Notes found among
my Grandma’s belongings

As I scanned the list of those who had migrated with my Ganus family from Georgia to Colorado in December of 1886,  I could not help but notice that Marthy was not listed.  Family lore indicated that my Great Grandfather Frank Ganus had married sisters, and since his deceased first wife Matilda Roberts’ only sister was Martha Emma Roberts, I assumed that they meant her.  An entry in the J.J. Pledger Murphy Journal indicated that Marthy Roberts had cooked dinner for them on October 22, 1886,  prior to the Ganus family leaving for Colorado on December 2, 1886.  Not only did I take note that Marthy was still alive and present  at the end of October, but also that she was still a Roberts at that time.  I guess it is possible that she had married her widowed brother-in-law Frank Ganus and then died between October 22nd and December 2nd,  but somehow I didn’t think so.

The scant penciled notes on scraps of paper, on the backs of old envelopes and scribblings on torn pieces of notepads continued to encourage me to dig deeper to either prove or disprove their varied claims.  Because my grandfather had been orphaned at such a young age and had not been reared near other Ganus family members, I recognized the fact that his limited knowledge of his family meant that we in turn knew very little about the extended Ganus family.  I assumed that some of what he had believed to be true was likely shared with him by his older brother Earnest.  While Earnest was seven years his senior, Earnest was only sixteen years old when they were orphaned and sent hundreds of miles away to live with their mother’s family, the Faucetts.  While some of what my Grandpa believed about his Ganus family proved to be fact,  I wasn’t so sure about this piece of information.

Besides wanting to prove or disprove the claim that my great grandfather had married both sisters before marrying my Great Grandmother Sarah Faucett, I wanted very much to know what happened to Martha Emma Roberts or Marthy as she was called.  Marthy was another character that intrigued me but I knew very little about her.  Sisters, Mary Matilda born in 1856 and Martha Emma born in 1857, were born to Nicholas Roberts and Mary E. Meadows, who were married  the 23rd of February, 1847, in Madison, Georgia.  Nicholas and Mary’s family had consisted of six children, James N., Joseph, William B., and Thomas E. Roberts and then the two girls, Mary Matilda and Martha Emma. 

The girls’ father  had  followed their mother in death, leaving the girls orphaned by 1866. The guardianship papers filed in 1869 in Floyd County, Georgia where the family had lived, indicated that the girls were to be bound to John D. Green for their care and while Marthy is found in the John D. Green’s household in 1870, Matilda, however, was living in a household consisting of her and her three older brothers, James, Joseph and Thomas.  By 1880 Matilda had married Frank Ganus and was living in Haralson County, Georgia and Marthy, a single woman,  lived alone next door.  Apparently the girls had been separated long enough and while their marital status differed, they chose to remain as close to each other as circumstances would allow. But soon things changed. Matilda died and Frank left with daughter Ollie and the rest of the Ganus family for Colorado.  But what happened to Marthy?  Where did she go? 

Marthy seemed to have just disappeared.  I could find no record of a marriage or a death in Georgia.  There were many Martha Roberts on census records, but none of them seemed just right and of course I considered the fact that she possibly was married and had a different surname, yet I could not find a marriage record for her in the general area.  Off and on I would search for Marthy, but always I would eventually put her aside out of frustration. Yet, I couldn’t seem to leave it alone and curiosity kept bringing me back, feeling the need to know what happened to Marthy?  There was no indication that Marthy had gone west with others in 1886 and yet I could find nothing that indicated that she had died around that time period either. Where was she?

Then one day while waiting for one of our daughters, I decided to putter on my computer for a few moments. Doing a general search on the main page of Familysearch, I put in only Marthy Roberts and  her approximate date of birth.  I was totally surprised when a record popped up for an Alabama death certificate!  The index showed “Marthy Roberts”, born in Georgia, her mother was listed as a Meadows and her father Nicholas Roberts—it was a great fit, but definitely not where I had expected her to be. Some of my family had bobbed back and forth across the Alabama/Georgia border at varying times, appearing in Cleburne or Calhoun, but Marthy had died clear up in Marshall County.  What had she been doing there?

