Friday, August 16, 2019

Photo identification—a never ending struggle

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “comedy.”

What comes to mind when you look at this group of photos? I picture these young men being the life of the party, bringing a little comedy to the lives around them. OK, I got nothing for the theme this week so I’ll just leave it at that, lol.

The photos above (and below) are part of the Bertha Smith Athya collection. Bertha was my husband’s maternal grandmother, born in Paulton, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1898. Sadly, she passed away in 1979, right after I met my husband, so I never got to meet her. Bertha left a wonderful collection of photos behind when she passed away, which we now have. Some are labeled and some aren’t, including the three above. I’m always on a quest to identify unlabeled photos so thought I’d take this opportunity to post a few and ask for help.

I believe I can identify the man on the right as Bertha’s brother George Nelson Smith, born in Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania in 1885. For comparison, here’s a picture of George that was labeled by Bertha. What do you think?

George Nelson Smith

The young man on the left may also be Bertha’s brother—Benjamin Gordon Smith, born in Apollo in 1882. Here are two pictures of Ben that Bertha labeled (sorry, not great but the best I have). What do you think? Same person?

John Athya with his uncle Ben Smith
Ben Smith

Or do you think the man on the left is it this young man, a friend named Willis Hawk?

Willis Hawk

Willis Hawk

Willis Hawk

Always looking for answers. If you recognize these fine looking young men, I’d love to hear from you!

Friday, August 9, 2019

A cookbook for his sister

Sam Lankford and his sister Alice
Everyone knows how exciting it is to find an early photo of your parents so imagine my excitement when my cousin Kathy shared a photo with me of her mother (Alice Lankford) and my daddy (Sam Lankford) taken in the early 1950s.

In March 2019, Kathy was looking through her mother’s old cookbooks when one caught her attention—The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery published by William H. Wise & Company in 1949. When Kathy opened the green, hardbound cookbook, she found the following handwritten on the inside cover:

Samuel T. Lankford
Born March 26, 1926
Presented to my sister Miss Alice      Lankford
March 13, 1951

Based on the date Daddy wrote in the cookbook, he was 24 and Aunt Alice 22 years old. Unfortunately, we don’t know what inspired Daddy to give Aunt Alice the cookbook. He did enjoy cooking. In fact, he served on the USS Laffey as a cook during his service in the U.S. Navy from 1946 to 1947. I also remember him cooking on weekends when I was growing up but I don’t ever recall him using a cookbook. Aunt Alice didn’t get married until June 1952 so it wouldn’t have been a wedding gift. Daddy always had a bookcase full of books though so perhaps he ran across this one and thought Aunt Alice could use some help in the kitchen before she got married. Whatever the reason was, she kept the cookbook for 68 years. Ironically, Kathy discovered the book and photo on March 13!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Birthdays of my brother’s past

My brother Michael on his 2nd birthday
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “brother.”

For my post this week, I’m sharing two photos that I discovered on my trip home to Atlanta earlier this year. The first photo is of my brother Michael. You can see there are two candles on the cake so it was taken on his second birthday. He’s standing in a chair at the dining room table of our Macon Drive house in Atlanta. I can tell it was the dining room because he’s in front of the mantle that I remember being there. Mama told me that Michael always wore a jacket to church which tells me it was a Sunday. Siri confirmed that for me. After church, we always came home and had Sunday dinner in the early afternoon. That day we had birthday cake for dessert and he looks like he can’t wait to dig in! I bet it was frosted with seven-minute frosting, a recipe Mama often used. I can't count how many times I saw her making seven-minute frosting. It's a mixture of sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and maybe a little water. She would beat the mixture with an electric mixer over a double boiler. After beating the frosting for seven minutes, she’d add a little vanilla. It’s been years since I had a cake frosted that way, but I remember it was yummy.

The second photo was taken the following year on the landing of the back-yard steps at our Macon Drive house. Three candles now adorn the cake Michael is holding, assisted by me, one of his big sister’s. Doesn’t he look happy wearing his “Grandpa loves me” t-shirt and holding his birthday cake!

Michael on his 3rd birthday with me helping hold the cake

I vaguely remembered seeing these two photos at some point in my life, but this time, I discovered something that gave me a little chuckle. Upon closer observation of the photos, I realized that Michael’s name was misspelled in both photos.

For whatever reason, Mama switched the “a” and “e” in his name and spelled it “Micheal” when decorating his cakes those two years. Have we been spelling his name wrong all this time, lol. As it turns out, Micheal is actually the Irish/Scottish equivalent of the English spelling of Michael. (I’m always learning new stuff in my quest to research my family history.) And yes, my DNA shows an ethnicity estimate of 23 percent Ireland and Scotland, so perhaps she spelled his name that way on purpose as a nod to his heritage!


Friday, July 26, 2019

The Smith family, an easy find

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “easy.”

When I first started getting serious about doing genealogy, my mother-in-law told me her family would be hard to research. Why you ask? Because their surname was Smith. I saw another researcher blogged about the very same thing this week so it seems to be a common thought about that name. But actually, the Smith family has been very easy to research! Lucky for me, my husband’s ancestors named three of their children with “E” names—Electra, Erastus, and Eunice. Because of that, they’ve always been easy to find. So, since I’m talking about that family, I thought I’d write about one of them this week. I’ve already written about Electra and Erastus, so should have written about Eunice since that’s who I mentioned earlier, but I chose their sister Martha instead. I’m glad I did because in the process of checking my research, I corrected an error in her line of the tree. I knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t figure out what it was until I did some additional research to write this post.

