Thursday, March 31, 2016

Field Notes: My Love Affair With City Directories

Do you use city directories? You should, and here's why.

There is a wealth of information contained in a city directory. There are listings for schools and churches, there are maps, there are business listings, there are lists of newspapers, city officials, societies, new buildings, and of course people!
Chicago City Directory Contents Page 1847

 Trying to figure out which church your ancestor might have attended? Consulting the city directory for that time period will give you a list of churches, their location and denomination.

Can't find someone in the census? Check the city directory!

Think your ancestor might have lived in an area where a tragedy struck? (New York Fire, Chicago Fire, San Francisco Earthquake ...). Consulting the city directory will give you an exact address.

I have used the city directories to determine when my ancestors arrived at a location, and when they departed; much more precisely than a census record could.

Wondered what happened between 1880 and 1900? City directories to the rescue!

They are useful for pinpointing a death as well. Look for the last year your ancestor was listed in a directory and that will give you a clue for possible year of death.

Generally city directories were published for the prior year. For example, the 1860 directory for the City of Chicago was published May 1, 1860 and included names of business and inhabitants who were in the city from May 1, 1859 to May 1, 1860.

Sometimes city directories will not only give you names and addresses, but countries of origin and years of residence!

As with all non-indexed records, you will need patience to flip through - but it is so much fun!

There are some sites that offer a search bar, but I highly recommend a manual search. If you try the search bar and come up empty, don't think there is nothing there! Dig in and page through - you'll be surprised.

Oh, and let's talk about spelling. Just like census and other records, you might find your ancestor's name spelled a variety of ways.

Here is a good article about city directories.

My go-to site for city directories is Fold3 but there are many others. Ancestry has a good collection too. (Which can be accessed through HeritageQuest for free if you belong to a library that participates) For a list of paid and free sites look at FamilySearch. And don't forget Google!

There is a wealth of information contained in these tomes that will add color and depth to your research. All just awaiting your discovery.

(*disclaimer: I have not received any compensation for endorsement of any sites in this post. I am merely passing on my opinions and experience)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

30 x 30 Challenge: In Conclusion

Yesterday marked the conclusion of my first 30 x 30 challenge.

I had mixed success.

At first I overestimated what I could accomplish in a half an hour, then I scaled back and underestimated my productivity.

At the end I must confess that I fell a wee bit behind with the task, I lost focus and I lost interest.

Moving forward I would do a few things differently.

I would pick a project that is NOT new research, but organization or fact gathering. I have a few things on my list already. I need to sort and label all my photos, documents and downloads. I have started this, but always find myself distracted .... Another big thing I'd like to finish is the reorganization of my paper files into the new binder system I started. Again, boring but necessary. And I just had this thought, I'd like to either pick a new genealogy software program or really learn how to work the one I have. This would be a great challenge! 30 minutes for 30 days exploring one program, or exploring several, one each week. That could include watching tutorials and playing within the program.

In summary not a complete failure. I accomplished a few things and have some great ideas for my next 30 x 30 challenge!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Five Generation Ancestral Occupation Chart

I had so much fun with the 5 gen ancestral birthplace chart yesterday I decided to do an occupation chart. I was expecting more farmers - maybe if I go back another generation.

What does your chart look like?

You can grab a 5 gen or 6 gen chart here.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Five Photos ~ Five Weekends: #5 Waiting For The Doughboy

The writing on the back of this photo says: 

"Garfield Park. Chicago Ill
Doughboy Monument
Memorial Ceremonies 2d Vets
May - 28 - 1933"

It is in a handwriting I do not recognize. I don't even recognize any of the people. It was in a box of photos that came from my dad.

I was curious about the ceremony and went to the Chicago Tribune archives to read the newspaper from May 28, 1933. It just happened to be opening weekend for the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair - A Century of Progress. There was no mention of a memorial ceremony that day. I check the day before and the day after. Nothing.

Memorial Day was still observed on May 30 in 1933 which made this photo even more curious.

Were they just getting some good seats? 

Guess I'll never really know .......

