Saturday, June 30, 2012

Over 130 years later, the 42-year-old fib is revealed!

The following is, in part, one of my posts on the Rootsweb mail list for Lincolnshire 
from Feb. 6, 2011 – theme for that month was about fibbing or white lies. 
Some changes were made and images have been added to "fit" with my blog.

MY STORY... finding the truth reveals a little "fibbing" 

It all started when I received a Kansas death notice for my great grandfather John [PORTUS] PORTEOUS and I compared it to his Illinois death notice I already had. There was a conflict of information I was haunted with for quite a while before I unraveled the mystery.

John died in Garfield, Kansas in 1925 of food poisoning, but he lived in Lake County, Illinois. There were two things I picked up on immediately in those newspaper clips that sure got my attention: Kansas death notice: "died at home of his brother" and Illinois death notice: "While visiting at the home of his nephew..." 

Well? Which is it? Brother or Nephew? 


[In Lincolnshire, England] John's only [known] sibling Jane [born 1844 - Haltham] gave birth to an illegitimate son John William Marshall PORTAS in 1861 - Tumby, baptized 1862 Kirkby on Bain. She was 17 years old.

The 1871 UK census, shows John's sister Jane as 26 yrs. old and nephew William Marshall  was 8, living with John's and her parents [William] Dennis and Elizabeth PORTER [PORTAS] in Tumby. John's nephew is listed as "grandson." [Eventhough the name is spelled with an "er" instead of an "as" this is my family.]

1871 UK Census - Tumby, Lincolnshire, England

In 1875 John's parents, sister, and nephew immigrated to Illinois five years after John and his family settled in Lake County. The ship, SS Bothnia, manifest shows Jane as 30 and her son is 14. [Name was indexed as PORTEENS. Took me a longer than I wanted to find them. Still my family.]

SS Bothnia manifest 1875 arrived Port of New York

Sometime around 1878 [earliest known deed date], the PORTAS family has left Illinois* and believed to have settled in Garfield, Kansas, making a new life for themselves. Soon after, they owned land and livestock; they joined a community church, and were becoming prosperous, up-standing citizens. Young William is being educated and will one day become a bank president in town. 

Two years after they came to Garfield, the 1880 US census is enumerated: Wm D "head";  Elizabeth "wife"; Jane, "daughter" age 25 [Hmmm...5 years younger than she was on the manifest 5 years prior and she's now 12 yrs younger than she should be! Besides that, she is now 5 years older than her son! Is this a mathematical mistake? I think not.]; William is 18 and listed as "son" – no longer "grandson!" Interesting, this makes him the brother to Jane and John! Why would WD & E say William was their son? I can only speculate. [I don't know exactly when the spelling of the family name changed to PORTEOUS. On the 1880 census it was spelled PORTENS or PORTEUS.]

1880 Federal Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas
I believe that Jane's reputation was at stake and that was the main reason they "fibbed" about her age and being young William's sister. Who would know any different in Kansas? Who would tell on them? The only records were back in England. In those days, I don't think the people of Garfield, if they knew, would have accepted Jane for having an "illegitimate" child. After all, Garfield was a very small farm town and people did talk, you was bad enough that jane, as old as she was, wasn't married. [Jane never did marry.] It wasn't unusual for grandparents to "adopt" or "say" their grandchild was their son or daughter either. There was no formal adoption process either.

Since there isn't an 1890 Federal Census, we don't know how old she was shown, but I would think it would have been 35 which is consistent with the every-ten-years advancement of age.

The 1900 census shows us the PORTAS name is now spelled PORTIUS; Elizabeth is no longer with the family [she died in 1886]; Jane is now "Jennie" age 42 [looks changed from 32?]; William M. is now William J. age 37. Bert is adopted son and John Vampew is boarder. JV is actually my great great uncle, my great grandmother Mary Ann's brother.

