Monday, February 27, 2012

Gwen's Best Friend

I don’t exactly know how they met and why they were such good friends – but Richard Tannahill and Gwen Shearer were the best of friends and business partners.  Both were ambitious men and hard workers and loved hunting.  Perhaps they met when Gwen Shearer started his lumber mill up on McCormick Ridge and Richard’s father lived close by.  Perhaps they knew each other when Richard’s girlfriend and later wife was the school teacher at the Snow School which was also close by.  Whatever the case – they were best friends.  When Richard was killed in a hunting accident in 1947 – I’m sure Gwen mourned him as deeply as a family member.

My grandmother was heartbroken after her husband’s death.  She wrote in her diary on the day he died “Oh my darling Richard!”  and then wrote in the next few days about picking out the coffin and the details of the funeral service and then nothing for a few months.  When she started writing in her diary again, you could tell it was an effort for her.  In the springtime, she wrote about the delivery of the new car that Richard had ordered a few days before his death.  A bittersweet moment all its own.  It must have been harder for a widow back in the 1940’s, especially one with her own business.  Grandma ran a lumber yard with lumber from Gwen Shearer’s mill that had been hauled down by her husband, Richard off the mountain.  It was reassuring to some to see the husband in the background, but to be on her own had to be a challenge.  That isn’t to say that my grandmother couldn’t have handled herself or her business on her own.  She was a strong willed and capable woman who was raised to rely on herself and her own capabilities.  Grandma Cappy and Gwen Shearer married about a year later after Richard’s death. 

My mother was still a young child when Gwen Shearer became a permanent fixture in her life.  Gwen had never been around children and I don’t think the adjustment was easy for him.  Somehow he and my mother developed a close bond and Mom looked at him as her “Daddy!”  She always remembered her father…but Gwen was the one who was there.  Mom remembered several occasions when she would ask Gwen questions about her father and he would always take the time to tell her anything she wanted to know.  Mom said that there was never any jealousy on Gwen’s part when it came to Richard.  She got to know things about her natural father that she never would have learned except for Gwen. 

After I was eight years old, Grandpa Gwen was the only grandfather that I knew.  He was never easy to be around or easy to please.  Regardless, I adored him.  He was patient and loving towards me which I think were foreign character traits.  Mom always thought that he was someone who never really learned to love.  He had a father who was abusive and his mother did what she could to protect him and his brothers.  Grandpa Gwen was someone who expected the best out of himself and anyone else around him.  This probably made him an excellent businessman but a difficult husband and father.  For most of their married life, Grandpa Gwen and Grandma Cappy had a contentious relationship.  You had two strong willed people where neither one was ever willing to take the easy path.  They cared for each other deeply….but it wasn’t easy.  Only in their last few years did it become easier.  Both were in poor health and it seemed that they took a lot of pleasure in taking care of the other.  When Grandma died – Grandpa Gwen for the first time in his life didn’t seem so confident and sure of himself.  He was lost without her and seemed fragile and unsure what was to come.  Mom made an album of all of the sympathy cards so he could spend time looking at and reading the condolences of people.  I suppose he wanted to remember how well loved that my grandmother was.  One of the last pictures of her was always nearby for him to look at.  In his last days, he talked to her - calling “Little mama…come in!”
Gwen working at his lumber mill!

When his best friend died, I think Grandpa Gwen was determined to do the best he could as a husband and father to Richard’s wife and daughters.  There was always the thought of what could have been if Richard had lived.  However, I know that my mother loved the man that she called “Daddy” and my grandmother loved him – even it was difficult to for him to show the love he felt for his family.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

DNA & Documents

I have been a member of the Pennington Research Association for about 15 years.  During that time, genealogy research has changed extensively.  Back when I started researching, the internet was very new and there wasn’t a great deal of information available on the internet.  Back then, the majority of research was still conducted in libraries and archives as well as courthouses and cemeteries.  Today, it is a brand new world of genealogy research.

Nowadays, researchers spend more time doing their research on the computer through online genealogy sites like,, as well as email and user boards.  These research methods are an addition to the previous methods of research.  I still think that people go to the libraries and archives and certainly they still haunt courthouses and cemeteries…but there seems to be a lot more contact via the internet.  Today, people make contact through social networking sites like Facebook or through a newslist that is surname or geographic specific as well.  It also seems to be cheaper to pick up the phone and talk to fellow researchers more often and to digitize and trade documentation through email. 
We believe that my ancestor, Levi Pennington b. 1794 is the son of Ephraim Pennington b. 1769.  You might wonder why I keep adding dates onto these names.  There are several Ephraims, Benajahs, Micajahs, & Levis…and the date is the only way to separate them.  The supposition is that our Ephraim b. 1769 is probably a son of an Ephraim b. 1745 who is also probably a son of an Ephraim b. 1724.  There is also some Benajah’s and some Micajah’s thrown in there to mess up the Ephraim soup.  The likelihood that there is a genetic tie-in is confirmed through DNA research.  The Pennington Research Association has had a DNA study that has been going on for some time.  If you are interested in learning about the DNA study, check out - Essentially there is a “super group” that includes Group 4, 7, 12, 30, 31, & 32.  This means that there is a shared family history going back at least 8 generations.  Now…that doesn’t mean that we know that actual family lines that connect back to that ancestor who lived 8 – 10 generations ago, only that we have a genetic connection.  Many of us have theorized that this past ancestor is probably Ephraim b. 1724.  My ancestor,  Ephraim b. 1769 and his descendants lived in the Ashe Co., NC region.  So, since we have the scientific connection, the question is trying to make the documentary connection – which in itself is a struggle and may not even be possible.  Many records of that earlier period have been lost or simply weren’t kept.  The only way to trace many of these families is through land records or wills and when you have so many similar names – it is hard to figure out which is which. 

