20 September 2015

Find-A-Grave Community Day, Raleigh County

So Ancestry.com is promoting Find-A-Grave Community Day for Saturday, October 17th. The Stone Chasers want to get behind this effort in our local area, Raleigh County WV. If anyone wants to meet up with us that day, leave a comment here or leave us a message.

The goals apparently are to fulfill photo requests and meet the other Find-A-Gravers in your area.

If anyone has a suggestion of a cemetery to focus on, please let us know. We were thinking something mid-sized with a reasonable number of photo requests but not too much area to cover.

Our tentative selection is the cemeteries by the Camp Creek Primitive Baptist Church in Flat Top - here are some of the cemetery links in Find-A-Grave that I believe apply:

Lilly Cemetery in Flat Top
(60 interments, 47% photographed, 8 requests)

Flat Top Baptist Church Cemetery
(215 interments, 67% photographed, 7 requests)

Epling-Matherly Cemetery
(47 interments, no photos or requests)

Flat Top is right on the county line, so most of the listings show it as being in Mercer County, but I believe the cemeteries are in Raleigh County. Not that it really matters, just pointing out that you may have to look under both counties to find the records.


Today's The Day

The first thing I've learned from this is that I'm not an event organizer. I apologize to anyone who thought this was going to be a well-planned outing. But for the record, I will be out at Flat Top / Camp Creek Primitive Baptist at 10:00 today and if anyone else can join that would be awesome. Sherry's going to deal with getting ready for basketball tournament and celebrating two birthdays so that I can breakaway and do this today. -- David

28 August 2015

Genealogy of Almedia Branham

The genealogical information from your DNA can be helpful and sometimes it can be a killer.  Recently, through DNA testing, I realized that my biological great grandfather was most likely not James William Brubaker, but instead was Robert Lee Minton.  My DNA markers indicate that I am descended from Robert Minton, as I have multiple DNA matches to the Minton line and no direct DNA matches to the Brubaker line. This breathes life into the old family joke that my grandmother and her twin might be Mintons instead of Brubakers.

Courtesy of Pam Kerschner
My great grandmother, Almedia Branham, disappeared shortly after my grandmother, Kathleen Brubaker and her twin sister, Katherine, were born.  She left behind her husband, James William "Bill" Brubaker and nine children.  After their mother's disappearance, Kathleen and Katherine lived with their grandmother, Margaret, until her death in 1922. Then they may have stayed with one of their married siblings before coming to live with their father, James Brubaker and Roxi (Smith) Prince. (As a side note; the twins were named Elizabeth and Loretta at birth, and their older siblings changed the girls' names to Kathleen and Katherine to be more "twin"-like.) Sadly, the girls died without knowing what had happened to their mother.

My cousin, Pam, is an amazing family genealogist.  She pored through census records, historical documents,  and old phone books; wrote letters, made telephone calls,visited courthouses, interviewed family members, and conducted endless internet searches. During an interview with family members, she learned that Robert Minton was seen boarding a train in Prince, WV, but Almedia was not with him.  However, woman's intuition made her wonder if they had run off together, and she eagerly awaited the 1930 census data release.

After 72 years, United States Census records are released to the public by the National Archives and Records Administration. In accordance with the 72-Year Rule, the National Archives released the 1930 records in April 2002 and most recently, the 1940 records were released April 2, 2012.  https://www.census.gov

When the census was finally released, she was able to find that Almedia and Robert had been living as husband and wife in California. There, she gave birth to another set of twins (a boy and a girl) and raised her new family.  She died in California and was buried there, as "Madie Minton." From our understanding, she never contacted her family here in WV.  However, Robert Lee Minton, was suspected to have stayed in contact with his family.

Unfortunately, Almedia's California twins were both deceased before the family line was traced.  We hope to locate more information and photographs about her, and now with the knowledge that my grandmother was a Minton, about Robert Minton too. We continue to search for the ancestors of James William Brubaker, he is still a family roadblock. Regardless of the genetics, since he raised her, he was my grandmother's father and my great grandfather.
Katherine and Kathleen

As a family genealogist, you learn quickly not to judge your ancestors.  We do not have knowledge of why events occurred.  We search for the factual information about our family's branches. You need to be thick-skinned and ask the difficult questions, be honest with your own responses, and embrace the cousins you may inherit.

