Friday, December 14, 2012

Repost #2 . . . The Artsy Craftsy Christmas Creche

The Artsy Craftsy Christmas Creche
Originally posted 19 Dec 2010

In our house, Christmas was always home made.  It might have been partly out of necessity, but it never felt that way.  In addition to having a sweet tooth, and being a sewing whiz my mother was very artsty craftsy.  Not only did she make all of my clothes, but she made EVERYTHING for our house.  She loved magazines and used many of the ideas she saw in their pages to adapt for our home.  She never seemed comfortable being ordinary or mundane.  As an example, our living room had one wall with a painted plywood false wall about 5"-12" in front with floor to window top arched cut outs in front of the windows and sheer drapes hanging in the arches.  I am sure this idea came from a magazine.  She was a big city girl living in a small town.  Her second husband, Merle and the best stepfather a child could ever have, always went along with her ideas even as he grumbled.  Mother always had to put her own spin on things.

Across the street from our house lived Mamie Schleeter, the mother of Merle's best friend since childhood.  She was like a second mother to him, and her hobby was ceramics. Mamie was exceptionally talented and sold a fair number of her ceramic pieces. So one year Mom and Merle ordered a complete nativity set with gold trim.  Merle was very handy (a much more important trait for a husband than wealthy) and I am sure envisioned making a nice standard wood creche for the figures.  He should have known better.

One day during the late Fall, Gloria and Merle were going for a "drive".  Going for a drive was a ritual in our family, and one that I didn't always appreciate when I was young.  As an adult, my husband and I often go driving around country roads after dinner, and now I love it.  As children we used to claim that Merle knew every gravel road in our county, and we drove along them feeling like the car was on a perpetual rumble strip.  Mother was always on the lookout  for natural items that she could use in one of her hundreds of craft projects.  Driving along mother would just yell stop if she saw something she wanted and then direct Merle to retrieve what she wanted if it was in a particularly difficult spot. Mom supervised.  She (meaning Merle) always gathered items such as bittersweet, cattails, rosehips and rocks for her arrangements and projects.  However, the creche needed a very special setting.  When they arrived home that day, the trunk lid was open indicating it held something so large that it couldn't close.  Mother had discovered a stump with roots on the side of the road, and amazingly, she was able to talk Merle into wrestling it into the trunk.  What a perfect natural setting for their new nativity set!

And so it was.  She cleaned that stump and covered the top of the television with a layer of the roll out cotton snow, arranged the figures in the spaces formed by the roots, and sprayed aerosol snow over the top.  She then fixed an over-sized angel and star at the top surrounded with evergreen boughs which hid the fact that the angel was out of scale. Televisions in those days were big, boxy freestanding pieces of furniture that were the main focus of the room, so it was a perfect location. It could hold the weight of the stump.

This was our nativity setting for many years.  So many, in fact, that my younger brother thought it was a piece of driftwood, because the bark had worn off.  Really??? We lived in central Indiana and never went on vacation.  Where would we get driftwood that large?  The years have passed, and my brother is now the official keeper of the nativity set, but he has the figures in the more traditional setting imagined by Merle originally.

Personal note:  This post was completely written and ready to post when an amazing, some might say providential, event occurred.  I was re-reading the text and adding the photos, when, as I was searching for photos and cropping the new ones sent by my brother, I noticed a curious looking thumbnail.  Could it really be??  I quickly closed the select window so I could open the thumbnail in question to see it more closely.  It was, it really was . . . It was an old fuzzy photo of the original stump on our television!  I shrieked shouted, "O.. M.. G..., I can't believe it!"  My fingers quickly called my brother who was in his garage making this year's gifts.  I asked if he knew about the photo.  No, he didn't remember ever seeing it and neither did I.  This is truly a family memory restored. I love my blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Repost from Christmas Past . . . The Pan

With no time on my hands, and a feeling of guilt over my lack of posts, I am recycling some of my Christmas posts from past seasons.  Since many readers do not read past posts, I am hoping you will enjoy these.  Today I will share one infamous post from December 2010 about a Christmas tradition I share with my brother and a kitchen pan that once belonged to our mother.  Lisa Louise Cooke read it on her Episode 61 podcast for premium members.  

And now. . .  
"Holiday Fun for Genealogists". 
Posted here originally on 28 Nov 2010

Well, I have always known that I would write this blog post.  It has taken all of my willpower to save it for the holiday season where it rightly belongs.

Please note that the photo below is from left to right:  Gloria Kennelly (my mother), Mary McDonnell Kennelly (her grandmother), Berenice Moldt Kennelly (my grandmother).  I am including it because it is a wonderful photo, and I don't have any good Christmas photos of my mother later in her life.  Those that I could find, I can't bring myself to post for she would surely haunt me if I did.

