Friday, April 30, 2010

Wishing I was out in Salt Lake right about now...

Wow, I'm really not happy about not being able to make it out to the NGS conference this year. My plan was to go to IGHR in June and then to the FGS conference in Knoxville later in the summer rather than the NGS conference since I have some research in Knoxville that I would love to be able to do on-site. Now, due to scheduling, it looks like I may not be able to go to the FGS conference afterall which means missing both national conferences this year. I'm really hoping I can make it work out. But my experience at the NGS conference last year, in Raleigh, was so great I know I'm really missing all of the fun out there now. Not to mention that the site is the home of the FHL; think about it, being surrounded by all those films of records from all over the world. A trip out there is definitely a must, I wish I could have made it out there this time. But, there's always next year. I believe I read somewhere that the NGS conference next year will be in Charleston, SC which is one of my favorite cities, and I have a good friend who lives there too so I'm already planning that one out. Hopefully it will work out.

In any case, I hope everyone out in UT right now is enjoying themselves and taking full advantage of everything happening out there. Have a great time and hopefully I'll see you all in Knoxville!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Not too much happening these days...

Hey all, just wanted to check in. There isn't much going on here lately. Working on finishing my ProGen assignment for this month, a Research Report. I've only done one "official" report before now, for a friend's very limited project, so this is a great opportunity for me to get familiar with the process. I'm not finished yet but I've got a pretty good outline that I'm building from. I'll probably come back to talking about this later on.

I also ordered CD2 of the NGS Home Study Course this week, so that should be arriving shortly. Can't wait to continue working with this course. CD1, though it contained a lot of very basic exercises, was extremely useful. Sometimes in the course of daily genealogical work, you tend to pass over things that you feel you may not need anymore. Things like pedigree charts just don't seem to warrant your time anymore, but that CD really made me want to come back to them. It'll be fun to get back to the course and continue working on my skills.

The other tidbit I wanted to bring up, is a techie review I saw in Eastman's Genealogical Newsletter this morning. You have to see this! It looks so cool, I'm thinking I know what I want for Mother's Day, or maybe my birthday...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Small Breakthrough Day

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, but when you can't find someone in the census, just think of three things

Incorrect transcriptions/improper enumerations
Page by Searches

Hmmm, now that I've got that written down it doesn't sound all that great. But things are things that I've had thrown at me before which were preventing me from being able to take advantage of a family's census enumeration and it sucks. That's pretty much all I can say about it, having that gap in your timeline for one person is bad enough, but when it's for an entire family group it's more than just irksome. At least to me.

I've looked at finding "missing" families in the 1900 Chicago census previously and if you're at all interested in that, take a look here This time however, I was trying to find the William Williamson family of Liberty twp., Parke Co., IN. If you were thinking I wasn't going to have the assistance of some fancy handy dandy finding aid this time, you get the gold star. But I wasn't hanging by a single thread either.

The William Williamson family first appears in the 1850 Parke County schedule as such:

William-aged 25, born in IN, farmer, no real estate
Serdan [incorrect transcription of Susan]-aged 32, born in IN
Malinda-aged 5, born in IN
Sarah-aged 3, born in IN
Perry-aged 1, born in IN

William could not be found in 1860 and neither could any of the other family members no matter how I searched for them (with and without ages and/or birthplaces, no given names, etc.). I was able to find a Susan Williamson in the 1870 schedule in Parke County but the family group was very different. This time it was

Susan-aged 50, born in IN
Perry-aged 21, born in IN
Joseph-aged 19, born in IN
Louisa-aged 17, born in IN
Wister-aged 14, born in IN

