Sunday, December 13, 2015

As It Turns Out, I DO Like Green Eggs and Ham

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" ~F.D.R.

I am not an early adopter. I would suspect that many in the genealogy community are not early adopters. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is generally my motto and rule to live by. If I had been my ancestor I would have missed the boat.


Yesterday, faced with the inevitable, that Ancestry was once-and-for-all retiring the Old Version of their legendary online family tree program in less than three days; I sat down to get as much done as super-humanly possible within the Old Version that I was so comfortable and at home with. I locked myself in the Cave and told my husband not to expect me any time soon.

He was on his own.

I laid out my imaginary rope to the real world and I set in for some serious spelunking.

Hours passed, my husband finally tugged on my guideline and wanted to know if there were any plans for dinner. I grunted something incoherent and went back to the splendor of the Cave.

Later a glass of wine showed up at my side.

I was being lured out.

I glanced at the clock at the bottom of my computer monitor and saw that it was well past 8pm (Wine O'Clock had begun without me!). Resigned, I scribbled some notes and vowed to pick up the insanity in the morning.

There was still so much to do - and scant days left in my 'comfort zone' to do it.

After a fitful night's sleep worrying about all the ancestors I still needed to clean-up and straighten out* I had an Epiphany. Why not TRY the New Version? Why not compare the ancestor profiles side by side - Old v. New. I knew what I needed to do in the Old Version and where & how to do it - so I pulled up an ancestor whose profile needed sorting and, noting what I needed to do, switched to the New Version to look at the same ancestor.


Well. Well. Well.

Now isn't that easy? Really? I was scared of this?

I LIKE the New Ancestry.

I like it quite well.


Feels like I might have a little (green) egg on my face.

*sidenote:  I confess I had a terrible, horrible case of clickitis early in my addiction and have been avoiding that embarassing area on my tree ever since I came to my senses. I knew I'd have to face it one day, but that day never came ..... until about a month ago when, not being an early adopter, that day did in fact come. Not being one for accepting change willingly and all .....

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Elijah Busby: Civil War Veteran (52 Ancestors #23)

Elijah Busby was born Nov 17, 1831 in Carroll Co, Ohio to John Wisner Busby and Anna Merriman. One of 14 children born to this couple.

Elijah grew up a farmer's son, working in the fields of his father's Ohio farm in the spring, summer and autumn, while attending public school during the winter months.

In the spring of 1852 at the age of 20, Elijah struck out on his own and headed West to Iowa. Finding himself in Mahaska County he hired on as a farm hand earning ten dollars a month.

He worked the farm for several years, saving what he could and dreaming of something better. By 1857 Elijah had met Eliza Ann Bass, daughter of William L. Bass and Margaret Roberts. The couple married on April 30, 1857. That same year the couple began farming their own rented piece of land.

Their first child, a son they named William, was born in March 1859. Soon after that Elijah purchased his own land, two adjoining tracts of 80 acres each in Madison County, Iowa. In August of 1861 their second child, a daughter whom they named Laura Alice, was born. The couple happily set about building a home and a life when the rumblings of unrest began to stir in the country.

In October of 1861 Elijah felt the call of duty and enlisted with the Union Army as a private in Company F, 4th Iowa Cavalry. I can't begin to imagine what toll this decision took on the family, or the hours of discussion leading up to Elijah's commitment, knowing that in doing so he would very well not see his family for the next three years, if ever again.  He was sent to Springfield, MO and then on to Arkansas, where he was involved in the battle of Cotton Plant in July of 1862.

Elijah's regiment was then involved in the battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi in May 1863.

On June 22nd, 1863 the regiment was engaged at Bear Creek (Jones Plantation) near Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Elijah was taken prisoner and held in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia for the next four months. The conditions at Libby were notorious. Overcrowded conditions lead to disease, famine and death. Over one thousand prisoners were crowded into large open rooms with barred windows, leaving them exposed to the harshest of weather conditions. Mortality was high.
Libby Prison - Richmond VA
Elijah was exchanged on September 6th 1863, and returned to his regiment at Vicksburg, where he re enlisted as a veteran and was promoted to 2nd corporal.

In October 1863 Elijah was granted a furlough and he returned home to spend a month with his young family. He had not seen his wife or children in just over 2 years. What must it have been like, returning to the ordinary after witnessing such violence and terror? Was it even ordinary any more?

During his month at home Elijah sold the 160 acres in Madison County and purchased 80 acres in Adams Township, Mahaska Co, Iowa. Why? One can only speculate that 160 acres was a lot to manage for his wife, left alone with two small children for the past two years.

On the expiration of his furlough Elijah returned to the army and remained with his regiment until the close of the war.

He mustered out at Atlanta with the rank of commissary sergeant and received an honorable discharge in Davenport in July of 1865. Elijah had participated in ten skirmishes and had been promoted 6 times throughout his time of service.


Back in civilian life, in a newly reunited America, Elijah set about building his farm and his home. He worked the land, improved the existing buildings and built new ones. He and Eliza had four more children; Emma, born in 1867, John in 1869, Homer in 1873 and Lena in 1877. He would make his living and his home on this farm in Adams Twp. for 17 years.

Around 1880, when Elijah felt he had developed his property sufficiently, he sold his 80 acres to purchase a 200 acre farm in Monroe Twp. Iowa.

For the next 17 years Elijah, with the help of his sons, continued to build and develop the farm, creating fenced fields and pastures. Building barns, silos and other out buildings. Working the land, creating wealth to support a family of six.

Elijah remained active in the affairs of the day. He was a staunch Republican for many years, later giving his support to the Greenback party and the Roosevelt Populists. He was a frequent delegate to the conventions of his party. He served as justice of the peace, a township trustee and sat on the school board.

About 1897, when Elijah was 65 or 66 years old and looking to retire from the farming life, he purchased a small tract of 8 acres in Rose Hill, IA containing a fine house and garden. He rented out the large farm, which afforded him a comfortable retirement.

Elijah and Eliza spent many golden years together, living into their 8th decade enjoying the fruits of their labor; surrounded by their family, all of whom stayed close, and over a dozen grandchildren. In his lifetime his children prospered and grew and became successful citizens in their own right.

Sadly, in July of 1917 the couple buried their oldest son, Dr. Wm. Busby. Elijah and his wife would soon follow. The couple died within 2 days of one another, Elijah on the 14th of December 1917, Eliza followed two days later. They are buried side by side in Rose Hill Cemetery.


