Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Genetic Communities and My Origins

I haven't had anything new to report in a while. No breakthroughs, although I continue to get DNA matches to descendants of individuals that I suspect, but can't prove yet, were my ancestors. Maybe someday I will be able to report that I have proven my connection to the Embry, Pharris, or Faulk families. I'm working on a spreadsheet with my Faulk matches, so maybe I'll report on my progress in an upcoming post.

However, in the last week both Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA have published new features and/or results that are definitely worth examining in a new post. First, a feature called "Genetic Communities" debuted on Ancestry DNA two weeks ago. Then, last week Family Tree DNA completely revised its ethnicity percentages reported in the feature entitled "My Origins."

AncestryDNA's Genetic Communities

Apparently, the Ancestry Genetic Communities have been in beta testing for a while, but they came as a complete (and happy) surprise to me. According to Ancestry, a Genetic Community is "a group of Ancestry DNA members who are connected through DNA most likely because they descend from a population of common ancestors." I found out that I have been placed in three Genetic Communities: Settlers of the Potomac River Valley & Central Kentucky, Settlers of Southwest Virginia & Eastern Kentucky, and Settlers of Colonial South Carolina.

I underlined the phrase in the quote above because it's important to me. I have read comments from some AncestryDNA users who weren't that excited about the Genetic Communities because they already knew they had ancestors in southwest Virginia or colonial South Carolina. Well, I did and I didn't. I knew that I had ancestors--the Castles and others--who migrated from southwest Virginia to eastern Kentucky. I knew that I had ancestors from the Potomac River Valley--the Whitleys and others--who migrated to central Kentucky. But I didn't know that those groups of people could be identified by DNA. How cool!

On the other hand, I have only lately theorized that both my Smith and Williams ancestors came from South Carolina before settling in Alabama. It's nice to know that my DNA indicates a potential tie to colonial South Carolina. 

The Genetic Communities feature on AncestryDNA is based on similarities in DNA results among descendants of settlers from certain communities. Over 300 of these communities have been identified so far. They include communities in Europe, North America, Central and south America, and Asia. Ancestry then enhances the results with historical information, maps that show migration two and from that community, and pins on the map that indicate specific ancestors. All of those elements are visible when you choose the Story tab. (FYI--Maps and pins change as you click on each available historical period.) The Connection tab takes you to a list of all your DNA matches that fall within that particular community and a list of many common surnames from that Genetic Community.

Let's look a little more closely at the three Genetic Communities to which AncestryDNA has assigned me.

Settlers of the Potomac River Valley & Central Kentucky

The historical information for this community begins with the period 1700-1775, which saw the English, Scots-Irish, and German immigrants moving to the eastern seaboard and eventually on past the Appalachians. My map for this time period includes 72 pins for my ancestors who predominantly lived in Virginia and North Carolina. They include on my dad's side, the Henson, Lewis, Horton, Kendrick, Sargent, Bays, Oney, and Patrick families; and on my mom's side, the Crudup, Dixon, Powell, Fowler, Wheat, Ming, Fullen, and Whitley families, and the Embry and Pharris ancestors that aren't proven yet. (I have put them in my Ancestry family tree as "? DNA", so they are included in my genetic communities.)

Over the years that I have done genealogy, I've often seen suggestions to create a migration map for your ancestors. That's what is great about this new feature from Ancestry. They have done it for me, incorporating dates and places from my tree, and it's interactive. Way better than I could create myself.

The next period of history for this community is entitled "Kentucky Fever," and covers the years from 1775-1825. Using the geographical information that I have entered into my family tree, Ancestry maps the migration of some of my ancestors--Lewis, Patrick, Sargent, Whitley, Huff, Roberts, and more--to Kentucky and Tennessee.

The historical information for 1825 to 1850 states that Kentucky's and Tennessee's populations doubled in this time period. This is also the period in which people began to migrate to Arkansas and Alabama, as did my Patrick and Wheat ancestors. At this point though, my map doesn't show this particular migration with ancestors pins, but I still have 46 pins back in Kentucky.

The historical information for this group continues through the periods, 1850-1875, 1875-1900, and 1900-1950. According to the description for 1900-1950, this is the period in which this genetic community begins to move to urban areas or look for work in Oklahoma, Texas, or California. The pins for this final period include those for my grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides who moved from Kentucky to Oklahoma in this time period.

If I click on the Connection tab, I get a list of all my matches that fall genetically into this Potomac River Valley to Central Kentucky community. At this point I have over 250 of them, and I can search for surnames and locations just within this community. I also get a list of surnames that appear often in this Genetic Community; the list for this community shows the surname Embry among its most common names.

A click on the name Embry sends me to Ancestry's surname information, which includes the meaning of the name; U.S. census information for this name in 1840, 1880, and 1920; and occupation, life expectancy, and Civil War records for the surname. In my opinion a great enhancement for the surname list would be the ability to click on the name and get a list of DNA matches within this genetic community with the name Embry in their family trees.

Settlers of Southwest Virginia & Eastern Kentucky

The 1700-1750 historical information for this Genetic Community explains that many immigrants came to America from England in this period--some as a punishment for crimes, some as indentured servants--and from Germany in search of economic opportunity. It specifically mentions the group that came from the Rhineland-Palatinate area of southwestern Germany and emigrated to Pennsylvania. This is the group from which many of speculated that Jacob Castle came.

There is some overlap here with the Potomac River Valley to Central Kentucky group, which you would expect since they are so close geographically. I have 10 pins here, including the surnames Kendrick, Henson, Lewis, Horton, Oney, and Jacob Castle.

From 1750-1800 farmers in search of land moved to Kentucky when it became open to settlement after the Revolution. Again, there is much overlap with the Potomac River/Central Kentucky group, with the addition of my Farris and Davidson ancestors from my mom's side. From 1800-1850 farmers in Appalachia were in a holding pattern, according to the historical information for this period. Little changed or improved until the Civil War. Ancestor pins for this era are located in Floyd, Pulaski, and Leslie counties in Kentucky, and back in Russell and Scott counties in Virginia.

