Saturday, January 19, 2019

Thomas Gregory

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “unusual name.” This was the first time I've done any real research for someone born in England. While the town names may not seem unusual to some people, this Georgia girl found them to be quite unusual and very interesting when I looked them up.

Thomas is not mine nor my husband’s ancestor, although I can connect him in the family tree. His great granddaughter is my husband’s Aunt Jean Murphy.

Thomas Gregory, son of Joseph Gregory and Harriett Moore, was born in March 1851 in Shelton, Staffordshire, England. He was baptized at Etruria, Staffordshire in St. Matthew Parish on April 13. When the census was taken later that year, it showed that Thomas was the only son of Joseph and Harriet at the time. The family lived on Mill Street in Stoke-Upon-Trent in Staffordshire.

In 1861, the Gregory family was still living in Shelton, on Paddock Street. The Ecclesiastical Parish was Hope, in the Stoke-Upon-Trent district. Thomas’ father worked in the coal mines. At age 10, Thomas was a scholar along with his five-year-old brother William. They would have come home from school and played with their three-year-old sister Harriett.

In 1871, the Gregory family lived in Staffordshire, Burntwood, District 14. The family had grown by one since the last census was taken—a 9-year-old brother named Joseph. Thomas’ 60-year-old widowed paternal grandfather, Samuel Gregory, was also living in the home. Samuel worked in the coal mines. When Thomas was 22 years old, he married Elizabeth Ann (Betsy) Gutridge, daughter of Samuel Gutridge and Elizabeth (Betsy) Smallmon, at St. Anne’s Church on November 25, 1873. The Reverend John Montague Seaton, Vicar of Chasetown, performed the ceremony which was attended by Thomas Robinson and Sarah Gutridge. At the young age of 18, Betsy was considered a “spinster.” At the time of their marriage, both Thomas and Betsy lived in the Chasetown community in Staffordshire, which according to Wikipedia, was “developed in the mid-19th century as a coal mining village.” We already know that Thomas’ father was a coal miner and learn from Thomas and Betsy’s marriage record that Thomas and his new father-in-law was one as well.

St. Anne's Church Chasetown, image used with permission.

Marriage record for Thomas Gregory and Betsy Gutridge

A few months into their marriage, Betsy learned that she was expecting their first child. Their daughter Harriett Elizabeth Gregory was born on November 16, 1874, nine days before they celebrated their first anniversary. Daughter Sarah “Jane” (AKA Jennie) Gregory soon followed on August 8, 1876; Emily (AKA Emma or possibly even Mary) Gregory was born on January 19, 1878; and Annie Gregory was born in July 1879. With a newborn at home, U.S. census records show that Thomas left for America in 1879. However, I found conflicting immigration information. The 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 U.S. census records all recorded Thomas arriving in America in 1879. However, Thomas and his family were enumerated as living on Rugeley Road in Lichfield, Burntwood, Staffordshire, England in 1881. Thomas was 30 years old and working as a coal miner to support Betsy and their four children. Was he counted even though he was already in America? I also found conflicting information on Betsy. The 1920 U.S. census record shows she arrived in 1879. However, the 1930 U.S. census record shows she arrived in 1882. It also shows that Harriet arrived in 1882. Since Harriet was married and living several doors from her parents, the census enumerator would have asked the question from each woman and they both gave 1892 that year. I’ve looked for the actual immigration records but can find one for any of this at this point.

At some point (present day), an unknown (to me) family member mapped out the Gregory family on a sheet of paper. They wrote that Thomas and Betsy traveled to America with friends from Lancashire, England to Pennsylvania in the 1800s and that they had 11 children. They further noted that Samuel Thomas Gregory (March 15, 1883) was the first child born “here in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania.” They wrote that the family lived in a six-sided home on the outside of the town. Since there’s a gap between the birth of Annie in 1879 and Samuel in 1883, I’m inclined to believe that Betsy in fact stayed behind in England and arrived in 1882 but I need to prove that. Their daughter Ella (AKA Nellie) Gregory was born in September 1884. Thomas and Betsy were both naturalized in 1885. Their son William Gregory, was born on January 13, 1886; daughter Florence Gregory was born in December 1888; son John B. Gregory was born in May 1890; and son Henry C. Gregory was born on October 13, 1893. By that time, Thomas had moved the family to the Carroll Township in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, another mining community, where they would live out their lives. After moving, Thomas joined the Trinity Episcopal Church in Patton, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. He remained a member at least until 1931, and most likely until his death. The 11th and last child, a daughter named Lucy Gregory was born in April 1894.

