Sunday, March 30, 2014

52 Ancestors #13: How Much Tragedy Can a Woman Endure?

Ancestor Name: Lefa Marie (Amsberry) Connett Zeller Hall

Lefa Marie Amsberry was born on 19 April 1895 in Cass County, Kansas. At the age of 18 she married Vernon Andrew Connett, who was only 20 at the time of their marriage. Ten months later their son, Archie Vernon Connett was born. Lefa apparently suffered from what we now know as postpartum depression after Archie's birth. Her doctor suggested the young family take a trip so she could spend time in fresh air.

Lefa Marie Amsberry and her siblings; courtesy of member cfm1151

Vernon, Lefa, and baby Archie left Kansas to visit relatives in Nebraska in an horse-drawn wagon. When they stopped in North Platte, they met Roy Roberts. The men stuck up a friendship and decided to look for work in North Platte and Vernon took Lefa and Archie to the train station to continue on to their relatives. He would join her later after making some extra money. Lefa never saw Vernon again. At 19 she was a widow, only she didn't know it right away. Roy Roberts, Vernon's new "friend" killed him so he could steal the team of horses and wagon. Eventually, Roy Roberts was brought to trial and convicted of murder.

As published in the Beatrice Daily Sun 6 Febuary 1917

Vernon Connett's body was eventually found along the banks of the South Platte River. Vernon's father and brother traveled to Nebraska to claim the body and take it back to Kansas for burial at the Sheridan Cemetery in Auburn. By that time Lefa had married again to John Victor Zeller. She had a daughter, Clara Mavis Zeller, in 1923 and by 1937 the family had moved to Denver, Colorado while her son Archie completed his post-graduate work.

Clara married early -- very early at the age of 14 -- to Ernest Clifton Manchester. By 1948 Clara and Ernest had three children and were living in Tekoa, Washington. In the early morning hours of 2 March 1948, their house became engulfed in flames. The house was destroyed and the parents burned trying to save their children. Unfortunately, only one, the infant was saved. Their sons, 8-year-old Jerry Ivan Manchester and 6-year-old Lyle Ernest Manchester, died in the fire. Lefa, their grandmother, had just lost two beloved grandchildren at the same time. But more tragedy was to follow four years later.

As published in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin on 2 March 1948

By 1952, her son, Archie, had married Wynona Gottlieb and had three children. He and his wife separated and he had threatened violence several times. On 23 December 1952, he became enraged and slashed his estranged wife's throat. She was able to escape. Archie then turned his rage on his children and held them by their feet and bashed their heads against the wall, killing 4-year-old Michael Stephen Connett, 2-year-old Theresa Anne Connett, and 4-month-old Carl Paul Connett. They were buried the day after Christmas at Mission City Memorial Park, Santa Clara, California. Their Gottlieb grandparents made the arrangements and attended the funeral as their mother, Wynona, was still hospitalized in serious condition. She was only told of their deaths on Christmas Day.

As published in the Oakland Tribune on 24 December 1952

Lefa attended every day of Archie's month-long trial and testified on his behalf. He was convicted of three counts of second degree murder and one count of attempted murder and served 15 years. He was released in 1968.  During the trial it was revealed that Archie and his step-father John Victor Zeller, had a very rocky relationship; their fights sometimes ending in fisticuffs. Lefa eventually divorced Zeller and married for the third time to Jack Huntington Hall. She died on 11 May 1969.

I hope she was eventually able to find happiness.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Lefa Marie Amsberry was born on 19 April 1895 at Cass County, Kansas, to Floyd Murton and Rosa Ella (Comer) Amsberry. Lefa was my fourth cousin twice removed. She married Vernon Andrew Connett on 20 May 1913 at St Francis, Kansas. She next married John Victor Zeller on 16 Jun 1917 at Bayard, Nebraska. They likely divorced sometime before 1940, although I am not sure. She then married John Huntington Hall sometime before 1953. She died on 11 May 1969 at Fresno, California. During her lifetime her first husband was murdered, two grandchildren died in a fire, and her son murdered three of her grandchildren and served 15 years in California prisons. He was released the year before her death.

NOTE: I told the story of Vernon Andrew Connett's murder in more detail in Week #11 of 52 Ancestors.

I blogged about Archie Vernon Connett several times and wrote an article about his committing infanticide for Your Family Tree magazine. If you are interesting in learning more about this terrible tragedy, links are provided below:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beyond ScotlandsPeople

I attended the Fairfax Genealogical Society's Spring Conference yesterday and today. Yesterday I learned an awful lot about researching the Revolutionary War, military records for the Ohio Indian wars that took place between 1790-1812 and the War of 1812. This morning I chose the track on Scottish records.

Basic information (births, baptisms, marriages, death and burial) records are centralized and located on ScotlandsPeople, but there are a lot more places you can go online to learn more about your ancestors.

Information Tidbits
Our Scottish ancestors followed a convention for naming their children:

When looking at records about residences, Peter Semple of Swinhill Farm means he was the land owner. Peter Semple in Swinhill Farm means he is a tenant, typically on a large farm, and lived on a residence at the farm, but is not the owner. Peter Semple at Swinhill Farm means he worked at the farm but did not live on the property.

The census in Scotland was taken during one night every ten years.  They listed who was home at the time census was taken. If a person was away from home that night, they were not recorded even though they lived at that address.

