Another death in our family this past week. I was given the privilege of writing my mother-in-law’s obituary. This task of love let me to reflect on obituaries and death notices as sources of information. In this post, I share my reflection with you.
Genealogists cull information about individuals and their families from these notices, usually published in local newspapers. What’s the difference between a death notice and an obituary? The answer is simple. A death notice usually gives only basic information about the person and their death. An obituary typically provides more information about the person and their family.
Death notices can still provide clues for follow up. Here is one example from my dad’s family. 
Other documents and her gravestone show her name as Esther, maiden name Brown. The notice was published on Friday, February 14, 1840; her date of death- ‘Tuesday last’- means Tuesday, February 11, 1840. The family should be found in or near Stroudsburg on 1840 census. Burial at Friends Graveyard means that Esther and Thomas were Quakers. My question is: if she died and was buried in Monroe County, why was her death notice in a Pike County newspaper? Pike County and Monroe County are geographically close to each other. This led me to explore how county lines changed and to search for more information about a Brown family in Pike County. Age at death is sometimes listed. This example shows how even limited information can be used to discover information about a person and their family.
Obituaries give us a glimpse into the person’s life and family. Often, you will read about the person’s occupation, hobbies, military service, religious affiliation, professional and social organizations, honors and awards as well as birth and death information. Names of parents, siblings and children are usually included. You may learn how long the person was married and whether the named relatives are dead or alive. Cause of death is sometimes included. “A sudden death” may suggest an accident or acute illness. “A long (or lingering) death” suggests one or more chronic illnesses. Photos are a more recent inclusion. Today, funeral homes post obituaries online.
Siblings’ names can be used to uncover a woman’s maiden name. One woman’s brothers had two different surnames, suggesting that one was her step-brother. The married name of a sister led to more records about the sister and, eventually, the names of their parents.
Also of interest is what information is not included. I found a marriage record for a person on my mom’s family tree. His obituary did not mention his wife. My best guess is that the marriage did not last long and that there were no children.
To summarize, published death notices and obituaries are important sources of information for the genealogist. Glean what you can and offer thanks to those who provided the information.
Another long week for our family, actually a long month as mother-in-law went from hospital to rehab, back to hospital and then to hospice care. Family members asked me to write my mother-in-law’s obituary. This was a labor of love as well as an awesome responsibility. I had previously written obituaries for both of my parents and my father-in-law. As a genealogist, I am acutely aware of how much can be learned and/or surmised from these sources.
I may have posted something similar earlier but am too emotionally exhausted to look for it.
What I Learned (again): the difficulty of capturing the essence of a person in just a few words.
What helped: I am a fairly skilled writer with a large vocabulary. Online and print thesaurus to help me choose just the right words. Getting to know my mother-in-law better during last few months that she has lived with us.
What didn’t help: sleepless nights. Need to get it right quickly in only 1 or 2 drafts.
To-do: Save copies of print and online obituary with appropriate citations.
 Hester Postens death notice. Published in The Jeffersonian Republican, Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania on 14 February 1840. Page number not included with photocopy obtained from Monroe County Historical Association, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
 Grave marker for Esther Postens, Friends Burial Ground (Stroudsburg, Monroe, Pennsylvania); photo by Jerry L. Ellerbee; information read by Susan Posten Ellerbee, 15 August 2017.
 New York, Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Records,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 August 2018 ), entry for Arthur H. Smetts & Claudia J. Mertens; citing The Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Records, New York, NY; names Arthur’s parents as Jacob Smets, Rose Maurer of New Brunswick,NJ and Claudia’s parents as Charles H. Mertens & Johanna Hack, 1433 Glover Street; marriage date 2 June 1926.
 “ARTHUR H. SMETTS,” obituary, Central New Jersey Home News, 19 November 1936, deceased; online images, Newspapers.com (http:///newspapers.com : accessed 6 January 2021).
Memorial Day- a day to honor those who have fallen in battle. We also place flags on the graves of veterans. Four years ago, I reported on Herman E. Maurer, cousin on mom’s side, who died in World War II. Last year, I posted about William Posten, killed during the Revolutionary War and who might be related to my dad’s family. This year, I turn to my husband’s family and tell you about Lewis Garrett Holcomb who died during the Civil War.
In 1861, Lewis enlisted in the Army of the Confederacy and served in Company I, 10th Texas Cavalry Regiment. Five of his brothers–George Creager Holcomb (my husband’s ancestor), John Wesley Holcom, Henderson H Holcomb, Thomas Harrison Holcomb and Joel M. Holcomb–also fought in the Confederate Army.
Lewis died of “phlg [phlegmonous] erysipelas”, a skin infection with abscesses, in Lee Hospital, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, on 28 May 1864.  He had been in the hospital since March 1864. Did he have an infected battle wound or was the infection caused by something else? He is listed on Find A Grave as being buried in the Lauderdale Springs CSA Cemetery, near Meridian, Mississippi. However, he may or may not be buried there. According to William Burdette, Jr., who lives about five miles from the cemetery:
Lewis died fighting for a cause that he and his family believed in. Some may say that Confederate soldiers are not worthy of being honored for their sacrifice. I disagree. My sons carry the blood of both Union and Confederate soldiers in their veins. I tell them repeatedly to be proud of all their ancestors.
