Thursday, April 30, 2015

Deciphering Cyrillic: Finding Tuchyn

Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange was my maternal grandmother and namesake. She was born in Leduc, Alberta, Canada on 23 May 1894, the year after her parents immigrated to Canada. I knew Wilhelmina's father was born in what is now Poland and migrated to Volhynia region of Russia with his parents and siblings between 1861 and 1863.

But where in Volynia exactly?

A Google search told me Volynia was an administrative district within Tsarist Russia, but is now part of Ukraine.

1908 map published by Harmsworth; image courtesy of

I found the following translation by Gerhard Konig of 1892 Baptist birth certificates of Tutchin on Don Miller's website, In the Midst of Wolves. On pages 3-4, was the translation of the registration of my grandmother's sister, also named Wilhelmina Schalin:

In 1892, February 12, Wilhelm Gottlieb Schalin, peasant from colony Schornowka of the Volost Meschiritschska, came to the office of the Volost Tutschin to declare in this same year that on February 1 from marriage with Auguste Wilhelmowa Fabricius born daughter Wilhelmina.

The marriage take [sic] place on January 1, 1882 and was written in the church books of the parish Mozinowsk from Leman (Lehmann) on Juny [sic] 15, 1885. Proving about this newborn baby by name of parents equally proves about the time of baby being born and have come in person to prove with witnesses from colony Jutschin (Juczyn) the colonist Ferdinand Gottlieb Falkenberg and from the colony of Schornowka Georg Ossipow Grosse. Declares Wilhelm Schalin by his wish and signed for him from F. Falkenberg under presence of witness Georg Grosse and sign for him from F. Falkenberg. Written in this book and all the above statements proved by Sergeant Major M. Tkatschuk.

So my great grandfather, Wilhelm Schalin, lived in Schornowka! He came to Tutschin (German), or Tuchyn (Polish), or Tyчин (Ukrainian) to register her birth.

I used Google Maps to get a visual sense for where Tuchyn was within Ukraine and then went to the maps available on the Society of German Genealogy in Eastern Europe's website.

Tuchyn, Ukraine; image courtesy of the Society of German Genealogy in
Eastern Europe

I had no luck finding Schornowka. So Tuchyn will have to do...for now until I get smarter. This is a photograph from a Google Maps contributor of the area:

Land near Tuchyn, Ukraine; photograph courtesy of Google Maps
contributor Victord55

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Deciphering Cryllic: Finding Luts'k

I have been on the receiving end of a spate of DNA matches on my mother's side of the family. She would have loved this and I hope she is smiling in heaven. She frequently complained that all the interesting family stories were from Dad's side and I was learning nothing about hers.

There was a reason for this. Her father immigrated from Ukraine (Russia at the time) to Canada in 1911 and her mother's parents immigrated from the same general location (about 100 kilometers east) to Canada in 1893. My maternal grandmother was born in Leduc, Alberta, the following year.

I know quite a bit about maternal grandmother's father's extended Schalin family, which I learned from a book, Our Schalin Family, by Lucille Fillenberg Effa and published in 2003. I verified and extended that research quite a bit but never attempted to go back further in time than my 4 times great grandfather, Marcin Schalin.

About my mother's father's Lange family, I knew next to nothing, except the following:

My grandfather, Gustav "Gust" Lange's family tree

The family lived near Luts'k, Ukraine, which was then part of the Russian Empire. His birth was registered in the Luts'k district. My grandfather's father, Karl August, supposedly died of tuberculosis, leaving his wife, Karoline, with seven children. As the oldest, my grandfather, left home to find work and help support the family. He lived in Essen, Germany for five years before traveling to Liverpool to board the White Star Line's S/S Teutonic and immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada.

So where was Luts'k?

Ukraine from Google Maps

Google Maps gave me the location so that I could visually identify on a map in a language I couldn't read. Luts'k dates back to the 7th century according to legend. The first written evidence was dated in 1085. The Tatars seized it in 1240. Then Lithuania, then Poland, then Lithuania again soon after 1349. A century later, Poland again ruled the city and continued to do so until the partitions of Poland. Russia annexed Luts'k in 1795, the last of three partitions, which erased Poland from the maps of Europe. And so it was during the time of my grandfather.

Wikipedia provided the Cyrillic version of the name so I had something to visualize. Then I turned to the Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe for some answers and perhaps older maps. Locating Luts'k was fairly easy to find since I knew its general location within Ukraine and I was looking for a large city named Луцьк.

