I’d Like to Meet

Probably the most exciting #52ancestors prompt yet! The way I got all giddy upon reading this prompt reminded me just what a genealogy nerd I am. I have always been very curious about people and what different time periods where like so I thought it might be challenging to narrow down just one ancestor to write about for this topic. It was far easier then I had originally thought to narrow it down. I knew without question that if I had to choose just one ancestor it would be Cordelia May Bayles.

Cordelia is my three times great grandmother. She was born on Wednesday May 23, 1877 in Chillicothe, Missouri. Her parents where James Wesley Bayles and Permelia May Holcomb. For years I knew nothing about her family line. What I knew about her was that she holds a most special place in my grandmothers heart.
I have always been very close with my paternal grandmother, Pat. I spent a lot of time with her as a child and often asked her to tell me stories about her childhood or to tell me what her grandma was like. I heard many stories about her grandmother Mawie (Frances Tanner), but when she talked about her great grandma Tanner there was something different in her eyes. I knew even then that Cordie must be a very special woman if my gram held her to such a high standard.

5 generations- Seated is 89 year old Elva Loomis (Cordelia’s mother in law), Standing left to right- Cordelia Bayles, her daughter Frances Tanner, Frances’ daughter Elaine Maxey, and Elaine’s infant daughter (my grandmother) Patricia Fitzgerald. The photo was taken in 1942.

My gram told me that grandma Tanner (Cordie as I have always called her) lived with them through most of her childhood. She was the glue that quietly turned the cogs of the household, ensuring that everyone was always cared for. She was the cook, she did the cleaning, and she did the caring. I am told she was the strong quiet kind, but always a soft place to fall. My gram knew that Cordie’s husband had died fairly young and she never remarried. When I asked about Cordie’s family my gram told me she really didn’t know anything about them. Cordie was private and really didn’t share much about her early life. The one thing my gram knew was that Cordie had told her she was an orphan, her parents had died when she was a young girl. She told a story about having only one much older sister who came and took her from an orphanage. Unfortunately she wasn’t kind to Cordie, treating her more like the “help” or a nanny/servant for the household. My gram and I had many conversations about how sad that must of been for Cordie and my grandma desperately wanted to know what had happened to Cordie’s family to leave her all alone with no one to care about or love her. This became my mission and I never would have guessed what I would uncover!
For years Cordelia’s story remained a mystery as I had very little information to help me find her as a minor in her families care. What I did know was that Cordelia married Ralph Sylvester Tanner on July 1, 1899 in Livingston County, Missouri. Cordie and Ralph spent the first few years of their married life living with Ralph’s parents, Francis “Frank” Tanner and Elva Loomis.

In 1900 Cordelia and Ralph welcomed their first child, a daughter. Elva Vinita Tanner was born October 25, 1900. Ralph was working as a machine agent and Cordie, like most women of that time was a homemaker. By 1904 when Cordelia and Ralph had their second and final child, they had moved to Oklahoma. My great grandmother Frances Cordelia Tanner was born on February 13, 1904 in Cheyenne Oklahoma. Cordie and Ralph had followed Ralph’s parents to Cheyenne and bought neighboring farms. By all accounts the families were doing very well farming the land in Oklahoma. The Tanner farm eventually had an oil well drilled on it and the family hoped they would make it big.
For reasons I do not know Ralph sold the farm between 1910 and 1920, moving Cordie and the girls to Rock, Oklahoma. On the 1920 US Federal Census he was working as a commercial salesman. Cordelia and both girls were working for a telephone company. By the time the 1930 census rolls around the family is living in yet another location. This time they are in Littlefield, Texas. Ralph was listed as a veterinarian physician. Cordie and Ralph were also caring for their daughter Frances’ three young children at this time. The photo on the left shows Ralph with Cordie seated on the porch and his mother Elva standing on the steps. My gram said that the family told her Ralph had become an addict. As a veterinarian he would have had easy access to things like ether, laudanum, morphine among other things.

Cordelia May Bayles Tanner in the center with her daughters, Frances on the left and Elva on the right.

