Storms – The Cumberland River Freezes

I am a few weeks behind in my ancestry blogging journey, so this week, I am attempting to play catch-up! My husband and I were able to take a much needed vacation, and part of that vacation was putting anything that even resembled work on hold. While it was fun to take some off, I am excited to get back to genealogy.

This particular prompt was a bit difficult for me. So far, I haven’t uncovered many stories in my family history in which storms play a large part, so I am afraid this post will be a bit short. But there was one weather related incident that I discovered that affected my family in an exciting way.

On 26 January 1940, Nashville experienced an extreme cold snap and the temperature dropped to 6 degrees below zero. It was so cold that the Cumberland River, which runs through Nashville, froze solid. This was a pretty amazing feat! The Cumberland River had frozen over several other times before 1940, including in 1779, 1876, 1893, and 1905. So when it froze in 1940, the newspapers in Nashville ran several articles about how Nashvillians reacted to this exciting phenomenon. People walked, ran, played, and drove cars on the ice despite the safety warnings.

Newspaper photograph from the Nashville Times showing people walking on the Cumberland River.

My several times great aunt Bert, uncle Mike, and some of their friends walked out onto the ice on 27 January to pose for a photograph. Although it was quite cold, in the photograph, aunt Bert looks warm in her huge fur coat. For various reason, I am not able to post the photograph on my blog at the moment (hopefully soon!), but I love how fearless they both were! My 2x great grandmother Jessie, aunt Bert’s sister, wrote a letter to her son on the same day, complaining about the cold weather. The letter doesn’t mention if she was one of the group of friends who went to the river that day, but it is possible that she was!

Eventually the ice thawed, but my relatives kept the fun postcard photograph that forever commemorated the moment.



Taxes – George Cochran and Chester County

Life in eighteenth century Pennsylvania was difficult, and this is illustrated very well through the tax records of my  sixth great grandfather, George Cochran (1728-1786). The son of immigrants from Northern Ireland, he was trained as a blacksmith and lived the majority of his life close to where he was born in West Fallowfield, Chester County. I thoroughly enjoyed tracing his life through the tax records, as it game me a more complete picture of what his life was like.

George Cochran

George was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania to James Cochran (1698-1766) and his wife Isabella Cochran (1699-1760). James and Isabel were descendants of James Cochran and Janet Burns, making them third cousins. The Cochrans were originally from Paisley, Scotland, and the family immigrated to Northern Ireland in 1570. James (1699-1760) married Isabella in 1723, most likely in or around Londonderry, Ireland, where Isabel’s father was living. In about 1723 or 1724, James, Isabella, Isabella’s father Robert, and Isabella’s mother Jean immigrated to Chester County, Pennsylvania. James and his father-in-law both paid taxes in Chester County for the first time in 1724/25 as landholders in the towns of Sadsbury and Fallowfield. Robert only paid twice more (based on the extant records) in 1730 and 1735/36, before his death in 1740.

James continued to pay taxes, buy land, and apply for tavern licenses for many years. Consistently, he was one of the wealthiest men in the community, often paying more than a pound in taxes each year. James and Isabella had seven children, of which George was the third. George married Nancy Henry, the sister of Reverend Hugh Henry, in 1751. Nancy’s family was from Maryland, and from all evidence, it seems that George and Nancy made their home in Maryland during the early years of their marriage. George is completely absent from tax records in Chester County from the year he came of age until 1765 when he was 37 years old. Unfortunately, Maryland’s tax records are not in the best shape, so I have been unable to locate him between 1749 and 1764.

For the first time in Chester County, George appears in tax records for 1765 living in London Grove, close to where he grew up in West Fallowfield. The assessment, taken between December 10, 1764 and January 4, 1765, recorded George Cochran  as a blacksmith who owned a dwelling house and 1 lot valued at 8 pounds, 1 cow, and 1 horse. That year, he paid 9 shillings and 6 pence in taxes.

George Cochran, taxes, 1765

The following year, George seems to have fallen on hard times. He is again listed as a blacksmith living in London Grove, but he no longer has a dwelling or a lot. He was supposed to pay taxes on 2 horses and 1 cow, for a total of 4 shillings. That year, he was given a tax discount because he was “poor” and paid only 1 shilling.

George Cochran, taxes, 1766

1766 through 1769 seem to have been difficult ones for George. Not only was he struggling financially, but his father James died. George did receive “one full and equal fourth part” of the earnings that should arise from the sale of the remainder of James’s personal and real estate not otherwise devised following his decease. It wasn’t very much, as the bulk of James’s land went to one of George’s brothers. Three years later, George’s wife died, and he decided to send his youngest child, Ann (and my ancestor), to live with his older sister in Lancaster County.

The next extant tax return is for the year 1771. By now, George had improved his circumstances. He had purchased 180 acres in West Fallowfield and had improved it with buildings. It shows that he had a tavern on his property, but this may be a mistake by the tax assessor. George did not petition for a tavern license in that year, but his brother Stephen, who was still running their father’s old tavern, did. George paid 16 shillings 3 pence for his property that was valued at 18 pounds per acre.

George Cochran, taxes, 1771

Over the next few years, George’s property fluctuated. In 1774, George only owned 45 acres valued at 3 pounds per acre, as well as 1 horse and 1 cow. He paid 4 shillings in tax. The following year, George had purchased 55 additional acres, valued at 6 pounds per acre, and he had purchased an additional cow. Although the 1776 tax returns no longer exist, George was responsible to recording the assessments for that year, and he was paid accordingly.

By the 1781 tax returns, George had purchased the 186 acres that he would hold until the end of his life. He also paid tax on 1 horse and 2 horned cattle. His taxable property was valued at 308 pounds 10 shillings, and he paid 3 pounds 17 shillings 1 1/2 pence.

George Cochran, taxes, 1781

The last assessment in which George appears is 1785, taken between July 22 through August 18, 1785. He owned 190 acres, 2 horses, and 2 cows, with a total property value of 322 pounds, for which he paid 1 pound 10 shillings in taxes.

George died on 23 March 1786 at the age of 57, a few months before the next tax assessment. He wrote his will a mere eight days before his death, but he did try to leave equal amounts of property to his children. To Ann, he left a “Young colt and the colt the bay mare is with one bed and furniture, likewise a cow and calf.” He desired that the rest of his personal and real estate to be sold, and after his executors paid his funeral expenses and debts, the profit should be divided among his five children, with his four daughters receiving equal shares, and John receiving double the amount of each sister.

I really enjoyed combing through the taxes in search of George as they really illuminated the hardships and successes of his life (materialistically speaking). He worked hard, but he didn’t achieve financial stability until the end of his life, which was probably a constant worry for him. One of the most telling pieces of evidence of his struggle was that he was forced to send his youngest daughter away to be raised by more wealthy relatives until 1775 when he was able to support her again. George’s life as a blacksmith and a small scale farmer was completely different than that of his father and his two brothers Stephen and John. His father was well-off, owned property, ran a tavern, served as an elder in multiple churches, and helped found a school. Stephen ran the tavern, became a wealthy farmer, and served in the Pennsylvania legislature. John was a physician, became the Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and married into one of New York’s oldest families.

But money isn’t everything, and it makes me wonder what kind of a person George really was. Was he a kind person? A good father? And in the end, he was able to leave his children a small inheritance, which was particularly important for his daughters. That is one of the most frustrating but intriguing aspects of genealogy;  research always brings up more questions than answers!


The Maiden Aunt – Anna Preston, M.D. General Practitioner

This particular maiden aunt is one of my favorite people, even though I never knew her and I am not directly descended from her! Anna Louise Preston was the younger sister of my 3rd great grandfather, Charles Preston. She was an interesting character, very progressive in some ways, yet still very conservative in others.

Early Years and Family

Anna Louise Preston was born on 8 October 1862 in Beverly, Ohio, the youngest of 9 children born to Washington Preston and his wife, Rachel Ann (Jordan) Preston. Washington seemed to be a man of many talents. He was a farmer and pattern maker. A pattern maker was a specialized form of carpentry. Most of his career he spent working for the W. F. Robertson Company, which later became the Marietta Manufacturing Company. Anna first appears on a census record in 1870 in Beverly, Washington County, Ohio with her parents and older siblings George (23), Charles (21), Henrietta (19), Curtis (17), Frank (14), Marion (12), and Nora (10). She was attending a private school in Beverly at the time and was 7 years old.

In 1880, the family was still living in Beverly at a house on Third Street. The majority of the Preston siblings were still living at home, including the unmarried oldest daughter, Henrietta (29), who was working as a “tailores,” unmarried Nora (20), and unmarried Anna (17). Anna was still attending the private school and was the only child still in school. The next year, the W. F. Robertson Company relocated to Marietta, Ohio, a town about 16 miles away on the Ohio River. Washington, Rachel, Nora, and Anna moved to follow the company. There, she attended and graduated from Marietta High School.

