Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thomas Henry Stringer

Thomas Henry Stringer, 1869-1933, was my great grandfather (my father’s mother’s father, as I discussed a few months ago in this post [click]). Thomas was born 26 March 1869 in Statesboro, Bulloch County, Georgia, to Robert Frances Stringer (1828-1910) and Martha (Margaret) Elizabeth Sheppard (1836-1875).  He is on the 1870 census with his parents living in Brier Patch, Bulloch County, Georgia.  This isn’t a town, but another name for Georgia Militia District 47, which is in the southeast corner of the county, essentially south of Brooklet and east of Lower Black Creek.  This picture of him is from about 1904.  Unfortunately, he seems to have disappeared from the census for the next thirty years.  I can’t find an 1880 census for his parents.  There isn’t a surviving 1890 census record, and I can’t find Thomas in the 1900 census.

Fortunately I have a couple of other sources of information.  The first is the family Bible of Thomas and Hattie Stringer (my aunt Mildred Jones Helmey has the original; the digital copies are courtesy of my cousin Michelle Winter Buhler).  The second is a Spanish War Invalid Pension Application that Thomas filled out in 1924 (again the digital copy is courtesy of my cousin Michelle).  The family Bible gives a basic framework, indicating that he married Hattie Mosell Williams on 21 March 1901 at Augusta, Georgia.  They had five children: Essie Lee (19 March 1903), Lilian Mae (14 August 1905, also spelled “Lillie Mae”), Francis Magadelin (5 February 1907; my grandmother), Thomas Shepard (2 September 1908), and Walter Hartridge (8 August 1910).  Essie Lee married Leroy “Roy” Lynn in 1919, had one daughter who died at 3 weeks of age in 1920, and died in 1935.  Lillie Mae married Frank Sapp in 1921, Maggie married James Dewey Jones in 1928, Thomas married Minnie Rose Knight in 1929, and Walter married Effie Barber in 1931.   

According to Thomas’s Pension Application (dated 12 May 1924), he enlisted on 29 July 1898 in Company M of the 2nd Georgia [Infantry] Volunteer Regiment, and was honorably discharged at Savannah, Georgia, on 22 November 1898.  On succeeding pages of the application, dated 6 June 1924, he stated that he was born on 26 March 1869 in Statesboro, Bulloch County, Georgia, and that in July 1898 when he enlisted he lived in Bulloch County but his mailing address was Rocky Ford.  Rocky Ford is across the Ogeechee River, in Screven County, so he must have been living in northeast Bulloch County, in Militia District 46 (also know as Lockhart).  Further, in his pension application he states the after discharge he lived at Rocky Ford from 1899 to 1901, though at some point he travelled to Augusta, for he states that he was married to Hattie M. Williams Stringer on 21 March 1901 at North Augusta, Aiken County, South Carolina, by Louis Shillers (spelled “Schiller” in the family Bible).

After that, again referring to the pension application papers, he lived in Statesboro from 1902 to 1904, Adabelle (southwestern Bulloch County) from 1905 to 1915, 1916 to 1921 in Egypt (40 miles to the northeast, across the Ogeechee River in Effingham County), and finally outside of Manassas (in the Haw Pond district), northwest of Claxton in the newly-created Evans County from 1922 through 1924, and as later supplements indicated, until his death.

All of this disagrees somewhat with the census when it picks up again in 1910, which showed him living in Militia District 1366 of Tattnall County (which was Haw Pond district of Evans County after that was formed in 1915).  According to the census he was a farm laborer, renting his house of Cobbtown Road.  The 1920 census places him in Haw Pond, Evans County, again farming on rented land.  According to James Sapp, the oldest surviving grandchild and the only one I know of who still remembers Thomas Stringer, the family were tenant farmers, as were many other members of the Jones and Stringer families from the end of the 19th century and through the first decades of the 20th century.  So it may be that he simplified the amount of moving he did for the sake of the pension application, or that he was only living at certain farms for a season, which corresponded with the census.  That would also explain why he is difficult to locate, and may not even exist, in some of the earlier censuses. 

