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......

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More on Christian...

In further correspondence with Mike Merritt I've learned a bit more about the slave woman, Christian. She was originally owned by Joseph Nichols of Campbell Co VA, the father of Nancy (Nichols) Magann. He gifted her to Nancy and her husband Pleasant in a deed dated 16 October 1813 in Bedford Co., VA. I don't have the entire transcription but I do have the following:

"...a negro girl named Christian about fifteen years of age with her increase and after my said Daughter Nancy Magann's death then the said Negro girl Christian to descend with her Issue to my said Daughter Nancy Magann's six children above named and equally divided among them..."

So Christian was born c1798.

It also appears that Pleasant Magann died in early 1821. A document dated 19 Feb 1821 between Lewis Magann of the County of Bedford and a few other men whose names are difficult to read (it appears to be John Board Jr, Brooker Preston and Samuel Agnor???) mentions Christian again. The document appears to be disposing of Pleasant Magann's property and possessions. Pleasant's son Lewis Magann received the majority of it. The mention of Christian is right at the end of all that. Lewis sold everything, as well as Christian, to the new owners.

If this is correct then Joseph Nichols' wish for Christiann (then about 23 years old) and her increase to stay within the Magann family was carried out, but only barely. Joseph Nichols' will stated he wanted Christian and her children to be inherited by Nancy's six children equally. Lewis inherited Christian at least. However, Joseph's will did NOT state that Lewis had to keep them! He certainly didn't hang on to her long but disposed of her rather rapidly, adding insult to injury by splitting up the family she had (if she had any children at all by that time) as he did so.

I am wondering if the rest of Joseph's last wishes were carried out. Christian and her increase were supposed to be all kept by the Maganns. If Christian had any children did the other Magann family members keep them? I just don't know right now.

I am curious, however....Joseph was intent on having Christian stay in the family. She was 15 at the time of his death and had no children but he provided for such eventualities by giving her a special mention in his will and, it seems, special directives for her AND her children. As mentioned in WDYTYA and in many other places, does this seem to suggest that Joseph Nichols or one of his sons was Christian's father? If that's the case, then if this Joseph ends up being the grandfather of my Joseph Nichols (and therefore my 5th g-grandfather) -- then I have African American cousins. I sure would like to find out what happened to all of them!

So in the course of a week or two I've went from discovering that most likely I have ancestors that owned slaves (if this Joseph is, indeed, my John's father), to learning that these owners might very well have left African-American descendants that I have blood ties to. The discovery is both disturbing and thrilling all in one breath. I feel sad at the very human tragedies that unfolded, and indignant at them, while also resigned to the fact that human history has been and, even though we know better, will still be full of such things. The cruelties that human beings are capable of committing upon each other is simply astounding, isn't it? Yet through all those sad and mad feelings, the fact that I might have new cousins? Well, I can never be unhappy about that.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Census Rainbow

As the census machine chugs to a stop this year -- and all of us in the genealogical community celebrate turning ours in and looking forward to the release of the 1940 census in April of 2012 -- I learned something this week that gave me pause. Our beloved census, already fraught with accidental inaccuracies or those borne of untrusting ancestors, has also been guilty of recording intentional ones.

I don't mean intentional ones from our ancestors. We all know that this happened. We might curse our paranoid great-grandfather and end up taking another route to find the information he didn't feel like the government should know.

No, I mean intentional changes that the Bureau chose to do itself, like altering the sex of its citizens.

Yes, this has happened. It happened in 1990.

No doubt some of you are asking questions like, What? Why? How?

According to the Urban Institute : "Prior to 2000, there was no designation that enabled same-sex couples to accurately describe their relationship, and when a same-sex partner checked off the designation of "husband or wife," the Census Bureau altered the gender of one of the two people, assuming they had accidentally misidentified their gender."

In the 2000 census these standards changed slightly. That census allowed for an "unmarried partners" category, whereas two people of the same sex could categorize themselves without fear of arbitrary gender reassignment by the Bureau. However, if two people of the same sex described themselves in a spousal relationship, the Bureau recategorized them as same-sex unmarried partners. At the time, it was illegal for two people of the same sex to be married.

This census year, for the first time, the number of same-sex couples who self-identify as married — license or no license — will be tabulated. Thank goodness the Bureau won't go around reassigning genders again! Gah!

But this self-identification presents its own set of problems. On the one hand, this glimpse into the lives of people and their thoughts about their relationships gives us genealogists valuable pieces of life stories. That's wonderful. But then there's the other side of me that's perhaps just a stickler. That side prefers my census data to be lawfully accurate and able to point me in concrete directions. That side of me sees in the census that a couple was married and goes scurrying to find the records that prove it to be true.

If I was a researcher 70-odd years from now doing work in the 2010 census and had a gay couple in my tree that I was trying to trace and they indicated they were married, I would likely start looking for that license. I doubt I'd be alone. I anticipate there will be many such hiccups in research when these censuses finally come up for public release. It will be the responsibility of genealogists researching those censuses to learn the laws that were in effect and adjust their research accordingly. A smart genealogist does that already, anyway.

What I can't help but wonder is this: with the advent of the computer, the censuses primarily processed through it are likely the ones most vulnerable to digital altering. The random reassignment of sex is just one glaring example of how such a broad-based change could be applied to an entire nation's tabulation. While the censuses taken before 1980 or so and not originally processed via computer likely have the data relatively intact as it was written -- how can we be sure? As they are digitally processed, will they, too, be changed?

And lastly, when you run across that random 'mistake' of gender in your early censuses -- especially between the two primary adults in the household -- perhaps this might give you cause to stop and pause a moment. And wonder.

Things are never cut and dried. Even then.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Civil War: It Was 145 Years Ago Today, And A Sobering Discovery

Today marks the 145th anniverary of the end of the Civil War. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

Most of us have ancestors or brothers of our ancestors that were involved in the Civil War in some way or another. I certainly do. Without access to my TMG database I can't recall all of them, but off the top of my head I can think of a few: David Eagleton and Joseph Browning, two of my direct grandfathers. Asbury Taylor Browning, Samuel D. Hoy, William Hoy, and Thomas N. Browning are some other relatives of mine that were involved. All these men fought for the Union.

I've spent so much time on so few lines -- 10 years dedicated to just one family -- that a lot of the rest of my ancestral lines are poorly researched and recorded. I've tried on occasion, and been interested in particular branches for short periods of time, but I always come back to my Brownings. It's definitely lack of research that made me believe that my ancestry was both firmly Union and firmly anti-slavery.

Well, I was wrong.

Until yesterday I'd never found any solid proof that any of my ancestors were slave owners. Then, in some correspondence with Mike Merritt, who found me via this blog! -- and who is a descendant of Thomas Merritt (father of Susanna Merritt, who married my John Nichols c1804 in Bedford Co., VA) he sent me the following notation in the deed records of either Amherst, Bedford, or Campbell Co., VA (I will find out which very soon):

10/16/1813 - Children of Pleasant Magann and Nancy Nichols. Nancy’s 6 children are mentioned in a 10/16/1813 deed giving Nancy a slave by her father Joseph Nichols. Lewis Merritt was a witness. – source??

This deed reference clearly indicates that Joseph Nichols -- whom we believe to be the father of John Nichols and the grandfather of my Joseph Nichols -- gifting a slave to his daughter Nancy and her husband. I am going to find that deed reference and when I do, I'll get the entire deed and see if the slave's name is mentioned. If it is, I'll put it here in my blog and do my small part in giving more names to those who had none.

In the meantime, remember those who fought in the Civil War today. My own thoughts today are now not only of the ancestors that I have that fought in this war, but of the new ancestry I've found and contemplating how I feel about finding out that I, too, have slave owners in my ancestry. I know that I shouldn't feel surprised at all -- goodness, as genealogists we should know better than anyone how vast the networks of ancestry really are! -- but when you find it, it hits home. You tease your teenagers about their inability to think past the "this'll never happen to me" idea.....and you find, after all, that you can do it too.