During the holidays it is not unusual for families to laugh, reminisce, and share stories about past family times.  It usually starts "Remember when . . ." and ends with a smile and a warm family feeling in your heart.  Occasionally, accompanied by a smile or chuckle.  At our house, we usually began the litany of memories with "Remember that d*&#  pan of mother's?"  Except for sweets, our mother did not particularly enjoy cooking. While she loved new sheets and towels and had a whole room for her sewing equipment and crap craft supplies,  her pots and pans were gathered together from who knows where and never replaced.  We had knives that were dull, mismatched plates, rubber spatulas with handles that fell out, and cake pans that must have been passed down from gr-grandma.  Then there was THE PAN.  It was cast aluminum with an exterior darkened from centuries years of burnt oil, but the standout feature was the handle.  It had a wood handle with a long screw through the center.  The screw was fastened securely to the pan, but the wood handle had long ago worn larger in the middle.  This meant that the pan would swing and spin as you held the handle.  We begged our mother to throw it out every time we had to use it, and the contents would spill as the pan would sway and swing when we lifted it.  Mother was particularly fond of boiling macaroni  in this pan.  Pouring off the water was an exercise in frustration accompanied by loud swearing.  I told her that if she didn't throw it out, I would put it in the casket with her. . . . . and I tried to.  Little did I know that my brother retrieved it, sandblasted the oil off and wrapped it in Christmas paper for the following holiday.  Years have passed, and I don't remember what was in the pan that first Christmas. Since then it has been a planter, a clock, etc. Each year we pass it back and forth and talk about that D*&# pan and about our mother.

Last year it was my turn.  I never had any really inventive ideas.  Dahl, my brother, was the more creative one.  But last year was different.  He will have a hard time topping this. As I have said in an earlier post, my brother is the original genealogist in the family, but since I have joined him in this wonderful adventure, I have dragged him with me to various cemeteries in Chicago and Iowa.  I teased him about needing a "gravedigger" tee shirt since our adventure at Calvary cemetery pictured at right.  Privately, I had a brainstorm for THE PAN.  I filled it with dirt, covered the top with moss from Hobby Lobby, and painted small wood shapes to resemble tombstones.  A package of dollhouse scale flowerpots completed the look.  I decided to make him a "portable cemetery"!   It would be a representation of our past adventures searching for our ancestors.

And now to share it with you.

Click to enlarge and see detail

I included a tombstone for our g-g grandfather James Bush Allen because I was sure we would find it when we went to the cemetery - we didn't.  So I guess this is the only one he will ever have.  There is also a tombstone for g-g-g grandmother Anna Lyman, mother of James B. Allen who is buried in Canada, g-g-grandparents, Owen &; Bridget McDonnell, and our gr. grandparents Edward P. and Mary Kennelly.  Lastly, I put a headstone for Margel Kennelly and partially covered it with moss since we had dug up the original.  It was beautiful!!

My brother loved it ,and it has decorated the shelf above his computer for the past year.  It will be sad to see it go.  But, I wonder what he has in store for me??

Maybe you have a special object from a loved one who is no longer here.  I challenge you to think about the possibility of starting a similar tradition of your own. What wonderful fun to pass it around the family and laugh about times past and the family who came before us.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Potential of Ebay

There is good news and bad news.  I have "saved searches" on eBay just in case something related to my ancestors might come up.  It hasn't been working the way I envisioned when I saved them originally. My fantasy  dream is that an old photo, family bible, or document relating to the civil war service of an ancestor will be up for sale.  Nothing so exciting or rare as surfaced yet.  I get daily messages about items that  have me baffled as to how they could even relate to my saved search terms, but . . . I left them because every now and then something pops up that is related despite the usual too high for my budget cost.  I have passed on a sterling spoon with an engraving of Mt. St. Clare school in the bowl because almost $50 seemed like way too much.  It has been re-listed several times and is currently still for sale.  I did bid on and win a postcard of Frankfort High School, and I have a family photo, generously shared by my cousin, of my grandfather with his high school football team standing on the front steps. I loved seeing the rest of the building.  It was only $8 so this was an easy decision.  Recently, however, a celluloid pin with a photo of the Kansas State Agricultural College (later Kansas State) football team of 1905.  As I zoomed in, I could see my grandfather, Carroll Walker, sitting in the front row.  Now this I had to have!  Since I never follow sports, I had no idea that Kansas State had such a good football team this year. I am sure that influenced the bidding.  I placed a bid for what I thought was the astronomical sum of $20.Instantly I was outbid.  I paused, and just watched it for the next few days until it was about to end when I took a deep breath and bid another $5.  Instantly outbid again.  Oh well, it was not to be.  Do you know what little pin, smaller than 2 inches in diameter, finally sold for?  $73 plus shipping!