Almedia Branham Timeline

Almedia was the child of Melvin Branham and Margaret Wright. She was born in Wise County, Virginia on 19 Nov 1878.

In the 1880 census, she lived with her mother, Margaret Wright, and grandmother, Surrilda (Austin) Wright

In 1895, she married Edward Myers.  Edward Myers abandoned her (see our Edward Myers blog) and she was granted a divorce, 3 July 1903.  [Order of Publication, Wise County, Virginia]

In the 1900 census, she is listed in her mother's household, along with her two children, Alfred and Ethel.

In 1903 she married J. W. Brubaker in Wise county, VA.  [Virginia Select marriages, 1785-1940]

In the 1910 census, she lived in the town or Raleigh, WV with William J Brubaker, and four children, Ethel, Myrtle, Ernest, and Ossie.  Alfred was reported by family history to have died at the age of eight of diphtheria.

In the 1920 census, she lived with William Brubaker in Shady Spring,WV with children, Myrtle, Everett (Earnest) Margaret (Ossie), Alice, Robert, James, and Buster (Charles).  Interesting to note, her mother was listed as Margaret Minton who was living with her husband, Robert L. Minton, next door. Robert's two sons from a previous marriage, George and Walter, were living with Robert and Margaret.

On 26 June 1920, while living in Glen Morgan, Almedia Branham Brubaker bore two more children, my grandmother and her twin sister.

Then on 13 Nov 1921, Almedia Branham Minton of Glenburn, Shasta County, CA bore twins to Robert Minton.  [California Birth Index]

In the 1930 census, she lived in Squaw Valley, Siskiyou County, California, with husband Robert L. Minton, and two children, Cecil and Cleo.

In the 1940 census, she lived in Glenburn, Shasta County, California, with Robert and Cecil Minton

On 3 Mar 1955 she died in Redding, Shasta County, California.  As a side note, the death certificate states she was born in Virginia as Madia Branham, on 19 Nov 1878.  [California Death Index, 1940-1977] She was buried at Pine Grove Cemetery, McArthur, Shasta County, CA as Madia Minton.

Most of this research was completed by my cousin, Pam.  She has been a huge help to me as a family genealogist.

Note: Some of the records listed here were found under alternate spellings or nicknames:

  • Bruebaker for Brubaker
  • Meyers for Myers
  • Mintor for Minton
  • Alferd for Alfred
  • Almeeda, Media, Madie, Madia for Almedia.
  • Kathlene for Kathleen.
If you have any information about our Minton cousins please contact us. 

Ellison Ridge Road

Summers County, Ellison Ridge, and the Lillys

As we've shared before, when we have spare time we like to go looking for cemeteries. To add a specific tangible goal, we like to review the Find-A-Grave photo requests and pick out a hopeful target cemetery. Then we do some research on it (a little "digging" you might say) and then we go out and try to locate the cemetery and the requested grave markers.


We don't always find what we are looking for, but we always enjoy looking.

Recently, we decided to go looking for a Lilly Family Cemetery in Summers County. If you are from southern WV, you might realize how daunting that is.  Lilly is the most common surname in our area, far ahead of Smith and Jones and the rest. And from what I can tell the heart of Lilly country is around Jumping Branch and Nimitz in Summers County. Find-A-Grave lists a bunch of cemeteries in this area, most of them with "Lilly Family" in the name, and most of them with less than a hundred graves.

In other words, there are a bunch of Lillys, and many many small family cemeteries. A big task, indeed.

As a start, we made a list, and found that Find-A-Grave lists 18 cemeteries in Summers County all starting with the name Lilly. Now some may be duplicates, but still that's a bunch. So we noted as many directions and coordinates and descriptions as we could find and tried to organize them.

We found that four or five of the cemeteries seemed to be on Ellison Ridge Road. So we plotted out a map, and headed out to find them all. And as a specific goal, we wanted to find Clarice Lilly's grave, which was a Find-A-Grave request from our friend Ralph.