Beginning as a young farm boy from Ohio with not a penny in his pocket; nor friend or family in Iowa; Elijah managed to build himself a fine empire and a successful life and family despite, or perhaps because of, the hardships and horrors of war early on in his adult life.

He was a strong, courageous, loyal and determined man.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Irving Augustus Potwin: Outdoorsman (52 Ancestors #22)

Irving Augustus Potwin. Man of adventure. Born March 9, 1878 in Corning IA to Monroe Augustus Potwin and Ella Augusta Burt. Irv was the fourth of five children born to Monroe and Ella, and by all accounts had a mostly carefree middle-America-type childhood. His parents were well educated, well liked and successful in the community. His family lived in a large comfortable home with plenty of food on the table and clothing to wear.

It was not without a dark time or two, however. When Irv was 7 his older brother drowned while swimming one hot August day. This was the family's second loss of a child, their first child having died the summer of 1869 on their journey to Iowa.

When Irv's younger brother came along in 1892 his mother had started to become weak, and tired easily. She was weary and was unable to keep up with the daily household duties. His sister was summoned from New York City, where she was living, to care for their mother and baby brother.

 In 1893 Irv was sent to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota to study on recommendation of his sister, who had taught there for a time. He stayed for two years, returning home on school breaks and holidays. He studied the classics as well as mathematics and business courses. Irv would tell stories of the severe winters he endured while in MN. From a recollection by his daughter "Before the winter months many structures were erected, which appeared to be scaffolds over all the walkways; one who lives through a winter in snow country is familiar with snow fences, but these strange looking skeletons were a puzzle until the snow storms arrived. The students and all residents walked on top of the snow by way of the high stilts"

When Irv was home on holiday he would be found in the company of Miss Carrie Elizabeth "Bess" Twining. The two were childhood friends, having attended church and Sunday School together as well as two years of Academy prior to Irv going to Minnesota. The courtship began in earnest when the two would walk home together at the end of the school day. Bess recalled "I used to see him in Sunday School and Irv would rest himself on the roof of the woodshed. I'd often see him for he would ride his huge bicycle and that was the way he'd get off it."

The couple was married on January 3, 1899 in the home of the bride.

Their first child, a daughter named Dorothy Irene "Dot" was born in 1900, and shortly after that Irv got the idea into his head to go to Oklahoma, a new territory, not yet a state. The plan was hatched between Irv and his long time friend Gus Nelson that they would venture to Oklahoma to establish a home, and return for Bess and baby Dot.

While in Oklahoma Irv contracted smallpox and was gravely ill for some time, delaying his return home to Iowa. When he did return, Oklahoma had made enough of an impression on him that he packed up his family and moved to Guthrie OK in 1901.

Irv and Gus
During this time Irv's mother had been getting progressively weaker and was finally given the diagnosis of cancer. In 1901 while Irv was in Oklahoma, his mother traveled to Chicago for an operation that would, hopefully, save her. It did not and she died in March, 1902.

In April of 1902, in Oklahoma Territory, Bess gave birth to their second child, a son named Kenneth. Irv had established himself as a house painter and teamed up with his friend Gus who was a carpenter. The two helped build the new community of Guthrie, OK. Later Irv started a water service, hauling barreled water and delivering it to the homes.

Sometime around 1903 Irv and Bess moved back to Iowa, settling in Des Moines. Irv's friend Gus had heard of a position for bank cashier at the Des Moines National Bank. Irv applied and was hired. His education in mathematics was what won him the position.

In 1904 the couple welcomed their third child, Elizabeth into their family. They had a fine, large home on College Ave, Irv was doing well at the bank, life was good.

In 1907 their son contracted measles and died. Irv left the bank to pursue accounting positions at various Des Moines businesses. Among them the Des Moines Brewing Company and Jaeger Manufacturing.

In 1910 Irv broke ground on a new two story house on 33rd St, at the western edge of Des Moines. There was much open country and the feeling of freedom and being close to nature. Irv was an outdoor man and enjoyed sports, so he had on his new property a fine clay court constructed for tennis. The streets were being paved at the time so Irv had the steam roller, being used for the road construction, driven on the new court to make it firm and even.

Irv fishing in Minnesota
Every fall Irv and Bess would head north on an annual hunting trip. His daughter recalls their home being filled with many trophies.

By 1916 the stirrings of war overseas was leaving Americans uneasy. In 1917 Irv and his family, like all the families in America at the time were talking about the Selective Service Act. Waiting and watching, Irv observed young men from Des Moines being called to fight. By September 1918 Irv was called to register for the draft. He was 40. He was never called to serve. However the family participated in the war effort in other ways, they dug up their fine clay tennis court to plant a potato field to supply food for themselves and the community.  Irv was now the president of Smith Silo Hardware Co.

After the war and the Armistice was signed, life returned to normal. Irv constructed a brand new house on the site of the former tennis court turned potato field and the family moved into it in 1920. That same year  Irv opened his own accounting office.  He worked for himself for the next 18 years.

The years of the "roaring twenties" were good for the family. Irv and Bess saw their daughters married and starting families of their own. In 1923, when their youngest wed, she remained in the home for a time with her new husband, giving birth to her first two children there. Irv and Bess would eventually becoming grandparents to nine grandchildren.

The story gets a little foggy around 1929. According to a memoir written by his daughter, Irv was said to have purchased a home for his in-laws upon his father in law's retirement. The census records and city directories show Irv and Bess residing in a 6 unit apartment building, in the same apartment as Bess's parents. The home on 33rd was occupied by another family. However, a year after his in law's pass away, Irv and Bess are once again in their home on 33rd. Did Irv, in fact, purchase the apartment building? Why didn't the in-law's come to stay at the big home?

On the morning of August 16, 1938 as Irv was preparing to enter his automobile for the usual day at the office, he died. He was just 60 years old. His daughter writes of "no more pain or suffering", but it is unclear if he was ill prior to his passing.

Irv is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Polk Co, IA

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Old Stories, New Eyes; Verifying Family Lore: Tales From The Cave, part two

Sunday morning.

Labor Day weekend.

Anxious to get back in the Cave to solve the problem I uncovered yesterday.

I knew the answer was there - or at least an explanation. I needed to dig deeper.