I was patting myself on the back for keeping a clear head, when a 1906 Kansas State Agricultural College yearbook pops up.  Oh no, I had never seen one this early so again I placed a bid. Really, I'm the high bidder??  Now, I wanted it badly.  The high bid did not move until the day before it ended.  I had been outbid.  Sadness descended, but the next night as it was an hour from ending, I placed another bid . . . outbid . . . I added a few more dollars . . . outbid.  With a minute left, I decided on a final bid.  I would go no higher since I was already over my initial limit, and with that keystroke became the new and final high bidder!  Other slightly later KSAC yearbooks were selling for $90 on eBay . . . I did not pay that much but unless you go to eBay and look it up, I will keep secret my final bid.

The book is fascinating and one of the most interesting photo is the one of the yearbook staff.  The annual is in wonderful condition, with no writing or missing pages.  I treasure it.  Of course, my favorite page is the one with my grandfather sitting in the front row with the football team. But . . .now I need the 1907 version when he was a senior!
Carroll Walker - Front row second one in from the right side
 I encourage you to take a chance on eBay,  just don't get carried away by it. Even with a "saved search" it takes patience to weed through all of the junk, but it is easier.  I am still waiting for a 1942 Providence High School (Chicago) yearbook to show up. . . someday.  If you have an ancestor who was a student at KSAC during 1906, let me know, and I will gladly send you a scan of any page you want.

A few days later, I discovered that complete scanned copies of Kansas State yearbooks are online at:   I think I would still like a 1907 copy, but it is wonderful to see Grandfather Walker mature from a freshman to a senior.  I wish I knew the names of the other players but they don't identify the individual in the photos. Also, it seems that you are not able to save individual photos except in a very low quality.  Of course, you can purchase them, but I have not investigated the cost.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ancestor Images

I admit that I am particularly fond of old family photographs.  A photograph somehow makes my unknown relatives more real. . . their relationships, their homes, gardens, and taste in clothing all jump off the paper (but more often the computer screen) and burrow their way into my heart.  I often find myself stubbornly peering into the face of an unidentified relative as if I expect them to speak up.

I have photos that have been passed down to me, photos that have been generously shared with me, photos from newspaper articles, and discovered on the internet.  I even have a mugshot from Leavenworth federal prison.    But as I was walking through my bedroom the other day, I noticed one of my favorite trio of images of my children.  They are silhouettes that were cut one summer day in August at the Amish Acres Craft Festival in Nappanee, Indiana.

My oldest son Scott was shirtless on that hot summer day. His cowlick visible

My daughter Wendy wearing her hair in the braids she wore most days
Paul, my youngest

The silhouettes were done with my children standing sideways in front of the artist as she stared at them for a few moments, then looked down at the paper as she cut.  No light projecting their shadow onto the paper, just the practiced eye and skill of the artist.  She caught their image perfectly. . . for only $3 each.

For a number of years, I was a vendor at this and other craft shows in the region, but my children loved Amish Acres.  They would help me carry and set up my booth, and then spend hours at the festival when it started . . . occasionally helping me in my booth. They checked out all the other craft booths, reporting on their favorites, they played in the pond, joined the audience for the folk singers or puppet shows, but at closing time they would head over to the homemade ice cream booth for a free cup of ice cream as they cleaned up. 

Do you have silhouettes or alternatives to photos in among your family images?  Perhaps an watercolor portrait, or a caricature drawn by a sidewalk artist on vacation? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Your Voice Counts

It is 26 degrees this Indiana morning and frost covers the ground. My alarm went off at 5 am, and I groggily grabbed my work clothes and dressed before I had my coffee.  My husband had the car warming as I pulled out my winter coat, filled a travel mug with coffee and grabbed my purse with my identification inside.  Off we went to our local voting place to stand in line outside with the other early voters.  No matter what time works for your schedule today, I hope you will let your voice be heard .  It is a privilege that should not be taken lightly.

Ed Kennelly, theater manager with granddaughter, Margel Walker ca 1951 
Remember to Vote

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom

Well, I have done it again.  This is nothing new, it happened every year when I was in college . . . I forgot my mother's birthday.  In college, we always seemed to have our first round of tests at the same time as her birthday and, despite my best intentions, I forgot it every single year.  I am such a terrible daughter*.  This year I intended to write a blog post about my mother for her birthday, but instead I forgot . . . again.

Mom would have been 88 years old on October 22 if she were still alive.  She died in 1996 of lung cancer.  She was from a generation besotted by Hollywood and glamour, and, at the time, it was glamorous to smoke.  She lived in the Garfield Park area of Chicago, her father was a movie theater manager, she attended Resurrection grade school and graduated from Providence High School (all girls)in 1942. World War II began her senior year.  She was splashy, sassy, and taller than most of the girls in her class.

Life had many hard knocks in store for mom; but here is a belated photo tribute to Gloria Kennelly . . . the early years.

Gloria is in the middle row, third from the right.  The occasion is unknown.

Gloria, about age 13, with younger brother Eddie

Sitting on the front porch railing with her cousin and a friend

Even in the 1940's, the pose was everything!

Happy birthday, Mom - late as usual!

  *Please note: I am from the guilty generation of women . . . our parents made us feel guilty that we weren't better children, society scolded us that we weren't better parents, and churches always made everyone feel guilty. If we stayed at home to take care of our children we were dull and lazy, but if we went to work, then we didn't care about our children and were selfish.  Guilt rained down upon the women of my generation daily.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday . . . Mordecai Perry - 16th Indiana Volunteers

Once more I am writing about a man I am not related to, but this time I am related to his descendant.  Mordecai Perry is the 2x great grandfather of my brother.  As I have mentioned before, my brother, Dahl, is the original genealogist in the family and tried for years to interest me in the family history, now he tries to get me to talk about anything else.

Mordecai Perry was born in North Carolina 1831.  He married Harriet Halsey in Gates County, North Carolina the twenty-first of April 1852.  This was a marriage of two young people from southern families . . .  yet in the 1860 census they are living in Tipton county, Indiana. Only two years later, Mordecai becomes a Union soldier.

According to Hazzard's History of Henry County, Indiana, 1822-1906, Volume 1page 304, Mordecai Perry mustered in as a private in the 16th Infantry Regiment Indiana Volunteers, Company G, on August 12, 1862.  This was a three year enlistment, but he never finished it.   There was no slow start for Mordecai. The sixteenth Indiana was sent to Kentucky on August 19, only a week later, where they took part in the Battle of Richmond.  The Regiment lost 200 men killed and wounded along with 600 prisoners.  Then on to the Vicksburg Campaign.  How can you prepare a man for battle in only a week? Or did they just assume they would lose so many that it would be a wasted effort?

 Mordecai died of dysentery at Vicksburg, Mississippi  February 13, 1863, a short 6 months after his enlistment.  He is buried there, part of the Vicksburg National Military Park.

What called him to enlist?  Did he need money for his family? Was he swept away by the emotion of the times?  Did he have family back in North Carolina who fought for the Confederacy?  

His family remains a mystery . . . a brick wall that continues to block, aggravate and  frustrate my brother.  There are a lot of Perrys in North Carolina, but identifying the correct one has been elusive.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm Not Related to Johann Scheid

Long before I "found" genealogy, I was a seeker of antiques.  Weekends would often find me taking a detour through the local antique malls on my way to the grocery store.  The dates of two large antique markets were marked on my calendar. . .lest I forget.  I was particularly fond of "women's work" antiques.  My family shares meals at a round oak table I refinished, a spool cabinet sits next to the sofa with my morning coffee on it, a European armoire is handy for my sweaters and bath towels, a pie safe holds my cook book collection and my sewing room. . .  Yes, I have a whole room devoted to sewing . . . has a shelf around the top of the room lined with toy sewing machines and pincushion dolls. I even planned my kitchen remodel a few years ago to leave a spot for my oak dry sink cupboard.

This is but a fraction of the antiques that I live with. . . but you get the idea.  I don't remember that I ever purchased an item knowing the name of the previous owner except for a book here and there.  Then one day at the Allegan Antique Fair, I spotted it.  "It" is a grain painted immigrant chest.  Most amazingly, it has the name of the immigrant and his destination carved into the front. That day, I told myself I would only look for small (translation: cheap inexpensive) items, but this chest grabbed me.  I looked it over inside and out, walked away, randomly looked at other offerings in the booth, went back and just stared at it.  I pulled myself away and began to walk along the aisle past more booths.  Nope, I don't need it, I told myself.  Where would I put it, I told myself. It was not in my budget, I told myself.  Well, it could be a new coffee table, I told myself.  The family room would be perfect, I told myself.  Now, about that budget . . .   I'll figure it out later.  I turned back toward the booth, and walked up to the owner to begin a little bargaining.  In the end, he only came down 10% but he knew  I was going to purchase it even if he didn't come down a dime.

 The time period for grain painting was the first half of the 19th century so I am guessing that it is circa 1840.  

Johann Wilhelm Scheid

Translation: Immigrant to New York

The pine chest is impressive, and the top was made from a single board 21" wide with hand forged hinges and side handles.

This piece of someone's family history sits in my family room with a quilted runner protecting the top which has split from age and dryness.  It is too big for the room, but I don't care.  I love it.  I have posted on the message boards of Ancestry to see if there is a descendant who would like to see it.  So far, no one has contacted me.  I've found a Johann Scheid but not a Wilhelm, although I haven't searched with much intensity.  

