Consanguinity: (kŏn'săng-gwĭn'ĭtē) , relationship by blood, whether linear or collateral.

Primarily concentrating on my Browning family from Harrison County, Ohio (and their subsequent move to Crawford County, Illinois) but I've got Plymell, Crago, Eagleton, Garrard, McConnell, Nichols, Swan, Nevitt, Huls, Markee, Depperman, Papstein/Popstein and Hamilton in there too. And that's just the beginning......

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Birthday(s) To My Grandparents

Today is December 7th and though this day is more popularly known as Pearl Harbor Day, it holds a more personal significance to me. Today was my grandfather's birthday. Virgil Joseph Browning died in 1989 but if he was still alive he'd be 108 today. Two days from now, on December 9th, it will be my grandmother's birthday. The two always celebrated their special days together since they were so close (only 363 days apart, not counting leap years!) so today I will also remember my grandmother. Beulah Ethel (Garrard) Browning died in 2002 but if she were alive today she would be 109.

Happy birthday(s), grandma and grampa. I miss you both every day.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Browning Series -- Part Eight, or Sarah Ann Browning

With this post I continue what I call "The Browning Series." Samuel and Margaret Browning had thirteen children between them and after Margaret's death, Samuel chose to take a widow named Sarah Ann (Bell) Gaddis as his second wife. The two of them had two more children together. My plan has been feature each one of the fifteen children in a separate post and finally tie the family together with a discussion of their parents.

This post is about Sarah Ann Browning, the only child of Samuel and Margaret's that died before she was able to marry and have children. She was their eighth child.

Sarah Ann was born on 29 January 1830 in Moorefield Township in Harrison County, Ohio. She was just six years old when her oldest sister Julia became involved with James Beck, the man that Julia and her father Samuel later sued in court for child support and Trespass on the Case. Though almost nothing is known of her early life, she lived in the township of her birth until at least 1840 and perhaps even as late as 1849.

By 1850 Sarah Ann had moved to Washington Township and lived there until she accompanied her parents and most of her other siblings to Crawford County, Illinois around 1851. Only her sister Rachel (who stayed behind in Harrison County with her husband John Coleman McConnell) remained in Ohio. Sarah and her parents settled in Oblong Township in Crawford County on 300 acres of land that her father Samuel had purchased from William and Elizabeth Bowman.

By the time she moved to Crawford County, Sarah Ann was in her early 20's and hadn't married like the rest of her siblings. It's hard to postulate why this is so and my imagination can't help but run wild, thinking up reasons for why she didn't. She may have had a suitor or two that just didn't work out. She may have well been on her way to becoming the "maiden aunt" or "spinster daughter" who took care of elderly parents, the one almost every family seemed to have. Sarah may have been a sickly child or young woman, or been crippled with some disease or deformity that predisposed her to resign herself to a spinsterly life (like another of my aunts did, who most likely had scoliosis because she had a hump from the time she was a young girl). We'll never know, of course, but it's fun to wonder!

Sarah Ann wasn't to be in Crawford County long. She became ill during the summer of 1854 along with at least one of her relatives, her nephew Washington. As yellow fever epidemics were rampant throughout the years 1852 through 1855, Sarah might have had the disease. She died on 1 July 1854 and was buried in the Browning plot in the Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Montgomery Township, Crawford County, Illinois.

Though Sarah's life was a short one she appeared well-remembered in the Browning family. Five of her siblings named one of their daughters Sarah. Whether this was in her honor or not is speculation. I would like to think it was so.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Tonia over at Tonia's Roots gifted me with a Kreativ Blogger award (awww thanks, Tonia!) The rules say that I must reveal seven things about myself, then pass the award on to seven other blogs. Hm. In the past few weeks I've seen a pile of my favorite bloggers get the award already so in lieu of naming any others I'll just give a huge shout-out to the genealogical blogger community at large. I think we ALL deserve credit for getting our stories out here and if you're reading this and haven't done it already, reach around and pat yourself on the back. Our ancestors would be proud.

Seven Things You May Not Know About Me, But Are About To!

1. I was born in IL but I was conceived in I guess that makes me an honorary Lone Star stater?

2. I'm (at least) a 4th-generation redhead and I've proudly continued the tradition, passing the gene on to my daughter.

3. Other than genealogy, I really enjoy role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons (the pen and paper type) and online, Neverwinter Nights. Yeah, I was a nerd girl Dungeon Master!

4. I'm a huge Monkees fan. In the 80's I hung out on Davy's tour bus and ate breakfast with Peter and his family.

5. I write poetry. Not necessarily GOOD poetry, but poetry.

6. On a related note (get it, related?) the rumor in my family was that we were related to Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. If we are, I haven't found it yet.

7. I'm an incredible klutz. Once I broke my toe, and when it was almost healed I broke it again. I was too ashamed to go back to the doctor so I took a few shots of whiskey and set it myself. It's only slightly crooked (I did a decent job) but I can sure feel for our ancestors!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - A.A. & Martha (McDowell) Brian

I'm ashamed to admit it but this is the first time on my blog that I've featured a member of my daughter's father's family, i.e., someone not related to me. When we were married I did quite a bit of research on his family and it's about time that I featured some of it. Besides, my daughter IS related to them. So.....bad me! Bad me!

These are the headstones of my daughter's 3rd-g-grandparents, Martha 'Mattie' Texas McDowell, and her husband Alfred Aaron (or Aaron Alfred) Brian. The couple are buried in the Gorman Cemetery in Gorman in Eastland Co., TX.

Mattie was born on 27 Dec 1847 in Spartanburg Co., SC. She was the daughter of Mjr. Calvin McDowell (1816-1878) and Mary C. Ballenger (1822-1912). A.A. and Mattie had nine known children.

A.A. was born c1840 in Inman, Spartanburg Co., SC, and was the son of Thomas Desix Brian (1796-1871) and Narcissus Camp (1798-?). He enlisted in the Civil War in Charleston on 13 Apr 1861 and served as a Pvt. and then as a 1st Sgt in Company K of the 5th Reg. SC Infantry Volunteers. He was wounded in VA during the war and was in attendance during Lee's surrender at Appomattax courthouse. After the war he taught school for a while.

The Brian family moved all over and it's been hard for me to keep track of them. In 1880 they were living in Campobello in Spartanburg Co., SC. They may have spent a short time in Pulaski Co., AR before finally settling in TX around 1888. The family spent some time in Hunt County and lived in Knox County in 1910-1912, where A.A. applied for and received a Confederate pension.

At some point before Mattie's death on 10 Jun 1921 the couple had moved to Gorman in Eastland County, where Mattie was buried. Afterwards A.A. may have moved to Lorenzo in Crosby Co., TX (perhaps to live with one of his sons or daughters) before he was admitted to The Confederate Home in Austin on 7 Sep 1927. He sent a typed letter to his daughter-in-law Mary Irene (Blount) Brian from the home on 7 Dec 1931 and signed it himself. He stated then that he was suffering a bit from his kidneys but was getting around well. He died there on 17 Aug 1932 and was buried beside his wife Mattie.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Browning Series -- Part Two, or Elias Browning and Elizabeth Crago

With this post I continue what I call "The Browning Series." Samuel and Margaret Browning had thirteen children between them and after Margaret's death, Samuel chose to take a widow named Sarah Ann (Bell) Gaddis as his second wife. The two of them had two more children together. I plan to feature each one of the fifteen children in a separate post and finally tie the family together with a discussion of their parents.