Monday, April 5, 2010

More Updates: The "Mystery Photo"

I am ashamed.

Back in mid-November, Brett Payne of Photo-Sleuth and I had an interesting correspondence going about a mystery ferrotype in my possession (see my original blog post about the photo here.) He gave me a detailed analyzation of his thoughts about the photo and I never did get around to publishing them before my life took a few turns and I didn't blog for a while.

(The photo is this one here and it would probably be a good idea to click the link and say "Open In A New Tab" so you can switch back and forth to see the photo as you read the analysis.)

I certainly hope he can forgive me for allowing all the time he spent on my photo to go to waste until now! I publish his comments in full now, here, in some small recompense:

"It is clear that the tintype has undergone extensive retouching, not just in respect of the backdrop, but almost every other part of the tintype has received some attention. The clothing is perhaps where it is most obvious, with bows, ties, buttons and watch chains being embellished with blue-green and whitish tints. The edges, lines and folds of the subjects' clothing also appear to have been enhanced in many cases, and some of their faces and hair have received attention, in particular the eyebrows of the left two standing in the back row.

This group of eight, presumably all members of a single family, appear to be seated and standing outside on the grass, directly in front of a wooden fence. The tops of the palings of this fence have received some considerable attention from the photographic retoucher, although it's not immediately apparent why this was done.

Behind the fence is more grass - and perhaps some bare earth - and then, visible only on the right-hand side of the tintype, is the wall of a building constructed from horizontal wooden boards. I presume you would refer to this in the US as a clapboard structure. Although it's clearly a fairly large building, we don't know how large because the edges are not visible. I'm not absolutely sure, but I think that the vertical white stripes or poles have been a retoucher's addition, although it seems likely that they were a reinforcement of something pre-existing. Why else would one paint in a couple of poles seemingly sprouting from the heads of two of the subjects?

The left hand side of the background is much more difficult. After looking at the detailed scan I have little doubt that "church and steeple" have been painted onto a white background on the photo. Why this would have been done, I don't know, but I think that the white background has also been painted in by the photographer. At the base of this white expanse, partly obscured by the picket fence, is what appear to be the lower boards of another building, the one which has been painted out. There are some areas of the white in which I've almost persuaded myself that I can see more of these horizontal boards showing through.

The texture of the surface does vary somewhat, suggesting slightly different textures of painted and non-painted areas. However, the cracking or crazing which you can see tends to extend throughout the photo, right across the apparent boundaries of painted and non-painted areas. These cracks are, I believe, in the varnish which was used to protect the emulsion and have not been significantly influenced by the layers underneath. Note that the colours would have been painted directly onto the collodion surface after it had dried, and later covered by the clear varnish.

You're quite right about tintypes being reverse images, and this brings me to another feature of your photograph. The men's jackets and waistcoats all appear to button left-over-right, i.e. with the buttons on the right-hand flap, which is correct - women's clothing from the 1850s onwards mostly had buttons on the left, and buttoned right-over-left. So ... why are the buttons in this photo accurately portrayed if the tintype was a reversed image? I think it has to do, once again, with the "artistic" embellishments. The photographer retouched the tintype to make it look what he thought of as realistic, and this included correcting the cut of the clothing! I have an interesting example of this in an ambrotype, which I discussed in a previous Photo-Sleuth article here. In that case, the photographer gave the woman an "extra" gold wedding ring, although if you look carefully you can also see the original on the opposite hand.

This is an interesting photograph to research. It was clearly not taken in a studio, and probably not by someone with a high degree of either technical or artistic skill. The arrangement of the presumed family group, although in a fairly classic pose, does not show the refinements which would be characteristic of an accomplished studio artist. The balance of the subjects in the frame is almost there, but not quite. Nor has the photographer managed to set his subjects at ease. They are all facing directly towards the camera with pretty wooden expressions, and do not seem very comfortable.

