52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 22: So Far Away

I’ve not written much about my husband’s ancestors. I can barely keep up with my own side of the family. However, it was his Manx great-great grandparents, William John Garrett and Isabella Kissack, that kick-started my serious deep dive into family history.

I’ve written about our journey to the Isle of Man in this post, if you’d like to read that story.

Soon after our visit to IOM, I wrote a book for my grandchildren, “The Story of How the Garretts Came to America.”

How the Garretts-cover.png

In it, I wrote how William and Isabella married, immigrated to the United States, and finally settled in Illinois. I’d like to tell their story now, but for adult readers.

William John Garrett was born in Douglas, IOM, to his parents, William Garrett, a mason, and Catherine Craine. He was baptized in St. George’s Chapel April 30 by John Christian, Chaplin.

Baptism record of William Garrett

Isabella was baptised at Kirk Braddan, IOM, April 27, 1833. Her parents were Edward Kissack and Margaret Cubbon.

1833-christening-KISSACK-isabella-kirk braddon IOM
Baptism record of Isabella Kissack

Isabella was the youngest daughter of six: Mary Ann, Margaret, Elizabeth, Eliza, and Catherine. Her father was a gardener, and the family lived at 6 Queen’s Place, Douglas.

John had at least one sister, also named Isabella, who had married a man named Edward Graves. (This is an important fact, as you will see shortly.)

John and Isabella were married September 11, 1852 in the parish church of Kirk Braddon. According to the register, William was of full age, a bachelor, a joiner (carpenter), and he lived in Heywood Place, Douglas. Isabella was a minor, a spinster (an unmarried woman of any age, not necessarily older, and possibly a spinner by trade), and she lived at Caley’s Place, Douglas (a boarding house). Both William and Isabella signed the marriage register, meaning that both could read and write. For a young woman at this time, especially, this was unusual. No occupation is listed here for Isabella, but in the 1851 census, she is working in a factory.

Marriage register of William Garrett and Isabella Kissack

Less than a year later, June 2, 1853, William and Isabella executed a rather long and complicated legal document in preparation for their move to America. As best as this legal amateur can discern, it involves a bond and security for thirty pounds that William’s sister, Isabella, directed that a Mr. John Clucas give to William to take with him to New York, where Isabella and her husband, Edward, were living.

IOM 2014 (9)

Apparently, Mr. Clucas didn’t trust that Isabella’s letter was legitimate. He requested and received a bond for forty pounds from William to absolve him of all responsibility if indeed William was pulling one over on him. It appears, again to this amateur, that William and Isabella deeded their moiety (half share in a house) in Heywood Place to Mr. Clucas as part of this arrangement.

In January 1858, the bond was cancelled upon receipt from America that the thirty pounds made it to Isabella and Edward.

I think. Anybody a lawyer?

Well, enough of that. What’s important is that there was a lot of information to be found in the midst of all that legalese.

  1. William and Isabella were about to leave the Isle of Man in early June 1853.
  2. Isabella participated in the legal proceedings with William. She also signed the document.
  3. William’s sister and her husband, Edward Graves, had already immigrated and were living in New York city.
  4. William and Isabella’s destination was also New York.

I haven’t found a passenger list yet for them, but I’m going to guess that they sailed directly to New York, rather than one of the other ports in North America, such as Boston or Philadelphia. If so, they would have arrived at Castle Garden, as Ellis Island wouldn’t be built for years.

castle gardens.jpg

Not having a passenger list, I don’t know exactly when William and Isabella arrived. I do know that it was before August 9, 1853. Their first son, also named William John Garrett, was born that day in New York.

Isabella had left her homeland, friends, and family so far away. And, while heavily pregnant, she had sailed across an huge ocean on a constantly moving, rocking, and wave-tossed ship. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable she must have been. In my head, she is a very brave, stalwart woman.

By 1873, Isabella and William had settled in Joliet, Ilinois. They had 12 children in all, eight boys and four girls.

  • William John, 1853-1855
  • George, 1855-1857
  • Albert Eugene, 1858-1937
  • Arthur Henry, 1860-1922
  • Edward Osborne, 1862-1914
  • Gilbert Charles, 1864-1944
  • Lillian, 1866-1954
  • Louis Frank, 1869-1886
  • Richard Walter, 1871-1886
  • Emma Eliza, 1873-1899
  • Kathryn Eva, 1876-1946
  • Mabel Laura, 1879-1948

William passed away in 1900; Isabella lived another ten years without him. I don’t have any photos of them, but I sure wish I did. I want to see the faces of these strong, brave people.

garrett-william john-1900-headstone.jpg
William’s headstone

‘Til next time.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 21: Military, Pt. 2

Something has been nagging me, and I think I have made a mistake.

