Saturday, August 08, 2020

History of Genealogy

“How far back does genealogy go?” a beginner might ask. And at first thought, Biblical references might come to mind as evidenced by all the chapters of begats. Family descent was important to the ancient Hebrews, in part because Hebrew males had to prove descent from Aaron, the brother of Moses, in order to hold the Levitical priesthood. The first eight chapters of the book of I Chronicles give genealogies from Adam down through Abraham and other Old Testament patriarchs. I Chronicles 9:1 reads, “so all Israel were reckoned by genealogies…”

The ancient Greeks employed genealogy as much as their neighbors, but their goal was to prove descent from a god or goddess. This was sought in order to achieve social status. Genealogy had a recognized place in Greek history from the 5th century, but was very unscientific by modern standards, consisting largely of material found in epic poetry. The two great Homeric poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were the major epics of Greek antiquity. While the poet may have written about fictional characters, archaeological discoveries of the last 125 years have shown that many of the events Homer described were not fictional.

The ancient Assyrians also kept records, using a form of writing called cuneiform to inscribe clay tablets. Some 20,000 such tablets were unearthed in the palace library during archaeological excavations in the 1840s.

The ancient Egyptians kept records of their pharaohs and dynasties. The term dynasty is defined by Webster as “a succession of rulers, members of the same family.” The well-known King Tutankamen was a ruler in the 18th dynasty.

The ancient Chinese had a succession of dynasties, with the names of the emperors and other rulers all carefully documented. The first was the Qin Dynasty, from 221-206 BC, and the modern name of China comes from that ruler’s name, Ch’in. The last Chinese dynasty was the Qing Dynasty, from 1644 to 1911.

Chinese religions promoted active ancestor worship, so descendants had a need to know the identity of their ancestors from this religious perspective. Confucius taught responsibility for ancestors, and ceremonies to honor these ancestors date back to his time (551? - 479? BC). Some Chinese people today have genealogies that date back a thousand years.
 
The Maori people can repeat their pedigree back to about 1200 AD, when their ancestors first arrived in New Zealand, coming in canoes from other Pacific Islands. Not having much room for baggage, they carried their history in their memories as long oral traditions.

The Inca people managed to have a genealogical record despite having no written language. Living along the western coast of South America in the 5th century AD, the nine million Incas believed that their emperor was a descendant of the Sun God. And the emperor chose his administrators from among his sons and other close relatives. Only pure-blooded Incas held the most important governmental, religious and military offices.
 
Among North American Indians, totem poles were sometimes a genealogical record. For centuries, totem poles were landmarks in the villages of Northwest Coast peoples. These tall poles, carved from wood, traced the histories of families and clans much like a family crest or family tree. Each figure on the pole was a symbol of a family characteristic, an event, or a totem, a power of nature to which the family had a special relationship. Totems often took the form of an animal or spirit.

The Haida people, a group living on the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, carved a mortuary pole when a high-ranking member of the community died. The Haida carved and erected a mortuary pole to commemorate that person’s life and the scenes and faces on the pole depict the deceased’s life.

During the Middle Ages in Europe, questions of kinship and descent became of great political importance. This was especially so when the hereditary transmission of fiefdoms of land had become established. Many privileges of the nobility and gentry depended on birth. A candidate for knighthood had to furnish proof of ancient nobility. 
 
In more modern times, many can with fairly reliable documentation, trace their British origins back into the 16th century. Thanks to a 1538 edict from King Henry VIII, it was required that ministers keep records of christenings, baptisms, marriages and burials. Certainly, the law was not fully complied with for about 50 years, but between the late 1500s and 1837 (when civil vital registration became law), these church parish registers are the main records one will find on one’s British ancestors.

In roughly the same time period, the lands that would become Germany began to keep similar records. The Scandinavian countries followed suit. This record-keeping was first inspired, or required, by the Catholic Church and then, as countries broke with Catholic tradition, they kept the part of the tradition pertaining to the keeping of sacramental records and incorporated it into their new churches. In most countries, church parish registers pre-date any civil record keeping.

