Monday, March 31, 2014

"New" Eckerson house - 100 years later

Pursuing our ancestors in the local newspapers of the time can reward us with some pretty specific nuggets, particularly if our relations lived in a small town.  The editors were always on the lookout for something to fill up the pages, some of which was pretty mundane ("Mr. Smith was in town yesterday doing business at the post office...he reports a fine litter of pigs was born at his place.").

One such item of interest to me appeared in the Centralia Daily Chronicle (Lewis County, Washington).  The issue of Friday, November 7, 1913 published this brief entry:

The Mr. and Mrs. Eckerson, were John and Estella Channell Eckerson, parents of Harold L. Eckerson.  Harold was 11 when they moved into the house, which was located on Harrison Avenue in Centralia.

This photo shows how the house looked some time later, after some shrubbery had matured.
John & Stella Eckerson house, Harrison Avenue, Centralia, WA
Stella was widowed in 1922, and lived out much of the rest of her life in the house alone, except for the period of time she offered room and board to her bachelor uncle, Sam Channell.

Sadly, the house declined over time, and  is now the home of a used car lot, with traffic whizzing by on the widened road.  Going to visit today is like picking a scab, you know you shouldn't do it, but you can't help it.  Interesting to note that some of the leaded glass panes are still in place.

Two different bookends to the life of a house:  the newspaper announcement of a fresh beginning, and its final chapter as a forlorn sales office.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Levi Eckerson Bamber - Man in Motion

The "FAN" approach to ancestral research (Family, Associates, & Neighbors) teaches us to widen the net in gathering information.  Studying people beyond our direct ancestors can often yield clues to the puzzle.  And, making the effort always adds a richness and texture to the story, when learning about family members in the context of a certain time and place.   

I had put aside the family of Mary Eckerson Bamber, daughter of my direct ancestor, Levi Eckerson, when the trail went cold many years ago.  Picking up the threads of her story again, I was fascinated by the journey taken by her son, Levi Eckerson Bamber.  I am frankly unsure how I would ever have followed his trail, without having learned to use the variety of digitized and indexed sources that are now available online.

Looking at the events in the lives of Levi E. Bamber and his family, one can imagine that being on the move probably took a toll.  I wonder whether they all moved together, or did the family break apart permanently at some point.  Did his wartime experience have an impact on his emotions?

I created this table to remind me how much more there is to a family tree, besides just going backwards in time.  

17 July 1850
Franklinville, Cattaragus Co., NY federal census
Age 5.  Living with parents John & Mary Eckerson Bamber, and siblings.
Nora Twp., Jo Daviess Co., IL state census
Age bracket of 10-20.  Living with parents John & Mary Eckerson Bamber, and siblings.
27 July 1860
Centre, Lafayette Co., WI federal census
Age 14.  Living with parents John & Mary Eckerson Bamber, and siblings.
25 Dec 1861
Enlistment, age probably no more than 16.  Living in Darlington, Lafayette Co., WI
Enlisted in Company I, Wisconsin 16th Infantry Regiment.  Regiment raised in Madison, WI. Musician.  Regiment saw service at Battle of Shiloh (TN) and many others.
Winter, 1864-1865
Camp Joe Holt Hospital, Clarksville, Indiana
20 years later, an army comrade sought Levi Bamber’s address, indicating they met here about this time.
13 April 1865
Jeffersonville, Clark, Indiana.  Directly across the river from Louisville, KY
Married (1) Mary J. Mitchell.  Did this marriage officially end, before his second?  Was it a wartime romance, which ended with his departure from the area?  Did she die shortly after the wedding?
12 Jul 1865
Louisville, KY
Mustered out (two months after his wedding in the vicinity)
4 July 1869
Kane Co., IL
Married (2) Josephine Peck
19 August 1870
Plato, Kane Co., IL federal census
Age 24 - Farmer & Dentist.  With wife and 1 child.
27 February 1873
North Plato, Kane Co., IL
Appointed postmaster (new postmaster assigned 1877).
1 November 1876
Alameda Co., CA great register of voters
Age 29 (1847?).  Clearly registered as “Bamber, Levi Eckerson.”  Nativity, New York.
1 November 1876
Alameda Co., CA great register of voters (another print version).
As above.
7 July 1879
Twp. 3, Amador Co, CA great register of voters.
Age 31 (1848?).  Nativity, New York.
11 June 1880
San Rafael, Marin Co., CA federal census
Age 34 – Dentist.  With wife and 5 children, all living with brother-in-law, Edgar Peck.
Denver, Colorado
Listed in city directory as dentist.
Denver, Colorado
Listed in city directory as dentist.
1 June 1885
El Paso County, Colorado state census.
37 – Dentist.  Described as a “bachelor” and divorced.  Living alone.
17 July 1887
Filed for pension.
Steamboat Springs, Ruott Co., CO.  Death presumably took place in this area during this time.  Unsourced genealogy forum posting states he died crossing the Colorado River on horseback.
There is a listing for an L.E. Bamber in the Steamboat Springs Cemetery, per  No dates.  Probably about 45 years of age at time of death. 
St. Michael, Madison Co., MO
Widow Josephine listed on Civil War pension enumeration.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blauvelt Family - Genealogy to Gossip, in Record Time