If I had to guess, I would say that it was by an itinerant or travelling photographer. In the 1890s, traveing photographers still used the tintype process because of the simple methods involved, the small amount of equipment needed, and the relatively low cost of production. It was hard to compete with permanent studios in the production of albumen prints, cartes de visite and cabinet cards, which required far more development and printing facilities, and, of course, used glass negatives which were heavy and cumbersome.

The painting in of what might have been intended as a church and steeple may have been an attempt by the photographer to introduce some sophistication into what was otherwise a rather bleak scene. Whether his clients were happy with the result I suppose we can only surmise, but it is worthy of note that it did survive for well over a century.

He did say he wanted to hear my thought about his analyzation.

I think he's right about the fact that it was an itinerant photographer. I'm very glad to see that his assessment agrees with my own original assessment of c1892. I'm also pleased that I caught at least some of the retouching that was done to the photo. I'd mentioned that I thought the image was reversed but I certainly didn't catch the switched coats!

You know, I can't think of a single thing he said that I don't agree with. Some of that springs from the fact that I don't know half as much about the technical details of photos of this time period to argue, and some from my pleasure and gratitude and the amount of his own time he gave to my little old photo. I don't have words.

When last we corresponded he'd expressed interest in doing a write-up of my photo on his own blog. I would be more than happy for him to do so should he ever be so inclined.

Thank you Brett, from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Browning Series -- Part Four, or Samuel J. Browning and his Two Dickerson/Dickinson Wives

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 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 is about Samuel J. Browning, the fourth child of Samuel Browning and Margaret Markee. Samuel was born around the year 1821 in Harrison County, Ohio. I first find Samuel, aged 15, involved in a court case in Harrison County. The case is filed in the Harrison County Common Pleas Journal Bk. D. pp. 14-15, in the June Term 1836. Apparently Samuel had performed some sort of Trespass against a man named William Creagh. This is an actual bodily trespass and not the Trespass on the Case that Samuel's father had filed against the man accused of "debauching" his daughter Julia, Samuel's older sister. This case had a number of jurors (Robert Givins, John McKinney, Thomas Day, Joseph D. Smith, John Blair, John Green, Jacob Barger, Joseph Thompson, George Foster, Benjamin Hudson, Joseph Bernhardt, and John H. Beatty) and the panel found for the Plaintiff (Creagh) in the amount of six cents.

After this, Samuel's life gets even more interesting. I sometimes wonder if he didn't do all of what follows just so I could pull my hair out!

Samuel was first married to a woman named Sarah Ann on 4 October 1849 in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Sarah Ann was born c1831 in Ohio. I say just "Sarah Ann" because ascertaining her actual surname has been an interesting pursuit.

For years I'd referred (and believed) in a typed reference to Samuel and Sarah’s marriage license, which refers to her as a Dickerson. However, a few years ago I received the original marriage license and found it so faded that the writing was virtually invisible. It could have been Dickerson, or it could have been Dickinson. I was sure I'd solve the mystery when I got the chance to go to Tuscarawas County last summer but my visit only deepened the mystery and frustration because the courthouse had the same record that they'd sent me, the horrible copy. The lady there said I could go hunt the original down at the Historical Society but though I tried, it was closed the day I was there. The next time I was in Ohio I visited again on a day it was open only to learn that the man with the key to the vault wasn't in. Grrr! Well, I'll be going again this summer and you can bet I'll be better prepared!

Anyway, though the copy of the license is atrocious -- as you can see by looking at the document here -- what I think I can make out says; “State of Ohio, Tuscarawas County – I certify that I have this day solemnized the marriage of Samuel Browning and Sarah Ann Dick—on Witness my hand this day the –(rest illegible)"

So I turned my hand to researching the options. Both Dickerson and Dickinson families were living in Tuscarawas County where Samuel and Sarah married. Some members of both families had daughters old enough to be Sarah and as names were not included in the 1840 census it cannot be determined where Sarah should be placed. Furthermore, it is quite possible that the two surnames were used interchangeably on old records, or misspelled, and this creates a further problem when attempting to discern relation. Therefore, without positive proof, I had to turn to circumstantial evidence.

