Saturday, January 28, 2012

Was It Just Déjà vu? Visit to Stratford Hall Plantation

Have you ever been to a place that made the hair on your arms stand up for no reason? For me, it was Stratford Hall Plantation in Stratford, Virginia, built by Thomas Lee in the 1730s on land overlooking the Potomac River. It is also the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. The sight of the house gave me a strange feeling. It’s a beautiful, historic house, but it seemed to remind me of something that I couldn’t put my finger on.

Visit to Stratford Hall Plantation

In the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, my mom, my Aunt Catherine, my sister Helen, and I drove from Valdosta, Georgia, to Washington, D.C., for a little vacation. We stopped at several places along the way there and back to sightsee. My sister last made this sightseeing trip in 1966 when she was three years old (I was 12), so we all thought it’d be fun to take her there again since she didn’t remember anything about her first visit. (We’ve teased her over the years that she slept in the White House—that is, she slept on our mom’s shoulder during our tour.)

 Stratford Hall Google Earth

I think it was Aunt Catherine that suggested we stop and tour Stratford Hall Plantation. I love looking at old houses and learning about the people who lived in them. I had never heard of Stratford Hall Plantation before, but I got a chill the minute we drove up and I saw this house, especially when I looked at the stone staircase on the front façade. I didn’t tell anyone what I was feeling. I was so surprised at the house’s affect on me. I had never had that happen before, and I couldn’t shake the strange feeling while we toured the house. Something about it was familiar.

For the first few years after the tour of Stratford Hall Plantation, I would still get that same strange feeling whenever I even looked at a photograph of the house. I don’t think it was déjà vu. I know what that feels like. The feeling I had when I first saw this house was different. Later on, I became quite fascinated with the house, and I tried to figure out why it affected me so. Was it my fear of heights kicking in when I looked at the stone staircase (click on the name above and you’ll see what I mean)? Was it the two observation platforms on the roof (once again, fear of heights)? Was it reminding me of some other house that looks similar? What was it? I never figured it out. I like to say that I don’t believe in ghosts, and I hope to never see one! Were there ghosts there? Was it a genetic memory (if there is such a thing)? Am I related to the Lees? I’ve only researched a little to see if there is a family connection to the Lees, but so far I’ve found nothing. 

After all these years, the house has lost its strange affect on me. I can look at a photograph of it and not feel a thing except curiosity. I still believe it’s a beautiful house, and if I ever venture that way again, I’d like to visit it once more. Maybe this time I can actually pay attention to the tour guide and not look over my shoulder. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Android and Me—Love at First Sight

I finally broke down last November and bought myself an Android smart phone. A couple of weeks earlier I received a $100 gift certificate from my cell phone service provider as an enticement toward a new cell phone.  My two-year contract was about to expire, and it seems they wanted me to upgrade my phone (and sign a new two-year contract)! I immediately got “want-itis” as my mom would say. I researched like mad to see which one I should get for the amount of money I was willing to spend, and then I felt guilty. I put the certificate in recycling, telling myself I didn’t need a new cell phone!

I don’t remember what made me take the gift certificate out of recycling, but I stuck it in my purse “just in case” (good thing I was slow in delivering the recycling). A few days later, I was out running errands, and my car just drove into the telephone company’s parking lot on it’s own! I justified getting a smart phone by saying I needed it for work, it would sure come in handy for genealogy, too. Plus, it could be my Christmas present to myself. Now that I have it, I can’t put it down! Someone told me a while back that once I got a smart phone, I would wonder how I ever lived without it. Now I know it’s true.

Once I got my new play toy home, I sat down and immediately looked up free apps in the Android Market. I’ve also been getting tips about apps that can be useful to genealogists from genealogy bloggers such as Michelle Goodrum of The Turning of Generations who reviewed some Android apps that she uses: Photoshop Express and CamScanner. I downloaded both of these. Jill Ball’s Android Genealogy is dedicated to Android apps and news. Genealogists are a techie bunch! I’ve learned a lot.

