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, July 21, 2017

Secret Sister

I think the Castle readers of this blog will be interested in this post, but I also think our experience with this new "relative" could be helpful to anyone doing family research.

My cousin Linda recently texted me this question: "Was Cora's mother's name Mary Lesterman?" and then followed it up seconds later with a second text: "Never mind -- I remember it was Frances Nickell -- brain lapse."

Cora was the half-sister of the eight Castle siblings who were children of George Turner Castle and Sarah Florida Day. Cora was the daughter of G.T. Castle with his first wife, Frances Nickell. Cora's parents married in Morgan County, Kentucky, on 17 October 1884, and Cora was born on 10 October 1890. Her mother passed away on 10 April 1893, and Cora was subsequently raised by her Castle grandparents. Her father remarried to Florida Day on 2 January 1896.

The Castle and Nickell families were connected by more than just this marriage. Frances's sister, Elizabeth, was married to G.T. Castle's brother, James. The graves of James, Elizabeth, and some of their children (including Caledonia and her foot) are located with those of James and George's parents, Goldman and Rachel (Sargent) Castle, in Panama, Morgan County, Kentucky. You can read about our discovery of the graves here. That's why we were so sure that George T. Castle's first wife's name was Frances Nickell. That's all my grandmother ever called her.

Family of James H. and Elizabeth (Nickell) Castle

Which brings us back to Mary Lesterman. Linda had gotten a hint on (Kentucky, County Marriages, 1783-1965) that George Castle had married Mary F. Lesterman (or in another index--Mary Flesterman) on 17 October 1884. We had both disregarded the hint because it was the wrong name, but what Linda had noticed was that it was the same date. That made me take a look at the original record of the marriage.

Hint #1: I've seen this hint over and over in genealogy self-help books, and I try to look at the original record if it's available online, but I don't always if I'm in a hurry. Make a vow right now: Always look at the original record if you have access to it.

The handwritten record made it obvious that the bride's name was not Flesterman; it was Mary F. Lesterman or maybe even Testerman. But what the index didn't show, and the original marriage register did, was the place of marriage: the home of J.W. Nickell. James Wilson Nickell was the father of Frances and Elizabeth Nickell. It began to be more and more probable that Frances Nickell was the same person as Mary F. Lesterman/Testerman.

Marriage record of Mary F. Nickell and S.M. Testerman

Hint #2: Usually my hint would be "Don't assume two people with similar names are the same person," but in this case, If dates or other details match up, don't assume that two people with similar names are not the same person.

My next step was to search the Ancestry records for a Frances Nickell who married a Testerman in Morgan County, Kentucky. Sure enough, Mary F. Nickell, age 17, married S.M. Testerman, age 27, on 4 February 1876. Sadly, Silas M. Testerman died 19 May 1876. Again, checking the original record supplied information the index didn't show. Poor Silas drowned. And apparently--and here's the thing that has surprised Linda and me--Mary Frances was pregnant.

Death record for Silas M. Testerman

Hint #3: Check all the census records you can find for the relative you are researching. If I hadn't, I might never have noticed that Mary Frances had a child.

The next census in which Mary Frances would have appeared was the 1880. On the 1880 Morgan County census I found Mary Testerman, age 22, widowed, with daughter Salina M., age 3. Kentucky birth records show that Salina was born 17 November 1876.

Unfortunately, as most genealogists learn to their chagrin, the 1890 census mostly does not exist, due to a fire in 1921 at the Commerce Department Building where the records were stored. By 1900 Mary Frances was dead, and George Castle was remarried. The 1900 census shows that his family consisted of himself, wife Florida, and children Cora, Fannie, and Forrest. (Goldman and Rachel Castle, the next family on the census, also claim Cora, calling her "step daughter." Of course, she was really their grandchild.)

So, what happened to Salina?

Hint #4: Pay attention to Ancestry resource tips.

When you look at a source for an individual on Ancestry, Suggested Resources appear to the right of the page. I think they must be sources that are attached to the same individual by other Ancestry users. They are often extremely valuable when other records for an individual (census, birth, marriage, death) are difficult to find for some reason. (Beware; sometimes they are wrong. That's what makes me think they are selected by Ancestry users--sometimes in error.) In the case of Salina M. Testerman, they were very helpful--because Salina did not always go by the same first name.

When I look at Salina M. Testerman's 1880 census record, records for the following names appear in Suggested Resources: Salina Testerman, Monrovia Jones, Selina M. Jones, Monrovia Testerman, and Salina M. Testerman. Of course, I had to click on all the resources to determine if they all referred to the same woman. Apparently, they do.

Having not seen Silas M. Testerman's middle name on any primary source, I wasn't sure what it was until I found an entry on Findagrave for Silas Monroe Testerman. It looks like Mary Frances gave her baby a name that honored her father: Salina Monrovia. Monrovia Jones is enumerated on the 1900 census in Morgan County, Kentucky, with husband Alonzo H. Jones, whom she had married in 1898, and son Carl M. Jones, age 1. In 1910 the Jones family, with several more children, are living in Missouri; in 1920, 1930, and 1940 they are living in Kansas.

