Monday, March 30, 2015

Mathias Wisner: Of Maryland Not Of Pennsylvania (52 Ancestors #12)

Mathias Wisner was my fifth great grandfather. And another good mystery! There is a lot of information floating around about Mathias Wisner. A lot of confusing and contradictory information. Here is what I have been able to prove, and a bit of reasonable conclusion, I will leave the speculation to others.

Mathias first shows up in Baltimore MD in 1770 when he has a plot of land surveyed. He is mentioned in the book "The Wisner's in America" as the "progenitor of the Palatinate family." Settling in Baltimore County. By this I suspect that he immigrated from Germany as an adult, sometime prior to 1770. Mathias received his patent in October of 1774 for a piece of property known as Wisner's Prospect.

He married Sarah Mannon sometime before 1775. It is listed on Find A Grave, and other public places around the old genealogical 'hood, that their first child was born in 1775. I have found no documentation to support this and there is not an actual grave marker or cemetery listed on FAG, just a memorial page. I have treated this as a bit of information that requires further investigation.

I have found no evidence of Mathias' actual birth date or birth place, however it is reasonable to conclude that he was born sometime between 1740 and 1750. Certainly no later. His wife is said to have been born about 1748 by other researchers, I have found no proof of this to date.

There is a record of Mathias paying a supply tax in 1783, which has earned him a spot on the Daughters of the American Revolution's roster an a new patriot. (Ancestor #A210952). Curiously, he is listed as having an unknown wife prior to marrying Sarah (who has been recorded by the DAR as Mathias' second wife). The woman who submitted the initial information for Mathias did not supply this information, so currently it is a mystery as to where the DAR unearthed it.

Mathias shows up in the 1790, 1810 and 1820 Federal Census. I was very sad to read that in 1790 he had one slave in his household. Thankfully he came to his senses, as by 1810 he no longer was a slaveholder. This part of our history is just appalling to me.

In 1816 Mathias wrote his Last Will and Testament, which was presented for probate Feb 26, 1823.

Mathias' exact date of death is unknown, or at least unproved. There is a date floating around, but I have yet to discover it's accuracy.

It is said that he is buried in the family plot on Wisner's Prospect.

This Mathias Wisner is often confused with a Mathias Wisner who immigrated to Pennsylvania from Germany in 1752. The Pennsylvania Mathias Wisner has been well documented as living the remainder of his life in PA. There should be no confusion, but the rumor still persists.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Genealogy Do Over ReCap: Driving It Home (with one headlight)

Here we are. Final week of the Great Genealogy Do Over of 2015. For some reason the American storyteller Jean Shepherd keeps popping into my head. How would Shep have told this tale? It would have made us laugh, that's for sure. And wince. And nod in agreement.

My tale was one wrought with much weeping. And angst. And humor. You've got to have humor. The reference to "one headlight" in the title is an apropo joke for me and a few select inner circle compadres. (and all my Facebook friends, truth be told)

Oh all right, you are really my inner circle now too. I'll share.

Mid-way through my whining and weeping trip through the Genealogy Do Over I had my highly anticipated cataract surgery. Well, let's just say things were not a "snap" for me, as so many others have reported. Nope. My eyesight actually got worse, much worse. Seeing through 'one headlight' worse. Oh, don't worry - they say it can be fixed.

With laser surgery.

In about 10 weeks.

Meanwhile they were ready to proceed as scheduled and 'fix' the other eye.

This week.

Um, no.

So here I am in my Cave with one good eye and one that is growing more and more out of focus with each passing day. It is ever more difficult to see, to type, to do all the things I love to do.

Kinda like the Do Over. (You remember the Do Over? This is a post about the Do Over.)

I thought my research was OK. I thought I had things under control and organized. A few minor tweaks was all I needed, really.

Bwaaaahaaaahaaaa .......

At week three I hit my first bump in the road and have been limping along ever since. I almost quite several times. I dug in my heels, cried and declared this whole exercise "too hard".

Who wants to do dumb old genealogy anyway?

But then something happened.

I went back to the beginning, again. (It is, after all, the very best place to start) I started from scratch. Fresh, clean, new. It felt good!

It felt DAMN good!

I opened and actually used the Research Log Spreadsheet (did you hear me? I USED the spreadsheet!!!) I started to really organize all the downloads, photos, data, links that were scattered in more places than I care to admit on my computer. I started scanning the family photos and putting them in their proper places on my computer - and my backup.

I still find myself chasing after BSO's and shaking my fist at the Genealogy gods, who often sit perched upon my shoulder, mocking my attempts at serious Cave work. But I am making progress. Small, perhaps even 'unseen by the naked eye' progress, but every day I move a bit closer, move one more file, add one more name.

Inch by inch.

....................... with one headlight.

Who's ready for more?!

