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Mystery Monday: Wiley A. Murrell and the Committee of Vigilance

Botetourt Co. VA Committee of Vigilance. See 2-3 lines down from highlighted area- “Wiley A. Murrell,” and “Jas. A. Murrell.” Richmond Enquirer, 12 March 1840, Botetourt County, Vol. 36, No. 102, Page 4, Col. 2, via VirginiaChronicle.com. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Roberts Family, Murrell Family (Click for Family Tree)

Our new, exciting find of the name of Wiley Anderson Murrell (1805-1885) in a newspaper gives us a bit of interesting information about him even though it is only a list. It also brings a bit of a mystery.

The heading of the paragraph in which we find his name is “Committee of Vigilance.” So what is this committee? And why are there so many- about 143 total- listed on the committee?

A Google search for ‘committee of vigilance’ indicates that these were groups of private citizens who helped maintain law and order, especially in frontier or sparsely populated areas where governmental law enforcement was insufficient.

In 1840, the County of Botetourt (pronounced “Bot-ih-tot” by locals) had a population of 11, 679 persons. The county had actually lost about 28% of its population since the previous census year (1830), but that was because the county of Roanoke was formed out of Botetourt, taking about 30% of the land. So the population likely did not become more sparse during that decade.

Doing some rough calculations for square miles, the population may have been about 15 persons/square mile. That may have been sparse enough that law enforcement would have needed help by the citizens. Since the county is bounded on the northwest by the Appalachian Mountains and on the southeast by the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is some rugged land there despite the majority of the county being in the Roanoke River Valley. Some of the mountains rise over 4,000 ft., so that was a lot of land for law enforcement to control.

Politically, abolition was one of the great divisors of our society even back in 1830-1840. The Nat Turner Rebellion, a Virginia uprising of slaves in which 57 whites were killed, occurred in 1831, and other violence across the country occurred between slave owners and those who were anti-slavery. The Panic of 1837 occurred when New York City banks failed and unemployment levels were high, and climbing higher. (History repeats itself.)

“Aftermath of the Panic of 1837”- caricature by Edward Williams Clay, 1837. Lithograph image in public domain, via Wikipedia.com.

This Botetourt Co. Committee of Vigilance was formed at the Democratic State Convention on 22 Feb 1840. Other counties also had their own committees.

A man’s politics (women could not vote, of course) was important back in those days, and known to all the neighbors. The Democrats had elected Martin Van Buren as President in 1836, and he was to become the candidate again in 1840 at the national convention. The convention was unable to decide on a Vice-Presidential candidate, however, and three men divided that vote within the Electoral College.

The Whigs- there were no Republicans as we know them at that point- for the first time decided to support one candidate instead of several. They chose William Henry Harrison, who, although born in Virginia, was considered a Northerner since Ohio was his residence. Harrison was wealthy and well-educated, born of wealthy planters and himself a slave-owner, and a ‘hero’ of the Indian Wars. Despite all this, he was promoted as a ‘common man’ with a ‘log cabin’ image.

The Harrison campaign painted Van Buren as snobbish and out of touch with his constituents, wealthy, and extravagant with the taxes of the American people. Van Buren, however, was of ‘common’ stock in reality, as his father was a tavern-keeper. As President, he had refused to admit Texas to the Union as it would have upset the balance of slave and free states. (He later ran as an abolitionist.) Van Buren was the first American President who was born an American citizen, not British.

Rather than talk about actual important national issues, in 1840 the Whigs focused on the failed policies of the President’s Democratic administration. This was the first election in which a candidate actually campaigned, and the Whigs did well, utilizing many of our modern ‘obfuscate the important things’ and ‘create the myth the people want to hear’ campaign strategies.

Virginia, which, in 1840, included West Virginia, did vote for Van Buren, but Harrison was more able to convince voters ranging from high-powered bankers to poor western settlers that he was the better choice for the country. He won both the Electoral College and popular vote, although it was much closer in the popular vote than predicted- Harrison won only by 146,000 votes, out of 2.4 million cast. So the citizens of the US remained quite divided over the large issues of the day, such as a national bank and slavery.