I’m still learning about apps to use, but here are a few that I have (in no particular order). Some came with the phone and others I’ve downloaded but all of them can be found in the Android Market except for the Google Calendar app. All of these are free. I’ve provided links to the websites of some of the apps below so you can check them out:

Dropbox (Access files on my smart phone that I’ve uploaded to Dropbox from my laptop.)

Evernote (to access Evernote where I’ve “clipped” stuff from websites that I want to save or read later, made notes, to-do lists, etc. Synced with Evernote on my laptop).

Google Earth (you know, to look up where the ancestors lived. I use it to find places that I plan to visit. Nothing like a visual. I love Google Earth!)

Google Maps

Google Reader (For blog reading on the go. I don’t dare tell you how many blogs I have in there.)

Google Books (used mostly for pleasure reading on the go)

Google Calendar (Not in the Android Market, but you can find this and the other Google apps here: I need reminders for things like genealogy webinars and geneabloggers radio. I hate it when I forget. A tone sounds to let me know something is about to come up.)

Gmail (I have instant access to my gmail account when I’m away from my laptop.)

Hootsuite (Hootsuite is a Twitter client. Gotta stay up with the latest genealogy happenings!)

Facebook (to keep up with friends and family and a few genealogy pages when I’m out and about.)

CamScanner (You use your smart phone camera to scan, and you can make pdfs of your scans.)

Youtube (for watching genealogy how-to videos)

Barcode Scanner (So far have only used to download apps by pointing it at the barcode on a website. Haven’t used it yet to check prices of stuff I want to buy.)

Chrome to Phone (You can send a webpage from your computer to your smart phone using Chrome web browser)

1BGraves (Click on Billion Graves for information. Use your smart phone to take GPS-tagged photos of graves which are automatically uploaded. Then you go into the website to transcribe them.)

Amazon Kindle (for downloading reading material)’s app (to access my family tree when I’m out doing research)

ANC Grave Locator (To look up grave locations in Arlington National Cemetery. I have it in case I ever get to visit my maternal grandfather’s grave again. I don’t know anyone else buried there.)

Find Grave (Find a Grave, for looking up locations of cemeteries and the graves of ancestors)

Mozy (Mozy is my hard drive backup cloud, linked with my laptop)

Weather app (to see what kind of weather I have to contend with when I walk to the archives or other places!)

StumbleUpon (StumbleUpon is a great way to see what’s new on the internet. You can set your interests and it will “stumble,” i.e. find, those for you. You can also add your blog so others can “find” it. I haven’t done this yet.)

Photoshop Express (for tweaking photos I’ve taken with my smart phone)

Whew! That looks like a lot, but I know folks who have a ton more apps than I do. I bet a lot, if not all, of these apps are available for iPhones, too. Especially since it seems iPhone apps come out first, then Android, which is annoying.

I’m interested in hearing about apps you use! I’m always looking for more! I’m sure I’m not using my smart phone to its full potential.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Vintage Postcard & Genealogy **Update

Recently, Caroline Pointer of For Your Family Story tweeted updates on Twitter as she researched the people whose names she found on some vintage postcards purchased at an antique store.  It reminded me that one of the 20-some-odd Valdosta postcards I bought several years ago during a postcard-buying frenzy on Ebay was postmarked and had a note and an addressee, so I dug it out to see if I could find out anything about the sender and the receiver.  (Thank goodness it wasn’t one of the ones I framed!).  I remember wondering at the time who this person was that stopped in Valdosta on his or her way somewhere and bought and mailed a postcard.  That’s as far as my curiosity went at the time, and I tucked the postcard away. 

This is the front of the postcard.  It says “Central Avenue Looking East, Valdosta, Ga.”  This is the intersection of Patterson Street and Central Avenue.  Valdosta folks will recognize this area immediately, as the buildings still pretty much look the same with a few alterations.  (Note:  This postcard is postmarked 1921 and is in the public domain as it was printed before 1923.)

