It’s been a weird few weeks, I think we all can agree. In all my born days, I never could have predicted something like coronavirus could scour the world as it has.
That’s not quite true. I’ve predicted a pandemic for years. I just never believed it would happen.
I find it hard to believe even now, even though I know it’s gone way beyond weird to tragic.
So many people are sick and dying, while so many more are unable to work.
Meanwhile, our so-called leaders can’t even manage to pass a bill to help those who need it most.
My answer: Do something now to help our country’s citizens. Argue about how to the big corporations later. And be sure to factor in more accountability than the last bailout.
But, this is not a political diatribe.
It’s a reminder.
We can get through this.
I know this because I study the genealogy of my family, and I know my ancestors made it through their own horrors.
There was Sarah Jane Daugherty Feathers Scott who married at nineteen, only to lose her husband in the Civil War shortly after the birth of their first child. Her three brothers fought in the same war, one for the Confederacy and two for the Union. All came home safely, but one died before the age of 20 from an accidental gun shot. Sarah later remarried and had seven more children, with four of them dying before she did. And yet, she and her second husband, Amos, took in and were raising three of his siblings the year before her death. Sarah was the sister of one of my 2x great grandmother, and her first husband was the brother of one of my other 2x great grandmothers.
Sarah’s brother Jacob was the one who fought for the Confederacy. He and his wife Julia lost two children within eighteen days of each other at a time when their home counties were in the process of seceding from the Confederacy to become what is now West Virginia.
And I can’t forget about my Great-grandfather Lang, who was an RFD mail carrier, carrying out his rounds on a mule in West Virginia. If you’ve ever been to the hollers of that state, you can imagine what that must have been like, especially in the winter.
There was my Grandpa Byrd, who dug ditches for one of the Federal works projects during the Great Depression so he could feed his family.
His father, Andrew Warren Bird (the spelling varies) and mother, Clara Olive Summers (one of my favorite names ever!) lost a child, Mary A Bird, in 1898. She was only twenty months old, and I came across her by accident when I was looking for the death record for another Byrd/Bird. It says “caught fire from open grate, never rallied.”
Every time I read that phrase, I get tears in my eyes.
Mary’s Death Registration
Still, Clara and Andrew soldiered on until Clara’s death at age 66 in 1938. Andrew lived to the age of 96, remarrying a woman 41 years his junior when he was 78, although — and I find this detail amusing — he claimed to be a sprightly 72 to Alice’s 37.
Alice’s life was a difficult one. She was first married at 15, to a fifty-two-year-old man, with whom she had nine children.
Writing that makes me cringe, though the nine children and the fact that Andrew bequeathed his land to her on his death makes me think theirs was a marriage of economical necessity.
She died at seventy-five, having married a third time, this time to someone closer to her age (only six years older).
Although she isn’t my direct ancestor, I find myself hoping her life with Andrew was a pleasant one, and that the acreage she inherited enabled her to achieve some independence after what sounds like a life of drudgery.
My parents also knew challenges, growing up in the Depression, and that experience was reflected in how my siblings and I were raised, with a big garden and two large cupboards in the basement, filled with home-canned food.
Grandma and Grandpa Byrd would come to stay for a few days in the late summer or fall to help, but we were all expected to contribute, by lugging water to the garden, stringing beans, pushing apples through a ricer to make applesauce, or washing dishes.
The first time I made and canned jelly, I was so proud of myself, feeling like I was maintaining a connection with my parents and grandparents.
Then I realized if Grandma could look down from heaven, she would be laughing at me — so smug about over a few jars of jelly. She, along with Grandpa and my parents, would churn out seemingly endless jars of multiple varieties of jelly every year, along with applesauce, green beans, tomatoes, tomato juice, grape juice, peaches, pears, plums, and more.
So, here’s the thing: I come from a long line of resilient people. They suffered the deaths of spouses, siblings, and children, lived through wars and the Depression, and raised their children. Every generation has had its challenges, and yet, we persevere.
Your family’s story is probably similar, though you may not know its “narrative.” This might be a good time to learn some of it because research shows that such knowledge makes a person more resilient. (If you’d like to read more about this study, there’s a good artice in the New York Times.)
It makes sense. If a person knows their family’s stories, they know that there have always been difficult times, and that people — not all of them, obviously, but many — manage to find a way to survive. When we know that, it makes us more confident we will find a way through our own hardships.
We can do that best, I believe, by learning to depend more on ourselves and on each other, even though right now that interdependence with others must, of necessity, be from a distance.
Though we may not be able to deal with difficulties in the same way as our ancestors, we too will find our way through.
Also, I take heart from two of my favorite quotations.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Ghandi
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
We don’t have to do everything to fix things. We just have to do something, preferably something that takes us out of ourselves and helps others.
So, be kind. Check in with friends and neighbors.
And, for heaven’s sake, quit hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer!
Today, I didn’t get dressed until noon. Oh, I was up – drinking tea, doing laundry and dishes, and writing about Harriet.
Still, spending a third of the day in one’s nightie does tend to make one feel rather slothful and slovenly.
Fortunately, I was able to convince The Engineer we needed a walk.
We are lucky to live within driving distance of several parks, with many trails at our disposal, and today I had a hankering to see the heronry.
The males return each year in late winter to scout a nest site, and the females follow a few weeks later. Courtship involves the mail finding sticks to present to the female.
After the pair builds the nest, the female will lay three to seven eggs, which are incubated by both parents until they hatch in late April or May. The heronry is a busy place in early summer, with so many mouths to feed!
We have been to the spot in the past, watching the harried parents try to keep their hungry offspring happy, but today, we saw the courtship behavior!
