Saturday, August 31, 2019
Used to be, this was the weekend which ushered in the flurry of preparation for "back to school" season. Though that is no longer the case for many—all but one of the schools our business works with are already in session—I thought it might be informative to wind the clocks back and see what "back to school" times might have brought for my ancestors.
Those "ancestors" on my paternal side would have been the first-generation children of immigrants in New York City. On my maternal side, the scene would shift to more rural settings, such as northern Florida or the northeastern tip of Tennessee. What was the first of September bringing for those families? What I could find, from those go-to documents we've come to rely on as family history researchers, was a definitive "it depends."
Checking that 1940 census, the telltale document which asked for "highest grade completed," it appeared my virtuous maternal grandparents had both completed four years of high school—at least, according to the report given to the enumerator by my grandmother. My mother, only fourteen at the time, was in eighth grade, and her younger sister trailed, one grade behind her.
Shifting over to check on the paternal side, the 1940 census revealed that my father's wife, the reporting party for that enumeration, had put him as having completed four years of high school. Nice, except that in that year, according to the Census Bureau, less than half the population of those aged twenty five or older actually had a high school diploma. Even more to the point, though high school graduation peaked at about fifty percent of one's age cohorts just before the war years hit America (see the graph on page 31 of this report), in the era in which my father would have been finishing such an education, the number of those doing so among his peers was far closer to fifteen percent than fifty percent.
Those wives might have thought themselves smart cookies to put such a polish on their claims to the census enumerator, but what they didn't realize was that we can quite easily verify whether their reports were so. And we find, in an era in which women seldom wore pants, theirs were, figuratively speaking at least, on fire.
Take the census in which my dad should have been in eighth grade, himself. That 1920 census in the Queens borough of New York asked simply whether each person had attended school at any time in the year leading up to the enumeration. My dad's entry was left blank. True, so was the entry for his twelve year old sister, but when we double check by looking to the right margin of the form, we see the report that my father was, at fourteen, working as an errand boy for a New York City bank. That, likely not an uncommon situation for that era, most likely also precluded full time attendance at school.
So, that was the truth of the matter for my paternal side in the big city. What about out in a more bucolic setting? Would either of my maternal grandparents have truly attended school to the bitter end? The answer there, if we can believe those earlier census reports, was also more squishy than definitive.
My grandfather, age thirteen at the time of the 1910 census—and living with an older sister who was by then a schoolteacher—was listed as attending school at least some time in the prior year. By the time of the 1920 census, he would no longer have been attending school anyhow, so the problem I have of not being able to locate his name in that census—likely because, by that time, he was out of the country—would not reveal much to help us. How many years after that 1910 census my grandfather continued his school career is something we can't determine from census records alone.
My grandmother, trailing her husband in age by a few years, was also too old to still be in school at the time of the 1920 census; there, her entry showed us she was employed as a telegrapher for Western Union. The 1910 census was too early to provide us an answer to our question, though it did show she was attending school then.
I take this back-to-school detour simply to point out something we all know but sometimes try to conveniently un-remember: that census records are only as reliable as the people providing the reports to the enumerators, and as reliable as the enumerators are at capturing those reports on paper.
There are, however, ways to work around such dilemmas. One obvious way, of course, is to find other corroborating documentation to verify the answer to our questions. That's why I so strongly believe that the reports we compile of our ancestors in their family tree profiles should rather be seen as a mosaic than a snapshot—seeking out the evidence that can be discerned from examining, for instance, collateral lines as well as direct lines of ancestry.
In the case of those of my relatives whose glowing reputation as high school graduates might have seemed tarnished by a closer examination of the truth, I already knew about the educational circumstances for each of them. I learned it by seeking out stories from family members back when I—and they—had the chance to talk about them.
Though in my dad's case—remember, like his own father, he was the one who didn't like to talk about his family or his past—the stories came from my mother's report of what he had previously told her, I remembered the story about how he dropped out of school, making his dad so angry, not because he was forsaking his education, but because, as a young musician in the big band era, my dad was making more money than his own father.
In my maternal grandmother's situation, I learned about the truth of the matter there, both from my mother's stories and from ephemera tucked away in my grandmother's private papers, which I inherited upon her daughter's death. My grandmother's mother kept her from starting school until she was a year older than the customary starting age, so that both she and her younger brother could attend school together; thus, at the other end of her educational career, my grandmother did indeed graduate high school—but she was almost twenty when she received her diploma.
In my maternal grandfather's case, I still have next to nothing to base any guesses upon. Though I couldn't find him in the 1920 census, I do have a record showing his arrival back from Honduras, where he had gone to live with his older, school-teacher sister and her husband. I also know that his childhood residence offered plenty of job opportunities with the railroad, which would have been more tempting than book-learnin' for a teenager in east Tennessee. Perhaps he, as did my dad, opted for a job rather than further education. Though it was partially a family tie that brought him to Honduras, he did also go on account of his work experience.
Of course, not all family stories are gospel truth, either—all the more reason for proceeding with our family history research with a good dose of skepticism and the perseverance to look up supporting references from not just one...or even two...but many different resources. Even if what we started with was a census record.
Friday, August 30, 2019
If a person was fairly young at the time, yet experienced an untimely death in 1918, what would you think might be the cause?
A date of death in 1918 might lead to the savvy guess of military cause, if it was due to a wartime casualty at the conclusion of the Great War—but the place of death in such cases would most likely be in Europe, not North America.
Robert Rawlin, however, did not die on the war-torn European continent. He died in Spokane, Washington. He breathed his last on October 23, 1918, on account of complications following a case of influenza in the midst of the worldwide influenza pandemic begun that same year.
Robert's arrival in Spokane was at the end of a long journey. He was born in July of 1877 in Australia in a city called Grafton. Son of Australians Nicholas and Marion Rawlin, Robert nonetheless chose, in his late twenties, to sail for California, and arrived at the port of San Francisco in 1904. Though I can't, as yet, determine just how—or why—he journeyed from San Francisco to Oregon, within eighteen months, he had found himself a wife in Malheur County, Oregon.
That wife was the former Eva Tucker, daughter of Samuel and Annie Tucker, whom we've been discussing, ever since locating several photographs of their family in a northern California antique shop over one hundred years later. Just shy of thirteen years later, Eva was once again without a husband, having lost Robert to a case of pneumonia subsequent to his exposure to the flu.
Tracing Eva, after Robert's 1918 death, was best accomplished by locating her whereabouts in each of the subsequent census enumerations. Less than two years after Robert's death, Eva was by then married to a man whose name is, by now, recognizable to us: Leslie Earl Purkey. This second Purkey-Tucker liaison produced a son before the couple split, and Eva went on to marry a Kansas man by the name of James P. Thomas, who served, at least briefly, as step-father for her three Rawlin children, as well.
Of course, one of Eva's children—if I can ever find him or his descendants—would be interested in a photograph I have of Leslie Earl Purkey. But we now also have the chance to locate Tucker descendants through the three Rawlin children—at least one of whom had a daughter by the time of the 1940 census.
Thursday, August 29, 2019
As we learn more and more about the family represented in several century-old photographs abandoned in a northern California antique shop, it becomes clear that finding a descendant to whom we can bestow these treasures is still challenging. We know the pictures are connected to the family of Samuel and Annie Tucker of Oregon, but despite boasting a large family, the Tuckers have not gifted us with a simple path from these great-great grandparents to the present.
