Tuesday, May 31, 2016
So, I'm on the eve of another genealogical conference, this one on the other end of a six to eight hour drive. It's not that I'm concerned about what to pack (I think I've got that routine down pat), or how to get there (though I can't exactly do this drive blindfolded, it's an event we've attended multiple times). It's not even that the check engine light came on yet another time (we've already had the car in the shop twice in the past two weeks to repair this, one of them turning out to be a not-so-cheap visit).
What is perplexing me, on the eve of the summertime travel season, is how to squeeze in enough family visits to insure that my three DNA test kits get in just the right hands to yield results that will answer my genetic genealogy questions.
You see, this particular trip will drive us right by the home of one cousin—a cousin whom I'm sure would be quite willing to participate in this genealogical experiment. To top that off, though, we just received a business-related opportunity to travel to another conference, which also happens to land us within driving distance of a few other relatives whose DNA test results would be very helpful in figuring out some family history mysteries. And we've already made promises to travel to visit two other aging relatives.
The number of potential visits is adding up to many more than the three DNA test kits I have on hand. And at the cost of testing—even considering the likelihood of upcoming sales at traditional times such as Father's Day—it would be a project better taken on by the independently wealthy. What a quandary.
This is where the wisest move would be to set aside the logistics for the moment, and pull out those pedigree charts. The question would be: which test for which individual would hold the key to answering the questions for which I most want an answer?
The answers, unfortunately, straddle the great divide between "his" and "hers"—my side and my husband's side of the family. On the one hand, a test done on the way to conference would yield a sure match on my husband's Stevens and Tully sides of the family, thus allowing me to differentiate between his paternal versus maternal matches. And when you get to numbers nearing one thousand matches, it is helpful to have a way to sort through such a mass of results. An added perk, if we use Family Tree DNA for that test (which is where the kits happen to have originated), we can also add the mtDNA test and help at least three cousins learn more about their maternal roots—a peek into Bohemian roots, in their case.
The biggest plus to that option is, of course, bird in hand. We already know we are headed that way. We will pass by that location twice.
The drawback is: that is not the biggest bang for my research buck. If we can arrange for a summertime trip back east, and if we can take an extra day's drive to visit a certain relative on my mother-in-law's side, with one test, we can have autosomal, mtDNA and Y-DNA results, all from one individual. The plus would be that this individual is the only known close relative who would be eligible to test for the Y line, and in testing, would provide a match to my husband's mtDNA test, as well. His results would also enable us to isolate other matches belonging on the Flowers and Metzger side of the family equation at the autosomal test level.
That second option would be an optimal outcome for isolating results on my husband's matches. The down side is, that's a line which is well documented, already. True, the mtDNA and Y-DNA would reveal some deep history for that part of the family. Considering that is my husband's mother's line, those test results would amount to half of my husband's own heritage, which is nice to know, but may not reveal much more than we've already been able to find out via old fashioned grunt work on the paper trail.
What I'd really like to see happen is to find some additional volunteer family members on my father's side of the family. Now, there's a family line which has me stumped. There may actually never be a paper trail for that side. However, with the right selection—and willingness—of just one of three specific cousins, we could have results to help enlighten us on my father's maternal line.
The trouble is, that is the least likely of three potential summer trips to actually happen, partly because of the distance involved. Yet, in the case of securing volunteer participation in DNA testing, it is far better to do so in person. I've heard that one should never, never, never just send a kit along with a "pretty please" request via the mail. Those kits end up on the back corner of a shelf in the bathroom, under the label, "Round Tuit." And they are never thought of again.
In less than twenty four hours, I'll have to make my decision. Perhaps also make some contact. Maybe ask for volunteers.
In the end, I wish I had the time and the budget to test all these relatives. More than that, I wish I had the time and the budget to go visit every one of them. The trouble with family living across the country—and, increasingly, around the world—is that the farther we all are from all of them, the less we get to see each other.
Which also means, of course, that if I get my wish to see everyone, I get to go through that pre-packing panic two or three times more.
Monday, May 30, 2016
Though it might be difficult to tell the somber basis of this weekend's holiday—at least, judging from the rocking parties keeping the neighborhood awake well past midnight—today is set aside, in the United States, as a commemoration of those who died in service to their country.
I don't often write about this holiday, as neither my family nor my husband's family have had any close relatives who, while serving in the military, died during a war. We can recount a few members of our family trees who, long ago, had died in battle overseas or during the Civil War here at home, but that is not quite the same as bearing the pain of loss of a loved one in our immediate generations.
For those of you who have suffered such loss, words of gratitude will never replace the loved one lost, of course. But we need to share those expressions of gratefulness, nonetheless. Not just now—the day in which national cemeteries are ceremonially draped in red, white and blue—but with every opportunity. That service of protection is ongoing—a 24/7 shield of service that continues whether we see it or not. Though it may be out of sight, we can't let it become out of mind.
Whether your day be filled with parades, laying flowers at graveside, or other commemorations—or simply gathering with friends to relax—may the day be a reminder of the gratitude we owe on behalf of those who have made such overwhelming sacrifices on our behalf.
Above: Frederick Childe Hassam's 1917 oil on canvas, "The Avenue in the Rain," represents a flag-bedecked Fifth Avenue in New York City; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Sometimes, when I'm sitting in classes, trying to get up to speed on using genetic genealogy for my research, I hear people mention that term, "Daughtering Out." Mostly, it's said as if it's an unfortunate thing: "Oh, he daughtered out." I can picture a grizzled old pioneer, somewhere out in the forsaken, craggy outposts of the west—with a worn out wife collapsed somewhere inside their hovel, out of the blazing sun—bemoaning the fact that he has many more daughters than he can afford to marry off, and nary a son to help with the work around the house.
One could almost feel sorry for the dude.
When the term is used in reference to DNA pursuits, the pity is almost palpable. No one left to man up and volunteer for that Y-DNA test to discover Dad's true roots—instead of being captive to wholesale belief in the stories he came up with. Or didn't tell at all.
However, this season, I'm on a different quest. Fortunately for those in the family who wanted to know more about our patrilineal line, my dad didn't daughter out. And the one and only possible volunteer for the test in question was glad to help out.
But that's not what I'm working on, right now.
My goal this summer is to get a clearer picture of my matrilineal line. If you remember my surprising connection with a mystery cousin who turned out to be my first—and, at the time, only—exact match on our respective mitochondrial DNA tests, you know I've long been working on finding a genealogical connection with this adoptee.
More than that goal, though, is to secure additional support for my conjecture that an adoptee in my own line—my second great grandmother, Mary Rainey Broyles—was actually daughter of Thomas Firth and Mary Taliaferro Rainey. I have some documentation that seems to point in that direction. Lacking direct evidence, though, the matter isn't really settled—at least, not in my own mind.
