Monday, April 11, 2011

Things I've Learned Lately

Sorry for the absence the last two weeks, I've been trying to get caught up on my pile of stuff. I've made a LOT of progress in the last week, having spent 5 hours at the Heritage Quest Research Library last Saturday just going full tilt at cataloging, documenting, and filing. It was awesome! I finally made it through the first batch of marriage records I'd downloaded, as well as the pile of Craddock documents from my grandma's cousin Carol, the Pushard documents I found and blogged about back in February, and some other odds and ends that I've been collecting. Here's a couple of things I've learned going through these documents:

1. My uncle Ralph Mahlen (who passed away a few years ago) came from a BIG family. He came from a family of six kids, four boys and two girls, none of which I can recall ever meeting. His dad, Joel Mahlen, came from a bigger family of seven girls and four boys. I can't imagine how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren Joel's parents had!

2. I got my first look at a court record. It was a write-up of a divorce hearing back in the 50s. Apparently the husband didn't even come to court, and was divorced in absentia, with his wife getting full custody of their kids. What surprised me was the fact that the court order gave him visitation rights, as long as the visits were done at reasonable times, and he was "sober and well behaved." Interesting language.

3. Ruth Young, second wife of my great-grandfather James Harris, had another sister. I had found marriage records for Annabelle Young, and seen a sister named Ada in the 1930 census, born around the same time. My first thought was that these were the same girl. But after going through the marriage records more closely, and documenting an obituary for Ruth's third husband, Rudolph McCaslin, I found they were different people. The key was the obituary. It listed sisters-in-law for Rudolph named Mrs. R.L. Storm and Mrs. John [Joseph] Sterle. I didn't know who R.L. Storm was, but a little research led me to find out it was Ada, with Mrs. Sterle being Annabelle.

4. Loring Pushard, great-great-grandfather of my cousin Jimmy, enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War at the ripe-old age of 17 as a private on 23 January 1862. He was discharged two years and two days later, on 25 January 1864, as a Corporal, at the age of 19. I don't know much yet about how the army was organized back then, or the distance in rank between a Private and a Corporal, but I do think it's very impressive that a 17-year-old kids could advance to a Corporal in two years. Especially given what most 17-year-olds do with their time these days. He got married about three years after leaving the Army, worked as a piano maker, and lived to be 62 years old. Just an average man, but such an interesting average man. It makes me wish he was a closer relative.

It still amazes me how much of peoples' lives we're able to reconstruct with a few documents. Some people, like Loring Pushard, just seem to come together so easily. Some, like my great-great-grandma Lena, you have to work and work and dig up every scrap just to try and piece the basic picture together. No two stories are even close to the same.

1 comment:

Gibson Family said...

As I read your blog it's like a trailer for a movie ... you tell us these little teasers and we need to watch the movie ... EXCEPT THERE'S NO MOVIE!!! Like you, I wish we could find out more about them ... these strangers we call ancestors.

Makes me want to write more consistently in my journal. Then no one will need to wonder about great great grandma Kathy ... yup ... she was a crazy old lady!!! It's right here in her journal!

Great job, as always, Brandt!