Still a Man’s World

I just read a blog post about mothers in England and Wales finally being listed on their children’s marriage certificates.

All I could think was, “Really? Mothers carry their children inside them for ten months (average pregnancy is 38-42 weeks = 10 months by my math), labor for hours (sometimes days) to bring them into the world, and they are only just now being included on the record when that child marries?”

I’m not even going to touch the fact that frequently most of the heavy lifting of raising a child is done by the mother.

In the eyes of the law, it appears we have remained, at least in England and Wales, mere vessels for a man’s progeny.

Leaving such misogyny aside, it’s irresponsible and shortsighted to only record half the information. As a genealogist, I regularly experience firsthand the difficulty of finding records for the women in a family tree. A certificate that lists a woman’s full maiden name can the key to another generation of ancestors

I just checked my parent’s marriage certificate. It lists both parents on both sides (including my grandmas’ maiden names).

Then I looked at my grandparents’ records. For my paternal grandma and grandpa, I have only a copy of the marriage register, and the only names listed are theirs. For my mom’s parents, I have three certificates, all in different formats. Not one lists Grandma and Grandpa’s parents.

My guess is this lack of information has more to do with differences in location and time than anything. Here in the US, we are nothing if not inconsistent in our record keeping. 🙄

I know this is a bit of a rant, but this sort of thing sets me off.

Especially since it came immediately after I spent twenty minutes at the grocery store behind a man who spent the whole time yelling at his wife. And while I admit I can, at times, be prone to exaggeration, this is not one of those times.

I happened to walk in behind them, and he immediately began shouting at her to hurry up.

The store was crowded so I was stuck behind them all the way around it and in the sole open register line.

The guy never stopped haranguing her.

She said she liked something.

Nobody likes that,” was his loud reply.

At one point, she replied just as nastily that he should shut up.

Still, he was a constant aggressor making me hope I would be gone before they left and wouldn’t be on the road with him (making the short leap to assuming he was the type of guy who would insist on being in control of the car).

If that’s how they are in public, how are they at home? And how on earth can anyone live like that?

Sigh.

End of rant.

Your reward for reading it is this picture of a gorgeous Redbud tree I saw on yesterday’s walk.

Thomas and Annie

Thomas Milton Summers and his wife, Anna/Anne/Annie Swisher are two of my favorite ancestors for a couple reasons.

First of all, they named their first daughter (my great grandmother) Clara Olive Summers, which I think is one of the best names ever. Several of Ollie’s (as she was called) siblings had equally fanciful names, although they probably weren’t considered so at the time. Her elder brothers were Elias Morgan Summers and Quitman Elmore Summers. After Ollie came the more familiarly named Ruth M. and Martha (Mattie) A., followed by French.

French was born in 1883 but died sometime before the 1900 census when Ollie is listed as having birthed nine children with eight still living (all of whom can be found in that census). His name sounds exotic to me, but when I tried to find his death certificate, it became clear the name was common in that place and era. The siblings who followed were Mary Luvina (Vina), Eva Forest, and Albert Lesslie.

I also like Annie and Thomas because Annie is the daughter of Mary Ann Summers and Morgan Swisher. Morgan is the son of Drusilla Morgan and Jacob R. Swisher. And Drusilla Morgan is the daughter of Zackquill Morgan and Drusilla Springer. This is of interest (at least to me) because Zackquille Morgan (my 5x great grandfather) was a contemporary of George Washington. He also founded Morgantown (Morgan’s Town), Virginia (now West Virginia).

Annie’s sister Amanda Jane married Ulyssess Summers, who was Thomas’ brother. This along with the fact that Annie’s mother, Mary Ann was also a Summers makes it clear the Swishers and Summers had close ties. How close would depend on where Mary Ann fits in, and I don’t know much about her yet.

Anyway, Thomas fought in the Civil War, enlisting in Lieutenant Sylvester Porter’s newly formed Company K of the 15th West Virginia Infantry on 29 February 1864 in Wheeling, West Virginia. He gave his age as 18. However, according to his tombstone, he was born in 1847. This is supported by the 1900 census, where he gave his birth month and year as April 1847. So he would have been just sixteen. He lists his occupation as farmer, height as 5’8″, with auburn hair, hazel eyes, and a ruby (possibly ruddy?) complexion.

Small article from the Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV) about the formation of Lieutenant S. Porter’s company the 15th West Virginia Infantry
Digitization of article from Library of Congress’ Chronicling America

Two days later on 2 March, he was mustered in. By the May/June roster, he was already injured, listed as “absent sick” in Gallipolis, Ohio. In July/August, he was absent sick at Cumberland, Maryland, and in September/October, the same at Winchester, Virginia. Another record says he was admitted to “General Hospital, Grafton, West Va.” on 4 November 1864. Under “Diagnosis,” it says merely “Convalescent.” Another hospital record (or perhaps the other side of the first) reads “Nov 5th 1864 – Voting furlough for fifteen days. Returned to duty Dec 21 64, wound healed.”

Several articles from “Chronicling America” confirm the practice of furloughing soldiers home so they could vote in the presidential election on 8 November 1864.

On 2 June 1865, the Confederacy surrendered. The 15th Infantry mustered out on 14 June 1865, and Thomas was assigned to the 10th West Virginia Infantry, which mustered out on 9 August 1865.

He and Annie married on 21 December the same year in Marion County, where their first five children were born. Sometime between the 3 January 1879, when Mattie was born in Marion, and the 1880 census, they moved to Ritchie County where their remaining four children were born, a distance of about 88 miles — quite a ways before motorized vehicles.

On 6 December 1886, at the age of 39, Thomas received a pension as an invalid. The 1890 Veterans’ Schedule lists his service dates at February 1864 to August 1865, a year and six months, 18 months total.

With his eight months spent “absent sick,” this means he was on duty for about ten months, a little over half his service time. I wonder if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Spending eight months as a convalescent would seem to imply his injury was fairly serious, but on the other hand, at least he probably wasn’t getting shot at.

Despite receiving a pension as an invalid, he still listed his occupation as “farmer” at the age of 53 in 1900, so he must have been able to make at least some kind of living, enough of a living to write a will in 1915 and amend it in 1921, designating the dispersal of his property after his death.

In a letter posted on Ancestry, one of his grandchildren describes him.


“About Grandpa Tom and Grandma: There are a few funnies(?). I remember part of them were from my dad. (Dad said) he never saw his mother mad but once. She was out by the creek doing her washing bending over the old wash board. Grandad came by and gave her a smack on the behind. Well over went tub Grandma and all into the water. Dad said she would not talk to Grandad for a whole week. I know your mother got her personality from her, they were so much alike. But Grandad was another story. They stayed with us for a good while after they needed care. I was just little, but oh how I remember the times Grandad threatened me with his cane. I probably needed it but I never forgot. Ha, ha.”

Reading this makes me wonder. Was Thomas crabby because he was in pain from his war wound? Was that why he used a cane? Or he just a curmudgeon?

Either way, I like the sound of my 2x great grandma. She clearly had some spirit! The letter writer also talks about how much Annie’s daughter was loved, so by saying “your mother got her personality from her,” the letter writer tells us Annie was also much loved.

Reading this makes me wonder how I’ll be remembered and think about my own memories of people who are gone. They are all little things, likely long forgotten by those who made them.

What memories will we leave behind? Will we be the behind smacker and cane threatener? Or the beautiful person who everyone loved? I suppose it depends on us … and on who is doing the remembering.

Standing on the Shoulders of Our Ancestors

I was raised to do two things: Work hard and get a good education, with the expectation that doing so would result in success.

alphabet blur books close up

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Because my childhood neighborhood in the smallish (now bigger) suburb/town was populated mainly by factory and steel mill workers, the value of an honest day’s work was instilled in most families.

At the same time, many who put food on the table through manual labor did so hoping their children wouldn’t have to work quite so hard to make a living.

This wasn’t the case for everyone, however. There were students at my high school who expected to get a job at the mill or Ford or Chevy like their fathers and uncles (somehow the mothers rarely figured into this) and make a “good living.”  They believed this despite being warned by teachers that those jobs weren’t going to be around.

Some parents probably encouraged this belief, not wanting their children to “get above themselves,” perhaps fearing those children might one day look down on them (as if children don’t do this anyway <grin>).  I’ve heard this is referred to in Australia as “Tall Poppy Syndrome.”

And the same attitude exists in England, where my husband was raised, as my mother-in-law once shared in recounting the following anecdote.

My then future husband was one of two boys in his village school class who were given the opportunity to attend a more scholastically rigorous middle school that would prepare them to attend University.

Naturally, my MIL chose to send him. But the mother of the other boy did not, explaining she didn’t want her son to get any ideas about being better than he was.

The (future) Engineer did attend that school, which resulted in much greater and more opportunities than he would ever have had if his mother had chosen to have the same attitude as her neighbor.

For me, a higher education was imperative because I was hopeless at anything requiring hand/eye coordination (coordination in any form, in fact), and at age eighteen, I was a woefully impractical dreamer with my head in a book. A college degree would help me find my way.

It did, though that path proved more meandering than anyone expected, moving from job to job in several fields, mostly restaurants, and sometimes doubling back to work at a previous job once more. I made a living working two jobs (sometimes three) or working full-time and going to school (plus side gigs) until after I was married and had our daughter.

Eventually I found my place at the local library, and worked my way up the ladder, which entailed getting a second degree. (Later, I chose to work my way back down, but that’s another story. :-))

For my field, education meant two college degrees, backed up with many years of customer service jobs. For someone else, education might be an apprenticeship, on-the-job training, a vocational school certificate, or a combination of all these.