I don’t think that the Tubal who died in the Boston Almshouse is my Tubal.

And, here are my clues.

On the page with the details of Tubal’s death, I missed a couple of little pieces of what might be valuable information.

1821-death-KEEN-tubal-boston MA alms house

  1. Tubal’s name here is spelled Tub*e*l not Tub*a*l. A little detail that could have been a simple mistake.
  2. In the fourth column, “To what family belonging,” the name “Tubel Keen” is written right before the words “from the almshouse.”. Again, it could have been a mistake, with the record keeper just repeating the deceased’s name. But, if the record keeper knew his/her job, that little piece of information means that the deceased Tubel’s father’s name was also Tubel.

In addition, I found two Tubals listed in “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War.


The Tubal above is the man whose pension file I have.

KEEN-tubal-MA soldiers and sailors of the rev war

And, then, here’s the other Tubal Keen from the same document.

There’s two clues here to this one being the correct Tubal.

  1. He was born in Pembroke.
  2. He was also given the alternate name of “Jubal.” My Tubal was listed several times on alternate versions of the same records with the name Jubal. For example, in his marriage record: The same date, the same woman, and the same place, but one record gives his name as Tubal and another as Jubal.


The Tubal who applied for a pension stated that he had no family. But, I know that my 3X great-grandmother and her four children were alive in 1821, as she wrote her will in 1826.

The Tubal who died in the almshouse had no property, real or personal. Sarah passed away with a will, having written very specific directions to the court as to the distribution of her property to her four children (Shadrach, Nancy, Margaret, and Washington) and her grandchild (Mary Ann Ruck). It seems reasonable that a woman with property would be one to write a will.

This obviously needs more research. But, I’m going to tentatively assume that the Tubal who served on the Dean isn’t my man.

‘Til next time.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 21: Military

Months and months ago, back when I just suspected, rather than knew, that Tubal Keen was my 3X great-grandfather, I downloaded his Revolutionary War pension file from Fold3. I haven’t yet delved into the records in the file, so I think now, in light of this week’s prompt, is a good time.

Fold3 is a genealogy website that focuses on military records. I don’t have a membership, so I took advantage of a free weekend’s access. I really was just using a shotgun approach to research, so in addition to Tubal’s file, I downloaded a few other likely prospects. And, it paid off.

If you remember, a while back, I found the will of Sarah Ruck Keen, Tubal’s widow.  (I have a marriage record for them.) In her will, all four of her children are named. That was the link that tied Washington E. Keen to his hard-to-find father, Tubal. You can see the generations between him and me in the graphic below.

me to tubal

Tubal was born in Pembroke, Massachusetts, circa 1756, the son of Francis Keen, Sr. and Margaret Hunt Keen. He was the right age and in the thick of things when war broke out between England and the colonies, a prime candidate for Revolutionary War service.

Below is the first page of his pension file. It confirms that he served in Massachusetts in the Navy.


The second page of the file contains information about his service and the outcome of his pension application:


It states:

Tubal Keen, of Boston in the state of Massachusetts, who was a Midshipman on board the frigate Dean commanded by Capt. S. Nicholson, for the term of 2 years.

His application was approved:

Inscribed on the Roll of Massachusetts at the rate of 8 Dollars per month, to commence on the 3rd of April, 1818.


The third page repeats his service details, but also adds “Invalid” at the top of the page.

The page below is a copy of his testimony as to his service, but it’s dated June 24, 1820. It appears that he was granted pension funds in arrears, based on the dates and notes on the page above.Fold3_Page_5_Revolutionary_War_Pension_and_BountyLand_Warrant_Application_Files

The handwriting is hard to read. But here is a transcription of the majority of the document as near as I can get:

On the Twenty fourth day of the June, 1820, personally appeared, in open Court, being a Court of Record, viz. a special District Court of the United States for the said District, Tubal Keene aged sixty seven years, resident in Boston in the County of Suffolk, in said District, Mariner, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath declare, that he served in the Revolutionary War, as follows:

As a private in the company commanded by Captain (?) in the regiment commanded Co. (?) Massachusetts line of the army three years and six months afterward as a midshipman on board the Frigate Dean Captain Nicholson which (?)was subsequently call the Hague and commanded by Capt. (?) this declaration was dated the 26 April 1818. His pension certificate is ? 6457 and dated January 30th 1819.