Luts'k, Ukraine in 1950

Finding Wilhelmina Schalin's ancestral home in Ukraine might not be so easy.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

52 Ancestors #17: First Owners of Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro

Ancestor Name: Luis Maria PERALTA (1759-1851)

I don't usually have people in my family tree who have a biography on Wikipedia. In a nutshell, Luis Maria Peralta was born in Sonora, Mexico, in 1759, the son of a Spanish soldier, who followed his father into the army when he turned 21. He served the king of Spain from 1778 to 1820 when he was rewarded for his service, receiving Rancho San Antonio, a 44,000-acre land grant. It was one of the largest land grants ever given by Spain and encompassed most of the East Bay area of California, which is across San Francisco Bay from the city.

Luis Maria Peralta was described in the book, Alameda County, Past and Present, by Leslie J. Freeman and published in 1946:  "In person he was tall and muscular. His manners were those of the chivalrous men of his time and race. He died a respected, old man firm in the religious faith of his people."

1820 map of the proposed Rancho San Antonio land grand; courtesy of
University Terrace

The land was described in the same book as being:

"...rolling hills carpeted in green grass slowly sloping toward the [San Francisco] Bay -- here and there the hills' contour broken by a small grove of oak trees from which a bear is seen to slowly wend its way, across the ravine two deer approach a spring of water to quench their thirst, while high overhead, wild fowl cloud the sky in rapid flight toward their nesting ground."

Before his death, Luis gave his four sons equal shares of Rancho San Antonio. The brothers were rancheros, who owned about 8,000 head of cattle. Jose Domingo received the northern most quarter where Berkeley, California, is located today; Jose Vincente, the next southerly portion where Oakland, California, is today; Antonio Maria, the quarter that now embraces Alameda. The oldest brother, Hermenegildo Ignacio received the southern most section, which we know today as San Leandro.

Their lives on Rancho Antonio were described in Alameda County: Past and Present:

"...the brothers took up their residences respective estates. The herds were divided, four estates were created and the lives of these landed proprietors were passing in Arcadian tranquility. Until 1846, almost no intimation of a change in the quiet pastoral life they were leading had been given. Doubtless, the Peraltas cherished the belief that their descendants for generations to come would possess these delightful groves and that their herds and flocks would increase upon the hillsides."

But change was in the wind. United States soldiers were stationed on California soil by 1846 and white settlers began looking at Peralta land longingly. Gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in 1848 and California became the place to be for so many people who hoped to strike it rich. Eventually Hermenegildo Ignacio, Jose Domingo, Antonio Maria, and Jose Vincente Peralta sold or lost almost all of their land and their ranchero way of life disappeared, a victim of growth and progress.

1936 map of Rancho San Antonio; courtesy of University Terrace

Jose Domingo was described as friendly and courteous with with an "impulsive nature" that could manifest itself in "moody and argumentative behavior." He began selling off land in 1852. The parcels were defined on a map surveyed by Julius Kellersberger. His map shows the parcels that were to be sold as well as reserves for three of the four brothers. Jose Domingo's land is to the far left, Jose Vincente's, in the middle, and Antonio Marie's to the far right. No mention is made of Hermenegildo Ignacio.

Julius Kellersberger's map; courtesy of University Terrace

Not everyone wanted to buy parts of Rancho San Antonio from the Peralta brothers. They used other means to gain the land and the brothers had to fight off those people in court and in the state legislature where land grabs of "native land" were often made legal. Eventually, Jose Domingo his lost his remaining share of Rancho San Antonio and died a poor man. His brother, Hermenegildo Ignacio, seemed better able to adapt to the changing times and his son-in-law built a large, lovely home for his wife's parents in 1860. It is built in the Spanish Colonial style and is on the National Register of Historic Places in Alameda county.

Home of Hermenegildo Ignacio Peralta during construction in 1860;
courtesy of the Library of Congress

So how am I related to the Peralta family? My great grand uncle, John Andrew Riggin, married Barbara Alice Hatherly sometime before 1929 when they first appeared together in a Hayward, California, city directory. Barbara was the three times great granddaughter of Luis Maria Peralta.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Donk Brothers Coal Company, Troy Mine

The family of Henry and Josephine Lucretia (Hinzen) Donk came to the United States from Crefeld, Prussia (now Krefeld, Germany). They settled in Peoria, Illinois, where their children attended private schools. The elder son, August Donk, founded the coal firm, A. F. Donk & Co. in St. Louis, Missori, in 1861. August's younger, Edmund followed him to St. Louis in 1868 and joined the firm. Later, Edmund and August became partners. Edmund assumed the presidency of the company upon his brother's death in 1894. The company was incorporated under the name Donk Brothers Coal Co. It owned three mines in Madison County near Collinsville, Marysville, and Troy.

Edmund Donk died in 1914 and at some point in the 1920s the company's mines in Illinois were leased or sold. One of the descendants of William Collins (1850-1917), who was my great great grandmother's second husband sent me a photograph of the coal mine near Troy.