1900 Federal Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas.

The 1910 census shows that father William is not listed [he died in 1902]. Young William is now the "head" of household at 49. Jennie is listed as "Sister" at age 54 and great-great uncle John is still there in the household. Bert is no longer living in Garfield [found on the Tulsa census]. Oh and the surname is now spelled PORTEOUS.

1910 Federal Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas.

On the US census for 1920, Will is 58, Jennie "sister" 64. This was enumerated not long before she died. Even though we know ages can fluctuate, on all censuses through 1920s, her age stayed constant at the proper 10-year intervals based on the 1880 age reported.

1920 Federal Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas. Enumerated 22 Jan 1920. 
It wasn't until Jane [aka: Jennie] passed away 9 Mar 1920, a couple months after the census enumerated, that she came of age!

Jane's death notice: "Miss Jennie Porteous died at the home of her brother, Wm. Porteous, at Garfield, Tuesday at midnight, aged 75 years..." – I would say that is close enough since it only took 42 years! 


The mystery of John's two death notices: both newspaper items were right 

The whole time they lived in Garfield, John's sister Jane and her son William M. were thought of as his brother and sister, but to anyone in Lake County, Illinois [800-plus miles away] they were John's sister and nephew. 

Little did they know then, that 135-plus years later a descendent would find out their little secret!

*I'm trying to establish if 1878 is when they actually left Illinois. The 1885 Kansas population census asks "Where from to Ks-" William D. answered "Illinois." They arrived in New York 1875, traveled to Illinois, and must have stayed with John and Mary Ann a couple years until they migrated to Kansas. I have no clue as to where to look being the time period is between census. 

1885 Kansas Population Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas

Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't rock the boat...find it!

According to the letter in my previous post, John and Mary Ann Porteous emigrated from Lincolnshire, England sailing to America and eventually settling in Lake County, Illinois, April 19, 1870, aboard the mail steam ship SS Malta

A drawing of the SS Malta, found on [].
She was a passenger cargo vessel, which was launched 1865 and
was found wrecked in 1889 off Cape Cornwall, near Lands End, England. 

[Shipping Times, Clydebuilt database - ]

Knowing this back in the 1990s when my brother gave me a copy of a copy of that original letter, it wasn't easy to find the passenger list. I was new to genealogy and internet searching. At the time, there wasn't much online or maybe I just didn't know where to go or how to search the limited sites. Today, and other such sites which carry the census and ships lists make the job ever so easy.

Anyway, I was looking for John PORTUS, then PORTEOUS; Malta; 1870. I didn't realize I could narrow my search. After a few failed searches, I just put it aside in frustration and didn't pick it up again for quite awhile. 

Much later, through some creative search criteria on a more advanced, I finally found my great grandparents family. I didn't expect the family listing to be so different from what I knew! Even though, they were my family! 

I felt so good finding this document. I just sat back and admired it. I just substantiated the information on the letter! It was tangible. It all added up! Wow!

Even though their surname was written on the manifest as PORTEUS, they were indexed on as PORSENS – Jno Porteus 28, M.A. 28, Georgina 4, Wm 3, and Jno (Infant).

SS Malta sailed from Liverpool and arrived New York on 3 May 1870. This manifest was delivered by Robert McDowall to the Collector of the Customns of the Collection District of New York. Source Citation: Year: 1870; Arrival: New York; Microfilm Serial: M237; Microfilm Roll: M237_326; Line: 57; List Number: 336 
The first page gives general information about the ship, its arrival place and date, where it sailed from, etc. 

The voyage took 16 days – from April 19 to May 3. I’m not sure it was a terrific voyage since the family was booked in steerage. 

My family was found on the second page. They are listed below the center fold about 12 lines where you see four check marks together. I searched the rest of the manifest for any other familiar Lincolnshire families, but none were found.


The family arrived at Port of New York which was Castle Gardens prior to Ellis Island. They probably took a train to Chicago and from there came out to Lake County to settle close to “Hunckle” [ John] and “Aunt” [Matilda] who arranged a place to for them to live until they were “on their feet” and could buy their own land.

