Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day: Remembering Family Members Who Gave Their All

As our country remembers those who have founght and died for our freedom, I wanted to share stories of two of my family members who died while in service to our country.

Revolutionary War - Isaac Vincent

In 1772, the Vincent families and others had moved from Essex County, New Jersey, to current day Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. For several years, they lived peacefully near the local Indians. But, trouble started brewing in 1777. By 1779, about 13 families were living in a large, two-story house around which they had built a 12-foot high wall around. It enclosed a half acre and they called it Fort Freeland.

Hower-Slote House.jpg
Fort Freeland (from Wikipedia)

Life was fairly normal at the fort. Isaac Vincent's wife gave birth to a son, George, in February of 1779. Two other babies were also born at the fort. The men even planted corn in a field at the back of the fort that spring.

On July 21st, some men were working in the corn field when they were attacked by a party of Indians. Isaac Vincent, only 22 years old, was killed along with two other men. Isaac's 10-year-old brother, Benjamin, was taken captive along with another male. Their brother, Daniel Vincent, about 19-years-old, outran the captors.

About 6 hours after the attack, the captured young Benjamin was shown the scalp of his brother, Isaac, and he knew Isaac had been killed.

Eight days later, the fort was attacked by about 300 Indians and British. With only 21 men left at the fort, they quickly surrendered. Most of the remaining men were taken as prisoners and "marched" to Canada while the women, children, and "old men" were set free and walked eighteen miles to Northumberland.

Nineteen year old Daniel Vincent was my 5th great grandfather. His older brother, Isaac, lost his life at the fort. Daniel was a prisoner in Canada for three years, after which he returned home to his wife. I wrote about his story in "Prisoner of War Love Story."

My 6th great grandparents, Cornelius & Phoebe Vincent, were in their mid-forties and also at the fort. Phoebe and another woman helped to turn their plates and spoons into bullets and, as such, is a DAR eligible ancestor. Cornelius also was a prisoner in Canada for three years. After his return, "he carried ankle and wrist scars from English shackles" the rest of his life.

My 7th great grandparents, John & Elizabeth Vincent, were each about 70 years old when they were attacked at Fort Freeland. As Elizabeth was crippled, John spoke with the British and was given a horse for his wife to ride and he wasn't taken captive with the younger men.

My Vincent family suffered a great deal as they lost their son, Isaac, and the younger men were taken prisoner and not seen for three years.

  • "Warrior Run - Fort Freeland Heritage Society" webpage
  • "Access Genealogy: Fort Freeland, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania" webpage
  • "Rootsweb: III An Account of the First White Settlement on Warrior Run" webpage

War of 1812 - Elkanah Anderson

Elkanah Anderson and his brother-in-law, Thomas B Whitwell, were two of my 5 times great grandfathers. In December 1814, Elkanah and Thomas joined the West Tennessee Milita and were "part of a flotila that went down to New Orleans via the Cumberland, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers." Once there, they fought in the famous Battle of New Orleans under Andrew Jackson. During the bloody, one-sided battle which lasted only about 30 minutes on January 8th, the British suffered 2,000 casualties while the Americans only had about one hundred.

Painting of Battle of New Orleans by Edward Percy Moran (from Wikipedia)

According to the Tennessee Archives site, there weren't any battle casualties in Elkanah's and Thomas' regiement, but there were "many deaths due to sickness" in February and March. Elkanah Anderson died on January 14th, just 6 days after the big battle. Was he one of the first to die of disease? Or did he die of battle wounds? And was he buried in an unmarked grave in New Orleans as family stories tell us?

Thomas returned home to tell his wife that her brother, Elkanah, had died in New Orleans. Elkanah's wife was presumably pregnant with their seventh child at the time of his death. Although I'm not sure exactly how he died, he died defending our young nation.

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

Friday, May 27, 2016

"To Rescue from Oblivion"

My 6x great grandparents, Cornelius and Phebe (Ward) Vincent, both fought for freedom during the Revolutionary War. Over 100 years ago, a newspaper journalist visited the cemetery where they had been buried more than 100 years earlier. He wrote a wonderful description of the cemetery, and happened to include the inscription of my ancestor's headstone! 

