Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Brown Neighbors not Brown Kin

RPPC verso, Postmarked Great Valley, Oct. 14, 1907 to Miss Anna Brown, 151 St. James Pl, Buffalo NY.

On October 9, 1907, a woman from Great Valley, New York penned a few lines to Miss Anna Brown, who was then residing at 151 St. James Place in Buffalo, New York. The woman wrote that she received Anna's card and that "it was very nice." Obviously referring the photograph of the house on the front of the card, she wrote: "This is like the card you see in my book, part of our house and Nellie's." She signed off "I remain your friend, Grace."

Close to one hundred and ten years later, the real photo post card (RPPC) passed by my desk, lent to me for study by local friends who know my keen interest in history. Just a few weeks earlier, another friend had asked if anyone was aware of there being a house on her family's property before the second world war. She had already asked some of the locals, but no one could recall. When her family purchased the property, there was no house. In dismantling a small structure they had put up a few years ago, signs of a house foundation, a silo foundation and an intact bottle were unearthed.

I have always been intrigued by the large house across the road from this property, but knew little of the area which is part of what is called Willoughby, on the Humphrey Road. I tucked these questions in the back of my mind.

Working with the Great Valley Town Historian, I helped put on a genealogy fair for the town of Great Valley on Saturday, January 7, 2017. Before and after my presentation, I tried to speak with as many attendants as I could to talk about their Great Valley connections but I did not take any notes and eventually names and places blurred together. I thought I had specifically asked one gentleman about the large house on Humphrey Road and was given the name "Oyer." Later, one of my co-workers who was at the fair reminded me that the home her parents lived in was owned by an Oyer family, only this house is on another road. I remain unsure if I heard the name Oyer in connection with that large house then or not, but I need to back track in the research story first.

A few days ago, I sat down to study this RPPC. I knew that Anna Brown was probably of the William Brown family who resided in Great Valley during that time period. This RPPC was in an envelope along with a cropped RPPC showing three women, two identified as Dorothy Wilson and Ada Marble. Another small photograph in the envelope shows a family group with identified members of the Brown family taken about 1920. From other research done, I know that Dorothy Wilson was the daughter of Horace Aumock and his wife, Rose M. Brown. Rose Brown was a daughter of William Brown. (I also know Rose's mother Augusta was the sister to Ada Marble's mother, Hannah Herpst Nagel, but that is too many twists in the family tree to sort out right now.)

William J. Brown, born in July 1847, immigrated with his father John from Wurttemburg Germany in 1852 and settled in Ellicottville, Cattaraugus County, New York as early as 1855. William was in New Albion, Cattaraugus County, New York during the 1870 federal census, living with and near others also from Wurttemburg, doing farm work. He settled in Great Valley as early as 1875 and was enumerated there that year during the state census with his wife Augusta and young daughter Juliet, 5 months old. Augusta eventually was the mother of twelve children altogether, with ten surviving to adulthood. In addition to the Rose Brown mentioned earlier, they also had a daughter Anna C. Brown, born June 1884 who eventually married Harlan Meacham.

This Anna Brown was the recipient of the RPPC Who was the sender, Grace, I wondered. Typing in "Grace" in Great Valley, NY between 1905-1910 in the search engine at yielded a few prospects. Most intriguing was that of Grace Oyer who lived on Humphrey Road in 1910 with her parents Smith and Ruth Oyer, a brother Wallace and Smith's widowed mother-in-law, Juliette Brown. The Oyer family was living on the Humphrey Road during the 1905 state census as well. Grace was 19. Next door to them was 28-year-old Charlie Lougee and his 24-year-old wife Nellie.  Do we have our Grace and Nellie? Is there a family connection with the maternal grandmother Juliette Brown? The answer is yes and no.

My brain was now mulling over this RPPC. Then it finally dawned on me that the house pictured is the large house I have been curious about! In re-examining the photo, I see that I am looking at Humphrey Road and that the house on the other side, Nellie's, is proof that there was a house during that time on my friend's current property! At this time, I have not tracked down land ownership records, but another friend tells me that Jack Ehman owned the large house. He remembered being taken up in an airplane by Jack Ehman fifty-seven years ago. He was not sure but thought a Clarence and Eva owned the house before Jack, maybe they were Jack's parents. This may not be quite accurate, but will be left for a further historical excursion.

