Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It Was There All Along


     Recently I've been taking another look at my Wiggins relatives.  There are several unknowns there that I've been trying to puzzle out.  I looked through some trees on Ancestry and nothing new came up, though I did find a tree with the incorrect parents and death date for my third great grandfather William H. Wiggins.  I left a note, I'm not sure if that will help or annoy the poster?  Anyway I left a copy of my sources, and reading through them again something hit me.  William H. is mentioned in the book, "Landmarks of Wayne County, New York", and in it he is referred to as the last surviving child of Richard Wiggins and his wife.  Her name isn't given, but I know from other records she was Hannah Ostrander.  William's obituary on the other hand, mentions two sisters among his survivors, Hannah Beasley and Nettie Owen.  Contradictions in records are nothing new to family historians but this was sort of a big one; generally speaking, last surviving children do not have two living sisters.

     I pulled up my Wiggins tree and checked through it, and William H. did indeed have a sister named Hannah who appeared to have been born the year their mother Hannah Ostrander passed away.  I always figured she probably died from giving birth to Hannah Jr.  But the other sister Nettie?  Who was she?  Had I missed her somehow?

     Richard Wiggins, father of William H. was born in 1810 somewhere in New York.  New York didn't keep the nice records New England states did, so I've found very little on him.  I know he went west to Michigan, where his daughter Hannah was born in 1848, and that he died around 1857, but there is no conclusive evidence where he died.  Some trees claim in New York, and that he is buried in Victory, NY.  There is a Richard Wiggins buried there, but nothing proves it is the right Richard Wiggins.  His wife Hannah Ostrander died in Michigan in 1848, his mother Elizabeth died in Michigan in 1856, and his sister Phoebe died in Michigan in 1858.  In fact, both of Richard's parents along with his siblings had moved to Michigan shortly after 1850, so I would think Richard likely died there too.   

Clarissa Wiggins
     But then there is Susan Gray.  I was doing a search of the 1860 census for Wiggins' in Michigan and I found a Clarissa Wiggins, born in 1855 in New York.  Clarissa was living with Susan and Abel Aldrich in Lapeer County, Michigan in 1860.  A tree on Ancestry had mentioned a Susan Gray as the second wife of Richard Wiggins.  Since the tree had no sources, I took it with a grain of salt, but kept it in mind.  Now I wondered, could Susan Aldrich be Susan Gray?  She could!  I found her death record on Family Search-- Susan Aldrich, born in New York, died in 1870 in the Lapeer County Poorhouse at age 37 of consumption, father's name...GRAY!  And he too was now living in Michigan.  This could be the widow of Richard Wiggins, making Clarissa from New York their child.  So Richard had returned to New York after all!  

     It now appears Susan and her little daughter Clarissa came to Michigan after Richard's death, possibly to the home of her father, he was there in Michigan by 1860, perhaps even earlier.  Then after a year or two, Susan married Abel Aldrich. Clarissa would have been 15 when her mother died leaving her orphaned,  what became of her after that?

     I couldn't find her in the 1870 census, and hoped she hadn't been a victim of the same disease that killed her mother.  I tried all the name variations I could think of and nothing.  Then I tried a search using just a first name and dates and places, still nothing.  Next, a search using last name, dates and places, BINGO, there was "Janette" Wiggins, age 15 from New York. Still living in Lapeer County, Michigan, now a servant with the Morse family.  
1870 Census Metamora, Lapeer, MI
     Other records confirmed her name was Clarissa Janette Wiggins.  Still I had nagging doubts, (I'm hard to convince).  I had never seen any concrete proof that my Richard Wiggins married Susan Gray and fathered a daughter.  Until last night that is, when I posted that note to the online tree.   

     Doh! (Homer Simpson forehead smack) The proof I sought had been right there in an obituary in my own computer files.  Of course!  Janette Wiggins and Nettie Owen, the other surviving sister from William's obituary, were one and the same!  A Michigan marriage record transcription at Family Search sealed the deal-- 
January 18, 1880, "Natsie" Wiggins, born in New York in 1857, married David Owen in Delhi, Michigan.
She clearly was the daughter of Richard and Susan, and William H. was her half brother, and they knew each other, or at least knew of each other.