Census images courtesy of (subscription required)
On 21 July 1921, Thomas’ beloved wife Hattie died of “apoplexy” (a term applied to any sudden loss of consciousness followed by death).  Thomas struggled on, raising his younger children with the help of the older ones, though he was apparently himself in failing health.  If you notice the signatures on the 1924 pension application they are those of his two sons in law, Roy Lynn and Frank Sapp.  Thomas would live with Frank and Lillie Mae Sapp the rest of his life.  Thomas requested an increase in his monthly pension, from $30 to $40, in 1930 “due to increased infirmity”, and requests again were made in 1931 and 1932 by his friends and relations, because he suffered increasing infirmity of body and mind, to the point of being “confused and feeble” much of the time.  According to the 1930 census, he is unemployed and living with the Sapps in Militia District 1738 (Canoochee), Evans County, Georgia.  (This disagrees with the location listed as Manassas, which supposedly is in Haw Pond, but the boundaries were rather fluid, and Canoochee looks to have been created out of Haw Pond, though I haven’t determined when.

Finally, on 1 Jul 1933, at the age of 64, Thomas Henry Stringer died in Claxton.  According to daddy's cousin James Sapp, Thomas went into Claxton to pick up his pension check, accompanied by his son-in-law Frank Sapp.  James says that when he went into town he would usually pick up some candy for the grandchildren. He collapsed on the sidewalk after leaving the general store with the candy and was carried to a doctor's office, where he died.  My father was born the following year, and thus never got the opportunity to know his maternal grandparents.

That’s about it for now.

 Later y’all,


Thomas H & Hattie Moselle Stringer with oldest child Essie Mae (about 1904)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nancy Patterson McNair

Nancy Patterson McNair
(courtesy of Christy Spooner)
Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell’s death certificate (see my last post) also notes that her mother was Nancy Patterson.  It’s difficult to discover much about Nancy’s early life.  I haven’t seen any contemporaneous records covering those years and must rely on what others have said, in published or unpublished family histories.  Remember, you can click on any image in this blog to see a larger version.

According to Nancy’s tombstone she was born 18 October 1816 to William and Ruth Patterson, was married to Robert M. McNair, and died 29 January 1905.  Tombstones can be wildly inaccurate, depending on when and by whom they were placed, but it’s as good a place as any to start when there’s not much else to start with.  It certainly agrees with the information I already have on Robert McNair.  There is the marriage license issued in Decatur County to Robert M. McNair and Nancy Patterson showing they were wed on 23 December 1835.  The ages given for the 1840, 1850 and 1860 censuses which cover the years of her marriage to Robert McNair (20-29, 34 and 43 respectively) seem consistent with the tombstone, within a reasonable margin of variation.

It’s difficult to add much to Nancy Patterson’s early life.  Remember, censuses prior to 1850 only showed the name of the head of the household.  I have discovered at the Georgia’s Virtual Vault web site a reference to the marriage of a William Patterson and a Ruth Clements on 1 February 1809 (Jefferson County Marriage Book A, 1803-1880, p.22; Marriage Books, Jefferson County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives). This book is a typed transcription by the Clerk's Office, so not quite as good as the ones I usually copy, but it’s apparently official.  My guess, not having seen the originals, is that they are too far deteriorated to allow for casual inspection.  Still, it’s better than nothing.  So, if William and Ruth wed in early 1809 it’s possible that Nancy was also born there in Jefferson County.  So far I’ve had no luck finding them on the 1810, 1820 or 1830 censuses.  The first two are hardly surprising since so few portions of the Georgia census for those years survive, but I still have hopes they will be in found eventually in the 1830 census.  They were certainly in Decatur County, Georgia, by 1835 for Nancy married Robert McNair there that year.
Census image courtesy of (subscription required)

After Robert died in 1869, Nancy continued to live in Decatur County, running the family farm and raising her younger children during the hard years of the Reconstruction.  The 1870 census shows the family consisted of Nancy (54), Robert P (25), Joseph W (23), Thomas M (21), Mary C (17), Sarah E (15) and Permelia R (13).  Robert Patterson McNair would remain unwed and living with his mother until she died.  In 1880, the household contained Nancy (63), Robert (35), Catie (27) and 17 year old granddaughter J [or I][something: difficult to read the handwriting], plus two black farm laborers, Henry Williams & John Mills (both 20).  I haven’t figured out yet whose daughter the granddaughter might be, or even if she was really a McNair and not the some other last name.  Add that to my To Do list!  There is no surviving 1890 census, and by 1900 there are only Robt P (55) and his mother Nancy (83) remaining on the farm; there is no mention of farm laborers living with them on this census.
Census image courtesy of (subscription required
Nancy Patterson McNair
(courtesy of Christy Spooner)
Nancy passed away 29 January 1905 and was buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery, near Climax, Decatur County, Georgia.  Thanks to my cousin Christy Spooner I now have pictures of her headstone and grave site.  We’ve not yet found any mention of where her husband, the good doctor Robert Martin McNair might be buried.  In 1910, the census showed the 64-year old Robert P McNair living by himself on the farm, but by 1920 he had help.  He was living with his sister’s son Alonzo Jones and his family.  As near as I can tell, it was the same farm.  To Do Item: check property records for ownership of the McNair/Jones farm. 

