Wednesday, February 28, 2018
In every life there are ups and downs. It was apparently no different for the young mother we met through the photo postcard I found in a northern California antique shop. While we've already discovered Hallie Randall and her darling baby Fay in Bandon, Oregon (according to the note on Hallie's postcard) and in San Francisco, California (where baby Fay and both her parents, Hallie and Charles, were listed in the 1920 census), it wasn't long before the family was on the road again.
Not long after the family had moved—this time, to Nevada—baby Fay became big sister to Shirley Irene. Barely over a year later, the family was graced with another daughter, Joyce Wanda.
Not all was well with the family, though, for by the time of the 1930 census, Hallie was listed with her three girls, but not with Charles. She was living in a home large enough to host six lodgers in addition to her three daughters. She was also working as a waitress at the local cafe. The census entered her marital status as widowed.
Meanwhile, back in Bandon, Oregon, where the hopeful story had started with that sweet postcard, a 1930 census entry revealed a Charles H. Randall living with his parents. Just as we had seen in the 1920 census, this Charles was born in Washington. His entry for marital status, though, was "divorced."
While Charles had apparently returned to live with his parents after breaking up with Hallie, she also was likely living in a town with her own parents. According to her marriage record—well, at least a transcript of the record—Hallie had married Charles Randall in the very city where she now was taking in boarders: Elko, Nevada. Her parents, Charles and Viola Kleckner, were living nearby in Elko County.
At the time Charles and Hallie had returned to Elko in the early 1920s, the place was a city of barely two thousand people, but by the time of the next census, the population had grown over one thousand more. This is not surprising, given the fact that the city's main economic support came from the gold mining industry—an economic source notorious for its unpredictable ups and downs. Perhaps it was the boom years that had originally attracted Charles Randall to move there from San Francisco. Perhaps it was owing to that same reason that he was no longer there in 1930.
No matter what happened to Charles Randall, his firstborn daughter, baby Fay, remained in Elko, where she attended the city schools through high school. Thanks to the school yearbook for 1939, we can find Fayetta Mae Randall's photograph, as well as mention of some of her school activities.
That was in 1939. By 1940, Fay was nowhere to be found in Nevada. Instead, she was back in northern California. How she decided to move there, I'm not sure—but I suspect what brought her there might have had something to do with a visit to her aunt. What convinced her to stay there, however, is more likely owing to a special someone she met while she was there visiting.
Above: Photograph of Fayetta Mae Randall from her 1939 Elko High School yearbook; courtesy Ancestry.com.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
One might have thought, in finding a 1917 photograph of a baby and her mother labeled from Bandon, Oregon, that the family could have been located there in the very next census.
Apparently, Hallie Randall and her adorable infant Fayetta Mae were not in Oregon for long. I found them in the 1920 census, living in San Francisco, along with Hallie's husband, Charles. I couldn't, however, make out Charles' occupation—nor his age or address, for that matter, both entries having been muddied by strike-outs and overwritten—so I needed to turn to other resources for clarification.
One would think, having appeared in the 1920 census, that an identical entry in the local city directory would reflect the proper address. But, no; the San Francisco city directory for 1920 showed a dentist by that name living on Pierce Street, and another man with the same name—though coupled with a wife named Hazel, not Hallie—living on Hayes. Nothing looked similar to the overwritten entries on the census for street name or occupation.
Perhaps our Randall family was new to town and had arrived after the directory was published for the year. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and looked up their name in the 1921 directory. Still no likely entry, making me begin to lose faith in the governmental enumeration system.
Or perhaps the Randalls just left town before the next directory could be published.
Best I could tell from attempts to decipher the census record, Charles and Hallie—and, of course, their adorable baby Fay—lived in a neighborhood bordered by Fulton and Fillmore, the two street names I was able to read on their census page. Being ever grateful for the instant accessibility to almost everything in our currently connected cyberworld, I learned from Google maps that the likely two missing street names on the census page were McAllister and Steiner.
With that, I confirmed that those city directories—if, at least, they got the addresses correct—did not include our Charles and Hallie Randall.
So, where did they go? In Oregon in 1917 and California in 1920, what was next? Thankfully, a transcription of a marriage record, along with information gleaned from the subsequent census, showed a family which had traveled full circle from where they first became man and wife. The Randalls' next stop in life was Nevada, not far from the address Hallie had entered on that 1917 postcard featuring her darling baby.
Above: Map of the Randalls' San Francisco neighborhood at the time of the 1920 census; map courtesy Google Maps.
Monday, February 26, 2018
Thankfully, the mother sending a picture of her darling daughter—five weeks and two days after her birth, to be precise—happened to sign the photo postcard with her full name and city of residence. That makes things a tad easier for us, now one hundred years after the fact, as we try to figure out how to return the abandoned treasure to an interested family member.
We know, for instance, that the mother shown in the photograph was named Hallie Randall, and that she lived in Bandon, Oregon.
Because the photograph came on the format of an Azo postcard, we can tell from the direction of the tiny arrows in the four corners of the stamp box—all four facing upwards—that the card was used between the years of 1904 and 1918.
The photograph on the front of the card gives a sweet profile of the young mother and her infant—as we'll discover later, her firstborn. But to simply head to the United States census for Bandon, Oregon—either in 1910 or 1920—to find a Hallie Randall with baby daughter Fay, well...you knew that would be too easy. Of course there is going to be a problem with such a straightforward approach.
There was a baby Fay with mother Hallie, of course, but not where we'd have expected them. It took a little more searching—though not much—to discover not only where the family set up housekeeping, but who the baby's father was, as well as to learn that "Fay" was actually the baby's nickname. Her full name was Fayetta Mae Randall.
Above: Azo postcard from Bandon, Oregon, labeled "Baby Fay Randall and Mother," circa 1918. Postcard from Hallie Randall currently in possession of the author.
Sunday, February 25, 2018
This week, I played around with different ways to view the same old data on my DNA match lists. The sheer abundance of data can get overwhelming, leaving me feeling like I'm awash in meaningless information. The frustrating thing is that those test results are actually telling me something. I just can't find those needles in the ever-burgeoning haystack.
Thankfully, I've seen there are a few new techie toys making their debut to help look at all the data from fresh, new angles. RootsFinder is developing a new DNA tool kit resource. And—ever-popular with people who, like me, have never outgrown their childish love of coloring—DNA Painter is offering a colorful chromosome mapping resource.
I'm looking forward to trying out those new "toys" soon. Meanwhile, I'm still plodding through the process of filling in the "reverse genealogy" of all my ancestors' descendants. And today is time for another biweekly recap of progress.
Thankfully, on the DNA front, it looks like the bonanza of kit sales from the winter holidays—plus the surprise sales activity inspired by Valentine's Day—is still swelling my family's match numbers. My match counts increased by sixty at Family Tree DNA and twenty seven at AncestryDNA. But the real surprise came from my newest test: my count at MyHeritage zoomed up 238 over the past two weeks.