Five Generation Ancestral Birthplace Chart

Well, it's been going around facebook so I figured I'd jump in. Here's my 5 gen ancestral birthplace chart. It's interesting to look at it in this way.

To make your own visit Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post here. He has two spreadsheets you can download. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Field Notes: Where There's A Will

It had long puzzled me. The spelling on the transcribed abstract will. The will I strongly suspected belonged to my 5th great grandfather, but could never prove. The document that had been floating around Ancestry for years, being attached to far too many incorrect men. (Story for another day) I had given up all hope of finding the answer without a trip to Albany NY and a good digging in the archives there.

Well, the genealogy fairies smiled brightly upon me yesterday morning.

Taking another pass on Ancestry yesterday, I decided to wing a search with as many wildcards as it would let me.

Turns out that was a fine idea.

It brought me to the ACTUAL will papers. The ones actually signed by my 5th great grandfather when he was alive. Not the will alone (which is a 'copy' anyway), not the probate records - there are two separate 'copies' of those, by the way. Nope. Yesterday I was presented with the Holy Grail. The will AND the papers.

I can now, finally, connect the dots, put the family in order, and definitively declare I have found my 5th great grandfather!

I'll be writing this up later today with sources and photos. It's an interesting story. I'm so excited!

Never give up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over: The Go-Over 3.4

Even though this year's Do-Over is monthly rather than weekly, I still feel like I'm scattered in too many directions sometimes. It's very hard to ignore some of the BSO's that pop up. Irish parish records free for a week, a month of FindMyPast for $1.

I HAVE to look a them! I just have to!

But I am making some headway. Every day I see a little less chaos and a little more organization.

Those files that went missing last week? Found 'em.

In my OCD organizing frenzy I moved the files to a new folder on my computer, thus confusing FTM. All is good now. Things have been restored to some semblance of sanity.

My binder project is humming right along, things that have not seen the light of day for a decade or more are being housed out in the open where I can access them. Even found some death certs I didn't know I had!

My new family group sheets are offering some great research opportunities.

I am working on my own 'story', it will be ongoing I feel.

My mother does not want to play along at the moment, and she is the only one left, so the family interviews will have to wait until I can be more stealth about it. I have been in contact with a few second cousins who have some interesting tidbits farther up the tree. It all adds to the crazy quilt of my family history. And makes for some additional research topics being added to the list of research goals.

There is still so much to do, I fear I will never see the actual light at the end of the tunnel. (Or outside the Cave)

But, let's get real. This is genealogy! It's never done!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

30 x 30 Challenge: Week Three Recap - Adjusting The Sails

Well, this "challenge" is quite challenging! First week I overestimated what I could do in a half an hour, second week I oversimplified it. Here, going into week four I've adjusted the sails once again. Last week I created a Task List and have been filling in the necessary items I wish to discover. No researching! Just creating a comprehensive list to work off of.

Now, I know there are gobs and oodles of charts and lists out there. Ancestry has piles. Family Tree Maker does too. But I wanted to create something custom that worked for me.

I have been making notes in my notebooks for my 30 ancestors and I also have started to sort through all of the various paper ephemera my grandmother had collected over the years. I am filing it away in a collection of 12 binders. Eight of those binders have the parent surname pairs of my  great grandparents. I have one for my Mayflower ancestors, one for all military items, one for the rats-nest of Tidewater Virginia Families I have too many of, and one spare, for now.

A bonus of doing this sorting is the collection of note pads I've rediscovered! My old research, both positive and negative results. Now I can file that away in the appropriate ancestor binder and when it comes time to fill in my Task List I'll have everything at my fingertips.

I must confess, this is really hard. To refrain from doing the research until the sorting is complete.

But I already know I will be very happy when I do start the fun again. This time I won't be spinning my wheels or retracing my steps.

Extra bonus: seeing things with new eyes. I've already put a few things together I missed the first time around.

........................ Until next week

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Five Photos ~ Five Weekends: #4 The Man Who Built My House

William C Wendler and Anna Schumann Wendler March 19, 1934
As it turns out, I don't have as many old family photos as I thought. 

However, since I really wanted to do something to commemorate the anniversary of my house yesterday, I thought I'd write about William and Anna.