So where does this leave us with Wiley Anderson Murrell and the Democratic ‘Committee of Vigilance’? Going into the 1840s and with a change in the national political power, it was important that the Democrats have some control in Botetourt County. Law enforcement concerning runaway slaves,  debts unpaid to a bank, etc. would have been influenced by the local party in control, possibly even after the Presidential election. Although Van Buren won Botetourt County 50.65% to Harrison’s 49.35%, we do not know what changes may have happened after Harrison took office. Having the Democratic Committee of Vigilance in place may have made a difference in how the county was run. (We should check on whether or not there was a Whig Committee of Vigilance.)

It has been exciting to finally find Wiley A. Murrell’s name in the newspaper after so many years of searching, and it would be wonderful to maybe find more about his time with this committee or in Virginia.  Having James A. Murrell listed also gives us a clue that he might have had a brother, cousin, or uncle or father living in the area in 1840- that too may open some research doors. And of course, it is always interesting to place our ancestors in the context of their times!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. “Committee of Vigilance,” Richmond Enquirer, 12 March 1840, Botetourt County, Vol. 36, No. 102, Page 4, Col. 2, via VirginiaChronicle.com.
  2. Virginia County maps by year: http://www.mapofus.org/virginia/
  3. “United States presidential election, 1840” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1840

 

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Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
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Tombstone Tuesday: Ann Elisy (Murrell) Brown

Mound Prairie Pioneer Cemetery sign, Mound Prairie Township, Jasper County, Iowa. Used with kind permission of the FAG photographer.

 

Murrell Family, Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

Ann Elisy (Murrell) Brown, also known as Anneliza, passed away on 2 May 1892 at the relatively young age of 46.

Anneliza (Murrell) Brown- headstone in Mound Prairie Pioneer Cemetery, Mound Prairie Township, Jasper County, Iowa. Used with kind permission of the FAG photographer. (Click to enlarge.)

Her youngest child was just seven years old; the oldest, 22.

Anneliza (Murrell) Brown- headstone closeup in Mound Prairie Pioneer Cemetery, Mound Prairie Township, Jasper County, Iowa. Used with kind permission of the FAG photographer. (Click to enlarge.)

Her husband Aaron Brown followed her in death just two years later, on 19 March 1894. Their little daughter Edith Brown would have been just nine when she was left without parents. We do not know who the children lived with- we have only been able to find Mary in the 1900 census, and she had married in 1892, the year her mother died. None of her siblings are listed that year with Mary, her husband George Underwood, and their son on the census. (Years later, however, Edith was single and living with them as an adult in Grant County, Minnesota at the 1920 and 1930 census.)

Aaron Brown- headstone in Mound Prairie Pioneer Cemetery, Mound Prairie Township, Jasper County, Iowa. Used with kind permission of the FAG photographer. (Click to enlarge.)

Both Anneliza and Aaron are buried in Mound Prairie Pioneer Cemetery in Jasper County, Iowa, adjacent to the Roberts family’s homeplace settled by Anneliza’s sister Elizabeth Ann (Murrell) Roberts and her husband John Roberts. (Interestingly, Elizabeth and John are not buried there, but in Waveland Cemetery in Prairie City.)

Aaron Brown- headstone closeup in Mound Prairie Pioneer Cemetery, Mound Prairie Township, Jasper County, Iowa. Used with kind permission of the FAG photographer. (Click to enlarge.)

Anneliza’s parents, Wiley Anderson Murrell and Mary M. (Honts) Murrell are also buried in Mound Prairie Pioneer Cemetery.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Anneliza (Murrell) Brown– Find A Grave Memorial# 39599402, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=39599402
  2. Aaron Brown– Find A Grave Memorial# 39599324, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=39599324
  3. The bios on Find A Grave for this couple were a collaboration between this author and the creator of the memorials. We appreciate his work, and his permission to share his photos with family.

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2016 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
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Census Sunday: Ann Elisy Murrell and Aaron Brown

Ann Elisy Murrell, age 5, with her parents in the 1850 US Federal Census taken in Botetourt County, Virginia. (Click to enlarge.)

