Saturday, October 3, 2015

The British Institute 2015: A Week of Mind-Numbing Genealogical Resources

Don’t get me wrong about this week-long course on England research resources, it was a wonderful experience as well as mind-numbing... in a good way. The International Society of British Genealogy and Family History (ISBGFH) sponsors four classes of various British Isles topics of interest. This year’s classes were England, Ireland, Scotland, and writing family history. The classes were held at the Plaza Hotel next door to the Family History Library (FHL). It is five mornings of lectures followed by an afternoon (into evening for some) of hands-on researching in the FHL. Our instructors were set up in the library to help each “student” during a personalized short consultation.

During the week, I met so many interesting people in the British Institute group of about 100, more if you count the instructors. They come from all over the country and Canada, some are first-timers like me, while others have come to the BI for many years. The England class I was in was a good-sized group of about 30 attendees. Our instructors were well-known professional genealogists, Else Churchill and Alec Tritton who live in England.

The instructors were so knowledgeable it was so intimidating. I am still trying to process all the information given to us over that week. There was so much crammed into each session it was difficult to decide what resource to start with at the FHL after class. So many new resources were explained, some I either never heard of, or I thought they were too far out to concern my research. I said it was mind-numbing…and yes, it was, but it was a good kind of numbness.

Family History Library building. Inside there are five floors of research resources from
books to microfilm to microfiche. I could be found on either floors B2-British Isles or B1-International.
Image found on FamilySearch website.
Once in the FHL, I started out looking at a few microfilms, but nothing seemed to be divulging any new information on my family name — PORTAS. I’m looking for my 5x great grandparents burial and not coming up with anything substantial. I am coming up with more mysteries than I brought.

I was looking in the Poor Law Records/Index; the Petty Sessions; Probates; Settlements and Removals; books, indexes, films, computers, CDs and nothing showed its face but more questions. I found a few PORTASes I didn’t have in my database, but none that would make a difference to my objective to find those burials. Should I spend time trying to figure out who they are? I decided not to even though I’m just not getting anywhere this trip. I’m back home from Salt Lake City now. My English/Lincolnshire research was somewhat of a bust, but the class I took was great and will help a lot in my future research. 

I guess I will have to leave the Portas family alone for a while. I decided to do a little research on my German ancestors. Maybe taking a break from Lincolnshire, England, will open up some answers to me once I come back to my Portas research.

So on Monday, I moved from B2 – the English floor – up one floor to B1– International. I did much better researching my grandmother’s SCHMID family in Germany. One of the surnames associated to hers I’ve traced back to about 1681…in the same town! I just wished I had started earlier on my trip instead of two days before I would fly home! Most of the information I think I can put together at home from and then next year I’ll just go back to the Family History Library to get the images I need off the microfilm.
Seemingly endless drawers of microfilm.
Image found on FamilySearch website.
All-in-all it was fun and worthwhile being out there.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

£20 Reward and All Necessary Charges Paid by Isaac Fowler

While watching the genealogical/family history program hosted by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Finding Your Roots, I can’t help thinking of all the celebrities whose ancestors were either slaves or slave holders. I couldn't help but feel a little ashamed that our great country had such an early dark history like that, but at the same time I was very curious if any of my American ancestors owned (or was) a slave. 

The Slave Trade Act of 1807 didn’t abolish slavery in the United States, it only stopped the Atlantic trading. Sad isn't it? We would have to wait another 60 some years for slavery to be abolished. Slavery was not always confined to our southern colonies/states either. Before the abolishment of the slave trade in the early 1800s, there were many slaves “owned" in the "Deep" North. There is one Northern state which interests me — Rhode Island — where my mother's ancestors lived since the 1650s.

It is interesting how a coincidence plays a role in me writing this blog post. I had emailed cousin Kevin about the re-burial of King Richard III and it didn't take long for our emails to wander in a different direction, on a different topic. Kevin asked "Did we discuss Isaac Fowler's advertisement for his runaway?" Then shortly after that email, I received my electronic newsletter/blog The Weekly Genealogist, August 26 issue from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Coincidence. . .

In the section "Stories of Interest" there was a link I just had to follow Rhode Island Church Taking Unusual Step to Illuminate Its Slavery Role.”

On August 23, 2015, there was an article in the New York Times online about this church to create a museum to tell their slavery story. It is quite a nice article. According to the article:  

One of the darkest chapters of Rhode Island history involved the state’s pre-eminence in the slave trade, beginning in the 1700s. More than half of the slaving voyages from the United States left from ports in Providence, Newport and Bristol — so many, and so contrary to the popular image of slavery as primarily a scourge of the South, that Rhode Island has been called “the Deep North.” 

. . .a ceremony was held Sunday [Aug. 23, 2015] in Boston, where the first slave ship in New England is believed to have arrived in 1638; . . . The ceremony Sunday was part of a larger project commemorating the two million slaves who died and the 10 million who survived the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  

The article goes on to tell about the role Rhode Island played in the slave trade “thanks to the state’s financiers, a seafaring work force and officials who turned a blind eye to antislavery laws.” Slave ships were built in Boston, but were “supplied, manned and dispatched from Rhode Island ports. Between 1725 and 1807, more than 1,000 slaving voyages. . .” Seems that over half the ships left from Providence, Newport, and Bristol. These ships would sail to West Africa carrying rum, trade the rum for “human cargo” (slaves), then transport that cargo to the Caribbean in the infamous Middle Passage of the triangle.” From there the ships were “emptied of slaves and loaded with sugar, which was brought back to Rhode Island distilleries to make more rum. . .” and the cycle repeats.

