Jamboree Schedule Live!

The schedule for the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Genealogy Jamboree has gone live and registrations are now being processed.

I’ll be giving two talks. One is on converting ancestral stories to children’s stories and the other is on DNA analysis when you have quite a few double and triple relationships to reasonably close cousins.

More details are on the Jamboree website.


What Have You Shared?

I recently rediscovered a letter my grandmother’s niece wrote to her in 1938. A little Google searching determined that the niece recently passed away and I decided to reach out to her one grandchild. I mentioned the letter and offered to share pictures of it if she was interested.

She was happy to get a copy of the letter written by her Grandma when she was 16 years of age. Our brief email exchange caused me to remember several stories about the niece’s mother (my Grandma’s sister) that I had nearly forgotten. Those all got written down in my own family history.

I’m glad I shared the letter. I know that I would be grateful if someone shared a similar letter with me. The jogging of my own memories was an added bonus.

What item do you have that could be shared with someone?


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?


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.


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.


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?


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.