Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year begins!

Wow...a blog with one entry last year.  That might be a record!  However, it does not mean that I have not been actively pursuing genealogy over the past year.  I have been continuously working on my genealogy.  With today beginning the new year, I have been contemplating what goals I have for my genealogy. 

My main goal is to go through, purge, and organize my paper and picture files.  I have realized over the past year that I have so many duplicates and copies of things that I need to get my files more streamlined.  It feels like an overwhelming task to me, but I will be much appreciative of it when I get it done!

I have also had a couple of major (for me) breakthroughs in the past couple of days, so am hoping to learn more this year.  One is for a great-aunt who seemingly disappeared years ago.  The last that the family knew is that she had gone home to live with her parents after my uncle died and her children were taken away from her.  I just found where her father is buried, and am hopeful that perhaps she might be buried there also...I have sent for cemetery records, and will be visiting there next month, so maybe I will be able to learn something.  Today, I found an index on Ancestry.com for Naturalization papers for my ggg-grandfather, and have sent away for copies for those.  Again, feeling quite hopeful!

My mother died in May 2012, and my father died in December 2013.  It is hard to find new leads and not be able to share them with them.  So I guess this year's searching will be dedicated to them.

Let the purging of copies begin....

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Henry W. Fritz 1896-1980




We know little about my husband’s grandfather, Henry W. Fritz.  He was born Heinrich Fritz on 24 March 1896 to Emile and Karolina Grau Fritz in Bischweiler, Alsace-Lorraine, Germany.  He also had a sister, Louisa Fritz.  It is not known if she was older or younger than Henry. The family’s language was German. Henry arrived in the United States in 1913, with his final destination listed as Peoria, Illinois.  At that time he was sixteen years old.  Passenger records indicate that he was going to a friend, Albert Schertz in Edelstein, Illinois (near Peoria).  Albert was twenty-five years old, born in Nebraska, but raised and lived in Illinois (across the river from Peoria).  It is unlikely that Henry actually knew Albert.

On 5 June 1917 Henry registered for the WWI Draft.  He was listed as twenty-one years old, living in Alta, Illinois as a farmer employed by Charles Graze.  He was single.

Henry filed a Declaration of Intention for citizenship on 7 June 1917 in Peoria, Illinois.  At the time of filing Henry was listed as 21 years old, working as a farmer in Alta, IL. 

In 1920, Henry was listed as a roomer in Peoria, Illinois, working as a blacksmith.  In January 1921, he enlisted as a private in Hq. Btry 3rd F.A.  He was honorably discharged in Kentucky in January of 1922 after fulfilling his term of service.

Upon his return home, he married a widow, Emma Bishel Fandel, in March of 1922.  It is known that Henry had known Emma for a few years, since he was present in 1918 when her husband was killed on a hunting trip.  Henry and Emma had one child, a son, born in November 1922. Henry worked as a machinist all of his life.  He and Emma raised one of their grandsons for a few years, but otherwise, lived a solitary, simple life.  Emma died in 1973.  Shortly after, Henry went to live at the veteran’s home in Danville, Illinois.  He died in Champaign, Illinois in October of 1980 and is buried at the Danville National Cemetery in Danville, Illinois.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Katherine "Katie" M. Fox-a sad story

Katherine "Katie" M. Fox was born in July of 1874 in Illinois, probably in Peoria, Illinois.  She was the daughter of William and Mary Smyth Fox.  She was the fifth of six children in the family.  The first child, Rosanna was born in 1865 and lived for fifteen days.  The next year, a brother, Patrick, was born.  He died when he was ten years old in July of 1876.  A sister, Rosa, was born about 1870, and another sister, Mary Elizabeth, was born around 1872.  Mary Elizabeth also died in 1876 in June.  Katie was born in 1874, and then her brother William was born in October of 1876.   In August of 1878, Mary was godmother for her sister's child, the son of William and Elizabeth Smyth Murphy. William and Elizabeth Murphy were my great-great grandparents. Sadly, the next month on the 25th of September 1878, Mary Smyth Fox died,  leaving her husband William with three young children.

