FaceTime Games: Hand and Foot

My neighbors and I, before COVID, met at each other’s houses weekly to play games, but now we’ve had to come up with ways of playing from our own homes, over FaceTime.

The first game that brought us together was Hand and Foot, the most popular variant of Canasta.  We play with 4 people, in partnerships of two.  We have found a fairly easy way to play partnerships across FaceTime, and we play this game (and a couple of variations) often.

This article assumes that you already know how to play Hand and Foot, and shows you how to adapt to playing it over FaceTime.  There are many variants of Hand and Foot itself, but these instructions are easily adaptable to your particular set of game play rules, as the focus is on discarding and managing the open and closed books of cards.


Each player needs 3 decks of cards, including Jokers.  Hand and Foot requires a lot of cards to complete a game (when we play in person, we share a 6-deck stack among 4 people), and we found that 3 decks per person over FaceTime works best.

Our ‘secret’ to playing Hand and Foot over FaceTime is the use of folded card-stock tents, showing the values of the cards that are played on the table during the game.  For Hand and Foot, you will need tents for 4 through Ace, as shown (Jacks shown standing upright), and you will need two different sets of tents:  one set of white tents representing the Red/”Clean” books and one set of black tents representing Black/”Dirty” books (containing wild cards).  Each tent measures 1 ½ inches wide by 5 inches long, so that when folded are 1 ½ inches wide by 2 ½ inches tall.  A 3×5 index card cut lengthwise will make two tents.

Place the card value on both sides of the tent, so that both you and your remote players can clearly see the value.  You’ll note that I use a combination of homemade tents and ones that were made by my talented, crafter-neighbor.  Fold each tent in half so that it stands on its own.


If possible, position your FaceTime device on a stand with the camera facing down towards the table in front of you, so that other players can see both you and the cards you’re playing.


In Hand and Foot, you draw 2 cards to begin your turn and discard 1 card to end your turn.  Over FaceTime, everyone will be drawing from their own draw pile and discarding on their own discard pile.  Announce your discard to end your turn.

Picking up Discards:

When playing in person, the person following a discard can pick up that discard – and additional cards in the discard pile – by having two of that card value in their hand so that all 3 cards can be laid on the table.  Over FaceTime, you can’t physically do that, so we do this instead:

1.  Pick up your entire draw pile, and starting from the bottom of the pile, find a card matching the value of the discarded card, and take it in lieu of the remote, discarded card.  Put the draw pile back in place.  (Start from the bottom of the pile so as not to alter the order in which you would have drawn cards from the top of the draw pile in normal play).

2.  Pick up the top card from your discard pile.  We do this since, in an in-person game, you will always pick up the last card that you discarded when picking up discards.

3.  For the remaining quantity of cards that you’re obligated to take from the discard pile, draw that number of cards from the top of your draw pile.  For example, if your version of Hand and Foot requires you to take 7 cards when picking up the discards, you’ll take 1 card from near the bottom of your draw pile (matching the discard), the top card from your discard pile, and 5 cards from the top of your draw pile.

Managing Open and Closed Books:

When you meld cards on the table to start a book, place the equivalent tent in front of you so that the remote players can see it, and so that your partner knows which books your team has open.  Whenever your partner starts a new book, place that tent in front of you, too, so that you’re not totally reliant on the FaceTime screen to remind yourself of your team’s open books.  For red books, use white tents, and for black books use black tents.  Having both partners place tents in front of them also allows you to confirm that you and partner are in sync as to what books your team has open.

When it’s your turn and you add cards to an open book, announce it to your partner so that you can collectively track the number of cards in the book between the two of you, in case it can be closed or in case the number of allowed wild cards in the book needs to be verified.

If, during game play, a book changes from being a Red book to being a Black book, replace the white tent with the equivalent black tent.

When a book is closed, move its tent off to the side, but still in view of your remote players if screen space allows.  It’s more important to use your screen space for the open books, however. In this example, my team has open Red books of 4s and 5s, open Black books of Jack and Ace, a closed Red book of 6s and a closed Black book of 10s:

Note that I place my tents in left-to-right descending order, as a courtesy so that my remote partner will see the card values in ascending order.

If your version of Hand and Foot allows for a new book to be started with the same value as a closed book, you may find that the tent you need has already been set aside for a closed book.  In such case, take the tent of the opposite color and lay it on its side, to denote that it is of the opposite purpose for which it would be normally used (e.g., a white tent on its side denotes a Black book, and vice versa).

Variants of Hand and Foot

We also play a couple of variations on Hand and Foot that require additional tents.  In both Hand, Foot and Elbow and Hand, Knee and Foot, you are required to collect Special Books in order to go out:  a Red/Clean book of Fives, a Red/Clean book of Sevens, a Red/Clean book of some other value, a Black/Dirty book of some other value, and a book of only Wild cards.