Martha Jane Smith, daughter of John Thompson Smith and Jane Gordon, was born in Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania on October 3, 1846. She was the fourth child of six—Electra Burnette Smith, Erastus C. Smith, Eunice Alvira Smith, Martha Jane Smith, Minerva Smith, and John Milton Smith. Martha’s mother had previously been married to John McIlwain and had four children born to that union—Margaret McIlwain, James Xenophon McIlwain, John S. McIlwain, and Eva McIlwain. Martha is the great grand aunt of my husband Charlie.

Martha’s father, an innkeeper in Apollo, was very active in the community. He was a member of the town council and the board of school directors. He was a postmaster for Apollo at one point, running the post office from his tavern, and was also Apollo’s first tailor.

First Presbyterian Church, Apollo
Martha was not yet three when her one-year-old sister Minerva died. Minerva contracted cholera and died on May 17, 1850, four days before her first birthday. She was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. On November 7, 1850, the census enumerator found the family still living in Apollo. Two of Martha’s step-siblings lived in the home—Margaret McIlwain, age 20, and John McIlwain, age 14. There was also a 26-year-old male with the last name Chambers living in the home; his first name is unreadable. Martha’s father John was enumerated as an innkeeper with real estate valued at $2,000. The family attended the First Presbyterian Church in Apollo where Martha was baptized on October 11, 1858.

On July 5, 1860, Martha and her family lived in Apollo. Her father was still running the inn, assisted by her mother Jane. There had been no change to the value of their real estate, still recorded as $2,000. Her father had a personal estate valued at $500. Electra and Erastus were both enumerated as “labourer.” My guess is they were both working at the inn. Erastus was attending school, as were the other three children. Life at the inn took a tragic turn when Martha’s father John died at the age of 53 in Apollo on March 11, 1864. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. Erastus and step-brothers James and John McIlwain served during the Civil War. Erastus served with Company E of the 139th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. James served with Company G of the 11th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry (40th Infantry Regiment Volunteers). Two of James’ children died while he was away. John served in Company I of the Pennsylvania 78th Infantry Regiment. He died on August 9, 1865; circumstances unknown to me. John was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. Martha married John “Hugh” Evans in Apollo on January 1, 1866. The Rev. John Orr performed the ceremony. She was recorded as Mattie E. Smith in the marriage registry. Together Martha and Hugh had six children—Elsie E. Evans, Anna P. Evans, Frank William Evans, Edith Electra Evans, Bennie R. Evans, and Alice Stanley Evans. Elsie was born in Apollo in September 1866. Her sister Anna was born in Apollo on September 20, 1868.

Martha's daughter Edith
On July 9, 1870, Martha and her family lived in the Washington Township of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Martha was keeping house while her husband Hugh worked in a dry goods store. Both Hugh’s real estate and personal estate were valued at $3,000 each. Their son Frank William Evans was born in Westmoreland County on November 30, 1872. Edith was born in Apollo on October 17, 1874. They gave Edith the middle name of Electra, probably to honor Martha’s oldest sister. A son name Bennie was born in 1876. Bennie didn’t survive infancy and died in 1877. I previously thought Martha only had five children but during my research for this post, realized that she had Bennie. The year 1877 also brought the death of Martha’s mother. Both Bennie and Jane were buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. The decade ended with the birth of Martha’s sixth child, Alice, born in Apollo on October 29, 1879.

Martha's daughter Elsie

Shortly after Alice’s birth, the family moved to the village of Paulton, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania which is where the census enumerator found them on June 22, 1880. Martha was enumerated as a housekeeper and Hugh as a merchant. The 1870 census record noted that Hugh’s father was foreign born but didn’t state where he was from. I later learned from the 1880 census that he was born in Wales. Martha and Hugh’s five children ranged in age from 13 to 1 in 1880. The 1880’s wasn’t a good decade for the family. Martha’s brother, James McIlwain, a saddle and harness maker, died on August 4, 1883 after falling from scaffolding on the job in Apollo. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo within sight of the John McIlwain, Jane Smith, and John T. Smith plot. Martha’s husband Hugh died in 1885. I’ve yet to find a death record for him so don’t know the cause. He was only 57 years old. And then Martha’s brother Erastus contracted erysipelas, also known as St. Anthony’s Fire, and died on April 13, 1886. Erysipelas, a bacterial infection of the skin that typically involves the lymphatic system, “was a feared disease in pre-antibiotic days” according to Verywell Health. Erastus was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo.

