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Lives Affected by Epidemics

With the coronavirus outbreak all over the news these days, I began thinking of ancestors who might have lived through epidemics of their own. A few came to mind.

  1. Regional outbreaks of diseases such as measles and diphtheria occurred in communities where my family lived during the 19th century. My own family members likely endured some of these sicknesses. Although I have seen columns of Midwestern death listings from these and other illnesses, I have found none of my family names in these records of fatalities. A century later I, too, survived a case of the measles in 1964. It was the sickest I have ever been.
  2. About 1910, my great-grandfather Ole Bentsen (1880-1976) experienced a bout of typhoid fever. I do not know whether others in his Sheridan County, Montana community also had this illness caused by contaminated food or water.
  3. The Spanish flu swept the nation during World War I. My grandmother’s cousin Arthur Davis Riddle (1881-1919) succumbed to this illness in Seattle, Washington. He was a tall lumberjack, but his robust strength did not protect him from the influenza.
  4. During the 1930’s my grandmother Grace Riddle Reed (1896-1976) contracted smallpox in Wheatland, Wyoming. My father was a young boy at the time, but he remembered that his mother was quarantined during her illness. No one else in the family caught the disease.
  5. My entire family contracted the Asian flu in 1958. We lived in Bismarck, North Dakota at the time. I can remember my parents having a difficult time rousing themselves from their own sickbeds to care for their two young children who also had this illness. We all recovered.

Outbreaks of illness seem to cycle regularly through communities. Some of these epidemics seem deadlier than others. It remains too early to tell how the United States will fare with the current coronavirus. At our house we remain watchful and have prepared for whatever it brings.

Hunting for Mayflower Ancestors

With the new year comes a new genealogy project. After spending last year on foreign research in Finnish records, I will turn my attention closer to home in 2020.

My father had deep American roots. His mother’s family lived in New England a couple of centuries ago, and I want to find out more about them. I am hoping to prove a line or two of Mayflower ancestry.

Dad’s direct maternal line offers me a chance. According to a post on WikiTree, his third great-grandmother, Lucy Snow, descended two ways from Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins. The lines go this way although no sources are cited:

Lucy Snow>Hannah Lincoln>Hannah Hopkins>Stephen Hopkins>Stephen Hopkins>Giles Hopkins>Stephen Hopkins

Lucy Snow>Thomas Rogers Snow>Nathaniel Snow>Edward Snow>Jabez Snow>Constance Hopkins>Stephen Hopkins

My first stop searching for proof of this ancestry has been the databases on the American Ancestors website (https://www.americanancestors.org/index.aspx). There I located documentation for the births and marriage of Lucy’s parents. Lucy herself is not mentioned so I have nothing to link her to them. I need to find some proof of her parentage.

I also need to find some proof that Lucy was the mother of my known ancestor Rhoda Hall. I have only cemetery information saying she was the first wife of Gershom Hall. I believe Rhoda Hall Dunbar, Dad’s second great-grandmother, was the daughter of Lucy and Gershom.

My next task will be to link up the three women. If I can find documentation for the relationship Rhoda Hall>Lucy Snow>Hannah Lincoln and Thomas Snow, I will have my Mayflower ancestry from Stephen Hopkins. Then I can turn my attention to learning whether I descend from any other Mayflower passengers. Many people who descend from one Mayflower passenger also descend from others.

New England family lines have been well-documented. I think proving a line of Mayflower descent, if I have one, should be doable this year. This project will offer me an interesting genealogical year.

Reading for Genealogy

A genealogist needs to spend time improving skills and keeping up with happenings in the genealogy world. One can choose from both print and online publications for professional reading. These resources provide educational articles, examples of well-written genealogies, and announcements of upcoming events. I subscribe to several journals and blogs that keep me up to date.

In Print

  1. National Genealogical Society Quarterly. This publication has promoted genealogical scholarship since 1912. Each issue consists of several genealogy case studies that serve as an example of excellent analysis and writing. The Quarterly also reviews recently published genealogy books.
  2. NGS Magazine. This quarterly magazine includes news articles about the National Genealogical Society. It also contains how-to articles, including columns on using the National Archives and technology.
  3. The Palatine Immigrant. This periodical covers research on German-Speaking ancestry. It includes book reviews, research articles, a genealogy advice column, and news of upcoming Palatines to America events.
  4. The Colorado Genealogist. The quarterly publication of the Colorado Genealogical Society focuses on articles and transcriptions of records specific to Colorado.
  5. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. This journal of American genealogy publishes current research on New England families and sources.
  6. American Ancestors. A sister publication to the Register, the magazine covers Society news, program and tour announcements, and articles of genealogical interest.

