Uncle Dave's book

Sunday, January 7, 2018

#52 Ancestors Year 3: How I started

     When people ask me how long I've been doing genealogy I tell them since I was 13.  That is 56 years now (I don't usually tell them that!) Amy Johnson Crow is starting the 52 Ancestors challenge again with the prompt "Start" so I thought I'd write the story of how I started.

     When I was 13 I was in the eighth grade at Nathan Eckstein Junior High School in Seattle. Either my English or my Social Studies teacher gave us an assignment. We were to research and give a presentation to the class on our family tree. She told us to interview our parents and grandparents about the family and then go to the library and research our ancestors. Seattle Public Library had (and still has) a very good Genealogy section.

     That night I asked my mother about her family. She told me what she knew and mentioned that her father was a distant cousin of the Rockefellers. My Dad, not to be outdone, told me that an ancestor of his mother's was the grand
The copy of the Hudson Lineage that I had at age 13

daughter of Charles I of England who had married a commoner and been banished to the New World. So now I was really jazzed! My grandmother Kells (my mother's mother) gave me the copy of the Kells Family Bible which she had hand written about 15 years earlier on a visit to their farm. I still have it! Unfortunately I haven't found the actual Bible. She also told me about her Italian immigrant parents, including telling me the actual towns they came from. Happily I wrote this all down and kept it.

     The next time my father's parents came to visit I interviewed them.  My grandfather told me many stories of his Swedish family including the exact town they were from. My grandmother Peterson (nee Hudson)gave me a copy of a family lineage. This is the one that went back to King Charles I. It had been sent to her father with a request for money. It seems that Anneke Jans, the purported granddaughter of Charles I, had settled on land now under Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York. The ownership of this land was in question so the money was to be used to hire lawyers with the idea of getting the land back in the family. This would, of course, have been extremely valuable land. At this point I was completely taken by the story of the princess who came to the New World and lost her title because of true love. I even started writing a novel about it. I read up on Charles I and his wife, Catherine de Medici. Which led me to reading about the Medici family of Italy. Heady stuff!

     The lineage that was sent was taken from a book called The New Harlem Register. Amazingly, Seattle Public Library had that book! So I pored over it reading about my family. I also found a book on my Hudson ancestors in Massachusetts. So, my school assignment was a success (pretty sure I got an A on it.) But I also was hooked for life on Genealogy.

     Years later when I knew a bit more about Genealogy research, I found that the Anneke Jans thing was actually a scam to fleece people for money.  She really did exist but there is no evidence that she was the granddaughter of Charles I of England. She probably was Norwegian. On top of that I discovered when I researched the tree the proper way, going back from present to past, that we weren't even descended from her. The New Harlem Register had confused two men of the same name. One was her grandson, the other was our ancestor! But by that time, I no longer cared about the romantic story, I just cared about getting the lineage right!

     Getting young people interested in Genealogy is a topic I frequently see talked about. From my own life I would say, tell them the stories! That's what sparks the interest. The rest takes care of itself.

Grandmother Kells' Copy of Kells Bible Record, p. 1

Some of Grandpa Peterson's Family Notes

Painting of Anneke Jans

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My Grandmother's Handbag

     One of the regrets I have is that I didn't buy my grandmother's purse when she decided to sell it. It's been about 47 years now but I did finally do something about it. I bought a similar one on eBay (of course!)

     When I was a pre-teen in the early 60's, my grandmother lived with us. I should say that we lived with her as she owned the house! She had a bed-sitting room which was labeled off limits except by invitation. In it she had a dressing table with many things I admired: her jewelry, her Czechoslovakian glass perfume bottle and such. Occasionally she would let my sister and I see her jewelry. One day I was home alone and found myself in her room (no idea how that happened...) I looked through one of the drawers in the dressing table. There I found the most beautiful little purse I had ever seen.  It was thin with a short chain, made of linked metal pieces and decorated with a lovely design.  I no longer remember it looked like exactly except I think it had a white background and perhaps roses in the design. I fell in love with it. I wanted to know the story of it but now I had a problem.  In order to find more about it I would have to confess that I had trespassed in her room. My grandmother was a rather strict and forbidding woman.