     Technically, the book was right, Nettie Owen was not a surviving child of Richard Wiggins and Hannah Ostrander, although Hannah Jr. was, and she, (Hannah Jr.) was really the last surviving child of Richard and Hannah, not William.  Guess for now I can chalk that up to human error.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday's Photo/Alma May Magoon

     Little Alma May was born January 21, 1898 in Manchester, New Hampshire.  In the 1900 census she and her two older sisters, Marian and Ruth, were living with their grandparents John and Julia Magoon as were several older children of John and Julia.  By 1910, she and her sisters had returned to the home of their parents Carl and Susan Magoon.  Or so it seemed.

     I didn't know why the girls would be living with their grandparents in 1900?   It seemed odd that all three of them would be residing there.  So I took a look at the family trees on  There I discovered Alma's father Carl was widowed in 1899, confirmed by a Family Search death record.  That must be when the girls went to their grandparents.  Since the 1910 census had given me their father's name, I took another look at the 1900 census, and there was Carl listed in the grandparent's household too.  He had taken his girls and moved to his parent's home after the death of his wife.

Death Record From Family Search

     Alma and her sister's mother was in fact May Ellison.  Susan, (Fowler), was the children's stepmother.  Alma is with Carl and Susan in 1920 also, but not in 1930.  It appears she married between those dates.  A tree with no sources says she married and had children, but that information is marked private.  It goes on to say she died in New York City in 1953.

     Several of the trees on Ancestry mistakenly claim Susan was the mother of Alma and her sisters, but the census of 1900 placing them with their grandparents is a dead giveaway that something was up with this family.  It's easy to forget, when the 1910 census tells us the child is a "daughter", that is her relationship to the head of the household only, not to his wife; and it's easy to make assumptions looking at census records. This reminds me of the genealogical golden rule, the more records one can dig up the better.  And don't believe everything you read in an online tree.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

RootsIreland Now A Subscription Site

   This article is from the Irish Genealogy News site

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Best Reason Of All For Family History

     "Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too.  But perhaps it was only an echo."  

     The above thought is that of  a fictional character called, "The Receiver of Memory", and are the last lines in the novel, "The Giver" by Lois Lowry.  Without going into too much detail, the novel describes a utopian society in which fear, hunger and unhappiness have been abolished, but at a price.  The goal is "sameness" no distinctions, no emotions and no memories of the past to trouble the mind.  One member of the group however, is chosen to receive the memories of the unpleasant past in case this information is ever needed to make informed decisions.  He acquires these memories from the previous Receiver, who now takes on the role of "the Giver".  Things go awry when the new Receiver discovers how much richer life is with memories and emotions.

     The whole concept is anathema to family historians.  We too are receivers of memories from vast distances. From places our families left long ago and while we've always know our work had value, we now have a study that proves, (as the Receiver came to understand),  just how much it can add to our lives.  An article that appeared  in the New York Times, written by Bruce Feiler, covered the work of Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University.  After Duke's wife, a learning disability specialist, made the observation that children who knew alot about their families did better in the face of challenges, he set out to test her theory.

     Duke and a colleague developed a set of questions to assess how much the children knew about their family history and compared those results with psychological tests the children had taken.  The results?  "The more children knew about their families' histories, the stronger their sense of control and self-esteem."  In Duke's words, "Children who have the most self confidence have a strong intergenerational self.  They know they belong to something bigger than themselves."

     I think you and I could have told him that, but it's always nice to have a scientific study to back you up.  I find myself drawing inspiration from the strength and determination of my ancestors  quite often.  Especially the Irish ones who arrived here hungry and penniless, and almost without exception built successful lives for themselves and their children.  How sad it would be to lose that knowledge of "us".  It happens all too easily in this highly mobile society we live in.  Many of my friends and acquaintances have grandchildren who live in other states and even other countries.  Long afternoons spent at Grandma or Great-Grandma's home filled with family mementos and stories are not a reality for those kids. 

     So now that a professional has confirmed what we suspected all along, I think we need to make an extra effort to pass along our precious family narratives to the next generation.  Especially to the youngest, whose identities, (not to mention coping mechanisms), are forming right now.

PS  Yes, that is Harold Lloyd, star of the silent screen in the photo above.  I love his movies.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Lying To The Census Taker


     Upstate New York, 47 degrees ( expletive deleted) and raining.  I was going to go out and work in my badly neglected garden this morning, but it looks like I will be doing some genealogy instead.  I'm still working on getting my research notes on Russell Galloway together to send to the historian and was looking through my list of his children when I realized I know very little about his twin sons Edwin and Edward.  I'm not even sure if they were identical or not.  I checked the Lake Shore News on Ancestry and found this--

Lake Shore News Aug 29 1889
In Wolcott at the residence of her uncle, Mr. Edwin Galloway, Aug 21st, Mrs. Mattie M. Bonhotal, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Galloway of Buffalo, aged 17 years and 7 months.

