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Why I Read Old Newspapers – REALLY Old Newspapers!

One of my favorite ways to relieve stress is to immerse myself in newspaper searches for my ancestors. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately because work is especially stressful right now with no end in sight. I stopped reading the daily paper years ago and I certainly have no intention of resuming that habit any time soon. In today’s news climate?!? Talk about stress!

Today I learned of a great resource for  online newspapers thanks to my daily dose of genealogical wisdom from Genea-musings, which shared a link to The Ancestor Hunt. I learn a lot from other genealogists who so willingly share resources and information. Thank-you!

So wine glass in hand (the other way I relieve stress) I settled in for my favorite Friday night activity – scanning historic newspapers – but this time armed with a valuable new resource. The link on The Ancestor Hunt identifies online newspapers in each state and provides links to local libraries, some of which have free searchable databases. So in no time at all I was perusing the late 1800s, early 1900s papers from the counties in Iowa where my Kingsbury ancestors lived.

I found interesting facts about the Kingsbury family of Osage involving tax assessments, real estate transfers and Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury being chosen as a petit juror in 1888 and a grand juror in 1889. Nothing too earthshattering but I like to add bits and pieces of the family puzzle that way.

And I always enjoy the advertisements and interesting quotes and quips that make it just plain fun to read old newspapers. Like this one from the 1936 St. Ansgar Enterprise.

st-ansgar-funnyad-1936

My grandfather’s father, Wayland Briggs Kingsbury, was the only son born to Joseph and Hannah Kingsbury. His three sisters, all born in the mid 1800s on the newly pioneered plains of Iowa, were Mary, Ella and Emma. Much of what I know about those members of the Kingsbury family is because of a self-published family history written my Ella at the request of her daughter Lillian.

When people in the Kingsbury family talk about the family “blue book” they usually mean the genealogy compiled and published by my great uncle Forrest A. Kingsbury in 1958.

But this is my favorite “blue book” of Kingsbury family history

SaltoftheEarth.1.27.15

It’s my favorite because Ella describes her childhood and writes about the day-to-day things that she and her siblings did while growing up on the Iowa frontier in the mid- 1800s. It is such a treasure to know what the family was like; that her father was a good carpenter, that he they enjoyed singing together as a family, that they stopped farming and moved into town where her father started a hardware store in Oelwein and then West Union (or vice versa) before moving to Osage.

But the thing that always bothered me about Aunt Ella’s book was that she never talked about her own family. From what I can tell, she never had any children of her own. She was 36 when she married Frank Y Whitmore, a widower, in December 1893. From the US Census in 1900, I knew that the family included a 10-year old adopted daughter (identified as such) named Lillian, who was born in New York. Both of Lillian’s parents were born in Norway.

A few years ago I spent many futile hours trying to track down information on Lillian Whitmore. She was born in 1890, the same year as my grandfather, but I’ve never seen her name in any of his writings. I was reading The Orphan Train at the time so I wondered if that could be how Lillian came to live with Ella and Frank. But mostly I wondered if I could track down any of Lillian’s descendants so I could learn more about Aunt Ella. Maybe they have extra copies of Salt of the Earth. Maybe they have more family pictures. Maybe they have stories to share. Maybe they will read this and contact me.

Ella Kingsbury Whitmore also fascinates me because she lived in Monrovia, California. (But why did she move from Iowa to Monrovia?) Monrovia is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, east of LA, but not too far from Alhambra and San Marino where Rick and I lived from 1985 to 1997. We looked at houses in Monrovia. Maybe I drove past the house Aunt Ella lived in and didn’t even know it. Maybe we almost made an offer on a house that was on her street! I definitely recognize the name of the street she lived on in 1940 – Wildrose Avenue.

So nearing the end of my search for the night I decided to browse the West Union Iowa papers for mid-November 1918.  A search for “Frank Whitmore” had turned up a few interesting articles, but a search for Lillian Whitmore came up blank. But just because you don’t get a hit doesn’t mean there’s not something there – you just have to decide how much time you’re willing to spend searching.