This post features Elias Browning, Samuel Browning and Margaret Markee's second child, and his wife Elizabeth Crago, the daughter of James Crago and Sarah Jennings Fordyce. Elias was born in June of 1818 in Cadiz Township, Harrison County, Ohio. Elias married Elizabeth on 2 September 1847. The document you see to the left is a marriage license issued to the couple in Harrison County on 23 August 1847. Elias and Elizabeth got married in neighboring Tuscarawas County and the minister who married them, G. McBride, returned the license and addressed it to the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas in Harrison County.

Elizabeth was born on 29 November 1822 in Pennsylvania. Her father James was the son of Thomas Crago and Priscilla Thurman and was born on 25 December 1798 in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Her mother, Sarah Jennings Fordyce, was born on 19 March 1799 in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth’s parents had moved to Harrison County by 1835 and to Defiance County, Ohio by 1850. Elizabeth was a sister of Susannah Crago (the wife of Absalom Browning) and Isaac Fordyce Crago (the husband of Susannah Browning.)

(For more information on the family and ancestors/descendants of James Crago, refer to the Crago Connections website maintained by Brian Smith. The Crago family is of interest to me because three of James' children -- Isaac F., Elizabeth and Susannah -- married into the Browning family.)

Elias and Elizabeth’s children (Samuel Franklin, James M., Wesley Asbury, and Isaac Crago, born between 1848-1853) give the state of Ohio as their place of birth throughout their lives. This evidence indicates that although Elias and Elizabeth can't be found on the census of Ohio in 1850 they were indeed living somewhere in the state. As most of Elizabeth’s family, as well as Elias’s brother Absalom (who had also married into the Crago family) had moved to Defiance County, Ohio around the time that Elias and Elizabeth were married, Elias and Elizabeth may also have chosen to move to the county as well and may have been en route when the census was taken.

Elias and Elizabeth came to Crawford County, Illinois sometime after the birth of their twins, Wesley and Isaac, in the last part of the year 1853. Their presence in the county is not documented by land sale records or by any court records excepting the presence of Elias Browning’s tombstone in the Browning family plot in Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Crawford County. Elias died on 16 June of either 1855 or 1856. His tombstone is cracked across the last digit of his year of death (see right) and only the first three digits, “185,” are clearly visible. The years 1855 or 1856 are the most likely dates, given the shape of the numerals upon the stone.

There's some amount of evidence to support the earlier date of 1855. Elias and his family aren't enumerated in the 1855 Illinois state census of Crawford County that was taken in October of that year, nor are they enumerated in any of the surrounding counties. A widowed Elizabeth is also not found on the state census in October of 1855 in Crawford County or any surrounding counties. But on 7 October 1856 Elizabeth is found in Defiance County, Ohio, when she marries William Pollock. If Elias had died in June of 1856, Elizabeth's remarriage so far away leaves her a span of only four months in which to travel from Illinois to Ohio, meet another man, and marry. If Elias had died in 1855 instead, that short span increases to a more reasonable frame of time. So what evidence I have available to me suggests that Elias died in June of 1855 at the age of 37 years. As an epidemic of yellow fever was spreading throughout the country in 1855 it may also be probable that Elias was one of its victims.

When I first began my research into this family I met a man named Brian Hoffer. Brian was looking for his ancestor, Elias Browning, but Brian was living in northern Indiana and his Browning ancestors had for generations. I just couldn't see why any of my Illinois Brownings would have ended up there. I am shamed to admit that I didn't consider his case in any reasonable fashion for some time, to my naive, newly-minted genealogist's chagrin! Eventually things began to come together, puzzle pieces fit -- names, dates, etc -- and once Brian and I really began comparing notes I was able to put a few more pieces together and figure out why the sons of Elias Browning ended up in northern Indiana from southern Illinois.

It began after Elias died. Elizabeth packed up shop and moved to Defiance County, Ohio. When did she do this? Why? How? These were questions that didn't make much sense to me until I began to look at the Illinois state censuses and pay more attention to the family Elizabeth had left behind in Ohio. Elizabeth and her sons aren't found on the 1855 state census of Crawford County and that seems to indicate she took her four boys and moved back to Defiance County almost immediately following Elias’s death. But why? I think Elizabeth chose to accompany her younger brother Isaac F. Crago back east to Ohio. I don't know if Isaac ever actually lived in Crawford County or if he came to Illinois solely to visit Elizabeth and/or claim a bride, but in November of 1854 Isaac married Susannah Browning, Elizabeth's sister in law. Isaac F. and Susannah aren't enumerated on the Illinois 1855 state census either so it appears the couple made the trip back east between the date of their marriage and the taking of the state census to join Isaac and Elizabeth’s Crago relatives in Defiance County. As this time frame is the same in which Elizabeth experienced the death of her husband and perhaps felt lonely in Illinois so far removed from her family, it's very probable she and her boys joined Isaac and Susannah on their way back to Ohio.

According to a story passed down through the family of Wesley Asbury Browning (one of Elias and Elizabeth’s four sons and Brian's ancestor) Elizabeth and her boys were on a ship when Elizabeth passed out. The captain of the boat believed at first that she was dead, but she soon came around. This ship could have been a ferry traveling the Wabash River, which delineates some of the southern boundary between the states of Illinois and Indiana, and winds its way up into northern Indiana. This story is difficult to place chronologically and may have been a memory of part of the journey back to Ohio from Illinois.

Whenever the exact time of the move, Elizabeth’s presence in Defiance County, Ohio by the middle of 1856 is unquestionable. She and William Pollock were married in the county on 7 October 1856. According to Samuel E. Alvord’s History of Noble County, Indiana, William Pollock was born around the year 1804 in Pennsylvania and had first been married to Mary Barker around the year 1828 in Ohio. The couple had lived in Richland County, Ohio for some time before coming to Cromwell in Noble County, Indiana around the year 1848. William and Mary were the parents of nine children (Thomas, Elsie, Elizabeth, Simon, John, Eli, Margaret, Lousetta, and Louisa) before Mary’s death on 1 November 1855.

After Elizabeth and William married they settled in Cromwell, a community in Sparta Township in Noble County. Their choice may have been influenced by many factors; some of William’s children by his first marriage were living in Noble County and in neighboring Steuben and Elkhart Counties. Members of Elizabeth’s family had also chosen to settle in Steuben County. Two of Elizabeth’s sisters, Sarah Ann and her husband Andrew Sewell, and Susannah and her husband Absalom Browning, had also moved to Steuben County by 1860.

William and Elizabeth were still living in Sparta Township in 1863 when Elizabeth's second son, James M. Browning, died on 10 December of that year. The boy was buried in the Valley Cemetery in the township. By 1870 the couple had had moved to Jefferson Township in Elkhart County and had four children of their own, William N., Lincoln Richmond, Nancy Jane, and Morton Pollock.

The family lived in Elkhart County the rest of their lives. The picture on the left was supposedly taken around 1899 and is supposed to show Elizabeth with Elizabeth's son Samuel F. and his wife, Minnie Brumbaugh, along with another unidentified man (perhaps another of Elizabeth's sons.) I have my doubts about whether this photo is actually c1899, though....something about the clothes and background seem to suggest a later date.

William died on 1 December 1891 and Elizabeth died on 12 January 1900. They are both buried in the Sugar Grove Cemetery near Dunlap in Concord Township, Elkhart County, Indiana.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pt 5 - Wallace William Plymell

We continue my series of posts about the families whose names are in my Hair Book with Wallace William Plymell and his family.

The two women who "authored" the entries in the Hair Book (Eliza Ursula (Nichols) Swan and her daughter Estella Jane (Swan) Browning) were both descendants of the Plymell family. Eliza's mother Delinda was a Plymell and many of the main players in the Hair Book (Mary Plymell, Adaline Plymell, James Fuller Plymell and Wallace W. Plymell) were Delinda's siblings and Eliza Ursula's uncles and aunts. It's therefore fitting to continue this series with a discussion of Delinda's brother, Wallace William Plymell and his wives and children.

Wallace William Plymell was the first son of James Plymell and Jane Twiley. He was born on 14 Feb 1819 in Deer Creek Twn., Madison Co., OH.

I don't know much about Wallace. He married twice, both times in Crawford County, Illinois -- the first time on 3 Jun 1840 to Margaret J. Grimes (who died c1851 after giving him two daughters, Margaret b. 1841 and Selina b.1843) and second on 18 Sep 1852 to Sophia Jane Cox. Wallace and Sophia had four children of their own -- Cordova D. (b. 1853) , Lyman S. (b. 1855), William Wallace (b. 1860) and Charles Melvin (b. 1861) -- and Wallace also adopted Sophia's son John Catlett Sheppard.

The family lived in Olney in Richland County, IL, for a while before heading to Belleplaine, KS around 1873. Wallace operated a stage line near Plymell, KS.

Eight years later, in 1881, Wallace sent a short note on a postcard back home to Illinois. This slightly ripped and worn postcard in my possession is the only tangible connection I have to Wallace William Plymell. The postcard doesn't have Wallace's name on it and a large portion of the postcard is difficult to read but the references that I can make out point to Wallace as the author.

The front of the card is postmarked "Belleplaine, Kansas, May 30, 1881." It is addressed to Joseph Nichols in Robinson, Crawford County, IL. Joseph was Wallace's brother in law; he was Delinda Jane Plymell's husband and Eliza Ursula's father. The postcard reads:

...ay 29th 1881 ...ear Brother and sister Been along time ...we have heard from ...we are having a nice [a..?] ...looks well of all kinds ...d harvest will soon be ... us we are a[gony?] to have a good [March] crop if nothing happens th[ere?] Kansas looks fine now we have plenty of Rain this spring we live in Belleplaine now the Boys lives on the farm or Charley does Wm is in the Territory hauling for the goverm... ent I am not well am [ ? ] I feel quite w... times I have got ...questions I hope a ...ect soon to go dow... ...hope you are all we... alive w... this you....

The writer mentions two boys, Charley and William. Wallace was the only person who would have referred to Delinda and Joseph as "brother and sister" with boys named Charley and William old enough to be on their own in 1881. Wallace and Delinda's brother James Fuller Plymell did have a son named William old enough but he didn't have a son named Charles; besides, he lived in Paradise, Texas instead of in Belleplaine, Kansas. The writer also mentions that "William is in the Territory" -- Wallace's son William was living in Choctaw, OK, which was then considered Oklahoma Territory. By the process of elimination, therefore, this postcard must have been written by Wallace.

Wallace's wife Sophia died in 1890 and Wallace married a third time, on 8 Oct 1892, to Susan C. McCarty in Crawford County, IL.

Since Wallace lived in Belleplaine, I wonder if he traveled to IL to visit family and to court Susan? The McCarty name comes up a couple of times concerning the Plymell family. There is a reference made to a "Miss Susan McCarty" in a letter written to Eliza Ursula (Nichols) Swan in Dec 1886 by John Vane, Wallace Plymell's brother in law (he was married to Adaline Plymell, Wallace's sister.) Vane says, "We send our best respects to Miss Susan McCarty - tell her to write to us." Susan was obviously well known to the Plymell family. She may have been a spinster until her marriage to Wallace late in her life -- she was in her early 50's when they married. And oh yes, there were two other McCarty's listed in the Hair Book (Mary J. and Mary A.) I wonder if they were any relation to Susan?

Wallace and Susan moved back to Belleplaine but they didn't live together long before Wallace's death on 10 Mar 1895. Wallace was buried in Belleplaine. Susan was back in Crawford County by 1910, where she died on 27 Sep 1922 in Robinson. Her death certificate is in the Crawford County courthouse.

((Many thanks go to Ken Groves for using his research as the base of this post.))

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Naturalization Certificate - August Papstein

Well, I scurried to my local FHC last night to pick up the film containing my 3rd-g-grandfather August Karl Papstein's naturalization certificate that were the focus of this post last week. I was excited when I got there and eagerly rolled the film to the right page. And AhHA! There it was!

I now have a date for his naturalization -- 9 Apr 1894. The wording in the document states, "....has resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for at least five years last past, and at least one year last past within the state of Illinois..."

My great-grandmother, August's daughter Minna Anna Louise Papstein Depperman, was born in Janicow, Kreiß Dramburg, Hinterpommern, Prussia (now Poland) in July 1888. She wrote a short autobiography on notebook paper before her death in 1985 and stated that she had come over with her family in March of 1889. Since April 1894 is consistent with the five year waiting period that the law required, this naturalization certificate's date is also consistent with Minna's statement. August sure didn't wait around to begin the process of becoming a citizen of this county. Finding the two dates match fairly well sure makes me happy!

I don't know who David Christian and James J. McMahon (the two witnesses) were. They may have been friends or relatives or might have simply been employed as witnesses by the court.

I did a little poking around and found that David Christian was living in Kankakee in Kankakee County, IL in 1900 with his wife Cora, son David P. and mother-in-law Sylvia Palmer. David was listed as a traveling shoe salesman. James J. McMahon was listed as "James J. McMann" in the 1900 census. James, his wife Anna, and their children Mary, William, Agnece and Sharlot were living in Peotone in Will County, IL, the same village where August also lived. His occupation at the time was "work in elevator."

The certificate didn't tell me anything else I didn't already know. But that's okay. I have it now, and it's one more piece of August's life.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - "The Mystery Photo" Updates

I took a magnet to the back of the mystery photo (see previous post) and it stuck so there's no further doubt -- it's a ferrotype. I feel very satisfied dating it to c1892.

Brett Payne of Photo Sleuth commented on my previous post about the photo. He says, "If you examine the photograph's surface with a lens or microscope you may be able to detect differences in the behavior of the painted and photographic media, such as the degree of cracking/crazing, which could help you decide one way or another."

I don't have a microscope to place the picture under for study but I do have a magnifying glass. I wasn't able to see all that much with it but I didn't see any differences in the degree of cracking from the background to the foreground. It's pretty uniform until you get to an area just above the "steeple." From there, and stretching to the top of the photo, there is a much tighter crackling pattern. I believe that is simply wear -- that area has some of the top coating worn off and it shows its age there more than anywhere else on the plate.

Brett also mentions that full-plate tintypes are much rarer than their smaller counterparts. I was very interested in that since I have two of these full plate tintypes -- the 6.5 x 9 one I featured yesterday and another that measures 6.5 x 8.5 and is a picture of my 4th-g-grandfather Joseph Nichols. I've spotlighted that picture on this blog before and you can find it right here if you're curious (and make sure to click on the picture and you'll get a closer view!) Joseph's picture is eerie in its "realness" -- it is sharp and clear and the detailing is fantastic. It's like he's standing in the room beside me.

Neither of these tintypes have cases, unfortunately. I've placed both in archival sleeves and handle them as little as possible, always with gloves!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Not So Wordless Wednesday - A Mystery Photo

This photograph in my collection is one of the few that doesn't have a positive identification attached to it. Most of my old photos do -- thanks to my wonderful grandmother Beulah (Garrard) Browning! -- so this one has always been a curiosity to me.

It is a 6.5 x 9 sheet and is either an ambrotype or a tintype -- I'm ashamed to say I'm not sure which. You can't see it in the reproduction to the right but when you hold it to the light the people nearly disappear. That makes me think ambrotype. However, in the bottom right corner you can clearly see a bit of metal where the image is peeling away. It also sounds like a tin sheet, if you know what I mean? So perhaps tintype is more accurate. Anyway, it's also been enhanced by the photographer. Some color has been added (most notably on kerchiefs and ties) and there are brush strokes accentuating the lines of the jackets worn by the boys and the older man. And as for the background? The house behind the fence looks like some sort of clapboard structure; one can see each thin board atop the other. However, the other side of the background is stranger. It appears to be the chimney of a house or perhaps a squared off church steeple in the distance but it seems almost completely drawn and colored up. I'm not sure the photographer didn't just sketch that in!

It's important that I date this photo because it would help me eliminate a few suggestions my grandma made when she and I were looking at it. Grandma told me she thought this photo might be the family of one of the sons of her grandfather William Garrard (1822-1864.) She thought this could be the family of her uncle James A. Garrard (1851-1910) or the family of her uncle William Bauer Garrard aka William Garrett (1859 - ?). She wasn't sure and I can understand why. My grandmother wasn't born until 1900 and she had only dim recollections of her uncle Jim since she was only 10 when he died. She never met her uncle Bill at all, who'd changed his name and split for Oklahoma before she was born.

I could try to date the photo by analyzing the hairstyles shown. If I did that I would look at the girls with their tight curls bunched up on top of their heads, their mother with a stricter and older sort of style, and date it roughly mid- to late 1880's.

I could look at the clothing, too. The girl behind her mother has a dress on with vertical puffs at her shoulder seams, a brooch, a neck collar and tight sleeves on her arms. That also puts me in the late 1880's. The mother again seems to be wearing an earlier style since her dress has a long row of buttons down the bodice. The oldest boy has on a longer coat over a vest and a striped necktie. The middle boy has on short trousers, a short coat and high stockings. His youngest brother wears the "dress" typical of a young one. And the father? His longer sack coat suggests a decade or so out of fashion just like his wife.

I felt comfortable with my analyzation but it helped that there was also something else I could use to help me independently assess the time period. Apparently this photo had been stored in an album or attached to some sort of keepsake holder with glue. When it was attached and/or removed, it had been laid down upon a newspaper. When it was removed the newspaper ripped and portions of it were left attached to the back!

Click on the picture above if you'd like to see the snippets of words that were left when the newspaper ripped but I can summarize it here. It looked to me like a review of "noteworthy features" in something called "....ort Stories" that was issued monthly. You can see a word here and there and it's obvious that some story titles are being listed. I could see the following:

"...'The Spirits'..."
"...ale from the Spanish..."
"...ecquer; "Qauarantine Is.."
" island, by Walter..."
"..ghbors," an amusing..."
"John Habberton"
"Randolph Churchill"

So I started out by looking up the only name that was clear -- John Habberton. I could have used Randolph Churchill but his more-famous name would have been difficult to narrow down to a specific time frame. I did a Google search and four pages in, Bingo!

Google Books lists this compilation (for photo credit follow the link) entitled "Short stories: a magazine of select fiction, Volume 10" By Alfred Ludlow White. Published in May of 1892, it included stories such as "Next-Door Neighbors" by John Habberton, "Quarantine Island" by Walter Besant and "The Spirit's Mountain" by Gustavo Adolpho Becquer, among others like Bret Harte and George Eliot.

What a great way to find out about a picture. My dating system wasn't off by too much!

This helps eliminate one of the families I listed above, though. According to the information I currently have available, James A. Garrard married Nora Belle Tohill in 1891. They had eight children between the years 1892-1907, six sons and two daughters. One daughter was born in 1892 and the other 1907. James died in 1910 when his youngest was only 3. Therefore I don't believe the picture I have is of this family because the girls in the photo are too old to have a living father.

And what of my grandma's Uncle Bill? Now that's harder. Bill got into some trouble with the law and ran off to Oklahoma, changing his name from Garrard to Garrett. I met some of his descendants about a decade ago but I stupidly didn't gather all the information I should have from them when I had them there (or if I did it's buried in some box/file/etc and I have no idea where it is.) I could kick myself for that. I hadn't thought of Bill in years and I got up just a moment ago to look in my files and lo and behold, there is a picture! It must've been given to me all those years ago, goodness me!

Bill and his wife Sarah Box had a total of nine children, five girls and four boys. I don't have dates for any of them. I don't know when Bill died (he was born in 1859) or when his wife Sarah did. All I have are two grainy photographs. But you know, compare them yourself. The triangular nose, the half circle squint of the eyebrows from the forehead. This might be the right guy after all....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - Martha Browning (1868)

This little tombstone belongs to Martha M. Browning. She was the first child of Edward Alfred Browning and his second wife Mary Elizabeth Gibbons. She lived her short little life in Spring Point Township in Cumberland County, Illinois. She was born sometime in early 1868 and died on 1 July 1868, exactly 99 years before I was born. Her parents Edward Alfred Browning and Mary Elizabeth Gibbons aren't even buried next to her -- both are buried in the nearby Faunce Cemetary in Cumberland County.

Martha is buried in the Needham Cemetery in Spring Point Twn., near Montrose in Cumberland Co., IL. As you can see, her tombstone is now partially absorbed by a tree that took root in the area of her stone. I took the picture from above but the tree was so hopelessly enmeshed around her stone that it was very difficult to read anything at all. I was able to see a few words, like her name, and I tried to take the picture so that they would be seen. For the most part, though, the inscription was pulled from old cemetary records.

The cemetery she's buried in is also the final resting place of her father's first wife and their child, as well as Martha's brother and sister. The Needham Cemetery is in a state of disrepair -- at least it was when I was there in 2001 -- and it was sad to see all the stones leaning or toppled or otherwise defaced. Martha's was one of the few that would have been fairly readable.....if it weren't for the tree. If I lived there this cemetery would be the first one I'd work on.

Every time I look at this I feel sad. Someday Martha's stone will be engulfed by the tree and no one will know this little girl existed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - William Browning vs. The State of Ohio (1821)

Is the William Browning at the center of this Harrison County, Ohio 1821 larceny case a relative (a younger brother, perhaps?) of my ancestor Samuel Browning?

Stay tuned as I delve into this case.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The "Bleh Effect"

Ask any genealogist about some of their great discoveries and eyes light up, smiles widen, and voices pitch higher and faster and are tinged with excitement. Whether you call them genea-gasms or serendipity or just plain old luck, everyone has those Ah HA! moments. It's what we live for.

It's what I expected to indulge in when I went to the Family History Center to pick up a film that had naturalization records for my 2nd g-grandfather, August Papstein. I'd ordered the index weeks ago because I'd found him listed in the Kankakee County IL court records in 1892 even though he lived his entire life in the this country in Peotone in Will County, IL. It wasn't a complete surprise, though, since Peotone is in the southern part of Will County and the trip to Kankakee was probably easier than the trip to Joliet.

I was so excited when I got there. Got the film, plopped it in the machine, started scrolling. I realized it was at the back of the roll so it took me five minutes of constant scrooooooolling to get there. I got to the index of Vol. E and started looking for his name, and Ah HA! There he was!

And then the roll stopped.

Yes, indeed. Whoever filmed the roll filmed half the index of Vol E on one roll and the rest of it on the next one.

So I sat there, experiencing the evil opposite twin of the genea-gasm that I call the Bleh Effect, or the blehs for short. It's when you just know you're about to see something great and then you have to either a) wait for it or b) admit that you thought wrong. I certainly got a case of the blehs last night.

The FHC ladies felt sympathy for me and ordered the next roll for me without charging me for it. But still. Two more weeks! Argggggh! It's at times like this that I remember how great it was to be a kid and if you threw yourself down on the floor in a tantrum you didn't look like you'd gone utterly mad. You know, I think if more of us adults just tossed ourselves down and kicked and screamed and yelled we might be a lot less stressed. Hah!

In the scheme of things this isn't a big deal. I'll see it in a few weeks. I'm a big girl and I have learned the virtue of patience (I long will that take?) But I'd had my mouth all set for an Ah HA! and got a bleh instead.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Madness Monday, and The Browning Series -- Part Eleven, or John Wesley Francis Browning and Matilda Corderman

This post is a three-for-the-price-of-one post. Why? Well, it manages to blend one of my Monday Madness problems with my continuing series on my Browning family as well as directly relating to my previous post about a photo comparison. It concerns John Wesley Browning, the eleventh child of Samuel Browning and Margaret Markee.

John Wes is a Monday Madness problem for me because after 1864, he just.....vanishes. Did he leave Illinois? Go serve in the War? Did he die? I'd love to know but even if I did manage it somehow it would be a bittersweet victory because my cousin Pat -- who's descended from him -- is no longer here to enjoy the knowledge.

Here's what I do know.

John was born around the year 1835 in Moorefield Township in Harrison County, Ohio. He came to Crawford County, Illinois with his parents and siblings when he was about 12 years old. John almost always used his middle name (Wesley) with one exception; upon his marriage to Matilda Corderman in 1856 he placed the name Francis on his marriage certificate. Matilda was born around 1834 in Ohio and was the daughter of David Corderman and Sarah Viola Barron. She was also the older sister of Minerva Corderman, who had married John Wesley’s brother Asbury Taylor Browning in 1852.

Evidence shows that the Corderman family and the Browning family knew each other for some years (and in two states) prior to the intermarriages between them. Matilda’s sister Minerva claimed in her widow's pension papers in May 1863 that she had known her husband Asbury Taylor Browning "from a young boy." (As Taylor was a young boy in Harrison County, Ohio and Matilda and Minerva grew up in Licking County, Ohio this little clue is important -- other Brownings lived in Licking County and I'm very interested in where that leads me research-wise.) Anyway, it seems evident that Matilda got to know Taylor’s younger brother better as a result of her sister’s marriage. Matilda was likely already engaged to John Wes when she was listed as the assistant midwife at the birth of Charles Otho Browning, Taylor and Minerva’s son, on 6 April 1856 because she and John married the next month on 23 May 1856 in Crawford County.

After their marriage the couple may have lived briefly in Crawford County before they moved to Pleasantville in present-day Woodbury Township in Cumberland County, Illinois. The couple is found with their daughter Alice on the census there in July of 1860. Pleasantville was a small community annexed to the west of the town of Jewett and today no longer exists in the county. (The road that presently goes south out of Jewett was the dividing line between Jewett and Pleasantville.) John Wesley and Matilda lived next door to Matilda’s parents and very near to John’s brother Asbury Taylor. At that time, John listed himself as a laborer. By September the couple had moved to Pleasant Grove Township in Coles County, Illinois and are found enumerated on the census in that township. Wesley’s occupation at that time was listed as engineer. It's possible that the family moved to Coles County because John had found a job as an engineer in either Charleston or Mattoon, both well-populated cities at the time.

The next documented evidence found for John Wes and Matilda is October 1864, when Wes filed a patent application in Mattoon, Coles County, Illinois stating that he was a resident of Mattoon. The patent was numbered #44594, was dated 11 October 1864, and was for a “new and improved device for transmitting motion." An engineer I know took a look at the patent drawings and said that John was technically adept and his ideas were good ones (though of course perpetual motion machines have folly written all over them!)

This patent is the last record that John Wesley Francis Browning leaves behind. By July of 1865 his wife Matilda and the couple’s two daughters were living alone in Sumpter Township in Cumberland County. They were enumerated beside Matilda’s sister Minerva, who'd become a widow a few years before. It's uncertain whether John Wesley left his family for reasons unknown, joined the war effort, or simply died. If he did die, I've never been able to locate where he was buried.

Pat told me that stories passed down through her family expressed the belief that he may have served “in the Grey.” This is interesting for it suggests that John Wesley may have been a southern sympathizer and might have fallen in with the Copperhead movement that was prevalent in Mattoon during the Civil War years. He might have joined the Confederate cause -- it's certainly possible -- but despite my research into southern war records I haven't uncovered anything to substantiate Pat's family tale. Lacking hard evidence to the contrary, it's tempting to assume that John Wes died sometime between October of 1864 and July of 1865. This assumption, however, is by no means proven.

In March of 1867 Matilda went before the county clerk of Cumberland County as a witness to help her sister Minerva gain a minor’s pension for the children of her marriage to Taylor Browning. Matilda testified to her attendance at the birth of her nephew Charles Otho Browning and claimed that she was a resident of Prairie City. Three years later, in July of 1870, Matilda was still living in Prairie City with her daughters Alice J. (b. 1857) and Sarah Viola 'Kate' Browning (b. Mar 1863) a few doors down from her parents. She was listed as a seamstress.

After July of 1870 there is no further record of Matilda either. She isn't found on the 1880 census but this might be because she was remarried before that date. Sadly, a courthouse fire in 1885 caused the loss of all Cumberland County records filed before that date so I may never know if Matilda remarried. I can't even hunt her down through her daughters -- if Alice married in Cumberland County her marriage, too, is lost, and then of course there's no 1890 census.....

