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

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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.

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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.

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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. 

Family Heirloom: The Thomas family bible.

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The Thomas family bible.

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.

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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.

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Scriptural scenes inside the bible.

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.

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Thomas family bible with the names of my great grandparents, James and Margaret Thomas.

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.

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Dates of birth and death for James and Margaret Thomas’ six children.

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.

 

 


  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 

Charles and Ella Zimmerman – an Enduring Love Story.

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-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.

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Ella and Charles on their wedding trip.

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.

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Ella and Charles, 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.

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Charles, Ella and son, Jon.

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”.

Charles-Ella4

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 7 prompt: Valentine.

 

 


  1. “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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Arizona Birth Records, 1880-1935, Helen Rose Zimmerman, 26 April 1920; image,  Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 February 2018). 
  4. 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. 

Headed to RootsTech 2018? Let’s Get Organized!

Rootstech-headerRootsTech 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

Silence and her granddaughter, Experience.

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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.

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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.

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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”. 

Sharing a Meal with my 16 Great Great Grandparents.

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At my dinner table…

Out of all your ancestors who would you most like to share a meal with?   I would like to sit down with my 16 great great grandparents as they seem to be a fascinating lot. All 8 couples were born in different parts of the U.K. and the world. There is a lot I know about them but even more I haven’t yet discovered.

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Map of the United Kingdom with colored areas representing birth places of great great grandparents.
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Map of the world with colored areas representing birth places of three (two in Germany, one in South Africa) great great grandparents.

I imagine the conversation among these 16 dinner guests would be lively. The coal miners at the table, William Thomas from St. Agnes, Cornwall, John Bruce from Edinburgh, Scotland, David Bellis from Holywell, Wales and Richard Wilson, from County Durham, would no doubt have much to say about mining and wages and working conditions.

Perhaps sitting in one corner of the table the two Germans, Helena Schmidt and George Eberhard, might have been chatting about where in Germany they were from (information I would like to have!) and what brought them to their current homes. Helena Schmidt Davis was living in England by 1877 and George Eberhard, an engineer, had made the very long journey to the Cape Province, South Africa, sometime before 1880.

John Hayes and Bridget Dillon Hayes would be the only Irish folk at the table, and John, the only military man at the gathering. He had been a tailor before joining the British Army in Belfast, Ireland at the age of 18. He had been posted to Tullamore, King’s County, Ireland where he met and married Bridget in 1882. His military service would take him to Jamaica where their first child would be born, and then on to South Africa. John Hayes and George Eberhard, despite likely language barriers, may have been able to talk about their trip to South Africa and what life was like there.

John Kewn and Jane Gell Kewn were from the Isle of Man. John was a very successful builder with his own business. Financially, he would probably be the most well off at the table.  Joshua Davis, finding himself seated next to the successful John Kewn, may have been rather quiet. Joshua himself came from a very well to do family, but was considered to be almost the black sheep of the family. He was a plumber by trade, while the rest of his brothers worked in the thriving family business of being railway carriage owners.

The ladies at the table would of course, find plenty to talk about as ladies often do.  Susan Bastian had been married at age 17 to William Thomas, and they had seven children. Many of the women at the table were coal miner’s wives and some had worked at the mines themselves.  By 1842, it was illegal for women to work below ground so Susan and her children worked above ground sorting coal. Christina McIntosh, born in South Africa to Scottish parents, operated a store in the front room of her home and Bridget Dillon Hayes was a school teacher. The other wives all worked in the home, taking care of their husbands and children. The eight couples had 58 children between them, of which only four died in infancy. That is quite a feat considering infant mortality rates in the mid-1800s.

My dinner guests:

William Thomas (born 1834, St. Agnes, Cornwall) and Susan Bastian (born 1837, Chacewater, Cornwall)
John Bruce (born 1843, Edinburgh, Scotland) and Isabella Bowes (born 1847, Sherburn, Durham, England)
David Bellis (born 1822, Holywell, Flintshire, Wales) and Margaret Williams (born 1833, Abergele, Wales)
Richard Wilson (born 1840, Philadelphia, Durham, England) and Elizabeth Twedell (born 1845, Gosforth, Northumberland, England)
Joshua Davis (born 1854, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England) and Helena Schmidt (born 1851, Germany)
John Joseph Hayes (born 1862, Carrickfergus, Antrim, Ireland) and Bridget Mary Hayes (born 1865, Cork, Ireland)
John Kewn (born 1821, Peel, Kirk German, Isle of Man) and Jane Gell (born 1826, Peel, Kirk German, Isle of Man)
George Eberhard (born 1857, Berlin, Germany) and Christina Elizabeth McIntosh (born 1857, Knysna, Cape, South Africa)

I love prompts that get you thinking about your ancestors!  Week 4’s prompt for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow is ‘Invite to dinner’.