The historical information for the 1850 to 1900 and 1900 to 1925 eras stress the growth and dependence on mining in this area of Appalachia, although not so much for my ancestors, as far as I've been able to find out. My Castle, Day, Reed, and Sargent ancestors farmed in Morgan and Magoffin counties in Kentucky until the turn of the century. By the early 1900's my ancestors had either died in Kentucky or moved on to Oklahoma.

The Connection tab takes me again to my DNA matches, over 250 of them, with genetic ties to southwestern Virginia and eastern Kentucky. In the Associated Last Names (common surnames) list I was delighted to see Castle and the names Ratliff and Salyer/Salyers, surnames from Morgan County that I recognize.

Settlers of Colonial South Carolina

I actually was surprised that I was included in this group. As far as I know, the only one of my ancestors born in South Carolina was my 2nd great-grandmother, Mary E. Williams, the mother of my great-grandfather, Stephen Albert Smith. Only recently was I told by an Ancestry member that many of the families living near my Smiths in Pike County, Alabama, were originally from South Carolina. I have even questioned if my 2nd great-grandfather, John A. Smith, was really from South Carolina, instead of the Virginia birthplace usually given for him. 

However, if you look at the map of this Genetic Community, the area is includes is much larger than just South Carolina; it encompasses North Carolina and the states to which this community migrated: Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. When you look at this larger area, it's not surprising that I share DNA with over 340 descendants assigned to this Genetic Community.

According to the historical information for this community, Germans who had originally settled in Pennsylvania and immigrants from the British Isles who had first settled in Virginia made the Carolina coast their home in the years from 1700-1750. Apparently, even if John A. Smith was born in Virginia, he would still be considered one of my ancestors in this community, along with the Sneads from my Bays line and the Beasleys from my Ming line.

In the years from 1750-1775 farmers moved into the backcountry from the coast, and my Lewis, Reed, and Bell ancestors are pinned to the Genetic Community map for this time period. In the years during and after the Revolutionary War, 1775-1800, my Simmons and Soles ancestors appear on the map. In the years from 1800-1850 Alabama is opened to white settlement, and many migrated there from North and South Carolina, including my Simmons, Soles, Smith, Williams, Wheat, and Stephenson ancestors.

Farmers continued to migrate to Georgia and Alabama in the years before and after the Civil War, 1850-1900, and my Smith great-grandparents were born in Alabama. By 1900-1950 when many ancestors of this genetic community moved into the big cities of South Carolina and Alabama for work, my ancestors moved on to Oklahoma.

While none of my ancestors' surnames appear on the Associated Last Names list, I do see two I recognize: Strickland and Register. Strickland appears often in the trees of my DNA matches. They seem to have a connection to the Faulks, with whom I have a cousin relationship through the Simmons family. With so many matches from different Faulk branches, I also suspect a closer relationship, which I have been trying to analyze. The other name I recognize is Register, which is very common in the area in which the Smiths lived in Alabama; one of John and Mary Smith's granddaughters married a Register.


From looking carefully at the information provided by the new Genetic Communities feature I have come to the following conclusions:

I love AncestryDNA's new Genetic Communities.

If you want the most out of this feature, you really need to add your family tree to Ancestry. You still may be assigned a Genetic Community based on your DNA results, but you won't see the pins that place your ancestors in the community if you don't provide a tree.

If you have a tree, you need to be sure that you include locations and dates for your ancestors, so that the pins show their migration from place to place.

Try searching for hard-to-find ancestors within just the Genetic Community instead of among all your matches. For example, I still get a lot of results when I search for "Smith" in the Colonial South Carolina community, but not nearly as many as I get if I search all my DNA matches. It might someday help me narrow in on the Smith family that belongs in my tree. Of course, don't forget that they may not be where you think they are. I keep an open mind when it comes to my Smiths!

As more people test and you get more DNA matches, you may find that you have been added to more existing genetic communities. Blaine Bettinger, the genetic genealogy blogger and speaker, has compiled a list of the 300+ genetic communities that are now available on AncestryDNA. See the list at

Others will be determined as more people test, including those who are still located in the original geographic area of a possible community and serve as reference populations.

Family Tree DNA's My Origins

New research and new reference population data are the reasons given for the My Origins update on Family Tree DNA. According to their explanation, these changes are not corrections to the My Origins results I had before, but refinements based on the new information. They caution users to not get too caught up in modern borders; centuries of migration, especially in Europe, cause diverse groups of people to share DNA.

Unfortunately, I didn't record my previous results, so I can't compare them with the new results. I know I was mostly European, with the largest percentage in the British Isles and a much smaller percentage from Eastern Europe, but that's all I remember. I know I would have remembered if my previous results had shown the 5% in Iberia and the <2% in South America that I now have!

My new results are:

98% European
          88% British Isles
          5% Iberia
          5% East Europe

and Trace Results (that could be "background noise")
          <2% Finland
          <2% South America
          <2% Asia Minor

I actually am kindof hoping that the 2% South American might reflect my alleged couple of native American female ancestors, but I'm not sure if that's what it means at all. Barring that, I have created a romantic scenario in my head that involves a love affair between a Spanish pirate ancestor and a Latina ancestress. It would explain my love for Santana and Mexican food.

My brother's new My Origins results are similar, without the Iberian and South American percentages, and the addition of 4% Southeast Europe (Italy, Greece, the Balkans) and a trace of Scandinavia and West Middle East. His trace results don't really surprise me, as he matches many men with Scandinavian and Middle Eastern origins on 12 markers of his y-DNA test, although their common ancestor may have lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. I just throw that in because many people are surprised that siblings have differing ethnicity results. It all depends on what DNA gets passed down to each of the siblings.

I don't get as bent out of shape about ethnicity results as some people do. I think it's a work in progress and will get better with time and more people testing. I don't plan to trade in my kilt for gaucho pants just yet.