It was too chilly to stand and birdwatch for long, however, so we drove to a trailhead to start our walk along the river.
The trail follows what used to be the towpath for the Ohio-Erie Canal, and so follows the river, with the now-empty canal on the other side. Behind the wall you see in the picture above, there used to be a gristmill.
As we walked, we saw mounds of snowdrops.
We have enjoyed cycling this path many times, but it’s a different experience to walk it on a cool, spring weekday, allowing more time to take photos.
Whenever I pass this little ruin, I wonder about the person who built it and what it was. The pretty part is stone, but there’s also a bit made of concrete block, so it can’t have been abandoned that long ago.
The river is wide in parts, but shallow. We tend to see a lot of empty bottles and cans, especially on the parts where there are little beachy-like banks. A few years ago, The Engineer began bringing a plastic bag to fill for recycling. And we always seem to fill it.
In fact, on Sunday, we filled the bag twice because we found a recycle bin ♻️ at our turnaround point!
But what amazes me is the number of little plastic bags of dog poop people leave by the side of the path. I mean, why bother bagging it if you’re going to leave it? Do they think there’s some kind of doggie cleanup brigade that patrols the path?
Today, we explored an offshoot of the main trail. It connects to another park system, running directly above the main trail in parts. It’s higher than it looks in the photo, but I was still surprised it was there because I’ve cycled the main path for at least fifteen years and never knew about the offshoot.
The second path leads to a former quarry, where sandstone was cut for the canal, and later for buildings in Cleveland and Akron. They also cut millstones for the German Mills American Oatmeal Company of Akron, which became the basis for Quaker Oats.
This signpost was at the edge of the quarry.
And the path eventually led to the top of the quarry.
These tracks are left from a narrow gauge railway, used to transport the stones to a feeder canal where the heavy cargo would be loaded on a boat for further transport.
I took a picture of this tree because I liked the way the roots look, and the way it seemed determined to grow, even as those roots clung to the earth, trying to find the support it needed to do so.
Lastly, I include these two photos because both made me smile. The first is because someone took the time and dirtied her hands to smile at us.
And, the second because seeing green buds on trees in spring is a joyful occasion.
I hope you take the opportunity to enjoy the season too.
Birth of son Thomas “Loveridge,” 1873, Michigan Births, 1867-1902: Mary Loveridge
Birth of son “Walter Loveridge,” 1874, Michigan Births, 1867-1902: Mary Loveridge
Birth of daughter “Maria Loveridge,” 1878, Vital records: marriage records, 1847-1930, birth and death records, 1867-1921, and corrections and delayed birth records, dates vary (Familysearch.org): Maria Armstrong
Birth of son Thomas Harry “Loveridge,” 1880, Ohio County Births, 1841-2003: Armingee Arnistrang (Note: This is a different son from the first Thomas, who was gone by the 1880 census. Thomas Harry didn’t fare much better, dying on August 29, 1881.) A second record index for this son, same set of records lists him as Thomas Harry “Leveridge” and Harriet Arminta as Amiya Armstrong.
Birth of son Thomas “Loverist,” 1882, Ohio County Births, 1841-2003: Armida Armstrong(Her husband Thomas Loverage, after whom all these Thomases were named after is listed as “Thomas Lovertts.”)
Birth of daughter Gladys Martha “Mattie” “Loverige,” 1886, Ohio County Births, 1841-2003 (index only): Minnie Armatrout
Death: 1899, Ohio County Death Records, 1840-2001: Harriette Loveridge
Death of her son George Walter Loveridge, Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1952: Armentina Armstrong
Death of her daughter, Gertrude “Chattie” Armstrong Wheeler, Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953: Arminta Armstrong
Genealogy Lesson: Harriet’s records demonstrate why a genealogist must think outside the box when searching for an ancestor. Incorrectly indexed records and misspellings of names are rampant. And, like now, people went by different names, but recordkeeping was looser, resulting in confusion about the actual name and correct spelling.
Often the only way to find records of an ancestor is by broadening the search and focusing on those around them. Many times, the census record for a certain person has proved elusive, only to pop up when I searched for their spouse or child.
Keeping a broader focus can also help determine if the record you’ve found is for your ancestor or for someone with a similar name. Keeping with the example of Harriet, once I learned the name of her husband, I was able to follow them through a few censuses, thereby learning the name of some of her children. The search was further confused by the fact that they had three children named “Thomas,” and several who, like Harriet, went variously by first names, middle names, and nicknames. Fortunately her son George Walter (or Walter George in at least one case) and Alanson (Lancing in one case), and her husband Thomas M. were consistent enough to trace the family and piece together the rest of the puzzle.
The family moved a lot, further complicating this search. Harriet was born and raised in Napoleon, Ohio before moving to Jackson, Michigan with Thomas after their marriage (for which I never found a record). The first Thomas and George Walter were born there. According to censuses, Alanson was born in Ohio. His sister Bessa/Maria was born in Napoleon in 1878, but died in Marion, Ohio in 1891 at age 13. In between those events, Thomas Harry and the last Thomas were born in Defiance, Ohio in 1880 and 1882, respectively. Gladys Martha was born in Mansfield, Ohio in 1886. By 1899, Harriet died and was buried in Marion. Thomas M., George, “Lancing,” and Martha (Gladys) remained in Marion, along with a daughter-in-law Lena and granddaughter Agness at least through 1900.
The Loverages then moved to Michigan, with Thomas M., Alanson, Thomas, and Gladys listed in the 1903 Detroit city directory.
Gladys and Alanson remained with their father in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, through the 1910 and 1920 census. Thomas M died there in 1939. He was buried alongside his wife in Marion. Gladys died in Detroit in 1972 at age 86.
