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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rescued From Obscurity, Part 5: Family Ties

This post will complete our series on the research regarding this old nineteenth century photo album pictured at left. We have determined that the album was probably originally owned by George Vernum Killmore and his wife Amelia (nee Wright). 

The photograph below of a young man taken in Adrian, Michigan might have something to do with one of G. Vernum's brothers, Daniel or Schuyler, since they were both employed with Michigan Central RR. This paper cdv was paired in the album with the ferrotype of two younger boys that bear some resemblance to the young man. Perhaps the ferrotype is an earlier picture of the same young man and a brother?

Left #19A paper cdv, unknown. Right #19B ferrotype encased in paper frame, unknown.

Left #19A verso: "J.A. Foster, photographer, rooms opposite his old gallery over Park's Dry Goods Store,
Maumee St, Adrian, Mich." Right #19B verso of ferrotype. No markings. 

Since Amelia and G. Vernam were married in Aztalan, Jefferson County, Wisconsin in 1853, are these two photographs below of significance? They are placed first in the album. The second one of the gentleman was taken in Fort Atkinson (also in Jefferson County, Wisconsin). Might it even be photos of the original owners?

Left #1A paper cdv unknown. Right #1B paper cdv unknown.

Left #1A verso: "Goodwin photographer, 60 South Salina Street, Syracuse NY,
gallery up one short flight of stairs".
Right #1B verso: "Mrs. H.E. Raimheld, Artist, Ft. Atkinson, Wis."

The Kilmer family history states that Vernum's brother Luke married Fanny Gillham in St. Mary's, Sydney on 31 July 1852 and that he died in Australia. Could the family group photograph below be a picture of his wife and children?

Left #23A: paper cdv of an unknown woman and four children. Right #23B: paper cdv unknown subject.

Left #23A verso: "Advance Australia, Bray, photographer, 487 George St, Sydney, N.S.W."
Right #23B verso: "N.C. Sanborn, 50 Merrimack Street, Lowell, Mass." 

If the reference on the photographer's imprint (see image on right below) is to St. Louis, Missouri, could the photograph on the left be of Josephine S. Rego, wife of Vernum's brother William Deloss Kilmore, whom he married in Missouri on 18 February 1872?

#41: paper cdv, unknown subject.
#41 verso: "Outley's Photographic Palace of Art,
39 Fourth St, St. Louis, opposite Planters House"

Finally, how might the album have made its way to Cattaraugus County, New York?

G. Vernum is said to have worked for the NYC RR for twenty years and then went to the state of Washington.

We do find him listed with his brother William B. (sic) Killmore in Seattle, Washington for the year 1910. His age was listed as 87, he had no occupation and his marital status was widowed.

We can find in where G. U. Killmore, son of Luke, died in Sedro-Woolley, Kittitas County, Washington in 1916 aged 95. Luke R. Killmore died in Kittitas County in 1913. There was also more on the William B. Killmore family who lived in Seattle, Washington, but nothing on Amelia. Where was she?

At this point, the last we see of Amelia, she is closest to the area where the photograph album ended up. In 1900, Amelia J. Killmore born October 1832, was listed as a boarder in the home of Charles Briggs age 56 born July 1844 and his wife Mary E. born August 1853. Amelia was listed as married for 47 years and the mother of two children. Mary had no children. She and Charles had been married for 18 years according to this census data (ca. 1882). They lived in the city of Bradford, McKean County, Pennsylvania. Bradford is just over 20 miles from where the album was found. By 1910, Mary Briggs was living alone with her 17-year-old niece, Ethel Slate in Bradford.* 

From there we lose the trail. Nothing has been found for Amelia after that time and is where we have to leave the story for now.~

*A Charles Wallace Briggs, born July 1844 and died 1907 was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Bradford, Pennsylvania. He had a sister Jennie who married Edgar Slade. Their daughter Ethel May Slade married Rupert Arnold in the town of Perry, New York in 1914.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rescued From Obscurity, Part 4: The Killmore Family of Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York

While searching for online records in Syracuse about the George V. and Amelia Killmore family, others of that same surname kept popping up but I put the research aside for awhile.