{Palm slap to forehead} The obviousness hit me. I needed to look at every city directory between the years 1911 and 1920.

Feeling a bit stupid, I settled in for a session of flipping through electronic records, year by year, verifying my great grandfather's address.

An hour or so later, my grandmother's story was proved correct, partly. The family did move in 1911 and again in 1920. BUT that still didn't prove that the house was built in 1919 and not 1916.


Back to the city directories. This time instead of the name, I  employed the handy street index located towards the back of each directory. Looking up the house number and street, I flipped through the virtual pages, electronically unindexed, of course. Knowing both addresses all I needed to do was look for the year the address of the second house first appeared.

Tedious. Time consuming. Oddly rewarding, I must confess.

I felt a little like a time traveller, maybe that is part of the draw of genealogy for me. Anyway, another two hours passed and guess what?! Yup. The second address did not appear until 1920! The Genealogy Queen was correct!

But what about the Zillow listing? What about that?

Again I had to resist the urge to hop in the car and drive the 300 miles to Polk County to show them what I had discovered, and maybe could their be a chance that their records were wrong?

I gave myself a good talking to and decided to just let it go. For the sake of my story I had the proof that I needed. I did put it on my spreadsheet (thanks Thomas MacEntee!) for future research.

OK. On with the story. This should wrap up nicely now, I thought.

I worked my way through the 1920's. The marriage of my grandmother, the career of my great grandfather. Everything was lining up with the "family story" left by my grandmother.

Until 1929.

Oh, oh. Another discrepancy. Or perhaps merely an omission of more detailed information? Rats!

The tale was told that my great grandfather was so successful in his business that he was able to buy a house for his in-laws to retire in. That's not exactly what the records were telling me. I did find my 2nd great grandparents in the 1930 census - but they were living with my great grandparents - AND they were all living in a apartment!?!

Back to the city directories and the year 1929. Shoot. The (extended) family was living in the apartment. The 'big house" had a different family residing in it. 1929! We all know what happened that year. Could my great grandfather have lost everything? Was he forced to sell the big house and move to an apartment?


Apart from driving to Polk Co and looking at the real estate histories for the house and the apartment, I had to just let it go, for the moment. (Put it on the ol' spreadsheet for a later looksee)

OK. The Queen has been correct up to this point, why would I doubt her now? I continued to dig into those city directories.

My great grandfather remained in business, his ad ran in the city directory every year. Good.

I took a look at my 2nd great grandparents. 2nd great grandma passed away in December 1932, and 2nd great grandpa in April 1933 Hmm. The foursome was listed as living in the apartment every year from 1929 to 1933. Hmm.

Then I looked at 1934.

Well, well, well. Guess what!? My great grandparents were back in the "big house"!

This just opened up all sorts of questions.

Why did they move to the apartment?
Why did they move back to the big house?
Why, if they were caring for the elderly relatives, did they not just care for them in the house?


Resigned to the fact that I would not know the answers, at least not today from the comfort of the Cave; I accepted, grudgingly, that I had reached the end of my quest.

I still don't feel the story is "wrapped up", but the ending is a happy one. And further research revealed that the house remained in the family until at least 1960 - the last year I was able to find a city directory online.

I really need to get to Polk Co one of these days .....

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Old Stories, New Eyes; Verifying Family Lore: Tales From The Cave, part one

I had finally committed to catching up with my 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks challenge.

I miraculously had the entire house to myself for a full three days over the Labor Day weekend. No distractions, no obligations. I could hunker down in the Cave, clad in the athletic apparel of the genealogist (pj's and slippers), and power through some major research!

On Saturday I got up at a reasonable time, shuffled into the Cave and laid out a plan. Eight ancestors in three days. Should be doable. I had a good outline on all of them. This time I decided to be a little more methodical. I would concentrate on my maternal side. I would start with my four maternal great grandparents and continue with my four 2nd great grandparents on my maternal grandfather's side. (I had done the four on my maternal grandmother's side previously). Easy peasy.

My grandmother, the Genealogy Queen, had written a family story in the early 1980's. I started my research there using her facts and anecdotes. First up: my grandmother's father. Again, easy peasy. She had already written his story. All I needed to do was double check the facts and lay it down "on paper".

This should be a breeze!

Enter modern technology. What my grandmother did from memory, many hours at the microfiche, and personal correspondence with other relatives to produce her "finished" story was only the tip of that genealogical iceberg! (We knew this, didn't we?)

Nine hours later, bleary eyed and needing a shower, (and well past wine o'clock!), I walked away from the computer to sort out all the new information I had found, and to contemplate the discrepancies I had discovered. So much for eight ancestors in 3 days! I hadn't even finished one!

To clear my head I binge watched Who Do You Think You Are (naturally), poured myself a glass of wine, and found something to heat up. Once I was "all genealogied up", I shuffled back into the Cave for another look. I had to be missing something.

The bones of the story worked with all the proof I could find except for one detail. In my grandmother's recollection, the years of 1916 to 1920 were not lining up with what I was finding. Sure, she would have been 12 to 16 years old - her memory of the sequence of events could be off.

But she's the Genealogy Queen!

She would not have written something without exhaustive proof. Even from her own memory.

To match up her time line I looked at all the records available to me online. I  searched newspapers, scrutinized the census', checked the city directories. What was throwing me off was the dates listed for the construction of the houses her father was said to have built, and the timeline of where the family resided.

The story went that my great grandfather built a new home for his family shortly after 1910. He then built another larger new home right next door after WW1, around 1919, on the site of the family's Victory Garden. Great story!

I wanted to verify this, of course, before I wrote about it as truth. I took another look. Ran it all again. Maybe I was seeing it wrong?

The census did not help, as I could only verify the 1920 address with this story. I looked at the city directories for 1910 and 1911, and the family did in fact move during that time. The 1911 address was different than the 1910 address (which matched the 1910 census) and the 1920 address would, 9 years later, be right next door! Cool. That works.

Next up Google Earth. Where the problem started.  I put in the address and "flew" right to the house. I looked at the 1911 house, still standing, and the 1919/20 house right next door. Zillow helped me along from there. Both houses had some photos included so I got to look inside and poke around a bit. Then I noticed something disturbing. Zillow lists the second house as being built in 1916. What??? No, how could this be? This does not line up.

I checked the description on the 1911 house and it was correct: Year built 1911.