We use yellow card-stock tents to visually track the closure of these Special Books, as well as an additional black “W” tent to denote an open book of Wild cards.  When a book is closed that qualifies as one of the Special books, place the yellow tent with your closed books instead of the in-progress tent.  For the closed Clean and Dirty special books, place the yellow C or D tent atop the in-progress tent so that you can remind yourself later, if necessary, what that closed book consisted of.

FaceTime Games: Rummikub

This is the first in a series of blog posts about how to play various card and board games on FaceTime.  My neighbors and I, before COVID, met at each other’s houses weekly to play games, but now we’ve had to come up with ways of playing from our own homes, over FaceTime.

In this article, I discuss the tile-swapping game Rummikub, by Pressman.  This article assumes you already know how to play Rummikub.  I’ll show you how we play it over FaceTime. (Yes, I know that there are Rummikub apps. available, but we like to play the ‘old-school’ way).

Rummikub is the least ‘interactive’ of the games that we play, meaning that for much of the game, you are playing by yourself with your own tiles, and are not dependent on what others are playing.


Each player needs a Rummikub game, or else two decks of cards minus two of the Jokers (106 cards total).  The Rummikub set of tiles includes 4 colors (red, black, blue, and either yellow or orange, depending on how old your game is).  If you play with cards, you will need to designate specific suits as specific colors, before the game starts. (e.g., clubs are black, diamonds are red, hearts are blue and spades are yellow/orange).  When playing with cards, Aces stand in for the 1 tiles, and J-Q-K for 11, 12 and 13, respectively.

In these photos, you’ll see that I’m using a rack designed for domino tiles, but using them for Rummikub tiles lets the other players see how many tiles I have in my rack (a nice courtesy in our playing group).

Each player will need 16 card-stock rectangles, cut approximately the size of a Rummikub tile.  8 of them should be red and 8 yellow.  The red ones will be used in place of the Jokers. (The number 8 assumes a 4-player game; to be more precise, you’ll need 2 red and 2 yellow rectangles for each of the number of players in the game.)

You will also need pencil and paper to make notes on regarding the Jokers in play, as described later.


If possible, position your FaceTime device on a stand with the camera facing down towards the table in front of you, so that other players can see both you and the tiles you’re playing:


When it’s your turn, play as normal, only on your own tiles.  (It is impossible, over FaceTime, to play on other players’ tiles, or to simulate that activity).  Describe aloud what manipulations or additions you’re making to your tiles (e.g., “I’m adding a blue 7 to a run,” or “I’m playing two 7’s from my rack and borrowing a Red 7 from a run”).  Be sure to say “Pass” when you’ve finished your turn, so that the next person will know to start their turn.


Jokers are the part of Rummikub that we’ve made interactive for FaceTime.  Rather than having access only to the two Jokers in your own set of tiles, you can have access to the Jokers played by the other players, for a maximum of 8 Jokers that can be in play and accessible to everyone.

When you play a Joker tile, announce what the Joker represents, so that everyone can make note on their paper of the available Joker.  For visual reference to the other players, place a red rectangle atop the Joker tile so that they are reminded that you have an available Joker.

In this example, I’ve just played a Joker as a Yellow 13 (I had to decide whether to declare the Joker to be yellow or red, and tell the other players), and I’ve placed a red rectangle atop the Joker as a visual reminder to the other players.

When it’s your turn, and you have a tile in your rack matching any of the Jokers in play, you can claim that Joker, in the following way:

            1.  If the Joker you’re claiming is your own, swap the matching tile from your rack with the Joker in front of you, and then play the Joker elsewhere, per Rummikub rules.  Lay a red rectangle atop the Joker for visual confirmation.  Announce to everyone the new identity of the Joker, so that they can make note of it on their paper (crossing out the Joker’s previous identity on their paper).

            2.  If the Joker you’re claiming belongs to another player, place the matching tile from your rack aside, in an out-of-play area.  Pick up a red rectangle to use in place of the Joker, and play the Joker per Rummikub rules. Announce to everyone the new identity of the Joker, so that they can make note of it on their paper (crossing out the Joker’s previous identity on their paper).

            3.  If someone else claims your Joker, remove the tile/red rectangle from in front of you and replace it with a yellow rectangle (for visual reference to other players that the Joker is no longer available).  Make note of what the yellow rectangle represents, as you may need that information for moving tiles around on future turns.

In the example below, someone has taken my Joker representing a Yellow 13, and I’ve replaced the red rectangle with a yellow one. Now the other players can see that this Joker is no longer available. I make note on my paper that this is still a Yellow 13, as I’ll need to know that for possible tile manipulations.