Without the inclusion of Perry, I may not have thought to place such importance on this family. But I was almost positive this was the right family group. Susan is shown without William in this schedule but that still doesn't explain where the family was in 1860 and considering that if this is the same group as in 1850, William must have been alive long enough to father 3 more children before dying and it's possible that at least one of the two eldest children (Malinda or Sarah) could have been enumerated in 1860 with the younger children to further prove that this was in fact the right family. So I had to turn to neighbors. I went back to the 1850 census and wrote down the names of neighbors on the page that William and his family were on, as well as the page before and the page after. I was unable to find the family with the first two neighbors, but when I hit the third I saw a familiar name. One of the neighbors listed on the previous page was named Samuel McMasters, in fact, there were more than a couple of McMasters families all living in the same area, scattered on these pages surrounding William Williamson. The surname jumped out at me because I knew that William Williamson's son, Perry (my ancestor), married a woman named Susannah McMasters. So this was a family pocket and it was very likely that the Williamson's, regardless of whether William was dead or alive by 1860, were probably still living near the McMasters-they would have to be so that Perry could have time to meet and eventually marry Susannah. I was right. On page 94 (written), we see Samuel McMasters enumerated with his family but only two households up the page from him we see this:

First problem, it's super light. Even if I change the settings for the image (obtained through to normal, without the enhanced viewer, the writing is so faded it's hard to read. Which takes me to problem two. The indexer made an incorrect transcription because of an awful job done by the enumerator. He enumerated the family as being headed by Susan Wm Son and then presumed to ditto the rest of the surname as that of the family above, Higgins, and then dittoed the rest of the family as Higgins as well. So when the indexer went to transcribe the enumeration, they were seeing a very random set of names, letters, and ditto marks. It's clear that though that the enumerator was using an abbreviated form of Williamson, "Wm Son". Honestly, I don't see how I could have found this family if I hadn't just used the 1850 neighbors as a guide, or by just going page by page. That's how messed up this enumeration and subsequent transcription sequence is.

In any event, this is definitely the right family and we can see what's been happening since 1850. Susan is shown as a "widow" so we can definitively say that William is dead. He was born around 1825, making it a fairly early death for him, so the option of divorce was also one that was in my head without the use of the 1860 census. Also, we can see the entire 1850 family, minus William, living with the three younger children shown in 1870 to prove that this is in fact the correct family group. Now we can place several events; William died between 1856 (when the youngest child could have been conceived) and 1860; if the two older daughters married, it was between 1860 and 1870 because both are no longer living with the family in 1870 (as an interesting side-note, these marriages do not appear to have been recorded in Parke County which means either they married elsewhere or they died prior to 1870. I'll need to do a bit more research to figure out what happened to them).

So now I can look into estate records for William Williamson's estate file. I would like to be able to pinpoint his death a little more and find out what was going on with his family at the time of his death. From the census records, it does not look like he was a land owner and he had very little personal property and several children to support. Dying at such a young age, was probably unexpected and it would be great to know what happened to him, as well as possibly locate any nearby siblings that could help me determine the next generation. This is a brand new line though and I'm not rushing through him to try to get to the next line backward. I would also like to do a little research into whether an obit is available for him which could answer some of these questions for me. That would be great! But I'm not holding my breath on that one, I don't have very good luck with obits for some reason. They just don't seem to have been all that important for my ancestors. But maybe I'll get lucky this time.

A final thing to think about is that I do not have a death date for William's widow, Susan, who disappears from the census records after 1870, and I have conflicting evidence as to her maiden name. All of the death records for her known children state that her "maiden" name was Garrison but there is no record of a Williamson-Garrison marriage prior to 1845 when their first known child was born; not just in Parke County, but in the entire state of IN. There is however, record of a William Williamson marrying a Susannah Roberts in 1843 in Parke County. This fits in perfectly since Malinda, their oldest known child, was born in 1845. Susan(nah) was also several years older than William which makes the possibility of her having previously been married more likely. If this is the case, that would mean that Garrison could have been her maiden name, as her children's death records unanimously state, and Roberts could have been her first married name. Again, more research will be necessary to confirm this.

So I've still got my work cut out for me with this family group but it was a great feeling to have a bit of a breakthrough with it today. And just another example of the importance of neighbors, page by page searches when necessary, and keeping in mind that people are not infallible and that they can make mistakes, both in the form of enumerations and in indexing/transcribing.

