Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Lost (and Recovered) History of George W. Craddock

When I started doing genealogy 15 years ago (can't believe it's been that long!), one of the lines I had very little concrete information on was my Craddock line. My maternal great-grandmother, Edna (Craddock) (Harris) Moore was my living connection to the Craddocks. I don't remember hearing her talk about her family while she was alive (which is something I regret), but I have since learned a great deal about her, her siblings, and her parents. Beyond her father, though, I didn't really have a lot of info on the Craddock lineage. I had some census records for Edna's grandfather James Irvin Craddock, some family group sheets, a couple letters Edna's sister Elsie (who did try to research the Craddock family history) about some of her discoveries, and a family tree going back to the early 1700s but with very little documentation as to where these names and dates came from. All in all, I had a lot of work to do to flesh out this branch of my family tree.

One part of the tree that always bugged me was the link between my 3rd-great-grandfather James Irvin Craddock and his parents George W. Craddock and Rutha B. Fielder.

George Craddock family - 1860 census

Moses Hardison family - 1870 census

The only document I'd been able to find showing evidence of George being the father of James was the 1860 census, which doesn't list relationships like the 1880 and later censuses do. In the 1870 census, James and his sister Martha are listed with Moses C. Hardison and his wife Sara (who my great-aunt Elsie had said in her research was George's sister, Sara Craddock). I searched for years to find out what happened to George and Rutha, and why James and Martha were living with the Hardisons in 1870 with no trace of their parents, but never found anything. The lack of information almost led me to question whether George and Rutha were really their parents.

This week, MyHeritage sent me another email with Record Matches, this time for records matching my great-great-grandfather Ernest L. Craddock. There weren't too many, just some censuses for Ernest and marriage records for his children. I linked everyone to the records they matched, and then thought I'd do a little more digging to try and cement the links in my tree with some documentation. I went back over the other census records I had showing Ernest in James' family, and then saw the Civil War service records for a George W. Craddock I'd downloaded a long time ago from I hadn't seen anything in them that definitively pointed to him being the same as my George, so I'd tucked them in a folder as a possibility, and moved on. I thought I'd try finding more info on that George, and see if it really was my ancestor. I didn't know what I was looking for exactly, just that I wanted to find something to help tell me whether my ancestor served in the Civil War, and why he and Rutha disappeared after 1860.

I soon found a veteran's census form 1890, where a lady in Missouri named Nancy Stites said she was the former widow of George Craddock, a Civil War soldier, and gave his company information. The info matched the George Craddock in the Civil War documents I'd saved earlier, and I was almost tempted to dismiss him as obviously being a different George Craddock than my ancestor. But then I thought, if she's his widow, maybe she filed for a pension. Having previously had great success with Civil War pension files, I went and Google searched for George Craddock's pension. After a few minutes' searching I found something very interesting - a Civil War pension was filed for George Craddock, but not by a widow; it was filed by someone named James Craddock!

Now I was really excited. I went to Fold3 and pulled up the pension record as fast I could. After going through a few pages, I found that the pension was filed by Elijah T. Butler on behalf of the minor children of George W. Craddock - James I. Craddock and Martha Jane Craddock! The Civil War George had been MY George all along! The pension file turned out to be 34 pages long, with some pages being blank and others being multiple copies of the same record. But it gave me exactly what I'd been missing all these years - details on what happened to George and Rutha.

I knew George and Rutha were married in 1854 in Dent County, Missouri, and their two children were both born there. However, according to declarations in the pension file, shortly after the 1860 census was taken, Rutha (Fielder) Craddock died on 15 December 1860. That explained why I could never find anything on her after that census - it appears that 1860 census was the last record she appeared in during her lifetime. Further documents in the pension file revealed that 8 months after Rutha passed away, George married again - to Nancy Ann Peck. That explained the Nancy in the 1890 census - she must have remarried after George died (and thus was listed as the former widow of George Craddock). George and Nancy had one child together, which died at the age of 4 weeks. So now, just a few months after losing his first wife, George then lost one of his children. I can't imagine going through one of those, let alone both in quick succession.