So…even though we have the scientific proof, we still need to work on the documentary proof.  Guess what…this goes back to old fashioned genealogy research.  I have worked with two researchers in the past who have both made a valiant effort to puzzle out our lines.  One researcher looked at all of the land records from the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s and attempted to place these on a map.  Sometimes this isn’t that easy because the names of locations have changed.  He did a marvelous job though of placing these records on a map so it was easy to see the patterns.  Another researcher had the skill of platting many of these records.  She was familiar enough with the land and the locations that she could look at a record and draw out the plat and figure out who was next door or what happened to that specific piece of land.  
The Pennington land in Ashe Co., NC today.  This was passed from Ephraim b. 1769 to Andrew b. 1813 to Elijah!
For example, she figured out that a land record that had been Ephraim Pennington’s b. 1769 had been passed to his son, Andrew.  That specific piece of land was sold to Elijah Pennington in 1852 when Andrew Pennington left Ashe Co., NC and went to Laurel Bloomery, Johnson Co., TN.  Elijah Pennington was the son of my ancestor, Levi b. 1794 who was also Andrew’s brother and Ephraim’s son.  Even today, if you go to the Little Laurel area of Ashe Co., NC, many of those who still live there are descendants of Levi Pennington b. 1794.  There is a Pennington road, an old store with Pennington on front nearby, and a small church full of stained windows commemorating Pennington’s who had lived there.  I’m sure if you looked very closely and the inhabitants of the area, you would find that most have a connection to the Levi Pennington family.

The Little Laurel Church.

This only proves that science alone cannot fill in the blanks.  It can only be yet another clue in the research process.  Who knows, it may take a few more decades before DNA can give us any more clues.  Which means, we still need to do it the old fashioned way.  I’m not sure if my favorite part of genealogy hasn’t been the wonderful friends who I have “met” along the way.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Pope Quarter

My grandmother never really got much of chance to meet her husband’s mother’s family when she lived in North Dakota, but she did receive a few letters.  One was written in 1945 from Verna Pope Johnson, my great grandmother’s younger sister.  There are all kinds of interesting details in this letter if you look closely enough.  One of which was when she talked about her daughter who had married and already had several children.  The married name of this daughter was unusual enough to merit some additional research.  I got online and found all the Zinggs I could in the area around Washburn, ND and wrote them letters asking them if they were connected.  I left my phone number and address…and one day, I got a letter back!

Sharyll Zingg Tweeten was a granddaughter of Verna Pope Johnson and she had been elected by her siblings to make the contact with us.  Soon, we were making plans to travel to North Dakota and meet this new branch of the family.  My aunt and her husband as well as their granddaughter and my parents, my niece and I began the long trip to North Dakota.  Along the way, we stopped at a few spots like Craters of the Moon, Yellowstone, Buffalo Cody Museum, and Devil’s Tower.  We had two teenagers with us and felt that they should see these places.  Soon enough, we had arrived at Washburn, ND and began making our way to the Tweeten home place.  After meeting Sharyll and her husband Clint, we felt as if we were meeting old friends.

The old pictures were brought out and we were seeing photographs for the first time of family members that we had only heard about as well as stories of a family we knew very little about.  It was interesting to me personally that Sharyll’s mother’s name had been Capitola…and it was my grandmother’s name as well. I brought out some documents that I had gotten online from the Bureau of Land Management site ( that listed either Shirlie Pope or her father Winslow Pope.  On one of these records, Clinton (Sharryll’s husband) paused and read it more carefully.  He got out a platte book that had been published based on some early land owners of these lands.  As he compared the land entry and the book, he got a big grin on his face.  It seems that his uncle had bought a piece of land back in the 1920’s and had farmed the land.  He had always called it the “Pope Quarter” and now Clint understood why.  That document with the description fo the land that Winslow Pope had  - was what Clint’s family had always called the Pope quarter.  Clint had never imagined that this piece of land was his wife’s great grandfather’s original homestead. 

The BLM record for Winslow Pope
The next day, Clint took Dad and me over and showed us the Pope quarter…there was nothing all that impressive about the piece of land…but it was interesting to think that this was the piece of land that my 3rd great grandfather had homesteaded nearly a century ago!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Aunt Doodles

I used to call my uncle Claude to ask him questions about the past and old family members.  He used to always caution me that he really didn’t know all that much because he was so much younger.  Claude was the youngest of three children and was 15 and 13 years younger than his older brother and sister.  However, Claude was my only resource so I would continue to question him.  One day I called him and asked him if he remembered his Dad’s sister, Julia.  Claude told me that he didn’t remember and then we got into a discussion about where they lived at Pomeroy.  During this story, he mentioned “Aunt Doodles”  - I asked him who she was and he replied “Pop’s sister!”  Ahh…I had my answer!

Julia Friddles was born August 27, 1852 in Lenoir, Caldwell Co., NC to Moses Friddles and his first wife.  She was the eldest of the 10 known children of Moses Friddles with at least 4 wives.  She married Sidney Plaskia Prestwood on September 14, 1876 in Jefferson Co., TN.  They had three known children two of whom survived to adulthood.  I’m not sure if she and her husband divorced or separated but after 1900, she is no longer with him and he has remarried.  Her younger brother, Albert, came west with his family in the late 1880’s and he encouraged his sister to make the move as well, and she came west in 1901.  Julia and her son both applied for a homestead up on Grouse Flats, Wallowa Co., OR near her brother’s place.   However, by 1920, she had abandoned the home place and had moved to Pomeroy with her son.  She is in the 1920 census with her son and two granddaughters through her daughter Rosie.  That time period between 1910 and 1920 is somewhat hazy.  Rosie was molested at some point by one of her cousins and the case became fairly well known in the early teens and is listed online as an early court case for rape in Oregon.  Rosie married and had two children but left them with her mother and I haven’t as yet been able to locate her in 1920, although I think I have found her in California in 1930.  That is still something I am researching.  Julia is found in Walla Walla, Walla Walla Co., WA in 1930 and she passes away on April 5, 1932 at her son’s home.

Julia's grave at the Walla Walla Cemetery.
Somehow she got the nickname of Aunt Doodles…Mom remembered that her mother mentioned Aunt Doodles several times, but she was never quite sure who she was.  Once Claude realized who she was, he was able to give me information that became very valuable in locating her.  He told me that he and his mother had boarded a bus and had gone to Walla Walla when he was a little kid to go and visit her.  She was ill, and Mom Friddle thought they needed to visit her.  Claude said that it was around Easter time when they made their visit and he thought he was about 7 or 8.  Years ago, I went down to Walla Walla and located the cemetery and found out where Julia was buried as well as her son, Albert and his three wives.  There I found her death date and was pleasantly surprised at how close Claude was on the date of when she died.  I went to the library and got a copy of her obituary.  While it didn’t give me much in the way of further information, it did give me a location to look at more closely; Lenoir, Caldwell Co., NC.

