Graham, et. al. v. Graham, et. al.

My most intractable genealog­i­cal brick­wall is the parent­age of Rebecca Martha Gra­ham (1831−1880).

Rebecca’s mother Jane Gra­ham (1811−1854) is dis­missed by her brother David Gra­ham (1821−1914) in his “His­tory of Gra­ham Fam­ily” (1899) with the fol­low­ing sen­tence: “Jane, the sec­ond daugh­ter of Joseph Gra­ham, died unmar­ried” (80).

On Google Books, how­ever, I have found doc­u­men­ta­tion for a case that might lead to the miss­ing father of Rebecca Martha Gra­ham. The case is “Gra­ham, et. al. v. Gra­ham, et. al., Decided May 1, 1880, The West Vir­ginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”

As I men­tioned, Rebecca was the daugh­ter of Jane Gra­ham and some unknown para­mour. On 1 Nov 1853, Rebecca mar­ried Henry Lake Miller (1817−1900). Around the time of this mar­riage, Rebecca inher­ited $3,000 from her father (I pre­sume this was mainly land) who died in Missouri.

in 1854, Jane died a vio­lent death, for which her brother James Gra­ham (1813−1889) was put on trial and acquitted.

Lit­i­ga­tion on the Gra­ham v. Gra­ham chancery case began in 1859, and the case did not make its way com­pletely through to the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court of Appeals until 1879, being decided in 1880. Unfor­tu­nately, Rebecca died one month and 11 days after win­ning her judg­ment. She died of dysentery.

But what was the case about? Rebecca Martha Graham’s grand­mother, Rebecca Gra­ham (1786−1876) had received “prop­erty” (land and a slave named Dinah) in the will of her father, James Gra­ham (1741−1813). The rel­e­vant por­tion of the will reads:

I give unto my Daugh­ter Rebeckah Gra­ham and her chil­dren, that plan­ta­tion where she now lives known by the name of Stephen­sons Cab­bin [sic] also I give unto her and her chil­dren my Negro girl named Dinah, the Land and Negro never to be dis­posed of out of the Fam­ily nor the increase of the Negro if any she has.

Because the elder Rebecca Gra­ham was mar­ried, her hus­band Joseph Gra­ham had “own­er­ship” of this prop­erty. After he died, his widow sold the two chil­dren of Dinah (Ira and Stu­art), and the bulk of the remain­ing chil­dren sued for a por­tion of the proceeds.

Whether or not this case yields the name and any par­tic­u­lars about Rebecca Martha Graham’s father, I’m sure it will be a case that reveals a great deal about rural ante­bel­lum West Virginia.

The main reminder here, how­ever, is not to for­get key sources, such as court cases. While not as often used as some other sources, such as vital records or cen­sus records, the records of court cases can be quite revealing.

Dr. Anna Julia Cooper

Dr. Anna Julia Cooper
Dr. Anna Julia Cooper

The cause of free­dom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class — it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”

– Dr. Anna Julia Cooper

At the NGS Fam­ily His­tory Con­fer­ence on Sat­ur­day, I was lucky enough to attend the Wake County luncheon.

The con­fer­ence includes sev­eral oppor­tu­ni­ties to hear speak­ers over lunch for a fee. The fee includes the price of the lunch and also serves as a fund raiser for the orga­ni­za­tion that has put together the event. These are almost always lec­tures, and while the lec­tures are more enter­tain­ing and light than those offered at the rest of the con­fer­ence, they are lec­tures.

The Wake County Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety (of which I am a not-very-active mem­ber) chose to do this dif­fer­ently. Instead of hav­ing one speaker, they had a troup of actors per­form­ing a play tai­lored for the occa­sion. The play was based on the lives of his­tor­i­cal per­son­ages of Wake County. While there were some rough edges to the per­for­mance, with some dropped lines, it was a very pow­er­ful per­for­mance. Espe­cially of note were the por­tray­als of Joel Lane, founder of Raleigh and Dr. Anna Julia Cooper. Of these, the pre­sen­ta­tion of Dr. Cooper was the most affecting.

