YouTube on the PS3 while relaxing with the family. One of my favorite youtube channels is AsapScience.

This last Saturday morning, while browsing through the AsapScience channel, I came across The Science of Productivity. Immediately my mind went to the blog post I had started a couple of hours ago, then abandoned to watch YouTube.

What I got out of watching, and re-watching, this illuminating video was that I need to set goals. I mean, "Get as much done as I can before I die," doesn't really set any targets. I need to break it up into small projects, plan about how long it should take to complete, and dedicate a specific time of day to work on it (instead of work on it until I'm exhausted and no longer want to mess with it).

Family history isn't a job for me, it's a hobby (one of many!). I have no boss, no deadlines, no one to grade me on the quality and accuracy of my work. No one is holding me accountable but me, and admittedly, I tend to cut myself a lot of slack.

So today, I am going to choose a specific point in time for one ancestor, I'm going to give myself one week to research, outline and write. I will only work on it for 90 minutes at a time, take a short break, then get back to work. And when the spawn gets home from school, I will stop for the day. Let's see how that goes...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday's faces from the past: Bettie Frances Nowell Davis family

Bettie Frances Nowell was George Eugene Nowell's youngest sister, and Grandma Zula's aunt.

I can't say for sure when or where this photo was taken. Or even who everyone is. But I can make a few guesses from the data I've collected. Maybe someday, someone from this branch of the Nowell clan will stumble across it and be able to verify the identities.

One copy of this photo was labeled "Aunt Betty's family, children & in-laws" (I have two scans, this one was the larger of the two). Bettie and Sam Davis had eight children that I can account for, that were probably still living when this photo was taken (they lost one child prior to 1910).

The oldest daughter was born about 1901, and I swear, her name on the 1910 census looks to be "Daniel". I haven't been able to find anything else on her to confirm her name, so for now, I'll just refer to her as Danni. :) Second child, Verna, was born 21 Feb 1903. Their third daughter, Della, was born about 1911. I haven't been able to find any more on her, either.

So, I think the women in this photo are Aunt Bettie and her three daughters.

I also have a photo (on the right, there) of Verna Davis and her husband, Lester "Bud" Wright. Perhaps someone with better facial recognition skills can figure out which one is Verna. I think that might be Verna and Bud on Bettie's right, but I'm not certain of that at all. And, of course, it's also possible that any one of them could be a daughter-in-law instead.

Now, the two boys in front are probably Aunt Bettie's youngest sons, John Travis Davis born 1 Aug 1920, and Robert Franklin Davis b. 2 Nov 1917 d. 8 May 1978.
I'm terrible at guessing ages, but I'm going to take a shot anyway, and "guess" that the youngest there is around 10 years old. So if that is John Travis, that would put the year somewhere around 1930. Aunt Bettie and her husband, John Samuel Davis, were probably still living in (or near) Chandler, Henderson County, Texas.

Bettie and Sam's other three sons were George M. Davis, 22 Mar 1906 - 28 Jul 1941; Harry Thomas Davis, 15 Jul 1908 - 2 Jul 1961; and Jack A. Davis born about 1915.

I know I'm straying a bit from the topic, here, but something of interest that I came across while researching this branch was Harry's cause of death. According to his death certificate (free member account at required to view the image), Harry Davis was "Shot four times with .22 rifle, in shoulder above heart and stomach", and "Homicide" was marked on the certificate. I know my family loves the gory details, so I thought I'd go ahead and mention it. Back to the photos.

I have two more photos of Aunt Bettie. This first one was probably taken around the time she and Sam got married, about 1900, likely while they were still living in Comanche County. But it might have been taken later than that.

The one on the right is labeled November 15, 1943. They were living in Chandler in 1940, having moved back after living in Liberty County for a while. So this may have been taken in Chandler.

If anyone needs these photos for their research, or to hang on their "ancestor wall", be sure to click on them first for the full size image.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: Free research sites

As I've mentioned before, I'm still rebuilding this blog after moving it over to blogger to, of course, save a little money. So this morning I worked on putting together a new list of free genealogy and history research sites to slap up on a static page. Yeah, that's the one, up there on the navigation bar under that clutter of photos I'm using as a header image. Well, if you are viewing this on a mobile device, you may have to deal with a dropdown menu. Or just click here.

It will continue to grow as I discover (and rediscover) more. Right now I'm just focusing on the free research sites, rather than other free genealogy tools and such. Mainly because I'm not using any genealogy tools and such right now. I did download PAF, and I've used MyHeritage. But MyHeritage's free version has spacial limitations, and I'm just not interested in rebuilding a tree right now. My computer's folder and file system will suffice.