The next decade saw more death in the family. Martha’s sister Eunice died in 1890, leaving six children behind, the youngest of which was five years old. Eunice was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. There was finally some joy in the home when daughter Anna married Stewart A. Davis on June 9, 1897 at the Ascension Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

Martha's daughter Alice
On April 4, 1900, daughter Alice married John Duff Van Tassel in Armstrong County. On June 5, 1900, Martha, Elsie, and Edith lived together in the Washington Township of Westmoreland County. Her son William lived next door with his wife Nellie. Although I can find no marriage record, the 1900 census enumerator recorded Martha’s last name as Gough and noted that she was married. There was, however, no male living in the home with the three women. It appears that Martha was not working while both Elsie and Edith were telephone operators. Martha was enumerated as having had six children, all of which were living which we know is wrong since Bennie died in 1877. Martha’s son Frank died in Apollo on Christmas Day in 1906 at the age of 35. The cause of death listed on his death certificate is anti-alcoholism. I had no clue what that meant so of course searched the Internet. I didn’t find a good description but if I understood what I read; it means he died during treatment for alcoholism which he had been in for 21 days. What a sad time for the family. Frank was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo.

By April 16, 1910, Martha had moved back to Apollo where she lived on Pennsylvania Avenue with daughters Elsie and Edith, and her eight-year-old grandson Archie Evans. Archie was the son of Frank Evans, who died in 1906. Martha was enumerated as widowed, 65 years old, and the mother of six children, four of which were living. Elsie was still a telegraph operator while Edith had changed jobs and was now working as a stenographer at the Sheet Tin Company. On March 9, 1912, Martha’s brother John died of cardiac dropsy contributed by la grippe, or rather the flu. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. Martha and Elsie lived in New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1915. Daughter Anna died in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on January 20, 1915 following surgery for a fibroma of the uterus. She was 46 years old. Anna was buried in Apollo.

Daughter Elsie, sister Electra, and
daughter Alice
On January 13, 1920, Martha, Elsie, and Archie still lived on Pennsylvania Avenue in Apollo, although in a different house than in 1910. At 73 years of age, Martha was renting their home. Elsie, still single at 53 years of age, was still a telegraph operator. Archie was now 18 years old but hadn’t joined the workforce yet. Martha died at the age of 74 in Apollo on March 31, 1921. The cause of death was gastroenteritis (stomach flu), contributed by transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), which she’d had for three years. She was attended by Dr. T. J. Henry, a prominent physician from Apollo and “author of The History of Apollo 1816-1916, a definitive history of Apollo’s first hundred years” according to his biography on the Apollo Area Historical Society website. Her daughter Elsie was the informant on her death certificate. Martha was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo on April 4.


  • Application for marriage license, Alice S. Evans and John Duff Van Tassell, Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1852–1968.
  • Dr. T. J. Henry, Apollo Area Historical Society;
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed 20 July 2019), memorial page for Frank W. Evans (1872–1906), Find A Grave Memorial no. 186724855, citing Riverview Cemetery, Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, USA ; maintained by Caring Graver (contributor 48870039).
  • Gastroenteritis (“Stomach Flu”), WebMD;
  • Grippe;
  • Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011.
  • Marriage of Anna P. Evans and Stewart A. Davis, Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708–1985.
  • New Kensington, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1915.
  • Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906–1924, Anna Evans Davis, no. 7590.
  • Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906–1924, John Milton Smith, no. 22490.
  • Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967, no. 112168, Frank William Evans. 
  • Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967, no. 23345, Mrs. Martha Evans.
  • Personal visit to Riverview Cemetery by Denise Murphy, Apollo, Pennsylvania.
  • Quasqui Centennial (125th anniversary) program, June 29 – July 4, 1941.
  • Transverse Myelitis Fact Sheet, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke;
  • U.S. Federal Census, Apollo, Armstrong, Pennsylvania, 1850, 1860.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Apollo, Armstrong, Pennsylvania, 1910.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Kiskiminetas, Apollo Borough, Armstrong, Pennsylvania, 1920.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Washington, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, 1870, 1880, 1900.
  • Understanding Erysipelas (St. Anthony's Fire), Verywell Health;

Friday, July 19, 2019

Get busy and label those photos

Photo 1
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “challenging.”

Do you have old photos that you don’t know who the people are? I know I’m not the only person who has photo albums and boxes of unlabeled photos, as well as folders with unlabeled digital photos on my computer. Yes, I have my share, which brings me to the two things I find most challenging about genealogy.

My first challenge is trying to figure out who these unknown people are. I periodically post “lost relative” photos hoping that another researcher will stumble on them and recognize someone. I haven’t had much luck with that but I’m not letting that stop me from trying again (see below). I have also compared labeled and unlabeled photos and been able to identify a few people that way. Sometimes you just need to slow down and take a good look to see what clues you’ve been missing. My second challenge is labeling the unlabeled photos. I’ve got a good start on sorting photos but now they’re waiting on me to label them. I’ve told myself many times to just start doing it—label five photos a day and before you know it, they’re all done. It’s been on my mind for several years now but do you think I’ve done anything about it? No, I haven’t and I need to fix that.

The photos below are some of those lost relatives. Several years ago, a George family cousin shared a bunch of photos with a group researching either our Hobbs or Lankford ancestors (I can’t remember which family line, but they interconnect). These photos, along with many more, once belonged to his aunt, Willie Marion George, of Penfield, Greene County, Georgia. Many of the photos were labeled and turned out to be people from Penfield. Some were in my family tree; others were apparently friends of Marion’s. It even turned out he had photos of my great-grandmother Alice Beman Lankford, who I already had a photo of but he also had photos of two of her sisters, Julia Lee Lankford and Jessica Corinne Lankford, whom I’d never seen before. It was exciting!