This photo is of the couple, posing outside the house that William built, on their 50th wedding anniversary. 

Sometime in the spring of 1883 William had acquired a city lot in a brand new subdivision just annexed to the city of Elgin IL. He then spent the remainder of that year building a little two bedroom cottage with the help of his brother.

On March 19, 1884 William married Annie Schumann, then only 17 (William was 28), and brought her to their new home.

The house grew with the family and at some point before the turn of the century it gained a second story. And the family gained 9 children!

Plumbing and electricity would not follow until 1924.

William and Anna celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, as commemorated in the photo above, in 1934.

Yesterday, we celebrated the 132nd anniversary of a couple and of a home.

Thank you William.

©Anne Faulkner 2016 all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over: The Go-Over 3.3

Month Three. Week Three. Like the time change, I feel like I'm leaping forward. In a good way. Things are starting to come together. I am getting a clearer picture, things are coming into focus.

Of course, I could be eating my words a little farther down the line. It's been known to happen.

So far I have started to sort through my "stuff". I purchased binders and have started to file things appropriately. I started to sort and label all my downloads, docs and photos - that is an ongoing process. I really liked Debra Monsive's Organizing Your Genealogical Records pdf in the File section of the FB group. I got some good ideas and spun my own version so it made sense to me. In the future I'd LOVE to get one of those big honkin' file folders, but alas I currently have no room for it. Binders will have to do.

I am still working on locating some of my "essential" documents. That goes along with my organization. It's a bit of a rat's nest in the computer - the paper stuff I'm better at keeping reasonably sorted (reasonably .... still can't always locate something immediately, I'm working on that).

I've created a nice little Personal Fact List that I can print or fill out on the computer. It will help me determine what I have and what I am missing.

Still can't embrace the spreadsheet. I try at least once a week. But, my distaste for it has led me to create other things that I WILL use.

I have decided to redo/update my family group sheets. I can get OCD when I start to organize.

I feel like I am still preparing to research and setting research goals. And some days I find myself hyperventilating at the ginormity of the task at hand. Hopefully I will look back and laugh when it all falls smoothly into place.

Today threw me a curveball. I was sitting down to do some more organizing and all my family trees have disappeared from FTM!! All of them!! I had to just walk away. They are gone from Legacy too. The FTM trees were half linked to Ancestry (so I can easily restore them) and half non-online trees (not so easily restored). I'm not crying yet, but perhaps the computer gnomes who took my files decided I really did need to do a complete Do-Over!

Made me realize I still need paper "back ups" as much as computer "back ups".

The work continues ........

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Field Notes: I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

In my last Field Notes I made the confession of my haste to win genealogy {again} and the embarrassing error of my ways. It happens. Even to the best of us.

If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done. - Ludwig Wittgenstein

But today I would like to share with you how that plan ultimately came together, and I found more information in an afternoon of ease, that hours and hours of struggle.

Once I realized the error of my ways I was able to search intelligently. I was looking for my grandmother's marriage information and her death information. I knew when and where she died, but I did not have a death certificate or an obituary. I only knew a timeframe for her wedding and had no idea where, so that was a bit more of a challenge.

First stop: FamilySearch where I input the correct information and easily obtained an indexed record of her death certificate. (No photo) It didn't tell me anything I did not already know, but I found it. (No marriage information to be found, however)

On to cyberdriveillinois and the Illinois death certificates database. Entering her name and the county where she died (obtained from the indexed record on FamilySearch) I found the entry and was able to learn the official death certificate number. (Made a note to order a copy)

Next stop: my local library online remote access to the historical Chicago Tribune to search for an obituary. I entered my grandmother's name and the year of her death and received 97 results. Scrolling down to the obituary with the correct date, I opened it to learn of the church where her funeral was held. This was brand new information! And, to be quite honest, a little eerie for some reason - this was the first time I had ever laid eyes on it. It made her death all that more real. (Quick backstory, I never knew her, she died when my dad was 15 and my grandfather had already remarried by the time I arrived)

I need to say at this point, I tried the Chicago Tribune archives first with no success. After finding the obituary on the ProQuest site I was then able to return to the Tribune archives site and simply by adding yyyy/mm/dd after the url successfully found the paper, and the obituary, but I did need to "read" the paper to find the obituary section.

