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......

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, or Why I Should Stay Away From Cars

At right is the tombstone of Joseph Browning, my g-g-grandfather. Joseph was one of the sons of James Browning and Jane Nevitt (See "The Browning Series: Pt. 1 - James and Jane" in my sidebar for his parents.) I've written about Joseph before; I wrote about his Civil War heroics in this post. I own his original discharge papers and his original National Guard papers as well as a picture taken of him around 1864 when he was in the war. I have all his pension papers and even the pocket watch he used to carry.

Tonight, though, I've chosen not to speak of his interesting life. I'm sure I'll get around to that at some point since he was such a fascinating man and there's always more to say than I have room to! No, tonight I speak of his equally interesting death and how it eerily parallels another of my ancestor's deaths, the death of Robert Elbert Garrard. My grandparents were Virgil Joseph Browning and Beulah Ethel Garrard. Joseph is my grandfather Virgil's grandfather. Robert was my grandma Beulah's father.

The year was 1916. Joseph was 74 years old and living in Palestine, Illinois with his third wife, Francis "Fanny" (Daugherty) Higgins Seaney Browning. According to family tradition he had decided that afternoon to go pick up some things at the local grocery. Palestine is a tiny town now, so I can only imagine its size then. Joseph hopped on his bicycle and began to pedal into downtown. Now I don't know exactly how many cars there were on the road in 1916, but I can't imagine there were enough to put a body in too much danger in a place my dad calls a 'poke and plumb' town -- poke your head out the window and you're plumb out of town. So what were the odds that on this afternoon, Joseph would climb on his bike and get himself struck down in the street by a passing car?

Apparently pretty good. He did exactly that. A young man of 18 named Miles Hughes ran him over but it doesn't appear to have been the young man's fault. It appears that my aged g-g-grandfather turned himself into the path of the vehicle and was struck, breaking his leg and doing enough internal damage that he died 5 hours later of a cerebral hemorrhage. The article about his death was given to me by a cousin whose great-grandfather had saved it all these years. It is shown to the left; click to read!

Fast forward. The year is now 1938. We move to the town of Robinson, about 10 miles west of Palestine. After a leisurely afternoon meal over at her parent's house, my grandma Beulah begins to help her 78-yr old mother Louisa Adaline (Eagleton) Garrard clean up in preparation for a night of visiting. Her 85-year old father Robert Elbert steps out of the house and crosses his front yard to attend to his business in the outhouse.

He is on his way back when tragedy strikes. Across the street a little girl about five or six years old is sitting in the front seat of her father's car, waiting for her daddy to 'wind up' the car. Back then, grandma said, many cars had a crank that you had to wind to get it to go. Her father was cranking up the car and somehow that little girl pushed or pulled or knocked the car out of whatever the old term for 'park' was. It shot out across the street and over the curb and hit Robert as he was re-crossing his lawn to go back inside. He didn't die instantly but he was as internally damaged as Joseph had been. He lasted a few hours before finally passing away.

Now what are the odds of THAT?

Oh, it gets better. When I was 13 I was riding my bicycle home from school. You see where this is going, don't you......?

Yes, I got hit. A man driving a pickup hit me in the middle of the road. I looked both ways that day -- I remember doing so very well, because that was what I always did on that corner. The police said later that he was going about 45 mph and it was lucky I saw him in time to leap off my bike or I might've met the same fate as my two grandfathers. As it was, I suffered a broken wrist and a broken leg. My bike was mush of course. And oh yes, the guy who hit me? His name was Elvis.....

You can't make this stuff up.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Was She Sweet on Him?

A few weeks ago I sent a letter containing three letters written in World War I to the son of the man who wrote them. These letters were stashed away in my grandma Beulah's (whose picture, taken around 1921, is to the right) cedar chest for years and from the first time I read them about ten years ago, I was curious about the letter writer. I'd wondered to myself if I'd ever be able to find any of his descendants.

I have to admit I also wondered about the reasons my grandma kept them. When I began looking at all the letters I noticed that other than the ones written by direct family members and dear girlfriends, the others appeared to be from boys she was sweet on! She had a number of letters from the early 20's from her first love and beau, Cecil Buchanan, and many, many letters written from my grandfather, Virgil Browning.

She had cause to have many of their letters. My grandparents weren't common for the times. Instead of marrying early as so many others did, they were an 'older' couple; they didn't begin dating until 1927 (when Grandma was 26) and didn't marry until 1934. The Depression began and my grandfather was the sole means of support for his grandma and great auntie. Times were tough all over. They decided to "wait it out." Wait it out they did, though by 1933 Grandpa's idea of waiting was apparently much different than Grandma's! Grandma told me she said to Grandpa one evening, "Virgil, I reckon if I let you, you'll wait forever, and I don't aim to wait much longer. I'm not a young woman and if we don't get on and get married, I'll have to be moving along."

They got married a few months later!

That sort of scene was typical of my grandparent's relationship and typical of grandma all the way around. She didn't really enter into my permanent memory until she was already well into her 70's. She was a soft-spoken lady who didn't even stand 5 feet tall. Her patience was long and her disposition was welcoming and loving. She never raised her voice and she pretty much let my grandpa run the day to day doings of their lives. She believed in the biblical idea that the man was the head of the family. I know that Grandpa appreciated this about her and valued her wisdom, though, because on the rare occasions that she would put her foot down -- like the way she said he needed to marry her, or the time they moved to Texas in their 80s and five years later Grandpa wanted to go back home to IL and Grandma said he could feel free to do so but she wouldn't be coming along! -- well, Grandpa always let her have her way. He knew when she meant it.

We all say our grandma is the best cook in the world but I know that mine really was! I'd pester her for her Lemon Cake Pie recipe and she'd write it down for me -- I'd try it and it wouldn't come out right. She'd chuckle and say, "Oh well, that's because you left out the zest!" or "Oops, there is some salt in there, too," when nothing of the sort was written on the card she'd given me! She and I bantered back and forth about her pie. Sly devil. I suspect she enjoyed watching me squirm and I know I enjoyed trying to squeeze her secrets out of her. When she died I found the real recipe in the cedar chest she left me. I tried it and it's like I remember Grandma made it. Every time I take a bite she's there in the taste of it for me. She taught me the only way to eat oatmeal was to put it in the center like an island and float the milk on top of it, not stir it all together into a gushy lump like these silly Texans do. Grandma could make the best gravy in the world and when Grandpa and I would go fishing for bluegill and bass, we'd come in and give her the fish. She'd always fry up my favorite part -- the fish eggs, dipped in cornmeal batter. Oh, and her fried morel mushrooms picked from the woods next door -- heaven. And her sassafras tea was to die for!

But back to her letters. Cecil was her first love and she kept letters from him. The second set of letters I have, from Sgt. Thomas Malone, seem to have a slight air of flirtiness about them from his side. She kept Grandpa's. And then there were Arthur's. Was she sweet on him, possibly? He was a friend of her older brother Raymond, an older boy. She was only 18. It was war time. She kept them because they meant something to her. It could have been a young girl's unrequited crush.

Whatever it was, I'm fairly certain Arthur didn't reciprocate. I have corresponded briefly with Harold, Arthur's son. Harold told me that Arthur's 'Annie' was Millie Anna Shimer, the daughter of John Shimer and Alice Neal. They married very soon after returning home and I doubt that would have happened had he been interested in my grandmother. Harold also informed me that the man in the picture with my great-uncle Raymond in this post is not his father. Rats! Win some, lose some. But on the bright side, he did fill in some more details about Arthur's life. Arthur's mother, Rilla B., was a Bratton. His father was James Wilson (Wilson J.) Creswell.

I recently found a picture of my grandma at 18 wearing her brother's World War I uniform stashed into a gaggle of other photographs. The picture was taken in 1919. I thought it would be apropos to post it here.

