All My Ancestors

7 January 2008

Connecting With the Living

I’ve been struggling a bit with whether to continue this blog or not–I don’t want to get maudlin and repetitive with my family stories. In order to help generate topics, I’ve decided I’ll try participating in some of the questions and issues that other genealogical bloggers address.

My first effort in this vein is to write on the topic for this month’s Carnival of Genealogy–Here’s the explanation at the Creative Gene blog–”Living-relative connections made during your research processes and/or blog. Who found you or how did you find them? Were they helpful or did they send you on a wild goose chase for further information? How much and what kind of information did they share with you? What did you share with them? What kinds of contacts have you had… in person, via phone, online chat, email, snail mail, web casts?

My husband’s father died when my husband was 18 months old. Both his sister and his brother are quite a bit older than him and established their own families early. Their mother never remarried but she and her young son moved from Texas, where all their family was, to Oklahoma where the oldest son was in college. It was the best thing for the boy who was to become my husband–he used to say he’d just be spitting tobacco and stirring up dust if he’d stayed in the little town where he was born. Here he could flourish in a larger church and school and begin what was to become a lifetime of schooling. :-)

Anyway, after we had two sons of our own, we wanted to know more about his family. One of his aunts had done some research, but even as the novice I was then, I recognized that generations and people with the same names were mixed up. We knew his great-grandfather had come from Virginia to Texas just after the Civil War and that this great-grandfather had died in New Mexico–a “go west, young man” story if there ever was one. Somehow, we also knew that great-grandfather’s family had owned a place in Middlesex County,Virginia, named Corbin Hall.

I studied the map and decided to call Middlesex County to see what kind of records existed and if there was an historical or genealogical society that I could contact. Keep in mind that this was about 25 years ago, and while I usually took the safer and more thrifty step of writing a letter (with the always-recommended SASE), this time I decided to call. It looked like to me that the county seat was Urbanna and the best contact information I could find was for a town hall of some sort. I started explaining what I wanted to the woman who answered the phone, and you could have knocked me over with a feather when she told me not only was Corbin Hall still in existence, but that she’d grown up there. Her father had been the farm’s manager and now her brother lived there and served in that capacity.

She wasn’t a relative, but she offered to send me a photocopy of the area phone book with all the listings of my husband’s surname. It’s not a common one–Spindle–and I was shocked to see how many there were living in Essex and Caroline Counties, Viriginia.

My husband and I looked at that list for weeks. I guess I’d lost my nerve on cold calling, or else I was afraid I’d used up all my luck. One evening, it was time to put the boys to bed–a task usually performed by their dad. But this evening, I asked my husband if he would call someone from the list of names we’ d been sent. I told him I would put the boys to bed. We tried to choose from the list and finally, I just told him to pick a name and call. I went upstairs to wrestle the 2 and 5 year old into their beds.

My husband was still talking on the phone when I came back downstairs. Here’s how fortunate we were–he’d called the only Spindle family that had done any research or who really had any interest in their genealogy. Grace, the wife of the man who answered the phone, had traveled the counties and had done meticulous work–she was a retired English teacher. They were both in their late 70s and they still lived on land in a house that had been in the family since the 1700s, and it had a name–Bloomsbury. They were thrilled to hear from us.

Bloomsbury and 4 Spindles

I have a drawer full of letters that Grace wrote to me, sharing her research with us. She told me she was too old to learn the computer so those letters are written in her beautiful long-hand–page after page. She was methodical about answering my questions and she sent chart upon chart. My letters and charts went to her “hot” off my dot-matrix printer. She was a generous person and she took great pains to be sure that I got the “right” facts. There were generations of Johns and Mordecais and she helped me untangle them. She’d traced the land and she knew that one of the Johns had married a woman several years his senior, and she also knew the wife’s former husband’s name. She knew that neighbors married neighbors and that sometimes those neighbors were cousins. But she had them all straight and documented. Her research enabled some of us to enter the immigrant ancestor’s firstborn as a patriot in the Sons of the American Revolution.

William, Musket and Boys

A few years later, we traveled to Virginia to visit them in person–and we were fortunate enough to be able to return a few times more. My husband was overwhelmed when he set foot on that land–he didn’t expect to have such a strong reaction. We got to go down to Corbin Hall and visited with the family of the young woman from the town hall who helped us so much. We drove over to the Rappahannock River and looked at the place his family must have shipped their crops as well as received goods. William and Grace toured us through the country side introducing us to relatives and taking us to places my husband’s ancestors had owned. We visited Spindle Pond–owned by William’s twin brother, and looked at the mill wheel from the family’s mill.

