Saturday, November 17, 2018
Florida has hurricanes. The northeast has blizzards. And we here in sunny California have forest fires. As of this check, in fact, we have 146,000 acres worth of fire-demolished turf—and counting. And that's just up here in northern California.
I may be at a safe 140 mile distance from the troubles up in Paradise, but don't think we're untouched by this tragedy. Other than the unhealthy air we're breathing, the bulging traffic in town makes me wonder how many refugees from the "Camp" fire have sought shelter, not in the completely packed emergency centers in Butte County and neighboring areas, but even as far away as down here with family—any family who will take them in.
Even while the northern part of our state is burning (not to mention, its twin tragedy down south), someone back east is fiddling. Apparently, it's no longer fashionable to provide media coverage of devastation while it is still occurring—at least, apparently to some viral Twitter conversations mulling over whether it's more fair to give 24-hour coverage to hurricanes than fire-nados. Please. Somebody hand me a particulate respirator.
So, while the chaos continues, the rest of us stand by, useless, but warned to stay indoors. Colleges have closed their doors around here—yes, this far away—and as the air quality continues to plummet, I suspect other organizations will follow suit.
Meanwhile, what's an isolated family historian to do? Stay safely indoors and...and...well, go online and do more research. What else is there to do? And, apparently, so has everyone else, judging by the sluggish response of my favorite family history website last night. Admittedly, that is so First World Problem, but when we are captive in our own homes, what else is there to do?
Above: Watching the data as things go from bad to worse. The top segment in the map to the right represents the air quality rating for the county where I live. The number 290 written there places it within the range from 201 to 300 labeled "Very Unhealthy." The next category up is designated "Hazardous." That's for the Central Valley counties south of Sacramento, California. I can only cringe to think what the people north of the state capital are experiencing. Data courtesy the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
Friday, November 16, 2018
Perhaps the reason little Myrtle Knapp—the wiggleworm in the photograph from Tuesday's post—used only her middle name was that Clara was both her first name and that of her mother. The matriarch of the William Malphus Knapp family was known as Clara Alice.
The elder Clara was widowed fairly young—she was thirty four at the time—when her husband passed away in 1908. By then, though the family had moved from Kansas to Washington state, they had returned to the midwest, this time to Oklahoma. The widowed Clara Alice Knapp was easily found in that same location in Major County, Oklahoma, by the time of the 1910 census, living with her eight children, along with her father, Samuel Hoover.
Meanwhile, about two hundred miles away, Clara Alice's deceased husband's aunt—thirty one year old Flora Knapp, whose photo we saw yesterday—was by then married to Roy Jones and living in Douglass, Kansas.
The house immediately next door to the Jones' residence was a household with the exact opposite configuration of Clara Alice's situation back in Chester, Oklahoma. This was the home of Mary Banfill, whose widowed son, George, was living with his two teenaged daughters, Vina and Hazel.
While I have yet to find any documentation that Aunt Flora served as a cunning matchmaker, you are welcome to come up with your own guess as to how George Banfill in Kansas met Clara Alice Hoover Knapp in Oklahoma.
It wasn't long after those two 1910 census records were compiled, including the two households separated by nearly two hundred miles, when a couple met at the Major County courthouse in Oklahoma to exchange vows and blend their families. On October 10, 1912, George Banfill and Clara Alice Knapp became husband and wife.
By the time of the next census in 1920, George and Clara Alice had a family comprised of three of her children—Robert, William Milton, and Florence Knapp—plus two children of their own: Harold and Nila Banfill. In the 1920 census, George's two daughters had already moved on, and by the time of the 1930 census—by then, moved back to Douglass, Kansas—the only children remaining in the Banfill household were those George and Clara Alice had in common.
When 1940 arrived, however, the couple had moved far afield of either midwestern state. They now showed up in the Great Valley of California, living next door to their son, Harold, himself a married man with a two year old son of his own. George and Clara Alice apparently remained in that California location for the rest of their lives, for George was buried in the Modesto Pioneer Cemetery in 1947, and Clara Alice followed in 1948.
For those who aren't familiar with this part of California, Modesto is located in Stanislaus County, the county just to the south of the one where I live. Though I found photographs of their families—both the Knapp family and the Banfill family, whom we'll meet next week—up in Sonora, which is a drive away in the foothills, I consider this to be a possible explanation for how pictures of a family from Kansas and Oklahoma might have ended up in California at all.