RPPC, Postmarked Great Valley, Oct. 14, 1907 showing the home of Smith David Oyer on the Humphrey Road.

I wanted to know more of the connection between Grace and Anna. Were they Brown kin? Grace's father was Smith David or David Smith Oyer. His obituary is listed in the June 19, 1929 edition of the Ellicottville Post newspaper. He died in Salamanca, leaving his widow Mrs. Ruth Oyer, one daughter Mrs. Chas. Lougee and two sons, Clarence and Wallace, all of Salamanca. Clarence Oyer purchased the old Smith Oyer farm in December of 1929 according to the December 25th edition of the Ellicottville Post. In first looking at the obituary, I thought our Grace was married to Charles Lougee, but it turned out it was her sister Nellie who married him instead. Tragically, Grace succumbed to influenza and died in Great Valley in October of 1918 according to a death notice in the Ellicottville Post on October 23, 1918 and so was not a survivor listed in her father's obituary.

Although Grace was buried under the surname Oyer as seen by a listing, there is a marriage record listed on of Grace Oyer to John Mack that took place in Limestone, New York on January 8, 1917. The record indicates Grace, born about 1887 in Great Valley, was the daughter of Smith Oyer and Ruth Ellen Brown.

Grace's father was the son of the late Peter A. Oyer and his wife Rachel Vedder of Ellicottville according to his obituary. Ironically, Peter and Rachel Oyer lived next door to William J. Brown's father John Brown and family during the 1855 state census in Ellicottville. If we go trying to prove that Ruth Ellen Brown was related to these German Browns, though, we would be barking up the wrong family tree.

Instead, we find another Juliette Brown in Great Valley during the 1875 state census. Remember, 5-month-old Juliet, daughter of William and Augusta Brown? Living just four households away from them is an older Juliette Brown, wife of Sheldon P. Brown. Also in the household are Sheldon and Juliette's children Mary, Ruth E. and James D. along with James' wife and two young sons. Ruth E. Brown was later to become the wife of Smith Oyer. The father of Sheldon P. Brown is identified as David M. Brown, a native of Londonderry, New Hampshire in the Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial of Cattaraugus Co. NY, ed by William Adams and published in 1893. According to this biography, in 1842 David Brown, "while on a visit to brothers on the coast of Maine," "secured the carcass of a whale 48 ft in length, which he had prepared and transported on wagons and canal boats, exhibiting it throughout the country. He finally sold it for $8000, and it is still exhibited as a curiosity."Although not proven, it can be speculated that from the money secured from his curiosity, David may have had the fine home built on the Humphrey Road. We do know that Smith Oyer had experience in building houses as evidenced by a notice in the Ellicottville Post (found on in July of 1891 that he and J. Deininger both of Great Valley were engaged by A. Ward to build his residence. We will leave further speculation for another time.

To conclude, we see that there were separate Brown families living as neighbors in the area of Willoughby in Great Valley, New York in the early 1900s. Though not kin, Anna Brown and Grace Oyer were close in age and close in vicinity to each other. Having this real photo post card surface, solved this mystery as well as answering the question about a house in the vicinity during that time period. I would just like to know what happened to Grace's book she refers to in the post card. Might that surface one of these days, too?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Sharing From Another Memory-Keeper

I describe my historical research work as attempts to add knowledge to a foundation on which others may have laid or added to before. Mary Carr Dineen was one such previous foundation-layer or memory-keeper. Born in 1900, she was much loved by her family who mourned her passing in 1983. I never knew her, but became friends with her granddaughter some twenty years after Mary's death after having moved to the area where Mary's ancestors and descendants live.