Online Blogs and Newsletters

  1. The Legal Genealogist. Judy G. Russell, a lawyer and a genealogist, writes about (what else?) genealogy and the law. https://www.legalgenealogist.com/
  2. Vita Brevis. The blog of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, it posts essays by the Society’s professional staff. https://vitabrevis.americanancestors.org/
  3. Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. Dick Eastman has been covering genealogy news with his online newsletter for 23 years. https://blog.eogn.com/
  4. DNAeXplained—Genetic Genealogy. Roberta Estes helps us discover our ancestors, one gene at a time. https://dna-explained.com/
  5. Norwegian Genealogy and then some. Martin Roe Eidhammer writes helpful tips for Norwegian research, and he also offers travelogues and book reviews. https://martinroe.com.godtsagt.dev/blog/

At our house, we also receive one more genealogical publication that comes addressed to my husband/tech advisor. I do not know how much of it he actually reads because Slekt og Data is written in Norwegian. This publication is put out by Norway’s largest genealogy organization.

Most of the blogs I listed arrive in my e-mail In box every day. I can read or skim them in a few minutes. I set aside some time in the late afternoon to read the journals that come by snail mail. The writers who contribute to these publications provide a wonderful educational service to those of us searching for our ancestors.

 

Cleaning Out the Old; Getting Ready for the New

This week my husband/tech advisor and I finished up my 2019 genealogy project. I needed his assistance in creating and printing a large chart. After some trial and error, we at last have it ready to mail out to relatives.

Now I have turned my attention to cleaning up my office and getting everything ready for a new research project in 2020. I have accomplished a few tasks so far:

  1. At the beginning of the year, I think I had five surnames in my Finnish notebook. After trading information with Finnish cousins, I have identified twenty-eight surnames in the direct line ascending eight generations from my great-grandmother, Ada Alina Lampinen (1879-1948). In addition to putting all this data into digital form in my genealogy database, I have recorded it on family group sheets stored in a three-ring binder. All this new information required me to move my Finnish material to a bigger notebook.
  2. I am a piler, and I had research-related papers all over the office. I tackled the credenza first, and now I can see its surface again.
  3. For next year, I have learned that I will need to adjust to a new meeting place for our local Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society. For years we met at the Highlands Ranch library. This year, after a remodeling, the library changed its room reservation policy. No longer could we be guaranteed the same meeting room, or even any meeting room, on our usual meeting night. We tried moving between libraries, taking what was available, but that proved unworkable. Our attendance suffered. Luckily, our kindly Family History Center in Highlands Ranch has stepped forward and offered us a reserved space for our monthly meetings in 2020.

With three weeks left in December, I hope to complete the cleanup of my office before the end of the year. Papers lie in high, deep stacks on both the desk and the worktable. It would be nice to have it all sorted and filed away. I think I have time. On January 1, I want to turn my attention to searching for Mayflower ancestors.

Thanksgivings Past and Present

Yesterday we gathered with our children and grandchildren for yet another wonderful Thanksgiving meal. We hosted it at our house.

We were lazy this year and did not make everything from scratch. Instead, we ordered some of our food from local vendors.

We were not alone in this. We found a semi-truck full of pies parked beside our local Village Inn when we arrived there. A queue of people waited to pick up their orders. A similar line greeted us at our butcher shop when we pulled up to claim our pre-roasted turkey, dressing, and gravy.

Thanksgiving meal preparation was not always so easy. Unless we could get an invitation to spend the holiday elsewhere, we used to cook all day. Our traditional meal included turkey (would it thaw in time for the big day?!), stuffing, cranberry sauce, two kinds of potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, pickles, and olives. We pulled out our silver, crystal, and best china.

Our mothers before us also dutifully bought and prepared similar Thanksgiving meals, year after year. The women worked in the kitchen all day while the males lounged in front of the television. How I resented that!

For how long have people spent hours making elaborate meals on this day? Did my grandmothers do all this cooking on Thanksgiving Day back in the 30’s and 40’s?

I am pretty sure my dad’s mom did not. The family had little money, and besides, Grandma was no cook. She once told me that after her boys left home, she just ate a can of chicken noodle soup on Thanksgiving.

My mom’s family made more effort to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Mom reminisced about sitting through Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings, meals she disliked. She lived next door to her grandparents from Finland, so those Thanksgiving dinners had a Finnish twist. Mom did not want to eat the mashed rutabagas that appeared on the table every year. If she could get away with it, she would eat only the bread and pickles.

Still, when she had a household of her own, she regularly prepared a traditional dinner. When I grew up, I found myself doing the same. I never liked Thanksgiving much because it required so much work.

This year was different. Preparing just a couple of dishes and leaving most of the cooking to others allowed me plenty of time to enjoy the day. Normally, I like to follow traditional ways of celebrating holidays, but I liked our take-out Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Perhaps we have a new tradition.

Holiday-Time Genealogy

The November-December holiday season gets so hectic that normally I take a break from genealogical research during that time.