On June 21, 1900, the family lived in the Carroll Township of Cambria County, Pennsylvania. The census enumerator noted that Betsy was the mother of 11 children, all of which were living. All of the children living in the home had been born in Pennsylvania. Thomas’ brother, William, had immigrated to America in 1885 and was living in the home as well. Thomas, his sons Samuel and William, and his brother William were all coal miners.

On May 11, 1910, the family still lived in the Carroll Township although it appears to be a different location. All 11 children are still living, however, only two were left at home—Henry and Lucy. Thomas was still working in the coal mine. Henry, at age 17, was now working in the mine as well.

On January 6, 1920, Thomas and Betsy lived on Reilley Road in the Carroll Township. They son Henry and his family—wife Sarah, and sons Harry and Thomas—lived next door. Their son William and his family—wife Josephine, son William Jr., and daughter Amelia—lived four hours away. Thomas was still working in the coal mine at the age of 69. This census record notes that both Thomas and Betsy immigrated in 1879.

On April 25, 1930, Thomas and Betsy lived in the East Carroll Township of Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Thomas was no longer working. Their son Henry, his wife Sara, and sons Harry and Thomas live next door. His daughter Harriett and her husband John Randall lived next door to Henry. His son William, his wife Josephine, son William, and daughter Emily lived five houses from them on the opposite side as Henry and Harriett.

After 56 years of marriage, Thomas’ wife Betsy died on March 7, 1931 in East Carroll from a stomach hemorrhage, contributed by a gastric ulcer of the stomach. She was buried on March 10 at Fairview Cemetery in Patton, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Thomas was the informant on her death certificate.

Photo from Tricia, Find-A-Grave ID 48257775

Thomas died in 1939 at the age of 87 or 88. Other than his memorial in Find-A-Grave, I have yet to find a death record for him to pinpoint the exact age. Thomas was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Patton.

Photo from Tricia, Find-A-Grave ID 48257775


  • “England and Wales Census, 1851,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 November 2017), Thomas Gregory in household of Joseph Gregory, Stoke Upon Trent, Staffordshire, England; citing Stoke Upon Trent, Staffordshire, England, p. 2, from “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing PRO HO 107, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.
  • “England and Wales Census, 1861,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 December 2017), Thomas Gregory in household of Joseph Gregory, Shelton, Staffordshire, England; from “1861 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing PRO RG 9, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey.
  • “England and Wales Census, 1881,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 December 2017), Thomas Gregory, Lichfield Burntwood, Staffordshire, England; from “1881 England, Scotland and Wales Census,” database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing p. 25, Piece/Folio 2774/64, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey; FHL microfilm 101,774,794.
  • “England, Staffordshire, Church Records, 1538-1944,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 March 2018), Thomas Gregory, 1851.
  • “England, Staffordshire, Church Records, 1538-1944,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 December 2017), Betsy Gutteridge and Thomas Gregory, 1873.
  • 1851 England Census, Stoke upon Trent Parish, Staffordshire.
  • 1881 England Census, Staffordshire, Burntwood Edial and Woodhouses District 16.
  • Arizona State death, certificate number 4909, Sarah Jane Steffey.
  • Chasetown;
  • England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538–1975, Betsy Gregory, no. 27934.
  • Find-A-Grave memorial ID 94974850, Thomas Gregory.
  • Find-A-Grave memorial ID 94975115, Betsy Gutridge Gregory.
  • Harriett Randall obituary, newspaper unknown, December 1957.
  • Marriage license, Thomas Gregory and Betsy Gutridge, April 25, 1905.
  • Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993.
  • Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906–1924, certificate number 27934, Betsy Gregory.
  • Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906–1966, certificate number 55279, William Gregory.
  • Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906–1966, certificate number 84776, Henry C. Gregory.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Cambria, Carroll District 0100, Pennsylvania, 1910.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Cambria, Carroll District 0106, Pennsylvania, 1900.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Cambria, East Carroll, District 0032, Pennsylvania, 1930.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Cambria, East Carroll, District 0154, Pennsylvania, 1920.
  • "Vicars Through the Ages," St. Anne’s Church Chasetown;

Friday, January 11, 2019

Just who were Nora and Dora Dellinger?