The tragedy continued, unfortunately. George enlisted on 16 August 1862, and was mustered in on 18 October 1862. He was now a soldier in Company D, 32nd Regiment of the Missouri Volunteer Infantry. I have to wonder whether George had previous military experience, because he enlisted as a corporal, and was shortly thereafter appointed a 3rd sergeant. I have yet to pull up details on the regiment's history, so I don't know what action he may have seen, but I do know that he became ill in January 1863, and was transferred to a hospital boat. I hope it was nothing like the hospital boats they had during the Revolutionary War that I've read a little of. He wasn't on the boat long, as he was then transferred to the Saint Louis city general Hospital, where he died of typhoid fever on 15 February 1863. He'd been in the army for roughly five months, and now he was dead, not from bullets, but disease. I have to find the reference again, but I read somewhere that his unit only lost a dozen or so men in combat, but over 400 to disease. What an awful thing to have happen, and how frightening it must have been to any soldiers who got sick during the war.

The documents in the pension file don't say why, but Elijah T. Butler was made legal guardian for James and Martha after George died. I believe it was the same Elijah Butler that married Lucinda Craddock, George's younger sister. I have to wonder why Nancy didn't take the children, and left them to be raised by aunts and uncles instead. Maybe they reminded her of George, or maybe she wanted a fresh start after losing a baby and then a husband. Either way, Nancy married Miles Alexander Stites 10 August 1863, six months after George died. They seemed to have a good life, and had at least five kids together. It seems unlikely that she would have stayed in contact with the Craddocks, though she apparently never forgot George. Even 27 years after losing him, and only having been married less than two years, she gave accurate information on George's military service to the census taker.

James and Martha then grew up without their parents, losing their mom at ages 4 and 2, and then their father at 7 and 5. I don't know what happened to Martha after 1870, but James married Hazeltine Orlena Martin in 1875 and raised 7 children. His oldest son he named Moses, possibly after the uncle who raised him. His next son, though, he named George.

In closing, in addition to the apologies offered last time to those I missed in my Memorial Day tribute, I'd also like to apologize to George. He is my only known direct ancestor who gave his life in wartime while serving his country. His service record states that he was 5'6", red complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes, and was always loyal to his country. Thank you for your service George. Your sacrifice helped save this nation, and your service will from now on be honored on Memorial Day as it should be.

Treasure Chest Thursday - DNA update and an apology

This has been a remarkable week in terms of family history discoveries. My uncle Bill's DNA results are almost complete (I can compare him to matches I've already connected with, and see his ancestry composition, but not his full list of matches yet). While I haven't delved too deeply into his data yet, I did see that his mtDNA haplogroup is listed as H3 (which is good, because that's what his mother's is), and his Y-DNA haplogroup is I1. This is great, because according to 23andMe, this haplogroup "reaches its highest levels in Denmark and the southern parts of Sweden and Norway." My Bergstad ancestors hailed from southern Norway, so this exactly matches what I've found in my genealogy research. Awesome!

23andMe's map of I1 frequency

In addition to my uncle's results coming in, my mother-in-law Peggy McFarland has agreed to take the test my wife so kindly bought for me recently. As she is 1/4 Osage, that will give me a lot of Native American DNA to work with. My wife's earliest known Native American ancestor is Wy-e-gla-in-kah, or Redcorn. That will pretty well cover my wife's side in terms of DNA testing, at least in terms of getting people tested. I'll eventually need to order Y-DNA results for her father and mtDNA results on both her parents, but that will have to wait until I can afford them. At least the atDNA tests are more affordable, so I can get their DNA samples to FTDNA for storage and later testing.

Once her test is in, that just leaves two more people I want to test - a male Wagner descendant (to get the Wagner Y-DNA, and a little atDNA too) and a maternal cousin of my maternal grandmother (to try and filter cousins on my grandmother's maternal side into maternal and paternal matches). After that, I'll just have some mtDNA tests to upgrade (both my dad and paternal grandfather's) and I should have a very robust DNA database to play with for years!

