Friday, October 31, 2014

Día de los Muertos 2014

In celebration of both Halloween and Día de los Muertos:
Photo by Patrick Jones. INAH, Mexico City, Mar 2009.
Photo by Patrick Jones. INAH, Mexico City, Mar 2009.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Sophia

Our oldest is nine. Time sure flies. A comparison between 2009 and 2014 is below. Happy Birthday!
Photo by Patrick Jones. Sophia in Aug 2009, Moor Park, California.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Sophia in 2014, Alexandria, VA.

Monday, October 27, 2014

First in the East

On 18 October I took our son to his first Major League Soccer game, to see DC United lock up first place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire. Our seats were directly behind the District Ultras, one of the supporters' clubs which leads chants and makes the old stands at RFK Stadium bounce. DC United had a fan appreciation zone located behind the goal, so we left our seats for the standing area and field-level viewing. It was a nice evening for soccer in DC.
Photo by Patrick Jones. District Ultras celebrating a DC goal.
Photo by Patrick Jones. 18 Oct 2014, RFK Stadium.
Even with a recorded sell-out for the game, having the upper bowl empty doesn't help the atmosphere. The team tries to make the old stadium as presentable as possible, but DC United could really use a modern soccer-specific stadium.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Behind the goal. 18 Oct 2014.
The team has made a remarkable turn-around this season and we'll be cheering them on in the playoffs.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Will of Bryant Thornhill

On Thursday I posted a transcription of the inventory for the estate of my 7th great-grandfather Bryant Thornhill. Here is a transcription of the will, from Culpeper County Will Book B, pages 379-380.

"In the name of God Amen, I Bryant Thornhill of Saint Marks Parish in the County of Culpeper being very sick and weak but of perfect mind and memory thanks be to Almighty God and calling to mind the unity of this life do make this my last will and testament in manner and form following.


I bequeath my soul to Almighty God that gave it in hopes of a blessed life, resurrection though the merits of Jesus Christ my saviour and my body to be decently buried in a Christian like manner at the direction of my Executors hereafter mentioned.

Item I lend to my Beloved wife Thamson Thornhill all my land whereon I now live not molesting my son Joseph Thornhill of that part he lives on and not molesting my son John of that part he seated with all the rest of my estate during her life or widowhood excepting one feather bed and furniture I give to my son Reuben Thornhill at the day of his marriage.

Item I give to my son Joseph Thornhill and John Thornhill one hundred and fifty acres of my land to be laid of joining the land of Richard Chilton to them and their heirs forever.

Item I give to my son Reuben Thornhill my manor plantation containing one hundred and fifty acres more or less to him and his heirs forever that after decease of or widowhood of my loving wife it is my desire that it should be sold and the money arising from the same to be equally divided between my son William Thornhill and Bryant Thornhill and my daughters Elizabeth Boley to make up their legacies equivalent with the land left my above three sons and if their should be more or less it is my desire that their legacies should be made equal.

Lastly I constitute and appoint my loving wife Thamson Thornhill and my son Joseph Thornhill and John Thornhill my whole and sole Executors of this my last will and testament revoking and dis[unclear] all other will or wills here to fore made. In presence I have set my hand and seal this twenty eight day of December 1779.

Bryant Thornhill {seal} his mark X

Witnesses present}
William Allan
Jeremiah Asher
William Clatterbuck

At a Court held for Culpeper County the 17th day of April 1780

This last will and testament of Bryant Thornhill decd was exhibited to the Court and was proved by the oaths of William Allan, Jeremiah Asher & William Clatterbuck witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded and on the motion of the Executors Certificate is granted them of or obtaining a part at thereof in due form they having oath thereto and given bond and security according to law.

teste John Jameson, CP Court
Based on the will transcription above, Bryant and Thamson (also spelled Tamson) Thornhill had the following children, in no particular order:
1. Joseph Thornhill (my 6th-great-grandfather)
2. John Thornhill
3. Reuben Thornhill
4. William Thornhill
5. Bryant Thornhill Jr.
6. Elizabeth Thornhill

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pension File of Thomas Jones