The photos included in this blog post are some of the unlabeled photos from Marion’s collection. Photo 1 above has a few clues as someone wrote the following on the back: Mother and Father and all the girls but Daisy, Tommie’s little girl and Rena’s little girl. June 1918.

Back of photo 1

The only clue for photo 2 is the year penciled in the top left corner—1935.

Photo 2

Did the man in photo 3 live in Atlanta or Penfield? Whatever the case, he had his picture taken at the Atlanta Photo Company located at 40 ½ Whitehall Street.

Photo 3

I could ask the same question about this boy in photo 4 who had his picture taken at Randall’s located at 75 ½ Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia.

Photo 4

It looks like the photographer that took this woman’s picture in photo 5 was named A. O. Best and was located on Cotton Avenue in Macon, Georgia.

Photo 5

And no clues at all for photos 6 and 7.

Photo 6
Photo 7

If you can identify anyone in the above photos, I’d love to hear from you.

Every August, I decide on one or two genealogy projects for myself and then dedicate one week to working on them. That’s how I got through digitizing over 6,000 slides several years ago. It sure felt good when I completed that project too! So, I think I’ve just set that goal for myself next month. I’m not saying I’ll finish it, but I’ll definitely make the effort! What works for you? How do you tackle these challenges?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Don't throw those negatives away!

Photo 1
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “reunion.”

On my spring trip home to Georgia earlier this year, Mama told me she had a picture of Daddy that no one had ever seen before. Of course, that sparked my curiosity so she gave me permission to look in her dresser drawers for it. I don’t remember finding the picture of Daddy but maybe that’s because I got so excited about the stack of negatives I found hidden away in her dresser. We sat by the dining room window that afternoon and held them up one-by-one to the light. What I saw was a bunch of treasures I’d never seen before! I brought them back to Virginia with me and started looking for a way to convert them to digital. I spent a weekend looking online for help and then I visited our local Costco photo shop only to find out they didn’t have the equipment to convert negatives. Then I started to think there must be an app I could use to convert the negatives, I mean, isn’t there an app for everything? So, after more research, I found an app called FilmLab. The 99¢ app requires a light table, which I don’t have, so after still more research, I found a person who used his laptop monitor as a light source. I figured if it worked for him, it would work for me. I downloaded the app and after a few tries, managed to get some fairly decent photos from the negatives. The converted photos have a grainy look but I can live with that. Now you’re probably asking yourself what does this have to do with the “reunion” theme for this week. Well, let me know you … thanks to the FilmLab app, I now have a bunch of family photos from the 1960s that I’ve never seen before. And lucky for me, a couple of them fit right in with the theme this week.

The three family photos on today's post were taken in the backyard of our Atlanta, Georgia home on Macon Drive. I estimate them to be circa 1959 or 1960. In photo 1, all but one person are members of Daddy’s family. Daddy (Sam Lankford) is the man standing beside the picnic table. His brother Grover is sitting next to him. Another brother Clark is sitting next to Grover, and their brother-in-law Ralph Epps is sitting at the end in the white shirt. The woman standing beside Daddy is his older sister Lucile Lankford Epps (Daddy called her Sista). The dark-haired woman with the glasses on is my Aunt Willette, Uncle Grover’s wife. Standing beside Aunt Willette is a man you can hardly see wearing a hat. That's my paternal Grandpa, Carroll Lankford. Standing beside Grandpa is my Grandma Floria Burnette Lankford. Standing on the left of Grandma is my maternal Granny, Daisy Shields Vest. The baby in the highchair is my brother Michael, and that’s me standing in front of Michael. The houses in the background belong to the neighbors. I can see the brick BBQ grill in the bottom left corner. I remember Daddy cooking finger licking ribs on that grill—I’d have the sauce running down my arms I ate so many.

Photo 2 was taken under the big willow tree that stood in the backyard at the base of our driveway. You can see my Granny sitting on the left, my brother Michael in the highchair, me with my back to the photo in front of my Grandma Lankford, one of my Epps cousins and my sister Jennifer standing in the back right. The willow tree was big and beautiful. I remember we had an ice storm one winter that killed it. Daddy and probably my uncles Clark and Grover cut it down after it died and I just knew the tree was going to fall on our house (it didn’t). The chair my Grandma is sitting in usually sat on the front porch and was red and white.

Photo 2

Photo 3 is of me, two of my sisters, and my cousins. Standing in the front row from left to right is my cousin Nancy Epps, her sister Linda Epps, and my sister Bonita. In the back row from left to right is my sister Jennifer, my cousin Janice Epps, me, and my cousin Harvey Lankford. The girls are my Aunt Lucile’s daughters and Harvey was Uncle Grover’s son.

Photo 3

The Lankford family reunions were usually held at Grandma and Grandpa Lankford’s house in Penfield and pretty much the entire family came—all eight Lankford children and their families. At some point, the reunions were moved to Aunt Lucile’s house in Bairdstown, not far from Penfield. This wasn’t actually a reunion. Mama remembers that my Aunt Lucile and Uncle Ralph came to Atlanta for a visit and brought Grandpa and Grandma Lankford with them. Since they were in town, my Uncles Clark and Grover came over as well. After all, they both lived close by in Atlanta so it made sense that they would come for a visit when their parents came into the city. It’s not the whole family so I’ll call it a mini-reunion!

