Monday, October 31, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Hiram Wendt, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween, everyone!
Occasionally, I run across an interesting mystery during my family history research. The story of Hiram Wendt, my husband's great great uncle, was one such mystery.
Hiram was b. about 1840, probably in Pennsylvania. He enlisted in Company G, 59th Infantry Regiment, Illinois, on August 6, 1861, was promoted to Full Lieutenant 1st Class on September 9, 1863, and eventually mustered out on May 1, 1865. Records indicate that Hiram never married and listed his mother as his next of kin on enlistment papers.
Once Hiram mustered out of the Infantry, he returned home to his parent's house, where he lived until 1873. In 1873, he vanished into thin air and was never heard from again. I haven't been able to find any mention of Hiram after that date.
His mother, Sarah Kitchen Wendt, applied for a Dependent Mother's Pension in 1894. The pension file indicates she attempted, unsuccessfully, to collect a pension until at least 1901. The pension applications/appeals were denied because there was no material evidence that Hiram had died.
One letter in the pension file was written by Hiram's sister, Margaret Wendt Keyes, dated July 1899:

Carlinville, Ills, July 1899
President of the United States
Kind Sir:
Pardon the liberty I take in sending these few lines to you, and do not pass them by unheeded, for they are in behalf of a good kind feeble old lady whose son was in the army of the great rebellion who fought gallantly for three years, was on the battle field, and never entirely recovered from the shock. She has mourned him as dead for almost twenty-five years, and has tried to get his pension for years but as yet has failed to accomplish it. She is a deserving old lady depending upon the cold charities of the cruel world for a living, now surely something can be done for her. He son was Lieut H Wendt, Co G, 59th Reg Ills Vols. Please don't pass this by without perusing it carefully. I know the good god will reward your address.
Mrs. C Keyes, Carlinville,Macoupin Co, Ills

Another letter in the pension file was from a neighbor of the Wendts.

While in the army her son Hiram received a sun stroke from which he never fully recovered and she believes that it was at last the cause of his death among strangers and that he was unable to fully identify himself as that absolute proof could be made of his death. About 1872, he left for a visit to friends in Quincy, Ills. Since that time no word has ever been received from him and his whereabouts if alive is unknown. Mrs. Wendt is 83 yrs. old and dependent entirely on friends and a married daughter, who is in very straitened circumstances and barely able to support herself by close economy...Living in her extreme age and her great destitution, I would ask as a favor to have her claim placed for special consideration.

Sadly, all of Mrs. Wendt's applications were denied, and no word of Hiram's fate was ever received.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TombstoneTuesday - Margaret C. Gibson Miller - October 25, 2011

My fourth great grandmother, Margaret C. Gibson Miller, is one of my favorites. Her father, George Isaac Gibson, immigrated from Ireland to Virginia, where he served with George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Margaret was one of 11 children, b. 6 May 1799 in Lee County, VA. She married Herold Miller sometime before 1817, and had eight children of her own. She and Herold moved to Buchanan County, Missouri, where Herold died before 1850. She was a widowed land-owner in Buchanan County, eventually moving to Doniphan County, Kansas, to live with her daughter Thursa Ann and family. She died 22 June 1874, at the age of 75, and is buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery, Highland, Doniphan County, Kansas.
I often wonder about all the things she must have seen and done during her lifetime. Her father was a Revolutionary War veteran who probably told her stories of his wartime service. She moved to the frontier with her husband, raising seven children before moving to Missouri with her own family and several of her brothers and their families. Her nephew, Robert Gibson, was killed on the trip across the Plains in 1855. Several other nephews made to the trip to California in 1849 in search of gold. Always, she was at the front of the westward movement, living the hard life of a pioneer wife and mother. I truly admire her accomplishments.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - George Isaac Gibson, October 24, 2011

The main reason I began my genealogy journey was the possibility of uncovering ancestors with Revolutionary War service, leading to membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. In spite of finding several ancestors who qualify, nine years later I have yet to file my membership packet.

My personal goal for the remainder of 2011 is to file for membership in the DAR based on my direct connection to George Isaac Gibson, a Major in the Revolutionary War. He served with George Washington at Valley Forge, and was at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktowne, October 19, 1781 (230 years ago last week).

