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Historical Novel Society Conference 2017, Portland, Oregon

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IMG_1286No question: I’m exhausted. I’ve spent the last three days at the Historical Novel Society Conference in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been encouraged and discouraged; invigorated and inebriated; enthused and confused; and bolstered by a wealth of like-minded, amazing human beings. At every turn, this band of normally introverted writers and readers broke from their shells to share. Not much small talk, thank goodness, aside from “Where are you from?” (which included Australia, New York, Shanghai, and Hawaii). We got “write” to the point.

My self-assigned task, to distil everything I’ve learned into a post or maybe two, has proved too daunting. So, I’ve decided to hit the highlights with a series of quotes.

Thursday, June 22nd: A Day with Kate Forsyth

“I’ve never written a book without throwing up my hands and say ‘What made you think you could write a book?’”

“Characters travel on a journey of transformation but so does the writer.”

Then there is my distillation of her big don’ts.

  1. Don’t say panster (as in seat-of-the-pants writer) or plotter (as in hyper outliner) rather say analytic or intuitive. And know you are a little of both
  2. Don’t say show don’t tell. “Think ‘When do I show and when do I tell?’ and tell well.”
  3. Don’t be obvious or prescriptive with narrative. “If everyone writes like everyone else, there is no surprise. I hate the three act structure. I don’t teach The Heroes Journey, even though I love it. Any system that narrows the creative process is a poor choice.”

There was so much more in her session, from the nitty-gritty stuff writers need to be reminded of (check out her old-school whiteboard) to the inspirational like:

“When we get blocked it’s usually because of fear of failure or ridicule. But it isn’t about you, it’s about the story. So tell the story you are being asked to tell.”

Check her out here.

Friday, June 23rd: A Dose of Reality and Distilled Liquor

Session 1: Breaking In, Breaking Out, and Staying On Top with agent Irene Goodman and editor, Lucia Macro

“Don’t get too emotionally attached.” “Most people want encouragement and support, but sometimes it’s an A- book.”

Session 2: Things that Go “Bang!” in the Night with Gordon Frye

 “Where they fire, there’s smoke.”

Here’s his blog.

Session 3: Buttons and Points and Pins, Oh My with Isobel Carr

Again, you’ve got to get those details right, and before buttons and zippers, they used a LOT of pins. She is authoritative. Find her here.

Lunch with Geraldine Brooks (I love, love, love her.)

I was mesmerized. Did I take a single note? No! But this I remember: She quoted one of my favorite Leonard Cohen poems.

“There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”

Session 4: Modern Tools to Tell Historical Fiction with Stephanie Dray

My big take away? While I’m still on the fence about Scribner (any thoughts anyone?), I am purchasing Aeon Timeline ASAP. A link here.

Then I did a pitch of my most recent book, The Forging of Frost, and went to a cold read—Debbie Downer. At the pitch I got

“It’s just not grabbing me, Where’s your female protagonist?”

At the cold read, while they didn’t read my two-page offering, the authors who were read were informed, quite tersely, “I didn’t know where or when the story is taking place or where it is going.” For those out there who heard those words, I heard some good writing. (See day three for support.)

Luckily, or unluckily, I went to the infamous “Hooch” event. Isobel Carr moderated—hilarious—while participants partook of six (yep, six) different examples of alcohol through the ages. While my head complained on the day following, the lubrication did create some great bonding. We commiserated over the death of the male protagonist, shared our triumphs and our emails.

Fast Forward to Saturday, June 24th: The Final Day

Session 1: State of the State of Historical Fiction: with a panel of agents and editors

They provided the same dire prognosis as the previous day, i.e. it’s a woman audience, 1850 forward with a woman protagonist sells better, the novel biography is dead, and

“Dusty, dark, grey clothes just aren’t that sexy.”

But the light snuck in through the cracks,

“All that said, in the end, we are looking for an extremely compelling story that is well-written.”


Session 2: New Sources for Researching the Historical Novel with Mary Malloy

Great information for one new to the research world. My background in genealogy prepared me well. She agrees—maps, maps, maps and writing from the period.

