Saturday, May 4, 2013
I’ve been looking through my binders and database for the Davey and Stephens surnames. I have plenty of information on these lines but some questions still need answering. Now isn’t that a surpriseJ. Anyway, I see the need to determine if I have each person on all the census records in which they should be recorded.
One concept I’m hoping to at least find evidence for is which of the Stephens, and related families, clan left Cornwall for Wisconsin as a group in or about 1842. They should all be recorded in the 1841 census taken in England; then it is a question of finding who is recorded in the 1850 US census in Wisconsin. According to the History of Grant County, Wisconsin written by Castello N. Holford, published in 1900, the group, locally known as The Stephens Colony, emigrated to Platteville in 1842. They received that designation because there were 50 or more family members included in the cluster. My plan is to identify those family members and see how many names I actually collect.
I’ll use the same process for the Davey family. Fortunately, this line is much smaller and should be easily traced. Of course, one never knows until one actually gets into the investigation.
I have already cited many of these census records but my plan is to create a census report for each person. In the past I’ve used Word to create such reports. I think this time I’ll use an Excel worksheet because the ease of sorting data will help me in the end. The plan is to record as much information as possible from each census including date, location, relationship – to whom, property info, occupation, etc. Once I have everything posted, I’ll be able to sort the information in various ways to see how many were living where in a given census year; who stayed in the area and who moved away; who farmed and who mined and so on.
Even though I think I have most of the records I need for this project, I’m sure I’m missing a few and will need to find someone/s I’m missing in a given census year. I’m so thankful for having access to census records online. Sometimes it can be frustrating when I can’t find someone in the index under any spelling I can think of and sometimes I’ve looked page by page through a given township but I’ve done that sitting in my office with a cup of coffee at hand. In the old days, not so long ago, I’d have had to order the microfilm, wait for it to come in, drive to the library or family history center to use the microfilm readers, and hope I found what I needed in the time I had so I didn’t have to come back another day. Gotta’ love the internet!
If I come across a problem with a particular individual, I may take that information into Evidentia to assist in the analysis of the data. In that case, I’ll also add all the other documents I’ve accumulated for that person. I can, then, easily determine if I have sufficient evidence to make a determination. I should also be able to see what further research, if any, is needed to satisfy the Genealogy Proof Standard.
Now, it’s time to brew another cup of coffee and get to work.
Friday, May 3, 2013
I’m aware it’s not correct to place generalized cultural or heritage characteristics on an individual. Each person has his/her own personality. Each person develops differences from the next even within the same family based on events, environment, and even familial placement. That said though since we are a culmination of all those who make up our heritage, doesn’t it make sense that, at least, some of our characteristics are inherited? If so, then some generalizations surely hit the mark.
I bring this up because I’m trying to work through how to make some ancestors come to life in my writing. Obviously, the people I have actually known are not a problem. Over the years I’ve seen how they acted under many circumstances; I’ve talked with them and know their sense of humor. They’ve related stories to me about themselves and others which revealed their priorities, their beliefs.
The problem comes with those I’ve never met. In some cases, I have the stories relayed about them by those I’ve known. I, then, can see these unknowns through the eyes of the known. That, of course, could be a biased view; however, it’s more than I know about many others. For the people truly unknown to me, I really have nothing more than a picture of them through historical and cultural events and locations.
Historical timelines are certainly helpful in determining significant events in a given location at a given time. Reading specific histories about how developed or under-developed a place may have been can aid in a setting. Having as many documents as possible to define a personal history is essential. Finding a journal or diaries from someone else during the same time and location is a true benefit.
All these things help a writer understand the times in which a person lived and even some personal events they encountered. For the most part, what they don’t do is show how that person viewed what was going on around him/her. Without a document like a divorce or court record (they can provide a picture of at least one of the petitioner, although it’s important to remember the purpose of the testimony) or like a letter or two that give a peek into the writer’s feelings, one is left with conjecture.
What is that conjecture? We’re back to cultural and heritage characteristics. How did other people feel and act during a given time? Are the people of that time and place generally described are stoic or passionate? Did they live in a close-knit community? Would fear have played a role in the general population? Was there an expectation of bravery during their time and place in history?
