Saturday, August 19, 2017

An Unexpected Coincidence

I was going through some more record hints from MyHeritage the other day, and saw a hint for Eliza Robinson, wife of Alexander McDonald, my 3rd-great-granduncle (he was an older brother of my 3rd-great-grandfather, George D. McDonald). I checked it out, and it was indeed a census record I didn't yet have for the family. That got me interested on what else I might be missing about Alex's family,so I started digging around for more. I found more census records, a marriage record, and a new photo of a headstone (shown above) that covers four ancestors - George McDonald, his wife Jane Dobson, their son John, and his wife Margaret or Maggie. It was a pretty productive little bit of research.

Then tonight, I was following up and pulling a few more records, when I found something unexpected. I found the death record for my 4th-great-grandfather, George D. McDonald (same name as his son), who died in 1893. That much I knew (which is how I found the record), but the date surprised me: December 23rd.

That date has special meaning to me and my family, as it's the day my son Levi passed away last year. It's purely coincidental I know, but it's just remarkable to me that George and his 5th-great-grandson Levi both passed away on the same day exactly 123 years apart. The fact that they share that date kind of makes me want to visit his grave. It's 2500 miles away give or take, so not an easy trek to make, but I'd like to make it at some point.

I've made some big discoveries in my research, but this is one of those that just kind of go straight to your heart unexpectedly.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Genes Day Friday - My LivingDNA results are in!

When last I wrote about LivingDNA, I had just gotten the email saying testing had begun. At the time, they gave me an estimated completion date of September 13. Imagine my surprise when I checked my email this morning and saw that my results were ready! They have seriously overdelivered at every step of the process so far, so I've got high expectations for these results now.

So I logged in to see what they had to say. The Ancestry section has three options - Family Ancestry, Fatherline, and Motherline. Each section gives you a little tour of the info provided (though Fatherline tour said "motherline" instead of "fatherline" on each section, probably just a typo). The infographics were cool, easy to follow, and gave you the option to explore more. What I liked best is that both Fatherline and Motherline lead with the information you really want - your haplogroup (and subclade for Y-DNA). My mtDNA haplogroup is H, no surprise there. FTDNA's full sequence test listed the haplogroup as H3v-T16093C, so I wonder if LivingDNA did a full sequence test, or just lots of SNPs. FTDNA gave me a list of differences from both RSRS and rCRS values, and the list from LivingDNA only has one value in common with rCRS. So I'm guessing they did a SNP test rather than a full sequence, which is fine. They got the haplogroup right, so I'm not doubting their data, just wondering what their list of differences means in comparison with my FTDNA values. I'll have to look into this.

Looking at the Y-DNA info, once again they lead with the info you want first - haplogroup and subclade. They put me in haplogroup R-U106, subclade R-Z159. Back when I did my paternal grandfather's Y-DNA test at FTDNA in 2012, I had to purchase the Z159 SNP test, so to see that this SNP is included at LivingDNA is awesome. The coverage map for the Y-DNA is interesting, because it shows where in the world your haplogroup is predominantly from. For my haplogroup, the top country of origin is England. That matches what I've seen at FTDNA, where most of my grandpa's 12 marker matches are from England. Interestingly, Ireland isn't even on the list of countries my haplogroup is from. I'm sure there are U106 descendants in Ireland, but maybe the haplogroup shows up in less than 7% of the male population? That adds to my suspicion that my Gibsons were pretty recent transplants to Ireland and originally came from England or Scotland (Scotland shows up in the list at 15%, by the way).

Then there's the autosomal results, or Family Ancestry as they call it here. This part works kind of like 23andMe, where they have Complete, Standard, and Cautious levels Complete means they've assigned every percent of your DNA to areas where it's most similar to. Standard is their "best guess" level of assignment, with some areas still labeled "unassigned". Cautious is the level where they have the most certainty. The Great Britain and Ireland section of my Complete view down to the sub-regional level looks like this:

Most of these are areas I know very little about. I know Aberdeenshire is in Scotland, but for some reason, when I click on it, it highlights Ireland as well. But between these areas, I have ancestry from all of Ireland, most of England, and chunks of Scotland and Wales. Pretty awesome! I realize that this is the speculatory level, and not all of these areas may actually be in my family tree. So I took a look at the cautious level as well, and this is what I saw:

This is a lot more conservative in terms of pinpointing the areas of Great Britain my ancestors came from. But I still have most of England, all of Ireland, and chunks of Scotland and Wales highlighted. I'm very much excited by this! I took a class on English and Welsh family history at BYU, as well as one on Irish and Scottish family history. The history of all these countries is fascinating, and it looks like I might have ties to them all!

