Saturday, June 14, 2014

Seven Generations of Dads

It's time for some Father's Day genealogy.

First comes my dad (1928-2007), I covered his life in this obit.

Then there's his father, Grant Henson (1897-1954), who I was named after. Where did the "Grant" come from? Well, he was born to a family of Republicans (read: pro-Union Eastern Kentuckians) in 1897, two months after Grant's Tomb was dedicated, so it's not too hard to figure out. We forget what a huge celebrity President Grant was. A million people attended the tomb dedication, including heads of state from around the world, and it was front-page news for a week or more.

Grant Henson was a coal miner. Here's the "Application for Coal Miner's Certificate" that proves it. Until I found this, I never knew miners had to be certified. Thanks to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History for this one.

He always thought he was born in 1898 even though it was actually 1897, so he thought he was 43 at the time of this application. 28 years of experience means he started at 15, but by then he was already keeping books for his father, who was a mine foreman but couldn't read or write.



Grandpa Henson. He always wore a hat - said it would prevent baldness.
Going back another generation isn't so easy. Grant's "real" father was a guy named Bill Conley (1865-1934), who was a county sheriff and small-time politician in Grayson, Kentucky. It's not clear what happened, but I think Conley was run off by Grant's step-grandfather, Charley Perry, for being a gambler and general rake-hell. Conley's nickname was "Ace", so you get the picture. 

Grant's mother married Noah Henson (1877-1929) in 1900, around which time "Ace" Conley tried unsuccessfully to kidnap Grant.


Noah Henson makes his mark on his marriage license

Noah was born in Lawrence County, Kentucky in 1877, to his mother Mary Henson (1853-1916) and some other guy I don't know. I speculate that his "real" father was named York, because Noah's middle name was York and that name is not seen anywhere else in our family. There were some York boys in Lawrence County at the time, but this is pure speculation. Noah was raised by Mr. William McDaniel (1860-1929), from the Ironton, Ohio area, who married Mary in 1880.

Noah Henson in about 1918. That thing he's riding is a pedal-powered draisine.


Since I don't know who Noah's father was, I'll skip over to his mother for one generation because that's where our name came through anyway. His mother, Mary Henson, was born in 1853 in Kentucky to David Henson (1830?-1885). He had come to Kentucky from Virginia just a couple of years before Mary was born. Apparently about half the people in Virginia moved to Kentucky around that time. Old David Henson was in the Army in 1864...for one month. (He was in his mid-thirties and had a bunch of kids, so give him a break.)

Six feet tall! The Hensons were indeed tall, but I didn't get any of those genes.
Before David Henson, it really gets speculative. He was from Russell County, Virginia. The only family there with a name anywhere close was the Hanson family of Hansonville. (David spelled his name Hanson and Hinson before settling on Henson.) In the generation that would have been David Henson's father, the eldest brother was a slaveholder but some of the younger brothers couldn't stomach slavery and went West. Three of them, George (1799-1878), Tristram (1805-1834) and David (1803-1834), ended up in Illinois by the early 1830s, and for various complicated reasons I think my ancestor David was the son of either Tristram or David, who both died young in 1834. Some of the children went back to Virginia but at least one stayed out west with Uncle George. If David was descended from these Hansons, then his grandfather was David Mark Hanson (1773-1828)  from Macosquin, Co. Derry, Ireland.

The kid who stayed with Uncle George is fascinating. She was Tristram's daughter, Sidney, and when George went west as a California '49er, Sidney went with him. Uncle George, who worked for the federal government and later started five newspapers, sent her to Santa Clara University and she ended up the wife of an employee of the US Mint in San Francisco. She lived to a ripe old age and gave an extremely interesting interview to the California State Library in the 1920s, describing her overland trip west in 1849. Anyway, I'm getting off track. Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.


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