Sunday, July 15, 2018

Rev. Vincent Watson, Wish I Had Known

Rev. Vincent W. Watson

     While pursuing my family history I've come across scoundrels and bigamists, nuns and ordinary people just trying their best to get by; some fascinating and others not terribly so.  They all have their stories nonetheless, that should be told. This blog is about a cousin I dearly would have loved to meet, he passed away only five years ago though regretfully, our paths never crossed.  

     I put a small tree on the Family Search website a few months ago and every once in awhile I get a message from them about a possible match, sort of like Ancestry's little leaf hints. This new match was from my Vincent line on Mom's side.  It contained a link to an obituary dated 2013 on a pay site I don't have a subscription to.  The obituary was so recent I thought perhaps it could be accessed on another site and sure enough it could.  The funeral home the family used had posted it.

     I knew of this man's existence, and that he had become a Methodist minister, but had no idea he was still among the living in the 21st century.  My mother's grandmother Hattie Vincent had a brother named George.  George Vincent's daughter Grace and her husband Floyd Watson were the parents of my newly rediscovered cousin Rev. Vincent Watson, born in 1916.  His family lived in downstate New York and Connecticut, hundreds of miles from where my family resides and as families sometimes do, they drifted apart.

     In part, his obituary read, 
"In 1955, Rev. Watson received the George Washington medal for a Memorial Day sermon, "Our Responsibility for Remembering." Participation in civic activities included the 1963 March on Washington and a 1965 trip to Selma, AL."  
     That stopped me in my tracks.  Vincent Watson's parent were born and raised in a very rural area not known for, shall we say, a deep interest in civil rights.  I was surprised and curious, but mostly I very proud of this man.  A cousin on my father's side who belonged to the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph was in Selma in 1965 and helped care for the marchers who were attacked and injured there.  The bishop had forbade the nuns to march so they did their bit by tending the wounded, but Rev. Watson was out there on the street!

     The obituary continued,
"In 1984, Rev. Watson began genealogy research which led to an expansive family tree; an only child with few close relatives, Rev. Watson discovered ancestry connections as far back as the fifth century."  
     He was interested in genealogy!  How did we not connect?  It occurs to me he may have stopped actively researching by the time the internet and message boards came about, he would have been 68 in 1984. Ancestry would not go online until 1996 and at that early date was nothing like the site we use today.  I must confess I'm slightly skeptical of the claim about the 5th century but still, I'm sad I missed this remarkable man.  And I think I may need to add to my Family Search tree.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

See! It's Not A Waste Of Time To Follow Distant Relatives


     I'd like to shake the hand of the person who thought it would be a good idea to put books on the internet.  Especially the obscure genealogies.  Whilst perusing records of the Wiggins family I drifted into the family of Freelove Nichols who in 1803 married Richard Wiggins of New York City, (who I believe is a brother of my 4th great-grandfather William Wiggins who moved to Wolcott, NY).  As I delved further into the Nichols family I began to feel a wee bit guilty about wasting time on lines I wasn't closely related to.

   I came across information about Freelove's mother, Freelove Wright, which stated that before she married Samuel Nichols, she was married to Samuel Wood for only a short time before his untimely death and that she bore him a son named William whose name she changed to Samuel in honor of his father.  A short biography of William/Samuel Wood followed which detailed his life and various careers, the last one being founder and owner of a successful publishing company.  A list of some of the books he published was included in the biography, many of which were for children.

     That certainly piqued my interest.  In an earlier blog I made mention of  an educational book written by the above mentioned Richard Wiggins.  I eagerly turned the virtual page and there it was!  The book "The New-York Expositor", written by Richard Wiggins, was on the list.  Samuel had published the book of his niece's husband Richard Wiggins in 1818.  That certainly tends to tie the two men together genealogically speaking.  Had I listened to that nagging voice saying,"you're wasting your time", I never would have found this connection.

      It's a real shame New York didn't keep records in the early 18th century, or many in the 19th for that matter.  It's proving difficult to find evidence definitively linking the various Wiggins in New York City to each other or to those living in Wolcott, making clues like the book list especially valuable.  Speaking of which, I made the trip to the Wayne County Historian's office today only to find the 1855 census of Wayne County, New York is not complete.   Towns whose names begin with the letters A-P are all that survive.  The records for Wolcott no longer exist so there is no chance of finding Richard Wiggins; the one mentioned in the last blog who died in 1857 and who married Hannah Ostrander. 