Ancestor-Approved Award

Wow, I found this in my comments section the other day and I was so grateful. My blog is still fairly new, less than a year old, and I couldn't believe that someone thought of it for this award. Thanks very much to A Rootdigger!
So now I'm supposed to list 10 things I have learned about my ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened me and then pass the award along to 10 other blogs. Since I waited to post this until after my research trip run-down was finished pretty much all of the blogs that I follow have already received the award, and some have received it from several different people, but I'll try my best with the 10-things list.
*One of my own surprises was finding family ties to the Witch House in Salem, MA; my Ward family used to live there and they were the ones who eventually sold it to a local pharmacist which I found to be kindof funny. They sold it to a regular every day kind of guy probably thinking that it was just like every other house, and now it's one of the major tourist attractions there.
*I'm humbled by how difficult it has been to try to proof English origins for the man who is thought to be our Stevens' family emigrant. He is supposed to have come over from Bristol, England (whether he lived there or just boarded there, or maybe neither of these, who knows!) in the 1770s and anyone who knows anything about passenger lists knows that the lists for British emigrants during this time are few and far between. Needless to say, he's not listed.
*I'm humbled by how difficult it has been trying to find some sort of connection between the same Stevens ancestor and his alledged involvement in either the Revolutionary War and/or the War of 1812 (in both instances as a sailor). Preliminary research has told me that this is difficult primarily because of the lack of an actual, official "Navy" at this time. Things like Seamen's Protection Certificates need to be searched for sure but who knows when I'll be able to have access to those.
*I was surprised to find a great scandal in the family when I found out why my Great Grandfather was born in Canada...His mother's sister was married to a con-man who swindled some MA people out of several thousands of dollars in the 1880s. They fled to Canada with my Great Great Grandmother and other family members as well, and there was our connection to Canada at the time of my Great Grandfather's birth.
*Following the Bromagem line has "enlightened" me in the sense that it has forced me to learn a lot more about what was happening in the U.S. during the 18th century, both pre and post Revolution. Who knew that part of Pennsylvania used to be in Virginia! Maybe if I had been from one of those counties I would have known but coming from IL, I had no idea!
*I've recently been humbled by the generations of hard working, yet non-land-owning farmers I have on my Dad's side of the family. This is a new line and I'm noticing nothing in the "Real Estate" lines on the census sheets; they weren't working their own land and had very little to call their own and yet they had a slew of children. Extremely large families, staying close together, and working hard from the time they were teenagers. It's hard to imagine but they were like this for several generations. It's really something that makes me reassess modern living.
*Like others who have been looking through their ancestors, I'm humbled by the courage of those who left their homes to come to the U.S.. The Siegmunds, the Boldas, the Dellibacs, and the Kleinerts are the more recent immigrants; those who arrived between the 1880s and the early 1900s. These are the Ellis Island immigrants that everyone tends to think of when they think of their immigrant ancestors. But going beyond that, we have the Mayflower lines who came to a very, very new country to "officially" escape religious persecution and found themselves face to face with a sparce and entirely new environment requiring that they swiftly adapt.
*I've really been surprised by the number of seaman ancestors on my Mother's side of the family. It seems like nearly every branch has a sea-faring male in its progeny. Who knew! Again, we're now Midwestern folks surrounded by corn fields and silos and to find so many ancestors who spent their entire lives on the Atlantic ocean is pretty overwhelming.
*I was surprised to find that the Ward branch of the family has roots in the early years of San Francisco. I knew that we did not have family who settled West, we just don't seem to have been the homesteading, pioneering type of stock. But the Wards did go and try to make some money and be involved in the establishment of the new city. For some, the stay was only temporary, for others it was more lasting but they did succeed in making their mark; James C. Ward drew one of the earliest panoramic sketches of San Francisco which appeared in Bayard Taylor's "Eldorado: Adventures in the Path of Empire"-an account of San Francisco and the 49ers which appeared in the 1850s. As a child, San Francisco was always my favorite city in California. I really felt at home there and it was a great surprise to find out that my Grandfathers felt the same way about it.
*When my Mom and I first started working on our family history, years and years ago, I remember being surprised at how every so often, someone just grabs your attention and won't let go. It's like their name is calling out for you to find their story and you can't stop until you've found it. It's weird really, but that feeling still happens. You never know why you're particularly drawn to that person, or to that particular family, but it just happens and you have to get to the bottom of it. I was surprised to find that back then, but I'm still surprised when it happens to me now.