Roberts Family, Murrell Family (Click for Family Tree)

Ann Elisy Murrell, sometimes called Eliza or Anneliza, was the youngest child of Wiley Anderson Murrell (1806-1885) and Mary Magdalene Honts (1806-1887). Like her older siblings, she was born in Botetourt County, Virginia, with her ‘natal day’ (an old-timey way of saying ‘birthday’) being 21 December 1845.

Birth record of Ann Elisy Murrell, from Murrell Family Bible. (See previous posts on the Bible.) (Click to enlarge.)

Eliza was just five years old on 4 October 1850 when the census taker was to stopped by their home in District 8, Botetourt County, Virginia to count the inhabitants. He listed her father,Wiley A. Murrell, first, as the head of household, then her mother. Next came the children in order of birth with their sex and ages. The ditto marks on the census extract above indicate Virginia was the birthplace for all the family members. Wiley was listed as a farmer, but no value of real estate was given, so he may have been renting their farm. The mark to the far right indicates that Wiley could not read nor write.

In 1853 the family moved to Warren County, Illinois. So we find Eliza with her parents and brothers William and James in the 1860 census there. All three children had been in attendance at school and her father, Wiley, was listed with $718 in personal estate value- still no real estate, so he was likely renting the land there too.

The quest for land they could own possibly drove Wiley and Mary to migrate further west, to Iowa, in 1868. Eliza’s sister Elizabeth Ann Murrell had married John Roberts, and they all migrated together. We don’t know if Eliza went with them or not, but it appears she may have chosen to stay, or else she took the train back to Roseville. She married on 15 September 1869 in Warren County, Illinois. Her husband, Aaron Brown (1846-1894), had been born in Indiana, but his family moved to Fulton County, Illinois, and then Warren County, where the couple probably met.

Eliza was 24, Aaron 23, when the next census taker found them in Greenbush, Warren County, Illinois, on 3 June 1870. Aaron was noted as a farmer, but with no real estate value listed; his ‘personal estate’ was listed as being worth $300. So Aaron may have been renting the land too. Eliza had gone from being a farmer’s daughter to a farmer’s wife. She had also just become a mother the week before- their son James Brown was enumerated as being “7/365” days old.

Interestingly, Eliza was listed as being born in Kentucky on the 1870 census, although most other records note her birth as Virginia, plus she was found in the 1850 census there. We do know there are errors in the census, and they can be caused by a number of situations, such as the enumerator not speaking directly to the person they are listing, errors in copying, ‘misremembering,’ etc.

James was apparently used to migration since his family had moved a number of times, and Eliza may have missed her parents, especially once she became a parent herself. Perhaps the Murrell and Roberts families had sent back glowing reports of the fertility of the soil, and the cheap land to be had in the west? For whatever reason, James and Eliza decided to move to Iowa. Their move came sometime after the birth of their daughter Mary R. Brown in 1872 and son William A. Brown (possibly named William Anderson after his uncle and grandfather?), born about 1875. They were in Iowa by about 1878, when their son George L. Brown was born in Jasper County, Iowa. Their last child, Edith M. Brown, was born in 1885, in Jasper County as well.

Edith was born just before the 1885 Iowa State Census was taken, as there was no age recorded for her but she was listed. Her mother was listed as “Ann Eliza,” and Aaron, Mary R., William A., and George L. Brown were also listed. They were farming property listed as Twp. 79, Range 20, Section 25, NW ¼ NW ¼.

More to come about the Murrell-Brown family.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. We do need to check land records in the various counties to determine if the Murrells actually owned land in Virginia or Illinois.
  2. Census records as described which can be found on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2017 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
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Census Sunday: James Edward Murrell

James Edward Murrell, circa 1860s. (Click to enlarge.)

Roberts Family, Murrell Family (Click for Family Tree)

James Edward Murrell was the fifth of six children born to Wiley Anderson Murrell (1806-1885) and Mary Magdalene (Honts) Murrell (1806-1887). He was the youngest brother of our ancestor Elizabeth Ann (Murrell) Roberts.

James was born on 15 November 1842 in Botetourt County, Virginia, like the rest of his siblings.  We can use the US Federal Census to follow his travels through his lifetime, and those censuses provide us some interesting information.