Not all the slaves were owned in the southern reaches, slaves were also brought North for numerous households and plantations. It is said about 10 percent of the Rhode Islanders were enslaved according to a Brown University report.

Slavery in the North provided for a healthy economy. It started around the early 1600s. The slaves in the South picked the cotton the textile mills of the North used for their wares. The merchants grew wealthy off the backs of the slaves. According to the NY Times article, “Later, merchants and suppliers who grew wealthy from the slave trade founded and endowed several Ivy League colleges. . .”  [Gee, I wonder how those schools feel about that?]

My Fowler ancestors lived in Rhode Island during these times. On the 15 Jul 1772, Isaac Fowler’s Will was written. Isaac died sometime prior to his Will being probated 10 May 1773. He seems to be fairly well-to-do. In the distribution of his wealth, he gave his son Simeon “all my Lands and my Dwelling House”; his son Christopher was given “one hundred & twenty five good silver Spanish milld Dollars” and one of “my cows”; son Thomas was given “Thirteen good Spanish milld Dollars” only if he “should live to come to his colony again. . .”; to his daughter Mary “Twelve good silver Spanish Mill’d Dollars & one half a Dollar. . .The reason I give her no more she hath misbehaved herself”; to his grandson Samuel the son of Christopher “my silver watch.” Daughters Hannah [Fowler] Milliman and Deborah received “Goods not disposed of” and Hannah received “Twenty five good silver Spanish Mill’d Dollars”; his son Simeon also was given oxen and the rest of the residue of his estate. Isaac named Simeon executor.

There are two other parts to this Will giving daughters Hannah and Deborah cows, furniture, and one “negro girl” to each. 

“Item. I give and bequeath unto my well beloved Daughter Hannah Milliman & to her heirs and assigns my negro girl named Roco, and one of my cows.” 

“item. I give and bequeath unto my well beloved Daughter Deborah Fowler one negro girl named Clary  Two feather beds and furniture one oval Table Two Chests & six chairs & ye one half of all my other Household goods & Twenty five good Spanish mill’d dollars to be paid by my Executor within one year after my decease. I also give to said Daughter one of my milch cows which she shall chose and further my will is that my sd Daughter shall have during ye Time she shall remain Unmarried a sufficient Room in my now Dwelling House for her to live in free from rent or any charge.” 

To read that is striking. It is hard to imagine including a human being along with chattle and goods, as inventory. History tells the times.

This is the first knowledge I had my ancestor, my 6th great-grandfather Isaac had owned slaves. I’ve had the Will for several years now, but hadn’t REALLY read it because I was still heavily researching my father’s PORTAS family of Lincolnshire, England. I just gathered the Will and set it aside for later. Well, you know how that goes. Later became several years later.

Another item I had set it aside was Isaac's advertisement for his runaway. This item came out of a book Escaping Bondage. A Documentary History of Runaway Slaves in Eighteenth-Century New England, 1700-1789 Edited by Antonio T. Bly. Copyright 2012 by Lexington Books. I have to thank cousin Kevin for sending me the link.

In 1753, a young slave named Caesar ran away from his “owner/master.” That Master  was my ancestor! 
On page 112, Massachusetts Notices 
Boston Post Boy, 06-18-1753 
Ran away the 19th Instant from Isaac Fowler, of North Kingstown, a dark Mustee[*] Fellow, named Caesar about 21 Years of Age, well-set, has a thick short neck, and a down Look. Had on when he went away, an old Felt Hat, striped Flannel Jacket, and a Full-cloath dark grey Jacket, Check Shirt, Leather Breeches, white Thread Stockings, and old Shoes; took with him a Frock and Trowsers. Whoever takes up and secures said Fellow, so that his Master may have again, shall have TWENTY POUNDS Reward, and all necessary Charges, paid by,Isaac Fowler.Reprint: Boston Post Boy, 06-25-1753.
*Mustee (Métis) definition in Wikipedia: In Canada, the Métis are Aboriginal people. They are descendants of specific mixed First Nations and European ancestry who self-identify as Métis According to Wikipedia, the term mestee was widely used in antebellum United States for mixed-race individuals and often used for European and African mixed-race person such as a mulatto.

There was no mention of Caesar in Isaac's Will, so he probably wasn't in the household 20 years after he ran away. I tried to find out if Caesar was ever returned or if he somehow became a free man possibly escaping to Canada, but so far there is nothing on this instance. If I ever find a conclusion, I will certainly add to this story. It is hard to believe one of my ancestors would have a slave. I hope he treated them well. . .will we ever know?

Reading about the runaway and the two girls reminds me of a story my mother often mentioned. She said we had some “black” in our family way back. I had always thought of inter-racial marriage of one of my ancestors and that could still be the case, yet, I rather think this family story had been told over and over so many years that it morphed into another scenario. Now after seeing these items — the Will and the advertisement, I do believe it was just slave ownership that is the real family story here.

Yes, I’m a little ashamed, but this happened several hundred years ago. I don't condone what they did back then. I can't help but have a little turn in the stomach thinking about those slaves and colonials who owned them back then. It was part of that period in time. As a family historian, I will just put it into our family’s story because it is part of history. What else can I do? We genealogists have to keep an open mind and take the bad with the good. Then just write it down. 

