Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Crowdsourcing the Kinslows
...And the Huckabys

Still stymied by lack of documentation after the revelation that William Stinebaugh's Kentucky-born wife was once a Kinslow, I've been guessing my way along the path of census records, marriage records, and now burial records. All this, of course, is an exercise based on conjecture: that the only other Kinslow for miles around the Stinebaugh home in Dallas County, Missouri, would actually be a relation of Sarah Kinslow Stinebaugh.

That man in question was named Page Kinslow. He was the right age to be a brother of Sarah. And he just happened to be from Kentucky. Barren County, Kentucky, to be precise.

We've already rejoiced over the fact that Barren County did not happen to be a "burned" county, and that transcriptions of marriage records posted online helped us follow the trail of Agnes Payne, through her first marriage to Page's father, Joseph Kinslow, and then, as a widowed mother of two young children, to her second husband, Joseph Huckaby.

Setting aside the possibility that this might all be a false lead, I thought I'd see what could be found about the family of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Huckaby, once they all moved to Missouri. I have to keep reminding myself that I might be barking up the wrong family tree—but at the same time, I'm very aware that researching this new discovery might lead me to the very resources that can answer my question.

What could possibly go wrong? At the very least, I'd confidently be able to negate my hypothesis. Even that is progress.

So I clicked over to Find A Grave to see if there were any entries for Joseph Huckaby, Page's step-dad.

There was.

Even though there wasn't any cross-reference hyperlinked to Page Kinslow's own memorial on Find A Grave, it was easy enough to find Joseph Huckaby's memorial. As it turns out, Joseph was indeed married more than once, as the 1850 census, back in Kentucky, had suggested. Born in Virginia in 1789, Joseph had served in the War of 1812. This could be a research situation ripe with helpful material.

Better than that—and more pertinent to my own research goal—Joseph's wife Aggy had a Find A Grave memorial of her own, complete with a photograph.

The memorial indicated Aggy was actually born in Barren County, Kentucky. She was buried, predictably, in Polk County, Missouri, where the entire Huckaby family had settled after removing from Kentucky. Some kind soul had, thankfully, hyperlinked her memorial with that of several of her children—as well as with her parents. The memorial was turning out to be quite a treasure trove.

The best part, for me, was the discovery of two newspaper clippings which had been added as photographs to the memorial. The only drawback: each of those newspaper reports was clipped, all right: right inside the column marker, cutting off the first few words at the beginning of each line for one of the articles, and the end of each line for the other article.

All told, wonder woman Agnes Payne Kinslow Huckaby was mother to at least fifteen children—plus step-mother to the several that Joseph had already fathered by his previous wife. Still, I wanted to read the whole of the obituaries that were posted at Find A Grave, not just guess what the missing words might have been.

Fortunately, search engine power was in my favor. Google turned up another resource containing transcriptions of those very same articles: a Rootsweb file which included a huge page of entries for Agnes. Among the details I found interesting was that, having lived to the age of ninety one—coupled with the fact that, being so much younger than her husband, she lived until 1911—Aggy was "one of the three last pensioners" of the War of 1812.

Still, the best I could find out about that question that bugged me—the name of that second Kinslow child—was a dismissive mention that Agnes had had two children by her previous marriage.

Is that all they could say?!

Of course, the possibility—though slim—that Joseph Huckaby's wife's pension application would include any mention of her two Kinslow children drew me beyond the transcribed notes on this Rootsweb file to the actual digitized images of those pension papers at Fold3.com. Though I managed to obtain the dates I was missing—Joseph Kinslow's death in "July 1840" and that of Joseph Huckaby's first wife Mary in August of 1836—any mention of Agnes' first two children eluded me.

Even so, if I supposed that the mysterious "Joseh Ann" entry from the 1850 census was indeed my Sarah A. Stinebaugh of much later years, tracing back her matrilineal line through the details given on the Find A Grave memorial—and then, piggy-backing those names onto other family trees posted at Ancestry and Rootsweb—I couldn't see any familiar surnames to claim as that nexus I was seeking with my mystery cousin, the adoptee with whom I had an exact match resultant from our mitochondrial DNA test.

Mired in so much data—much of it taking on the cast of a genealogical wild goose chase—I was beginning to lose steam. Maybe this quest wasn't such a good idea, after all. Maybe trying to match the genealogical paper trail with the tale told by DNA testing wasn't going to work, after all. That ingenious creation of scientific pursuit—the mtDNA test—was turning out to be too powerful an opponent to take on. I already knew, from autosomal testing, that my mystery cousin and I did not connect within the range of sixth cousin. Who knows how much farther back the nexus might be.

Frankly, sifting through all the possibilities was just wearing me out.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Second Start

Finding Page Kinslow—whom I hoped would turn out to be brother of my targeted Sarah Kinslow Stinebaugh—in Barren County, Kentucky, was a start. This helped me trace back from Missouri to a likely birthplace for Sarah. If, that is, she was sister of Page Kinslow.

Though some thoughtful volunteers had posted Barren County marriage records online—henceforth saving them from at least the fate of a burned courthouse—I still had some tap dancing to do, once I landed on that helpful page of transcriptions. Why? Because the record I found on the 1850 census for that county showed Page and his sister—whatever her name was—in the household of a man named Joseph Huckaby.

I thought it might be a good idea to waltz on over to the transcribed marriage entries underneath the heading "H" to take a look.

Sure enough, there was a Joseph Huckaby entered on the list of grooms in Barren County. On June 23, 1841, he apparently was wed to a woman named Agnes Kinslow. Since the 1850 census showed the Joseph Huckaby household including a thirty year old female named "Agness" combined with a twenty three year old William Huckaby on the next line, this could either be an older daughter of Joseph, or possibly a second wife, since there were others listed in the household under the age of ten, including the two Kinslow children.

If this Agnes were Joseph's wife, by 1850 they would have been married for nine years. Joseph Huckaby, by this time aged fifty eight, likely had been married before, though no entry on the Barren County marriage transcriptions fit that scenario. Correspondingly, the groom's list for the "K" entries had shown a marriage between a Joseph Kinslow and an "Aggy" Payne on August 3, 1837—leaving just enough time for Aggy to bear Joseph one or possibly two children before his untimely death and Aggy's subsequent marriage.

At least, that sounded like a reasonable scenario. After all, even in a county with the twenty thousand people Barren County contained at that point, what were the chances that there would be two Agnes Kinslows there?

I don't like chances much, though, so I thought I'd take another look.

As it turned out, Page Kinslow had a memorial on Find A Grave. Some helpful volunteer had noted on that entry that Page was son of Joseph Kinslow and Agnes Payne.

Well, at least someone agrees with me.

Come to find out, there were others who thought so, too. Though I couldn't find any memorials on Find A Grave for the unfortunate man who left Agnes a widow so soon, there was an entry for her second husband—and one for Agnes, herself. And they weren't sparse entries, either. Someone—or two, or three—was being a wonderful Find A Grave volunteer, indeed.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Following the Family Line

Is it just coincidence that, after emigration from Kentucky, the only other family sharing Sarah Stinebaugh's maiden name lived just across the county line, in Bolivar, Missouri? I thought I'd try an experiment and see what could be found about the kin of Page C. Kinslow, formerly of Barren County, Kentucky.

Fortunately, someone had kindly transcribed that Kentucky county's marriage records for the decades I'd like to see, and posted them online. All told, there were seventeen entries for marriages with a Kinslow groom listed, beginning with Adam Kinslow and Charlotte Drake in 1809, and stretching up to the 1849 nuptials of Massa Kinslow and Francis A. Mansfield. Undoubtedly, several of them were for second marriages.

Just as was predicted by the Find A Grave entry for the man we're pursuing—Page C. Kinslow, buried in Missouri in 1926—his stated parents, Joseph Kinslow and "Aggy" Payne, were showing on the list, married in Kentucky on August 3, 1837. That would be in plenty of time to welcome their baby boy on July 31, 1838—if, indeed, this Page Kinslow, now in Polk County, Missouri, was their son.

Since Page didn't seem to show up in Missouri census records until 1870, it seemed likely that he could be found back in his hometown in Kentucky during his childhood years on the 1850 census. Though the 1850 census doesn't specifically finger family relationships, it would be a handy place to uncover the name of any possible sibling inferences—especially the hoped-for connection with Sarah A. Kinslow, who supposedly became the Sarah A. Stinebaugh we've been pursuing.