In the example below, I have available Jokers of Yellow 3 and Red 4 (denoted by red rectangles).  I no longer have Jokers of Red 3 and Yellow 13 (denoted by yellow rectangles).

Here are my notes on the available Jokers (Yellow 8, Yellow 13, Red 5), with previous Jokers now scribbled out:

Ending the Game:

As a courtesy to the remote players, announce when you have only 1 tile remaining in your rack, since they may not be able to detect that through their FaceTime screen.

Playing Rummikub in this fashion may take 1 ½ to 2 hours per game.  Without sharing the multiple Jokers available, the game will last even longer.

Clarksville’s “Belle” Revealed?

In Riverview Cemetery, Clarksville, Tennessee (formerly known as the City Cemetery), there rests a tombstone atop a hill that is perhaps unique in the cemetery for what it does not say:

Belle's tombstone at Riverview Cemetery

“At Rest.  Sacred to the memory of Belle, who departed this life Nov. 12, 1892

Dearest Lord, one we have laid in the peaceful grave’s embrace, but her memory will be cherished till we see Thy heavenly face.”


What’s missing is Belle’s surname.  And her birth information.  And her age.  And any mention of her family.



The Rumors

Stories have long wandered across the lips of Clarksville historians about the identity of “Belle.”  All of the rumors seem to have a common element:  that Belle was somehow associated with a ‘house of ill fame,’ either being the daughter of a prostitute, or the prostitute herself.  There’s also a common element that, at her funeral, the cemetery was full of hacks and carriages of Clarksville’s business men, but with the curtains drawn to conceal the identities of the occupants!

In her 2002 publication Riverview Cemetery:  Looking Back to Those Who’ve Gone Before, Clarksville genealogist and historian Irene Morrison Griffey shared variations on Belle’s story:

  • Money for her tombstone was collected from her former clients, under threat of revealing their identities
  • She was from Stewart County, the step-daughter of a bank president.  Her original tombstone at the City Cemetery included her full name, but was removed by her embarrassed family and replaced with the one there today.
  • She was a beloved child of a favorite prostitute of Clarksville, and the men attending her funeral each thought that they might be her father.

In her 2015 book Riverview Cemetery:  A History, Clarksville historian and author Carolyn Stier Ferrell mentions other variations:

  • Belle’s place of business was on Front Street (now Riverside Drive)
  • She passed away of some unknown illness

Longtime Montgomery County Historian Ursula Smith Beach was said to have known Belle’s identity, and that of Belle’s father, but took the information, discreetly, to her own grave.

The Revelation

After attending a wonderful tour of Riverview Cemetery led by Carolyn Stier Ferrell, and hearing of the mystery surrounding “Belle,” I decided to take my turn at trying to learn her identity.

My search led me to this wonderful record on FamilySearch – a “Mortuary Record” for Jefferson County, Kentucky, for November 1892 – the month in which “Belle” died:


No.: 19
Name: Belle Terry
Sex: F
Color: W
Condition M or S: Wid
Age: 28
Disease: Disease of Brain
Duration of Disease: Tenn


Doctor:  W. Roberts
Date of Death:  12
Nativity:  City
Residence:   Clarksville, Tenn.
Date of Burial:  13
Cemetery:   Clarksville, Tenn.
Name of Undertaker:   Smith

So here is the death record of a 28-year-old widow(?) named Belle Terry who died in Louisville (Jefferson County) on November 12, 1892 – the same day as “Belle” – who was a resident of Clarksville and was buried in Clarksville the next day.  Oh, and Belle Terry died of a ‘disease of the brain,’ which instantly brings syphilis to mind, doesn’t it?  The attending doctor was W. Roberts, presumably physician Walter T. Roberts whose office was at 2113 W. Market, Louisville.

Belle Terry’s nativity of “City” should be interpreted as Louisville, Kentucky, since this is a Jefferson County death record.  For it to have been known that Belle was a native of Louisville, there must have been an informant who knew her and provided much of the information, but the names of informants were not transcribed into the Mortuary Record.

You can view the complete page via this Ancestry link (if you have an Ancestry membership), or a much clearer FamilySearch image, for free, if you have a free FamilySearch login.  The original page is from Jefferson County Death Records, Volume 8, page 146.

Belle Terry, a resident of Clarksville, was born about 1864 in Louisville, and died there November 12, 1892 of a disease of the brain.  She was buried the next day in Clarksville.

Looking for Belle Terry

Armed with a surname, what else can be found about Belle?  Well, I was quickly able to find this October 6, 1888 clipping from the Clarksville Evening Chronicle, thanks to the free-and-awesome Chronicling America newspaper website.  A fundraising drive was underway in Clarksville to combat yellow fever.  Belle Terry, who would have been about 24 at the time, made a significant contribution of $5.00.