And, I do solemnly swear, that I was a resident citizen of the United States, on the 18th day of March, 1818; and that I have not, since that time, by gift, sale, or in any manner, disposed of my property, or any part thereof, with intent thereby to diminish it, as to bring myself within the provisions of an Act of Congress, entitled “An Act to provide for certain persons, engaged in the Land and naval Service of the United States, int Revolutionary War,” passed on the 18th day of March, 1818; and that I have not, nor has any person in trust for me, any property, or securities, contracts, or debts, due to me; nor have I any income, other than what is contained in the schedule hereto annexed, and by me subscribed.  

X (his mark)

Tubal Keene

Sworn to and declared, on the twenty fourth day of June A.D. 1820

The next page is an accounting of the possessions of Tubal:


Schedule of property belonging to the subscriber (?) late a midshipman in the United States Navy

Real Estate. None.

Personal Estate. None.

Occupation a laborer but unable to work in consequence of old age and infirmities, having had my left leg and arm broken (?).

Family. I have none.

Tubal Keene

X His mark

Well, that’s interesting. At this time, he had four living children and a wife, Sarah. Hummm…

The file also includes a letter of testimony as to his service in the war:



The letter reads:

District of Massachusetts

I Tubal Keen of Boston in the County of Suffolk Commonwealth of Massachusetts laborer of the age of sixty three years a native citizen and resident in the United States an application for a pension under the law of the United States do before you oath declare that in the month of January in the year 1781 I enlisted as a midshipman in the Navy of the United States and was attached to the Dale Frigate afterwards called the Hague under Captain Samuel Nicholson. That I served two years and two months in the capacity and after the declaration of peace I was honorably discharged. Our first cruise was in the West Indies coast where we captured many prizes- as was also our (?) . Captain Manley was commander as the time after peace took place. My discharge was destroyed by fire in a house which was hired by me about seven years since, and which was burned to the ground in Boston. I further testify and declare that my circumstances are much reduced and I am in extreme poverty and in need of aid from my country for support.

(Signed) Tubal Keen

The letter is signed by a district judge and also includes a declaration of the ship’s surgeon as to the veracity of Tubal’s testimony.

The remaining pages in the file are official court documents that show the approval of his application.

Just a few years later, Tubal died in the Boston Almshouse:

1821-death-KEEN-tubal-boston MA alms house

Tubal died on June 12, and he was buried June 13, 1821. His cause of death was “Liver Complaint.” The last columns list the undertaker and the grave position in the cemetery.

A sad end and a bit of a puzzler, too. Sarah, his widow, had enough property to execute a will for her children and to provide care for a granddaughter. Yet, Tubal seems to have died penniless and alone. It warrants more research. But, that will have to wait for another day.

‘Til next time.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 20: Another Language

Well, this has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Turns out, life gets busy in the summer. At the Big Airline, things are a’changin’. The powers that be are moving to a more seasonal approach to flight planning, meaning heavy schedules in the summer months and lighter ones in the winter. Following the market demand, which is turning out to be profitable. Who knew???

All that to say that it’s been tricky finding time to blog, or frankly even to research. I’m actually on a layover now, trying a new approach to keeping up. I’m using the Word Press app on my iPad, and I loaded some photos and records into Dropbox that I thought I might use. (That was my biggest sticking point: not having access to my pictures and documents.)

So, let’s take this baby out for a spin and see how she does!

For the majority of my ancestors, English has been their first language. But, I have two lines in my family tree that involve other languages. My father’s mother was born in Massachusetts, but all her family were French Canadian and spoke French. My mom’s father’s mother was Norwegian, having immigrated as a young girl.

My French-Canadian great-grandparents, parents to my paternal grandmother, Perpetue (or Ducky or Pearl or Nana)
My Norwegian great-grandmother, Theoline, as an infant, with her parents, Hans and Tori, in Norway

I have no experience speaking or learning Norwegian. I did, however, spend about a week in French class in high school. It about broke my brain, trying to wrap my head around all those letters that you don’t pronounce. All taught by a French teacher with one of the strongest New York accents I have ever, even to this day, heard.

So, dropped that class like a hot potato and enrolled in the German class instead. Whew! Now, there’s a logical language.

But, alas, none of my ancestors came from Germany. At least, none that I have found.

And, being intimidated by Norwegian’s strange characters and French’s seemingly random pronunciation of various letters, I have concentrated on the low-hanging fruit of English records. But, I know that eventually I will have to man up and tackle them both, if I want to find those rich, historical stories that I desire.

So, I am going to try to dissect a record today, in Norwegian, and see how far I can get.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am now home again, and wow, writing this is So. Much. Easier. on my computer.)

Below is an example of a record in Norwegian. It’s the 1866 marriage record of my great-great grandparents, Hans Tobias Olson and Tori Jacobsdatter. As you can see, these historical records have additional challenges, in addition to the language barrier. The handwriting and font can sometimes be very hard to decipher, and the scan might not be very clear.