Stack of negatives I found
I’m happy I’ve been able to convert the negatives to digital. Until I saw these photos, I never knew my Grandpa and Grandma had been to our house in Atlanta. They lived in Penfield, Georgia, about 85 miles east of Atlanta so would have come to Atlanta with my Aunt Lucile. I do find it odd that Granny was there since everyone else in the photo were from Daddy’s side of the family, but I do remember that she often visited so it’s not so unusual that she was at our house.

Thank you Mama for saving the negatives!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Susan Rich Davison, an independent woman

Susan Rich Davison Ackiss
(photo from Ackiss Braithwaite 
tree in by
Member Name aecarswell)
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “independent.”

Susan Rich Davison, daughter of Alexander Hamilton Davison Sr. and Ida M. Dorsey, was born on July 5, 1892 in Athens, Clarke County, Georgia. She was one of six children—Albert Edward Davison, Susan Rich Davison, Alexander Hamilton Davison Jr., Reuben Davison, Maria Davison, and one unknown. My connection to Susan, which runs through my Hobbs line, is a distant one—1st cousin 5x removed of step grandmother. We have no common relative. Susan, named for her grandmother, went by Susie, at least as a child. She was born 127 years ago today!

On June 9, 1900, Susan and her family lived on Prince Avenue in Athens. Her 41-year-old father was a merchant. Susan’s parents had been married for 15 years. Her mother, enumerated as “Alex H. Davison” with the word “wife” written beside it, had given birth to three children, all of which were living. Both Susan and her brother Albert were attending school. The census enumerator noted that Susan’s paternal grandfather was from Ireland and her maternal grandmother, Susan R. Dorsey, lived with them. The “R” must have stood for “Rich.”

Photo from The Banner,
Athens, Georgia, May 28, 1907

By the time Susan was 14-years-old, she was already performing charitable work in Athens according to the article “Davison-Nicholson Company and Its Magnificent Success” published in The Banner on May 28, 1907. Susan’s father was the founder of the Davison-Nicholson Company, a dry goods store in Athens. Susan’s mother was active in the missionary circle of the First Methodist Church in Athens. The article didn’t specify what charitable work Susan was doing but perhaps she was following in her mother’s footsteps working with the missionary circle.

On April 19, 1910, Susan and her family still lived on Prince Avenue in Athens, although the house number was different—740 vs. 708. As noted above, her father was a dry goods retail merchant. Her brother Albert, now 23 years old, was a shoe store salesman, most likely at the Davison-Nicholson Shoe Store. The last 10 years brought much sadness to the Davison household. The census enumerator records Susan’s mother as having had six children with only three living. These children were born after the 1900 census was taken and did not survive infancy. Reuben and Maria are buried at Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens. I haven’t found the name of the sixth child, nor its final resting place. Susan still lived at home on Prince Avenue in Athens but was listed separately in the 1912 Athens City Directory. She wasn’t working.

