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Sidetracked

My self-assigned genealogy task for this year is to further the research on my Riddle line. This week I got sidetracked. I made no progress on that line, but I did locate information on another.

One of the genealogy blogs I follow provides a regular list of new databases on Ancestry and Family Search. I scan the titles for resources I might be able to use. This week I saw that Montana divorces had become available.

I have Montana ancestors in my Norwegian line, but as far as I knew, none had been divorced. Still, there was one great-aunt who I thought was a possible candidate.

I had met her only a couple of times over the years, and we did correspond some. Her husband had worked in another state, so I never knew him. I did know that they lived apart, but no one ever said they were divorced. I just thought he found work more easily elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the search of the Montana database was simple, so I plugged in their names. Sure enough, I found a Montana divorce certificate issued for the couple when I was just a toddler.

Norwegians in my family are notoriously private, so no wonder I never heard about this divorce. No one would have said anything about it to me unless I had come out and asked directly. Of course, I never would have dared offer such an intrusive question. Now that both parties are deceased, it does not feel so nosy of me to learn more about this couple.

I spent the rest of my research time this week documenting this event and trying to learn more about the man who had once been part of my family. I found his memorial on FindAGrave.com. I found his family entry in the county history for Sheridan County, Montana.

I did get sidetracked, but I did not waste my time. Next week I will get back to the Riddles.

A Possible Breakthrough on the Riddle Line

This year, my research focuses on my ancestor John Davis Riddle (1821-1896). His origins have eluded me despite many years of searching. Other descendants have had no better luck.

From family papers we knew he was born in Pennsylvania. This source does not name a specific town or county, nor does it name his parents. Only genealogical research could reveal this information.

A study of his life showed us that J. D. Riddle, as he was known, had moved his young family to Mendon, Michigan in the late 1840’s. He farmed there for the rest of his life. We easily documented that period.

We also learned that he and his wife Olive Hall Dunbar were married in Summit County, Ohio in 1843. Her family lived there, but we could not identify a family for John in the area during that time. Nothing we could find provided a clue as to his family or birthplace.

Who were his people? When and why did he relocate from Pennsylvania to Ohio?

This week, for the umpteenth time, I decided to look at the family trees on Ancestry and Family Search to see if there was anything new on John Davis Riddle. I have always hoped his information had been preserved by a collateral line.

And this week, I found a tree claiming to connect John Davis Riddle to a Pennsylvania family in the 1830’s. Eureka!

I will not post this information to my own tree until I have been able to verify it. If correct, this will be a huge find. I can hardly wait to get started.

A Return to the Riddles

Back in the 90’s, I spent a tremendous amount of time researching my Riddle family line. I had a great deal of assistance from two other Riddle researchers, James Anderson and Ruby Prestly, both now deceased. We compiled our information and related our findings in a short book about Olive Dunbar Riddle (1823-1902) and her descendants. We used Olive as our subject because we could trace her ancestry to colonial times.

Her husband, John Davis Riddle, provides more of a challenge. We never could find a birth family for him. Now, twenty years later, I plan to spend this year trying to find out more about him.

I have these facts about his life:

  1. John Davis Riddle was born on either the 10th or 15th of May 1821 in Pennsylvania. I do not know the birth county or who his parents were.
  2. He married Olive Hall Dunbar on 12 January 1843 in Summit County, Ohio. Oddly, his name on the record appears as John Davis, not John Davis Riddle.
  3. On 9 September 1847, John and Olive sold Ohio land she had inherited.
  4. By 1849, they had moved to Mendon, St. Joseph County, Michigan where they spent the remainder of their lives.
  5. John (or J. D., as he was commonly known) and Olive raised a family of eight children. They also raised a grandson.
  6. John became blind in his later years. He lost one eye in an accident, and he developed a cataract in the other.
  7. Fearing blindness and poverty, John committed suicide by hanging himself in his barn on 20 August 1896. He was 75 years old.

Thus, my family tree for the Riddle line ends with John Davis Riddle. I would love to extend it this year.

When I worked on this project previously, James and Ruby and I represented family lines descending from three of the Riddle children. James’ ancestor was Theodocia Riddle Evert, Ruby’s was John Hoxey Riddle, and mine was Laura Riddle Edmonds. Now, I know of no other Riddle researchers in this family. I am in this alone.

My research resumes with investigation all the rich resources on the Seeking Michigan website (http://seekingmichigan.org/). They have collected all sorts of Michigan records that I had not seen in my previous research. Last week I found John and Olive on the 1884 Michigan state census.

With new records to find, it should be a satisfying year for research. I hope I can move this family back a generation.

On the Hunt for George Edmonds

This year I am resuming my research on the Riddle line. My Riddle great-grandmother, Laura, reportedly had a husband named George Edmonds in the 1880’s. He left behind very few records, and I know little about him. Something bad or tragic seems to have happened between the two of them because he disappeared from her life, leaving her with three young sons to raise. Laura resumed the use of her maiden name and never married again.

George Edmond’s name appears in just a few Michigan records:

  1. The 1880 U. S. census record for Leonidas, St. Joseph County, Michigan where George Edmonds appears as a 31-year-old farm laborer and head of household with his wife, Laura and 3 sons. This census record reports that George was born about 1849 in New York.
  2. The birth record for the youngest son, Joseph Enis, on 15 January 1880, at Leonidas, St. Joseph County, Michigan lists the father as Geore Edmonds.
  3. The birth record for the eldest son, Francis, on 8 April 1876 at Niles, Berrien County, Michigan lists the father as George Edmuns.
  4. The 1870 U. S. census record for Hamilton, Van Buren County, Michigan enumerates a George Edmonds who may or may not be the same man. This 21-year-old George, also born about 1849 in New York, worked as a farm laborer in the Jacob Mayer household. The Mayer family was from New York.

That’s it. No marriage record and no death record for George has been found. He disappears from the record after 1880.

By 1884, the Michigan State Census reports Laura Edmunds and the three boys in the household of her father, J. D. Riddle in Mendon, St. Joseph County. Laura is listed as married, not widowed. The next year, she drops her married name, and she and her boys join her sister Theodocia Riddle Evert in Nebraska. Laura acquires a homestead in Red Willow County near McCook.

What happened to George? Where was he from, and who were his people? As I search for information on the Riddle family this year, I hope to uncover some answers.

 

Away Too Long

After many years of diligently posting to this blog, suddenly last fall I became overwhelmed with life and just could not find the time. Why? My dear Dad and one of my brothers passed away within a month of each other. As guardian and executor for both of them, I really had a lot to do. Now, after quite an absence, here is a post in remembrance of them.

 

Earl E. Reed (1927-2017)

Dad was born in Wheatland, Wyoming, the fifth of six children. His father died in an accident when Dad was seven. Without a breadwinner, the family moved to Loveland, Colorado where an uncle made a house available to them. All the boys went to work, and Dad helped deliver milk. Dad graduated from Loveland High School in 1945. He immediately enlisted in the Navy and served aboard a minesweeper, the USS Seer, in the South China Sea. After his service, he returned to school, eventually graduating from the University of Wyoming with a degree in business in 1954.

Dad joined Marathon Oil Company (formerly the Ohio Oil Company) as a petroleum landman. He spent his career with them in Bismarck, North Dakota; Sidney, Nebraska; Casper, Wyoming; and Cody, Wyoming. In his free time, he participated in team sports like bowling and volleyball, served as treasurer of his son’s Scout pack, and ushered at the local Lutheran Church. He was an avid reader, and he liked to fish. He belonged to the Elks club and enjoyed taking meals at Elks lodges whenever he traveled on business.

Dad married Joyce Bentsen while he was still in college. Their marriage lasted 47 years until she passed away in 2000. After his retirement, they enjoyed traveling from Wyoming to the east coast to spend the winter in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He referred to those years as “golden”.

Dad lived alone in Casper in the years following Joyce’s death. When he began to need more assistance from family members, he moved to the Denver area and remained there for the rest of his life.

People always described my Dad as a real gentleman. He was generous and provided well for his family. He valued education and was the first in his family to finish college. He was a great Dad despite having lost his own at such a young age.

Dad was buried next to Joyce in the Casper cemetery. On a cold November day, Navy service members from Cheyenne, WY traveled to Casper to stand guard during his burial service and to fold the flag that covered his casket. Dad had lived to the age of 90, longer than any of his siblings. It was time for him to rest.

 

James E. Reed (1959-2017)

My brother Jim enriched our lives by being different. He was born in Bismarck, North Dakota, the third child of four in our family. He had severe developmental disabilities and needed care all his life.

Jim lived at home until he was nine, and then my family placed him at the Wyoming Life Resource Center (formerly the Wyoming State Training School) in Lander, Wyoming.

Some people think institutional life is a terrible thing, but it was not so for Jim and the other clients in Lander. They lived on a beautiful, tree-filled campus with easy access to everything they needed—cozy houses, a recreation center with swimming pool, a canteen, medical and dental offices, and a chapel. They had the opportunity to attend school and other therapy. Staff provided wonderful leisure activities like parties, dances, holiday celebrations, and picnics. For all of this, they had the freedom and safety of the large campus. Jim never had to be confined to a small group home in a busy city where he would have been locked in for fear that he would wander into traffic.

He and the other residents who were able enough had meaningful work to do in the gardens, in the craft center making items to sell, or helping with janitorial services. Jim worked as a janitor for many years. Towards the end of his life, when he grew more frail, he helped with paper shredding and mail delivery. These jobs gave structure to his life and provided interaction with others.

Jim lived on the Lander campus for 48 years until his health failed. After a funeral in Lander (I never knew he had so many friends!), he was buried in the Casper cemetery next to our mother.