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “challenge.”

When cleaning Daddy’s house out after he moved to an assisted living facility several years ago, we found a few letters and postcards addressed to Miss Nora Dellinger and Mrs. Nora Wilson. I remembered having a Dora (Dellinger) Queen in the family tree who was the mother of Mary Lee Queen, wife of my grand uncle Prince Albert Burnette. With the names Nora and Dora, I figured they had to be related so challenged myself to figure out just who Nora was, as well as the people who had written to her.

Wedding photos -- Prince Albert Burnette and Mary Lee Queen

After doing some research, I now know that Nora and Dora were twin sisters and that both of them went by nicknames instead of their given names. Nora’s name was actually Cordelia Senora Dellinger and Dora was Cornelia Vandora Dellinger. Their parents were Henry Dellinger and Mary Lavonia Duncan.

The 1940 Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia census record confirms the relationship showing Nora Wilson living in the home of Prince and Mary (Queen) Burnette, along with Dora and another daughter named Cora Belle Queen. Prince Burnette is my paternal grand uncle. Daddy ended up with a few items from Uncle Prince so that would explain why he had the letters and postcards.

Now that I knew who Nora was, I wanted to figure out who the people were that were writing her and the people mentioned in the letters. The first item was a postcard addressed to Miss Nora Dellinger, who lived at RFD #2 in Athens, Georgia. The front of the postcard tells me that it was an “Eighteen View Souvenir Folder of U.S. National Army Cantonment, Camp Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina.” The postcard was sent from PVT William E. Self who was apparently stationed at Camp Jackson. The postmark is unreadable, so I can’t extract a date, but Wikipedia tells me that “Fort Jackson was created in 1917 (as Camp Jackson) as the United States entered World War I. At the conclusion of World War I, Camp Jackson was shut down and the Camp was abandoned 25 April 1922.” Nothing else is written on the postcard but it has awesome images of Camp Jackson.

Cover of 18 View Souvenir Folder postcard set

Back of 18 View Souvenir Folder postcard set

One card of of 18 View Souvenir Folder postcard set

Research shows that William Ezra Self was Nora’s nephew. His mother was her sister, Areadna Kate Dellinger and his father was Headen Monroe Self. William was born in Georgia on September 17, 1901 and died in Greene County, Georgia on February 1, 1965. He would be the 1st cousin of wife of my grand uncle.

