Greetings from Pike County, Illinois!

This weekend, I went to visit my sister and her family.  They live in O’Fallon, Illinois.  While I was there, I decided to take a day trip to Pike County, Illinois, where my Cadwell ancestors lived from about 1830 – 1846, when they came to Navarro County, Texas.

Pike County is only about 100 miles northwest of O’Fallon through rural southern Illinois – a very nice drive.



Bethel ME Chapel Steeple - Pike County Illinois

Steeple – Bethany Methodist Episcopal Chapel, Pike County, Illinois

Daniel Cadwell and his family settled in Griggsville, Illinois about 1830.  Daniel operated the first trading post in the area.  The original building was a log cabin; over the years, it’s modernized.

Griggsville Illinois

Griggsville, Pike County, Illinois


Daniel Cadwell Trading Post

Site of Daniel Cadwell’s Original Trading Post – Griggsville, Pike County, Illinois

And then there were very interesting barns.


Barn - Pike County Illinois

Barn – Pike County, Illinois




Barn - Scott County Illinois

Barn – Scott County, Illinois





Der Stammbaum

Finally, after more than three years of on-and-off work, I’ve completed revisions and published the 2015 edition of Der Stammbaum der Familie Brunnemann.    The Stammbaum traces my Brunnemann family from 1640s Pomerania to 1905 in Flatonia, Texas.

This is the type of genealogy I enjoy the most – it’s literally history in your hands.  It also has a unique history of its own.  The original version was compiled in October 1862, in Cöln, Germany by my third great grandfather, Friedrich Wilhelm August Brunnemann. The information for the Stammbaum was provided by his aunt, Henriette Wilhelmine Elizabeth Brunnemann in the 1820s.

Friedrich Wilhelm August Brunnemann

Friedrich Wilhelm August Brunnemann – Compiler of the Stammbaum

It made its way to Texas with my second great grandfather, August Julius Eduard Brunnemann. It was translated into English in the 1940s by a Jewish friend of my great uncle who had fled the Nazis in the 1930s. It was augmented by my grandmother and her cousin in the 1980s, and then by me in 2015.

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August Julius Eduard Brunnemann – Pharmacist in Flatonia, Texas

Based on my very limited experience, German genealogies appear to be quite different than American ones. In most family accounts of my ‘American’ ancestors – mainly Methodists and Primitive Baptists – the primary interests were when the person had first ‘come to Jesus’ or how much they’d tithed or some other such religious fact. This Stammbaum is decidedly different – and quite German. First names for men are usually replaced with the individual’s occupation, e.g. ‘Federal Prison Inspector Brunnemann,’ or ‘Book-Seller with a Royal Warrant von Mätsch.’ Descriptions of battles and war honours are quite in-depth.

Also of great interest appears to have been one’s state of mental health. Rather worrisome to me, a sizable minority of my ancestors are generally described as ‘feeble-minded,’ ‘weak-minded,’ ‘mad,’ ‘insane,’ or just plain ‘crazy,’ (I prefer the original German verrüct). One poor soul died at the young age of 22 because of a growth spurt in adolescence that apparently brought on epilepsy. At 15, he was the ‘gargantuan’ (gigantische) size of 5 foot, 11 inches.

This year, I was able to go to Pomerania and actually visit some of the places where my ancestors came from.

Klein Rischow - October 2014

Village of Ryszewko, Poland, formerly Klein Rischow, Brandenburg-Prussian Pomerania. October 2014. Home of Christian Daniel Brunnemann from 1795 – 1811.

Anyroad, I’m happy to have this one done so I can move on to the next. I’ll probably focus on my Smith and Staunton families – Puritans and Brownists who left Norfolk England in the 1630s for the environs around Boston. I’m sure they’re going to be a barrel of laughs

Grave Matters

As I’ve noted before, I have an affinity for cemeteries and graves, particularly medieval and 17th/18th century burial grounds.  Our recent trip to New England was a gold mine for the latter.  The first one I ran across was the Central Burying Ground on the Boston Common, across the street from our hotel.  Unfortunately it was gated and locked, but it really exhibits what I like about 18th century cemeteries – a randomness…not the uniform rows of later grave yards.  Of course, that same randomness plays havoc with us genealogists, so it’s a trade off.

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Central Burying Ground – Boston Common

The following day, we did a genealogy research trip around the Boston area looking for my Franklin, Smith and Ayers ancestors.  I didn’t find anything new but did happen upon some interesting graves.  The first stop was Hingham, Massachusetts where my 8th great grandmother, Sarah Smith was born in 1646.  I was hoping to find some Smiths there, particularly my 9th great grandparents, John Smith and Sarah Woodward.  No such luck, but the Hingham Cemetery is fantastic, even more so on the crisp fall day we were there.  Here are some examples:


Gravestone in the Hingham, MA Cemetery


Gravestone of Mary Lincoln, Hingham, MA Cemetery

These two stones show outstanding examples of the death’s head motif.  A death’s head, often with wings and/or crossed bones, was a stylized skull – one of the more prominent  gravestone icons to be seen in late 17th, early 18th stones.