Robert Patterson McNair died 3 July 1925 and was buried at Piedmont Cemetery in Calvary, Grady County, Georgia.  (Grady County was created from Decatur and Thomas counties in August 1905.  The McNairs lived for over 40 years in Georgia Militia District 553, which is in the southwest corner of the present-day Grady County, and thus was part of Decatur County through 1905.)  Robert P’s grave is right next to the graves of his sister and brother-in-law, my great-great grandparents Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell and J.A.O. Maxwell.  His grave site is overgrown with small trees and brush, and it would probably be a major undertaking to clear it away and require permission from the cemetery management, but someone apparently still remembers him each year around Confederate Memorial Day, because there was a clean flag stuck into the ground next to the grave when I was there in April.  If you can understand this, you can begin to understand something of the character of the South, Old and New.
Robert Patterson McNair
That’s about it for now.

Later y’all,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dr. Robert Martin McNair

In discussing my 2nd great grandmother Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell’s death certificate in my last post, I made the comment that finding out that her father was a doctor (Dr. Robert McNair) was a new piece of information.  I should have checked my research notes and email history more closely.  As my cousin Christy Spooner reminded me, we had a conversation about Dr. McNair back in June.  It was Christy who first brought the information up, having discovered a reference to him being a doctor in someone’s family tree.  My comment at the time was: 
Since the 1850 and 1860 census lists Robert's occupation as Farmer i doubt he was a doctor, unless he was a "country doctor", who tended to people and animals on the side so to speak. But as you know, records tend to be sparse in southwest Georgia, so it's possible.
As usual, the more certain I am of a “fact”, the faster I’m shot down!  The statement on the death certificate by Robert McNair’s granddaughter Julia Maxwell Bower that he was a doctor is a powerful supporting argument for the conclusion that he was indeed a doctor.  Yes, it’s second-hand information; she was after all born 28 years after his death.  But the close association of Julia and her mother throughout her life means that she would likely have heard the stories of her parents and grandparents many times.  We still have no indication of any formal medical training, but it’s certainly worth pursuing that avenue of research, and we can certainly move this particular piece of information into the “likely” category at the very least.  So Christy, as I sit down to enjoy my big plate of humble pie a la mode, I hope you’ll forgive me for forgetting our conversation and for being so quick to discount it earlier.  And I say a hearty, “Good job, Christy!

Since I’ve started I will continue with Dr. McNair and what else we think we know about him. 

According to an unpublished McNair family history, Robert Martin McNair was born 16 March 1807 to Daniel Gilbert McNair (1783-1834) and Ann Martin (1790-??), probably in Richmond County, Georgia.  The family moved to Decatur by 1830 because Daniel McNair shows up on the 1830 census in Decatur County, and there is a male aged 20-29 living in the household.  (Prior to 1850 the US federal census listed only the names of the heads of household.  There are counts of other members of the family, broken down by age group and sex.)  The first record of Robert is a marriage license issued in Decatur County to Robert M. McNair and Nancy Patterson on 22 December 1835.  They were married the next day.