The next item is a letter postmarked April 21, 1924 from Brookhaven, Georgia. The letter is addressed to Mrs. Nora Wilson of Bishop, Georgia. The return address is from Mrs. S. P. Gillentine of Brookhaven, Georgia.
Brookhaven, Ga.
Apr. 19, 1924
Dear Aunt Nora,
I got your letter all O.K. and was glad to hear from you. This is Saturday night and my little lady has already gone to bed and Pat hasn’t got in from the store yet, so I am going to take advantage of the opportunity and answer your letter.
You asked how far it was to where Pat was working. He is running a meat market in one of the stores about two blocks from here. He comes home for lunch every day and gets in about seven o’clock at night except Saturday nights. They stay pen until 9:30 or 10:00 o’clock on Saturday night.
Mother was out here this afternoon for a little while. I let her read your letter. She said she got your letter but had just been so busy that she hadn’t written you yet.
You asked about our garden. It is doing fine. Some of our onions are most large enough to eat. We have some corn, beans, Irish potatoes, radishes, beets and lettuce up too. We have a few tomatoe plants and pepper plants out. I hope it isn’t cold enough Easter to kill them. We haven’t any chickens yet, but Pat has been talking of getting a few. We would like to have about a dozen hens, so we could have plenty of eggs.
We hope to have some fruit someday. We have out two peach trees, two apple trees, a grape vine and scuppernong vine. Pat put out some Rhubarb in the garden, the other day, so we hope to have some good old Rhubarb pie some of these days.
Aunt Nora, I just wish you could see our baby. I just know she is the sweetest one in the world and she gets sweeter and prettier every day. She can almost sit alone now. I set her up in the middle of the bed and stack pillows around her and she will sit and play with her doll, rattler, and anything else that I give her to play with. She weighs 14 ¼ lbs. now. She has almost averaged gaining two pounds every month. She only weighed 6 ¾ lbs. at first. I am going to send you a little Kodak picture of Josie Reba, Knox Jr. and myself made while Knox and Mayme were up here. The picture was made at the end of our house.
Aunt Nora, you asked if I was ever coming down to see you all. Yes, I hope to someday. I guess I’ll come down some time this summer to spend a week or so and will come to see you all then.
You said something about coming up to see us. Of course, we would be glad to have you and you know I wouldn’t be ashamed of you, but if you got sick, I don’t know whether I would know what to do for you or not but would do the best I could.
I hope Grandma is feeling alright now. Mama wrote me not long ago that she had been sick.
How are all of Uncle Bascom’s folks? Berta was out to see us about a month ago. I don’t see her often, but she seems to be getting along fine. Where is Olin now? It seems to me that I heard he had gone up north somewhere. 
I guess you are about tired out, so I’ll stop for this time.
Hope this finds you all well and happy.
With love to all,
Research shows that Bertha Lavonia (Brackett) Gillentine was Nora’s niece. Her mother was Nora’s sister, Emma Leila Dellinger and her father William Morgan Fowler Brackett. Bertha was born in Union County, Georgia on January 22, 1896 and died in Marietta, Cobb County, Georgia on July 6, 1993. Bertha’s husband was Silas Patrick “Pat” Gillentine Sr. She would be the 1st cousin of wife of my grand uncle. Their oldest child was Josie Reba Gillentine. Bertha's letter also tells a lot about her life which is always nice to find.

Opening paragraph of letter to Nora from
Bertha Lavonia (Brackett) Gillentine 

Last page of Bertha's letter

Bertha had a brother named Henry “Knox” Brackett Sr. Knox was born in Union County on May 29, 1898 and died in Athens, Clarke County, Georgia on January 3, 1974. Knox was married to Mayme Lee Hardy, daughter of Charles Daniel Hardy and Laura J. Merritt. Knox and Mayme had a son named Henry Knox Brackett Jr. 

Uncle Bascom would be Nora’s brother, Joseph Bascomb Dellinger. Bascomb was born on May 19, 1873 and died on September 18, 1938.

I’m stumped on who Berta and Olin are.

The third item is an envelope addressed to Mrs. Nora Wilson with the address 135 Satula Avenue, Athens, Georgia scratched out and replaced by Greensboro, Ga., RFD c/o H. M. Self. The return address is Mrs. W. E. Cardwell of Box 44, Lyman, Oklahoma. It was postmarked June 12, 1934 from Okla. But the letter inside appears to be some other letter written in 1927.
Gentry Ark 6-19-27
Mrs. Nora Wilson
Dear Cousin, after so long a time I will try and answer your welcome letter. I waited a while to get some pictures finished and then I got busy in the strawberries and I worked in them three weeks and when I got through with them I had so much to do that I just kept neglecting writing. Aunt Kate was over and stayed a week the last of May.
Daddy is feeling very well. I think he is for a man his age for he plans a little in the garden and potatoes patch every week.
Jeanie Willis was up to see us. They live down in Okla she come up to Della’s.
I am sending you some pictures one of them is Daddy and Aunt Kate one of myself it isn’t very good and the three old men was made the day before Daddy was 91. I am sending you a piece we cut out of the paper telling about the dinner you can look on the back of the pictures and see the names. Mr. Shields where the dinner was is Mr. Chastain’s grandson and lives about a half mile from us.
Sallie and her husband will come to see us the first of July. They live about 200 miles from here out in the oil fields of Okla. Cap is taking his vacation.
We are sending you some pictures, so we would be glad you would send us a picture of yourself and of any of the folks.
Hoping to hear from you, your cousin
Georgia Dellinger
I decided to pass on the Arkansas and Oklahoma connections. I looked at another researcher’s tree and saw the Georgia Dellinger connection but nothing for W. E. Caldwell and the others. I’d want to research for myself before posting and since I only allowed myself a weekend to work on this, I’ve run out of time, so I cry “uncle.”

