Maw’s Purse

The pursuit of my family history has been a wonderful journey. Not only have I found new cousins, but have reconnected with cousins I haven’t seen for many years. My cousin Carla is one of those cousins. She is the daughter of my father’s sister Helen. Carla was closer to my age than other cousins so it was natural for us to play together. Not too long ago I visited Carla. We had not seen each other for many years. I had anticipated that Carla might have pictures that I didn’t have and I had pictures to share with her. Unbeknownst to me, she had a treasure in her possession, maw’s purse.


Maw’s Purse

As I mentioned in an earlier post about Ruberta, my paternal grandmother, she was not a warm and fuzzy person. In fact she came across as a cold. I really didn’t know her and, in the half-dozen times we visited her, I was never to know why she was unable to show the slightest bit of warmth to me or my brother. It is only through talking to my cousins, and finding records about her, that I have come to understand her better.

Maw knew heartache. She lost her father, Aub Hood, about the age of fourteen. Not too long after that she married John Wayson, a man who was forty-one years of age. By today’s standards it’s hard to understand how her mother could allow her marry someone twenty-seven years her senior. The family was poor so perhaps marrying her off provided one less mouth to feed. The marriage didn’t last as Ruberta was back with the family in 1910.

On March 12, 1913, Maw was married to my grandfather William Everett Lane. Between 1914 and 1924 six children were born to the couple. Life was difficult. The great depression was going strong, beginning in 1924 and ending in 1939. Jobs were difficult to come by. Grandpa Lane was a carpenter and through the years the children picked cotton to supplement the family income.

The life of the family changed on June 4, 1939 when Will was instantly killed when his car was struck by a Greyhound bus. There was a settlement with the bus company that provided some relief to Maw, but I’m sure she would have given anything to have Will back with the family.

Tragedy struck again when my uncle Vernon was killed aboard a ship that was hit by a Kamikaze plane in the Pacific Ocean close to the end of the war. Maw had lost her husband and her son in the span of six years.

When Carla brought out Maw’s purse, I was amazed at the discoveries waiting for me. The purse was stuffed, and I do mean stuffed, with what appeared to be every receipt that Maw received during her lifetime. There was a receipt for a car that Grandpa Lane purchased in 1922; an Overland automobile that was already fifteen years old at the time he purchased it.

There were receipts for lumber, windows, doors, nails, and other items for use in the building of houses. There were insurance receipts, a delayed marriage certificate, grandpa’s social security card, mortgage papers; receipts that obviously meant something to Maw.

And the most poignant treasures in the purse were four letters from Vernon written to Maw while he was at sea in the Pacific Ocean. Written two weeks before he died close to the end of the war, he was responding to the fact that Maw had visited his wife Evelyn and two sons recently. In his letter he said, “Did you think the boys had growed [sic] very much? I would give anything in the world to see them but I guess it will be some time yet before I get to see them.”

He told Maw there was nothing to worry about. Was he trying to reassure himself that he would be fine as he wrote those letters to comfort her? We will never know. The saddest of all was the telegram advising Maw of his death at sea; the words so black and final upon that piece of paper.

The letters have been reunited with Vernon’s sons. My cousin Dick, who was a baby when Vernon died, told me after reading the letters he felt, for the first time, he was hearing his father’s words.

Perhaps Maw had so much loss in her life that she kept herself at arm’s length from people to insulate herself from extreme loss again. Did the receipts from her life somehow give her a feeling of closeness to the events that represented her life and the loved ones she had lost? Whatever the reasons, the contents in Maw’s purse assured me that she was a feeling woman, just not one to wear her heart upon her sleeve.

Aub Hood, from Mississippi to Tennessee

Aub Hood was born in Itawamba County, Mississippi about 1859, a few years before the start of the Civil War, or the War of Northern Aggression if you are a Southerner. The Civil War most likely played a huge role in Aub’s formative years.  His father was Joshua Hood and his mother was Margaret Johnson Hood. Both were born in Alabama and moved to Itawamba County sometime in the mid-1850s. He came from a large family. Aub had ten brothers and two sisters. He was one of the middle children.

When Aub was about four or five, his father Joshua enlisted for six months in 2nd Regiment of the Mississippi Calvary, Company E of the Confederate Army. Joshua’s absence was felt by the family. He enlisted about the time the crops were ready for harvest. The oldest son, James, was only about twelve at the time so Joshua’s brothers probably helped with the harvest.

A marriage record from Itawamba County, dated 5 June 1878, was located for A. Hood and M. I. Pennington, which I believe is the marriage record for Aub and Amanda Bell Pennington. Aub and Amanda were not found in the 1880 US Census, but were living close to Aub’s family based upon tax records and a deed where the older Hood children deeded land to their mother and younger siblings.

