Friday, October 17, 2014

Elisha Workman c1820 - 1864: Fun with probate files

I'm digging around two of my ancestral families on my father's side, namely the Workman and Troutman families. If you look at a map of Western Maryland and find the little town of Frostburg and it's neighboring village of Mt. Savage, then follow the road up 12 miles into Pennsylvania and see Southampton, you'll have traced the path between the Troutmans in Southampton and the Workmans in Mt. Savage.

Nancy Ann Troutman lived in Southampton with her parents and her father Benjimin Franklin Troutman was a famed gunsmith. Somehow she met and married Elisha Workman, from down in Mt. Savage, of the Workman family who were big landowners in that area. The patriarch of this landed group in Maryland was Isaac Workman (1742 - 1827). One of his sons was John (1779 - 1859) and his son was our Elisha (c1820 - 1864). When Isaac came to the area he grabbed up as many of the military lots from the Revolutionary War as he could. In the end he and his sons owned a cool dozen of those 50 acre parcels given to the soldiers who fought. How he managed to get that many contiguous lots together, I can't even guess!

A section of the Frostburg State University military lot maps in Western Maryland.
Notice "Workman's  Desire" just to the left of center.

It was long thought that all of those Workman men had fought in the Revolutionary War and had been awarded lots for service but further examination of the records show no such thing. Isaac did however swear an Oath of Allegiance.

For a while the boys all farmed together but some decided to move to Knox County, Ohio, so when old Isaac decided that farming was probably a younger man's game he sold or gave some of his lots to his sons. Some of those sons later moved to Ohio and rented out the land to Isaac's grandsons. By the time Elisha came along he had to rent two parcels from his uncles in Ohio.

When Elisha died in 1864, he was renting at least two parcels from his uncles Cuthbert and John L. Workman. I wouldn't have been able to piece all of this together without the probate papers. He died intestate and so his property moved through the usual probate system, leaving a dandy trail behind for me to eventually follow. I'm thinking that because this family all left extensive wills designating the ownership of their land, Elisha might have died unexpectedly and suddenly and had no time to make up a will. A farming accident, perhaps?

Elisha must have had quite the big farming operation because a reading of the estate inventory provides a dandy window into their property. I find about two dozen cows, a dozen horses, so many pigs I stopped counting, wagons and other farm equipment. The household items were sold back to the Widow Workman, but the bulk of the heavy farming equipment and most of the livestock were sold to other farmers.

It was interesting to find that while Elisha Workman rented the land he worked from the uncles in Ohio, he purchased a couple of hundred acres in the not too distant area of Accident, Maryland, which he rented out.

I'm willing to bet that Elisha over on The Other Side felt bad about leaving this world without having made a will. But, on the other hand, it sure did give me a dandy picture into his life and family!

His wife was Nancy Ann Troutman and she's interesting in other ways. Guess I'll have to write about her too.

Partial inventory from property sale of Elisha Workman's estate.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Too hard to read? Fixed it!

See that image up top? How would you like to spend some time trying to read and transcribe that? No? Me either.

Mom was doing some research back in the early 1990s on our Revolutionary War ancestor, Peter Troutman who lived most of his life in Southampton, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. She needed to get up to the Historical and Genealogical Society and History Center there but couldn't right then so she wrote to them and outlined what she needed. They sent her a package, for a very reasonable contribution. I'm now working on Peter Troutman and have that packet sent to Mom. And that image up top is what all the pages look like. Ugh, I thought, this is gonna get ugly.

That first image used to be called a reverse stat or photostat. It was cheap to make and served well when a copy was needed but at the lowest possible cost. Thank goodness that the inexpensive desktop copier is everywhere today and we don't have to deal with stats any longer!

I put it off diving into the packet of dark papers for a while, maybe too long because I was starting to feel guilty every time I glanced at the bundle sitting atop the scanner. When I get problems like this standing in the way of progress, my way of moving forward is to just ask myself what the heck the problem really is. I just couldn't get past the total darkness of each page. So how could I overcome that? I Googled.

