Facts Aren’t Always True

In working with some early histories I noted some interesting differences. I assume much of it has to do with the politics of the time, who was writing the book, etc. Certainly it is evident in many “histories” who the “preferred” families were. And it was not unusual to pay for an “appropriate” mention.

For whatever reason, the “facts” vary from history to history. This example relates to one of the early settlers. I found equally interesting “facts” in the others.

In one Logan County (Illinois) history we learn that John and Hannah Downing came to Salt Creek with their sons Robert and James. Actually it says they are “said to have settled on Salt Creek.” I’m not sure what that means since there are clear records of residence and land purchase.

The 1886 history says the Downings came “between 1824 and 1827 or ’28.” Land purchases came after settlement. Perhaps these editors went on land purchase dates although I find it doubtful they had access to the records then.

A 1936 history (of Mt. Pulaski) written by Judge Lawrence Stringer (an historian of some note, although not always accurate – and definitely a politician) says: “The first permanent settlement in the Salt creek country, in the vicinity of present Mount Pulaski. was made by Robert Downing. With him, came his wife, Jane Morrow Downing, and his parents, John and Hannah Downing. Also about the same time, came his brother and wife, James and Ruth Downing.” Note that Robert brought his family rather than he came with his parents. I do not know if James and Ruth came with the rest of the family or just “about the same time” but James and Robert Downing were brothers and Jane and Ruth Morrow were sisters.

The Downings are believed to have arrived in 1822 from Ohio but there is no black and white proof of the date. In the 1820 census Robert was recorded in Monroe Township, Madison County, Ohio. Robert Downing voted on August 2, 1824, in Union Precinct, Sangamon County. (Logan was part of Sangamon County at that time.)

In 1822 John was 60 and Robert was 28. John and Robert both bought land, much of which remains in the hands of descendants.

The 1936 history says Robert Downing “was a Black Hawk war veteran.” He was a War of 1812 veteran, having served  from Ohio along with his brothers John and Josiah. In addition to the military records, he was receiving a pension for his service at his death. Note is made in his probate file that the government wouldn’t cash his final check. I have not seen evidence he served in the Black Hawk War and he is not listed as a veteran in the state’s records.

Such histories have to be considered clues and not factual evidence.

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October 2

Using On This Day the other day I learned that three siblings were married on the same day. Very curious.

Carl Henry Lipp married Cora Mae Ryan on October 2, 1907. Cora’s brother Amos Albert Ryan married Anna Amela Hubner on October 2, 1913. Their sister Mary Augusta Ryan married Jasper Andrew Veech on October 2, 1924. These are siblings of my grandmother, all of whom I knew and most of whom I remember fondly.

I have not been able to find any reason why they would chose October 2, no historical significance or anything. Since On This Day shows me births and deaths as well as marriages I see no connection there. It’s a puzzle. Needless to say, there is no one to ask.

I have no connection to the program, etc. etc. I just find it useful. It is connected to GedStar Pro which is free for Android. When checking the website I learned the calendar part is now called GedStar Today. It appears it is only for Android. Apple and Windows users are out of luck.

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GedStar Pro

Each morning on my phone I am treated to the time, date, weather and an “on this day” for my genealogy courtesy of a program called GedStar Pro for Android which includes GedStar Today. I see birthdays I may have forgotten and learn dates important in my family history.

I have used GedStar Pro for many years. It was first written for TMG, The Master Genealogist, which I used from the time it came out. After I switched to Legacy it became available for that program. It basically works off a GEDCOM file which is converted to a file that your Android device can read. Sorry Apple folks. Not for you.

Each morning I learn who was born, died and married on this date. No birthday, no matter how old, is forgotten. The patterns are sometimes interesting.

The main program also puts your genealogy on your device under GedStar Pro. This shows a person view, a family view, an ancestor view and a descendant view. Way back when, before smartphones and tablets, I had it on a Palm (remember those?). I pulled it out in the County Clerk’s Office to find whatever details they demanded to pull a file. Back then County Clerks were sometimes less than cooperative and flooding them with information was useful.