I have spent a few additional hours looking for more records of Belle Terry, but so far have found nothing.  Census records have not yet revealed a Belle, born circa 1864 in Louisville, that might be her.  Louisville city directories for the years preceding Belle’s death survive, but she’s not in them.  Then again, her death record stated that her residence was Clarksville, not Louisville.

Perhaps her death in Louisville was due to her seeking treatment for her disease, or perhaps she was convalescing with family at the time of her death.  There are Clarksville city directories surviving for 1885-86 and 1891, but she’s not in them.  Probate and land records for her do not exist in Montgomery County, nor for any Mr. Terry.

More research is warranted in Stewart County records, to follow up on the story that she was of a Stewart County family.  Fortunately, I have great access to Stewart County records, having researched there for 40 years and being a volunteer at the Stewart County Archives.  I also plan to browse the Clarksville newspapers for the days following Belle’s death, since the OCR capability of online newspaper websites is not perfect.

Questions abound, which is part of the enduring draw of Belle’s story.  Now that we seem to have more information about “Belle,” please join me in searching for more of her story.

Here are some of the places you can read more about what we’ve previously known about “Belle”:

  • Riverview Cemetery:  Looking Back to Those Who’ve Gone Before, by Irene Morrison Griffey, 2002.  Copy available at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library
  • Riverview Cemetery:  A History, by Carolyn Stier Ferrell.  Copies available from the author, Clarksville.
  • “Preserving History,” The Leaf-Chronicle, March 22, 1999
  • “Cumberland Lore,” The Leaf-Chronicle, November 23, 1999
  • “Learn more about Clarksville’s past at the cemetery,” The Leaf-Chronicle, October 18, 2002
  • “Local legends rise from graves to share Montgomery Co. tales,” The Leaf-Chronicle, October 20, 2002

Anthony Holmead, The Lonely War of 1812 Veteran from…Colorado?

Anthony Holmead served his country in the War of 1812, and was awarded a pension years later.  Thanks to the preservation efforts of The Federation of Genealogical Societies, The National Archives, Fold3 and Ancestry, Anthony’s pension file has been digitized and preserved, and is viewable for free on Fold3.

But when I went to Fold3 to view his pension file, I suddenly felt very sorry for this brave veteran:

Fold3 - Anthony Holmead

Mr. Holmead’s is the only pension on Fold3 from the state of Colorado. Surely he wasn’t the only veteran to have survived long enough to file for a pension?

Hang on a second – Colorado statehood was in 1876, and that’s later than 1812, right?  In fact, Mr. Holmead first applied for his pension prior to Colorado statehood.  Was he psychic, perhaps?  What’s going on here?

Here is the pension index card for Mr. Holmead – what might it tell us?

Page 1

Let’s focus on the Service noted on his card:

Page 1a

which says “Pvt., Capt. Stulls Co. Dist. Col. Mil.”

OK, so Pvt. Holmead was not the sole representative of the Colorado Militia in the War of 1812 – he, in fact, served from the District of Columbia.

I wonder whether or not the folks at Fold3 know that Colorado wasn’t a state during the War of 1812.  Apparently, they need to keep a statehood timeline handy:

Page 3Page 4

Fold3 has War of 1812 pensions filed under Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and West Virginia, none of which existed, much less provided militia companies in the war.

Imagine you were Anthony Holmead’s descendant and that you knew he was a soldier in the War of 1812 who had lived his entire life in the DIstrict of Columbia.  If you browsed Fold3’s collection of District of Columbia pensions, you would come away disappointed.  Would it occur to you to look for him in Colorado pensions?  Of course not.

I have contacted Fold3 about these multiple filing errors, and am eagerly awaiting their reply.  Currently there is no mechanism to offer corrections on Fold3 as there is on their parent company, Ancestry’s, main site.

Thanks to all who support the Preserve the Pensions project in any way.  I am a big fan of these records and have made donations towards this wonderful digitization project.  Is it too much to ask that these records actually be findable once digitized?

Epilogue, 3 June 2015:  Fold3 kindly and quickly replied to my question, stating that it IS possible to suggest corrections.  For any image, open the information panel by clicking the small white triangles at the left of the image you’re viewing.  You’ll see a “Suggest Correction” link that lets you suggest corrections, which Fold3 says will be automatically sent to their Metadata team.

I submitted a correction for Anthony Holmead’s file, suggesting District of Columbia instead of Colorado.  That was 2 weeks ago and the correction has neither been acknowledged nor processed.  Hopefully, Fold3’s metadata team will take action soon to do right by Pvt. Holmead.

Epilogue, 4 June 2015:  Success!  Private Holmead has been reunited with his compatriots in the District of Columbia militia on Fold3:


Fold3 seems to have processed most of the corrections that I submitted:  there are no longer pensions mis-filed under post-war states Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Washington.  There remain entries under Iowa and Texas that are not 1812 records (Black Hawk War and Texas Rangers service), so I suppose they need to stay there.  West Virginia still has several pensions, but the actual pension records say West Virginia, so I suppose it would be tough to move those over into Virginia.