Memorial Day is a good time to reflect on the many lives sacrificed for our country. Many have persons in their family tree who died while serving in the military. We need to remember these whether they died during a time of war or during a time of peace. As I look deeper into my family trees, I plan to identify those who died while serving in the military for future posts.
Am I glorifying the Confederacy? My answer to that charge is “No.” I am reporting on individuals and families in our (my husband’s and mine) collective family tree. These persons are also members in the family trees of others alive today. Many Americans have ancestors who fought for the British during the American Revolution. Does that make the current generation any less American? No. Should they still embrace those ancestors? Yes. Without direct line ancestors, my sons would not exist. Remember, too, families often divide in their loyalties. Even today, families face political, religious and/or ideological differences.
With every post, I do more digital file clean-up. I review paper and digital files, adding information to fill gaps. My Genealogy Do-over doesn’t seem as tedious when I do it this way.
 1840 U.S. Census, Mountain, Washington, Arkansas, population schedule, Mountain, p. 261, line 27, Joseph Hanleen; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 25 May 2021); citing Washington, D.C.: National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication M704, roll 20.
 1850 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, , p. 882, dwelling 527, family 527, J Holcomb 49; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 25 May 2021); citing Washington, D.C.: National Archives & Records Administration, Microfilm Publication M432, roll 909. Son, Harman Henderson, born 1843 in Texas; older children born in Arkansas.
 “Texas, U.S., Select County Marriage Index, 1837-1965,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 24 May 2021); citing Texas State Library and Archives Commission and various county clerk offices, Texas.
 1860 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Beat 7, dwelling 1094, family 1094, LG Holcombe; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 25 May 2021); citing Washington, D.C. : National Archives and Records Administration, microfilm publication M653. Lewis reported his birthplace as Illinois; possible that family lived in Illinois for a short time.
 “Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas,” digital images, Fold 3 (http://www.fold3.com : viewed 25 May 2021), Holcomb, L.G. (18 pages); citing Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 109, roll 0063; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations , compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865.
 “Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas,” digital images, Fold 3, Holcomb, L.G. (18 pages); page 12 of 18.
Off on a different kind of search today. It started with a new (to us) piece of furniture, an antique display cabinet bought at an estate sale. This glass enclosed cabinet replaces another wood cabinet. When we cleaned out the wood cabinet, we found a pile of old stock certificates purchased at an auction years ago. Our original plan was to decoupage the certificates on old pieces of furniture. We looked through the certificates and made some interesting finds. One of those finds is an original issued patent, complete with the red seal from the US Patent Office. This post tells about my first foray into forensic genealogy with the goal of returning this heirloom to a rightful owner.
The patent is for Rotary valve engines issued to Chester E. Sherman of Kansas City, Missouri in 1918. There are also 4 stock certificates in the Rotary Valve Manufacturing Company issued to L. A. Sherman in November 1914.
Who was Chester E. Sherman? I entered his basic information on Ancestry. First item uncovered was a 1920 census record for Chester E. Sherman in Kansas City , Missouri. Following the information from that record, I found Chester’s death certificate.  He was born in Kansas in 1874 to Louie A Sherman and Alta Page. Chester died in Dallas, Texas in 1961. He married Izetta Peppard in 1916.  Izetta died in 1987, presumably also in Dallas.
Chester and Izetta had two daughters. Edith Pauline, born 21 December 1923 in Missouri, died 5 March 2002 in Dallas, Texas.  Edith’s name is on same mausoleum slab as her mother’s. Edith possibly never married.
Eleanor Lucille Sherman was born 16 April 1915 in Kansas City. She married C.W. Morris on 5 March 1933 in Dallas, Texas.  Eleanor died in September 1996. C.W. and Eleanor had at least one daughter, Bobette Eleanor, born 23 March 1937 in Dallas.  Bobette married possibly two times – 1st to Max Alford and 2nd to Everett W. Campbell. Bobette may still be alive and could be Chester’s only direct descendant. Other relatives of Chester may also be interested in having this piece of their family’s history.
Three ancestry trees included Chester. I sent a message to the owner of one of those trees and wait for a response. If I don’t get a response, I will message the owners of the other two trees. Posting the information on my blog is another way of trying to contact a member of Chester’s family. I will hold on to this document for several months then seek an appropriate repository.
This line of inquiry is called forensic genealogy. Recently, there have been several TV shows about this type of search using DNA matches. All of us probably use similar methods to find cousins or other relatives. I admit that I am not as proficient in this as others. I do not expect any financial renumeration for returning this very important document to the family. I hope that someone someday will do a similar favor for me.
This was an interesting journey. I used many skills learned through my Genealogy Do- Over to access information and evaluate the data. I amazed myself that I was able to find relevant information within a few hours. My reward will be the return of this document to a family member.
I needed a break from the intense work I’ve been doing on an article about my mom’s family. I only need to track down a few more sources. I wasn’t sure what to write about this week. A topic always seems to surface!
What I learned: more about forensic genealogy and different ways in which it can be used.
What helped: genealogy do over skills. Online database with search feature.
What didn’t help: having only a name and residence in 1918 for Chester E. Sherman.
To do: wait for someone to claim the documents.
 1920 U.S. Census, Jackson Co., Missouri, population schedule, Kansas City, enumeration district (ED) 117, p. 5A(ink pen), dwelling 80, family 113, Chester E Sherman, head, age 24; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 8 May 2021); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T625_927.