Next up, an apology. A few days ago, I wrote a post about the servicemen in my family, and how lucky I was to not have lost any direct ancestors in war. I neglected to mention a few men in my family who did make the ultimate sacrifice in wartime. First, Tom Nelson, the first husband of my paternal grandmother Blossom and the father of my aunt Eileen, who joined the Army Air Force during World War II. He was the bombardier of a flight crew that flew bombing missions over Germany. He survived being shot down in July 1943, when his plane went down in the North Sea (they did lose one crew member in that crash, but everyone else survived with minor injuries). He was not so fortunate three months later when his plane went down in a combat mission on October 8, 1943. He and the other nine crew members all perished. His only child, my aunt Eileen, was born five months later. He really gave up everything in defense of his country, including the chance to meet and raise his daughter.

Tom Nelson (right) and Air Force buddy

Another relative who gave his life in a time of war was Stephen Norton Johnson, the first husband of my 3rd-great-grandmother Mariah Janette Beardsley, who I've written about before. He enlisted just six months after the outbreak of the Civil War and was assigned to the company band. He got sick while practicing and marching in inclement weather, and died just two months after joining up. Like Tom Nelson, Norton (as he went by) left behind a pregnant wife when he went to war, but unlike Tom, he also left four older children, ages 12, 10, 9, and 3. His last child, a son named Norton after him, was born five months after he died. Five years later Mariah married my ancestor, Zachariah Scribner, with whom she had four more children, including Charlotte Scribner, my 2nd-great-grandmother.

I didn't meant to downplay or ignore the sacrifices these men made in the defense of this country, its freedoms, and its people. I was so focused on my direct line and living relatives that they simply slipped my mind. I am grateful for the sacrifice of those who gave their lives, as well as those who were willing to do the same, so that I can live the nice, cushy, easy life that I do today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Treasured Scraps

Last Saturday, my local Family History Center (or is it now a Family Discovery Center?) had an open house. It's been completely revamped, remodeled, and retooled into something amazing, and to kick off the grand opening, we set up a whole bunch of displays around the church, with each display taking a different theme. Mine was Personal Connections and Sharing (or something like that). I got to display a number of my family history books, treasures, and discoveries, and talk to people as they came through about what I've done to involve my family (the non-genealogists) in what I do and what I find, and how I can share it with them.

As I stood there at my table, I started looking at the items displayed - postcards, photographs, DNA test results, a ribbon from a Civil War unit reunion, and others. I started thinking about the people these items represented and reminded me of. I realized that, compared to all the items my ancestors owned, possessed, or directly or indirectly created in their lifetimes, most of what I have amounts to a only few scraps. It's like comparing their life to a shirt that gets put through a food processor, and the shreds get scattered to the winds, and here I am spending my life chasing down each thread I can find and trying to stitch that shirt back together. In many cases, I don't know what the pattern is, where the threads are, or what the shirt is going to look like when I'm done. And given how many ancestors I have, plus their children and other connections, I feel like I'm trying to recreate a whole department store's worth of shirts. Daunting doesn't begin to describe it. So why do I do it?

I do it because I owe my existence to these people. Had they not been born, lived, and died, I wouldn't be here. I do it because the more I try to understand them, the more I find I understand myself and my current family - why my people and I are the way we are. I do it because it gives me a connection to something so much larger than myself. I spent much of my childhood years being bullied at school, even at church sometimes, and felt very alone. But finding these ancestors of mine, my family, helps me overcome that feeling, by realizing that there are people out there, past and present, that are my family, and I'm not alone, even if we don't speak much, or even know each other exists.

Family really is the most important thing we have. Each thread I find, each scrap I collect, reminds me of that. So I will never stop looking for those treasured scraps and threads, and hope that one day someone (or someones!) in my family will continue the search and the collecting.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Military Monday - Honoring the servicemen in my family

With today being Memorial Day, people everywhere are honoring the members of our military who gave their lives protecting and defending our country. I am lucky enough to not have lost any family members or direct ancestors (that I know of so far) while in the service of my country, but I do want to take a moment to pay tribute to those in my family who have served in the armed forces. The military is what it is because of the men and women who serve in it, and these men pictured below are all fine examples of what makes America's military the best in the world.