As I noted in my profile, I bloomed where I was planted. Soon after arriving to the area, I joined the local county genealogy society (now defunct) and began editing the society's newsletter. I wrote a story about how I was helping my friend with her family history research in the November 2005 edition of the Cattaraugus Genealogy News. It started with my friend telling me about her grandmother and where the family was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery of Ellicottville, New York. I went on from there and continued to do research off and on over the years. My friend was always very much interested. She later shared with me some of Mary's old photographs and other memorabilia. Her uncle Dick had shared them with her as he lived in his mother's house after her passing. Judging from the stuff she kept, Mary was a memory-keeper and had many old interesting photos and other items passed down to her from earlier family members as well.

I continue to be fascinated with local history. Research is a great way to pass the time during the cold winter days in this Northern country. I eventually became involved with the Ellicottville Historical Society. With my friend's permission, I was able to share some items Mary kept as they were part of that town's history. I think Mary would have been pleased to find that the history she carefully saved and laid aside still means something to others years later. So from a closed dark box, we can now bring to light and illuminate pieces of local history to share with others.

RPPC from the Mary Carr Dineen collection.
 This Real Photo Post Card (RPPC) was postmarked Ellicottville, NY July 27, 1915 and sent to Miss Mary Carr of Franklinville, NY. Young Mary, whose ancestors originally came to the area from Ireland, would turn fifteen in November of that year. She would later go on to marry a man by the name of Thomas Ralph Dineen, also of Irish descent. Their marriage took place at the Catholic Church in Ellicottville, NY. Thomas R. was the son of Thomas L. Dineen and his wife Mary (Ida) Simmons.

Back of RPPC. 

The author of the post card was Gertrude "Gert" McKernan. We can find her listed at the age of 12 in the 1915 NY state census on Main Street in Ellicottville. She was living with her parents Thomas and Mary McKernan and her older siblings Anna, William E, and Leo J. Thomas and Leo were listed as farmers. William was listed as a printer apprentice. According to this census, her mother and sister did housework while Gertrude attended school.

Gert writes: "Hello Mary! What do you think of this? This is where I live down here, Mother, Marion and Genevieve Koopman of Buffalo and myself. Do you know me? The one on the left with the big tie. Gert." In the upper margin she also writes: "Guess what color the house is? Write to me sometime. The X is over me Ha Ha"

If you look closely on the front of the post card, you can see an X marked above the girl pictured on the left. The writing is in blue ink as is the X and the words "Main St" in the bottom left corner on the front. The notation "Thos. McKernan, Ellicottville, NY" is in white and part of the original print on the post card.

Just five years earlier, during the 1910 federal census, the Thomas McKernan family lived in the Devereaux area in the town of Franklinville. The census indicates that the mother Mary was the mother of eleven children with eleven living. Gertrude is the youngest of seven children enumerated in the household. Her sister Annie is a teacher of public school, while her father and older brothers Edward and George are dairy farmers.

We can deduce from these records and the post card a likely scenario of Gert and Mary being childhood friends together in Franklinville before Gert and her family relocated to nearby Ellicottville around 1915. Indeed, a 1907 school souvenir saved by Mary shows that some of her school chums were Gert's older siblings, Leo, William and George.

From the Mary Carr Dineen collection. 1907 School Souvenir.  
It is assumed that this is a photo
of the teacher, listed on the inside
as Ivah B. Kelley

But just like all families in communities with connections to this person and that one, Mary later winds up with other ties to the McKernan family. Another photograph found among her possessions is quite old, a tintype, carefully labelled by Mary to say "Jim McKernan (on the right), Harry's grandfather."

Tintype from the Mary Carr Dineen collection.
Jim McKernan on the right, other gentleman unknown.

I mentioned before that Mary's husband was Thomas Ralph Dineen. We have to dig through his family history to find the connection: Thomas' mother was Mary Ida Simmons. According to family information, she was born in February 1860 to Samuel W. Simmons and Anna Murphy. They were married in Ellicottville in December of 1853. Other children included a son Samuel, a daughter Harriett, and daughters Ann, born on March 23, 1855, and Hannah on December 3, 1858, both in Great Valley, Cattaraugus County, New York. A son Thomas, born in 1852, appears to have been from a previous marriage of Anna's. The daughter Ann went on to marry Perry Henry. Hannah went on to marry Michael W. McKernan.