Session 3: Two for One: Weaving the Twin-Stranded Storyline with Susanna Kearsley

Her presentation was professional, elegant, useful. I want to read her. Could it be that she writes twin-stranded stories just like me? Do check her out here.

Lunch with David Ebershoff (author of The Danish Girl, a wonderful book. I consider his 19th Wife a work of genius, but it’s a tome so be prepared.)

He was eloquent, and I again did not take notes, but he left me and many others with tear-rimmed eyes and all of us with his wisdom. To paraphrase:

“All any one of us wants is to be seen, as an individual, for who we really are.”

Lifted by his words, I decided to go to my next pitch. (I’d been vacillating.) I got:

“Send me a chapter and a synopsis.”

Then at the cold read? Some positive comments and some good suggestions. They were kind, supportive.

“I’m not that fond of Cold Reads. We don’t have any background on the story. That said, thank you for being so courageous.”

Did I say I was exhausted? I took refuge in a corner, waiting for the finally—the big banquet—and again found a comrade in the world of words.

Because, in the end, all we really want is to be seen for who we really are. It’s how the light gets in.

Finding Father: Ralph Lewis Croy

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The folder contained a pile of paper my father saved. The contents provide a glimpse into the life of a fine father, Ralph Lewis Croy. My brother gave me the file a couple years ago for an obvious reason. I’m the historian for the family. It’s a curious phenomenon. I hold together a family history for an independent, often distant, family. But we are, I discovered, after opening his folder, shoots not far from their roots. Dad did not keep everything—no random terrible artwork, no diary—he wasn’t that kind of guy. But what he kept provides a roadmap to his life.

Obviously, he kept his birth certificate. He was born at 9th and Moore Street (no hospital involved) in Henrietta, Oklahoma. Henrietta was always the place where he said he “grew up.”

that old gang of mine

This picture was a favorite of his. He labeled it “that old gang of mine.” He is bottom center. They are holding sticks for a game of hockey, I think.

But when the Great Depression hit in 1929, his dad lost his foreman position in a coal mine in Henrietta, and the family was forced to move. He often told me he planned to go to college at Alabama State, maybe even on a basketball scholarship. He was always athletic. His dreams were dashed and his father got a job as a miner in Spiro, Oklahoma.


He kept his high school diploma. He graduated from Spiro High School on May 16, 1931, with 19 others classmates. He likely knew none of them well.

Spiro High School

Dad wrote right on the photos. It drove Mom nuts, but, hey, it’s pretty clear, right?


There is no record of what he did during the next four years. The most impactful period in my dad’s life, based on the stories he told, was when he road the rails out to see his brother, Muriel, in San Francisco. I’ve never been able to pinpoint when he lived his “hobo” life. This is one possibility but I don’t think Muriel live in San Francisco at the time. A paper from the file that Dad typed up outlining his work life (in an attempt to get social security benefits) gives 1937 as his first work year, but he had forgotten about the following service.

He kept his release papers for his service with the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC’s) in Oklahoma. He worked in Pine Valley, Oklahoma from June 25, 1935, through December 1, 1935, as a truck driver in road construction. The CCC’s, formed in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, was in full swing by 1935, employing a half-million men across the country. During his six-month stint, Dad sent a total allotment of $25 home to his father Justus Croy, care of general delivery, Spiro, Oklahoma.

No records exist for 1936. From my father’s stories, I know Justus Croy and family traveled up through Colorado, working along the way. By the first of 1937 my dad, if not the rest of the family, was in Farson, Wyoming.

He kept a letter dated January 14, 1937, from the regional director of the Department of Interior, Department of Grazing. “Dear Friend Ralph, As I was interested to know, at my recent visit to Farson, of your progress in Engineering, I have taken the “liberty” to list your name with the R. Hardesty Mfg. Co, and they will send you their Handbook on Hydraulic Data, which I trust will be beneficial to you…” I had always thought his studies began by “mail” after his time in the US Army Air Force. I was wrong. His interest in engineering began as early as age 25.

