What Will I Do on Summer Vaca?

We are on a balanced schedule in our school district now.  While I love having an extended Spring and Fall Break, I must say that I really do desire the time to actually be lazy in the summer.  We have just over a month and a half of summer break.  And while I should be delighted to have that time, I am already finding that it is already filling up.  So I am nervous about not getting in a genealogy trip.  I need to start planning now.  But here’s the problem.  I have so many places I would like to go that I’m not sure where I should focus.  Here are some of my options:

Trip 1: To Springfield and then Keithsburg (Mercer Co.), Illinois

This is more for Andrew’s family.  His Nelson branch ends here.  The problem is that we have no death date for James A. Nelson.  James was born in Kentucky, moved to Indiana where he married Sarah Heaton.  The two of them soon moved to Keithsburg and as far as I know this is where James ended.  Sarah is widowed by 1870.  James is found in the 1860 census.  So where is this guy?  He would have been 47 when the Civil War started, so I doubt that is what happened to him.  Anyway…the point is…I’ve hit a brick wall with this guy.  I am hoping a visit to the capital and the town where he lived might shed some light on this guy.  Pros:  1. Close to Indiana.  Not the longest drive in the world.  2. Right on the Mississippi River, so that could be awesome.  3. I have always wanted to go to Springfield and see all the Lincoln stuff.  Cons:  1. Keithsburg floods…and badly.  I believe that many Mercer County records have been destroyed. 2.  Not the most exciting drive in the world.

Trip 2:  To Union County, South Carolina.

This is my ultimate brick wall.  This is as far back as I have gotten in my Brown family.  Alexander Brown was born in here in 1761 to unknown parents.  He married Sarah Benson and moved up to Darke County, Ohio where some Browns still live today.  Of all the family limbs that I have wanted to trace back to the origin country, this is it.  It’s my surname!  Come on!  There was some speculation that Alexander may have been a Quaker and moved up to Ohio to get away from the slavery issues that plagued the south, along with many other Quakers at this time.  As we all know, Quakers were among the first people to denounce slavery and act on it, even in the north.  Good old Quakers.  I would probably need to stay in a town between Columbia (the capitol) and Union (county seat of Union County) to have the best chance of finding information.  Pros: 1.  I LOVE the south.  In fact the southeast part of this country is one of my favorite places to visit, mostly for the landscape.  I find it extremely beautiful.  And I don’t mind the heat.  2. It’s the Browns!  3. There seems to be plenty of cheap places to stay between Columbia and Union, particularly in Newberry.  Sumter National Forest is nearby, and might require a visit.  Cons:  1.) It’s much farther than Illinois.  2.)  It might be more difficult to find someone interested in going with me (mainly Andrew who hates the hot hot heat).  3.) If no one has figured out Alexander by now, can I? 

Trip 3:  Binghamton, NY and Guilford County, NY

This is an area that my Lacey/Burch/Burtch branch lived and worked.  What is most interesting about this area to me is that my gg and ggg grandfathers were architects here.  Many of the buildings that still stand in Binghamton were designed by them.  I also have quite the little mystery with my gg grandfather Mister Bascom Taylor Lacey (AKA B.T. Lacey).  He was 90 years old and living in East Stroudsburg, PA in 1956.  I am guessing he didn’t do a ton of moving around before this. He is not buried with his first wife (who was not even provided a headstone) and I can’t seem to find where his second wife is buried either.  I thought that because he family business (and much of the family themselves) were based in NY that I would be able to find some info on him after his death in Binghamton.  I could be totally off-base here.  Pros:  1. I know with certainty that the buildings my people built are still standing.  I will get to stand in them and admire up close.  2. It’s a very pretty drive to NY with the potential for lots of little stops along the way.  3. This B.T. Lacey mystery is driving me nuts and I would love to know where he was finally “laid to rest”.  Please someone find me a flipping obituary!  4. I could maybe combine it with the PA trip that I plan on definitely taking in July.  Cons:  1. Once again, a long drive.  Who knows how much gas will be this summer.  2. New York = expensive.  I know it’s not the city, but the closer you get to the east coast the higher the prices generally.  3. I am going to NYC this Memorial Day.  Going again seems a little overkill.

