I’m looking for the family of Lillie Slayton from Danville, Virginia to see if they recognize this picture. Hazel King shared a few Gray family pictures that were unlabelled, hoping some Gray kin could help her identify the people in them. So far the pictures have all been of children and grandchildren of John Gray and Sarah Jones. It took me 10 years to find someone from Frank Gray’s family to look at these pictures. This descendant positively identified this picture of Frank Gray’s house with his family out front (Pictured below. This house is no longer standing.) I believe these two pictures go together.
Frank Gray was born in Mecklenburg, VA. He was raised on a farm on Hall Rd. He married Elizabeth “Bettie” Clary in Brunswick County in 1885. Soon after Frank’s parents died (late 1890’s), Frank and 5 siblings (all except Alginon and Nannie) moved their families to Danville, VA. In 1911, Frank’s wife Elizabeth “Bettie” Clary died. Six years later, Frank married Eula Bernard. Frank had 5 children from his marriage to Elizabeth, one of which was John Robert Gray. Eula had 2 children from her previous marriage to Adrian Jeffries. Frank and Eula moved their family from Danville to a farm near Alberta VA soon after their marriage, where Frank lived the remainder of his life.
John Robert Gray was born in Brunswick County, VA in 1886. He moved to Danville, then later to Brunswick with his family. He married Lillie Slayton in Brunswick in 1910. Lillie had a daughter named Gracie Bailey from a previous marriage. Lillie and John had 3 daughters: Donna, Leona and Odell. They attended Bethel Methodist church in Alberta. John died after 10 years of marriage, (March 1920), of flu followed by pneumonia. I saw two graves without tombstones in the cemetery on Frank Gray’s old farm. Frank Gray’s grand daughter, who was there at the funeral and burial, said Frank is buried in the cemetery on his farm. John preceded his father in death. I theorize that John and his father Frank Gray are the two burials beside each other without tombstones. After John died, Lillie and her children moved in with her sister Bessie, in Danville, VA. On the 1940 Census Lillie is living with her brother Thomas Slayton.
John Robert Gray was a tobacco farmer according to his death record. John was age 24, and Lillie was age 22 when they married in 1910. I’m wondering if this picture at the arbor was John Robert Gray with Lillie, and Lillie’s parents: Henry Washington Slayton and Eliza Jane Owen. I’m also wondering if this picture was taken about the time they married, since the families didn’t live near each other. Lillie was widowed young and moved away about 1920. That could be a reason why the Gray descendants I’ve corresponded or spoken with did not recognize the people pictured. Lillie’s parents and siblings lived many years in Danville. I’m not sure if this unlabelled Gray picture by the arbor was outside of Danville or Alberta. I asked Frank Gray’s grand daughter if she recognized the picture. She pointed to the younger man and said, “he looks like he’s part of Frank’s family, but I really don’t know anyone in this picture. I think this was long before my time”, which it was. If you know this Gray or Slayton family or might know of pictures you can compare this too, please let me know. Or if my idea is wrong, & you think this looks like different people please let me know.
I love this picture of 3 sisters linked arm in arm. I think they look adorable! I like to imagine from the way they look here that they were friends, and stood by each other through both good times and tough times. This is the only picture I know of, with my Virginia family on a farm. Tobacco was a huge part of their life. Peanuts, squash and sweet potatoes were also important crops. There was often a huge kitchen garden for the family near the house. They ate what they grew. Obvious to farmers, but not so obvious to me who grew up in cities and rarely saw family vegetable gardens. This picture was probably taken in Mecklenburg about 110 years ago. In the late 1890s, Nannie Gray Kidd remained in Bracey, her siblings moved to Danville, VA. Martha and Dolly (pictured) lived in Danville at the time of this picture, but as they lived in the city; I’m assuming Martha and Dolly came to visit Nannie in Mecklenburg when this picture was taken in the early 1910’s.
Lindbergh Tudor told me his hair was always a mess as a young boy, even in school pictures. He explained there was usually sticky tar in his hair from working in the tobacco fields and it hurt to comb that out. He also designed his wagon to work well with transporting tobacco leaves. He made spaces between slats to hold tools, which was also a good width to tie tobacco leaves to the slats. I love the inventiveness of farmers! I really enjoy meeting farmers and asking about their farms’ history.
Mary Walker told me that as a young girl, her large family lined up in the field. The youngest children held bundles of tobacco leaves together, while the older children tied the leaves together. Teenage siblings carried the tied stalks to the wagon. They all had various jobs. They also helped and worked together with their neighbors, who were often close relatives.
