The headlines rang out with the news: “Queen Mary Cut Cruiser in Two. Disaster that was Kept Secret.”(Dundee Courier) and “Queen Mary Sank a British Cruiser. Disaster While Evading U-Boat” (Daily Record). It was Friday 18 May 1945. Joseph and Mary Thomas had been wondering for 3 years exactly how and where their youngest child, Stanley Mather Thomas had died. They had received the news in 1942 that their 22-year-old son was missing ‘at sea’ presumed dead. The story of what happened to Joseph and the other 338 British sailors who died in October 1942 was one of World War Two’s best kept secrets.
Stanley Mather Thomas was born on June 1, 1920 in New Silksworth, Sunderland, County Durham. He was the youngest of four children born to Joseph and Mary (Mather) Thomas. Stanley joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Force, a reserve force of the Navy called…
I have written before about my great-grandfather, John Bellas and his frequent journeys from County Durham, England to Kimberley, South Africa to work in the mines. His wife, my great-grandmother, Ann Wilson, married at age 20, becoming an instant mother to John’s small child from his first marriage. She was a woman who, for many years as John traveled to find work, raised their children alone. She crossed an ocean to an unknown land with her young family to be with her husband. She buried six children before she was 41 years old. She was a strong and beloved woman.
Ann Wilson was the second wife of John Bellas, they married in 1887 in County Durham. 1 Ann was 20 years old when they married and settled in Newbottle, a small village occupied mostly by coal miners and their families. John Bellas had been widowed in 1886, leaving him with a young child, also named John Bellas. Upon her marriage to John, Ann became a mother, taking over the care of four year old, John. In August of 1888, Ann gave birth to her first child, a son they named Thomas Bellas. Unfortunately tragedy struck a year later, in 1889, when John died at the age of five.
A few months later, Ann found herself pregnant again, this time with twins. The twins were born on 14 May 1890 and were named John and Elizabeth Jane.2 John lived only one day. Elizabeth Jane lived 15 days. Ann had buried three children and was only 23 years old.
In October 1893, John Bellas left England, making the 17-day journey by ship to South Africa. Ann had given birth in March 1893 to a baby girl, Mary Hannah.3 For the next six years, John was only home for short periods of time as he traveled back and forth between England and South Africa.
I imagine that life was not easy for Ann, having her husband gone for long intervals. In 1899, newspapers in County Durham began to report on the developing tensions in South Africa, especially around the town of Kimberley. This must have caused great anxiety for Ann. John joined up with the Kimberley Town Guard to defend Kimberley from Boer attacks. The Boers besieged the town for 124 days but ultimately failed to take Kimberley, which had finally been relieved by the advancing British forces. All of this was constantly being reported on in the newspapers of the day, no doubt causing much worry for Ann over her husband’s safety.
The 1901 census 4 shows the entry for Annie Bellas and her four children in the village of Shiney Row, County Durham. Ann is described as the head of the household, aged 35. She has no occupation listed indicating she likely relied on the money that John was able to send back to the family from South Africa. The children were aged 12, 8, 4 and 2 years old. Basically a single mother for much of those six years, Ann was fortunate to have some family support with her in-laws, David and Margaret Bellas, living next door.
John Bellas was fortunately unharmed in the skirmishes around Kimberley and in 1903 returned to his family in County Durham. Again, this was only for a short time, but this time, Ann and the children accompanied John on his return to South Africa. Had Ann had enough of being left behind and insisted the family goes with him? Did she simply miss her husband and not want to be parted from him? The impetus for the move is unknown but Ann did pack up the family and she and the four children joined John Bellas on his return trip.
One can only imagine how much strength and courage this must have taken. Ann had never left County Durham and was now taking her children on a journey across the ocean to South Africa. She was 35 years old. The children were 14, 9, 6 and 4 years of age.
John and Ann would have another 5 children born in Kimberley, South Africa between 1903 and 1909. Unfortunately, three of the children died in infancy, two from influenza and one from meningitis. Ann had now buried 6 children (including John, the child she became a mother to upon marrying John Bellas).