Abandoned Donk Brothers Coal Co. mine near Troy, Illinois; photograph
courtesy of William A. Shaffer

Many of my Riggin ancestors worked at Donk Brothers. William Collins, my great great grandmother's second husband, was killed by a fall of slate at the mine on 23 July 1917. He died at home several hours after being injured.

Excerpt from the Coal in Illinois, 1918 (page 199) which may be found on Internet

"July 23, 1917, William Collins, miner, aged 68 years, married, was killed by a fall of slate in Donk Bros. Coke and Coal Company's No. 3 mine. He leaves a widow."

Such a terse description of tragedy.

The idea for this post came from

Sunday, April 19, 2015

52 Ancestors #16: 106th Birthday "Girls"

Ancestor Names: Minnie Hazel (GORDON) Greenlee (1885-1992), Ruth Marion (SCHULTZ) Falkenberg (1881-1987), Susana Bertha Amelia (TALMON) Amsberry (1892-1998)

The person who lived the longest in my tree was Henry Roy Tucker. He lived to be 107 years old and was the fourth cousin twice removed of my sister-in-law. I've written about him before. So I decided to write about the next oldest person. It turns out there are three women who share the honor. Without getting into months and days, let's just say they all lived long enough to see their 106th birthday and leave it at that.

Minne Hazel (Gordon) Greenlee

Minnie was the wife of my fourth cousin twice removed, William Francis Greenlee. She was born on 28 November 1885 in St. Paul, Nebraska, which is located in the Loup valley. St. Paul was established by two surveyors, struck by the beauty of the land, in 1871. Minnie married William Greenlee at the age of 19 in her hometown. They had eight children who lived to adulthood. Her husband became the editor of the newspaper in Oshkosh, Nebraska. He died in 1968 and Minnie died in 1992. They are buried at Oshkosh Cemetery.

Grave site of William and Minnie (Gordon) Amsberry; photograph by
Find a Grave member Debbie McGinley

Ruth Marion (Schultz) Falkenberg

All I know about Ruth comes from a book, Our Schalin Family, by Lucille Fillenberg Effa. Ruth was born on 2 June 1881 and died on 25 August 1987. She married Rudolph Falkenberg, my first cousin twice removed. They had three known children. Rudolph emigrated from the Volyn region of Ukraine (at the time part of the Russian Empire) on 9 May 1893 aboard the S/S Stubbenhuk. His family traveled with a group of other German Baptists to the Fredericksheim area of Alberta, Canada. Rudolph died on 29 August 1940 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. He was a truck driver at the time of his death and was buried at Beechmount Cemetery, also located in Edmonton. Ruth died forty-seven years later on 25 August 1987.

Susana "Susie" Bertha Amelia (Talmon) Amsberry

Susana was born on 18 April 1892 in Cheyenne County, Kansas. Her father was a farmer, who had immigrated from Germany. Susie married Alfred Lee Andrew Amsberry on 2 August 1909 in Benkelman, Nebraska. He was my fourth cousin twice removed. They had twelve children with eight surviving childhood. Alfred was a truck driver in 1940. He died in 1965; Susie, in 1998. Both are buried at Benkelman Cemetery in Benkelman, Nebraska.

Susie (Talmon) Amsberrty and her husband, Alfred, and some of their
children; photograph courtesy of member igoodwin165.
Susie and Alfred are on the far right.

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

Celebrating a Centenarian: Henry Roy Tucker
Sunday's Obituary: Kathreen Estelle (Gibson) Hecker Huntley Glatfelder
Honoring a Centenarian

Thursday, April 16, 2015

TVA and the Hatchcock Family

I ran across the Hatchcock family when I was researching a DNA match With a descendant of my fives times great grandfather, Adam Beard (1725-1777).

Sarah Caroline Barrett, known as Callie, was born in Colbert County, Alabama, on 13 August 1889. The county is in northwest Alabama. The terrain is quite hilly as the southern slopes of the Appalachian mountains reach into the county and the Tennessee river bisects the county from east to west. Callie came from a farming family and on 26 December 1909 she married Bennett Moland Hathcock, who also farmed. By the time the Great Depression cast it global shadow, Bennett and Callie had eight children.

Soon after Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president, Congress enacted the TVA Act of 1933. The Tennessee Valley Authority was a very different kind of government agency. Roosevelt had asked Congress to create "a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise." The organization was responsible for providing navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region deeply affected by the the Depression.

Erosion of Alabama farm land during the Depression; photograph
courtesy of the Library of Congress

During the 1930s nearly 30 percent of the population of Tennessee suffered from malaria; the average family income was $639 a year; and much of the land had been farmed for too long without resting the soil through crop rotation. TVA not only built the dams that enabled power generation, it taught Tennessee farmers the latest farm management techniques. But not without cost. In order to provide low-cost electricity to these rural families, TVA displaced 15,000 families by condemning their land.