Pulling up the search bar—both at Ancestry.com and on FamilySearch.org—that attempt ran into problems. While I was able to flush out an approximately-eleven-year-old Page Kinslow in Barren County for that 1850 census, he wasn't living in the Kinslow household. He was listed as part of a Barren County household headed by one Joseph Huckaby.

Complicating matters was the fact that, though he was listed in the Huckaby household alongside another child with his own surname—Kinslow—that ten year old girl had a given name entered that looked very much as if it should have read "Joseph." Only there was a letter missing. Plus the enumerator's habit of forming concluding Ss in the colonial style: what we would now misread as an "f-s." Was that last letter an S? Or an F? Or possibly a P or an H? The enumerator must have been suffering from writer's cramp by this point in his circuit.

What became of Sarah Kinslow? If this ten year old Kinslow girl was a poorly-transcribed Sarah, we could say she was likely Page's sister. But it would take a lot of imagination to reconstruct that given name as Sarah.

There was another Sarah Kinslow in Barren County. However, her age didn't align as neatly with the consistently-stated age of our Sarah, as she appeared in the Stinebaugh household of both 1860 in Missouri and 1880 in Texas.

Besides, who was this Joseph Huckaby? While I had noticed that there were neighboring Huckaby families settled near the property Page Kinslow had secured for himself as a married man in Missouri, it took another trip back to the online records of the Kentucky county to help reconstruct the family's story.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

This One's Still Standing

Alright, then: the death certificate that assured me that Sarah A. Stinebaugh's maiden name was Kinslow led me to the brick wall roadblock of a "burned" county: Dallas County, Missouri.

Now what?

All I had was information gleaned from the census records of her married years: as a young mother in 1860 in Missouri, and much later in 1880, when the family moved to Texas. (For whatever reason, try as I might, I could not locate the family in the 1870 census—either in Missouri or Texas—though Sarah's husband's parents and some siblings were easily located in their new Texas home by 1870.)

What I could determine about this Sarah Stinebaugh was that she was born about 1839, and that she was born in Kentucky. Both the 1860 census and the 1880 census consistently substantiated those two bits of information. A later look at Sarah's headstone confirmed that year of birth.

The next task, of course, would be to tackle where in Kentucky she might have been born. That introduces the question of how she arrived, from Kentucky, in Missouri. Since her husband, William Stinebaugh, was, according to census records, born in Missouri, the most likely scenario would be that he met his future bride in Missouri, rather than back in Kentucky. Could there be any neighboring Kinslow families in Dallas County, Missouri, around the time of their marriage? Perhaps there would be a way around that burned courthouse, after all.

As luck would have it—and though a surname like Kinslow would itself be ripe for spelling creativity—just scrolling through the contiguous pages in the census records, I could find no sign of any Kinslows residing in the neighboring properties near the Stinebaugh residence, either in 1860 or 1850.

Well, it was worth a try. I always like to take a peek and see who else is living nearby my target ancestors. If I don't look, I don't know.

Next step was to search more generically for Kinslows in Missouri, as jumping straight back to Kentucky to seek Kinslows would, at this point, be too premature.

As it turns out, there was a Kinslow household in Missouri—not, unfortunately, for either 1860 or even 1850, but in the 1870 census. Then, too, another complication was that the entry was not for anyone living in the county where the Stinebaughs had resided—Dallas County—but in nearby Polk County. It was an entry for a man named Page Kinslow. Aged thirty one at the time, that would put his year of birth at either 1838 or 1839. If—and, of course, that would be a very tenuous if—he were a relation of Sarah Stinebaugh's, that might even put him at the level of a brother or cousin.

What if I followed the trail backwards in time, from this Page Kinslow, to see if he had any relatives named Sarah? Almost too good to be true, it turned out that this Page Kinslow had an entry on Find A Grave, with volunteer-added contributions about his personal history. While I realize that such volunteer entries could very well be merely mistakes propagated by the passing along of unsubstantiated material, I was game to trace Page back to his roots in the county revealed by this Find A Grave entry.

The entry asserted that Page Kinslow was born in 1838 to parents Joseph Kinslow and Agnes Payne. His childhood home was listed as Barren County, Kentucky.

Off to the Internet resources for Barren County I went! Unlike what I had discovered for the disabused Dallas County in Missouri, Barren County had apparently fared much better during the turmoil of the Civil War years, as witnessed by the online opportunities now opening up to me in my newfound Kinslow details.

If Page was going to turn out to be Sarah's brother, I was in for some easy going through online resources in this county.

Above: The Barren County, Kentucky, courthouse, located in Glasgow; photograph courtesy of the Wikipedia contributor, Bedford; in the public domain.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Burned Up

Finding the maiden name for the woman later known as Sarah Stinebaugh was a coup. At least, that's what I thought when I stumbled upon that suggestion, gleaned from her daughter Margaret Melvina's death certificate.

However, we all know how unreliable an "official" document like that can be. Think of it: everyone stressed over the ordeal of the past few days—or, in the case of some terminal illnesses, the past few months—then suddenly expected to deliver the details of vital records to a stranger, when every mention of the topic might just bring on another volley of heaving sobs.

The way I see it, Sarah's maiden name might have been Kinslow, just as her daughter's family reported it.

Or, it could have been something entirely different. I had to go take a look.

So back to the records for the county in Missouri where I once found the Stinebaugh family living: Dallas County.

I began my due diligence with a cursory glance at the wiki posted for the county among the many pages at FamilySearch.org. It was interesting, in looking for possible marriage records of a Sarah Kinslow and our William Stinebaugh, to stumble upon this map of Missouri counties, along with a listing of what marriage records might be found in each county. Scrolling down the chart to the county I was seeking—Dallas—I was disappointed to see their marriage records only dated back to 1886.

That would be a far cry from our target date range of 1857 through 1859.

I headed over to the FamilySearch wiki for general information on the county. There, I briefed myself on the historic overview of the county: seeing that it was created in 1841, that it was carved out of territory previously belonging to Polk County, and that it was originally named Niangua County.

Googling for further information, I stumbled upon the resurrected Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness site. There, the landing page for the state provided some basic facts for the counties in Missouri—the kind of stuff genealogy researchers find helpful. I took a cursory glance at the list of counties, scrolling down to Dallas County and reading, basically, the same information I had just read back on the FamilySearch wiki.

And then I saw it: the clickable links in a navigation bar just above the list of counties. Sandwiched in between the choices, "List of Missouri Counties" and the intriguing entry, "List of Missouri Extinct Counties," was the middle choice: "List of Missouri Burned Courthouses."

Oh, yeah. Burned counties. I had heard stuff about that. No, correct that: I had been witness to grown adults melting down in vented frustration over their personal burned courthouse. Their own research Waterloo. The end of the line. The reason why so many people have impassible Brick Walls.

It looked like I was now going to join that statistic. I clicked on the link. (Cue murder mystery sound track here.)

The link led to a narrative, explaining the significance of burned courthouses. True enough, the opening paragraph expressed what I've learned from others who've faced this research problem:
Not only are these historic buildings ripped from each of our lifetimes, so are the archives they kept....

I scrolled down the long list of Missouri counties hit by this scourge. Sure enough, among the wounded and dispatched was Dallas County. Hit by Confederate troops on October 18, 1863, the remaining Dallas County courthouse records were subsequently also consumed by two fires occurring in their temporary replacement quarters in both 1864 and 1867.

Fat chance I'd find my marriage record for William Stinebaugh and his bride, Sarah, in that mess.

Perhaps, my ever-hopeful inner voice chirped up, there will be another way to find this...


Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Importance of Taking Another Look

This is one of those "preaching to the choir" messages. But hey. I'm a member of that choir, too. And look how this caught me by surprise.

It's no secret I've been inundated with DNA test results. Mostly, these are leads that lead...nowhere. But there have also been some sweet moments during this foray into the world of genetic genealogy. One of them was in standing back and watching my then-only exact match mtDNA partner go against all odds and find his birth parents, thanks to a combination of sheer persistence and genetic genealogy.

By virtue of our sharing an exact match on our mitochondrial DNA test, that means somewhere in our past, his mother's-mother's-mother's line becomes one and the same as my mother's-mother's-mother's line. Or something like that. Give or take a few dozen generations. Maybe even going back up to seven hundred years in the past.

We're hoping our nexus is a bit closer than that.

So we've decided to set out and see if we can find the connection. Once my mystery cousin discovered who his birth mother was, he worked with her to sketch a basic maternal family tree. And I set to wrestling with my own research challenges on my matrilineal line, too.

Right now, it seems we are at a stalemate. I suspect his will be one of those early American settler lines that may stretch all the way back to the Revolutionary War—perhaps even farther. Complicating matters is that, like many families in the early days of our country, his was a family which seemed to be constantly westward-moving, slipping from Tennessee to Kentucky to Missouri to Texas and beyond.

Here is where we are stuck on his line: with newlyweds William and Sarah Stinebaugh and their baby daughter Julina in the 1860 census in Dallas County, Missouri.

Where we are stuck, in particular, is with the possibility that William Stinebaugh and family may not have been in Dallas County, Missouri, for long. He and his wife, Sarah, may have gotten married somewhere else. And that is the problem: she may be the maiden, but I'm the one who is in distress. I can't very well trace a matrilineal line without securing the specific surname of that there maiden.

Just the other day, in frustration, I thought I'd pull out all the details on our discoveries to this point, review them and look for gaps. Or hints. Or anything a desperate mind could clutch and feel satisfied in calling it progress.

So I took a look at the bigger picture of that 1860 census page. Since the surname in question was Stinebaugh—definitely not a name anywhere in my maternal line—I wanted to see who else might be living nearby. After all, looking for a name like William—even if coupled with a surname as uncommon as Stinebaugh—could create problems. Besides, think of all the spelling permutations a census enumerator could come up with, given a name like that.

What I saw, when I looked around that census page, was another Stinebaugh. His name was Granville. That, in case you haven't noticed, would be a wonderful name to research. After all, how many Granville Stinebaughs do you know?

To test my theory with a quick and dirty experiment, I grabbed that name and ran to Rootsweb. Sure enough, a few people had posted their trees which included that name—including this one.

Oh, happy day: there actually was a Stinebaugh family which included siblings William and Granville. It was a family headed by Jacob and Nancy Cannon Stinebaugh, who once lived in Christian County, Kentucky. As it turns out, several of the Stinebaugh family had applied for and received land grants in Dallas County, Missouri—including William, whose paperwork was dated 1857.

This nice infusion of facts did little to answer my question about his young wife's maiden name, however.

I tried some other attempts, using tricks of the research trade to help me overcome that stalemate. Google searches for pockets of sequestered genealogical tidbits—flung online, '90s style, in various GenWeb and related sites—failed to lead me to any hidden parlor containing marriage records for this William and Sarah.

Next step: try looking at death certificates for the next generation. This step was beginning to frustrate me as well. One daughter's death certificate, I later found out, gave the mother's first name, followed by the initials "D. K."

"Doesn't Know"?

My mood was turning sour.

I kept plugging, going through one descendant after another. I've been down this road before, so I didn't expect much. I was mainly going through the motions because, well, that's what you're supposed to do, right? Double check all the steps along the way, to see if you missed anything.

I had. Oh, how I appreciate Find A Grave for bringing me to my senses. What happened was this: remember that child listed along with William and Sarah in the 1860 census? Baby Julina? Well, the next census enumeration in which I was able to find the family wasn't until 1880. A lot can happen in that time—witness the family's move to Cooke County, Texas—and because the family no longer included Julina, I had presumed she had died in childhood. I had traced the other Stinebaugh children through their childhood to adulthood—and then, all the way to their death records in hopes of finding a mention of their mother's maiden name—but I never went looking for adult records of Julina.

Find A Grave, on the other hand, has some wonderful volunteers who go beyond their call of duty, adding all sorts of additional material to those online records. The memorial for Sarah Stinebaugh, herself, happened to be cross-referenced with a married daughter named Julia.

Could that be Julina?

I won't get your hopes up falsely by dragging out this narrative. As it turned out, Julia likely was one and the same as Julina—thus gaining me an additional line in this Stinebaugh genealogy to trace—but hers was also the death certificate with the "Sarah D. K." entered for mother's maiden name.

Since I was in the mode of retracing my steps, though, I went back to that Find A Grave memorial for her mother, Sarah, to look at the other link provided: this time, for a daughter named Melvina. Born right after that 1860 census was taken, "Vina" eventually married, raised a family, and then moved to California to live near one of her daughters.

That is where, at her death in 1945, county bureaucrats duly noted her mother's maiden name and recorded it on the document publicly available for all to review.

The name? For once, I've escaped the curse of "Unknown." "D. K." is not "Doesn't Know." Well, I still don't know what the "D" stood for in Sarah's name, but I do know about the "K."

Her name was Kinslow.

And now I have a ticket to ride back to another generation and another place: Kentucky, the state where Sarah was born. Thankfully, also a state where other branches of my own maternal family tree had migrated in those early years of the 1800s. Perhaps, within a generation or two, my mystery cousin and I will find our nexus.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On the Other Hand

After unloading my frustration, yesterday, over lack of progress on my DNA test results—not just for myself, but for my husband and my brother, as well—I need to interject some balance to my observations.

I am reminded of an analysis I read once, years ago, considering the political and social aftermath of the invention we know as the fax machine. Given that the fax machine enabled people to bypass the conventional gatekeepers of business and politics, it could become a powerful tool in getting a lone message out to multiplied numbers of people with very little effort.

Despite its evident selling point, the gizmo also had its drawbacks. The article I was reading mentioned the dilemma faced by the cutting-edge techno-fan when considering purchase of such a device: if you are the only one who owns such a contraption, to whom will you dispatch your faxes?

One fax machine is useless. The invention only becomes useful after there are two.

We've since developed a world of other technology gadgets which follow suit on that rule. Come to think of it, we've actually faced that dilemma long before the arrival of the fax machine, as well. Just consider how useless it would be to be the only person in the world owning a telephone.

Despite its bad rap, technology often connects people, just as much as it seems to isolate and alienate them. Imagine being the only person in the world on Facebook. Or using email.

Some tasks just require two parties. A sender and a receiver.

Likewise, as I seek matches to my DNA test results, I'm faced with that same technology conundrum: it takes two people to make a match.

Of course, this DNA testing isn't quite so easy a matter as having two people test to find a match. You and I and everyone else know the key is in who is doing the testing. But, as very few of us are acquainted with our fourth through sixth cousins—those thousands of them out in the wide world—we have little to no idea how many people it will take, before we can connect with a bona fide genetic match.

Reader Intense Guy made the observation yesterday,
...the country has 300,000,000 people in it—and only a very small number have done the "DNA testing." The odds of a jackpot would seem to me to be about 1 in 50,000 or perhaps even worse.
It seems the key, then, is to turn advocates for genetic genealogy into evangelists for DNA testing. It seems a reasonable conclusion. The more people out there who have joined in on the genetic genealogy bandwagon, the merrier.

On the other hand, how likely is it that the average person will rush out and kiss goodbye their hard-earned cash, along with their test-tube encapsulated spit? We've got everyone from seniors who just can't afford it to swinging singles who are afraid a paternity suit might catch up with them. Add to the mix the uninterested, uninformed, and undocumented. Plus preppers and the paranoid and conspiracy theorists, oh my!

It seems there are thousands of reasons why a person might not want to have his or her DNA bottled up and put on the record. Anywhere.

Still, promoters of genetic genealogy—and genealogy in general—have taken the opportunity to spread the message far and wide. Of course, I've heard the message at genealogy conferences. Television programs popularizing genealogical research have helped, as well. And it sure doesn't hurt when well-known promoters like A.J. Jacobs garner live crowds—his Global Family Reunion reportedly had four thousand in attendance at the grounds of the former New York World's Fair a couple weeks ago. You can be sure those joining in that family reunion heard some amazing stories about genetic genealogy results.

I only wish there was a way—a widespread way—for each of us as individuals to spread the word within our own microcosms. I'd love to be able to say to someone, "Hey, if you're related to the Tilsons (or the McClellans, or the Booths), do this DNA test and let's see if we're connected," and receive a favorable response.

