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......

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Have Another Brother...

...and it's something I've wanted to say for years now.

My mother gave a son up for adoption when she was 16.  I've known about it since I was 13, when I was sitting in my room one afternoon eavesdropping on a conversation my parents were supposed to be having privately -- yes, I was a nosy child.  Aren't most genealogists?

I can remember being so surprised by the revelation that I wasn't the first child my mother had ever had!  I think that was the first time I can remember being able to fathom that my parents had lives before me.  It was a pretty important lesson.

Of course, I've spent the intervening years hoping that someday this son would begin a search for his birth mother.   When I first began talking about it with my mother, she seemed at once very desirious of some sort of connection and then very hesitant to pursue it.  I can't pretend to understand the feelings that are involved when someone gives up their child but I could hear some of them in my mom's voice.  She was so young and there were so many deeply personal and extenuating circumstances in her ultimate choice to place him for adoption.   In all the years that have followed she's wanted to find him -- she always said the hole in your heart never goes away -- but there was also a fear there that haunted her.  He just didn't want him to hate her for the decision she made.

Some years back I helped her fill out paperwork to place her name in the Illinois registries but when it got caught up in a few snafus she never completed the process.  I wanted her to -- and she wanted to -- but the fear was still overwhelming the desire.  As a genealogist I felt I had the tools at my disposal to help the process of finding him go faster, and the fact that he was my half-brother and my blood definitely spurred my own desire to know....but you simply wasn't my call.  It was hers.  She had to be ready and I wasn't going to force anything until she was.

Well, as I posted recently, Illinois adoption laws changed late last year.  I posted it here because when the laws changed I brought the subject up to my mother again and added that the new laws would make it easier for adopted children in Illinois to obtain their original birth certificates.  I wanted her to know that it was very possible those changes would allow her son a better chance to find her.

So on the 25th, when I got a vague email enquiring about my mother.....I just knew.

Of course I called her immediately and explained.  Though the possibility existed that it was one of her half-siblings (her mother remarried and had 5 children with her second husband that we have only met once back in the mid 70s) both of us didn't really think that it was that.   When I asked her if she'd like to think a few days before I answered the email she told me, "No. You go ahead and respond.  If I think for a few days I'll chicken out.  You do it."

So I did.

It's still way too early in this process of discovery to guess about how things will settle out.  So far he seems like a good man, who has risen over difficulties and made a good life for himself.  I had a good phone call with him and I look forward to getting to know him better.  I've waited a long time for this and I don't feel the need to rush it now.

But I'm not "big sissy" any more.  I'm the middle child.  And ya know....I don't think I'm going to mind.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Something of great significance happened to me and my family yesterday.

I will share the story here when the time is right, after we have the time to explore it all and absorb it properly.

But it's wonderful!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about my 4th-great-grandfather Samuel Browning.

Samuel is a cornerstone of this blog.  He is the reason I started doing The Browning Series over in my sidebar and he's the patriarch of the 'Browning Fifteen,' the total of his children with his two wives Margaret Markee and Sarah Ann (Bell) Gaddis.  His parentage is my Holy Grail.

He's also my brick wall.  As in walled up and fortified.  As in a know, the thing that even keeps dragons out?  I've known about his existence for over 20 years now and his parentage is nearly as clouded in mystery now as it was when I first saw "S & M Browning" on his son James' tombstone.

My original plan when I started this blog was to talk about Samuel's children -- introduce them all one by one -- and then tie them all together by going into detail about Samuel and his wives.  I've accomplished a lot on that already, as you can see by the amount of listings underneath 'The Browning Series' on my sidebar.  I've spoken of many of his children, and his grand- and great-grandchildren.  I just haven't moved as fast as I'd have liked and I haven't really been as dedicated to this blog as I was in the beginning.

That was what I've been thinking about in the last couple of days.  I was asking myself why.

I know why.

Sure, there's the frustration of continually beating my head against the wall that is Samuel.  I find a few things here and there, more details about his life and his movements, and it makes me thrilled and happy and I temporarily grow that much more determined to continue my search.  I know quite a bewildering amount about him, actually!  But he continues to stump me and the excitement fades and I eventually stall out.