“ Texas, U.S., Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 8 May 2021), entry for Chester Elisha Sherman; citing Texas Department of State Health Services. Austin, Texas.
“Missouri, U.S., Jackson County Marriage Records, 1840-1985,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 8 May 2021), entry for Chester E. Sherman and Izetta Peppard, certificate no. 1913K0058670; citing Marriage Records, Jackson County clerk, Kansas City, Missouri.
Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed 8 May 2021 ), memorial page for Izetta P Sherman, Find A Grave Memorial no. 107692206 , citing Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park (Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas), memorial created by T, photograph by T.
Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 , database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 9 May 2021); entry for Edith Sherman, SS no. 449-24-6962.
“Texas, U.S. Select County Marriage Records, 1837-1965,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 8 May 2021), entry for Ms Eleanor Sherman and C.W.Morris, certificate no. 16229; citing Dallas County Clerk’s Office, Dallas, Texas.
Social Security Administration, “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, “ database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 9 May 2021); entry for Eleanor Lucille Morris [Eleanor Lucille Sherman], SS no. 449-68-6967..
“Texas, U.S. Birth Index, 1903-1997,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 10 May 2021), entry for Bobette Eleanor Morris, roll no. 1937_006; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; father: Charles William Morris, mother: Eleanor Lucille Sherman.
1930s. The Great Depression. Dust Bowl. WPA (Works Projects Administration). CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). Do any of these terms sound familiar to you? If your family tree includes young adults in the 1930s, then they may have found work through one of these programs. My husband’s maternal grandfather, Horace Clayton Johnson, was one such person. In this post, I share pictures and a document about his service.
First, a brief history lesson. The Works Projects Administration (WPA), established in 1935 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program, employed millions who were unemployed after the stock market crash of 1929. Many projects involved construction of public buildings and roads. The WPA Graves Registration Project surveyed cemeteries and created indexes for the burials. Those tombstones have since aged another 90 years and may now be unreadable. Also, you may find grave markers not listed on other sites. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted trees and constructed trails and shelters in national and state parks.
Now, about Horace. Horace Clayton Johnson was born 7 April 1915 in Ben Hur, Limestone county, Texas to Henry Louis Johnson and Nellie Black. Henry, a farmer in 1920, moved his family to Mexia City, Texas by 1930 and was listed there as a carpenter. In 1935, twenty-year-old Horace, the third of 8 siblings and second of two boys, probably needed work to help support his family. So, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.
He was a member of Company 839, established 1.6 miles east of Trinity, Texas, on June 8, 1933. Trinity is about 100 miles southeast of Mexia. This was probably the furthest young Horace had ever traveled from home. The men constructed and maintained fire lanes, fire break roads and telephone lines.  Membership in The Corps included an educational component. In March, 1935, Horace received a Certificate of Proficiency in Simple Arithmetic and Spelling.
We are not sure exactly how long Horace served in the CCC. In 1937, he married Mable Venette Reed, a native of Cherokee County, approximately 70 miles northeast of Trinity. Perhaps they met when Horace was in the CCC?
In summary, discovery of these items adds to Horace’s story. And, places him within a specific time period in American history. I wonder how many other treasures might be found in old suitcases and boxes!
Mother-in-law and I found these pictures and document when going through a box of old family pictures. All items have now been placed in archival quality sleeves and the appropriate notebook. I was especially surprised to find the Certificate of Proficiency. This kind of document is all too often discarded by later generations. The fact of Horace’s residence for a time in Trinity County presents a clue about how he may have met Mable, a native of Cherokee County.
I discovered the Iowa WPA Graves Registration website about 10 years ago, when researching a possibly related branch of Dad’s family. I am not sure how many counties or states had similar projects. Also, I am not sure how many are readily available on public internet sites. If you can’t find cemetery records for a person who died before the 1930s, contact your local county or state historical society. You may be surprised at what you find!
What I learned: more about the Civilian Conservation Corps, which I vaguely remembered from American history classes. Specifics about what Horace’s group did.
What helped: retrieving pictures and document with my mother-in-law. Internet sites with information about WPA and CCC. Less than 1000 words! I like these shorter blog posts!
What didn’t help: nothing specific.
 Texas, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Texas Department of Health, delayed birth certificate LL18432 (23 February 1942; copy issued 26 Oct 2011), Horace Clayton Johnson; Limestone County Texas County Clerk, Groesbeck, Texas.
 1920 U.S. Census, Limestone county, Texas, population schedule, Pt Enterprise School District, enumeration district (ED) 81, p. 3A, dwelling 41, family 47, H.L. Johnson head, age 32; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 1 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T625_1829.
 1930 U.S. Census, Limestone county, Texas, population schedule, Mexia, enumeration district (ED) 11, pg. 6B, dwelling 135, family 149, Johnson Henry L, head, age 46; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 1 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T626, roll 2371
What topic for this blog post? Thomas MacAntee reminded us that April 10 is Sibling Day. My mother-in-law and I have been going through old pictures, labeling as we go. I remembered that we found a picture of MIL’s aunts, her father’s sisters. Horace had one brother and six sisters. So, this post honors Horace and his siblings.
