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, Ancestry.com 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.