Thursday, October 15, 2015

Help Please! Navy Portrait, but Which War?

This is a photo I scanned while at my mom's a few weeks ago. I know which part of my family it came from, but I'm having trouble identifying which war this young man served in. If I can figure that out, hopefully I can identify him.

Can anyone tell me which war this young man fought in. Thanks in advance!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Grandma's Old Family Photos

After writing about my Grandmother, Evelyn (Dickson) Kaechle, this past weekend, I decided to share some of her old family photos. The photos were probably all taken in Perry County, Tennessee where my grandmother grew up.

This is a photo of Sallie (Dickson) Ward, my grandmother's grandmother. My grandmother was raised by Sallie since her own mother, Nora (Ward) Dickson, died when she was only 8 months old. Sallie lived to be 99 years old and lived her entire life in Perry County,Tennessee.

This photo was labeled "Sallie & Mary." Sallie is Sallie (Dickson) Ward who is also pictured above. This "Mary" is almost certainly Sallie's older sister, Mary Elizabeth (Dickson) (Sutton) Dickson. She was born in 1849, about 11 years before Sallie's birth. Mary lived to be 87 and died in 1939. So, this photo was probably taken in the 1930's.

My grandmother told me this was a photo of "Mary Ary, Tom Ward's daughter." Tom Ward is one of Sallie's sons. He did have a daughter named Mary, who would've been about a year older than my grandmother. So, it is likely these first cousins grew up as close friends in Perry County. However, I don't have any information on Mary Ward after the 1930 census when she was 15 years old. 

The only Mary Ary in Perry County has been attributed to other parents by researchers. There is also a Mary Erie in the 1940 census in Wayne County, Tennessee who might be Tom's daughter. Either way, more research is needed!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Born 100 Years Ago Today: A Tribute to My Grandmother

My grandmother, Evelyn (Dickson) Kaechle, was born 100 years ago today. Though she died in 2004 at the age of 88, I'm paying tribute to her by sharing part of her life's story in words and photos.

Evelyn was the fifth child born to James Bedford & Nora (Ward) Dickson. Both the Ward and Dickson families had lived in Perry County, Tennessee for generations. But, for some reason, Evelyn was born about 100 miles away in Newbern, Dyer County, Tennessee on October 10th, 1915.

Sadly, when Evelyn was only 8 1/2 months old, her mother died. I remember Grandma telling me her mom died from "eating too many fresh vegetables," but the death certificate says her cause of death was "billious dysentery." Evelyn's mother was only 30 years old.

This is the only photo we have of my grandmother as a young child. She's about 2 and she's holding a pet chicken, most likely in Perry County, Tennessee. On the left is Elsie Jo Ward (age ~14), one of grandmother's first cousins, who is also holding a chicken. In the middle is Sallie (age ~58), the grandmother who raised my Grandmother Evelyn. And, on the right is Ethel Ward (~20), Sallie's youngest daughter. I scanned this photo at my grandmother's house about 15 years ago. I don't know what has become of the original.

Though Evelyn's dad evidently felt comfortable taking care of the older children (who were ages 12, 10, 8, & 4), he must have decided baby Evelyn would be better off with her maternal grandmother. So, Evelyn was raised by her widowed grandmother, Sallie (Dickson) Ward.

Evelyn lived with her grandmother in Marsh Creek, Perry County, Tennessee surrounded by family including her father, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In the 1920 census, 4-year-old Evelyn was living with her grandmother and two unmarried uncles: Uncle Lowry and Uncle Grady. In 1930, she was still living in Marsh Creek with her grandmother, Sallie, and Uncle Lowry.

This is a photo of my grandfather and grandmother, Evelyn, taken in 1941 either right before or right after they were married in Ohio. The original is in my mother's possession.
Around 1941, at the age of 25, Evelyn met Sherman Kaechle who was working at a farm in Tennessee. They traveled to Toledo, Ohio where Sherman had family, and were married on July 5th, 1941. Though they lived in Tennessee for a few years, Evelyn would live most of the rest of her life in Indiana.

Although she didn't grow up in the same house as her father and older siblings, she still had a nice relationship with them. This is a photo of my Grandmother Evelyn, on the right, with her father, James B Dickson, in the middle, and oldest sister, Bernie, on the left. Original photo in possession of my mother.

Evelyn and her husband, Sherman Kaechle, with the first of their 7 children

Evelyn's first 4 children, a son then 3 daughters, were born within just 4 years of each other. Her fifth child, a son, was born 6 1/2 years later. The last two boys, born less than 12 months apart, weren't born for another 5 years. Altogether, Evelyn raised 7 children, 4 sons and 3 daughters. The oldest child was 16 1/2 when the last baby was born.

Grandmother Evelyn (Dickson) Kaechle with my siblings and me (I'm on far right)
Evelyn survived breast cancer in 1986. But, 8 years later, the cancer returned; this time it attacked her bones. My mother took care of Grandma for several months at home. Eventually, though, Grandma was moved to hospice.

My mother, daughter, and I got to spend those last few days with her, though she responded very little. I held her hand and my 3-year-old daughter and I sang hymns to her. It was a sweet, but sad, time as I watched Grandma slip away. Peacefully, in the middle of the night on June 6th, 2004, Grandma Kaechle breathed her last. I believe she went home to be with her Lord where I will one day see her again.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Another Sad Chapter of Reuben Ward, Murdered Minister: A Case of an Insolvent Estate

Earlier this year, I wrote about my grandmother's grandfather, Reuben H. Ward. According to my grandmother's story, he was a Methodist circuit rider who had been murdered while going down the river. His body was then thrown overboard. I uncovered more details of the story through newspaper articles.

Index from Ancestry's Insolvent Estates, Perry County, Tennessee
Ward, R. H., page 62; Notice there is one more Ward and 2 more
Whitwells who are also likely my relatives. I haven't looked at these yet.

This week, while looking at Ancestry's new "probate and wills" databases, I discovered more information about Reuben H. Ward. I found that his estate was insolvent.

What is an insolvent estate? It's when an estate is in bankruptcy. So, the estate has more debt than equity. In other words, the person owed more money than they could pay back.

Reuben H. Ward
Image from Elizabeth Ramey, used with permission

In this case, the two administrators of Reuben's estate, Geo. D. Whitwell (Reuben's first cousin) and J. A. Denton, were ordered by the Clerk of the county, J. R. Godwin, to "give notice in the Linden Mail [a newspaper] and also at the Court-house door, in the Town of Linden, Tennessee, for all persons holding claims against the Estate of said deceased, to come forward and file them with me, as Clerk aforesaid, for a pro rata distribution on or before the 7 day of July 1907." [Unfortunately, according to Chronicling America, only three issues of the Linden Mail still exist, so I won't be able to find a copy of this notice.]

The order was apparently signed on January 7th, 1907. The first creditor appeared on January 21st. This was the Stewart Drug Co. saying Reuben (or his estate) owed them $3.95.

Over the next two years, a year and a half beyond the distribution date, a total of 30 creditors would be listed with amounts owed between $1.30 (to John T. Stanford) and $261.11, but with a $19.00 credit (to J. M. Lancaster). Among the many individuals listed, I also noticed the following:
  • Murray & Essary, Attor'y's
  • Paducah Furniture Company
  • Lexington Hardward & Furniture Company
  • L. V. Frazier (who I know from research is the local doctor)
  • J. T. Mossite Co. Judgement & [???]
  • J. P. Dickson (who I know to be his widow's sister)
  • Citizen's Bank, Lexington, Tenn
In all, the amount Reuben's estate owed was $1,559.81. Unfortunately, "G. D. Whitwell Admr. has $125.00 to pay these claims less expenses of Admrs fee and clerk fee." So, these claimants probably only received about 10 cents per dollar of what they were owed.

Of course, I can't help but think of Reuben's widow, Sallie, who was only 45 at the time of Reuben's death. She had 8 of her 9 children still living, though the oldest three were already married. But, still living at home were the youngest five children: Lillie, age 18; Mittie, age 15; Mary, age 13; William, age 10; and Grady, age 7. 

Not only did Sallie have to worry about her missing husband for weeks, find out about his possible murder, and struggle through the murder trial, but now she also had to suffer the probable embarrassment of her husband's insolvent estate. And, how would she survive and provide for her children without his estate?

Sallie Ward, 1910 Census, Perry County, Tennesse
In April of 1910, about 3 years after the date set to pay off all claimants, Sallie was enumerated in District 1 of Perry County, Tennessee. On the same page as her two married sons, she is listed as a 49 year old widow with 5 children at home, now aged between 21 and 11 years old. Under occupation and industry, it has listed "farmer, farming." It says she works on her "own account" rather than as an employer or employee, and that she hasn't been out of work during the past year. Under education, it lists that she can both read and write. And, under "ownership of home," it lists that she owns, via a mortgage, her farm. It appears she's doing quite well for herself and her family!

Ten years later, in the 1920 census, two of Sallie's sons have taken over the farm and she's living with them.