In 1880, William Fox was listed as living in Iroquois County, Illinois working on a farm where one of my Murrphy families was living.  His three children were listed in the Peoria County Illinois 1880 census as boarders at the "Bradley Hospital", which was run by religious sisters.  The children were listed as:

Rosa age 10
Katie age 6
William age 4

The children's father, William Fox, was listed as still living in Iroquois County, Illinois in 1882 in his pension papers.  From Peoria City Directories, William Fox was listed as living in Peoria, Illinois in 1891 and 1894.  There is no indication where his children were.

14 April 1894 Application to Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Home-Quincy IL: in the application William stated that he owned no property and worked as a laborer.  He reported that  that he has no wife and one child living, a daughter, 19 years. That he "desires that Katie Fox of Peoria be notified of his illness or death", and that in case of death his personal effects be sent to Katie Fox 303 Butler St. at Peoria. (her aunt and uncle's address-Peter and Rosa Smith Hill).

From the Peoria Illinois City Directories I  found:
1895-a Miss Kate Fox listed as "cook H.G. Hirt, r. 222 First ave."
1896-a Miss Catherine Fox listed as "domestic at 208 Randolph".
1897-a Miss Katie Fox listed as a "domestic at 419 Fredonia ave."

Again, in 1897 in William's pension papers "Kattie", age twenty-three was referred to as William's only living child.

William Fox, Katie's father, died in May of 1898 in Peoria, Illinois. From papers received from the Soldier's Home records:

23 May 1898-letter sent to Mr. E.L.Higgins: "Dear Sir: A card was received from you asking the cause and date of the death of my father, William Fox.  Heart failure was the cause, and date Monday evening at 5:30 May 16, 1898. Yours truly, Katie M. Fox, 303 Butler St., Peoria, IL."

18 June 1898-note in papers from the Soldier's Home on William: "Died on furlough at Peoria May 16, 1898.  All papers sent Katie M. Fox-4757 Kenwood Ave Chicago".
So, did Katie live in Peoria or Chicago?

There are a few more references to a Katherine Fox in Peoria over the next few years.  Are these Katie?

In the 1900 Peoria, Peoria County IL Census at 430 Main St.is listed a Katherine Fox, age 25, working as a servant in the household of Thomas Goodman.
The last possible listings I have found of Katie are in the 1910 and 1911 Peoria Illinois City Directories where a Miss Katherine Fox is listed as a domestic at 807 Jackson.

The problem is Katie or Katherine Fox is a fairly common name.  Did she remain in Peoria, or did she live in Chicago?  Did she ever marry?  With all of her family (parents and siblings) dead by the time she was twenty-four, what became of Katie?  After the reference to living at her aunt and uncle's address in 1897, she was never located in records at that address or with any of the family after that.  I checked the Illinois Death and Stillborn Records 1916-1947 and did not find her listed.  Did she die before 1916?  Or did she live past 1947?  Katie's siblings who died before her mother had died were buried in the Kickapoo Cemetery, as was her mother.  What became of Katie's sister Rosa and her brother William?

So many questions left unanswered about this family.  I always find it strange when I find that families do not take in children of their families who are orphaned.  Of course, there are always many good reasons why it is not possible, but I still am surprised.  Katie's mother had twelve siblings who lived after she had died.  Could no one have taken in these three children?  I would love to know the story!!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shirt-tail Relatives


It was probably about 1959 and I was ten years old when I first heard the term “shirt-tail relative”.  I was trying to figure out why Jo O’Meara and her daughter, Ginny, were invited to almost all of our family holiday celebrations.  I asked my grandmother exactly who the O’Meara family was.  At first she told me that they were old family friends, but as I questioned her, she said that they were “shirt-tail relatives" to my grandfather, and that the relationship went way back to Ireland and no one really knew what the relationship was.  That was interesting, but that was the extent of the conversation.   

