Paducah, KY

(This History Was Written In 1992 with subsequent updates as indicated)


     When one begins ancestor searching, starting with one’s name is mandatory.  The name is one’s personal possession.  In terms of history, your name is a fingerprint, perhaps the first clue as to whom you are.

     As a child with 13 brothers and sisters and over 50 nephews and nieces, I somehow had the belief that we were unique by having a name no one else had.  After all, how many times have you heard the name PURCHASE mentioned on television?  Even as I got older and heard that there might be others sharing the name I still somehow felt that there just could not be that many.

     To prove myself right, I put my daughter, Jennifer, to work searching the local library for names and addresses of nonrelated PURCHASE families.  I assured her that this project would not take very long to do.  However, to my surprise, it took several days to complete, and she was able to compile a list of over 100 nonrelated PURCHASE families representing almost every major city in the United States.  Not only was I surprised, but I was also little disappointed.  Indeed, we were not that unique and certainly not that alone.

     It soon became quite clear to me that this job of “ancestor hunting” would not be that easy.  My job would be to find my ancestors and their descendants amongst all of the nonrelated families I surely would come across.

     The book Fifty Puritan Families written by Nash, gives us possibly our first account of a PURCHASE family’s arrival in this country.  The book lists John Purchase, a soldier in the Pequot War, and his wife Jane who were both born in England and who settled in Hartford, Connecticut in 1639.  The book further states that they were located in the northwestern part of the village of Hartford in 1640.

     My search did not place John and Jane Purchase of Hartford in our family history.


     A great deal of research material is available to assist a novice genealogist like myself.  Several books on the subject of genealogy were quite helpful in my search for ancestors.

     Census records, both here in the United States and in England, were a great source of genealogy material.  Since the census has been taken every ten years since 1790 in the United States, and since 1841 in England, it was a primary source for providing me with names of individuals, their relationships to each other and their ages.  The entire record of the 1890 U.S. Census was destroyed many years ago by a fire in Washington, D.C.  Therefore, it was not available to me.

     Passenger lists of ships arriving from foreign countries since the early 1800s were also reviewed by me, but they were not as helpful as census records.  Not many of the ship lists survived from the 1800s, but for the few that did, I found a number of PURCHASE families who arrived in America on a regular basis.  Most were from England, but there were a few from other countries.  As an example, on one list I found a Joseph Purchase, his wife and four children arriving from England aboard the ship, the “Abby Pratt”.  They docked at the port of New Orleans, Louisiana on 4/2/1849.  I was searching for a George Richard Purchase (my paternal Grandfather) and his family, but had no such luck.  Even though I did not realize it at the time, I would see this Joseph Purchase and his family again and they would play a very important role in my search for ancestors.

     County court house records in Kentucky and Illinois were quite valuable in my search.  I reviewed tax lists, acquired birth, death, and marriage records and picked the minds of several County clerks for information.

     I also made extensive use of several genealogy libraries.


     From oral family history I learned that my paternal Grandfather, George Richard Purchase, came from Somersetshire (County) England in the mid 1800s and settled in Paducah, Kentucky.  So, I started my search there.  First, I contacted the McCracken County Clerk’s Office in Paducah, Kentucky.  The County Clerk suggested that I start my search at the Oak Grove Cemetery; it is the largest and oldest cemetery in the county.  Her suggestion brought me success.  I found that my grandfather was indeed buried there and that he died in October of 1901 at the age of 71.  I also found that several members of his family were also buried next to him in the same family plot.


PURCHASE, Mary Ann     died 1883

PURCHASE, James W.      died 1887

PURCHASE, George R.     died 10/1901


EAKER, Mary Ann (Purchase)     died 4/04/1928

PURCHASE, Mary Ann     died 11/17/1932


     James and Joseph were my Grandfather’s sons from his first marriage.  The “Mary A.” who died in 1883 was his first wife.  To find out whom the other two “Mary’s” were, I had to acquire their death certificates.  The “Mary A. (Purchase) Eaker” is George Richard’s only daughter from his first marriage.  The death certificate of “Mary A.”, who died in 1932, indicates she was the widow of Joseph Purchase, George’s youngest son from his first marriage.


     Now, with the confirmation that George Richard Purchase had resided in Paducah, Kentucky, I decided my next step would be check the U.S. Federal Census records to learn more about him and his family.

