Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tombstone for Mary Ann Wolstenholme Smith

When my great-grandmother,Mary Ann Wolstenholme Smith, died in 1933, our country was  at the lowest point of the Great Depression.  Money was scarce and placing a tombstone on Mary Ann's grave was out of the question. Fortunately, my dad, who was 20 years old when his grandmother died, attended her funeral, remembered where she was buried and passed along that information  when I became interested in genealogy. It is one thing to know where someone is buried and another thing to have that burial spot identified for future generations.

Mary Ann lived with her children, rotating  from one household to another. She told stories to my dad and his siblings about growing up in Davidson County, Tennessee, but either Mary Ann or my dad "fluffed up" the stories of her background. Census records show her family lived a simple life. Whatever the circumstances were, my dad spoke highly of her and she was an important part of the family.

I have always felt a certain affinity for Mary Ann and wanted to get a monument to mark her grave. My generation is the last that will remember where she is buried. When we are gone, there will be no one who knows where she is buried. So, at our last Joyce family reunion, I mentioned what I wanted to do. Several cousins spoke up and offered to help.

A little over a month ago the tombstone was set and there will be no doubt where Mary Ann is buried. She rests beside her husband, Reddick Smith, in Central Cemetery in Hardin County, Illinois.  This was very important to me and I feel like Mary Ann and her family are pleased.

Published 8 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy  Blog,

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Claude & Laura Gill

Claude A.
Dec. 20, 1872
Jan. 5, 1927

Laura S.
Feb. 6, 1881
Oct. 11, 1925

Buried Freedom Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 25 March 2015.

The 1910 census shows Claude and Laura S. Gill living in Crittenden County. They had been married 12 years.  The 1920 Crittenden County census shows them still in that county and gives the further information that Claude's father was born in Virginia and his mother in Kentucky. This contradicts the information given on the 1880 census  of Hardin County, Illinois, which shows Claude living with his parents, James G. Gill and Mary Gill, both born in Kentucky.  Claude and his sister, Maude, were both born in Illinois.  Claude A. Gill died in Evansville, Vanderburgh County, Indiana 5 January 1927.

Published 6 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Margaret Jennings Brayfield 1847 - 1937

Margaret Jennings
Dec. 29, 1847
Jan. 28, 1937

Buried Smithland Cemetery, Smithland, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 2 October 2010.

People are usually buried in a particular location because they have a connection to that place, but sometimes it was simply convenient.

At first glance, it appeared the burial of Margaret Jennings Brayfield in Smithland was going to be a puzzle, but a little research  showed her connection to that cemetery.  

According to various census records, she was born in Tennessee, her father in North Carolina and her mother in South Carolina.  Margaret married John S. Brayfield in McCracken County, Kentucky 22 February 1876.[1] She lived in Paducah, was 27 years old and this was her first marriage.  John S. Brayfield  lived in Evansville, Indiana, was 32 years of age and this was also his first marriage.

By 1880, the couple was living in Evansville with the family of William Jennings (age 78, born North Carolina) and Sarah Jennings (age 70, born South Carolina).  John Brayfield's occupation was listed as a printer on the 1880 census.

On the 1910 Vanderburgh County, Indiana census, John and Margaret Brayfield were living on Lincoln Avenue in Evansville and John was a newspaper reporter.  Their living situation changed by 1920, when they are shown as inmates of the Indiana State Soldiers Home in Tippecanoe County. This facility was established by the work of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union Army veterans of the Civil War) and had opened 1 February 1896. The last time Maggie/Margaret appears on the census was in 1930 when she was an 81-year-old widow still living in the State Soldiers Home.

 Sometime after 1930, she went to Paducah, where she died 28 January 1937.  Her parents are not identified on her death certificate[2]  and the informant was Marvin Scyster, age 41 and a real estate agent. He lived in Paducah, but the 1910 census shows him living with his parents, George D. and Maggie Scyster in Smithland.   So what connection did Marvin Scyster have to Maggie/Margaret Jennings Brayfield?

