27 May 2013

In Memory of the Soldiers I Descend From

From the 1600’s until World War I, many of my grandfathers fought to establish this country or to fight for the freedom of others.  I am proud to descend from these men and wish to honor them on this Memorial Day.

King Philip’s War – June 1675 to April 1678

Stephen Hosmer of Connecticut and Massachusetts

Joseph Richardson of Massachusetts

Blaise Vinton of Massachusetts 

French and Indian War – 1754 to 1763

Samuel Colvin of Rhode Island

John Gay of Pennsylvania

Revolutionary War – April 1775 to Sept 1783

Peter Larrance of Virginia

Vincent Tapp of Virginia

Benjamin Sprake/Sprague of Massachusetts

Nicholas Sprake/Sprague of Massachusetts

David Dailey of New York

Thomas Joslin of Rhode Island

Jacob Stotts of Maryland

George Hitler of Pennsylvania

Abraham Vanhise of New Jersey

Peter Livengood of Pennsylvania but enlisted in Virginia

War of 1812 – June 1812 to February 1815

George Parker of Ohio

Benjamin Basye of Virginia

John Sprague of Ohio

Jacob Stotts of Ohio

Griffin Winstead of Virginia

William Winstead of Virginia

Joshua Thomas of Pennsylvania

Civil War - April 1861 to May 1865

David Ludington of Indiana, enlisted in Illinois under his friend Captain Buell

Joseph Hitler of Ohio

John Mason Lawrence of Virginia

World War I  -  July 1914 to November 1918

Glen David Watts of Indiana

World War II – September 1939 to September 1945

Especially in my thoughts today is my great uncle, Bob Watts of Indiana

02 May 2013

Thinking of My Grandmother, Marjorie May Watts, on the Anniversary of Her 93rd Birthday

Mom Mom and me at Wolf Lake, Hammond, IN, 1960's

Ever since my grandmother, Marjorie Watts, passed away in June 2007, I feel like a part of my soul went with her.  Mom Mom, as I called her, was my mom's mother.  We were so close that she used to say we were joined at the hip.  She was the one person who I could always look to for wisdom, for comfort and to help me pick up the pieces of any situation.  When I became an adult, she looked to me for the same comfort and love.

For her memorial service, we were asked to write about our memories of her.  I'd like to share with you my thoughts that I wrote about for that service.

 Mom Mom come in Goldy O Beel

I guess it’s all my fault, really.  I called her Mom Mom (pronounced Mum Mum) not Grandma because as tiny tike, I could not say Grandma.  Somehow, Mom Mom stuck and it stuck to my cousins Jimmy, Pam and Dawn and down to all of our kids, too. 

“Mom Mom come in Goldy O Beel!”  Visits from Mom Mom in her sassy gold Oldsmobile were akin to Batman pulling up in the Batmobile to me.  There was always going to be some great adventure: whisking me off for a “just us 2 girls” weekend at her home in Chicago, driving to LaPorte to see Grandma Romine or Valparaiso to see Uncle Bob and Aunt Marie, picking apples or berries in the country…..no matter what we did, we were going to have the best time. 

Like any good Super Hero, Mom Mom had her Trusty Sidekick: Perky, that sweet half German Shepard/half Collie with one ear that just refused to stand up.  Perky had her own swimming pool in the yard and yes, Mom Mom trained her to poop in an old coffee can. (I STILL tell people that story).  Perky knew that when she and Mom Mom visited our house, a treat was in store for her.  We’d open the door to our black Volkswagen Beetle, crank open that sunroof and Perky would jump in, stick her head out the sunroof and we were off to Dairy Queen to get Perky a small ice cream cone. The sight of Mom Mom holding the cone with Perky licking away made everyone at the DQ laugh. 

The two of us were sneaky on those weekends I stayed in Chicago with her. Sometimes I thought Mom Mom’s goal in life was to get everything for me my mom said I couldn’t have. (We won’t even get into the Marge vs. Linda Pierced Ears War now).  Between shopping sprees on one of those Saturdays, we dropped by her place to drop off some packages then went off “sneaking” again.  When we got back, there was Perky, chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing some more. Then, we saw the living room floor: 10 packs of Wrigley Spearmint Gum all carefully chewed by a certain canine, wrappers and all.  

Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge.
Mom Mom presented me with so many firsts in my life:  my first kitten, Buster, my first trip on a jet to Oakland to see Uncle Art and Aunt Miko, my first swim in the Pacific Ocean and my first trip to Disneyland.  Disneyland.  Mom Mom was probably in her mid-40’s at the time and I was 5 but we both turned into pre-kindergarteners there…  laughing and soaking it all in.  Small World was our ride.  We couldn’t get enough of it. 

Mom Mom and my's viewpoint from the Small World boats at Disneyland
Living in Los Angeles, Disneyland is a place we frequent often.  Each time I’ve been on Small World, I become that 5 year old again with her Grandma.  There’s not been a time I ride it, that I don’t think of Mom Mom and how it felt to ride with her.  I try to hide it from my family but each time, tears fill my eyes.  I don’t think I’ll ride Small World again. I just want to keep the memory of riding it with my Super Hero.

26 April 2013

Like Father, Like Son

In the Like Father, Like Son Department, it seems the Watts men of my family had a penchant for breaking their arms.  After yesterday's post of Great Grandpa Watts breaking his arm cranking his car, I found this article about his son, my great uncle, Robert Thomas Watts, breaking his arm playing high school basketball.