Places I will definitely be visiting:

  • Darke County, Ohio (Brown fam)
  • Rush County, Indiana (Boyce fam)
  • Wabash, Indiana (Oyler fam)
  • Marshall County, Indiana (Reed fam)
  • Hendricks County, Indiana (Sparks fam)
  • Eastern PA (my mother’s whole side of the family)

So…any ideas you guys?  Anybody know of any more pros and cons of each location?  I could use a little help deciding.

A Little Irish In All Of Us

I was sick today.  I have actually been sick for days, but today is officially a sick day because I had to call into work.  I have it all: fever, chills, coughing fits, swimmy head.  I’m generally pretty useless.  One thing I used to really enjoy, and actually used to feel guilty about partaking in when I was jobless, was 2 full hours of West Wing on Bravo in the morning.  So I thought that I could guiltlessly watch West Wing while I moaned on the couch and used the dog as a pillow.  Guess what!  Bravo does not show West Wing for two hours every day anymore.  They show like 12 hours of Millionaire Matchmaker.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I kind of love that show and have nothing against it.  Millionaire Matchmaker, however, does not hold a candle to two hours daily of Josh Lyman and CJ Cregg.  I’m sorry if anyone disagrees.

So I watched the news for awhile, which was more depressing than usual, considering the horrible tornado in Joplin, which is being covered nonstop.  But then all of a sudden there was a switchover to our President, in Ireland.  They showed video of him having a grand old time in Moneygall with his distant relatives from Ireland.  Then I got to see him give his speech in Dublin.  He talked about how America is so infused with Irish roots.  It was mentioned on the news several times after that how everyone tries to claim they have Irish roots.

Now, my name is Erin.  This is another word for Ireland.  But as far as my parents were concerned, they had no idea whether or not we were Irish.  I guess they got lucky that I was a super pale strawberry blonde with blue eyes.

In honor of the U.S. desire to be Irish, I will honor my own Irish roots (that I have found so far).

Hugh Davidson and his wife, Elizabeth Allen, were from a tiny little town in Northern Ireland, in the County Antrim, called Randalstown.  They came over to the U.S. in 1812 just before the war started.  They brought two children with them.  Once they got into the U.S., they quickly moved inland towards Ohio and made a home in a few different counties before finally settling in Darke County, near Versailles.

Hugh and Elizabeth (Allen) Davidson, Darke County, Ohio

I don’t claim to know why they came here.  That’s one thing I’ll have to look into when I have time to focus on these folks. It may have something to do with the impending war with Britain.  I’m guessing there is some relation there.

This is one of the few ancestors I have found from Ireland.  What I find interesting is that none of these Irish ancestors come from the Republic of Ireland.  They are all from Northern Ireland, British territory.

For those interested, Hugh is my 5th great grandfather.  The branch goes as follows:  Hugh (father of)> James Davidson (father of)> Mary Ellen Davidson (mother of)> Mary Catherine Staudt (mother of)> Eva Jane Hill (mother of)> Gene Odell Munn (mother of)> John Thomas Brown (father of)> ME!

Now back to moping, moaning, and coughing.

New Year for New Adventures

As this year comes to a close, I still have one little trip planned for next week.  My friend, C-Dogg B-Dizzle, showed some interest in visiting nearby Monroe and Greene counties to see the places where her B-Dizzle ancestors first came to Indiana.

Next year I have a short list of places I would like to visit to continue on my search:

1.) Darke County, OH – Again.  I have already been out there this past year, but there is SO much research to be done on my Dad’s side and Andrew’s Mom’s side.  I could do work there for an entire week.  Maybe I’ll get crazy and even find a cheap hotel and do an overnighter.

 

Garst Museum in Darke County (Greenville, OH) where researching ancestry is made easy by great help!