After trying a couple of different search terms he word "invert" arrived. Seems that Photoshop, including the ubiquitous Photoshop Elements, has a invert tool. Actually the invert tool is pretty cool stuff. You'll find it under the Image > Adjust tool group. See  a demo here. You can also find it if you're using Paint and here's a quick demo here.

It's super easy to do and I'm glad I did it. Once the scanned document was inverted, it looked pinkish so it got converted to grayscale. In Photoshop you can find that under Image > Mode. All three images are above so you can decide which you like best.

You'll probably want to file each under a different file name so if you need to, you can backtrack to the earlier version.

I breezed through the transcription and my eyes were happy about it too.

Here's a bonus just for fun. Used the Paint invert tool on a photo of my orchids! Cool, huh? Imagine what you can do with pictures of the kids in their Halloween costumes!! Now that's scary.



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Just finished Mom's DAR application and I have to say...

It's finally completed and I have to say, as a genealogy nut, I'm probably hooked for life! I should explain. Back in 1987 Mom had been doing genealogy for about 15 years and realized for quite some time that my sister and I were qualified to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, if she got busy and put that application together for each of us. I was working full time and trying to run a business and doing too much travel and my sister was going to graduate school so neither of us had the time or energy to do it for ourselves.

I recalled this time and Mom's efforts on our behalf recently when I was at my DAR chapter luncheon and meeting. The member sitting next to me was putting the final touches on the applications for her two daughters. She said that they weren't yet interested and I replied that it was a wonderful gift she was giving them and they'll be thanking her later, just as I thanked Mom!

A while back I thought it would be nice to turn the tables and fill out an application for Mom, and I have written about that here recently, and you can find those posts here, here and here. The application Mom put together for me used one of Dad's Revolutionary War ancestors. At the time Mom might have joined but had no qualifying ancestor, the main requirement for membership. Recently, one of Mom's ancestors was verified so now Mom is good to go!

The weeks passed and I worked hard on it, finding proof documents, ordering birth and death certificates, checking the census records, examining probate documents. There was a mad chase while looking for Granny Whetstone's death certificate that turned out to be an object lesson all unto itself about the spelling of a name throughout a lifetime! It was a ton of work and I loved every moment of it.

I don't know how this will turn out and if my hard work will be deemed worthy by the powers that be and the genealogists who review applications at the NSDAR headquarters in Washington, D.C. Be that as it may. All I know is that I loved it. Loved the rigorousness with which documents needed to be examined and mined for little tid-bits of information. The precision demanded when it came to the simple yet confoundedly frustrating task of copying a date and repeating it in at least three places! Why should that be so hard for me? Is it because I am a tad dyslexic around the edges? Yeah. My brain tends to transpose numbers. Can you imagine how frustrating that little quirk of my brain can be when filling out a form with plenty of dates? Yet I loved it.

I can see how DAR daughters get hooked on this. The entire process is seductive and addicting if you love this work. Proof! That's the name of the game. Proof: it taxed me sorely. At the heart of it was proving the most simple things about an ancestor. For the male is was date and location of birth, date and location of death. Then for the female it was the same date and location of birth, date and location of death. And a record of the marriage. Last, for the line leading to the patriot, a connection to the next generation. Proof. Never have I felt so close to understanding the meaning of that word.

And here's the cool thing. If it got done right and is passed on and verified, Mom earns admission to the DAR and the right to a pin with the ancestor's name on it. How cool is that? I must confess here, I want those pins with the ancestor's name on it. I want a lot of them. Is that bad? I don't think so!!

I need to include a disclaimer here. I don't speak for the DAR, and really, that should be pretty obvious. But they like it when you let the world know that it's just you speaking and not them. And I do want you to know that the DAR is way more than genealogy. They're all about serving and volunteering in the community and helping out where they can. If you're interested, check out the main web site and click on through to register your interest. Or let me know and I'll help you find a chapter near you. Or you can use the web site to find out if your ancestor is already listed as one of their patriots. Here are some links, in case you want them:)

The main DAR web site:
How to join:
Chapter locator:
Membership interest form:

Just interested in the genealogy? Click on this:

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Is there a tombstone for this? There should be.

Maybe you too were shocked and horrified at the news that Ancestry was no longer offering it's Y-DNA or mtDNA products. OK, so maybe they weren't real profitable. Maybe it didn't fit into the big picture, or whatever. I get that. But when I heard the news that they were going to just destroy the database for these test results, I couldn't believe my ears. Why do that? And what does it say about their long-term commitment to any sector of the genealogy empire they own? Nothing good.

They told us that as of September 30th they would destroy the database for those two products... and now they have. I, along with many others, thought they'd find a last minute solution and maybe sell the database or at least offer the data with no support. But no. They did absolutely nothing that I know of.

That makes me sad. There is probably some family out there who trusted that Ancestry would be the very place to have their grandpa take that Y-DNA or  their grandma take that mtDNA in hopes of finding the roots of their clan. Or the grandmother of all their grandmothers. Now that chance is gone forever because not only is the database gone but the original samples are gone too. And by now maybe so is grandma or grandpa. What if they have passed and now the opportunity to keep their genes working to find family long lost is dead too.

I really dislike what Ancestry did here. It is grossly immoral and unethical. In my humble opinion.

Here's a link to Roberta Estes' truly excellent blog that covers all issues related to DNA, and a post about this very issue. Thanks, Roberta.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Granny Whetstone was missing but now she's found!

Granny Whetstone near the back boundary of their "Farm"
on Midlothian Road in Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland.
In the previous post I wrote about Mom's Granny Whetstone, and you can see it here. In short, I'm trying to find official records for her to complete an application I'm working on so that Mom can, hopefully and if all goes well, get admitted to the NSDAR, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. And Granny Whetstone is a key player on the line back to our patriot. I've been on a mad hunt for Granny's death certificate. Death certificates are a boon in doing this particular work because they come with a big payload, if they were properly filled out. Think about it. If you get a good one you also get confirmation of birth date, birth location, death date, death location, names of both parents and if the wind is at your back, their birth places. And if you're that kind of curious (and Mom and I are) you can find out what they died of. Cool, huh?
So my guy at the Maryland State Archives who knows their web site and facilities like the proverbial back of his hand, did a search there for Granny and came up empty. No Granny, and no death certificate!
Once I had a good pout about that, I circled back and thought about how I was going to make up for this loss of birth and death dates and locations and parents, thus linking her back a generation. I checked my research notes in the spiral binder for this project and I have to say that I didn't think I missed a thing. Obits, cemetery, census records, a fruitless hunt for a birth record. Probate stuff, court records, a library card. OK, not that last thing but you get what I mean. I found nothing that was going to satisfy the genealogists that look at DAR application in that big nice building in Washington DC, like a good death certificate. Oh sure, I could piece her life together based on census records and her marriage record, but I needed that death certificate or the application was going to be a patchwork quilt of sources. I wanted clean and streamlined.
Feeling like a puppy chasing it's tale, I took my grief to the Facebook group for DAR members working on applications and told them everything. Boo-hoo, Grammy has no death certificate. They were good, really good. There was a flurry of "did you check the ___" questions in which they made sure I hadn't overlooked the obvious, which could happen to anyone. Then the questions turned to the slightly more obscure records and at the end we were down to insurance policies. No one suggested a library card;)
I was left thinking about two possible things I might do. The first was to get someone in Frostburg to go over to the cemetery offices and check the records for me, if there were any. It's been my experience that if you go over and ask to look at something and chat a bit and share the story of who and what you're looking for, people get involved and really try to help. So maybe I could get a relative in town to do that.
The second thing was that I could try a bit harder to track down some church records in hopes of finding a burial record in a dusty corner. I knew it wouldn't be as complete as the death certificate but hey, it was a shot because it might give a date of death and some other goodies. They were not Catholics so that was out which is too bad because the best church records in town were the Catholic records, and I had already checked those just in case. Maybe they were Lutherans? Maybe. But the minister who married them was a Baptist. And this in a small town where churches come and go almost as fast as the bars. Was not optimistic.
Then one of the DAR daughters came forth and offered to look and double-check to see if she could find Granny in the Maryland State Archives online. Wow! That was real nice, but DAR daughters are like that. They love to help each other and the community. A lot of people do, and that's one of the things I like about genealogy and genealogists:) So I took her up on it. "What was her name?" she posted. And then I remembered something. Something very important.
Granny's name! In working on her life and the records that captured glimpses into the moments of it, I noticed a distinct pattern. In her early years she was recorded as Catherine Elizabeth or Catherine Eliza, and even rarely, Eliza. Then in later years she went by Kate and Katherine. (You can see this coming, can't you?) I took a quick look at the email request for research sent to my guy at the Maryland State Archive and whatta ya think it said? "Catherine!" I had asked him to look for Catherine! If she was more likely to have gone by Katherine, then no wonder he didn't find her in the records!
My new DAR friend found her in the online index in under five minutes! WOW!
See there? Katherine, with a "K".
And look there, she died in 1945?
And the index said that she died, when? 2 January 1947! Mom said that after I was born in the fall of 1946, she talked to Granny on the phone and Granny asked her when she was bringing me over so that she could see me. Fall of 1946 and Granny Whetstone was still alive. Yes, Mom, you were right, she was alive and we did go see Granny Whetstone that winter. Right before she passed on the second day of the new year. 1947.
I'm wondering what happened that the year of her death ended up as 1945 on her stone?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Granny Whetstone's Missing! (And I can't find her.)