Looking at the siblings of Mary Rainey Broyles, though, I ran into the very situation most genealogical DNA advocates seem to celebrate: the line didn't daughter out.
While that situation is wonderful if you are looking for potential volunteers for the Y-DNA test, it doesn't exactly help me in my research goal. After all, I need daughters because I'm working on the mother's mother's mother's line. And the only ones who can pass that along are women. No distant cousins on that matrilineal line, no possible test-takers with whom I can compare mtDNA results.
That's what landed me back a few more generations in that Strother line I mentioned yesterday. I made the presumptive leap beyond the generation in which I was stuck and kept tracing that line of mothers. If—and remember, that is a very speculative if—Jane Strother, wife of Thomas Lewis, was up-line on the matrilineal side from my orphaned Mary Rainey Broyles, I now have a lot of daughters to work with. Eight, if I'm counting correctly.
For each of Jane's daughters whose descendants I'm tracing, I cheer when that daughter marries and has children of her own. I cheer louder when those children turn out to be daughters. And then I get ready to cheer when I move on down to the next generation from those daughters. I want to make it back to the land of the living with some potential candidates who will be willing to spring for a mitochondrial DNA test of their own. With bated breath, in hopes that those women's haplogroups turn out to be one and the same as mine. With a genetic distance of zero as the cherry on top. In other words, another exact match.
Only this time, it won't be a mystery cousin. I'll already have the paper trail confirmed.
As long as those lines keep daughtering out until I get back to the present.
Above: "Master Baby," 1886 oil on canvas by Scottish painter Sir William Quiller Orchardson; courtesy Google Art Project via Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Some researchers favor a solitary approach when pursuing the history of their ancestors. I am not one of them. If I can conduct research in the company of—or at least in conjunction with—a seasoned researcher possessed of judicious methodology, I'm much happier.
Perhaps that's because I've had positive experiences in such projects. I've found that you can meet the most interesting people, circulating among aficionados of genealogical research. True, there are people out there who have tried that approach and walked away from less than stellar experiences. But for the most part, I've appreciated the insight brought to the equation when I have a research partner to compare notes with.
That said, I'm always on the lookout to spot others sharing interest in the same family lines as I have. When I branch out to a new surname, the first thing I do is try to locate others who are working on the same surnames.
As I push back through the generations—especially in pursuit of my matrilineal line—I'm getting into unfamiliar research territory. When the trail of my mother's mother's mother landed me—after several iterations of that process—in the early 1700s with representative to the House of Burgesses Thomas Lewis, it was his wife in whom I was most interested.
She, as it turns out, was daughter of a man by the name of William Strother. Not knowing anything about the Strother surname, I thought I'd go cyber-exploring to see what I could turn up. If I can't have real live research partners, at least I can go find them online.
My first stop was to see what books might have been written on the Strother genealogy. Apparently, there were not a few. One item on the list which caught my eye was entitled Houses of Strother: Descendants of William Strother I, King George County, Virginia. Not a book, it was one of those items in the "other" category for which access was denied.
Not to be undone, I decided on an alternate route of discovery: Google it. After all, though I had no idea who "William Strother I" was—nor where King George County might have been—I did know the Strother on my matrilineal line was the daughter of a colonial someone named William Strother. He, in turn, was the son of another William Strother, who was son of yet another William Strother. The odds were with me.
As it turns out, my Jane Strother, wife of Thomas Lewis, was great granddaughter of William Strother I. In the process of pursuing this item first found in FamilySearch.org's book list, I did access a separate volume of the same title with the subheading, "William Strother II (1653-1726) and his descendants." That, courtesy of his granddaughter, would include me.
Just in case I had the wrong William Strother, though, I thought I'd check out what could be found via Google Books. Though the volume wasn't accessible online, it was searchable, so I did a search for Jane Strother's husband, Thomas Lewis. Sure enough, there in the book were three entries which included his name—one of which specified the relationship of in-law to the Strother family.
From that shaky beginning—not being able to access the item included on the hyperlinked list of resources at FamilySearch.org—I made a few other discoveries, as well. Primary among them was that there is a family association for descendants of that original immigrant William Strother.
Since some websites are put online, perhaps hosted by a generous benefactor, and then left there long after the organization has disbanded, I had to poke around to see whether this was still a viable group. Apparently, it is; they are holding their biennial conference in Charlottesville, Virginia, this coming July.
In addition, they have a web page dedicated to genealogy helps. Most of them are generic, but on that page, I discovered references to some archives and holdings of Strother family papers. While that is beyond the realm of genealogy, per se, I'd be interested in perusing such holdings.
I also discovered from their website that The William Strother Society, Inc., are spearheading a DNA project at Family Tree DNA. Despite knowing that many such surname-based projects focus exclusively on Y-DNA test results, I still clicked through to see what the project gave as its mission statement. Sure enough, there was a Y-DNA project, but that was not all. They are tracking "Distinct mtDNA Haplogroups," which I'd specifically be interested in. After all, the reason that led me on the path to discovering this group in the first place was a question about my matrilineal line.
Family associations sometimes provide members-only resources for genealogical research—or at least the comparison of research notes. While this might not be exactly the research partnership I had in mind, I'm happy to stumble upon such an organization. Teamwork always holds out the promise of synergistic results.
Friday, May 27, 2016
No sooner had I caught up with the new announcement of changes at Family Tree DNA, when I slipped back to peek at what's been happening with my results at the post-changed Ancestry DNA. Honestly, despite all these promises of closer, more accurate matches, I'm still swamped with so many results which don't seem to connect to anyone in my family. Sometimes, I look at those thousand-plus "matches," scratch my head and moan, "Who are these people, anyhow?!"
Take Ancestry DNA's handy "New Ancestor Discoveries" feature, first introduced a little over a year ago. As
I try to make those connections work. Really, I do. But it seems I'm just spinning my wheels in the effort. No traction gained.
Take "New Ancestor Discoveries" candidate, Samuel Rowland Collier. That sounded like a fine and promising name to match. I do have some Colliers in my family tree—alas, each one of them married into my line, and not a one of them representing a connection with which we could share common descent.
However, I'm game to explore the possibilities, so I clicked through to see who, among those sharing DNA among my fellow New Ancestor Discoveries circle members, might show me a tree branch with just the right match. In one Collier family tree included in this readout, the only other surname showing was that of the Wade family. It so happens I have some Wade ancestors married into a distant branch of my maternal tree. But try as I might, I couldn't contort enough to fit that tree's Wade ancestor into the Wade branch of my own tree.
Experiences like these—contorting to try and make the match work—reminds me of a term given to this very experience by a genetic genealogy blogger I follow. Right after Ancestry first rolled out their beta program last year, Roberta Estes, writer of the blog, DNAeXplained, dubbed them "Bad NADs"—NADs, of course, being Ancestry's New Ancestor Discoveries.
Roberta went on, about a year ago, to describe one of the "new ancestors" Ancestry was trying to gift her with. In a follow up post about a week later, she continued her complaint with a catalog of "A Dozen Ancestors That Aren't—aka Bad NADs."
Of course, I read those posts when they first came out, so I consider myself forewarned. But the message apparently never took root for me, for I'm still conscientiously attempting to make these Bad NADs work, at least in my own tree. And by "conscientiously," I mean concluding that I must be needing more education to learn how to make the science fit into my tree. The more I learn, though—at seminars, workshops, DNA conferences, even a week-long intensive program at SLIG—the more frustrated I become at not being able to make these connections work.
Perhaps the key is to understand that sometimes, we need to cut our losses. Call them Bad NADs or whatever misaligned connection moniker you prefer, and walk away from that toxic family tree concoction. There may be solid DNA behind that connection, but it isn't what the majority of those paper trails in the circle are claiming. Maybe those grumpy genealogy researchers who were always complaining about the mistakes in online trees have yet another reason why their point is valid.
Still, you think I would have gotten it well before the eve of yet another DNA conference trip. Call me a slow learner. Or perhaps I just need to go back and do some basic review work. After all, in Ancestry's own rebuttal following the uproar, last year, over the introduction of their beta program, they emphasized,
We’ll show you a New Ancestor Discovery if you share significant amounts of DNA with multiple members of a DNA Circle.
Perhaps the fault is not with Ancestry's beta program. Nor with the science behind DNA testing. Perhaps the match is there all along—those "significant amounts of DNA with multiple members." Maybe the real problem is with the trees of all those members. Who knows? Perhaps those trees were all cut-and-paste creations glomming on to just one sloppy researcher's errors, perpetuated across the genea-universe in like manner by other cut-and-paste enthusiasts in this brave new genealogical world. We may, indeed, all be related—we "NADs," who may not be bad, after all—but just can't see the forest of our joint relationships on account of all the mis-labeled family trees.
Above: "Forest Reserve, Pine Grove," 1881 oil on canvas by Russian landscape painter Ivan Shishkin; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
No sooner had Ancestry DNA announced that they had made plans to adjust their algorithm for matches—and created a furor over impending changes in the process—than Family Tree DNA came out with an announcement of their own.
I first found out about it when making the rounds of all my favorite bloggers, especially the ones I can count on to keep me up to date on genetic genealogy news. First announcement I ran across was from John Reid's Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections, where his article included a link to Blaine Bettinger's blog, The Genetic Genealogist.
In explaining that FTDNA intends to update its matching thresholds, Blaine included a helpful flow chart in his post. In addition, he, too, linked to the other major bloggers covering genetic genealogy, including Debbie Kennett, Roberta Estes, and Judy Russell. While some of these posts added little to what Blaine had already covered, there were a couple helpful observations.
In Debbie Kennett's blog, Cruwys News, she noted that the challenge with setting a cut-off limit is a walk down the fine line between false positives and false negatives. Because FTDNA doesn't phase their data (differentiate between chromosomes originating from the paternal side versus the maternal side), smaller segments do run the risk of yielding false results.
On the other hand, she explained another point to remember:
if you match on a single segment under 10 centiMorgans you will not share a common ancestor within the last ten generations. Even matches of 10 centiMorgans can be very distant.
With this proposed revision in mind—and FTDNA's anticipated outcome slated to yield "only minor changes in their matches"—I took a look at just how many of my own distant matches fall under that 9 cM threshold.
Out of nearly 1,160 matches in my autosomal results at FTDNA—a number incrementally growing every week—it turns out that from match number 811 onward, the "longest block" slips below the 9.00 cut-off point. Of course, there is a further option with the second node in FTDNA's new decision tree—in which single segments falling below 9 cMs may still be considered if the total amount of shared DNA is greater than 20 cMs—but I'll set aside that thumbnail sketch for another crisis.
The point is, upon that cut-off at the first branch of the decision tree, my matches leave off well over three hundred results.
Of course, those extra three hundred now-supposed non-relatives clock in at the proposed ranking of fifth cousin to remote cousin—a classification which already won them Ignore status in my personal decision tree for further contact. This may turn the whole issue into a non-news item for me.
For my husband's results, however, I may see this change a bit differently. He is the one who descends from Perry County, Ohio, ancestors—those folks in the coal-mining region of southeastern Ohio who can't simply ask a classmate on a date without first checking to see who everyone's great-great-grandparents were. When I find a fifth cousin on his FTDNA results, that match often turns out to be a keeper. We have the paperwork to confirm it. It's nice to be able to get to know these distant relatives-cum-genealogy-aficionados who are as ably equipped to prove the connection as we are. There's a higher confidence level in letting such newfound relatives help fill in the blanks on the descendancy of those connected lines. Those are the matches I'd hate to see disappear, simply because someone decided to champion a different algorithm.
Of course, it's the rare person who wholeheartedly welcomes change, unexamined. I understand the reasons for the change. Besides, it would be nice to exchange that useless padding of umpteen misaligned "matches" for some real ones—if that is at all possible. Time will tell. And, from the looks of it, we won't have long to wait to find out.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Sometimes, research projects seem so massive as to be unwieldy. That's how I feel, sometimes, about trying to find the nexus between my matrilineal line and that of my mystery cousin, the adoptee who turned out to be one of two "exact match" results on my full-sequence mitochondrial DNA test. (The only other exact match I received, strangely enough, also turned out to belong to an adoptee.)
As fortune would have it—or, more specifically, near-invincible determination and inexhaustible hard work—my mystery cousin was able to identify his birth parents and, in an almost storybook-perfect yet starkly-terrifying episode, actually meet up with his birth mother. From that point, the sharing of a lifetime apart opened the doors for him to learn about his genealogical heritage.
Of course, you know he and I compared notes. We want to know how our two lines connect.
Well, wherever they connect, it will have to be beyond the early 1800s, for that is where we have both made it in our trek backwards through time. Even then, neither of us has located surnames promising any connection.
In the face of such daunting possibilities, it is not any surprise to learn that I lost some of the verve to keep up the chase. After all, according to some calculations, the glacial rate of mutation means an mtDNA exact match could lead us to a Most Recent Common Ancestor well before the advent of surname usage. Complicating matters is the fact that this matrilineal pursuit presents one other hazard: the changing of surnames with each generation. Get one passage from married to maiden name wrong, and you could be on an entirely misleading track in your quest to discover your roots.
