52 Ancestors Challenge – 32

The theme this week refers to the number of the current week of the year…32 out of 52.  Difficult to believe more than one-half of the year has passed us by and I feel I still have many stories to share.  This theme was vague and left me to ponder many ideas.

I considered looking up important events that happened during different ancestors’ 32 year of life.  Fortunately Ancestry.com makes this an option with their timeline feature.  Most of the female ancestors I looked up had given birth in their 32nd year.  Quite surprising when you consider 32 years old seems older than we usually think about for childbirth these days.

My other thought was to find important events ancestors had lived through in the “32 years” – 1632, 1732, 1832, 1932 and so forth.  Unfortunately, this was much more difficult than I imagined and I’m ready to send Ancestry a suggestion for another feature they can add!

I settled on 32 questions I would like to ask an ancestor.  Specifically, I chose 32 different ancestors and have one question for them to answer.  If somehow from the great beyond they are able to send me the answers, please do so-preferably in a typeset page and signed by you or a letter written in your best penmanship, sealed with your personal seal in red wax.  Asking too much?

Without further ado, here is my list of “32 Questions I Wish To Know The Answers To”

  1. 2nd Great Grandfather – August Yess – Why did you leave Germany and who were your parents?  You’ve always been a difficult nut to crack and I seem to be willing to go to all ends of the earth to solve this one.  I’m learning German language this fall just to find clues!
  2. 2nd Great Grandmother – Permelia Jane Ellis Chenoweth – You had brothers and nephews and cousins who were involved in the Civil War. What kind of impact did it leave on you?
  3. 2nd Great Grandfather – Elias Birdine Chenoweth –  In your business papers, I have found many papers where you lent money to others and deeds where you purchased land.  What was your secret of business?
  4. 2nd Great Grandmother – Mary V. Peroni – You were born in France. Where, who were your parents and where did you meet your husband?  (That’s only one question even though there are several parts if you are keeping score.)
  5. 2nd Great Grandmother – Eleanor Senate Lawrence – What is the importance of your middle name?  I don’t seem to find any other connection to tell me why you have “Senate” as your middle name.
  6. 2nd Great Grandmother – Veronica Bootz (Schmitt) Smith – Was my 2nd great grandfather your second husband?  Some records seem to indicate that might be the case.
  7. 6th Great Grandfather – Hammond Harrison – You were born around 1715 in Yorkshire, England.  What was your occupation and what was your day-to-day life like?
  8. 7th Great Grandfather – John Chenoweth – You were born in St. Martin’s, Cornwall, England. In 1682 at age 23, you had immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland.   How difficult was the journey and why did our family choose Baltimore?
  9. 3rd Great Grandmother – Mariah Sherman – Are you related to General WilliamTecumseh Sherman?
  10. 3rd Great Uncle – Jonathan McBride Brown – You served in the 78th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, but your son in law served for the Confederate Army.  Did you ever meet in battle?
  11. 4th Great Grandfather – Michael France – You were born in 1776 in Virginia.  What did your family share with you of that historic year?
  12. 2nd Great Grandfather – Daniel Medi – You and Mary had eight daughters and everyone of them had the first name of Mary.  (Mary Josephine, Mary Victoria, Mary Margaret, Mary Augusta, etc)  Beside the fact you apparently were a devout Catholic, what were you thinking?
  13. Great Grandfather – Thomas Edward France – You were sent West for your health and you went to the middle of Kansas.  Why did you pick Kansas?
  14. 3rd Great Grandmother – Eliza Jane Hulvey Sheets – During the Civil War, you went west to Illinois and during the trip, you and your children became ill with diptheria.  Who cared for you and when did you find out that four out of five of your children had died?
  15. Great Grandmother – Lena Belle Salmans France Westlake – You lived in Kansas on the prairie as a young woman. What was your life like helping to take care of your siblings in those days?
  16. 3rd Great Grandfather – Christian Swise – You were born in Hanover, Germany, but by age 26 you were in the United States and getting married.  Tell me what brought you here and about the journey.
  17. Great Grandfather – Thomas Edward France – Please tell me the story about you holding my grandmother, Vera, and your sister asking you what “brat” that was?  How did that make you feel?
  18. 2nd Great Grandmother – Teresa Hanlach Yess – You and my great grandfather, Augustus, came to Peoria, IL in the 1850’s and amassed quite an estate.  You outlived him and five of your six children.  How did you hold the estate together and who did you rely on?
  19. 2nd Great Aunt – Amanda Yess –  Documents show you were in a mental hospital in Bartonville.  What challenges were you facing that caused this?
  20. 2nd Great Aunt – Sarah Alice Salmans Abbott – You were the oldest of 10 children of Levi Franklin and Rosa Jane Brown Salmans. Your mother died when you were 22 and you remained at home until age 33 to take care of your siblings.  When you did marry at 33, tell me what your wedding day was like after caring for this large family?
  21. Grandfather John E. Yess – You lost your father before you were a year old.  When you were two, your mother remarried.  What was your relationship like with your step-father?
  22. Great Grandmother – Mary Josephine Medi Yess Hargadine – You lost your father and mother within the same year.  One year later you gave birth to your second child, and within another nine months your husband passed away.  What did you do to survive?
  23. Great Grandmother – Amelia Jane Harrison Smith – You were born in 1868 and lived 83 years.  You came from a large family.  How close did you remain to your siblings throughout your life and what did you do to stay in touch?
  24. 2nd Great Grandfather – Johann B. Schmitt – John Smith – You were born in Bavaria in 1828 and immigrated to the United States.  What were your thoughts when you changed your name from a German version to an English version in 1856?
  25. 3rd Great Grandfather – Solomon Harrison Ellis – You were born in Georgia in 1805.  Why did you move to Illinois even though it appears the rest of your family remained in the South?
  26. 4th Great Grandfather – George Ellis – You were born in Mecklenburg County ,Virginia; by age 11, your family lived in Rowan County, North Carolina. You died in Copiah County, Mississippi. Tell me about the journeys of your life and why you moved so often?
  27. 6th Great Grandmother – Alida Lydia Pruyn Logan– (1707-1788) You lived in New York until you were 40 and then you and Andrew show up in South Carolina.  What was happening in South Carolina in the 1770’s and 1780’s during the Revolutionary War and how did it affect you?
  28. 5th Great Grandfather – (Major) Francis Logan – According to a descendant’s SAR application, you served as a Captain in the camp at Ninety Six, SC during the American Revolution.  What did you witness there and during your 93 years of life?
  29. Grandmother – Jessie Smith Yess  – I was fortunate to have you to ask questions of for much of my life, but what did you enjoy playing when you were a child?  I think you were a tomboy, is that correct?
  30. Grandmother – Vera France Chenoweth – Again, I was able to ask you many questions first hand, but you were very talented at crocheting, tatting, and sewing.  Who taught you these skills?
  31. Grandfather – Elzie Chenoweth – You answered many of my questions about family when I was a child, but was your mother a good cook and what was your favorite meal for someone to make for you?
  32. To all my ancestors – Did you ever feel you would be forgotten, because you haven’t.