If I wanted to continue researching this family line, I would follow up on Thomas Jr., George Walter, and Alanson, and trace Lena and Agness, possibly finding out which son Lena was married to.
However, my main interest in the Loverages was to learn about Harriet. She was Montcalm’s sister, making her the great-aunt of my grandfather. Her children and their children are more distant relations than I care to spend time on right now. 🙂
Montcalm was my 2x great grandfather, born in 1843 in Wayne County, Ohio on June 30 (calculated by the registration of his death, though Ohio, Soldier Grave Registrations, 1804-1958 says May 30 and findagrave.com says January 29.)
The sixth of ten children, he grew up in Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio. His father was a carpenter/joiner/cabinetmaker, and Montcalm followed in his footsteps, working as a carpenter.
Montcalm didn’t reach 40, dying less than a month before his birthday on June 14, 1883. Whoever indexed the death registration mistakenly wrote his name as “Montealm,” a type of error that’s common in genealogical records.
Also, the person who recorded his death couldn’t spell “diarrhea.”
Even misspelled, “chronic diarhea” gets the message across.
When I discovered what caused his death, long before I found this record, I was aghast. His pension records (kindly shared with me by a distant cousin) mention “complications of dysentery.” I looked it up and remember thinking, “That’s basically dying of diarrhea,” something almost beyond my comprehension.
Montcalm suffered from 1865, when he was discharged from the Army, until he died. His pension records reflect this, with the illness also affecting his back and one leg. From what I’ve read, amoebic dysentery can cause postinfectious arthritis, so perhaps that’s what the problem was.
He’d enlisted in July of 1862. A little over a year later on September 8, 1863, he was captured and confined as a POW at Belle Isle, Virginia, until March 15, 1864, when he was admitted to the hospital (possibly Annapolis — I can’t make out the writing — cause not given).
The National Park Service record of Montcalm says “Held at Andersonville and survived.”
Those five words describe a world of misery.
Although the information I have only mentions Belle Isle, the NPS also describes the Belle Isle prisoners at Andersonville, “By February 1864 prisoners on Belle Isle were moved to a newly established prison in Andersonville, Georgia. The men who left Belle Isle were dirty, poorly clothed, and almost all of them weighed less than 100 pounds.”
This was a month before Montcalm was released.
Meant for only 3,000 prisoners, with only 300 tents and no permanent shelters, Belle Isle eventually held between 10,000 and 30,000 men (estimates vary wildly).
To put it bluntly, it was a freezing kind of hell.
“In a semi-state of nudity…laboring under such diseases as chronic diarrhea, scurvy, frost bites, general debility, caused by starvation, neglect and exposure, many of them had partially lost their reason, forgetting even the date of their capture, and everything connected with their antecedent history. They resemble, in many respects, patients laboring under cretinism. They were filthy in the extreme, covered in vermin…nearly all were extremely emaciated; so much so that they had to be cared for even like infants.”
— Lucius Eugene Chittenden, U.S. Treasurer during the Lincoln Administration, quoted at https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-prison-camps.
Looking at the table below (from http://mdgorman.com), it’s clear provisions were in short supply.
O.R.–SERIES II–VOLUME VI [S# 119] UNION AND CONFEDERATE CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, ETC., RELATING TO PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE FROM JUNE 11, 1863, TO MARCH 31, 1864.–#35
Statement of clothing issued to Federal prisoners of war at Richmond, Va., by a committee of officers of the U. S. Army, from November 10, 1863, to January 18, 1864.
No. of men.
If you want to read further, the same site has links to a variety of information on the camp. You might start with this report, written nine days before Montcalm was released.
I was going to include this photo from the Library of Congress of a prisoner on his release from the camp (initially identified incorrectly as Andersonville), but couldn’t bring myself to do so.
Belle Isle is now a state park, described as letting “visitors explore a wide variety of tidal wetlands interspersed with farmland and upland forests. It has a campground, three picnic shelters, hiking, biking and bridle trails, and motor boat and car-top launches. Belle Isle also offers overnight lodging at Bel Air and the Bel Air Guest House. Bicycle, canoe and kayak rentals are available.”
I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, it sounds lovely, I’m sure, ideal for kayaking and cycling, but don’t you think the description should mention the historical significance of the site? A lot of men died there, and I’m sure there were others like Montcalm, who died as a result of being imprisoned.
Shouldn’t that be worth a line or two?
For now, let’s focus on the fact Montcalm lived, or “survived” might be a better word.
He went back to Ohio, married Emma J. “Jennie” Price in 1866. She was twenty; he was just twenty-two, but after what he’d been through, he could hardly be considered young.
Look carefully above, and you’ll see there are two parts to marriage records, the license and the return beneath it. If the bottom part hadn’t been filled out, we’d have no proof the marriage ever took place. In this case, it did. Emma and Montcalm were married by Mr. A. H. Tyler, J.P. (Justice of the Peace).
They had two children, Luella “Ella” (born 1867) and Jennie May “Maima” (born 1869).
Emma died in September, 1870, at age 24, leaving Montcalm a widower with a one-year-old and three-year-old to care for.
He remarried in 1874. From the record, you would think he married a woman named Anna Seitner, and when I first started doing genealogy, I believed that was her name. However, my mom kept talking about someone named “Lightner.”
I never connected the two until we took a road trip to Napoleon, and in the clipping files of their library, we found records connecting Anna Leitner and Montcalm.
My big contribution to the genealogist community was sharing this discovery. These days, “Anna Seitner” rarely makes an appearance in the Armstrong family trees I see. By 1880, he and his new wife were living in Napoleon with their three children, Harry/Harvey Coddington (born 1876), James Gideon (my great grandfather, born 1878), and Guy R (born 1880). In 1882, almost exactly a year before he died, they had a fourth child, Alba.
