Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Family Doghouse

If I were going to post about special memories of my grandparents on Grandparent's Day, I wouldn't know where to begin.  There's the Ugly Baby, Grandma's adventures with Contact Paper, swiping her True Story magazines, making Christmas ornaments, my love affairs with her double boilerserving bowl, and sewing table, the unthinkable things she used to do to my hair, and of course, the lies she told us regularly. But when Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers posted a photo of the old Family Doghouse, I knew I'd found my topic.

After a trip to Arizona, my grandparents came back with this gem that they'd picked up from a tourist shop in New Mexico, probably around 1970.  Grandpa hung it from the kitchen wall, and the fun began.  My brother, sister and I took turns putting each other in the "place of honor", getting mad at each other, and pitching fits until we discovered the perfect enemy - Grandpa!  He acted so indignant about being in the dog house that we quickly forgot about each other.  This lasted for quite awhile, until one rainy morning when he commented how glad he was to be in the doghouse so he wasn't getting rained on like we were.  He later told me the looks on our faces was priceless, and it was probably the first time we'd ever been speechless, all three of us, at one time!

They were fantastic grandparents, and we were blessed to live so close and spend so much time with them.  They were such positive influences on our lives, and a lot of fun to boot.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Old Table and the Wild Hair

Yesterday morning, I had my husband pull my grandparents’ old dining room table from the back of the garage, where it has been sitting for some time.  I always intended to refinish it, but the fact that I don’t know the first thing about the process kept me in procrastination mode.  I thought perhaps I could clean it up and put it into service again, but seeing its condition made me angry and very sad at the same time.  Grandma took good care of it while she was alive, but after that it was slowly destroyed. Splatters of dried paint, and a thin coat of glue and glitter covered both the top and the beautiful ornate pedestal base.  I realized that no amount of “cleaning it up” was going to make any difference.  At that point, I got the Wild Hair…

Grandma originally got this table around 1957-1958, after their home on the farm burned down and they moved to town.  She very rarely bought anything new, so I assume the table was second-hand when she bought it.  It was the center of every important (and unimportant) event in our family for the next ~40 years.

1 Wally_Betty_Wedding4
It held my parents’ wedding cake…

2 JuneWed1
It held my Aunt’s wedding cake…

3 KarenBirthday_March1960_2
It held a squirming 1 year old and all her presents…

4 BillLill25th
It held my Grandparents’ 25th anniversary cake…

5 444_May1960_Lill
It was the centerpiece of my Grandmother’s Card Club meetings…

6 43_Karen
And more birthday cakes…

7 GeoSylviaFam
And company from far away…

8 1962_NewYears_GmaKnutz_AuntMabel
New Years’ celebrations…

9 NovDinner

And so many delicious Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners were served from it. 
And it holds so many other memories for which pictures only exist in my memory and in my heart… Memories which served to fuel that Wild Hair to which I referred earlier.  The next thing I knew, it had been stripped and sanded -

and today, I hesitantly made a decision on the stain, and got busy -
I am hoping by this time next week, it’s sitting in my dining room ready for Generation #6 to begin making memories.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mom!! Grandma took away my Cleavage!!

Yes, I did.  I got a cute picture of my granddaughters, and one of the older ones was inadvertently (I'm hoping), showing a little more cleavage than Old Grandma thought necessary.  Ten minutes with Photoshop and things are good, at least from my perspective.  If I was a little better skilled with the program, it wouldn't have taken me that long, but who cares?  In the end, I did what a grandma needs to do.

As I was working, I thought about my own grandmother, Lill.  She was the original Photoshop Master, and she never went anywhere near a computer.  Her method of choice was Contact Paper.  Remember that stuff? That wonderful-but-cheesy sticky paper that you could use inside your kitchen cabinets and drawers, on tabletops, or wherever you needed a quick and cheap "makeover."  What a feeling of success when installation went smoothly, and whatever you were sticking it to was totally transformed... and what a feeling of exasperation if you weren't careful and the adhesive side stuck to something it wasn't meant to.

Grandma took Contact Paper a step further.  Sitting in her living room one afternoon, I saw a new picture of my cousin and her little boy hanging on the wall.  The background was lovely - daisies!  I remarked about what a nice picture it was, and she had me look at it closer.  The daisies were covering my cousin's ex-boyfriend!  Grandma had painstakingly cut out these flowers from Contact Paper and strategically placed them, and the result was actually good!  Looking closer at the other photos on the wall, I noticed another where the divorced spouse had been "flowered-over."  This phrase became a part of our family's legacy, as spouses were jokingly threatened with being flowered-over from that point on.

I kind of shudder when I think about what Grandma might have done with a computer and Photoshop.  Ex-husbands and wives would be gone from the family photos in a millisecond; that grandson with the long, shaggy hair would gotten a respectable haircut; eye makeup would have been toned down.

And I take comfort in the fact that none of *her* granddaughters would have sported any cleavage either.

Friday, May 2, 2014

52 Ancestors: #18–James Callender Adams

James Callender Adams was born 14 April 1735 (or 1737), the son of James H. Adams and his wife Sarah Callender

Prior to his marriage in 1762, he lived in Stillwater, Saratoga co., New York.