I’ll let you know if I get any letters posted to me with red wax seals on them.

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – EASY

Signed checks by Elzie Chenoweth, Wm. Chenoweth, Elias Chenoweth and Dollie Chenoweth

Signed checks by Elzie Chenoweth, Wm. Chenoweth, Elias Chenoweth and Dollie Chenoweth

IMG_0703

Family history books of Salmans, France, Hulvey, and German families of Quincy, IL

Levi Franklin Salmans family

Levi Franklin Salmans family

They made it easy.  Really.  Whether it was asking questions to discover family members or tracing the genealogy of the family, they – my ancestors – made it easy.  They left records, notes, stories.  My Grandma Chenoweth had meticulously handwritten the names of her family on the back of photos.  She kept a diary also.   My Grandma Yess has handwritten the family genealogy. It was important we knew the stories of the family and knew where we came from. She wanted us to know how important it was we were related to the prolific Harrison family of Peoria county.  She wanted us to know even though her maiden name was Smith, it really should have been Schmitt.  Her grandparents had immigrated from Germany.

My parents are the current archivists of many of the family heirlooms.  This includes the old deeds, checks and pictures of the family.  It’s a true joy to rifle through the old family bible with records handwritten in German, read the letters written to my grandparents by a World War II soldier who used to work for them, and to gaze at the faces of family members.  Is it just me or do you see the same faces repeated over and over within a family?

One year for Christmas my parents gave my sister, my two cousins and I each a cancelled check from my grandfather, great grandfather and great grandmother and 2nd great grandfather.   I took those, along with photos of each of those individuals and a couple of the funeral cards from those family members and had them framed.  It’s interesting to see who the checks were written to and to compare the nearly identical signatures on the checks.

Many of the family photos have information typed or written on them much like the Levi Franklin Salmans photo above.  What a tool this is!  I can easily take this photo and compare it to the other loose photos within the box and separate out the different siblings and their children based on this photo.

The family stories are priceless.  Someone took time out of their busy day to reflect on what would be important to the family in the future.  They didn’t sugar coat the story, but told the reality of what life was like and the challenges they faced.  Those  pithy stories are what inspire us to persevere.

I’ve begun collecting recipes handwritten by my Mom, aunt, grandmothers and other family members . Recipes tell a surprising amount of information.  There’s Ethel’s Salad written in my Grandma Yess’ handwriting.  I’m not sure who Ethel was, but apparently Grandma liked her salad.  Other recipe cards refer to Aunt So & So’s German Chocolate Cake, or Cousin So & So’s bread and butter pickles. You can tell which recipes were the favorites by the stains on the card.

