Old Kentucky School

Here is a wonderful picture of my paternal grandmother’s (Mable Gerie Stafford’s) old school in Kentucky.

Old Kentucky School

School – Betsy Layne, Kentucky

Fortunately, she wrote the following on the back of the photograph:

My old school—1st through 12th grade (no Kindergarten)

Betsy Layne

Yea Bobcats (basketball team)

Your dad was one.

One tip to remember as you document your family history: always scan or take a picture of the back of photographs. Family members often write important notes on the back, and these can easily be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of genealogy work.

The Obituary of Naomi Roxania LeBaron

Naomi Roxania LeBaron (1816-1881) is my third great grandmother. I recently stumbled upon her obituary, which was published on August 31, 1881 in the Deseret News (a Utah publication).

Editor Deseret News:

Permit me through the columns of your esteemed paper to chronicle the death of one of Israel’s favored ones, Naomi R. Holman, wife of James S. Holman, deceased, who after a brief illness of three days, expired at 7 o’clock p.m., Thursday, at her residence in this ward.

She was born in Leroy, Genesee County, N.Y., Oct. 7, 1816; married J. S. Holman, March 24, 1833, joined the Church in its infancy (date not known); in 1836 received a patriarchal blessing under the hands of Father Joseph Smith, Sen., which has been a guide to her through life, one which has been of much affliction and tribulation, having been expelled, driven and mobbed, from her home many times for the gospel’s sake. She came to Utah, 1848, with six small children, following the footsteps of her husband who came to the valleys the year previous.

She has borne to her husband 12 children; her grandchildren number 52, and great grandchildren 16. Her integrity and faithfulness to the holy Priesthood was firm and unwavering to the last; and she has won the confidence and goodwill of those around her far and near.

The funeral addresses were delivered by Elders B. J. Stringham, Chas. Wood and Bishop David R. Stevens, who spoke very commendable of her life, character and unshaken integrity to the cause of truth up to the last moments. They advised the many present to be true as she had been true, when the remains were taken to the cemetery and quietly laid away.

Remaining as ever,

Yours in the cause of truth,


Naomi Roxania LeBaron

Naomi Roxania LeBaron

The Radiographs of Albert G. Richards

Albert G. Richards (1917-2008) is the great uncle of my wife. He spent more than 40 years as a professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. His curriculum emphasized the use of X-rays to solve various dental ailments. Eventually, Albert’s X-rays took on an artistic flair. He began radiographing unconventional objects, such as bombs, insects, fossils, snow flakes, and flowers. Over the course of many years, Albert created over 3,600 floral radiographs. I’m excited to present a small portion of his collection.

Flower 1


Flower 2


Flower 3

Calla Lily

Flower 4

Dahlia, Cactus

Flower 5

Rose, Top View



ABCs of Family History: C


is for census. Census records are a staple of genealogical research. They provide vital information for each household member, such as name, sex, race, age, marital status, education, and place of birth. Census records also paint vibrant pictures of the family’s everyday life. For example, a census will reveal each individual’s occupation and the value of the family’s home. The 1900 census is particularly helpful because it lists the number of children a woman had and how many of those were living. No matter what you’re looking for, a census record is a great place to start.

According to Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, the U.S. is required to conduct a census every 10 years. The first census was taken in 1790; the most recent census was performed in 2010. Early censuses (through 1840) listed only the names of the heads of household. Starting in 1850, enumerators recorded specific information for all household members. Unfortunately, most of the 1890 census was destroyed by a fire in January 1921.

In general, census records are subject to the “72-year rule.” This means that records are kept private for 72 years after the census year. Therefore, the latest census we have access to is 1940. Individuals named in the 1950-2010 censuses (or their heirs) can request records for their households only by submitting Form BC-600. Otherwise, you will have to wait until April 1, 2022 to explore the 1950 census. Note that census records from 1790 to 1940 are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, not the U.S. Census Bureau.

When you examine a census record, you will notice various symbols and codes. Perhaps the most common code in the 1940 census is the “x” with a circle around it. This indicates who gave the household information to the enumerator. For example, here is the 1940 census listing my great grandfather, Charlie Stafford, and his wife, Draxie. As you can see, Draxie provided the information to the census taker.

Stafford_1940 Census

An “x” with a circle around it appears next to Draxie’s name

There are other codes, too, so it’s important that you become familiar with them before examining the record. Click here for a helpful summary of the questions and codes used in the 1940 census.

Want to view some “famous” census records? Click here.

Obituary of Compton Stafford

The obituary of Compton Stafford (1847-1905)—my 2nd great grandfather—tells a sad tale. A coal miner by profession, Compton sought employment at the Hatfield mines in Nolan, West Virginia. While walking on tracks, he was hit by a train owned by the Norfolk and Western Railway. Compton left behind a wife and seven children with “scant means of support.”

Compton Stafford Obituary

Compton Stafford Obituary: Big Sandy News (February 1905)


ABCs of Family History: B


is for boat. Boats are synonymous with the classic immigration story, which teaches us that immigration is more than just physical movement – it’s an emotional journey where identities evolve and family narratives are rewritten. As such, it’s important for the family historian to look to passenger lists and other boat records to understand the motivation behind the immigration of an ancestor.

The first (and earliest) boat record I found concerned my 11th great grandfather, Godfrey Hundley. Godfrey was born in 1611 in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England. According to a 19th Century publication edited by John Camden Hotten, Godfrey sailed from London to America on the vessel “Primrose.” He arrived in Virginia on July 27, 1635; he was 24 years old.

Primrose 1

“Primrose” Passenger List (part 1)

Primrose 2

“Primrose” Passenger List (part 2)

The publication describes the passengers as “persons of quality; emigrants; religious exiles; political rebels; serving men sold for a term of years; apprentices; children stolen; maidens pressed; and others who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations.” I assume Godfrey fell into one of those categories, but without clarifying documentation, I have no way of knowing which one.

Although the reason for Godfrey’s immigration is unclear, the story behind my 2nd great grandfather’s journey is pretty straightforward. In 1857, Marcus Espersen Funk immigrated from Denmark to America to join the Latter-day Saint community in Utah. His travels were partly motivated by a desire for religious freedom and a thirst for new opportunities.

Marcus Funk

Marcus Funk (1842-1926)

The following boat record shows that Marcus, his mother, and his siblings traveled from Liverpool, England to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the ship “Tuscarora.” The ship arrived on July 3, 1857 (159 years ago today); the voyage took a little over a month.

CR 271 25_Bx 3 Vol 2_00076

“Tuscarora” Passenger List

Notes describing the Tuscarora’s voyage shed some light on the situation:

“The ship Tuscarora, Captain Dunlevy, sailed from Liverpool, May 30th, 1857, having 547 of the Saints on board, of whom two hundred and ninety-eight were from the Scandinavian and the remainder from the British Mission. Elder Richard Harper was appointed president of the company, with Joseph Stapleton and C. M. Funck as his counselors. The Saints who sailed in that vessel only contemplated going to the States that season, there to labor and procure means to enable them to cross the plains to Utah another year. After a pleasant voyage lasting about five weeks the Tuscarora arrived in Philadelphia on the third of July. From that port most of the emigrants continued the journey by rail to Burlington, Iowa, where they scattered in search of employment.”

Marcus and his family eventually settled in Richmond, Cache County, Utah.

These two stories illustrate the importance of boat records in telling your family’s immigration story. This story is tremendously important. It reveals the types of values your ancestors cherished – values that caused them to leave their homes and risk everything for a new life. Be sure to lean on boat records to help uncover the motivation behind your ancestors’ travels.

In Her Own Words: Part 4

This is the final installment of a family history written by my grandmother. Click here to access Part 3.

Our school band, of which I was a member, played music for promotion of the unions, for a fee. I always wondered how safe our group was from violence at these types of outings, but nothing ever happened to make us quit playing for them. We needed the money for instruments as the members of the band could not afford them on their own.

During our elementary school years, a federal health group provided lunch for all children who were underweight. After the school nurse decided who was to have the lunch, our parents were notified and my brother Raymond and my two sisters had to have their lunch at school. I came home for lunch because I was not underweight. I am not sure of the duration of the program but my siblings did not like it at all. I was glad to go home to have lunch with my mother.

