Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quickest Microfilm Lookups Ever

...and Brent Finds his Great Great Grandfather

   Yesterday my husband and I went to Anderson, Indiana for the funeral of my Great Aunt Rosie.  It was a sad occasion, and yet I felt grateful to be able to visit with my far flung extended family that made it back to town for the funeral.  This is me with my Great Aunt Frances, who babysat me when I was a little girl and is the youngest of my paternal grandmother's siblings:

   We came to town early so we would have time to visit Maplewood Cemetery where several other family members are buried, including my maternal grandmother, my paternal grandfather, paternal great grandmother and her parents and her sister.   We also knew that one of my husband's great great grandfathers had died in Anderson in 1945.  But we didn't know where he might be buried.  In the 1940's the government used the right of eminent domain to move a whole community of people off their land near Madison, Indiana to form the Jefferson Proving Ground.  My husband's great great grandfather Martin Oshier was among those families to be moved off their farms.  He moved to Anderson and lived with other family members there during the last 2-3 years of his life.  My husband's maternal grandmother is the daughter of one of his sons who had already moved to another part of the state.  By now, what became of Martin was forgotten.  

  I called the cemetery office the day before our trip and asked them if they could locate the graves for me.  I wasn't certain that all of them were located there but the nice lady on the phone said she would look them up. When we arrived we were given a list of who was found and a MAP of their locations!  Wow! It couldn't be easier; no walking this huge cemetery and searching for hours--AND Martin was ON the list!

  We were able to pay our respects at the grave of my paternal grandfather Wendell Thomas and his mother Blanche McElfresh Thomas,

Blanche's parents, (my great great grandparents) Albert M. McElfresh and his wife Lena Lechien,
and less than a stone's throw away, there in the Catholic section of the cemetery were my husband's great great grandparents, Martin Osier and Margaret Jordan Oshier.  We didn't know if he would be in that cemetery or what his religious affiliation might be. But it was so easy thanks to the helpful staff in the office.

We drove over to the Protestant side of the cemetery to visit the grave of my maternal Grandma, Virginia Goff Blevins.  I felt sad to think of my sweet little grandma who was so kind and was someone I could count on to love me no matter what.  Her gravestone tells of her wedding date to my grandfather and on the back it has the names of her children, including my mother.  Although her oldest child is the son of her first husband; the genealogist in me knows that will confuse someone some day.  It felt odd to see Grandpa's name already there too.

   We were delighted with the discovery of Brent's great great grandparents but we wondered if we could learn more.  We had more time and the sun was getting hot.  We escaped downtown to a restaurant that was one of my old stomping grounds when I was in high school, Rax.  Back in the day it had a huge salad bar when those were in vogue.  Now it is a kind of unique franchise that seems to walk to the beat of it's own drummer, and in fact its Facebook page lists it as the last Rax in Indiana.  Well, we did our part to keep it in business.  Especially because it is right across the street from the Anderson Public Library!  We ate fast, wondering if we had enough time to attack the microfilm before heading to a more contemporary funeral.  

   What we didn't know before entering the Indiana Room of the library, was explained to us by the most methodical gentleman I've ever met in a library.  This tall and lank elder could have been the character in a book which needed an interesting supporting character.  He quietly and (very) slowly showed me the genealogical goldmine of databases accessible through the Indiana Room's website. Most important for our purposes on that trip was the digitized index of all obituaries in the local newspaper.  Be still my soul! It made our task almost laughably easy! Now I had not only the death dates but the date the obituary appeared in the paper.  I didn't have to scroll through pages and pages of microfilm.  The genealogy gods were definitely on my side this time!

   But even if I had needed to scan through several days, it wouldn't have been a problem.  The microfilm reader that the librarian called "complicated" was the nicest machine I've had the privilege to use.  First of all, it worked properly in every way.  The film fed automatically, it had electronic controls for focusing, enlarging and scrolling.  It had a computer based interface to send to the printer.  The copies were superbly readable.  I could have stayed there exploring the records on it all day long!  But we only had a short time, so I easily located and copied the records for Martin Oshier for my husband and found the obituary of Albert M. McElfresh, my own great great grandfather.  If only it were always that easy!  I don't think the obituaries themselves revealed any amazing new finds.  But it is wonderful to have them.  