From her obituary I learned the church where her funeral was held, and on a hunch I googled it to get an email address. I sent an email inquiring after my grandmother, if she was a church member, and wondering if she may have been married or even baptized there. (Another aside: Before emailing, I checked the FamilySearch non-indexed database on this church, but it stopped a year short of when she might have gotten married - and there was no record of her baptism .....)

The following morning there was a reply to my email from the church pastor!

YES! She had been married there!

He gave me the date, the witnesses and the church where she had been baptized (gotta love the Catholic Church for their record keeping!) Her baptism record had been destroyed by fire, but there was an affidavit from her parents attesting to her baptism.

I FINALLY had an answer to the mystery of her marriage! And her baptism.

**Thorough researcher that I am, I went back to those non-indexed church records on FamilySearch and browsed the baptism records from the correct church - indeed there had been a fire, and the record books noted it! I was able to find her brother's baptism 5 years later, so I felt a bit of consolation.**

Happy ending to an afternoon of armchair research.


Monday, March 14, 2016

30 x 30 Challenge: Week Two Recap - Success Is In Sight

Week two of my first 30 x 30 Challenge has come to a close and I feel great! I'm on task, on target, and at the point I should be.

Let me tell you, this was surprisingly difficult. You'd think staying on task for just 30 minutes a day would be easy, right?


Those BSO's were everywhere!

And, I have come to discover that doing something so simple as just making a list is really not that simple. I keep wanting to ACT on that list! During my 30 minute allotted time. Which was getting me seriously behind on my original goal.

So, I'd like to encourage anyone else who might be thinking of taking up their own 30 x 30 challenge - you can do it - but it may not be as simple or as easy as you first thought.

We are researchers at heart, and we want to research. Not make lists. (Or organize, or label, or sort or whatever your particular challenge might be) We want to get out "in the field" and get our hands dirty!

However, this list, this very comprehensive list will be my jumping off point for doing good, thorough, correct research in the future. And give my research direction and purpose.

I am starting to like this methodology so much that I am thinking of doing a file sorting challenge next.......

...................stay tuned

tip: I began this challenge using 4 notebooks, but have found a great editable task list template through Apache OpenOffice - when I get it set up I'll give you a peek.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Five Photos ~ Five Weekends: #3 Gus and Dad

Here we have Irv Potwin, my great grandfather, and his lifelong best friend Gus Nelson. Taken sometime around 1900. Gus had talked Irv into going to the Oklahoma territory to try their luck at one of the many land runs of the time.

This photo must have been taken before they left Corning, Iowa. They sure look confident, almost cocky, as young men of 20 often do. Visions of prosperity and new, untamed lands dancing in their heads.

Someone had labeled it, "Gus" and "Dad", but the handwriting is not my grandmother's.

I don't know much more about the adventure, I do know it didn't turn out quite as they had hoped.

You can read about Irv and the outcome of the adventure here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Field Notes: On Looking And Seeing

This past weekend saw a flurry of activity in the Cave. Hot on the trail of hunting down my grandmother's marriage information, I allowed myself to get flustered and became so narrowly focused I was not seeing what I needed to.

Has this ever happened to you?

I must confess that I let my frustration guide my bad thinking and I did not take the time to sit back and assess what was going on.

I was seeking her marriage and her death records. I did not have exact dates for either, but I had month and year for her death and a year range for her marriage. Having entered all the information I knew into FamilySearch I just kept hitting a wall. Same with the historical Chicago Tribune archives. I tried the historical Cook County vital records at Genealogy Online and came up empty there too.

What was going on?!?

I jumped over to Chicago Genealogy Facebook group and posted my dilemma.

Within minutes three different people had found exactly what I needed. Right there. In plain sight. So easy to find if it were a snake it would have bit me.

At first, embarrassed at my clear lack of search skills, I then realized what I had done.

In my haste I had entered only her maiden name information! No wonder I couldn't find anything!

