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Friday, May 11, 2018

Road Trips and Ancestry

On a recent road trip to visit family in Virginia, traveling from St. Louis, Missouri, and heading east on I-64, I decided to research the counties we would be driving through to identify which of our ancestors might have lived in those locations. We had fun reading about our ancestors and the locales. I'm sharing the following because I thought it might give others some inspiration as well -- why not invite your ancestors along on your travels?

In Washington County, Illinois, our 2nd great-grandfather John William Frederick was listed with his parents and siblings in the 1860 census for Richview. John was age 11 at the time and had been born in Pennsylvania. His father Valentine Frederick had emigrated from Germany and was working as a saloonkeeper in Richview.

Perry County, Indiana, was the home of our 5th great-grandfather Henry Rhodes (who had been born in Kentucky, just across the Ohio River), his wife Elizabeth Barnes, and their seven children. Their son Thomas married Monica Alvey before moving to Missouri. Both Henry and Elizabeth died in 1863.

As we drove through Shelby County, Kentucky, we read about our 4th great-grandparents Mary Guthrie and Jacob Bilderback. Mary had been born about 1760 in County Cork, Ireland, immigrating with her parents, and married Jacob about 1786 in Kentucky. They had at least five children and it was their granddaughter Rebecca who, in 1854 in Indiana, married our 2nd great-grandfather Robert Tribble.

It was in Cabell County, West Virginia, that our 4th great-grandparents James Lemay and Nancy Hughart were married. Nancy's great-grandfather had emigrated from Ulster, Ireland (he was Scots-Irish) and one of Lemay's ancestors had emigrated from France early in the 18th Century (Pierre was likely a French Huguenot). In Greenbrier County, West Virginia, family tradition provides a wonderful tale about our 6th great-grandmother Ann Morris Maddy Parsons (our ancestors are from her first marriage to James Maddy). Seems she was a tough and independent woman, and, during one trip across the mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, Ann was accosted by a man intent upon stealing her money. However, she turned the tables on him and sent him over a cliff ... the same one he was going to toss her over after stealing her money. It is also said that, "in later years she went by the name of Granny Parsons. She was a midwife and a practical nurse, and was always perfectly fearless, riding a big black stallion, going on her errands of helpfulness at all hours. People in the scattered settlements of those days, hearing the thunder of flying hoofs in the dark hours of the night would say, 'there goes Granny Parsons to help someone in trouble.'" She is said to have lived to the age of 104.

Then, of course, there's Virginia. Like many Americans, we have a lot of ancestors who arrived first in Virginia before eventually migrating across the continent. For instance, in Augusta County, our 5th great-grandfather Captain Gilbert Christian (of Scots-Irish descent) had three sons who were prominent in the early community and the family received a 1,600 acre grand in 1739. In Albemarle County, we have our 6th great-grandfather John Small who emigrated from Scotland in 1724. Then, in Goochland County, we find our 6th great-grandparents John Salmons and Naomi DePriest, the descendants of early 17th Century immigrants (from England, Ireland, and France).

Our family imagined and talked about what the journeys for our various ancestors might have been like, too; after all, they were venturing into wilderness whereas we had a paved highway. We traveled in two days the distance that would have taken them weeks if not months. Can you imagine?!

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