Hood, Margaret Etal, Itawamba County, Court House, Deed Rec. Book 25, Page 472

By 1900, Aub, Amanda, and their six children had moved one hundred and ninety-five miles north to Lake County, Tennessee. Lake County sits across the Mississippi River from Pemiscot County which is located in the Bootheel of Missouri. The land is part of the upper Mississippi Delta and suitable for farming.

Auburn was about forty* and Amanda was thirty-four in 1900. They were married twenty-one years. Amanda had birthed six children, two of whom had died. Their four older children, Margaret, William Jesse, Prentis E., and Ruberta were all born in Mississippi. The two younger children, Silas and Mary Denny were born in Tennessee. So it appears the family arrived in Tennessee sometime prior to 1895.

The Civil War ended large commercial farming in Lake County and for thirty-years families were forced to live by subsistence farming. Between 1890 and 1900 things began to change. The boll weevil was devastating cotton crops in southern states, the demand for cotton was on the increase, and the climate was beginning to warm enough to grow cotton as far north as Illinois. Aub and family arrived around the time this switch to cotton was taking place.[1]

The family lived in a rented home which meant they were renting land on which to farm. A search for land records for Aub came up empty, which supports the fact that they were too poor to own land. They eked out a living from the soil. Margaret, age nineteen, helped Amanda with chores and looking after the younger children. William, who was fourteen, helped Aub with the farming.

In 1905 Bossie was born and Georgie followed in 1908. By 1910, Amanda was a widow. Aub had died sometime after 1908 when Georgie was born and before 1910 when the census was taken. At this time it’s unknown where Aub is buried.

This family of Hood’s managed to survive the aftermath of deprivation that followed the Civil War in north east Mississippi. They made their way to Tennessee where farming was as difficult as it was in Mississippi. Aub died around the age of forty. Life and farming took their toll on him.




*The 1900 census showed that Auburn Hood was fifty-six years old. This is in conflict with the 1860 and 1870 census records. Despite the fact that the ages between the documents are in conflict, I believe that this is the same person based upon the date of the marriage record and the number of years Auburn and Amanda were married.

[1]David Donahue and Brenda Fiddler, Lake County Agriculture, : accessed 11 Mar 2016, Citing Marvin Downing, Editor, Published by the University of Tennessee, Martin, 1979.

Aub Hood, Itawamba, DNA, and Elvis Presley

The work of a genealogist is a lot of research, some good analysis of facts, and a little serendipity. Well serendipity has struck this genealogist a few times in the search for my great-grandfather, Aub Hood. And recently it struck again in the form of Mona Mills. But I’ll come back to her in a little while.

I have known for some time that my grandmother Ruberta Hood Lane, better known as Ma, was born in Mississippi and that her father’s name was Aub Hood. No matter how hard I tried, I could never find any online records for my grandmother or Aub Hood in Mississippi. I knew that my father came from Lake County, Tennessee so I tried to find census records for that location…nothing for Aub. They say when you don’t find someone in the census records you should search for others in the family. So I searched the 1900 U.S. census for Silas Hood, one of my grandmother’s brothers. Lo and behold, there was the family. I would never have found this record for the family had I searched for my grandmother’s name because she was enumerated as Rupert A. Hood. My great-grandfather was incorrectly enumerated as Tusturu Hood. So I had found my first record for Auburn Hood.

Then serendipity struck again. This time I connected with a third cousin on one of the internet message boards. He was searching for information about Aub Hood as well. He told me that his family had visited his grandparents in Itawamba County, Mississippi during the summers as he was growing up and he had gathered many stories about his family during the visits. Aub Hood was the son of Joshua Hood and Margaret Johnson Hood. Aub had disappeared and no one knew where he went.

So the search turned to Itawamba County, Mississippi. There I found Asburn Hood, age one, living in the family of Joshwa (Joshua) Hood in the 1860 census and Osborn Hood, age eleven, living in the Joshuaway (Joshua) Hood family in 1870. Aub, Asburn, Auburn, Osborn…I was getting confused by all of these conflicting names. And the ages of the child in these census records conflicted with the age of Auburn in the 1900 census. I still had my doubts that I had found the correct family. But then I found an 1878 marriage record for A. Hood and M. I. Pennington. This record tied in perfectly with the birth of their first child Margaret in 1880 so there was hope.

Ferguson, Tonya and Mills, Mona

Mona Mills (L) Tonya Ferguson

In the meantime I had sent in my autosomal DNA to be processed with Family Tree DNA and I had joined the Hood DNA project. Knowing very little about DNA at the time, the head of the study steered me to a DNA-match, Michael Mills. This is where serendipity strikes again. Michael just happens to live in Itawamba County. And Mona is the wife of Michael, and very involved in the history of the county. In fact, both Michael and Mona are published writers and very busy people.