Thus, I’ve come to define education as the means to develop a knowledge base that makes one employable, preferably with the possiblity of improving one’s life.

It means being given the opportunity and the encouragement to make the best of the talent and brains we are born with.

Many people get neither.
I was privileged to have had both.

Why?
Part of the answer lies in the color of my skin and where, when and how I was raised.

But with a family tree populated mostly by farmers and manual laborers, how is it that my particular branch tried to reach higher? Who of my ancestors decided their children should be encouraged to do more?

How did it happen?

I am not casting aspersions on the industriousness of farmers or manual laborers. Without farmers, we wouldn’t eat, and despite the advance of technology, many of what we consider life’s necessities wouldn’t exist without manual labor.

However, farming and manual labor are, and always have been, jobs where the pay rarely reflects the toil expended. To this list,  I would add most jobs in the service industry, which frequently require more skill than people realize, yet are still inadaquately compensated.

Most people don’t choose to work poorly paid jobs, even if they enjoy the work. They do it because they have no choice.

Who in my family began the process that gave me that choice? Who looked at her or his life and said, “This is okay, but I’d like my children to have other options,” and then, somehow managed to provide those options?

neon signage

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

It wasn’t my father. Although his father was a laborer and farmer, Dad was pushed to go to college.

I don’t know if similar expectations were placed on his sister.

It was common knowledge that Dad skipped two grades, landing in high school at age twelve. Although this doesn’t jive with the year he graduated, his parents moved to Ohio around then, and he enlisted in the Navy at seventeen, so he probably lost a couple of years in the process.

ByrdMerlinE_Navybuddy WWII

Dad’s on the right.

After World War II, Dad went to Glenville State College in West Virginia on the GI bill, graduated in three years, and then returned to Ohio, where he eventually met and married my mother.

She was a high school graduate, but there was no expectation of any higher education for Mom, her two sisters or four brothers. In Mom’s family, the kids were encouraged to get out of the house as soon as possible. From the choices they made, the options on offer seemed to be finding a job, joining the service, and/or getting married.

Mom got a job, and then married my dad.

Back then, the working world was divided into “white collar” jobs and “blue collar” jobs, terms that I have only just now realized are incredibly sexist, as well as arbitrary.

Dad was neither, and both. He grew up poor, in the hills of West Virginia, yet had a college degree. As a warehouse foreman for Goodyear, he was considered management, and thus wore shirts and ties to work, but his work clothes reeked of Eau de Rubber.

auto black black and white car

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pexels.com

In fact, the clothes stunk so badly, he and Mom took out a loan to add on a second bathroom with a closet, so he could shower, change, and store his work clothes separately as soon as he got home.

Dad never called himself white or blue collar, but hillbilly or redneck instead. Repeat those words to Mom, and she’d laugh, saying he’d lived in Ohio longer than he’d ever lived in West Virginia and was a transplanted buckeye.

In truth, he was no longer a hillbilly or a redneck, but he also never went corporate, turning down promotions to avoid having to move, and occasionally siding with workers in labor disputes.

I find this dichotomy in myself, and I’m grateful for it because it reminds me not to take too much for granted.

My father thought deeply, and Mom thought quickly. At least that’s how I viewed them. And the encouragement to make the most of ourselves came from both.

Still, I think the expectation originated with my father’s family.

Specifically, it came through my grandmother, Leone Catherine Lang. The eldest of seven children of Thomas Jefferson Lang and Emma Virginia Weinrich, she finished high school and the one year of college needed to teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Alice, West Virginia.

Wikipedia’s entry for Alice says, “Alice is an unincorporated community in Gilmer
County
, West Virginia, United States. Its post office [2] is closed.”

End of entry.

Evidently, it’s not a big place and probably never was.LangLeoneMemorial1993

 

Grandma’s teaching career was brief, ending when she married my grandpa, Everett Ernest Byrd, at nineteen. As I write this, I think about how young she was and wonder if she was one of those teachers who had students who were bigger than her. I also wonder if the experience of controlling a building full of children of all ages, coupled with having been the oldest child in her family, made her the strong-willed woman I knew.

When she told me married women weren’t allowed to teach, I was outraged! She calmly explained that a man might need the job to support his family, and I was surprised she accepted the limitation so easily.

Despite her having spent the time and effort to qualify as a teacher, the expectation was that grandpa, with his eighth-grade education, would find a way to support them and their children.

And, so he did.

Initially, I thought this disparity in education was an anomaly in our family, that my grandmother continued with school because she hadn’t yet married.

When I looked deeper, however, I discovered this wasn’t the case.

Though her father and mother, Thomas Jefferson Lang and Emma Virginia Weinrich only went through eighth grade, at least five of their seven children surpassed that level, including all the girls.