2.)  Keithsburg, IL – This is the farthest back I can get in the Nelson branch.  While I know that James A. Nelson was born in Kentucky, and spent some time in Indiana, he was last heard from in Keithsburg, IL, a town along the Mississippi River.  What worries me is that Keithsburg, and much of Mercer County, has a horrible habit of being flooded.  I am afraid that records will be scarce.  We shall see.  While taking a trip to Keithsburg I am determined to stop in Springfield on the way and visit the Lincoln attractions.  I am gonna nerd it up ALL the way.

3.)  Pennsylvania/New York – Pennsylvania has very poor online records, which is unfortunate for me because my Mom’s entire family came through Pennsylvania.  I would really like to have a Scranton, Lock Haven, Laceyville, Binghamton NY trip.  One thing I am really interested in seeing are some buildings in the Binghamton area that my ggg grandfather built, as he was a regionally known architect.  At one point I had a whole map created about the route to get there, where to stop, and where to stay.  I think it’s perfect for a summer trip.

4.)  Local libraries.  I still have not gotten to the Indiana State Library.  Shame.  Also, the Ft. Wayne library is KIND of calling my name.  It’s supposedly the biggest genealogy section outside of the Salt Lake City collection.

5.)  Union, SC – This is kind of the stretch.  I very highly doubt I’ll make it to South Carolina, but this is the absolute farthest I have been able to trace my Brown family online.  Some fellow named Alexander Brown left Union, SC and settled the family in Darke County, where many still remain today.  I would LOVE to get down there.  If not this year, maybe next.

Happy Holidays!  Here’s to a new year of research excitement and adventure!

A Long Darke Trip (Part 2 of 2)

Over the course of a couple of weeks after my summer trip to New York and DC I decided that I would create a Google map to identify important places in mine and Andrew’s family history.  This would be birthplaces and deathplaces (addresses if possible) and cemeteries mostly.  I had a fun time watching my map take shape and actually seeing the pattern of migration across the country.  I divided it into four different colors, one for my mother’s branch and then father’s, and then the same for Andrew’s side.  The reason I decided to put this together was to create something easily accessible for when we were out on a trip and had a little extra time.  This happened while we were in DC and I had a hard time finding a place I wanted to stop because there was no easy way to find all my important locations along a course from DC to Indianapolis.

Does this make me a nerd?  Potentially.

Anyway…

I used my fabulous Google map after my trip to Garst Museum to find homes and cemeteries in the area where I could find my peoples.

Andrew had  great great great grandparents who lived and died on Water Street in Greenville.  I drove past the address but it seems this house has been torn down and was replaced in the 1930s or 1940s.  There is a church still next door that seems as though it must have been there while that family was there.  I took an uneventful picture for Andrew’s mom along Water Street.

Water Street - Where John Clinton and Sarah (Sink) Crumrine resided

The connection to Andrew is as follows:  Andrew Nelson > Gloria (Reed) Nelson > Esther (Bolinger) Reed > Oliver E. Bolinger > Sarah (Crumrine) Bollinger > John and Sarah (Sink) Crumrine.

I also knew there were some family members that I couldn’t figure out and I wanted to check some of the smaller pioneer cemeteries in the area.

A lot of my peoples come from Neave Township in Darke County so I looked up a couple of the cemeteries around there and went searching for my surnames.  I started out in Oak Hill Cemetery in Fort Jefferson.  I’m not sure if Fort Jefferson is a town, village, or what.  It’s small and as far as I could tell there weren’t any stoplights.   I found a few headstones, but I still haven’t managed to try and match it up with those in my tree.

I then drove by the park (that sits where the fort used to be) and noticed another small cemetery down the street.  This was a really small one next to a Methodist Church.  I parked and started walking the aisles of stones.  Unfortunately I could only read about 50% of the inscriptions.  What I found very interesting was that some of the oldest ones were the easiest to read.  My only assumption was that it was harder stone.  I would like to know what they carved some of those very early headstones from.

