Saturday, March 29, 2014

One Reason I Love Genealogy...

When I located my mother in 1994 (my parents divorced circa 1978-1979), we started a dialogue first through letters, then emails. This also led to exchanging letters and then emails with aunts and my maternal grandfather, and visiting with great-aunts and my maternal grandmother.

In email exchanges with my maternal grandfather, I learned he had many half-siblings and a sister, none of whom he had seen in a long time.

With my aunts, I compiled all the facts, and ultimately put together as much of the story as possible - my great-grandmother Mildred Marian Burrell (b. 1897 in Randolph, MA, d. 1972 in Abington, MA) had married a man named Joseph William St. Onge (b. 1893 in Marlborough, MA, d. ???).

Together they may have had 5 children:

1. Joseph Edward St. Onge (1919-1978)

2. Mary Ellen St. Onge (1920-1985)

3. Gertrude Mildred St. Onge (1921-2000)

4. William St. Onge (1924-?)

5. Frank W. St. Onge (1925-1996)

There are many sad stories about Mildred and the children. There are family stories and speculations that she was already pregnant with her first son when she met Joseph, that she was impregnated by a co-worker. This is certainly possible. She had Joseph Edward (20 July 1919 in Biddeford, Maine) before she and Joseph William married (17 April 1920 in Dover, New Hampshire), so there certainly is a question about his paternity.

There was also a question about William's paternity since he was adopted by the family of George Perry in West, however he supposedly was Mildred's and Joseph's son... At that point, however, it seems they didn't want to deal with having children. They left Frank at the hospital when he was born, and Gertrude apparently suffered horrible abuse from both her parents. 

However, it was Gertrude who ultimately found the boys and her sister, and helped bring the siblings together.

Joseph William St. Onge disappeared at some point. No one knows what became of him. I've talked about Joseph a few times on this blog and he remains a mystery. Supposedly he was a rum-runner during this era, who ditched the family and changed his name to Joe Brown. He did visit sometime in the 1940's, but was never seen again after that.

I guess it's fortunate for my grandfather, then, that when he was born in 1926, he was given to his aunt and uncle to raise. Grandpa's paternity has also been in question. Of course it says on his birth certificate that Joseph St. Onge is his father, but it also lists his surname as "Haley".

At some point - we don't know when - Mildred did marry Herbert Haley. She named my grandfather Herbert Haley as well.

Mildred had one more child (that we know of), and that was Lorraine Haley in 1927. She apparently chose to do right by Lorraine, and keep and rear her, though I imagine it was also the right thing to do to give Herbert to his aunt and uncle (Charles and Edith Haley).

Unfortunately, my grandfather and his sister lost touch over the years. However, I helped reconnect him with some of the children of his half-siblings. And then, thanks to one of my aunts, Herbert and Lorraine also got back in touch.

I write this today because, a couple of weeks ago, my grandfather had a stroke. My uncle made the very difficult decision to move him to hospice care, after grandpa suffered complication after complication.

Because of my parents' divorce, I never knew my maternal grandfather beyond emails we exchanged.

But I'm glad I was one of the people who was able to help him connect with his nieces and nephews. I'm glad my aunts and I made every effort to find his sister, and they got to meet again after so many years, thanks to all of us looking for her. I'm glad I got to exchange letters with her too - Aunt Lorraine, another family member I've never been able to meet.


At least we know that once, when grandpa was in better health, he got to see the sister he never thought he would see again.

Genealogy is not just about tracking down the dead, but the living as well.


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sideways Searching

Most of the time I concentrate on one specific ancestor at a time, and then their parents, and their parents, and so on. If I included every single sibling and their families, I would have a huge family file full of distant cousins. I would also find myself getting confused and clicking around my family file too much. As it is, with all the intermarriages in my ancestry, things are tricky enough.

So my personal policy is only to bother including siblings from 1850 to present (and full families for 1900 to present), or a distant cousin's lines if I know that person and we are working together.

Of course, some researchers always include siblings, no matter what. It all depends on personal preference. I prefer to keep my file limited to direct ancestors for the most part.

But there is one other instance where I include collateral relationships, and that is when I hit a brick wall or need additional information on a family. This "sideways searching" can be important for many reasons - not just helping eliminate brick walls. Developing a fuller, more complete picture of a family might lead to evidence we wouldn't have located otherwise.

For example, my ex-husband's Hawksley line is one of the most fascinating families I am actively researching. Based upon a wide variety of sources, we know this family goes back to John Goodwin Hawksley of Mars Hill, Maine. John was probably born in Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada, on February 8, 1810.

But the question was always this: who were John's parents?

