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Kentucky Death Records, 1852-1953

I learned in an email I received today that Ancestry has added a new database that is of particular interest to me. The Kentucky Death Records, 1852-1953 database includes digitized images of the actual certificates! This is great news! So far, I’ve been able to get copies of the death certificates I needed from this time period for just $1 from a woman I’ve made contact with in Kentucky, but this is even better!

Kalonji, my stepmother’s sister-in-law, and Kalonji’s brother all have ancestry in KY, so I should be able to make great use of this. My friend RW also has some ancestry in parts of Kentucky so I should be able to use it for her as well. This is absolutely great!

William “Bill” Hew Lawhorn 1910-1981

This is a day late, but I want to still post it anyway.

Yesterday was anniversary of the death of my great-grandfather, William Lawhorn. He was born August 12, 1910, one of five children of Samuel Becton Lawhorn and Cora Cox Lawhorn in Craven County, North Carolina. He married my great-grandmother, Pearlie Mae Kilpatrick in 1931 and they had eight children – my grandmother Cora was their second child and eldest daughter. He was a deacon in the church and a member of the local Masonic Lodge.

From what my father and grandmother have told me, I know that he was a very tough-mannered man. My father described him as downright mean. My grandmother told me that he was indeed very strict and she felt quite restricted growing up and not given much freedom. However, to hear Kalonji tell it, he’s going to be just as tough with Kaleya! I also understand though that in his later years he did mellow out and was kind. My mother in fact remembers him as being quite kind.  At my grandmother’s funeral, I learned even more about him and how he interacted with his family. Apparently, he liked to be the man in the area with the “first” of everything – for example, he had the first black man to own a television in their community.

I do not have but a few pictures of him, but this one is how I remember him in my one memory of him. I was only six years old when he died, but I have one memory of going to visit and he took me to the store and bought me one of those really big Peppermint Patties. As I was talking to my grandmother’s brother the day of her funeral, I told him that story and he smiled – he said his father used to do that with all the kids. I am glad I learned that because it provides me another glimpse into his character.

William died from injuries sustained after he fell off of a ladder while at work. I understand that it was a very trying time for the family, as they sued his job because he had no business being on a ladder at his age (71). I actually have some of the court documents that my grandmother gave to me about 10 years ago.

Since sharing some of the family history online, I have come in contact with descendants of his sister Ida, so I hope to be able to in time, learn even more about his family and theirs. This is what is so nice about the internet, those connections to extended family members that are made possible!

Donate to a genealogy cause

Over on the Official Google Blog the other day, they wrote about a website called DonorsChoose that allows teachers to submit ideas that they have for their students, but require funding. People wishing to donate, can then go to the site and choose from the database and contribute to a specific project.

I decided to take a quick look and upon doing a search for genealogy, found this proposal of a teacher in California who wants to encourage her kids to do their family tree and would like each student to have their own copy of Roots. That is really cool! So, I’m sharing it here if anyone is interested and I have donated some myself. Very cool.

I knew that street looked familiar

Over the past week, I’ve had occasion to drive through the Meharry neighborhood a couple of times, and each time I came across Pearl St, I thought to myself.. “that street looks familiar.”

As I am transcribing my notes from researching the Merry’s , I figured out why. Napoleon Merry lived on Pearl Street!

On my last visit to the TN State Archives, I spent some time using the Nashville City Directories. I had not had a chance to really explore directories as a source of genealogical information yet and happened upon them by chance. While I was using them, I overhead one of the library staff members informing someone else that only those who worked in the household were listed, something that I found to be not always true, but the tidbit was helpful.

As it turns out, the Merry’s appear in the directories from in almost every year from 1866 to 1930 (i stopped looking in 1930). It was a very interesting experience. In the process I learned that 8th Street here in Nashville used to be called Spruce Street. Apparently, the name change occurred between 1903 and 1905 as the address of Mrs. Mary A. Merry changed from being 316 N Spruce Street to 316 8th Avenue.

What to follow-up on:

  • Nelson’s son John is listed in 1880 but no other year after that. It lists his address as 66 N McLemore, so I need to find him in the 1880 census.
  • Is the Ada/Addie/Annie Merry listed as widow of John in 1890, 1894, 1897, 1898, and 1901 Nelson’s daughter-in-law?
  • There is a William Merry listed in 1896, 1902, 1905, and 1906 that I have no idea who he is?
  • There is an Edward Merry listed in 1897 who boards with said Addie Merry – who is he?
  • Mrs. Lottie Merry – listed as a cook and living on 1921 Hayes in 1891 – need to find out who she is
  • There are other people too -Henry Merry, Beulah Merry — all worth looking for additional information.