Most of our activities revolved around the school. We had basketball, tennis, glee club, and band. We had a library in our main assembly hall, it was about 10 by 10 feet and the first year I was in high school, I had read all of the books and was made an assistant librarian. I felt very important but I was not in any way a qualified librarian. My English teacher was the librarian and she was not qualified either.

Our school was never overcrowded as about 1/3 of the students came from the very rural areas and by bus. Some of the farmers would not send their kids every day if they were needed for farm work. Our basketball team was one of the best in the state for a couple of years. One of the players, Shade Hunley, was an eighth grade student when the coach spied him playing and put him on the varsity team. As a result, a player could only play four years and he had to stop playing in his senior year. He later became my husband and father of our four children.


Shade Hunley (1917-1962)

After I graduated from high school, I stayed home with my mother as she was an invalid. She could not walk for six years and we had to feed her for three years before she died at 46 years of age. There were three of us girls and we could never go anywhere as I always had to be home with our mother. My father and brother left home to work in another state and only came home on weekends.

After the death of our mother, our lives changed. My sister Flo went to California to get married to a young man from our town who had moved out to California and he sent for her. My brother left for schooling in Wisconsin and later to Charlestown, Massachusetts shipping yards for a job. My youngest sister was still in school and she and I stayed at Betsy Layne to let her finish and I was busy taking care of two children and a house. When Juanita finished school, we made plans to leave for Boston, Massachusetts. Shade and Raymond had gotten a house for us and furnished it.

We closed up the house and left on the train with Michael and Saundra, my two children. The train was full of military men and they had a great time helping me take care of Michael. Saundra was 2 1/2 years old and quite the little lady. We were supposed to be met at the Boston train terminal but the man who was supposed to pick us up forgot and when we got to the house in our taxi, he was sitting on the porch and was very embarrassed by the whole event.

We stayed in the house less than three months because I did not like the area. So I found a three bedroom and one bath near the subway lines for $37.50 per month and it was heated and water furnished. We lived near the old opera house and the hall for concerts.

Even in the early forties there was a lot of prejudice. I had a very dear friend who was Irish and her husband was Filipino. Because of the Filipino heritage they could not rent in our area. We stayed in Boston four years and while there Beverly was born and we had the best of care. I took the children to Fenway Park (this was home to the Red Sox ball team). Aside from the winter weather, Boston was a great place to live. The history of our country is all there and we had access (free) to most of it. Shade’s father and mother visited us there and Shade took his father to the Boston Gardens for a wrestling match. It was a big deal to him.


Fenway Park (1940’s)


My Grandma’s Handwriting

In Her Own Words: Part 3

This is a continuation of a family history written by my grandmother. Click here to access Part 2.

My mother was crippled with arthritis and had not been able to do laundry for years so she gained a girl to wash our clothes and one to iron. On every Monday morning, Mattie, our laundress, came and took the clothes and all of us kids down to the creek to wash our clothes. The huge black kettle was left there upon some bricks all of the time. We had fun on Mondays and really enjoyed our days at the creek.


My Grandma’s Mother, Draxie Alice Large (1895-1942)

Later we all four helped Mattie take the clothes back to our house to hang them on the line to dry. The following day, her sister Norma came next door to our house to iron. My mother paid $1.00 for the laundry and $0.50 for the ironing. Juanita was just a small child at that time, but she came along when she could to just be with all of us. [Juanita is my grandma’s younger sister.]

We had a very happy childhood, good schools. We went to Sunday school and prayer meetings. We also had a movie theater, paid for and run by the coal company. You could buy a monthly family ticket, so my father had it taken out of his check each month. For a family of six, the ticket cost $2.00 and you could all go as many as three times a week. My father seldom went and when he did, he slept through the movie. He worked such long hours and such hard work that he was exhausted from it. Weekends were good for him, he got to do as he pleased and rest.