He kept his CCC release papers for his service in Wyoming. He worked in Farson, Wyoming from May 6, 1937, through September 30, 1937, doing clerical work with the CCC’s and was paid $45 (no allotment sent).  He gave the address 1016 Lee St, Rock Springs, Wyoming for any further correspondence.

He kept a Union Pacific Coal Company Certificate of First-aid Training for “Aid to the Injured” dated 1939, the recipient: ‘Ralph Lewis Croy of Reliance, Wyoming.” According to his typed work record, he worked for Union Pacific Coal Company in Rock Springs, Wyoming from 1938-1940.  My brother recalls the story he told of how he walked off the job after seeing a man, one of many, injured in a mining accident, never again to work in the coal industry. His uncle Gardner had been electrocuted in a mining accident in 1920. Four years after he left Union Pacific Coal, his uncle David died in a landslide while working coal.

He kept a letter of recommendation dated August 29, 1942, from contractors Radich and Brown of Oakland, California. He worked for them as a transit man at the Oakland Naval Supply Depot. The letter stated: “It is our experience that his integrity is beyond reproach.” According to his typed record, he worked for contractors in Oakland from 1940- October 10, 1942.  I know my uncle, Muriel Croy, worked in construction in the San Francisco area at this time, so Dad likely followed Muriel there after walking away from Union Pacific Coal. There is a discrepancy. It is more likely he moved to Oakland in early 1941. Why? He, with his father and his mother Mollie, are listed in the same household on the 1940 census. His father Justus Croy died of emphysema (black lung) on December 13, 1940.

He kept his discharge papers from the US Army Air Force. He enrolled on October 30, 1942, in San Francisco, CA. He listed his civilian occupation surveyor and his home address 5016 Calaveras Ave, Oakland, CA. He trained at Bombsight School at Lowry Field in California as a Bombsight Mechanic. On February 11, 1946, he separated from Squadron C, 2619th Army Air Force Base Unit at Indiantown Gap Mile Reservation, Pennsylvania. He had married my mother Hattie Beatrice Schulz on August 4, 1944.

dad and dog

Always wondered exactly when they were in Carlsbad, NM. No doubt now.


He kept the March 27, 1946, letter he received from US Bureau of Reclamation Construction Engineer, O.G. Boden. “There is a vacancy in the position of Engineering Aide (Survey, SP-6), $2320 per annum, with headquarters in Antioch, California. This work will include operation of instruments of field survey party engaged in location and property surveys for the Contra Costa Canal System. Please advise at your earliest convenience if you are interested in employment in the above position.” He became a permanent employee with the Bureau on March 9, 1947, and I was born October 18, 1947, in Pittsburg.

Of course, there is more to the story, the stuff of another post. What I write here is about one file. The artifacts my dad saved help us trace his movement through time and place with exacting detail. He loved history, of his family and his nation. He preserved the remnants of it.

I often wonder why I do what I do: the blog, the historical fiction, the research, the amassing of artifacts. Not because my family reads these missives, if they do, which I doubt. I do it for love of Dad. I do it for me. I spring from his roots, where the past is forever present.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad—and thank you.



Preparing for Portland

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Preparing for the Historical Novel Society Conference @HNS-ConfUSA  so…a Thursday Throwback reminder: You are not the judgment you receive.  A discussion with an aspiring writer reminded me of this post. I thank him.

kyujutsu14With arms out, your heart exposed, you reveal yourself or your work to human scrutiny. Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. calls it “standing in the target zone.” It’s not easy. You go for that interview; you take that test; you offer up your love; you ask for feedback on a draft of a book. And you get a response.

Sometimes the balloons fall, confetti rains down, and they place bouquets of flowering praise into your hands. You step right into the target zone; you win—the job, the A, the love, the accolades. You feel valued.

Other times they throw eggs: hard-boiled, rotten, or fresh and usable. Spritely and alert, you dodge them, and evaluate their worth. They aren’t about you; they are about what’s between you and the words. So you toss the rotten criticism, digest the hard-boiled truths, and set aside the freshest critiques for later. You step out of the target zone soiled but ready to move on.

