Monday, November 18, 2019

Untangling the Twisted Lines


Now that I've finished the collection of Civil War letters of my first cousin, four times removed—Taliaferro Simpson, or "Tally" for short—my next task is to go back through all the notes I've gleaned from the editors' footnotes on family relationships. Just to be sure—one never knows, you see, whether I've missed an ancestor.

For instance, one footnote at the end of the volume, affixed to a letter of condolences from a Captain Henry P. Farrow of the Confederacy's War Department, mentioned that he was "husband of Tally's cousin Cornelia." Off I went to search for all the Cornelias in my family tree database. After all, how many Cornelias could there be?!

As it turned out, more than I cared to slog through, including one false lead on the Broyles side of our family. Tally's mother, you may remember, was sister to my third great-grandmother, Sarah Ann Taliaferro, who married Ozey Robert Broyles. Their daughter, Margaret Cornelia, married Samuel Van Wyck. Not Farrow.

I knew that. Maybe it's pushing capacity to remember all those names in a nineteen thousand person tree.

As for the other Cornelias? None of them seemed to relate to Tally's mother's side of the family. Besides, I have no Farrows in my tree. Must be a connection on the Simpson side.

But there are others. Remember the "Taylor Shop" entries in Tally's letters? I'll be reviewing those notes to see what can be added about another of Tally's aunts on the Taliaferro side. And of course, since the Miller family—another Taliaferro link—was featured so prominently in the book, I'll be reviewing all those notes to glean details for my database there, as well.

And then, there is the discussion of the future of the "Fair Unknown," Miss Fannie Smith. Whether the Charleston refugee shows up in any other documents frequented by genealogists, I'm not sure, but I'll be scouring those resources closely to see what became of her, after those tumultuous war years.

If there is anything remarkable to report of all this review of footnotes, you can be sure I'll mention it this week. After all, footnotes can provide the most valuable leads for research.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Winter Holidays and DNA Matches


It looks like a lot of companies are pushing for an early Christmas shopping season, given the late appearance on this year's calendar for Black Friday. Of course, you probably already can guess my opinion about Black Friday events. I avoid them at all costs.

Still, one thing I wish for, whether folks shop early or traditionally, is that somebody buys a DNA test kit for one of my distant relatives.

Have you noticed lately? The pace at which DNA matches have arrived in my accounts has slowed to a trickle. I used to get well over twenty each time I checked my biweekly count—from each DNA company. Make that well over one hundred each time, just at MyHeritage. Now, the new matches every two weeks total a mere handful at each company.

This, of course, had been predicted by a number of people who watch the industry. Whether it will hold true over this holiday shopping season is yet to be seen.

Still, I can't complain about the mere trickle of results I'm now getting in, considering that last summer, I got one of the most important matches I've been waiting for since beginning this genetic genealogy journey. And that's the problem: we can't pick who, among all those unknown third to fifth cousins out there, will step up to take a DNA test this winter. But I still can't wait to see the returns in the after-holiday results bulge.

Meanwhile, I'll keep chipping away at all those unknown twigs on my family tree. After all, in the last two weeks, I managed to add 182 to my mother's tree, to total 19,556 of her ancestors and their collateral lines. And that was about all I accomplished. I'm trying to focus on her line specifically on account of the week-long class I'll be taking next January at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. After all, it's because of my mother's colonial Virginia ancestry that I'll be sitting in Barbara Vines Little's course to delve into that topic.

Between now and the third week of January, I suspect the count for my other three trees will suffer the same fate as they have, this past week. I added a fat zero to each of my in-laws' trees, as I did to my own father's tree. Still, that leaves me with 654 in my dad's tree and 1,563 in my father-in-law's tree, and with 17,194 in my mother-in-law's tree. I'll be back to those other projects soon enough. Right now, though, I need to focus on getting ready—in the midst of all this holiday enjoyment—for some serious learning, come January.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Now Indexing: Back to New York


With all the different research projects I've been working on, and all the locations which they've taken me over the past month, I still find myself heading back to New York for indexing projects. Why is it that I have this unquenchable hope that I'll discover my paternal ancestors' immigration or naturalization records in a place the size of New York City? As unreasonable as that hope is, I find myself returning again and again to the U.S. District Court Naturalization Records for New York City's Southern District.

You will not be surprised to learn that I didn't run across any familiar surnames this time.

I did, however, transcribe the naturalization records for several immigrants from Germany and Italy in this month's volunteer moments. As much of a drop in the bucket as this attempt at giving back may be, at least it is something. I do appreciate all the many efforts of so many other volunteers who transformed the world of genealogical research for the rest of us, and want to chip away at what can be added to the process.

And though I suspect I'll never run into a yet-to-be-transcribed record of any of my distant relatives in that NYC collection, I can't help but wonder if their names might pop up as witnesses on someone else's affidavits.