It's like opening a buried treasure chest, every time I attempt to track down some documentation from my ancient file folders.  The original goal becomes forgotten, as I page through various scraps of paper, some of which are gems.

Take this example:  through my Eckerson ancestors, I apparently connect to several Dutch New York surnames, one of which is Blauvelt.  The Eckerson and Blauvelt names occur regularly throughout colonial New York, so I'm certainly not unique.  I admired how quickly this little paragraph, about a published Blauvelt family history, went from establishing its source citation, to some juicy gossip.

"BURIED IN THE LIBRARY.  In the Library of Congress is a document entitled The Blauvelt Family Genealogy, which covers the history of the family from 1620 to 1956.  Published in 1957, it can be found under Catalog Card No. 56-10936.  On Page 884, under the title "Eleventh Generation" is the notation of the 12,427 descendent (sic) - Durie Malcom.  It reads "We have no birth date.  She was born Keir (my note:  obit says Kerr), but took the name of her stepfather.  She first married Firmin Deslodge, IV.  They were divorced.  Durie then married F. John Bersbach.  They were divorced, and she married, third, John F. Kennedy, son of Joseph P. Kennedy, one time Ambassador to England.  There were no children of the second or third marriages.  Official records show that Kennedy was married on September 12, 1953 to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier.  But there are no records of Kennedy divorcing Durie."

One might question a book that offers so little evidence, but perhaps the newspaper author whittled it down for the purpose of brevity.

I didn't note the date this was published, but since the next article is about the Michelangelo computer virus, (which would affect DOS programs!), I've determined that it must have been about February/March of 1991.   I had cut the Blauvelt piece out and tossed it into a folder which contains a hodge-podge of vaguely-related Eckerson material,  mysteriously titled "permanent holding."  Perhaps that means:   hang onto it until you need it, or forget why you wanted it!

Naturally, I had to do a Google search on this individual.  The rumor is very well-known.  Durie's obituary from 2008 tells of a pretty worldly existence, which sounded like a TV miniseries.  It says she denied the Kennedy rumor, but what it really states is that she never talked about it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Family Tree - "The Far Side" Style

I've recently been purging some of my ancient file folders, which date back to the early days of my family history research career.  I found this page, saved from one of Gary Larson's "The Far Side" desktop calendars.

How I envy Dirk.  He's gone as far back as he can go:  Hilda, Ned, Betty, & Irv!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Making a Return Trip: Foglesong in Mason County, West Virginia

     Through the years, I've established ancestral connections to many different surnames in a variety of locations.  My approach has always been to work on something until the trail goes cold, then turn to another topic for inspiration.  While it's true that I could have worked more efficiently, had I stuck to one topic for longer periods of time, there was another factor at work.  For me, family history research is supposed to be fun.  If I ignored that, it would be like having one huge homework assignment that never gets completed.  And for me, the fun is in new research, not (unfortunately) organization, or working through a checklist.
     However, as I continue to learn new skills as a genealogist, I'm continually reminded of the value of revisiting my earlier work, and all of those "cold cases."  Many times, they're "cold" because I wasn't thorough enough in my efforts the first or second time around.  (Most of us have been guilty of yanking a book off the library shelf, spending 30 seconds to see whether our ancestor's name is in the index, and quickly moving on.)
     As part of my campaign to do a better job, I made the Foglesong family the target of a recent set of internet searches.  I descend from James Foglesong, born 1814 in Virginia, died 1889 in Lewis County, Washington.  He was part of a large family that spent time in various areas of Virginia, including what would become Mason County, West Virginia.
     Among the search results via Google was one for a Foglesong Cemetery, via the West Virginia Cemetery Preservation Association, Inc., at: .