Serendipitously, I later ran across some family group sheet information on a Kilmore family in Syracuse from a member of the Western Michigan Genealogical Society. The information is mainly focused on a Rathbone family but included information on Luke Kilmore, son of Henry Kilmore, who married Achsah Rathbone. The source for the Kilmore information was cited as History of the Kilmer Family in America, edited by Charles H. Kilmer. Page 88. This book was not available in its entirety online at the time of this writing but I am including below information taken from the Rathbone compilation regarding the Kilmore line:

History of the Kilmer Family in America, edited by Charles H. Kilmer. Page 88.
Children of Luke 3 [Henry 2, Heinrich 1.]
CATHERINE. Maried Ezra Cowner of Syracuse, NY
DANIEL BRADLEY. Married Miss Marguerita Matty. Her father was a cousin of Marshall B. Soult, one of Napoleon’s grand marshalls.
    Daniel was captain of a packet from Syracuse to Buffalo. In 1863 he became ticket agent for the Michigan Central RR. After this kept a wood yard seven years. Accumulated enough resources to live a retired life, and died in 1887.
SCHUYLER V. Married Miss Mary Matty, a sister of his brother Daniel B.’s wife. 
    He has been captain of a packet boat, seven years traveling ticket agent for the Michigan Souther RR, and twenty years superintendent of the American Dairy Salt Company. Residence, 220 Seymour street, Syracuse, NY.
CORWIN. Died 1849 and no family.
VERNUM.Married Amelia Wright. Went to sea in 1845. After leaving sea life went to California. Returned to Syracuse, NY, and was employed by the New York Central RR, which position he retained twenty years. Then went to state of Washington.
KATURAH. Married Enos Fields. He is dea, and she is living at Waterloo, NY.
LUKE. Married either a Gilman or Gilmore. He was a sea captain. His family are supposed to be in Australia. 
DELOSS. In state of Washington.
ROSELTHA. Married George Bragdon.
JAQUELINA. Married Hiram Seeley. He is dead. She at Little Falls NY.

And from the family group sheets:

Family of Achsah Rathbone (59861) & Luke Kilmore
61864. Katherine Kilmore.
On 1 Jan 1839 Katherine married Ezra Pierce Downer in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York.
61865. Emery Kilmore.
61866. George B. Kilmore.
61867. Daniel Bradley Kilmore. Born ca 1818 in New York.
Daniel Bradley married Margaret V.. Born in 1830.
61868. Schuyler V. Kilmore. Born in Mar 1820 in New York.
Schuyler V. married Mary. Born ca 1829. Mary died bef 1900.
61869. Corwin G. Kilmore. Born on 7 Jul 1822 in New York. Corwin G. died aft 1900.
61870. G. Vernam Kilmore. Born on 24 Aug 1824 in Salina, Onondaga County, New York.
On 7 Dec 1853 when G. Vernam was 29, he married Amelia J. Wright, daughter of John Russell Wright (21 Apr 1802-19 Nov 1880) & Luna Williams (10 Nov 1805-22 Aug 1840), in Aztalan, Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Born on 30 Oct 1831 in Watervale, Onondaga County, New York.
61871. Luke Kilmore. Born ca 1829 in New York. Luke died in Austrialia.
On 31 Jul 1852 Luke married Fanny Gillham in St. Mary’s, Sydney.
61872. William D. Kilmore. Born on 15 Oct 1832 in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York.
On 18 Feb 1872 when William D. was 39, he married Josephine S. Rego in Missouri. Born in Indiana.
61873. Rosetta Kilmore. Born ca 1837 in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York.
Rosetta married a Mr Bragdon.
61874. Jacqueline Kilmore. Born ca 1840 in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York.
Jacqueline married Hyrem Seeley.

There's a lot of information here and it is very telling in terms of this photograph album.

First off, now we know George also went by his middle name of Vernum or Vernam. Then we know it was to him that the photograph in the album shown below was given “by a friend” (reference the writing on the back):

Left Photo 28A, paper cdv, unknown. Right Photo 28B paper cdv, unknown. 

