Friday, June 2, 2017

Grateful for the Kindness of Strangers


     Over the years, it’s been a pleasure to the witness many instances of genealogists and historians taking time to assist other researchers. I well remember my early, stumbling steps studying my own family history, where I was often pointed in the right direction by others. This was in the days when letter-writing was a big part of the process. I lived for the days when I’d receive an envelope with hand- or type-written family group sheets, part of a family tree, or copies of photos and documents. This blog is in part a salute to their efforts, where I share some of my own discoveries, and give my ancestors some context. 
     Recently, I ran across another example of someone making the extra effort to ensure his ancestor wasn’t forgotten, by pointing future generations to her final resting place. (I have no relationship with this family.) Long before the advent of FindaGrave.com, or the wide sharing of information that’s possible via the internet, he inserted a piece of graph paper into a local book of typed cemetery inscriptions, on which he’d carefully drawn a map, shown here.
Insert showing details of the grave of Emily Osburn Durant, as of 1981, by Gary Moore

     Writing in 1981, the author, Gary Moore, knew that Emily Osburn Durant’s parents were David J. and Sylvia Osburn, and he helpfully directed the viewer to lot 195 of Buckeye Cemetery. Comparing this data to the present-day listing for Emily Durant on FindaGrave shows a less intuitive result, because a clickable link to her parents isn’t available. One would have to do a broader search for the Osburn surname within the area. The listing shows the headstone now to be in the Old Van Buren Cemetery, Van Buren Twp., Jackson Co., Iowa. The current photo of the headstone shows that it has been reset at some point. Perhaps it’s been moved from its original location on the map. 
     It is lovely to think, that in her short eighteen years of life, Emily inspired a legacy of kindness.
Emily Osburn Durant, courtesy FindaGrave.com

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

He Spoke to Me Across Centuries: Asahel Roundy


     Sometimes, the reward of a journey can't be measured by how much it advances my original goal.  This piece is among the most striking, of the many I handled on my September 2016 trip to New England, even though it doesn't concern my "direct line."
     The branch of the Roundy family I’m interested in lived in Rockingham, Windham Co., Vermont.  Some of the family lived across the Connecticut River, in Lempster, then Cheshire Co., now Sullivan Co., New Hampshire.  When I visited the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, the welcoming staff was eager to help me connect with the history of my family.  They produced a remarkable document.
Asahel Roundy letter, 1777,
from the collection at the New Hampshire Historical Society
     This letter was written by a young man during the Revolutionary War, Asahel Roundy.  As a son of Samuel Roundy, he was nephew and cousin to my ancestors, the John Roundys, Sr. and Jr.  I could lift and smooth my hand over the actual paper he used out in a camp somewhere (after the battle of Stillwater, NY).  I wish now I'd taken more time getting the perfect image with a different device.  But as so often happens, I was rushing to find one more source, in one more repository, before day’s end.
     The two inserts below show my attempt at a transcription, and the typed explanation sent, when the letter was donated to the New Hampshire Historical Society.  It broke my heart, knowing that this young soldier would die four short months later, after “a littel butter and a littel shugar” had made him so happy.
     I will always remember his story.





Note:  Evidence of Asahel’s service and death can be found in the roll of Col. Benjamin Bellow’s New Hampshire regiment, the bounty paid for his enlistment, and notation of his death in January, 1778 in the original, handwritten battalion roll.  More about the circumstances faced by his unit is found in the book, "Death Seem'd to Stare": The New Hampshire and Rhode Island Regiments at Valley Forge,” by Joseph Lee Boyle.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

David Ives - Allen Ives: Further evidence

Having just spent considerable time composing the previous message, I couldn't get the story and its tragic circumstances out of my mind.

Further investigation turned up this article from the San Francisco Call newspaper of 21 February 1893.

Accessed via California Digital Newspaper Collection
The last known residence in Kansas for "my" David Ives was Burr Oak, Jewell Co., Kansas, where he was living next to his father, Allen Ives.  One newspaper account shows the letter being from Kansas, one from Iowa.  But the detail, "Burr Oak" is too specific to ignore.

I believe that this makes a solid case for the date and circumstances of David Ives' death being much different than what was believed.

David Ives, son of Allen Ives: Is This a Match?

As I approach the 37th year of actively researching my ancestors, I recognize the need to reevaluate some of my old files. Often, I’ve learned new facts that can be used to fine-tune someone’s story.  Frequently, new records are available.  And, yes, sometimes what I’ve accepted as fact is just plain wrong, or in need of further study.

