Monday, October 31, 2011

'Murder' at the bookshop

A little bookstore décor from October

 My "dead guy" turned a few heads as people passed by the shop. 

On Oct. 22, Karen McCollough signed her latest mystery at Tannery Books.

The Search for Thomas Maness — Which Way Next?

I'm having so many genealogy brainstorms I feel like my mind's about to short out.

First, to wrap up my last post: I found the Brady family book in Asheboro, with information about Sarah Brady, Swain Maness' last wife, which I followed up back home with a death record and obituary. Sarah not only outlived Swain Maness, she remarried, had more children, and lived until 1964. I had never been able to find Sarah Maness because she had become Sarah Jones!

Oh, remember that real estate ad I printed out, where their daughter Cora Brown lived? The address on Sarah's death certificate seemed familiar, so I flipped through my notebook. Yes, she died at her daughter's house. A serendipitous find became a nice corroboration to prove that I had found the right woman.

Now, back to those brainstorms. I have so many directions to go next, with none of them a really strong lead. But at least I have possibilities — instead of facing a brick wall, it's more like driving on a double-highway cloverleaf with too many exits. I just don't know which ones might lead me to a dead end or a rabbit trail.

1. Through census records and the obituary, I learned that Sarah and Swain had another daughter, Oppie. I found out who she married, but I'm not sure if it's worth looking for descendants. Remember, Ms. Myrtle would be their cousin, and she told me that her grandmother lost everything in a house fire.

2. I learned last month that Swain's sister Lundy Jane had descendants (his brothers died in or as a result of the Civil War), and many of them live in Randolph County (not far). So many I don't know where to start. My only hope would be to find a genealogist in the family, or someone who has old pictures.

3. Looking back through last year's e-mails, I caught the name of another wife, possibly Swain's first wife (married in 1866). Census records indicate they had three children, including two boys. My next step is to look for descendants. If a male line descendant exists, his DNA would give us crucial information.

4. I've learned just enough about DNA to be dangerous — I've been ignoring the smaller marker matches because the odds say those people might be related to us in the past 1,000 years, while I'm looking for someone just four generations back. I don't want to contact all these random people that may have no connection. However, two names keep coming up in the medium marker matches: Hooks and Vance. (On the theory that our ancestor either lied about his surname or had an illegitimate parentage) I plan to contact them and see if they have any useful information.

I drew up a chart of Swain's family because I had information overload and needed to see things. I used a highlighter to trace branches that had come up as DNA matches with each other. What I learned, from this visual family tree, was that the man with whom we originally compared our DNA is definitely in the Maness family — no unknown illegitimacy among his "known" ancestors. But neither Swain, nor his father Henry, have had any descendants tested.

5. Our Thomas Maness said he was from Arkansas, and wrote on his marriage license that his parents were George and Mary and he was from Moore County. There was a George Maness in the Union Calvary in Arkansas. I am trying to find information about him and his family.

6. And a final wild hair thought: Some branches of the Maness family went to Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas. Of the DNA "matches" so far, only a few people have posted a family tree. I clicked on several of these (men with other surnames, that is) and most of them had ancestors from Tennessee, and Kentucky, and Arkansas. While I'm not keen to contact them just yet — that's a broad geographic area, after all — I think I'll draw another chart, with locations and years, and see if any more bright ideas come to me.

I needed to jot these ideas down, especially since I'm switching gears in November. It's back to research on the English family, but this time, during the Revolutionary War.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking for the dead, and the living, and the dead

The past few months I've been chipping away at that brick wall surrounding my great-great grandfather, Thomas S. Maness. One theory is that he is Thomas McSwain "Swain" Maness of Moore County, N.C., but my uncle's DNA didn't match up with someone who had a common ancestor with Swain Maness. We haven't given up, however, because so many clues point to this man.

I made a couple of trips to Asheboro to look at a Maness family book, and I called the author and asked him a few questions. As it turns out, it's one of those perpetual family books — he keeps writing it and adding pages as he finds things out. So by calling him, I found out the name of Swain's daughter by his last (possibly fifth) wife. Better yet, her married name — Cora Brown.