If the second house was built in 1916 and not 1919/20 then what else is off in my grandmother's timeline? And the charming anecdote she told of the Victory Garden that stood where the new house was later constructed. What about that?

I resisted the urge to get in my car and drive to the Polk County Recorder's office right then and there to solve this. Besides, it was a holiday, ... and Saturday night, .....Oh, and well over 300 miles away.

Tired and frustrated, I decided to call it a night. be continued ....

Monday, August 10, 2015

Jesse Thomas Sr.: Might As Well Be John Doe (52 Ancestors #21)

Jesse Thomas Sr.

An infuriating Quaker.

Might as well be John Smith or Doe. Seems Thomas was a very common surname among the Quakers in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Very common. Hair pulling frustration common. And (of course) there are (at least) two Jesses.......

Now, I'm sure my 3rd great grandfather didn't mean to be so difficult, and buried somewhere deep in the tomes of Quaker history lie the answers. Alas, a trip to Swarthmore is not in my future any time soon.

So today, as I write this short sketch, the answers I seek remain buried.

I admit I do have ulterior motives for this post. A little fishing expedition. The more we all can get out onto the world wide web, the more chance there is for someone; anyone, anywhere; to stumble across it and perhaps supply a missing piece of the puzzle. Genealogy appears to be a solitary pursuit, you know, with the Cave and all, but it is only successful with collaboration.

Also I might add, that I have avoided this for a while.  Quaker genealogy really is a study unto itself and I must admit that it boggles my mind and makes me cranky.

So here is what I know.
  • Jesse Thomas Sr. was born about 1786* in Chester Co., PA. His parents UNK to date.  FYI there are 41 heads of household in Chester County in the 1790 Federal Census with the Last name of Thomas. Forty One! Thirty two of those households report male children under 16. (Jesse would have been 4 at the time) By 1800 there are 30 heads of household, by 1810 (eureka!) there is but one Jesse listed in Chester County with 2 young adults and one child. (The 1786 Pennsylvania Census of Taxpayers lists 52 Thomas'.... but let's not go there)
  • He married Rebecca (or Rebecah) Hampton in 1808* in Chester Co., PA They were members of the Fallowfield Monthly Meeting in Chester Co., PA. 
  • Rebecca (Rebecah) was born May 12, 1790 in Bucks County, PA, the daughter of Jonathan Hampton and Elizabeth Phillips. This is one case where there is actually more recorded info on the woman than the man!
  • The couple had at least 11 children, according Quaker records. You'd think with 11 descendants there would be numerous people looking for Jesse, wouldn't you?
  • In 1820 the family requested removal from the Fallowfield Monthly Meeting in Chester Co., PA. in preparation to move to Ohio. They requested admittance to the Stillwater Monthly Meeting in Belmont Co., OH.
  • In 1839 the family is listed in the Deerfield Monthly Meeting records in Morgan Co., OH.
  • In 1842 Jesse is listed in the Chesterfield Monthly Meeting in Athens Co., OH, having died in February. He is recorded as being buried at Plymouth. Could that be Plymouth, Washington Co, OH?  There is a Jesse Thomas listed in the 1840 census residing in Westley Twp, Washington Co, OH - Plymouth is in Westley Twp. Plus my grandmother (the Genealogy Queen) has in her notes that the family was from Westley Twp.

*Dates are from other family trees. I usually don't use this type of information as I have not been able to source it, but I am including it this post as a stepping off point.

As I mentioned above, there are a few records for a Jesse Thomas born in 1791 to a Phillip and Hannah Thomas. He was born in Chester but the family attended the Goshen Monthly Meeting - probably not our guy.

There is a record of a Jesse Thomas "accomplishing" his marriage in 1806, but it was recorded in the Philadelphia Northern District Monthly Meeting - probably not our guy.

And that is it. That is all I know.  If only my Genealogy Cave was equipped with a time machine .......

Well, a girl can dream.

©2015 Anne Faulkner -, All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Jesse Louis Twining: A Well Lived Life (52 Ancestors #20)

Jesse Louis Twining was my 2nd great grandfather. Since I wrote about his wife last week, I felt compelled to carry on with the family. Jesse, I discovered, was quite interesting!

Born in Iowa, died in Iowa. But that did not hinder him from having an adventurous life. Perhaps he felt the need to stay put due to his unsettled childhood.

Born, as I said, in Washington IA on August 5, 1850 to a circuit riding pioneer minister father and a homesteading mother. Through his father he was a descendant from the old Puritan stock that settled Massachusetts. He was the only child born to his mother, who had married his father as a recent widower with 6 small children all under the age of 8!

For the first decade or so of Jesse's life the family moved around a lot. Relocating in one small Iowa town or another as his father was called to establish churches and do missionary work.

For all the traveling about, Jesse did receive a fine education. He was schooled for a time in Washington IA and attended Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant. It was there Jesse decided to pursue the noble profession of medicine.

Jesse headed to Chicago IL to pursue his medical training and studied at Northwestern University. (where 10 years later one of my Faulkner ancestors would study medicine!)

Jesse was finishing his residency in October 1871 at Mercy Hospital in Chicago when, on the night of the 8th, the Great Chicago Fire broke out. And, yes, several of my Irons ancestors also lived through that fire - the more I write these stories the more I marvel at "coincidence".

After his graduation Jesse returned to IA to practice medicine and surgery, working as a railroad surgeon in Creston, IA for the Burlington Railway franchise. But he took the pain and suffering of his patients to heart too much and gave up the profession in 1874. Healing was still in his blood, however and he settled in Corning, IA that year as the owner of the town's drug store. His profession was listed as druggist on the 1880 U.S. census.

In 1876, while on a shopping trip to nearby Brooks, IA, Jesse met his future bride, Flora Rowley,  as she shopped for draperies with her father. Apparently it was a match made in Heaven, as the two were wed in October of that same year.

Jesse and Dell, as he was fond of calling his new bride, made their home in Corning for the next 50 years. The couple has four children, three daughters and one son.

Jesse was very active in community life, he served as Mayor of Corning in 1881 to 1882 and again in 1891 to 1892. He was a member of the School Board. He was a past master of the Masonic Lodge in Corning, of which he was a member for 57 years. He was also a Knight Templar, a Knight of Pythias and a Shriner; and belonged to the Blue Lodge and Eureka Chapter no. 77 at Corning; the Bethany Commandery at Creston; and the Kaaba Temple of the Shrine at Davenport, IA.

