Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Levels of 'Heart' Connection

As I pondered the content for this particular post in relation to what I hope to achieve with this blog I asked myself 'where does my paternal great grandmother fit into my research experience?' These were my thoughts:
Meet my great grandmother
Mary E. Turner Barnett

 ·        She is a distant figure

When I say she is a distant figure, I mean that my level of 'heart' connection is minimal. I define a 'heart' connection as feeling a personal relationship to someone which I believe can exist even if you only 'knew' them through family stories. And while coming from a family that during my growing up years was full of family stories, hers were minimal.

·        Her era fascinates me

Mary was born abt 1845 and lived her entire life in the Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia.

She was a young girl at the time of the civil war which leads me to wonder if the fighting came close to our ancestral home. The closest battle I have found reference to was the battle at the New River Bridge so I'm sure the news of that was very real to her.

Several of her brothers were members of the confederate army and the family story goes that my great grandfather, Robert, met her through them and returned after the war and they were married.

Our family connection also contains a letter written by a civil war soldier to an unnamed woman which is attributed to Robert and Mary. The romantic in me wants this to be true but the author's name does not appear either.

No matter if it is authentic to our family or not it remains a thrill to have the original letter of a civil war soldier which was penned at least 150 years ago.
·      What was her relationship with my grandfather at the time he moved out of state?

That would be their story to tell and one which we may never know the answer to. He had gotten into a situation that would have been a matter of honor during that time and this may not have sat well with a mother.

That's not to say their relationship was irreparable. He stayed in touch with his family through the years.

 ·        The family resemblance is amazing

One thing the family was aware of was her auburn hair which also appears in our family today. My father was always amused that her hair was auburn and she lived in Auburn, VA.

And the family resemblance to my aunts and uncles is amazing.

 ·        How old was she when she died?

Had I gotten into serious family research sooner I may have ask the right person for that answer but as it stands it has become a 'brick wall'. She appears in the census records through 1920.

·        And just what was her middle name anyway

Elizabeth, Eliza, Ellen???

The census, and her marriage license and marriage certificate are officially Mary E.. In the family collection there is an original handwritten bill of sale in which the seller lists her as Mary Eliza. A typed family tree put together by her grandson lists her as Mary Ellen.

The bill of sale is also in our family collection and was written in November 2,1855 in which, at the age of about 10, she traded a yoke of oxen for a white mare.

·        Did she have a son, George W. who died as a small child?

The 1880 census, lists a son, George W., age 1 (1879?). He does not appear again. The 1900 census lists a son, McCorkel, birth year 1879. Family members knew this son and his full name was James Arthur McCorkle 'Babe'.

It doesn't seem these two sons would have been twins since James does not appear in the earlier census. The mystery is they both appear to have been born the same year.

Mary and Robert were married in 1867 and went on to have seven or possibly eight children. She was widowed after 21 years of marriage. Her second daughter, first son and youngest son homesteaded to Oregon in the early 1900s. My grandfather moved to Pennsylvania in 1901. Her first daughter and other two sons remained in Virginia.

So, is Mary E. an integral part of my research experience? Yes. She is proof that 'heart' connections are possible. Just composing this entry has brought her even closer.
sidenote: Typing this has now  inspired me to dig further for that death date and middle name. The family researchers out there will relate to this I'm sure.


  1. This is so interesting. I enjoy reading historical fiction about the era of my great-great grandparents who were born in 1850, exactly 100 years before I was born.

  2. Thank you for stopping by. This blog is a recent endeavor and still in its infancy. My research spans from pre revolution to the present but I am always drawn to the ancestors from this era.

  3. It's always fun to research our family lines..I have a cousin that LOVES doing it and so I don't have to. lol
    Thanks so much for wishing Mr. Sweet a Happy Birthday.

  4. I always enjoy reading and learning that so any people (more so it seems in the past few years) are interested enough to do the research and learn so much more about their ancestors.

    We have one cousin who is more "into it" than others. But, I will say that as a 73 year old woman, I've met a few but not many, whose grandparents were born in l873 on both sides of my parentage. My maternal grandmother though was the only one I met and was close too as the others passed away earlier. She lived to l04 l/2 and one of hers son lo 105 1/2. Mom was the youngest; my grandmother gave birth to her when she was 45 (the 8th birth) and my grandfather passed when Mom was only five.

    I'm sorry - I got a little carried away. But, it's nice to meet you!


  5. I enjoy reading other family history blogs- for one thing, it reassures me that I am not the only one who has this terrific obsession..LOL...but also to encourage myself to dig deeper into my own ancestor's lives for the little bits and pieces that flesh out their time here on earth. I understand what you mean by heart connections. Have a super day!

  6. This is so interesting. My brother went back in our family history and found names till in the 1600 ds.

  7. Interesting story, you know where she lives so where was her local church, could be records there or even a grave.