Wednesday, September 13, 2017

James Hogg Vance

James Hogg Vance

I'm returning from a writing hiatus to tell the story of someone who isn't my family member. James Hogg Vance is not related to me, but my father spent time researching him for a hobby project, and the results were so interesting that we wanted to share them.

My father collects car license plates. His interest in license plates began in the 1980s. He started his collection around 1987 and joined ALPCA (The Automobile License Plate Collectors Association) in 1989. Thirty years later, his collection is extensive, featuring both domestic and international plates. He owns license plates from every country in the world, expect four: The Vatican, South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, and East Timor. Some of his plates have been featured in exhibits at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, and he was recently quoted in the New York Times about the revival of the California 1960s Legacy Plate. He currently serves as the Secretary of ALPCA's Gold Rush Region.

In 2013, my father acquired a 1910 "pre-state" California license plate from another collector, Mark Hanna. He has been building an extensive collection of California plates, including one issued in each year from 1910 to the present, and 1910 was a year he didn't yet own. License plates from the years 1905 - 1913 are known as "pre-state," because during those years California did not issue license plates for cars. They issued dash discs, metal disks that were attached to a vehicle's dashboard. The individual vehicle owner was responsible for marking the exterior of the car with the ID number found on the dash disc. In the beginning, a vehicle owner had to display a rear plate and paint the same identification number on one of the headlights. Some people stamped the numbers onto leather and hung them on the car, or painted the numbers directly on their radiator. Many chose to make tin plates and affix them to the car's bumper. These plates could be easily made from kits purchased at a hardware store. This is what James Hogg Vance did in 1910, when he was issued a registration for his car.

The 1910 tin license plate originally owned by James Vance, now in my father's collection.

My father was so intrigued by this early license plate, and curious about what kind of car it might have identified, that he, along with license plate enthusiasts John Witt and Jeff Minard, began to research registration records to determine the original owner of the plate. After they learned that James Hogg Vance had been issued the registration number in December of 1909 as a 1910 registration, my father decided to learn more about him by searching online genealogy websites and contacting historical societies. He has shared his findings with ALPCA, and was kind enough to let me relate his discoveries here.

The display my father made about James Vance's life and his 1910 license plate.

James Hogg Vance spent much of his adult life in Yreka, California. Yreka is in the northernmost part of California, just 25 miles from the Oregon border, and is best known for its roots as a gold rush town. From Wikipedia:
In March 1851, Abraham Thompson, a mule train packer, discovered gold near Rocky Gulch while traveling along the Siskiyou Trail from southern Oregon. By April 1851, 2,000 miners had arrived in "Thompson's Dry Diggings" to test their luck, and by June 1851, a gold rush "boomtown" of tents, shanties, and a few rough cabins had sprung up. Several name changes occurred until the little city was called Yreka. The name comes from the Shasta language /wáik'a/, for which Mount Shasta is named. The word means "north mountain" or "white mountain".
Yreka in the early 1900s (courtesy Yreka Chamber)

My father contacted the Siskiyou County Museum and they sent him the following information about James Vance, a notable businessman in early Yreka:
Born on a farm near Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1839 of Scotch parents. Moved to the the United States about [1861]1, then went west and made connections with the old California Stage Company. In Genoa, Nevada, he became a naturalized citizen. He settled in Yreka in 1863 and prepared a home and returned to Genoa where he married Louisa Scott. They, with Mrs. Vance's younger sister, Almedia Scott, reached Yreka by stage coach in June of 1863. 
Mr & Mrs Vance reared their four daughters and lived in Yreka until 1898 when Mr. Vance sold his interests in the firm of Vance & Wallbridge to Mr. J.D. Carr and moved with his family to San Francisco. 
The firm of Vance & Wallbridge had their main business in Yreka but also had a store and warehouses in Montague and Ager. In connection with Mr. S.P. Terwilliger they built the first flour mill in Little Shasta Valley. They built for their own use the first telephone line from Yreka to Montague and the Mill in Little Shasta Valley.
Genoa, Nevada in 1859 (US National Archives/NARA)

Online genealogy research reveals that James Hogg Vance was the son of Robert Vans (which James later spelled "Vance") and Mary Hogg. In about 1861, he entered the United States and traveled by stagecoach to Genoa, Nevada, which was the end of the stage coach line. From there, he made his way to Yreka, where he set up a profitable flour mill and a series of retail stores.

Louisa Jane Scott was born in Springfield, Illinois in 1843. She was the daughter of Lemuel Scott and Mary Talley. It appears that she was born just before her parents headed westward, likely on the Oregon Trail. The Scott family was established in Yahmill, Oregon by 1845, and Louisa's younger siblings were born there. It's not clear why Louisa and her family would have been in Genoa, Nevada, as the Siskiyou County Museum's records indicate. Yamhill and Genoa are nearly 600 miles apart. However, at some point in 1863, James Vance married Louisa Scott and they established a home in Yreka, where they would raise four daughters:

Mary Agnes b. 1866, d. 1922
Lulu b. 1870, d. 1953, m. August C. Baumgartner
Effie Scott b. 1873, d.1951
Mabel Ella - b.1876, d. 1965, m. Charles William Carter

Mabel Ella Vance

Lulu was the first daughter to leave the Vance home. She married August Baumgartner on October 18, 1895 in Alameda County, California. This is 300 miles south of Yreka. It's not certain if the entire Vance family had moved to the Bay Area at this point, or if Lulu was the first to relocate, but around this period all the Vances departed Yreka and made a new home in Oakland, California.