It may not seem very important to you today, but imagine how interesting it was for me to read my Grandma Vera Chenoweth’s diary and find out she had her FIRST decorated birthday cake at the age of 52!  I hadn’t ever considered the idea of how unique a decorated cake would  have seemed to her.  It gave me a perspective to think at age 54 how often I had a decorated cake for an occasion.

It was very easy to begin my journey to family genealogy thanks to those ancestors.  I vow to make it easy for my ancestors to find it easy also.  Hopefully this blog can be saved in perpetuity and someday my great great granddaughter can laugh at the picture of me in my high school basketball uniform.  My future grandson or granddaughter can grow to appreciate the stories of their ancestors as much as I have.

WRITE IT DOWN, please!  Write about your daily life. Write about your first experience at school, your first love, your first job, your biggest triumph or disappointment in life.  Share the good, the bad and the ugly, so to speak.  The more honest you are when writing, the more people understand what a complex creature you are and a treasure.

EASY

E – Elaborate – tell as much as you can

A – Acknowledge – share who was important to you.  First teacher who left an impact, a coach who pushed you, or a friend who stood by your side should be acknowledge.

S – Spell it out!  Write so that the person reading can piece together the relationships of those you are referring to.

Y – YOU – only YOU can leave this legacy. No one else can tell the story like you can.  Write when the notion hits you or do it every day.  Either will work, but just make sure to write and reflect.

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – CHALLENGING

This week’s topic is “Challenging” and it is challenging, so to speak.  I have certain ancestors I don’t know much about and haven’t had much luck in the research of them.  I haven’t delved deep enough, so to speak, into their past.  I’m certain there are most likely documents to help me should I be patient enough to take the time to research further.

Mariah Sherman Clanin was my 3rd great grandmother.  She was born in Ohio in 1813 to Thomas R. Sherman (1792-1847) and Lavinia Barr (1791-1817).  I have always been a great lover of history and especially the American Civil War.  Obviously, my mind first went to the fact General William Tecumseh Sherman was born in Ohio in 1820 and I’ve wondered ever since if we weren’t somehow related.  I’m still wondering and searching.  Mariah married Edwad Clanin while living in Ohio and they later moved to Fulton County, Illinois.

William Tecumseh Sherman was born in February of 1820 in Ohio to the Hon. Charles Robert Sherman (1788-1829) and Mary Hoyt (1787-1852).  “Cump” Sherman as he was affectionately known to family members had several siblings: Hon. Charles T. Sherman, Mary Elizabeth Reese, James Sherman, Amelia McComb, Julia Ann Willock, Lampson Parker Sherman, John “The Ohio Icicle” Sherman – U.S. Senator and U. S. Secretary of Treasury & State, Susan Denman Sherman, Hoyt Sherman and Frances Beecher Moulton.

My great grandmother also had many siblings and half-siblings: John C. Sherman, Sarah Sherman, Lavinia Sherman, Margaret N. Sherman, Amanda Sherman, Andrew Sherman, Nancy Sherman, and James Sherman.  None seem to match up with any of “Cump” Sherman’s.

Several of the given names are similar between families, but they also are not that unique to be a factor in connecting the two families.

Edw and Mariah Sherman Clanin

Edw and Mariah Sherman Clanin

Mariah died in 1890, four years prior to Edward’s death.  She was 77 years old at her death.  I believe this photo was probably taken not too long prior to 1890.  She seems to be holding spectacles in her right hand.  Edward is holding some sort of paper.  It is known that he served in the Army during some war with Indians as a family member has a buffalo coat he gained during that war.  Perhaps he had difficulties with his hands due to age.

Mariah is pretty challenging.  I intend to keep working on her to match her up, hopefully, with William Tecumseh Sherman, but if I don’t find a connection, it certainly won’t change my interest in General Sherman.  Who knows…if I got back far enough, I might find the connection!

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – HALFWAY

Theresa Hanlach Yess (1824-1910) August Yess  (1829-1905)

Theresa Hanlach Yess (1824-1910)
August Yess
(1829-1905)

This week marks the halfway point in my 52 Ancestors Challenge and the theme is appropriately halfway.  A suggested twist on the theme was to discuss an ancestor who you feel you have only halfway researched.  With much thought, I decided to further discuss my 2nd great grandfather, August Yess.

Here’s what I do know:  August Yess, as he was known in Peoria, IL, was born 29 January 1829 in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. We believe he immigrated to America via Baltimore, Maryland in 1852.  In 1855, he married Teresa A. Hanlach, also originally from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.  They had six children: Charles, Mary, William, Amanda, Joseph and John.  August died in 1905 and Teresa died in 1910.