Likewise, my husband's DNA results were up forty five at FTDNA and twenty four at AncestryDNA. His new test at MyHeritage netted him an increase of two hundred matches this time. Even his 23andMe results budged up by one, unlike my loss of eighteen over this last cycle.
Meanwhile, I've been trying to get back to the habit of working on our family's trees during those odd snatches of down time during my day. Keeping that pace up in January, when I was preparing for, attending, or returning from the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy was tough to do, but now I have no excuse. In the past two weeks, I've added 121 to my mother's tree (now at 12,150), 177 on my mother-in-law's tree (totaling 14,354) and even some on our dads' lines (up five to 1,407 on my father-in-law's tree, and an unbelievable additional twenty for a 478 total on my dad's side).
Up ahead in this year's genealogy plans are adding my family's trees on other websites, like the new MyHeritage addition and the FindMyPast site. I'm seeing them as cousin bait just as much as I view this blog. Besides, one previous source of some researcher connections—my tree at Rootsweb—is becoming more and more a tenuous link, as Rootsweb content suffers increasingly from outdated technology woes (and perhaps a shrinking commitment to that altruistic cause from their current benefactors at Ancestry.com). The more places where I can pin my family's heritage details, the more likely it is that someone—maybe that missing cousin with all the answers to my questions—will stumble upon my records, reach out and make the connection.
Saturday, February 24, 2018
It's been a while since I attended to some of my DNA matches at the now four—yes, count them, four—DNA companies where I've taken a test. Not only that, but I'm supposed to be administering test results for my husband and both his sisters. It's high time I got busy.
But those results all seem to look the same: the predictable few ancestors seem to have lots of progeny who are now fascinated with genetic genealogy. The rest of the bunch on my family trees? Not so much.
I thought I'd try something different for my approach this week: on Family Tree DNA, where I have three tests belonging to my husband's family, I checked each one, then clicked the "not in common with" button to eliminate each person's sibling's matches. That way, I got to see which matches were exclusive to that person and that person alone. No three way matches showing up on all three siblings' readouts.
I tried this first on one sister-in-law's test. She, the one I jokingly dub "the most Irish" of my in-laws, ends up with matches straight from Ireland—and several generations back. Those genes seem to drop off the scene before they reach her two siblings. I was curious to see if there were any other strong matches that only she possessed.
So there I was, scrolling through all her matches who supposedly didn't match either of her siblings, when I came across a name that made me stop in my tracks.
"I know that name," I thought to myself, although I could have said it out loud, I was so surprised to see it. It looked like a name from our local genealogical society's membership list. I took a look at the email address provided, then hurried over to our society's database to check it out. Sure enough, it was one of our members, and she lived right here in town.
"You won't believe what I found," I immediately wrote her in an email. She was as surprised as I was. Because it involved a fairly distant relationship—one I'd normally have bypassed, had it not been for the fact that I already know this person—we decided to get together the next day to see if we could figure out the connection.
Searching DNA match results, no matter which company's interface you use, can be difficult when the target person is buried on page kazillion in the results readout. We had to come up with some fancy work-arounds to actually locate our respective results on the website. Turns out, my friend had also done as I've done—tested at several different DNA companies, as well as uploading results to GEDmatch—and not only that, but she had tested several of her relatives, as well. Thankfully, one is from the preceding generation, so we're hoping that will reveal more details.
Nothing in DNA is ever easy, of course, so I now have loads more to examine, once I returned home and pored over the details. But it does remind me that using different ways to view the same match lists can sometimes help something to pop up that otherwise would remain obscured on account of the sheer volume of results. When the match count gets past one thousand and edges its way toward two thousand, it's hard to pay attention to what each individual set of data may be telling us.
It was fun connecting with a real live person I actually know. Of course, we talked about everything genealogical during our visit, and the time just flew by. It was a welcome change from "reading" people on a database as nameless—often faceless as well—entities. While the actual nexus between our two families is likely to be at the level of fourth cousin or more distant—thus, seeking a set of third great grandparents or beyond in our mutual pedigree charts—we're both persistent enough that we'll work at it until we find the answer soon.
Friday, February 23, 2018
What can be said about baby pictures? They may be cute, or sweet, or look oh, so cuddly. But one thing is sure: as far as the adoring parents are concerned—well, at least for the first one—that child is the only child in the universe. No one else can even come close to comparing.
That's probably how the parents of Baby Fay felt—or at least her doting mother, when she wrote that hundred year old postcard to Mrs. Henry Keefe in Red House, Nevada. "We think she is the only babe," gushed Baby Fay's mother at the end of her tightly-packed note on that tiny postcard-sized writing space.
As for the details, the undated card mentioned that Baby Fay was five weeks and two days old at the time the picture was taken. But such are mere facts. The important details this mother wanted Mrs. Keefe to know were that "She is awfully cute now. She laughs and plays and tryes awfully hard to talk."
Fortunately, this young mother included some additional facts to help determine just who Baby Fay might have been. She labeled the front of the Azo picture postcard with the baby's name "and mother." Thankfully, on the reverse, using nearly every space available to write, this mother included her own name, plus the fact that the card was coming from Bandon, Oregon.
And with just those few details, once again, we're off to explore what can be found about another abandoned family photograph—and hopefully see this one through the process all the way to a return trip home to a descendant who would welcome receiving it.
Above: Message from the reverse of an undated Azo postcard addressed to a Mrs. Henry Keefe of Red House, Nevada.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
My attention has been kidnapped lately by a hundred-year-old postcard addressed to a Mrs. Henry Keefe in Red House, Nevada. Other than the space dedicated to inscribing that simple three line address, the entire card was crammed with details about the charming baby whose photograph was featured on the reverse of the Azo postcard.
It's true that I've given up on my previous pursuit, trying to find a descendant for the last series of photo postcards I had worked on—well, given up for the time being, at least. Hopefully, someone will eventually answer my emailed pleas and connect me with a likely prospect. For now, we need to set aside the five photographs from the Barnes family of Kansas, and see what else can be found in the collection of abandoned photographs I found in that antique shop in the foothills of northern California. I really want to send another one home.
With this old postcard, the one addressed to Mrs. Keefe, it was meant to go to a place so tiny, it isn't really even an official location on the map. Lately, Red House is categorized—at least in some places—as a "census designated place" in Humboldt County, Nevada. If you aren't familiar with that county, I'm not surprised; the only city the place contains is Winnemucca, the county seat.
But I'm not so sure the postcard ever got mailed. For one thing, it didn't look like it had suffered a run through the mail system, though perhaps it was sent, enclosed inside an envelope. However, if it did actually get mailed, I'm not sure how it would have arrived at its intended destination; looking at the closest census year (1920), it doesn't appear that there was anyone by that name living anywhere in Humboldt County, Nevada—Red House or elsewhere. Not even in the thriving metropolis of Winnemucca.
Above: Address written on the reverse of a hundred-year-old Azo photo postcard; photograph currently in possession of the author.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
While I've been struggling to identify the members of Alta Barnes' grandparents' generation—in hopes of identifying just who those tall cousins were flanking Alta's mom, Clara, on that fifth orphaned photograph I found in northern California—I've been stalling for a second reason: the photograph itself is too faded to see well.
All that tap dancing around Clara's parents' family trees have been of no use. It made more sense to me that Clara would be standing with cousins from her mother's side of the family, but no one else on Harriet Hagar's side of the family had children—at least that I could tell.
Harriet's siblings—Lucy, Henry, and Charity—weren't that easy to trace, themselves. I could find the oldest three children as part of the Hagar family in Kansas as recently as the state's 1865 census, taken in June of that year. The baby of the family, Charity, arrived that September, thus missing the official record by a matter of only a few months.
September likely was the last anyone would see of Charity's mom—also named Charity—and I suspect she died during or right after the baby was born. The reason I suspect that is because, after that point, I can find the other children scattered about in other homes, but not with their parents. Their brother Henry—at least if I have the right one—was listed in a family by a different surname until joining his by-then-married oldest sister, Harriet, in the Tousley home in time for the 1880 census. Likewise for baby Charity.
Lucy, on the other hand, seemed to have disappeared entirely—perhaps succumbing to an illness which might also have taken her mom, or by marrying and forever disguising her maiden name so thoroughly as to never be found again. Who knows? Perhaps in her married years, she was the source of the mysterious cousins, though I doubt it at this point.
Youngest sibling Charity also couldn't have been the source of the unnamed cousins, as we've already discovered in pursuing the events in her life through the local newspaper reports.
Yet someone apparently knew who those mystery cousins were, for the faded photograph—though undated, possibly taken as early as 1893, the year of Harriet's death—was lugged all the way from the family's Kansas home to some place in the foothills of northern California. Faded from view as well as from memory, the portrait of four women and two men reveals some details of the clothing, but only the barest of outlines of facial features.
What I was hoping for was that our photo manipulation program would help clear up the scan, at least enough to make out the facial details. Unfortunately, though the program in past versions would do that, it no longer includes that easy fix. With thanks to my daughter for her best effort, we can catch a glimpse of what these folks once looked like, but only the faintest glimpse.
For what it's worth, I'll post it here anyhow. The photo manipulation did bring out some interesting details no longer visible in the original. If nothing else, it's a visceral reminder of how easily our memories can fade from view—sometimes, even with our constant effort to revive and restore those life moments we've tried to capture for future generations.
Above: Undated photograph from the studio of J. L. Cusick in Arkansas City, Kansas, with a handwritten label on the reverse: "Clara Tousley, girl standing between two cousins." Photograph currently in the possession of the author.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Sometimes, wandering through old newspapers can give a researcher more than she bargained for. I was simply looking for an obituary for Alta Barnes' maternal grandfather, in hopes of finding a listing of possible relatives of this Kansas family. This I needed to explain why Clara Tousley, Alta's mom, had been included in a photograph with the unnamed family of her cousins.
Nothing is ever simple. From one step, I slid into another step, then another step, each one luring me farther away from my original goal to determine the names of those family members and locate a possible relative who brought the photograph from Kansas to California, where I found it.
So now, I've stumbled upon a newspaper report that Clara Tousley's father had died suddenly. Apparently, the family didn't take that report so well, despite the fact that Isaac Tousley was, by then, at least sixty three years of age. According to the local paper, the Arkansas City Daily Traveler, on November 15, 1900, Isaac had been
on the road near his home and stopped at one of the neighbors where he complained of being cold and they gave him something warm to drink. He laid down on the bed and apparently fell asleep. A little later it was discovered that he was dead.
I realize that, back then, it could be possible, if someone needed to go somewhere, that walking to his destination would be considered an acceptable mode of transportation. However, to just drop by a neighbor's home to ask for something warm to drink, and then just make one's self at home and take a nap on said neighbor's bed, well...that's just a tad bit too neighborly, I'd think.
The Tousley family evidently thought so, as well. Perhaps it was no surprise to learn, in the next day's paper, the report headlined, "Relatives of Isaac Tousley Will Have Inquest Held."
Of course, the same story was repeated in that newspaper on November 16, adding the name of the unfortunate neighbor—a Mr. Humbert—to the details of the preceding day. The warm drink, it turned out, was simply hot tea. The nap, supposedly, lasted about an hour or so—although when you do the math, it seems Isaac Tousley slipped away almost immediately after drinking his tea.
But there were a few other details added in that second report. Among other considerations,
[Isaac] has lived here for many years and is well known. He has accumulated considerable wealth and has not been troubled by sickness. He has not complained of feeling sick until just a short time before his death.
These were a few of the considerations causing Isaac Tousley's relatives to call for an inquest. This turn of events led me to believe I'd find much more on the incident in the following days' reports, but scouring the newspaper led to nothing further. Whether it was foul play against a local government official or an unfortunate case of sudden heart problems, I'll never know—at least, without sending for a copy of his death certificate and perhaps even the inquest paperwork.
That, however, I'll leave for avid genealogists among Isaac Tousley's descendants. For me, it's back to my original purpose: to track down who the cousins were in that photograph so I can see if they were the ones bringing the photograph of Isaac's daughter Clara out west to California.
Monday, February 19, 2018
With the last of five hundred-year-old family photographs I found in an antique shop, I was hoping to figure out how these pictures of the Barnes family from Kansas ended up in northern California. That last photograph, after all, was the oldest of them all, featuring the mother of the family as a young girl standing "between two cousins."
It seemed the more I saw in the pictures, the more questions they left me with. Of course, I had tried to figure out who those two strapping young men were in the photo—the two who were supposed to be Clara Tousley Barnes' cousins. I still can't find any likely explanation.
Then, I began wondering why Clara would have been included in a family photograph with a family other than her own. Though the picture was horribly faded, I could tell, of the six people included in the portrait, that at least one of the women seated in the front row was likely a member of the previous generation. Perhaps this was the cousins' mother.
Why, then, would Clara be included in this other family's photograph? That question prompted me to look at Clara's own timeline. Could she have lost her parents at an early age, and been raised by an aunt or uncle?
As it turned out, Clara's mother did die relatively young. Harriet Hagar Tousley had just turned forty when she passed away in 1893. At that point, Clara was fourteen—a possible reason why she would have been living with another relative.
But her father, Isaac Tousley, was still alive. Though he was a farmer, by the time he lost his wife, his only two children were of an age in which they could take care of themselves. Granted, farming could take a man away from child care duties, but such requirements would hardly be necessary for teenagers, who at that time might be out working in the fields, themselves.
I took my question to that handy newspaper archive hosted by the Arkansas City public library. The first clue I found only added to my questions. It was a brief entry in the Arkansas City Daily Traveler on December 5, 1900:
J. C. Alsip has been appointed trustee of Silverdale township by the county commissioners, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Isaac Tousley.
J. C. Alsip, as it turned out years later, became the father-in-law of Clara's brother John, but that's getting ahead of our story. We also learn from this brief mention in the paper that Isaac Tousley had been serving as a trustee in the local government of his Kansas community. But the main point, of course, was that he was dead. And death meant there should have been an obituary. Of course, I had to look further.
