Motivation Monday

If you follow my twitter account, you already know that I am planning a vacation to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and the Outer Banks, North Carolina.  Of course these are great locations for any trip, but I think they are especially fantastic for any history enthusiast or genealogist (or “nerd”!).  I have been to both sites once on a family vacation around 15 years ago, and I loved it, but I was around 12, so of course I couldn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the historical sites I was taking in.

My husband and I are thinking of going around the end of May, which means I have about 2 months to accomplish my research goals before we set out on our journey.

I know that I can trace some of my family to both Virginia and North Carolina.  What I would love to be able to do is either locate the grave sites, former homes, or other significant places of those ancestors so that I can see them and take some photos for my records.  Obviously, I won’t go hours out of our way to take a shot of a headstone (that wouldn’t be a fun trip for my husband!), but if I can locate something fairly “on our way,” then that would be amazing.

Here is where it gets a little tricky: I don’t know where many of these particular ancestors are buried, and I have few records for my colonial ancestors.  Find a Grave is a great resource, but it only has so many graves indexed and often very old graves are hard to read.

Luckily, only a few of my surnames are possible matches for the areas we are going to, so that does narrow it down a bit.  My research will be focuses primarily on:

  • William S. Daugherty (1867-1935 Indiana), my great-great grandfather’s family.  It appears most of his entire line, through his great-great grandparents were either from Virginia or resided/died there.
  • Hardy Horn (1838,North Carolina-1900, Indiana), my 3x great grandfather’s family.  He fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.  Almost every one of his ancestors were from North Carolina or Virginia.
  • Elias Simpson Bowden (1793 North Carolina-1881 Tennessee), my 4x great grandfather’s family.  It looks like almost all of his family was from North Carolina/Virginia (some I have tentatively marked down as far back as 1699!)  I believe he is a veteran of the War of 1812.
  • Clark Franklin (1803 either Virginia or Tennessee-1880, Indiana).  I know that the Franklin side has been in America for a very long time, and have a strong hunch they have roots in Virginia/New England.  This is one of my brick walls.

I know this seems like I bit off more than I can chew, but I am really looking forward to giving my research some focus.

In college, my major was history and I focused primarily on American colonial history, so this trip is really exciting for me.  Even if I don’t uncover anything particular to my family, it will be neat just to experience some of that history in person again, now as an adult.

Have you ever taken a trip for family history or genealogy?  How did you prepare?  Do you have suggestions of “must see” sites or activities in the Outer Banks or Colonial Williamsburg?

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Church Records Sunday

Today I’m featuring baptismal certificates and other documents relating to those baptisms.  These come from my collection of Prussian documents from the Schmeling/Schessow (once spelled Schohsow) family.  I can’t tell the specific denomination, but my grandma was Lutheran, so I imagine these were all from a Lutheran or Protestant church in Prussia.

(I bet they would have some words to say about my being Catholic!)

Here I have my great-great grandfather Franz Friedrich Schohsow’s baptismal certificate from February 15, 1856.  I cherish this record because it lists his parents’ names, which were previously unknown by me, Gottlieb Schohsow and Dorothea Claudin (Tesh or Jesh) Schohsow.

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Next I have my great-great grandmothers baptismal certificate from 1858.  Her name was Luise Wilhelmine Friederire Schmeling, and her parents’ names were Joachim Friedrich Schmeling and Wilhelmine Friedricke (Ehmre) Schmeling (which I wouldn’t have known without this document).  This is an interesting document because it shows her baptism as 1858, but it is signed in 1870.  Maybe she had to prove her baptism in 1870 for some reason?  I am not sure.

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The next set of documents  are from 1884 and have both my great-great grandparent’s names on them, but I can’t find the name of the person being baptized anywhere.  This puzzled me at first.

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However, the 1900 census shows that they had a daughter, Minnie, around 1884, and her birthplace was Germany.  I think I solved that little mystery!  I have concluded that these are Minnie Schessow’s baptismal certificates, which her parents brought over with them when they came to the United States.

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Isn’t it a great feeling when you can connect the dots?

Surname Saturday: Schmeling

My great-great-grandmother was Wilhelmina Schmeling of Prussia.  I have to say, conducting research about a country which no longer exists is quite the challenge!

When my grandmother was ill with lung cancer at the end of her life, she sought out someone to translate some old documents from her grandparents who came from Prussia.  The German teacher at my high school graciously offered to help.  The documents in this post were partially translated by her, but some was written in the (largely) extinct Prussian language.

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The text points out that the Schmelings were from a town called Laatzig, near Stettin, which is now called Szczecin and is part of Poland.  The area was known as Pommerania and was part of Prussia.

Wilhelmine (Schmeling) and her husband Franz Friedrich Schohsow (spelled Schessow now) came to the United States around 1884.  Here I have their application to emigrate:

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(Click on images to enlarge)

The parts that were translatable on the application to emigrate basically state: they asked permission to emigrate to the USA in 1884.  Franz Friedrich is 28 years and 7 months old and from Laatzig, Pommerania.  His wife, Wilhelmina is 26 years and 9 monhts old.  They have 2 children, Maria Magdalena, 7 years 2 months old, and Wilhelmina Albertine Augusta, 8 months old.

The small print at the bottom is in Prussian and the teacher could not translate it.

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The second page is signed by the “Royal Prussian government President”-though I can’t read his name.  The caption at the bottom says “Discharge Document,” so their application was approved.  I think it is significant that 1. they had to apply to emigrate, 2. it was approved, and 3. they went about this in the legal manner, instead of just “fleeing” to the United States.  I can’t make any solid conclusions, other than to say I think that’s significant in some way.

The first record I have of the Schmeling/Schessows in Wisconsin is my Tante (Aunt) Emma’s birth record:

Name: Emma Ida Louisa Schessow
Gender: Female
Christening Date:
Christening Place:
Birth Date: 10 Apr 1887
Birthplace: Juneau, Dodge, Wisconsin
Death Date:
Name Note:
Race: White
Father’s Name: Frank Schessow
Father’s Birthplace: Germany
Father’s Age:
Mother’s Name: Wilhelmine Schenberg
Mother’s Birthplace: Germany
Mother’s Age:
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: C00310-4
System Origin: Wisconsin-EASy
GS Film number: 1302860
Reference ID: item 2 p 48

Citing this Record:
“Wisconsin, Births and Christenings, 1826-1926,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XRNF-GV6 : accessed 01 Mar 2014), Frank Schessow in entry for Emma Ida Louisa Schessow, 10 Apr 1887.

(Wilhelmina’s maiden name is incorrect here; I am certain that this is my great aunt’s birth record, for several reasons I won’t bore you with here!)

I know a fair amount about the Schessows, but not the Schmelings.  I don’t know if Wilhelmina (Minnie) had siblings that also emigrated to the USA, or if everyone stayed in Prussia.

The Schmeling surname is one of my brick walls!  Especially frustrating is the fact that I have other documents that might be able to help me, but I can’t translate them.

I found this Youtube video of a person purporting to speak the old Prussian language.  Obviously, I can’t understand him so I have no idea what he is saying and can’t vouch for its accuracy.  It’s interesting nonetheless.

Do you have Prussian ancestors?  I’d love to hear about how you approach this in your research.

How Far Back: Charlemagne? Genghis Khan? Adam and Eve?

We’ve all seen them: family trees which purportedly go back over 700 years.  Many trace their lineage to Charlemagne or other royals, as those were among the few people who kept track of genealogy.   I have seen some that actually “trace” back to Adam and Eve.  As in, the first two people to have ever lived, according to Biblical history.

Recently, I got a “match” on familysearch.org giving me the option to link my chart with another one matching a person on that tree.  Well, I reviewed it for sources and could find few, but what I did notice was that it went all the way back to 130 A.D.  One hundred and thirty years after Christ’s birth?!  That would be fantastic if it were true.  But, with zero sources linked, I had to say no.

I didn’t attach this tree to mine, and I’m certainly not accusing anyone of impropriety.  But, it got me thinking.  How far back can really be said to be reliable?  At what point do you disassociate yourself from distant ancestors?  I personally can’t really relate to anything prior to 1500 A.D.–I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

How far back have you gotten in your research?  Can you relate to ancestors from over 500 years ago?  Have you ever seen a convincing tree that went back that far?   I’d love to hear your opinions on this.

Friday Faces of the Past: Amos Family Reunion, 1950ish

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For today’s Faces of the Past, I have a shot of the Amos family reunion.  I think this took place sometime around 1950, because my grandparents Frances and Harry are married (1947), but I don’t think they have had their first-born yet, and she was born around 1953 I believe.  I don’t recognize the house, but my great-grandparents lived in Parke County, Indiana, so it could be their old house there.

The only other people I can identify are my Grandpa’s sister Betty and his brother Bill, and my great-grandparents, Raymond and Lillian.

(I really need to upload this to Ancestry.com so that other people who may be related can look at it and possibly identify other relatives!)

