Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Past, Present & Future

Yeah! I got everything in order in time to participate in the next carnival of genealogy - and just in time, too :)

Christmas Past~

For Christmas past, I am posting these photos of an album that was more than likely a Christmas gift that my grandmother's aunt, Bettie Hardy Gross, received in the year 1887. It became filled with autographs of friends and family through the year 1908. My father's cousin sent it to me as it had been among the things owned by his mother, Ruby, who was one of Bettie's nieces. It's one of those echoes of the past that I cherish.

Dec. 27th 1887

Christmas 2011

Christmas Present~

For Christmas present, I share a snapshot of a decorating scene I put together in my living room this year.

Christmas Future~

Although this next photograph is actually a few years old, I submit it to represent the future. For that's what children are - the future. One of my favorite quotes is: "We cannot fail our children, for they are the messengers we send to a time and a place we will never see." (Former Maj. Gen. John Stanford)

These are my messengers. I hope they pass along echoes of me.

Christmas 2003

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Famous Relatives

I had to chuckle when I read Randy Seaver’s post about being related to Mitt Romney. I’ve been researching family history for over twenty years, but I don’t think I’ve ever looked up to see how I’m related to any political figure. I don’t say that to brag, though. My chuckling comes from the fact that I just recently had a tidbit to share with my daughter. She’s a big science fiction fan, loves Dr. Who, the Lost series, Harry Potter. Most recently she’s gotten into Star Wars.
A portion of my children’s ancestry is out of Ontario, Canada and I recently ran across a website on the ancestry of Mary Margaret Bouk who married Wellington Smith in the town of Thorold in Ontario. I first found mention of this family line on the WorldConnect project of the trusty site (may it ever stay free) and contacted the submitter about some of his sources.
The submitter, Bob Keith, graciously provided me with information and directed me to his website on the Keith family. Mr. Keith also wrote a fictionalized version of the family history and I promptly purchased a copy from Both in the book and on his website, Mr. Keith notes well-known individuals who are connected to this large German family. One of them happens to be George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars.
Now, mind you, I have been studying genealogy for longer than my children have even been on this earth. So far, none of them have even been remotely interested in what I have found. They are gracious enough to listen to mother when she goes on about dead people, but that’s only because I’ve raised them to be polite.
I finally garnered a bit of interest when I shared with my sci-fi fan that she was related to George Lucas. “Cool!” she replied and went back to texting. A minute later, she looked up and asked how she was related. “Oh, you’re probably like ninth cousins* or something.” Back she went to her texting. “Are you sharing this information with your friends?” I asked. “Well, of course!” she replied.
Wow, for a brief moment, family history garnered a bit of attention from the teen crowd. Cool!

*It turns out when I did the math that they are seventh cousins one generation removed.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Sort of...

I had my former mother-in-law, Ruth, and her husband over for dinner on Christmas Day. She's no longer married to my former father-in-law and from the use of the word "former," you can tell I'm no longer married to my husband as well. To add to the mix, she's really my former husband's stepmother, but the relationship endures. Technically, it's not a matrilineal line but in another way it is.

Because of my obsession with all things genealogy, I had looked into her family history years ago. On her mother's side, a book has been written which goes back several generations and is so intertwined with the local history that I discovered she and one of my closest friends and neighbor are related through a set of twins. I unfortunately had never been able to get far on her father's side of the family, though, and the stories her father told were often confusing. Her father passed away two years ago, just a month after my own father died.

So last night after a nice ham dinner, I sat down with her at the computer to see what else we could find. I have become rather practiced at picking up family lines and using a variety of searches (including Google) to discover at least some records out there on the internet.

Ruth knew her grandparents' names and typing in those along with the place of Lackawanna, NY, I came up with obituaries on two of her aunts who lived in Pennsylvania. Her grandparents had about ten children and there were lots of names that prompted Ruth's memories about the family. But we were hopeful of finding something on the earlier generations for which she has nothing but a blank slate.

Using, I did find her grandparents in Lackawanna in the 1930 census. Then using the estimated birth dates, I was able to find her grandfather as a youngster in his father's household in 1920 and 1910. From those and other records we determined that her great-grandparents were Rollie George Backus born around 1882 or 1884 in New York of German descent and Jennie born ca. 1886 in New York. Rollie worked in the lumber business (at one point he was a machinist in a saw mill in a town in Erie County, New York). They had another child by the name of Phoebe (born about 1909) who appparently married a man named Lloyd Graves by 1930.

She was delighted with the information we found and I was happy about the progress we made as well. I take a lot of pleasure in being able to help people find something about their roots. As time allows, I will continue to dig around and see what else I can find.

We also have plans to take a trip in the spring to go the cemetery in Lackawanna where her grandparents are buried. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It Only Took Ten Years

Photo by Crispin Semmens
After my cousin contacted me about Samuel Watts, Sr. and his possible English connections, I did a Google search to find out more about the reference to the 1738 christening in Frome, Somerset, England. (See the previous post about that here.)

I got a hit on the Watts Genforum (hint: you can search the forum using keywords such as Halifax) and was able to pinpoint the IGI source entry from a helpful researcher who had listed it for my benefit after I had advertised my Watts book on the site back in 2001. While there, I caught up on some other postings in reference to this family.

I was excited to see a more recent posting that said:

"Dear Dawn,
A book entitled 'Sands through our Fingers' by Eunice M. White 1980, has just come into my possession. She refers to Samuel of England/Halifax Co. Va. then son William who married Martha Lee 1795, then went to Kentucky. I am descended from his son James who married Sarah Hulett and went to Howard County Missouri..."

I wrote my book in 2001 and at that time, had little else on this William Watts besides his marriage date. I was only able to note that he disappeared from Halifax Co, VA records around 1807. I figured he probably migrated elsewhere, but the name is way too common for me to attempt to match him up somewhere.

But finally after ten years, I have discovered where he ended up and contacted that descendant. She graciously provided me with scanned copies of the relevant pages from Eunice White's book.

Another cousin connection, what fun!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Athaliah Mullins of Halifax Co, VA: Was She Born a Boyd or a Watts?

Old cabin at Neals Corner, Halifax County, Virginia

Years ago, I had a Mullins researcher send me a chart on David Mullins of the Halifax Co, VA area b. ca. 1744, d. 1823 TN who married Athaliah b. ca. 1764.

This researcher speculated that Athaliah was a Watts based on the fact that David and Athaliah named a daughter Mary Watts Mullins (1782-1851) who married John Laine III 7 Oct 1797 in Halifax Co, VA. This made me wonder if Athaliah could have been the Latty, child of Thomas & Mary Watts, christened in Frome, England in 1754. The John Laine could be part of the same Lane family as Mary “Polly” Lane who married Roland H. Watts the son of Samuel Jr. This seems to make sense, but until more research is done, it can only remain a theory at this time. Just like with the speculation about Samuel Watts, Sr. of Halifax Co, VA and his English origins (see the previous post about that here).  

At, of the twenty listings for David Mullins born in 1745, four listings have no spouse listed, two have unknown last name for Athaliah and the rest have his spouse as Athaliah Boyd. This can send someone in circles as people have just incorporated others' work in with their file. I was not able to find a good source listed for any of the entries.

I sure would love to hear from someone researching the Mullins family.  If I can determine the source for Athaliah's maiden name, then I can examine that evidence and determine if this Watts theory holds merit or not.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cousin Connecting

Photo by Megan Westfall

I got a phone call the other day from a distant Watts cousin. We got in touch ten years ago when I put together my Watts book and were able to meet at a family reunion in Virginia during that time. He and his uncle were recently looking at our earliest progenitor, Samuel Watts, Sr., and wanted to do some further research.

I'm all for someone picking up where others have left off in exploring family roots. I've put together several books on my family lines knowing that I can't do it all, but wanting to put my two cents worth of work out there. In many instances, I myself added to the work others before me had done. My hope is that even if I'm not able to get back to it, at least someone else can begin where I left off and add their own contributions. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. In any event, I am happy knowing that I have played a part in bridging the gap between the future and the past.

As you will note from my page on the Watts family, I have Samuel Sr. listed with a possible birth date of about 1738. I made this calculation mainly based on the fact that in February of 1788, Samuel appeared in the Halifax County, VA court records and for "reasons appearing" his motion to be exempt from the payment of taxes was granted. [1] A tax exemption during this time period was most likely due to age or infirmity (see the website Bob's Genealogy Filing Cabinet under Taxes & Tithables for an excellent discussion by Robert Baird on understanding this topic for the state of Virginia).

I have not been able to connect Samuel to any other area besides Halifax County, Virginia. One clue to his origins is from a biographical sketch of his son, Samuel Jr., which indicated the family was from England. [2]

Source information:

     [1]Halifax County, Virginia Court Orders, plea book 12, p. 311 (microfilm from the Virginia State Archives).
     [2] Letter from Mildred Miller of Missouri which included a photocopy of a biographical sketch of the Samuel Watts family cited as from the book, History of Audrain County, Missouri, no publishing information available. This sketch stated Samuel Jr. was born in England, though this writer feels that is probably inaccurate and more likely his father or grandfather was the one born in England.

Now with the information from my book began circulating, people picked up on the possible English connection and the 1738 birth year approximation and point to an early International Genealogical Index (IGI) entry wherein a Samuel Watts was christened on 22 July 1738 in Frome, Somerset, England to parents Thomas & Mary Watts (source given as batch #7124503, serial #64). My cousin wanted to know if I had seen this reference and what I thought about it. Here's part of my response:

"I am aware of nothing that proves that our Samuel and the one who was christened in England in 1738 are one and the same. I’d wait for some sort of proof before I’d rely on it.
It’s certainly a possibility based on what little is known about this guy, but can only be speculation at this point. I guessed that he was born about the year 1738 because in 1778 he was exempt from taxes. This usually meant someone was over the age of 50. It also seems to fit in terms of when his children were likely born and his military service.
There are references to a Thomas Watts in the Halifax Co, VA court records as early as 1755. Could this have been our Sam’s father then? This could be another possible clue, but there’s not much else to go on at this point.
Samuel is still very much a shadowy figure in my mind. If he was born in England, when did he come to America? How old was he? Who did he come with? Why? When and where did he enlist in his military service? How did he acquire the slaves he gave to his daughter? What happened to the rest of his estate? What happened to this first Thomas?"

