William McMurry’s Cow Pasture River home, part 2

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

The McMurrys head to Kentucky

cumberland-gap-tennesseMy recent post about the reconstructed migration route of the McMurrys from Kentucky to Indiana (Armchair Highway Archaeology) got me thinking—how might the McMurry family have gotten to Kentucky in the first place?

The five surviving children of my 6th-great-grandparents, William McMurry (ca 1725–1798) and Agnes(?) (1730–after 1772), were said to have travelled to Kentucky together around 1787–1788: John (1752–1832), James (1760–1832), Thomas (1765–1829), Jane (1767–1835), and Robert (1772–1812). What would have been the most direct available route from the McMurry’s home(s) in Fincastle, Augusta (now Botetourt) County, Virginia, to their new homes in central and southern Kentucky? Kentucky in the late 1700s had far fewer choices in terms of routes, so I decided to start there and work my way back to Virginia.

The Wilderness Road was the primary means of entry into Kentucky. As a result of his pioneering exploration of central Kentucky beginning in 1769, Daniel Boone had determined the best route into Kentucky. This route started at the Anderson Blockhouse (see photo below) on the Holston River, just east of Big Moccasin Gap. The Wilderness Road crossed into southern Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap, a mountain pass through the Cumberland Mountains region of the Appalachian Mountains.

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Martha Syndé, part 1

Martha Syndé (born Martha Nilsdatter Hilme) is my 5th great grandmother (on my McMurry/Bailey side). She was born in September, 1784, in Aurdal, Valdres district, Oppland county, Norway. She was one of at least two children born to Nils Jørgensen Ringsåker (1753–1830) and his wife Ingebord Olsdatter Ulnes (1751–?), the other known child being her older brother Jørgen (“Jørn”) Nilson, born in August, 1778.

Martha eventually lived to be 85 years old, she had 40 grandchildren, she sailed to the United States when she was 65, and she was the matriarch of large Norwegian-American family whose descendants did, and still do, appreciate this remarkable woman, born almost 230 years ago.

Given her stature in her family, and the fact that she lived well into the age of photography, dying on September 13, 1869, I would expect that there were several photos taken of her. Despite that, I know of no surviving photographs of Martha Syndé. To those cousins who may be reading this, please let me know if you know of, or have, a photograph of Martha.

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