I just happened to hear Blaine Bettinger in a day-long speaking engagement in Oklahoma City weekend before last. AncestryDNA had just released the Genetic Communties feature, and he did a short presentation about it. He thinks that the genetic communities may become even more reliable, and thus useful, than ethnicity estimates. On his blog he says, "It may be possible that (GC's) will narrow in on counties or villages or families, eventually, if enough people test." That is an exciting development to look forward to.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bazle Castle, Part 2: Indian Spy

On June 7 of 1832 Congress passed legislation to expand the eligibility of veterans for Revolutionary War pensions. Men who had served at least two years received full pay for life; if a veteran had served at least 6 months but less than two years, he was eligible for a lesser amount. It was not necessary to prove financial need or disability, as previous acts had required, and at the death of the veteran widows and children could collect monies due from the time of the last payment to the date of death.

On 2 February 1834 Bazle Castle, 73 years old, appeared in Lawrence County, Kentucky, before Justice of the Peace John Stafford to make a statement of his Revolutionary War service "in order to obtain the benefit of the act of Congress passed June 7, 1832." He said that he "entered the service of the United States" in Fincastle County, Virginia, in April 1779 "under Colo. Preston, Capt. Lewis, and Lieut. an indian spy for one year." He was discharged in April 1780 after one year of service. He entered the service again for six months in February of 1781 as a volunteer in the Virginia militia and was discharged in July 1781.

The original handwritten statement appears on, and I have relied on it and on a transcription of part of the statement which was made by C. Leon Harris for the Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters project. This project was initiated by the Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution (SCAR) organization and involves volunteers transcribing pension applications for every veteran who fought in the Southern Campaign or lived in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia during the Revolution. You can read about the Southern Campaigns at and see the pension applications at So far, 21,526 pension applications or bounty land claims have been transcribed by SCAR.

The first part of the statement, recorded by the Justice of the Peace and transcribed by Mr. Harris, reads: "he was a drafted man -- he was in no battle or battles during this years service. indian Spies was not so organized as to engage in battles. there was some small engagements but none denominated battles -- the cuntry through which he marched was the head of holstein river [sic: Holston River], on Blue Stone [sic: Bluestone River] that empties in to new river [in present Summers County WV]" Comments in brackets are those of Mr. Harris.

Rivers of Southwestern Virginia

At that point in the transcription of Bazle Castle's statement Mr. Harris reported that "one or more pages may be missing," and they were. The handwritten record on contained two pages that were missing from the transcription. They were the most significant ones for me, as they detailed the whys and hows of Bazle's service as an Indian spy and included the reference to his father's participation in the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Bazle Castle's pension statement, page 3

The expertise and experience of the SCAR volunteers no doubt makes their job a little easier, but transcribing is hard work, and thus their effort is greatly appreciated by me. Here is my humble attempt to transcribe the two missing pages:

...that he [k]new any regular officers in the Continental Service, he is certain that he never served under a Continental officer or with a Continental regiment or a company -- he however believes that Col. Montgomery..Col. C(?)mel who he has seen, but never served under either, were regular officers -- when he entered for the above period (one year). He marched in the first instanse [sic] to the head of blue stone under his officers above stated. The Indians had committed several murders in that neighborhood, and some on Walker's Creek and had taken away one Jenny Wiley and taken them down Big Sandy River. She afterward escaped from them. The way the service was performed was this way. Two of the spies would take a certain range and spie(?) and a place was appointed to meet at night. The first four months of the above service was rendered by him on Blue Stone in September at which time the Indians were always the most troublesome. The whole company had to march a great distance down Clinch River to the fort called Blackamore's Fort. He arrived here late in September 1779 and scouted out from the fort until December (in the month?). He staid(?) pretty much in the fort (?) and in Feby. about the first thereof his company had to march back to blue stone. He arrived on the head of the river in March 1780, and from there went to Fort Chisel Hill [Fort Chiswell?] and was disbanded(?) and issued a discharge from service for our year April 1780 -- Fort Chisel Hill up in Montgomery Co.-- the later part of this year his father Jacob Castle went with the Virginia Volunteers to South Carolina, and was under Campbell at the Battle of Kings Mountain, in consequence of which he had to stay at home until his return in the winter of 1780 in the month of Feby. 1781

An article entitled "The Clinch Scouts" by Emory Hamilton can be accessed by Googling "Clinch Scouts," and is well worth reading. I would like to quote some of Mr. Hamilton's article, as it gives a good picture of the hardships under which Bazle Castle worked as he performed Revolutionary War service. First, Mr. Hamilton says that "Indian spy" is another name for what were known as the Clinch Scouts. He writes, "When the settlements along the Clinch and Powell Rivers in Southwest Virginia were the extreme western frontier, these scouts patrolled 150 miles of rugged mountainous wilderness. They ranged from the headwaters of the Clinch and Bluestone Rivers to Cumberland Gap in Lee County."

A series of forts and the services of the Clinch Scouts helped protect the pioneers of southwest Virginia from attacks by Shawnee Indians from the north and Cherokee Indians from the south. "Scouts or spies were divided out into groups of twos and fours -- usually in pairs. Each pair was allotted a certain section of the frontier where the war paths of the Indians were watched for approaching Indians, and other signs looked for. The scouts were not an attack force, but exactly what they were called 'spies.' When the spies saw approaching Indians, or signs where they had been, they hid away to warn the settlers so they could prepare for defense."

Hamilton explains that April through September were the months that the Indians were most active and most dangerous. The forests were easily traveled then and hid the approach of the warriors. The settlers were so busy producing food and supplies for the winter that they were often caught unawares by the Indian attacks. "Had not these scouts performed their duties, it is hard to imagine what dreadful massacres would have been perpetrated against the frontiers..."

Hamilton's article confirms what Bazle said in his statement: that the pair of spies would often separate during the day and meet again at night at a pre-arranged place. "I can think of no group on the frontier who underwent more privation and hardship than the Clinch scouts. They carried their supplies on their backs, slept on the ground, and foraged for their food and could build no fires. Unless Indians or Indian signs were spotted they lived in the wilderness for weeks at a time before returning to the forts for supplies."

So, did Bazle receive a pension for his service as an Indian spy? Well, yes and no. The Pension Roll of 1835 for Lawrence County, Kentucky, reports that Bazle Castle was approved for an annual pension of $50 which commenced February 28, 1834, and that he had received $150 total. Then a citizen of Floyd County named D.K. Harris wrote to the U.S. Secretary of War to protest the pensions of "Baswell Castle, Edward Darton, Thomas and James Howard."