License image is from Decatur County Marriage Book AA, 1824-1841, page 112; Marriage Books, Decatur County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives;,120048.
The 1840 census doesn’t show names of the members of the household, either, but there is a Robert M. McNair listed for Decatur County, and the members of his household consist of 3 free white males under 5, 1 white male 30-39, 1 white female 20-29, 1 male slave 24-35, and 1 female slave 24-35.  Then, in 1850, he is listed with his wife and children, Robert (42), Nancy (34), Daniel (14), William (12), James (10), Sophronia (8), John (6), Robert (5), Joseph (4) and Martin (1).
Census image courtesy of (access provided with library card)
In 1860, the family is shown living in the Attapulgus area of Decatur County: Robert (53), Nancy (43), John T (20), Saphronia (18), Robert (16), Joseph (13), Thomas (11), Ellen (9), Catherin (7), Sarah (5) and Permelia (2). 
Census image courtesy of (subscription required)
There is a book called 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia (Nancy J. Cornell; Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD, USA; 2000) which was a census of all white men aged 16 to 60 who weren’t then already serving in the armed forces of the CSA.  On page 188, in the 8th Senatorial District, 553rd Militia District, the census lists two McNairs:
MCNAIR, R. M., 56 yrs. 10 mos., Farmer, b. GA
MCNAIR, W. G., 48 yrs. 2 mos., Farmer, b. GA

Using the presumed birth date in March 1807 and adding 56 years and 10 months gives January 1864, which is the “date of record” for that 1864 census.  Robert also had a brother, William Green McNair, born 7 November 1815; so adding the stated age of 48 years and 2 months again we get January 1864.  I love it when the figures all add up!  If you have an subscription the 1864 Census book can be found there, available for searching or browsing, at

Census image courtesy of (subscription required)
The 1870 census does not show marital status.  However, in 1870 Nancy McNair is shown as the head of the household, which includes Nancy (54), Robert P (25), Joseph W (23), Thomas M (21), Mary C (17), Sarah E (15) and Permelia R (13).  The implication is that Robert Martin McNair had died by 1870.  (If you’ll notice, the McNairs are family number 4 on this census sheet.  Family number 1, at the top of the page, is the Maxwells, and line 4 is James A.O. Maxwell, who would later marry Permelia R McNair.  So they were childhood neighbors!)   

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a tombstone or obituary for Robert.  I did however find another mention of him, in the book Gleanings from Grady County, Georgia (Wessie Connell, Frank W. Roebuck and Barbara C. Williams, editors; Roddenbery Memorial Library, Cairo, GA, USA; 1987).  On page 187, in an entry entitled “Overstreet/McNair/Maxwell Family” by H. W. Overstreet, Mr. Overstreet records a bit of family history. 
Daniel Gilbert McNair came to the Calvary settlement from Warren County, Georgia, in 1825.  His wife was Annie Martin.  They raised seven children; one was Robert Martin McNair (1805-1869) who was a country doctor in Calvary.  He married Nancy Patterson (1818-1905) and they had twelve children.
(Henry Wilbur Overstreet, 1908-1986, passed on just before the book was released.  He was my first cousin, twice removed.  His mother, Nancy May Maxwell, was Robert's granddaughter, Permelia McNair Maxwell's daughter, elder sister of my great-grandmother Lyda Ellen Maxwell.)  So even though all the census records list Robert McNair as a farmer, here’s another bit of a clue that he was more than that.  So I’ll repeat myself, “Good job, Christy!”  And as a bonus I get a probable year of death for Robert as well, which lends credence to the supposition that Nancy was a widow in 1870.

So for someone I don’t know much about it’s amazing how much can be gleaned in bits and pieces.  If you take a fact here and a document there and a scrap of information from somewhere else, you can begin to build a plausible, even probable, image of an ancestor long-gone and poorly documented.  Are there pictures out there, somewhere, in the hands of other descendants, unknown cousins perhaps?  Are there tattered diaries or other documents in some library or museum, lying unrecognized and unacknowledged, just waiting for the right person to come along?  I may, perhaps, one day make the journey and the search in pursuit of such evidence, but until then … I can dream, can’t I?

That’s about it for now. 

Later y’all,

Sunday, October 16, 2011


My great-grandmother Lyda Ellen Maxwell Perry’s parents were J. A. O. Maxwell and Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell.  Like many of my ancestors Permelia (or Amelia, or simply Melia, as she seemingly was often known) lived a good long time.  She was born before the Civil War (or “The War Between the States” as we called it, because “there was nothing civil about it”), 22 March 1857, and lived until 7 September 1946.  Repeating myself, the picture here, one of the few I have of her, was taken in 1934 and the baby she is holding is her great-granddaughter, my mother.  So in two swift strides, from me to my mother and from her to Permelia, I can be carried back over 150 years of American history.  If that doesn’t give you goose bumps there’s no hope for you!

