Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday Serendipity (October 31, 2015)

The following are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list this weekend. 

1.  With DNA becoming an increasingly important part of genealogy, there is a fascinating piece in the Washington Post today.  Read about how a couple apparently had a child fathered genetically by the unborn twin of the husband. Read more about how this was possible and learn about "chimerism" here.

2.  From UpFront With NGS blog comes a couple items of interest this week . . . An index of 1.5 million National Railroad Pension Records is being made available for FREE through the Midwest Genealogy Center. If you have ancestors or relatives who you know or think worked on the railroads and retired from that employment, you should check out the info and links here. Also, have you heard that 23andMe is now apparently "the first and only genetic service" that can include "reports that meet FDA standards?" This means that 23andMe can now make available reports that include health related information and show "carrier status, wellness, trait and ancestry reports." Read more about this development and get links here.            

3.  Part 5 of James Tanner's series on how to work with large online genealogy programs was posted yesterday on his Genealogy's Star blog. I found this series to be thoughtful and useful. Read Part 5 and get links to the earlier posts here.      

4.  Heather Rojo's post this week at Nutfield Genealogy blog was a reminder to me that her Honor Roll project comes around again for Veteran's Day. If you are not familiar with Heather's inspired project, you really must go here to read about it. Her project aims to collect blog posts of photos of war memorials and honor roles WITH transcriptions of the names on the monuments so that a searchable database can be created. I have contributed in the past and this is a reminder that I need to get transcribing and posting to make Heather's Veteran's Day (November 11th) post of contributing bloggers.  This great project has been ongoing since Heather's first post in 2010 and it grows with each passing Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. Search your photos to see what you already have and can transcribe OR take a trip this weekend to your local monuments and memorials, take a photo, and do a transcription to post in time to add to Heather's November 11th compilation post of all contributions!    

5.  Most of us are familiar with the often heard saying used to mark the start of the autumnal season . . .  "when the frost is on the pumpkin." But did you know this is the opening line of a poem by James Whitcomb Riley?  Bill West of West in New England blog reminds us once again of Riley's two most famous poems.  Read "When the Frost is on the Punkin" here and then go to yesterday's "Little Orphant Annie" here.  

6.  How many different kinds of genealogists are there . . . and which one describes you or your family genealogist best? Read here the post by Lorine McGinnis Schulz at the Legacy News blog to find out.    

7.  OK. I have to admit that I am a complete newbie to DNA testing and its use in genealogy.  I have had both my parents and a fairly close cousin of my father's sampled and tested, but I have not yet spent the time to delve into the interpretation and synthesis of the results for purposes of contributing to my family trees.  It is on my ever-growing "to do" list now that my retirement has begun and theoretically is supposed to give me more time for my genealogy pursuits. So it is with this background (or lack thereof) that I found Diane Maclean Boumenot's series "DNA and Me" informative and inspiring.  Part III of Diane's series (with links) can be read here on her One Rhode Island Family blog.     

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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday Serendipity (October 24, 2015)

The following are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list this weekend. 

1.  If you happen to be a Mayflower descendant from Richard and Elizabeth Warren, you should read "Elizabeth Warren: A Shock of Corn Fully Ripe" in the most recent issue of The Mayflower Quarterly, Vol. 81, No. 3, September 2015 pp. 220 - 222.  

2.  Here is a welcome and encouraging story that genealogists can celebrate. Courtesy of NEHGS's The Weekly Genealogist comes an article about a one semester elective genealogy course offered at Old Rochester Regional High School in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. Read the full article here.    

3.  Also courtesy of NEHGS is an interesting piece on how the 50 states came by their names. You can learn about the naming of the various states here.

4.  Have you ever thought about the possibility you might someday want to donate your genealogy research in order to assure its preservation? If so -- or if you just want to learn a bit more about such donations -- have a read of the post and links at UpFront With NGS blog here.    