Ben and Callie Hathcock's family was one of those 15,000 families. They were renting a farm near Cherokee from George Hurd and had done so for about a year. Ben and Callie had six of their children still at home. Eventually, Ben and Callie secured land in Mississippi from their landlord and relocated to Mississippi on 26 January 1937. However, I sense a bit of impatience in the TVA removal case file about the length of time it took:

A TVA dam under construction in Tennessee c1940; photograph courtesy
of Wikipedia

"5 Nov 1936: This home is located on the tract belonging to George Hurd, which has recently been condemned by the Authority. It is located on the highway leading from Margerum to Riverton and about half way from Margerum to Iuka Bridge across Bear Creek.

The home is a four room frame building of box construction. It is in a fair state of repair. The interior is modestly furnished, and was clean at the time of the visit.

The family consists of husband, wife, and six children, all of whom are in good health and present no known physical handicaps with the exception of Uzell a fifteen year old son who is a cripple, having been afflicted with infantile paralysis.

Both Mr. and Mrs. H. are native of Colbert County, having been reared and lived most of their life in the Middle Creek section and moved to their present location a year ago. Mr. H. is engaged in farming, and he has followed this occupation all of his life. One son, Estel is employed by the TVA in the Reservoir Clearance Division.

The family is a third and fourth tenant. Mr. H. owns two head of work stock. He has thirty-five acres in crop, eighteen of which is cotton and will yield nine bales. These resources together with the employment of the son should be adequate for the family to care for themselves and maintain the present standard of living.

No definite plans for removal have been made, and as stated above the family despairs of being able to find a suitable place for relocation. 

3 Dec 1936: This family has been contacted twice since the original contact. At the time of the last visit, Mr. H. informed the worker that he secured land for another year from Mrs. R. H. Hurd near Burnsville, Mississippi, and would remove as soon as it was possible for them to build a house for him.

6 Jan 1937: This family was contacted on the above date, and the worker was still informed that they were waiting for the house to be completed in order that he might move. Again on 15 January, the family was contacted, and the worker was advised that the house had been completed, however, the condition of roads and weather made it impractical for them to move.

26 Jan 1937: Mr. H. and family removed to their new home site today. This relocation is considered as satisfactory


Page 2 of the Ben Hathcock TVA case file; courtesy of

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What Does the Headstone Say?

Reverend James Riggin was born on 21 May 1756 in Somerset County, Maryland, according to the Coventry Parish church records. His parents were Teague and Hannah (Harris) Riggen. Father Teague was a great grandson of the first Riggin to come to the American colonies. James Riggin converted to Methodism after hearing one of its preachers. He rode the circuit for eight years, preaching in various counties in Maryland and Virginia. Along the way he met Mary Howard and they were married in Washington County, Virginia, on 27 January 1791. Soon after their marriage the couple moved to Sevier County, Tennessee, near Pigeon Forge, and began farming.

A biographical sketch about Rev. James Riggin was written by his son, John C. Riggin. In it, he states that James and Mary had eight children, 4 boys and 4 girls, who all lived to adulthood. Only two are mentioned by name -- Sarah and Ignatius. My research indicates the children were:
  • Harry Riggin (1793-1875)
  • James Riggin (1794-1858)
  • Mary "Polly" (Riggin) Benson (1796-1838)
  • Sarah Smith (Riggin) Huffaker (1798-1881)
  • John C Riggin (between 1781 and 1801-1869)
  • Ignatius Riggin (1803-unknown)
You can see I am missing two daughters but the four sons are known. So my three times great grandfather, Alfred Riggin, can't be the youngest son of Rev. James Riggin. An 1820 census for Sevier County, Tennessee, would be a wonderful find. But it remains elusive to me.

Harry and James migrated to southern Illinois in 1818 and four years later, James and David Hendershott founded the town of Troy in Madison County. Harry moved on from Troy to what became Menard County, became quite the mover and shaker and lost an election to Abraham Lincoln. James moved to St. Clair County and became the first secretary of McKendree College, now known as McKendree University. John C. Riggin followed his brothers to Illinois and married, bought land, and died in Troy. Ignatius Riggin remained in Tennessee and practiced law. 

The problem is with son, John C. Riggin. His Find a Grave memorial lists his death date as 1 Aug 1869 and according to the person who created the memorial, he was 88 years old. This would make his birth year 1781, fully a decade before his parents married. If he was born then, his mother would have been 16 years old. Certainly within the realm of possibilities. However, according to son John, James and Mary knew each other only a year before they married. If John's headstone says 68 years and not 88 years, then he slots nicely into the birth order of the other known children.