Suggestions of sites I should add (and use!) are certainly welcome.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Martha Nowell's Confederate widow's pension application

Mattie and Varie
On 15 July 1913, Martha Elizabeth "Mattie" Nowell went to Comanche County Judge J. H. McMillan to apply for a Texas State Confederate widow's pension. We learn some more interesting things from this pension application packet from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Widow's Application for Pension No. 21935
Martha indicates in her application that her husband died ten days prior on 5 July 1913, in Comanche County, Texas, and that they were married on 7 Feb 1867 in Winston County, Mississippi. Also that she is 69 years old, was born in Winston County, Mississippi, and has resided in Texas for about 45 years. She has lived in Comanche County for about 35 years, and her post office address is Comanche, Texas RFD 4.

At the time of submitting the application she didn't know Joseph B. Nowell's regiment during the war, but that wasn't a problem because he already had an accepted pension on file to refer them to. However, she did have to find two witnesses to verify that she was indeed the widow of J. B. Nowell, had not remarried in the ten days since he died, and had lived in Texas continuously since at least March 1, 1880. J. E. Brown and M. L. Brown vouched for her on that.

Joe and Varie Brown family
Now, J. E. Brown may well be Martha's son-in-law, Joel E. Brown, who married daughter Emily Elvira "Varie" Nowell, and lived nearby in Comanche County. I have no idea who M. L. Brown is, but likely one of Varie's in-laws.

The State and County Assessor, M. E. Hall, also had to submit a certificate indicating the assessed value of any land and personal property associated with Martha Nowell, which was, in fact, "Nothing".

So all of this information was submitted in Martha's pension application to George W. Kyser, Commissioner of Pensions. It was filed July 31st, approved September 1st, and "allowed from" December 1st, 1913.

Sam and Bettie Davis
But also on file with Martha's pension application is an Application for Mortuary Warrant submitted by her son-in-law, John S. Davis on April 1, 1926. Sometime after J. B.'s death, Martha went to live with daughter Bettie Frances (Nowell) Davis' family in Henderson County, Texas. She appears in their household on the 1920 census.

Mortuary Warrants, when approved, helped pay all or part of the funeral expenses for a pensioner. While this particular application makes no mention of the requested or approved amount, another Mortuary Warrant attached to the pension file of a different ancestor who died in 1919 indicates that the State would pay up to $30 of the burial expenses.

Mattie with a granddaughter
The mortuary warrant application indicates that Martha E. Nowell died on 15 March, 1926 in the home of J. S. Davis in Chandler, Henderson County, Texas. That he is her son-in-law, and his post office address is Chandler, Texas R 2.

Also attached to the application is a Certificate of Undertaker and Certificate of Physician. Dr. M. M. Moss of Brownsboro, Texas, was of the opinion that Mrs M. E. Nowell's last illness was influenza.

The Certificate of Undertaker is a bit more interesting. It features several crossed out passages from the standard, typed form, replaced with handwritten corrections. If I put the handwritten text in quotation marks, it reads like this:
I, "We Blake Cade & Smith", do certify that I am undertaker "we deal in caskets" in the town of "Chandler" County of "Henderson", State of "Texas", that I had charge of the body of "we sold the casket for Mrs. M. E. Nowell", who died in "near" the town of "Chandler", County of "Henderson", State of "Texas" on the "15th" day of "March" 1926. That said body was prepared for burial by me "friends of deceased" on the "15th" day of  "March", 1926, and that I am of the opinion that warrant herein applied for should be issued to the said "J. S. Davis" who makes the foregoing application.
Well, Family, that's your family history lesson for today. To download the family photos to your computer, click on the image for the original size, right-click and save. If you are on a Mac, well, you can figure it out. ;-)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Amanuensis Monday: J. B. Nowell's Confederate pension application

Joseph Benton Nowell
Martha Elizabeth (Dennis) Nowell
Joseph Benton Nowell applied for a Confederate pension in Comanche County, Texas on 8 Nov 1902. It is pension application number 9443, and was approved on 16 Feb 1903 by Chief Pension Clerk E. A. Bolmes and Comptroller R. M. Love. however, the law at the time stated pensions could only begin on the first day of April or October, so he wouldn't have received his first pension until April 1903.

The Questionnaire
Someone filled in the answers on the questionnaire for him, because J. B. Nowell was illiterate according to most censuses that he appeared on. However, he did sign his own name to the form.

From his answers to the pension application questionnaire, we learn that J. B. Nowell was 60 years old, had lived in Comanche County for 16 years, and his post office address was "P. O. Comanche". Also, that he had been a "bona fida resident citizen" of Texas since at least 1 Jan 1880.