1850 US Federal Census of District 8, Botetourt County, Virginia, listing the Murrell family. (Click to enlarge.)

James was listed in the 1850 US Federal Census, living with his parents and siblings in District 8, Botetourt County, Virginia. In 1853 at age 11, he most likely made the trip with his family to Warren County, Illinois, walking the 175 miles alongside their covered wagon. Wonder what adventures he imagined or lived, and what treasures- rocks, feathers, broken wagon parts, bone, or ?? ended up in his boy’s pockets?

1860 US Federal Census for Wiley A. and Mary M. (Honts) Murrell in Warren County, Illinois, page 43, including son William Anderson Murrell. (Click to enlarge.)
1860 US Federal Census for Wiley A. and Mary M. (Honts) Murrell in Warren County, Illinois, continued on page 44 with James Murrell and Ann Elisy/Eliza Murrell. (Click to enlarge.)

At the US Federal Census taken on 19 June 1860, James was in Swan Twp., Warren Co., Illinois, as expected, and attending school. He would have been 14 or 17 (depending on birth year which varies), so he may have been in high school- unusual for farm boys in those days.

1860 US Federal Census for William and James Murrell in Wright County, Missouri. (Click to enlarge.)

The 1860 census for Wright County, Missouri, however, also lists a William Murrell, age 16, and a James Murrell, age 14, working for the Starling Casey family as farm laborers. This census was taken on 7 September, later than the Warren County census. These laborers were probably our Murrell uncles, as young men often traveled to find work, and it was harvest time so work would have been plentiful. Adding to the evidence that these two are indeed our uncles is that the two names are the brothers of Elizabeth (although they are common names), the age difference is approximately correct, the person responding to the census taker did not know the birthplace of either young man, and also the fact that James later settled in Missouri.

Here is where a bit of history helps us understand their life choices. The country continued to divide in the early 1860s over the issues of slavery and states’ rights. Missouri was a hotbed for both sides at that time. Wright County is in the southern part of Missouri, which was admitted to the Union as a slave state with the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The “Compromise” was that Maine was admitted as a free state to maintain balance, and a boundary line was drawn across the Louisiana Purchase to divide slave and non-slave areas for the future. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 negated the Compromise, allowing new states to decide whether or not to allow slavery. This Act further increased the tensions, to the extent of raids, murder, lynchings, coercion, gangs, etc. in the midwest, and especially Kansas and Missouri. Then the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, which was handed down at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri (where the last slave auction on the courthouse steps took place in 1861) redefined the status of slaves. The decision stated that Africans had no right to citizenship in the United States, and that allowing Dred Scott to have his freedom (and his wife and children theirs) was a legislative overreach of Congress by denying personal property rights to slave owners. (Dred Scott remained a slave until his owners gave him his freedom later that year, but he died the following year, in 1858. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, where some of our Helbling ancestors are also buried.)

So had William and James gone to Missouri sometime between June and September, when the two censuses were taken, and then been enumerated in both? The census was supposed to include “every person whose usual place of abode on the 1st day of June, 1860, was in this family.” So were they already gone to Missouri and the Murrells listed them at home in Illinois, or did the Casey family or enumerator in Missouri not understand and asked who was living in the home on the day in September that the census was counted? No one should have been counted twice, but people who moved often were, as is likely in this instance.

It would be interesting to know how long these two young men were in southern Missouri, which was very pro-slavery in those years. How did they feel coming from a northern community, where the majority was primarily anti-slavery? What did they see or experience themselves in the fields? We have already discussed that the Murrell family may have migrated to Illinois from Virginia to escape the looming Civil War- was it for a belief that abolition was necessary, as well as the safety the family, their land, and possessions? Whatever the case, we have already shown that William Anderson Murrell was motivated to join the Union cause in 1862, and his little brother James Edward Murrell followed in his footsteps and did the same in 1865. It is possible that this time in Missouri led to those choices.

 

More to come about the Civil War service of James Edward Murrell, and where he was in the following census years.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Image kindly shared by cousin Diane.
  2. 1860 census instructions– https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/1860instructions.pdf
  3. “What’s in a Name?- Underground Railroad”–http://kwqc.com/2017/02/09/whats-in-a-name-underground-railroad/
  4. US Federal Census records as described found on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2017 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright or use of our blog material.