He married Submit Purchase, daughter of Jonathan Purchase and Margaret Worthington, on 27 Jan 1762 in Springfield, Hampden co., Massachusetts. Submit was born 22 Jan 1735 in Connecticut.

Between 1783 and 1786, James and Submit moved their family to St. Johnsbury, Caledonia co., Vermont, being the first settlers in that area. They loaded their boats at Springfield, Massachusetts. These boats had rafters covered with canvas and blankets to protect their belongs, which included their furniture, a large clock, a spinning wheel and loom, chests of their bedding, clothing, and provisions for the trip. They rowed upstream on the Connecicut river, to the Passumpsic River, then to the West Branch, where they stopped, thinking they were at Littleton, New Hampshire, their intended destination. They decided to stay, settling on "Benton's Meadow". His father James, and brothers Jonathan and Martin also were granted land there.  It is said that they were going to Littleton because James won land in Littleton in a singing contest. The song he sang was "Brave Wolfe", written by his son Jonathan. A descendant is said to own a copy of this song in it's original handwriting.

Another descendant states that the family went from Massachusetts to Tinmouth, Vermont about 1774, when sons James, Martin and Jonathan were in the Revolutionary War, and afterwards were granted land rights in Littleton township. While Martin's Revolutionary War pension file does not mention land grants, it should be noted that he entered the service from Tinmouth and mentions his father's home there.

They built the first home, made of logs, using a mud/twig mixture for caulk, and a pine bough roof. Oiled paper covered the windows. They slept on beds of pine and spruce boughs, and bear skins provided rugs for the floor.

Not surprisingly, they also were responsible for holding the first religious services, which was their evening worship around the fire, Bible-reading, praying, and singing hymns.

Submit Adams was noted as being the first woman to keep house within the bounds of that township.
James' house in St. Johnsbury burned at some point, destroying son Martin's Revolutionary War discharge papers.

Submit died on 13 Nov 1797 at St. Johnsbury, at the age of 62. She was buried at Adams-Babcock cemetery in Waterford, Vermont. James then married Mrs. Trescott.  James died in 1813 in Newport, Orleans co., Vermont, at the age of 78. He was buried on his farm in St. Johnsbury, Caledonia co., Vermont.

James and Submit Adams had six children: Martin, Jonathan, Thirza, Clarissa "Polly", James Callender, and Charles.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

52 Ancestors: #17–Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I love unique things – household décor items you won’t find anywhere else, unusual jewelry, one-of-a- kind picture frames, etc.  So it only makes sense that ancestors with a distinctive look particularly pique my interest.  On a recent expedition through my photo collection, I found a few of my kin that must have shared my penchant for distinction.

I love Albert Schultz’s big brush mustache…

And the hairdo on this unknown ancestor…

Simon Ratcliff
And Simon Ratcliff’s awesome sideburns…

And Marx Seemann’s big wave of hair…

Mabel Dickey
Mabel Dickey’s little top-piece is particularly neat… and not easy to do, I'm guessing.

But my favorite of all of them, is Abial Adams.


This is the most distinctive beard I have ever seen.  Kudos to Abial for not looking like every other man with a beard!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

52 Ancestors: #16–Finding a Family for Joseph Nickeson

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.


I was scooting along quite nicely with the Nickeson line until I hit Joseph, b. 1797 in either New York or Pennsylvania.  I knew he married Margaret Coble in 1819 in Franklin county, Ohio, and between 1838 and 1840 had migrated to the Peoria county, Illinois area.  But trying to find proof of his parents has been difficult. 

Around the time of Joseph’s marriage, another Nickeson family resided in Franklin county – that of Aaron and Phebe Nickeson.  Aaron died 1814, and his wife in 1842.  Along the line, I was provided with a photocopy of a book, title unknown, which lists grave sites.  Phebe Nickeson, “widow of Aaron,” is buried in Central Blendon cemetery, and there appears to be another grave south of this one that could be the unmarked grave of Aaron. 

I began looking more closely at this couple, and found in some records they were “Nickerson” and in others, “Nickeson.”   I contacted the Nickerson Family Association initially about ten years ago, inquiring of both Joseph, and Aaron and Phebe.  It was felt by the chief researcher at that time that Joseph was indeed the soon of Aaron and Phebe, but no concrete proof had been found.  Joseph, I was told, was probably born in New York, near the Pennsylvania border; Aaron and Phebe were in this area a the appropriate time.  Also, one of Joseph’s sons was named Aaron.  On this scanty basis, Joseph was tentatively placed in the family of Aaron and Phebe. 

But now, having Joseph in Franklin county at the same time as Aaron and Phebe, I felt a little more comfortable with this assumption.  I began looking at censuses, starting with 1800 in New York.  I found an Aaron there with a female of the right age to be a wife, and 3 girls 10-26, and what looks like 3 boys under the age of 10.  Joseph would have been 3 at that time. 

Working backwards, I found an Aaron in 1790 in Albany county, New York; the family makeup appears to be the two parents, plus 3 daughters, consistent with what I found in 1800. 
And this is the point where it quit being easy.  

In 1810, there was no Aaron Nickeson or Nickerson to be found in New York.  Ohio’s census records for this year were destroyed for all counties except Washington, and he wasn’t there either.  He died in 1814, so I shifted the focus to his wife, Phebe.  In 1820, the census is missing for Franklin county.  In 1830, does not list her in the census search results, and an attempt to browse the Franklin county census images was unsuccessful – Franklin county, for some reason, is not listed among the counties, although it was formed in 1803.  I checked other Nickeson households in Ohio for the presence of a woman of the appropriate age, and did not find one; this, of course, does not rule out the possibility that she was living with a married daughter. 

In 1840, there is an “A. Nickinson” in Franklin county, but no woman Phebe’s age in the household.
Turning to probate records, Aaron did leave a probate document, and I have a copy, but it is largely illegible.  An abstraction in the Ohio Genealogical Quarterly lists the executors of his estate as Thomas McFeeley, John Brickle, and Uriah/Urri Nickerson.  If this Nickerson is indeed Uriah/Urri, I have no idea who this Uriah is or how he connects, despite a tremendous amount of information from the Nickerson Family Association’s data.  However – Aaron has a known brother, Uzziel, who lived in the same areas at Aaron, and was in Ohio by 1812 – two years before Aaron died.  The signature at the bottom of the probate paper could have been “Urri”, or “Uzzi” in my opinion.  The part of the paper that supposedly reads “Uriah” is equally as unconvincing. But unfortunately, regardless of who is the administrator, no other names appear on this document; it appears, from what I can make out, that it simply names the administrators. 

I mentioned that Joseph moved his family to Illinois between 1838-1840, to an area in Peoria county near the Fulton county line.  There is a Charles Nickerson in Fulton county, who moved there in 1837, from where I do not know.   If Joseph is indeed the son of Aaron and Phebe, this Charles would be a very, very distant cousin, which opens up the possibility of Joseph perhaps being more closely related to this Charles than I’ve been thinking.  Or, perhaps, it’s a coincidence that they ended up relocating to the same area at roughly the same time. 

At any rate, as far as I can see, without some other clue to pursue I’m at the end of the line with Joseph, Aaron and Phebe Nickeson.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

52 Ancestors: #15–William Lair and the “Lucky Thirteen”

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.


On April 19, 1861, days after Abraham Lincoln called for men to defend the Union, thirteen men from Princeville, Illinois enlisted in Company A of the 2nd Illinois Light Artillery.  One of those men was 19 year old William T. Lair. 

These men were referred to as the “Lucky Thirteen” because all of them survived the war.  In addition to William, his first cousin Noah Lair, and uncle Letz Lair, were also part of this group. While William did indeed live long enough to be mustered out, his service eventually resulted in his untimely death at age 35. 

William initially enlisted for a period of 3 years; after his obligation was fulfilled, he enlisted for another 3 years as a veteran on January 1, 1864.  He was described at that time as being 22 years old, with dark hair and gray eyes, and a light complexion.  Later on that year, during a war campaign near Mobile, Alabama, he spent many hours in the water raising a dismantled gun that had been thrown overboard.  Conditions were cold and damp; he slept in swamps during this period of his service, and it was this exposure, he felt, that resulted in the “lung disease” that would eventually take his life.  After being mustered out, he returned to his home in Princeville, where he began a slow but steady decline to his death on April 05, 1877.  He is buried at Princeville Cemetery. 

Four years before his death, he married Susan Hammer Givens, widow of Jacob Givens.  More about Susan’s story can be located here


Saturday, April 5, 2014

52 Ancestors: #14–My Granny’s Love for Her Granny

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.


AlvildaGravestone The pictures to the left are of the gravesite of Alvilda Monsen, my great-great grandmother, in Riverside cemetery near Huron, South Dakota.  The humble gravestone is engulfed by irises, all from a couple of small clumps my grandmother, Lillian, planted there many years ago. 

Alvilda was born and raised in Norway, the wife of a fisherman.  Her husband’s fishing boat was caught in a storm at sea, and he never returned.  Alvilda had a
difficult time providing for her three children, but they got by.  Her oldest daughter, Ella, came to America in 1904 to her paternal uncle in South Dakota.  One by one, as the family members crossed the ocean to a new life, he opened his heart and home to them, helping them to
AlvildaGravestone2 learn English and find employment.  Ella worked as a housekeeper in Huron, and soon after married and began raising her own family.  Her younger brother and sister eventually followed Ella to the United States, but Alvilda stayed in Norway.  

Finally, in 1915 at the age of 54, Alvilda went to South Dakota to Ella’s home, where she and my grandmother Lillian spent many hours together.   Lillian was 3 when Alvilda made her home with them, and was 13 when her granny died of liver disease.

Every time I see these irises, I wonder if Lillian thought about how much she missed her grandmother as she dug the holes and placed the bulbs around the marker, perhaps remembering things they had done together.  Seeing the flowers that my grandmother lovingly planted on her own grandmother’s grave warms my heart.  I wish I could do the same for Lillian.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

52 Ancestors: #13–Harriet Searle Van Brocklin - Doing God’s work on the Prairie

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.  This post was originally published in 2010, but since I can’t do better telling her story, I am re-publishing it for this series.

Harriet Searle Van Brocklin3 Nestled between cornfields southwest of Freeport, Illinois, sits a lasting reminder that Harriet Van Brocklin was there, and that she had faith.

It takes a special kind of person to be a pioneer.  Harriet’s husband, Conrad, was that kind of person, and while he stands out in his community’s history, it’s clear that Harriet was his kindred spirit in that respect.  Not just any young woman would leave “civilization”, as well as her family, and take her two babies to what was at that time the western frontier, and live among Indians and wolves.  But Harriet did, in the spring of 1836.  She was taking herself, and her children, to an area where there were no doctors, no neighbors, and what you had was what you brought.   For some time, the Van Brocklins were the only settlers in Florence township, in sparsely settled Stephenson county, Illinois.  It would be a year and a half before another settler moved into the area.  How lonely she must have been!

But Harriet had brought faith with her.  She became a Christian as a child in New York, and her relationship to God was vitally important.  The Van Brocklins held their own religious services, and had public services as early as 1846 in an old log school house near their home.  In 1852, Harriet organized a Methodist congregation, and by 1860 it was part of a circuit of 5 churches with two ministers.  In 1866, the Van Brocklin church building was completed, built on land donated at least partially by the Van Brocklins, with money raised by subscription.   In more recent history, services were still held every other week, sharing a minister with another congregation.  Harriet has long since gone, but her work lives on.

Van Brocklin's Day 

On Yellow Creek they built a Church
And enemies said, "'twill be left in lurch,"
For the waters were high and the debt was large,
And God, they said, was against the charge. 

But the day was bright and the sun shone clear,
And a pontoon bridge they crossed without fear;
And though the feet slipped the heart was true,
And they walked on ice to see the thing through. 

The Elder preached well of Christ and love,
And carried our thoughts to temples above;
And when he stopped, Brother Best did write,
And soon the debt was out of sight. 

Yea, more than asked, with a hearty will,
Because our God their thoughts did fill;
And thanks to friends and God we'll give --
Praise here, and then go home to live. 

May angels often come and see
Repentant sinners bend the knee,
And new-born souls begin the song
They sing in heaven's assembled throng. 

--J. Wardie
Freeport, Feb. 20, 1883




 Van Brocklin Church,~2009

Sunday, March 23, 2014

52 Ancestors: #12 - A Curious Probate for Casper Kluthe

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.
Casper Kluthe was a German immigrant who seemed to live an upright, and straightforward life.  He was born in Germany in 1836, and left there early in 1872 with his sister Angela and cousin Theresia, headed for St. Louis to his brother, Conrad.  A few years later, Casper headed for Nebraska to homesteaded land. 
There he married a widow, Mrs. Maria (Heimann) Koester, who had three children – daughters Mary and Theresa, and son John.  Casper and Maria went on to have two sons.  The ages of the Koester girls aren’t known, but John Koester was two years old when his mother married Casper Kluthe, and he was eight years old when she died.  I don’t know what became of the Koester children, but they did not continue on in Casper’s household after the death of their mother, and I’m guessing they were reared by grandparents or other relatives.
Three years later, Casper married Katie Kleine, herself a German immigrant, and she raised his two sons from his first marriage in addition to the couple’s son and daughter.  Casper died in 1902, age 66 from asthma, and his youngest child was 14.  He named his wife as executrix of his estate.  Simple, right?
In May of 1910, eight years and one month after Casper’s death, up pops John Koester, filing a claim against the estate for $500.  His claim indicated that this was the amount due him from his mother’s estate, but did not mention any property that his mother may have brought into the marriage to Kluthe.  Katie Kluthe objected to the claim, and a court date was set.  When the day of the hearing finally rolled around, no one was showed up for court, and the hearing was rescheduled.  This time, Katie Kluthe and her attorney were present, but John Koester did not appear.  After an hour, they proceeded without him, and it was ruled that Koester was in default, evidence showed this was not a just claim, and the claim was barred by the statute of limitations.  Koester was ordered to pay court costs.
         This raises a few questions -

         What does this say regarding the relationship between John Koester and the Kluthes?
What was Koester’s point in filing this claim and then not showing up for court, twice?

Why did John Koester wait 8 years to file his claim against the estate?
Why did Koester feel he and his sisters were entitled to any part of the estate?  Did their mother leave assets that became the property of Casper Kluthe  after her death? 

Checking land records might help in determining if Maria Heimann Koester’s first husband owned property.

Did Casper Kluthe maintain a relationship with his step-children?  Was the claim filed because they were disappointed to have been left out of the will?
I would love to have ten minutes to talk to these people…

Friday, March 14, 2014

52 Ancestors: #11: John Quincy Adams of Vermont, Illinois, and Iowa

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.


John Q. Adams
John Adams always impressed me as a real “go-getter.”  Of course, it’s in his genes.  His great-grandparents, James Callender Adams and Submit Purchase Adams, were the first settlers in what would become St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Their son Martin Adams was also one of the pioneers of St. Johnsbury, and also of Duncansboro (Newport), Vermont, and was barely 17 when he enlisted in the Vermont Militia as a drummer in the Revolutionary War. Martin’s son Abial, the first white child born in Newport, served as town clerk and along with his wife Irene, raised 15 children.  It’s no wonder that John Adams had a tendency to go after what he wanted, and was not afraid of working to get it.
At the age of 16, John left home bound for Burlington, Vermont, to attend college there.  He paid his own way by teaching school in the winter terms.  He studied there for two years (1847-1849) before returning to his father’s house where he, along with the older boys in the family, helped on the farm.