Left image 28A verso, photographer imprint: H. Lazler, Syracuse & Oswego, NY. Wording in pencil "To Vernum by A Friend"
Right image 28B verso, no photographer imprint or writing. Blue two-cent revenue stamp from civil war era.

It was noted in an earlier post that according to the 1875 state census Vernum was employed by the NY Central RR which is also mentioned in the above excerpt from the Kilmer family history. The history also states that his brothers Daniel and Schuyler worked as ticket agents for the Michigan Central RR. Railroad history with its multiple consolidation and mergers is more confusing than family trees, but generally for our purposes it helps to know the following from Wikipedia:

The New York Central Railroad (NYC) was a railroad operating in the Northeastern United States. Headquartered in New York City, the railroad served most of the Northeast, including extensive rail lines in the states of New YorkPennsylvania,OhioMichiganIndianaIllinois and Massachusetts, plus additional lines in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Qu├ębec. Its primary connections included Chicago and Boston 

1926 Map of New York Central Railroad

I am guessing that the locations of some of the other photographs may at least have something to do with the movement of these brothers in their employment. For instance, in initial online research at for A. Parke in New York, New York during the years 1850-1880, we find 46-year-old Archibald Parke, a Vermont native, listed in the 2nd district, 14th ward of the city of New York during the 1860 U.S. federal census. His occupation was listed as “fancy goods” with his sixteen-year-old son listed as a clerk.

Left Photo 22A: paper cdv, Mr. A. Parke (see verso), photographer imprint "W. Kurtz, 872 B'way, NY".
Right Photo 22B: paper cdv, unknown.

Left image 22A: photographer imprint with logo image "W. Kurtz, New York. Six first premiums. First class gold medal Paris" Right image 22B: photographer imprint of ornate design "Melander Bros. Photographers, 88 N. Clark St, Chicago" 

The last photograph with writing in the album shows a name and address first tentatively transcribed as such: “Sid Ballow, 15 W Van Anden, Entire E Bck yd, Feb 12”. 
Left 38A: paper cdv, unknown. Right 38B: paper cdv. Sid Ballow (see verso).

Left 38A: photographer imprint "M. E. Morris, Floral Gallery, 75 Genesee St, Auburn, NY"
Right 38B: photographer imprint "W. N[?] Tubbs, Photographer, Newark Valley, NY";
writing "Sid Ballow, 15 W Van Anden, Entire E Bck yd, Feb 12"

A google search with this address turns up an 1857 directory for the town of Auburn, NewYork just west of Syracuse (note Auburn is the town listed in the imprint of the photo next to this one). Newark Valley, New York is in Tioga County, south of Cayuga County and closer to the town of Ithaca.

A search for Sid Ballow in New York for the years 1850-1880 in turns up the following list:

Sydney Ballow   1865     Ward 4, Auburn, Cayuga Co, NY          father Joseph, spouse Catherine
Sidney Ballou     1870     Auburn, Cayuga Co, NY                       Catherine
Sidney Ballou     1875     Ithaca, Tompkins Co, NY                      spouse Catherine, child Joseph
Sidney Ballou     1855     Ward 8, Syracuse, Onondaga Co, NY   father Joseph, mother Susan

In 1855, both 20-year-old Sidney and his father Joseph were listed as “pavers.” Joseph, aged 76, was a native of Rhode Island. Sidney and his older 37-year-old brother Spencer (a teamster) were born in Oneida Co, NY while his next youngest brother, 17-year-old Silas and the rest of the younger siblings were born in Onondaga County, NY.

The search had to be manipulated further to find Sidney in 1860 using just the first name, 1860 and Syracuse, NY. He was indexed as “Sidney Ballon” for that year. in the 8th ward of Syracuse. His brother William was living with him then and they were both listed as “street pavers.” Joseph was found also under “Ballon.” Though he was 80 years old, he was still listed with the occupation of “street paver,” too.

So now we know of more family acquaintances and friends, but can we learn anything from the album about those in the family?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Rescued From Obscurity, Part 3: More Neighbors

In an attempt to gather more information on the George V. Killmore family, another search is started on using his full name as noted with a birthdate of 1825 and a residence of Syracuse, NY from 1850-1900. 