Expecting to simply find a memorial entry regarding the family of the dearly departed, I was somewhat surprised to discover, in the same newspaper on the earlier date of November 15, the following:
Word was received here this morning of the death of Isaac Tousley, a farmer living about fourteen miles northeast of the city. The deceased was well known in the city. His death was very sudden.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Most of the time, genealogists believe they are preoccupied with the details of lives lived centuries ago—or at least decades ago. The things that shaped our ancestors, redirected them to the places where they lived or the occupations they filled or even the people they married, those are the details we search to uncover. In the process, we sometimes uncover those hard truths that dashed their dreams or broke their hearts.
Sometimes, that process of discovery is so removed from our present that we are immune to the experience that enveloped the ones who endured the event. The crisis becomes, for us, an unusual story, not a painful memory. We forget that, in the moment it unfolded, it evoked strong feelings and perhaps even redirected outcomes for families. We can only relate by remembering similar events that may have happened in our own lives.
When those events do happen to us, we sometimes get knocked from our role as the family historian, the keeper of the family narrative. Enveloped in the pain of the tragedy, we drop our pen to participate, abandoning our narration of what is currently unfolding, forgetting that, in the future, this very experience will become our history.
That, I can attest, is a natural outcome, given the circumstances. Here I am, having done the very same thing these past few months. While the whole world, it seems, joined in to celebrate holidays from November through January, our own extended family was rocked with devastating news: the four year old granddaughter of my husband's cousin was diagnosed with cancer. A brain tumor manifested itself around Thanksgiving time, needing immediate surgery. The procedure revealed that not all of the tumor could be safely removed, requiring a sequence of chemotherapy treatments for the next half year.
For three weeks out of every month, this little one needs to remain in the hospital, not just for the chemo, but on account of how it also impairs her immune system. For one week out of every month, little Bea gets to return home to her family—a family which recently moved to a different house, and into which a brand new baby was just welcomed. Life goes on for the family, but how different is the direction now taken.
Events like this, remembered years later by siblings, demonstrate how life-changing are the marks we leave on each other. Sacrificial choices, made to help out, shape us in ways we may not realize as we are going through the process. Invisibly but indelibly they constitute the person we become. Afterwards.
In one way, such changes are so stressful as to suck all the verve out of the activities we usually take joy in. For those of us who consider journaling, or recording reflections on, our daily activities to be essential, we may suddenly lose all desire to write down the minutiae of a process which could, in the end, turn tragic. Yet, in many ways, keeping up that writing habit could turn out to be therapeutic—while, if preserved, could provide a history for the family in generations to come.
Right now, there is no doubt that the experience is full of strong feelings—and yet, it is coupled with that stoic determination to just get through life, doing what can be done, and leaving the miraculous to those for whom such touches are meant. And yet, in such trauma, it sets the stage for those who can rise to the occasion to do selfless, sometimes heroic, acts. Sometimes, those selfless acts of kindness are small—like the friend of the family who set up a GoFundMe account for Bea's medical expenses—and sometimes they are the kinds of sacrifices that no family member would think twice about doing, like the grandparents who take turns flying across the country to watch the rest of the grandkids while dad is at work and mom is at the hospital.
Stuff like this may not be considered family history. It isn't—yet. But what we do every day will eventually become part of the history our descendants will someday wish they could find about us.
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Right now, many people are enjoying a three day weekend. The holiday, at least to the federal government, is still officially known as Washington's Birthday, though that designation used to be pinned, less conveniently, on the stationary date of February 22. Now, serendipitously for some employees, it has become the movable target attached to the far end of a weekend. Bank employees and civil servants celebrate. Everyone else goes out and shops, keeping captive the rest of the work world.
That goes for the far end of the weekend. On the near end of this celebration weekend, as our local genealogical society was reminded at our meeting last Thursday night, Friday ushered in the Chinese New Year. For those of my neighbors who, upon awaking with a start at midnight and grumbling about it online at our neighborhood's NextDoor social media, not a thought was given to that celebration; people were wondering about all the "gunshots." It didn't matter that nearly fourteen percent of our county is comprised of Asian-Americans, or that fireworks are a popular way to usher in the new year. Perhaps the rest of us didn't get the memo.
For those of us attending that small genealogical society meeting last Thursday, we were treated to an excellent presentation by the immediate past president of the California Genealogical Society, Linda Harms Okazaki. Linda traveled out to spend the evening with us for a reason: I wanted to launch my first term as president of the society with a reminder that an organization only grows as it meets the needs of its surrounding community. And, as you can tell if you happen to read through our county's regional growth analysis, we're presented with an ethnically diverse set of research challenges.
Though I'm barely flexing my own presidential muscles at this point, I have spent a few years working in other capacities for our society, mainly in teaching genealogy classes for beginners. One of the situations I face constantly is the question, "Is there any resource for researching my ancestors from...[fill in the blank with a distant, non-European country]?" I've had immigrants from Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines and other countries ask me that question. And while, yes, the answer can always be FamilySearch, sometimes that response is a facile cop out. Especially for a location like our county.
The key is that those people also wish to research their ancestry. At the beginning, the path to connect with their ancestors will generally follow the same pattern as anyone else's research, but the particulars eventually will be quite different, especially the farther back in time any immigrant American cares to trace his or her roots.
The genealogical organization in a community such as ours—rich in our diversity—should be prepared to answer such beginners' research questions. That's why I like Linda's new presentation, "Who's in Your Neighborhood? Meeting the Diverse Research Needs of Your Community." With increasing numbers of people taking an interest in family history—thanks to everything from the much maligned "lederhosen" DNA commercial to TV programs by spokespersons like Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—we have a ready-made local audience primed for our services. We just have to find the best way to connect. Trust me, the people are out there.
Friday, February 16, 2018
Sometimes, notes added after the fact can help identify the faces in old family photographs. Other times, they only muddy the family tree.
When I found the note on the back of that fifth Barnes family photograph abandoned in a northern California antique shop, I thought it would be quite helpful. After all, the other four pictures had enough information to piece together the family of Alta Barnes and her siblings Mollie, Nellie, Helen and Jimmie from Silverdale, Kansas. From there, it was a quick jump on Ancestry to locate census records showing me their parents were Forrest and Clara Tousley Barnes.
Thus, the trust element was high for the remarks entered on this fifth photograph. Naturally, when I read the comment, "Clara Tousley, girl standing between two cousins," I figured those two young men flanking her would naturally be her cousins.
Now, I'm not so sure. I've gone through many a family's photographs and read notes penned in the shaky hand of a desperate near-ninety-something great-grandmother, hoping to preserve the memory of her ancestors for those young ones she was about to say goodbye to for the final time. Whether in the rush of an urgent errand, or the fog of a fading memory, sometimes the notes left behind turn out to be, well, not exactly accurate.
Which gives me cause to ask, "Whose cousins?" Were they Clara's cousins? Or the unknown writer's cousins?
Or were they cousins at all?
Finding Clara's cousins would mean stepping back a generation to find the siblings of Clara's mother or her father. Clara's mother, Harriet, had a surname often rendered by alternate spellings, so it could have been Hager, or the alternate version, Hagar. Clara's father was Isaac Tousley, a name occasioning spelling woes of its own.