As I was finishing my self-guided tour an older gentleman with a cane yelled from the road, “You finding what you’re looking for?”  I have to say that throughout this ENTIRE day I had about ten people ask me this.  People were so friendly and helpful.

I told him that I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for, but that I had some surnames that I was hoping to find.  I did find one or two in this small pioneer cemetery.  I found a Nyswonger.  It’s spelled a little differently than some of my peoples but it’s possible they’re still related.  Spelling in the 1800s seems to have been an afterthought.

Thus began the hour long conversation with the friendly neighbor.  He told me ALL about this street and what it used to look like when he moved here.  He bought this house over 50 years ago with his wife, Bert (Roberta) who just died two years ago, just sitting in the kitchen after breakfast.  He took me on a tour of his amazing garden.  His Asian Pear tree was spectacular and I suggested he try to sell them in Greenville.  He says he already does that, and smiled proudly.  He told me about his kids and his grandkids.  When he found out I was from Indianapolis he told me about all of his hiking adventures in Brown County, Indiana.  He was in a hiking and camping club.

One thing I had been wondering for a couple years now about this area was why does everyone have a metal roof.  It’s the opposite of how it is here.  When you drive around in Indy, almost everyone has shingles.  If you see a house with a metal roof it’s kind of rare.  In old-town Western Ohio if you see a house with shingles it’s rare.  Almost everyone has a metal roof.  I asked the man why he thought that would be.  He says, “Well, they’re more expensive but they last longer.”  This wasn’t an answer.  I asked, “Well, is there a state tax deduction or something for installing a metal roof?”  He said that there was nothing like that.  So….I’m still stumped on the roof issue.

After about an hour of chatting he reminded me that it was just about dinner time and I might want to head home.  He walked me to my car and saw me off.  He was very sweet.  I never even got his name, but I know where he lives.

A Long Darke Trip (Part 1 of 2)

I am in the middle of a little bout of unemployment.  I have some part-time work I have been able to do on the side, but mostly I am without work.  While having mini adventures during this time makes me feel guilty, so does sitting around looking for jobs and not finding anything.

So a few weeks ago I decided to travel out to Darke County, Ohio.  I believe it was a Tuesday.  Much of my family came from Darke County and the surrounding areas.  Oddly enough, Andrew’s mother’s side also had a chunk come from the same area.  I have looked hard to make sure there are no overlapping relations.  We’re all good here, kids.

I have a grandmother still in Dayton and I can’t tell you how many times I have driven to Ohio on I-70.  I wanted something more scenic, so I had an amazing drive across State Road 36.  I picked it up in Pendleton and took it almost all the way to Greenville, Ohio.  It was humid and early when I left which created this beautiful haze over the massive sprawling yards and farms almost the entire duration of the trip.  Taking 36 was a fabulous idea.  Good job, me.

I got to Greenville just in time for lunch and had a lovely meal at Bistro Off Broadway.  They did give me a weird look for eating alone, but maybe I was being self-conscious (but I don’t think so).

I headed to Garst Museum, an amazing little museum for the history of Darke County.  This is also the place where one researches the county’s family histories.  It’s the place to be.  When I walked in I paid my $5 and was told that there were two exhibits going on at the museum, one on Annie Oakley and one on Lowell Thomas.

This was great!  Annie Oakley is actually of distant relation to Andrew!  Lowell Thomas was actually my great-uncle (by marriage)!  I decided that I should get started on research first.  A small, fast-speaking, older woman gave me the instructions on how to begin.

Sign here.  I signed.

Write down the surnames you are researching.  Oh….hmmmm….lots?

It didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t just sort of browse and have things come to me.  My father’s side of the family and Andrew’s mother’s side have so many families from that area I wasn’t sure where to begin.

Let me show you.