According to Findagrave, Alonzo and Monrovia are buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Chanute, Kansas. Alonzo died in 1952; apparently, Monrovia moved to Idaho to live with one of her children, because the Social Security Death Index shows that a Monrovia S. Jones (with the same birth date as Salina M. Testerman) died in Nampa, Idaho, in 1971. They must have returned her body to Kansas for burial beside her husband.

Which is the weird thing. Cora Castle also married a Jones and lived and died in Kansas. I think Cora met her husband, Fred L. Jones, after the Castle family moved to Davenport, because Fred was born in Arkansas. They are listed on the 1910 census in Chandler, Oklahoma, with their son Ralph, who was just a baby. I can't find them on the 1920 census, but on the 1930 census they are living in Herington, Kansas, where they are both buried.

Cora Castle, Herington KS, 1940's

Chanute and Herington are about two and a half hours away from each other. Did Cora and her half-sister, Monrovia, visit each other as adults? Considering that he lived in another state, we saw our Jones cousin, Ralph, often. My grandmother told me stories about Cora, who was 7 years older than she was. She never mentioned that Cora had a half-sister, as far as I can remember, but Salina Monrovia had already married in 1900 when my grandmother was just 3, and by the time the Castle family settled in Davenport, Oklahoma, Salina Monrovia was in Missouri.

I have recently had a DNA match with a Jones cousin, the son of Ralph's brother, Lavelle. I have messaged him to ask about Monrovia, but I haven't heard back from him. If he has anything to add to the story, I will let you know.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Revolution Road Trip: Jacob Castle and Shenandoah

Finally--Shenandoah National Park! I had been anticipating this since I realized that Jacob Castle owned land not far from the park. Tim and I had visited Castlewood, Virginia, on a previous trip (see Genealogy on the Road: Castlewood Virginia), but Castle's Woods was not the first place Jacob lived in Virginia.

On I had found an entry for Jacob Castle under "Virginia Land, Marriage, and Probate Records 1639-1850." Although the original land transaction was recorded in the Augusta County court records, the Ancestry entry comes from "Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, 1745-1800." Compiled by Lyman Chalkley and originally published in 1912, the Chronicles contain abstracts of Augusta County court records from 1745 to 1800 and is available online. (The University of Virginia urges caution when using these records; don't assume that just because a piece of information is not in the Chronicles that it doesn't exist.)

One of the entries that mentioned Jacob Castle was a land record dated 17th May 1752. In its entirety it says: " Edward Watts and Elizabeth, of Culpeper, to John Magret, 125 acres. Mouth of Hawksbill of Shanando; 200 acres sold by Jacob Stover to Jacob Castle; Castle sold 75 acres to Jacob Coger, 26th June, 1740, and 125 acres to Elizabeth Downs, present wife of Edward Whats. 33d [3rd?] September, 1742." In other words, Jacob Castle bought 200 acres from Jacob Stover (more about him later) before 26 June 1740; he sold 75 acres to Jacob Coger in 1740 and the remaining 125 acres to Elizabeth Downs (later Watts) in 1742. The land was located at the "mouth of Hawksbill of Shanando."

Jacob Stover is a well-known name in the history of this part of Virginia. He was born in Switzerland in 1688 and emigrated to Pennsylvania with a group of fellow Mennonites, possibly in 1702. He first bought land in Pennsylvania, not long before marrying Sarah Boone, the aunt of Daniel Boone, on 15 March 1714. In 1729 he first visited the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and in 1730 received two grants of land, 5000 acres each, from the Virginia Council.

According to the Family Search Wiki on Virginia Land and Property, "Land grants from this office were given in two ways--to those who brought persons to Virginia (headright grants) or to persons who paid money into the treasury (purchases). Headright grants were issued from about 1618 to 1732. A person was given a patent for a certain number of acres (usually 50 per person) for himself, his wife, servants, slaves, or any other passengers for whom he provided passage." Part of the colorful story surrounding Jacob Stover is that, in the absence of enough people to secure the 10,000 acres he requested, he submitted names for all of his livestock.

It appears that Jacob Stover and Jacob Castle were also friends. When Jacob Stover died in 1741, Jacob Castle was named guardian of Jacob's son, Abraham, who was under the age of 21. For a more complete picture of the peopling of the Shenandoah Valley by Jacob Stover and others, see The German Element of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, published in 1907, by John Walter Wayland, available online.

