Traveling Through Time

When you think of time travelers it’s usually in some form of science fiction. There is another kind of time traveling that has little to do with fiction . . . family history research. Those of us who are fascinated with our family history don’t think of ourselves as time travelers, but we are. Our research takes us to some amazing places as they were many years ago. Often those trips are frustrating, but then we meet an ancestor who is very happy to introduce us to her family and friends.

Recently one such adventure happened to me. I was in checking out the latest batch of new leaves in my online tree. Following one leaf to another user’s tree brought me face-to-face with my third great grandmother, Frances Georgina Scott Barrett.

Frances Barrettt Portrait

Frances Georgina Scott Barrett

Delighted as I was to see Frances, I knew she had more to tell me and that I needed to introduce myself to her great great grandaughter, Kay. I was right. Kay has all kinds of information on this branch of the family. One very special treasure is the diary of Georgiana Barrett Devlin. Georgiana is Frances’ daughter and my great great grandfather’s sister.


The Diary of a Southern Lady – Katherine M. Jones, editor

Kay has transcribed the diary, added notes from her research and published it. Within seconds of learning about this treasure, I had a Kindle copy of the diary and soon found myself in 19th century Mississippi. Georgiana has introduced me to members of the family I never knew existed and helped me sort out family relationships that my research could not. Every time I open her diary, I take another trip back in time.

While Georgiana has given me lots of new directions for my own research, I’m even more indebted to Kay for her work to transcribe and share this wonderful treasure. It also is an inspiration to pay it forward. I have a collection of letters my maternal grandfather wrote my grandmother before they got married in 1913. He died in 1921 so these letters and a few pictures are all we have of him. I have been slowly scanning and transcribing those letters. Kay’s effort with Georgina’s diary had inspired me to make this project a priority with the hope that it can help other family members with their research.

The Diary of a Southern Lady and Dolph’s Letters will keep me on the move between the 19th and 20th centuries for some time.


A Tragic Tale in Old Savannah

Tragic Tale header graphic

This is a photo of William James Barrett, Jr., Elizabeth Carswell Barrett, his wife, and William Henry Barrett. It was taken at Wilson’s Studio on Bull Street in Savannah, Georgia about 1897 – probably to celebrate Elizabeth and William’s wedding.

William James’ life is full of tragedy. He was only two years old when his father was killed in December 1864 during a skirmish with Union troops near Concord Church outside their hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi. His mother wasn’t quite 40 when she died in 1878. He later moved to Savannah where he met and married Rhoda Henry in 1892. Their son, William Henry Barrett, was born July 29, 1894. Rhoda died a week later.

Elizabeth and William were married April 15, 1897 and would have eight more children between 1897 and 1910. The 1900 census shows that the growing Barrett family was living in the household of Isaac Henry, William’s former father-in-law. According to the census record, there were 16 people living in the house at 424 State Street.

A current view of the Henry home on State Street. 

As the family grew, they moved several times. William also held a number of different jobs. He went from being a clerk at an iron works business to a salesman for a beef processor before settling into a job as a butcher with Cudahy Packing Company. In 1910 William left the family in Savannah and went to Birmingham to take a job with the Jacob Dodd Company. His half-brother, Lewis Link, was living in Atlanta at the time and may have encouraged the move.

Not long after taking the job, William contracted malaria and died in Birmingham on October 9th. According to the obituary, Lewis Link was with him when he died. His body was returned to Savannah for burial in the Carswell family plot at Laurel Grove Cemetery. Elizabeth wrote in the Family Bible:

“We miss thee more and more the longer the time the more I miss my darling husband. Our Papa was a devoted husband and devoted father and we all loved him so much we will never feel right without his presence.”

Wm. James BarrettHis youngest daughter, Ethel, was born after his death and only lived a few weeks. She was buried with him. After his father’s death, William Henry went to live with his mother’s Henry family. Elizabeth’s Carswell family did all they could to help Elizabeth and the other children. It was a tough childhood for them all. Elizabeth died in 1945 and is also buried in the Carswell plot in Laurel Grove. Elizabeth Carswell

Today descendants of both the Henry and Carswell sides of this Barrett family are spread across Georgia and Florida, but Savannah remains a special place in all our hearts.

Charleston Connections


Tot and Joe Killebrew

Tot and Joe Killebrew

During World War II, Marjorie Barker left her home in Tennessee and traveled alone to Mexico City to marry her fiancee, Capt. Joseph P. Killebrew, an Army Air Corps bomber pilot. After several days of bureaucratic red tape, they were finally married on May 7, 1943. Their days together in Mexico were few. Joe had to return to duty in the Panama Canal Zone.

Shortly after they were married, Joe was assigned to Hayes, Kansas, for training on the new B-29 bombers. Marjorie joined Joe in Kansas for the few weeks of training before he was reassigned to China. During their time in Kansas, Marjorie met Lois, another pilot’s wife from Charleston, South Carolina. They became close friends – a bond that became even stronger after both husbands were killed. That friendship continued throughout their lives. Marjorie moved to St. Augustine, Florida, after the war – making it easier for the two women to keep in touch. Even after each remarried, it was not unusual for the two families to visit back and forth.

Our casual Florida lifestyle was very different from the structured society of Charleston, but it was fun to visit. I have many fond memories of casual visits and special events like debutante balls and weddings and still stay in touch with Lois’ children.

Little did we know back then that we had a family connection to Charleston that pre-dated the American Revolution.

In June of 1764, John Lewis Gervais arrived in Charleston with a letter of introduction by Richard Oswald, a wealthy Scotsman, to Henry Laurens. Gervais and Laurens already had something in common – both were Huguenots. Gervais was acting as an agent for Oswald to obtain farmland in South Carolina.

Gervais not only served Oswald’s interests, but also obtained his own grant of 5,000 acres in 1768 which he successfully developed and expanded over the years. In 1773 he married Mary Sinclair of Charleston. As was usual in those days, the Gervais family also kept a house in Charleston. John and Mary had nine children but only three lived to marry and have their own children.

Gervais was also involved in politics during the Revolution and as a Colonel in the Continental army he helped organize the defense of Charleston in 1780. Later he served in the Continental Congress and in the South Carolina legislature. He died in 1798 at the age of 57.

Bill and Marjorie BarrettOf the three surviving children, two remained in Charleston. Claudia Butler Gervais married Robert J. Turnbull, the son of Dr. Andrew Turnbull who had built the New Symrna colony in Florida [see related articles below] and had moved to Charleston from St. Augustine. Paul Trapier Gervais married Martha Perry Jenkins and became an Episcopal minister in Charleston. Sinclair David Gervais married Katherine Olivia O’Keefe and moved the family – first to Mississippi and later to Texas. His descendants returned to Mississippi then on to Savannah, Georgia, and now down to St. Augustine.

One of those descendants, William Henry Barrett, Jr., married Marjorie Barker Killebrew and brought our Charleston connections together.