Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Discoveries on the Maternal Side - HILLS, HOWELLS, and HAYES

Yesterday was a banner day in my research life for two reasons: One, I visited the Library of Virginia for the very first time, and two, while there I discovered the name and hometown of my maternal great grandmother!

The Library of Virginia is indeed a beautiful building. It is spacious, well-lit, and beautifully appointed. I'd gone there planning to tour the entire edifice, and take it all in, with plans only to view and get copies of three of my Norfolk, VA ancestors. After all, I was only in Richmond for an impromtu breakfast meet-up with my youngest daughter. This was just going to be a quick stop on a day filled with "to-do"s. Four hours after arriving, I was reluctantly leaving for the drive back home to attend an afternoon engagement. Not only did I have the death certificates (which provided lots of surprising information that I'll blog about later), but I'd also taken advantage of the Pro-Quest access to uncover more articles about my ancestors, the tiniest of which provided me with information about the family of my elusive grandfather, Daniel W. Hill, my mother's father (who abandoned their family when she was just four).

Daniel Webster Hill has, until now, just basically been a name on my family tree.  He is definitely one of my brick walls, and he is the one closest to me, generationally, as he was my mother's father.  Daniel and my grandmother, Mary Davis Walker, were married in Philadelphia in 1929, and they lived there for a short time after they wed.  However, by 1930, they are already back in Norfolk, VA, living in the home which Mary had moved out of to join Daniel in PA.  I've often wondered why they returned to Norfolk so soon, but perhaps now, I've found my answer.

As a result of my search of the Norfolk Journal and Guide on ProQuest for "Daniel Hill Norfolk", this little article popped up.

It reads: Mrs. Pinkie Howell of Gilmerton, VA, who was strickin with illness while visiting her daughter in Philadelphia, Pa., died Sunday, May 19.  The remains were brought to Gilmerton for funeral and internment.  She leaves to mourn her loss a son, Mr. Daniel Hill, of Norfolk, and one daughter, Mrs. Emma Hayes of Philadelphia.

..... and
             brick wall
                    began to immediately

In just these three little lines, I learned the following information that I never knew before:
  • The name of my great-grandmotherPinkie Howell would have been my mother's grandmother.  This explains so much for me, as I've often wondered how and why she never knew her father's parents, or any of his relatives, despite the fact that he abandoned the family when she was four.  I've asked her and her brother many times if they are sure that no one ever asked after them, or visited them from their father's family.  They've always insisted that no one had, and they've both grown old not knowing a thing about their own father or his family - except for their father's name.  Now, at least I can let them know that it wasn't that their own grandmother didn't care enough to want to know them; she had passed before either of them were ever born. :(
  • The origin of my mother's brother's first name, Howell.  My grandparents named their first-born child, Howell Webster Hill.  I've always felt that the "Howell" had to be for something or someone, since they gave him the same middle name as his father (Webster).  Now that I've discovered his mother's surname, I'm beginning to question whether or not Daniel's real last name might've been Howell, too.  Maybe he was running or hiding from something or someone, and maybe this is why he's remained a brick wall for so many years.  This is a stretch though, because there are some other Hills in the Norfolk area who my mom and her brother say that we are related to.  Maybe Pinkie was just married to a Howell who raised Daniel.  I'll have to research this further.
  • The location of my grandfather's family.  According to the article, Pinkie Howell lived in Gilmerton, Va.  Well, there is no longer a township by that name, but when I looked it up, I discovered that Gilmerton was actually located in Chesapeake, Va (which is right next to Norfolk), and after a few moments reflection, realized that it must be in the section of Chesapeake which now hosts the Gilmerton Bridge, which I hear about every morning and evening during the traffic segment on the news.  This was confirmed today during a telephone conversation with my Uncle Howell, who lives in Chesapeake now.  This means that my grandfather, Daniel Hill, whom I've always known was born in Virginia, was most likely raised right in Chesapeake.
  • The fact that my grandfather had a sister, Emma, her married name, Hayes, and her location.  This means that my mother and her brother had an aunt, who sadly, never knew them or vice-versa.  However, Emma will most likely be the key to my finding out more about my grandfather's family and circumstances, and she may even lead me discovering what happened to him.  I've already found the Emma Hayes that I'm pretty certain is her.If I'm right, she was married to McCabe Hayes, a gentleman who appears to have been 8 years younger than she, and who was a WWI Veteran.