The postcard is addressed to Mr. Melvin Colton, N. Sherburne, Vermont.  (At first, I thought the city was Sherborne until I looked Melvin up on

The date on the card is written as “Friday 11-21-” and the card is postmarked Valdosta, GA, Nov. 11, 1921, 11AM.  The note says: “We are here and will soon be in Fla. Everything is going fine now.  Hope you are well.  Am well and when I can will tell you where to write.”

Who signed it??  It looks like just initials—maybe the initial “C”, then a line or accidental pen stroke, and then what looks like a square.  There are only two other places in the postcard where a “C” is written to compare.  None of them look the same, but they all have a loop at the top.  Then I thought maybe it was an “A” but couldn’t decide even after comparing it to other “A”s on the card.  And what about that symbol that looks like a square?   

The Family of Melvin Colton

I found a Melvin Colton, age 55, in the 1920 Sherburne, Rutland County, Vermont, census [1].  Besides Melvin, the household includes his wife Ruth (age 52) and sons Charles (age 23) and Harry (17).  So he has a son whose first initial is “C”.  Could that be who sent the postcard?  Could the initial and square mean C-squared for Charles Colton (two Cs)?  If it’s from Charles, why didn’t he address it to both of his parents?  Maybe Mrs. Colton was with Charles.  The author of the card does say “we,” so he/she isn’t traveling alone.  I wondered if maybe Mrs. Colton had passed away by 1921, but no, according to her death certificate, she lived until 1968 (she was 94 when she died) [2].  Why was this person traveling to Florida in November?  To visit family for Thanksgiving?  Moving out of state?

Maybe son Charles was on his honeymoon in 1921.  Nope.  He didn’t get married until 1923 when he married Lena Fiske [3].  He is listed in the 1930 census with Lena (indexed as Leva on age 36 and their two children—daughter Joyce age 5 and son Melvin C. age 1+10 months [4].  Charles is a farmer like his father.  I checked earlier census records to see if there were any other clues for the initial on the postcard.  On the 1900 census, an older son Raymond P. Colton (age 9 in 1900) is listed [5].  The 1910 census has all three sons listed—Ray (indexed as “Roy” in, Charles, and Harry [6]. 

I checked to see where Melvin’s wife Ruth was born.  Maybe she was from Florida.  She is listed as Ruth Pollard Colton on her death certificate and place of birth is noted as West Virginia [7].  Her father was Joseph Pollard and her mother was Myra (no maiden name given).  I found her with her parents in the 1880 census for Clarksburg, Harrison County, West Virginia [8].  This census page is nearly illegible, but it looks like is says they were all born in Vermont, although it’s been indexed as Virginia on  I can’t read the names of Ruth’s siblings.  They’ve been indexed as A. A. (son) and Mary A. (daughter).

Back to Melvin Colton, the addressee on the postcard.  He’s in the 1870 Sherburne, Rutland County, Vermont, census with his parents Jonathan and Amanda [9, 10]. Melvin’s name is indexed incorrectly on as “Melvern” (I put in edits on whenever I find these types of errors.)  He has a sister named Addie (age 17) and a brother named Oscar (age 19).  Could the initial on the postcard be an “A” or an “O” instead of a “C”?  I found brother Oscar Colton’s death record on [11].  He died in Sherburne, Vermont, on December 20, 1905, so the postcard obviously isn’t from him.  Their sister Addie Colton married Charles W. Boutwell on September 18, 1880 [12].  Charles Boutwell died six years later in 1886 [13].  I haven’t found any other information on Addie—no death record, no other marriage record, no other census record.  I feel that I can’t rule her out yet as the sender of the postcard.  Alas, my search ended here.

I love mysteries, but I love solving them even better!  Wish I could have solved the mystery of the sender of this postcard.


*Update—I should add that I’m not certain that I found the correct Melvin Colton.  Genealogists know how that goes.  You chase somebody through the records certain it’s “your” person only to find out in the end that it isn’t.

**Update--Keith Bollman found this post while researching his wife's Colton connections and told me where Melvin's grandson lives. I plan to send this postcard and a copy of this post to him. Thanks, Keith!