Do I feel stupid. You bet.

Will I make this mistake again. I seriously doubt it.

The reason I am sharing this embarrassing tale with you today is to remind you, me, all of us, not to let emotions get in the way of clear headed, fact based research.

I was looking. Looking hard, but I wasn't seeing the one bit of information I was missing that would have gotten me my answers sans frustration.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

30 x 30 Challenge: Week One Update

At first it seemed like I wasn't getting much accomplished. After all, what can you really get done in 30 minutes? A lot, it turns out!

I had a bit of a set back over the weekend, as I decided to try to actually track down some documents. Which, of course, is NOT the point of this challenge.

I blew almost a whole Saturday looking in vain for my grandmother's marriage records.

I had to play catch-up Sunday and Monday to get back on track.

I've learned my lesson.

Today I have 10 ancestors 'written up'. I have noted what I have, what I may have (looking will be later), and what I still need to find.

Turns out I need a lot more that I originally realized.

But, that was the point of this challenge, so a definite move in the correct direction! I am starting to feel more organized. More clear headed about my next steps.

I'll check in later this week with another update ........

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over 2016: The Go-Over 3.2

As we enter Week Two of Month Three of the Great Genealogy Do-Over, 2016 edition, I must make a confession ..... or three.

I thought I was humming right along. Keeping up. Following in spirit, if not in letter.

But then I started to really look at things.

On the side, I am doing a 30 x 30 challenge to organize my more immediate ancestors. I had gotten as far as my maternal grandmother when the wheels came off.

I thought I had a lot more on her (physically) than I apparently did. I rummaged through the box of stuff I had inherited when my dad passed.

Found zip.

On her.

Found a bunch of great stuff on other ancestors that I had not organized or classified yet. (How did I miss this box?)

Went to the files on my computer. The {apparently} very unorganized files on my computer. Sure the file says GENEALOGY and there are rudimentary subfolders. There's a lot of good stuff in that file, by the looks of it. But for the most part it's really just a big cyber genealogy junk drawer. Everything jumbled together, torn, folded, crumpled - bits of string, a stray paperclip ... oh, there's that old resume, how'd that get here?

How can you get any real research done with this sort of chaos?

Adding to the chaos, it dawned on me that there were files on at least three other computers around the house ..... three!!!

I've been bad.

But today I am making amends.
And a new plan.

I am stocking up on binders, plastic sleeves and a My Passport external hard drive that I will use exclusively for my genealogy files, photos, etc.

Yes, I do have an external HD now (two, actually). Yes, I do back up daily to the 'cloud' and monthly to the HD's. BUT the hard drives are not exclusive, and that is what I think I need.

I am still a lover of paper, and would prefer to print all my docs and put them in binders, but I am working to embrace the new. Perhaps this is why my computer files and folders are so neglected.

Don't even get me started on bookmarks.......

..... to be continued

Monday, March 7, 2016

Field Notes: Over Cite To Avoid Oversight

While researching my 2nd great grandmother for my 52 Ancestors piece on her, I needed to reference my 2nd great grandfather's life. I noticed I had included the note that he had gone to Australia mining for gold in 1851. Now, I remember finding a document on it about 8 years ago, but wouldn't you know it I did not reference it!! Nope. Just wrote the note that he went.

I spent the better part of a day attempting to re-locate that bit of information.

I would suspect I got it from a passenger list. But WHERE???

That is now the 6 million dollar question.

I can't tell you what possessed me to note this without citing where I'd found the information. I remember being excited and intrigued upon discovering it and had planned on returning to it at some point to investigate further.

I am a bit of a scattered note taker, but I combed through all my research notes. I found some other things I had discovered around the same time, but not the gold mining in Australia bit.

Two things come to mind. Right around that time my genealogy computer crashed. We were able to recover almost everything, but not all of it. There was also a glitch in my old FTM16 when I tried to convert/upgrade to FTM2010.

Perhaps the information I spent the weekend hunting for was lost to the crash? Or the software conversion?

These days I make copious notes right in the fact box on Ancestry and add additional notes in the note section. Taking every effort to keep my Ancestry and FTM trees synced after any bit of work I do on either end.

And, I back up to several different locations.

Live and learn.

Takeaway: Back-up. Early and often. And always cite your sources. Always, always, always.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Five Photos ~ Five Weekends: #2: The Family Reunion

This is the entire Irons clan of Chicago, IL. You met Charlie last week. He's the one front and center with the cigar in his hand. The baby is my grandmother Agnes Irons. This dates from late 1903 I suspect. The matriarch of the family, Agnes Irons, has just about had it with the girls. Or maybe just one in particular. 

What just happened?

Someone's got some 'splainin' to do! 

Everyone else is either used to this behavior (oh boy, here we go again!), or very uncomfortable it is happening (stand very still and she might not notice me).

Good times!

A picture really is worth a thousand words, or a thousand thoughts, in this case.

Man, I really wish I knew what just happened. I could write so many different dialogues for the players of this one frame play. The longer I look at it the better the story becomes.

I do know that this was a family reunion of some sort. Agnes' daughter Christine and family were back in Chicago for a visit, having moved to Montana 15 years earlier. 

Someone didn't approve of something?

We've all had family moments like this - I'm just tickled that this moment was caught for all of time - and that the photo somehow survived over a century to be discovered and loved by me.

Field Notes: Ask And You Shall Receive

On Thursday I was researching the history of the early residences of my 2nd great grandmother, who was born in Manhattan NY in 1832.

I know absolutely nothing about New York.
Well, early New York City, anyway.

Now early Chicago, that's a different story.
I know exactly where to look to get my answers.

And I'm pretty good at early Orange Co, NY too.

But New York City? I was at a complete loss. And getting very, very frustrated.

After wasting about an hour getting nowhere, banging my head on the desk and getting a serious case of eye strain, I decided to pose my question to the New York Genealogy Network group on Facebook. Within minutes I started getting replies and in less than ten I had found exactly what I was looking for!

I was able to move forward with my research.

The day was saved.
(My head and eyes were saved!)

The point of this 'field note'? ASK! There are so many groups out there, just on Facebook alone. If you're stuck on something, just ask!

Odds are very good you'll find someone eager to help.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Agnes Fraser Irons: A Born Businesswoman (52 Ancestors #24)

I wanted to continue my 52 Ancestors challenge with another woman. My 2nd great grandmother Agnes Fraser Irons.

When I began the 52 ancestor challenge I had intended on focusing on my female ancestors, but found it (obviously) difficult. The farther back I went the less information I could find.

Agnes is no exception, so the story of her life will be told with facts I am able to discover of her father and her husband.

I first 'met' Agnes when I received a box of photographs upon my father's passing. The box contained an assortment of photos of people in various decades of history. Most of them were not labeled. My dad, having just passed, could not be asked about these relatives. My mom helped the best she could and I pieced the rest together - mostly.

Agnes Upper Left
The photos really intrigued me. Who were these people? I set out to find out.

Agnes was born in New York City January 4, 1833 although she began life in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her parents Alexander Fraser and Elizabeth Chalmers were married in the spring of 1832 and soon after set sail for America and the dream of a better life. The young, expecting couple arrived in New York City in the autumn of 1832.

Agnes' father was a master baker and flour merchant in Scotland, from a long line of mill men and master millers. What brought them to America I have yet to discover, although it may well have been to establish the family's business on new shores.

But this story is about Agnes.

Agnes was the oldest of 5 children. She had two younger sisters and two younger brothers. I don't know much about her early life or if she attended school. I would suspect she did, this was not a family of pioneers living on the desolate plains. New York was a well established city and there were numerous free schools, ward schools and religious schools operating in Manhattan at that time.

Manhattan 1851

In looking into to the history of the time, the Seneca Falls Convention may have been a hot topic around the Fraser household in 1848. Agnes, 15 years old by then, I imagine held some opinions in favor of the convention. As a 21st century woman, and a rather bull-headed one at that, I have trouble wrapping my head around the time when women were property, second-class citizens with no voice of their own. I would like to imagine that Agnes was very much in favor women's rights and held a strong opinion.