Hannah, the wife of M. W. McKernan, died in June 1929. Her obituary was listed in the Ellicottville Post on June 19, 1929. It names her children as Hugh, Samuel, Harry, Roy and a daughter, Mrs. Anna Duhan. Here we discover who Harry McKernan is, a cousin of Mary's husband, Thomas Ralph Dineen.

A biography from the Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial of Cattaraugus County (Adams, 1893) listed the following on page 660 in the History of the Town of Franklinville:


Thomas McKERNAN, son of Thomas, was born in County Caven, Ireland, in 1823, and came with his son Hugh to Scottsville, N. Y., in 1848, where he was engaged in manufacturing barrel hoops. His wife, Ann PHILLIPS, whom he had married in Ireland, came to join her husband in 1849, bringing with her their children, James and Mary. After residing in Scottsville, Holley, and Eagle for brief periods the family moved to Ellicottville in 1866 and settled on a farm, where he died Oct. 18, 1879. His wife died Nov. 5, 1880. Children: a daughter who died in infancy, Hugh, Joseph, Frank, Thomas, John, Michael, and James. James McKERNAN was born Nov. 12, 1846, and Oct. 6, 1867 married Susan M., daughter of S. R. and Prudence WILLIAMS. Children: William, Joseph, John, Thomas, Catherine, Simeon, Helen, James, and Josephine.

The tintype would have been taken sometime in the 1870s or 1880s. The time period makes sense for it to be Jim (or James) McKernan judging from his age ascertained from this biographical entry. Jim would not have been Harry's grandfather though, he was Harry's uncle and brother to Michael who married Hannah Simmons. Harry's grandfather (Thomas McKernan born in 1823) would have been a much older man at that time.

There is more that could be researched and recorded regarding this family and probably even more research already out there, but I will leave that to others to add. I thank my good friend and in turn her grandmother Mary for being a memory-keeper. I have taken the things she left, combined them with a little records research, and illuminated some family and community connections to share with others. If the time is right, I hope that others out there will look and see what they might have in attics, cellars and boxes and likewise do the same. Someone down the road will be glad you did

Monday, January 2, 2017

Mappy Monday: The Town of Great Valley, Cattaraugus County, New York

1869 Beers Map of Great Valley, Cattaraugus County, New York
I have written before that "Gaining knowledge about an area and its history is invaluable to being successful in family research." Indeed, in my presentation on beginning your family history, I tell people that out of the three key elements in family history research (name, date and place), place is the most important.

I want to begin a new series on the town of Great Valley. Having a reference map is a great place to start. This will help orient people to the area. Although one might feel they know the area pretty well, there is always something new to be learned. The concept of many layers of knowledge about a subject matter is something I liken to the metaphysical concepts in the theory of there being many particles and waves in the universe which change when we focus our intent on one particular aspect. There is almost no way to focus on more than one aspect at any given time but that does not mean that there are more layers overall. Time is another concept layer altogether. I will leave further philosophical discussion about the universe for another venue and others who are much more learned on the subject.

The town of Great Valley will be celebrating its bicentennial in the year 2018. Preparations are being made to gather knowledge and plan celebrations to commemorate the occasion. Cattaraugus County, in which Great Valley is a part of, was formed in 1808. The town itself was formed from Olean in April 1818 and changes occurred in 1831 (the towns of Allegany and Humphrey, then known as Burton, were set off), 1842 (the town of Carrollton was formed) and 1847 (a portion of the Indian reservation was taken off) before its present limits were established.

The principal sources of historical information on the town come from two county histories, one written in 1879 and one written in 1893. A Bicentennial History of the county was published in 2008 with contributions from each town by their respective historians. The scope of the bicentennial publication only lent itself to mainly reiterating many facts originally established in the two earlier histories. For the most part, the 2008 history provides only sparse data on later historical events. Even the 1893 publication reuses wording and facts from the 1879 history.