I feel I only know half his story because Yess  cannot be his true surname.  Yess is not a German surname.  Much like many Germans who immigrated to the United States, the spelling of their surname was changed. Naturalization papers from 29 October 1892, show August Gess becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States.   He would have been 63 years old at the time and had lived in the U.S. for a length of 40 years.  Why did he suddenly feel the need to become a naturalized citizen after 40 years?

August was only 23 years old when he came to America.  I don’t know why he immigrated here, but I have learned a lot about Germany at the time from an Latter Day Saints genealogist who specializes in Germany.  King William and Baden were in upheaval during the 1850’s and he subsequently lost power to his son, Charles.  The political upheaval led to military action which led to emigration of many Germans.  Economic pressure also caused many Germans to emigrate to the United States.  Was it military servitude or no money that caused August to leave?

I don’t know anything about his family.  I haven’t successfully found records indicating who his parents were, how many siblings he had, where exactly was his home?  Funny how these pieces to the puzzle tell so much about an individual.  Without these important components, one can only speculate on motive.

I don’t know if he came to the United States with any funds at all. Records did indicate he worked as a teamster for a time in Peoria County, Illinois after he immigrated.  He also owned quite a bit of farmland in Jubilee Township of Peoria County, Illinois near the Princeville area.  The Yess family still lives on Yess Road near Princeville.  I do know upon his death, August had amassed quite a bit of money and land.  Peoria County, Illinois probate records indicate he had 15 different Certificates of Deposits in five different banks; three different personal loans he held from individuals, and rent due from a piece of real estate identified as “No. 1311 First Street” – town unknown,  another listed as “H.A. Tuttle house” and “Lynch house” and various farms.

In total, August Yess or Gess of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany was worth $19,983 in 1905 which would be worth nearly $540,000 in 2015.  How did he purchase so much land, so many city lots and collect so much money?  It’s going to require more research. Below are a just a very few of the probate records I have for August Yess.

August Yess Probate File Page 1

August Yess Probate File Page 1

August Yess Probate File Page 2

August Yess Probate File Page 2

August Yess Probate File Page 3

August Yess Probate File Page 3

August Yess Probate File Pg 4

August Yess Probate File Pg 4

Halfway through the year with 52 Ancestors Challenge and I am compiling a list titled “I Want To Know”.  #1 on this list will start with August Yess/Gess family history.  In order to learn some of this information, I’ve decided to take the next step and study German at my university this fall.  I don’t expect to become a phenom at it or a native speaker, but I do hope to be able to understand some of the basic documents I attempt to read.  I’m hoping if I meet August halfway by learning German, he will disclose more information as a thanks.

Knowing only half his story is like viewing a two dimensional photograph and attempting to see a three dimensional person.  There are too many missing details.  It’s time to fill in the details.

August Yess -Probate-List of Assets and Notes pg 1

August Yess -Probate-List of Assets and Notes pg 1

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 2

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 2

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 3

August Yess Probate List of Assets and Notes pg 3

52 Ancestors Challenge – Commencement

COMMENCEMENT – the act or instance of commencing; beginning.

Eliza Jane Hulvey (b:5 April 1832  d:25 March 1885) was the 13th and last child born to Philip and Amelia (Walters) Hulvey of Augusta County, Virginia.  She is my 3rd great grandmother and she is wrapped up in beginnings and endings.  She ultimately had to face a commencement any woman who is a mother knows would be the last scenario you could withstand.  Indulge me while I tell her somewhat complicated story.

John Sheets WhiteA marriage license was issued on 24 August 1854 for Eliza Jane Hulvey and John Sheets White.  Eliza and John were both 22 years old at the time.  However, their first child is listed with a birthdate in 1853.  Did they not apply for the actual license till much after the ceremony was performed? That question is yet to be answered.

John Sheets White

Their children were Mary Agnes White (b. 1853), an infant that died at birth in 1855, John Newton Ellisander White (b. 1856), James William White (b. 1857), Pricilla Emma White (b 1858) and Della Margaret White (b. 1860).  Della was my 2nd great grandmother.

According to the book Hulvey Clan Historical Ties by Velma June Good Hulvey, (p. 301) “They left Virginia and lived for a short time in Ohio.”  But family documents show John Sheets White listed as a Prisoner of War on September 27, 1862 after the Battle of Antietam during the US Civil War. The Battle of Antietam was held September 17, 1862.