Hans and Tori are entry number 6:

olsen soland-1866-marriage

I can figure out some of the information from prior knowledge.

The first column is obviously the date: 20 April.

The second column is their names: Hans Tobias Olsen and Tori Jacobsdatter. The words right before each of their names are repeated for each couple on the page, so I’m going to surmise that they simply mean groom and bride.

The third column is their farm names: Soland and Glenrange. Farm names were used along with the patronymic system to help distinguish one Hans Olsen from another.

The fourth column is their ages: 28 1/2 and 24 1/2.

The fifth and sixth columns appear to be the groom’s and the bride’s fathers’ names: Ole Johannes Håkonsen and Jakob Tobias Tonnessen.

The first column after the page break stumps me. Perhaps witnesses? Frankly, the rest of the columns are a bit of a mystery, too.

I’m going to see if the Family Search Wiki for Norway can help me.

And, why yes, it has! I’ve found a great article in the Norway “How to” Guides: Digitalarkivet: Church Records. (You might need to sign into Family Search for some of these links to work.)

(And, now I’m off on a rabbit trail on inserting those special Norwegian alphabetic characters. There are several ways to do this, but I’ve just used this website for the special character “å” in Johannes’ name above. Painless! I’m going to bookmark this one.)

So, back to the How To Guide. It instructs me to head over to the  National Archives of Norway site. But, the link is incorrect. I correct it by removing anything after the forward slash. That’s better. And, I select “English” on the top of the page.

And, this is where the Family Search article breaks down, or hasn’t been updated. Clicking around, I find Parish Registers under the menu icon. And, now I feel like I am off-roading on my own!

I found the church books, and the site is still in English, so I insert the year and type of record I’m searching. I also need to know the county, which is Vest-Agder, and the parish, which is Flekkefjord. Thankfully, both are in drop-down menus, which makes it easier.

That search turned up zero results, so I remove “marriage” from the search and get quite a few results.


I don’t know what the letters dp, kf, etc., mean, but I can see that they are hyperlinked. Hovering my mouse over each one, I discover that “vi” means marriage records 1850-1869. That looks promising. Nope. I search the next book.

And, there they are! It’s the same image I have above, but with the source information attached.


But, still no translation of the information columns. Hummm… Where to now?

I need a snack. Be right back.

OK. That’s better. And, armed with some brain fuel, I had the bright idea of just posting on the Norwegian Genealogy Facebook group and asking what the columns are for. But, then I thought that would be cheating and would defeat the purpose of this post, which is to learn how to figure this out on my own.

Back to the “How To Guide” at Family Search. And, I think I’ve found the mother lode: Norwegian Parish Record Headings! Now, isn’t that handy?

And, here it is, the key to all the information on the second page of the record:


So, armed with the list above, I now know that the names in the first column (on the right hand side of the page) are the bondsmen. The next column lists the dates the bans were read in church: April 2, April 8, and April 15. Next is the person requesting the the bans: the bridegroom. Nothing in the column for why the bans weren’t read. Next is the date of smallpox or certificate of vaccination. Hans was vaccinated June 9, 1838, and Tori was vaccinated July 13, 1844. Nothing in the next column with information about the bridegrooms salary or pension. And, nothing in the last column with information about any prior marriages.

Well, if you have stuck with me through all of this, then I commend you. It’s been a valuable exercise for me. I’ve discovered that blogging on my iPad just won’t work for me. I have navigated the National Archives of Norway for the first time, and I’ve found out just how helpful a wiki can be.

Now, I still need to figure out French-language sites. But, that’s another day.

‘Til next time.





52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 19: Mother’s Day

Mitochondrial DNA is passed down from mother to mother to mother, for hundreds and thousands of years, for the most part unchanged from generation to generation.

My mtDNA is essentially the same as my mother’s. Hers is the same as her mother’s. And on, and on, and on…back thousands of years.

But, somewhere along the line, a mutation can occur, and a new branch of the mitochondrial tree is formed. This change of mtDNA is used to trace our ancestors back in time, to find out their migration routes and origins.

My particular mtDNA haplogroup, or branch of the tree, is H16. A haplogroup is the people who descend from a particular person in time, in which a mutation occurred, who now carry that same genetic marker.

This is from the 23 and Me website, explaining my H16 haplogroup:

Origin and Migrations of Haplogroup H16

Your maternal line stems from haplogroup H16, a relatively young group that traces back to a woman who lived approximately 6,000 years ago in the south or southeast of Europe. She lived near the beginning of the Neolithic, a period of cultural and technological revolution when the first farmers began to migrate west from the Middle East. As farming technology spread, European populations boomed, and members of H16 expanded west across the continent.