My full notes are here.

Five Question Challenge – School Memories

I was reading Randy’s blog and saw that he took the 5 question challenge from the 24-7 Family History Circle blog.  This will be a good way for me to get a post in, so I think I’ll participate too!

1.  What was your favorite subject in school?  My favorite subject was math. I particularly LOVED geometry. I was able to take two courses of geometry. The first was in the 7th grade. I think what I liked best about geometry was the spatial aspect of it. Plus, I absolutely loved doing proofs – they were the best thing ever to me as I have a very logical mind.  Also, it was in the 7th grade that I read Flatland, a book I have read twice sense then. I am looking forward to the kids taking geometry because I am going to make each on of them read it too.

My second geometry course was in the 12th grade while I was at the NC School of Science & Math. We focused on special topics in geometry and our year was comprised of a myriad of activities to reinforce geometry concepts. It was so neat!

Today, I have a love/hate relationship with math. I still enjoy it, and use it a little bit in my job, but not nearly as much as I used to.

2. In what extra-curricular activities did you participate?  In the 6th grade I was in Safety Patrol.  In the 7th-8th grade I was in choir. When I got to Science & Math, I did Gospel Choir for both the 11th and 12th grades.  At S&M, being in Gospel Choir got us traveling to other cities in NC. We even once went to the science & math school in South Carolina.  Can I sing? No, not really. I can carry a tune, but I wouldn’t claim myself to be a singer. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, my voice is more nasally than I’d like 🙂  But I love to sing! If you ever ride in a car with me, brace yourself. If I am driving, then you WILL listen to me sing.

3. Did you go on field trips, and if so, what was your most memorable field trip?  Yes, we went on field trips all the time. The ones I especially remember is a visit when I was in the 4th grade to a museum in town (Greensboro), where they had a graveyard in the back and we learned how to do gravestone rubbings.  My best field trip was in the 5th grade when we went on a three day trip to Washington DC. I specifically remember that we went to the Washington Monument, to the Jefferson Memorial,  to the Lincoln Memorial and to the Old Post office. When I lived in DC seven years ago, I went to each of these places again and it was great to remember that I had been there when I was 10 years old.

4. What teacher influenced you the most? I have a hard time recalling any specific teacher that I think influenced me more than others. I went to a different school every year until I went to Science & Math for the 11th and 12th grades, so I think this has a lot to do with it. I was simply not at any one school long enough! But, all my teachers at Science & Math were good and I do remember them quite well.  Dr. Myra Halpin, my chemistry teacher, is one favorite as she was just cool.  On the first day of class, we learned the history behind the Morton’s logo – “when it rains, it pours” and she made chemistry fun.  I also had her as  a mentor during what the school calls “Special Projects Week” and she taught me how to use a jigsaw (i was making real wood jigsaw puzzles).  Who wouldn’t find that cool?

5. Did you buy a lunch at school, or bring one from home? What kind of lunchbox? What was your favorite lunch? More often that not, got lunch from school. I have a memory of bringing my lunch when I was in the 4th grade, but I don’t remember if it was a regular occurrence.

This was fun. I’m going to have to get my parents to answer these 🙂

Albert Neely – 1867-1919

For my project on Mt. Ararat Cemetery, I’ve now added two more people in addition to Nelson G. Merry. I found his wife’s death certificate, Mary Jones Merry and though I saw no headstone for her, it does indicate that she is buried in the cemetery as well.

I have also just added Albert Neely 1867-1919. I located his death certificate listed in the TN Death Index for that year, so will likely pull his death certificate during my next trip to the State Archives.

I notice that his tombstone has “K of P” on it – I wonder if this stands for Knights of Pythias?

Researching the Merrys

I continue to look for information on the family of Nelson Merry. I went to the Archives this afternoon and spent a few hours looking up sources. Today, I discovered the joys of using city directories! I’ve not used them in my own research yet, but as I was browsing the shelves in one of the reading rooms at the Archives, I saw them and decided to look.

I am quite glad that I did! I looked through more than 20 years of directories for the families and found some very interesting information. In fact, I was able to quickly locate the death certificate information for Adella Merry Mitchell (daughter of Nelson G. Merry). I noticed from the directory information that the last time she is listed alongside her husband was 1917.

I also finally got a chance to use Stephen Morse’s Enumeration District finder today and had located the family residence in 1920 because of his tool – my text searching had been unsuccessful, so I browsed through the ED that was indicated by his tool and found the residence. By 1920, Edward Mitchell (Adella’s husband) was widowed.