Leone completed 1 year of college.
Harold Clare (Heavy) stopped attending school after eighth grade. He married Alma Gay Bird, who despite the different spelling of their last names, was my grandfather Everett’s sister.
Fay Dorrette was a student nurse in 1930 before dying of TB in 1933 at the age of 24.
Lacelle finished high school, worked briefly as a maid, and then moved to Ohio, living in the same town as Leone. She married at age 66, returning to West Virginia with her husband, before coming back to Ohio on his death. I inherited her amethyst ring (eventually). If you’d like to read about that, click on her name.
Thomas Jefferson (Jr.)’s life is shrouded in mystery, at least so far. Though he was living with Thomas and Emma  in 1930, I have found no further trace of him until he washes up in Florida many years later. My mom and dad said he was a hobo during the Depression, riding the rails, which is interesting if true. Sadly, life as a vagabond doesn’t lend itself to record keeping, so I know very little about him, though I remember meeting him as a child.
George W. had completed two years of college by 1940 but hadn’t attended any school during that year. He went on to be a three-term president of his local autoworkers union.
Darlette Kay finished high school, but shot herself in her father’s barn at age 36. Although her brother George lived in Ohio by this time, he was the one to find her body.

The records I’ve found lead me to believe this is the generation when our family developed a culture of encouraging further education, though of course, I can’t prove it conclusively. Until 1940, the census didn’t ask about levels of education, only if each person could read and write, and sometimes not even that.

Assuming I’m correct (always a dangerous thing to do), what caused this sudden emphasis on further education and/or training?

Here are my two hypotheses:

  • Sometime between 1900 and 1910, Thomas began working for the  Rural Free Delivery (RFD) mail service. The RFD began in several West Virginia towns in 1896, and quickly expanded to cover the state. Thomas delivered the mail at least through 1940, first as a contractor, and then as an employee of the USPS. In 1910, he and Emma were living in a rented house. By 1920, Thomas listed his occupation as farmer and RFD carrier, and he and Emma owned their home, though it was mortgaged. By 1930, they owned the home and farm, possibly able to afford it because of the extra income from his mail route. Did this income also make it possible for their children to pursue further training and/or education?
  • Or was it Emma who was responsible for encouraging this advancement? She was born in 1876, a year after her sister Helena, to a father and mother who were unusually old for first-time parents. Emma’s mother, Elizabeth Daugherty, was thirty-five when she married Karl (Charles) Weinrich, a German immigrant and Civil War veteran sixteen years her senior. This means Emma’s father was fifty-five and her mother thirty-nine when Emma was born. Could having older parents and/or an immigrant father somehow have affected Emma’s attitudes toward educating her children?

Clearly, I can never answer these questions, just as I can’t be 100% sure it was Emma and Thomas whose influence has carried into my own generation.

In all likelihood, the true reason for this change was the result of several factors, some of which I  probably cannot begin to guess. In the end, I can only take away this lesson: When someone talks about how slavery was so long ago, I can see how long ago it wasn’t. The Civil War that legally ended the abhorrent institution was fought by ancestors whose lives had direct impact on family members I knew as a child.

Because my great grandparents had the ability to freely establish families, work for pay, buy land, and send their children to school, their children had advantages which ultimately affected me.

The last American slave ship came to this country in 1858, just twenty years before Thomas Jefferson Lang was born. The cargo — calling the enslaved people “passengers” would whitewash the experience of their journey — may have had children the same age as Thomas or Emma.

Do you think the descendents of that human cargo would have had the same advantages enjoyed by Thomas and Emma’s descendents, e.g., me and my siblings?

Viewing family history from the perspective of a genealogist has also enabled me to see how a change of attitude or circumstance can affect a family for generations. In the case of my 2x great grandfather, Montcalm Armstrong, his Civil War service had a great affect on his children, which almost certainly filtered down to his grandchildren, perhaps even his great grandchildren.

Being a slave during the same time period could only have worse consequences.

We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. And those whose ancestors were forced to kneel in subjugation begin their climb from a much lower place.

 

This is Thomas Jefferson Lang’s fiddle, which I ended up with. I didn’t even know I had a musical ancestor until my stepmother gave it to me, having somehow gotten it from one of our relatives, probably Thomas Jefferson Jr. Initially she said it was my grandfather’s, which I knew wasn’t correct. But then she added that Uncle Jeff (Thomas Jr.) said he remembered his father playing it, I understood. She was thinking he was my uncle, rather thanmy father’s. Ergo, the fiddle belonged to Dad’s grandfather, the older Thomas Jefferson Lang, who I knew when I was very young. He died in 1966, at age 88, followed by Emma a year later at age 90.

 

 

 

 

 

My Great Grandpa Was a Love Rat, and Great Grandma Was a Loose Woman

I suppose you might qualify that statement by saying Great Grandpa Fred Sholley and his wife, Sarah Melinda, redeemed themselves later in life. After all, they were married for forty years and raised nine children together.

