Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday's Obituary - Polly Luceba Beal, nee Rice

This is the obituary for my 3X great grandmother, Polly Luceba Beal, nee Rice (21 Sep 1813 - 12 Feb 1881)  from the Ann Arbour (Michigan) Courier.

It is hard to make out, but Polly is listed as 68 years of age, but the left half of that number eight is very faint.

What information can we find, and what added homework comes from this obituary:
- Polly's son-in-law: George Baker of Pottawatomie township, KS; look for any George Baker families on the 1880 census for Pottawatomie twp, KS.
- Wife of J.C Beal of Ohio township, KS; look for the J.C. and Polly Beal family on the 1880 census for Ohio twp, KS.
- Leaves a son and daughter; check if JC and Polly were on any earlier censuses for Ohio twp to find any children listed, compare to see if daughter's name in KS marriage records attached to a George Baker, and if same daughter listed on any of the Fed and KS censuses during this time period, and check if son listed on own land, nearby, in later censuses.
- J.C. Beal is an uncle of Prof. J.B. Steere of Ann Arbor, MI.  Track down J.B.Steere in the Ann Arbor censuses.  Look for any other mention of J.C. Beal or J.B. Steere in the Ann Arbor Courier, check for other family associations noted.

- "Died", Ann Arbor Courier, Ann Arbor, Michigan.  March 18, 1881, Vol. XX, No. 11, page 3, column 5.

Copyright 2013 Denise G Baker, All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 26, 2013

AGS Conference Lesson: Plot those land records for value-added genealogical evidence!

I attended the Alberta Genealogical Society’s 2013 conference last weekend, and am I ever happy I did.  Lyn Meehan’s session entitled Country Cousins: Ancestors on the Land really helped drive home the need to not just print off those pretty Land Patent certificates from the Bureau of Land Management, or Homestead files, or deeds, etc., but to map out the land associated with your ancestor and the folks you want to be able to link to him or her.  This would be in addition to tracking the purchase and sale of each unit of land on a spreadsheet (I can’t remember where I read this, and a non-exhaustive search online did not pull it up, but this is a really good idea, too).  

My sister, Nadine, and I have been working on associating our ancestor, Joseph C Beal (1810-1889)  to Joseph Beal (1782-1877), the man we believe was his father.  Our first evidence of the relationship between Joseph C and Joseph Beal comes from the Joseph Beal and His Wife Elizabeth, a genealogy which Joseph Beal collected and wrote before he died, and which was edited and updated by his grandson, Professor William James Beal, in 1910.  William James Beal, the editor, was the son of William, Joseph Beal's eldest son (page 38).  This document is freely available on

According to Professor Beal, Joseph Beal (1782-1877) and his wife Elizabeth Claghorn (1784-1831) had 9 children, all born in Perinton, NY: William (1806-1872), Martha (1808-1894), Joseph C. (1810-1889), Lucretia (1812-1867), Elizabeth (1815-1899), Leah (1817-1894), Porter (1819-1902), Caroline (1821-1895), and Mary Jane (1824-1876) (Beal, WJ; page 34).  The Professor also indicates that in 1830 Joseph moved with his wife and seven little children to live with his son William in Adrian, Lenawee County, MI (page 7).  I can’t be certain, but the seven youngest in the Beal family were the children: Joseph C. through Mary Jane.    

Let's face it, I have been a naughty family historian, grabbing every document that was, or could be, associated with this 3X Great Grandfather: Joseph C Beal.  Not even taking a break to analyze these documents and the evidence they contain.  The patent above is one of those documents.

After returning from the AGS conference I was really excited to try these techniques out on some of these records I've been collecting.

First, I ran a quick search of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) records at for any land obtained in Michigan by a Joseph Beal.  The results are below:

The blue highlighted parcels were obtained by Joseph Beal (father), and green highlighted parcels were purchased by Joseph C Beal (son).

