Monday, 31 March 2014

Finding Genealogy Data in an Unexpected Country

Image by David Castillo Dominici,
In my first post I promised to show you how information about a particular family or individual can be found (perhaps unexpectedly) in another country. Here are a few of the many interesting examples that I have seen.

  • Magdalene NIELSON died in America, but the State Archives in Queensland, Australia, have her probate file. It describes her as 'formerly of Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia, but late of the City of New York, USA; wife of Peter NIELSON (formerly of Bundaberg but at present of Copenhagen, Denmark)'. The file includes Magdalene's death certificate from America (giving her age, marital status, occupation, birthplace, how long in the USA, how long in New York City, names and birthplaces of her father and mother, her place and cause of death, and class of dwelling); and a transit permit for her body to go to Germany, stating the exact burial place there.

  • Ellis READ owned land at Burketown, Queensland, Australia. When it was sold after his death, a grant of probate was required so that a certificate of title could be issued. The Supreme Court file at Queensland State Archives shows that he lived in Mexico from 1882 to 1890; and between 1887 and 1890 he made business trips to England and lived there for a few months at a time. He died in Mexico in 1890, but his widow did not apply for administration of his estate until ten years later. An affidavit gives a translation of details from his death certificate (age, cause of death, burial place, native place, occupation, wife's maiden name, father's name, mother's maiden name).

  • Margaret STAPLETON died in Queensland, Australia, and her death certificate says 'born Ireland, parents names unknown'; but her probate file at Queensland State Archives reveals their names. In her will, Margaret left property to her sister Johanna in Ireland. As Johanna's surname was spelled incorrectly in the will, she had to prove that she was the person named as beneficiary. Johanna was unable to supply her birth certificate because her birth had not been registered. Instead she sent a copy of her baptism record from a parish register in England! It gave her father's name and mother's maiden name.

  • Patrick DOWNEY was born in Tipperary, Ireland, and died at Cairns, Queensland, Australia. A Supreme Court equity file at Queensland State Archives says that his brother, John DOWNEY, died at Paterson, New Jersey, USA, in about 1884.

  • James Edward BUTLER was born in Ireland. He was charged with wife desertion after he left his wife and six children in New Zealand. A few years later his wife was in Sydney, Australia, trying to find him. This information, plus a detailed physical description of James, appeared in a New South Wales Police Gazette. (Many Police Gazettes for various Australian States can now be searched online.)

There are entries for people from many parts of the world in:
  1. Records described in 6 Genealogy Sources You May Have Overlooked.

  2. Ancestry's collection of wills, administrations, probate records and death duty registers (including the National Probate Calendar for England and Wales)
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Sunday, 30 March 2014

Creating Family History from Grandma Gladys' Legend ~

By:  Tina Marie

My favorite part of family history is discovering a story within a story.  That unique blend of family legend combined with nostalgic photographs, historic information, sleuthing old records, and the sentimental value of a personal reflection are all quite appealing to my genealogist senses.  It takes time, effort and patience to recreate the storylines of our ancestors, but in the end it always proves to be a great formula for an amazing experience.

My paternal grandmother Gladys Wheeler Starks made sure that I knew the details about her parent’s lives.  She would say in her southern drawl, “My parents were David Isaac Wheeler and Faithie Lyons.  David was born in February 1874 in Chattooga County, Georgia, and Faithie was born in September 1884 in Tennessee.”  My grandmother’s persistence in passing on their story made me feel a special kinship to my great-grandparents, so when I began to study my family's history they were the first ancestors that I researched.

My first task was to find a photograph of David and Faithie.  I felt their picture would inspire me to stay focused on their research.  I spoke to many relatives but no one in the family had ever seen a photo of David, and my father was the only one who had a photo of Faithie.  My dad’s photograph was stored in a burgundy album on the top shelf of his closet nicely placed between two plastic photo pages.  It took me two years to get him to show me the photo and 24 years to convince him to give me the photo. Finally, on August 16, 2012, Faithie’s picture moved from the burgundy photo album in my dad’s closet into an antique silver frame that sits in my dining room in the center of the American Craftsman credenza.

Faithie Lyons Wheeler, c. 1905

My grandmother did not know the names of her grandparents so it took some research on my part to locate them.  I found them in the 1870 and 1880 census.  David’s parents were Barney Wheeler and Deliah Merrill.  They married on December 25, 1868 in Chattooga County, Georgia.  Barney was born circa 1850 in Georgia, and his date and place of death is unknown.  Deliah was born circa 1852 in Virginia, and died January 2, 1922 in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee.  Faithie’s father was Polk Lyons and he was born circa 1860 in Tennessee, and his date and place of death is unknown.  Each of them and their ancestors had survived the brutal institution of slavery.