It already appears we may not find any living descendant of eldest son James Tucker's only child. There are, however, seven other siblings whom we can attempt tracing. Going in order, the next oldest child would be the Tuckers' daughter Eva. Let's see what can be discovered about her—and her descendants.
According to the 1900 census, Eva was born in March of 1887, back in Illinois, before the Tucker family moved first to Nebraska, and then completed the trip all the way to Oregon before 1900. Though she and her younger sister Maud—whom we've already met—were so close in age, in their family photograph it still looks pretty clear whom we can identify as the oldest of the two girls.
By December 14, 1905, Eva had married a man by the name of Robert Francis Rawlins. While the marriage index gives very little information about Eva's husband, we learn from the 1910 census that he was working as an electrician in Spokane, Washington.
We also learn from that 1910 census that its enumerator had horrible handwriting—particularly frustrating in that it bars us from understanding where this Robert Rawlins came from. From what we can decipher from the census, he was an immigrant to the United States, claiming an arrival in 1904. His country of origin was somewhere in the English-speaking world, though the transcriber of the original document interpreted the scrawl to state, "Austria."
One other detail we could determine from that 1910 census was that Robert was almost ten years older than his bride—perhaps leading to the situation Eva found herself in, not much later, in which she and her young son Francis were left without him at his passing in 1918. Though there was no photograph accompanying his Find A Grave memorial, a volunteer gave Robert's place of birth as Grafton in New South Wales, Australia—thus, if correct (though unsourced), solving the mystery lingering from that 1910 census entry.
Thus, young Francis was left fatherless at about ten years of age—and widow Eva soon did what many women did in such a situation: remarry. That's when we realize that, once again, this family has crossed paths with names we've already researched in this quest to reunite abandoned family photographs with their subjects' descendants.
Above: Say, where? Excerpt from the 1910 U.S. Census for Spokane, Washington, showing the line items on left column for place of birth for Robert, Eva, and Francis Rawlins; the upper line is difficult to interpret (Aut? Ata?) for Robert's place of origin. Image courtesy Ancestry.com.
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Okay, I'll spare you the suspense. I'll tell you the answer up front: I don't have the slightest idea. Other than one brief mention of the daughter of James Tucker as Mrs. E. T. Lilly in the 1962 death notice of her father in Portland, I've failed to pull up any mention of a man with those initials and surname. Ditto for the daughter's alternate identity as Mrs. Jan Lilly of Portland in her mother's 1966 obituary. Perhaps that photograph of a young James Andrew Tucker may have to languish in my office for a while longer.
Not that there weren't Lilly family members in the Portland area. I did pull up a few other mentions of earlier obituaries for people with that same surname. None of them, however, included a Lilly descendant with a name which could be reduced down to those initials. Nor were there any mentions of a Lilly by the name of Norma—just in case that given name came out of hiding for some official records.
As it appears that James and Edith Tucker had no other children, the search for a connection with Tucker descendants will have to occur through another branch of that family. Fortunately, I was able to follow the winding path from one of James Tucker's siblings, down through the generations to a descendant who died only a few years ago. Thankfully, his obituary is accessible, and the path through this line of the Tucker family leads us once again to California—this time, to a spot in the northern portion of this state which boasts an active genealogical society with which I've been privileged to have some connections.
Wonder if it's time to call in some family history favors. Perhaps someone in that town knows someone who knows someone who...
It worked for me once before. In the meantime, we'll take a look at that wandering line tomorrow. Never know when it will help to lay down some cousin bait in this waiting game.
Above: Excerpt from the U.S. Census for 1940, showing the Klamath County, Oregon, household of James Tucker. Note the descending stroke for the father's initial letter "J" and the difference between that and his daughter Norma's clearly delineated "I." Image courtesy Ancestry.com.
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
When we're seeking a man who spent most of his teen and adult years living either in Oregon or just across the state line near his wife's family in Idaho, it doesn't seem likely that he'd have a daughter born a considerable distance to the south in the state of California. But that is what the census records tell us for Norma, only daughter of Jim and Edith Tucker.
It would be a simple thing to locate the Tuckers in the 1920 census—that is, if we could locate their entry in that enumeration. As it stands right now, I can't, so we really have no way to tell whether their work requirements—or maybe just their wanderlust—led them to a new residential location.
There are, however, other ways to find the Tuckers. Though they apparently ended up back in Oregon—Jim was buried in River View Cemetery in Portland in 1962, with his wife following in 1966—clues provided after their final days give a glimpse of the rest of the story.
Edith Jones Tucker's memorial at Find A Grave happened to include a transcription of her obituary. Disappointingly brief, it did reveal two clues: that she had a daughter, identified as "Mrs. Jan Lilly," and that Edith's obituary was originally published in The Oregonian. Checking that entry in a digital copy of the original at GenealogyBank, we can verify that it did indeed state those few facts, though nothing more of genealogical interest.
If Edith's obituary was published in The Oregonian, perhaps the same would be so for her husband, who predeceased her. Sure enough, on November 18, 1962, there was the funeral notice, confirming that this James Tucker was husband of Edith. Instead of "Mrs. Jan Lilly" from Edith's own entry, James' daughter was identified as "Mrs. E. T. Lilly."
The entry, however, continued far beyond that. This is where we need to double-check names and relationships with that 1900 census entry where we first found the Tucker family in Oregon, after their stop in Nebraska when the original family portrait was taken.
Jim Tucker's obituary continued listing relationships of those who survived him at his 1962 passing. There was a brother named Elmer, born in Nebraska in 1883, who was now living in Capitola, a town close to Santa Cruz on the coast of northern California.
Next mentioned in Jim's obituary was younger sister Clarice, whom we need to find in the 1910 census, as she wasn't born until 1901. By the time of the 1930 census, Clarice was still in Oregon, by then living with her husband and three children—none of whom, incidentally, were born in California. But by the 1940s, she was listed as a housewife living in the same downtown area in Modesto, California, soon to be immortalized in George Lucas' classic American Graffiti. And by the time her brother James had died, his obituary showed us that she was still living in that Stanislaus County city.
The final mention in James Tucker's obituary was that he was survived by his sister Eva. Eva, one of the older sisters appearing in the Tucker family portrait, was listed in her brother's 1962 obituary as Eva Thomas. At that time, she was living in a more northern location in—yes, once again—California. However, though Chico, California, was her home in the 1960s, in both the 1930 census and as recently as the 1940 census, she was still living in Oregon.
With all these California connections for James Tucker and his family, it is quite possible that he and Edith had moved south to check out the opportunities near his siblings in California—and while there, their late-life surprise baby made her appearance. If that is so, however, why was she Norma I. Tucker in the census records, but Jan Lilly in her mother's obituary? Furthermore, if Norma and Jan are one and the same, can she—or one of her descendants—be located and gifted with this photograph of the young man, James Tucker? That, of course, is the goal of all these musings.
Monday, August 26, 2019
Reuniting abandoned century-old photographs with family is not that much of a challenge, as long as you know at least a few details about the subjects of the portrait. A name or two is definitely helpful, but the location of the studio where the picture was taken can also help. From that point, with two or three facts, all it takes is some time and genealogical grunt work to produce the results—and then the serendipity to locate the family's descendants.
We have most of those initial requirements for working with the photograph I found in northern California of a young James Tucker. For one thing, someone had thoughtfully labeled the reverse of the cabinet card with his name and the additional detail that he was "Maud's brother." This agreed with the research I had already completed for another photograph—that time, the entire Tucker family, taken before 1900 in Wahoo, Nebraska—so it wasn't much of a surprise to discover the watermark on the card itself told us the location of the studio was in Oregon.
There are, however, some missing links in James Tucker's story, and those missing elements may be just what we need to locate a descendant interested in receiving this rescued photograph.
What we can find does flow nicely from the 1900 census entry for Jim's family in Oregon; we can see him there as the oldest child of Samuel and Annie Tucker. Six years later, we learn that this twenty-one year old had already married a woman from Missouri by the name of Edith May Jones. Since the location of the wedding was in Bannock County, Idaho, we can presume Edith had moved there with her parents. Indeed, by the time Jim had registered in 1918 toward the end of the Great War, he stated his employer was someone named Wilbur Jones—possibly a relative of his wife.
That, however, is getting ahead of ourselves. One key stopping place in this research rundown would be the 1910 census, right after the couple was married on December 18, 1906. We can see from the census the corroborating detail that Jim and Edith were married for at least three years—agreeing with the fact that the census was taken in April of that year, only four months past that third year. And we can also see that, though they've been married for at least three years, there are no children in their household. Edith claims no descendants, whether alive or deceased.
Fast forward to the 1930 census, and we see the Tucker household enlarged to three occupants: Jim, Edith, and a daughter named Norma I. Tucker. Though Edith lists her age as forty five, this daughter is only one year of age. Agreed, that age could easily be misread, as it appears that a lightly-inked fraction was crossed out in a bolder stroke, but fast-forwarding another ten years bears out that detail: in 1940, Norma was listed as twelve years of age.
There's another unexpected detail about Norma. Unlike her father who, though born in Illinois and captured in a family photograph in Nebraska as a boy, spent most of his adult life—as far as we know—around the border between Oregon and the Idaho home of her mother, Norma was apparently born in California.
California? Where did that come from?
The challenge is to find just where Norma's parents were in the decade preceding her birth. But there's a problem with that: no matter how I search, I haven't been able to find either James or Edith in the 1920 census. Not in Illinois, where Jim was born. Not in Missouri, place of his wife's birth. And certainly not in the two states where we've already found them, Idaho and Oregon. Could they have made the big move to California, leading up to the stock market crash of 1929?
If there's no way to directly answer that question, at least there are ways to work around this missing census record. We'll see, tomorrow, what can be pieced together about the details we can't otherwise find about Jim Tucker and his family.
Above: Difficult to spot in the original, enlargement of the scanned James Tucker photograph allows us to read the studio imprint clearly enough to determine its location in Ontario, Oregon; photograph currently in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant.
Sunday, August 25, 2019
It has been universally considered, among those who've been at this family history thing for any decent amount of time, that it is wisest to organize one's work flow with a research plan. Lately, my research plan has been focusing on preparation for an upcoming class in researching ancestors in colonial Virginia, as well as continuing my long-term quest to identify DNA matches among our family's distant cousins.
That, however, does not preclude other streams of research input. Part of my research plan is to-do-list oriented, but another portion is driven by systems operations. For instance, I set up one research system by subscribing to a list which keeps an eye out for obituaries in a particular county where many of my in-laws' families once lived. Most of the time, there is no activity there of interest to me—but last week, for instance, the passing of a distant cousin generated enough information for me to add ten names to my father-in-law's tree, moving the total up on that list to 1,551 individuals.
When the system hums along in the background, just waiting to spring into action with delivery of the requested information, I see nothing added to my research to-do list. When a tidbit comes my way, though, I need to make a detour from plodding along at my research-as-usual pace.
Another detour came my way this past month, as well. This one was for my mother-in-law's line, and was certainly more unexpected than the occasional obituary that pops up on that retrieval system: I got a message from a distant cousin from my mother-in-law's Gordon line. Not anyone our family knew personally, this person turned out to be a fourth cousin once removed, who happened to stumble upon my blog posts about the Gordons in Greene County, Pennsylvania.
Cousin bait! It finally worked!
Even more interesting was the fact that this cousin sent his message almost in a bottle: he sent me a note via Twitter, letting me know the connection and how I could view his own tree on Ancestry. Following through on that, I immediately noticed two things: first, the recognizable names of the ancestral couple he and my husband share in common, and afterwards, that the line he descends from is a branch from a female daughter of that couple for whom I had not been able to find marriage information. In other words, she had been lost to me, rendered invisible by a lack of husband's surname.
Now, after a couple week's diligent pursuit of this Gordon daughter and all her descendants, I've added 217 names to my mother-in-law's tree, bringing her total up to 16,804—and I'm nowhere near close to being done with that line. Let's just say I'll be continuing this research detour until I wrap up this Gordon branch with all descendants traced to those still alive in current times, for the sake of tracing those future DNA matches which have me stumped.
With those two system deliveries to my research plan—hey, when research babies are born, you've got to take care of them—it is no surprise to see the virtual standstill of my other two trees. My dad's tree didn't budge one name from its total of 574, since I had no current research goals on that family line. And my mother's line—where I've normally been focusing my day-to-day research diligence—just had to take a back seat while I added in this newly-discovered information on the other trees. My mother's line is now at 19,123 people, adding fifteen names only because I had started this biweekly period with the best of research intentions—and I'll get back to that regular research project soon.
However, when the research plan involves setting up services to automatically search for input we're seeking—whether via Google Alerts or even those old-fashioned mailing lists (yes, some of them are still active)—we do need to factor in the space in our research plan to attend to those unexpected yet hoped-for deliveries of data.
It's a wonderful dilemma to have to tackle, of course—I'd sure love to get more cousin-bait results like that one from earlier this month—but it does become a part of the plan for which there really isn't any way to schedule arrivals. Let's just say they are a component of our research plan over which we have little control. When they come, we cheer—and find a way to squeeze in the extra work.
Saturday, August 24, 2019
It just about killed me that I couldn't attend this week's FGS conference in Washington, D.C., but after hearing the news which broke this past Wednesday, I really wish I could have been part of things. While there have been positive reactions to this "wedding" announcement—at least from what I could see on social media—I can't help but feel like I'm merely being polite while suppressing a deep, inner, "oh oh" as I read through initial comments. I'm not sure whether this is a sign of the future, or a symptom revealing past problems, amplified.
I'm concerned for the underlying analytics bringing together two disparate groups. This may not turn out to be a match made in...well, wherever genealogical mergers are made.
You can find the press release officially announcing the merger plans between the National Genealogical Society and the Federation of Genealogical Societies posted on each organization's website. NGS leaders characterized the move as "improving support of both individual members and societies in the pursuit of genealogical excellence" and FGS leaders promised the merger would "allow for improved and expanded services to help support societies."