Frederick Colyer: A Bit Of Genealogy Karma (52 Ancestors #11)

Frederick Colyer was my 2nd great grandfather. Born in Kent, England Novenber 4, 1847 to Frederick Henry Colyer and Ann Pritchard Colyer. Frederick was the middle child, second of three children, two boys and a girl.

Now I don't pretend to know what life in England was like in the mid-1800's, but for some unexplained reason Frederick decided to leave England and head for America as a young man of 22.

In the spring of 1870 Frederick traveled to London and boarded the ship the New World bound for America. Listed as a passenger in steerage, Frederick arrived in New York June 21, 1870 to begin his new life. It is unclear as to whether he traveled alone or with companions, but I do know that his entire family stayed behind in England.

Listed as a bricklayer by trade, I'm sure the job prospects were good for a young immigrant in the later part of the 1800's. Cities were being established, the railroads were being built, America was growing and needed good skilled men to fuel the growth.

Frederick finds his way to Chicago sometime prior to 1872, where he meets and marries my 2nd great grandmother, Ann Sammon, on September 13, 1872.

It is unclear as to whether Frederick was in Chicago prior to the Great Fire, but I would suspect that if not, he arrived shortly after. Chicago needed all the skilled bricklayers they could find to help rebuild the city devastated by fire.

Frederick and Ann would go on to have two children, a son and a daughter.

Their son, Henry, died at the age of 20. Ten years later Frederick lost his wife, Ann.

Frederick's golden years were spent in the residence of his daughter and son-in-law, finally joining his wife on February 19, 1928 at the respectable age of 80.

From left to right:
Standing: Margaret Colyer Irons, Frederick Colyer,
 Agnes Irons (granddaughter), Harry Irons (grandson)
Seated: William Irons (Margaret's husband)

The interesting aside to this story is that for years no one knew who Frederick's parents were. When I started my investigation into my family, my knowledge of Frederick's lineage was zero. I posted a Family Tree to OneWorldTree (a very incorrect tree, I might add, it has since been deleted). And that was that.

For a while.

One day I received an email from a man in England who had been looking for Frederick. He was a Colyer, descended from our mutual 4th great grandfather. He was tracing the family and was always stumped as to what has happened to Frederick. All he knew was Frederick got on a ship headed to America in 1870.  It puzzled and frustrated him not knowing Frederick's fate.

Then he came across my Tree.

For several weeks we emailed back and forth furiously. I supplied him with the information I had and he supplied me with the MOTHERLOAD of family tree research I would never be able to accomplish without an extended trip to England, and the seasoned knowledge of exactly where to look. He has been compiling family history for years. I now had parts of Frederick's lineage going back to 1515! With sources!

A magical day in the pursuit of genealogy, to be sure. A rare and glorious encounter.

One of those things we all secretly wish for when we post our trees for "cousin bait".

I have not has such a windfall of success since that time, but I have been able to 'pay it forward' here and there with other parts of my family tree. To enlighten others in some small ways, the way I was so blessed to have experienced.

Whatever possessed Frederick Colyer to leave his home and family so long ago, he was finally reunited 140 years later. The world just got a wee bit smaller.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ann Sammon Colyer: So Much Conflicting Information! (52 Ancestors #10)

Anna J "Jennie" Sammon(s) Colyer was my 2nd great grandmother. And yet another female ancestor I know little about. There is a massive amount of conflicting information surrounding her and her siblings. I have attempted to sort it out to the best of my knowledge. But it is still terribly confusing! Let the blogging begin!!

Quebec, Vital and Church Records
 (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967
Jennie Sammon was born in Quebec, Canada in 1853, maybe. I have found conflicting records to this end. Her baptism says 1853, her death record says 1857. I chose to go with the baptism record date for the time being. She was the second of seven children.

Her parents were Thomas Sammon and Mary Catherine O'Rourke, maybe. Again, conflicting information on the baptism and the death record. The death record lists Anna Dunn as her mother. Catherine Dunn was her paternal grandmother, and Anna McLingin was her maternal grandmother, according to other sources. I do not know who the informant was for the death record information. Other siblings have similar conflicting information reported on various records. Again, I chose to go with the baptism record for the time being.

Jennie lived in Quebec until at least 1869. Jennie and her family must have immigrated to America from Canada after 1869, but prior to 1872. Her father is listed in  the Quebec city directories through 1866, but I find no record of him in either Canada or America again until his death in Chicago, IL in 1873. The birth and/or death records of all of Jennie's siblings list Quebec, Canada as place of birth. Jennie's youngest sister was born in 1869. Maybe. (again, conflicting baptism/death info)

Jennie Married my 2nd great grandfather, Frederick Colyer, in Chicago IL Sept 13, 1872, definitely. Thank to Chicago IL for good record keeping, and the fact that the marriage happened after the Great Fire!