Pedigree Chart for Gladys Wheeler
I was unable to locate Faithie’s mother which made a lot of sense, because my grandmother had said, “I was told Faithie’s mother died when she was very young.”  I had hit a brick wall and without her name, her date of death, the 1890 lost census, and no existing statewide death registry until 1909, it may take some time to locate this mysterious great-great-granny.

In 1870 four years before David was born, Chattanooga became the county seat for Hamilton County, Tennessee.  By 1877, the city leaders decided to build a permanent courthouse.  They purchased three properties on Walnut Hill and selected A.C. Bruce as the architect.  The courthouse was designed with limestone arches and columns, and had an ornate bell tower that was visible on all four sides.  When the bells rang they could be heard throughout the city.  In 1879 the building was completed for $65,000 just in time for the booming industrial town that Chattanooga was becoming.

Hamilton County Courthouse, c. 1890

When the census enumerators came around in 1900, David was residing with his mother and siblings in Summerville, Chattooga County, Georgia.  He was 25 years old and he was farming with his brothers.  Faithie was living with her aunt at 15 Weaver Street in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  She was 15 years old and employed as a domestic servant.

David first appeared in Chattanooga in the 1903 City Directory.  The population was 56,000 people and 70% of them were white.  David lived at 814 William Street and worked as a laborer at Wheland Machine Works.  Wheland was a foundry company that was a newly established business in Chattanooga.  It was interesting to see that at a time when the world was shifting from an agricultural to an industrial economy, the historical context of those events were influencing my family’s decisions.  I am sure that the wages from David’s job as a laborer is probably what brought him from rural Summerville to the city of Chattanooga.

1903 Chattanooga City Directory advertisement

Between 1900 and 1903, David met and married Faithie.  My grandmother said they had a world-wind romance.  When I asked her what that meant, she gave a gentle laugh and said, “On December 13, 1903, they were married at the Hamilton County Courthouse.”  In celebration of their marriage, I can just imagine hearing the bells at the courthouse tower ringing throughout the city announcing the Wheeler's nuptials.  I obtained their marriage certificate in 2012 and noticed that the groom was listed as Dave Wheeler and the bride’s name was listed incorrectly as Facey Lines.  I looked up the original hand written document in the marriage registry book and it had the same incorrect information.  When I saw the error it made me think about my grandmother’s laugh.  I guess the world-wind romance that my grandmother referred to caused Faithie's name to get lost in translation.

Marriage Certificate, 1903

David and Faithie had their first child Lovie Wheeler in 1906.  According to the 1907 City Directory, they owned a home at 1205 Walker Avenue in the Centerville neighborhood.  My grandmother Gladys Wheeler was born in the home on May 20, 1908, and Daisy Wheeler the youngest daughter was born in 1910.  Both Lovie and my grandmother were born before 1909 when Tennessee law did not require a statewide registry of births, so they do not have a birth certificate.  However, a deed for the property does exist because David and Faithie returned to the Hamilton County Courthouse to register the deed for the property.  They must have returned prior to May 7, 1910, because on that date, the Hamilton County Courthouse was struck by lightning and a fire erupted.  The bell tower was destroyed and the building had to be demolished.  Fortunately for me, the records inside the building escaped the fire.  A new courthouse was designed by architect Reuben H. Hunt and it was built at the same location.  It cost $350,000.  The building was completed and dedicated in 1913.

Hamilton County Courthouse, 1913

According to the Chattanooga City Directory, David and Faithie were living at 2105 Walker Avenue in 1921.  The change in address from 1205 to 2105 was a little confusing.  I had always known my grandparents lived at 2105 Walker but never knew anything about 1205 Walker.  According to the staff at the Addressing Department at the Hamilton County Courthouse, there has never been a 1205 Walker Avenue.  The staff believes that the change in address in the city directory was caused by a typographical error.  The 1910 and 1920 census disputes this theory.  Both census have the house number listed as 1205.  In the 1930 census it has 2105.  On my research trip to Chattanooga in 2012, I went to see my great-grandparent’s old home and a church occupies a portion of the land today.  I looked for the address 1205 Walker Avenue, but it did not exist and Walker Avenue had become Walker Street.  My theory is the house numbers were reorganized around the year 1921.

My grandmother married my grandfather LaGrant Starks on June 23, 1930. They lived in the home with my great-grandparents.  My great-grandparents died eight months apart.  Faithie died on June 10, 1936 and David died on February 12, 1937.  They are both buried in the Highland Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Chattanooga.  David does not have a grave marker, but he made sure that Faithie had one upon her death.  Her marker says, “Faithie wife of Dave Wheeler, Sept 13, 1884 - June 10, 1936”.    