For more reading and information on Slavery in the North click here.
To view a powerful movie about the abolishment of slavery in Britain the movie "Amazing Grace" is still available here. [Buy $14.99 or Rent $3.99 on iTunes Store]

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Puzzle Piece Found: Where Is That 1848 Lake County, Illinois Land Located?

My last post was about an 1848 land purchase. I really didn't know where the property was located, but you know how curiosity chimes in. I had an idea since I grew up several miles east of Fremont Township, but a trip to the genealogy room in Arlington Heights Memorial Library (AHML), Arlington, Heights, Illinois, pretty much satisfied my curiosity. 

I was with a friend that day. We where on the quest was to find out more about her Germanic family's reason for being in the Chicago for some of the 1860s. I certainly didn't figure I would find one more puzzle piece missing in my research because I really didn't have anything prepared out of my research. By the way, that is something I wouldn't recommend doing, yet this time, it turned out okay.

AHML genealogy room is really nice and easy to use. They have genealogists to help if you need it. There are maybe 10 computers and several microfilm readers. Even though this library is in Cook County, their stacks contain books from Lake County -- my county -- as well as having many other counties, states, and various reference books, too. While my friend was getting help, I went to the Lake County selection which, as it turns out, contained that puzzle piece! Besides pulling vital records' books out, I grabbed the books on land purchases. That's where I satisfied my curiosity.

Lake County, Illinois is in the far northeast corner of Illinois. The image below is a Township and Range map of said county I found online. It was a great help in locating the land in question. Now I just have to get up to Lake County and take some pictures. I hope I can find the actual piece of property and hope whoever owns it now will allow me to be on it. I'm sure it has changed quite a bit. There are several new subdivisions in that area. I hope one isn't part of this property.

I don't care what anyone says, when you read a land location description with all the "east of the west quarter of the northeast quadrant ..." -- so forth, and so can make your head swim. Unless you have a degree in surveying and a good "old" plat map, you can get mighty lost, too! Next step is to overlay roads and towns on it. Then I could pinpoint exactly where it is. Knowing this area, I'm not too lost. This map makes the location a little clearer.

This is nice to see. The image below also shows the names of the early land owners found in the book, First Land Purchases in Lake County, Illinois by Ruth Mogg, Midwest Crafts, 1979. And there it is, located Township T44N, Range R10E, purchased by Jacob SMITH (SCHIMD) and William GLASS. I should have taken pictures of the other page with 16, 17, 18 on it, knowing Jacob's neighbors to the north would be interesting, too. My son is a surveyor, maybe he will be able to help me further.
I look at these names and so many of them are familiar to me. Over the years growing up with a grandmother who is the granddaughter of Jacob, I heard so many of these names. I wonder if any of them came from Lincolnshire, England where my PORTAS family was from. I see many Germanic names, too. I wonder if they knew my g-great grandfather Jacob before settling there. I wonder how they all came about to choose Lake County instead of other parts of Illinois in 1848.

Well, I have a puzzle piece of where the land is located in Lake County. That's a good start. Now the my question is ... who the heck is William GLASS? And why can't I find him before or after 1848? I'm curious if he could be related to my husband's GLASS family or to my great uncle's second wife Anna GLASS' family. There is so much to research. Why can't I find information without more mystery attached to it?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

An 1848 Land Transaction in Lake County, Illinois

I might have been neglecting my blog for a while now, but by no means have I quit wanting to write. I've been caught up in other projects and besides it is summer and one's mind turns to gardens and just enjoying the days when it doesn't rain in Chicago Land.

This post is short and sweet. 

It was raining today, so I decided to sort out the papers in my paternal great-great-grandparents "pile" and found a photocopy of an 1848 transaction for land document that states the purchase was "paid in full by Jacob Smith and William Glass of Lake County, Illinois.

This is the first time I ever saw the name William Glass. I have no clue who he is let alone any connection other than what's on this document. Jacob Smith is my great-great-grandfather. I wrote about him and his family coming to America in the post of Sunday, February 8, 2015   1832: The Smidth Family Comes to America; Great Grandmother Born At Sea

There was a Henry Glass family in that part of Lake County, but I don't have a connection for William to them either. Henry is buried in Ivanhoe Cemetery; his headstone says "Confederate Soldier."  His wife was Minnie; their daughter Anna married my great uncle John Smith Snyder; she was John's second wife.

[By the way, I don't think either are related to my husband's family, but there is always the chance. My husband's Glass family came to Chicago the later part of the 1800s.]

So I will have yet another research avenue to travel through while tracking down this Glass. 

I believe this document could actually be a "land patent" because at the bottom in the signatures area are these words "...the Letters to be made PATENT..." Jacob and William would be the original owners of this tract of land. Cool! This document was under the Land Act of 1820. Many years later the Homestead Act was signed by President Lincoln in 1862.

I'm also interested in finding out where this land is in Lake County. More than likely two men purchasing 160 acres of land, it is farming acreage. I wonder if it could be where the old home and barn were located on Gilmer-Volo Rd just west of Ivanhoe a few miles. I believe it cost them $200 which was a lot of money back then (160 acres times $1.25 per acre). If they paid it in full -- which was a requirement -- how did they raise that much money?