Some other interesting points from the ethnicity breakdowns:

On the cautious level, only my ancestry in Great Britain is identified by place - everything else is labeled European. When I first logged in, there was a notice or disclaimer that said basically "You're one of the first to take this test, and your results will be refined as we add more tests to our database." So hopefully as their database grows, the cautious level will become more certain for non-UK areas. Even though I took this test specifically with the intention of gaining more insight into my UK roots, I do hope that Europeans from other areas, especially France and Scandinavia, will test as well. I just like seeing the information get better in all areas basically.

Also, all three levels showed me as having 1.7% "Chuvashian-related ancestry." I have never heard of Chuvashia or Chuvashian before, so I had to look it up. According to Wikipedia, Chuvashia, or the Chuvash Republic, is part of Russia and home to the Chuvash people, a Turkic ethnic group. Apparently their history goes back to at least the 7th and 8th centuries AD. I'm thinking that my Joseph ancestors, who lived in Poland and Ukraine (or where those countries are now, anyways) are where my Chuvashian ancestors came into my family tree. None of my other branches were anywhere near there in the last couple hundred years.

One thing that really stands out - no French ancestry. I should have somewhere around 13% French ancestry, as my maternal grandmother is 1/2 French-Canadian. I don't know if they are lumping French and German together, but the standard level shows me as having 2.8% German ancestry, and 39.5% Scandinavian. Mathematically, I should have about 16% Scandinavian ancestry, and a LOT more German than 3%. I have German ancestry from all four grandparents - my paternal grandfather is half German, my paternal grandmother is somewhere between half and 3/4 German, my maternal grandmother was 1/4 German, and my maternal grandfather was 1/8 German. I know that gets watered down a little bit before it gets to me, but not to the extent of 3%. I'm curious to see how these numbers will adjust in the future as the database grows.

So that's my first glace at my LivingDNA test results. LOTS of information!! So much to take in. I really want to look more closely at the English ancestry, and go through my family tree and see where my likely English and Welsh ancestors are. Also, I thought there was going to be matching to cousins, but I don't see that option yet. Maybe that will be opened up later on. When they open that up, I hope they include a chromosome browser. I would love to see one that mixes both ethnicity and common segments, so I can see the DNA I share with someone AND what the projected ethnicity of that segment is. Wouldn't that be awesome?

All in all, I am totally satisfied that I took this test. $99 was a huge deal, and even the current discount price of $119 is more than reasonable for all this data. For a relatively new DNA testing company, these guys have really hit the ground running. Can't wait to see what refinements and improvements are in store.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Just when you think you know an ancestor...

I've written quite a few times about my 2nd-great-grandmother, Lena Beilstein. She led one of the most interesting, heart-wrenching lives I've ever heard about, past or present. There is just so much to her story, I don't know if I'll ever be able to put it all together into just one tale. Every time I think I've heard just about everything, I learn something more.

Case in point - I got a text from my grandma's cousin, saying she had come into contact with a new relative, and wanted to know whether I'd like my contact info passed on. I meant to write back and say sure, but I somehow ended up calling her instead. We ended up chatting on the phone for a half hour, it was awesome! She told me about her mom's time in the orphanage with my great-grandma Edna and their sisters, which I've also written about before. but then she told me about something new - that the state of Montana had records from the state orphan's home, and that you could obtain copies of these documents for only $25! She had her mom's record, and offered to send me a copy. I obviously said thank and yes please and every other polite phrase I could think of, and a week later, I had them.

What surprised me about the information I got from these records is that it's mostly about Lena, the mother of the four girls. To preface the impact this information had on me, let me share a picture of Lena's. I don't have a date on the picture, but she looks a bit older, like maybe late 40s or early 50s. That would put it the 1930s or 40s somewhere. One the back of the card is a hand-written note to her second daughter Hazel.

