Finding Isabella

Her resting place

It’s a small manila envelope, addressed from one cousin in Texas to another cousin in Texas, and hand-delivered to me just three days ago.

The size doesn’t hint at the contents — a few sheets of paper, a half-dozen photographs. One photo, in particular, of a cemetery I’d already walked, ten years ago, from one end to the other.

But putting the words together with that photograph… oh my… a family mystery has been solved.

I now know where my second great grandmother Isabella Robertson was buried. And more about her than I could ever have hoped to know.

You see, Wednesday afternoon late, I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time a second cousin on my Robertson side, my cousin George Lowe:

Cousin George

His great grandfather George Galloway Robertson was the older brother of my great grandfather Jasper Carlton Robertson. They were close enough that George was the informant on Jasper’s death certificate when Jasper died, in 1912 in Oklahoma, just four weeks short of his 41st birthday.1

My cousin George knew his great grandfather — he was a young teenager when George Galloway Robertson died so he had the chance to talk to him about his memories of the Civil War. Of the Yankees foraging through the farms of Attala County, Mississippi, where the family lived. Of being sent with his brothers and sisters into the woods to hide until the raids were over. Of hearing the explosions from the bombardment of a nearby town.

And because my cousin George grew up in Texas, he came to meet many of his Robertson cousins, including our cousin Dorothy, whose grandmother was Fannie Boone Robertson Stroud Harrison,2 younger sister to George Galloway Robertson and older sister to Jasper Carlton Robertson.3

Dorothy, it seems, is interested in genealogy. She’s done some work looking at our common ancestors … and she talked to her mother, Eula Harrison Ray, about Eula’s grandmother, Isabella.

Dorothy wrote to cousin George in 2012, enclosing those few photos and those few sheets of paper. On the paper, she wrote some of what her mother had told her:

     • Isabella was 14 when she married Gustavus.
     • She was six feet tall and red-haired.
     • She had a withered arm from a shoulder dislocation at birth.
     • The slaves she owned were a gift from her father to help her with her children because of her arm.
     • She could read and write and wrote stories about light as it appeared in the Bible.
     • One of Isabella’s sons was a postmaster in Texas.

And, she wrote, Isabella was buried next to Gustavus and both were buried at the Sulphur Bluff Cemetery in Hopkins County, Texas.

Now as I said I’ve walked that cemetery. Every inch of that cemetery in 2003. A death record for Gustavus from 1903 suggested he’d been buried there. There is no death record for Isabella. But there isn’t any marker for any Robertson in that cemetery. In frustration at not finding any family grave, I shot this photo of the cemetery gates and drove away empty-handed.

The Sulphur Bluff Cemetery gates

I was sure that I’d never know exactly where Gustavus was buried. Nobody could possibly still be alive, 100 years later, who would know.

But I was wrong. Because, you see, Dorothy talked to her mother, Eula.

And Eula was born in 1891.4 She was in her teens when Isabella died, sometime around 1906 or 1907. In other words … Eula knew her. Spoke to her. Was there when she was buried.

Buried at the Sulphur Bluff Cemetery, between the big tree and the fence. The big tree and the fence Dorothy later photographed … and then sent the photograph to George … who then delivered it to me this week.

Where the Robertsons are buried

One mystery down.

Only about a kazillion to go.

Thank you, cousin Eula, thank you many times over for your long memory and sharing what you remembered with your daughter. Thank you, cousin Dorothy, for talking to your mother about her grandmother and writing down her stories and sharing them with your cousins. And thank you, cousin George, for taking time to visit me and share these treasures of our family.


  1. Oklahoma State Board of Health, death certificate 3065 (1912), Jasper C. Robertson; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Oklahoma City.
  2. For Fannie’s marriages see “Texas, Marriages, 1837-1973,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 Jun 2013), entry for Thendos Stroud and F B Robertson, 16 Mar 1887, Delta County. And see “Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909 and 1966-2002,” database, ( : accessed 28 Jun 2013), entry for J D Harrison and Mrs. Fannie Stroud, 7 Aug 1890, Hall County.
  3. See 1870 U.S. census, Lamar County, TX, population schedule, Paris Post Office, p. 253(B) (stamped), dwelling 307, family 307, George G. and Fanney B. Robertson in “Gustavis” B. Robertson household; digital image, ( : accessed 9 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 1594. See also 1880 U.S. census, Delta County, TX, Precinct 3, enumeration district (ED) 20, p. 502(D) (stamped), dwelling 117, family 118, Fannie B. and Jasper “Robetson” in Gustavus “Robetson” household; digital image, ( : accessed 12 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1300; imaged from FHL microfilm 1255300.
  4. Texas Department of Health, death certificate no. 58237, Eula Harrison Ray (1978); Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
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14 Responses to Finding Isabella

  1. Mary Ann Thurmond says:

    Oh my, Judy, now I’m all teary-eyed—and so early in the morning for me. My grandmother, Mary Isabella, was said to have been red headed, but she was in her 80′s by the time I remember her and her hair was very white. She was fairly small in stature and she wasn’t much of a talker. I tried to talk to her about family but I was too young to know what questions to ask and I got very brief answers. I’m so glad that you now have this information!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      You’re up early, cousin! And I have been thinking of you the whole time since meeting George — waiting to be able to share this info! Isn’t this the neatest thing???? And cousin George says he thinks he has a photo of his great grandfather George — so we’re in the process of collecting almost the whole set!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      And PS: cousin Dorothy’s Mom says your grandmother’s nickname was Babe. Did you know that?

      • Mary Ann Thurmond says:

        Oh, Mein Gott!! I had been told that by a cousin who contacted me online several years ago and, after one response from me, disappeared. I relayed that to my twenty-years-older cousin, Mary Leila Scott, and she looked at me as if I had just arrived from Mars and said, “Nobody would ever have had the nerve to call my grandmother “Babe”!! Since she had twenty years on me and had lived next door to our grandmother all of her life until she married, I took her at her word! Picture me falling off my chair!

  2. It’s amazing isn’t it how important those little tidbits, scraps of information, can be.

  3. Mary Ann Thurmond says:

    And, Judy, if you talk to Dorothy, don’t forget to ask if she knows what that middle initial “R” stands for, and if she knows Isabella’s mother’s name….and, and, and…. ~ ; }

  4. Charlene Key Sokal says:

    Just returned from Texas where I met my cousin for the first time. We share the same grandfather but different grandmothers. There are a lot of amazing stories in that state!

  5. Wow. This is genealogy by personal contact. I think it’s the “truest” kind. I’d rate it right up there with the GPS. But that’s just me. Loving and loyal people, passing down memories. Thank you, George! And what a heart-waming story, Judy!

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