[bold text denotes handwritten by a clerk]
Certificate No. 22.741
WHEREAS Jacob Smith and William Glass of Lake County Illinois, have deposited in the GENERAL LAND OFFICE of the United States, a Certificate of the REGISTER OF THE LAND OFFICE at Chicago whereby it appears that full payment has been made by the said Jacob Smith and William Glass, according to the provisions of the Act of Congress of the 24th of April, 1820, entitled "An Act making further provision for the sale of the Public Lands," for the East half of the North West quarter, the North West quarter of the North West quarter and the North West quarter of the North East quarter of Section Twenty in Township Fortyfour of Range Ten, in the District of Lands subject to sale at Chicago Illinois, containing one hundred and Sixty acres, according to the official plat of the survey of the said Lands, returned to the General Land Office by the SURVEYOR GENERAL, which said that has been punched by the said Jacob Smith and William Glass,

NOW KNOW YE, That the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in consideration of the Premises, and in conformity with the several acts of Congress, in such case made and provided, HAVE GIVEN AND GRANTED, and by these presents DO GIVE AND GRANT, unto the said Jacob Smith and William Glass and to their heirs, the said tract above described: TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the same, together with all the rights, privileges, immunities, and appurtenances of whatsoever nature, thereunto belonging, unto the said Jacob Smith and William Glass.

As tenants in common and not as joint tenants –

In Testimony Whereof, I, James K. Polk PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, have caused these Letters to be made PATENT, and the SEAL of the GENERAL LAND OFFICE to be hereunto affixed.

GIVEN under my hand, at the CITY OF WASHINGTON, the First day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and Forty eight and of the INDEPENDENCE OF THE UNITED STATE the Seventy Second BY THE PRESIDENT: James K. Polk
By I.K. Stephans asst Sec'y
J.H.Langhlin RECORDER of the General Land Office.
According to the Wikipedia entry for the Land Act of 1820:"The Land Act of 1820 (ch. 51, 3 Stat. 566), enacted April 24, 1820, is the United States federal law that ended the ability to purchase the United States' public domain lands on a credit or installment system over four years, as previously established. The new law became effective July 1, 1820 and required full payment at the time of purchase and registration. But to encourage more sales and make them more affordable, Congress also reduced both the minimum price (from $2.00 to $1.25 per acre ($495 to $309/km²)) and the minimum size of a standard tract (from 160 to 80 acres (647,000 to 324,000 m²)). The minimum full payment now amounted to $100, rather than $320.[1] At the time, these lands were located on the frontier within the Congress Lands of Ohio and elsewhere in the Northwest Territory and Missouri Territory, in what was then "The West"."
I have no idea if Jacob and William continued to own this property. I have not been able to trace further on my Smith/Schmidt family. I haven't been able to find when they died or where they were buried. Could they be buried on homestead property or in a cemetery? I'm trying to get some time to go out to one of the cemeteries in the area. The last time I was there, they had construction equipment and paving machines in the cemetery and I have never had a convenient time to drive back up there. Oh well, one of these days.

So, I've got much work ahead of me. I should just stop sorting the piles...that is driving me to more distractions and sidetracking. ARRGGH!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

mtDNA: What's my origin?

My “most distant ancestor” I know of is Gertrude Schmidt, born about 1801 in Darmstadt [Now part of 1871 unified Germany]. My German family research has basically just begun. I have not researched or verified further back in my mitochondrial lineage. I'm still working on the Chicago Germanic connection. 

It would be nice to know what my ethnic origins are. I chose Family Tree DNA for my cheek swabbing test and had my brother do the Y DNA test through FTDNA, also. I recently upgraded my mitochondrial (mtDNA) test to a "full sequence,” and the results are in.

My haplogroup is H13a1a1b. Even though our last BIGWILL meeting's speaker was a geneticist who explained DNA results in layman’s terms, I have no clue to what all those numbers and letters mean. So I poked around my Family Tree DNA account to find out. [BIGWILL stands for British Interest Group of Wisconsin and Illinois.]

I found this image under the My Origins tab. I think it's pretty cool. My mother had said her mother was from German stock. My 60 percent Western and Central Europe ethnic makeup confirms what she said. And the other colors follow the other two routes of my haplogroup's migration as you can see in the next image.
Family Tree DNA - from my test results.
Evidently the haplogroup H means I'm mostly European with origins coming from the northern Near East and the southern Caucasus many thousands of years ago and even before that it started somewhere in Africa. Eventually this original group migrated to Iberia and later on it landed in Europe proper as we know it today. The dark blue lines are H's migration path. It also includes R0, HV, and V. I believe the dark red box "EVE" is the absolute beginning.
Family Tree DNA - from my test results.
"Iberia" isn’t the Iberian Peninsula which includes Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar, rather it is located in the Southern Caucasus – the country Eastern Georgia. (Wikipedia <>) H13 branch seems to date before the “LGM” or last glacial maximum. Now all this confuses me, but they have charts to compare differences between my results and the RSRS*. 

I have no clue what that has to do with me either, so I moved on. The Family Tree DNA site has changed somewhat since my brother swabbed his cheeks several years ago. My account is more user friendly and now there is a whole section of tabs for My mtDNA along with Family Finder matches and origins, etc. I can also start a family tree. I haven’t decided to do that yet, but will consider it soon.

One of the tab selections I made was under mtDNA called Matches. I was shown four matches under the HVR1, HVR2, Coding region. One is a 2 and the others are 3s. At first I thought it could mean cousin level. No, it is the Genetic Distance. Each one of these people have the exact Haplogroup as I do. My #2 country is England <0.1%, the #3s respectively - Germany <0.1%, Russian Federation 0.1%, Slovakia 0.6%. My, my, I thought I was mostly German with some Bohemian.