From the Vidette Messenger, Valparaiso, Indiana, 26 February, 1938 -

Washington is Loser; Watts Breaks Arm

Misfortune struck Washington township's ill-fated b title team on the eve of the sectional again when Bob Watts, a reserve player, suffered a broken arm in the preliminary to the Washington=Merrillville game won by Merrillville at Washington last night 32-32.

Watts fell to the floor in a pile-up late in the first half of the pre-lim and a Merrillville player accidentally stepped on his arm, causing the break.  Merrillville won the game, 11-9.


25 April 2013

Grandpa Watts Had A Minor Accident

After reading this about my Great Grandfather, Glenn David Watts, I'm adding "Keyed Ignition" to my list of Technology I Am Grateful For:

From the Fort Wayne News and Sentinel, 22 January 1919 -

Minor Accidents in Northwest Indiana
Cromwell: Glenn Watts broke his arm while attempting to crank his automobile.

20 April 2013

Family Photo

I've written so much about my grandfather/Papa, Walter, in the last few weeks but I've been hard pressed to find a decent photo of him. The photos we have of him seem to be blurry or the color is terribly faded. Here's a picture that I love. It's a picture of my mom being held by her father, Walter, in 1942. She looks so cute and Papa looks so dapper.

16 April 2013

Conflicts On Descending From Slaveholders and Confederate Soldiers

Confederate Civil War Soldier, John M Lawrence's Parole
Identifying the father of my grandfather after all these years has been an exciting time.  It’s been so interesting to research brand new family lines. The Lawrences, Priests, O’Bannons, Tapps, etc., were early, founding residents of Virginia and through them, I’ve realized that I have Native American heritage.  Yet, researching these families has often left me feeling very conflicted.  You see, my newfound families were slaveholders.  I’ve yet to find any of my “new” ancestral families that did not own slaves. The thought of it is difficult to stomach.
Many of my friends are African American.  My son’s lifelong best friend is D*. His mother is from Japan and his father is African American. D* is like a second son to me and he calls me Mom. I wonder if my friends or D* would think differently of me knowing my ancestors owned slaves?  I know it was a very long time ago and I personally did not own another human being but I’m feeling this weird guilt by association.
During Spring Break, D* spent a lot of time at our house.  The boys were hanging out with me in the living room, watching a movie and goofing around.  I was doing some online research when I stumbled upon my 5th great grandfather, Bryan O’Bannon’s will.  Finding a will can be like finding a goldmine of information sometimes so I couldn’t wait to start combing through it. Immediately, I started seeing Bryan O’Bannon doling out slaves to his children and grandchildren just the same as he was doling out chairs and horses.
 From the will of Bryan O’Bannon, 4 September 1760:
To son, John O’Bannon – plantation whereon he now lives, 212 a. – Negro woman Judy, after death of son John and his wife, Sarah, sd. Negroe (if living) to granddaughter Sarah dau. of John – “the said Negroe Judy shall after my Decease be Totally Exempted from Labouring without Doors during her Natural Life”. Still and young unbroken horse.
I cringed.  Bryan O’Bannon not only willed Judy to his son but dictated that she be given to John’s daughter after their death if poor Judy was still alive?! In the next sentence he wills John a horse?! I could not possibly wrap my head around what I just read. Reading that will with D* across the room from me, I could feel myself turn red.  I felt bad and embarrassed and quickly shut down my laptop.
My 2nd great grandfather and Confederate Civil War Soldier, John Mason Lawrence, at age 91.
Another conflict is really just an extension of the slavery issue. I’ve done plenty of Civil War research on my great grandfathers and uncles but they were Union soldiers.  John Mason Lawrence, my second great grandfather, was a Confederate soldier.  In my mind, they were the ones fighting to keep their slaves, to keep people as private property.  Fighting to own another person is just foreign to me. While I don’t like the fact that John Mason Lawrence was a confederate soldier, I have tried to look at the situation through his eyes in order to be more accepting of him.  Fortunately, I have learned some things that ease my anxiety.
He was a part of the 43rd battalion Virginia Cavalry, better known as Mosby’s Rangers. The Union side called them “guerillas” so there has been much written about them and many artifacts from their skirmishes are around today.  Fortunately, John Mason Lawrence is very much a part of the documented Mosby’s Rangers’ history.  His pistol and gun horn are in a museum and there’s a picture of them on line. He attended most Civil War reunions. Since he lived to be almost 95 years old, my family is able to see John progress in age in the group photos taken of the men at the reunions. We can look at his photos as a young man and see features which are in our own faces. In his military file, there is an incredible photo of John from 1936 at age 91, watching a re-enactment at Manassas. He looks frail but behind that huge beard and hat, there’s great pride in his eyes.
I read a story passed on by John’s granddaughter. She said that the Union soldiers had ransacked John’s family farm when he was 16 or 17.  Immediately, John ran away from home to join Mosby’s Rangers.  His father, John Neville Lawrence, realizing he was gone, went out to search for him, brought him back home, made him pack up some provisions, and then allowed his son to return to Mosby’s Rangers. We all have family folklore that is so stretched that the subject seems heroic. This is one family story I want to keep as true.  If I think about the hurt and rage that John Mason Lawrence felt as he watched his home being torn apart, his reason for wanting to be a Confederate soldier makes me feel better.  I can’t bear to think of any other reason for John Mason Lawrence to be a soldier.


