Mom Takes Another Roadtrip……

…to Halifax, Virginia! (Cue the music…On the road again…)

Halifax County, VA Courthouse

Halifax County, VA Courthouse

The Halifax County, VA courthouse is perhaps my favorite place to research!

I checked in at the front desk where a very nice worker inquired if I had done research at the courthouse before.  When I informed her that I had, she said, “Help yourself.” I proceeded into the record room where floor to ceiling records awaited me.  And yes, I did help myself.  I also had extra help this trip- thanks, Mom and Dad!

This trip to the Halifax County courthouse was focused on Elliott family research.  While my ancestor King Elliott (~1792-1838) lived in Mecklenburg County, VA, his presumed brother Augustine Elliott was found in Halifax County for a brief time.  There were also many Elliotts living in Halifax County in the early 1800’s.  They lived in the Aaron’s Creek area where the creek serves as the county line between Halifax and Mecklenburg Counties.  When my previous trip to the Mecklenburg County courthouse turned up very little on my Elliotts, Halifax County was the logical next step in the research plan.

Negative evidence was in abundance for my research plan as well as a few clues:

  • Many Elliotts were found, but King and Augustine Elliott did not appear to associate with the Halifax County Elliotts – at least not in the legal system.
  • In the 1830’s Augustine Elliott was found in debt to Robert Y Overby of Mecklenburg County.
  • The Elliott, King and Overby families lived close together and associated with each other.
  • Mr Martin – the genealogy researcher (expert!) at the courthouse on Thursdays and Fridays – told me many Halifax County surnames are found in Person and Caswell Counties, NC. Don’t forget those North Carolina border counties!

This week I am sifting through the information I gathered at the courthouse and generating new research plans for the King Elliott line.

Note: If you plan on researching at the Halifax County courthouse, be sure and go on a Thursday or Friday when their genealogy rearcher Mr Martin is there.  Also, the chancery records for Halifax County, VA are currently in Richmond being digitized.  I look forward to being able to search these records online!


While the Children are Away…..

Danville, VA Post Office

Danville, VA Post Office

…Mom takes a road trip (or two!).

I love getting away from my computer to research genealogy! While I love researching with my computer, it’s nice to get away and talk to real people.

Last week I headed up to Danville, VA.  In the Danville public library the Virginia-North Carolina Piedmont  Genealogical Society has its research room.  Their resources include books and records pertaining to the southern Virginia and neighboring NC counties.  I wasn’t after “official” records on this trip, I was after something a little different.

I was particularly interested in the society’s vertical files and family histories.  Vertical files can contain just about anything:

  • Earlier researchers notes
  • Family Bibles
  • bits of oral history
  • Histories of small communities and/or churches

You see, I am at the point in my research on both the Haley and Elliott lines where I have hit brick walls.  (Surely one of these will crumble soon – I hope.)  I was hoping to find clues in the vertical files to generate my next research plan for one or both of these family lines.

Was I successful?

Yes and no.

No new information came to light on my Haley family. (Sigh…)

I found a lot of information on the Elliott family of Halifax County, VA.  The Virginia Elliotts are a popular family with researchers. Not as much information was found on the NC Elliotts even though the families are geographically not that far apart.  In all likelihood , they are related on some level. The Halifax County background information was particularly helpful when I later placed it alongside the “official” Elliott records. Unfortunately,I did not find anything on my King Elliott line. (Another sigh….)

While from a research viewpoint, the trip was only mildly successful, getting to know another repository and its available resources was a valuable experience.

Note:  If you want to use the resource room of the Virginia-North Carolina Piedmont Genealogical Society, be sure and check their available resources and hours here.


From Unknown to Known

Thanks to an Elliott cousin one of the unknown photographs has been identified.  (Thanks, Cynthia!)

Mary Elizabeth Scott

Mary Elizabeth “Bettie” Scott


Mary Elizabeth “Bettie” Scott was the daughter of Robert Moore Scott and Susan Watkins Edwards of Clarksville, Virginia.  She was born 12 Jan 1834 and died 05 Jan 1912.  Mary Elizabeth married Campbell Barnett (1827-1907) of Roxboro, North Carolina.

I have no direct relationship to Bettie Scott Barnett.  However, my great great grandmother Hattie Elliott’s sister Cynthia Elliott married a Sam Barnett of the Barnett family.

Fellow researchers, pass this along to other southern Virginia researchers and/or Scott family researchers.  It just may help in someone get past a genealogical brick wall.

How Would You Spell……?

I mentioned in yesterday’s post the difficulty I sometimes have in transcribing my ancestors’ correspondence.  Much of the writing I transcribe is from the early 1900’s, and many of my ancestors were had just the basic education.  Deciphering the men’s handwriting and spellings has been particularly difficult at times. Just as I have gotten to know my ancestors and their friends through their writing, I have also gotten to know their handwriting.  That is the point where transcription moves from frustrating to fun!