     Firs, I searched the 1850 Census for McCracken County, but did not find a George Richard Purchase.  However, in the 1860 Census I did find George, his wife Mary, and their 3 children -  James W., Joseph A., and Mary. – residing in McCracken County, Kentucky, somewhere close to Paducah.  George owned his farm and was listed as a farmer.  All of his children were born in Kentucky, and the oldest child, James W., was born in 1856.  Since I was unable to find George in the 1850 Census, I thus concluded that George and Mary arrived in America between 1850 and 1856.

     With further research, I was successful in acquiring a marriage certificate for George and Mary from Somersetshire (County) England, the town of Haselbury-Plucknett, which listed the marriage date as December 1850.  Also, through the use of the Church of the Latter Day Saints’ (LDS) Genealogy Library I was able to view microfilm copies of the 1851 England Census.  In reviewing the Census from Somersetshire (County), England, which was taken in the spring of 1851, I found George, age 20, and Mary age 21.  Therefore, I further conclude that George and Mary arrived in the United States and Paducah, Kentucky following the spring of 1851, and before their first child was born in 1856.

     However, being a stickler for detail, I still felt a need for a more precise date as to George and Mary’s arrival in the U.S.  I was unsuccessful in locating immigration and naturalization (citizenship) papers and also unsuccessful in locating the two in the few available foreign ship passenger lists.

     I was more successful in viewing the McCracken County, Kentucky property tax lists.  In the 1850 to 1853 Tax Books for Paducah, Kentucky I found George Purchase beginning with property tax year 1853.  If property taxes were paid then as they are now, after the year is over, then it is quite likely they arrived in Paducah, Kentucky sometime between the spring of 1851 and the start of the 1852 property tax year.


     As I found out, the element of surprise is never far away in genealogy.  During my search of U.S. Census records to locate George Richard Purchase and family, the 1860 Census presented me with an unexpected surprise.  There on the census list for Paducah, Kentucky was another PURCHASE family.  No one in my family had ever heard of these Purchase in Paducah, Kentucky.  Who were they, and where did they come from?  Listed was a Joseph Purchase, age 54, with his wife Mary and their 4 children.  The census indicated the entire family was born in England.  I also found Joseph listed with his family prior to the 1850 Census.  I then remembered that this Joseph Purchase was the same Joseph Purchase I had previously come across in my search of ship passenger lists.  Joseph and his family arrived in this country from England on 4/02/1849 through the port of New Orleans.

     Although I could not determine the relationship between my Grandfather George and this newly discovered Joseph Purchase, I had to believe they were somehow related.  I could not agree that chance brought two nonrelated PURCHASE families to Paducah, Kentucky at about the same time.  Obviously, I needed to find out exactly how they were related.

     Also, I felt the more I could find out about Joseph Purchase and family, the more I would learn about my Grandfather and his family.


     While reviewing records at the Church of the Latter Day Saints’ (LDS) Genealogy Library, I came across Joseph, again. 

     From a suggestion of a friend, I made a visit to the local branch of the LDS Genealogy Library in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The main library of the church is located in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Genealogy is a vital activity of the LDS (Mormon) Church, and I hoped that the LDS Library could assist in my search for English ancestors.

     Thousands of family histories have been submitted to the LDS Church for religious purposes.  I hoped that at least one of those histories would be that of a Purchase family.  To my surprise, not only was there a PURCHASE family history, the family was from Paducah, Kentucky.  Also, their cemetery records were available with the history.

     All family histories are listed alphabetically on a microfiche index.  The index provides the appropriate reference numbers to order the histories from the main library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It took about one week to receive the history.  However, the records were not that of my Grandfather, George, but rather that of Joseph Purchase and his family.  Also, the cemetery records indicated Joseph and his family were buried in a private family cemetery located on the original farm of Joseph Purchase in Paducah, Kentucky.

     In this LDS PURCHASE history, Joseph is listed with his 12 brothers and sisters.  One brother is a James Purchase, born September 2, 1804 in Somersetshire (County), the town of Haselbury-Plucknett, England.  The marriage certificate received from England for my Grandfather George and his wife Mary (Cleal) indicates his father to be JAMES PURCHASE.  Could this James Purchase be the same James listed on the LDS PURCHASE history, born 9/02/1804?  It is a possibility, but more evidence would be needed.  After all, James was a commonly used name in England during the 1800s.


