Four Generations in Close Up

4Generation

Four generations of women in my family in South Africa. There is something about taking these close up photographs and placing them next to each other that reinforces for me the familial bonds that tie generations together. Not to mention, seeing how much they resemble each other!

Christina Elizabeth McIntosh was of Scottish descent, born in Knysna, South Africa in 1857. Her parents, William McIntosh and Elizabeth Shoolbread (Shoolbraid/Shulbred) had left Inverkeithing, Fife, Scotland in 1849. Christina married a German immigrant, George Eberhard, in 1880 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and they had eight children together. One of which was my great-grandmother, Christina Elizabeth Eberhard, born in 1883 in Kimberley, South Africa.

Christina Elizabeth Eberhard died at the very young age of 35. The 1918 flu pandemic had hit South Africa and Christina succumbed to it on 15 October 1918. She had married John Keown, an immigrant from the Isle of Man, in November of 1913 and they had two children. Their oldest child, Edward, was four years old when his mother died, and my grandmother, Hazel Jane, was only four months old.

Hazel Jane Keown married Harold James Davis on 19 June 1937 in Johannesburg. They had only one child, my Mom. I wrote about my grandparents here. My grandmother, Hazel, made some sad decisions in her life, with the result being that my Mom grew up without her and never saw her again until Hazel was in her early 80s.

Four generations upon whose shoulders I stand.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 18 prompt: Close Up

Tax Records: An often overlooked source

Tax records are a valuable but often overlooked source:

  • They can help to fill in the decade between census enumerations and before the first federal census of 1790.
  • In burned counties tax records are often the only information you may find on your ancestor.
  • Tax records sometimes contain specific residence information, giving an exact physical location of an ancestor at a specific time.
  • Tax records can point to an ancestor’s occupation, give descriptions of land and animals owned and of personal property.

Tax-banner

A few interesting taxable items:

  • If you owned a billiard table or a silver plate or cutlery, a carriage or wagons, you owed the government some tax. If you manufactured boots and shoes, bonnets, collars or sold miscellaneous clothing, you had to pay a tax on those too.
  • In 1862 in Michigan, Albert B. Judd was taxed on 8 coffins. I sure hope he was an undertaker or perhaps a manufacturer of coffins because I can’t imagine any other reason someone would have 8 coffins lying around.
  • John G. Burnell of Trenton, New Jersey was taxed in 1862 on his 1316 lbs. of ground coffee and spices. He had to pay individual taxes on cinnamon, pepper, mustard, cloves, allspice, and ginger.

An example of an 1862 tax record from New York:

Tax Example 2
Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for New York and New Jersey, 1862-1866, unpaginated entries arranged alphabetically; images, “Records of the Internal Revenue Service, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed April 12, 2018), Record Group 58, citing the National Archives at Washington, D.C.

Tax records are worth the effort to track down as they can add rich detail to your ancestor’s life.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 15 prompt: Taxes

‘Where there’s a (contested) will …Thomas Lantry of St. Lawrence Co., New York

ThomasLantry3

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.

ThomasLantry1
The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, October 13, 1887.

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.

ThomasLantry2
The Sun, Fort Covington, New York, April 5, 1888.

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 …

 

 


  1. “Death of Thos. Lantry,” The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, St. Lawrence, New York, 13 October 1887, p. 5, col. 5. 
  2. 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. 

Silence and her granddaughter, Experience.

Puritan-Name
Silence and her granddaughter, Experience.

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.

SilencePotter1753_grave
Gravestone for Silence Case, Oakwood Cemetery, Penfield, Monroe county, New York.

Experience Case
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.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 6 prompt: Favorite Name.

 


  1. “Rhode Island, Vital Records, 1636-1899”, database with images; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018), entry for Silence Potter birth, 22 January 1753. 
  2. Charles W. Bardsley, Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. (London, Chatto and Windus, 1880), 145; digital images, Internet Archive (https://archive.org : accessed 7 February 2018). 
  3. King James bible, Romans, Chapter 5: v. 1-5. 
  4. “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. 
  5. “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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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). 
  8. 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). 