Best of all, though, I now can say I might have a better idea as to why the Banfills might have held on for so long to the picture of Aunt Flora.
Above: Close-up of Clara Alice Hoover Knapp from a Knapp family photograph taken circa 1898; photograph currently in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant.
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Included in the set of family photographs I rescued from a Sonora, California, antique shop was a smaller grouping that obviously belonged to someone who knew the William Malphus Knapp family. We've already shared William's own portrait, as well as a family photograph with his wife, Clara Alice, and their (at the time) four children. Now, we're going to step back another generation and take a look at a photograph of one of William's siblings—his baby sister Flora.
It was a good thing this photograph was labeled, because not only did it provide a name for the young lady in the portrait, it help me zero in on the right generation in the Knapp family. You see, William Malphus Knapp had a daughter named Florence, a name which often gets shortened to Flora, but thanks to whoever labeled this photo—with that characteristic scrawl right on the face of the picture frame—the details help us to identify the right Knapp generation. This Flora was daughter of a William Knapp, alright, but the label also told us she was "sister of Wm. + Geo. Knapp."
As the younger William Knapp had a son named William—we'll be meeting him soon, as well—but not a son named George, it is the previous generation to which we'll turn to identify this Flora.
Heading back to the Knapp home in 1880 Douglass, Kansas, if you recall, the family was comprised of William Malphus Knapp's parents, William and Corintha, as well as his younger brother George. The couple had apparently lost two other sons during the time they had moved to Michigan. After a gap of about eight years, along came Flora, born in 1878.
Flora apparently remained in or near Douglass for a good portion of her adult life, where we learn through the 1900 census that she had married, in 1897, a man from Illinois nearly eight years her senior, named Edward Roy Jones.
Despite having married in 1897, though, by the time of the census three years later, Flora and her husband were childless, as they were, also, at the time of the 1910 census. At that point, the only other person in the Jones household was a boarder, Helen Clifford, who worked in Flora's millinery shop.
Before the point of the 1920 census, though, Flora and Roy had news: they had welcomed in a daughter, now three years of age and born in Florida, whom they named Mildred. By the time of that 1920 census, Roy was forty seven and Flora was forty one. They were by then living in Wichita, not far from their old home in Douglass—certainly much closer than wherever their daughter was born in Florida.
The couple may have returned to Douglass after that point, but it is hard for me to tell, as I can't yet locate their record in the 1930 census. By 1933, however, Edward Roy Jones had passed away, and though his wife outlived him by another two decades, they were both buried back in Douglass, Kansas. By the time of the 1940 census, the widowed Flora was living in Wichita in her by-then married daughter's household, along with two young grandsons.
What is encouraging to me is to find a few family trees posted in Ancestry.com which relate specifically to Flora's daughter's family. Perhaps that is a good sign; Flora's photo may make its way back home soon. What may complicate that possibility, though, is that some of those direct descendants haven't checked back to update their tree in over a year. If I send a message via their Ancestry account, they may or may not respond.
We'll just have to wait and see—for Flora's photo as well as several others. Perhaps this is just how things go in the avocational genealogy research world. While Life happens, sometimes family history has to wait.
Above: Photograph taken in Douglass, Kansas, of a young Flora Knapp, baby sister of William and George Knapp; photograph currently in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Middle names may come in handy for those daughters who, having grown up, decide they don't like their first name. At least, it appears so in the case of that photograph we viewed yesterday. While the picture of the family of William Malphus and Clara Alice Knapp provided the children's names as Richard, Ellen, Hazel and Myrtle, that certainly didn't agree with the records we located from the U. S. Census for the daughters in the Knapp family. According to the 1900 census, their names should have been Maud H., Clara M., and Corintha E.
Granted, it would have been easy enough to assume those initials could have represented H. for Hazel, E. for Ellen, and M. for Myrtle, but what if that was entirely incorrect? We need some documentation to boost our supposition.
Since looking at the next census record did nothing for us, other than add three more children to the Knapp family roster—two of whom were sons, by the way, with the final addition being a daughter named Florence A. Knapp—we need to look elsewhere for some verification.
Think wedding bells for the next stop in this search. At least for two of the three older daughters, that was enough to confirm our guesses.