Spindle Mill


When first William, and then Grace, died, we were very very sad and so grateful we’d found them. We felt fortunate indeed. Bloomsbury had to be sold out of the family, but what a treasure of memories remains. I don’t really expect to find other living relatives as dear as William and Grace were, and maybe part of what made that relationship so special was that it just seemed destined to be. Grace didn’t suffer fools gladly, but she took us in, shared her years of research, fed us the best blackberry cobbler I’ve ever eaten and let us prowl through her attic, both literally and figuratively. I’ll always be grateful–it’s a large part of the reason I’ve continued to look for family and their stories.

William, Grace, Dog

Now to find the pictures to include with this post.

Found ‘em!


16 Responses to “Connecting With the Living”

  1. Such an awesome reminder of that delightful find . . .

  2. What a wonderful tribute to William and Grace — and to the spirit of sharing and giving. Thank you for submitting this to COG — that’s where I found you.

    Terry Thornton
    Fulton, Mississippi

  3. This not only is a great find and connection, but a beautiful story, especially the way in which you’ve written it. This connection was and still is a gift.

    Welcome to the COG and I hope to see more of you there. And don’t forget to make sure that one day this gift that was passed along to you by Grace and William is passed on to someone in the next generation who will guard it, cherish it and share it the way you do.



  4. This is why I’m so addicted to this pastime. What a delightful story. Than you for sharing.

  5. That’s a fantastic story. What a stroke of luck for you and your husband to have found this couple – they sound and look so sweet. Thanks for sharing!

  6. That’s a great story! Thanks so much for sharing it. I hope you’ll continue to participate in the Carnival!

  7. Welcome to the Carnival of Genealogy. Really enjoyed your story, thank you. Making connections is really what it is all about…

  8. A terrific story. Wonderful memories about kind kinfolk.
    It doesn’t get any better than this!

  9. Debra,
    Thanks for sending this to the CoG. William and Grace not only were
    guardians of a treasure of family history but were treasures themselves.

    Their example confirms my own feelings to share what I’ve learned
    about my family with anyone who might want it.

    Welcome to the CoG and keep blogging!

  10. Thank you for article and lovely photographs. You do tell a lovely story… and that after all is what genealogy is really about. Keep on writing, and I’ll keep visiting!


  11. I’m not sure if this blog is still active but I was so excited to see the pictures of the Bloomsbury plantation online. When I was 10 yrs old (1990) my family and I visited William and Grace at their Spindle family home and got almost an identical picture as you and your husband. My grandfather Hollis Spindle, who passed away 10 years ago, did a lot of great research but I’d love to fill in some holes. Please feel free to email me with any Spindle insight you might have.

    Dan Spindle

  12. Hello,

    I was a student of Grace’s when she taught at Tappahannock High School. I’ve been thinking of her lately. I have a love of Shakespeare because of her. She could do a “mean” three witches.

    My youngest son, now 24, is a Shakespearian actor. I thought I would share this with her. So I went on the internet. I’m sorry to see that she has died, but she kept on educating people. That’s pretty cool.

    She looks exactly the same as I remember her. So does William.

  13. Hello, I was browsing through some of my families info. and I ran in to your comments about your husband’s family. I too come from the John Spindle Sr. line. He had two son’s to the best of my knowledge.(John Jr. and William)
    I’m on John Jr. of his son’s Mordeci Spindle was my great,great grandad.He had a set of twin boys along with a host of others and one of the twin’s name was Paul and the other was James. Paul was my great grand dad and one of Paul’s son was my grandad Warren English.
    Have lots of info about them ,but like you have run into a dead end prior to is sentencing. I have him being only 10yrs. old at the time and it makes me wonder if he wasn’t an orphan. If so We would probably never found out any more info. Good talking to —–Guy

  14. Thank you for sharing this journey. You keep a wonderful blog.

    I have been trying to research my Great-Greatmother, Caroline Spindle’s line, but am constantly hitting brick walls. She also came from Virginia, though where, I can’t be sure. My lack of information might be explained by stories that run through the family regarding some flaky parenting, but I would really love to get some kind of lead, somewhere. Can you give me any ideas where I might look further, because my Spindles are so elusive!

    Many Thanks,
    Kathy Rollins

  15. My wife Angela, and myself, Luigi Traettino are the new owner of “Bloomsbury”. Please contact us; we will share more photos of the place. It is still a beautiful place…a bet different. The little Spindle’s monument is still there. My wife brings always flowers to honor this brave people. We mat a Thappahannock plumber, (by the name GREGG) He was the last student be thoght by the last Spindle teacher. We will be out of the Country for few weeks, but please, write us. Thank you, Luigi Traettino

  16. Hi to all I am Michael Watkins I am from Texas We have been trying to do research on my mother’s side of the family, My grandfather R.W.Spindle and and grandmother Lessie L. Jackson who married him. I have found lot’s about the Jackson’s but very little about the Spindle’s. I am just looking for name’s, what they did, where they are from and date’s. I do know from my grandmother some were in the civil war and Texas rangers. I don’t know if you could help but I would love a few web-site’s on this.

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