Oath of Allegiance Eliza Jane Hulvey White

Oath of Allegiance Eliza Jane Hulvey White

However, family records also show Eliza and the five oldest children were in Ohio during this same time period when they contracted diptheria.  Legend has it an Indian woman nursed the family during their awful illness. Unfortunately, the four oldest children — Mary Agnes, John Newton Ellisander, James William and Pricilla Emma — all died from diptheria between the 2nd and 9th of September 1862. Only Della Margaret, the youngest and Eliza, her mother survived.  Eliza went from having a family of five children and a husband, to a woman who was unsure where her husband was during the war and a mother who had lost four children.

Records don’t help to bring this story into focus, though.  We only know that on 25th September of 1863, Eliza and two small children were given an Army pass to travel to Winchester, Virginia.  Della would have been one of the children.  The next child born was Elly Walters White (b. 1861 d. 1865).  If Elly was born in 1861, why was he not with Eliza and the other children when they contracted diptheria?

The next record shows a pass in October of 1863 at Martinsburg, VA for Miss L. White on B & R Railroad good for one day only.  An Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America accompanies the pass she received.  The Oath describes her as “Age: 29, Height: 5 ft. 3, Complexion: dark, Eyes:blue, Hair:brown”.

Not long after this John and Eliza must have been reunited as Robert Franklin White was born in August of 1864. By 1877, five more daughters and one son were born to John and Eliza.  Their family moved to Illinois where they would someday be buried.

The gaps in the records are still to be filled, but we know Eliza ultimately gave birth to 14 children in 23 years.  The first four children died of diptheria.  Della, the youngest at the time, survived to become the oldest of the remaining eight children who reached adulthood.  The end of the Civil War was the beginning of a new life for Eliza and John where their family would set down roots and continue to grow.  The commencement of a new life for her was not without its pain.

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – There’s a Way

Veronica “Faroneka” Sophronia Bootz  – if that really was the correct spelling of her name, was my 2nd great grandmother.  She has always been an enigma.  German-born with a German last name, although again I suspect it is incorrectly spelled on documents in the United States, she insisted my 2nd great grandfather Johann Bernard Schmitt Anglicize his name before she would marry him.  He became John Bernard Smith.  It was 1856 in Peoria County, Illinois when they married.

Veronika Bootz Smith

Veronika Bootz Smith

She is one of those story puzzles you work on in 3rd grade where several words are missing from sentences and you have to guess what will complete the story.  At this point, I don’t have the missing words to fill in much.  What I do know was she found a way  –  a way to leave Hesse-Darmstedt, Germany with one of her brothers, Peter,  and sister, Elizabeth, to avoid a physically abusive relationship with their father.

Family records are usually homogenized. If the victors of war write the histories, then the most politically-correct Casper Milquetoast individual must be the writer of family stories.  They are usually sugar-coated and boring. “George Edward was born in 1801, the third of five children….”  The truly interesting and rich family histories are those that reveal what life was really like –  REALLY like.

Fortunately some of those stories remain in the form of family letters written to an uncle in Peoria, IL.  For many years they were unreadable to my uni-lingual family.  We understand English and a few smattering of words from high school French and Spanish.  These letters were written in Old German- I don’t recall if it was Low German or High German.  A German professor at the nearby university translated them for my mother back in the late 1970s.  When we read the translation, we were stunned with the revelations disclosed to the uncle by Peter.  He blatantly states he and his sisters desire to come to the United States and live with their uncle as their father regularly beat them.  If you read between the lines it was obvious the uncle in the U.S. was well aware of it, but was much more kind to his nieces and nephews.  So physical abuse by their father – and the desire to see the United States and prosper in the new country led to a pleading letter.  There were a precious few letters between the two men.  Our family is not even sure why we have possession of them, but fortunately we do.

Peter, Elizabeth and Veronika Bootz found their way out of Germany and out of physical oppression at the hand of their father.  They found a way to get to Peoria, Illinois.  Veronika found Johann Bernard Schmitt and married him, soon to become Mrs. John Smith.   How ironic the brutal reality of their family letters wove a complicated tale about family relationships that was anything but simple or homogenized.  Yet, when she married and adopted the American spelling of her husband’s name, she became any other “Mrs. John Smith” in America.

She found a way to slip into the shadows of the new country perhaps to hide her abusive past.  Leaving the old country was not always about finding new found riches or abundant land, sometimes it was about blending in to the background or escaping your terrible past.  Most important was in a time when women had little decisions to make on their own and were often victims of their circumstances, Veronika and Elizabeth along with Peter found a way.

52 Ancestors Challenge – Where’s There’s a Will

It was familiar, it was local and it was hiding a family secret.  Not only had I lived near Western Illinois University my whole life, but I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the institution. I had visited the Leslie Malpass Library numerous times. Teachers do LOVE homework and especially homework with research.  Research leads to libraries.  Libraries HIDE archives….well, not literally, but most people don’t think to check them out.