So, for the time being, I'm taking care of Johann's chest.  I hope he was prosperous in this new land.  Is this a chest of a poor, a middle class, or a man of means? My uneducated guess is middle class, but that is just a feeling and nothing more.  Did he have a skill or trade?  Did he marry and have a family?   Now I browse antique stores infrequently, but when I do, I pause at the framed marriage certificates, the boxes of unidentified photos, and the signature quilts sad that they have lost their families.  

Do you care for the family history of another?  If so, take your responsibility seriously.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

'Tis the Season . . . for Politics

Taken 1932 - Democratic Nat'l Conv.
Fa, la, la, la, la . . . la, la, la, la. With the Republican and Democratic National Conventions taking place, the political season is heating up to bonfire levels.  And since it only reaches this fever pitch once every four years, I thought this was the perfect time for a post about a politically inclined ancestor. . . my grandfather, Carroll Walker.

Carroll showed an interest in politics early in life.  He attended Kansas State Agricultural College, later to be Kansas State,  majoring in electrical engineering.  He had a passion for football that began when he was a member of the Frankfort high school team and continued through his college career.  These were the days of leather helmets and a wee bit of extra padding.   Although not the largest team member,  his passion and commitment were instrumental in his choice as captain of the Kansas Aggies 1906 team.

Click to enlarge and read content.

The College Annual for his senior year, tells us that politics was already part of his plan for the future.  It proclaimed, "The height of his ambition is to become United States Senator and in this we wish him well"

After his graduation in 1907, he returned to his hometown of Frankfort, Kansas and while working studied for the bar.  The day he passed the bar, he was appointed city attorney.  Do you think he had connections?  Can you still pass the bar without going to law school?  To the best of my knowledge, he never used his Electrical Engineering degree except for a brief employment with the Edison Light and Power Company in Wichita.

Grandfather Walker was a staunch Democrat and was chairman of the Democratic party of Marshall County for six years.  He started attending the state party conventions in 1912 - only five years after graduation.  Then in 1924 he was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in New York. 

Source: Kansas and Kansans pg. 1487

While I haven't yet found out about the 1928 election (The operative word is YET!), the Emporia Gazette, Monday evening, May 16, 1932 lists Carroll Walker, 5th district, Frankfort, as a delegate to the 1932 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  This time he backed a winner in Franklin D. Roosevelt.  On January 13, 1933, the Hutchinson News printed the names of individuals selected for the Kansas State Inaugural Committee.  Carroll Walker was on that list

 In politics, loyalty often results in opportunities . . . if your candidate is the winner.  It seems this was the case for Carroll.  Sometime between 1933 and 1934, my grandfather was offered a position as a federal attorney working for the Internal Revenue.  He moved from Frankfort to Washington D. C. and then to St. Louis and Chicago before returning home to Frankfort. The 1940 census shows the Walker family living in University City, St. Louis, and Carroll lists his occupation as Chief Counsel for the Office of Internal Revenue.

The opportunity he dreamed of as a college senior to run for United States Senator never presented itself.  But . . . politics was a habit he couldn't shake.   So after returning to his hometown, and at the age of 69, when other men were collecting Social Security, fishing with grandchildren, and taking an occasional afternoon nap, Carroll Walker decided to run for city attorney . . . as a Democrat, of course.

We'll never know if he would have won, because on July 29, 1952 on a rain soaked road, his car collided with a truck, and Grandfather Walker died of a crushed chest. 

I don't remember my grandfather. . . not even a little bit.  From these records and articles, I have constructed his political life.  I expect more detail to emerge as I continue my family history journey.

Do you have a politician among your ancestors?  Please share.  After all . . . 'tis the season.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thomas Gilshannon's Will . . . A Widow's Plight

Thos. Gilshanon born in County Meath Ireland

Summer is coming to an end for me.  School starts tomorrow, and, as usual, I didn't accomplish everything on my "to do" list, but it has been a wonderful summer with a successful research trip, an unexpected discovery of a cache of old photos and videos, a pleasant road trip with my husband, a few cleaning/organizing projects completed, and I still had time to knit!  It has been a most relaxing summer. 

 So what is left of interest in Thomas Gilshannon's will other than a bunch of bills.  Well, I found a few items of interest.  Let's look first at his obituary.  His obituary tells me that he had tuberculosis . . . for seventeen years!  I didn't know you could survive it for that length of time in 1888.

Clinton Daily Herald  Jan 25,  1888

Thomas' will was written five years before his death and only a year after his daughter, Nancy, also succumbed to the dreaded consumption.  He could see the end, and wanted to get his affairs in order. His choice of executor was not a deathbed decision.  Like Thomas, his wife Bridget did not read or write and would need someone to look after her interests after he was gone. There were still children at home to consider. Did G. A. Griswold do that?  You decide.