If you see "X made his/her mark" on a Scottish record, it doesn't mean your ancestor was illiterate. It only means they could not write in English. Likely they could read and write Gaelic.

Military Records
  • FindMyPast (subscription required) -- Includes the full service records, not just the attestation papers. This service also has records on emigrants leaving the UK and passport applications.
  • Maritime History Archive -- records about the merchant navy
  • Roll of Honour -- mostly officers
Regional Databases
The Internet Archive has the Scottish Post Office and trade directories online. These are like U.S. city directories.

Local family history web sites for each parish in a county exist online. Typically they have school records and newspapers for the area in addition to other collections particular to that parish.

British Newspaper Archive includes all of the major newspapers but also many of the local newspapers.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fearless Females: Immigration

March is Women's History month and the Accidental Genealogist has 31 blogging prompts to help celebrate women's historical achievements. The blogging prompt for today is:

Do you know the immigration story of one or more female ancestors? Do you have any passenger lists, passports, or other documentation? Interesting family stories?

This year in celebration of Women's History month, I am focusing on my maternal grandmother, Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange, my namesake. She was the first child of Wilhelm Schalin and Auguste Fabriske to be born in Alberta, Canada, after the family emigrated from the Volhynia region of what was then Russia.  This is their story.

We know the Schalin family considered themselves German, but we have no idea from where in Germany they originated. Wilhelmina's great great grandfather married Anna Dorothea Rosnian in 1791 at Wladylawowo, Poland, which is located on the shores of Gdansk Bay. Prussia, Austria, and Russia had taken chunks of the country in 1772 in what became known as the first Polish partition. In and 1795 the three countries partitioned Poland again until it was erased from the maps of Europe.

Wladylawowo, Poland, the first reference of the Schalin family in Poland

When Prussia took over their Polish territories, they discovered about 1,500 German villages had already been established. During Prussia's rule, they established more settlements. In 1806, Napoleon created the Duchy of Warsaw. But it was short lived. Russia pushed Napoleon out of Poland in 1812-1813. In 1815 Congress Poland was created, but its foreign affairs were controlled by Russia. Portions of Poland that were under Austria's control were added to Congress Poland and German settlement spread to those areas. By the mid 1800s, there were about 325,000 Germans living in what is now Poland's western half of the country. In 1831 there was a Polish uprising and Russia took full control of the country.

Russia had also acquired the Volhynia region of what is now Ukraine during the Polish partitions and controlled its destiny for 120 years. The vast areas of the region were largely unsettled wilderness which had never been cultivated by its former owners, Polish nobility. In 1862, Tsar Alexander II freed the serfs from the land and many left the farms for better work opportunities. The Boyar landowners were left with large tracts of land but no workers and no income from the land. The owners encouraged Germans living in Poland to lease their land. The Germans responded in large numbers. In 1861 there were less than 5,000 German families living in Volhynia. By 1915 there were 235,000 families. My grandmother's grandfather, Gottlieb Schalin moved his family to Volhynia between 1861 and 1863.

A German farmhouse in Volhynia; photograph courtesy of Lucille Fillenberg Effa

In 1881 Alexander III became tsar of Russia. Unlike his father, he was very conservative and reversed several of his father's liberal policies. He believed the country could only be saved by the political ideal of single nationality, language and religion. He attempted to realize this ideal by mandating the teaching of Russian throughout the empire, outlawing any other religion but Russian Orthodoxy, and weakening foreign institutions in whatever manner possible. Alexander III rescinded the ban on German men serving in the Russian army and levied new taxes on German communities. By this time many of the Germans living in Volhynia were German Baptists. Their religion was outlawed and their ministers arrested.

Wilhelm Schalin, my great great grandfather

Wilhelm Schalin decided it was time to leave Volhynia. His family and several others traveled to Liverpool, England, and boarded the S/S Sarmatian on 21 April 1893. They arrived at the port of Quebec on 4 May 1893 and traveled by train to Winnipeg, Manitoba. After purchasing needed supplies, the families continued west and homesteaded land in the Leduc area of Alberta, Canada, which at the time was part of the North-West Territories.  Wilhelm Schalin homesteaded section SW15-T49-R24-W4. A year later my grandmother was born on 23 May 1894.

S/S Sarmatian

And that's how my Schalin family came to live in Canada.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Worldwide Genealogy Collaboration: A Way with Children

March is Women's History month and the Accidental Genealogist has 31 blogging prompts to help celebrate women's historical achievements. The blogging prompt for today is:

Tell how a female ancestor interacted with her children. Was she loving or supportive? A disciplinarian? A bit of both?

For this year's recognition of Women's History month, I am focusing on my maternal grandmother, Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange, my namesake. She raised nine children, who all thought they were her favorite and loved her very much their entire lives long after she died.

Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange is the elderly woman seated on the left.
This is the last photograph of her taken before her death

Today I wrote about Grandma Lange's special way with children on Worldwide Genealogy -- A Genealogical Collaboration. I hope you'll click over and read my post A Way with Children.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

52 Ancestors #12: Historic WWII Assault Rhine River Crossing

Ancestor Name: Peter Charles Dagutis

My father-in-law, Peter Charles Dagutis, was drafted on 7 Apr 1941 and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on 18 Jun 1945. He truly earned his membership in the "Greatest Generation." According to his service record, he served with the 5th Infantry Division throughout World War II.  From 1942 to 1944 the division served in Iceland, England, and Northern Ireland. After D-Day the division was attached to Third Army, which was led by General George S. Patton, and served in France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The division earned 5 campaign streamers:
  • Normandy
  • Northern France
  • Rhineland
  • Ardennes Alsace
  • Central Europe
5th Infantry Division campaign streamer. Personal collection

During the night of  22-23 1945 the Fifth Infantry Division made a historic assault crossing of the Rhine River, using assault boats, and crossing without the usual artillery preparation to achieve total surprise. By dawn the 11th and 2nd Infantry regiments were across. Charles B. McDonald describes the German's reaction in the book U.S. Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations, The Last Offensive:

"Soon after dawn twelve German planes strafed and bombed the crossing sites, the first of a series of aerial raids, usually by only one or two planes, that were to persist throughout the day of 23 March. Damage was negligible. Two men in a battalion command post in Oppenheim were wounded and an ammunition truck was set ablaze"

Peter Dagutis was one of the two men wounded by those enemy airplanes. He received a Purple Heart and was back with Company H before too long.

2nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, at Nierstein, Germany,
boarding a landing craft to cross the Rhine River.
Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

The after action report describes the crossing in detail in the division's unit history. Within 48 hours four U.S. divisions had crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim and were ready to advance into Germany.

GIs keep low inside a landing craft during the assault crossing of the Rhine
on 22 Mar 1945. Photograph courtesy of the National Records and
Archives Administration.

Probably the most iconic image of this historic crossing was of General Patton urinating in the Rhine River two days after the successful crossing:

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

By March 29, the 5th Infantry Division had captured Frankfort. Later they would liberate Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camps and the people of Czechoslovakia, who had lived under Nazi tyranny for 6 years, longer than any other foreign country. The 5th Infantry Division ended the war in Europe 20 miles beyond the Karlovy Vary-Plzen-Ceska Budejovice line where they had been ordered to halt by Eisenhower on 7 May.

Peter Dagutis earned a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster for his service in Europe:

Staff Sergeant Peter C. Dagutis, 36109224, Infantry, 2nd Infantry Regiment, United States Army. For distinctive service in connection with military operations against the enemy during the period 20 Sep 1944 to 15 Apr 1945 in Europe. On innumerable occasions, Sergeant Dagutis, a squad leader, has voluntarily exposed himself to enemy fire for the safety and protection of his unit. In addition to directing the operation of his squad in Sanry-sur-Neid, he commandeered a weapon and from the speed with which he completed fire missions, was largely responsible for the disruption of a desperate enemy counterattack. His courage, leadership and devotion to duty reflect great credit upon himself and the armed forces. Entered military service from Michigan.

The Oak Leaf Cluster to the Bronze Star Medal is based on the award of the Combat Infantryman Badge.

My father-in-law died on 26 May 1991. We still miss him.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Peter Charles Dagutis was born on 10 Mar 1918 at West Hazleton, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, to Adam Peter and Cecilia (Klimasansluski) Dagutis. He was drafted into the U.S. Army on 7 April 1941 and served with Company H, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division. The division was attached to Patton's Third Army in early August 1944 after arriving in France on 9 July 1944 and participating in Operation Cobra, the breakout of the bocage terrain as part of Omar Bradley's First Army. On V-E day the division was in Czechoslovakia. Peter was honorably discharged on 18 June 1945. Later that summer he married Elizabeth Theresa Fishtahler. They had three children; their only son is my husband.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Guest Blog: "Stay Alive in 1945"

I am very excited to introduce you to today's guest blogger, my "baby" brother, John. He is an amateur World War II historian, who is writing an epic book about the war.  He took time out from his research and busy life to contribute a blog describing General Patton's Third Army assault crossing of the Rhine River, which began during the night of 22-23 March 1945, 69 years ago.

“Stay Alive in ‘45!” Such went a popular refrain for American troops toward the end of WWII.  No one wanted to get hurt at this late stage of war.  But although Germany neared collapse there was yet much hard fighting to come, especially to get across the Rhine River—a natural defensive barrier that still separated the Allied armies from the heart of Germany.

British Field Marshal Montgomery had been methodically preparing an assault crossing by his 2nd British Army, but American Lieutenant-General George S. Patton, Jr. desperately wanted to beat the Brits across.  Patton ordered Major-General S. LeRoy Irwin’s 5th US Infantry Division to cross the Rhine at Oppenheim the night of 22 March, 1945, the night before the British operation was set to begin.

Some 500 boats and special bridging equipment were hurriedly brought forth for the rather impromptu American assault crossing of the Rhine.  Under bright moonlight the first boats paddled across two hours before midnight, some in the face of enemy machine gun fire from the opposite bank.  Despite the dangers, the Americans made it across to successfully establish a bridgehead on the eastern side of the river.  By early the next morning the entire 5th Division was across.  Having expected the Americans to cross further downstream the Germans were caught somewhat flat-footed by the surprise crossing at Oppenheim.  Their only effective riposte was to throw in a series of air raids by Luftwaffe fighter-bombers to harass the American bridgehead throughout the day of 23 March.