     That was a surprise, I didn't know Edward had moved to Buffalo -- he did later return to the Wolcott area and is buried in Wolcott, New York with the rest of his family.  I also didn't know his daughter Mattie (Martha) married and died at such a young age.  The 1880 census shows Edward in Butler, New York in Wayne County:

Edward Galloway 30 laborer
Alice Galloway     26
Martha Galloway     8
Jane Galloway     6
Fred Galloway     3

    Ancestry includes Edward in the index for Buffalo in the 1892 NY census, but the link goes to the wrong page...he's not on it,  I do believe he was in Buffalo at that time however, since Mattie's obituary places him there in 1889.  Then in the 1900 census, there he is on Breckenridge Street in Buffalo.  I am sure it's him-- Edward Galloway, along with his wife Alice and his youngest child Fred.  All the ages match up, and it even says Alice was the mother of 3, with 2 still living, since poor Mattie had died back in '89.  Everything is as it should be until you look at the birthplaces with the incredible assertion  Edward's father was born in Scotland and his mother in Connecticut???!!!  

     How did the census taker get that so wrong?  Did Alice give mistaken information?  That's not too likely, she must have met her in-laws.  Perhaps Fred was the informant??  But he certainly knew his grandfather.  Did a neighbor give the information?  Also not likely since all the other information was spot-on.  Was Edward pranking the enumerator, had he just had a few nips?  I'm at a loss, but upon further reflection, I've always believed the Galloway's were originally from Scotland, though from other census records I know Edward's father and grandfather were both born in the USA.  His maternal grandmother was born in Connecticut as were her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents but census records show Edward's mother was born in New York where she married his father.  So from whence came this mix-up?  

     If I had to take a guess I would consider the possibility that Edward's paternal side was indeed from Scotland and his mother's line from very early Connecticut and Edward was having a little fun with Mr. Ranney the census man that day in 1900.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thankful Thursday/The Visit

Grandpa Lash 1899-1955, gift from Aunt Ginny

     My aunts arrived in town Saturday.  One, Mother's eldest sister, from Denver and the other, her youngest sister, from Chicago.  These visits are all too seldom and all too short, but the emotions they evoke leave deep, lingering impressions.  Due to distance, I didn't see much of these aunts while I was growing up, but they and my uncle, (Mom's brother at whose home we all met), are the last tangible links I have to my late mother.  Three members of an ever shrinking group who knew Mom from the time she was a child, knew her in a way I never could.  I believe it comes as a shock to most all children when they discover their mother's had a life before the day they were born.  

     Sitting around the table with my aunts and my uncle and cousins, the memories and stories flowed.  Tales of other times and of people I never met who were nonetheless part of my family's history.  Tragic ones about my grandmother, (their mother), dying in a kerosene explosion leaving seven motherless children. Eerie ones like the time great-great grandmother died, and at noon as the post-funeral meal was being served the heavy, wooden farm table broke in two and collapsed.   Mostly though, we laughed at the anecdotes of childhood pranks and eccentric relatives and neighbors.  And at ones about their school days and importantly, (to me), stories about my mother as a girl and young woman, before marriage and motherhood defined who she was.

     As I looked at their dear faces, and heard their laughter as they were swept away with their memories, I found myself wishing Mom was there with her brother and sisters reliving those long ago days along with them.  Instead it was me, and while I treasured every moment, and laughed til I cried and my ribs ached, there was the slightest twinge of guilt.  This must be akin to what is called survivor's guilt, it seemed unfair I was enjoying this visit so much while she was gone.

     The visit is over, until hopefully next year we will all gather again. My youngest aunt brought letters Mom had written her over the years to give me; will future family historians even have that luxury?  With the advent of e-mail I'm thinking likely not.  Both aunts also brought me family photos and articles I've been pouring over.   But with the aunts came something else just as important, more important actually--that indescribable sense of belonging.  Of being part of this circle, no matter what the future brings we are and will remain family.  For that I'm eternally thankful.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Child of 1916

     This morning I sat down to read today's edition of Irish Central  before heading out to work.  This was the intriguing headline:

The Last Surviving Son of the 1916 Easter Rising Turns 101 Today

     There is a video of the man, now Father Joseph Mallin, speaking of his father and his beliefs that is lovely, that I'd like to share.  Here is the link.