I came late to the notion of using wills for genealogical research. Although I never actually saw it, I was told many times growing up that my parents' will appointed as guardians my Aunt Jane and Uncle Lew. The first will I remember seeing was my mother's will, shortly after she died on July 7, 1997. Although I knew about it, it was still rather a shock to read on paper that I had been appointed executor ("Personal Representative" of the estate. And as promised, my mother left the Steinway piano to me.
Even helped along during the probate process by my mother's attorney and her paralegal, the paperwork involved in settling my mother's estate was overwhelming. And no sooner had I settled the estate, that it was time to do it all over again, when my father died in September 1998, 14 months after my mother. I remember having a craft table set up in the dining room, piled with paperwork on top of it and on the floor underneath.
The first will I really examined as part of genealogical research was for one of my classes in the NGS Home Study Course, on Wills and Probate. I chose to go to the Puget Sound Regional Archives, a branch of the Washington State Archives, to look at historic wills there. I analyzed and wrote about the will of Seattle founder Arthur Denny, who died 9 January 1899, leaving a wife, Mary, and grown children Margaret, Charles, Roland, Orion, Arthur, and a sizable estate.
On another trip to the Archives, I was looking for a will to use for a transcription exercise, and found the will of Zerah French, written in 1889. This will was unique for a number of reasons: it was written and signed in San Bernardino, California and submitted for probate in King County, Washington Territory. If I were to look for a death record in either of those places I would come up empty, because (as other papers in the probate file revealed) Zerah French died in Michigan, on a trip to see his family there. In this will was a clause I had never seen before:
"and it is furthermore my wish that I be buried beside my Dear Old Wife on the Old Homestead on Green River and that my funeral be conducted with no show of ostentation and with as little expense as possible, and that, under no consideration shall there be any Christian Religious ceremonies over my remains."
The 1887 will of Joseph Donaldson of South Monaghan, Northumberland, Canada West, that I obtained for a client from a researcher at the Archives of Ontario, was the first (and best) example I'd seen of a decedent providing for his wife after his death:
"To his Mother during her natural life or as she remains my Widdow yearly and every year to pay unto her the sum of Fifty dollars of good and lawfule money of Canada together with the following produce, viz: Twelve pounds of tea, Fifty pounds of Sugar, Five hundred pounds of good flower, Ten bushels potatoes, Thirty pounds Beef or Mutton, One Barrel pork, Twelve pounds of Carded Wool and milch and butter sufficient for her own use allso all fire wood she shall need.
I also desire that my wife possess during her natural life the east half of the house I now live in together with all furniture thereon and her bed, bedding, Bureau & looking glass and the east half of the garden. I allso desire and require my son James George to provide my wife with a conveyance at all times that she shall desire the same to and from church and at least four times each year to and from Port Hope or Peterborough and at all times to provide board and bed for his uncle Samuel Donaldson and allow him the sum of Twenty five dollars each and every year."
Almost 200 years earlier, in Essex County, Massachusetts, Isaac Foster was also taking care of his wife, and to his last will he added a stern admonition to his grown sons:
"And if my two Son Jacob & Danielle Give my Wife Just Cause to Complain & it be so Judged, by honest Rationall men that may have the determining of it if they After Conviction will still carry so unworthily – as is Contrary to this my will then they shall pay Eight pound a year instead of five pounds ..."
Not too long ago I was reading the 1732 will of Benjamin Dexter, of Rochester, Plymouth County, Massachusetts (found online at FamilySearch), and found direct evidence of family relationships when he stated: "I Give to my Son James all the Lands of all Sorts which descended from the Revd Mr. Samuel Arnold of Rochester his Grandfather to my Wife & me..." This will was also notable for the Judge of Probate that oversaw its administration - one Isaac Winslow. I thought his name sounded familiar, and sure enough, his Marshfield, Massachusetts home is on the National Register of Historic Places. The portrait of his family hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts:
And in the latest will I've been transcribing - that of the above-mentioned Rev. Samuel Arnold, I was touched by his bequest to his daughter Mary:"and the use and benefit of a roome in my house called my Study with ... and Table hereunto belonging and the use and Comfort of the nearest bedroome hereunto adjoining with free and unmolested access and egress thereunto during the time of her living a Single life."
And at the beginning of the inventory of his belongings was a notation that I have not seen before, of the exact date of his death:
A True Inventory of all the Estate of the Reverent Mr. Samuel Arnold – Late Pasture of the Church of Christ at Rochester who departed this Life on the Eleventh Day of February 1708/9 as It was taken by us the Subscribers:
The inventory was remarkable in another way. From the will you could tell that Rev. Samuel Arnold was an educated man, and could read and write very well. Although spelling was not standardized in the sixteenth century, his will was easy to decipher, in both the handwriting and the spelling. Not so the spelling and descriptions in the inventory, though, where the word Ammunition was almost unrecognizable, and some of the descriptions were funny in their vagueness: "Earthen and Wooden ware with other useful things for household affaires" and "a Loome and other things belonging to Weaveing" being good examples.
