Monday, July 25, 2011



It is often thought that divorces didn't much happen in "the old days." But people being people, it happened then just as it does now. The record above (which I will "translate" in part below) is found in the Court Records of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas, Divorce Packet 5532 and dates to September 9, 1884.

Nellie, daughter of Levi J. and Nancy Anderson Sperry, filed for divorce from her husband, Charles S. Perry. In this petition she says that she married said Perry on October 1, 1879 and was a good, faithful and obedient wife. However, she adds, beginning about May 1, 1884 her husband went to a house of prostitution known as "Moll Butler's" on 3rd Street in Kansas City, Missouri and committed adultery with "a certain woman whose true name is unknown to your petitioner but who is known by the name of 'Blondeyes' and 'Ella' and who is an inmate of said house of ill fame." She adds that he's continued committing adultery with her ever since that time.

She asks the court for a dissolution from the marriage bonds and that she be restored to her maiden name of Nellie D. Sperry. The court granted her request.

I know from further records that she married again, but she is so loosely connected to my Dobbins family that I really haven't spent a lot of time researching her.

Her father, Levi J. Sperry is written about in my blog of April 2011. He was married the first time to Paulina J. Dobbins, who was my great-grandfather Dobbins's sister. Levi, Paulina and a daughter Unitia made the trip west with the Dobbins Family, but Paulina and a newborn baby died in early 1856. Unitia died when she was about 11 years old, so there is no one left in this family related to the Dobbinses. But my great-grandfather remained friends with his former brother-in-law,and in fact was working on Levi's farm when he met his future wife, the widow Nancy "Nannie" Corel LaHay. I have always considered the Sperry family to be emotionally but not biologically connected to the Dobbins line. That's not very good genealogical practice, but sometimes it just happens!

The Sperrys had marriage problems all around. Levi and 2nd wife Nancy had a major divorce scandal. Levi married a third time, and after his death, that wife sued a besotted neighbor for breach of promise.

In genealogy, sometimes you find other people's relatives are far more interesting than your own!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


~ A Ryland Relative ~

Is it important to document the existence of a person who is (or was) your half-first cousin twice removed? Or to document a person whose only extant image appears on two passport applications in the National Archives, one dated 9 June 1919 and the other 30 August 1924?

In the scheme of things it may not be all that important, but since starting genealogical research in 1984 I had tried to find this fellow and it took until August of 2010 to find him - 36 years! That makes it important to me.

NOTE: You can double-click the photo above to see the Application more clearly.

Let me see if I can simplify how we relate: My great-grandma Nellie Stevens Davis Eungard (a twice-married lady) and Frank's father, Edward Whitters, were siblings. Their mom, Ellen, had two marriages. Little Frank Whittiers was from the first marriage (his natural father died young) and Nellie Stevens was from her second marriage.

Nellie's daughter Jessie (my grandma) and Frank Whitters were first cousins, both born and raised in Kansas. As far as I can find, Frank never married or had children. So here's how all the "halves" and "removeds" are figured.

Jessie and Frank were half-first cousins.
Jessie's daughter Virginia (my mom) and Frank were half-first cousins once removed. This means that Virginia was still a first cousin but just one generation further down the line.
And because I am Virginia's daughter, I am still a first half-cousin but twice removed. I'm two generations down the line.

Frank was born on April 9, 1884 in Raymond, Rice County, Kansas. In September of 1918 he registered for the WWI Draft and at that time stated his occupation was a farm laborer on his brother-in-law's farm in Kansas. (Frank had a married sister Jenny Whitters Caywood). He may already have done some work in the oil fields, but I have no proof of that. I imagine in between jobs he helped on the farm.

There is an interesting Affidavit in his 1919 Passport Application from his father that sheds some light on his background. It says:
I, E. R. Whitters, being first duly sworn, depose and say upon my oath that I am the father of Frank Edward Whitters, who was born April 9, 1884, at Raymond, Kansas; and that the attending physician was Dr. Burton of Raymond, Kansas; I was born on July 1st, 1854 at Boston, Massachusetts, and that the mother of said Frank Edward Whitters was also a native born American. All of the above mentioned places are in the United States of American.

Other interesting items on his passport are that the passport was to be sent to hm in care of Empire Refining Co., in Ponca City, Oklahoma. His plans were to leave from Laredo Texas on board the Southern Pacific Rail Road on June 20, 1919. A letter from the Anglo Mexican Petroleum Company Ltd. was also included which said he had been engaged by them for a three year period on a salary basis and will be engaged in drilling for Oil in the vicinity of Tampico, Mexico.

We also know that his passport was renewed in 1924.