Flash forward to about 1994 when I began to get interested in genealogy.  Sadly, all of my older relatives on my maternal side had already passed away.  Such a hard lesson to learn…find out all you can from your family while they are still here!

Anyway, I could not find a connection to the O’Meara family.  I knew that Jo O’Meara had been my great-grandmother’s best-friend.  And Ginny O’Meara had been close friends with my grandfather, his sister, and his first cousin.  I had pictures of all of them together throughout the years.  My great-grandfather’s parents had died when he was a young child and he was raised by his older sister.  It was her daughter who was so close to Ginny O’Meara.  So it seemed that the connection was somehow through my Murphy family (my great-grandfather was Edward R. Murphy).

Researching my Murphy family, I learned that my great-great-great grandmother was Alice Reed Murphy.  As I continued to research the family, I kept coming across the name “Peter Reed” associated with my Murphy relatives. I also was finding connections with both my Murphy families and the Peter Reed family with the Nicholas Reed Heneberry family in Peoria.  And I learned that Nicholas Reed Heneberry’s mother was a Reed.

 I did fairly extensive research on the Peter Reed family, but did not find a proven connection to my Murphy family, other than Peter Reed being godfather to different Murphy members, etc.  And Peter Reed was from County Kilkenny, which is where my Murphy family originated. As was the Nicholas Heneberry family.

I had found census readings on Peter Reed and learned that he had ten children.  (One of them had married my great-great grandmother’s brother.)  Peter Reed’s oldest child, Margaret “Maggie” Reed married David Charles Ryan in 1878.  They had ten children.

It wasn’t until I returned to my interest in learning who Jo O’Meara was that I thought to send for her death certificate.  Oh, my.  Her parents were David C. and Margaret Reed Ryan.  Peter Reed was Jo O’Meara’s grandfather.

Have I made absolute proof of the relationship between my Murphy family and the Peter Reed family?  Nope.  But the connections seem too close to be just coincidence.  My best speculation at this point based on dates of birth is that Alice Reed’s father was brother to Nicholas Heneberry’s mother.  (Alice born  about 1801, Nicholas born 1807).  Peter Reed was born in 1832.  My best guess there is that his father was Alice Reed’s brother.

So, if you are still with me here…that would mean that Johanna Ryan O’Meara was my great-grandfather’s second cousin once removed.

Wow!  Talk about strong, long-lasting connections through time and space.  The families came to Peoria, Illinois from Ireland around 1850, and up until Ginny O’Meara’s death in 1978, the families remained close.  That gives me a rather nice warm feeling!  It also makes me wonder if Ginny O'Meara had married and had children, would the close connection have continued?  I like to think that it would have. 

Below are a couple of definitions that I found for “Shirt-tail relatives”:


very distant relative by marriage or a family friend that one claims with honorary status the same as a close, well liked relative



A shirttail relative is someone who is either a relative by marriage, distantly related (say, a third cousin), or a family friend who is an honourary “relative”.

Well, by the time I got interested in finding out about these families, I guess they fit the definition of shirt-tail relatives.  But they sure didn’t back in the 1800’s!!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947


Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947 are fairly new records on Ancestry.com. Part of the description of the records is “Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.”  I have been finding this Index to be invaluable in my research lately.  Below is taken from the Ancestry.com site describing what is in the Index records:
While details may vary based on information required on the original and whether the form was filled out completely, entries in this index may list
  • name
  • gender
  • race/ethnicity
  • birth date
  • birthplace
  • age
  • occupation
  • residence
  • street address
  • marital status
  • spouse
  • date of death
  • place of death
  • place of burial
  • date of burial
  • cemetery name
  • father’s name and birthplace
  • mother’s name and birthplace
  • FHL film number
The FHL film number refers to a microfilm copy of the source held by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This is a wealth of information! Below is an example of how I have been able to use the Index in my research.

This Index helped me to identify information about two brothers that I was doing research on.  The Index helped to identify one person as belonging to the family I was researching and identified the other as not being the son that I was searching for.