To be fair, Fred’s waywardness may have been due to having lost his father at age nine.  And Sarah Melinda was an only child (quite unusual at that time, at least compared to the rest of her family), so she was probably a little spoilt.

I say you might qualify the statement, but I won’t. After finding out what I’ve recently learned, I’d have not let either near my Darling Daughter.

After piecing together their story, I find it difficult to accept their actions.

Read on, and perhaps you will understand.

From previous research, I knew the basics about “Fred” (Either Simon Frederick or Frederick Simon, depending on the record) Sholley and his wife Sarah Melinda Kreighbaum. This included the crucial BMD (Birth, Marriage, Death) details for both, and for their nine children.

Somehow I missed the fact their first child, Dora Estelle, was born more than two years before they married. In my defense, I can only say birth dates and years can vary by document, so until I find the actual birth record, I’m never confident I have it correct.

Dora’s record had eluded me (you’ll soon see why), so I figured she was, ahem, “premature,” as first children often are.

Pregnancy at the altar was, if not common, certainly not unheard of, and as I said, Great Grandpa and Grandma went on to have eight more children, so no big deal, right?

It was a legal notice in the archives of Newspapers.com (currently available for free with my library card) that put a different spin on things.

I love using newspaper archives because you never know what you’ll learn (about “monster porkers” or bushels of barley, for example). Or information about Fred’s brother Oliver’s probate, which pinpointed his date of death after I’d been unable to locate a death certificate.

But stumbling across this, from the 18 March 1890 issue of “The Akron Beacon Journal,” was quite a shocker.

Martha Sholley Seeking Separation
Martha J. Sholley vs. Frederick S. Sholley.
Plaintiff says they were married Jan. 11, 1887, and one child has been born of said marriage. She charges defendent with gross neglect of duty toward her and her child, that he has been guilty of adultery at various times, the exact date the plaintiff is unable to specify, with one Malinda Kreighbaum.Wherefore she prays that she may be divorced, that she may be restored to her maiden name of Martha J.Winkelman, that she be granted the custody of the child, and reasonable alimony. Kohler and Musser for the plaintiff.

Well! I nearly fell off the sofa. Not only had Great Grandpa Sholley been married before, he had a child I previously knew nothing about, and was running around with Great Grandma before his first wife divorced him.

A few days later, I finally had time to dig into the full story, which doesn’t paint Fred and Melinda in a very pretty light.

Here’s a quick overview:
Fred (23) married Martha Jane “Jennie” Winkelman (16) on 11 January 1887. This age difference would perhaps be shocking today, but back then, not so much, although her parents did have to sign for her, lying to say she was 17.

Five months later, Jennie gives birth to Anna May Sholley, making it quite possible Fred took up with Jennie when she was just 15.

Do the math: Jennie was born 12 August 1870. If you calculate 38-42 weeks for an average pregnancy, she was pregnant by sometime in September 1886. Either she was either incredibly fertile/unlucky, or they’d been at it for a while.

I swear I don’t do this type of calculation for every birth in my family tree. If I had, I would have notice Dora Estelle was two years “early.”

This case, however, warranted some extra scrutiny.

And although I didn’t find the birth certificate for either Dora or Anna, I did find the handwritten register from 1887 and 1888.

It listed Anna’s birth on 7 May 1887, with “Fredk Sholly” and “Jennie” Winkelman as her parents. However, there is another listing for “Sholly, child of Frederick” written in the same hand for 1 March 1888, parents listed as “Fredk” Sholly and Melinda Kreighbaum, with the notation “Illegitimate.” That child was Dora Estelle, born when Fred was 24, and Melinda was 16.

Below are the two pages of the register, with small dots beside the relevant records.

I find myself wondering what the registration clerk thought as s/he wrote these records.

And what were Sarah Melinda’s parents (John H. Kreighbaum and Martha  Keplar Kreighbaum) thinking to let her fool with a married man?

Even more shocking (to me, at least) was the fact the relationship continued, culminating in a hasty marriage on 17 May 1890, and the birth of their second child just two months later.

Jennie also remarried, in 1891 (and I say “Good for her!”).

The next record for Anna has her in Jennie’s parents’ Green Township household in 1900, right next door to John H. and Martha Keplar (Melinda’s parents).

This seemingly ironic quirk of fate prompted me to look at earlier censuses, where I discovered Melinda and Jennie grew up next door to each other, making Fred and Melinda’s actions seem even more cruel.

How mortifying it must have been for Martha Jane “Jennie” Winkelman Sholley to have her face rubbed in her husband’s infidelity by a girl she knew as a child!

KreighbaumWinkelman1880

1880 census showing Kreighbaum and Winkelman households including  Martha “Jennie” Winkelman and Sarah Melinda Kreighbaum

Anna married in 1906, and she and her husband (Charles E. Strong) moved to California sometime in the 20s. She died of cancer at age 57 in 1944.

