Saturday, October 31, 2009

Family Traditions

I think everyone knows of at least one family tradition that's been passed down from generation to generation. A popular one is that "two brothers emigrated to America, one went North, one went South..." or something of that sort. With my family there really wasn't too much information passed down on earlier generations. There were no spoken traditions on where we came from, on either side, and no one spoke of those before then. Probably the closest thing I had growing up was the story my Grandpa told me about how he and his father and grandfather had been in a car in 1921 and they drove across the train tracks right as a speeding train was coming. My Grandpa, then about 4 years old, was in the backseat and got thrown through the windshield. His father, who had been driving, made it through the crash with only some minor scratches and bruises. His grandfather however (that would be Ira Gilkison for those who read about my search for a surviving photo of him), was severely injured and died at the hospital. I don't know how much of a family tradition it is, but it was information passed from one generation to another so I guess it applies.

So there wasn't much in the way of family traditions in my family. I would find out a little bit about why later on. But once my Mom and I started looking into the family history, it didn't take long for us to connect with some Stevens cousins who clued us in on that family's tradition. I think I may have gone over this one before, but I can't remember for sure so here it is again. As usual, it surrounds our alledged immigrant ancestor, Charles Thomas Stevens. The story, as recounted by one of his many grandchildren, is that Charles was born in Bristol, England around 1755. He was a mariner who sailed around the world "several times" and was a naturalized citizen of many countries. He came to America during the Revolution and participated in that rebellion, as well as the War of 1812. He spent time as a POW during both of those wars, first on a galleon and then in a POW prison in England (more specifically, in Bristol, England-the town of his birth). After being released from prison, he returned to America and settled in Dover, NH. The story ends by saying he was the last person buried under the Old North Church in Boston in 1843.

There's quite a bit in this little gem. I've really only scratched the surface on Charles but I have been able to find some facts within this rather grandiose tale. He is in fact buried at Old North and died in 1843 at the age of 88, though he was not the last man to be buried there. He also settled in Dover, NH at least from 1805 which is the earliest I've been able to find him as a grantor in the land indexes there. On that deed however, he was described as "of Dover" which implies that he had been living there prior to this transaction. So I haven't been able to establish exactly when he came to Dover yet. Keeping in mind the story that he was a POW for a time, there is always the possibility that that played a part in the break between records of residence. But there are really quite a few other possibilities to look into as well and quite a bit to investigate about his life too. Sounds like an interesting guy for sure though.

Working, working, working...

Hi all, I know things have been a little quiet this week. I got hit with a nasty virus or something earlier in the week that I couldn't shake until yesterday and then I had to play catch up with my ProGen assignment. This month we had to take the transcribed document that we worked up for last month's assignment and build a research plan for it. We also wrote our background resume, as if we were creating it for our BCG certification application. That was an interesting exercise for sure. I can definitely see where I'm lacking. I really need to get some article ideas on paper and try to get them out there. Yikes! Also this month, I've been working on Lesson 2 of the NGS Home Study Course. This lesson is called "Family Traditions and Family Records". The first assignment is to tell and then evaluate a family tradition. The second assignment is to make a list of family papers that you have been given by earlier generations and briefly tell who gave them to you, who had them before you, and what genealogical clues they contain.

And if being sick and working on two ProGen assignments and two NGS assignments wasn't enough, I've also been getting the brainstorming for my potential James Bromagem article on paper, finally. Seeing that you may be the only one in your ProGen group without published work really keeps you motivated!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Cemetery Desecration

I'm just wondering why we have to be worried about the resting places of our ancestors in this day and age. It seems like every week there is word of more cemetery desecration and it just makes me sick. With all of the scandal there has been in the Chicago area, with Burr Oak Cemetery employees selling plots several times over and dumping bodies, and possible missing loved ones at Mt Hope Cemetery in Chicago, and my own situation at Oak Woods with 3, possibly 4 people gone from their records with no idea on their whereabouts, getting a link to the following article this morning is just another example of the horrible treatment of cemeteries lately. This is from Wayne County, Indiana where my in-laws are from.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Surname Saturday/Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

We've got a new Saturday blogging theme and I thought I'd use it to shine a light on a couple of names that haven't gotten much airtime here yet. I couldn't decide between two people so I'll just briefly (as brief as I can that is, LOL) talk about them both.

