Friday, January 12, 2018

A favorite family photo

Week 2: 52 Ancestors theme—Favorite photo

In 2002, my sister Jennifer and I started working on our Shields family tree. Once we gathered as much information and photos as we could, we planned to put a book together to share with any family member that wanted a copy. Jennifer contacted many extended family members, including some we’d never met. One person was Tommy Shields, a cousin who lived in California. Tommy’s father, William Elmer Shields, was the brother of my Pappy (great-grandfather), James Stewart Shields. Tommy was excited about the project and agreed to send Jennifer some of his photos to include in the book. When the package arrived, it included this photo. Tommy wrote a note to Jennifer telling her he didn’t know who the family was but the woman seated in the middle was his Granny Shields. As it turns out, the family was my family and the woman seated was not only his granny but our granny as well—specifically, our 2nd great-grandmother, Martha Ann Ogle Shields. Neither Jennifer nor I had ever seen the photo.

The baby in the photo is my brother Michael which means the photo was taken in 1958. We lived in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia and had traveled to Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia to join the Shields family for a celebration. Martha, who was born on May 10, 1870 in Boogertown, Sevier County, Tennessee, was celebrating her 88th birthday.

We have many photos from my youth but few include us kids with both my mother and father. Even though one sister is missing (she wasn’t born yet), this is one of my favorite family photos. It was exciting to receive this photo and it was a bonus that it included my 2nd great-grandmother.

Pictured in photo: My sister Bonita, my 2nd great-grandmother Martha Ogle Shields, my sister Jennifer, my mama Fay holding me, and my daddy Sam Lankford holding my brother Michael.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sarah Cheney

Week 1 #52Ancestors theme—START. 

She’s at it again—Amy Johnson Crow that is—the professional genealogist who was the inspiration for my weekly ancestor blog posts. In August 2014, I discovered Amy’s 52 Ancestors Challenge that she posted on January 3, 2014. I joined the challenge the next month and have blogged weekly since September 21, 2014. I’m not a writer but I haven’t let that stop me. For what it’s worth, I actually think my writing has gotten better with practice. In 2015, I set several genealogy goals with one of them being to complete the challenge, which I did on September 4, 2015. Once the challenge was complete, I decided to keep going, later adding family treasures, Bairdstown Cemetery, and heirloom recipe pages to my blog.

On December 29, 2017, Amy announced the 2018 version of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. Each month, she’ll issue prompts to be used for the weeks in that month. The purpose of the prompts is simply to “get you thinking about an ancestor who fits how you interpret the prompt.” You don’t have to use the prompt if you don’t want to though. You just have to write!

I find it helpful to keep an editorial calendar for planning out my blog. I don’t always stick to it but I’m trying to match some of my posts with the dates of the year so to do that you have to plan, at least a little. The prompt for week 1 is “Start.” I wrote this post for Sarah Cheney months ago, purposely planning to post it this week. So, let’s get “Started” with the 2018 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge!

This blog post is also another in a series connecting the dots in my tree to the souls buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Sarah Cheney, daughter of Charles English Cheney and Mary Ellen Jackson, was born on August 30, 1909, most likely in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. She was the third child and first daughter born to Charles and Mary. At the time of her birth, Sarah had two older brothers—William Reeves Cheney and Charles English Cheney Jr.

Baby Sarah’s life was very short—she died on January 3, 1910 at just four months old, again most likely in Woodville. I haven’t found a birth or death record for Sarah but her parents were living in Woodville when the census was taken on April 30, 1910 so that’s how I’ve determined her birth and death location. If she’s in your family tree, you’ll need to find a record to prove the location.

Sarah was buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Her paternal grandfather, Enoch R. Cheney, who died on March 21, 1902, was buried at Bairdstown Cemetery so I imagine that’s why they choose that cemetery as Sarah’s final resting place.

Her grandmother, Sarah H. Cheney, was buried beside Enoch when she died in 1915. Was Baby Sarah named after her grandmother?

