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.