But other times—wow—other times you step into arrows, sharp and fast. Some are aimed at the target. You’ll deal with those later. But your guard is down; maybe you were expecting balloons. Suddenly, before you can grab your shield, one heads right at you. You take it personally, in the chest. You think, “You weren’t good enough for the job; you’re stupid; no one loves you; you are not okay, or talented, or worthy.”

If you’re quick, you can pull loose the arrow, stave the wound, and recover. You remind yourself that the barb isn’t about you; it’s theirs—their perspective, their point of view, their wounds, their opinions. You can take the arrow, clean it off, and learn what you can from it.

Sometimes, though, the wound festers, especially if, while you were pulling out the first arrow, two more hit their mark, one in your Achilles’s heel. This poison courses through your body. It hollows out your gut, robs you of your voice, and leaves you weakened, with a vise grip on your head and heart. You want to quit. You know better. You should have been vigilant, should have stepped out of the target zone, should have thrown up your shield and protected yourself. Now what?

You heal. It isn’t quick, but you heal. You step back, take stock, and you forgive. Forgive the archers for their aim and yourself for being human, for assuming balloons and making it personal—the job, the test, the lover, the book. You did your best, and you will begin again.

We live in a world of the instant critique. Want a hotel, a dinner, a book? Search the internet and the opinionated masses provided listings of one to five-star judgments from which we can choose. Find an agreeable viewpoint on a website and we post it on our Facebook page, or just “like” what appeals to us as we scroll the home feed. Suddenly, Facebook (or Twitter, or the website we light on) reads our preferences and presents us with more of what we want or need or agree with. We get filtered faceless bursts. Not so, when we’re standing in the target zone.

Here is what I learned from the arrows. (And after some reflection, my attachment to the balloons.)

  • If I ask for feedback, if I put myself in the target zone, I need to be specific about what I want…and if I only want a bouquet, I’m not ready to put myself there.
  • If I think I am ready, I will request the information in small doses, step back when I sense my guard is down, and even walk away.
  • I will try to remember that I am not the judgment I receive.
  • I will listen, digest what I hear, and give myself time to evaluate
  • I will refrain from explaining myself, making excuses, or, if I am wounded, retaliating.
  • I will move on, make my choices, and enjoy where they take me.

And I will be judicious in my judgment. We are fragile souls. We want approval, love, and the kind attention of others. We want to be okay.

  • I will not give feedback unless it is requested (and believe me, I asked for it!).
  • I will offer my opinions up with genuine praise (and if I can’t find it, I’m not looking closely enough).
  • I will make all my comments specific and avoid advice, respecting the recipient’s ability to move forward in his or her own way.

It is called being constructive. It isn’t easy, but a bouquet opens the heart, a boiled egg nourishes the body and provides for growth—and an arrow can wound. My words are my words—I can’t guarantee how they’ll land, but if asked, I can shoot for the target, not the soul.

What? An author page at Facebook @croywright & Twitter account @CroyWright—Really!

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An Author Page and Twitter await me…aargh!

In preparation for the debut of my American Historical Fiction novel, The Scattering of Stones, Dan, my publisher, asked me the question. The one I dreaded, “Donna, do you have a Twitter account? Instagram?”

I told him I was on Facebook.

He smiled, “Is it an author page.”

I stared. “How do you do that?” I asked.

Mind you, I’ve written a blog for six years now, and I post regularly. I can wrangle that little world quite well, but I’ve avoided the rest. Why? Me? Really? Social? I’m a history and genealogy buff. I write historical fiction. I’m not good at small talk. I wake at five o’clock and go to bed at eight. My husband and I tease that we were meant for another time, two hundred, two hundred fifty years ago maybe. I often click my heels three times wishing for a past without the rumble of machines and the distraction of technology. Though I admit I think twice due to the lack of medical advancements or indoor plumbing, and some excruciating women’s undergarments.