09 April 2013

Civil War Confederate Citizens Files Free on Fold3

Military records are can be a wealth of information on your ancestors. Unfortunately, not everyone you descend from were of age to enlist as a soldier in a war.  Many of my grandfathers were too old or to young to fight.  But, there are other wartime records which were kept that could help you in your research.  One example of this is the Confederate Citizen Files on Fold3.com. It's currently free on this mostly pay to use website. It's an excellent resource if your ancestor lived in the southern states and were not able to participate in the Civil War as a soldier.

The Confederate Citizen Files contain claims related to individuals and business which provided goods and services to the Confederate Government during the Civil War. These claims were later used by the US Government Adjutant General's Office to prove the disloyality of people after the war. The contents of each individual file varies.  One might discover where the person lived, goods he or she provided, if they could write, other family member's names and names of neighbors.  It's an excellent resource for finding out information on the females and non-soldier males in your family.


04 April 2013

The Key To Identifying My Great Grandfather

I wanted to share the 1900 Census record which led to identifying my grandfather's paternity. I had already identified my great grandmother, Pearl Etta Gordon, in the 1900 census, living with her grandmother in Lake County, IN. When I did a search on Ancestry.com for Pearl, I found a second 1900 census with her on it. This duplicate census, shown above, lists her as a servant in the Benjamin household. Right above her is Presley Evans Lawrence. Because of the timing of her pregnancy with my grandfather, Presley struck me as someone who could possibly be my grandpa's father. If Pearl and Presley were not listed together on this census, even with DNA testing, we may have never been able to positively identify Presley as my grandfather's father.

Identifying Papa's Father: The Final Chapter

Waiting for the YDNA results was like that tickle you get in your sinuses that makes you want to sneeze.  You can’t sneeze and you can’t itch it so you live with it until the tickle decides to do what it wants to do. The email from FTDNA said there wouldn’t be any test results until the 3rd week of March. OK. Wait. Twiddle thumbs. Re-memorize every name of each young man who was Pearl’s age in town. Check email. Log into FTDNA account. Twiddle thumbs.  Do it all again.  You get the picture.

The night of February 23rd was a tough one. I had recently had surgery for a torn left meniscus and my knee was giving me fits. After hours of lying in bed with no relief from ice packs, a painkiller and a thousand different leg positions, sleeping was not on the agenda, no matter how tired I was.  About 1 am, I grabbed my cell phone as a pain diversion.  Why I thought anyone would email me that late at night is beyond me but for some reason, I looked at my email.  Lo and behold, a message from FTDNA saying you have new DNA matches!

I flew out of bed, right leg almost running, left leg dragging behind. When I got to the living room, I think I scared my hubby and son who were up late, engrossed in an old movie. “Where’s my computer”? “I’ve got DNA matches”! “Maybe we’ll learn who Papa’s father was”!

Nervously logging into the account, I quickly learned I had 782 matches.  These were 12 marker matches.  The results were so broad I could probably learn my mailman was my cousin somewhere in there. It didn’t matter that I probably would not learn my great grandfather’s identity from this.  I was still excited.  Quickly, I began to scan the surnames and locations of my matches.  It didn’t take long to see a pattern. What was most surprising was where all my new “cousins” lived.  Many lived in England or Ireland. It gave me clues that my grandpa’s family came from the British Isles long ago. Most interesting of all? The rest of my matches were from the South: a few from Mississippi, Virginia and Alabama.  The majority seemed to live in North and South Carolina. Papa’s dad must have been a Southerner. With a few exceptions of some ancestors living in Virginia then heading to Canada, Ohio and Indiana, I was pure Yankee. Well, this Yankee girl had some deep Southern roots and I was pretty sure I knew why.

Several surnames repeated in those results. One of those repetitious surnames leaped out at me. It was about 2:30 am. My family had gone to bed. I couldn’t call my mom to tell her what I was finding. I sat alone in the living room absorbing it all. Proving Papa’s paternity through a DNA test was never guaranteed. It was a crap shoot. We could come up empty handed. Here I was on the verge of getting an answer to the biggest question in my life but for some reason, the feeling was almost one of sadness. Why? The tears started to flow.  I knew in my heart the identity of Papa’s father.

One week later, the 37 marker test results came in. There were 24 close matches on it.  The top 6 surname matches were just as I had imagined: the surname was Lawrence.  Presley Evans Lawrence, the young man who was working as a servant/laborer with Pearl Gordon in that duplicate 1900 census and soon after returned to his home state of Virginia, was Papa’s father. After all of these years, we had our answer. We were Lawrences. My grandfather was Walter Henry Lawrence.

(As a footnote, I want to address the concerns I previously wrote about contacting the family if Papa’s father was identified. We never wanted to reach out to them or cause them any pain. The Lawrence matches on my FTDNA were mostly private. Foolishly, I joined the Lawrence DNA Project, hoping to remain private. The project leader sent an email to me and cc’d the woman who was the closest Lawrence DNA match in my report because she does all the research on that line. I was sick with worry. After much thought, I sent a detailed email to her with our story, my concerns and telling her I would leave the project to prevent hurting anyone. My new cousin wrote back joking that as I researched the family, I’d learn we weren’t the only illegitimate branches on the tree and welcomed me to my new Lawrence family with open arms. I’m happy I made that foolish mistake).

01 April 2013

Grandma Baris-WHAT?

A few of my ancestors were drawn to Terre Haute, Indiana in the 1800’s by the lure of their glassblowing profession.  Others came to take advantage of the wide open spaces for farming nearby.  The Vigo County Public has done a marvelous job of documenting the area’s genealogical and local history. One of their databases is The Vigo County Marriage Record Database which documents marriages from 1818 to 1958. Not only can you search this database but you can view the original county marriage certificates and save them as PDF’s to your computer.
 I know very little about my Terre Haute/Vigo County ancestors. A few, like the Bischoffs, Gross and Ruckenhousers, were amongst the latest of my families to arrive in the United States. They arrived in Philadelphia from Germany in the 1800’s and made their way across states like Ohio and Kentucky to arrive at their final destination of Vigo County. The most allusive of this Vigo County bunch was my 3rd great grandmother, Barbara “Whatshername”, who married Johann “John” Joseph Bischoff on 4 December 1855. OK, so I don’t mean to be disrespectful but I had seen Barbara’s name spelled a million different ways: Sheck, Shenk, Schink, Sherk, Shirk, Shank…you get what I’m saying. What exactly was it?  There were families with similar surnames in the area but none fit date-wise as parents or siblings.  The Vigo County Marriages Database could be the key to Barbara’s last name.

I excitedly typed in Grandpa John’s name and boom; there was the link to the marriage license of John Bischoff and Barbara Scheck.  Her last name was Scheck! Surname confirmation complete! Then, I opened the marriage license PDF:

Barbara’s first name was what? Bariswzork? What? How does one even say that? And her last name was Jacop? But wait, the second time her name is written, it’s listed as Bariswzork Jacop with the Jacop crossed out neatly and Scheck written over the top. But wait! There’s more! By the final time her name is written on the certificate, it’s morphed into plain old Barbara Scheck.

By the time I finished reading the marriage certificate, I had more questions than when I started.  Was her real last name Jacop? Was Jacop a surname acquired by marriage? Was Scheck a surname acquired by marriage? What the heck is a Bariswzork anyhow? Oy! I’ve decided to call her Barbara Scheck for the time being.  With more research, I might get Grandma Bariswzork/Barbara sorted out.  Barbara Scheck is a step up from Barbara Whatshername.  I think.

27 March 2013

Cousin Harvey Strikes Again!

Not long ago, I posted a photo of handsome Harvey E. Hoak, my first cousin 3x's removed. While browsing through "Favorite Quotations" by the Cromwell Ladies Aid Society, I noticed Harvey had made a nice contribution himself.

25 March 2013

Finding the Identity of Papa's Father, Part III

My genealogical journey continued.  I collected ancestors much like shells collect on the beach.  Sometimes my waves of research would come up sparse. Other times, those same waves of research would bring me bountiful information on my family, their whereabouts and how they lived their lives.  Try as I might, nothing new ever floated my way in those waves of looking for Papa’s father’s identity. I sensed that it was the end.  I had exhausted every resource known to man. It seemed ironic that Papa’s mother’s line could be traced to Charlemange, King of the Franks, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Papa’s paternal family history? It ended at Papa.

While reading up on the latest genealogical news a few years back, a new topic kept popping up: DNA research.  I attempted to read up on it.  Quite honestly, most of it was confusing to me.  All I knew is that, at the time, DNA testing was expensive and the male Y-DNA appeared to be the winner in tracing your family.  Last I looked, I was female.  DNA testing was not going to help me. Wait. Y-DNA tested the paternal line? A son could be tested and it could show the DNA for his father and his father’s father and his father’s father’s father? It was like a bolt of lightning. Maybe I could ask my uncle to take the Y-DNA test for me.  He was Papa’s son! His DNA could open the door which I could never open.

When this past December rolled around, my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas. “I want a DNA test for Uncle Larry”, I said.  He looked at me like I had grown a third eyeball.  “What else do you want”, he says, “that’s not a gift. I can’t put that under the tree. You can’t unwrap that”.  “That’s it”, I say.  Discounting a DNA test as a proper Christmas gift, my hubby looked a little annoyed.  I begin to pontificate my reasons for wanting one. I tell him by having Uncle Larry’s Y-DNA tested, it might prove who Papa’s father really was and you won’t have listen to me moan any longer that it’s making me crazy that I can never find out.  And, I tell him, the detailed test I want is not cheap. It would be a very generous gift.  He relents and says, “What do I have to do to get it”?

I’m so excited! I grab my phone to call my uncle.  “May I borrow a little bit of your spit”, I ask him? He laughs and I begin to tell him why.  I proceeded to explain what the test was, what it traced and what it could tell us.  It could give us the clues to learn who his father’s real father was.  Uncle Larry said yes.  I was over the moon.

Before I ordered the test, I made a phone call to my mother. I was worried. My uncle loved me to pieces.  He would stand on his head and spit nickels if I asked him to do it. I wanted my mom to talk to him, make sure that he knew that the information derived from the DNA test could show some unpleasantness in our family history, that the surname they had used all of their lives would always remain their surname but a new surname may show up which would be their real surname and these results could be life altering.  She spoke with him.  He really wanted to take it.

Before long, my uncle got the DNA test, swabbed his mouth and returned the kit to Family Tree DNA.  I created the FTDNA profile online.  And, waited.


Coming soon.......The Results!

More Quotations from the Cromwell Ladies Aid Society 1909

A sweet quote from my great grandmother, Lucile Unith Thomas, at the tender age of 8 years old.

21 March 2013

Be a Part of RootsTech 2013 No Matter Where You Are

RootsTech is underway in Salt Lake City. It's the ultimate conference for the family historian to see the future of genealogy. Not only are the exciting, new family history tech tools there for you to discover but the workshops and speakers lined up for the event are the tops in the genealogical world.

