Monday, October 12, 2015

East Tennessee Baptismal Record

A couple weeks ago I finally got around to making digital copies of an East Tennessee Baptismal Record (I'll call it ETBR for short). I've known about this record for a few years, but I have been kept pretty busy with the Middle Tennessee equivalent (MTBR). I am still in the process of reviewing it for the wealth of data it contains, but I thought I would describe some of the things I am expecting to get out of it.

The ETBR on its face is a listing of baptisms in the LDS Church from about 1870 to 1920 in east Tennessee and western North Carolina. It includes a name, birth date & place, baptism & confirmation dates, the person who performed the ordinances, father's & mother's names, a mailing address, and some notes about membership. Often the notes include post baptism marriages, where they person moved to when they left or if they were reported as dead. It was a big area. Often death notices would take years to reach mission headquarters. Rarely an excommunication or apostasy is noted. (At the time there was no way to resign church membership. Excommunication was the only option. Resignation didn't become an option until the 1990's. Anyone reading this know the exact year?)

In practice the ETBR was not a baptismal record as much as a membership log book of sorts. It didn't really start until around perhaps 1896. Many years were all written in the same hand as if it was a transcription of another record (or more likely records). Sometimes the penmanship would change, and that change would correspond with dates, suggesting that every could of years someone would update the book with baptisms since the last entry. There are a few dates from prior to 1896, but fewer the further back you go. So far it seems that even if someone was baptized, they did not get in the book unless they stayed in the church AND stayed in Tennessee until about 1896. It is perhaps not a coincidence that around the same time the LDS Church stopped encouraging converts to gather with other members in the western United States.

Using this record I can see many demographic details. Although the records does not indicate the sex of the convert, often this can be inferred from the name. I can also see where missionaries were working successfully, and who was doing the work. While later mission newspapers would record missionary assignments, this record would give me another view of related information including who was working with whom.

What I can see is reliable information on where the baptism was performed. In stead the mailing address only told me where they lived when the record was last updated. I have lost count of how many early members I have found in an area (like say Memphis) only to discover that the person joined the church elsewhere and had simply moved to the address on record. Makes it harder to find the first converts in a town.

But the biggest frustration with the record is that there are lots of handwritten marks in the book. When the boundaries between districts changed, their records would be "sent" to the new district and their name would be crossed off. At some point the record appears to have been transcribed into a newer book. In that process names had check marks, and other notations added to help that process. Names were circled, annotated, and scribbled over when people got married with new names written above or next to it. Sometimes people would get entered on the wrong page (organized alphabetically) and so would be crossed off on one page and entered again elsewhere. The result is that the name is often illegible. When that happens, if I am lucky I can read the birth date and the parents name and with a little sleuthing I can most of the time figure out what I need to know. I may from time to time post a photo of a particularly difficult to read entry that has no other identifying information. Any help interpreting is much appreciated.

If you couldn't tell, I so excited!!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Featherstone Family Times Two

In 2010 when the census was being taken I had two homes. It isn't a situation I recommend, but there I was moving out of one and into the other, trying desperately to sell the old one. Like a lot of people at the time it didn't work out like I planned; that's a story for another day. As luck would have it I was approached at the new house by a census taker, and my wife met another census taker at the old one. Both of us gave the information we were asked to give. When we compared notes later that week we realized that we would end up in the census twice. As it turns out I'm pretty sure I'm not the first person to have that happen.

I was working on the family of William & Rosalie Featherstone who were diligent members of the Memphis Branch of the Church in about 1915. Featherstone isn't a common name, and I thought perhaps I might find a connection to a General Authority of the same name (no luck there).

William Samuel Featherstone was born on 7 February 1869 in Watseka, Illinois to Ralph Featherstone and Sarah R Young. On 26 January 1899 he married Rosalie Britton. Rosalie was born on 3 Auguest 1879 in Shady Grove Tennessee to Edward T. Britton and Elizabeth J Barnes. As fortue would  have it, Rosalie's mother had joined the Church on 30 October 1889[1] probably while she was living in Shady Grove, Tennessee.

The details of the Featherstones conversion are lost to history. Rosalie was baptized first on 3 June 1906, William was baptized on 10 February 1907. For both of them it was probably in Indiana. It appears that the family moved to Memphis in 1910, though perhaps in stages, with William going first and the others following once he had a place established.

And here is something you don't see every day. William is is two places at once. First he appears in the 1910 census (on the 15th of April) in Evansville, Indiana. He is there as the head of household with his wife, four children, his widowed mother-in-law, and his wife's divorced sister and her four children. He also appears in the same census five days later (on the 20th April) in Memphis as a boarder. All the details are the same. Same age, race, married (for the second time) the same number of years, born in Illinois, parents born in the same places. Even the trade is the same: slater (i.e. works with slate for roof tiles, etc.)

My first thought was that it was a coincidence. But the more I looked the more I found evidence that these two families were the same one.
  • In 1918, a 17 year old boy named Harry Featherstone died in Memphis. His parents were William and Rosalie Featherstone. His death certificate lists Indiana as his place of birth.
  • The 1920 census shows the whole family living in Memphis, with the exception of Harry, with the right ages and the right sex.
As for the Featherstone's activity in the branch I'll give these two samples from Church Newspapers.
On the 31st of March 1915, a branch of the LDS church organized at Memphis. The President is Connie P. Maynard, the second Counselor is H. L. Stewart, and the second counselor is William S Featherstone. Brother Featherstone served in several capacities including Sunday School Superintendant, and Branch Clerk. His wife Rosalie Featherstone served as an Organist, though not the only one.
"Brother W. S. Featherstone, clerk of the Memphis Branch, sends in the following report of the four local elders in that branch, for April. Meetings held, forty; non-members visited 112, members 105. Spent 16 hours tracting, 152 hours study of the Gospel, 180 hours gospel conversations, distributed 250 tracts and sold 1 Book of Mormon and two small books. This is a very good report when we consider that these brethren perform their labors after working hours."

[1] I don't trust the date, which comes from a transcribed record book. The missionaries' names were George H Carver and Martin Garn, whose service only overlapped between  June 1879 & February 1880. I think the date was transcribed incorrectly and that the right date should be 30 October 1879. In support of this I do find in the journal of Hyrum Belnap who a record of their visiting a Brother Britton in Shady Grove in May 1880

Monday, September 14, 2015

George W Gwynn's Farm

Some time ago I wrote about a mission conference that was held in Smyrna Tennessee in 1895 at the farm of George W. Gwynn. Below are two photos of his home on that farm. The home sat just east of the modern intersection of Sam Ridley Parkway and Old Nashville Highway, on Rock Springs Road. The farm and home have since been replaced by several subdivisions. See more about brother George W Gwynn here and here.

Left to right: 1)William Posey Gwynn, 2)Hager Gwynn, 3)unknown, 4)George Washington Gwynn, 5)Everett Edward Kilgrow, 6)Mattie Richardson Gwynn, 7)Virginia Hager, 8)James Emmett Gwyn, 9)Fannie May Gwyn (little girl sitting), 10)Aunt Toby.