Posted in Genealogy

Wild Turkey Artist and the Fraktur — Treasure Chest Thursday

For my Kinship Determination Project (CG), I am researching Nicholas Snavely and his wife Mary (Mollie/Polly) Pickle.  During my literature search, I found Addendum to Early Settlers of Old Mount Airy Wythe County, Virginia by Joseph Rodney Cameron, Sr. & Constance Ann (Levinson) Cameron and in it I find this tantalizing tidbit:

A fractur of Adam and Elizabeth’s son, Nicholas, states that Nicholas’s mother was Elizabeth Wassum, and that Elizabeth was the daughter of Nicholas and Elizabeth Wassum. Beverly Repass Hoch, of Wytheville, Virginia, kindly showed us a copy of the old fractur.1

OK, I have to see this fractur.  But what is a fractur, what exactly am I looking for?

A little internet research informs me that those of German ancestry often commissioned a fraktur or fractur to commemorate births or other events.  And given that there are no birth certificates in Virginia in the early 1800’s, I really need to see this.

I find Beverly Repass Hoch on the APG list, cross my fingers and send her an email.  Turns out not only is Beverly a CG, but she is also incredibly friendly and helpful.  And a very distant cousin!

She explained the origin of the word fraktur to me: “fraktur in German refers to broken letters, more like calligraphy, and the word itself is both singular and plural.”2

She sent me a copy of her copy of the fraktur and the translation and gave me permission to publish them here. (Remember, always ask before you publish documents that are not yours!)

Fraktur for Nicholas Snavely (Finding Forgotten Stories)
Copy of the Fraktur for Nicholas Snavely’s birth provided by Beverly Repass Hoch, CG 3

The translation of the original text on the fraktur, provided by Beverly:

In the year of Christ ano 1811 the 10th [or 12th] of April was born to the light of the world Nicholaus.  The father is Adam Schnably and the mother Elisabeth, born Wassem and the sponsors are the grandparents Nicolaus Wassem and his lawful wife Elisabeth

Also written in various places, in English, are other dates of interest in the life of Nicholas, transcription also provided by Beverly:

  • Polly his wife was born April the 27 1815
  • Alexander Cambell Snavely was born April 15 day 1847
  • Adam Snavely I was born the August 25 1832
  • Elisabeth Snavely was born September the 22 1834
  • Nicholas Snavely and Polly were married Septemberber [sic] the 15 1831
  • Mary An Snavely was born June the 17 [or 18] day 1838

These statements all are written in English and must have been written and time after the creation of the fraktur.

Wild Turkey Artist was a fraktur artist working in Wythe County, Virginia and there are about 30 copies of his work that are known.4

I’ve ordered an article on Wild Turkey Artist and a book to help me learn more about Frakturs, which are a completely new document type to me. Yes, I’m Christmas shopping for myself🙂 and expect a copy of The Genealogist’s Guide to Fraktur: For Genealogists Researching Families of German Heritage in my mailbox any day now.


1. Cameron, Joseph Rodney and Constance Ann (Levinson) Cameron, Addendum to Early Settlers of Old Mount Airy Wythe County, Virginia (Wytheville, Virginia: By Authors, 1999), 242.
2. Beverly Repass Hoch, Virginia, to Anne Gillespie Mitchell, email, 20 Dec 2012, discussing meaning of fracture; Personal Correspondece, 2012; Snavely Family, Mitchell Research Files; privately held by Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] California.
3. Nicholas Snavely Fraktur (certificate), birth, (Wild Turkey Artist, Wythe County, Virginia); copy owned 2012 by Beverly Repass Hoch, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE];. translation of fraktur by Beverly Repass Hoch.
4. Beverly Repass Hoch, Virginia, to Anne Gillespie Mitchell, email, 8 Dec 2012, discussing Wild Turkey Artist frakturs; Personal Correspondece, 2012; Snavely Family, Mitchell Research Files; privately held by Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] California.
Posted in Genealogy, Tuesday's Tip

Weaving in the Current Events of the Time into Your Ancestor’s Story: Tuesday’s Tip

We look at census records and changes in families as their story. But they lived in a time and place.  Their lives weave through history.   As I work on my Kinship Determination Project for my CG and the family  I’m trying to learn more about the county they lived in, Smyth County, Virginia to understand their lives in the 1800’s.

Yesterday I delved into History of Smyth County, Virginia, Volume Two, 1832-1870: Ante-bellum Years through The Civil War by Joan Tracy Armstrong.  As you can see Smyth County was in the southwest corner of the state and transportation was the biggest issue when it came to developing the county.  The politics of convincing a state legislature to fund the cost of building roads and railroads in remote areas of the state took quite some time.  But it did happen.

Marion, Va Train Station
Marion, Va Train Station by (aka Brent), on Flickr

“By the end of 1855, tracks for the railroad were within two miles of Marion.  Four months later the train was making runs to Marion and track was being laid toward Abingdon.” 1

So the 10 years from 1850 to 1860, did not just show a change in the personal life of my ancestor Adam Boyd Snavely.  He was married,2 became a father,3 and a widower4 over those ten years. There was also a change in the ways in which the people of the county, and Marion, where he lived, conducted their lives.5

And I think that is the challenge of telling the story.  Our lives are against the backdrop of the world around us.  What happens in my city, my county, my state, my country has an effect on my life as I interact with the people in my communities, and the events of the world.

To be really good at what we do, telling the story, we need to bring in those details, not just the personal details we find in historical records.


1. Joan Tracy Armstrong, History of Smyth County, Virginia, Volume Two 1832-1870: Ante-bellum Years through The Civil War
(Marion, Virginia: Smyth County Historical and Museum Society, Inc., 1986), 56.
2. Smyth County, Virginia, “Marriage Registers,” registrations ordered chronologically by date, p. 158 (stamped), line 2, entry for Adam B Snavely and Mary J Aker; citing Marriage Records 1852-1935 [microform], Reel 47, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
3.Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 2 Sep 2012), memorial page for Emma Snavely Find A Grave Memorial no. 47227744, citing Bear Cemetery, Atkins, Smyth County, Virginia.
4. Virginia, Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917, database online, ( : accessed 8 Sep 2012), entry for Mary J Snavely, death date 17 May 1859; citing Virginia Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1912, index, FamilySearch.
5. 1860 U.S. census, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, p. 145 (penned), dwelling 948, family 951, Nicholas Snavely household; database and digital images, ( : accessed 2 Jun 2010); digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, M653, roll 1377.
Posted in Genealogy

Not all deeds are for land: Can I have a pony?

How many small children have wished for a pony? My nieces believe that they have husband wrapped around their little fingers and that he would buy them one if they just asked.  (Fortunately for sister and brother-in-law, my nieces have never asked.🙂 )

Nicholas Snavely is my 4th great grandfather born abt 1811 and died abt 1893.  (I’ve been researching my Snavely line for my KDP project for my BCG certification.) As I was searching for deeds for Nicholas, I found this gem:

Know all men by these presents that I Nicholas Snavely of the County of smyth State ov Virginia have given and do here
by give to my grand son & grand daughter Adam Jones and Mary J Jones one black colt two years old colt of my sorrel mare many to have and to have the said colt &its increase to the said Adam Jones & Mary Jones & all heirs for ever free from the claims of the said Nicholas Snavely and well other persons whom ?? ?? witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and of fixed my seal this 1st February 1858.

Nicholas Snavely <seal> 1

Adam and Mary were the children of Elizabeth Snavely and John T Jones, and were 4 and 2 respectively when Nicholas made this gift. He had three other grandchildren at time; I have no evidence that he made a similar gift to them.

Elizabeth (Snavely) Jones died a few years later, sometime between 1863 and 1867, and while Adam was living with his father and stepmother,2 Mary was living with her grandparents Nicholas and Mary.3 We find various of the Jones’ children living with him over the years.

I have yet to discover why he made this gift, but it is evident by his relationship with his grandchildren after his daughter’s death that he and his wife were involved in their lives and upbringing.

And the gift of a pony, adds some light on who the man was and reveals his relationship with his grandchildren.


1. Smyth County, Virginia, “Deeds, 1832-1865; index to deeds, 1832-1929: Deeds, Vol. 7-8 1856-1865,” vol. 7, page 227-228, Nicholas Snavely deed gift to Adam Jones, record date; FHL microfilm 33983.
2. 1870 U.S. census, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, Marion Township, p. 28 (penned), dwelling 171, family 178, John Jones household; database and digital images, ( : accessed 15 Oct 2012; digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, M593, roll 1679.
3. 1870 U.S. census, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, Marion Township, pp. 27, 28 (penned), dwelling 170, family 177, Nicholas and Mollie Snavely; database and digital images, ( : accessed 2 Jun 2010); digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, M653, roll 1679.