Graham, et. al. v. Graham, et. al.

My most intractable genealog­i­cal brick­wall is the parent­age of Rebec­ca Martha Gra­ham (1831–1880).

Rebec­ca­’s moth­er Jane Gra­ham (1811–1854) is dis­missed by her broth­er David Gra­ham (1821–1914) in his “His­to­ry of Gra­ham Fam­i­ly” (1899) with the fol­low­ing sen­tence: “Jane, the sec­ond daugh­ter of Joseph Gra­ham, died unmar­ried” (80).

On Google Books, how­ev­er, I have found doc­u­men­ta­tion for a case that might lead to the miss­ing father of Rebec­ca Martha Gra­ham. The case is “Gra­ham, et. al. v. Gra­ham, et. al., Decid­ed May 1, 1880, The West Vir­ginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”

As I men­tioned, Rebec­ca was the daugh­ter of Jane Gra­ham and some unknown para­mour. On 1 Nov 1853, Rebec­ca mar­ried Hen­ry Lake Miller (1817–1900). Around the time of this mar­riage, Rebec­ca inher­it­ed $3,000 from her father (I pre­sume this was main­ly land) who died in Mis­souri.

in 1854, Jane died a vio­lent death, for which her broth­er James Gra­ham (1813–1889) was put on tri­al and acquit­ted.

Lit­i­ga­tion on the Gra­ham v. Gra­ham chancery case began in 1859, and the case did not make its way com­plete­ly through to the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court of Appeals until 1879, being decid­ed in 1880. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Rebec­ca died one month and 11 days after win­ning her judg­ment. She died of dysen­tery.

But what was the case about? Rebec­ca Martha Gra­ham’s grand­moth­er, Rebec­ca Gra­ham (1786–1876) had received “prop­er­ty” (land and a slave named Dinah) in the will of her father, James Gra­ham (1741–1813). The rel­e­vant por­tion of the will reads:

I give unto my Daugh­ter Rebeck­ah Gra­ham and her chil­dren, that plan­ta­tion where she now lives known by the name of Stephen­sons Cab­bin [sic] also I give unto her and her chil­dren my Negro girl named Dinah, the Land and Negro nev­er to be dis­posed of out of the Fam­i­ly nor the increase of the Negro if any she has.

Because the elder Rebec­ca Gra­ham was mar­ried, her hus­band Joseph Gra­ham had “own­er­ship” of this prop­er­ty. After he died, his wid­ow sold the two chil­dren of Dinah (Ira and Stu­art), and the bulk of the remain­ing chil­dren sued for a por­tion of the pro­ceeds.

Whether or not this case yields the name and any par­tic­u­lars about Rebec­ca Martha Gra­ham’s father, I’m sure it will be a case that reveals a great deal about rur­al ante­bel­lum West Vir­ginia.

The main reminder here, how­ev­er, is not to for­get key sources, such as court cas­es. While not as often used as some oth­er sources, such as vital records or cen­sus records, the records of court cas­es can be quite reveal­ing.

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Dr. Anna Julia Cooper

Dr. Anna Julia Cooper
Dr. Anna Julia Coop­er

“The cause of free­dom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a par­ty or a class — it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of human­i­ty.”

– Dr. Anna Julia Coop­er

At the NGS Fam­i­ly His­to­ry Con­fer­ence on Sat­ur­day, I was lucky enough to attend the Wake Coun­ty lun­cheon.

The con­fer­ence includes sev­er­al oppor­tu­ni­ties to hear speak­ers over lunch for a fee. The fee includes the price of the lunch and also serves as a fund rais­er for the orga­ni­za­tion that has put togeth­er the event. These are almost always lec­tures, and while the lec­tures are more enter­tain­ing and light than those offered at the rest of the con­fer­ence, they are lec­tures.

The Wake Coun­ty Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety (of which I am a not-very-active mem­ber) chose to do this dif­fer­ent­ly. Instead of hav­ing one speak­er, they had a troup of actors per­form­ing a play tai­lored for the occa­sion. The play was based on the lives of his­tor­i­cal per­son­ages of Wake Coun­ty. While there were some rough edges to the per­for­mance, with some dropped lines, it was a very pow­er­ful per­for­mance. Espe­cial­ly of note were the por­tray­als of Joel Lane, founder of Raleigh and Dr. Anna Julia Coop­er. Of these, the pre­sen­ta­tion of Dr. Coop­er was the most affect­ing.