Perhaps it might seem as if I'd have better chances if I just went out and bought a lottery ticket—but even if I lost that chance to spot an ancestor in all these unindexed records, at least the effort may make it possible to secure a win for someone else.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Finished: Far, Far From Home


Finally, today I had just enough of the leftover sunshine from our waning fall weather to grab a cup of coffee and sit outside to enjoy the last few pages of the book I've been reading.

Well, perhaps "enjoy" is not the best choice of wording for the completion of this collection of Civil War letters home from one Tally Simpson. Spoiler alert: he died at the Battle of Chickamauga. But the editors of this volume handled the last chapter with just the right touch. In their epilogue, they even cast a passing nod to Emmala Reed's journal and her commentary on Fannie Smith—though the editors claimed not being able to identify Fannie Smith or her family in the years after Tally's death.

What the editors did flag for me, though, was a generous helping of footnoted commentary on the many members of Tally Simpson's extended family, many of whom have already taken their place in my mother's online family tree. My next task is to review all these marked passages and insure that the editorial notes provided in the book reflect what I have entered in my official record for this family line. My work is certainly laid out for me there.

The end of one book is seldom the end of a research journey; there is always one more book to be read. As soon as I wrap up the exercise of processing all these notes from the Simpson saga—and glean everything I can on what became of Fannie Smith—I will pick up again with the theme of this small, upcountry hometown of the extended family of my ancestors. There is still more to be read about Old Pendleton and Anderson County, South Carolina.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Rich Uncle, Elected Nephew


As we follow the immigrant trails of the earliest Canadian settlers in the riverside valley locale eventually known as Lodi, California, we begin to see connections between these families. Just yesterday, not only did we realize that John Hutchins of Ontario, Canada, arrived along with his entire family, but that his oldest sister had married another of Lodi's early landowners, Ezekiel Lawrence. It was these two men, along with some others, who apparently secured Lodi's downtown site as stop along the way for a new Central Pacific Railroad route in 1869. If nothing else, John Hutchins was rich in land and ingenuity.

After their 1857 marriage and move to San Joaquin County, John's sister Mary Hutchins and her husband, Ezekiel Lawrence, had three children: William, George, and Nettie. The middle child, George, became focus of one of the many biographical sketches in George Tinkham's History of San Joaquin County. From that resource, we learn that George was born on his parents' property in Elkhorn Township—eventually to become the city of Lodi—and attended "district schools" until his enrollment in Saint Mary's College. After receiving a bachelor of science, George Lawrence returned to his hometown to study law. He soon was elected Justice of the Peace of Elkhorn Township, the same place where his parents had settled, back in 1857.

By the time citizens of Elkhorn Township were ready to entertain the possibility of incorporating the city of Lodi, it was 1906. The vote passed, by a margin of two to one, and immediately after the official date of incorporation on December 6, the new city's board of trustees elected George Lawrence as their first mayor.

By the time George Lawrence was elected to the first of his two terms as mayor, both his dad and his uncle—the two neighboring landholders who had been so instrumental in the formation of what would eventually become the city of Lodi—were gone. His dad, Ezekiel Lawrence, passed in 1899, as did his uncle, John Hutchins.

It will take a lot more reading between the lines to learn what roles, if any, were played by these two brothers-in-law in the political success of Lodi's first mayor, George Lawrence, but that is all the same as the original quest which introduced me to this research project in the first place: just who the city had in mind when they named one of their major streets after someone named Hutchins.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

From Canada to California:
Finding the Path


When our ancestors reported their place of birth as a foreign country—as, for instance, simply "Canada"—there is not much to learn in such a statement. Canada is a wide country, stretching from ocean to ocean in the same manner as the country to which our specific immigrant subjects immigrated.

One research technique is to follow the families backwards in time through each decade's census. That means, taking the John Hutchins family of Lodi, California, as an example, we would locate them in the most recent census record we can find, and then, using the details gleaned from that document, work our way backwards through the decades.

We already know from his biographical sketch in George Tinkham's History of San Joaquin County that John Hutchins crossed the continent from Ontario in 1853. Just which direction his journey took him, the article doesn't mention. To read Tinkham's entry, one would think John Hutchins—a teenager of about seventeen at the time of this migration—had made the journey by himself, but that is apparently not the case.

Looking at the 1880 census, we can find John along with his wife, the former Anna Nevin, and their children, Nellie, John, Edward, and Mary. The census reports that John was born in Canada, and that his parents were from Ireland. Likewise, the 1870 census shows that John was born in Canada, but that his two year old daughter was born in California—thus, gradually narrowing the time frame of his travels.

Moving beyond the date of his marriage to Ann Nevin to find John Hutchins before that 1870 census means looking for a single man—or, possibly, a young man in the household of his parents. This, fortunately, became the case for our search, finding a possible John Hutchins in the home of his namesake, his father John Hutchins, in the same Elkhorn Township of San Joaquin County, the very place from which the city of Lodi was later established.