         The only thing worse that no record created, is record loss.



Thursday, June 21, 2018

It Was There All Along: Part Two

Clarissa Wiggins, Earl Owen and David Owen

     In my original post written almost four years ago I mused about the discovery of a previously unknown daughter of my third-great-grandfather Dr. Richard Wiggins.  Clarissa Janette Wiggins was born in New York, almost certainly in Wolcott, in February of 1855.  After the death of my third-great-grandmother Hannah Ostrander Wiggins in Michigan in 1848 Richard had taken a second wife, Susan Gray, who was Clarissa's mother.

     Richard is reputed to have died in 1857 and been buried in Old Westbury cemetery in Victory, New York, close to Wolcott.  I was never quite sure if the Richard Wiggins buried there was my third-great-grandfather or not since his widow Susan and daughter Clarissa were in Michigan just a few years later, but new evidence makes it seem more likely.  Richard was in Michigan in 1848 when his daughter with Hannah Ostrander was born and Hannah died, but he appears in both the Michigan and Wolcott, New York censuses in 1850.  The Wolcott census lists him widowed and with his children at the home of his parents.

     There is some conflicting evidence about Clarissa's birth place, her death record says Michigan but all censuses say she was born in New York, the 1900 census says she was born in February of 1855 which matches the date her son gave on her death record.  Since the information in the censuses was probably provided by Clarissa herself, I'm going with New York as the place of her birth.

     Now for the new evidence; taking a closer look at Clarissa's mother Susan Gray, I discovered Susan living with her parents in 1850 Wolcott, only five households from the Wiggins clan.  Clearly, Clarissa's parents met and married in Wolcott and in all likelihood she was born there.  Susan must have felt she was making a good marriage, Richard being an older man and a doctor to boot even if he came with five children.  It seems the couple were still there in New York in 1857 when Richard died, (yes I now believe that is him in Westbury Cemetery), and afterwards Susan and Clarissa went west to Michigan either with her parents who appear there in the 1860 census or to join them in their new home.  That same census shows Susan remarried and living with her second husband Abel Aldrich and her daughter Clarissa Wiggins.  As noted in the first blog, Susan died from consumption when Clarissa was 15 and the young girl was compelled to become a servant.

     Also new, while researching Clarissa years ago I found she had married a David Owen in Michigan around 1879.  Her father, my Grandpa Richard, had a sister, Elizabeth, who also moved to Michigan along with with her husband Charles Owen.  Their child David M. was born there in 1842.  Somehow I never put two and two together.  After finding the second family of Grandpa Richard I left off studying them, I was after all descended from his first marriage.  And I went no further with his sister Elizabeth Wiggins Owen's children other than noting their names and birth dates and places.  Today while looking through my family trees it hit me, DAVID OWEN!  Could it be the same David Owen?  Turns out it was, Clarissa married her first cousin.

     So what did I learn from this?  That I have an annoying tendency to miss evidence right under my nose for one thing, but also how very interesting and satisfying it is to put all the little clues together and watch the big picture slowly take form.  It's a process that can't be hurried lest you miss one of those clues and it's full meaning -- witness it took me four years to pull it all together though in my defense, I was working on other lines at the same time.  Since Clarissa was born in early1855 she should appear with her parents in that census, but that old familiar roadblock rears it's ugly head here, the Wayne County New York census of 1855 is not online.  Which means I will have to drive to Lyons at some point and view it in the historian's office.  I will keep you posted...

Saturday, June 2, 2018

My Latest Ebay Purchase/ Or How Patience Won The Day


     I've been spending most of my research time on the McGarr family originally from Ballyraggan, County Kildare of late.  My working theory is that my 3rd great-grandfather Daniel McGarr was the cousin of another Daniel McGarr who left the same area in Ireland for upstate New York.  Daniel in New York was the proud father of three nuns, Sisters of Mercy all.  I wrote about one of them here.