As usual, I learned a lot after I returned home from our trip. Before the trip I had googled "Hawksbill" and "Shenandoah," guessing that the word "Shanando" was a different, older spelling of that lovely word. I found that there was a Hawksbill Creek in the Shenandoah Valley, and not only that, but the highest point of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park was Hawksbill Mountain. There was a great map of Shenandoah National Park and surrounding areas on the Park website. Perhaps from the viewpoint of Hawksbill Mountain, we could see the mouth of the Hawksbill or the point at which it flows into the Shenandoah River, and we could pinpoint the approximate location of the land that Jacob Castle owned.

We entered the park at the northernmost entrance and stopped at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center for our first photos of the valley. I was expecting beauty, but the view of valley and mountains exceeded my expectations.

Why, oh why, did Jacob Castle leave this beautiful place? The gorgeous views may not have impressed the pioneers; we love the mountains because we are on vacation, and we don't have to climb them or go around them to get where we are going. However, as the pioneers found out, the Shenandoah Valley was prime farmland. Some families have lived here and farmed here since the 1700's. We decided it was because our Jacob wasn't a farmer; he was an adventurer.

Shenandoah National Park runs the length of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and you can drive it from end to end in 6 to 8 hours. Between the length of the drive and my brother's fear of heights, we didn't make it to Hawksbill Mountain. As Tim pointed out, Couldn't we see Jacob Castle's land from the valley just as well as from the mountain? So we drove back out the north end of the park and headed through the Shenandoah Valley, which was just as beautiful with its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains on one side and the Shenandoah Mountains on the other.

We were nearing the end of the mountain ranges when we suddenly crossed a bridge with a sign that said Hawksbill Creek. I shrieked, and the intrepid Tim again tried to find a way we could get to our destination without losing our lives in a fiery collision with an 18-wheeler. We were really in luck this time. Tim realized that the creek went under the bridge and came out on the other side in the town of Luray. In fact, there was a whole park that ran alongside the creek.

I don't know how far we were from "the mouth of Hawksbill of Shanando," but it was good enough for us. We were standing on the same creek that ran through the land of our ancestor, Jacob Castle.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Revolution Road Trip: Presidential Places

The last leg of our road trip was taking us to Jacob Castle's land in the Shenandoah Valley, but first we were going to visit a place that I have wanted to see for many years. Over the years I have sponsored three student trips to Washington, D.C., and as part of those trips I've been to Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Mount Vernon (twice), but somehow those trips never included Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Now I was finally going to get to see it.

Our early morning began with breakfast at the Woodlands Hotel right outside the gates of Colonial Williamsburg. The hotel was full of student groups and brought back memories of my previous trips. My predominant feeling was relief that other people were responsible for the teenagers milling around the lobby and dining room! We hit the Colonial Williamsburg gift shop just as soon as it opened--I bought my very own Shut the Box--and we were on our way to Monticello.

By the time we got to Monticello it was 11:00 a.m., and the Michie Tavern was opening for business. In all the years I have heard about Monticello, I had not heard about the Michie Tavern, which has its own history. The tavern was built by William Michie in 1777 and had been a local meeting place for years before Michie petitioned in 1784 for permission to operate an "ordinary." defines an ordinary as "(in a restaurant or inn) a complete meal in which all courses are included at one fixed price," which is exactly what the Michie Tavern serves in its buffet of typical Southern lunch fare: fried chicken, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes and gravy, peach cobbler, and more. The food was delicious, and the building was beautiful.

Michie Tavern

It's even more amazing when you discover that the Michie Tavern has not always been in this location. After the inn closed around the time of the Civil War, it was a residence for the Michies and others. In 1927 it was purchased by a local businesswoman who had an idea for a museum and had the building moved 17 miles to its present location a half-mile from Monticello.

After lunch we headed down the road to Monticello. What I have always admired about Thomas Jefferson is his wide-ranging and inventive mind, so my favorite parts of Monticello showed his ingenious side. I was very interested in the 7-day clock just inside the front door and how they had to cut a hole in the floor to make room for Saturday in the basement. I also liked the imaginative arrangement of his alcove bed and the closet above it.


Jefferson's tomb through the fence

Our next stop was an unexpected pleasure. Until my brother told me, I didn't know that Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison, was so close to Monticello. It is a beautiful house in a beautiful setting. I've always admired Dolley and have learned to admire James Madison, "the father of the Constitution." The combined intellect of our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) never ceases to amaze me.

View from the front porch
Madison's tomb and family cemetery

Tim and I discussed how many Presidential graves we have visited. He beats me by a bunch, but I now have visited the resting places of George Washington (Mount Vernon), Thomas Jefferson (Monticello), James Madison (Montpelier), Andrew Jackson (The Hermitage), William Howard Taft (Arlington National Cemetery), Woodrow Wilson (Washington National Cathedral), and John F. Kennedy (Arlington National Cemetery.) At least I think I have seen Taft's and Wilson's, since I have been to Arlington and the National Cathedral twice each.

Our final family-related stops would come the next day but for the evening we were staying in a cute little cabin on a lake, part of a resort time-share my brother and his wife have. I could have stayed there for a week and enjoyed the view from the living room windows.