   The amazing find was the detailed digitized database that I can access from my own home.  I have already found other records for other relatives that I want to explore on our next trip.  There is also a database for graves and naturalization records.  What a discovery!  

   We went on to say good bye to my Great Aunt Rosie, who I didn't really know that well.  But during her funeral I thought of the Sorg siblings, all of my paternal grandmother's brothers and sisters who numbered 13 in all, born from 1912 to 1935.  There are only three living now from that generation who worked so hard picking cotton, farming, cooking on a wood stove, washing everything with no indoor plumbing.  I am grateful to them and glad that their stories are part of my heritage.
Sorg Reunion early 1980's
Front Row: Rose Mary, Helen, Frances
Back Row: Edward, Sylvan, Clarence, Frank, Gene

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tombstone Tragedy

   With some excitement, I discovered the death certificate for one of my maternal 3Xgreat grandfathers, James G. Osbourn.
    It even tells where he was buried!  In my mind I was already planning a trip to Philadelphia.  I thought I would look up more information about the cemetery and was wondering if perhaps I would get lucky and track down a "FindAGrave" photo.  That is not going to be the case this time.

From information about an exhibit that took place in 2008 called Rest in Pieces:
Monument Cemetery, the second rural cemetery in Philadelphia, was founded in 1837 on North Broad Street, across from Temple University. In the 1950s, it fell victim to the school's need for parking lots. Thousands of those interred there were transferred to a mass grave in the suburbs. Their monuments were dumped into the Delaware River, where they are still visible today.

A wave of dizziness swept over me when I read that.   What a shame.  I'm not sure I would like to peer into the river and view the remains of all those tombstones.  I generally like the peacefulness of a cemetery, whether my ancestors are buried there or not.  But this is just eerie.  And so sad.

My husband has ancestors whose graves were moved when the government used the right of eminent domain to create the Jefferson Proving Grounds.  In that case the whole cemetery was moved, along with the monuments.  His family was forced to leave their farmstead.  But the graves of their ancestors can still be visited and great care was shown by moving them to another site.  I wish the people of Philadelphia would have given the early residents of their  city the same respect.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Unusual Naming Practice

   You learn something new every day... so they say.  Today is proving true in that regard....

I have been flailing against the brick wall of my maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother; Mary Knox Paul. That was her maiden name.  I was so perplexed by it.  If that was her maiden name then I assumed maybe Knox was her mother's maiden name.  It wasn't uncommon for children to carry their mother's maiden name as a middle name.  In fact that tradition helped me find one of my paternal great grandfather's ancestry because of his middle name of Jones.  I felt sure it must be his mother's family name and it was.  So I expected the same with Mary Knox Paul; until I saw her death certificate.

"Mother's maiden name: Unknown Cunningham."  Cunningham?  Then where did she pick up "Knox" as a middle name?  Was she married previously?  I just couldn't figure it out.

Then I found a reference to one of her daughters and her name was just as mysteriously Virginia Thomas Osborn.  Oh brother; another family name?  Where did that one come from?  I just seem to be going in circles with these people...

Today I emailed the wife of my first cousin once removed.  (If there's an easier way to say that, someone tell me what it is!)  She has also researched this line and I told her of a tiny new discovery.  She sent me scanned copies of pension applications and other things she had collected over the years.  One was a handwritten note from another person who had been researching them as well.  Regarding the daughters' names she wrote,

"They were all named for the Dr.'s who delivered them as their mother was."  EUREKA!!!!!!!!!  I have never heard of that of a family tradition but now everything makes sense.

No more trying to see if there are records for Mary under the name of Knox.  No more looking for another family connection to the Thomas name.  I can search Philadelphia more thoroughly for families named Cunningham and Paul.  Oh joyous day when the lights came on!

The tide begins to turn...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Breakthrough?

   A predicted 4th cousin on the genome sharing site 23andme challenged me today by asking more about my maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother.  Or more easily stated, my great great grandmother Mary Knox Paul Osborn.