Over the years, I've compiled records that help give a more complete picture of this family. John and his wife, Lucy, had a son - Samuel - who died in the Civil War. They had other sons who served and survived, so it was Samuel I was most interested in.

Why? Because since Samuel was a young, unmarried man, his parents could claim a pension for his service in the war.

Sure enough, Samuel's Civil War Pension file gave me a great deal of insight about John Goodwin Hawksley, his wife, and children, and his life in general. It told me all about John's health issues, and how much he and Lucy relied upon Samuel to take care of the family farm. It is a gold mine of information.

But it still didn't answer the question about his parents.

Fortunately, searching "sideways" through one of John's siblings and her family did answer the question about one of their parents. John had three sisters (two of whom still bear fleshing out), and one was Margaret Elizabeth Hawksley who married Isaac Adams on 3 October 1833 in Prince William, New Brunswick, Canaday.

Margaret's daughter, Mary Elizabeth (Adams) Foster wrote a letter that gave me insight about their parents - an Englishman named Hawksley, and a woman from New Jersey with the surname of Goodwin, who later remarried a Madigan.

That was a "Whoa!" moment for me when I read through those papers in the NEHGS manuscript collection, because I had found an 1860 census entry with a Mary Madigan living with Margaret (Hawksley) Adams. Thanks to the letter, I realized Mary Madigan was Margaret and John's mother. (There was an Irish family also living with Margaret Adams at the time, and I am still trying to figure out if there is any relationship.)

So that's just a little story about the importance of seeking out siblings when you have a family mystery on your hands. Sometimes, they have the answers.


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How I Got Started in Genealogy

This is the topic I used to get the ball rolling in the NGGN Writers' Group: How did you get started in genealogy?

For me, an interest in genealogy began when I was about 12-years-old. My parents divorced when I was quite young (around 3 or 4), and I didn't see my mother after that. So of course I was intrigued about my family! I started with my father's side, collecting what information I could. Fortunately, my dad had names for my grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents on my mother's side.

But what really drew me in was a large leather wallet my paternal grandmother had. It was full of documents and typed-up genealogies done by her maternal uncle, Erwin Blake, relevant to our Blake ancestors in Wrentham, MA. There were also a couple photographs of the Blake family.

When I was about 18 or so, I asked my grandmother for the leather wallet, and she allowed me to have it. I made sure to photocopy all the photographs and documents, just for safety's sake. I donated many of the original documents (mostly deeds and Civil War documents) to NEHGS, since I knew they had the technology to preserve them, and gave my paternal aunt the original photographs. As technology evolved, we also made sure to scan everything too.

Of course, I've built a much larger family picture over the years with my research, but it was an absent parent and some yellowed papers and photographs that piqued my adolescent curiosity.

What about you?


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, February 9, 2014

NGGN Website Goes Live!

Well, more than a month (let alone four) between postings is beyond excusable, and I do apologize. 2013 was, as you know, a rather busy year. I had a baby. I moved across an ocean. Even in the fall, I didn't feel quite like I had all my ducks in a row. By winter, however, things were settling down.

Now I have routines and structure, and I hope I will not be lax about my research or genealogy in general.

Especially since, as publications chair for the NextGen Genealogy Network, I've got a bit more on my plate, producing the NextGen Dispatch - the official quarterly newsletter of NGGN.

And, yes, NGGN's website is now live! I'm hoping the newsletter will be on there in a few more days, once everyone is rested up from their time at Rootstech.

If you would like to see the first issue, please leave a comment and your email address (email AT provider DOT com), and I will send you a PDF. The first issue will be available to everyone on the website, once it gets posted up there.

However future issues will be available in their entirety to members only, with some tidbits posted for the general public. So this is your chance to take a look at what we have to offer and see if you might be interested in joining NGGN.

They are also seeking a webmaster and social media chair. Details for both positions are in the first issue of the newsletter.


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Do You Have Research Phases?

Are there certain times of year you are more drawn to researching your family tree?  Perhaps more in the mood or less in the mood to do your research?

I know I am interested in and passionate about genealogy year-round, but the different seasons bring different possibilities.

When the weather gets cool, it feels like the perfect time to stay indoors, research and write letters from the comfort of my own home.  This is the time of year I tend to gather the most vital records by way of letter-writing and/or emailing town clerks.

Warmer weather means I'm more likely to make in-person visits to libraries, town halls, cemeteries, and more such places.

I also find my interest in researching family history is greater from roughly October through December.  Perhaps it is the holiday season that inspires these feelings of wanting to feel a connection with ancestors. There is certainly an ancestral connection to Thanksgiving that makes this a particularly meaningful time of year for me to focus my efforts on research.


Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Your Family Tree: To Share or Not to Share?

My family tree has been available on Rootsweb since... oh gosh, I'm going to estimate 2002, in that range.  That's my best guess, since I had my son in 2002, and that's when I quit working to stay home with him, thus giving me more free time to work on genealogy. 

It's been available for a long time, but I'm not sure it does any good any more, since I've also shared many of my brick walls and questions in forum postings and here on my blog.  I've also gone through every single family line and shared it here, so I don't think all my research on my entire family needs to be available online any longer.

Of course, I do hope people look up names and connect with me to ask questions, but sometimes I received some rather silly questions off my Rootsweb tree.  Sometimes people asked if I had any sources, when all my sources were available for anyone to read.  Sometimes people tried to append more data to the tree.  If I wanted the data there, I would have added it myself - because my ancestors are mostly from New England, most of this is very easy to find.  That was mildly frustrating, because I stated very clearly on the family tree that people could contact me directly.

But when I was having lunch with one of my associates in the Next Generation Genealogy Network another matter came up that had me mulling it over - people who take and use data for themselves, without crediting the original source. 

I do believe the genealogy community is extremely helpful, communicative, and generous.  However, there are times when people overstep their bounds.  Maybe they don't realize they are doing it.  It's truly unfortunate when it happens.

Overall, I decided ten years of having the tree available was enough.  I do believe it is easy for people to locate me in connection with any of my ancestors and I will, as always, gladly share information.  I do think having family trees out there is great, but when it becomes just one of many, maybe it really doesn't help anyone anyway.

What do you think?



Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dr. Roy A. Miles Collins

In June or July of this year, I went to an antique store in Galena, Illinois.  There I found an 1894 copy of In Maiden Meditation, with the following inscription:

"Susanna M. Nuckolls.  Presented by - Roy A. Miles Collins.  March 1900."



First of all, I'm not sure about the last name of the woman.  That's how the handwriting looks, but it could be something else...

Out of curiosity, I looked up the names via Google, and stumbled on to what appears to be a very sad portrait of Dr. Collins's life.

He was born about December of 1874, which means he was roughly 24-years-old when he gave that book to Susanna.  Was she his intended?  A friend?  A relative?

In the 1900 census on 12 June 1900, Roy A. Collins was at the Industrial School for Boys in Eldora City, Hardin County, Iowa.  The head of that "household" was none other than his stepfather, B. J. Miles.  Roy was born in Iowa or Nebraska on 14 December 1874.   He is buried in Kearney Cemetery in Buffalo County, Nebraska.

A look at the 1880 census shows Roy with his stepfather, Branston J. Miles, and mother, Belle C. (Cooke) Miles, in Eldora, Hardin County, Iowa. Apparently his father, Milton M. Collins, was killed by bandits when Roy was quite young.

Whatever Roy's story is, the ending is not a happy one.

On July 24, 1909, his third wife, Kate Van Winkle Collins, murdered him.  Of course it is very interesting to know I have a book that was gifted from a murdered man to who I am assuming was a young lady - perhaps a love interest.  So that leads to the question who were his first two wives?  Was one of them Susanna? 

Well, in a relatively short time (1900-1909), young Roy A. Collins had only 3 wives.  Let's see if we can learn more about them:

1. 1900-1902:  What happened during this time?  I simply don't know, but I wonder if he married the Susanna to whom he gave the book I now own.

I found Susanna Nuckolls, born about December 1877, in the 1900 census with her parents in Eldora, Iowa. She is also listed in the 1895 Iowa State census.

There is a Susanna Nuckolls who married a Frank C. Hammond and had a daughter, Elizabeth, in Eldora on 4 January 1909.  It seems likely that this is the same Susanna.  However, was she Roy's first wife? 

2.  1902-1908: According to newspaper articles, his first wife eloped with a Danish nobleman, leaving Roy with a 3-year-old daughter to care for.  She became the Countess Viggo Holstein Rathlou.  She was formerly Elinora (Nora) aka Goldie Lang.  At the time of the marriage, 19 July 1902 in Cedar County, Nebraska (Lang, Golda to Collins, Roy A.), she was 17-years-old and a singer.   They filed for divorce in 1908, but it was not finalized by October of that year, when she remarried to the Count Viggo Holstein Rathlou.


3.  1908-1909: Kate Van Winkle is, of course, the one who shot and murdered him on July 24, 1909.  They married sometime after October 20, 1908.  She was much older than Roy (49 to his 34), and "of a suspicious and jealous disposition".  They were married less than year and in the process of separating when she shot him.

And that is the tale of the unfortunate Mr. Collins.


Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan