One day last week, I came home to an email which said I needed to moderate a comment on my blog. It was a comment left by Mark Subel, the chief digital officer of, informing me that my blog, FamilyHeirlooms had been selected as a must read for up and coming genealogy blogs. Talk about feeling amazed and honored!

I’ve always loved to write and when I started my genealogy blog, it was really just a venue for me to write the stories of the ancestors I discovered in my daily family history search. Truth be told, they don’t even have to be my ancestors. I often write stories on a headstone that “speaks” to me as I walk through cemeteries or search for “lost” family Bibles and photographs which have identifying info on them and then research the names I come across in the hopes of reuniting the lost artifact with family once again and I’ve been very lucky to have been able to reconnect lost family treasures with their rightful families.

I’ve never considered that my blog might be something that other people would enjoy reading, but I am blessed and grateful to know that there are people, other than my family and friends, who enjoy my stories.

Thank you to for the shout out and support and thank you to my followers for coming with me as I navigate throughout history, discovering one ancestor at a time.




TOMBSTONE TUESDAY: Family means you’re never alone

COCKRELL_HughMurry_1904_2Whenever I’m stressed, I like to walk in cemeteries to help calm myself and today was a beautiful day for it.

Today, I found myself walking through Salem Associate Reformed Presbyterian Cemetery located in Atoka, Tennessee. I decided to walk to the furthest corner to see who was there, but on the way I stumbled upon a little headstone, lying on the ground and all alone. The stone will certainly be lost to the effects of nature within a few years, if not returned to a standing position.

COCKRELL_HughMurry_1904The stone I discovered marks the final resting place of little Hugh Murry Cockrell who’s life was just beginning when he died on March 28, 1904. It saddened me to see him all alone, with no parents or other relatives buried next to him and it made me want to know more about Hugh and his family. Where were his parents and why weren’t they buried next to him? Did they move away from the area after he died?

Hugh Murry Cockrell was the first born of Bryant Thomas Cockrell and Margaret E. Morrison and was born on Oct. 16, 1898 in Tipton County, Tenn. His father moved to Tipton County with his family when he was just a boy, and it is where he met his mother.

Bryant Thomas Cockrell was born Aug. 1, 1873 in Kentucky, the son of Thomas E.S. Cockrell and Sallie Tipton. His father was born in Kentucky about 1838 and his mother, in Kentucky on Dec. 8, 1848.

The 1880 federal census finds the Cockrell family living in Brighton, Tipton County, TN. Thomas, 42 was a general mechanic and Sallie, 28 was a house wife, busily taking care of Bryant, 7 and his older sister Mary C. who was 10 at the time.

Hugh’s mother, Margaret E. Morrison was the daughter of Hugh and Ellen L. Morrison. She was born in Tipton County, Tennessee in December 1872. Hugh Morrison was the son of Irish immigrants, Chestnut and Margaret Morrison, and was born in South Carolina in May 1848 and died Oct. 4, 1914. Her mother, Ellen, was born in Mississippi on Oct 29, 1844 and died on Feb. 12, 1875, when Margaret or Maggie, as she was better known as, was just two years old. She died four days after giving birth to her sister who later died in September of that year.


The 1880 federal census for Monroe, Mississippi, Arkansas lists Hugh Morrison, 32 and his young daughter Maggie, 8, living with the Guyne family as borders where her father worked as a farmer.

The Morrison family eventually found their way back to Tipton County where Maggie met and married B.T. Cockrell on Dec. 29, 1897. The young couple was blessed with the birth of their son Hugh Murry, a short ten months later.

The young family, along with little Hugh, is located on the 1900 federal census, living with Maggie’s father at Carson Lake in Troy Township, Mississippi, Arkansas. Bryant, 27, is a farm laborer, working along side with his father-in-law.

A daughter soon joins the family and she is named Flossie Ellen. She shares her name with her father’s youngest sister and her maternal grandmother, and she was born on March 5, 1901 in Tipton County, Tenn. But, like her mother suffered before her, she too loses her mama before the age of two. Maggie dies the following year at the age of 29 on Aug. 7, 1902. Bryant is just 29 when he becomes a widower with a young daughter and son, just a couple of years older than his father-in-law was when he became a widower.

