Monday, February 28, 2011

World War I Burial Case Files - Military Monday

I wrote here about a very distant cousin named James S. Trabue and my discovery that he had been killed in action on the last day of World War I. The only information I had about SGT Trabue was that he was from Pleasant Hill, Missouri, married Estella George in 1911 and was killed in action in 1918. After my request of his military service file came up empty handed I had to get creative.

I first contacted the Pleasant Hill Missouri Historical Society to see if they had a Trabue family file or any information on the WWI casualties from their town. I received a quick email response to my query and soon thereafter a packet of copies from their files.
The file included the above photo and several newspaper stories regarding SGT Trabue. From the newspaper articles, it appeared that he did indeed die on the last day of the war. It is also obvious that the family was not aware of the specifics of his death. James Trabue was killed on November 11 and his wife received notification of his death on December 3. The Pleasant Hill Times reported that "his fine, soldierly appearance was the subject of frequent admiring comment," and "the fact that he made the great sacrifice at practically the last moment of the war, escaping all the manifold dangers of previous rigorous campaigns up to that time, adds a touch of deeper regret to the tragic story of Sergt. Trabue."

The newspaper articles also hinted that SGT Trabue died from a shell blast, but there was nothing to substantiate it. I am not a morbid person, but it was not enough for me to know only that he died on the last day of the war. I wanted to know what caused his death at the very last moment of the war.

In my quest to find more information I came across a largely unknown set of records held by the National Archives: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). In the Army, the Quartermaster branch is responsible for mortuary affairs. This little known record group of Quartermaster files includes burial case files from 1915-1939, from both Soldiers killed overseas to domestic deaths. And most World War I casualties are included. The files record the disposition of remains of Soldiers. To request a copy of the file I sent a letter to:

Archives II Reference Section (Military)
Textual Archives Services Division ( NWCT2R[M])
National Archives at College Park
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001

I included everything I knew about James Trabue to include death date, service number, unit and his next of kin. I received a quick response from the National Archives stating that they did indeed have his file. I ordered a copy of the file on CD for $25. The cost of the order varies based on the number of pages in the file.

I received the file yesterday. It included 33 pages discussing the death and movement of the remains of SGT Trabue. His wife, Estella Trabue, chose to have his body returned to the United States for burial in Missouri, so the bulk of the documents in the file pertain to the details of that logistical move. And I do mean details. Every memo, telegram and form for SGT Trabue's movement from France to Missouri is noted. His body was originally buried in Letanne, Ardennes, France and traveled back to the United States through the port of Calais, arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey and then traveling by train to Louisville, Kentucky and finally to Pleasant Hill, Missouri. He was finally buried for the last time in April 1921. One document of particular genealogical interest is a form Estella Trabue had to complete that included the Soldier's next of kin and whether they were living or deceased and their addresses. The burial case file would also include information on whether the Soldier's mother or widow participated in the Gold Star Mothers pilgrimage program. This program offered mothers and widows of Soldiers killed during WWI a paid trip to Europe to visit the graves of their sons or husbands.

And how did James S. Trabue die? The last page of the packet includes the only information about his death. SGT Trabue died alone from shrapnel wounds in a shell blast hole.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Successful LDS adventure and I didn't walk away with a single source

You may remember my rant about my fears of visiting an LDS Family History Center. I finally ripped off the Band-Aid and made a visit to order films a few weeks ago. Last night I actually went to the center to review my films. I had ordered three, one about Roanoke, Virginia marriages and two showing vital records for Ventimiglia, Sicily.

The amount of time I could apply to the visit was limited so I decided to start with the records in English to warm up my eyes. I was looking for information on Marcellus White, who has been the bane of my genealogical existence. I was hoping to find record of his marriage to Mary Tosh which I believe to have occurred around 1860. The documents were hard to read and not ordered in any fashion at all. Unfortunately, I FOUND NOTHING. I am so distraught with Mr. White for not being on that record. Surely he could have gotten himself in print somewhere.

But my trip was not wasted. This was my first visit to a FHC to conduct research and this visit helped me to become more comfortable with the process. This is the second visit overall and every time there have been helpful volunteers that want nothing better than for me to be comfortable and to find my ancestors. I appreciate that and now the only thing hindering my visits is the time between diaper changes.

Special tip: If you visit an FHC, be sure to sign the sign-in sheet as those are sent to Salt Lake City and help to ensure funding for better equipment.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On TV: Searching For with Pam Slaton

I am a constant remote "flipper." I don't watch much television, but when I do you can bet that the channel changes a lot, unless, of course, I am watching my beloved DVR. Anyway, I was flipping channels a few days ago and came across a show on Oprah's new network: OWN. The show is called "Searching For" and features investigative genealogist Pam Slaton. The focus of the show is not the dead, as we usually like to focus on, but rather the search for living relatives that the clients have either lost contact with or never met. Clients bring Pam stories of lost loved ones and she works to find and reunite them. The particular episode I caught featured a mother that was forced to give up her child for adoption at birth and a man that had lost contact with his father.
This show is clearly produced to increase Kleenex sales. While Pam Slaton is billed as a professional genealogist, the show has little to do with genealogy and investigations and more to do with the clients' feelings and fears. In fact, there is no discussion of how Pam finds individuals or what tools she uses. She provides a research tip or two during the show, but the ultimate point is to convey feelings and make the viewer cry, which I did.