5.  Did you know that deletes some of its collections and databases? Neither did I. But, blogger Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings blog keeps a close eye on Ancestry databases and he recently noticed 567 databases suddenly went missing. Read about Randy's discovery of the database disappearance here and the follow-up answer here.  

6.  Did you hear that Google won an important appeal in a suit over copyright vs. fair use with the Authors Guild? As you would expect, The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, explains it all for us.  You can read Judy's excellent explanation here

7.  Barbara Poole of Life From The Roots blog has another wonderful photo tour post that is very timely as we approach Halloween.  Barbara visited Van Otis Chocolates in Manchester, NH. Her photos are so sweet they could give you a good start on a cavity just looking at them -- but it is worth the risk.  See the post here.

8.  And finally, to get you into the Halloween spirit, there is a post about an old Ipswich ghost story at Peter Muise's blog New England Folklore. Read "Harry Main and the Black Cats from Hell" here.

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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Was" or "Is" . . . What Tense Makes Most Sense For One's Ancestors? (October 22, 2015)

Those of us who are immersed in the hobby or profession of genealogy have innumerable opportunities to explain orally or in writing how a particular ancestor is related. Think of how many times you have had to use and complete a sentence such as this . . . "Jane [Doe] Public ___ my great great grandmother."  How do you usually complete such sentences about your ancestors? And does it matter?

I will admit that until recently I would almost always complete such explanatory sentences by using the past tense "was" to refer to any ancestor no longer among the living. I would easily explain, "Arnold and Shirley Tew are my parents." When my mother's mother was still alive, I would explain, "Ruth [Cooke] Carpenter is my grandmother." But in contrast I would always explain, "Richard Tew was my 8th great grandfather. And . . .  "Joseph Carpenter was my 3rd great grandfather."

More recently I have changed my thinking and tried to adopt as consistently as possible new language when discussing or explaining about my ancestors. Specifically, the change has involved a switch from the past tense to the present tense when mentioning my ancestors. 

Why is this? 

Well, does a great grandparent stop being a great grandparent by virtue of being deceased? The answer, of course, is no. A great grandparent of any level remains just as much an ancestor as a parent remains a parent -- whether alive or deceased. The confusion in use of tenses arises from the attempt to indicate both living/deceased status as well as relationship status when talking about an ancestor. In most cases, whether or not an ancestor is still alive will be easily and accurately communicated by the relationship level attached to the ancestor. For example, very few of us have living 2X or more great grandparents. Nobody has a living 8X great grandparent. Thus, there is no need to use the past tense "was" in order to communicate whether or not an ancestor (particularly a remote ancestor) is alive.

Especially in these days of DNA genealogy, it should be clear that we who are alive today carry with us in our DNA bits and pieces of our ancestors. It is what makes us who we are. In a very real and material way our ancestors exist with us every day. They are with us in the present tense and they never cease being who they are in relation to us even when deceased.

So . . . for me it is the present tense that makes the most sense when it comes to explaining or discussing one's ancestors. Just as my mother is Shirley [Carpenter] Tew, my paternal grandfather is Arnold G. Tew, Sr., my 9X great grandfather is William Carpenter, and my 8X great grandmother is Mary [Clarke] Tew.

Are your ancestors with you in the present tense, or are they figures that happen to be part of your personal history and reside deceased in the past tense?   

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Image created by the author using the family's 1958 edition of "SCRABBLE For Juniors" manufactured by Selchow & Richter Co. for The Production and Marketing Company (the copyright owner).
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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday Serendipity (October 10, 2015)

The following are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list this weekend. 

1.  Do you have any family members who served onboard the USS Sheridan or the USS Eldorado during WWII? If so, then you should check out the annotated map done by Navy signalman Bluford Clonts at The Vault. Mr. Clonts, who passed away in 1999, plots the tracks of the Sheridan and the Eldorado and provides notes on the back of his map.

2.  Also from The Vault is a piece about the discovery of the notes of William Still, a Philadelphian who documented and preserved his records of assistance rendered to runaway slaves on the Underground Railway. If you have any ancestors who made their way to freedom using the Underground Railway, then you should check out The Vault post here.