Before tackling Ellison Ridge, we made two other stops. First, we drove out Will Dodd Road in Jumping Branch, looking for a cemetery that was reported to be there, but we struck out. Then we went to Lilly-Crews, a large cemetery in Nimitz. This one is easy to find, well kept, and fairly large. Interestingly, it contains a number of graves that were relocated from a cemetery near the town of Lilly as the Bluestone Dam was being constructed. The old cemetery was flooded by what is now Bluestone Lake.

Finally, we headed out Ellison Ridge. We had rough directions to two cemeteries - the first was about 1.5 miles along on the left at the top of a hill. After we had gone about 3/4 mile, we saw chain-link fencing near an old burned-out sawmill, and visited the small cemeteries there. There were actually two fenced areas, joined together, with one smaller and one more dominant.
When we continued down Ellison Ridge we were looking for a cemetery up the hill from an old schoolhouse. We found this building here, and a cemetery above it, and were sure we had found it.

Just as at the other site, we found two separately fenced areas. We were excited, but were puzzled that we still couldn't find Clarice Lilly's marker. Nonetheless we photographed the lot, and decided it was time to be done for the day.

When we got home and looked carefully at our pictures and mapping, we realized that we had not found a Lilly Cemetery at all. The first two we found were the small Meader/Odie Cemetery and it's larger neighbor just named Meador Cemetery.

The two fenced areas near the "schoolhouse" turned out to be the Fall Rock Cemetery. Not only that, but all three cemeteries were already completely documented in Find-A-Grave. So we hadn't fulfilled a single photo request.

26 August 2015

Finding Life in a Cemetery


While "working" a cemetery...digitizing headstones, uploading photo requests to Find-A-Grave. I find myself captivated by the life within the cemetery.  As David systematically digitizes headstones, I break off and begin photographing the beauty.

I explore the legends and spirituality behind the life I find in the cemetery.  Here are some of the photographs:

Bee Legend of the Appalachian Mountains

copyright, Slowmoto Graphics
In parts of the Appalachian mountains, there is a legend about bees surrounding a death in the family. Whenever someone dies, the family must whisper the information to the bees before the sunrise of the next day. The bees are the messengers of the gods and fly into the heavens and notify the Gods of the death.

If the family doesn't relay the information to the bees, the family living under the same roof of the deceased will perish.  In Ireland the folklore includes keeping the Gods informed of human events and inviting the bees to attend the funeral or turning the hives toward the path of the coffin's route. http://irishhedgerows.weebly.com

Tell the Bees

By Sarah Lindsay

Tell the bees. They require news of the house;
they must know, lest they sicken
from the gap between their ignorance and our grief.
Speak in a whisper. Tie a black swatch
to a stick and attach the stick to their hive.
From the fortress of casseroles and desserts
built in the kitchen these past few weeks
as though hunger were the enemy, remove
a slice of cake and lay it where they can
slowly draw it in, making a mournful sound.

copyright, Slowmoto Graphics

Butterfly Soul

In Ireland, there is a saying:  “Butterflies are souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory.” A butterfly begins its' life as a caterpillar then metamorphoses into a butterfly. The butterfly symbolizes resurrection and represents the soul leaving the body. https://mysendoff.com 

In Ancient Greek, the word butterfly is known as the psyche, which means soul.  The butterfly's soul is touched by divine love, but which, by reason of the mistakes made, must undergo some tribulations before having access to happy immortality. http://www.insects.org/

copyright, Slowmoto Graphics

Legend of the Butterfly

According to an American Indian Legend, if anyone desires a wish to come true they must first capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it.  Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly cannot reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all.
In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, the Great Spirit always grants the wish. So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom, the wish will be taken
to the heavens and be granted."  http://www.swallowtailfarms.com

I read many poems about butterflies and the afterlife before finding this poem:


Do not stand by my grave and weep
For I am not there.

I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am diamonds that glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush of butterflies in joyous flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there.  I did not die.