Faithie Lyons Wheeler's grave marker

Like my grandmother my dad did not know his grandparents.  He was born almost two years after their death.  My grandmother Gladys Wheeler Starks died on September 22, 1988 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I feel fortunate that I got to know my grandmother and was able to experience her love of oral tradition.  In August 2012, after years of family research I returned for a visit to Chattanooga.   To help me bring this story to life, I traveled the streets my ancestors walked, visited the land they owned, sleuthed the documents they left, and touched the ground of their final resting place.  A story that once seemed abstract and distant now felt very personal.  All because of a grandmother’s persistence in telling the legend and a granddaughter’s love for family history.

Information contained in this story can be proven through source citation.  Please feel free to contact the author if you have questions

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Scots in Australia - Ballarat art exhibition opening in April

From 11 April to 27 July the Art Gallery of Ballarat will have an exhibition on images of Scottish Australia from the beginnings of European settlement to Federation. I am a volunteer guide at the Gallery and we have been studying up on all things Scottish for this exhibition.

Anne Eliza Duff with her daughter, Jessie c.1847  by Martha Berkeley from the Art Gallery of South Australia
This image was used on the front cover of a recent issue of Antiques and Art in Victoria.

The exhibition will highlight the contribution to Australia of emigrants from Scotland. For example, the Australian Dictionary of Biography has 1591 entries of people with Scottish heritage, 12.6% of all 12,590 entries.

Measuring ancestry is tricky - I have lots of ancestors ;) and some of them are Scottish - although my husband's family tree seems to contain no Scottish forebears. About three quarters of my fellow volunteer gallery guides can also claim a Scottish forebear. It is a small sample and not at all representative. Claiming a Scottish forebear does not mean identifying as someone having Scottish ancestry.

Estimated percentages of the ethnic origins of the Australian population 1861-1987

Graph of figures in Table 1.1: Estimated percentages of the ethnic origins of the Australian population 1861-1987 in  Prentis, Malcolm D. (Malcolm David) The Scots in Australia. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 2008. Prentis sourced his figures from C. A. Price et al. Birthplaces of the Australian Population 1861-1981, Working Papers in Demography, No. 13 (1984); S. E. Khoo & C. A. Price, Understanding Australia's Ethnic Composition (Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, 1996), 11.

Despite having some Scottish forebears, I would not be counted in the 11.9% of those who had Scottish ancestry in 1987.

Malcom Prentis remarks in his book The Scots in Australia that, unlike some groups which came predominantly at particular moments in the history of their home societies and of Australia, the immigration of Scots has been sustained at a consistent and substantial level for the last 200 years.

The Scots have been a very successful ethnic group but largely ignored in the history of Australia which has paid more attention to our Irish forebears.

The forthcoming exhibition looks at a number of themes, including politics, indigenous relations, business endeavours as well as artistic contributions. It will be a great opportunity to learn more about Australian history and the contributions of our Scottish forebears.

Martha Berkeley who did the painting above of Ann Duff was my great great great aunt. She wasn't Scottish but the painting is included because it depicts a Scottish woman. You can learn more about the Duff family at

I have been inspired to review my Scottish family history and intend to publish some more stories on my blog about emigration, where my forebears came from and what they did when they arrived in Australia. Before I do that though, I plan to participate in the A to Z blogging challenge - my first time - and it will keep me busy for the next month. It is not only genea-bloggers who participate but there are a couple of other family historians who have put their names down for the challenge.

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Gow Siblings.

The 28th of March has appeared on my doorstep out of nowhere. I've become quite busy with Uni that I haven't had much time to sit down and do the post I would like to. I will have time for that next month as mid-semester break is a couple of weeks away.

Late last year I received some photos from a distant cousin in New Zealand of each of the Gow Siblings. When I refer to the Gow Siblings, I'm talking about my Great Grandfather William & his older siblings John, Robert, Isabella & Jeannie. They were the children of William Gow & Jean Drummond, and were all born in Muthill, Perthshire, Scotland. Up until last year, I only had photos of William & John. You can imagine the genea-happy-dancing I was doing when I received photos of ALL FIVE SIBLINGS!

One of my favorite happy dances is Hugh Grant in Love Actually. 

May I present to you, the Gow Siblings...

John Gow

Birth: 9th of December, 1855 in Muthill, Perthshire, Scotland.
1st Marriage: 1891, to Betsy Ireland Syme Gow in Perthshire.
Number of Children: 1
2nd Marriage: 1896, to Annie Wilson in Perthshire.
Number of Children: 3
Death: 14th of January, 1929 in Glenstal, Ireland.

John Gow
Robert Gow

Birth: 14th of September, 1857 in Muthill, Perthshire, Scotland.
Marriage: 1886, to Mary Agnes Ryan in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Number of Children: 8
Death: 8th of December, 1927 in Sydney.