In December 1852, Tennessee Congressman Albert Watkins wrote to the Pension Office on behalf of my 5th-great-grandfather, Thomas Jones, concerning his War of 1812 pension. According to the file published on Fold3, Thomas had been a Corporal in Captain George Gregory's Company of the Second Regiment, East Tennessee Militia commanded by Colonel Samuel Bunch. James Tillet, 2nd Lieutenant in Captain Gregory's Company, also provided a statement on behalf of Thomas attesting to his service. It appears that the Pension Office rejected the claim, but perhaps not all of the file has been loaded onto Fold3.
Source:, Pension file of Thomas Jones
Based on the information in the file, Thomas Jones joined Captain Gregory's company on 8 January 1814. He was mustered into service in Knoxville on 10 January 1814, and was honorably discharged in May 1814. Between January and May, the company was in Northern Alabama, where the Creek Indians were reportedly conducting hostile operations. Thomas' company was part of the larger force commanded by General Andrew Jackson in his campaign against the Creek Indians.

When the company arrived at Lookout Mountain, they learned that they were low on arms and men. Thomas was ordered back to Jefferson County to secure a supply. Thomas, Lieutenant Tillet and four others marched back to Jefferson County.

They began their journey in March 1814. The men reached Chickamauga Creek and were not able to find a crossing, so they crossed the river in waist-deep water. It was cold and stormy. They marched for another five miles after crossing the river before stopping for the night. Because Indians were in the area, Tillet ordered that they not make a fire and remain hidden. When they awoke the next day (5 March 1814), Thomas had partial paralysis on his right side where he had been sleeping. Thomas continued in the campaign, marching to Fort Strother and Fort Williams (a supply depot used in preparation for the Battle of Horseshoe Bend). Thomas claimed this pain continued throughout his service, and caused his current disability. He asked to receive the benefit of the Act of 24 April 1816, allowing pensioners disabled in service to receive benefits.

In Tillet's testimony, he stated that on the night of 4 March, it snowed on them while they slept on the ground in blankets. The next morning the men complained of stiffness and pain. Tillet later left Thomas at Fort Williams, Alabama after they returned from their gun supply run. When the company returned to Tennessee from service (after May 1814), Tillet met up with Thomas and he mentioned that he now suffered from numbness in his right arm and pain on his right side.

Thomas died in July 1857 in Jefferson County, Tennessee. I am hoping there is more information to be posted in the pension files, as Thomas' file is currently missing some of the other good historical details I have seen in others.

Statement of Thomas Jones

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pension File Posted

I have been checking the War of 1812 Pension files on Fold3 regularly since they began posting pensions from the J series for Tennessee. Today they posted the pension file of my 5th-great-grandfather Thomas Jones. I will have a full post later describing the file and his service in the War of 1812, but wanted to start with the opening page of the file:
Source:, War of 1812 pensions
Corporal Thomas Jones, of Captain Gregory's Tennessee Militia. More to follow later today.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Inventory of Bryant Thornhill's Estate

The inventory for the estate of my 7th-great-grandfather Bryant Thornhill is filed in the Culpeper County Court records (Will Book B, pages 379-380, 387-388). Just like the inventory for John Wheatley's estate, Bryant's provides a fascinating view into a Colonial household in 1780. Depending on the records, Bryant either died on 8 December 1779 or 22 May 1780. The inventory of his estate was appraised and recorded with the Culpeper County Court on 19 June 1780, and contained the following:

Two ewes and lambs ($40)
Eight head of cattle ($640)
Six head of hogs ($80)
One black horse ($260)
One gray mare ($75)
One bed and furniture ($200)
One bed ($60)
Two chests ($20)
Four chairs ($4)
One gun ($10)
Three quart mugs and two bowls & tea pot, one wine glass and three quart bottles ($16)
Four jugs and one butter pot & metal pan ($14)
One table ($1.40)
One flask, one funnel and half pint bottle ($3)
One parcel of books ($15)
One candle stick and pair of wool cards ($7)
One sythe ($9)
Eight pewter basons ($60)
Three pewter dishes ($20)
Nine pewter spoons ($3)
Twelve pewter plates ($30)
Iron pots (-)
Iron skillet, griddle and three pairs of pot hooks ($40)
One flask of oil, ladle, iron spoon and frying pan ($7)
Five knives and eight forks ($6)
Two flat irons ($6)
A parcel of woodenware ($6)
One wood spice morter ($1.10)
Amount brought forward ($1633.14)
Three brass hooks ($4.10)
A parcel of old irons ($6)
Axes and prow and hammer ($9)
One hemp sack ($2)
One pair of iron wedges and five hoes ($16)
Prow irons ($9)
One saddle and bridle ($7)
One small grindstone ($3)
Six casks ($9)
One woollen and one linen wheel ($45)
Total - ($1726.40)