So, a birthday reminder along with your genealogy on your Android phone or tablet – great program, right? Did I mention that now it is FREE? You can find it here:




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Fact v. Family Stories

We have been drilled to stick to the facts in genealogy. Family stories are just that, stories. “Three brothers came to America” and “my ancestor was an Indian princess” probably are without more than a grain of truth, if that. Find the record. Get the facts. And, of course, document the facts.

Now we are told to “flesh out” the family. Ask the old folks for stories. Ask those who remember the prior generations what they can tell you. Genealogists are told to record these stories, write about them, add them to their records.

Ancestry is pushing this big time. It’s very annoying. You have to push those promotions aside to get to the records. I assume the other sellers of genealogy related items aren’t far behind.

Does anyone else see a contradiction here? First we are to ignore the stories and get the facts. Now we are to record the stories and perpetuate the myths. Is that to make it more interesting to the masses so more people get involved in genealogy (and buy subscriptions to, say, Ancestry)?

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Mystery of Berryman B. Wood Becomes Less Mysterious

The mystery of Berryman B. Wood has become less mysterious thanks to a discovery by his descendant Tessa Rasnick. One of the big mysteries has been when did Berryman B. Wood die?

When he died no marker was set. Perhaps they couldn’t afford one. They buried him by his wife, Sarah Catherine Lucas Wood, and she had a stone. Perhaps they meant to add his name. Whatever, it never happened.

At some point Wilford Ryan, a grandson, poured a concrete stone and, using a stick, wrote his name and date of death. Various cemetery walkers have said the now worn stone said 1911 and 1914.

No death certificate has ever been found. They weren’t mandatory in Illinois until 1916.

Someone pointed me to a note that indicated he died February 8, 1908. There was no source but I liked it because it fit my theory that if one was born or died in the winter there was less likely to be a record prior to 1916. (Yes, I know of many exceptions to my theory.)

Tessa was hunting for obits in old newspapers when she looked up John Allen Wood, a son of Berryman. John Allen is her third great uncle. This is what she found in The Decatur Herald for May 20, 1909.

“John Allen Wood Dies
“John Allen Wood, living eight miles southwest of Mt. Pulaski, died at his home at 9:30 o’clock Tuesday night from heart trouble, having been a sufferer for many months. He was born south of Mt. Pulaski, and was the son of the late Berryman Wood. His age was 43 years, 11 months and 30 days. Mr. Wood married Isabelle Jones, daughter of Mrs. M. M. Howard, of this city, July 10, 1890, and he is survived by his wife and three children, Emery, Herman and Stella, also five sisters and four brothers. Funeral services will be held at the Copeland church, six miles southwest of Mt. Pulaski, at 11 o’clock, Friday morning conducted by Rev. Gilbert Jones, pastor of the Christian church of Mt. Pulaski. The remain (sic) will be buried in Mt. Pulaski cemetery.”

“Son of the late Berryman Wood.” (emphasis added) That pretty much eliminates 1911 and 1914 as death dates. It also explains why he cannot be found in the 1910 census.

We still don’t know for sure exactly when he died but the 1908 date looks a lot more likely.

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Getting the “Facts” Online

You know those transcriptions on FamilySearch and Ancestry and such? I am thinking they are done by a computer with no brain and they are never proofread. Along comes a collector, adds them to their genealogy and yet another nonsense “fact” is born.

On FamilySearch I found an obituary abstract. You have to go to a pay site to see the actual obituary. The deceased person is Robert William Jr. His father is Robert Thomas. Duh! How does that follow?

His wife is listed twice, by the same name, obviously a duplicate. His mother is correct, even listing her maiden name. And then there is his son, William Thomas Jr. They were obviously junior crazy that day. I note none of the three generations of juniors are “senior” or “III.”

In the obituary I have the deceased’s name and the names of his parents are correct. He has no children at all. He is listed as “junior” even though he clearly is not. It is from a different newspaper, more local.

I have the birth and death certificates of all three of the deceased. They are correct.

He did, of course, have parents. He did have children including a son. He had grandchildren. There were no juniors in any of the generations.

FamilySearch is not the only guilty site, just the one in this example.

As more and more transcriptions make it online free with actual images on pay sites I expect these lovely transcriptions to fill family histories. Will there will be any truthful family histories in 50 years?


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Who Is Buried in Humphrey Scroggin’s Grave?

Humphrey Scroggin Stone

This is a photo of the marker on the grave of one Humphrey Scroggin in Steenbergen Cemetery, Mt. Pulaski Township, Logan County, Illinois. But does it mark the grave of Humphry Scroggin, Revolutionary War veteran?

Humphrey Scroggin, the RW veteran, was born about 1763 in Culpepper County, Virginia. According to his pension application he was drafted twice to serve out of Henry County, Virginia. After the war he bought land in District 96, South Carolina, in 1784, is found in Warren County, Kentucky, in the 1800 census and in 1814 bought land in Gallatin County, Illinois. Before 1830 he was in Sangamon County, Illinois, which became Logan County in 1839. He died there in July 1845. But where was he buried?

Several genealogists have suggested that the stone in Steenbergen does not mark the grave of the veteran and that this Humphrey Scroggin was in fact buried at Carlyle Cemetery. One of those was the late Dalen Shellhammer who, with his genealogist wife Sandra, managed Steenbergen Cemetery for years and oversaw the restoration of the Scroggin stone. They had heard or found enough to question but had neither the time nor the inclination to pursue an investigation at that point.

In the southeast part of what is now Logan County there were five Revolutionary War veterans living in 1835: John Downing (1838), Abraham Lucas (1841), William Patterson (1840), Humphrey Scroggin (1845) and James Turley (1836). The date after their name indicates the year of death. They all died within a 10 year span.

In 1917 and subsequently, the DAR published a list of RW veterans buried in Illinois. They didn’t know about all of them. Of the above group they only knew about Scroggin and Turley. Turley is listed as buried in Carlyle Cemetery which was then known as Turley. Scroggin is listed as buried “near Mt. Pulaski.” Both Carlyle and Steenbergen are “near Mt. Pulaski.” In fact, they are only a few miles apart.

Stones exist for Downing (Bowers Templeman), Lucas (Steenbergen) and Patterson (Downing). There is no stone for Turley or Scroggin at Carlyle. Stones exist from the period.

The Scroggin stone at Steenbergen is very near the stone for Lucas. There is also an existing stone for Lucas’ wife. There is no stone for Scroggin’s wife although there have been some DAR markers added.

Who is the candidate for burial if not the RW veteran? Humphrey Scroggin did not have a son named Humphrey but he did have a grandson named Humphrey. Grandson Humphrey died in 1859, not so much after his grandfather. His wife Sarah Lucas survived him by more that 40 years, remarried and is buried in Macon County with her second husband. Sarah was the granddaughter of Abraham Lucas, buried oh so close to the Scroggin marker, and the daughter of James Lucas (1827) and Hannah Bowman Lucas (1843). James Lucas’ stone is gone but Hannah’s remains, also right there near the Scroggin stone. No other stone is known for the grandson.

Makes you go hmmm.

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So Many Children He Had To Marry and Marry and Marry

Thomas Lucas didn’t live in a shoe but he had a lot of children, 16 in fact, possibly 17.

He was born April 27, 1814, in Liberty Township, Clinton County, Ohio, to James Lucas and Hannah Bowman. He came to central Illinois with the rest of the Abraham Lucas clan – Abraham was his grandfather – and members of their Baptist Church from Greene County, Ohio, in the later 1820s. Within a short time after their arrival, James Lucas died. John Lucas and John Turner, uncles, were named guardians of Thomas, age 13. John Lucas was married Hannah Bowman’s sister Mary. John Turner was married to James Lucas’ sister Sarah.

On June 10, 1834, Thomas married one of John and Sarah Bowman Turner’s granddaughters, Mary Turner, a sister of the infamous Spencer Turner. Thomas and Sarah had 10 children. There is a long-held story that their first daughter was named Minerva. She apparently was born before they were married and she died. I have found no evidence of this child. Mary Turner Lucas died on October 4, 1855, leaving seven living children. Two months later their two oldest daughters married. Thomas was left with an adult son, a not so healthy teenage son who did not survive his mother long, a 9 year old son and two young daughters.