     My solution was to wheedle her into showing us her jewelry again.  Then while we were in front of the dressing table I asked if there was anything nice in that drawer. She caught on to me and I had to confess what I had done. She showed us the purse but didn't say too much about it. I never saw it again.

     Less than ten years later my grandmother decided to start giving things away to her grandchildren rather than wait until she was dead. My mother told me this. I told her that what I wanted was that little purse. But my mother said that my grandmother was going to sell it and already had it on consignment in a local shop. But, she said, I could buy it. She wanted $25 for it.  It was 1969, I was just out of college and not making much money. So I decided I couldn't afford it. Those were the days before credit cards! It occurs to me now that I could have worked out a payment plan with her. But that didn't occur to me or my mother or her. 

     Another ten years or so after that, my mother, having been inspired by Alex Haley's Roots, decided to interview her mother about her life and tape record it. When I heard the recording it included the story of the purse! It seems that as a young girl just out of High School she had purchased it with some of the first money she made as a Secretary. She took the ferry to Seattle every week to work and that is where she met my grandfather. One day after getting off the ferry she dropped the purse.  He picked it up and gave it to her and offered to walk her home. That's how they met. He then walked her home from the ferry every week. Eventually they married and were married for life. So now I understood why she was angry at me for sneaking a look at the purse.

     As time went on I became familiar with antique purses, Whiting and Davis and so on. I would always think of the one she had. I would sometimes see one that reminded me of hers but it would be too expensive still (much more that $25 now!) Recently I was again reminded of The Purse. I thought it was stupid of me to regret it and I should buy a similar one. So I went to eBay, found one and bought it. It reminds me a bit of what I recall of hers and it is quite beautiful. I look at it and think of her as a young woman and of me as a young girl. I feel a bond of an appreciation for a lovely object.

     And that's the story of my grandmother's purse!

P.S. She did give me the Czechoslovakian glass Perfume Bottle!

My grandmother on left, about 1915, that might be the purse on her lap

My grandmother and grandfather wedding photo 1916
Purse I bought similar to my grandmother's

My grandmother's Czechoslovakian Glass Perfume Bottle

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Getting the Name Right Makes a Difference

     In an earlier blog post I told the story of my Grandfather Peterson's mother's father, Nils Johan Almquist. The story as my grandfather told it is that he left his wife and took their children and tried to leave for America. She sent the police after him and they told him that he could go but the children had to stay. So he left and came to America. I have found Swedish Emigration records that confirm him leaving alone and passenger lists leaving Hamburg and arriving in New York City that confirm his arrival in America. He arrived in 1864, the Census of 1870 shows him with a second wife. I didn't find anyone that I could definitely identify as her on the passenger lists. I found a marriage record from Minnesota which showed their marriage in 1869, five years after he had arrived. It didn't give her last name. I found her last name on one of their son's death certificate, "Finstat." I could never find her under that name.

     Recently I attended a webinar on finding ancestors in Minnesota. One thing that was mentioned was that Family Search had added many marriage records recently. I checked it out and found a different marriage record for them. This gave her name as "Sarah Elizabeth Fristat" Before I had found as either Sarah or Elizabeth or, in one instance, as Anna. But now I entered the full name "Sarah Elizabeth Fristat" and searched it on Ancestry.  Almost at once I got the Swedish Emigration record for her which gave her exact birth date and place. She came from a small town near Ulricehamm in Alvsborg and Nils was from another small town very nearby! Once having her parish and birth date it was easy to find her birth record and parents. She came to America in 1866 by herself. had she and Nils known each other? Did he send for her? Or did they meet in Minnesota and discover they were from the same area?

    Additional study shows that they were married only three months before their first son was born. Were they living together  until she got pregnant and then decided to get married? As far as I can tell Nils and his first wife, Anna Charlotta, were never divorced. She lived until 1917 so he wasn't widowed. Nils and Elizabeth got away with it. Anna Charlotta wasn't as lucky.  She had a daughter after Nils left, born out of wedlock. She then married the father but they were tried in court and forced to divorce because she had not divorced Nils. It just shows the difference between living in the same community where you had lived with your husband so people knew you had been married and going to a new country where no one knew you or inconvenient facts like your first marriage.

     It just shows the importance of having the right name to finding the full story. And it adds further interest to my grandfather's story!
Nils' prayerbook

Marriage Record of Nils and Elizabeth

                                                         Brunn, taken in 2014

Map showing Brunn, Vist and Ulricehamn


                                                                      Vist Church

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Going Beyond the Usual Records: Calvin Gray Cookson and Mary Ann Dow Wedding

     The first point of the Genealogical Proof Standard is that  "reasonably exhaustive research has been conducted." When I am finally able to say that I am done with research on the Cookson family I feel sure that no one will fault me on this point! My most recent search was in a rather unusual source. I found it on the website of the Cary Library of Houlton, Maine. Houlton is the county seat of Aroostook County, Maine and it is very close to Linneus, Maine where our Cooksons were located from about 1835 to 1860. I had viewed this website a few years ago and found very little on our family. But I decided to revisit it.

      One thing that was now on the website was the "Shepard Cary Accounting Ledger from 1838-1843". Shepard Cary had a general store in Houlton just down the hill from the Hancock Barracks where the Aroostook War soldiers were stationed. Calvin Gray Cookson joined the Army to fight in the Aroostook War at Houlton in April 1839. So the dates seemed relevant. Daniel Cookson, David Ellenwood Corless and John Dow are all in the 1840 Census as living in or near Linneus as well. So I thought that some of our family might be listed in the ledger. I read it page by page, 944 pages. Easier than that sounds as the name of the customer is at the top of each page. And I found them all. There was David Ellenwood Corliss in 1839 buying tea, boots, butter and peanuts and Daniel Cookson in 1839 buying 6 bushels of buckwheat, 2 quarts of Gin, fish, sugar, tobacco, a pot and a jack knife. Of more interest was "Serg(eant) Cookson" ,who I believe is Calvin, buying eggs, bread, tobacco and a cigar in 1841 and sugar and tea in 1842.

     The most interesting entry, though, is for John Dow. In Dec 1838 he bought two pairs of ladies shoes and a third in Jan 1839 (he had a wife, a daughter in her early 20's and two teen age daughters in 1838/9). But on March 6, 1839, he bought "3 yd bobnett lace". In May he bought 8 yd cotton and 1 skein of silk. So my thought is, could he have bought the lace for his daughter, Mary Ann's, wedding dress for her marriage to Calvin Gray Cookson? If Calvin entered the Army on 15 April 1839 might they have gotten married in March or earlier in April? My parents married in Jan 1943 because my father had joined the Army and was about to leave for Basic Training. I think this is a common experience. I have not yet found any record of their marriage but this may be slim evidence to pinpoint it.

     Just speculation, I know, but it also got me to wondering what brides in 1839 wore to their wedding. Amazingly enough I found quite a few pictures of wedding dresses from the period. I thought I'd share some of them which at least suggest that lace was in use on wedding dresses in 1839!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Elusive Ancestor Update: Daniel Noyes Cookson

     In my pursuit of Daniel Noyes Cookson I have made some discoveries recently so I thought I would report on them here.

     On Ancestry,  I found Margaret Cookson Freeman's will. She was the mother of Margaret Freeman who married John Cookson in 1767. This marriage is recorded in the Boston Town records. It has been supposed that this John and Margaret are the parents of Daniel Noyes Cookson. In New England Families Genealogical and Memorial by William Richard Cutter the statement is made that Daniel is either the child of John Cookson, son of John Cookson, who married Mary Baker or John Cookson, son of Obadiah Cookson, who married Margaret Freeman. For whatever reason I had always thought it was most likely the second John Cookson. And every tree on Ancestry that lists parents for him shows it this way. (But perhaps they copied mine!)

