What I Know I Know

This was a little thought exercise I undertook partially for my own entertainment and partially to remind me of what people could know–particularly information in county histories and other published materials written before they were born. My knowledge of any years of birth in this discussion are, by the very nature of time and the fact I am discussing my grandparents, secondary.

What is not secondary is the fact that I know that these individuals acted as if they were siblings, were accepted as siblings, and were acknowledged by others in the communities. Their births all took place between forty-four and seventy years before my own birth and nearly one-hundred-and-twenty-five years before the time this post is written. That’s something to think about when I see a county history published in 1880 that references relationships of individuals born at the end of the 1700s and the beginning of the 1800s. That does not mean that those relationships are correct or that the person’s memory was infallible.

It just gives me perspective.

This exercise required me to try and put aside what I know from having been involved in genealogy research. That was, to be honest, difficult. I tried to think of times I met these people and things I knew or heard before I became involved in genealogy. The years my grandparents were always known to me–my family was never one to hide anyone’s age.

I tried as best I could to concentrate on what I knew because it was repeatedly told to me or repeatedly implied by the actions of others. This includes family gatherings, numerous funerals, various celebrations, random family visits, discussions about who was not speaking to whom, conversations where family members gossiped about their siblings (let’s be honest), and other stories I was told.

I know who all my paternal grandfather’s siblings were. I know my Grandpa was born in 1903–that was something I heard repeated numerous times. I know he was the oldest in his family and that he had two younger brothers and a younger sister. I know that his brother Herschel was the youngest of the entire family and that his sister, Nellie, was born before the youngest brother. That leaves his brother Ralph to have been the second oldest child. My grandfather died when I was six months old–I have no firsthand memory of him. I knew all three of his siblings having met them numerous times and always heard them refer to each other as siblings and to my grandfather as their oldest sibling. Even without genealogy, I knew the first names of each of my uncle’s wives and the first and last name of my grandfather’s sister’s husband.

I know who my paternal grandmother’s siblings were, but my knowledge there is not the same as it is with my grandfather. I know names of Grandma’s siblings: John, Luella, Babe (might have remembered his name was really Carl, but maybe not), Elmer, Lillie, and Pete (probably would have remembered his real name was Cecil). I only remember meeting Luella, Lillie, and Pete (all of whom I met numerous times). I would have known John was the oldest and that he died during the Depression in a car crash. Aunt Luella’s year of birth I would have remembered, but only because she was born in 1900 and her age “went with the years” as Grandma (and my Dad) would say. The youngest three children were (in order) Lillie, my Grandma, and Pete. Lillie was older than Grandma by a bit, and Pete was the baby of the family. The two older brothers birth order eludes me. They always acknowledged each other as siblings and were known as siblings.

I knew all my maternal grandfather’s siblings. I always knew my Grandfather was the oldest (born in 1917), that his sister Ruth was the youngest, and that their brother Herb was born before Ruth. There were two other brothers LeRoy and Alvin, but to be honest I always get mixed up which one of them was oldest. I met all of them numerous times as they all were alive when I was born as were their spouses. Their mother was actually alive until I was in my late teens. This is probably the family where I have the most first hand knowledge of everyone in the immediate family.

My maternal grandmother was the youngest of seven children born in 1924. If asked only to rely on memory, I would know all their first names (although it might take me a minute to get all of them, but I can always remember there were a total of seven): Margaret, Greta, Ruth, Anna, John, Edward, and Dorothy (my grandmother). Uncle Ed was closest in age to Grandma and I think Anna and Margaret were the two oldest children. I’d be reasonably certain of the names of the spouses of most of the ones who lived near where I grew up (Ruth, John, and Edward). Margaret lived in the town where I grew up, but her husband passed well before I was born.

Of course, thanks to genealogy research I have filled in the blanks in these families. This little exercise was just to help remind me that what I know is similar to what someone else may not. I also have to be aware that my experience may be unique and that not everyone may know as much about their grandparents’ siblings as do I. My knowledge is a factor of many things and I need to remember that as well.

Something for me to think about when I analyze something written in an 1880 biography. It doesn’t mean what aspects of it are true and what ones are not–but that I need to think about what the informant might have reasonably known.

My knowledge of the years of my grandparents’ birth is only as reliable as their knowledge.

What do you know and how do you know it?