   Once again I started searching the internet for more information about her, but I didn't have high hopes.  For some reason tonight I found something I have never come across before--a Kansas State Census from 1895!  Finding that fills in a huge gap from the elusive 1890's, and in fact a bigger gap because I haven't ever been able to find records showing this family in Pennyslvania before they moved West.

   The Kansas State Census of 1895 has given me something pretty exciting: 3 more children of Mary Knox Paul Osborn!  What's more, they're MALE, Albert, Harry and Frank.  My hope is that knowing these names of my grandma's uncles will help me find more of their living descendants or anyone who might know something about this family.  It also explains a lot.  My great grandmother had a son named Albert and my own grandmother named her oldest son Harry, one after a brother and the other after an uncle.  It's kind of a Eureka moment!  And I hope it leads to exciting things.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maternal Mysteries

   I recall sitting in a college class once and being instructed to write down my maternal lineage as far back as I could, including first names.  The point of the exercise was to show us how deeply paternal our culture is since few people could remember the first name of anyone beyond their maternal grandmother, and some didn't even know that.  I knew my maternal great grandmother's name because I am named after her.  So I thought I was doing pretty well at the time.  But today there is so much more that I wish I knew!
   Through the 23andme results I have learned that my maternal haplogroup is U3a1.  The maternal finding is that which comes from the unbroken line of mother to daughter and so on down the line.  U3 is an unexpectedly odd result.  According to the brief history given on the 23andme site "U3 originated in the Near East region about 45,000 years ago and later spread around the Mediterranean Sea, reaching as far as India and Spain."  That information isn't so startling; information about haplogroups concerns ancient genealogy, not the type that we usually do when on the paper trail of the elusive great great great grandparent.  But this fact was: "Haplogroup U3 is relatively rare in mainland Europe today, reaching levels above 1% in some Italian and Iberian populations."  According to 23andme, and to anything I have discovered through traditional means, my ancestry is completely Northern European.  So where did I get a maternal haplogroup that is most common among the Roma, or Gypsy, people?

   My known maternal line is not that long.  Here is the line of people I can trace who must share the U3 haplogroup:
My Daughters, Colleen Virginia Couch & Rhianna Rain Ladd (1995, 1998)
and myself, Elizabeth Annette Thomas (1969)

My Mom, Marsha Kay Blevins (1948)

My Grandma, Virginia Lucille Goff (1922)

My great grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Osborn (1885)

And last but not least,
My great great grandmother Mary Knox Paul (1851)
   Though Mary looks like a nice grandmotherly lady, she is as mysterious as any ancestor you would want to find.  How did this lady who claimed her parents were Irish on the census come to have U3 genes?  Why can't I find a marriage record for her?  These and other questions will be explored more fully in my next post.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Notes - Where I'm Stuck

   I feel like many of my lines have become brick walls.  I just keep looking at the same information over and over but haven't gotten any eureka moments or breakthroughs to take me further.  Going down my tree from top to bottom, these are the places I have come to a standstill.

   John "Dock" Thomas b. 1824 in Bristol, England, moved to Wales as a child, then to the US. His story, with some errors in the dates, can be found in the Portrait and Biographical Album of Vermillion County, Illinois, p. 679. This text and other distant relatives with their own family histories point towards the parents of John Thomas being named Jacob and Sarah Thomas.  Searching for them in Wales or England has been a dead end; there are so many people with these names in those locations.  I am not sure how to proceed.
   John Thomas was married three times according to the Biographical Album, which states that his 2nd wife, mother of my gg grandfather, was named Ann Davis.  Other distant family members agree with this.  However my gg grandfather wrote his mother's name as being Ann Hughs on his marriage license.  This is confusing and I am not sure what to think.  Ann Davis is nearly as common a name as all the Thomases when searching in England and Wales.  I am at a loss for where to look next to sort out this line.

   Contining to look backwards along my great grandfather Thomas' line I find that I have sorted out quite a lot regarding his mother's family.  From various documents and googlebooks sources I have gone as far back as my 4Xg grandfather, Charles Jones, who was born in New Jersey and came to Livingston County, Illinois from Bordentown, NJ with his family in about 1837.  Charles was born in 1798 and from a cemetery record appears to have died in 1885.  I haven't found Charles in any records in New Jersey and I don't know anything about his family of origin.  But now that I have a death date there is a possibility that I might be able to find an obituary for him if we make another trek to Fairbury to the library.
   I have just learned that the wife of Charles Jones was named Mary Hopkins and she was born in Pennsylvania.  She died shortly after moving to Illinois and the only reference I can find about her burial location says she was buried in Judge Burton's deer park in Forrest Township.  Is there a small burial ground that sprang up in that location?  This is something to explore the next time we visit Livingston County.  When looking for Hopkins families in Pennsylvania there were at least two that have quite a bit written about them. Now to try to determine if Mary was from either of these groups.

   For years all I knew was told to me by my paternal grandfather's mother.  I have been in contact with a 1st cousin twice removed who verified what I had written down as a child and told me a little more.  I know that my 3Xg grandfather was named James B. McElfresh and that his son Albert Milton was born in Steubenville, OH.  I have found the family on one census in 1880 in Steubenville.  I am not sure when they moved to Indiana, but my cousin knew that James had remarried a woman named Louisa.  I discovered them on a census in Grant County Indiana but I never knew if that James B. McElfresh was really my relative.  Now that I know I can claim him I wonder if I can discover his grave site, death date and possibly an obituary.  I don't know why the McElfreshes moved from Ohio to Indiana.
   James' first wife, my 3Xgreat grandmother was Ann Clark.  I know she died in Ohio before the family moved here.  I don't know anything about her family, only that the 1880 census indicates that Ann was born in Ohio.  Perhaps her death would have been noticed with an obituary since it occurred after 1880 in an area where a newspaper might have been established by then.  Short of that, I am not sure how to learn more about Ann Clark's history.

   My paternal grandfather's mother's mother's family were Belgian immigrants whom I believe came to Anderson, Indiana, because skilled glass workers were needed.  Another first cousin twice removed has been  telling me everything she rememberes about my gg grandmother Lena Lechien's family.  Lena's parents were Charles and Antionette.  I found their grave last Thanksgiving and I have found Charles' naturalization papers, I believe.  I took a stab at corresponding in French with someone who had a genealogy page listing the name Lechien.  I got a long list of names from him going several generations back in that line.  But I have no idea how he got it or how to learn more about this line myself.  The man who emailed me the names was right about my 3Xgreat grandmother's maiden name, which he said was Roussaux.  I got a marriage license for Charles and Antionette's son and indeed he listed his mother's maiden name as Roussaux.  I am left with an email full of names but I have had little luck myself in trying to research anything about the families of Charles or Anoinette before they came to the US.

   My paternal grandmother's family came from Germany in the late 1800's.  All of her ancestors were German Catholic immigrants.  In the 1980's a family members wrote a very good family history for this branch so I have not done much myself to go beyond her work, other than to collect photos from far flung family members and try to acquaint myself with the people about whom so much had already been written.  Now that I have been participating in 23andme I wish I knew more beyond the already known German ancestors because I think it would help me determine how I might be related to people I have a genetic match with when their ancestral heritage is German.  But going further back will mean researching in Germany and I have been reticent to begin.  I don't read German and it just looks daunting.

   My maternal grandfather's family has been researched by my 1st cousin once removed.  She wrote a detailed history of each member of the family back to my grandfather's grandfather, a bigamist who disappeared from the family after his barroom brawl made it impossible for him to stay in the town of his 2nd wife and family.  I can find George Washington Blevins in the census record living with his family of origin and I learned that his father's name was Daniel. Although Daniel was from Kentucky, his family was living in Indiana by the time my gg grandfather George Washington was born in 1858.  Daniel Blevins appears in many  trees on but the details about his family begin to diverge and I'm not sure how to follow the real Daniel Blevins in the record.  There appear to be pension records for him in Indiana but there are several other Blevinses listed on the pension record too.  Sons? Brothers? I'm not sure.  I'm also not sure how likely it would be to find an obituary for him.  I don't know how settled and established the area was at the time of his death.  I'm not sure what step to take next to sort out the Blevinses living in Indiana in the early 1800's.
   Daniel's wife appears to be Sarah White, child of Basel White and Mary Ann Drury of Kentucky.  I have not tried to follow her tree much at all.  Determining where to send for marriage licenses, and death certificates is probably the first step to follow in this line.
   George Washington Blevins' 2nd wife was Sarah Isabel Willyard.  After George left I have lost track of Sarah in the census record because she remarried more than once. I would like to know where she is buried. I think she had a difficult life.  However because she married more than once, she should have left a trail of marriage licenses with information about her family origins.

   My maternal grandfather's mother was Bertha Ellen Black.  It appears that Bertha was descended from a revolutionary war patriot known as William Black.  William is buried in Pike County, Indiana and listed on a memorial to Revolutionary War soldiers.  I would like to learn more about this connection and find more of the paper trail to support this assertion.  I would also like to discover more about the Black line in general because the Black family is supposed to have come from Scotland.  Many of my 23andme connections seem to be of potentially Scottish origin but I don't know enough about any of my Scottish background to determine how I might be related to others with Scottish heritage.
   My great grandmother Bertha was the son of Elias Pearson Black.  I know nothing about his mother's Pearson line.  If I can get a guess about when she died, I should send for her death certificate to see what I can learn about her people.  Bertha's mother was Sarah Elizabeth Dyehouse.  Many people have her mother listed as Clara Dyehouse on trees.  But looking at the 1880 census it is clear that Lizzie Dyehouse was living with a stepmother, not a lot older than she was.  There is no father listed in the family at that time.  Brick wall.

   My maternal grandmother's father was the son of Irish immigrants Thomas J. Goff and Annie Cleary.  Thomas was from Duncormack, county Wexford, Ireland.  Family records say that Thomas and Annie were married in Philadelphia in 1867.  I would like to find a record of this.  I know nothing of Annie except that census records all report that she was born in "Ireland."  She died in 1882 in Dallas, Texas and is reportedly buried in a Catholic cemetery there.  All attempts to find the location of her grave have completely fizzled out. I don't know how to find anything about her family or where she came from in Ireland.  Knowing where Thomas came from is a good start, but I am daunted by searching for records in Ireland.

   My maternal grandmother's mother was the daughter of Albert E. Osborn and Mary Knox Paul.  All I ever knew about Albert was that he was a Union soldier in the Civil War and that he and Mary moved to Kansas in a covered wagon.  I received very confusing information about him from a family member.  He left his family in a sod house and never returned.  At various times both before leaving and after he tried to apply for a veteran's pension.  Before he left his family his account of when and where he married Mary differed from hers.  She claimed they got married July 3, 1873 in Camden, NJ.  He claims they married July 4, 1874 in Atlantic City. (?)  I have found no references to marriages in either place.  Need to write to both places and see if a record exists.  After Albert's abandonment of his family in 1904 he applied for a pension again.  This time he was married to someone named Sophia Busby.  At that time he stated that he had no children and had never been married before.  Albert had 5 daughters, including one that I am named after.  Albert also stated that he served in the Civil War in Company C of the 58th Illinois Volunteers, but he says he served under the name of Frank Clark. (?)  Albert Osborn died in Wilwaukee at the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1918.  Perhaps I should begin by sending for his death certificate.
   My gg grandmother Mary Knox Paul was born in Philadelphia Jan 5, 1851.  Her death certificate says that her mother's maiden name was Cunningham.  If this is true, then why was she named Mary Knox Paul? Where did the name Knox come from??  Every time Mary appears in the census she reports that her parents were both from Ireland.  However a family story says that Mary was the daughter of a very wealthy man who told his daughters if they did not marry and stayed with him until his death they would inherit all his wealth.  No one knows the name of this man, and of course Mary did not stay.  Looking in Philadelphia in the 1850's and 1860's there were several families with the name "Paul."  Some of them were quite wealthy.  But I haven't found any with a daughter named Mary of the right age.  I have found some with people named "Cunningham" listed as servants.  Was the story of Mary's wealthy father a tall tale?  Was Mary the daughter of a wealthy man and one of his servants?  I can find very few records that seem to point toward Mary Knox Paul.  It would seem that finding her marriage record would be a first priority and possibly her obituary as well.  She is very perplexing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Name Revealed

   Sometime before Christmas I sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health to obtain a death certificate for my ggg-grandfather Theodore Jones.  My line to Theodore looks like this:
Elizabeth Thomas (me!)
William Thomas (my dad)
Wendell Thomas (my grandfather)
Walter Thomas (my great grandfather)
Turesa Jones (my gg grandmother)
Theodore Jones (my ggg grandfather)
  What I know about Theodore has been gleaned from the records of other individuals and from the googlebooks copy of The History of Livingston County, Illinois, 1878 edition. Through many readings of the History I discovered that Theodore and a brother named Thomas were the son of one of the first pioneers in the county, a Charles Jones who came to Illinois from Bordentown, New Jersey.  I discovered that another son of Charles Jones, named St. Clair, was one of the first marriages in the county, but I haven't found any other records pertaining to St. Clair Jones.  The History also told me that Theodore's mother was one of the first deaths in Forrest Township, and it even said she was buried in "Judge Burton's deer park" but it fails to reveal the name of Mrs. Jones.
   In searching for the family on I discovered that a few others had trees which included not Theodore, but a sister of Theodore, named Elizabeth Hopkins Jones who married a politician named Orrin Phelps.  I even discovered a picture of Theodore's sister, and I suspect it is a 4 generation photo with Theodore's sister as the eldest member of the family.
AG Phelps, Elizabeth Hopkins Jones Phelps, Elizabeth Davis, Dorothy
(Caption from member)

I have tried to contact the member who originally posted this picture, seeking further information about the Jones family of Fairbury, Illinois, but so far I haven't received a reply.  After I learned of Elizabeth Hopkins Jones Phelps, I wondered if the name "Hopkins" might be the maiden  name of Elizabeth and Theodore's mother.  It was a common practice to use a mother's maiden name as the child's middle name.  And in fact I knew that the practice had continued in this family since my great grandfather Walter was named Walter "Jones" Thomas after his mother's maiden name.  But I kept searching.
   This week I got a confirmation that my hunch was correct!  Just when I had nearly given up, Theodore's death certificate arrived.
   The first thing I noticed is that is has his address listed!  I looked it up on googlemaps and I *think* I've discovered the house that my ggg-grandparents lived in.  If googlemaps is directing me to the right location, it does indeed show a house of the right age that it could have easily been there during Theodore and Elizabeth Rachel's retirement when they moved to town.  Not only that I know that my great grandmother Turesa moved in with her mother after Turesa's husband died.  Even more interestingly Elizabeth Rachel's obituary reports that Mr. and Mrs. Walter Thomas were in attendance at her funeral, so I can surmise that *Mrs. Walter Thomas*, my great grandmother Blanche whom I actually knew, probably visited that house.  There's something about that thought that ties it all together; from a relative that I knew as a living part of my family to this other branch of relatives that is slowly becoming more and more animated as I learn more about them.  The great grandmother that we called Mimmie was actually there, with these people and probably at that house. Neat.
   The second thing I noticed is that I WAS RIGHT!  Everything I thought about Theodore's parents was true.  There was his father Charles from New Jersey.  But best of all, Theodore's mother *was* named "Hopkins."  For the first time I was able to learn the name of my pioneering 4Xgreat grandmother who was "buried in Judge Burton's deer park; it was Mary Hopkins.  It says she was born in "Penn."

 The informant was Henry T. Jones, the son of Theodore Jones and brother of my gg grandmother.  I wonder if Henry really knew his grandmother's name...he could never have known her; she died long before he was born.  But Theodore and Elizabeth Rachel only had two children who survived into adulthood.  I'm hoping in their small family they passed on this information to their son so that Henry's report of his grandmother's name is true.
   It would be wonderful if the member who posted the picture of Theodore's sister would respond to my message.  It would be even better if that person would tell me that more pictures of the family exist and yes, maybe there is a photo of Elizabeth's brother Theodore in one of them.  But for today and I am very happy to have learned the identity of Mary Hopkins, who is no longer just "the wife of Charles Jones." I hope I can learn more about her and her family that lived in Pennsylvania.  But mostly I am glad to have discovered her name.  Now I can properly remember her in a way that perhaps hasn't happened since 1917.