We'll never know whether my grandma was sweet on Arthur. I'm just glad that for whatever reason, she kept his letters and I was able to send them to his descendants. I like to think she was. My grandma was an amazing person and thinking about her life being filled with adventures and loves as well as trials and tribulations gives me great peace.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

In Memorium - Patricia Ann (Wickcliffe) O'Connor (1934-2009)

I was writing a post for inclusion here today and I will publish that post tomorrow, though that hadn't been my plan when this day began -- but first things first. I had to take the time today to make a separate post to commemorate a cousin of mine, Patricia Ann (Wickcliffe) O'Connor.

Sometime in 1993 I ran across Pat. She was convinced that her Browning ancestor, John Wesley Francis Browning, was connected to mine. Knowing next to nothing about the Brownings at that time (I wasn't even sure who the "S & M" Browning on my ancestor James' tombstone was!) I replied to her inquiries politely and let her know I didn't have any conclusive proof that she and I were related.

Fast forward to 1995-6. She contacted me again. By this time I'd learned about Samuel and Margaret (the S & M!) and begun to discover more about the women and men their children had married. I'd learned that one of their children was named John Wesley and that he'd married a Corderman girl. In the course of our conversations, Pat mentioned that her ancestor John Wes had married a girl named Matilda Corderman. I sat up and took notice.

Comparisons flew back and forth. Censuses compared. Families connected. After everything was said and done I had one of those Happy Dances that day. I think Pat and I both did.

It was the start of something beautiful. For the next decade the two of us researched the Brownings together. I could never have done some of the work I did without her patience and help and most of all, her perseverance. After all, she'd pursued me, hadn't she? We took a trip back to Crawford County together in the summer of 2001. It was the first time we'd met face to face but it seemed we'd known each other for years.

She brought two remarkable things with her. She brought original vellum patent papers that John Wesley Browning had filed with the government in 1864. John Wes was an engineer and an inventor! She also brought the only other thing she had about him, a picture of him from about the same time period. (I'll feature Pat's ancestor John Wesley in my Browning series -- he was Samuel and Margaret's 11th child -- and at that time I'll delve into the details of these papers and the mystery that surrounds him to this day.) Pat and I spent a week as roommates in our hotel room and although there was over 30 year's difference in our ages we felt like sisters and never ran out of things to say. I had a wonderful time discovering Browning history with her.

I was working on my Browning book at the time while she was busy building a great Browning webpage using our research as a base. (It is listed on the sidebar to my blog as Pat's site.) She gave me encouragement when I felt like throwing in the towel and her independent research on the Markee side gave me excitement of a different sort when she'd locate something fantastic. She was retired and I was a mother with a young daughter. She gave me advice, listened to my worries, absorbed my stresses. She was a sounding board and an astute observer and a fantastic friend as well as a cousin.

In December she emailed me and said she'd been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. We emailed a couple of times after that, but she'd moved to her son's home and she was growing weaker and it was harder for her to communicate. I told her everything I wanted to say to her the last time we spoke in January. She let me know that one of her greatest regrets was that we hadn't been able to prove (though we just "know" it, if you know what I mean) that our Samuel Browning was the son of John Browning (b. 1771-5) who lived in Harrison County in 1820-1830 within six households of our Samuel.

I scheduled a trip back to OH when I heard this from Pat. This is the trip I'm going to take in three more weeks. I wanted to go back and find that proof and give it to her as my last gift to her. I made the trip dates as soon as I could because I was worried that it wouldn't be in time.

I wasn't.

Pat passed away the 17th of March. I received her memorial notice from my ex-husband today (where it had been mailed) since the address Pat had written down next to my name in her address book was my old address from a few years ago.

I'm still going on my trip. I still hope to find that proof. I'll still enjoy the trip but now it's tempered not with the urgency it once had but with sadness and loss. It'll give me one of the biggest Happy Dances of my genealogical life if I do find proof that John and Samuel are father and son but as I dance I'll feel a deep regret that I'm not going to be able to do what I wanted, which was give Pat one of her last wishes. But I do hope that if I find something that wherever she may be now.......she'll know.

I loved you, Pat -- friend, cousin, mentor. Rest In Peace.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Browning Series -- Part One, or James Browning and Jane Nevitt

With this post I begin 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.

My opening salvo is the family of my direct ancestor James Browning, Samuel and Margaret's first born child. James was born on 31 Oct 1815 in Harrison County, OH. I've always suspected that Margaret was pregnant with James before she and Samuel married on 9 Feb 1815 but if not, the poor girl only had a week or so of grace before conceiving!

When James was 14, in 1829, a young girl of 9 named Jane Nevitt became his mother's step-niece. Margaret's brother James Markee had just married Rhoda (Johnson) Nevitt, a widow with two young girls, Mary and Jane. No doubt the two families spent time together and over the years a closeness developed between James and Jane for the couple decided to marry. They were wed on 23 Jun 1839 in neighboring Tuscarawas County, OH by William C. Kennedy, JP. James was 23 and Jane was 19. James had been training to be a cooper before he and Jane married and no doubt his training gave him confidence that he could support a wife and a child. A recording of their marriage license is shown to the left.

Did the couple "have" to get married? Perhaps. Their first born son, Elias, was either born on 18 Apr 1839 or 18 Apr 1840. Lacking a birth certificate, the evidence swings both ways. The date on his tombstone says 1839. The 1850 census, taken in December of that year, lists him as 10 years of age. I can't ever prove it of course, but my own intuition about it all tells me that he was born in 1839 and that's why James and Jane went over to Tuscarawas County to get married. Their families weren't known as well and they could leave the baby behind!

James and Jane lived for a decade in Washington Township near Tippecanoe in Harrison County. The couple had five children there (Elias, Joseph, Thomas N., Sarah Ann and Mary Jane) before becoming the first of the Brownings to move to Crawford County, Illinois. They packed their belongings and arrived there sometime in late 1849 before the birth of their last child, Margaret Ann. They didn't blindly move to a random part of the country -- no, most probably they moved to join Jane’s mother Rhoda and her husband James M. Markee. The elder Markees had made the trip to IL around 1846 to join James’s cousins Samuel, William and John Minard Markee.

James and Jane settled in Montgomery Township in Crawford County and probably wrote home about the land and and its bounty, for they were soon joined by James' parents Samuel and Margaret and nine of their remaining twelve children. Their bliss didn't last long, however; as I mentioned in the last post, an outbreak of yellow fever swept through the country and many people died in those years. It's entirely probable James Browning was one of its victims. He died on 8 August 1852 and was buried in the Browning family plot in the Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Montgomery Township.

After James’s death Jane and her children were left to fend for themselves. Accounts of their life vary. According to their son Thomas Browning’s biographical sketch in Paul Selby’s Crawford County – Biographical, Thomas was “put out among strangers” after his father’s death. It's indicated by their son (and my direct ancestor) Joseph Browning’s obituary, printed in the Palestine Register in 1916, that the family moved to Bristol Landing around the year 1854. Bristol Landing is almost two miles southeast of Palestine IL and is a stretch of land very close to where the Sugar Creek flows into the Wabash River.

The two sons of James and Jane mentioned above, Elias and Joseph, have been featured in my blog before. Remember the civil war mementos my cousin had, here? Elias and Joseph were two parts of that triumvirate that included Jacob Johnson who served together in the Civil War out of a volunteer regiment from Missouri. If you're interested in how their lives meshed in a different way other than that war you should go read that post.

On 21 Jan 1860 Jane married a native of England many years her senior named William Jennings. William and Jane had one son, Richard, in 1861. I found the family in the 1865 IL state census but that's the last time I find Jane anywhere. I can't seem to find her in the 1870 or the 1880 census, which frustrates me to no end! I found her son Richard as a servant in the 1880 census but Jane's nowhere to be found.

The next time I find her is in the Kirk Cemetery in Robinson Township! She died on 3 Feb 1894. I've made a note (one of sooo many in my task list!) to research the local papers to see if I can find her obituary. Perhaps that'll help me add some more color to the last 30 years of her life. Who knows -- maybe I can't find her because she'd married again and moved to Timbuktu? Ahhhhh, supposition! Isn't it lovely?

You can see a list of James and Jane's Browning children on the footer to my blog. I'm sure I'll tell stories about them in future posts, but for now I will supply a small rundown of their marriages. Elias Browning married Sarah Ellen Kent. Joseph Browning -- my direct ancestor -- married Almarena Mathewson. Thomas Newton Browning married Sarah Ann Huls. Sarah Elizabeth married Samuel Selwyn Plummer. Mary Jane married Amos K. Huls, and Margaret Ann married Charles Francis Huls. Five of the six children that James and Jane had took a family photo around 1911 and I have placed a copy of that photo here to the left.

I'll take a moment, though, to list what I know about Richard, Jane's only child with William Jennings. Richard was born 26 Mar 1861 and married Mary Lackey, the daughter of Thomas Lackey and Ann Eliza Boatright, on 26 Nov 1895 in Hardinsville in Crawford County. The couple had no known living children. Richard died on 17 Jun 1938 and Mary died on 3 Jul 1948. They're buried in the Palestine Cemetery in Crawford County.


Other posts featuring this family:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

(Not At All) Wordless Wednesday -- Browning vs. Beck (1837)

The trial I've mentioned in a couple of recent postings (see the post below about my first trip to OH!) will be my focus this evening. This trial was recorded in two parts of the October AD 1837 term of the Harrison County OH Common Pleas court -- on Saturday, October 28th (Vol. D, pg. 131) and Monday, October 30th (Vol. D, pg. 132.) . It was officially called "Samuel Browning vs. James Beck" on page 131.

This case was originally located by a researcher I'd hired years ago.

A transcription of the case (which is at left) follows:

Saturday, October 28th, AD 1837


CASE: This day came the parties by their counsel, and being at issue the following jury was called and came to wit; Zadoc Bliss, James D. Anderson, George Baker, Silvanus Lamb, Elzy Chansy, Peter Barger, Samuel Boland, Alexander Beall, John Layport, Robert Guinea, Ephraim Johnson, William Barrett, who were duly impannelled, tried, sworn and affirmed to try the afor
esaid issue between the said Samuel Browning Plaintiff and James Beck Defendant, and after hearing the evidence adduced and arguments of counsel, as well on part of the plaintiff as the defendant do on their respective oaths & affirmations, say that the said James Beck is guilty in manner & form as the said Samuel Browning above in his declarations hath complained against him, and that they assess the damages the plaintiff hath sustained by reason of the promises at the sum of one hundred dollars.

The court adjourned until 8 o'clock on Monday morning.
At this point in the case, the only reason given for the assessment of $100 against James Beck is "damages" of unknown origin and the details of his guilt are not explained. It appears that this issue was brought up before the 28th, though -- something I intend to look up in the Common Pleas Journal again on my next trip to see if it was!

A page later, on 132, we find the Court re-adjourning. Now the case is entitled "State of Ohio on complaint of Samuel (Samuel is crossed out) Julia Ann Browning vs. James Beck."

Julia? In October of 1837, Samuel's daughter Julia was a single girl, 17 years old. She was Samuel and Margaret's firstborn daughter and was not married until 1843, a full six years after the date of the trial. Why would she be involved? I read the first words of the case and everything suddenly made sense.
Monday morning, 8 o'clock, October 30th, AD 1837
Court met pursuant to adjournment present the same judges as on Saturday the 28th of October instant.

BASTARDY: This day came the parties by their attorneys, and the motion for a new trial in this case having been submitted to the court, and the court being duly advised in the premises, do overrule said motion. And the court do thereupon adjudge the said James Beck the Defendant to be the reputed Father of said bastard child and do order that the said James Beck stand charged with the maintenance thereof as follows to wit: that he pay to the clerk of this court for the time being for the use of the mother of said child or other person having the care or maintenance thereof the sum of fifty-four dollars. And also that he pay weekly into the hands of the clerk of this court for the time being for the use aforesaid the sum of seventy-five cents for the period of five years from the expiration of the term of this court, provided the said weekly payments shall cease in case of the death of the said child, and it is further considered and ordered by the court that the said James Beck pay the costs of this prosecution. And that the said James Beck give Bonds to the Clerk of this court with security to be by him approved conditioned for the performance of the aforesaid orders, and that he stand committed to the Jail of the County until such security be given.
The Defendant by his counsel thereupon gave notice of his intention to appeal to the Supreme Court.

A child support case! Ah ha!!!! A tumbler clicked into place and the identity of a mystery grandson named Washington living with Samuel and Margaret in the 1850 census of Harrison County was finally solved. I'd first thought he was another child of Samuel and Margaret's, possibly a twin brother of Ezra C. 'Zera' Browning. Later -- when I found Washington's gravestone with the inscription, "Grandson of S&M Browning" -- I wondered which child of Samuel and Margaret was his parent. At first I assumed (yes, I know, silly me!) that Wash was a son of one of the elder sons of Samuel and Margaret because his last name was Browning! I calculated Wash's age and looked at all the marriage dates of the boys but found nothing that would match or make any sense as to why Wash was with Samuel and Margaret and not his parents. I recall considering Julia briefly but without any seriousness.

I learned my lesson when this case was located.

I have been told that in the 1830's, the state of Ohio encouraged mothers of illegitimate children to come forth and prosecute the fathers of their children. Apparently the state provided some form of support for these children but if -- and only if -- the fathers could not be found and made to support their offspring themselves. I do not know how accurate this information is, but it certainly makes the reason for this prosecution a little bit clearer.

I began to do some research on the defendant in the case, James Beck -- the man accused and found guilty of being Washington's father (though how they determined this back then I have no idea!) James had to pay an upfront fee of $54 plus a sum to the court of $.75 a week for support for either five years or until Washington died. He also had to pay court costs. Added up, this amounts to well over $154 for the trial and for the judgement! That was a lot of money in 1837.

Note the last sentence: "The Defendant by his counsel thereupon gave notice of his intention to appeal to the Supreme Court." It is this sentence which interests me so much and is a focus of my further research during my upcoming trip. I'd like to know if James pursued it.

I located a James Beck living four doors down from Samuel and Margaret in Moorefield Township in Harrison County in 1830. This James had one male under 5, one male 20-29, one male 70-79, one female 15-19 and one female 20-29. I'm not sure if this is the correct James Beck family and of course we can't determine from this list whether or not this is a 20-something James with a wife, son, father and sister or sister-in-law living with him or not. No James Beck is found in 1840.

Washington's mother Julia was an...interesting....woman in her own right. She was obviously sneaking off as a teenager and whatever the circumstances were, she became pregnant while still unmarried. She either gave Washington to her parents or they required her to leave him with them (though to date, no adoption/guardianship papers have been found) for in 1850 when Washington is enumerated with Samuel and Margaret, Julia is in neighboring Tuscarawas County living with her husband John Hoy, their two children Samuel and William, and is pregnant with her fourth child, Josephine. Julia and John were rooming with Julia's sister Margaret and her husband, John's younger brother James Hoy.

By 1855, Julia had moved to Crawford County, Illinois. She was living with her parents and her husband John is nowhere to be found. Her sons Samuel and William Hoy are with her, but her daughter Josephine and husband John were dead. By 1860 Julia had married again in Crawford County to James E. Melton Legg and they are living with Melton's four children, but Julia's two older sons William and Samuel Hoy are once again living with their grandparents.

In 1869, Julia dies. She is buried in the Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Montgomery Township, Crawford County, Illinois. Her tombstone is to the left. She rests next to her parents, siblings, and one other; her illegitimate son, Washington.

The subject of the case -- Washington -- was born on 24 March 1837. Julia was 16. Washington lived with his grandparents his whole life as far as I have been able to ascertain.

Washington moved to Crawford County, Illinois with Samuel and Margaret and died on 4 June 1854 at the age of 18, less than a month before his aunt Sarah Ann Browning. Sarah died on 1 July 1854. There was an outbreak of yellow fever between the years of 1852-1854 in Crawford County. Perhaps Washington and his aunt Sarah were two of its victims.

A Handy Mapping Tool -- Historical Aerials!

Here's a short post to highlight something I found today that might be of interest to some of you. There is a great little mapping tool here at that features historical aerials of many areas all across the United States. They only seem to go back to to mid-40's and 50's in most of the areas I poked around in but it appears that other, older parts of the country may see images as early as 1931! This might be helpful to you folks who have addresses for your parents and grandparents and you'd like to see what their surroundings looked like at the time they resided there.

You can even order prints!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - The McConnells (And My First Trip Back to Their Home)

The tombstone(s) featured for tonight's edition of Tombstone Tuesday really aren't tombstones at all. There aren't any of John Coleman McConnell and his wife Rachel Browning. Their burial location -- in the tiny, mostly-hidden McConnell cemetery right outside of Tippecanoe, Harrison County, OH -- lies directly behind that of their son Theodore McConnell, the stone that is seen in the picture. We know this because Theodore directed that he "be laid at the feet of his sainted mother," and Rachel's will dictated that she be laid beside her husband.

Rachel's husband John Coleman McConnell was the son of Robert MConnell and Prudence Coleman. John was born 1 January 1807 in Belmont Co., OH and died 18 July 1873 in Harrison Co., OH. Rachel was the sixth child of Samuel Browning and Margaret Markee and was born 25 January 1825 in Athens Twn in Harrison County, OH. She died in November of 1902 in Washington Twn. in Harrison County. John and Rachel were married by R. K. Price, JP in the county on 9 April 1848.

I located the McConnell Cemetery and took this picture during my first trip to Harrison County last August. It was one of the two highlights of the trip for me. Of the thirteen children of Samuel and Margaret, one of Rachel's sisters moved to Kansas and a brother to Indiana but Rachel was the only one to choose to stay in Ohio with her husband. The other ten moved to Crawford County, IL, with their parents and cousins.

I imagine sometimes how hard that must've been, to watch your entire family ride away. I know they kept in touch -- one of Rachel's sons went to Kansas to work a summer on his aunt's farm and one of Rachel's Illinois nieces came to stay a while with her and her husband John -- but for the most part, Rachel was alone; bereft of her Browning kindred. She did, however, have nine children and a husband to keep her busy!

The story of finding the cemetery is what I'm here to tell today, though. I'd done the research to ascertain its location before going to OH. My parents and daughter and I drove around the backroads for a few hours and during one go-round I happened to see a farm with a sign that said "McConnell" on it. We got out and knocked on the farm door but no one answered; it looked abandoned. Adjacent to the farmhouse was a ramshackle building made of hand-hewn wooden beams that looked like it might've once been an old home. I walked around to the back and took a picture of the building before heading back to the car.

We drove around another hour up and down the road the cemetery was supposed to be on without any luck. Finally, as we again passed the farm with the building, my father said, "Let's just go up the hill here and stop and ask at the first house we see." It sounded like a plan. We pulled in to the first house on the hill and I got out, knocked on the door, introduced myself and explained that we were looking for the old McConnell cemetery. The lady looked surprised and asked me to tell her who we were looking for. I told her Rachel Browning and her husband John McConnell. The lady just shook her head. "Well, I reckon I know them. John and Rachel were my husband's great-great-grandparents."

Holy cow, I was flabbergasted! Talk about serendipity! She invited us in and she showed me a xeroxed copy of an old picture of John Mcconnell. She said the original was in the hands of another McConnell and it was in an oval frame and couldn't be removed for fear of damaging it. She gave me his name and number as well as the name and number of yet another McConnell researcher. Then she told me her husband was the caretaker of the McConnell cemetery and she'd direct us to its location.

When we got there we saw why we hadn't seen it and would've never seen it if we'd never taken a chance and stopped and asked. The cemetery was tucked way back in the woods and practically invisible from the road. A 'fence' made of blocks ringed its boundaries. My daughter and I climbed the hill. It was too steep for my parents so they rested in the car while I took pictures and sat amongst the leaves for a while. I was thrilled beyond belief to be at the resting place of another of Samuel and Margaret's children.

Counting Rachel I've now stood in front of seven of them (James, Elias, Julia, Rachel, Sarah, Ezra and Edward.) I have pictures of one other (Susannah) and I know where two others (Absalom, Samuel J.) are possibly buried. The resting places of the last three (Margaret, Asbury T. and John Wesley) are currently unknown.

Before I left my cousin's home to go in search of the cemetery she said one more thing to me. She told me to go back down to the McConnell farm and take a look at the old building. I said I had, and she said, "Good. That's where John and Rachel lived. John built it with his own hands." I was so glad I'd taken that picture! The picture above and to the left is the house.

To think.....what if we'd never went and knocked on that door? I wouldn't have found Rachel's resting place. Wouldn't have known I was looking at her home. Wouldn't have been able to see a picture of her husband. And on my next trip next month....I wouldn't have new cousins to meet!


Monday, March 23, 2009


I'm preparing to go to northwestern OH in the next three weeks for a well-deserved respite. I'm sooooo excited! It's a dual purpose trip -- half is a visit with family, the other half a research trip. For the next couple of weeks my posts will be lighter here since I'll have to use the two precious hours I have in the evening after work to pour over my decades' worth of notes/papers/clutter, etc., and decide what things are most important for me to research while I'm there.

Before I do, though, I simply must say something about serendipity.

When I began research on my Browning family back in the early 1990's my immediate family was only partially interested. My grandmother was quite interested, my parents were somewhat interested, and my younger brother not at all. He was a world traveller who at first never intended to settle down. He eventually married but his wife was cut from the same cloth that he was. They established a company that could travel with them and traveled all over, living in poorer countries and in remote locations for months on end.

A few years ago they finally decided to put down roots and when they did, they decided to focus on an area of the country within a few hours drive of a city that they did a lot of business in every year. They did a search on the Net and eventually chose a place that had one of the lowest crime statistics and median home prices they could find in the area. They moved there and searched for a house, finally finding a lovely turn of the century home for a very good price. Soon thereafter he and I were talking about his choice and he asked me if I'd ever heard of the city he chose. When he told me the name, my heart skipped a beat.

Heard of it? HEARD OF IT? Had I ever! By a fluke of fate he'd chosen a place in OH about an hour away from the ancestral home of the Browning family! Our Brownings had settled in and around Tippecanoe and Deersville in Harrison County, OH in the early 1800's and had lived there until around 1851 when they moved on to Crawford County, IL.

I was struck then by the sense that a circle had semi-closed and I still think about it now. My own desire to return to Crawford County pulls at me all the time. I wonder about the choice my brother made and if it had been simple coincidence or something more. Synchronicity, perhaps? He didn't know his ancestors had lived there; he just chose it out of a hat. Or did it choose him?

Regardless, I'm thrilled to have a family member live so close to the area where our Brownings lived. I'm able to stay with him and visit while I do research. I'm so looking forward to this second trip there because I intend to tie up many loose ends that I didn't get a chance to try to tie up on my first trip there. That first trip -- last August -- was with my parents and my daughter and it was more a 'vacation' than a research trip. I couldn't simply take off all day doing research because there were other people to consider. Not so on this trip! That's why I need to do some proper preparation.

On this upcoming trip I have two things on the agenda for sure. One, I'll get to meet one of Samuel Browning's other descendants -- our ancestors were brother and sister -- and I look forward to being able to take a picture of the oval-framed old picture he has of my Samuel's son-in-law. Two, I intend to stop off at the State Archives in Columbus and try to find out if a court case that Samuel and his daughter Julia filed against a man named James Beck in 1837 actually did go to the Ohio Supreme Court. At the conclusion of the Harrison County trial, Beck mentioned his intent to take it there. I'd like to see if he did.

I should write about the trial and my last trip to OH back in August before I go on this one because that one had a few coincidental moments, genealogically speaking, as well. I'll do that this evening if I can find the time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday Night Fun - Your Paternal Grandmother's Patrilineal Line

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings puts together Saturday Night Fun every Saturday and this week's looked like fun:

Provide a list of your paternal grandmother's patrilineal line.
Answer these questions:

* What was your father's mother's maiden name?

* What was your father's mother's father's name?

* What is your father's mother's father's patrilineal line? That is, his father's father's father's ... back to the most distant male ancestor in that line?