J. B. was working as a farmer, but his answer concerning his physical condition was "Health Poor unable to work but very little" - which I suppose was intended to say that he was able to work, but very little. "Indigestion, Rheumatism & Asthma" are listed as his ailments.

He served 4 years in Company F of the 14th Mississippi Infantry, enlisting in 1861, and discharged in 1865. The only personal property he owned that was of any value was a stove (at least, I think that's what it says) worth $25, and one cow, also worth $25.

Witness Testimonies
Texas Confederate pension applications required two credible witnesses to submit statements under oath to the county judge. Testimonies that appear to have been jotted down by Comanche County Judge W. C. Jackson, but were signed by M. E. Nowell (J.B.'s wife) and W. T. Dennis (his brother-in-law) on 18 Nov 1902, were submitted along with his application.

Bear with me, County Judge Jackson wasn't big on punctuation.

Evidence of W. T. Dennis
"My name is W.T. Dennis I am 64 yr old I live in Brown Co, Texas I have Known the applicant J.B. Nowell about 44 year he and I Joined the Confederate army together and served together all through the war. I Know of my own Knowledge that the statements made by him in the application are true. W. T. Dennis"

Evidence of M. E. Nowell
"I am the wife of the applicant herein I have Known him since about 3 year before commencement of the war, we were Married in Jan 1867 I went to the army camp and saw the applicant herein J.B. Nowell one time while he was in the (illegible) and got letters from him all during the war, and saw him one time during the war while he was at home on a furlow. I saw him when he went off to Join the army and Know of my own personal Knowledge and not Just from hearsay that he Joined the army and performed the duties of soldier. I am 59 year old. M E Nowell"

Affidavit of Physician
An Affidavit of Physician was also included the the pension application, also dated 18 Nov 1902. In it, Dr. J. F. McCarty swore under oath to County Judge W. C. Jackson that he had examined J. B. Nowell and found him to be suffering from "Asthma Rheumatism & dispepsia" (yes, spell check, I know it's dyspepsia, but that is how the doctor spelled it), which rendered him unable to support himself through physical labor.

On the marriage date
In her statement, Martha Elizabeth Nowell says that she married J. B. in January of 1867. In her own widow's pension application, filed after J. B.'s death (I'll be posting the data gleaned from that one probably next Monday), she states their marriage date as 7 Feb 1867. However, the index of Mississippi, Marriages, 1800-1911, at has the date as 06 March 1867. Just thought I'd mention that.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Photos: George Eugene Nowell and Rebecca Ann Joplin

George Eugene Nowell and
Rebecca Ann Joplin
Somewhere in Texas ca. 1895
Click for full size image
Now that I am thinking further ahead concerning family photos, I've decided to begin posting these photos for current and future researchers of these lines to add to their family history research. George and Rebecca had a lot of kids, a lot of grand-kids, and who knows how many great-grand-kids. Statistically, there has to be someone out there who will appreciate these.

So, if you stumbled across this post researching George Eugene Nowell and Rebecca Ann Joplin, feel free to save these images. You don't have to leave a comment or anything, but you are certainly welcome to. Here's some info to help you determine if you have the right Nowell family:

George Eugene Nowell 1875-1949
George was born 9 Apr 1875, probably in Delta County, Texas according to the death certificate of J.D. Nowell. His parents were Joseph Benton Nowell and Martha Elizabeth "Mattie" Dennis. He died in Livingston, Texas on 26 Apr 1949, and was buried in Rockhill Cemetery, in Henderson County on 27 Apr 1949. Here is a link to his memorial.

Rebecca Ann Joplin
Rebecca was born in Tennessee on 18 Mar 1879, to John Joplin and Sarah Ann Douglas (or Douglass). Her mother died when she was young, and John Joplin remarried to Lucretia "Creasy" Choate. Rebecca married George Eugene Nowell on Wednesday, July 4, 1894 in Hillsboro, Hill County, Texas. She died 20 Apr 1962 in Tyler, Smith County, Texas, and was buried in Rockhill Cemetery, Brownsboro, Henderson County, Texas the following day. Here is Rebecca's memorial.

More Photos
Rebecca and Zula

George and Lorraine

George, Oletha and Rebecca

I'm not sure whether or not I can post the newspaper clippings of their obituaries without infringing on the newspaper's copyright (if anyone knows, please comment!), so I will check into that. Rebecca's death certificate is available at, but I haven't been able to locate George's yet.

Thinking further ahead... Family photos

Joseph Benton Nowell and
Martha Elizabeth Dennis
While I'm still in the midst of rebuilding some of the elements I lost when I imported Sifting Through the Past over to Blogger, I have another situation on my hands. Have I been wrongly copyrighting old family photos that I've posted to my blog?