The Crystal Palace
In 1853 the World's Fair, Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations came to New York City. The Crystal Palace must have been something to see! I'm sure, as a young woman of 20, Agnes would have attended such a marvel. I know I would have! This may well have been where she met her future husband, James Irons III. An exciting young Scot who had recently immigrated to the United States, by way of a two year detour to Australia to mine for gold.

On May 1, 1855 Agnes and James were married in New York City, and by the following spring were settled in their new home in Chicago, IL.

James Irons opened a plumbing business and Agnes went about putting their new home in order. They are found living on Madison Avenue at the corner of LaSalle. The residence was also the location for James' plumbing business. There was a large livery and stable next door.

In March of 1857 the Irons' welcomed their first born, a son named Alexander Fraser Irons. Sadly, the baby died just 3 months later. The young couple purchased a large plot in Graceland Cemetery and laid their son to rest.

A Bunch of Irons'
The following March Agnes gave birth to their second son, a health baby also named Alexander Fraser Irons.

In January of 1860 Agnes gave birth to twin daughters, Elizabeth and Christine. The growing family was still living on Madison Avenue.

In March 1862, still squeezed into the Madison Avenue home, their son James was born, and in March of 1864 their daughter Aggie arrived.

With 5 children under the age of five to care for I'm certain Agnes had her hands full!

1867 proved to be a bittersweet year for the Irons family. The couple welcomed their sixth child, a daughter named Janet, on the 13th April, only to lose Aggie, who had just turned three, 17 days later. The family buried their little daughter next to her brother in Graceland Cemetery.

By the spring of 1871 the Irons clan had relocated to a home farther west, across from a fine park, on West Adams St. James continued to operate his business out of the Madison Avenue address. In October of that year I'm certain the family was extremely thankful they moved when they did. The Great Chicago Fire burned the area surrounding the plumbing business, where they were residing just months prior.

Burned Area in Red
I don't pretend to know the horror of watching, helpless, as the city burned. Of wondering and worrying about friends and family who lived in the area. Of where the fire would spread or when it would stop. Agnes was newly pregnant in October 1871 and the family was no doubt wondering if their livelihood was being irreparably destroyed.
1873 Ad

The business survived, the building most likely did not. The business had a Halsted Street address in 1872 but by 1873 it was back on Madison Street.

But, back to Agnes.

In May of 1872 Agnes gives birth to a son they name William - who ironically (?) grew up to be a City of Chicago fire chief.

And finally, in 1874, the family's last child, a son named Charles, was born.

Life was settling down, Agnes had her hands full raising 7 children from teens to infants.

Then, in 1877, another tragedy. 

James died just one month past his 50th  birthday. Leaving Agnes with a lot of mouths to feed and a business to look after. Agnes and her children buried James in Graceland Cemetery with his two young children.

1878 Ad
There must have been some knowledge of James' illness and impending death, the plumbing business changed names in 1877 from James Irons Plumbing to A.F. & J Plumbing. A.F. being Agnes Fraser and J. being James' brother John. The pair ran the company, employing sons Alexander and James, for the next 15 years. Most of the children continued to reside in the family home, helping their mother with the household expenses.

Irons Clan
The next decade appeared to be a tedious but joyous one as Agnes buried her sister in 1879, her father in 1883, her mother in 1889, and her brother in 1890. All in the large family plot in Graceland Cemetery. She witnessed the marriage of her son Alexander in 1882, her daughter Christine in 1883 and the birth of her first grandchild in 1885. 

When the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition rolled into town I would suspect Agnes was quite ready for some distraction. This would have been her second World's Fair. How exciting!

Irons Clan
But there was another, darker affair playing out that I imagine was the bigger news of the time. Dr. H. H. Holmes, serial killer. His gruesome murders and ultimately his own death sentence made for quite a lot of talk around the city.

   By 1900 Agnes had two more grandchildren, had seen her son James married and was planning for her son William's wedding.

Irons Clan
William and his bride Margaret gave Agnes two more grandchildren. The family remained close. The adult children that never married remained in the family home with Agnes. Her daughter Christine had moved to Montana, but the remainder of the family lived in Chicago.