Research Trip...Final Day

The last day of my 3-day research trip last week was to the Archives Rm at Daley Center in Chicago. I was finally able to make it down there but had a limited amount of time to work so I focused on the Divorce records. This was a new area for me but it went fairly smoothly. The important thing to note is that the early divorce records, late 19th century to about the mid-20th century, are not held on site. What they do have are the indexes from the Superior Court relating to law, chancery, and divorces. The indexes are on microfilm and are arranged chronologically and then alphabetically by surname of the Plaintiff. Information given in the indexes are the file number, the plaintiff's name and the defendant's name. It's limited but I was able to find what I was looking for and order the file itself (at a cost of $25). The staff has order forms for you to fill out and I was supposed to get an email this week confirming the order (which I haven't received yet) and then they were guesstimating that I was receive the file in a month or so.

So I've got a while to wait, but I'm anxious to see what's inside. I'm not at all familiar with divorce records so it will be interesting to see what will be including. I'm not really looking for anything too specific from this other than the full name of the defendant so as long as he's in there I'll be glad to have it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

IN/IL Research Trip...Day Two

The previous post was about a very long, but exciting day out to an Indiana courthouse and a few fun sites in IL last week. The second day of my research trip was devoted entirely to exploring the Parke County, Indiana courthouse located in Rockville, IN.

Parke County is located in the Western-Central part of the state and I'm going to go ahead and tell you that I will be making many more trips in the near future and will be posting pictures. I really loved it there. The northern part of the state isn't exactly known for gently rolling hills and winding streams and flashes of green moss, that's more like a description of the Southern, especially South-Eastern, part of the state. But sure enough, that's exactly what we saw upon first entering the county. It was a lovely rural area made all the more quaint by the Parke County sign with the picture of an Amish buggy and the excitement of being the first members of our branch of the Gilkison family to visit the county in roughly 100 years. My Great Great Grandfather, Ira E. Gilkison, was born in this county in 1870 but by 1910 he had moved to IL. His father, Simpson Gilkison, was born in KY in 1830 and moved to Parke County with his family when he was a young child. When exactly the family came to IN from KY was one of my research goals for the day but I wasn't able to accomplish that. Looking at land records in the recorder's office for the 1830s did not show me what I wanted. What I was looking for was the earliest land transaction for Simpson's father, John Gilkeson. What I found instead were a few later transactions made just before his death in 1854, including a pair of sales that confirmed the given name of his wife and also confirmed that she sold her husband's land just after his death. So it wasn't a total waste. But considering that the family appears in the 1840 Parke County census enumeration, I was expecting to find a land transaction showing the John obtained land before that time.

Looking back on it now, I may have made a fatal error. The 1840 census does not include information relating to property ownership so I relied upon the 1850 census which showed that John had $500 worth of real estate. Because of this, I assumed that he would have owned land however, this may not have been the case. It's very possible that, as a farmer, he could have just lived off of rented land, been a day laborer, etc. without actually owning land. Or maybe he just didn't have the means to obtain land for himself until the 1850s, just before his death. My error was that I made an assumption that he owned land because the 1850 census said he had real estate when what I was actually looking for was proof that he was there as early as the 1830s. Normally, I would turn to tax records in a situation such as this (where the subject may not have owned land making personal property taxes and other community taxes a vital resource for placing someone at a certain place at a certain time) but the earliest tax records for the state of IN are 1842, which postdates my time frame; I already know they were here by 1840. So now I need to figure out other options, right now though, it's a loose end. Ugh!

In another area of research, I was more successful. Besides the Recorder's Office, the Parke County courthouse also houses the Clerk's Office which is where I found marriage records going back almost as far as the formation of the county in the 1820s. Here I found several family marraige records, mainly just the standard return in both handwritten sentence structure and the pre-printed standardized form. It was a pretty exciting run though to go through the ledgers and find so many hits. We were able to find all of the marriage records we were hoping for which was great.

We also made a quick stop at the Department of Health, located in the basement, for a couple death records (they did not have one but they had another which had a bunch of helpful info), and headed back up to the Clerk's Office for a look at estate records. The estate record search was surprising in that we did not find record of the estate we were looking for, Simpson's estate, but instead found the estate proceedings of his father, John, which were not supposed to be included in the ledgers according to the dates printed on the spines. So there's yet another lesson from the week: Don't believe what the ledgers seem to tell you. If the ledger says it covers 1882-1900 and you're looking for an 1854 estate, don't bypass it. It may surprise you what you'll find inside because that's exactly what happened to me last week.