Instead of having to stoop down to pick up the poor willing soul who's just been knocked out by sticker shock.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Emperor's New Clothes: A Pep Talk

I've been re-thinking my foray into genetic genealogy recently, and I don't like what my mind is telling me.

Perhaps this is all owing to my resolution, early yesterday morning, to go cold turkey on all the coffee that's been powering my days in the past few busy weeks. A lackluster, caffeine-less day may have colored my thoughts an uncharacteristically somber gray. But let's just have it out, anyhow. As they say, I'll feel so much better, once I get this off my chest.

Just like the innocent bystander—the child watching from the sidelines as the emperor parades by, exhibiting his brilliant new designer fashion devised by the cunning weavers who outfitted him—I feel like blurting out, "But this science isn't producing any results!"

Face it: I have 850 matches to my autosomal DNA results. Besides my own brother—whom I asked to do his DNA tests—you would think I could identify more than the four distant cousins who've agreed to cooperate enough with me to confirm our relationship. I mean, the best I've found is a fourth cousin connection. All the others are at the level of sixth cousin. Those outer margins of relationship could be just as hazy as an "Identical By State" coincidence, if not for the proof in our paper trails. "There is no recent common ancestor," my inner child wants to shout.

It is wearying, checking week in and week out, harvesting the new crop of matches, going through their trees—if they even bother to post them—and sifting through surname after surname, in the vain hope of finding a surname common to my own four-thousand-name database.

I keep telling myself, "It's the luck of the draw." Surely, my lack of progress is because no one else more closely related to my lines has decided to participate in DNA testing. Yeah, that's the ticket: more players!

And I presume that perhaps these are genealogical newbies who just need a hand up on sketching out their family tree back far enough into the murky past to reach the level of fifth great grandparent necessary to determine that sixth cousin connection. So I start pushing my own tree out farther, roping in siblings in each generation, then following those lines down to their modern-day descendants. You wondered why my maternal tree has nearly four thousand names in it? Now you know.

I can't help but think, seeing all these "sixth cousin" matches, that perhaps a good percentage of them are merely coincidental. It was a sad day, indeed, when I learned the shorthand term, IBS—Identical By State. In other words, no common ancestor.

Sometimes, in plugging away, name after name, "result" after result, I begin to feel like the beleaguered courtiers in the emperor's service, afraid to shout out the obvious when I see what I see. Do I believe what my eyes are telling me? Or cling desperately to the party line? Are these really genetic confirmations? What percentage of results yields false connections, anyway?

Year after year, though, I attend trainings and conferences and read articles published on the use of DNA testing in genealogical research. I hear marvelous stories of adoptees reunited with birth parents—unthinkable only a few years ago. There must be something to this science.

Then, there is the angle of being a trailblazer. This isn't the first time that role has been foisted upon me. I'm often out there, the first to push back a generation on a line no one else seems to be researching. Oh, how I'd love to connect with some cousins—but then I realize there may not be any third or fourth cousins on some of my lines, especially my paternal lines. Or, if there are, they haven't yet discovered a love for genealogy.

Besides, what is the point of asking my second cousins to do DNA testing? I already know them. True, it might help with triangulation and other tricks of the genetic genealogist's trade. But I'd like to let random selection rule the day on that matter.

So, there I am: grousing about my DNA testing experience. Bummed about the (multitude of) results. Focused on what I can't see—instead of what I can see.

Maybe it's true that the emperor wears no clothes. But maybe that's not what I should be looking at. It may all come down to finding a different set of lenses with which to view the results. There may, after all, be something there worth seeing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Oh, Messy. Messy.

It's been a while since I attended to my genealogical duties. It's about time to head back to the grindstone. I've been wondering if I'll ever find that nexus between my direct line and that of my mystery cousin. Of course, if I don't plug away at it, nothing will materialize.

So, as I close out my exploration of the new branch of the Tully tree, my conscience reminds me of that idling Davis tree, still waiting to find that match. In the past two weeks, I made sure to beef up the numbers there, moving from 3,744 in the tree two weeks ago to 3,966 by the weekend, a nifty uptake of 222 freshly-added individuals, mostly on the Tilson branch of that tree.

Meanwhile, DNA matches have slowed to a dribble. In the past two weeks, I've only received five more matches, all at a disappointing distant relationship of fifth to sixth (or remote) cousin level. I'm hoping the excitement over the Global Family Reunion—at which I hear the DNA testing companies were well represented—yields many new possibilities for matches. I could use some genetic genealogy encouragement.

What was interesting to run into, while wandering around the data concerning my Tilson kin, were census records including youngsters whose age given didn't add up to the date of their named father's death. Hmmm. These things happened well before our swinging century. Unfortunately, such occurrences are so far removed from us as to make it impossible to ask any distant relatives for their recollections of paternity issues. How does one proceed in cases such as this? Not in the way we might, if it were someone alive from our recent past. No wonder this DNA matching scramble can get so messy.

Not that my paternal lines were any easier to navigate. There, complicated by name changes at whim—sans legal documentation, of course—I celebrated when I received the Kusharvska death certificate. And cringed when I considered what possible next steps might be taken. Even when converting Aunt Rose's mother's documented surname from the traditional Polish suffix -ska to -ski, there really isn't much available to guide me on creating connections. Actually, make that nothing: other than the entry on Ancestry.com for her death record, there is absolutely nothing else there containing that surname, in either format.

That may reveal one small hint as to why my DNA test results on that family line have come to a standstill: a total of twenty two matches—a count held immobilized since I first started counting, back in early April. And I'm stymied as to how to enter these squishy name changes on my family history database, too—one reason why my paternal database count has been frozen at 148 for the past two months.

On the other side of my family history foray—checking into my husband's lines, both paternal and maternal—things have been much brighter. Of course, you've been along with me on my journey through the newspapers of one hundred years ago, as I explored all that could be found on our immigrating Ryan family—the family related by marriage to my husand's paternal-side Tully line, who moved from Ontario to North Dakota and then back to Canada. There, progress has been more encouraging. I've added a modest thirty names to the Stevens tree, and DNA matches have likewise increased by nine. Not much, but at least forward movement. I'll likely continue working those lines of descendants forward on my own, though probably not turning those discoveries into posts, as I edge my way back into the land of the living—and the privacy issues that accompany that realm.

The one shining glimmer in all these sticky and messy details was that of my husband's maternal line. The Flowers tree, focused mainly—and for centuries—in Perry County, Ohio, has had a breakthrough with this week's arrival of the closest DNA match we've received since my husband did his original testing in the summer of 2014. The drone of results centering around the monotony of "third to fifth cousin" and "fourth to remote cousin" has finally been broken with the arrival of just one result. This result, containing a centiMorgan measurement significantly larger than any we've received in the past year, turns out to belong to a woman whose roots align with my husband's Snider line in Perry County. We're in the process of comparing notes right now to confirm the exact relationship—which, of course, has spurred me onward in transferring over some old Perry County family notes to my newer tree online at Ancestry.com. Thus, our Flowers tree now also sports a small increase in numbers, from its previous 967 to a new count of 991.

Since Perry County may be one of those hidden pockets of endogamous relationships—everyone there is related to everyone else, sometimes in more ways than one—the DNA results may end up being amplified more than a genealogical paper trail may justify. Even in the good news, there is a certain element of messiness. Nothing is ever easy.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

From Our Fathers

It was not lost upon me, in going to my most recent genealogical conference—the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree—that the vast majority of those present were women. What I saw at Jamboree was not an aberration; most meetings I attend on the topic of genealogy seem to be more popular with the women than with the men.

And yet, it was not lost upon me, as I finished up my research on the Ryan and Guinan families of Winnipeg, Manitoba, that the very record that informed my search was originally noted, not by a mother in the Ryan family, but by a father. Joe Ryan—that award-winning manager of three different professional football teams in Canada—took the time to write what he knew of the Ryan family to pass along to his own son. That's the only way I knew of Joe. And Joe's father, James. And, eventually, his father, Edward—the one who proposed to young Irish immigrant, Johanna Tully, sister of my husband's great-grandfather, John.

The Ryans are not the only family benefiting from sons passing along the family history from fathers. I, too, benefit much from both my brother and a cousin—both of whom, due to the difference in our ages, were able to meet relatives who were long gone by the time of my own arrival in the family. I've relied heavily on both these men's notes and recollections—and, in the case of my cousin, photographs as well—in starting my own research journey.

