Uncle Dave's book

Sunday, September 28, 2014

52 Ancestors # 39: Matthew Blunt, Hair-dresser/Barber

     Matthew Blunt was born in about 1735 in London, England, probably in St. Botolph, Bishopsgate parish. His parents were Luke Blunt, a carpenter and Mary Browne.  I know this because in the "U.K. Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices and Indentures 1710-1811" I found Matthew Blunt listed as an apprentice to John Pursse of St. Nicholas, Debtford, barber. It gives Matthew's father as Luke Blunt of Greenwich. Several other children of Luke and Mary were baptized at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, London but I couldn't find Matthew's baptism. He was the youngest of the four children I have found record of. At the age of 11, in 1746, he started apprenticing as a barber.  On 1 Jan 1766, at the age of 31, he married Sarah Birdseye at St. Giles, Cripplegate, London, her home parish.

     Matthew and Sarah had seven children, Sarah, Elizabeth, William, Joseph, Rebecca, Grace and Mary. Their baptism records are found both in the Non-Conformist Church Records and in St. Luke and St.Mary, Islington, England. Matthew was a barber or hairdresser by trade.  He is listed as a hairdresser in Islington in the U.K. City and County Directories of 1791. Barber-hairdresser was a very important profession in the mid 18th Century due to the elaborate wigs that were in style for both men and women. the hairdresser was a wig maker, designer and maintainer. He was as important to fashionable men as to stylish women.

     In our family, discovering Matthew's profession was a bit of a revelation. That's because there is a lock of hair that is framed and hangs on the wall in the home of the late Jim Brown (also a descendant of Matthew Lane). On the back of the frame is written the following: "The hair encased in this frame has been in the possession of my family many years.  My grandmother, Sarah Lane Kay, told me that it was hair taken from the head of King George III of England, by her Great Grandfather Blount, who was a companion and guardian of King George III, when the King was in his dotage. Emma A. Crosson Pinkerton March 8th 1924." Another descendant, Jo-Anne Roberts of Vancouver, Canada, had the Royal Archivist search for Matthew Blunt in the archives but no record was found. However, I think it quite likely that he simply cut King George's hair at some point and kept the cut hair. Perhaps he was filling in for his regular barber so wasn't in the official register.

     The story of the hair took an interesting turn in 2013. In April of that year I received an e-mail from Stephen Pinkerton. He had traced the history of the Pinkerton's of New York, Iowa and Michigan which included Emma's husband, Charles Allen Pinkerton.  It seems that in her will, Emma directed her son to give the portraits of William Lane and Sarah Blunt Lane to her niece along with the King George hair. Her son correctly delivered the portraits but gave the hair to Goodwill or otherwise got rid of it. It was in a wig box(!). Late in 2012 or early 2013, an historical artifacts dealer found it along with a note similar to the one quoted above. It was sent to London for DNA testing and a British Family history mystery TV show was interested in doing a show about it! This died when the sample tested turned out to be not hair but materials that didn't exist until the 20th Century. However, they never tested Jim's sample in the frame.  Since this was in the possession of Sarah Lane who died in 1896, this is likely not the case with this lock of hair. Unfortunately, Jim died in September 2013, so the test was never made.  the lock of hair is still in the frame on the wall of his family home, now in the possession of his niece, Sarah. If we wanted to  we could still test it.

     I also found Matthew in some tax records which gave me his street of residence.  He lived in Pierrepoint Row in Islington which is still a residential and commercial street, there are a number of antique and vintage shops on the street.

     So there is Matthew Blunt, husband, father, barber and hairdresser and possible hairdresser to a king!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

52 Ancestors #38: Peter Eriksson Hedenberg, Swedish Cavalryman

     Peter was born 29 Dec 1754 in the parish of Hultsjo, Jonkoping, Sweden. His father was Erik Persson and therefore he was Peter Eriksson in the Swedish patronymic naming system. His mother was Ingrid Persdotter. He had an older sister and brother and two older half sisters.

     On 4 Aug 1778, Peter joined the Swedish army.  He was a Ryttare or cavalryman (mounted soldier). He served until about 1802 and took part in a famous Swedish battle called the Battle of Svenskund in 1790. This was a major victory for the Swedes against the Russians. While in the Army, Peter took Hedenberg as his Soldier name.  Because of the patronymic system and the fact that a small number of first names were used most men took "soldier names" when they joined the Army to avoid confusion. Peter kept Hedenberg the rest of his life and his sons also used it. His grandson, Johannes Petersson, son of Peter Petersson Hedenberg, refused to use Hedenberg and went by Peterson. This was much to the dismay of his grandsons who found themselves with a very common name in Minnesota (Peterson) and so changed it to Lambert. As far as I can tell, Hedenberg is from "Hed" meaning heather or moor and "berg" meaning rock, mountain or hill.  So, "heather hill."

    In about 1778, Peter married Ingrid Johansdotter and they had three daughters. She died in May 1792.  On May 12, 1793, Peter married Sara Persdotter in Granhult, Kronoberg.  He is listed as a Ryttare from Notteback, she is from Hvitshult. At first they lived at the Ryttaretorp in Granhult but eventually he bought a farm in Hvitshult and is listed as living there in his after death inventory. He and Sara had four sons and one daughter.