The show airs Mondays on the OWN at 8 p.m. (CST). For more information check out the Searching For website.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Missouri Farmer

Claude Oran McGuire, born in Ray County, Missouri in 1874 and a farmer all his life.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nothing like consistency when working in stone - Tombstone Tuesday

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois
I have written about William M. Butler before here and here, and I return to him and his second wife, Eliza, for today's post. I have found William's death date on several documents, two obituaries for him and one from his wife Eliza. His death date is listed as December 1, 1895 and December 2, 1895. You'll notice that his tombstone gives yet another date. And just to make things a little more interesting, both Eliza's birth and death dates are different than those listed on her death certificate. Nice.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Military Monday - Genealogy meat in War of 1812 Pension file

Peace by John Rubens Smith.
John Rubens Smith Collection,
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
As I mentioned in this post, I recently requested a search of War of 1812 pension records in the National Archives for my ancestor, David Reed. Only twelve days after I placed my request through the National Archives eServices, I received copies of the file. This particular file is filled with information about David's widow, Mary Bryan Reed, and very little information about the Soldier himself. There were two governmental acts that directly affected veterans of the war of 1812 and their pensions: the acts of 1871 and 1878. The 1871 Act authorized pensions to Soldiers that served in the war for at least 60 days, or to their spouses if they were married prior to the ending of the war in 1815. The Act of March 9, 1878, revised the pension laws to allow Soldiers that served for 14 days of the war and widows of said Soldiers to be authorized a pension. This explains why my ancestor, Mary Reed, applied for widow's pension in August 1878. She would not have been eligible prior to the 1878 act as David and she were married in 1820, after the ending of the war. The following is a list of what was included in the packet:

- War of 1812 Claim of Widow for Service Pension document. This document is the initial paperwork that Mary Reed filled out to claim her widow's pension. It includes a wealth of genealogical information to include David Reed's unit, where he enlisted, a physical description of David, where they had lived since his discharge from the military, their marriage date and Mary's maiden name.

- Several memorandums to establish that Mary was indeed legally married to David Reed. In the case of the Reeds, they were married in Montgomery County, Missouri in 1820. Unfortunately, the courthouse and all records were lost in a fire in 1864. To establish their marriage the examiner referenced their earlier bounty land warrant application.

- Sworn affidavits from Mary and other witnesses proving her marriage and David Reed's death. The affidavit describing David's death is a sworn statement by Elijah Happy, Mary's son-in-law. It states that he was present at the death of David Reed and that David died of pneumonia.

- The Service Pension, War of 1812 Widow's Brief. This document is a summary of the pension eligibility investigation and is also a wealth of genealogical information. It provides the details of the investigation to include evidence of the Soldier's service, length of service and proof of identity. The Summary of Proof portion of the document includes marriage information and specifics about the death of the Soldier. It is also the official proof that Mary was eligible and awarded the Widow's Pension.

- A memo stating that Mary Reed was dropped from the pension rolls due to her death. It does not actually give the death date, but states the last day she received her pension payment.

Mary was paid $8 a month until her death some time after May 1882. I would describe information from this particular pension file as quality rather than quantity. The important thing is that I now have proof of several facts on this line that I did not previously have. I know very little about David Reed and Mary Bryan Reed other than what I now have from the pension file. I have found some research that indicates Mary was related to the Bryan family that pioneered Kentucky and were intermarried with the Boone family, of Daniel Boone fame. While I have no proof of Mary's connection with this family, I did learn from the pension file that she was from Clark County, Kentucky. Another line of research to follow.

As mentioned above, the marriage between Mary and David could not be proved by marriage certificate as the record was lost in a courthouse fire. The examiner of Mary's pension file instead referenced the widow's bounty land warrant received in the 1850s. It states that her mother and sister provided testimony proving Mary's marriage. If this is so, the bounty land warrant application could prove Mary's parentage and provide further information for me to research. The file also states that David Reed himself applied for and received 40 acres of land from a Bounty Land Warrant on May 10, 1851. The settlement number was provided for both land warrants so ordering copies from the National Archives is easy, using their eServices ordering service and NATF Form 85, Military Pension/Bounty Land Warrant Applications.

For more information on genealogical records of the War of 1812, check out:
Genealogical Records of the War of 1812, by Stuart L. Butler. Prologue, Winter 1991, Vol. 23, No. 4.