      This terrific site consolidates cemetery information from northwestern West Virginia. The entry for the Foglesong cemetery contained a wealth of detail about its location, history, burials, and condition (abandoned), as well as several photographs.  The entry states that James Foglesong's father, George Foglesong (1766-1850) is presumed to have been buried there.

Photo courtesy
     With all of the research tools that have become available, this information opens up new avenues of study. How I wish I'd taken the time to locate this information for myself, before I visited the area briefly many years ago!
      As 2014 opens, my resolution will be to dedicate myself to expanding my research, and, hopefully, to "get it right."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Family History: It's Everywhere! (Or, A Message From Beyond?)


 While viewing a recent TV episode, I found myself mentally veering wildly off the subject, and engaging in a little impromptu family history research.  I was watching TLC's Long Island Medium  (, where the subject of the show is followed by cameras, as she delivers  messages from departed loved ones to their families and friends.  These segments are spliced together with funny scenes from the medium's family life.  Whether you believe that her process is possible or not isn't the point:  it isn't a documentary.  I just consider it light entertainment, and treat it like a guilty pleasure.
     On the episode in question, the medium and her daughter take a long weekend in upstate New York.  One of the stories is set on a farm.  In the background of one scene is a silo, on which you can see the name "Hull" in fading paint.  I was immediately interested,  because I've often seen the name Hull appear in close proximity to my ancestors in colonial New England.
     Still watching the show, I pulled out my smart phone.  On Google, I entered the name "Hull," and the name of the village I thought they were in.  Within seconds, I found an entry for the name of the family farm, and a link to its website at .  Browsing through to the history page, one finds out that, amazingly, the farm is still operated, seven generations later, by a descendant of the original Hull who founded it in 1786.  The earlier Hull was a private in the continental forces during the Revolution.  (As a side note, how long would it have taken to piece all that together in the days before we were all walking around with little computers?)
     Having studied my ancestors for 33 years, it should come as no surprise that the urge to go into research mode never completely diminishes, no matter what I'm doing.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fashionable Memories: The Middy Blouse

Katie "Babe" Ives, circa 1920, photo in possession of author
Middy blouse illustrations of the era

     Katie Lois “Babe” Ives Eckerson was the youngest of six surviving children, born in 1904 to Charles A. and Mary Catherine Myers Ives.  Although her parents raised her in the Church of the Brethren, that didn't keep Babe from pushing the boundaries of the religion’s conservative dress code.  It also didn't keep her from enjoying a social life.
     As Babe was growing up, the “Middy” came into fashion.  This was a sailor style blouse, which got its name from the naval rank of “midshipman.”  With its comfortable, loose fit, it was a welcome departure from earlier styles.  It was generally accessorized by the addition of a tie in the front, often in a contrasting fabric.  Babe said that during this time, the ultimate fashion score a real naval tie obtained from an actual sailor.  Perhaps this was on her mind when she considered potential suitors. 
     Boyfriends, other than the man who was to become her husband, were rarely discussed.  I only remember one or two conversations of the kind, and she was rather embarrassed to admit having kept company with anyone before her husband.
     However, there was one young man, who became part of a memorable story.  He escorted Babe to a local fair.  I'm not sure whether the possibility of obtaining a naval tie was part of this young man's attraction or not.  Babe was an older teenager at this point, as she married in 1923 at the age of 19.  
     The fair featured various carnival games, including one known as the “High-Striker,” “Test Your Strength,” or “Strongman."  This is the one where a mallet is used to hit a lever; a winner rings the bell at the top.
     Babe and her swain proceeded to enjoy the amusements of the fair, and ended up arriving home late.  This wasn't unusual during her teenage years of pushing the fashion and courting boundaries.  On this occasion, however, her parents were somewhat conflicted as to whether to punish her for being late.  It turns out that farm girl Babe, in her loose-fitting Middy blouse, had taken a swing at the "High-Striker," and managed to win one of the top prizes.  This was long before the days of iPads or big-screen TVs.  No, this was something the family could really use:  a ham and a bucket of lard!