Major Gibson, my fifth great-grandfather, is one of my most esteemed and interesting ancestors. He married the daughter of a Revolutionary War veteran, Elizabeth Smith, and they had 11 children. Family tradition has it that one of his sons, Matthew Moss Gibson, was captured by Indians when he was a small child. He lived with the Indians until grown, when he was identified by a birthmark and ransomed by his father. He never became accustomed to living with his family, and would often be found outside the door, listening and not entering the house. He often returned to his Indian parents, staying awhile and returning to his own parents. He later moved to Missouri, where he spent the remainder of his life. (The story of Matthew Moss Gibson was taken from "Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia," Number 4, 1968, pages 1 to 26, by Emory L. Hamilton.)

Below is the Last Will and Testament of George Isaac Gibson:

Lee County, Virginia, Will Book I
Jonesville, Lee County, Virginia
10 October 1818

In the name of God amen, I George Gibson Sr., of Lee County State of Virginia being weak in body but sound in mind and disposing memory for which I thank God and calling to mind the uncertainty of human life and being desirous to dispose of all such wordly estate that it hath pleased God to bless me with I herefore give and bequeath and dispose of the same in the following manner.

First: I desire and direct that my executor, there after appointed as soon as practical proceed to sell all my estate both real and personal at public auction except such as herein excepted and out of money arising there from all my just debts and expenses be paid, also personal expenses.

Second: I give and bequeath unto my wife Elizabeth Gibson in line of her dower in my estate to be enjoyed by her only during her natural life or widowhood my dwelling house together with the yards and all the out houses appertaining and joined heretofore with the use of the orchards contiquior and two feather beds and furniture and such other household furniture as she and my executors may conclude she stands in need of. Also 100 acres of good land to be laid out in such manner as she thinks most convenient and may direct. Also my Negro slave Cate and other slaves of whom my said wife is to have choice, out of all the slaves I might possess at my death, except Navoh who is hereafter otherwise disposed of. Also two horses, three milk cows, twelve hogs and twelve sheep of which my said wife is to have her choice at my death out of my whole stock. But in case my executors make sale of everything devised which legally followeth herewith except two 100 acres! of land which she is to hold as a dower during her natural life and enjoy the profits thereof and out of the proceeds of sale make divisions among all my children as directed by the fourth clause of this testament and at her death if one remarried then her dower land is to be sold by my executors and divide the proceeds to be made in a way above directed and in case of her death before remarrying then everything real and personal devised to her by this will is to be sold by my executors the proceeds to be divided among my children.

Third: I desire and direct that my daughter Elizabeth Gibson to have and enjoy all the privileges of my mansion house along with her mother in the same way she enjoyed them during my lifetime and so much as my said daughter has lived longer than any of my other children and tenderly waited upon me in my feebleness and age, I give and bequeath unto my said daughter, Elizabeth, my Negro slave child Novah and her increase to her and her heirs forever and above my equal division of her other estate and in case the said Negro child Navah should die before me, it is my will and direction that out of the proceeds of my other estate my executors pay unto my daughter, 100 dollars compensation in full for such loss.

Fourth: It is my will and desire that the proceeds of all my other estate whatsoever not known before specifically disposed of be equally divided after my death among my children Isabella Camp[bell, Robert, Zachariah S., Rachel Click, George, Matthew, James, William, Elizabeth, Margaret (Peggy), and John to be enjoyed by their assigns forever.

Fifth: Should my Negro slave Harriet who has brought suit maintain same, it is my desire that my son Robert from whom I purchased her shall pay no more to my estate for her loss than three hundred and thirty dollars for her loss.

Sixth: In case of my death before my son John Gibson arrives at legal age, it is my will and desire that he shall live and remain in my dwelling house during his minority under the protection and government of his mother. I do will and direct that my executor put out his dividends to my estate at interest with good security until he arrives at 21 years of age.