     After several unsuccessful attempts at trying to locate information directly from the Somersetshire (County) Archives in England, I found it necessary to acquire the assistance of a professional genealogist.  I indicated to her what evidence I required, and several weeks later I received the results of her research.  She did find James Purchase, born 9/02/1804, married to an Elizabeth Rendell, born 4/27/1809.  They were married on 4/15/1830.  she was unable to find a birth certificate for George Richard Purchase to prove conclusively that James and Elizabeth Purchase were indeed his parents.  However, she concluded that the overwhelming evidence suggested they were.  I was not so convinced and I wrote and told her this.  From what little I have learned about genealogy research, all conclusions should be based on facts from two or more separate sources.  She was not pleased with my criticism and wrote and told me so.  She remained with her conclusion that James and Elizabeth Purchase from Haselbury-Plucknett, England were my Great Grandparents based purely on the fact that she could not find any other James Purchase residing in the town during the years involved.

     Even though I had doubts about her conclusion, I did however, locate an Elizabeth Purchase with family in the 1841 Census of Haselbury-Plucknett, England.  Elizabeth is shown to be about the age of 30, with 4 children, - George age 10, John age 6, Thomas age 4, and William age 1.  The father’s name is listed at the bottom of the prior page, which appears to be an abbreviation for JAMES, which I could not be certain of.

     Therefore, all evidence leads me to believe that James and Elizabeth (Rendell) Purchase shown in the history that I acquired from the church of the Latter Day Saints are my paternal Great Grandparents.  However, I must admit that without a birth certificate for my Grandfather, we may never know for sure.


     From one 10 year Census to the next, changes in the families appeared quite predictable.  In one census a child would be found at home with family, and 10 years later the census would show that same individual married with a family of his/her own; this was the case with Joseph Purchase and his family.  However, I was not as successful in predicting the life of my Grandfather, George Richard Purchase, and his family from census to the next.  As an example, it appears from the census that George’s children did not marry nor have any children themselves.  However, I was later able to determine from other sources that his youngest child Joseph did have a wife name Mary A., and they are both buried together with the rest of the family at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah, Kentucky.  It appears from all records available to me that Joseph and Mary did not have any children.

     From the 1880 Census to the next available census of 1900 (the 1890 Census for all states was destroyed by fire in Washington, D.C.) I found a dramatic change in George’s life.  The 1880 Census listed George, his wife Mary and their 18 year old daughter, Mary Ann, residing at the family farm.  Twenty years later in 1900, the census listed George, now age 70, with a new wife, (also named Mary), age 35, and 4 new children; George, John, Bertha, and James W.  During that 20 year period, George acquired a new wife and started a new family.  But, what happened to his first family?

     I later found out that George’s first wife died on 3/04/1883, and 4 years later he married my Grandmother, Mary Jane Ellis.

     I obtained from the McCracken County Court House a copy of the marriage certificate for George and his new wife, Mary Jane.  (Eventually she would become my Grandmother.)  They were married on 12/27/1887.  The James W., listed in the 1900 Census as their youngest child, would some day become my father.  He was born on 1/05/1900.

     Of course, from word of mouth, I knew that my Grandfather’s marriage to my Grandmother was not his first, and I also knew that he was 35 years older than she.  However, we were not aware that my Grandmother had a prior marriage.  My Grandmother’s maiden name was ELLIS, but the marriage license indicates that she also had a previous marriage and her name was listed as Mary Jane Stacy.

     Along with the marriage certificate was a marriage bond which states that George was required to pay William Ellis, Mary Jane’s father, the sum of $100 to marry his daughter  -  a hefty sum for 1887.  Although from what I’ve heard of my Grandmother (she was called "Gran Gran” by all of the Grandchildren) the marriage bond should have been even higher, because she was an industrious, kind and loving woman.


     The census records presented me with several other surprises or rather mysteries.  From the 1850 Census to the 1880 Census I found only George Richard Purchase and Joseph Purchase and their families.  However, in the 1900 Census I found a Jac Purchase, his wife Mary, and their 3 children; Clara, Lena, and James W.  In the 1910 Census I found a Ben Purchase, age 77, and wife Mary, age 73.

     The biggest mystery of all is not being able to locate anyone in Kentucky at the present with the PURCHASE name.  I searched property tax records at the court house in McCracken County and all adjacent counties.  I did not find a PURCHASE owning property or paying property taxes in 1992.  Where did they all go?  Did the girls get married, ending the name, or did all of them leave the state for parts unknown?  Well, perhaps the answer is both of the above.