Right now, I'm looking at all the female descendants of my sixth great grandmother, Jane Strother, wife of Thomas Lewis. Thankfully, the family of Thomas Lewis—an Irish-American pioneer in colonial Virginia who served in the House of Burgesses and, later, in the provisional government of the new state—has been well documented in records retained by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The rather large Lewis family meant Jane passed her matrilineal line on to thirteen children, eight of whom were daughters insuring the continuance of that line to future generations of daughters, as well.
The task, once again—as I've already repeated for all the women in more recent generations of my matrilineal line—is to follow the lines of descent of each of those daughters of Jane Strother Lewis. The hope, once again, is to find one of these women moving to Kentucky and marrying someone whose daughter turns out to be the matriarch through whom my mystery cousin's matrilineal line is passed down to him. I've been through this process with each iteration of a new generation. It is certainly understandable to realize that I'm hoping this will be the last cycle—otherwise, it means pushing back yet another generation to Jane's mother, Margaret Watts Strother, and a whole new set of daughters and their descendants.
The actual mtDNA identifier I'm pursuing is a subclade of haplogroup H5. Depending on which research paper you read, you can find claims that my particular subclade of haplogroup H5 (which branches off from H5a) originated in central Europe, but there is wide fluctuation in speculations on origins. One interesting geographic pinpoint for a more highly honed subclade was the Austrian region of Tyrol. But the general H5 haplogroup has one specific point of interest, in regard to my own family history: some research papers consider the highest concentration in Europe of the H5 haplogroup to be in Wales.
If you know your surname origins, you would be correct in assuming the surname Lewis may have been from Wales—although Thomas Lewis' own history specified that he came from County Donegal in Ireland. However, remember that though I'm studying the genealogy of Thomas Lewis' family, because of the mtDNA test, I'm primarily doing so because of his wife, Jane Strother. Therefore, it would be her origin—precisely through her own matrilineal line—which would come from that (so far) hypothetical central European (or maybe Welsh) location.
At this point, I'm fervently hoping one of Jane's daughters will provide me the key to connect my matrilineal line with that of my mystery cousin. I've enjoyed the pursuit, but have to admit it is slipping much closer to the realm of exhaustive search than I had intended when I first started out with this project.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Perhaps it's that I just don't get it. After all, genetic genealogy can be an imposing topic to get your head around. And I feel like I'm continually learning. But never having learned.
To remedy that, I've made sure to register for the separate DNA Day preceding the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree 2016 at the beginning of June. This has become a yearly event for me—a real treat to glean from a smorgasbord of DNA topics presented by an impressive array of much-appreciated speakers.
Despite having had the treat, last January, of a week of intensive training in the subject under the direction of Blaine Bettinger at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy 2016, I can still stand to learn more about the topic. I'm a hands-on learner who needs constant refresher courses if I don't keep my own hands in the mix all the time. Though I was dismayed to see the Ontario Genealogical Society lure away my favorite regulars from past SCGS DNA Day events, it looks like this will simply be the chance to meet many other, equally-impressive speakers in this realm.
One unexpected luminary in the DNA speakers lineup this year turns out to be certified genealogist Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., who will present "Using Autosomal DNA to Solve a Family Mystery." I'm particularly curious about this presentation for one specific reason: while working on my husband's own autosomal results last year, one particularly promising distant cousin turned out to have an administrator by a different name than her own—someone by the name of Thomas Jones. Upon emailing that administrator, sure enough, it turned out to be the Thomas Jones. He graciously thanked me for my contact but explained that he was pursuing a specific goal with that particular person's Family Finder test, which involved relatives in New York. While my husband's Ohio branch of the family may have matched this woman's tree—at a distant level—this was not the focus of the project he was working on at the time.
I suspect the project he was working on was the very narrative he'll present at the SCGS conference this June. And you know I'm curious to see what it was.
Monday, May 23, 2016
About a week from now—just as everyone is buttoning up their Memorial Day commemorations for another year—I'll be unzipping my suitcase and packing for another of those annual trips south to attend my favorite conference, the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree.
My registration is completed and paid for—thankfully, as advanced registration closed just last night—and I'm wading through the myriad class selections to at least present the vague impression that I'm organized. Once again, I'm not only going there to attend the classes, but I'm hoping to meet with interesting fellow researchers and make some connections. After all, to my mind, that's what conferences are for: being with people.
It wasn't long ago—although quite far away—that another genealogical conference finished its last session and waved happy attendees goodbye. No sooner was the National Genealogical Society's annual event over than out came the observations about this year's attendance. It seems the numbers appeared to be down, and people were speculating as to reasons why.
In one blog post with off-the-charts reverberation—generating ninety comments to the post itself, plus a significant number of shares on social media—genealogist Amy Johnson Crow mused, "Are In-person Genealogy Events Dead?" Thankfully, her take on the matter was that no, they are not—but only if we are wise enough to capitalize on the reasons why people tend to do things in person (versus, say, save all that money and watch proceedings from the comfort of their own easy chair at home).
While I heartily endorse Amy's recommendations—and hope you stop by to see what she has to say in its entirety—her thoughts, juxtaposed with this upcoming venture to our west coast version of a genealogical conference, of course triggered other ideas on my part, ideas which veer far from the beaten path. You know me: rabbit trail thinking style. One thing always leads to another. There's just no guarantee that the path from thought to thought will lead in a straight line of reasoning.
You see, I'm very concerned about the health and well-being of genealogical gatherings, myself. I have a vested interest in those of a more local kind, being on the board of a local society. But I also see the need for us to continue gathering together in these larger genealogical events, as well. The educational value is superb, the range of options unparalleled at state, regional and national events. But the chance—and the need—to keep gathering together is an imperative, in my estimation.
Here's my jagged-line thought process, thanks to another interest in my life. Besides genealogy, I'm consumed with reading about nutrition, organic gardening, and health topics in general. In one particular nutrition site I frequent, I recently read the following, about a topic called apoptosis:
When a cell recognizes that it has become too compromised to continue functioning in a healthy manner with other cells, it stops proceeding through its own life cycle and essentially starts to dismantle itself and recycle its parts. It's critical for a cell to determine whether it should continue on or shut itself down, because cells that continue on without the ability to properly function or communicate effectively with other cells are at risk of becoming cancerous.
Apoptosis, if you haven't heard the term before, refers to programmed cell death. While death may seem like a morbid topic to discuss, at a scale as minute as the cellular level, it is important that cells go through a normal life cycle, then retire and become dismantled in an orderly fashion. Otherwise, drastic results such as cancer may result.
When I read about topics like this—not just regarding apoptosis, but referring more broadly to overarching concepts about cell messaging—in my mind, I get this picture of cells joining together in groups, sending each other messages, like, "Okay, jump!" (I know: not very scientific.)
Some messages—at least, in my highly imaginative but scarcely scientific mind—are probably very supportive, and not only the tiny cells in our bodies, but we, ourselves, need those micro-messages sent and received. After all, we are—even more so than those tiny cells we are made up of—social beings. We need to connect. We need to stay connected. We learn from the messages we send back and forth with other people.
