Archive for July, 2010

People new to genealogy often get confused when they see a surname that looks like theirs, but because isn’t spelled the same the don’t think it is their family. Surname spellings have changed over the years and people sometimes weren’t literate enough to know how their name was spelled.

Snap Shot: Nancy Mary Adams Hammons was 34 years old and living in Schuyler County Missouri when her husband Joseph died from a result of wounds he received in the Civil War. She was left with 7 children, and 4 months after Joseph died she gave birth to her 8th child.

Nancy went on with raising her children, farming and buying and selling property. One interesting deed I have in my possession is only one page long. It was hand written by a clerk. In this one page document Nancy’s name is written three times:

  • Once as Nancy Hammon
  • Once as Nancy Hammond
  • Once as Nancy Hammons
  • She signed the deed with her mark X [which meant she couldn’t write].

I would probably miss family members if I focused only on one spelling of the Hammons name. It is a good idea to make a list of the many ways a particular surname can be spelled. [this works for first names also] When looking for a single or widowed ancestor who may have been a head of household keep in mind that they may have been listed by just their initials.

Try to have in your mind [or better on paper] all the people who could have been living with or near your female ancestor. If she disappears, she might be found in the household of another family member or a neighbor, who often were relatives.

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Snap Shot 1884-1958. Whoever thought that women in early Utah were timid stay-at-home women never met Grandma Lydia. She was one of 10 children, who always had a project to earn money going. As a teenager and young adult she knitted stockings to earn money. After her marriage she raised chickens to have her own ‘more discretionary’  funds. She and her husband Leo raised 8 children, and an occasional relative. She worked on the farm with her husband, kept a vegetable garden, and grew roses and peonies which she sold on ‘Decoration Day’ to people who came from other towns to purchase flowers for their family graves.

She owned and ran the Oak City Cash Store, was the Postmistress and served on the City Council. She made quilt tops at her store during the more quiet winter months, then invited the women in town to her home on her birthday in August where she would prepare them a lunch and they would help her quilt her quilts. Her pies were legendary. She would make 20 pies then go to the store to work. She sewed and knitted for her family and was President of the Band Parents. She died before her husband in 1958.

Question: Where do you find information on women from rural town in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.

  • All her children were born at home, but their births are recorded in Oak City Church Records.
  • She died before her husband so there is no probate.
  • Journals and histories of relatives and other town people may mention Lydia.
  • Newspapers, especially in a small town, are filled with information. While not a Primary source they do tell you what was going on and their “folksy” content can really bring your ancestor to life.
  • You will learn who visited them, and how their visitors were related, how long they stayed and what the had for dinner.
  • It will tell you when the children married, who they married, and where they went to live.
  • If your grandmother took a trip to the city, it was probably in the newspaper, and now you know the names of their friends, which gives you other names to  look at.
  • Early newspapers don’t necessarily have sections for obits, marriages so you may need to do a lot of reading, however, the reading is fun. Better than TV.
  • Every state has a newspaper project, search and find where those records are housed. Many states are posting digitized newspapers such as Utah http://digitalnewspapers.com.

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Snap Shot 1887-1927 –  Harriet married a widower Norman Bliss [1908] and acquired a husband and 5 son. Eleven years and 7 children later Norman was killed in a farming accident and she found herself in charge of a large farm and 11 children [one son having died two years earlier. Of these remaining children only 1 was a girl. It was said she could handle a team as well as any man.  A few years later she married a neighbor John R. Lee, a widower and inherited 14 step children. John and Harriet had two sons and after the birth of the second one she died at the age of 39. I’ll let you add up and figure out the children.

Question: In the early 1900’s in how do you find records of Harriet?

  • Church Records -Most states didn’t keep vital records until around 1900 and the early years are sketchy.  Harriet lived in a small rural town Hinckley, Utah. Church records tell when her family moved to Hinckley, give her age, date of birth and where she moved from. These show she moved from southern Utah. The southern Utah church records record her birth.
  • Death Records – Utah Death records are on line. The have certificates for Norman and Harriet.
  • Probate – Norman didn’t leave a will as he died rather young and accidentally however, he owned land, as most males did around that time. Whenever anyone dies who owned anything dies a probate is needed to transfer property.  A probate will list all his surviving children and spouse.
  • Newspapers- A check of area newspapers didn’t capture all the births of children, but several are found there. The newspapers also mention the Bliss family as they interacted with the community.

Conclusion- Look at the community to see what records could have been generated, then check them all out.

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Years of research have confirmed to me that the female side of our genetics can often be difficult to find. They obviously existed, and had much to do with the “shaping of us”.  While, they weren’t the town mayors, surveyors, freemen, or ministers. They were woven tightly into their community, and impacted more than their own families,  yet the records of who they were are generally a part of the records of their parents, their husbands and their children. To find and prove them we have to be a bit more creative.

Contrary to what you have been told early American women actually could and did own property, and some even voted and paid taxes, and they had a great deal to say about what went on in the towns they lived in. The trick is to find the records. Hopefully, as I explore the women who came before me, someone reading here will gain insight on where they might look for their own ‘grandmothers’.

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