Sunday, April 29, 2012

Good Reads

I am a reader. For years reading was my first, last and every moment in between favorite recreational activity. I've read far less recently due to vision problems and my increased interest in family history. But I still love a good book.

I am blessed to belong to a book club full of strong, articulate (other words occasionally come to mind) women who are equally passionate readers. Several of the books we've read in the last two years seem especially good fits for people interested in family history and research. None are about genealogy per se, but all involve family stories, mysteries and history.

So, my latest Good Reads -

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Non-fiction. Mesmerizing, horrifying account of a Syrian-American family in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. Non-fiction. A friend who grew up in Chicago told me yesterday that this book has affected how she sees the world around her and how she looks back on her childhood. Not without it's flaws (more than a little repetitive) it is still the the most significant book I've read this decade and one of the ten best books I've ever read. 
  • A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay. Fiction. Immensely readable novel about a brother and sister examining their lives and their memories. It has an ambivalent ending, which I adore. (I dislike most novels' endings.)
  • The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. Fiction. Another novel about memory and the mystery of a parent's life. I love the setting in the Hermitage during the Siege of Leningrad. 
  • Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. Fiction. Another novel with roots in Russia's Leningrad during World War II. I loved most of the book but found the too tidy ending a disappointment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Heirs and Slaves named in 1813 Will of William Yerby - Amanuensis Monday

Thanks to John at Transylvanian Dutch who originated the Amanuensis Monday meme, providing a framework (and nudge) for transcribing family records, news clippings and other treasures.

This is another transcription of a document copied last summer at the Library of Virginia - William Yerby's Lancaster County will dated 13 Mar 1813. While spelling and punctuation have been transcribed as accurately as possible, I have added space between the bequests to improve readability.