Over the last few years, since I've become a professional genealogist, I've learned to look for a will or probate records for my person of interest. I've found interesting bequests to children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews; mention of relationships; married names of grown daughters; lists of household belongings, and perhaps most important of all, a real sense of the time and place the testator lived in. When you look for a will, you never know what you might find!
Although I don't have any ancestors who traveled the Oregon Trail, in this season of my life I'm feeling a great deal of sympathy for, and identification with, those pioneer women who tossed treasured possessions out of the covered wagons, in order to lighten their load. After living in the same house for almost 33 years, and collecting heirlooms and keepsakes from parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, we are downsizing and moving to a much smaller place. Over the last several months I have been struggling with the Great Question - what to keep? What to give away? What should I hand down to my children?
We've already been giving away or selling treasured family heirlooms, because they did not fit or could not be used. I've been mentally apologizing to my great-grandchildren for disposing of antiques, Including the drop-leaf table that probably belonged to my grandmother Bessie Randall; I can remember seeing it on the screened-in porch of my Grandma & Grandpa Stoelt's home in Detroit. The reason I know it was Bessie's is because it had a special tablecloth - cream colored linen with dark blue cross-stitch, made by her before she died in 1931 - which I still have.
There are the various chairs we've gotten rid of, for the same reason - no place to put them, and no one to give them to. Along with the drop-leaf table, I put them on Freecycle, and they went to a local woman who loves antiques and promised to give them a good home.
Perhaps the largest, most meaningful, and the hardest-to-part-with item was my mother's Steinway upright piano, which was made in Detroit in 1902. My mother left it to me in her will, and when she died in 1997 and the house had to be emptied and sold, I brought the piano home. The problem was that several of the keys stuck, no one in our house played, and it became a surface for piles and piles of other stuff - homework, the mail, pictures, toys, and whatever I was picking up off the floor so I could vacuum. After several years I made the decision to sell it - to a piano refurbishing place, which repaired and refinished it. I had the privilege of meeting the family who bought it, and listening to their teenage daughters playing the jazz music they had composed themselves.
There are many items that I'm determined to keep. Such as the crazy quilt (made in 1890) that was given to me by Grandma Stoelt. My mother's wedding china, and the set of doll dishes she played with as a little girl in 1940. My husband's collection of antique clocks, now wrapped and packed in boxes, ready to move. Things, yes - but things that have anchored our lives in the present with those who have gone before us.
And thinking along these lines leads quite naturally, to thinking of the things we own that aren't heirlooms now, but will be someday. Our dining room table, which is now scratched and marred by generations of toddlers, the battered metal trunk where we keep our Christmas ornaments, and the bookcase my mother bought and refinished for my 13th birthday. There is the framed cross-stitch that was my first Christmas gift to my husband, over 35 years ago, and the "Home Sweet Home" cross-stitch that has been hanging in our hallway since we moved into this house. And there is the "Love and Joy Come to You" crochet wall hanging I completed while I was pregnant with our daughter. All of these, I hope, will be treasured by generations to come.
Sometimes, when I'm going through the family papers that I was handed in 1974, I am reminded of heirlooms that existed years ago, that are now lost to history. Consider these items:
Now, whenever I long for the treasures that have been discarded by my ancestors or lost to the past, I will remember my own process of letting go of what I couldn't keep, and feel a little more understanding for the women on the Oregon Trail.
- " [John Reade] had practically nothing of his own except his Bible, with marginal references and notes written in his own hand on nearly every page. (This bible is now in the possession of Mrs. Carry Dusenberry, Pentwater, R.F.D. Mich., who is half-sister to J.L. Reed, John Reed's son and my grandfather." (written by Maurice Leonard Reed, about 1925)
- "[John Reade] kept an account book "John Reads Booke and Propperty, Derry Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania State of September 20, 1839 John Read" This book is now in my possession, over a century old, contains inside the date 1838, even earlier than the one on the fly leaf. 50¢ per day was the wage he got most of the time." (source: "Notes on the Benjamin Curtis tree," unpublished MSS,
- "The Beem table service was of good steel knives, with horn handles, two-tined steel forks, also horn-handled and thin silver teaspoons marked with "B.W." and "N.S." and by the toothprints of the generations of Webb and Beem babies. These spoons are now scattered among grand and great-grandchildren." (Source: Ada Fitzsimmons Bishop, "Incidents in the Life of John and Betsy Beem," Reading (MI) Hustler, series of articles published November 1940.)
