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Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Family Letter from a Voice of the Past

As I posted last week, I was able to scan some old personal papers and photos that had been in a suitcase belonging to my in-law family.  Among the fascinating papers was a handwritten letter from one M. C. Bates,  of Illinois, which was written to my husband's great grandfather, Dr. Joseph H. Downing, of Rising City, Nebraska.  The letter was dated 11 March 1919 :

As the letter begins, " My dear Nephew", it is apparent that Bates would have been a sibling of  Dr. Downing's parent or grandparent.  After searching for M. C. Bates in, I found that he was indeed Madison C. Bates (1836-1927), son of Joseph C. Bates and Nancy Bryan Goodpasture.  He was a younger brother of Mary Elzada Bates, mother of Dr. Joseph Downing.  So now we know the relationship between the author of the letter to the recipient...indeed an uncle who was writing to his nephew.

The letter begins stating that Dr. Downing had previously written to Madison's brother, T.J.   Again, checking the family tree on, I find that Madison was referring to his older brother, Thomas Jefferson Bates (b. 1833).  T.J. had given the note from Dr. Downing to Madison, asking that he make the requested reply.  Evidently, Dr. Downing had sent an inquiry to his relatives in Illinois, regarding the genealogical history of the Bates family.  In his response, Madison  refers to a book of the Bates family, that Dr. Downing had in his possession.  Really?  I wish I could find that!!!

"Mary Murphy was the maiden name of my grandmother, who was the wife of my grandfather, James Bates", Madison writes.  "...only the given name is given of my great grandmother, who was the wife William Bates,  my great grandfather", he goes on.  Now, I suppose that Madison is referring to the Bates family book that he spoke of, but without a copy of that, I am not sure.

I will end this post here.  We will pick up where I left off next week. We have already uncovered much information in  just a short period of time.  Meanwhile, I will make an inquiry to to find a copy, or a reference to this Bates family book that Madison has referred to in his letter.

And the suspense continues....til next time.

As for you readers....don't throw out those old family papers!!!! Look for your family history in the hand-written words of your family members.

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