One such case is that of David Ives, oldest son of my ancestor Allen Ives and his wife Mary Deeter.  Years ago, when a large proportion of my efforts were dependent upon the U.S. Postal Service, I exchanged information with another researcher, and was sent a voluminous binder.  This consisted largely of printed, typewritten sketches about each individual.  The Ives family was part of the project.  David Ives’ biography stated, word for word, about his death:  “He died November 22, 1899. (?)  He died in a sandslide.  (It’s possible he may have died in CA.)”
 
However it got there, this date has found its way onto many online trees; the few I glanced at don’t have a source for the information.  Most state that David Ives died in Kansas, where he lived at the time of the 1880 census, working as a blacksmith in Jewell County.  What may not be known to many, is that there was a footnote to the biography.  It states that David Ives left Kansas in 1883 with his brother Levi (Lee) Ives, eventually settling in Washington Territory.  The location would eventually be called Pateros.  Records for the David Ives I’m related to show his birth to have occurred in Iowa, in 1853.
 
There begins the part of the story where we have to question the time and circumstances of David’s death.  The Washington Territorial census of 1887 shows a David Ives, age 33, blacksmith, living in Walla Walla.  No other family members are shown, although he had married, and was the father of two children.  His birth is recorded as having taken place in Pennsylvania.  After this point, this David doesn’t appear to be creating any more records in Washington.

Jumping ahead to 1888 and 1890, a David Ives, age 35 (in both entries), blacksmith, is living in Chico, Butte Co., California.  Birthplace is shown as Iowa.  This is from the Great Registers, which record voters, in all parts of the state.  The last entry in 1892 shows a David Ives, age 39, blacksmith, living in Santa Rosa, Sonoma Co., CA.  Birthplace is Pennsylvania.

The final piece of the puzzle was located in an online image of an article, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper of 21 February 1893.  It reports the death of a man presumed to be David Ives of Santa Rosa (located two counties away), because of the letter found on his person.  It’s from a niece in Kansas named “Lena.”  A snippet view of the same news from the San Francisco Call newspaper from February 22 states the victim was "David Ives, blacksmith, of Santa Rosa."
San Francisco Chronicle, 21 February 1893.  Accessed via GenealogyBank.com


Via Archive.org, I was also able to access these details from a yearly report of the San Francisco coroner's office:

We don’t really know enough to state, without doubt, that all of these David Ives are the same person.  The differing birthplaces don’t concern me terribly, given the number of other items that fit:  the age, occupation, the physical description, the reference to Kansas.  The voter registration describes him as “fair” with “gray hair.”  Whether someone else would describe him as a round-faced German with a heavy blonde mustache, I have no idea.  A quick search for potential, letter-writing nieces shows Irene Faidley, who would have been about 19 in 1893.

It would be of interest to hear what other descendants know of this story, and whether this is indeed the same person.   


No matter how experienced we think we are as genealogists, our ancestors will always find a way of surprising us.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I Could Have Been Canadian (eh?): Charles A. Ives

Charles A Ives & Mary Catherine Myers, wedding portrait, 1888
One of the interesting stories I heard at my grandmother’s knee, was about the year her father, Charles A. Ives, became inspired to be a pioneer, one more time.  He decided to investigate re-settling in a whole new country:  Canada.  Many of his children were adults by this time, and perhaps he’d heard about new opportunities, or the area around him in rural Washington was becoming “too crowded.”  Whatever the reason, he actually pursued the idea, and off he went.  One of his daughters, Margarita “Dutch” Ives, who was an older teenager at the time, spent a few months with her father in Duchess, Alberta, Canada, keeping house for him.  Moving away from her family and friends to an unfamiliar location, probably wasn’t the adventure she’d pictured for herself after finishing high school!  I also get the impression that my 15-year-old grandmother enjoyed a much greater degree of freedom with her father away, driving herself around in the family's Ford, and getting up to who knows what!  The Church of the Brethren, of which she was a member, would not have approved.

The shifting array of online digitized records shines a light on Charley’s plan.  From the record set at Ancestry.com, called Border Crossings:  From U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935, we are lucky enough to see an actual image of Form 30, which is an individual entry form.  This has much more detail than a simple passenger list.  We learn that he entered Canada on the train at Kingsgate, on March 26, 1919.  He was a 52-year-old farmer from Centralia, Washington, born at Marshalltown, Iowa.  Although he lists his race as “Scotch,” that’s probably debatable.

Chas. A. Ives, Canadian Form 30, 1919

Charley Ives must have been resolute in his plan; he traveled with $5,000.  There is a column that asks, “if settler, value of effects.”  I’m not sure whether that meant land already purchased, livestock, equipment, or a combination, but it was worth $3175.  One of the first questions asked was, “Object in coming to Canada.”  His answer?  “To settle.”