The first is Simpson Gilkison. Unfortunately I only have a very basic knowledge of his life and what I do "know" comes from an unsourced paper from a cousin. The paper says that Simpson was born to John Gilkeson and Margaret Manley in September 1830 in Fleming County, KY. I was able to confirm that the family moved from Kentucky to Indiana in the 1830s. They were settled in Parke County by the 1840 Population Census enumeration and despite John's death there in 1854 (according to his tombstone and the opening of intestate procedures), the family remained in Parke County. Simpson married Susan Cole about 1856, probably in Parke County, and had something in the range of 10 children. Susan died in 1880 (again, according to the unsourced paper) and Simpson supposedly lived in Parke County until his death in

In terms of research, I've barely scratched the surface for Gilkison records. There are quite a few things to do on my list, including ordering records for several of his children in the hopes that their records will give me clues to details of his birth and perhaps confirmation of his death date and place. Preliminary searches turned up nothing in the limited church records that I have found as of yet, nor have I found a burial site and tombstone for him to help confirm his birth. No record of death has been found yet despite Parke County's taking records of death going back to 1882. Probate records and research into the availability of marriage records in the county, and the surrounding counties, still needs to be addressed. So there is a ton to do with Simpson and one of these days I'll have more than 24 hours in a day to get started.

The second subject for today's theme is Samadras Savery. Samadrus is another dark spot in my files because all I know of him, like Simpson Gilkison, is what I have been told. Unlike Simpson though, details of his life have been researched by several Savery ancestors and these same researchers have done a wonderful job with collateral lines which have been accepted to the Mayflower Society so, while this doesn't completely negate the possibility for errors, for now I feel pretty comfortable with their work. Unfortunately for the purposes of tonight's spotlight, the Savery files are with my Mom. So I'm going to have to wing it tonight.

Samadras was born in 1830 in Cotuit, Barnstable County, MA to George Savery and Catherine Baxter. Samadras would spend his entire life in Barnstable County, a fishing community on Cape Cod. He married Lydia Sturgis by 1856 and the couple would have at least 10 known children, probably more. On census enumerations, he appears as a mariner like most other Barnstable County men. He died there in December 1888. I've often wondered what the origins of his given name were. It seemed unusual to me the first time I heard it, but the Saverys were the very first line that my Mom and I started working on together when I was about 13 years old and I didn't know any 13 year olds named Samadras at the time. By now, I've spent a little more time with New England records and have seen the name more often, but I still don't know where it came from. It would be nice to find out one day.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nothing like a perfect article to motivate you

After reading Rachal Mills Lennon's 2004 NGSQ article, "The Wives of Jonathan Turner...", for this month's NGSQ study group discussion I decided to get motivated. This article was smooth as silk. The format used made it easy to read, and easy to follow. The methodology was flawless and the conclusion, that even the impossible is sometimes possible as long as you expand your search to anything and anyone that could shed light on your subject, was infallible. After reading an article like that, it's hard not to get motivated about your own work.

So here's my idea: Ever since I first found my Bromagem Great Great Great Grandfather, James M. Bromagem, I always felt that his life would make a pretty good article. There are a few angles but the one that intrigued me was his occupation as a printer/newspaper published, especially after reading another NGSQ article about using one's occupation to help fill in the details of your subject's life and to help find him through the census years(see Hinchliff, "Job Davidson, Cooper in Baltimore, Maryland...:Using Occupation and Birthplace as Census Finding Aids" in NGSQ 94, June 2006, pgs 85-100). Now don't get excited, he wasn't successful; he didn't form any presses that are still in operation today and in fact, most of the presses he did start closed down within a year's time. But this is actually the part that appeals to me as far as being an article topic. Because of the relatively short lifespan of his endeavors, he spent the whole of his life on the move and determining where he could be during any given year was next to impossible. Until I discovered a published bibliography of Indiana newspapers that is. With that tool, I was able to match up his work sites with the births of his four children (whose birthdates were given by the Dr who delivered them in James' widows' pension file) and track his movements by a year, or two at the most, throughout the 1850s and a portion of the 1860s. Being able to track him that closely was something I never thought I'd be able to do when I first started researching him, and it was all due to the fact that he was an on-the-go newspaper man. He attempted to set up presses through the Eastern Indiana border counties and since he was poor, with no land, he didn't leave many other clues such as deed records and the lack of extant tax lists in some of the areas in which he lived made things harder and this is where the importance of occupation came in. Thank goodness for that!