The fourth item is a postcard from J. B. Cranfill of 1017 Fidelity Bldg., Dallas, Texas. It’s addressed to Mrs. Nora Dellinger Wilson, R.1, Box 90, Greensboro, Ga.
Nov 14, 1939
Dear Mrs. Wilson:
It was good to have your gracious letter and your order for TEN NIGHTS IN A BARROOM. The price of the other book is $1.00 postpaid, and we will be happy indeed to have your order. You may send it to the address shown on this postcard or to Box 3149, Dallas, Texas, as you prefer. It was mighty good to hear from you and I am praying God’s blessings upon you and all of your loved ones.
Gratefully yours,
J. B. Cranfill.
Apparently, the book “Ten Nights in a Barroom,” written by Timothy Shay Arthur and originally published in 1854, was popular in 1939 after being made into a talking motion picture. Churches across the country played the movie to teach people about the perils of drinking. A news article “Views of Our Readers, Practical Temperance” published in The Indianapolis Star on November 4, 1939, wrote “Let every mother read to her children the book, “Ten Nights in a Barroom,” and see the interest it arouses in them and gives to them an insight of the horrors caused by drink …” According to Wikipedia, “James Britton Cranfill (September 12, 1858 – December 28, 1942), also known as The Reverend J.B. Cranfill, was an American religious figure and prohibitionist who was nominated for Vice President of the United States by the Prohibition Party in 1892 …” Nora must have written him to purchase a copy of the book. Not family but I thought this was interesting.

The fifth and last item is a postcard from Edith to Mrs. Nora Wilson at the address 135 Satula Avenue, Athens, Georgia.
Jan. 27, ‘43
Dear Aunt Nora:
Mama seemed to be all right when I left Sunday. She had not regained all the strength she had. Aunt Dora went home Sat. Mary has had flu last week. Buel & Ruby came to see Mama Sunday. She hasn’t written us this week but we hope she is getting better every day. Write her.
Love, Edith
Research shows that Edith Self was Nora’s niece. Her mother was Nora’s sister, Areadna Kate Dellinger and her father Headen Monroe Self. Edith was born in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia on July 22, 1913 and died on July 20, 2005. Edith’s brother was Thomas Buel Self, born September 19, 1903 and died September 6, 1978 in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia. Buel’s wife was Ruby Lee Shope, born March 25, 1919 in Morgan County, Georgia and died August 7, 2010.

Postcard to Nora from Edith Self

Postcard to Nora from Edith Self

Well, I didn’t figure everyone out but managed to take care of most of the unknown people in Nora’s letters.

On a side note, I’ve also challenged myself to look through my boxes of unfiled genealogy records throughout the year to find material that matches Amy Johnson Crow’s weekly themes. That might help me get the records cataloged and filed sooner rather than later. We’ll see how that challenge works out!


  • Fort Jackson (South Carolina);
  • Google book review, Ten Nights in a Bar-room, and What I Saw There by Timothy Shay Arthur.
  • James B. Cranfill;
  • "Views of Our Readers, Practical Temperance," p. 10, The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, Indiana, November 4, 1939.

Friday, January 4, 2019

1935 Paulton school first grade photo

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “first,” so I thought I’d take a deep dive look at my mother-in-law Mary Athya Murphy’s first grade class photo. At some point, Mary wrote names across their chest for most of the children in the photo so many of them are identified. Sometimes it was their full name, sometimes just a first or last name. Hopefully it will be enough to help another researcher find an ancestor if they find this blog post and photo.