Yes, dear Granny Whetstone, Mom's own kind and gentle grandmother, is missing. There she is above with her husband Joseph Hampton Whetstone (1858 - 1939). No, she didn't wander off just now. She's been gone since right around the time I was born. And yes, she's missing from the records. Oh, sure, she's right there in the census records from 1870 with her House family in West Virginia all the way through the 1930 census in Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland. She's there except for a birth certificate but that's to be expected because it's West Virginia in 1865, right after the Civil War and West Virginia is a brand new state, so no birth record for her... and by way of extension, for me. By the way, she was born April 5th and the war ended April 9th. I wonder if there ever was a birth certificate for her?

But I can't complain too much (even though you know I'm going to) because of one census return for Granny and her family. Here it is and you'll notice that she and her husband are there, as well as Mom - Virginia - and her parents, Emma and Cambria Williams. And look, they are all named and the relationships are named too! WOW! Jackpot! Three generations in one record.

Isn't this cool?!
Alright, that's nice but what I really want is Granny Whetstone's death certificate. I have the rest of my great grandparents death certificates and I need hers too. So I emailed my guy who knows his way around the Maryland State Archives and off he went to get her death certificate as well as that of her husband, Joe. When I received his package in the mail there was no death certificate for Granny. WHA?? I couldn't believe it. So I went on the Maryland State Archive myself and tried to find her in the index. Got nothin'.
Then I noticed a discrepancy in her death year. Her tombstone says she died in 1945. Just look at this photo of it and see for yourself.
Mom's tree and it says that she died in January of 1946. Now I'm really confused because if I think about it, maybe that's not right either. Mom remembers - and I asked her about this many times over the years - that after she had me in October of 1946, she spoke with Granny on the phone and Granny said, When are you going to bring that baby over so I can see her? So Mom did, and Granny saw me, and presumably I saw her too. It was winter, Mom said, which in Western Maryland can come anytime really, but usually from November and until about April. That would make it late 1946 and into 1947. And Mom remembers that she took me to Granny's home of many years, on Midlothian Road in Frostburg. So maybe Granny Whetstone passed in January of 1947.
Grand pop Whetstone had passed on August 15, 1939, and Mom remembers it well. She and Dad were to get married that day but cancelled until the 21st because Joe died then. Granny continued to live in their home until she passed, as Mom has said.
So what's with the missing death certificate? And what's with the multiple death years? I'm at a loss.