And what of Kate? By 1880 Kate -- Pat's g-grandmother -- had become pregnant out of wedlock and stories in Pat's family relate that Kate and Matilda never got along again after that. The pregnancy drove a wedge between Kate and her mother and before she gave birth Kate took her father's picture and his patent papers and ran away to Terre Haute in Vigo Co., IN. I wonder, though -- if Kate took his papers that mean John didn't take them. Surely if he left the family for some reason other than death, he'd have taken his papers?

I just don't know what happened to John Wes. I don't know whether Matilda remarried or died. I don't know what happened to their daughter Alice. John Wes and his family drives me mad. I do have the patent papers and I do have the one photo that Pat gave me (the positively identified photo from the previous post) though it is not a good copy. Pat was given the other unidentified photo (the black and white one, not the sepia toned one) from another cousin who believed that it was John and I think she was right. The collar that he is wearing reminds me of a war uniform, perhaps? If so, maybe the story about John Wes going into the service isn't just a family rumor. Anyway, I'm working on obtaining good, high-resolution scans of both photos and when I do I'll unashamedly take Brett up on his offer of digital overlay.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Not So Wordless Wednesday - Is This The Same Man?

For the past few years I've made a judgment call on some photographs in my collection. I believe that they are of the same man but with a few years difference between them. Here is the photo:

The man on the right is known to be John Wesley Francis Browning. The picture is c1864.

The man on the left? I believe that he, too, is John Wesley Francis Browning but a few years earlier, perhaps as early as 1860-1861? Take a look at the eyes....the left eye of both men is slightly larger than the right. Same widow's peak. Same deep inset under the center of the bottom lip. Same distance between the eyes and between the eyebrows. The tip of the nose dips down a bit more on the man in the right photo. Ears appear to look about the same.

I would welcome anyone else's opinion!

A Genealogical Truism

Paraphrased from The Slovak Yankee's post, "The Great Genealogical Divide," found HERE. He is making a comparison between those genealogists who take pride in performing their own research from those who fill in the blanks and/or merely copy what is already out there:

"....I'm struck by how this fits into Charles P. Pierce's construct from his new book: Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. The Three Great Premises are (1) Any theory is valid if it moves units; (2) Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough; and (3) Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it. You can adapt this to genealogy easily enough. The Three Great Genealogical Premises: (1) any theory is valid if it appears in print (no matter where or when); (2) anything can be true if it's on enough web sites or on; and (3) fact is that which enough people believe (and doesn't remove some good ancestry they want or covet.)"

Can I get an Amen!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pt 4 - James and Margaret Plymell

We continue my series of posts about the families whose names are in my Hair Book with the Plymell family.

The two women who "authored" the entries in the Hair Book (Eliza Ursula (Nichols) Swan and her daughter Estella Jane (Swan) Browning) were both descendants of the Plymell family. Eliza's mother Delinda was a Plymell and many of the main players in the Hair Book (Mary Plymell, Adaline Plymell, James Fuller Plymell and Wallace W. Plymell) were Delinda's siblings and Eliza Ursula's uncles and aunts. It's therefore fitting to continue this series with a discussion of their parents, James Plymell and his wife Margaret.

In the early 19th century many missionaries established missions in the Upper Sandusky area of Ohio. In 1810 that area was part of Delaware County, Ohio but now comprises modern-day Wyandot, Delaware and Marion counties. My Plymell family lived in this part of the country at the time. James Plymell was born in 1793 in Botetourt County, Virginia and was the son of John Plimell and Jane Twiley. James moved to OH with his parents and eventually settled in the Madison Co/Delaware Co region of the state.

Around 1815 or so he married Margaret, maiden name unknown. Margaret was born c 1795. In my family the story always went that Margaret was "half-Iroquois." Discussions with other descendants of James and Margaret's son James Fuller Plymell have made connections to the Wyandot nation, a tribe that belongs within the Iroquoian Family of North American Indians. They are the descendants of the Tionnontates or Tobacco Nation of the Huron Confederacy. James Fuller's family always contended that they were Wyandot. More research is needed to find out if Margaret, wife of James Plymell, was a Wyandot but unfortunately many of the records that would be helpful (like a marriage license) don't appear to exist any longer. A search in Marion, Madison and Wyandot counties came up negative and if they were married in Delaware County (as is suspected) we are truly out of luck. A fire destroyed all records of marriages prior to 1835 in Delaware Co OH.

Before I go any further I want to thank a few people for their valuable research on the Plymell family. I would feel remiss if I didn't thank Ken Groves ( He's compiled an enormous amount of information on the Plymell family with the assistance of the following: Mae Berting (, Rick Cansler (, Diane Kasparek (, Tracy Towry (, Marilynn Wood ( Charles Plymell ( and his four surviving sisters Norma, Mary, Dorothy, and Genoa. I owe them all a great debt.

James and Margaret had the following known children:

1) Mary Plymell (b. 13 May 1817, m. Thomas Emery 17 October 1838, see HERE)
2) Wallace William Plymell (b. 14 Feb 1819)
3) Delinda Jane Plymell (b. 21 Jul 1822, m. Joseph Nichols 24 Dec 1844, see HERE)
4) Adeline Plymell (b. 1827, m. John Vane 2 Nov 1848, see HERE)
5) James Fuller Plymell (b. 1832)
6) Anna Castle Plymell (b. c1833)
7) Olive Ann Plymell (b. 11 Jul 1834, d. 2 Feb 1858)

Margaret died in Marion Co., OH on 10 Apr 1837 and James followed shortly thereafter on 29 Oct 1837. Their deaths left their children orphans.

As much as I've been able to piece together, at least one of the Plymell children left for Crawford Co., IL, between 1838 and 1840. Wallace W. was found living in Crawford County in 1840 and in 1850 he is found with his two daughters from his first marriage and his sister Anna. The other children had likely followed by 1844 as Delinda was married to Joseph Nichols in the county in December of that year. By the 1850 census Mary Plymell, her husband Thomas Emery, and Mary's sister Olive Ann had also settled there. Delinda's brother James Fuller Plymell was living with Delinda and her husband Joseph Nichols.

Next time, the families of the Plymell boys, Wallace William and James Fuller. Oh, and there are letters too....!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another Famous Name in My Browning Trial?

A sharp-eyed reader (Cathy at Detour Through History) commented today on a small tidbit of information I'd included concerning my account of the trials of my Samuel Browning (and Julia Ann Browning his daughter) versus James Beck. I am ever so glad she did because I certainly missed it completely.

The list of jurors convened for Samuel's trial against James Beck included one Emanuel Custer. Cathy wondered whether this Emanuel Custer could possibly be the Emanuel Henry Custer (1806 - 1892) who was the father of George Armstrong Custer!

Well, I can't be absolutely certain of course, but it is definitely a possibility. Emanuel Custer was married twice, both times in Harrison County. His second wife was Maria Ward Kirkpatrick, who became George's mother. The couple married in New Rumley in Harrison County, OH in 1836. George was born in New Rumley on 5 Dec 1839.