Alexander B. Shute - Army, Civil War

Paul Groff - Army, Mexican War 

Fred Gibson - Marines, WWII

Douglas Redcord - Warrant Officer, WWII

Jim Harris Sr. - Navy, WWII

Jim Crawford - Navy, Korean War

Jim Harris Jr. - Army, Korean War

Tom Bergstad - Navy, Korean War
David Gibson - Navy, Vietnam War

Randy Gibson - Navy, Vietnam War

Richard McFarland - Air Force, Cold War

Travis Smith - Army, Iraq War

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday - Discoveries at MyHeritage

One of the cool things about being a Mormon genealogist is the deal FamilySearch worked out with some of the major players in online genealogy. In exchange for records access, help in digitizing and indexing, and other side benefits, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and FindMyPast offers free access to many of their resources to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I've worked extensively in Ancestry over the years, and done a little with FindMyPast, but haven't really done much with MyHeritage. After listening to some of the commercials for it in the Extreme Genes podcast, I thought I'd give it a shot.

I uploaded a gedcom of my family tree from my RootsMagic 7 database, and it was ready within just a couple minutes. That's a lot faster than I anticipated! I poked around for a bit, looking at how the tree layout worked, and then had to move on to other things. But over the next couple days, I started getting emails of record matches, and not just a few either. The email I got today listed 20 ancestors with multiple hits each. This was either going to be very promising, or very tedious. I was hoping for the former. So I went in and started looking at some of the record matches.

Interestingly enough, the person at the top of the list was Howard John Sarbu, the husband of my grandma Sally's sister Bettye. I didn't have a lot of info on him, so I started looking through the matches. I noticed that most of the early hits were newspaper articles, which can sometimes be goldmines of information. I read through a few of them, and was very impressed by what I read.

Howard worked as the manager of the Sidney office of the Montana State Employment Service. As such, he was mentioned and quoted in the paper in articles relating to employment outlook, farm worker hiring levels, and other interesting information. The first article I read talked about how he was interviewed regarding farm worker hiring levels being higher in 1962 than they were in 1961 by almost 100%. It must have been interesting work seeing how people were being employed, and satisfying to see more people finding work.

The next article was the one that impressed me. It spoke about how Howard gave a speech at a meeting of the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, speaking about the need for disabled veterans to have employment opportunities, and to keep them connected and informed of those opportunities. Howard was himself a veteran, having served as a warrant officer during World War II. Therefore, it seems to me that this was probably not just an occupation for him, but probably a cause with some personal value and connection to him. I find it very admirable that he was such a public advocate for a worthy cause like standing up for disabled veterans.

So far, within only a few minutes of searching MyHeritage, I've found some really interesting family information. I'm excited to see what else turns up on this site, not just in breaking down brick walls (though I hope there is plenty of that!) but putting meat on the bones of my family tree.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

(nearly) Wordless Wednesday - Amelia Beilstein

This is my 3rd-great-grandmother, Amelia Waechter. She was a first-generation American, the first child and daughter of German immigrants George Waechter and his wife Margaret (last name unknown). She was born in East Liverpool, Columbiana County, Ohio on June 18, 1854. She married Jacob Beilstein at the ripe old age of 19 in Pennsylvania.

She moved around a lot over the years. Her father moved the family to Pennsylvania sometime between her 6th and 8th birthdays. After she and Jacob were married, they moved to Illinois, Nebraska, back to Pennsylvania (where Jacob died), back to Nebraska, Montana, back to Nebraska again, then finally back to Montana, where she passed away at the age of 81.