The note is very sad - she is writing to wish Hazel Merry Christmas, but says "maybe this will be the only way you can see me. Why, your not even allowed to write to me What's the reason[?]" I'd always wondered what it was that caused such a rift between Lena and her daughter Hazel. If this picture was taken between 1930 and 1940, Hazel would have been somewhere around 15-25 years old (probably closer to 15, based on the "not allowed" language). So what happened?

I learned some time ago Lena had separated from her husband and the father of all her daughters, Ernest Craddock, sometime before 1930. I didn't know when or anything about the circumstances, but there was a story in the family about Lena going to Oregon, and Ernie having to go there and bring her back, though I'd always thought that that had happened while they were married, and wasn't part of their divorce.

In going through the orphanage record, what I read cast new light on this story, and added elements I never would have dreamed were possible.  The first shock came when I read the answer to the query in the orphanage record as to why the child (in this case, Elsie Craddock) was being committed to state care:

It's one thing to know that Lena and Ernie divorced. It's another thing to read in Lena's daughter's orphanage record that Elsie and her sisters were abandoned by their mother, and their father was unable to care for his children properly. I can't imagine being a child and watching your own mother walk away from you and your siblings. Or being the father of those children, knowing that this was putting you in an impossible situation. The record also states that Ernie had to pay $15 per month per child to keep them in the orphanage. I'd always thought he'd basically been financially off the hook for them until he got back on his feet and was able to care for them, but that was not the case $15/month in 1926 equals about $200/month in today's money. That would be like me paying $800 every month for full time care for four children - something I could not afford to do, and pay all my expenses as well. I'm sure it wasn't any easier on him back then. I'm glad he stuck by his daughters though and kept those payments up so they could get the care they needed, even if it wasn't from him.

The next big surprise was that the record gave me a timeline for the dissolution of the Craddock family. Elsie was placed in the orphanage in January 1927, and at that time her parents had been separated for a year. Edna, their oldest daughter, was born in 1911, so they were together for about 15-16 years before Lena apparently decided she was done, and left. It further adds that Lena had Edna and Grace with her and had left for Portland, Oregon in October 1926, and that Hazel was in the orphanage (or "Home" as they called it) with Elsie. That's a complication I was not aware of - that Lena had taken two daughters with her when she left, leaving only two daughters in the orphanage. I know that the situation didn't stay that way for long, as the 1930 census has Edna living with her dad Ernie (she was 18 then), while Elsie, Grace, and Hazel were all still in the orphanage. Lena took Edna and Grace with her in 1926, but 4 years later, she was living without any of her children. Elsie's record doesn't say when Grace was placed in the orphanage, or whether Edna was there at all, so I'd likely have to order their records to find out details on their parts of the story.

The biggest shock and saddest part of all were next. First, the sad part. In the section "Institutional Family History' it lists some events that happened in and out of the home that affected Elsie, and the dates they occurred. The first note is from July 2nd, 1927, apparently from a Mrs. Hathaway, stating Ernie intended to take the children in the fall of that year. As already seen, that didn't happen - three of the girls were there in 1930, and Elsie's record states she was released in 1936 - 9 years after she was placed there. I can't imagine the heartbreak of those kids (or their father) wanting to be reunited year after year after year, and being disappointed again and again for almost a decade. Did they give up at some point, and just decide to wait to reach adulthood? That may have been what happened to Elsie - she was placed with her father on June 15, 1936, just five months before her 18th birthday.

But the shock was in the next note - it says Lena had left with a man named Russel Wright, a veteran of World War I, in a stolen car and was headed to Portland. Lena was picked up in Roseburg, Oregon (which is a long ways south of Portland, almost to Medford) and that she and Grace were being taken care of by Volunteers of America, while Edna was at the Sister's School. I found information about the Volunteers of America online, stating that they were like the Salvation Army but based in the US, kind of an "Americans helping Americans" program. I can't find anything on the "Sister's School"  yet except a reference to there being one out in eastern Oregon. Maybe there was a network of such schools, or something? I'll have to keep looking. Anyways, Lena and her children were "held as witness" in the case against Russel Wright. He was convicted, and Lena and her daughters were sent back to Butte, Montana, though Lena apparently expected to go right back to Portland.