* Can you identify male sibling(s) of your father's mother, and any living male descendants from those male sibling(s)? If so, you have a candidate to do a Y-DNA test on that patrilineal line. If not, you may have to find male siblings, and their descendants, of the next generation back, or even further.

Let's's mine!

* My father's mother was Beulah Ethel Garrard (1900-2002), born in Robinson, Crawford Co., IL.

* My father's mother's father's name was Robert Elbert Garrard (1853-1938), born in Honey Creek Twn., Crawford Co., IL.

* His father was William A. Garrard (1822-1864), born in Hardinville, Crawford Co., IL

* His father was William Garrard (ca 1793-??), born in KY.

* Beulah Ethel Garrard had two brothers -
** Ralph Earl Garrard (1891-1970), who had two sons, one b. 1939, one b. 1942.
** Raymond Orlond Garrard (1892-1987), who had one son b. 1925.

From this, I can see at least two and possibly three living male relatives on the Garrard side who could contribute samples of their Y-DNA markers. I am not sure if Ralph or Raymond's sons had any sons because my database shows only daughters.

I am interested in getting my father tested for our Browning line. Since my father is a direct male descendant of Samuel Browning, and is the only one I know of other than my own brother, I'd best get on this fast! I think a Christmas present idea just occurred to me, though I'm not sure if it's for my dad or for me! Ha!

Thanks for the fun, Randy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

(Not At All) Wordless Wednesday -- Civil War Mementos

The three items featured in this picture belong to my cousin Linda and are from three men -- all from Crawford County, Illinois -- that served together in the same company in the Civil War: Company H in the 11th Regt of Missouri Infantry.  These three men were boyhood friends and brothers and their lives would become entangled in many other ways other than their shared service.

The first item -- a Civil War era bible -- belonged to Elias Browning, a Corporal in Company H. Elias was my cousin Linda's great-great-grandfather. According to her family tradition, Elias carried this bible with him during his service. The bible was most likely given to him by his sweetheart, Sarah Ellen Kent. Sarah and Elias married in 1866 soon after the war was over.

The second item is a bowtie worn by a man named Jacob Cyrus Johnson, who also served as a Private in Company H. Jacob and Elias had been best friends since boyhood.

The third and last item is the handkerchief that the bible and the bowtie are sitting on. It was worn around the neck of Joseph Browning, Elias Browning's younger brother by two years. Joseph was a Sergeant in Company H.

The three men fought together in the siege of Vicksburg.  According to Jacob Johnson's testimony in his pension records and information in his obituary, Elias and Joseph were on the field when Jacob fell, seriously wounded through the neck which caused paralysis in his left arm.  Elias and Joseph carried Jacob off the field and as they did so Joseph pulled off his handkerchief and held it to Jacob’s neck to staunch the bleeding. This quick thinking helped save Jacob’s life.  Jacob was treated at Overton Hospital in Memphis, TN from 28 May 1862 to 17 Aug 1863.

Family lore says the handkerchief shown in the picture is the one Joseph used to save Jacob. You can't really see it in the picture but it is stained in places, a bit to the right under the bowtie and around the bible but elsewhere as well.

But this battle wasn't the end to the connection between the Browning boys and Jacob Johnson. In 1869 Elias died from complications from the dysentery he'd contracted during his service. He left his wife Sarah with two young children, Thomas Marion and Eliza Jane, to raise on her own. Jacob, meanwhile, had married Harriet Norton in 1869 but their marriage was a short one for Harriet died in 1871. Jacob was then also left with two young children to raise on his own. Jacob went and asked for Sarah's hand and -- best friends with Elias 'til the end -- he married Sarah in 1872 and raised Elias' children as his own. Jacob and Sarah never had any children of their own but they raised their four combined children together -- Thomas M. and Eliza Jane Browning, and Orren and Ida Johnson. They had a long marriage. Jacob died in 1916 and Sarah followed in 1931.

Joseph married Almarena Mathewson in 1866 and they were married until her death in 1886. Joseph married twice more -- to Harriet Berlin and then to Frances Daugherty -- and died in a bicycle accident in 1916. He was run over by a car. Yes, you heard right. 1916.

Joseph was my great-great-grandfather on my paternal side. I find it quite ironic that he was killed by an automobile, as my paternal great-grandfather Robert Elbert Garrard was also struck and killed by a vehicle in 1938. To make matters worse I seem to have "inherited" this quality, though unlike both my ancestors, it didn't result in my death. I was hit by a car on my bicycle when I was a young teen and broke my wrist and my leg. I was lucky, they said. I'd say so!

Joseph and Elias Browning were the sons of James Browning and Jane Nevitt. I'll be blogging about them soon!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - Joseph and Delinda (Plymell) Nichols

It seems a lot of my time on this blog recently has been taken up with the Plymell family and their relations. I'm not exactly sure why that's been happening since the major focus of my research (as well as the impetus for beginning this blog!) has been my Brownings.

However, I'm a firm believer in the idea that you go where these things lead you and lately they've been pointing me towards Plymells. So be it!

The headstone to the left is the stone marking the final resting place of Joseph Nichols and his wife Delinda Jane Plymell. They are my third great-grandparents. This stone is in the New Hebron Cemetery in Honey Creek Twn., Crawford County, Illinois.

Joseph's already been featured on this blog with a post; you can find it here. Delinda has been mentioned a couple of times before as well -- if the Man With The Fiddle from the post below is indeed George Edward Vane, then he would have been Delinda's nephew.

I have spoken a few places about Delinda's as-yet-unproven Indian heritage. According to descendants of her brother James Fuller Plymell, Fuller's children and family members claimed Indian descent from the Wyandot tribe although they refused to make it "official" by going through the government. I heard something slightly different in my family. In mine, it was that Delinda's mother Margaret was half Iroquois. (I have since learned that the Wyandot tribe is of Iroquoian extraction.)

I remember going over to my grandparent's house when I was young -- the house that Joseph Nichols built with his own hands, though I didn't realize it at the time -- and being fascinated by two large oval-framed pictures hanging on the walls. One was of an old man holding a little boy in a dressing gown. I was sufficiently awed at being told that little boy was my grandfather. It paled in comparison, though, to the other person in the other oval frame, Joseph's wife Delinda. My grandfather would say, "That's my great-grandmother Delinda. She was a Plymell. She was also Indian. Iroquois Indian. Can't you see it in her face, Patti?"

I would stare for a long time looking at her. Something about her bearing fascinated me and even slightly scared and intimidated me. With my peaches and cream complexion and red hair, I simply couldn't believe she was related to me. Her coloring was dark; I pictured ramrod straight black hair pulled back into that bun at the nape of her neck. Though she looked very tired she still held her head up so proudly. Her cheekbones were sky high, and her eyes! Deep set and intense. Her eyes, I imagined in my youthful feverish way, were those of a hidden warrior princess imprisioned in the trappings of a gingham dress.

Yes, grandpa, I can see it! I would always say. It was our ritual. And as I write this post, all I have to do is look up over my computer desk and hanging on my wall, still in its same oval frame, is Delinda's picture. Those intense eyes look down on me still. The picture I've posted above and to my right is a smaller version of the photo in the oval frame and without the artist's inkings added to it.

She does look Indian. Doesn't she? Or is it just my still-youthful, feverish imagination?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Man with The Fiddle

I like this picture. Too bad I don't know for sure who this man is. The picture itself and some background about my family history provides me with some definite clues to his identity and I think I can therefore narrow it down a bit.

I start with looking at the picture itself. The man is holding a fiddle. Someone correct me if it's actually a violin (since I'm no musician) but the way he's holding the bow seems more like a fiddle player would hold it. There's no apparent chin rest on the instrument.

The background is obviously a backdrop; look at the line it makes behind the chair legs. The man's clothing looks homemade. His pants are striped or corded and "bootcut," or narrow to the ankle. The boots are working boots, scuffed and worn. His coat and vest look like wool or some other sort of heavy fabric. He doesn't have a collar sticking out of his shirt, but that necktie! It's polka-dotted! And his hair is oiled and parted to the side. It looks like the tail of an otter got oiled and plopped on top of his head, poor boy. I know he was gussying up for the camera but it still makes me giggle.

He looks about twenty years old, maybe twenty-five at most. Though his tie and his hair seem to date the photo to the late 1860's, I'm thinking I might move that date up to the early 1870's. I say that for two reasons. When you turn the picture over, it says, "D.H. Hill, Arcadia, Kansas." I googled D.H. Hill in the hopes that I could narrow down the date range of the shot that way but came up with nothing. I'd love to find the photographer, but I can still fill in some blanks with my family history.

Around 1872, the Vane family moved to Arcadia, Kansas. John Vane and his wife Adaline Plymell had five children that I know of, but only two of their boys would be old enough to be the subject of this photo. Martin Luther was born c1850 but died prior to 1860 so he can be ruled out immediately. The other two are William Wiley Shannon Vane, who was born c1852, and George Edward Vane, born in 1853. (I featured the other two siblings of this family in a recent post; see Cymantha and William James Vane below.)

Not much is known about William Wiley Shannon, except that he married Augusta King. As for George, he did some traveling, probably for work -- he was in Labette County, Kansas in 1880 as a boarder and he was in Newton County, Missouri as a laborer in 1900. George never married and died of drospy in 1903 in Arcadia in the home of his sister Cymantha Curnutt. He was buried in the Old Arcadia Cemetery on his 40th birthday.

There are a few of the sons of William Wallace Plymell, Adaline Plymell Vane's brother, that would be about the right age and who also moved to Kansas in the early 1870's. I don't know enough about these boys to completely eliminate them. However, the 1875 Kansas state census shows Wallace and his boys (John Catlett, Cordova and Lyman) in Sumner County, Kansas. John C. was age 24, Cordova was age 21, and Lyman was age 19. This picture could be any of these boys if they happened to be in Arcadia when the picture was taken. Lastly, a note written on the back of the picture of Cymantha and William James Vane mentions that the Plymell boys were in Wichita in neighboring Sedgwick County. I've already dated the writing on that picture to the mid to late-1870's era.

Given this information, I lean heavily towards the supposition that the mystery man here is George Edward Vane. Was traveling George a fiddle player? I don't know. But if this picture was taken around 1873, our George would be 20 years old. It fits. What do you think?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Back Up Plans

I was reading some other geneablogs today (thanks to Kay B here) and ran across the following mention to Genea-Bloggers and their Data Backup Day March Madness.

Create a post at your geneablog about either a data loss you experienced with
your research data or what you’ve done to prevent data loss… So, are you
prepared in case your hard drive fails? Or there is a fire or some other natural
disaster? What would you lose if you could not get to your research? And how
long would it take to reconstruct that data from scratch?

Data loss, hm? Yes, I have a story about that and I remember it well.

My best friend gave me a laptop back in 1993. I adored it. I installed a little program called The Master Genealogist (LOVE LOVE LOVE that program!!) on it and began my genealogical work on it. I backed up my data here and there onto floppy drives but for the most part I was unschooled in the frailties of the hardware I depended on. Like many people do with all things mechanical and technical that surround them, I simply expected it to work.

Until one day, about five years into my genealogical research, it just didn't.

Oh, the caterwauling! In a panic I searched for my floppies. It'd been a while since I'd backed up and for the life of me, I could not find them. We'd moved, I'd had my daughter, my life was all topsy-turvy....and they were gone as well. I finally resigned myself to the losses (let's not go into how long that took me or the things I said between the time I lost the data and the time I finally did so) but I decided to keep the dead laptop. I kept it on the off chance that someday, someone would come along who might be able to pull the data off my hard drive, assuming it was still good. I didn't have the money to get it taken in at the time (new kid, one less job, etc.) and every time I'd get enough something would come know how it is.

Finally someone came along. I took it in and heard the worst sort of news. Data gone. Laptop hard drive deader than a doornail. I'd been continuing my research in the intervening years but still mourned the loss of a lot of my original data. I hadn't yet roused myself enough to start again from scratch but I was just about at that point when Fate decided to stop having me for breakfast and just give me a break. We'd packed up to move (again) and in the packing I found my box of floppies! Whooooo hoooo! The restore worked but the latest floppy I found was a backup I'd done about three years before my data went kaput. Better than nothing! All in all I lost those three years of work, but I felt I could rebuild from there and I did so.

Never again, I swore. Never again. It was a hard lesson to learn but it sure was a powerful one. And so far, never again. I back up on my Seagate. I back up on a zip drive and back up on two different flash drives I carry with me. I back up on my regular computer and back up on my other system I am currently building. I have burned CDs in a safe deposit box. The only thing I have yet to do is store my data on the web. That'll happen at some point.

I have yet to scan in every old picture and document I have. I'm in the process of doing so and once I get that done it'll all be backed up again in as many ways as I can do it.

Never again!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

(Not At All) Wordless Wednesday -- Clementine Mae (Hamilton) Depperman Bernier

Wordless? Riiiiight. Not happening!

To the left is the wedding announcement of Clementine Mae Hamilton to Robert Bernier. The couple was married in 1948.

Clementine was my grandmother. It is interesting to me that this article listed her as "Miss," implying she'd never been married before her marriage to Robert. In fact, she had. She'd been married to my grandfather, Franklin Depperman, and they'd divorced around 1944. Clementine and Frank had two children before they did so; my mother and her brother.

Clementine went on to have five more children with Robert. These children are my half-aunts and half-uncles though I've never met any of them. Take that back....when I was seven or eight I remember going with my mother to visit Clementine and I believe one or two of her sons were there at the time. I could be mistaken about that memory because as I said, I was very young. My mom had seen Clementine briefly as a child from time to time but that visit was the first time she and my mom had actually met face to face as two adults. I wish I'd been old enough to pay more attention to that meeting instead of occupying myself playing in the front room of Clementine's house.

Clementine wrote my mother for a while but eventually the letters stopped coming. Years later, in the late 1990's, I located her again and we corresponded a bit. The letters to me stopped coming eventually as well. I did not even find out she'd died in 2002 until last year.

I suppose this sounds sad, and in a way it is. I never got to really know my grandmother. My grandfather remarried and the woman he married -- Pearl -- she was my "grandmother" for all intents and purposes though she was as aloof in her way as my grandfather was in his.

In another way, it isn't sad at all. Though my grandmother by blood, Clementine never "felt" like my grandmother in spirit. She seemed warm and loving but she was always very apologetic and I think she always felt the need to apologize and/or explain her actions. She didn't really need to. To my mother, of course, but not to me. Knowing my mother's family like I do I completely understand how Clementine, a shy 20-year old girl, would have felt going up against the proverbial irresistible force in the person of my great-grandmother, Franklin's mother. Many older and wiser people were powerless against her and Clementine just didn't know how to wage that kind of war. She didn't belong in that family anyway. That family would eat kids like her for dinner. I'm glad she got out when she did.

Still, Clementine's people are my people. I share blood with her sons and her daughters. I'd like to find them someday and begin a dialogue.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - Sweet Sweet Jane (b. & d. 1859) and Olive (1834 -1858)

Today's stone is actually two. One (the small stone leaning over on the left of this picture) is a small, partially buried stone in the New Hebron Cemetery in Crawford County, Illinois. It is the final resting place of Jane, the first of the three girls born to Joseph Nichols and Delinda Jane Plymell.

Jane was born on 4 May 1859 and died a week later on 11 May 1859. Her stone is covered with the grime of age and it leans backward, as if it is tired. It feels like such a sad little stone to me.

It's not as sad as the stone that rests to Jane's right, though. Jane's aunt Olive Ann Plymell is buried there. Olive's stone sunk into the ground a long time ago and then the top part cracked and snapped off in the center. When I was there last August I managed to dig half of it up but the other half has sunken so deep that it would take more effort and tools than I had available to me at the time.