In the name of God Amen I William Yerby of Lancaster County and State of Virginia, In tolerable Health thanks be to God for the same and am desirous to set my house in order, as it is certain for all men once to die
First, I give my soul go God and my body to the Earth its original in hopes of a future resurection through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Redeemer
Secondly after all my Just debts and funeral expences be first paid It_ my will To dispose of my worldly Goods that God hath blessed me with as followeth,
To wit
Thirdly I give to my son Thomas Yerby the Plantation wherein he now lives and All my Land in Northumberland and Lancaster adjoining to the same Negroes to wit, Elijah, Mary ann her four youngest children Anthony Jesse Spencer Isaac, Hannah and Griffin and their future increase
Fourthly I give to my son Wm T Yerby the plantation whereon he now lives and all my land west of the road that leads from the Catton swamp to the Girls brige swamp, Negroes to wit, Solom___ Nelson, Cate, her four youngest children now in his possession Ephraim, Jane & Harry the plasterrer and their future increase, choice of a Bed and furniture one cow & Calf
Fifthly I give to my son Charles I Yerby my dwelling house and all my Land East of the road that leads from the Cabin swamp to the girls bridge swamp Negroes to wit, Richard Benjamin, Samuel, Lucy & Child, Charity, her three youngest children John and Chloe and their future increase, my still, Casks Barrels Tubs, apple mill his choice of a Horse Saddle and bridle Two choice Cows and Calves, yoke of oxen and all apparatures of the said oxen, choice of Sow and Pigs four choice hogs L___ and the appartures thereto belonging _ile my Gun_ ____ly
Sixthly I leave the [page 142] profits to my daughter margaret Towles Negroes to wit, moses or value sold to Richard Stephens for one hundred pounds. Rose her three youngest children now with her Frederick, Gilbert, nancy, Jason [difficult to read; James?], Jude and her child and her future increase one bed bed and furniture In case my Daughter Towles should have any more child lawfully begotten of her body It is my desire that my Grandson Henry W. Towles shall have one equal portion of all the property that I leave my aforesaid Daughter the income profits of when comes of age or marries with the aforesaid described children, In case my aforesaid daughter die without any such Issue It is then my desire that my Grandson Henry W. Towles to have and enjoy the whole of the property that I lent my Daughter Margaret, forever after her death
Seventhly Its my desire that all my Earthen ware __ink and China may be Equally divided between my Three Children William T Yerby Margaret Towles and Charles I Yerby Stock of Cattle sheep and Hogs
Eighthly [**] Its my ___ that the Hoes axes __ that my above named negroes Laborers with shall go with my children as my negroes them To
Ninthly I give my son Charles I Yerby the remains of my Household Goods & Kitchen Furniture that is not heretofore mentioned or may not hereafter by mentioned
Tenthly Its my desire that the balance of my Estate not heretofore mentioned or has not been bequeathed may be Equally divided between my four children Thomas Yerby William T Yerby Margaret Towles and Charles I Yerby
Eleventh If there is Two hundred Dollars in my house either in cash or bonds after my Just debts be paid I give the same to my Daughter Towles to go a the property named ---
Twelth Its my will and desire if either Thomas Yerby William T Yerby Margaret Towles brings forward any account against my Estate in any case what ever That my Exors hereafter named shall sell so much of the property named in this my will to the said child that my bring forward such a claim, as may be sufficient to discharge the claim
Thirteenth Its my will that all the property that I have heretofore Lent my Son Thomas Yerby Wm T Yerby Margaret Towles, I give it now to them ---
Fourteenth and Lastly I do nominate and ordain my Two beloved sons Thomas Yerby & Wm T Yerby Exors of this my last will and testament revoking all other will or wills heretofore made by me and acknowledging this to be my last will and testament In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this the 13th day of march 1813
__ Taylor                              William Yerby {Seal}
John Doggett
Wm Stott
Richard Cundiff
And this being done by way of a Codicil and in addition to my will Some years past Charles Ball made me a Deed of trust for three negroes [obscured line] [page 143] to pay for the aforesaid Charles Bell and named as his agent before and since that time I have paid for the aforesaid Charles Bell the full value of the property named in the Deed foresaidmentioned At the aforesaid Charles and his wife Catey's deaths the aforesaid property mentioned in the aforesaid Deed of trust is given to my son William T Yerby since that time the aforesaid Charles Bell thought that I was not as safe for the sums of money I had paid for him as I ought to be and wish to make me a Deed of Gift which was made, of the aforesaid property named in the Deed trust I have willed the aforesaid property to my children in my will In case either of my Children claims any more than I have mentioned in my will to them severally by account or any other way their claim or demand against my Estate or the property named in the Deed of trust from Charles Bell to William Yerby to secure him for money paid or that he might have to pay shall be taken out of the portion given the said Child in my will to them In witness to this my Codicil to my will I hereunto set my hand and affix my seal the 13th day of march 1813
William Yerby {seal}
Wm Taylor
John Doggett
Wm Stott
Richd Cundiff
At a Court held for Lancaster County on the 20th day of April 1813
This last will and testament and Codicil of William Yerby gent decd were proven according to law by the oath of John Doggett and Wm Stott two of the witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded, and on the motion of Thomas Yerby one of the Exors in the said will named who made oath and together with John Doggett Samuel M. Shearman Joseph Carters Jr and James Towles his Securities entered into and acknowledged their bond in the penalty of twenty Thousand Dollars according to the law & certificate is granted him for obtaining probat thereof in due for and liberty is reserved to the other exor in the said will named to join in the probat thereof if he should think fit
James Towles cl

** Very difficult to decipher. This item appears to have been squeezed in. Perhaps an error by clerk copying original record. 

This William Yerby is not my husband's direct ancestor William Yerby whose will was proven in Lancaster County [VA] 20 April 1786. Nor is he that William's son who died in Mississippi. He is assumed to be one of the two William Yerbys appearing in Lancaster County in the 1810 US Federal Census.

The son whose name was transcribed as Charles I Yerby could easily have been Charles J Yerby.

The swamps named in the will are new to me. I was not able to locate references to them in an admittedly cursory internet search.

Finally, I've grown somewhat inured to the descriptions of human slaves as property while transcribing the documents I copied from the Library of Virginia last summer. But the eighth bequest, including the tools used by the slaves in their labors, just as the oxen's yoke and horse's bridle were included, was jarring. Never has it been clearer what being legal property meant.


     Lancaster, Virginia, Will Books, 28: 141, William Yerby, dated 13 Mar 1813; Library of Virginia, LVA Lancaster County Roll 21.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Love a Procession!

Attribution Some rights reserved by Tobyotter
Almost all my knowledge of the relationships between my father's immigrant relatives is based on interviews with my father and his sister. They grew up knowing who their cousins in the United States were and knowing who among their parents' friends were countrymen, coming from the same villages in Europe their own parents came from.

These relationships are based on births and marriages in 19th century Europe that I have not been able to document. In several cases I do not know what degree of relationship existed, though I am certain the families considered themselves closely related. A few published death notices have provided some support, but generally I have relied on documents and photographs handed down to me. Letters addressed to Aunt Anna [my grandmother], or photographs of visits between families provide support. Photo albums filled with pictures of the children of these other families are another source of supporting documentation. 