Mom, Virginia Williams, on the left and her sister, Dot, on the right Flanking their mother Emma Susan (Whetstone) Williams in the light dress and Granny Kate, in the dark dress.
Katherine (or Catherine depending on the record) Elizabeth (House) Whetstone.
Photo, mid 1930s.
I seriously needed Granny Whetstone's death certificate because I'm working on Mom's application to the NSDAR. The DAR for short, or Daughters of the American Revolution, requires exact and accurate documentation in the preparation of your application. Death certificates are a boon to the applicant because it ordinarily includes birth and death dates as well as the names of both parents and therefore proved the vitals of that person as well as provide a link back to the previous generation.
But my Maryland State Archive guy sent a note with the things he did find stating in blatant terms, "She did not die in Maryland."
I was in shock. Shocked and maybe a little depressed at how much more work this was going to make for me. Now what the heck was I going to do? I have no vital records for Granny Whetstone. She's just plain missing.
More in the next post.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

One Lovely Blog Award, Part 2: Share Seven things about yourself


Randy Seaver over at the Genea-Musing Blog passed on to me the One Lovely Blog Award and you can read all about that here. I was very happy to receive it from such a prestigious blogger who is on every Best Of list! But of course there are catches that usual come with awards and this one included what felt to me like a catch:

Share seven things about yourself 

Seven things about me?! And I'm assuming that the seven things should be at least a little interesting, shouldn't they? That's gonna be real hard. So here they are and you'll soon see why I am balking at this part of the honor;)

1. I don't like to talk about me very much. I'll share if it's helpful to someone else but otherwise who wants to hear all about me? No one. Oh, sure I'll tell a story from my point of view but that simply serves the story. Therefore, this is going to be hard. So here I am wasting one of the seven with a statement that I don't like to share things about myself... there, that killed one of em';)

2. I was born in the same county that Mom and Dad were born in, all of my grandparents were born in, and 6 out of 8 of my great grandparents. Those two were born in Wales and Ireland, that being Daniel Williams (1852 - 1920) the coal miner from Wales and Catherine Elizabeth (House) Whetstone (1865 - 1947) born in Ireland. The county I was born into is Allegany County and it's a lovely lush green piece of mountain Maryland heaven. When I'm visiting Mom I don't have to go far to find all the home places. And I can really appreciate it from afar now that I live in Southern California and don't have to shovel their record setting snow accumulations.

3. At my core I'm just a country girl with city leanings. I love the freshness of the woods and am happily surprised when I see a springtime stream and can go looking for tadpoles and wildflowers. Sure, sure, everyone enjoys a real upscale restaurant in the city or a Broadway play that just opened to rave reviews, but at this point in my life I've had my fill of city life and I'd rather have a pot of fresh vegetable stew on the stove in my own home. For years I lived in Manhattan but I feel right at home on this Southern California canyon with the skunks, raccoons, opossums, grouse, hummingbirds, a rattlesnake or two, and the rare coyote and all manner of critters and birds.

4. To me the most useless thing in the world is having the common cold. Can't think. Use up all the tissues in the house. No appetite. Useless waste of time. Now whose idea was that?

5. I'm short. All these young people are tall. I don't like it.

6. I think best either in the shower or in the car by myself taking a ride to nowhere in particular. Because we live in Southern California and there's water conservation going on, long thoughtful showers are out. A lot of us think best while going on a car ride. By ourselves. Having a car full of people is counterproductive to thinking, don't you feel? I've been know to be deep in thought and driving to a specific destination only to be suddenly shaken out of a reverie and realize that I'd completely forgotten where I was going. And of course I'd passed the exit I wanted. Don't laugh. I bet you've done that too!

7. I like to do indexing. When FamilySearch was running their 1940 census project I was a cheerful participant. Then when we all pitched together to break the world record for the number of indexers indexing in one day, I was there. The records I seek out are death certificates. I really like them. Texas are my all time faves. If I get a bunch of them from a geographic area over a couple of years, well I could do that indexing all day long. And I read those death certificates too so I'm a slow indexer. I find them fascinating because they tell a lot about a community. Number of gunshot deaths, density of clogged arteries or heart attacks, a rash of infant deaths. I can't help but wonder why.

Well, see I warned you that I don't like to talk about myself. Next time I need to tackle the list of blogs that interest me and that I want to pass this One Lovely Blog Award on to. I've only got 15 to give out so that will be difficult. I think we're in a sort of Golden Age of genealogy blogging. Yes, picking out 15 will be real hard!

My Mountain Maryland.

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