I tried finding anything in newspapers on Russel Wright in Portland and Roseburg, hoping to find something to corroborate the story, and maybe fill in the gaps. So far, I haven't found anything. I don't have anything but his name and that he was a WWI vet, so that's not really enough to pinpoint who he was yet. Maybe Edna or Grace's records will have more, as they were actually with Lena and Russel on the trip to Oregon in the stolen car. I wonder what those daughters thought while on that trip - did they know the car was stolen? Were they coerced into silence? Were they told anything at all? I have no way of knowing, but it's scary to think what could have happened to them on that trip had things gone sour more than they did.

The final full entry in Elsie's record is from June 1927 and states that the children (Elsie and Hazel, undoubtedly, but maybe Edna and Grace too?) received a letter from Lena letting them know she had married again, and was now Mrs. J. White. That would be Jack White, who I found Lena living with in the 1930 census. That helps me place Lena and Jack's marriage a lot more precisely than I could have before. But the note also says Lena didn't want her daughters to tell their father that Lena had married again. It's almost like Lena was hiding from Ernie Craddock. But why? Did she owe child support, or was that even a thing in the 1920s? Did Ernie still think he could get his (ex)wife back? How did the girls feel about being asked to keep such information secret from their own father? I can only imagine it drove wedges between the girls and their parents - either they kept the secret from Ernie, which would have been really hard to do, as Ernie was the one supporting them financially in the orphanage; or they told him, and possibly felt like they were betraying their mother. I feel so sad for those poor kids being put in such a difficult situation, and I just wonder what Lena was thinking, and why she made the choices she did. I don't hate her, or think evil of her. It just makes me sad to think of where those choices led her family.

Photo of Lena on the front of her postcard to Hazel.

All in all, I think this orphanage record helps me see Lena in a new light, a completely different light than any other records I've found of her so far (and that takes some doing!). It helps me see possible reasons behind Lena's questions to Hazel on that photo postcard, and wonder if Hazel even wanted to write to her mother. I know Lena still had a relationship with her daughters and their grandchildren after they got out of the orphanage, as my mother and grandmother both knew Lena. I'll have to try to get the records of the other three daughters, and see if there are any more facets to Lena's story that I don't yet know. At this point, I have to give up the notion that I know Lena's story, and be ready for just about anything.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Genealogy Blog Party - Preserving My Research

My genealogy shelf is on the left. Protected by giant robots from Cybertron.

For this month's genealogy blog party, Elizabeth O'Neal asks how we as genealogists will preserve our family history research. This topic has been on my mind off and on over the years, as I don't want all the hours and months and years I've spent researching my family's history to be lost. But how do I pass it on in a way that's accessible to someone in the future?

I know for a lot of genealogists, one simple (if not easy) way to pass on the findings is by writing a book. I've thought about doing that since I first got into family history, but a couple things have stopped me:

1. Which lines would I write about? I want to write about all my ancestors, but any book that includes my paternal line would be of little interest to my paternal relatives, and vice versa.

2. A book of any considerable size would likely be put on a shelf and seldom, if ever, remembered. That's the exact opposite of what I'm trying to do - I want to make sure the stories and details of my ancestors' lives are remembered and passed down.

3. There's also the idea of "I'm not done yet, there's more to discover first." That's not really an excuse though, because genealogy is NEVER done, so waiting until you're at a stopping point is a self-defeating proposition.

So the book idea is on the shelf (pun intended) for now at least. I may do a series of mini-books or something down the road, maybe on Lulu publishing or something where people could just order one or two when they wanted. But I haven't even started anything like that, so that's not really an option yet.

Right now, my main method in preserving my research is this blog. I like it because it's free, it's easily accessible, and I can download a copy of it to my computer whenever I want. But that's only as good as Google, and like any other piece of technology, Google could theoretically go kaput at any time. Seems unlikely today, but remember, Yahoo! was the big dog at one point, and now they're lucky to get a seat at the tech table (from my perspective at least). So this is more of a temporary rather than a permanent solution.

