Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lyda Ellen Maxwell Perry

Where did the summer go?!?  I didn’t intend to take four months off from writing, it just sort of happened one week at a time.  I haven’t been idle; indeed, carrying on my genealogical research has become virtually a second job.  Not many people “relax” by spending hours scanning microfilm or searching dusty tomes at a library or historical archive.  But my writing has suffered – not for lack of material or inspiration but rather the opposite, a wavering indecision and paralysis of will brought on by profusion, indeed a surfeit, of ancestral distractions.  Now, I’ll try once again to return to a regular schedule of publishing.  I may change up the style of this blog and experiment a bit in the coming weeks, interspersing shorter posts among the longer expository as I share my discoveries with you.  I will put less emphasis on the “instructional” aspects of genealogical blogging, and more on sharing personal research.

This beautiful young lady was my mother’s father’s mother, Lyda Ellen Maxwell.  Lyda was born 24 Oct 1890 in Amsterdam, Decatur County, Georgia, the fifth of ten children of J. A. O. Maxwell and Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell, though the first-born, an unnamed son, died at one day old in 1879, and only seven of the ten would live into adulthood.  And Lyda and another brother both died at age 31.  I’m not sure when this picture was taken, but my guess is 1904, certainly between 1902 and 1906. 

Remember, you can click on any image to view a larger version.

In 1900, Lyda lived with her parents J.A.O. Maxwell (spelled out as “Jay A”) and Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell (inexplicably named “Lizzie R”; a nickname, perhaps? This is the only place where I’ve seen her so named.), and her siblings, near Attapulgus, Decatur County, Georgia.  ( inexplicably has the name indexed as Maswell.  Go figure!)

Census images courtesy of

This second picture was apparently taken the same day as the solo portrait above, and portrays Lyda with some of her brothers and sisters.  Someone has scrawled this legend on the back:
Brother Oliver Maxwell's children. Two oldest not here.
He had 3 boys and 5 girls.
The largest boy here was Bessie Maxwell's husband - Malcolm.
The little boy, Corry, was crippled and died young.
In picture:
1 Lyda (wife of John Isaiah Perry Sr.)
2 Sallie (Aunt Sarah)   3 Julia,   4 Elsie
5 Nancy (Aunt Nan) not in picture
6 Joseph not in picture
7 Malcolm
8 Corry

The “two oldest” mentioned were Joseph, born in 1880, and Nancy, who was born in 1883.  Lyda was born in 1890, Sarah in 1892footnote 1, Malcolm in 1893, Corry in 1895, and the two youngest girls, Julia and Elsie, were born in 1897 and 1899.  (I actually think the youngest girls’ names are reversed in the picture’s caption.)  In 1902, their ages would have been Lyda 12, Sarah 10, Malcolm 9, Corry 7, Julia 5, and Elsie 3.  Four years later, in 1906, Lyda would have been 16, and the younger girls would have been 7 and 9, which seems a little old for the pictured children, so that’s why I settled on an approximate date of 1904, when Lyda would have been 14, Sarah 12, Malcolm 11, Corry 9, Julia 7 and Elsie 5.  As a further circumstantial clue, elder sister Nancy Mae Maxwell married Matthew Henry Overstreet on 16 May 1904, so this could be a group shot of the rest of the bride’s siblings taken during the wedding festivities.  It’s an interesting possibility.  To-Do Item: Try to find some Overstreet cousins who may still have wedding pictures of Nancy and Matthew Overstreet, possibly including the parents of the bride.

My great grandfather John Isaiah Perry, Sr., married Lyda in Decatur County, Georgia, on 17 May 1908, when she was seventeen-and-a-half.  (See my previous post on my Perry line discussing John Sr.)  He was twelve years her senior.  I still don’t have the marriage record or marriage license, but this summer I located a transcription of the index to Decatur County Marriage Records, 1825-1945, at the Decatur County GAGenWeb pages of the GAGenWeb Project (  To-Do Item: Contact the Decatur County Clerk's office in Bainbridge to order a copy of the marriage license.