1856 Map of Great Valley
It is difficult to celebrate a history without going back to the beginning origins and even harder to move forward in time. Framed in another philosophical way, Søren Kierkegaard said that Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. It is often only with the passing of time that we can even begin to look back in an effort to understand where we came from and where we are going. In looking at it from the metaphysical perspective spoken of earlier, we know that focusing on just one aspect narrows our view of the big picture. Determining the exact focus of a historical concept can be a daunting task. Inevitably something will be left out. Even as we work to chronicle the past, the future marches on, making this a never-ending task. I am cognizant of the human limits that constrain the work of historical compilation. We are only one part in the stream of history. Those who came before us are gone. We will soon take our place among them, leaving the future to others. In the preface to one of my family history book publications, I wrote that I was adding “to the work that others before me,” built up “from the foundations that were first laid by the very people whose lives we attempt to chronicle.”

The sources in my chronicle of the research on my ancestor John Goode shown here at this blog post illustrate this concept. You will note that chronologicallly four sources built upon each other in the stream of time to establish the correct identity and timeline for John Goode (ca. 1780-27 August 1814):

1887: G.B. Goode
1930: F.A. Virkus (editor)
1963: William C. Stewart
1995: Dawn Westfall

1916 Map of Great Valley
Later research undertaken may have proven that the English origins of this Goode family set forth by G.B. Goode are erroneous and will undoubtedly continue to be a work in progress. It is something I will leave for other historians to build upon. 

Returning to my original topic of the history of Great Valley, I believe organization is key. Future posts on the subject will be my attempts at organizing what I know. There are others who have participated in the town's history for much longer than I who will undoubtedly have more (and perhaps better) information. They may be able to focus more in-depth on a particular topic. I can only give you what I have, add what I know and have discovered. It is my hope that it will also be a project that others will build upon in the future. Stay tuned for future posts.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thriller Thursday: What happened to Charles Backus?

Oh dear, for those of you following this story fresh, this post never got scheduled for publication until now. I truly left you with a cliff-hanger. My apologies!

When I first began researching family history years ago, I had an elderly cousin tell me that it might not be a good idea as I might find horse thieves or worse. I think I recently found one.

I spent some time trying to compile what I recently discovered in online records on the Backus family of Wyoming County, New York. I mentioned my brief version of the research cycle in the previous Wednesday's post: gather, compile, analyze, do it all over again. In compiling, I go back through the records I have gleaned and make sure I have documentation for what I think I know during the gathering phase. It also highlights for me what is missing and what I might still have to go looking for, an important step.

The entry for Etna Smith Backus gives a transcript of her obituary which contains an important clue in establishing the ancestry of Rollie, namely that she was the mother of Charles Backus. I went to to look for a digital copy of the actual obituary. I was able to locate it in the Wyoming County Times and also found a brief mention of her death in the Buffalo Courier as well.

We also know from her burial records that she was the wife of Charles Backus. By the way, I found another source for the burial records online here which provided the exact place of her husband's birth, another important clue for future research. Plus doing a google search on Rev. Vradenburg yielded the tidbit that he was a pastor of the German Baptist church. This provides strength to Rollie's assertion that his family was of German origin as listed in the 1920 census data.

Anyway, I found both Charles Backus and Charles H. Backus in Arcade, Wyoming County, New York during the 1880 federal census and so can establish that Charles H. Backus was the son of Charles and Etna. Charles H.'s occupation was laborer. Charles Backus was listed as a miller in that census and specifically a grist miller in the 1870 federal census there.

Charles is accounted for in the cemetery records as is his wife and his daughter-in-law Permelia. But in compiling the data, I see I have no burial information for Charles H. What happened to him?

At this point, I have only been able to locate two more references to Charles H. Both are from the digital scans of newspapers at First, Charles H. Backus of Warsaw was one of two in the town who had been recently registered at the clerks office as veterinarians. This was according to the Thursday, October 28, 1886 edition of the Western New Yorker, a newspaper published in the village of Warsaw in Wyoming County.

But about three years later, we see that he might have used those skills in a different sort of way:

This reads in part: "...A week ago a valuable trotter was stolen from I. Sam Johnson, the ex-District Attorney of Wyoming county. The horse was taken out of a barn at Warsaw during the night. The thief is alleged to be Charles Backus, a horse trader. Backus took the animal to Buffalo. The first horse dealer he struck was Frank Murray, the Swan street liveryman. Backus told Murray that he was anxious to secure the horse and offered another horse and $35 in cash for it. Backus then went to Batavia with his new purchase and there made another trade for a horse and $2 to boot. Sheriff McGeary and Mr. Johnson came to Buffalo, suspecting that Backus was the horse thief and found him here. Mr. Johnson went back and forwarded a warrant for the arrest of Backus. He was found by Specials McCabe and Notter yesterday and arrested. He was taken to Warsaw last night."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wedding Wednesday: Permelia Burno, the bride of Charles H. Backus

While this post is not exclusively on a wedding, it does focus on a bride and her family origins. I am on a roll with blogging prompts this week so I want to keep the theme. I will finalize this post series with a Thriller Thursday post as my research into this family has an interesting ending.

Online records are scarce on anyone named Charles Backus in Wyoming County, New York and I was searching for two of them. The obituary listed online at on Etna Smith Backus indicated that she was the mother of Charles Backus. Inferred in that record (though no source stated) is that she was the wife of Charles Backus (1814-1881). It also infers her maiden name as Smith. The cemetery transcript mentioned in yesterday's post helps confirm those assertions as the transcript specifically states her maiden name and that she was the wife of Charles.

I mentioned previously that Wyoming County enumerations for the New York state 1892 census are not extant. The best we get on anyone named Charles Backus for census data is from the 1880 federal census. Charles and his wife Etna are listed as age 65 as household number 105 (Arcade, Wyoming County, New York). Charles H. and his wife Pamelia A. are listed as household number 35. Charles and Pamelia have five young females (the eldest is listed as Etna, presumably named for her grandmother although other records indicate she was later known as Etta Mae). They are a typical family for that time period as each of the children are 1-3 years apart in age. I also believe the child Backus who was interred on October 31, 1874 fit in here somewhere, too (refer back to the cemetery transcript. As the youngest child listed on the census was 3 years old, we can rightfully assume that another child will be coming along soon. The indirect evidence indicates that the next child was a (perhaps long-awaited) boy whom they named Rollie George. Records on Rollie show he was born in August of 1881.

For further proof of this implied relationship, we have to further explore the mother's family. The year she became the bride of Charles H. Backus is unknown but we presume it was at least by 1870 when their daughter Etna was born. She was born in New York, but Charles was not found in either Wyoming or Cattaraugus County during that census year. His father was enumerated in Arcade, but Charles H. was not listed in that household nor was he listed in the household of his father-in-law Paul Burno's. I will make no other assumptions other than to say I have been unable to find him in the 1870 census thus far.    

Paul Burno is more steadily found in census records although this is a name often spelled alternately (Burna/Burns). Below are abstracts of entries for his household:

1880, Wyoming Co, Arcade, NY, household 165/67
Burna, Paul age 65, farm labor, born Canada, father born France, mother born France
 " ", Eliza, age 59, daughter, keeping house, born NY, father born Mass,, mother born Mass.
Backus, Lizzie, age 9, granddaughter, born NY, father born NY, mother born NY

1870, Wyoming Co, Arcade, NY, household 8/8
Burno, Paul, 55, works on farm, born Lower Canada
" ", Sarah, 49, keeping house, born NY
" ", Clarissa, age 19, at home, born NY
" ", Clarinda, age 14, domestic servant, born NY
" ", Caroline, age 13, attend school, born NY
" ", Roselia, age 10, attend school, born NY
" ", Lewis, age 8, attend school, born NY

1860, Wyoming Co, China, P.O. Eagle Village, household 375/365 (Arcade was once called China)
Paul Burna, 41, farmer, L. Canada
Sarah E. " ", 39, NY
Pamelia, 16, housework, NY
Elton, 16, NY
Lorenzo, 12, NY
Clarissa, 10, NY
Clarinda, 9, NY
Caroline, 5, NY
Rozella, 3, NY

1850, Wyoming Co, NY, China, household 550/558
Paul Burno, 34, farmer, Canada
Eliza ", 29, NY
Newton [? indexed as Anderson] " ", male, 8, NY
Parmilla, 6, NY
Edson, 4, NY
Lorenzo, 3, NY
Clarissa, 1, NY

Before we analyze these records further, I wanted to note that it was not until after I started compiling the data in a narrative form did I think to look back in that cemetery transcript for a reference to Burnos. That's what I love about the research cycle: gather, compile, analyze, then do it all over again.