Sometime prior to 1898, Mr. Vance left his home and business in Yreka and moved his wife and three unmarried daughters to Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco. His business in Yreka was quite prosperous, so we can only speculate why he would leave. Perhaps he wanted to be near Lulu, who was now living in Oakland with her husband. My father wonders if Louisa had taken ill, and James moved the family to San Francisco to be nearer doctors who could help her. If that was the case, the move did not improve her condition. Louisa died in 1899, at the age of 58.

In 1900, according to the U.S Census, the Vance family lived on 32nd Street in Oakland. Mary Agnes, Effie and Mabel were not married and were living at home. Lulu and August Baumgartner had welcomed their first child, and they were also living on 32nd Street with James Vance and the Vance sisters. In 1909, James Vance moved to 305 Euclid Ave in Oakland with Mary Agnes, Effie and Mabel. This area was called Adams Point and it was a new development. The homes were brand new and quite luxurious. Just a year later, James Vance made his kit license plate that would later end up in my father's possession.

Some of the many California plates in my father's collection

We don't know what kind of car James Vance owned in 1910 when he made his license plate. What we do know is that he was issued a new 1914 plate for a 1912 Pope Hartford automobile. In 1914, California began issuing license plates along with dash discs, and so James Vance retired his kit plate and put the state-issued plate on his Pope Hartford. Later in 1914, he purchased a Packard. We can't be sure what sort of circuitous path the 1910 plate took before it came to live in my father's collection, but it's still in great shape more than 100 years later.

An advertisement for a 1912 Pope-Hartford Touring Car, like the one James Vance owned.

James Vance died on July 8, 1917 in Oakland. He was 77. He was survived by all four of his daughters. Mary Agnes and Effie Vance never married. They are buried alongside their parents at Chapel of Memories in Oakland.




Mabel Ella Vance married Charles William Carter and had two children, Charles Vance Carter (1902-1988) and Florence Agnes Vance (1905-1990). Lulu Vance and August C. Baumgartner had one son, Vance Baumgartner (1899-1937). These families have many living descendants.

My father had a great time researching James Vance and his family. He has also inspired some of his fellow ALPCA members to ask more questions about their historical license plates, and learn about the lives of the people who originally owned them. As my father says, "Remember, behind every piece of tin or porcelain is at least one person worth remembering."



The page about James Vance from the Siskiyou County Museum says he arrived in the USA in 1839. This appears to be a typo, since that is the year of James Vance's birth, and he didn't move to the USA until about 1861. 


Monday, June 26, 2017

Happy 4th Birthday, Know Their Stories!

Photo by Marc Hanauer (link)

Know Their Stories is four years old today.

Don't they say that 95% of people abandon the blogs they start? I've heard that statistic, along with the oft-quoted, "Most blogs have an audience of one." Blogging ain't easy. I'm proud to still be writing after four years, but even more, I'm grateful to still be enjoying it. Many of the blogs I used to read have gone kaput, perhaps because the writers lost the heart for it, because writing started to be a task rather than a release, or because no one ever commented. Sometimes it just stops making sense.

I had my own hiatus at the end of last year, when the world became a place I didn't recognize and deciding how to move forward became an every day challenge. For a while, I didn't know if I would be able to write again, or if doing so was a good use of my time. I had to stop and think about why I write this blog and whether I wanted to keep doing it. The good thing about my blog is that it's always really been for me. Hardly anyone reads it, and that's okay. The people who need to read it find it, and that's incredibly satisfying. I don't need fifty comments; I just enjoy that one comment from someone who Googled their ancestor and found my blog. That happens somewhat regularly, and it encourages me to keep writing.

I write this blog because I'm passionate about sharing the stories of my family members, and because writing helps me clarify my research and make sure I've gotten the facts straight. If I felt like I had to write a post every week, I wouldn't enjoy it. I write when I want to, I give myself space when I need to, and I keep hoping that these stories will find their way to people who care. Four years after its birth, Know Their Stories is still going strong, and I have a lot of tales left to tell.

The most popular posts on Know Their Stories in the past year:

Organizing Your Genealogy: How I Did It and You Can, Too! - Wow, this one went a little viral and got nearly 5,000 views. That's like the views for all my previous posts added together and then multiplied by twenty!

We're Related... Or Are We? - Because it's fun to bash on bad tech.

So You Want to Take a DNA Test: Advice for Non-Genealogist Friends - This post has gotten the most feedback from my 30 and 40-something friends, most of whom seem to be curious about DNA but aren't yet into genealogy.

A Photo of John T. Griffin - That time when somebody found my blog and then emailed me a photo of my biological 2nd great-grandfather. His own son never saw a photo of him, and now I have one because of this blog.

What I'm Working On Now:


If I'm being completely honest, not very much. My career hit a new high this year (awesome!), and genealogy has taken a backseat (bummer!). I haven't had the time and energy to start new projects, or even address the goals I set at the beginning of the year. It's okay. Those ancestors aren't going anywhere. I am hoping to have some more time for research in the Fall. In the meantime, I'm keeping the blog going, meeting with my local genealogy society, and occasionally sorting through some photos and documents that need filing.