Today, members of H16 are found distributed throughout Europe. Though the group is widespread geographically, it is a rare subgroup of H, with an average frequency of approximately 1% across Europe.


And, now, what does this have to do with this week’s prompt?

I think it’s just rather amazing that a wee bit of me is exactly the same as a wee bit in my mother, and my grandmother, and my great-grandmother, and my great-great-grandmother… all the way back to ~4000BC.

In light of that, I thought I’d try to trace my maternal line as back as far as I could, within the restrictions of getting this posted in a timely fashion. And, making dinner, doing the laundry, completing the random projects around the house in various states of completeness, etc., etc., etc.

So, beginning with my mother, Bula Helen Wells:

bula wells (4).jpg

Bula’s mother, my grandmother, Vida Bula Gard Wells:


Vida’s mother, my great-grandmother, Eva M. Kesterson Gard:

w. d. and eva m., vida gard, 2927 e. 1st los angeles, ca.jpg
Eva, Vida, and Willis Gard

Eva’s mother, my 2x great grandmother, Sarah Ann Kendall Kesterson:

kesterson-sarah ann sally-kendall.jpg
Sarah (Sallie)

Sarah’s mother, my 3x great grandmother, Alice Jane Crew Kendall.

The Kendall Family, William, Alice, and Sarah, Lines 33-35, 1850 US Census

And, unfortunately, that is where my little quest ends. For now. I have grabbed the low-hanging fruit from this tree, and without more time for research, it will have to do.

I hope you have a lovely Mother’s Day, either as a mother or as someone who has a mother. Which pretty much covers us all!

‘Til next time.



52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks| Week 18: Close Up

I decided this week to take a close up look at the 1810 Federal Census record of the Tubal Keen family of Boston, MA, to see what additional information I could find out.

keen-tubal-1810-us census-boston

If you remember, I’ve recently discovered (through a state census record that led me on a profitable wild goose chase) that Tubal, my 4X great-grandfather, was indeed the father of Washington E. Keen, my 3X great-grandfather.

Tubal was born in Pembroke, MA, and was baptized in November of 1756. He served in the Navy as a midshipman during the Revolutionary War. After the war, on November 11, 1790, he married Susannah (Suky) Glover.

After Suky’s death, he married Sarah Ruck, my 4X great-grandmother, on January 14, 1796. Sarah was possibly Suky’s sister; that needs more research for another day.

Let’s see what the 1810 census might tell us about this family, shall we?

By 1810, Tubal and Sarah would have been married about 14 years. Any children from their union would then be under the age of 14.

Below is the line for Tubal and his family, listed with the other inhabitants of Clark Square, Boston.

keen-tubal-1810-us census-boston 1.jpg

The numbers in the columns represent the individuals living in the household, their age ranges, sex, and slave or free status. The double lines divide the males, females, and slaves.

So, from left to right we see that there are:

  • 1 male under 10 years
  • 2 males 10-16
  • 0 males 16-26
  • 0 males 26-45
  • 1 male over 45

There is then a double line representing a division between males and females:

  • 1 female under 10 years
  • 1 female 10-16
  • 0 females 16-26
  • 1 female 26-45
  • 0 females over 45

Then another double line, dividing free residents from slaves.

  • 0 slaves (yay!)

All together, there are seven inhabitants in the Keen household, and the numeral 7 for the total is in the last column on the right.

We can guess that the two oldest people, one male and one female, are Tubal (over 45) and Sarah (26-45). That leaves five children, two under 10 (one male and one female), and three 10-16 (two males and one female).

We know that Tubal and Sarah had four children:

  • Shadrack, b. 1796
  • Nancy, b. 1797
  • Margaret, b. 1800
  • Washington, b. 1810

Based on their birth years and the age ranges of the 1810 census, the two children 10 and under are Washington, newborn, and Margaret, about 10 (one male and one female).

The one female 10-16 would be Nancy, who would be approximately 13.

That leaves us two males aged 10-16. One is Shadrack, born September 1796, who would be about 14.

So, now we have a mystery. Who is the one remaining male child, 10-16, in the household? Hummm…

Let’s do some deductive reasoning, shall we?

In Sarah’s will and probate record she names her four children that I’ve listed above. In addition, she also names a grandchild, Mary Ann Ruck. Neither of her married daughters have the last name Ruck, so little Mary Ann isn’t the daughter of one of Sarah’s daughters.

Sarah’s last name when she married Tubal was Ruck.

