Thursday, June 30, 2011

(Not my) Treasure Chest Thursday - "The Bride's Book" for Betty and Charles

I have always thought of myself as an old soul and I think my love of genealogy, quilting and 40s music (among many other examples) justifies that. I also love to troll through antique stores. I'm always on the lookout for genealogy related items, even if they don't belong to any of my lines. I'm not sure why I keep my eyes open for things like old photos, memory books, bibles, etc. Perhaps it is because I have always felt that objects sometimes have a life of their own...or at least maintain a little bit of their owner's personality.

About a year ago, we were walking through our favorite antique store and I came across this:

That description alone was enough for any genealogist to go a little crazy. I'm not even sure why I was attracted to this package...I have no connections whatsoever with California and I surely didn't know Betty. But I felt drawn to it. I even walked away but came back and bought it anyway. I couldn't understand why a family would get rid of this...such happy memories! I was certain that I could reunite Betty, or her family, with this memorabilia. As soon as I got home I opened the package which included a teenage girl's scrapbook from the late 1940s and early 1950s and a wedding memory book. I started searching my find by flipping through "The Bride's Book." It was for the wedding of Betty and Charles on February 14, 1953. There was a list of all the wedding guests, all of the wedding presents and when Betty sent the thank you notes, and a copy of the wedding announcement from the Los Angeles Times. There was also a brief family tree. I instantly hit the computer to try to track down Betty. I could find nothing. No newspaper articles, no SSDI (thank goodness), nothing to tell me what happened to the happy couple.

As is usually the case, I tried for a bit to find Betty and Charles but then I put their memories on my book shelf and moved on to more pressing cases. Today I pulled the scrapbooks down again with the intent to find Betty or get rid of the scrapbooks. I flipped through "The Bride's Book" again and came across their wedding vows. And this wedding poem, written by a friend of Betty's named Ada:
The other scrapbook contained photos of a 1950s girl's dream of married life: cutouts from magazines of happy husbands, giggling babies, tasty recipes and images of the ideal kitchen. It also included wedding announcements for Betty's friends. Betty and her friends had created an ideal for married life. I had to find out what happened to these dreamers; did their dream become a reality?

Many records had been added to the Ancestry databases since my first search and I was able to find a record of Betty and Charles' wedding in 1953. I also found the following:
A divorce record. Betty and Charles made it 21 years before they divorced. I have no idea if they had children or not, I have not found any more records of the couple. A girl's dream? I doubt it. I have never met a girl that had a dream of divorcing. The end of a happy story. Or is it?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Those in favor of Johnston say yay. Those in favor of Johnson...

I am the lucky holder of many rather common surnames among my family lines. Compared to some, my list of "plain" names is not very long, but those I do have still create research conundrums. My most recent run-in with one of these names is the Johnston line...or is it Johnson?

Charles Johnston was born in Ohio on January 6, 1844, and died on January 18, 1917, per his death certificate. This document also mentions that he is a shoemaker, a common enough profession, but also unique enough for me to confidently track Charles through several censuses. Note, that on Charles' death certificate he is listed as a Johnston.

Other than his death certificate and several census records I didn't have much concrete information about Charles. His father's name, Exum, was unique and there was an Exum Johnston living in Logan County, Ohio at the same time as Charles, but I could find no definitive connection that made me comfortable enough to link them. A brick wall.

Recently, I came back to this line to see what I could track down. I decided to focus a little more on Exum Johnston, Charles' father. His unique first name should be easy enough to delineate him from other Johnstons in the area. But in searches for "Exum Johnston" I find nothing. The next step was to try various different spellings and Exum Johnson brings up a hit on the 1860 census, with 16-year-old son Charles. With this spelling success in hand I checked Google Books for Exum Johnson and found a hit: The Johnsons and Johnstons of Corrowaugh in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, Volume 1, by Eddis Johnson and Hugh Buckner Johnston. It was only in a preview view, but there was Exum Johnson with the same birth date as the Exum Johnson I found on the 1860 census. The book was not at my local research center, but I happened to be traveling through a town with a volume in their library and made a quick stop.

Low and behold, Charles Johnson, born on January 6, 1844, is listed in the volume as a son of Exum Johnson. The family line starts in America in Isle of Wight County, Virginia and then a portion of the family immigrates to Logan County, Ohio. The pieces fit...but why the two names? Throughout the documentation I have on Charles I have an equal amount for both names. His children and subsequent generations all use Johnston. I'm not sure what made Charles change his name. He came from Quaker roots, is it possible he changed his name to separate himself from that culture later in life? I will probably never know, but at least I have learned that trying various name spellings when searching for ancestors really does pay off. Thanks Charles Johnston, Johnson!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wedding Wednesday - William Butler and Carrie Johnston wedding booklet

These are pages from a marriage certificate booklet dating from the 1891 marriage of William M. Butler, Jr. and Carrie E. Johnston. It is printed on a heavy vellum paperstock and tied at the top. The latter pages list their six children.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What we need is a genealogy blogger research database, don't you see?

Genealogy bloggers are a rare breed. Not only do we love to conduct genealogy research, but we then love to share our finds with others...including taking the time to craft lengthy posts for our blogs about said research. We do this because we are passionate. I think we need to corral that passion to help each other. I mean, judging from the posts I read from fellow genealogy bloggers, we all put in a lot of effort in our research. We find obscure sources, break down brick walls and follow it all up with posts on our blogs. Thomas MacEntee just posted recently that there are nearly 2,000 blogs listed on the Geneabloggers website. The odds that some of us are related is fairly good. Imagine the kind of in-depth information we could share with each other...if we only knew we were related! Yes, most of us list at least some of our research interests on our sites, but who has the time to pour through each of the 2,000 sites to see who is researching what.

Yes, what we need is a genealogy blogger research database, don't you see?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The "Perhaps" ancestor begets a "Perhaps" ancestor

You may remember that I have many "Perhaps" ancestors in my tree. These are the ancestors that may or may not be in my line, as I may or may not have conclusive proof...we are "perhaps" related. In my post here I wrote about a particularly curious "perhaps" ancestor: Robert Cutler. Robert is perhaps the brother of my proved ancestor, James Cutler. I know that James lived in Richland County, Ohio in the mid-1800s and that he immigrated from England. I found Robert Cutler, also from England, in the same county at the same time. Too much coincidence for this researcher, but I could find no proof of their connection. I did, however, find a story online about Robert Cutler stating that he was from Wheatacre Parish, Norfolk, England. Again, without any proof I let this lead lie.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago when I finally received a terrific genealogy prize that I have been waiting impatiently for. Many months ago I stumbled upon a holding at the Wichita State University Libraries, you can read more about that find here and here. A couple of days ago I received a copy of "Genealogy and History of the Branch of the Bodine Family Founded by John Bodine, A soldier of the Revolutionary War and a pioneer of the state of N. J." written by Maude Cutler Scholfield. Yes, there is Cutler again. Ms. Scholfield happened to write not only about the Bodine line but there were snippets in the copies about the Cutlers, to include the following:
"A letter addressed to my grandfather, James Cutler, and authored by his mother, Sarah Cutler, his sister Esther, (both of whom lived at Wheatacre) and a married sister, Sarah Hayward, living in Beccles, England), postmarked April 11, 1842, is in my possession, given me by my mother Mary Cutler Myers. Using the information in this letter as a lead I visited Beccles in August of 1961 and learned that Wheatacre is a small hamlet across the river in Norfolk County where All Saints Church is located. From records kept there I learned that James Cutler was born on the nearby "Church Farm", owned by his parents, Robert and Sarah Wrinch Cutler, and who are buried in the All Saints Church yard. These facts were verified by my niece, Marie Morrill Johnston and her husband Bruce, who visited Beccles, Wheatacre, and All Saints Church later on. Arthur L. Myers"

This addendum alone was well worth the wait of the document. Not only did the author have a letter in hand written to James Cutler, he also knew James' mother's and sisters' names and the location they wrote from. And as if that weren't enough he had researched that family in England and found them. ARE YOU SERIOUS? I ask you, does it get any better than this? Yes, yes it does.

Armed with a location and numerous names I then began to research for records of Wheatacre-All Saints parish. This is the first time I have done records research in England so I wasn't sure of the best place to start which always leads me to a Google search. I searched for "Wheatacre Norfolk Records" and low and behold the first link was to the FamilySearch Wiki (a glorious resource of which I will laud the accolades of in another post). The Wheatacre wiki page has a photo of the church and a little more information. It also states "This parish does not appear on Record Search as no microfilm for the parish is held." Good to know, but I would not be deterred. Someone had to have transcriptions of records from the area. I once again headed to Google and opted to widen my search parameters. I searched for "Norfolk England Parish Records" and once again my Mormon friends came through: another link to the FamilySearch wiki, this time to "England, Norfolk, Church of England Bishops’ Transcripts."  This page includes a link to 210, 055 images of Bishop records for the Diocese of Norfolk. The database includes images from 1685-1941, and while not complete or indexed, with a little effort you can find what you are looking for:
James Cutler's birth record (1815), from Wheatacre-All Saints Parish Records, Norfolk, England
Robert Cutler's birth record (1807), from Wheatacre-All Saints Parish Records, Norfolk, England
James Cutler had a brother named Robert. The dates all fit the records I have found in America for the pair. I have now converted Robert Cutler from a "perhaps" ancestor to flesh and blood. Hooray! Of course, in the process of proving the relationship between James and Robert I opened many new "perhaps" avenues in Wheatacre. Their mother, Sarah, is listed as nee Wrinch. I can find only one record of a Wrinch (other than Sarah) in the Wheatacre records and that is a burial record for one William Wrinch, aged 75, died 1808. Is he her father or grandfather? Perhaps.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Message Boards - How often do you post?