[1]  1920 U. S. Federal Census.  Sherburne, Rutland, Vermont; Roll: T625_1874; Page 6A; Enumeration District 119; Image 794 for family of Melvin Colton.
[2] Vermont Death Records, 1909-2008 for Ruth Colton.
[3] Vermont Marriage Records, 1909-2008 for Charles Colton and Lena Fiske.
[4] 1930 U.S. Federal Census. Pittsfield, Rutland, Vermont; Roll: 2430; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 20; Image: 323.0 for family of Charles Colton.
[5] 1900 U. S. Federal Census.  Sherburne, Rutland, Vermont; Roll T623_1694; Page 2A; Enumeration District 207 for family of Melvin Colton.
[6]  1910 U. S. Federal Census.  Sherburne, Rutland, Vermont; Roll: T624_1616; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0186; Image: 350; FHL Number: 1375629 for family of Melvin Colton.
[7]  See footnote 2 above.
[8]  1880 U. S. Federal Census Clarksburg, Harrison, West Virginia; Roll: 1404; Family History Film: 1255404; Page: 232B; Enumeration District: 112 for family of Joseph Pollard.
[9] 1870 U. S. Federal Census Sherburne, Rutland, Vermont; roll: M593_1625; Page: 728A; Image: 362; Family History Library Film: 553124 for family of Jonathan Colton. 
[10]  Vermont Death Records, 1909-2008, death record for Melvin Colton (lists names of parents).
[11]  Vermont Vital Records, 1760-1954, Oscar Colton’s death record. Film number 540075, digital folder number 4093903, image number 4467.
[12] Vermont Vital Records, 1760-1954, Addie Colton’s marriage record to Charles W. Boutwell.  Film number 540063, digital folder number 4357167, image number 2551.
[13] Vermont Vital Records, 1760-1954, Charles  W. Boutwell’s death record.  Film number 540063, digital folder number 4357167, image number 2552.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Artist in Residence

IMG_1410One summer when I was in elementary school, my dad enrolled me in a week-long drama class. I think it was to get me to come out of my shell, but I hated it. I was extremely shy, and having to perform in front of other people frightened me to no end! I sneaked off one day to the art class my friend was taking in the same building and stayed until the drama teacher found me and made me go back to drama class. Drawing and painting fascinated me. I wanted to be an artist like my mom (Leona Redles Pendleton). I tried my hand at painting and drawing, but I was no good at either one. Finger painting in kindergarten was my favorite art activity!

I also wanted to be handy with a needle like my mom. I don’t remember at what ages she taught me how to sew, embroider, needlepoint, and knit. It seems as if I’ve always known how. If I messed up, I would just take whatever it was to her to fix. I would get so grumpy at the sewing machine when I let myself get too tired and frustrated that one day she told me I should only sew for half an hour at a time! She wanted me to learn how to cross-stitch, but for some reason, it seemed too tedious for me, and I decided I didn’t have the patience for it. (She taught my two sisters and my daughter how to cross-stitch, though.) I never learned to crochet; it looked too difficult. She says it’s not hard—she taught herself how to do it.

IMG_1414I don’t know if I would have ever attempted any of these pursuits had I not been exposed to them by my mother when I was growing up. As I mentioned in a previous post, when I was a kid, it seemed that she was always on the decorating committee of the clubs she was a member of.

When I think back to my childhood, I picture her making or sewing something or drawing and painting or doing one craft or another. She’s very creative! She made a lot of my clothes when I was growing up. I wish I had her sense of color and design. (That talent skipped me and went straight to my daughter.) I have to work hard at it. I love how my mom has used family photographs, heirlooms, historic maps, memorabilia, etc. to decorate our family home. Of course, I had to copy that.

In my dad’s 1966 diary about our family trip to Washington, D.C., (included in his unpublished memoirs Growing Up South Georgian), he writes about the two camellia paintings above, “Today was Father’s Days for me. I received…two of Lonie’s newly framed camellia prints she painted. They are lovely and the best she has done.” My parents gave me these paintings a few years ago, and they hang on my wall now. She painted a portrait of my two brothers and me when we kids. I love her painting of yellow flowers in a vase. I tried to copy it, but alas, mine didn’t look like hers!