I smacked headlong into my first brick wall, years before I ever heard the phrase applied to genealogy. In 1974, when I was handed the stack of papers from my grandfather, which included a luggage tag with the name "Charles Prosser" as my great-grandmother Ruth Prosser's brother, I had no idea that this was a problem I would be wrestling with for almost 40 years. The basic problem is this: Charles and Ruth's father (name unknown) was born in 1822 (probably in New York) and died "in the Civil War" in 1863.Along the way, I experienced many dead ends and wrong turns. The Hillsdale (Michigan) County Courthouse burned in 1864, so there were no marriage or birth records. My dad's older sister said (somewhat doubtfully) that she thought Ruth and Charles' father was named Henry Prosser. That sent me off to find Civil War records for Henry L. Prosser, of Birge's Western Sharpshooters, only to find that probably wasn't him. I sent for the Civil War pension records of every male Prosser who fought in the war and received a pension. Then I discovered that my great-great grandmother Rhoda (Wilsey) Prosser had remarried, to Henry Jones, making her ineligible for a pension. Rhoda Prosser Jones died tragically and mysteriously in 1883, and Henry Jones' Civil War pension records didn't give any information about her first husband.Over the years of research, I discovered that Charles Prosser had indeed gotten married, in 1884, to Amanda Quay, and they had a daughter named Lottie. But I lost track of him after that - he wasn't to be found on the 1900 census anywhere in Michigan.
Until about four years ago, when (trying one more time) I plugged Charles' name into the search engine at Ancestry.com, looking for "Charles Prosser, born 1864 in Michigan" - and got a hit. There was a Charles Prosser living in Chicago, Illinois, with his wife Anna (also born in Michigan) and his 4 sons. Careful analysis showed that this could very well be my great-grandmother's brother - he was a printer, and this possible second family did not overlap with his first one.And just because I want to know everything about everybody (a good trait for a genealogist), I started tracing the sons: Lewis, Raymond Walter, Charles Albert, and Earl Augusta. I couldn't find Lewis anywhere, and in fact he wasn't mentioned in Charles' 1910 obituary. Raymond married Marie Bonine, and they lived in Oak Park, Illinois, where my Aunt Myrl visited them in the 1930's. They had a son named Don, and I traced his descendants to California, and found them on Facebook. Earl Augusta married Lottie Alder, and they also moved to California. They had no children.
Charles Albert was another mystery - I found his World War 1 Draft Registration card, where he was living in Detroit, but didn't find him after that. Until earlier this year, when I sent a message to someone who had a family tree on Ancestry. She replied that Charles Albert Prosser had married her great-grandfather's step-daughter, Irene Leroux. With that information, I was able to find them on the 1940 census, with three children, all born between 1923 and 1929. More exploring online told me that the two older children had died just within the last couple of years, but the youngest son, in his 80's, was probably still alive. Online directories found his current address and phone number, and so I called him and introduced myself. He was pleased (if bemused) to hear from me, and told me that his father never talked about his family. Over the next few weeks we exchanged a lot of information by email, and when I asked about doing a Y-DNA test through FamilyTreeDNA, he readily agreed.
Words cannot describe the elation I felt when FTDNA notified me that the results had been posted, and I signed in and saw that we had two matches, and both of them with the last name of Prosser.
At long last, after 40 years of research, and several "I give up" moments, I had a real breakthrough. A few minutes of research on Ancestry told me that John Prosser arrived in Rhode Island about 1698, and died there in 1714. His children and grandchildren headed for New York, where my (first name unknown) great great grandfather Prosser was born about 1822.
I've been corresponding with Allen Prosser, who coordinates the Prosser Surname Project for FamilyTreeDNA, and he's given me some great information. I found the wills and probate records for Ichabod Prosser (1744-1818, John Prosser's grandson) and Ichabod's grandson Daniel Prosser (1796-1890) and his wife Celia Prosser (1801-1892). And I've hired a professional genealogist in Rhode Island to find out more about John Prosser in the collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society.
I have gained so much information in just the past few months, it makes my head spin! And it proves to me, once again, that "there is ALWAYS something more to find!"
Maurice L. Reed (far right) with his brothers Herbert (center) and Orville (left)
On this Memorial Day in 2013, I am remembering four generations of military service in my family. John Chase Reed, about 1954
First - my grandfather, Maurice Leonard Reed (1891-1972). He enlisted in September 1917, after completing two years of classes at Michigan Agricultural College in East Lansing. Assigned to duty in Columbus, Ohio, he often said later in life that the only reason he wasn't sent overseas was because he knew typing and shorthand. After his marriage to Ruby Marie Chase, Maurice was assigned to Camp Zachary Taylor in Kentucky, whee he was stationed until the Armistice was signed in November 1918.