Headstone of John C Riggin, which is located in the Reid-Riggin Cemetery in Troy,
Illinois; photograph courtesy of Find a Grave member Gwen Menz

John C. Riggin married Elizabeth Reid in 1824 and had three daughters and one son, who he named Ignatius. In a biographical sketch about Ignatius, which was included in the Illustrated Encyclopedia and Atlas of Madison County written in 1873, some information about his father was included:

"John C. Riggin was a native of Severe [sic] County, Tenn., and his wife of Blount County. He was married near Troy, Ill., August 26th 1824. His life occupation was that of a farmer, a business he followed with a full measure of success. He became a citizen of Madison County in the fall of 1822, where he first became acquainted with and subsequently married the estimable lady who still survives him. He commenced the struggle of life without other means than that of his own indomitable energy, and his labors have been crowned with success. Falling in with the tide of emigration which flowed toward the Galena Lead Mines, in 1828, he there became actively engaged in mining for upwards of fourteen months. During his experience while there, he was miraculously saved from the caving in of the mine in which he was working. Mr. Riggin was an active, energetic man, a good citizen, a kind parent, and an affectionate husband. His death occurred at his residence, near Troy, on the 1st of August 1869."

Biographical sketch of Ignatius Riggin, son of John C. Riggin, as published in the
Illustrated Encyclopedia and Atlas of Madison County, Illinois, 1873

No mention of other children was included in the sketch. By 1850, the first census to include all the names of members of the household, the children have left and John and Elizabeth lived alone on the farm. John's age was listed as 49, which would make an 1801 birth year more plausible. In 1840, there are seven people in the household:
  • One male under 5 years
  • One male 10-14 years
  • Two males 20-29 years (son Ignatius Riggin)
  • 1 male 30-39 years (John C Riggin)
  • One female 5-9 years
  • One female 40-49 years (John's wife Elizabeth)
I do not know who the other household members are. The three known daughters, Elizabeth, Mary and Rebecca, were supposed to be older than Ignatius.

Many public trees list John C. Riggin as the father of my three times great grandfather, Alfred Riggin. Possible if he was born in 1781, though the biographical sketch above does not mention two sons, only one. If John C. Riggin was born in 1801 then having a son in 1811 isn't possible.

So when was John C. Riggin born? If closer to 1781 he could be the father of my known three times great grandfather, Alfred Riggin (c1811-after 1850). If closer to 1801, not so much. I have a DNA match who is the three times great grandchild of Ignatius Riggin, John C. Riggin's younger brother, who stayed in Tennessee. So I am related. How I do not know.

Any thoughts?


Sunday, April 12, 2015

52 Ancestors #15: A Farmer's Wife

Ancestor Name: Alfaretta Pocahontis (BRADLEY) Ramey (1875-1931)

I just love saying some of the names in my family tree like that of my great great grandfather, Powhatan Perrow Jennings or that of the aunt of my by-marriage aunt, Alfaretta Pocahontis Bradley. It may even be hard to spell since her middle name is an unusual variation of the famous Indian wife of John Rolfe, a Jamestown settler.

Pocahontis, as she was called throughout her life, was born on 2 October 1875 in Scott county, Virginia. The county borders North Carolina in the extreme southwestern area of the state and is quite mountainous. Her father was a farmer and her older brothers worked on the family farm.

She married Samuel Patton Ramey on Christmas Day 1896. Samuel was also born and raised in Scott County and grew up near Fulkerson, a small unincorporated area of the county. He was described as tall and slender with blue eyes and light brown hair when he was in his mid 40s. The couple had two sons, William VanBuren and Lewis Clinton, in Virginia before moving west to Delaware, Ohio, where they rented a farm. This move occurred in 1899 or early 1900. The family likely took a train to central Ohio. Delaware township is about 35 miles north of Columbus. The township sits between the Scioto and Olentangy rivers.

The "Big Four" passenger train station in Delaware, Ohio, c1910;
photograph courtesy of the David P. Oroszi collection

By 1910 Samuel and Pocahontis owned their own farm and paid a mortgage.  They now had five living children, Virgie Maybelle, Theodore Leroy, Lila Grace, and Lillian Eliza had been born since 1900. Two children had died by 1910, Lewis Clinton, and Darline Elizabeth, a twin of Lillian Eliza.

Samuel also worked off the farm as a laborer for a Delaware Clay Co., a manufacturing concern managed by L. L. Dennison, who went to Washington that same year to plead for coal to run his plant so it could fulfill its priority war orders.

Paragraph from the Brick and Clay Record published in 1918

In 1920 the family still paid a mortgage on their farm land, which was described as being on Pershing Road. Samuel continued work as a laborer at the clay works and their oldest son, William, who was now 22, worked at a rubber company. Their daughter, Virgie, had completed her schooling but was not employed outside their home. Their younger children were still in school. Pocahantis had two more children, but only one, Dorothy, was still living.  She was 8 years old when the 1920 census was enumerated.