Just recently I had the opportunity to visit Mona in Itawamba County. I can’t think of anything better than spending time doing research with someone who lives in and is heavily involved in the genealogy and history of the area. For two days we discussed the family, searched for and found records in the Court House in Fulton, and visited a portion of the cabin where Joshua Hood lived, and where most likely Aub Hood was born. I found out that Mona’s mother is a Pennington, as was my great-grandmother Amanda Bell Pennington, but our DNA doesn’t match. But that’s a mystery that has to be solved on another day. I am very thankful for Mona’s time and expertise in finding my family.

And what does Elvis Presley have to do with all of this? Well his grandmother, Minnie Mae is the daughter of William Hood, who happened to be the brother of Aub, my great-grandfather. So Elvis and I are third cousins. How’s that for name dropping? For more information on Minnie Mae Hood go to this link.

And watch for an additional post on Aub Hood.

Bertha Lane…A Woman of Many Names

Ruberta, Rueberta, Bertha, Birdie, Robert A, Ruby … all names found in census records for my paternal grandmother Bertha Hood Lane. But I knew her as Maw.

Maw was born on October 14, 1894 in Mississippi to Aub Hood and Amanda (Mandy) Belle Pennington Hood. I suspect she was born in Itawamba County, Mississippi where Aub and Mandy were married. She was their fourth child. By today’s standards, Maw was very young when she married John Wayson on August 29, 1909. She was only fourteen years old. This marriage apparently did not last long because she was shown living again with the family in Lake County, Tennessee in the 1910 census. However Aub was no longer with the family and Mandy was widowed.

Lane Kids

Back Left, My father Talmadge, Belle, Vernon, Front Left, Pauline, Margaret, Helen

On March 12, 1913, Maw married my grandfather William Everett Lane. She was listed as Birdie in the 1920 census. Children came quickly. My father Talmadge Hollis Lane was born in 1914, Rosa Bell was born in 1917, Vernon Everett was born in 1919, Pauline was born in 1921, Helen was born in 1923, and Margaret was born in 1924. They moved to Caruthersville, Missouri sometime in 1920 where she would live for the rest of her life.

Living on a farm, particularly as tenant farmers, couldn’t have been easy in the 1920s and 1930s. Maw birthed each child at home with the help of a midwife. As the family had no electricity until the early 1930s, Maw would have cooked over a wood stove and would have washed the clothing of eight people by hand. The water for cooking and bathing probably came from a pump in the yard. Most likely she was also responsible for the henhouse and the family garden. Cotton was king in the Bootheel so the children probably were sent out to pick cotton as soon as they were able. And it is likely that Maw picked cotton some time during her life as well.

At the age of forty-four Maw’s life was to change forever. On Sunday, June 4, 1939, her husband of twenty-six years was suddenly killed in an accident with a Greyhound bus. The bus driver was found to be at fault in the accident. No doubt there was a settlement that allowed Maw to own her home and live a modest life. Six years later however tragedy was to strike her life again when her son Vernon died, the result of a kamikaze plane hitting his ship in the Pacific.

My memories of Maw are few. I can only remember visiting her perhaps a half-dozen times. She was not a warm and fuzzy grandmother. She was a large woman for her height. Maw used snuff and Sen-Sen, a breath freshener. Most likely the Sen-Sen was to cover the smell of the snuff. Her cooking was wonderful and my father bragged on her biscuits. One of my memories is walking down the dirt road that ran in front of her house to buy a chicken for our dinner from a neighbor. Much to my horror she wrung its neck when we got home. I know too well what a chicken with its head cut off looks like.

Another memory was seeing a wooden leg in someone’s bedroom. Who belonged to the wooden leg was a mystery to me for a long time. It wasn’t until recently one of my cousins said that Maw’s sister Den lived with her for awhile and Den had lost one of her legs. I believe the mystery has been solved. I don’t remember Aunt Den but I certainly remember that leg.

My cousin Donna was always in the picture. She lived with Maw while her mother Margaret and her father were away earning a living. Donna was more like a daughter to Maw than a grand-daughter. Eventually my Aunt Margaret divorced her first husband and married Walter Kulpeksa. Walter was a beautician. They set up shop in the front of my grandmother’s house. Walter gave me a perm when I was five. I looked like a poodle had settled on my head but that was the style apparently.

Amand Pennington Lane (r), Bertha Lane, Talmadge Lane

Left, Maw, Little Granny, Talmadge


Sometime before her death, my great-grandmother Mandy (Little Granny) went to live with Maw. Little Granny was a tiny woman and very child-like. She loved ice cream. Little Granny passed away at home at the age of ninety-eight in 1961. I was fourteen when we went to her funeral. That was the last time I saw Maw.

When my oldest son was born I received an un-expected gift from Maw. It was a yellow and white crocheted baby blanket. The gift of that blanket touched me deeply. Not but a few months later we received word that Maw had died February 3, 1969 at the age of seventy-four. She was laid to rest a few days later in Maple Cemetery in Caruthersville, Missouri.