Dr. Coop­er was an edu­ca­tor and writer. She was the fourth African-Amer­i­can woman to receive a doc­tor­ate degree, and did so at the age of 65, shat­ter­ing bar­ri­ers of race, gen­der and age. She was born in slav­ery and lived to the age of 105, dying in 1964. She lived Amer­i­can his­to­ry from the Civ­il War to Civ­il Rights.

To read more about Dr. Coop­er, see the Wikipedia arti­cle on her life, or read her most famous book, A Voice from the South on the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na’s Doc­South web­site.

Image © Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill. This work is the prop­er­ty of the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by indi­vid­u­als for research, teach­ing and per­son­al use as long as this state­ment of avail­abil­i­ty is includ­ed in the text. Coop­er, Anna J., 1892, A Voice from the South, Xenia, Ohio: The Aldine Print­ing House, Doc­u­ment­ing the Amer­i­can South. Uni­ver­si­ty Library, The Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill, 2000,

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Kindle DX E‑Book Reader

Last week, Ama­zon announced the impend­ing release of their third gen­er­a­tion e‑book read­er, the Kin­dle DX. (See the New York Times arti­cle on the announce­ment.)

The Ama­zon Kin­dle has cre­at­ed some­what of a sen­sa­tion with what are thought to be “iPod-like” sales num­bers. (Ama­zon has so far suc­ceed­ed in keep­ing the actu­al sales num­bers pri­vate.) Ama­zon does say a cou­ple of inter­est­ing things, how­ev­er, about the num­ber of books that Kin­dle read­ers buy. Accord­ing to Ama­zon’s fig­ures, pur­chasers of Kin­dle e‑book read­ers buy as many tra­di­tion­al books as they did before, and are sup­ple­ment­ing their pur­chas­es of books on paper with pur­chas­es of e‑books.

Step­ping away from the hype, the Kin­dle comes in for con­sid­er­able crit­i­cism, main­ly around the issue of dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment. Just as with ear­ly ver­sions of the Apple iPod, the Ama­zon Kin­dle has been cre­at­ed with very tight dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment, which lim­its cus­tomers from shar­ing their books with oth­er Kin­dle own­ers, giv­ing their books away after they have read them, donat­ing them to a library, and so on, which are stan­dard ways peo­ple think about books. Not only is a Kin­dle own­er pre­vent­ed from down­load­ing and read­ing a Kin­dle book on any Kin­dle they do not per­son­al­ly own, if Ama­zon ever stopped sup­port­ing the Kin­dle, there is no clear method to allow any­one to read the books they have “invest­ed” in.

There was also some mis­guid­ed flak from the Authors Guild about the com­put­er voice that can “read” books to you on a Kin­dle. The nov­el­ist, e‑book pro­po­nent, and Kin­dle crit­ic, Cory Doc­torow wrote an illu­mi­nat­ing piece in The Guardian about how wrong-head­ed the Guild was in oppos­ing the “read-to-me” fea­ture of the Kin­dle (which also exists on every com­put­er with a recent ver­sion of Adobe Acro­bat Read­er).

“But why should geneal­o­gists care?” you might ask. While there are 275,000 titles avail­able, very few of those are specif­i­cal­ly genealog­i­cal in nature. The main mar­ket for the Kin­dle and its read­ers is con­tem­po­rary best-sell­ing fic­tion and non-fic­tion. While there’s some over­lap there, with some nov­els illus­trat­ing the time peri­ods of our ances­tors’ lives, and some non-fic­tion best sell­ers being excel­lent vol­umes of his­to­ry, the con­nec­tion seems ten­u­ous.

The real ben­e­fit for geneal­o­gists in the Kin­dle is that its plat­form is not entire­ly closed. In addi­tion to read­ing books for­mat­ted for the Kin­dle itself, it can also read books from the pub­lic domain con­vert­ed into Mobipock­et for­mat. Tens of thou­sands of these books are avail­able on sev­er­al sites includ­ing, and But, since these books are also main­ly not of inter­est to geneal­o­gists, a more com­pelling fea­ture of the Kin­dle is that (in its first two ver­sions) it can con­vert PDF and Word doc­u­ments to Kin­dle for­mat. The con­ver­sion is not per­fect, though, and some files sim­ply don’t work.