Luckily Burl Rich in Crawford County had transcribed this cemetery in 2002, seemingly prior to the damage that Olive's stone has undergone. According to this site, it says:

Plymell, Olive Ann
Dau. of J&M
died February 3, 1858
aged 23Y 6M 22D

That puts Olive born about 1834. Olive was Delinda Jane's sister and both were daughters of James Plymell and his wife Margaret. We don't know Margaret's last name or if she even had one -- I'd always been told that Margaret's father was Iroquois. Other Plymell researchers are looking into it but as it stands now, my family's lore appears fairly accurate. Other Plymell branches from James and Margaret have more direct avenues of information and say that she was actually half Wyandot. You can read more about the origins of the Wyandot people at Wikipedia, but basically they were of Iroquoian extraction, a blend of the Huron Confederacy peoples and their Petun (Tobacco People) neighbors. It's a very interesting read!

The James and Margaret Plymell family originally lived in Delaware County, Ohio, and then moved onward into Marion County. Delinda Jane was born in Delaware County in 1822. James and Margaret were buried in Marion County, Ohio. Soon thereafter their children came to Crawford County.

Sweet, sweet Jane. And Olive too.

The Genealogy Junkie True Confessions

Randy Seaver from Genea-Musings (see sidebar) has a Saturday Night Funtime tradition and his latest one was the following:

The Assignment: Answer These Questions about Your Genealogy Life

As usual, I feel like Rabbit from Winnie The Pooh. Wasn't he always rushing about yelling "I'm late! I'm late?" Well, I am. Aaaagain. So here are my answers!

1. When did you start genealogy research?

1992, when I was pregnant with my daughter. Lots of time on my hands then!

2. Why did you start doing research?

My grandmother was my inspiration. After my grandfather died, my then 90-year old grandmother decided to remain alone in their home. I lived in the same town as she did but my parents lived about an hour away so they made it clear to me it was my responsibility to check on her daily. At the age of 22 that wasn't exactly the most exciting assignment, let me tell you! We'd never grown close -- the age difference between my grandparents and I was even greater than most and seemingly insurmountable then. I thought, if I got up early and went for breakfast, I could visit shorter amounts of time and my excuses for leaving would be better ones! So that's what I did.

But life has a funny way of turning out in ways you don't expect. I went for breakfasts. Grandma would make me coffee, eggs and oatmeal and we'd talk. At first they were rather stilted conversations because at 22 everything was about me. I suspect grandma pulled out her old boxes full of pictures because of the lapses in conversation, or maybe it was because when she'd tell me things like her mother was a Quaker or that her father was a tintyper, I showed a little bit of interest.

The clincher was when she handed me a paper written by my grandfather. On it were tombstone transcriptions of my Browning relatives from a cemetery in Crawford County. She told me that grandpa had always wondered who these people were. It wasn't long before I began to wonder as well.

3. What was your first big success in research?

Discovering who the "S & M Browning" written on my Browning tombstones were.

4. What is your biggest genealogy regret?

Up until recently, that I'm not able to sit down with my grandfather and tell him all the things that I've discovered about his family. He was interested in genealogy and researched his own roots, things I never knew about him when he was alive. Though he and I were close we never really talked because I was young and too wrapped up in my own little world to pay attention. I'd pay attention now.

I suspect that my biggest genealogical regret will be coming soon, if it isn't already here unbeknownst to me. A researcher and cousin I've worked with and have developed a friendship with has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Her deepest regret is not being able to prove that the John Browning found living in Harrison County in 1820 (though Ancestry doesn't show him or Samuel it's a database error -- I have the original) is our Samuel Browning's father. I would LOVE to prove this before she goes. I'm making a trip back to OH in April and I am hoping to find something then but I fear April may be too late. I haven't heard from her in a month or two. It could already be too late.

5. What are you best known for in the genealogy world?

I wrote a book on my Browning family that I self-published on CD for family members and other interested parties. It took eight years of research and much more in sweat equity. Worth every penny.

6. What is your professional status in genealogy?

Intermediate-skill family historian and researcher. I have no professional credentials whatsoever, though I've done a few paying gigs for clients.

7. What is your biggest genealogy achievement?

See #5 above, I'd think. That, or reuniting two long-lost family members after more than 60 years apart. I've been told by one of the ladies' nephews that I should consider that my greatest achievement. He says there is no way to measure the enrichment of their lives in their golden years because of this. I'm thrilled and humbled that my actions have meant so much.

8. What is the most FUN you've had doing genealogy?

Other than the happy dances of new research or informational victory? Meeting cousins and introducing them to each other, going on trips and feeling instant camraderie, and of late, beginning a blog! It's a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

9. What is your favorite genealogy how-to book?

Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, followed closely by Ohio Genealogical Records.

10. What notable genealogist would you like to meet someday?

Elizabeth Shown Mills

Sunday, March 8, 2009

World War I Letters -- Arthur B. Creswell

As I mentioned in a post early last week (see March 2) I've taken the time to read through the letters my grandmother Beulah received from servicemen in World War I. I was surprised to find that instead of writing to one serviceman, my grandmother had written to two! So, first things first -- in this installment, we explore the first set of letters.

The first set, consisting of three letters, was written by a man named Arthur B. Creswell, a Private in Battery F, 311th Field Artillery of the American Expeditionary Forces. The first is dated 29 Jan 1919 and was sent from Benoite Vaux, France. The second is postdated 31 Mar 1919 and was sent from Pont sur Meuse, France. The third is dated 10 May 1919 and was sent from the port of St. Nazaire, France. He says he is stationed at a camp that looks like it is spelled Camp Guehrie? (If anyone can help me with the name of the camp that'd be great. I've tried to locate a camp with similar name online with no luck so far.)

Arthur was the friend of my grandmother's brother that I mentioned in a previous post. He and my great-uncle Raymond Orlond Garrard (Grandma's brother) were in the same unit and the two of them were two of what came to be known as "Doughboys." The letter of 29 Jan 1919 mentions that the unit had been heading up to Germany with a convoy of horses and mules and that my great-uncle Raymond got sick in Luxembourg and had to go to the hospital. Arthur says that it was his understanding that Raymond had been transferred to another outfit. The next letter (31 March 1919) mentions that Raymond had rejoined the 311th a few days prior. Arthur also says that a week before they'd moved to Pont sur Meuse and are near a city named Comeroy and that in the next week they would be moving back to the place they'd been in January (though he is not more specific about this.) In the last letter (10 May 1919) Arthur says he expects to be called back to the USA any day now and that of all the time he'd spent in France, St. Nazaire was the most beautiful place he'd seen.

Enclosed in the last letter (the one dated in May) was a photo negative. I scanned it and did a negative reversal on it and ended up with the picture you see on the right. The man to the left in the picture is my great-uncle Raymond. I'm not sure, but since the negative was tucked into the envelope, perhaps the man standing next to Raymond is Arthur? Perhaps this picture was taken of the two before they headed off to France in the war. Then again, it might have been taken in France before they headed home. I'll never know.

I discovered a wonderful short book written about the 311th by William Elmer Bachman called "The Delta of the Triple Elevens." You can download it for free here. Bachman says that the 311th left France on 14 May 1919 (Arthur had been right in his guess after all!) on the USS Edward Luckenbach and finally sighted land in the harbor in New York on 27 May at 5 pm in the evening.

There had to be no sweeter sight in the world to those homesick boys than the Statue!

Arthur's draft registration papers are on He signed them on 17 Jun 1917. He describes himself as an oil well driller, age 28, tall, with a medium build and black hair and black eyes. Black eyes? He must mean brown, surely?

Anyway, Arthur was born in Palestine, Crawford County, Illinois, on 4 Sept 1888. He was the son of James Wilson (Wilson J.) Creswell and his wife Rilla B., maiden name unknown at this time. After the war Arthur went back home to Crawford County and by the 1920 census he is found living in LaMotte Township, married to a girl named Annie. He sure didn't waste any time, did he? The couple have no children at that time but by 1930 Arthur and Annie have moved to Honey Creek Township and have a 4 year old son named Harold.