Understanding what the Census Enumerator was meant to write (and how that helps you understand your ancestor).

1900 censusIn the Census: Understanding what the census enumerator was instructed to write.

The census is one of the first places we go to when researching our ancestors. We pour over those images, trying to interpret what is on the page in front of us. For the 1880 U.S. census, the Superintendent of the Census offered supervisors some general guidelines in choosing enumerators: “The appointments should be made with reference to physical activity, and to aptness, neatness, and accuracy in writing and in the use of figures,” to “active” and “energetic” young men “of good address.”1 Most genealogists would agree that, “aptness, neatness, and accuracy in writing” is not what we always find on the census. There is little we can do about indistinct handwriting but perhaps gaining some context to what the enumerator was instructed to write in that particular column may help us interpret something which is difficult to read or a mark or abbreviation that makes no sense to us.

An Example

George Everett Zimmerman, my husband’s great grand-uncle, was enumerated on the 1920 U.S. census as Zimmerman, E. George.2 At first glance I may have concluded that while I had previously thought his first name to be George, and middle name Everett, this census entry may make me think that perhaps the initial ‘E’ for Everett was actually his first name and George, his middle name, was the name he went by.

Zimmerman census
1920 U.S. Census for Zimmerman, E. George.

After studying the other families on the page, I could see that all were enumerated as [last name] [initial] [first name]. In fact, all the heads of households in the entire enumeration district were recorded in this manner.

IPUMS (The Integrated Public Use Microdata Series) uses microdata to study the past sixteen federal censuses, looking for patterns of social and economic change. It also contains a record of all census questions, enumerators instructions, and brief histories of every census from 1790-2010. For our example above the enumerator was given this instruction:

“108. How names are to be written. – Enter first the last name or surname, then the given name in full, and the initial of the middle name, if any. Where the surname is the same as that of the person in the preceding line do not repeat the name, but draw a horizontal line (-) under the name above, as shown in the illustrative example.”3

The enumerator misunderstood the instructions and recorded all the names in his enumeration district by last name, middle initial, given name.

Learn More

If you want to get more out of your U.S. census research I suggest looking at IPUMS.org. The instructions to enumerators is invaluable in providing context to the information we see on the census.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 5 prompt: In the Census.

  1. Diana L. Magnuson, “The Making of a Modern Census: the United States Census of Population, 1790-1940,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1995, IPUMS (https://usa.ipums.org/usa/voliii/enumproc1.shtml : accessed 1 February 2018). 
  2. 1920 U.S. Census, San Joaquin County, California, population schedule, O’Neal Township, ED 153, sheet 28A (penned), dwelling 586, family 586, George E. Zimmerman household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 January 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 143. 
  3. 1920 Census:  Instructions to Enumerators, IPUMS USA (https://usa.ipums.org/usa/voliii/inst1920.shtml : accessed 31 January 2018), citing “How names are to be written”. 

Is it really a brick wall?

brick-wall

Recently, I’ve noticed quite a few posts in various genealogy groups where people are asking for help. That’s not new, of course. What seems to be new, or perhaps I’ve just noticed it more, is that the request for help is preceded by a sentence like this, “I’ve hit a brick wall! I’ve been looking all over Ancestry for my grandfather’s birth certificate for a few weeks now and I can’t find it.”  Or something like this, “Please help with my brick wall. I’ve looked everywhere for a month now and can’t find the marriage certificate of my great grandparents who were married in 1870.”

I started thinking about that term ‘brick wall’ as it’s used in genealogy. Have we really hit a brick wall after searching for a few weeks? Have we hit a brick wall if we are only searching online for information? The answer is no. What those pleas for help show is a common misconception that all genealogical material is online and secondly, they show a lack of understanding of one of the main tenants of the Genealogical Proof Standard (the GPS). The first step in accurate research (the GPS has five steps in all), is that our searches should be reasonably exhaustive. Can you truly have exhausted all avenues of research if you are only researching online or if you’ve done it for a few weeks and given up in frustration? A reasonably exhaustive search would imply we have a) educated ourselves as to which records are available that may help our search and b) we have searched for those records, both online and in brick and mortar repositories either ourselves or by asking (and sometimes paying) others to do so for us. I have had some of my best success in locating records previously searched for and not found, by reaching out to local historical and genealogical societies, and to libraries and archives (librarians and archivists are a genealogist’s best friend!).

So how do you define your brick wall? Is it a time issue? You’ve been searching for over 5 years, 10 years, longer with nothing to show for it? (A person could say though that you have negative evidence then so really you do have something to show for it).  Is it an issue of record availability, in that, the records do not exist and no other record sources have helped in solving the problem (think burned U.S. counties here, or the 1890 census, or the loss of records in the fire in the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922)? Although again, there are substitute record sets that may help. Is your brick wall an adoption or other NPE (Non-Paternity Event) that DNA has not been able to solve (yet)? I have a couple of brick walls that fall into those categories, one of which is the search for the death of my great-grandfather Harry Joshua Davis. I’ve been searching for his date and place of death for over 15 years now. You can read more about him here.

frustratedmanBrick wall research can be frustrating so it’s good to break from it and work on other lines and go back every now and then to see if fresh eyes can bring a different perspective. It’s always good advice to educate yourself on the history of the area and what records may be available – no sense searching for a birth certificate in North Carolina in 1883 when they didn’t start recording birth information until 1913. Know the history, know the records is a mantra I often find myself repeating and one I wrote more about here.

 

While some hobbyists may not be too worried about employing a reasonably exhaustive search, serious family historians and genealogy professionals know the importance of being confident that we have conducted a reasonably exhaustive search before we make any conclusions. And even then, we know that new evidence may turn up that could overturn those conclusions. Brick walls don’t exist when we have only searched online or when we have only been searching for a short time and don’t really know where else to search. Those are bumps in the research road…. they may well lead to a brick wall in the future but without reasonably exhaustive research they are still just a bump in the genealogical road.

Discover … Internet Archive

Discover-Internet-Archive-g

Internet Archive:  Described as ‘a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.’[1] Internet Archive is a great site to search for just about anything. The “Wayback Machine” allows the archives of the web to be searched.  Users are then able to view archived web pages even for web sites which no longer exist.

In terms of genealogical research there is a wealth of information available.  Clicking on their American Libraries collection, for example, pulls up over 2,450,000 different items in over 1000 collections.  A quick look under North Carolina Directories shows 925 city and business directories with a wide range of years.

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Internet Archive. https://archive.org/

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You can then select a specific directory to look at.  Each directory is fully searchable and easily downloaded.  All collections on Internet Archive can be filtered by Media Type, Year, Topic and Subject, Creator, and Language.

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Internet Archive. http://www.archive.org/details/bransonnorthcar1869rale

The Internet Archive collection for World War II contains almost 6000 items including 2,839 movies, newsreels and audio recordings.   Did you know you can see census records on Internet Archive?  The United States Census collection holds over 23,000 items, with approximately 13,004,791 page images.

Several historical societies provide content to Internet Archive as a means of preserving it for the future.  The Minnesota Historical Society provides newspapers and manuscripts in the 2,661 items on Internet Archive and the Georgia Historical Society has several old journals and books in its’ collection.

You can even listen to Winston Churchill as he sends his thoughts to American troops and citizens on Thanksgiving 1944, or to President Roosevelt as he calls on Congress to declare war on Japan on 8 December 1941.  Both can be found in Internet Archive’s Community Audio collection.

IA4
Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/FDR_Declares_War_19411208

This brief introduction doesn’t do justice to the incredible resource that Internet Archive is.  It’s a great tool to add to your genealogy toolbox.

[1] Internet Archive.  https://archive.org/. accessed March 31, 2017