November 28, 2015

1917 Ethel Mae and Lillie Mae Vitatoe Yates Die From Burns In Fireplace Accident

It’s always serendipitous how new family information comes to light in the most innocent of ways. A few days ago I received a message from “Louise” through the FindAGrave site. Louise had asked me to change a Yates grave location from Ponders cemetery in Roane, Tennessee to reflect that it actually was in the Kelsay cemetery in the same county.

As it turned out, Louise and I determined that all of the Yates family graves that she had added in Kelsay/Kelsey cemetery were my family members, so she was kind enough to transfer them to me.

So, now I’m in the process of checking each new memorial, connecting it to other family members when it’s possible, and downloading photos of headstones if they are new to me.

As I download new photos I can upload them to my Yates Family Tree on , add my own photos to FindAGrave and/or to Ancestry as well.

One of the families I have been able to add information for was my great grand uncle Walter Jackson Yates and his first wife Lillie Mae and their daughter Ethel Mae. It’s quite a sad story really. Walter and Lillie (Vitatoe) had two boys James Steven and Samuel Joseph, and then the youngest was the little baby girl Ethel born 23 December 1916. I’m not sure yet of the full details of the accident, but there was a fire and little 3 month old Ethel was burned so badly that her shoelaces were completely gone. (I’m citing that because it was something my great aunt Martha Yates Scott wrote in her memoir. She was in direct contact with some of the Yates family in Tennessee at the time.) Lillie must have tried to save her and in the process she too was burned and died from her injuries.

Walter, Lillie & Ethel Mayfix

The picture of them is the only one our family has of the three of them together. What I didn’t have before, and what I have now is a photo of the homemade headstone for Lillie and Ethel. This family was the epitome of being dirt poor, but someone, maybe Walter, found a large piece of stone and it looks like he lovingly scratched his wife and baby’s names and dates as best he could.

Ethel and Lillie Yates headstone

In the “It Pays To Look Again” department, I had added Lillie and Ethel’s birth and death information, but since then more documents have become available through Ancestry, and so this death certificate for Ethel showed up in a search. I think I can read part of it, but the writing is so light I’m not sure what it really says.  I think it says “Caught in bedding ___ fire grate”.  This happened in February of the year and most likely the only source of heat was a fireplace.  Today, I found the death certificate for Lillie Mae Vitatoe Yates which helps me document names and dates. Previously, I didn’t have Lillie’s birthdate.



Rest in peace Lillie and little Ethel. We have not forgotten you! redheart2

Tombstone Tuesday: Confederate Burial in New Jersey


For this Tombstone Tuesday, I think it’s only fitting that I should acknowledge the death of James Barnard Morrison so close to the date that he died, June 12, 1864.  Yes, it was during the time of the Civil War and yet, part of me feels bad that he had to die so far from home, at Finn’s Point National Cemetery in New Jersey. (I have the roster of those who died there if anyone needs a lookup).

James was the son of John and Molly (Deatherage) Morrison who, at the time the Civil War began,  resided in Roane County, Tennessee. John’s mother was Mary Barnard, hence the middle name. James was my 3rd Great granduncle. His wife, Anna Holmes was a sister to my GGG-Grandmother, Deborah Holmes who married Miles Yates. Deborah later divorced Miles and married James B. Morrison’s brother William Deatherage Morrison.


The children of Debby Holmes and Wm. D. Morrison

James B. Morrison was a Private in Co. B, 5th TN Cavalry (CSA)(McKenzie’s). James’ widow, Anna,  left Tennessee in 1885 with her nephew, Gideon J. Pillar Morrison (pictured far left in the above photo) and his family. They all moved to Howell County, Missouri to homestead.


The Gideon Morrison Family

The Gideon Morrison family were also accompanied by James W. M. Yates and his sister Myra.  James and Myra were the half neice and nephew of Gideon. No doubt they were brought along for many reasons. Our family story has it that Jim and Myra Yates didn’t like their step-mother so they might have seen it as a way to escape that household.  Gideon and his wife Martha Jane (Edgemon) might have agreed to have them along since they had five small children to look after. Jim would have been around 21 years of age, and Myra just two years younger.

