The Genealogy Library is open! We reopened on Feb. 1, 2021. Our new hours are: M-F: 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Sat: 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. We also take calls and email requests for research requests. Links to our email address and Facebook page, as well as other useful links, can be found below.
November's Show and Tell Meeting: Strolling Down Memory Lane
The Van Zandt County Genealogical Society held its annual November Show and Tell meeting on Saturday, November 27, 2021. A favorite among many members, the Show and Tell meeting lets attendees bring historical or family artifacts, pictures, or just interesting stories, to share and discuss. This year's offerings were as entertaining as ever. Sandra Jones spoke about her grandmother, Willie Lee Stovall, and brought a pair of shadowbox-framed baby mittens (now 149 years old) that Willie Lee wore as a baby. The frame also preserved Willie Lee's husband's tie clasps, dating from about 1910. The mittens were incredibly well-preserved, and the tie clasps looked good as new. (See photo, above, of shadowbox with mittens and tie clasps.) Sherrie Archer brought a copy (circa 1908) of the Richards Little Encyclopedia, a tiny paperback volume containing all sorts of practical, impractical and downright bizarre advice. The book gave short instructions on good grammar, how to mix different paint colors, skinning animals, behaving well to customers, staying healthy (get plenty of sleep, drink lots of patent medicines!), and much more. The book even had a Ladies Department chapter at the end, focusing on etiquette and housework--no surprise there! (See photo of the Richards Little Encyclopedia, left, with its coded cover proclaiming how one can be "handsome, wealthy and wise.") Benja Mize brought a reprinted copy of the diary of her great-great-grandfather, Captain Thomas B. Smith. Captain Smith was a teacher in Van Zandt County in the 1850s and joined the Confederate Army (11th Texas Infantry, Company I) when the Civil War began. Smith kept a diary prior to the war and then all during the conflict, which he survived. Four of the six original volumes of Capt. Smith's diary are in the Layland Museum in Cleburne, Texas. Carrie Woolverton brought the 3-ring notebook she used to collect the papers, proofs and notes she gathered when she first started doing family research 40 years ago. Most attendees of the meeting remembered the pre-computer, pre-Internet days, when genealogy was a much slower process than it is today. Genealogists in those days had to keep all of their materials in notebooks, paper file folders, or boxes. (And some of us still do.) Ms. Woolverton also brought pictures of her great-great-grandmother, Sarah Werrell, who was a major inspiration for her in her research. Sarah and her husband William Werrell raised 14 children in Texas and Oklahoma in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (See photo of Sarah and William and their grown children, below.) Suzie Bass brought a photo of her great-great-grandfather, Robert E. McMurray, who lived all his life in or near St. Louis, Missouri, but whose descendants went to Texas. He went blind from glaucoma in middle age. Nevertheless, he maintained a positive attitude throughout his life and died at 79 in 1925. Ms. Bass brought a sample of Mr. McMurray's favorite hobby after he went blind: Cutting sheets of paper with scissors to make intricate designs and messages such as Home Sweet Home or Merry Christmas 1901. His descendants saved and framed many of these little artworks. Jan Crow spoke about her grandparents and brought several pairs of their eyeglasses, dating from roughly the 1920s to 1940s, as well as a snuff bottle from 1929. She also brought a wooden butter mold dating from about 1900, which was used to shape newly-churned butter into a round cake-like shape and also left a flower-shaped design stamped on the top of each cake of butter. This object sparked lively discussion, as many members could remember their grandmothers churning butter. Elvis Allen brought a sampling of his collection of rare and old books, focused on Texas and American history. One of the books was owned by millionaire oilman H.L. Hunt, and has Hunt's name stamped in gilt letters on the cover. The Show and Tell meeting was interesting and inspiring, dealing with members' own relatives, now deceased, and the stories and memorabilia those ancestors left behind.
Dedication of Two Historic Buildings at Heritage Park in Edgewood: Fun and History
Two beautifully-restored Van Zandt County buildings were dedicated on November 6 at the Heritage Park of East Texas, at their permanent location in Edgewood. The 1850 Courthouse, the first courthouse that stood in the county seat of Canton, had been demolished years ago and was rebuilt by the Heritage Park. The 1890s Poor Farm Calaboose (jail), was saved from destruction and was restored to its original state. Both buildings were showcased at a ceremony that featured a special session of the Van Zandt County Commissioners Court. The Commissioners arrived by mule wagon and read a Proclamation dedicating the new buildings. The ceremony was followed by a lunch of old-fashioned stew, cooked over an open fire on the grounds of the park. Many attendees--including the County Judge and Commissioners--wore historic attire. The park, which features many beautifully-restored buildings, was open for all attendees to tour. It was a fun and educational event.