The 1860 Livingston County census shows W.J. Jennings, age 58, and Sarah J. Jennings, age 53, running a boarding house in Smithland. In their household were Joshua A. Jennings, age 25, and Margaret J., age 11 - probably their children. A salesman, Amon Price, also lived with them.  This has to be the right  Jennings family.

Now we know the Scyster and Jennings families both lived in Smithland at one time. Was that the only connection?  No, it wasn't. The answer is found in a deed[3] whereby a dispute was being settled between James Ellis, son of John Ellis, and W.J. Jennings.  In dispute were several slaves Jennings had given to his daughter, Sarah L.A. Ellis, the wife of James Ellis, before Sarah died.  One more thing - Marvin Scyster's full name was Marvin Ellis Scyster. His mother was Margaret M. Ellis, daughter of James Ellis and Sarah A.L. Jennings. James Ellis and Sarah A.L. Jennings were Marvin's grandparents and his grandmother was a sister to Margaret Jennings Brayfield.  

And that is how Margaret Jennings Brayfield was connected to Marvin Ellis Scyster and this is another reason why I love deeds.

[1] Kentucky, Marriage Records, 1852-1914, McCracken County,, accessed 18 August 2016.

[2] Kentucky Death Certificate #5428 (1937),, accessed 18 August 2016.
[3] Livingston County Deed Book 5:82, dated 3 October 1861.

Published 1 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Juda York

Wife of
Haywood York
Sept. 1, 1849
Jan. 10, 1905

Buried Sisco Chapel Cemetery. Tombstone photographed 2015.

Juda B. Stovall married Haywood York 24 December 1871[1] in Crittenden County. They appear on the 1880 Crittenden County census in Marion Dist. 1 with five children. The census also shows both Juda and Haywood were born in Tennessee. The 1900 Crittenden County census shows the York family has grown with more children plus Juda's mother, Perlie Stovall, living with them.  Haywood York died 13 November 1939 at the age of 92.[2]

[1] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriage Records Vol. II 1866-1886.(Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery) 1991, p. 43.
[2] Kentucky Death Certificate #29380 (1939),, accessed 28 August 2016.

Published 29 Nov 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy  Blog,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Smithland Cemetery

Smithland Cemetery is one of the treasures of Smithland, Kentucky.  A walk through the cemetery will show elaborate monuments as well as simple slabs devoid of artwork. The sign at the entrance states  the cemetery dates from 1810, but it is possible that the cemetery dates from a later time period.  In fact, the earliest burial dates given on the tombstones are mainly from the 1830s and later. Nevertheless, it is a very old cemetery and the town is fortunate to have it still in use.

In researching the cemetery, two deeds are important. The first deed  is found in Deed Book GG, page 61 and is dated 19 May 1841. At that time Benjamin and Sterling M. Barner conveyed to William Gordon, Gideon A. Haydock, John E. Wilson, John C. McGraw and William Smith, Smithland town trustees, 10 acres and 7 poles adjoining Smithland, beginning at the back corner of out lot #12 on Level Street and running with the back line of the town ferry to a stone corner to out lot #14 on Maiden Street.  The cemetery had been in use for some years by 1841, but no record has yet been found whereby the land was acquired.

Another important deed is from Deed Book 4, page 522, dated 19 July 1860. The town trustees conveyed to H.F. Given, for the sum of $1.00, a piece of land 32 feet wide and 65 feet long, "bounded on the North by the Shoemaker family grave yard, on the East by Haydock's family grave yard and on the Southwest by the George Hagey family grave yard."   This plot is where the  H.F. Given Family Tomb is located today. To date, this is the only deed I have found for the sale of a lot in the cemetery. 

During the 1850s, the town trustees were responsible for the care of Smithland Cemetery.  At a meeting of the trustees in 1853, it was  "ordered by this board that all persons (adults or Minors) guilty of injuring Tomb Stones, fences, pailings, plucking flowers, Braking off Shrubery or otherwise Mistreating graves in the Smithland grave yard Shall be fined four Dollars for each and every offence.   [signed] E.P. Haynes, chairman.   R.M. Haydock  Clerk." 

Smithland Cemetery has many types of tombstones.   Below are just a few examples.

Entrance to Smithland Cemetery

A.A. and Mary A. Grayot 

Alfred A. Grayot 1823 - 1883

Shot by Townsend Ashton on Christmas Day 

1816 Alabama - 1869 Cairo, Illinois

Published 26 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation 1863

This is a repeat post from 28 November 2013. It is still pertinent today.

“I do there­fore in­vite my fel­low-cit­i­zens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands,  to set apart and ob­serve the last Thurs­day of No­vem­ber next, as a day of Thanks­giv­ing and praise to our benef­i­cent Fa­ther who dwelleth in the Heav­ens ... and fer­vently im­plore the in­ter­po­si­tion of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the na­tion and to re­store it, as soon as may be con­sis­tent with the Di­vine pur­pose, to the full en­joy­ment of peace, har­mony, tranquility and union.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3rd day of October, in the year of our Lord 1863, and of the independence of the United States the 88th."

        From Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Published 24 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thomas M. Davis Burial Plot

Davis Burial Plot - Smithland Cemetery

Richard Graham Davis of Paducah has generously allowed us to publish his sketch of the Davis burial plot in Smithland Cemetery. He has numbered and identified each grave within the plot. Buried here are Thomas M. and Emily (Roach) Davis, their children and connections. An atmosphere of haunting beauty envelopes the Davis plot.

Thomas M. Davis was the son of John Davis and Harriet Cook, both of Livingston County, Kentucky. Tom M. Davis had two  brothers, John N. and William R. Davis, who were both deceased. [1] John Davis died before 6 December 1830, when his widow, Harriet, was granted letters of administration upon her husband's estate.[2] Harriet remarried in 1833 to Stephen Lyon.[3]

Thomas M. Davis and Miss Emily Roach married 4 July 1843 in Caldwell County, Kentucky. Giving consent for the bride was her father, William Roach.[4]

The 1850 and 1860 Livingston County census records both list merchant as the occupation of Tom M. Davis.  He was also a Constable and Deputy Sheriff in Smithland.[5]

Thomas M. Davis died 4 January 1869, leaving a 42-year-old widow, Emily, and several several children.  Emily outlived her husband by 35 years.  Her obituary gave the following information: [6]

"Mrs. Emily Davis died this morning ... at  the residence of her daughter, Mrs. W.H. Sanders, in Arcadia..
Mrs. Davis was born in Lyon county, but lived most of her life in Smithland. She was the wife of Mr. Thomas Davis, of Smithland, who died about 35 years ago, and two children survive her, Mrs. W.H. Sanders and Mr. Charles B. Davis, of Smithland, besides several half brothers and sisters who reside in Paris, Texas.

"The remains were brought to the city this morning and are at the residence of Mrs. Wm. Hughes, on West Jefferson street. The funeral will be tomorrow at Smithland. A boat will be chartered to take the remains and the family and friends to Smithland Sunday morning and the funeral services will be held at the Smithland Methodist church of which Mrs. Davis was an old and zealous member."

[1] Livingston County, Kentucky Deed Book 1, p 539-540, 8 March 1852. Mrs. Harriet Lyon of Smithland conveys to Thomas M. Davis all her interest in the real estate of John David Dec'd which she inherited upon the deaths of her sons, John N. and Wm. R. Davis, brothers of Thos M. Davis and children of John Davis. John N. David died in 1848 and William R. Davis died in 1851. Both are buried in Smithland Cemetery.
[2] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Livingston County, Kentucky Estate Records 1799-1842, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery), 2004, p. 82-83.
[3] Joyce M. Woodyard. Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records, Vol. I (October 1799-July 18 39), (Smithland, KY: n.p.), 1992, p. 126. Marriage bond was issued 7 Oct 1833; no return recorded.
[4] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Caldwell County, Kentucky Marriages 1833-1853, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery), 1997, p. 74.
[5] Livingston County Court Order Book J, p. 191 (1 March 1847) and J, p. 132, (5 Oct 1846).
[6] Long Life Ends," Paducah Evening Sun, 10 September 1904. 

Published 17 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,