PARENTS: Henry Louis Johnson, born 9 February 1884 in Texas; died 16 September 1965 in Mexia, Limestone county, Texas. Married 3 July 1910 to Nellie Kay Janet Black, born 16 January 1888 in Bowie, Montague county, Texas; died 2 May 1960 in Mexia, Texas. They are buried in Point Enterprise Cemetery, Mexia, Texas. All their children were born in Limestone county, Texas and all but one remained in Texas. According to my mother-in-law, the siblings remained in close contact throughout their lives. Many of their descendants still live in or near Limestone county.
Katie Jean Johnson (13 May 1911, Horn Hill, Limestone County, Texas  -7 January 1986, Mexia, Limestone county, Texas). Married to David Henry Brannan (1906 – 1990).
Luther Clyde Johnson. (12 February 1912, Ben Hur, Limestone county, Texas -16 December 1938, Mexia, Texas). Married Lillie Robinson  (1909 – 1965).
Horace Clayton Johnson (mother-in-law’s father). (4 April 1915, Ben Hur, Texas  – 30 June 1991, Wells, Cherokee county, Texas).  Married 23 October 1937 in Alto, Cherokee county, Texas to Mabel Venette Reed (1918-1997)., 
Alice Pauline Johnson. (23 Aug 1917- 26 Apr 2016, Hewitt, McLennan county, Texas). Married about 1937 to Homer Andrew Tarkington (1915-1994)., 
Anna Ruth Johnson. (13 November 1919- 2 September 2003, Mexia, Texas). Married 19 September 1939  to Richard Elbert Romain (1918 – 1989). Divorced 1969.
Edith Nell Johnson. (3 March 1922 – 24 August 1998, Odessa, Ector county, Texas). Married 22 June 1939 to Billy J Gray (1922 – 1976).
Mary Lois Johnson (28 June 1925, Mexia, Texas – 17 July 2001, Denver, Colorado). Married Stanley Ewing Davis (1923 – 1982).
Marjorie Ann Johnson (7 October 1928, Mexia, Texas – 1 May 2005, Stafford, Fort Bend, Texas). Married Woody Burl Davis (1925 – 2001).
1937 – two weddings, Horace & Alice Pauline.
1938- Luther Clyde died.
1939 – two more weddings, Anna Ruth and Edith Nell.
Per oral family history, Horace was only mechanic in Cherokee County during WWII so wasn’t drafted because farmers in the area needed his expertise to keep their farm equipment running.
World War II service:
David Brannan, Navy, 19 April 1943 – 29 September 1945 
Stanley E Bradford, Army, 25 Feb 1943 – 31 Jan 1946
6 of the 8 siblings lived longer than their spouses.
1944 or 1945- three more weddings -Katie Jean, Marjorie and Mary Lois.
Buried in Point Enterprise Cemetery, Mexia, Texas
Alice Pauline Johnson Tarkington
Anna Ruth Johnson Romain
Marjorie Ann Johnson Davis
I was undecided about what to write for this week. The recognition of a National Sibling Day provided inspiration. Writing helps with two genealogy goals –review and clean-up files for Johnson- Reed family and post a story about that family. As often happens, I came across some previously unknown information. I need to verify before I can tell you more. According to MIL, her dad (Horace) was spoiled by his sisters.
The number of source notes for this short piece looks overwhelming. I considered posting without the sources. Recognize that most of the notes are from one of these repositories: Social Security Administration, Texas Department of State Health Services or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with some personal copies and obituaries thrown in. Including sources is a genealogical standard.
What helped: RootsMagic family tree with names and dates, some completed citations and some document copies, access to online trees and databases. Recent look at old pictures.
What didn’t help: incomplete citations, copies of some documents missing. Duplicated some records unnecessarily.
What I learned: there are always new stories to be found.
To do: continue review and clean-up process for the Johnson-Reed family. Remember to look closely at both digital and paper files before making extra copies.
 “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed ), certificate for Henry L. Johnson; citing Texas State Department of Health Services, Austin, Texas.
 Online family tree; no document or source attached.
 “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 27 February 2020), entry for Nell Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; certificate no. 37422.
 “Texas, U.S., Birth Certificates, 1903-1932,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 12 April 2021), entry for Johnson female; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch ((http://www.familysearch.org : viewed 12 April 2021), Jean Brannan, death Jan 1986.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), David H. Brannan, 457-03-9640, before 1951.
 “Texas, U.S., Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 12 July 2020), entry for Clyde L Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas.
 “Funeral services held Monday for Mexia High School Teacher,” obituary, Mexia (Texas) Daily News, 12 April 1965; Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : viewed & downloaded 11 April 2021).
 Texas, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Texas Department of Health, delayed birth certificate LL18432 (23 February 1942; copy issued 26 Oct 2011), Horace Clayton Johnson; Limestone County Texas County Clerk, Groesbeck, Texas; personal copy.
 Horace Clayton Johnson, death certificate no number (30 June 1991), Texas State Department of Health, County Clerk’s Office, Angelina county, Texas, Lufkin, Angelina county, Texas; personal copy.
 Cherokee county, Texas, marriage record no. 333 (23 October 1937), Horace C. Johnson and Mable Venette Reed; Cherokee county, Texas, Alto, Texas; personal copy.
 [No first name] Reed, birth certificate 46451 (15 February 1918), Alto, Cherokee Co., Texas Texas State Board of Health, Vital Statistics Unit, Austin, Texas; Photostatic copy issued 27 Sep 2011.