The above thoughts whirled through my brain while I continue to stare blank-faced at my publisher. Then I confronted the inevitable. My book—my investment in research, time, and the characters I love—their story deserved an audience. I would wade in, but not plunge. Dan introduced me to Audra, social media specialist. We made an appointment.

Then I went home and told my son Cedar Wright. But more on Cedar. He is a walking whirlwind. A professional athlete and filmmaker, if he isn’t adventuring in this universe, he’s whizzing around the technological one. Often, it happens simultaneously.

“Could you answer a few questions for me?” I asked.

Did I say he was a whirlwind?

“Mom…” The word held out with loving exasperation. “It’s easy. Where’s your laptop?”

“I just want to understand it better. I have an appointment.”

“Where’s your laptop?”

Whirlwind turns to hurricane, and in ten minutes, I have a Facebook author page and Twitter account. I have no idea what happened. As with the passing of any hurricane, I came out stunned, thankful to survive, and determined to step up, moving bravely forward.

So, you are invited. Follow my author page at Facebook @croywright. Any posts here will deal specifically with my life as writer: what I write, what I love to read, what I’m learning (or not), and what inspires. Follow me (that sounds so egocentric) on Twitter, @CroyWright, where I’ll…tweet? And share in 140 characters or less.

At the very least, wish me luck. Meanwhile, maybe outdoor plumbing isn’t that bad. But corsets? Not so much.

Finally! Missouri!

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A close-up shot of northern Missouri counties showing Chariton on the left and Ralls on the right.

The Final Chapter in my Missouri Bound Musings

The ancestors of Gillian Virginia Morris, my grandmother’s maternal grandmother, made it to Missouri! That is, if you have followed my previous posts.

To discover how her parents, Peter Philander and Elizabeth Ely Morris, met, we must dig into Place. I use a capital “P” for Place because I consider it key to all historical research. And to understand Place, you need maps, and I do LOVE maps.

But first, a recap:

  • Part 1 and 2: Thomas H. and Malinda Salling[i] Morris(s) moved from Rockbridge County, Virginia by about 1845 and settled in Chariton County, Missouri with their children. One of those children was Gillian’s father Peter Philander Morris.
  • Part 3 and 4: Isaac Ely and Mary Polly Judy Ely travelled from Clark/Montgomery County, Kentucky to Missouri with their children. One of their children was William Scott Ely. They arrived with Isaac’s father Benjamin Ely in about 1820, and bought land in Ralls County, Missouri in 1824.
  • Part 5: Hankerson Adam Utterback and Catherine Pence Utterback moved from Boone County, Kentucky to Ralls County, Missouri via Clay County, MO by about 1824.[ii] In 1829, his daughter Rebecca Virginia Utterback bought land in Ralls County, as well.
  • Part 1: While not a direct ancestor, an important connection is John Salling brother of Malinda Salling Morris. He moved from Rockbridge County, Kentucky to Ralls County, Missouri by 1833.

William’s father, Isaac, had purchased various sections in Township 55 Range 6 of Ralls County.Ralls tsp 55 R6 Elys

Rebecca’s father, Hankerson owned 160 acres in Township 55 Range 7 Section 33, shown below. Note that, geographically, the map below would be to the left of the map above. The bend in the Salt River left incomplete above is completed below.Ralls 55-7 Page_49.jpg Utterbacks Rall county

Living so near, it is clear how William Scott Ely and Rebecca Utterback met and married.[iii] Rebecca had her land and William bought land nearby.[iv]

But how did their child, Elizabeth Ely (her gravestone says Eliza), meet and marry Peter Philander Morris, of Chariton County? How far apart are Chariton County and Ralls County? The map at the top of this post is a close-up of Missouri from the excellent map resource at the State Historical Society of Missouri.[v]According to the map’s scale for mileage, the two counties are about 60 miles apart (Google Maps confirms this). Sixty miles is a fair distance to travel in the 1800’s.

