Henry Preston Hudnall, is a very elusive man. I first came upon his name on his son Clarence’s birth and death certificates. I loved seeing his signature as informant on my great-grandfather’s birth certificate. I was able to locate the 1900 and 1910 census with him and my great-great-grandmother fairly easily and was also able to find the 1920, 1930, and 1940 census records as well as listings in numerous Charleston, West Virginia city directories.
Finding his family of origin was the problem. I was searching the 1880 census in the Cabin Creek district of Kanawha County where his future wife and her family lived because you will often find future spouses living quite close as young children. No luck. I located Henry’s death certificate at West Virginia Division of Culture and History. His fourth wife was informant, but his parents are listed “unknown.” However, it gave me a clue that he was born 2 February 1870 in Coalburg (?), West Virginia.
My first solid lead on Henry’s family of origin were his obituaries on Find-A-Grave. Many thanks to Laura Hudnall Franklin Shifflett for placing them there and giving me permission to share them.
Henry had a half brother named Buck Petry. There’s a clue I could use, but it would still be difficult because Buck is generally a nickname. When you think of half brothers, one of two scenarios usually comes to mind. First, Henry’s mother was married previously to a Petry who died, after which she married Henry’s father, a Hudnall, making Buck older than him. Second, his mother was first married to Henry’s father, a Hudnall who passed away, after which she married a Petry with whom she had at least one son, “Buck,” making Buck younger than Henry.
Since I had been unable to find Henry in an 1870 or 1880 census with Hudnall parents, I went about looking for a Petry husband and wife with a Henry Hudnall son in the household in the 1880 census, still looking in Cabin Creek district. Still no luck.
So I put what I knew out to the Facebook group Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness and within a very short time a member had found a Find-A-Grave entry for Andrew Jackson “Andy” Pettry who was married to a Nannie E Hudnall in 1876 and had several children, including Henry Pettry and Andrew/Anderson J “Buck” Pettry. Considering the mention of Buck, Henry, a Hudnall mother, and a Pettry father, it seems quite reasonable that this is the family. This entry states Andrew Pettry was born in 1852 but other records seem to indicate a later date. The family was found in the 1880 census in Cabin Creek which, again, is the same area Henry’s future wife lived in with her family at the time.
In 1880, the family consisted of 23-year-old Andrew Petrey (placing his birthdate in 1857), 28-year-old wife Nancy E Petrey, 8-year-old son Henry Petrey, 3-year-old son Charles A Petrey, and 10-month-old son Anderson J Petrey, later called Buck. I found an 1876 marriage record for Andrew (which stated he was 20 placing his birthdate in 1856) and Nancy which would indicate Henry was born prior to their marriage. If he was born in 1870 as his wife stated for his death certificate Andrew Petry would have been 13-14 years old at the time of his birth. While this could be possible, the fact that Buck is listed as a half brother in his obituary leads one to believe Andrew is not his father.
The fact that Henry has the Pettry name in the 1880 census and that his mother is listed as a Hudnall not only on their marriage certificate, but also that her father is listed as a Hudnall on the Find-A-Grave site, leads one to believe Nancy was not previously married and that Henry was born out of wedlock. This coupled with the fact that I have not been able to locate a birth certificate for Henry and that his parents are not named on his death certificate seems to affirm this view.
Here’s where a little bit of genealogical process comes in. If you have a subscription to or ever join ancestry.com, you will find different types of researchers. Some only evaluate what ancestry calls “historical hints” and decide if the person the record pertains to is in fact the person they are researching. Others utilize “family tree hints” quite a bit. I have chosen to only use historical hints as well as numerous other records that are available elsewhere. I have found in the past tree hints can lead you down the wrong road. For instance, after feeling confident Nancy Hudnall was my Henry’s mother (there are two Henry’s around the same time), I looked at some of the family trees. Trees for Henry are split between those who have found no parents as of yet and two different sets of parents, neither with Nancy as his mother and both with a father with the last name Hudnall as many researchers would assume to be the case. The clue is Henry’s obituary listing Buck Petry as his half brother. Do either of the mothers listed have a son named Buck Petry. I have not delved that deep yet but will definitely check. I did see one tree was substituting a William Henry Hudnall for Henry Preston so I feel sure that is not him as I have never seen any record for my Henry with the name William. These trees also have him born in Kentucky and dying in Texas-again, another Henry Hudnall, when records clearly indicate he was born and died in West Virginia. I only say this as a word of caution for the beginning genealogist and many of us have been there: it is very exciting to think others have already done your research and you can get far back fairly quickly. However, accuracy is key.
So it looks like this may be the end of Henry’s line on his father’s side since their would be no way to confirm who his father is and continue back. I will continue Henry’s journey back on his mother’s side in the future.
For now, let’s take a quick look at the rest of Henry’s life. Henry married my great-great-grandmother Martha Ellen Williams. They are listed as parents on my great-grandfather Clarence Huling Hudnall’s birth and death certificates. In addition, I found them on the 1900 Cabin Creek, Kanawha County, West Virginia census together with Clarence’s older two sisters and Henry was a coal miner. An amazing discover took place just this morning when I viewed that census for the writing of this blog. See if you can find what it is. Click the image to enlarge:
Henry and his family live right by Andrew and Nancy Petrey! I had not noticed that before because I had not been looking for Petreys.
By the 1910 census Henry & Martha have all four children. My great-grandfather has been born. They are living on Church Street in Cabin Creek/East Bank, West Virginia. Henry is still coal mining, but that would soon change. Martha died in 1912 and the next listing I find for Henry is in the 1914 Charleston City directory. He is listed as living at 1203 Bigley, Charleston, West Virginia with wife Alma and working at Elk Mill & Produce Co. In the 1917 directory, he and Alma have moved to 707 Penna Ave and he is working as a driver for Burlew Hardware Co. By 1918, Henry is working as a clerk at Burlew Hardware and has moved to 502 Summers.
By 1920, Henry went into business for himself. On that year’s census he is listed as the proprietor of a retail grocery store. The 1920 directory states the grocery is on the corner of Pine and Crescent. We also see he has remarried Mary Mamie Mahan and that sons Elmer and Clarence are still living at home with him at 221 Truslow St, Charleston. Both daughters are out of the household. By 1922, he has relocated his grocery to Bigley Ave and he and marry are living just down the street from it.
By the 1928 city directory, Henry changed course from groceries to secondhand clothing. He and Mary live and work out of 506 Court St.
By the 1940 census, Henry is 69 years old and working 18 hours a week selling razor blades. His 33-year-old wife Minnie is listed with him as Minnie Hudnall though their marriage records states they married in 1942.
Henry passed away 28 October 1953 in Kanawha County, West Virginia and was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery. My grandfather remembered him as a big man, according to my Dad, though I never heard Grandpa talk about him.