5th Infantry Division reinforcements cross the Rhine River in an LCVP

The following day Patton himself crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim in the footsteps of 5th Division.  In a scene deliberately reminiscent of William the Conqueror’s face-first tumble upon stepping out of a boat onto English soil, Patton feigned a stumble as he reached the eastern bank.  Scooping up a handful of dirt, he said, “Thus, William the Conqueror.”  Thus, 5th Division’s assault crossing of the Rhine:  timed to upstage the British and concluded with a throwback gesture to the Norman conquest of England.

My father-in-law served in the 5th Infantry Division under General Irwin and participated in the historic assault crossing of the Rhine River...a story for tomorrow.

Allen, Peter.  One More River, the Rhine Crossings of 1945.  Pages 229 – 232.
MacDonald, Charles B.  United States Army in World War II, The European Theater of Operations, The Last Offensive.  Pages 266 – 273.
Toland, John.  The Last 100 Days Pages 255 – 281.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Convicted of Selling Prophylactics

I think this blog has finally found the gutter. I've written before about thinking newspapers were very helpful in providing critical genealogical information such as maiden names and dates, but more importantly, they also add color and personality to our ancestors. I think I found a little too much color!

A very nice lady commented on this blog post and alerted me to a wonderful resource on the City of Kearney Library website under the Research Resources button -- old Kearney Dailey Hub newspapers. For several days I entered the names of my ancestors, who lived near Kearney, Nebraska, and pored through the search results. And found this:

From the Kearney Dailey Hub 3 Dec 1937 courtesy of the City of Kearney Library.

Francis Adam Amsberry[1], what were you thinking? He was 67 years old at the time he offered to drop the appeal of his earlier conviction. In 1930 he indicated to the census enumerator that he was a "commercial trader of magazines." I'm assuming he ran a convenience store and carried all types of merchandise, including prophylatics, and simply got caught out by the new law. I mean does this dapper gentlemen look like a criminal to you?

Francis Adam (F A) Amsberry photo from a member of

Seriously, from several other articles it's obvious Francis Amsberry was a fine upstanding citizen of his community. This article just touched my funny bone.

[1] Francis Adam Amsberry was my third cousin, three times moved.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Captured by Indians

Hugh Bryan was born in 1699 and was a planter in St Helena's parish in South Carolina. He was the great grand uncle of the husband of my sister-in-law's 5th cousin's four times removed. When he was about 16 years old he was captured by Indians during the Yamasee War, which broke out in 1715 between colonial South Carolina and several Native American tribes. The war was caused by many things, including trader abuses, depletion of the deer population, increasing Indian debt to the colonists, land encroachment, and the rise of French trading power.

Reverend Horace Edwin Hayden wrote Virginia Genealogies, which was originally published in 1891. In it he included a quote from a letter from Reverend Hutson to Mr. DeBert, a merchant in London, which described Hugh Bryan's time as an Indian captive:

"It happened in the Indian war that which broke out in 1715, and was so memorable as to the events of it, that it stands for one of the grand eras of Carolina, that he was taken, I think at the beginning of the war, and was disposed of as a slave to one of the party that took him by the king of that people to whom the party belonged. He was in captivity among them in the whole near a year, during which time the providence of God remarkably appeared in his favor in several instances. I have only two or three in my memory, which may serve as a specimen of the rest. His Indian master (who was what they called a 'mixed breed') was killed in the engagement with the white people, by which means, though still in captivity, he got more freedom. 

Drawing from Indian History for Young Folks by Francis Drake; New York: Miller, Orton and Mulligan, 1855

The king always stood his friend when the Indians under him solicited his death, which was very common for them to do when they heard of any success of the Carolinians against them, and they were particularly earnest upon the point when they heard of the death of one of their great men's sons. But the Indian king always interposed on his behalf, and would not suffer them to hurt him, out of regard to his father, who was a very hospitable man, and had been very kind to the Indians, though it is not very common with them to remember favors, especially in a time of war; and there were instances often in this war of persons who had been very kind to them, and yet were very cruelly treated by them, a circumstance which I rather take notice of to show how much providence was concerned in his preservation…Mr Bryan endured many hardships while among the Indians, and though his good behaviour [sic] gained him so much favor, that he fared no worse than their own Indian boys, yet at best his case was bad enough. At length, through the good providence of God, he was brought by them to the Spanish settlement at St Augustine, on the coast, and from thence, being released by the Indian king who had always been so friendly to him, he returned to his own land in peace, and here as he advanced in years grew in favor with all who knew him, and at length, by his integrity and industry, attended with divine blessing, he obtained a good report and a good fortune."

Hugh Bryan died on the last day of 1753 at the age of 54. He was married at least two times, perhaps three, and had one or two children.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

52 Ancestors #11: A Tale of Murder

Ancestor Name: Vernon Andrew Connett

I've loved books before I even knew what genealogy was. I love having them on my bookshelves or in a pile beside my bed, but most of all I love reading them. I resisted using an e-reader until every shelf was full and my husband near rebellion. Now that I've become obsessed with genealogy and my family's history, I love old books about the counties in which my ancestors lived. You can discover the most wonderful little factoids and I've blogged about what I've discovered reading old history books before.