It was a tough decision to make in the first place. I didn't want my family to think I was claiming exclusive rights to use OUR family photos. But I also didn't want OUR family photos ending up being sold by some complete stranger with no rights to the photos whatsoever, just because I chose to share the images on my blog without protecting them in some way.

It all started in November 2012
In preparation for a cruise to the West Caribbean, I decided to learn how to use all those mysterious settings on our digital camera. I wanted to get some awesome photos of places I would likely never see again. And, knowing this would be the first, and possibly last, time I would see blue oceans, I wanted to capture that as accurately as I possibly could.

So I downloaded the camera manual, subscribed to Digital Photography School, and started studying. While I've likely forgotten more than half of what I learned in those few weeks of intensive research, something that stuck with me was a cautionary article at DPS about watermarking your photos, whether you intend to sell them or not. (I can't find the exact article right now because I didn't bookmark it, and I cleared my browser cache at Blogger's suggestion after an error on importing my blog posts... sigh.)

Anyway, the article brought to my attention that there have been people selling other peoples photos on stock photography sites. It stressed the importance of watermarking images uploaded to the internet to prevent such misuse, and got me thinking that perhaps I should be doing this with my blog? But I'm not worrying too much about the blog right now cause we are going on a cruise. I just don't have the time.

Uh oh...
Fast forward, we get back from the cruise. It's early December. I get back to my blog, and realize that I have posted some images that may be infringing on others' rights. Damn, sorry dudes, my bad. I immediately begin editing and "un-publishing" anything and everything I'm not 100% certain of.

Then I start contemplating whether or not I should replace the rest of the images with watermarked versions. Like I said, I don't want family thinking I'm trying to claim exclusive rights. I just want to be responsible with the family photos I post online.

So this is how I talked myself into it
It's not like I'm stamping the original photos, or even the original scans. These are scaled-down-to-a-reasonable-blog-post-size copies. I'm just claiming this one little digital file. Not the multiple other copies out there. Well, it seemed like sound reasoning at the time.

Then Jana Last posts about watermarking photos! Validation! I'm not the only one thinking about this! Others are doing this too. It's normal. It's responsible. It's okay.

But I still want other researchers to know that I'm willing to share the original scanned photos. However, I just can't seem to remember to insert a note to contact me for it every single time I include a family photo in a blog post, especially during that Family History Writing Challenge fiasco! There has to be a better way...

There is a better way
And that better way was proposed by none other than Jana Last herself almost two weeks ago, while I was busy investigating where I could move my blog, keep my domain name, and stop paying for hosting.

Jana's blog post, I've Changed My Mind, reminded me that generations from now, distant cousins may set out on the same journey of ancestor discovery that I myself set out on some five or more years ago. I remember being amazed when I stumbled across photos of one of my great grandmothers as a young woman. And, of course, I immediately saved the images to my computer without a second thought.

Thank you, Patsy Davis, where ever you are, for all of the research you have done, and for sharing every single bit of what you found without reservation. I really appreciate the photos of Prudence Leache, Tench Carson Sammons and Elvira DeShazo. Without all of your hard work, there is so much I may never have known about this branch of my family, simply because I wouldn't have thought to ask.

It'll take some time, but I'll fix this for those who really do need these family photos for their own research, just like I did. And still do.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Transitioning to Blogger, and getting organized

I've decided to save myself $70 a year by moving my blogs over to Blogger. It's been a bumpy ride, but I'm sure it will be worth it in the long run.

The major downside is that, while I managed to keep my original domain name, all of the links to individual posts have changed. And there doesn't appear to be any way to override that.

Another issue is that I lost all of the comments from the original Sifting Through the Past blog due to incompatibilities between Wordpress and Blogger. So, sorry about that to all who commented on posts. I still have the exported files if I ever figure out a way to make it work.

I'm still experimenting with the gadgets to figure out what is actually useful, and which ones are just clutter. Any feedback or tips from other Blogger bloggers (redundant much?) is always appreciated.

In other news...
Though I haven't been posting very frequently, I am working on organizing my genealogy data. I've been toying with spreadsheets in OpenOffice for compiling data into a more user-friendly, at-a-glance type of format, but I'm still in the beginning process.

Mostly I have been writing up transcripts of pension applications and relevant census data for easier referencing per individual ancestor. This is going to take quite some time if the days it took to complete for a single ancestor is any indicator.

Ultimately, I'm shooting for a well-sourced timeline for each ancestor in an effort to make the events in their lives more coherent. There is a lot of troubleshooting involved as I experiment with different methods, but hopefully I will stumble upon a way to make this endeavor much more efficient.
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