Robert Gow

Isabella Gow

Birth: 9th of April, 1859 in Muthill, Perthshire, Scotland.
Marriage: 1878, to John Reddoch in Perthshire, Scotland.
Number of Children: 9, and 2 stillborn.
Death: 13th of October, 1897 in Kinross, Scotland.

Isabella Gow

Jeannie Gow

Birth: 6th of July, 1864 in Muthill, Perthshire, Scotland.
Marriage: None.
Number of Children: 1 with an unknown male. 2 with Tom Donaldson. 1 with Allan McFarlane. 
Death: 31st of March, 1912 in Stirling, Scotland.

Jeannie Gow

William Gow

Birth: 21st of May, 1868 in Muthill, Perthshire, Scotland.
Marriage: 4th of December, 1904 to Elizabeth Croal in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Number of Children: 2. 
Death: 28th of November, 1943 in Macksville, New South Wales.

William Gow
Sidenote: Y'all are the first people to see photos of all five siblings in one post from me. I'm yet to post them in a single post on my own blog. Lucky ducks! :-D

Until next time genea-friends.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A Way with Children

March is Women's History month and in celebration I've been writing occasional posts about my maternal grandmother, Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange on my blog, Tangled Roots and Trees. I was named after her, which I consider quite an honor. She was the first child born in Alberta, Canada, to Wilhelm Schalin and Auguste Fabriske after they emigrated from the Volhynia region of what was then Russia in 1893. She raised nine children, who all thought they were her favorite and loved her very much their entire lives long after she died.

Wilhelmina "Minnie" Schalin as a young woman

Wilhelmina and her husband, Gust Lange, owned a farm in Prince George's County, Maryland, where six of their nine children were born. Three of their sons bought land from them, built homes, married and raised their families. One of my cousins would walk up the gravel road to visit Grandma Lange almost everyday as there was sure to be fresh baked cookies coming out of the old wood-burning stove.

One day he went to Grandma and Grandpa's house and no one was home. I have no idea what got into the little tyke but he proceeded to trash the kitchen quite thoroughly. There were fresh eggs in a pail by the back door, which he tossed all around the kitchen. Then he got into the oats and sprinkled them liberally throughout the kitchen. Next, he found the flour and coated the mess he made. Honey may have also been involved. Once he was finished, he walked home.

The perpetrator is standing in the back row far right
(I am in the middle row second from the right)

A few days later this same cousin walked back to Grandma's house. The kitchen was clean and Grandma had cookies for him like always. They sat around the kitchen table, eating cookies and drinking milk from the dairy cows. Grandma asked my cousin if he had been to visit earlier in the week but she wasn't home. His eyes got very big but he shook his head and said, "No, Grandma."

Later, they went to take a nap. This was always a favorite part of any visit to Grandma's. She would lay down with you in her big bed and tell you the most wonderful stories before you fell asleep for nap. I once claimed I could only nap at Grandma's; these stories were so special.

As Grandma and my cousin laid down to take a nap, Grandma started to tell a story about a little boy, who came to visit his grandmother but she wasn't home and he wasn't happy because he was missing the cookies to which he so looked forward. So the little boy threw eggs, oats, flour and honey all around the kitchen having the most wonderful time.  My cousin, bounced up in bed, clapped his hands together and exclaimed, "Grandma, it was me!"

And that's how Grandma Lange got my cousin to confess to destroying her kitchen.

NOTE: This story is as told to me by my mother, who I've been interviewing since January based on all the suggestions all my Worldwide Genealogy collaborators provided after my first post. She is also writing a Book of Me!

Wilhelmina Schalin was born on 23 May 1894 at Leduc, Alberta, Canada, to Wilhelm Schalin and Auguste Fabriske. Her parents and siblings had emigrated from the Volhynia region of what was then Russia (now Ukraine) for religious reasons the year before. She married Gustav Lange on 9 April 1915 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, at his home on 386 Thames Avenue. Their first child, Ruth Hedwig Lange was born at Winnipeg. On 30 December 1916, the family crossed the Canadian-U.S. border into Detroit. They were on their way to Sanilac County, Michigan, where they worked as sharecroppers on a beet farm. Two sons were born there. By 1920 they had moved to Brandywine, Prince George's, Maryland, and bought a farm. Their next six children were born in Maryland. Wilhelmina died on 27 November 1960 while hospitalized at the Southern Maryland Hospital Center at Clinton, Prince George's, Maryland, after learning her daughter (my mother) had safely delivered her second child (my brother, shown in the photo above sitting on the sofa). She is buried in Trinity Memorial Gardens at Waldorf, Charles, Maryland. Her husband, died three years later and is buried beside her.