Sometimes conjecture is all we have left. Sometimes in order to give a person life on a page we need to use that conjecture to give them a personality. Look at your friends and family. Is it the events in their lives that make them who they are or is it how they deal with and feel about those events?
I’m not talking about the writing of a genealogy reports recording the facts of a person or family. We need those to identify the facts and show our sources. I’m talking about actually writing their story. Is it right or wrong to use some generalities to describe an individual?
Posted by Becky Higgins at 10:00 AM
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
I seem to be floundering a bit in my approach to this publication. I’m trying to work out the best way to organize. I’m thinking I’d really like to record the story of how her four grandparents found each other and what their lives and their children’s lives were like; this process culminating in Alice’s life and times.
My dilemma centers around where to begin. Do I start with Alice and move back? Do I create separate sections for each grandparent’s surname? Do I simply create biographies (as best I can) for each grandparent and parent?
I’d really like to write the “story” as if it were a novel. Maybe that’s the key, a narrative. I’d, of course, include a section of reports with citations for genealogists – pedigree, outline descendants, family group sheets, and such. However, the main part of the book would be Alice’s life and how her progenitors affected that life written as if it were a novel. To do that I’ll need to decide on a plot to drive the story. I’ll need to get a handle of the personalities of each major “character” in the story. I’ll still need to determine where and how to begin. Since Alice is the main character everything begins and ends with her. Do I begin at the beginning or at the end?
Each of her grandparents immigrated to the US. Did the “old country” heritage impact the life of a child born in Chicago? Which line had the most influence on her life – the Cornish and the Swedish? Did her parents keep up family traditions or did they prefer to blend into the American ways?
Did Alice’s tumultuous childhood define her viewpoints? How could it not? In what ways did the many moves within the city take its toll? Is that why she clung so tightly to childhood friends throughout her lifetime? What parts of her upbringing did she transfer to her own parenting?
Thanks to a collaboration of research between me, Shirlee Eddy, and Nancy Poquette I have a great start with the Davey and Stephens families, Alice’s Cornish side. As for Hans Christiansen, Alice’s Danish grandfather, he died when Alice’s mother was only three years old. He will, of course, be an important part of the story but a short part. Thanks to Jim’s cousin, the late Kay Davey, I have the records for his family in Denmark which may come into play a little. As for the Swedish side, I’m accumulating more and more information but, as of yet, have no “cousins” helping with the Ellstrom line. There do seem to be a number of researchers working on our Larson (half cousins) line.
So much more needs to be done but I’m kind of liking the idea of the “novel.” In my previous publications, I wrote biographies for the direct ancestors that worked out okay, I think. However, I felt there was often an overlap of information because of the separation. With an inclusive story plan, I can keep everyone in context, include the events that bring Alice’s story along, and create a more complete package.
I think the reports section should satisfy the genealogists’ requirement for evidence and proof. What do you think?
Sunday, April 28, 2013
The Ishpeming Record, Ishpeming, Michigan, Friday, 9 May 1930, page 5, columns 2 & 3; obituary for Mrs. Charles Larson.
To shorten things up a bit, let’s assume I already have sufficient evidence to state that Mrs. Charles Larson is the same person as Amelia (Ellstrom) Christiansen Larson. I could go into greater detail on this but the purpose of this writing is to determine what information can come from her obituary. So here goes.
MRS. CHARLES LARSON PASSES
- “Mrs. Charles Larson, who was 71
years of age…” places Amelia’s birth in about 1859. Other records put her birth
on 24 Nov 1858. She was actually 71 years, 5 months, 6 days old at death.
- “…and a resident here for over 50
years”, she had lived in Ishpeming, Michigan half a century.
- “…passed from life Wednesday
night,” – date of death 7 May 1930. The obituary was published on Friday the 9th
of May, 1930. We’ll want to be careful with this one as we’ll find later in
this same article that this death date is impossible.
- “…at the family home on East
Empire Street.” She lived on Empire Street, Ishpeming, Michigan on and before
- “The deceased had been ill the
past several months and death was not unexpected”. This is a clue to follow-up
for health history. Will the death certificate give more details?
- “The deceased was a native of
Sweden locating in Marquette with her parents 61 years ago, later living in
Ishpeming p to the time of her death.” Family and personal information will be
found in Swedish records; immigrated in about 1869; original U. S. residence
was Marquette. Lots of clues here.
- “Surviving are her husband and the
following children: Mrs. Fred Davey Chicago; Miss Teckla, Miss Lida Larson and
Clarence Larson, all residents of Ishpeming; Mrs. Albert E Porter, Sault Ste.
Marie, and Mrs. H. F. St. Helen of Portland, Ore. The following brothers and
sister: Alex Ellstrom, Pueblo, Colo,; Albert Ellstrom, Detroit; Mrs. Charles
Seagren, St. Paul, Minn.; Mrs. Axel Peterson, Marquette, and Miss Alice
Ellstrom, Saginaw…“ Wow, where to start with this paragraph. First, it tells us
Amelia’s husband, Charles, is still living; second, we get a listing of her
living children which includes not just her daughters’ married names but the
full names of her daughters’ husbands, third we’re told where her children are
living on 9 May 1930. We get the same information regarding her surviving
- “Funeral took place Sunday
afternoon at 2 o’clock from the family home…” Here’s where the date calculated
in item number 3 proves incorrect. Since the paper was issued on Friday, the 9th
of May and the funeral had already taken place on Sunday, her death could not
have been on Wednesday the 7th. She died 30 Apr 1930 from evidence
found here and from other evidence such as Family Bible records and a telegram
from Clarence Larson to Mrs. Fred Davey.
- “…from the Swedish Baptist
church…” Amelia was probably a member of this church and more records may be
- “The pall bearers were : Mr. John Asplund of Marquette; William Anderson, August Olson, John Swanson, Charles Benson and Emil Olson.” Pall bearers are often but not always family members. They deserve some research to determine their relationship to the deceased and/or family.
The older obituaries and those from smaller communities tend to provide the most information. Often in the larger cities there is only a death notice giving only the briefest information. Today, due to the cost, printed obituaries seem to be getting smaller; however, with many funeral homes providing memorial type pages on their website the obituary is seeing a come back.
Granted, you can’t take what’s written in an obituary as absolute truth but, wow, what an abundance of clues they can provide!
Saturday, April 27, 2013
By the time Mary Ann (Harper) Davey died on 08 Feb 1897 she had buried her husband and all but one of her children. Yes, her life had spanned nearly eighty years and all the children had lived to adulthood but each loss surely left a hollowness within her.
Her first great loss occurred on 17 May 1882 when her namesake daughter, Mary Ann, died leaving four children between the ages of eighteen and twelve. How difficult it is to lose a child. Even adult children as expected to outlive their parents. Possibly concern for her grandchildren helped Mary Ann through the trying time.
Less than a year later, on 14 Mar 1883, her husband of 49 years left this world before her. Together they had created a family in Lanlivery, Cornwall, England. Together they had journeyed to Canada in 1848 settling there for a mere 10 months. Together they brought their family to Dodgeville, Wisconsin where they remained. Initially, John took up farming but eventually he worked as a miner like so many of the Cornish men in the area. Like many of the miners, John most likely spent a good deal of time away from the family travelling to find the best work or the richest mines. However, with age creeping up, John had probably been home more in these later years increasing the bond between husband and wife. Losing John, with all her children married and on their own meant Mary Ann knew life alone for the first time.
The next few years saw the deaths of Mary Ann’s oldest child, John, in 1884 and her youngest child, Joseph, in 1889. Fortunately, many of her grandchildren still lived in and around Dodgeville because with her only surviving child, Elizabeth, residing in Kearsage, Michigan, some 400 miles away, Mary Ann found herself essentially childless. The grandchildren and the community saw to her needs as required.
Mary Ann had joined the Primitive Methodist Church in 1861 where she volunteered for numerous activities throughout her life. In later years, the community, holding her in high regard, addressed her as “Grandma.” Her optimistic and gentle attitude towards others created a family far wider than the biological relations
Elizabeth having come to visit just a week before Christmas of 1896 must have seen the decline in her mother’s health. Rather than returning home to Kearsage she stayed on to help in any way she could. It would have been a long few months; it’s never easy to care to the ill and elderly. In addition to the difficulty however, there were most likely times of remembrance and times of laughter. Mary Ann probably had much she wanted to pass on to this her last living child and the last one to hold the memories of a shared family past.