Pension Roll of 1835, Lawrence County KY

His main objection seems to be that the men named were not old enough to have performed service in the Revolutionary War. "...I will be able to show and can prove the age of a grate maney that were scarly born at the time the servises is said to be rendered. I asure you sir thare is no man in the goverment would like the soldiers of the revolution more amply rewarded than myself But when I see others under the pretence committing the worst of frauds on our government I feel it my duty as a citisan to asert my Government in detecting improper conduct..." A motivation for this citizenship may be found in the last paragraph of the letter: "...if my servises is found to be of advantage to the department I shall expect to be remunerated for them at the discretion of the department..."

Apparently, Harris's letter was also accompanied by corroborating statements from two other citizens, but it appears, according to the transcription, that they only referred to the two Howards in their statements. In any case, a letter dated August 6, 1835, and transcribed by C. Leon Harris from the pension file of another Kentucky pensioner, Joseph Davis, makes this statement: "The pensions of Joseph Davis, Bazle Castle, Edward Darten, Thomas Howard and James Howard have been stopped." From the existing documents it appears that the pension of Bazle Castle was stopped upon the statement of just one man, D.K. Harris. For the record, Bazle was 20 years old at the time of his service, and according to Emory Hamilton, much younger boys saw service as Clinch scouts.

Ironically, in 1842 D.K. (David K.) Harris sent a retraction of his previous claims to the War Department. He said that he lived about twenty or twenty-five miles from Darton, Castle, and Davis, and while "in the nabourhood on the hunt of sume work cattle," he visited the Dartons and found "him sitting in his chair a cripple not able to get about without help and his wife stone bline." He started a conversation about the Revolutionary War with Mrs. Darton and "she spoke sensibly of the servises of hir husband and of Castle & Davis shee thoughroly convinced me that the suspetion that was against them was rong and sir I do much regrett that it was in and through me that they ware cut out of thare rights..."

In 1839 a letter was written asking why the pension had been stopped, and in 1844 Bazle, aged 93, applied for a restoration of his pension. On December 29, 1851, John Castle of Johnson County, Kentucky, the only living child of Bazle Castle, applied for his father's pension from the date of suspension until his father's death on October 8, 1846. It appears that these appeals went unanswered and that the only money that Bazle ever received in pension for his Revolutionary War service was $150.

Statement of monies paid to Bazle Castle

The other question, of course, concerns Bazle's efforts against the native tribes while his father Jacob appears to have been sympathetic to them. It's impossible to know what conversations father and son may have had on the topic. In any case, according to Bazle's testimony, his father did participate in the Battle of Kings Mountain against Loyalist forces. I hope to write a post soon about that momentous victory of the Revolutionary War, made possible in part by the Overmountain Men of southwestern Virginia. U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

Hamilton, Emory. "The Clinch Scouts." Lee County Virginia Genealogical Research Site. The VA GenWeb Project. 30 Jan. 2017.

Revolutionary War Pension Application for Bazle Castle S15369. Transcribed by C. Leon Harris. Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Bazle Castle, Part 1: Floyd County, Kentucky

I recently got a comment on the blog post I wrote about Jacob Castle, son of Jacob "the Longhunter." (See "DNA Circle: Jacob Castle.") The commenter was justifiably skeptical about the undocumented stories concerning the original Jacob. I could tell by looking at her blog that she doesn't write it if she can't document it! She wondered what I knew about Bazle Castle, another son of Jacob Sr., according to many Castle family researchers. I had Bazle in my tree and had mentioned him in the blog post about Jacob Jr., but I haven't done a lot of research on him. It turns out that he is the reason we know that his father Jacob was at the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Jacob the Longhunter's life has been so mythologized, that I find it hard to determine what is the truth about his marriages and children. I discount any trees that list his children with named native wives, because I think this information comes from Shawnee Heritage by Don Greene and Noel Schutz. The authors give no documentation for any of the names they have come up with. I'm not sure there is documentation for any of Jacob's children. I think the best we can do is look for Castles in the right area of Virginia, born in the right time period to be Jacob's children. Many researchers include Basil/Bazle, Jacob Jr., maybe a Joseph, maybe a Benjamin.

Another complication arises because we don't know which documents refer to Jacob Sr. (the Longhunter) or Jacob Jr. (the one who lived to be 100.) Jacob Jr. died in Virginia, but it appears that many of his children made the move to Kentucky, including these probable sons: Benjamin, Inman, Nathan, William, Zachariah, and Zedekiah.

As far as I can tell, Bazle (AKA Basil, Baswell) was the first Castle to move permanently from southwestern Virginia to Kentucky. He appears on the 1810 census in Floyd County, Kentucky, as Basil Caswell. His family consists of one male 26-44, one female 16-25, and one male under 10. Also listed on this census is a J. Joseph Castile, a single man between 16 and 25, who may or may not be one of our Castles. The heads of households on this census are listed alphabetically, not geographically, so it's hard to know if these two families are related. Many Ancestry trees list Basil as "Basil Joseph" Castle. I don't know where this comes from. I have never seen any document that lists him as Basil Joseph. It makes me wonder if some past Castle researcher confused the two men, perhaps combining them, and other Ancestry users have followed suit.

The 1820 census records Bazil Castle on page 34 with a family that includes one male 45 and over, one female 26-44, and one female under 10. Also on page 34 is Nathan Castle, aged 16-25 with wife, aged 16-25, and son under 10. On page 21 of the same census are two other Castles, Zedekiah and John. Zedekiah has a large family that includes one male 26-44, one female 16-25, one male 16-25 (son or brother?), three males under 10, and three females under 10. John, who may be Bazle's son (more about him later), is aged 16-25. Other members of his household include two females, aged 16 to 25, one male under 10, and two females under 10.