Monday, December 12, 2011

A New Way to Carol

I just love singing Christmas Carols! I'm participating in the old-fashioned version next week with my church and just finished performing a Christmas Cantata last Sunday afternoon with another church group.

Thanks, footnoteMaven for letting me participate in this high-tech version of caroling. Here's my favorite:

O Holy Night
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Bannerman Family Mystery

Among the many old photographs originally in my grandfather's possession, there is one that has haunted me and has remained a mystery all these years. The photograph is of three children with their names and ages typeset at the bottom of the photograph. “William, 10 years, Robert 8, and Maggie Bennerman, 4 Years Old.” Who were they?

My grandfather was not able to identify them, though his memory was remarkably sharp and accurate until his death at the age of 96. I first noticed this picture and the others that my grandfather had in 1989 when I embarked on the adventure of genealogy. Since then I have traced all of my father's ancestors at least back to the early 1800s (and a lot beyond). But I never ran into the Bennerman name, anywhere. Not as ancestors of mine, not even as neighbors.

I am lucky enough to even have a name to match the faces in the photograph in the first place. Early in my research, I visited the Tampa stake of the LDS church and I mentioned the Bennerman name as one I'd be researching. The director there commented on the name but we didn't go into specifics and I quickly found information on other names of interest and forgot about them for awhile.

Several years later, I had the opportunity to spend the weekend at the Orlando library. I had been studying my old photographs and again my interest was piqued about the Bennerman name, especially since I had completed a lot of research at that point and had not run into the name in any family lines. I took the photograph along with me and first did research on old photographs to try and determine the time period in which it was likely to have been taken. From the information of one book, I believed it was taken in the 1860s. I then checked the 1860 census index books for the states of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. These states are primarily where most of my father's ancestors lived. I had no luck in any of those. One of my family lines (Lovelace/Stiller) came from North Carolina (Iredell & Rowan Counties) so I tried there. There I finally found some Bannermans. It turned out to be a more uncommon name than I had thought. These Bannermans came from Bladen and New Hanover Counties. Not near my other North Carolina families, but after checking the other records available for those counties, I believed I had the right family to match my photograph. After my research trip in Orlando, I went to the Tampa stake and spoke with the director again. He gave me more information on this particular Bannerman family that he had in his files. The director was descended from Bannermans but not the particular line as the children in the photograph. (See compilation of family information following.)

It seems as though the Bannerman family originated in North Carolina (from Scotland?) and the branch I'm interested in migrated to Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida. The mystery is how and why the photograph ended up in Christian County, Kentucky. I have identified the majority of the old photographs that my grandfather had and there are no others from this Bannerman family. I just can't come up with a plausible explanation for it.

 Bannerman Family Information

The following information was taken from Bible & Family Records of Bladen Co, NC, publ. by Bladen County, NC Historical Society. Vol. 2, pp. 28-29 and Vol. 3, pp. 56-61.

"Bannerman Bible Records" copied from the National Genealogical Quarterly Vol. XXI, June 1933 and contributed by Louis Carr Henry, Washington, DC. Records were included in the book because of the connection with Bladen County families.
George Bannerman was born 18 February 1762. He married Phebe Williams who was born 5 December 1793. They had eight children. Phebe died 23 December 1803. George then married Hester Player. George and Hester had three children, including Charles Bannerman who was born 16 Ju11806.

This next information was taken from a bible published by the American Bible Society, NY, 1850. It was in the possession of Mrs. Katherine Player (Bannerman) Robertson, Tallahassee, FL. This Bannerman family lived near Tallahassee, Leon Co, FL in 1933.

Charles Bannerman, b. 16 July 1806 married Elvira Ann Cardin (b. 14 Aug 1819) on 5 May 1836. They had the following children:

Hester Avarilla Ann, b. 29 Apr 1839; mar. John T. Harvin in Sept. 1856
Thomas Edwin, b. 15 June 1841; d. 13 Apr 1857
Charles Washington, b. 19 Dec 1843; d. 16 Nov 1917
Joseph Cardin, b. 28 June 1846; d. 16 Feb 1872
John George, b. 9 July 1849; d. 10 Mar 1857
William Tennent, b. 20 Dec 1851
Robert James, b. 27 Dec 1853; d. 31 Dec 1913
Richard Baxter, b. 28 Feb 1856; d. 26 Nov 1856
Mary Elvira, b. 9 Dec 1857; d. 4 Nov 1930
Sarah Elizabeth, 28 Jan 1860; d. 6 Nov 1883
Katie Player, 16 Feb 1862

From this information, we can see that in the year 1861, when the photograph was probably taken, the family looked like this:

Charles, Sr, age 55 Elvira Ann, age 42
Hester, age 22 married to John T. Harvin
Charlie, age 18
Joe, age 15
William, age 10
Robert, age 8
Mary E., age 4
Sarah, age 1
CDV ca. 1861 Bennerman/Bannerman children

Although the photo says Maggie not Mary, all the other information fits. The young Sarah was probably too young to hold still with her siblings while the photo was being taken. Joe and Charlie were practically men by that time.

The family was enumerated in the city of Tallahassee, FL in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 census and is likely where the photograph was taken.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Home for Amy

I mentioned before in a previous post that I work in the foster care system. Part of the work involves exploring relatives for children in care. I am passionate about family history and have always believed that learning about one’s roots plays a vital part in finding a sense of belonging. I’ve been eager to use my genealogy skills to help in identifying family resources for these children.

When I first started in the position, I spoke briefly with the other workers about using ancestor charts and family group sheets to record information and gave them some tips on searching for relatives. Mostly I know how to find dead people, of course. It’s been a running joke that if they’re dead, I can find them, but I’m working on using those same skills to locate living kin as well.

I also shared with my co-workers a story about one of my ancestors who lived in the rural south. This story shows how back in the day, relatives were the first place to turn when there was a need for alternative care for children. Here's the story:

Amy Leora Hardy, was born on June 16, 1902 in Christian County, Kentucky. She and her sister, Ruby, born in 1898, were the daughters of William Lewis Hardy and his wife Alice Samantha Lovelace.

Wm. Lewis Hardy family ca late 1902/early 1903, Christian Co, KY

Amy wasn't even quite a year old when her mother died in April of 1903 and her grandmother, Martha Sizemore Hardy, helped raise the two girls. Amy's father remarried on 23 July 1904 to a woman named Lela Woodruff and they had a son, Willie, shortly thereafter. It's not known what happened to Lela, whether she died or they divorced. She joined the Christian Church in Sinking Fork under the Woodruff name in 1909 but that is the only information known about her.

In May of 1915, just before Amy turned 13, her grandmother Hardy died. Then in February of the next year, her father announced that he intended to marry another woman. The girls told their aunt that before they would “live in a fuss they were going to get them a home.” Ruby talked of going to her Aunt Onnie Griggs, her mother's sister. Amy asked her Aunt Mary Sadler (her father's sister) if she would find her a home. Their Aunt Mary lived in Cerulean, KY and she wrote to her cousin Will Sizemore to see if maybe they wanted to take Amy into their home.

1916 ltr from M. Sadler to W. Sizemore, Cerulean, KY p. 1-2

1916 ltr from M. Sadler to W. Sizemore, Cerulean, KY p. 3-4

It's not clear if the Sizemores ever did take Amy into their home or if Amy was able to make peace with her father’s new wife and stay on. Nonetheless, the letter illustrates the importance of family ties in helping raise children in times of need. It’s also a wonderful glimpse of my grandmother as a young teen.

Amy L. Hardy (directly behind boy), Pisgah School, 1915

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Just An Umbrella or Ancestral Heirloom?

Thomas M. & Nancy J. (Sizemore) Hardy, Christian Co, KY

The above image is a copy of a tintype photo. The original measures about 2 x 3 inches and was originally housed in a photo album owned by my second great grandmother, Martha Sizemore Hardy. The subjects of the photo are Thomas M. Hardy and his wife Nancy J. Sizemore. Nancy was Martha’s older sister. Thomas was the twin brother to Martha’s husband, Joshua L. Hardy. There are actually two originals of the photograph, although in this one, you can better see the umbrella Thomas is holding. Nancy holds what looks like a folded fan in her lap. At first, the fact that his arm rests on an umbrella doesn’t stand out. Perhaps it was rainy the day of the photo shoot? Research into Thomas’s ancestry leads me to believe that there may be more of a significance to this.

Thomas and Joshua Hardy were listed together in a biographical sketch in Perrin’s County of Christian, Kentucky written in 1884. The entry states that they were sons of Bird Hardy and his wife Tiersey Tyre. It goes on to say they were born in Montgomery County, Tennessee and moved to Trigg County, Kentucky around the age of 10 where they resided for about thirteen years before coming to Christian County. A family record of Bird & Tiersey Tyre lists their birth dates as well as that of their children, along with listings of some of the family deaths. One of the deaths included that of Elizabeth Tyer who “departed this life 5th November 1846.”

Checking into Montgomery County records, I found that Elizabeth Tire, the widow of Thomas Tire, dec’d, was appointed guardian of Michael Tire, Counsel Tire, Stephen Tire, Lewis Tire, Trasey Tire [sic], Mitchell Tire and Thomas Tire, all infants of the said Thomas Tire, dec’d. She was also appointed as one of the administrators of Thomas’ estate on 5 March 1805. Elizabeth was listed as the head of household in Montgomery County in the 1820 census. In 1830, Bird Hardy was listed there with an additional female aged 50-60 living with him as well. This was likely Elizabeth. She probably moved with them to Kentucky around 1837.

When Thomas Tire died, an account of the sale of his personal property taken 15 March 1805 was recorded in County Will Book A. Thomas had a large amount of personal property; the account took four pages to list everything. Included were many interesting items such as a tin horn, two bibles, a dictionary, a looking glass, a set of shoemaker’s tools & bench, a basket and carpenters tools, coopers tools, wool & cotton cards and a linen wheel. One of the items listed on the first page of the account was “1 Umbarella” which sold for $5.87. The coopers tools sold for a similar price and a saddle & bridle sold for $5.50. Elizabeth purchased many of the items listed for sale, including the umbrella.

Part of Thomas Tire (dec'd) inventory, March 1805, Montgomery Co, TN

Now, umbrellas were not a very common item among our ancestors. An excerpt from RL Chambers' Book of Days, Vol. 1 (1864) at 241-44, states, “About thirty years ago, there was living in Taunton, a lady who recollected when there were but two umbrellas in that town; one belonged to a clergyman, who, on proceeding to his duties on Sunday, hung up the umbrella in the church porch, where it attracted the gaze and admiration of the townspeople coming to church.” (emphasis added).

So could the item Thomas shows off in his photograph for posterity be an ancestral heirloom? What do you think?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A New Search Begins

I spoke with a woman the other day who heard that I was good at finding dead people and wondered if I could find out more about her mother's biological family. This is the information she shared with me:

"My mother was born on March 14, 1922 in Binghamton, NY. A nurse took her by train up to Utica, NY to the St. Joseph's Infant Home. Her mother came up a month later to give permission for the infant to be adopted. Her mother was said to have been Helen Turesky who came from a small town in Pennsylvania."

Not a whole lot to go on, but I gave it a shot.

I started with and found Helen almost immediately. 

Helen Teroski age 18 [birthdate ca. 1902] was listed as a boarder in the home of Mike (age 38) & Susie Novak (& children) in the 1920 U.S. Census in the city of Binghamton, NY. She was born in Pennsylvania of Slovakian parentage. The Novaks were Slovakian as well. She was a roller in a cigar factory.

Unfortunately, there were no other Teroski families living in Binghamton. Neither can I poinpoint Helen or the Mike Novak family in the 1910 census in Pennsylvania at this point. I'll keep working...

Search suggestions welcome!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Shiny Object

Photo credit: Megan Westfall

An open post to Sheri Fenley, The Educated Genealogist:

Oh Sheri! Can I relate to your post on shiny objects! Only I usually call it going down rabbit holes.
It was getting distracted while trying to write a recent post that I googled you and found this post of yours in the first place. I was trying to write about prospography which led me to think of accuracy and I remembered you as the “educated genealogist." So I look for your blog and then try to google something about Elizabeth Shown Mills and accuracy that I read on a blog a while back. I get Michael Hait’s genealogy blog as a hit, which has a quote I can use (though not the original posts I remember reading). Then I get so frustrated about having to go search for things that I read before but didn’t bookmark or anything and now I want them! So I open OneNote to try and capture some of these now.
I fall down another rabbit hole on Michael’s blog as I remembered he was the one who mentioned the website Litemind which is something I wanted to keep in mind for its potential usefulness in my genealogy and other professional work. And now I want to follow Michael’s blog and realize I’ve never followed your blog and want to add Litemind to my list of favorites as well.
Then when I google “kinship genealogy” to add a link to describe the term I’ve used in my post, I stumble down another rabbit hole and find a scholarly article on the role of genealogy in personal lives in a sociology journal. I open another window in Internet Explorer to attempt to gain access to that journal through my educational connections. I have no luck with that and it’s probably a good thing that rabbit hole dead-ended because I finally go back and finish my blog post. Mind you this is all at lightning speed using dial-up internet service. No wonder it takes me so long to get a post completed.

If this post sounds breathless and convoluted and makes your head spin, welcome to my world J

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Society Saturday: Proso -- what?!? (or Accuracy in Genealogy)

As a member, I recently received a copy of the Winter 2011/2012 newsletter for the Western Michigan Genealogical Society. This is a very active society, established in 1954. They have a great number of programs and mini classes available for local members. Several of the upcoming programs sound awesome, I just wish I lived closer. The society does offer a good deal of information for remote members on their website, in their quarterly magazine Michigana and with publication and access to other society materials as well. I am definitely renewing my membership.

One scheduled talk is described as including a discussion of using "prosopography" for learning more about the residents of Cherry Street in Grand Rapids, MI. Proso-what?!? I had never heard of it. Is it a good tool for genealogy?

I did a google search for the term and found a good article at trusty Wikipedia which says that prosopography is an increasingly important approach within historical research. The definition states that it's
"an investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives, in multiple career-line analysis." The article mentions that prosoprography is related to, but distinct from, both biography and genealogy and that "well-conducted genealogical research reconstructing family relationships may form the basis of a prosopography," although the "goals of prosopographical research are generally wider."