In 1896 Jesse left the drug store to become a traveling salesman for Arbuckle Brothers wholesale tea and spice co of Kansas City, MO. His territory was Southern IA and Northwest MO. He retired in 1926.

It was said that Jesse Twining was a loving, kind, friendly person who adored his wife and children. He was a good story teller, had many fascinating experiences to talk about, had a fine sense of humor, and was a bit if a tease. "He was one of the most popular men in the county".

Jesse and Dell left Corning after Jesse's retirement to spend their senior years in Des Moines, IA in the home of their oldest daughter Bessie and her husband Irv Potwin.

Jesse Twining died April 7, 1933 just 4 months after the death of his beloved wife. He was 82 years old. They are buried together at the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Corning IA.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Flora Dell Rowley Twining: A Settled Life (52 Ancestors #19)

Flora Dell Rowley was born 12 Nov 1857 in Peoria IL. She was the youngest of five (some say that number was six) children born to the Rev. Rossiter C. Rowley and Rhoda Ann Vredenburg.

Flora spent her youth mostly in Illinois, her father had been assigned a post in that young state as a Methodist church circuit rider. First residing in Peoria then later in Galesburg where in 1860, the family was moved when her father left the Methodist Church to join the Presbyterians. It was here that Flora recalled accompanying her father to church and sitting in a big chair in the pulpit beside him.  As she grew, Flora took an active part in church music as she was blessed with a beautiful voice and musical talent.

In 1876 Rev. Rowley was called to plant new churches in Adams Co, IA, assigned to the towns of Brooks and Nodaway. Shortly after the family's arrival in Iowa Flora met, and quickly married, her husband Jesse Louis Twining. Jesse was the son of the Rev. E. W. Twining and Priscilla B Ashby. Flora had met her future husband while on a shopping trip with her father to purchase draperies for their new home.

The marriage took place 25 Oct 1876 in Corning IA, where the couple made their home for 50 years. It was officiated by both the bride and groom's fathers, as both were men of the cloth. Jesse was a druggist by profession at the time of their marriage, later he became a travelling salesman for the Arbukle Coffee Company. To them were born four children, three daughters and one son.

Not much was written on women then and Flora, "Dell" as she was fondly know to her husband, was no exception.  Painting a picture of her life with only a handful of public records is a challenge. I can imagine that life was pretty good in Corning the later part of the 19th century. Accounts of the time portray her as well liked, being active in both church and club work. The daughter of the town's preacher would surely have brought her favor. "She being one with a happy bright disposition endeared herself to all who knew her."

Main Street Corning, IA c.1900
Flora looked after her invalid mother until her death in 1890. Later she cared for her father and mother-in-law during the last years of their lives, as well as her own father until his death in 1912.

In  1918, Flora faced what every parent fears, the death of a child. Her second daughter, Anna Jeanette "Nettie" died at the age of 35.

Flora Dell Rowley Twining
Sometime between 1925 and 1930 Flora and Jesse moved to Des Moines, to spend their golden years with their oldest daughter Carrie Elizabeth "Bessie" Potwin and her husband Irv. Carrie and Irv had recently become empty nesters and were enjoying the first of their grandchildren,  It was there that Flora passed away after a short bout of pneumonia, two weeks before Christmas, 13 Dec 1932.

Her husband passed the following April.

Flora is buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Corning IA. She rests with her parents, her daughter and her husband

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Monroe Augustus Potwin: Mathematics Professor and House Painter (52 Ancestors #18)

Monroe Augustus Potwin was an interesting man. Born Aug 28, 1837 in Ellington, NY, he was the youngest living child born to Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin A. Potwine. (Yes, the name was spelled with an 'e', not sure why it was dropped by Monroe's generation.) There were 12 children born to the couple, three died at birth.

Dr. Potwine died when Monroe was just 14 years old. When the Civil War broke out Monroe was left to care for the family home and his mother and sisters while his three older brothers went off to fight.

Monroe must have had a fine education as he was a Professor of Mathematics and Latin at the Ellington Academy in Ellington NY, where he met his future wife, one of his students Ella Augusta Burt. The couple was married on New Years Day 1866. Monroe was 28 and Ella a mere 15.

The couple remained in New York for three more years, then headed West, to Adams Co, Iowa with two small children in tow. Their first born daughter died along the way.

Settling in Corning, Monroe took up the trade of "House Decorating", or house painter. He was also one of the first teachers at the Rawson School and a charter member of the local Presbyterian Church, the organization of which was made in his home. Monroe was superintendent of sunday school for the church for many years. During the course of his life he remained heavily involved with his church community, sitting on the board of directors, leading the choir, teaching Sunday School. It was said he had an excellent singing voice.

Three more children were born to the couple. In 1885 their first born son died by drowning, he was 12 years old.

When Monroe's wife Ella died in 1902 after a long bout with cancer it was said "her loss was a very severe blow to Mr. Potwin". He subsequently went about  making a home for himself and his young son Cyrus, 10, and threw himself into his house painting business.

Later, Monroe took his youngest son Cyrus under his wing and the pair formed Messrs. Potwin and Son - a much sought after house painting team. The outfit was so highly regarded that a 1914 article in a Corning newspaper quoting: "A fine example is being set in the community by H. F. Fleming, who has just had his house painted by Potwin and Son. Someone is to be congratulated on having chosen a very tasteful color scheme, and the house is now even more attractive than ever. When one can paint in a community for 45 years, it certainly looks as though his work were appreciated."

Monroe died August 25, 1917 and was buried along side his wife in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Corning. At his funeral the officiating minister spoke advisedly when he said that the memory of such a life was the most valuable heritage the father could leave to his children. Mr. Potwin had the respect and esteem of the people for his exemplary life.

Note: Monroe's obituary was erroneously printed with his middle name first and has thereby caused myriad mistaken identities around the web in many public family trees. His name as listed here is correct. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Priscilla B Ashby Twining: Frontier Preacher's Wife and Nonagenarian (52 Ancestors #17)

Priscilla B Ashby Twining,  "Prissy", my third great grandmother, was born July 18, 1817. It is said that her father, Jesse Ashby, owned a plantation in the Cheat River area of what is now Preston County, West Virginia. Priscilla was the third of six children.