I'm thinking of naming the potential article, "Where in the world is James M. Bromagem, of Ohio, Indiana, and Washington, D.C.?: Another Lesson in the Importance of Occupation as a Finding Aid." :) I'd like to think I could come up with something half as effective as Rachal's article but who knows. I've been too intimidated to try up until now so thanks to that article I've at least got the gumption to attempt it. Now I just need to get it all down on paper.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Taking some time to revisit some names

I am going to try to take a break from the Bromagems for while...yes, again. Some of you may remember what happened the last time I tried to do this. I ended up getting some records that brought me right back front and center to them. Since I'm having some down time with that branch, I thought it might be a good idea to go back and take some time to check out some of the other branches. I have a big list of names on the front page of all the names, or at least most of them, that I have been researching so I may as well chit chat about some of them.

The Gilkison side is my Dad's side of the family and one that he really wishes I would go back to. It's also one of the most challenging and has been the hardest for me to work on long distance. One issue involves the earliest proven generation, John Gilkison (b.abt 1801 KY d. 15 Sept 1854 IN) and Margaret Manley (b.abt 1799 KY 5 Mar 1872 IN). Both birthdates have been handed down by a cousin of my Dad's but she does not have the source written nor has she been able to find out where she got them from. So that's one problem. I have found confirmation of John Gilkison's death date and was lucky enough to find a photo of his gravestone online. So that's a good thing, however, the death of his wife is another shady point since I have not found an obit/death notice for her (not for lack of trying either) so who knows if she actually did die on the date given. Finding some confirmation of Margaret's death and finding out whether the birth dates found by our cousin are correct are on the list of things to do.

Another branch I've worked on are the McKeevers of Delaware Co and Philadelphia Co, PA. I think I've spoken about the McKeevers here in the past. I was focusing on the family of J.B. McKeever and his first wife, Elizabeth Saunders (his first wife's name is a fairly new development and I haven't had a chance to find anything out about her yet). They're a really interesting group and for a while things were just falling into place and I was able to take them back further than I first expected. There is still a ton that I need to do, mainly order a ton of FHL microfilm for church records and that's another reason why I've been putting off going back to work on this branch. I guess I'm saving it for a little extra money to use for ordering the film. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to work with this group again soon.

One branch that I have listed on the homepage are the Sargents. My Grandpa Stevens' middle name was Sargent in honor of his father's family and it's a line which I haven't spoken too much of here because the line has pretty much been covered by other researchers. My branch of Sargents were from the Kittery, Maine area; Hannah Sargent married Charles T. Stevens in 1834 in either Boston, MA or Portsmouth, NH. They had four children before her death in 1848. Charles married her younger sister, Sarah Augusta Sargent (b. 1834 d. 1915), in 1849 and the couple had something like nine more children before Charles died in 1887. Hannah and Sarah were the daughters of Henry Sargent (b. 1786 d. 1866) and Sally Caswell (b. 1794 d. 1855). Henry Sargent was a veteran of the War of 1812 and a distant Stevens cousin that I "met" through the genealogy message boards many years ago discovered that he had been a POW during his service. He returned to Maine and hero and I've found a few wonderful newspaper articles which gave a few characteristics of Henry and told some of his experiences. This same Stevens cousin did a wonderful job documenting her extensive research and the facts that I have gone back to check have been correct. Her work places the Sargents back to England in the 1500s and though I haven't worked my way back there yet to verify the info, it's been great reading (whether it's true or not).

That's probably enough for now. I'll look at a few other lines soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009


With all the talk this week on various blogs, I decided to check out the google news archives search function again. I've used it previously but didn't have many outstanding results; I didn't find anything that I was looking for, but found a few items of small interest so it wasn't a total loss. This week though, I had a few new names to the tree to search and I think that was the clincher that led me to the explanation of a family story that I never thought I would understand.

The backstory here is that my maternal Great Grandfather, Charles L. Stevens (son of Lillian Bromagem and Charles T Stevens), was born in Toronto, Canada in the 1880s. Were any of the Stevens' or Bromagems from Ontario, or even anywhere near Canada for that matter? Big fat negatory on that one. The only family word on the story was that he was born there because his parents had gone up to Toronto for a wedding and his mother gave birth prematurely. No one seemed to know whose wedding it was. Over the years though, I've found more and more evidence of Bromagems living briefly in Toronto during the time frame Charles was born so I began to think that the story must be true, although the wedding part still didn't make sense. I just figured his parents went up there to visit Mary J Bromagem, Lillian's mother, and gave birth to my Great Grandfather while they were there. But there was still something else. When I discovered the Van Wormer connection (Lillian's eldest sibling, Eliza/Lida, married Clemson Van Wormer and Charles Stevens' mother married Clemson's father, Matthew Van Wormer), I found that the Van Wormers were also living in Toronto around the time Charles L. was born there. Again, just another piece of evidence to put towards the theory that he was born there while his parents were visiting their families...

that theory got blown out of the water this week thanks to the google news archives search (keep in mind, the article is from 1887, my Great Grandfather was born in 1888in Canada).

