Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Williams Grandparents: How They Died

OK, that's not a fun topic, I know, but bear with me here, will you? This business of how and why they died started because I was sprucing up Mom's Big Tree on Ancestry.com and trimming a few shaky leaves, and then slowed down a mite to take a look at the photos of Mom's parents and see if there should be more and if so which, when I noticed how old Grandma Williams was when she died. She was 58. Only 58. Younger than I am now.

I was shocked! I sure knew what year she died - 1956 - and even remember clearly when Mom picked me up from school and told me that she died, and that we'd be leaving our suburban house in Maple Heights, Ohio, and traveling to the funeral in Frostburg, Maryland. Remember like it was yesterday.

Mom was very concerned that I'd be upset, and of course I was. But being only 10 years old at the time my understanding of death and dying was limited. I think, looking back on it, that I was more concerned that Mom was upset.

But when we drove the four hours from outside Cleveland to the little mountain town in Western Maryland where all my grandparents lived, and I saw the relatives and my Grandfather Williams, I got it. Death was serious business. But what I didn't get then was that she was what we'd now consider young when she died. She was, as I said before, just 58.

When I saw the Ancestry.com page for Grandmother Williams, her life formed up a different picture.

Wow! She was only 58! Sorry to repeat so much but I just can't get over it. So I called Mom and we spoke about it. Mom filled in the spaces for me. Grandmother had a stroke because she had high blood pressure. It was untreated then because there were no blood pressure meds as there are now. Then she had a second stroke on the heels of the first one and that was it.

You know how it is for us with grandparents: they are always "old" in our youngster's eyes. If I had to guess before knowing, I'd have said I guessed she was in her mid-70s. Then I checked Grandfather Williams and saw that he died when he was 63. Geeezzz! I'm 67.

I just love it how some overlooked fact can jump out at you and suddenly you have a whole new view of things surrounding your family. This experience made me realize that we are fortunate to live in time when some ailment like high blood pressure doesn't have to be fatal. We can, with care, plan for longer lives than those of our ancestors. And of course, more time to work on genealogy.

Aunt Betty is good at keeping track of who died of what. It's all there in her GEDCOM. But I'm going to call and chat with her about it too.

Cambria "Camey" Williams 1897 - 1960 and Emma Susan (Whetstone) Williams 1897 - 1956.
Don't they look happy and sweet?

The URL for this post is: http://nutsfromthefamilytree.blogspot.com/2014/01/my-williams-grandparents-how-they-died.html

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013: Is it too late for a glance back?

Oh, dear. It's 2014! Where does the time go? And why do I feel at the end of the year that I could have done more, at least with genealogy? Actually, a lot went on last year, now that I think about it. Maybe it would help me feel better about myself if I took stock and made a list of all the blessings of the year gone by. Yeah, counting blessings always makes me feel better.

1. 23andMe.com DNA Test Results

I just love you, 23andMe! It was about this time last year that I sent my $99 for a DNA kit. Back then, 23andMe was also offering health results along with the genealogy results. Lucky me for getting the test done then because I found that I have a rare inborn error of metabolism and can't process medium chain fatty acids. I'm just missing an enzyme to do that. I always knew something was screwy in that regard but good luck finding that particular needle in a haystack without something like 23ndMe to point me in the right direction. So here I am a year later waiting for my appointment with a geneticist and feeling way better because I now have more than a clue as to what is going on with me. Yes, lucky indeed!  What a big blessing right there.

If you still want your health results, go get tested at 23andMe and then upload your raw file to Prometheus. It only cost $5 and it's another way to either double check your health results or get your results if you missed the 23andMe open window. For more on Prometheus visit SNPedia. Cool, huh?

Now for a report on DNA cousins. I really am mystified by folks who say that don't find any matches by DNA testing. I have DNA cousins crawling out of the emails! Maybe I'm just lucky. Having a tree online and a list of surnames matched with places and date ranges speeds things along, I've found.

My favorite DNA cousin story from last year is the guy who is a fourth cousin and whose father was terminally ill. Mom and I were able to send him a packet of all sorts of interesting family tree info including reports, photos, and a story or two. His dad passed but we're still in touch.

Then there's the speedy connection cousin Angel and I made: match found in two emails! Land speed record, at least for both of us. That was a ton of fun.

This year I want to transfer test results to the other major players and see what happens.