Luella and Jennie May were fostered out to other families.
In 1880, Ella was with Addison and Sarah Crew in Swanton, Fulton County, listed as “adopted. Six years later, when she married Arthur Sweeney, she again uses the name “Ella Crew.” However, we know she is Ella Armstrong because when she died in 1940 in Michigan (age 73), her death certificate, listing Arthur as her husband, gives Montcalm as her father, and “Price” as her mother.
I would like to claim I figured all that out by myself, but I followed the bread crumbs left by other genealogists, verifying and adding details as I went.
As for Jennie May, from my copy of Montcalm’s pension files, I know she was born in Napoleon on July 28, 1869.
In 1880, she was listed as “Jane Armstrong,” adopted daughter of Levi and Hannah Serrick, living in Clinton, Fulton County. Claiming to be 16, using the name “Jennie Serrick,” she married Wallace Wagner (age 21), a neighbor of the Crews. If my dates are correct, she was actually 15. According to the bread crumbs and family lore, she divorced Wallace in 1892 because he sold her horse without asking.
Later, she married Andrew Smith.
I have no records to prove these facts, but Wallace did remarry in 1893, and by 1900, Jennie was living as Jennie Smith with Andrew Smith in Lucas County, raising poultry. When she died in 1927, the death certificate listed Levi Serrick as her father, and gave her birthdate as July, 1869 and birthplace as Napoleon, Ohio.
As we know, Montcalm died in June 1883, leaving Anna with four children. He wasn’t approved for a pension until 1881, leaving me to wonder how the family survived. The same pension was later assigned to Addison Crew, after he became Alba’s guardian.
Anna married again in June 1884, this time to a man named Charles F. Harrison. They had five children together.
Unfortunately, the 1890 census was mostly destroyed by fire, so it’s difficult to trace what happened to the rest of Montcalm’s children following his death.
In the 1900 census, he was back in Napoleon with Anna, her second husband, and their children. In 1910, he was living with Anna’s brother, Samuel and his family in Michigan and working as a carpenter. He married Lettie Taylor in 1911, dying in Michigan in 1950.
One of Guy’s granddaughters contacted me via Ancestry.com for any information I had on him. When I told her he was a carpenter and had been in care, she said that made sense because one of the few things she remembered about him was he was good with his hands and liked to make things. She didn’t know he’d been institutionallized.
Montcalm’s youngest child, Alba, was also farmed out to Addison Crew, and in 1892, Addison was awarded her pension. By 1900, Addison was dead, but “Alba Crew” remained with his widow Sarah as her adopted daughter. They lived next door to a branch of the Serrick family, who had also taken in an adopted child.
This adopting/fostering out of children shows up in other family records. Apparently, it wasn’t uncommon for children to live with other branches of the family or friends when their own parents couldn’t care for them.
Alba’s oldest brother Harvey’s bread crumbs are harder to follow. The next record I found for him was in 1899, when he married Sadie Reninger in Summit County. He remained there, working as a machinist and rubber maker draftsman until he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1928. At that time, he was living on Buchtel Avenue, a street I walked daily when I was in college at The University of Akron.
Odd to think I walked in my great uncle’s footsteps for four years without ever knowing it.
My great grandfather, James Gideon, was five when his father died. The next record I found of him was the 1900 census, where he is working as a servant for Alvin R. McFarlin, in Bath, Summit County. Before you start getting a Downton Abbey type picture in your mind, I will clarify that in this case, “servant” means “farm laborer.”He married seventeen-year-old Sophia Viola Myers a year later. Below is their marriage record, with the one on the left showing the “permission slip” her father Rolandous had to sign for the marriage to take place.
With the permission slip lifted on the right record, you’ll see Summit County marriage records provide the details genealogists love — where each member of the pair lived and were born, their ages, and the Holy Grail of genealogy, their parents’ names including the mothers’ maiden names.
City directories show James and Sophia were still in Summit County in 1907 and 1908, but by 1910, they were back in Henry County in Freedom Township with their two children Harold (my grandfather) and Ethel. Sophia’s brother and James’s half sister Grace Harrison also lived with them.
When I first began researching her family, my mom kept talking about how she remembered her grandfather running a grocery store, and that there was a picture of him in front of it.
She was right. In 1910, James was a “merchant” of “groceries” employing others. He also rented a farm.
Eventually, we found this picture, which Mom says is the store with James in front of it.
By 1920, he and Sophia had moved to Plain Township, Stark County, where James farmed. In 1930, much like my paternal grandfather, he was doing road work to support his family (mistakenly named as John G. Armstrong, but other documents confirm this is the right family).
James registered for the draft for both World Wars, but didn’t serve. The card on the right is from a collection called the “Old Man’s Draft Registration Cards.” If you look at his age, you’ll see why.
James died in 1956, before I was born, so I never knew him.
On re-reading his death notice as I wrote this post, I see James G. also worked for Goodyear Aircraft. I’m not sure why this surprised me since my mom, my dad, and all my maternal uncles worked for the rubber makers at one time or another. Of course, back then, everyone in Akron either worked for or was related to someone who worked for the rubber companies.
I sometimes wonder how and why Montcalm would marry — not once, but twice — and have six children. Did he initially recover enough from his imprisonment to think he was capable of being a proper partner and raising a family? Was he simply trying to live a normal life after what he’d been through? Or was he just trying to find happiness while he lived?
Since there’s no way of answering that question, here ends the stories of Montcalm Armstrong and his six children.
If you ask about genealogy, and I talk until your eyes roll back in your head, it’s Montcalm’s fault, although my mom does bear some responsibility.