National Archives Military Resources for the War of 1812, a list of some helpful War of 1812 resources by the National Archives.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The problem with Louisa Watson Webb is that she is from Nebraska

Louisa Watson is a conundrum. I cannot find her anywhere and right now she is my biggest brick wall. As I was browsing through my tree a few days ago I noticed one of my many dead ends. You know the kind, you look at a pedigree and it just stops...while it's fellow lines continue on. Well I despise those dead ends, especially when I am at my wits end to resolve them.

The problem with Louisa is that she is from Nebraska. Nebraska is a beautiful state and I especially love Peony Park (is that still there?). But I don't like the issues I am having with early record searches there. I found Louisa on her daughter's death certificate and that was the first, and the last, time I saw her in print. Her daughter was Ella Caroline Webb, born 1864 in Wahoo, Nebraska (according to her death certificate). Ella's death certificate states that her father's birthplace is Kentucky and her mother's was Wahoo, Nebraska. The problem with being born in Wahoo, Nebraska is that it did not exist when Louisa was born, which I'm conjecturing was between 1840-1845. In fact, Wahoo didn't exist until 1870, long after Ella was born as well.

I know Ella's father was Charles M. Webb, who was actually born in Indiana. I have been able to track Charles through census records from age 10 to 86, except for 1860. In 1850 he was living with his mother in Indiana and in 1870 he was in Ray County, Missouri with 6-year-old Ella. Apparently, a lot happened to him in those 20 years. He never remarried and his death certificate lists him as widowed, a good indication that he and Louisa were actually married...but you never know. Nebraska is not on the route of travel between Indiana and Missouri, so what led Charles there? And more importantly, where is Louisa?

Here is what I have tried:
  • I contacted the Saunders County Museum and Historical Society, where Wahoo is located and they were unable to find any record of a marriage for Charles and Louisa. Because Saunders County was formed from Cass County, they suggested I try there.
  • I contacted the Cass County Historical Society, but they found no record of Louisa's headstone or anything about her in their newspaper indexes. Of course, the newspaper for the area didn't begin printing until 1865 so that may not have helped anyway.
  • I contacted the Cass County Clerk, who would have had any early records for the county, but she found nothing. She suggested I contact the state archives, but they only maintain birth records from 1904/1909 to present.
  • I also sent an email to the Nebraska Historical Society to see if they had any early records for Cass County, Nebraska. I have yet to hear back from them.
  • Looked at FamilySearch.org and found no microfilm options for Cass or Saunders Counties that were helpful. A search of Nebraska marriages came up empty handed as well.
So now what? Louisa's maiden name was Watson and I have found several Watsons in the Saunders County area, but there is no way to determine if they are her ancestors. Her husband, Charles, left a document trail of censuses, but not much more, so I found nothing on Louisa there. I'm at a loss and looking for tips. Any help is appreciated!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thrifty Thursday - FamilySearch Research classes online

I know, I know, I am so behind the times! But I just came across the free online classes at the Family Search website. The classes range from research tips to lessons on conducting research on foreign-born ancestors. I am currently watching "If I'd Only Known," presented by Beth Foulk. She has given some great tips to help beginning genealogists avoid simple mistakes. The courses are easy to navigate and many provide PDF downloads of companion course materials. Classes are presented either as straight videos of a presenter or as a presenter next to a PowerPoint presentation. When a presenter is paired with a PowerPoint you are able to click through the presentation to slides that interest you and the presenter fast forwards to the same location. What a great resource!

Citation debate? Are you serious?

I am clearly not one of the cool kids. I had no idea that citations and their format was such a hot button. I am fairly new to genealogy blogging, but not to genealogy research or research in general. So imagine my surprise when I came across the post Source Cititations in Genealogy: Church or Cult by Kerry at ClueWagon.com. I really enjoy Kerry's blog and I found this particular post fascinating. In the post Kerry discusses the lash back from a previous post on her blog regarding source citations. It seems that some people really get upset about the particular format of a source citation. I have read several blog posts in the same vein over the past week.

I completely concur that providing sources for your research is of paramount importance. It is just common sense to provide information for the location of each item, not only for other researchers, but for yourself. But why is there a debate over format? Seriously, who cares? I promise you that there are bigger issues in the world. It seems that if you have the meat, such as book title and author, page number and repository, that you have covered the bases. If I can find the source from the information you provide than you have succeeded. It truly doesn't matter how the citation looks as long as it is functional.

I suppose what really surprises me is that there are individuals that get so frustrated over the format of a citation that they would get upset with other genealogists for it. I can't get over the silliness of that. Genealogy is a hobby. And even though there are professionals in the field, it is still a hobby. Our research will not change the world. The point is to enjoy the process and learn something about yourself and your family as you do it.