Jennie and Frederick had two children. Thomas Henry and Margaret. Margaret was my great grandmother. Jennie buried her son Thomas in 1897, he was only 20 years old. She lived long enough to see her daughter married and her two grandchildren born

Jennie died October 17, 1910. Leaving behind a  husband, a daughter and two grandchildren. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston IL. From the burial card for the plot I have been able to piece together some of her extended family. I suspect that her grandmother Catherine was living in Chicago as early as 1850. It is quite possible that her mother may have died shortly after the birth of her last child, which lead her widowed father to emigrate to Chicago, employing his mother's help with his seven young children. This scenario makes some good sense and would explain the mix-up of Jennie's mother's name on the death record.

This is merely speculation at this point, further records need to be acquired, but it is making some solid sense and I thought I'd just put it out there. There was one other Sammon(s) living in Chicago at the time, this story might ring true for another descendent, or it might bring to light the reason for some of the conflicting information.

Wish I had a time machine!

Genealogy Do Over: Week .... oh, just forget it!

What week is it? Ten? What made me think that I could possibly keep up?  I am just back from morning cataract surgery, typing with one eye, reading through all the posts on the Facebook group, feeling like a failure. Or at least a slacker. The kid at the back of the class shooting rubberbands at the blackboard. Doodling when I should be paying attention.

My life got enormously busy the day I committed to this Do Over. Why is that? What in the universe is triggered when an intense time commitment is made? I was looking for things to do last year. I had plenty of time to commit to something like this. Then BAM! Just like The Truman Show, Ed Harris from his mysterious control room cues anything and everything to be thrown into my path, thwarting all attempts at glorious completion! Harumph.

(No. I don't actually believe Ed Harris is behind this. But on the other hand ....)

One of my stumbling blocks has been the fact that I also decided to do the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this year. And another is the false belief I had at the beginning of the Do Over, that it was going to be a YEAR LONG process. That I might have been able to handle. The 13 week revelation just triggered weeping and hyperventilation as I tried desperately to keep up. (Oh, and the cataract surgery, but why let that stop me?!?)

Wait a minute .....

Why can't it be a year long process ....
(It can, Anne, you had this revelation before, remember?)

Although I am really wanting to keep up with everyone, to "do" the do over within the prescribed 13 weeks. To be an active and up-to-speed member of the group, that clearly is not my reality. There is so much information to read through, digest, learn, try out, that I do believe I just may begin at the beginning on April 4. Only this time I will do Week One for the entire month of April, Week Two during May, etc.

Now this! THIS just might work!!! (she snorts, under her breath, to herself)

What ever I need to tell myself. (again)

I still feel like somewhat of a failure. Like the kid held back a grade. But genealogy is a process not a destination, right? And we all work at our own speed. And judging by all the posts to the Group I am certainly not alone! Sometimes I feel like I am in a race, but who am I competing with? Myself? What's that about?

And my vacillating on my HOW, all-in or modified. Some days I'm chucking it all, getting new software and starting from scratch, other days the modified participation seems the way to go - why reinvent the wheel? But my wheel is really more of an octagon than circular - it rolls, but it lurches along, a bumpy and sometimes confusing ride. (I have a bunch of Tidewater Virginia kin in my tree - need I say more??)

What I need is a Genealogy Geanie. One rub on the magic lamp and all my problems vanish - my trees in perfect order! Just imagine!

No, what I really need is to get out of the Cave more often, I'm starting to sound just a wee bit crazy .....

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Agnes Irons Faulkner: The Grandmother I Never Knew (52 Ancestors #9)

Agnes Irons Faulkner was my father's mother. I only know her through the few pictures he had of her. She died when my dad was in High School. By the time I was born my grandfather had remarried and for most of my childhood I never really gave it any thought that my grandma was not my dad's mother.

I still don't know much about her. I'm embarrassed to say I never really took the time to piece her life together and get to know her. I have been so busy chasing brick walls that I have neglected ancestors closer to home. I'm rectifying that now.

The Irons Clan - baby Agnes at center
Agnes Elizabeth Irons was born 7 Sept 1902 in Chicago IL.  Her father was a fire chief for the Chicago Fire Department, her mother a housewife. The Irons family was a large, fun-loving clan, based on photographs I have in my possession. They were second generation Americans, having immigrated from Scotland in the 1850's. The family built quite a successful plumbing business in the small but growing city of Chicago IL.  I plan to explore the exploits of grandpa Irons in a future post.

Agnes had one younger brother, Harry, who was a pretty obsessed family historian in his lifetime.

But I digress.

I have allowed myself the week to dig up anything I could on my grandmother. I poured through the box of mementos my dad had, I checked out as many online repositories as I could think of, I turned up very little. And now my time is up.

For now .....

So I will report what I have been able to find, and leave the door wide open for more exploration in the future, the very near future!

Agnes as a teen
Agnes grew up on Irving Av in Chicago's 26th Ward. She attended Hamilton Grammar School, graduating with a diploma June 23, 1916. She completed a two year stenography course at Robert A Waller High School, graduating on January 30, 1920. She Graduated from Carl Schurz High School June 26, 1925 with a diploma, having completed a four year "Commercial Course". I did not get to investigate these document further, but I plan to. I am very curious what she was studying!

Agnes married my grandfather, L. L. Faulkner sometime between Sept 1928 and Aug 1929, based on the 1930 census. I have been unable to find any record of marriage in the city of Chicago, or any wedding announcement. Perhaps they eloped, but that seems unlikely based on Agnes' large family and all the photographs I have of her and her family. Plus, they were Catholic and I just can't imagine a prominent successful family not throwing a big wedding for their only daughter. Curiously, in looking at the photos again this week I did not find one single wedding photo. Not one.

By 1934 the Faulkner's has moved to the sleepy little suburb of Western Springs IL and my father
Agnes in her 30's
was born in November of that year. He was to be their only child. My father always said that his mother was "sickly", which might explain the reason he was the only child.

On October 12 1950 Agnes Irons Faulkner passed away. She was only 48. My father was a Sophomore in High School. I have found an obituary but no death certificate. I was told she had a "heart condition" but I do not know the actual cause of death.

Agnes is buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Evanston IL with many of her kin.

When my father went away to college in 1954 my grandfather remarried, moved from the family home in Western Springs, and disposed of all the mementos of Agnes' life. My father learned of the move after the fact and was unable to recover any family heirlooms. The one box of photos and diplomas I now have in my possession are all that is left of this smiling, vibrant woman I never knew.

Gone are the marriage certificate, the wedding ring, the photos of the couple together. It's as if my grandfather erased his life with her when he remarried. Sadly, I will never know the answers. My grandfather never spoke of Agnes, and when the woman who I always thought was my grandmother passed away he never spoke of her, either. Nor did he speak of his third wife after she passed, but he did repeat the pattern of purging all traces of his coupled life.

Sadly, in 2007 Agnes' only child, my father, passed away.

So now, only the questions remain.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Most Fabulous Object: My Love Affair With The Genealogy Do-Over FB Group

I love the Genealogy Do Over Facebook Group. I lurk there day and night. I keep up with posts on my smartphone. (Which I almost never actually use as a phone - I call it my Magic Portal) I spend hours upon hours hunkered in my Cave scrolling through posts, face illuminated by the computer screen. Eyes bleary from staring and forgetting to blink. (It's a known fact ...) Bookmarking links, LIKEing posts, commiserating.

This is the BEST GROUP EVER! The ultimate BSO! You are all just like me!! Crazy (in a good way) genealogy people! You have Caves. You have an encyclopedic knowledge of people dead since the 1700's. (No longer living anyway - my ancestors are always crowding my Cave like an overstuffed elevator, bickering and poking at each other, looking over my shoulder and pompously withholding the key piece of information I am searching for.)

I have learned so much from this group. And everyone is so helpful. Genealogy is ultimately a solitary pursuit unless you are lucky enough to have a relative who is also obsessed. But still, that relative, unless a sibling, is only interested in part of the family.

I am not nearly as far along with my official Do Over as I had naively believed I would be back on January 2. But I have learned some new techniques. Considered different perspectives. Been both encouraged and gravely discouraged (weeping, lots of weeping ..). Discovered I am not alone. Discovered that the more I learn, the more there is to learn. (My mind boggles!!) Had to come to terms with the knowledge that I still need to apply the tools being presented. And that requires stepping out of my comfort zone, trying some things out and formulating my own conclusion as to what is right for me.

Oh, and this miraculous transformation was NOT going to happen in 13 weeks.

But I'm OK with that.


I was experiencing information overload. I was a crazed madwoman prone to bouts of spontaneous weeping. And my paper bag had developed a hole from overuse. I was living in my bathrobe in my Cave. Only emerging when necessary. (My idea of 'necessary', and that of other's differed greatly for some reason ...)

So today I am thrilled, and grateful for being a welcomed member of this amazing group. I am glad Thomas, in a bout of mad genius (?), crafted this Do Over and released it to a naive and unsuspecting audience. Eager to Do It Over, but not entirely aware of the trials and tribulations to come.

I may not be as far along as some of you. I may be farther along than others. I am working at my own pace now, taking what I need and knowing that all that glorious information and the wonderful group members will be there when the time is right for me.

I lurk and learn every day, but now I am free to leave my Cave.

I'll get there.

I am getting there.

Genealogy is never "done", anyway. ("Hey!! I finished my family tree!!! Think I'll bake a pie, and maybe rotate the tires.")

And I'm so very happy that this whole magnificent adventure will roll on for another 13 weeks ...

See you 'round the clubhouse, er, I mean Group!