Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hey There, Delilah!

"Hey there Delilah here's to you
This one's for you"

Oh, it's what you do to me...squealing and jumping up and down, and getting all misty. OK, that's not part of the song. But we've all imagined a moment of discovery that gives us chills and reveals a piece of history previously lost. I had this moment a couple of months a dusty old basement...pulling back the sheet and staring into the face of an ancestor I had never met...neither physically nor photographically. So, without further ado, I have the honor of revealing the photo of a long lost ancestor: Delilah Estle Daniels!
Delilah Estle Daniels
The discovery was made when I encountered a pile of very large photographs, all framed in different ways, covered by sheets. Three of the images were children - and images I had seen before, only smaller: My grandfather, Charles, as a baby, and his infant siblings who had died before the age of 4 - Richard & Garnet.

But then I saw her. She was staring up at me, right in the eye....rather knowing...and piercing. I knew I had never seen her before. In all the scanned photo albums I had poured over for decades, she was new. She was unknown, but she was obviously important if she had been kept secure all these years.

Below her portrait was an older gentleman. Again, no one that I knew. Followed by another, much younger gentleman. This man's identity I was pretty certain of as I had seen several of him as an old man. His big clues of giveaway: he was sporting the same beard and hairline in his old age as he was in this picture: Madison Daniels.
Madison Daniels
All three images were chalk portraits. You know the kind, large beautiful images that are a tad softer around the edges, bearing a chalk-like appearance. These images are usually created as enlargements of smaller images, but I had never seen the smaller originals.

I searched in vain for a label of identification....their frames were all different....and freshly sealed with paper tape. After identifying the young man as Madison, one of my Aunts declared the older woman had to be his wife, Mary. Keep in mind that all three portraits were very similar in construct. Madison's paper looked a bit more yellow, but if these were created around the same time, the age difference was possibly a big clue that the woman was not his wife. But at this point, that is just conjecture. Funny thing about Madison's portrait - even though I knew who he was, I thought, "Wow, a pic of John Hunt Morgan!" With the family story about John Hunt Morgan and the family clock, it was just an internal ancestral know, the kind no one would understand if you said it out-loud. The similarity in hair and beard with JHM is pretty cool.

I had seen so many images of Madison's wife, Mary Hill, that I knew immediately this was NOT Mary. This declaration fell on deaf ears....and so I had no choice but to go in for dissection. Dissecting the frame is a hard call in cases such as these, but I was also not the owner of these portraits, and only had a few hours in their presence. Since there was a good chance I would never see them again, and since I had my really good camera with me (Thank God) I took a more drastic measure.

In order to get a clear image of the older couple, the glass had to come off. I was not in an area of good lighting and had to use flash. I dug into the man's frame, took him out, but found no label. Cue sound of heart breaking. Funny note about his photo. There was a piece of masking tape on the glass, exactly like the pieces attached to the glass of the three children's portraits. Each of those pieces of tape had my grandfather's handwriting, identifying each child: Charles, Garnet, Richard. He had clearly meant to write on the label of the gentleman's portrait, but failed to do so. Does this mean he knew him and just forgot that step after freshly securing the back? Possibly.

Then I dug into the woman's frame. Cue the ancestral angels singing: There was writing on the back of her portrait!!! Her name was truncated due to a possible family nickname: "Lila Estel Daniels, wife of John Daniels. Their children: James, Madison, John, Abraham, Silas, Janie." That brought on the squeals and happy dances. I could not believe I was looking into the face of a woman I had long known by name.
I first learned of Delilah Estle Daniels from the pages of the family Bible record given to my father years ago by Aunt Mattie Townsend. I wrote about this Bible record previously, and it became a wonderful piece of proof during my DAR application process. In fact, I submitted a copy which will forever be in the DAR application records. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1804, the daughter of Silas and Sarah Estle. This means she was the granddaughter of my Patriot, Daniel Estle! So many feels!

I also have a couple of other artifacts related to Delilah: Her obituary, handwritten by someone in the family. And a signed verse from Church in 1841. I'm assuming the later has to do with the membership process, but it is signed by Delilah and has been a special piece of our heritage for several years.
As for the other gentleman, I'm seriously thinking this may be Madison's father, John Daniels. With the similarities in photo production, his hair style and clothing, the odds are in his favor. I cannot be completely sure, but I also know that it would fit into the overall story of how these pictures would have been obtained. From what I have heard, the family went down to the family farm, in Porter Ohio, after the last inhabitant passed away (probably Uncle Jess - died 1964.) They took home items that were left in the old farmhouse. Since they came away with Delilah, and Madison, it makes sense that John came along as well. With grandpa about to place a name on the masking tape, I'm assuming he knew the identity. Uggghh, if only he would have written on the tape!! But regardless, we are overjoyed to have a few ancestors returned to the family collective.
John Daniels?
Since I do not want to be the only person with the photo - I am placing a copy of Delilah's photograph on Findagrave for family members to find her and download a copy. I will place John there as well, with a note, asking if anyone has the original smaller version out there. If someone else in the family has the smaller version labeled, we could get confirmation!

**Note that her name is spelled "Delila" on her tombstone. In every other written document - the Bible, her Church token, and her obituary - there is an 'h' at the end of her name.

Welcome home, grandma Delilah! "Girl, you look so pretty!"

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Orphan Packet

In a previous post, I had put out a family beacon for Warren relatives from Western Kentucky. The hope of re-connection was based on my Grandfather's unfortunate experience as a child. When he was around the age of 8 or 9, his Mother gave birth to a baby boy while she was in the last stages of battling Tuberculosis. The baby's fate remains a mystery based on conflicting information. However, my Grandfather and his younger sister, Estelle, were placed in an orphanage in Louisville Kentucky.