3.  Canada's History magazine has a very interesting article by Paul Jones about the publication of fake genealogies. Read here about the case of Gustave Anjou who authored some 300 ostensible genealogical works with false information about 2,000 different surnames.

4.  Upfront With NGS blog provides information and links about an Index for 1855 Valuation Rolls of Scotland. If you have Scottish roots, you might find this information of use to your research.  Read about the Index here.

5.  James Tanner at Genealogy's Star blog posted an informative piece about spam appearing as bogus comments on blog posts.  Have a read here.

6.  Think you have a witch in your genealogy?  If so, you should check out Heather Rojo's post at Nutfield Genealogy blog Ten Things to Know About Researching a Witch in Your Family Tree. Read Heather's timely post here.

7.  And finally, last week I recommended the book Leviathan, Eric Jay Dolin's 2007 history of whaling in America.  Quite to my surprise and delight, Mr. Dolin posted a comment to the recommendation and in so doing shared the news of his forthcoming new book about lighthouses in America.  If you have any family connections to keepers of lighthouses (or just a general interest in lighthouses), you will want to get Mr. Dolin's new book, BRILLIANT BEACONS: A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN LIGHTHOUSE this coming April. Since I have a relative who was Assistant Keeper at Beavertail Lighthouse in Rhode Island in 1862, BRILLIANT BEACONS is already on my purchase list.

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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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Friday, October 9, 2015

Hunting for Abby . . . A Mystery Solved (October 9, 2015) -- Part IV

In this final post about finding the family of my 3X great grandmother, Abby [Hunt] Miller,  I reveal the last bits of evidence I have uncovered. These last items were discovered in a box of family documents that apparently were stored away in the back of a closet in my parents' house not too long after my maternal grandmother, Ruth E. [Cooke] Carpenter, died in 1979. When my parents later moved to New Hope, PA, the box was moved into a large storage closet in my sister's home and it remained there untouched until earlier this year when my sister said she had a box of photographs and other materials that I might want to look through.

One of the most important questions raised by a review of this analysis is whether or not the ostensible father of Abby Hunt was in fact Daniel S. Hunt as my grandmother's spoon notes indicated -- and as supported by the initials "DSH" on the heirloom spoon. While the vital records index for North Kingstown, RI shown in Part II, indicates that a "Samuel of Samuel" lived in North Kingstown and had a wife named "Susan" with whom he had seven daughters [Susan, Sally N., Charlotte, Ruth Ann, Lucy, Abbie, and Mary S.H.], there was no evidence of a Daniel S. Hunt having any presence or connection to North Kingstown. The supposition and assumption was that the "S" in Daniel S. Hunt stood for "Samuel" and that if Daniel was also known at some point as "Samuel, son of Samuel Hunt" in North Kingstown, then Maj. Daniel Hunt (who was born in North Kingstown) and his wife Susan/Susannah Northup (also born in North Kingstown) fit almost perfectly as the Samuel and Susan Hunt who were the parents of Abby, Charlotte, and Ruth Ann Hunt (and their four sisters) in North Kingstown, RI.

But is there any hard evidence to support the family notes and document clues about Daniel S. Hunt being connected to North Kingstown and particularly Cumberland, RI where Abby and Charlotte Hunt later came to reside in the Miller household at 551 High Street in Cumberland . . . and where their sister Ruth Ann Hunt came to marry Aurin Miller, who grew up at 551 High Street as the older brother of Abby's husband Eber Miller? Thanks to documents discovered in the long forgotten box of family records in my sister's house, the answer to this crucial questions is, "Yes!"

January 28, 1837 deed of North Kingstown property to Daniel Hunt from Lawton Hunt.

As shown in the 1837 deed discovered in the box of family documents, Daniel Hunt purchased from Lawton Hunt for $26.66 "one undivided half part of a certain tract or parcel of land situated in said North Kingstown, with a dwelling house & other buildings thereon." The subject parcel had been purchased by Lawton Hunt from one "Hazelton Hunt by deed bearing date August fourth, 1835, now on Record in said North Kingstown . . . " This provides clear evidence of the connection Daniel Hunt had to North Kingstown, RI and the Hunt family living and owning property there.