One of my goals is to find where in Europe her parents were from, and to find her mother's maiden name. Her youngest sister, Annie, lived long enough to receive a Social Security Number, and submitted an application and received benefits from the SSA. I've sent for her SS-5, but my application was apparently lost (though they did manage to cash the check somehow). I need to follow up with them on that. She did have 10 siblings, so I could try tracking down more marriage and death records for them as well. Always more to do than I have time to do!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why I am a bad genealogist

I first got into genealogy research back in 2000, when I started school at BYU. My grandma had sent me a pedigree chart of her ancestors while I was on my mission in Japan, and I had been excited to get into researching my family history and see what I could find. My first find came way too easily, but I'm glad it did. I went looking for my great-grandfather, John Frederick Gibson. I didn't know when he was born, but I was told it was around 1880, that he had been born in the city of Saint John in New Brunswick, and his parents were John and Catherine Gibson. I went to the Family History Center at BYU (the largest in the world by the way, next to the FHL itself in Salt Lake), pulled out the microfilm for the 1881 census for Saint John, and started rolling my way through it, page by page. It didn't take long before I found John and Catherine Gibson, with a 1-year-old daughter named Annie. I excitedly called my family and said "I found them!" From that moment on, I was hooked. I soon started pulling up everything I could find on every relative and ancestor I knew about. But more than anything, I wanted to know one thing about my Gibsons in particular - where in Ireland did they come from?

Since that very cold day in January 2000, I have found a lot of info on John's later life and descendants, but nothing about his earlier life or ancestry. I found a census record in 1871 that might be him, if he only aged 3 years between 1871 and 1881 (or the informant got his age completely wrong on either census, or both of them even). John said in later documents that his parents were both born in Ireland, but I had no concrete proof of who his parents were. Since I couldn't trace my Gibsons back to their origins in Ireland, I've also tried tracing my other Irish line back to Ireland - that of John Gibson's wife, Catherine Cain.

I knew from the same 1881 census I found John and Catherine in that Catherine's parents were Dennis and Catherine Cain. Dennis and Catherine were both listed as having been born in Ireland, so that gave me more immigrants from Ireland, and this time, I had names. I've tried for years to locate some document that would help me find Dennis and/or Catherine's point of origin in Ireland, but no luck. Everything that lists birthplace always said just Ireland.

Two years ago, I met a cousin of my grandpa Fred Gibson through, one who descended from Dennis and Catherine Cain (or Kane as it was spelled in America). This cousin said that they were told by an old relative that Dennis's parents (names unknown) had died in Ireland of the black lung, and that Dennis had immigrated to Canada to live with an unnamed aunt on his father's side. The cousin didn't know (or at least didn't say) where this older relative had obtained this information, so I read the information she had on Dennis in her Ancestry tree and wrote it down in my Rootsmagic database, and moved on.

That is why I'm a bad genealogist. The info that this cousin had on Dennis included a transcription of his obituary, taken from the Helena Independent Record the day after his death in May 1906. Because I couldn't find a copy of that original obituary to verify its contents, I just copied the transcript from Ancestry, and promptly (and stupidly) forgot about it. I say stupidly, because the obituary contains this sentence: He was born in Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland and in 1833 crossed the water, locating in St. John's, New Brunswick.

The holy grail of my genealogy research - a connection to a specific point of origin in Ireland - has been sitting in my Rootsmagic database for almost two years now. Completely untouched. The only reason I came across it today was I happened to be poking around Newspaper Archive looking for an obituary for - Dennis Kane. And I found one - a copy of the one from the Helena paper, reprinted in the Anaconda Standard the next day. And guess what? The wording is almost identical to what my cousin had in her Ancestry tree.

I have spent every spare moment today joining every County Tyrone group on Facebook I could find, plus a mailing list for Tyrone, and bouncing around various websites that members in these Facebook groups have been kind enough to point me to. I'm grateful that I have this information, but kicking myself that I didn't act on it two years ago when I first came across it. Who knows what progress I'd have made in the last 20 months? All I can do now is try to make up for lost time, and hope that whatever answers might have been out there 20 months ago are still there, waiting for this (now formerly) bad genealogist to find them.