You will notice that I just used a variable for his age at the time of entrance into the orphanage. This variable is based on the records received from the orphanage. In 1999, when my Grandfather was roughly 85, the orphanage contacted him and sent him his case file. As you can imagine, this was bittersweet for him, knowing the traumatic circumstances that prompted his placement in an orphanage that happened to be halfway across the state.

The packet of documents included invaluable pieces of information about our family. In this post I want to take a look at the documents that were included. Outside of any actual court proceedings for an adoption, I'm assuming this packet would be typical for Kentucky children placed in orphanages of the time - and even more so for cases such as this, when the child was never adopted, but aged out of the system.

Chronologically, the earliest correspondence is between the public health nurse and the director of the orphanage, asking for them to take the two children. Apparently this was the first contact, and the nurse has explained the family situation in great detail - including the time frame of how long my Great Grandfather had the injuries that had rendered him partially paralyzed and unable to care for his children.

There is also a letter from the Mayor of Mayfield, providing a letter of recommendation for the children - based on the urgent need created when a third child was born within the few days that followed the previous letters.

The County Health Nurse is writing on two types of letterhead:
"Mayfield and Graves County Chapter of the American Red Cross"
"State Board of Health of Kentucky"
These two letterheads may point me into the direction of more documents. The Kentucky Board of Health records may be too difficult to obtain without a lawyer, but the Red Cross may be an avenue of pursuit in the future.

Application for Admission into the Christian Church Orphans' Home of Kentucky - This appears to be a form made in-house, not produced by any state or local government. Full of amazing info: Parents' full names, ages, health approval of my Grandfather, and the religious affiliation of the parents.

**Note** On the reverse of the Application are Conditions of Admission, including the cut-off age for children entering the home: 12 years old for girls, 11 years old for boys. Yikes!

Commitment Papers:
Commitment to the Christian Church Widows and Orphans Home of Kentucky - This one is even better - chock full of birth locations for both parents and the child, as well as specific Church the parents attended during their life. Also includes the signatures of my Great Grandparents, including Great Grandmother Florence who died at the age of 25 of tuberculosis and who had just given birth a few days earlier. I've always thought that both of their signatures looked very shaky. I can only imagine the horrible emotions involved in the act of signing away your children.
A brief "Health Record" was attached for my Grandfather, stating that he had had measles in 1926.

Attorney Correspondence:
This brief letter from my Great Grandfather's attorney is notifying the orphanage of the death of my Great Grandmother, and leaving the decision of notifying the children up to the administrators of the orphanage. He is also asking for some sort of report from the orphanage as to the well-being of the children now that they have been in the orphanage for a few days. Note that the information about the woman who "took" the infant included her state of residence - but that conflicts with newspaper accounts which stated she was from Mobile, Alabama.
Family Correspondence:
Wonderful handwritten letters from my Great Aunts who were writing to the children, checking on their condition and asking them to write to them, since they hadn't had any letters in a while. In regards to family letters, I would have loved to have the originals - but am thankful for the copies, of course.
Host Correspondence:
Those who wanted to take my Grandfather into their home for apprenticeship - not adoption - were writing back and forth to the orphanage, describing their intentions and level of provision for the child, including basic education at a rural school.
Application for Removal:
Last family to host my Grandfather had to complete the Application for Child to be Taken out of the Christian Church Widows and Orphans Home of Kentucky - this outlined the family conditions and provisions that would be provided - they also specified that this was for apprenticeship and not for adoption. Again, this appears to be a form created in-house, not something produced by the state or city/county.
Without these documents, I would have very little direct information about my Great Grandparents. Their location has always been a challenge due to the state line being nearby, and each branch hailing from different states (plus a few courthouse fires in one of their native counties.) These documents provided me with the small towns they originally hailed from. Witnesses who signed the paperwork are also great clues for my future research. A timeline of my Great Grandmother's death was also included, with notes about her illness. Family information from Aunts was also invaluable - and seeing their letters was a connection to the family that subsequent generations had missed, in comparison to the wealth of connections we had for other branches of the family. Again, giving me some clues for researching the rest of the family.

When researching adoptions in Kentucky, this packet reminds us to look for the orphanage records. Sadly, there was no central location for these records. They were not transferred to KDLA, nor the local courthouse. The truth is, we don't know what happened to the records of each institution. Just remember, I'm talking about the orphanage records, not the actual adoption. There were loads of kids in the system that were never adopted, which resulted in equally parentless records. Adoptions were handled by the courts, but the orphanage records were retained on-site. Which then requires a scavenger hunt if you had any ancestors in the orphanage system. What exists? What survived? Those questions are never easily answered, simply due to the enormous amount of institutions that existed....and then faded away, along with their records.

P.S.: I recently contacted the current incarnation of the Christian Church Homes of Kentucky in Louisville - now called the Christian Care Communities. They still claim to have been around since 1884, but no longer care for children. Talking with staff, they related that the records pertaining to the orphans are stored off-site. In order to access them, they need advance notice to retrieve the appropriate box....BUT....they also need a release form from the former resident. Ummm, yeah, you read that right. I asked her about cases where the resident is deceased, and she said "sorry, we would need a release form for access." This reminds me of the hoops one has to jump through to access the Eastern State Hospital records. I'm assuming you would need to go through legal channels for access, but luckily, that's not something I need to do since I already have Grandpa's records.

For more information about recent adoptions and Kentucky law, see Kentucky statute 199.570. This was apparently created in 1956, and amended in 2005.


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