Sunday, February 7, 2016

Carrie’s Letters - Bringing ancestral letters to life

When I was growing up all I ever knew about my great grandmother, Carrie Terry Warner, was that she died when my grandfather, Olin F. Warner, Sr. was a child.  She was someone that I never heard anyone talk about and I never asked.  I guess I thought since my grandfather was so young when she died he probably didn’t know that much or perhaps it was a sad subject and not one to be discussed.

So, I realized about 6 years ago that we had these letters…WOW!  What a great find.  I decided I needed to scan them and transcribe them.  Maybe if they were in chronological order and a print that was easy to read I would be able to get to know Carrie, my great grandmother.  It took my father and I several days to remove each letter from it’s envelope and scan them.  Then I began to transcribe each letter.  That seemed to take forever since pages of letters were not in order and she sometimes wrote side ways to use each inch of paper and on several pages she wrote her letter and then turned the page 90 degrees and wrote horizontally over the previous writing.
11 dec 1889 5
Thank goodness for technology and being able to enlarge and rotate a pdf page and lots of patience!  After I transcribed all the letters my son, Jason, helped me set up a ‘book format’ program that I could put each letter in to chronologically.  Great!  Now I thought I’ll go back and check each page for typing errors and I’m done, right?

Well, not so fast….I realized as I was reading the typed letters that I had tons of questions…who is that person she is talking about, that barn that burned down, the Post Office, what was that ‘Train Depot robbery’ she talked about, or that book that she was reading, to name a few.  I had set up my book format to have side bars.  Now the fun began. 

To begin - handwritten on the oldest letter’s envelope was “ Found these letters in attic and this is oldest one.  From April 16, 1873 to this date would make Mother (Ella Terry Billard) 7 years and 1 month old to the day.  Was she writing letters then? This was answered by Carrie’s friend and school mate who must have been a local girl because in the fall they returned to school together by boat from Greenport to N.Y. R”  I believe the R referrs to Russell Billard, George and Ella Terry Billard’s son. 
Now I can make the guess that Russell found the letters and gave them to my great grandfather John B. Warner for them to end up in his house in Aquebogue, NY. I can verify Ella was born 16 Apr 1873.  Who was the ‘local girl’ Russell referred to?  From reading the letters the first one dated 16 May 1880 was addressed to Ella and signed by Hannah.  Who is Hannah?  Russel said they traveled by boat to NY and then to Trenton, NJ for school.  So, I went to a local newspaper (Suffolk County Historic Newspapers) that is available digitally.  I was able to find the following;
Publication: The Long Island Traveler     July 1, 1880     page #2       Peconic
“Arrived per Coit Sunday morning, Misses Tillie Edwards, Hannah King and Carrie Terry, from the Trenton Normal School, N.J.”
Now I can verify that Carrie went to the Trenton Normal School in N.J. and that the ‘Hannah’ who wrote the letter to Ella was most likely Hannah King. I then went to the 1870 Census for Peconic, Suffolk County, New York and found:
Hannah King born 1860, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth King
I was able to find Tillie (researched ‘girl’s names 1860’ to see Tillie as the nickname for Matilda) listed in the 1880 census:
Matilda L. Edwards as a boarder at the Trenton Normal School in N.J. 
In 1870,  I think I found her listed as living in Alachua, Florida with Judge William and Julia Edwards.

As I research information for Carrie’s Letters I sometimes make guesses.  I hope that I am putting enough research into my guesses so they are considered by others to be reasonably correct, valid guesses.  If anyone reading this has information to verify or correct a supposition I have made I would greatly appreciate hearing from you.

Enjoy the journey,

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