There are many reasons.  I feel one of them is my comparative 'inexperience' when it comes to pre-1850 records.  I am sure I have more experience than I feel I do in this regard; I tell myself that my experiences in working the Browning vs. Beck case from 1837 on my sidebar must surely count for something!  However, the players in that case were known to me.

So what about the records that I know about.  Records?  Hah.  You're probably saying, go to wills and probates...but guess what?  Samuel doesn't HAVE any.   I know where he died -- he was living in Windsor, Shelby Co., IL in a log cabin -- and I know within a five year gap, likely within a 3 year gap (1865-1870, though probably closer to 1868) but I've been to the Shelby County courthouse and there were no wills and no intestate papers there.  No guardianship papers for his minor children Laura and Mary Medora, either.  His widow Sarah was still in Windsor in 1870 but around 1873, she moved to Putnam Co., MO to join her adult children from her first marriage.  (I thought about looking in the newspapers but the Shelbyville Democrat begins in 1876 and the Windsor Gazette in 1879. Bah!)

And let's not get me started on trying to find Samuel's father.  Wills, probates, etc., etc. for early Harrison County, Ohio?  Hah!  Good luck.  The same thing goes in Harrison County, but worse.    I have a very good idea that John Browning (found in the 1820/1830 censuses in Harrison Co.) is Samuel's father.  However, proving it?  Apparently a LOT of the county's old records were left out in the courthouse hallways back years ago.  Many were likely just taken from those old boxes by whoever wanted them, and finally they were all dumped out back and the Genealogical Society grabbed as many of them as they could (out of the dumpsters!!!) but goodness knows how many of them are permanently gone. 

I've exhausted a lot of the 'simpler' resources and I feel like I'm wading in a way too deep pool.  That, and I also get the feeling that I'm not completely utilizing the resources that I HAVE found.  This is why I'm writing this now.  I think it's time I stop waiting to blog about exploring all the resources I've got now.

I haven't, though, and as I said before, I know why.  Really why.  Because there was always someone working with me who was my cousin, my fellow Browning researcher, and my friend.   Patricia O'Connor. She was the lady I could always depend on to pick up the phone and listen to my natterings about this resource, or what this tiny clue might've meant, or where to look next.  The lady that understood who I was talking about so I didn't have to explain who the 5th cousin twice removed of this child was.....she knew, too.  We were in it together!  We celebrated finding new things together with laughter and excited phone calls at 6 am.   And Pat's been gone now for a few years and with her went some of my focus.  I just miss her so freaking much.  It's hard to work alone.

I told myself when she died that I'd continue on, for her.  I haven't done that because I feel adrift without her.  Add that to my 'chasing my tail' feelings, the frustration of not knowing where to go and what to do to go about finding Samuel and his father, and there you have it.  I just don't want to feel this any longer.  I want to find this, finally.  So I'm not going to wait to blog about Samuel.  I'll just do it.

So I'm trying to organize my research plan on Samuel and I'm going to lay it out here on my blog.  My intent is to get everything together that I've found over the last years and draw it up in such a way that I can see every step I've made and every step I've not yet explored.  I want to locate all the available records and tick each box off when I've looked.  Maybe that will help me see what I'm missing and maybe, just maybe, there will be a breakthrough.  I'd appreciate suggestions and comments about records that I might not have thought of during the time period of 1790-1840 in Ohio, and places to look in Shelby Co IL concerning death records that I also might have missed.

Bear with me as I do.  I hope I can make it all make sense.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - John Wesley Francis Browning's "Folly" in the Scientific American, 1864

This must have a few words of explanation, hence the 'almost' in the title.

John Wesley Francis Browning, the son of Samuel Browning and Margaret Markee, was -- according to one of his two entries in the 1860 census (Pleasantville Twn. in Cumberland Co., IL on 12 Jul 1860 and Pleasant Grove Twn, in Coles Co., IL on 17 Sept 1860) -- an engineer. 

According to my cousin Pat -- John's descendent -- John Wes Browning had built his 'machine' somewhere on property that he and his wife lived on in Cumberland Co. before they moved to Coles Co. and some took to calling it "Browning's Folly" because it never worked. 

If it didn't, perhaps he spent countless hours working diligently and perfecting his invention so that it would.  He was certainly proud of his efforts at any rate, as he had beautiful vellum patent papers drawn up with all his diagrams and he made sure to apply for a patent, filing the application in Mattoon.  The patent, number #44594, was dated 11 October 1864. 

The Scientific American published a small blurb in its magazine about his invention.  It is shown here.

This blurb, and the patent papers, are all that is left of John Wesley Francis Browning.  He seems to disappear sometime soon thereafter.  His wife Matilda is back in Cumberland Co., IL in 1867 but there is no trace of John.  She was living next door to her parents in 1870 -- still no John.

His daughter Sarah Viola 'Kate' Browning apparently had a falling out with her mother and took a picture of John, and his vellum patent papers, with her when she ran away to Terre Haute, IN in the early 1880's.

John is a mystery to me still.    You can read more about him and his family if you follow this link.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Eldridge Garrison Garrard

It's Tombstone Tuesday and that means we should post a picture of a tombstone but as you will see, I won't be posting one.

Tonight's subject is Eldridge Garrison Garrard.   He was born 3 Aug 1888 in Crawford Co., IL, and was the son of Robert Elbert Garrard and Louisa Adaline Eagleton.  Since Robert and Louisa are my grandma Beulah Ethel (Garrard) Browning's parents (and therefore my g-grandparents) this means Eldridge was my grandma's brother and my great-uncle.

I wish I had a tombstone picture to post for this little guy, but I don't.  He never had one.  It's a wonder anyone knows that he existed at all.

My grandma said that Eldridge was born with a cleft palate and that one cold January day in 1890, when he was almost two years old, Eldridge was toddling around in the house while his mother Louisa was doing her washing at the hearth.  He had climbed up on a chair, probably one that she had been sitting at doing her chores, and was bouncing on it in the way that babies do.  The chair tipped over and little Eldridge fell and hit his head on the edge of the stone fireplace.  Grandma said it took him a few days to die.

He died on the 18th of January, 1890, and was buried a few days after that in the Haskin Cemetery in Crawford Co., IL.  His gravesite is unmarked.

Grandma took me to the cemetery in 1995 and pointed to the patch of ground where Eldridge lies buried.  I have thought and thought about that today and have realized that I never took any photos of that area.  I am fairly certain I will remember where she pointed when I get back to the cemetery next summer.  At least I hope so.  My grandma is gone now.

My grandma would often tell me about her brother Eldridge. She never knew him -- he died ten years before she was born -- but I think she felt that she did and that he, like all her other siblings, was her brother.   Her parents certainly kept his memory alive and my grandma, in her turn, kept his memory alive that much longer by passing her memories down to me.

Sleep well, great uncle Eldridge.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I have been posting only sporadically on my blog recently because, like many other genealogists, I've been indexing the 1940.  Since I am DYING to see Illinois searchable, that's the state I've been indexing.  My blog will still be here when the indexing is over!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cecil(e)'s Letters - Say WHAT? A Mystery Solved...

For the last ten years since my beloved grandmother Beulah Ethel (Garrard) Browning died -- and for at least ten years before that -- there had been an ongoing mystery playing in my head about her younger years.  This 'mystery'  really wasn't much of a mystery.....not really......I thought I'd had it all figured out long ago.   The mystery part I always tried to fill in with 'details' was only because my grandmother never really shared too much information about it.

Hm.  I sound as clear as mud.  I should explain.

 As I've said in earlier posts, my grandparents were unusual for their times because they waited so long to marry.  My grandmother was 33 years old and my grandfather was 32 when they married in 1934.  They'd been seeing each other since 1927.  The Great Depression and responsibilities for taking care of other family members had extended their courtship.  Every time my grandma and I touched upon the subject of her relative spinsterhood and whether or not she'd had other boys she was sweet on before meeting and marrying my grandfather, she would steer the conversation away from particulars and just talk in rather sweeping generalities.  However, at some point the conversation would always come around to one name.  Cecil Buchanan.  Or at least that's how it always seemed to me.  I never asked much about him and I just put two and two together in my head and assumed that he was the boy that she'd liked and she didn't want to go into details.  Maybe because he'd broken her heart?  I didn't know...and honestly I didn't come right out and ask.  I just made the connections and filed the name away in my head.  I assumed I knew the story.

Yes, all the genealogists in the room are snickering behind their hands.  Don't think I can't hear you.

I've also stated before that I inherited my grandmother's cedar chest and her umpteen million boxes of pictures and letters and....stuff.  Well, imagine my surprise when I found a lock of strawberry blonde hair all tied up in a ribbon, dated 1917!  It's the lock of hair and the ribbon in the picture at the top of this post.  I was all excited when I found it.  It's got his name written on it, and a lock of his hair.....and his birthdate, and her birthdate.  Awwwwwww, how teenager-like and romantic!  Ah ha, I thought! Here's some solid proof that Grandma WAS sweet on him!

Some time later, in another box buried in her things, I came across two letters that Cecil had written.  One was postmarked 1920 from Bloomington, IN and the other 1923 from Mattoon, IL.  I read through them and they seemed rather warm and loving but also rather detached.  I thought that a bit strange, really, but how was I to know hoe young people courted in letters at the time?  Anyway, after reading them over again a few times I grew curiouser and curiouser and thought hey, I have him somwhere in 1920!  I should look him up in the census!

I don't know why I hadn't done it before.  It was one of those 'slip my mind' things, I guess.  But I sat down letters in hand and started looking him up in the census.

I found him fairly easily in the 1920 Bloomington, Monroe CO IN census:

But....wait.  What's that?   Do you see it?   I thought that Cecil was a boy and this one is a girl.  Grandma always pronounced it SEE-SIL and not SUH-SEAL so this Cecile?  Hm, I thought, that can't be right.  I know,  I'll search the 1910 and see where this Cecile is:

I found 'Cecile Buchanan' in the 1910, all Crawford Co., IL.  Huh.  Right where my grandma was living at the same time.  And what's that again?  A GIRL?  Again?  Once is a coincidence maybe, or a mistake, but twice?

Ok, I thought. Is it possible that the CECIL my grandma had always talked about, and the CECILE I was looking at it possible that my grandma was talking about her BEST FRIEND???

After another few days of poking about I was beginning to think just that.  I found Cecile's marriage to Hilbert Cox and found a picture of her tombstone on a Warrick Co IN site.  Attached to the picture was an email address. I sent an email to that address and waited with bated breath.  It didn't take me long to receive a reply and to begin a correspondence with a wonderful lady who is Cecile's granddaughter.  What was even more fun was that Cecile's daughter was still alive!

I shared a long and informative phone call with both of them and I was able to compare much of what was in the letters to what these lovely people already knew about their mother and grandmother.  I learned an interesting fact very quickly, though....even though they spell it Cecile, it's pronounced SEE-SIL.  I also finally learned who the Margaret Buchanan was who took one of my favorite pictures of my grandmother, walking home from school with a metal lunch pail in 1915. She was Cecile's younger sister.

The evidence is overwhelming.  Cecile and my grandmother were chums.  Friends.  They were friends from at least 1915 until 1923, the date of the last letter.  My grandma kept a lock of Cecile's hair and even though the birthdate written on it is wrong (Cecile was actually born in Feb 1900) the people mentioned in the letters reference both Cecile's family (Helen, Margaret, Grandma Dunlap, and Elba Mudhenk) and my grandmother's family (her mother Louisa and sister Julia.)  Their tone in the letters I mentioned above?  It all made sense now.

So the mystery of the identity of 'Cecil Buchanan' is finally solved.  There's just one more thing I wonder about.  Grandma must have known what I was thinking about her Cecil.  Why didn't my grandma set me straight?

The joke's on me, grandma.  I love you dearly, you sly devil, you.  I bet you're chuckling now.  Goodness knows I am.  Hahahah!