Returned into Court and ordered to be recorded. Witnessed by William Bradley, Reuben Zimmerman, John Bowlley.
It is interesting to see the value of everyday items from this period of Virginia and the value put on the pewter kitchen utensils.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Back in Virginia

After a week of meetings in Los Angeles, I'm settled back into the day-to-day between travel. More meetings occur in DC starting tomorrow, so I took some time yesterday to visit the County Court Record Rooms in Culpeper and Fauquier Counties. I'll share some findings on the Thornhill, Wheatley, Read and related families over the next couple of days.

Inventory of John Wheatley's Estate

I previously wrote about the land of my 7th-great-grandfather, John Wheatley, back in July. John died in Fauquier County, Virginia in September 1795. The inventory of his estate was appraised on 27 June 1796 and is recorded in Fauquier County, Will Book 3, pages 10-11.

From reviewing the inventory, it is clear John Wheatley was a wealthy land owner. He had six slaves named on his inventory - Will, Lucy and Edmond, Patt, Ashby and Sally. His three horses were distinguished by type - two sorrel horses (1 male, 1 mare), and one bay horse. He also had 16 sheep, 6 cows, 6 yearlings, 6 hogs, 17 "shoats" (sheet-goat hybrids), a "fat hog", a sow and seven pigs. The inventory also describes John's farm tools - plows, hoes, axes - kitchen utensils, furniture, 6 beds and furniture.

Other interesting items included two smoothbore guns, a parcel of books, a looking glass, one cask and two rundlets. A rundlet was a small cask (see English units of cask measurement via Wikipedia). Given the known whisky producing skills in the Wheatley family, it looks like John Wheatley made his own whisky as well.

At the bottom of the page was a list of sales from the inventory. John's older brother George Wheatley Junior bought "one negro boy." Perhaps this was Edmond, who was listed with the slave Lucy on page 10. It would be interesting to see if Edmond shows up in the records with George Wheatley's household in Wilkes, North Carolina, where George moved after leaving Fauquier County.

The list provides a practical view of a Colonial household and insight into how the Wheatley family lived in Fauquier County.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

LA Sunrise

Two views from the Century Plaza looking toward downtown Los Angeles - one shortly after sunrise, the other from this afternoon. We've reached the last day of meetings. It has been a long but good week.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Downtown LA, 16 Oct 2014.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Downtown LA clearer in the afternoon.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

California From Above

These pictures taken were on the descent into LAX yesterday. The first shows the Salton Sea, the towns of Thermal, Coachella and the desert hills that sit between I-10 and the Joshua Tree National Park. The second shows Los Angeles from above (probably the 710 toward Long Beach). I normally don't get a window seat, but this provided a chance to see California on approach. A great view.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Salton Sea, 8 Oct 2014

Photo by Patrick Jones. LA looking toward Long Beach.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Century Plaza

Home for the next week will be the landmark Century Plaza in Los Angeles, as we host the 51st ICANN international public meeting. The Century Plaza was opened in 1966 on the former backlot of Fox Studios. For more on the history of the hotel, see Wikipedia and the Los Angeles Conservancy's pages. A few pictures from the Los Angeles Public Library's digital collection are below:
Source: LAPL, by Anne Knudsen, 1984.
Source: LAPL.
Source: LAPL. Presidential Dinner Menu, 1972.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Follow the Leads

Last month I had a professional researcher in Indianapolis look up some news articles on my O'Brien family at the Indiana State Library. The obituaries for my great-grandparents Harry O'Brien and Blanche Lamon O'Brien mentioned that they were members of the Millersville Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star. I reached out to the Millersville Chapter, which still exists. The Secretary of the Chapter wrote back with some new leads to follow for Harry and Blanche. The information helps fill in more gaps on their interesting lives.