I clicked on one of the #3 surnames and saw his profile. Every one of his ancestors come from Slovakia or Czech Republic. That’s interesting because mom did say we had a little Bohemian blood…how true? Well this might tell the tale. And her dumplings were similar to those I’ve eaten in Prague. I do enjoy a Pilsner beer once in a while, too, but let's not forget roast duck. When I was in Prague, I ordered duck for lunch and supper...if it were on the menu at breakfast, I'd eat it then, too. The Czechs sure know how to prepare duck.

Another profile I checked was someone whose family was from the western part of Germany, Ireland, and Lorraine besides U.S.A. I don’t know yet where my great-great grandmother was from, but family stories have her born in Alsace-Lorraine. How true is that? It's anyone’s guess. And then again, I felt very comfortable while in Alsace and eating the food. There was a familiarity about it, too. Hmmm....somewhat like German cuisine, but a little French, too. Does his Irish part also account for me liking soda bread?

The one #2’s profile didn’t give me any information although results showed less than 0.1 percent English. I do like peas and rashers of bacon. 

The last of the #3s ancestral surnames were all from Russia or Ukraine — Russia is a big country. I wouldn’t know where to start looking for any of her ancestral surnames. I have an unopened bottle of USSR vodka in our liquor cabinet. That has to mean something.

On to another tab…Matches Maps. I can’t reproduce this map, but it looks like I have a few exact matches with red markers placed from Louisiana to Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and around the eastern part of U.S.A.; there is a marker in Scotland, and two in Italy along with my white marker centered in Germany. I guess my mtDNA HVR1 Matches 11. Heck if I can figure it out. None of those lines ended up in the Midwest where I live and where grandmother's parents decided to settle.

I’m still confused as to what this all is supposed to tell me. Great-great grandmother Gertrude comes from somewhere in the "blue" area — my 60 percent. Now I'm very curios to pinpoint where her origins really are. I love jägerschnitzel, spätzle, kugelhopf, gherkins, and schnapps! 

What have I learned about my origin? I'm 60 percent Western and Central European, 32 percent Scandinavian, and seven percent Southern European which totals 99 percent. I don't know what the last one percent could be. Gee I wonder since I like Chinese and Thai food...does that qualify for the one percent?

Question: do you think my love for certain European ethnic foods has any meaning to where my maternal roots originated? I do and I hope mom's dumplings will point the way!

*RSRS = Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence which is a reference sequence that uses global samplings of modern human and ancient hominids samples. It is based on the likely modal haplotype of a common ancestor to modern humans and ancient groups like Neanderthals, it is supposed to show an "unbiased path" from the modern mtDNA sequence to a distant common maternal ancestor.

Source: Behar, D. M., van Oven, M., Rosset, S., Metspalu, M., Loogväli, E.-L., Silva, N. M., Kivisild, T., Torroni, A., and Villems, R. (2012). A ” copernican” reassessment of the human mitochondrial DNA tree from its root. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 90(4):675-684.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

1915 - Great-Uncle Jesse J. Porteous Farming in Montana

This post is a little added information that goes to my June 5, 2012 posting “We looked at noses, ears, eyes last Friday night! where I talked about cousin Sharon showing me an image picturing a few people, a horse, and small animals standing in front of what looks like a pile of grain. It looked like they were out in a vast wide open space, too. We wondered where it could have been taken. When you read the post, we did figure out they were standing on land in Montana. Sharon's picture was accompanied by a description note which was a godsend because without that note, cousin Sharon and I could never have identified the family.

“Vera is holding the horse Dean is in the saddle Florence stands by me the thing standing in front of Vera is our dog we have killed the little one that stands between Vera and the horse the other dog that stands under the horse belongs to Fred Hepp. The boy that done the shooting.”  Searching the name "Vera" in my family tree database, there was only one family with children Vera, [George] Dean, and Florence... the Jesse James Porteous family. I suspect it was great-uncle Jesse who wrote this identifier note. 

We were also given a little bonus…Sharon’s image reminded me of a long-time unidentified picture I had of a horse, children, and adults! We matched my image to Sharon’s, and even though the people posing were in a little different positions, it certainly was the same family with the addition of great-aunt Mabel. There are a two children missing from the picture... Charles Dean and Dorothy Marion. They may have been in school. We have no idea who took the picture either.

I believe great-uncle Jesse was seeking a good piece of land for farming and since he could get double the acreage at a reasonable price he went for it. According to “History of Montana” on Wikipedia: <Farming"By 1908, the open range that had sustained Native American tribes and government-subsidized cattle barons was pockmarked with small ranchers and struggling farmers. The revised Homestead Act of the early 1900s greatly affected the settlement of Montana. This act expanded the land that was provided by the Homestead Act of 1862 from 160 acres (0.65 km) to 320 acres (65-130 ha). When the latter act was signed by President William Taft, it also reduced the time necessary to prove up from five years to three years and permitted five months absence from the claim each year."

Great-uncle Jesse James Porteous and wife Mabel (Hubbard) married in 1896 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Seven children were born to them between May 1897 and July 1908. All were born in Libertyville, Illinois. Two died in infancy. Jesse was a carpenter. A few years ago, I found him in a 2006 newspaper article titled “100 years ago…” and he was a tax collector in 1906. I had no idea he had been a farmer until we identified those images.

Almost 20 years after they married, they were homesteaders in Montana near Billings. I don’t know when they first arrived in the state, but they were there in 1915. Cousin Sharon sent me a copy of Jesse's “claim” to land under the Act of Congress of May 20, 1862 for the land “south half of Section thirty-four in Township one north of Range twenty-one east of the Montana Meridian, Montana, containing three hundred twenty acres,”; President Woodrow Wilson was in office when Jesse laid claim/purchased his land dated 4 June 1915.

