As I fill in the names on my family tree, some ancestors seemingly call to me, bidding me to learn about them and then to share their story. Such was the case of Minnie Ganus, daughter of James Ganus and Frances. James was the brother to my second great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus, so although she isn’t in my direct line, I’ve felt drawn to her since I first heard about her years ago.
As so often is the case, some of the story passed down proved to be somewhat different from the actual story that emerged, although portions of it were correct. As I shared here in an earlier post, Minnie didn’t appear on the 1870 census with her family, yet according to the story shared with me, Minnie’s mother died when she was little and her father James Ganus left her with extended family as he went off to fight in the Civil War. The story also indicated that he had gone back for his son after the war, but left his daughter Minnie with others to raise. While there were several versions of the story, everyone seemed to be in agreement that James had not kept and reared his daughter, although there were discrepancies as to why and what ultimately happened to her.
|George Hardy (1822-1909)
Next I looked for Minnie on the 1880 census. The only Minnie Ganus in the area was in the household of Nancy Foster, a 60 year old widow living in Campbell County, Georgia. The household consisted of Nancy Foster 60 years old, Mary, a 25 year old daughter, Willie J., a 24 year old son and Minnie Ganus, listed as Nancy’s 9 year old grand daughter. If this was “my” Minnie, she was born about 1871, which would explain why she wasn’t with her family on the 1870 census, and it also clearly meant that Minnie was born well after the Civil War.
As I looked for more information, I discovered an interesting document pertaining to Minnie. In the Campbell County Administration and Guardian bonds 1868-1890 found on FamilySearch, Nancy E. Foster applied to have grand daughter Minnie Elizabeth Gainous apprenticed to her in 1875. The court document read:
“Now five years old on the 20th day of October 1875 bound as apprentice unto the said Nancy E. Foster until said girl arrives at the age of eighteen years; now the said Minnie Elizabeth Gainous shall well and faithfully demean herself as such apprentice during her respective term obeying and fully observing the commands of the said Nancy E. Foster and in all things deposing and behaving herself as faithful apprentice should do and is not to leave or absent herself from the service or employ of the said Nancy E. Foster without her consent, during her respective term of apprenticeship . . .”
Visions of grandma unselfishly taking in her grand daughter seemed to be vanishing into thin air. Why did Nancy apprentice her granddaughter and what were the circumstances? Reading on, additional information was provided in the documents.
“It being made known to the ordinary of said county, by satisfactory proof that Minnie Elizabeth Gainous a minor child five years old October the 20th 1875 is now living with her Grand Mother Nancy E. Foster and ever since her mother’s death, which happened some three years ago and it further appearing that said minor’s Mother gave and requested that her mother said Nancy E. Foster should Raise and train her Daughter Minnie Elizabeth Gainous, and further appearing that the Father James Gainous have since the death of his wife (the mother of said Minnie Elizabeth) have intermarried with another woman and now living in the county of Carroll in this state, and Mrs. Nancy E. Foster the Grand Mother as aforesaid of Minnie Elizabeth Gainous, now wishing to have her bound to her under laws of said state: 
I will be honest, this left me scratching my head and wondering why five year old Minnie was bound out to her grandmother as an apprentice! Why didn’t Grandma Foster just take her in?
Although I didn’t know, I knew who would. Judy Russell addressed a similar issue on her blog The Legal Genealogist. The post, dated October 7, 2013 was entitled “The apprentices” and can be found here and is well worth the read (as are all of her blog posts.)
If you scroll down to the comments section of that post, you will find I posted a question asking Judy about Nancy and Minnie’s situation. I felt troubled and wondered why Nancy would have her grand daughter apprenticed to her. Judy responded to my question:
“Remember that a guardianship in that time frame was only for property. To assign legal responsibility for the child, the binding out was needed. So it still could be a kindness by the grandmother to take her, and the legal responsibility for her.”
I felt relieved to know that apprenticing Minnie to her grandmother did not necessarily indicate a lack of love or maternal concern for little Minnie but was a legal issue and how the law handled such situations at the time.
1. Campbell County, Georgia Estate Bond Book C: Pages 1-4, ,indenture dated 4 December 1875; digital images 7-12, “Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1900,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 5 June 2015).
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved