Wednesday, December 30, 2015

They Called Him Boom-Boom!

I've been thinking about the new year's celebrations which will take place around here. There will be a lot of noise at the stroke of midnight in our neighborhood. Horns will be blowed. Clappers will be shaken. Backyard fireworks will burst and bang.

Our family celebrated, too. My brother's birthday was New Year's Eve and New Year's Day was my father's. We'd look forward to the noise on the eve and the freshly killed pheasant dinner  dad would bring home the next day. If dad was lucky and got a rabbit, we would also have Hasenpfeffer that grandma would make. Oh, those were the days.

From what I remember of one time during my childhood back in the '50s when, come December 31 evening, my father resurrected the family New Year's noise maker from the dark reaches of our basement. Dad would empty a few shotgun shells and wad up some paper methodically shoving both down the barrel of a small, cast iron cannon not much bigger than a foot long. I don’t know where we got the cannon, but it was fairly old and possibly was used to scare birds out of the fields — who knows, it could have been my grandfather’s for the matter. Anyway, this small cannon would be readied to be set off at midnight on New Year’s Eve…simultaneously my dad would aim his shotgun up in the air and fire it as the cannon erupted its round! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! And we would all cheer “Happy New Year!”; the cannon got cleaned and put away, and that would be the end of our celebration that night, but not the end to the future firing of the cannon.

For years the cannon was only shot off to bring in the New Year, but one summer’s night it was another story...

My brother took the cannon into the backyard, and placed it on the driveway not too far from the house. It was very dark out; the only light was from the bug light next to the backdoor and a little light casting down from the back kitchen window where I was sitting to watch. We had a big backyard and an empty school yard in back of us, too. There was plenty of space to shoot off the cannon. Shooting off this cannon wasn’t dangerous, but you still had to be careful. 

Where did my brother get the gunpowder? It could have been made from a chemistry set he got for Christmas one year, or with my dad being a hunter, he could have emptied some shotgun shells as dad has done previously. There were no cannon balls or anything like that being loaded into the cannon. The most dangerous projectile coming out of this cannon were wads of wet fabric balls. Gunpowder and wet fabric balls was a combination not to be reckoned with when the fuse was lit and it sizzled down to the explosive.

It was the loudest and most powerful percussion of any shot felt yet! My brother, with a startled look on his face, quickly took the cannon back into the house and hid it. Dad came out the house to the back yard as backup — just incase there was any trouble. I guess they both knew what would happen next. A few minutes later a squad car came down our driveway to the back of the house. The officer leaned out the window and said to my dad... What the #^%$#^$%!!! Your neighbor up the street called us about a noise that almost shook him out of bed. He said Boom-Boom was at it again! The policeman didn’t look angry at all, I think he was trying to not laugh. My dad and brother were warned not to do any more of "that"; the policeman didn’t confiscate anything — besides he never saw the cannon that night to take it away.

From that night on, my brother was dubbed Boom-Boom by a few of our neighbors. Curiosity must have gotten to that policeman, too, because sometime later I saw him out in the backyard with my dad checking out the cannon…and the policeman was laughing! He knew there was always something happening in our backyard that was just pure fun. 

My brother would live to dream up more capers in our backyard of which there were many crazy goings on over the years.

Happy new year! 
Hope 2016 brings good health and prosperity to everyone!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Crossing The Pond: A Stadt in Württemberg Yields Grandma's Maternal Ancestors

Saturday night’s were special to me as a very little girl, because I could sleep with my grandma and listen to her family stories. I loved those times when I would crawl into her bed and snuggle under the pink and cream-woven cotton blanket and she would talk about her parents and grandparents who in the early 1840s settled in Fremont Township, Lake County, Illinois. She would talk about the turkeys roosting in the trees and the snapping turtles coming out of the pond down the hill from her house. And of course in the winter the snow piled so high she could climb out her upstairs bedroom window and slide down the snow hill. 

These were my dad’s maternal German families. In February, I wrote a blog about the claim grandma's mother being born at sea: “1832: The Smith Family Comes to America; Great Grandmother Born At Sea

Grandma also talked about her grandparents coming from Germany to America. I don't remember particulars, but do I remember laughing at the cities named Frankfurt and Hamburg. Aren't those places where hot dogs and hamburgers came from? I didn’t think about any connection of a place my ancestors could have come from. Now it’s starting to make a little more sense, but how does it fit into my family story? Where exactly did they come from? I think it is time I found out, but where to start?

Both sides of grandma's family – the SNYDERs and SMITHs came to Lake County, Illinois, between 1840 and 1850. Grandma said SMITH wasn't really the correct spelling and she pronounced it Smidth or something like that. She also mentioned the name Johann was actually "John" in German, but I thought she was talking about my brother John so I started calling him Johann.

I revisited all the notes and documents I accumulated over the years and reviewed all I knew about my fraternal grandparents. It didn't take long because I really didn't have much at all – a scant few pieces. 

I found the "Smith"s on the 1850 Federal Census for Fremont, Lake County, Illinois. The "place of birth" column just shows “Germany” which doesn’t pinpoint a region or a town for that matter. So a lot of good the census is to produce a place name or area. I want to know in what parish the records are kept. My great grandfather's name is just Jacob on this census. What happened to Johann?

1850 Federal Census for the Township of Fremont, Lake County, Illinois.
Shown on a February blog posting
1832: The Smith Family Comes to America; Great Grandmother Born At Sea
On this ship list (below) he is also Jacob, but his surname is now spelled SMIDTH. We know spelling doesn't count. As I go along in my research it will change again.

Portion of the ship Hope's 1832 Passenger List. 
Shown on a February blog posting
1832: The Smith Family Comes to America; Great Grandmother Born At Sea
From the 1832 ship passenger list (above), I’ve narrowed their origin place name down to the Duchy of Württemberg found in the "where from column" to the far right of grandma’s maternal grandfather Jacob Smidth. I knew this was my family because it matches with persons listed on the 1850 census – Jacob, Barbara, and (Johan) George Werner. Jacob is 28 in 1832 and 18 years later he is 47. George is 66 in 1832 and 85 in 1850.

I know next to nothing how to research in Germany. I really need a break or some luck. Maybe serendipity will help, too. The few years I’ve dabbled in German research, finding no new clues and not getting any breaks. This summer I finally got one hint which was the closest I got to the Stadt (town) of my grandmother’s maternal ancestors! It came from some notes which accumulated in an old folder on my computer. 

Many years ago I had inquired about my great-great grandparents and the reply was they were married in 1830 in Beutelsbach, Germany. At that time I was so involved in my English side, I really didn’t take the time to root out any of my germanic ancestors, let alone in Germany! I wrote a note about it in my tree program under my grandma's name and forgot about it.

Last August a friend and I went to a LDS family history center in Schaumburg, Ill.; I resurrected my scant information just for the occasion including that bit of information about Beutelsbach. At the FHC I was able to search on for much more than I could at home. I didn’t think I would get anywhere; I was just keeping my friend company while she looked for her German ancestors. So I casually typed in "Barbara Werner” – my great-great grandma; her marriage to Johann Jacob Schmid came up. The town or stadt was Beutelsbach, Jagstkreis, Württemberg, Germany. Ah ha! That is what was in my old notes. Could this be confirmation?

With that find, I decided to wait and to do more research in September when I was at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah. I would take a couple days at the end of my class on England to brave it on the International floor of the FHL. All those years of researching on B2 the British Isles floor I never wanted to venture out of my comfort zone and research on B1 the International floor. 

This year’s trip was a little different as I explained some of it in the Oct. 3 blog post. I was out there about 9 days for genealogy – five of those were in class on British Isles research, two Sundays no research, one and a half travel days, and the remaining two days plus a few hours before the shuttle to the airport I planned to spend on my new adventure in Germany on B1. 

My priority was to find the births and marriage for my great-great grandparents. I wasn’t looking for much more than that to take home. Since I wasn't familiar with research in Germany, I asked for help even though I was somewhat prepared with my scant bit of information and the new find. I knew who I was looking for, but didn’t know how to get into the German stuff held in the FHL. It is a little different – yet the same – the mechanics are the same but some of the records are different. Oh the information my helper came up with was amazing. Her tutoring paid off, so after awhile, she was confident enough to release me onto my own.

I used my camera and took pictures of the index pages on the computer screen as I cruised through’s database. That worked on their computers, but later when I got on my laptop, I could "clip" the images of the indexes using Evernote. I was feeling very confident I was going to find that marriage record and maybe a little more to boot. And I did! 

I was like a kid in the candy store with $10 to spend – I’ll take one of these, and one of those, oh, oh, and I’ll take that one, too! The names and records I found in that short morning made my head spin! One of the names I followed back to 1681in less than an afternoon! My gosh, I had enough information to generously fill my family tree bag than I thought I’d get. 

