Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Birdsong Tidbit in Texas

Does this mean something useful?

You recall that my great-great grandmother Matilda Manson moved with her son Otis in 1884 from Hootenville, Georgia, to Milam County, Texas. And I had always wondered who she knew in that small community to draw her there. Later we learned that she went because her presumed paramour George Preston Birdsong and his brother, Albert Hamill Birdsong, had gone to Milam County. Here's that story. But why did the Birdsong brothers head there? Did they know somebody there?

The 1880 federal census of Milam County, Texas, shows 30 year old Thomas J. Birdsong and his wife Rebecca (Taylor) Birdsong with their four children Della, James, Mahala, and Robert. That discovery led me back to the 1860 census of Pike County, Alabama, where young Thomas lived with parents James and Eunice Birdsong, five siblings, and grandmother Sarah Law. The next step back was to 1850 in Sumter County, Georgia, where James Birdsong lived.
With some clues from the excellent Birdsong Family Genealogy site, I was able to establish that James Birdsong was the son of Joseph Birdsong (1793-1848). Joseph and his wife Susanna lived in Upson County, Georgia, at the time of the 1830 census.

Upson County, of course, is where George Preston Birdsong's family lived when he was born in 1841. George Preston Birdsong and Thomas J. Birdsong were first cousins, sharing the common ancestor John Birdsong (1701-1785), the second generation of Birdsongs in America.

So, in 1880, George Preston Birdsong had a cousin in Milam County, Texas. Certainly, they had not seen each other in decades. What sort of communication had they had? Did they discuss Matilda and her son? What implications does this hold for my research?


David E Paterson said...

Re: the Manson children, Enumerators Instructions for the 1850 Census, Schedule 3 (Mortality), explain why for many people "Color" is blank:


Warning!! The Birdsong Papers at Emory University are an outstanding source for the genealogy of hunting dogs, and for recipes for peach brandy. Beyond that, there is probably not much personal information about GLF or his family . . . but I must be honest I was not looking for his own kinfolk. There may actually be some info on on G. P. and T. J. Birdsong; I suppose it is worth a look -- but don't go in with high expectations!

Although GLF Birdsong had inherited a fortune, as you have noted, the hunt always took precedence over business. The following extracts from the credit rating files of R. G. Dun & Company help tell why there was probably no family fortune to inherit when GLF died:

Citation: Georgia, Vol. 33, p. 184, R. G. Dun & Co. Collection, Baker Library, Harvard Business School

[report dated 5 Dec 1853] Birdsong Sharman & Co., Thomaston, Harness &c. B[irdsong] about 33 yrs of age, a man of good sense, has a family . . . G.L.F.B. [worth] $11,380

[23 Jan 1857] Rpts Geo L. F. Birdsong engaged in harness & Saddlery. 35 yrs of age. Marr'd. large family. commenced business with a fortune, has followed farming, merchandizing & the bus. now in, but has gradually declined in wealth, yet attentive to bus. & sober. The aggregate value of his ppty [personal property] $7,565.

[7 June 1857] . . . I should hesitiate to credit him to the amount of his ppty, but he is very honest & a perfect gentleman (Is fond of Hunting & Dogs)

[16 Dec 1857] Fond of Hunting. Keeps enough Hounds or Dogs to break most anyone & they have nearly done it for him. He is now w[orth] about $3M clear of indebtedness. Clever honest & very sensible. My opinion is that he will not be w. a c[ent] in three years from this date.

[11 June 1858] W. $6,386. clever man, but not a money mkg. one[.] when he commenced he owned a large Estate & it has gradually diminished. sober, but is fond of hunting. has the fastest & best pack of Hounds in the state & can catch a red Fox. Fair, like Actaeon he is about to be devoured by his own Dogs. . . .

[28 June 1858] He reduced his capital last winter by the sale of 2 or 3 valuable negroes. He is also in debt . . .

[15 dec 1858] . . . Aggregate [worth] $4,938.79 . . . has 2 or 3 negro fellows who do all the work . . . a very honorable man . . .

[29 June 1859] Moderate on the decline. ppty. limited. sold 3 slaves since last report. is w[orth] abt $1500.

[6 Dec 1859] Improved since last report. value of R[eal] E[state]$1500. Slaves $715. Money, solvent notes & merchandize $3,831. Aggregate value of all other ppty. $605.

[14 June 1860] Improving. mns. increased.

---- No credit reports for the War period ----

[25 Sep 1865] Good retired from business

[3 Sep 1866] Retired from bus and not worth anything.

Craig Manson said...

Thanks! As usual, you've added value and understanding. As you may know, I went to Thomaston last year to search for a will for George Preston Birdsong and found none. Perhaps now I know why!