If the very elements that keep us functioning in a beneficial manner follow such a pattern, perhaps we can benefit from heeding the lessons gleaned from that process of intercellular communication. After all, each of us needs to be in touch with each other, too. Not just in a digital, cyberized sort of way, but face to face, where we can take in all the visual and audio cues around us, and be in touch—literally—with each other.
For any organism to grow and thrive, being able to receive and heed the messages exchanged between parts of the whole is critical. I'd say the same is so for organizations—especially our genealogical groups, whether local societies or national establishments. It will be through our ongoing connections—the communication shared between the parts—that we will have the kind of adaptive growth that responds to both our internal needs and the imperatives of the environment in which we operate.
I know, I know: what a long, strange post this has been. Bet you hadn't bargained for a journey through such sidelines as these, just to talk about why we shouldn't forsake gathering ourselves together on a regular basis as genealogists. Of course, the warning is always lingering in the background: if we don't keep in touch to keep up to date with the needs of our constituents, that cell message received may someday become, "Okay, jump!" Hopefully, though, we'll not only remain attuned to the messages sent by those within the body of genealogy, but become pro-active in adapting and re-inventing ourselves to remain relevant to every aspect of our body of knowledge.
As for the event I'm heading south to attend in just over a week now, I'm hoping to give it my all in connecting, talking, listening, learning—even using the social media hashtag #scgs2016 and tweeting about it. I hope to see you there, too—but if not there this year, at a future event, whether in southern California, Fort Lauderdale, Springfield, or with another group at another time and place. Whatever you do in genealogy, find a way to get together with the others who speak your language.
Above: "Young Hare," 1502 watercolor by German artist and printmaker, Albrecht Dürer; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Perhaps I believed my own press releases more than I should have, in the last two weeks, for once again it's time to face the numbers, but that breathtaking work pace has not quite been sustained as much as could be hoped. Even I was astounded, two weeks ago, to see I had added over four hundred verified records to my mother-in-law's family tree—and that was after another half-month time frame in which I had added more than seven hundred individuals. Such a pace cannot be sustained indefinitely, no matter how well meaning the project.
And so, as we turn to check the numbers once again in this bi-monthly ritual, it will be no surprise to see the inevitable downturn.
I had been intending—thanks, in most part, to that inevitable computer crash due to happen someday to my Window XP operating system on my dinosaur computer—to transfer an old family tree file over to my Ancestry account. The purpose was two-fold: not only to save a body of work representing over two decades of hard work and collaboration with other respected researchers, but also to benefit from more recently available digitized documentation, to beef up my resources to verify that work.
Thus, the seemingly phenomenal work rate in the past month.
That is not quite how things progressed in this last term. On my husband's maternal line, I only added 444 individuals to the new tree, dusting them off, hauling them over from the old file and plugging in as many pertinent documents to each person's record as possible. The tally on that tree now stands at 5,791. It's getting there. But nowhere near project finish. It will likely take most of the rest of the summer before I can make that claim.
On my own maternal tree, in the past two weeks, I've felt a twinge of guilt as I recall my previous goal of working on my matrilineal line, in hopes of finding the nexus with a mystery cousin who is one of a very few "exact match" results on my mitochondrial DNA test. (Truth is, I got sidetracked by The Bright Shiny when I stumbled upon the unbelievable story of the man who shot Marshall Jackson in 1917.) Last week, I again felt the need to get back to that DNA project—it is, after all, another immense one—and recommenced work on that tree. It's only been a pathetically small bit of progress I've made there, but with the addition of thirty one more names on another branch of my matrilineal line, I've edged the total up to 7,686 in my maternal tree.
You can rehearse the story with me on the two paternal lines, for I've made not a whit of progress on either my father's line or my father-in-law's line. It likely will remain that way—barring a breathtaking breakthrough on either of these two family lines—until my two maternal line projects are completed.
On the DNA testing front, there hasn't been much progress—except for one interesting development. Matches to our test results continue to trickle in—sixteen on my mother's line, and coincidentally, the same number for my mother-in-law's line. I now have 1,150 matches for my DNA test at Family Tree DNA, and my husband has 707. For my test results at Ancestry DNA, I gained seven matches to bring my total to 290, and my husband gained six for a total of 119.
That interesting development, though, turned out to involve a separate type of DNA test. Unlike the matches I've been mentioning at both Family Tree DNA and Ancestry DNA—which are autosomal DNA tests—I also have results at Family Tree DNA for the mitochondrial DNA test. This test, which involves the specific line of descent from an ancestor on the mother's mother's mother's line, is the one which revealed the exact match with the adoptee I refer to as my mystery cousin.
Matches on the mitochondrial DNA test are not listed by closeness of familial relationship—say, second to fourth cousin—as they are in the autosomal DNA test with which most people are familiar. Instead, they are ranked by genetic distance, based on count of number of mutations' distance, from one person to another in a matched set. In addition to my exact match—numbered at zero—with this adoptee, I have several other matches at greater genetic distance, starting from the third ranking.
Because mutations on the mtDNA line can occur very slowly, over several generations—sometimes even to a thousand years or more—someone with a genetic distance of one can turn out to be a recent relative, but will more likely be several generations removed, or possibly so far removed as to pre-date the genealogical paper trail or even the use of surnames.
Thus, I never bothered pursuing the matches to my matrilineal line with genetic distances greater than zero.
Until this past week, that is.
It was last week when the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution put out a letter to their members, explaining their newly formed DNA project for members of DAR. While they are primarily focusing on the Y-DNA test—specifically for the patrilineal line—they are also inviting members to share their autosomal and mtDNA results as well.
Since I already have my DNA results at the same company as the one used for this special NSDAR project—Family Tree DNA—it was only a matter of clicking the "join" button on my account there. (Those with their DNA results at Ancestry DNA can, for a minimal fee, upload their DNA results to Family Tree DNA and then join the project, as well.)
Once into the project, I took a look to see if any other DAR members had the same haplogroup as mine. Sure enough, there was one. Just one. But that was enough! I went back to my own results at FTDNA to see if she was on my list. Sure enough, there she was, showing at a genetic distance of three—explaining why I hadn't connected with her previously. Now realizing the DAR connection, I emailed that member, and we have begun comparing notes, both on our respective patriots, as well as on the matrilineal line which evidently connects us.
Confirming matches on DNA tests is deceptively more difficult than it may appear from the ease with which companies like Ancestry portray it. Perhaps that is why I am making such slow progress on the many results on both mine and my husband's family trees. Still, those confirmed tests can become so helpful in our genealogical research, and may provide clues on how to skirt some issues that we previously believed were immovable brick walls. The progress may seem glacial, but it's the determination—and the follow-through—to keep progressing that counts.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
When Marshall Jackson left Pembina County in the new state of North Dakota, it was likely with only his immediate family. Along with his wife Hester, that included sons Burnett and Earl, and daughters Gladys and Eleanor.