2. Going Local

I just love it that my ancestors had the good sense to all congregate around the general vicinity of the little mountain town of Frostburg, in Allegany County, Maryland. The history buffs and genealogy addicts that focus a lot of energy there are wonderful, friendly, and can't do enough to help. Here are some links to a few of the people and organizations that make working there a happy place.

*The Genealogical Society of Allegany County and their newsletter, Old Pike Post. Go to.
I get a warm and cozy feeling when I think of this group and whenever their treasured newsletter arrives in my inbox. It used to arrive strictly by snail mail which meant that Mom got hers before I did and I'd have to listen and not know what she was talking about for three whole days! Harriet Moore keeps it going and runs the newsletter and I'm happy that she does. All that for only $12 a year!
* Our Brick Walls. Go to.
Here's an excellent example of the very best in grass roots genealogy! Run entirely by Genie Ragan, Editor by Default, and her band of merry volunteers, obits are indexed and entered in their entirety, Civil War Draft list form Allegany County is transcribed, and texts of wills and probate posted. What a cozy home-made web site!
* WHILBR, the Western Maryland Historical Library. Go to.
Although they cover Garrett County and Washington County, their resources on Allegany County are great. From the 1936 flood (which Mom remembers well because she had a new green dress for St. Patrick's Day) to African-American history, or even the 1872 tax rolls for Frostburg, It's all there and more.
* The Cumberland Road Project. Go to.
The old history of Allegany County was largely shaped by coal and transportation, and often the two worked hand-in-hand to move people. My Kelly, Williams, and Thomas people came because of the coal. My Eckhart ancestors were part of the National Road (also called the Cumberland Road.) In addition to important history of the area, this web site has lots of old photos, and you can see some of the little town of Eckhart here. Learning about the history of the area has been very important to my understanding of what my ancestors did and why they did it.

3. New to me cousins!

When I started out 2013 one of my goals was to craft more "cousin bait". Surname Saturday did more to further that task than anything else. Here's one post that caught me a Trimble cousin, and another that netted a Porter cousin. I trailed off doing those Surname Saturday posts because I felt it was getting too far out on the tree and back too many generations to be of much further use, but I might just have to get back to it. I have also thought about going around another time with updates on what's been found lately. And corrections. Yeah, there were mistakes. Yikes!

I often make contact with cousins through Mom's Big Tree on Ancestry.com when they post a comment or send a message. Sure, it's only reaching the folks who have Ancestry.com subscriptions, but for now I'll settle for that.

It's funny but I rarely make contact to anyone through the message boards. Wonder why that is? Are people using other avenues? Hmm, interesting.

4. All the work that Mom has done since the early 1970s. Go to.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't thank my lucky stars that Mom got interested in genealogy and began her quest to link as many people as she could to our family's direct line. It took me a while to discern Mom's objective, but I think I've finally got it. (Sure, you're thinking why didn't I just ask her? That would have been too easy.)
She loves to find people and to that end of doing what she is passionate about, she sought out anyone and everyone that linked up to her tree, no matter how distant. In doing so she linked many of the original settlers of Allegany and Garrett Counties, along with the same in the Hampshire and Morgan Counties in West Virginia. Standing at over 70,000 individuals, it's a true Magnum Opus. It's not done and it's not perfect, as Mom will readily tell you, but as a distant cousin who is a genealogist with solid and thorough skills said to me, Mom has made an important contribution to the history of these families.

Well, yes, I do have a lot to be thankful about! Now I feel pretty good. Time to start 2014 in earnest.

Congregational Church Ladies' Aid Society Picnic.
Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland. About 1938.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Thank you, Randy Seaver and Genea-Musings

I'm coming to see that I'm a sort of odd ball genealogist. It's on again and off again because of how my life is, and I'm still a learning amateur, and totally embrace it. My document filing is sporadic, my file names need a good clean up, and my methodology is patchwork because I learned on the fly. I'm probably not alone in that regard:)

I'm a second generation genealogist and am working off a tree Mom built and is still working on now and again. Mom is 95, in case you haven't met her! She has about 70,000 names on that tree and they mostly were born, resided and died in the area around Western Maryland, the adjoining state of West Virginia, and south west Pennsylvania. I consider my genealogy research skills, such as they are, to be half-assed at best. I only do what I do because I'm perched on Mom's tall shoulders. Besides, it's the stories I love.