The Ohio Valley Clay Company, about 150 miles east of Delaware in
Steubenville, Ohio; image courtesy of Wikipedia

As one would expect, most of the older children had left home by 1930. Their, youngest daughter, Dorothy, was 18 and still attending school. Grace was also living at home and teaching in the Delaware county public schools. Lillian had married Clyde Mead and she and her husband were living with her parents. Samuel was still a laborer at the clay and tile factory.

Alfaretta Pocahontis (Bradley) Ramey died the next year on 6 October 1931. She was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware. Her husband died in 1944 and was buried beside his wife of 35 years. Most of their children and spouses are buried in the same cemetery. Only Virgie Maybelle (Ramey) Fleenor is buried in a different location.

My relationship to Alfaretta Pocahontis (Bradley) Ramey

Pocahontis' niece, was my by-marriage aunt's mother. I often wonder how well they knew each other. About ten years after young Pocahontis and her husband moved to Delaware, Ohio, her niece, Lily Manson (Bradley) Bailey, and her husband moved away from the area to Michigan. Pocahontis stayed on the family farm and raised her children while her husband Samuel held a steady job. Her niece's husband became a missionary and moved the family to what was then British East Africa for nine years. How different their lives were!

The children of Samuel Patton and Alfretta Pocahontis (Bradley) Ramey:
  • William VanBuren Ramey, born 25 October 1897, died 3 March 1971, married Geraldine Zenhender
  • Lewis Clinton Ramey (or Clinton Lewis), born 3 November 1899, died 7 June 1900
  • Virgie Maybelle Ramey, born 25 June 1901, died 3 May 1991, married Henry Clarence Fleenor
  • Theodore Leroy Ramey, born 3 March 1903, died 10 August 1975, married Fawn Alberta Cavin
  • Grace Lila Ramey, born 9 Oct 1904, died 1 May 1937, married Worley W. Dooley
  • Darlene Elizabeth Ramey (twin), born 5 November 1907, died 21 November 1909
  • Lillian Eliza Ramey (twin), born 5 November 1907, died 12 August 1995, married Clyde B. Mead
  • Helen S Ramey, born 31 Oct 1910, died 14 November 1910
  • Dorothy Blanche Ramey, born 21 November 1911, died 7 August 1988, married Raymond Coonfare Hagaman
This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme How Do You Spell That? The perfect person to have written about this week would have been my husband's paternal grandmother and the dozen or so different variations I have of her maiden name, but I've already written that post. When the Pennsylvania birth records became available on Ancestry, I found yet another!

12 Feb 2016 Update: The story of Alfaretta Pocahontis (Bradley) Ramey has a sad ending. I recently found her death certificate and while she died of acute cardiac debilitation, it was brought on by the melancholia from which she had suffered since 1929. During this time she voluntarily starved herself.

"Pocahontas Alias Metoaka and Her Descendants" and Its Author
Out of Africa series

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Family Memories Meets DNA

My sister-in-law was convinced her maternal great grandfather was a mean old man, who left his wife and children in Germany when he came to the U.S. She thought her grandfather Fishtahler had to pay his own way over and that his mother and sisters never make the trip. She remembered stories her mother used to tell of the old man swatting the family cat, which proved all manner of bad things. I found records that shot holes in those memories, but she wasn't convinced until the DNA proved those records must be correct. It's funny how often that happens.

Her great grandfather, Leopold Fishtahler was born about 1854 in Hungary, which was part of the Austrian Empire ruled by the Hapsburg dynasty. (Another issue for my sister-in-law was her mother always said the Fishtahler family descended from Bavarian royalty.) Not long after Leopold's birth Austria was forced to sign the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 and a dual monarchy came into existence. While the two countries were ruled by one monarch, the Austrian Emperor, Hungary was allowed its own parliament.

1854 Mitchell Map of Austria; courtesy of Geographicus

Leopold married Elizabeth Grotohville and they had at least four children, though likely there was also an older daughter, who had married a man named Dreaker and already immigrated to the United States before 1899.

Leopold boarded the S/S Willehad on 7 September 1899 in Bremen, Germany, he told immigration officials his destination was his son-in-law, Franz Dreaker, who lived in Philadelphia. Leopold worked as a joiner, or carpenter, and his last permanent address before immigrating was Bavaniste, Serbia.

Wife, Elizabeth, three daughters, and their only son Jacob, had planned to sail aboard the S/S Noordland on 2 August 1905 from Liverpool. Their destination once in the United States was Butler, Pennsylvania, where Leopold lived. Elizabeth and children had last lived in Novi Sad, Serbia, and Elizabeth had $15. For some reason, though, they did not sail on the Noordland.

