Friday, September 2, 2016

Tombstone Found: JOHN COMBS and PERCY CEMETARY and the DAR!

Have no passion for all CAPS, but just had to use them because I'm that excited to share this story:) While at mom's back in May, in Frostburg in Western Maryland, went to see Percy Cemetery. Percy dates from about 1830, with some burials earlier. It was first the major burial place for the Methodist Church in town but then expanded to receive many of the town's prominent citizens until the more contemporary Frostburg Cemetery opened. But first, some background.

I put in a DAR Supplemental Application (supplemental to my original application for Patriot Nehemiah Newan) for John Trimble a while back and received an AIR which is DAR-ese for Additional Information Required. They pointed out that Margaret Trimble Combs, daughter of Patriot John Trimble and wife of John Combs, was lacking a precise death date. When I looked at what I submitted, sure enough, they were right and I could do better!

I narrowed down Margaret's death date by following John and Margaret's participation in the Methodist Church and then Margaret's disappearance from their list of congregants. 1849. That's when she died. And she was missing in the 1850 census too, which was the source document I originally submitted. So her death date was between October 1849 and February 1850.

But where was she buried? John, her husband, was buried in Percy Cemetery and a nice stone was still there stating his death date. Margaret was probably buried there too, but there was reportedly no stone.

John Combs was wealthy and prominent in the Methodist Church giving land for it and presumably supported it with donations. It would be reasonable to suggests that Margaret was buried in the plot adjacent John and that there had been at one time a nice big stone like his. Yet no photo of it was in Mom's tombstone file or on Find A grave.

So off Mom and I went to see if we could locate John Combs' stone and see if Margaret was there but had been overlooked.

John Combs stone.
That's John's stone there on the right and see that small stone leaning against the tree? Check this out, below!
Right, it says Margaret!!
Here's the line-up with Margaret's stone in the foreground and John's off in the back, left.

Here's the photos of what I found. You can see John Combs' stone and then look! There's the top of a stone within five feet of his, leaning against a tree that says "MARGARET". I'm willing to bet the farm that it's her stone!
Of course that's not going to satisfy the DAR genies but it satisfies me.
And here's the wild and crazy part. In the wide view photo up top, you'll see a house right in back of John's stone. That's my Grandma Kelly's house and they were grandma's 3rd great grandparents. WOW! John and Margaret were within 100 feet of me as I played on Grandma's lawn as a kid!
Margaret, you were there all the time, dear girl.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The season for bashing Ancestry Member Trees? Take a second look!

Really, it's been going on for a long time and I don't mean to infer otherwise, but of late it seems to me that it's open season on Ancestry Member Trees. A recent email conversation by a probable new-to-me cousin, a blog post or two by the usual experts, and even more Facebook posts that hold AMTs, or Ancestry Member Trees, up to scrutiny and even ridicule, float by as I comb such trees carefully looking for hints and evidence. And I've found hints and evidence all over the place! Treasures! The Good Stuff!

If you're new to all of this genealogy stuff you might not be familiar with the term AMT and why someone would want to bash them. As you probably know because of their TV commercials you can build a tree on Ancestry by following those shaking green leaves. Enter a name, click on a leaf to find records, photos, stories and all manner of info about your ancestor. It looks so easy!

One of the hints is usually a grouping of Ancestry Member Trees built by other Ancestry members, like yourself. You can choose to add what they've posted in whole or in part, and thereby build out your tree really fast, if you don't take time to question and evaluate what you're adding. In this way - by not carefully evaluating what someone else has put on their tree - you can easily build what some call a "garbage tree" with no real records or sources. You can tell which trees are the garbage trees because the only source you find is a reference to someone else's member tree. It's easy to see why AMTs have a bad reputation!

But, look. It's not the trees themselves or the shaking green leaves or hints that's a problem. It's the way members choose to build out their trees: without records. But there are other, better trees out there, and plenty of them. You just have to look.

Is it just me who is finding gems right there on AMTs? I doubt it! Just last week I was working as a volunteer Genealogy Consultant for our DAR chapter and helping a chapter member with a supplemental application. A supplemental application happens when a woman who is a DAR member and has already submitted an application proving her lineal descendancy from a Patriot Ancestor, then wants to submit another - or supplemental to her original application - proving her lineal descent from another Patriot Ancestor.

We DAR members who are crazy about genealogy simply love preparing supplementals. But those chapter members who might find the application and their research a challenge can request help for one of the chapter's Genealogy Consultants. That's when I arrive on the scene!