And for those that get anal about format, here is something to really burn your shorts. I would estimate that out of the 100 or so people I have contacted regarding family history information in the past couple of years, 80% of them could not tell me where they got their information. There is a bigger picture here. So I say, let's just all take a deep breath. Let others cite as they see fit. Isn't it most important that they do it all?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I want a genealogy apprenticeship

Like many of my fellow bloggers, I have given thought to becoming a professional genealogist. I have found that I am passionate about the "hunt," even when it isn't for my own ancestors. But I have experimented with starting my own business and my test runs with friends' research only led me to find that I don't yet have the skills to be a professional. My research skills are fairly good...my problem is converting that research to something usable for the client. Plus, I have two small children and I am a stay-at-home mom. I have the time to do online research and contact distant repositories, but visits to libraries-or any other "quiet" place-is not an option. So I got to thinking...how can I get some experience now that I can apply to my life when the time is more appropriate to act?

A genealogy apprenticeship! It's a perfect idea. I could assist a professional on the Internet steps of research, taking some projects off their plate and allowing them to take more clients. I could shadow them and see the process they use to turn found information into a report for clients. And all FOR FREE. Genealogy is such a lonely hobby and I imagine that this trait transfers to the professional side in some respects as well. Why should we all be lonely? We are reaching out to others through blogging, chat boards and groups, it seems like apprentices are a good route to expand our knowledge.

All that said:

WANTED: One apprenticeship for a budding genealogist. Five years of genealogy research experience (which you'll have to take my word for since I only do it alone). A passion for ancestor hunting that easily transfers to both Internet and repository searches. Occasionally witty and funny at parties. Desire a position that will train in genealogy techniques and research packaging for clients. And it wouldn't hurt to make some contacts in the industry and friends at the same time. Call me!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Samuel O. McGuire and Frances Wall McGuire

This is one of my favorite headstones and I have to think my ancestors for putting birthplaces on it! The stone is located in Lavelock Cemetery, just north of Hardin, Missouri.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Military Monday - War of 1812 records

One thing I love about blogging is that it helps me to find loose ends in my family tree. In my efforts to find topics to blog about, I have found all kinds of loose ends that I am now tracking down. Last week I was looking at my family tree and noticed David Reed. David is my fourth great-grandfather on my mother's paternal side. I don't know much about David except that he was born in Virginia around 1793, that he married Mary Bryan and that in 1850 he was living in Carroll County, Missouri. David must have died somewhere between 1850 and 1860 as he is no longer listed on the census with his wife in 1860.

By 1860, Mary Bryan Reed was living in Ray County, Missouri, so my first step in researching David was to check out the great USGenWeb site for Ray County. I have found boundless information on this site. Under their database of surnames link I found three listings for David Reed. He was mentioned in two of the historical histories of the county: twice in the History of Ray County, MO, 1881, and once in Portrait and Biographical Record of Clay, Ray, Carroll, Chariton, and Linn counties, Missouri. In the History of Ray County, 1881, there is a paragraph under the heading of widows of Soldiers of the War of 1812 that mentions Mary Bryan Reed. It states that David Reed was a Soldier during the War of 1812 and that he enlisted in Berkeley County, Virginia in 1814 and discharged in 1815.

David Reed is the first ancestor I have found from the War of 1812. After finding this information I did a search for records of the War of 1812. Ancestry.com had a database of information, but because he has such a common name, I was not able to narrow any of the finds down to be my ancestor. I was led once again to the National Archives. They have several resources about the war at their Military Resources: War of 1812 link. I headed to their eServices site, which has become my favorite resource. I placed an order for David Reed's Federal Military Pension Application - Pre-Civil War Complete File (NATF 85A). The fee for the search and documents is $50, which is a bit steep, but it will not be charged if they can not find any documents on David Reed.

A view of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, by the British fleet,
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
 The War of 1812 has been called the second war of American Independence. France and Great Britain were at war off and on again from 1793 on and in 1812 America was finding itself in the middle of the feud. James Madison signed the declaration of war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812. The war was fought both on land and sea. The British attacked Washington D.C. on August 24, 1814 and burned both the Capitol building, which then held the Library of Congress, and the White House, forcing President James Madison to flee the city. A peace treaty was signed December 24, 1814. Francis Scott Key penned the poem that later became the Star Spangled Banner while watching the bombing of Fort McHenry by British troops in September 1814.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Surname Saturday - McGuire

Here is a fact sheet about my direct line of McGuires. I have removed any living persons for privacy reasons.
McGuire Line

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chicago Court Records - William Butler missappropriates inheritance

Yesterday I blogged about William Moulton Butler, Jr. and my quest to determine his mother. His father, William Moulton Butler, Sr., was married twice. His first wife was Celia Temperance Bliss and his second was Eliza Johnston. Somewhere in between the two, my ancestor was born. My biggest hiccup in finding out his mother is knowing when Celia passed away. I have been able to find no record of her death except for a random entry in a family history that states she died "about" 1866. Writing about this lack of information yesterday has drawn me to try yet again to find out her death date.

