Saturday, April 16, 2011

Genealogical Travel Trips are Great - Part One

J. Mark Lowe
I'm spending the weekend in Gadsden Alabama for the North East Alabama Genealogical Society Swapmeet to benefit the Nichols Memorial Library. On Thursday, the Library was open late, so I checked into my hotel by the Coosa River and stopped by the Library. There were several folks there researching and many of the great NEAGS volunteers who always make me feel so welcome. As I sat down at a table to begin research, the discussion turned to DNA and before I knew it, we were having an impromptu basic DNA presentation.
Friday morning began with a visit to my cousin, Jimmy Martin. Jimmy is the Grandson of Beckham and Kate Morris Martin of Warren Co KY. We usually visit at the Martin Family Reunion in Smiths Grove KY in July. I've always enjoyed our conversations and when Jimmy heard I was going to be in Gadsden - He invited me over.
Jimmy and his wife, Kris, live just outside Gadsden not too far east of the Coosa River. He gives wonderful directions and I drove right to their home. Jimmy was waiting for me. I am about 20 years older than Jimmy, so my knowledge of his older family members interests him. His Grandfather, Beckham, was one of the best storytellers in the family. Jimmy's Dad, Jimmie, always seemed so much like Uncle Beck and had a big personality himself. This younger Jimmy has that same contagious grin and laughter and seems to have been blessed with the storytelling gift himself.
Thanks to an earlier discussion with Jimmy, I found the pension record I mentioned in my earlier post. I sat down on the sofa and looked through the old pictures Jimmy had layed out. The only thing genealogists like better than old pictures is gravestones. There were many wonderful pictures of the family some old, some new.
In a few minutes, Kris came home. Jimmy asked her about the pictures she had used earlier in the week for a Scout presentation. Kris handed Jimmy an envelope. He pulled out an interesting tintype of an older African-American gentleman. He explained that Kris' parents found it at an antique shop. Unfortunately, there was no identification or even location. He pulled another photograph of a family out of the envelope and handed it to me. The lady in this photograph reminded me of my Lowe Great-Grandmother. When I flipped the picture over, the words on the back said Jim Martin's family. This was a photograph of my Great-Grandfather, Great-Grandmother and their oldest children, including my Grandmother. I had never viewed this photograph before. The resemblance is even more interesting because my Lowe Great-Grandmother and Martin Great-Grandmother were first cousins. I made a photograph of this picture and promised Jimmy to identify all of the children in order.
Kris had brought in some Bar-B-Q from Dad's in Gadsden for our lunch. What a great choice, the three of us had a great visit and discussed their sons - who are wonderful BTW. As we finished our conversation and Bar-B-Q sandwiches, a phone call told them schools were dismissing early because of the approaching storms. I realized I was late for the Library and headed back to Gadsden. Visiting with Kris and Jimmy was just like family visits should be. I felt like was I back in Kentucky visiting with my Martin family and sharing the same stories I heard growing up.
Friday afternoon was filled with one-on-one consultations with patrons of the Nichols Memorial Library before a presentation on my favorite online resources. Heavy rains and winds kept a few people home, but fortunately the major storm bypassed us.
Feeling a bit weary and feel some rest will give me enough energy to share the rest of the weekend, some great genealogical tips, and maybe the picture Jimmy shared. We all worked at Keeping the Story Alive by sharing the stories of our families.
Read Rosemary Jones Hyatt blog for the North East Alabama Genealogical Society.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Even Perfect Genealogists Miss Records

This photograph was taken at Granny Martin's house in Edmonson Co. Kentucky. My Dad, Joseph Wyatt Lowe, is marked with a blue square and the other square is above his Grandmother - Granny Martin - Clara Black Smith Martin.

J. Mark Lowe
Although I don't define myself as a 'Perfect Genealogist,' I do teach across the country sharing my experience as a Professional Researcher. It is only fair to share this new discovery of a record regarding my family, which seems so obvious to me now.
Let's talk about my beginning years. My genealogical search began when I was 7 years old. My family had just left a Martin Family Reunion in Smiths Grove, Kentucky. As soon as we drove away from the reunion, I began asking my Dad about that other Lowe family who attended the reunion - Who are they? How are they related to us?
He explained that they were related to us on the Martin side of our family and the Lowe side of our family. As a 7-year-old this was not clear to me, so I continued to quiz Dad. It was a hot July afternoon and we were packed like sardines in the car, but my Dad made a left turn and then a right turn and then a left turn. He stopped the car and hopped out. I quickly climbed into the seat and hopped out with him. We were in a cemetery.
We stood at the foot of the gravestone of my Dad's Martin grandparents. 'This is my Grandmother. We called her Granny Martin, he name was Clara Smith Martin." He told me other stories about her, and I remembered seeing some pictures of Granny Martin. Next to Granny Martin was buried her husband, James Wyatt Martin. My Dad told me that he was named for his Grandfather Martin (Wyatt) and his Great Grandfather Lowe (Joseph) - he also told me that Papa Martin died about 5 years before he was born. I had heard my Dad tell me many stories about Granny Martin and her family. My Dad was born at Granny Martin's house on the hill in Rocky Hill Station in Edmonson County. (and many that I don't have time to recollect here.)
Going back to the cemetery -->
My Dad pointed to the stones in the next row by his Grandparents. This is Rebecca James Martin, we called her Aunt Jim. She was Granny's sister and married Uncle Mike Martin. In the next row, is Martha Margaret Ann Gilmore Potter Smith Martin. She was Granny's and Aunt Jim's mother and married Uncle John Martin. So you see, a Mom and her two daughters married three brothers.
This 7-year-old needed more information and a genealogist was hatched.
I have so much documentation on Granny Martin and her family, I have original land documents, mortgages, cards, letters, etc. With the beginning of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, a cousin asked me about our Civil War Ancestors. I knew that Granny Martin's father, Moses M. Smith, served in the Union Army. He died when she was a young girl and is buried in Berea Christian Church cemetery in Polkville. However, I had never looked for a pension for Moses M. Smith, since he died a young man and his widow remarried in a reasonable time after his death. I decided to do a search for Moses M. Smith in the new records offered on the Civil War. Within the list of available records there was a listing in "Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934." Suddenly, I realized he had a young daughter living at this time - my GGrandmother Clara Smith. The pension index card indicated an application for a minor was filed in 1883 and the Guardian was F.M. Hardcastle. I knew that Mr. Hardcastle was married to Clara's Mother's sister (Aunt). This Moses M. Smith served in the 52d Kentucky Mounted Infantry.
Remember this index is titled by NARA as "General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. T288" As a good researcher, read the appropriate finding aids and explanations.
I now have a new record to review about my Great-Grandmother Clara Smith Martin and hopefully her father. This is a testament to a regular review of your previous genealogical research. A review may prompt a search in an additional area or encourage further research in a focused area. In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, is offering free access to these records.
I'm still learning about my family and enjoy sharing the stories my Dad told me along the way. Consider a review of your research, focusing on the Civil War era. Are there additional records that will shed light on your Ancestors? Whatever your choice, tell their stories and keep their story alive. I'm doing my part.

J. Mark Lowe
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