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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ANCESTRY FAMILY TREES

I have now been introduced to Ancestry family trees. They are extremely creative. I am pretty sure it is inappropriate to use “genealogy” and “Ancestry family trees” in the same sentence.

I am amused by all the “hints” which lead to other family trees. Those trees have misinformation, creative information and no sources. They obviously copy from one another because the same errors are repeated over and over again.

I am not so amused to find they have stolen and used as their own my personal family pictures. In a couple lines the number of descendants is extremely limited. I don’t know the authors of those trees. They are clearly not descendants of the people in the photos. There is no way they would be the owners of the photos. Some still have my date stamp or other identifying marks on them. They have been stolen from places such as these blog posts, my web sites, ILGenWeb and FindAGrave.

I think the thing that upsets me most is having my family photos attached to the junk family trees.

Someone suggested I complain to Ancestry. Have you seen the process? Do you really think Ancestry cares?

Is this the price we pay for sharing information?

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FindMyPast

When I first saw FindMyPast I was particularly struck by the maps which show you the person’s location on that census. I could see many uses for that. And the census maps in FindMyPast would be useful — IF they were dependably accurate. But they aren’t. And there are too many I know aren’t to trust those I don’t know.

Robert Downing arrived in Illinois and settled along Salt Creek in the center of the state in 1821. I know what land he bought and where it is. It hasn’t moved since.

In the 1830 Census for SANGAMON County, Illinois, I found Robert Downing. There he is on a page with the folks that were his neighbors at the time, many of whom, or their descendants, would continue as his neighbors the rest of his life. With the transcription is the map of his location. He is found somewhere north of the Decatur airport. Decatur is in Macon County, Illinois.

From the 1840 census for Mt. Pulaski Precinct, LOGAN County, Illinois, I find Robert Downing. He didn’t move. In 1839 Logan was created from Sangamon. The transcript is correct. I know it is the right person, right neighbors, etc. Yet according to the map he is now northeast of Paris in EDGAR County, Illinois, just west of the Illinois-Indiana border. In 1850 he is in the same location in Edgar County. When I began to look for the 1860 census for him FindMyPast crashed.

In 1870 Robert is still farming but he is doing so from a house in the town of Mt. Pulaski according to the map. The census sheet show his neighbors, all those farmers. Amazing that they all moved to town together isn’t it? In 1880 Robert, now a man of 86, retired farmer, living with his wife, son, daughter in law and grandchildren, is again located in the town of Mt. Pulaski according to the map. Unfortunately the actual census page shows his neighbors to be people living on farms. At this point it crashed again. It seems to do that a lot.

FindMyPast also has the Social Security Death Index. The searches I did returned what I expected. You can get the SSDI free at FamilySearch.org though.

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Birth Certificates

Birth certificates have gone big time. Everyone wants to see your birth certificate. Like genealogists they see them as accurate proof of birth.

I am looking at a certificate of birth issued by the State of Illinois. Dwight H. Green was Governor. I know, just as trivia, he was the governor before Adlai Stevenson so that gives me a date range and sure enough, it was issued in 1947. 
It was created at the county level. I personally knew every person who is named at that level and am familiar with their signatures. I know therefore that it is a transcript of the actual certificate and the signatures are not real. While I would think that would be obvious just looking at it you just never know who has questions.
The birth, however, took place in the prior century. Nowhere on the document does it say “delayed” or other term that would indicate same.
The father’s birthplace, city, is not listed and the state is wrong. The mother’s birthplace, city, is not listed. The person giving the information states: “I HEREBY CERTIFY that I had actual knowledge of the facts as stated in this RECORD OF BIRTH at the time the birth occurred, and know them to be be true; and that I am related to this person as mother and that I am at least one year older.”
The “I am at least one year older” always amuses me. One year olds have “actual knowledge of the facts…at the time the birth occurred…” Really?
So we have the person and her mother and then the Notary Public who attests to all this. The Notary is the signer’s youngest son. 
The informant, who is the mother, doesn’t know exactly where she was born and she is wrong about even the state of her husband’s birth. All of the persons who signed off at the county level are members of the same family. No other person signed off on it at the county level. It went to the state and was duly issued. 
Why do we think birth certificates are reliable sources?
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