Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lida's Life

So many people have asked me what happened to young Lida Harding. It seems appropriate to tell it in pictures.

Lida married William Henry Downing, a neighbor. Their fathers served together in the 106th out of Logan County, Illinois. His father died at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He never knew his father. According to William Henry's obit, they went to Springfield to marry. No marriage record exists in any county in Illinois. Did the minister fail to return the marriage documents or was it lost? We will never know.

They moved to a house on William's land northwest of Mt. Pulaski. William built a new house on the land and about 1900 the family, William Henry, Lida and their four sons: Clarence, Ellis, Ennis and Floyd moved in. Clarence and Ellis got typhoid in the epidemic of 1903. William helped nurse his sons and caught the disease. Clarence and Ellis survived by William did not. He died, ironically, of the same disease that killed his father at Pine Bluff. Lida was left alone with four sons. The picture above does not include Floyd who was 7 when his father died.

On January 19, 1910, in a double wedding, Clarence married Lena Drake and Ellis married Ethel Ryan. The brides were friends. Ellis met Ethel on her 16th birthday at a dance at the Mt. Pulaski Christian Church. The adult Downing boys, who came from a line of Methodist ministers, had left the Methodist Church because they liked to dance and play cards. The Methodists frowned on both at that time.

Ellis and Ethel moved into the house and Ellis took over farming the land. Clarence and Ennis went into business. Eventually Floyd joined the US Postal Service.

In 1915 Lida married John Rupp. She was 46. He was 37. [You go girl!] Both had lost their spouses. He had a daughter. She had four sons. They had a prenup!

Lida wrote: Our honeymoon was spent on the Rupp farm out in the vicinity of Latham where we lived 6 yrs. then we moved to the Rupp Home near Mt. Pulaski where we lived 5 years. When Johns father died and as he had willed this farm to his wife her lifetime we then had a sale & moved to Mt. Pulaski living here almost ten years when John Passed on to the other world, Apr 18th 1935 with mystery surrounding his going.

Clarence and Lena had one son Darwin. The marriage did not endure. Ellis and Ethel had three sons and two daughters. They were married 65 years. Ennis and his wife Reta had one son Julian who died before his parents. They were married 59 years. Floyd and his wife Lena had one son Richard. Floyd died at 54 and Lena lived to 102.

Lida continued to live in town after John's death. She spent her time with her children and grandchildren. As she had done throughout her life, she failed to follow all the rules. She died on St. Patrick's Day, 1942.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Solving the Mystery

Genealogy is often a mystery. Everyone loves a good mystery, right? In genealogy we want to solve all the mysteries and end up with all the facts. But until we do we need to search out the facts like any good detective.

The tools of a genealogy detective are very much like those of a good reporter. We want to know all the facts. We want to know the source of all the facts so we can evaluate their validity. "Anonymous sources" and those "highly placed sources" aren't good in genealogy. A good genealogist deals in documented facts.

Let's take the picture below. Who is it? It is Eliza Sciota Harding, known to her friends as Lida. Hopefully it says that on the back of the picture but most likely it doesn't. The picture's owner knew who it was and likely didn't see the need to write it on the picture. The owner never dreamed we'd be studying it 130 years later. We know it is Lida because we compared it to other pictures of Lida and recognized her, not to mention there were living folks who had known her when we first found the picture. In this case it was easy.

What is it? It's a picture. Did you think this was a trick question? That was the easy one.

When was it taken? This is harder. It can important in identifying who is in the picture. There are books which tell you what to look for in terms of backgrounds, poses, clothing, etc. If you have a lot of pictures to identify invest in a good book or two.

Lida isn't terribly old in this picture. How old do you think she is? Can you see that "I don't want to do this" look on her face? That, her childish body and her shorter skirt are indications of her age. Let's say she is 10. Since we know she was born in June 1869, if she is in fact 10 in the picture, this could have been taken between June 1879 and June 1880. It was probably taken in the winter because farmers didn't take time out for such things in the summer when every hour was devoted to work. We know her father was a farmer.

Where was it taken? Perhaps the name and town of the photographer is on the picture or the picture enclosure. In this case she was born, lived and died in a six mile area of the same county so we can be pretty sure it was taken in Logan County, Illinois.

Why isn't a critical question in this case. We have other pictures which would indicate all of the family members, Lida, her sister, her three brothers and her mother had their pictures taken at what appears to be the same time, same studio, same backgrounds. What about her father? If his picture was taken it did not survive. If there was a family portrait made it did not survive. The father, Benjamin Harding, appears in later family portraits so he wasn't against having his picture made. Probably his picture was taken when this one was but for some reason did not survive.