Skeletons in the Closet?

When I started looking into my family history, I figured I would mostly find a lot of regular folks, farmers, etc. And that’s mostly what I found. I mean, aren’t most of us descended from regular folks?

Regular folks (farmers): Wilburn Larkin Kendall & Minty Viola Tilley Kendall, 1900. He as 20, she 23. My dad’s paternal grandparents.

But I also found some things that made me sad. The biggest one was finding people who had slaves, on both sides of the family. You can easily spot them if you look at census data, since it conveniently lists slaves as household members. Of course, now that I mention it, I can’t FIND any of them again. 

Because this is the way my mind goes, I began processing my white guilt a bit more. Now that I know there are a lot of indentured servants, plus genuine white slaves brought to America for nefarious purposes, and I also know that some of my ancestors in the southern US had slaves in their households, I began to wonder if it’s why I had such a strong reaction to the civil rights movement of the sixties.

I can remember being really angry at kids who weren’t nice to the black students in elementary school (we integrated in fourth grade). I’ve always had some sort of visceral reaction to people who are treated badly just because of how they look, where they come from, what spiritual path they are on, or who they love. Hmm, maybe it comes through the genes after all.

Back to ancestors

I digress. What I did find on my dad’s side of the family were more soldiers than I’d anticipated, but really, they were during times when most everyone was participating in military action. 

War Hero with very long name.

Speaking of skeletons in the closet, of course I found a couple of Civil War heroes lurking on Dad’s side, where there was a lot of action in north Georgia. There was my second great grandfather, Captain William Greenbury Lafayette Butt, of Union Georgia (where a LOT of ancestors settled in the early 1700s). He was on the losing side of that war. In fascinating additional news, his father was a postmaster, and also rather decorated: Judge Major John Butt III. Whew.

I also found soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War where the US broke from England. One example is Henry Tilley, Sr., in my grandmother’s line, who had five sons who fought in the Revolutionary War. On the Kendall side, my fifth great grandfather, William Kendall, appears to have died from war injuries in 1777. I think they were on the winning side.

Enoch de Melvin Underwood

On the Kendall side, there was 
Enoch De Melvin Underwood, who fought in the war of 1812. He was a warrior! He is buried in the Tilley cemetary in Union County, Georgia, where a butt-load of family members are (ha ha, many of them are Butts).

I guess that makes me a daughter of all those wars, but I’m not planning to join any clubs. I’m not really big on wars in general. But I do understand that, when everyone is participating, it’s a good idea to participate.

Anyway, the Kendalls appear to have arrived in the Virginia Colonies in the mid 1600s, so the family’s been here a while. Those Kendalls kept good records, because they  keep going and going until Richard Kendall, who was born in 1355! They also confused me, because in the 1700s a Kendall married a Kendall…possibly another skeleton in the closet? Why YES! John Kendall of the Revolutionary War, above, shows up in both lines!

Since this took me three days to write, I am going to stop. I hope you are able to find out where your ancestors came from and what they did. It can be interesting! Even if some of them were on the “wrong” side of history, it’s part of the story of who we are.

How Far Back Can You Go?

One Kendall coat of arms version

I said in my first post about family history that I didn’t “get” the appeal of genealogy. I am now getting it more, and apologize to anyone I offended by how I characterized my earlier disinterest in previous generations. I honestly DO see now that people are interested in more than just finding out if they were related to any kings or queens.

That said, hey, I have ancestors with “Sir” and “Lady” and “Viscount” and such in their listings! Knowing that I have slave ancestors on one side, I guess it all balances out.

I like this Kendall family crest, because it has pelicans pecking their breasts to feed their blood to others. So noble.

When I delved into the past of my dad’s side, which are Kendall and Butts lines from north Georgia in the hills, I kept thinking surely I would run into a dead end pretty quickly, since “all those hillbillies” probably didn’t keep good records. Well, once again I was totally wrong.

People care deeply about migration patterns of early European settlers to the US, and there are very good records showing how my ancestors ended up heading as far as Arkansas. Where did they start out? Most arrived in the Virginia colonies in the 1600s. I read a tale on Ancestry.com of one Kendall ancestor who paid for his passage by putting his two sons into indentured servitude for three years. As soon as they were done, they got out of Virginia! People owning each other seems to have quite the history, and it applies to my ancestors on both sides.

Continue reading “How Far Back Can You Go?”

Those Menorcan Settlers

Wow! My post about genealogy, which I reluctantly wrote even though I thought no one would care, really generated a lot of interest and interesting conversations! Quite a few folks shared their stories on my Facebook page, but the one that was most thought-provoking came from my friend Kathy, who is an anthropologist. Thanks to her, it became clear the story I shared last time is really not as benevolent as it sounded from the first summary I’d read! 

The cover of the novel about the niece of the man who capured the Menorcans

Kathy has a way better Ancestry.com account than mine, and her researcher instincts started her digging into the story of the Menorcans who were brought over to settle New Smyrna in Floriday. After she shared some findings, my friend Lynn, who went to high school with me, told us SHE is also descended from those folks (that makes two high school friends who turn out to be distant relatives, even though none of us was really from the city we went to high school in).

Anyway, here’s what Kathy sent me on Facebook:

Oh Sue Ann, the story of your ancestors in New Smyrna is so fascinating. There’s even a novel you can access online, published in 1897, set in New Smyrna and featuring the niece of Dr. Andrew Turnbull, the guy who tricked your ancestors into leaving their Mediterranean island home to go to Florida, then enslaved them. I left a message on your blog post. Send me an email and I will email the newspaper article I found to you. Here’s the link to the novel: Susan Turnbull

https://archive.org/details/16572618.2132.emory.edu/page/n1

The book Kathy referred to goes into great detail about how creepy Susan Turnbull was and how awfully they treated the slaves. I can’t wait to read more of it. Plus, there’s a sequel, which I have ordered: Ballyho Bey; or, the power of woman. A sequel to “Susan Turnbull.”

Kathy also sent me a couple of newspaper articles about Turnbull and his Menorcan captives. 

An article from 1913 said, Turnbull was the “original Florida land shark,”  who took advangage of opportunities during a brief period in the 1700s when Florida “belonged to” England (it later went back to Spain). (H.I. Hamilton: “New Smyrna of the Past and As It Appears Today,” The New Smyrna News, September 19, 1913)

A 1914 article from the same newspaper said Turnbull wanted to create a huge indigo plantation, and his intention was to “allure Greeks and other Europeans, many of them people of refinement, into colonization and reduce them to slavery.”

The first article makes a big deal about the fact that these were WHITE people. Sigh. A slave’s a slave and it is all bad! But it’s interesting to think that some of my ancestors, who escaped slavery to live in St. Augustine, later held slaves of their own.

More Menorcan descendents

It appears that when the Canovas escaped to St. Augustine things went well. My friend Mary reported that she grew up near “Canova Beach,” which was named after one of the Canova descedents, Carlos (the first engineering graduate from the  University of Florida!). The beach is near where the Indian River meets the Atlantic.

Judy Canova

Many of the family ended up in Green Cove Springs and Mandarin, Florida, not far from St. Augustine. My mom’s family ran a Canova Drug Store in Green Cove, founded by Dr. MJ Canova, who I believe is my third great grandfather. And we can’t forget the corn-fed comedy queen, Judy Canova, a member of the show-biz branch of the family (most well known to ME from a fried chicken commercial featuring the immortal Southern-accented words “And I helped”) and mother to Diana Canova, who was in Soap and other television shows.

My ancestors. This is in Green Cove Springs, Florida. left to right: Sidney Canova Anderson (my grandmother), Philip J Canova (great grandfather), Mary Susan Canova (great aunt), Frances Brown Canova (great grandmother), Laura Belle Canova Lazette (grandmother’s twin sister).

I mainly remember all my Canova great aunts and uncles. They were so genteel and educated, ranging from newspapermen to professional musicians. They came a long way.

Wow, thanks to all my friends who contributed to my family knowledge. I guess people DO like this topic.

NOW I’ll do more with my dad’s family, though I haven’t even touched other branches of Mom’s line!

Learn More

Canova Family Tree, by Frank Canova (my mother’s first cousin)