I was repeatedly told that picking off hornworms and tar that stuck to them, were their least favorite part of tobacco farming; that and being exasperated with the heat and humidity . Some people told me it was their job to squash & kill hornworms to save their family crops. Those are huge, fat, scary, gross looking bugs! I’m glad I’ve never had that job!
Most people I’ve interviewed from Mecklenburg told me tobacco was their cash crop, and a big part of Mecklenburg’s history and economy. I’ve heard some tobacco was hung to dry, in taller barns. I found this shorter barn pictured above near Boydton. Growing up a city girl, I’d never seen a structure like this before. I took a picture to show people and ask what it was used for. I was told the tobacco was cured differently with this type of barn. Sort of smoked dry to cure it before a lot of the crop was lost to humidity. People told me this was where Brunswick stew was big. The curing process took several days and lots of hands. People camped around the barn during this harvest and enjoyed Brunswick stew.
I’ve been asking everyone I meet for interviews about their chores when they were children. Everyone tells me farming was hard and exhausting work, even at a young age. But it was necessary for survival, to have enough food to eat, and keep the farms running. There was no big equipment, they farmed (and often still farm) with simple tools “the old fashioned way”. Not many had tractors, because they couldn’t afford it. Everyone had to work long hours with shovels, hoes, resourcefulness and as a team effort. People told me they understood why a lot of their kids and grand kids didn’t want to continue farming. They could get more money and have their finances more secure with other types of jobs. Old farms, older farming methods, and their stories are starting to disappear. So I want to preserve and share as many stories and pictures as I can find.
Do you have pictures or stories about your family farming? What were your family’s cash crops? Comment below, even if not from Mecklenburg. If you have a Mecklenburg related farming picture you’re willing to share, please let me know! I’d love to post it on this site.
I love listening to peoples’ stories. My favorite stories are love stories. And my all time favorite stories are about people who faced enormous challenges and stayed together despite the odds. When they weren’t sure how to get enough money for a Sunday pair of shoes for all of their children, and then grasshoppers or hail storms destroyed their crops. How did they overcome hardships like this? What did they do when life felt so difficult? Many older people I’ve interviewed have no idea how their parents met. It seems it was an intrusive or too personal question?
These are 3 wedding pictures I know of, from Mecklenburg, VA. Nannie Gray and Jimmy Kidd. The 6 men picture is Nannie’s brothers and brother in laws, for Alginon Gray’s wedding. (upper right) The picture on the far right is Jimmy’s brother Samuel Kidd married to Lorena Ridout. (picture from Nancy Johnson).
Do you have a wedding picture? Do you know how they met? If not a wedding picture, any picture? Do you know about the bride’s dress? Was it just a new dress that could be worn on Sundays or special occasions to be practical? Do you know if they married at home or at church? How was the day celebrated? What food was served? Who was invited? What kinds of gifts were given? Did the groom wear a ring? Did your family have any wedding traditions? I’m looking for stories of any ethnicity, any religion (or not religious), any people who at some point lived in Mecklenburg, VA. These stories will post in June.
Please send submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I love the genealogical treasures you can find in chancery cases! In this post, I’ll try to explain what a chancery case is, and how they help me with family history; using the chancery of Jimmy Kidd’s estate as an example. Chancery records are not “beginner genealogy”, but it’s so worth it to learn more about these records because they tell us: women’s maiden names, when people died, relationships stated under oath, depositions about how people are related or how they know the plaintiff or defendant, copies of wills, copies of plats, etc. It depends on the type of complaint in the chancery case how much of that is included. In Virginia, all chancery cases before 1930 were sent to LVA (Library of Virginia), also before 1930, divorce cases (which were part of the circuit court) were sent to LVA, and are part of the chancery collection. LVA has an amazing searchable index which is available online. You can search by county for plaintiff, defendant, or just surname(which includes “other”, like a witness). I always search “surname” which includes searches for all 3 categories (see image below). When I first started researching my Virginia ancestors, I was disappointed that my family didn’t have any wills. But then I discovered that because they didn’t have wills, their estates were divided in chancery, with much more information in the chancery case than a will would have contained. Chancery records are some of the best proof I know for family links, especially if you are researching Taylors & Jones.
The LVA site says “There are over 272,000 cases indexed in the database and nearly 11 million images of chancery causes available online.” Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties have not yet been digitized, so I go to the actual LVA to see the originals. Orange county has them microfilmed, so I view those microfilms at LVA. Madison County has them digitized. You can scan through the folder and view the whole case on the LVA website. The search results will tell you about the case, the surnames in the case, and the format so you will know how you can view it.