I know that document #71159 is for Joseph Beal’s land warrant obtained as a result of his service during the war of 1812, as per the copy of his bounty application which is available on Fold3 ($).  The Joseph Beal genealogy indicates that Joseph Beal and his son Porter settled in the SW1/4 of the W1/4 [sic] of Section 10(page 13).  I will need to follow up on that parcel, as they did not obtain the original patent for that piece of land, so it is not listed on the BLM site.

What strikes me as very interesting is the fact that Joseph C Beal and Joseph Beal purchased land in 3 different sections of Township 6S, Range 1E on the same day, October 15, 1835.  I don’t think that can be a coincidence.  And once you compare the land locations on the map, one realizes how closely related they were.

Also of note on this list is patent #1025 because that exact parcel of land was later sold by Joseph C Beal and his wife Gulielma M. Beal to Joseph C's younger brother, Porter Beal, on March 13, 1853.  This was recorded in the Lenawee Co. Deed Book, #36, on page 490.  I made a copy of this from the Family History Library's microfilm #2,208,275 (Deed Records, 1827-1920, 1940-1941; Lenawee County Michigan, Recorder of Deeds).

Next, to be able to compare the location of these parcels I searched for maps of the Townships/Counties listed so that I could map the property obtained by Joseph C Beal.  I found a map for Rollin Township in Lenawee County online in U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 at ($).  

Then, I selected one of the patents listed for Joseph C Beal, #1024 for the East 1/2 of the Northeast ¼ of section 9 in Township 6 South, Range 1 East of the Michigan-Toledo Strip meridian, as seen above.  One more lesson from Lyn – the signature for President Andrew Jackson is not actually his, but was signed on his behalf.  Apparently, the president didn’t just sit around waiting to sign these land patents! 

A final tip from Lyn’s session: click on the “Related Documents” tab, next to the “Patent Image” tab.  Selecting this tab brings up a list of the other land units held within the same section as the unit held by your ancestor.   

Therefore, my next step was to select the “Related Documents” tab for Joseph C Beal’s patent #1024, and as we can see - below - this had some lovely information.  Although not highlighted for our purposes today, even Erastus Aldrich has an association, as his moving in to Section 9 is mentioned in the Joseph Beal Genealogy (page 13), and Hiram Aldrich's marriage in William Beal's home is mentioned on page 14.

Even more interesting – Joseph’s wife, Gulielma, also purchased a parcel of closely related property on exactly the same day as Joseph C and his father, Joseph – October 15, 1835!  The pink highlighted section was Gulielma's purchase, and the red highlighted sections were purchases made by Joseph C Beal's older brother, William.  William bought his parcels a few days earlier than his father, brother and sister-in-law: October 6th and 9th.  Still quite close in time!

Next, I searched the sections around Section 9, Twp 6S, Rge 1E, and came across a few more related folks.  Here is Section 15:

The yellow highlighted individual is Joseph Pennington, and according to the Joseph Beal genealogy he was the father of Gulielma M. Beal  (page 39) and hence Joseph C. Beal’s father-in-law.   Yet more astonishing associations.

I then plotted these ‘related’ land patents on the map.  Here is a spreadsheet version of the map to illustrate how closely related these parcels of land really were:

I am definitely going to have to do this for all my ancestors, all their land, and all their associates!  Such a valuable lesson - thanks to Alberta Genealogical Society and thank you to Lyn Meehan!