 Mable Venette Johnson, death certificate 8245 (12 July 1997), Texas State Department of Health Services, Austin, Texas, County Clerk’s office, Cherokee County, Texas, Alto, Cherokee Co., Texas.; photostatic copy issued 22 July 1997.
Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed, viewed, downloaded 8 December 2016), memorial page for Alice Pauline Johnson Tarkington, Find A Grave Memorial # 161721169, citing Point Enterprise (Mexia, Limestone County, TX), memorial created by Ann Lewis Dickenson.
 “Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903-1932,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded ), Amendment to Certificate of Birth for Homer Andrew Tarkington; citing Texas Department of Health, Austin,Texas; state file no. 26796
 Social Security Administration, “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), entry for Homer Andrew Tarkington; citing Social Security Administration, Washington, D.C..
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), Anna R. Romain, 462-03-0924, before 1951.
 “Texas Divorce Index, 1968-2002,” database, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021); citing Texas Department of State Health Service, Austin, Texas.
 “Edith Nell Gray,” obituary, The Odessa (Texas) American, 26 August 1998; digital image, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : viewed & downloaded 12 April 2021). page 11, columns 1-2.
 “Texas, U.S., Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 19 July 2020), Billy Gray; citing Texas Department of State Health Services. Austin, Texas.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), Mary L. Bradford, 463-26-8036, before 1951.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 13 April 2021), Stanley Edwin Bradford, 521227675.
 “Texas, U.S., Birth Certificates, 1903-1932,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed, downloaded, printed 7 December 2020), entry for Margie Anne Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), Woody B. Davis, 449-42-1703, before 1951.
 “U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” database, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), entry for David H Brannan; citing Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs..
 “U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), entry for Stanley E Bradford; citing Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs..
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), Woody B. Davis, 449-42-1703, before 1951.
Just when I thought I had things under control, I re-prioritized my genealogy goals and began writing an article about my mother’s ancestors for a genealogy journal. I thought that I had most of the information on three to four generations of descendants. I thought that I had most of the sources for that information. Over the last month, I discovered that neither one of those assumptions are true. In this post, I describe my journey to date.
What have I done to prepare for writing an article? In January of this year, I participated in a month-long webinar about writing. I bought a book, Guide to Genealogical Writing, and have been reading it. I downloaded a template for writing using the Register style. I created an outline of people who I would be writing about. On the outline, I numbered each person as they would appear in the article.
Stratton and Hoff suggest to temporarily stop researching and start writing. So, I have done that. I discover gaps in family stories –gaps not always identified in my RootsMagic tree. Information on my RootsMagic tree on my computer is only partially complete, especially for the later generations. Sources are also incomplete. However, the families are becoming more real as I notice similarities and differences in family experiences. Example – sisters who both buried husbands and at least one child.
I began writing the family stories with the information that I have. As I write, I make a note in red that a source or other information is needed. I try to complete at least one person’s story each day. I follow the “cite as you write” guideline. Sometimes, I stop writing and follow clues to locate a source or other information. As a result, my personal tree is becoming more complete. So, the exercise of writing the family history for a genealogy journal has its benefits.
Previously, I focused on the older generations, typically those who lived and died before the early decades of the 20th century. This article includes four generations from my German ancestors in early 1800s through the latter part of the 20th century. I choose not to include information about any persons who are still living.
What have I learned from this? It takes more time than expected. There will be gaps to fill in. There will be sources to find. Even if my articles are not accepted for publication, I will leave fairly comprehensive and extensively researched histories to share with descendants. For your information, if the articles are not accepted for publication, I will share the information with you through my blog. Yes, I said “articles”. Last year, I started another article about a collateral family on Dad’s side. I put aside that article to tackle other projects. When the current article is done, I plan to take up the second one again.
A man has an affair and leaves his wife for the other woman. He plans to sell the family farm and other property, leaving his wife and children virtually penniless. Wife discovers the scheme and files a restraining order. She eventually divorces the man and receives a substantial settlement. Sound like a story from today’s headlines? Well, this story happened in the 1850s. In honor of Women’s History Month, I tell the story of Elvina Masters Cole, a woman who fought for her rights.
This is a true story gleaned from various records. I discovered the basic information as I researched my brother-in-law’s adoptive family. Another descendant of Elvina’s graciously contributed his extensive research on this matter. Both gave permission to share her story here.
Elvina Masters was born 25 April 1813 in Bowling Green, Warren county, Kentucky, the daughter of Richard Clement Masters and Agnes Cochran. She married Thomas J. Cole on 10 November 1831 at Springfield, Illinois.  Children followed quickly with their oldest son, William, born on 16 October 1832. William would later become embroiled in the family scandal. About 1835, Thomas and Elvina moved to Bureau County, Illinois. In June 1838, Thomas J. Cole was accused of adultery and fathering a child with Pyrena B Ellis. Although Pyrena claimed that he was not the father of her child, Thomas was indicted for adultery.
In March 1849, William married Ellen Emeline Bradshaw, a servant in the Cole household. Ellen was later named in Elvina’s divorce. The year 1850 finds Thomas and Elvina with six children in Berlin, Bureau County, Illinois.  The children were Catherine, age 16; John,age 12; Albert, age 10; Thomas J., age 8; Elizabeth, age 4 and Mary, age 1. The family farm was valued at $5000. Two more children would be born to Thomas and Elvina– Cornelia in 1851 and Enos in July 1857.