Julia’s family continues to be a topic of research for me.  Every once in a while, I find something that somehow leads me into a new direction.  As I have never located in record concerning her father before 1858, I was anxious to get a copy of Julia’s death record.  Her brother Albert’s record had not given any further information on death location or the identity of the mother.  Julia’s death record lists a mother with the name of Munday.  I still don’t have the full name, but perhaps it is a clue.  It bothers me that I have never been able to locate Moses Friddles in the 1850 census nor anything else on his background.  I had always hoped that I might make progress by searching through these two older children.  While there are clues, I’m still not quite there yet.  However, I am much closer than I was years ago before I had the conversation with my uncle.  I am glad that we had that talk so long ago…he has since passed away and there is no one else to ask.  Aunt Doodles only existed in the deep recesses of his memory from his childhood – but after questioning him on other topics, he was able to remember quite a bit.  All I can say is if you have the opportunity to talk to your older generations about family members, take the opportunity and do it now.  You may never have the opportunity again!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidential Trivia

One of my curious activities a few years ago was writing an article for the Pennington Pedigrees on Presidential genealogy.  I have to say that it was a fun article for me to write.  If you are interested in Presidential genealogy, the first and best resource that you should look at is the work of Gary Boyd Roberts.    I believe that he is the expert on all things genealogy related to our Presidents.

Here are some interesting facts to consider…there are two presidents who share more lines in common than any other with 18 lines.  It is no surprise that it is George Herbert Walker Bush and his son George W. Bush.  They probably share genealogy with a lot of people.  I share several ancestors with the two of them including: John Gallup & Hannah Lake, John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley, Thomas Pope and Sarah Jenney.  When you throw Barbara Pierce Bush into the mix, I also share the ancestors of Fernando Thayer and Huldah Hayward. 

Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Gerald R. Ford share 17 ancestral lines in common.   I share a common line of Edmund Rice and Thomasine Frost with Calvin Coolidge.  It is no surprise that many share lines with Franklin Delano Roosevelt – I have the following: John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley.  I also share a line with Gerald R. Ford (aka Leslie Lynch King) of William Wilbore and Martha Holmes.
I could go on with several Presidents and common ancestral lines…but you will find if you have New England ancestry then you probably can connect to a President of the United States. Also of interest is that the fact that there are several who share no common lines with any other President.  These Presidents include:
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James Monroe
  • Andrew Jackson
  • James K. Polk 
  • James Buchanan
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Chester Arthur
  • William McKinley
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Dwight David Eisenhower
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • Ronald Reagan
  • William Jefferson Clinton

You might find it interesting that our current President shares ancestral lines with seven other Presidents including:  James Madison, Harry Truman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Our Presidents have come from a lot of backgrounds and families both wealthy and poor.  They have been lawyers, Police Commissioners, Generals, tailors, and farmers.  You may like some better than others – but they are an interesting lot to look at.  You might find it curious that President Obama is not the first President to have his nation of birth questioned.  Chester Arthur was thought by some to have been born in Canada and not the United States.  Chester Arthur’s father owned a farm 15 miles across the border and some speculated that he was not a natural born citizen.  Chester Arthur went so far as to change his birth year to 1830, since his father was well established in Vermont at that time.  

It is also interesting to note that when Grover Cleveland first became President, he was bachelor.  He married a younger woman named Frances Folsom who was 21 years old and the youngest first lady we have ever had.  They had five children and four lived to be quite old, the last one died in 1995.   We know of the two sets of fathers and sons (Adams & Bushs) but there was also a grandfather and grandson – Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison.  

There was also one President who was administered the oath of office by his own father in a Vermont farmhouse.  Calvin Coolidge’s father was the local notary public and the oath was done early in the morning after hearing of Warren G. Harding’s death.  Everyone knows that John Fitzgerald Kennedy is buried at Arlington Cemetery, but did you know that William Howard Taft was as well.  Taft was also the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after his term as President and he himself administered the oath of office to two Presidents.

So as many of us enjoy a day off on President’s day – you might look up one or two on your computer and learn something about them.  You might be surprised at what you find!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Johnson DNA

Since it is President’s Day weekend coming up, I thought I would talk about my relationship with one particular President, Andrew Johnson.   Andrew Johnson was born in North Carolina to Jacob Johnson and Mary McDonough and moved to Tennessee as a young man where he married Eliza McCardle.  He became Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President in the 1864 election and after Lincoln’s assassination, he became President.  He also became the first President to be impeached.  President Johnson was definitely not one of our more successful Presidents.  However, the story how we proved our connection to him is rather interesting.

We had had circumstantial proof of the relationship for several years.  Around 2001, I received an article published by Hugh B. Johnston which quoted a letter written by Henderson Johnson, my great great grandfather’s older brother.  The letter mentions all of the family members and is addressed to Cousin Andrew.  Not too long after that, I got an actual copy of the letter from a descendant of Henderson Johnson.  Fast forward to 2009…I was contacted by the Johnson DNA group wanting to know if I knew of anyone who could be tested as a direct male relative of President Andrew Johnson.  When DNA is researched on a specific family line, you need a direct male line to test.  There is no direct male line that traces back to Andrew Johnson.  He had sons, but only his daughters had children.  So, therefore the Y-DNA test wouldn’t work on a direct descendant of Andrew Johnson.  However, it would work if someone could find a descendant of Andrew’s brother, William Patterson Johnson or through a descendant of one of his father’s brothers.  I offered up my father as someone who was descended from Moses Johnson, a younger brother of Jacob Johnson.  I was questioned if I had any documentation.  I offered up a copy of the letter and the research including census records that record members of the family up until my grandfather’s lifetime.  While I agreed that the connection was circumstantial, it was pretty convincing.  Now someone might have been offended that their research was being questioned…I was not.  Mostly because I already had the research to back it up and I was well aware of how many people claimed to be related to someone famous and had nothing to back it up.

After some thought, they decided to test my Dad for free.  His DNA test would be the one they could use to test a connection to Andrew Johnson.  They still wanted to get someone tested who was descended from William Patterson Johnson, Andrew’s brother.  They asked me if I could help and I said that I would do what I could.  Soon after they sent me some information that they found that listed the children of William Patterson Johnson.  I thought that the information looked very familiar and then looked at the source of the information and found my own website listed as the source.  I personally found this incredible funny…to have my own research sent back to me as a source.
With a bit of work and luck – we did eventually find that descendant of William Patterson Johnson and he was also tested.  He and my father’s tests matched and provided us with a scientific confirmation of the relationship.  Along the way, a descendant of Silvanus Johnson was tested.  It was always thought that Andrew Johnson was possibly descended from Silvanus and this was a line that was in most genealogies or histories about Andrew Johnson.  Unfortunately for us…DNA told us that there is no connection. So, here we are with a line that probably only traces back to a William Johnson who was probably the father of both Jacob Johnson and my great great great grandfather Moses Johnson as well as a few other brothers.  As of right now, we can’t take it any further but there are some tantalizing DNA similarities with some other Johnson lines that might lead us further back.  DNA research in our circumstances has proven a valuable tool.  It has confirmed the lines from William Johnson down and dismissed the line going back.  Who knows what we will ever find?  Andrew Johnson’s family was not wealthy and there isn’t a wealth of data to search on that will give us many answers.  You might say the paper trail is cold.  Perhaps science will provide us more answers as we learn more about DNA results.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

An Educational Pioneer

Rev. Ralph Wheelock is someone of importance that I imagine most people know very little about.  He was born in Dorrington, Shropshire England on 14 May 1600 and attended Cambridge and was a contemporary of John Milton.  He got a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1626 and a Master of Arts in 1631. Rev. Wheelock married Rebecca Clarke on 17 May 1630 in England.  Their first three children were born in England and they immigrated in 1637 to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and set out like many others to build a new life.  (According to some there were about 20,000 immigrants in the Great Migration years from 1630-1640 – for more information check Puritan Migration to New England (1620-1640)

Rev. Wheelock and his wife settled in Watertown, MA and later joined in a plan to create a settlement further up the Charles River later to be called Dedham.  Rev Wheelock was involved with helping to found the town, involved in its early government and various other governmental functions.   In 1651, Rev. Wheelock and his family moved to the town of New Dedham, later called Medfield.  Rev. Wheelock is counted upon as one of its founders.  All of these duties and activities make Rev. Ralph Wheelock significant in the early years of these communities; however what I find to be truly significant is his role as an educator.

One of Rev. Wheelock’s early activities was raising money to help fund the new college at Harvard which was founded in 1636.  Rev. Wheelock was a minister by profession but he was an educator at heart.  According to some records, he was probably one of the first public school teachers in America.  In 1644, Dedham established the first free school in Massachusetts that was supported by taxes, and Rev. Ralph Wheelock was the first teacher at this school.  He was an enthusiastic teacher and supported of education in early Massachusetts.  Reverend Wheelock died in 1683 in Medfield, MA surviving his wife by three years (she died 1 Jan 1680) It must have been an important part of his family philosophy because his great grandson went on to become the founder of Dartmouth College.  If you are interested in more info on Rev. Wheelock check out the Biography of Reverend Ralph Wheelock on Rick Sullivan’s website.

My particular line to Rev. Ralph Wheelock is the following:
  • Rev. Ralph Wheelock m. Rebecca Clarke
  • Benjamin Wheelock, Sr. m. Elizabeth Bullen
  • Benjamin Wheelock m. Huldah Thayer
  • Jonathan Wheelock m. Martha Wight
  • Asa Wheelock m. Rachel Drury
  • Mary Wheelock m. Winslow Pope
  • Francis Pope m. Belinda Willey
  • Winslow Lonsdale Pope m. Nancy Ann Marie Lyons
  • Shirlie Louisa Pope m. Ulpian Grey Johnson
  • Frank Stewart Johnson m. Helen Marian Gage

Frank and Marian were my grandparents.  When most of us have early American history, most teacher gloss over these early years.  We are taught a bit about the Pilgrims and maybe a little about the foundation of the other colonies.  We don’t learn about some of these early pioneers to our country.  As a nation, we celebrate the pioneers in our heritage, but I bet the image that comes to mind are those brave souls who traveled with their wagons across the Oregon Trail.  These early immigrants to the New World left behind everything and while some were pursing financial opportunities, many of these early pioneers were pursing the freedom to practice their own faith the way they chose.  Some like Rev. Wheelock also took the opportunity to help start a free school so that all children would have an opportunity for an education.  I wish all of those students today who bemoan the fact that they have to go to school that it is a privilege to have the opportunity of an education and to take advantage of that opportunity instead of squandering it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Lifelong Love Story

Ora Silas Gage and Florence Christine Shawver shared 73 ½ years of marriage together and there was no question that they loved one another.  They were loving and caring towards one another and illustrated to all who knew them a good marriage.

By the time Granddad Gage married Grandma Gage in 1917, he had already been in the military, worked as a post man, and worked on a farm.  Grandma Florence had also worked as a teacher.   They were 25 and 20 when they married on 4 Sep 1917 in Lincoln, NE. Within a short 5 years, they already had 3 children and their own farm in Mapleton, IA.  By the time the depression hit them; they had 3 sons and 4 daughters and were facing the first financial crisis in their married lives.  It was an unfortunate circumstance at how difficult it was to come by cash.  Granddad Gage could feed his family and he could pay his loan, but he couldn’t pay his taxes.   There was no money to be had to make that payment.  Being a proud man, he preferred to leave his farm rather than have it taken away from him because of taxes.  He signed the land over to his friend, Linus Brenner, and took his wife and 7 children and went o Philip, SD.  This supposedly good opportunity turned into a disaster and within a short two years they were on their way to Idaho. 

Before they left, they were forced to leave their oldest son in a sanitarium to recover from pneumonia.  They had been told by the doctor during the worst of the sickness that they were likely to lose him…but somehow he survived and spent several months in that sanitarium recovering.  It must have been incredibly difficult to leave their son in that sanitarium while they took the rest of their children west.  They arrived in Dover, ID in early 1935, and after a search for land, ended up in Hatter Creek near Princeton, ID.  During these early days in Hatter Creek, their older children got jobs to help support their family and Granddad worked his farm and a ranching job nearby.  It wasn’t until about 1940 after the birth of their last child (they had 10 children in all) that life started to get a bit easier.  In July of 1947, they experienced the most devastating period of their long marriage.  They lost their youngest son in an accident (he drowned in the Palouse River).  It was a loss that they never quite recovered from.  They clung to their faith and the rest of their children and grandchildren to make it through.  They had moved to Potlatch a few years earlier so their younger children could more easily go to school…but they decided that they needed a new start and moved to Lewiston, ID.  They were there for the next 15 years and then moved to Genesee, ID for a few years before moving to the coast at Yachats, OR.  They made their last move in 1975 to live near their oldest daughter in Canby, OR. 

I think that just about all of their grandchildren and great grandchildren think of the Grandfolks as the perfect grandparents.    Granddad was a man who trained his sons and many of his grandsons how to work and conduct themselves as men.  By following his example, they learned how to treat their family.  Grandma was a patient, kind loving person who somehow could recall when each of her grandchildren were born.  This doesn’t sound impressive until you consider that she had almost 100 of them by the time she passed away at 93 if you include great grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Throughout their married lives there were three constants that helped them through the challenges of life; each other, their family, and their faith in God.  No matter what they faced – they presented a united front.  At the end of their lives, it was rare to see one without the other until Dec. 30, 1990 when Granddad Gage passed away at 98 years old.  I still remember going to Grandma after Granddad’s funeral and she told me that she really couldn’t face the funeral.  In reality, she was just too weak to go…but within a few months Grandma passed away 8 March 1991 at 93 years and joined Granddad.  They had been together for over 73 years and shared everything that such a long marriage entails.  Throughout their long lives they took care of each other - Grandma made sure that Granddad ate properly and she took pleasure in taking care of him.  Granddad washed the dishes every night and enjoyed watching over his wife.  There was no mistake that these two people loved each other and everyone knew that one would not survive long without the other.  They shared a love story that lasted 73 ½ years and I would like to believe that they are together for eternity and watching over their family just as they did in life.

Monday, February 13, 2012

John Gallop - 10th Great Grandfather

My 10th great grandfather set sail for Boston on March 20, 1630 on the Mary and John as part of the Winthrop Fleet.  John Gallop was one of the first grantees of land in the northern part of Boston where he had a house and wharf right in the northern part of town.  It was called Gallop’s Point…and I have no idea what it is called today, but in 1630 it was a distinctive location associated with a distinctive person.

John Gallop was born about 1591 in Mosterton, County Dorset, England to John Gallop and Mary Crabbe.    When John Gallop made his voyage to Boston in 1630, he left his wife and children behind in England to what may have been perceived an uncertain future.  Not too long after his arrival, he became an important part of the new colony.  He was important enough that Governor Winthrop feared he would return to England and wrote to the Rev. John White:

I have much difficultye to keep John Gallop here by reason of his wife will not come. 
                I marvayle at the woman's weaknesse.  I pray pursuade her and further her coming by all means.  If she will come, let her have the remainder of his wages; if not, let it be bestowed to bring over his childre, if so he desires.  It would be about 40 pounds losse to him to come for her.
                                                Your assured in the Lord's worke,
                                                Massachusetts, July 4, 1632
                                                                J. Winthrop.

Finally on September 4, 1633, John Gallop’s wife and children arrived on the Griffin after an eight week crossing.  John Gallop himself traveled out to the ship and piloted the ship through a new channel that he had discovered in the Boston harbor…and so began the long history of the Gallup family in the United States.  I am descended from his oldest son, John as well as President, George H. W. Bush, President George W. Bush, George Horace Gallup (founder of Gallup poll) and Emily Dickinson.
Very early in my genealogy research, I was curious about the Gallup family.  My great grandfather’s mother was a Gallup and I knew that this was a prominent family.  Not knowing where to start, I started looking at the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) books that we had in my local library.  They were interesting, but I got the feeling that I was well out of my depth.  I knew Edith Gallup was the daughter of Silas Gallup and Phoebe Montanye…but little else.  At a family funeral, my great uncle told me about a book that he had bought many years before that contained a Gallup genealogy.  He let me borrow the copy of the book…and you might say a whole new world opened up for me.  I found that my Edith Gallup had a long and interesting family that stretched back to the beginnings of this country.  The first Gallup genealogy was published about 1896, the copy that I was using was published in 1966.  During the next several weeks, I input all 12,000 Gallups in my database and began my fascination with this family and its numerous allied families.  It is a fascination that still pulls at me today.  There seems to always be some new detail that needs to be found.  I might never have happened, if that long ago Reverend hadn’t convinced John Gallop’s wife, Christobel Bruschett and their children to make that eight week journey from England.  It boggles my mind to think of all the things that had to happen in my family’s history to be where I am and who I am.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

33 Years Ago...Today

My family lost my great grandmother 33 years ago on the night before my 12th birthday.  Prior to that day 33 years ago – I had three great grandmothers, two grandmothers, a great grandfather, and a grandfather.  I lost my last grandmother just over a month ago and my own mother over six years ago.  The next morning as I walked into the kitchen – two of my favorite uncles were sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, when my mother jumped up and hugged me and wished me a happy birthday.  After hugs and kisses from my uncles, I noticed the red rimmed eyes and for the first time in my life – I noticed true sorrow on their faces and you might say I turned a corner towards adulthood.

Mom & Pop Friddle with Claude - about 1950
I read one time that a child thinks of themself first and an adult thinks of someone else before themselves.  For a normal birthday there was always a bit of excitement when I was a child, because my mother always made a big deal about birthdays.  On this birthday, she explained to me that we would celebrate my birthday in a few days…after the funeral.  I understood but at first was a bit disappointed.  When I saw my uncle’s faces that morning and that of my mother – I think I understood for the first time that we had lost a special person in our family and things were going to be forever different.  My great grandmother was gone – and I understood that two sons and a daughter lost their mother, grandchildren lost their beloved grandma and great grandchildren lost their great grandmother.  In my small world – I finally understood the impact of death.

Mom Friddle was born in 1894 and had her oldest son, Jack, when she was 15 years old.  In some ways, they grew up together.  She and Jack made that trip out from Tennessee together and lived up in that shack on Grouse Flats together.  When Grandma Cappy was born – she welcomed a daughter who would forever be a confidante and helper.  Mom Friddle had her youngest son, Claude, when she was 30 years old…and by that point was a different person than that 15 year old girl who had become a mother to Jack.  When my mother and her sister were born, Mom Friddle felt that she was much too young to be called Grandma…and so she became Mom.  (They always called their mother Momma)  By the time the first of her great grandchildren were born – she finally accepted being called Grandma.  When I knew her, she was somewhat crippled by the broken hip that she had suffered and the constant tick in her neck, although – she was one of the most fascinating people in my childhood. 

Mom Friddle's Grave at Normal Hill Cemetery.
The next day (February 10th) we had a graveside service for Mom Friddle.  Somehow I ended up standing by my Uncle Claude as they conducted the service.  As I saw him sadly smiling, I slipped my hand into his trying to give him some comfort.  I don’t think I understood what that meant until the day of my own mother’s funeral.  That simple gesture was my first step into adulthood.  I recognized that he, Jack & Grandma Cappy had lost their mother.  I couldn’t really conceive of how hard that must be.  My mother lost her beloved grandmother – the woman who she talked to almost every day telling her the funny stories of raising four children.  Mom Friddle giggled over every one of our exploits and provided my mother and father with much needed counseling and advice on many occasions.  This dynamic person was gone from our lives…she might have been old and ready to go – but she was still someone’s mother, sister, grandmother, great grandmother and friend. 

I put some artificial flowers on my great grandmother’s grave on Wednesday – the 33rd year since her death. As I looked down at her grave – I marveled that it had been so many years since we had lost her and thought of all that had happened to me since then.  I thought of losing my grandmother and my mother and those two wonderful uncles.  I remembered how thrilled I was on that day so long ago when I first saw the house that she grew up in.  My mother helped me make her a real person through her stories.  My childhood memories are somewhat dim – but what I do remember helped make me the person I am today.  My love of history came from listening to her stories and experiences.  All of these wonderful people helped make me become the person I am today…and I am grateful for the good fortune that I had for knowing them.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nicholas Johnson - Man of Mystery

One of the most mysterious of my father’s relatives is Nicholas Moses Johnson, the youngest son of Moses Johnson and Nancy Mayfield.  No one has any idea what happened to him after the Civil War and he is held in very low esteem by the family he left behind!

Nicholas was born in Guilford Co., NC around 1828 and was the youngest of the five children of Nancy Mayfield and Moses Johnson.  I’ve always sort of wondered about him.  His mother would have been close to 48 when he was born if we have the correct birth date for her.  Since, you can’t really trust the census records for dates…I suspect that she might have been closer to her husband’s age, which would have put her around 43 years old.  Moses and Nancy married on 6 May 1816 in Granville Co., NC and had Henderson William b. 2 May 1817, Washington Abraham b. 25 Oct 1819, Martha A. b. abt 1823, Nancy Jane Emily b. 27 Aug 1827 and Nicholas Moses b. abt 1828.  I have wondered if Nicholas and Nancy might have been twins…but since I didn’t know about Nancy until a few years ago, I’ve never really explored that part of the story.  All of the Johnson children were born in Guilford Co., NC and they left North Carolina sometime in the early 1840’s before 1844 when oldest son Henderson marries in Carter Co., TN. 

When the family is counted in the 1850 census, Moses and Nancy are counted in the 3rd Civil District in Carter Co., TN along with their son Nicholas and Henderson and his family.  Nancy must have died not too long after 1850, because Moses remarries in 1855 and is in fact recorded on the same page as his son, Nicholas’ marriage.  Nicholas Moses Johnson marries Mary Ann Jenkins on 1 Apr 1855 in Carter Co., TN.  Their first child was born before the marriage…and their second child was born six months after their marriage.  Those two facts certainly lead to some interesting conclusions.  Three other sons are born in quick succession and by 1864; Mary Ann and Nicholas Moses are the parents of 5 children including 4 sons.  This is a very tumultuous period for anyone living in this part of Tennessee.  Many of the men worked for the Union army to help destroy bridges in the area to prevent them from being of use for the Confederacy.  The women also were known to harbor Unionists and Union soldiers as well from the Confederates who stormed the area.  So the men were out fighting and the women were home keeping their families safe and protected as best they could yet supporting the Union as well.  It is in this environment that Nicholas and his family are living.  After the birth of their youngest child in 1862, Nicholas disappears.

Many in the family believe that Nicholas abandoned his family and went west to settle in Santa Barbara, CA.  When I talked to cousins about him…they referred to him as “Nicholas Moses “spit” Johnson” and seem to hold him in contempt.  If he truly did abandon his family…think of his poor wife with five children to raise.  She lived until 1912 when she passed away in Hampton, Carter Co., TN.  There are family members who believe that they saw a letter from Nicholas from California…but no one I have talked to has actually seen the letter or knew it to exist as a fact.  It very well could have been possible that Nicholas died in some mysterious way and didn’t abandon his family and was simply never located after the war. 

I have never found any reference to Nicholas Moses Johnson after 1862.  So….he remains a man of mystery.  I have traced most of his children and ironically that is the part of the Johnson family that remained in Carter Co., TN.  All of the rest of the children of Moses Johnson and Nancy Mayfield moved onto other locales.  The only Johnsons left in Carter Co., TN are those that descend from Nicholas Moses Johnson and Mary Ann Jenkins.  It is definitely an irony!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Clay County Kelley

I’ve been very lucky in my genealogy research.  I’ve had whole families open up with just a small bit of information.  Since so much of my ancestry is in New England, I have benefited from many early carefully researched genealogies.  Somehow I knew I wouldn’t always be so lucky!

John Ward Kelley & Melvina Robertson
John Ward Kelley is my great great grandfather.  He was born on 8 Aug 1849 in Teges, Clay Co., KY and died 12 Mar 1909 in Sparks, Lincoln Co., OK. (His gravestone has a different date - I don't know which is correct)  My mother had such a limited amount of information on her father’s family – mostly because he had died when she was very young and she had little contact with him.  I don’t remember exactly how we discovered the names of my great grandmother’s parents – but it wasn’t a clue that immediately yielded benefits.  Kelley is a name somewhat like Johnson, Smith or Jones (I have all four of these names in my ancestry)!  It is very common and very difficult to trace especially when your ancestor has a common first name like John.  I began my search for John Ward Kelley many years ago on a Clay Co., KY newslist.  Back then, the internet was still a new player in genealogy research and these newslists were a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the geographic area as well as the families of a particular county.  Clay Co., KY – I soon learned was one of the poorer counties in Kentucky and had been a site of feud violence in that latter part of the 1800’s which is when my ancestors left the area.  I soon learned that I should contact a lady by the name of Lucy.  From then on my research opened up to new vistas.