Blanche Lamon O'Brien

My great-grandmother petitioned for membership in the Millersville OES on 19 April 1933, a year before Harry submitted his petition in 1934. The petition is a family history goldmine, as it shows her date of birth, prior residences, marriage date, names and addresses for her brothers, school attended, occupation and later death information. A lot of this I already had from other sources, but the petition contains some new nuggets that I may have never known without reaching out to the Millersville Chapter.

The petition confirmed her marriage date to Harry O'Brien as 18 February 1912, but provided missing detail on the years before 1912. Between her birth in 1887 and 1893, she lived in Fort Branch, Indiana. Her family lived in Browns, Edwards County, Illinois between 1893-1899, and then moved to McMinnville, Tennessee from 1899-1900 before returning to Fort Branch. Blanche attended Fort Branch High School in Gibson County, Indiana, and then Lockyear's Business College in Evansville, Indiana. I found an advertisement for the college on I'll have more on the college in a future post., Crittenden Press, 1 Dec 1904
I had previously found Blanche in the City Guides for Evansville between 1907-1911, often working as a stenographer. It looks like she received her training at the college.

The petition also notes that Blanche was elected to the Millersville Chapter on 17 May 1933 and initiated 24 May 1933. In 1942 she was Worthy Matron for the Millersville Chapter. The petition notes that Blanche was a member of the Royal Neighbors of America.

Harry Edward O'Brien

For Harry, the petition states that he applied on 20 June 1934, and was elected on 5 September 1934 (initiated 12 Sept 1934). He was a member of the Millersville Masonic Lodge #126 at this time. The real nugget of the petition was that it shows he went to Soule Business School in New Orleans, Louisiana. I knew he went to New Orleans to play music, but I didn't know he went to school there. This is a huge lead to follow.
Lafayette Advertiser, 1905
Ad from Colfax (LA) Chronicle, 1908
I'll have more on both Harry and Blanche's schools in upcoming posts. It is fascinating to see both went to business school, and that Harry, son of a coal miner, had the opportunity to leave Shelbyville, Illinois for cosmopolitan New Orleans sometime between 1900-1910.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

At the British Museum

Back in June, I had a few hours to explore the British Museum before diving into a week of meetings. I previously posted photos of the Rosetta Stone. This set shows a mix of artifacts from the museum's amazing collection. On this trip I was able to see the closing of the Viking exhibit too.
Photo by Patrick Jones. British Museum, 18 Jun 2014.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Viking ship.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Mayan block.
Photo by Patrick Jones. British Museum atrium.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Egyptian door.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Assyrian scene.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Ganesh.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Missed Opportunity

In looking back over my Thornhill research for Jefferson County, Tennessee, I found an email from a distant cousin in April 2008, noting a connection between Arena Louisa Thornhill and my 5th-great-grandmother Sarah Westall Thornhill. This researcher said that she suspected Arena Louisa was the daughter of Sarah, but had not identified clear proof. I had neglected this message and the potential family connection.
Source: Tracy Estepp. Marriage rites of Henry Givens and Arena Louisa Thornhill.
Arena Louisa Thornhill was born about 1815 or 1816. She married Henry Givens (also spelled Gibbons in later census entries) on 6 June 1831 in Jefferson County, Tennessee. In the 1840 Census, Henry was living very close to Joseph Thornhill (1810-1842), who would have been Arena Louisa's brother.
1840 US Census, Jefferson County, Tennessee
I think it is very likely that Arena Louisa was a child of Joseph Thornhill, the taylor from Culpeper, Virginia, and Sarah Westall Thornhill.

From checking online, Tracy "Betsy" Estepp was a very thorough researcher and frequent poster on message boards for research on Jefferson County, Tennessee. In seeing her old email from 2008, I couldn't tell if I had ever responded. Most likely I missed it completely. On the odd chance that the email address still worked, I sent a message this morning, but it immediately bounced back. I checked some other leads online. Sadly I missed my chance to reply to Tracy by over four years. According to Findagrave, she died in May 2010, a young 46.

No one knows how much time they have, to make their mark. I write this blog, share my research, travel photos and other things I find interesting in order to make public the information, for my family to see later. It's really unfortunate I missed this opportunity to connect and to learn more from someone who spent so much time trying to uncover family history and share that with others. It is a reminder to me to take advantage of the time we have, to share as much as possible, & leave a lasting bit of history on our families and ourselves.