Recently I received a document used in the funeral planning for my grandfather, Stephen Popp, that clearly illustrates the hierarchy of relationships and friendships my family recognized in America. It is a printed booklet Funeral Automobile List distributed by Chopyak's Funeral Home containing handwritten directions for the procession to the cemetery. It lists the pall bearers, and who would be riding in each car of the procession.

The pall bearers listed were
  • John Tegza, from Endicott, NY. Tegza emigrated from Berezova with my grandfather. Though his surname is the same as my grandfather's mother he was not considered a relative, but a countryman and friend.
  • John Popp, from Bridgeport, CT. He was always referred to as a first cousin. We believe John's mother (also a Popp) and my grandfather's father were siblings.
  • Mike Kontir, from Clifton, NJ. He was married to my grandmother's niece. 
  • Steve Popovich, Vasil Latta and Mike Vastal, from Binghamton, NY. All were friends of my grandfather.
The cars, in order were
  • a Buick carrying my grandmother, their children and son-in-law.
  • a Plymouth carrying Mrs. Louis Popp & family. She was the widow of my grandfather's only brother in the United States.
  • a Buick carrying Mrs. Pete Kornafel & Mrs. Nick Bobich from Chicago. They were the daughters of my grandfather's only sister in the United States.
  • a Buick carrying Mr. & Mrs. John Popp [the pall bearer], Mr. George Popp and Mrs. Helen Bashar from Bridgeport, CT. George and Helen were the son and niece of my grandfather's cousin John.
  • a Buick carrying John Pereksta, Mrs. Andrew Senkowitz, Mr. & Mrs. Mike Kontir, and Mr. & Mrs. Wm Kuzma from NJ. They were the family of my grandmother's only brother in the United States.
  • a Plymouth carrying the John Bolas family. Mrs. Bolas, Susan, was my grandmother's sister.
  • a Buick carrying Mrs. Mary Zelenyak and family. She was my grandmother's sister.
  • a Buick carrying Mr. & Mrs. Clayton Hunt, Mr. & Mrs. Andre Muska, Mr. & Mrs. Francis Kowarek. They were daughters of Susan Bolas and my grandmother's nieces.
  • a Nash carrying Mr. & Mrs. Wm Sedor & Family and Mr. & Mrs. Geo. Sedor. The Sedors were brothers and my grandmother's first cousins.
  • a Dodge carrying Mr. Mike Macko and the Andrew Plakos family. Macko was godfather to my grandparent's children. Plakos was a friend.
The remaining cars all carried people always described to me as friends of the family. 

The handwriting looks like it was written primarily by my aunt, so it is no surprise it reflects what she's told me dozens of times. Still, I was bubbling with excitement when I showed it to my husband the other night. He leafed through the pages. His eyes lit up when he noticed the Nash in the procession. Sweet man.  No love for General Motors or Chrysler.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Olena Pereksta Demjan - (Almost) Wordless Wednesday

This is the first photograph I have found of my great-aunt Olena Pereksta Demjan. She is pictured here with her daughter Elizabeta Demjan. The photograph is undated, but was probably taken in the late 1930s/early 1940s. It was taken in Kolbasov, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). We visited Elizabeta and her family in 1992.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blessing the Gravestone

I found these photographs last week while looking for pictures of my uncle (pictured in the lower photograph on the left, holding a basket of flowers). They were taken when the stone marking my grandfather Stephen Popp's grave was installed at St. Michael's Cemetery in Binghamton, NY. He died 8 Sept 1948. 

The priest blessing the stone is likely Rev. Michael Tidick, who was the pastor of St. Michael's Greek Catholic Church and presided at the funeral. Given the weather likely during winter in New York's Southern Tier and that pansies were planted on the grave, I suspect the service took place in the early spring of 1949. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

In Memory

In loving memory of my uncle

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Greetings!

Wishing you all the joy and grace of Easter, both today and next Sunday when Orthodox Easter is celebrated.

The traditional greeting in my grandmother's Carpatho-Rusyn church is "Christos voskrese!" or "Christ is risen!" The response is "Voistinu voskrese!" or "Indeed He is risen!"

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Someone's Getting Older....

See that little towhead on the left? He's gotten bigger over the years, but the lucky boy still has his big sister and brother around to keep him in line.

Happy Birthday, Daddy!!