When Priscilla was 17 her family removed to Perry County, Ohio where her father rented a farm for several years. Dissatisfied with the country, in 1839 the family again packed up all their belongings and headed West to the newly incorporated Iowa Territory.

Conestoga or Pennsylvania Wagon 
It is told that in October of 1839 the family was loaded into an old Pennsylvania wagon with a four horse team along with ten milch cows for a 40 day journey through the wilderness. Priscilla was 22 at the time, her youngest brother was merely 4. Upon arrival in what is now Washington County the family overwintered in an old log cabin. There were but a few settlers squatting on the prairies of the new Territory when the Ashby's arrived.

Memories written by Priscilla's granddaughter include tales of the family fording the Mississippi River at Keokuk, Iowa.  Priscilla and her father traveling to Baltimore, Ohio to stock up on provisions such as flour, salt, etc. And Priscilla's recollection of looking out over the prairie as they crossed the Mississippi, seeing the tall grass meadow swaying in the breeze with orange colored flowers and wild roses, exclaiming "this must be the promised land".

The following spring Priscilla's father Jesse purchased 320 acres of newly acquired Government Land and proceeded to build a "fine farm".

Life in their new home was extremely difficult. Not only did they have to build virtually everything they needed themselves, they had to figure out food sources, fuel sources, medicinal sources. They were pioneers, others had not gone before them. The Native Americans were hostile, having just lost the Black Hawk War and neighbors were few and far between. [A really good Iowa History article can be found here.] 

In the 1840's the Methodist church began sending out circuit riders to travel through the settled portion of the state. It was one of those itinerant ministers, the Rev. E. W. Twining, that rode into town and won Priscilla's heart. Rev. Twining was a new widower with 6 very young children to care for. Priscilla had lots of experience caring for her younger siblings. It was a good fit.

On August 28, 1849, at the age of 32, Priscilla married Edward Wolcott Twining and began her life as a preacher's wife, and mother of 6!! I imagine her family was quite pleased that their spinster daughter finally found a husband!

In Iowa in the 1840's and 50's there was quite a lot of danger and disease. Scarlet Fever and Malaria were common killers, as were the frequent prairie fires that swept across the plains. Rev. Twining's first wife died, presumably of a fatal illness but it could also have been from childbirth, another frequent killer.

First Log Cabin at Fort Des Moines
The new family moved to Des Moines, Iowa soon after their marriage. Rev. Twining was assigned to minister to the people living around  Fort Des Moines, situated at the fork of the Mississippi and the Des Moines Rivers.  Priscilla recalled to her granddaughter the sight of soldiers stationed around the fort to protect the inhabitants from Indian attacks. It was here that Priscilla witnessed a great War Dance participated in by about 500 Indians on the "commons" where the Polk County Courthouse now stands. Could this have been a precursor to the Dakota Uprising?

One son was born to the couple, Jesse Twining, from whom I am descended. Twenty two days after Jesse's birth Priscilla's mother lost her life. She had been ill since the family moved to Ohio, it was the hope that in moving farther West she would regain her health. It was not to be so.

For the next twenty years the family moved around Iowa, as was the life of an itinerant preacher, but returned several times to Des Moines for extended periods.

In 1876, when advanced age made it necessary for Rev. Twining to retire from active duties in the ministry, the Twining's moved to the "City", Corning, Iowa, where they made their home with their son Jesse.

The couple enjoyed twenty more years together in their "retirement" age, helping their son Jesse and daughter in law Flora rear their four children. They were active members of the community and well liked by all.

In 1897 Priscilla lost her husband, he was 82.

Corning Iowa c1900
Sometime after 1900 the household welcomed another resident. Flora Twining's father, the Rev. Father Rowley. Several newspaper articles were written at the time about the unusual coincidence of the the two old folks, they shared the same birthday. Priscilla was one year Father Rowley's senior and for several years the local paper did a birthday story on the two on the anniversary of their birth.

Priscilla left this world on September 2, 1911 at the age of 94. Her obituary called her "one of those delightful characters to know and to love, she made many friends in Corning during her long residence here".

Priscilla is buried next to her husband in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Corning Iowa.

©2015 Anne Faulkner -, All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ancestry Dot Com Made Me A Lazy Genealogist

It's true. I am a bit ashamed to admit it. Lazy. Not that I didn't know how to research outside of Ancestry, they just make it so darned easy to search "one and done". I'm a bit embarrassed that I fell into that trap, but now I'm coming clean.

When I was a newbie Ancestry was a BSO that, in my uneducated world was the "Great and Powerful Oz". EVERYTHING I needed was there, and oh-so-easy to access. Who needs records and proof when you have all these amazing family trees! Copy, click, done. Solved all my grandmother's Brick Walls in a matter of hours. Holla and High Five!

(I know many of you are laughing right about now. Slapping your thigh and saying "yeah, me too, been there, done that, got the mess to prove it")

I really cut my genealogical teeth when I tackled my paternal line. A great uncle had done a bit of
research, but for the most part I was sailing into uncharted territory. Ancestry was no help. Oh sure, there were census records, an occasional military record - but thankfully (really, the Genealogy Gods were working overtime on this one) not one single family tree! Not one! Alrighty then.

I dug in and got to work. I read over all the notes my dad had gathered over the years about his ancestors and plugged what I knew into a new tree. On Ancestry. I still like their ease-of-use style, for me it works. I utilized Family Search, I joined Yahoo Groups (this was pre-Facebook, btw), I used all the free and helpful little websites that I could find. I emailed genealogical societies, I wrote letters to cemeteries, I stalked living people with the surnames I was researching in the locations I was researching. I went "old school". And it worked! All my research was by my own hand. All the information I had obtained I could source. I was feeling mighty good.

High on my success with my paternal line, I ambitiously decided to revisit my maternal side.

Oh dear Lord. My mind was boggled. I saw the mess I had created with my clickophile ways and I wept. Overwhelmed, I walked away.

For several more years I dug deeper on my paternal line and just put the mess of my maternal line on the back burner for "someday".

Enter Thomas MacEntee and his Great Genealogy Do Over of 2015. "Someday" had arrived.

Never one to back away once the gauntlet has been thrown, I buckled in for the toughest genealogy ride of my life. And because one can not have too many challenges in their life at once, I also committed to the 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks writing challenge.

Now, getting back to the point of this post.