However, Charley hadn’t planned on one thing, his wife, Mary Catherine, or “Katie” was equally resolved to stay right where she was.  They had a beautiful farm on Ford’s Prairie, in Centralia, Washington, and her circle of family and friends was close by.  As the story was told to me, this sweet, kind woman, who had six living children, had had enough.  She said, “Charley, I’ve followed you from Kansas to Pateros (Washington), from Washington to California, and from California back to Washington.  I AM NOT FOLLOWING YOU TO CANADA!”

Perhaps Charles Ives’ time in Canada wasn’t what he’d expected; most likely he decided not to test his wife.  In any case, he lived out a peaceful existence in Washington for the remainder of his life.  At the time of her death in 1952, they had been married for 64 years.  He died in 1954.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hazy History


Civil War era post card
As I’ve occupied a comfortable position in middle age for some time now, I am accustomed to the superior looks I occasionally get from millenials and younger.  It’s almost as though they feel sorry for my advanced years, and for the fact that I’m decidedly “uncool.”

My sister and I had a funny email exchange on the subject, when she shared this amusing tale.
  
She was recently in a bookstore, and overheard a 20-something guy insisting to his companion, that if he wanted stuff about the Civil War, he’d have to head down the aisle marked, “WWII.”  “Same thing!” he said.

Mary, ever the kind soul, nevertheless couldn’t let this one go. She proceeded to point out they had the wrong century, the wrong war, and indicated the correct aisle.  As they walked away, one of them remarked:  “Dang, she musta walked in here from Jeopardy!”  I asked whether they had grumbled as she walked off, and she said no, they were actually incredulous.  She did say she tried very hard not to be an “old fogey!”

When I commented that at least they were in a bookstore, she said that they were only looking for a birthday present for grandpa, who was “in” to that “weird stuff.”

Yes, being an “old fogey” has distinct advantages, such as a basic grasp of American History.

Identified as American Douglas SDB Dauntless bombers


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

When John Graves Isn't John Graves, and Walpole Isn't Walpole


For decades, the death date and place of  John Graves, father of Nathan Graves, has been widely circulated and accepted as 29 December 1766, in Walpole, now Cheshire Co., New Hampshire.  This date and location appeared in early published works and family group sheets about the Graves family, and was later copied to online family trees and websites.  Much of this material failed to cite any source material.
In my continuing quest to give substance to my own family tree, I’ve located entries which cast serious doubts on this long-accepted date and place.  In the excerpt below, the name, date and town appear to be a logical source for the belief that this refers to “my” John Graves.  There is one glaring contradiction, however:  the state.  This refers to Massachusetts, not New Hampshire.




Thinking this might have been a town within an area originally part of Massachusetts but later New Hampshire, I did some further research.  Walpole, NH and Walpole, MA are two distinct places.  Walpole, NH is on the Connecticut River, and Walpole, MA is southwest of Boston.  Using primary sources, I was also able to construct an entire family for the John Graves of Walpole, MA, and it wasn’t “mine.” 


I began with this marriage for John Graves and Mrs. Mary Smith of Dedham, MA, which is in close proximity to Walpole.  Between 1741 and 1762, they became parents to eight children, three of whom died young.  The five surviving were Mary, Ebenezer, Abigail, Anna, and Lucy.  They re-used names of their deceased children at least twice:  Mary and Ebenezer.  John has been described as a cordwainer (shoemaker). 
            While it's possible that the John Graves I'm researching could have raced up from where he was known to have lived, in the Saybrook-Killingworth area of Connecticut, or down from his new home in Cheshire Co., NH, in time for his demise 1766, it's more likely that the death date refers to the other gentleman.  Interestingly, other sources state that my John Graves was also a cordwainer.  Perhaps they "shared" more than a death date!
            All of this research revealed another anomaly:  I believe the above marriage entry says "Mrs. Mary Smith," and I'm not alone.  It's transcribed that way as well in a published volume, here:



           The authors of at least one family history published online, and no doubt many family trees, assume that Mary Smith was a single woman when she married.  It's stated that she was the daughter of Josiah Smith and Mary Paine.  While this may indeed be true, she would have had to have a first marriage to a man also named Smith at the time of her marriage to John Graves.  I will leave that question to her descendants!
The process of consulting original materials is becoming easier, with regular additions of scanned images being uploaded to various websites.  FamilySearch.org, in particular, is one of the regular stops on my genealogical journey.  
So, the question of the death of John Graves of Connecticut or New Hampshire remains unanswered.  However, even if it means erasing one of my “facts,” I find a great deal of satisfaction in untangling these mysteries. 
 I only wish I didn't create more along the way...