I knew from records on Ancestry.com that Frank Whitmore died in Monrovia, CA on November 10, 1918. Maybe if I got lucky I could find his obituary and learn more about his family. And sure enough on the front page of the West Union Argo Gazette from November 13, 1918 I found this:

 

frankwhitmore-obit-1918

The article also provided much needed detail about the timing of Frank Whitmore’s marriages, his career and his family. It confirmed that he was survived by his three children, his wife and an adopted daughter. But better than all that – the article provided Lillian Whitmore’s married name – Mrs. J.C. Stillion.

mrs-jcstillion-1918

My search didn’t end there, but this post will. Check back tomorrow for the rest of the story!

 

 

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Where has the summer gone?!?

I have not done a very good job of keeping up with a regular posting schedule on this blog. I blame it on summer time mode. Having a teacher spouse who gets the summer off tends to make me a bit more relaxed about getting things done from late June to mid-August. Now that we’re gearing up for the start of another school year, I’m focused on how to get back on track.

First things first. I’m in the planning stages of a short trip to the Kingsbury Family mecca – Osage, Iowa. I have a meeting in Minneapolis, MN from Thursday Oct 27th – 31st, but I’m planning to fly out on Wednesday October 26th and drive to Osage before the meeting starts. For others who lack a good sense of the geography in the middle of the country, it turns out that Minneapolis is only a 2.5 hour drive from Osage, Iowa.  I’m soliciting advice on where to go and what to see and would certainly like to connect with any extended Kingsbury relatives in the area. I know that Cedar Valley Seminary is a must see and of course the cemetery where Wayland, Flora Jane and Annie May are buried. But what else?

Though I haven’t been blogging about the Kingsbury family history, I’ve certainly been spending lots of time sharpening my genealogy research skills.  In mid-July I took a week-long course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh learning more about how to research Italian genealogy records. Closer to home I’ve taken a couple of day-long courses in Genes and Genealogy – specifically, how to interpret DNA results. It is simply amazing how much information is available. I know that a lot of adoptees use the DNA testing services in hopes of finding biological parents and siblings. Used in concert with available documentary evidence, it can help establish connections with earlier generations that you might not have known about. But for the most part, every time I look at the list of people with whom I share DNA, I end up more confused. Even when the person has a family tree posted on ancestry (surprisingly not very often) and even if the tree is not locked (locked trees frustrate me) I usually cannot work my way back through the branches of a DNA match’s family tree and mine to find the source of the common branch. ARRGHHh…. Frustrating!!!

In his writings, Joseph Bush Kingsbury, my grandfather, describes himself and his Osage, Iowa relatives, as reserved, staid and proper. He attributed much of the Kingsbury personality to the pioneer experience and to the significant role that religion, particularly the Baptist faith, played in their upbringing. He often remarked (favorably) on the more gregarious and fun-loving nature of people he met around the world, including members of my southern family. As a young man he worried about being pious and prudish but most of all, he didn’t want to be close-minded, a trait he ascribed to many of his Iowa family members.

One topic that comes up a lot in the courses on genetic genealogy is something that is often called a “non-paternal event.” This happens when someone thought to be one’s biological father, is not. Instructors are quick to point out that “misattributed paternal event” would be a better term. Obviously if a person is born there has been a paternal event – it’s just that the correct pater is not always identified. This is why using DNA evidence in combination with traditional research methods can result in some interesting findings.

Most of the time, it is very difficult to determine where the misattributed parental event has occurred – probably somewhere too far back to identify. In my three years of genealogical research I’ve yet to find an unknown sibling or even an unknown cousin but I did get an interesting inquiry recently on my Ancestry.com account.