Sarah Melinda was also 57 when she died in 1930, with Fred following nine years later at age 75.

Jennie followed Anna to California and outlived them all, dying there in 1958 at age 87.

Perhaps it’s wrong to judge my ancestors so harshly. There was no such thing as a “no fault” dissolution of marriage back then: Someone always had to be found “at fault.”

But, Frederick’s actions seem irresponsible and greedy, as well as unkind, while Sarah Melinda seems unnecessarily cruel to take up with her neighbor’s husband, even if she and Jennie weren’t friends.

And yet, I’m glad I found this information because it rounds out my understanding of my grandmother. Perhaps her eagerness to get her children out of the house and married off quite young had something to do with her parents.

I must say I’d have learned the opposite lesson if this were my parent’s history, and encouraged my own children to take their time settling down in the hope of making better choices.

It’s possible Grandma never even knew her half-sister or about the tumultuous early years of her parents’ relationship.

I doubt anyone is still alive who can tell us.

Timeline
17 December 1863 – (Simon) Frederick Sholl(e)y born
12 August 1870 – Martha Jane “Jennie” Winkelman born
1880 census – Jennie and Sarah Melinda live next door to each other
13 March 1872 – Sarah Melinda Kreighbaum born
11 January 1887 – Simon Frederick (23) and Martha Jane (16) marry — signed for by parents, she’s underage, says 17, but she’s only 16
7 May 1887 – Anna May Sholly born (Martha Jane still only 16 — 5 month baby, so MJ pregnant at marriage. She is listed as #289 in the handwritten birth register. Parents listed as Fredk Sholly and Jennie Winkelman.
1 March 1888 – In same birth register, four lines above Anna May at #285 is listed “Sholly, Child of Fredk.” Parents listed as Fredk Sholly and Melinda Kreighbaum with the notation “Illegitimate.” Sarah Melinda is 16. Simon Frederick is 24. This is Dora Estelle.
18 March 1890 – Article in “The Akron Beacon Journal”
Martha Sholley Seeking Separation
Martha J. Sholley vs. Frederick S. Sholley.
Plaintiff says they were married Jan. 11, 1887, and one child has been born of said marriage. She charges defendent with gross neglect of duty toward her and her child, that he has been guilty of adultery at various times, the exact date the plaintiff is unable to specify, with one Malinda Kreighbaum.Wherefore she prays that she may be divorced, that she may be restored to her maiden name of Martha J.Winkelman, that she be granted the custody of the child, and reasonable alimony. Kohler and Musser for the plaintiff.

17 May 1890 – (Simon) Frederick and Sarah Melinda wed. He’s 26. She’s 18, and at least 7 mos pregnant with their second child. They go on to have seven more children.
16 July 1890 – John Oliver Sholley born
2 March 1891 – Martha Jane “Jennie” Winkelman remarries.
3 October 1906 – Anna May marries Charles E. Strong in Summit County, Ohio. Sometime between 1920 and 1930, they eventually move to California. Martha Jane “Jennie” follows by 1940.
29 January 1930 – Sarah Melinda dies at age 57.
24 March 1939 – (Simon) Frederick dies, aged 75.
2 September 1944 – Anna May dies of cancer at age 57.
21 March 1958 – Martha Jane “Jennie” dies, aged 87.

A Story Old as Time

It’s a common tale, one I’m sure you’ve heard before.

A young woman marries and quickly discovers her new husband is a drunken, abusive lout and not the loving partner she believed him to be.

They have children. Perhaps the woman finds hope in the idea the additional responsibilities will settle him, but instead, the abuse worsens. At times, things get so bad she must seek shelter for herself and her three small children with family and friends.

The years pass until one night her husband becomes violent again, this time over a minor remark.

Once more, she flees with her children.

A fight ensues, a gun appears, and the story ends, as such tales often do, in death.

Yes, the story is common, and old as the hills, but this time, it’s the narrative of my 3x great grandfather’s brother (my 4x great uncle?), Andrew Keplar and his daughter, whom he died defending in 1871.

I stumbled across the incident in History of Summit County, With an Outline Sketch of Ohio (ed., William Henry Perrin, 1881) while researching John A. Keplar (the 3x great grandfather).

History of Summit County, With an Outline Sketch of Ohiop598The book lists John’s siblings and where they ended up (boldface mine).

“Catharine, married Henry Warner; John, formerly of Green; Jacob, now a resident of Coventry ; Andrew, shot on August 16, 1871, by his son-in-law; Daniel, moved to De Kalb County, Ind.; George, formerly of Coventry, now deceased; Henry, died at eighteen ; Samuel, died in Illinois, and Lena, died after marrying Henry Cook.”

Curious, I continued researching the family and stumbled on the whole sorry story in Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County [O] (page 804-807) by Samuel Alanson Lane (published 1892, with the author’s name listed on the cover as “Ex-sheriff Samuel A. Lane”).

More research proved ex-sheriff Lane’s account wasn’t 100% accurate. Sarah Jane Keplar married Godfrey Semler in 1862, not 1852, making her 19 at the time of the marriage and about 26 when her father was killed. Also, Godfrey was a grocer in the 1870 census, not a hotel keeper (although that could have changed by 1871, when the death occurred).

Ancestry subscribers have shared enough scans of news articles to show that Lane is correct on most details, however.

Andrew Keplar was killed in an altercation with his son-in-law, a known drunkard and abuser.

Semler, who was also injured, was convicted to five years hard labor for manslaughter, despite claiming his mother-in-law pulled the trigger. The governor pardoned him after two years, four months, and eight days after Sarah Jane and her mother rethought their testimony, concluding the shooting was probably an accident.

By that time, Lane says, Sarah had divorced Semler, returned to the use of her maiden name and was granted custody of the three children. A few years later she remarried.

Semler’s fate was somewhat different, and here I feel compelled to quote Lane verbatim: “And as to Semler, himself, instead of profiting by his bitter experience, and reforming his habits, while not regarded as especially vicious, the opinion entertained of him by those who know him best may be summed up in the single but expressive word— ‘worthless.'”

This summation is backed up by a newspaper clipping from 1879 about a drover named George Weary who was “relieved of about $250 in an East Liberty tavern while in the company of a few friends (?).” The money was taken while he slept at the bar.  The clipping continues, “He acknowledged that he as well as his companions did get a little “how-come-you-so” (as he expressed it), which fully explains all that took place in connection with the loss.” 

One of Weary’s “friends(?)” was Semler, who apparently bought a watch after the theft, flashing more money than his circumstances would merit. He claimed the money came from an employer having recently paid him, but the amount paid by the employer proved to be a small sum, which “knocked Semler’s story into a cocked-hat.”

Although I find the outdated wording amusing, it cannot take away the tragedy of this event.

Once again, my genealogical research has reminded me that life has always had its hardships, and the best we can do is take one day at a time, dealing with whatever comes our way and being glad when times are good.

 

Monster Porkers, Bushels of Buckwheat, and a Temperance Man: Using Chronocling America to Fill Out the Stories of Our Ancestors

A little background about “Chronocling America”:

“Chronicling America (ISSN 2475-2703) is a Website providing access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). NDNP, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC), is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Supported by NEH, this rich digital resource will be developed and permanently maintained at the Library of Congress. An NEH award program will fund the contribution of content from, eventually, all U.S. states and territories.”

All that is to say it’s a part of Library of Congress (LOC) that provides access to digital copies of historical newspapers.

Like much of the online LOC, it’s easy to fall into, sometimes hard to escape. And I sometimes forget what a resource it can be for genealogy.

True, I’ve rarely found hard facts relating to birth, marriage, and death — the holy trinity BMD of genealogy — but I occasionally stumble across a jewel, like these tombstone inscriptions from Union County Pennsylvania. UnionTownshipTombstoneInscriptions1903
Many of the surnames match those of my tree, and eventually, I’m sure a first name will also match.

Recently I was scouring the site for Sholley ancestors and — once I remembered the Pennsylvania Sholleys spell the name as “Sholly” — I was overwhelmed with information, most of it unrelated to what I was searching for.

Who knew newspapers once published the names of those who subscribed and when their subscriptions lapsed?

Now I know my maternal grandmother’s great uncle David S. Sholly was a regular reader of the Middleburg Post. 

He was also a Justice of the Peace who performed marriages (many of them faithfully documented by the Post). And he was on the school board for Selinsgrove in the late 1890s.

Apparently, he was an early supporter of prohibition as well. sn84026106-18820928
The article reads:

Constitutional Prohibition Meeting

Port Trevorton, September 20, 1882

A public meeting in the interest of Constitutional Prohibition was held this evening in the Evangelical church at this place. The meeting was organized by the election of Hon. D Witmer, Pres. and D.S. Thursby, Sec. After singing a hymn, Rev.U. Gambler led an impressive prayer. The President appointed Rev. U. Gambler, Jeremiah Boyer and Daniel Snyder a committe on permanent organization. W.D. Blackburn, state organizer, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., then addressed the audience in an manner that will, no doubt, produce good results. 

The committee on permanent organization reported as follows: Pres. Hon. D. Witmer; Vice Pres. Gen. E.C. Williams, Daniel Krebs, Jacob Burns, Sec. D.S. Thursby, Treasurer T.W. Hoffman. 

Executive Com. D. Witmer, D.S. Thursby, T.W. Hoffman, Emanuel Bordner, J.B. Swartz, Samuel H. Snyder, David S. Sholly, Albright Swineford, E.S. Stahl.