Approximately 18 months later, tragedy strikes the family again when young Hugh Murry passes away at the age of 5 on March 28, 1904. The pain must have been unbearable for the young father to bear for it seems he vanishes for a time being. The 1910 federal census shows an 8-year-old Flossie living with her paternal grandmother Sallie and her new husband, Robert R. Mitchell, in Justice Precinct 3, Cherokee, Texas without her father.

But by the age of 18, Flossie has been reunited with her father and is now living with him and her grandmother, who is once again widowed, in Tipton County, Tenn. In 1920, Bryant is 47 and doesn’t appear to have ever remarried. He is employed as an automobile machinist, which seems he has followed in his father’s footsteps. His mother, Sallie, is 71 and keeps house. Sometime, after 1920, Flossie marries Leonard Thomas Abraham and has a son, whom they name Leonard Thomas, Jr.

Hugh’s father, Bryant Thomas Cockrell died on Nov. 15, 1953 in Shelby County, Tenn., and was buried in Salem alongside his mother. His sister Flossie Ellen Cockrell Abraham died on Dec. 24, 1963 and is also buried in Salem, along with her husband and son. His grandfather whom he was named after, Hugh Morrison, died on Oct. 4, 1914 and is also resting in Salem, as well as his grandmother Ellen and his great-grandparents, Chestnut and Margaret Morrison, who died in 1902 and 1904, respectively.

When I stumbled upon little Hugh’s headstone I was sad to think he was spending eternity all alone. There are no family stones next to him, but after learning whom his family is, I find he is not alone and has never been. For in Salem ARP Cemetery, he has his parents, sister, and his maternal and paternal grandparents, great-grandparents, not to mention uncles, aunties and cousins all at rest within the same hollowed grounds. Although his time on earth was cut too short and he was unable to leave his mark, I have to believe his family has done that for him, for with family, alone is something little Huge will never be.

Age ain’t nothing but a number

This weekend’s research brought to light that many of our ancestors lied or committed “age fabrication” when filling out documents, especially on marriage certificates or military enlistment papers. And it wasn’t the simple or honest mistakes we often find on census forms when census takers write down or hear the wrong year, or even the ancestor’s lack of knowledge of his or her own true age.

It was outright falsehoods… well, at least from my people.

Now, I realize people have lied or misrepresented their age for centuries. They either claim they are older than they truly are, perhaps making them old enough to participate in a particular event, such as a marriage or participation in military service.  Or they shave a few years off of their lives, hoping to fit in the environment they’re trying to be a part of. Maybe an older widow is marrying a younger man and doesn’t want people to know she is older. Or an older gentleman lists his age years younger than he actually is when wooing the hand of a much younger female while trying to impress his suitability to her father.

MARR_BREEDEN_Rebecca_RUDISELL_Oris_1933The marriage certificate of my great aunt Rebecca Mae Breeden reflects her age as 19 when she married Oris Edward Rudisell on Oct. 25, 1930 in Cambridge City, Wayne, Indiana, listing her birthday as March 13, 1911.  But, in all actuality, Rebecca was just 15 years old when she married her 21 year-old groom – her true birthday being March 13, 1914.

Marriagecert_ThaddeusGUARD_WintersMy great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Winters stated on her marriage certificate to my great grandfather Thaddeus Clifford Guard, that she was 18 when they married on May 16, 1907 in Cleves, Hamilton, Ohio. Her real birthdate of June 3, 1890 proves she was only 16 at the time of her marriage.

Both of these family members lied so they could get married without having to wait several years to come of age. Pretty harmless I imagine, although, I’m not sure what their parents thought about the life-changing fibs.

And these are just a couple of my inventive ancestors.

But, I also learned this weekend that sometimes people lie about their age to reinvent themselves. I was helping a fellow researcher track down her wayward grandfather, who apparently abandoned his family just a few years and a couple of children after his 1921 marriage to her 19 year-old grandmother in Canada. Her mother is now 94 and would like to know what happened to her father or at least, where he is buried before she dies.