John, Mary Ann, and their three children Georgiana, William Dennis (my grandfather), and John Henry made it to Fremont Township just in time for the 1870 census. Finding them in the census was also a task – looking page by page, line for line. Later I found them indexed as PORTOS. I suspect it was the heavy rural Lincolnshire accent that explains the different surname spelling. 

By the end of 1870, infant son John Henry, had died. The1880 census shows four more children were born into the family: Jesse J., Alfred, David, and Lillian. Of these four, only Jesse J. would live to adulthood. There would be two more sons born: Charles D. in 1883 and Benjamin F. in 1885. Ann Elizabeth, John and Mary Ann’s first born, died in 1864, and was buried in St. Michael's churchyard in Coningsby, Lincolnshire six years before the family emigrated.

In 1875, John’s parents William & Elizabeth immigrated to America. With them came John’s sister Jane (Jennie) and nephew William M. They would move on to settle in Garfield, Kansas. Three of Mary Ann’s brothers, John, James, and Henry Vamplew, followed several years later.

John & Mary Ann eventually bought land in Lake County, Ill. west of Diamond Lake and also land in Kansas south of Garfield along the Santa Fe Trail.

Looking back on the early research, I can say I have learned a couple things. Spellings aren't always what you expect, be conscious of variations. The spelling PORTEOUS was first seen as my surname in Illinois after 1870. In England the most common family surname spelling was PORTAS, John spelled his surname in that letter as PORTUS. 

Expect the unexpected while looking for family history.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I touched the original letter and got goose bumps, too!

I've got to say, I had a thrilling day yesterday. My cousin Sharon and I met and had lunch with a distant cousin (kind of the thread-on-the-shirt-tail cousin) Jim. This was the first time either of us had met Jim. We have been trying for a long time to get all three of us free on the same day. So Friday, May 16 was it.

Sharon and I drove to Jim's place. We talked family connections. We went to lunch and talked family connections. Came back to his cottage at the senior complex to look at pictures, letters, and talk family connections. Yep! We did it all! What a wonderful way to spend a hot, early summer day!

Sharon asked Jim questions about who belonged to who. She brought a giant binder with many pictures we couldn't identify a couple weeks ago. He helped with a few. That was better than none at all. While they did that, I got my digital camera out and took shots of pictures and letters. I spent a good part of today going over those images, cropping, and enhancing for better presentation. I then sent emails off to Sharon with the fixed images attached.

In between the conversation Sharon was having, I asked about Mundelein and Libertyville and the ROUSE family connection to Sharon's SMALL and my PORTEOUS families. Jim knew we were connected somehow, but hadn't done much on collateral families. He had concentrated on the Rouse and RAY families. As much as one can't do them all. I don't know how much anyone would remember of these conversations, but we will try our best.


My great grandparents John and Mary Ann (Vamplew) Porteous are Sharon's great-great grandparents. Her great grandmother Georgiana is my grandfather William D.'s sister. So how are we connected to the Rouses? Mary Ann's mother is Anne Rouse who married James VAMPLEW in 1838, Kirkby on Bain, Lincolnshire, England. 

Anne is sister to John Rouse who was one of the early settlers in Holcomb, Lake County, Illinois (now Mundelein). He was instrumental in coaxing John and Mary Ann to immigrate to America and settle in the same town. By 1870, John and Mary Ann and their three children: Georgiana, Willie, and John Henry, were listed on the Fremont Township Federal Census. 

Jim is connected through the Gordon Milton Ray family who were also an early family in town, and he married Harriet Elizabeth, one of John Rouse's daughters.

"Hunckle" John and Aunt Matilda (Proctor) Rouse


I was a newbie at family history in any organized fashion back about 20 years ago. As I was stumbling along trying to make sense of all the information I had, for some reason I didn't know where John and Mary Ann were from. I knew they were from England, but didn't know any more. Of all the things brother John gave me to look over when I started, there was a copy of a copy of a letter that John & Mary Ann had sent to "Hunckle and Aunt." I must not have paid too much attention to it – I was new and some stuff didn't matter. I know better now!