She’s the one who gave me Montcalm Armstrong’s Civil War discharge paper (below — much the worse for wear because someone scotch-taped it where it had been folded. Big mistake. Never scotch-tape an important document).
The document was found behind a reverse glass painting of a woman clinging to a cross. Big Brother got the painting, and I, the history buff of the family, got Montcalm, our 2x great grandfather.
My fascination with the man (and genealogy) began when I first beheld this piece of history, long before it became mine.
Genealogical databases had become available via the Internet, and the library I worked for subscribed to one — I can’t even remember which. But, one night when I was working in the computer room, I threw Montcalm’s name into it, and bingo!
It was amazing. The information was easy to find, not even as difficult as some questions I got at the reference desk.
I dropped into genealogy like a stone into a well.
Unlike a stone, I managed to resurface long enough to take a deep breath and realize this wasn’t an interest I could pursue at that time in my life.
Because I quickly learned most ancestors are not as easy to research as Montcalm.
Think about it. Have you ever heard of anyone else with that name? I hadn’t, and when I looked it up, I could only find Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, French commander of forces in North America in the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War).
Montcalm’s mother was named Eleanor Pinkerton and his father was James Armstrong. Neither one sounds, nor was, French, at least as far as I can tell.
Given when they lived, my best guess is James may have fought in the same war as Louis-Joseph.
Come to think of it, maybe Montcalm’s parents should be blamed for my immersion into genealogy.
Seriously, Eleanor and James? What were you thinking?
The name is so uncommon I can almost guarantee anyone whose name includes Montcalm and Armstrong in any form is some kind of cousin.
As for having my first genealogical experience be based on the original Montcalm, well, it was false advertising, that’s what it was.
Especially when his father’s name is common as dirt.
Following Montcalm back through the censuses, I learn that James was born around 1804 in Pennsylvania. (The Federal Census often lists ages and birthplaces, though they are inaccurate almost as often.)
Eleanor was born around 1815 in Virginia.
It depends on which census you believe.
Oh, and sometimes she’s called Nellie.
It varies by document.
And women are harder to trace anyway, partly because of the whole name change thing. Also, they rarely appeared on property records and didn’t usually join the military — just stayed at home, fed and clothed and raised the kids while their husband went off for years.
In short, they didn’t do anything important.
Sorry. I digress.
The point is: Even with an approximate year and place of birth, finding a man named James Armstrong is a challenge.
Because of naming customs, there are many James Armstrongs, born in or near 1804 in Pennsylvania. Below is a list of those from 1850 censuses.
Ours is the third from the top. I know this because Montcalm was born in 1843, and he’s listed with the rest of his family. When I search for him, he comes at the top of the list for 1850, (although I did have to play around with it because it’s indexed as two separate names).
Still, you get the idea. After working downward from Montcalm and back up, I got to James and decided to put my genealogy interest on the back burner.
I had a full-time job and Darling Daughter to raise, and genealogy was clearly an addiction I didn’t have time for.
Things are different now, and you can look forward to (or maybe not) reading more about Montcalm soon.
After treating our hives a few weeks ago, we anxiously waited for a break in the weather to take a peek under the hood.
That break finally came on Tuesday , but the news wasn’t good.
Our plan was to check food stores and give all three hives a dose of probiotics to try to combat any possible side effects of the Oxalic Acid.
We opened Buzzers’ Roost and immediately saw the worst had happened. Though there was plenty of food (cleared away before taking the photo), there was no activity whatsoever.
Not a single living bee in sight, and not many dead.
Dreading what we might find, we opened FreeBees to find a similar sight.
Both hives seemed damp, so I immediately concluded they died from too much moisture. Bees can handle cold better than damp, so this is a possible explanation. “A wet bee is a dead bee,” is a phrase commonly bandied about by more experienced beekeepers.
The Engineer focused on how few bees there were, which reminded me of the number of dead we cleared out last time we were in the hives. Too few bees = not enough warmth because it takes a certain number to generate enough heat to keep the hive warm.*
Either of these could be the cause of the die-off. Or they could be merely a symptom.
The only thing we can rule out is lack of food.
Both hives had honey, which you can see above, as well as sugar patties. (And although the bee above looks like she is alive, she’s not.)
We knew NewBees were still alive, possibly thriving, because they were out flying.
They’ve been out more than the other two hives all winter, but we put that down to the difference in how they were winterized. “The Pink Igloo” has proven to be a simpler, and warmer, winter cover. Because it goes over the hive, with airspace in between, it gives our girls a means of getting outside the hive without having to face winter weather. And that space also allows air circulation to help keep their home drier.
Where do we go from here?
The Buzzers’ and FreeBees hives are gone, but we still have NewBees (crossing fingers, wishing hard, praying they make it to spring), plenty of drawn comb, and even some honey and pollen to help build new hives.
When the weather warms, we’ll move FreeBees into one of the empty boxes to begin that process. I’ve ordered a package of Saskatraz bees for the other.
In the meantime, The Engineer and I will take an afternoon to dismantle, clean, and try to autopsy Buzzers’ and FreeBees. If we can get an idea what happened, we can try to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. (On a side note, I think next year going into winter, there will be a row of pink palaces in our yard, rather than one pink and two black-wrapped hives.)
We will also be keeping a watchful eye on NewBees and hoping for a good spring nectar and pollen flow.
*Such disagreements and the resulting discussions are one of the many reasons I’m glad our beekeeping is a team effort. It’s been extremely helpful because although we work well together, we think differently and bring different skills to the job.
First, the bird (and an apology for the poor picture quality — it was shot through glass).
