Saturday, August 12, 2017


My Great-Great-Great-Grandfather George Givens (it was "Givinn" in Ireland) was born in 1743 in Ballygawley, County Tyrone, which is now in Northern Ireland. While in Ireland he married, lost that wife to death, and married another and by those two women had five sons. In 1794, George decided to emigrate to the New World. He was 51years old! One son died and was buried at sea; another died shortly before landing but they were allowed to wait to bury him on land. George's wife and another son died shortly after landing. He placed the two remaining sons with families in Pennsylvania. In 1798, he married Miss Nancy Morgan, aged 20--talk about a dirty old man--and with her and his son Robert, went to Massieville, OH, where they remained until 1807 when George secured a patent for a new tract of land located in what is now the eastern part of Pike County in Seal Township. He lived there until 1846 when he died at the age of 103. On his grave is a 4-feet marble tombstone with the inscription:



A Native of Ireland


SEPT. 29, 1846.


103' y'r of his


I don't know what the first "A" means. I have a tombstone rubbing of the tombstone hanging on the wall of my library.

George and Nancy Morgan Givens had eight children.

Their son James (1810-1878) married Frances Graham (1808-1887).

James and Frances' daughter Nancy Givens (1829-1910) married Angus Langum Parrill (1827-1887) on Christmas Day, 1848.

Nancy and Angus' daughter Margaret Nancy Parrill (1868-1956) married Sherman Tecumseh Shirkey (1866-1944) on August 14, 1895.

Margaret and Sherman's son Kenneth Velorus Shirkey (1902-1973) is my father.

Every generation of my family has had a girl named Nancy EXCEPT mine! My mother refused to name me that but I always said that if I had a daughter I would name her Nancy Morgan, in honor of that young woman who came to the wilds of Ohio and survived!

I have a copy of George Givens' Last Will and Testament which is on file in Pike County, OH.  It begins:

"I, George Givens of the County of Pike and State of Ohio, being weak in body but of sound and disposing mind and memory do make and publish my Last Will and Testament."

He was 101 when he made the will, and I love the part about being "weak in body, but of sound and disposing mind and memory", but what I find far more interesting is this section: "I give to my beloved wife Nancy all my household furniture, one cow and one riding horse and that she shall have her support and live with my son Thomas Givens during her natural life and be by him supported." In those days, women could not inherit and were no more than the property of a man! Even the household furniture belonged to George, not Nancy, and she was ordered to live with their son.

When I first read Walt Whitman's Pioneers! O Pioneers  in the 11th grade, I thought of Grandma Nancy and how brave she had to be.  Here are my favorite verses of the poem:

"For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers!"

"All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!"

"O you daughters of the West!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united,
Pioneers O pioneers!"

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