In 1930 Frank lived in Newton County, Missouri and was listed on the census as a well driller. But in the Thursday, August 24, 1933 edition of the Alice (Texas) Echo News there is a notice as follows:

The Body of Frank E. Whittier (sic), 49, is being held at the Moyer Mortuary, pending instructions from relatives as to where the body is to be shipped. Whittier was a driller for the T. G. & M. Drilling Company and had been employed in the Freer Oil Fields."
There was no further information in the newspapers, but Charles Roberson of Roberson's Funeral Home in Alice, Texas was able to tell me that he checked with the Alice Cemetery and found that Frank E. Whitters was buried in Section D, Lot 6, Space 6. The death certificate was issued in Duval County, Texas. An autopsy was perform which indicated angina pectoris, coronary occlusion and arterio sclerosis.

So Frank had a short life. But at least he is now counted among my other relatives, the Immortal Nobodies, and can be found again, should anyone else be looking.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

UBERTO WRIGHT - 1813-1889


No family pictures exist of Uberto Wright or his second wife Susannah Jane Smith Wright, from whom I descend. His first wife, Sarah Allen, died young, leaving two small daughters (Miriam and America.) Uberto and Susan had six children: Frances Narcissa, called Fannie, James, John, Jacob, Minerva and Lily. Fannie was my great-grandmother on my dad's side.

You would think a diligent researcher would find some kind of explanation as to where such an usual name as Uberto came from. But no, in 27 years of researching I have not found an earlier source. I have found descendants with that name, along with themes and variations: Ulberto, Uberdo, Alberto, Alberta, Huberto and so on. I've decided people want to understand the name by making it be something else. But it is, plain and simple: Uberto.

Uberto was born in Barren County, Kentucky in January of 1813 and was reared principally in Warren County, which borders Barren on the west. He was a farmer and did surveying. He also became a minister in the Christian Church (aka Church or Christ or Campbellite) and in the 1880s he was employed by the State Board of the Christian Church as an evangelist. He also served as Justice of the Peace several times. He was called on to become a candidate for the Legislature but he refused, not being interested in things political. He had a plantation of some 255 acres on Peter's Creek in Barren County. He was a slaveholder prior to the Civil War.

The 1870 Federal Census for Barren County, KY is quite interesting as it pertains to our Wright family. Take a look at it. The slaves have been emancipated. The first column counts houses and the second number counts family. So you see first Uberto and Susan's household and then you see Felix and America Wright's family.

In the Uberto & Susan Wright family we find James, Jacob, John, Lilly and Polly, Uberto's sister. The three oldest daughters, Mary Ann, America and Narcissa are already married and living on their own. I do not know who Sallie Vaughn is, but there are also three black Wrights: Malinda, a maid; Rufus a farm hand,and Fannie, a child. In the house next door we find another family of Wrights - Felix and America, with children Samuel, Uberto, Luther, Sera?, and Zack.

You can see the names "America" "Fannie" and Uberto appear in both famlies. And my great-grandma Fannie Wright McConnell named one of her sons "Luther."

Narcissa (the oldest child of Uberto and Susannah) was my father's grandma. She and her husband left Kentucky about 1880 and went to Texas and then to Colorado. My father and his sister (my Aunt Dorothy), who were born and raised in Colorado, knew their grandma, who was called "Bonnie." When I started into genealogy my questions spurred Aunt Dorothy to write a Family History of what she remembered about her family. Here is one sentence in her story that pertains to the Uberto & Susannah Wright family:

The family (Narcissa and husband) moved to Waco, Texas in 1880, living on a small farm. Mama said one of the former slaves from the Wright plantation came with them. Many stayed on after the war ended and were treated as members of the family.
The picture of the family as shown in the 1870 census gives a hint that Aunt Dorothy's recollection just may be right.

All my reading about Uberto leads me to believe he was a kind Christian man. I would guess (and hope) that he treated his slaves well and was first in line to give them their freedom when the time came. I also would suspect that my Aunt Dorothy was right in what she remembered and the now-freed slaves chose to remain close to Uberto and Susan.

Another plus for Uberto is that he gave his wife "power and authority at his demise to make sales of land and deed by general warranty, the same to the purchaser or purchasers to have the full force of a deed from myself and her jointly, and any other small matter than I might or may owe that my wife pay the same as in her judgment may be deemed proper." I was pleased that he gave his wife credit for having some brains!

And finally, his last words in his will were these: "May God bless my family." A will rattling around with family skeletons is fun to read, but how much better to read one that contains a blessing!

Uberto died in 1889 and Susannah Smith Wright in 1903. They are buried in the Smith Cemetery (near Etoile) in Barren County. With them are their children, John C. Wright and Minerva Wright, as well as Susan's father and mother, James D and Rebecca D. Higdon Smith.