Perhaps you have such people in your family, as well—men who take care to preserve the stories of the generations who've gone before them. If so, in addition to all the traditions of today's Father's Day celebration, please be sure to express to them your gratitude for their willingness to go against the tide and be the one who became the keeper of the family stories and traditions.

After all, if it weren't for people like them, our family stories would vanish from memory within the passing of one brief generation.

Perhaps, that is the real gift of such Father's Day celebrations: in being called to remember our fathers, we receive that subtle nudge to recall all our fathers—both those still with us and those who've already departed. We remember our fathers, who recall their fathers, who once told us of their fathers. Our yearly remembrances help those vanishing generations still remain in sight.

Above: "A Chip Off the Old Block," oil on canvas, 1905, by English painter and founder of the Newlyn School of plein air artists, Walter Langley; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What a Wild Week it Was

With the official start of summer this weekend—to say nothing of the celebration known as Father's Day—one would think this was the time made specifically for adventure, vacationing, or, at the very least, idyllic relaxation on the hammock in the backyard. However, the adventures that make up the usual summer vacations—road trips or water sports or hiking cool mountain trails—are not part of my schedule for the foreseeable future.

If you are taking time off to enjoy the best of the summer, good for you. All the more enviable if you are managing to insert some genealogical road trip action into your itinerary.

Meanwhile, I'll be back at home, somehow busier than usual. As a member of the board of our local genealogical society, I've been teaching beginning genealogy classes at our local library. Also, just this week, we launched our First Families program, which requires training classes for those interested, as well—so, along with our president, I've been teaching that repeating session at the county's historical society. Plus, this week began our beginner's lab class on genealogy for "OLLI"—the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. And I'm working on plans for launching a new beginner's series of classes at the local community college. Oh...and we just had our June genealogy society meeting.

I couldn't believe I found myself saying I was glad the society "goes dark" for a summer recess. I guess I need a vacation, too.

I find it amazing that that old harangue about people no longer gathering in communities has resurfaced again. You know—the old Bowling Alone syndrome. The charts and statistics in our faces about how people are being so solitary and isolated and how that is no good for our society.

I also have to wonder about those analytic souls who thrive on the slightest indication of waning interest in genealogy. Granted, numbers do not lie...but we all know what has been said about statistics...

Meanwhile, back on the ranch—at least, the ranch out our way—there still seems to be a rising tide, when it comes to interest in genealogy. So many people just want to know. Whether it is adoptees, grasping at the hope that these new DNA tests will help reveal their hidden origins, or the newly-retired, wanting to leave behind a legacy for their young grandchildren, there still seem to be new folks showing up at the doorstep of our genealogical society, wanting to know how to "do it" for themselves. People still want to find their roots. And they want to be with people who care that they are discovering those roots.

Perhaps this is all thanks to the more widely-spread coverage of genealogical projects. In part, we can thank the number of genealogy programs on television, exposing larger numbers of curious onlookers to the rudiments of genealogical research. That's great. Oftentimes, though, it's the local societies which are the most accessible, when television audiences seek to recreate such amazing stories portrayed by the pros on the programs they've watched. Those audiences—most likely not educated to be "pros," themselves—need some hands-on training to learn enough of the ropes before they can replicate those results for themselves.

And so, society board members like myself find themselves in that tired-but-grateful role of teacher, mentor, coach and guide, as we pass along what others once taught us about finding our own roots.

It is indeed a rewarding adventure to embark on, summer vacation or anytime. And it is certainly just as rewarding for us who share those quests with such new seekers as come our way for guidance or instruction.

Above: "Birch Grove" by Russian landscape painter, Ivan Shishkin; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Revisiting Resources and Ryans

If there is one thing I've learned this year—and most recently, from following the lines of the Ryan and Guinan families—it's to remember to go back and look again for more records. If you are stumped with any of the ancestors you are researching, make an appointment with yourself to return to this same turf in a year, or even in six months, to revisit all the sites where you previously had struck out. Chances are good to very good that you will, upon your return, find new resources that hadn't been there previously.

It was good, taking this Guinan detour while muddling over my Ryan family connection. Granted, the connection seemed to become more and more tenuous. First, I moved from my husband's direct line, which went back to John Tully of Ballina in northern County Tipperary, to John's sister Johanna. With Johanna's marriage to Edward Ryan, somewhere in Ontario, Canada, I picked up the Ryan trail as the family surfaced in the Dakota Territory—later to become the state of North Dakota—and then abruptly vanished as mysteriously as they had appeared. To find clues on what had become of them, I branched out further to examine their in-laws, the siblings in the Patrick Guinan family, who, as I discovered later, moved back to Canada, just like the Ryans.

The end result—now that I've found additional newspaper holdings at various online repositories—was that I located obituaries on those related Guinans, providing just the explanation I was seeking. Now that I've found a source for Winnipeg area newspapers, I also have come full circle, back to the Ryan family that was first in question.

I had suspected that, as had the Guinan family, much of the Ryan family had returned to Canada. The Ryans, however, seemed to branch off in two directions. One side went further west, settling in Saskatchewan, with some of their descendants eventually going all the way to British Columbia. The other side gravitated toward the more urban setting of Winnipeg in Manitoba, almost directly north of their former home in North Dakota.

Edward and Johanna Ryan's son James was one who headed for Winnipeg—well, at least that is where he eventually landed. Just as I had discovered for his brother-in-law, Thomas Guinan, James left behind one item of interest to genealogical researchers as well: a thorough obituary.

There may well have been reason for this, as you will see in a moment. Apparently, James was connected to someone who also not only had ambition, but managed to accomplish what he dreamed.

Like his brother-in-law, Thomas Guinan, James Ryan had both a news report of his passing, and a follow-up article on his funeral. The latter, published in the Winnipeg Free Press on September 25, 1939, described him as a "pioneer resident of Manitoba." However, though it was interesting to read that the Monsignor sang the high mass, the only detail that seemed to provide any family connections was one listing a pallbearer as Stanley "Guiman"—likely, Thomas Guinan's second-oldest son. The brief mention that James Ryan had died at the home of "his daughter, in Chicago, Ill." was almost useless, omitting a key ingredient for genealogical research.

Thankfully, an earlier article, published in the same paper on September 20, provided more detail. It named the daughter—Margaret—and indicated that James was "a resident of Manitoba for more than 60 years."

The September 20, 1939, article nearly mirrored the life's history of James Ryan's brother-in-law, Thomas Guinan. James was
born in Paris, Ont., and was raised on a farm in Huron county. In 1878 he moved to western Canada and landed in St. Boniface from a Red river boat.
Of course, just as was necessary for the news report on Thomas Guinan, it seems the story on James Ryan may also need some fact-checking. The numbers don't seem to correspond with what I've found on census records, either in Canada or in the United States. However, according to the Winnipeg Free Press,
For a time he worked as a carpenter with the construction department of the C.P.R., and served in various capacities in the building of the line between Cross Lake and Jackfish Bay. He later returned to farming and for many years farmed in both Manitoba and North Dakota. In 1911 he retired and moved to Winnipeg, where he resided until recently.

Of course, there was the obligatory—and eagerly sought—section on those in the family who survived him.
Surviving, besides his son Joe, are two other sons, Patrick E., in Winnipeg; and Daniel F., of Vernon, B.C.; a daughter, Margaret, of Chicago, Ill., and Ann, in Winnipeg. 
For what seems to have been such a pedestrian life, it seems unusual to see, not merely an obituary, but an actual news report—the headline alone ran for three lines—of James Ryan's death. One might wonder why he rated so many valuable column inches—complete with photograph insertion—for what must have been a life story shared with many of his peers.

The answer to that question was likely provided with one small detail included toward the beginning of the article.
Mr. Ryan was the father of Joe Ryan, manager of the Blue Bombers rugby football team, and a member of the Winnipeg Free Press sports department.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Remembering an "Old-Timer"

When the long-sought obituary finally materializes for the ancestor one is researching, the question uppermost in mind, of course, is: will the newspaper report include that coveted list of relatives?

In the case of research on Thomas Guinan of Winnipeg—and formerly of Ontario and North Dakota—the answer was, thankfully, yes.

I'm not sure I would like to be remembered as an "old-timer," but that is how Thomas Guinan was presented in the long write-up published on May 5, 1937—three days after his death. Headlining the article, plainly enough, "T. Guinan, Old-Timer of Winnipeg, Dies," the Winnipeg Free Press devoted a good portion of two columns to a review of the man's life accomplishments.

Small wonder. The paper characterized the man as a "prominent figure in the development of Winnipeg and the west in the early part of the century."

Thomas Guinan's age was given as eighty—right away providing a warning to remember that all newspaper reports are suspect, when it comes to pristine accuracy. An earlier article had indicated that he was born six years earlier. Typo?

Still, the overall picture provides a guide for retracing the steps of Thomas Guinan's personal history.
Born in Huron county, Ont., on Nov. 10, 1856, he spent his early days on a farm near the village of Blake in Stanley county. Educated in the public schools of Ontario, he remained in that province until the late seventies, when he moved with his parents to North Dakota, where his family was one of the early settlers in the Langdon district.
Some of the details of his business dealings as a young adult we have already stumbled upon, thanks to newspaper reports in North Dakota, where Thomas had settled with the rest of the Guinan family.
Mr. Guinan later went into the hotel business at St. Thomas, N.D., where he lived for many years. Beginning in 1896, he served four years in the North Dakota legislature.
Of course, the main focus of Thomas Guinan's obituary would be his years spent back in Canada. Many of these details we've already uncovered, as well, including his original settlement in the Elm Creek area and his later involvement in the real estate business, headquartered in Winnipeg, as president of the Red River Land & Loan Company.

Remembering the article I had found yesterday on the court case calling some of his real estate deals into question, I was interested to see how the newspaper—now in retrospect—would portray that rough stretch of the Guinan history. In the circumspect graciousness reserved for the eulogized, the Free Press said merely that he "was instrumental in bringing many settlers to the west" and that "the present suburb of St. James was largely developed" by the Guinan company. However, the paper couldn't resist the understated reminder that
Mr. Guinan was a Conservative in politics, and was a staunch supporter of the late R. P. Roblin during his long term of office as premier of Manitoba.
Coming to the statement that all genealogists live for, the Free Press reported that Thomas Guinan was
survived by his widow and five children, Anne, Ethel, Thomas, Jr. and Stanley, all of Winnipeg, and Lawrence, of The Pas, Man.; three sisters, Mrs. Margaret Franklin, Grand Forks, N.D.; Mrs. Hector Falconer, Portland, Ore.; and Mrs. Thomas Graber, Regina, Sask.; and two brothers, Hugh, of Teulon, Man., and Daniel, of Moose Range, Sask.
Other than omitting the actual name of his widow, Thomas' obituary turned out to do a fine job of orienting us to the Guinan family constellation. As if wishing to further confirm the connection, the paper went on to include a post-funeral report on May 6, 1937, which added the names of the pallbearers, including Dan "Rayan" and Pat Ryan, likely nephews of Thomas Guinan through his by-then-deceased sister, Annie and her husband, James Ryan.

Newspapers being newspapers, that this obituary might have been embellished is a risk we have to take in seeking more information on the man. The political hot water swirling around the one episode of Thomas Guinan's career, though in this article presented quite innocuously, may well have led to what the newspaper benignly mentioned as the time when
he retired from business during the Great War and since then has lived quietly with his family....
However, dates and details of political analysis aside, the Guinan obituary provides us a guide through the underpinnings of Thomas' personal life, for which I am grateful. Between this tedious newspaper search, involving both the publications in North Dakota and in Winnipeg, and the outline of his family constellation, despite some discrepancies in details, I was finally able to locate a possible census record for the intact family before they left Ontario for North Dakota.

Not exactly in the "Stanley county" residence identified by the Free Press—and indexed under a spelling off by one critical letter—this 1871 census entry for the "Gainan" family in the Stanley district, still in Huron County, finally yielded the list of family members I had suspected would be the way it was. With Thomas at a promising fourteen years of age at that point, the list included the two brothers I had wondered about—Will and Joseph—as well as sister Annie and baby brother Hugh, likely named after the "Uncle Hugh Quigley" I had seen mentioned in various newspaper entries. Eight year old Margaret became the "Maggie" Guinan who later was wed to John Franklin in North Dakota. And Mary most likely later became Mrs. Falconer, mother of the unfortunate ten year old Stella, returned to her childhood home in North Dakota for burial.

Above: The "Gainan" family—likely the Guinan family—from the 1871 Canadian census for the Province of Ontario, Stanley township in Huron County. Image courtesy Ancestry.com.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Land Grabs: Doubting Thomas

Sometimes, it helps to go with your gut instincts.

Yesterday, I mentioned having that vague feeling, when looking at the Guinan brothers' enthusiasm over moving north from their Grafton-area farms to Canada. "Times are booming and he likes the country," reported the November 18, 1906, Daily Herald, out of nearby Grand Forks, North Dakota, concerning former resident Joseph Guinan. "Reports of the good climate and soil in that part of Canada are not exaggerated," affirmed another Daily Herald story about his brother, William Guinan, later on February 10, 1911.


I couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, someone had a vested interest in getting rid of some property.

While GenealogyBank.com gave me the scoop on what was happening among the Guinan brothers, back home in North Dakota, I had to turn to NewspaperArchive.com to scour the reports from the Winnipeg side of the story. Sure enough, there was land to be sold and money to be made, and apparently at least one of the Guinans was in the midst of the deal.

Of course, I can't entirely be sure this is one of our Guinans. After all, trawling through 196 hits from my Guinan search at GenealogyBank gifted me with information overload. After diagramming and time-lining who was related to whom—a multi-hour project, I assure you—at least I can say I think this is one of our Guinan brothers.

The furor all seemed to center around the business savvy of one Thomas Guinan. He, in turn, was apparently related to both Joseph Guinan and our William Guinan, husband of the by-then-deceased daughter of Edward and Johanna Ryan (you know: either Margaret or Mary).

The trail northward started, sadly, with a report of the death of a ten year old girl, Stella Falconer. Though she had died in Elm Creek, Manitoba—due north about one hundred miles from the Guinan properties near Hoople, North Dakota—her parents had chosen to return her body to the family burial plot at Saint Thomas. Thus, her obituary appeared in the newspaper of the nearby Grand Forks, North Dakota: the Daily Herald of October 19, 1902.

Frustratingly, that obituary did not exactly mention the precise relationships between the Falconers and the Guinan family, but both Thomas and Will Guinan were mentioned as joining the funeral party on its journey southward from Canada, including the detail that they would be staying at the home of Joe Guinan.

So, who was this Thomas Guinan? As it turns out, following his trail through archived newspaper reports not only painted a colorful picture, but yielded the back story, once I arrived at his own obituary, later in 1937.

I had made a mental note about one entry I found early on, which hadn't specifically mentioned Thomas' name; only in retrospect was I able to go back and retrieve it as ours. From "The City: Bits of News" in Grand Forks' January 23, 1897, Daily Herald:
Representative Guinan, of Pembina County, tarried in the city yesterday. Guinan is good looking and a blamed nice fellow.
The good-looking representative, evidently, left his position before the time of the Falconer funeral in 1902. At least, we can assume. In the next news report I found of him, a decade later, he was billed as president of the Red River Loan and Land Company, presumably out of Winnipeg, where his ads were spotted in The Manitoba Free Press. Here's a sample of the copy from his ad run on March 21, 1912:
For Sale: Bergen and Rosser lands. 1840 ACRESKnown as the Clarke Howe Farm. This splendidly equipped farm is owned by me and I am offering the same for sale. All the land is under cultivation. Two sets splendid buildings, 3 windmills and water for unlimited stock. 1,000 acres ready for crop. For a quick sale $65.00 an acre. $25,000 cash; balance 5 years, at 6%.
It was a politically-instigated article appearing a few years earlier, though, that cast Thomas Guinan in a different light. Headlines from the March 3, 1909, Manitoba Free Press—only three years before the "postage stamp province" had its current borders established—shrieked, "Land Transaction Should Be Investigated."