I had been working under the assumption that Permelia lived and died in Decatur County all her life.  But in trying to fill in some of the details on Lyda's siblings I found that in 1918 the next to the youngest daughter Julia Permelia Maxwell married an electrician with Western Union Telephone and Telegraph Company named Jacob Livingston Bower and they moved to Nashville, Tennessee.  Jacob was from Fowlstown, about halfway between Attapulgus and Bainbridge.  So I looked in Nashville for Jacob and Julia Bower on the 1920 census and found Jacob L, Julia and Ernestine Bower (ages 22, 21 and 6/12).   On the 1930 census in Nashville I came up with Julia Bower, age 30, widowed, her daughter "Earnestine", age 10, and mother "Amelia” Maxwell, age 73.  The also had two boarders, a young “filling station salesman” named Clarence Farris and Louise Patterson, a 23 year old insurance clerk.  To-Do Item: Hmmm. Permelia’s mother was a Patterson.  Could Louise be a cousin?  The 1930 census gives street addresses for urban districts, so it’s possible to see that they were living at 105 12th Street.
Census images courtesy of

1938 Polk's Directory of Nashvill
Looking further, I discovered that has some of the Polk's City Directories for Nashville, including for the years 1938 and 1940.  Searching for the family in those directories I found Julia living at 1109 Holly Street in Nashville with her daughter and her mother.  According to Google Maps 1109 Holly Street is just around the corner from 105 12th Street.  In the 1938 directory, it has "Bower, Ernestine student" and "Bower Julia Mrs slswn Lebeck Bros Inc" and "Maxwell Amelia (wid Jos A O)".  In the 1940 directory, it lists "Bower, Ernestine student" and "Bower Julia Mrs slswn" and "Maxwell Amelia (wid J A O)".

1940 Polk's Directory of Nashvill
Interestingly, under the "Bower" heading in both directories there is a "Bower, Jacob L asst automatic chf WUTelCo" rooming at 621 Woodland.  I looked on Google Maps.  621 Woodland Street is about a quarter of a mile away from 1109 Holly Street.  So I took another look at the 1930 census looking for Jacob Bower and found him living right there in Nashville, working at Western Union, and with a big old "D" for Divorced in the Marital Status column.  So either someone in Julia's household was embarrassed to say she was divorced in 1930 or the enumerator messed up.
Next I went searching to see if there were Tennessee divorce indexes online.  I didn't find one, but I did find a 1924 Polk's directory for Nashville which shows both Jacob and Julia living in the house at 1109 Holly Street.  So somewhere between 1924 and 1930 Jacob and Julia Bower got divorced.
Anyway, the point of all this was that by being pointed towards Tennessee I found Permelia's death certificate.  So adding the final bit of confirmation that I was looking at the right Julia and Permelia, it says right there that
  • Permelia died on the 7th of September 1946
  • she lived at the 1109 Holly Street Address in Nashville
  • she was born in Calvary, Georgia
  • she is a widow
  • her parents were Dr. Robert McNair (that’s a new piece of information) and Nancy Patterson
  • she will be buried in Piedmont Cemetery in Calvary, Georgia
As usual, the accuracy of the information is dependent on the knowledge of the informant (in this case, her daughter Julia).  An interesting additional fact gleaned from the death certificate is the cause of death: chronic myocarditis (definition here,, essentially a chronic inflammation of the heart muscle.  Judging by the definition at the Health Central web site, she may have been bed-ridden for an extended period of time before her death.  But if there is any truth to genetic proclivities towards certain behaviors, she stayed in bed only when she couldn’t get up, no matter what her doctor or daughter said to the contrary.  It’s hard to keep a good woman down!

What happened after 1940?  I know from the SSDI (the Social Security Death Index) that Julia lived in Nashville until her death in September 1979.  So far I’ve been unsuccessful in discovering either an obituary or a burial site for her.  What about Jacob?  Did they really get a divorce?  An interesting clue is that in the 1944 Polk’s Guide Jacob Bower appears to have moved to 950 Seymour Avenue and is listed with a wife, Mattie L. Bower.  What about Julia’s daughter, Ernestine?  She no longer lives with her mother after 1940.  Did she get married?  Did she die?  Did she enlist as  WAC or WAVE in World War II?  So far I haven’t found anything for her.  I did however serendipitously discover a marriage announcement for Jacob and Julia from that her mother Permelia had placed in The Atlanta Constitution, 23 June 1918.  It came up in an search.  So you never know what will turn up!  The marriage announcement uses the spelling “Amelia for both mother and daughter.  And after starting this blog post I talked to my own mother.  She said that until we went to the cemetery in Calvary and saw the tombstone she had always thought her great-grandmother’s name was Amelia.  So there!  If I had already known that piece of information I might never have embarked on the long round-about search that led ultimately to Permelia’s death certificate, and a whole lot of other questions yet to be answered.
As Scarlett said, “I’ll think about that tomorrow … tomorrow is another day!”

That’s about it for now.

Later y’all,




Friday, October 14, 2011

JAO & Permelia Maxwell

My great-grandmother Lyda Ellen Maxwell Perry’s parents were J. A. O. Maxwell and Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell.  The J.A.O. initials stood for James A. Oliver Maxwell.  And the “A”?  Well, that depends on who you talk to.  Albert? Alexander? Archibol?  Two of Lyda’s granddaughters were told separately that the “A” was for Albert, but then he does have a son named Alexander.  And one unpublished Maxwell family history says that it’s Archibol.  Apparently he most commonly went by “Oliver” for at least part of his adult life, but he’s mostly called J.A.O. nowadays because that’s what’s on his grave stone.  I actually have a picture of him, courtesy of my mom’s cousin Barbara Perry Walker.  I don’t have any early pictures of Permelia.  (Remember, you can click on any image in the blog post to view a larger size.)

J.A.O. Maxwell was born 12 Sep 1856 in Decatur County, Georgia, to Elder John A. Maxwell (1824-1906) and Elizabeth "Elizer Margaret Anders (1829-1918).  Permelia Ruth McNair was also born in Decatur County, on 22 Mar 1857, to Robert Martin McNair (1807-1869) and Nancy Patterson (1816-1905).  They were married 15 Jan 1878.  The marriage license is recorded in Decatur County Marriage Book B (1867-1896), page 296.  The digitized book images are available through the Georgia's Virtual Vault website ( and copied here.  Note that the clerk transposed his initials – the record says “J.O.A Maxwell” instead of “J.A.O. Maxwell”.

Census images courtesy of

J.A.O. and Permelia (who was often known as Amelia, or just Melia) made their home near Attapulgus in Decatur County for the next 36 years, until J.A.O.’s death at 57 in 1914.  They owned their own farm, and raised a passel of young’uns, as they say.  The 1880 census shows no children.  The 1890 census was lost, of course, but the 1900 census shows that Permelia had borne 10 children, 8 of whom were still living.  An unnamed infant boy lived but one day in October 1879 and is buried near the parents and many other Maxwell family members in the Piedmont Cemetery in Calvary, Georgia (now in Grady County, it was until 1904 in Decatur County).  Another son, John Robert Maxwell, died in February 1898 just a few weeks shy of his 12th birthday.  And the 1910 census shows that there were only 7 surviving children, young Corry Thomas Maxwell having departed this life at the age of 14 in February 1910.  There is a picture of six of the children from about 1904 in the last post.

J.A.O. died 3 May 1914; Permelia lived another 32 years, until 1946.  But they were buried side by side in Piedmont cemetery.  In fact they share an obelisk-style headstone, beautifully engraved on one face with his epitaph and on the other with hers.  

His side says:
SEPT. 14, 1856
MAY 3, 1914
Beyond the doubts
and hopes and fears,
Beyond the cares and
joys and tears,
Beyond the smiling
and the weeping,
Beyond the waking
and the sleeping,
Our loved one rests
in slumber deep,
In silent and eternal

On her side are the words:
MAR. 22, 1857
SEPT. 7, 1946
Dear mother, tho' we
miss you much,
We know you rest
with God.

The few photos I have of Permelia are from 1934.  In this one the baby she is holding is my mother. 

I was able to find Permelia in the 1920 census still living in Decatur County, with her son Malcolm Oliver Maxwell and his family.  But Malcolm died in 1924 and I could not find her anywhere in the 1930 census.  The story of that search is best left for another post another day, so …

That’s about it for now.

 Later y’all,


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,