Thank you!

Thank you to all the newly-discovered cousins who stumbled upon my blog and took the time to email me, to offer up family photos and stories, and to help expand my knowledge. Thank you to my mother, aunt, brother, and a few of my mother's cousins, likely the only people who semi-regularly read this blog. They email me afterward to point out mistakes or give insight on the stories I've told, and I really appreciate their collaboration. Thank you also to my fellow genealogy society members, who work really hard to provide programming and educational opportunities that make me a better researcher. And to anyone who is here by accident--- thanks for stopping by! I hope you come back to read more stories. Four years in, I still feel like this is just the beginning.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Our Family's Civil War Veterans

This weekend, we celebrated Memorial Day, when we take a moment to remember those killed while engaging in military service. Memorial Day's origins date from the years following the Civil War, when people remembered war dead by cleaning and decorating their graves.

My family has a number of ancestors who served in the Civil War, all on the Union side. Since I have not yet individually profiled these men and their families, I'd like to honor them here, as a group.

Andrew Ross Campbell

Andrew was my fourth great-grandfather, the husband of Cindrilla Greene and father of my third great-grandmother, Angeline Campbell. He was born July 29, 1824 in Chester County, South Carolina, the descendant of Scotch-Irish immigrants. In the mid-1840s, his family moved to Perry County, Illinois. There, Andrew married, had three children, and worked a large farm.

Andrew enlisted in the Union Army on August 15, 1861 at Pickneyville, Illinois, at the age of 37. He became a sergeant in Company A, Illinois 31st Infantry Regiment, which mustered into service on September 18, 1861 in Cairo, Illinois. In February 1862, he participated in the Battle of Fort Donelson, in Tennessee, but he was sick by the time the fighting started. Disease ran rampant in Civil War encampments, and Andrew had come down with an illness from which he would not recover. He stayed with the Army through the battle, which turned out to be a great victory for the Union, but was then sent by boat to a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. After evaluation there, he was sent home to Illinois, still sick, but not discharged from service. He arrived home in Pickneyville on April 11, 1862 and died there on April 25, 1862. His cause of death was noted as Smallpox, although this was likely not the original ailment which had sent him home from the war. Andrew was thirty-seven at the time of his death.

Andrew's brother, John M. Campbell, Jr., also died during the Civil War. Like Andrew, John served as an officer in the Illinois 31st Infantry Regiment. Sadly, John was wounded at the battle at Fort Donelson, and he perished from those injuries on February 15. He was forty-two years old.

Thomas Benton Greene

Thomas Benton Greene was the son of Elizabeth Elen Short and Levi Greene, my fifth great grandparents. He was the brother of Cindrilla Greene, my fourth great-grandmother. As mentioned above, Cindrilla lost her husband, Andrew Ross Campbell, to illness contracted while he was serving in the Civil War. Thomas was born in 1842 in Perry County, Illinois. He was just nineteen years old when he enlisted in the Union Army on August 15, 1861. He joined Company A, Illinois 31st Infantry Regiment, the same unit that his brother-in-law, Andrew Campbell, had joined as an officer.

Like Andrew, Thomas mustered into service on September 18, 1861 in Cairo, Illinois. He fought in the Battle of Fort Donelson and survived. His company spent much of 1862 and 1863 in Tennessee before heading to Mississippi, where they engaged in several battles at Vicksburg. Thomas was mustered out in late 1863 and reenlisted on January 5, 1864. 1864 found the Illinois 31st Infantry in Georgia, where they participated in General Sherman's March to the Sea. Thomas survived until the end of the war and mustered out for the final time on July 19, 1865 in Louisville, Kentucky. He returned home to Perry County, where he married Margaret Keller and had four children. The family moved to Kansas, where Thomas worked as a farmer until his death at 91 years of age.

Michael O'Hare

Michael was my third great-grandfather, the father of Nellie O'Hare Barrett and husband of Temperance Burns. He was born in County Down, Northern Ireland, in about 1827. He emigrated to New York in the 1840s, where he married his first wife and had two sons. The family moved to Illinois just as the Civil War started, and Michael enlisted in the Union Army on September 26, 1861. He was a private in Company D, 4th Cavalry Regiment Illinois. At the time of his enlistment, he was thirty-four years old.

After their formation, the 4th Cavalry was sent to Tennessee, where they saw a lot of action over the next several years. They participated in battles at Fort Donelson, Shiloh (under the command of General Sherman) and Corinth. Sent west, toward Mississippi and Arkansas, they engaged in a number of conflicts along the way, including skirmishes near Holly Springs and Memphis. Michael was captured and taken prisoner on February 29, 1864, near a fort on the Boeuf River in Arkansas. He was taken to Camp Ford, a prisoner of war camp in Tyler, Texas, where he was held for a period of several months. The prison was just bare ground surrounded by 16-foot high stakes. Prisoners were left outside in the elements and given nothing beyond meager rations of corn, beans and occasional meat. While there were slightly better conditions at this prison than at some others, it was still a grim and dangerous environment. Michael was released from Camp Ford before the end of that year, because his records show that he was discharged from the military with the rest of his company on November 16, 1864 in Springfield, Illinois. He had served three years. Michael was lucky. Of about 1,100 men in the 4th Calvalry, only about 350 were mustered out in 1864, suggesting great losses in this company. Michael's first wife died after his return home, and he married again in 1870, to my 3rd great-grandmother Temperance Burns. They had two children together, including my second great-grandmother, Nellie.