Ann and John stayed in South Africa until July 1911. Boarding the steam ship ‘Durham Castle’ the family, with the exception of two of their children, traveled via Delagoa Bay, Mozambique to Southampton, London.5 Eldest son, Thomas, had been working in the Kimberley mines since he was 15 years old and stayed behind to continue working. Daughter Mary Hannah had married earlier in 1911 and also stayed behind. Ann left behind the tiny graves of the three children born in South Africa and her eldest son and a daughter. It surely must have been a difficult goodbye.
Although John would make one more trip to South Africa in early 1912, Ann remained in County Durham. John returned to England in 1913 and rejoined the family. Ann lived to be 64 years old, passing away in Shiney Row, County Durham on 22 August 19306. John passed away in 1938.7
Ann was obviously a much beloved wife and mother and deeply missed as is shown in the memorials published in the newspaper by her husband and children from 1931 through 1940. Each year on the anniversary of her death, her husband and children placed an ‘In Memoriam’ piece in the local newspaper.8
England, marriage certificate for John Bellas and Ann Wilson, married 25 June 1887, registered April quarter 1887, Houghton-le-Spring District 10a/600, Registry Office, Durham. ↩
England, birth of John and Elizabeth Jane Bellas, born 14 May 1890; registered April quarter 1890, Durham District 10a/487, Houghton-le-Spring District, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. ↩
England, birth of Mary Hannah Bellas, born 21 March 1893; registered April quarter 1893, Durham District 10a/503, Houghton-le-Spring District, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. ↩
1901 census of England, County Durham, Shiney Row, p. 12 (stamped), Annie Bellas; image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 April 2012); citing The National Archives, RG13, piece 4694, folio 55, p. 13; Houghton-le-Spring registration district, ED 14, household 76. ↩
UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960, database with images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 April 2012), “Names and Description of British Passengers,” entry for John Bellas family, arrived 16 August 1911 on Durham Castle from Delagoa Bay. ↩
England, death of Annie Bellas, 22 August 1930; registered September 1930, Durham District 10a/422, Houghton District, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. ↩
England, death of John Bellas, 27 January 1938; registered March 1938, Durham District 10a/528, Houghton District, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. ↩
“In Memoriam,” Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, Durham, England, 22 August 1933, p. 8, col. 1. ↩
Well known as one of the first settlers in Massena, St. Lawrence county, New York, Thomas Lantry died at the age of 98 in August 1887. 1 He left an estate of some $35 000.00, equivalent to approximately $890 000.00 today.
For the thirty years previous to Thomas’ death, he had been living with his son, Joshua Lantry and family. Thomas’ wife, Jane, died before 1880 and the rest of their children, all married, lived in their own homes. In 1872, at age 78, Thomas Lantry asked his nephew, Barnaby Lantry, to help draw up his will. Thomas Lantry left $500 dollars to each of his children and the bulk of the estate went to third oldest son, Joshua Lantry.
In May 1887, Joshua Lantry died suddenly of heart disease. 2 This meant his widow, Catherine and their children, would now inherit what Thomas Lantry had originally left to Joshua. Immediately, the other children of Thomas Lantry began to contest the will. They contended that the will was not properly executed, was not signed in the presence of the witnesses and declared the signature on the will to not be that of their father, Thomas. They also argued that the will was not properly published and that their father did not actually declare this his last will and testament. The contention to the will garnered a lot of attention from the county where almost all knew Thomas Lantry.
Several newspaper articles were written, most favoring Joshua Lantry’s widow as the legal heir. Their sympathies lay with the family who had taken care of Thomas Lantry and his wife for over thirty years. Several hearings were held and the case finally argued in Norwood, St. Lawrence county in April 1888. The judge declared that the will was a valid document and that the principal property would go to the widow and heirs of Joshua Lantry.
Thomas Lantry was a well-respected and prominent citizen of St. Lawrence county, New York. Previously a shoemaker in Ireland, he had left there in his early 30s with his wife and two small sons. He arrived in St. Lawrence county around 1823. He managed to buy land in Massena and farmed there all his life. He became a wealthy man through hard work and determination. The Lantry family was well-regarded by all who knew them. It is hard to imagine that Thomas would have been happy with the contention surrounding his will.