If you weren't able to get to Salt Lake, RootsTech is streaming LIVE! These live sessions are a great way to shake the cobwebs off and inspire you to think about your family research in so many different ways. Please check out this link to see the upcoming schedule and watch live. RootsTech 2013 Live

20 March 2013

Wedding Wednesday

My beautiful mother-in-law, Josephine Maggio, applying her lipstick on her wedding day, 20 October 1960. I miss her every, single day.

19 March 2013

Searching For Papa's Father, Part II

I’ll be the first to admit, the “I’m going to find out who Papa’s father is” threat was just that for many years – a threat.  I went to college, moved to Chicago, got married, moved to Los Angeles, landed my dream job in the music business and had a baby. Our family history was just as important as it ever was but it seemed life was going full throttle.  No time for research. Yet, the identity of my great grandfather was always there, nagging at me inside.

When I decided to quit working and become a fulltime mommy, there were little bits of quiet time that came with that.  Not a lot of quiet time but enough to dip my toe in that genealogy pool.  As I mentioned, my grandfather was old enough to be my great grandfather.  Birth records were still sketchy in 1901.  I wrote to Lake County, IN.  Even though we were told Papa was born with his mother’s last name, there was no record of his birth.  My mom went down to the county courthouse where they pulled out the original delayed birth record book for her to look through.  Nope.  Papa’s birth wasn’t recorded. Bastardy Bond? Nope.

I looked at the 1900 census in Lake County, IN for clues.  Papa’s mother, Pearl would have been pregnant then. Maybe her living situation might provide an answer. I knew that Papa’s mother’s parents had both died by 1900. Tracking her down could be difficult.  I typed in her full name in a 1900 census search and immediately, not one but two Pearls in the same area showed up.  “Must have been a popular name”, I thought.  I opened the first census and there she was, living with her mother’s mother.  I looked through all the household members and all the neighbors for possible hints.  Didn’t really pick up on anything.  For grins, I opened the second search result on Pearl, just to see who that person was.  Maybe she was another family member I hadn’t heard of before. I looked at the census.  I looked at that Pearl’s birth date on the census.  It was identical to my great grandmother’s!  She was recorded as a household member at two different homes!

The second census record showed Pearl working as a servant for a wealthy family. Something else caught my eye VERY quickly.  There was a young man named Presley, from Virginia, also working in the same household as a servant/laborer. I got a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I don’t know how to describe it but I sensed that this young man was my great grandfather. Quickly, I pulled every census that was available at the time. It was easy to trace Presley. In 1880, he lived with his parents in Virginia.  But by the 1910 census, he was back in Virginia with his parents and in subsequent census records, he married, had children and passed away in Virginia.  His stay in Indiana was short-lived.

My gut was telling me that I had the answer I had been searching for.  The problem was in proving it.  My mom asked her cousins if they had ever heard of this Presley from their parents.  Most of her cousins were shocked to know that Papa was illegitimate.  They didn't know! Uncle Walter wasn’t really Lincoln’s son?  They were floored. I also knew that I couldn’t reach out to this Presley’s family, even if I could track them down.  Could you imagine the shock it might cause to that family? How terrible!  His family probably had no idea Papa existed, if he were Presley’s son.  I vowed to never contact Presley’s family; even if I ever found out he was my great grandpa.

So, I put researching Papa off to the side.  There really wasn’t anything else I could do. In the meantime, I had traced other family lines back to England, Ireland and elsewhere to the 1500’s and earlier.  I learned that most everyone I descended from came to the New World before 1660. There were kings and farmers in my tree.  I had grandfathers who fought in every US skirmish since King Philip’s War. I descended from a grandmother who stood up to the Puritan men folk, was massacred by Indians and whose statue stands in front of the Massachusetts State House as a beacon of women’s rights. Those I descend from cut their way through the wilds of this new land and pioneered areas from the Atlantic, to Canada, to Indiana.  I’m so proud of those I descend from. If it weren’t for looking for Papa’s father, I would have never learned so much. Even with all of that, I couldn’t cure that gnawing inside me because I could never prove who my great grandfather was. 

After a few years, something new started to come about which had the possibility to change my dead end into an open road:  DNA testing.

(Part 3 coming soon)

17 March 2013

Taking A Short Blog Break

Due to some complications due to knee surgery, I have to take a break from the blog. See you in a few days!

14 March 2013

Family Photos

Harvey E Hoak, my 1st cousin, 3x's removed.  Born in 1867 and died in 1944.  Lived in Noble County, IN his entire life.  Wow!  Not a bad looking guy lol!

13 March 2013

The Bee Hive - Cromwell, Indiana

Frank and Sarah Hitler-Ohlwine with the clerks in front of their store, The Bee Hive, in Cromwell, Noble County, IN.  Sarah Hitler, (b.Feb 1856 in Noble Co., IN, d. July 1934 in Noble Co, IN), was my 2nd great grand aunt. Her husband was Frank Ohlwine, (b. July 1853 in IL, d. 1921 in Noble Co.). They were married on 15 April 1879 in Noble Co. My grandma said they had the nicest store in Cromwell. Looks like they were celebrating a new year!

