March 8, 2016
You would think with the descendants from the original four Giorgio boys who came from Italy in the late 1800s – that I’d never run out of “tidbits.” So there’s really no excuse for leaving this blog unattended for so long. I would gladly welcome any family stories or tidbits that any of you want to share – so let me know if you’re interested.
Truth is, I’ve been immersed in my own family history for the past few weeks, specifically the Powell family from Albemarle County, Virginia. Next week I’m travelling with my book club friends to Charlottesville, Virginia (about a 3 hour drive from Greensboro). In addition to being the home of Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia, Albemarle County is where Caspar Powell (or “Gaspar Powel” as his name might have been spelled in German) settled with his wife Anna Catherine Drumheller, when they migrated down the Shenandoah Valley by wagon train from Berks County, Pennsylvania in the mid-1700s. At least that is what one of my “ancestry.com” cousins remembers hearing from her father who heard it from his grandmother whose great grandmother was Anna Catherine (or something like that.)
Today’s tidbit is just to remark on the similarities between the Giorgio family from Italy and the Powell family from Virginia. And maybe it is a broader truth about families in the 1800s – THEY HAD A LOT OF CHILDREN!!!
My great grandfather – Thomas Greenwood Powell – was born in 1885 when his father was 60 years old. He was the youngest of nine children. His own father, James Albert Powell, was the 8th of 13 children. James’ mother Elizabeth had her first child in 1809 when she was 17 and her last child in 1834, when she was 41. That’s 25 years of childbearing! By comparison, Custode had her first child in 1899 when she was 19 and her last child in 1912 when she was 32 – for 13 years of childbearing.
Yes – lots of children. Lots and lots of children named William, Samuel, Benjamin, Thomas, Sarah, Elizabeth, Catherine and Eliza. Two of those 13 Powell children died young and only had one child each. But the other 11 produced a total of 78 children! That’s a grand total of 80 first cousins – and maybe more because some family trees suggest that Elizabeth and Samuel Powell actually had 14 children – part of what I’m trying to figure out when I go to Charlottesville next week.
The problem before birth and death records were kept by the county or state is that it is often difficult to document the actual number of children in a family. Census records are the best source, but children can easily be born and die between census years so you have to find other records to prove they existed. When children are given the same names as their cousins and siblings stay in the same area, even the census records can be confusing.
While it’s true that only one of those 13 children born to Elizabeth and Samuel Powell is my direct ancestor, I have the best chance of learning more about the family if I broaden my search to include as many siblings and cousins as possible. But think about it – 80 cousins plus 13 sets of parents, plus Samuel and Elizabeth, would have me searching for information on 108 people!
Thankfully, four of the Powell boys left Virginia in the 1840s – 1850s and moved to Missouri. So for next week I’ll be searching the ones who stayed put in the area around Charlottesville. If I get lucky, I might find some graves – that’s the one thing that has been hard to find so far, perhaps because they were buried in small unmarked family plots. All but one of the nine boys were farmers. Benjamin, the fourth son, was a tailor. Of the four Powell daughters, all but one married a farmer. Mary’s husband, Benjamin Woodson, was a blacksmith.
So that’s why you haven’t heard a lot from me on Trovando for the past few weeks and may not for a couple more. But you can be sure that before my July trip to Pittsburgh (I got into the course on Italian Genealogy!!!) I’ll be fully immersed in the Giorgio family again.
In the meantime, if anyone wants to take me up on the offer to share your Giorgio family memories just let me know.