Britain has some very, very old records that could be considered a sort of genealogy record: the Doomsday Book (1086), the Magna Carta (1215), Exchequer Rolls (from 1152), Chancery Rolls (from 1199), Patent Rolls, Manor Court Rolls, and Fleet of Fines records (from 1190-1833). The College of Arms, established by royal charter in 1484, kept the heraldic records.

In America’s colonial days, most settlers were British immigrants who wanted to preserve such customs as the keeping of records. During the earliest years, the churches kept the vital records; later the towns took up the practice.

The first known civil law requiring vital records to be kept in the Colonies was passed in 1632 by the General Assembly of Virginia. This law required that ministers or wardens of each parish appear in court annually on 1 June and present the records to the clerk of christenings, marriages and burials for the preceding year. In 1639, the Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted similar legislation.

After the Revolution, new interest was added to genealogy because people were anxious to establish connection with the heroes of the Revolution, or the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, or the members of the Boston Tea Party, etc. The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was organized in Washington, DC, in 1890, to preserve the memory of those who fought for American independence and to foster patriotism. Eligibility for membership is based on direct descent from a man or woman who actively participated in the American Revolution (1775-1783). Dozens of other hereditary societies have come into being since, following the DAR’s lead.

Did you know that the first genealogical society in the world was founded in 1845 in America? The New England Historic Genealogical Society was chartered in that year, two full years before a similar society was begun in England. 

(This article was first posted in 2005 on one of my early blog sites.)

Friday, August 07, 2020

Solving the Mysteries...Photos

Genealogy is 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. Who. What. When. Where. 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. 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 that 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. Also, her clothing looks heavy for summer.

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 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.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Transportation William Isgrigg