John Daly 

John Daly was my third great-grandfather. He was the husband of Mary Carey and the father of my second great-grandmother, Catherine Daly Murray. John was born in Ireland in 1824 and came to America in 1847. He married Mary Carey, also an Irish immigrant, and settled in Massachusetts. When the war began, John was living in Lawrence, Massachusetts with his wife and four young daughters, and working as a stonecutter.

On August 12, 1862 he joined Company B, Massachusetts 3rd Cavalry Regiment. There appear to have been twelve companies in the Massachusetts 3rd Cavalry, and being such a large group, it's been difficult for me to determine the exact movements of John Daly's company. It appears that the 3rd Cavalry was affiliated with the 41st Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, recruited in the summer and fall of 1862. This regiment departed Massachusetts for New York on November 5, 1862, and then sailed to New Orleans. They seem to have spent most of the war in Louisiana, engaging in various skirmishes there. After serving over a year, John was mustered out on January 18, 1864. He returned home to Massachusetts, where he resumed his work and had at least one more child. While the details of his service are scarce, we know that John was involved with a veteran's group in Massachusetts after the war. In the best photo we have of him, he can be seen wearing a GAR hat. GAR ("Grand Army of the Republic") was a fraternal organization made up of Civil War veterans. John lived until the age of ninety, dying in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1914.

Michael J. Murray

Michael was the brother of my second great-grandfather, John Bernard Murray. John was the husband of Catherine Daly, and the son-in-law of John Daly, profiled above. The Murray brothers were born in County Down, Northern Ireland, and emigrated to Massachusetts in the 1840s. In the fall of 1861, Michael enlisted in the 25th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 2nd Brigade. Information about the 2nd Brigade's activities from Wikipedia:
On July 8, the regiment left for Maryland where it joined the forces under General Robert Patterson. In 1861, the regiment served guarding the upper Potomac River and Frederick, Maryland, and in the spring of 1862, the regiment served under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, unsuccessfully opposing Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. In June, the regiment was transferred to the Union Army of Virginia and participated in General Pope's Northern Virginia Campaign.
Over the next two years, Michael's company participated in the following well-known battles:
  • Battle of Antietam
  • Battle of Chancellorsville
  • Battle of Gettysburg
It is perhaps a miracle that Michael survived these conflicts, given the high number of casualties at each. However, his luck was about to run out. In 1864, the 2nd Brigade headed to Georgia to participate in General Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. In August 1864, Michael was killed near Atlanta, behind a breastworks in what seems to have been a minor skirmish, not a major engagement. He was twenty-six years old at the time of his death. Michael wrote a letter home to his family the day before he died, and a copy of that letter survives.

Samuel G. Smith 

Samuel was my third great-grandfather, husband of Ellen Henrietta Partridge and father of my second great-grandfather, Walter Samuel Smith. He was born June 9, 1937 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, but moved to Bunker Hill, Illinois, prior to the start of the Civil War. On July 11, 1861, Samuel enlisted in the 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

I do not know the specifics of Samuel's war service, but his regiment saw action at the Battle of Fort Donelson, the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Corinth, the Battle of Allatoona Pass, the March to the Sea (under command of General Sherman) and the Carolinas Campaign. Samuel survived the war and returned to Illinois in 1864, where he was discharged on July 29. In December of that year he married Ellen Partridge. Together, they had four children. In his later years, after Ellen's death, Samuel lived in a home for elderly veterans in Togus, Maine. He died there in 1922, at the age of eighty-four.

Wallace Partridge 

Wallace was the brother of Ellen Partridge, wife of Samuel G. Smith. Like his future brother-in-law, Wallace enlisted in the 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1861.

As I wrote in my previous post about Wallace, he was born on September 14, 1843 in Brooklyn, New York. His family moved to Bunker Hill, Illinois in the 1850s. Wallace registered for military service at Springfield, Illinois on April 17, 1861, just five days after war was declared. He was 17 years old. The Army had a requirement that soldiers be 18 years of age at enlistment, but they appear to have allowed Wallace to join when he was five months shy of that milestone. Like Samuel G. Smith, Wallace was involved in the battles at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Altoona. He was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, or perhaps immediately afterward in a skirmish on the Corinth Road, and had to leave military service for some time to recover. On December 22, 1962, Wallace re-enlisted and served until the end of the war. After the war, Wallace married Isabella Eddington and fathered nine children in Bunker Hill. He died in 1929, at the age of eighty-five.

Rufus Partridge

Rufus was the brother of Wallace Partridge, and another brother-in-law of Samuel G. Smith. He was just a year and a half younger than Wallace, born November 26, 1844 in Brooklyn, New York. Like his brother and future brother-in-law, he was living in Bunker Hill, Illinois when the Civil War began, but unlike them, he enlisted in a different company. Rufus' military records say that he was in Company K of the 144th Illinois Infantry, and that he served from January 4, 1865 to July 14, 1865. This was at the very end of the war. In fact, the 144th was not even created until the end of 1864, which begs the question of whether Rufus was attached to another company prior to his involvement with the 144th.