We can see from those census records the further indirect evidence that Rollie's mother was Permelia Burno Backus. Her father's birthplace is listed as Canada in the 1880 census in her husband's household. We find Pamelia living with her father Paul, a native of Lower Canada, in the 1850 and 1860 census as well as her sister (and Rollie's aunt) Clarissa. Paul even has his young granddaughter Lizzie Backus listed in his household in 1880 (It appears she was actually enumerated twice, both here and in her parents household) which further confirms the relationship.

So Permelia, born around 1844, became the bride of Charles H. Backus sometime around 1870. She died August 15, 1892 and was buried in the Arcade Rural Cemetery along with her father- and mother-in-law and probably one of her children who died in 1874. (I also determined that her mother was buried there in 1888.) The question is: What happened to her groom?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday (without a tombstone): Charles Backus and family of Wyoming County, New York

The other clue on the Backus family I needed to follow up with was the fact that Rolla Backus, age 16, was listed as a nephew in the household of Adelbert Hitchcock and his wife Clarissa during the 1900 federal census. They lived in the town of Yorkshire. Also living with the family was a son, Carl R. Hitchcock, age 15. In what ways could Rollie be a nephew? Rollie's mother could be a sister of Adelbert or Rollie could be the nephew of Adelbert's wife. The research I was able to do online on the Hitchcock family did not yield any connections to Rollie Backus that I could see.

Adelbert Hitchcock's wife is listed as Clarissa B. in other records and a Rootsweb WorldConnect submission gives her last name as Burnham. In 1910, Clarissa's birth place is listed as New York, her father's as Canada (English) and her mother's as New York. Clarissa was born about 1851 and was the mother of three living children. Her and "Delbert" were married 37 years according to this census, putting the wedding date in the year 1873. The 1892 state census shows Adelbert and Clarissa with three children Homer F. [sic] age 18, Lenna W., age 16 and Carl R. age 7. None of this helped tie Rollie to the family definitively, so I left it for another day.

That day came on my Thanksgiving break this year. I was not even actually researching the Backus name although my mother-in-law had been here for Thanksgiving dinner. I was looking up some general information about the town of Java in a January 1980 edition of the Historical Wyoming County newsletter, a copy of which is found at In the same newsletter, I also found a transcript of the Arcade Rural Cemetery which included four entries for the surname Backus. This just happened to catch my eye because of Java being the birthplace of Rollie's son. None of these names matched what I had so far but I printed out the information to check later against what I did know.

What luck I had with this one! Sometimes I really believe the ancestors nudge us along. Truly there was really nothing to suggest that this Backus family buried in Arcade Rural Cemetery was the right family. Just juxtaposed to information about the town of Java made me think about it, although the areas are within proximity.

The information from the cemetery transcript is as follows:

Charles Backus, July 15, 1814 - Oct. 6, 1881. (Son of John)
Etta Smith, wife, died May 1889, -- Yrs.
Permelia Backus, wife, Charles, and
Dau. Paul and Sarah E. Burno, died Aug 15, 1892, -- Yrs.
Child Backus, interred Oct. 31, 1874

Still really nothing to go on, but I went back to looking at online records on the Hitchcock family to see if I could figure out if Clarissa B. Hitchcock was the family link for Rollie. For the record, the child listed as Homer F. Hitchcock in 1892 appears to actually be Herbert E. Hitchcock born 1874. Herbert died in 1933 and is buried in the Delevan Cemetery in Delevan, Cattaraugus County, New York. It is a record on the son Carl Hitchcock, though, that yielded a bingo winning in the game of family connections here.

From, I retrieved a marriage record of Carl R. Hitchcock age 25 and Evelyn M. Dornan in Cattaraugus County. Carl's parents are listed as Adelbert Hitchcock and Clarissa Burno. Aha! A probable connection to Permelia Burno Backus listed in the cemetery transcript. Time to look further at this Backus family. It was a tombstone kind of search as further information was gleaned from Much of it confirmed what was listed in the cemetery transcription. Click on the names below as they are linked to the entry for each.
Image from

Charles Backus
Etna Smith Backus
Permelia Burno Backus

Interestingly enough the entries on indicate that the burial information for each of these was from the Wyoming County Historian's office but no gravestones were found. The Historical Wyoming Newsletter did not include information regarding when the transcript was originally completed, but the date of the newsletter was January 1980. This issue began the transcript, though it was not completed in that issue. I believe the remainder of the transcript ran in subsequent issues after that.

Even without a tombstone, I was able to confirm the connections with further research into the Burno family, but I will save the details of that information for another post.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Matrilineal Monday: An Update on Jennie Hayes, wife of Rollie Backus

In January 2014, I wrote a post summarizing what I had so far on the ancestors of my mother-in-law, Ruth. I was stopped on Rollie George Backus who was born 15 August 1881 in New York. Rollie had a son named Herman who was born in the town of Java on 1 March 1905. One step in a potential research plan was to obtain a birth certificate on Herman but I have never done so.

Another action on my list was to explore any Hayes enumerated in Cattaraugus or Wyoming County during the 1900 census to try and find the parents of Jennie who married Rollie. I suspected that Jennie's maiden name was Hayes based on a newspaper entry found at stating under the heading of Lime Lake that "Miss Iva Hayes returned from a month's visit with her sister, Mrs. Rollie Backus at Curriers Corners."

I went back over those newspaper entries recently. I was able to pinpoint that this entry was dated July 15, 1903. I also went back to the original announcement of the birth of a son to Mr. and Mrs. Rollie Backus in the town of Java. Underneath that entry it stated that "Mrs. Hayes of Machias is caring for her daughter, Mrs. Backus."  This further confirms that Jennie's maiden name was Hayes.

Using those clues, I still have had a hard time trying to come up with a matching Hayes family in either county during the 1900 federal census or the 1892 New York state census. (I did determine that the 1892 enumeration for Wyoming County is not extant which is good to know for further research). Lime Lake is just a small hamlet of Machias which are both in Cattaraugus County but I was still not having much luck identifying the Hayes family I needed.

I did find a sweet newspaper entry for Jennie and Iva Hayes showing how they did in school:

Image from

I found a couple more entries for Iva Hayes: In May of 1904 she was visited by the Misses Gertrude and Bessie Phillips. In May of 1907 under the area heading "Elton" it was noted that "Miss Iva Hayes of the Lake road is spending some time at Mrs. Hills." There were no other entries for Jennie Hayes but under the same heading wherein Iva was listed as visiting her sister in 1903 (but in the second column of the newspaper), Frank Lafferty and family were visiting George Hayes of Lime Lake as well.

I typed in George Hayes residing in Cattaraugus County for the years 1892-1910 at In the 1900 federal census, I found George B. Hayes, age 27, born December of 1873, in the household of his parents, Erwin and Mandania Hayes in the town of Yorkshire. This was the same town Rollie was living that year with his uncle Adelbert Hitchcock. Even better, George had two sisters listed, one named Nancy (age 12, born August 1887) and one named Jennie. Perfect, right?

Well, there appears to a discrepancy, though. Jennie's age is given as 9 and her birth month and year as June of 1890. I'd be inclined to dismiss it and probably did before but I found Iva with the same family in 1905. William E. Hayes age 61 and wife Mandana 52 are listed with Iva Hayes age 14 during the 1905 New York state census. (Luckily his wife has a distinctive name.) Besides the husband and wife still listed in Yorkshire for the 1910 census (Mandania was listed as the mother of 5 living out of 10 children), nothing else comes up for William E. Hayes or Erwin Hayes in I did a quick google search and found an index for the name Mary Mandania Pettengell but could not locate anything further.

The final thing for now that I have found is an old photograph of Erwin Hayes of Yorkshire in a 1976 edition of the Olean Times Herald. He was a war veteran and is listed here with others of his post:

Image from;
Erwin Hayes is front row, sixth from the left, with arms crossed