This knowledge then narrowed down my search for Adella’s death immensely. So, going to the TN online index for deaths, I stared with 1917. Wouldn’t you know it was there! Adella Mitchell died July 26, 1917. I will have to go back to the Archives tomorrow to get her death certificate.

Reconnecting with family

This weekend, my uncle found an old address book of my grandmother’s. My mother started calling people in it, just to touch base, and reconnected with a cousin of my grandmother’s that had wondered for the past six years what had happened to her! (My grandmother has Alzheimer’s now and lives in a nursing home).

So, he was ecstatic to hear from my mother and so glad to talk to her. And, he told my mother exactly how he was related. His father and my grandmother’s mother were siblings. I have just gotten off the phone with him and learned a great deal of information! He is 81 years old and just a lucid and in great health. I definitely will call him back! But, now I have more info to document in the tree.

Rev. Nelson Merry’s Obituary

In my last post, I mentioned that I took a trip to Mount Ararat Cemetery in order to locate the tombstone of Rev. Nelson Grover Merry. Today after work, I went to the public library to get his obituary and I found it! His birth year in the obit is wrong (he was born in 1824), but the article gives other details that will be helpful for his descendant to further work backwards.

From the Nashville Banner
Tuesday, July 15, 1884

Death of Rev. N.G. Merry, a Prominent Colored Minister. Appropriate Action Taken by Many Leading Citizens Today.

At 4:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon Rev. N.G. Merry, colored, pastor of the First Colored Baptist church, on Spruce street, breathed his last. The deceased had been pastor of this church for nearly thirty years. In a biographical sketch paper prepared by the officers, trustees and deacons of the church the following appears.

Rev. N.G. Merry was born in Christian county, Ky., on July 10th, 1884; he removed to Tennessee in 1826 where he lived until 1836. He then returned to Kentucky and lived there until 1840. On the 15th day of May of that year, her removed to Nashville and resided here ever since. He was converted, and on November 1st, 1845, at the age of twenty-one years he was baptized in the Cumberland river by Rev. Dr. R.B.C. Howell. From his conversion he was impressed that he must preach the gospel. He commenced to exhort, although with great fear and trembling. He tried to shrink from duty, but the more he tried the stronger became the conviction, that of necessity he must preach. In March, 1852, he received a license to fill the pulpit of the colored branch of the First Baptist church of this city.

A request was made for his ordination, and a council was called on November 20th, 1853, which set him apart for the Christian ministry. Rev. S. Baker, D.D., delivered the ordination sermon, since which time he has been our regular pastor up to the time of his death. He began the pastorate of our church with 100 members. He leaves us with a membership of over 2,400. The deceased leaves a wife and six children. Elder Merry was the best known and most popular colored minister in Tennessee; not only for his great power and fluency of speech, but also for those qualities that distinguish the true Christian and gentleman.

The funeral will occur from the First Colored Baptist church tomorrow, at 2 o’clock, p.m., and will be conducted by Rev. R.B. Vandavell, of East Nashville, assisted by Rev. G.W. Dupee, of Paducah, Ky., Rev. D. A. Gaddie, of Louisville, Ky., the officers of the Preacher’s Union.

Elder Merry was a leader of his people, and was beloved and respected by them no less than by the white citizens of this city.

A meeting of white ministers and other white persons was held at the First Baptist church this morning, in respect to the memory of the deceased colored minister. Among those present at the meeting were Rev. Dr. J.B. McFerrin, Rev. Dr. Strickland, Rev. Dr. O.P. Fitzgerald, Rev. Dr. C.D. Elliott, Judge James Whitworth, Anson Nelson, Dr. J.B. Stephans, Capt. Wm. Stockell, Col. A. S. Colyar, Dr. J. B. Lindsley, T.W. Haley, Dr. J.P. Dake, Sr. and Rev. W.M. Burr.

Rev. Dr. J.B. McFerrin was called to the chair and Anson Nelson appointed secretary.

Rev. Dr. McFerrin, Rev. Dr. Elliott, Col. A.S. Colyar, Dr. J.B. Lindsley, Capt. Wm. Stockell, T.W. Haley, Judge Whitworth, Dr. J.P. Dake, Rev. Dr. O.P. Fitzgerald and Rev. W.M. Burr made remarks appropriate to the occassion.

Rev. Dr. C.H. Strickland, Judge Jas. Whitworth, Col. A.S. Colyar, Anson Nelson, and Rev. Dr. McFerrin were appointed a committee to draw up suitable resolutions. The committee reported as follows:

Resolved, That in the death of Rev. Nelson G. Merry, not only his church and his race have lost one of the noblest men and ablest ministers, but the whole community has sustained a great loss which will be felt for many days to come.

Resolved, That we sincerely condole with his church and his family in the death of so good and so useful a man.

Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be furnished his church and his family, and that the city papers be requested to publish the same.

Rev. Dr. Strickland presented a letter from Bishop McTyeire, and requested Rev. O.P. Fitzgerald to read it, a duty which he performed cheerfully. Following is the letter:

My Dear Dr. Strickland – By the morning paper I see announced the death of Rev. Nelson Merry, pastor of the colored Baptist church for so long a time; and that a meeting of the white ministers of the city is to be held in your Sunday-school room at 10am., to take due notice of the occasion.

Previous and pressing engagements prevent my attendance. I should like to be with you and join in doing honor to one who illustrated our holy vocation, and was an honor to his race.

I have long regarded him one of the strongest factions for good in our city. Judged by the New Testament standard – he is greatest of all who is servant of all – who does the most for the many, then a measure of greatness cannot be denied to the man who has raised up a church and congregation from one hundred to three thousand; who has steadily ruled over them with pastoral kindness and fed and guided a flock that outnumbered Cyprian’s.

In 1881 I had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Spurgeon’s college for training preachers, in the rear of his London tabernacle, and at his request made a short address to his class of seventy odd theologues. Of course, I must tell of America and her churches. Nothing that I said pleased and surprised my audience more than this: That the largest church in Nashville was a Baptist church, and that was a colored church. (Hear, hear, said the Englishmen). The pastor who gathered and instructed this church was a colored man, and he had been their pastor before, through and since the war. And more, they worshiped in a brick meeting house covered with slate and trimmed with stone.

All these were new and grateful revelations, and received with frequent interjections of that little word (hear!) with which an Englishman challenges attention to whatever strikes h im.

No pastor, among all those who have served Nashville churches, with smaller membership and larger opportunity, has ever been able to bring up every soul in his charge, or even a majority to his ideal of what a Christian ought to be. If Nelson Merry has failed here, who has succeeded? But it is not easy to estimate the amount of good, done by his large influence, exerted through so many years. He was ever on the side of order, of temperance, of righteousness; and, I doubt not, being a genuine Christian himself, he led multitudes in the way to Heaven.

It is largely due to what the Baptist and Methodist churches did in this way, for the colored people, that our country, quietly and safely made the tremendous transition from 1861 to 1866. The average statesman, politician, and historian take no account of this mighty influence; but the future philosopher will. Yours very truly — H.N. McTyeire.

Rev. C.D. Elliott, Rev. Dr. Strickland and Anson Nelson were appointed a committee to wiat upon the officers of the First Colored Baptist church and present the proceedings of the meeting.

Mt. Ararat Cemetery

Over the weekend, I have become intrigued by the history of Mt. Ararat cemetery here in Nashville. The cemetery was the first African-American cemetery in the city.

I started to become interested in it because over the weekend I’ve been looking up information about Nelson G. Merry – a very prominent former slave who led a very prominent church here in Nashville. One of my little side projects is posting information from The Nashville Globe, a black newspaper that used to be published here in Nashville. From one of my posts, a descendant of Merry’s contacted me as I had posted the birthday notice of Merry’s wife. As I was looking up information on him and learning that he was buried in this cemetery, I decided yesterday to pay the cemetery a visit today. This is the old entrance to the cemetery – now this one is closed off and you have to go through a side gate to get to the historic side.

There is also a historical marker at the site.

Note to the state of TN – it would be great if the state had an online resource for historical markers like North Carolina does!

So, around noon today, I drove over, found the cemetery very easily and spend about an hour walking the grounds. I found Merry’s tombstone, and it is beautiful! His obelisk is the largest tombstone on that side of the cemetery and is very detailed.

As I walked around (well, as Kaleya and I walked around), I really began to feel connected even more to the history of the place. Some of the people buried here, I’ve come across when reading the Nashville Globe – for example, Dr. Robert F. Boyd is also buried here.

Yesterday, I found this online article that was recently published in the Nashville Scene that includes some information about the cemetery. The article also has a picture of Merry’s tombstone. There is also a picture of a tombstone that is shaped like a wheel, but I didn’t see that one today – I would have loved to have seen it.

It was heartbreaking though to also see how many headstones were broken, overturned, etc. I am glad that it is now being cared for though – but just imagine all the people interned here whose names will not be known. I am glad that I went. I plan to add the pictures I took to Find A so that others can hopefully find them too. Of all the people buried here, there are only 21 people listed on FindAGrave. There is a long list that is online as compiled by a cemetery survey in this county. I may also do something more extensive than this, but I’ve hardly got time for my current projects!

Update: Here is the link to all the pictures that I took. Until I can get them more organized…link to Mt. Ararat pics.