And what about a connection of Daniel Hunt to Cumberland, RI?  The two parts of an oversized deed also recently found in the box of family documents (shown immediately below) provide the necessary evidence of a Cumberland connection for Daniel Hunt.

Top half of the July 1, 1835 deed of Valley Falls property to Daniel Hunt from Nathaniel and Joseph Jenckes/Jencks

Bottom half of the July 1, 1835 deed of Valley Falls property to Daniel Hunt from Nathaniel and Joseph Jenckes/Jencks

The July 1, 1835 deed from "Nathaniel Jenckes of Burrillville and Joseph Jenckes of Smithfield" to "Daniel Hunt of Cumberland" for an acre and a half parcel of land with a dwelling house located in Smithfield at Valley Falls at the price of "Six Hundred and Five Dollars" provides clear evidence that Daniel Hunt resided in Cumberland in 1835.

Based on the newly discovered deeds shown above, the proven connection of Daniel Hunt to both North Kingstown and Cumberland, RI makes it overwhelmingly likely that the Daniel S. Hunt of my family notes and the "DSH" on the heirloom spoon is the Maj. Daniel Hunt, husband of Susan [Northup] Hunt, both of North Kingstown, RI, who are buried in Brayton Cemetery. Moreover, it also  makes it overwhelmingly likely that "Daniel S. Hunt" is indeed the son of Samuel Hunt of North Kingstown, RI who may have been known as "Samuel" and who fathered Abby, Charlotte, and Ruth Ann Hunt (and their four sisters) with his wife Susan/Susannah Northup as shown in the vital records index for North Kingstown.

And finally, perhaps the most surprising and valuable find among the recently uncovered family documents, is the portrait photograph of the woman shown at the top of this post. The date of the photograph is unknown, but, as the two images provided below clearly indicate in the handwriting of my great grandmother, Sarah [Freeman] Carpenter . . . the woman in the portrait is my 3X great grandmother Abby [Hunt] Miller (March 17, 1807 - April 23, 1893)!

Front of the Abby [Hunt] Miller portrait

Back of the Abby [Hunt] Miller portrait

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The scanned images shown above are all from original documents in the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Saturday Serendipity (October 3, 2015)

After a brief hiatus for a trip to the Adirondacks, Saturday Serendipity returns this week with an unusual posting -- a single recommendation for inclusion on your reading list. 

Those with an interest in U.S. History -- and particularly those with genealogical roots in maritime New England  -- will find Leviathan (2007) by Eric Jay Dolin an especially informative and interesting read. Dolin's book is a history of whaling in America and as such it spends considerable space discussing the rise and trajectory of the New England whaling industry. 

So far as I know, there is as yet no evidence that anyone in my Rhode Island/Massachusetts-based genealogy was a whaler, but there were a few generations of blacksmiths; therefore, my interest in the history of whaling in New England increased substantially when I read Dolin's succinct synopsis of the far reaching impact of the rise of the whaling industry.  As Dolin elucidates, the move to actively hunting whales rather than merely awaiting their drifting ashore . . . 

               "[R]equired new ships, which were built by an expanding human fleet of shipwrights,
               carpenters, and caulkers. New wharves were erected . . . to unload the catch. More casks
               were made to store blubber and transport oil to market, and the number of coopers
               expanded to meet the rising demand. Great supplies of iron were needed for harpoons and
               ship fittings, and blacksmiths worked their forges as a result. Sails and ropes had to be
               made, keeping the sail lofts and rope manufacturers busy. The whaleships needed food and
               supplies, and a cadre of merchants kept them provisioned. [Besides Nantucket]. . . Other
               whaling ports in Massachusetts and Rhode Island went in search of whales in the
               open ocean and expanded their infrastructure accordingly."