I use Google Play to search for old county history books. Recently, I found An Illustrated History of Lincoln County, Nebraska, and Her People, A Narrative of the Past with Special Emphasis Upon the Pioneer Period of the County's History; Particular Attention Also Given to the Social, Commercial, Educational, Religious, and Civic Development of the County from the Early Days to the Present Time, Volume I, edited by Ira L Bare and Will H McDonald, and published in 1920. It included a section entitled "A Platte Valley Tragedy" about the murder of Vernon Andrew Connett on August 2, 1914.

A Platte Valley Tragedy

A book of four hundred pages was published in 1915 entitled "A Tragedy of the Platte Valley."[1] This book refers to the most cold-blooded of Vernon Connett in the summer of 1914, by Roy Roberts, who paid the penalty June 4, 1915 by being legally electrocuted within the walls of the prison at Lincoln, Nebraska. There were several strange incidents connected with this murder -- others were charged with aiding in this awful crime -- but the courts found Roberts guilty. He was twenty-two years of age when he committed the crime…The man whose life he took was only twenty-one years old. He was riding with Vernon Connett in the latter's wagon and was supposed to be looking for a place to work. Connett was killed on this trip, his body secreted along the sands of the Platte River in this county, and found in piecemeals [sic] as the evidence showed. The man, Roy Roberts, changed his name and took the team of horses to Hershey where he finally sold them, including wagon and harness. The defendant was arrested on suspicion and finally brought to trial at North Platte before Judge Grimes in January 1915. It was a case of "circumstantial evidence," though quite clearly defined.

I guess like many modern true crime books rushed to print to take advantage of the headlines, this book contained many errors of fact. Roy Roberts was not electrocuted. He appealed the verdict and was granted another trial. At that trial he was sentenced to a 25-year prison term. The article below explains the reason for his second trial:

From an article published Feburary 6, 1917 in the Nemaha County Herald:

"..The trial attracted so much attention that the crowds became so large that it was necessary to conduct the trial in a theatre. When the case was appealed to the supreme court it was alleged that this had given a sensational setting which had prejudiced the jury. The case was sent back to the district court for a new trial and after witness had been summoned and the jury empaneled Roberts entered a plea of guilty to murder in the second degree and was sentenced to twenty-five years in the penitentiary."

This article appeared in a North Platte newspaper on February 9, 1917:

Body of Connett Buried at Auburn

Nearly two years after the murder of Vernon Connett his body is at its final resting place. After the sentencing of Roy Roberts to 25 years to life in the state penitentiary following his confession, through his plea of guilty to the slaying of Connett, the skull that had been held as the chief exhibit of the state, was released by the sheriff and the body was taken from the morgue where it had been taken from the South Platte River February 15, 1915, and was sent to Auburn, Nebraska for burial. Andrew J Connett and a brother  took charge of the body and placed it on an evening train that bore it eastward toward its resting place.

Vernon Connett's tombstone at Sheridan Cemetery, Auburn, Nebraska (The death date is incorrect)

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Vernon Andrew Connett was born on 1 April 1893 at Woodbury, Grant, Iowa, to Andrew Jackson and Marta Ellen (Gilbert) Connett. He married Lefa Marie Amsberry on 20 May 1913 at St Francis, Cheyenne, Kansas. They had one son, Archie Vernon Connett born on 13 Mar 1914 at Cheyenne County, Kanasas. Roy Roberts murdered Vernon Andrew Connett on 2 August 1914 near North Platte, Lincoln, Nebraska. Vernon's body was found on 15 Feb 1915 buried in the sands of the South Platte River. His body was interred in Sheridan Cemetery at Auburn, Nemaha, Nebraska.

NOTE: The death date on Vernon Connett's headstone is incorrect. He was killed on 2 August 1914.

[1] You bet I looked for A Tragedy of the Platte Valley. An electronic copy was not available online, but I found a used bookseller who had one.  I won't tell you how much I paid for it!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fearless Females: Religion

March is Women's History month and the Accidental Genealogist has 31 blogging prompts to help celebrate women's historical achievements. The blogging prompt for March 10 was:

What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn't they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

In celebration of this year's Women's History month I am focusing on my maternal grandmother, Wilhelmina Schalin. Religion was a major reason her parents emigrated from Russia to Alberta, Canada, and was large part of her life.

I normally don't write about religion on this blog as to me it is a private matter, but then I remembered this very interesting story about religion and my grandmother's Schalin family. So this post is a few days late.

From the 75th Anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Fredericksheim booklet, written by founding minister, F. A. Mueller:

"The economic and religious intolerance against the German-speaking people living in Volhynia, Russia, gave birth to the idea of emigrating. F. A. Mueller, the pastor of a large number of Germans in Volhynia had been expelled by the government. This kindled still more the thought of the German Baptist people to look for a country where there would be freedom to worship. 

Brother Ferdinand Falkenberg with his wife, Pauline (Schalin) Falkenberg[1], had been in America in the year 1889 but because of homesickness they had returned to the old country. However, his propaganda for America gave reason for a meeting of a committee in the home of the banished pastor, Rev. F. A. Mueller. A plan was accepted. Rev. Mueller should go to America and search out an area for a settlement of the people who wanted to emigrate. A number of families were able to dispose of their holdings immediately and make ready to go along to the new country with their pastor. Others were eager to sell their homes and follow later. 