DNA testing requires a straight male line or a female line. But I keep hoping that Swain's descendants, no matter what gender, might have a photo of him to compare with the tintype that we have of Thomas. I found Cora and her family on the census, then her death certificate. The library borrowed microfilm of the newspaper in that area, and voilà! Cora's obituary listed her three daughters (with married names) and where they lived in 1994.

Before I ordered the obituary, I did an online search for the address on Cora's and her husband's death certificates, to verify the area for the right newspaper. I actually found a photo of her house, for sale on a realty site. Just for the serendipity of it, I printed it out.

For Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings blog challenged us to use to search for ourselves. I plugged in my name, as suggested, and got my correct age range, an old address, and it said that my late mother lived with me. We haven't lived together since I went to college. Interesting.

I plugged in the names of Cora's daughters. They should be up in years, but one of them was listed in her 40s. That can't be right, I thought. But the other one, mid-80s, was in a hopeful location compared to the obituary. I opened up my home page at and put her name and city in the white pages, which gave me a phone number and street address. Ah! I thought, one page (like Spokeo) may not give out all kinds of personal information, but putting several things together — obituary, search site, phone book — can lead to real live people!

I called Ms. Myrtle and briefly explained my research. At the last instant, I remembered to be tactful — my family has been chuckling for years about this possible ancestor who married many women (without benefit of divorce or death between them), but here was his family, and they might not know those things. She confirmed that her grandfather was a Maness and a civil war veteran (yes!), but referred me to her older sister for more information.

I then called Ms. Lessie, who is 89 and sharp as a tack (and matched the address of the woman listed in her 40s). Yes, her grandfather was Swain Maness. But no, they didn't know much about him. He died long before they were born. Unfortunately, her grandmother's house (Sarah Brady Maness) burned down, and she didn't think they ever had any pictures or birth certificates or anything like that. That news was a disappointment, but Ms. Lessie gave me one more tidbit.

I had never found anything on Sarah Brady (census, death), who was rumored to have preceded Swain in death. Lessie told me that she was mentioned in a book a relative of hers wrote about the Brady family. She read me the title and the authors, and I looked it up online.

There was a copy in Asheboro.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writer Wednesday Update

Catching up on recent writerly and bookish events...

I volunteered again this year at Writers' Police Academy, Sept. 23-24. I didn't get the awesome, behind-the-scenes photos like last year (part 1 and especially part 2 here), but you can check out Lee Lofland's blog for a write-up on this year's action: Friday and Saturday (fake gore alert!).

Between helping "recruits" find their way around and running errands, I witnessed a hostage situation, listened to Marco Conelli talk about life as a New York undercover cop, and my writer buddies and I got a real "kick" out of Corporal Dee Jackson's personal safety class. Despite fighting an early fall cold and mild fever (another reason for fewer photos), I enjoyed Lee's night-owl session and the banquet with guest speaker Chris Reich. One of my favorite parts is networking with other writers, both new "recruits" and people I met last year.

About two weeks ago, one of my customers called me just before I left the bookshop and said, "Of course, you're going to the library sale tomorrow, aren't you?"

"Tomorrow?!" Although I fuss at the nice FOL volunteers for not putting out any electronic publicity, they seem quite happy with just putting a sign in their yard and inviting members.

Although very strapped for cash, I couldn't resist. I stayed away from ex-libs this time and still came home with some nice finds.
Fashion through the centuries
A genealogy of airplanes to 1954
1898 pocket-sized Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing

My best find was probably this 1883 music book of basic music instruction, folk songs and rounds, hymns, and The Star Spangled Banner. One song contains instructions for when students should bang on their desks. The book includes a page of Useful Advice, such as: Don't talk or laugh loudly when you first go outside into the cold air. Don't sleep with heat that's pumped up from a cellar.

That same afternoon, I went to Jennifer Hudson Taylor's book launch for Highland Sanctuary at Barnes & Noble in Greensboro. (Yay, Jennifer!)

We met through Facebook and Twitter because we have inspirational historical writing and other topics in common. For example, Jennifer has written a historical Quaker novella, set where I currently work part-time, to come out as part of a collection in 2012.

This was probably the first time I ever met one of my "tweeps" in person! I got an autographed copy of Highland Blessings, her first book, so I can start at the beginning of the series.

Here are Jennifer's photos of her book signing (Facebook page).