Kin­dle DX and Geneal­o­gy: Here’s where the Kin­dle DX comes in. The Kin­dle DX reads PDF files native­ly. This means that geneal­o­gists will be able to down­load any PDF file they have access to, whether it’s a pub­lic domain PDF of a local his­to­ry from the 1890s down­loaded from Google Books or their genealog­i­cal soci­ety’s newslet­ter, and take it with them in a device that is about the size of a piece of paper and 1/3 of an inch thick. Since the device has 3.3 GB of stor­age, there’s plen­ty of room for books. The Kin­dle is near­ly instant-on (try that with your Vista lap­top!), and less of a strain on the eyes than a com­put­er mon­i­tor because it’s not back­lit. The Kin­dle also allows for easy book­mark­ing, high­light­ing and copy­ing of por­tions of text. It keeps track of where you were the last time you opened any doc­u­ment.

So, you heard it here first, the Kin­dle DX will be an attrac­tive addi­tion to the geneal­o­gist’s gad­get bag, lim­it­ed only by its $489 list price.

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Top 10 Genealogy Websites

Today, Randy Seaver post­ed to his blog Genea-Mus­ings his list of top 10 favorite geneal­o­gy web­sites.He men­tions that he’s tak­ing off from a trend we’ve seen on Face­book, of the “5 items I have” known, seen, met, and so on. And, of course, list mak­ing is a long and hon­ored tra­di­tion.

With­out too much fur­ther ram­bling, I’ll share my own top 10 list of geneal­o­gy sites.

This list, like any “best of” list will change from day to day. What it looks like today will cer­tain­ly not be iden­ti­cal to how it would look tomor­row or would have looked last week. All the rel­e­vant list caveats apply. So, here goes:

  1. ($, por­tions free) (includ­ing ) — The amount of data here is vast. As are the tools, from their geneal­o­gy soft­ware, Fam­i­lyTreeMak­er, to DNA research.
  2. ($, por­tions free) — The folks at Foot­note sim­ply under­stand Web 2.0 and pro­vide some­thing between Ances­try, Flickr, and Face­book. Mean­while, their part­ner­ship with the Nation­al Archives con­tin­ues to reap rewards for users of the site.
  3. (free, with a dona­tion mod­el) — This site is weird­ly com­pelling. It’s a pow­er­ful way to gath­er data, with the vast major­i­ty of infor­ma­tion con­tributed by “care­tak­ers” of the fam­i­ly records, and yet these adding up to viru­tal grave­yards.
  4. (free) — An amaz­ing and ambi­tious por­tal into LDS records and geneal­o­gy tools.
  5. Steve Morse’s One-Step Web­site (free) — I find the search algo­rithms here very help­ful to break through prob­lems where I don’t know enough to search a site direct­ly (or don’t know what par­tic­u­lar mis­spelling is in my way). Steve’s site runs mul­ti­ple search­es behind the scenes so that you don’t have to do them all in a man­u­al fash­ion.
  6. EOGN — East­man’s Online Geneal­o­gy Newslet­ter ($, por­tions free) — Dick East­man inhab­its the cen­ter of the space where geneal­o­gy and tech­nol­o­gy inter­sect. If you’re inter­est­ed in that over­lap, and you hap­pen not to have seen this blog, you real­ly ought to take a look. East­man keeps me up-to-date on tech­nol­o­gy I can use in geneal­o­gy.
  7. GNIS (free) — The USGS Geo­graph­i­cal Names Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem. This is very handy for find­ing out the loca­tion of streams, church­es, and so on. If it was ever list­ed on a US Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey map as a fea­ture or place, it’s in this data­base.
  8. (free) — This is a locale-based list­ing of avail­able sites. I find it help­ful to look here when I start work­ing in a new coun­ty or state. The site helps me find loca­tion-spe­cif­ic online resources I might not find any oth­er way.
  9. — Like Ances­try, this is a great site, full of pow­er­ful data­bas­es.
  10. ($, por­tions free) — I’m real­ly impressed with how the folks at Geneal­o­gy­Bank do sim­ple things. For exam­ple, their free Secu­ri­ty Death Index results you the birth and death dates, just as many oth­er sites do, but they also cal­cu­late the age at death. Addi­tion­al­ly, they use the “Last Res­i­dence” zip code to pro­vide lat/long data you can use to quick­ly map the loca­tion.

But I’d be inter­est­ed in know­ing what’s on your list, and learn­ing about new sites that will end up being on my list next time I com­pile one.

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