Gravestone of Thomas and Sarah Gill, Hingham MA Cemetery

After Hingham, we drove the short distance to Hull.  This was slightly out of order, chronologically.  Sarah Smith married Jonathan Franklin, my 8th great grandfather in Boston about 1686.  They stayed in Boston for a time and then repaired to Haverhill on the New Hampshire border.  Jonathan was killed by Indians in 1693 in Haverhill.  Sarah then married John Fields and with her children, including my 7th great grandfather, David Franklin, moved to Hull where David learned the trade of a seaman.

After Hull, we schlepped up to Haverhill.  I really wanted to find the Pentucket Cemetery, but it was a lost cause, sending the GPS in the rent-a-car into apoplectic fits.  There are alot of Ayer(s) there; my 7th great grandmother, wife of David Franklin, was Elizabeth Ayers.

Anyroad, we were back in Boston three days later as part of our tour on the Queen Mary 2.  That day, we spent some time in Boston’s Granary Burying Grounds.  Several famous folks are buried there; Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin’s parents, etc.  These are some of my favorite examples from there.

Boston Cemetery

Gravestone of Elizabeth Hurd, Granary Burying Ground, Boston

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Gravestone of Nathan Hurd, Granary Burying Ground, Boston

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Gravestone, Granary Burying Ground, Boston

(The preceding three seem to have ‘death’s head’ down a little too grimly…)

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Gravestone of Hannah Franklin, Granary Burying Ground, Boston

And while probably not true, the local legend is that this is the grave of Mother Goose.

Mother Goose

Gravestone of Mary Goose, Granary Burying Grounds, Boston

Thanks, Matthew Brady!

Genealogist are beholden to folks like Matthew Brady who really served to popularize photography in the mid-19th century.  I’m particularly fortunate because my third great uncles, Moses and Aaron Cadwell were so taken with photography that they opened the first studio in Flatonia, Texas, in operation from the early 1870s through about 1910.  Having a photographer in the family really added to the photo documentation I have available.  (Interesting story about Moses and Aaron Cadwell… as the names imply they were twins.  When they came to Texas from Illinois in 1844, they were taken for a brief time by Kiowa Indians who were enthralled with twins.  After they were returned, the boys were sometimes hidden in the flour barrel on the wagon to prevent another ‘kidnapping.’)

Apart from the ability to put a face with a name, you also get a sense of the 19th and early 20th century artistic sensibility.  That was brought home to me recently when I ran across this photo on (taken from Twitterer VintageWTF):

smoking boy with chicken

Child Smoking with a Chicken

This really just defies description, doesn’t it?  But it prompted me to go through my family album to see if I had anything similar.  The following is my gallery of ignominy.

A photo of Ed Arnim and ‘Miss Paula’ (Paula Marberger Arnim) with a horse wearing a macramé blanket, taken by Moses Cadwell.

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Ed Arnim, Miss Paula, and unidentified (mortified) horse, about 1900, Flatonia, Texas

My great grandfather, Hugh Brunnemann on his first birthday, wearing his father’s spectacles.

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Hugh Brunnemann, 3 September 1890, Flatonia, Texas

My great grandfather, Hugh Brunnemann, in a huge hat, next to an oak stump.

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Hugh Brunnemann, about 1891, Flatonia, Texas

This is my great aunt Alice Brunnemann, on some kind of fur ‘thing.’

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Alice Margaret Brunnemann, about 1912, Flatonia, Texas

This is my grandmother sitting on a dead animal pelt.

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Elaine Brunnemann on Dead Animal, about 1920, San Antonio, Texas

My great grandfather, Hugh, followed in his uncles’ footsteps with a life-long interest in photography.  Here are some of his more ‘interesting’ results.

This is my great grandmother, Annabelle McNatt Brunnemann with my grandmother and great uncle Auben Brunnemann.  My grandfather loved to take this photo out and show us kids whenever we visited.  My great grandmother would probably be mortified that I’ve posted it publicly (but she did have a great sense of humor, so maybe not…)

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Annabelle Brunnemann (and hair) with Auben and Elaine Brunnemann, about 1921, San Antonio, Texas

This is my great grandfather about 1914 near McAllen, Texas.  I can’t imagine how you rode around on that bizarre little hand car.

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Hugh Brunnemann, about 1914, near McAllen, Texas

This is my great grandfather making a fashion statement.

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Hugh Brunnemann with hat and axe, about 1915, Flatonia, Texas

And finally, my great grandfather doing stupid pet tricks.

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Hugh Brunnemann and friend, about 1920, San Antonio, Texas

Genealogy and the Moral Dilemma

So I ran across an interesting article last week on Slate George W. Bush’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather was a Slave Trader.  The article traces the genealogical research establishing that this progenitor of the Bush family was, in fact, Thomas ‘Beau’ Walker, a notorious English slave trader during the last quarter of the 18th Century.  Notwithstanding the heinous trade in which he was engaged, one of the more compelling parts of the article, to me, was the way in which Beau Walker died:

Zachary Macaulay’s journal entry for Oct. 24, 1797, is as follows:

“You have heard of the noted Beau Walker, an English slave trader of these parts. He arrived at the Isles Du Los [off present-day Guinea] lately in an American Brig being bound to Cape Mount [in present-day northwest Liberia] for slaves. He had scarce arrived at the last place, when exercising his usual barbarities on his officers & crew, they were provoked to conspire against him.  As he lay on one of the hencoops a seaman came up & struck him on the breast with a handspike, but the blow being ill directed, did not produce its intended effect and Walker springing up wd soon have sacrificed the mutineer to his fury, had not a boy at the helm, pulling a pistol from his breast, shot him dead on the spot. His body was immediately thrown overboard. Thus ended Walker’s career, an end worthy of such a life. The vessel left Cape Mount, and it is supposed has gone for the Brazils or South Seas. There could not possibly have been a more inhuman monster than this Walker. Many a poor seaman has been brought by him to an untimely end.”

Anyroad, one of the other interesting aspects of the Slate article was the ‘declined to comment’ responses from several members of the Bush family when asked about this revelation.  This has been on my mind a lot since I started genealogy research in earnest several years ago.  What can one really say in the 21st Century when slave ownership is found in the family history?

I’m not happy to report that slave ownership in my family was not uncommon, particularly given that we were in Virginia beginning in the 1690s, moving south (the Carolinas) and westward (Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama) during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  I’ve discovered several wills and other probate documents which transferred possessions and people from one family member to others.  Through the probate records of Stewart County, Tennessee for example, I was able to discover a significant amount of information about my fifth-great grandfather, Mackey McNatt, and his children through the ‘division of Negroes’ belonging to his estate.  Indeed, I was finally able to identify who my fourth great grandmother actually was when I found a deed-of-gift record for Dinah McNatt to her “beloved son,” Enoch; that ‘gift’ being a slave.

The irony of this discovery is not lost on me considering that for many, many African-Americans, there is simply little-to-no documentary evidence to be had which traces lost ancestors before the 1850s, 60s, and 70s.  Slaves were chattel to be divided with the estate when the time came.  Generally just first names, this is typical of the scant records available to researchers today:

“In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolina estate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475.  In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was torn away from the people and places she knew and shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time.”

The excerpt above is from a 7 October 2009 article in the New York Times by Rachel L. Swarns and Jodi Kantor – In First Lady’s Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery, a fascinating genealogy of Michelle Obamasugar in the bloodIn addition to this article about Mrs. Obama’s family history, I recommend Sugar in the Blood:  A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire, by Andrea Stuart.  A fantastic book which traces slavery and slave families on a sugar plantation in Barbados.  (Terry Gross did a great “Fresh Air” interview with Ms. Stuart earlier this year – it’s really worth a listen.)  Much like Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, this story traces a family where one side owned the other as property.

Like so much we discover when we delve into our family roots, slave ownership is not something one relishes or wishes to acknowledge, but it is one of those unpleasant realities we risk uncovering.

Cemeteries Are Fun!

So I’m a rabid genealogist and cemeteries are like my second home.  I think this has become a trend in recent years – seems to be growing exponentially.  Tracing the different fads and fashions in headstones through history is fascinating.

We’re going to Boston in October and I’m really hoping to go to the Eliot Burial Ground in Roxbury.  One of my favorite headstones is there – Theodora Parke, sister-in-law of my eighth great grand-uncle.  It’s so ‘Beetlejuice.’

Gravestone of Theoda Parke

My favorite cemetery in Central Texas is the Pin Oak Cemetery outside Muldoon in Fayette County.  It’s also known as the Old Blackjack Springs Cemetery.  It’s one of the oldest in Fayette County; at least half the folks buried their are my kin in some way or another.  It’s about two miles off County Road 609, at the end of a cow path.  The first time I was there was in 1975, when I was 11.  My mother was driving my father’s brand new Dodge Charger and we were all convinced the rocks and ruts would take out the muffler.  My great grandmother used to say when she was a girl, they’d ride out there on horse back for a picnic and a chance to commune ‘folks gone, but not forgotten.’  I can certainly see why.SI Exif

Some of the graves there are in elaborate gated areas and above-ground ‘tombs,’ like this one for Dr. Kenzie Routh, my 1st cousin, five times removed –

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And some are just concrete slabs, like this one for Enoch Jesse McNatt, my second great grand uncle –

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But I think my favorite grave there belongs to ‘Ocean Wave Hamilton.’  I look at that marker and the questions are just endless…

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