I was working in the kitchen when I heard the “Whomp!” of a bird hitting the window. Unfortunately, this happens now and then, even where we put fake hawk stickers. I didn’t think too much about it until I glanced out a few minutes later to see this Tufted Titmouse still sitting on our deck looking bemused.
But, as I watched her/him, another Titmouse came up beside and started gently pecking and hovering above the first one as if encouraging it to get up and fly.
The first Titmouse merely sat back up, and blinked.
The second one flew away, and I thought that was the end of it.
However, a few minutes later, several Titmice — yes, that’s the correct plural — appeared. Two hung back and watched as one performed the same ritual: gentle peck, flutter above, push.
The crashed Titmouse’s response was modest, at best.
Once more, the “helper birds” flew away.
But one returned again, clearly determined to get her/his flockmate moving.
S/he shoved the first bird over, pecking, pushing, and fluttering around until finally, finally, they both flew off together.
It was amazing.
It was also quite smart because we have hawks who hunt on our property, occasionally even perching on our deck, probably for a better view of our bird feeders.
And now, some more good news.
Yes, this is a dandelion, and yes, I saw it Saturday when The Engineer and I went for a hike/walk.
I realize this may not be good news if you are the type of person to nurture an immaculate lawn. Still, that type of lawn requires herbicides, which aren’t good for bees, and if you’re someone who thinks a green lawn is more important than pollination, you’re probably reading the wrong blog anyway.
Suffice to say, dandelions are a major source of food for bees in the spring, so it’s good news for them.
In other bee news, the weekend was warm enough for us to treat the hives with oxalic acid vapor to kill any mites that might be on the bees.
We also scraped the dead bees from the bottom of the hives.
Below, you see two photos made into one, the top of FreeBees with the bees out exploring, and their dead sisters (along with a few brothers) in the picture beneath.
It looks like lot of dead bees, but that’s to be expected. In warmer weather, the dead are less noticeable because they don’t all die inside. If they do, the other bees push them out the front (and occasionally pick them up and fly off to dump the carcasses elsewhere).
All three hives were active, with bees zooming in and out on cleansing flights. If you aren’t sure what “cleansing flight” means, feel free to check out my post on bee poop. The picture below is a pretty clear illustration of what it looks like.
And although beekeepers lose more hives in March than the winter, it’s still a relief to see them out flying in February.
In the early spring, bees sometimes run out of the food they stored for winter. We’re paranoid about this and feed them sugar patties. These are made from a four pound bag of sugar, about 6 oz of water, and some Honey-B-Healthy. The mixture is shaped into patties on parchment paper and left to dry.
The essential oils in Honey-B-Healthy are said to stimulate feeding. As a bonus, when I make a batch of bee food, the house smells wonderful for days!
The next time it hits 50 F, we’ll place the patties directly on top of the frames and pray it stays warm enough for the bees to reach the food.
Also, since we treated the hives, we’ll feed them some bee probiotics to help keep their guts healthy. It may sound a bit woo-woo, but there’s science to support the idea.
In fact, I think it helped last spring when Buzzers’ Roost’s bees had a touch (spurt?) of diarrhea. This is a scary symptom because it could indicate Nosema (which is truly awful). But, we’re learning. Before panicking, we cleaned out the fouled sugar pats and fed them probiotics. By the next hive check, the problem was gone.
As the weather warms, you’ll probably hear from me more often, but for now, I’d like to encourage you to consider voting for Queen Right Colonies in the FedEx Small Business Grant contest. Queen Right could win a $50,000 grant, and you can help by voting for them. Click on the link, and type “Queen Right” into the search box. You don’t even have to register. Just provide a name and email.
The folks at Queen Right been an invaluable help in our beekeeping adventures, and it would be great to see them get some love (or at least some cash).
Barbara, Caroline, Mary, Susanna, Eliza Ann, Sophia, Sarah Ann, Samuel, Nancy, Louisa, Magdalene, Lydia, Levi, John W. (Jr.), Leah, William, Fianna, Adam, Ellen, Franklin, Charles, Edwin, Lewis, Emanuel, Daniel, Ida, Frederick, and maybe Anna.
I’ll save you the bother of counting. There are twenty-eight names on my list of possible 3x great-aunts and uncles, a number that seems audaciously beyond the ability of a non-polygamous man.
And since John was my mother’s father’s mother’s mother’s father (my 3x great grandfather), I felt compelled to try to untangle which offspring were his and which belonged to a similarly aged John Garman who also lived in Ohio’s Summit and Stark counties during the 1800s.
If you aren’t into genealogy, you may not realize that, because of European naming traditions, it isn’t uncommon to find duplicately named cousins of similar age in the same counties and towns.
So finding another John Garman to claim some of the kids seemed likely.
But I didn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t find other John Garmans. I found a few. The one that came up most often was my 2x great-uncle, John W. Garman, Jr.
I also found a John Garman married to a woman with a name very similar to my 3x great grandpa’s third wife. But in the 1860 census, I know my John was living in Green Township with his second wife and seven children (including my 2x great grandmother Leah). The other John, who was twenty years younger, was recorded in another part of the state.
Finally, I began tracing the lives of each of John’s possible children, which took most of my free time for a week and left The Engineer asking, “Why do you need to do this?”
I didn’t really have an answer. It was just a mystery I had to solve, at least to my own satisfaction.
So, here’s where I tell you I’m not a professional genealogist, and I’m not promising my conclusions are correct. For a few of the children, I only have a findagrave.com record that references someone else’s research from a 1955 book of someone else’s transcript of gravestones long gone.
And yet, the timing and place fit. They make sense to me, and that’s all I was looking for.
As I progressed, I realized I needed to graphically lay out the pertinent information as I found it, which meant a spreadsheet and a list.