12 March 2013

Who Was My Grandfather's Real Father? Part I: Too Little Asked Before It Was Too Late

Papa as a young child with his mother, Pearl, about 1904
My biggest genealogical brick wall has always been the identity of my mother’s father’s father – my great grandfather. My grandfather, Papa, as I called him, was um, aaaa, well, um, Papa was illegitimate.  While the subject wasn’t discussed, it wasn’t exactly a secret.  My mom heard a hushed family conversation in the parlor as a young child.  She doesn’t remember the details but she does remember being shocked to learn that the man she thought was her grandpa, Lincoln, wasn’t really her father’s dad.
When I was little, Papa dropped little hints about his family tree to me. “We’re part Indian, you know”, he randomly said to me one day.  “Wow. That’s cool”, my 6- year-old-self said to him and we continued on with our Go Fish game or whatever it was we were playing.  6- year-old Karen was not family-tree-hunting, adult Karen.  Knowing who Papa’s real dad was wasn’t a big deal to any of us.  He was raised by his mother, Pearl and a much loved step-father, whose last name was used by Papa and passed down to my mom, her brothers and their kids.  I think Papa knew who his dad might have been.  But, none of us thought to ask. We even accepted that we were of German ancestry probably because of Lincoln’s German last name.
Some time when I was in high school, my mom or someone said something about us being German and I shot back, “Why does everyone say we’re German when that German last name Papa used isn’t wasn't really his last name? We could be German but we don’t know for sure so I’m not going to say I’m German anymore”. I remember feeling really annoyed when I said it.  You know, that teen angst thing when your parents say something that is soooooooooo stupid that you couldn't possbly be related to them. 
The light bulb finally went off in my teen-aged head.  But, it was too late to ask Papa who his dad was.  He had passed away many years earlier. Plus, Papa was actually old enough to be my mother’s grandfather, so there wasn’t really anyone in the family close in age to him left to ask. Kicking myself for never thinking of asking Papa who his father was, I vowed I would find out who that man was and what our family’s real last name was.
To Be Continued......

07 March 2013

Upcoming SCGS Webinar on Irish Research

Are your Irish roots showing or maybe not showing enough? Here's something that might make your Emerald Isle research feel closer to home. The Southern California Genealogy Society will be holding another free webinar as part of it's terrific Jamboree Extension series.

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 6 pm PST, the SCGS will be hosting Erin in the USA: Irish Research on this Side of the Atlantic, presented by Michael Brophy. Mr. Brophy, is a professional genealogical researcher, heir search specialist and lecturer in the Boston area. During this free webinar, Mr, Brophy will present Irish records that are available in America.

For more information, please click here.

More From The Cromwell Ladies Aid Society 1909

From my second great grand aunt, Mary Hitler Cunningham:

04 March 2013

Most Endangered Lists: Preserving Historical Architecture; Preserving The Story Of All Of Us

In my mind, genealogy and historical architecture preservation go hand in hand.  All over the United States, there are homes and factories that lie unused, unloved and in terrible disrepair.  Many consider these buildings an eyesore and are happy to be rid of them for new development.  Many others know that that the termite eaten wooden home was that of the first settler of their town.  They know that the crumbling brick building at the end of Main Street was long ago the factory that drew people to their city and made their area flourish.  These structures tell the history of who our ancestors were.  They point to why we are where we are today.

There is something you can do to bring attention to and help save our architectural history.  Each year, preservation societies all over the US seek nominees for the most endangered architecture in their area.  Below is a list of organizations which are seeking nominations for their 2013 Most Endangered lists or their current Most Endangered lists.  Please look through the list to see if there is anything you can do to help. Although I can’t list all of the current endangered lists, I encourage you to seek out your local preservation or historical society to help save our architectural past so that future generations can see our past and look to our future.  Thanks!

03 March 2013

Lake County Indiana GenWeb Project Get's A Re-Do

Between my meniscus tear and subsequent surgery, it feels like my genealogy research and blogging is going just like my recovery: SLOW. There are certain genealogy-related sites that almost feel like old friends as I visit them so often. Because of my lack of being able to sit for very long, I feel like I’ve been neglecting some of my old friends. One of these sites is the Lake County Indiana GenWeb Project page. 


I’ve always kind of had a love/hate relationship with my old pal the Lake County InGenWeb. There was decent research info there and the Coordinator always seemed to work hard to add additional information often.  But, the layout and design seemed a little dated and looking for an interesting new tidbit kind of a chore.  So, when I paid my old friend a visit the other day, I was quite pleased to see she had gone through a remarkable transformation.  I barely recognized her! A website plastic surgery, so to speak, seems to have taken place.


I nearly let out a cat whistle when I saw the updated Lake County InGenWeb.  The graphics are new and reflect the area it represents.  The menu and records are clean and much easier to read and navigate.  There appears to be many more records provided.  There also seems to be more contributors adding info to the project.  


Kudos go to the project coordinator, Jeff Kemp.  Well done, sir! Please take the time to visit my friend, Lake County InGenWeb here . The ugly duckling has grown into a lovely swan.



25 February 2013

Ancestors Looking For Their Families - An Ohio Marriage Certificate

I found this Ohio marriage certificate at the Glendale College Swap Meet in Glendale, CA.  I'd like to return it to a family member, if possible.  It is the marriage certificate of Rev William H. Oehlschaeger and Alice A. Anthony. The were united in marriage in Columbus, Franklin Co, OH on 8 May 1899. I've done a little additional research on them and have added the details below. As you know, old family photos, etc. pull at my heartstrings.  If you have any connection to these families, please have them contact me so I can place it back in their hands.  Thanks, everybody!
It's awfully torn around the edges and a bit dirty and dusty but really beautiful.

The design is gorgeous!
The groom: Rev. William H. Oehlschlaeger from Clarion, Clarion Co, PA
 b. Oct 1873
The Bride: Miss Alice A Anthony of Columbus, Franklin Co, OH
b. Oct 1872
The Witnesses: Prof. R Pflueger and Mrs. Cunigunde Seeberger Anthony, the bride's mother.  The bride's father was Nicholas Anthony.