According to the 1906 Canadian census, the family reported arriving in Winnipeg in 1903—although by then, son Burnett had married and moved to Saskatchewan, and son Earl had also moved out of the family household, likely remaining in Winnipeg.
As for the many Harvey family members related to Marshall's wife, Hester, none apparently joined them on the trek northward, when the moved to Winnipeg. For although Marshall was said to have been born in Peterborough, Ontario, the majority of census reports showed Hester as having been born in New York.
In checking the 1885 census for the Dakota Territory, Pembina County—where the young Jackson family had settled—had no less than thirty four people itemized with the surname Harvey, Hester's maiden name. In fact, on the land grant records for Marshall Jackson, related documents referred to both an Ellen Harvey and a John B. Harvey—and then a reference to "heirs of" John Harvey in 1899.
Whether Hester was connected to this John and Ellen was not clear from documents I could locate, though. John's obituary was vague, to say the least. Here's all The Pioneer Express had to say on the matter on May 4, 1894:
Mr. John Harvey, sr. passed away Friday last, after an illness for over six weeks, which he bore with Christian fortitude. He leaves a widow and seven children, all of whom were at his bedside when he passed away. His funeral on Sunday last was largely attended, about sixty carriages following to his last resting place.
There was a John B. Harvey buried in a Pembina County cemetery—the Walhalla Hillside Cemetery—who had died on April 27, 1894, well within the parameters described by the newspaper article. Of course, a will and probate records would help determine whether Hester Harvey Jackson was among those seven children steadfastly attending to John Harvey in his last moments. As neither FamilySearch.org nor Ancestry.com currently include digitized wills or probate records for North Dakota, and since I have no plans in the foreseeable future to journey there, that little research project will have to be put on a back burner.
However, I can certainly hunt and peck through the documents which are available, in the meantime. So I looked for any records which might contain a John, an Ellen, and a Hester in the same household. I found one: in Watertown, New York, where a John B. Harvey lived with his wife Anna and four children, according to the 1880 U.S. Census. Conveniently, the household included a seventeen year old Hester, plus a nineteen year old Ellen. The added bonus was the inclusion of a son John—thus making his father's record agree with the "John Harvey, sr." designation we found later in North Dakota.
There were, of course, several drawbacks to this proposed match.
First was that the reporting party declared every single one of the household members to have been born in Canada, thus disagreeing with Hester's subsequent—and repeated—identification as having been a New York native.
Second was not only the number of children, but the discrepancy between their names and those of the Harvey family I found in the 1885 Dakota territorial census—while I found an Ellen and a John (Hester was, by then, married to Marshall Jackson), I lacked any sign of their older brother Samuel.
Worse, while it certainly would be possible for more children to have been born to the couple after the 1880 census, it wouldn't quite as handily explain away so many discrepancies on the reported ages in each census. Not to mention, there would be some explaining to do in the matter of wife Anna turning into wife Agnes in the journey from New York to North Dakota.
At best, all I can determine at this point is that Hester's Harvey family—whoever they were in Pembina County—all seemed to remain behind as she took her leave of them in 1903. Many of them likely remained in North Dakota for the rest of their lives, judging from the many Harvey memorials on the Find A Grave entry for the Walhalla cemetery where John B. Harvey was buried.
As for Marshall Jackson's own siblings—he had two brothers and two sisters, all but one sister still remaining in the Jackson household in Calhoun County, Iowa, in that state's 1885 census—none of them seemed to follow him back to Canada either. One brother headed toward Montana then eventually wound up in the Los Angeles region, while the other eventually ended up in the Chicago area. One sister stayed in Lake City, Iowa, until after her husband died, when she returned home to Ontario and remarried. The other sister eventually moved to Nebraska.
The 1903 move that returned Marshall Jackson back to his homeland brought with him five United States citizens. According to the 1916 census, Hester and her daughters became naturalized Canadian citizens in 1910. That didn't last for long, though. After the tragic death of her husband, Hester eventually moved southward with her two daughters, where each of them lived in various locations in Los Angeles County in California.
As for Marshall's two sons, the eldest moved first to Saskatchewan, but eventually ended up moving closer to his father's home in Winnipeg by relocating to the city of Brandon. The youngest, at first living in Winnipeg, later moved to Saskatchewan, to Moose Jaw.
I often wonder, in the aftermath of great personal tragedy, what becomes of those left behind—what the personal repercussions were, and how far that painful experience emanated. In the case of Marshall Jackson's family, as his children married and started families of their own, life's path seemed to tug them in different directions—a natural occurrence for many of us in these more recent eras. It's been almost one hundred years now since Marshall Jackson lost his life so tragically and senselessly, and the family has seen the passing of two more generations since Marshall's death. And yet, though the newspaper headlines of the tragedy that took his life have long faded from public view, his was a story that surely hasn't been forgotten by the ones who were the closest to him.
Above: Where the Marshall Jackson tragedy began: boarding the eastbound train at the Canadian Pacific Railway depot in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in January, 1917. From the Rob McInnes Postcard Collection, one of the collections featured at PastForward, Winnipeg's Digital Public History. Used by permission, with thanks to the Winnipeg Public Library.
Friday, May 20, 2016
I'm always curious, in examining the stories of brave immigrants who left home—and all else, apparently—to travel great distances at considerable risk, just to have a fresh start in life.
In the case of Marshall Jackson, he left the place of his birth—Ontario, Canada—as a young adult headed for Dakota Territory. Best I can tell, he married after his arrival there, to a young woman named Hester Jane Harvey.
But did he come west on his own?
It was thanks to those archived newspapers that I discovered he was not alone in that immense journey. For at least part of the way, he had the company of family. While I don't yet have all the details, one brief newspaper mention in The Pioneer Express on June 1, 1894—for which scant detail I'm certainly grateful—opened up the picture for me. Under the headline, "Died," was found this brief entry:
JACKSON.—At Lake City, Iowa, May 11th. Mrs. Astor Jackson, aged 52 years. Mrs. Jackson was the mother of Marshall Jackson of Walhalla and sister of Wm. Rose, of Ernest, in this county.
Part helpful and yet part not helpful—I have yet to find the town called Ernest on a map, and more to the point, anyone named William Rose in that county—it does tell me a few things. First of all, that Marshall had family who had also left Canada and headed west in the United States. Second, it provided the name of his mother, and—especially valuable—her maiden name. Then, too, if she hadn't been coy about revealing her real age, it gave me the reference point to extrapolate the year of her birth. Coupling that with an educated guess that she might also have been born in Ontario, it held out the hope I could trace Marshall's own documentation to his birthplace in Ontario, as well.