Delegates. Rev. U. Gambler, Rev. J.W. Bentz, N.T. Dundore, T.W. Hoffman, H.  O’Neil, E.S. Arnold, Mrs. Maria Dundore, Mrs. Kate Bogar, Mrs. A.E. Williams, and others. 

Nine dollars were subscribed for the benefit of the State Association. 

On motion adjourned to meet the call of the President. 

— D.S. THURSBY, Sec

It would appear David S. Sholly was quite the pillar of his community, if his press is anything to go by.

He makes my 2x great grandfather Peter look like a bit of a slacker.

But my favorite David S. Sholly story is about his “monster porker,” an 12 January 1888 article which states:

David S. Sholly, of Dundore, Pa., killed a monster porker on the 2d of January. The hog measured nine feet from from tip of nose to tip of tail, was three feet one inch high and measured six foot seven inches around the girth. The animal dressed 685-1/2 pounds and made 800 pounds of extracted lard. The hams and shoulders — after close dressing, weighed respectively 50 and 48 pounds. The animal was a male of a full Chester-White stock pair, purchased of Edward Walter & Son, West Chester, Pa., a very extensive dealer in blooded stock. Mr. Sholly states that he can supply parties with blooded stock in the spring.

Well, as Charlotte once said, “Some pig”!

David and Peter’s father was also a farmer of note.

On 6 November 1857, the Lewisburg Chronicle & West Branch Farmer featured this tidbit:

“Simon Sholly, of Chapman Township, Snyder county, has raised, by sowing 1-1/2 bushels of Buckwheat, 89-1/2 bushels.”

Good return on his investment, don’t you think?

I eventually found a newspaper mention of Peter, though not in the LOC database. A distant relative posted a scan of a news article about his death on Ancestry. He died in an accident at age 31, leaving four children and another on the way.

Article from Ancestry tree: Citation Information

Transcript

FATAL ACCIDENT-On Saturday the 18th inst., as Mr. Peter Sholly, of Rye township this county, was on his wagon unloading wood, he slipped, and his foot catching in one of the standards he fell to the ground on his head and shoulders, receiving such internal injury as to cause his death on the Monday following. Mr. Sholly was only about 30 years of age. He leaves a widow and four children to mourn his sudden death.

Detail
Perry County Advocate & Press
Other information
Copied from microfilm the newspaper account of Peter Sholly’s death
Edit Source
Source Information
Title
Advocate & Press
Note
Newspaper Article May 29th, 1872, Perry County
Repository Information
No repository specified for this source.

Perhaps Peter didn’t have the chance to do anything noteworthy.

 

Our Ancestors: We Know We Can Make It Through Because We Know They Did

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.

On the other side of the family, there was John Garman and his many children. And you already know about Montcalm. 

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.

00138

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!

 

Harriet Arminta, By Any Other Name: A Lesson in Genealogical Detective Work

Actual name: Harriet Arminta Armstrong Loverage

1850 Census: Harriet A. Armstrong

1860 Census: Harriett Armstrong

1870 Census: Aminta Armstrong

1880 Census: Armitta Loveridge record-image_-13

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

Obituary, 1899, Newspapers.com Obituary Index, 1800s-current: Harriett Armjctron Loveridze (Spouse Thomas 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. 🙂

 

The Brief and Difficult Life of Montcalm Armstrong

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.ArmstrongMontcalmDraftReg1863 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.

 

A. No. of men. F. Blouses.
B. Shoes. G. Shirts.
C. Socks. H. Greatcoats.
D. Drawers. I. Blankets.
E. Pants. J. Caps.

 

A. B. C. D. E. F. G. H. I. J.
Belle Isle 7,568 3,173 4,189 3,446 2,597 2,629 3,336 3,730 4,946 2,479

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.ArmstrongMontcalm_EmmaPrice_1866Wed

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. ArmstrongMontcalm_AnnaLeitnerWed1874By 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. record-image_-12

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.

The same distant cousin who sent me the pension file told me that Guy ended up in the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home at the age of 10.  (His application was dated July 21, 1890.)

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.

Alba married August Melching in1903 in Emmett, Michigan, with Guy as one of the witnesses. (As usual, the record is mis-indexed, listing Montcalm as Mort C.) Alba died at the age of 72 in Michigan.

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.”ArmstrongJamesG1900He 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. JamesGrocer

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. ArmstrongJamesGDeathNotice1956

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.

The Many Children of John Garman

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.

Marriage Register for “Martha” Dickerhoof and John “German” – 1830

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.

Marriage Register for Mary Weaver and John “Garman” -1850

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.

Marriage License and Return for Catharine Hane and John Garman – 1865

The Children

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.

Pension file showing Louisa/Louise’s husband George’s invalid pension and (later) Louisa’s widow’s pension

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.

Is this our Edwin? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. The place and time are right, but there is no definitive link

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.