Neither appeared to have siblings who married and had children—at least, not that I could find. That, of course, means only that...I couldn't find them.
While I kept plying every trick I knew to flesh out the rest of the family trees for the Hagars and the Tousleys, a nagging question kept eating at me: why would Clara be standing in a picture of someone else's family in the first place? What happened to her own father and mother?
Clara's mother lived to be a relatively young forty years of age at her passing, it's true. But it was the loss of Clara's father that stopped me in my tracks and caused me to take the inevitable detour down the rabbit trail. It wasn't that he was sixty three years at his death, or that he passed only a few years after his wife. It was the unusual recounting in the local newspaper of what happened that made me take a second look.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
...and some mystery cousins. Can you tell I'm coming to the end of my rope, trying to figure out any connections to the Barnes family from Kansas whose five photographs I found in a northern California antique shop?
Searching through that wonderful newspaper resource I found at the Arkansas City Public Library, I noticed one thing while researching Alta Barnes and her sisters Mollie, Nellie and Helen: there seemed to be one aunt whose name kept popping up. For instance, the Arkansas City Daily Traveler mentioned, on August 7, 1925, that
Mrs. Roy Fresh, Silverdale, and sister, Alta Barnes, are spending this week with their aunt, Mrs. Charity Hume.
We already know that Mrs. Roy Fresh was Mollie, one of Alta's older sisters. But how did Charity Hume fit into the picture?
It would be easy to ignore this clue, if it were a solitary blip on the family radar. But it wasn't. Not much after that first mention I found in 1925, there was another, this time on November 6, 1926:
Mrs. Forest Barnes and son of Eaton, Kans., and her daughter, Mrs. Alta Williams of Kansas City, came down on Thursday for a visit with their aunt, Mrs. Hume.
Perhaps this more oblique reference to "their aunt" actually helps clarify the relationship. Mrs. "Forest" Barnes was Alta's mother, Clara. Between that first mention of a visit in August, 1925, and the second, Alta had gotten married—on November 20 of that year. The second visit was just before Alta celebrated her first anniversary. Alta's only brother—James, the one who at the end of his life donated his remains to science—was barely six years old at the time of that second visit, so by necessity, would have had to accompany his mother on this visit. But whose aunt, actually, was Mrs. Hume? There were two separate generations involved in this mention.
As it turns out, Mrs. Charity Hume was the younger sister of Alta's maternal grandmother, Harriet Hager Tousley. Charity appeared in the 1880 census in the household of Isaac and Harriet Tousley, thankfully listed as sister-in-law to Isaac, instead of any of the less diligent labels sometimes applied by weary census enumerators.
According to the 1900 census, Charity and her husband weren't married until that very census year, when Charity was thirty five years of age, and her husband, Wallace, was forty one. Reading between the lines in those subsequent newspaper entries in 1925 and 1926 tells the story of why so many family visits were mentioned in the town's social column. The original note in 1925 was likely mentioning a visit designed to console a recently-widowed relative, as Charity lost her husband Wallace Hume just a few months earlier, on February 9.
As often happens to couples in their later years, while Charity may have appreciated the visits meant to comfort her in her loss, those visits in 1926 may have served a secondary purpose: Charity's own health may have been declining after her husband's passing.
The little reports came more frequently, and revealed longer visits. Besides the note in November, 1926, there was an earlier one on October 15:
Mrs. Mollie Barnes Fresh came down the last of last week for a visit with her aunt, Mrs. Charity Hume. Mrs. Hume accompanied her home Monday for a longer visit.
Again, on October 29, another report:
Aunt Charity Hume spent the latter part of last week with Mr. and Mrs. John Tousley and family.
John, Alta's mother Clara's only brother, may well have been doing his part in rallying with family to provide support for his aunt. With all this mention of doting nieces and nephews, there was nothing said—at least in the local newspaper—about Charity's own family. While the 1900 census may have left a confusing impression that Charity had children of her own, looking closely points out two details: first, that the children in the Hume household were actually those of her brother-in-law, Alvin Hume; and second, that the small entry next to her own name indicated that she had no children of her own. The 1910 census confirms that situation. If anyone were to attend to her ailing health in the year after her husband's passing, it would be members of her siblings' families.
The last mention of visits to Aunt Charity appeared in the newspaper on June 18, 1927:
Mrs. Charity Hume is visiting with relatives at Eaton and Silverdale this week.
Not long after this point, on June 28, Mrs. Charity Hume apparently succumbed to her illness and joined her husband in their final resting place near so many of her relatives, the Parker Cemetery in Arkansas City, Kansas.
It was not solely on account of these newspaper reports that I felt compelled to scramble to locate just who Charity Hume was. Though I'm glad to trace the family connection, I was looking for a different clue—one to help with the last photograph in the collection I found in that California antique shop. It was a group photograph of Alta's mother, Charity's older sister Clara, along with five other people. On the back of the photograph was the explanation: "Clara Tousley, girl standing between two cousins."
Who were those two cousins? Could they be the California connection?
Above: Handwritten note entered on the back of a family photograph of six people, taken at the studio of J. L. Cusick in Arkansas City, Kansas; undated photograph currently in the possession of the author.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
One by one, I've been going through the family of Forrest and Clara Barnes, trying to figure out just how five of their family's photographs made it from their home in Kansas to the foothills of northern California. So far, I've uncovered not one clue. And I'm running out of possibilities, arriving today at the youngest of the Barnes sisters.
Alta Barnes' youngest sister, Helen, was different, however. Though some of the Barnes girls had married in their teens—Alta was sixteen when she and Webster Wayne Williams were married—Helen had other plans. By the time of the 1940 census, she was out of the Barnes home, living in Kansas City, where she was finishing nursing school. Between the time of the census in April and the following August, she had found her way from Saint Joseph's School of Nursing to Alexandria, Virginia, where she found employment as a private duty nurse.
By the end of August, 1940, Helen had become Mrs. Oda Nichols. How long—if at all—she continued applying her nursing skills in a work setting in the Washington, D.C., area, or how long she remained a resident in Virginia, I can't tell. At some point, though, she returned to the midwest, settling by 1971 in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Sometime, in all that transition, Helen Nichols became Helen N. Burchell. The only way I know that is from that stack of digitized newspapers made freely available online through the Arkansas City Public Library, a resource for which I've become extremely grateful. On account of that searchable collection, I found Helen N. Burchell's obituary, published in The Arkansas City Traveler on Tuesday, September 6, 1983. She had died the preceding Saturday in Muskogee.
Then, of course, I had found the headstone marking her resting place, back in the same cemetery in Arkansas City, Kansas, where so many others in the Barnes family had been buried. That stone, by the way, was the one she shared with the memorial to her brother Jim, the one who had donated his body to science.
Still, I find no indication that Helen had moved any farther west than the region around Kansas and Oklahoma. That leaves me with no explanation of how those five family photographs would have shown up in northern California. Usually, when restoring such orphaned photographs with current family members, I can discern a path from the family's origins to, say, the Bay area; from there, it's only the minutiae of how antique dealers go about their business that determines where a photo may land.