First grade class, Paulton, Pennsylvania (September 17, 1935)

Mary attended first grade in Paulton, Pennsylvania during the 1935 to 1936 school year. According to the Pennsylvania Gazetteer, Paulton “is a populated place located within the Township of Washington, a minor civil division of Westmoreland County” and is located about 35 miles from Pittsburgh. The photographer, a person named Collins, took the photo on September 17, 1935—two facts I only realized when I started writing this blog post—and I’ve looked at this photo many times. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the school. Mary once told me that she attended Washington Township Grade School through the eighth grade, beginning at age seven, but I don’t know if she was attending that school when the photo was taken. In 1935, she would have only been six years old so was there another school? I just don’t know.

These two photos were taken in 2003

Several things come to mind when I look at the photo: (1) No one is smiling. Were all 29 students and the teacher told not to smile or did it just happen that way? (2) September 1935 in Paulton must have been warm. All but one of the boys were wearing shorts, although several of them were wearing long sleeved shirts or what looked like sweaters. (3) All of the boys have their arms folded across their chest. (4) All of the girls have short hair. I think of all the little girls I see today with long hair and wonder why all of these little girls had short hair.

I’ve transcribed the names Mary wrote on the photo to the best of my ability. If you recognize anyone and can provide the correct name, feel free to leave a comment. I’m happy to update the information. All names are listed from left to right.
Front row: Billie, Joe, Bence, Howard, Harold, Raymond, and Carl.
Middle row: Beaver, Weiggy, Howe, Smail, Irene, Lailla, Maxine, Grace, unknown boy, Wade, unknown boy, and Scott.
Back row: Unknown girl, Mae Pierce, Marg Sloan, Phis Aberhibien, Alma Crooks, teacher (no name), Marg Myers, Lois Yockey, Mary Athya, Marilou Doverspike, and Marg Shaner.
One of the girls, Marg (Margaret) Sloan, happened to be Mary’s future sister-in-law. Marg married Mary’s oldest brother John Thompson Athya in Mamont, Washington Township on June 27, 1953.


  • “Paulton (in Westmoreland County, PA) Populated Place Profile;” Pennsylvania Gazetteer;
  • Marriage invitation, Margaret J. Sloan and John T. Athya.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Baby Boy Langford

For my last post of 2018, I’d like to remember an infant whose time on Earth was too short. Ninety-two years ago this month, Baby Boy Langford was born on December 22, 1926 to Robert Chester Lankford Sr. and Mendie Octavia Hayes. It was Christmas week and should have been a time of joy and happiness for the Lankford family who lived in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. It was anything but that. Baby Boy Langford was most likely born prematurely and hadn’t fully developed yet so they probably immediately knew he was in trouble. Dr. H. N. Abernathy attended to the baby, but his little body couldn’t sustain life and he died at 6 p.m. on December 26. His death certificate recorded him as “Infant of R. C. Langford” so it’s possible he was never given a name, but I can’t confirm that. Baby Boy Langford was buried at Trinity Cemetery in Charlotte the following day. He left behind four siblings who ranged in age from seven to two and were probably confused by what had happened to their little brother—Robert Chester Lankford Jr., Nancy Lowe Lankford, Mell Thomas Lankford, and William Norris Lankford. His parents would go on to have two more children—Vesta Mendie Lankford and Otis Young Lankford.

Baby Boy Langford would be my 3rd cousin, 2x removed. Our nearest common relatives are my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore. His father, whom I believe went by Chester, was originally from Oglethorpe County, Georgia, but moved the family to Charlotte sometime after 1920. Chester and Mendie are buried near my grandparents at Bairdstown Cemetery in Oglethorpe County.

In case you’re wondering why I’ve spelled the baby’s last name with a “g” and his father and siblings with a “k,” I’ll note that those letters are often switched with the names Lankford/Langford. I’ve chosen to use Langford for the baby since that’s how it’s listed on his death certificate. You can even see where a “k” was originally used for his father but then someone wrote a “g” over the “k” in three places. Most of the records I’ve found for his father uses the “k,” so I use Lankford for him and his other children.

Gone, but not forgotten.


  • U.S. Federal Census, Bair, Enumeration District 137, Oglethorpe County, Georgia, 1920.
  • Infant of R. C. Langford, certificate number 313, North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909–1976.
  • Obituary, Mr. Chester Lankford, Oglethorpe Echo, October 27, 1938.
  • Obituary, Otis Young Lankford, St. Louis Post, January 15, 1997.
  • Obituary, Vesta M. Lankford Murphy, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 31, 2000.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Photos of Christmas past

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “nice.”

Last week I shared some of my childhood Christmas memories. Well, to be honest, they’re all the Christmas memories I have from the early years. It’s sad, isn’t it. But at least I have a few photos to help keep the memories alive. This week, I want to post the last of the childhood family Christmas photos in my possession. Maybe if one of my siblings has any others, they’ll share with me. Wouldn’t that be nice!

The first photo is my Mama and oldest sister Bonita, who looks like she's probably one year old. That would make Mama about 17. The second photo is Bonita as well.

The third photo is my sister Jennifer. She has a December birthday so Mama would make her birthday cake in the shape of a Christmas tree. Jennifer tells me that's one of her favorite memories. She's about 10 years old in this photo.

This is a photo of four of the five of us, along with two of my cousins. My cousin Harvey is in the blue shirt, standing in the back. His brother Joey is the boy on the left. My brother Michael is sitting beside Joey. I'm in the middle, Jennifer is standing beside me, in the same blue dress she wore in the photo above. And my baby sister Vanessa is sitting in front of Jennifer. This photo was taken in the early 1960s.

This photo is my brother Michael, a budding fireman/construction worker. He looks about the same age as in the photo above.

This photo is the only photo we have of us with my Granddaddy Holland. That's him on the left with me standing beside him. My sister Jennifer is sitting in front of me, then my Aunt Brenda with my youngest sister Vanessa sitting in her lap. My Uncle David is sitting beside Vanessa, my brother Michael standing behind David, and my sister Bonita in the red sweater.

This last photo includes my great-grandmother Hattie (Rhinehart) Shields. We called her Grandma Shields. Mama is sitting next to her with me and my sister Jennifer in front of Mama.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Memories of Christmas Past

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “naughty.”

In 1996, my sister Jennifer and I worked with our siblings, Bonita, Michael, and Vanessa to publish some of our “treasured Christmas memories” for our parents. We included photos, some of our favorite holiday recipes, and one grandchild from each family drew a family picture. In this blog post, I’ll share some of those memories, along with some Christmas photos from years past.

Early in their marriage, Mama and Daddy lived in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta. While living in West End, Bonita remembers being a star in the kindergarten Christmas play. We moved from West End to our home on Macon Drive in Southeast Atlanta shortly after I was born. Both houses were probably a 10 to 15-minute drive downtown since we were close to the interstate. If you grew up in Atlanta, you probably remember going shopping at the Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta. While there, you had to ride the Pink Pig, a small train that rode around the roof of the Rich’s building. Rich’s was housed in two multi-level buildings that sat across the street from each other. The Christmas season officially began on Thanksgiving night when they lit the Great Tree that sat “on top of the multi-level glass skybridge connecting the main downtown Atlanta store with the Store for Homes across Forsyth Street” according to Wikipedia. Each floor had a choir or music group there to perform. As each group performed, their floor would light up until they got to the top floor which sang “O Holy Night.” Near the end of the song, Rich’s lit the tree and all of the lights from the other floors came back on as the choirs finished the song. It was a beautiful tradition for the city.


Bonita on the right

If we didn’t go the Rich’s on Thanksgiving night, we decorated our Christmas tree which was almost always artificial. Jennifer remembers at least one live tree that Daddy cut down from some property he owned in Union Point, Greene County, Georgia. I remember having one live tree that all the needles fell off before Christmas day. You could hear the constant tinkle as the needles hit the packages under the tree. I remember it was completely dead on Christmas day to the point that you didn’t dare turn the lights on for fear it would catch fire. We probably never watered it. We often took the tree down on Christmas night or the next day. When Christmas was over, it was over!

