I arrived a few days early to research at the Family History Library before the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) began. I have been working on my personal “brick wall” ancestor pretty steady for a couple of months now. He is my great grandfather and I am determined to find who his parents are! I will be closely reading probates and deeds from several counties to look for connections…
I have found over the last few years that all the bad habits we learn as self-taught genealogists are best broken one at a time. Over time, I have trained myself to:
• Never trust a single source
• Prepare a research plan before I go to a repository
• Stick with the research plan and not go off chasing rabbits or squirrels!
• Cite all sources as I go
• Analyze, correlate, and file documents as soon as I get home while still fresh in my mind
• Write conclusions based on the findings
This year I took the class “Solving Problems Like A Professional.” It was a great class and gave me some good ideas on improving my work flow and some new habits to learn. The class focused heavily on the Genealogy Standards1 and how they apply to each section of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). Most brick walls can be broken using the GPS.
This was one of the best SLIG’s I have attended. There were over 300 people in attendance making it the largest in the 21 years it has existed. I really enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new friends. If you have never been to SLIG, you should check it out for 2017!
Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 50th anniversary ed. (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014). ↩
Violet Esther Allen was born 113 years ago today on the farm that her grandparents obtained in the Oklahoma Land Run of 1893. I never met my husband’s paternal grandmother. She died twenty years before we were married.
She was a homemaker and mother of five children. She loved to cook and sew. Later in life, she and a cousin researched the Allen family putting together what they had found for future generations.
About a year before her death, Violet wrote down her memories of her grandparents. She gave the copy to the Cherokee Strip Museum (Perry, Oklahoma) where I was able to get a copy of her handwritten letter and typed manuscript. I can research the family and get copies of birth and death certificates, deeds, court records, and other documents but the personal notes and reminisces of this dear lady are worth more than any of those.
In her notes she describes her grandmother’s home and furnishings. Some of the pieces were passed down and I have seen them so I can imagine the scene that she described. She said she was fortunate to have those cherished heirlooms and I wonder if she ever thought someone would cherish her things the same way. Her dresser set and monogrammed dresser scarf are in our guest room. Her sewing rocker sits in the corner of our living room. The plate shelf her grandfather made hangs in our dining room. Yes, these are cherished heirlooms!
My husband always tells me that she and I would have gotten along so well. Indeed, I believe he is right, I think we are kindred spirits.
And there is a lesson in her story. How often do genealogists dig and search for their ancestors but never take the time to write down our own memories and life experiences? Someday, WE will be the ancestors and how excited will our descendants be to find a first-hand account of our lives!
My favorite picture of Violet holding her first child, JoAnn:
Any source can contain information that is true, partially true, or false. Conflicts must be looked at carefully to determine which is correct. Corroborating information can lead to the truth.
The case of James C. Cook, born ca. 1821, North Carolina, and died 31 March 1901 or 1902, Washington County, Florida, who was a Confederate Veteran, provides an example. His grave is marked with a Confederate headstone, placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.1 The family lore says that James and one of his sons from his first marriage served together and walked home from “up north” after the war. The headstone reads:
James C Cook
33 Ala Inf
This information was taken from the widow’s pension filed in 1927 with the state of Florida.2 The copy of this approved pension was passed around the family as “proof” of his service and believed for years. Researching his role in the war and the complete pension file would unravel this belief with conflicting information from far more reliable sources. The approved widow’s pension passed among the family was not the whole story.
Background and the Problem
Confederate pensions were given by the state where the veteran resided rather than the state from which they served. James completed his application for a pension on 23 October 1899, in Washington County, Florida.3 It was submitted to the Florida State Pension Board on 4 April 1900, with signatures of two men who served with him, T.J. Boswell and George Williams. Dr. N.J. Dawkins reported that James had
“joint rheumatism in nearly every joint in his body. His eyes are also affected to such an extent that he can see but very little. Sometimes he is confined to his bed for several weeks and can’t work at all. He is thereby totally unable to earn a support for himself and his family are unable to give him the attention necessary.”
James was in his late seventies when he completed the application more than thirty-seven years after the war ended.4 By this time his memories had faded and he did not remember the regiment number. He listed the state of Alabama, Company A, in Captain “Randolf Owens Company.”