21 February 2013

Identifying Gramps But Proof Isn't So Easy To Come By

The true identity of one of my 6th great grandfathers has been a puzzle to me and other researchers for many years.  When I first researched this member of a prominent Connecticut founding family, he was pronounced the son of another member of this same family but there were never any sources to prove this.  Now, I’m a stickler for citations.  If I don’t have a minimum of 3 sources, I never can swallow that fact whole.  About 6 months ago, I decided I would only focus my genealogy research on this guy until I cracked his identity. I’m such a glutton for punishment….
It took about 2 days to be 99.9% sure that I had successfully figured out exactly who Gramps was.  That’s it!  2 days!  Well, this is gonna be a piece of cake, I thought to myself.  Get the sources and share it with my far flung cousins who have been racking their brains for all these years.  A huge piece of my genealogical frustration had been put to bed.

Ha!  6 months later, I sit here twitching and twittling my thumbs. After going through close to a 1,000 out of print books, documents and stories with a fine tooth comb, I am officially losing my mind. Besides backing up his birth date, I can’t come up with any other source to cite.  See, I truly believe Gramps just didn’t use his given name and why would he?  There were, besides his father, about 5 other members of this family using the same name at the same time as well. Records for Gramps are only in his given name or the name he used, never both.

His birth date fits, birthplace fits, his move to another state and county fits, the naming of his children fits, EVERYTHING SEEMS TO FIT!  But those elusive citations never come.  Until they do, I’ll continue searching and believing and losing my genealogical mind.

Kids Genealogy Class at Casa Italia

Casa Italia Italian Cultural Center in Chicago is holding a Branching Out For Kids beginning genealogy class.  The class will take place Saturday, March 9, 2012 from 10 am to noon, for kids grades 4-12.  If you're of Italian heritage, this would be a wonderful way to get your children interested in their italian roots.  For more information, please visit the Casa Italia website here: Casa Italia Kids Genealogy Info

18 February 2013

Homes of My Ancestors: Touring the Ludington Farm with Uncle Bob

When I was just beginning my genealogy addiction, I looked to my great uncle, Bob Watts, to point me in the right direction for Porter County, IN family information.  Who would be better to show me the way than Uncle Bob?  He was the longtime mortician at Bartholomew’s Funeral home in Valparaiso, IN and knew everyone who passed in and out, (literally), of the county.  But more importantly, Uncle Bob was the funniest man I have ever met.  Maybe it’s something to do with the profession – laugh, joke and enjoy life – to deal with the sadness of death he had to see every day. He told me on my next trip back to Northwest Indiana, he’d take me on a little tour.  I couldn’t wait! 
I’d been on “little tours” with Uncle Bob plenty of times when I was a child.  He’d take me for a chocolate covered frozen banana at the local drive in restaurant.  At the funeral home, he’d let me “sneak” into the room that held all the caskets and when I acted like I was the ONLY child in the universe who had been able to see a room like that, he absolutely agreed that I was the most special. On a trip to see his son Mark play football at Augustana College, our family made an unexpected stop at a home. “Are we picking someone up”, I asked?  “No, we’re dropping someone off”, he said as he picked up the brown cardboard box I had been sitting next to in the back seat for the last few hours.
When the day arrived for our genealogy tour with Uncle Bob, my mom, grandma and I were in for a special treat.  We got a fantastic guided tour to places all over Porter and Noble counties in Indiana that included homes, resting places and hangouts of our ancestors with plenty of funny stories to boot.  One of these places was the Ludington farm near Porter Crossroads, IN.
Uncle Bob Watts talking with the owner of the Ludington Farm in 1992
When we arrived at the farm, we saw that the beautiful red barn probably looked very much like it did when my 4th great grandfather, David Ludington, built it in the mid-1800’s.  The white farm house he had also built at the same time, unfortunately, had lost its charm.  Don’t get me wrong, the house was in excellent condition.  But, as with many old farm homes, the new owners changed portions of it to make it more modern or bigger over the years. Listening to my grandma, Marjorie May Watts and her brother Bob speak, they described how it used to look and the fun they used to have there as kids.  We moved on to the next stop of our tour and I felt a little disappointed. I wished I could have seen the house in her old glory.
Then one day this happened:
Art Watts, Bob Watts, Bill Link, Esther Link and Marge Watts in the 1930's at the Ludington home.
I came across an old 1930’s family photo of some of the Ludington’s grandchildren, including my grandmother and Uncle Bob.  My eyes froze as I saw that white home behind the kids.  It was the old Ludington home, probably as it had been built!  It had two grand porches with lovely columns! It was surrounded by lovely shade trees.  And, it appears that there was a second story above the side porch.
Sometimes, wishes do come true.

12 February 2013

FamilySearch Indexing App No Longer Available

Being laid up after knee surgery, sitting with my laptop has really been restricted. Although it can't do all I need it to, my iPad's become pretty darn handy. I was thrilled to see a FamilySearch.org Indexing app in the Apple Store. A quick download and I was transcribing away at those faded ship manifests within minutes.

So, last night, when my knee decided to swell up like a grapefruit, I propped myself up in bed for a bit of indexing. After transcribing a few names, all that came up were blank pages on the app. I signed out, tried to log back in and no luck.