This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 9 prompt: Where there’s a will …
“Death of Thos. Lantry,” The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, St. Lawrence, New York, 13 October 1887, p. 5, col. 5. ↩
No heading, The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, St. Lawrence, New York, 26 May 1887, p. 1, col. 6., Vol. XXII, No. 21. ↩
The family bible is one of the most precious heirlooms a genealogist can have. A few years ago, my father was visiting his brother in England, and the subject of the family bible came up. My uncle was kind enough to pass the bible on to me, knowing of my passion for genealogy. It is a beautiful, large, and heavy bible, about 14 inches x 10 inches and almost 5 inches wide.
Our biggest hurdle was getting the bible from England to the U.S. where I lived. I did not want to send it via the mail. Fortunately, my father was staying at a guest house with a couple from the U.S. who had brought their daughter over to York to begin university. These strangers very kindly offered to bring the bible back with them to the U.S. and send it on to me.
The bible is titled, ‘Brown’s Self Interpreting Bible’ and the cover is embossed leather with metal on each edge and beautifully engraved metal clasps (one of which is missing). The Self Interpreting Bible was Rev. John Brown’s (1722-1787) most successful work. It contained the scriptures with marginal references and explanations for the ordinary person.
The inside of the bible contains beautiful pictures of various bible scenes, in vivid color.
In the middle of the bible are the pages that every genealogist hopes to see. Those that contain handwritten names and dates of birth, marriage and death. I can see from the handwriting that most of the names and dates were written by one person at one time, not at the time of each event. And the names are of only one family, the James Thomas and Margaret Bruce family. They are my great grandparents, who lived in County Durham, England. 1
James Thomas was born in 18622 in Medomsley, Durham, and Margaret Bruce was born in 18663 in Sherburn, Durham. They married in 1888 at Bethany Church 4, a Christian Lay Church in Sunderland, Durham.
James and Margaret Thomas went on to have six children with only two surviving infancy. Those names are written in their bible. How sad it must have been to write down the death dates of their precious little ones.
The Thomas family bible is a valuable resource but it is more than that. To me it is the precious feeling of being able to hold in my hands something that I know my great grandparents once treasured.
Thomas Family Bible, The Holy Bible (Newcastle Upon Tyne: Adam & Co. Lmt), “Births, Deaths”; privately held by Sue McNelly, [address for private use,] Arizona, 2010. ↩
England, birth certificate for James Thomas, born 29 January 1862; registered March quarter 1862, Durham District 10a/265, Lanchester Sub-district, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. ↩
England, birth certificate for Margaret Bruce, born 4 May 1866; registered June quarter 1866, Durham District 10a/365, Saint Nicholas Sub-district, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. ↩
England, marriage certificate for James Thomas and Margaret Bruce, married 3 March 1888, registered March quarter 1888, Sunderland District 10a/715, Bethany Church, Durham; General Registry Office, Southport. ↩
The moment I saw photographs of my husband’s great grandparents I wished that I had been fortunate enough to have met them. They seemed to radiate happiness and love for each other, for their family and for life. They are the perfect choice for a post on Valentine’s Day.
Charles & Ella
Charles Stephen Zimmerman and Ella Lucille McMahon were married on 17 May 1919 in Stockton, San Joachin, California. 1 Charles was 22 years old and Ella, 19. Charles was the youngest son of German immigrants, Louis Wendelin Zimmerman and Philippina (Bena) Tischbein, and Ella was the oldest daughter of James Thomas McMahon and Adaline Slater.
They began married life with a move to Phoenix, Arizona where they rented a small home at North Sixth Avenue. 2
I’m quite sure the house below is not the one they rented but perhaps one they went to see as tourists.
Their first child, a daughter they named Helen Rose, was born on 26 April 1920 in Phoenix. 3 The family didn’t stay too long, finding the Phoenix summers too hot. By 1921, they had returned to California and made their home in Modesto 4.