Above: Van Zandt County Genealogical Society Members attending the dedication stand on the steps of the 1850 Courthouse: L to R: Sherrie Archer, Cindy Cooper, Elvis Allen, Suzie Bass, Carrie Woolverton. Below, left: The Poor Farm Calaboose jail of the 1890s, showing the iron grate window. Below, middle:The Van Zandt County Commissioners Court meets inside the 1850 Courthouse. Below, right: The Commissioners and County Judge arrive by mule wagon.
A Close Up Look at the Holocaust: Ruth Lloyd Shares Her Family Story at Oct. 23 Meeting
At the October 23rd meeting of the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society, Ruth Fischbein Lloyd (photo, below) kept the audience spellbound with the story of her research on her family--a large number of whom were killed. Ms. Lloyd's family were Jewish, living ordinary lives in Poland at the beginning of World War II. By the war's end, all of her grandparents, along with most of her aunts and uncles and first cousins, had died in the Holocaust. Her parents, she noted, were "lucky." They survived years of incarceration, her father at Auschwitz concentration camp, her mother at Skarzysko-Kamienna labor camp, both in Poland. They met and married after the war. Surviving the war was only the beginning of her parents' journey, however. They spent roughly five years in limbo in Europe, waiting for sponsors to help them settle in a permanent home. They both eventually found sponsors in Fort Worth, Texas. Ms. Lloyd was born in Fort Worth and grew up there. Ms. Lloyd's parents never spoke of the horrors of the camps or the war, preferring to raise their three children and focus on the future. Only after both her parents had died, and she found a box of information in their house, did Ms. Lloyd go on a quest for information. Her search taught her a lot about genealogy, the war, and the many camps where innocent civilians were killed. There are a number of resources available to the families of Holocaust victims who are looking for information, and Ms. Lloyd found them useful in uncovering the story of her family. Along the way, she talked to aging survivors of the camps, one of whom was in Skarzysko camp with her mother. She learned of the unbelievable hardships her father endured at Auschwitz, and that her mother had somehow managed to retrieve, after the war, some precious heirlooms (photographs, a few small pieces of jewelry) that the family now treasures. Ms. Lloyd, who is a quilter, made a quilt commemorating her family. It incorporates the images of her family's photos--many of persons she never had a chance to meet. She displayed the quilt, along with a book with the original photos, at the September 23 meeting. Van Zandt Genealogical Society members were fortunate to hear Mrs. Lloyd's family story. Her parents' lives had a happy ending. But their experiences remind us of a dark chapter in world history.
Ruth Fischbein Lloyd, with quilt she made, incorporating family photos (many of family members lost in the Holocaust).
Fun and Learning: Genealogy Seminar with Marynell Bryant a Great Success
The Van Zandt County Genealogical Society held their annual all-day Fall Genealogy Seminar on September 25, at the main county library in Canton. The presenter, Marynell Bryant (pictured at right, in green shirt, with VZ County Genealogical Society President Carrie Wilson Woolverton) is a well-known genealogist and lecturer from Sulphur Springs. Ms. Bryant focused on what to do when family research comes to a dead end or "brick wall," when the researcher simply cannot find information on a particular ancestor or family line. All genealogists are familiar with the dreaded "brick wall." Because of the fragile nature of some records --some Census records have burned, many courthouses were destroyed in the Civil War, family documents are often lost--every genealogist eventually finds that he or she cannot find information in a particular family line past a certain generation; a great-grandmother, for example. Ms. Bryant taught three classes at the Fall Seminar that addressed this problem directly. She noted that, if a front-door approach to research won't yield results, try the back door! She explained how one should pay close attention to any aunts and uncles and cousins whose names are known, and use the information found from those persons to double-back and find information on their own direct ancestors. Ms. Bryant stressed that researchers must be meticulous in documenting their work and comparing the information they have gathered on all lines of research, particularly when trying to go around a brick wall. Putting all one's data into a timeline, placing all individuals on a map in order to see migration patterns, and comparing detailed information on each cousin or aunt who might have been close to one's direct ancestors, can often yield answers that were hidden, or at least point to where to go for more information. Ms. Bryant gave concrete examples of how she had solved seemingly impossible research problems with this approach. DNA research is becoming vital to solving tricky family research problems, and Ms. Bryant devoted a class to how to use DNA along with traditional research to find ancestors. She urged the seminar participants to embrace DNA research and put in the work needed to get the most out of this new genealogy resource. Ms. Bryant also delved into the very interesting problem of finding information on ancestors who participated in the War of 1812. Often called the Second War for Independence, the War of 1812 was fought between 1812 and 1814. There are a surprising number of documents, such as 1812 veterans pension applications, that are available. The seminar ended with a lesson by Ms. Bryant on how to read the often mind-boggling writing on old documents. The seminar participants had fun trying to decipher old cursive script and unorthodox spellings on 18th and 19th century papers. It was an amusing ending to a fun and informative seminar. A boxed lunch from Schlotzsky's was included for everyone at the seminar, and plenty of free breakfast food, coffee, tea and snacks were available. During breaks and lunch, door prizes were given away. Prizes included genealogy programs, a hand-carved walking stick made and donated by Genealogy Society member Lawrence Greer, and a tour and overnight stay for two at Roseland Plantation, donated by Roseland proprietor and Precinct 4 Commissioner Tim West. The seminar was also attended virtually by some participants, via Zoom. Marynell Bryant taught journalism at Sulphur Springs High School for 35 years before retiring and devoting her time to genealogy. She has Bachelor's and Masters degrees from Texas A&M. With 30 years of experience in family research, she is the current chair of the Texas Heritage Certificate Program for the Texas State Genealogical Society, as well as being involved in numerous other genealogy and lineage societies and publishing the Rainey Times. Ms. Bryant is an 8th generation Texan.