Agnes died on June 13, 1909 and was buried in the family plot in Graceland Cemetery.

Irons Family Plot - Graceland Cemetery - Chicago, IL

One year later her youngest son Charles finally settled down. He and his wife Clara had three children.


I am currently in the process of tracing the many living descendants of Agnes and James Irons.

Friday, March 4, 2016

30 x 30 Challenge: Progress Not Perfection

I realized this morning that there will be much more I want to search for or that I am missing the "younger" my ancestor is. For example, my grandfather. Not only did he attend grammar school, he went to high school, college and trade school. He took continuing education classes. I had completely forgotten to include Education on my punch list!

This is a good exercise for me. I have been so focused on my "older" ancestors for so long that my "younger" ancestors, the one's I actually knew, got neglected.

What did I actually know of my grandparents?

Ha! When I sat down to start on my first 30 minute ancestor, my father's father, I realized I don't even have a date or location of his marriage! This poses somewhat of a challenge as my father, an only child, passed away in 2007. Add it to the list of "to locate/order", and move on.

My grandmother, my father's mother, died at the age of 48. The story was that she was "sickly" but no, I don't know what she died from! Add "locate/order death cert" to to-do list.

On my mother's side, my grandmother was the Genealogy Queen, and she did leave some good info on herself, but I have almost nothing on my mother's father, who also died young, at the age of 51. I know that he left the family when my mom was just 5 years old, and for many years she thought her much older brother was her father.

Started a "questions for mom" list.

I am realizing that although I have a good outline of facts, I am missing quite a bit of documentation and more interesting facts that round out a life.

So far the urge to go running off in search of the missing information/proof has been hard to resist, but I am making progress with my "to locate/order" list .......

                       ......... and trying not to get too overwhelmed!

to be continued

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over 2016: The Go-Over - Month Three

Month Three.

Giving myself permission to do this challenge as a Go-Over this time around has really helped ease the pressure I was imposing upon myself to "get it right" last year.

Obviously, my stuff was pretty messed up or I would not have attempted the Do-Over to begin with. I needed help, and all I had been doing was avoiding the icky bits, stepping around the sink hole of "oh my gosh, what have I done", and basically just shutting my eyes to the whole situation. In the race to win genealogy one does make quite the mess!

But there were whole areas of research I was eager to tackle, if not for the mountain of confusion I had created all on my own. (With a little help from some confusing ancestors, I will confess .... Tidewater Virginia Families anyone?)

Anywho, where was I?

Oh, right - Month Three.

Last night I pulled out all the old family group sheets I had and compared them with my tree. The tree, as I suspected, was in much better shape and had more detail than the group sheets. Phew.

BUT, I am missing quite a bit of 'basic' information that may still be available to me through speaking with family. I say may as my mother is the only family still living and she has a bit of a memory problem. The missing information is mostly on my dad's side of the family and, lucky me, he was an only child! No aunts, uncles or cousins there. In a cruel twist of irony, my dad's uncle was an avid family historian and sent my dad bits of family lore that were kept tucked away. He left a good summary on earlier generations that I was able to add to, and a brilliant write-up on himself, but nothing, nothing, on his sister, my grandmother. The one who is missing serious amounts of information! Guess he figured my dad already knew everything .......

My mom's mom, the Genealogy Queen, has left a good collection of family stories that I started to go through last year. I'll relook at those and ask my mom if she has anything to add. At Christmas I did get a little more information out of her than I knew before.

As they say, the genealogy bug tends to skip a generation and that is certainly the case with my mom. She likes to hear about what I discover, but she has no real interest in it herself.

I'm still working on organizing and labeling my digital media. I have a huge dump folder labeled "GENEALOGY" and then sub folders to sort to. The sub folders are a work in progress as I go and contain their own sub folders. It works for me. At least for now.

I am also still tweaking my paper folders, and truth be told, still have a bunch of scanning to do - just came across my grandmother's stenography diploma (I knew I had it .... somewhere) Now it is in the "to scan" pile.

But I have a plan and I am making progress!! Little by little, bit by bit.

This go-round I feel like I can breathe.