Saturday, November 29, 2014

The (Family) Business Trip

William Conner house, built 1823.  Fishers, Hamilton County, Indiana
     After returning from ten days pursuing my 1820’s ancestors in Indiana, I reviewed the many pieces of information I collected. All of the various elements needed to be analyzed, and organized into the appropriate digital folders on my computer. New research objectives were set.
During this process, I realized how much more successful any kind of research can be, especially when leaving the house, if techniques from the world of business are applied. This is true whether the goal is a trip to the local courthouse or cemetery, or when traveling across the country to a major repository.
     Thinking of myself as working for my own small company, I first do as much groundwork as possible, to thoroughly prepare myself for success before I leave home. In the world of genealogy, the first step is looking at what I already have, and what information I need in order to make progress. Next, I study the jurisdictions for the kinds of records I hope to access, where the records are currently held, and the days and hours the repositories are open. I make contact with individuals via email or phone call, introduce myself and explain my needs. Often this leads to suggestions for other stops to make on my itinerary, or they offer to pull specific materials prior to my arrival.
     I spend as much time learning about finding aids, and studying the online catalog, as possible. I prioritize and collect the information most likely to be helpful to me. This is similar to being up to date on my products, checking out the competition, and learning about potential customers, before a business trip. I follow up with phone calls right before leaving home, to learn about unexpected closures, or whether any key personnel will be unavailable. Hopefully I can make adjustments to my itinerary as necessary.
     By now, I've probably started to make the actual travel arrangements. Not having a huge “expense account,” I work to maximize my time, while getting good value for my money. This may mean spending a little bit more on a hotel room close to an archive, and not having to drive and pay for parking every morning. Or, it may mean staying in a room with a refrigerator and a microwave, and consuming meals from groceries I can buy nearby.
     Successful time management can contribute greatly to achieving goals in business. For me, that means planning out the day, so that I arrive first at the place with the earliest opening time, and move on to the place that closes the latest in the day. I also allow time before it gets dark to drive around taking photographs at various locations where my ancestors lived, or at cemeteries. I spend part of the evening going over new data, and planning a list of priorities for the next day, or at the next stop. Stepping away from the topic of genealogy can also be beneficial. Carving out time to go swimming, or taking a walk outside, makes me feel relaxed and refreshed, and better able to get a good night’s sleep. This helps my ability to focus when the day starts all over again.
     To keep my itinerary running as smoothly as possible, I try to make allowances for the everyday tasks, that when ignored, can lead to problems. Before driving off in a rental car, I check how things like the windshield wipers, headlights, and access to the gas cap operate. This will make for much safer driving. Figuring out mileage distances before leaving home is a must, for arriving at businesses while they're still open! And, keeping an eye on the fuel gauge in an unfamiliar car is critical, especially while visiting an out-of-the-way cemetery, or the location of a rural property.
     While I may not be selling an actual product, or arriving for a job interview, I still need to make a good first impression. Walking into a county courthouse, archive, or library, I want to look well-groomed and presentable.  Being comfortable and practical shouldn't slide over into looking sloppy.
     The person on the other side of the desk should be treated as a colleague, who has the expertise to help me. Or, perhaps that person could direct me to someone who can. I need to be aware that my attitude and timing could make the difference in engaging “my colleagues” in helping me achieve my research goals. Arriving at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon, or Monday morning at 8:15, and demanding everything in their records about the Smith family sometime during the 1800s, “Because they're public property and I have a right to know,” probably won't get me very far.
     When I return from the trip, I take time to thank the people who have been of help to me along my travels. I might make a donation to a local society or museum, whose personnel were generous with their time and knowledge, or write a complimentary email to an employee's supervisor. This is similar to maintaining a useful business contact list. It isn't uncommon to realize that I might need help in the future, and I want to have a good connection with these individuals.
     Applying as many of the elements as I need to from this list, I am in a better position to make a success of “the family business,” or in this case, the business of family.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Three Little Channell Girls