Author Unknown

23 August 2015

Samuel Carter Cemetery - Part I

Location, Location, Location

Sherry unearthed twelve to fourteen Find-A-Grave photo requests for a "Dempsey Cemetery" which had accumulated multiple cemetery entries, each with the same name but different locations. Tangled among the requests was rhetoric about the exact location of the cemetery, members debating between Raleigh County and Fayette County as the most likely site. After reviewing the burial data and list of possible interments, a Fayette County location seemed reasonable, even with one entry proclaiming a Raleigh County burial.  The mystery heightened and the search for the "Dempsey Cemetery" began.

She found a note in Rootsweb which says:
Samuel Carter Cemetery on Dempsey Branch (Laurel Creek) behind Doggett Chapel, Fayette County, West Virginia
The ones we found in the database were:

One death certificate included in the search stated "Epperly Cemetery", which after a documentation review hinted to Kanawha County being a more likely spot.

We found coordinates for Doggett Chapel on an old list of churches:
and at least according to Google maps, the community of Dempsey is centered right across the street.

So our updated directions to the chapel are:
Take US-19 (N) to Fayetteville. Turn left on Laurel Creek Rd, Route 8. Go about 4 miles. Right where Rt 8 takes 110 degree right, stay straight on Dempsey Rd/Wriston Rd/Rt 81. The church should be 50 feet on left, and the cemetery hopefully nearby.
We found an opportunity to explore the whereabouts based on the data found.   Without error, we drove to the Doggett Chapel UMC, however when we scanned the area around the church  the cemetery wasn't in sight. We talked with a neighbor, and after securing his attention and letting him calm his guard dog, he said it was about 250 yards up a rutted road, but we couldn't get there in our truck.

Pinpointing the cemetery looked to be more involved than the original indication that the cemetery was behind the church.  We were in for a mountainous hike and would need a full day commitment.

Take Two

We set out Sunday to try again. The boys were reluctant to go until we explained the part about a hike in the woods. Our plan was to park at the bottom of the washed-out road, near the church, and walk up the 300 yards or so to the cemetery. Samuel asked how long it would take, and I estimated 5 minutes to get there.

At the 5 minute point, we got to a house, the one of which we had been told. One gentleman was outside with his dogs, and we talked to him. He said the cemetery was up at the end of the road. When we looked where he was pointing, we could see that the road we'd walked up kept on going, sort of, up the hill. At this point it was less of an old washed-out road and more of a couple ruts through the woods.
Road to Carter Cemetery

We went on a couple hundred more yards and came to a fence line and a gate, with pastureland on the other side. This was a venerable pasture, with large bushes and trees grown up in it, and out of sight from any houses or roads. And posted with No Trespassing signs we could not miss.

Feeling like America's Most Wanted, we climbed over the gate and kept following the road. It went up the west side of the pasture along the fence, and just kept gradually climbing up the hill. We didn't see any farm animals, but there was plenty of evidence of them on the path.

Sherry spied a likely spot for a cemetery off to the left of the trail, so she and Joseph went to investigate while Samuel and I continued following the fence line.

Sam and I passed a couple of gates in the fence on our right, and when the road started to go downhill a bit (in our experience, rarely are WV family cemeteries located in a valley), we thought we needed to return to the last gate we had passed, which had a promise of a short distance up to the summit.  So we scaled another gate, and followed what was now a deer trail through the brambles.

Sherry and Joe were unsuccessful in their pursuit and began backtracking. They report that they heard a bear knock over a rotted tree below them, and they hightailed it up the trail. They spotted the muddy footsteps on the gate that we scaled when we detoured off the main trail, so they were able to follow behind.

The trail widened back into a rutted track when it got to the trees, and we kept going with a little more confidence. We could see that some force of nature had felled some mighty big trees, and we had to scramble under one that blocked the path. Just after we crossed that obstacle, though, we saw a small clearing and some gravestones.  Success!

22 August 2015

Family History Documentation at your Fingertips Series, Part 1

Family Heirlooms
Family Picture Box

Family history can be found in the home of a recently deceased relative.  The chore of going through old papers and pictures seems overwhelming. Often the items are placed in a box and not stored correctly, or worse, thrown away.


