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?
Contact: Julie Cabitto PO Box 9143 Fredericksburg, VA 22403 email@example.com
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.
I was looking through a Virginia marriage record collection on FamilySearch.org. I found this record which completely stunned me! I had no idea! I immediately began reviewing my sources, and here’s what I discovered:
This record is of James B. Jones giving his permission for Tennessee to marry Alvin Dortch. That he adopted her into his family 7 years earlier. (Typed transcription at end of post). My puzzlement and surprise is because Tennessee’s father was still alive when James said he adopter her. On the 1860 Census, Tennessee is listed as living with her father, not James B. Jones.
My grandma Catherine Sanetra wrote a memo note about 1960. She was writing notes about her letters from her uncle Jasper Dortch, notating things she wanted to follow up on. The note said, “Uncle Jimmy Jones raised Tennessee J. Glover in Burk County. Write to Burk County in VA.” She later wrote a correction note that it was Burk TN, not Virginia. I knew that James Jones wasn’t her uncle and lived his whole life in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. I also have never seen the Glovers in Burk, Tennessee. They were in Obion County, then Smith County, Tennessee. Granderson was in Gibson County, Tennessee in 1850, while the rest of his siblings and parents remained in Smith County, Tennessee. Granderson was widowed young (1850-1853), left Tennessee and moved to Mecklenburg, Virginia with his daughters. (Opposite of the typical migration pattern). I believe Granderson was born in Warren County, North Carolina and knew cousins in Mecklenburg, Virginia before he moved to Tennessee with his parents. I also knew Granderson Glover lived until his daughter Tennessee was 16, so why did/would someone else raise her? I discounted all of this information from Jasper, thinking he was probably confused. But I did wonder, because he was telling what he thought was true about his mother, who had lived with him for several years.
This is a chart showing the only connection I knew of James B. Jones & Tennessee Glover, highlighting in red the people in this post. They’re both great grandparents of Fannie Gray. I now suppose that Tennessee called James B. Jones “uncle” as a family title of respect.
I looked more closely to see what was happening to Tennessee Glover in 1859. Her father Granderson Glover was married to Arimenta Kidd. (daughter of John B. Kidd) Granderson and Arimenta’s third child was born, Oliver Glover. Tennessee later had a son she named after her two brothers: Richard Oliver Dortch. Tennessee’s family was attending Rehoboth Methodist Church in the Blackridge area. In 1855, there were two classes in Rehoboth Church. Granderson Glover was the leader of class #1. John Cole was the leader of class #2.
Granderson and Arimenta lived on Nellie Jones Rd, on land Arimenta inherited from her father. (about where Cannon Cemetery is today.) James Jones was around the corner, further north on Blackridge Rd. I checked the map, and the distance between where Granderson and James lived, is about 2.5 miles. (East on Nellie Jones Rd, then north on Blackridge Rd). So they lived near each other and probably saw each other at church and community events.
The 1860 Census shows 4 children of James B. Jones living at home. I assume all those children were also living at home the previous year. Age wise, Tennessee would have been just younger than Anna Jones and just older than the youngest child: James Newman Jones. I have a transcribed copy of the James B. Jones family Bible. Tennessee is not mentioned as adopted, or anywhere on this Bible record. However, Alginon Gray, (the man who married 2 of Tennesee’s daughters) is in the Bible, because his mother was a daughter of James B. Jones. All of Sarah Jones Gray’s children’s birth dates are noted in the James B. Jones family Bible.
I also checked guardian records for a 5 year time period. Tennessee is not in guardian records. Although that isn’t surprising because I don’t think there were any assets or finances to be recorded. Granderson Glover did not own land in Mecklenburg and he was listed as a carpenter on the Census.
Tennessee’s sister Tabitha does not have a similar notation about where she was raised on her marriage consent. Tabitha was 22, old enough to not need consent. Instead she gives her own consent. I love seeing she wrote her name as “Tabithy”. Tabitha married Edward Kidd, (sibling of Arimenta Kidd). They were married at “Mrs. Cannon’s house.” I am assuming that would be Rebecca Kidd, married to Archie Cannon. I’m also guessing this was the Cannon property with Nellie Jones Rd on the north, Great Creek (or “Cannon Creek”) to the west, and Arimenta Kidd Glover to the east. I think it’s neat to see that they married on Kidd land, where all the neighbors were the groom’s siblings!
The term orphan in this time period technically meant that one parent died. Tennessee’s mother died between 1850-1853. At the time of Tennessee’s marriage, her father Granderson had also died. The Census enumerator typically wrote down who was in the house that day in Apr 1860. Maybe Tennessee was visiting her father for a few days when the Census was recorded? Granderson had remarried, had 3 young children (& 4th child in 1861). We have no idea whether Arimenta and Tennessee (age 12) didn’t get along, or if a household full of children (Jones) sounded fun and were her friends. But we do now know that Jasper Dortch was correct after all. Tennessee did live with James Jones, he just got the location wrong, Mecklenburg, not Burk. I’m happy to now own a paragraph in my great… Grandfather’s handwriting and see his signature. I love the way he writes his letter “J” with a nice point at the top. I write my J’s very rounded at the top. I also love seeing the marriage was at James’ house, where I think she considered was home.