Gravestone of John Ward Kelley and his son Louis Cass Kelley.

Gravestone of John Ward Kelley's wife, Melvina Robertson.
Lucy’s grandfather was John Ward Kelley’s younger brother.  She actually remembered Francis Marion Kelly and well knew the old Kelly home place in Sexton Creek, Clay Co., KY.  I learned from her that John Ward Kelley was one of eleven children and was the son of William Kelly and his wife Ailey Allen.  William Kelly was probably born in Knob Creek, Washington Co., TN and walked alongside a wagon from Washington Co., TN to Clay Co., KY around 1838 with his parents John Kelly and Elizabeth Anna Hunter.  Not too long after his arrival in Clay Co., KY, he married Ailey Allen and they built their own place at Sexton Creek.  Their son John Ward Kelley married Melvina Robertson on 2 Sep 1867 in Clay Co., KY and by the time she died in 1890 they had 14 children.  John Ward Kelley and Melvina Robertson left Kentucky in 1885 and traveled to Kansas around the Chautauqua Co., area.  I don’t know if they left for new opportunities or left because of the unrest in their home county.  Clay County at this time was considered to be one of the most lawless places in the country torn apart by family feuds.  Either way, they left for new horizons.  Melvina died in 1890 during childbirth with her last child…and the child died with her.  John married a woman named Laura sometime after Melvina’s death.  Evidently, this new step mother’s wasn’t to the liking of some of John’s children…his son Leander Kelley left supposedly because he couldn’t get along with the stepmother.  He married for a third time to Sarona Spivey…and I’ve no idea if she outlasted him or not.  I can’t really find much trace of either wife since records weren’t kept at that time.  I’ve never even been able to confirm that John Ward Kelley died in Lincoln Co., OK.  He is buried with Melvina at Oak Hill Cemetery, Belleville, Chautauqua Co., KS – so I wonder at the accuracy.  It is around 150 miles between the two locations – although if there was a railway, it could be possible.  I know from another cousin that John Ward Kelley made a trip to Idaho to visit his son, Leander – which seems like quite a trip in the early 1900’s.

So, during the past decade or so I have slowly peeled back the layers of John Ward Kelley’s life.  It hasn’t been an easy process and I still make attempts at peeling back more layers.  I would like to know more about his second and third wives…or at least have the information confirmed.  There are still some of his children that I don’t feel like I have complete information on and I am hopeful that I will be able to make some progress when the 1940 census comes out in a few months.  So after all the facts that I have found from census records to names and dates of his life, marriage, and children – I am left to fill in the blanks.  Why did he leave Kentucky?  Was it because of the unrest in Clay County or because there were new opportunities further west?  Perhaps he followed his brother Kinchen to the Kansas-Oklahoma area.  Where did he die…was it really in Oklahoma or was he in Kansas where he is buried and which date is the correct death date?  I figure if I keep looking…I may find some of the answers to my questions and perhaps some new questions to research. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Stubborn isn't such a bad thing...

Most people consider the word “stubborn” to be a negative one, but I have always considered stubborn to be an admirable if not infuriating trait.  It is a word that describes my mother, both of my grandmothers and even my great grandmothers.  These women faced challenges and rather than be cowed by the obstacle, they rose to meet them.

My grandmother, Marian Gage Johnson, could have been described by anyone as being strong-willed and capable.  As a young woman growing up during the depression, she worked away from her family to help support them during the depression.  Her choice wasn’t to cry for pity but to do something about her situation.  I would define “stubborn” as someone who makes the best out of their circumstances without being defeated by them.  As a young wife, she worked just as hard as her husband to make the best life for their family.  During her childhood, she learned out to make bread, cook meals, make clothes, can and preserve meat and vegetables.  She used those skills to make sure her family had the best she could provide.  After her oldest children left home, she worked as cook to help supplement the family income.  When Grandma Marian and Grandpa Frank moved to Oregon and started a new life…she took jobs working in a chicken plant and later a tool factory…especially when her husband’s health prevented him from working.  No matter what the challenge…Grandma Marian didn’t back down.

Of course, there were times when that stubbornness and drive to improve her situation could be a bit of a problem.  My father recalls his mother wanting to enclose the porch of their house to add on to the kitchen.  It was a great idea, but the wall she wanted to remove was a load bearing wall.  One day, my father and his Dad arrived home to find that Grandma Marian had taken the wall down.  Both hurriedly put supporting posts up to support the house.  All her children and grandchildren can remember Grandma’s penchant for trying to organize things.  I can remember going to Canby to visit and Grandma was determined that despite the distance, her family would continue to know each other.  So, every visit to the Portland area involved visits to several family members.
After she moved to Lewiston about 10 years ago, Grandma Marian embraced the new life near her three older children and nearby siblings.  Despite the fact that her joints made moving about painful, she occupied her time with numerous activities.  These activities included scanning pictures, emailing friends and family, doing jigsaw puzzles and enjoying her TV.  Grandma Marian continued all her life to learn new things and make new friends. 
When I see someone who continues to learn new things, make their life and those around them better, and try to improve their life not matter what the challenges and do it with a spirited attitude rather than complaining about their circumstance – I call that stubborn.  No matter what comes their way – these type of people refuse to let “it” defeat them.  There are lot of stubborn qualities that I admire, so, you might say that I strive to try to be “stubborn!”  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Place to place...

When my great grandmother moved out west to join her husband in 1910, I’m sure she never saw herself in a small cabin with a child on her own much of the time.  That was how it was when she first arrived on Grouse Flats.  Her husband was off working for the railroad to bring much needed money into the home and was home on the weekends to take care of whatever was needed around the home place.  By the time the early 1920’s came around, Mom Friddle (my great grandmother) was ready to move to town…and so they moved to Pomeroy, WA.