* Just a side note about Finn’s Point Nat. Cemetery: At the time I was just getting information about the cemetery (1997) and buying the roster of names it was when Andrew Cunanan committed one of his murders, killing William Reese and stealing his truck.

Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #1


L-R: Cerilda, Myra and Jim Yates

This is the only photo I have of my Great Grandmother Cerilda Yates and to me, it’s priceless. After having seven children Cerilda died an unneccesary death from “child bed fever”. What that amounts to is unclean conditions when she was giving birth. We do have a group picture of her surviving siblings taken some decades later, and most of the women look very much alike. Don’t you just love the dress Cerilda is wearing?

The photo is special to me too because it’s the only photo we have of Jim Yates’ younger sister Myra. Myra died from tuberculosis in 1888 when she was twenty-two years old.  Jim and Myra had both migrated from Roane County, Tennessee to Howell County, Missouri with their step-uncle Gideon Morrison.  Another sister, Lydia, was left behind in Tennessee because she was “too young”. I am not sure what that means, but, in any case she stayed in Roane County and married Clement Clark.


Another mystery is that if you look at the enlarged version of this photo and compare it to the tintype above it looks like both women are wearing the same pin at their neckline.  Since Myra Yates was born in 1866, and it is possible this tintype was taken sometime in that era, the woman in the tintype is certainly not Myra. It is possible that the picture is Mary M. Kelsey Yates, her mother.

As a side note, when I was looking through the Missouri digital archives for death records for our Yates family I found two for a Deborah E. Yates who died 22 September 1888.  That’s the same date Myra died, so I think that her real name was given. My family is ‘famous’ for going by nicknames and middle names, darn it all. The name Deborah is significant because that was also the name of Myra’s grandmother. Deborah Holmes b. sometime around 1825 was married (1) to Miles Yates, and (2) to William Deatherage Morrison. William D. Morrison was the father of Gideon P. Morrison with whom Jim and Myra had migrated with to Howell County, MO.


I am participating in Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt at Genea-bloggers on Facebook. Won’t you join us?!

Week #1: Upload your favorite picture and talk about it on your blog. Answer the who/what/when/where/why of the subject matter and explain why it is your favorite.

From “Jump Start Your Genealogy Blog. 52 ideas. 52 weeks” by Amy Coffin at We Tree (

Madness Monday: Miles Yates

It’s Madness Monday and this is my first article contribution. (Thanks to Footnote Maven for this wonderful poster!)


Miles Yates was born approximately 1820-1825 and married Deborah Holmes in Roane County, TN on 28 August 1840.  Family story has it that he was a “dandy and a fop”  from Nashville, and abandoned Deborah and their son James Knox Polk Yates who was born in 1842, also in Roane County, TN.

Now ususally, I don’t give much credence to family stories, but it happens that my grandfather, Will Knox Yates too his father James William Milburn Yates from Howell County, MO to Roane County so he could visit his father JKP Yates before he passed away in 1918. My point is, my grandfather probably came back and told his sisters and older brother what he had been told about Miles Yates. Also, in 1937 James W. M. Yates moved from Missouri here to Washington to live with some of his children.  I imagine that conversations about family and relationships were a hot topics.

The name Yates is just about as Smith when it comes to genealogical research. (And, lucky me, I have two Smith lines too!) Finding Miles Yates for the right age group has been fruitless so far. There are many Miles Yateses, but none that I’ve been able to connect to our line. I even found the name spelled Aytes for JKP Yates in one census.  It’s all uphill from here!

Source: James K. P. Yates’ death certificate states the name of his father as Miles Yates. (State of Tennessee, Death Certificate for James Knox Polk YATES,  (#394).

Source: Miles Yates and Deborah Holmes – Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002

Other participants in Madness Monday are:

Amy Crooks of Untangled Family Roots.

Thomas MacEntee of Destination: Austin Family.