While G.A. Griswold paid everyone else, Bridget had to petition the court

In the District court of the State of Iowa in and for Clinton county.

In the matter of the estate 
of Thomas Gilshannon

Petition of the Widow for
allowance for 1 years support

Bridget Gilshannon, widow of said deceased state that now (no?) allowance has been made to her as such widow for her support for twelve months from the time of the death of said deceased.  That she is 66 years of age.  That the amount of personal property ^ of said deceased^ set apart to her as exempt from execution is $_______.  That the appraised value of personal estate of said deceased other than exempt property is $______.  She asks that she may be allowed the sum of $300 for her support as such widow during said period of 12 months.

                                                                          Bridgett Gillshannon

                                                                          By Geo B. Young, her atty

The judge ordered it.

The executor complied . . . with payments

The lawyer's bill was $25
Note:  Thank goodness his name was printed in the upper left corner of the bill because I certainly couldn't read it.

I investigated, briefly, the identity of the executor of his will, and from what I can tell he was a farmer who had a nearby farm and I assume a trusted friend of the Gilshannons, but why wasn't a family member chosen?  So far,  I have not found a family relationship with G.A. Griswold.  What was the incentive for someone outside a family to agree to be an executor? Money? Friendship? Obligation?   There was a bill for $25.00 "commissions", and I assume this was what he was paid for carrying out the duties of the executor.

So. . . when all the bills and fees were paid and everything was settled, what monies were left for the widow and children? 

The Final Disbursements

Bridget received $204.39

. . . and each of the children receive $58.39

As you can see a probate record contains more than just a wil,l and these "extras" give you the story behind the will and can often lead your research in new directions.  One bill in this probate record referenced a lawsuit between Thomas and a man named Struve complete with the date.  That will go on my list for next year's research trip.  The bills may paint a picture of the life of the deceased, along with the time period they lived in.  

Don't just settle for a will, dig deeper and search for the entire probate record.  Surprises await. . .  

Postscript:  My research trip to Clinton would not have been as successful without the help of my Clinton angel, Mary.  She gave me addresses, hours of operation, local maps with ancestor addresses highlighted, location of various records, went to museums and historical centers to check out their holdings, and so much more.   If I try to list it all, I will forget something.  She was the reason I was able to accomplish so much. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Probate Information Beyond the Will

As a family historian, you always search for relationships and names to further your research.  While the will of Thomas Gilshannon names his wife and children, the probate gives additional information about where they lived at the time of their father's death and also the names of the spouses.  Since there is no federal census for 1890, a probate record for 1888 is about as close as you will get.  The location can help distinguish between individuals with a similar name and link them to a particular family.  Here is that record for Thomas Gilshannon.
The information contained in this probate record about his children, in birth order . . . his heirs at law on 17th of April 1888

Ellen Allen . . . aged 39 . . . resided in Clinton, Iowa
Thomas Gilshanan . . . aged 35 . . . resided in Whitney, Nebraska
Elizabeth Gilshanan . . . aged 33 . . . resided in Elk River, Iowa
Catherine Guerin . . . aged 32 . . . resided in Whitney, Nebraska
Bernard Gilshanan . . . aged 30 . . . resided in Aberdeen, Dakota
                                                               (It was still a territory at this time)
Mary M. Gilshanan . . . aged 22 . . . resided in Elk River, Iowa
Henry Gilshanan . . . aged 21 . . . resided in Elk River, Iowa

Note: His daughter Nancy died in June of 1882.  Nancy and Ellen were the children of Thomas and his first wife Ellen Guilfoil

Additionally it names the following spouses as heirs at law of deceased or interested in his estate:

James Allen . . . husband of Ellen Allen
Mrs. Thomas Gilshanan . . . wife of Thomas Gilshanan  (not much help)
Thomas Guerin . . . husband of Catherine Guerin
Mrs. Augusta Gilshanan . . . wife of Bernard Gilshanan

I have to assume that Elizabeth, Mary, and Henry were not married as of this date.  This gives quite a bit of additional information beyond the names in the will to research!!

Next post:   So. . .  what did everybody end up with when all was said and done?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Probate Records. . . More Than Just a Will

In a recent post I shared the will of Thomas Gilshannon, my 3x great grandfather who immigrated to Elk River, Iowa from Ireland in 1839.  The will was part of his probate record from 1888 but the fat probate file contained much more that just a will.  It details family relationships, and is a glimpse into life almost 125 years ago.  There were no restrictions on my handling of the probate records.  It is amazing that the paper was not brittle in the least, and I followed the lead of the clerk who, before she made a photocopy, bent the pages back to remove the crease. . .  gasp!  The clerks were pleasant and accommodating despite the fact that it meant a trip to the historic courthouse attic, reputed to be the resting place of more than an occasional bat, for the files.  I made sure to compliment them as they more than deserved my appreciation.

One common item I found interesting was that several of the bills and records were held together with this. . . .a straight pin!  The commonly used stapler did not come into common use for a couple more decades and the patent for the lowly paper clip was not until 1901.

The law of the time required the public posting of a notice as to who was appointed executor in three public place, including the front door of the courthouse.  Then come back to the court and swear that this had been accomplished.  Why was G.A. Griswold appointed executor, and what was his relationship to Thomas Gilshannon??  Was he a banker, an attorney, a friend or a relative?  Thomas, in feeble health, wrote his will five years before his death so the choice of executor was a decision that he gave considerable thought.

Published in the Weekly Mirror, Lyons, Iowa February 25th, March 3rd and 10th.
Notice of Proving Will
State of Iowa
Clinton County
  To all whom it may concern:
  You are hereby notified that an instrument in writing purporting to be the Last Will and Testament of Thomas Gilshannon, late of said county, deceased was on the 23rd day of January, 1888 (at January term of said court) produced and publicly read in open Court by the Clerk of said Court; that said Court Clerk then fixed the 17th day of April, A.D.1888 and during the next term of said Court to be begun and held at the Court House in the city of Clinton, in said county, on the 17th day of April, 1888 as the time for proving the same, at which time and place you can appear and contest the proving and allowing of said instrument as the Last Will and Testament of said deceased, if you desire so to do.
  In witness thereof, I, William Kreim, Clerk of said Court, have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of said Court at my office in the city of Clinton, in said county, this 17th day of February, A.D. 1888.
                                                     WILLIAM KREIM
                                                               Clerk of the District Court

A copy of the notice and the bill were submitted to the executor. The printer's fee was $6.00

There are many bills that are submitted to the executor and he needed to pay and then account for all of them.  Some are to fulfill the wishes of the deceased as set out in the will, some are required by law, and some are a practical result of a death in 1888.  Such is the following.

It appears that it cost $5.00 for a funeral team of horses and sleigh from John Doran who claimed to have the "Best Rigs in the City".

More in the next post. . .

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday Olympics . . . in Honor of Ancestor Athletes

Carroll Walker KSAC
My grandfather, Carroll Walker, who was captain of the football team in 1906 at Kansas State Agricultural College which later became just Kansas State.

The 1907 (I think) Kansas State Agricultural College Football Team.  "Cap" Walker in suit, middle row, third from right.  Sadly, no names for the others - can you help?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Amanuensis Monday . . . The Will of Thomas Gilshannon From the Courthouse Attic

Altarpiece donated by four families including Holdgrafer

Well, I have returned from what has become a yearly trip to Clinton, Iowa, the home of a multitude of my ancestors.  For a while I thought this might be the last trip, but I discovered there is still more to document.  It seems like the more you find, the more you realize there is more to research. Many of the church records such as births, baptisms, marriage, and deaths for my family are located in the Catholic Historical Center which is located in St. Boniface, a closed parish.  At one time Clinton had five thriving parishes, but, due to escalating costs and dwindling attendance, they have merged into one parish which is located in a new church building.  Luckily, this magnificent building has found a second purpose. What happened to all of the records? Fortunately a dedicated church member was able to transcribe the older records that were moved from the five parishes to the new church.  As far as I know, she is the only one who has seen the original records since the church does not allow any access to them.  Even if they do not allow access, I hope that they digitize the records and keep a copy in two places so they are not lost one day due to human error or natural disaster.

Like last year, the records do not allow personal searching.  As before, one of the dedicated men who staff the CHC, Bill Foley, would scroll through, I would tell him the surnames I was researching, and he would read off the information.  They still do not have a printer for the computer holding the records database so my notes are scribbled and sometimes barely readable.  Bill was incredibly patient and willingly re-read names and dates for me as I asked.  I tried to read over his shoulder as he scrolled through since I discovered multiple incorrect transcriptions. I could recognize my family even when the names were garbled.  The strangest one was Dionysious when it was intended to be Dennis. . . oh, well.  As a volunteer transcriber for the 1940 census, I am completely sympathetic to the transcriber's difficulty.   If you have Clinton ancestors who were members of one of these churches, I encourage you to contact them.  You will not find a more helpful and enthusiastic group of fellows.  The center is open from 9-noon on Tuesdays and Saturdays and they have a facebook page.