Department of Medicine and Surgery

Between 1881 and 1892, I am unsure what she was doing. At some point, possibly during those years, Anna became interested in studying medicine. At the age of 30, she applied to and was accepted to the Department of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Michigan. Anna was a diligent student, and four years later, she graduated and officially became Dr. Anna Louise Preston, M.D. Her graduating class was mostly male, but including Anna, there were 13 women who also graduated. Her beautiful graduation photo is below. I really love this photo because not only does she really resembles her mother Rachel (my 4th great grandmother), her niece, Jessie (my 2nd great grandmother), but also me!


The town of Marietta and Anna’s family were all very proud of her. The following article was placed in the paper when she came home from the University of Michigan:

Anna set up her medical practice immediately in Marietta. In February 1897, the Marietta Daily Leader reported that Dr. Anna Preston was treating one of her brothers while he was ill with grip. On 9 December 1900, Anna placed her first business advertisement in the paper. She was a general practitioner who specialized in women’s health and performed small surgeries. She shared an office space with Dr. Hart and Dr. McClure.

Career and Later Life

In 1900, Anna was still living at 211 Franklin Street in Marietta with her parents and unmarried sister, Nora. She continued to live in this house until she died, and she and her sister Nora likely inherited it from her parents upon their deaths. Each year, Anna appeared in the Marietta City Directory as a local physician. In 1921, Anna returned to the University of Michigan to attend a class reunion. She took a picture with some of her classmates, which was printed in the Michigan Alumnus No. 27.

One of the most interesting resources that I have found for Anna is her entry in the Woman’s Who’s Who in America in 1914. This was so impressive that she was chosen as one of the most successful women in America. It contains her educational history as well as her interests outside of medicine. I was completely shocked to find out that Anna was the president of the Marietta Auxiliary Opposed to Woman Suffrage. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I absolutely assumed that she would have been pro suffrage as she was very independent, never married, was very educated, and had her own medical practice. This was still several years before women received the vote, so I suppose it is possible that she changed her mind by then. But I suppose I will likely never know! She was also an active member of the Ladies of the Maccabees, the auxiliary of the Knights of the Maccabees, a fraternal organization. She also loved gardening, something that she shared with her brother Charles.

She was always very dedicated to her family. Besides caring for female patients in Marietta, Anna was also many of family members’ personal physician. She took care of her siblings and parents when they were ill, and she signed off as the attending physician on her mother Rachel’s and brother George’s death certificates. Anna also kept in touch with her nieces Jessie and Bertha Preston who lived in Nashville. The girls traveled to Marietta to visit their father’s family fairly regularly, and Anna and Jessie exchanged letters over the years.

Anna practiced medicine in Marietta for close to forty years, but by the 1940 census, Anna had retired. She and her sister Nora were living in peaceful retirement in their house on Franklin Street. Sadly, Anna watched as her parents, brothers, and sisters died before her. On 20 September 1944, Anna’s older sister, Nora, died. I do not know for certain, but I assume that they must have been very close. They had lived together their entire lives, except when Anna was living in Ann Arbor attending medical school, and it must have been very difficult for Anna to lose her.

On 29 August 1950, Anna died at the Washington County Infirmary at the age of 87. She was buried two days later at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta, sharing a headstone with her sister Nora.

I never found out why she never married (or why Nora didn’t marry, either). Was she not interested in any of the men she knew? Was there a tragedy that prevented a marriage? Did she just enjoy her independence and want a career? I wish I knew! I am very proud of this maiden aunt, and her story reinforces how inspiring and complex female ancestors can be!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Misfortune

Image of Anne Unton holding her son Henry found in the Unton Portrait.

Some of my ancestors had easier lives than others, but when I think of the word “misfortune,” my mind immediately travels to my 14th great grandmother, Lady Anne Unton, former Countess of Warwick. Although she grew up the daughter of a duke, the first cousin of the king, and the wife of an earl, and there was hardly a young woman in England more privileged than she, her life was full of trials and one misfortune followed another.


Early Life

Anne was born the oldest daughter of Edward Seymour, at the time Viscount Beauchamp, and Lady Anne, the only daughter of Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier. Some new scholarship has come out concerning Anne’s birth date. In short, it seems that Anne was born about 1536, as she was certainly alive by 30 November 1537 when two daughters of Lady Anne Seymour, now Lady Hertford, were brought to visit Lady Mary, Henry VIII’s oldest daughter. Where she was born is another issue. If she was born in 1536, she was likely born wherever the court was being held as her father’s position required him to be there and available to attend upon the king.

Anne’ father, Edward Seymour, was the son of Sir John Seymour and Lady Margery Wentworth. Margery Wentworth was a descendant of King Edward III. It was this royal connection that helped enable Henry VIII to marry Edward’s sister, Jane.





Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset

Anne’s mother, Anne Stanhope, was also a descendant of Edward III on her mother’s side. She was her husband’s confidant and was good friends with Lady Mary Tudor.

If Anne was born in 1536, is was quite an auspicious year. Queen Anne Boleyn was arrested and beheaded in that year, Henry VIII began courting Jane Seymour with the help of her brother Edward, and the king married Jane. Anne’s father Edward was raised to the peerage upon his creation of Viscount Beauchamp on 5 June 1536. The Seymours were now the most powerful family in England and had the most influence with the king. A year later, Queen Jane gave birth to her only child, the future King Edward VI. Edward Seymour was rewarded with an elevation to the Earl of Hertford, and little Anne was now the first cousin of the heir to the throne.

Growing up in the Royal Court gave Anne advantages that were available to few girls at that time. Anne’s mother was literate, and quite a few of her letters survive, so it is not too surprising that Anne and her sisters Margaret and Jane were well educated. Anne began to learn to read as early as three years old when a prayer book was purchased for her in the second half of 1539. Anne and her sisters learned among other things Latin, Greek, French, and Italian. The three sisters also composed a poem in Latin about Queen Margaret of Navarre. Remarkably, Anne corresponded with John Calvin; he wrote her at least one letter on 17 June 1549. He addressed her as “the Most Noble, Most Gifted, and Most Honourable Lady Ann, Eldest Daughter of of the very Illustrious Protector of England.” He seems to have initiated the correspondence, stating that Anne was “cultivated in liberal knowledge (a singular thing in a young person of rank in this place) but that you were also so well informed in the doctrines of Christ.” It is not clear if Anne sent a response, but she was clearly known as being well-educated.

Misfortune: Her Parents’ First Arrest

When Henry VIII died in 1547, and his son Edward became king, Anne’s father became Lord Protector and created himself Duke of Somerset. He essentially became king in all but name, appointing privy councilors, taking complete charge of his nephew Edward, and enriching himself and his friends. He did govern efficiently, but some domestic disasters caused problems for him. In 1549, fearful of being relieved of power, he took Edward VI to Windsor to hide. He was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London with his wife Anne. Anne was released earlier than Edward, who was released in 1550.

This political unrest must have been very traumatic for Anne and her siblings. When her parents were imprisoned, Anne was only thirteen years old. She was undoubtedly aware that when Tudors imprisoned people in the Tower, they rarely left with their bodies in tact. At this time, she was without her father for about a year and her mother for a few months.

John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, the Duke of Somerset’s political enemy, was now the head of the privy council and had essentially replaced Edward as the regent. Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, knew that for her husband’s survival, she must make nice with the Earl. She visited his home every day, apparently working to have Edward restored to the council. Her efforts paid off, and Edward was released, to the relief of his family.

Anne’s First Marriage

Edward saw the advantages of allying himself with the Earl of Warwick, and to achieve this, he suggested a marriage between his oldest daughter, Anne, and the Earl’s oldest son, John Dudley, Viscount Lisle. This was not unusual for the time, and Anne probably expected that a marriage would be arranged for her. However, she probably did not expect the offer to come from her father’s enemy. On 3 June 1550, at the Palace of Sheen, 14 year old Lady Anne Seymour married the 23 year old John, Viscount Lisle. The marriage was a grand affair; Edward VI attended and wrote about it in his journal. He also presented Anne with a ring worth 40 pounds.

Anne’s father-in-law, John Dudley, became the Duke of Northumberland in October 1551, at which time Anne’s husband became the Earl of Warwick. Anne herself was styled Lady Anne, Countess of Warwick. She was one of the most important Peeresses in England, and undoubtedly, this was a burden for a young girl. Her family was always proud of her rank, and she was memorialized several times as the Countess of Warwick even after her second marriage.

Tower of London

Misfortune: Second Arrest of the Duke and Duchess of Somerset

Even Anne’s marriage couldn’t keep her father and father-in-law from struggling for power. Edward again began plotting to overthrow John Dudley, now the Duke of Northumberland, and his efforts were rewarded with his arrest. Both the Duke and Duchess of Somerset were sent to the Tower of London in October 1551. Edward was convicted of treason and conspiracy on 1 December and was beheaded at Tower Hill on 22 January 1552. Edward VI stated very blandly that the Duke was beheaded in his journal, with very little emotion and with no indication that the Duke was a very close family member.

I am not sure if Anne was present for her father’s execution, but whether or not she was, this must have been a heart-wrenching day for her. Not only was her father beheaded with the approval of her first cousin the king, but her father-in-law orchestrated the event. I can’t imagine that this created a very happy atmosphere within her marriage. Anne also probably felt torn between the two factions, as she was by birth a Seymour but by marriage a Dudley.