On 20th February 1857, Elvina Cole filed for divorce from Thomas J. Cole in Bureau County, Illinois. Her complaint stated that, about November 1848, her husband, Thomas, brought “ into their family as a house servant Ellen Emeline Bradshaw.” After which, Thomas’ “affections became alienated and estranged and at the same time showing a criminal fondness and regard for Ellen. . . “ (Note: Ellen is recorded as Emaline/Emeline in some documents). Recall that William, son of Thomas and Elvina, married Ellen in March 1849 and reportedly lived with his parents during the first months of their marriage. In September 1849, William and Ellen “removed to a small tenement upon the farm of her [Elvina’s] said husband and lived there for about 18 months, when the said William Cole left her and departed from this County.” Thomas moved Ellen back to the family home and moved himself into Ellen’s bedroom.
By March 1856, Elvina had had enough of this arrangement and forced Ellen out of the house. Ellen supposedly moved to her father’s home. Thomas left home for weeks at a time “to find Ellen.“ On February 20, 1857, Elvina filed for a divorce.  (Bureau County case #395). Her complaint stated that “Thomas left home on 5th January 1857 and has not returned. “ William Cole filed for divorce from Ellen on August 12, 1857. 
Before he left, Thomas “tried to sell and dispose of all his property. . . “ including two farms with an estimated worth of $25-30,000 plus “a large amount of stock, grain & money.” Elvina asked for a restraining order to prevent Thomas from selling and disposing of the property “then abscond” with the funds which would leave her and her children “helpless and destitute.”
The outcome? Elvina was granted a divorce on 29 September 1857 by order of default. According to Neal Smith:
The documentation as being in Township 17, North Range 10 East (now known as Berlin Township in Bureau County). In Section 6, the property was the west half of the northwest corner, and the west half of the southwest quarter. In Section 7, the property was the west half of the northwest corner, along with 50 acres on the west side of the east half of the northwest quarter.
Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” page 11.
William Cole was granted his divorce from Emeline/Ellen on April 19, 1858, also by default. 
Elvina was deeded the 140+ acre farm on which she was living, worth about $10,000 or more (equivalent about $335, 000 today). She was also to receive alimony payments of $700 yearly (about $21,000 today) with the property to be held as a lien.  If alimony was not paid, Elvina could sell the property or remain and take the profits. In September, 1867, Elvina finally received all rights and title to the farm. She was now a wealthy woman.
Elvina never remarried. She died 16 December 1882 at Ohio township, Bureau County, Illinois, from bronchitis and was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery at Dover, Ilinois. Her grave is unmarked.
March is Women’s History Month. I decided to write about at least one woman in the family tree. I am going to make this a specific goal each year from now on. As I mentioned earlier, I encountered Elvina as I researched my brother- in -law’s adoptive family. Her story impressed me then and it still impresses me. She exerted her rights at a time when women had few rights. I am grateful to my brother- in- law and to Neal Smith for allowing me to share Elvina’s story.
What I learned: the power of collaboration with others.
What helped: previous work done and documented. Neal Smith’s extensive work copying and transcribing handwritten county court records.
What didn’t help: incomplete entries for some items.
To do: still looking for Elvina in the 1860 census. Neal Smith also mentioned that she seems to have disappeared from the records in 1860 although there is an 1862 tax record for her in Bureau County Illinois.
 Neal Duane Smith, transcriber and compiler, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings of Thomas J. Cole (1810 to 1873?), among the first persons of European descent to reside in Bureau County, Illinois, as well as documents relating to the divorces of his three oldest married children“ (PDF digital copy, 2012); privately held by Neil Duane Smith, [address for private use], Davenport, Iowa, 2021.
 H.C. Bradsby, editor, History of Bureau County, Illinois, (Chicago, Illinois: World Publishing Company, 1885); digital images, Hathi trust (https://babel.hathitrust.org : accessed 14 March 2021); pages 274 & 295.
 1850 U.S. Census, Bureau county, Illinois, population schedule, , p. 206B, family 343, Thomas C Cole 40; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed 31 December 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M432_99.
 Bureau County, Illinois, Circuit Court Case 395, Elvina Cole vs. Thomas J. Cole; County Clerk’s Office, Princeton, Illinois. Original handwritten documents photographed, with permission of County Clerk, by Neal Duane Smith, 2012; included affidavits from William T. Cole, Elvina Masters Cole, John L. Cole, Catherine Cole Murphy and William Masters.
 Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” pp. 19-26.
 Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” pp. 99-117.
 Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” page 11.
 Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” page 77. Transcription of Bill for Divorce, filed 29 September 1857.
Find a Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed & printed 10 March 2021), memorial page for Elvina Masters Cole, Find A Grave Memorial # 198838221, citing Pioneer Cemetery (Dover, Bureau, Illinois), memorial created by Good Oman, no gravestone photo.
 “U.S., IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 10 March 2021), no page numer, Elvina Cole, Dover; citing The National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for Illinois, 1862-1866; Series: M764; Roll: 20; Alphabetical list of persons residing in Division No. 11 Collection District no. 5 of the state of Illinois.