Congratulations to Fold3 on responding to these corrections.  Not only are the veterans filed in their correct states now, but there are fewer states that we all have to scroll past to find the state we wish to browse into – an ergonomic benefit to boot.

I guess it’s time to send in my next donation to Preserve the Pensions!

Mi Casa Es Su Ca. Sa. – Expanding Your Genealogy Search Keywords

While transcribing County Court Minutes in one of my ancestral counties, I came across a legal term that I had not seen before – “casa” – in the following entry.  Look for the word near the beginning of the 4th line from the top and the middle of the 3rd line from the bottom:



I have been reading 19th-century handwriting for many years, but I started second-guessing myself because what looked like “casa” to me couldn’t possibly be that.  From the context, I was sure that it was a legal term, so I turned to my trusty friend, Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (1856 edition).  I opened the page that contained the legal terms beginning with “C”, then used CTRL+F in my browser to search the entire page for the word “casa”.  Nothing.  Naught.  Nil.

I then turned to other trusty friends – my genealogy friends on Facebook, providing the above sample and soliciting their wisdom.  Collectively, we quickly agreed that there were no Court Appointed Special Advocates in 1824 Tennessee.

It didn’t take long for one of those smarter-than-average friends to post the following definition:

CAPIAS AD SATISFACIENDUM, practice. A writ of execution issued upon a judgment in a personal action, for the recovery of money, directed to the sheriff or coroner, commanding him to take the defendant, and him safely keep, so that he may have his body in court on the return day, to satisfy, ad satisfaciendum, the plaintiff. This writ is tested on a general teste day, and returnable on a regular return day.

2. It lies after judgment in most instances in which the defendant was subject to a capias ad respondendum before, and plaintiffs are subject to it, when judgment has been given against them for costs. Members of congress and of the legislature, (eundo, morando, et redezzndo,) going to, remaining at, and returning from the places of sitting of congress, or of the legislature, are not liable to this process, on account of their public capacity; nor are ambassadors, (q. v.) and other public ministers, and their ,servants. Act of Congress of April 30, 1790, s. 25 and 26, Story’s Laws United States, 88; 1 Dunl. Pr. 95, 96; Com. Dig. Ambassador, B; 4 Dall. 321. In Pennsylvania, women are not subject to this writ except in actions founded upon tort, or claims arising otherwise than ex contractu. 7 Reed’s Laws of Pa. 150. In several of the United States, the use of this writ, as well as of the capias ad respondendum, has been prohibited in all actions instituted for the recovery of money due upon any contract, express or implied, or upon any judgment or decree, founded on any contract, or for the recovery of damages for the breach of any contract, with a few exceptions. See Arrest.


I was relieved not only to have the question answered (it was late in the evening and I was at genuine risk of losing sleep over this), but also relieved to have my handwriting skills vindicated.  I had indeed seen “casa” on the page.

I went back to my trusty friend Mr. Bouvier to see why I had missed this entry.  Here is part of the Bouvier entry for capias ad satisfaciendum:

This writ is, in common language, called a ca. sa.

My CTRL+F search for “casa” had failed me, and I have learned to think more out-of-the-box when using search functions in my research.




Will the Real William Travis Please Sign In? Do Loose Records Prove a Forged Will?

Epilogue:  August 21, 2014 – I have discovered additional examples of this ancestor’s signature and have updated the bottom of this post with ‘revised’ conclusions.

I love finding an original signature of an ancestor, especially when I know that I will never find a photograph of that ancestor.  Even better than finding the signature is seeing and touching the original document that my ancestor signed, which gives me a unique connection to that ancestor.

While volunteering at the county archives in one of my home counties (Stewart County, Tennessee) a few years ago, helping to clean, folder and index the loose records of Circuit Court, I came across a court case contesting the probated will of my ancestor William Travis, who had died sometime prior to 1 July 1861, when his will was probated in Stewart County Court. 

The original will would normally have remained in the County Court Clerk’s office after being probated, but because the will had been contested, first in the County Court and then on appeal in the Circuit Court, the original document ended up among the loose records of the Circuit Court.  In this county, the loose records of the County Court did not survive, so had it not been for the suit contesting the will, and that suit being appealed to the Circuit Court, we wouldn’t have the original

The suit was brought in 1869, eight years after William Travis died, by one of his granddaughters who thought that she had not received her fair share of the estate.  The legal basis of her petition was that the will had not been properly witnessed, the signatures of the witness(es) having been blotted out.  Here you can see the end of the will, including William’s original signature and the blotting where the witnesses should have signed:


This original will was included in the loose records of the court case, which began in 1869 and did not conclude until 1887, when the parties settled out of court and the granddaughter dropped her suit contesting the will.