They would welcome three more children to their family: Robert in December 1921, Patricia in April 1924, and Jon in August 1934.
Their sweet story plays out in the photographs they left behind. I am sure there was loss and tragedy, hard times and difficulties, tears of sadness as well as joy, but when I asked my husband what he remembers of them, he replied, “They were happy”.
“California, County Marriages, 1850-1952,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8ZF-457 : 13 February 2018), Charles S. Zimmerman and Ella McMahon, 17 May 1919; citing San Joaquin, California, United States, county courthouses, California; FHL microfilm 1,841,865. ↩
1920 U.S. Census, Maricopa County, California, population schedule, Phoenix, ED 58, sheet 3A (penned), dwelling 50, family 68 , Charles Zimmerman household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 February 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 49. ↩
Arizona Birth Records, 1880-1935, Helen Rose Zimmerman, 26 April 1920; image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 February 2018). ↩
1930 U.S. Census, Stanislaus County, California, population schedule, Modesto, ED 10, sheet 9A (penned), 62 (stamped), dwelling 149, family 148, Charles S. Zimmerman household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 February 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 223. ↩
RootsTech 2018 is 19 days away! Are you ready? This will be my 4th time attending and over the years I’ve learned a few things about organizing myself for each day’s classes and for research time in the Family History Library.
How I organize for RootsTech’s incredible line up of classes
First thing to do is to download the RootsTech mobile app. It’s available from the App Store and the Google Play Store. Using the app you are able to create your personalized schedule for each day. As you read through each of the class descriptions you can ‘star’ them, which moves them to your daily schedule (My Schedule on the app). I always pick my top choice class and a back up class for each hour. I also note when lunch is and when the Expo Hall will be open. Once you have finished selecting classes for each day, tap the gear icon on the upper right-hand side of the screen and slide down to a reddish box which says ‘Email My Show Summary’. You can email your class schedule to yourself or share it with a friend attending with you.
What about syllabus material for each class?
Handouts are only available on the app but can be downloaded or emailed to yourself. To do this, tap on My Schedule (which you have already created) and tap on your first selected class. Move down the page that shows information on that class until you come to the very bottom where it says ‘Resources’. Under that is ‘Handouts’. Tap on ‘Handouts’ and if the class has one, it will ask you if you would like to Take Notes on the Handout, Download Handout or Email Handout. I prefer to email the handout to myself. You will receive an email with a PDF of that classes’ handout. I print that out and write the location and time of the class in the upper right-hand corner.
I then place them in day and time order in my binder. This way I don’t have to keep referring to my phone to see what’s next on my schedule. I can look at my binder and it’s all organized there. I use the back of the handouts to make any notes during that class. Everyone has a different system to keep themselves organized. I’ve used this one all the years I’ve attended RootsTech and it’s worked well. My binder also has a place for pens and pencils, flash drives, business cards and more paper. I like having it all in one place.
How I organize for research at the world-famous Family History Library
Going to RootsTech means making time for research at the Family History Library. Over the years I’ve worked out a system that keeps me on track and organized. My biggest tip for researching here is to plan ahead! There are lots of BSO’s (those distracting Bright Shiny Objects) hiding in the library and it’s easy to get sidetracked. It’s not always a bad thing to be lured in by a BSO, actually it can be kind of fun! But when you’re fitting in time between RootsTech classes or at the end of a busy and mentally exhausting day, you want to try to stay on track.
As I research I use the Research Log report on my desktop family history software to keep track of the films or books that I need to look at when I am next at the Family History Library and which are not available online. Use FamilySearch.org to find the correct film or book and check whether it has been digitized or not. If not, I add that information to a spreadsheet I have set up with columns as shown below.
I try to be very clear about the information I am looking for. I create these Research Logs as I work on projects and it can sometimes be months since I marked that I needed to look at a specific film for information. I don’t want to spend time having to pull up my family history software program and look at why I wanted that information. Each item is numbered in the far-left hand column. That number is what I use in my handwritten notes as a reference for any information I find or do not find. Of course, I also add the film or book number again on the notes I am making in the library, as well as any notes on whether I photocopied, downloaded or transcribed the image. I never transfer any information to my family history software until I am back home and able to carefully evaluate it first. Some may prefer to use a preprinted Research Log template to write down what you find in the Library but those never seem to have enough space for me to write in.