Patrick Bennett and Anna Smyth married in1862 in Peoria County, Illinois.  They are listed in the 1870 Peoria Illinois census with the following children: James, Rosa, Elizabeth and Thomas.  I have not been able to locate the family in 1880 records. I have found Patrick in 1900 living in a retirement home.  His wife, Anna, had died in 1892.

I had not been able to find records on any of the children, other than there had been a child, Kate, who was born and died in 1871 and was buried with her mother.

Searching for the oldest child, James Bennett, I found the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index and there was a listing for a James Bennett.  His parents were listed as Patrick Bennett and Anna Smith.  I had found who I was looking for!  Now I had birth, death and burial information along with the facts that he was single, and worked at a restaurant.  It also showed where his parents were born.

I had found census records for a Thomas Bennett who was born in 1868, which matched the 1870 census information that I had for the Thomas Bennett born to Patrick and Anna Bennett.  I found further census records, and a marriage record for him.  He even lived on Smith St. in Peoria, the same street where Patrick Bennett was living in 1900.  However, when I searched his records in the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, his parents were listed as Theodore and Catherine Bennett.  Not a match at all.   Of course, I was disappointed, but also so glad that I had the information so that I was not putting out wrong information about Thomas Bennett.

If you have ancestors from Illinois, be sure to check out this resource.  Because the Index begins in 1916, it includes people who could have been born as early as 1816 (if they lived to 100!), so don't let the parameters of the dates stop you from searching!   

Friday, February 3, 2012

Who did Lucina Adamson marry???

Lucina Adamson was born to Aaron W. and Martha J. Thompson Adamson in about 1842 in Illinois.  She was the fourth of seven children.  Lucina is listed in the 1850 Crittenden County, Kentucky census, living with her mother, grandmother and siblings. Lucina is listed as age eight.  (Lucina's father died shortly after 1850.  During the 1850 census he was staying with his uncle's family in Harrison County, Indiana).   Lucina's mother remarried in 1852 in Edwards County, Illinois. In 1860, Lucina is listed in the Richland County, Illinois census living with her mother and new-stepfather, Joseph Hedrick, along with her siblings.

Lucina married John M. Dewhirst on 17 October, 1861 in Richland County, Illinois.  Sadly, John Dewhirst died of typhoid on 22 March 1862 in Clay County, Illinois.  They had only been married five months.  I have not been able to find any record of John Dewhirst enlisting to serve during the Civil War, so it is not clear if that might be where he was infected with typhoid or not.

The mystery begins at this point...what became of Lucina?  I have not found a listing for Lucina Dewhirst in the 1870 Illinois census.  Then one day I came across for a listing for Lucina Dewhurst in the Illinois State Marriage On-line Index (on the Illinois State Archives website) that listed her marrying Washington Lewis in Clay County on 16 October 1863.  Wow, was I excited! 

Well, I was excited until I realized that the Washington Lewis living in Clay County had married Nancy Wattles in 1862 and they were still together as a family in the 1870 Clay County, Illinois census.   Apparently, the Washington Lewis who married Lucina Dewhurst was not the same one that was living there in Clay County in 1870.  Even stranger, I could not find Washington Lewis listed in the 1865 Illinois census in Clay County, Illinois, or even in Illinois.

I sent for and received the copy of the marriage record.  The Index had the marriage date wrong...the marriage took place on the 13th of October, not the 16th. 



Searches for either Washington or Lucina Lewis for 1870 and 1880 turned up nothing.  I have tried George Lewis, thinking that perhaps his first name was George, but again, nothing has been found.

So, who did Lucina marry?  Did both the clerk and the minister get the groom's name wrong on the records?  Or did the Clay County Washington Lewis have a relative who came through and married Lucina?  And if so, where did they go?  What became of Lucina?

The only other thing that I know about her is that she was not living by 1900, according to the census record for her mother, where it showed that her mother had eight of twelve children living.  In 1866, Lucina's brother had a daughter born who was named Ida Lucina "Lulu" Adamson.  Was she named after Lucina?  Was Lucina alive in 1866 or had she died?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Samuel Erskine Gray-interesting man!