There are several parts to a chancery case. The genealogical information is usually in the bill of complaint and answer. There’s also the judge’s answer (decision). If the complaint is that a will is not being fulfilled, the will is usually included. If the complaint is that a person died without a will and has land to be divided between heirs, a plat may be ordered and land divided. If someone promised to free their slaves at death and the slaves aren’t freed, there may be written proof and probably depositions of people saying they were told by their friend (or brother etc) that the slaves were to be freed. Other reasons for cases I have seen include: debts or bonds signed, secured with land, but the debt has not been paid by the promised date. The judge would then order the land to be sold to pay the debt. I also have seen debts involving slaves, owners loaning their slaves to build houses, harvest crops etc and charging fees with interest, that the other person could not pay by the due date. Large chancery cases are often full of receipts of people paying debts in payments or receiving payments. After the civil war, many people went to chancery court, because they had no money to pay their debts, or executors could not fulfill the will anymore. This is a link to an LVA document which explains chancery cases in detail. Page 3 gives more detail about the parts of a case. https://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/guides/rn22_chancery.pdf
There are over 272,000 cases indexed in the database and nearly 11 million images of chancery causes available online.
Library of Virginia
The legal language of chancery cases can get confusing. I bought a Barron’s dictionary of legal terms (written for non-lawyers) to help me better understand what some of the more complex cases I copied mean. One thing that confused me when I first started, was why a sibling was suing all his other siblings, yet asking for equal inheritance for himself and all his siblings?! He wasn’t actually suing as we might think of today, but rather this was the legal language used to get the case into court so they could equally receive their inheritance.
What is the difference between a chancery court and other courts? One big difference is that in chancery, a judge decides the result, not a jury. One observation I have is that cases usually involve money, property or land. LVA has a great write up about that as well, here is their explanation: https://www.virginiamemory.com/collections/chancery/faq
Example of Jimmy Kidd chancery case:
I did not know this land was in chancery until a friend found this newspaper article for me. This includes 2 pieces of land owned by Jimmy Kidd and his wife Nannie Gray. I knew that one of these farms was John Gray’s old farm. The other was the farm where Nannie & Jimmy lived. I did not see this chancery case in the LVA chancery index. I took this newspaper article to the LVA archivists and they told me they did not have this case. This is right about the time courthouses were sending older cases to LVA but keeping current cases. I went to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse and they did have it! And it was all typed!
This was a rather large case which included lots of documenting receipts. I copied the complaint, answer and depositions, which are in this file that you can download here. Everything in the chancery was typed, but there was one handwritten page by Ewing Kidd (TE Kidd, Thomas Ewing Kidd), so I copied that as well. The case was still folded & held together in legal folders with clips, so they aren’t all copied straight and even. Here are the pages I copied, if you’d like to view the case:
This chancery case gives a typed copy of Jimmy Kidd’s will, which says he leaves everything to his wife Nannie, then after she dies, the estate is to be equally divided between his children. This chancery case was filed because the heirs didn’t feel the two properties could be divided equally between 8 children. Depositions were taken of neighbors, asking if they felt the land could be divided equally, or if the land should be sold and the money divided equally between the 8 heirs. One important note is that Benjamin Bart Kidd died in 1925, before this case began. So his share was to be divided between his 3 children. Bart’s widow had remarried and she now went by the name of Bettie Johnson. This map shows the two pieces of land in the chancery case, letter A & letter B. The men who gave depositions are also noted with their names on their property locations. Note: Edwin Lambert would have lived above his store at old Bracey, just a little to the west of where this map cuts off.
The judge decided to sell the 2 parcels and divide the receipts of the sale between the heirs. Edwin Lambert bought parcel A, the farm his wife grew up on. Adolphus Kidd bought parcel B, which used to be the Gray farm.
Here are some highlights from the 1930 depositions, about land and relationships.
I read my great grandma Katie’s research notes about my Virginia ancestors; things she wrote before I was born. Katie wrote about her mother Fannie Gray being born in Mecklenburg, VA and raised with her Dortch aunts and uncles in Kankakee, IL. (near Chicago) She also wrote that Fannie’s father was named Alginon Gray but always wrote his name “A.N. Gray”. That he had lots of siblings including Nannie, Charles, Tommy, and Frank Gray. She wrote that Nannie married Jimmy Kidd. She was trying to find the church Nannie Gray attended in LaCrosse because when Alginon died in a railroad bridge construction accident, his body was sent home to be buried at the church the family attended in LaCrosse. I wanted to find this too! I wanted to continue where my grandma Katie’s research had stopped.