So there I was working on a supplemental for a chapter member. It all seemed fine except for one very important aspect of the application and that's the proof connecting generations. What I really wanted was a will but I knew that this guy, the father, died intestate. It was back in the 1760s and civil records of birth were not kept in that time and place. They didn't attend a church with good record keeping habits, so that was out. Land records were also an option but this was a father / daughter connection and so based on previous experience, I know not to get my hopes up. Had checked Ancestry will and probate files and came up empty. I was just about to turn to FamilySearch and getting ready to spend hours and hours "browsing" the probate records when I though to check Ancestry Member Trees for any tasty tid-bits. And there it was! The will of the father naming the daughter and her husband!

Of course I needed a source citation, but now that I had the probate file with will and other papers that some wonderfully thoughtful and caring Ancestry Member had posted to his Individual page, I carefully looked at every one of them checking for hints of where these documents might have come from. Finally, three-quarters of the way down the stack of pages, I saw a tiny pencil handwritten notation at the top. Vol I, pg 408. Gold!!

In no time, I navigated my way through the probate files on FamilySearch and found what I needed. I knew the volume number and page number for one of the images and the will was about four pages before that. Nice!!

Quite recently I've found more and more treasures like this which is interesting. I remember not too long ago when Ancestry users would keep the good goods away from their trees. "I got mine, you work to get yours" was the attitude. But why, what's the point in that? Where's the harm in sharing the best stuff we have? I just paid $40 for three death certificates and believe me when I say that I can't wait to get them scanned and posted to my Ancestry Member Tree.

I have a bunch of stuff I've ordered and received from archives. There's that time I called the courthouse and a kind clerk went and got the document I asked for and emailed it to me! I want to share that too. Share it all. What good does it do to sit in my files here while I hold on to it with my stingy hands? I use it but it would be far better shared and helping others. The individual page on Ancestry is the very best place for me to leave it. 

Oh, yes, I'm aware of the potential to violate copyright in doing this so I do check carefully to see if the location where the document was found has limitations. If so, then I'll post a PDF page stating what was found and where, giving as much info as possible that helps someone else find it as easily as possible.

Wouldn't it be great if we all did this? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all shared our best stuff? Trees would get better and better. Let's do that!

Let's share that good stuff!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Is there a 12 Step program for genetic genealogy? Maybe!

Oh, no! Another DNA cousin has popped up!

I don't mean to seem ungrateful for the connection to another DNA cousin at all. In fact, I welcome all of them. It's just that every time I see that "We might be cousins" subject in the email, I know that I'll be spending some bunch of hours trying to sort it out. Right now it seems there are so many people testing with the Big 3 and then finding GEDmatch that I have to hustle to keep up.

I didn't even realize that I had a "problem" until I saw this blog article, "The Stages of Genetic Genealogy Addiction", by Roberta Estes that it all sunk in. Houston, I have a problem!

I can check them all off but have drawn the line at #7 and refuse to spend any more to get DNA relatives tested! Can't do it. Won't do it. Seriously, I just about have come to the point where I don't need to because the cousins are shelling out their own money to buy kits!

Happily, I've not gone the whole route to number 10. Not in a cab going somewhere and thinking about the next DNA match. But I am at 9, at home, thinking about the next DNA cousin. Hmm. Thanks, Roberta, for pointing this out;)

Great grandmother Moretta Workman Zeller with Gustav Zeller and sons Charles, Bert, and Gus Jr.
(Photo thanks to cousin Brenda. She's a peach!)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

New meaning found in the 4th of July and old meaning kept alive

I've always loved the 4th of July since I was a kid. Loved the home-town parades with kids on decorated bikes and streamers flowing, families pulling kids in decorated wagons, the local school band, a troop of scouts marching and the corn queen sitting on the back deck of a convertible, waving to all, regally! I just love that stuff. Not everyone does. They can go ahead and make fun, and I'll just take their seat and be as happy as can be.

Love the soap box derby. Love the ice cream socials that raises money for the senior center. The Elks weenie roast. The smell of the big smoker set up behind the church for the picnic. Pies, oh my, the pies!

Love the fireworks, not all of them purchased legally. Sparklers, which were featured on the news today as highly dangerous. Must confess to being a bit happy that we didn't know that when we were young. The surprise of an early evening rogue fireworks display by neighbors down the way, lasting for only a half-a-minute. Or one high-flyer firework breaking the evening silence. Lightning bugs in jars. Wouldn't be complete as a summer evening without them. Mosquitos too.

I enjoyed the simple childhood pleasures that followed me in fondness of memory into adulthood. Oh, sure, now we all see the danger everywhere. But then there was freedom and fun in it.

I also remember that time when circumstances dictated that we move into a high-rise building on July 4, 1976. The Bi-Centennial. We were somehow invited up to the penthouse to view Op Sail and the fireworks over the Hudson River. That was an exhausting but memorable 4th of July!

Now in my older adulthood I also understand the truer meaning of the 4th. Today I've thought about my eight Revolutionary War ancestors recognized by the DAR, as well as those who haven't yet been recognized. Since being active in the DAR their memory has gained added dimension.

I wonder if any of my ancestors were born on the 4th of July. I'll have to look.

Enjoy your 4th!

Backyard picnic or church picnic, we found ourselves at a picnic on the 4th of July!

Friday, June 24, 2016

How to find out if you have a DAR Patriot Ancestor!

Maybe you know already or maybe you are interested in finding out: do you have a DAR Patriot Ancestor? There are, as far as I can figure, over 200,000 Patriot Ancestors on the official DAR list. Of course there are many more than that number who served in the military or gave civil or other patriotic service and are just waiting for their descendants to find them and show them to the DAR by way of an application.

I've has so many people ask how to get onto the DAR web site and check to see if their ancestor is listed that I wrote up a How To sheet for it with step-by-step instructions. And it is.

How to find the Genealogy Record System or GRS
and see the search page for Ancestors in the DAR database.

1. go to

2. find GENEALOGY at the very top and click there.

3. In the middle of that page you'll see a column heading that says "Genealogy Research, GRS".

4. Under GRS at the top of the list is "Ancestor Search", and click there.

5. That will take you to the Ancestor Search page. You can enter what you know here but sometimes less is more so a last name and a first name is often enough to start. 

6. If it's an unusual name or a name that could have many spellings then use the "Advanced Search" feature. You'll find the link to that on the right. Advanced Search lets you use Soundex. Using Advanced Search and Soundex will bring up more results to choose from.

7. If you've used Soundex or there are more than one men of the same name, they will all come up in the search results. Then you'll need to narrow the selections by birth and death dates as well as locations.

8. Click on the ancestor name to see the details page.

By this time you should have a pretty good idea if your ancestor is already recognized and verified by the DAR!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

1850 Census Love!

I am just wild about the 1850 census. Sure it doesn't give family relationships or how many years the couple was married or how many children she had, but it has a raw freshness that's fascinating.

It was the first census that lists household member, and a lot more! But "more" in a different way that can reveal much about the people enumerated! Maybe the enumerator had that beginner's "unleashed" mindset in which lack of specific and clear instructions meant more candid listings. And it's always interesting to see who had valuable real estate!

Check these two entries from Cumberland, Allegany County, Maryland.

I posted these pages to the Western Maryland History Group on Facebook, which is a closed group of pretty serious historian and family researchers, and got a fascinating response. Brenda, who lives in the Kansas City area for some time recognized the name Jesse Quantrill, who was spending some quality time with the jailer, as you can see above. She added some frosting to this census return with the following, transcribed from this web page. Read on and be amazed!! Thank you so much, Brenda, for going the extra step to make history come alive.
“Mary Lane, daughter of Seth Lane, said to have been one of the foremost citizens of Hagerstown, was infatuated with him, and they were clandestinely married. She was to inherit a considerable sum of money at a certain age which she had not attained by a year when married. By making a very full and sweeping relinquishment he secured this money from the bank in which it had been deposited, and which, it was affirmed, belonged in part to Seth Lane and his son. When his wife had attained her majority he endeavored to collect the money again, alleging that the bank had no legal right to pay the money at the time it had been paid

“With the money of his wife he had engaged in the grocer business in Williamsport, MD. This business was a failure, and the money was lost. He then determined to engage in larger operations. He went to New York City, where he represented himself to be the son of a wealthy Virginia merchant well known there, and purchased on credit a large stock of goods, which he caused to be shipped to himself at Baltimore. This swindle was discovered by the merchants in time to stop a portion of the shipment and save some of the goods. But he succeeded in disposing of a part of the merchandise I a way which baffled all attempts to trace it. To avoid the consequences of this transaction he availed himself of the benefit of the law for bankrupts, but as his action was based on fraud he was cast into prison. For ix months his beautiful wife shared his cell. He finally secured an acquittal and was released. While in prison he had read law under directions from William Price, one of the leading lawyers of Western Maryland.