I don’t find a connection for Sarah to my family but she is buried beside a tree not far from my grandparents, Carroll and Floria Lankford, and I recall walking past her grave every time I’ve visited that cemetery. That’s connection enough for me.

Remembering Baby Sarah—108 years (this week) after her death.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Vintage Christmas photos

Several years ago, I scanned a large quantity of slides given to my husband by his Aunt Jean Murphy. The slides were photos taken by his Uncle Ralph Murphy and have given me hours of entertainment. Many are images of places they visited, some are work related, and of course there are family photos. Before the holiday season ends, I thought I’d post some of the Christmas photos from the collection. We can identify some of the people in the photos but not all. If you stumble across this blog post and can identify anyone, I’d love to hear from you. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and wish you a Happy New Year!

Aunt Jean
Aunt Jean's mother Charlotte and grandmother Harriet
This group may be part of Aunt Jean's family
Unknown woman winking at someone
Working to identify these boys now. I believe they were members
of the extended Murphy family.
Uncle Ralph and Aunt Jean's Christmas tree
A Murphy Christmas feast
Cousin Patricia Murphy, ca. 1954
Aunt Jean and their dog Boogie
Hotel San Carlos, Phoenix, Arizona
Unknown girl
At Uncle Ralph and Aunt Jean's house
Uncle Glenn Murphy
Uncle Glenn Murphy on the left edge, Aunt Gertrude Murphy, my father-in-law
Earl Murphy, my mother-in-law Mary Murphyand Aunt Jean
That was some office party! Looks like the man may be Uncle Ralph.
The others are unknown.
Aunt Jean's mother Charlotte, Aunt Jean, and an unknown woman 
A Murphy Christmas feast
Aunt Marjorie Murphy and Uncle Raymond Murphy
Uncle Raymond Murphy and Aunt Marjorie Murphy

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas baking

Like many people, I’ve made my share of Christmas cookies over the years—mostly for work or to give as gifts to family and friends. I have several recipes I like to use but at some point, settled on two that were always well received—pecan tassies and coconut macaroons. What’s funny is that I’m not a fan of pecans or coconut so don’t eat either. I guess you could say that’s a good thing though! I thought it was time to share the recipes for these two favorites. Enjoy!


1 cup butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Stir in 2 cups of all-purpose flour with a spoon just until the mixture forms a ball. Divide the dough into thirds, wrapping each portion. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Roll the dough out, one third at a time, 1/8-inch-thick on lightly floured surface. Cut out with 2 ¼ inch round cutter. Gently press dough rounds into ungreased mini-muffin pan cups. Refrigerate shells until ready to fill and bake.

2 eggs
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups finely chopped pecans

Prepare shells according to the recipe. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl using a wire whisk, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in brown sugar, butter, and vanilla until thoroughly blended. Stir in the pecans. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the filling into each unbaked shell, filling about half full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until bottoms of pastries are crisp and light brown. Let cool 10 minutes in pans on wire racks. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen tassies.

  • The ingredients are simple—just make sure the cream cheese and butter are softened. 
  • A stand mixer comes in handy.
  • Separate the dough into disks, wrap in Saran Wrap, then refrigerate. I usually make the dough one night and do the rest the next night.
  • You can buy chopped nuts or chop them yourself in a food processor.

  • I chop the pecans up pretty fine.
  • It's handy to have two large tins. I fill one tin and pop it in the oven. While the first batch bakes, I prepare the second batch. The timing is just about right.
  • You don't need to butter the tin. 
  • Only take one disk of dough out of the refrigerator at a time. Chilled dough is easier to work with.
  • Before making, I trim my fingernails to avoid my nail digging into the shell as I press the dough into the tin.
  • I never roll the dough out. I always take the chilled disk of dough and cut it into squares small enough to fit in the tin with a butter knife. Do what works best for you.
  • I bought a Mini-tart Shaper from Pampered Chef and found it very helpful in pressing the dough into the tin. You still have to form the dough with your finger but this gets it started for you. Before pressing the dough, I dip the Shaper into water.
  • You don't need a mixer to blend the filling. A whisk works just fine.  
  • I use a butter knife to pop the tassies out of the tin.