“I am S.P. but was born as Dennis Lee Bill in March 1947. I grew up in Story City, Iowa and through DNA have been able to locate 3 aunts that are still living in Charles City, Iowa. I have a brother that lives in WI and a sister in Houston. My mother Edith M Bill died in 2006 and is buried in Genoa, Illinois. They were all happy to have me join the family. On my birth certificate the father was unknown but it appears that my father may have had Kingsbury roots and lived in a small town near Charles City. Thanks for any assistance.”

I am not sure what led to his conclusion that his biological father may have had Kingsbury roots but his message certainly got my attention. “Hmmm… which one of my Kingsbury ancestors wasn’t as reserved, staid and proper as Granddaddy would have us believe?” I’ve got to admit that “misattributed paternal events” tend to get my genealogical wheels spinning. It’s like solving a puzzle – a real life “who done it” mystery.

In a subsequent email, S.P. wrote that he was trying to get in touch with a Laurel Kingsbury, who has an Ancestry.com account but isn’t active anymore. He thinks she may be a second or third cousin. So if anyone reading this has any tips or advice that might help connect S.P. with his biological father’s family – please share what you know and I will relay it to him.

Keep in mind that the Kingsbury roots could someone without Kingsbury as a last name – i.e. a Kingsbury daughter married a Smith and had three boys and a girl. One of those three boys or any of their sons (also named Smith) could be the biological father. Likewise, when that daughter named Smith marries Harry Brown, any of their sons (all Browns) could be the biological father. So the Kingsbury roots could date back  to the mid-1800s and may be really, really difficult to identify.

According to Ancestry.com, S.P. and are likely to be 4th to 6th cousins. Here’s what the our DNA match page looks like:

SPDNAMatch.screenshot.8.15.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Two Missing Children of Herbert and Annie Preston

Herbert Augustine Preston and his wife Annie Elizabeth McNabb (my great, great grandparents) married in Washington DC on 19 October 1869. I know they had seven children because in the 1920 census, Annie reports she had seven children but only five were still alive.  Hmmm… I found birth records for some of them but not all. I also found a short article in the Washington Evening Star about the death of their first-born daughter Mary Gertrude, who died of typhoid fever in 1878. But all of my searches over the past year were only coming up with six children – five girls and one boy.

This often happens when children are born and die between census years. This is why the 1920 census account of number of children born/number of children living is very helpful. It’s a lot easier to find something if you know what you’re looking for – or at least that what you’re looking for exists, even if you don’t know quite what it is.

The recent snowstorm kept me indoors and home from work for a few days so I had lots of time for my favorite genealogical activity -reading old newspapers. I also had access to the digitized version of the Washington Evening Star available from the Washington DC public library. The $20 I paid for a library card when I was there a few years ago was a great investment.

Since I had that rare commodity, time, I browsed through each of the  16,000+ records for “Preston.” Within an hour I found this bit of news from the Evening Star published on December 29, 1876:

EveStar.29Dec1876.sondied.

So there was the missing child who also turns out to be the first son born to Herbert and Annie. From the gap in their children’s births (between Annie Beatrice born in 1872 and James David born in 1876), I surmised that the missing child was born around 1874. Unfortunately, this article doesn’t tell us much other than “little son” – not even his name, age or cause of death. But with a death date, the records on Ancestry.com soon generated a “hint” from the Washington DC death and burial records for a Herbert Preston who died on December 28, 1876 at age 2. My guess is that his name was Herbert A. Preston, Jr.

As for the death of their first born child, Mary Gertrude, born in 1871, who also was born and died between census years, I found this article from the Washington Evening Star on June 1, 1878.

EveStar.deathofDaug.3Jun1878

It seems that Mary Gertrude was at her grandfather’s house to avoid infecting the rest of the Preston children. I do wonder what is meant by “their interesting daughter.” I’ve seen various weddings described as “interesting” but I wonder what that means when used to describe a seven year old?

The Preston family of Washington DC has certainly captured my attention lately so you can expect to see more posts about them over the next few weeks.