Hmmmmmmmm, now I really don't think they were up there for a wedding :)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - A Satisfying Moment

The topic for tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is "A Satisfying Moment". It was described on Genea-Musings:

1) Tell us about one (or more) "Satisfying Genealogy Moments" from your family history and genealogy research. What was it, and how did it make you feel? You can make a Top Ten list if you want to!

2) Write your own blog post, or make a comment on this post, or make a comment on Facebook, and tell us about your "moment in time."

So a recent satisfying moment for me was my Eliza Bromagem=Lida Van Wormer discovery. I talked about it in a post back in July. You can see it here

The basic jist was that my Great Great Great Grandparents' eldest child, named Eliza according to a doctor's deposition included in a Civil War widow's pension, disappeared from the traceable records and I couldn't figure out what happened to her. So I moved on and started working on other lines in a related branch but as I was looking into the family, this name kept popping up, Lida Van Wormer. The more I knew about Lida the more coincidences I was finding between Lida and Eliza Bromagem, sharing the exact same birth date for instance. Eventually I became pretty sure that they were the same person but it wasn't until I got that first bit of evidence that I really got up out of my chair and danced around. What I got was a widow's pension application made out by Lida Van Wormer under the Civil War service of her husband, Clemson. On the application, Lida states that her maiden name was Bromagem and at the bottom, Mary J. Bromagem is listed as a witness to the application. Here it is

After I received the pension application, I picked up Lida's death certificate from the Cook County Clerk's Office and sure enough, on the certificate James and Mary J. (Braden) Bromagem are listed as her parents and again, her birth date and place match that of Eliza Bromagem. So even though no record of marriage existed with the Hamilton County, OH Probate Court, I was able to figure out that Eliza was Lida because of the combination of pension file documents from both James Bromagem and Clemson Van Wormer and Lida Van Wormer's death certificate. It was a happy day for sure!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Great new link from the Photo Detective

Maureen Taylor's Photo Detective website offered up a great new link that would be extremely helpful to anyone who has some of the Postcard photos in their collection. If you go to and scroll down a little bit, you'll see a table with the names of Postcard photo companies and their dates of operation so you can date those photos. I have one that someone put a date on but just to check it out, I looked it up in the table on the Playle site and it was right.

Here's my Postcard photo of my Great Grandparents, Charles L. Stevens and Helena (Sigmund) Stevens.

Someone wrote on the back that the photo was taken in 1910 and the postage part shows "Cyko" which, according to Playle's site, made Postcard photos from 1904 to the 1920s. So that fits in, though judging from Great Grandma Stevens' dress and hat, I'd definitely say it was taken during the earlier years. What a getup!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Research trip part 3: Moving on to IN

After the exhilaration of being able to go to the gravesite of one of the earlier Bromagem family members, and actually the first time I've been able to visit a Bromagem grave period, I moved on to Eastern Indiana. I started at the Randolph County Courthouse in Winchester, IN and had some success finding Bromagem land records there, specifically evidence of James Bromagem's (son of Elias whose stone is shown in the previous post) financial problems. I had heard from a cousin that there was such evidence but didn't have the copies myself. Now I do.

In Winchester I also ran into what could be a possible lead in the Mary J. Braden/Hawkins Bromagem maiden name issue. I found someone named J. Park Braden listed in the land deed index and the name stuck out. Mary J and James Bromagem's eldest child, Eliza/Lida Bromagem Van Wormer, had a son named J. Park Van Wormer. There was no indication in the deed that he was any relation to Mary J. but it's something I am going to try to pursue to see if maybe he could be a younger brother/cousin, anything related to her. J. Park isn't exactly the most common name around so I'll keep you posted on the status on that.

I also was able to take a look at marriage applications for Randolph County for my Mother-in-Law. Her Phillips family has Randolph County roots and I was able to take a look at all of the wonderful info included on these applications. Randolph County started recording applications for marriage licenses around 1882 and they are indexed and available through the County Clerk's Office. This date is not the standard for all counties so you must check with your particular location's Clerk's office for more info. There are two parts to each application, one page with the groom's info and one page with the bride's info. Included are the couple's parents names, locations, if the parents are living or deceased, whether this is the first marriage for each person, when and where they were born, and more. Obviously these are great resources when searching for marriages that occurred in Indiana during the latter part of the 19th c.-early part of the 20th c.