In addition to the two camellias above, here are just a few examples of my mom’s needlework.


Ballerina pillow

A cross-stitched ballerina for one of my sisters who took ballet for a number of years.


Ballerina pillow2

Ballet dancers cross-stitched for a pillow for one of my sisters.



An embroidered pillow for me.  (Have I mentioned that blue is my favorite color?)


Sometimes I feel the need to create—doing something besides writing, which is all I seem to do. I took up knitting again a few years ago. Boy, was I rusty. I practically had to teach it to myself again. I’ve also tried taking up cross-stitching again, and sometimes I wish I had a sewing machine. I think I prefer painting things to anything else—just slapping paint on something to transform it, not oil or watercolor painting, of course.

When I was talking to my mom the other day, I told her about this post that I was writing, and I mentioned the camellia watercolors. She said she didn’t think she remembered how to draw or paint. I bet it would come back to her!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday—Leland Roberts *Update

Uncle Bubba

This is my maternal Great Uncle Leland Roberts (1884-1964) in his garden on a bright, sunny, south Georgia day.  He was my grandmother Leona’s oldest brother. We called him Uncle Big Bubba and he lived in the Big House!  Actually, he lived next door at his sister Kathleen Roberts Winn’s house but ate his meals at the Big House (the J. T. Roberts house).  I remember him sitting by himself at the table by the window in the dining room while his sisters Margaret Roberts Graham and Dinah (Mary Remer) Roberts Parramore, niece Mary Remer Parramore, his brother-in-law Redden Parramore, and whoever else came to dinner (like my parents) sat at the dining table (us kids sat at the kids table).  He used to come out and swing in the porch swing with us kids after Sunday dinner.  I loved to visit with Uncle Big Bubba!

*My Aunt Catherine told me today the origin of my uncle’s nickname “Big Bubba.”  He was called that because he was the older brother, and Uncle John Young (Roberts) was called “Little Bubba” because he was the younger brother.  I had no idea!  Now I know!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday’s Obituary—Edwina Roberts

Edwina Roberts (1897-1969) was my maternal great aunt and my grandmother Leona’s sister. We called her Aunt Midge. I wrote about her in my post about the Big House. She was the family chronicler through photographs. She kept stacks of manila envelopes filled with photographs of all of us, and she wrote names and dates on the backs of all of them. Thank you Aunt Midge!

Edwina Roberts obit cropped
From the November 19, 1969, Valdosta Daily Times:

“Miss Edwina Roberts, a member of one of the founding families of Valdosta, died Tuesday night at Pineview General Hospital here after a long illness.

Miss Roberts lived at 206 Wells St. and was a member of the First Baptist Church. She was a native of Valdosta and had lived here all of her life.

She was the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. John T. Roberts. Her father was mayor here when Valdosta State College first opened. Miss Roberts and her family were supporters and organizers of many of the social and civic events in Valdosta.

Survivors include four sisters, Mrs. Abial Winn, Mrs. Roberts Graham and Mrs. R. L. Parramore, all of Valdosta and Mrs. H. L. Covington of Jacksonville, Fla.

Funeral services are to be held at 4 p. m. Thursday at Carson McLane Funeral Home here with burial in Sunset Hill Cemetery.”