This is the house that my great-grandfather, Samuel Erskine Gray, built in Edgewood Grove in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1912.  He and Charles S. Hernly developed Edgewood Grove in 1911. This picture of the house had fascinated me since I took it several years ago.  I want to visit the inside and yard of this house!  That may be one of my 2012 genealogical goals for the year!  I would like to learn more about the house such as how much it cost to build and what it is worth now.  At the time that Samuel lived there, the address was 317 Potomac Avenue.  From Terre Haute city directories it appears that Samuel lived in the house from 1912 to 1938.

Samuel was an interesting man.  To family, he was known as "Dad Gray".  

Samuel Erskine Gray was born  on the 10th of August 1861 in Lost Creek Township, Vigo County, Indiana on the National Road, about five miles east of Terre Haute.  He was the seventh of twelve children born to David Erskine and Isabel Malone Gray.  According to one obituary, Samuel was only able to attend school about three months each year until he began operating a small store, saw mill and grist mill.  In 1885, Samuel married Cora Carpenter Ferrel, daughter of William and Mary Amanda Carpenter Ferrel.  Samuel was 24 years old and Cora was 17 years old when they married.  A year after their marriage, their first child, Gladys Lorene was born.  Sadly, she died when she was nine months old.  A year later (1888) my grandmother, Lotta Nye was born.  Three more children were born: Harry in 1891, Fred in 1893, and Bertha Marie in 1896.  In 1899, Cora died of peritonitis, leaving Samuel with four young children.

From an obituary: 

“He was one of the organizers of the Central Loan Association in May, 1895, and from that date had served as director, appraiser, and at the time of death as vice president of this association, now know as the Central Federal Saving and Loan Association…”. 
 I am not sure that this information is accurate as I have found another article (from 1972) that relates the history of the bank and that article states that Samuel E. Gray was vice president of the bank in 1936.

Samuel was listed as the Postmaster for Terre Haute, Indiana from 1901 to 1910.  In 1907, he married Julia Etta Ferguson.  By this time, Samuel’s children were ages 21, 18, 16 and 13.  Lotta had graduated from Westfield College in 1907, shortly after Samuel’s marriage to Etta.

Again, from an obituary:

“On June 11, 1910, the Standard Investment Company was formed for the purpose of buying and selling real estate in the city of Terre Haute and vicinity.  Mr. Gray was a heavy stockholder in this company and served as general manager, treasurer, director and also President, and took a very active part in the company during its life.”

Also: 
“He was a charter member and the second president of the Terre Haute Real Estate Board, now the Terre Haute Board of Realtors, which was organized May 4, 1916, beginning his term of office Jan. 1, 1918.  He was president of the Indiana Real Estate Association for the year 1930.”

As stated earlier, it appears that Samuel owned the home he built in Edgewood Grove until 1938.  In 1921, Sam bought thirteen acres in Owen County, Indiana on Jordan Village Road.  His son Fred had bought property there in 1919.  Sam built a small cottage there with screened in porches on three sides.  Guests slept in hammocks on the porches.  "Graybrook Cottage" was used as the family's vacation and week-end get-away.  My Dad spent many summers there as a child.  Fred sold his farm to his father, Sam, in 1926.  In 1932, The Gray Land Corporation was incorporated.  Sam and Etta moved to the farm around 1935.  His dream to build a lake in the valley was realized when it became a WPA project.  The dam was finished in 1938, and lots were sold.  In 1940, Sam built his daughter Lotta (my grandmother) a cabin on the lot she had chosen.  The original cabin (and outhouse) is gone now, but it was used by the family until 1976, when a new cabin was built on the lot.  Today Sam's great-great-great grandchildren enjoy time at Lake Graybrook in the summers!  That is quite a legacy that he left!

Sam lived at Lake Graybrook until his death in 1953.  He was ninety one years old when he died.  He outlived four of his five children.