     Shortly after writing that blog, I came across a reference to two books written by Sister Mary Frances McGarr, another of Daniel's daughters.  Naturally, finding one or both of those books suddenly became the most important task on my to-do list.  I searched all the antique and used book sites and finally located a copy of one of them, "May Devotions For Children", on Ebay.  Sadly for me, the offer had ended.  I sent a note to the seller asking if the book had been sold and was informed he still had it and would be relisting in a week or so.  I had been hoping he'd just let me purchase it then and there, but that was not to be and I soon found out why.  When it was again put online, the price had strangely increased.  

     I hate to sound cynical, but it was clear the book had been on the market for awhile with no takers, but when I expressed interest in it the value had somehow risen.  This was so irritating I decided to just keep my eyes open for another copy.  Three or four weeks had passed when a notice appeared in my mailbox from Ebay informing me an item I'd been looking at had been reduced in price.  Yes, it was the book.  I really didn't want to patronize that seller, but I'd had no luck at all finding it elsewhere so I ordered it and in the end I'm glad I did.

     It's a sweet little book, about 3 1/2 by 5 inches, filled with advice on how to keep May, the month of the Blessed Virgin, holy.  For each day of the month there are suggestions and reflections, written by teacher Sister Mary Frances at a child's level.   May 23rd's entry for example--
Dear Children-- While thinking of the beautiful devotions which so greatly help us to be good, we must not forget the Sign of the Cross.  Every time we make this sign devoutly, using holy water, we get 100 days Indulgence.  There is one thing, dear children, that you must remember in using the Sign of the Cross, it must be made devoutly.  It will not do to make it all in a rush, without a thought of what we do.
     You don't hear much about indulgences these days.  I hope someday my grandchildren will find this book written by their cousin useful, now I need to find more copies so they can all have one.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Photo From The Shoe Box

Alice Wiggins Aleshire at the gas station
     When George Wiggins and Ida Edwards were married Christmas Day in 1895 it must have seemed like an auspicious beginning to the young couple.  The Wiggins' would have only two children, a boy and girl, somewhat unusual for a rural family in the opening years of the 20th century.  Their son Carl was born in 1905, followed in 1907 by Alice Aurilla; named for her paternal grandmother Aurilla Garner wife of William Wiggins.  Aurilla Garner died in 1906 and so was spared witnessing what would become of her son's family.

     George contracted the dreaded disease consumption (TB) and passed away 3 May 1909 at age 35.  Five months later, his four year old son Carl also died. I've not found a cause for his demise, it could have been the disease that took his father or perhaps not.  Regardless, an already grieving Ida now had to bury her only son.  The census taken in 1910 finds Ida and three year old Alice still living in the rented house on Williams Street in Wolcott, New York they had moved to shortly before George's passing.  The census taken by New York State five years later showed that Ida had remarried and she and Alice were living with her new husband, farmer Marion Haner in Sterling, New York close to Wolcott.

     This second marriage would not last long either, in March of 1925 Ida herself died at the age of 47.  Her obituary refers to her as Mrs. Marion Haynor of Camden, New York and states she died following a "very critical operation".  The New York State Death Index gives her place of death as Buffalo, New York, quite distant from Camden, giving the impression the operation was performed in that city.  

     At 18, Alice had now lost both parents but she was determined to make something of her life.  After graduating from Camden High School Alice enrolled at the Albany School of Nursing, landing a job at an Albany hospital after graduation.  Somewhere in the ensuing years Alice made the acquaintance of Theodore Aleshire of Port Gibson, New York, some 250 miles from Albany.  In 1938 they were married at the home of  her mother Ida's brother, her uncle Leroy Edwards.

     Together Alice and Theodore operated a gas station on Route 31 just outside Palmyra, New York.  The same station pictured at the top of this page.  I bet the A on the sign in the right corner was for Aleshire. The couple would have no children.  Theodore died in 1962 and Alice in 1979 in Palmyra.  The station is still there today though it no longer functions as such, instead it is a residence as it also was in Alice and Theodore's time there.  I can vaguely  recall visiting Alice many years ago with my late mother, whose grandmother Mary Wiggins was the sister of Alice's father George Wiggins, and being charmed by Alice's tiny home filled with antiques.  It was in my mother's shoe box of family photos that I found the shot of Alice with her dog outside the service station.  