Dr. Cooper was an edu­ca­tor and writer. She was the fourth African-American woman to receive a doc­tor­ate degree, and did so at the age of 65, shat­ter­ing bar­ri­ers of race, gen­der and age. She was born in slav­ery and lived to the age of 105, dying in 1964. She lived Amer­i­can his­tory from the Civil War to Civil Rights.

To read more about Dr. Cooper, see the Wikipedia arti­cle on her life, or read her most famous book, A Voice from the South on the Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina’s Doc­South web­site.

Image © Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina at Chapel Hill. This work is the prop­erty of the Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by indi­vid­u­als for research, teach­ing and per­sonal use as long as this state­ment of avail­abil­ity is included in the text. Cooper, Anna J., 1892, A Voice from the South, Xenia, Ohio: The Aldine Print­ing House, Doc­u­ment­ing the Amer­i­can South. Uni­ver­sity Library, The Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina at Chapel Hill, 2000, http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/cooper/.

Kindle DX E-Book Reader

Last week, Ama­zon announced the impend­ing release of their third gen­er­a­tion e-book reader, the Kin­dle DX. (See the New York Times arti­cle on the announce­ment.)

The Ama­zon Kin­dle has cre­ated some­what of a sen­sa­tion with what are thought to be “iPod-like” sales num­bers. (Ama­zon has so far suc­ceeded in keep­ing the actual sales num­bers pri­vate.) Ama­zon does say a cou­ple of inter­est­ing things, how­ever, about the num­ber of books that Kin­dle read­ers buy. Accord­ing to Amazon’s fig­ures, pur­chasers of Kin­dle e-book read­ers buy as many tra­di­tional books as they did before, and are sup­ple­ment­ing their pur­chases of books on paper with pur­chases of e-books.

Step­ping away from the hype, the Kin­dle comes in for con­sid­er­able crit­i­cism, mainly around the issue of dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment. Just as with early ver­sions of the Apple iPod, the Ama­zon Kin­dle has been cre­ated with very tight dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment, which lim­its cus­tomers from shar­ing their books with other Kin­dle own­ers, giv­ing their books away after they have read them, donat­ing them to a library, and so on, which are stan­dard ways peo­ple think about books. Not only is a Kin­dle owner pre­vented from down­load­ing and read­ing a Kin­dle book on any Kin­dle they do not per­son­ally own, if Ama­zon ever stopped sup­port­ing the Kin­dle, there is no clear method to allow any­one to read the books they have “invested” in.

There was also some mis­guided flak from the Authors Guild about the com­puter voice that can “read” books to you on a Kin­dle. The nov­el­ist, e-book pro­po­nent, and Kin­dle critic, Cory Doc­torow wrote an illu­mi­nat­ing piece in The Guardian about how wrong-headed the Guild was in oppos­ing the “read-to-me” fea­ture of the Kin­dle (which also exists on every com­puter with a recent ver­sion of Adobe Acro­bat Reader).

But why should geneal­o­gists care?” you might ask. While there are 275,000 titles avail­able, very few of those are specif­i­cally genealog­i­cal in nature. The main mar­ket for the Kin­dle and its read­ers is con­tem­po­rary best-selling fic­tion and non-fiction. While there’s some over­lap there, with some nov­els illus­trat­ing the time peri­ods of our ances­tors’ lives, and some non-fiction best sell­ers being excel­lent vol­umes of his­tory, the con­nec­tion seems tenuous.

The real ben­e­fit for geneal­o­gists in the Kin­dle is that its plat­form is not entirely closed. In addi­tion to read­ing books for­mat­ted for the Kin­dle itself, it can also read books from the pub­lic domain con­verted into Mobipocket for­mat. Tens of thou­sands of these books are avail­able on sev­eral sites includ­ing Gutenberg.org, Manybooks.net and Feedbooks.com. But, since these books are also mainly not of inter­est to geneal­o­gists, a more com­pelling fea­ture of the Kin­dle is that (in its first two ver­sions) it can con­vert PDF and Word doc­u­ments to Kin­dle for­mat. The con­ver­sion is not per­fect, though, and some files sim­ply don’t work.