Copyright 2013 Denise G Baker, All Rights Reserved
- AGS Conference 2013, Edmonton, AB.
- Beal, William J.  Genealogy of Joseph Beal and Elizabeth (Cleghorn) Beal of Perinton, Monroe County, New York and Rollin, Lenawee County, Michigan with an account of pioneer life.  1910.  Accessed 26 Apr 2013.
- Federal Land Patent for Joseph C Beal. Patent #1024.  Bureau of Land Management.  2013.  Accessed 26 Apr 2013.
- Meehan, Lyn.  Country Cousins: Ancestors on the Land.  AGS Conference 2013.  
- Pension file for Joseph Beal.  War of 1812 Pension Files, online database,  Accessed 26 Apr 2013.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Britta's Brave Passage

My mother's paternal grandmother, Britta Mathilda Goransdotter Erickson (19 Apr 1887 - 1 Feb 1958), immigrated from Sweden to Canada in 1912.  Britta made this momentous trip with her husband, Johan (28 Apr 1882 - 22 Oct 1959), and her two sons, Martin Rudolph (27 Mar 1909 - 26 Jun 1996) and Karl Johan Andre (14 April 1912 - 23 Sep 1971).  The family brought with them a photo album with pictures of friends and family, like most immigrants coming to the New World at this time they would have little expectation of ever seeing their family or homeland again.

When I was growing up there were two family myths that we great grandchildren heard about Britta's immigration:
  1. that the family missed the Titanic during their trip over, and instead booked passage across on some sort of cattle ship; and,
  2. as the family travelled inland from the port of Montreal to rural Saskatchewan, where they would homestead, Britta was seriously injured in a fall from a train near Kenora, ON.
With a couple of years of family history research under my belt I felt ready to take on these myths.  <wink>

Myth No. 1 - Britta and her family missing the Titanic.  

Well, at first glance, this is a possibility: the family did immigrate in 1912, and the Titanic sank in 1912.  But with just a small scratch on the surface this myth starts to fall apart. Let's take a look at the timeline from just a few pieces of evidence:  
  • April 10, 1912 - The Titanic sailed from Southampton, England.
  • April 14, 1912 - The Titanic hits an iceberg in the mid-Atlantic at 11:40 pm, and sinks 2 hours and 40 minutes later.
  • April 14, 1912 - As seen on his birth records, great uncle Karl was born in Vasternorrland, Sweden.  It would have been hard to catch the boat when the family wasn't even in the same country. 
  • August 19, 1912 - The family arrived in Montreal, Canada, aboard the Allan shipping lines passenger ship Pretorian.  It is possible that 3rd class passengers like Britta and Johan may have described the accommodations as being like a cattle boat.  However, the Pretorian was a passenger ship made to carry both 2nd and 3rd class passengers.   Also of note on this record, there is a C.P.R. stamp on the passenger manifest for this family, indicating that they will be travelling inland via the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Perhaps the family intended on taking the Titanic across to the new world, but with a baby expected at the same time, those plans would likely have changed.  I wouldn't really call that "missing the boat."  In the end, there is no evidence to support Myth No. 1.  My great grandparents did not miss the Titanic.  It was a great myth, but that's all it was.

Myth No. 2 - Great grandma Britta fell from a train - as the family journeyed across Canada to take up their homestead in Saskatchewan. 

Britta's granddaughter and my mother, Aina, has expanded on the story surrounding the accident.  Britta had walked back to the dining car to warm up a bottle of milk for her 4 month old baby, Karl.  As Britta was moving between cars, the gates protecting passengers had been left open at one connection.  Somehow, Britta fell off the train as it travelled through northern Ontario.  Britta's husband, Johan, was left with a baby needing to be fed, and a three year old who would likely start missing his mom.  

Imagine travelling across this vast country by train, waiting for your wife to come back with a warmed-up baby bottle, yet she never returns.  How long do you wait before you start to worry, and how long after that before you go searching?  Now, throw in the complication that you don't speak English, and would have trouble voicing these concerns to the train conductor.  

Well, this one might be a bit more difficult to prove.  What records will there be to prove someone fell off a train over 100 years ago.  As mentioned above, I talked with my mom, and she did say that after her fall Britta spent a lot of time in the hospital, and she was always trouble by the injuries sustained in her fall. Also, Grandpa Rudolph used to tell us grandchildren about how he learned to hunt and trap when he first arrived in Canada because his dad was busy breaking land to satisfy the terms of the homestead, and his mom was unable to help cook.  Four or five year old Rudolph was responsible for getting dinner on the table.  This sounded less like a myth, and more like child labor.  I don't know how to prove that my grandpa had to hunt and trap when he was four years old, but I do know that he did hunt and trap all through his youth and adult life.

