Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Workday Wednesday: From apprenticeship to occupation

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Recently I received two InterLibrary Loans, both of them about apprenticeships in North Carolina. The first, which I am currently reading, is Labor of Innocents: Forced Apprenticeship in North Carolina, 1715-1919, by Karin L. Zipf (2005). Still in the first chapter, I have already begun to understand the world view of the elite white establishment...going so far as to create a judicial network of wealthy property owners. I was surprised at the discussion about laws in North Carolina concerning eligibility for voting in elections. Perhaps I shouldn't have been, but the more wealth a Caucasian male could produce, the more types of elections he became eligible to vote in, and only the wealthiest could qualify to run for an office...most of which dealt a life-term. Gender also played a large role in power. No surprise there...except that upon a husband's death, a surviving wife was required to petition the court to receive a return of her dower, up to one-third of her husband's estate.

In the estate records of William Carter (1867), his widow, Rachel G. (Wade) Carter, started the lengthy process to have her dower returned in the March Term (second Monday, the 11th), A.D. 1867. The estate file consists of 32 pages. It appears there was a trial held in the June Term (second Monday, the 15th), A.D. 1868 to solemnize the verdict of the jury which had appeared before James E. Fleming, Sheriff of Craven County on May 26, 1868. She was to receive "her dower and thirds in the lands of William Carter deceased as described..."

While this ties in with the estate records I had been analyzing, my motivation for reading the book was to understand the process and background of the apprenticeships of Isaac Carter (1840-1918), and also of his father Isaac Carter (1805-abt. 1852). I wanted to see what bearing, if any, they affected on their life work.

The elder Isaac had first been apprenticed by the court on March 13, 1811 to a known Quaker who presented a front of helping slaves, and orphans and minors apprenticed free persons of color to return to Africa. Further documentation, however, proved that he had a scam going on, which must of been part of the reason why Isaac and his siblings were removed from his guardianship and placed as apprentices in their uncle's care. In the first case he had been apprenticed as a cooper; in the second placement he was apprenticed as a shoemaker. An interesting note is that his father was still living at the time of his apprenticeship. Either his mother was already deceased, his father was unemployed for a year or more, or the family had applied for assistance from the warden of the poor, who would be required to report the names of his children.

The younger Isaac had been apprenticed as a farmer on December 12, 1853 following the death of his parents. He was placed by the request of his grandparents into the custody of a good friend and neighbor who lived one mile away.

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The next book I will read is Children Bound to Labor: The Pauper Apprentice System in Early America, edited by Ruth Wallace Herndon and John E. Murray (2009).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Examine your motivation for writing

I just read such an excellent post by a writing coach I follow which rang so true I had to share it with you here: To Dream, Perchance to Cry, by C.S. Lakin, the author of the blog, Live Write Thrive.

 Not only do I feel like that at the end of a completed project, I feel those same waves of momentary depression and perhaps envy mixed with a bit of discouragement every time I finish reading a really good a really good movie...and I wonder if I'll ever finish...if it will ever get published.

I'm glad to know that I'm not alone. My writing time is not consistent because it is my "other" job...the one that comes after the day job, which often leaves me eyes feeling heavy soon after I begin reading a bit of research to help me solve a plot or character problem. I write family history memoir and find I get bogged down because of trying to find the detail which moves the story forward and makes the characters believable. Analysis of facts seems to take me forever. I hope I do make it to the end of the race and that there's a wonderful reward at the end so that everyone can share the emotions evoked by the telling of the story.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Estate Records Reveal About Our Ancestors

Estate Inventory for Abel Carter,  p. 1
North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1964 
Once I located the estate records of my husband's ancestors, I began transcribing them and soon discovered that I needed to create a dictionary for many of the items recorded in these pages. 

Below is a transcription of the items listed. Those printed in bold face must be defined. NOTE:  I have omitted the names of buyers and valuations. I have also maintained the original spellings.

Estate of Abel Carter Deceased June 13, 1807 the Count of Sail
1 case with bottles, 11 pewter spoons, 1 case and 1 vial, 1 hackle and mouse trap, 2 slays and guears, 1 adds and howel, 1 plain and drawing knife, 1 peck, 1 pail and kealer, 1 tub and pail, 1 gun, 1 earthen pot, 1 wedge, 3 hoes, 3 razors and shaving box, 1 hat, wooling wheel without rim, 1 pail of trumpery, 2 pot trammels, 1 spider, 2 mugs, 1 cup, 1 earthen bole, Lot of crockery wair, spice mortar, 1 barrel, 1 hammer, 1 ax, 1 hatchet, 1 dish and 3 plates, 1 cagg, 1 bason, 1 case and other things, 1 jug, 1 chest and all that is in it, 3 powder horns, 2 pair kneedles, knives and forks, 1 cagg, 1 case and trumpery, 1 pot, 3 bottles, fish hooks, cagg of trumpery, grind stone, 1 Bible, 1 cagg and trumpery, 1 hand saw, 1 bed.

Altogether, the items sold for
24 pounds, 17 dollars and 2 shillings. 
The amounts owed to eleven creditors, however, 
totaled 31 pounds, 18 dollars.

Definitions of these items appears to be more difficult to come by than expected. 

If you remember, a spider had been defined as a skillet with legs that would be set over the coals of a fire. Below is a good photo of a hearth and implements. The spider skillet is setting in the foreground:
Mountain Geologists
The next item I had any success with was a drawing knife. The Nabb Research Center defines it as: 
Drawing knife (Draw knife, Drawknife) - an edged tool with a blade and a handle on each end, which was used by pulling the tool towards the user; such as a chair bodger, a cooper, a carpenter, a wheelwright, a rake maker, a basket maker, or a gate hurtle maker, e.g., "a drawknife and chisel were mentioned in Stephen's inventory, which suggests that he worked a lot with wood."
After this successful search, I decided to check on some of the other items in the inventory in their Illustrated Dictionary of Colonial Times. This dictionary, however, seems to be completed only to the letter "F", and the only other definition and photo I could find were for: 
Adze - An implement of varying sizes with varying blades, used to hollow out wood. Usually belonging to a skilled craftsman and not a carpenter, e.g., "'To an ould adze' was written in the cabinet maker's inventory."  
According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, trumpery is defined as: "trivial or useless articles." The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as: "showy but useless finery: bric-a-brac." So much for that. I wonder, how much of what I own could fall under the category of trumpery?

What kind of needles come in pairs. . . other than perhaps knitting needles?

I was able to find a definition and photo of a pot trammel from, of all places, Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. . .the home of some of my KING and NEWTON ancestors. 
The word "trammel" means adjustable. This fireplace gadget allowed the cook to raise and lower a pot, hanging from the hook, to five different positions, which was much easier than constantly adjusting the intensity of the fire. It is made in two parts of wrought iron by a blacksmith and is an improvement over the simple "S" hook.
 The other items are still a mystery. Perhaps if I were to contact Tryon Palace, I might be able to find someone there who could explain what those items were. Or, if any of you might have an idea, please feel free to share your expertise.
So, until then . . .