Early in 1851, he once again left home, this time headed for Stephenson County, Illinois, where he taught school and worked as a carpenter for two years.  He was 22 years old when he boarded a steamer for California, hoping to jump-start his future in the Gold Rush era.  He was there five years, and went back to Stephenson county in February of 1858 with $1000 in his pocket.  He wasted no time purchasing 240 acres of land south of Florence, Illinois, and within two weeks had married Miss Julia Van Brocklin, daughter of prominent Stephenson county pioneer Conrad Van Brocklin.   He farmed this land for the duration of his many years there, except for a short time he kept a store in Freeport.

JohnJuliaHeadstone2 JohnAdamsLand2_WatermanTwp
Above, left: John and Julia’s headstone in Waterman cemetery.  Left: Their land in O’Brien county, Iowa.

While he started out ambitious, the remainder of his life seems to be relatively quiet, at least as far as the paper-trail he left would indicate.  In 1902, he sold his farm, and purchased another farm in O’Brien county, Iowa, as well as two pieces of land in nearby Sutherland.  His wife died on 24 Feb 1905.  He died on 16 Nov. 1907 of pneumonia in Hampton Iowa, where their daughter Hattie Wolfe and her family lived.  John and Julia are buried in Waterman Cemetery, just outside of Sutherland.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This is Where…

Back in 2006, we took a trip back to my grandparents’ home in South Dakota.  The last of them, my grandfather, passed away in 1996, and my mother continued on there for another 9 years before moving in with us in another state.  The house sat vacant.  It had seen better days – wonderful days – of lots of family chatter, savory aromas from the kitchen...  it was a safe haven where love and protection permeated the entire house.  Everything good about life I learned in that house.  And now we were going back one last time to pack things up and to say goodbye.  Take a tour with me, if you will.

lilacs2 This is where I would start to get excited – coming around the corner, seeing the warm light coming from the kitchen window.  The lilacs are lovey now, Grandma would have liked them; but they did not hide the house back then.  When we were dropped off in the early morning hours of winter, I could almost feel the warmth from the open oven door and the smell of hot chocolate radiating out the window with the light.

This is where I’d watch the squirrels clamoring to get to the squirrel feeder as Grandpa restocked it every day.

And from the outside, this is where Grandma and I would wave to each other as I was leaving.  Every time I left her house, except once, she was at that window; and every time I’ve left that house since her death more than 20 years ago, I could still see her standing there, smiling and waving at us.
Grandma's View kitchen window
100_3636 This is where I’d stand and contemplate – contemplate if the wonderful things stored in the attic were worth risking my very life to get to.  Yes, the attic was full of mysterious things both good and bad.  Boxes of old clothes, makeup samples from my mother’s time as an Avon lady, old toys… and monsters, for sure.  Lots of monsters.  Plus, Grandma told me, if I stepped in just the right place I’d fall down in between the walls, and “even Grandpa won’t be able to get you out.”  It worked.   Even now, I get a little chill down my spine at this sight.

This is where I sometimes slept when I spent the night there.  It was a tiny second bedroom with a magical trundle bed unlike anything I had ever seen.  Grandma would put a blanket on top of the mattress to make it more snuggly, and my sister and I would curl up under a big gray blanket with big red strawberries embroidered all over it.
This is where the black rotary dial phone sat, neatly in the little nook between the kitchen and the dining room; and where my grandmother would pull up a kitchen chair every night at 9:30, waiting for her mother-in-law to make her nightly “check in” call.

And, one more, if you don’t mind…

This is where I’d watch Grandpa walk in the morning, dressed in his overalls, and he'd back his blue and white car out of the garage.  He’d put his lunch pail in, wave goodbye, and head westward to his farm where chores awaited. 

I miss these days.  We are now raising our first generation of the family who never knew this place, and never knew these people.  I suppose we are now the ones whose responsibility it is to make the memories…

Friday, March 7, 2014

52 Ancestors: #10–Michael Joyce: The Man Who Can’t be Pinned Down

MichaelCatherineJoyce Michael and Catherine Joyce When you’re researching a man named Michael Joyce from Ireland, you have to expect that things aren’t going to be easy.  Probably much like researching a man named John Smith from New York City, I’m assuming.  I have been able to prove Michael and his wife, Catherine Finnerty, back to 1850, but no further.  With a date of birth, emigration from Ireland, death date, etc., I was hoping for a way to differentiate him from all of the other Michael Joyces out there, and find his immigration information as well as maybe trace him back to to Ireland.

Ah… we can always hope…

So, when and where was Michael born?  His obituary states that he was born in 1829 in Fraemstown, County Gall, Ireland.  However -

     -1855 Massachusetts State Census indicates 1830
     -1870 Federal Census indicates 1830
     -1880 Federal Census indicates 1831
     -1900 Federal Census says Sept. 1830
     -1910 Federal Census indicates 1830
     -his obituary says Sept. 29, 1830
     -his death certificate says Oct. 2, 1829
     -his original headstone says Sept. 29, 1829.