A year or so ago I received a newspaper article about the Butler clan through a random genealogical act of kindness. The article appeared in the Chicago Daily Tribune on July 31, 1874 and covers the court cases from the previous week. One of the cases was a chancery suit between Willimena and Celia Butler and their father, William Moulton Butler, Sr. As best I can figure out, a chancery suit is basically one to determine equity and in this case, the equity of property. The girls (they were 18 and 13 at the time) appear to allege misappropriation of property and the rental income from said property by their father from the inheritance of their mother, Celia T. Bliss Butler. The court found in their favor and it appears that the girls were to receive what would amount to $1.8 million in today's money from their father. The article only states the judge's decision and does not give any details in the case. Without any other information on Celia I figure this court case may be my next straw. At the very least, since it talks about Celia's inheritance, court files may mention her death.

I know that the suit took place in Cook County, Illinois so I went to the Cook County Circuit Court's website. I looked for information on archives, and found a link for requesting a search of their archives. They provide a form to fill out and require a $9 fee in advance for the search. Because I had a newspaper article on the suit, I had quite a bit of information on the case which made filling the form out fairly easy. I am mailing my request today with a copy of the newspaper article. The website states that chancery suit files may include the following: cause of action (complaint), defendant's response, motions and briefs filed; testimony (occasional): verdict (if jury trial); judge's final order. If the case was appealed, a transcript may be present. Any of those items may help in my search. It would also be wonderful to figure out exactly what William Butler did to estrange his daughters. They were both living with a guardian following the suit. It also seems clear that since his son, William, was not involved in the suit, that Celia was not his mother. If she were he would have a vested interest in any money misspent. I can't wait to see how this boils out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

BRICK WALL - Who is your mama?

William Moulton Butler, Jr. appears to have been a good and loving husband and father, albeit a rolling stone. He was born in Illinois June 27, 1863 and moved to Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and finally Los Angeles, California where he died. His career seems to vary throughout his life: day laborer, farmer, real estate salesman and citrus farm owner.
William Moulton Butler, Jr. and his wife
Carrie Johnston Butler
I have been able to track his life and times fairly accurately...my big issue with Mr. Butler, Jr. is that I do not know who his mama was. It's not a question of not having options...it a question of knowing which option to choose. His father, William Moulton Butler, Sr. has been a piece of work from day one. He was married twice, had like a million children and apparently misappropriated inheritance funds of his children. But I digress. I know that William was married first to Celia Butler, in 1845. According to the 1850 and 1860 censuses, William and Celia live together in Chicago. On the 1870 census Celia is no longer listed with the family and there are five children, including William Moulton Butler, Jr. There is also a house keeper named Elizabeth Brown, aged 28. In 1880 the family, now with new wife Eliza and five additional children, live in Lake County, Indiana.

Later records show William married to an Eliza, born approximately in 1844. Both their obituaries state that they were married in 1861 and that her maiden name was Johnston. Eliza's obituary states that she had ten children, to include William Jr. And William Jr.'s death certificate lists Eliza as his mother. But the records do not match their story.

With the help of the Illinois State Archives and their Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900, I was able to find documentation for the marriages of William Sr. The first to Celia T. Bliss in November 1845 and the second to an Eliza Brown in April 1872. An Elizabeth Brown was William's housekeeper in 1870...did he marry her? And if he was married in 1861 why is there no wife on his 1870 census? Could it be a convenient lie to cover for a pre-marital relationship? And to make several children legitimate? I ordered a copy of the Cook County marriage certificate for William M. Butler and Eliza Brown. She is listed as Mrs. Eliza Brown, which could account for a second marriage for Eliza as well and explain why there is no marriage license on record for William and Eliza Johnston.

The solution to this issue is to determine the death date for Celia. I have found no burial record or obituary for Celia Bliss Butler. I found a reference to Celia and William in the Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America from about the year 1550 to 1880, compiled by John Homer Bliss. This history states that Celia married William Butler, Sr., had four children and died in 1866. Another family history, The Descendants of George Little who came to Newbury, Massachusetts in 1640, by George Thomas Little (available at HeritageQuest Online) states that William married first Temperance Celia Bliss and second Mrs. Eliza Brown. The same reference states that Celia and William had four children, with the last being born on October 29, 1861. It states that his first child by Mrs. Eliza Brown was born on February 9, 1862. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that those dates don't add up...only 90 days between children is funky math.

So I am at an impasse. I have found no documentation for William and Eliza's supposed marriage in 1861, but several references altering that to 1872. I have looked all over Chicago, but can find no death information for Celia. If I could find Celia's death date I believe I could at least iron out the parentage for William Butler, Jr. I cannot account for the disparity in wedding dates given by William and Eliza, other than the obvious: they wanted a legitimate answer to who their babies' daddy was.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Patrick Quigley - Blizzard of 1872

I occasionally do research on the family of my friends and in the course of that research I came across Mr. Patrick Quigley. Patrick was born in Ireland in 1836. He immigrated to the United States around 1855 and eventually settled in Souix County, Iowa. In honor of all the snow around the south and southeast part of the country I decided to share Patrick's blizzard adventure.

