Whenever I feel stuck researching my family history, I try to think about patterns. What is the normal pattern for this family? If they did something that breaks the normal pattern, why? What is the normal pattern for that time and place? One pattern I have noticed is that people moved in groups. They joined military units or were in the local militia together as neighbors. Moves often happened for economic reasons. People moved with close family and friends to a new place, the people they knew they could depend on for a new start.
I know about several early Mecklenburg families, but cannot personally document any of my ancestors born before 1800, or know where they lived before Mecklenburg- except for one line, and that is my Newman line. James B. Jones (Great Creek area) married Martha Newman. They raised 15 children! Martha’s death record said she was born in Orange, VA. At first, I thought that was a mistake because Martha’s father, Abner Newman was in a Mecklenburg unit during the War of 1812 and married in Brunswick County, Virginia in 1792. I kept searching for a some kind of connection to Orange County Virginia. I discovered that when Martha’s father died she went to live with her grandfather in Orange. She, her mother, and siblings who had not yet married all moved to Orange.
Martha’s grandfather William Newman was born in Essex County, Virginia. He lived where the Occupacia Creek crosses Route 17, very close to the Rappahannock River. William Thomas lived between the Newmans and the Rappahannock River. The more I read the court books, the more I start to wonder about if several of my Mecklenburg ancestors lived in Essex first. William Newman’s next door neighbors were Walkers, Thomases, Joneses, Brookes, Moseleys, Kidds, and Grays. (Even though I know my Grays immigrated from County Armagh, Ireland in 1838). I see all those family names as neighbors to the Newmans for 100 years in Essex County. Because farms were failing in Essex county during the 1750’s and 1760’s, some people started to move to Caroline County and Orange County. William Newman worked for many years for John Baylor and his wife Frances Walker who had farms in both Caroline and Orange counties. Mrs. Baylor had a brother who settled in Brunswick County, Virginia. Three Walker brothers (whose father was born in Essex), married three of Martha’s sisters. (William Newman’s grandchildren.) I know that these are common British surnames, but I can’t help wondering when I see these families as next door neighbors in Essex for 100 years, and then see these same names as close neighbors in Eastern Mecklenburg. That’s a pattern I don’t plan to ignore or think of as just a coincidence. It is true that a lot of people migrated from Isle of Wight and Surry counties to Mecklenburg, but now I am studying the early Essex (Old Rappahannock County) migration route to Mecklenburg.
This map shows the path that my Newman family traveled from 17th century Essex county, to 1810 in Mecklenburg. When I find more connections to colonial families or where families were before they came to Mecklenburg, I will share them here. On the map below, I have marked landmarks closest to where William Newman, then where his granddaughter Martha Newman lived. The route displayed is the current highway/ travel route.
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.
Henry Clay Kidd was a wounded WWI veteran. He stayed awhile in a European hospital recovering. Henry was gassed badly during the war. It affected his lungs and skin for the rest of his life. He returned to the United States Apr 1919.
I met Elva Kidd White two months ago (Mar 2020). She showed me this picture (above) of her father. I asked Elva what she did as a teenager for dating or courting. She answered me, “Nothing! My father said I wasn’t allowed to date!” She did not date until after she left home and moved to Richmond. Elva knew Warren White when she was younger. They wrote eachother letters during WWII. I asked Elva how her parents met. She said she didn’t know, that wasn’t the type of question they could really ask. Adults found it intrusive or too personal. This is Elva’s parents: Henry Clay Kidd and Susie Littleton Seymour’s wedding picture. They married 1 Mar 1923, in Brodnax. (Brodnax is a town partly in Mecklenburg County, partly in Brunswick County)
Henry Kidd owned a store in South Hill. At first, Henry’s family lived in town; then they moved to the country to have a farm. Their farm supplied the store with produce, milk etc… Elva told me she never felt hungry. They were always well fed and did well financially during the Depression. Her father tried to help people with jobs, and tried to be a good and fair employer. On Sundays, Henry’s family went to church, then visited with his wife’s family in Brodnax. They had a car, electricity, and a phone at home and also at the store long before more rural parts of Mecklenburg had these luxuries. Elva wrote in her family history memoirs book, “Even during the Depression, I always had plenty of food and the clothing I needed. My father didn’t even finish the grammar grades, but had beautiful handwriting, was a hard worker, and provided for his family. He worked on Saturday nights until midnight, but never worked on Sundays. He started with asthma when he was in his early 40’s: A result of the mustard gas and trench warfare of WWI”
Above is the ship manifest showing Henry coming home to his father Charles Kidd, in Bracey, VA. Charles would have been married to Lucy Burton then, (1919) living on highway 903 in Bracey. Henry Kidd was the sister of Nancy Kidd. Two of Nancy’s sons (Charles and Aubrey Tudor) have been the last two veteran spotlights on this website. Here is a chart showing Henry’s branch of the family. This download is a PDF size 8.5×11.
I’m very thankful to Elva’s sons, Brent & Randall White, for helping me meet Elva and get copies of these pictures. The White family has done an amazing, truly impressive job, preserving older pictures and stories!
This picture of Charles Tudor was his parent’s picture. It’s still hanging up on the wall of his parent’s old house. I asked about the frame and was told that’s how the military pictures were framed, with the eagle frame and rounded glass. The rounded glass broke, but the frame and picture were untouched. New, flat glass was put into the frame, which thankfully is much easier to make a copy of the picture.
Charles was the son of James Oliver “Ollie” Tudor and Nancy Elizabeth Kidd. Charles was the 6th of 11 children. I met Charles’ younger brother Lindbergh Tudor. Lindbergh told me he had several older brothers in the war, but he was too young to enlist by just a few months. Aubrey Tudor, another sibling of Charles and Lindbergh will be the next veteran spotlight post. I met Elva Kidd White who told me she wrote letters to her cousins oversees every Sunday. (Elva’s father and Charles’ mother were siblings.) She showed me a copy of his last letter home, written 27 Nov 1944. This letter was received, then the next day, the family found out he had died. Here is Charles signature and the last paragraph of the letter, about lots of rain and asking about Thanksgiving:
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: email@example.com
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.