We anxiously waited for the yearly showing of Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Unlike now, it came on once and if you missed it, you had to wait a year to see it. The photo below isn’t from Christmas, but I imagine it’s how we watched these Christmas specials.

Jennifer, me, Vanessa, and Michael

We couldn’t leave the presents alone and constantly rearranged them. I remember unwrapping my presents at least once before Christmas and then had to make sure I got the tape back on just right so Mama and Daddy wouldn’t know they had been opened. Yes, I was naughty! The photo at the beginning of this post is of Bonita standing in front of our Christmas tree one year. If you look closely, you’ll see a playpen around the tree. Were we that naughty that Mama had to do that? I guess so.

Jennifer, Denise, Bonita, and Michael


The Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center was near our Macon Drive house. They had a big Santa that waved to all who passed by. The picture below is my family with Santa in the background.

Jennifer, Bonita, Denise, and Mama holding Michael. Mama is probably
pregnant with Vanessa in this picture.

Denise and Michael

Santa at Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center, Atlanta, Georgia

Bonita played the clarinet in our high school band which played concerts at the shopping center. The photo below may or may not have been taken during one of those concerts but it’s definitely Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center because I remember the Lerner Shop.

Bonita is in the back row, second person

On Christmas Eve, my Granny and her husband Hoyt drove down from north Georgia to spend Christmas with us. Vanessa remembers she always brought a coconut pie and a carrot cake. After Mama got home from work, we’d sit around the table nibbling on a Christmas ham. Mama kept a wooden bowl in the middle of the dining room table filled with oranges, tangerines, and assorted nuts. Before we went to bed, the five of us got a knee sock from our drawers (we didn’t have traditional stockings) and picked a spot in the living room for Santa to leave our toys. The next morning, we ran to our spot to see what Santa had left us. Lo and behold, our socks would be filled with oranges, tangerines, and nuts and the wooden bowl on the table would be empty. Jennifer remembers that one-by-one we’d empty our sock into the bowl until it was full again. We were able to play with what Santa left but not open any presents until we ate breakfast and the dishes were washed. Mama and Granny cooked a full breakfast of biscuits, meat, eggs, grits, and gravy. They took their time too, dragging it all out. And just when we thought it was time to open the presents, Granny would have to go “move her bowels.” Then Daddy would finally pass out the presents and everything would be over in 10 minutes. They tortured us, but I know now it was just Mama’s way of making her rocking chair memories.

Hoyt Vest, Daisy (Shields) Vest, and Jennifer

  1. Holiday traditions, Rich’s (department store);
  2. Summerlin, Donnie, Christmas at Rich’s;; December 15, 2010.

Friday, December 7, 2018

When Macon Drive turned into a winter wonderland

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “winter,” so I thought I’d share a blast from my past—several photos from a storm (or two) that left our neighborhood a winter wonderland. I grew up in Atlanta where snowstorms were few and far between. But occasionally we got lucky and one would blow in. I don’t remember but I’m sure the city would shut down and schools probably closed. If I were a betting person, I'd bet that Mama would stir up a pot of hot chocolate—the old fashioned way with milk and cocoa, not out of an envelope. She'd also make ice cream out of the snow. 

We would entertain ourselves sitting at the front window watching the cars try to make it up or down Bromack Drive, the street that came to an end at Macon Drive in front of our house. That section of the road was at a slight incline, just enough to cause problems for drivers. You can see it in the photo below of my Daddy standing by the street in front of our house.

This photo includes my brother Michael, Daddy, and my sister Jennifer. I don't believe this was taken at our house. In other photos, it looks like we were at a park.

This photo is of my brother Michael standing in front of our house.

Another photo of my sister Vanessa and brother Michael that I believe was taken at a park.

This photo is my brother Michael and me standing in front of our house.

When it did snow, all the neighborhood kids gathered at the Rath family house. They lived on Meadow Park Drive, the street behind ours. Their house was at the top of a hill. They were also from Michigan and had sleds! Those that didn't have sleds used cardboard which worked just as well as the sleds. We'd have to station somebody at the bottom of the hill though to watch for cars since the sledders would usually end up in the street at the end of their run. You can see the house in the photo below. That's my sister Jennifer standing in our front yard.