Nathaniel "Thaney" and Elizabeth "Betsy" Fleming Houston
I got started in genealogy listening to my grandmother tell about her family history. I loved sitting at the fire listening to her talk to my mother about things that had happened in the past. When I started to actually write things down I wanted to do things right and I asked for help in organizing what I thought was going to be a lot of information just because my mother was one of 21 children. I was told that I should only do one line -- the Mullins or at best the Bentleys because that was my mother's line that genealogy was about the men. So that set me on a quest to find all the women in the family. It is the women who bring the other lines into play.
Some lines I thought were hopeless back those many years ago. Like knowing my great grandmother's name was Betsy, but having no clue as to her maiden name. The same went for Maggie Perdue -- another great grandmother. For 45 years I did not know who she was. I took trips, I interviewed people, bought books, joined historical societies, spent hundreds of hours in the library and tried every way that I knew to collect information on my family.
The internet could have saved me a lot of time. There is so much good information out there. And so much incorrect information there. My greatest tool has been access to the actual census records. Over the years I had spent hundreds of dollars on transcripts of various counties and areas -- many of which contained a lot of errors and omissions.
By accessing the Kentucky Birth index and the Kentucky Death records I have found many things. One, is that my mother was one of 22 children. I had queried all births in Letcher county where the mother was named Sadie Collier. I also queried by Sadie Bentley. I was comparing what those records said versus what I had from family Bibles, interviews and other research. Up popped little Mae Bentley. I went to others in the family and no one said they had heard of her. Later, I found her actual death certificate where the informant for the document was Otho Bentley, who was also listed as her father.
I grew up thinking that baby Mary died with Sadie in childbirth. I now know that Sadie's labor was started when she was kicked by a cow when she went out to milk one day. Mary was born. Sadie died several days later. Mary did not die until several months later. When I questioned that one Uncle Joe knew and tried to locate her grave at Chunk Craft's cemetery. She was buried near the gate. We walked it all over and with the gate gone he could pinpoint the spot for sure, but he, too, verified that Mary died after her mother.
I figure if we thought all those years that Mary died in childbirth with her mother and she was one of 21, that surely Mae who has a birth certificate and a death certificate should certainly be added in for a total of 22.
As I looked for more about grandmother Annie I saw that Grandpa Joshua married again after her death. He married a woman mostly known as Susan Venters. Venters was her married name. Working through the records she was actually Susan Wright, the sister of Jesse Wright and Bad John Wright. Joshua and Susan were listed in a household by themselves in 1910. Annie's children were listed with her parents Betsy and Thaney Houston.
I wondered if this meant that there was a rift between the Houstons and Joshua over Joshua's choice for a new wife. I wondered if Joshua liked being the merry widow and chose to go with a new wife and leave the children behind. I could only wonder because no one I knew had the answers.
No one until I met Annie's niece, Alma Meade. Annie had a sister, Lovina who is listed online as Melvina, Vina, Viney and others names. Her daughter says her name was Lovina and she was nicknamed Vina.
Lovina Houston was a younger sister to Annie Houston. She was born in 1875. On October 14, 1897 she married Rhodes Meade. Rhodes was the son of James Madison and Letitia Wright Meade. Rhodes was the grandson of Thomas Kronis and Mary "Polly" Hall. Letitia Wright was the daughter of Susannah Wright and Andrew Steel. Susannah was the daughter of Joel and Susannah Wright.
Rhodes and Vina had eleven children: Oscar, Olven, Matt, Forester, John Riley, Roy, Flossie, Orville, Lala, Charlie and Alma.
The afternoon after we went to the cemetery at Goose Creek, I met Alma.
Alma is wonderful. She is 90. Her sight is failing, but she can still see shapes. She is a little hard of hearing, but all you have to do is speak up. She has a wonderful clear voice. She looks like she might be 70. She is certainly not a shriveled up little old lady. You would never know that she was 90.
I asked Alma about Thaney and Betsy and Annie. What I found out changed my perceptions regarding those census records.
Joshua did marry Susan Wright Venters, and she was mean as a snake. She was not good to his children. She was not good to him. She would not feed the children. They were starving. Grandma Betsy came and took them to her home. Alma said that when she fixed them dinner she had to stop them from eating so much because they were so hungry and she did not want them to get ill. After the children were gone, Susan tried to poison Joshua. I had always heard it was poison in his soup. Rosie heard it was in the coffee. Alma said it was in the spring water.
But, someone tipped him off and she failed in her attempt. I asked her why Joshua would let Susan starve the children or be mean to them. She couldn't answer that. I asked her why Susan would want to poison Joshua. She said she didn't know, that Susan was just a very mean woman who did things for no reason.
She went on to tell me that Joshua was a very humble man. The Houstons loved him and when he married Rosie Adams after Susan died, the children went back to his household. Who knows what someone will turn into after you marry them.
I asked if she had known Thaney and Betsy herself. She said yes. I asked if she had ever talked to him or her mother about who his father was. She said yes. She said that his mother, Hannah, had a sister, Mary. Mary married a Potter. She had Hannah come to live with them. While she was there he got her pregnant. That is the potter who is the father of Nathaniel Houston. I don't have all the siblings of Hannah. The Potter that is always pointed out to me to be Nathaniel's father is Abraham who was born in 1837 and who was married to Sarah Wright. That would be a pretty neat trick to be a father at 9 since Nanthaniel was born in 1846. Alma said that the father's name was John and he was a brother to an Abraham. She didn't recall his parents name. That is what she told me in person. On another day I called her and we talked about this again. She mentioned the name Abraham as his father, but repeated that it was Hannah's sister, Mary's husband, who was the father.
Also, when I called I asked about Betsy and Thaney and their dates of death. She said she had the dates written down and I could see them when I came back to visit her. She said Betsy died first when she was a very little girl. She said she was 13 or 14 when Thaney died. Since the last census I could find them in was 1920 and Denton no longer had them in his household in 1930, that made sense. I would approximate Betsy died about 1922 and Thaney in 1929. I have not found a death certificate for either of them.
When we walked up that hill to the cemetery I could tell from Archie's description and from the place where the Meade and Houston houses has been that we were coming in from the back of the cemetery. Robert found Jennie McCray's grave and that of her husband. We found no markers for the babie's graves, but lying behind Jennie's grave were the remants of an old rusted fence. Rosie and I tried to lift it away and we poked in the soft ground there for a stone. Archie thought there were stones for both Betsy and Thaney. We could not find them.
We only found another piece of the fence at what must have been the back right hand corner of the cemetery. Where was all the rest of the fence? My thought is that when the convicts cleaned the graves, they threw that fence over the hill. They could have thrown two old stones that might have fallen down, too. There are many rocks serving as head and foot stones in that cemetery in obvious straight lines of graves.
Rosie incovered two stones from under the leaves and growth. One grave was sunken in and its stone was down and almost sunk and covered, too. There really weren't that many Houstons in the marked graves -- more Colliers, but who knows who were in all those graves marked only with stones.
This is Thaney and Besty Houston: