Sunday, August 30, 2020

Pandemic Pastime: Painted Rocks

Painted rocks - my pandemic pastime!

This week, Randy Seaver issued a "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" to describe hobbies or pastimes, other than genealogy, that we're currently enjoying or have enjoyed in the past. Randy, I accept your challenge!

During the pandemic, I've been trying my hand at rock painting. The bottom rock is an early try, using a stencil and a specialty brush. Then I began browsing Pinterest for more elaborate designs and found lots of inspiration.

The top two rocks are critters I painted more recently, based on designs pinned to Pinterest.

None of these rocks is larger than 4 inches long. It doesn't take long to paint one, and with a top-coat for protection, they look great as decoration or ornaments in house plants.

Yes, I actually had to buy smooth rocks suitable for painting, but this is not an expensive hobby. And yes, some painted rocks (or painted coal lumps) may find their way into Christmas stockings this December ;)

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Unforgettable Stories of Civil War Ancestors

From Library of Congress, sketch showing aspects of region surrounding Gallatin, TN
I am almost finished with my family history booklet about the 18 ancestors in my husband's family tree who served in the Civil War. Of the 18, 15 were fighting for the Union and 3 were fighting for the Confederacy. (Thanks to hubby's wonderful cousin L, who originally researched those 3 Confederates.)

Each of their life stories is unique and many are unforgettable. Let me share the story of two brothers who didn't survive the war.

Students Against Slavery

Isaac Larimer Work and John Wright Work were born in Ohio but moved with their pioneering family to Indiana when very young. The brothers were starting their first year of college prep at Hillsdale College in Michigan when the Civil War broke out. Hillsdale College was then quite well-known for its anti-slavery position, and students resolved to do their part in the fight against slavery.

In the spring of 1862, hundreds of students left campus and returned home to enlist for the Union--including Isaac and John, who both joined Company I of the 74th Indiana Infantry. The unit quickly moved into position for the Union, pursuing Confederate General Bragg and his forces through Kentucky. It fought in the Battle of Perryville, which the Union won but which caused heavy losses on both sides. Toward the end of 1862, the 74th Indiana Infantry marched to Gallatin and Castillian, Kentucky, to regroup and care for sick and wounded soldiers.

Dying of Disease, Not Wounds

Alas, Isaac and John both succumbed to chronic diarrhea at Gallatin not long afterward. Isaac was only 24, and his brother John only 22. The brothers had been in the Union Army for less than six months. They were my husband's first cousins, 4 times removed.

Their infantry unit actually lost many more men to disease than to battle: 91 officers and soldiers were killed or fatally wounded during fighting, while 2 officers and 181 soldiers died from illnesses like diarrhea. The prevalence of death by disease was the reality for both North and South throughout the War.

Knowing that these idealistic young men died only weeks apart, not from wounds but from disease that is today very treatable, made their story unforgettable for me.

RIP, Isaac Larimer Work (1838-1862) and Jacob Wright Work (1841-1863).

The #52Ancestors prompt for this week is "Unforgettable."

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Happy 12th Blogiversary

My genealogy blog is entering its 13th year and I'm still climbing my family tree.

In nearly 1,300 posts over 144 months, I've examined methodology, brick walls, breakthroughs, and intriguing family stories.

Lots of ancestors found, lots of cousins connected, and looking ahead, more genealogy adventures are in my future.

Thank you to my incredible family, my dear readers, and the wonderful genealogy community for your support and interest!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Who Tells Your Story? Choosing to Be Family Historian

With a nod to the now-iconic musical Hamilton, I've been thinking a lot lately about the question: "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?"

Long after my grandparents and parents were gone, I chose to be the family historian. I was curious about all those stories I didn't hear (or didn't pay attention to) when I was growing up. And I was especially motivated to dig out the stories NOT told, about my family and my husband's family. Remember, I married him for his ancestors ;)

By the time I chose our families as my focus, there were faces I could not recognize in old photos. There were important family stories and cousin connections that had somehow been forgotten.

I chose myself to tell the stories of who lived and who died--and that's how I came to understand that their stories are our stories, too.

Honoring the memory of ancestors, finding "new" cousins

My paternal grandfather Isaad Burk died years before I was born. Only after years of research did I come face to face with his face, on his naturalization papers. That clue helped me identify him in other family photos.

I really don't want to be the last person on Earth to recognize grandpa. In addition to captioning, I wrote a brief booklet about Isaac and his wife, my grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk, whose face I did recognize. This honors their lives and preserves their stories for future generations.