January 1, 2015. I began a mass execution of all the "ancestors" I had added to my grandmother's solid research, leaving just her work and the work I or my cousin had done that was provable. (Don't gasp - I did save a complete copy of the whole mess prior to the reaping "just in case".) I targeted my 52 ancestors writings on some of my grandmother's brick walls. And I let my Ancestry subscription expire. (I know, rogue move, now I am at the mercy of my own wits!)

At first I was frightened. And angry at Ancestry for being so expensive and having "all the records", until I gave myself a good talking to. Again thanks to Thomas MacEntee and the Do Over, I had a really nice tool kit of resources. I had many Facebook groups that I could post queries to, and I had the knowledge I had acquired from my research on my paternal side. I can DO this! The few resources/hints that popped up on my Ancestry tree (that are now hidden behind a pay wall) I am able to access merely by going to my public library. And I can even send the records home via email to be downloaded in their full glory! But that's not the lesson here.

IF I had still had a subscription to Ancestry this week while I was researching my 2nd great grandmother I may have stopped there. My grandmother had written a small bio on her that may well have been enough for me to write my blog post. Her parents were brick walls for my grandmother and there were really no record hints on Ancestry that were even correct. I had long ago turned off hints from other trees, but even looking at those showed a confusing mix of possibilities.

I went to Google and I posted on Facebook the two things I wanted clarification on prior to publishing my post and hit the motherload! I got just enough possible leads and confirmation that I was on the right track, to prompt me to dig deep into my Tool Kit and search, search, search. Not only did I get my answers, I got eight more generations of my family and busted one of my grandmother's brick walls! Church Lady dance ensued in the ol' Genealogy Cave!

And a humbled genealogist was reminded that there are no shortcuts. That good genealogy is "old school" genealogy. That this former member of the Look It Up Club almost failed to live by the motto "we never guess we look it up", or in this case quit looking if it's not on Ancestry.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ella Augusta Burt Potwin: A Well Educated Woman (52 Ancestors #16)

Ella Augusta Burt had an interesting life. Ella was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 10, 1850. She was the second child and first daughter born to Hermes and Jane Burt. Hermes was a wool merchant, family lore says he owned woolen mills in the Cleveland area. That rabbit trail however, will be a story for another day. Today we are looking at Ella's life.

In 1862 when Ella was just 12 years old, her father enlisted in the army to fight for the Union in the Civil War. In December of that same year he died of an illness contracted on the battlefield.

Jane Burt, Ella's mother, received a widow's pension and moved her young family to Ellington, New York. In 1865 Ella, her mother and her siblings are found living in a wood frame house owned by Jane Burt.

Ella attended the Ellington Academy and studied art, literature and music. It was there she met her future husband, her mathematics professor, Monroe Augustus Potwin, thirteen years her senior. The couple married on New Year's Day 1866. Ella was just 15!

Ella and Monroe had their first child, a daughter, on August 1, 1867. Their second child, another daughter, was born in Feb of 1869. Shortly after the birth of their second child the couple decided to head West. They set their sights on Des Moines, Iowa.

During the journey in the hot summer month of July, Ella's first born died en route to their new home. She was buried in Ottumwa, Iowa.

At some point on the journey the couple changed their plans and ended up settling in Corning, Iowa where they purchased a "big white house on a hill" which became their home for almost a third of a century.

I do not know what faith Monroe and Ella grew up with, but upon arrival in Corning they joined the Presbyterian church. The couple became very active in church affairs, teaching Sunday school and doing missionary work. Ella sang in the choir and was a charter member of the Women's Club.

The Iowa years were mostly good for Ella. She had three more children, all sons. Her husband took up house "decorating", he was a house painter who was in high demand for his exceptional work.

1n 1885 Ella lost another child, her first son, drowned at the age of twelve.

Shortly after the birth of her final child in 1892 Ella began to feel run down, tired, ill. Her daughter, a professional musician living in New York City, came home to care for her.

Ella was diagnosed with cancer. She traveled to Chicago for an operation in the fall of 1901. It was not a success.

Ella died March 26, 1902. She was just 51 years old.

Ella Augusta Burt Potwin was buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery alongside her son.

Her husband would follow 16 years later.

footnote: in researching this ancestor I again referred to my grandmother's extensive body of genealogical work. Ella's parents were brick walls for her. Thanks to modern technology, online records, the Google empire and Facebook, I was able to bust her brick wall in a matter of hours, and had taken the family back 8 more generations ...... all without the use of A very good weekend of ancestor archaeology!

Grandma would be so excited ......

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nathan Bass: More Questions Than Answers (52 Ancestors #15)

I must confess. I really have a hard time writing about an ancestor I know so little about. It's not for lack of trying, but Nathan Bass is one tough nut! I much prefer to have enough information to paint a picture of a life, to answer a few questions, to lay down some facts. Such is not the case here. This story will have more questions than answers. But it is a starting point. And a place to publicly question a lot of the misinformation floating around on the internet.  For my own piece of mind at any rate.

Nathan Bass is my 4th great grandfather. From the research my grandmother, the Genealogy Queen, did on the man I know he was born in Virginia on November 4, 1775. His parents have been unproved to date although there are lots of theories out there on the public trees of the world wide web. I prefer to stick to the facts and the fact here is his parentage has not yet been proved.

Nathan moved to Green County, Kentucky sometime prior to 1796, where he married Ruhama Price on Christmas Day of that year. The couple had 11 children according to my grandmother's research. All born in Kentucky.

The 1800 Kentucky Tax Lists show a Nathan Bass in Green County.

Nathan is listed on the 1810 and 1820 Federal census residing in Barren County, Kentucky. There were two land grants issued to Nathan for parcels of land in Barren; 134 acres in 1806 and 100 acres in 1816. Nathan and Ruhama's first four children were married in Kentucky.

The 1830 and 1840 Federal census' record that Nathan and Ruhama had moved to Flat Rock,  Bartholomew County, Indiana, where five more of the couple's children were married between 1830 and 1845.  Nathan purchased two adjacent 80 acre parcels in Bartholomew Co through the U.S. General Land Office in 1821.

Nathan died September 7, 1849. He is buried in the Salem Predestinarian Baptist Church Cemetery in Walton, Boone Co, Kentucky according to Find A Grave. (His wife, interestingly, is buried in Flat Rock Baptist Cemetery in Flat Rock, Bartholomew Co, Indiana)

These are the facts, stark as they may be. For some reason it is being published on public family trees all around the web that Nathan's middle name is Woodford. Nowhere have I found this legitimately documented. The one and only place I have found an indication of a middle name is on the gravestone. It is inscribed "Nathan R. Bass".