1820 census, Floyd County KY

By the time of the 1830 census these Castles have been joined in Floyd County by Benjamin Castle, aged 30-39; Inman Castle, aged 20-29; and James Castle, aged 20-29. John is listed on the Floyd County census, while Bazle, Benjamin, Inman, James, and Nathan are enumerated within the limits of Paintsville, Floyd County. Records exist for 50 acres granted to Benjamin Castle, who is listed on the 1820 census in Scott County, Virginia. The land, on Sycamore Fork of Tom's Creek in Floyd County, was surveyed 22 September 1824, so it would appear that Benjamin moved to Kentucky between 1820 and 1830. Benjamin continued to buy land: 200 acres on Sycamore Fork in Floyd County in 1836; 100 acres on Sycamore Fork in Johnson County in 1848; and 100 acres on Sycamore Fork in Johnson County in 1855. In 1830 Zedekiah is enumerated in Lawrence County.

1830 census, Floyd County KY

I think an explanation of the history of Floyd County's boundaries might help here. It was very enlightening to me to realize that Floyd was the parent county for nearly all the counties in which my ancestors lived. According to Annals of Floyd County, Kentucky 1800-1828 by Charles C.Wells, Floyd County originally consisted of over 3,600 square miles. Here is his description of the original boundaries of the county:

The original boundary of Floyd County began in its northern point at the junction of the Levisa and Tug Forks of the Big Sandy River, or Sandy River which the original settlers referred to it. The line traveled westward for approximately 50 miles before turning south. Following mountain ridges and streams as a natural boundary for 60 miles, the line then turned eastward in a meandering course to the Virginia border.

From this large area, all or parts of 15 other counties were formed, among them Johnson, Lawrence, Magoffin, and Morgan counties. Lawrence County was formed in 1821, so it's possible that Zedekiah never moved, because his residence was in the part of Floyd that became Lawrence. The same thing happened when Johnson County was formed in 1843. Benjamin's land on Sycamore Fork was now located in Johnson instead of Floyd.

Boundaries of Floyd Co., 1800-1804

I guess I always assumed that once the Castles branched off to live in different counties in Kentucky that they didn't have much contact with each other. However, I just Mapquested the distance from Paintsville to West Liberty. Today it is 39 miles by highway and takes less than an hour to drive. In the 1800s it could be traveled in two days, whether by horsedrawn wagon or on horseback. Not to say they did it a lot, but it was do-able.

William Castle, my ancestor, doesn't show up in Kentucky until 1850, in Pulaski County, along with his grown sons, Goldman and James. That is considerably west of the original Floyd Co., almost 150 miles by highway today. William died in Pulaski Co., but by 1860 his son, Goldman Davidson Castle, was in Morgan County, closer to the other Castle families. (By the way, there is documentation that William is the son of Jacob Castle Jr. The death register for Pulaski Co. records his parents as Jacob and Martha Castle.)

Kentucky Death Records, Pulaski Co.

There is more to the Bazle Castle story. Stay tuned for "Bazle Castle, Part 2: Indian Spy."

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ghosts of Christmas Past

One of my favorite things about Christmas is getting out the decorations and ornaments that I only see once a year. They bring back so many memories of Christmases past. 

On my tree I have two special ornaments. One belonged to my mother, and the other might have been Big Mom's, but more likely was one of my grandmother's. In any case, they are both at least 50 to 60 years old. Every year I wrap them up in massive wads of tissue or paper towels and place them in the very middle of my ornament box, surrounded and protected by all the other wrapped ornaments. Every year I hold my breath as I unwrap them, hoping that they are still whole and unbroken.

My mom's ornament

My grandmother's (or Big Mom's) ornament

Another prized Christmas decoration is my stocking. The mother of one of my 1st grade classmates made every child in the class a stocking. I have put up mine, which says "Rebecca," every Christmas for almost 60 years.

I panicked a little this year when I couldn't find this next decoration. I have red and green Christmas bins that hold all my decorations and ornaments, and I went through every one of them three times, looking for the musical Christmas ball that Uncle Tom sent us from Germany when he was working there in the 1960's. I finally remembered that I had put it in its own box and tucked it away in the top of the closet last year. 

It was an object of fascination in the 1960's, something from another country and emblematic of Uncle Tom's exotic life. We always hung the Christmas ball in a doorway, where there was room to pull down the wire string that made it play "Silent Night." Nowadays, I'm almost afraid that it can't withstand one more tug on the pull string, so it hangs quietly on its ornament stand.

Here is what I remember about our Christmas decorations when I was growing up.

  • The mantel was always the focal point for my grandmother's Christmas decorating. The stockings hung from it; Santa Claus, poinsettias, and Christmas cards sat atop it; and my grandmother always wrote something in lipstick across the mirror.

  • She always decorated around the front door with cedar branches and multi-colored lights (the big bulbs that you can hardly find anymore). When we lived at 2717 W. 42nd St., the cedar came from our own tree. After we moved in 1963, for a couple of years Mom was still able to collect cedar from the tree at the old house to decorate the front door of Big Mom's house.

  • We always had a real Christmas tree. It smelled like a real tree, and it shed like a real tree. No wimpy Christmas tree stand for us! Our tree stood in a bucket of rocks and had to be watered often so it wouldn't dry out before the big day. I really don't remember the ornaments, but we had tinsel and big-bulbed lights with reflectors. I still have this tree topper that we sometimes used, but it's too sad-looking now to top my tree.

  • My grandmother also put up another tree, a small silver one that Uncle Mack brought home from the shoe store where he worked as a young man. She usually decorated it with ornaments all of one color, and I remember that she often used pink. That may be where my pink Christmas ornament came from. Our television set was so big in those days (not the screen, just the cabinet) that the tree usually sat on top of the TV.
  • We had a small ceramic tree with imitation pine needles and lights. I don't remember where my grandmother put it on 42nd St., but at Big Mom's house it sat in the window above the kitchen sink. One year my cousin Debbie burned her finger when she touched one of the lights.
  • We always had Christmas Eve with Uncle Mack, Aunt Helene, and Debbie. Aunt Helene usually bought me something that was the desire of my heart. One year, when I was a teenager, it was two dresses from a shop at 51st & Peoria. I had tried them on during one trip to the shop, then begged for them so much that my grandmother took me back to buy them, just to find that they had already been sold. It was a big surprise when they turned up as gifts from Aunt Helene under our tree on Christmas Eve.

