November is family history month. I am taking FAMILY HISTORY MAGAZINE’S challenge to write from a daily writing prompt. I plan to post them here on my blog but don’t expect me to get them done in a month.
Prompt one – Choose an ancestor you never knew that you wish you could talk with to learn more of their life history. After mulling it over I decided to write to the ancestor I was named after for, Margaret Ragsdale Caple, my great-grandmother.
DEAR MARGARET- FAMILY HISTORY CHALLENGE- PROMPT 1
You and I share the same first name. My father, your grandson spoke fondly of you. Both he and his sister told me about the fun they had sleeping in your big feather bed.
My Aunt Iva loved the tea parties you had together. She gave me your teapot, it sits on a shelf where I see it daily. I wish we could sit and talk while sipping some of your delicious sarsaparilla tea. There is so much I’d like to ask.
For instance, how did you meet my great-grandfather Samuel Hugh Caple when he lived Jasper County, Iowa and you in Green County, Missouri? Was the age difference between you ever a problem? What was it like traveling the Oregon Trail? What was it like living in a sod house? Which of your three mothers made the big star quilt I now own? Which brings me to the question I most want answered. Who were your birth parents? I’m sure you knew. Your children said your parents died when you were an infant during a measle or small pox epidemic and you were adopted by cousins.
Through my research, I know you were born in 1858. Two years later in the 1860 census you were living in the home of Richard Jordan Ragsdale, age 52 and his first wife Jincy, age 49. You are listed after their children, a niece and her infant and Richard’s brother William Ragsdale. Your name, Margaret, is easy to read but the word after it, beginning with M, is not. It could be your last name, perhaps Munda or it could be Melinda, which was your middle name.
Some researchers think you might have been the granddaughter of Richard Jordan’s sister Lavina who married Edwin Adams. When they died, leaving three young daughters, Sally Merritt Ragsdale their grandmother cared for them and after her death, Richard Jordan and Jincy took over. If you belonged to one of them, it would have been natural for them to raise you. I can find no information on what happened to two of the girls so it could be true but you would have been Richard Jordan’s great-niece not cousin.
You could also have been a cousin of Jincy and I guess the Adams girls were her cousins for she and Richard shared the same ancestry. Jincy’s grandfather was Richard’s great grandfather and their mothers were sisters. Was all that as confusing for you as it is for me? Or maybe you never knew about it because in 1863, when you were five, Jincy and her daughter died of smallpox. It was during the Civil War and the family had moved to Rolla, Missouri for safety. I wonder if this is where the story of your losing your parents in a smallpox epidemic comes from, I guess I’ll never know. Richard remarried a widow in 1865 giving you a third mother and she and Richard went on to have nine more children.
By the time the 1870 census was taken, you were listed as one of the Ragsdale’s with no distinction made between you and the other children. It’s clear in a letter Richard Jordan wrote you in 1888 (now in my possession) that he thought of you as a daughter. And you named your youngest son after him.
Recently I had my DNA tested, something you never heard of. Perhaps one day it will help unravel the mystery of your parents. In the meantime, I will have to content myself with knowing my DNA suggests a link, to the Ragsdale tree, the same tree, Richard Jordan and Jincy belong on.
Sincerely your Great-granddaughter.
Which ancestor would you like to talk to? Why? Please, feel free to let me know in the comment section below.