Lucky for me as a descendant, I had the privilege of seeing and touching the original document, and added a photo of William Travis’ original signature to my collection.  That photo became the primary photo of William in my Ancestry.com tree in 2010.

Flash forward to 2013 – during another volunteer day at the same county archives, I came across another original signature of William Travis – this one as an election judge in 1841 in his home district.  I made a photo of this signature as well, filed it on my computer and added it to William’s Ancestry profile.  Wow – two original signatures of the same ancestor – what luck!


And as if my luck couldn’t get any better, a couple of weeks ago on another volunteering trip at the same archives, I found a third original signature of my William, this one from an 1811 receipt for serving as a witness in a court case.

But then I ran into a surprise:  I made a photo of this third signature and filed it on my computer in the folder with the other two signatures I had found.  I casually happened to line up the three signatures to enjoy the fruits of my labor:




The first one is from the 1811 receipt, the second from the 1841 election returns, and the third from his contested 1854 will.

My Sesame Street skills kicked in and I immediately felt like “one of these things is not like the other.”  I concluded that the will was a forgery.  That granddaughter of William Travis sued because the will was not properly witnessed:  did I just discover that there was an even bigger issue with the will?

A few days ago, I returned to the same Archives, looking for additional sample of William Travis’ signature.  I was thrilled to find three more – here they are, juxtaposed with the signature on the will as the 4th image:

William Travis signature 1847 election

William Travis signature 1848 election

William Travis signature 1847 court case


With six samples of his handwriting ranging from 1811 to 1854, I now conclude that the signature on the will is valid after all.  While I would have been excited to have discovered a forged will, I’m even more excited to have found six documents that include an ancestor’s original signature.  It’s a real treat to touch these documents and make a connection with an ancestor.

The signature on the will is only one of dozens of discoveries that I made in reviewing a single set of loose records from one court case.  I could write a whole blog post on all of the genealogical facts about this family that are to be found only in the loose records.  In this county, the loose records have never been microfilmed, so you wouldn’t even know about these treasures unless you had made the effort to contact that archives and do the research there (or order records by mail, which this archives supports).

Have you checked for surviving loose records in your counties of interest?  If not, you’ll never know what family facts you might be able to prove – or disprove.

Is Your Lost Family Bible on Fold3 in a Pension File?

Genealogists are always in search of that long-lost family Bible that will conveniently fill in all missing branches of our family trees.

  • We diligently trace all living descendants of our target family.
  • We post queries to every online genealogy board that we can find.
  • We scour the antique shops in our ancestor’s community.
  • We write endearing letters to every distant cousin (self-addressed, stamped return envelope included!).

Then at some point, we either resign ourselves to the fact that the family Bible was lost in a fire years ago, or convince ourselves that it is not-so-lost, in the house of that one distant cousin who refused to return our self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Imagine that you are a descendant of Winborne Futrell of Trigg County, Kentucky.  You know that he was a veteran of the War of 1812 – it says so on his tombstone.  You know his wife’s maiden name, Colson – the marriage records for their home county survive.  But you don’t know that his widow filed for a pension for his War of 1812 service, or else you know but you never make the effort to send for a copy of the pension application from the National Archives.  After all, the real genealogical gold will be in the family Bible, right?  Your valuable genealogy research time is better spent looking for that Bible…but you never find that Bible and write it off as lost (or in the clutches of that unresponsive Futrell cousin).

You hear about Fold3.com’s growing collection of War of 1812 pension records and decide to take a break from licking envelopes addressed to newly-discovered cousins.  You look in the Kentucky index and quickly find your Winborne Futrell listed.  A few clicks later, you are looking at the family Bible, which has been in Washington, DC since the pension application was submitted by his widow in 1880:



You quickly utter a silent apology to your distant cousins and spend the next 14 hours browsing through the vastness of Fold3’s collections looking for other lost family Bibles (including their complete set of Revolutionary War pension applications).

Only a portion of the War of 1812 pensions are available on Fold3 (as of this writing, they are a little over half-way through surname letter H).  You can accelerate the digitization of these invaluable records by contributing to the Preserve the Pensions effort being co-sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National ArchivesFold3 and Ancestry.

While enjoying the rush of finding that long-lost family Bible, you notice the added benefit of a historical fact that your ancestor noted at the bottom of the second Bible page:

“The locuses [locusts] caim in the year 1868”

Can Voting Records Prove a Murder? “Captain” Jack Hinson’s ‘Secesh’ Voting History


Tomorrow is an Election Day in Tennessee.  I am reminded of the value of county voting records that can provide information found in no other records.  Here is an example of how voting records may lead us to new conclusions in our previous genealogical and historical research.