One possibility is that Sarah Ruck was her married, not maiden, name, and she was a widow with a young son when she married Tubal, who was also widowed. By the time of Sarah’s death in 1826, her son, the father of her grandchild Mary Ann, was deceased, and therefore not mentioned in the will.

The other male, 10-16, could very well be this firstborn son, who would have been less than two years old when she married Tubal, based on the age range in the census.

Whew… that’s a lot of numbers and names! I commend you if you’ve hung in there to the end of this post!

I guess the point of all this is that in those seemingly straightforward little numbers across the census page is a story to be found, one of marriages and losses and the details of our ancestors’ lives, if one is willing to look closer.

‘Til next time.




52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 17: Cemetery

Back in the fall of 2014, my husband, Doug, and I took a life-changing trip to the Isle of Man. The Garrett family lore handed down through his family was that their ancestors   were immigrants from the island. And since I had met him, Doug had talked of visiting one day.

(However, for him, I’m not sure if that desire stemmed more from his heritage or for the lure of the famous Isle of Man TT race. Either way, 2014 was finally the year.)

The night before we left, Doug’s mom found an old, typed, yellowed paper listing the children of Isabella Kissack and William John Garrett, the immigrant couple who first came to America. And, that was so helpful!

Garrett Kissack Children.JPG

Right away, we learned that the family name was simply Garrett, not O’Garrett. The “O” turned out to be the middle initial Edward Osborn Garrett, the son that Doug’s line descends through. If you say “Edward O. Garrett” enough, it soon morphs into “Edward O’Garrett.”

So, with the paper in hand, we set off across the Pond, not knowing what we were looking for, nor where we would even begin to look. Not the best way to begin a research trip!

Once on the island, we had some tremendous help from the owners of the Devonian, the  cozy B&B we stayed in.


We learned from them that the one and only museum and archive, the Manx Museum, was literally up the hill and around the corner, about a five-minute walk.

The Manx Museum

We set aside an afternoon to spend at the museum, armed with only the paper above, and soon found ourselves overwhelmed with the help of, and the information found by, the museum staff. We sat in amazement as they brought out papers and documents, one after the other, all with information about Doug’s family.

It was the first time I had ever researched in an archive, or even thought about it for that matter, having never done family history at this point. It was a transformational moment to realize that there are literally thousands of stories, just sitting on shelves or stored in a cupboard, waiting for someone to care enough to discover and tell them.

One of the museum staff soon brought out a book with tombstone inscriptions from the nearby graveyard of Kirk Braddan, where we had already learned that William John and Isabella had been married, having been shown their marriage record from 1852.

Tombstone inscriptions of graves at Kirk Braddan

There at #792, buried in the same grave, are Doug’s 3x and 4x great-grandmothers  (mother and daughter), William John Garrett’s mother and grandmother:

In memory of /  Catherine CRAINE / who departed this life / November 27th 1814 / aged 62 years / also Catherine CRAINE / wife of Wm Garrett who / departed this life 26th August / 1832 aged 52 years.

The staff also quickly found a hand-drawn map of the churchyard when we commented that we’d like to visit.


A few days later, we hiked further uphill and inland to Kirk Braddan. A long way inland. A steep walk uphill. It was drizzling. There might have been grumbling.

Kirk Braddan is absolutely lovely. It’s a tiny, ancient, stone church surrounded by a churchyard chock-a-block full of jumbled tombstones, surrounded on three sides by thick stands of trees.

Figuring out the map took us a bit, but once we situated ourselves, we found the grave were were looking for.

IOM 2014 (88).JPG

And, there we were. Standing a few feet above two women without whom the man beside me wouldn’t exist. Two women who we had never even given a thought to until days earlier. It was a powerful moment for both of us, and it was what spurred me onto this family history journey.

52 ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 16: Storms

Storms. Growing up on the desert as I did, wind and sand storms were quite common. My legs got sandblasted more than once while I waited by the mailbox for the school bus. The dust would also blow in through any teeny, tiny crack or crevice in the walls or windows of our (unfinished) house. The sand would pile up against the lava rocks my mom used as garden borders. Tumbleweeds were blown everywhere, and grit would sink to the bottom of our above-ground pool.

The photo below was taken in June 1959, after such a storm. That’s sand on the roof. The note on the back says that my brother, Bob, had just finished painting the windows. I can’t imagine that he was pleased…

bob had just painted the windows, ...just up, the was before the big blow 6-25-59, new trees not planted yet.jpg

But, there were also snow storms.

Snow storms, you say? In the desert?

Yup, apparently so.

1949, China Lake CA, snow storm.jpg
1949 snow storm, China Lake
charlotte in 8in of snow, jan 1949.jpg
This is my older sister, Charlotte. The note on the photo says the snow was 8 inches deep.