Because I'm so ragged around the edges and always trying to do better I was pretty much shocked out of my PJs and fuzzy pink bedroom slippers this morning when I read Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings blog post entitled "Best of the Genea-Blogs for 2013" and found this blog sharing number 16! Can that be right??!! Yup, it's what he said.
Wow. Just wow. Thanks Randy. I mean it, thanks so much.

Randy and I are two very different kinda folks, I gotta say. He's a real numbers guy and I love that about Randy. And me, I'm so very, very not. Look at this post by Randy on Genealogy Industry Benchmarks. I have a feeling that Randy gets goose bumps compiling this stuff because he's so excited about it. Look at what he did there.

And here's a Randy post that blew me away: 52 Ancestors Friday: Frank Walton Seaver (1852-1922). See what he did there? That's pure Randy. I scrolled down, impressed, looking at all the data he's collected about his ancestor and great grandfather, and honestly my mind sort of froze up along the way, until I came upon this:
Family stories about Frank Seaver include that he was a dapper, handsome man, and had black curly hair and brown eyes, and looked like his mother, Lucretia Smith.  He was about 5'10" tall.  He was jolly and full of fun, but liked to drink beer, and smoked a pipe.

There he did it! He got me right there and an image of Frank Walton Seaver formed in my head. Did they call him Frank, I wondered as I read it? Yeah, I bet they did. A dapper jolly man who liked his beer and smoked a pipe would be called Frank. Good ol' Frank, they'd have said about him.

See, that's me all over. I collect the data and record it dutifully. But I long for the story and the photo, especially the candid one. Can't help it. Just my nature.

Seeing my name and blog listed in Randy's blog post is gold plated encouragement. Guess that if Randy mentioned this blog 6 times last year I should stick with it. Thanks, Randy:)

My Grandfather, Cambria "Camey" Williams (1997-1960) and one of him favorite hunting dogs.

Me. Never met a dog I didn't like.

The URL for this post is: http://nutsfromthefamilytree.blogspot.com/2014/01/thank-you-randy-seaver-and-genea-musings.html

Monday, January 6, 2014

Stories Mom Told me: St Patrick and where the Farrells came from in Ireland

St Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland.
From Wikimedia Commons.
We hear time and time again the warning that we should not listen too hard to family stories and that our pursuit of authentic family history is best served by solid research based on documentable facts. What to do when all leads and avenues run dry while that family story lives on? The answer: follow the only lead you have and fully investigate that family story.
Mom's own mother, Emma Susan (Whetstone) Williams (1896-1956) told Mom that her own grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (Farrell) House (1835-1919), said that they came from the place in Ireland where St. Patrick drove out the snakes. She was very clear about that. The place where St. Patrick drove out the snakes. Hmm. What to make of that?
Much has been written about St. Patrick and his life and times. Some could be fact and some could be fiction. The legend of the snakes might possibly fall under the fiction category... maybe. (Don't want to anger the saints!)
Of course the place to start is with the facts about the family. Thomas and Judah/Judith/Judy, his wife, were both born in Ireland, he about 1795 and she about 1815. They married about 1831 and their first child was born in Ireland in 1835, that being Mary Elizabeth, Mom's mother Emma's grandmother who told her where they came from.
They had a second child, Catherine (Farrell) Boxwell (1838-1910) in Ireland as well. By 1842 when they had their first sons, James and Thomas, they were in America and residing in Cumberland, Allegany, Maryland. Records seem to indicate that they immigrated in 1841 and that Thomas stated this on a naturalization record. I have not been lucky enough to see the original of this as it eludes me no matter where I turn. All I have is an index. Darn.
By the time of the 1850 US Census, the family is living in Morgan County, West Virginia (then Virginia), and Thomas is working as a farmer. Thomas died in 1851 leaving his wife with seven children.
But wait, let's get back to St. Patrick and the location of those snakes driven out. Where exactly did they all come from in Ireland? Mom thought that maybe one time she heard from a fellow Farrell researcher that they came from County Clare. I tracked this lady down and she doesn't remember that, but it's been many years ago she said, and she doesn't keep up with it all anymore. Maybe it was County Clare, but maybe not.
Now I have to say right here that I don't know where they came from in Ireland, not with proof certain, so I don't want you to be reading along thinking that this is one of those stories in which a lot of hard work paid off and the family story is proven or disproven. It's not like that at all. I'll probably be working on this for years and years, and I don't mind. I like the work.
I'm taking what I can from Grandma Emma's repeating of the story she heard from her own grandmother, that she came from the place in Ireland where St. Patrick drove out the snakes. I had searched a little around that topic a long time ago and come up empty. It was quite a while back and the internet wasn't what it is now. But the best recent clue came from TV and a Smithsonian Channel show, Sky View: The Emerald Isle. In it Croagh Patrick is identified as the very place that St. Patrick is said to have driven the snakes from Ireland. It's a beautiful spot overlooking Clew Bay in County Mayo. When watching the Sky View program I was reminded of the family story and ran to the computer to start searching all over again.
Were there any Farrells at all in County Mayo? Because family stories aside, if no Farrells lived there, it's no good at all. I figured that there should be some in Griffith's Valuation of 1856-57, that is if (big if) the family had ever resided there. Yes, there are Farrells all over the place. And the names Thomas and James appear often. That's encouraging.
What does this all mean now? Not a lot to go on. Just an interesting family story and a possible connection. I've just started looking. They were Catholics and that will help. If I'm lucky, I might find their marriage record and a baptism record for Mary and Catherine. It's going to be a long hard search with no guarantee of any results. And I don't mind a bit.
Mary Elizabeth (Farrell) House (1835-1919) who said they came from the place in Ireland where St. Patrick drove out the snakes, and her husband Samuel Albert House (1832-1917).

Her daughter, Catherine Elizabeth (House) Whetstone (1865-1946).

Mom and her mother, Emma, and grand daughter of Mary Elizabeth Farrell.
Photo from Aunt Betty's archive.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The New Year and First Footin'

Mom and I were talking on the phone New Year's Day morning about the day's traditions amongst our ancestors. Mom was cooking the traditional pork and sour kraut that she loves. Our people are all from the hills of Western Maryland, and Maryland being a notoriously difficult state to categorize, North vs. South wise, there are still northerly traditions as well as southern ones, and some left over from the British Isles too. It's an interesting day because it is now a jumble of old and new traditions which, all in all, seems about right for a day that's all about the leaving of an old year and the start of a new one.

While she's busy making her pork, which is a southern tradition and a mainstay of Southern cooking but without the black-eyed peas and with more northern mashed potatoes, she's also looking for the first person in the door to be a dark handsome gentleman. That was Dad's roll in the family for many a year, but he's no longer with us. Now it's my brother. That tradition is called "First Foot" or locally, First Footin'.

I visited the Facebook page of the little town we're all from, Frostburg in Allegany County, named "You Know You're From Frostburg When..." and was delighted that there was a robust conversation going on about First Footin'. The first wave of posts verified how widespread the tradition was as many people told of moms, aunts, and grandmothers insisting that the first in the door after midnight be a dark haired handsome man.

Here's what one member of the group posted and that gave it a historical perspective:

Question: What is First Footing
As midnight strikes the strains of Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burn's version of this traditional Scottish air, can be heard everywhere, followed by a toast to health, wealth and happiness for the coming year and the custom o
f First Footing.
Answer: First-Footing is the visiting of friends and family immediately after midnight and sees the Scots rushing from house to house to welcome in the New Year. The First-Foot in the house traditionally is a dark, handsome male carrying a piece of coal, whisky, Scottish shortbread and black bun - a rich dark fruitcake encased in pastry. The visitor in return is given a small glass of whisky.

And here are some of the other posts and I especially like the last that places it in the Welsh tradition, which is the orientation in our family. Click on this to see a larger image.

Mom and I were chatting this morning and I read her some of the posts. Then we took a historical view of it. Coal miners came from Wales and Ireland to the Western Maryland area to work in the rich mines of the area. Actually and to be correct about it, the Irish came for work on the C&O canal  or the B&O railroad, and when that work ran out moved their skills on over to work in the mines. Once situated in the area, the Welsh and Scottish tradition of First Footing was adapted and adopted to the area and became rather widespread in the earlier part of the 20th Century. By the mid-20th Century, even Italian families were First Footin'. The dark haired man didn't bring whisky with him and the Scottish shortbread was left out too. As a matter of fact, he just brought his good looks and good luck!
Here's wishing you and yours lots of good luck on the New Year!

Dad, always ready to be the first dark haired man in the door on New Year's Day.