Erin’s fams (surnames):  Brown, Munn, Ditmer, Hill, North, Surber, Niswonger, Staudt, Fryman, Harnsberger, Beam, Miller, Goings/Goins/Goens, Davidson, and Cartwright

Andrew’s fams (surmanes):    Bollinger, Crumrine, Bausman, Sink, Blocher, and Michael

I started with just two surnames on my side, Brown and Munn, and then one surname for Andrew’s, Bollinger.  I started with these names because I actually know people with these names.  I thought it might be a little easier.

I only had four hours till the museum closed for the day.  I started with Browns.  BAD IDEA!  I could spend an entire day on just the Browns.  TONS of information.

This was my first trip to a research facility to work on just family history.  I realized how much more information I could get if I travel.  Man…I have found the best hobby EVER.

There was only one other person who was in there the majority of the time with me.  About two hours into my research he says to me, “You’re not supposed to take pictures in here.” He did this mid-snap.  I gasped.   I’m not generally a rule breaker.  “Oh, but I thought I was allowed!”  And then he laughed at me and said he loves doing that.  Turns out I really wasn’t supposed to be taking pictures, but I don’t think he cared.  I didn’t read the instructional sign correctly.  Woops.

He asked me how my research was going and what names I was looking for (ancestry pleasantries).  I asked him if his family was from Darke County.  His wasn’t, but his wife was.  He explained to me that he is an author and that he was writing a book about a distant relative of his wife (I believe it was a great great uncle), last name Roberson.    This distant relative was the only man hung in Darke County, Ohio.  I was so excited to reveal my connection!  “That’s great!  My great great grandfather was deputized to find the only man hung in Darke County!”

It’s true.

Turns out that this man I was talking to in the museum was the writer of the article where I learned this little tidbit of information.  He said that after that article came out he started hearing from people all over the area with their own little tidbits of information.  He decided to write a book about it!  I can’t wait to read it.  I believe his name was Bill Stevens (the writer, not the hanged).  The link to the article written about this interesting event in Darke County History is included here:

http://dailyadvocate.com/main.asp?SectionID=108&SubSectionID=388&ArticleID=129708&TM=43764.42

The writer left.  I was alone again for a while and dug through folders till it was time to pack up.  I decided that I wanted to take a look at the museum’s exhibits before I left (I HAD paid to get in).  I walked through Annie Oakley’s and realized there was much too much to see in the 15 minutes I had.  Seems she was an amazing lady.  A good shot, anyway.

I walked into the next room and found a room dedicated to an exhibit of Lowell Thomas.

I didn’t know who Lowell Thomas was until I graduated from college.  In fact, the only reason I knew then was because he was an answer to a crossword puzzle from an antique magazine we were playing with at work.  The question was something about Lawrence of Arabia.  The answer was “Lowell Thomas” and I was like, “That’s my uncle!”  People just kind of looked at me in a sort of way that said, “Why is Erin so excited that she has an uncle named Lowell Thomas?”  And I kept going. “THAT Lowell Thomas is my uncle!  I swear!  My dad told me he was famous but I didn’t believe him!”

That’s the truth.  I was always suspicious of exaggerations, and assumed that this was one of my father’s.  But this is the truth.  My great aunt Marianna, a very interesting, friendly, and lovely lady who passed away earlier this year, married this Lowell Thomas in the 1970s after his first wife died.  She had also been previously married.  He didn’t live much longer and died in the very early 1980s.  If I ever met him (doubtful) I would have been much too young to remember such things.

So, for those of you who don’t know who Lowell Thomas is…

http://www.pbs.org/lawrenceofarabia/players/thomas.html

As I walked through the exhibit there were pictures of my Aunt Marianna in her younger years with this Lowell fellow.  Honestly I don’t remember ever seeing any of them before.  I turned a corner and there were condolence letters written to her upon his death from an assortment of characters:  Ronald Reagan, Art Linkletter, Isaac Asimov, and even Erma Bombeck.

Condolence letter from Reagan sent

Lowell and Marianna Thomas on Trip to China

Condolence letter from Isaac Asimov

It was a little surreal.