     Another item from the census, which I found more interesting than surprising, was that in the 1880 Census of Ballard County, Kentucky (a county in close proximity to McCracken county) I found a Molinda Purchase and her four children.  Molinda was listed as a servant in the home William Apperson.  What was interesting about this family was that the census listed their race as Black.  Blacks first appeared in the Census of 1870.  Molinda and her children were not found in the 1870 Census, nor did I find her in any subsequent census records.  I wonder where she and her family went?  Perhaps she married; and if so, with a change in name I wouldn’t be able to locate her.

     I also found Purchases listed as Black in the 1910 Census of Pulaski county, Illinois.  There was a Thomas Purchase and his wife Jennie.  An Annie Purchase, age 5, who lived with Oscar and Ella Hagler.  An Edna Purchase, age 23, who had a 3 year old boy name Lorenzo.  I did not find any of these individuals in the census prior to 1910.  Where did they go?  Perhaps the 1920 Census, which will be made available in 1993, will provide us with some answers.


     I sent letters to all of the nonrelated Purchases that my daughter Jennifer had located during her library research; I was searching for descendants of the Purchase families from Paducah, Kentucky.  I wrote to more than a hundred families, but received only 5 responses.  None of the 5 claimed a relationship to the families from Paducah.

     However, of the 5 letters I received the one from Claude Purchase of Tonawanda, New York was a surprise.  In response to my letter, Claude sent me a brief history of his family from England.  His Great Grandfather was Edward Purchase from Somersetshire, Haselbury-Plucknett, England.  Claude stated in his letter that Edward was born in 1792, and was buried in a church cemetery in Haselbury-Plucknett.  Claude arrived in the U.S. in 1946.  The 1841 Census of England shows Edward Purchase, his wife Hannah, and their children just as Claude stated in his letter.

     This Edward Purchase is obviously the same Edward Purchase listed in the LDS PURCHASE history.  Not only are they from the same town in England, their dates of birth are the same.

     Another interesting aspect of Claude’s letter is the date of death of his Great Grandfather Edward on 2/26/1874.  My sister, Lois, gave me a postcard that my Grandfather George had sent from New York City in 1874, before he boarded a ship to England.  The postcard indicates he expected to reach Liverpool, England on January 27, 1874.  If Edward indeed was his uncle, then returning to England because Edward was ill and possibly dying could explain the postcard and trip home to England.


     Most family oral history can be supported in whole or in part through various documents such as birth and marriage certificates.  However, the story of the river boat disaster on the Ohio or Mississippi Rivers may remain a family mystery.

     My father told me the story of his Grandparents who arrived in the Unites States from England only to die on a river boat as it made its way up the river to its final destination of Paducah, Kentucky.  The boat sank from some type of unspecified disaster, possibly a boiler fire.

     It seems that his father, George Richard Purchase, remained in England to sell family owned property.  When he finally arrived in the United States he was then told of his parents’ death.

     I reviewed various records both here in the United States and in England and was not successful.  However, I was not that surprised since I had very little to go on.  There were many, possibly several hundred, river boat disasters along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers throughout the 1800’s, and the available literature that lists the names of casualties does not indicate any with name of Purchase.

     I do believe the story is based on a true incident.  However, there is that possibility some parts of the story might have been modified over the years making it just that much more difficult to verify.


     George Richard Purchase died in October 1901 and was buried at the Oak Grove Cemetery with his first family.  In 1903 my paternal Grandmother decided to marry John Bennett of Paducah, Kentucky.  To do so, she had leave Paducah because the laws of Kentucky did not permit marriage between the races.  Her husband to be, John Bennett, was Black.

     Mary and her three sons, - George, Johnny, and James (her daughter, Bertha, remained in Paducah with relatives who were her godparents) moved to Cairo, Illinois.  Interracial marriages were permissible in Illinois.

     Mary and John were married in Cairo in 1903.  In 1904 they had a child; a daughter named Edna.  Mary, John and the children lived in Cairo for about ten years.  They moved to Future city, Illinois around 1913.  Future city was a rural predominately Black community located outside of Cairo’s city limits.

     During the Depression Mary and John Bennett moved to Klondike, Illinois where they farmed and raised hogs for a butcher named Joe Mulham, in Cairo.  In the spring of 1932, while butchering a large hog, John met with a serious accident; when the crew was lifting a large hog, the pulley snapped and John fell into a large kettle of scalding water.  He died several months later on July 7, 1932.