In my quest to see why I was denied, I found my answer on The Ancestry Insider. Seems the app's been discontinued for at least the time being. Hopefully, FamilySearch.org will realize its potential in this mobile world and bring it back soon. If you'd like to read the article at The Ancestry Insider, please click here: The Ancestry Insider

11 February 2013

Favorite Quotations by The Ladies Aid Society of the Cromwell, IN M.E. Church 1909

One of my prized possessions is a book which belonged to my 2nd great grandmother, Malinda Hitler Thomas.  Malinda was a member of The Ladies Aid Society of The Cromwell, IN M.E. Church.  In 1909, the ladies put together and published a book called “Favorite Quotations”.  I love that so many of the quotations can still ring true today.  But what is most amazing are the branches of so many family trees that run through it and how far away those branches reached.

Many of the ladies who belonged to The Ladies Aid Society started their lives on the east coast or Ohio.  In “Favorite Quotations”, you can see they reached out to relatives back east or had moved west from Indiana for quotes. Each quotation lists who submitted it and where they lived. For example, my grandmother probably asked her brother-in-law living in Wisconsin, Marion Berberich, or her nephew’s wife, M.S. Maggart, for a quote. Those quotes are included in the book.

“Favorite Quotations” is frayed and torn. It is also a touching tribute to the people who contributed to it.  I’d like to share it with you.  Every so often, I’ll post a quotation in hopes that it inspires or makes you smile, too.

08 February 2013

Photos: Ancestors Looking for Their Families

This is a photo I found of Bobby Judy, 2 years and 7 months old of Trinidad, CO. It was found in Glendale, CA. I would like to return this photo to the Judy family.  If you know the Judy family, please feel free to have them contact me so this sweet-faced little boy can be returned where he belongs.  Thanks!

Lucille Unith Thomas & Glenn David Watts

I remember my great grandmother, Lucile Unith Thomas, as a loving, speak-her-mind woman.  I have the best memories of visiting her in Laporte, IN during baseball season.  If we were smart, my family should’ve had earplugs in tow on those outings.  Why?  Was she hard of hearing?  Nope.  Sunday afternoons in her home was the battle of the baseball teams.  She, like me, was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.  Her second husband, Orville, on the other hand, was a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan.  Cubs fans and White Sox fans are like oil and water.  One would be watching their team on the television in one room.  The other would be listening to their team on the radio in another.  As the games progressed, the volumes on both the radio and television would continually be turned up to the point where it was deafening.  Each of them trying to drown out the sound of each other’s beloved team’s game.  The sound was bouncing off the wall. When one of the games was over, you’d be exhausted from just having to sit through it all.

After grandma passed away, I began to hear stories of her childhood.  She was a girl of privilege, the daughter of wealthy farmer who was raised as a little princess.  I saw pictures of her in the most lavish baby carriage, in the most stylish clothing....it was wonderful to see these things because grandma didn’t always have the easiest adulthood. She and my great grandfather, Glenn David Watts, divorced before their children were grown.

During my genealogy research, I was so warmed to see her constantly mentioned in the society pages of the local newspapers.  Lucile Thomas entertained the members of her Sunday school class at a party at her home on Monday evening. Lucile Thomas was the guest at so and so’s parties.

And then, I read it.  The item that must have curled her parents’, Jacob Garver Thomas and Malinda Hitler’s toes.  From The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel. Marriages. Cromwell, Indiana. June 6, 1918 (typed as written):

“Miss Lucile Thomas, accomplished daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob G. Thomas, and Mr. Glenn Watts of Gary, IN were united in marriage at Rolling Prairie, IN. Miss Thomas left home Thursday morning for Rolling Prairie, where she expected to meet Mr. Watts and spend the day with his people, expecting to return home that evening, so her mother says, then a telegram arrived her telling of the marriage.  Mr. Watts is in the draft and will enlist in the service in a few days”.
Oh!  My sly great grandparents eloped! Those devils!  As I did some further research, I found out that they had actually married on May 31, 1918 in St. Joseph, MI! 
 Learning of all this, I smiled to myself a bit thinking how scandalous this must have been and that my grandma didn’t care her family thought he was the boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  She loved him and she wanted to marry her soldier before he went off to war.

04 February 2013

Tis Wonderful to Give Back When You Receive

Gone are the days in which the only choice in doing yourgenealogical research was to head on over to the local library or genealogysociety.  You’d pack up your notebooksand pens, spend hours looking at a few books and be pretty pleased if you foundanything new. Now, with just a few clicks, many of those documents, records andout of print books we desperately needed to get our hands on can be seen with afew clicks of the mouse. 

Ahhhhhhhhhhh…I like this form of genealogical couch potato-ness,(although I also still love my library trips)! BUT, those records don’t just upload themselves to the internet all ontheir own.  There is an army ofvolunteers, transcribing them for free all over the world, every, single day.  They’re fighting valiantly to save out ofprint books and documents which could disappear forever.  They’re the ones that let you sit on your duffin your living room and hand you that long needed source or an ancestor’s willthat makes your tree complete. I’m a part of this transcription army and amdarn proud of it.

Please won’t you join the transcription army?  It’s so easy to do, right at home and you candictate who you transcribe for, what you want to transcribe and if you willspend 5 minutes or 50 hours a month doing it. It’s like being a freelance historian – preserving our past one page ata time.

Here are just a few transcribing opportunities to get youstarted.  And, make sure to check withyour local genealogy or history society and public library to see if there isany way you can lend a hand with their transcription projects. If you have any suggestions for volunteering opportunities, please feel free to add them in the comments section.  I'd love to see all of your ideas!  Thanks!