Albert Rougemont of Stewart County, Tennessee was murdered on December 31, 1862.  Following the fall of Fort Donelson in February 1862, law and order in the area had been dispensed by the office of the Union Provost Marshal at Fort Donelson.  The Provost Marshal conducted an inquiry into Rougemont’s murder in March, 1863.  The leading suspect was a local man named John (“Jack”) Hinson.

Over the years, Jack Hinson has become a local legend as a documented Civil War sniper.  His Civil War career as a sniper is said to have come about following the murder of his two sons in December 1862 by Union troops occupying the area.  Books have been written about him and heated debates have taken place among the quietest of citizens.  The prevailing opinion has been that Hinson was neutral in the war until the Union troops murdered his sons.  Do the surviving records substantiate this opinion?  Let’s take a look…

The records of the Union Provost Marshal at Fort Donelson survived and are at the National Archives.  In the collection referred to as the “Union Provost Marshal Records Pertaining to Two or More Citizens”, document numbers 04220 and 04221 contain the Provost Marshal’s inquiry into the Rougemont murder.  Rebecca Lancaster, a neighbor of both men, had the following to say about them:

Rebecca Lancaster

“I know there was some difficulty between Rougemont and Hinson, but knew but little about it.  I know but little of Rougemont’s character, only he was a good enough neighbor.  I do not know whether he was for the union or not.”  About Hinson, she said,

Rebecca Lancaster2

“I do not know, but have heard from neighbors, that he was on Southern side in politics.”

Elijah Lancaster, another neighbor nearby on the night of the murder, testified about Hinson:


“He was an open secessionist.  He use to be a fighting man.  I know his sons – do not know that any of the family have been among the guerillas.”

This deposition took place in March 1863, a few months after Hinson’s sons were supposedly killed by Union troops, yet this close neighbor makes no mention of the sons being dead but speaks of them in the present tense.

Most of the neighbors deposed by the Provost Marshal knew of some disagreement between Hinson and Rougemont going back several years, due to the fact that Rougemont had testified against Hinson in a Circuit Court case in which Hinson had been accused of altering the course of a road in the neighborhood. 

Now back to the voting records – what can they confirm or refute about the opinions expressed by the neighbors of Hinson and Rougemont?  First, let’s look at the June 8, 1861 secession election in Stewart County “for separation and representation”.  Note that Albert Rougemont and Jack Hinson lived in District 7 of the county:


Hinson was #669 on the district voter’s list.  Rougemont’s name does not appear.  The district vote was unanimous in favor of secession.

Next, the August 1, 1861 election to ratify the constitution of the Confederacy:


Hinson was #199 on the district voter’s list.  Rougemont’s name does not appear.  The district vote was unanimous in favor of the Confederate constitution.

Finally, the November 6,1861 election for choosing electors for President and Vice-President of the Confederacy:

18611106 Jeff Davis-c

Hinson was #46 on the district voter’s list.  Rougemont’s name does not appear.  The district vote was unanimous.

The voting records support the testimony to the Provost Marshal that Hinson was a ‘Secesh’ and that Rougemont was a ‘Union man’.  Do these voting records, then, prove that Hinson killed Rougemont?  No, they don’t.  If Hinson killed Rougemont, as I think he did, it was more likely due to the quarrel between the men going back several years, not due to their opposing views on the war.  But these records add important background information to understanding the greater context of the war and of the stories of Hinson and Rougemont.

Read for yourself the entire Provost Marshal’s case file on FamilySearch.

Search for other Tennessee Provost Marshal records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives index.

Obtain copies of the voting records cited above from the Stewart County (TN) Archives.

And lastly, search your own county’s Archives for voting records that can enrich your ancestor’s story.

Boo! Death, but Yeah! Taxes

No one likes death, although genealogists are overly fond of death certificates, and tombstones.  But every genealogist should love tax lists and should seek them out for their genealogical revenue.  The census-taker only came around every 10 years, but the tax collector turned up every year – surely we can learn something from those extra records, right?

Let’s look at Nelson Griffin of Stewart County, Tennessee.  He was dead by 6 June 1881, when an administrator was appointed for his estate and years’ provisions were ordered for his widow, Nancy.

Here are Nelson and Nancy in the 1880 Stewart Co. census:


So Nelson was born in 1800, right?

Here they are in the 1870 Stewart Co. census:


Oh, so Nelson was really born in 1799 – got it.  That’s close to 1800 – no big deal.

Here they are in the 1860 Stewart Co. census:


Yep, 1799, just like we already know.

What about the 1850 census?


Yikes.  Now we have 1795 as a candidate for his birth year.  At this point, which one would you pick – 1795, 1799, 1800, or none of the above?  Maybe we just average the numbers and be done with it?  Not a chance – we can figure this out using poll tax records!

