Saturday, September 3, 2011

Finding Aunt Helen Shirley

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Aunt Helen Shirley
Joan, the relative who sent me the photo of my third great grandparents, Thomas A. Lovelace and Quincy Shirley Lovelace, sent me a photo of someone she remembered her mother referring to as “Aunt Helen Shirley.” Her mother had give Joan’s daughter this photo and a table that had belonged to this aunt.

Joan wasn’t certain how exactly Aunt Helen Shirley fit into our family but I love a genealogy mystery that includes a photo so I jumped in to try and figure it out.

This one actually includes two photos since the charm on her broach includes a photo as well.

After a quick search of several genealogy message boards, Web sites and, I was able to find a little more information about the Shirley family. My hunch was that the aunt was possible the wife of one of Quincy Shirley Lovelace’s brothers, if she had any, or possibly a paternal aunt who never married thus keeping the Shirley name.

I ran across several people on message boards searching for more information on Quincy’s parents, Uriah and Unity Shirley but the posts were a decade ago and the emails I sent asking for info came back as no longer valid.

Then, I found a very well done Web site for “The Shirley Family Association.” The whole site is dedicated to discovering and preserving the ancestry information for the Shirley family.

I emailed Ken who immediately e-mailed back and asked a few question. Not only was he able to help identify Aunt Helen Shirley, he helped me fill in many blanks on this branch of my family tree. Even better, Ken created a page on the Shirley Web site that spotlights Uriah and Unity Shirley, my fourth great grandparents.

So who is Aunt Helen Shirley?

First, an interesting fact about Uriah and Unity: Ken points out that Unity’s last name was Wells when she married Uriah Shirley on July 14, 1814 in Muhlenberg Co., KY. However, many years later, one of their sons, Norfleet B. Shirley, named his “Wells half brother” in his will. Therefore Unity was “the Widow Wells” when she married Uriah. She was a young widow since, at the time of their marriage, he was 26 and she was just 20.

Eventually, they would have nine children:
Norfleet B.
Thaddeus C.
Berry J.
James R.
William W.
Lunsford W.
Quincy (my third great grandmother)
John F.
Mary M.
Aunt Helen Shirley was the wife of Thaddeus C. Shirley, the brother of Quincy Shirley.

In the census of 1860, Helen “McCormick” was 24 and living with her parents, William W. and Dorcas Irwin McCormick and her siblings Mary A., and R.B. in Springhill, Maury County, TN (home of Mule Day).

She married Thaddeus on 20 Feb 1866 there in Maury Co. and by 1860, they were living in Haywood County, TN.
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Obit of William Sullivan
While it appears they never had children of their own, they did have a young man named William Sullivan who lived with them since he was three. Dave Parks uploaded this clipped obituary to a page on along with many photos of McCormick family headstones.

Apparently, the writer of William’s obit couldn’t tell a lie…
“Will had his faults, but a better hearted boy never lived. God forgave him and he rests in peace…he was anxious to get well but he had to go.”
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Obit of Dorcas McCormick

Helen’s mother, Dorcas, died March 23, 1876 and her obituary, also uploaded by Dave Parks, included an interesting fact.

“...with her daughter with whom she died having Paralysis of the brain, her mind was almost entirely gone for twelve months, only once during her last illness was her mind clear. She talked then to her devoted daughter, only as a Christian mother could talk.”
Makes you wonder if Aunt Helen Shirley was the writer of both obits since they both have a similar style.
Headstone of Thaddeus and Helen Shirley
in Oaklawn Cemetery in Haywood County, TN

Photo uploaded to by Dave Parks

Thaddeus died on October 30, 1907 and was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Haywood County, TN.

Helen died in January 1911 and was buried next to her husband at Oakwood.

Mystery solved. Now if I can just find that broach she is wearing, I can figure out who that is too.

You can find out lots more about these and other Haywood County, TN ancestors on

1 comment:

  1. Hello how are u doing, well it seems we are realted my great great great R T wells was a half brother that was mention in the wells, my great great grandfather was Beal bosley Wells hope you can provide me with some mroe info on the family and if you have facebook so do i my email is and i also have some photos of Beal B Wells would love to share info and photos thanks again
    Richard Miller