Monthly Archives: December 2012

Berlene Cody

I recently came across an advertisement for the Perry County Nursing & Rehabilitation Center of Perryville, Arkansas. The ad was unusual in that it featured a profile of one of the residents of the center: Berlene Cody, née Graham, the daughter of John Jasper Graham and Danner Copeland. The profile gives a good representation of life on the farm in the first-half of the Twentieth Century.


PCNC Resident

imageBerlene was born on a small farm in Searcy County, Arkansas, and was delivered by a midwife. She had three brothers and one sister. Growing up, she helped out a lot on the family farm by milking cows and gardening. She said they would have to put the milk in the well to keep it cold because they did not have electricity or own a refrigerator. They took baths in the creek. She learned to cook and sew at a very early age. Her aunt, Nona Graham, taught her to sew. She used a treadle sewing machine to make their clothes. After she married, she continued to sew for her family. Even when they finally got electricity, she continued to use her old non-electric treadle sewing machine.

When she was a child, her daddy would parch peanuts for them as a special treat. He cooked the peanuts in the fireplace using a one gallon bucket with holes punched in it. He would also make popcorn in the bucket.

The family packed up and moved to Sikeston, Missouri, when she was around 11 years of age. After high school, she worked in a shoe factory, then a straw factory. She met and married George Cody in 1947, and soon afterward they moved back to Arkansas. Her family then moved to Louisiana because of a desire to cotton farm. They saved up enough money to return, and buy a place, in Perry County.

Mrs. Cody enjoys church & family and has two sons, Elton and Keith. She has always enjoyed cooking, gardening, sewing and canning. Her favorite foods are chocolate gravy & biscuits, with a big ole’ glass of milk; brown and white beans; corn bread and sweet potatoes; and peaches. Her favorite President was Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Advertisement for Perry County Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Petit Jean Country Headlight, page 11, published Wednesday, 9 November 2011. Retrieved on 27 December 2012.

Obituary: Birley Bohannon

My previous post mentioned Lawson Scott and Birley Bohannon, so now is a good time to post Birley’s obituary, which I’ve had in my collection for a while. This appeared in the Sikeston Standard-Democrat on Friday, 13 February 2004:

Birley Scott

MATTHEWS – Birley Evelyn Scott, 97, died at 2:50 p.m. Feb. 11, 2004, at Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston.

Born May 18, 1906, in Marshall, Ark., daughter of the late Daniel and Ada Barnes Bohannon, she attended Big Ridge General Baptist Church in Matthews.

On Sept. 21, 1922, in Chimes, Ark., she married Lawson Scott who preceded her in death on Aug. 28, 1971.

Survivors include: five sons, P. J. Scott of Gary, Ind., Leroy Scott of Knox, Ind., Wesley Scott of Gary, Ind., Leonard Scott of Thornton, Ill., and Bud Scott of Matthews; four daughters, Freda Kelley of Yuba City, Calif., Evelyn Polk of Matthews, Jeanne Broadway of Kouts, Ind., and Vonda Keith of Matthews; and 29 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, 30 great-great-grandchildren and one great-great-great-grandchild.

One son, one daughter, four brothers, four sisters, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren also preceded her in death.

Visitation is from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Nunnelee Funeral Chapel in Sikeston, where services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. The Rev. Gaylord Grindstaff of the Big Ridge General Baptist Church will officiate.

Burial will follow in Garden of Memories Cemetery in Sikeston.

Pallbearers will be: Edward Keith, Jim Spradling, Michael Scott, Larry Dean Polk, Latham Scott and Melvin Scott.

Honorary pallbearers will be: David Broadway, Teddy Lathum, David Howard and Bobby Nelson.

Memorial contributions may be sent to

Big Ridge General Baptist Church
P.O. Box 325
Matthews, MO 63867


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
501 St. Jude Place
Memphis, TN 38105-1942


The obituary mentioned Birley’s son, Leonard Scott of Thornton, Illinois. Thornton is a small city about five miles from where I live! I’ve had a cousin nearby all this time and didn’t know it! I may try to get in touch with him.


Sikeston Standard Democrat, “Birley Scott,” published on Friday, 13 Februrary 2004. Retrieved on 26 December 2012.

1518 Wilson Avenue

And now, another tale of Chaotic Genealogy, when the records lead us into unexpected directions.

Family Tree Maker recently gave me a Shaky Leaf icon for William M. Watts, a son of James Madison Watts and Sylvannia Bohannon. A Shaky Leaf indicates that FTM has found a potential record match. I clicked on the leaf to review the potential match, and was shown a hit in the recently added 1940 census. I was surprised to see that the census record was for Chicago, Illinois. Upon opening the record, I saw another familiar name: Lawson Scott, who was the husband of Birley Evelyn Bohannon. There was an unfamiliar name, too: Louise Watts, wife of William.

1518 Wilson Avenue

The house number for this entry, and the entries before and after, was 1518 Wilson Avenue, apparently an apartment building.

One nice thing about the 1940 census is that it also recorded where people lived in 1935. As shown below, William was living in Marshall, Arkansas, which helps reinforce that this was indeed one of “our” Watts. Lawson Scott was living in “same place,” which meant Chicago, but not necessarily at this same address.

1518 Wilson in 1935

Who was Louise? I had not previously recorded a spouse for William, so she is a new person to me. I haven’t been able to find any other records that mention her. All I have is what this census tells me. She was born in Massachusetts around 1920. In 1935, she was living in Boston, which suggests that she and William were married between 1935 – 1940, but where and exactly when? What was her maiden name? She is a mystery.

William and Lawson were both employed as “wreckers” in the “building wrecker” industry, with Lawson apparently having left behind his wife to find work (Where was Birley in 1940?). Louise was a maid in a private home.

William’s Social Security Number was issued prior to 1951 in Illinois, so it’s possible he was living at this address when he applied for his number. Lawson’s number was also issued prior to 1951 in Illinois, but this census’ supplemental questions indicated that he did not yet have his number in 1940.

In trying to answer some of the questions raised by this census, I went to Find A Grave and searched for William Watts. I knew he died in 1988 in Yuba, California, so I concentrated on other Watts there hoping to find Louise. I came across eight Watts buried in Sutter Cemetery in a small town also called Sutter, which itself is located directly west of Yuba. William was there. None, however, were Louise.

One of them was William’s brother, Vernon Lee Watts, and there was a photograph of his grave marker, which gave me his birth and death dates, and also his wife’s name, Mildred. A search of the local newspaper’s web site turned up Mildred’s obituary, which I have previously published.

With one record, we went from Searcy County, Arkansas to Chicago and Boston and then out to California. But, I still haven’t found anything else on Louise.

Sources 1940 United States Federal Census. Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T627_1015; Page: 66B; Enumeration District: 103-3002. Retrieved 26 December 2012. Social Security Death Index. Name: William M. Watts; Death Date: 9 December 1988; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: Before 1951. Retrieved 26 December 2012. Social Security Death Index. Name: Lawson Scott; Death Date: August 1971; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: Before 1951. Retrieved 26 December 2012.

Find A Grave. “William M. Watts,” created by Celeste Wideman. Retrieved 26 December 2012.

Find A Grave. “Vernon Lee Watts,” created by Vicalina. Retrieved 26 December 2012.

Obituary: Mildred Watts


Mildred Isabel Watts

Mildred Isabel WattsApril 22, 1929 – November 20, 2012

Mildred Watts of Pioneer, CA died November 20, 2012 in Sacramento, California.

Born April 22, 1929 in Imo, Arkansas to Jewel and Archie Gates. She loved to garden, can, and was known for her homemade biscuits, gravy, and pear pie. Mildred was a wealth of information. She was independent and took pride in taking care of all. Her heart was always in Amador County no matter where she lived.

Mildred was preceded by her husband of 60 years Vernon Watts[1], and survived by her sister Mary Shockley. She was a loving mother to her children Lillian Dollman, Judy Kennedy, Jan Watts and her husband Mick Mocettini, and Don and his wife Teri Watts. She was an adoring grandmother to her 8 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

A viewing will be held on Thursday, November 29, 2012 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Ullrey Memorial Chapel, 817 Almond Street, Yuba City, CA. A memorial service will be at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, 2012 at Sutter Cemetery in the gazebo at 7200 Butte Avenue, Sutter, CA.


[1] Vernon Lee Watts was the son of James Madison Watts and Sylvannia R. Bohannon, and the grandson of Siler Watts and Eliza Ann Graham. Mildred and Vernon were married on 21 December 1945 in Searcy County, Arkansas. Vernon died on 21 March 2005 in California.

Source “Mildred Isabel Watts,” Appeal-Democrat [Marysville-Yuba City, CA], Tuesday, 27 November 2012. Retrieved on 10 December 2012.

Arkansas Death Certificates May Now Be Ordered Online

Some good news came today via Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. To quote:

The Arkansas Department of Health rolled out a new service on Monday that allows users to search and order state death certificates on the Web. Previously, the records were available only through in-person requests or paper-form submissions

The new online database currently offers only records of deaths that occurred from 1935 to 1961 on the website, but the department said that workers will be adding records in the coming months. Users may search by last name, death date, county of death and state of birth.

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