I won’t bore you with them here, but will try to keep my conclusions succinct
John Garman was most likely born in 1810 or 1811. If we go by the age on his death certificate and use the online tombstone birthday calculator (yes, there is such a thing), we get a birth date in December of 1810.
He had three wives. I know this both from death certificates of his children and from marriage registers (though his name was spelled as German on two of them – not uncommon in a time of spell-it-as-it-sounds-to-you phonetics).
Magdalene “Martha” Dickerhoof – Married 1830 until her death in 1849 at the age of 38 (recorded in a book of Stark County early church records and findagrave.com). She’s buried in North Canton Cemetery, which is relevant because most the Garman graves are there.
Mary Weaver – Married John in February of 1850. The 1850 census lists her age as 25, making her about 13 years younger than her husband. Best guess for year of death is early 1860s because she’s alive in 1860 with John and the aforementioned seven children. By 1870, she’s gone, and there’s a seven-year break in ages in the children.
Catharine Hane – Married 1865 until John’s death in 1889. Catharine is listed in 1870 census as aged 32. John is 59. She dies in 1920 at the age of 81.
Barbara – Barbara’s life was brief and not well-documented. The only record I have is from findagrave.com, giving her date of death as 15 January 1832 and “d/o J and Magdalene.” However, the date fits, coming after John and Magdalene’s marriage and before their next child. Also, Barbara is buried in North Canton Cemetery, which also fits.
Caroline – Caroline also died young (age 21) and was buried in the same cemetery as her sister and mother, with the same notation on her stone. Unlike Barbara, jshe lived long enough to be counted in the 1850 census (aged 17) with her father, his new wife Mary, and three siblings and half-siblings.
Mary A – Mary was born on 15 November 1834 and outlived three husbands. In 1850, she also was living with her siblings and John and his wife Mary. Mary A outlived three husbands, marrying the last, Emanuel Sholley, when she was 73 and he was 75. Her third marriage license confirms Magdalene Dickerhoof as her mother and John Garman as her father. She died at 88 in New York, where she lived near one of her sons. Interestingly (to me, at least), her third husband was almost certainly related to my mother’s mother, whose maiden name was Sholley.
Susanna – Like her sister Barbara, Susanna was only around long enough to be found in findagrave, which provides details from a 1955 book called Cemetery Records Stark County Ohio.” The inscription provided says “d/o J and Magdalene Garman, age 1 year, 5 months,” giving a death date as 6 September 1840, buried in North Canton Cemetery.
Eliza Ann – Eliza’s life was also brief, and I’m guessing when I say she probably died in her first year. It’s possible she was born earlier, in the gap between Mary A and and Susanna perhaps. Either way, she couldn’t have been much over the age of five. All we know is what findagrave gives us: “d/o J and Magdalene,” death date 3 August 1840, buried in North Canton Cemetery. Take a moment to look at the date at the end of the previous paragraph and compare it to Eliza’s.
Sophia – On the other end of the spectrum is Sophia, who lived from 1841 to 1937. I’ll do the math (actually my genealogy program did): She died at age 95. We know she’s John’s daughter because she also is living with him in 1850. Her death certificate lists John Garman and Mary Dickerhoof as her parents. She’s buried not in North Canton, but in Greensburg Cemetery, near where she was raised.
Sarah Ann – Another sad one. Another findagrave record from a missing stone. Same reference book as Susanna, this time saying “d/o J and Magdalene, aged 9m, 15d,” with a death date of 23 October 1843, buried in North Canton Cemetery.
Samuel – Samuel is in North Canton Cemetery, “s/o J and Magdalene, aged less than 1 year,” died 16 September 1845 (findagrave).
Nancy – Born in 1846, we can only surmise Nancy is Magdalene’s daughter. Her death certificate lists only John Garman. However, since Magdalene was still alive in 1846, this seems likely. Nancy was living with John and Mary in 1850, married and lived in the same county all her life, eventually dying there in 1934 (age 87), and being buried in Akron.
1850 Census – Garman Household in Green Township, Summit County, Ohio
Magdalene – Magdalene is probably the first child of Mary and John, showing up in the 1860 census at age 8. By 1870, she’s gone. I found no trace of a marriage or death, though there’s a “Mary” Garman buried buried in nearby Massillon, born 1852, died 1900.
1860 Census – Mary Weaver Garman, John Garman and Children, Green Township
Louisa – Another possibility for Mary and John’s first child is Louisa. Although listed as age 7 in the 1860 census, her death certificate says she was born in 1851, also giving John Garman and Mary Weaver as her parents. She married, had children, and outlived her husband, dying in 1935, aged 83. On a side note, I found a military widow’s pension record for her for her husband’s service in the Civil War, and from the 1900 census, we see he was about 16 years older than her – making him about 33 to her 17 when they wed.
Levi – The tragedy of a child’s death wasn’t limited to John and Magdalene. He and Mary also lost a child. Levi also could have been John and Mary’s first child, born in 1850, sometime after the census. Or perhaps he was born between Louisa and Lydia. I have no records for him except a findagrave one saying “s/o J and Mary,” death date 12 March 1856.
Lydia – Born in 1855, Lydia was married at 16, choosing Levi Reiter, aged 21,and therefore closer to her age than Louisa’s spouse. She died in 1920 and is buried in Canton (same county as North Canton).
John W., Jr. – With his father and mother, Mary, in the 1860 census, and his dad and stepmother, Catharine, in 1870, John Jr. married six years later, dying in Akron in 1933. His death certificate confirms his parents as John Garman and his mothers maiden name as Weaver.
