26 May 2011

A Most Excellent Day

The Northern California Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists went on a most excellent adventure for our 2nd Quarter Meet-Up.  An opportunity that doesn't happen often - A tour of the Special Collections in Green Library at Stanford University.  Ben Stone, who is the Curator for American and British History, gave the presentation.  Mr. Stone seemed pleased to have us as guests and readily answered any and all questions we had for him.  He is also very tuned in to what genealogists are looking for in research materials - he was the Reference Librarian and Archivist at the Kansas State Historical Society before coming to Stanford.

A view from the front steps of the library

Special Collections is divided into 3 divisions:  Manuscripts, Rare Books and University Archives which includes the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection.  A finding aid by subject can be located HERE.
For an even better finding aid, head over to the Online Archive of California (OAC) and under the browse by institution you will find Stanford University.  Click on that link and you will find their holdings.  Under the category of US History Collections,  I found History of The American West to be very interesting.

Some interesting news:  David Rumsey has donated over 150,000 maps from his collection to Stanford University.  Many of you have probably used Rumsey's online digital collection.  Being the nosy, er I mean curious individual that I am, I wondered how or why Stanford University was gifted with this awesome collection.  A little poking around on the David Rumsey site revealed that Mr. Rumsey is a member of the Stanford University Library Advisory Board.  Well that answered my question.

From left to right:  Ellen Fernandez Sacco (front)  , Cath Trindle (back), Janice Sellers, Carolyn Ybarra (back), Linda Lorda (front), Sharon Hoyt and Jeffrey Vaillant.  I was the photographer.

Those who shared the afternoon learning extravaganza were:  Ellen Fernandez Sacco, Cath Trindle, Janice Sellers, Carolyn Ybarra, Linda Lorda, Sharon Hoyt, Jeffrey Vaillant.  Kay Germain Ingalls and Ron Cannon were also there for the tour, but had to leave before pictures were taken.

A huge thank you goes to Carolyn Ybarra who was the Hostess with the Mostess this time around.  Carolyn made all the arrangements with Ben Stone to make our field trip educational and enjoyable.  She chose a place called Tootsie's for our group to have lunch.  We dined al Fresco under beautiful sunny skies and had wonderful discussions about our current research projects and whether or not I should forgive my husband for buying a fishing boat without any discussion as to what my feelings might be concerning a fishing boat . . .um . .ok so I will save that for another post.

Same people as the photo above except insert me behind Ellen and Jeff Vaillant is the photographer

25 May 2011

You Can Call Him Al

A huge "Shout Out" and my undying gratitude to Al Chilcote, a volunteer photographer over at FindAGrave.com.   Al went beyond the call of duty to take a photograph of my grandfather's headstone. The cemetery where he is buried - Los Gatos Memorial Park in Santa Clara County, California - apparently does not have a user friendly numbering system when it comes to locating the gravesites. Al went back 3 times before he finally had success.  

His bio over at Find A Grave says that Al is 80 years old, involved with photography over 50 years and genealogy for 20 years.  It is because of people like Al Chilcote the world is a better place to live in.

22 May 2011

Doublemint Twins?

Over at Facebook, the author of West In New England - Bill West - suggested that since it is the season for graduations why not upload a photo from your graduation for your profile.

Well I have been meaning to put a different photo of myself up for quite some time now.  This was as good of a reason as any.  On my computer, I found what I thought were 3 photos of me in a cap and gown.  First, this one:

Then I found this one:

And then this one . .  WAIT, that's not me - that is my mother!!

OMG - My Mother and I could be twins!

So what's in your wallet?  Any graduation photos you'd like to share of yourself????  Come on - I showed you mine.

19 May 2011

Fact Finding Mission

Genealogy teachers and lecturers often tell people about the marvelous discoveries awaiting in heritage books, mug books and local /county history books. They less often teach how to use those effectively. You need to evaluate the information in these works for consistency, and then seek corroboration from original sources.