My Sam's trial was 1837. New Rumley is only a township away from Cadiz, the county seat and location of the trial. It is completely possible that Emanuel, aged 31 at the time, was called to sit as a juror. If so, that makes two brushes (the first being Sam's lawyer Edwin M. Stanton) with the famous for my little old Sam!

Thanks for bringing this interesting bit of (possible) historical connection to my attention, Cathy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Serendipity?

I found two exciting pieces of information last night on one of my elusive German families, the family of August Carl Papstein and his wife Anna Marie Louise Koehn.

I got a call from my local Family History Center letting me know my naturalization index film was in. Unlike the last roll for the Koehns (Anna's parents) this one was a hit! I found August in the index (Vol E, pg 56, Kankakee IL County Court, nat 9 Apr 1894, wit James J. McMahon.)

Of course I ordered the film. I can't wait!

When I arrived home I did some scanning and in the course of the work I had to go looking for another piece of information for another family in an old box of loose papers my mother gave me some time ago. In doing so I ran across some photocopies of four small pages of torn-out notebook paper. And here I thought I'd looked through that box!

The four small pages were a small biography on August and his wife! They were written on the occasion of an "anniversary" and the wording implied that they were "honored guests." The end of the sheets wished them more happy anniversaries and mentioned they had two great grandchildren. After a turn in my database I saw the two grandchildren (David Depperman and Florence Schannon) were born 1922 and 1936. This narrowed the time frame of the writing down to after 1936. As August and Anna would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on 16 Oct 1937 and August died before their 60th anniversary in 1947, I believe I can say with some measure of authority that these small sheets of paper were written on the occasion of the party in honor of their 50th anniversary.

Ah, the information I've learned from these sheets! August was born 6 Sept 1864 in "Drumberg" Germany (other sources are more specific -- he was born in the Koslin District, Neu Lobitz, Kreiß Dramburg, Hinterpommern, Prussia (now part of Poland) and was one of a set of twins! He was confirmed on 28 Sept 1878. His father's name was Friedrich/Frederick Papstein. He served 3 years in the calvary before marrying Anna (on 16 Oct 1887) soon after his discharge. Anna (see left, picture taken one month before her death in 1952) was the daughter of Johann/John Koehn and was confirmed on 17 Apr 1881. He and Anna arrived in America on 29 Mar 1889.

Again with the serendipity! I was just doing some research on this family when poof! and I find another hidden gem. I must have a very friendly and generous Genealogy Fairy. I wonder what they eat so I can make sure he/she/it comes back again? :D

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Hair Book Families pt 3 - The Nichols Family

We continue my series of posts about the families whose names are in my Hair Book with the Nichols family.

Joseph Nichols was born in Greenbrier Co., VA (now WV) on 20 October 1823 and died in Crawford Co., IL on 12 Jan 1912. According to his death certificate he was the son of John Nichols and Susan Merritt.

According to an article printed in the Robinson (IL) Daily News on 4 Sept 1973, "The great-grandfather Nichols (John) had migrated from Natural Bridge, Va. He was one of the few migrants in the overland party left from the ravage en route of that year's Spotted Fever epidemic."

Natural Bridge now lies on the border of Botetourt County and Rockbridge County in Virginia. If this account is an accurate one -- and I'm not sure how accurate it actually is -- John Nichols must have lived in Botetourt County prior to the 1830 census. His son Joseph was born in Greenbrier County in 1823, though, so if this is accurate John must've moved back and forth. It's not beyond the realm of possibility, of course.

I haven't done much research in regards to John's life before he moved to Crawford County yet. He is found living in Greenbrier County VA in 1830 and by 1840 he is residing in Crawford County, IL. I located a marriage between a John Nichols and a Susanna Merritt in Bedford Co., VA on 12 Dec 1804. I'm not at all certain this is the correct couple. Bedford County does border Botetourt Co, though. Hm....

Joseph came to Crawford County with his parents by 1831, when his father John purchased land from Wilson and Nancy Lagow. As I've posted on this blog before, on 7 Nov 1831 John Nichols purchased 40 acres (the SW 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of Sec 2, T6N, R12W) in Robinson Township in Crawford County. By the April term of 1849, though, John had died. His lands were due to be divvied up in 1/7 increments to his heirs -- his daughters Lucinda (the wife of John Guinn), Mary (the wife of Wiley Emmons), Levisa (the wife of Abel Mann), and Eliza Jane (the wife of George Hartwell); his granddaughter Eliza Ann (infant daughter of Reuben Nichols, deceased), and his sons Merritt and Joseph. This division never happened, though, because the court's commissioners decided that the lands were "so circumstanced that a division thereof cannot be made without manifest prejudice to the proprietors thereof."

It was decided by the Court that the land would be sold at public venue by James H. Steel as commissioner, the sale being at the courthouse door in the town of Robinson. This was done on 9 June 1849 and Joseph purchased the entire 40 acres at the sale for $249, with an initial $88 up front at the time of sale. The rest was to be paid by June 1850.

Joseph married Delinda Jane Plymell -- born 21 Jul 1822, the daughter of James Plymell and Margaret (rumored to be half Wyandot, a Native American tribe) -- on 24 Dec 1844 in Crawford County, Illinois. I've featured this family a couple of times on my blog already. Joseph and Delinda -- along with a picture of their tombstone -- can be found HERE. Above is my favorite picture of Joseph. I've cropped it; it is actually a 5x7 sheet. It's completely striking. Everyone must've stayed incredibly still to get such precise detailing!

Joseph and Delinda had the following children:

1) Eliza Ursula (b. 6 Jul 1847, m. James Madison Swan 4 Aug 1873, d. 16 Feb 1931)
2) Missouri Ann (b. 30 Apr 1849, d. 11 Sep 1933)
3) Jane (b. 4 May 1859, d. 11 May 1859, bur New Hebron Cem., Crawford Co IL)

Eliza Ursula was the first author of the Hair Book and was my 2nd great-grandmother. Her daughter Estella Jane was the second author of the Hair Book and was my great-grandmother.

Only one other Nichols family member other than Delinda, Joseph, Eliza Ursula and Missouri is mentioned in the Hair Book. This family member is Ann Nichol. I'm not certain who she is but I believe she may be the "Eliza Ann, infant daughter of Reuben Nichols (deceased)" that is mentioned in the original deed between John Nichols and Wilson Lagow. At the time of her inclusion in the Hair Book she would have been around 11 or 12 years old and would have been Eliza Ursula's first cousin.

Next time, the Plymell family itself (though I've covered them already in some detail and will be highlighting those older posts as well)!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Madness -- Browning Misinformation Soup

I've spent the better part of two days trying to contact everyone on Ancestry that has the misinformation posted about the family of Samuel Browning and Margaret Markee. I've only received two replies and one told me (in a clipped, irritated reply) that it wasn't their fault and that automatically feeds information from Family Trees already in the system to any new ones.

Is this true and does Ancestry actually just place data that's already been input into the family trees of other researchers into your tree without your express permission to do so? If there are any readers that are on Ancestry and build family trees there, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave me a comment and tell me if it's true or was this person just blowing smoke up my you-know-what?