Elizabeth carried the family’s past with her until her death on 29 Jul 1929. Did she write any of the stories down? Did she pass along oral tales about this particular family’s life? If so, who is left to share them? If not, are they lost forever?
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I may not have to deal with this problem today but the time will come as my current project progresses that I’ll have to deal with Alice (Davey) Higgins. Her biography will be the culmination of all those ancestors’ stories leading up to her life and will probably be the most important of the publication. Now you may think I’m concerned about this because I can’t find enough information to write an interesting piece. Oh, Contraire. I’m concerned because I’m overwhelmed with information and data.
First of all, I’ve known of Alice since I was ten years old; she went to the same Church as my family when we moved to Chicago. Of course I wasn’t overly cognizant of her at the time because she was just the mother of two children near my age. As time went on Alice and “Happy”, her husband, drew more of my attention when I dated and later married their son. So, as you see, Alice, my mother-in-law and the grandmother of my children, made up a large part of my life until her death in 2008. Knowing her should make writing her story a breeze, right? In some ways, yes; in others, no. I will need to detach myself somewhat to find an unbiased point of view. I’ll need to see her as a whole person and not just as my husband’s mother.
Second and most important, Alice saved EVERYTHING and most of it is in my house. Not only do I have her diaries/calendars from 1929 until the late 1990’s when she stopped filling them,
I know you may be saying you wished you had all these keepsakes from your mother, father, grandparents, etc. I can feel your disdain for my complaining about having so much but, really, this feels like it will take forever to do justice to all this information. I’ll have to be discerning about what to use and what not to use; honestly, I can’t use everything. I just can’t.
I know it’s hard to know what to keep and what not to keep. I have that problem myself. For me, though, my most treasured items are rarities for those people who left little behind. For instance, I have an inexpensive, well-used, bowl that belonged to my Dad’s mother. It was given to me by my Dad’s cousin and I cherish it, not because it is worth anything but because it is the only thing I have that belonged to her
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m sure in the end this collection from Alice will provide an insight into her life and will help me write her story. Right now, though, I’m feeling dazed.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
I wonder what part of the chicken was my Mom’s favorite when she was a child. Was she a drumstick girl or did she prefer the white meat of the breast? I doubt she savored the parts she claimed to be her favorites when she became a mother. As a child she lived on a farm and, though I know they had little money for many and varied reasons, there was always food on the table. Probably chicken wasn’t even kept just for Sunday dinner because its meat wasn’t considered as precious as in later years.
When I was a child our family lived in town and money for food was often at a premium. I don’t recall keeping chickens except for a few bantams that were more pets than stock. We did tend to have chicken on Sunday though and everyone had his or her favorite part. I, of course, favored the drumstick, I think my brothers both liked the thighs and my Dad usually ate the breast. Mom, however, claimed the best parts were the neck, back, and wings. With the exception of the wing these pieces provided very little meat but Mom had a way of making the search for tidbits look delicious.
I know now she was taking the least desired pieces so her family could get the most out of the meal she provided. She made sure everyone else had plenty to eat by making us believe she preferred and even savored those small, even undesirable bits. Perhaps she did too good a job because I began to envy those pieces. I looked at how much she appeared to revel in getting the most out of the bony bits and wanted to try it myself. Of course, I wasn’t about to give up my drumstick at the time but the craving played on my mind.
In later years, I came to enjoy the bony pieces as much or more than any other part of the chicken. Even today, I’d rather have a couple of wings than any other part. I know wings are a big deal these days. They are a party treat, a ball game snack, a tasty spicy nosh. Most of today’s wings have more meat on them than in earlier days – must be the way the chickens are raised.
And where’s the neck anyway? When was the last time you found a neck in the chicken parts purchased at the grocery store. It’s as though the poor things had nothing to hold their heads up with. Okay, now I’m making myself hungry. If nothing else, I may be able to find some wings to satisfy my yearning. Or maybe I’ll bread and fry up some chicken gizzards. Now that’s a treat I haven’t had in a very long time!
Mom taught me much in my life but one of the most important lessons was to not pass over the small and often tasty things in life.