     My great grandmother is one of the three little girls pictured here.  From left to right they are:  Estella Rachel Channell Eckerson, 1878-1965, Emma Alice Channell Eshom, 1881-1958, and Mary Margaret Channell, 1875-1884.  They were the daughters of Edward Channell and Jane Foglesong, who had married in Van Buren County, Iowa.  The whole family came to Washington Territory in September of 1881, settling in Centralia, Lewis County.  As Mary Margaret only lived one day past her ninth birthday, she must not have lived very long after the visit to the photographer.  Note that the photography studio was "over Skidmore's Drug Store," in Portland, Oregon.  I love the prop fence, and the roll of hay-like material the toddler is sitting on.
     "Stella" Eckerson lived the longest of the three girls, which meant our lives actually overlapped for a time.  I, of course, remember her as an old, old, woman.  If you'd told me she was 150 years old, I probably would have believed you, but in reality she was in her eighties.  Her only son and her granddaughter, my mother, inherited her long, bony wrists.  All three of them looked very much alike in old age.  I remember our family going in the summer to visit her at her house, two states away, where she was always kind and welcoming, although I believe she had a rather wry wit.  She also came to California on a visit, very late in her life.  We have a few photos of her during that time.  She had on a dress, nylon stockings, and dress pumps; I don't think she owned any pants.  I remember her always in a dress of some sort, and a cover-all type of apron.
     Living alone, her one weakness seemed to be a collection of "Radio-TV Mirror" magazines.  Looking at copies online brings a smile:  they're filled with ads for products like Listerine and girdles, and have a lot of gossipy tidbits about the celebrities of the time.  The one I saw featured Art Linkletter on the cover.
     My great-grandmother lived a life that observed many changes, moving across the country from small-town Iowa to a different Territory, a country at war more than once, a long widowhood, the dawn of the space age, and being kept company by broadcast entertainment.
     A very long time, indeed, since she was the solemn little girl in the photograph.

Estella, Emma, & Mary Channell, l. to. r.
Photo in possession of the author

Monday, August 25, 2014

Preserve the Pensions: War of 1812

Today I made a contribution in the amount of $250 to the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions fund, a collaborative project of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Archives, Fold3, and  I understand this makes me a Preservation Patriot, but that's hardly the point.  As the first paragraph on the website explains:

"The Pension Records from the War of 1812 are among the most requested documents at the National Archives.  Unfortunately, these fragile documents are in urgent need of digitization.  In support of this monumental task of digitizing 7.2 million pages, has provided a dollar for dollar matching grant, so every dollar you contribute will make four more pages accessible and free for everyone."

It goes on to comment that the high demand for the records, available in no other format, makes them especially vulnerable to deterioration.  Records are being uploaded as they are digitized, and are free to view here at .  Images will be offered for free at Fold3 indefinitely.

My receipt tells me that my contribution will make over 1100 more pages available, which is a great feeling.  Now, if only any of them had clues to my brick walls!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hiding in Plain Sight: Records in Hamilton County, Indiana

     A recent page-by-page reading of a county-level probate estate index was a powerful reminder:  there may be much more than what the title describes.  The film notes for the item I was looking at says:  “General index to probate of estates v. 1, 1829-1894” (Hamilton County, Indiana).  This is FHC film #1320375.  While the majority of the film did indeed list the various motions involved in the settling of estates, there were several hidden gems.
     There were a number of guardianships listed, naming not only the guardian, but the bondsmen, and the wards with their ages, a few with actual birthdates.  Sometimes the guardians and bondsmen changed throughout the years, providing more names as possible clues to family connections.   One individual, Bertha Applegate “sometimes called Parker,” had a total of six guardians and eleven bondsmen during the same court date, which might suggest an estate of some substance was involved.  There would certainly seem to be much to be learned, from actually reading the case!
    Another example of genealogical gold, was a land partition action relating to the death of Robert Barnhill in 1824.  In addition to his widow, Sarah, one sees the names of 12 other individuals, male and female, who are probably children and sons-in-law to Robert.  This is a powerful tool in the decades prior to 1850.     
     The most unexpected list was that of a number of naturalizations from the 1840’s.  These men pop up at the top of one page.  Where the names weren’t easy to read, I’ve made a guess.  They are:  Conrad Beard, Martin Beard, John Beck, Henry Bardiner(?), Bardmer(?),  and Augustine Buscher.  Conrad and Martin Beard are found in Hamilton County, Indiana, in 1850, as is Augustine Buscher.  A foreign-born John Beck or Bick isn't indexed in Indiana in 1850.  The Henry Bardiner perhaps connects to the Henry Barder living in Greene County, Indiana, in 1850, listed as a native of Switzerland.
     I'm picturing my future:  moving very slowly through stacks of microfilm and enjoying the view!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New Beginning: Isaac L. & Hester Burgard Myers

Isaac L. & Hester Burgard Myers in front of their new residence, about 1906.
The house was newly completed, and stood at the SE corner
of Gold & Locust Streets in Centralia, WA.