I went to the social security death index and found that Arthur had received his last social security benefits in Eddy County, NM. I looked in Find-A-Grave and found both he and his wife Millie Anna buried in the Twin Oaks Memorial Park in Artesia in Eddy County. Annie was born in 1893 and died 31 Jan 1964. Arthur died on 29 May 1970. I've included the pictures of their tombstones and I thank Delma Ingram at Find-A-Grave for posting them. Arthur's is a World War I memorial grave and I like knowing that I have what is written on his tombstone, written in his own hand.

(By the way, Find-A-Grave is a great resource and a fabulous service and I've made it a point to volunteer my time for them before. I need to make an effort to post all my relatives' stones there and I encourage everyone else to do so as well! If Delma hadn't done what she did I might still be wondering where Arthur rested.)

I still don't know Millie Anna's maiden name since I haven't had much luck finding it in the IL State Marriage Index database on the ISA website. I also wonder if Arthur and Annie's son Harold had any children. Now that I know that Arthur and Annie went to New Mexico, I also wonder, when did they move there? Did Harold go with them or was he old enough to have stayed in the Crawford County area? Always questions.

I'd sure like Arthur's letters to go home.

The next installment will be about the second set of letters my grandmother received from a serviceman. This set has presented much more of a challenge to me. My grandmother didn't know this boy.

UPDATE (9 Mar 2009): I have located Harold, Arthur's son. I will be sending his father's letters to him sometime this week. I hope he enjoys them!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

(Not At All) Wordless Wednesday -- The Vane Children (c1869)

Wordless Wednesday again! Wordless? Riiiiiiight. Not happening!

The picture to the right is of Cemantha Jane Vane and her younger brother William James, called "Chimie" on the photo (which I believe is a phonetic rendering of the nickname 'Jimmy.') These two are the children of John Vane and Adaline Plymell. John and Adaline were married on 2 Nov 1848 in Crawford County, Illinois, and moved to Arcadia, Crawford Co., KS around 1872. The couple had five known children -- Martin Luther, William Shannon, George Edward, Cemantha Jane, and William James. John died in Arcadia in 1889 and Adaline followed shortly thereafter in 1890.

Adaline Plymell is my 3rd great aunt. Her sister Delinda Jane, who married Joseph Nichols, was my 3rd-g-grandmother.

This photo was taken in Decatur in Macon Co., Illinois. Originally I believed the time frame to be around 1865 because the style of photo (card stock, double bordered) looked familiar to me from others I also have. Sure enough, I have a set of pictures that look exactly like this from my Nichols family -- John Nichols, his wife Delinda Jane (mentioned above), and their daughters Eliza Ursula and Missouri Ann. That set of pictures is dated c1865 according to the writing on the back, which is in Ursula's hand.

There are two sets of handwriting on the back of this photo, however (see the back of the photo below.) One set -- listing the children's names -- is Ursula's. The other set is unknown but I think dates to a slightly later period since the "lives in Arcadia" notation could only have been mentioned after the Vanes moved on to Kansas in 1872.

Cemantha Vane looks about 8-10 years old in this photo so I'm guessing this photo is closer to 1869. I'm saying this because the little boy in the dressing gown in the photo is William James Vane and he wasn't born until late 1868/early 1869.

The back has a listing of a few Curnutts (Cemantha's children I presume, though to my admittedly limited knowledge I only show Oscar as her definite child.) Also listed are Cordova, Charley and Will Plymell. These three are nephews of Adaline and Delinda, sons of their brother Wallace William Plymell.

One of the most interesting things about this photo to me was the photographer. E. A. (Edward A.) Barnwell had a studio called the People's Ambrotype Gallery at 24 North Water Street in Decatur, Illinois. According to this site, it so happened that in May of 1860 Decatur was the location of Abraham Lincoln's endorsement for President at the Republican state convention. Lincoln got his picture taken after his speech on 9 May 1860 and E.A. Barnwell was the photographer!

I'm not sure when E.A. stopped taking photographs and sold his studio to W.C. Pitner, but the above link implies that he sold out around 1863 and moved to Cerro Gordo, IL, just a few miles east of Decatur. Perhaps Pitner continued to use Barnwell's name on the studio -- I'm not sure. Hopefully I can find out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - William Finley Eagleton (1862-1902)

For Tombstone Tuesday I thought I'd contribute the following picture and story about my great-great-uncle William Finley Eagleton.

(Thanks for taking the picture and putting it on Find-A-Grave, B.J.!)

William Finley was my grandma Beulah's uncle, her mother Louisa Adaline Eagleton's brother. He moved off to Colorado at an early age and the family never knew what became of him.

It wasn't until a while later that I unearthed a relative of Finley's -- one of his daughter's descendants. She was able to tell me what had happened and provided me with the article that I have included here. You can click on it and read it for the details. It is certainly a sad story but at the same time it is interesting to read how much reporting has changed in the last century. They didn't have any problems reporting about possible suicides nor did they refuse to reveal names to protect the identities of the innocent.

Fin's accident was just that -- an accident. I hope it was quick.

When I found out what had happened to him I told my grandmother. She said she wished that she could be given the chance to explain to her mother where her brother had gone to. He just disappeared and they never did hear from him again.

He certainly hadn't meant it that way.

William Finley Eagleton was born 2 Feb 1862 in Crawford County, Illinois, the son of Pvt. David Newton Eagleton and Margaret Jane Conrad. He married Eva Margaret Goddard on 30 April 1897 in Jamestown, Boulder Co., CO. He died of an accidental gunshot wound on 6 Jan 1902.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Grandma and Her Letters from World War I

When my grandmother Beulah passed away in 2002 she entrusted me with all the errata of her life. She was born in 1900 so that was a lot of errata! She'd been the one chosen to ferret away all the treasures from her parent's families as well as her husband's because she'd been the only one to care. I spent many days with her sitting in her chair and me on the floor at her feet going through her belongings -- old pictures, letters, bibles -- and asking her who they belonged to. We would laugh and share stories and old memories. Grandma was a tiny woman, barely 4'11", but she had such a big presence! Other than my daughter she's the one person in my life that has meant the most to me. I miss her so fiercely I can still be brought to tears but I blink them back because I know she'd just admonish me in her soft voice. "Now, Patti," she'd say, "it's the way of things. I wanted to go. It was my time."

The generations in her family were long ones. Though I am only in my early 40's, my great-grandparents (my grandma's parents, that is) were born in the 1850s and 1860s. My grandma was 40 when she had my dad and her mother was 40 when she was born. She told me that when she was born in 1900 on a cold December day in Illinois, her dad put her in a shoebox in the bottom drawer of a bureau and moved it closer to the fire so the reflection of the heat would keep her warm. She said that he could hold her in the palm of his hand -- she was only about 2 1/2 lbs when she was born -- and they honestly didn't think she'd even live. She lived, all right! She lived until she was 101, long enough to see my daughter born and even better, long enough so that my daughter will be able to always remember her "great-nahnee."

I have many, if not most, of her things. She bestowed them upon me before her last stroke, the one that sent her permanently into the nursing home from her place in my parent's home. Now that she's gone, I'm the only one who cares. I have the cedar chest she got from my grandfather upon their wedding in 1934. In it rests McGuffey's Readers and old dolls and family bibles and letters and a hair book from the 1860's. I have a metal Coca-Cola cooler she had from the 40s or 50s that now houses many more old photographs. I have two heavy metal fishing tackle boxes that house deeds and letters and metal social security cards and old coins and....well, you get the picture.

The treasures in these boxes are so many that the lists above don't do them justice. They'll be fodder for many a future post, that's for sure! What made me begin this tale, however, was the letters my grandmother kept of her correspondence with a boy serving in the same outfit as her brother did during World War I. I've been thinking for some time now that I'd like to pull them out and transcribe them and then post them here now that it's almost assured that both writer and receiver are gone. After that I'd like to return them to his family members. What if he died later on in the War? What if the letters I own are the only written record of someone precious to someone else and I'm only holding onto them because my grandma did? No, I think they rightly belong in someone else's hands.

I think I'll find them tonight when I return home and see what I can do. Stay tuned!