Just two weeks after Cordie and Ralph arrived in Los Angeles, California Cordie’s life would change forever. Ralph passed away due to heart complications. I have often wondered if his supposed addiction played a role in his death considering he was only 55 years old? This left Cordelia widowed and in a new location thus she resided with her daughter Frances and helped care for her grandchildren. in the next few years she would become a great grandmother and continue her role as caretaker to the children. She did this until she passed away at the age of 83 on September 13, 1960 in Norwalk, California. I had learned a lot about Cordelia’s life, but nothing before she married. The answers to my grams questions remained a mystery. I had started to think that these were questions that may not have answers documented on the pages of history. One night I had a dream and I woke up knowing that I was about to find the answers.

It started with a Federal Census record. Finally I had found the 1880 census that showed Cordie living with her parents. I was so excited! I was also bewildered, who were the five other children living in the house? Cordelia only had one sister and she was much, much older… Or so she had said. I was now learning that Cordie hadn’t been exactly honest when she shared her childhood story with my gram. As I was putting the puzzle pieces together it was very obvious that Cordie came from a pretty big family. She was the second to the youngest of six children born to James Bayles and Permelia Holcomb.

This was taken from the 1880 US Federal Census. The family had been documented as Boyls instead of Bayles. We can see that James was a farmer while his wife tended to the home. His two oldest sons Stephen and Francis worked the farm with him while daughters Mary and Bernice attended school. Cordelia and her younger sister Nettie were still to young to go to school.

I was able to confirm that Permelia, Cordie’s mother contracted pneumonia and succumbed to her illness on March 22, 1887 at the age of 49. Her death record shows that she was a widow, which substantiated what Cordelia had told my gram. I have been unable to find an official record, but it would appear as though James passed away in 1886. Cordie was not yet 10 years old and both of her parents were gone, but she was not alone. At the time Permelia passed away Stephen was 23, Francis was 20, Mary was 16, Bernice was 13, Cordie was 9 (almost 10), and Nettie was 7. I was able to find a probate index that showed the three younger (Bernice, Cordie, and Nettie) girls in the care of one Z.B. Myers. Unfortunately the Missouri State Archives have informed me that they are unable to locate the case file so I don’t have any details. Shortly after Permelia passed, Cordie’s brother Francis (who went by Frank) moved back to Chillicothe from Oklahoma and raised the girls. Because the 1890 Federal Census was destroyed there is a 20 year gap in documentation of families in the US.

Frank Bayles is pictured in this early 1900’s newspaper photo. Frank worked as a police officer and fire fighter in Chillicothe for many years. He was a very well know and beloved member of the Chillicothe community by all accounts.

So now we know that Cordelia did not live alone in an orphanage with no family to care for her. Her brother Francis provided a good home and raised all three of his youngest sisters. Cordelia grew to adulthood, married and when she had children of her own, she named her daughter Frances. I feel like it’s also worth noting that exactly one month later Frank had a daughter that he named, Cordia.
I found a newspaper article from 1929 that noted Cordelia’s sister Bernice was going to loan her $8,000 (worth over $100,000 today) but her home was burglarized and the money had been stolen.
Cordelia was also noted as a surviving family member at least in Francis’ and Bernice’s Obituaries. I am unsure about the other siblings as I have had a challenging time tracing them.

It would appear that Cordelia’s parents did die leaving her a young girl and no parents, but it also seems that she had family to love and care for her. Frank raised her and two of her sisters. They did keep in touch over the years, at least on occasion. So then why would she tell my gram that she was alone in the world with no family besides her children, grand children and great grand children? Did her children know that she had siblings and this was something that no one talked about? Everyone from that generation has already passed so there is no one living that might shed light on these things.
Cordie told my gram that one day when it was my grams time she would be waiting on the steps to heaven for her. I hope that when my day comes she will also be waiting for me. I have so many questions for her and I would like very much to know her and understand the love that my gram has for her. I recognize that love as that is the same love I have for my gram. I know it to be a very special bond!

An Unusual Name

When considering which ancestors I would write about for the “unusual name” prompt, one ancestor repeatedly came to mind; Silvanus (Sylvanus) Maxey. My Maxey ancestors were one of the first lines I researched when I began doing genealogy. As I went along sorting out a long line of Charles, William’s, and Edward’s, I was both puzzled and relieved to stumble upon my 8th great grandfather Silvanus Maxey.

What kind of name is Silvanus and how did he end up with such an unusual name when his ancestors all have very common names? So I set about researching what I could. According to multiple online sources Silvanus was a God of forests in Roman Mythology lending to the definition of the name- Of the forest and/or God of trees. When used as a given name the more typical spelling is Sylvanus, my Sil used both spellings.
Born in December of 1718 Silvanus was one of the youngest children born to Edward Maexy and Susannah Gates in Goochland, Virginia. His siblings carry names like Walter, William, Elizabeth, Nathaniel, which we see handed down throughout the generations. Silvanus only appears once in the family line as far as my research has confirmed. So let’s take a look at what I know about him…
Silvanus lived his entire life in Virginia. Like many men in the 18th century he worked as a farmer. I have heard rumor from other ancestors that he grew tobacco. In 1736 at the age of 18 Silvanus married 16 year old Mary Esther Worley. Mary was the daughter of John and Esther Worley. Silvanus and Mary had five children that I know of:
1- Esther Maxey 1739-1772
2- Susan Maxey 1741-
3- Charles Maxey 1742-1813
4-William Maxey 1744-1824
5- Edward Maxey 1747-1782
Shortly after Edward’s birth Mary passed away. Silvanus married Elizabeth Langsdon a few years later and together they had 10 children. I am still researching their children so at this time I am not listing them.

I was able to find reference to Silvanus a few times in the Virginia Gazette. Once in reference to some goods he found in 1766 and is willing to give back if the proper owner can prove they belong to him and he provides a finders fee. The other follows…

Edith Maxey provides record of a court case and charges brought against Silvanus in her book The Maxey’s of Virginia: a genealogical history of the descendants of Edward and Susannah Maxey,
 “In January 1743, the records of Goochland County, Virginia, show that he [Silvanus Maxey] was brought into court by William Mayo, Gentleman, for abusing Mayo’s Negro ‘on the road.’ Sylvanus was released on his own recognizance for the sum of 5 pounds plus two securities conditional on his good behavior for one year and a day, at which time this penalty would be voided. His good behavior not only to Mr. Mayo but to ‘all his Majesty’s leige people’ was assured by the levying of 2 pounds on his goods and lands.” To me this shows us a glimpse of character and personality.

Silvanus Only lived to be 52 years old, having died in 1770 while living with his son William in Prince Edward County, Virginia. He appears to have come to the end of his life with little to show and certainly not a weathly man. His estate was valued at 9pounds. I hope that some day I might get the chance to travel and visit the areas that Silvanus lived so I might learn more about him. At this point I can’t help but wonder if the small peak at his character has anything to do with his unusual name not being passed down to generations that came after him? This #52ancestors case will be continued, some day…

Challenge

On the right is Lillie Callie Roark and her Husband Jesse Lafayette Wyatt. Children left to right Charles Wyatt, Pearl Wyatt, Jesse’s half brother Hutton Scott, in the front is Blanche Wyatt and Earl Wyatt Sr. about 1920.

The level of “Challenge” in which my great great grandmother Lillie Callie Roark’s family line has caused is enough to make anyone’s head spin. It started (for me at least) a few years ago when I decided to dedicate some time to research my moms family history. You can imagine my mixed emotions upon hearing my aunt tell me that Lillie Callie comes from Native American lineage. It was something I hadn’t expected and thought might be an exciting discovery as I waded through the records. It also caused me to sigh as I had heard to many tales of “Cherokee grandmothers” that rarely prove true.
Not so shockingly I discovered a very tangled mess upon beginning my research. Lillie Callie is fairly well documented in the census records. Not one of them mentions anything but white as her ethnicity. She was born on February 9, 1880 in Ashe County, North Carolina to Alson Roark and Margaret Walsh. Alson was a shoe maker and the family lived on the Tennessee, North Carolina border. Of course this was also an area that the Cherokee and other Native Tribes inhabited.