The key, of course, is Peter’s uncle John Salling. The Morris family of Chariton County likely visited the Salling family in Ralls County. So how close was John Salling to the William Scott Ely’s homestead? The plat maps for Ralls County[vi] found at the Missouri Digital Heritage site gives us a clue. I took the land office records[vii] of the families previously mentioned, a spreadsheet of which can be found hereRalls County, Missouri Land Records, and compared it to the plat maps of 1878. Here is a close-up of Sections 54-7. (You saw 55-6 and 55-7 previously.) I’ve circled the land ownership of William and Rebecca Utterback Ely and put a rectangle around the property of John Adam Salling so you can see how near they lived to one another.[viii]Ralls County Tnp 54 R7 copy

A visit, a soirée, a chance encounter? Who knows, but Elizabeth Ely and Peter Philander Morris met—and they married. I have not found a marriage certificate or the exact date of their marriage, but the death certificate of their first child, Thomas, born on June 25, 1856, names them as his parents.[ix] Place…an important push-pin in family history.

[i] Also Sally and Salley
[ii] George H. Utterback, son of Hankerson, helped sponsor the atlas listed below and indicated 1834 as his year of settlement.
[iii] Some say September 24, 1829, but I have not yet been able to verify this.
[iv] See a spreadsheet of the land purchases of all the Ralls County families here.Ralls County, Missouri Land Records
[v] The full map is available here.
[vi] AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORICAL ATLAS OF RALLS COUNTY, MISSOURI Compiled, drawn and published from Personal Examinations and Surveys BY EDWARDS BROTHERS, OF MISSOURI. General Office: 209 S. FIFTH STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1878
[vii] U.S. General Land Office Records, 1776-2015 [various]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.
[viii] Note that John A. Salling died in September 1878 based on Letters of Administration, 1849-1907; Author: Missouri. Probate Court (Ralls County); Probate Place: Ralls, Missouri
His land now appears to belong to his son Samuel I Salling, his daughter Susan, who married Charles H. Phillips, and Stephen Scobee, the father of Ely Scobee, who married John’s daughter Rebecca and died of Typhoid fever six weeks later (based on a find a grave report).


Missouri Bound Part 5: The Utterbacks

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A side note: I am neck deep in my fiction! I just finished the first edit of my upcoming American Historical Fiction novel set in Pennsylvania and Ohio after the Revolutionary War. I’m editing my second novel based on records of New Haven Colony. AND I’m researching my third, which takes place in the area around Bennington, Vermont during the American Revolution. Oh…almost forgot, I just finished a short prequel to my upcoming book #1.

I had to pull my fingers loose from my fictional world and found myself procrastinating in a whirlpool of research and digression. One thing lured me back—the chance to pull out all my plat maps to explain how Harry met Sally (well, really, how Peter met Elizabeth).

Before I can do that, however, I must get the Utterback’s to Missouri. So, with the worst of puns, I am utterly back.

The Utterback Family

The last of the pertinent families to the ancestry of Gillian Virginia Morris(s) Ison is the Utterback family. The majority of the information regarding birth, death, marriage, and progeny comes from the much-cited Utterback, William Irvin, The history and genealogy of the Utterback family in America, 1622-1937. Huntington, W. Va.: Gentry Bros. Printing Co., 1937. I cannot verify this information but admit to including it in the family sheets for Gillian’s ancestors, found here. Here is what I can verify:

  • Herman (Harmon) Otterbach (later the name was spelled Utterback) arrived in Virginia in 1714, from Musen in Westphalia, Germany. He came with his family and eleven other families. They came to work the iron mills at Fort Germanna, Virginia under the sponsorship of Governor Spotswood in 1714. By 1720, the families, disenchanted by their treatment, relocated to Germantown, Virginia.[i]
  • Herman Otterbach/Utterback came to Virginia with his sons John Philip, John, and daughters, one of which was Anna Margrete[ii]Little Fork culpepper Cty, VA Otterbach
  • Son, John Philip Utterback appeared on Rent Rolls 1751-1754, Prince William County, VA; 1764, Culpeper County, VA.
  • Henry, son of the above John Philip and father of Hankerson Utterback, died by January 1799, based on index of probate for Culpeper County, Virginia (The actual record does not exist as far as I can tell. I went through each page of the actual records and there is a huge hole for this time period. Also checked Library of VA Chancery Records for the county and neighboring counties.)