Apparently, this storm also dusted Los Angeles. Below is my grandparents’ front yard at 325 Gertrude St.

jan 12-48, snow on lawn 325 gertrude st..jpg

This next photo is after my parents built their house out in Inyokern.

snow storm (1).jpg

This must be 1961 or so, as that’s me, my younger brother, Richard, an older sibling (probably Charlotte), and my brother, Don, sitting on a snow bank on the side of our house.

snow storm (4).jpg

I don’t remember this snow storm, nor are there any photos of snow storms, after this. It might have snowed, and either I just don’t remember, or I don’t have photos. I know for certain that in the 25 years that we have lived in the Los Angeles area, there hasn’t been any snow here. I imagine that would cause quite a commotion now!

“Til next time!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 15: Taxes

At first, when I read this prompt, my thought was, “Nope. Got nothing.”

And, then I decided to see what I could dig up, based on interesting finds for other prompts I almost dismissed.

But, first, a slight digression, which does play into the scenario, I promise.

Back several weeks ago, I went to Utah to attend RootsTech. One of the sessions I attended was given by Diana Elder of Family Locket. (If you remember, I won the RootsTech pass on a giveaway through her blog.)

Diana gave an excellent presentation on why and how to organize your genealogy files, both physical and digital. You can find her presentation slides and notes here. I highly recommend you taking a look.

Diana’s digital file-naming system was the most helpful thing I learned during her class. Oh, yes, I thought I had a good, consistent naming protocol. I mean, I had all the vital information there, right? But, I was fooling myself. Trust me, her system is so much better. And, I will tell you why.

I had been naming files something like this:


Sometimes, it looked more like this:

diamond-sarah-1764-birth-marblehead vital records-vol 1.jpg

Or even this:


Do you see the problems? The inconsistencies? No wonder I had trouble finding stuff.

Diana’s suggestion was to name files like this:

date-document type-last name-first name (and maiden)-place

She explained that if your folder was correctly named, i.e. GARD-jeremiah-BROWN-experience, the name of the individual really wasn’t the most important part of the file name. It’s there in the folder structure, so it doesn’t have to be the first item in the individual file name.

But, what will be important is the date the document or photo was created and the document type. So when you are searching through your files, all the files with this file naming protocol will be neatly in chronological order, making a nice, clear, concise timeline for your ancestor, right there in your folder. Ta-da!

So, for the files above, I have renamed them like this:

  • 1810-will pg3-GARD-jeremiah-union township PA.jpg
  • 1750-51-marriage-CLAFLIN-timothy-GOULD-mary-lynn MA.jpg
  • 1764-birth marblehead vital records-vol 1-DIAMOND-sarah-marblehead MA.jpg

I have already experienced the ease of finding a document when using this system.

Here’s a screenshot of one of my folders before I have renamed the enclosed files:

What a mess! Nothing is easily found!

Now, here’s a folder that I have worked on:

Whew… So. Much. Better. Everything is in chronological order, with the document type after the date. Not all files have dates; they will be listed by document type first and fall after the files with dates listed first.

I have already found that I had duplicates of many documents, especially census records. When looking in a folder with my prior system, there was no easy way to tell if I had all or any census pages. Now, I can easily search, because records are in chronological order, and quickly see that yes, I have 1850, but not 1830 or 1840, for example. No more multiple downloads of 1850!

All that to say, it was difficult to find a tax record in the jumble of files in my folders! I think I’ll have an easier time from now on, or I will have, once I finish this BIG project. I will be able to easily search for the document type right after the date in the file name.

So, do you want to see what I found?

This is not exactly a tax record, but rather an assessment for a possible future tax liability. My DAR patriot is Jeremiah Gard, who moved west from New Jersey to settle in the frontier of Pennsylvania, in Union Township.

1798-land assesment-GARD-jeremiah--union township fayette co PA-ancerstry.jpg

This document is the “Particular list of description of all lands, lots, buildings, and wharves, owned, possessed, or occupied on the first day of October, 1798, in Union Township, Fayette County…”

Jeremiah Gard is number 64 on this page, the third and fourth lines from the top. He owned two lots, but occupied only one. On the occupied lot, he had one “cabbin” worth $8.00,  one sawmill, and one “old log barn.” This land and lots subject to valuation were a total of 260 acres and 80 “perches.”  The total valuation of “tract, lot wharf, and etc.” was $2088.00. The unoccupied lot was valued at $40.00.

Not bad, Jeremiah!

‘Til next time!