I haven't been able to pinpoint where exactly this piece of property is located, but they posted a birthday greetings (postcard below) in Park City which is almost 25 miles southwest of Billings. Of course, settlers would use the nearest P.O. and Park City was the one. On Google Maps, I-90 runs through Park City. The Yellowstone River runs not too far south of there either. In the late 1970s, much before I was doing research, I was on a trip to Alberta, Canada, and went through that area...if I had only known...

We know they were in Montana in 1916 because of a postcard with birthday greetings to Jesse’s father John in Area, Illinois (now Mundelein). Postmarked Park City, Montana, July 17 1916, to John Porteous, Area, Ills., R.F.D. [John is my great-grandfather and Sharon's great-great-grandfather.]

Dear Father this is to show that we remembered your birthday   But a little late, we are having hot weather now and awful dry to.   charlie has gone to the mountains to fish   been gone 9 days every thing looks good around here but some of the wheat is only half crop.   how is every body and every thing back there. J.J. Porteous (Charlie was about 17 years old at the time he went fishing in the mountains.)

Evidently they didn’t stay in Montana very many years. They can be found in the 1910 census for Libertyville, Illinois, and in 1920 census, McHenry County, Harvard Ward 1, Dist. 119. I looked for an agricultural state census for 1915, but had no luck. 

According to the Wikipedia article History of Montana For several years after 1918, droughts and hot winds destroyed the crops, bringing severe hardships and driving out all but the most determined of the settlers. Much of the land was acquired by stockmen, who have turned it back to grazing cattle.” This could be the reason we find the family back in Illinois in 1920.

Jesse and Mabel seemed to not stay in one place very many years at a time. I've searched and searched the 1940 census on Ancestry for a couple years now and finally today I found them in Pasadena, California, indexed as Jesse J. PORTESU. That is the strangest spelling of Porteous I have found in all my 20 some years of research!

In the mid 1950s both Jesse and Mabel died back in Illinois and are buried in the Lakeside Cemetery, Libertyville, Illinois. Jesse's memorial and headstone image are on Find A Grave.

If anyone can add to this story about Jesse in Montana, I would love to hear from you. Please e-mail to my address in my "ABOUT ME" profile on the right.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

1832: Smidth Family Comes to America; Great Grandmother Born At Sea

Was my great grandmother Wilhelmina (Smidth) Snyder really “born at sea” on 2 Aug 1831? That’s what I’ve been told, but I’m not sure. What do you think?

A little fact mentioned by my grandma Porteous in one of her stories – her mother was born at sea. I’ve often seen that written in relation to Wilhelmina as I researched my Lake County German family history. The most recent was in the story “St. Mary of the Annunciation Celebrates 150 Years” by Tom Wagner, written for the L.C.I.G.S. Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 1, July-September, 2014, under subhead PIONEERS AND FOUNDERS on page 27. For many years I’ve wondered if she really was born at sea. This sparked a desire to settle it once and for all.

My grandmother Carrie Snyder Porteous was the daughter of Wilhelmina Smidth Snyder. Grandma grew up on the farm on the Gilmer-Volo Rd. It was the original home of her grandparents Jacob and Barbara Smidth. The farm was a couple miles west of Ivanhoe, Lake County, Illinois close to Volo. They settled in Fremont Township sometime in the mid 1840s migrating from Pennsylvania.

Great grandmother Wilhelmina (Smidth) Snyder’s 1903 obituary has supplied me with many statements and facts to research and verify.

Lake County Independent newspaper - Fremont Library “100 years ago”.
March 6, 1903 --
     The funeral of Mrs. John Snyder on Friday was very largely attended in spite of the stormy weather. The sermon was preached by the pastor of the Ivanhoe church of which was a member. Will Knigge was funeral director. [and then included the obit] Willemina Smith was born on the Atlantic Ocean, Aug. 2, 1831. Arrived at Pittsburg, Penn., when three weeks old.
     Her home was in Pennsylvania until she was thirteen years of age, when she with her parents came across the country to Illinois. They settled on a farm about three miles west of Ivanhoe. Here most of her life was spent. She was united in marriage with John Snyder at Waukegan in 1850. With the exception of one year they lived on the farm which was her early home until two and one-half years ago when they moved to Rockefeller and have since made their home with the youngest daughter, Mrs. W. D. Porteious [sic]. She united with the Ivanhoe Congregational church March 5, 1865. She was always in good standing and regular in attendance until the last few years when her ill health often prevented her from attending. The deceased was a loving christian wife and mother. She died at Rockefeller, Tuesday evening Feb. 24, 1903, aged 71 years, 6 mos, 22 days. Besides her aged husband she leaves to mourn her loss a sister, Mrs. Wm. Ehninger, of Libertyville, and five children, twenty grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. There were two children who died in early childhood. The surviving are: John S. of Ivanhoe; Chas. H. of Gages Lake; Mrs. James VanPlew, of Wheaton, Ill.; George A. and Mrs. W.D. Porteous, of Rockefeller.