In this case, though the photographs remained intact in one collection in Jackson, California, there is no member of the entire Barnes' immediate family who had children or grandchildren who moved to California—not, at least, that I can find.
More important than solving that minor mystery, though, is being able to find a living descendant who would be interested in welcoming these pictures back into the family. That is what I am hoping for the most.
With one picture in the collection still waiting to be shared, we'll have just one more day to ponder what our next step will be.
Above: Helen Naomi Barnes, cropped from a family grouping taken circa 1922 in Silverdale, Kansas; photograph currently in possession of the author.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
There was a time when I wondered whether Nellie Barnes—the third girl in that Kansas family photograph I found in an antique store in northern California—had actually lived past her teen years. Someone had written an explanation on the back of that picture to note that Nellie had just gotten over a fever, and, in my opinion at least, Nellie did look a little tentative in the sisters' portrait. It didn't help to discover that, after that photograph was taken, her parents had subsequently named another daughter Helen—a name often shortened, during that era, to Nellie.
With the discovery of that wonderful cache of newspapers close to the Barnes family home, I was able to trawl through decades of newsprint published in nearby Arkansas City, Kansas. There I found several entries about various Barnes family members. Some of the entries were lengthy, others quite tiny, but all provided clues about the family to help me piece together a clearer picture of just who these people were from Cowley County, Kansas.
Of all the Barnes children of Forrest and Clara, according to her obituary, Nellie turned out to live the longest—to ninety four years of age. Perhaps her bouts of childhood illnesses actually served to strengthen her. Then, too, it was she who had the most children of her siblings, being the mother of five sons who lived to adulthood.
When she was eighteen, Nellie married Frank Earl Crouse, an Arkansas City native, and settled down with him in their first home on a farm near Silverdale, Kansas. The couple raised their family on the farm, where they stayed until moving to Arkansas City in 1946.
Frank, however, was not as long-lived as Nellie, dying at seventy eight years of age in 1975. Perhaps her sons took after their father more than their mother's strong constitution, for by the time of Nellie's own passing in 1996, three of her sons had already predeceased her. By now, of course, all five of them—Freddie, Forrest, Ernest, Paul and Norman—are gone.
In tracing the descendants of the three sisters in that original family photograph I found, I keep seeking a clue to explain just how that picture—now, up to a total of five picture postcards—might have ended up in California. The farther I trace down each sibling's line, the more I find family members who staunchly stuck to their home turf. Other than wandering over the state line to live in Oklahoma, almost every one of the Barnes family children and grandchildren remained in the area where Forrest and Clara once raised their children.
There was one exception, however: a sister who, after completing high school, went on to become a nurse. Her occupation opened doors for her to travel elsewhere to find work—and yet, even this sister didn't head out west, but on the contrary, made her way back east. While her line won't likely provide an answer to my dilemma, it does hold out a possibility of finding a willing family researcher who might be interested in receiving these orphaned photographs. The only problem, though, is that even though this is the Barnes family history researcher I think I've found through Ancestry, it isn't anyone who has been inclined to answer my message.
Monday, February 12, 2018
So many times, as we research the lives of the women in our ancestry, we find nearly a blank slate. To find the answers to our questions about the basic details of a woman's life, it is sometimes easier to glean the details from a male relative's records. Such was the case with the older sister of Alta Barnes, the one whose family photographs I found in an antique shop in northern California.
When I first started researching, based on the information I found in the original photograph of Alta and her two older sisters, I thought perhaps Alta had subsequently lost both sisters, due to their apparent poor health. It was that serendipitous find of the newspaper cache at the Arkansas City library in Kansas that showed my assumption was wrong. Mollie, the oldest of the three girls in that original photograph, lived well into her eighties. I just had to find the right surnames by which to trace her life's story.
The first clue was a brief mention on the social page of the Arkansas City Daily Traveler on Friday, August 7, 1925:
Mrs. Roy Fresh, Silverdale, and sister, Alta Barnes, are spending this week with their aunt, Mrs. Charity Hume.
That was it, just a fraction of a column inch on page five, but it provided a married name for at least one of Alta's sisters. I didn't yet know who it was, but the clue was gratefully noted.
I later learned that Mr. Fresh was Orin Roy Fresh, and that he and the Barnes girl—it turned out to be Mollie—had followed the path of so many others in the Barnes family and had gotten married just over the state line in Kay County, Oklahoma, in 1924.
When I found the other photo postcards besides the one I originally located, there was one featuring Mollie, front and center on the steps outside the door to a humble building. True to the tradition of the other postcards from Alta's family, this one had several labels on the reverse. One, at the very center of the card, said simply, "Aunty." A second note, in a different hand and type of ink, added, "Miss Mollie Barnes," and on a second line, explained, "Hardy."
Perhaps someone else thought "Hardy" needed more explanation, for yet another pen and handwriting style added, "Okla.," lest anyone assume it referred to Mollie's married name.
I have yet to find any documentation showing Mollie's residence in Hardy, Oklahoma—wherever that is. In both the 1930 and 1940 census, Roy and Mollie were living in Creswell Township in Cowley County, Kansas, the same county in which Mollie had lived almost her entire life.
I found little else on Mollie until 1958. The year of 1958 must have been a rugged year for Mollie. Barely six weeks after she lost her father at the end of October, her husband succumbed to "a lingering illness" on December 14. Like many other members of the Barnes family, Mollie buried her husband at Parker Cemetery in Arkansas City. And, after another twenty six years, she was laid to rest at his side.
That isn't quite the end of the story, though, for only a few years after Roy's death, in the 1962 obituary for Alta's own husband, I found mention of Mollie once again—only this time, she was referred to as "Mrs. Mollie Moore." Yet, by the time of her own passing in 1984, I could find no obituary in the Arkansas City newspaper, though I did find a funeral notice. Though family members were there to serve as her casket bearers, there was no listing of survivors.
Since there was no mention of the details anywhere else, it was back to her first husband's obituary to search for any details on Mollie's life. It was there that I learned the couple had moved to their property just outside Arkansas City in 1926, where Roy operated a saw mill. The couple also operated a farm at a different property near Dexter.
The main clue in this life review, however, was that Roy and Mollie had no children, possibly the reason why very little was mentioned about Mollie's passing so many years later. No mention of descendants, no work outside the home—other than the (surely demanding) businesses the Fresh family operated—and no significant community memberships all added up to a sadly lacking obituary when it was Mollie's time to say goodbye.
Above: Undated photo postcard labeled "Miss Mollie Barnes, Hardy, Okla." Photograph currently in the possession of the author.
Sunday, February 11, 2018
It's busy weeks such as this one that remind me why I decided to draw up a research accountability plan for myself—and remind me that I might not be far from being pushed over the line where I'll start sounding like some of my friends who mourn not having had the time to research their own family for far longer than they'd like. It may be "good to be queen," as my friend and genealogical society predecessor Sheri Fenley insists about stepping into the role of president for my local society, but I simply cannot turn into the type of society board member who is so busy helping others research their family tree that there is no time left for my own. Thus, as much as I hate to take the time to do that research tally every two weeks, I owe it to myself to have that constant reminder. Even if I only add ten names to the biweekly count, that's ten more names than some of my more busy friends have been able to add—a somber reminder.