I thought I would share some of the more unusual spellings I have come across so far in my project.

bin = been

youal = you all

heare = here or hear

amagun = imagine

feal = feel

thank = think

ant = ain’t

chirch = church

As you  can see, the words make perfect sense when pronounced phonetically. I hope this gives you a new way of looking at your ancestor’s handwriting!


Tuesday’s Tip – My Best Transcription Tip

Old letters and postcards in my ancestor’s handwriting are enough to keep this genealogist happy for a long time!

1912 Postcard from Howard Roberts To Esther Richardson

1912 Postcard from Howard Roberts To Esther Richardson

I am progressing well toward my goal of transcribing my great grandmother’s correspondence.  There is a lot of it and I admit to feeling a little cross eyed after spending too much time reading the 100 year old handwriting. Most of the letters are written in pencil and fading. That is one of the reasons I feel an urgency to transcribe the correspondence.  Of course, I want to glean as much information from them as I can.

Transcription is not always easy. Faded writing, poor handwriting and misspellings all tend to slow down the process.

What is the one thing I do that helps me the most?

I read the letter out loud – as many times as necessary.

Here’s an example:

The word “youal”  appears frequently in the writings of my southern Virginia ancestors. In some cases the “y” resembles a “z”.  For the longest time I was not sure what it meant. Reading the letters out loud I realized the word should be  pronounced “you all”. My ancestors spelled phonetically if not always correctly.

Another thing that helped me in the case of my southern Virginia ancestors is that I am familiar with the accent of that area.  It is not that different from the NC accent.

So, whether transcribing a lot of personal correspondence or a sinlge document, read it out loud. I think you’ll find this helps!

*I am participating in the daily blogging prompt Tuesday’s Tip over at

She Left Him Hanging…

…and waiting for an answer.

Boss Talbott - 1914

Boss Talbott – 1914

This spring I set a goal for myself.  I planned to finish transcribing Esther Richardson Talbott’s correspondence.  It is a daunting task to be sure.  There is a lot of it.

But wow!  The things I have learned!  The impressions of people I’ve formed.  This is not information found in the official records genealogists usually research. (After reading Esther’s letters, who needs reality TV?!)

It was June of 1914 and Boss Talbott was nervous.  Boss was in love.  In a letter dated May 18, 1914 he had declared his love for Esther Richardson of News Ferry, Va.  Three weeks later in this excerpt Boss’s June 10th letter, more is revealed:

Well Esther

you just cant amagun [imagine]

how I feal about what

I asked you and you

said you could not

tell me. Well it feals

to me like my heart

is broken now

    Well if you never

due concent and tell

me all ways rember

this I all ways wanted you

to make a change

in life and you never

would with me.

(Hint: When reading Boss’s letter, think phonetics.  Boss spelled many words phonetically, but not necessarily correctly.)

It would appear that Boss asked Esther a “big” question.  Did he ask her to be his girl? Did he propose? In an effort to keep himself in her mind, Boss included the above photograph of himself.

Boss’s letter does not provide us with his question – only Esther’s answer.  Well, lack of answer.

Esther left Boss with a broken heart and waiting  for an answer.

As I work my way through transcribing Boss’s letters,  it has become clear that Boss would wait many months for the answer to his question.

The good news? The story of Esther Richardson and Boss Talbott does have a happy ending.  They were married in November of 1915.


King Elliott

Excerpt from Elliott Family Bible

***I am re-posting this post with updates from further research.****

King Elliott of Mecklenburg County, VA was my GGGG grandfather.  [ My grandfather Crafton Talbott>Esther Lee Richardson>Harriett Elliott>Elias Elliott>King Elliott]

King. Isn’t that a great name?

Little is known about the life of King Elliott including the identification of his parents.  The general consensus of researchers online places his birth around 1800.  This information is largely unsourced.  Piecing together the information from the census records of 1820 and 1830 as well as the Elliott family Bible, King’s birth date is more likely to be between 1790-1796.

The 1862 Halifax County, VA court records involving the estate of King’s son Ransom Elliott (d. 1862) help to sort of the relationship between King’s children.

King Elliott had two wives.  According to the court records Mary Elliott and Eliza Pulliam “were the half sisters of Ransome Elliotte being the children of his father by a former marriage and not the children of his mother Elizabeth Elliott”. King’s first wife is not known.  There is thought this first marriage also produced a son James Elliott (b. 1810-1818).  However, beyond his name little is known about this James Elliott.  The same court documents  state that James Elliott in 1862 had been “apart from this state for many years – more than 7 years”.

King’s second wife was Elizabeth LNU.  Their marriage was likely prior to the  1819 birth of their first child Ransom.  Other children born to this couple were Harriet Elliott (Lucy A H Elliott) b. ~1823, Dorothy Elliott b. ~1827 and Elias Elliott b. Nov 1831.

King Elliott appears to have lived in Mecklenburg County, VA all of his adult life. The transcribed Bible record above states he died in Oct 1831 just one month prior to the birth of his son Elias. That is incorrect. (Don’t believe everything you read!)  While attempting to track King and associated Elliotts through the records year by year (literally), I discovered King Elliott paying personal property taxes in Mecklenburg County, VA through 1838.  In 1839 his widow Elizabeth began paying the tax. That leads to the conclusion that King did not die in 1831, but in 1838 (or possibly early 1839).

The King Elliott family was not a wealthy family.   No record of land ownership or slave ownership has been found. King never paid personal property taxes on more than one white male and one horse at a time.  This Elliott family lived among other Elliotts during the 1820’s and 1830’s in Mecklenburg County, VA.  Augustine Elliott was a frequently listed neighbor and most researchers believe he was King’s brother. In the 1820’s Greenville Elliott was found in Mecklenburg County, VA as well. He, too, was likely a brother to Augustine and King, however, this has not been confirmed at this time. (Greenville “Green” Elliott migrated to Tennessee.)

Researching King Elliott and determining his parentage is proving to be a daunting task.  Theory abounds.  Proof does not.   I anticipate  more court house research trips (my favorite kind of research).  Many descendants lived and still live in or close to the Halifax County line and close to  the NC/VA line. I expect I will continue to need to cross county and state lines in my search for the Elliotts.  Fortunately, I’m not alone in the task.  My Elliott cousin Cynthia is working on King as well. (Hi, Cynthia.) I’m looking forward to the task.


Review: Saving Memories Forever

Family history is so much more than just names and dates.  Don’t get me wrong. I like researching the names and associated dates of my ancestors.

But I want more.  I want the rest of the story.  I am fortunate to have a rich oral family history and have the older generations to share those stories.

Saving Memories Forever helps me do just that.

SMF Logo

Saving Memories Forever is a subscription website that allows the user to record family stories and store  those stories on the website.  Both a free and a premium subscription are available.  See the details of each here.

The website with the associated app for my smart phone (available for the iphone or android phone) allows me to record my family’s stories.  The process is simple.  I created an account on the Saving Memories Forever website and then downloaded the app to my phone. I then followed the prompts on my phone to begin recording stories.  Once done, I then uploaded the recorded stories to the website.  I also have the option to share the stories with other if I wish.

While recovering from my recent ankle surgery, I tried out Saving Memories Forever.  I interviewed myself and found the whole process quite fun.  I was a little intimidated at first with interviewing myself, but I quickly got over that and just had fun. The provided story prompts had me thinking about things and events I had not thought about in quite some time.



I see a number of applications for  Saving Memories Forever.

  • I love having the app on my phone as I visit relatives in the coming months. I’ll be ready for an interview even during impromptu visits.
  • The app will be great at family reunions. Have a quiet place set aside and have brief interviews with the relatives.
  • This app is perfect for children and teens to use while interviewing relatives. Facilitating family relationships and communication skills will be  win-win for everyone.

Click over to the Saving Memories Forever website and check it out.  I think you will be glad you did.

Disclosure: I did receive a complimentary premium subscription to Saving Memories Forever.  However, the opinions above are solely my own.




This Might Slow Me Down Just A Bit

crutchesMy genealogy research might be slowed just a  bit in the next few weeks.  A little ankle surgery, a few weeks to recover and I should be back on the trail of those ancestors.  I’m already planning my next research trip – maybe two!

A Southern Gentleman’s Birthday


Lester Howard

James Lester Howard 

Today would have been the 98th birthday of James Lester Howard – my grandfather.  The son of Mattie Maddox and Connie Howard the story of his life is rich and long. I have previously written about Granddaddy here, here and here.

But beyond the facts and dates, did you know Granddaddy was:

  • The Caretaker –  Granddaddy was the oldest of four children.  He lost his mother at a young age and from that point on, became a caretaker.  He looked after his siblings  throughout their lives staying in close contact even in the adult years.  As a father he took care “his girls”.  As a grandfather and great grandfather he instilled a sense of family in the younger generations.  A favorite memory is the walk through his rose garden after dinner.  Another favorite memory is watching the interaction between Granddaddy and his great grandchildren during a fishing trip.
  • A Southern Gentleman – One of my cousins remembers Granddaddy as a true southern gentleman.  Yes, he most definitely was.
  • A Special One – When I meet the older generation of cousins for the first time, I typically introduce myself and add that I’m Lester’s granddaughter. (This helps them place me in the family tree.)  On one such occasion, I introduced myself to my grandfather’s first cousin.  Her face softened and with a smile she simply stated “He was a special one.”  That he was.


Did I mention he was indulgent when it came to the grandchildren?

 Happy Birthday, Granddaddy!

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