Happily, my family history activities put me in touch with delightful cousins from the Burk and Mahler families. The same happened when I investigated my Schwartz and Farkas family tree--I forged new and treasured connections with cousins near and far.

Forgotten heritage, now preserved

Hard as it was for me to believe, my husband's Wood family somehow didn't inherit the knowledge of their Mayflower ancestry. Only thanks to my hubby's 2c1r did we find out about 5 Mayflower ancestors in his Wood family tree: Degory Priest, Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris Allerton, Mary Allerton, and Francis Cooke. Needless to say, I'm not letting family forget this story, especially during this year of Mayflower 400 remembrances.

My research also led to uncovering the tragic story of many Schwartz family members killed in the Holocaust. I watched my mother's first cousin tell that story on video for the USC Shoah Foundation project. Her courage and survival against all odds gives me hope.

It's up to me, as guardian of family history for both sides of the family tree, to document who lived, who died, and to tell their stories.


"Chosen family" is Amy Johnson Crow's prompt for week 34 of #52Ancestors.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Women Married to Civil War Ancestors

Excerpt from Wood Civil War Ancestors booklet
In researching and writing about my husband's Civil War ancestors (both blue and grey), I'm making sure to document the lives of the women they married.

Some wives outlived their Civil War veteran husbands, by a few years or decades; some wives died while their husbands were away at war; some wives died soon after the vets returned home. Each has a story and I want to be sure their lives are remembered, along with their husbands.

Here's my plan for writing "cradle to grave" about each veteran and his wife or wives:
  • Head the first page with veteran's full name and dates. 
  • Explain the veteran's relationship to readers in the next generation.
  • List the full name of his wife (or wives) and her dates. 
  • List the units in which the veteran served (blue indicates Union, red indicates Confederate).
  • First paragraphs summarize the man's family background (parents, siblings, birthplace, movements, occupation). This is the "cradle" part of "cradle to grave" in a nutshell.
  • Emphasize "story" part of family history by adding a dramatic hook early in the veteran's life narrative. Here, I say that this man and two brothers were all in the Union Army, but their lives diverged after the war was over.
  • Include at least one illustration, such as a newspaper obit or a Civil War Pension card. 
  • Say when and where the man got married, and any special circumstances. In the excerpt above, John N. McClure married Rebecca Jane Coble only 3 days after he enlisted in the Union Army, just before he shipped out with his unit. Quite a start to their married life.
  • Describe the wife's life as well as the veteran's life to add context to the family tree overall. 
  • Say when and where (and why) the veteran and his wife died and were buried, the "grave" part of this "cradle to grave" profile.
What's in This Family History Booklet?

My booklet will have a table of contents, a listing of Civil War military units in which the men served, and possibly the key battles or actions in which they participated. 

This is a work in progress, having grown from the quickie booklet I originally envisioned, so I may decide to add an index. After all, I'm profiling 19 men and their wives/families. That's a lot of names. I want to make it easy for descendants to look up any particular ancestor by checking the table of contents and/or the index.

Highlight the Drama: Spoiler Alerts Wanted!

I'm going to write a page highlighting "not to be missed" dramatic or interesting details about some key ancestors. Spoiler alerts will actually whet my readers' appetite for more. 

For instance, Robert Crooke Wood was the next generation's 4c5r and a senior U.S. Army surgeon. He married Ann Mackall Taylor, the oldest daughter of Major General Zachary Taylor--yes, the U.S. Army veteran who later became the 12th U.S. president. Zachary Taylor's daughter Sarah married Jefferson Davis. Yes, that Jefferson Davis. So Robert Crooke Wood's father-in-law was a future U.S. president, and his brother-in-law was a future Confederate president.

The Civil War intensified the family drama: Two of Robert Crooke Wood's sons fought for the Confederacy, while their father remained on active duty in the Union Army. (Many thanks to my hubby's wonderful cousin L for sharing his knowledge of this distant part of the Wood family tree.)

Don't you think such spoiler alerts will get my readers' attention?

Friday, August 14, 2020

Trouble Finds Lemuel C. Wood Senior and Junior

Neither Lemuel C. Wood Senior (let's call him "Capt. Wood") nor his son, Lemuel C. Wood Junior (let's call him "Junior"), actually made trouble for anyone, except for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Unfortunately, trouble came looking for them.

Capt. Lemuel Wood, Sr. (1792-1870) Hubby's 3d great uncle

Capt. Wood was a successful mariner based in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, at the major whaling port of New Bedford. He also owned 13 acres of farmland and livestock worth about $9,000 in 1860 (nearly $280,000 in today's dollars), according to that year's Census.

Sadly, the captain's first wife, Mercy Bowditch Taber, died of consumption in 1856. A year later, in 1857, he married Rosetta Howland Ellis, who died of either consumption or palsy in 1859 (records are inconsistent). One year after that, he married Julia Lambert Sampson--and she survived him by 21 years. In order to collect his Civil War pension, she had to prove that her first husband died (at sea during a whaling trip) and that Capt. Wood's previous two wives had died. Quite a fat file of paperwork and a lot of trouble, but she won her case.

Capt. Wood answered the call for Union service during the Civil War. According to some war records, he was commander of the USS Daylight. (Other pension records call him the "acting master" of the Daylight.) He was already in his 60s, with decades of experience on the water.

The USS Daylight sailed along the coast of Virginia and North Carolina, part of the Union blockade against the Confederacy. After the ship was damaged by Confederate gunfire, she was repaired and reassigned to the James River from October, 1864 to May, 1865, after the war ended.

Doctor's note attesting to Sarah H. Wood's deadly illness
Capt. Wood returned home at war's end. In 1870, a few months before he died at the age of 78, he told the Census his occupation was "mariner." He left his widow Julia an estate of $13,450--worth more than $270,000 today.

Lemuel C. Wood, Jr. (1828-1898) Hubby's 1c3r

The Captain's son and namesake, “Lemuel Junior,” first went into business as a merchant. At the age of 28, he married Sarah Howland Wood, on June 26, 1856. By the time their first child was born in 1857, the birth record recorded Junior’s occupation as “gentleman.” He and Sarah had four five children in all, but only two survived to adulthood. Two died within weeks of each other, one of "brain fever" and one of consumption. So tragic.

At the start of the Civil War, Junior became an acting paymaster for the Union Navy. He resigned that post in June of 1862. On September 22, 1862, he enlisted as a private in Company I, 3d Massachusetts Infantry, and was mustered in the next day. At the time of this enlistment, he said his occupation was “farmer.” On December 3, 1862, Junior was working as a hospital steward at Plymouth, North Carolina, according to his Civil War records.

Trouble hit Junior's family while he was at war in North Carolina. His wife Sarah was fatally ill with consumption. Letters written to her husband’s commanding officers requested that Junior be given a month of furlough to be at her side.

After weeks of letters back and forth, Junior was granted a month's furlough on April 5, 1863. It was just in time: His wife Sarah died on April 14th.

Junior returned to North Carolina after his furlough. His nine-month service with the 3d Massachusetts Infantry ended when he was mustered out on June 26, 1863. Then he joined the 23d Unattached Company Massachusetts Infantry as a sergeant for 100 days. According to the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule, he had dysentery and was “brought home sick.” From April to September of 1865, Junior was an acting assistant paymaster for the Union Navy, stationed aboard the USS Nantucket.

When he first left the service, Junior took a job as a grocery clerk and hired a housekeeper to care for his children. Eventually, he remarried in 1894, to Emma Louise Small Sherman, listing his own occupation as nursing (remember, he was a hospital attendant during the Civil War). Junior died four years later, at the age of 70, in Fairhaven, his birthplace.
You know I married my husband for his fascinating ancestors! This week's #52Ancestors blogging prompt is "troublemaker."

Monday, August 10, 2020

Looked for Rachel Jacobs, Found Jane and John Doe

Death certificate from December 8, 1915
I've been taking a fresh look at the life and death of Rachel Shuham Jacobs, my paternal great-great-grandmother. She was born in Lithuania and widowed there. Her two adult children brought her to New York City in the 1880s.

Rachel didn't leave much of a paper trail, and what she left was filled with strange clues.

Rachel Was a First-Time Mother at Age 11?

Only once can I find Rachel enumerated in a census with her family. The US Census of 1900 listed Rachel as "mother-in-law" in the household of Meyer Mahler, who married Rachel's daughter Tillie. Tillie and Meyer (my paternal great-grandparents) had 7 children, so there were 10 people crowded into this apartment at 88 Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side, where many immigrants lived. In fact, Rachel's son Joseph lived in the apartment next door.

Supposedly Rachel was born in February of 1849 and was therefore 51 at the time of this Census. Yet Rachel's daughter Tillie was supposedly born in August of 1860, when her mother would have been 11 years old. No wonder I'm a bit skeptical of the accuracy of this Census data.

Rachel Died in Bellevue Hospital

There was a different age estimate on Rachel's death certificate (excerpt shown above). She died in Bellevue Hospital in New York City on December 8, 1915, at about age 70. I say "about" because there is no birth date on the certificate. If she was 70 in 1915, her birth year would be about 1845.

Causes of death were numerous, including chronic liver problems, chronic heart problems, and double hydrothorax ("water on the lungs"--often associated with liver and heart problems). The cert says that her former or usual residence was 47 Allen Street in Manhattan. That's also on the Lower East Side, just three blocks from where she was living 15 years earlier. Both apartments are a very short walk from today's Tenement Museum.

In the Hospital with Jane Doe and John Doe

Where was great-great-grandma Rachel between 1900 and 1915? She was not living with her son or daughter. I triple-checked. No New York City directory listings seem to fit my Rachel. She didn't die until the end of 1915, so where was she living for 15 years?

Possibly Rachel's chronic health problems, listed on her death cert, are important as clues to this mystery. I twice found a Rachel Jacobs as a patient at Manhattan State Hospital at Ward's Island in Manhattan. This institution was originally designated as an insane asylum for immigrants, but it also housed some medical patients. 

In 1905, the Rachel Jacobs in this hospital is listed as 60 years old, meaning a birth year of 1845. In 1910, the Rachel Jacobs in this hospital is listed as 61, meaning a birth year of 1849. Both times, Rachel is listed as from Austria, which wasn't the case.

All the info came from the hospital administration--that's clear because patients are listed in strict alphabetical order. Despite the inconsistencies, these two Census records are probably for my great-great-grandma.

Sadly, in browsing through the records for the Manhattan State Hospital, I saw not one but three Jane Doe listings and not one but three John Doe listings, as shown in the excerpt above. Several were listed as "unknown" nativity. One John Doe has no age even guesstimated.

Although I'll never know the truth, I imagine that great-great-grandma Rachel's health kept deteriorating and the family couldn't afford treatment or palliative care. That's most likely how she wound up in a big NYC public asylum/hospital with Jane Does and John Does. Rachel's son was in poor health himself, and died of Parkinson's disease only three years after his mother died.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Louisa's Cause of Death Was . . . It's Complicated

Indiana Death Certificate #17600 for Louisa Jane Austin McClure

Union Army veteran Theodore Wilson McClure (1834-1927) was my husband's great-great-uncle. He married Louisa Jane Austin (1837-1924) in Wabash County, Indiana, in 1858.

In researching great-great-aunt Louisa's death at age 87, I had two small surprises.

Surprise #1: Louisa Jane Austin McClure had two death certificates, both signed by the same doctor, both listing the same undertaker and same burial date/place. This is undoubtedly the correct person--husband's name is same on both, parents' names are same, same birth date, same occupation ("housewife" and "housekeeper").

Surprise #2: Louisa Jane Austin McClure had two different causes of death, both listed by the same doctor.

Apoplexy and Bright's Disease

On the lower-numbered cert, shown at top, the doctor listed the cause of death as apoplexy (cerebral) with Bright's disease as contributory. Her age is listed as 87 years, 1 month, and 28 days. She had been under Dr. Stewart's care from December 1, 1923 to her death on May 11, 1924.

General Debility with Weak Heart

On the higher-numbered cert, shown below, the doctor cared for her from November 24, 1923 to her death on May 11, 1924. The cause of death on this cert was general debility with weak heart. The apoplexy listed on the first cert would suggest a stroke, which could definitely lead to debility. The Bright's disease listed on the first cert is a kidney problem often accompanied by heart disease.

Louisa Died on a Sunday

My guess is that Louisa's death on a Sunday meant that the paperwork didn't flow as smoothly as it would ordinarily. The time of death is missing from the second cert, whereas on the first cert, it appears to be 11-something p.m.

Do these small discrepancies matter? For genealogical purposes, not really. But in 22 years of family history research, this is the first time I've seen two death certificates for one person. I sure hope it will be the last time.
Indiana Death Certificate #17869 for Louisa Jane Austin McClure
"Small" is the #52Ancestors prompt for week 32.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Writing About a Civil War Ancestor to Engage Readers

Union Christian College
Researching my husband's Union Army ancestors, I'm trying to wring every detail from every source to make these brief family history profiles come alive and engage readers.

Even though my main focus is their Civil War experiences, I want to portray them as real people with real lives and show descendants how family history and American history are intertwined.

Jacob Wright Larimer's Early Years

Today I've been looking at Jacob Wright Larimer (1846-1876), who was my husband's first cousin, four times removed.