Finally, my mom mentioned that, before Britta's sons were married, both of Britta's daughters-in-law worked for her, helping around the house as she was unable to do much of the more physical work as a result of the injuries she sustained.  Perhaps some good came out of this accident - as my grandfather met my grandmother when she came to work for his mom.  What a great matchmaking system!

Then I thought to myself, if a woman fell off a train 100 years ago, that had to be a news story.  So I searched for any news reports in the days following the family's arrival in Montreal, on August 19, 1912.  And I think I found just what I was looking for, a local item in the Kenora Miner and News from Kenora, Ontario, published on Saturday, August 24, 1912.  

On Wednesday night when the 3rd
section of No. 1 was passing Dinor-
wic a lady fell off the train but was
not missed by anyone.  She was pick-
ed up by a freight crew who were in
the siding at the time and was bro-
ught here on No. 5 Thursday morn-
ing.  It is thought that she was
standing on the steps of the coach
when it struck the curve and was
shaken off.  She is at present in the
Royal Jubilee Hospital and is pro-
gressing nicely.

If you have ever travelled by train you will know that when the train does take a corner, if you are walking, you can be jostled about.  How unlucky to be passing between cars just at the time the train rounded a bend, and just as unlucky to have the gate left open so that you are bounced from the train while moving.  It is possible the train has slowed down somewhat before entering the curve, and passing the siding at Dinorwic, which quite possibly saved Britta's life.

To help envision where this accident happened, below is a shot of the region from Google Maps showing point A, this being the location of the Dinorwic siding (right) where the accident occurred, and the city of Kenora, ON (left), where the Royal Jubilee Hospital was located.

I did review two more months of the Kenora Miner and News to see if there was a follow-up article about the accident, one that might name the victim, but the search was unsuccessful.

My mother requested any applicable records about Britta's hospitalization from the former Kenora Royal Jubilee Hospital, unfortunately they advised that the hospital no longer has records dating from that time period.  I do plan on following up with the local hospital in Saskatchewan, but that hasn't happened, yet, as I just received the results from Kenora.  The woman in the above news report is not named, but it does describe a woman falling from the train on Wednesday, August 21st, which is two days after Britta and her family arrived at the port of Montreal.  This isn't absolute proof, but it is quite likely that the woman mentioned in the article is Britta.

What interests me are a couple of comments in the news story.  First, that the person "was not missed."  According to the family story, I believe that Britta was sorely missed, but it may have taken a long time for Johan to get the courage to communicate this to the authorities on the train.  Second, that the woman was "progressing nicely."  Britta suffered from the after-effects of the accident for the rest of her life, however, she did survive the accident.  If you fell from a moving train in 1912, as long as you survived, you would likely be considered as progressing nicely.

Poor Britta, she came to Canada with her family to start a new life, yet, only two days after immigrating to this new country she accidentally fell off the train that was to take her to her new home.   She must have been terrified: she was in a strange country where everyone speaks a different language, and now must deal with her injuries, the medical treatment, and get in contact with her husband and children.  I don't think I can even imagine what Britta went through, but she did finally make it to her homestead, and together, she and her family survived.