It's probably a lot more intellectual and scholarly than most of us achieve in pursuit of our ancestors, but I would liken it to cluster or whole family genealogy research which can give you a much broader and more accurate knowledge of family history. And really, accuracy should be a top priority for all genealogists. As Michael Hait said in his blog post, "who wouldn’t hate to discover that after years of research, you had been tracing someone else’s family?"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Horse Thief or Worse

Do you remember back in the day when there was a television advertisement (I think it was from AT&T) that said something to the effect of, “Have you ever read a book in a library, from another country? Well, you will.” We were then just on the cusp of the exploding world of internet and it sounded crazy. I remember thinking as a genealogist, “Heck yeah, there are books I want to read in remote locations!”
I just recently found out one of my children’s ancestors lived in an asylum for nearly 40 years. Using Google ebooks, I got some great information from official record books about the institution where he was located. One book was digitized from the University of Michigan, which is a ways away from me. Another book was digitized from the University of California, even further. But thanks to technology, I incurred no travel expenses at all. Sweet!
I remember an elderly distant cousin wrote in reply to a request for family information saying, “I have never been too keen on family trees. If you go back far enough you usually find a horse thief or worse.” Now that I’ve finally found a genuine family secret, my kids’ reaction to it was: “Cool! Finally something interesting after all these years of hearing about genealogy.” I’m on a quest to find out more. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Combination

Here's a combination of a tombstone photo and a scrapbook page, both great wordless topics!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Simpler Time

I was talking to my dad's cousin, Mary Ellen, on the telephone a week or so ago. I had written to another cousin asking if she could identify an old photograph. The photograph was of an old homestead from the album cousin Julia had. I was hoping it was the home my grandfather grew up in. I'll talk about that story another day.

Mary Ellen was saying that she remembered her folks visiting Julia's grandparents every so often. She said things were different back then. It was nothing, she said, to go visiting kin for the day or longer without planning it in advance. She pointed out that in this day and age, people are not so happy about someone just dropping in unannounced. People have to schedule everything and heaven forbid someone sees the house dirty.

It made me wonder briefly, will we reminisce about these days by fondly recalling sitting in front of our computers at home blissfully posting status updates on Facebook and feeling close to our friends and family when they click the "like" button in response? Nonetheless, it's true that the past seems to have been a simpler time.

A few weeks ago I asked my youngest daughter what she wanted for Christmas. "Christmas??" She replied. "It's too early to think of Christmas!" "Fine," I said lightly, "I don't need to get you anything." The next night her Christmas wish list showed up on my pillow. She was afraid to miss out on the chance of getting anything. One of the things on her list was the chance to see a pen pal friend she had made nearly five years ago at a summer camp she attended. The friend lives about two hours away from us. I told her we could make plans to get that Christmas present if we did it before the snow starts to fly.

This weekend she and I got up early and drove out to meet this friend. They were aware we were coming, but she hadn't seen her friend in five years and had never met any of her family. Once we arrived in their town, we called and asked if they wanted to meet us for lunch first. The friend and her mom, Cindy, came out. We had a good meal and seemed to hit it off pretty well. They in turn invited us to their house afterwards to meet their large family. We wound up staying for the day, even going over to the grandmother's house to meet other family members and had a very enjoyable time. The family was very open and gracious towards us and we felt very comfortable. I recalled what Mary Ellen had said about the past, when people would drop in and visit for a day. It felt like we were a part of that simpler time for a little while.

And while we're on the subject of Christmas presents and simpler times, I wanted to direct you to Cindy's website. Billed as a "new tradition with old fashioned appeal," you'll find a great collection of home made gift ideas that are compiled from a variety of blogs, companies,and craft and hobby resources.

As my daughter now knows, it's not too early to be thinking about Christmas!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Never Forgotten

Photo credit: Megan Westfall
Before he passed away two years ago, I used to have my daughters call my father on Veteran’s Day. At the age of 16, he left home and joined the Navy. He put in 20 years of service, retiring at the ripe old age of 36. He then went on to become a vocational education teacher and put in another 20 years of service in that career as well.
My daughters had a school concert this week. It had a patriotic theme in honor of the upcoming holiday and turned out very nice. (I have a hard time listening to Taps, though, as it brings me right back to my father’s funeral.) The superintendent issued a challenge to the students there. He asked them to write down the reason we celebrate Veteran’s Day and bring the explanation into school the next day. He said he would make it worth their while, but didn’t say what he was offering. On the way home, I told my daughters that they should simply bring in a photo of their grandfather and tell the superintendent that’s the reason we celebrate Veteran’s Day.  At home, I hunted up an old photo of him in his Navy uniform and handed it to my daughter to put in her backpack.
My dad had colon cancer around 2005 and then developed lung cancer later which he died from in 2009. Although he fought bravely, eventually he knew he would not win the final battle. So he packed up all his photographs and memorabilia he had collected over the years and gave them to me. I have a large box (really more trunk-sized) of the stuff he gave me. All I have left of him is in that box. While digging through the box to find the photo for my daughter, I had the idea of arranging a collage of items related to his Navy career. The above photo (credited to my daughter) is what resulted.
While deciding what items to include in the collage, I picked up his Navy yearbook and thumbed through it. I noticed that he had carefully gone through the book and turned down each page that contained a photograph of him. He knew that he would not always be around to point these out in the future, but his gesture let me know that he never wants to be forgotten.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - A Chance Discovery