Lillie Callie and one of her seven children.

Hmmm family insists that she is absolutely part Native. My grandfather (her grandson) says that he remembers her receiving benefits from the government, yet I cannot find a single document to back this up. In fact everything I find rules this out. Her siblings all listed as white, her parents- you guessed it, white! Fast forward to her great great grandparents, Charles Roark and a woman named Abigail. Now prepare for the challenge to increase ten fold. This is where researching and having correct documented facts are crucial to be able to continue to advance your tree.

Ancestry users have done a fantastic job of copying information regarding Abigail with no documentation or sources. She has been added many times over both as Abigail “Indian” Roark (some say this is actually Abigail’s daughter) and as Abigail a kwee ga la Canoe, and lastly as Abigail Raven Canoe. All have attached her as the daughter of the legendary Cherokee war Chief Dragging Canoe. In addition she also gets intermixed with a woman by the name of Abigail Eastridge and another woman, Abigail Vanover. Does your head hurt yet?

Abigail Indian Roark If Abigail was born in 1760 and died in 1820 there would be no birth record and very doubtful for a death record either. The challenge most days to discover the actual lineage and the real story for Lillie Callie Roark and her ancestors is more then I can handle. 

I decided to turn to DNA in hopes that might help solve the mystery… It did in the way that it shows absolutely NO Native DNA. Well I know that I am four generations removed from Lillie Callie and eight removed from Abigail, so I decide maybe my mom or my aunts might show something I don’t. Better yet my grandfather is only two generations removed from Lillie Callie and six removed from the mysterious Abigail…. My mother, one of my five aunts, and my grandfather all tested. Anxiously I awaited the details *cue drum roll*

It’s pretty conclusive, NO NATIVE DNA! So where did this wild story get cooked up and who in the world is Abigail? Was Lillie Callie receiving some kind of benefits from the government and why did my grandfather insist it was because she was Native? Perhaps one of the most challenging things when it comes to genealogy is accepting the fact that in some cases, there are just more questions then you will ever find answers. It can also be very challenging for family members to let go of the stories they hold as fact. What I do know is that despite the headache and confusion this line creates I will continue to try and find more information about Lillie Callie and her elusive great great grandmother Abigail.

Lillie Callie shortly before she passed away at the age of 74 in Rifle Colorado on May 17, 1954.

First

After careful consideration I have decided that as part of the #52ancestors challenge I would first introduce you to my Nana, Carol Lee Cummings. We are not particularly close and she doesn’t stir visions of a warm and cuddly grandma with a plate of cookies and a hug. For me she was always just slightly out of reach. So why would I choose her first? Well we share a common interest. So without further ado allow me to introduce my Nana.

Fern and George Cummings with daughters Carol (right) and Donna (left) early 1940’s

Carol Lee Cummings was the first born child of 22 year old George Glenn Cummings and 16 year old Fern K. Kingsford. She was born on Thursday September 24, 1936. It was a mild fall day in the rural coastal town of Reedsport, Oregon.
George was working as a laborer and like many families of this time period they had little in the way of money. Fern being young and with little education was the classic young housewife. When Carol was just two years old her sister Donna Rae Cummings was born on February 28, 1939. Just a few years later the family moved to Salem, Oregon. On June 30, 1943 six year old Carol and four year old Donna waited for their parents to return home with the newest addition to their small family. That moment never came. Fern greeted her only son and final child Brian James Cummings only to say goodbye just 15 minutes after his birth. Carol said that while her mother was never overly affectionate, after the loss of Brian she was never the same.
This is the extent of my knowledge of Carol’s childhood aside from stories she told me when I myself was a child. One gift Carol was blessed with was the gift of story telling. It was always easy for me to see her blonde head and messy face eating cherries while she sat in the tree on a summer day or to visualize her and Donna going to the store for a treat.