So, Sallie survived. But, it must have been tough! Sallie raised my grandmother, Evelyn, so I feel a special connection with her. My grandmother's own mother died when she was just a baby, so Sallie was the only mom my grandmother ever knew.

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

Monday, October 5, 2015

3 Reasons You Might Have Trouble Finding Your Ancestors on Ancestry's "Wills and Probate Records"

Over the past couple of days, I've spent some time looking for ancestors and other relatives on Ancestry's new "Wills and Probate Records" series. I was having trouble finding any of my numerous Perry County, Tennessee relatives, so I decided to skip the index and look at the actual records.

Here are the steps I used to get started:
  • Went to
  • Clicked on "Search" then "Card Catalog"
  • For Title, typed in "Probate" and the state's name (in my case, "Tennessee")
  • Clicked on "Tennessee, Wills and Probate Records, 1779-2008"
  • On the right hand side, chose the county (in my case, "Perry")
This gave me three choices:
  • Minutes of Insolvent Estates, 1883-1936
  • Settlements, Guardians, 1865-1913
  • Wills, 1863-1959
REASON #1: The years you're looking for aren't really includedThough the original title said it included "wills and probates" from 1779-2008, for Perry County the records years are much smaller: 1863-1959. (Perry County formed in 1819.)
Next, I opened up the "Wills, 1863-1959" section. At the bottom, there's the filmstrip which you can flip through to see the various subsections. In this "Wills" section, there were three subsections: 
  • Wills, Dec 1863-March 1900
  • Wills, Jan 1892-Nov. 1959
  • Settlements, Guardians', and Admin., June 1877-May 1893
REASON #2: The type of record you're looking for isn't located where you'd expect it to be. In this case, the "Settlements, Guardians', and Admin., June 1877-May 1893" is under the "Wills, 1863-1959" section, and not the "Settlements, Guardians, 1865-1913" section. 

Since each of these subsections is indexed, I looked for my Whitwell surname in each index. Though I didn't find any Whitwells in the two "Wills" sections, I did find three Whitwells in the 3rd section containing settlements, guardians', and administrators.

Index page for Perry County, Tennessee, "Settlements, Guardians', and Admin 1877-May 1893

Though I don't recognize J. R. Whitwell and W. C. Whitwell, I have several possibile matches for Thomas (or Thos.) Whitwell. His records are found on the following pages: 113, 193, 231, 247, 331, 447, [Gdn] 488, 517.

Transcription: A Settlement this day made with Thos. Whitwell
Admr. of P. Whitwell decd.      As follows:

I looked at each page and found the following records:
page 113 - Thos. Whitwell, Administrator of the estate of P. Whitwell, deceased
page 193 - Thos. Whitwell, Administrator of the estate of P. Whitwell, deceased
page 231 - Thos. Whitwell, Administrator of the estate of Geo. G. Sheffield, deceased
page 247 - Thos. Whitwell, Administrator of the estate of G. G. Sheffield, deceased
page 331 - Thos. Whitwell, Administrator of the estate of P. Whitwell, deceased
page 447 - Thos. Whitwell, Guardian of Sallie Sheffield, minor heir of Geo. G. Sheffield, deceased
page 488 - Thos. Whitwell, Guardian of Sallie Sheffield
page 517 - Thomas Whitwell, Guardian of Sallie Sheffield

As you can see, the index is listing the name of the administrator or guardian and NOT the name of the deceased! So, you won't find your deceased relative through this index! (Wow!)

REASON #3: The names indexed are for the administrators or guardians... NOT the deceased! This really surprised me. To find these records, you'd either have to know the name of the administrator or guardian, or actually look at each page.  

As far as these records, who are P. Whitwell and his estate's administrator, Thomas Whitwell? 

P. Whitwell is my 4th great grandfather, Pleasant Whitwell, who died December 20th, 1875 in Perry County. His estate continued to be "settled" for more than 9 years. The last record, on page 447, is from February 1886.

Thomas Whitwell (1826-1901) was Pleasant's son. His daughter, Mary Elizabeth Whitwell (1848-1887) was married to the George G. Sheffield (1848-1881) listed above. The last item, page 517, is from the year 1892. Sallie would've been about 19 years old and the last living minor child of George G. Sheffield and Mary Elizabeth Whitwell.

Do we share common ancestors? If so, I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

The 1828 Will of Peter Close's Relict: Catharine Elizabeth Close

Yesterday, I shared the 1810 will of my 5th great grandfather , Peter Close of Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Peter's wife, Catha...