And regarding his place of birth – there is no county in Ireland by the name of Gall, and “Fraemstown” appears to be nonexistent.  The general vicinity for the Joyce family in County Galway has been established, but an 1781 map of the area doesn’t show “Fraemstown” or anything similar, which is a bit troubling.  His wife was still living at the time of his death, and came from the same area of County Galway, so if it were she who supplied the information, one would have to give it some sort of credibility.

Michael supposedly emigrated from Ireland aboard the “Victoria” but I have not been able to find a ship by that name operating in the appropriate time and place.  And when did he emigrate?

     -1848, per his obituary
     -1846, per the 1900 census
     -1849 per the 1910 census

He married Catherine Finnerty in 1851, according to his obituary.  Their first child was born in May of 1852, so this seems to fit – for a change.

They supposedly relocated from Massachusetts to Wisconsin in 1851, but birth places of their children make 1855-1857 more feasible, and a Michael and Catherine Joyce with two children by the appropriate names appear in the 1855 Massachusetts State Census, making the 1855-1857 time range more likely.

And his death? At least it’s either October 5 (death certificate and probate papers) or October 6 (original headstone).  Ironically, his obituary never exactly states when he died.

My conclusion is that Michael Joyce just dropped out of the sky and landed in the United States, and from thence we all sprang.  Seriously, the only solid information (I’m making a big assumption here) are the names of his parents from his death certificate.  Unfortunately, his father has a common name as well (Patrick) and his mother is Rose “Maden” – or perhaps Madden.  There are plenty of Maddens in the same area of Ireland as the Joyces, but no Madens that I have been able to find.  Hopefully, I'll be able to find a solid piece of information that will set him apart from the others, and help me to work back back a generation or two.

Friday, February 28, 2014

52 Ancestors: #9-The Disappearing Daughters of Roland Sisson

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.


Sometimes interesting things happen when you start looking closely at data you haven’t seen in awhile.  Putting together documents from an entire family and making a timeline can bring out some interesting scenarios, for instance, the disappearing daughters of Roland and Elizabeth (Wright) Sisson. 

Roland and Elizabeth were both natives of New York, probably Herkimer county where they lived with Roland’s father after their marriage.  Roland was born in 1822, Elizabeth in 1825.  Their first child, a girl named Rebecca, was born and died in 1848, living just past 2 months of age.  Son James was born in 1849; he committed suicide at the age of 26, in 1875.  Three daughters were then born, Ann, ca. 1851; Adeline “Addie”, ca. 1852, and Alice, ca. 1855.  All presumably died before 18931.    
Sons Alvin and John were born next; both lived to adulthood.

Next, four more daughters were born:  Katie, ca. 1867-1872; Adelia/Alilia/Alelia, ca. 1869; Baby Girl, ca. 1874, and Sarah, birth year unknown, but d. 1861.  Since she does not appear in the 1860 census, I’m assuming she was born later in 1860 or 1861, and had a very short life.

The last two daughters, Adelia/Alilia/Alelia and Baby Girl, are difficult to sort out .  Are these two separate daughters, or are they the same person? The 1875 Minnesota Territorial census shows both of these girls as Adelia, 6 and Baby Girl, 1.  In 1880, only Alilia, 11, is listed, no mention of Baby Girl.  Five years later, in 1885, the older girl would have been 16, and the baby, 11.  Alelia, 16, is listed in that census.  It would appear that Baby Girl died before 1880.

The mother’s obituary (Elizabeth) says she died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Blanchard of Spring Valley, in 1900.  The census of 1900 has a Lela Blanchard living in Spring Valley with a birth date of Sept. 1868 – my Adelia/Alilia/Alelia was b. ca 1869.  This is probably her.  Besides her husband, she has two children, ages 9 and 7.  I’m assuming a marriage date of ca. 1890 or earlier.

Everything seems in order, until finding the 1895 Minnesota census of Elizabeth, then a widow, with daughter Luela in the household, age 21.  This age fits perfectly with the Baby Girl listed in the 1875 census.  The older sister, Mrs. Blanchard, would have been 26, and presumably married with both children born by then.  I was unable to locate Mrs. Blanchard in the 1895 Minnesota census.

I turned to the cemeteries for some additional help – Roland and Elizabeth are buried in Duff cemetery, a small but well-kept rural cemetery in the vicinity of their home.  Also in that same area is Bateman cemetery, where I found daughters Katie and Sarah buried.   I visited the cemetery in 2012, and found it in terrible condition, broken stones, in the middle of a corn field.  Someone visited the cemetery in 2009 and uploaded photos to Find-A-Grave.  The cemetery was mowed and green, and in much better shape.  Their reading showed no other Sissons besides Katie and Sarah buried there.

Sign katiesarah

Left: Bateman cemetery, 2012.  Right: The gravestone of Katie and Sarah Sisson.

I have been through numerous cemeteries in this general vicinity, and made note of the Sisson graves I found, but cannot account for the missing daughters nor the son James who committed suicide.  Obviously, they are buried somewhere, and more work needs to be done. 