Clinton County Iowa historic courthouse
In addition to the center, one of my main goals was to go to the county clerk's office and look at probate records.  I was told by the historical society that in Clinton, you can still look through the original records, and I am such a sucker for original records! In preparation, I called the clerk's office the week before I left and gave her the list of names I was researching and approximate death date for each. I had been told that it will often take them several days to get the records from the attic. After all, genealogy is not their primary job!  They were extraordinarily nice and accommodating. The courthouse was my first stop when I arrived in Clinton on Monday morning. Caroline, my contact, told me that she had only been able to find one name on my list, but that I was welcome to look through the index to see what I could find.  Oh, and, by the way, she explained that they could photocopy for .50 per page or I was welcome to take a photo of anything I wanted at no charge.   Whoaaaaa . . . I was both stunned, thrilled, and my purse held my camera with a fully charged battery.  I spent the next two hours going through the index books and, in fact, I did find more records.  When I left, I gave my new list to Caroline, and hoped that she might be able to retrieve them before I left for home two days later.  By early that same afternoon, I received a phone call telling me my records were ready to look at.  I already had an appointment to meet my 90+ cousin, John Brown, for a sit and chat that afternoon so the records would have to wait for Wednesday morning.

I arrived at the clerk's office shortly after they opened with a fully charged camera battery and a spare in my purse. Caroline pointed to a stack of records on a shelf and suggested that I to go to a table in the entry area and look through them.  The thick one on top made me grin from ear to ear.  It was the probate record of my 3x great grandfather . . . Thomas Gilshannon, born in County Meath, Ireland in 1810 and who immigrated to Iowa in 1839.  Below that was the record for my great grandmother, Anna Mae Shelko, nee Allen.  She was the granddaughter of Thomas. There were two that I hoped would prove to be relatives of her husband Edward Thomas Moldt, but no one sounded familiar so I have to assume they were not related.  Another two belonged to uncles and the last was the probate for the second wife of Thomas Gilshannon.  I was over the moon.  This was my first time looking at probate records, and it was thrilling.

I started with the ones that were flat first, but when I got to Thomas, I have to admit that I was breathing deeply. . . and I wasn't disappointed. 

I unfolded the top paper and found his original will . . . tied with a red ribbon!
Will of Thomas Gilshannon - page 1
The Will of Thomas Gilshannon
of the Township of Elk River
Clinton County Iowa

  I Thomas Gilshannon being in feeble heath But of sound mind in this the Seventy four year of my age do make and establish this as my Last Will and Testament.  "Imprimer" I give to my wife Bridget Gilshannon One Third in value of all my Real Estate. To Witt "The South East Quarter of Section Number Fourteen in Township Number Eighty three North of range Number Six East of the 5th P.M. Also the South West One fourth of the South West One fourth of Section Number Eight in Township Number Eighty three North of Range Number Seven East of the 5th P.M"
  Said One Third to be all taken from the land in Section Fourteen Town (83)(?)R (6) so as include the Dwelling House and Farm Buildings theron.

Will of Thomas Gilshannon - page 2
The Property regarded as Exempt under the Code of Iowa and which the law specifies & Also after My debts are paid The One third of the Proceeds of my Personal Property as the Code aforesaid provides.

Second The remainder of said Real Estate above described "That is the two thirds in value thereof I give to My Children Ellen M Allen Thomas Gilshannon Elisabeth Gilshannon Catherine Guerrin Bernard Gilshannon Mary Gilshannon and Henry Gilshannon in equal shares to be divided by them as they may seem best & proper
( In the above devises The Land taken by the C.M & St P. Railway is not included so long as the same is used by said Rail Road Company)  I also give to the aforesaid Children The Two thirds of the proceeds of my Personal property after my debts are paid in equal shares between them as they seem best.

Will of Thomas Gilshannon - page 3
Third as there is a Mortgage of One Thousand dollars on a portion of the land herein devised ^ given to Mrs Louisa Bohnes by myself and my wife^  I direct my Executor herein after named as soon after my death as Practiable to sell so much of my personal estate as he may deem proper to pay said Mortgage aforesaid on or before the same becomes due.  And also sell such other Personal property as may be necessary to pay debts expenses & including a suitable Tomb Stone for myself and my daughter Nancy Gilshannon who died in June 1882

Fourth I appoint GA Griswold my Executor of the Township of Elk River Clinton County Iowa in order to Carry into effect the provisions of this will
                                                                  Sign by me on this second day of 
                                                                              April AD 1883
                                                                                           Thomas Gilshannon (his signature)
This will consisting of Two sheets of
paper was signed by the said Thomas Gilshannon
in our presenence April 2nd 1883
In testimony whereof we have set our hands in
his presence and in the presence of each other this 2nd day of April 1883
       Charles Beatty    GA Griswold of Elk River Iowa

Thomas Gilshannon's signature is quite shaky looking.  On the early land records, he and his wife, Ellen, had to make a mark for their signature so I assume that he could not read or write.  From the will, it appears that he did learn to write his name.  I am sure his admitted feeble health influenced his signature as well.