My father, John Chase Reed (1930-1998) completed his degree in Electrical Engineering at Michigan State University, where he met my mother. After their marriage in 1951, he enlisted and became an officer in the Air Force. They were stationed at Sandia Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico until his discharge in 1957. Christopher Chase Reed, 1975
My brother, Christopher Chase Reed (1957-2007) enlisted in the Navy after dropping out of high school in Florida. I remember attending his boot camp graduation in Orlando, that sweltering June day in 1975, and how glad my parents were to receive an eyewitness report from me (they had moved to Bellevue, WA). After boot camp and more training, he was assigned to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, and would see several deployments on Navy cruisers before he was honorably discharged after seven years of service. Jason and Aunt Mom, Sept. 2010
My nephew Jason (Chris's son) enlisted in the Marines in 2010, and celebrated his 20th birthday in boot camp. Our whole family was present for his graduation in September 2010. Since then, he's been on two deployments (one of them to Afghanistan), and is currently stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.
I am very proud of him.
I am very proud of all of them!
Malcolm Daniel Lane, 1898-1941
When I typed up an entry from my grandfather Maurice Reed's journal, a letter he wrote in 1941, I was hoping to hear from some of his descendants or other family. The other day I got this email:
I found your website via your entry “Death on Crystal Lake” – it was a fascinating find!
The Malcolm D. Lane in your letter was Malcolm Daniel Lane, born on June 3, 1898 in Sundance, Wyoming to James Monroe Lane and Carrie King. James Lane was a twin, and he and his twin brother Milton had moved to Wyoming from Illinois to join their oldest brother Samuel in the late 1890’s. James and his family moved back to Illinois in early 1900. Malcolm graduated from the University of Chicago in 1924, putting himself through school by working as stenographer for the YMCA Hotel in Chicago. He married Helga Nielsen, an immigrant from Denmark in late 1930.
Malcolm is a twice removed cousin of mine – my great-great grandfather was Malcolm Daniel Lane’s grandfather, whom he was named after (Malcolm Douglas Lane). Many of the Lane men died in their 40’s and early 50’s from a heart attack. Malcolm’s father James died from a heart attack at age 46.
I don’t currently have any information on what happened to Helga or his children after his death – I am going to do some digging and if I find anyone I will pass along your website.
It was truly a treasure!
So now all we need to do is track down Malcolm's children, Daniel and Alice, and find out what happened to them....
Although I didn't know it at the time, when I got hooked on genealogy and began the life-long journey of researching my ancestors, I was presented with a huge brick wall. Over the 40 years since then, I have been chipping away at that brick wall, and have had some success in discovering more pieces of the puzzle. However, the discovery I made this week made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and the theme from "Twilight Zone" playing in my head.
To set the scene: my great-grandmother, Rhoda Ruth Prosser, was born in Hillsdale, Michigan in 1860. Her younger brother Charles was born about 1863 or 1864, and shortly afterward their father died in the Civil War. Their mother, Rhoda Prosser, married another Civil War veteran, Henry R. Jones. On the 1870 census of Hillsdale they are all listed with the surname "Jones", and on the 1880 census Charles is enumerated under his middle name, Douglas:
1880 U.S. census, Hillsdale county, Michigan, population schedule, Hillsdale, enumeration district (ED) 086, p.143 (stamped), dwelling 102, family 105, Henry R. Jones; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 6 Jan 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 580.
Note the fact that "Douglas" Prosser is a printer. So was his brother-in-law, Ruth Prosser's first husband, Crawford Strunk. In fact, when Charles Douglas Prosser married Amanda Quay in Gaylord, Michigan in December 1884, Crawford Strunk was one of the witnesses.
Michigan Secretary of State, Marriage Registers, p.76, line 56, Prosser-Qua; digital image, "Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925," FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org: accessed 6 Jan 2013)
I knew, from a luggage tag in the stack of papers I inherited, that Charles and Amanda had a daughter named Lottie. In 1900 Lottie was living with her grandmother Mary Qua in Forester, Sanilac County, Michigan, and Charles and Amanda are nowhere to be found. In 1909 Amanda married again, to James White - but what happened to Charles?
It was about 4 years ago that I decided to make another attempt to find out what happened to Charles. I did a search in the 1900 census Ancestry for Charles Prosser, born about 1864 in Michigan. And there he was - living in Chicago, Illinois, with a wife Anna and four sons: Lewis, Ray, Bert, and Earl. What convinced me was his occupation: printer.
1900 U.S. census, Cook county, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago, enumeration district (ED) 274,, sheet 5B, dwelling 57, family 110, Charles Prosser; digital image; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 6 Jan 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 255.