We always had plenty to do because we raised a big garden and had to harvest what we raised for the winter. This was most likely when the mining company would have one to two lay off days a week. This cut my father’s pay. He always managed well and had a small bank account.

We had one big lumber guy move on to our street and build a big house. They were nice people and I went to school with their son, Clyde. One day the lumber guy came down to our house and wanted to speak to my father. After he left, my father came into the house and told my mother he was going to Aunt Molly’s, our grocery store. We learned later he went to get a case of formula milk for this man’s baby. Times were really bad back then even to the ones who appeared well off.

The years when my brother and my sisters needed more things were tough. My father had to go away to work as the tipple of the coal company burnt and the company would not rebuild it. [A “tipple” is a structure used to load the extracted coal for transport, typically into railroad hopper cars.] We all felt later they did it themselves to stop the unions from coming in. This was all John L. Lewis time and they were trying to unionize all of the mines in the area.

It took a couple of years but they finally did it. They got hospitalization, workers’ compensation, and better wages. Although work was scarce, working conditions were much better and even though we missed the theater and having more things close by we were glad of the unions. Lives were lost and very ugly things happened but they finally achieved what they set out to do. For some reason not easily understood, men who were coal miners did not want to do any other jobs.

To be continued…

In Her Own Words: Part 2

This is a continuation of a family history written by my grandmother. Click here to access Part 1.

In 1924, my father had saved enough money to buy a home for us and he hunted for a camp near schools. He went to work for Pike & Floyd Coal Company, an English based company. [In 1910, the Pike-Floyd Coal Company established its first production facility in Betsy Layne, Kentucky.] They had good elementary schools and a small high school. We were only 13 miles from Pikeville in Pike County, Ky., which had a two-year college. He bought a lot and had a house built on it for $1,800.00 cash. He and my mother finished most of the inside. We had two large bedrooms, living room, two porches, and of course the privy.

We had a large kitchen and cooked with coal because it was very cheap. We had fireplaces in all of the rooms. The kitchen was big enough for a large table, six chairs, icebox, and coal range plus the traditional kitchen cabinet, which held my mother’s cooking supplies. We also had a water table. There was a bucket of water, a basin to wash your face and hands, and soap and towels. We had a large pantry off the back porch which had been built for a bathroom and dad never dug a well so we had no bathroom.

We had a large meat house which housed our meat, four 30-gallon barrels for pickled beans, corn, sauerkraut, and cucumber pickles. We also had a large bathtub (came from a YMCA) and a stove to heat water. My father put three large barrels outside the meat house to catch rain water and put pipes from outside to the inside (coal water only). This could run down into the tub. We heated the water on the stove to bathe in. We also cooked in the meat house during the summer. It was too hot to cook in our home as we had no air conditioning and no fans. The weather got very hot and humid during the summer months.

My first memory of my childhood years was in 1924 when we moved to Betsy Layne where my father had built us a home and we were to remain until we all left Ky. in the early 40’s. My mother had made me a navy blue cape with a red silk lining and I wore it on the train to my new home. Our new home was quite different than what we had been used to. At first, we only had kerosene lamps on the walls throughout the house. A few months later we got the electric lines in and we had our lights throughout the house.

We always had a phonograph and a radio in our home. In later years, my father never missed the Amos ‘n’ Andy and Lowell Thomas show.

My mother listened to soap operas on the radio and read a serial story that ran every day in the newspapers. We got our paper one day late because it came by train from the western part of the state. Things were not as easily gotten as they are today.

I cannot remember when I exactly started school. I think I went to primer class the year after we moved there, so I would have been six years old. My mother taught us to read and do our multiplication tables before we started school. My brother was two years ahead of me in school and very smart, which made it harder for me to catch up.


My Grandma’s Brother, Raymond Stafford

The coal company paid for the school teachers at that time but later the state took over the cost as the school was well established.

We had been in our new home about six months when one morning about 11 o’clock a wagon, drawn by two mules, came down our road, which was right near our front gate. There were 11 people in the wagon who turned out to be our best friends and neighbors as long as we were there and even in later years. There were five girls, four boys, and Mom and Pop Howard. The mother was very heavy as was two of the girls.

To be continued…