The Illinois Regional Archives Depository, better known as IRAD, is located on seven different state university campuses in Illinois. (Yes, we did get this thing right as well as claiming Abraham Lincoln.) IRADs hold archival documents for the state, which include birth, marriage and death records, county board proceedings, land deeds, mortgages and tax sales as well as probate records.  Probate records – right there under my nose – on the sixth floor of the building where I was researching the impact of recreation facilities on students in higher education. Secrets are always kept in the attic.  Every child knows if you want to find Grandma’s good stuff, go to the attic.  You’ll find her flapper dress from the 1920’s or flower power child picture of her from the 1960’s.  You’ll find your parents report cards, 4-H records and school yearbooks in attics. Your mom’s favorite doll, your dad’s favorite toy car and baseball glove in the attic. The items that tell our family stories are stored in attics…or on the sixth floor of the Western Illinois University library in IRAD!

By chance, I went to the IRAD and was interested in the Peoria County, Illinois records they had.  I was actually looking for information on my 2nd great grandfather and grandmother, August and Theresa Yess, but what happened “leafed out” the branch of our family tree instead. My maternal grandmother’s family were English (Harrison) and German (Schmitt).  The Harrisons were prolific collectors of family history. Must be something English.  The Schmitts or Shmitts or Smiths only had a little information.  We knew they had come to Peoria, IL from Germany.  We knew their names were Johann Bernard Schmitt and Veronika “Sophronia” Bootz and we knew they would later own ground in Jubilee Township, Peoria County, Illinois. We knew their children’s names. There was little more than that to fill out the branches.

Veronika Bootz Smith

Veronika Bootz Smith

This is where the “attic” on the sixth floor of Leslie Malpass Library came into play.  I asked in IRAD if they had any records for the name Bootz or Schmitt or Shmitt. (The last had to be a made-up spelling as that is not a combination of letters in German that are used – the “h” and “m” together.) Suddenly the lady returned with a legal-sized folder full of papers  – probate records.  This is the gold mine I found.

WILL OF JOHN B. SCHMITT In the name of God, Amen, I John B. Schmitt of the Town of Jubilee in the County of Peoria and State of Illinois of the age of 56 years and being of sound mind and memory do make publish and declare this my last Will and Testament in the manner following that in to say: FIRST: I give and bequeath to my wife, Veronica Schmitt all my possessions, both real and personal of what kind so ever together with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging to have and to hold for use and benefit during the term of her Natural life Time.

SECOND: At the Death of my wife, Veronica Schmitt, I give and Bequeath to my Son, William Wallace Schmitt all the piece or parcals of Lands as followes – the North West quarter of Section Eleven together with the West half of South West quarter of Section Eleven all in Township Ten North Six East of the fourth principle Merridian. Together with all the hereditaments ad appurtenances thereunto belonging to have and to hold the premises above described to the said William Wallace Schmitt his Heirs and assigns forever.

THIRD: At the death of my wife, Veronica Schmitt, I give an Bequeath to my son, George Schmitt, all pieces or pracals of Lands as followes – the North East quarter of Section Eleven and the East Half of South West quarter of Section Eleven to hold the premises above described with all the hereditaments and impertinences thereunto belonging to him the said, George Schmitt, his heirs and assignees forever. And I further provide that should theire be any back payments or incumberance on the North West quarter of Section Eleven at the death of my wife, Veronica Schmitt, my son, George Schmitt, shall assign and pay one half of said indebtedness or should the title to the North West quarter of Section Eleven not be secured then the North East Quarter of Section Eleven and North West quarter of Section Eleven to be equally divided between my two sons, William Wallace Schmitt and George Schmitt to be held to them their heirs and assignees forever.

FOURTH: At the death of my wife, Veronica, Schmitt, I give and bequeath to my daughter, Lizzie Schmitt Feaser, and her husband Wm. Feaser that piece or parcel of Land described as followes – the West half of the North West quarter of Section Twenty Six in Township Eleven North Six East of the fourth princaple merridian together with all the hereditaments and impertinences thereunto belonging to have and to hold for them and theire use during the term of their naturel life time and at the death of Lizzie Schmitt Feaser and her husband William Feaser to be equally divided among their Children of the said, Lizzie Schmitt Feaser share and share alike if an are living. Should there be none living at the time of their death when it shall be Equally divided between my Two Sons, William Wallace Schmitt and George Schmitt, to be held to them their heirs and assignees forever. And further that any personal property belonging to my Eastate at the death of my wife Veronica Schmitt it shall be equally devided between my Two sons, Wiliam Wallace Schmitt and George Schmitt, AND: Lastly, I hereby appoint my wife, Veronica Schmitt to be Executrix of this my last Will an Testament without Bonds. She to approve and pay all Lawfull debts owed by me at the time of my deceace and hereby revocking all former wills made by me.