     Among my grandmother's collection, was this photo of her maternal grandparents, Isaac L. and Hester (Hetty) Burgard Myers.  They are standing in front of their house in Centralia, Lewis County, Washington.  The house was very neat and trim, and the background shows a rural flavor.  He would have been about 65 at this point, she 62.  They were life-long members of the Church of the Brethren.  
     One story I know of their time here is that Grandma Myers had a white cat named Pearl, with whom Isaac had a strained relationship.  My grandmother said she remembered as a little girl, when  the cat and grandpa would be in one room of the house glowering at each other.  Hetty would call out from the kitchen, "You're not bothering that cat, are you?"  Isaac would make my grandmother laugh, by adopting a sugary sweet voice and replying, "Oh, NO, dear!"  This was said with a wink at my grandmother.
     The house was very close to the north-south railroad tracks running through town.  Hetty was known as a "soft touch" to the men who rode the rails.  It's thought that they might have carved symbols into the fence, indicating to other nomads that this was a woman who could be counted on to provide something to eat.

     Fast forward to the late 1990s, when the house had fallen into a sad state of collapse.  In 1998, I took these photos of the exterior and interior.  My sister Mary is standing before the front door.  It had been moved forward, flush with the rest of the house, when the porch had been enclosed.  Ignoring the no entry signs, I climbed in through a side window.  Not smart, as part of the roof had collapsed, but when did that ever discourage a genealogist?  I had worn steel-toed shoes for the occasion.  I dug down through the layers of wallpaper to the first one.  While it may not have been chosen by the Myers, it was certainly old.

     By 2003, the house had been torn down, but a couple of nice trees remained.  On my last trip, in 2012, I saw that they'd been taken down.  For every new beginning, there's sometimes a sad ending.  However, I feel quite fortunate to be able to call on these memories, and to have seen the site of my ancestors' daily experience.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


It's easy to become discouraged when  research turns up nothing on our own ancestors.  But we get another shot of interest, when finding something unusual about someone else.  Take, for example, this story of a woman scorned, from Ontario County, New York, told in pithy newspaper inserts:

"The following are notices of MARITAL DESERTIONS in newspaper publications

From Geneva Gazette 4 January 1815
My Wife Elizabeth Witter, having for some time past refused to live with me, I hereby caution all persons having any dealings with her, or trusting her on my account.
Seneca Jan. 3, 1815

From Geneva Gazette 25 January 1815
As EZRA WITTER saw fit to post his Wife, I think it my duty to let the public know what for. He took other women home, who talked very unbecoming, besides using very hard threats towards me. He likewise denied he had any wife, said he had women enough without me, and would not part with them but by reason of the disease which afterwards appeared to his shame. I thought it best to stay at my own place.

Copyright © 2002-12, Ontario County NYGenWeb and each contributor and author of materials herein. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Holland Land Office Museum

Holland Land Office Museum, May, 2014.  Taken by the author


     The Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia, New York, houses a rich and varied collection of materials, housed in an 1815 stone building, the third in use this site.  It actually functioned as a land sales office until the late 1830’s, and was the first National Historic Landmark in Western New York.
     On a recent visit, my husband and I learned the story of how the 3 ½ million acre Holland Purchase began with a 1797 treaty, between representatives of Declaration of Independence signer Robert Morris and the Seneca tribe.  The Holland Land Company purchased the land from Morris, and began the ambitious project of having the huge tract surveyed, which covered a large portion of what is now western New York.
The survey, through thickly-forested terrain, was overseen by Joseph Ellicott, using links, chains, and the basic tools of the time.  Examples of these instruments, as well as an Ellicott family desk and a portrait of Joseph Ellicott, occupy a gallery recently renovated to recreate his actual land office of 1815.  There is also a pioneer kitchen, displaying household artifacts, and an outdoor space devoted to the original 1859 gibbet used in the area.
     Another gallery of the museum contains several unexpected displays.  One is devoted to Charles F. Rand, a Batavia native destined to go down in history as the first in the nation to answer President Lincoln’s call for volunteers at the outbreak of the Civil War.  He was also a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.  Another display is devoted to Ely S. Parker, born into the Seneca tribe, who was educated as a lawyer and civil engineer.  During the Civil War, he rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel, serving as Ulysses Grant’s adjutant.  The terms of surrender at Appomattox were written in his hand.
     The museum has acquired a number of items of interest which can be viewed at close range, including rare uniform pieces and equipment used in the War of 1812, firearms, and examples of drums used in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.  Many local residents have donated items passed down through generations of their families.