     Margaret Cookson Freeman died in 1776, her daughter, Margaret Freeman Cookson (stay with me here!) had died before her in 1772. She leaves her son-in-law, John Cookson,  "the Income use and Improvement" of her farm in Watertown and all the farm equipment and stock but not her wearing apparel or her gold and silver and only half of the furniture. She also leaves him farmland in Waltham. But after John's death she says that this is all to go to her brother, John Cookson (the same John Cookson mentioned by Cutter as a possible father for Daniel.) She leaves the rest of her estate to her brother, John, a nephew, and a niece, a woman in Boston and a donation to the Church. She specifically states that everything left to John is to him and his heirs. Reading this it doesn't sound like she has any grandchildren as she leaves her son-in-law the farm only for his life but in the case of her brother, she specifically mentions his heirs.The other possibility is that any grandchild had so alienated her that she didn't even acknowledge their existence in her will.  My conclusion is that John and Margaret had no children.

     John Cookson, son of John Cookson, is recorded as living in Pearsontown (later Standish), Cumberland County in what is now Maine. This increases the likelihood that he is Daniel's father. In the data I have of him only three children are listed. Given the size of families at the time this is likely incomplete. Also I found mention of a second marriage so there may be children from that marriage as well. This will need to be researched.

     Meanwhile, I decided to try to find the original marriage record for Daniel Noyes and Lucy Gifford. I had found this marriage in an index with the Maine Historical Society and more recently at Family Search. It is dated 1801 and was at Whitefield, Maine. It is intriguing because our Daniel did marry a Lucy Gifford. This record omits his last name. Also the date seems too early as their first (known) child was born in 1811. I thought perhaps the transcriber had switched the numbers on the date and not seen the last name due to an ink blot or some such. I found that the town records for Whitefield could be viewed on Family Search. I did that and found the marriage record. Unfortunately it is quite clearly written, no "Cookson" in sight and the date is in line with the other dates around it. It did give me the place they were living which is "Sheepscot Great Pond", a place that is now Palermo, Maine. This is on the Eastern edge of Waldo County and near Unity, Belmont and the other towns where some connection has been found to Daniel and family. There are two Daniel Noyeses who lived in the area in the early 1800s but neither had a wife named Lucy.

     Family Search doesn't have early records for Palermo but there is a book written about the town that is online in its entirety at Archives.com. (A History of the Early Settlement of Palermo, Maine  by Allen Goodwin.) I read it and while he lists many of the early settlers no one by the name of Cookson, Noyes or Gifford is included.  At one point (page 18) he does say, "The first settlers of this Great Pond settlement took up their lands without purchase or leave of the proprietors and held the same by possession." This is very similar to Belmont. I am getting the idea that Daniel had a pattern of going to a wilderness area and settling without purchasing land and leaving when it became more organized and someone required payment. Another interesting point in the book on the same page is that Robert H. Gardiner was a large owner of land there and one of the proprietors. Daniel named his second son Gardiner. Anyway, this could account for the difficulty I am having in finding any deeds for Daniel.

     A couple of other interesting tidbits have come up. On Genealogy Bank I found a mention in a newspaper of Gardiner Cookson as a bankrupt living in Linneus.  This is the first and only mention I've found of Gardiner being in Linneus. It is from 1842 which is the time the four children all seem to have been in Linneus. On Family Search I found that I could search the Court records for Aroostook County. In the Index I found Daniel Cookson(referring to the son, I believe) as a Plaintiff with Lucy Corliss TR as the defendant.  I googled "TR" as a court term and found it means trust. So I believe he was suing her trust or probate attorney.  Unfortunately when I looked it up it said that neither the plaintiff or the defendant had shown up! So I guess they settled it out of court. It should mean that there are probate papers somewhere but I haven't found them yet. It also tells us that she died before September 1858,

     Thus we see quite a bit of time and effort has produced only small results but we do have more clues than we did. I still need to read the Linneus Town papers which I have to order from Salt Lake City. You never know what I may find there or what may show up somewhere else entirely!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Valentine's Day Family Love Stories #8: Giovanni and Catterina

   (I wrote seven Valentine's day Love Stories last year and thought I'd add some new ones this year because family history is really just a huge collection of love stories.)