Now for the questions:

  • Where did "Woodford" come from?
  • There are several theories as to Nathan's parents, mostly on the same trees that show him as Nathan Woodford. Again, these are all public trees with no legitimate source citations. Who are Nathan's parents?
  • I wonder whether Nathan's father was involved in the American Revolution. There are several Bass's from Virginia listed as Patriots with the DAR, but none indicate this particular Nathan as a son. Was his father involved in the Revolutionary War?
  • I also wonder if Nathan was perhaps involved in the War of 1812. I have found nothing to support this yet. Was he?
  • Why did Nathan move from Virginia to Kentucky? Why did Nathan move from Kentucky to Indiana? Why is Nathan buried in Kentucky, and not with his wife in Indiana?
More questions than answers ......

footnote: in researching all the places Nathan had lived and realizing that Kentucky was part of the Virginia Territory until 1792 my curiosity was piqued. There will be more to this story .....

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rhoda Ann Vredenburg Rowley: Following In Her Mother's Footsteps (52 Ancestors #14)

Rhoda Ann Vredenburg was born March 4, 1818 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Her father was Reverend Hackaliah Vredenburg, her mother Sarah Kniffen. She was the second daughter born to the couple, and one of nine children. Rhoda's father was a circuit rider for the Methodist ministry and was often gone for long stretches of time. Her childhood in the wilderness of Indiana was one of hardship, scarcity and lack.

In September 1840 Rhoda married Reverend Rossiter Clark Rowley. Rossiter was a fresh young Methodist circuit rider from Ohio who had, sometime after 1838, been assigned to preach in Putnam County, Indiana.

The newly married couple made their home in Greencastle, Indiana "for a season", which based on the birth of their first two children was at least 5 years. It is recorded that Reverend Rowley was called to missionary work in Illinois, and their youngest child was born in Peoria in 1857.

I can only imagine the life Rhoda must have had up to this point. Growing up in the desolate wilderness of a brand new State, being cold and hungry for much of her young life. She was a devout Christian which must have been the appeal to marry a man just like her "dear old dad". She learned at the heels of her mother how to be a preacher's wife, so I imagine the role came naturally to her when she began her own married life. The big city of Peoria, Illinois must have, at first, seemed strange and frightening.

Rhoda and Rossiter had five children in all, but research to date has only uncovered three named children. The assumption is that two children died in childbirth or early infancy.

By 1853 Rev. and Mrs. Rowley had acquired 20 acres of land a mile outside of Peoria and had built a "neat little cottage".  There is an account of the virgin land being plowed by a team of oxen and a considerable orchard being planted. Rhoda must have been very happy at this seemingly idyllic life after so much hardship in her youth.

Sometime around 1860 Rhoda's husband transferred his membership to the Presbyterian Church and was performing missionary work once again. The family is found in Galesburg, Illinois until the 1870's.

In 1876 the family uproots again. This time to Adams County Iowa. Rev. Rowley was in charge of organizing the Presbyterian churches in Brooks and Nodaway, Iowa.

Nothing is written of Rhoda's life, save for her obituary, so I must tell her story through the documentation of her husband. In Rhoda's later years she was an invalid. Often during her years of suffering physicians despaired, as did her friends. It is recorded that Rhoda bore her suffering with Christian fortitude and uncomplainingly.

Rhoda died in her home on December 10, 1890. She was 72 years old. Her last days were spent pain free and she died as if falling asleep. Her last words were "come Jesus, come".

footnote: all of the accounts recorded her were the collected writings of my grandmother during her genealogical research work - all credit goes to Elizabeth Twining Potwin Thomas. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"We Found You New Ancestors - Just By Looking At Your DNA!"

That is the bold cry from my AncestryDNA page.

New ancestors!

With my DNA!


"Now your DNA can tell you something that was never before possible" Ancestry proudly declares in a recent email. "Go back as far as the 1700's in an instant through your AncestryDNA test".


How do they do it, you ask?

"New Ancestor Discoveries are made through a unique combination of AncestryDNA results and the millions of family trees shared by Ancestry members".

Uh - oh.

You mean those PUBLIC and frequently unsourced Family Trees? Hmm. Something is just not right here. This is a HUGE can of worms just waiting to be opened.

Michael John Neill tells us in his brilliant blog post All You Need Is Spit that you can now "find ancestors from the past using just a DNA test, no genealogy research is required" Yup. NO research required. None. Zip.

You though it was easy to go back to Adam and Eve in an afternoon before? Well now.

I am afraid.

And disappointed.

This just does not seem responsible to me. If you are going to supply the tools you have some sort of obligation to supply instructions for use. And warnings.

And NO! No, No, No - it is not that easy. (this reminds me of the saying "just because you can, doesn't mean you should")

My particular experience with this newfound wonder of science is completely incorrect. But I would never know this if I hadn't done the research. The hard research. The digging in books, writing letters, waiting for replies, hitting brick walls research. This particular "match" I spent over two years trying to prove before getting the proof I needed to disprove it.

But here it is. Presented to me proudly by AncestryDNA as a "new ancestor".

Sophia Snyder and Micajah Merryman have been declared on dozens of Public Trees on Ancestry as the parents of Anna Merriman, my third great grandmother. I wrote about her here.  

I am NOT related to Sophia Snyder. Or Micajah Merryman. And I have done the research to prove it. The 6 of 9 members I match more than likely have Anna Merriman as our common ancestor. And, they are Public trees. Certainly unsourced. Obviously unresearched.

No I am not in any circles. Circles would require me to have a Public tree on Ancestry. While I appreciate and understand the importance of a good sourced Public tree, mine has more than a few wild theoretical branches. I would not be practicing responsible genealogy if I allowed that to see the light of day. The few public trees I do have on Ancestry are sourced and proved. Available for all to see. But I do not have my DNA linked to them (you can only have DNA linked to one tree at a time).

 DNA is just another research tool. Another source to glean information. The results are only as good as the information it is being compared to. GIGO, as Michael John Neill reminds us: Garbage in, Garbage out.  

Please, practice genealogy wisely.

And be careful out there!

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.