My 3rd great grandfather is Hillory Asbeth Taylor Harris, who always went by his initials - H.A.T. Harris. He married Mary Ann Frances Bess, who went by her initials M.A.F. Harris but everyone just called her "Duck" (don't ask - I haven't got a clue). In 1880, they appear in the " History of Poweshiek County, Iowa" published by the Union Hist. Co. of Des Moines, Iowa. On page 790 is the biography for H.A.T. Harris:

HARRIS, H.A.T.—Washington Twp— Farmer and stock-raiser, section 33, P.O. Searsboro. Was born October 9, 1835, in Jonesville, Yadkin county, North Carolina, where he remained until he was eighteen years of age. He then went to Trinity College, Randolph county, same State, where he remained for six years, after which he became principal of Pleasant Home Academy, which position he filled for two years. He then took up the work of missionary in that State, which he followed for three years, his average traveling per year being 350 miles. It was said of him, while on his missionary duties, that he did more work than any other of the conference; but as his health failed him he was obliged to give it up and follow something else. In the year 1869 he moved to his present location. He was married, in 1860, to Mary Ann F. Bess, a native of North Carolina. Their family consists of six children: George W., Bessie, Flora, Jenette F.C., Evan D. and E. Jurishua. Lost two: Lewis and Ada. His farm consists of 142 acres, all under cultivation.

Let's check the facts, shall we?

1. Born 9 October 1835 in Jonesville, Yadkin County, North Carolina
H.A.T.'s death certificate, obituary and headstone all confirm the date, however, Jonesville in 1835 was in Surry County, North Carolina. Yadkin County was formed from Surry County in 1850 after the census was taken. However, when this biography was written, Jonesville most certainly was in Yadkin County. VERIFIED.

2. At the age of 18, went to Trinity College, Randolph County where he remained for 6 years
H.A.T. was 18 years old in the year 1853. That year the only university in Randolph County was Normal College which had been granted a charter in 1851 and the privilege of granting degrees in 1853. It seems the College experienced financial problems shortly thereafter. To keep the school operating, the trustees agreed to provide free education for Methodist men in return for financial support from the Methodist church. In 1859 the transformation was formalized with a name change to Trinity College. Today this college is Duke University.

I contacted the Duke University Archivist, Thomas Harkins and asked him if student records were extant for the years 1853 to 1859, the years H.A.T. Harris would have been a student. Mr. Harkins replied:

" H.A.T. Harris was indeed a student at the college. He was in the fourth division, or first year, of the English Department. Students in that department took mathematics, English literature, natural sciences, and several other courses, but did not take the Latin and Greek that were part of the "Regular," or classical, curriculum. He attended 1853-1859, but there is no record of him receiving a diploma."

Well he never claimed that he graduated so I am calling this statement  VERFIED.

3. Became principal of Pleasant Home Academy, which position he filled for two years

This would have been the years 1860-1862. Rather than run myself ragged looking for the school, I decided to locate H.A.T. Harris' residence during those years. From the 1860 census, I found him and his wife living in Lincolnton, Lincoln County, North Carolina. His occupation is Methodist Minister.

Lincoln county did have a school called "Pleasant Retreat Academy" which was chartered in 1813 and was in operation until after the Civil War. The school was not owned by the Methodist Church but it was definitely Methodist flavored according to the book "The Annals of Lincoln County" by William L. Sherrill, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, pub. 1937 - Mr. Sherrill advises that records no longer exist that pertain to the teaching staff.

From the information I have, there is a good possibility that H.A.T. Harris was  principal for the academy.

4. He then took up the work of missionary in that state which he followed for 3 years

The 1860 census gave H.A.T. Harris' occupation as a Methodist Minister. Looking for more detailed information about his career led me to the Western North Carolina Methodist Archives. I spoke with Nancy Anderson, the head archivist and the next day she emailed the following information to me:

We have some information on H.A.T. Harris. He was a preacher in western North Carolina between 1861 and 1869. From 1861 until 1866 he was a preacher of the Methodist Protestant Church. In 1866 he was involved in the meeting that set up the Virginia and North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. (This was the northern branch of Methodism. Most southern Methodists were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South or Methodist Protestants.) If he moved to Iowa in 1869, he would have accepted as a member of the Methodist Church there, which was the Methodist Episcopal Church. During the Civil War he was in the area of Lincoln County as a Methodist Protestant. In 1862 he was assigned to the Cleveland Circuit, which is located in Cleveland County near Shelby and King’s Mountain, but which also probably went east to the Catawba River. In 1863 he was assigned to the Catawba Mission, which would have included Lincoln County which is bordered by the Catawba River to the east. The designation of Mission went to those areas where there were not many Methodist Protestants, and some financial aid was provided until they got on their feet. In 1864 he was assigned to the Catawba Circuit. It didn’t stay a mission very long and was never a mission to any ethnic group. In 1865 he was without appointment at his request, and in 1866 he withdrew from the Methodist Protestants. In 1867 he was admitted as a minister to the Methodist Episcopal Church. His appointments from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1867 and 1868 were in Wilkes County in the northern part of North Carolina. In 1869 he was appointed to the Yadkin Circuit, which is the county adjacent to Wilkes County. This information confirms that H.A.T. Harris was preaching in Lincoln County during the Civil War. I don’t have any means of getting any more family information. Just a thought, which I have no proof of. Many of the marriages he performed might have been of freed slaves, who under slavery were not allowed to marry. Several of my sources of North Carolina history have mentioned that as soon as marriage was legal for the freed men, many couples presented themselves for marriage. I have a list of his appointments from a data base that I can send you. I also have a description of the 1867 Methodist Episcopal Conference that he helped set up.

I think that this fact is proven and VERIFIED.

With this new-found information, I now have more questions.  A particularly nagging one is -
H.A.T. Harris was living in Lincoln County, North Carolina and in his early 30's during the years of the Civil War.  I have not found any evidence that he served as a soldier for either the Union or Confederate side.  I am wondering if perhaps ministers were exempt from having to serve in the military?  If not, then why wasn't he snatched up and made to fight?  

15 May 2011

". . . And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon."

The other day I shared a most curious case from a recent client of mine. If you haven't read it yet, go ahead - click over and give it a read so you'll be caught up with the rest of us.  I'll wait. . . .

Now, are we ready to roll?

Well upon further investigation I have found that it is not just a simple case of jealous husband tries to kill his wife. In fact, I'm not sure what it is anymore! 

There had to be more to the story and I found it.  I went back to the library to re-check the newspaper microfilm and found that the library is missing 6 weeks of the Stockton Daily Record - the 6 weeks during the trial of the husband.  So like the educated genealogist I am, I went to the source.  I went downtown to the newspaper's office and asked to see their archived copies of the paper for that time period.  After much begging, pleading and skillful negotiating  I was able to obtain this accounting from the Record [I have only posted the important snippets]:

"A WOMAN SHOT BY HER HUSBAND - Insane Jealousy The Reason For The Shooting

It was learned incidentally of Douglass that he is addicted to drink, or in the habit of having sprees at which times he abused his wife shamefully.  That these abuses and beatings had led once to separation and divorce but that the man was desirous of resuming the relation. 

It is learned from District Attorney Nutter that Mary E. Douglass procured a divorce from J.J. Douglass last summer, alleging failure to provide as a cause for action.  It seems that the ladies of the Aid Society found Mrs. Douglass in poverty and sleeping on old sacks stuffed with straw and her two children as well as herself in tatters.

Finally the neglected woman applied to the District Attorney under the impression that it was his duty as a public official to procure  her a divorce.  Mr. Nutter did not try to disabuse her mind of the error, having learned of the circumstances, but filed the complaint and obtained the divorce.  Mrs. Douglass did not allege drunkenness, but indolence and neglect on the part of the husband."

It goes on to say that the husband had been visiting the wife's place rather frequently of late on the pretext of spending time with the children.  On the morning of the incident, the husband accused the wife of "not being straight."  She told him he was full of baloney whereupon he pulled a revolver and shot her.

Incredulously the last paragraph in the newspaper article is:

"Douglas showed no signs of having been drinking and there is nothing to suggest that he is a drinking man."

Huh?  At the beginning of the article the man is accused of being a drunk and the article ends with the complete opposite!

The information provided by the District Attorney to the newspaper is interesting enough but still does not explain his change of heart for the defendant. 

So after I read the wonderful comments and suggestions that many of you left for me, I thought of a source that I had not checked out.  My client had given me a file folder of records that she had procured from the California State Archives.  There was the Commitment Order from San Joaquin Superior Court, a copy of the man's entry in the Prison Register and Descriptive List of Convicts, and the Application For Pardon which had attached to it the petitions and the personal letter from the District Attorney who prosecuted the case. But was there more?

What is one of the basic rules of research?  Go have a look at the original source.  I drove up to Sacramento to the California State Archives to have a look at the pardon file.  There was one letter that my client had not  included for some reason.  It tells yet another version of the story.

From the Postmaster of the town of Linden to the Governor of California:

"James Douglass is a most respected young man of his neighborhood.  His family are old pioneers and highly respected by all.  I have been Postmaster nine years and know the facts of this case.  He married a strange girl that came here.  They had two children.  She did not love home and quietness he did and she was determined to get rid of him to take up with another stranger that moved in our town.  She did and ran away with him in eight days after her husband was convicted.  It is a fact she was living a life of asignation inside one month after leaving her home and when last heard from (one year later) she was still leading a life of shame.  It was said to dissappoint the man she ran away with.  She said to people (when leaving Linden) that she had put up a job on her husband, he was only a stupid fool anyway and now she was going to have her own way and a good time."

Who knows what the real story is.  It seems that the part about the wife running away with another man is true, found her in the 1900 census with him and her two children.  I'm off with the new information to try and find the rest of the story.

NOTE:  The California State Archives has State Prison records that include San Quentin and Folsom prison registers, inmate photographs, inmate case files (samples only) and pardon files. There is a name index for the years 1850–1979.

09 May 2011

A Most Curious Case

So I have been working on a new project for a client and I have to tell you, it is probably the most interesting one I have had in a long time.

The year is 1897 in San Joaquin County, California. A man is hauled into jail for attempting to kill his wife. Reading the newspapers of the day, it appears that the wife was going to run away with another man. The padding in her dress stopped the bullet from doing any real damage, she suffered a slight flesh wound.

The jury took only 2 hours to find him guilty and gave him the maximum sentence allowed by law at the time - 14 years.

So off to San Quentin Prison he goes. Then two years later in 1899 the Governor of California is presented with an application for a pardon for the man. The contents of this application makes this case extremely unusual:

1. A formal petition from THE PANEL OF JURORS THAT CONVICTED HIM stating that the man had been in prison long enough that justice has been served. It is signed by each and every juror.

2. A letter to the Governor from the District Attorney who prosecuted the man, asking that he be given a full pardon. The District Attorney states

"This is the first case of the number I have prosecuted as District Attorney, wherein I felt that I could address the Governor upon the grounds and in behalf of a person seeking pardon or parole."

3. A formal petition requesting a pardon for the man that is signed by every adult in the small town of Linden where the man had been born and raised and had been a resident up until his incarceration.

Well this just stunned me. What had happened in the two years 1897-1899 that changed everyone's mind. Remember this is the same jury that wasted no time in throwing the book at the guy. The District Attorney had wasted no time in getting the case to trial. Start to finish was approximately 3 weeks.

I have gone through the newspapers page by page for those two years and there are no items about the man, his family, any of the jurors, the District Attorney (other than different cases he was prosecuting at the time).

I checked local vital records and there were no deaths, births or marriages that might have been a factor.

The man was finally granted a pardon three years later in 1900. So again I am at the newspapers, but there is no mention of his homecoming. Census records have not been useful in this case either.

Any thought on what might have happened to make basically an entire community do an about face? And why it would not have been news?

07 May 2011

SNGF - Who's The Mommy Scavenger Hunt

Randy Seaver has tailored his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun in honor of Mother's Day.  Our mission, should we choose to accept it:

1)  For each person listed below, provide the name of the mother of the person and the genea-blogger to whom they are related. Easy, eh?

a) Lois Velleda Dreher  - Her mother is Irene Caroline Banet.  The genea-blogger is Cyndi Beane and her blog is Mountain Genealogists

b) Mary Philomene Laurent - Her mother is Olivine Marie St. Louis.  The genea-blogger is Brian Zalewski and his blog is Zalewski Family Genealogy

c) Ernest Francis Sheern - His mother is Ann Emily Leseure.  The genea-blogger is ME!

d) Cecelia Jost  - Her mother is Cecilia Kurta.  The genea-blogger is Amy Coffin and her blog is We Tree Genealogy Blog

e) Mary Jane Sovereen - Her mother is Eliza Putman.  The genea-blogger is Randy Seaver and his blog is GeneaMusings

f) Bethiah Brigham  - Her mother is Anne Richardson.  The genea-blogger is Elyse Doerflinger and her blog is Elyse's Genealogy Blog

Great fun Seaver!