There are many tales of serendipity (a chance discovery) in the field of genealogy.  One particular instance in my research follows:
 I began the search for my ancestors shortly after my grandmother's death in January of 1989.  At the time of her funeral the subject came up, and several family members shared with me what they knew about the family.  I was extremely interested in it and when I returned home, began trying to find other things about the family.  I wrote some about my beginning trek into genealogy in this previous post.
After seeing my grandmother's obituary in the local paper, a woman named Frances Sizemore wrote to my uncle who lived in the area and said that our families were related.  My cousin gave me a copy of the letter and I wrote back to the woman.  Mrs. Sizemore sent me family group sheets she had completed on the Sizemore family and along with it sent a copy of a letter written by my second great grandmother, Martha Sizemore Hardy.  In this letter written to her cousin, Martha mentioned a photograph of her cousin's children.  Frances and I became friends and began a regular correspondence about family history until her death. I once commented to her that it would be nice to see the photograph Martha Hardy mentioned in her letter.

1891 ltr (portion) from Martha Hardy to Wesley Sizemore
In 1992, my husband and I took a trip to visit my grandfather.  While there, my grandfather urged me to pack up some salt & pepper shaker sets to take home with me.  These were originally part of my grandmother's collection.  One afternoon I began the task of taking them from the bookshelf, wrapping them up in newspaper and packing them in a box.  I ran out of newspaper before I had completed the project, so I sent my husband over to the neighbors to get some from her. 
While I was waiting for him to return I started dusting off one of the other shelves in the room and found a folded piece of paper stuck in the corner.  When I opened it, I found it was a recipe written in 1885 and signed by my second great grandmother, Martha Hardy!  Overjoyed at finding a piece of family history, I raced over to the neighbor's house to tell my husband.  The neighbor had lived next door for many years and her daughter was practically considered another grandchild of my grandfather's.  After telling both her and my husband what I had found, I explained further about the things I had discovered about this family line, including the copy of the letter I had.  The neighbor remembered something and went in to the other room and brought back a box.  The box contained some old photographs that my grandmother had given to the neighbor's daughter many years ago.  She explained that my grandmother had told her daughter that she didn't know who was in those old photographs, so she could have them to play with.  When the daughter brought them back to her house, her mother put them away because she felt they were too valuable to play with.  Among those photographs was a group photo of Wesley Sizemore's children.
Wesley Sizemore's children
So after many years later, I held in my hand the very photograph that my second great-grandmother mentioned in the letter written to her cousin.  Both the letter and the photograph survived and in my search had come together full circle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday’s Child - The Story of Myka

In August of 1994, I was visiting family in Michigan and again went the Grand Rapids Public Library to do more research. This time, I checked the 1884 State Census of Michigan for any references to the Kiel family. I knew the family was in Grand Rapids then and could just have easily decided not to look at that record since I thought I knew everything about the family. Luckily for me I followed the rule of leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of genealogy.

Sure enough, on page 331 I found Henry Kiel and his wife Margeritte listed at 233 Lagrave Street. The next family was Henry’s brother, Herodas and his wife Gertie. This I knew was my ancestor. He is listed in various records as Gerrit, Gerhardus, Herodus, etc.  Continuing on the next page was my great-grandmother Hendrika at age 1. This information I was aware of, but the next listing was entirely new to me: another daughter Myke was listed age 7 months. Myke is a spelling variation of Meike or Maike and is a Dutch, Frisian and German derivative of the English name Mary. Though I refer to her as Myka in this narrative, it is actually pronounced M-AYK. The family followed traditional naming patterns and gave this second-born daughter the name of her maternal grandmother. 

The census record indicated that this child was born in October of that census year. This was the first I learned about a sister of my great-grandmother. I assumed this child must have died young, since my grandmother had never mentioned her and probably didn’t even know about her. Herm Kiel was also listed, age 76, as Herodas' widowed father.

On a previous research trip, I had looked up the death records in the Kent County clerk's office for any references to persons named Kiel. Funny, I thought, that I didn't see Myke listed before. I again checked the index to those records housed at the library. No listing. I tried a spelling variation, K-E-I-L. There she was, Micka Keil. I drove over to the county building and checked at the clerk's office. On November 11, 1884 Micka Keil (mistakenly listed as a male) died at age 1 year, 14 days of "teething." Her parents were Gerhardus and Geertje Keil. I was happy to add some new information to the family history. She turned out to be a very important key to finding even more about the whole family.

The next thing I did while still at the library was check the cemetery index for the Kiels. Harm and his wife Henderika Ziegers Kiel were listed as was their son Henderik and his wife Margaretha Kiel. The index listed their burial place as Valley City Cemetery. I asked the librarian for directions to this cemetery. She noted that it was renamed Oak Hill-South and gave me directions. It was too late in the day to visit the cemetery then. I didn't have very much time left on this trip, so I decided to wait until the day I had to go back to the city to catch my plane for the flight home.

I left early that day and went to the main office at Woodlawn Cemetery to check the index books for the exact place they were buried. Looking up Harm Kiel in this index, his burial card was listed as 14 C. When I looked at that burial card, I discovered it wasn't the right one. It didn't even have Kiels listed. I looked up Henderika Kiel in the index, but the space for the burial card number was blank.

