Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Following the Hennington's to Burnt Corn, Alabama

Down Federal Road in Burnt Corn, Alabama
Among the many enjoyable things about researching your family, is to travel to the area they once lived. While it may not look as it did in their time, you can hopefully get a feel for the area. If it has remained  a rural countryside, chances are, not that much may have changed.


A few weeks ago while traveling to Mississippi, we stopped in Burnt Corn, Alabama in Monroe County. That county was once home to Harper Lee (To Kill a Mocking Bird) and Truman Capote (In Cold Blood). They were childhood friends and lived in nearby Monroeville during the 1930's.

Our trek to Burnt Corn, was to investigate this very small rural area in southwest Alabama. During the 1800's  the town was thriving and the land was prime for cotton growers, including some from my own Hennington family.  Rev. William Hennington was also a circuit preacher in Monroe and Wilcox counties. His mother and two brothers  (both Methodist preachers) moved on to Copiah County, Mississippi.

Old casket factory and general store 
Burnt Corn today is listed as a ghost town, although there are some residents nearby and scattered along the rolling hills on the way to Monroeville and Evergreen, Alabama. The main road that runs through the center of the town, was once the Federal Road. Originally the town began as a trading post settlement at an intersection of Indian trails on the 'Old Wolf Path.' This horse path, became the Federal Road, and was used as a migration trail for western migration of settlers.

Burnt Corn Post Office
Deserted buildings along the Federal Road are the old barber shop, general store (doubling as the post office) a casket factory, Brantley's Store (with the Coca Cola sign still clearly visable), and additional out buildings. We were the only ones in Burnt Corn that day - which made it really feel like a ghost town.

For an extra glimpse of Burnt Corn, follow this You Tube video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptx9Pp4ggIA&feature=youtu.be
(photos by Larry Van Horn)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Remains of a Little Girl in a Forgotten Casket are Identifiied

Construction workers inspect a long-forgotten casket (Ericka Karner)

Mystery solved: Remains of girl in forgotten casket was daughter of prominent San Francisco family 

This story combines detective work, genealogy, DNA, and public records.
A little girl about 3 years old died and was buried about 140 years ago in an unmarked metal casket in a wealthy San Francisco neighborhood. When workers recently discovered her elaborate coffin beneath a concrete slab, there were no markings or gravestone to say who she was. A team of scientists, amateur sleuths and history buffs worked tirelessly to solve the central question in this Bay Area mystery: Who was the little girl in the casket?
She has now been identified. The girl’s DNA was matched to that of a relative now living in San Rafael.
The story of the investigation is intriguing. Investigators found a scale plan of the cemetery development in 1865 at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. That provided an approximate location of the grave.

Thanks to the Internet and a culture of open records that existed from the 17th century to the 1960's, amateur genealogists were able to tap centuries of records of censuses, births, marriages, properties and deaths to trace up and down each candidates’ family tree. The whole effort took three people 3,000 hours, said Elissa Davey, who spearheaded the search for Edith’s identity.
You can read the entire story in an article by Joseph Serna in the Los Angeles Times web site at: http://lat.ms/2q4oflt.

My thanks to newsletter reader Ed Dietz for telling me about this story.
(Eastman Online Genealogy newsletter)