RootsTech is always a whirlwind of great education and fun socializing. Get the most out of your RootsTech trip by getting and staying organized!
What tips do you have on staying organized at RootsTech?
We probably all have them in our family trees. Those Puritan virtue names popular in the 17th century. Mercy, Thankful, Liberty, Faith, Prudence, and in my case …. Silence, and her granddaughter, Experience.
Silence Potter was born in Exeter, Washington county, Rhode Island on 22 January 1753 1. Her parents were Joseph Potter and Catherine Spencer. You might expect that her siblings would also have interesting names, yet that’s not the case at all. Her four sisters were named Hannah, Mary, Martha and Sarah.
Silence was a name somewhat popular in Puritan England, and one that crossed the Atlantic to be seen in America 2. It was thought to have its origins in the admonition of Saint Paul, “Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection.” (1 Tim. Ii. II). In fact, devoted Puritans found a source of continual supply of inspiration in the Epistle to the Romans:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed” 3
Justice, Faith, Grace, Hope, Glory, Patience and … Experience. All names springing from the pages of the bible onto the town birth registers of Rhode Island in the 1700s.
Silence Potter was married in 1774, at the age of 21, to a man named Elijah Case.4 Elijah Case was a founding member of the Penfield Baptist Church in Monroe county, New York. He was also the first minister there. Silence and Elijah had ten children: Mary, Elijah, Catherine, Alexander, Joseph, Abel, Solomon, Elisha, Benjamin and Reaboan. All common names for the time period, with perhaps the exception of Reaboan. Although Reaboan appears to be a Baptist name, I wasn’t able to confirm its origins or meaning.
Elijah, the oldest son of Silence and Elijah, was born on 11 September 1776. 5 Elijah Case (1776) married Elizabeth Crandall and had several children. One they named, Experience. The other children again had fairly every day names like Solomon, Elizabeth, Daniel and Hannah.
Experience’s name would turn out to be a fitting one, and perhaps a foreshadowing of her life to come. A life that would be full of difficult challenges and experiences. Experience married in 1826 and settled in Michigan Territory with her husband, Lucius Hubbard Fuller. They moved to Warsaw, Hancock county, 6 where malaria was rampant in the swampy lands surrounding them. There was also great tension in the community between the Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and non-Mormon settlers. Lucius was a Mormon but there is no indication that Experience joined the church. In April 1845, Lucius died, likely of complications from malaria. 7 Experience was left a widow with four children still at home. Experience and two of her children were also sick when Lucius died. One year later, in 1846, Experience died. 8 She was only 39 years old. The last few years of Experience’s life can be learned about through the pages of her probate record which I wrote about in a previous post.
Silence and Experience, grandmother and granddaughter. Their unusual names help us to see them with more distinction at a time when women’s legal and social status was almost completely overshadowed by the men in their lives.
“Rhode Island, Vital Records, 1636-1899”, database with images; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018), marriage of Elijah Case and Silence Potter, 1774. ↩
“Rhode Island, Birth Index, 1636-1930”, database with images; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018), entry for birth of Elijah Case, 11 September 1776. ↩
1840 U.S. census, Hancock County, Illinois, no township, p. 27 (written), entry for L.H. Fuller; digital image by subscription, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 7 February 2018); citing National Archives microfilm M704, roll 60. ↩
Hancock County, Illinois, Probate Records, ca. 1831-1942, Boxes 15-16, 1840s-1850s, Case 16, letters of administration of estate of Lucius Hubbard Fuller, 3 August 1844; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018). ↩
Hancock County, Illinois, Probate Records, ca. 1831-1942, Boxes 15-16, 1840s-1850s, Case 16, letters of administration of estate of Experience Fuller, 8 December 1846; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018). ↩