Rufus was just 15 when his brother Wallace enlisted in 1861. Rules at that time required that men be 18 years old before they joined the Army, so it is likely that Rufus simply wasn't old enough to enlist prior to 1864. After its creation, the 144th was sent to the St. Louis, Missouri area, where they remained until the end of the war. They appear to have lost more men to illness than armed conflict, and luckily, young Rufus returned home unharmed. After the war, Rufus married Elizabeth Palmer, and they raised six children in Kansas. Rufus died in 1914, at the age of seventy.

Nelson Hodge

Nelson Hodge was the nephew of my fourth great-grandmother, Amelia Brown Bellangee. Amelia's sister, Mercy Brown, married Loton Samuel Hodge. Nelson was their second son. The Brown and Hodge families were from Mendon, New York, east of Buffalo. This is where Nelson was born on July 5, 1842.

Nelson joined the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment shortly after its creation, on July 25, 1862. He was twenty years old. His regiment appears to have headed directly to the area near Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, which was a recurring flash point between northern and southern troops. The Battle of Bolivar Heights took place there on August 27 and 28, 1862, and it's possible that Nelson's regiment may have arrived in time to see action. The Union Army was soundly defeated in this battle, resulting in the largest surrender of Union troops during the entire war. The surviving Union soldiers remained in the area and continued to skirmish with Confederate units in the months and years that followed. The U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 database says that Nelson was mustered out on November 3, 1862 at Bolivar Heights, West Virginia. I believe that this was actually his date of death, since multiple other records indicate that he died during the war, and give his separation date as November 3, 1862. We don't know whether he was killed in combat or taken by illness. Nelson was twenty years old at the time of his death.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gil Cook: New Information

Gil Cook in 1942 while training at Gardner Army Airfield, California

My mother's cousin Mary recently came to visit, and she brought photos and letters that had belonged to her mother, Patricia Rutherfurd, half-sister of Gil Cook. This treasure trove of pictures and documents included letters that shared additional information about Gil's service in the 436th Bombardment Squadron during World War II.

As I wrote in my initial series of posts about Gil, his plane went down over Burma on October 28, 1943 after being hit by friendly fire. Initially, the Army telegrammed the families of the men on board the plane that their sons were missing. It took six months for them to learn the truth, that all the men had perished in the accident. My mother once told me that her parents, Glenn and LaVerne Smith, were actually the first to learn what really happened to Gil, and they found out not from the Army, but from a friend who had been stationed in India with Gil. I was stunned that families would have to learn such terrible news from friends, while the Army would say only that the men were missing.

Gil during his military training

In the collection of letters that Mary gave me, I found the original document my grandparents received in November 1943 from their friend Dick, telling them what happened on that fateful day over Burma. I quote here from the letter, dated November 20, 1943
Glenn, in a more serious light, I'm sorry to report that Lt. Cooke was killed in action. My old roommate wrote me from the squadron I was formerly in with Lt. Cooke that Lt. Cooke's plane was hit by a bomb in mid-air and shortly afterward his plane fell in flames to the ground. No one was seen to jump from the flaming ship. 
This hurts me to report this, but I know you people would want the truth. I felt terrible about the whole incident. Gosh, how I liked Lt. Cooke and so did everyone else.  Please, extend my heart felt sympathies to his family and LaVerne.
My grandmother, LaVerne, was very close to her cousin Gil. Born just weeks apart, they grew up very near each other in Los Angeles and had a sibling-like relationship. How devastating it must have been to receive this letter, and to have to tell Gil's mother what eyewitnesses said had happened to her son.

Gil's mother, Magdalene Barrett Rutherfurd, had received an initial telegram from the War Department on November 3, 1943, six days after her son's death, informing her that Gil was missing. A number of letters went back and forth between various military officials and the families of those killed on Gil's plane over the following months, but it took six months for official confirmation of the deaths. It is disappointing that it took so long for the families to be told the truth, since depositions taken by officers in Burma on November 7th indicated clearly that the plane went down in flames and no survivors were seen. However, Magdalene must have known from early on that she was unlikely to be reunited with her son, given the letter from Dick on November 20th.






Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Dandurand Family

My step-great-grandmother, Ozelda "Dandy" Dandurand

I was fortunate enough to have a living great-grandparent during my childhood. While Ozelda "Dandy" Dandurand Rutherfurd did not live near enough for me to get to know her well, I met her on several occasions. Dandy was the second wife of my great-grandfather, George Rutherfurd, and although she was not a blood relative, she was a kind and loving grandmother to my mother and her siblings, and very much part of our family.

Dandy and George

In an earlier post, I wrote about how George and Dandy met at the telephone company in Los Angeles, where they both worked. They married in their forties, after each had lost their first spouse. By the time I was a child, Dandy was quite elderly and was living in an assisted living facility in Medford, Oregon. She was in good heath, though, and when we went to visit her there she would walk around the grounds with us. She was able to leave the facility and visit us when we were nearby for a summer camping trip. I have a strong memory of her sitting in a plastic folding chair around a campfire, surrounded by tall pines. I must have been about nine years old.

Dandy with my brothers and me

Dandy died in Medford on her 101st birthday, March 20, 1997. I was a recent college graduate then, not yet interested in genealogy. Later, when I developed a passion for family history, I remembered the few stories I had heard about Dandy's past, before she married George. My mother had always told me that when Dandy was a young girl, her family had traveled the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. It had apparently been a terrible journey and was something Dandy never wanted to discuss. With Dandy gone, and not knowing any of her extended family, I turned to the internet to learn more about her background.