As Leviathan engagingly demonstrates, the reach and impact of open ocean whaling in New England was far and wide for perhaps 200 years. Anyone with a genealogy rooted in colonial maritime New England forward is likely to find this book of value. As the dust jacket review of the book states,
"[W]haling is one of the mightiest themes in American history. Indeed, much of America's culture, economy, and even spirit was literally and figuratively rendered from the bodies of whales." 

I highly recommend Leviathan for the history and genealogical clues it provides. This book belongs on the shelf of any genealogist with deep New England roots!

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Image of the Leviathan dust jacket from the hardback copy of the book in the author's personal library.
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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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Friday, October 2, 2015

Hunting for Abby ( October 2, 2015) -- Part III of "A Mystery Solved?"

In Part II of this analysis of the mystery of my 3X great grandmother, Abby Hunt, I arrived at the tentative conclusion that I had found the family of Abby -- her siblings and parents. But, I also stated that additional data raised some inconsistencies and questions that prevented a definite conclusion.  In this part of the analysis, I discuss those inconsistencies and the data that raise questions as well as some newly discovered family documents that shed light on this inquiry.

As previously related in Part II, the 1860 Federal Census for Cumberland, Rhode Island indicated a Charlotte Hunt, age 61, was living in the Eber and Abby [Hunt] Miller household. The enumeration day for this Cumberland census was 13 July 1860.

Recalling from Part II the research that indicated "Charlotte" was not a very common female name in the mid-19th Century, it was a surprise when my research also disclosed a "Charlotte D. Hunt" age 60, living in the household of William C. and Mary S. Barney in Warwick, Kent County, Rhode Island. While the page image on for the 1860 Warwick, RI enumeration is almost completely illegible, the enumeration day at the top of the page is clearly 5 July 1860. The transcription for the Warwick census at (shown below) clearly states that among the Barney household members on 5 July 1860 is one "Charlotte D. Hunt." 

By 1870, the Barney household no longer includes a "Charlotte" or "Charlotte D." Hunt among the household members.

But, as we have already seen, the Eber and Abby [Hunt] Miller household in Cumberland, RI did have a 70-year-old woman named "Charlotte Hunt" living in the home on enumeration day that year.

I was puzzled by this discovery of two Charlotte Hunts of almost exactly the same age and my tentative conclusion about finding the parents and siblings of my 3X great grandmother Abby Hunt was shaken further when I recently discovered among family papers I inherited the church pew rental receipt shown at the top of this post.  The receipt is clearly made out to "Mrs. Charlotte Hunt" and is signed by the same W. Cooke, clerk, who signed the pew receipts for Eber Miller, head of the household in which Charlotte was living.  [See the Eber Miller pew receipts as posted here on August 28, 2015.] Did this mean that the Charlotte Hunt living in the Miller household in Cumberland was a married woman and thus was not the sister of Abby, but rather her sister-in-law?

I ruminated on this turn of events and recalled that my grandmother's spoon notes had stated that Abby Hunt's father was "Daniel S. Hunt" and that the heirloom silver spoon I have does indeed contain the engraved initials "DSH" on the handle. But the discovery of the "Charlotte Hunt" clue in the Cumberland census of the Miller family, led to discovery of a Samuel Hunt -- son of Samuel Hunt -- living in North Kingstown, RI with a wife named Susan and seven daughters including girls named Abby, Charlotte, Ruth and Mary among others. It was therefore possible that Daniel S. Hunt was either known by his middle name, which could have been Samuel, or the transcription or indexing misnamed him somehow.

And then I also discovered among old family papers the notes my great grandmother, Sarah [Freeman] Carpenter, made for the "Family of Major Daniel Hunt & Susannah Northup."  Sarah's notes are shown immediately below.