Here is how we find him indexed:

1855 George V. Kilmer with Amelia J.; Syracuse
1865 George N. Killmore with Amelia, Mary, Luke R.; Syracuse, Ward 5
1870 George Kilmer with Amelia, Mary, Luther; Syracuse

And as noted previously:

1875 George V. Killmore with Amelia, Luke; Syracuse

We do not find a listing for him in 1880. How come? Well, we have to manipulate the search engine several times to find out more using variant spellings and other first names such as Amelia with a narrow focus of Syracuse only during 1880. Finally, up comes a list of Killmores in the 1880 census and we find the family we are looking for. Turns out they are indexed as “Verma G. Killmore” with “Amiela” Killmore, child Mary E. Eaton and Nettie Sandford as other in the household.

By viewing the image, we see the Killmores listed on the bottom of the page at 8 Grace Street. His age is listed as 56 and hers as 48. On the next page is their 27-year-old daughter Mary E. Eaton, a seamstress and a niece aged 25, Nettie Sanford also a seamstress.

Three houses down from them during this census was the James McConnell family. James, a 35-year-old cartman and his wife Ellen were Ireland natives according to this census. They had four young children all born in New York, including 4-year-old Alice C. McConnell and 1-year-old Ellen T. McConnell. Would you say then, that the photos of young Alice (right on first set of photos) and baby Ellen (left on second set of photos) from the album were taken right around that year?  

Left Photo 25A, paper cdv. Unknown. Right Photo 25B paper cdv. Alice Cecilia McConnell.

Left Photo 25A verso: J.N. Esselstyn, 100 South Salina Street, Syracuse, NY
Right Photo 25B verso: Goodwin, Photographer, No. 60 S. Salina Street, Syracuse, NY.
Over the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Store. Up one flight of stairs. "Alice Cecilia McConnell"

Right photo scan 26A paper cdv "Ellen Teresa McConnell"
Left photo scan 26B paper cdv subject unknown

Right photo scan 26A verso imprint: Goodwin, Photographer, No. 60 S. Salina Street, Syracuse, NY. 
Over the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Store. Up one flight of stairs. "Ellen Teresa McConnell"
Left photo scan 26B verso (blank)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Rescued From Obscurity, Part 2: Location, Location

Since over half of the photographs came from Syracuse, New York, that was where I thought I should focus my search. Because of the wording on the back of the first photograph with anything written on it, I wondered if Mrs. Killmore owned the album originally.

I had done a little digging on the John Baker family associated with the house in which this album was found. They were a family intertwined with other historical research I have done in the area. I could find no Killmores ever listed in the area between the years of 1850-1900 but I have not searched deed records in association with the house. There seems to be nothing about the Baker family that indicates they might be connected to the album at all. I found no immediate references to any names found in the album (Killmore, Lancaster, McConnell, Ballow or Parke). Nor did I find any references on the Baker family connecting them to the Syracuse area or any of the other places noted in some of the photographer imprints.

"Edmund S. Lancaster" Photograph #15A.
Imprint: C. H. Overton, Cortland NY"
So where do we start looking for Mrs. Killmore? By looking for Edmund S. Lancaster in Syracuse, New York.

"Edmund S. Lancaster" Photo #15A verso.
"May 24 1889. 16 years 10 months.
Mrs. Killmore Oct. 24 1889"

Calculating his birth date from the writing, I typed Edmund S. Lancaster born 1872 in Syracuse, NY from 1875-1900 in the appropriate fields of the records search engine at

Right away I got a record of the death of Edmund S. Lancaster that occurred 26 July 1952 in Ventura, California. He was born in New York 28 July 1872. This was from the California Death Index 1940-1997 and only listed the surname of his father as Lancaster and the surname of his mother as Wilson. The website does not have images available for these records.

This fits our Edmund as he was 16 years and 10 months in May of 1889, but California and 1952 are geographically and chronologically a long way from what we are looking for.

Two other records located on suggest that Edmund S. Lancaster did a fair amount of traveling as he is listed on two passenger lists in 1912 and 1913 arriving back to New York from Bermuda and Havana. Perhaps this was for work but the records were not explored further.