     On 26 Aug 1846, Giovanni Tinetti, age 21, married Domenica Catherina Zanotti-Cussio, age 18. They were married in the town of San Giovanni Canavese where he was living at the time. Giovanni and Domenica had seven children, two of whom were stillborn. Giovanni prospered and they moved to a big house in Valia, just outside of Torre Canavese, not far from San Giovanni. Unfortunately, Domenica died on 3 Apr 1863, seventeen years after the marriage. This left Giovanni with five children ages 17 to 4. He turned to his sister-in-law, Catterina Zanotti-Cussio, for help.

     Catterina was thirty-three at this time. She came and took care of the children for Giovanni. In a short while he became concerned about her reputation, living in his house and not being married. So he offered to marry her, in name only, to protect her reputation. The family story goes that she replied that she would marry him but only as his wife in full and in fact. He was very happy with her reply and they were married. Together they had six children.

     It's a sweet story but, of course, leaves some questions. She was unmarried at 33, had she secretly been in love with him for the entire time he and her sister were married? An oddity is that the only marriage record I could find for them is 14 Aug 1878, after all their children were born. I looked in Torre Canavese and Cuceglio (her parish) but it occurs that I didn't look in San Giovanni where Giovanni and Domenica were married. For a man who was so concerned about her reputation to wait 15 years to marry her seems unlikely. I don't know but it is an Italian love story nevertheless, si?

     As a note, I have no pictures of her but I have pictures of two of her daughters at a fairly young age and one can assume that they resemble her.
Angelina, 18, and Rosa, 21, Tinetti ca 1889
Giovanni Tinetti 1904
Tinetti house in Valia (taken 2014)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Moonshiner in the Family! Wyatt Nolan Hunt

    With Valentine's Day coming up I was thinking about my grandmother's sister, Mabel Jane Hudson. I have recently written about my grandmother, Bessie Hudson Peterson, and her great love and long marriage to my grandfather, Walter Peterson. Her sisters were not as lucky in love. Her oldest sister, Edna, fell in love with a young man who enlisted in World War I and never returned. Her third sister, Alma Agnes Hudson, married rather late in life to Edward Quinn. She was 36 when they married. They had one daughter, Evelyn, and were happy but, unfortunately, he died in 1942 at the age of 47. Alma never remarried. Mabel's story was a little different than her sisters.

     Mabel also married late in life, she married in August 1929, age 37. The man she married, Wyatt Nolan Hunt, had been divorced for two years and had a ten year old son. They were married in Benton, Arkansas, although Wyatt was also from the Fort Worth, Texas area. Mabel and Wyatt were divorced in 1932. My father said it had to do with his drinking and that's all I know about it. I did find her living alone in the 1930 Census, although listed as married. I still haven't found him in that Census. Neither of them ever re-married until his death in 1961. Then she married his friend, a man with the last name of Owen. My father didn't know his first name. He either died rather soon after they married or they were divorced. To me this suggests that she loved Wyatt all her life and married his friend out of their mutual loss. We never talked about either husband. I do recall that she came to Tacoma, Washington,
Mabel in Tacoma about 1961
Moonshine Still 1930
 to stay with her sister for a few months around 1961 or 62. My grandparents just said that she had had a loss or some such vague explanation. Probably was after Wyatt died.

   Today, while I was thinking about this I decided to do some research to see if I could find out more about either husband. Using Genealogy Bank I looked for any newspaper articles about Wyatt Nolan Hunt. I only found one. It was surprising! The Dallas Morning News on Thursday, 15 Feb 1934, reported on some recent court cases. One line of this article reports that Wyatt "Nowlin" Hunt and two other men pleaded guilty to "revenue charges" involving "whiskey stills or distilled spirits." I think that means that he was making and/or selling moonshine! It fits with what my father said was the cause of divorce-his drinking. I tried to find some data on moonshining activity in Tarrant County or Dallas at that time. I found that in his book, Recollections of Farm Life(1965), Robert L. Hunt, Sr., recalled that "There was always some making of moonshine liquor in the area of Northeast Texas...[by 1919]The moonshiners had become common in the area. In fact so much moonshine was hauled out of the area that some places had quite a reputation for liquor making. Farms were left idle in some places and farmers turned to making liquor as a more profitable occupation." So the next time you watch The Dukes of Hazard reruns, think of Wyatt.

Mabel about 17
Wyatt Nolan Hunt tombstone