3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flaked coconut
12 candied cherries, each cut into fourths

Heat oven to 300. Grease cookie sheet lightly (or use parchment paper). Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium bowl until foamy. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Fold in almond extract and coconut. Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls about 1 inch apart onto cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Place a cherry piece on each cookie. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or just until edges are light brown. Cool 10 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Murphy Santa Letters

Pat Murphy
I don’t want to cheat the Murphy side of the family out of its Santa letters so will share three I found in my late mother-in-law’s belongings.

Two are form letters sent from Santa to my husband Charlie and one of his siblings. The one to Charlie was sent via Reindeer Mail and was addressed to Mr. Charles Murphy of Monongah, West Virginia. By the way, the writing looks awfully similar to his Dad’s handwriting.

The third letter was written to Santa by my brother-in-law Pat Murphy. He writes that he’s six years old (although it looks like he wrote an eight first) so the letter would have been written in 1968. It reads:
Dear Santa,
My name is Pat. I am 6 years old. I would like a football suit and a ball, a talking Smokey Bear, a Saint Bernard dog, mail bag blocks, pop-up box, hop-hop, magic chest, phono-projector, popcorn machine, 11 games in all, boxing gloves, Battleship, robots, tool box, Dr. Kit, Knight, Green Hornet, farm set, guitar, marine, holster and rifle, canteen, Disney land, cavalry set, commander set. Thank you.
Patrick Murphy
I feel pretty certain that Santa didn’t bring him everything he wanted that year!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lankford Family Santa Letters

I often search historical newspapers and at some point, discovered that the Athens Daily Herald, part of the Athens Historic Newspapers Archive, published lots of Santa letters in the early 1900s. As far as I know, I’ve never written a letter to Santa, but many children have. Now I make a point of searching for and reading these letters every December. I enjoy reading them. Times were so different then. These Santa letters remind me that I have much to be thankful for and to appreciate all the good that I have in my life.

In the process of my research, I’ve found three letters that were written my members of the extended Lankford family. Since ‘tis the season, I thought it would be a good time to share them.

Image from the Athens Daily Herald, Dec .24, 1915

The first letter was written by Ruhmell Swindle, daughter of John William Swindle and Eula Mae Patridge. Ruhmell was born in Madison County, Georgia on August 25, 1898. She would have been 15 years old when she wrote her Santa letter published in the Athens Daily Herald on December 17, 1914. It’s heartwarming to see that she thought about children less fortunate than herself and then she carried that on throughout her long life. Ruhmell died in Athens, Clarke County, Georgia at the age of 97 on November 16, 1996. Her obituary noted “… She served as a Salvation Army fund-raiser by playing her tambourine in downtown Athens for 42 years. She was often seen volunteering in a blue uniform and bonnet while standing on College Avenue. She would collect money for the Salvation Army from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., moving to different locations around downtown Athens on foot.” Her Santa letter follows.
Dear old Santa Claus:
I thought I would write to you to let you know what I wanted.
I want you to bring me a locket chain and please bring little Claud a rubber doll and a tie and please bring us some fruit too. Please don’t forget the poor and orphan children.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas.
Your little girl,
Ruhmell Swindle
Ruhmell would be my 3rd cousin 2x removed, with our nearest common relatives being my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