Novi Sad, Serbia, c1890; purchased from

Jacob successfully made the trip alone, leaving Bremen, Germany, aboard the S/S Cassel on 14 December 1905. He landed in Baltimore on 28 December and was headed to his uncle, Jacob Hammer's, home in Pittsburgh.

Elizabeth and three daughters finally immigrated in 1907 sailing from Bremen to Baltimore aboard the S/S Breslau.

Jacob Fishtahler had moved to Detroit by 1907 and he and his father were painters. When the 1910 census was enumerated Leopold, Elizabeth, Jacob and their daughter, Theresa, lived at 375 Lansing Avenue and Jacob worked as a carpenter in a furniture factory.

The last record I have for their daughter, Rosa, is a 1908 Detroit city directory. She lived at 304 Frederick Avenue and worked as a domestic. The last record I have for their daughter, Johanna, is the 1918 Detroit city directory. She lived with her father at 361 Lansing Avenue and was a seamstress.

Jacob met Elise (who went by Elsie after immigration officials mangled the spelling of her given name) Adametz, an Austrian woman who immigrated in 1906. They married some time before 1912 when their first son was born.

Theresa Fishtahler married Elmer Edward Marvin on 23 November 1916 in Detroit and they were the grandparents of my husband's DNA match -- one only only DNA match with a known shared ancestor:

AncestryDNA match

Elizabeth (Grotohville) Fishtahler was buried on 5 Jun 1922 at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Detroit according to the cemetery database but no Michigan death certificate has been located even though she died in a period covered by the death certificates available on Her husband, Leopold; son, Jacob; and Jacob's wife, Elsie, are buried beside her.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

52 Ancestors #14: Photographs of my Great Great Grandmother

Ancestor: Clementine (WELLS) Riggin Collins (1846-1932)

For a long time I thought the only photograph I would have of my great great grandmother was one of a Riggin family reunion in which I didn't know which person was Clementine. But before I share with you my new favorite photographs, I'll tell you a little about her.

Clementine Wells was the eldest daughter of James M. and Mary (Hearelson) Wells, born in Virginia and North Carolina, respectively, who had migrated west to Illinois before 1839 or 1840 when their eldest son was born. Clementine was born on 16 November 1846 in Illinois. She was one of seven known children.

By 1860 James Wells and his family were living in Township 4 North, Range 7 West in Madison County. The township was later named Pin Oak. James' personal estate was valued at $868 but no value was assigned to his real estate. I believe he rented the land from someone else as no record of a land sale has been located for James Wells. All seven children were still living at home. The township was 25 miles east of St. Louis, and a horse ferry had been established across the Mississippi river by 1863.

A prosperous farm in Pin Oak Township; image courtesy of the book,
History of Madison County, published in 1882 by W. R. Brink

When Clementine was 15 years old her father died in 1861. She and a widower, John Wesley Riggin, received a marriage license from Madison County, on 20 February 1870. However, when the 1870 census was enumerated on 25 August 1870, John W. Riggin and his three young children were living at the home of his younger brother. His mother, a sister and her child also lived there. There was no mention of Clementine.

By 1880 John and Clementine lived in Pin Oak Township. John was a farmer of about 25 acres, which he rented. His two younger children by his first wife lived in the home and he and Clementine had five of their six children. My great grandmother, Ida Mae, was 9 months old. All of the other children had attended school during the census year. Their youngest son was born in 1881.

Their children were:
  • Orlando Marion Riggin: born 6 December 1871, died 27 April 1952, married 1) Ethel L Voorhus in 1895 (divorced), one child and 2) Marguerite Lillian Opitz in 1903. Removed to Chicago between 1880 and 1895. 
  • Lawrence Wesley Riggin: born 14 October 1872, died 12 March 1938, married Mary Korbut in 1905, no children. 
  • Henry Wilburn Riggin: born 17 May 1875, died 21 January 1954, never married. Removed to California sometime after his mother's death.
  • Thomas Albert Riggin: born 23 April 1877, 3 September 1952, married Triphosa Bowker in 1904, one child.
  • Ida Mae Riggin: born 8 August 1879, died 3 August 1909, married Robert Muir in 1902, two children.
  • John Andrew Riggin: 15 October 1881, died 3 June 1970, married Elise Prall in 1906 (divorced), one child and 2) Barbara Alice Hatherly before 1929. Removed to California between 1912 and 1918.
The farm, while small, seemed to be a going concern, used primarily to raise stock. Only two acres were tilled. The remaining land was pasture. The family had two horses, two cows, two sheep, eight swine, and thirteen chickens. They gathered eggs and made their own cheese and butter. The family did grow Indian corn, oats, wheat and Irish potatoes, some of which I imagine was feed for the livestock. After John's death, the family left the farm.