It should be noted that the first confirmed connection between either of the families and the Browning family was during the War of 1812. Samuel Browning, Samuel J.’s father, served in the war with a man named Baruch Dickerson. However, this was a full thirty years before the marriage of Samuel and Sarah and does not prove anything other than the fact that a member of each family was acquainted with the other. But there are a few more coincidences. The Dickerson surname is also mentioned in connection with a typed copy of a Tuscarawas County marriage between a woman named Julia Dickerson and a John Christy in 1842. This marriage becomes significant when it is established that Samuel J. Browning and Sarah Ann raised a little boy named John W. Christy. John was born around 1843 and lived with Samuel and Sarah from at least 1850 until the time of Samuel’s death in Crawford County, Illinois in 1862. It is apparent that although no official adoption or guardianship papers have been located, John was adopted by Samuel and Sarah and was raised alongside their own children. The existence of John in Samuel and Sarah’s household, coupled with the marriage between Julia Ann Dickerson and John Christy, certainly suggests that the surname Dickerson was common to both women and that Sarah's raising of John Christy might have been because Julia Ann was her sister.

However, it is equally possible that the two Dickerson marriages were misread, or mistyped, and were actually Dickinson marriages. There is also strong circumstantial evidence – perhaps stronger than that of the Dickerson surname -- to suggest that Sarah was a daughter of George Dickinson and his wife Effa Emmaline. George and Effa lived in Perry Township in Tuscarawas County, Ohio in 1840. They had a number of daughters, a few old enough to fit Sarah’s birthdate of around the year 1831. They were also the parents of a man named George W. Dickinson who later moved to Crawford County, Illinois and who eventually became guardian of Samuel and Sarah Ann’s children. Furthermore, Samuel and Sarah Ann named their firstborn child Effie Emmaline, which was the name of George Dickinson’s wife and who may have also been Sarah Ann’s mother. Their second child, George Browning, was also seemingly named after a Dickinson. Lastly, when Fred Fulling, grandson of Samuel and Sarah Ann, registered the funeral of his mother Effie (Browning) Fulling, he stated that his grandmother’s maiden name had been Dickinson.

Looking at all the above evidence, it seems reasonable to assume that most likely Saran Ann’s surname was Dickinson. The children that Samuel and Sarah Ann had were their adopted son John W. Christy and their known children Effie Emmaline, George, and Samuel III.

Samuel J., Sarah Ann and their family moved to Crawford County, Illinois some time after September of 1850 but before August of 1851. Despite the fact that the deed record of Crawford County doesn't place Samuel J. and Sarah Ann in the county until Samuel purchased land from Augustus French on 15 January 1856, other documentary evidence places them there years before then. One of the bills in Samuel’s probate records that was paid out of his estate at his death is a medical bill totaling $6.55. This bill lists visits and medicine the doctor provided to Samuel, his wife, and his child over a period spanning two years from 12 August 1851 to 30 March 1852. These visits were from a Crawford County doctor. This evidence reveals that the couple came to the county along with the rest of Samuel J.’s brothers and sisters, and not at some period thereafter.

Land records in Crawford County are sparse for Samuel J. Browning. The first, dated 15 January 1856, was the E ½ of Section 20, Twn 6N, Range 11W, totaling 70 acres, purchased from Augustus French. The second, dated 6 March 1857 for a parcel of land totaling 40 acres, being the SW ¼ of the SE ¼ of Section 20, Twn. 6N, Range 11W, was purchased from William Stuart. The same probate inventory records mentioned above, however, prove that Samuel owned more land than these deeds disclose. According to his real estate inventory, Samuel (at the time of his death in September of 1862) also owned the S ¼ of the SE ¼ of Section 20, Twn 6N, Range 11W, totaling 40 acres, purchased from Samuel Stuart. The inventory states that Samuel held this land by warranty deed.