I don't have a lot of paper records in my family history, though I do have a number of old photographs and other artifacts I've collected that I want to ensure stay preserved. My hope is that one of my kids or (eventual) grandkids will catch the bug at some point, and I'll just be able to pass them on to someone I can trust to take care of them. My kids are only 11, 8, and 3 at this point, so any deep scholarly inclinations have yet to manifest themselves. So that idea's on the table, but not super likely to be fulfilled anytime soon.

I have a ton of digital files, as almost my entire genealogy research history is digital. That amounts to somewhere around 50GB of data. That could still fit on a flash drive, so I could just make copies onto flash drives and pass them around to family members. I may do that at some point too, that's not a bad idea.

Overall though, my number one way of preserving my research is my Backblaze account. I went with Backblaze on the recommendation of Lisa Louise Cooke, and it's affordable and easily done (though it takes a good amount of time if you're a monster digital hoarder like me). I just need to ensure that someone or someones in my family has access to it in case anything happens to me.

I guess the long and short of it is, I don't have a full-fledged plan yet, just a couple of halfway thought through ideas of plans, and a couple backup plans. Sounds like I have some work to do.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Genes Day Friday - LivingDNA

While I was at Jamboree in Burbank a couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a class taught by David Nicholson and another fellow (Martin something? Sorry, he's not named in the schedule) of LivingDNA, a UK-based DNA testing company. I've tested myself and many other relatives at all the four major testing companies stateside, either directly or by raw data upload, but I've never really considered testing outside of the US. I've heard of LivingDNA, and I've seen others talk about their results, but I didn't really pay much attention as I never seriously considered testing there. But as they were at DNA Day, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to hear from them firsthand.

Three things really impressed me. First, these guys knew their stuff really well, and had a blast presenting it. They took us through the DNA testing process from swab to results, and even passed around some of the chips they use to read the DNA. I've never seen the chips in person, that was really interesting for me, and they explained how the chips attach to and read your DNA, which was also new info to me. And the presentation was hilarious! They made it so entertaining and fun, it was a blast.

Second, because LivingDNA is in the UK, they wanted to go beyond telling people they had ancestry from Britain. As David put it, "I don't need a DNA test to tell me I'm British." So their test actually helps people pinpoint where out of 19 or 20 different regions in the UK they have ancestors from. They base these reults on a testing base of thousands of people who have at least all 4 grandparents born in the area they are from. They also have thousands of other testees in other nations, so they also give ethnicity results from around the world. I have English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry, so this is all really interesting to me. Specifically I'd love more info about the Irish part of my family tree. If they can connect me to native Irish cousins still in the areas (or near them) where my ancestors are from...well that would be heaven!

Third, and this is what really caught my attention, they offer autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA results and matching. I don't remember if they do full mtDNA sequencing, or whether they do Y-DNA STRs or SNPs, so I'll have to go back and look that up. But the idea that they offer such comprehensive results from one test is astounding. I could do the same at FTDNA, but it would cost me upwards $500 - about $100 for the atDNA, $240 for the mtDNA, and $150-250 for the Y-DNA. I already have my maternal grandmother's mtDNA full sequence results, and for my Y-DNA I know I'm Z-159, but haven't tested for any SNPs further down than that. So I'm interested to see what LivingDNA comes back with, and how it will compare to those results.

So after the presentation, I decided to go buy the test. It's normally $159, but they had a Jamboree special price of $99, way too good to pass up. I completed it the next morning, and mailed it off. I was in such a hurry that morning, I didn't really get any pictures of the kit like I normally do. I figured it would take a while for the kit to be received, so I didn't really watch my email. Imagine my surprise when I got an email on Tuesday saying they had my kit! I figured they probably sold a lot of kits at Jamboree, not to mention all those that they sell day to day, so I wasn't anticipating the testing to start anytime soon. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised when they told me the testing began that same Friday - one week after I had mailed my kit off! So far I am very impressed with these guys and the speed at which they move. The only downer in the whole process so far has been the estimated completion date of my test results - the middle of September. I'm hoping they deliver the results sooner, but with three tests being run, I can understand if it takes some time.