Aunt Marthy Roberts and brother Joseph Roberts
Martha E. Roberts
and brother J.O. Roberts

I obtained a copy of her death certificate and noted that it indicated that Marthy Roberts was single, had been a nurse and that she died of Tubercular kidneys contracted in Georgia.  I decided to consult message boards to see if there were others researching the Roberts family in Marshall County, Alabama and found a sweet woman that not only knew something of Marthy and her history, but was generous enough to share a picture of her as well.  That was the frosting on the cake!

This Roberts descendant told me that Marthy had never married and so when she had become sick, she had gone to her brother’s home in Alabama and had died there.  She told me that Marthy was buried in Union Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Marshall County,  so I consulted the website  Find a Grave where I found that R. Bailey had generously taken a picture of her headstone and had placed it on the website.  I am so grateful to the many volunteers on Find a Grave such as Mr. Tidmore who created the memorial and R. Bailey who took the picture, who so generously give of their time.  I did notice that the headstone appears to be a little more recent but was obviously contributed by loving family and I was touched by the tender inscription—”Aunt Martha Roberts.”

Aunt Martha Roberts grave
Martha Robert’s Grave
Union Grove Baptist Cemetery
Marshall County, Alabama

So finally I knew at least some of what happened to Marthy.  I have found nothing to support the story that she ever married my Great Grandfather.  I do think that the two sisters were extremely close as long as they both lived. I know that Marthy became a nurse, that she lived in Georgia for the majority of her life and that, when her health began to decline, her brother generously took her in so that she did not die alone. 

Once again, I was able to piece all of this together thanks to many generous volunteers, beginning with FamilySearch indexing volunteers, a descendant that shared with me Martha’s picture and what she knew of her story and finally Mr. Tidwell who took the time to take a picture of her headstone and upload it to Find A Grave.  Thanks to a wonderful community of genealogists, I finally know what happened to Marthy. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Please follow and like us:

17 thoughts on “But . . . . What Happened to Marthy?

  1. Thank you Jana. I was so glad that familysearch indexed that death certificate because I never would have suspected that she died in Marshall County. Once I found that, things fell into place and I was able to piece the family together, as well as Marthy's life. It's so wonderful when we can get a picture and so wonderful when descendants share!

  2. Another wonderful post Michelle. I "lost" someone in my family history too, and also did a general search at and found him moving from New York to Illinois to Michigan and then dying in Minnesota all within 10 years! I agree about being grateful for all who share.

  3. That's crazy Monique! I'm always surprised to see how much some of them moved. It's so difficult when they didn't stay long enough to put down some roots too. It's so exciting when we finally find them though! Thanks for your comments.

  4. This is a sad story but has a consoling ending. As I was reading, I was haunted by the image of Marthy cooking dinner for the family group on October 22, 1886, and I was somehow expecting that when they went west, she would languish from being left behind. But no! apparently she had more good life as a nurse in Georgia before she became ill and went to live with her brother. Strong woman.

    And good for you for persisting in your search! I'll remember that searching one more data base is always a good idea! Thanks.

  5. It amazes me how many sad stories I manage to uncover. Life just had a lot of hard things "back then" and continue to be tough today as well.

    The thing that I am continually reminded of is that with new databases popping up continually, just because they can't be found in any of them today, doesn't mean they can't be found tomorrow. Of course in this particular case, I had really focused my search on Georgia and not Alabama at all. Lesson learned I guess.

    As always thanks for your comments Mariann!

  6. Woo-hoo… Happy dance for the volunteers and the solution to the mystery. I love how you said you'd work on it for a while and then set the problem aside out of frustration. Seems that's what I do with different families. So glad I have so many to research. So glad you were able to figure out Marthy's story. Yeah.

  7. Congratulations on finding Marthy and I enjoyed your intriguing post. Aren't genealogists the most generous of folk? 🙂

  8. I love it when things fall into place finally after years of trying and I am finally able to get some answers. Like you, I have plenty more to research. Thanks for your comments Devon Lee!

  9. What an unexpected ending, Michelle. So glad you found your Marthy–and another distant "cousin" as well, it seems. What a great community of researchers genealogy enthusiasts have, each providing their part to help uncover the big picture.

  10. We really do all need each other and I'm so grateful for those that take time to share what they have. You and I've talked about this before Jacqi, but it always leaves me asking myself what I've done lately to help others in their search. Thanks for your comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top