For more information: There are currently 2,733 images of consents, bonds, and ministers returns in this collection. Mecklenburg is not listed as counties included, but I did find quite a few of my Mecklenburg ancestors in this collection, including the images in this post. If you would like to search this collection, or learn more here’s the link: https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/2134304
Transcription of Tennessee’s Marriage Consent:
To the clerk of Mecklenburg County, VA
March 24th 1866
Mr R F Clack sir,
Some seven years ago I adopted into my family Tennessee J Glover an orphaned child, who has since remained a member of my family, & has grown up under my guardian care & control, and being now of marriageable age, you have my full consent to issue a marriage license for the union of, Alvin N Dortch & Miss Tennessee J Glover.
My ancestor John Gray was born in Portadown, County Armagh, Ireland about 1810. I’ve been trying to figure out where he lived in Mecklenburg for at least 10 years. Now I know that he raised his family and farmed on Hall Rd, near Rehoboth Church, near the big curve in the road. I still haven’t found a plat, but I know I have found the area my family lived.
John’s birth year fluctuates as much as 10 years on various records. But the average record says he was born about 1810. John Gray was a linen weaver at Colonel Blacker’s estate. Large areas of Northern Ireland were going bankrupt; With warehouses full of linen, fleece and merchandise, but no one buying. Colonel Blacker wrote in his journal about these financially difficult times, the year that John Gray immigrated, in 1838. (Before the famine.) John was married to Ann Purdy, immigrated with Nicholas Purdy’s family and lived by Robert Joyce in Mecklenburg who was married to an Elizabeth Purdy. Not sure how closely they are related, but we know John was related to and lived near Purdy’s in both Ireland and Mecklenburg County, Virginia. John and his family arrived in the New York, New York port 27 Jul 1838. A year and a half later, (19 Dec 1840) he was purchasing land in Mecklenburg, VA, near Rehoboth Church in Blackridge. John remained on that same property for the rest of his life.
John Gray, his wife Ann, his daughter Elizabeth (who also immigrated with him), and a boy under the age of 5 are counted on the 1840 Census. I’m not sure who the boy is, I’ve not yet found a record for him. John’s wife Ann died sometime before 22 May 1847, when John married Sarah Elizabeth Jones. Sarah’s father James B. Jones and mother Martha Newman lived on the adjoining property.
On the 1850 Census: There’s John, his wife Sarah, daughter Martha and daughter Sarah (less than a year old). The boy from the 1840 Census is unaccounted for. John’s daughter Elizabeth was at school in Brunswick County, VA in the home of William Jones. (Not related to her step mother’s Jones family that I can see.) In 1857 Elizabeth married Washington Clary.
(This download button is for the 11×17 chart shown above)
John Gray’s children with his 2nd wife Sarah Elizabeth Jones were:
Martha Ann Gray, who married William H. Moseley
Sarah J. Gray, who lived to be age 16
Louisa V. Gray, who married Robert J. Lynch
Charles Robert Gray, who married Mattie Floyd
Rebecca “Dolly” Gray, who married George C. Taylor
Nannie Elizabeth Gray, who married Jimmy Kidd
Frank Jones Gray, married 1) Elizabeth Clary 2) Eula Bernard
*Alginon “Nonnie” Gray, married 1) Theresa India Dortch (my line), 2) Martha Dortch (sister of his first wife)
Thomas Beasley Gray, married Lelia Edenbeck (half sister to Mattie Floyd. Their mother was Sarah Tudor)
These children’s births as well as Sarah Jones Gray’s birth and death date are recorded in the James B. Jones family Bible. Pictures of all of James and Sarah’s children, except Louisa, are on this site under “Gray Family Pictures”. I don’t have an exact death date for John Gray. But, he was listed as deceased when Henry Mayo bought the Jones land in 1889. After John and Sarah Gray died, their children: Martha, Louisa, Charles, Dolly, Frank and Thomas moved their families to Danville, Virginia. Alginon moved to various places as a carpenter. Only Nannie remained, which I believe is why all the siblings sold the family farm to Nannie and Jimmy Kidd.
Edwin Lambert bought the house where Nannie and Jimmy lived as a surprise for his wife Lula. When she asked him after the auction, “Who bought the house?”, Edwin told her “You did!” He bought the place where his wife grew up as a surprise for her. The other property, which is where Nannie grew up, (the Gray farm) I was unable to find out what happened until this weekend. I went to Library of Virginia to see this chancery case. They have cases from 1930, but not this case. This past week, my friend helped me find the deed. D.A. Kidd bought the land at auction and was given the deed in 1932. After several record searches, I realized DA was Adolphus Archer Kidd. The “A” was dropped on the deed. Henry Mayo’s son Tom Mayo inherited the land they purchased from James B. Jones. On the 1940 Census, I see Tom Mayo and Adolphus Kidd were neighbors and living on Hall Rd. (The Rt 620 in the far left margin). Dolphus who bought the Gray Farm was a first cousin to Jimmy Kidd (grandsons of John B. Kidd). Adolphus was son of Allen Burl Kidd. Jimmy was son of Bartlett Kidd.