My great grandmother clearly cites as her source for the Hunt family data "Pages 82 & 3 North Kingston Births A.V.R. Vol. 5 & 6."  Unlike the images of pages 82 and 83 from Rhode Island Vital Extracts  1636 - 1899 shown in Part II, however, Sarah's notes provide additional information that includes the middle names and marriages of the daughters of Daniel and Susannah Hunt. Her notes show that Charlotte's middle name was "Dupont" -- thus "Charlotte D. Hunt" -- and that Charlotte died "unmarried." Moreover, Ruth Ann Hunt is shown as having married Aurin Miller and Mary Sweet Hunt is shown as having married a man with the surname "Barney." Mary S. Hunt is indicated to have died in 1879.

Another recent discovery among family papers is what appears to be a family tree also done by my great grandmother. Sarah [Freeman] Carpenter, the wife of Samuel Eber Carpenter. It is a descent chart for  Ruth Ann Miller, daughter of Eber and Abby [Hunt] Miller.  Ruth Ann Miller was the mother of Samuel Eber Carpenter. The first half of the tree is shown below and it can be seen that the chart states that both Major Daniel Hunt and his wife, Susannah Northup are buried in Brayton Cemetery in Apponaug, RI.

From Find-A-Grave Memorial #78739671 -- photo by Rick O. (#46911607) taken at Brayton Cemetery. 
From Find-A-Grave Memorial #78739518 -- photo by Rick O. (#46911607) taken at Brayton Cemetery. 

As it turns out, Mary Sweet Hunt and her husband William C. Barney are also buried in Brayton Cemetery and Charlotte D. Hunt is buried there with them and their children.

From Find-A-Grave Memorial #13499992 -- photo by Rick O. (#46911607) taken at Brayton Cemetery. 
Summarizing all the research, family notes, and artifact evidence presented thus far, I now arrive at the following conclusions with respect to my 3X great grandmother Abby Hunt and her family . . .

1.  Abby Hunt was the daughter of Maj. Daniel S. (possibly for Samuel) Hunt and his wife Susannah or Susan Northup.
2.  Daniel Hunt and his wife Susannah/Susan Northup lived in North Kingstown, RI where their seven daughters were born: Susan; Sally Northup; Charlotte Dupont; Ruth Ann; Lucy Tripp; Mary Sweet; and Abby. So far as is currently known, Daniel and Susannah had no sons -- so the Charlotte Hunt living in the Miller family household in Cumberland, RI was not a married woman and sister-in-law of Abby [Hunt] Miller..
3.  Charlotte D. Hunt never married and lived with at least two of her sisters and their families.  She lived with her sister Abby and her husband Eber Miller in Cumberland, RI during the period 1854 - 1870, but she also lived for a period of time with her sister Mary and her husband William C. Barney in Warwick, RI ending sometime around July 13, 1860.  Charlotte was in Warwick for the federal census enumeration day there on July 5, 1860, but she was living in the Miller household later that same month when the federal census enumeration day took place there on July 13, 1860. Charlotte lived in Cumberland with her sister Abby before 1860 as shown by her 1854 pew receipt for Christ Church in Lonsdale, the Miller family's church. Charlotte probably lived with the Miller's in Cumberland from July 13, 1860 until sometime after July 21, 1870 when the 1870 census showed she was still in the Miller household in Cumberland.
4.  Charlotte died unmarried in 1875 and was buried in the family plot of her sister Mary S. Barney and Mary's husband William C. Barney, Sr. The 1854 pew receipt made out to "Mrs. Charlotte Hunt" was a clerical error and should have read simply Charlotte Hunt or Miss Charlotte Hunt.

While I am now 95% sure I have found the parents and siblings of my 3X great grandmother Abby [Hunt] Miller, questions are now raised about who the parents of Maj. Daniel S. Hunt and Susannah/Susan Northup are.  As Part IV of this analysis will demonstrate, I have some clues to follow and I have a big reveal regarding other documents recently found among family genealogical materials.
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Gravestone photos via Find-A-Grave as stated.  All such photos were contributed by Rick O. whose service to the genealogy community is much appreciated.

Images of the pew receipt, Hunt Family notes, and Ruth A. Miller ancestry chart are from original documents in the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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