Thursday, October 27, 2016

I Could Have Been Canadian (eh?): Charles A. Ives

Charles A Ives & Mary Catherine Myers, wedding portrait, 1888
One of the interesting stories I heard at my grandmother’s knee, was about the year her father, Charles A. Ives, became inspired to be a pioneer, one more time.  He decided to investigate re-settling in a whole new country:  Canada.  Many of his children were adults by this time, and perhaps he’d heard about new opportunities, or the area around him in rural Washington was becoming “too crowded.”  Whatever the reason, he actually pursued the idea, and off he went.  One of his daughters, Margarita “Dutch” Ives, who was an older teenager at the time, spent a few months with her father in Duchess, Alberta, Canada, keeping house for him.  Moving away from her family and friends to an unfamiliar location, probably wasn’t the adventure she’d pictured for herself after finishing high school!  I also get the impression that my 15-year-old grandmother enjoyed a much greater degree of freedom with her father away, driving herself around in the family's Ford, and getting up to who knows what!  The Church of the Brethren, of which she was a member, would not have approved.

The shifting array of online digitized records shines a light on Charley’s plan.  From the record set at, called Border Crossings:  From U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935, we are lucky enough to see an actual image of Form 30, which is an individual entry form.  This has much more detail than a simple passenger list.  We learn that he entered Canada on the train at Kingsgate, on March 26, 1919.  He was a 52-year-old farmer from Centralia, Washington, born at Marshalltown, Iowa.  Although he lists his race as “Scotch,” that’s probably debatable.

Chas. A. Ives, Canadian Form 30, 1919

Charley Ives must have been resolute in his plan; he traveled with $5,000.  There is a column that asks, “if settler, value of effects.”  I’m not sure whether that meant land already purchased, livestock, equipment, or a combination, but it was worth $3175.  One of the first questions asked was, “Object in coming to Canada.”  His answer?  “To settle.”

However, Charley hadn’t planned on one thing, his wife, Mary Catherine, or “Katie” was equally resolved to stay right where she was.  They had a beautiful farm on Ford’s Prairie, in Centralia, Washington, and her circle of family and friends was close by.  As the story was told to me, this sweet, kind woman, who had six living children, had had enough.  She said, “Charley, I’ve followed you from Kansas to Pateros (Washington), from Washington to California, and from California back to Washington.  I AM NOT FOLLOWING YOU TO CANADA!”

Perhaps Charles Ives’ time in Canada wasn’t what he’d expected; most likely he decided not to test his wife.  In any case, he lived out a peaceful existence in Washington for the remainder of his life.  At the time of her death in 1952, they had been married for 64 years.  He died in 1954.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hazy History

Civil War era post card
As I’ve occupied a comfortable position in middle age for some time now, I am accustomed to the superior looks I occasionally get from millenials and younger.  It’s almost as though they feel sorry for my advanced years, and for the fact that I’m decidedly “uncool.”

My sister and I had a funny email exchange on the subject, when she shared this amusing tale.
She was recently in a bookstore, and overheard a 20-something guy insisting to his companion, that if he wanted stuff about the Civil War, he’d have to head down the aisle marked, “WWII.”  “Same thing!” he said.

Mary, ever the kind soul, nevertheless couldn’t let this one go. She proceeded to point out they had the wrong century, the wrong war, and indicated the correct aisle.  As they walked away, one of them remarked:  “Dang, she musta walked in here from Jeopardy!”  I asked whether they had grumbled as she walked off, and she said no, they were actually incredulous.  She did say she tried very hard not to be an “old fogey!”

When I commented that at least they were in a bookstore, she said that they were only looking for a birthday present for grandpa, who was “in” to that “weird stuff.”

Yes, being an “old fogey” has distinct advantages, such as a basic grasp of American History.

Identified as American Douglas SDB Dauntless bombers

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

When John Graves Isn't John Graves, and Walpole Isn't Walpole

For decades, the death date and place of  John Graves, father of Nathan Graves, has been widely circulated and accepted as 29 December 1766, in Walpole, now Cheshire Co., New Hampshire.  This date and location appeared in early published works and family group sheets about the Graves family, and was later copied to online family trees and websites.  Much of this material failed to cite any source material.
In my continuing quest to give substance to my own family tree, I’ve located entries which cast serious doubts on this long-accepted date and place.  In the excerpt below, the name, date and town appear to be a logical source for the belief that this refers to “my” John Graves.  There is one glaring contradiction, however:  the state.  This refers to Massachusetts, not New Hampshire.

Thinking this might have been a town within an area originally part of Massachusetts but later New Hampshire, I did some further research.  Walpole, NH and Walpole, MA are two distinct places.  Walpole, NH is on the Connecticut River, and Walpole, MA is southwest of Boston.  Using primary sources, I was also able to construct an entire family for the John Graves of Walpole, MA, and it wasn’t “mine.” 

I began with this marriage for John Graves and Mrs. Mary Smith of Dedham, MA, which is in close proximity to Walpole.  Between 1741 and 1762, they became parents to eight children, three of whom died young.  The five surviving were Mary, Ebenezer, Abigail, Anna, and Lucy.  They re-used names of their deceased children at least twice:  Mary and Ebenezer.  John has been described as a cordwainer (shoemaker). 
            While it's possible that the John Graves I'm researching could have raced up from where he was known to have lived, in the Saybrook-Killingworth area of Connecticut, or down from his new home in Cheshire Co., NH, in time for his demise 1766, it's more likely that the death date refers to the other gentleman.  Interestingly, other sources state that my John Graves was also a cordwainer.  Perhaps they "shared" more than a death date!
            All of this research revealed another anomaly:  I believe the above marriage entry says "Mrs. Mary Smith," and I'm not alone.  It's transcribed that way as well in a published volume, here:

           The authors of at least one family history published online, and no doubt many family trees, assume that Mary Smith was a single woman when she married.  It's stated that she was the daughter of Josiah Smith and Mary Paine.  While this may indeed be true, she would have had to have a first marriage to a man also named Smith at the time of her marriage to John Graves.  I will leave that question to her descendants!
The process of consulting original materials is becoming easier, with regular additions of scanned images being uploaded to various websites., in particular, is one of the regular stops on my genealogical journey.  
So, the question of the death of John Graves of Connecticut or New Hampshire remains unanswered.  However, even if it means erasing one of my “facts,” I find a great deal of satisfaction in untangling these mysteries. 
 I only wish I didn't create more along the way...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

One Paragraph, 4 Surnames, 6 Locations, 100+ years: Ives Family

     Once again, has opened a window to a valuable set of records.  In some instances, it offers a tremendous amount of detail.
     During World War II, many people made an effort to prove their citizenship.  There were several reasons:  establishing age for the various draft registrations, proving eligibility for jobs which needed government security clearance, and making one eligible for ration books.  1942 saw a significant increase in applications for delayed birth certificates.  In many cases, the applications and supporting documents included information about home births, and explained circumstances and relationships.
     One such application, for Lester Joseph Ives, provides enough information to establish three generations of his family tree, including names and places.  It's from the record set made available online at May 31, 2016, titled Washington Birth Records, 1869-1950.  Currently, it only includes King Co. (Seattle) and delayed births.  The affidavit of Lester's mother, Carrie Smith Ives, is shown here:

Affidavit of Carrie A. Smith Ives, on behalf of her son, Lester Joseph Ives, 1942.  Viewed at
     Besides the birth date and location of the subject of the application, it shows all of those details and maiden names for both his parents, and all of his grandparents!  There's the added bonus of original signatures as well.
     Additionally, there was an affidavit from Lester's aunt, Rena Ives, who not only confirms his birth, but explains the relationship between herself and his mother.  It's shown here:

Rena Ives' 1942 affidavit stating her relationship to Lester Ives and his mother

     As one of the many descendants of Allen Ives, I am always surprised at what is available on the collateral lines of the family.  While not adding to "my" pedigree, this record adds texture, and fills in details about the circumstances which may have had an impact on the family as a whole.
     Once more, we are reminded of what difficulties we as genealogists place in our own way, when we fail to regularly seek out new records.  The same can be said for not looking at the more distant branches of the family.  One never knows what hiding in plain sight.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Proud to Call Him My Cousin: Tony Gordon

JFP & Tony Gordon, 2006
collection of the author

The link below is to a video of a dedication ceremony held on Veteran's Day in suburban Chicago.  It honored all veterans, but, in particular my cousin, Tony Gordon, my father's nephew.  The bit about him starts about 21 minutes in, and is marvelous.  What it doesn't mention is, not only did Tony do one tour in Vietnam, but three.  Sadly, he passed away a couple years ago from cancer.  What a wonderful tribute from his community.