When someone passes away in our family, we will inquire about any pictures, scrapbooks, and papers, so that we can review the material. By doing so, I was recently given an old box made by my grandfather Jack Goolsby, to keep for the family. To our delight, we found a wedding picture of my great grandmother Lula Goolsby Ison and her first husband, William Edward Goolsby.  My dad had never seen his grandfather before because he was deceased when my Dad was born.  His grandmother and his grandfather were divorced, so old pictures were not readily available.  His grandmother had also remarried.  A side note to this is my husband spent hours enhancing a digital image of the picture to make  the back of the picture to make it readable.  The wedding picture had been used by an artist to make a painting of the couple and a detailed description of their names and clothing colors were on the back.  The picture was in black and white.  What a find!  Some of the techniques to use to make a picture is (list techniques)

Memorial Book

The other huge find for us was the death book for my grandfather Jack Goolsby.  Family oral history stated that he was born in Eccles, WV.  We were unable to locate a birth record for him in WV delayed or otherwise. We didn't review this heirloom right away but decided to shuffle through albums and scrapbooks.   When we did sit down and review the Death Record, we found a page completed by his mother, my great grandmother Lula Goolsby Ison, that documented his birth in Clifton Forge, VA.  This made sense because his father William Goolsby worked on the railroad in Clifton Forge Virginia and he and his wife, Lula were married there.

Guest Books

Warner Camp Guest Book
David's mom's family, Warner, has a camp, on Lake Messalonskee in Maine.  The camp is an old house built in the early 1900's.  Two story home with a guest house, boat house, and garage.  The family would open the camp in the summer and close it before winter.  There were multiple pictures in the home that we carefully digitized and the best record?  The family had kept a guest book of all that had visited the camp throughout many of the years.  The visitors would list the date, their name, the name of their children and sometimes, the ages.   Not only did this document the history of Warner Camp, it is also documentation on the relationship of the family members and can help narrow down lifespans.


Family bibles are a haven of information.  Before official governmental records were kept and even after, many families recorded births, deaths, and marriages in the family bible.  Frequently, bibles are passed down from generation to generation.  Recently, while we were discarding material at the dump, a man emptying his truck found a bible someone had discarded.  He felt funny about not rescuing the book.  Upon examination, it had completed pages of marriages, deaths, and births.  We decided that even though the information wasn't pertinent to either of our families, that the pages should be carefully digitized and made searchable on the internet.  In a few years, this might be the document that helps a family push through their own roadblock.

If you have found family historical information in other places please email or comment.  Sometimes it is a small piece of information that opens the door for family historians, and knowing where to look is helpful.

Samuel Carter Cemetery - Part II

Combing Through The Trees

We were so relieved to actually find a cemetery after hiking what seemed like miles up the hill, we didn't even worry that it looked like only a few grave sites. The small clearing was very pretty anyway, and we could declare a victory. So we set out to photograph the stones.

Copyright 2014 Slowmoto Graphics
As we got up into the clearing more, we saw some huge stone pillars back in the trees. They looked like part of a gateway almost. A little surreal, like a scene from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. (Or at least the way I pictured the scenes reading the book as a child)  Joseph related the larger monuments to chess pieces, a bishop and a rook.

We started towards the pillars, and noticed a few more grave stones on the way. Samuel scrambled around between the pillars and found the inscriptions, which of course proved them to be massive monuments.

When we got through those stones, we found marker after marker stretching back into the woods. The trees and bushes had grown up so much, it was a jungle. There were tree branches down, massive grape vines, brier bushes, and whole trees down. It was a riot of vegetation, old and new.

It felt like a Harrison Ford movie. Sherry might change our blog name to "Indiana Stones" or something after this experience. What fun it was!
Copyright 2014 Slowmoto Graphics

We ended up finding about 30 some grave markers. More than that, really, as some were face down, or covered with fallen trees too big to shift. But amazingly most of the ones we could actually see the front of were legible.

There was a little fenced-in section you can see here. I think this one had the Coleman monument.

There was a section with Samuel Carter's grave. He has two markers - an earlier one and one he shares with his wife.

We also found two markers for Nannie Wood, one with her husband Caleb. We found Nutters, Skaggs, Mosleys, lots of Carters and Eatons, Colemans, Beckelhimers, an Akers, an Adkinson, a Tincher and an Amick.

We knew there were going to be some interesting stories when we started researching these people. But little did we know how much we would find.

Continued soon...