In the mean time, I'm trying to take all the awesome info I got from Jamboree and start applying it to my own DNA and genealogy research, while also starting in on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts from Lisa Louise Cooke. So much to do, so little time. And I love it!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Why I'm a bad genealogist - Ingeborg Fadness family edition

Have you ever set out to document one side of your family that you didn't know much about, and make some amazing discoveries (which you sourced carefully in your files), but didn't write down right away what you did or how you did it? Unfortunately, I did exactly that with the family of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Ingeborg (Fadness) Olson. I'm going to try to reconstruct what I did, based on the information I put in my file, and the timestamps on the documents I found.

I do remember that I had documentation on Ingeborg (aka Ingebor, Ingebjor, etc), going back to 1880, when she'd have been about 24 years old. At that point, she had 4 kids, ages 8, 5, 3, and 8 months. Which means she must have started having kids when she was 15 or 16! Wow, times were different back then. I also knew from later censuses that she started going by (or was at least referred to as) Emma rather than Ingeborg. I didn't have anything that directly stated she was the daughter of Gullick Knudsen Fadness and Martha Helgesdatter Kjenes, as I'd found somewhere years ago (online? distant cousin? no idea now...). So I wanted to prove it. I found online that I could order her death certificate for only $9, which I did. The problem was, they only sent them out by snail mail, so I'd have to wait a week or two to get it. I couldn't wait that long to start digging into the problem, so I launched into Ancestry to see what I could find.

First off, I found a marriage record for Ingeborg's older brother Helge Fadness to Hanna Johannsdatter Bergstad. (These families intermarried a lot - Hanna was a sister of my ancestor Knute Bergstad, and Knute and Hanna were first cousins to Helge and Ingeborg, plus Knute married Ingeborg's I said, lots of intermarriages). Helge's marriage record said he was born in "Vos" in Norway. I thought that could be Voss parish, Hordaland county, Norway, the same parish my Bergstad ancestors are from. So I went looking in the Voss parish emigration records on the Digitalarkivet website.

And that's exactly where I found them. I found that Gullick, his wife Martha Helgesdatter, and their sons Knud and Helge (named after Gullick and Martha's respective fathers) immigrated to America in April 1854. This fit perfectly with what I had in my files for Ingeborg's family, as she was born in Wisconsin in January 1855. I also found another immigration record for this family from 6 years earlier, in 1848 (minus Helge, as he wasn't born yet). It seems the family intended to immigrate then, but changed their minds and stayed in Norway a few more years, and then left. It's really interesting to think that they had made up their minds to move to another country, and then for whatever reason, had to stick it out a few more years before leaving. I wonder what those years were like - were they anxious to move? Were they putting off a difficult decision because of cold feet? The answer is unknowable, but the fact that they vacillated on the decision makes them seem more human to me. It wasn't just a "pack up and go!" option for them - it was a tough choice, with consequences that would likely be permanent for all involved.
I kept looking for more info, and soon found Ingeborg's baptism record in the Lutheran church records in the US (though still written in Norwegian), confirming that she was born and baptized on 21 January 1855 in Wisconsin. Now that I had her exact birthdate, I just needed one thing to clinch the theory that this Ingeborg Fadness was the same as my Ingeborg Fadness - the death certificate of Ingeborg/Emma Olson.
Once the death certificate arrived, I compared it to what I had pieced together, and found what I needed. Ingeborg/Emma's birthdate was 21 January! The year was off (1851), but I've seen enough records where ages vary by more than that to know that this wasn't a deal breaker. Also, her father's name was listed as Gilbert Fadnes, easily an Anglicized version of Gullick Fadness.
Now I can finally say I have documented evidence that my Ingeborg Fadness was indeed the daughter of Gullick Knudsen Fadness and Martha Helgesdatter Kjenes. Now I can look them up in Norwegian records in Voss parish, and push the line back even further. And hopefully - I'll document it this time!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Surname Saturday - Just Shute Me

I was looking through my Rootsmagic file the other day, looking for a branch to go climb. I wound up in the Shutes, the family of my grandma Blossom's paternal grandmother. I wound up looking at the second family of my 5th-great-grandfather, Lewis Parks Shute. His first wife, Eliza Wright, died in the mid 1850s, and he remarried to a much younger woman (almost 20 years younger than he was!) named Lucinda Foote. They had three kids together, though according to a published family history, the first two passed away at ages 10 and 8. Lewis had already buried a wife and possibly several of his children, so losing two more must have been just heartbreaking. Saddest of all, Lewis himself died when his youngest son, Abraham Lincoln Shute, was only 4 or 5 years old.