1Their father’s obituary was published in 1893, and three children survived him, Alvin, John and Lelia.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

52 Ancestors: #8–Charlotte Debolt: Making a Case for her Parentage

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.
Charlotte Debolt was my fifth great-grandmother, and someone I’m still getting to know.  Information has been hard to come by, particularly concerning her relationship with her husband, and discovering the identity of her parents.  Charlotte was married to Daniel Debolt, a man about fifteen years her senior.  They were the parents of seven children, at least that I’ve been able to identify so far.  The 1820 and 1830 censuses find them in Licking county, Ohio, and in 1840, Charlotte is still there and identified as “head of household.”  Daniel seems to spend the remainder of his life in the households of two of his children, but not again with Charlotte.  Charlotte and several of her children removed to Peoria county, Illinois, where she passed away in 1851 and is buried in Princeville cemetery. 

There’s certainly more to learn about Charlotte’s relationship with her husband, but I may be asking for too much.  However, I may be having some luck in identifying her parents.  I found a Charlotte Debolt listed in an index to abstracted wills in Washington county, Ohio.  She was listed as an heir of Patrick Burnsides.  My bubble was burst, however, when I saw that this Charlotte's husband was named William.  But something kept bothering me, so I decided to see review my documentation of Charlotte.

Charlotte was born in New Jersey about 1790.  I did find a Patrick Burnsides in Essex county, New Jersey in a tax list dated 1793, which of course, doesn’t prove much.  In 1830, when Daniel and Charlotte lived in Licking county, Ohio, they lived next to a William Burnsides – perhaps a coincidence.  I decided to go ahead and order the probate file for Patrick Burnsides from Washington County.   Sure enough, right off the bat Charlotte is mentioned with her husband, William Debolt.  However, further into the probate file Charlotte is mentioned again, this time with her husband named as “Daniel” DeBolt!  Also listed among the heirs was William Burnsides... the same William Burnsides who lived next to Daniel and Charlotte in 1830?   Hmmm....

This is not exactly ironclad proof, but I’d say I probably have the right father for Charlotte, at long last.  Now, if I could just figure out why she and Daniel parted…

Saturday, February 15, 2014

52 Ancestors: #7–Ray Christensen- Making a Night Fighter out of a Farmer

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.


FO Ray_Color
© Karen Seeman.

Whatever possessed Ray Christensen to do an about-face on the life he had planned, and enlist in World War II?  He was 28 years old; had two and a half years under his belt at the University of Minnesota, and was working on an agricultural degree; he had a job selling insurance for State Farm, and admittedly had a “pretty good setup” living rent free as a grounds-keeper in a women’s boarding house (not bad for a self-proclaimed “ladies’ man!”)  

Agriculture was in Ray's blood, and after high school he continued to help his father on the family farm, then traveled the midwest as a hired man.  Autumn of 1938 finds him at the University of Minnesota to work on a degree in agriculture.  I don’t know what his plans were – go back to farming?  Extension work?  Something else?  But he worked hard to pay his tuition, and was the first in his family to go to college.

And then suddenly, between semesters, he enlisted.  Did the attack on Pearl Harbor 3 weeks prior have anything to do with it?  I don’t know, but before you can say, “What happened?” he’s at Scott Field in Illinois.

Scott Field, 1942
One of his first letters home says he’s learning code and electricity, and eventually will learn radios.  He’ll have to “work like heck to make it,” but hopes to make the grade as a radio man on a bomber, or an instructor.  His scores on the exams are high - sometimes the highest.  Well, he did work like heck, and he was eventually a navigator on one of the most wild rides a soldier could get – an assignment to a night fighter squadron.

A typical radio class at Scott Field.

Ray seemed to enjoy his time at Scott field – good food, comfortable bed, and only four men to a room.  The food was so good, in fact, that he complained about his uniforms getting “a bit snug.”  The only problem is that passes were hard to come by, even on the weekends, and for a guy like Ray who loved to dance, well, that part did not go over well.

By June, Ray had completed his coursework at Scott Field and has moved on to the AAFTTC Technical School in Boca Raton, Florida, which had just officially opened for business on June 1st.1

The main mission of the Boca Raton AAF was radar training – a field that was considered top secret at that time.  The personnel attending this school had to pass a “rigorous background investigation” and be among the most highly ranked candidates academically.2  During this time, Ray was also doing some instructing of some sort; his letters don’t say much, but do frequently mention his students.

During his time at Boca Raton, Ray passed the aerial gunnery board, and was anticipating gunnery school before going “across.”  

In March of 1943, 7 months after arriving at Boca Raton, Ray is still there, but anticipating being sent to Japan “any day now.”  By the time of his next letter in June, he has been sent to Kissimmee, Florida, and would then go to the 417th Night Fighter Squadron by way of the British Isles for additional training.  The night fighter assignments were so dangerous, men were considered on a volunteer basis only.  I don't know what might have prompted Ray to ask for this hazardous work - perhaps an adventurous spirit, perhaps something else.  From the British Isles, he began his career as a night fighter navigator in the European Theater.  So much for going to Japan! 

More on Ray's story in a future post~


Photo of Scott Field and Radio class: “Scott Field, United States Army Air Corps: A Pictorial and Historical Revies of Scott Field.”  1942
Various Letters from Ray Christensen to his sister, Lillian.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Old Cookbook

30 years ago, as a new bride, I got this Betty Crocker cookbook from my dear Aunt Mabel. It was my first cookbook, and I consulted it frequently over the years, always thinking of her when I used it.  It was not only myself using it, but my children and grandchildren learned to cook with this book open on the countertop.  It is missing the front cover, pages are warped from being wet, and the pages with the best recipes have little bits of this and that stuck to the paper.  Here and there, pages are torn from over-anxious children wanting to see what goodies were on the next page. 
Someday, when I’ve gone on to a better place, someone will be going through my belongings here on this earth.  They’ll find this old cookbook and wonder why I still have it.  “Was she unable to afford a new one?” they might ask.  But little will they know, it’s this one that’s priceless.