So this was a rushed visit to the courthouse and I know I tried to take in more than was probably advisable, but I wanted to get in as much as I could. Next time, I'll focus a little more on trying to find out how to pinpoint the Gilkisons arrival in Parke County better, or on just one or two objectives rather than sticking my head into every office in the building. But overall, it was worth the trip and I can't wait to go back.

I had one more day for a little research and I'll cover that in the next post.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

IN/IL Research trip

I was able to squeeze in a bit of an extended research weekend last week and it turned out pretty well even though I was not able to accomplish 2 of my 3 goals....hmmm, that sounds really bad, doesn't it? But it really wasn't.

Mission 1-Find Great Grandparents' Marriage Record

On Wednesday, I had a full day. I drove out to Indiana to drop my son off with his grandparents and then headed out to Kentland, Newton Co., IN. My paternal Great Grandparents' marriage record from 1914 was at the Courthouse but I was almost unable to get it. Their marriage ledgers, like others I've seen elsewhere in the state, were arranged by year and then alphabetically. Each ledger had its own index rather than having one all-encompassing index. I was not able to locate the entry for my Great Grandparents though, despite having the exact day and year of the marriage (thanks to the Indiana Marriage Collection on I did search the index section page by page thinking that it was more than likely that my Great Grandfather's surname was misspelled (I've seen "Gilkison" messed up in more ways than I can count) but they were simply not there. So it became necessary to go page by page in the ledger, which I did. I was able to find them eventually, with the correct name and date, they had just been skipped in the index.

It's interesting to note again that I first found their marriage entry in the Indiana Marriage Collection on which is a database made up of information gathered by two agencies: the WPA and a researcher who used the FHL films. The record for my Great Grandparents was sourced through WPA records which presumably means that there was someone personally going through the records at the Courthouse so apparently they did not utilize the indexes for the ledgers alone otherwise my Great Grandparents' record would not have been included. Good to know for the future.

Also good to know, was that the Courthouse not only had the marriage license, but also the applications; the top filled out by the groom, the bottom filled out by the bride and both had their signatures. This marriage occurred in 1914 and from what I could tell by my somewhat brief perusal, all of the records, at least in this particular ledger volume for this time frame, had the applications.

Mission 2-Find gravestone at Sheldon Cemetery in Sheldon, IL

After leaving the Newton Co., IN Courthouse, I headed up Rt 24 about 5 miles and crossed back into IL. Sheldon lies right on the border in Iroquois County. My Great Great Grandfather (the father of the man whose marriage record I had just picked up in Newton Co., IN) lived and died there. He worked for the railroad, something not hard to believe when you visit Sheldon-a town surrounded in train tracks- and died in a train accident there in 1921. The stone for both Ira and his wife (Sarah Williamson Gilkison) are at Sheldon Cemetery which I found, thanks to Google Earth, at the far south of the main road through town. Again, without the help of Google Earth and my handy dandy GPS I probably would have had trouble making my way through all of this rural land. I was extremely grateful for them on this trip and in fact, was feeling so ambitious with the help of my techie gadgets that I went on to....

Mission 3- Search for family gravestones at St. Anne Township Cemetery in St. Anne, Kankakee Co., IL

It was an easy trip North from Sheldon, about a half hour, maybe less, to a little town called St. Anne. Family roots on my father's side run deep in this little village because several branches all seemed to converge on it at the same time. Because of that, I found a number of family members at the little township cemetery there; Dellibacs (my French-Canadian line), Yoders (non-Amish, from PA), and Kleinerts (Polish/German) were all there. It was also just nice to finally be able to say that I've been there. My Dad and his siblings remember several family pilgrimmages to St. Anne as children and I've heard about the town for years but never been there myself. I also examined the community in the 1900 census for one of the NGS Home Study Course assignments on CD 1, so it was nice to be able to see it for that reason as well.

The next post covers the big visit the following day to Parke Co., IN...