The seventy-five pages in the complete pension file do not contain a response from this application but subsequent applications by his widow state that it was denied for lack of proof of service. After James died, his widow, Emily, applied three times: in 1908, 1921, and in 1927. The 1908 and 1921 applications used the same information that James had provided, the same affidavits of comrades, and were also denied.5 The War Department said that James was not found on the rolls of Company E, 5th (Blount’s) Battalion, Alabama Infantry, which was the only Company they found commanded by Captain Randolph Owen.
Many letters in the file attest to the dire need of the widow. In 1927, she applied again and listed his service in Company F, 33rd Alabama Regiment and had two new affidavits of comrades: M.L. Bowlin and Burel F. Mathews. This time, the application was approved.6
There are nine men listed on the rolls of the 33rd Regiment that have the surname Cook. None of these are James or his sons. Comrade T.J. Boswell does appear on the rolls but George Williams does not.7 Mr. Boswell joined the regiment in August 1863 and was listed as deserted in November/December 1863.8 Captain Owens, M.L. Bowlin, and Burel F. Mathews are not listed on the rolls. The problem is, James did not serve in the 33rd Alabama Infantry.
Following the Family Lore
James was supposed to have served with one of his sons. He had three sons old enough to serve:
James David served in the local defense, as he was only sixteen years old.9
Stephen L. has not been found in any record after the 1860 census.10
William Sanford moved to Texas where he applied for a Confederate Pension that was approved in 1906. The War Department confirmed his service in 2nd Company H, 1st Confederate Infantry (also known as 1st Confederate Georgia Infantry). 11
Resolving Conflicting Evidence
1st Confederate Infantry
The compiled military service records confirm that James C. Cook and his son, William Sanford, both served in 2nd Co. H, 1st Confederate Infantry. William enlisted 1 September 1862 and James on 14 January 1864.12 The Conscription Act of 17 February 1864 required men between the ages of 17 and 50 to serve in the military.13 Since James enlisted just weeks before this went into effect, he likely did so to be in the same unit with his son rather than wait to be conscripted into a different regiment.
They were both captured at Murfreesboro, Tennessee on 7 December 1864 and transferred to the prison at Camp Chase, Ohio. They were released a few days apart on 11 and 13 of June 1865.14 Comrades Thomas J. Boswell and George Williams both appear on the rolls of the same Company.15
The Confederate government raised troops directly as well as the states raising troops locally. When James applied for his pension and did not remember the regiment number but listed the state he served from, the War Department looked in the Alabama regiments. Had they looked in the Confederate States regiments his application would likely have been approved.
Why would a pension be approved for his service in the wrong regiment? Researching the other men named in the pension file lead to the answer.
Randolph Owen was appointed Captain of Company D & E, 5th Battalion (Blount’s), Alabama Volunteers on 27 January 1862. Soon after, on 18 April, the Battalion was dissolved, and men assigned to the 17th & 18th Regiments. The commissioned officers, including Owens, sent a letter to the Secretary of War protesting against it. Captain Owen was honorably discharged on 27 April 1862.16 He petitioned the Confederate Government to be reimbursed for guns he had lost to the unit.17 On 1 September 1862, Captain Owen organized 2nd Company H, 1st Confederate Infantry at Greenville, Alabama. The unit was on duty in the defenses of Mobile Bay until the spring of 1864.18
Comrades Thomas J. Boswell and George Williams that were listed on the original pension application by James did serve in the 1st Confederate Infantry. Comrades M.L. Bowlin and Burrell F. Mathews that were only listed on the approved widow’s application do not appear on the rolls of either company. They both applied for Florida Confederate pensions:
Mr. Bowlin’s application was approved in 1927 but dropped in 1931. B.F. Mathews was one of his comrade affidavits. Several letters in his file state that he was senile and could not remember anything that was not told to him.19
Mr. Matthews’s application was first denied for lack of proof of service but later approved. He died in 1928.20
Company F, 33rd Alabama Infantry:
No James C. Cook or his sons
No George Williams
No Captain Owens
No M.L. Bowlin
No Burel F. Matthews
2nd Company H, 1st Confederate Infantry:
James C. Cook
William Sanford Cook
Thomas J. Boswell
No M.L. Bowlin
No Burel F. Matthews
The search for where James C. Cook served during the war began with a document that contained information that is true, partially true, and false. Searching every James C. Cook in the Confederacy would take a lifetime. Corroborating evidence gleaned from associates revealed the truth without that task.