Charles Prosser died in February 1910, and his obituary names his survivors as Anna Prosser and sons Raymond, Albert and Earl Prosser. On the 1910 census his widow Anna is listed with three of their four sons: Raymond, Charles A., and Earl. Over the years I have traced Raymond and Earl, who both married and moved to California. I'm Facebook friends with one of Raymond's grandsons. Since Lewis was not named in Charles' obituary, and does not appear on the 1910 census, I am assuming he died young.
Earlier this year I was doing an assignment for my ProGen study group, and needed to write a proof argument. I figured that given the evidence I'd collected, writing an argument to prove that Charles Prosser in 1900 Chicago, Illinois was the same man as my great-grandmother Ruth Prosser's brother, on the 1880 census of Hillsdale, Michigan would be a good exercise. One of the elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard is "resolution of conflicting evidence". In order to do a good job on my proof argument, I needed to find other Charles Prossers who were born around the same time, and prove that they weren't my relatives.
I found two Charles Prossers on the 1900 census of Michigan. One was living in Onondaga, Ingham County (near Lansing), was born in Canada in Oct. 1863, and worked as a blacksmith. This Charles Prosser (who I later discovered was actually named Solomon Charles Prosser) had a son named Earl.
1900 U.S. census, Ingham county, Michigan, population schedule, Onondaga, enumeration district (ED) 55, sheet 10B, dwelling 273, family 273, Charles Prosser; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 6 Jan 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 716.
The other Charles Prosser living in Michigan in 1900 was a Canadian, born in July 1865, and emigrated to Michigan in 1891. He had a son named Earl.
At this point, I started getting intrigued - what were the chances that three different men named Charles Prosser would each have a son named Earl? I began researching these two men in Michigan, who came from Canada, enough to discover that they were related - they had a common ancestor. This is something I need to explore further.
Earlier this week, I decided to make another attempt at finding Charles Douglas Prosser's son, Charles Albert Prosser, who was born in Illinois in January 1898. It wasn't long before I found his World War 1 Draft Registration card. He was living in Detroit, Michigan, and preparing to start work ("today") at the Fischer Body company in Detroit.
"World War 1 Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 4 Jan 2013), Charles Albert Prosser.
Further research found this Charles Prosser on the 1940 census, living with his wife and children:
1940 U.S. census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit, enumeration district (ED) 84-1287, sheet 11A, p.17088 (stamped), household 2900, Charles B. Prosser; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 5 Jan 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1878.
THEY HAVE A SON NAMED EARL!!!!!
In genealogy, there is no such thing as coincidence. I am convinced now that there is some common thread tying all these families together. It may take me another 40 years, but I am determined to find it - and in finding it, I hope to solve the original puzzle, which is the unknown Civil War soldier who was the father of Rhoda Ruth and Charles Douglas.
In reading my grandfather's journal, I found a copy of this letter that he had written in the summer of 1941:
Mrs. H. C. Johnsson, [sister of]
c/o Mrs. M.D. Lane
4333 N. Monitor Avenue,
My dear Mrs. Johnson,
We were very glad to have your letter and to hear from it, and from the one to Snells, something of what you have been doing and thinking since you left. We were especially pleased with the suggestion in one of the letters that Mrs. Lane may come back. You were such splendid neighbors, just about the finest we had ever known anywhere. We had enjoyed our informal and friendly contacts so much, that we accepted you, not as intruders into our paradise here, but as one of the very nicest things about it, and the thought that you might not return has been deeply disappointing.
Lois has missed Alice even more, the first playmate she has ever had summers. John used to spend his whole time up at Snells', never coming home for meals or anything until we went for him, but after Danny came he hardly went near the farm and it was such a comfort to have him around where we could call him. Since you left, Lois has found little to do but play with Snells' kittens, and John once more is gone all day. I went for him last night at 7:30, the first we had seen him since breakfast. They gave him his lunch, but he was hungry, tired, and as usual, smelling like a cow stable. We have very practical reasons, you see, for wanting Mrs. Lane to return. We need and want her here, and will do all we can, if she comes, to help her win her way again to peace and happiness.
It was indeed welcome news, Mrs. Johnson, to hear about the doctor's report. I did everything in my power for him, everything I could think of, and fought with utter determination to save him somehow. There was no doctor for miles, even if we had been on shore, and whatever was to be done for him, I alone had to do, there and then. I tried so hard, and it means a great deal to know that it was not due to some stupid failure of mine the outcome happened as it did.
