Puzzling out Ray Shearer

It seems odd to me that while I’m able to trace my family back on dozens of lines more than 400 years, my own patrilineal great-grandfather—my father’s father’s father—is nearly a complete mystery to me. I would normally begin an exploration of his life by saying that his name was Ray Shearer, but even that is a bit of a mystery. While many people called him Ray, more often than not, he referred to himself as Zyionyi Ray Shearer. As with many of my difficult-to-research ancestors, I keep setting aside his information, waiting for some hint or help to emerge, as they so often do.

And so it was with Ray. Just this past week I got an unexpected letter from my cousin Peggy R., who’s a cousin on my Shearer side. Her great-grandmother was Ray Shearer’s mother—Mary Belle (Coddington) Shearer Stokes. Peggy’s grandmother was Ray’s younger half-sister, Zealia Faye Stokes, and Zealia apparently was very interested in preserving family stories and history, and she passed much of this on to Peggy.

Today’s post could not have been written without Peggy’s help. Thank you, Peggy! Continue reading

A lost history, found

GeorgeWBailey1Lately I’ve been spending a couple of hours each weekend day reorganizing our family history archives. In the yet-to-be-organized portion of the archives, I’ve got a dozen large, plastic storage boxes, each of which holds hundreds of papers, photos, mementos, and other items judged at some point as worthy of being preserved.

One of these boxes is filled with memories and keepsakes from my great-great-aunt Dorothy Mary (“Dot”) Bailey and her husband Clarence Humphrey Bailey. You may know Dot as the young girl pictured at the center of my site’s header photo. Dot and Clarence were distant relations (third cousins; although they apparently didn’t know this when they met) and had the same last name before marriage, so I can’t be sure whether Dot adopted Clarence’s “Bailey” surname according to tradition, or whether she was an independent maverick who bucked tradition and kept her own “Bailey” surname.

I was lucky enough to have known them both as a child and to have known Dot until I was a young man in college. They were incredibly thoughtful, gentle, intelligent, and modest people, but for whatever reason, they never had children. My grandmother, Dorothy McMurry Black, their niece, was like a daughter to them and she was their sole heir. Their tangible memories have now passed to me, and I’m making my way through them.

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The Prettyman boys in school with their uncle

img001One of the pleasant fringe benefits of writing this blog is hearing from distant relatives (nearly all of whom I’ve never before met) who are also interested in family history. Almost without exception, both I and the newly met relatives come away from these correspondences having learned something new about our shared history.

My second cousin twice removed, Lorraine, first commented on my blog two months ago, and since then we’ve exchanged dozens of emails. She’s the one who made me realize that I must have made a mistake in my Horan pedigree, as her grandfather (Arthur Horan) was the brother of my great-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Horan. The Horan family I had pieced together didn’t have an Arthur Horan, which made me dig deeper and ultimately uncover a case of mistaken identity (my second case of two people with the same name, born at nearly the same time in the same geographic area, with a parent of the same name).

One of the things that Lorraine shared with me is this wonderful school photograph of her grandfather Arthur Horan and three of his nephews—Roy Alfred Prettyman, George Irvin Prettyman, and Charles Austin Prettyman.

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Why Nampa?

map-idaho-nampaThis is a post that’s been sitting on the back shelf for over a year, as I’ve been hoping to uncover more details before posting the story. I’ve made some headway, but not as much as I’d like, so I’m putting this post out there today in hopes that some McMurry or Chilson relative will be able to fill in some of the missing details.

I recently learned that my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black, lived in Nampa, Idaho, when she was very young. She never mentioned this to me while she was alive, and I had never heard about her or her parents living in Idaho before. I knew that her grandfather, Arthur Webster McMurry in Nampa, Idado, on November 17, 1917, after moving there in December, 1916. Arthur’s daughter (and my grandmother’s aunt) Maud “May” Belle (McMurry) Jeglum was living a few miles south in Bowmont at the time of the 1920 census, having moved there with her husband and three children at some point after 1914.

The evidence for my grandmother having lived in Nampa comes from two sources. First is this short mention published on page 6 of the Friday, December 20, 1918, edition of the Olympia Daily Recorder:

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Who were the Horans?

When I was in my early teens and starting to get interested in family history (thanks, Roots!), my grandfather Bill Prettyman told me what he knew about his ancestors. He told me that his grandfather was Alfred Minus Prettyman and that his grandmother was Mary Ann Horan. With those words, I learned of my great-great-grandparents for the first time.

Since then, I’ve learned much about Alfred Minus/Minos Prettyman and his ancestry, tracing the Prettyman line back to my 18th-great-grandfather John Prettyman, who lived in Bacton, Suffolk County, England in 1361, the location of the Prettyman ancestral home, Bacton Manor (the most recent iteration of the Manor House dates to the late 1500s).

Mary Ann Horan and her ancestry have proven quite a bit more difficult. I could find information about Mary once she had married Alfred Prettyman (for instance, the 1885 census—see image below—that was taken almost 6 months after their December 1, 1884, wedding), but information about her before she was married proved very difficult to come by.