As our land gained footing a separate nation, records expanded and more research information is available. Consequently, the records for Hankerson Utterback are more numerous.

  • Hankerson Utterback shows up on the 1810 census for Boone County, Kentucky and again on the 1820 census for Burlington, Boone Cty, KY. Marriages of his children Adam (m. 1814), Joseph (m. 1823), and Elizabeth (m. 1823) are all documented for Boone County in the Kentucky Compiled Marriages on Family Search.
  • By 1827 Hankerson had moved to Clay County, Missouri[iii]and by 1828, he had bought land in Ralls County, Missouri.

So, now Hankerson Utterback and his family (I’ve found records for Adam, Joseph, George, Rebecca, Abraham, Elizabeth, and Emily) have made it to Missouri. (I seem to always set myself down in the past like it’s the present.)

But what is monumental to me, is that on April 1, 1829,[iv] Rebecca Utterback purchased a deed for land in Ralls County, five months before her September 24, 1829, marriage to William Scott Ely. Monumental, first, because the land is deeded to a woman, likely a way for her father to protected her future. But monumental, second because of how the plot of land figures prominently in how Gillian’s father, Peter Philander Morris, meets his future wife!

I love land records! Next week’s post finally gets to the place all these Missouri Bound ramblings were heading—Ralls County and Chariton County, and how “the twain shall meet.”

Now, until next week, I dive back in…to editing my fictional past. Maybe a post on editing is coming soon???

[i] Raleigh Travers Green. Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia. Embracing a Revised and Enlarged Edition of Dr. Philip slaughter’s History of St. Mark’s Parish. Culpeper, Va, USA: Regional Publishing Co., 1900. [accessed 11-19-13]
[ii] Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2012. Source Bibliography: Breitbard, Gail. Some Early Virginia Immigrants. In The Lost Palatine, no. 5 (1982), pp. 4-5. Ancestry. Com [accessed 5-14-17]

Missouri Bound Part Four: The Tschudi/Judy Family

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United States 1819

The United States in about 1819, the same time Mary Judy and Isaac Ely moved from Kentucky to Missouri Territory.

In the last three posts, I discussed the lineage of Gillian Virginia Morris(s), my Great-great-grandmother on my grandmother’s side, including the migration of that lineage from Virginia and Kentucky to Missouri. Her parents, grandparents, and her great-grandparents on her mother’s side would call Missouri home.


As review:

In Part I. I provided extensive information on the Salling (Sally, Salley) family who settled in Rockbridge County, Virginia. I included evidence to support the correction of an error in the parentage of Malinda Salling, mother to Peter Philander Morris, Gillian’s father.

Part II. I detailed my attempt to determine the parentage of Thomas H. Morris(s), Gilllian’s grandfather, who also lived in Rockbridge County, Virginia. The results were inconclusive. His parentage remains a brick-wall.

Part III. I documented the Ely family who came to America in the 1700’s and settled along the Cacapehon River in what would be Hampshire County, West Virginia. I provided evidence of the movement of son of Isaac Ely, Sr., Benjamin Ely, and his family, to Clark County, Kentucky, as well as proof of the Clark County marriage of his son Isaac Ely and Mary Judy. They were Gillian’s great-grandparents.

Now, what about the Judy family?

The surname “Judy” is of Swiss origin and was originally spelled Tschudi (Tschudy). The spelling morphed into “Judy” and “Judah” soon after the family arrived in America. Four men with the Tschudi name came to Philadelphia between 1740 and 1770. They included: Mardin Tschudi in 1738; Martin Tschudi in 1749, settling in Hampshire County, WV; Weinbert Tschudi in 1752.[i]

Then, my ancestor, Martin Tschudi, in the company of a Martin Nicholas Tschudi and Johann Tschudi, sailed from Rotterdam on The Sally and, after a stop in Cowes, England, disembarked on November 10, 1767.[ii] It is possible all four Tschudi’s were related. They all came from the Canton of Basel in Switzerland and many given names were the same.[iii]

According to the Lists of Swiss Emigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies, he arrived with wife Anna Boni and children, Johannes, Martin, Elisabeth, and Anna.[iv] A son, Jacob Judy, was born September 18, 1767, this according to information in Find-a-Grave, which would indicate he was born on the ship. Afterward, Martin and Anna had three more known children: Winepark (Weinbert), David, and Samuel.[v] Some say there was one more daughter, a Nancy but the evidence is, so far, scant.