     Peter died on 23 Nov 1842, one month shy of 88 years old. He is listed in the inventory as an "undantagsmannen" which means a previous farm owner living on pension from the former farm. He seems to have been a man of some substance and has a long list of items in his inventory. Over a century later, in 1857 when my grandfather visited Sweden his farm was still referred to as "Hedenberg's Hanne". Unfortunately, today there is little left of his original farm except the land.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

52 Ancestors #37: Arthur Leon "Mac" McDonald

     Arthur Leon "Mac" McDonald was my stepfather, my mother's second husband. While I knew him for many years, in writing this blog I realize that I could have known more abut his life! After he died I researched his family tree and wished I'd done it while he was alive because he would've been thrilled and fascinated by some of what I found. More of that to come.

     Mac was born on 29 August 1919 in Oroville, Washington on his parents' farm. He was the son of  Leon Francis McDonald and Isabelle Maude Weir. His sister, Vivian was born on 24 Jan 1924. By 1930, the family was living in Renton, Washington, near Seattle. In 1935, they were in nearby Kent, which is probably where Mac graduated from High School in 1937. By 1940 his parents were separated or divorced as his mother and sister are living with his mother's brother in the 1940 Census. His father remarried, Mary Jean McDonald, by whom he had earlier had a daughter, Joyce Eileen. In 1943, his mother also remarried, Samuel Burgess. So in his teenage years there was quite a bit of turmoil in his family.

     Arthur was not able to go to College which he always regretted and felt inferior because of. He became an auto mechanic which he was very proficient at and suited for. On 4 May 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served for the duration of the war, primarily in Alaska in the Bering Straits. He primarily remembered this as boring and cold! His enlistment record describes him as a Machinists apprentice, 5'10" tall and 179 pounds. Photos from that time show him as a good looking young fellow.

     After the war, Mac returned to the Seattle area.  In 1930 he and his Dad had built a small (970 sq. ft.) house in Tukwila. Mac lived in it for almost the rest of his life. In 1955 he married Helen J. Philips who had two children from a previous marriage.  They were divorced in 1959. In 1968, he met the love of his life, Margaret Peterson. They were both attending a Parents Without Partners meeting in Seattle and she volunteered to play the piano so they could sing. She noticed his fine voice and he noticed her loveliness. They were married on 20 Sep 1969 in Tukwila, Washington.  they remained happily married until she died on 5 Dec 1999.

     Mac continued to live in the house he'd built until he was simply too old to live alone so he sold it in 2006 and moved to a retirement home at Judson Park. He died there on 8 May 2012. He was just 3 1/2 months shy of 93 years old.

     Mac had an avid thirst for knowledge and ideas.  He read voraciously and was a frequent visitor to the local library. There were always stacks of books in his house with notes and markers in them. He was always happy to discuss ideas with anyone who so desired. This made him very well known and loved ta the library. He was very active in politics, being an ardent liberal Democrat.  He worked in his local precinct getting out the vote. He was equally active and devoted to his Church-a Methodist Church.  Margaret was a Unitarian so after they were married they divided their time between the local Methodist and Unitarian Churches. the Ministers of both Churches officiated at both of their memorial services. At Mac's Memorial Service, people spoke with great fondness of him from all of these areas. His enthusiasm, cheerfulness and goodwill were truly appreciated by all who knew him.

     Two areas that were especially important to Mac were the Civil War and his Scottish. He read avidly about the Civil War, it was easy to buy him Christmas presents because all you had to do was get him a book on the Civil War! when he retired as a mechanic, he took his dream vacation.  He went and visited the Civil War battle fields and places that most inspired him, especially Gettysburg.
He was very proud of his Scottish heritage.  He wore the tartan and went to the Scottish games and festivities in Seattle every year. I have his book of Scottish tartans.

     Although he didn't have any of his own, Mac loved children.  His nieces and nephews loved his visits.  He was a wonderful grandfather to my children.  He even came to my daughter's wedding, she really wanted him to come so he did. After he died, his nieces and nephew buried his ashes on the farm in Oroville where he was born and built a cairn over the spot as is a Scottish tradition. They built one for Margaret, also, over her ashes next to his.  He had been supposed to scatter her ashes over Puget Sound but my sister found them after he died in his room. We think he had been unable to part with her completely so now they rest together.

     As I said, after he died I traced his ancestry using Ancestry.com. I was blown out when I discovered that his great grandfather, Randal McDonald fought for the Union in the Civil War. Mac would've been so thrilled by that! Randal fought with the 20th Regiment, New York Cavalry.  His muster records describe him as: blue eyes, light hair, light complexion, 5'8".  Randal's mother's father, Joshua Otis, fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Mac would've gotten a kick out of that, also. Mac's McDonald forbears came to the U.S. in 1790 as part of a group of Scots who settle in Caledonia Co., Vermont. His Great Great Great Grandfather, Alexander McDonald, was part of this group.  He was born in Govan, Scotland, outside of Glasgow. From my research it appears that mac's McDonalds were from the MacDonalds of Glengarry in the Northeast Highlands. Glengarry castle can still be visited as a ruin and there still MacDonalds in the area. I am adding a photo of the castle and of the ancient and modern plaids of the MacDonalds of Glengarry. I know he would've been excited abut this.



Sunday, September 7, 2014

52 Ancestors # 36: Anna Charlotta Johansdotter Almquist

     Anna Charlotta Johansdotter was my Grandfather's Mother's Mother (my Farfar's Mormor in the Swedish way of expressing this). Not much was known about her when he told me about his family, but my research since has turned up some interesting and shocking data.

     Anna Charlotta was born on 5 May 1831 to Johannes Petersson and Greta Fohrman. She was born in Sodra Ving, Alvsborg, Sweden. This was written Wing but pronounced Ving in her day and Alvsborg was written Elvsborg(still pronounced that way, that A has a little o over it which makes it an entirely different letter in Swedish). Sodra Ving is known for it's old church which dates back to the 12th Century.  She would've been baptized in this church on 6 May 1831.

     On 22 Sep 1850 Anna married Nils Johan Almquist and they took up residence at Brunn, not too far east of Sodra Ving. Here they had four children: Johan August in 1851, Anders Wilhelm Ludwick in 1852, Hulda Josefina in 1857 (my grandfather's mother) and Emilie Maria in 1859. I imagine they were living a normal sort of life on their farm until 1864.  In 1864 in Central Sweden, where they were living, there was a widespread crop failure and famine. That may have affected them.  But for whatever reason Nils decided to emigrate to America. I'm sure that he wanted Anna Charlotta and the children to go with him. Apparently, she didn't want to go. They must have fought often about it. In June 1864, Nils decided to go and take the children with him. That's what my grandfather said, but I think he just took the two boys as the household examination record says all three left at that time. At any rate, Anna Charlotta was not about to let this happen and she went to the police. The police found Nils in Goteborg and told him that he could go but the children had to stay. So the boys went back to their mother and Nils went to America.

     Essentially then, Nils abandoned her. He may have sent money and I do think he kept in touch with his children, at leas,t because in 1865, his sons joined him in Minnesota. That same year, Anna Charlotta, Hulda and Emilie moved back to Sodra Ving. By 1872 they were back in Brunn, they lived on a farm called Remma. I don't know if Nils and Anna got a divorce or not. I know he remarried in America in 1869(the family story is that he remarried on the boat to America but I found the Minnesota marriage record dated 1869).  In the Husforhors (Household Examination Record) of 1872-1881, she is listed as divorced ("franskilda"). There are two listings for her and her household, the first does not say franskilda and the second one does. The second one seems to be after 1879. So the divorce may refer to the next part of this story.

    The second listing also calls her a "barnmorskan" or midwife.  This is the first time she is called that in the records.  This was a legitimate profession for women in 19th Century Sweden with the same respect accorded a primary school teacher. Often the local midwife became a central community figure. In the 17th Century a school for midwives was opened by royal decree and in 1819 it was further decreed that each municipality should employ a midwife.  These women were locally trained if they could not be sent to the College in Stockholm. So, I assume that Anna Charlotta took the opportunity to acquire a profession being without a husband as she was. Interestingly, in the family data from my grandfather she is called a doctor. Close, but actually she was a midwife.

     In this same 1872-1881 record a new child appears. This is Agda Cecilia Levinsdotter, born 22 Nov 1872. The husforhors notes the word "oakta" by her name which means illegitimate child. Her father appears further down the page as Levin Johansson, born 11 Nov 1848, a "drang" or farm hand. He was 17 years younger than Anna Charlotta. Agda would've been conceived in late January or February. One can understand how in the very dark and cold winter a woman who had been abandoned by her husband could've found comfort with a young, virile farm hand. In these days of a TV Series called "Cougars" it doesn't seem that shocking but in that day I'm sure it was. Anna Charlotta and Levin actually got married on 1 Jul 1876 in Brunn, not Sodra Ving, and she gives her birth year as 1834, not 1831. However, on 5 Mar 1879 their marriage was cancelled by the court. The notes on this are not totally clear to me but he word forbidden is used. My assumption is that she was not, in fact, divorced from Nils and the court voided the marriage.

     This must have been a huge scandal and the fodder for much gossip in their community. At any rate Levin left for Sodra Ving on 21 Apr 1879, Hulda left for America on 5 Aug 1881 and Anna Charlotta, Emilie and Agda all left for Vankiva on 23 Aug 1879. Vankiva is quite a ways south in Kristianstad, near Denmark. I'm sure it was impossible for them to remain in Brunn.

     Emilie married Karl Johan Nyquist in 1898 in Vankiva and died in Vasa in 1938, leaving two sons. Anna Charlotta continued in her profession as a midwife and died on 23 Mar 1917 in Vankiva. Agda died on  11 Jun 1931 of stomach cancer.  She never married.

     That is Anna Charlotta's story as far as I know it.  She was an able woman who found a profession for herself at a time when most women didn't have any. Her loneliness led her into trouble which she handled as best she could. She didn't compromise with what she wanted in life and we can admire her for that.