My aunt Violet Porteous Chandler identified the great-great grandparents Smith who are Jacob and Barbara Smidth, and great grandparents Snyder who are Wilhelmina (Smidth) and John Snyder. Both sets of images are from the family album that was in possession of my aunt. I wish the images were better, but that is the best I have. I don’t know who in the Chandler family would have the album now. I have had no luck in tracking it down.
About 20 years ago, cousin Ruth gave me some information. She said the name of the ship was Hope. It took me a long time before I found the Brig Hope and its passenger list with my Smidth family on it. Not a lot was online back then. Since this side of the family is German, I first searched the ship under the name “Hoffnung” which means “hope.” I didn't know if it was a U.S. ship or Germany's. It wasn't German. Finally I found the information online under Brig Hope.

This is what a “brig” looks like. This image can be found on a
website for pirates call Brethren Coast <>

The Jacob Smidth family immigrated to the United States, left Rotterdam, Netherlands [ indexed the departure country as Germany.] on board the Brig Hope arriving at the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, sometime in July or August 1832. The date was indexed as July 7, 1832. This conflicted with the birth date I was given of 2 Aug 1831. The July date would have made her born on land, possibly Massachusetts soil.

Looking at the first image below, there are three passenger lists in it. The top is for the ship George Porter which arrived New Bedford on “July 7” and the middle list is ship South Carolina, arrived New Bedford on “July 11.” The last passenger list is for the Brig Hope, but the bottom of the sheet, where the arrival date should be, is cut off, thus on first look, I don't know what the entry date is. It is clear Ancestry’s indexer just took the top date as being for all three lists. The family’s arrival could have been in early August since it seems the dates run sequential.

The Smidth family [of four] is shown on the manifest as three adults and one child. Jacob is 28 and Barbara 32. Jacob is a vintner as is the fourth entry, Johan George Werner age 66. All four are from the same “Country to which they belong” which is Württemberg. [Johan George Werner I’m sure is Barbara’s father. He is shown with the family on the 1850 census.] There’s an eight-year-old child named Fredericka. I believe she is their daughter, but can’t verify as I haven’t researched in Germany yet. You would think Wilhelmina would be listed, but there is no mention of a baby or infant. Was she with them upon disembarking the ship in New Bedford?

Cousin Ruth, who has since passed away, wrote 2 Aug 1831 as the “at-sea" birthdate for g-grandmother Wilhelmina. Clearly this year is not correct since the ship arrived in 1832. If 1831 the actual date, that would mean the Brig Hope was sailing for over a year before it reached New Bedford, Mass., sometime after 11 July 1832. That is crazy. I needed to find the bottom of this passenger list to prove the arrival date.

I searched online some more for the ship, hoping the actual arrival date would be disclosed. I found a transcription on the “Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild” website for the Brig Hope which gives the date of arrival as 2 Aug 1832. [ISTGTM website]. Having that date means there really is a bottom to that image. How else would the transcriber get the arrival date?

Can I be sure of the date? The next thing I did was to find the closest place which holds the microfilm containing the full image. I googled a little more and found it to be up in Madison, Wisconsin. An easy drive, but not in this unpredictable February weather. So I asked a friend of mine who lives up there if he could get me a digital image of the complete passenger list. My family history colleague volunteers at the Wisconsin Historical Society where the film was housed. He was the right source to contact and with luck on my side, he came to my rescue by finding the full passenger list and sent me the following. The circle on the top is the Jacob Smidth family, and the bottom circle is the rest of the page which shows the actual arrival date as “New Bedford, 2 Aug 1832 signed Jno Howland Jr.” [I combined two images.]

Bottom circled New Bedford August 2 1832 – Signed Jno Howland Jr.  

If the ship arrived on 2 Aug 1832, and Wilhelmina’s birthday is 2 Aug 1832, was Wilhelmina really born “at sea?” Was she born at the dock? If she were born on board ship, why wouldn’t she be listed on the passenger list? Could Wilhelmina have been born prior to coming into port and was just not put on the list?

There’s approximately 5572 km from the Netherlands to Massachusetts. At the speed of about 20 km/h that a “brig” could travel— depending on conditions, the approximate length of time of sailing is around two weeks. Therefore, Brig Hope probably left Rotterdam about the middle of July. Therefore, Wilhelmina’s birth could have a July date! More than likely, whoever originally gave the date just picked the arrival date as Wilhelmina’s birthday. Did dates really matter that much back then? I don’t think I will ever know her exact birth date unless an unknown descendent has the family bible with an entry to share.

[additional information from New England Historic Genealogical Society's "NEHGS Ask-a Genealogist" -- 17 Feb 2015]
In addition to a transcription of the passenger list [from the ISTG], you will find that the transcriber has also included a number of notes, including a death of someone who was on the ship. There are no mentions of a birth on board the ship. If Wilhelmina was born in Württemberg, then she would at least have been listed with the mother as “and infant,” if indeed Jacob and Barbara Smidth are her parents. Additionally, in the notes by the transcriber, it does state that this was a copied list, that the signature of Jno. Howland Jr. was not a true signature. So it is possible that information did not make it from the original list.
 [This will take more time to uncover.]

Like I said earlier, I’ve seen this reference of born at sea many times. Eventually it shows up in a census? From reading Wilhelmina’s obituary, it said the family lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 13 years prior to coming to Lake County. I’ve looked for an 1840 census for Jacob Smidth in Allegheny county where Pittsburg is situated, but there are so many heads of family by that name it is hard to pick out mine. Besides, there are only tick marks denoting members of the family which makes it even harder to determine who’s who. I found a couple families who fit closely, but had too many male children too old to be my Smidths.