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John Tinsley, Signing for his Son James

Part of the Agreement the heirs of Isaac Rucker entered into in 1799

It was December of 1799 and the family of Isaac Rucker, Senr., of Amherst County, Virginia, wanted to allot his widow, Mildred, her dower in his farm and allot to his children their proportion of the estate.


Final part of the Agreement the heirs of Isaac Rucker entered into in 1799

Isaac’s widow and her children signed the document. Her sons actually signed the document. It was different for her daughters. Achilles Reynolds, married to Isaac’s daughter Elizabeth, signed for that share of the estate. The other daughter, Susanna, was married to James Tinsley. Apparently neither of them were present at the Christmastime 1799 Rucker family meeting. So instead of Susannah signing in her own right–which she could not do because she was married–or James signing for her share, James’ father, John Tinsley, signs for him.

Signatures on the 1799 Rucker heir agreement

There’s no power-of-attorney from James to John given. But John Tinsley is styled as the father of James Tinsley, husband of Susannah Rucker (daughter of Isaac). He signs the document as John Tinsley “for his son James.”

There are several James Tinsleys in the Tinsley family of Amherst County. This document makes it clear that the James Tinsley who married Susannah Rucker was the son of John Tinsley. I wish I just had other documents as detailed as this.

There’s a little more work I need to do with this James Tinsley–particularly to see if there are other documents in this court case that help pinpoint just where he was in December of 1799 when he was not at the Rucker estate discussion.

The Ruckers, in their 1799 agreement, appointed Colonel Ambrose Rucker, Spencer Norvell, James Hill, Phillip Johnson, and Reuben Norvell to create the allotment for Mildred and the children without an order of the court. As fate would have it, they ended up in court anyway.

More about that in our next post.

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Thomas J. Rampley died in 1823

We aren’t always able to get time frames when people die in locations and time periods when vital records are not recorded. In some cases, other records allow us to ascertain a specific date of death for an individual. The date a will was signed often can be a “last alive” date for an individual. But not everyone who dies leaves a valid will. Fortunately Thomas J. Rampley of Coshocton County, Ohio, left enough assets and obligations when he died in probably Coshocton County, in 1823.

The last known record presumably done while Thomas was alive was when he loaned $20 to John Salmons and a note was signed to confirm the debt. By early August 1823, Thomas Rampley was deceased.

Coshocton County, Ohio, Will Records, Volume 1, page 376:

On 7 August 1823 letters of administration were issued to James Shores by the Court of Common Pleas for Coshocton County, Ohio–indicating Thomas was dead by that date.

Coshocton County, Ohio, Will Records, Volume 2b, page 401:

The inventory of the Estate of Thomas J. Rampley, dec’d., indicated as one of the notes due Thomas one one of John Salmons “bearing date of April 18th 1823…”

Assuming Thomas was alive on the date the note was signed, he would have last been alive on 18 April 1823. He would have been dead by 7 August 1823 according to the date letters of administration were issued to settle his estate. It’s likely he had been dead at least a few days before letters were issued to settle his estate.

Court was not held every day and the Rampleys would have had to wait until the next term of court to petition that the settlement of Thomas’ estate begin. But there’s nothing in the record to indicate how long Thomas had been dead. State statute likely had terminology indicating within how many days of a death an estate proceeding had to begin.

But all we know is what is in the records. In April of 1823 Thomas loaned a likely neighbor $20. By August he was dead.

Come to think of it, we don’t really know it was a neighbor that Thomas loaned money to. There’s nothing in the record indicating where Salmon lived at the time, but it likely was nearby. He’s not a known relative of Thomas or of Thomas’ wife Christianna.

When one combs through all the estate accountings, there are sometimes more than just financial details in that list of debits and credits.

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Lucky to Have Multiple Copies

I have at least four copies of this photograph of my Ufkes great-grandparents taken around the time of their marriage in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1916, possibly more. It was not worth the time of going through all my photographs in order to see if there was one more copy in my collection that has yet to be inventoried and cataloged. Some of my copies are originals and other are reproductions. The reproductions are of varying sizes.

How many copies do I need to keep? Do I need to keep every one? There’s a limit to the number of prints of these that I need to keep in my collection. I’m inclined to think that I will shoot to retain two of them in my collection. The others I will see if relatives are inclined to want. That way prints of this picture are in other locations besides my collection.

I need to look at all the copies of this picture though and make certain I get the best digital copy of the image possible. I also need to look at the back of each copy of this photograph in case some different clue is written on one of them that is not on any of the others.

I’m lucky to have more than one copy of this picture. I realize that. The home my great-grandparents were living in burned in 1923 when they were living in it. My great-grandfather’s father may have also been living with them at that time as the home was originally his. Based on other family ephemera that has been passed down, some family items were saved from the home. No one perished in the fire, but family tradition of injuries has not passed down to the current generation.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have multiple copies of the same photograph. I am lucky that I have photograph collections obtained from several different deceased members of my family. Not everyone is that lucky.

But if you do have multiple copies of the same photograph have you thought about what to do with them?

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What We Realize and What We Don’t

Ida (Trautvetter) Neill, taken at the Cecil and Ida (Trautvetter) Neill farm, north of Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, 1950s. The barn pictured is the one referenced in this post.

Memories are often made when we don’t realize it. Sometimes later we realize those are the best memories of all.

It was towards the end of my senior year of high school when my Dad discovered that I had a day off in school in the middle of May–senior skip day it was called. It was a day of final exams and seniors didn’t have to take them and didn’t have to attend school either.

Therefore, according to my Dad, it was the perfect day to clean out the west side of the barn. It was also the same day as the senior party at some location that I have either forgotten or never knew in the first place. If Dad decided it was the day to clean out the barn, then it was the day to clean out the barn. And so that is what we did.

Grandma Neill was right there in the thick of things. It was several years before a series of strokes caused Grandma to become less mobile and, at seventy-five, she had no difficulty helping. So on that warm spring day, Grandma (in her house dress and knee high rubber boots), my Dad, and I cleaned out the west side of the barn. After all, the “bnure,” which is how “manure” always sounded when Grandma said it needed to be dealt with. Dad used the “H” with a small loader on it to scoop up some of the mess, but pitchforks were main instrument of getting the manure in the manure spreader. When the “bnure” spreader was full, Dad would go out and spread it while Grandma and I remained in the barn and filled up the small loader on the front end of the H and scraped some manure from the cement wall that formed the west ends of the barn.

So off Dad went.

My Dad had a handful of phrases he would use that we all had heard many times. Cliches that spoke of eternal truths one would learn first hand when they were an adult, “wait til you start paying the bills,” “life ain’t a bed of roses,” and “you don’t realize it” were three favorites.

Exactly how it started after Dad had left has been lost to time, but Grandma must have said something and I quipped back “Grandma you don’t realize it, life ain’t a bed of roses.” She laughed. She knew I was kidding and that I’d never tell her something like that in any serious way.

And so Grandma replied “Wait til you start paying bills.”

We were working. We weren’t loafing. The scoop on the front of the H got filled with bnure, and we did the other scraping that we were supposed to do. But along the way,

“Grandma…wait til you start paying the bills.”

The irony was lost on me then. It’s not lost on me now. I was telling a seventy-five year old woman that she didn’t know what life was like. This was a woman who had lived away from home since she was twenty-five, had (along with her husband) grown up pretty poor, and had worked on the farm “like a man” (as some used to say). Grandma knew what life was like.

She laughed and replied “Life ain’t a bed of roses.”

I laughed and told Grandma “you don’t realize it.”

We were both laughing as we shoveled cow shit. Work was sometimes difficult enough. One could have a little fun while doing it. We kept teasing each other with Dad’s retorts until we heard it.

The tractor was returning. We stopped laughing. I don’t think either one of had to tell the other that the time for hilarity was temporarily over. There wasn’t really supposed to be laughing while one was supposed to be working and we didn’t want to have to explain to Dad what was so darn funny.

Dad returned. We filled up the spreader and Dad went to spread it. As soon as he was out of earshot, we started again. I don’t remember who was the instigator and I’m certain it really doesn’t matter. Our laughter subsided when we heard the tractor return.

I don’t know if my classmates have memories of that senior party. I certainly don’t. But I do remember helping Dad and Grandma clean out the west side of the barn.

And I do have one of the fondest memories of Grandma as a result. It just took me a long time to realize it.

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Is Your Label the Problem?

The pictures are not that unique or special. In fact, digital images of them were made to ask readers in another forum whether preserving every photograph in your possession was worth it. The first image (with only one block of typed text) was the one I used in my initial post. Looking at it later, I realized that where I had put the text was misleading.

Original image with text suggesting bottom picture is their home.

My text, added in the spirit of including provenance in images I post, suggested that one the homes across the street could have been my grandparents’ home. At the very least the text was not as clear as it could have been. In making the images, I knew which image was their home. I was in it numerous times. But someone else won’t have that knowledge.

Always make certain that your labelling of images is clear–particularly if you are including multiple photographs in one digital image. The addition of text is to capture provenance and to identify the images as clearly as possible. What is in your head does not count for anything if it does not get put on the image.

Always review your image commentary to make certain it accurately reflects what you intend for it to.

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My Ancestry Pools

I am big on visualization–when it serves a purpose. I don’t like making charts, graphs, etc. just because I can and only because someone may be impressed with it. This chart, grouping my ancestry into what I’ve generally called “pools,” puts on paper what has been in my head for years.

The pools are geographically based except for one: the Neill-Rampley pool. I created that pool because three members of the Neill family married into the Rampley family between around 1900 and 1910, making many of us descendants of both. Descendants of the other pools also tended to marry descendants of the same group or they remained distinct from the other group (except for my one ancestor who married into another group either because of happenstance or the fact that they moved). I have been aware of these groupings for years and have found them helpful in analyzing my DNA matches as well. Most of my DNA matches can be placed into one of these same groups.

The Neill-Rampley group actually has origins in three distinct areas: Ireland, generally Maryland, and Virginia. Because they were part of a larger pool, they were called puddles (I realize the analogy starts to fall here). More distantly-related DNA matches in this group usually fall into one of these three groups. The Irish puddle could have been two separate puddles because the two members of the Irish immigrant couple were from distinct regions of Ireland. I could have done the same thing with the German pool as it is highly likely, based on the immigrants in that group, that my Germans are from three separate regions of Germany as well. In hindsight I may do that as it will be helpful in analyzing my DNA matches from those portions of my family.

Sometimes just trying to put on paper what is in our head can be a learning process in itself.

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Ten Sheep for the Habben Family of Five

It always pays to read the details. Genealogical discoveries, large and small, are often obtained from thinking about the implications of everything written in a document.

That’s true with the appraisement of the estate of Mimka L. Habben in Hancock County, Illinois, in the spring of 1877. Illinois state statute dictated what was to be a part of the “widow’s award” before the bills of the estate were paid. The award could be actual items in the household and barns or the cash equivalent if the family so chose or did not have the specific items. The “widow’s award” was so that not all of the family’s personal effects would be sold to pay bills and leave them without. Books, a sewing machine, family beds, the stove, household and kitchen furniture, some livestock, provisions for a specific period of time, and other items were included.

State statute–and the appraisement form–indicated that widow’s award was to include two sheep per member of the household. Antje, widow of Mimka L. Habben was awarded ten sheep. This suggests that there were five people in her household at the time of the appraisement. The family was awarded two cows–one for every four members of the family. That number is consistent with five members of the household.

After all, you can’t have a fractional cow. Five household members would have warranted 1.25 cows. To give the family their 1.25 cows meant they’d get two cows.

In this appraisement I learned that the Habben household in the Spring of 1877 consisted of five people. That told me that four of Antje’s children were living with her. The probate papers indicate that Mimka’s heirs at the time of his death were:

  • Jann Mimka Habben–a son
  • Johann Mimka Habben–a son
  • George Mimka Habben –a son
  • Antje Habben–a daughter
  • Meta Fecht–a married daughter
  • Meta Huls–a granddaughter

Meta Hul’s mother predeceased Mimka Habben. Meta would have been seven years old at the time of this estate appraisement. In 1880, she is known to have been living with her grandmother, Antje and her mother’s siblings who were still living at home.

Was Meta living with her grandmother in 1877? Was she living elsewhere? Was she not considered a member of the household for the purposes of the estate appraisement? I will need to review state statute to see if it mentions specifically who qualifies as a household member.

The items Mimka L. Habben owned at his death, beyond the items in the widow’s award, would be inventoried and appraised. If there was not money to pay the bills of his estate, the appraised items could have been sold to pay those bills.

But what of Meta? I don’t know and didn’t think about it until I got to looking at these sheep.

And here I thought I had all the answers when I saw they got ten sheep.

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