I use November to create a genealogy-related Christmas present for family members. Finnish research dominated my year, and this year’s gift will reflect that.

A distant cousin I met in Finland in June has posted 10 generations of our shared Lampinen line on the WikiTree website. I added all this information to my own online tree. Now my husband/tech advisor has helped me create a beautiful chart displaying this heritage. I will proofread it later today, and then we will print out this 3-foot-wide family tree for the American descendants of Ada Alina Lampinen.

Another Finnish cousin sent me some photos of Ada’s siblings who stayed in Finland. I will get copies made of these pictures for the relatives, too.

December will find me cleaning out my office whenever I have some time to spare. I need to put away the Finnish research materials, documents, and reference books that lie scattered around. Once I have the surfaces cleaned off, the place needs a good dusting. Maybe I can even get back to using my adjustable standing desk when all the precarious clutter returns to its proper home.

Already I am thinking about next year’s project. In 2020 we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower. I am hoping to confirm a suspected Mayflower line in my own family. One of my grandmothers had New England ancestors with surnames like Bangs, Burgess, Dunbar, Hall, and Snow. Her second great-grandmother, Lucy Snow, may have been a Mayflower descendant.

For Christmas a year ago, my husband/tech advisor gave me a membership in the New England Historic Genealogical Society. These folks specialize in everything related to the Mayflower and other New England ancestry. All year I eagerly have read their publications. In 2020 I finally will begin doing some research using all the resources they have to offer.

Holiday time = time to clean up and switch gears.

Genealogists and Linquistics

Our local Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society gathers monthly at a county library. We have a short business meeting followed by an informative program. After doing genealogy for most of my life, I find some of the programs helpful, others not so much.

This month we had a program I have already found useful.

Sylvia Tracy-Doolos of New Leaf Genealogy spoke on using linguistic tools to break down genealogical brick walls. She pointed out that spelling of surnames has not been standardized for very long, and she offered some good tips for finding those elusive ancestors in the records:

  1. The census department did not require enumerators to have legible handwriting, nor did these workers receive much training. They wrote down what they heard. Sylvia reminded us to hear names as the census worker might have. She also described something called the McGurk Effect. When what we hear conflicts with what we see, we tend to go with what we see. This potential for confusion explains why I had trouble locating the 1920 census record for my great-grandfather Alexander Mattila. They recorded his name as Alek Sandermattila.
  2. Fuzzy searching in computer databases can help locate names where some letters are uncertain. For example, use wild cards when you do not know whether the surname should be Johnson or Johnsen.
  3. Names may have been translated from a foreign language when an ancestor came to America. The German name Wald became Woods.
  4. Ethnic names may have been simplified. I would like to know why my husband/tech advisor’s ancestors did not simplify Hjelmstad.
  5. Sylvia provided us with a chart showing the international phonemic alphabet. It lists commonly interchanged sounds (p and b, t and d) and explains how these consonants are spoken similarly but sound different.

The program ended with a list of resources. I have already used one. Omniglot provided me a much better translation of a Finnish record than Google Translate did. You can find Omniglot, an alphabetical listing of all languages with their alphabet and linguistic guides, at http://omniglot.com/writing/.

Petter Toivain: Sexman

Sexman? What might that be?

I encountered this interesting profession as I powered through the Lampinen family tree shared by my Finnish cousins. A Toivain father-son pair of ancestors, both named Petter, worked as sexmen in the 17th century. Who employed them, and what did they do?

The word Sexman seemed more a Swedish word than Finnish one to me. When the Toivains lived and worked, Finland was part of Sweden. Many records during that time were kept in the Swedish language.

I plugged the word into Google Translate and searched for an English meaning from either Swedish or Finnish. No result. A sexman was a sexman in all three languages.

Next I turned to the Family Search wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Swedish_Genealogical_Word_List). They have word lists of genealogical terms, including occupations, for many languages. I tried the Swedish list first, and there I found it.

A sexman was the parish caretaker. My Finnish cousin then explained that the sexman’s obligations included seeing that the congregation members performed their religious duties, obeyed the Commandments, paid their tithes, and paid fines for any ecclesiastical offenses. The sexman also monitored parishioners for infectious diseases and transported ill members to the hospital. He held a key to the ark.

This must have been an important and powerful job in the state-mandated Lutheran Church of the time. Where did my ancestors serve?

The Toivain family lived in the tiny village of Kajoo, part of Juuka parish in Finnish Karelia. The present-day Juuka church is pictured above.

From the record, I cannot determine whether my ancestors had authority over the entire Juuka parish, or just Kajoo and its environs. My Finnish cousins have no more information to offer.

