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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Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 3

P1000926In part one and part two of this post, I introduced and discussed a trio of oil paintings that I had last seen back in the 1990s. These paintings were reportedly done by my great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller McMurry, who died near Carlisle, Arkansas, on February 6, 1876, when she was only 47 years old. I was told by my first cousin twice removed, Art McMurry, the owner of the paintings at that time, that they were painted by Elizabeth while she and her husband were traveling west by wagon. If that were indeed the case, then these canvases would have been painted at some point between Elizabeth and Luke’s marriage in 1851 and Elizabeth’s death in 1876.

Last month I traveled to Olympia, Washington, to see my father and do some family history research. Thanks to the help of my cousin Crystal (Art’s great-granddaughter), a fellow family historian, I was able to locate and visit two of the three paintings. These two—the pastoral scene and the still life with flowers—were in the home of Crystal’s grandmother Carole (Art’s daughter). The last time I had viewed the paintings, the rain had prevented me from being able to take good photos of the paintings. For the five days I had been in Washington before meeting with Crystal and Carole, the weather had been mild and clear. On the day I was to meet Crystal and drive out to her grandmother’s house, the sky opened up and we had torrential rain as well as thunder and lightening; even the locals were surprised by the volume of the downpour.

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Minnesota, here I come!

I’ve planned, I’ve prepared, I’ve packed, and in just an hour, my wife and I will board our redeye flight from SFO to Minneapolis/Saint Paul. It’s the first trip to Minnesota for either of us, and for me it’s a realization of a decades-long desire to visit the ancestral stomping grounds of my maternal line.

I’ve prepared for a week of interviews, family history research, exploration, discovery and documenting all of the above. I’ve packed a digital camera, a digital video camera, a mini tripod, a voice-recording pen, a flat-bed scanner, a laptop computer, a mobile hotspot, white cotton gloves, and archival polyester sleeves. Now if I only had a crew to operate all of this while I conduct my interviews!

Family history research trip to the Wadena area of Minnesota, part 1

My wife and I have just returned from a 10-day vacation to celebrate our 5th anniversary (hence the drought of posts of late). When we returned, I was greeted by a few responses to letters I sent out before our departure. One of these was from a relative I’ve longed to meet in person—my half great-great uncle, Gordy Askew. Gordy has a wealth of knowledge (first-hand and otherwise) about the Askew branch of my family. After all, he’s the son of my great-great grandfather!

I’ve wanted to visit Wadena and to talk with him for years, but over the years I’ve either been too busy or too poor to seriously contemplate a pilgrimage to Wadena. But the time has finally come, and I’m planning my trip. The trip will last a little over a week, and I’ll be going in about seven weeks—in November, 2012. I thought I’d share some of the details of planning such a trip, for others who might themselves be interested in undertaking such a trip to ancestral haunts. To maximize the results of such a trip, some amount of forethought and planning is required. I’ll have one week there, and I want to make the most of it. Continue reading