Ping Pong Back to VA

Last month I received an update from the National Personnel Records Center, National Archives at St. Louis, on my inquiry into the Spanish-American War pension file of Harl Cain. Yesterday another update arrived in the mail, sending me back to the Veterans Administration FOIA Office. I'm definitely feeling like a ping pong ball, after having first wrote to the VA on 5 May. Thanks go out to the thorough check conducted by the NARA Supervisory Archivist in St. Louis looking into my request, they did send me two update letters and provided me with a clear answer of where they searched and how to proceed with my request. A redacted transcription of the letter is below:

September 25, 2014

Request for VA XC/Pension File

This is in response to your request dated May 5, 2014, which you submitted to obtain copies of the XC/Pension File for Harl Cain. The records we are receiving from the NARA facility at Lee's Summit, MO, for the XC number listed above, have arrived at the National Archives at St. Louis. I regret to inform you that the file you seek was not among those received. A review of the VA BIRLS system indicates that this file was transferred from VA custody on 6/7/65. The records we are receiving are only those that were transferred in 1955. Therefore, we believe that the file you seek is still in VA legal custody.

Please contact the VA FOIA/Privacy Act Officer at the following address: [VA Regional Office in Baltimore].

I am sorry for the delay this causes you. You may contact me at [redacted] if you have any questions.
That was a nice response to receive. I can see the NARA team in St. Louis spent time looking for the file. Again, it is kind that they took the time to send me back a clear and thorough reply.

Using this information, I sent an email back to the VA FOIA/Privacy Act Officer in Baltimore and copied the Archivist in St. Louis, providing the VA with the information from NARA St. Louis and asking that they check their files in the records transferred from VA custody in 1965. So, we'll see. This is a long process. I have no idea what is in the file - it may have no information on the parents of Harl and Mary Alice, or it could open up new lines of research that would only be known from the contents of the file. It is worth the wait.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Right Proper DC

Last month my sister and I stopped into Right Proper Brewing Company for pre-concert grub & drinks. The restaurant/brewery is located next to the Howard Theater at 624 T Street NW, around the corner from Shaw Metro in DC. This isn't a restaurant review - the food was good, beer was even better - I'm highlighting this place for its art work.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Right Proper, 4 Sept 2014
Photo by Patrick Jones. Pandas, animals with lasers.
My pictures don't do this mural justice. It is a long scene in the middle of the restaurant, showing pandas wrestling above DC, foxes and elk with lasers, a squirrel with a flame thrower, and other animals in full battle mode. I think I'll have to go back for a better photo (and to sample their new beers).
Photo by Patrick Jones. Right Proper, 4 Sept 2014.
There are other paintings throughout the brewery, the photo above shows a painting near the front entrance.

This was a fun place to go before we saw the Spoon show at the historic Lincoln Theater. Right Proper brews its own beer, and the list regularly changes. Check it out if you're in the neighborhood.

Patent Dispute & a Letter to Jefferson

There's certainly something very American about being connected to a historical legal dispute over a patent for whisky distilling. This particular dispute also involved an appeal to former President Thomas Jefferson for support.

On 13 November 1813, James Wheatley received a patent from the US Patent & Trademark Office for distilling, still and condensed tub, most likely for the production of whisky. James was the brother of my 6th-great-grandfather Daniel Wheatley, and resided in Fauquier County, Virginia at the time. James' patent was disputed by Robert Gillespie, another inventor who claimed prior rights based on his earlier patent published in 1810. Gillespie wrote about his dispute to Thomas Jefferson, who responded by letter on 3 August 1814:
Source: Papers of Thomas Jefferson
The Jefferson papers reference pages on file in the Culpeper County Court, so this is another set to add to my growing list to copy in the future. From the summary above, Gillespie agreed to divide the rights to the region, so perhaps he recognized Wheatley had some claim on the new patent.

The letter from Jefferson to Gillespie is cited as: “Thomas Jefferson to Robert Gillespie, 3 August 1814,” Founders Online, National Archives ( [last update: 2014-09-30]). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, vol. 7, 28 November 1813 to 30 September 1814, ed. J. Jefferson Looney. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 509–510.

I previously wrote about James Wheatley and his mill back in July (see 1828 Petition to Create Wheatley's Mill Town). I am assuming that Wheatley, like a more famous mill operator in Northern Virginia (George Washington), operated a distillery at his mill.