Dandy and George on their wedding day
I knew that Dandy's father had been French Canadian, and I knew that they had lived in the Midwest before coming to the west coast. With a unique name like Ozelda, it didn't take me long to find my great-grandmother in the 1900 United States Census, living with her family in Knowles, Frontier County, Nebraska. Reviewing census data and city directories, I was able to put together some basics about Dandy's family.

Dandy and George at their retirement party

Dandy was born March 20, 1896. Her parents were Narcisse Dandurand and Lucy Isabella Dunn. Narcisse was born in Quebec, Canada in February 1866, and he was a 34-year old farmer in Nebraska by the time of the 1900 census. The 1900 census reports that his parents were both also born in French Canada, but I have not yet learned their names. Lucy was born in Nebraska in April 1872, the daughter of John Dunn and Margaret Wymore.

Narcisse and Lucy had at least six children together:

John Floyd Dandurand (1890-1956)
Bertha May Dandurand (1893-1986)
Ozelda Narcisse Dandurand (1897-1997)
Carrie O. Dandurand (1899-)
Eva A. Dandurand (1901-)
Thelma Hazel Dandurand (1910-1997)

On the 1910 census, there appears a listing for a child named Ralma H. Dandurand, aged 2, born in Nebraska. I suspect this may be a census error, and that child was actually Thelma H. Dandurand, who was born in Oregon three days prior to the census-taker arriving at the Dandurand household. While it's possible that there was a Ralma and she died after this census, I can find no other records for a Ralma Dandurand. It's also curious that Thelma would be left off a census, since she was very much alive when the census was taken on April 23, 1910. There's also the fact that Ralma is an unusual name, but similar to Thelma.

Another mystery is that Dandy's sister Helen does not appear in any records for this family. We know that Dandy had a sister named Helen with whom she was very close. My mother recalls Dandy talking about Helen frequently. Helen lived in Southern California, like Dandy, and in their later years they had planned to move to Medford together. Helen died shortly before the move, which was a great blow to Dandy. We know Helen existed, but don't know why she doesn't appear in census records with the family. I wonder if perhaps Helen and Eva were somehow the same person. Eva came to Southern California with Dandy and Hazel between 1918 and 1920, and they appear in the same household together in the 1920 U.S. Census. Hazel later married and moved to Northern California, but I have found no records for Eva after 1920. Perhaps she went by the name Helen? This is a total head-scratcher.

The Dandurand family appears to have left Nebraska sometime between the birth of Eva Dandurand in 1901 and their arrival in Oregon in 1908. In the 1910 U.S. Census, Narcisse Dandurand reported that he had been in Oregon for two years, which is how we are able to pinpoint 1908 as their year of travel.

While in Nebraska, the Dandurands lived in Knowles and nearby Freedom, in the southwestern corner of the state, not far from the Kansas state line. From there, it was less than a two day walk (today, less than two hours in a car) to reach the Oregon Trail, which followed the Platte River westward through Nebraska. Travel on the Oregon Trail had peaked decades earlier, and in 1908 it was possible to take a train west. We can only assume the Dandurand family did not have money to travel via train, and thus took a much longer and more dangerous route west. As to why the family would leave Nebraska in the first place, we can only guess. Lucy Dunn Dandurand's parents and siblings lived within a day's walk of her farm in Nebraska, and she and Narcisse had been farming in and around Knowles for nearly twenty years. Did the farm fall on hard times? Were the Dandurands lured west by stories of fertile farmland and increased opportunity?

The Oregon Trail's location in Nebraska. Approximate location of Knowles is marked with a X.

The stories of hardships on the Oregon Trail are well known. Dandy would never share stories about her experience, but hinted that it was a terrible journey for the Dandurand family. I wondered if a family member had died en route to Oregon, but it appears that they all made it to Portland alive, according to the 1910 U.S. Census, taken two years after their arrival. Their hardships on the trail were more likely those commonly reported: sickness, hunger, exposure to the elements, threats from bandits, and physical discomfort.

The Dandurands settled in Portland, Oregon, which was a city of over 200,000 people in 1910. This must have been a big change from the plains of Nebraska. Narcisse Dandurand bought a house on Detroit Street and in the 1910 U.S. Census claimed he was working as a farmer. His eldest son, John Floyd Dandurand, got work as a boilermaker, and eldest daughter Bertha May took a job at the local telephone company. Dandy was still in school in 1910, but she would later follow her sister Bertha into a telephone company career. Despite their success in traversing the Oregon Trail and establishing themselves in a new state, in the decade that followed, the Dandurand family unraveled.

John Floyd moved to Seattle in about 1916, where he married Dollie Davidson. Bertha May married Joseph Hague in 1912, and they moved to Astoria. Carrie disappears from records completely after 1910. It's not clear if she died, or if she married and moved away. As their children grew and left the home, the Dandurand marriage withered. In either 1919 or 1920, Lucy left Narcisse and married Fred Linton, a steamfitter (essentially, a plumber) who was also living in Portland. They took the three Dandurand girls who remained at home, Dandy, Eva and Hazel, and moved to Los Angeles. Narcisse went to Seattle, where he can be found in a boarding house in the 1920 U.S. Census. He may have gone there to be near his son, John. Both Lucy and Narcisse would eventually move back to Oregon, but their marriage was over.

I wish that Dandy had shared more stories about her youth and her experience on the Oregon Trail. It seems these were things she was glad to leave behind as she embarked on adulthood in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, she had a successful career and two happy marriages. She was a great companion to my great-grandfather after the death of his first wife, and a loving grandmother to his grandchildren. She lived to age 101, long enough to see nearly the entire twentieth century. I'm very glad to have been able to meet her and to share a little bit of her story.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

So You Want to Take a DNA Test: Advice for Non-Genealogist Friends



This post is for my friends who are not genealogists.

I've had a lot of conversations recently with people who have not researched their family history in depth but are intrigued by the idea of taking a DNA test.  Most people are curious about their origins, whether or not they have the time and inclination to dive into real genealogical research.  I have been asked a number of times by friends whether they should take a DNA test and what they might learn by doing so.  As we approach National DNA Day, with DNA tests on sale, I wanted to offer some guidance, with the caveat that I am not a geneticist, and this is all based purely on my own experience as a DNA beginner.

Why take a test
Most non-genealogists seem to be interested in using DNA to get an ethnicity estimate. When you test, you will be given a graph or pie chart that breaks down your ethnicity into categories. This provides a quick overview of the regions your ancestors lived. For those who are just starting out with family history, or who don't know anything about their roots, this can either confirm the family lore you know, or provide some tantalizing new information. These ethnicity estimates need to be taken with a grain of salt, but they can be a helpful starting point. More interesting than the ethnicity estimate, to me, are the cousin connections. When you test, you'll be given a big list of others who've tested and share your DNA, to various extents. If you enter a family tree, you can start seeing how these people are connected to you. More on that below.

Where to test
There are three major companies offering DNA tests: Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andme. For the beginner, I recommend testing with Ancestry. They have arguably the largest DNA database, and I think that their interface is the easiest for beginners to navigate. As mentioned above, after you test, you will get a pie chart showing your ethnic makeup and a list of all the people in the database who share some of your DNA. Even if you don't know much about DNA or your deep family history, Ancestry makes it easy to make sense of your results. Their interface is really straightforward. Ancestry also offers the option to extract the raw data from your test, meaning you can transfer it to other DNA companies that offer more sophisticated tools, like FamilyTreeDNA, should you want to get further involved with genetic genealogy.

My ethnicity estimate results page on Ancestry

First steps
After submitting your test, you will want to start a free trial at Ancestry.com and enter a basic family tree.  If you DNA test without having a tree in place, it's going to be difficult to figure out how you connect with your matches.  It's okay if you haven't researched your whole family.  Just enter what you know for now.  Resist the temptation to click on the hints Ancestry will provide you and start adding a bunch of new ancestors to your tree.  Ancestry's hints are often incorrect, or at least need to be analyzed carefully.  You can work on expanding your tree over time, if you're interested in doing so.  For now, just enter the immediate relatives you know for sure. Your free trial is only good for two weeks, and it's going to take at least six to get your DNA test results back (more in peak periods, like right after Christmas), so you might want to wait until your results arrive to get started. Once your trial expires, Ancestry gets expensive, but I encourage you to get a paid membership, at least for a while, so you can fully explore your results and expand your tree.

What to do after you test
You've gotten your DNA test results. Now what? This is the title of many a blog post in the genealogy community. If you're a total beginner to DNA and genealogy in general, my recommendation is to use this time to start looking into your family history. Do you have grandparents and elderly relatives still living? Bring them your DNA results. Ask what they think. Talk to them about their families. There's a post in the Know Your Stories archives on questions to ask your relatives that should help start a good conversation about family history. Write down what your relatives tell you. Use the information they give you to flesh out a family tree. Everyone has that one aunt who supposedly knows everything about the family and has all the photos. Call her! Find out what she knows. Get copies of some of those photos. These are all valuable first steps. What you don't want to do is spend your two week free trial attaching every possible ancestor under the sun to your Ancestry tree, via those tempting shaky leaf hints, because that's how you end up with a tree full of mistakes, and that's how your children grow up thinking they're descended from Charlemagne. Start with your family members, find out what they know, and grow from there. Look up the genealogy society in your area and see when they're having a meeting. At my genealogy society, we have a dedicated DNA group that gets together to talk about what their DNA results mean. Finding a group like this is a great way to make the most of your test.

Be aware
DNA testing can reveal secrets you may not want to know.  Some people, like CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth, have learned that their parents are not their parents.  This is an unusual result, but certainly possible.  After a DNA test, my own father learned that his family line had a "non-paternal event" several centuries ago.  You're unlikely to encounter any huge revelations, but they do happen.  Your results may also challenge your notions of your ancestry.  If you're really attached to that story you've been told about your Cherokee princess great-great-grandmother (almost always a myth, by the way), it may be tough to learn that you don't have a bit of Native American DNA. Keep your expectations in check and be open to what you learn.

DNA testing, for me, has been a great compliment to the traditional genealogy I was already doing. It's definitely provided some new insights and opened some interesting doors. I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in their origins take a test, and let this lead you into the exciting world of family history.