My first visit to Mecklenburg, VA was in January 2003. Someone offered to show me churches my family might have attended. I found what grandma Katie was looking for! I saw Nannie Gray Kidd’s tombstone, at Rehoboth Methodist Church (Blackridge). I was just going to take a few pictures of tombstones I knew were Nannie’s family. But my new friend suggested I might want to consider the whole cemetery. He knew how 75% of the cemetery were related, and give him bit of time and he could figure out the rest. He told me the more he researches, the more he sees how connected everyone there is. (He’s so right!)
That first visit, my mother and grandmother came with me. My mother still had young children at home and my grandma was living in Puerto Rico. So I took pictures and tried to write about my visits, to try and share my adventures with my mom and grandma. Other people started telling me they’d like to see my pictures too. I asked lots of questions on my visits, wanting to know where people lived a long time ago, and what it was like growing up in Mecklenburg. I kept being told the people who could best answer my questions weren’t living anymore. All their stories and knowledge sadly went with them, it wasn’t written down. I didn’t want any more stories lost! So, I started trying to record stories, and talk to as many people as I could find. I visit as I often as I can, looking for family cemeteries, pictures, older buildings (or houses), records and stories.
“My heart feels connected to Mecklenburg. When I visit, I feel like I’ve been welcomed back home.” -Julie
I launched this website in Jan 2020 to try to preserve and share my discoveries about Mecklenburg, and to learn from you! I grew up military and in cities. Mecklenburg is so different, and I love everything about my visits. Meeting new people, and hearing stories that give me a better feel for how my ancestors lived. When I visit I’m greeted with hugs and “Hi cousin!” No counting how far back, or if a “cousin removed”. We’re just simply family. I want to hear everyone’s stories and pictures, not just my family. Even if it’s just one picture with a name and estimated year taken. Even if it’s just one memory of someone, it’s more than I know, so I’d love to hear it. Lets preserve it, before that memory gets lost too. This site will remain ad-free, I receive no monetary benefit. Family history is my passion. I thought about stories I’ve heard the last few years during interviews, as well as stories and pictures I’m receiving right now. I decided to try to share memories by themes for the rest of the year, starting with WWI and WWII veteran pictures and stories during the month of May. This website’s purpose is to work with the community to preserve and share stories, pictures and history. Do you have any stories or pictures you’d like to share?
I was given a copy of some Gray family pictures so I could help ID and date them. All the other pictures in this picture group are children of John Gray and Sarah Jones. I didn’t want to share my theory before, because I didn’t want to bias anyone’s opinion. I realized I’ve now had this picture for 17 years, and not been able to find anyone who could identify this couple. So, today I’m sharing my theory with a picture comparison, in the hopes this might lead to finding a labeled copy.
My theory is: this picture is Mattie Floyd, standing behind her in-laws John Gray and Sarah Jones, about Jan 1881 in Mecklenburg, Virginia. It is possibly taken the day of Mattie and Charles’ wedding 15 Jan 1881. I’m looking for people who can confirm or dispute this theory.
The woman standing behind the couple has been identified as Mattie Floyd, daughter of Sarah Tudor and Wyatt Floyd. Mattie Floyd married Charles Gray 15 Jan 1881, at age 20. So Mattie would technically not be “Gray Family” in a Gray picture before 1881. I am curious about the book Mattie is holding. I wondered if it could be the James B. Jones family Bible, because John Gray’s children’s names were written in that Bible. But I’m told no, the Jones Bible is much larger than this book. Was Mattie a teacher? Or why else was this book important?
I do not think the couple in the picture could be Mattie’s family. I’ve seen a picture of Mattie’s father. He died in the Spotsylvania, Virginia Courthouse battle when Mattie was only 3 years old. Her mother, Sarah Tudor actually died the day Mattie and Charles Gray married. I also don’t think either Mattie or Lelia look like the older couple. My theory is this picture is to celebrate Mattie’s engagement or recent marriage. Maybe to show that she’s now a part of the family? Or could this be a wedding day picture? I assume this picture was taken in Mecklenburg, VA. Possibly at John Gray and Sarah Jones farm. In the year 1881 when Charles and Mattie married, John Gray was age 71 and blind. Sarah was age 56. People who farmed outdoors a lot, looked much older than compared to people the same age today. See example below for Fannie Gray:
Here are some pictures of the children of John Gray and Sarah Jones compared with the picture of the older couple who I theorize could be John Gray and Sarah Jones, in about 1881.
If you have a picture of any of John Gray and Sarah Jones children, or any of Sarah’s siblings you can compare it to, please let me know. Sarah was the daughter of James B. Jones and Martha Newman.