The 1860 census shows this young John Hutchins reporting his age as twenty four, putting his year of birth as 1836, agreeing roughly with what we had gleaned from later census enumerations. Again, it showed his birth to be in Canada, and his parents, John and Catherine, to be from Ireland. Along with the junior John, the other family members were his (presumed) siblings James, Thomas, Hannah, Catherine, and Henry. All but the youngest—who at that point was listed as twelve years of age—had been born in Canada. Henry provided the location of the next stop in this Hutchins family's migration by the place of his birth: Iowa.

Indeed, in Dubuque County, Iowa, for the 1850 census, there was a family of an Irish couple, John and Catherine Hutchins. With one addition—that of a daughter named Mary—the family constellation remained the same, with John, James, Thomas, Hannah, Catherine, and Henry all making their appearance. The only catch was that each of the children was listed as having been born in Michigan, not Canada. Could that have been the family's entry point from Canada? Or were their parents fearful of divulging their foreign origin?

A quick double check of California's Great Register in the 1870s confirms, however, that Elkhorn Township resident Henry Hutchins—the baby of the family—claimed to have been born in Iowa (see entry 2538), while older brothers John (see entry 2485) and James (see entry 2565) had to declare the date and courthouse of their naturalization, as having been born in Canada, not the United States. Unfortunately, any Canadian census records before that point of the Hutchins family's departure from Ontario only sparsely covered the territory, leaving us without any further direction as to where, exactly, the Hutchins family had settled in that part of the British Empire.

There was one bright spot in the monotony of this exercise, however: the discovery of oldest sister Mary in the 1850 census, and her subsequent disappearance from the 1860 Hutchins household. By the time of that later census—if we can believe the age reported for her in the 1850 census—she would have been twenty eight. Very possibly, she was by then married and living in a household of her own. But where? Left in Iowa? Or continuing with the family to California?

Perhaps it was merely coincidence, but appearing in the biographical sketch of another pioneer of Lodi was the mention of his mother's maiden name as Mary Hutchins. As it turns out, that same person's father's name is one we've seen before. The father, Ezekiel Lawrence, was one of the men named as having had a hand in the establishment of the downtown area of what was to become the city of Lodi, California. If this is so, the younger John Hutchins and Ezekiel Lawrence were not only business associates and neighboring property owners, they were also brothers-in-law!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Of a Feather


One discovery, in researching the five men credited by local history as having a hand in the formation of the city of Lodi, California, was how many of them had Canadian roots. This could merely be a curious coincidence, or it might be a detail worth pursuing. Since the pursuit of family history is not simply the study of individuals—as if they were independent, individual actors throughout their lifetime—but an observation of the collective actions taken by people who were closely associated with each other, it makes sense to handle this study of Lodi's founders in the same way.

Cluster genealogy—that study of the micro-history of families in relationship to their social and other connections—may serve our purposes at this juncture in my research project. Sometimes called the "FAN Club," this cluster, people taken in the aggregate, may provide hints generated by the whole group, whereas studying each person as an individual might fail to reveal broader connections.

One of the principles of the "FAN Club" is that people, moving from their home to settle in new territory, seldom make such long journeys alone. While I've been wandering in research circles, trying to determine just how the California city of Lodi actually was established, I've run across enough clues to tell me that not just one of the original settlers in this new state came from Canada. There apparently were several more.

Now, considering that Canada is a large country—and that even saying something like, "They both came from Ontario" seldom tells us much—it might seem like a fool's errand to determine just where in that immense dominion the exact town might have been, if even one location. But I'm game to trace these Canadian immigrants to see whether their paths coincided on their way from Canada to California.

For one thing, migration patterns seemed similar. Wherever these settlers started in Canada, their goal was to arrive in California as soon as possible after the news flash about the discovery of gold in the northern foothills. Young men being young men, the pattern included a marriage to another Canadian, usually in El Dorado County, likely at the county seat of Placerville—or, as it was known in that era, Hangtown. The finale to this pattern was obtaining a large tract of government land somewhere in the new state of California—for some coincidental reason, specifically in a place called San Joaquin County.

I've been focusing, in the past week, on the men named in an old history of the county as being key in establishing the downtown area which eventually became the city of Lodi. My original focus was on a man whose surname has somehow—through recognition of this man, himself, or others—become the name of a major street and cultural center in the city. However, as I branched out to the other four men listed as city fathers, I began realizing some of them, too, claimed to have come to this isolated valley in California from an undisclosed place in Canada.

The question is: which place in Canada? Or should we say, places?

To start this exploration, let's take a deeper look at the paths taken by the families of John Hutchins and Ezekiel Lawrence, tomorrow.
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