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Mystery photo #4: Fort Collins child

Mystery ChildI found this photo in a collection of photos that I believe once belonged to my great-aunt and great-uncle, Dorothy (“Dot”) Mary Bailey (1896–1987) and Clarence Humphrey Bailey (1895–1982). These photos would have passed to my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry (1917–1997) upon the death of Dorothy Bailey (Dorothy McMurry’s maternal aunt). Upon my grandmother’s death, they passed to my father, and he generously let me have them a few years ago.

The photo in question is a cabinet card image of what appears to be a young girl, aged one to two years old I would guess, dressed in a white gown and black boots and standing on a wicker chair. The photo was taken in Fort Collins, Colorado, by a photographer named Seckner. My initial ballpark estimate is that it dates to 1880–1900.

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A little boy and his big dog

Raymond McDonaldI’ve got several labor-intensive posts in the works, but I figured that I needed (and my readers might like) a bit of a break from long posts. Plus, I’m feeling like I need to pay some attention to some neglected branches on our family tree.

It is in that spirit that I present today’s brief post, about a curious photo that I scanned while I was in Minnesota almost exactly a year ago (Wadena, how I miss you!). Gordy and Geri Askew and their family kindly let me borrow their collection of older photos for a week to examine and scan.

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Luke McMurry didn’t move alone

Until recently, I had assumed that my 3rd-great-grandfather, Luke Robinson McMurry, was the only sibling of his family to migrate to Washington from the family’s home in Kentucky. I also assumed that Luke left Kentucky for Indiana on his own, as a young man. I recently learned that both of these assumptions were wrong. Luke appears to have been less of a maverick and remained closer to his birth family than I had imagined.

I don’t know why I thought that Luke broke with his family and moved north and then west on his his own, but that appears to not be the case. From the record of his siblings’ birthdates and places, it appears that Luke’s entire family migrated about 225 miles north when Luke was only 6–9 years old, moving from southern central Kentucky (Allen County, KY) to eastern central Indiana (Montgomery County, IN) by the time of the birth of his youngest sibling, Sarah Margaret McMurry, on January 22, 1835. I’ll look into evidence for an earlier family migration to Indiana in this post.

As for whether Luke and his immediate family ventured to Washington Territory on their own or with a larger group of family members, I recently visited Washington State’s Southwest Regional Archives facility and went through their old land grant indexes to help work out local land ownership details for our family. In their Grantor Indexes (handwritten indexes to real estate sales, organized by seller), I found an entry that documented a sale of land in January 1892 by Luke’s eldest brother, Isaac McMurry. The deed that was indexed gave the names of Isaac’s wife and daughter, confirming that this Isaac McMurry was indeed Luke’s brother. Later in this post, I’ll see what else I can learn about Luke’s brother joining him in Washington.

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Francis Gores (1826–1899)

Prussia_1854_thaler_Sincona_4-04335At the age of 27, in the spring of 1854, my 3rd-great-grandfather, Francis “Frank” Gores (born Franciscus Gores), left his native homeland in the Kingdom of Prussia (or Königreich Preußen) with two of his siblings—Johann, aged 29, and Maria, aged 25. Francis was noted to be a farmer, and his brother Johann was recorded as being a butcher. They were leaving Schönecken, a small market town in Rhenish Prussia (in what is now the Rhineland-Palatinate on the western edge of Germany), home to the Gores family for many generations prior to them.

The village of Schönecken is located in the valley of the Nims river, which meanders through the hilly landscape of the Rhineland-Palatinate. The 400-million-year-old sandstone bedrock that forms the hills produces rich soils for agriculture. The population today is essentially the same as it was in 1854—about 1500 people.

I do not yet know why the three siblings decided to give up their lives in Europe and head to the United States, but one contributing factor may have been the famine that struck much of Europe due to repeated crop failures that began in 1846–1847, most notably potato rot. Land prices were also rising at a pace that exceeded the profitability of farming the land; if a farmer sold his land, however, he could easily afford to relocate his entire family to the United States.

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Alfred Wharton Prettyman (1823–1892)

My 3rd-great-grandfather, Alfred Wharton Prettyman, was the man responsible for bringing the Prettyman family to Minnesota. I haven’t yet written a post about Alfred W. Prettyman, so this will be an overview of his life, to be built upon in future posts.

By the time of Alfred’s birth, seven generations of his Prettyman ancestors had lived their lives on the Delmarva peninsula. The immigrant John Prettyman moved to the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in 1643 (he actually immigrated from England a few years earlier, first settling on the the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay 1638, in St. Mary’s, Maryland). While the immigrant John died in the Virginia portion of the Delmarva peninsula, his son John and his descendants have lived in and around Sussex County, Delaware, ever since. In fact, this year marks 370 years that Prettymans have lived in Delaware, and 375 years that Prettymans have been in North America.

Alfred Wharton Prettyman was born in Georgetown, Sussex County, Delaware, on December 1, 1823, to Robert Prettyman (1800–1863) and Elizabeth (Pepper) Prettyman (1803–1837). While Alfred would be the last Prettyman of his line to be born in Delaware, it was actually Alfred’s father, Robert Prettyman, who first broke tradition and departed the Prettyman’s ancestral stomping grounds in Delaware for the wilds of West Virginia (then just the western portion of Virginia). According to Edgar Cannon Prettyman’s 1968 work, The Prettyman Family in England and America, 1361–1968, Robert lived most of his life in Woodsfield, Ohio. Woodsfield is just about 15 miles to the west of the Ohio River and the West Virginia border.

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