All that word smithing is confetti-worthy, ushering in a new age full of the glow of savvy advancement. What's behind the need for such a move is what gets me wondering. To be blunt, I'm concerned that genealogical societies may gain even more of the aura of the red-headed step-child if the mission of FGS does not homogenize quite as un-lumpily as hoped. While both groups are all for excellence in genealogy, the focus of NGS has always been on the individual; FGS, in contrast, is a collective comprised of member organizations.
Genealogy as a pursuit has long been beholden to collective action and accomplishment. The boots-on-the-ground that FGS sometimes mentions are their member organizations, which work face-to-face with everyone from first-time-inquirers into their family history to brick-wall-smashers celebrating the many conquests under their belt. Societies are the ones who entice newbies to start their journey, who hold steady the faltering researching hands of the frustrated, mid-journey, and bid us all progress upward in our expertise and research accomplishment. They need understanding in how to set up, develop, and perpetuate the infrastructure necessary to provide such services.
Yes, people can learn to gain those individual research skills in the new, self-serve mode of online genealogy—at the cost of impoverishing ourselves of the richness of interpersonal encouragement. But we need to understand what we're walking away from. The history of family history is rich with collaborative effort, the nurturing, encouraging, supportive efforts bringing many of us into the fold in the first place. There are all sorts of hobbies—and even occupations—which people can learn on their own, but the ones gained via a supportive and confidence-building network "stick" like no other.
That network of networks, in turn, needs our support. There is a reason why FGS came into existence. According to its own mission statement, their purpose, in part, has been to provide resources enabling genealogical organizations to succeed in pursuing their mission.
As the news of the NGS-FGS merger spread, leading genealogy bloggers voiced their assessment. The Legal Genealogist Judy Russell observed that "to the extent that the merger reduces duplicated efforts, it should be a very good thing overall for the genealogical community" but that since the aspect of services to societies differs in each of the partnering organizations, that will be the key concern as the boards work on the exact details of the merger.
Bottom line for connection-conscious Amy Johnson Crow is that "there simply must be a venue for society volunteers to learn how to be better managers...of the valuable societies that they are involved with." She likens the complementary but different missions of the two parties to "enjoying reading versus operating a bookstore." Tacking on a few token sessions in a conference or a few articles in NGS publications "won't cut it in terms of what societies need."
Or is this merger a sign of deeper distress? Here in California, we've already seen the "re-invention" of another popular conference in the SCGS announcement to skip their annual Jamboree next year; faltering numbers may be at the root, some speculate. On a larger scale, business analysts are eyeing mega-provider Ancestry.com's risk of ongoing flat revenue—for instance, in this chart-driven and number-crunching article, or its synopsis here (thanks to Randy Seaver's post at Genea-Musings)—which causes me to wonder why all this talk, at any level in the genealogy world, about re-inventing? This is a sure tip that genealogy as business-as-usual may be a thing of the far-gone past. Is this the floundering foundation upon which the FGS-NGS marriage stands?
As president of a local society, I keenly feel the need for our board to dive deeper into aspects of strategic planning, financial management, even team-building, to build an organization responsive enough to meet future as well as current demands. A national resource like FGS is even more needed now by local societies than it ever was before. While agreed, genealogical conferences featuring how-to sessions for individual genealogists can be blended between the two societies, there is no other national-level entity meeting the specific organizational development needs of genealogical societies—other than the FGS. Simply tacking on that element to the nuptial agreement as a cosmetic enhancement will not do local genealogical associations a beneficial service.
Friday, August 23, 2019
It's so helpful when someone not only decides to label those old family photographs, but includes a roadmap to help negotiate those twists and turns in the family tree. The portrait of a young James Tucker provided that very detail, naming not only James Tucker, but his relationship as Maud's brother.
I'm pretty sure this is the same James we noticed as a child in his family portrait, taken in Wahoo, Nebraska, before the family moved to Oregon. Since we've already traced other branches of this Tucker tree, we know that Maud Tucker married a man named Burt Purkey and lived in Idaho—having a child who married and eventually moved to northern California, where I found the set of Tucker photographs in an antique shop.
Though his younger brother Frank served—and died—during World War I, it is unlikely that Jim Tucker saw any military duty, as he was already married to the former Edith May Jones, back in December of 1906. However, though he may have claimed responsibility for one dependent at that time, it's hard to determine whether he had any descendants who might, at this point, be interested in receiving this picture of the young Jim Tucker. Next week, we'll begin tackling that question and see what can be done about reuniting this portrait with family members.
Above: Photograph of a young James Tucker, likely a son of Samuel and Annie Tucker of Oregon; photograph currently in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant.
Thursday, August 22, 2019
While three antique photos of the Wymer family are making their way back home—hopefully announcing their arrival today—we are still on hold when it comes to finding a home for the photograph of the Tucker family. I found a direct descendant of Samuel and Annie Tucker, I made my pitch, and heard...nothing. That attempt will take a bit more work.
In the meantime, we can take a lesson from the set of photos we found belonging to the extended family which included the Tuckers. There are indeed more Tucker photos from the antique store where I found this one—and each branch of the Tucker family represented in these various portraits may someday lead me to a connection who will be interested in receiving some, or possibly all of these treasures.
Maud Tucker—the one we learned eventually married Burt Purkey and lived in Idaho—had a brother identified in the family photograph as Jim. He was likely the tallest of the children standing in that old photograph I found in Sonora, California, for according to the 1900 census, he was listed as the eldest child of Samuel and Annie Tucker, arriving in July of 1885.
There is a lot yet to learn about James Andrew Tucker, and there's a reason we'll want to find out all we can about him: I have a portrait of a young man with a label on the reverse that reads, "James Tucker, Maud's brother." That photograph, too, will need to someday find its way back home.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
As I send off yet another century-old photograph to its subjects' descendants, this might be the right time to talk about the reason prompting me to rescue these abandoned family portraits. Part of the reason, of course, is the genealogist's desire to "give back" to the generous family history community, which traditionally has been so free with their peer-to-peer assistance. But another part of the reason is much more selfish: I do it because I'm hoping for some genealogical karma to kick in. I'd sure love it if someone found one of my ancestors' pictures!
I am apparently not alone in that sentiment. Just yesterday, reader Miss Merry made a heartfelt comment, wishing someone would find her ancestors' photographs, too. I can certainly relate to that feeling, and perhaps you can, too.
Turns out that there are several people out there, finding abandoned family photographs and sharing their discoveries online. While it may be tedious to do so, it wouldn't hurt to conduct a thorough search through the archives of photo-rescuing bloggers—and not only the current ones, but those no longer active, whose posts are still available online. After all, that is exactly how George and Elmira Wymer's second great granddaughter found their pictures on A Family Tapestry: the genealogist in the family (husband of one of the sisters) hadn't worked on that line in a while and did a search to see what new details could be found online.
While you may not come up with gold when googling your missing ancestor's name, I'm sure the Wymers' descendants hadn't expected such a hit, either. You never know until you try—and not just through Google, but by trying other search engines, as well.
Besides that, check out the many photo rescue blogs, both current and lapsed online publications. Here are a few to consider.
My prime go-to site would be Forgotten Old Photos, created by our friend "Far Side" back in 2009, with a track record of 180 antique photographs reunited with family members—an event she prefers to dub "Full Circle." Far Side has been my inspiration, as I'm sure she has been for many others. Her blog is searchable—the best way to see if any surnames or locations you are checking are included in her collection.
Another resource—although with an entirely different approach—is the website DeadFred, which to this date claims 2,886 photo reunions.
Blogger "Mrs. Marvel" is still posting at Who Were They? and includes an extensive list of photographers featured in her collection.
"The Archivist" Carol MacKay is behind the searchable collection of photographs at Family Photo Reunion.
Many of the photo rescuing websites I've found participate in this quest on a voluntary basis, but some do not. One notable example of the latter is The Cabinet Card Gallery, which sells its daily photo features to interested readers. However, reading the blog is certainly free, searchable, and also includes a directory of all the photographers included in posts there since November of 2008—a useful way to compare photography skills if you happen to find a portrait done by the same photographer.
Some bloggers started out with good intentions...and then Life got in the way. Still, searching their website could turn up a photo you might be interested in. Take a look at the wide variety of pictures in Teresa Wilson Rogers' Forgotten Faces and Long Ago Places, or peruse the collection of photos along with letters and yearbooks—even home movies—at blogger Sharon's Save the Photos. While blogger Julie Cahill Tarr blended her several blogs into one website at Julie's Genealogy & History Hub, perhaps the photo you've been seeking might show up in her original, searchable site, Who Will Tell Their Story?
Blogs aren't the only place to spot antique photographs, of course. There are several groups on Facebook dedicated to that very purpose; if you are on Facebook, just enter such terms as "lost family treasures" or "old family photos" in the search bar to find them. There are thousands of people keeping an eye out for these photographs, letters, and other treasures. We are not alone.
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
After a long detour which ended them up in an antique shop in Sonora, California, three photographs from Indiana are finally heading back home to family. Unlike other century-old photographs I've rescued and returned, the route leading to this homecoming was a path less traveled.
A photograph of George and Elmira Wymer, their sons, and their daughter Maude and her family was first featured in a post back in October, 2018. Usually, once I determine the main members of a photograph subject's family tree, I start looking for researchers who have posted their tree on searchable genealogy sites. I had found several public trees which included that couple's names—but not any posted by direct descendants.
If I had found any direct descendants, my next step would have been to send them a message, one person at a time, and then begin that long, unbearable wait until I got an answer to such an off-the-wall question as "hey, do you want your ancestor's photograph?" No answer to that message would mean moving on to the next possible descendant, if there were any others.
That, of course, has been the usual route to connecting antique photographs with their long-lost family. Sometimes, things went differently—like the time I posted a private message to a descendant on Facebook, or the time I succumbed to joining Geni.com just so I could message another member. I've contacted local librarians, local historical societies, and local genealogical societies, all in that attempt to get lost photos back to family who would appreciate them.
But finding the family of George and Elmira Wymer went differently. It took nearly three months before the connection was initially made—and then another eight months before the transaction was finally completed—but the connection showed up not through my initiation, but because someone contacted me.
Actually, make that two descendants contacting me—and doing it directly to my blog, in fact. I'm still waiting to hear just how they found me, but I can tell you they are two sisters who are great-great granddaughters of George and Elmira. The Wymers' daughter Maude was the sisters' great grandmother, thus the opportunity to send not only George and Elmira's two portraits, but also the picture of the extended family, including Maude's first husband and eldest two daughters.
The next heart-stopping moment on this timeline will be to await the news that these irreplaceable photographs have indeed made it home safely, a message I anticipate will come through in a matter of a mere couple days.
Above: Photograph of George and Elmira Wymer, their two sons and daughter Maude with her husband and two young children, finally on its way home to the Wymers' second great-granddaughters.
Monday, August 19, 2019
Since discussing, yesterday, about the sea change in genealogy gatherings, I got to thinking about what else has evolved over the decades in family history research. While change is often good, we can still benefit from certain aspects of the traditional ways of doing things. It's wise to consider what's good about the way we used to do things to see if those details can be adapted into the new.
Take interpersonal connections, for instance. Gone are the days when researchers used to send their queries to society journals, and even though our local library still houses some of those old relics, I'm not sure I'd be up for searching with my own eyeballs through those endless lists submitted by desperate fellow researchers. But I do miss the upgraded cousin of those old queries: the online genealogy bulletin boards and forums—now, those were searchable, and sometimes led to great connections with people who were researching the same lines.
The plus side to those electronic versions of the published queries, besides the ability to search through years of compiled requests, was the custom shared by so many researchers of connecting with others. The opportunity wasn't so much about finding that one specific fact about a family as it was the introduction to a partnership between researchers with mutual goals.
Over the years, I have made connections with some wonderful people through those avenues of online bulletin boards and forums. Some of those connections grew into multi-year research partnerships which I benefited from by learning how others approached problem solving, or reaching people who had closer geographic connections or simply shared a passion for discovering everything that can be found on a specific surname, no matter how distant the relationship.
I can't say that I've had as steady a stream of connections since those forums fell out of favor in the genealogical community. It seems there are many more researchers flying solo missions nowadays. Or perhaps it is just the lack of focus on technology that connects, despite such options as messaging on Ancestry.com, or their "Member Connect" tool. Even trying to connect with DNA matches often brings back nothing more than a hollow echo. Doesn't anybody still want to reach out and connect with the others researching the same family line?
Fortunately, I was able to answer my own question recently—and was cheered to see there are still some people out there who are willing to reach out. On Twitter, of all places, someone directed a tweet to me, asking about the Gordon line in my husband's family tree. Our Gordon line has been one of those lines where I've met some wonderful researchers in the past—people I've never met face-to-face but have mourned their eventual passing, nonetheless—so I was delighted to learn of the connection with this new-to-me branch of that family.
More than the research connection, though, I was so encouraged, recently, to see the researcher connection, initiated by someone out there who shares this particular interest with me. As the genealogy world seems to move farther and farther away from the interdependence of collaborative effort through the convenience of individually-accessed online resources, we need an antidote with a personal touch.
As cheesy as those apps like the recently discontinued "We're Related" program at Ancestry.com were—I particularly enjoyed the running commentary it provoked on Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings—they did serve one now-missing focus: they gave people a way to see how they were connected. They gave us an excuse to go up to each other as total strangers—say, at those rapidly disappearing genealogical conference venues—and introduce ourselves as family. In this increasingly computerized world, we need that throwback to an old-fashioned personal touch.
Sunday, August 18, 2019
It's no secret that I am a big advocate for gathering together with others in the genealogy world. Virtual searches may be handy and online access to friends around the world fantastic, but there is nothing like being able to get together and speak with fellow enthusiasts, face to face. Perhaps that's why I'm so disappointed in turns of events such as the unreachable FGS Conference in Washington, D.C., and the cancellation of next year's Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree.
Don't think yesterday's post means I won't be going to any genealogy conferences in the near future. On the contrary, though I just wasn't up for a cross-country flight to attend this year's FGS Conference in Washington, D.C., I am planning on attending another conference. It's just that this one is a tad smaller than that event at the nation's capital. Much smaller, in fact. And I like that: intimate and focused.
The next conference I'll be attending will be the Association of Professional Genealogists' conference this September, held—handily for me—in Salt Lake City, where I also hope to snag a few quiet moments at the Family History Library to peruse some otherwise impossible-to-locate books on my southern ancestors.
The Family History Library, though, is just a bonus. The goal for that September conference is to hear several of genealogy's most respected researchers, people such as Elizabeth Shown Mills, Judy Russell, and the coordinator for the southern research course I took at SLIG last year, J. Mark Lowe. Besides, I'll get to hear fellow genea-blogger Elizabeth O'Neal wrap up the three-day event with her presentation on what she knows best: building websites.
It will all be happening this September 19 through 21, barely a month after FGS wraps up their national event. While I wish I could attend the FGS event, I also know that the speakers, fellow attendees, and subject matter at the Association of Professional Genealogists' Professional Management Conference will provide the business management orientation I need at this point.
Next year, I'd love to get back on track with the FGS conference—especially considering the venue location will move to Kansas City, much closer to home for me. I'll be doubly blessed in 2020, as the APG conference will also head farther west—this time, to Portland from October 15 through 17, according to APG's Twitter feed—so I'll be able to revel in genealogical gatherings to my heart's content, despite the already-sorely-missed Jamboree for June of that same year.
Still, no matter how many genealogy conferences I'm able to attend, the sobering thought is that convening in person—whether for genealogy or any other topic—may be a luxury of the past, if we heed the warning signs of past conference counts. While I howl at the distance involved in attending the FGS conference, others enjoy the proximity of a conference near their east coast home turf—and my delight at a Portland event correspondingly depresses Atlantic seaboard attendance. This, and many other trajectories, negatively impact our ability to target successful large events. Thomas MacEntee made some pertinent comments on that, following on the heels of SCGS' Jamboree "leap forward" announcement last June.
No matter what I think about the necessity of meeting together as we partner on genealogical projects, the numbers at conferences, in retrospect, predict whether our future in genealogy will include such an outlet for us.
Saturday, August 17, 2019
It was two weeks ago today that our local genealogical society's board members made the two hour drive to attend an all-day meeting sponsored by the Fresno County Genealogical Society. The gathering, featuring speaker Jean Wilcox Hibben, was slated as a workshop to help societies build their flagging membership.
Now that we've been back home from that workshop and had time to think about it all, I'm more convinced than ever that we need ongoing gatherings for society leadership to share ideas on a number of administrative issues for nonprofit organizations such as ours. Granted, what Jean Wilcox Hibben taught in her workshop sessions could cross apply to many other similar organizations—in attendance that day were some DAR chapters as well as representatives from local historical societies and heritage groups—but we genealogical societies have some needs specific to our own organizations, as well.
It would be all well and good if we could benefit from the type of training sessions already offered at the annual conferences of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, but alas, this year the conference is being held as far away from our home turf as one can get and still remain in this country. Washington, D.C., may seem to be an enticing venue, but a centrally-located destination would be far more exciting, in my opinion. Cross-country travel is not one of my high points anymore.
The FGS event, slated for this August 21 through 24, will indeed include many helpful topics for local society leadership. Just look at the conference schedule, and select "Society Management" and "Societies & Organizations" to get the full picture of all the learning opportunities for society board members. While sitting in on these sessions may seem tempting, spending an entire day to get to that point does not.
That's the type of dilemma that makes me realize that the Fresno County Genealogical Society's attempt to bring home such teaching could gain some traction here in the national hinterland of California. Those of us who don't want to make tracks to the east coast would still appreciate such a wide variety of offerings in this learning track from the conference.
If we can't make it to Washington D.C., perhaps we can find a way to bring those FGS sessions closer to home, by banding together with other local societies following a model like the one proposed by Fresno in their recent invitational event for societies. The need is certainly there.
Friday, August 16, 2019
One of the challenges of rescuing abandoned antique photographs is being able to see how the puzzle pieces fit together—and not being shortsighted in the process. I've always managed to juggle the few hints I've found in one particular photograph—indeed, I won't purchase a picture unless I know for sure there are enough viable hints to lead to a targeted family—but until now, I hadn't given much thought to how several different photographs might represent family lines that, eventually, weave themselves together. That's what has just unfolded before our eyes as we traced the migrating family of Samuel and Annie Tucker from Nebraska to Oregon.
Granted, I've missed those clues before—in particular, when I hadn't realized that Erastus Purkey's wife was a Lewis, the very surname contained in a photograph I had just sent home to other descendants. Now, we're realizing the connection to the extended Purkey family once again, this time between Samuel and Annie Tucker and their daughter Maud, who married Burt Purkey. Even that picture set I neglected to send home to descendants last January—the family of George and Elmira Wymer of Indiana—turned out to have connections to that extended Purkey family once again. And yet, the trail all began when I traced the origin of a wedding photo bearing the surname Brockman. How was I to know it would all end up connected to the Purkey family?
While this provides an excellent opportunity to see how all these surnames intertwined, we don't really get the bigger picture until we work our way far from the starting gate. Who's to say when to stop researching the connections and start doing the work of reuniting pictures with family members?
On the other hand, waiting while pursuing the bigger picture can help pinpoint the "voice" of the person writing those coveted labels on the backs of the photographs. I now know just how the Purkeys, Goodmans, Tuckers, Brockmans, and even Fullers connect, though I didn't know it at first—and that gives me a better idea of just how all those photos ended up in northern California from places as diverse as Indiana, Nebraska, and Oregon. At first, it all seemed like a jumble of unrelated pictures; now, it's clearly a well-coordinated family photo collection.
I don't, though, do well with patience. I want to get to the punch line yesterday. This becomes a lesson for me in seeking to find the bigger picture—and then stopping to examine whether there's an even bigger picture.
It all reminds me of that feeling I get when I look at those hundreds of DNA matches. All those names, all those trees—those many puzzle pieces don't seem to line up, at least at first. But then, looking over the names, perhaps uploading them to a spreadsheet where I can sort through the similarities and stir the puzzle pieces around, sometimes a specific surname does come into view. And connects. And leads to another link.
Just because it seems to take "too long" to stare at all those puzzle piece possibilities doesn't mean there isn't a connection to be found. Someday, it will become apparent; just not now. But keep working. When you learn the route like the back of your own hand, the way around the next bend somehow brings you to just the connection you were seeking. And then, it will all make sense. And you'll realize you've found the way home to your answer.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Currently, I'm writing from the hotel at a world famous amusement park, the name of which I'd refrain from revealing, except that (as my husband delights in putting it), "it rhymes with Shmizneyland." Even if I were to receive that coveted reply email I've been awaiting from the direct descendant of the Samuel Tucker family, I wouldn't be able to send the photo back home. Yet.
And that seems to be my problem. I'm embarrassed to say, that has not been the first time I've been faced with that dilemma. It's happened before—namely, during last January, when I went from a week-long training session at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy to a research trip in Florida. Of course, it would be right in the middle of that when I received an email from not one, but two descendants of the couple featured in a hundred year old family portrait.
I was delighted to receive the news, of course, emailing exactly that message back to the waiting descendants. And promptly forgot to get the photographs in the mail when I returned home.
While I'm away, once again, from my stash of antique photographs, I'll take this opportunity to reintroduce you to the family who will soon—this time, I promise!—be flying their way back home.
Above: Remember George and Elmira Purkey Wymer and family from Plymouth, Indiana? I wrote about them, back at the end of October, 2018. Their family photographs—there are at least two others besides this one which will also be returned—have long since been claimed by two direct descendants, and will make their way back home as soon as I do.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
The cycle is almost complete. We've rescued a hundred-year-old photograph from an antique store in one of those quaint Gold Rush era towns in the northern California foothills—you know, the kind with the helpful label on the back, revealing names and locations. We've done our due diligence in zeroing in on the right family with those same names, then ascertaining which modern-day descendants might be out there, searching for their own roots.
Once a direct line descendant comes into view, the next task is to find contact information. Sometimes this can be a challenge, and sometimes it is a gift that falls neatly into our laps. In the case of this most recent family photograph, showing Samuel and Annie Tucker and their children from Wahoo, Nebraska, there were several researchers whose trees at Ancestry.com included that couple. Yet, of those many trees, only one belonged to a researcher who was, herself, a direct descendant of Samuel and Annie.
Trouble is, she hasn't logged on to Ancestry in several months. Maybe she will check in soon...and maybe she won't. All we can do is wait.
In the meantime, it just so happens that I was reminded of another photograph which should have been sent home to descendants...but wasn't. The good news came when I was traveling out of state, doing some research. I got the email, celebrated the fact that a photo was going to go home once I got home to send it—and then, continued my travels and promptly forgot about it.
Now, whether I hear back from the Tucker descendant or not, I still will have a photograph to send home—except for one thing: once again, I'm out of town. The return trip home for a family portrait will have to wait for the return trip home for the sender.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Ever get the sense you've traveled down the same path before? It can be years later, or taken from a different direction, but once the trip is over, you realize this hasn't been the first time you've been down that path.
In our case, this research trip all started about one year ago, when I and my intrepid genealogy guardian angel Sheri Fenley took a drive up to the foothills of northern California. I was on the hunt for some well-labeled cabinet cards at the antique shops of Sonora; she was along for the ride (and maybe a good cup of coffee or a fun lunch spot).
By last September, I was wrestling with the identity of the newlyweds, Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Brockman of West Point, Nebraska. It took us about ten days to discover that, though we figured out the identity of Adolph and Vernie Brockman, the photograph bearing their names probably belonged to another couple—leading to a detailed examination of the extended Brockman and Nieman families.
Disentangling ourselves from that dilemma, in the next month, we moved on to examine another photograph found in the antique stores of Sonora, California. This one led us to the Purkey family of Wisconsin, Erastus Manford and his wife, Rebecca Olive Lewis Purkey. By the middle of October, last year, I had already realized the connection between the Purkey and Brockman families, and had also found the marriage connections between two of the Purkey sons and women whose names were Tucker, which explained another photograph I had found, of an older couple by that Tucker surname, living in Oregon.
That was when I realized that the wife in that Tucker couple had a maiden name of Goodman, and that she likely came from Tennessee. Apparently, she had a sister named Dollie, whose identity I never could satisfactorily trace.
From that point, I moved on to another of the many photographs I rescued from Sonora's abundance of antique facilities. The next photo featured a relative from a different side of the extended Purkey family—Pleasant Fuller and her son—and from there, on to another photograph leading us in an entirely different direction. Soon after that, I set aside the photograph projects to focus on my upcoming Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy class that January, and my subsequent Florida research journey.
I haven't touched those family photographs until now, nearly a year later. From the few photographs I still have left to tackle, I pulled this one on the Tucker family, thinking nothing of all the connections I had bumped into while researching the Brockman, Purkey, and Goodman photographs last year. Nothing from those Nebraska or Wisconsin locations rang any bell, once I began the puzzle of this picture from Wahoo, Nebraska. I had to work my way down this family tree branch before I began to realize I had crawled up this branch from the opposite direction once before. Now, instead of approaching an elderly couple posing alone, I was dealing with a young couple and their many children. Instead of looking at the wedding photo—supposedly—of Adolph and Vernie Brockman, I was now tracing the photograph of the parents and siblings of the mother of "Mom B," wife of Adolph's younger brother.
How was I to know all these in-laws would connect? Of course, I should have suspected that, in one antique store in one tiny town, the chances of uncovering the results of one specific estate sale might be high. But it was not highest on my mind when I purchased all those photos. And they likely won't find their way to descendants who turn out to be related to each other. Each photo represented another branch of an extended and migrating family.
Next on my agenda, of course, will be to figure out who might be a descendant interested in receiving this photo of the young Tucker family. From that point, the next challenge will be to actually make contact and extend the offer.
Monday, August 12, 2019
There's just something about pushing one's genealogical research out toward that doubtful edge: how do we know we are headed in the right direction? If we are researching our own family line, we might have the help of a research partner in the family, who can rein us in when we choose the wrong path towards a person with what sounds like the right name. But when researching strangers, who's to say we're headed on the wrong track?
That's why I rely so heavily on documentation. I want to see the document—or at least an electronic facsimile of the form—for myself. I want to compare all the details on the record, including those extra lines of information that never seem to be included in transcriptions or indexed collections.
As we pursue the trail leading us back to the true identity of the Tucker family featured in the portrait I found in an antique store in Sonora, California, I crave these double- and triple-checks of this step-by-step research process. True, we first found the Tucker family in a tiny place called Wahoo, Nebraska, where the picture was taken. But then, no subsequent sign of them in Wahoo. No sign of them in the entire county where Wahoo is located. There was, however, another Tucker family with all the same given names as those in the photograph. Only problem was, they were not living in Nebraska; they were in Oregon.
The hunt for any record to connect this family with familiar details indicated on the photograph has been on for a while now. We've talked about the son, Frank, who was killed in action during World War I. We've also explored the whereabouts of his sister Maud, and that, as Frank's obituary asserted, she lived in Pocatello, Idaho—and that she eventually gave birth to a daughter who grew up to become a possibility for the "Mom B." mentioned on the back of the photograph.
So, forgive me for a little bit of overkill, while I mention yet another connection to documentation for this branch of the Samuel Tucker family of Oregon, formerly from Nebraska. Maud, as we've already mentioned, married a man in Idaho named Burt Purkey. The youngest of their daughters, Corinne, married a man whose surname qualified her to be known as "Mom B." Maud was born near the end of December in 1888 in a place referred to in her death certificate as Yuan, Nebraska—probably a slight error in reporting, actually signifying the town in the same county as Wahoo, known as Yutan, the very place where we've already learned her brother Frank had been born.
Maud probably lived her entire married life in Pocatello, Idaho. At least, that was where she was living as recently as the 1940 census, and where we find her, a short while after that, when she died in 1944.
Maud's death certificate shows us some details that provide that extra little bit of support I am always looking for. Remember those three daughters? Apparently, daughter Dorothy—the one who married someone named Smith, not Mr. B.—was the informant signing the death certificate. Of course, the record also mentioned that Maud's husband's name was Burt, confirming that we had the right person yet again. And the certificate provided those two bonus details we always look for in such documents: the names and places of birth of her parents.
As we expected, those names would be Samuel and Annie Tucker—but we learn something additional about them. For one thing, we see that Samuel was listed as born in Alton, Illinois, and that Annie's maiden name was Goodman. Annie, as it turned out, came from Nashville, Tennessee.
The more we delve into this Tucker family, the more these details call to mind a number of research pathways we've already trod. As it turns out, we have already worked on these family lines, only from a different direction. As we'll begin reviewing tomorrow, they are people we've already come to know through other photographs found in that same antique shop in Sonora, California. And there's a reason for that.
Sunday, August 11, 2019
Two weeks ago, I promised myself I'd clean out all the duplicate entries on the several family trees I keep. After all, especially on my mother-in-law's line, there are several lines deep in her past where one cousin married another. Working one's way forward in time from a specific founding couple, this sort of duplication would be obvious, but that's not how I've been building my trees. I've been starting from the present, with the people I know, and working my way backwards in time to their past. There is no way to know, approaching the situation from this direction, that an ancestor might have been related to the person chosen to become the spouse—not, at least, until reaching a couple generations back. By then, in many cases, those names were out of mind as I pushed my way back further in time.
So I spent some time checking that universal list of all people included in the tree. Alphabetized and including birth dates and locations, such a list would help me visually scan through the pages and spot double entries.
I started by focusing on the major surnames in her tree—Gordon, for example. I'd first select the letter of the alphabet, and then flip through the master list, seeking my target. In most cases, though, each duplicate entry turned out to be a false alarm. I'd spot the same name repeated, but it would be a case of father naming his son after himself. In one such case, I saw a run of four generations with the same exact name, stretching from great-grandfather to great-grandson.
Given a common surname like Gordon—and especially how that family liked to use the same names over and over again—I thought I'd see quite a few repeat entries, considering how so many people in the late 1700s and early 1800s thought nothing of marrying a cousin, or at least a second cousin. But since this is not the first time I've engaged in this weeding out process, I guess those previous passes through the list have been effective. Once I counted how many people I had in my mother-in-law's tree this week over two weeks ago, I ended up with 16,587—the exact number I had in her tree back then.
I also went through this process for my own mother's tree, at least for one letter of the alphabet. Since I had been working on the Broyles line, I took the section for the letter B. While I did merge two parallel lines, eliminating doppelgangers with abandon, I still ended up with seventy four additional names added in the past two weeks. That means my mother's tree is now up to 19,108 people.
Eliminating duplicates turned out to be more tedious than I had expected, but I've yet to tackle any part of the trees of my father or father-in-law. There, my dad's tree gained one sole entry, thanks to a discovery via a fresh DNA match, and is now standing at 574, while my father-in-law's tree is frozen in position with the same 1,541 names it had since the beginning of the summer.
That's okay, though, as I have my hands full with pursuing those southern roots on my mother's tree. Even though I do want to distribute my effort through all these trees—plus the hidden tree I'm constructing for my paternal side DNA matches—I do have to remember I'll be taking another southern research class at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy next January. I want to do as much work on that line as I can before class time by pushing my way back to my Virginia ancestors.
Saturday, August 10, 2019
Another month flies by, and suddenly, it's time to do some volunteer indexing of records at FamilySearch.org. Sometimes, despite intentions to regularly volunteer, it seems harder than usual to do more than just show up. Perhaps this has been one of those weeks. Still, there's an importance to being there when making a commitment. So today is one of those "just show up" days.
Usually, I try to focus on record sets which reflect the areas in which I've personally been researching. New York has been home to my father's immigrant family for three generations now, so even though I didn't expect to see any of my father's family in the set I indexed today (my father would have been too young to serve in World War I), I worked on draft registration cards for the New York City area.
Even though I grew up in the New York metro area, I was surprised to see what a variety of surnames I'd find in a chance selection of draft registration cards. I indexed records of men from British Guiana and Turkey, as well as native-born citizens. I even spotted an Astor, though I'm certain any Astor who mentioned where he was employed would not be the kind of Astors I had in mind at the moment.
Next month, I'm sure I'll be back, full strength, and can handle a fuller load or more challenging work, but for today, being able to do a light load—rather than skipping the day entirely—means a lot to me. Perhaps it's like keeping up a winning streak; I just hate to break the sequence. Stopping, even for a little while or for a good reason, makes me lose my momentum. Better to keep going than to have to try and start up again. Lighten the load to match the circumstances and keep moving ahead.
Friday, August 9, 2019
In researching families with common surnames, we find ourselves double- and triple-checking details to make sure everything aligns correctly. There likely have been, for example, hundreds of Samuel Tuckers out there, adding to the challenge of determining whether we have selected the right identity for the abandoned family photograph I found in an antique shop in Sonora, California.
At the start, all we knew was that the Tucker family was in Wahoo, Nebraska, at least long enough to sit for their portrait at a photography studio in that location. By the time of the next census record—I was guessing this might have been the 1900 census—there was no Tucker family fitting the right description in the whole of Saunders County, let alone the county seat of Wahoo. That's when the hunt began for where Ralph, Jim, Eva, Maud, Frank, Elmer, and Annie Tucker went.
By the time of the 1900 census, a Tucker family including all those names did show up, but they weren't anywhere in Nebraska. In fact, they were half a continent away in Oregon, along with the patriarch of this family, whose name we learned was Samuel. Whether this was the same Tucker family as the one in the photograph from back in Wahoo, we're still pondering.
The past two days, we examined the possibility of whether a hint about Tucker son Frank—killed in World War I—confirmed we had located the right family. Today, we'll look at the second hint provided on the back of the photo. Whoever was kind enough to label the photo had noted, "Maud is Mom B's mother."
Well, there was a Maud in this Tucker family in Oregon, but that's not yet reason to shout the victory. During the decade in which this Maud Tucker was born—census records indicate she likely arrived in the late 1880s—at least 4,200 other girls were given the same name, putting the name Maud seventy-fourth in the top two hundred names for girls born in that decade, according to the "Popular Baby Names" page on the Social Security website. So there could feasibly be some other Maud Tuckers out there.
Let's see what else we can discover about this Maud. We've already learned that she married a man by the name of Burt Purkey, and that their family lived in Pocatello—just as the front page newspaper report of her brother Frank's death had affirmed. In fact, they were living in Pocatello back at the time of the 1910 census, showing us that Burt and Maud had three daughters. Would one of them turn out to marry a man whose surname begins with "B"?
The three Purkey daughters, according to this 1910 census, were named Evelyn, Dorothy, and Corinne. The oldest, Evelyn, was married in 1925 in Bannock County, Idaho, to a man named William Hillard. We can eliminate this couple from our search for "Mr. B."
The next Purkey daughter, Dorothy, also married in her home county, two years after her older sister's wedding. Like her sister, Dorothy married a man whose name did not qualify him as "Mr. B." either. Dorothy's groom was Sam Smith.
Fortunately, our third try produces a winner. At the end of 1929, and still in their home county of Bannock, youngest Purkey daughter Corinne married a man named Edward Brockman. Corinne, then—as long as we have the right Tucker family to begin with—would be the one who could qualify as "Mom B" in our photograph's label.
As it is, the more details that dovetail between what we can find of this Oregon Tucker family and the family who posed for their portrait back in Nebraska, the more likely we are to have identified the right family. This process may seem tedious, but remember here, we're talking about a surname that is very common in the United States. Introducing the additional restrictions of having to match multiple other requirements helps increase the certainty that we have located the right family.
Now that we have more information on just who Mom B was, next week we can look at a few other details that align nicely with this scenario. And then, we can start examining possibilities for returning this abandoned photograph home to family members.