From Census documentation, land records, vital records, and newspaper research, I learned Jacob was the next-to-youngest child of Moses Larimer and Nancy Blosser Larimer. Moses was himself the son of an "Ohio fever" pioneer, going on to become an Indiana pioneer farmer.

Unfortunately, Moses died at age 53, leaving his widow Nancy with two teen sons and two teen daughters at home. Seeing a non-family "farm laborer" also in the household during the 1860 Census, I conclude that the Larimers hired someone to help Jacob and his brother work the land.

Civil War History and Family History

According to Civil War chronology, President Abraham Lincoln called for more Union recruits in December of 1864. Jacob and his brother were among the Hoosiers who responded: They enlisted in January of 1865, among the 1,013 men who formed the new regiment known as 151st Indiana Volunteer Infantry.

I consulted multiple sources to follow Jacob and learn what this Union Army regiment did during the Civil War: Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana; Wikipedia; Indiana Historical Bureau; National Park Service; and Fold3 records.

Jacob and his regiment never engaged in any battles, although the 151st Indiana Infantry did serve on patrols and on garrison duty in Tennessee. Jacob was mustered out in Nashville in September of 1865.

For other ancestors who had extensive Civil War experience, I've pieced together their military actions in a way very similar to the case study provided by NARA here.

Jacob's Post-War Life

From BMD and Census records, I found that Jacob returned home and married Susanna Puterbaugh on November 25, 1866. The couple, both in their twenties, had a son and a daughter (plus a third child who didn't live to adulthood). They made their home in Peru, Indiana.

The 1870 Census showed Jacob working as a sewing machine agent. This was interesting because he came from a long line of farmers. On the other hand, sewing machines for the home were fairly new and increasingly popular, so this sounds like a good career move.

Another clue was more surprising: Through Ancestry, I found Jacob listed in the 1871-1872 yearbook for Union Christian College. UCC was a coeducational college that offered four courses of study: academic  (literature, math, history, writing), classical (Latin, Greek, related history, higher math, earth sciences), scientific  (chemistry, physiology, higher math, languages), and music (primarily piano but "vocal music is taught gratis.")

College and Civil War Pension

How did a married man with a family find the money and time to pursue an academic course of study at college? According to the yearbook, tuition for one term was $6 (worth $126 in today's dollars).

In addition, the yearbook states: "Soldiers who were disabled in the defense of our Government, during the late rebellion...are entitled to instruction free of charge."

Even though I have no record of Jacob Wright Larimer claiming invalid status, it is possible he could demonstrate to the college that he was disabled and therefore entitled to free tuition. And then there's a question about distance: Using online mapping, I calculated that the college was 180 miles from Jacob's home. Would Jacob really be able to remain away from his family for months at a time in the early 1870s, when his children were under the age of ten?

Sadly, Jacob died at the age of 29 in May of 1876. His Civil War Pension record indicates that his widow Susannah filed for his benefits. Given Jacob's early death (alas, no death cert and so far, no obit), I wonder whether some disability stemming from his military service contributed to his early death.

Soon, widow Susannah found work as a seamstress. Knowing that her late husband's occupation was sewing machine agent, perhaps she used one of his sewing machines to support her two children?

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Dancing the Night Away in New York City: May, 1941

Revlon Products 4th Annual Dance in New York City, 1941

This large (20 inch by 12 inch) and wonderfully sharp photo has been safely rolled and stored in a sturdy mailing tube for nearly 80 years.

The occasion was the Revlon Products Corporation 4th Annual Dance at the glamorous Hotel Roosevelt in New York City. Art Paulson & his orchestra entertained (they're shown at top right of photo).

The face in the green oval is my Mom, Daisy Schwartz Burk (1909-1981). She wore a flowery dress and a corsage to this Saturday night dance held on May 17, 1941. Mom was 21 years old, working as a secretary/typist to help her twin sister through college.

I noticed the man in uniform at the far left front of the crowd, apparently a U.S. Army private. America had already instituted a peacetime draft, in anticipation of possibly entering World War II. After Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into the war, my mom's twin sister Dorothy Schwartz enlisted as a WAC, even as several first Farkas cousins joined the U.S. military. Soon Daisy and Dorothy's older brother was drafted. No doubt many of the young men at the Revlon dance also served in the military.

When this photo was taken, Revlon had only recently changed its corporate name as it expanded beyond its well-known nail polish into lipstick and other cosmetics. The New York-based company, founded in 1933, was also involved in patriotic activities during World War II.


The #52Ancestors genealogy blog prompt for week 31 is: LARGE.