What also came up in the search was an Emund (sic) S. Lancaster indexed in the 1875 state census in Syracuse, New York. Looking at the image of this record, we see young Edmund one month shy of his third birthday living with his parents Edward F. Lancaster, a native of Washington County, New York, and Agnes, a Scotland native. Edmund had several brothers and sisters listed including 12-year-old Franklin H. Lancaster. Edmund's father was a carpenter and joiner according to this census.

But what about the fact that Edmund's photograph was taken in Cortland, New York in 1889? could not help when his full name, birth year and residence as Cortland, New York was entered into the search engine. We move on to try a google search for “Edmund S. Lancaster, Cortland, NY 1889.”

As luck would have it, has a transcript of the 1889 directory for Cortland County, New York that includes the village of Cortland with the following listed:

Lancaster E.S.clerk for C.M Screw Co. rooms 41 Greenbush
Lancaster F.H. secy, C.M. Screw Co. h 150 Port Watson
Cortland Machine Screw Co. J.D. Macfarland, pres; W.A. Clarke, treas; F.H. Lancaster, sec.; 54, 56 and 58 Railroad

I believe we have found young Edmund and his older brother. It would appear that Edmund did not live far from the photographer who took his picture that year as we also find listed:

Overton C.H. photographer over 41 Main, h 23 Greenbush

There are no Killmores listed in this directory. We can imagine that Edmund had the photo taken and mailed one back home to Syracuse because guess who we find just two houses away from the Lancaster family during the 1875 state census?

Fifty-year-old George V. Killmore, a bridge carpenter for the NYC RR, his wife 43-year-old Amelia J. Killmore and their 14-year-old son Luke R. Killmore. All three were natives of Onondaga County (where the city of Syracuse is located) according to this census.

Do we have our Mrs. Killmore? Maybe.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rescued From Obscurity, Part 1: A Mystery to Solve

An old nineteenth century photo album was rescued by one of my neighbors many years back when he moved into an old house down the road. The neighbor shared it with me a couple of winters ago knowing how much I liked old photographs. Oh yes, and I love to sleuth in the past for clues about these faces from long ago. This series of posts will be to share what I could find about them and how the album came to be.

My neighbor said the album was in a burn pile of stuff when he acquired the house. He was able to tell me who had the property before him (John Baker), but nothing to say who owned the album originally. To my recollection, my neighbor said he asked one of the former owners about it, but they just said it was no one they knew.

I loved looking at them and asked if I could make computer scans of them sometime. My neighbor was interested when I told him there was one photograph of a civil war soldier taken in New Orleans of a well-known photographer of the time. He took the album back with him and later loaned it back to me for scanning. It was minus that photograph in particular, but I cannot recall any others that might have been missing.

The album itself was in rough shape but the photos inside for the most part held up well with the exception of a few towards the back that I think sustained more damage by water and outdoor elements before it was rescued. It holds a mix of cabinet card and cdv (both paper and ferrotype or tintype) photos. Many of the paper cdv's can be dated to the civil war time period from the revenue stamps found on them. (See David Rudd Cycleback's article on early mounted photographs for additional information on dating old photographs).

I scanned the photographs as they were arranged in the album, with two cdv's from the same page frame. I scanned the backs only if there were markings of any kind. Later I took photographs of the actual album itself to show how the photographs in the album were arranged in the first place.

My favorite source and first introduction to researching old photographs and albums was Lenore Frost who stressed this as an important part of research. Frost's book is listed in my bibliography on the subject of identifying old photographs. One page 19 of her book, she writes “early mass-produced albums contained spaces only for cdv photographs, and after 1866 would often combine spaces for cdv's and cabinet photos.” This is what we have with this album. Frost also goes on to say that a “common arrangement in albums is in order of seniority, with grandparents or parents first, aunts and uncles, then brothers and sisters” although she stresses this is not invariable and that photos could be easily rearranged by subsequent generations.

