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Internship - Genealogy

Genealogy project based around Civil War Letters donated to Stanley Library, completed by Jake Dilauro - Spring 2023.

Ellisons During the Civil War

Charles was a teacher who also served as a Summers County super intendent while also being an attorney on top of everything else. On top of his normal jobs, Charles wrote a few books that had to do with geography. Charles and Leona were a couple during the Civil War and married quickly after the war had ended, (M.1868).

Along with Charles having many different jobs, they also had a family farm that they tended to the land that Charles and Leona were given by the Lively's, who are a part of the Pack family line. It is unclear who exactly handed their land over to Charles and Leona, but Charles's sister married into the Pack's and Lively's indicating it was either John's mother or father. 

Something to add is that the Ellison's can be traced by all the way to 1379 in Yorkshires, England, where the family came from. In many genealogies nowadays, it is hard to trace back that far without some sort of DNA sample, which usually costs much more then getting research done. 

Confederate Or Union?

Now when it comes to the Ellison's stance during the Civil War, both Charles and Leona seem to not show true signs of which side they would have been on ,but with location and family there is a solid conclusion to be made into which side they preferred. For starters, the Ellison family along with the Hobbs came from southern states and continued to live in a Union state throughout and after the war (West Virginia). In 1863, when West Virginia seceded from Virginia and went into the Union, out of its fifty counties, twenty-four counties were actually in favor of secession from Virginia. While just less than half of the counties voted to leave Virginia, those twenty-four counties held 40% of the population of the state at the time.

The results of the May 23, 1861, Virginia's secession ordinance estimated to be between 19,000-20,000 that were for the secession while 33,000-34,000 were against it. The previous percentages does not exactly make to much sense until you pay attention to where a good chunk of the population was at the time; in the northwestern counties of West Virginia, most sent roughly twenty-five percent of their eligible men into the Confederate army, many in excess of fifty percent. In many of these counties, they had lost up to half of their original votes, which would have most likely have voted in favor of not seceding from both the state of Virginia and would have wanted to stay a part of the Confederacy.

In conclusion, The combination of a letter (Scan VV), the facts of the state of this time period, and Leona's Father being a Confederate Corporal, I can conclude that although not blatantly obvious there is a really good chance that Charles and Leona Ellison were on the Confederate side of things.

  • There is more information found in the Roanoke Library located in their Virginia room that backs this claim. In a letter that I found that was a reply to Scan VV I was able to see Charles's side of what exactly he thought about the new colored teacher. Charles talks about how he agrees that the teacher shouldn't be a teacher and that he agreed with how there were much better qualified individuals. 

How do we know about the family?

When studying the genealogy of a family, there are many things to consider when trying to figure out what exactly he family did and what happened to them. The majority of genealogy studies come from people who are usually already dead and have been for a while. It is not all to hard to discover someone's family history if they were born in the times of the 20-21st centuries due to innovations like the internet and and the overall expansion of recordkeeping in general. 1791 was around the time when the US really started to keep documents on people, so before then most genealogy would have been recorded via word-of-mouth, which was a less reliable method of fact-finding since memory and time often affect accurate recollections of events. In finding out things about the Ellison's, the best available sources were the letters that had been passed down from the family with the son of Charles (Beirnie) being the one who donated these letters to the Roanoke Public Library's Virginia room. 

Additional Research at the Virginia Room

The documents that are at Ferrum College are nothing more than a fraction of how many more letters that anyone can get access to. While researching the Ellison family, I ran across what seems to be roughly ten boxes with files on the family ranging from 1862 to 1977 . I found that these extra letters and many other items that belong to the family were located in Roanoke Virginia's Downtown Library located in their Virginia Room. When I arrived at the Virginia
Room and asked what they had available on the Ellison family, they told me that it had been many years since someone had looked into the documents and they were very curious into why exactly I was looking at them. With having a wide variety of documents to choose from, there were a few documents that stood out over the many that I read over.

Doc 1   

The first document that I ran across was a manuscript/journal that Charles seem to have kept in his pocket at all times during the years of 1862 and 1865.  In this manuscript I was able to find a bunch of little reminders that he had left himself. The part of the manuscript I found most interesting was that there was a section at the end of the manuscript that shows a bunch of different things that Charles had purchased. The thing that interested me the most about it was the way Charles set up what he payed for looked a lot like a Kroger receipt. The prices he spent on certain things were also very interesting in that he bought 2 acres of land for just $10 which translates to $185.18 in today's money (2023). Near the end of this journal, there are a few pages discussing some very interesting business ideas; he writes "I had to know which of the two museum to choose, Ale or Beer museum or wine museum?"

Doc 2

The second document I found was a book that Charles had written in 1874. Sadly the cover of the book was worn down to the point that I could not get a title. But the book countries maps of every individual state per page. It even includes many countries from around the world including ones like Great Britain and Spain. At the end of the book it lists the individual populations of just about every county/city that was located in the states at the time. During the time of this book it lists Arizona, Colorado, Dakota, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming were only seen as territories at the time and not states.

Doc 3

The third document that I found took some reading over and some background research  but it is a report card from Tazewell college. When I first found this document, I had believed that it was Charles's report card but upon further investigation it would have been for his son, Webbie Ellison, and the report card comes from Webbie's freshman year in 1892. The classes that he took were history, writing, geography, English, arithmetic, physiology and commercial law, with the lowest grade of all of these classes being a 95 in history. At the end of the report card, Professor A.A. Ferguson wrote that he gets a 97 in daydreaming.

Doc 4

This document is a postal card from 1865 from W.W. Adams. On the back, he wrote to Charles congratulating him on becoming an administrator. He also wrote that Charles deserved the assets from a case he was a lawyer for. It is interesting to note that the Civil War stamp was still in tact on the postal card.

Doc 5

This document replies directly to a document that we have at Ferrum College (Scan VV), The document I found was in a folder labeled with the years 1865-1871. In this document, Charles is pretty much agreeing with everything that W.W. Adams had to say about the new colored teacher that was hired. He explains that he knew of at least ten more qualified men then a man of his color. Charles also talks about the loss of money to be spent on him and the lack of students to take the teachers classes. And ending the letter talking about just how unfair it was for someone so "unqualified" to get the job.

Doc 6

A really cool thing that was in a folder from 1859 was Charles's English and grammar book. Surprisingly, the book was in good enough shape to read the cover but most of the pages are damaged; they seemed to have went through some sort of ink spill because they look as if someone bled through the pages with a marker. 

Doc 7

This document was a letter from 1869 to Charles that he was sent by a client from his time as a lawyer. In the letter, it says that thanks to Charles, they can keep their land and their wealth. It goes on to recommend Charles to C.F. Jefferson who recently got in trouble for stealing from a small shop.

Work Cited

  • Ellison family papers. Roanoke Public Library,Virginia Room. (4/28/2023)

What about the family now?

The Ellisons are now known as the Spencers. 

The Ellisons never really left West Virginia as that is where the majority of them stayed.

The last living person who had the last name Ellison was Norville C. Ellison, who passed away in 2014, Norville was Charles’s great-great-grandson.

The most recent of Charles’s grandchildren to pass away was Huling Hall “Gub” Spencer Jr. in 2020.

If Huling had not had children, then he would have been the last person of the Ellison bloodline to ever live.

The Ellisons on Charles’s sisters side ended in 2002 when Frances Margaret Pack passed away.

Current names of the bloodline

  • Thompson
  • Hodges
  • Spencer
  • Williams

*For confidentiality and privacy reasons I will not mention their first names*