Monday, February 6, 2017

The Short Family and William Penn's "Welcome"

Illustration: The Departure of the "Welcome"

I was doing some research on my Short ancestry recently when I made an interesting connection. It seems quite likely that my immigrant ancestor Adam Short (1667-1748) came to America on William Penn's ship Welcome. Unfortunately, "quite likely" is the best conclusion I'll ever be able to make, because if the Welcome had a passenger list, it does not survive. There is no way to be completely certain about the passengers on that boat. However, many researchers have compiled assumed passenger lists based on anecdotal evidence, and a number of these lists include Adam Short, his mother, sisters and uncle among those who sailed on the Welcome.

A little history about William Penn and the Welcome:
William Penn was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was an early advocate of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful treaties with the Lenape Native Americans. Under his direction, the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed. (Wikipedia)

Welcome was the first of an eventual fleet of over twenty ships that sailed from England to Pennsylvania, bringing with them Quakers escaping religious persecution. Welcome was important, as the first ship, and it carried William Penn himself to America. The passengers left Deal, England on September 1, 1682 and arrived in Pennsylvania 52 days later.

The passengers were about 102 and not all of Penn's company. As the passenger list was full, others who desired to sail were compelled to wait for later boats, which numbered about 21 vessels. The passengers must have been closely packed, like sardines, the poor cooking and odors of stuffy cabins must have rendered life unendurable, but blessed are those who do not expect much for they will not be disappointed. While escaping the dangers of the sea and the capture by Spanish privateers, an epidemic of small-pox carried away about one-third of the original number. It must have been heart-rending to see the ones they loved sewed up in sail- cloth, weighted at the feet and slid down the gangplank. There must have been great anxiety for the remaining ones, if the officers should be stricken there would be no one to sail the vessel and all might be lost. During the trying voyage Penn attended the sick and dying, giving comfort and consolation to the entire company. (Voyage of William Penn in ship "Welcome" 1682)


I descend from the Short family via my Greene, Campbell and Smith lines. My immigrant ancestor, Adam Short, was born in England in about 1667. He sailed to America as a teenager, settled in New Castle, Delaware, and died there on March 29, 1748, at the age of 81. The Short family came from Gatton, on the border of Surrey and Sussex, where Adam's father, Adam Short Sr., died in 1674, at the young age of 32. Adam was just seven when he lost his father. Eight years later, in 1682, it is believed that Adam's mother, Miriam Ingram Short, decided to take her children to America with William Penn. Adam had two sisters, Ann and Miriam. Also traveling with them was his paternal uncle, Isaac Ingram. Unfortunately, disaster stuck on this voyage. A smallpox epidemic swept through the passenger cabins, killing both Miriam and Isaac. This left young Adam, Ann and Miriam orphaned in a new country.

Most, but not all, of the lists of assumed Welcome passengers include Miriam Short and her three children. The Welcome Society, a lineage group with membership made up of Welcome descendants, lists Miriam Short, her children and her brother Isaac as accepted passengers. When I traveled to the New England Historic Genealogical Library last year, one of the texts I was most eager to review was The Welcome Claimants Proved, Disproved and Doubtful With An Account of Some of Their Descendants by George E. McCracken. It's a very thorough review of the potential Welcome passengers, with examination of the merits of their inclusion. McCracken had quite a bit to say about the Short family, and eventually deemed it very probable that the Short children were, indeed, passengers on Welcome. He believed it was also likely, although with less certainty, that their mother was aboard the ship with them. Since Isaac Ingram wrote a will on the Welcome, before his death from Smallpox, he is known to have been a passenger.

There are several good reasons to believe that the Short children, at least, were on the Welcome. Miriam Short was in Pennsylvania by February 1683, when her new marriage to Welcome passenger George Thompson was challenged in court as having violated the rules of the fledgling province. The marriage was eventually allowed to stand, and it establishes Miriam in Pennsylvania, in close relationship to other Welcome passengers, just months after the ship's landing. In 1719, Adam Short testified in a land ownership lawsuit in Delaware. George McCracken wrote that in the course of his deposition, Adam recalled events from as early as 1682, placing him in America with the earliest of the William Penn ships. 

Isaac Ingram died aboard the Welcome in 1682. His will survives and is archived in Philadelphia. In this document he left £30, held by Ambrose Riggs in Gatton, and all his property aboard ship to his nieces and nephew. He also mentions his late sister Miriam, who likely died just days before him. Since he bequeaths the siblings his goods on board ship, it seems incredibly likely that they were actually there and able to collect his personal items. Here is the text of Isaac's will:
"vpon the twenty sixt day of ye seauenth month one thousand six eighty & two. I Issaak Ingram late of Garton late of Surrey yeoman, Being weake of body yet of perfect mind and memory doe make this my last will and testament on board the wellcome Robt Greenaway Mr. bound for Pensilvania as foll. Item I giue & bequeath vnto my Sister Miriam Short late deseased her three children Adam Short Miriam Short & Anne Short all that thirty pownds lying in Ambrose Riggs hands living at Garton in ye county of Surrey to be equally deuided betweene them viz ten pownds a peece further it is my will & mind that my Sisters children aforesd haue all the goods on board the Wellcome equally devided betweene them."
While we cannot know for certain if Adam Short was a Welcome passenger, it seems very likely that he was. This connection to Pennsylvania's early history, and to William Penn himself is an exciting revelation.