This post is about a man who was either part of our family or was close to our family, but I don’t know exactly who he is. I have at least eight photos of him (one additional photo is uncertain), and nothing is written on any of these to help identify him. I’m hoping that someone reading this recognizes this man or has additional photos of him, perhaps even some that may yield clues as to his identify.
About five or six years ago, my mother gave me an 8 x 10 print of a group of poor but spirited children standing in front of what I assumed was their house. The print appeared to be a fairly modern one (I’d guess it was made within the last 40–50 years), and there was no information written or printed on the back. I had never seen the photo before, and my mother said she thought it was probably family, although she didn’t know who the children were.
About two decades ago, my aunt and uncle made modern prints of some older family photos, so I thought perhaps they made this print and would know more about the identities of the children who were pictured. When shown the photo, however, my uncle said he had never seen it before.
I scanned this photo over two years ago, and since then, I’ve shown the image to most every family member I’ve visited. No one has so far recognized the photo or known the identities of the children in the photo, although some similarities were seen between my paternal grandmother and the girl on the viewer’s right, and my maternal great-grandmother and the oldest girl at the top center (neither of whom met the other until my parents got engaged).
In part 1 of this series, I explored the available evidence for clues as to where William McMurry and his family settled on the Cow Pasture River in what is now western Virginia in the late 1750s to early 1770s (and probably beyond). I ended that post with an uncertainty as to how to interpret the surveyors’ bearings on three of William McMurry’s land patents.
The surveyors used the metes and bounds method of describing parcels of land, in which the perimeter of the parcel is described using distances and directions. To express direction, the surveyors had used statements such as “south eighty eight degrees west,” and every way I interpreted those bearings resulted in an unclosed polygon. To proceed, I had to first figure out how the surveyors had intended those bearings to be read.
In looking for insight, I found a great body of research called Genealogy of the Berry and Associated Families, by Jim Jackson and Carol Vass (last revised November 11, 2013). In it, they show how such bearings should be interpreted, and they present several worked examples of parcel reconstruction. With this help, I learned that bearings such as “south eighty eight degrees west” were meant to be read as 88° west of due south. Below is an illustration I made to help make these older style of bearings more understandable: Continue reading