From Winchester I went to the Jay County courthouse, but didn't find too much there. I wish I had taken photos inside the courthouse though. It had a gorgeous stained glass ceiling surrounded by painted scenes from Indiana history. That was probably the best part of that courthouse :) That, and the pop machine that had cans for 50 cents.

I made a quick stop at the Wayne County Indiana courthouse to do some more searching for my Mother-in-Law's family and found a great deed where the grantor was the widow of the earliest generation of Turners in this country from her line. The widow was dividing up the property to her children after the death of her husband and their father and because of that, it included the names of several of their sons and daughters so we can compare that list of children with those that we already had. Very helpful indeed!

One thing I must say about Indiana courthouses is that they are expensive. At each of the three courthouses I visited copies were $1.00 per page which can get extremely costly. So be ready to take notes in the form of abstracts and/or transcripts if you have the time. Most also did not allow digital photographs to help combat the copying cost so that's not going to be an option either. Also, the original deed books are at the courthouses so you may want to come prepared with your own gloves to protect your hands, as well as the delicate pages. The Randolph County Recorder's office provided gloves, in both mens and ladies sizes, but I did not see them available at any other location that I visited.

So overall it was a great little trip. I got tons of copies and have some leads to work with too. I also learned a little bit more about some of the records available, the marriage applications were a new resource for me since my own Indiana relatives arrived before their use. So now I can start trying to follow up on some of these new leads, hopefully something will come of them!

part 2: Hillgrove Cemetery, Darke Co, OH

Here is the image of the cemetery that I got from google earth:

From the looks of the photo I figured that I could walk around and try to find Elias' stone fairly easily and I was right, thanks to google earth. This was my first real time using this application and I'm really glad I tried it. All I had to do was enter in the latitude and longitude coordinates, which I had gotten from, a website that I hadn't seen before. Between the two sites I was not only able to see how large the cemetery was, but I was also able to figure out how to get there prior to my leaving home, which was extremely helpful. What I wasn't mentally prepared for though, was the sad state of some of the stones. Specifically, the fact that there were stacks and stacks of stones that had broken, fallen, etc. just lying on top of old bases so you couldn't know where the stones were supposed to go. Some were worn blank but there were some that were still legible. One had only initials at the top of the stone. I started to get worried but soon found the stone, bent backwards a bit, but still in tact and legible. I plan to return periodically and hopefully I'll be able to get a plat map set up as well.

So here is a pic of the cemetery

And here is the stone

Back from the trip, part 1

So I'm back from my research trip to Eastern IN and Western OH and overall the trip was really successful.

The first stop was to the Indiana State Archives in Indianapolis to view the 1850 agricultural census for Eastern IN counties including Wells, Steuben, Randolph, and Jay counties. I was hoping to find some lead to the ever-lasting "Who was Mary J. Braden Bromagem" question. Is she a Braden or is she a Hawkins? Well, as far as the 1850 agricultural schedule is concerned, who knows. I didn't find anyone in that schedule that I hadn't already tracked through the regular 1850 population schedule. So that part was a bust, fortunately it didn't leave a cloud over the rest of the trip.

The next day I started hitting the archives and courthouses in Western Ohio. I have to say that the Greene County, OH Archives did not disappoint. I've spoken briefly about how great they are in the past, due to my experiences with their copy request system, and they are just as great in person. The microform machines are new and in good condition, and easy to read and use as well. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful, and they care about what you're working on too which is great because they may be able to steer you in a new direction based upon their knowledge of county records. Their holdings are also pretty great; they have land deeds, tax lists (though most have been lost/destroyed), some probate files, and much much more on microform. They also have just received the original clerk's deed books so if the microform isn't working for ya, you can just look at the original in-house. The other huge plus is they only charge 6 cents per page for copies! I was able to get a ton of copies, papers that probably aren't vital but are certainly nice to have, and that really means a lot to me. While most repositories are charging out the wazoo and still struggling to keep their doors open and maintain a useful and accessible resource, this little town has one of the best and most user friendly records repositories around. I can't say enough good things about them.

From there I moved up to Darke County, OH and headed straight for the Darke County Courthouse in Greenville. I was able to find a few Bromagem land deeds at the courthouse, but I don't think there was much of significance. I'm still going over the paperwork though so I may come back to this.

The real gem of the day was heading out of town toward Hillgrove Cemetery, the gravesite of Elias Bromagem, father of James Bromagem....