The Michael Falkenberg Family; photograph courtesy of Lucille Fillenberg Effa
Caroline (Schalin) Falkenberg, my great grand aunt is in the front row second from the left

It was on 13 July 1892, the exiled minister, carrying his luggage, and his wife with a five-month-old child in her arms were directed over the border into Germany by a police officer. In the month of August we landed in the harbor of New York, having travelled by the steamship Elbe to America. Immediate efforts were made to locate an area where a settlement might be started. West Virginia, Michigan, North Dakota, Colorado and Texas were considered. 

Upon the recommendation of the General Missionary Secretary of the German Baptist Church of America, I went to Texas on 15 September 1892. I also had correspondence with Gustave Rudolph of Rabbit Hill, North-West Territories, Canada. Through Brother Rudolph's letters I came to the conclusion that Alberta was the place for the settlement we had in mind. In the last week of April 1893 I came to the Edmonton district and went to Rabbit Hill where I made my stay in the home of Brother Gustave Rudolph. After scouting about for some time the decision was reached that the district southeast of Leduc was to be the place for our home.

In May 1893 two trains arrived in Winnipeg carrying our immigrants who were following their banished pastor to a new country. The first task was to procure bread for the hungry newcomers. The last meal they had was on the ship on which they had come to Canada. Now they had travelled for two days on the trains without anything to eat.

The necessary purchases were made of food, stoves, tools and implements. Then the following families left for the Alberta country: J. Bienert, Wm. Schalin[2], A. Falkenberg, M. Falkenberg[3], Ferd. Falkenberg, Wm. Mogans, A. Benke, G. Belter, L. Jaek, F. Mattis, Hiller, Zielke, J. Hammer, Father (Henrich?) Hammer, C. Kuhnert, Muth, S. Froehlich, F. A. Mueller -- in all 19 families numbering 36 souls. In the fall of the 1894 the following families came: L. Roth, D. Schalin[4], L. Klatt, J. Redmann, W. Grunwald, J. Holland, F. Holland, Father Holland, A. Klukas, E. Jaeger, J. Friedrich, Timm  -- 12 families in all.

Wilhelm Schalin, my great grandfather

The first sermon I preached was in a log hut west of the railway tracks. The text being Psalm 42:2 'My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God.' For over a year we would meet in the home of M. Falkenberg for our religious services. At the first communion service it was raining and the poor roof did not stop the rain from dripping into the wine and onto the bread used for the occasion.

During the first winter the brethren hauled spruce logs that might be cut into planks and boards to be used to build our first church. The brethren Karl Kuhnert and August Falkenberg, sawed those logs into building lumber by hand. The mission gave $350 for the erecting of the church. The work was done by the brethren free of charge. Brother M. Kuhn was the builder.

Photograph taken about 1903 and courtesy of Lucille (Fillenberg) Effa
Caroline (Schalin) Falkenberg is in the second row, fifth from the right. Her husband Michael is to her right.
Wilhelm Schalin is in the fourth row, directly in fromt of the last man standing between the door and the window

The church was organized on 20 July 1894 with 162 charter members. The first church building was located one mile east and about one mile west of the present church site, on the northwest corner of Section 11-T49-R24, 4th meridian, on land donated by Michael Falkenberg. In Leduc Frontier Days (page 78), it is reported that the first dinner guest at the church dedication was a big black bear which came out of the woods to investigate a kettle of rabbit stew cooking over an open fire.

[1] Pauline (Schalin) Falkenberg was the sister of Wilhelm Schalin, my great grandfather. She married Ferdinand Falkenberg.

[2] Wilhelm Schalin was my great grandfather and father of Wilhelmina (Shalin) Lange, my maternal grandmother.

[3] Michael Falkenberg married Caroline Schalin, a sister of Pauline (Schalin) Falkenberg, Wilhelm Schalin, and Daniel Schalin.

[4] Daniel Schalin was a brother of Pauline (Schalin) Falkenberg, Caroline (Schalin) Falkenberg, and Wilhelm Schalin.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Battle of New Bern

Today is the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of New Bern, a battle fought during the Civil War as part of the Burnside Expedition. My parents and brother live in New Bern, North Carolina, and the battlefield is not far from their homes. So one day I toured the battlefield.

Battle of New Bern Historic Marker

Just over a month earlier Union General Burnside captured Roanoke Island between the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. Capturing New Bern, the second largest city in North Carolina, would allow the United States to bottle up the blockade-running ports inside the Outer Banks.

Burnside's troops were accompanied up the Neuse River by the North Atlantic Blocking Squadron. The city was protected by extensive defense works, but Lawrence O. Branch, the Confederate general didn't have enough troops to man them effectively.

Battle of New Bern as illustrated by Harper's Weekly on 5 April 1862; courtesy of Wikipedia

The opposing sides met on this date 152 years ago. It was a fog-shrouded morning and neither side had good information about enemy forces. In addition to being undermanned the Confederate soldiers were under trained, their line broke when Burnside's 4th Rhode Island regiment attacked. The Rebel forces retreated into the city, but were continuously shelled by the Union naval fleet and were unable to reform and ended up fleeing to Kinston some 35 miles west.

General Burnside captured New Bern and it remained in Union control until the end of the war.

Confederate Col. Zebulon Baird Vance, leading the 26th North Carolina regiment participated in the battle. He was the 37th and 43rd governor of North Carolina in office between 1862-1865 and 1877-1879. He also served as a United States Senator from 1879-1894. My cousin's husband, believes he is a descendant of the famous North Carolinian, but I have not yet been able to find the connection.

Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894); courtesy of Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It Takes a Village Update and Planning a Trip to the FHL in Salt Lake City

I first wrote about the difficulties I was having finding my great grandfather, Robert Muir, in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 census here. With all the help I got from a cousin in New Zealand, other great grandchildren, and a ex-work colleague, who "dabbles" in genealogy, I was able to find out a lot, but still not the elusive census documents.

A few weeks ago I realized the East St Louis city directories said they lived at 436 N 80th Street and 486 N 80th Street. When I opened up the images of the directory pages and looked at them, I realized the 486 address was an OCR scanning error and they had lived at the same 436 N 80th Street address from 1924, 1926, 1928 and 1930. The city directories all said their house was in East St Louis. However, the 1930 census said the same address was in Centreville Township when Robert's wife and three youngest children were living there. In 1940 his oldest daughter by his second wife was living at the same address with her husband and oldest child and that they rented it. It was still considered to be in Centreville Township when I looked at the scanned image, but the index said Signal Hill, St Clair, Illinois. It is so important to look at the actual images.  Robert Muir likely owned the house from at least 1924 to 1940.

Robert Muir at Christmas dinner, 1955, at his daughter Alice (Muir) Jennings' house. 
This would be his last Christmas as he died in August 1956. 
From left to right: Robert Muir; his great granddaughter, Joann Jennings; Joann's mother, Mildred (Lange) Jennings; 
Robert's grandson, Charles Theodore "Ted" Jennings; and Ted's girlfriend, Dorothy Lange. 
Mildred (Lange) Jennings and Dorothy Lange were sisters.

Robert lived at Edgmont Station area of East St Louis in 1918 when he filled out his World War I draft card and he was living at the 436 N 80th Street address as early as 1924 according to the city directories. I wondered if he could also have been living there in 1920. I've never tried looking for a specific address before in the census. Let me tell you it's not easy. I searched for the enumeration district maps for the 1920 census for hours and wasted $20 on an ebook that said they were included but were not.

So I turned to I thought their research guides might point me to the enumeration district maps. No such luck. But I noticed the online chat feature. Within seconds, after entering some information about myself, Sister Molly, a missionary in historical records, was on the case. We had a lovely chat session. I'm not exactly sure what I'll get when they close my research case -- the enumeration maps, or Robert Muir's 1920, 1930 and 1940 census records or nothing but confirmation that I've looked in all the logical places -- but she gave me some great advice about my upcoming trip to the Family History Library.

My problem now is I have so many unanswered questions about so many ancestors, I'm having trouble deciding on who to concentrate or whether to stick with a specific geography and organize my research questions around a location.

What do you advise?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

52 Ancestors #10: She Seemed Rather Fantastic and Extravagant

Ancestor: Martha Lizola (Mills) Bellows Stevenson Bates

In honor of Women's History month, I am writing about one of the most colorful women in my family tree this week.

If an ancestor catches my fancy, I like to try and learn as much about their personality as I am able. This has led to a rather large and eclectic collection of books, including This One Mad Act: The Unknown Story of John Wilkes Booth and His Family, by Izola Forrester, an author and screenwriter, who believed her grandfather was John Wilkes Booth. Wouldn't that catch your fancy?

Izola was the wife of my sister-in-law's 8th cousin once removed. Her grandmother was Martha Lizola (Mills) Bellows/Stevenson/Bates (1837-1887). I was sure the book would be loaded with family history gold and colorful characters. My copy of This Mad Act arrived several weeks ago. It's a battered volume, literally falling apart. I had only read up to page 5 when I found this delightful description of Martha Lizola Mills:

"Today she seems rather fantastic and extravagant, but she started off my days with a dramatic curtain rise that has never failed to thrill me when I look back upon it. I loved her for her vital, magnetic personality, and for the way she always dramatized life. She was amazingly queenly and handsome --  not lovely like mother, with reserve and serenity -- but majestic, conveying to a child a sense of power and security. I know that, while she lived, I had a sense of complete safety, a belief that nothing could happen to us under the shadow of her wings.

Martha Izola Mills photograph, which was included in This One Mad Act

She was only thirty-nine when I was born, and even in her forties she retained a dark, radiant sort of beauty inherited from her Spanish mother, for whom both she and I were named -- Izola Maria Mendosa, of Cordova, Spain. I remember particularly the picture she made standing on the veranda, watching the carriage turn in from the main road and come up the long curving driveway. Dressed in flowing, beruffled white muslin with wide, lacy sleeves, a red rose beside the Spanish comb she always wore in her heavy, dark hair, she appeared a most romantic person. Her complexion was rich and warmly colored; her eyes were startling because of their flashing, sparkling interest in everything. They were such a surprise, too, from the contrast with her striking brunette hair and skin, changeable in color like the sea -- sometimes grayish blue, sometimes when she was angry a stormy purple black. Today, my sister, Beatrice, really my half-sister, but as dear to me in every way as if we had the same father, has eyes exactly like them."

And on page 8:

"She took the place of the aged minister when he was ill, and delivered an extemporaneous Sunday sermon. I remember that day. I had been half asleep beside her in the old wooden pew, waiting for the minister. Suddenly, she rose, swept up the short aisle to the pulpit, and stood there, smiling serenely down at the congregation. I am sure that she enjoyed their surprise, as she told them her intention, dramatizing the occasion with her manner and rich delivery. Perhaps she caught the same thrill of enjoyment, when she held prayer meetings at her home, which she always concluded with refreshments and readings from Shakespeare."