If true, that sounds very counterproductive to me, and that's why I'm not sure I believe it. We all know things are bad enough as they are without developing a environment where unsourced and unproven information leeches through entire systems without checks and balances. Like a virus....

It's driving me crazy!

I finally got sick and tired of posting messages to everyone and just referred them to the following link:

I hope that helps.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The World In Color

I want to share a gallery of photographs I found. It's "The Empire That Was Russia: The Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record Recreated" that you can find here.

As genealogists, we oooh and ahhh over all sorts of old photographs. Catching a glimpse of the corner of a faded sepia-toned photo stuffed in a crumbling album or along the side wall of a g-grandparent's trunk makes our hearts leap with joy and anticipation. What others view as merely a passing curiosity, we treasure. Websites like Maureen Taylor's The Photo Detective, Brett Payne's The Photo Sleuth, and fM's Shades of The Departed are testament to what holding an old photograph means to all of us. We clutch these tangible links to our ancestors eagerly, scouring the foregrounds and backgrounds of each photo for clues and studying each detail with dogged determination. It's forensics to us, isn't it? We look at the curve of each nose or the shape of a chin and compare it to what we see in our mirrors, trying to find the "like-ness" between those long-ago faces and our own.

We spend so much of our time analyzing all the minutia of our pictoral family histories -- Who is that man? Is this person a relative? When was this photo taken? Where? -- that we might let other details slip past us, especially if they are obvious ones. It was one of those obvious details that the gallery of photographs I found today brought to vivid life for me.

Our ancestors lived in a world full of color.

Is it just me, or when you think of your ancestors alive and well, have you also found yourself imagining them moving through a world of shades of browns and greys? Have I alone spent so much time attaching myself to my forebears through old cabinet cards and CDVs that the imprint of these -- and my associations with the people in them -- are toned the same old-timey brown? Oh, of course I rationally KNOW they lived in color! It IS obvious, isn't it? Even saying this aloud here on my blog I'm laughing at myself. But in the hallways of my mind where I store my memories and thoughts and imaginings of the people I sprang from, the only real human intimacies I've had the privilege of having with them have been in black and white.

That's why I think this collection of Russian photos from the early part of this century is so striking. The colors are brilliant! Young and old alike wearing the traditional garb of their times in breathtaking shades of blue, pink, purple and red. The grass is emerald, the earth a deep cocoa, the water cerulean. The process by which Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii accomplished his photography is fascinating and I urge you to go view the images yourself. He photographed the same scene three times in sequence using a red filter, a green filter and a blue filter, intending to blend the three to create color. Wow!

I'm thoroughly fascinated. But I have to confess I've yet to totally adjust to letting color into my imaginings of the world of my forebears. It still doesn't feel quite.....real? Right? I guess I still have some ways to go before I can get that sepia-toned "old" world out of my head.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday -- My Very First Rant!

Disclaimer: I am beginning a rant. Reading this rant implies that you are prepared for angry, insulted, disappointed or frustrated feelings to be aired and written down. This rant will not adhere to all the standard polite societal niceties. You have been warned.

I assume all of us at one time or another have discovered erroneous information about our ancestors floating around the Net, propagated from family tree to family tree on services like GenForum and Ancestry and the like. I've long been aware of the phenomenon and, while irritating, it was an understandable aspect of this ancestoring business. I was able to deal with it in that manner up until now but it's never really hit me like it hit me this weekend. It's been percolating for the last couple of days and I have to admit I'm a little hot under the collar.

What was different? It became personal. How, you say? Well, it wasn't someone else's random family -- it was mine. This time it was about my Samuel Browning and his wife Margaret Markee.

I've been researching Samuel and Margaret for over ten years now. About five years back I wrote a book about them entitled "The Leaves Do All Come Back: The Family and Descendants of Samuel and Margaret (Markee) Browning." It was a small run, self-published book on CD (I wasn't made of money, hah!) that only sold about 30 copies, mostly to cousins and any other family members interested in our lineage. I won't state unequivocally that I'm the foremost expert on this family just because I've published a book, but I can say that unless I'm mistaken I'm about as close as there can be to one.

One of my major goals for this family in the last decade has been establishing proof positive for the parentage of Samuel Browning. As I spoke about in my posts here and here, there's some amount of circumstantial evidence suggesting that Samuel's father may be the John Browning found in the Harrison County (OH) census in 1820. I've had other working theories and other ideas and possibilities bouncing around in my head but that's par for the course when you're trying to find something like this.

This weekend I happened to look at the Ancestry MemberConnect feature and found, to my utter surprise, that apparently MANY people now have Samuel's parents listed as (take your pick) Samuel Baker Browning and Rebecca Shipley, or alternately, Nancy Hobbs!


I looked all around for proof (initially excited that someone, somewhere, had found something I hadn't and I would finally solve my mystery) only to find a convoluted ring of OneTrees and WorldTrees and personal webpages that referred back to OneTrees and.....well, you get the picture. In other words, no actual documentation. Not a speck. Just an initial someone's assumption that Samuel fit somewhere in the Maryland Browning tree and then just throwing him in there and having that somehow became a "fact."

Now my cousin Pat (RIP) owned William N. Hurley's "Our Maryland Heritage, Book 12, The Browning Families," which is a great resource for those of us looking for Brownings. She scoured the book for any clues about families that our Samuel could fit into. We never once saw our Samuel's name in that book and I think sticking him into Samuel Baker Browning's family is presumptive barring documentation to the contrary. If Hurley didn't do it, why should anyone else? Just to say they have another generation back? Grrrr. Don't get me wrong; I do understand this sort of thing often propagates because a lot of people don't care to do the research or are collaterally connected at best. But lest we forget, it had to originate somewhere for it to be passed about like it has been.

All I'm saying is that people need to look and think before they place something like that down; even to the layperson unfamiliar with the Brownings, some of what I read obviously has holes I could drive a truck through. Take Samuel Baker Browning and Rebecca Shipley, for one. Even a cursory look would reveal that Samuel Baker Browning and Rebecca Shipley could almost certainly be eliminated because my Samuel was born around 1796 and this couple didn't even marry until 1807.

The second couple (Samuel Browning and Nancy Hobbs) is a better fit, I'll admit. I don't know where my Samuel was born (MD is all I know) but Samuel and Nancy were married in Maryland in 1792. It's possible. It's equally possible that Meshach Browning's uncle John (listed in Hurley's book, old enough, in the right state, and Hurley does not have any further information for him) could also be Samuel's father. The name is at least a fit for the mysterious John that actually was in Harrison County. In other words, all we really have right now is guesses.

I'd love to be able to go through the internet like the proverbial bloodhound, sniff out all the places where I see this being spread, and inoculate the carriers. I know I can't do that. What I can do, though, is present the information that I have on this family here on my blog and maybe someone doing some serious research will see it.

If anyone has located documentable proof that my Samuel is the son of either one of the couples I mentioned above (or even of an entirely new couple, I'm flexible!) I'd ask them to send it to me posthaste, after which they'd become my new hero and I'd hug them and kiss them and call them George! However, until that happens and such proof is located, these connections sound like a lot of assumption and not much more.

And we ALL know what it means to assume....