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.

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Ming Cousins

One of the first blog posts I wrote was called "The Wheats in Texas." In that post I talked about my surprise when I found a gravestone with the name "Susanna Wheat Ming" in the little Carson Cemetery outside of Dustin in Hughes County, Oklahoma. It was a clue that led me to connections between the Ming and Wheat families that I didn't know existed. I found out last Sunday that that post also led me to new Ming connections with cousins I didn't know I had. 

In those early years of genealogical research, I assumed that my Wheat-Ming great-grandparents' marriage was the first combination of those two families. I knew that a Ming (Cynthia, my great-grandmother) had married a Wheat, but I didn't know that a Wheat (Susanna) had married a Ming. Then on the 1880 census I found my grandfather J.W. Wheat, age 8 months, living with his parents J. Wheat and Cynthia, who in turn were living with Cynthia's parents, William F. Ming and wife Susanna. I discovered that William F. (Fred) Ming and Susanna were first cousins. William's mother was Susanna Stephenson, and his wife Susanna's mother was Cynthia Stephenson, who had married Samuel Wheat. So Susanna Ming was originally a Wheat and now the gravestone "Susanna Wheat Ming" made perfect sense. Until recently, though, I still didn't know how she had come to be buried in Carson Cemetery.

The Mings have always been fun to research because the name is fairly unusual. Back in the day, surname message boards were a great place to connect with relatives and share genealogical discoveries. For years I saw the name "Paul Ming" on Ming family message boards. I noticed that he lived in Oklahoma, although not close to me, and it was fun to know that I had a Ming cousin nearby, even though we had never met.

And then last November, out of the blue, I got an email from Paul Ming:

"Hi Becky, my name is Paul Ming and this is a picture of my great grandmother Susanna Wheat Ming with her daughter Martha and grandchildren. Grandma and Martha are both buried in Dustin, OK. I would like to hear from you. I have several years of research on the Ming lineage. Also I can always use another cousin. I live in Texas but raised an Okie. One of my daughters lives in Owasso. Looking forward to hearing from you."

Thus began a several-month correspondence by email and snail mail. Paul sent me one packet of information about the Mings and Wheats and another with much of his research on the Whitley family and the Whitley House. In the Ming/Wheat packet was a gift beyond measure--the only picture I have of my grandfather, John William Wheat, in which he is identified. (The only other photo I had was of a group of oil workers, and I still don't know which of them is my grandfather.)

We had planned to get together at Christmas when Paul and his wife were visiting their daughter, but he came down with the flu. We kept corresponding, and finally, Paul was going to be here this past weekend for his daughter's birthday. My brother was free Sunday afternoon and picked me up for the short drive to Traci's house. What I was delighted to find was that not only was I going to get to meet Paul and his wife but all four of their daughters, my new cousins.

Traci, Bobbie, Paul, Ruthie, Toni, Kathryn

Me, Paul, and Tim
We spent almost two hours looking at family photos and all of Paul's research into the Mings and related families. Paul's wife Bobbie added so much to the conversation that it was obvious that she knows just as much about the Mings as Paul does. In fact, it was Bobbie who shared the story of how Paul had found me, and it all goes back to his great-grandmother and my 2nd great-grandmother, Susanna Wheat Ming.

Buried in the little Carson Cemetery outside Dustin, Oklahoma, is my grandfather, John William Wheat; his wife, Cora Lee Bell Wheat Altstatt; and his grandmother, Susanna Wheat Ming. Down the same row, right at the front of the cemetery, are Frank Bell (Cora Bell's uncle); his wife, Martha E. (Ming) Bell (Susanna Wheat Ming's daughter); and Frank and Mattie's daughter, May Eaunice, who died at the age of 16. I knew that Susanna was living with her daughter Martha "Mattie" Bell when she died. What I didn't understand was why her husband, William F. Ming, was living 200 miles away in Granite, Oklahoma, with his daughter Helen from his first marriage.

Paul had the answer to that little mystery, thanks to our cousin Benton Bell, another of Frank and Mattie's children. Apparently, after Fred and Susanna Ming grew older, Fred's daughter Helen asked them both to move to Granite and live with her family. Since most of Susanna's children lived in south central Oklahoma or north Texas, she preferred to stay closer to them and chose to remain in Hughes County. I always wondered at the couple's separation, and I'm glad to know that Susanna was welcome in the home of her step-daughter.

We never know what little ripples our actions cause. It turns out that Paul was responsible for the gravestone marked "Susanna Wheat Ming" in the Carson Cemetery. In 1993 he had found out from Benton Bell where Susanna's grave was, compared to the other markers, and he placed a concrete headstone there, inscribed with her name and birth and death years. I saw the marker, and it started me on a decade of research into the histories of the Ming and Wheat families. That marker became an important part of that early blog post, "The Wheats in Texas." Then last fall Paul was playing with his new Samsung tablet, a gift from one of his daughters, and was so surprised and happy to see the gravestone he had placed in my blog post. As Bobbie explained, that led to his email to me and to a happy family get-together this past weekend.

I found out that I have a cousin, Traci, who lives fewer than 5 miles from me. I could have passed her at the Owasso Wal-Mart and never known that she was my cousin. Paul says we will continue to get together when he and Bobbie are up this way. Paul says he doesn't have many cousins, and he doesn't plan on losing me now!

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