Left, drum from the Revolutionary War, right, drum from Civil War.
Taken by the author, May, 2014
      Our tour of the museum was conducted by museum assistant Jeffrey Fischer, who generously shared his knowledge of the survey, the museum, and its contents.  Museum director Jeffrey Donahue was also on hand to answer our questions.  We were shown a map of the area which made up the Holland Land Purchase, which covered a number of present-day counties stretching east and south of Buffalo, NY.
     The museum does a fine job of introducing a number of intriguing historical figures and events.  An example is Joseph Ellicott, whose accomplishments make for a rousing story.  The AAA tour book for the area recommends 30 minutes be allowed for a stop here.  I believe that 30 minutes should be considered a nice start!

Holland Land Office Museum,
131 West Main Street
Batavia, NY 14020

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kentucky War of 1812 Paper Trail - 40 Years Later

A research concept that isn't always easy for me to make allowance for, is how much time and distance might exist between an event in my ancestor's life, and when it might appear in a written record.

Take, as an example, this item that I spotted randomly, in the online holdings of the excellent Kentucky Digital Library at .  I had entered a surname of interest in the search field, and was taken to this page, published in 1852.  While looking over the columns, I saw this notice for someone wanting to buy up, or sell, land warrants held by War of 1812 veterans.  It was inserted by Jno. B. Akin of Danville, KY, which is in Boyle County, south of Lexington.

I was struck by how many transactions and names this might have generated, which open up avenues of research for military service forty years earlier.  The non-specific nature of the notice, makes me wonder whether mention of service in other states, and an ancestor's place of origin, might have occurred.  And how many people in places beyond Boyle County saw the notice, and responded?

We sometimes need to get creative to find that paper trail, even when forty years have passed!

Monday, March 31, 2014

"New" Eckerson house - 100 years later

Pursuing our ancestors in the local newspapers of the time can reward us with some pretty specific nuggets, particularly if our relations lived in a small town.  The editors were always on the lookout for something to fill up the pages, some of which was pretty mundane ("Mr. Smith was in town yesterday doing business at the post office...he reports a fine litter of pigs was born at his place.").

One such item of interest to me appeared in the Centralia Daily Chronicle (Lewis County, Washington).  The issue of Friday, November 7, 1913 published this brief entry:

The Mr. and Mrs. Eckerson, were John and Estella Channell Eckerson, parents of Harold L. Eckerson.  Harold was 11 when they moved into the house, which was located on Harrison Avenue in Centralia.

This photo shows how the house looked some time later, after some shrubbery had matured.
John & Stella Eckerson house, Harrison Avenue, Centralia, WA
Stella was widowed in 1922, and lived out much of the rest of her life in the house alone, except for the period of time she offered room and board to her bachelor uncle, Sam Channell.

Sadly, the house declined over time, and  is now the home of a used car lot, with traffic whizzing by on the widened road.  Going to visit today is like picking a scab, you know you shouldn't do it, but you can't help it.  Interesting to note that some of the leaded glass panes are still in place.

Two different bookends to the life of a house:  the newspaper announcement of a fresh beginning, and its final chapter as a forlorn sales office.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Levi Eckerson Bamber - Man in Motion

The "FAN" approach to ancestral research (Family, Associates, & Neighbors) teaches us to widen the net in gathering information.  Studying people beyond our direct ancestors can often yield clues to the puzzle.  And, making the effort always adds a richness and texture to the story, when learning about family members in the context of a certain time and place.   

I had put aside the family of Mary Eckerson Bamber, daughter of my direct ancestor, Levi Eckerson, when the trail went cold many years ago.  Picking up the threads of her story again, I was fascinated by the journey taken by her son, Levi Eckerson Bamber.  I am frankly unsure how I would ever have followed his trail, without having learned to use the variety of digitized and indexed sources that are now available online.

Looking at the events in the lives of Levi E. Bamber and his family, one can imagine that being on the move probably took a toll.  I wonder whether they all moved together, or did the family break apart permanently at some point.  Did his wartime experience have an impact on his emotions?

I created this table to remind me how much more there is to a family tree, besides just going backwards in time.  