James was quite feeble by the time he applied for the pension as evidence from the doctor’s affidavit. He did not remember the regiment number but did have the name of his Captain and his comrades correct. The War Department could not find his service in the Alabama regiments and did not know to look in the Confederate States regiments.
The many letters in the pension file from the widow indicate her desperation for financial assistance. She likely found local men who were receiving or applying for pensions and asked for their help. These men’s affidavits were accepted and believed by the pension board.
James C. Cook served in the 2nd Company H, 1st Confederate Regiment. His son, William Sanford, served with him, and they were both released from prison at the end of the war. No record documents that they walked home together but it is most likely that they did.
Pleasant Grove Cemetery, (Shakey Joe Rd., off Douglas Ferry Rd., Vernon, Washington County, Florida), James C. Cook marker, transcribed and photographed by Lori Cook-Folger, July 1994. For death date see, Soldier’s and Widow’s Pension Claims, October 1899–September 1927, application no. A02824, James C. Cook, Co. A., 33rd Regiment Alabama Infantry; Confederate Pension Files; Records of the State Board of Pensions, RG 137; State Library and Archives of Florida, Jacksonville. ↩
Soldier’s and Widow’s Pension Claims, October 1899–September 1927, application no. A02824, James C. Cook, Co. A., 33rd Regiment Alabama Infantry; Confederate Pension Files. ↩
Soldier’s Pension Claims, October 1899, application no. 2254 (A02824), James C. Cook, Co. A., 33rd Regt. Ala. Inf., Confederate Pension Files, Florida. ↩
1900 U.S. census, Washington County, Florida, population schedule, Vernon, E.D. 123, p. 160B (stamped), dwelling/family 74, James Cook; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 March 2014); citing NARA microfilm T623, roll 1773. ↩
Widows Pension Claims, 30 November 1908 & 25 February 1921, application no. A02824, James C. Cook, Co. A., 33rd Regt. Ala. Inf., Confederate Pension Files, Florida. ↩
Widows Pension Claims, 8 September 1927, application no. A02824, James C. Cook, Co. A., 33rd Regt. Ala. Inf., Confederate Pension Files, Florida. ↩
“U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861–1865,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 March 2007), search for surnames Cook, Boswell, and Williams in 33rd Regiment Alabama Infantry. ↩
“Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Alabama,” digital images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 25 March 2015), Thomas J. Boswell, 33rd Regt. Alabama Infantry; citing NARA microfilm M311, roll 350. ↩
Civil War Service Record and Widow’s Pension Claim, application no. 29822, James David Cook and Mariah Cook, widow, 21st Alabama Cavalry (Local Defense); Confederate Pension Files; Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery. ↩
1860 U.S. census, Butler County, Alabama, Precinct 15, p. 3 (penned), dwelling/family 24, J.C. Cook. ↩
Soldier’s Pension no. 22112, William S. Cook, Co. H, 1st Confederate Infantry; Confederate Pension Files; Texas State Library and Archives of Commission, Austin. ↩
“Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations Raised Directly By the Confederate Government,” James C. Cook and William S. Cook, 2nd Co. H, 1st Confederate Infantry. ↩
“An Act to Organize Forces to Serve During the War, 17 February 1864,” The Statutes at Large of the Confederate States of America; digital edition, Documenting The American South (http://www.docsouth.unc.edu : accessed 1 March 2007). ↩
Prison release for James & Wm. S. Cook, June 1865; Camp Chase, Ohio; Selected Records of the War Department Relating to Confederate Prisoners of War, 1861-1865, microfilm publication M598, roll 23, (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service, 1965), digital images, Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org : accessed 12 March 2012). ↩
“Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers…Confederate Government,” Thomas J. Boswell and George Williams, 2nd Co. H, 1st Confederate Infantry. ↩
“Compiled Service Records of Confederate…Alabama,” Randolph Owen, Fifth Battalion (Blount’s) Alabama Infantry and Unit Information. ↩
Memorial of Capt. Randolph Owen, 5th Battalion Alabama Artillery, 14 December 1863 to the CSA Congress; digital image, A Century of Lawmaking (http://www.memory.loc.gov : accessed 1 March 2007), Volume 6:529. ↩
“Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers…Confederate Government,” Unit Info, 1st Confederate Infantry. ↩
Today would have been my aunt and uncle’s 70th wedding anniversary. They were a unique couple—never having had children of their own, they lived differently than other people in my life when I was growing up. You know, white carpet, everything always in its place, you don’t sit on a made bed, no playing around in the house, reuse everything, &c. Somehow, after I became an adult, we turned out to be very close. She would say that her sister gave birth to me, but I was hers too. My children were her grandchildren in her eyes.