The headlines went on to explain,
Sixteen thousand acres of swamp area transferred to the Province in December, 1907, were immediately sold to Thomas Guinan, who resold at a profit of from $2 to $3 an acre.
And that was just the headline.

From what appeared to be a politically-motivated vendetta against the then-current province premier, Sir Rodmond Roblin, a "public accounts committee" launched a "preliminary hearing" into a particular land transaction which was considered to have "some peculiar features."

That transaction, of course, was the land swap masterminded by none other than Thomas Guinan, the one whose brothers were so enthusiastically endorsing the popularity of moves north to Canada.

In that same March 9, 1909, Manitoba Free Press article on page five, every detail of the hearing was reported, down to the haggling by the Attorney General over questions plied during cross examination, and offense taken over insinuations that "a prominent Liberal" might have been somehow implicated in impropriety during the land transactions.

Whatever came of that episode in Mr. Guinan's life I haven't been able to determine. However, later newspaper entries of a more mundane nature did help to reveal some of Thomas Guinan's life history. From the Manitoba Free Press of November 9, 1912, a benign article entitled "Birthday Congratulations To," provided a helpful sketch:
Thomas Guinan (Winnipeg); born, Huron County, Ont., Nov. 10, 1850; member of North Dakota legislature, 1896-1900, when he moved to Winnipeg; president of Red River Loan and Land Company. 
The unfortunate report, July 22, 1916, of the death of Thomas Guinan's eldest daughter, Kate—then twenty five—revealed the detail that she was "born at St. Thomas, N.D., and removed with her parents to Winnipeg about 15 years ago." She, like the Falconers' daughter in 1902, found her final resting place at the family plot back in North Dakota.

But it was discovery of Thomas' own obituary, when his own last moments had arrived in 1937, that provided the complete road map of his life's travels—and, as you may have guessed, the story of how the rest of the Guinan family and their associated in-laws had made the journey from their original home in Ontario to the American farmland of North Dakota and then back again to Canada.

That, however, includes enough detail to merit a post of its own—tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When Business is Booming

Call me crazy, but I decided one way to determine which of the many Guinans settling in the Grand Forks area of the Dakota Territory were related to our Ryans was to do a universal search of the surname in the historic newspapers collection at GenealogyBank.com. We do, after all, have the technology. Why not?

It took quite a while to sift through the 196 hits received from such a query. It will take even longer to sort out which Guinan was related to whom. Precious few of those news reports coupled the name Guinan with the surname Ryan, actually. But since at least two Guinans were in-laws of our Ryan line, I have a lot to learn by examining the comings and goings of the extended family.

While I'm still mulling over all the listings, don't think I'll just vacate this blog space. Oh, no. There are too many useful tidbits to share. So I may as well start with a few, today.

One of my main questions was, "What made the Ryan family decide, after emigrating from Ontario to the Dakota Territory, to return to Canada?"

I always had the hunch that Edward and Johanna Ryan did not make their cross-country move alone. Besides taking their adult children with them—well, at least three of them for certain—there were others whose names seemed to crop up, not only in North Dakota, but later, after their return to western Canada. Among those names were several of the extended Guinan family.

Evidently, some of the Guinans were—at least for a while—successful businessmen. It was quite entertaining, reading through the sometimes snarky editorial comments tossed into the local columns of the Grand Forks Daily Herald. Of course, there were many ads placed for the business of one Guinan relative—Thomas—but in addition to that, I gleaned enough to get a sense of life in early 1900s North Dakota. More importantly, I also got a glimpse at who was lobbying to move northward—and why.

This entry from the May 3, 1903, Daily Herald made me smile:
Thompson & Guinan have received a new tonophone, or in plain English one of those new fangled pianos that run by electricity and goes without fingers.
While Thomas Guinan was part of the extended family that still remained in North Dakota after the turn of the century, his brother Joseph Guinan—at least, I think he's his brother—had evidently already made the move northward. Under the headline, "Grabbing the Coin," in the November 18, 1906 edition of the Daily Herald, the report was made,
Joseph Guinan, who has been in Sasktoon, [sic] N. W. T., for some time, writes to friends in this city that he is making lots of money in the hotel business at that place. He says times are booming and he likes the country.
By February 10, 1911, another Guinan brother had chimed in, according to the Grand Forks newspaper.
Wm. Guinan of Saskatoon, a brother of Joe Guinan, a former business man of this city, and now also located at Saskatoon, is a visitor in the city, and will leave this morning for his Canadian home. Mr. Guinan reports that a large number of people in eastern and central Canada will move to the Peace River country in the spring, and that the reports of the good climate and soil in that part of Canada are not exaggerated.
Thinking of how blustery the weather could be in North Dakota, I have to wonder how "not exaggerated" the Guinan report of good climate farther north at the Peace River valley might have been. Somehow, it makes me wonder if the Guinans were single-handedly launching a public relations campaign to urge their friends, associates, and neighbors to all vacate Grand Forks and join them in moving to Canada.

Above: Vintage postcard of downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota, circa 1912, within the decade after many of the Guinan family had left the area for Canada. Courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Following the Wider Family Circle

Sometimes, when stumped by your ancestors' whereabouts, the best course is to follow the trail of their family members—and sometimes even their friends.

Since I've been stymied by the families of Edward and Johanna Tully Ryan's grown children, I thought it might be profitable to seek out any trace of the in-law family into which two—at least that's my estimate—Ryan descendants married. Son James had married a woman by the name of Annie Guinan, and daughter Mary—at least, I think it's Mary—had become the wife of one William Guinan.

All this happened—at least, if I'm correct in my guess here—after the Ryan family emigrated from Ontario. Which means these marital vows were exchanged somewhere in the northeast corner of the Dakota Territory. Thankfully, that meant the odds of finding the wrong families would be extremely slim. After all, the population of Grafton, North Dakota—where Edward and Johanna Ryan showed up in the 1900 census—had just then crested two thousand souls. Nearby Hoople—closest town to the land grants obtained by William Guinan—at that same time registered a population of one hundred seventy four.

What were my chances that seeking the surname Guinan in newspaper reports of that time period would give me false leads?

Well, it was at least worth the chance. So I took a look to see what I could find.

Using GenealogyBank.com, I was pleased to see that there were a good number of hits for my search on the name Guinan. The oldest of them was the most felicitous. From The Grand Forks Daily Herald on Monday, November 29, 1886, the reprint from the Saint Thomas Times reported:
One of the most pleasant events of the season was the marriage of Mr. John J. Franklin to Miss Maggie Guinan, last Tuesday evening. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Father Kennedy of Grafton in the presence of a number of invited guests.
But was that my Guinan? I couldn't yet tell. At least, for the Guinan household I had found in the most recent census—the territorial census conducted in June, 1885—there was no sign of a Maggie or Margaret Guinan. Of course, that is provided I've found the right Guinans in the census to match up with my Ryan descendants.

I kept looking. There were other reports for Guinans in the area. Take this one, found as a reprint of the Saint Thomas Times in the February 5, 1899, Grand Forks Daily Herald:
Mrs. Guinan was buried here last Friday. She was the mother of Tom Guinan of Grafton and William Guinan of Hoople.
Though not indicating the given name of the unfortunate Mrs. Guinan, the article did provide enough direction to sketch out a rudimentary family constellation. And indeed, that's where our William Guinan—and his lined-out wife Margaret Mary had lived, according to the 1900 census.

Another report, again from the same resource and dated May 31, 1899, helped build the Guinan family constellation even further.
Bernie Guinan of Grafton has been spending a few days visiting at the homes of his uncle, Hugh Quigley, and his cousin Joe Guinan. He will return to Grafton Thursday morning.
Great! That gives us some further clues. First, the connection to the Quigley surname is encouraging, as we've already noted that in other records, most recently the Margaret Quigley living next to the Guinan family in that 1885 territorial census. This report, though, indicates a Guinan family in Grand Forks, the town of the newspaper report. Perhaps the Bernard Guinan of the 1885 census record is one and the same as this Bernie? After all, this Bernie had a brother named Hugh as well. Could that Uncle Hugh be Margaret Quigley's sibling or in-law?