“From Maryland Jesse D. Quantrill went to St. Louis, Mo., where he was soon in trouble and in jail, securing his release finally through the efforts of his wife, who still clung to him. Upon his release he took boat for Cincinnati, and while on board committed a forgery which seems to have been discovered at once, and for which he escaped punishment. From Cincinnati he went to New Orleans, where he became dissipated and began to neglect and abuse his wife. She fell ill, and her condition appeared to work a change in him. He started by boat to take her home to Maryland but while to boat was yet on the Mississippi river he committed a forgery on a Cincinnati bank. He was soon detected in this crime, was taken to Cincinnati and thrown into jail. After a confinement in prison of seven months is wife succeeded in securing him bail, which he forfeited by not appearing for trial, deserting his wife at that place. She next heard of him at Hagerstown, where he was in trouble for a forgery he committed there, but for which he escaped conviction. He then went to Pennsylvania, were he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the penitentiary for forgery, and he served three years. While serving this sentence his wife secured a divorce from him, it is said, by the act of the Maryland Legislature. When he hear of her action in procuring the divorce he made many savage threats against her life. But upon his release from prison he married a Pennsylvania lady, and was soon thereafter arrested for another forgery, for which he was sentenced to a term of seven years in the penitentiary.

“Meanwhile, Mrs. Quantill had married a Mr. A. Cowton, proprietor of the United States Hotel, Cumberland, Maryland with whom she was happily living. Quantrill was released from the Pennsylvania penitentiary in 1848. In March, 1849, he appeared in Cumberland. On the fifth of that month Mrs, Cowton was in her apartments, when a servant showed up a gentleman who had just arrived in the city. He dismissed the servant, and closed and locked the door. He then turned to Mrs. Cowton, who was horrified to behold Qunatrill, her former husband. There was murder in his looks, and she screamed for help. He told her that her hour had come, caught her by the throat, threw her to the floor, placed his knee upon her breast, and snapped a pistol in her face. When the pistol missed fire, and just as he was drawing a long knife, several persons who had been attracted by her screams, broke down the door and rescued Mrs. Cowton

“For this attempt to murder he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. He must have possessed a fascinating personality, for he soon obtained an unaccountable influence over the prison officials and was allowed considerable freedom, even acting as guard over other prisoners. In 1851 he was pardoned upon condition that he would leave the state and never return.”

Sunday, May 29, 2016

What I've learned about death from genealogy

Sure, we who work on family history have this peculiar relationship with death. We seek dates and places of death and spend an unusually large amount of time in cemeteries. Were did they die, when did they die, and who is buried with them? We want to know as much as possible about the circumstances of our ancestor's deaths.

I'm feeling that I've learned something about death from doing this work and I'd like to share observations with you here. As always, feel free to comment:)

1. No one gets out of this life alive. Everyone gets to die. I think that I want to live like I actually know that, and that I know time is limited. When I was in my early 20s maybe I did stuff that indicated I thought I was immortal. Maybe you did too? Now I know that death will come. Morbid? Naw. Just practical. It's good to know firmly that my stuff and especially my genealogy stuff will not go with me when I die. Therefore I need to figure out who gets it.

2. I'd like a nice smallish stone. We can't help but stand in the graveyard and think, gosh, that's a real nice stone over there! I am partial to the older ones, especially the Victorians. You can spot them across the way. They stand tall and maybe have a female figure atop. I like that even though it's not the style now. My Dad, his brother and brother-in-law all chose black granite. Maybe it's a guy thing? I'd really prefer a white marble stone but they deteriorate too quickly. Isn't it frustrating to see an old marble stone all eroded and losing the clarity of the inscription? It's amazing how quickly the old stones are going now. Maybe it's air quality.

3. I do want a stone. I wouldn't feel right without knowing that a stone was in place and waiting. Scatter my ashes where you please, but I want my page on Find-A-Grave. Stop by, leave a note or a flower. I like that FAG iris. When I think about it, that stone will be my placeholder in the physical world.

4. How long did your ancestors live? Having seen a whole bunch of tombstones that say the person died in the 90-something year of his life, and what with Mom being 98 now and going strong, and Dad making it to 92 plus, I need to take care of my parts and pieces because I'll be using them a while, most likely.

5. You can die anytime. A car accident took my aunt on a snowy day. Coal mine accidents took friends and neighbors of ancestors. My grandma, when she was just in her 50s, slipped on ice and hit her head hard after church one Sunday and was gone by the following weekend. Yup, you can go anytime.
If this is true, and it appears to be so based on the lives of the ancestors, it would benefit all involved if we were well prepared. Like with a will and making peace and stuff. Legal documents in order would be helpful. For gosh sake, we've looked at plenty of wills and know their benefit to heirs and genealogists too!! Ancestors dying intestate can be fun, but think of the relatives and heirs!

6. Back to tombstone designs. I don't want one that's overly tall and thin. There must be a ratio, I'm thinking, wherein the thing won't crack and fall over. Don't you think? I really am sad to see those old stones with a stub in the ground and the top asunder.

One can hope for an easy death but that's useless. We have little power over those aspects of life's end. But there's so much else that we do have power over and that's a joy to think about.