This reminds me, I also need to label the names on our most recent family reunion shot, so that in 70 years no descendants are looking at it wondering who the heck they are looking at!

Thriller Thursday: The Great Pigeon Case of 1914

To say that my great-great grandfather, James Thomas Cofer, was somewhat of a character would be an understatement.

I’ll bet you can name a local merchant from your hometown who made a name for himself through some catchy gimmick or nickname.  Whether it’s a car salesman, a used furniture store, or a local diner, many independent merchants rely on funny names or catchphrases to bring in business.  Well, James was no different.  Self-dubbed the Mule King of Kentucky, he made his fortune selling, you guessed it, mules.

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And he didn’t limit it to Kentucky, either.  Some time between 1880 and 1900, he and his family moved to Indianapolis, which brings us to the Great Pigeon Case of 1914.

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The Indianapolis News, July 4, 1914

I highly recommend reading the actual article.  But, in summary, it seems his neighbor’s pigeons were disturbing his sleep.  Upon confronting the neighbor, an argument ensued, prompting James to pull out his revolver and remark, “I’m from Kentucky, where they shoot people for pastime.”

Sounds like a line from a movie, doesn’t it?

In any case, the judge heard the evidence and “took the case under advisement.”  I can’t find anything on the final outcome of the case.

The lesson from this Thriller Thursday: Don’t threaten people from Kentucky!

What is a Hoosier??

Some of my non-U.S., and even some American readers, might be wondering what a Hoosier is and why I put such a funny word in my blog name.  A Hoosier is most commonly used today to describe a person from Indiana, USA.

In the 4th grade, we were required to take a course on Indiana history.  My teacher shared with us some of the common myths behind the word “Hoosier.”  My favorite was that, when Indiana was a newly settled territory filled with rough-and-tumble types, men would get into fights at saloons or bars.  Some of those fights inevitably ended in bloodshed, with men even losing their ears.  In the morning, villagers would walk out into the street, find the lost appendages, and cry out “Whose ear?”…which eventually combined to create the word “Hoosier.”

Funny stories aside, the truth is that no one knows for certain how the term Hoosier came to be.  The Indiana Historical Bureau has a nice article explaining some possibilities (including a version of my 4th grade teacher’s account):

  • “When a visitor hailed a pioneer cabin in Indiana or knocked upon its door, the settler would respond, “Who’s yere?” And from this frequent response Indiana became the “Who’s yere” or Hoosier state. No one ever explained why this was more typical of Indiana than of Illinois or Ohio.
  • That Indiana rivermen were so spectacularly successful in trouncing or “hushing” their adversaries in the brawling that was then common that they became known as “hushers,” and eventually Hoosiers.
  • There was once a contractor named Hoosier employed on the Louisville and Portland Canal who preferred to hire laborers from Indiana. They were called “Hoosier’s men” and eventually all Indianans were called Hoosiers.
  • A theory attributed to Gov. Joseph Wright derived Hoosier from an Indian word for corn, “hoosa.” Indiana flatboatmen taking corn or maize to New Orleans came to be known as “hoosa men” or Hoosiers. Unfortunately for this theory, a search of Indian vocabularies by a careful student of linguistics failed to reveal any such word for corn.
  • Quite as plausible as these was the facetious explanation offered by “The Hoosier Poet,” James Whitcomb Riley. He claimed that Hoosier originated in the pugnacious habits of our early settlers. They were enthusiastic and vicious fighters who gouged, scratched and bit off noses and ears. This was so common an occurrence that a settler coming into a tavern the morning after a fight and seeing an ear on the floor would touch it with his toe and casually ask, “Whose ear?””

 http://www.in.gov/history/2612.htm

The fact that no one knows exactly where the term Hoosier came from points, in a larger sense, to the importance of family history and genealogical research.  If someone in the 1830’s had written down or collected stories of where the name originated, we wouldn’t be left wondering today.

If I ask myself what “Hoosier” means to me, it is a person born and raised in Indiana who takes pride in their state and its rich traditions.   The song “Back Home Again in Indiana,” while not the official state song, was first published in 1917 and is a nostalgic reminder of Hoosier pride.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_Home_Again_in_Indiana

Of course, Jim Nabors’ yearly rendition of this song at the Indianapolis 500 is a much-loved tradition by Hoosiers and race fans alike.

So, the short answer to my original question is “who knows?”  Perhaps if better records had been kept, we proud Hoosiers would know more about what exactly it is we call ourselves.

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Does your hometown, state, or country, have a term that everyone uses but no one is sure what it means?