While numerous records for a Martin Tschudi exist, there is no clear evidence of where the family resided before 1791 in Bourbon County, Kentucky.[vi] The name was common and there were at least six of that name in America in those early years. Family lore abounds regarding the “Trek” to Kentucky, but I have found little definitive evidence to support it.

The 1800, Clark County, Kentucky tax list includes Martin Sr. and his sons David, John J, Martin Jr., Samuel, and Winepack (Weinbert).[vii] So between 1767 and 1800, the family, excluding John,[viii] had settled in Clark County, Kentucky. By then Martin Jr., Mary Judy’s father, had married Elizabeth Judy. While proven in a probate record,[ix] I’ve found no marriage record.

Family Lore says she was Martin’s first cousin, but I’ve found no proof. Of various suppositions I’ve found, the most likely candidate for Elizabeth’s father is Weinbert Tschudi who arrived in Pennsylvania fifteen years before Martin., or could be the Johann Tschudi who arrived with Martin. Some have linked her to a Johannes (John) and Maria Shaffner Judy from Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania, but Lancaster, PA, Mennonite Vital Records for a couple with the same names show them married in 1808, much too late to be Elizabeth’s parents. Some family historians indicate the father of Martin Sr. in Switzerland was the one who married a cousin. I mention all this speculation because it is floating out there as fact, so I wanted the reader to be aware of it. If anyone has validating information I would love to see it!

Regardless, Martin Jr. and Elizabeth Judy had a daughter, Mary (Polly) Judy. She married Isaac Ely, in 1798, and by 1820, they had moved to Missouri.

Like an extended Abbott and Costello skit, let’s play the game of Who’s On First, only our game is Who’s in Missouri.

  • Mary (Polly) Judy and Isaac Ely arrived in Ralls County, Missouri by 1824, more likely by 1819 when Isaac’s father Benjamin is recorded as arriving.[x]
  • Malinda Salling and Thomas H. Morris(s) are in Chariton County, Missouri, by 1849.[xi]

Now for one more piece of the Who’s in Missouri puzzle: Part Five of the Missouri posts—The Utterback Family.

 Map courtesy of Library of Congress; A new and elegent general atlas, containing maps of each of the United States; Baltimore : Fielding Lucas, [1817?]
[i] Strassburger; Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Vol 1, 1727-1775; Genealogical Publishing Company; Find My Past; pages 249, 391, 507
[ii] Ibid. pg. 738
[iii] Faust, A.B. & Brumbaugh, Gaiius. Lists of Swiss emigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies, Vol. 2. Washington, D.C.: the National Genealogical Society, 1925. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing co., Baltimore, 1976.
[iv] Ibid. pg. 243
[v] Various Find-a-grave resources for cemeteries in Clark County, Kentucky
[vi] Kentucky, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1810-1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999. Original data: Jackson, Ron V., Accelerated Indexing Systems, comp.. Kentucky Census, 1810-1890. Compiled and digitized by Mr. Jackson and AIS from microfilmed schedules of the U.S. Federal Decennial Census, territorial/state censuses, and/or census substitutes.
[vii] Kentucky, Tax Lists, 1799-1801, original from: Clift, G. Glenn. Second Census of Kentucky, 1800. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co.
[viii] No definitive record until 1820 census and Find-a-grave Greene County, Ohio
[ix] Heirs of Martin Judy; Ralls county Court House, pg. 537-538; probate 15 May 1838; transcribed by N.L. Moore.
[x] Documentation to come soon, in a separate post.
[xi] Documentation provided in Part II of the Missouri posts