Rest in Peace Aunt Midge!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday—Albert & Helen

Grandmama and Granddaddy Burmuda cropped

My paternal grandparents, Albert Sidney Pendleton, Sr. and Helen Larue Brown Thomas. This photo was taken sometime in the 1960s when they were on vacation in Bermuda.  I remember them meeting us at the beach after their trip (only I don’t remember which beach, but it was probably Fernandina Beach, Florida, because that’s where we went the most).  I love that they’re holding hands in this photo.  I think my grandfather had a stroke and died not too long after this.  He died in 1965.  This is when people dressed up to travel!  Looks like they’re wearing name tags, so I wonder if this was a vacation package type trip.  I remember being surprised that they went “all the way” to Bermuda!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Genealogy Goals for 2012

This is probably going to be a short list—I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about goals, but here are some things that I definitely want to get done this year

2012 goals (in no particular order):

1.  Finish retyping and editing my dad’s memoirs.  I’m at Chapter 31—the longest chapter—out of 43 chapters.  Then I’ll have to reformat the first 20 or so chapters.  I decided somewhere along there to format differently.  Why?  I don’t know.  One of my first cousins and my youngest sister have said they’ll help me proofread Dad’s memoirs during and after I’ve finished retyping.

2.  Choose and add graphics to my dad’s memoirs.   Graphics may require some more help from my youngest sister until I can get back to my mom’s for my annual visit (thanks Helen!).  Someday we’d like to make this into a book.

3.  Scan my photographs.  I actually got started on this last night using my portable Flip-Pal scanner while watching TV on and waiting for the New Year to arrive.  These are photos of family and places I’ve been since I moved to Alaska 13 years ago and were taken BDC: Before Digital Camera (prior to 2008).  These only scratch the surface.  I have tons more in storage at my son’s house in Georgia.  I’m not counting those in this goal this year, but should the chance arise, all the better.

4.  Come up with a better solution for organizing digital photographs.  I thought by having all my photographs organized by year would work, but really, I was too lazy to do otherwise.  Boy, was that a terrible mistake that needs to be dealt with.  It works for some things provided the “parent” folder has a more meaningful file name.  I get so tired of looking for that certain photograph and asking myself “what year was that?”

5.  Scan photographs at my mom’s house when I visit this year.  There are boxes and boxes of photos at my mom’s house, including some of ancestors.  She went through them all and wrote names on the back of the photos that didn’t have them.  They really should be scanned.  This time I’ll be armed with my Flip-Pal scanner.  I’ll scan as many as I can while I’m there.  Hmmmm.  Maybe someone in my family besides me needs a Flip-Pal! 

6.  Download documents that are attached to my tree.  This has been on my to-do list for 2 years.  I haven’t been very consistent with downloading documents and records that I have attached to my tree on  I sometimes wonder, what if I didn’t pay my membership fee one year, what happens to all that?  I really should have digital copies anyway.

7.  Read reviews of family tree software programs.  I only have a free version of MyHeritage on my hard drive.  I really only use it to download the GEDCOM file from my tree so I can compile family group sheets once in a blue moon.  I’ve been ignoring all the reviews of the various family tree software programs.  They boggle my mind, but I need to get serious about it this year.

8.  Come up with a list of short term goals for dealing with my dad’s office/papers for my 2012 visit.  Have I complained lately about my dad’s office?  It is so overwhelming.  He didn’t really organize anything and had tons of research notes, correspondence, business records, and copies of stories, plays, and a novel he wrote—you name it—scattered about.  Labeled file folders don’t contain what the label says, etc.  The file cabinet that my mom bought for him years ago stood mostly empty until I made use of it!  His office got even messier while he was bedridden the last year or so of his life with family members going in and out of there for various reasons.  I call it the paper explosion.  I’m only able to work on his office once a year when I visit, so I haven’t gotten very far.  My youngest sister has worked on it some, too.  Have I mentioned how overwhelming it is?  I could write a whole blog post about this, and maybe I will!

Oh! thought of another one!

9.  Put my maternal grandfather’s papers, photos, etc. in archival boxes, sleeves, etc.  I need to start looking online and start ordering.  Right now all of this is in a wooden trunk at my mom’s house.  My grandfather, William Liming Redles, was a career Marine and seems to have been very meticulous about saving copies of his correspondence.  Although, I’m sure we have but a small sampling.  We’ve been trying to figure out this interesting man and his life.  He died when my mom was about 6 years old.
Well, that’s it for goals for now.  My list ended up longer than I thought it would.  I noticed that none of this involves any genealogical research.  I need to ponder that for a while.