I wanted to know more about Abraham, as I've always been intrigued by his name, so I started looking him up on Ancestry. One of the first documents that came up was a passport application. I've heard Lisa Louise Cooke talk about passport applications, and all the cool stuff you can get from them, so I was excited.

One of the cool things was seeing where he wanted to go. He requested a passport to visit India, Italy, Japan, China, Palestine (Israel), and Egypt. I thought I was the first missionary in my family to visit Japan, but it turns out, Abraham beat me by several decades! Pretty cool to think a relative of mine and I have something like that in common. One major difference though is his passport was for an "indefinite time" so he didn't know how long he'd be out. Makes me wonder when he came home.

Another cool thing is - pictures! You get a much better picture of his wife, Laura Belle Shute, than you do of him, though you can see him a little. The physical description of him says he was 5'10.5", high and slightly receding forehead, hazel eyes (like me!), medium straight nose, small mouth, receding chin (I never knew your chin could recede?), gray hair, medium complexion, oblong face, and his distinguishing mark was smallpox scars.

One intreresting thing really stood out. His name is written (well, typed) as A. Lincoln Shute. In the notes section, it says "First name is Abraham - but never written." He didn't like, or at least didn't use, his first name. It's rare that you get a glimpse of what your ancestors were like as actual people, and to see something like that, his own personal preference of his name, just really makes him more of a real person to me.

Another interesting thing is his half-sister, Mary Josephine Shute, wrote what looks to be an affidavit confirming his birthdate and place, and had it notarized even. Mary was about 13 years older than Abraham, so she was in a good position to know the facts personally and remember them. What struck me was the name she signed under - Mary Josephine Couse. My records showed she married a guy named Horace Tracy, not someone named Couse. So I went looking for more information on Mary and her family.

What I knew about Mary was that she was born in New York about 1852, and lived there until at least 1865 (when Abraham was born). By 1870, she was working as a teacher and living in Minnesota with Gilbert Sanford and his family, the brother-in-law of Mary's oldest brother (and my direct ancestor) Alexander Blood Shute. I found info on her marriage to Louis/Lewis Couse pretty quickly, as they were married for many years. She and Louis had already gotten married by 1880, so I started to wonder if I had the wrong spouse. When I found her death certificate, the informant was a Mr. R. H. Tracy, So there was a Tracy connection, and I wanted to find it.

I found some records for two Tracys, Roy and Alice, who said they were children of Horace Tracy and Mary Shute. But I couldn't find anything on Horace. What's more, the census records for Mary (now Mary Couse) had an Alice in the family, but no Roy. What was going on here? Then I found two records that helped put things together. One was a probate record for Horace Tracy who died in 1875 (in between the federal censuses) whose estate was administered by Alva Tracy (no relationship stated). The second was 1880 census for Alva Tracy, his wife Phebe, and his grandson - Roy H. Tracy. To double check, I went back to the 1870 census, and found Horace listed as one of the children. That's why I couldn't find him with Mary - they married after 1870, and he had died before 1875. That's a short marriage, not much time to leave records.

I still don't have a marriage record for Horace and Mary, though they apparently married in Minnesota and moved to Iowa, where Horace's family was living. They were married long enough to have two kids together, but Horace was gone by 1875. She married Lewis Couse just a month before the 1880 census was taken, and for some reason, her son Roy was sent to live with his paternal grandparents. Roy stayed a part of his family's life - he was a witness for his sister Alice's wedding, he named one of his daughters after his sister, and in her later years, his mother moved in with him until she passed away. So why would Roy not live with his mother? Louis had work as a carpenter and wagon maker, but maybe that didn't pay enough? He had two kids of his own, Eva and Willis, from a previous marriage when he married Mary, and maybe that played into it as well.

Whatever the cause for having Roy be raised by his grandparents, I'm glad it didn't cut him off from his family. He stayed close to his mom and his sister, and that's awesome. I'm glad Mary stayed involved in her kids' lives, that she didn't let the death of their father cause her to distance herself from them. I've seen firsthand how tragedy can bring a family together, and Mary seems to have drawn her family close to her, even though circumstances caused that she not raise one of her kids in her own home.