Monday, May 30, 2011


I have on several occasions in the past, been the grateful recipient of Random  Acts Of Genealogical Kindness.  On the Ancestry message boards as well as the numerous other state sites, the generous gift of time by strangers who look up your ancestors and share their knowledge is overwhelming.   There are uploads to Find A Grave and additions to Dead Fred daily. Then there are the individuals who go beyond and make a trip to their local cemetery to take a photo for you or travel to the library to find an obit that is only available locally.  These individuals must surely wear a golden crown.

I remember the day I opened my grandfather's obituary and read a lengthy accounting of his life and accomplishments.  I don't remember my grandfather, and I only had a fuzzy black and white picture of  him standing with my parents on their wedding day.  He died when I was only five.  This wonderful lady had taken time to look up and then send his obit to me along with those of several other family members.  She opened the doors for me to that side of my family.

Recently, I have corresponded with a gentleman whose gr. grandfather, Joshua Pilcher Brown from Nemaha County, Kansas was a sergeant in the 8th Kansas Volunteer Infantry, Company D with my g-g-g-grandfather  that I wrote about here.  He is researching this particular company, and we have exchanged multiple emails.  He kindly thought Isaac's story was compelling.  Then when he explained that he would be traveling from Oregon to Kansas on a research trip, I boldly asked if he could look for a few graves should he find himself in the Frankfort cemetery.

Then one evening as I opened my email after a long and stressful day at school, I found a long string of emails from my friend.  I opened them quickly and discovered that he had indeed been to the Frankfort cemetery and had sent headstone photos of my relatives.  He told me about talking to the sexton and learning of a few memories he had of my grandfather and his brother who owned a "beer joint".  There was a picture of the vacant, but still standing, Winifred State Bank and an article indicating that my gr. grandfather, David Walker, had been the bank president.  The town of Winifred is barely clinging to a map these days.  I had thought it was only a ghost town until another lady told me that her daughter lived there.

You see Isaac Walker and his wife, along with other members of the Ohio Colony, settled this land where Winifred is located and the town itself is named for my, Winifred Barrett Walker, Isaac's wife. 

In one email, my friend told me he had some information for me that he discovered on his trip and if I would email him my address, he would send it to me. 

Several days later, when I came home from work and laid my school bag on the table, I noticed. . . really it was hard to miss . . . a three foot long irregular cardboard package wrapped in clear packing tape.  My friend's address was written in the corner.  Hmmmmmm. . . this didn't look like documents.  I turned it over looking at all sides and then my daughter said, "For pete's sake Mom, open it!"  Seemed like a practical suggestion.  As I ripped away the packing tape and folded back the cardboard, the sign above tumbled out.  The breath went out of me as I kept saying, "I can't believe it. . .I can't believe it. . ."  From my daughter there was a long drawn out, "Okaaaaaay. . . what is it?"  As I explained the meaning of the sign, I made her promise that she would never throw it out after I passed away.  She was now the official keeper of the story and knew it wasn't just a random antique ,but was part of our family's history.  She promised, but suggested that I type it out and tape it to the back just in case.

I emailed Marc immediately, and told him how thrilled I was.  "Where did it come from?", I asked.  He assured me that it was completely legal, and that he had found it in an antique store.  He told me that if it had been his grandmother, he would have wanted it, but . . .no, I could not pay him for it.  It was a gift.  This was truly a Random Act of Very Generous Genealogical Kindness!

What can you say?  What words could adequately express my gratitude? How could I possibly pay him back?  But that's the way it is with Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.  You usually can't pay them back, you can only pay it forward . . .again . . . and again . . . and again.

But . . . if you or anyone you know has an ancestor who was in the 8th Kansas Infantry, Company D, I know someone who would be interested.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Still Searching for Ernest T.

During my recent vacation in Florida I casually opened my morning email, coffee cup in hand, so that I was scrolling, deleting, and typing hunt and peck style with my free hand.  Moments into my morning routine, my eyes scrolling through the email  ads updates from places like Coldwater Creek, Knitpicks, Office Depot, and Eddie Bauer, stopped when I noticed a familiar address.  It was from another double cousin on the McDonnell & Allen side of my family AND there was a file attached.  When I opened it, I was thrilled stunned shocked . . . well, let's just say that I was very excited.  I was staring at the entire Allen Family including spouses and children . . . at least their bodies were all there.  I wish I could say the same for their faces.  June found the photo when she helped Mary Margaret's  daughter pack up her house after her death.  I thought Mary Margaret and I had sifted through, sorted, and analyzed every box of old family photos she had so this was like an unexpected gift.