From this 1920 Census document, I also learn that Emma's father was born in North Carolina, and her mother in Virginia.  Assuming that Emma and Daniel shared the same parents, these would be my great-great grandparents. :)
  • In addition to the information above, several "mysteries" have been cleared up for me by this article.  I now understand why, despite an announcement in the Journal and Guide (which I shared in a previous post) that my grandparents (Daniel and Mary) were married and had moved to Philadelphia in 1926, they were back living at her home in Norfolk by the time the 1930 Census was taken. I also never understood just how it came to be that they got married in Philadelphia, rather than in Virginia.  Even though my mother and her brother have always said that their father had some kind of connection to Philadelphia, they never seemed to know what it was.  Now, we know that at least one close relative, Daniel's sister, Emma was there.  Perhaps, after the death of their mother, they came back this way to close her affairs.  I may never know the answer to that, but at least it all makes more sense now.
What was supposed to have been a quick visit to the Library of Virginia, has resulted in a smashing (no pun intended) insult to a long-held brick wall!  I now have my work cut out for me as I begin to explore this newly found branch of my family tree.  There are many questions to be answered, and lots of verifying to do, but I'm up for the task!  In just a few weeks, school will be out for the summer, and I'll be digging into my research around the clock.  Surely, this will keep me busy for hours on end!

Thanks for reading. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Farm Life

My father, Arthur P Yarborough (behind the cow) and his cousin, George R Greene, apparently doing a little farm work.
(Photo is property of Renate Yarborough Sanders)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Separate But Equal? WWI Draft Registrations

This will be a quick post.  It was inspired by a question posed to me by George Geder, of Geder Genealogy, after a comment I made on his recent post about his grand-uncle, Frederick Geder.  George had included a copy of his ancestor's WWI Registration Card, and I noticed right away that, although Frederick was clearly of African descent, the corners weren't cut off of the bottom of his registration paperwork.  So, I inquired about this to George, and responded by asking me to enlighten him about this practice.

Well, I don't have all the details, but I see this as an opportunity to share something (for once) that I'm aware of, and that perhaps others, like George, may not have been.  Quite some time ago, I was engaged in a discussion in what I believe was the Afrigenas chatroom  on this issue.  At that time, although I'd found and save several of my ancestors' WWI Draft Registrations, I hadn't even noticed that, on a large percentage of them, either one, or both of the bottom corners had diagonal cuts on them.  After the chat, I went back into my documents and looked at them, and this was indeed the case.  However, there were some, like that of my my own grand-uncle, William Green (who was passing for White in NY), on which the corners were not cut. (See below.)

Before I responded to George, I googled the topic, and found right away that had a copy of the blank registration form on their site, showing that it was actually a part of the written directions on the form to cut the lower left corner if the registrant was of African descent.  (All this time, I'd been thinking that it was just something that was being done "unofficially".  I know... I should have known better.)  You can see this copy, below:
Screen shot from

Another thing I did after responding to George's query is that I went into my files on Ancestry to take a look at a couple of my ancestors' forms, with the intent to send George a few copies.  I went right to my grandfather, Calvin YARBOROUGH, and his brother, Eugene, because I remembered having theirs and I knew that they had gone (presumably together) on the same date to register.  Upon revisiting their forms, I noticed something interesting:

Here's my great-uncle Eugene YARBOROUGH's first registration form, from June 5, 1917.  Notice the cut corners. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005

 I also noticed the writing across Eugene's registration form, indicating that his registration was "Cancelled by order of the Adjucant General, May 12, 1918.  (I can't read the line under that.)  I guess finding out the reason for that gives me another "mystery" to work on solving.

Now, look at my grandfather's registration.  He and Eugene were brothers, less than two years apart, in age.  The corners are not cut. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.
Here is a picture of my grandfather, Calvin R. YARBOROUGH, Jr.  Like with George's ancestor, there is no question of his African ancestry.

On that day, my great-uncle Eugene re-registered.  Apparently, September 12, 1918 was the main registration date for Franklin County, NC.   Notice that this time, his corners are not cut, either.  Here's his second registration: World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.

I have visited all of the WWI Draft Registration cards for surnames beginning with D, G, and Y for Franklin County, NC on, and I've found that fairly consistently, the corners were cut for African-Americans.  What made them not cut them for my grandfather and his brother on September 12, 1918, is a mystery to me.
Oh!  I almost forgot: Here is the registration form for my grand-uncle, William A Green.  As you can see, he is designated as White, and his corners are not cut.  What makes this even more interesting (to me) is that less than two decades before this, when he was still a North Carolinean, William had actually served in the 3rd NC Volunteer Infantry, a colored regiment in the Spanish-American War.  Just one of those things that makes you go, hmmmmm, huh? :) World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.

I hope this information has been helpful to other researchers.  If you weren't aware of this distinction being made on the WWI Registration Forms, you might want to go back and take a look at the ones you have for your ancestors, to see how they were "assigned".