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 14: The Maiden Aunt(s)

I knew right away who I wanted to write about for this week’s prompt. My great-great aunts, Ida and Johanna, are the subjects of this post. They came to America from Norway with their parents and siblings, including my great-great grandmother, Theoline.

In 1879 when they arrived, Theoline was 12, Ida was eight, and Johanna was a wee six year-old.

Soland Line

Theoline grew up and married Willis C. Wells, my great-great grandfather in 1896.

willis and theoline wells wedding picture, april 18, 1886.jpg
Wedding picture of Theoline Soland and Willis C. Wells, my great-grandparents

But, that’s enough about Theoline for this blog post; we’re here to talk about her younger sisters. So, let’s begin, shall we?

In the 1880 census, the first US census after their 1879 arrival, Ida and Jo, nine and seven, were living in Preston, Trempealeau, Wisconsin with their parents and siblings.

Ida and Jo Soland

Let’s first follow older sister Ida through the years.

Ida Soland

She was confirmed November 22, 1885 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Blair, Wisconsin, at age 14.

I don’t have a federal census record of Ida for 1890, as the census, for the most part, was destroyed in a fire.

She is listed in the 1900 census as still living with her parents in Blair, working as a teacher at age 29.

In 1905, she is still in Blair with her parents and two brothers, still working as a teacher.

In 1908, at 37, Ida was in Chicago, Illinois, where she graduated from nursing school.


Aunt Ida’s photo is one row from the bottom, one picture to the right of the center. She has curly hair and is wearing glasses. It’s notable that she’s older than many of her classmates.

I couldn’t find her in the 1910 census, but there may be a good reason for that which I will explain in a bit.*

In the 1920 census, Ida, 49, is in Wisconsin, living with her widowed mother, Tori. She is working as a community nurse.

In 1930, at age 59, she is listed in a city directory in Los Angeles, with no occupation noted. She is also in the 1930 Federal census in Los Angeles as living with her mother, Tori, 88, and her sister, Jo, 57. In the census, however, her occupation is recorded as “Reg. Nurse.”

In 1940, aged 69, she is living in Los Angeles with Johanna; she might be retired at this time, as there is no occupation listed for her. The sisters’ mother, Tori, passed away in 1938.

Ida passed away June 1960, a month before I turned two.

Jo and Ida Soland

Now, let’s see where life leads younger sister Jo.

Johanna Soland

May 20, 1888, at age 15, Johanna was confirmed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Blair, Wisconsin.

The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, so there’s no record for the family in this year.

I couldn’t find her in the 1900 census.

City directories were very helpful in my search for Johanna. 1904 finds Jo in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, working as a teacher. In 1907, Jo was living in Kalispell, Montana. She was the principal of the Central School. In 1911, Jo was back in Wisconsin, getting her BA at the University of Wisconsin while teaching school. In 1913, Jo had moved back to Kalispell, where she was a teacher of sewing and domestic science at the West Side School. She also apparently earned her MA in this year.

In 1920, Jo was a lodger in Ward Co., North Dakota, working as a teacher.  The census records that she was naturalized in 1884.

In 1921, with both her BA and MA, Jo was back in North Dakota, working as a teacher in the Minot State Normal School. (Teachers’ colleges were formally called Normal Schools.)

In the 1930 census, Ida, 59, and Jo, 57, were living together in Los Angeles with their mother, Tori, 88. Ida was a nurse in a hospital; Jo was a teacher at a junior college.

In 1937, Jo was living in El Centro, California and was a teacher at Brawley Union High School.

In 1940, Jo, 67, and Ida, 69, were both in Los Angeles, still living together, but with a lodger. They apparently were both retired, as there are no occupations listed for either.

6-1960, aunt jo
Aunt Jo, 1960. I think I recognize this as Rose Hills Cemetery in Whittier, CA. Perhaps this was Aunt Ida’s funeral.
johanna g soland
Aunt Jo in 1965

Jo passed away in October 1968, when I was ten. I do vaguely remember her.

As I was growing up, Jo and Ida were always spoken as of as “Aunt Jo and Aunt Ida”, one unit. Today it would be a hashtag: #JoAndIda. Or #TheAunts. But, it wasn’t always so, as we have seen. Their paths diverged, Jo became an educator and Ida a nurse, and then they came back together later in life.

I’m pretty sure that Jo must have missed Ida those last years without her.

“Til next time.

*According to my mother, at one point, Ida was married. Apparently, Jo didn’t approve, and broke up the marriage not too long after it occurred by insisting that Ida leave her husband. It was as if that silliness had never happened. I haven’t found records to prove or disprove this story, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I found a hint that Ida and her husband might have been living in Kalispell, Montana in 1910. If she were using a married name, that could explain why I didn’t find her in the 1910 census.