They did provide statistical information on the the Toivains who served as sexman:

  1. Petter Toivain, b. 18 Feb 1747 at Kajoo, d. 21 Apr 1809 at Kajoo. Married Anna Frantz 14 May 1765 at Nurmes.
  2. Petter Pettersson Toivain, b.21 Jun 1771 at Kajoo, d. 26 Jun 1818 at Kajoo. Married Anna Karjalainen, 25 May 1795, at Kajoo.

Clergymen Discovered

Religious affiliation provides an important genealogical clue to family ties. Parents bring up their children in the faith they practice. Church records for events like baptisms, marriages, and burials provide important dates and places in our ancestors’ lives.

Good records exist for some denominations, notably the Quakers. I have not found any Quakers in my family.

Another denomination with good records is the Lutherans. I was raised Lutheran. Church records for the state-mandated Lutheran church in our family’s old countries, Norway and Finland, can be found online now. Studying these has allowed me to extend my mom’s Nordic family tree back to the mid-1600’s.

My dad’s family has not been so easy. He grew up Presbyterian. His mother attended that church for as long as I knew her. Yet this connection has not been a good clue for genealogical purposes.

After much research, I have learned that she descended from Puritans in Massachusetts. Until they homesteaded in Nebraska, her family was Congregational for many generations.

With a lack of Congregational churches nearby, she and my grandfather took their kids to the Presbyterian Church. Some in his family had been Presbyterian while others were Baptist. I do not know how he was raised.

His father first married a Baptist. This great-grandfather lies buried in a Baptist cemetery alongside his first wife even though he had a Presbyterian funeral service. The second wife, my great-grandmother, attended neither church. She joined a Methodist congregation as a young woman and followed that tradition for the rest of her long life.

With Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian ancestors, I have no simple denominational path to help me trace my dad’s family. Even if I could identify a denomination to track, it is notoriously difficult to locate their records, if they survive.

In modern times, many of my family members have fallen away from the churches they knew as children. My dad’s family bounced from church to church, if they went at all. My mom and her parents stopped going to the Lutheran churches.

Given this lack of strong affiliation today, I was surprised this week to discover pastors in my roots. All the clergy in my family date back to circa 1700:

  1. Georgius (d. 1672), Petrus (1630 – c.1691), and Jöran (1665-1722) Wallius/Wallin served as three generations of Lutheran pastors at Kittee in modern-day Finland’s North Karelia region.
  2. Lars Hallitius Bergman (1640-1688) was Jöran Wallin’s father-in-law. He served the Lutheran Church at Pielisjärvi, also in today’s North Karelia.
  3. Some sources say it was my ancestor Gershom Hall (d. 1732) who was called as minister in Chatham, Massachusetts in 1717. The name Gershom was a common one in the Hall line during colonial times. Without more research, I cannot say for certain that the Puritan minister Gershom Hall was the same man as my ancestor, but I hope he is.

As a churchgoer myself, I am glad to see that I have these people of faith in my heritage. The calling got lost somewhere along the way. I have found no more pastors in my family lines in the subsequent 200 years.

My family’s long-ago Finnish pastors were notable people in their time. They are named in the history books of Karelia. Someday I will have to relate their stories.

The Reeds Revisited

I have much-needed work to do on my direct paternal line, the Reeds. I keep putting it off as I spend time on other lineage lines where I have even less information than I have for the Reeds. Still, I would love to know where the Reeds originated before they came to America in colonial times.

This week a very distant Reed relative’s message appeared in my inbox. She wants to do more research on our mutual, deeper ancestry. I am thrilled.

Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1835) was our most recent common ancestor. This cousin wants to carry the study back in time from him.

Caleb came from Morris County, New Jersey and settled in what is now Fayette County, Pennsylvania around the time of the Revolutionary War. His brother Joshua served in the war, and I have his RW pension file.

Sometime after the war, Caleb relocated his family to Shelby County, Kentucky. His grown children later decided to move on from there to different places.

His son Thomas Reed, my ancestor, went to Coles County, Illinois. A daughter, Abigail Shaw, moved to Texas with her family. Caleb himself went with his widowed daughter Rachel Elliott and her sons to Washington County, Indiana. The elderly Caleb lived there with Rachel until his death.

Genealogists find Caleb’s natal family in New Jersey to be a tangled-up mess, partly because there was more than one Reed family in Morris County. My Reed cousin wants to tackle the puzzle, and I wish her luck. I will help in any way I can.

She will begin by studying the Reed DNA. In our branch of the family, both my father and his first cousin carried the Reed surname and took Y-DNA tests before they died. Thankfully, they matched each other. We have this valuable information to work with.

The Reed surname project at FamilyTree DNA will help connect these two Reeds with others of the same line. My distant cousin is contacting as many matches as she can find.

I will keep in touch with her to see what information she can locate. I hope she is good at colonial research. The Reeds seem to love genealogy, and I am glad one is taking the lead to uncover more of our roots.