  • Aunt Helene was also the queen of wrapping--her presents were wrapped so beautifully that you hated to open them. I could never wrap presents as beautifully as she did, but I was the designated wrapper at our house. My grandmother's arthritis made it difficult for her to handle tape and ribbon, so I took over those duties. I was such a good kid (and loved surprises so much) that she could give me my own presents to wrap and I wouldn't peek! Mostly.

The decorations I put out at Christmas help me remember wonderful times with family members that are gone. Mom, Big Mom, Aunt Helene and Uncle Mack, all my aunts and uncles, Daddy -- I hold you in my heart at Christmas time and always.

Daddy and I, Christmas 1954 -- I wish I knew what happened to this Santa!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The News from Oklahoma

From the summer of 1907 until the beginning of her teaching career, my grandmother lived in a farm between Davenport and Chandler, Oklahoma. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, settlement in Davenport began in 1891 with the opening of Sac and Fox lands to non-Indians. A couple named Davenport staked a claim in that opening and their daughter Nettie became postmistress when the post office was established at Davenport in 1892. In 1901 plans to construct a railroad line through the area led to a building boom in the little town of Davenport.

My understanding of the move to Oklahoma was that my grandmother's Day grandparents came to Oklahoma first, followed later by the Castle family. James Thomas (J.T.) Day and his wife Nancy Emily Reed had been married in Magoffin County, Kentucky, on 13 April 1876 and by 1894 had seven living children, all girls: Ida, Florida, Zedda, Emma, Margaret, Minta, and Retta Lee. Sometime before 1907 the Day parents and their seven daughters, including Florida Day Castle and her family, had moved to Oklahoma.

But why Davenport? For a long time I didn't know or even question why or exactly when the Days had moved to Oklahoma. Then a few years ago I met some Day cousins and learned that our ancestors came to Davenport in a group led by Methodist ministers from Kentucky. I actually had forgotten that I knew that when I started to do some research on the Days last week and Googled "J.T. Day Davenport Oklahoma."

What I found was more than I expected. The Google search led to a priceless Oklahoma resource, the Gateway to Oklahoma History, an online repository of the Oklahoma Historical Society, which now consists of "hundreds of thousands of newspaper pages dating from the 1840s to the 1920s." My search of J.T. Day helped to pinpoint a date by which my 2nd great-grandparents had moved to Davenport -- 1904.

The first issue of the Davenport Leader in which J.T. Day appeared was dated 15 December 1904. The entire front page of the paper was dedicated to the growth of the town--the construction of a bank building, the preparations for oil and gas drilling, and the purchase of townsites for homes. The townsites were owned and sold by the group of Methodist ministers, incorporated as the Kentucky, Oklahoma, Indian Territory and Adjacent States Land and Townsite Company. According to the Leader, the secretary of the townsite company, Rev. C.F. Oney, had recently come to town from Kentucky to close several pending deals.

Davenport Leader, 15 December 1904

The Oneys were ancestors of the Days, so I did a little research on C.F. Oney. Creed Fulton Oney was the son of James Oney and Rhoda Day. My 4th great-grandfather, Thomas P. Day, and Rhoda Day were brother and sister. J.T. Day's mother was an Oney. So Creed Oney and James T. Day were double cousins. It made a little more sense now how my Days had ended up in Oklahoma.

On the front page of the 15 December 1904 issue of the Davenport Leader was the name I was looking for. The paper reported, "G.A. Hugo and J.T. Day are having plans drawn and will soon commence building large and substantial residences on their lots recently purchased." The 2 March 1905 issue of the Leader reported, "Wm. Tipton and family arrived last Thursday from Lykins, Ky. and for the present are stopping with his wife's parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Day and family. He will locate here." William Tipton's wife was Zedda Day. Here is a piece of evidence that might support the story that Grandpa and Grandma Day's daughters followed their parents to Oklahoma.

According to my grandmother, the Castles came to Oklahoma the summer before statehood was declared in November 1907. After seeing the headstone of Goldman Davidson Castle in Kentucky, I wondered if his death in February 1907 gave his son George permission to follow his wife's family to Oklahoma.

So I began to search for mentions of the Castles in Davenport newspapers. The next item I found was in a different paper, the New Era, dated 12 May 1910, and was especially precious to me. My grandmother was born in 1897 and died almost 25 years ago. But here she is in print, captured forever at age 13: "The Era is indebted to Miss Fannie Castle, little daughter of G.T. Castle, who recently bought the Berry farm, for a monster boquet which she brought to the office last Saturday." 

My grandmother, Fannie Castle (back, center) at
about the age she delivered the bouquet

I also found several news items and articles referring to a fact that I don't think any of the Castle descendants knew: George T. Castle, former deputy court clerk of Morgan County, Kentucky, ran for the office of Register of Deeds for his new home in Lincoln County, Oklahoma. The following article appeared on 18 April 1912:

  The Era is pleased to be able, this week, to announce the candidacy of G.T. Castle for the office of Register of Deeds. Mr. Castle is known to most of our readers as a man of ability and integrity, but to his friends as well as to those who are not acquainted with him the following facts will prove of interest.
  He was born in Morgan Co. Ky, 45 years ago and made his home there until about five years ago when he came with his family to Lincoln Co. He has a good education, is a good accountant and served for four years as deputy clerk of Morgan Co. where the office of clerk and recorder are one. He is an able man, known to be honest in all his dealings, a good fellow in the best sense of the term, has a fine family, owns a good farm and knows how to manage it and has a host of friends in Lincoln county who can vouch for his fitness for the office he wants.

Following a few weeks later was an endorsement from the county court clerk of Morgan Co., James H. Sebastian, with the headline "Says Castle Is O.K."

The New Era, 13 June 1912

What I find really interesting is that the Davenport newspapers of the early 1900s were every bit as informative and gossipy as Facebook. Here is a sample of some of the little items of news that mentioned the Castles, both young and old.

