Preserving the Alexander Rose Hendry Letter

Acquiring the Alexander Rose Hendry letter has been the highlight of my 2019 genealogy year. Once the letter arrived in September, I opened it only once — then I avoided touching it until I could take the correct steps in preserving it.

That’s when it pays to have an archivist friend. I met Rachael Altman, Director of the Carnegie History Center in Bryan, Texas, at the Texas Institute for Genealogical Research (TIGR) this summer in Austin. We were both in the Advanced Southern Research track. I remembered Rachael’s role at Carnegie included archiving photographs and documents, so I consulted with her about the best way to care for my new-found family heirloom.

Rachael recommended an archival sleeve from Gaylord Archival. I bought a 4-mil polyester envelope that is sealed on three sides so the letter could be preserved unfolded in its entirety. To fit the letter, I had to purchase the 11″ x 17″ size. Paper from this era is not sized to the same standards we have today, so the letter isn’t to the edges of the archival sleeve and has some wiggle room. If my budget were unlimited, I could have a special sleeve constructed to its specific measurements — maybe a future improvement?

Rachael was in town for the Texas State Genealogical Society’s annual conference in October. We met the evening before the conference at Clayton Library, and Rachael did the work I was too unnerved to do myself — carefully unfolding the letter, attempting to remove the tape, and flattening the document inside the envelope.

Rachael wears gloves while unfolding and examining tape on the 1855 Alexander Rose Hendry letter.
Rachael works to position the fragile letter in the archival sleeve.

Unfortunately, Rachael did not have the tools with her to remove the tape, but she did get the letter into the sleeve without any of the fragile folds tearing. She also showed me some techniques for using a smartphone camera to isolate and closely zoom to troublesome sections of the letter for transcription.

The letter in its archival sleeve needs to be stored flat, so my next step is ordering an acid-free box.

Once we were able to examine the letter more closely in the sleeve, we realized the seller had transcribed the date incorrectly. The letter is dated January 22, 1855 — not 1845. I’m currently working on transcribing the entire letter. Stay tuned for the results. It’s a slow process, but one I feel will be very rewarding.

Thanks so much for your help, Rachael! You’ve helped preserve a piece of 165-year old family history for my Hendry family.

Jackson P. Ingram: Mapping Land Uncovers Military Service

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Map It Out.  (To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index.)


I love using maps for genealogy. Most of my ancestors were farmers who owned land across the southern United States, so my research is never complete without land patent and deed searches. Mapping my ancestors’ land can uncover neighbors’ names who quite often turn out to be family. Graphing the land on a map also shows me proximity to other counties and parishes, providing clues to jurisdictions where additional records may be found.

This week I chose a branch of my family I haven’t explored very much — just for the academic exercise of graphing a parcel of land and seeing what resulted. I chose my earliest known Ingram ancestor, my 3x-great-grandfather Jackson P. Ingram. And the result was discovering a veteran in my family I never knew existed from a war I barely knew existed.

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Family Artifacts on eBay: I Bought the 1845 Alexander Hendry Letter!

Last fall I found my first family artifact on eBay: a letter written by my 4x-great-grandfather Alexander Rose Hendry in 1845! It was expensive, so I attempted a transcription with just thumbnail photos and eBay’s zoom functionality. Although challenging, I managed to figure out a fair amount of the letter’s contents.

I’ve thought about that letter many times over the past year, still wishing I could own it myself. Then a few weeks ago, I wrote a check for one of my son’s extracurricular activities for the same amount as the eBay listing and thought to myself, “Isn’t genealogy my extracurricular activity?” And I bought the letter. Of course, frugal me contacted the seller at her brick-and-mortar storefront and negotiated a slightly better price — and then spent all the savings on museum-quality archival sleeves.

These photos show the condition of the Alexander Hendry 1845 letter when it arrived from the eBay seller on 23 Sep 2019.

The Hendry letter arrived in the mail today, and I cannot explain the thrill it is to hold a letter written by my own ancestor! It is fragile, but in wonderful condition for being almost 175 years old. I’d originally thought the letter was two individual sheets of paper, but Alexander actually folded a paper roughly 11 inches by 17 inches in half and wrote on it booklet style. He then folded it into ninths and closed with a wax seal. The seal did not survive to the present day, but I can see where it was from an oily imprint on the paper. Some tape holds together the edges that formed the envelope. This tape prevented me from fully transcribing the letter from photos, but it is more transparent in person. I’m hoping I will be able to decipher more of the letter now that I can examine it more closely.

But, for now, I’m avoiding manipulation of the paper. Rachael Altman, archivist with the Carnegie History Center in Bryan, Texas, will be helping me encapsulate it when she’s in town for the Texas State Genealogical Society (TxSGS) conference next month. We met at TIGR 2019, and I’m so glad she’s willing to lend her expertise to this project. I plan to take photos of the process and document here — and maybe write an article for Stirpes, the TxSGS quarterly, about it also.

Charles Nathan Riles & Landrum Cheek Ryals: Tracing Cousins for Clues About My Great-Grandparents

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Cousins.  (To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index.)


My great-grandfather John Thomas Horne lived with his grandparents John Johnston and Malinda McCauley Johnston for a majority of his life. His first cousins, once removed Charles Nathan Riles and Landrum Cheek Ryals also lived in his grandparents’ household and seemed to have remained nearby throughout several moves around Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

I know very little about John Thomas Horne and his wife Georgia Smart after 1900. Therefore, I’ve examined records for Charles and Landrum more closely to see if their movements can shed any light on my mysterious great-grandparents.

Continue reading Charles Nathan Riles & Landrum Cheek Ryals: Tracing Cousins for Clues About My Great-Grandparents

Jane Tucker: Correcting an Earlier Mistake with Tutorship Records

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Mistake.  (To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index.)


I made my share of mistakes as a baby genealogist. I trusted others’ trees blindly and didn’t bother to cite my sources. But as I built my family tree, I began to question its accuracy — and then I learned about evidence analysis. I discovered the importance of original records and basing my research on solid evidence. A year after beginning my genealogy journey, I scrapped my tree and restarted with better methodology.

One mistake I discovered was an incorrect mother for my 2x-great-grandfather Cicero Edward Hendry. I connected him to his step-mother Mattie Viola Thomas instead of his biological mother Jane Tucker. It was an easy mistake to make, as Jane never appeared on a census with her children or husband because of the gap between the 1880 and 1900 U.S. censuses. And in my early years of research, I relied heavily on census data. As my skills improved, I added probate and court records to my research, and those records — specifically tutorship records — are what tell the story of Jane Tucker, my 3x-great-grandmother.

Continue reading Jane Tucker: Correcting an Earlier Mistake with Tutorship Records