All that to say I'm afraid this has been a lackluster two weeks for my own research. I managed to add twenty seven to my mother's tree and seventy six to my mother-in-law's tree. That means my mom's tree now has 12,029 and my mother-in-law's tree has 14, 177. You won't be much surprised to learn both the dads' trees saw zero progress for the past two weeks.
Because the results from those holiday DNA sales are still getting rolled out, we saw a sizeable increase on our DNA matches—well, at almost all the testing sites. I gained twenty eight matches at AncestryDNA and a whopping sixty eight at Family Tree DNA. That means my match totals are now up to 884 and 2,751, respectively. My husband's matches were up sixteen at Ancestry and thirty four at FTDNA, where his totals are now at 451 and 1,746.
And then there are the ever-decreasing numbers at 23andMe.
What's new for this week is the addition of DNA results for both our tests at MyHeritage. My husband—who already knew he would find a match with his niece and her son at MyHeritage—now has 2,201 matches to explore. I, astoundingly, have an inconceivable 3,280.
One thing that was refreshingly different about this past week was a message received in my Ancestry inbox. It's a rare cousin who takes the time to get in touch, but one member of my father-in-law's family reached out to get in touch. We've been carrying on a lengthy discussion—first steps in getting oriented to each other's respective family trees—and are delighted to realize that the connection is real. This particular branch of the family is my husband's Tully line, the one which led us on a chase up a mountain in County Tipperary, Ireland, a few years ago. It seems I've connected with more like-minded researchers from this family line than any of the others I've worked on in this lifelong quest. It's always exciting to connect with distant cousins, so this new DNA match has been a delight to discover.
I guess it's connections like this that encourage me to keep at the grunt work of tending to those tree branches, carefully pruning them to insure that supporting documentation is in place. This exercise in research accountability does help to keep the work going forward, even when I feel discouraged that I'm not making "enough" progress.
Saturday, February 10, 2018
I realize I've talked about the benefit of using newspapers in genealogical research before. That is definitely a great way to enhance the portrait we seek to create of our ancestors' lives. When those ancestors happen to have lived in a community-minded locale now making such archival provisions, it is truly a gift for the researcher. I've especially been reminded of that again as I stumbled upon that newspaper treasure trove freely provided by the Arkansas City, Kansas, public library system.
Apparently, I'm not the only one singing that song. Just the other day, genealogy guru Thomas MacEntee sent out a notice under cover of his Genealogy Bargains newsletter, recommending the soon-to-be-published book by James Beidler, The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide. Set to be released this coming March 20, the book is available for pre-order through Amazon (where you can preview some of the contents by clicking "Look Inside" on the left column). However, frugal followers of Mr. MacEntee can click through his newsletter to receive a special fifteen percent discount. (If you aren't yet a subscriber to Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Bargains, you can sign up for the newsletter here.)
James Beidler is known throughout the genealogy community for his many roles. Columnist and blogger at Roots and Branches, he is editor of the quarterly newsletter for the Mid Atlantic Germanic Society, and is a frequent contributor to other genealogical publications. He has served as President of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors, and as Executive Director of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania.
I realize not every ancestor has found his or her place in the newsprint of their era. But what a gift that can be for a researcher who does stumble across an ancestor's entry in a local newspaper. Time and again, I've been able to piece together the story of an ancestor's life—someone who, prior to that bonanza of multiple mentions in local papers, was just a hollow shell punctuated with the genealogist's BMD data. If you remember, for instance, my discovery of the story behind my grandmother's fourth cousin—John Syme Hogue, the man of many aliases whose international crime spree unfolded before me, one newspaper edition at a time—you are witness to a life episode which many in our family would never have known. Newspapers connect the dots which enable us to better see the full person, rather than just the isolated points that marked the start and end of an otherwise unknown life.
While I usually reserve this Saturday post to review a book which, having been bought long ago, has since languished on my reading shelf, this is the perfect time to switch things up. While The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide is not yet on my shelf, it certainly sings the same tune as my theme song. I look forward to taking a closer look.
Friday, February 9, 2018
It was quite a gift, when opening the bag in which I had stashed the orphaned photographs I had rescued from an antique store in northern California, to realize that I had not only purchased one photograph of little Alta Barnes, but several of her family. While the original picture showed Alta with her older sisters, the one I want to share with you today features Alta again, but this time it was she who was the oldest of three siblings. The other two—her next younger sister Helen and baby brother James—stood in front of the same building where her own likeness had previously been captured about one hundred years ago, but this time, Alta was the teenager. And, unlike the earlier pose, this time she was smiling.
We'll discuss the little girl in this more recent photo later, but today, I'd like to focus on the baby in this portrait—mainly because of the corresponding discovery, in that archive of newspapers I found yesterday, of that baby brother's obituary nearly fifty eight years later.
The littlest one in this photograph was labeled Jimmie on the reverse of the picture, but he was officially known, in an adultier version of his toddler self, as James D. Barnes. Jimmie arrived in the Barnes family at the start of a new year, on January 24, 1920. He likely left all too soon for his family at the relatively young age of fifty eight, dying in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he and his wife Jean had made their home.
Thanks to the library archives of The Arkansas City Traveler, the April 22, 1978, issue included a brief summary of Jimmie's life for those back home in Kansas who remembered him. His obituary clearly identified him as son of Forrest and Clara Barnes, listed his birth date and even where he attended grade school and high school.
Thankfully, the obituary also identified for us the married names of his sisters. Mollie was now Mrs. Moore, Nellie had become Mrs. Crouse, and Helen—the young child in the photo below—grew up to become Mrs. Burchell. Of course, we had already discovered Alta's married name, Williams, but the obituary helped steer me clear of my original speculation that perhaps the illness-plagued Nellie had not survived to adulthood.
Of course, seeing someone whose life seemed cut short—James died at age fifty eight—always causes me to wonder what might have happened. I look for details on what life might have been like for the person I'm researching. In James Barnes' case, his obituary provided some of the details, but it was through pursuing his wife Jean's name and the name of her business that I located the details to further explain James' story.
His obituary explained that
He was employed by Santa Fe Railway for 27 years in the clerical department and...was a veteran of World War II.
That, however, doesn't necessarily explain what might have devastated his health. I needed to delve further into this man's life story.
James Barnes seemed to be a business-minded person, since he "opened Jean Barnes Gift and Book Store" in Oklahoma City, back in 1960. Just in case the store was still in business, I decided to Google it. That was a good hunch. It provided me two memorials for Jim's wife, who had subsequently remarried and kept the bookstore running for many years afterwards. Among other gleanings, one mentioned that Jim had died "after a battle with lung cancer" and that the couple had originally moved to Oklahoma City in the 1940s, when Jim was transferred there by the Santa Fe Railway.