The first census I found with no tick marks with a little more information was the 1850 census for the Town of  Fremont, Lake County, Illinois, enumerated on 5 Dec., with the number 148 written in hand in the upper lefthand corner

This is my Smidth family. I’m not worried about the spelling differences — Smith for Smidth; Mena for Wilhelmina, etc., genealogists expect it. The country “Germany” as we know it today was not unified until early 1870s, but that doesn’t matter either because I’m pretty sure the place of birth is the germanic state of Württemberg. What did I find interesting, Wilhelmina’s age is shown as 19. Again, age discrepancies are common, and if you do the math, nineteen years from 1850 is 1831 even though we know the ship’s arrival date is 1832 — it’s close enough. It also shows she was born in Penn. That’s interesting... Could whoever told the enumerator be mistaken about Wilhelmina’s birth place? Even though this is also common occurrence, it does cause a little confusion which hopefully will be sorted out with more research.

The Smidth family, cousin Ruth said, lived in the Pittsburg [area] for over 10 years before coming to Illinois about 1845 based on information in the obituary. That would satisfy Hannah’s birthplace as Penn. and being shown as 12 years old which puts her birth date about 1838 well after their arrival in the U.S. and before their arrival in Lake County. [Johan] George Warner, 85, is listed as farmer, born Germany. I would suspect he is Barbara’s father. Fredericka is not shown in the family unit. Did she marry prior to this census? She would have been about 26 years old in 1850. Maybe she died prior to moving to Illinois? Or since she was only eight years old in 1832, was she just traveling with the Smidths, but belonged in another family already in the U.S.?

When searching censuses on, I always check a couple images before and after the one I need just to see if there are relatives living close by.  Well, as suspected I found a Snyder couple at the bottom of the previous page with #147 written on lefthand side, and enumerated 4 Dec. Who do you suppose was at the bottom of the census page…my grandma’s parents — the newlyweds Wilhelmina and John Snyder! 

Wilhelmina enumerated twice — what gives? The enumerator is the same person on both pages, wouldn’t you think he’d notice? The “Married within the year” column wasn’t checked on either page. I know they were married by then, too.

John and Wilhelmina were married in Lake County, Illinois, 22 September 1850. This can be found online at the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900. The date on the 1850 census page is 4 Dec 1850. They are newlyweds of about two months. There is no other explanation for Wilhelmina being listed twice other than she may have been visiting her parents that next day. Probably the enumerator just didn’t pay attention even though his name was on both pages. Here on this page image, Wilhelmina (spelled Wilmina) is shown born in “Penn,” but is now shown as age 17! Don’t you just love it?

The 1860 Federal census for the Town of Fremont shows Wilhelmina (Mena) 37, again born in “Penn.” I know the names and spellings can change from document to document and we can see it here because husband John is now Jacob! Also dates and ages don’t seem to mean much seeing Mina was both 17 and 19 in 1850 and is now 37 in 1860 when she should be age 27.

The names of three children who had died young [see 1900 census later on]; this was new information for me. By now, Mina’s sister Hannah married Wilhelm Ehninger and is listed in the family above the Snyders; they are neighbors. I see a Jacob Smith above the Ehninger’s, he could be Mina’s father, but the woman listed — Ann — could that be Barbara or a new wife? I did a quick search and found an Anna Barbara. It is conceivable Barbara is now going by her first name. [Here’s another research opportunity because I haven’t found the vitals on Mina’s parents yet.] Three times great grandfather George isn’t listed with the family. Did he pass away? I have no vital information on him either.

The 1870 Federal census for Fremont shows Mina 37 [finally the right age for birthdate given earlier], but now born in Germany! My grandmother Carrie is nine months old. Wilhelmina’s mother Barbary [Barbara] is living with them so great grandfather Jacob has passed sometime after 1860 census. The Ehningers are still in the next farm over. I think John and Wilhelmina have moved to the original Smidth house, based on the position of family entries in the 1860 census. According to Wilhelmina’s obituary, she and John moved into her “earlier home” after a year of marriage. This is the house grandma Carrie grew up in. I believe it is still standing. There is another Smith family below the Ehningers, but I have no idea who they are. 

Next, the 1880 Federal census for Fremont shows Wilmina [Wilhelmina] 64, born in Germany and her parents both born Württemberg. Shouldn’t she be 47? Grandma Carrie is 11 years old and great-great grandmother Barbara is 82 and is living with daughter Anna [Hannah] Ehninger on the next farm over.

Since there is no 1890 census, the last census we find Wilhelmina on is the 1900 Federal census for Fremont Township which shows her and John, 75, with son George, 38. On this census she is entered as born “At Sea” and her birthday is shown as Aug 1832. She is shown as 67 years old [close enough], married 49 years, with eight children being born alive and five children still living. The three who died young were Jacob, Ann, and Hannah. [Here is another research opportunity.]

Well, I know Wilhelmina was born in 1832 not 1831. Other than that, I think I’m back at square one. What do you think?

NOTE: I have hardly begun researching this family. I had started many years ago, but got discouraged not knowing how to go about looking for my Germanic families' history. There is so much to learn and I am sorry I didn't continue a long time ago.
Looking at the headstone image: Wilhelmina (1832-1903) is buried alongside her husband John (1815-1908) in the Ivanhoe Cemetery [arrow on far left]. Their son George A. who died 1930 is buried in the family plot, too. The far right two arrows show where their two of the three young children Jacob and Ann who died before the 1870 census [see 1860 census image]. I have no information on their third child, daughter Hannah, yet. Looks like there is enough room for a grave between George and the child’s headstones.