We found the family in Major County, Oklahoma, in that 1910 census, and it turns out we didn't need to look far from there to find any marriage records. And not long after that 1910 census, either—which makes sense for a widow with several teenaged daughters at the time. After their father's death in 1908, the first child to marry was Maud Hazel Knapp, who married Orville J. Holland in 1911.
We can connect another middle name with its counterpart from the census at the marriage of Ellen Corintha Knapp, who married Bennie McMullen in 1915. So far, we've found written documentation matching two of the three daughters' names.
But Myrtle? While Myrtle Knapp did get married—in 1912, to Arthur Floyd McNown—she was careful, in that marriage record, to only be listed by one given name. It wasn't until the couple moved to California and then registered to vote, that we finally discover a record juxtaposing Myrtle's middle name with her true first name: Clara.
While that may solve the dilemma of matching first and middle names that didn't align from government records to family labels on photographs, we still have a few more puzzles to solve, in the form of additional photographs linked to this Knapp family. Tomorrow, we'll meet Flora and see where she fit into the family constellation.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
True to form, whoever labeled the photographs of the William Malphus Knapp family was intent on keeping that message of identity front and center. We've met the patriarch of the family in a portrait—albeit with a fuzzy focus—which I shared yesterday. Now, let's take a look at a picture of the family from an unidentified location and date.
The front of the photo included a handwritten message explaining just who was included in the picture.
There was William's wife, Clara Alice. Of course, William, himself, was at her side. And if the person who so kindly provided the label did so systematically, we can presume the middle row of children included a listing from left to right: eldest Knapp son Richard, with Ellen next to him and Hazel on the far right. And, front and center in a row all by herself, was Myrtle.
Myrtle, as we can tell, moved. Ever so slightly, but enough to make her face and hands slightly fuzzy. Perhaps that was because the photographer was naive enough to trust a child of that age to sit still, all on her own.
But how old was Myrtle? Come to think of it, just who was Myrtle, anyhow? From the 1900 census we found yesterday, there wasn't any Myrtle. The children listed in that 1900 enumeration were Richard S., Maud H., Clara M., Corintha E., and baby Charles R., born in May of that census year.
We could presume, from the presence of four children rather than the five listed in the 1900 census, that the photo might have been taken some time right before 1900, providing enough time for the youngster front and center in this picture to be old enough to sit still—at least long enough for the photographer to arrange the tableau and then turn his back. But where was there a Myrtle in the census listing?
Even jumping to the 1910 census—following William's death, when Clara Alice and the kids lived with her dad in Oklahoma—we get the benefit of three more children added to the Knapp roster, but none of them had the name Myrtle, either. William M., James M., and Florence A. didn't even come close to answering that question.
According to the 1900 census, Clara Alice was, at that time, mother to six children, of whom only five were still living. It might have been tempting to assume Myrtle was the missing child—making the same response on the 1910 census doubly confusing for its report that Clara had had eight children, of whom all were still alive.
That, it turns out, was not the route to finding our answer. The key was in the middle initials, which led me on a merry chase through digitized documents online until I figured out just who Myrtle was—and Ellen, and Hazel.
Whoever they were, here's their picture. Including fidgety Myrtle's.
Above: Undated photograph of the William Malphus Knapp family. No location is given. Handwritten entry below the picture indicates identity of each person, left to right, beginning with the back row: "Clara Alice + William Malfus Knapp, Richard, Ellen, Hazel, Myrtle." Photograph in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant of this family.
Monday, November 12, 2018
Sometimes, the photographs I find at Gold Rush Country antique shops don't come from far away. Sometimes, they come from down the street.
After having located photographs coming from as far away as Poland, Germany, and Montreal in Canada, that's what turned out to be the case for the last set of family photos we've been reviewing. All those Brockman and Purkey family photos I've been sharing these past few months were likely recent possessions of a Brockman descendant who settled in northern California for those golden retirement years.
The same thing is likely happening now, as we move from the many photos connected to that Sonora, California, estate to a collection of pictures from what I believe is a totally unrelated family. Many of the photos in this set were well marked—albeit irritatingly on the face of the picture, rather than more discreetly entered on the reverse. The photos also had one other distinguishing mark: they were each stored in a clear plastic container, sealed with tape—likely of the type that would make a proper archivist cringe. As much as I believe in the sanctity of provenance, I couldn't shake the compulsion to gingerly remove the photos from their encasement, so—confession time, here—they are freed, at last.
Now, to get down to the business of researching just who these people were so we can see their likenesses sent home to family. We'll begin with a little overview of the patriarch of the family, a man named William Malphus Knapp.
"Malfus," as it turns out, is an important middle name to keep in mind. As this William was named after his father—also a William, though his middle name was different—the two were differentiated by the use of the younger William's middle name. And that, as we see through various spelling permutations such as the example in the 1880 census, is how we can find him when an abundance of hits for a name as common as William Knapp overwhelms us.
Though I was able to locate "Malphis" as a young teenager in his parents' household in Douglass, Kansas—making him one of 369 inhabitants of a city whose founding occurred after young William's own 1867 birth—don't think he remained a resident of rural Butler County for long. Perhaps because his father was a carpenter, and thus of an occupation enabling the family to travel to find work, or perhaps because of his family's history—his father was born in Ohio to Canadian parents—William, too, eventually moved on.
That twenty year gap from the 1880 census to the next available United States enumeration has been bemoaned by many researchers, and with this next step in the younger William's chronology, I add my voice, once again, to this chorus. Still, we can read the tea leaves in the murky recording of the 1900 census, and realize that, after his birth in either Indiana or Michigan (each census gives a different response), his path led him to marry an Illinois gal who had moved to Butler County some time before the 1885 state census.
According to the 1900 census, William married Clara Alice Hoover around 1891, and they welcomed the first of their many children, Richard Samuel, in November, 1892. From that date through the 1897 arrival of their daughter Corintha—named after William's by then long-deceased mother—the family remained in Kansas. With the addition of their son Charles, as we can see from the enumeration itself, the Knapp family was now resident in Klickitat County in southern Washington State.
If William Malphus Knapp had remained in Washington, I might have considered my acquisition of his abandoned family photos as just another case of a collection sent, over the years, to a relative in nearby California. In this case, however, I think it is a bit more convoluted than that simple conclusion. You see, not much after that 1900 census, William returned to the midwest, where he died in Oklahoma in 1908. By the time of the 1910 census, his widow and children remained in Major County, living with Clara's father, Samuel Hoover.
If William and Clara Knapp ended up in Oklahoma, though, what was the connection that brought all those Knapp family photographs to a home near Sonora, California, location of the antique shop where I found them? It's in the subsequent generations where I think the answer lies. Before we get to that point, though, let's meet the rest of the family, which will be easily accomplished, thanks to the information provided on each picture.
Whoever kept that set of Knapp family photos was someone intent on remembering exactly who they were, for each one came with a thorough label. For today, we'll begin with the picture of William Malphus Knapp, himself, and tomorrow, I'll begin introducing the rest of his family to you.
Above: Photograph labeled "William Malfus Knapp, born May 8, 1867 at Chesterton, Porter Co. Indiana, died April 20, 1904 at Chester, Major Co., Okla." Photograph with written entry as found at antique store in Sonora, California. Photograph currently in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant.
Sunday, November 11, 2018
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, one hundred years ago, bells rang around the world, announcing the end of what was, to that point, undoubtedly the most deadly war ever fought. Today, they ring again.
The bells will ring in England. Across Canada. In Chicago and other American cities. Memorials monumental and minimal will mark the centenary of the Armistice of the Great War. Sixty two thousand poppies at the Australian War Memorial will commemorate those from Australia who lost their lives—one handcrafted poppy for each life lost. Scotland will take seven hours to project the 134,712 names of their fallen—at ten seconds for each entry—onto the face of their parliament building beginning at 5:00 p.m. tonight. And in a graveyard in Gloucestershire, England, the apparition of eleven fallen soldiers, created by wire sculptor Jackie Lantelli, commemorates those local men who died in World War I.
"Lest we forget" may have been adopted, across the English-speaking world, as a reminder of the horrors of this war, but one hundred years out, there are none left who were actual eyewitnesses of that horrible time. While many of us have close relatives who fought in later wars, there are none left from the first World War to commemorate this day.
We can, however, preserve the remembrances of those we knew from our own families who did serve at that time. Their eyewitness stories, preserved in letters, journals, and perhaps even photographs, are now our only way to feel as if we are touching that moment that reshaped history so drastically. May the somber recognition of the day's significance, one hundred years ago, be inspiration of a start in our own research to delve into such aspects of our own ancestors' stories from that desperate era.