I'd talk some things over with brother John and he would say I should "read the letter" but never said why. Over and over, he'd say "read the letter."  Finally I got the letter out, scanned it and started cleaning it up in photoshop. A copy of a copy needed cleaning. The blotches were covering up some of the words and I couldn't read them properly. As I'm "cleaning" it up, words started popping out at me! More and more words! This letter was the letter great grandfather John wrote to "Hunckle and Aunt" (John and Matilda Rouse) about when they were sailing to America and what ship they would be on; talks about where they were staying since they had been packed up.


Yesterday, almost 20 years after brother John gave me that letter did I finally get to see the original! It gave me goose bumps and I had a hard time containing my excitement. It tells me where the letter was written; dated April 12, just seven days before they set sail! Another thing this letter tells me – my great grandfather knew how to read and write. He wrote in phonetic spellings which gives me a sense of how they talked. This was rural England talk. Fantastic! Made my day . . .

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yellow bowl and grandma's pies

Did you ever clean out a cabinet and come across something that reminded you of something or someone? The feeling I got was like that comfort food when I was a kid. Like when I'd come home from school and before I entered the house, the smell of cookies baking filled my senses. It just filled me with good thoughts.

As I turned my carousel shelf in the corner of my kitchen cabinets, I found the yellow Fiesta bowl in which I learned to make pie crust. I knew I had the bowl, but never really thought much of it until I saw it last week.

Grandma's eyes weren't very good for seeing by the time I was old enough to learn her magic. Even so, she still baked three things better than any person I knew – cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, molasses cookies, and pies! 

I would gather what we needed – lard brick, flour, cold water, salt, and the yellow bowl... no spoon, no measuring cups or measuring spoons. Grandma didn't need anything else. She had made so many pies in 65 years, she could show her 10-year-old granddaughter how to make pies practically with her eyes closed in 1955. 

I stood next to her at the bowl. I just watched. Her aging, thin hands plunged into the flour container and one by one, she would put a hand full of flour into the bowl, then twirl her fingers in the flour as if to measure how much was there. When she was satisfied she had the right amount for a two-crust pie, grandma would add some salt, just the right amount – always. We had a brick of lard because grandma knew how much to cut off to crumble with the flour. She would say, if we didn't put in enough lard, we can add more, but if we put too much in, we will just add more flour. Simple as long as we didn't add the water. 

Grandma taught me how the combined lard and flour should feel before adding the water. In no time the dough would be formed and we covered it with wax paper and put it in the pantry where it would stay cool before we rolled it out.

In the mean time, the apples were peeled and prepared for the filling. The pie dough came out of the pantry and I got out the bread board (which is another treasure of mine). The rolling pin was very old and heavy. It was too big for me to handle, but grandma handled it skillfully, determined to get the dough just the right thickness and she did.

How she ever got the dough into the pan without it cracking is beyond me, but she did – every time! The filling went in: first some flour on the bottom, next sliced apples, sprinkle cinnamon & sugar, butter pieces dotted the top of the filling. Place the top crust and slit the top so steam can escape. Even though Grandma couldn't see that well, she would take up the paring knife and made a wonderful wheat stalk pattern. To this day some 50 plus years later, I still can't make that pattern as she had done.

The oven was hot and the pie went in. No timer was set. Grandma knew when it would be time to take it out. She just knew.

Her pies were always perfect! I still can't make many pies like grandma did even though I learned from the expert. My pies turn out good, but they never taste like hers. 

Lately, when I do make a pie, I get lazy and use the pre-made crust from ALDI's and I set a timer. One of these days, I should try my hand at grandma's way again. Or maybe just let my grandson do it! That sure looks like one of grandma's!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

We looked at noses, ears, eyes last Friday night!

I haven't written anything in the last week or so because I was learning Microsoft Powerpoint for my presentation out at cousin Sharon's genealogical society last Saturday. The big switch from one platform to the other was necessary in case my MacBook hookup or program didn't work. I needed a "Plan B" – use my cousin's PC laptop at the June meeting.