I certainly found my "color" -- descriptions of her appearance and personality! I'm sure there will be future blog posts from this book, including the family's Booth conspiracy theory.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Martha Lizola Mills was born at Stamford, Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1837 to Abraham Standish and Izola Maria (Mendosa) Mills. Her father was a sea captain. She married first Charles Still Bellows on 30 Jul 1855 at Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; second John H Stevenon on 23 Mar 1871; and third, according to her granddaughter, but no documentation has yet been found, Edwin S Bates two or three years before her death. She died in Nov 1887 in Canterbury, Windham, Connecticut and is buried in Plains Cemetery at Windham. She went to her death believing she had been married to John Wilkes Booth, that both her children were his, and he escaped capture at the Garrett farm and died in 1879.

According to Wikipedia, muster rolls indicate Charles Still Bellows was aboard a ship near Montevideo, Uruguay, for the critical time period, making it impossible for him to be the father of Ogarita (Bellows) Henderson, Izola Forrester's mother.

Friday, March 7, 2014

My Siblings' DNA

I coerced both my brothers into taking the Ancestry DNA test. Even though I now understand why we inherit different DNA from both our parents, I'm still amazed at the differences. Here is a spreadsheet with our matches where a common ancestor can be traced using our trees:

DNA Match Results

Ancestry first runs all of their DNA tests to identify your DNA, then they compare your tree, if you have attached one to your test kit, and identify other public and private trees for which there is a common ancestor. Matches that are unique to one of us are highlighted in yellow. It looks like I'm the odd duck of the family with six unique matches. Of course, we're related to everyone of these people in exactly the same way, but these are the cousins with which we share DNA.

To more fully understand how this happens, I found this blog post very useful.

By the way, my mother is very disappointed that none of our matches are to her side of the family. She doesn't want to hear that her father is one of my biggest brick walls and that what is known about her mother's side of the family disappears into the Russian steppes sometime around 1800 and therefore I don't have many generations in my tree to work with.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fearless Females: Heirlooms

March is Women's History month and the Accidental Genealogist has 31 blogging prompts for the month to celebrate. I'm not sure I'll participate in every prompt but I will today. The prompt is: Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestry. 

I am fortunate to have a few cherished heirlooms that I use as often as possible. If you spend the night at our home, you may sleep on pillowcases Grandma Lange embroidered and under a quilt my mother made.

Grandma Lange's embroidered cut-work pillowcases

I use these pillowcases on a bed with my Mom's cathedral quilt.

Mom's quilt

My most prized possession, however, is Grandma's engagement ring. I was only two years old when she died so it's doubtful any memory I may have of her is accurate. What I think I remember are her big, warm hands. Such a surprise to discover her engagement ring is a little small for me. I took it to be resized, but our jeweler said it was so delicate and so priceless, he didn't want to take the chance of damaging it. So I wear it on cold days when my hands are not the least bit swollen. It's still as beautiful as when I snuck into my parent's bedroom to pull it out of the jewelry box and try it on.

Grandma's engagement ring (I'll never be a hand model!)

I am named after my maternal grandmother, Wilhelmina Schalin, and honored to have her engagement ring.

Grandma Lange doing fine embroidery work

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Fearless Females: Marriage

March is Women's History month and the Accidental Genealogist has 31 blogging prompts for the month to celebrate. I'm not sure I'll participate in every prompt but I will today. The prompt is: Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo if you have one.

Wilhelmina "Minnie" Schalin was the first child to be born to Wilhelm Schalin and Auguste Fabriske after they immigrated from the Volhynia region of Russia (now Ukraine) to Alberta, Canada. Her mother died when she was four years old and her father soon remarried. Wilhelmina's step-mother was young, inexperienced and didn't much care for her step children. That dislike seemed focused on my grandmother. Wilhelm started taking Minnie into the fields with him to spare her some of the abuse. When she was nine she was sent out of the home to work for others.

Gustav "Gust" Lange was born in Lutske, Russia, also in the Volhynia area. He was the oldest child and his father died when he was young. He left home and worked in the Ruhr valley of Germany for five years, saving up for passage to Canada. I don't really know how Gust and Minnie met, but they did. He wrote her later, asked to marry her, and sent the train fare for her to come to Winnipeg where he was living. Minnie didn't know what to do. She showed the letter to her employer and asked his advice. He said, "Minnie, if he sent you the money, I guess he means business." So she went to Winnipeg.

Marriage Certificate for Gustav Lange and Wilhelmina Schalin

When she arrived, she stayed at the YWCA until they married on 9 April 1915 at Gust's home in Winnipeg. The house is still standing and I was able to find a photo on Google Earth.

386 Thomas Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; the home where Gustav and Wilhelmina were married

They later moved to Sanilac County, Michigan, and worked as migrant workers on a beet farm, while they saved enough money to buy their own farm. By 1920 they were living in Brandywine, Maryland, and farming land they purchased.

After their children -- nine in all -- were married, Gust told Minnie he would like to move to Peru! She told him he'd have to go without her.

Wilhelmina Schalin and Gustav Lange on their wedding day