WITNESS: Whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seale this day of October AD 1884. (sig) John B. Shmitt

The probate records also listed all his worldly possessions down to how many down feather ticks for the beds they owned.  The value of cattle and how many bushels of oats were also listed in the will and probate records. There it was!  Buried in a library at the University I attended and work at.

Next time your mother suggests you study at the library, better take her up on it.  You might find your relatives there.

52 Ancestors Challenge – How Do You Spell That?

German is NOT an easy language!  Any language that would take the simple word of paratrooper and turn it into “fallschirmjager” is not an easy language to read or speak!  In 1981, I traded off my Cornish-sounding last name of “Chenoweth” – which means “new house” (Chy noweth) for the German grounded “Terstriep”  Yes, that’s right…TER STR IEP…No, Not EIP, but IEP….Once again, TER ST RI EP.  It’s not an easy name to spell.

Herman Terstriep family prior to Christina Tenk Terstriep's death in 1909.

Herman Terstriep family prior to Christina Tenk Terstriep’s death in 1909.

My husband’s 2nd great grandfather was Herman Terstriep. Herman’s father is listed in baptism records in Germany as either Johann Bernard Terstriep OR Johann Bernard Striepert.  The alternative name shows up in other records dating back into the 1700s.

The family story has always been that “Terstriep” is not actually the correct spelling of the name, but a schoolteacher a few centuries back changed the spelling. Really a schoolteacher? Of all occupations, one would assume the schoolteacher would spell the name correctly.

While I can’t corraborate that story, I can tell you the name has been misspelled and mispronounced by friends, teachers, clergy, neighbors and officials ever since.  “Tur-strip”, “Tier-strip”, “Tur-stripe” and a few other derogatory versions have been cooked up over the years.  Even my smartphone pronounces it differently – “Tur – STREEP”….ugh!

According to author Michael K. Brinkman in the book, “Quincy, Illinois Immigrants from Munsterland Westphalia Germany Volume II “Ter- is used as a prefix for surnames in many towns of western Munsterland.  In Dutch, the word means at, in or to.  Some examples are: Terbrack (at the fallow field), Terliesner (at the Liesner forest area between Gescher and Legden in Munsterland), and Terstegge (at a steep path or foot bridge). Every German immigrant in Quincy (IL) whose name began with the prefix “Ter-” came from western Munsterland.”

Western Germany is where my husband’s family came from.  Dating back well into the 1700s, there has always been a “Terstriep” in the parish records at Sankt Marien Roemisch-Katholische church in Alstaette, Ahaus, Westfalen, Prussia. It appears the spelling error was in vogue for a few years, but the rightful spelling was reinstated some time later.

So, once again, I went looking for clues as to how the name Terstriep came to exist.  If ‘Ter-‘ was to be paired with some other word to denote ‘at, in or to’ what was the other word?  That I’d have to ponder.

In previous blogs, I’ve referred to the fact I often “talk” to my ancestors.  While I don’t actually verbalize out loud to them , I internally talk to them.  I’ve asked them to help me find their gravestones, to tell me their stories and in this case, I’ve asked my husband’s ancestors to help me find the “Striep” in Terstriep.

While checking out what our German cousins were doing on a particular weekend (yes, there are still Terstrieps in Alstaate, Ahaus, Germany), I found one of them was visiting an island in the Netherlands.  Being the snoopy person I am, I looked the island up on the map.  Quaint, small, and honestly I didn’t realize there was this chain of islands off the coast of the Netherlands. They looked beautiful.  In some places, you are only allowed to ride bikes for transportation! Who knew?

As I scanned the map of the Terschelling Island, I found a very, very small town called (you guessed it) Striep. Somewhere in my investigation, I found this means “ditch”.  “Ditch” in Dutch. Literally, the name Terstriep must mean “at, on, or to the ditch”.  The ditch?  That’s it?  Misspelled, mispronounced and misunderstood and it just means “At the ditch”?

In 1867, Herman Terstriep (shown above) and his wife, Christina Tenk Terstriep, immigrated to the United States through New Orleans, LA.  They most likely took a steamship up the Mississippi River to Quincy, Illinois to join many other German immigrants from nearby Munsterland.  Every Terstriep in the United States, and there isn’t a great deal of us, can be traced back to Herman.

When you think of it, the Mississippi can be a wild and wooly river, but in reality it starts as a small stream…in a ditch…in Minnesota.  A ditch.   It all goes back to the ditch.  “Yes, that’s right T E R -S T R – I E P…we pronounce it Tur-strip.  Yes, I know it sounds funny.  It’s German.”

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – FAVORITE PHOTO

Photography didn’t begin until the late 1820’s or early 1830’s.  A Frenchman by the name of Joseph Nicephore Niepce is generally credited with taking the first photo.  While I have many photos of family members, one of my favorite photos is not of an actual person, but instead of a simple military stone placed in his memory.