How was I going to find where they were buried? It’s a pretty large cemetery and could be an almost impossible task to find where a person is buried just by walking the cemetery. I didn't have that much time, either. Fortunately, I knew about Myka and checked the index book for her. Lucky for me, even though the name was mistakenly written originally as Meike Riel, it was indexed properly in the section of "K"s. This index indicated that she was buried in lot 57C. The index also stated that Meike was aged 1 year, 6 months, and 14 days and died of scrofula. Antiquus Morbus, "The Genealogist's Resource for Interpreting Causes of Death." states that scrofula was a "form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes, especially of the neck, that is most common in children and is usually spread by unpasteurized milk from infected cows."

The burial card for lot 57C did indeed have Kiels listed including Myka's father Gerrit, her grandparents Harm & Henderika and her uncle and aunt, Hendrik & Margaret. Knowing about Myka, I was able to pinpoint the burial location. Interestingly enough, Myka was not listed on the card at all.

Armed with a map of the cemetery, I set out for lot 57C and found it. There is a stone in place for Harm & Henderika and a stone for Hendrik & Margaret. There was no sign of a stone for either Gerrit or Myka.

There were so many opportunities to have missed the short life of little Myka. I could have easily decided not to look at the state census. I could have walked the cemetery without checking the records and might have discovered her grandparents and uncle without knowing that she’s probably buried there, too, in an unmarked grave. And it was all because of her that I found the tombstones so easily in the first place.

Was I just lucky or was there a wisp of a ghost, ethereal and almost too elusive to pinpoint, leading me to our family?

Tombstone of Harm & Henderika Ziegers Kiel

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Netherland Naming Customs, Take 2

After a previous discussion on naming customs and surnames, another focus for Netherlands research is the naming patterns used to name children after close relatives. The traditional system in the Netherlands is as follows:
First son:              named for his paternal grandfather
Second son:       named for his maternal grandfather
Third son:            named for his father’s paternal grandfather
Fourth son:         mother’s paternal grandfather
Fifth son:             father’s maternal grandfather
Sixth son:            mother’s maternal grandfather
This same system was used for the daughters using the grandmother’s names in place of the grandfather. The feminine version of male names was formed using such suffixes as –je/n, -ke/n, -pje/n, -tie/n, -tje/n. Examples in my family include: Grytje and variations such as Gertje, Geertje, Geesjen and Annechje or Annechien. 
It is uncanny how rigidly many Dutch families stuck to this traditional pattern so that one can look at the children and tell the names of the previous generations with surprising accuracy. This system was often abandoned by Dutch immigrants to America perhaps in an effort to assimilate into the majority culture.
Even though she was a third-generation Dutch American, my mother, as the firstborn daughter, was named for her maternal grandmother, but with a bit of variation. It seems that my grandmother was not fond of the name Henrietta, her mother’s Americanized name, so she named my mother Helen, using the same first initial at least.
I went on to give one of my daughters the name Leah. Little did I know at the time that it is a Dutch equivalent of the name Helen.  In a way then, this ties Leah back to her maternal ancestors:
maternal grandmother Helen; then
Helen’s maternal grandmother Henrietta/Hendrika; then
Henrietta’s paternal grandmother Hendericka; then
Hendericka’s paternal grandmother Hinderika who was born in the 1700s.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Grytje Ettes Kloosterman

Friesland traditional dress
Friesland traditional dress

Grytje Ettes Kloosterman, my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother, was born in Augsbuurt in the Friesland province of the Netherlands on 7 April 1788. She was baptized nearly one month later on 1 May 1788 in Augsbuurt. Her parents were Ette Jacobs and Wytske Jans. Her maternal grandfather was Jan Johannes Kloosterman. Before she was seven years old, Grytje’s father died in January 1795. Her mother died when she was twenty.

On 3 January 1812, when Grytje was 24 years old, she gave birth out of wedlock to a daughter. Tijtske Jan, an innkeeper in Burum registered the birth and said that the child’s name would be Ettje Sijmons. As the typical naming customs of the Netherlands was adding the father’s given name (called a patrynomic), I’m reasonably sure that the father was a man named Sijmon.

At the age of 36, Grytje marrie Feike Gerrits Bos in Kollum on 26 Jan 1824. Feike had been previously married to Tryjntje Hendriks who died on 11 October 1822, three days after giving birth to a daughter, Martje. This left Feike with the infant along with three other children, Gerrit age 6, Hendrik age 4 an Hiljte age 1. The infant Martje may have also died, for another daughter was named Martje in 1827. Grytje and Feike had two other sons as well, Jacob born 23 Dec 1824 and Jan born in 1826.

                In 1841, Ettje Sijmons Kloosterman, Grytje’s daughter, was married to her stepbrother, Gerrit. In May of 1848, Jan Feikes Bos married Maaike Dijkstra. Two months later, on 23 July, Feike died. In 1850, Jan’s wife gave birth to a son whom they name Feike Jans Bos. In 1852, a daughter Gertje was born to Jan and his wife. On 2 March 1857, Grytje died at the age of 68.