Given the precise date of death and the location, it wasn't difficult to confirm that record in Lake City, Iowa. The location, in Calhoun County, was a railroad town founded in 1856 whose population peaked at the turn of the century—just a few years after Mrs. Jackson's passing—and has gone steadily down from that high of 2,703 ever since.
As it turns out, the newspaper got one detail wrong, though: her name wasn't Astor, but Esther—although throughout the many years of documentation in which her record was captured, her given name suffered the predictable spelling permutations, so "Astor" is forgivable. She, her husband, two sons and a daughter had apparently lived in Lake City since at least the 1885 state census, giving us a snapshot of Marshall Jackson's immediate family. Perhaps he, too, had once lived there before venturing further westward to the Dakota Territory.
Esther Rose Jackson, who predeceased her husband, was buried at the cemetery in town. At least that's what I gleaned from her memorial on Find A Grave. I can safely say that's a record I would never have stumbled upon, had it not been for that brief mention in the North Dakota newspaper linking her with her son, Marshall Jackson.
That, however, was not the only nearby family connection for Marshall's family. A few hints in property records made me wonder whether Marshall's wife might also have had connections in town.
Marshall had married a young woman with a name similar to his mother's. In the case of his wife, most documents listed her name with the spelling Hester. Her maiden name was Harvey, and her own mother's maiden name had been Burnett—thus providing the explanation for the given name of Hester and Marshall's eldest son: Burnett Harvey Marshall.
There did happen to be, in Pembina County, several entries in the 1885 Territorial census for the surname Harvey. Although I don't know yet which ones were related to Hester, it was interesting to learn that there were some Harvey family members named in relation to the original land grant Marshall Jackson had obtained in 1891.
If Marshall and Hester both had family which had moved west with them, what was prompting them to leave home once again? Were they going it alone, this time? Or was this move back to Canada also going to be done in the company of others?
Thursday, May 19, 2016
In retracing the steps on the timeline of constable Marshall Jackson's life, not all was newspaper coverage of his career in law enforcement. There were a few glimpses on the personal side in those Dakota Territory newspaper reports, as well, helping to paint a portrait of the man and his family.
The newspaper from the county in which he settled, after leaving his home in Canada, captured this moment in time on March 1, 1889, in The Pioneer Express:
Marshall Jackson, wife and family, have returned from the east. Their little boy was sick with the chicken pox when they left and he has been very sick since their return but is now slowly convalescing.
Given the date of 1889, it was impossible to tell whether the "little boy" the paper was designating was Marshall's oldest son, Burnett—who would, by then, have been five years of age—or their younger son, whose name turned out to be Earl, after all.
Still, one valuable clue in that brief insert showed us that the Jackson family had reason to visit someone—or something—back east. The trick in finding utility in that "back east" idea depends on the frame of reference of those choosing that descriptor. For those of us originating on the eastern seaboard, the phrase could only mean one thing: an east coast destination. But for those accustomed to midwestern ways, the term could simply mean a trip to, say, Iowa.
Wherever it was, though, chances were good that Marshall had not made his previous trek westward as a young, single man, alone. The possibility of family nearby—instead of far away, back in Ontario—increased ever so slightly with this detail from the local newspaper.
Second son Earl became the mention of the next clue found in newspaper reports of Marshall's personal life in North Dakota. Once again, it was The Pioneer Express providing the details, this time on October 4, 1901, in a section labeled "County News" under a subheading for Glasston:
Marshall Jackson of Neche visited his son Earl, Sunday.
As brief as that line was, it also provoked some questions. By 1901, young Earl would have been about fifteen years of age. Considering he was living back in Neche at the time of the 1900 census—just over one year previous to this news mention—what caused the change? There was little more in Glasston—then as well as now—than farmland and a stop along the Great Northern Railroad. Could he have moved the twenty five miles from Neche, simply to get a job?
Actually, hold that thought on the railroad. The Great Northern Railroad may well have been the very vehicle which brought Marshall Jackson to this part of the Dakota Territory in the first place. After all, the Great Northern had branches that ran northward to Canada from Dakota Territory and, like the Northern Pacific Railway—another company with early train service to Dakota with a northern line headed to Winnipeg—heavily promoted their service westward to immigrants and others seeking new opportunity as land in this territory opened up in the 1870s onwards.
Whether it was the Great Northern or the Northern Pacific that brought Marshall Jackson all the way from Ontario, Canada, to Pembina County in Dakota Territory in the early 1880s, one thing is sure: it was the easiest way to move back out again. And that is apparently what Marshall and his family did, in the early 1900s.
An entry in the April 3, 1903, edition of The Pioneer Express gave the first indication:
W. A. Murphy purchased the residence of Marshall Jackson, of Neche, recently. The latter will remove to the Northwest.
Well, take that last line with a strong dose of skepticism. You know those editorial foibles. As we already know, by the time of Canada's 1906 census, Marshall and Hester Jackson and at least their two daughters were in Winnipeg, listing their date of arrival in the Dominion of Canada as 1903.
Above: An undated photograph, circa 1909, of Osborne Street in Fort Rouge, the section of Winnipeg in which Marshall Jackson and his family eventually moved, upon their return from North Dakota. This intersection was less than one kilometer from the Jackson home. From the Rob McInnes Postcard Collection, one of the collections featured at PastForward, Winnipeg's Digital Public History. Used by permission, with thanks to the Winnipeg Public Library.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
One thing which seemed masked, in the search for Marshall Jackson in his home in Dakota Territory, was the context in which he arrived, lived his life, and eventually exited. Perhaps there is this sense of continuity assumed in any genealogical search: that while our ancestor obviously arrived at some point, the place at which he arrived had always been there—at least in some form.
Sometimes, you have to put effort into the search to step back and discover the big picture. What I missed in this week's search was the fact that Marshall Jackson had arrived in Dakota Territory in the early years of formation of the places in which he lived. Not only that, but he arrived in the early years of his own life, as well.
Judging from census records, it appears to have been a young, single man of barely eighteen years who arrived in Pembina County from his native Ontario, Canada. Pulling our clues from the 1900 census, when he declared his age to be thirty seven, he gave his birth to be in the month of July, 1862. While his arrival out west in 1881 might have given the impression that he was a seasoned traveler, the fact was that he actually had barely grown up and left home.
In that same census, he indicated not only that he had arrived from Canada in 1881, but that he had become a naturalized United States citizen.
Sure enough, turning to the database at the North Dakota State University Archives, looking up his name in their naturalization records index yielded this result:
Marshall Jackson had filed his first papers in Pembina County on November 1, 1881. The follow-through occurred in the same county almost to the day, six years later.