Learning Powerpoint wasn't easy but I did get the slide show done in time for my husband and I to drive out to northwestern Illinois the day before the presentation. I was excited to get out to Sharon's, not because of the presentation the next day, but because Sharon had a boat load of family pictures we have been planning to look through and identify.

We banished the husbands to the kitchen. 

When we got to her house, Sharon had the dining room table all ready for our project. We started right in. We compared pictures; looked at foreheads, ears, eyebrows, mouths, eyes, mustaches, beards, necks... clothes, sleeves, collars, lapels. We check the Photo Detective Maureen Taylor's book for clues of time periods through clothing.

"These are the same eyes." 
"Look at his forehead. I think we have the same person." 
"No. No. His ears are too flat compared to this guy's." 
"Check out this hairdo, it sure looks the same as that lady with the round glasses." 
Those were some of the things heard by Bob and Gil out in the kitchen. Occasionally they tried to crash our photo party, but we turned them away like we would have if we were young girls being bothered by "the boys!"

Well, long around 11:30 we decided to call it quits. We did identify quite a few, but not as many as we would have liked. Some were easy because I've seen many of them in my cache of photos. There is a particular look our ancestors had that was easy to say "That's a Porteous!" "That's a Rouse!" – but the question always came about "Which one?" Most were set aside, unidentified waiting for next time. We can anticipate more discoveries as our research progresses, and more people in those other photos will get names. 

We must have looked at a hundred pictures – none labeled but one! 

It was astonishing to find one image had a note on the back explaining who the people were! We couldn't see any faces of the people in the picture, so we were lucky having the note.

"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."

We checked our family tree programs and can verify these are Porteous people because of their names: "me" is Jesse with daughters Vera and Florence, and son Dean (George). I think the "little one" is a calf, but could be another dog. Hard to tell even when we scanned the image at high resolution. What is that big mound in back of them and where were they? 


I believe that mound is grain of some sort possibly wheat. Looks like they are in a state with big wide open spaces. Sharon and I knew Jesse was "of California"  around 1925 when his father John died from John's death notice in Garfield, Kansas newspaper. 

Was this picture taken in California? How did we figure out they were somewhere else and approximate the year? Here's how we thought this out:

Dean is in the saddle - he is the youngest of the three children as we can see by the sizes of the three. Dean was born 1908. From the looks of him, he probably was about six or seven years old. Vera is five years older than Dean, makes her about 12. Florence was two years older than Dean which would make her about 9 or 10. I think the size of the kids in the picture coincides with the ages they look like in the picture.

Surprising, this picture helped me identify one I had no clue as to who they were. Now I know! Great Aunt Mabel is included in this picture below. Yippee!

Now that we have established the ages we were satisfied we had the right family. This is my great uncle Jesse James and great aunt Mabel (Hubbard) Porteous' family.

So where was this picture taken? 

Well, Sharon remembered she had a postcard from Jesse to his father on his birthday. It is postmarked Park City, Montana July 17 1916. Park City is in a valley about 25 miles west of Billings. The postcard was wishing "Father" (John) a happy birthday. Jesse mentioned Charlie (older son) "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." 

Maybe that isn't a grain mound but an earth formation that's covered with grass since the wheat was "half crop." Or, if that is a "half crop" mound of grain, what would the full crop look like? I can only imagine.

What have we concluded? 

The postcard dated 1916... Dean would have been 8, Florence 11, Vera 13...! I think it is safe to say Montana is where they took this picture. I have not found the family in any census in Montana. They were there in-between the federal census. I haven't looked yet for state census. That is another journey.

Jesse and family were in McHenry County, Illinois for the 1920 census. Maybe the wheat crop failed and they had to come back home.

Thanks Sharon for an enjoyable evening of looking at noses, ears, eyes...

Oh! One last question...

Is that a calf or a doggie under the horses head? Sure looks like a calf!