I love message boards. I can't tell you how often I have cracked a hard ancestor case due to a response on message board. But message boards are hit or miss. How many people actually search a board for their ancestors? How many people respond to queries that are a year or more old?

My board research method is to search a board for the information I'm looking for prior to posting. If I find no information that answers my query I then post it to both and surname boards. I also will post the query to the local county board on both sites. But what if you do not receive a response? Today I browsed through my past board posts (I've made 224) and found some as old as May 2008...without responses. Is it time to re-post my query? After all, there has been a massive surge in Internet savvy genealogists and researchers that are very much accustomed to posting on message boards. Perhaps they have started following the boards well after my post. Or they have not paid attention to my post due to its age.

I did a brief Internet search to see what others thought about re-posting queries, but did not find anything. Individuals were more concerned with the etiquette of thanks, which is also a very important aspect. I have noticed that in my early days of research I would post a million queries and not track them. Therefore, I may have received a response, but did not follow-up or even provide a thank you because I just had too many. I have definitely learned from that and have improved my "thank you" status.

Do I re-post? What's the netiquette here?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - A Sweet Toddler

Sweet Toddler, possibly Margaret McGuire circa 1915

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ancestry Magazine back issues - Tuesday's Tip

One of my favorite past times is reading, to include magazines on my favorite topics. There is nothing better than curling up with a magazine and reading it from cover to cover. You can imagine that I was very sad when one of the few print magazines published on genealogy, Ancestry magazine, published its last issue in March 2010. But I am sad no more! I recently stumbled across the entire catalog of past issues at Google Books. While I can't curl up with my desktop, at least I still have access to the issues. Enjoy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Registering for the WWI draft - Military Monday

Over the weekend I received an email from a cousin asking if I had done any research on Elmer Dudgeon, a distant uncle. I checked my family tree, but I as my research has to date been mostly centered on direct-line ancestors I did not have any information on Elmer. So I began to dig. I found him on the 1900, 1910 and 1920 censuses. I found him on the Social Security Death Index. I even found him on (thanks to my cousin). But that is where the joy ended.

I looked for Elmer in the WWI draft registration database on, but he wasn't there. I knew Elmer to have been born around 1900 which would require him to register. This led me to do some research to better understand who was required to register for the draft in 1917.

The United States declared war on Germany April 6, 1917, officially entering World War I. Weeks later on May 18, 1917 Congress passed the Selective Service Act which mandated that all men of a certain age group register for the draft, the first conscription since the Civil War. There were three registration dates over a 15-month period resulting in the registration of 24, 234, 021 men, 12% of which were actually inducted in to military service. The first registration on June 5, 1917 covered men ages 21-31. One year later the second registration included men that had turned 21 in the past year, with a similar supplemental registration added on August 24, 1918 (this was considered part of the second registration). The third and final registration was held September 12, 1918 and extended the age limit to men ages 18-45.

Draft boards were set up across the country and on the given day of the registration, every eligible male, in theory, stood in line at their local draft board to register. Each of the three registrations utilized different forms with the questions varying in number from 10 to 20. 
Card from the first registration held June 5, 1917
Card from the third registration held September 12, 1918
When looking for your eligible male ancestor in the draft registration cards, it is important to note that there were county draft registration boards, but also boards for large cities. For instance, Pulaski County, Arkansas had two draft boards. One for the county at large and one in the city of Little Rock. The cards for these boards were alphabetized under "P" and "L", respectively. Also, some men traveled to the board closest to them, which was not always the board in the county they lived in, and requested the results to be forwarded to their county board. This can sometimes mean they even registered in another state.

What about Elmer? His listing in the SSDI and his headstone list his date of birth as 1900. On the 1900 census he is listed as 5-months-old, having been born December 1899. Technically, Elmer Dudgeon's birth date fell within the requirements for him to participate in the third and final registration. Is it possible that he fudged his birth date by one year in order to miss the draft? If so, he carried that change of date throughout his life. I will never know why Elmer did not register for the draft, but at least his exception led me to the rules.