Unfortunately, a quick search revealed that her father, most likely, abandoned a previous family in the United Kingdom and then perhaps, did the same thing to her family. His marriage certificate to his Canadian wife reported that he was a 41 year-old engineer, had been born in Montreal and had never been married. But a Canadian passenger list has him entering Canada as a married 41 year-old engineer, arriving in Toronto in 1911 from Bristol, England. It also says he was born in Ireland and not Montreal. She’s positive this is the same man, and I believe so as well, given his name and occupation, but the trail is cold after the marriage. The wife and children are living with the wife’s parents and the husband has vanished.

I wonder if the young wife ever learned that her husband was in fact, a married 50 year-old Irishman? Did he head back to England or Ireland to be with his other family, or did he move on and start another one?

Why would someone claim to be 10 years younger than they really were? Did our ancestors believe even back then, that people were treated better or worse due to their age? Did they purposely change their age, their status, their residency to knowingly abscond from their obligations? Did they really not know how old they really were? Were they just really poor record keepers?

It was all of the above and more.

Misrepresentation is definitely not a 21st century phenomenon and it will not end with the next century. People do what they feel they need to do to reach whatever point in life they feel they need to be at. Even if it means flubbing a few numbers.

Friday’s Faces From the Past: Searching for a lost child


Cabinet death card of a young childI came across this beautiful cabinet card in a local antique shop and was drawn to it. The picture is of a beautiful child who apparently died at a young age and his parents had a mourning card made. I could make out a very faint name written on the back – Robert – and I wondered if this was young Robert with the adorable curl on top of his head. I felt compelled to take him home. He didn’t belong in a cold antique shop among hundreds of  nameless lost ancestors. I wanted to find out more about him.

Upon closer examination, I discovered a very, very faint last name… Horne. The front of the picture has the name Forney and Bedford, Iowa which told me that the photographer of the picture was Forney and the picture was taken in Bedford, Iowa so I started searching for…

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Tombstone Tuesday: Weep not for her

Several years ago, six to be honest, I found myself in the community of Jaffrey, New Hampshire, attending the funeral of my mother-in-law. After the service, my family and I headed back to my brother-in-law’s home so my husband could visit with his brother for a while. On the way to his home I noticed a very old looking cemetery, and as one who never passes up the chance to explore God’s acre, I went for a walk to locate the ancient burying ground, while the men were talking,

Most people, having just attended a funeral, would have had enough of being in the land of the dead, but I find cemeteries calm me. I am more relaxed walking up and down the rows of lost loved ones. There are no sounds, save those of nature. I enjoy reading the names, the epitaphs and trying to figure the age of those who have passed. I wonder what their lives held for them and why death found them when it did. Did they have dreams and ambitions? Did they achieve their goals? Did they have a good life, or was it one of pain and suffering?

It pains me to see graves of obvious neglect, ones long forgotten. Why weren’t they remembered by their families? Was there no one left to mourn or did the knowledge of their life pass on as their body did with the passing of generations. I, especially, dislike seeing the tiny headstones of children, believing them to be beautiful souls whose light must have been too bright to endure the darkness of our world.

Miss Lucy Lathrop was born about Nov. 1815 and died March 24, 1836 in Jaffrey, NH

Miss Lucy Lathrop was born about Nov. 1815 and died March 24, 1836 in Jaffrey, NH

The cemetery I found that day is called the Village Cemetery, and according to its entry on Find-A-Grave, is sometimes referred to as the Baptist Cemetery and was established about 1829 on the land once owned by Oliver Bacon in east Jaffery. On this day, as I walked up and down the rows of tombstones that had been standing for more than a century, I stumbled onto the final resting place of Miss Lucy Lathrop. Remembered with a beautifully ornate stone, Miss Lucy was just 20 years and five months old when she died on March 24, 1836.