The Friddle family still didn’t have a lot of money and finances were tight in the 1920’s.  They had two children and another one on the way, and a place in town was desired.  They found a house in Pomeroy that wasn’t in too good of shape.  The walls weren’t exactly air tight and you might say the place was drafty.  Mom Friddle and Grandma Cappy were never ones to not make the best of any situation.  I suppose Mom Friddle was around 30 years old and Grandma Cappy was about 13.  They put their minds together and came up with a plan.  A bunch of wallpaper samples were being thrown away and so those two got a hold of the samples and decided that they would spruce the place up.  They took each piece and applied it to the walls in their small main room and I’m sure it must have looked like a patchwork quilt.  In the end, the place looked much better…in fact when the landlord came by and saw what they had done – he decided he wasn’t charging them enough rent and raised the rent.
Cappy & Sophie (Mom Friddle) probably taken around 1925.
After their oldest son, Jack, graduated from Pomeroy High School, Mom and Pop Friddle took their family and went to live near Lewiston, ID.  They first lived out in the east end of the Orchards and were recorded in the census there in 1930.  Not too long after that, they bought some acreage near the corner of Thain Road and Stewart Ave.  Pop Friddle was working for the Irrigation department and worked for $1 a day.  Half of his pay went to support his family and half went to pay for that land.  Mom Friddle and Grandma Cappy did their part and raised berries to sell and raised a large garden.  While most of the country was entrenched in deep depression and looking for things to eat – Mom and Pop Friddle somehow bettered their circumstances and made sure that their children had plenty to eat and clothes to wear. 

The last visit up to the old home place on Grouse Flats.
Left to Right:  Claude, Mom Friddle, Jack & Cappy
Grandma Cappy, Uncle Jack and Uncle Claude took Mom Friddle back up to the old home place in the early 1970’s.  The siblings shared a fondness for the old home place and talked reminiscently about their times there.  They found the old wringer washer that Mom Friddle had used to wash the clothes.  Jack and Claude both talked about taking the old washer back home for sentimentality.  Mom Friddle wouldn’t have any of that – she was glad to have left that old washer behind and didn’t really ever want to see it again.  Now all of them are gone and all that is left is a few pictures and some stories told to my mother that were related to me.  When you look at the life that my great grandmother lived and the places that she lived – it doesn’t engender a lot of envy in my mind – she had to work hard, live on the only the essentials, struggle to feed her family, and make the best of any situation.  Perhaps we all need to have a little taste of the way they lived to appreciate what we have now.    

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Matter of Record

I’m always in search of a record…sometimes it is a death record or burial record or perhaps a marriage record or birth record.  The search for these records can sometimes lead down a hopeless path of defeat and other times it can be an exultant triumph.  The triumphs are way too few…but enough that you keep trying.

I primarily research in four parts of the country where my ancestors lived prior to 1900.  These sections are:
  • Appalachia – Primarily Johnson Co., TN, Carter Co., TN, Sullivan Co., TN, Jefferson Co., TN, Ashe Co., NC, Grayson Co., VA, & Washington Co., VA
  • West Virginia – Nicholas Co., WV, Fayette Co., WV, Greenbrier Co., WV and Raleigh Co., WV
  • New England – New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, & Massachusetts
  • New York – Albany Co., NY, Schenectady Co., NY, Schoharie Co., NY & Montgomery Co., NY

Record from Vermont recording the birth of my great grandmother Shirlie Louisa Pope.
If you are looking for a birth record, you are quite fortunate to locate records prior to 1900.  Most areas did not keep official records and although you can find indexed records of baptisms or christenings, various church records, etc. it is still rare to find an actual birth record.  New England is probably the best source for these types of records...outside of New England - the record keeping is not so good.  The only birth records that I have of my direct ancestors before 1900 come from New England. 

Death record of my 4th great grandmother, Susan Harden Gallup from  NY.
robably the oldest official death record that I have.
Death records can be just as elusive.  New York has records that can be ordered from 1880 on but they can be very expensive and the old ones can be very hard to read.  Hopefully there are small clues into the family that might lead you to further your research. However, most areas don’t have these records prior to 1900 or usually about 1904.  It has been my unfortunate luck to try and get some of these records and be just months short of the date that they were officially kept.  Then there are areas like Iowa where you have to be a direct descendant to get the official death record.  My great great grandfather died in 1873 and he had only one sibling that lived past 1930, but I can’t get her record because I am not her descendant.  Since I have no proof of their father’s name, this is particularly frustrating. 

Marriage records seem to be a bit more obtainable and usually of an earlier vintage.  I suppose it is because these records recorded marriage bonds and money had to be paid to obtain the bond or license.  I have copies of some of these records reaching back to the 1700’s in North Carolina. There are also several books that have indexed these records.  I have a copy indexed marriage records from Johnson Co., TN and Grayson Co., VA as well as access online to several other indexes. 

Burial records are also a wonderful resource….if you can get them.  I don’t have many books on burials in the New England, New York, or West Virginia areas.  Sites like can be very helpful as well as fellow researchers like Midge Frazel, Stephan Laskey, Jon Saunders, and Peggy Blais (and many others) who have helped me see photographs of some of my earliest ancestors.  You are also lucky if the area that you are researching has published cemetery records.  I own two such volumes from Grayson Co., VA (3 large books) and Ashe Co., NC (2 large books) and there are several others that I would love to get a copy of that are no longer in print.  These books aren’t always completely accurate but the usually the data is very good and corrections are always being made.  The growth the availability of these records in the last 15 years is incredible.  More and more people are sharing their photos and information online with others. 

One of the most important things to remember with any of these records is that there are mistakes on many of them.  Sometimes they are as simple as typo mistakes or mistakes from the transcriber in trying to read handwriting from a bygone era or faded documents.  Death records are mostly obtained at some of the most difficult times for a family.  I even made the mistake on my mother’s death record of giving the incorrect middle name of my grandmother.  If anyone should have known better is was me.  Keep track of your record keeping as well.  If you have tried to get the death record of your great great great grandfather in Washington Co., VA and am told that there is no record, despite the fact that he died in 1928 – make a note of your attempt. You never know when another source might appear.  Keep a journal or notebook with the dates and availability of records that you are searching for.  Each county in each state has its own method of keeping records and it is only within the last century or so, that these have been standardized.