From the indexes on the computer to the microfilm in the stacks, I found myself deep in the depths of Beutelsbach church records. It was good working from the indexes which is unlike how I hunt and gather on the British Isles films. My priority was fulfilled in short order. I found my great-great grandparents’ birth and christening records, and their marriage record (Heiraten)! I had a lot of time left to gather more, and oh did I! I came to B1 floor with three names and left a little over two days later with almost a hundred! 

I was the luckiest person in the FHL as I cruised through 250 years in only two microfilms, in only one town in Württemberg!

The marriage record is a little hard to see because it stretches across two big book pages. I did my best in Photoshop to pull them together. My little stick’em arrow points to the entry. Johan Jacob SCHMID / Barbare WERNER. [In German Barbare would be pronounced Bar-bar-ah.] 
(Citation: "Deutschland Heiraten, 1558-1929," database, FamilySearch <> : accessed 7 November 2015, Johann Jakob Schmid and Barbare Werner, 03 Nov 1830; citing Evangelisch, Beutelsbach, Jagstkreis, Württemberg; FHL microfilm 1,184,737)

This is the birth (Geburt) and christening (Taufen) for Barbara showing her father Johan Georg WERNER and her mother Magdalena BECKER. Barbara was born 4 Oct 1799 and christened on the 5th. 
(Citation: "Deutschland Geburten und Taufen," 1558-1898, database, <FamilySearch(> : accessed 7 November 2015), Barbara Werner, 05 Oct 1799; citing ; FHL microfilm 1,184,736)
This is the birth (Geburt) and christening (Taufen) for Johann Jacob Schmid showing his father Johan Friedrich SCHMID and his mother Johanna Christiana ROTH. Johann Jacob was born 8 Sep 1804 and christened on the 9th. 
(Citation: "Deutschland Heiraten, 1558-1929," database, FamilySearch < : accessed 13 November 2015>, Johann Jakob Schmid and Barbare Werner, 03 Nov 1830; citing Evangelisch, Beutelsbach, Jagstkreis, Württemberg; FHL microfilm 1,184,737.)
Now that I've found their birth and christening records in Beutelsbach along with their marriage records, I'm on the hunt for their death records and where they are buried here in Lake County, Illinois. That is for another chapter or posting 'cause I think it will take a little more time and a lot of luck.

My great-great grandfather Johann Jacob was a vintner as was his father-in-law Johann Georg. They came to the U.S. possibly to continue their occupation on their own land. There is no family history on this chapter, so we will never really know for sure. They were in Pennsylvania for about 13 years before coming to Lake County, Illinois (mid 1840s) where they bought a piece of land near Fremont Center, and farmed it. It was on this farm my grandmother Carrie was born in 1869. I think the reason my great grandparents John SNYDER and Wilhelmina took over the farm was because Johann Jacob had died. I don't know exactly that, but one of my notes says prior to 1870. I think my cousin Ruth gave me that information as vague as it was. 

On my first trip to Germany in 1994, Bob and I were about an hour north of this town and drove near Stuttgart, too, but I wasn’t doing genealogy back then and I didn't know the significance of this area. I am hoping we will be able to go back and visit this area of the Rems River Valley with it vineyards. When you see all the vineyards on the hills, that seems to be the only business in the area. Remsthal Winery is one of the largest in Germany.

Beutelsbach has a long history. According to Wikipedia, "Beutelsbach is a town district or Stadtteil within the town of Weinstadt in the Rems-Murr district, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.” As of March 2010 population in Beutelsbach was 8,464. “Beutelsbach was first mentioned in 1080 and was one of the oldest properties of the House of Württemberg.” Looking at the pictures, I would think maybe the area near Pittsburgh made them feel at home with the rolling hills and valleys. But they moved on to Illinois; land had just opened up to settlers not more than 10 years prior. Land wasn't that expensive either. I think that was the draw.

When you look at the pictures of the Rems Valley, you just wonder why they left this beautiful area.

Side note: According to some reports, President Obama’s sixth-great grandfather grew up in Beutelsbach, but is it true? Can we believe

Blick auf Weinstadt, Stadtteil Beutelsbach und die Stiftskirche.
(View of Wine City, District Beutelsbach and the Collegiate Church.)

The pointer shows where Beutelsbach is located. Stuttgart is about 14 miles west. [Google Maps]

Rems River and (below) Remittal [Rems Valley]. The Rems River is a tributary of the Neckar River.

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.