James Barnes seemed to have been generous in a practical sort of way, having a note in his obituary that the "family requests a memorial in his name to the elevator fund" at the Oklahoma City church he and his wife attended. What was more remarkable was discovering that Jim had not just one memorial posted on Find A Grave, but two. There was one for a headstone found at the cemetery back in Kansas where many of his family members were buried; the memorial inscription is shared with one for his sister Helen.
The other is a memorial found at his adopted home, Oklahoma City, in which James Barnes' name is inscribed with that of many others, under the heading:
In grateful remembrance of those who are laid to rest here. They bequeathed their mortal remains to further medical education and research in Oklahoma.
Above: Photograph of Alta Barnes Williams of Silverdale, Kansas, with her younger sister Helen and baby brother James D. Barnes; undated Azo Post Card circa 1922; currently in possession of the author.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
When the answers aren't forthcoming on our diligent search to locate an ancestor, it pays to go back and take a second look.
I find myself saying that when, barely a week ago, I was talking about newspapers—and how I couldn't find the obituary for the youngest girl in a hundred year old photograph I found in a northern California antique shop.
Well, I took a second look.
I can't say exactly how I stumbled across this serendipitous link, but I was prompted by the discovery of four more photographs linked to Alta Barnes Williams, the little girl in the photograph from Kansas I've been talking about lately.
What I did, this time, was head back to Google and search for the name of newspaper publications in the area of Cowley County, Kansas—the place the Barnes family called home for at least three generations. Thankfully, in the catalog of hits for that search term, Google served up one that caught my eye: a repository for free access to the newspaper archives for Arkansas City, Kansas.
Apparently, though not the county seat for Cowley County—that honor goes to neighboring Winfield—Arkansas City is the county's municipality with the largest population. Thankfully, some civic-minded residents supporting the Arkansas City Public Library, with the assistance of the V. J. Wilkins Foundation, saw to it that the city's newspapers were digitized and made freely available online at the library's website.
With the collection ranging in dates from 1876 to 2009, it offered me an excellent resource for tracing any mention of the family members related to Alta Barnes Williams. Since the family had been long-time residents in the county, and since old-time newspapers often carried columns focusing on the social news of various communities served by their coverage, I was abundantly rewarded for my tentative foray into search mode that second time. Everything from mentions of Alta coming to town to visit relatives while she was still attending high school to obituaries of the family members, one by one through the years, was readily located, thanks to the collection's search function.
Since I've found those additional Barnes and Tousley family photographs, I can now couple some of them with the details gleaned from the newspaper collection at the Arkansas City Public Library—a match made in researchers' heaven.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
It's a good thing I did a thorough second look through that bag of photographs I brought back from Sheri and Jacqi's Most Excellent Adventure in the northern California foothills. If you thought we were done talking about little Alta Barnes and her two big sisters, you are as wrong at your guess as I was. There was not just one picture of Alta. Not two. There were several. And, thankfully, Alta saw to it that the others were adorned with chatty notes on the reverse, as well.
How did I miss that? Guess I'm not a stickler for details. Or perhaps there was so much happening on that whirlwind shopping spree, I missed focusing on that one detail of names. As long as a photo included a name, I was happy—and not particularly concerned whether the one name matched any others.
A few more details from the backs of these additional photographs tell me I need to keep looking for more clues. One postcard, for instance, labeled the photo of a woman as "Aunty"—and then provided her name and the town where she was living. It turns out to be Alta's older sister Mollie. Another postcard is a grouping of three, including a toddler, but this time, the youngest isn't Alta—she's now the oldest of the three siblings. Yet another, labeled "Baby Face," is dated March, 1910, and includes Alta's married name. It includes a very faded note which I'll likely be able to read better by the help of a magnifying glass.
It's a good thing I had invested some time in extending Alta's family tree. Otherwise, I would have had no idea whatsoever that the much older photograph of a family grouping included Alta's mother. Its only label was the name, Clara Tousley. Thankfully, we know now how Clara fits into the family picture. Perhaps with that clue, we can figure out who the others were in the photo, despite lacking any other names—thanks to some explanations written in a hand looking suspiciously like Alta's own.
While I'm waiting—hopefully—for a response from the person I identified as the closest descendant I could find online, we'll take a day each to examine these additional photographs. Maybe a few more discoveries will pop up, once we slow down and search for the fine details.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
When all else fails in trying to locate a suitable descendant to gift a long-lost family photograph, fling some cousin bait out in the ether and hope someone follows the stardust to this humble online abode.
Since I haven't figured out the likely California recipient of Alta Barnes Williams' hundred-year-old photo postcard by the usual, tedious method—building out her family tree and looking for closely-related researchers on Ancestry.com—this will be my next step. My favorite candidate for this attempt turns out to be a maternal first cousin to Alta, born in Kansas only three years before Alta's own arrival in nearby Oklahoma.
First, a little explanation about Alta's family constellation. Alta's mother was born a Tousley—a name less common than Alta's own surname Barnes, but so much more likely to suffer spelling abuse at the hands of the occasional census enumerator. Clara Tousley had an older brother named John, who spent most of his life in the location of the family home in Cowley County, Kansas, except for one special time. In March of 1905, he slipped across the state border to Kay County, Oklahoma to say those life-changing little words, "I do," to one Lillie May Alsip.
Whether that was the start to the Barnes and Tousley families' habit of jumping the state line, moving back and forth from Cowley County, Kansas, to Kay County, Oklahoma, I don't know. But what I do know is that John and Lillie Barnes became the parents of a long list of progeny, starting with their first bundle of joy in the predictable space of one year after their marriage.
John and Lillie named their firstborn son a memorable name: Sterling Punk Tousley. Like his father before him, Sterling lived most of his life in Cowley County, Kansas, except for the time when he slipped across the state border in 1929 to say those life-changing words to his own sweetheart, Bessie Jane Vaden, in Kay County, Oklahoma.
Still, Sterling lived and died in Cowley County, Kansas, and it seems his children followed his footsteps, as well. It's pretty obvious that this particular branch of Alta's family wouldn't provide a likely candidate in California for her to mail that old postcard to.
Neither would it make sense, if we used the principle of "voice"—determining just who she would have been speaking to when she wrote her notes about "Aunt Nellie." Sterling's family would have been too far removed to have known much about "Aunt Nellie," who would have been his older cousin. Besides, unless she lived past her teen years, she would have been only a dim childhood memory to him, if he recalled her at all.
As a lark in this genealogical quest, I'm simply throwing that name out there in hopes someone snags this page via a search engine query. One never knows.
Back to reality, though, it would be far more productive to query the other Ancestry researchers also working on this Barnes line. Perhaps one of them might know more about the current family members to help put me in touch with a direct descendant who would appreciate receiving the photograph.
That task, however, equates with grunt work—not riveting enough to follow in the minutiae of the details. Thus, until that day when someone calls to claim Alta's memento of her older sisters Nellie and Mollie, I'll tuck that photo away in a safe place and move on to the next discovery from my shopping spree through the antique shops of gold-rush-era California.