This is a transcription of the record of the trial and transportation of William Isgrigg. 
April 1740, trial of William Isgrigg t17400416-2; 192+ (Harvard University, “Old Bailey Proceedings Online.”)
William Isgrigg, of St John Zachary, was indicted for stealing 9 Pair of Mens Silver Shoe-buckles, value 5 l. 4 Pair of Silver Knee-buckles, val. 20s. 3 Pair of Womens Silver Shoe-buckles, val. 24 s. 3 plain Gold Rings, val. 36 s. 2 enamell’d gold Rings, val. 12 s. a gold Ring set with 5 Stones, val. 3 s. a Silver Snuff-box with the inside gilded, val. 8 s. 7 Silver Stock-buckles, val. 21 s. and 3 Pair of Silver Stock-clasps, val. 18 s. the Goods of William Gould , in his Dwelling-house , Feb. 24.
William Gould . The Prisoner was my Apprentice, and had served me above half his Time. His Father lay very ill, and his Mother begg’d of me to let him go and see him, for he was (she said) at the Point of Death. I gave him Leave to go, and after he had been absent a Fortnight, I sent for him to come home: but he sent me Word, that the Physicians had given his Father over, and, as it was not expected he would live over that Night, he desired I would suffer him to stay one Night longer. I consented; and his Mother sent him Home next Morning, (as I was informed) but he did not come near me till Sunday the 24th of February last, (which was a Fortnight after he had been sent Home) and then my Servant-Maid informed me, she let the Prisoner into the House, a quarter after 8 in the Morning, before I was up. The next Morning (Monday) I got up between 7 and 8, and casting an Eye upon my Shew-Glass, I thought the Goods look’d thin, and that several Things were wanting. Upon this I examined my other Boy, and was satisfied that he knew nothing of them; and the Prisoner being absent again, I suspected him, and upon searching after him, I took him in Hanging-sword-Alley in Fleet-street, on the Wednesday Night following. He was carried to the Watch house, and there we found the gold Ring with 5 false Stones upon him, and nothing else. That Night he was sent to Bridewell, and the next Day we carried him before Sir Robert Godseball , where he confess’d he had pawn’d several Pair of my Buckles, Stock-buckles, and Stock-clasps, which are now in Court. This is the Stone-Ring which was found upon him at the Watch-house, and it is mine. I am pretty sure it was in the Shew-Glass, when we took it from the Window, into the Shop, on Saturday Night, and I miss’d it, with the rest of the Goods, on Monday the 25th of February, in the Morning.
John Hartwell, Constable. I took this Ring out of the Prisoner’s Pocket, at the Watch-house.
John Coombes. These Buckles were sealed up before Sir William Billers. They are the same which the Prosecutor swears were taken from him, and I found them at the Pawnbrokers. I have Warrants in my Pocket against two of them; their Names are William Wilson, James Crocket, James Jarvis , and Thomas Oldfield.
The Constable produced several Pair of Silver Buckles, which he had found at the Pawnbrokers.
Mr. Gould. These are my Goods; and I saw them on Saturday in my Shew-glass, which was taken into the Shop at Night. The Shop is part of my Dwelling-house, and I saw the Glass in the Shop on Sunday, but did not examine it till Monday Morning. The Prisoner is between 19 and 20 Years of Age. – I have another Apprentice, one John Priest , who has served about a Year of his Time; and my Servants have the Liberty of going into the Shop.
Prisoner. I have no Questions to ask, – I’ll give the Court no farther Trouble, – I acknowledge my Guilt, and hope you’ll consider me.
Gawen Nash. I went with Mr. Gould to search after the Prisoner, and the next Morning after we found him; I did, I believe, extort a Confession out of him, by promising him Compassion, if he would tell where the Things were.
Prisoner. My Master did promise me Mercy.
Mr. Nash. I told him it was his best Way to make Retaliation to his Master, by discovering where the Goods were: and he confessed more Goods than we have here in Court, and told us where they were to be found. He informed us, that Thomas Oldfield , who keeps a publick House in Tavistock-street, had many of the Goods; we went to him, and he was with us before the Justice, who bound him over to appear here with the Goods, and give Evidence, but he is not come.
The Court ordered him to be sent for; be accordingly appeared, and produced the Goods he had in his Possession, which were restored to Mr Gould, by Order of Court; after which he, with the other Pawnbrokers were very severely reprimanded for their Behaviour by the Court.
* The Sale of Goods, wrongfully taken, to any Broker or Pawn-taker in London, Westminster, Southwark, or within two Miles of London shall not alter the Property. – If a Broker, having received such Goods, shall not, upon Request of the Owner, discover them, how, and when, he came by them, and to whom they are conveyed, be shall forfeit the double Value thereof to the said Owner, to be recovered by Action of Debt. Stat. 1 Jac. I. c. 21. 1 6, 7.
The Jury found the Prisoner Guilty 4 s. 10 d. He was transported for seven years.
On May 31, 1740, he was removed from Newgate Prison and taken to the ship Essex, Ambrose Cooker, Commander. The Essex went to Maryland.
After completing his seven year sentence, he purchased land in Baltimore County, Maryland, married and had at least five children before his death about 1788.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"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 (a 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. I suspect they all came together.
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.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Farmer By Default

On June 13, 1888, in a farmhouse three miles northwest of Mt. Pulaski in Logan County, Illinois, Eliza Harding Downing gave birth to her second son, Ellis. The couple already had an 18 month old.
When Ellis was two he got another brother.  This picture was taken when he was about 4, just before his maternal grandparents, their other daughter and three sons, none of whom were married at the time, moved to Iowa. His father’s father had served with his mother’s father during the Civil War. His paternal grandfather died in Arkansas as the war ended of “typhoid pneumonia.”
William H. Downing family
Apparently, there was good rail service between north central Iowa because there seems to have been visiting between Eliza in Illinois and her family in Iowa.
The fourth and final son came when Ellis was 8. The family was complete. Or they gave up hope of ever having a girl.
The family had been living on land which William had inherited from his grandfather as his father’s heir when he came of age. Now he was able to purchase more of it. With the help of his sons, he cleared the land. They wore high leather boots to protect them from snakes. They built a new house half mile east. Things were going well.
Then, in the fall of 1903 tragedy, struck. The oldest son, Clarence, caught typhoid. Then Ellis got it. William nursed Ellis while Eliza cared for the younger boys and the recovering Clarence. Then William got typhoid. Both of the boys survived but William did not. Just before Christmas, he died leaving a widow and four minor sons.
It was not the plan for Ellis to be a farmer. He went to business school. But, in the end, Ellis was the one who stayed on the land and farmed while his brothers went their own ways. Each of his brothers and their wives had one son. Ellis and his wife had three sons. And then, after 11 years, they had a daughter – and then another one.
He died two weeks after his 90th birthday.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Moved Away

I had a discussion with a relative – our mothers were cousins – about some family members. I knew they married but lost track after that. She remarked it was because I moved away.
I have heard a version of that before. But you know, if your ancestors hadn’t “moved away” you’d still be living in a cave in eastern Europe or wherever they currently think we came from.
Our mutual ancestors come from people who “moved away” for several generations. It’s my “last in” line with the shortest “moved away” history. The other lines had been moving away from Europe, then the east coast and so on, some for 200 years, when the Ryans arrived.
Michael Ryan married Catherine Donovan in Lismore Parish, Waterford, Ireland, November 26, 1825. They decided to move away. They boarded the Russell Baldwin in Liverpool and arrived in New York on July 28, 1834. They brought Bridget, Daniel Edward and John with them.
For reasons I can’t begin to imagine, they moved away from New York to southeast Wisconsin. They are not to be confused with another Ryan family who also went to that part of Wisconsin.
In 1844 they were living in Merton Township, Waukesha County, according to a later court transcript. They were there for the 1850 census. They managed to appear in court records so they are fairly easy to track.
In 1855 Daniel Edward married Catherine J. McKenney. Her parents had moved away from Ireland to New York where she was born and then moved away to Wisconsin.
In 1865 the Daniel and Catherine and their sons moved away from Wisconsin. Their sixth son, Thomas, was born in Wisconsin in 1864. The seventh son Edward Daniel, was born St. Joseph, Andrew County, Missouri, in 1865. Eventually, Daniel and Catherine had 12 sons, including three sets of twins. Eight survived.
Daniel and Catherine were in Missouri for about seven years, then moved away again, finally settling in Harper County, Kansas. There Edward Daniel Ryan met Lillie Margaret Wood. Her family had been trying to move away from Logan County, Illinois, to various places for years. Lillie was born in Falls County, Texas, on one attempt. Edward and Lillie married November 16, 1886, in Harper County. Shortly thereafter, her family moved away for the last time, back to where they started.
Edward and Lillie had a daughter and the trouble began. It was settled when Edward and Lillie got into a covered wagon with their daughter and moved away to Logan County, Illinois, where they stayed for the rest of their lives. They had nine more children, some of whom eventually moved away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

French's Chapel - Methodist Church

For 81 years French’s Chapel served the residents of a rural area in Logan County. It was located on the south side of Salt Creek and just west of the Primm Road, a little over seven miles northwest of Mt. Pulaski, five miles east of Broadwell, seven miles south of Lincoln.
The church was built in 1870 on land originally owned by Asa and Hannah Clark French. Hannah was the daughter of John Winans Clark. Her uncle David Clark and her brother-in-law Richard Clark were Methodist Ministers and her cousin Dr. John Clark had been instrumental in the founding of the Mt. Pulaski Methodist Church.
Asa and Hannah had been holding services for the Methodist Episcopal Church in their home since about 1840. Caroline Alexander, the wife of Asa and Hannah’s son Ezekiel, had been converted at a meeting and was a devout member for the rest of her life. At her death, they found a sugar bowl full of coins she had been saving to build a church.
The surviving French sons, Daniel, John and Ezekiel, were among the leaders in building the chapel. Ezekiel kept a record of expenses — the largest sum paid was $800 to G. Downing, presumed to be the contractor on the project. George Downing was a brother of Hannah Downing who married Daniel French, another son of Asa and Hannah. The total cost of the church was $1,650. The church was dedicated on September 11, 1870.
The final service was held June 3, 1951. For many years a foundation remained but that is now gone. The French family no longer owns the land. No trace remains of French’s Chapel.