  • Michael France was my 4th great grandfather.  Born 6 October, 1776 in Frankin County, Virginia  to John France and Mary “Polly” McTier.   Michael France was born into the American colonies – a country that was in turmoil.
  • The United States of America wasn’t formed yet.
  • Nathan Hale had been executed a mere two weeks prior to Michael France’s birth.
  • George Washington had finally won his first battle victory in the War for Independence at The Battle of Harlem Heights.
  • The Marquis de Lafayette wouldn’t show up on the scene for another six weeks  to assist the fledgling rebels.

Michael’s father, John France, later served in the Virginia Line of the Continental Army from March 1781 until September 1783 during the American Revolution.  John was later awarded a pension of $76 per year beginning in 1818 when John France was 73 years old.  (U. S. Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications from 1899 to 1970 for Michael France)

Michael France Pvt. Ohio Mtd. Militia, War of 1812,  Oct 6, 1776 - Nov 1, 1867

Michael France Pvt. Captain Haines’ Ohio Mtd. Militia, War of 1812,
Oct 6, 1776 – Nov 1, 1867

Michael France married Rebecca Henry 5 February 1798 in Franklin County, Virginia.  They later  had eight children – four boys (Orville, John, Jesse, Thomas Henry A.) and four girls (Anna, Elizabeth, Susannah and Jennette).  Michael  was mustered into service of the Haines’ Ohio Mounted Militia in 1812, leaving Rebecca with eight small children to care for.

Michael France fought for Haines' Mtd. Militia in Ohio during the War of 1812.

Michael France fought for Haines’ Mtd. Militia in Ohio during the War of 1812.

In 1835, Michael and Rebecca moved to Illinois where they lived until their deaths. Michael died in 1867 at the age of 91 years old.  He had lived through the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and came to Illinois soon after the Black Hawk War. In his lifetime, he’d seen the Mexican War in 1846 to 1848,  the American Civil War and the beginning of the Indian Wars out west.

So what was the significance of the photo of the military stone for Michael France? To me it is a simple reminder of a sacrifice my ancestor made to develop this strong country.  It reminds also that John France served the new nation when Michael was only five years old.  Michael France served his country when six of his eight children were age 10 and younger. It reminds me of how much history passed his eyes during his lifetime.  It reminds me of the sacrifices of many military men during the many battles and wars America has fought.

It reminds me those sacrifices are honored with a simple stone – strong, graceful, unyielding to wind, water and time.  The photo reminds me I come from Patriot blood.

52 Ancestors Challenge – Different

Different, unique, outside the norm – we all have ancestors who can be classified as such.  Daniel and Mary V.(Peroni) Medi fill this category for me.  I don’t know much about them.  They are my only ancestors from France in my heavily English and German family. Little snippets of information dangle teasing me to spend more time finding them.  Little snippets – they were born in France in early 1820s.  Clues – Napoleon had just died; Young and Champollion had just broken the code of the Rosetta Stone. France was still in turmoil over who its true ruler should be.This is the world into which Daniel Medi and Mary Peroni were born.  Why did they immigrate to the United States?  What caused them to leave?  Where were they married?  Did they have siblings?  What was their backstory?

Daniel Medi's Death Certificate

Daniel Medi’s Death Certificate

Mary V. Peroni Medi's Death Certificate

Mary V. Peroni Medi’s Death Certificate

Somewhere along the line they were married and immigrated to the United States. Their first child – Mary Victoria Medi – was born in 1850 in France. Daughter #2 – Mary Margaret Medi followed in 1853 born in New Jersey.  Mary Augusta Medi followed the next year being born in New Jersey. Mary Rosa Medi and Mary Katherine Medi were both born prior to moving to Illinois.  Mary Louisa Medi was the first child born in Illinois. Mary Josephine was born in Jubilee Township, Peoria County, Illinois in 1866 as was the last daughter, Mary Caroline Medi.   Eight daughters – all named Mary XX.  Now that’s different and nearly a genealogist’s nightmare!

Mary Josephine Medi Yess Hargadine

Mary Josephine Medi Yess Hargadine – my great grandmother

These 2nd great grandparents are different in that I can find little about them save a tombstone in Peoria County, Illinois.  They appear in the 1860 and 1880 Census for the State of Illinois, but other than showing their nativity as France, no other clues exist.  Peoria County, Illinois is a heavy German immigrant area.  Did the Medi’s live near the border with Germanic areas?  Medi and Peroni don’t seem to be traditional French names.  They lack the sound of a French ancestry.

All together, they are just different – the odd branch sticking out on the family tree.   One would assume they were Roman Catholic with eight daughters named Mary.  Could there be parish papers for baptism to fill in blank spaces?

I’ll have to leave that mystery for a ….different day.