5 August 1909
  • J.T. Day is putting in a cain (cane) mill and evaporator on his place two miles north of Davenport.
Davenport, OK on August 31, 1910

10 August 1911
  • Mollie and Debbie Massey visited Fannie and Georgia Castle Sunday. [My grandmother was 14; Aunt Georgia had just turned 8.]
  • Mr. and Mrs. Jones [Cora, George's daughter by his first marriage] of near Chandler were the guests of Mrs. Jones' parents, Mr. and Mrs. Castle Sunday.
17 August 1911
  • Mrs. G.T. Castle and little daughter, Jessie, visited the school Friday afternoon.
2 November 1911
  • There was quite a crowd at prayer meeting last Wednesday night. The prayer meeting will be at J.T. Day's next Wednesday.
2 May 1912
  • G.T. Castle and little son Goldman visited J.T. Day's Tuesday.
30 May 1912
  • J.T. Day and G.T. Castle and family were visitors at W.T. Tipton's Sunday.
27 June 1912
  • J.T. Day and wife were in Chandler on business Tuesday. [Was nothing private?]
  • G.T. Castle and wife were visiting the latter's parents Sunday.
  • Maggie Day was shopping at Davenport Thursday.
  • Misses Minta and Retta Lee Day are expected home Saturday from Chandler where they have been attending normal [school] for the past month.
26 September 1912
  • There was a family reunion at the Day home Sun. Everyone of the family was present and able to partake of a goodly dinner of which mutton was the chief diet. After dinner which was served on the lawn, a photographer was called and a family picture taken.
  • Minta Day and her sister, Mrs. Day who is here on a visit from Kentucky, expect to attend the State Fair...
2 January 1913
  • G.T. Castle and family have moved in from the farm and are occupying the Hugo house for the present.
13 February 1913
  • G.T. Castle, who was appointed deputy assessor for South Fox township, has started in on his duties.
30 September 1915
  • Miss Fannie Castle was in Chandler last Saturday.  
School Dope (column)
  • Fannie Castle was absent from school Monday morning.
14 October 1915
Literary Program a Great Success (article)
  • Miss Fannie Castle, in giving the reading "Little Nell," so vividly described the scene that you could almost see the flames leaping from the little log house on the hillside and hear the blood curdling yell of the savage red men. 
28 October 1915
  • Mrs. G.T. Castle and son Forrest drove to Chandler last Thursday.
18 November 1915
  • Fannie Castle of Davenport and Ollie Landis of Luther called on Marie Bell Sunday afternoon. [Marie Bell Lay was my grandmother's best friend from Davenport.]
30 December 1915
  • Miss Fannie Castle, who is teaching school near Tulsa, is here spending the Holidays.
Miss Fannie Castle as a young teacher

6 January 1916
  • Miss Fannie Castle and brother Forrest went to Tulsa Saturday night on the 9:02.
2 March 1916
  • Miss Fannie Castle came up from Tulsa Saturday, and returned to her school Sunday.
  • Marie Bell entertained a number of young folks Saturday night at her home in honor of Miss Fannie Castle of Tulsa. The evening was spent in music and games. Those present were Messers. Eldon Hall, Steve Grigsby, Roy Rounsavell, Hobart Baugus, Oscar Allred, Ollie Landis, Oliver Lay and Misses Jurene Grigsby, Gertrude Rounsavell, Ezma Johnson, Willa Harvey, Fannie Castle and Eva and Marie Bell.
I'm so glad I found these newspaper articles, and I'm so thankful to the Oklahoma Historical Society for these glimpses into a century past and the lives of my grands and greats.

Davenport Leader (Davenport, Okla.), Vol. 1, No. 33, Ed. 1 Thursday, December 15, 1904, Newspaper, December 15, 1904; ( : accessed November 13, 2016), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History,; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The New Era. (Davenport, Okla.), Vol. 4, No. 23, Ed. 1 Thursday, June 13, 1912, Newspaper, June 13, 1912; ( : accessed November 13, 2016), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History,; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Kith and Kin

When the Days and Castles first came to Oklahoma, they lived between Davenport and Chandler. I think it was in the early 1980's that we took my grandmother back there to visit one Sunday. We drove around roads that she remembered from 70 years before. We learned that many of the same families still lived on these farms, and how did we know that? Because my grandmother would point out the home of a family she remembered, and sure enough, the name on the mailbox would be the one she said. 

In my last post I shared a map my grandmother drew in her 80's showing the homes of families she remembered from her early years in Kentucky. The summer after she turned 10 she and her family moved to Oklahoma, and she never returned. She drew that map 75 years after she left Kentucky in 1907. Now, I could probably draw a map of the neighborhoods I lived in before I was 10, but I have lived here ever since, so I have 60 years worth of memories to draw on. If I had left Red Fork at the age of 10, I wonder how much I would remember now.

I thought it might be fun to find these Kentucky families on the 1900 census and try to determine where they lived and what connection they might have had to the Castle family. Why did my grandmother remember them? And just for curiosity's sake, was her map correct?

It complicates things a little that the names of the communities around West Liberty seem to have changed. Some of them have disappeared altogether. The communities that I remember my grandmother talking about were Caney, Cannel City, Stacy Fork, and of course, the town of West Liberty. On my grandmother's application for a delayed birth certificate from Kentucky, she said that she was born near Caney. The one-room school she attended was in Stacy Fork. Since he was postmaster, for a time the area around Grandpa Castle's house was known as Castle, KY. The name I never heard was Panama, the area around the little G.D. Castle family cemetery. It must have been a usage that came about after my grandmother left Kentucky.

G.D. Castle postmaster appointment showing p.o. name as Castle, KY

Starting with the cluster around Stacy Fork in the left-hand corner of the map:

I know how my grandmother knew the Ratliffs. Dora Castle, daughter of James H. and Elizabeth Nickell Castle, was married to Wheeler Ratliff. They first appear in the 1910 census in Walnut Grove, Morgan County, also known as Precinct 7, Caney. They are buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Stacy Fork. No wonder this is so confusing! 

How about the Webbs? This was a hard one, but I figured it out. Geneva Haney Alexander was a friend of the Castles who lived in Tulsa but had moved there in her teens from Morgan County. Geneva was born in 1902 in Stacy Fork. Her parents were Jariel D. and Martha Lou Webb Haney. Jariel and Martha are enumerated on the 1900 census in Caney. Geneva, her husband Jess, her parents, and her brother Cecil are all buried at Memorial Park in Tulsa.