Image of tombstone of Cornelius and Phebe Vincent taken by Jeff Harvey and posted 21 Nov 2012

This headstone is now more than 200 years old and is mostly unreadable. I appreciate Jeff Harvey, a volunteer at Find A Grave, for posting this photo and granting me permission to share it.

The cemetery, located in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, is described in 1911 as follows: 

Within a few miles from this [Watsontown] borough is an ancient cemetery that is without doubt among the most peculiar and noticeable to strangers passing by that can be found in Pennsylvania. It is situated within the shadow of the old Warrior Run Presbyterian church in Delaware township - a church massive in proportions built nearly a century ago of brick, with heavy English pillars in front. It stands upon a rise of ground and is surrounded by a grove of mammoth oaks, under which the open gatherings of its people are held annually.

Image of Warrior Run Cemetery, approximately 100 years after article.
Photo taken by Jeff Harvey and posted 21 Nov 2012
Within the church yard adjoining sleep today hundreds of members who have passed within the vale during the century past after living for many years under the teachings given from the pulpit of this ancient edifice. The cemetery is not large in area, but rows of white marble slabs extend the length of this plot so closely connected that passage between is almost impossible. Almost every foot of ground is occupied by monuments, slabs and markers, the whole presenting a little white city of the dead, imposing and beautiful, and one not to be equaled in this section of the state. Surrounding the while is a heavy wall surrounded by a steel cap. All is kept in excellent repair and everything within is a model of neatness, the result of constant care and attention. A stranger will be impressed with all the surroundings and as he enters the gates and passes among the[m] some strange inscriptions will be seen. Among them the following are of interest.

These Catch the Eye. [My family is the 2nd monument listed, so I'm skipping the first.]

This monument is erected by John Vincent, Esq, to rescue from oblivion the memory of his beloved parents, Cornelius and Phebe Vincent. They were born in Newark, N. J. and died in Milton, Pa. He [last line of paper & very smeared, but the inscription is posted on Find A Grave, so I'll continue...] died July 16th 1812 in the 76th year. She died February 25th 1809, in her 70th year. Here the weary are at rest. [The newspaper has a typo saying "she died... 1908, but it should be 1809.]

I am grateful to this newspaper for publishing this account, and also to John Vincent, Esq (1772-1860), a brother of my direct ancestor, Daniel Vincent Esq (1760-1827), for erecting this wonderful monument to our common ancestors.

Source: [Watsontown, Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 25 Apr 1911, page 7, column 6, digital image, ( : accessed 25 May 2016]

My Line of Descent:

  • Cornelius Vincent (1736-1812) m. Phebe Ward (1740-1809)
  • Daniel Vincent (1760-1827) m. Angelchy Hough/Huff/Heuff (1760-1821)
  • Elizabeth "Betsy" Vincent (1789-1846) m. George Watson (1783-1856)
  • Sarah Jane Watson (1826-1853) m. John Quiggle Stewart (1825-1883)
  • Alexander Stewart (1852-1922) m. Catherine Jane McClintock (1850-1929)
  • Andrew McClintock Stewart (1882-1954) m. Bessie Waldron Merrill (1879-1959)
  • My paternal grandfather

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Genealogy Course Review: Guide to Documentation & Source Citation

I recently finished my second online course offered through the National Genealogical Society. This course, by Michael Grant Hait Jr, is all about creating citations. "American Genealogical Studies: Guide to Documentation and Source Citation" and "The Basics," which I took earlier, are prerequisites to "AGS: Beyond the Basics."

Free Clipart from Clipart Panda

The course consists of three modules:

  • Introduction to Documentation
  • Basic Citation Principles
  • Applying Basic Citation Principles
As I went through the modules, I gained confidence in my ability to cite sources. Beyond the basic "formula" for citation creations, examples were given for: books, periodicals, electronic sources, original records, census records, military records, pension application files, immigration records, vital records, court files, court registers, church records, and manuscript collections.

Each module ends with a quiz. The first two quizzes were fine. However, the final quiz was incredibly frustrating! In fact, instead of feeling confident in my ability to create citations, I didn't want to ever create another citation again!

Thankfully, I'm now taking another online course where I have to cite a lot of sources. I say thankfully because, although it was incredibly stressful at first, it is getting easier with practice! I don't know that I'm getting them all "right" - and there isn't always one "right" way to create a citation - but I'm getting them done! And, as I'm reading through the articles we are given to analyze, I'm studying how those who have been published created their citations.