Anne’s mother, the Duchess of Somerset, still remained imprisoned in the Tower. The Tudors were not above executing women who in their minds committed treason, so Anne was probably constantly worried that her mother might be charged and beheaded. The Duchess was to languish in the Tower until her release on 30 May 1553.

Misfortune: Imprisonment and Execution of the Earl of Warwick

By early 1553, Edward VI was sick, and by the summer, those closest to him knew that he was dying. Under the influence of the Duke of Northumberland, Edward chose Lady Jane Grey as his heir, who had recently married the Duke’s son, Guildford Dudley. Edward VI died in July, and Lady Jane was proclaimed queen on 10 July 1553. Anne’s brother-in-law Guildford was now married to the Queen, but he was not made king as he wished. It quickly became a dangerous time to be a member of the Dudley family when Princess Mary also proclaimed herself Queen. As Mary had the support of the people, the Privy Council switched their allegiance to Mary and proclaimed her queen on 19 July. Queen Jane and Guildford Dudley were both arrested and imprisoned in the Tower.

Carving in Beauchamp Tower by John Dudley

Anne’s husband John, father-in-law the Duke of Northumberland, and the other of her Dudley brothers-in-law were arrested, convicted, and imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower of the Tower of London. The Duke of Northumberland was executed on the Tower Green on 22 August 1553. This must have been a terrifying time for Anne, and I suspect it reminded her of her parents’ arrests and her father’s execution. Fortunately for her, she was never arrested or connected in any way to the treasonous activities of the others. Anne was allowed to visit John during his imprisonment as often as she wished, which she continued to do until his release on 18 October 1554. John had become very ill towards the end of his stay in the Tower, and Anne was understandably worried about him. Anne and John traveled to Penshurst Place in Kent to help him recover, but sadly, he died on 28 October 1554. Anne was only 18 years old, and John 27.

Penshurst Place

Within the space of 5 years, Ann had been in the center of one of the most dangerous periods of Tudor history for people who were close to the monarchs. Not only had she watched both of her parents be imprisoned in the Tower of London twice, but her father, father-in-law, brother-in-law (Guildford), and sister-in-law (Queen Jane) were executed for treason. Her own husband, who it seems like she cared for, succumbed to the illness he contracted during his imprisonment. Anne watched as her family was literally torn apart.

Misfortune: “A Lunatic Enjoying Lucid Intervals”

Only six months after John’s death, Anne remarried. Her new husband was Edward Unton, the heir of Sir Alexander Unton of Berkshire. The marriage took place on 29 April 1555 at St. George’s Church in Hatford, Berkshire. It was a bit of a step down socially for Anne, but Edward’s step-father had some connections with the Seymours, which may have brought about the marriage. It could have also been arranged to remove Anne from any position of power that she might be able to claim as the widow of the Earl of Warwick.

Edward was knighted at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and he was to become very involved in political life. The remainder of Anne’s life was to be a quiet one. She an Edward had a total of 7 children, although only 4 of their children grew to adulthood: Edward, Henry, Anne, and Cecily.

By 1566, when she was about 30 years old, her brother-in-law and Queen Elizabeth’s favorite, Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, wrote in a letter that Anne was suffering from “lunacy.” When her husband died in 1582, she was declared “a lunatic enjoying lucid intervals.” Other scholarship on Anne has blamed the traumatic experiences of her teenage years as the cause of her problems. Perhaps three children dying contributed to her illness, or maybe it was genetic. Whatever the cause, Anne needed supervision and care. Edward did not even mention her in his will when he died even though she was still living. This probably indicated that one of his children, likely one of the sons, was caring for his or her mother.

Tomb of Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset in Westminster Abbey

Anne’s illness possibly explains why she was not mentioned in the will of her mother, Duchess of Somerset, written 14 July 1586. However, when the Duchess died in 1587, all of her children were listed on her enormous tomb Westminster Abbey. Anne and her younger brother, Edward Seymour Earl of Hertford, were the only children whose titles were noted in the epitaph. Even though Anne’s brother-in-law, Ambrose, was the new Earl or Warwick and his wife was the Countess, Anne was still referred to as the Countess of Warwick.

Anne died in February 1588 when she was about 52 years old and was buried in Faringdon Church, Berkshire. A large monument to her and Sir Edward Unton is attached to the wall. She lived quite a sad life, full of misfortune interspersed with periods of happiness. The Tudor era is absolutely fascinating, and it is especially exciting that some of my ancestors were so involved in the schemes of the time. However, after learning about the devastating, real-life implications those events had on my ancestress, I now have gained a completely new perspective on this time period.