Nelson Griffin, as a free white male in 1800s Tennessee, would have had to pay a poll tax every year that he was between 21 and 50 years of age.  Poll taxes, among other taxes, helped raise revenue to fund county and state operations.

Based on census records, we suspect that Nelson Griffin was born between 1795 and 1800, and therefore would have turned 50 between 1845 and 1850.  In the year that he turned 50, he would have no longer had to pay the annual poll tax.  Let’s look at the poll taxes that Nelson Griffin paid in Stewart County during the 1840’s:

1842:  paid tax on 1 white poll

1843:  missing from the tax list

1844 & 1845:  tax lists for the county do not survive

1846:  paid tax on 1 white poll

1847:  paid tax on 1 white poll

1848-1858:  tax lists survive, but Nelson Griffin does not appear in them

1859:  Nelson Griffin appears in the tax list, paying property tax on land, but no poll tax

We aren’t too concerned that Nelson Griffin is missing from the 1843 list, or that the lists for 1844 and 1845 are missing.  Based on him appearing in the 1846 and 1847 tax lists and paying a poll tax, but disappearing from the 1848 tax lists and later, we can safely conclude that Nelson Griffin was born about 1798, give or take a few months.

An excellent article on the history of tax laws in North Carolina and Tennessee is Ann Evans Alley’s Taxation and Politics: Tennessee’s Poll Tax Laws, which appeared in the Fall 1997 issue of the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, the journal of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society.

The Real McCoy…I Mean Tucker

My McCoy line in Stewart County has long been a brick wall.  I knew that my ancestor C. Perry McCoy (1820-1887) first appeared in Stewart County records in 1842, when he became a constable.  I found evidence linking him loosely to a Daniel McCoy (born ca. 1777)  who had married in 1839 to Martha Rose in Stewart County.  The license for this marriage was issued some 9 months earlier, on 26 Oct 1838.  I had never found proof that Perry was Daniel’s son, however, but had assumed so (and some have claimed so).  That 1839 marriage, as far as I knew, made Martha (Rose) McCoy a stepmother to a then 19-year-old Perry McCoy.

I knew that Daniel McCoy died about 1854 in Stewart County and that his widow Martha lived for some time after the 1870 census (in which she was living with my Perry McCoy).

Based on this brick wall, I had a McCoy uncle DNA-tested several years ago.  The tests came back with no McCoy matches, but with quite a few Tucker matches.  I then wondered where in my McCoy ancestry I might stumble on a Tucker line, but didn’t find any Tuckers around Stewart County that fit the time period.

In 2012, I stumbled upon a War of 1812 pension application index card on Ancestry, in which a Martha McCoy, widow of a Daniel McCoy, applied for a pension.  The index card stated that Daniel McCoy served under Capt. William Chism (state not indicated), who I then learned was a captain of a Tennessee militia company, whose men were mostly from Franklin, Bedford, Blount, Madison (AL), Rutherford, Warren and Wilson counties.  Wondering whether this might be my Daniel and Martha McCoy from Stewart County, I ordered the pension packet from the National Archives.

Here’s some of the information in the pension packet:

On May 4, 1878, in Montgomery County, TN Court, Martha McCoy, age 98, filed for a widow’s pension for the War of 1812 service of Daniel McCoy, stating the following:

  • Daniel McCoy served as a private, having enlisted about age 45 at Nashville (she thinks, but doesn’t know his company or Captain)
  • He was honorably discharged at Nashville (she thinks)
  • He was 5 feet, 10 inches tall, with dark eyes and dark complexion
  • She married Daniel McCoy on 14 July 1839 in Dover, and her name at the time of the marriage was Martha Rose
  • Her first husband’s name was Tucker, and he died in Warren Co., TN in 1820
  • Daniel McCoy died near Dover on 25 August 1854
  • Since Daniel McCoy’s discharge from the war, Daniel had lived in Lincoln Co., Davidson Co. and Stewart Co.
  • Daniel McCoy had obtained a land warrant at some point in the past for his service
  • Her address at the time of filing the pension application was P. O. Box 229, Clarksville

Also in the pension packet is a letter from Martha Caroline (McCoy) Clinard, daughter of Daniel and Martha McCoy, stating that her mother lived for 24 years after the death of her father, so Martha must have died in 1878.

These statements by Martha McCoy, coupled with the DNA evidence, suggest that my C. Perry McCoy was the son, not stepson, of Martha (Rose) McCoy, but by her Tucker husband, not by Daniel McCoy.  At some point her son Perry must have adopted the name Perry McCoy.  I do not know at this time whether Rose was Martha’s maiden name, or the name of another husband.

Now, on to Warren and Lincoln counties for Tucker (and still McCoy) research!