Carol attended and graduated from North Salem High school in 1955. She shared stories with me about weekends spent at the drive in theater or going to the diner with friends and getting “a hamburger, fries, and a milkshake for less then $2 bucks.” She told me about how kids didn’t have the pressures and worries they do now, there really wasn’t “violence, smoking, or drugs, and even drinking was minor.” When Carol was 12 she was baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Through high school she remained active in the church often going to youth group and youth dances.
Not knowing it at the time Carol’s life would change forever when she attended her sister Donna’s 16th birthday party. A new boy, Earl Wyatt was in attendance and after spending time together at the party Earl informed Carol he “wasn’t going home without a goodnight kiss”. He must of been charming as Carol obliged with a kiss and naturally the two began spending more time together after that.

Earl and Carol when they were dating.

Carol continued dating Earl for almost two years until on September 18, 1956 they were married. Carol and Earl were both 19 when they met Earl’s parents at the Dallas, Oregon Court House to exchange their vows. Carol’s mother Fern was furious as she was not a fan of Earl and had told Carol she would never allow her to marry him. Carol said in hindsight “Had she not pushed me so hard, I likely wouldn’t have married him.” Almost two years later Carol and Earl, with their families headed out for Salt Lake City, Utah. Here they would be married and sealed together in the Salt Lake temple. This was an important moment as they committed themselves to each other not just until death, but for all time and eternity.

Carol and Earl’s wedding announcement photo
Earl’s stepfather and his mother Melvin Evenden and Alta Boies, Carol, Earl, Carol’s parents Fern Kingsford and George Cummings.

Carol said that when her and Earl were first married they tried to begin a family, but Carol wasn’t conceiving. The doctor apparently told them it would be a miracle if they had children. They had considered adoption, but after four years they welcomed their first child, Robine Lynn in 1960. Shannon Kay and Kari Ellen (my mother) followed over the next four years. The family continued to grow when they welcomed their fourth daughter Tamara Dawn in 1968. After Tammy, Carol had a miscarriage followed by the pregnancy and birth of her fifth daughter Delana Mae. Sadly Delana lived less than three weeks and never came home from the hospital. Having been born in Tillamook, Oregon with a rare birth defect, she was quickly transferred to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Medically technology in 1971 was not advanced enough to save her and she passed away. Naturally this was a life altering event for the family. Even so Carol and Earl continued to add to their growing family when they welcomed Callie Rae just two years later, followed by their sixth daughter 18 months after Callie, Renita Lee.

Kari, Earl, Callie, Robine, Carol, Tammy, Shannon holding Renita in 1977.

Carol and Earl would prepare their home one more time for a new edition. This time a son, Russell Glenn. Unfortunately this was an event filled with sorrow as Carol was at an advanced maternal age and carried Russell full term, only to deliver him still born. Carol and Earl were devastated. Carol who already struggled with depression began to spiral into this part of herself and Earl who tended to be a bit of a play boy began to step out even more. Nine years later Carol informed Earl she had grown tired of the current state of their marriage. She told him she was leaving Texas where Earl had moved the family and she was going back to Salem. Carol said she would give Earl six months to decide if he wanted to repair things and remain married… six months later Earl filed for divorce in January of 1986.

I have no memories of my grandparents being married even though I was four years old when they divorced. My memories of my nana are of a self loathing, somewhat selfish, and distant woman. She never remarried or even dated after her and my grandfather divorced. I didn’t particularly enjoy or dislike spending time with her, I rather felt indifferent.
When I was about eight years old (possibly younger) I started going to the church with Nana once a week to “help” her do genealogy research. I really didn’t understand the importance of what we were doing or why we were doing it, even so I was very excited about our “ancestor hunt”. She would load the micro-fiche reels onto the machine and turn the knob that made the images wiz by. Eventually she would give me a name and tell me to help her find it. I remember finding comfort in her voice as she droned on about the handwriting, how things just “aren’t like they used to be”, and then the celebration and information that followed when we finally saw the name we were searching for. I didn’t know it then , but those days spent with her in the smelly church research room were the first embers that would grow to be a blazing curiosity about the people who paved the way before me. This is a memory I will cherish with my Nana. The hours she spent instilling a love and respect for the people long dead and gone, I never seen her give to those still living. I never understood how she didn’t nurture or hold her children and grandchildren close, but I do understand the comfort she found in searching for pieces of herself in the stories the dead unknowingly left behind.