We find another confirmation of Thomas Guinan in the same Grand Forks newspaper on September 15 of that year:
Thos. Guinan, formerly of this city [Grand Forks] but now of Grafton, was in town on Thursday making a deal with Soards for a engine [sic].
Just when we think we're making progress with this newspaper archive expedition, however, we run into some conflicting information. From the September 19, 1899, Grand Forks Daily Herald:
Berney Guinan, brother of Joe Guinan of East Grand Forks and a relative of the Franklin and Quigley families, died in Grafton Sunday morning at 10 o'clock of typhoid fever. Berney was a young man in the prime of life, being 24 years old, and was possessed of a most kindly and gentle disposition which endeared him to all who knew him.
Though the article went on to extoll his virtues, it certainly didn't provide me any explanation for who this particular Bernard Guinan might have been. After all, the other Bernard Guinan was cousin to Joe Guinan, not brother. I began to see the specter of another family rising, rife with named-afters. While the lingo sounded right—all the right Quigleys and Franklins were there—things were not stacking up in just the right places. The traditional Irish naming pattern was sitting off in a dusky corner, mocking me.

At least the obituary provided me with some solid information—that the funeral would be held at Saint Thomas' Cathedral in Grafton and the burial would be in "the Catholic cemetery"—and gave me an inkling of what, exactly, might have wiped out the unfortunate mother, "Mrs. Guinan," back in February and her possible relatives, the younger Mrs. Guinan and her brother, Dennis Ryan.

Though interesting—and sometimes tantalizingly close to its target—following the trail of these possible members of the extended family didn't seem to serve its purpose of leading me to the information I'm seeking on our Ryan family. Yet.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Wider Circle of Friends

Having mentioned, the other day, my lack of resources for following our immigrant Ryan family from their last home—the pre-1900 Walsh County settlement in what became the state of North Dakota—in their return to Canada, I've since realized my brief hiatus yesterday allowed me to find some well-timed resources for this latest Canadian foray.

Whatever happened to Edward and Johanna Tully Ryan and their extended family, I cannot fully tell at this point. It is obvious that their son Dennis died, leaving a widow and several children. It is just as likely that one of the Ryan daughters likewise died. As we'll soon see, her mother-in-law may also have died in that period of time between Dennis' 1892 death and her own by 1900, as well as some other Guinan relatives. In fact, though I can't yet figure it out, Ryan matriarch Johanna herself may have died in North Dakota by that same date.

There is a lot that could be settled, if only I could contact a cemetery office for the Catholic cemetery in Grafton—or possibly the larger Walsh County area.

In the meantime, while I search further for answers there, another option is to follow the remainder of the family north as they moved back to Canada—first, apparently, to Winnipeg, and then to various remote farming communities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Last I had looked, however, there weren't enough resources online to assist me in even formulating an educated guess as to what became of the Ryan children's own grown children.

Taking this quandary as a prompt to revisit what I had found the last time I journeyed down this path, I was heartened to discover much more has been added to online resources. For one thing, an entire set of Catholic records for Saskatchewan has been put online by FamilySearch.org—good news, indeed, for this researcher.

Just as I had found for marriage and death records of Ryan family members who had settled in the province of Manitoba, the office of vital statistics for the province of Saskatchewan—and later, as some of the family's descendants headed even farther west to British Columbia—has been adding records to their online resources. In addition, apparently for some parts of western Canada, rather than Catholics being buried in a cemetery run by the local church, burials for all faiths were sometimes made in a city cemetery, of which certain portions were designated for specified religions. Happily, those city cemeteries sometimes included online listings of those buried within their realm.

The most serendipitous of my findings this week, however, was the discovery that @marksology—a.k.a. Kenneth R. Marks, the consummate pursuer of free historic newspaper resources worldwide—had just posted to his blog, The Ancestor Hunt, an updated listing of online historical newspapers in Saskatchewan.

Those are the kinds of friends a genealogy researcher can really use on her side. I am now in researcher heaven.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Most Hated Word
in a Genealogist's Lexicon

While pursuing a new genealogical trail brings the thrill of the hunt, often a genealogist is tracking progress, not on one, but on several simultaneous chases. So, while we are hot on the trail of the once-again-immigrating Ryan family as they move on from their decades-long visit in North Dakota, I've been checking the calendar and impatiently watching my mailbox, the farther we move from that date in mid May when I sent away for the death certificate for someone in yet another side of the family. It's a death certificate I've been awaiting for someone who might have been my father's paternal grandmother—or who might just turn out to be a total stranger. I've been waiting for news on one Anna Kusharvska of Queens, New York.

As you may have already guessed, tucked in with yesterday afternoon's mail delivery was an envelope from the City of New York Municipal Archives. Although my husband—along with my daughter and a visiting family friend—greatly enjoyed taunting me by waving the thing just out of my reach, they eventually relented and dropped the coveted item into my hands.

What I was seeking, when I sent for the death certificate of Anna Kusharvska, was the answer to a series of questions.

First, I wanted to see what address was listed for this woman who had died on the exact same day as my great grandmother, Anna Kraus. After all, since the only person listed as having died on the day the newspaper report had indicated as Anna Kraus' date of death was someone whose surname was not Kraus but Kusharvska, I was interested in seeing whether the two were one and the same Anna.

Then, of course, as any genealogical researcher would, I wanted to learn the names of Anna's father and mother. If this Anna turned out to be my Anna, that would be valuable information.

You may remember my original series of posts, explaining how I came across the name Kusharvska. It was in pursuit of clues as to whether the mysterious "Aunt Rose" of my older cousin's memory was actually my paternal grandfather's sister or not. When I stumbled upon a Brooklyn Standard Union article from September 29, 1921, reporting Rose's mother's death, you know I would want to send for that confirmation. It would, of course, contain the kind of information that would allow me to push back just one more generation than I had ever been able to reach before.

But the name I was seeking was Anna Kraus, not Anna Kusharvska. Yet, there was no entry on the New York City death index for anyone named Kraus in Queens on that date. But there was an entry for someone named Kusharvska.

So, who was this other Anna?

Apparently, though she did not live at the 729 Ninetieth Street that the newspaper identified as our Anna's place of death, the death certificate, coincidentally, listed the Kusharvska house number as 729. The only catch was that it was on Ninety Sixth Street. Hmmm...was it possible that someone converted a six to a zero for that newspaper report? A quick double-check of the 1920 census, completed just over a year prior to that point, showed Rose and her husband George Kober—along with Anna Kraus—listed at 729 Ninety Sixth Street.

So...Anna Kraus was Anna Kusharvska. And, just as cemetery records had already confirmed, the certificate showed she was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery—the same place where Rose's husband George was later laid to rest. The gruesome details of the suicide were also confirmed on this certificate, along with a statement on the reverse identifying "Mrs. Geo. W. Kober" as Anna Kusharvska's daughter.

The bold strokes of the script in which the form was completed slowed my eyes from sweeping over the page of Anna Kusharvska's death certificate. It took me a while to locate the next step I was seeking: the place set aside to list the name and birthplace of both the decedent's father and mother. This would be the lines which could open up an entire new avenue of pursuit for my research. If you've been in my shoes before, you know exactly how exciting it can be to finally see this revealed.

Or how devastating it can be, after waiting so long and hoping so long, to discover...nothing.

And that is exactly what unfolded with this letter.

Putting myself in the shoes of the distraught daughter who had to provide the answers, I can imagine all the turmoil that must have accompanied the completion of this form: the shock and anguish for Rose of discovering what her mother had done and suddenly not only being faced with having to make funeral arrangements, but also being thrust into an unexpected interface with New York City law enforcement personnel.

But I still wish she could have maintained her composure enough to have presented these officials with some informed guess as to what to put on those blanks begging for the name and birthplace of Anna's father and mother.

Granted, Rose did manage to report that each of them was born in Germany—as was Anna and, in fact, Rose, herself.

But when I searched the scrawling handwriting for those names I was seeking, I found myself colliding with what I've decided must be a genealogist's most hated word: "Unknown."

All told, what I learned from receipt of this document was that Anna Kraus was somehow Anna Kusharvska. Why she showed in both the 1915 New York State census and the 1920 federal census as Anna Kraus, I have no idea. This death certificate certainly provided no clue.

I end up having to walk away from this hope of discovering more about my father's family, realizing just how much I rue seeing one innocuous word, when it appears on governmental documents of this type. When it comes to delving into one's own family story, "unknown" is such an unwelcomed word.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...