John W. Riggin died between 1881 and 1897, for it was in the latter year that Clementine remarried. On 29 April 1897 she and William Collins received a marriage license from Madison County. He was a widower with 13-year-old and 9-year-old sons.

A photograph from one of my grandmother's albums of a Riggin family
reunion in Troy, Illinois, sometime in the 1920s

The arrows along the bottom identify three of Grandma's uncles sitting in the front row. From left to right, Henry, John, and Lawrence. Another uncle, Albert, was identified standing in the back row second from the left. Grandma also wrote, "Granny and Aunt Becky straight back from Uncle John." (Aunt Becky was actually Grandma's grand aunt, who was the second wife of John W. Riggin's brother, James Carroll Riggin.) From the social columns of the Troy Call and Edwardsville Intelligencer, I've deduced Clementine and Rebecca were great friends. The problem: I didn't know which one was which!

They were married twenty years before William Collins was mortally injured by a fall of slate at Donk Brothers Coke & Coal Co. on 23 July 1917. His badly injured body was taken to their home where he died a few hours later.

In 1920 Clementine and her unmarried son, Henry, were living with Thomas Albert, who went by Albert, and his wife and daughter. I met "Aunt Fosie" as my grandmother called her in 1974. She died the next year at the age of 89. Oh, how I wish now I would have asked her about memories of her mother-in-law! Ten years later, Clementine and Henry lived in the town of Troy and owned their own home, which was valued at $1,500. They didn't yet have a radio.

Clementine (Wells) Riggin Collins with three of her five sons; photograph
courtesy of William A. Shaffer, who likely received it from Stacey Evans

Last October I received a message on my personal Facebook page from a grandson of one of William Collins sons, John Henry Collins. He ended up with all his grandfather's photographs and had two of Clementine. From left to right: Thomas Albert, Henry Wilburn, and Lawrence Wesley Riggin standing behind their mother.

In the next photograph, Clementine is standing second from the left in the light colored skirt. Her second husband, William Collins, is behind her to the right.

Collins Family Gathering; photograph courtesy of William A. Shaffer

Clementine (Wells) Riggin Collins died on 1 April 1932 in Troy at the age of 86. She was buried three days later in Troy City Cemetery with her second husband, William Collins. His son, Julius Franklin Collins, who was killed in action in 1918 during World War I was buried beside them.

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

Newly Discovered Photos
A Wanderer Returns
The Too Brief Life of Ida Mae (Riggin) Muir
A Gift in My Inbox
Genealogy Happy Dance of the Year...Maybe the Decade
A Surprise in My Inbox
A Real Find

Thursday, April 2, 2015

This is a Robbery!

I'm turning in to a crime beat reporter! Albeit of the historic variety. Tuesday I wrote about a shooting. Today, a bank robbery.

Earlier this week I was reviewing the descendants of my great grand aunt, Margaret Muir, and her husband, Robert Caswell, in preparation for writing about the family for my multi-volume book about the descendants of Robert Muir, my three times great grandfather. I realized there were some loose ends to research involving Robert Samuel Jenks, a grandson of Robert and Margaret's. 

Robert Samuel Jenks was born in 1939 and died in 1979. He married twice and because his wives may still be living I will not provide too much information about them. When Robert died he left behind a 30-year-old widow and a 10-year-old child. Four years later his widow married Louis Willard Mercier, who was 19 years her senior. He married at least 6 times during the course of his life.

Louis was also a bank robber.

He was born in 1930 in Wisconsin and served in the Army for four years, including service in the Korean Conflict. He was honorably discharged from the Army as a sergeant and was awarded two bronze stars.  He went to barber's school at Mole Barber College after the war and became a barber for ten years.

During that time he operated a barber shop in Moses Lake and commuted to his home in Seattle on weekends. On 30 March 1964 he walked into the Peoples National Bank in downtown Seattle and handed a teller two notes. One said the bank manager's son was being held and would be released when Mercier returned. The other apparently asked for money. The teller gave him over $2,000 and also pressed the silent alarm. Mercier was held by the bank manager until the police arrived. He was arrested without incident and held in jail in lieu of a $10,000 bond. At the time of his arrest he told police he was dying of cancer and only had 30 days to live. How he thought that would help his situation, I have no idea.

Article about the bank robbery from the Centralia Daily Chronicle,
dated 31 March 1964; image courtesy of

Nearly two months later Mercier was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to ten years in jail. The judge did order 90-day psychiatric evaluation and said the sentence might be reduced or probation granted after the study. The judge's final words were: "You are no ordinary bank robber by any means."

Louis lived for 36 years more years and died of a long illness in 2000 at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center.