After scanning, I returned the album back to the neighbor. Since then, I have worked on and off with the scans. I counted seventy-one total photographs scanned. I typed the imprint data in a spreadsheet and ongoing study of these imprints can be a future project. Only seven had no imprints. A whopping thirty-nine (over 50%) were from Syracuse, NY with nine somewhere else in New York. Two were listed as taken by a traveling gallery. Two had an imprint of E.C. Adams with no data as to place. Three were from Massachusetts (two from Boston, one from Lowell). One photograph each was listed with imprints from the following areas: Portland, OR; Ft. Atkinson, WI; St. Louis, MO; Adrian, MI; Chicago, IL; Oakes, Dak. (Dakota territory); Sydney (Australia).

Only six of the photos had any writing on them for identification purposes. Six out of seventy-one is not a lot to go on, huh?

The ones with writing on the back included:

15A - “Edmund S. Lancaster, May 24 1889, 16 years 10 months, Mrs. Killmore Oct 24 1889”
22A - “Yours Truly, Mr. A Parke”
25B - “Alice Cecilia McConnell”
26A - “Ellen Teresa McConnell”
28A - “to Vernum by a friend”
38B - “Sid Ballow, 15 W Van Anden, Entire E Bck yd, Feb 12”

Can you guess which one held the most promise of possible identification?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My Brother Before Me

George Wellington Smith was the son of Eliud Wellington Smith (1869-1932) and his wife Anna Josephine Coughell (1876-1966). Eliud and Anna's firstborn was also named George Wellington Smith. This earlier George was born in Thorold, Ontario, Canada on 18 September 1893 but died when he was just a few months old on 18 February 1894. According to one of Eliud and Anna's children, Mabel Smith Westfall (1906-2001), her Smith grandparents "had a little house with a cemetery where my mother buried her first child." (See the Ontario, Canada: Smith et al page for additional information on the Smith family).

The second George was born 21 November 1903 likely in Ontario, Canada. A record of his birth is not readily found in's Ontario Births 1869-1911. His sister Mabel was born in April of 1906 in the town of Stamford in Welland County, Ontario, Canada. 

I have no pictures of George. The best I can do is a photo of his tombstone. He was laid to rest in Fairview Cemetery, Niagara Falls, Canada. His parents were buried near him.

And here is all I know of his life and death:

WCHOB First Building (after 1906)
“George Eliud [sic]. My brother before me. He died. Got burnt. He was born about 1904, died when he was 10 years old. Died in Children's Hospital in Buffalo. He was with a bunch of city people and they had a great big tent and they were having a cookout and a big party that night. A doctor's family that lived near us. They all went in to supper and he said he'd light the torches. They had big sticks with stuff filled with kerosene and he was going to light the torches and one fell over. At that time, they had heavy underwear and stuff like that and somehow or other the flames went up his leg and burned al his leg. He was in the hospital with a burnt leg. He was ready to come home, Dad and Mom went up the night before and he said, 'Can I go over to Canada and see Grandma when I get out?' and they said, 'Sure.' And they came home and they no sooner got home when they got a call he'd passed away. Another nurse came in and gave him another shot of chloroform or whatever they used then and he never came out of it. They could've sued the hospital but my dad wasn't like that.”

--From an oral interview with Mabel Smith Westfall, 18 August 1993.

Other family notes indicate that George's death occurred on 10 September 1914 in Buffalo, New York. I believe the accident may have happened in the town of Concord in Erie County, New York. The family was living in Sardinia, Erie County, New York by 1920. Their father was indexed under “Elind” Smith.  

There were twelve children altogether in the family. Here is a digital image of a photograph showing Eliud, Anna and eight of those children which was probably taken around 1923 (the youngest child James shown was born in July of 1920 and looks to be around the age of 2 or 3):

Eliud & Anna (Coughell) Smith family.
(l to r): Maude, Mabel, Marge, Eliud, Anna, Marie, Ruth, Eliud, Earl, Jim

Another son of Eliud and Anna, Edward Eliud Smith, was killed in France during WWI (see this post here). The eldest daughter Grace is also missing from the photograph. She was married by then and had a daughter just a year younger than James. Grace and her husband Theodore Westman lived next door to her parents during the 1930 U.S. Census on Transit Road in the town of Clarence.