What a brave woman, to take on all of these challenges, and not only survive, but thrive, with a beautiful home, 2 children and 6 grandchildren

Copyright 2013 Denise G Baker, All Rights Reserved
     S/S Pretorian; Norway Heritage. - accessed 17 Apr 2013.
     Record for Britta Mathilda Eriksson, "Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935," [database on-line].  Original microfilm roll T4790, image 15, page 6. Original data: Passenger Lists, 1865–1935. Microfilm Publications T-479 to T-520, T-4689 to T-4874, T-14700 to T-14939, C-4511 to C-4542. Library and Archives Canada, n.d. RG 76-C. Department of Employment and Immigration fonds. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, ON.  Accessed 18 Apr 2013. ($)
     Birth record for Karl Johan Andre Eriksson, image 5, 1912, for Torp, Vasternorrlan, Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1880-1920, [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Swedish Church Records Archive; Johanneshov, Sweden; Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1880-1920; GID Number: 2089.73.35900; Roll/Fiche Number: CO0656; Volume: SCB; Record Type: Födde (Births); Year Range: 1898 - 1920.  ($)
     Titanic:: the unsinkable ship; Encyclopaedia Brittanica. - accessed 17 Apr 2013.
     Personal notes, taken from interview with Aina Baker on January 2, 2013.   Notes and interview in possession of this blogger.
     "Local Items," Kenora Miner and News. Vol. XVI, Saturday, August 24, 1912, Miner Publishing Company.  Digitized images, online database, Digital Archives, Kenora Public Library, Kenora, ON; - accessed 18 Apr 2013.
     Map of the region of Dinorwic, ON to Kenora, ON courtesy Google Maps; - accessed 18 Apr 2013.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Genealogy regrets, I've had a few

After my dad passed away, in 1999, my sister, Nadine, started looking into our family's genealogy.  She has collected a lot of information, and has even created great family history books that have been handed out at reunions.  My interest in this hobby only began about 2 or 3 years ago, so I admit to being a newbie.  I thought this would be a hobby to keep me busy and to help devlop my interest in where my family came from.  However, this interest became an unquenchable need.

Like many families, mine has some quirks including non-paternal events, and a grandfather born about 10 years before his home state instituted vital records administration (Kansas - 1911).  When I was a child I met all of my first cousins, and quite a few more distant relations.  Unfortunately, I was never interested in who these more distant relations were, or how I was related to them.  Only now, forty years later, am I wishing I had asked those questions.  Every genealogist must have this realization at some point: that so many sources of family history information have passed on, the regrets can be legion.

Thirty years ago I gathered a bunch of family history information to create a family tree for a class assignment.  I used the details that were provided by my dad's sister, Margaret, who was the Baker clan's family history buff, and handed in a lovely chart that went back to the early 1600's.  That information had even included a photograph of my 2X great grandfather, George Washington Baker, and his Civil War buddies.  To my deep regret I didn't keep a copy of the final result, or any of the backup information I used, and the family history information went back to my Aunt.  Not much later, Margaret's house burnt down, along with all the family history treasures.  

Now, my sister and I are working to recreate the original information Margaret had.  Luckily, when I ordered a copy of the Daughter's of the American Revolution application that was submitted by an offspring of George's sister, Salome, I was able to recognize many of the names and details that had been included in the family history we borrowed from Margaret so many years before.  I could use many of these details to at least initiate an hypothesis, a search plan, and get to work creating my Genealogy.  Okay, I just lied - I dived in, searching for anything and everything.  No plan, just some half-baked theories, but I did find a lot of information.  Only now, after a couple of years and plenty of lessons through the school of hard knocks, am I going through all of that original information, getting the proper citations, and filing everything in a simple organizing system.  Now I'm looking at each nugget, really analyzing each document, each sentence, each word, to figure out what I really have.   Finally, I will be using this to create a real hypothesis, search plan and research log.

I had no idea genealogy could become a calling, an obsession, an addiction, which it definitely has.  I often wonder if anyone else gets that "genealogist's high," that jolt of adrenaline that comes when one finds a long-searched-for individual listed on the finally-located obituary or probate record.  In the end, I am hoping to use this blog to work out some of the more intriguing relationship challenges and to report on some of the more interesting searches.  Possibly even as a bit of "cousin bait," and I don't think I will regret that.

Copyright 2013 Denise G Baker, All Rights Reserved