Who should I write about for today’s post? This question has bugged me for the last two weeks. Although I am working on several projects, none are ready for a report yet.
This year, I started tracking my blog post topics more closely. I created a spreadsheet with information about each blog post including date, title of post, and person or persons discussed in the post. I made a table with number of posts related to each family by year. The highest number for a given year reflects my primary focus for that year.
What determines my focus for a particular year? I started my blog in April 2017 with goal of sharing information more or less equally about each family line. An August 2017 family reunion trip to Pennsylvania generated more posts about dad’s family. In 2018, I received family pictures and other items from two cousins on mom’s side. Cataloging those pictures and items steered me to Tucker-Maurer family for 2018. My father- in- law’s death in February 2019 guided me towards the Ellerbee family. Johnson-Reed family then became focus for 2020 as I prepared another scrapbook.
As I write each post, I check sources, revise citations and identify gaps to be filled for each person. I pose and try to answer at least one question. Content in my family tree improves. Sometimes, a person contacts me about an ancestor named in an online tree or blog post. These contacts often generate a topic for my blog. DNA matches also yield possible blog topics.
For my blog, what are the benefits of delving deep into a particular family or person? Well, I try to discover the story beyond the basic facts. I seek a better understanding of the person and share that information with others. I feel like I am more intimately involved in their lives.
Writing about a variety of people has been a blessing. I reach a wider audience with the potential of contacts from more than just one branch of the family tree. Often, I choose the person or topic just a few days before I publish. I am writing shorter blogs so there may be more series about a particular person or family.
Right now, I have several projects in the works. I am writing two articles to be considered for publication in genealogical journals. Due to potential copyright issues, I must defer writing more here about either of these. A potential DNA match contacted me about a specific line. Several years ago, I made a note in my files and asked questions similar to what this DNA match is asking. I give what input I can.
Question for today is still- where do I go from here? And I don’t have a good answer. I search for inspiration from various sources such as blog posts written by others. I review my goals for the year but nothing stands out at this moment. I have been here before. A spark of inspiration will come! In the meantime, I continue the process of cleaning up at least one family tree. Stay tuned!
Do you track the political affiliations of your ancestors? I don’t but plan to start! From obituaries and other items in newspapers, I have seen both Democrats and Republicans in my family tree. I believe that many family trees show similar differences. In this post, I report one set of brothers with differing political views and briefly outline the beginnings of our current system.
First, the brothers. I found this newspaper item while researching my maternal ancestors. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Maurer. I’m not sure if we are related to these men. Political divisiveness is, and has been, common.
Newspaper item from 1 June 1891 issue of Times Union newspaper, Brooklyn, New York:
Death of Michael Maurer. Michael Maurer, a brother of Alderman Theodore Maurer, died to-day from kidney disease at his home, 92 Moore street. The deceased was 41 years of age. He had been ailing for some time. Unlike the Alderman, who is a Democrat, the deceased was an ardent Republican, and was a member of the delegation of his ward to the Republican Committee. The arrangements for his funeral have not yet been made.
I wonder who wrote this and why it was so important to note the brothers’ political differences. I found this article as I searched for information about Theodore Maurer, brother of my ancestor Valentine Maurer. I haven’t found any records indicating another brother named Michael. So, I added a search for the parents of this Theodore Maurer and his brother, Michael Maurer, to my BSO list.
How did political parties begin? According to Jill Lepore in her book, These Truths, “. . . a party system- a stable pair of parties — has characterized American politics since the [Constitutional] ratification debate.”  There were many precursors to our current parties:
1790s: Federalists supported ratification of the constitution and Anti-Federalists opposed it.
1830s: Democratic party formed. Whig party formed.
1848: Free-Soil Party formed. They believed in “free labor (the producing classes)” rather than “slave power (American aristocrats).”  Received support from free Blacks and women.
Late 1840s: Know-nothing Party, also known as American Party, formed. They wanted to extend the naturalization process to 21 years and strongly believed in nativism, which “refers to a policy or belief that protects or favors the interest of the native population of a country over the interests of immigrants. [Source: “Nativism in America and Europe”, Scholastic, Teachers, Grade 9- 12, ( https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/nativism-america-and-europe) ].
1854: Republican party formed; joined by Whigs, Free-soilers, Know-nothings and northern Democrats, all of whom opposed slavery. “ If the Democratic Party had become the party of slavery, the Republican Party would be the party of reform.”
1800s: Democratic party has roots in populism, with its belief in a broken system of government.  Populism eventually yielded to progressivism.
The Democratic Party
“By the mid-20th century, [the Democratic Party] had undergone a dramatic ideological realignment and reinvented itself as a party supporting organized labour, the civil rights of minorities, and progressive reform . . . . the party has also tended to favor greater government intervention in the economy and to oppose government intervention in the private noneconomic affairs of citizens. ” (Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Democratic-Party: accessed 13 Feb 2021 ).
Historically, women supported the Republican party. However, Eleanor Roosevelt’s influence changed that dynamic as more women chose the Democratic party instead of the Republican party . 
Today, many associate the Democratic Party with liberal, progressive views and the Republican Party with moderate, conservative views. Platforms of both parties appear to reflect the influence of earlier parties. (my opinion).
In summary, the divide between political parties often extends to a divide between family members.