Seventh: As whereas my sons Matthew, George, and James have purchased certain parts of my land and taken my bonds for the title, therefore adn given me their notes for the purchase money thereof now it shall be the wish of my said three sons or either of them after death to throw the said lands in hotch potch and have them sold by m y executors for the benefit of my estate, they or either of them are at liberty to do so. Whereupon my executors are to give them or either of them up their notes now held by me for the purchase money thereof but should my sons or either of them choose to retain the land so purchased then my executors will proceed to collect and distribute the purchased money as directed with my other estate and make them or either of them, return the said land letters thereunto as required by my bonds given therefore in all sales of land made to my exectutors I do hereby to make letters therefore.

Eighth: I hereby cancel revoke and disannul all and every will and testament heretofore written or subscribed. I do hereby make ordain and declare this my last will and testament.

Ninth: Lastly, I do hereby constitute and appoint my sons Mathew Gibson and James Gibson my sole executors to this my last will and testament. I do earnestly request that they take upon themselves the execution thereof conforming themselves in all things to be true spirit and meaning thereof producing harmony and peace form all interest.

My Seal October 1st, 1818
(Signed) George Gibson

Signed sealed and acknowledged in the presence of
Josh Ewing John L Hardy
William Sayers

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Technology Thursday - Flip Pal Review October 20, 2011

When I saw ads for the Flip Pal scanner on several blog sites I follow, I was intrigued. Was it just another gimmick? Could it really do what it claimed? After staring down the huge pile of photographs sitting in my upstairs closet, and fumbling with my current scanner, I decided to try the Flip Pal.
The Flip Pal arrived at my door a couple of days ago, and it was love at first sight. As advertised, it's small (roughly the same height and width of an iPad but maybe double the thickness), lightweight, and extremely easy to use. Set-up consisted of: 1) taking it out of the box; 2) removing a paper tab to activate the batteries; and 3) flipping the on switch.
Since its power source is AA batteries, you can scan virtually anywhere without your computer. Scanning is easy: 1) open the cover, 2) position the photograph or other small document; 3) push the green scan button. There is a small screen on the top of the scanner that previews your scan once it's complete.
Since the Flip Pal is so small, its optimal use is scanning photographs or other small documents. "Small" in this case means 6" x 4". I haven't tried the scanning and "stitching" feature yet, which allows you to scan larger documents, photographs, and other objects in sections, then "stitch" them back together using computer software. I'll review that feature in next week's Technology Thursday post.
The scanner comes with a 2G SD card and USB adapter. After scanning 80 photographs in less than a half hour while watching television, I popped the SD card out, put it into the USB adapter, then plugged the adapter into my MacBook Pro. In less than 5 minutes, I had everything uploaded to my iPhoto library. I opened a few images to check scan quality, and it was great!
The only issues I've run across so far:
1. It does suck battery juice. It takes two AA batteries, so my suggestion is to make sure those are rechargeable batteries. I'll be buying a battery charger and rechargeable batteries this weekend.
2. Make sure whatever you are scanning is flat. The majority of the photographs I was scanning are older (from the '60's, you know which ones I mean) and were curled from being stored scattered in a box. If the object you are scanning is not flat, it's hard to lay it on the scanner bed to get a straight scan. I had a few that scanned crooked, but was able to straighten them with the iPhoto software.
If you have a closet full of photos to scan, but hate the thought of sitting in front of your computer for hours on end, this is the gadget for you.
Next week: Flip Pal's scan and stitch functionality.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This is the sign at the entrance to Christian Union Chapel Cemetery near Blue Ridge, Harrison County, Missouri. It's a beautiful little country cemetery, set on a hill between quiet pastures. Several generations of my maternal grandfather's family are buried here. Allen and Margaret "Maggie" Miller Robertson, Daniel and Bessie Jane Downey Robertson, Cloyd Robertson, to name a few. I love this cemetery and visit every time I am in Harrison County.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Ellen Allard Bellmer, 1865

In every family tree, there is one story that breaks your heart. For me, that story belongs to my husband's great great grandmother. She died a young woman on October 9, 1865, leaving behind a husband and six children. She is buried in an unmarked grave, next to her husband, in the same cemetery as Abraham Lincoln. Her husband died six years later from typhoid fever.