There isn't much to tell about the trip down the lake and the time when we were fishing. A running outboard makes enough noise to prevent casual conversation. As he ran up to our dock and cut his motor he greeted me with a pleasant "Good morning," and commented that the lake was so calm it would be nice for trolling. He helped load my things in the boat, and seemed pleased at my comment on its roominess and safe, high seaboard. I mentioned that such a boat would be safe even in Traverse Bay and he asked about the trolling there, but seemed to feel that Crystal Lake was a better guess if any fish at all could be taken here. He asked where to head and seemed a little disappointed that we had to go so far before starting to fish. This end of the lake, being nowhere more than 35 feet deep, is not the best place, as the trout seek the deeper water, about 165 feet, west of Glen Rhoda.
As soon as we reached that point we started trolling and he slowed down the motor. It was too powerful and wouldn't go slowly enough, so he let the stern anchor out and had me put out the bow anchor. These held the boat back to a satisfactory pace, but every few minutes the motor would stop and it finally refused to start. He sat down to rest after a bit, and laughingly told me he had had an old Neptune motor before which made a lot of trouble. He got enough of it and bought a good one, paying a good price. "And now," he laughed, "look at it. It's no better than the other one. Well, maybe a little. I knew that one wouldn't go, and this one does sometimes. I just traded a certainty for an uncertainty."
A breeze had come which was taking us away from the north shore and I had taken in the line and started rowing. He began cranking again, and I urged him to take it easy, that the motor would start all right after it cooled off, that we weren't in a hurry to get anywhere. He sat down then, and relaxed a bit. He told me about the trip he had taken with the family the day before, and commented on the beauty of the shoreline he was facing, compared it with that at Glen Lake, giving the edge to Crystal. He said, "We should have brought Danny along. The motor seems to run all right for him."
I liked him better all the time, and thought of asking his first name, but put it off, as of course, we expected to be out several hours. We were getting acquainted, however, and I was quite willing to make a friend of the man, drew him out and kept him talking. I asked if he had taken the trip down Platte River. He had not, asked if he could do it in that boat, about the fishing there, the scenery along the river and the distance down.
He got up to try the motor again, and I asked to do it this time, so he took my seat and began to row. I gave it a half-dozen fruitless twists, and was discouraged, suggested that I had started mine sometimes by setting it up ashore, with the propeller out of water which allows one to spin it more easily and faster. He was willing to try it, and headed for shore. It was stony and shallow where we first approached, and we drew out again, heading for a sandy spot further down. I asked him to take the oars again, as he seemed to be doing more than his share of the work. He gave them up, but instead of resting, went to work on the motor again. To our surprise, it coughed and ran about a dozen explosions. We both exclaimed with pleasure and encouragement, and he cranked rapidly a dozen times or more, but nothing further happened. He sat down with a rueful smile, and a moment later, I noticed a strange, drowsy expression in his eyes. Then, without a word or sign of any distress, he fell back in the seat, instantly and completely unconscious.
He was so close, right within reach, that I caught him before he could touch the water. Although startled, I was not seriously alarmed, believing only that he had fainted. "Probably came without eating breakfast" was the first thought that occurred. I supported his head, shaded his eyes and splashed water on his forehead, temples and throat, finally slapped him a couple of times. He was breathing in a labored manner, and this presently stopped.
"Here," I said aloud, "This won't do," and began to realize then that something might be seriously wrong. I drew him down on the boat floor and began to give artificial breathing, and he took in a big breath. But no others followed at once so I went on working, thinking furiously, "What can it be? What should I do?" Cars were passing on the highway ashore but it was a long way out of hailing and I dared not stop to gain attention and row within speaking distance. I realized there was no possible help for him except what I could give him right there, and worked with all my strength. Twice more during the first minute or two he drew in a breath, and then there were no more, but I kept on and on. The little hairs on his arms prickled into gooseflesh, and I covered him with his jacket. His color deepened and darkened, and at last, needing encouragement, I felt for his pulse. Then I rowed ashore.
There was no telephone at Hurdman's. One of the men working there went to Glen Rhoda to call a doctor and the coroner. I sat down, weak and shaky and waited. Perhaps I should have gone with him and done the telephoning myself, after which it would have been possible to let you know sooner, but the men at Hurdman's were total strangers and it seemed better to stay.
They came in about an hour, followed by a man with the hearse, by the undertaker and the sheriff. They took him out of the boat, covered him on the cot, and carried him to the hearse. Then the coroner took me home.
Mrs. Reed said, "We must go at once to Mrs. Lane. That's what I'd want Mr. Lane to do had it been you." The rest you know, and though it has not been easy to relive that day in memory, if it has done anything to assuage the sorrow of Mrs. Lane, I am well repaid.
Our association in this tragic misfortune has brought us closer to her. We hope that time will heal her wounds of spirit and that our future acquaintance may be marked, not by sad memories, but by many occasions of pleasure and happiness. To you all, we send every assurance of our deepest and kindest regard.
Maurice L. Reed
1940 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago, enumeration district (ED) 103-2612, sheet 14A, page 37814 (stamped), dwelling 287, Malcolm D. Lane; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 20 Nov 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1004.
So who was this man, first name unknown, who had died while out fishing on Crystal Lake? I went online to Ancestry and did some research, and concluded that he was Malcolm D. Lane, a newspaper accountant, who lived in Chicago with his wife Hilda and their two children Daniel and Alice. Their address on the 1940 census was the same one that my grandfather wrote to, and I also noted that Hilda's parents lived with them. I hope they were a comfort to her after she became a widow.
I don't know whether Mrs. Lane ever came back to Crystal Lake. Somehow I doubt it - the United States was heading into World War 2, and gasoline rationing was becoming more strict, ruling out pleasure trips. The Ancestry Family Trees that I've seen online don't seem to have Malcolm Lane's date or place of death. Perhaps this letter, written over 70 years ago, will fill in the blanks for his descendants.
Eula Mae (Smith) Breland (1914-2003)
For as long as I've known her, my mother-in-law, Eula Mae (Smith) Breland was always proud of being Cherokee and Choctaw Indian. Often she would mention that her father, George Allen Smith, had a roll number. Through the years, as I became a little more familiar with Native American genealogy, I understood that to mean a number on the Dawes Rolls; registers that were compiled by the federal government between 1898 and 1914. I had done a little research at the National Archives in Seattle, not really expecting to find anything - because how do you find the name Smith, and tell it's the right one?
Eula's father, George Allen Smith (1878-1951)
Eula's mother, Fannie Josephine (Buckley) Smith (1871-1952)
As a professional genealogist, one of the most important things I can do for myself, education-wise, is to watch webinars. I watch two or three webinars a week, and always learn something new. My most recent webinar, however, led to an amazing and exciting discovery! I had registered for "Doing the Dawes", which was presented by Kathy Huber, a librarian with the Tulsa City-County Library and Genealogy Center, through the Friends of the National Archives, Southeast Region. During the webinar, Kathy started showing some easy steps to look up an ancestor on the Dawes Rolls images on Fold3, a subscription website. Since I have a subscription, I decided to follow her directions as she was talking.
The home page of Fold3
I clicked on "Browse Records" to bring up the main category list (at left). I went to the Non-military records, and clicked on "Native American Collection" to bring up that list of publications.
Then I typed in "Taylor Smith" in the search box. Taylor Smith was my mother-in-law's grandfather. His son George Allen Smith, Eula Mae's father, was born in Baxterville, Mississippi.
Searching for the name "Smith", in any collection, is bound to get you thousands of hits, and this was no exception - over 9,000 results! But my eye was caught immediately by the first two listed, because they were in Mississippi.
Words can't describe my excitement when I opened the first record and read the location at the top - Baxterville, Mississippi!
This was only 1 record in this collection of Dawes Enrollment Cards. I had seen that there was another collection of Dawes Enrollment Packets, so I decided to explore that.
The first page (of 27 pages!!) in this packet verified that I was indeed looking at the records for my husband's great-grandfather. Four members of the Smith family applied for registration in 1901 - Taylor Smith, his brother Seth W. Smith, and his sons George A. Smith and Lewis C. Smith. The names listed in this registration packet were all familiar ones - Frederick Rester, Nancy Smith, Louisa Breland. And it appears that there is still more paperwork (these affidavits that are listed) that are not online, but are probably kept at the National Archives. I was jubilant!! My mother-in-law was right - her father DID have a roll number!
As I listened to the rest of the webinar, I set up a DropBox for extended family members around the country, and sent them invitations. Taylor Smith had 27 pages in his packet, including a priceless hand-drawn family tree, that took his ancestry back two generations, to names I had no prior evidence for. George, Lewis, and Seth Smith had 8 to 10 pages each, so I created a DropBox for each of them. For the next hour or so, I was busy online, finding confirmation of these names on census records, which I also saved to DropBox.
As a professional genealogist, I am really excited to find confirmation of what Eula Mae had said for years. At the same time, the information contained in these papers for Taylor Smith seems to disprove a belief held near and dear by family, and by Eula Mae herself - that she was full-blooded Cherokee and Choctaw Indian. Taylor Smith, in his affidavit, stated that he was only 1/8 Choctaw, through his grandmother Julia Bond. One of Eula's great grandson did a DNA test, and was puzzled and dismayed when the results showed "0% Native American ancestry for 5 generations."
The answer to this puzzle may be resolved by obtaining more records. DNA testing of Eula's four remaining children (now in their 60's and 70's) may give us some answers, along with death certificates. All of which serves to confirm what I've found throughout my 35+ years of research - there is always something more to discover!