Kin­dle DX and Geneal­ogy: Here’s where the Kin­dle DX comes in. The Kin­dle DX reads PDF files natively. This means that geneal­o­gists will be able to down­load any PDF file they have access to, whether it’s a pub­lic domain PDF of a local his­tory from the 1890s down­loaded from Google Books or their genealog­i­cal society’s newslet­ter, and take it with them in a device that is about the size of a piece of paper and 1/3 of an inch thick. Since the device has 3.3 GB of stor­age, there’s plenty of room for books. The Kin­dle is nearly instant-on (try that with your Vista lap­top!), and less of a strain on the eyes than a com­puter mon­i­tor because it’s not back­lit. The Kin­dle also allows for easy book­mark­ing, high­light­ing and copy­ing of por­tions of text. It keeps track of where you were the last time you opened any document.

So, you heard it here first, the Kin­dle DX will be an attrac­tive addi­tion to the genealogist’s gad­get bag, lim­ited only by its $489 list price.

Top 10 Genealogy Websites

Today, Randy Seaver posted to his blog Genea-Musings his list of top 10 favorite geneal­ogy web­sites.He men­tions that he’s tak­ing off from a trend we’ve seen on Face­book, of the “5 items I have” known, seen, met, and so on. And, of course, list mak­ing is a long and hon­ored tradition.

With­out too much fur­ther ram­bling, I’ll share my own top 10 list of geneal­ogy sites.

This list, like any “best of” list will change from day to day. What it looks like today will cer­tainly not be iden­ti­cal to how it would look tomor­row or would have looked last week. All the rel­e­vant list caveats apply. So, here goes:

  1. Ancestry.com ($, por­tions free) (includ­ing rootsweb.ancestry.com ) — The amount of data here is vast. As are the tools, from their geneal­ogy soft­ware, Fam­i­lyTreeMaker, to DNA research.
  2. Footnote.com ($, por­tions free) — The folks at Foot­note sim­ply under­stand Web 2.0 and pro­vide some­thing between Ances­try, Flickr, and Face­book. Mean­while, their part­ner­ship with the National Archives con­tin­ues to reap rewards for users of the site.
  3. FindAGrave.com (free, with a dona­tion model) — This site is weirdly com­pelling. It’s a pow­er­ful way to gather data, with the vast major­ity of infor­ma­tion con­tributed by “care­tak­ers” of the fam­ily records, and yet these adding up to viru­tal graveyards.
  4. FamilySearch.org (free) — An amaz­ing and ambi­tious por­tal into LDS records and geneal­ogy tools.
  5. Steve Morse’s One-Step Web­site (free) — I find the search algo­rithms here very help­ful to break through prob­lems where I don’t know enough to search a site directly (or don’t know what par­tic­u­lar mis­spelling is in my way). Steve’s site runs mul­ti­ple searches behind the scenes so that you don’t have to do them all in a man­ual fashion.
  6. EOGN — Eastman’s Online Geneal­ogy Newslet­ter ($, por­tions free) — Dick East­man inhab­its the cen­ter of the space where geneal­ogy and tech­nol­ogy inter­sect. If you’re inter­ested in that over­lap, and you hap­pen not to have seen this blog, you really ought to take a look. East­man keeps me up-to-date on tech­nol­ogy I can use in genealogy.
  7. GNIS (free) — The USGS Geo­graph­i­cal Names Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem. This is very handy for find­ing out the loca­tion of streams, churches, and so on. If it was ever listed on a US Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey map as a fea­ture or place, it’s in this database.
  8. Linkpendium.com (free) — This is a locale-based list­ing of avail­able sites. I find it help­ful to look here when I start work­ing in a new county or state. The site helps me find location-specific online resources I might not find any other way.
  9. WorldVitalRecords.com — Like Ances­try, this is a great site, full of pow­er­ful databases.
  10. GenealogyBank.com ($, por­tions free) — I’m really impressed with how the folks at Geneal­o­gy­Bank do sim­ple things. For exam­ple, their free Secu­rity Death Index results you the birth and death dates, just as many other sites do, but they also cal­cu­late the age at death. Addi­tion­ally, they use the “Last Res­i­dence” zip code to pro­vide lat/long data you can use to quickly map the location.

But I’d be inter­ested in know­ing what’s on your list, and learn­ing about new sites that will end up being on my list next time I com­pile one.