Now, let's put this in perspective. In 1881, North Dakota was not yet a state—that didn't happen until the end of 1889. The county in which he filed his papers—Pembina County—was established in the northeast region of the Dakota Territory in early 1867, but didn't assume its current holdings until much later. Its shape morphed through a series of transitions that took it down in size from 1871, when it stretched from the Canadian border to nearly current-day South Dakota, to 1873, when the process began to carve eleven new counties from Pembina's borders.
That process had barely been completed when Marshall Jackson arrived in the region. To say where he actually settled might have been near impossible, without following the border changes through several iterations of map editing, if it hadn't been for two other documents.
One of those documents was the territorial census conducted in 1885. Transcribed and posted for free access on the North Dakota State University Archives, it shows us a young Jackson family—in addition to Marshall, his newly-wed young wife Hester and two year old son, listed as Bernard, at the bottom of this page—living in Cavalier, one of the counties carved out from the formerly immense Pembina County.
The other document which guides us to Marshall's whereabouts had a later date of origination: February 13, 1891. By the time that record was issued, Marshall was not quite yet twenty nine years of age, but he had just gotten himself named as a patentee on a land grant in Pembina County in the new state of North Dakota. In some ways, he and his family could be considered pioneers in that county's history.
Of course, at the time of the 1900 census, we can see the Jackson residence was located in the town known as Neche—said to be a Chippewa word meaning friend—and Marshall and Hester were by then the proud parents of two sons and two daughters. By the time the Jackson family left the state—best guess so far is 1904—Marshall had become well established in the county, thanks to his active duty as Pembina's constable.
By juxtaposing Marshall Jackson's personal timeline alongside the historical events of both the territory and the county, it reveals just how early in the history of the new state of North Dakota the family had actually settled there.
Above: Plat map of the township of Neche, North Dakota, from 1928—long after the Jackson family had left town; courtesy United States Library of Congress; in the public domain.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
If you happen to find yourself researching the family history of a man employed in law enforcement in the small towns of nineteenth century America, you may find a wealth of mentions in local newspapers. All the better if those newspaper excerpts can be gleaned from a publicly accessible source such as the Library of Congress' Chronicling America project.
In our case, we've been perusing Dakota area newspapers from 1881 through 1904, the years our man Marshall Jackson had been living and working in Pembina County. The date range was gleaned from census records, both in the United States and in Canada, where "Marsh" moved, after his twenty-plus year stay in what had just become the state of North Dakota.
The 1900 U.S. census had indicated Marshall Jackson was serving as constable, but assertions in the Winnipeg newspaper, on the event of his death, had pegged him as a former sheriff in North Dakota. All I could find, though, was a series of articles in The Pioneer Express detailing his candidacy—and subsequent loss—for sheriff in Pembina County.
Still, there were ample entries in the local paper giving every indication that he was active in local law enforcement. Take, for instance, this entry on September 19, 1902:
Marshall Jackson, of Neche, was notified to look out for Frank Forbes, an escaped insane patient of the Jamestown hospital, who was committed from Hyde Park some time since.
Marsh's name was peppered liberally among the usual small town cop stories. In one instance reported on June 15, 1900, a local farmer was approached about purchasing some cows from two men who had just come over the county line. After the deal was struck, the purchaser discovered his bargain of "a couple of cheap beeves" was really the property of a neighboring farmer, who identified them as such.
Upon that discovery, the man, now out his money and having returned the stolen property,
immediately telegraphed Marsh Jackson, county constable, of the trouble. In the evening, Mr. Jackson arrived and it only took him a short time to secure a clew to the direction taken by the thieves....
Cattle thievery wasn't the only crime to make local headlines in Pembina County. On October 24, 1902, a store in Neche was broken into and the cash register stolen. A series of other stores in town were also hit that same night. However,
One of the suspects was arrested by Marshal Jackson near Altona the next day and now occupies quarters in the village jail pending examination.
Even the more pleasant aspects of a police officer's duties were covered in the local paper. The "international picnic" of the "A.O.U.W. of Manitoba and North Dakota"—held to be "one of the most successful"—included among its accolades on July 6, 1900, a nod to our man:
Marshal Jackson performed his duty, and the peace of the day was not marred in the least.
This January 27, 1899, report may have been another example encompassing all in a day's work for local law enforcement.
Marshal Jackson of Neche brought over a man named Robert J. Embery to the county jail, in default of bail, under charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. Embury was in a scrap with another man and Deputy Marshal Neil McKinnon attempted his arrest when Embury assaulted him with a leaden billy.
Wait! Deputy Marshal?
If some of these news reports—alternately featuring spelling as Marshall or Marshal—offended the sensibilities of your editorial eye, you are not alone in being irked by this irregularity. Though we could have excused it—just as the swapping of "Embery" and "Embury" in the above news story—to poor copy editing, it seems there was something more at play here.
Like this example. Remember the stolen cash register reported on October 24, 1902? Here's another detail:
Marshal Jackson, of Neche, on Tuesday brought over the two burglars who went through LaMoure & Co.'s store. They are pretty tough-looking characters. One of them became a little belligerent, which resulted in a black eye for him and a broken finger for the marshal.
Oh oh. Could this have been Marshal Marshall? But I thought he was constable. He was, after all, collecting fees for his services as constable.
So far, in sketches of the big picture of local law enforcement, I had run across mentions of the office of sheriff and that of constable. I hadn't picked up on the possibility that there was also a position there called marshal. It was time to consider whether Marsh was the marshal, or whether someone else was.
It didn't take long, in Chronicling America's easy to navigate newspaper resource, to find a "clew." There, in the May 10, 1895, edition of The Pioneer Express, was a whiff of local politics to waft in our direction:
On Saturday night a caucus was called to put in nomination officers for the ensuing year. It needed not a very intelligent man to see which way the wind blew. The fight was on the clerkship and marshal.
So there was a position of marshal out in this pioneer region. The question now became: who was the marshal? Marshall? Or some other Jackson?
In that very 1895 column discussing the machinations of local politics, we find our answer. The "hottest fight for years" resulted in "a strong ticket elected" which included, for marshal, a man identified by the name of C. Jackson.
Whether Mr. C. Jackson retained his position after that year's election, I can't tell. But further inquiry led to some details which either will serve to confuse or clarify whether Marshall Jackson was ever known as marshal in these parts. It seems—at least on November 2, 1900, the eve of another election—that perhaps the editorial staff of The Pioneer Express had finally made peace with their Ls:
Marshall Jackson of Neche has made an enviable record as a peace officer while acting as constable and marshal of Neche village. He is a teetotaler, does not drink or smoke, and is one of the most active men we know of. He will make a good record as sheriff.
It seems the predictive power of their editorial staff is exceeded only by their editorial prowess in such political matters.