     After John’s death, my Grandmother retired and moved back to Cairo.  In 1948 she went to Mexico, Missouri to live with her daughter, Edna and son-in-law, Hardy Pierce.  She died on April 29, 1949 in Mexico, Missouri, but was returned to Cairo for burial next to her husband, John Bennett, in the Beech Grove Cemetery, of Mounds, Illinois.


     George Purchase Jr. entered the U.S. Army in 1919.  After discharge, he became ill (suffering from war nerves) and, unfortunately, spent the remainder of his life at the V.A. Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois.  He died on 10/06/1959 at the V.A. Hospital in Danville, Illinois and was buried in the V.A. Cemetery on the hospital grounds.

     John Purchase left home when he was 17 years old.  He corresponded with my Grandmother for about 20 years, but never returned to Cairo.  I could not find any trace of him through military records or Social Security records.  I believe he might have died at a young age.  Surely, he would have stayed in contact with his family in Cairo, and eventually filed for a Social Security card.  Some say he might have changed his name to Johnny Bennett, after his Step-father.  I could not find a Social Security record on this name either.

     Bertha married Alonzo (Lonnie) Hutchison of Paducah, Kentucky; they had four children.  She died in her early thirties.  Following Bertha’s death, her family did not keep in touch with my Grandmother nor my father.  Through my research I learned from a relative of Lonnie’s, who now reside in Lone Oak, Kentucky, that Bertha’s children are living in the area of St. Louis, Missouri.  I was not successful in my attempt to locate them there.


January 2011 History Update


         In 2011 I continued my research of Bertha (Purchase) Hutchison.  With the use of the "Internet", a great deal more information is now available to me for review.  In my new research I was able to locate a death certificate for Bertha, my father's sister.  She died a lingering death from an accidental injury received July 27, 1928.  My sister Lois (Purchase) Howard stated that she had heard as a child that Bertha died from an injury while pumping water.  Apparently, the handle of the pump popped up and hit her in the stomach.  If you have ever used a "hand pump", you would understand just how this could occur.  She was pregnant at the time.  She died several days later on August 2, 1928 of a "hemorrhage", as indicated by the death certificated.

     She died in Paducah, KY and was buried on August 3, 1928 in the "Wyatt" cemetery.  Her husband, Alonzo Hutchison, signed the death certificate as the "informant".  As of today, I have not been able to locate the Wyatt Cemetery, which I was informed by those living in Paducah, KY that it could be one of many private cemeteries locate there.

     Also, during my recent research I reviewed the "Kentucky Birth Index - 1911-1999".  I found birth information on Bertha's children.  She actually had six children rather than four previously believed; they are Jennelk, William C., Kathleen, Robert L., Charles E., and Clarence G.  With this new information about her children, I again tried to locate family members of Alonzo Hutchison in Paducah, KY.  Even though there were many in the  Paducah telephone directory with the name "Hutchison", not one, however, indicated a relationship to Alonzo.

     One of her children, Charles E. Hutchison, died in "1999" in Danville City, Virginia.  I found only one working telephone number of a "Hutchison" in Danville.  He stated he was not related.

     In another index, I found Clarence G. Hutchison, another child of Bertha's, once living in Owensboro, KY.  Again, I was unsuccessful in locating a family member in Owensboro.

     Further review of Kentucky state records indicated Alonzo was born "about 1894" and died August 16, 1965 in McCracken Co., KY.


      Edna married Lee Cook of Future City, Illinois in 1919; they had three children; - Dorothy, William, and Charles. 

     Subsequently, she was divorced and remarried; there were no children from her later marriages.  She is now a widow and lives in Los Angeles, California.

     Dorothy married Charles Harris of Cairo, Illinois.  They had 2 children.  Dorothy died in the early 1940’s and is buried in the Bennett’s family plot at Mounds, Illinois.

     William lives in Los Angeles, California and Charles lives in Cresthill, Illinois. 

      James, my father, married Berthen Ellen Spurlock, my mother, on 7/01/1918.  They had 15 children and with the exception of their second child, Geraldine, who was born in South Bend, Indiana, all were born in Cairo, Illinois.

     In 1953 my parents and their six youngest children moved to Paw Paw, Michigan.  We lived there for 13 years.  When my father retired in 1966, my parents and I moved back to Future City, Illinois.

     Both of my parents are now dead.  My mother, Berthen, died at their home in Future City, IL in August, 1978.  My father, James, died ten years later in 1988 at a nursing home in Cincinnati, Ohio where he had been in residence for about two years.  My parents are buried side by side at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Villa Ridge, Illinois.