     While the gas station still remains, no living descendants of George Wiggins or Ida Edwards do.  I still live nearby and occasionally  my route takes me past the old station, every time it does I think of Alice and my mother and that long ago visit.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

It Just Dropped In My Lap


     I've been contemplating placing a marker on the grave of my great-great-grandparents James O'Hora and Maria McGarr.  Both came from the same area in Ireland, right on the Carlow/Kildare border and married in Auburn, New York.  All their children with the exception of the youngest were born there in Auburn, that exception being my great-grandfather Edward who was born at the newly purchased family farm in Littleville, New York.

     Years ago while seeking their graves at St. Agnes in Clifton Springs, New York, (that being the closest Catholic cemetery at the time of James' death), I chanced to cross paths with the cemetery caretaker who fortuitously lived next to the cemetery and showed me the records he had, giving the location of the family plot.  He also showed me a card with a sketch of the graves with the designations, Father, Mother, Daughter, Son, Son -- no names other than James O'Hare being the purchaser.  That didn't deter me much, I've seen the surname spelled so many different ways I would have been surprised if it had said O'Hora and after all, the first name was James.

     Father and Mother were easy, that was James and Maria.  Daughter had to be Sarah McGinty who died at her parent's farm at the age of 42, the other three daughter's final resting places are already known.  The two sons gave me pause, James and Maria had four sons, Edward and Michael were buried in nearby St. Rose's cemetery which left Daniel and James Jr.  But Daniel's obituary said he was buried at St. Rose's like his brothers and James Jr. died at age 27 in 1881 before either cemetery had been established.  He was returned to Auburn's St. Joseph for burial.

     I almost began to wonder if it was indeed my family in the O'Hare plot.  I wrote to the secretary at St. Agnes asking for information such as when the cemetery was founded and when the plot was purchased but there was nothing more.  She went the extra mile however, reading through the minutes of old church trustee meetings until she found a reference in 1883 of the trustees asking the diocese for funding for a cemetery.  Not only that, she wrote to tell me one of the trustees who signed the minutes just happened to be James "O'Hore"!  That made me think, James was likely one of the first to buy a plot in the new cemetery, what if he had his son James Jr. re-interred at St. Agnes?  There was only one way to find out--call St. Joseph Cemetery.  I explained to the lady who answered the phone what I was looking for, gave a name and a date and in seconds I had my answer-- "James O'Hore, moved to Clifton Springs".  Yes!

     That left one more son.  There is no cemetery record of Daniel ever being buried at St. Rose, I believe the newspaper was mistaken about that, though there is nothing other than "Son" in St. Agnes records.  But it makes sense he would have been buried with his parents, he had no close relatives at the time of his death and the remaining graves in his brother's plot were reserved for his brother's wife and children.  I believe I have the right spot for James and Maria and thanks to a couple of very helpful secretaries, more details to add to the family story besides.  All because I wanted a marker for Grandma and Grandpa.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Those Land Records Again


     Almost exactly four years ago I wrote a blog titled, "The Things You Come Across In Land Records" .  That piece was about my Galloway family, in particular my fourth-great-grandmother Armina, wife of George Galloway.  I have yet to find her maiden name though it may be Russell, the name she chose for her second son.  In the blog, I share the deed I came across which granted Armina the use of part of her wealthy employer's property for the rent of one kernel of grain per year.  A really great deal.

     Today I noticed I had never checked the New York land records at Family Search for Galloway real estate transactions in Ontario County, New York.  I don't know how I missed doing that. I knew that my third-great-grandfather the above mentioned Russell lived in Phelps, Ontario County for a time, but miss it I did.  I should mention I'm always looking for proof of Russell being the brother of Milo Galloway since New York records for the early 1800's are rather scarce, and while I've amassed quite a bit of circumstantial evidence of a relationship between the two men, more never hurts.

     As I perused the land records today I came across a deed dated 14 May 1853 that noted Russell selling five acres in Phelps to Stephen Aldrich for $2,300.  Nothing too exciting there though it did give Russell's address as Arcadia, New York indicating he had left Phelps by that time.  No, the really interesting part was when I got to where the sellers, Russell Galloway and his wife Harriet B. [Moore], promised to warrant and defend against any claims on the property EXCEPT for a mortgage of $1,700 with $365 remaining unpaid, executed by Russell and Harriet to...Milo!  That was a jaw dropper, and another bit of evidence of a relationship.

     So to reiterate, even though slogging through the sometimes often boring, damaged or hard to read old deed books may seem of not much use I can honestly say I've made some wonderful discoveries within.