St. Louis County Library WWI Draft registration cards "Quick Tips."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ancestry's Member Connect - Thankful Thursday

I have already touted how much I like Ancestry's Member Connect Activity section on their homepage, but today I write with especial thanks because it led me to a genealogical gold mine! Yes, you heard it: I found a photo of a nineteenth-century ancestor. Photos are no doubt the gold, the oasis, the mecca, the what-have-you for genealogists and I found one!

It all started when I hopped on to Ancestry a couple of days ago to look up something on my family tree. When on the homepage I always glance through the Member Connect Activity section to see if anyone has added information to my lines that may be new to me. On this particular day I noted that someone was adding information to my Butler line. I have written quite a bit about William Moulton Butler, an ancestor that has been exciting to track (you can read more about my adventures here). Needless to say, I was intrigued to find that someone else was researching this line. So I checked their family tree and found a really nice photo of one of William's grandsons, William Moulton Butler III. It was great...and I wanted it. Rather than just take it, I opted to write the owner and ask if I could have it. It never hurts to write and see what else someone might have.

Did I ever hit the jackpot by doing so! Soon after I wrote I got a return message from Kevin, a cousin. He told me I could have the photo and that he had some additional information that he would email me. Moments later I received an email with scanned pages from his grandmother's genealogy files. It included a genealogy report (which included me!) and...

William Moulton Butler, 1824-1895
Yep, that's a photo of William Moulton Butler. I say again...JACKPOT! I have wondered what he looked like for so long and one simple email got me there. I have learned two lessons from this experience. 1. It never hurts to ask and 2. Always keep an eye on Member Connect!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

DAR certificate - Wordless Wednesday

Certificate approving membership of my great-aunt, Gladys Butler Lewis, in to the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution through her relationship to Enos Seward.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

If I live to be 100...

The beginning of a 100 years...
Today Jackson Mississippi celebrates his golden birthday. My goodness how time flies. His favorite things are trains and cars, although he also dabbles in construction equipment. He loves getting dirty (what four-year-old doesn't) and refuses to learn to peddle his tricycle. His favorite food is peanut better toast and he won't eat anything that starts with a V and ends in E.

“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.” - Winnie the Pooh

Friday, June 3, 2011

The grandmother I never met...she would have been 90

Lois Burnett Kuhn
I just realized that today is my grandmother's birthday. If she were still living we would be celebrating her 90th birthday. I never got to meet my grandmother, as she died well before I was born, but she is the one ancestor I wish I could travel through time to meet. My father has told me countless stories about her and I can't help but think that I take very much after her. Happy Birthday!

Witness to War - Follow Friday

I came across the Witness to War website through an article on CNN. This site, and the non-profit foundation that sponsors it, is dedicated to preserving the memories and experiences of combat veterans. It features a searchable database to the memoirs, videos and photographs from veterans of every branch of the military. This is a great resource to better understanding what your combat veteran ancestors may have experienced.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My first ever genealogy society meeting...I know, I know

I am sad to admit that prior to this evening, I had never been to a genealogical society meeting. I have small children and my husband often works odd hours so getting away for a meeting is not always possible. Life has just gotten in the way.

But tonight's meeting was one I could not pass up. The topic for my local genealogy society's monthly meeting was blogging. Seriously, how could I miss it? If I'm honest I did not learn anything I didn't already know, but then the topic was geared toward beginning blogging. It seemed that everyone already knew each other and I felt like the new kid on the block, but that's to be expected.

The presenter put an interesting spin on the purpose of blogging, tweeting, etc. He said the purpose of these platforms was to bring to the "surface" information that would normally be hidden in the vast Web. That was an interesting way to explain why we blog or tweet or delish or whatever. I have often tried to figure out why genealogists tweet. What's so interesting about my traipsing through a cemetery that it needs a hashtag? (One could also ask what's so interesting about my personal genealogy that anyone would want to read my blog...let's not go there.) But it isn't so much about the fact that I'm doing something insanely interesting, but that I'm doing something about an ancestor that may just be your ancestor too. And if you see my tweet about finding a headstone for your fifth great aunt than you just might do a Genealogy Happy Dance. I'm still not going to tweet, but I think I understand the purpose better.

I took away one lesson from my first meeting: Just put your hand out and introduce yourself...being shy doesn't help you meet people. On the flip side of the coin I would suggest to genealogy societies that you assign your most personable individual as a greeter, whose specific purpose is to greet newcomers. I, and I imagine others, would be much more likely to return and join the society if we felt welcomed.

The important thing about this evening was that I put myself out there. I tried something new and ended up with a new perspective on social media which I think was a great bargain.