Geneva Haney (seated) with my grandmother

Lykins was and is a very popular name in Morgan County. On the 1900 census there are over 35 heads of households with the last name Lykins, just in Morgan County. According to Ancestry, in 1880 and 1920 more people with the surname Lykins lived in Kentucky than in any other state. Eliza, daughter of William and Nancy Wells Castle, married Clay Lykins, but I can't determine from which of these families he comes.

Haney is another popular name in Morgan County. My grandmother listed four different Haney families on her map. My grandmother apparently knew some of these Haney families as relatives and perhaps others as the families of classmates. There were several Haneys in the photograph I have of her classmates at Stacy Fork School. The Castles were also related to the Haneys through marriage. Rachel Sargent Castle's father, John Sargent, died very young. His wife, Rachel's mother, Anna Bays Sargent, remarried to James Haney in 1841. Of the seven children that lived with her on various censuses, she was the mother of at least three: Miriam, Elizabeth, and George Washington Haney. 

Stacy Fork School, about 1902

I found the Gulletts, Quicksells, Nickells, Combses, and Whiteakers all listed on the 1900 census in Morgan County, River, District 0074. Starting on page 26 of that enumeration are the Castles and Gulletts. Heads of households on that page are John Gullett, Mason Gullett, George T. Castle, and Goldman D. Castle. Mason Gullett's son, Asa, married Lutie Day, the first cousin of my grandmother's mother, Sarah Florida Day Castle. 

On page 28 are three families that I know my grandmother knew. First on the page was Massoline Nickell with her six children. She was the widow of Kelsey Nickell, who was the brother of George Turner Castle's first wife, Frances. Halfway down on the page was the family of William H. and Nancy Wells Castle (my grandmother listed all their names on her map; see below). Two houses down from the Castles was Napoleon "Uncle Boney" Haney. He was married to Miriam Haney, daughter of James Haney and Anna Bays.

On page 29 were Combs and Quicksell families, and on page 31 was the family of Alex Whiteaker. Under his name my grandmother listed three of his children. The first name, which looks like Bob, has to be some nickname for his oldest daughter, Mary Belle. Then comes J.D. (James) and Myrtle. James Whiteaker really did go by J.D.; as such he signed as informant on his father's death certificate.

William and Nancy Wells Castle family

On the right of my grandmother's map at the end of Castle Branch she lists all the children of William and Nancy Castle. Again, it's neat to know that they were known as Will and Nan. John Seymour Castle, who apparently went by Seymour, married Rosa Katherine (Kate) Oney. My grandmother listed their two children, (John) Boyd and Edna. Elizabeth (Elizie on the 1880 census) married first in 1892 to G.W. Lee, and then in 1906 to Alonzo Daugherty. She was already married and living on her own before my grandmother was born, which is probably why she is missing from my grandmother's list of Will and Kate's children. The next two children were Eliza, who married Clay Lykins, and (Goldman) Davidson, named for his grandfather, who died by age 25. (George) Barnes Castle married "Lula" Oney, and apparently set up housekeeping very close to his mother and dad. The two youngest were (Rachel) Florida and Effie. Florida's son, Mearl McGuire, and Effie both corresponded with my grandmother in her later years. 

I'm not sure Malone was called Malone when my grandmother lived in Kentucky. It is another small community lying outside of West Liberty. The census does not call it Malone until 1940, and only about 15 families were enumerated in that district in that year. Since my grandmother corresponded with Mearl McGuire, who lived in Malone, she may have used that name on her map because it corresponded to the area where the McGuires had lived when she was young. She lists five families there: the Walshes, DeBords, McGuires, Wells, and Bays.

In 1900 the John Debord family was enumerated in the same district with the families above: Morgan County, River, District 0074. John Debord (spelled in various censuses as Deborde, DeBorde, Deboard, Debard, etc.) was married to Calah Wells. Calah was the sister of Nancy Wells, who was married to William H. Castle (Nan and Will), but that is not her only connection to my grandmother's family. The father and mother of Nancy and Calah were James Wells and his wife Carrie Ann Day. Carrie Ann was the sister of Andrew Jackson Day who was the grandfather of my great-grandmother, Sarah Florida Day, wife of George Turner Castle. Whew! Is that convoluted enough for you??

I haven't figured out how or if the Walshes were related to the Castles, but they did live in the same area as the Debord and Wells families. In fact, according to Findagrave, John Walsh and his wife Mary, James Wells and his wife Carrie Ann Day, and John DeBorde and his wife Calah Wells are all buried in the DeBorde Cemetery in (wait for it) Malone

The Bays families in Malone were no doubt descended from the brothers of Anna Bays Sargent Haney. My grandmother would probably have known the degree of relationship, but the Bays families in 1900 were too far downstream for me to determine how they were related to Anna.

Caney, Stacy Fork, and Malone are all described by Wikipedia as lying along Highway 191 south of West Liberty, so if you want to read my grandmother's map oriented properly, West Liberty would be rotated to the top of the map.

If you compare my grandmother's map to this 1999 map of Morgan County, it might not match perfectly, but you can sure get an idea of these little communities in relation to each other. Traveling south on 191 from West Liberty, you might first see these little "branches," DeBoard Branch, Castle Branch, and Haney Branch. Just before DeBoard Branch to the east is the community of Malone. Look west between the Castle and Haney Branches and you will see Panama. Just south of Haney Branch on Hwy. 844 you will see Stacy Fork. To the east of Stacy Fork is the Walnut Grove Church. Further south on 191 are Caney and Cannel City.

Some of these families had known each other forever. On this one page of the 1870 census, long before my grandmother was born in 1897, I found these names on Page 1 of the Morgan County, Caney, enumeration: Anna (Bays) Haney, Goldman Castle (and wife Rachel, daughter of Anna), Alex Whiteaker, and John Haney (father of Jerial, grandfather of Geneva Haney Alexander). No wonder they stayed in my grandmother's thoughts for 80 years.

1870 Morgan County Census