From the Daily Illinois State Journal, Springfield, Illinois, dated October 10, 1865:

Sad Casualty - Mrs. Ellen A. Bellmir, the wife of M.C. Bellmir, one of our old citizens, came to her death, yesterday, in a melancholy manner. She has, for years past, been subject to chronic, nervous attacks, accompanied with lock-jaw, which nothing but chloroform would relieve. Having a violent paroxysm of this character last Saturday, she took an overdose of the opiate, from which she never recovered. She was an estimable woman, and her husband, and friends have the sympathy of the whole community in their deep affliction.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Family Heirlooms - October 14, 2011

My house is full of comforting family heirlooms: my grandpa's St. Louis Cardinals ball cap, curved glass portraits of my great grandparents, my grandmother's rocking chair and foot stool, a china cabinet full of dishes, to name a few. Even though they have very little monetary value, I love and cherish them all. When my grandmother died, I helped clean out her house, which she and my grandfather had lived in since I was a small child and I considered home. Even though I knew she was never coming back, I felt her presence in all the things she left behind.
As I research my family history, I'm drawn to the physical items of my ancestors. While I roll out cinnamon rolls with my grandmother's rolling pin, I remember all the times spent in her warm and inviting kitchen. My great grandmother's wedding portrait takes me back to the dairy farm in northern Missouri where she and my great grandfather lived. I can remember him taking the cows out to pasture early in the morning, playing in the barns with my brother, and family reunions where the men ate first while the women cooked and gossiped.
The physical reminders left by our ancestors can help trigger wonderful memories which can add warmth to a list of dates and places. Dig through the boxes in the attic and see if it stirs some memories you can pass along to the next generation.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Technology Thursday - October 13, 2011

I am not ashamed to say I am a huge geek, an Apple fan-girl, and lover of all new gadgets and software. I spent a couple of hours last night updating my iPad, MacBook Pro, iPod, and MacBook Air (I warned you I am an Apple fan-girl!) with Apple's new "iCloud" functionality. Now comes the fun part: what is its practical application to the world of genealogy research? How will it help me become a more efficient researcher? I currently use Family Tree Maker for Mac, as well as Ancestry's iPad/iPod mobile application, and with my genealogy documents in the iCloud, everything I need for mobile genealogy research will be at my fingertips. I've also customized my iGoogle homepage by adding widgets and links to favorite research sites, started experimenting with Evernote, and now use Google Reader to stay in touch with my favorite bloggers. Technology is a wonderful thing! Don't be afraid to embrace it to help you become a more efficient researcher and connect with your fellow family historians.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Irene Walsh Webster, 1910

As family historians know, every once in a while you run across a really interesting "skeleton" in the family tree. This is an article published in the New York times, January 1910, regarding the death of my son's great great grandmother, Irene Francis Walsh Webster.

Man Held as a Witness Discharged After an Autopsy.

A man who said later that he was Charles Phillips, a button manufacturer, of 110 Pennington Avenue, Newark, went to the Mirror Hotel, at 518 Willis Avenue, the Bronx, on Friday night. Yesterday morning at 9 o'clock the woman, who was Mrs. Irene Webster of 302 East 140th Street, complained that she felt ill, and Phillips called Dr. A. L. Smolen of 443 East 146th Street.

Dr. Smolen summoned an ambulance from Lebanon Hospital, but the woman had died before it arrived. Phillips was placed under arrest by the police of the Alexander Avenue Station, and the Coroner's office notified. Coroner Shongut and Dr. Curlin, his physician, held an autopsy, and found that Mrs. Webster had died of heart disease. Phillips was discharged.

William Webster of 105 Alexander Avenue, and Thomas and James Walsh, the woman's brothers, were summoned to the hotel by the police. Webster said he had separated from his wife two years ago, and had been paying her $3.50 a week. The landlady from whom Mrs. Webster rented a furnished room at 302 East 140th Street, said that her roomer had suffered from heart trouble.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Interview, Interview, Interview!!!

As far as I knew, my maternal grandmother, Mildred Gannan Robertson, had never ridden a bicycle, driven a car, or flown in an airplane. A few years before her death, my uncle Ron Robertson and I decided to interview her on camera, as she was blessed with a clear memory and good health. She and her sister Helen and brother Don were the last of their generation, and we wanted to record for posterity her memories of life as a young child, the Great Depression, World War II, and beyond. One story she told can serve as a lesson to my fellow family historians: don't make assumptions about your ancestors, because they just might surprise you.
It turns out that my grandmother HAD, in fact, flown in an airplane. When she was in her teens, a barnstormer came to Harrison County, Missouri, and was offering rides in a biplane for a small fee. She borrowed the money from her future sister-in-law, and off she went for a ride over the farm-dotted countryside. I can just imagine her as a young girl, flying high, laughing, wind-whipped hair, breathless after landing and thinking, what a great adventure I've just had! She never again flew in an airplane.
Had my uncle and I not interviewed her, we would never have known about her grand girlhood adventure, and would have assumed she always played it safe, feet firmly planted on the ground. Interview your living relatives if you're lucky enough to have some, you never know what you might find out!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Military Service

I have found very few of my direct ancestors who served in the military during what I'll call "modern times" (after the Civil War). My great great grandfather, Allen Robertson, served in the Union forces during the Civil War and never attained a rank beyond Private. George Isaac Gibson, my Irish immigrant fifth great grandfather, was a Major under George Washington at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. His father-in-law, Zechariah Smith (my sixth great grandfather) served under Captain Thompson in the French & Indian War. Our family was also represented in the War of 1812 by Josiah Oaks, my fifth great grandfather, and Joel Waterbury, my fourth great grandfather. Joel Waterbury's two grandfathers, Daniel Waterbury and Jacob Travis, also served in the Revolutionary War. Oddly enough, my original impetus for picking up my mom's genealogy was a desire to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, which I've yet to do.

Friday, October 7, 2011

John Gannan

Since the blog is titled "The Hunt for John Gannan," I suppose it's time to tell you about him. He is my great great great grandfather, and a total mystery to everyone in the family. The few things we know about him are that he claims to have been born in Monmouth County NJ in 1824; he married in Ohio; moved to Illinois for a few years; then purchased land in Harrison County MO where he lived out the rest of his life. There are no known photos of John, even though there is a single photo of his wife (Miranda Justice/Justus) and grown children, apparently taken after his death. There are family stories that he was a "wood colt" (born out of wedlock) and took his mother's maiden name, never knowing his father. Other stories state that he refused to have his photograph taken. There are no known vital records found in New Jersey or Illinois, only census records from Ohio and Missouri, along with his probated will and some land records. He is buried in the Fairview Cemetery between Bethany and Blue Ridge in Harrison County, Missouri. The tombstone is old and worn, and was replaced a few years ago by several members of the family. This is the sum total of what we know about him. I can say, however, his grandson John William Gannan (my great grandfather), was a wonderful man, a dairy farmer who worked hard his whole life and had the most amazing blue eyes.
"Old John Gannan," as I call him, has kept himself hidden for a long long time, and I can only hope one day he will decide to show himself and offer up a clue. I imagine my mom and grandpa meeting him for first the first time in heaven, "Oh, so YOU'RE John Gannan. Nice to meet you!"

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Old School Genealogy

I am fortunate to have inherited a suitcase full of my mom's genealogy correspondence from the 50's through the 70's. Before the age of internet research, family historians did things the "old school" way, writing letters to elderly relatives and county clerks, anyone who might have a scrap of useful information. The return correspondence is a fascinating glimpse into a different time, full of family stories, gossip, and if you were lucky, a clue that might knock down a brick wall. The best were those written in the shaky hand of the elderly, from relatives who had personally met my great great grandparents and could describe their physical appearance, personal preferences, or life events. While today's technology-based genealogy may yield more results in a shorter period of time, it's a lot less personal and is missing the human element of "old school" correspondence. I find myself returning to the letters from time to time, if for no other reason than it brings my ancestors to life in a way no computer database can.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday, October 4, 2011

George Isaac Gibson, b. 1732, Cork County, Ireland. d. 1819, Gibson Station, Virginia. He served with George Washington in the Revolutionary War.