17 July 1850
Franklinville, Cattaragus Co., NY federal census
Age 5.  Living with parents John & Mary Eckerson Bamber, and siblings.
Nora Twp., Jo Daviess Co., IL state census
Age bracket of 10-20.  Living with parents John & Mary Eckerson Bamber, and siblings.
27 July 1860
Centre, Lafayette Co., WI federal census
Age 14.  Living with parents John & Mary Eckerson Bamber, and siblings.
25 Dec 1861
Enlistment, age probably no more than 16.  Living in Darlington, Lafayette Co., WI
Enlisted in Company I, Wisconsin 16th Infantry Regiment.  Regiment raised in Madison, WI. Musician.  Regiment saw service at Battle of Shiloh (TN) and many others.
Winter, 1864-1865
Camp Joe Holt Hospital, Clarksville, Indiana
20 years later, an army comrade sought Levi Bamber’s address, indicating they met here about this time.
13 April 1865
Jeffersonville, Clark, Indiana.  Directly across the river from Louisville, KY
Married (1) Mary J. Mitchell.  Did this marriage officially end, before his second?  Was it a wartime romance, which ended with his departure from the area?  Did she die shortly after the wedding?
12 Jul 1865
Louisville, KY
Mustered out (two months after his wedding in the vicinity)
4 July 1869
Kane Co., IL
Married (2) Josephine Peck
19 August 1870
Plato, Kane Co., IL federal census
Age 24 - Farmer & Dentist.  With wife and 1 child.
27 February 1873
North Plato, Kane Co., IL
Appointed postmaster (new postmaster assigned 1877).
1 November 1876
Alameda Co., CA great register of voters
Age 29 (1847?).  Clearly registered as “Bamber, Levi Eckerson.”  Nativity, New York.
1 November 1876
Alameda Co., CA great register of voters (another print version).
As above.
7 July 1879
Twp. 3, Amador Co, CA great register of voters.
Age 31 (1848?).  Nativity, New York.
11 June 1880
San Rafael, Marin Co., CA federal census
Age 34 – Dentist.  With wife and 5 children, all living with brother-in-law, Edgar Peck.
Denver, Colorado
Listed in city directory as dentist.
Denver, Colorado
Listed in city directory as dentist.
1 June 1885
El Paso County, Colorado state census.
37 – Dentist.  Described as a “bachelor” and divorced.  Living alone.
17 July 1887
Filed for pension.
Steamboat Springs, Ruott Co., CO.  Death presumably took place in this area during this time.  Unsourced genealogy forum posting states he died crossing the Colorado River on horseback.
There is a listing for an L.E. Bamber in the Steamboat Springs Cemetery, per  No dates.  Probably about 45 years of age at time of death. 
St. Michael, Madison Co., MO
Widow Josephine listed on Civil War pension enumeration.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blauvelt Family - Genealogy to Gossip, in Record Time

It's like opening a buried treasure chest, every time I attempt to track down some documentation from my ancient file folders.  The original goal becomes forgotten, as I page through various scraps of paper, some of which are gems.

Take this example:  through my Eckerson ancestors, I apparently connect to several Dutch New York surnames, one of which is Blauvelt.  The Eckerson and Blauvelt names occur regularly throughout colonial New York, so I'm certainly not unique.  I admired how quickly this little paragraph, about a published Blauvelt family history, went from establishing its source citation, to some juicy gossip.

"BURIED IN THE LIBRARY.  In the Library of Congress is a document entitled The Blauvelt Family Genealogy, which covers the history of the family from 1620 to 1956.  Published in 1957, it can be found under Catalog Card No. 56-10936.  On Page 884, under the title "Eleventh Generation" is the notation of the 12,427 descendent (sic) - Durie Malcom.  It reads "We have no birth date.  She was born Keir (my note:  obit says Kerr), but took the name of her stepfather.  She first married Firmin Deslodge, IV.  They were divorced.  Durie then married F. John Bersbach.  They were divorced, and she married, third, John F. Kennedy, son of Joseph P. Kennedy, one time Ambassador to England.  There were no children of the second or third marriages.  Official records show that Kennedy was married on September 12, 1953 to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier.  But there are no records of Kennedy divorcing Durie."

One might question a book that offers so little evidence, but perhaps the newspaper author whittled it down for the purpose of brevity.

I didn't note the date this was published, but since the next article is about the Michelangelo computer virus, (which would affect DOS programs!), I've determined that it must have been about February/March of 1991.   I had cut the Blauvelt piece out and tossed it into a folder which contains a hodge-podge of vaguely-related Eckerson material,  mysteriously titled "permanent holding."  Perhaps that means:   hang onto it until you need it, or forget why you wanted it!

Naturally, I had to do a Google search on this individual.  The rumor is very well-known.  Durie's obituary from 2008 tells of a pretty worldly existence, which sounded like a TV miniseries.  It says she denied the Kennedy rumor, but what it really states is that she never talked about it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Family Tree - "The Far Side" Style

I've recently been purging some of my ancient file folders, which date back to the early days of my family history research career.  I found this page, saved from one of Gary Larson's "The Far Side" desktop calendars.

How I envy Dirk.  He's gone as far back as he can go:  Hilda, Ned, Betty, & Irv!