On May 1, 1856, less than seven months after the death of his wife, Thomas Lucas married Harriet Gambrel, widow of John Lanham. She was 38 and had no children of her own. However, she added two daughters to the Thomas Lucas family before she died on January 5, 1867. By then there were two of Mary’s daughters and two of Harriet’s daughters at home but one of Mary’s daughters married in April of that year. Thomas was down to three minor children.

On July 10, 1867, six months after the death of his second wife and on the 33rd anniversary of his first marriage, Thomas Lucas married Charlotte Bowman, the widow of Jacob East and a relative of Thomas’ mother. She was also the sister of the soon to be husband of her new stepdaughter Arminda Lucas. Probably it was Thomas’ marriage to Charlotte that introduced the young couple.

We know Charlotte had three children by her first marriage but not what happened to them. It does not appear they survived infancy. Thomas had three children at home and soon he and Charlotte had more, four more to be exact. Thomas’ last child was born posthumously and only lived about six weeks.

Thomas Lucas died August 18, 1874. Both of Harriet’s daughters were at home although one married within months. (Parent dies, child marries. Seems to be a pattern.)

Thomas Lucas was buried at Lake Bank Cemetery with two of his wives, several children and, later, other children and grandchildren.

Letters of Administration issued to Allen Lucas, eldest son, on August 22, 1874, same date as his Petition. The estate contained 918 acres of land. The widow received $234.88. The surviving children or their heirs each received $46.97.

Sometime after 1880 Charlotte and her surviving children moved to Oxford, Kansas, where there were other Lucases and Bowmans as well as others who had left central Illinois for the promise of land in Kansas. She did not remarry but is not buried in Lake Bank.

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John Downing’s Elusive Service

Originally, John got a Revolutionary War marker based upon his service in the company of Capt. James Scott, 3rd Battalion, Washington County Militia, Pennsylvania. He was a private 5th Class and can be found listed in the Pennsylvania Archives. DAR agreed. Later John and his extended family and friends traveled to Ohio and on to Sangamon now Logan County, Illinois. They even brought along James Scott. 
(When I looked into this I couldn’t find anything about the James Scott except he traveled with John Downing. About the same time a James Scott joined the Lake Fork Predestinarian Baptists before dying in neighboring Macon County, Illinois. I could not swear it is all one person but it seems likely. Not that it mattered.)
Then it was determined that was not the right service for this John Downing. Nope. His service was in Capt. Timothy Downing’s Company, Washington County, Pennsylvania, militia. At least the location was correct. And probably the two Johns are related. A new marker was added to the old on at Bowers Templeman Cemetery just north of Salt Creek. The DAR participated in the ceremonies. That was 1977. 

Then the DAR decided that wasn’t correct either. And the timing really was off. After the war John moved back east in Pennsylvania instead of continuing on west? That could not be explained.
Recently, DNA testing allowed Mary Lou Cole of Pennsylvania to follow a theory. John Downing didn’t serve in Washington County, Pennsylvania, but Washington County, Maryland. Mary Lou is not a descendant of this particular Downing line but she was determined. There were naysayers, including me. She continued on.
On September 5, 2013, the DAR notified Mary Lou that they agree with her conclusions (and documentation of course) and John Downing is now officially recognized as having his Revolutionary War service in Maryland.
John Downing has three stones. He has his original, which goes with the stone of his wife Hannah, to go with the two in the photo. Will he get a fourth, this time with the correct service? 
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Genealogist vs. Family Historian

There is an ongoing discussion about genealogy and family history.

Family Historian seems to be a title for those who collect all sorts of things that a family member once touched or might have touched or probably would have touched had it been placed in their hand. In other cases it is the process of collecting family stories.

Everyone, I hope, had one or two or three cherished items from ancestors. But 300?

People collect family stories to preserve them. It turns out that collecting family stories is also perceived as a way to draw young people into genealogy.

There are plenty of family stories. But, and here’s the rub, how many of your family stories are true? Three brothers came to America… My ancestress was an Indian Princess… You get the idea.

Genealogists deal in facts. Ok, not a lot of those whose family trees bloat Ancestry.com, but serious genealogists are into facts and proof. They want evidence. Heck, they want you to prove you were born and didn’t just appear full grown. (Superman is in big trouble.)

Isn’t being a “Family Historian” contradictory to being a “Genealogist”? What do you think?

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