Katie Lankford. 1910
The second letter was written by Katie Lankford, daughter of Wade Hamilton Lankford and Ada Blanche Culbertson. Katie was a Christmas Eve baby, born in Greene County, Georgia on December 24, 1906. She would have been 7 years old when her Santa letter was published in the Athens Daily Herald on December 19, 1914. Her Santa letter follows.
Dear Santa Claus: I wish you would please bring me a doll and doll carriage. My brother has been sick a long time, he had the typhoid fever, he has been sick seven months. Daddy had to spend all of his money for doctor’s bill and if you don’t bring me something I don’t guess I will get anything. My little brother said bring him a stopper gun and a wagon with horses to it. Bring my little sister a doll and tea set, she is 2 years old, her name is LILA MAE LANKFORD. Please don’t forget us. I know you want my name, KATIE LANKFORD, aged 9. My brother's name is CLEVELAND LANKFORD, aged 5. Be sure to come to see us.
I hope Katie got what she wished for that year because sadly, she passed away in 1922 at the young age of 16. Katie writes that she was 9 years old but her death certificate noted that she was born in 1906. Katie would have been my 2nd cousin 3x removed. Our nearest common relatives are also my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

Clyde Lankford
The third letter was written by Clyde Lankford, Katie’s sister. Clyde was born in Greene County, Georgia on August 29, 1904 and would have been 11 years old when she wrote her Santa letter published on December 24, 1915 in the Athens Daily Herald. Her Santa letter follows.
Will Be Pleased With Anything.
Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl 11 years old. My brother died August 17, 1915. My mother died September 13, 1915. There are five children here, my papa and one brother and one sister works, the youngest one of us is a baby girl only 2 years old. My papa has to hire someone to stay with us every day, but I get up every morning at 4:30 and cook breakfast. I want you to remember us, will be pleased with anything you can bring us. My papa told me the other day that he had always given us a right nice Christmas, but was not able to get us anything this Christmas, so if you don’t remember us we will not get anything. I will tell you all of our names now, so if you can spare us anything you will know what to bring. My name is Clyde, I am 11 years old. My oldest sister is 14 years old, her name is Mozelle, Kate is 9 years old, Cleveland is 6 years old, Lila 2 years. Don’t forget us, dear Santa Claus. Wishing you a merry Christmas. Your little friend, CLYDE LANKFORD, 731 Satulah avenue.
Clyde’s letter pulls at your heartstrings it was so sad! She lost both her brother and mother that year and she didn’t know it at the time, but would lose her sister Katie in 1922 and sister Mozelle in 1926. Hopefully, Santa and his elves were able to bring something nice to Clyde and her siblings that year. Like Katie, Clyde would have been my 2nd cousin 3x removed with our nearest common relatives are also my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Vintage Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Plush Toys

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, …. ” well, we all know the lyrics to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer so I’ll stop there. But every time I hear those words it takes me back to my childhood in the 1960s when you only got one chance a year to watch Rudolph save Christmas. We never missed it … it was Must See TV for sure!

Fast forward to the 1990s. By then, I was married and had two boys of my own to watch Rudolph with. Unlike when I was their age, we now had VHS tapes and could watch Rudolph whenever we wanted to, and we did. The boys got to know the characters as well as my husband Charlie and I knew them.

Then in 1998, the CVS Pharmacy sold a limited-edition set of 12 plush toy characters from the show made by the Stuffins Company. Each week for the six weeks leading up to Christmas, you could buy two different characters. I knew I had to have a set and remember going from store to store trying to find all of them. It was like a treasure hunt and we managed to find all 12. In 1999, CVS sold a new set of plush toy characters. This time around, we weren’t successful in getting all of them, but put the two years together, and we managed to buy most of the characters from the show. In all, we have 18 of them—Rudolph, Santa Claus in a red suit, Santa Claus in a plaid suit, Sam the Snowman, Clarice, King Moonracer, Comet, a train with square wheels on his caboose, a cowboy who rides an ostrich, a plane that can’t fly, Yukon Cornelius, Bumble the Abominable Snowman, Hermey, Elf Foreman, tall elf with glasses, Doll, Spotted Elephant, and Charlie-In-The-Box.

All are in excellent condition; however, they no longer have the tags. At the time, I didn’t know it was important to keep the tags attached to the toy so tore them off as soon as we got home from CVS. I guess if you’re a collector, you want the tags, but to me, they’d just get in the way.

Since 1998, these cute little plush toy characters have had a place in my home every year at Christmastime and I definitely consider them to be a family treasure!