Leah – My 2x great grandmother was born in 1858 to John and Mary, John’s 15th child. She has the interesting distinction of appearing twice in the 1870 census, on July 22 with her father and stepmother, and on July 26 with her sister Sophia and her husband. In 1876, at age 17, she married Rolandous Myers, a man 10 years her senior. They had 11 or 12 children, including my grandfather’s mother Sophia Viola. Leah died in 1920 at age 61 and is buried next to Rolandous in Summit County.
Top photo: Leah Garman (publicly shared Ancestry files). Bottom:Leah, husband Rolandous, and their children including my great grandma Sophia Viola (middle)
Sophia Viola and her husband, my great grandpa James Gideon Armstrong
William – Leah’s brother William was born in August of 1859. He died Christmas Day in 1860 and was buried in North Canton Cemetery, “s/o J and Mary Garman, age 1y, 4m, 12d.”All we know about him is from findagrave, with the information coming from the 1955 book mentioned earlier.
Adam – Another North Canton Cemetery grave holds William’s brother, who died 1 November 1861. Findagrave says only “s/o J and Mary Garman.”
Fianna – There is little information on Fianna, as well, just a transcript from her grave in North Canton Cemetery from findagrave: Death 22 February 1863, “d/o J and Mary Garman.”
Ellen R. – The first child of Catharine Hane and John, Ellen was born in December 1865 , when John was in his mid-fifties. The 1880 census confirms this, listing her as his daughter. Ellen’s death certificate also gives John and Catharine as her parents. Ellen married at 21, died in 1952, and was buried in North Canton Cemetery.
Franklin – John’s second son to survive childhood, Franklin was born in 1868, counted in the 1870 census with siblings Lydia, John, Leah, Ellen, and another brother. (This overlapping of children from different wives was partly how I realized most of the children I’d discovered truly were offspring of the same man.) Franklin married at 22, was widowed by age 41. He died in 1929, age 60, and was buried in Greensburg.
Charles – Charles also shows up in the 1870 census, aged 7 months. Married in 1890 at age 20, he died at age 25 in Green Township of myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord.
Edwin – In the 1880 census, Edwin is listed as Edward, age 8, but his birth records say Edwin and name his mother as Catharine Hain and father as John Garman. Since the 1890 census isn’t available, the next record I found is a record of enlistment, stating his age at enlistment as two years older. It may be him; it wasn’t uncommon for boys to lie about their age, and the young man in question was from Summit County where most of John’s children were raised. Or it could simply be someone with the same name. Either way, the man in question is noted as having deserted in 1893 – two years after joining. I Lund no one conclusive records on Edwin.
Lewis – Edwin’s younger brother’s life is better documented. Lewis is present in the 1880 census, marries at 21, registers for the draft in 1918, and resides in Plain Township for the rest of his life, eventually dying in 1951 and being buried beside his wife in North Canton Cemetery. His death register gives his mother’s name as Mary, but I feel pretty confident this is merely an error made by his wife, who reported his death.
Emanuel – Born in 1877, Emanuel also appears in the 1880 census with his family. Like Lewis, he lives in Plain Township for most of his adult life and registers for the draft in 1918, on the same day as both Lewis and Daniel. I like finding draft registration documents because they give details on my ancestors’ physical features. Lewis was medium build and height with black hair and blue eyes. Emanuel was also medium build, but with light brown hair and light blue eyes. He married in 1901 at age 24, died of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis in 1935, and his death record gives his interment place as Zion Cemetery in North Canton. (Zion Cemetery was eventually renamed North Canton Cemetery.) The same record confirms his parents as John Garman and Catherine “Hayne.”
Daniel – Daniel was Emanuel’s twin, but his draft registration says he is short with a slender build, blue eyes, and brown hair. It also notes he has a “shorter right leg” and is “physically disfigured.” Starting out in Jackson Township after marrying in 1900, he and his wife also lived in Plain for a while, but spent their later years in Canton. Their marriage record confirms his parents as John and Catharine, as does Daniel’s death certificate in 1930 when he died of liver cancer. He is buried in Stark County.
Ida – John’s last born daughter was born in 1879, ten years before his death. Ida was just eight months old for the 1880 census. By the time she married in 1898, John had been dead nine years. She spent her life in Green Township, where her husband eventually owned a Ford dealership. Ida died in 1952, and her death certificate confirmed her parents as John and Catharine. (If you’re into cars, check out this website about her husband Charles’s dealership).
Frederick, Fredrick – John’s last child, Frederick, was born in 1882 when John was 72, and Catharine was 44. In 1900, Frederick lived with his brother, William, and William’s wife in Greensburg. He married in 1903, and by 1910, he and his wife were living in Plain. By 1920, they’d moved to Akron, and in 1942, he is a widower entering his second marriage. When he died in 1955, he was buried in north Canton Cemetery, next to his first wife.
Anna – Anna was the only one on the list I could disprove. She was born to her John and Catharine Garman in 1861 in McDonaldsville, but in 1860, they were in Madison, Hancock County. Her death certificate in 1947 lists her parents as John Garman and Catherine Haines. This seems to be an incredible coincidence, because she doesn’t show up on any other records with my John and any of his three wives, including Catharine Hane.
Twenty-seven children. Eleven dead before the age of 30. Of those remaining, at least five living well into their 80s. Three wives, two of whom were substantially younger (which does a lot to explain the number of children).
I find myself trying to imagine this many lives filled with so much loss, as well as joy, but can’t wrap my 21st century brain around it.
Still, I feel the lives of John Garman, his wives, and many children were worth sharing. I know it was a lot to read, and if you stuck through it to here, I thank you.
Bee Check Addendum: We had a peek at the bees over the weekend when temperatures reached into the 60s. All three hives are lively and seem well-populated, which was a relief since FreeBees haven’t been out flying near as much as Buzzers’ and NewBees.