Photo from The Banner,
Athens, Georgia, May 28, 1907
As far as I can tell, Susan sought higher education at the Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia during the academic years 1916 and 1917. It was perhaps while in Virginia that she met her future husband, the Rev. Ernest Lee Ackiss, son of William Harrison Ackiss and Mary Ann Seneca. They announced their engagement in several newspapers in late January, early February 1918. At the time, Ernest was a “professor in Richmond college, Virginia, and recently appointed chaplain in the United States Navy.” With the U.S. at war, the family quickly arranged for a small wedding to take place on February 5, 1918 at the Athens home of Susan’s parents. Their marriage was widely reported in the society columns in Athens and Atlanta:
“Athens Daily Herald,” Feb. 5, 1918: Davison-Ackiss. A wedding of interest to a large circle of friends is that of Miss Susan Rich Davison and Rev. Ernest Lee Ackiss, U.S.N., which takes place this evening at 9 o’clock at the home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Davison, on Prince avenue. The wedding will be a very pretty one, yet very quiet, the invitation list including only the relatives and a few friends. Mrs. Davison will be her daughter’s matron of honor, other attendants being Mrs. Albert Davison, Miss Sara Cobb, Miss Elsie Davison, of Comer, and little Miss Stark Davison and Master Richard DuPree. The groom will be attended by Mr. J. Foster Barnes, of Richmond, Va., as best man. Rev. John Davison, of Selma, Ala., will perform the ceremony. Among the out-of-town guests will be Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Davison and family, Mr. and Mrs. Julian Davison, and Mr. Emmett Davison of Woodville; Mrs. M. Colclough, of Penfield, Mr. and Mrs. T. C. Davison and family, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rowe, of Comer.
“Athens Daily Herald,” Feb. 6, 1918: Davison-Ackiss. The details of the marriage of Miss Susan Rich Davison, only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Davison, and Rev. Ernest Lee Ackiss, U.S.N., were so complete, while maintaining the simplicity that war demands, that the wedding could not have been lovelier. The beauty of the home was enhanced with United States flags, palms, ferns, festoons of smilax, many white flowers and lighted white candles. The drawing room, converted into a bower of green, was the scene of the ceremony. The altar, arranged in front of a bank of palms, was massed with palms and ferns, baskets of Easter lilies and roses alternating with cathedral candelabra. This pyramid of exquisite green and white was topped with a gracefully draped U.S. flag. In the hall, the same loveliness prevailed in the decorations, the stairway being draped with the stars and stripes, the walls wreather in Southern smilax. Mrs. Albert Davison, Misses Sara Cobb and Elsie Davison, carrying lovely bouquets of white roses, formed an aisle through which the bridal party marked from the stairway to the altar. The ceremony was performed by Rev. John E. Davison, pastor First Baptist church Selma, Ala., and the wedding march played by Haughey’s orchestra. The bride was given away by her father, her mother being the matron of honor and he (sic) sole attendance. The groom entered with his best man, Mr. J. Foster Barnes, of Richmond. The bride’s wedding dress was of exquisite ivory satin embroidered in roses. Her veil of rare lace was adjusted with a spray of orange blossoms, and she carried brides roses arranged in a shower of swansonia. Mrs. Davison wore a lovely gown of white crepe de chine, rose point lace adding a finishing touch. The dainty little niece of the bride and only grandchild in the family, dressed in white net, and Master Richard DuPress, in a white navy suit, held streamers of tulle which marked the pathway of the wedding party. After the ceremony, a reception was held, the table in the dining room having for its artistic centerpiece a large mirror outlined with a tracery of green and bearing a white satin ship filled with tiny monogramed boxes containing wedding cake. Other decorations were patriotic in detail, the red and white carnations about the room and pennants floating from the miniature battleships, suggesting our country’s colors. The bride is a charming and talented young woman and with so many friends to be interested and such ample excuse for congratulations, she and Mr. Ackiss are a center of cordial and sincere felicitations from a wide circle of admirers.
"The Atlanta Constitution," February 10, 1918: DAVISON-ACKISS. Athens, Ga., February 9.—(Special.) The marriage of Miss Susan Rich Davison and Rev. Earnest Lee Ackiss, U.S.N., was solemnized in a beautiful home ceremony Tuesday evening at 9 o’clock at the home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Davison, on Prince avenue. Promptly at the appointed hour to the strains of Mendelssohn, played by Haughey’s orchestra, the bridal party descended the stairs and proceeded to the drawing room where the service was performed. Mrs. Albert E. Davison, Miss Sarah Cobb and Miss Elsie Davison stood at intervals between the stairs and the improvised altar, holding clusters of white roses, and as the tulle bearers, little Miss Mary Stark Davison and Master Richard Dupress marched an aisle was formed, marked by the tulle and flowers. Mrs. Davison, the bride’s mother, was matron of honor and entered alone. She was followed by the bride, who came in with her father, Mr. A. H. Davison. They were joined at the altar by the groom and his best man, Mr. J. Foster Barnes, of Richmond. Dr. John A. Davison, pastor of the First Baptist church, Selma, Ala., performed the ceremony, using the ring service. During it Rubenstein’s melody in F was softly played by the orchestra. The bride wore an exquisite gown of ivory satin, embroidered in roses. Her veil of real lace was held in place by a coronet of orange blossoms and she carried roses showered with swansonia. 
Following the ceremony a reception was held, attended only by relatives and a few close friends. Among those serving were Mrs. Albert E. Davison, Miss Louise Dorsey, Miss Grace Talmadge, Miss Elizabeth Harris and Miss Elsie Davison. Miss Sarah Cobb kept the bride’s book. Rev. and Mrs. Ackiss left for a wedding trip, after which they will, for a while, be at home in Annapolis.
Davison-Ackiss marriage license, Clarke County, Georgia

Twelve days after the wedding, Ernest reported for active duty at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Boston, Massachusetts. His time in Boston was probably spent preparing for duty aboard the USS Pocahontas, where according to his Navy department bio, he would be sent in April. While Ernest was out to sea (on several different ships), Susan spent time between Athens, Georgia and Norfolk, Virginia, a large naval community. In May 1919, she was able to visit with Ernest in Norfolk while he was between overseas trips. They both headed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the summer of 1919.

Ernest Lee Ackiss Sr.
(photo from Ackiss Braithwaite
tree in by
Member Name aecarswell)
On January 28, 1920, the census enumerator recorded Susan living as a boarder in Philadelphia at 2004 Shank Street, in the home of 37-year-old Florence M. Mallalieu, a widow from Georgia. The census enumerator incorrectly listed Susan’s birth state as Pennsylvania that day. He also recorded Ernest as an officer (Lieutenant) stationed aboard the ship USS New Hampshire. Back in Athens in June 1922, Susan, an artist, used her talents to provide “hand painted souvenirs” for a Mother’s Day celebration of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the First Methodist Church that was hosted by her mother, according to an article published in the Banner-Herald on June 4. In early 1923, Ernest reported to seminary school in New York City. He was sent to the Virgin Islands later that year which is where Susan gave birth to their first child, a daughter they named Mary Dorsey Ackiss, on December 8, 1923. It was reported in the Banner-Herald on December 16, 1923:
Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Ackiss of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, West Indies, are receiving the congratulations of their friends upon the birth of a little daughter at St. Mary’s hospital December the 8th, who has been named for her two grandmothers, Mary Dorsey. Mrs. Ackiss is very pleasantly remembered here as Miss Susie Davison.
In 1925, Susan, Ernest, and Mary left for Washington, DC where he was assigned to the Bureau of Navigation. Susan’s father, Alexander, passed away in Athens, Georgia on January 10, 1926. His obituary that ran in The Atlanta Constitution noted that he was “president of the Davison-Nicholson company, department store, and prominent Athens citizen for 40 years.” Alexander was buried at Oconee Cemetery in Athens. While in Washington, DC, a second daughter, Susan Lee Ackiss, was born on February 24, 1927. Ernest’s tour in Washington, DC lasted until November 1927. In December, Ernest was assigned to the USS Saratoga which meant the family moved to the west coast, landing on Orizaba Avenue in Long Beach, California.

SS Lurline: The Matson Lines passenger liner SS Lurline
approaching Pier 10 at Honolulu in the 1930s.
Note Aloha Tower in the background. Public domain.
The Ackiss family stayed on Orizaba Avenue for a year before moving to Gladys Avenue in Long Beach where the census enumerator found them on April 2, 1930. There was a servant/nurse named Anna B. Coleman living in the home with them. Ernest was enumerated as a chaplain on the USS Saratoga. A month later on May 6, 1930, Susan gave birth in Los Angeles to her third child, a son they named Ernest Lee Ackiss Jr. Sadly, her mother Ida would not get the chance to meet him as she passed away in Athens, just four days after his birth, on May 10. Ida was buried beside her husband at Oconee Cemetery. Ernest’s service aboard the Saratoga ended in July 1930. He was then ordered to the Naval Training Station in San Diego, California. While there, the family lived at 3634 Jackdaw Street. Ernest spent the next four years in San Diego before being assigned to the USS Nevada for one year. In June 1936, Ernest was ordered to the Fourteenth Naval District in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he remained until 1939. In May 1937, Susan threw a Japanese themed party for Ernest Jr.’s seventh birthday. The family lived on Parker Place in Honolulu at the time. They later moved to 2366 Liloa Rise in the Manoa neighborhood. They returned to the States aboard the SS Lurline. His next duty assignment was aboard the USS Pennsylvania in Long Beach, California.

Mary Dorsey Ackiss
(photo from Mills College
yearbook, Oakland,
California, 1943)
On April 4, 1940, Susan and her family lived on Roswell Avenue in San Diego, California. Ernest was a commander in the U.S. Navy. His tour on the Pennsylvania ended and his next assignment was aboard the USS Indianapolis at Pearl Harbor. On November 21, 1940, Susan, Ernest, and their three children boarded the SS Matsonia in Los Angeles and traveled first class to Honolulu, arriving on November 27. This tour ended in August 1941 and they returned to Los Angeles aboard the SS Lurline on October 3, 1941. Three years later, the family celebrated the marriage of daughter Mary, officiated by Ernest, on April 2, 1943. Mary married Lee Dillard Goolsby in Alameda, California. The Oakland Tribune reported that “The bride’s family are among the old families of the deep South and have been making their home in Coronado.” In May 1943, Ernest received his next assignment and was off to San Francisco. I haven’t found any records showing that they moved there however. That assignment lasted until November 1944 when he was next assigned to the Chaplain Division of the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC so they headed back to the east coast.

Susan Lee Ackiss
(photo from Berkeley
Hill School yearbook,
Berkeley, California, 1944)
Susan’s second daughter, also named Susan, also chose April for her wedding. On April 5, 1947, she married William Savale in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Susan was a long-time member of the National League of American Pen Women, a “nonprofit organization of professional women in arts, letters, and music that was founded in 1897” according to their website. In October 1948, she was a guest at a meeting of the Reno, Nevada branch. The Nevada State Journal reported that she “brought greetings from her branch [Washington, D.C.] and also told of several of their projects.” In November 1948, Susan and her daughter Susan attended a meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Both were apparently members of the Army and Navy chapter in Washington, D.C.

Ernest Lee Ackiss Jr.
(photo from Virginia
Military Institute yearbook,
Lexington, Virginia, 1955)
By 1956, Susan and Ernest had moved to Atlanta, living at 322 North Colonial Homes Circle NE according to the Atlanta City Directory. Ernest was a director of military personnel of the Baptist Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, a job he’d had since 1953. Susan was a writer of short stories and poetry and was a member of the Atlanta Writers Club. In 1954, she won an award from the Georgia Writers Association for a short story published in 1953. In February 1956, she won first prize for a short story published annually by the club. In March 1957, Susan won an honorable mention award from the Atlanta Writers Club for a piece of serious poetry. She also won an award in the jokes and humor entries category.

Susan’s husband Ernest died in an Atlanta area hospital on September 17, 1961. He was buried September 22 on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Markers at the top of Chaplains Hill, Arlington National Cemetery

In December 1961, Susan won second place in a short story competition of the Atlanta Authors Guild. She also received an honorable mention for poetry in the competition.

Susan died on August 28, 1988 at the age of 96, living a month shy of 27 years after Ernest’s death. The only death record I find for her is the obituary published in The Washington Post on September 1 stating that she “died following a short illness, at the Army Distaff Residence Hall” which I believe is a military retirement facility in Washington, D.C. Susan was buried beside her husband at Arlington National Cemetery on September 7, 1988. Susan was survived by her three children. I visited the cemetery several years ago and looked all over for her grave. I was just about to give up when a tourist tram drove by and I heard the tour guide say “Chaplains Hill is over there.” We followed the tram and sure enough, there it was. I found her grave at the base of the hill, near the road if I remember correctly.