Patrick Quigley and the blizzard of 1872.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Oklahoma Land Rush documents

I have blogged before about how I have overlooked certain facts when reviewing resources I find for my ancestors. I get very excited to have these resources and don't always review them as well as I should. This is especially true when it comes to documents that I receive in the mail. I have sent off for many documents through snail mail, which I love, because the anticipation is great! But what often happens when the documents finally do arrive is that I get a temporary high by reading through them quickly and then set them aside. I might be studious enough to file the documents, but I typically do not turn back to them. I learned today that this practice isn't always very wise.

I decided to take a look back at an ancestor I have spent quite a bit of time on: Joseph M. Creed. Joseph is my 2nd great-grandfather and was born in 1841 in North Carolina. Joseph seems to be a rolling stone as I find him all over the country. He starts in North Carolina, enlists in the Army during the Civil War in Missouri, farms in Kansas, requests his Army pension in Texas and dies in Oklahoma. He is also an ancestor that I have received quite a bit of information about from fellow Creed family researchers. I received a history of Joseph Creed and his family from one such researcher. The history is written by Joseph's granddaughter, Flossie Whitlock Emmons. The entire history is intriguing, but one interesting thing that caught my eye was her mention that Joseph had participated in the Oklahoma land rush. It states that he participated in the first land rush on April 22, 1889, but that the family had such a hard time making a go of it that they gave up the land. It also mentioned that Joseph ran in the fourth land rush on September 16, 1893.

The second run opened a strip of land which included present day Pawnee County, Oklahoma, where I knew that Joseph lived and was buried. Was it possible that he received the land through the land rush of 1893? Through my research I learned that the Federal government kept a listing of all homestead applications in Oklahoma territory in a series of books called the Federal Tract Books. A microfilmed version of the books is owned by the Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society (SWOGS) and the organization has made an index of all the homesteaders. For a $5 donation the Society will conduct a search on your ancestor.

I received a quick response from the SWOGS and Joseph Creed did indeed receive 160 acres of land in 1893. I got a jolt of joy over the information, then quickly filed it and forgot about it. That is until today. I once again decided to look in on Joseph Creed to see if I could find more information on him. To remind myself of what I had already accomplished I flipped through the Creed section in my family history binders. I came across a piece of paper titled "Federal Tract Books of Oklahoma Territory." It must have come with my response from the SWOGS, but I had never read it...or at least not the back of it. It describes, in detail, that once you receive information regarding your ancestor's tract from the Federal Tract Book, you can then order a Case file of that individual from the federal government. The case file could include land surveys, a Homestead application, testimony regarding citizenship and birth date, among other things. There could be some very interesting information in it and I couldn't even bother to turn the page over.

Well, today I did. I also went to the National Archives website and ordered a copy of Joseph Creed's land patent case file using NATF Form 84. I used the eServices portion of the site and was able to order the documents online. In order to use the online system you must know the individual's first and last name, the state their land was located in, an approximate date of entry, and the section, township and range number for the land. In my case, this information was provided in the packet I received from the Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society. The charge for research and shipping of the documents from the National Archives is $40 for this particular type of document. The fees are not charged if the archivist cannot find any documents related to your search.

I am very excited to see what may come from this request and I have been reminded of how important it is to read through documents thoroughly before filing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Military Monday: Killed in Action November 11, 1918

As I have mentioned, I am fascinated by my military ancestors. I enjoy tracking their service and have found ancestors that have participated in every major U.S. conflict. Except for World War I, that is. I have always been fascinated by that conflict, one that I felt was glossed over in the classroom. I never knew much about World War I, outside of my basic school-room knowledge, until I was able to visit the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The museum was designated by Congress as the nation's official World War I museum and re-opened in 2006 after having been totally redesigned. That visit inspired me to learn more about the war and I have since read books, novels, websites and more to understand the conflict better.

As a part of that desire, I hoped to find a relative that participated in World War I. No ancestors from my direct line participated in the War. I did find an ancestor on my husband's side that was enlisted during that time: Frank Herman Roelker. Frank did go overseas, but did not get to the conflict until after November 1918.

So the next option was to look into distant relatives. I finally found one on my father's side: James Smith Trabue. James was a very distant cousin by marriage and I stumbled across his WWI service quite by accident. I had received information on my Burnett family line written by Estella George Trabue. Estella had long since passed, but I was interested in knowing more about this family historian, a kindred spirit. Estella married James Smith Trabue in 1911. As I do with all ancestors, I went to Findagrave.com to see if I could locate their death information. I found SGT James Smith Trabue's headstone, which indicated that he had served in Company H, 356th Regiment, 89th Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces. The dates on James' headstone were 1890 to 1918. Did James die in combat?

James was buried in Missouri, so I decided to visit the Missouri State Archive's Digital History website and search their military records. What I found was astounding to me: James enlisted in September 1917 and served overseas from 4 June 1918 until 11 November 1918...the day he was killed in action. My relative, however distant, was killed on the final day of the conflict. I was now on a conquest to find out more about James Trabue. My next step was to visit the National Archives website and place a request for his service record. Because I was not a direct descendant from James I had to fill out Standard Form 180 to request his file. I made a copy of the document and then mailed it on 10 March 2010.

I had to wait a very long time for a response, and when it finally came on 18 October 2010 it was not good news. "Dear Sir or Madam: The record needed to answer your inquiry is not in our files. If the record were here on July 12, 1973, it would have been in the area that suffered the most damage in the fire on that date and may have been destroyed." The letter goes on to suggest that there may be a "casualty file" maintained by the Department of the Army and they gave contact information for the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. I sent the specific department mentioned an email, but never received a response.

But I have not given up. I will continue to look for information on James Trabue. I can't possibly quit looking for the story of James because not only am I kindred spirit of his genealogist wife, but I am also a military sister: I served with the 89th Infantry Division's descendant, the 89th Regional Readiness Command, as my first unit in my military career.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Be wary of the online family tree...and my soapbox

I am going to step on my soapbox for just a moment and address some of my fellow genealogists. I must first caveat that I am not a professional genealogist, or at least not yet. I know I make mistakes and my research methods are not always solid. But I'm still going to complain about my biggest research pet peeve: accepting a found bit of information as fact without sources.

What brings about my wrath this time? Well, I was bored last night and decided to click on some of my ancestor names that I had not researched in a while to see if there were any new records for them on Ancestry.com. So imagine my joy when I see that mystical flashing leaf that Ancestry.com makes use of on one of my lesser researched lines. I was hoping for a terrific find, so glorious that I would be the basis for the next Ancestry commercial. I clicked on it and was led to another subscriber's family tree. I always like to check out other trees because you never know what research leads you will find. This particular tree was sourced only by other Ancestry Family Trees. There is an option to click to see the individual family trees the subscriber references. I was surprised to find my own tree was used as a reference. I must admit that I was pleased that someone felt my information accurate enough to reference. But I also felt a bit dismayed. How could they be sure that I was right? Maybe I made the whole thing up for jollies. How would they know? I try to use sources whenever I can, but most of them are not referenced in my Ancestry tree. Am I a source Nazi?

It could be argued that the individual that sourced my tree (and the two others listed) was only sourcing it as a reference for one particular fact, or that they wanted to note it to return to it later. It can also be argued that they utilized the option on Ancestry to "Save this person to your tree," without a second thought.

I have worked hard to find the family on my tree and it is only fair that I share that work with others that may not have access to the types of resources I do, like family histories, photos, etc. Plus, what would genealogy be without sharing. Yet I feel that I must remind my fellow researchers of the dangers of accepting something sight unseen. Will it change the world? Will anyone get hurt? Of course not. But what if you accept someone's tree as fact and it isn't right? You think you're an Arbuckle but you're really a Wiggle. That could add up to research time and funds wasted.

I shall step off my box now.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - Aunt Margie's Quilt

My grandmother has begun giving gifts from her home for Christmas and the holidays. I think it is a great way to clean house. She doesn't really care about keeping the items anymore and it saves quite a bit of money. I have not asked for anything from her house, although I have seen lots of treasures I would love to have. This past Christmas I was surprised to be given a quilt that she had shown me a couple of years ago. I am a quilter myself and had thought this quilt was so beautiful...definitely the best Christmas present I could have gotten.

The quilt was completely hand-stitched and hand-quilted by my great-great Aunt Margaret McGuire Underwood. I do not know when she quilted it, but it was prior to her death in 1995. My great-grandfather, Clifton White, bought his sister-in-law's quilt at an estate sale for $300 and gave it to my grandmother. I do not know if Margaret worked from a pattern or designed it herself, but I do know that the hand quilting is so good that one could confuse it with machine work. I envy her skill.

I knew Margaret, but only as well as any child knows an older relative. We often made visits to her house in Hardin, Missouri and I remember thinking what a nice house it was. It had wood paneling and a fireplace. Margaret and her husband, Orville "Pete" Underwood, married when they were both forty and they had no children. They ran a store in Hardin, Missouri called Underwood Mercantile. My mother fondly remembers going there to get fresh meat and cheese. I learned today that Margaret had been married prior to Pete. Her first husband, Dave Bullock, passed in 1950 from a heart attack. Now that I know the kind of skill my aunt had, will have to look for more of her handiwork at the local historical society.

I am so very proud of my quilt. I wish that I had been a little older, and more mature, when I knew Margaret so that I could have learned quilting skills from her. No one creates such a beautiful thing without passion and I look forward to applying that passion to my own quilting. I appreciate her inspiration.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I wish I were Sicilian...they have some great resources

I'm not Italian, but I wish I were. I have many friends that are of Italian descent and after hearing their stories I know I would have loved to have gone to Nona's house every Sunday for a massive portion of pasta. I am jealous of my husband because he has Italian roots. I must vicariously live through him.