Gladys Marie Earwood was born 3 November 1922 near Commerce, in Hunt County, Texas, the first child of Starling Culmon and Birdie Elizabeth (White) Earwood.1 She was my mother’s only sister and fourteen years older. Her “love story,” as she called it, began when she was sixteen years old in 1939. Her father and brother, JC, had gone to town (Commerce) one day and while there they met a nice young man that was working with a horse. When they got home that evening, they told Gladys that she needed to meet this nice young man.2
Lemmett Clarence Thomason was born 13 October 1917, in Point, Rains County, Texas, to Johnny William and Mary Bell (Teeters) Thomason.3 He worked for A.L. Anderson in Royse City planting, cultivating, and harvesting cotton, corn, and feed crops on a 100-acre farm. He also operated a tractor, worked with a team of horses and drove a truck hauling produce to market.4 He was 21 when Gladys met him and her just 16, but it must have been love at first sight.
Inducted into the Army on 17 June 1942, Clarence served in Italy during World War II. Gladys waited more than three years until he arrived back in the U.S. on 28 September 1945 and was discharged from Fort Sam Houston on 4 October.5 He rode a bus to Commerce and walked from there to the Earwood farm. Gladys always remembered seeing him walk up the road that day.
Clarence went to Dallas where he lived with his sister, Brittie Mae, for about a month while he found a job and a one-room “efficiency.” On the morning of Monday, 12 November 1945, Gladys and Clarence drove to Paris, Texas and bought a few items to set up housekeeping, like “silverware, dishes, and a biscuit pan.” The courthouse was closed in observance of Armistice Day, and Clarence knocked on the door of the judge who gave them a marriage license. They drove back to the Earwood farm, dressed for the wedding, and drove to the preacher’s home where they were married about 4:00 in the afternoon.6
They spent their first night in a motel in Greenville and had a hamburger for supper. The next morning they drove to Dallas and began their life together. Clarence was working the night shift, 11 pm to 7 am, at a flour mill. He later started working for A&P Grocery Warehouse. He quit that job and they moved to Tahoka, in West Texas for a while where he worked at the gin and pulled [cotton] bolls. They moved back to Dallas and Clarence worked for A&P for the next twenty-five years.
They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1995. Clarence died the month before their 56th anniversary. Gladys never really got over losing him—though separated by death, her love for Clarence never died. Each week she would go to the cemetery and tell him “Clarence, I love you and I always will.” She died on 24 June 2009 and now rests beside the love of her life.7
Texas Department of Health, delayed birth certificate no. 1212987 (issued 1945), Gladys Marie Earwood; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin. ↩
Gladys Marie (Earwood) Thomason to Lori Cook-Folger, notes & recordings, 1985–2009; Cook-Folger Collection, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger. Biographical details throughout are from personal conversations with Gladys. ↩
Texas Department of Health, delayed birth certificate no. 193984 (issued 1969), Lemmett Clarence Thomason; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin. City of Dallas, death certificate no. 02-07682, Lemmett Clarence Thomason, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Dallas, Texas. ↩
Lemmett C. Thomason, Separation Qualification Record and Honorable Discharge; Thomason Family Folder, Cook-Folger Collection, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger. ↩
Lemmett C. Thomason, Honorable Discharge; Thomason Family Folder, Cook-Folger Collection, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger. ↩
Original marriage record, L.C. Thomason-Gladys Earwood, Lamar County, Texas, license number 745 (1945); privately held by Lori Cook-Folger; returned to Thomason by Clerk’s Office, with notation “Returned and filed for record the 14 day of Nov 1945 and recorded the 15 day of Nov 1945 in Book 44 page 581.” ↩
Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 02–07682 (2001), Lemmett Clarence Thomason; Vital Statistics, Austin. Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 142-09-077505 (2009), Gladys Marie Thomason; Vital Statistics, Austin. ↩