Friday, February 7, 2014

52 Ancestors: #6–William Graves of NC, OH, IL

This blog post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow 's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.  Learn more at her blog.
William and Rebecca (Stretch) Graves
William Graves and his wife Becky Stretch will always be special to me, though I never even came close to meeting them.  Back in the late 1990’s, when my interest in genealogy became re-kindled, it was with them that I began my research. 

Bill Graves was born 20 Nov 1820 in Chatham county, North Carolina to John and Elizabeth (Freeman) Graves, the fourth of twelve children.  The following year, his family removed to Ross county, Ohio, where many of his father’s siblings had already gone.  There he married Ann Ratcliff, daughter of Simon and Rachel (Dixon) Ratcliff in 1842, on his 22nd birthday.

In 1844, Bill’s brothers Thomas and James had sojourned to Stark county, Illinois to see if the grass was greener there.  It was, they determined, and sent for their parents and siblings.  As John and Elizabeth prepared for the trip by
covered wagon, John took ill and died.  Elizabeth painfully continued the preparations and continued westward.  Everyone went except Bill and Ann – Bill owned about 210 acres of land in Liberty township, nearby that of his father-in-law, Simon Ratcliff.  They continued on in Ross county with their children Simon, b. 1844; Martha Madaline, b. 1846; and Saran Ann, b. 1855.  Their third child, James Newton, lived less than a month and was buried at Friends Church Cemetery near Londonderry, Ohio.

Six months after the birth of her youngest child, Ann died, and was buried near her son.  Six months after her death, Bill married Rebecca Stretch, daughter of Thomas and Rebecca (Rains) Stretch, who had helped out with the children after Ann’s death.  About 1864, Bill, Becky, and their family set out to join the rest of Bill’s family in Illinois.  Simon and “Madaline,” as she was called, went with their father, and Sarah Ann (“Annie”) stayed behind to be raised by her maternal grandparents.  In addition to these two children, Bill and Becky’s family consisted of Cynthia (4) and Thomas (2),   They purchased a farm in Peoria county, Illinois, just across the border from Stark county, and there they prospered.  Their twin sons, Oscar and Austin, were born in 1870.  Bill eventually had purchased enough land to give each of his children, including the girls, an 80-acre farm. 


William apparently retired at a fairly early age, as the younger children didn’t remember him working.  According to his granddaughter, Myrtis, William never hurried at anything, and was an easy going man.  He “made it a point to be out at the gate when he saw a wagon coming, which in those days of slow driving was not hard to do,” she said.  He always went to bed before dark, never smoked, drank, or kept late hours, and lived a long life to show for it.  He was also interested in his family’s history, and kept many of the birth and death dates in his Bible.  Though his people had been Quakers, Bill never professed any certain religion himself, and saw no need to “pay a preacher to tell people how to live.”  This perturbed his wife to no end, having been brought up in a church-going home, and the daughter of a choir-master.  He did, however, insist that his children attend Sunday school.

IMG_6506 Eventually their children grew up and left home – Simon sold his farm to younger brother Oscar and went to Nebraska; Madaline married Monroe Cox of Stark county; Annie married Monroe’s brother Charles Cox, also of Stark county; Cynthia married David Evans of Peoria County; Thomas also sold his farm to his brother Oscar and moved to South Dakota; and Austin did likewise, settling in Minnesota.  Oscar’s descendants continued on the farm, with his grandson still owning it as of at least 2008, making it eligible for designation as a “Centennial Farm”".”


Rebecca suffered a fall, breaking her thigh bone, and died a month later, the official cause of death being tuberculosis.  She passed away on 26 May, 1905 at the home of her daughter Cynthia.  Bill then lived with his son Austin at Stringtown, just across the border in Stark county, where he died on 16 Jun 1908.  Both Bill and Becky are buried at Sheets Cemetery in Stark county. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Old Pins in a bag of "Junk"

I love to buy old buttons and pins from antique stores or garage sales.  It's always interesting to see what odd things you'll find. 

This is a United Hagie Seed Twine pin.  Perhaps the "5" is for someone's anniversary with the company, or a landmark anniversary for the company.  If you look closely you can make out the kernels of corn around the perimeter of the pin.  The red bucking mule is interesting as well.

I've seen these Women's Relief Corps pins before - immediately under the badge hangs a "25 years" plaque with attachments for additional plaques for every 5 years served.  The WRC is the official auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).

A cute little Farm Bureau charm

West Midland Farmers LM pin.   I don't know anything about this organization or the significance of the pin.

3 gallons of blood donated to the Red Cross!

I have no idea what this pin is for.

"Dedicated to Excellence - CCC"
The picture doesn't do justice to the pretty red jewel in the center.  I could not find another example of this pin online, so I don't know what "CCC" stands for, or why this pin was produced.

That's all for now!