Today, the people of the United States seem more divided than united with little common ground between the two predominant political parties – Democrats and Republicans. I wonder how my early American ancestors would view our current discord. I live in a country where I can disagree publicly with others. Some seek to silence those with a different opinion. As Americans, we should protect our right to freedom of speech, even when political views differ.
I tried to present a balanced picture of our American political parties. I will not debate political ideologies in this forum. In each post, I do a bit of teaching, carryover from 25+ years as a teacher. Another genealogist recommended Jill Lepore’s book which has an interesting perspective on American history. This post is less than 1000 words!
I met two goals last week – completed project for distant Smetts-Maurer cousin and a writing course. Started writing an article.
What I learned: Another Maurer family in Brooklyn, New York. History of our two-party political system and how they evolved. Definition of nativism.
What helped: online access to newspapers; purchase of Jill Lepore’s book.
What didn’t help: Temptation to search for parents of this Theodore and Michael Maurer instead of working on current projects. My own political views, knowing that I should present a balanced approach.
To -do: Add to BSO list- Discover parents of Michael and Theodore Maurer.
 “Death of Michael Maurer,” death notice, Times Union (Brooklyn, New York), 1 June 1891, “Michael Maurer, a brother of Alderman Theodore Maurer, died to-day . . . “; Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed and downloaded 10 February 2021).
 Jill Lepore, These Truths: A History of the United States (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2018), 211.
Genealogists ask questions and try to find answers. Often, more questions arise as we search. This was the case as I explored the lives of Rosina Maurer and her husband Wilhelm Jacob Smetts. I reported that journey in a February 2018 post. As I searched local newspapers, I found the name of Henry Renk connected with Rosina. I made a note that this was a BSO to be explored another day. Now three years later, I found the answer. In this post I describe what I found and how I found it.
The newspaper clipping that generated my interest in 2018 was from a 1949 New Brunswick, New Jersey newspaper.  It said ”Henry Renk attended funeral services for Mrs. Rose Smetts at the home of Mr. and Mrs Robert Smetts in Matedeconk Thursday evening.” Rose/ Rosina was sister of my maternal great-grandfather, Herman Maurer. Robert Smetts was one of Rosina’s children. I posed the question – What is Henry ‘s relationship to Rose?
In November 2020, a distant cousin saw my post about Rosina and Jacob and contacted me. He asked for more information about the children of Rosina and Jacob. That’s when I rediscovered Henry Renk. Rosina and Jacob’s youngest child, Robert Earl Smetts married Ethel Renk, the daughter of Henry Renk and Carrie Culver. In 1949, Henry attended the funeral of his daughter’s mother- in- law. Henry had been a widower since 1917. Henry, born 1873, and Rosina, born 1868. were of the same generation. He probably empathized after her loss of both a son and husband within the space of one month in 1936.  Both had been born in the United States to German immigrant parents.
In June, 1950, Robert and Ethel Smetts held a family reunion party in their home ” in honor of the 77th birthday anniversary of Mrs Smetts’ father, Henry Renk of Ridge road near here [ Monmouth Junction, New Jersey]”.  Forty-five guests attended including Earl Renk, Edgar Renk , Albert Renk and their families. I imagine that the house overflowed with “14 grandchldren and eight great-children.”
Henry Renk died 27 November 1960 and was buried in Kingston Cemetery, next to his wife.  I have more information about Henry, his wife Carrie and their family. However, I am not going to delve into that here. I added their names to the family tree on Ancestry.
A mystery solved and a BSO addressed. I realize the value of keeping record of BSOs. You never know when something will prompt you to look at it again, even years later. This was not a high priority item but does help to round out our family’s story.
What I learned: keep good notes and include your sources. Obituaries and those personal notes in older newspapers are treasure troves of information.
What helped: Previous work and my notes.
What didn’t help: Not having either paper or digital copies of all newspaper articles.
To-do: Keep digital and/or paper copies of newspaper articles. Add URL for those articles to research logs.
 “Henry Renk attended funeral services”, The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey”, local newspaper (9 Jul 1949): p. 7; PDF images, Newspapers.com (http://www/newspapers.com : accessed 10 Feb 2018), key word Mrs. Rose Smetts.
Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.finagrave.com : viewed 28 January 2021), memorial page for Carrie Renk, Find A Grave Memorial # 44168202 , citing Kingston Presbyterian Church Cemetery (Kingston, Somerset County, New Jersey), memorial created by Wayne Irons, photograph by Wayne Irons.
 Jacob Smetts obituary. “”William J. Smetts”,” death notice, The Central New Jersey Home News, 14 December 1936, death date, death of son, funeral information; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 16 February 2018); citing The Central New Jersey Home News. p. 17, column 4.
 “Reunion is attended by 4 generations ”, The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey, local newspaper (28 June 1950): p. 4; PDF images, Newspapers.com (http://www/newspapers.com : accessed 6 Jan 2021).
. “Henry Renk,” obituary, The Central New Jersey Home News, 28 November 1960, Henry Renk . . . died yesterday; Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : viewed & printed 30 January 2021).
 Find a Grave. Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave : viewed 28 January 2021), memorial page for Henry Renk, Find A Grave Memorial # 44168201, citing Kingston Presbyterian Church Cemetery (Kingston, Somerset County, New Jersey, USA), memorial created by Wayne Irons, photograph by Wayne Irons.