I am proud to have called him my cousin.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Shedding Those Genealogical Pounds

     As we move many of our genealogical tasks to digital formats, some of the tools we used years ago become obsolete.  They retreat further and further into the backs of drawers, closets, and attics, rarely to be seen.  Among those items in my household which qualify are:  more than one typewriter, the personal microfilm reader (this was sold by a microfilm rental company which has long been out of business), and the plastic film canisters (have kids now ever seen rolls of film?) filled with quarters and dimes, for those library jaunts requiring many trips to the copy machine.
     I ran across one item that I've decided to let go, but not without a pang of regret.  This is a briefcase given to me as a gift by my mother, Joan L. Eckerson Anderson, in the very early 1980s, at the start of my genealogical career.  It's nothing special in terms of value or appeal:  the brand is an Airway, and it seems to have been constructed of imitation everything.  But, its significance to me is that it represents the support and love of my mom.  She found my work in genealogical research something to be proud of.

     Recently, I finished Geoff Rasmussen's book, Kindred Voices, in which he talks about letting your ancestors guide you in your search for their stories.  He referenced a funny quote I'd never heard before.  It's something like, "I've never seen a U-Haul following a hearse," which is another way of saying you can't take it with you.  My mother ignored this, and really did try to take it with her.  Now that she's gone, however, I believe I can let the briefcase go without causing hurt feelings.
     She did leave me something to replace it with, in a roundabout way.  My sister sent me this lovely leather case that had been in my mom's house:  one of her thrift shop finds.  I had glanced at it once and admired its handsome construction.  The rumor was that it had belonged to a college instructor.  Its nearly-new condition may have had something to do with the fact that it weighs about 40 pounds empty!
     This Christmas season it found a new purpose:   housing a stuffed animal collection.  I'll find other ways to re-purpose it during different times of the year.  While this may be a comedown from the halls of academia, it's far better than hiding in the dim shadows of the closet, banished by the iPad.  
 Thanks, Mom!

Friday, November 6, 2015

William Thompson: Fiance material? Perhaps...

John Alden and Priscilla wedded - McLoughlin Bros, 1903
     We've all been there:  an acquaintance or relative starts seeing someone romantically, and we begin evaluating whether or not they make a good pair.  Whispered conversations take place, and judgments are passed.  
     Most of us, however, don't expect to see our opinions lead to a fine levied against the would-be groom by the court system, which is what happened to an indignant William Thompson, in Colonial Massachusetts.
     On my first trip to the Massachusetts State Archives recently, I was treated to a lovely facility with many indexed records.  While scrolling through a microfilm of volume nine of the Massachusetts Archives Collection, I spotted an intriguing entry.  Volume nine of the collection is described by a title made for browsing:  "Domestic Relations."  The index, besides giving a name and page number, gives the nature of the case.  I think I could have spent the entire day looking up the statements in these cases, so vividly detailed were the pictures they conjured up.  This index appears to have been created at some point much later than the events, but was still very old.  The archives' website describes the collection as a whole:   "...includes original records of the governor, Council, General Court, secretary, and treasurer, is an important source of records for early Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire.  The collection is unique in the quantity of seventeenth-century records it contains, and this richness continues throughout the eighteenth century, with voluminous amounts of Revolutionary materials."  

Detail from Volume 9, Massachusetts Archives Collection, photo by the author
     At some point in May of 1653, the following testimony was given:  "Petition of William Thompson to be excused from a fine laid on him, because he proposed marriage to Sarah Cogan, without first consulting her friends."
     Time didn't allow me to pursue the ultimate fate of William's pursuit of Sarah.  Was this a standard approach taken, when protocol was ignored?  Was she embarrassed or offended by his attentions?  Or did they experience a life together?  No matter the cause or the outcome, I had no problem picturing her "friends," the early-day Puritan busy-bodies, whispering behind their hands to each other.  After long days of labor in a harsh environment, followed by long hours spent at religious services, the couple's drama was perhaps a bright spot.  
     When we engage in modern-day gossip, we certainly aren't doing anything new.