As I have been researching my husband's family I have come across many great Italian resources. My husband's Italian lines start with the Pagano family. They were from Ventimiglia, Sicily and immigrated to America in the early 20th century. I find this line fascinating, not only because they are Italian, but because they traveled to America during the massive migration of immigrants to the United States. It seems that the patriarch of the family, Salvatore Pagano, immigrated with his son, Philip, on the Trinacria, a ship bound from Palermo, Italy to New Orleans arriving on November 7, 1892.

Philip was only 12 at the time. By the time I find the family again, they are living in New York City. Philip has married a girl named Jennie and has four children. The family is living at 422 W. 35th Street and in one home there are 15 people. Philip and his family live with his brother John and his family, his mother and two sisters and a brother-in-law. Notably missing from the equation is Salvatore, the patriarch of the family. He is not listed on the census and his wife is not listed as a widow.

I wanted to find out more about the intervening years between records: 1892-1910. A lot had happened in that 18-year span. I do not know how Salvatore and Philip got to New York City, although family stories say that they worked in the sugar cane fields in Louisiana for a time. I have not found proof of that, but it is not farfetched. Many Sicilians traveled to New Orleans, worked for a time and then traveled elsewhere in the States to settle. I tried every trick in my genealogical book, but try as I might I could not find the family on the 1900 census. One of Philip's sisters, Mary, is listed on the 1910 census as having been born in 1899 in New York, so I know they were in New York by 1900, I just don't know if they made it on the census.

I was at a standstill. I decided to look in to some Italian genealogy websites to see if I could get some tips. I came across the Italian Genealogical Group website which has a wealth of databases focusing on the Italians of New York City. On this site I was able to find a marriage for Philip Pagano and Giovanna Ingraffia, which happened in 1902. With this information I was able to send a request to NYC for a copy. I found quite a bit of information on the website and it opened countless doors.

As I mentioned, the Pagano family was originally from Ventimiglia, Sicily. When I searched for genealogy and Ventimiglia I found the Sicilian Family Tree. This site provides information on several Sicilian cities and databases of vital record information. Volunteers have provided transcriptions of some of their forays in to LDS records. It is a great resource for Sicilian research.

I can't change my heritage to Italian, but I can at least revel in their great resources.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

To Meet Tuesday...or rather brick wall breakthrough

I would love to meet Bertha Cutler Kuhn, my 3rd great-grandmother. She was born in Plymouth, Richland County, Ohio on December 28, 1841. Bertha is one of those relatives that I know just enough about to be dangerous. As I have written in a previous post, I was blessed enough to have a letter written by Bertha to her husband during the Civil War. This link made me feel a certain connection to Bertha as I have also been at home with a small child while my husband was at war. But this was all I had.

Bertha's obituary lists her maiden name as Cutler and her birthplace as Plymouth, Ohio. I found her on the 1850 census in Richland County, Ohio. She lived with her father, James, her mother, Eliza, and her brother, Robert. Today as I was preparing to write about why I would like to meet Bertha, I decided to try and find out more about her parents, as they have been one of my brick walls. I have a copy of her brother Robert's obituary which states his mother was Eliza Bodine of Richland County, Ohio. But I have been unable to track more about this family. I cannot even find a death date for James Cutler.

To try to "backdoor" my research I decided to look for more information on a third sibling: Mary Cutler. Mary was born in 1853 according to my research. But I lose track of her after her listing at age 17 on the 1870 census. At that time she is still living with her father in Richland County. On Ancestry.com there is a link to a family tree for Mary. That tree states that her husband was Milton H. Myers. I have no idea if this information is accurate, as it is not sourced. So, I take a cautious step and look for information on Milton, hoping to find a connection back to Mary, and ultimately back to the Cutler family. On FindAGrave.com I find headstones for both Mary and Milton. The headstone states that Milton was a member of the 110th Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (a fraternal organization of Civil War Veterans).

With this information in hand I turned back to Google. I now searched for Milton Myers and Civil War and wonders upon wonders a link to the Wichita State University Special Collections page came up. They have in their archives a collection of documents from Milton Myers: Milton H. Myers Collection of Civil War Documents. The collection includes documents collected by Milton Myers during his time as a sergeant with the 110th O.V.I. The Special Collections branch of the library has included a list of all the items in the collection, and as I browsed through it I was especially piqued by what was in Box 1, file folder 12: "Photocopy of the "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 New Jersey." It was written and compiled by Maude Cutler Scholfield. This work tells the genealogy and history of Milton H. Myers' wife, Mary Eliza Cutler."

Here we have Cutler and Bodine in the same area. I was floored and realized this could be a roundabout way through my brick wall. Needless to say, I have contacted the library to determine if I may be able to get a copy of some of the files in the archive. I still want to meet Bertha Cutler, but now I have a whole different set of things I would ask her!