The stone’s engraving is evident of how much an impact her sudden departure had on others. Inscribed on the stone for all to see was, “This monument of respect was purchase by the female friends of the deceased, and erected, sacred to her memory.” The poem at the bottom reads, “Weep not for her! – She was far too fair. Too pure to dwell on this guilt-tainted earth; the sinless glory, and the golden air of Zion, seamed [sic] to claim her from her birth. A spirit wander’d from its native zone, which, soon discovering, took her for its own. Weep not for her!”

The marker left to sum up her short 20 years was not purchased by her family, but by her friends. 

This leads to so many unanswered questions. Where was her family? Why didn’t they erect a monument in her memory? Did she have family in New Hampshire? Was she an immigrant looking for a better life, leaving her family in the old country? What about her personality, her friendship, her goodness, resonated so deeply within her friends, that they joined together, pooling their resources to remember their friend in this manner?


New Hampshire, Death and Disinterment Records, 1754-1947 for Lucy Lathrop.

A quick search on the Internet pulls up very little for Miss Lucy Lathrop, except for a New Hampshire Death and Disinterment Record established 70 years after her death. Besides the surprising date of when the death record was written, it also records her father as John Farwell, which causes one to ask, was Lathrop then, a married name?

But then why, would her friends purchase a stone and inscribe it with the words Miss Lucy Lathrop? And what did they know in 1906 when her death and disinterment record was established, that wasn’t known in 1836 when she was buried?

We may never discover the truth about who Miss Lucy Lathrop was, but the marker erected by her friends in her honor will ensure her memory lives on.

Weep not for her!


Finding the missing link

My week at the Family History Library is coming to an end and I feel like I’ve just experienced the grande finale… Today, I broke through two brick walls that have been haunting me for the past ten years.

The first, was discovering the names of my great grandmother’s parents. My great grandmother, Mary Brown Mello, was born about 1877 in the Azores and died in Bermuda on May 1, 1962. It has bugged me for years that her name was listed as Mary Brown. I knew that was not her birth name, but no one was left alive who knew the truth. My auntie Carol, her grand daughter, told me she vaguely remembered her mother telling her it was something like Baum or Braun, but I had never been able to pinpoint what it was actually.

I needed the correct maiden name, because without it, I had no idea of who her parents were.  Out of 16 great great grandparents, I had located all of them except for her parents.

Today, I discovered the last of my great great grandparents.

Antonio de Mello & Maria de Brum on their wedding day.

Antonio de Mello & Maria de Brum on their wedding day.

A few years ago, I came across a wedding photo of my great grandparents taken by a photographer in New Bedford, Mass. I remember that surprising me, because I had only known of them living in the Azores or Bermuda. It even had a date, Sept. 9, 1885, but that still wasn’t enough information to locate the marriage record – looking for Antonio Mello is like looking for Joe Smith and it seemed everyone named their daughter Maria.

But today… today was different. Today, I found my answers. Today, I discovered the elusive marriage record of Maria de Brum and Antonio de Mello, married on Sept. 9, 1885 in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

The marriage record of Antonio de Mello and Maria de Brum

The marriage record of Antonio de Mello and Maria de Brum

And the best part?

It listed the parents for both, the bride and groom, and validating, I had the right couple.

Francisco  & Rosa Emilia de Mello  Francisco & Izabel de la Brum

Francisco & Rosa Emilia de Mello
Francisco & Izabel de la Brum

Today, I discovered the names of my last remaining great great grandparents – Franisco and Izabel de Brum and my family is more complete.

Wednesday’s Child – Papa’s Baby



Today, I visited the remnants of an old plantation home located in the Town of Stanton in Haywood County, Tennessee. The site used to be the old home place of Joseph and Lucy Stanton, founders of the town. It is not the original home, as that was burnt down and a smaller home built in its place. Time has been rather kind to the home in the regard that it is still standing but it is evident that the home had not been lived in for many years.

Natural has begun to encroach upon the foundation of the home. Critters, various plants and trees have broken through the barrier long ago designated between nature and man. It is evident that the home was once a modest, yet grandeur home of the times, complete with a front porch that must have seen its share of visitors and family members, relaxing and…

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