Mom and Stacy, 2006
I joined Facebook almost 6 years ago, on November 20, 2006, mostly to keep up with my children, Stacy, Steven and Jason. I started out with just a few posts, every now and then; my first status report on November 22, 2006 was "is recovering from a skull fracture, and no, they're not kidding." Since then my crowd of friends on Facebook has grown exponentially, and I've been thinking about all the reasons why I'm on Facebook several times a day. I think it boils down to three important components: communication, information, and relationships. Communication has been uppermost in my mind over the last several months - my beloved nephew Jason (who came to live with us in September 2006; he calls me "Aunt Mom") is in the Marines, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. Since June his battalion has been in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. My fears for him were much assuaged by the regular updates he posted on Facebook, along with the private messages we sent back and forth. Yesterday, when I was trying to figure out how to let my Aunt Ethel know that Jason was back in the states, safe and sound, I sent a message through Facebook to her grandson Aaron (my cousin), asking him to call and let her know. He replied within 10 minutes.
When Stacy was in Spain for 3 months in 2008, we communicated not just by email and instant messaging, but also through Facebook; where she was able to post pictures of some of the places and events (bullfights!) she was experiencing. Now that she's at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and we get to see her only 3 or 4 times a year, it's been nice to chat using Facebook's messaging system. Being a librarian by profession, I love reading and information. I used to get my information solely from print sources: books, magazines and newspapers. Since the advent of the digital age, I find that more and more, I'm getting information online. I read newspapers on my laptop, and I've been reading books, more often than not, on my iPod touch Kindle. But one of the most important sources of information for me has been Facebook. Now that I've connected with genealogists all across the country (and internationally, in England, Scotland and Australia), when they post links to interesting articles or books, I follow up, and my education and experience are enhanced. A good example is a link someone posted to a recent article in the Smithsonian Magazine: The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson
. Many of my 306 (and growing) friends post links to blogs they write - such as Judy G. Russell's Lives as Property
, part of her Legal Genealogist blog, which in turn points to an important collection of online NC deeds from the 1800's. Thomas MacEntee (the King of Social Media for genealogists, as far as I'm concerned!) posts links to new blogs he discovers and keeps us updated on breaking news. Since I'm a member of several groups and organizations (or have "liked" their Facebook pages), I get regular updates from groups like the Western Michigan Genealogical Society, the historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina, Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained; Facebook is where I find out about the new QuickLessons, such as QuickLesson 12: Chasing an Online Record into its Rabbit Hole. But for me, most of all, Facebook is about relationships. I'm an introvert anyway, and genealogical research tends to be a solitary endeavor. Because of Facebook, I have ongoing relationships with many people, from many different aspects of my life. Who would have thought, when I graduated from Florida State University in Tallahassee and moved to Seattle, that I would be able to keep in touch, on a daily or weekly basis, with the close friends I'd found there? I have friends from as far back as junior high school, who live across the country, most of whom I haven't seen in years. There are friends from my present church and my former church; friends from the church I worked at, and I'm even friends with several of my children's friends. (They keep me young!) I have a growing number of friends I've met (and some I haven't yet) at genealogy institutes and conferences. I consider that I have relationships with all these people - they're teaching me, and (hopefully) I'm teaching them by what I post. So even with all its problems, I hope Facebook is here to stay. I would be hard pressed to keep abreast of current events in the world of genealogy, and in the lives of my children and friends, without it.
One of the very real benefits of belonging to the Association of Professional Genealogists is the behind-the-scenes tours I've had of our region's important records collections. One such repository that I've used several times is the Washington State Archives in Olympia. Our Puget Sound chapter met yesterday for an exceptionally interesting meeting, highlighted by a presentation by our state archivist, Jerry Handfeld, and followed by a tour of the building. Like most archives and libraries, it's bigger than it looks from the outside! From the street, it's a one-story building, but underneath are two climate-controlled floors filled with boxes, books, and rolls of microfilm.
Our tour began and ended in the research room, where the staff had put out examples of various records for us to see. One of those was a cattle branding register book, from 1890's Lewis County. I thought this was a fascinating example of records that aren't online - because this is a record I never would have thought to look for!
State of Washington
County of Chehalis
I, D.R. Porter, hereby certify that I have adopted for a mark or brand to be used in marking my cattle situated in Chhalis County, Wash., to letter "P" about four inches in heighth and two inches in width with a bar across the upper part. The following is a correct description and representation of said mark or brand. To wit:
and it is designed to use the same on the left hip of the animal branded. Witness my hand this 2nd day of November 1894.
Recd for record Nov. 22 AD 1894 at 2 o'clock PM at the request of D.R. Porter.
Geo. W. Buyington, Auditor
By F.A. Farr, Deposit
Citation: Chehalis County, Washington, Log and Stock Brands Register, 1886-1909, entry for 22 November 1894, D.R. Porter; Washington State Archives, Olympia.