There is only one problem . . . two of the faces are scratched out completely!  James Allen has pencil scribbled over his mouth, and Flossie has one eye scribbled over.  Normally, scribbling or scratching on photos is done by a young child, but these scratches were not random and the intense anger can still be felt. In my mind's eye I see a woman  (Really, this does sound like a female type of thing) muttering angrily to herself  as she scratches out each face. She even kept scratching through two layers on Ernest's face.  What did Ernest and Nora do, and who was so angry that she obliterated their faces?  Was it someone in the photo?  Since James Allen's mouth is scribbled over, I assume that is her way of saying she didn't like his opinions? attitudes? decisions? rules? Family gossip is that he was rather strict, and then there is the fact that no one ever put a headstone on his grave.  Ouch!  But what is up with Flossie's one eye?  This is anger that has endured for over a hundred years.

I believe the photo was taken around 1910 based on the age of the youngest child that I know - my Uncle High (Harold Moldt) - who is being kept in place with his mother's arm.  After identifying the individuals I knew, I realized it showed a pattern with the husband standing behind his wife and their children, more or less, on the ground in front of them.

Back row from left to right - Owen Jerome McDonnell, Edward Thomas Moldt, Augusta (Gussie) Allen, Laura Allen, Herman Holdgrafer, and I am positive Ernest Thomas Allen even if he doesn't look very good in this photo.
Middle row from left to right - Elizabeth Burnett Allen McDonnell, baby Florence McDonnell based on her birth date, baby Harold Moldt, Anna Mae Allen Moldt (my great grandmother), Elanor Gilshannon Allen, James Bush Allen, Florence (Flossie) Allen Holdgrafer looking downright angry, and I am positive the next woman is Nora Tyler Allen even if she looks as bad as her husband in this photo.
Front Row from left to right - Ambrose McDonnell, Berenice Moldt (my grandmother) but I have no idea who the baby is except Florence Holdgrafer was born in March 1910 so this is a possibility, Edward Thomas Moldt Jr. (known as Doc for most of his life), Vivian McDonnell, possibly Vivian Holdgrafter, possibly Eleanor McDonnell (I could have the girls wrong), Owen James McDonnell, and probably Vincent Holdgrafer.

Some of the individuals I have identified only by their date of birth such as the Holdgrafer children.  If the photo is about 1910 then their ages would fill in the unknown children appropriately.  
Is this Ernest Thomas Allen before he lost his hair?

Ernest Thomas was the oldest child and the only son.  Ernest and Nora had no children. I have never seen a photo of him. A while back I tried to match the unknown photo on the right to him and wrote to some family members who might remember him or hoping they had an old photo.  Time and again, I got the same story.  All they remembered was that he was bald, and they all told me the same story.   Uncle Ernie was working in the yard when he was swarmed by insects, so he rubbed his head with insect repellent and then his hair fell out, and it never grew back.  The question is . . . is this the truth or just some Irish blarney?  I can tell that he still has his hair in the family photo above, but is the photo on the right also him?  Ernest T. was the street commissioner in Muscatine, Iowa from 1915-1929 and this photo is from a Muscatine studio. I think he looks like James B. Allen, but this might be wishful thinking.  So close but . . .I'm  still searching for the image of Ernest T. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Has It Really Been a Year?

Poppies growing on the grounds of the coliseum in Rome.   
Today is one year since I began writing this blog.

Thank you to Lisa of the Faces of My Family for her encouragement and promise of help if I needed it. It was the shove I needed to begin.

Writing this blog has been a soul satisfying experience for me.  It has helped forced me to organize small snippets of my family's history since organization of the entire mess is beyond me.  I have connected with unknown cousins and reconnected with lost ones . . . . some just in time.  I have a renewed sense of family. It has been emotional and incredibly fulfilling for me.  I have discovered that I love to write, even if I have to "wordsmith" a post to death before it sounds like me.  I appreciate the encouragement of those who read my blog, whether we are related by blood or by our passion for family history. 

I haven't run out of ideas yet, but time is always at a premium so I am not a prolific blogger.  Today I am writing this with a box of tissues at my side, waiting for my husband to bring me some cold medicine from the store.  My lap is full of papers to grade, but the sun is shining, - no common occurrence in northern Indiana - and I take an occasional break to surf the internet looking for places to stay this summer when I will take my granddaughter on a long promised trip to London and Paris. 

Happy blogiversary to me. . .