Susan and Ernest's grave at Arlington National Cemetery

Full disclosure, I have never experienced military life so have no idea what it takes to be married to a career military officer. Susan’s husband was a Navy chaplain for 33 years and was stationed in many different cities. This would have required Susan to move her family and all their belongings and have to settle into a new community often. She probably also had to deal with his being deployed and traveling. Marriage to a military man would have had its ups and downs and I imagine it takes a very independent woman to deal with all that comes with that. In addition to being a military spouse, Susan was a mother, volunteer, artist, and a poet.


  • “A. H. Davison Dies at Athens Home,” The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, January 11, 1926.
  • “Chaplain Ackiss and Family Sail Friday,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Honolulu, Hawaii, June 1, 1939.
  • “Circle Two Celebrated Mother’s Day,” Banner-Herald, Athens, Georgia, June 4, 1922.
  • “Davison-Ackiss,” The Athens Daily Herald, Athens, Georgia, February 5, 1918.
  • “Davison-Ackiss,” The Athens Daily Herald, Athens, Georgia, February 6, 1918.
  • “Davison-Ackiss,” The Athens Daily Herald, Athens, Georgia, January 31, 1918.
  • “Davison-Ackiss,” The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, February 3, 1918.
  • “Davison-Ackiss,” The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, February 10, 1918.
  • “Davison-Ackiss,” The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, January 31, 1918.
  • “Davison-Nicholson Company and Its Magnificent Success,” The Banner, May 28, 1907.
  • “Ernest Lee Ackiss Celebrates Birthday,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Honolulu, Hawaii, May 15, 1937.
  • “Feast of the Dolls,” Long Beach Independent, Long Beach, California, March 3, 1940.
  • “For Slaton Enthusiastic Club Formed Last Night,” The Athens Banner, Athens, Georgia, July 29, 1914.
  • “Ladies Who Will Take Part in the Parade,” The Athens Daily Herald, Athens, Georgia, April 5, 1918. 
  • “Mary Ackiss Becomes Naval Officer’s Bride,” Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, April 5, 1943.
  • “Missionary Circle First Methodist Church,” The Banner-Herald, Athens, Georgia, September 26, 1923.
  • “Mrs. Ernest Ackiss Has Aloha Lunch,” The Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu, Hawaii, September 4, 1938. 
  • “Navy Chaplain to Mainland,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Honolulu, Hawaii, June 3, 1939.
  • “Pair Tie for Authors Guild Poetry Prize,” The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, December 15, 1961.
  • “Reno Pen Women Make Plans for Year,” Nevada State Journal, Reno, Nevada, October 15, 1948.
  • “Robert Emmett Davison,” The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, October 3, 1928.
  • “Songs Feature Program of DAR Group,” Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, Nevada, November 25, 1948.
  • “Susan Davison Ackiss,” The Washington Post, Washington, DC, September 1, 1988.
  • “Writers Cite 5 Georgians for ’53 Published Books,” The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, June 19, 1954.
  • “Writers Club Lists Awards,” The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, March 22, 1957.
  • “Writers Club Lists Winners in Annual Spoken Magazine,” The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, February 17, 1956.
  • Army Distaff Foundation,
  • Athens, GA, marriage announcement, The Atlanta Constitution, March 24, 1918.
  • Athens, Georgia, City Directory, 1912.
  • Atlanta, Georgia, City Directory, 1956, 1957.
  • Dr. Ernest L. Ackiss obituary, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, September 19, 1961
  • Ernest Lee Ackiss bio, Naval History and Heritage Command;
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed June 29, 2019), memorial page for Susan Rich Davison Ackiss (5 Jul 1892–28 Aug 1988), Find A Grave Memorial no. 48998543, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; maintained by John C. Anderson (contributor 47208015).
  • History of Reynolds Plantation,
  • Industrialist Dies at 79, Kingsport News, Kingsport, Tennessee, January 14, 1954.
  • Long Beach, California, City Directory, 1928, 1930.
  • National League of American Pen Women website;
  • Register of Graduates and Former Students, 1893-1941: Listed Alphabetically and According to Classes and to Geographical Distribution, Volume 410.
  • Rice, Thaddeus Brockett, History of Greene County, Georgia, p. 341, 1961.
  • San Diego, California, City Directory, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1935.
  • SS Lurline (1932);
  • SS Lurline photo;
  • Susan Ackiss, Honolulu, Hawaii, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1900¬1959.
  • Susan Rich Davison and Ernest Lee Ackiss marriage license, Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978.
  • Susan Rich Davison, U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775–2006.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Athens, Ward 4, Clarke County, Georgia, 1900, 1910.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, California, 1930, 1940.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Philadelphia Ward 48, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, 1920.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, Military and Naval Forces, 1920.
  • USS Indianapolis (CA-35);
  • Who’s Who in the South, Susan Rich Davison Ackiss, p. 24, Mayflower Publishing Company, Inc., 1927.
  • “News of Society,” Athens Daily Herald, March 9, 1918.
  • “Society Events, The Athens Banner, Athens, Georgia, July 2, 1919.
  • “Birth of Mary Dorsey Ackiss,” Banner-Herald, December 16, 1923.
  • Susan Davison Ackiss obituary, The Washington Post, September 1, 1988.