Military Monday: William Anderson Murrell

Civil War pension papers of William Anderson Murrell, 20 Feb 1899. (Click to enlarge.)

Roberts Family, Murrell Family (Click for Family Tree)

William Anderson Murrell was a younger brother to our ancestor, Elizabeth Ann (Murrell) Roberts. She was the first, and he the fourth, of the children of Wiley Anderson Murrell and Mary Magdalene (Honts) Murrell.

William Anderson Murrell was born 25 May 1841 in Botetourt County, Virginia. We find him with his parents and siblings in the 1850 US Federal Census for District 8, Botetourt County, Virginia; he was just 9 years old. Three years later, William migrated with his family to Warren County, Illinois.

A previous post has mentioned how some of this family’s descendants believe the Murrells may have moved to Illinois as they did not like the pro-slavery stance of most Virginians, and they most likely realized that war would be coming to their own soil if the divisive forces of the slavery and states’ rights issues persisted. We cannot know if states’ rights or slavery was the uppermost issue on their minds, or if just protecting family and assets were of primary importance.  Roseville, in Warren County, Illinois, was a stop on the Underground Railroad for many runaway slaves on their way to freedom in the north or Canada, so the area they chose to settle was anti-slavery. We do know that William took a stand on the issues, as he enlisted in the Union Army on 1 August 1862.

William enlisted with other young men from Warren County at Monmouth, Illinois as the 83rd Infantry Illinois Volunteers was being organized. He became a part of Company H (all from Warren Co.) and was enlisted for three years of service.

The 83rd moved out of Monmouth on 25 August 1862, going to Cairo, Illinois via Burlington, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri. Cairo (pronounced “CARE-o” by the locals) is across the border from Kentucky and at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, so it was important for the unit to protect Union assets. Guard duty of communications lines was one of their primary missions.

Embarkation of General McClernand’s Brigade at Cairo — the Advance of the Great Mississippi Expedition — January 10, 1862, a wood engraving from a sketch by Alexander Simplot, published in Harper’s Weekly, February 1, 1862, via Wikipedia, public domain. (William may have been transported on a similar steamboat.) (Click to enlarge.)
The above scene was from before William arrived in Cairo, and after Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant had taken the southernmost city of Illinois from the Confederates. Grant also took Fort Donelson, along the Cumberland River in Tennessee, in February 1862. As it was just over ten miles from Kentucky, this was a huge strategic win for the Union, and the South was stunned. The Cumberland was a route for men and supplies into Tennessee and the heart of the Confederacy. This battle essentially divided the rebellious states into two sections, making it easier for the Union to attack and control. And that the Union did- Nashville, Tennessee, fell to Grant shortly thereafter. Nashville was an industrial center as well as the capital of Tennessee, and its occupation by the Union also gave them control over much of the Tennessee River. The Union held Nashville throughout the war.

William and his fellow soldiers were moved to Fort Donelson, near Dover, Tennessee, about the 5th of September, 1862.

Part of the lower river battery, overlooking the Cumberland River. Photographed by Hal Jespersen at Fort Donelson, February 2006, via Wikipedia; public domain.

On 20 September 1863, the right wing of the regiment moved on to Clarksville, Tennessee, but we have not been able to determine if William was a part of this group.

To be continued…

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. 83rd Illinois Infantry Regiment–
    https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/databases/reghist.pdf https://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org/reg_html/083_reg.html
  2. 83rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment–https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/83rd_Illinois_Volunteer_Infantry_Regiment
  3. Interestingly, there was a young man named Ransom Roberts in Co. H with William- could he have been a cousin through William’s sister Elizabeth’s marriage to John Roberts? There was a Joseph H. Saylor, also from Roseville- John Roberts’ mother’s maiden name was Saylor/Salyers, so he too may have been a cousin through marriage (or a marriage to be.) More research needed here as neither of these names are known to the author.
  4. Civil War Archive- 83rd regiment Infantry– http://www.civilwararchive.com/Unreghst/unilinf7.htm#83rd
  5. Fort Donelson Battlefield- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Donelson_National_Battlefield
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Donelson
    https://www.nps.gov/fodo/index.htm

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2016 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright or use of our blog material.