Census images courtesy of

By the time of the 1910 census, enumerated in June just after their second anniversary, tragedy had struck again, for the census shows that she had born one child, but none were living.  The 1910 census was taken on the 18th of April, so Lyda was seven months pregnant with my grandfather.  Unfortunately, the 1920 census did not question women on the number of births and surviving children.  I know that one son, Jessie, was born in September 1913 and died in March 1914 while she was visiting her parents down in Attapulgus, Decatur County, Georgia, just 60 miles southwest of John & Lyda’s home in Sale City, Mitchell County.  I found his grave near to those of his grandparents J.A.O. Maxwell and Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell in Piedmont Cemetery, in Calvary, Georgia. 
There are also two unmarked child-sized grave covers at the feet of John and Lyda’s graves in the cemetery at Sale City (see below).  That implies there might be a third, unknown child who died in infancy or early childhood.  Another To-Do Item: try to find out if the Sale City cemetery has active management and records from the first decades of the 20th Century in hopes of discovering the identities and burial dates of the two persons buried in the unmarked graves.    

The picture here at left (courtesy of Barbara Perry Walker) of Lyda with sons John I, Jr, and Maxwell (my grandfather), and she is holding a baby Ruth, so this would be about 1915. 

This second picture (courtesy of Ann Perry Jones) show Lyda with son Maxwell (standing to the left) and Maxwell’s cousins, the children of Lyda’s sister Nancy Maxwell Overstreet, taken about 1918.  Starting with Maxwell in the upper left and proceeding clockwise the picture shows Wilbur, Juanita, Doris, Nell and little baby Ralph Overstreet, who is being held by Lyda Maxwell Perry. 

In 1920 the census shows John and Lyda living on Barnes Street, on the north side of Sale City, with sons Maxwell, age 9, John I Jr, 7 and William P, 6 months, and daughter Ruth, age 5footnote 2.  John Sr was a prosperous merchant, owning a dry goods store in Sale City and selling to farmers throughout the neighboring counties.  But this happy world soon came to a crashing end.  On January 8, 1922, Lyda Ellen Maxwell Perry, age 31, died suddenly.  Her death certificatefootnote 3 lists the cause of death as “apoplexy” – essentially the diagnosis at the time for any sudden loss of consciousness followed quickly by death (see the article on Apoplexy in Wikipedia).  I know that my mother told me her father was terribly devoted to his mother, so I think it must have been a terrible blow to him and his siblings to lose her at such an early age.  This was a terrible time again for the family.  The next month, in February, John Sr’s brother Jesse Green Perry took ill and died unexpectedly at the age of 39, leaving behind a wife (Harriet "Hattie" P Mason, 1892-?) and young daughter (Frances Perry, 1916-?).  Then in August 1923 John Sr's mother Elizabeth Margrette Cutts Perry died after a short illness; she was only 69.  Elizabeth Perry's tombstone was shown in a previous post.

John Isaiah Perry, Sr, Family Plot, Sale City Cemetery, Sale City, Mtichell County, Georgia
Top (left) row, near to far: Lyda Ellen Maxwell Perry (1890-1922), John Isaiah Perry, Sr (1878-1956); Bottom (right) row, near to far: two unidentified infant graves, Elizabeth Margarette Cutts Perry (John Sr’s mother, 1854-1923), unidentified grave (possibly a child?), and Jesse Green Perry (John Sr’s brother, 1883-1922).

Footnote 1: The 1900 Census gives a Jun 1888 birth for “Sallie Maxwell”; I can't find a 1910 census listing her.  By the 1920 census she is married to Paul A. Branch and living near John & Lyda Perry in Sale City.  The census reports that she is 28, which would mean she was born about 1892).  The 1930 census gives her age as 37 (born about 1893).  And finally, her tombstone gives her birth date as 29 June 1892. Which is it?? Is she two years older or two years younger than my great grandmother Lyda Maxwell Perry?

Footnote 2: Frank Maxwell, born in 1910, John Isaiah Jr in 1912, Ruth in 1914, and William Preston Perry II, born in 1919 and named after his grandfather who fought in the Civil War and died in 1908, the year John Sr and Lyda were married.

Footnote 3: Death certificate saved 10 Sep 2010 from the Georgia’s Virtual Vault web site of the Georgia Archives; Death Certificates, Vital Records, Public Health, RG 26-5-95, Georgia Archives; (

That’s about it for now.

 Later y’all,


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