As with "The Basics," I have mixed feelings about this course. Besides the final quiz, which took me about a week to pass, the course only took me about a week. I don't think it is worth the $45 I spent on it. However, members can buy both of these beginner courses as a bundle for $75. I bought them separately for a total of $90!

P.S. If you are considering continuing with the next course, Beyond the Basics, please read my disappointing review. I hope AGS will make some changes to these courses!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May I Introduce You to... Me!

Recently, Michelle Ganus Taggart of A Southern Sleuth interviewed me for GeneaBlogger's "May I Introduce You to..." series. With permission, here is the interview:

Me (age 7) outside of my Ark City home
Dana, tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what is your current hometown?

“Ark City, Kansas was my childhood home. Our blue house was two stories tall and built in the late 1800s. I have fond memories of the house, but even fonder memories of our yard and the pretend games we would play.

“I now live in a suburb of Houston, Texas, with my husband of 23 years and our 15 year-old daughter who is a sophomore in high school. We don’t have any family nearby, but travel to visit them in the Dallas area and in Oklahoma as often as we can. None of my immediate family still lives in Ark City, but I still have cousins, an aunt and an uncle, and other family living there and love to visit my childhood hometown.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“In 1998, our family was preparing for a family reunion. We didn’t have reunions on a regular basis, and I hadn’t attended any of them since I had married 5 years earlier. Once again, I would not be able to attend.

“But, the invitation mentioned the family history research my dad’s Aunt Beulah had been doing. I was interested in learning more and contacted her via email. She eagerly and generously began sharing both her files and her knowledge with her young student.

“One of the best lessons she taught me happened within those first few months. I did a lot of my research in my local genealogy library, the incredible Clayton Genealogy Library in Houston. But, I also did a lot of work online, often through queries.

“One day when I was working with the tree Aunt Beulah had sent me, I discovered another researcher who had taken one of our branches back several more generations. I happily added all of the names, dates, and places and then told my aunt about my wonderful find. She quickly and firmly explained that this was not the way to do genealogy. You couldn’t just find someone else’s tree and add all the information. You had to have sufficient evidence before adding to your tree. I’m grateful to have learned that wonderful lesson as a new researcher.”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog? 

“I had our first and only child a couple of years after starting genealogy in 1998. I homeschooled her for most of her life, but as she’s gotten older and more independent, I’ve had more free time. So, though I’ve technically been a genealogist for about 17 years, it’s only been the past few years that I’ve once again had time to work on it weekly, if not daily.

“As I dove deeper into genealogy, I started making some incredible discoveries. Near the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, I made my first “leap across the pond” when I found one immigrant family’s original village in Germany. I quickly found another branch’s hometown, also in Germany, and then a third branch’s place of origin in England.

“Besides these wonderful discoveries, I have also had wonderful success with newspaper work. I haven’t just uncovered the typical obituaries, I have also uncovered two murders in my family and more details about a third. And, there were stories about hurricanes, train and car wrecks, strange medical conditions, and more. I just had to share these stories!

“So, in March of 2013, I started my blog. It’s a place for me to share the incredible stories of these ordinary people: my family.”

How did you choose the name of your blog?

“Shortly before starting my blog, I was visiting the genealogy floor of the Dallas library for the first time. I met two wonderful librarians and we shared stories about our research and our ancestors. I certainly wasn’t using a library voice as I exclaimed over several new finds that day and shared them with the librarians. One of the discoveries was the hometown of my Eastwood family in England.  The volunteer sitting at the front sign-in desk came over to me and told me how much she enjoyed my enthusiasm. When I decided to start a blog, I thought the name fit. I am definitely an enthusiastic genealogist!”

What is your favorite post(s) on your blog?

“It’s hard to choose a single favorite, so I’ve chosen three that I love:

“The first was about my 4x great grandfather and his pet bear – yes, bear! – which went missing one morning. What happened when they found it? The answer is in my post called My 4x Great Grandfather Had a Pet Bear!!!

“The second was about my great, great grandmother and the unusual object she threw up in 1917. Was it really a lizard? You can find out more at My Great, Great Grandmother Threw up WHAT?!?

“And, a third post is also one of my most popular posts. It’s about the surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. My husband’s 3x great grandfather’s brother was a Confederate soldier who was present that day. What happened to these soldiers? Read Was Your Ancestor Paroled at Appomattox Courthouse with Lee’s Surrender?

How has genealogy made a difference in your life?

“In school, my favorite subjects were science and math. My least favorite subject, by far, was social studies. I found learning about all the wars, dates, and places incredibly boring.

“When my daughter was young, she loved books. But, one of her favorite types of books was picture book biographies. Through her eyes and these stories, I became interested in history. Learning history through one person at a time was infinitely more interesting than learning history from a ‘big picture’ perspective.

“As a genealogist, I love to learn about the history that has affected my ancestors. Did an ancestor fight in a particular battle? I’ll study about the battle. Did an ancestor attend a world’s fair? I’ll study the world’s fair. Did an ancestor take place in an Oklahoma land run? Then, I’ll study about the land run.

“Genealogy has also opened my eyes to the wonderful world of geography. How did mountain ranges and rivers affect the migration of my ancestors? Where was Prussia and what happened to it? How did droughts and floods affect my ancestors?

“Genealogy has also affected my life in that I’m purposefully trying to learn how to be a better writer. As I learn about my family, I want to be able to share the stories in such a way that others are both informed and entertained and want to learn more. Which, of course, is one of the reasons I blog!”

What is your favorite genealogy research tool or source?

“My favorite research tool is I now have clipped over 700 stories about my family from that site. There are the usual obituaries, marriage announcements, etc., but there are also stories of three murders in my family. There is also the story of my great, great grandmother throwing up what they believed to be a lizard. I find the most interesting family stories in newspapers and I’ve had the most success with”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“My daughter is in high school and still at home, but when she graduates, my genealogy bucket list will include a lot of traveling! In the past couple of years, I’ve discovered three of the villages my German ancestors came from and the small town in England where another branch lived. Of course, I’d love to visit all of these places! But, I’d also love to visit Ohio, the state where one of the German families settled. I would also like to spend weeks in Pennsylvania, where my father’s dad’s family lived for generations, and time in both Salt Lake City and at the National Archive. I could go on and on!

“Besides traveling to the places where my family came from, I also want to attend some of the national genealogy conventions. And, I’d also love to take one of the new genealogy cruises!

“The other items on my bucket list would be to write a book about my families so that the information I’ve uncovered will never be lost. I recently started this by adding a chapter about one of my families as a contributing author to a family book. I’m also hoping to complete two short family books as Christmas gifts this year, one for each side of my family.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Finding Two "Missing" Children from the 1910 Census

The 1910 census lists Elizabeth C Merrill, wife of Norman B Merrill, as a mother of 6 with 4 still living. I'm sure we all have families like this on our trees. We'd love to tell the stories of these "missing" children who both were born and died between census years. But, how can we locate them?

One solution? Newspapers. 

What a wonderful source! And, it was newspapers that helped me locate the two "missing" children of Elizabeth and Norman B Merrill.

The first newspaper article I found was dated November 25, 1902. It simply stated: The infant child of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Merrill died Sunday night, aged seven months. The funeral will be held this afternoon; interment at Dunnstown.

I looked for two additional records for this baby: a death certificate and a grave record at Find A Grave. Neither record was found. So, sadly, I don't know the name or even sex of this little baby, but I do know an approximate birth and death date.

I was able to find out a lot more about the second missing child. The newspaper article about her death provided a lot of information.

Three-Year-Old Child is Fatally Scalded, Lock Haven Express, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, 3 Dec 1906,
page 5, column 2
, digital image, (, accessed 10 May 2016

Dated December 3rd, 1906, this horrific story explains that Caroline's mother was preparing to give 3-year-old Caroline a bath. The hot water was sitting on the floor next to the stove. Little Caroline was sitting on a chair near the water while eating an apple. She fell into the hot water in which she was badly burned. She lost consciousness several times and died from her burns the following night.

What a horrific story! My heart aches for this mother (and the family) as she watched her little one suffer! I can just imagine how she must have blamed herself. I know I blamed myself when my daughter fell out of our car onto her head once. (Thankfully, she was fine.)

Portion of  Death Certificate of Caroline Viola Merrill, died 1 Dec 1906,
Lock Haven, Clinton County, Pennsylvania (image on Ancestry)

On Ancestry, I was able to find Caroline's death certificate. "Little Caroline" was not 3, but actually only 2 years, 4 months, and 5 days old. The cause of death is listed as "accidentally scalded." It also stated that she would be buried in Dunnstown Cemetery, the same cemetery where her parents are interred, though she is not listed with them on Find-A-Grave.

The informant for this death certificate was not the mother or the father who were possibly too grief-stricken to answer the questions. The informant was the father's brother, A. L. Merrill, who was my great, great grandfather.

3 Sources for locating these "missing" children:

  • newspapers 
  • death certificates - which can often be found by using the parents names
  • cemetery records - these little ones will often be buried by their parent, siblings, or other family members

Thursday, May 5, 2016

It Appears the Mother Lied on the Death Certificate

I have chosen not to share the names of these family members for privacy reasons. The "he" in this post is related to me through marriage.

He was almost 38 years old when he died in 1917. The death certificate informant was his mother. He was listed as "single" and worked as a "shipping clerk." The cause of death was "paresis" which he had suffered with for "over 3" years.

His obituary tells a different story. It says he was "united in marriage to Miss M----" who still survived him. And, it states his direct cause of death as a "nervous breakdown." 

Of course, the death certificate could have mistakenly listed him as single, but most likely his mother lied. But, why? 

Death Certificate showing cause of death: Paresis
Today, I decided to see out more about his cause of death: paresis. Wikipedia has an entry called "general paresis of the insane." It fascinatingly, and disturbingly, tells the story of a horrible neuropsychiatric disorder. As the disease progresses, the symptoms that occur include: 
  • mental deterioration
  • personality changes
  • loss of social inhibitions
  • asocial behavior
  • impairment of judgment
  • mania
  • depression
  • delusions
Thankfully, this disease now has a cure and is only seen in third-world countries. The cure came after WWII in the form of penicillin. 

What causes this horrible disease? Syphilis. 

So, he had syphilis and suffered horribly for two to three years. He and his wife had only married a little over two years before his death. I wonder how long she watched him suffer? If she stayed with him, or left him as his symptoms worsened?  And why did his mother said he was "single" on his death certificate?

Just a few years later, in 1920, his wife was listed as a "widow" and lived with her parents in a different county. In 1930, she had two small children - ages 2 1/2 and 5 - and had been widowed for the second time. And, by 1936, she had been married and widowed for the third time. 

What a sad story for this young man; his wife who lost not one, but three, husbands; and his mother, who probably watched him suffer and die.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Google Books Finds: Including an Article with Four Photos!

I have used Google Books in the past, but after listening to a Genealogy Gems podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke on Friday, I decided to spend some time seeing what I could find. In just minutes, I found an article with four photos! And over the next two hours, I found dozens of 'hits.'

Me with Lisa Louise Cooke in Houston, March 2014
Tip: For unusual surnames (like Holthoefer), just search for the surname. For more common names, put the name in quotation marks & add a place name.

Herman J Holthoefer (1863-1950), a druggist/pharmacist, was a nephew of my great, great grandmother, Franciska/Frances (Holthoefer) Adam. I found a three page article about him in the 1919 "Western Druggist: Volume 41." It is titled "Druggist Doubles His Business in Two Years" and includes four images:

Portion of ad for "Holthoefer's Health Salt" from
"Western Druggist: Volume 41" 

  • a photo of Herman (about 55 years old)
  • a photo of a person (probably Herman) in the store
  • a photo of his store window
  • an ad for a medicine he developed, Holthoefer's Health Salts (shown above)
Besides this article, I found:
  • several city directories listing my family members, including a business of one of my great, great grandfathers I didn't know about
  • biographical sketches I'd not seen 
  • an ancestor as a witness on a (potential relative's) will 
  • a transcription of a deed transfer
  • additional information about a fatal car wreck of one of my relatives
  • & more!
Some of these books are available online, but others need to be requested via interlibrary loan. I have a lot more work to do!

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

The 1828 Will of Peter Close's Relict: Catharine Elizabeth Close

Yesterday, I shared the 1810 will of my 5th great grandfather , Peter Close of Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Peter's wife, Catha...