Above left: Attendees pose with some of the door prizes won at the seminar. Left to right, Suzie Bass, Marlene Ballard, Becky Rosson, Margaret Moffitt, Jan Crow. Above right: Tammy Garrett, First Vice-President of the VZ County Genealogical Society, handing out door prizes during a break. Below: Marynell Bryant teaching the seminar.
Genealogical Society Hosts Joint Ceremony for 1812 Veteran
At Carter Cemetery on September 12, the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society joined with the local chapters of the United States Daughters of 1812 and Daughters of the Republic of Texas in hosting a grave-marking ceremony for John Meeks, a veteran of the War of 1812 who lived and died in Van Zandt County in the 19th century. The event was attended by local officials, the military, family of Mr. Meeks, and many well-wishers and members of the Genealogical Society and the 1812 and DRT organizations. The local chapter of the Children of the Republic of Texas served as color guard. The gravestone for Mr. Meeks had been cleaned and a special medallion was attached to the stone to signify his war service. It was a great day, good weather and inspiring words by the speakers. Some attendees appeared in period costume, and there was a demonstration of a muzzle-loading musket, a firearm that would have been common in the War of 1812. The large turnout of Mr. Meeks' family was wonderful. Photos: Above, members of the James Burleson Chapter, United States Daughters of 1812, the James Pinckney Henderson Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, visiting members of state and local DRT and 1812 groups, and the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society, by the grave of Mr. Meeks. At right, Scott McDonald demonstrates the muzzle-loading musket. Row of three photos immediately below: Left, Sgt. Chad Meeks holds the U.S. flag for his ancestor. Center, Van Zandt County Commissioner Tim West presents the proclamation from the county honoring Meeks. Right, President of Captain James Burleson Chapter U.S. Daughters of 1812, Carrie Wilson Woolverton, speaks at the ceremony. Bottom row photo, left: Descendants of John Meeks standing beside the grave. Bottom row photo, right: Ella Guaqueta, President of the Texas Division of the U.S. Daughters of 1812, speaks at the ceremony.
Library of Genealogy and Local History
County Courthouse Annex, Suite 104 (East End of Building) P O Box 1388 Canton, Texas 75103 Our Phone Number, Email link and Facebook link are below, along with other useful links.
Library Hours Monday through Friday: 10 AM to 3 PM Closed Sunday and Holidays Saturday: 10 AM to12:30 PM
Please call before making a long trip as there are some unforeseen circumstances that call for us being closed from time to time.
Van Zandt County Genealogical Society Events: January 29, 2022 @ 2 pm. at Asbury Cemetery, close to Edom: We are adding a special marker to the grave of Adrian Anglin who is a War of 1812 Veteran, a Veteran of the Republic of Texas and one of the original 25 Texas Rangers. He settled in Van Zandt County and was laid to rest in Asbury Cemetery. We'll be partnering with local lineage societies on this special occasion. Save the date! Become a Member of the VZ Genealogical Society Support local county/Texas history, make friends, achieve your family research goals even faster! Dues are $15 per year for an individual membership and $18 per year for a family membership. Members receive our award-winning quarterly publication Our Heritage.
Van Zandt County Courthouse Annex
We are inside the second door on the left side of the building, up the steps .
The Library offers four computers with internet access, Ancestry.com (Ancestry Library), History Geo, newspapers online, microfilm of local county newspapers, marriages licenses, various other county records, and microfilm Census records (if you like researching the old-fashioned way). We offer quite a few books relating to Van Zandt County specifically, and books of other Texas counties as well as other states. We are a great little library for genealogy research.