In the 1855 state census in Crawford County, taken in October, Samuel J. and Sarah Ann are shown with John W. Christy and their two children Effie Emmaline and George. By July of 1860, however, Samuel is enumerated without Sarah Ann, with his three children -- Emmaline, George, and 3-yr old Sam -- and John W. Christy. Sarah Ann had therefore most likely died in Crawford County some time between the birth of her last child in 1857 but before July of 1860. A more exact date or the location of her burial remains unknown.

After Sarah Ann’s death Samuel J. married again....and the plot thickens. He married a woman named Julia Ann Dickinson on 15 November 1860 in Crawford County, Illinois. Julia’s parentage remains unknown but it seems most likely that she was a sister or cousin of Sarah Ann, Samuel J. Browning’s first wife. The couple had no known children.

Sometime in the summer of 1862, Samuel and one of his children – all indications suggest his youngest son Sam -- became ill. According to Samuel’s probate records, a bill made out to Dr. Nathaniel Steele indicates that the doctor saw Samuel J. three times in late July 1862, and in the last week of September 1862 made a total of eight trips to Samuel’s house to administer medicine. Samuel did not recover from this illness and died in Crawford County on 27 September 1862. His burial location is unknown but as his estate shows a charge of $6 dated 3 October 1862 from Thomas Corbin for making Samuel’s coffin, it seems certain he was buried in Crawford County.

Guardianship of Samuel’s children (Julia’s stepchildren) was given temporarily to Ethelbert Callahan from the time of their father’s death in late 1862 until the March 1863 term of the Crawford County court. Then guardianship was granted permanently to George W. Dickinson. George, referred to previously, was most likely Sarah Ann’s brother and some relation to Julia Ann Dickinson. He would therefore have been one of the primary choices to take in Sarah’s children.

Samuel’s estate records reveal a great deal of information. Isaac D. Mail was appointed administrator of Samuel J.’s estate and the estate sale was conducted on 23 October 1862. Claims against the estate were taken by Mr. Mail in Robinson outside the Crawford County courthouse on 19 January and 21 January 1863. Some of these claims were promissory notes and it was plain that Samuel could not write; he made his mark on the notes in lieu of a signature. One of these claims shines a light of mystery on a neighbor; the John Wilson family.

In 1860, a Julia Wilson, aged 35 and born in Ohio, was living next door to Samuel. With her were two daughters, Maria L. and Ellen. One of Samuel’s promissory notes reveals his promise, in six years’ time, to pay one hundred dollars in money, one bed, and one cow each to Maria L. and to Minerva Ellen Wilson. The promise was made in March of 1861 for value received. Samuel died before this promise could be fulfilled and his estate settled with the estate of John Wilson, the girls’ father. The question of what relation, if any, Samuel shared with the Wilson family is currently unknown. I have a few wonderings, though. Was the Julia who married Samuel in Nov 1860 actually Julia Wilson, wife of John? If so, why would she revert to her (possible) maiden name to marry Samuel? I know, it doesn't seem likely. It's more likely that the two families were neighbors and Samuel owned John's estate for some work. But writing this post my memory has been jogged and I think I have more information about this family now. I just can't remember where I put it......gah! If I find it I'll certainly post an update.

On 8 March 1864, nearly two years after Samuel’s death, his widow Julia Ann filed a quitclaim deed in Crawford County between herself and Alexander MacHatton. The deed involved two separate parcels of land, one of which – the east half of the southeast quarter of Section Twenty, Township Six North, Range Eleven West – was part of the listed property in Samuel’s estate papers. Nothing further about Julia Ann Browning has been found excepting two marriages for a “Julia Browning” in Crawford County – one to George Jones in 1866 and another to John Shanks in 1872. Whether either of these women is Julia Ann, the widow of Samuel J. Browning, is as yet unknown.