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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Problem of Joseph Odell (the 'first')

I have no birth or death information for Joseph Odell.  I have no parentage for Joseph Odell.  I have no burial information for Joseph Odell.

These problems are very common and very annoying.  I want a complete chronology for, at least, each individual in my direct lineage, maternal and paternal.

It's also helpful to have a complete chronology for each related individual because information about related individuals can reveal more information about direct line individuals.  But, that's another blog.

In the case of Joseph Odell (the 'first'), I've clearly identified him from the 1840 US Census, in Windham, Greene County, NY, age 30-40 - to the 1870 US Census in Morsston/Rockland, Sullivan County, NY, age 60.

He doesn't appear anywhere on the 1875 NYS Census and on the 1880 US Census, his wife, Catherine (Katie), age, 71, is widowed and living with their son, Reuben.  Therefore, I have to assume that Joseph died between 1870 and 1880, if not between 1870 and 1875.  However, I have found no death certificate in the area, no newspaper obits, so far.  No cemetery record, so far.

Calculating Joseph's birth year from the various censuses, he would have been born between 1810 and 1811.

Birth place?  According to the various censuses:  1870 - NYS; 1860 - NYS; 1855 - Delaware (county or state?); 1850 - PA.

Assuming that the simplest and most direct answer is usually correct, I want to think that Joseph was born 1810-1811 in NYS and died between 1870 and 1880 in Rockland or, at least, Sullivan County.

The censuses from 1840 backward have only the names of heads of households and the numbers of male and female residents and their rough ages.  Did I find any Odells in Greene County in 1830?  No.  So, Joseph came from a different county.  In 1830, Joseph would have been between the ages of 19-29, assuming the information on the various censuses and my calculation of his birth year is correct.  One would think he would have married and, maybe, had children at that age but I have not seen a Joseph Odell on any 1830 census in NY, as head of household, so maybe he was still single.  The task now is to search every 1830 census for an Odell family that includes a man between those ages.  From there, I'll have to do the same for the 1820 census, looking for a male family member age 9-19.  It's a daunting task but that's the process.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Family history etiquette

Someone recently emailed me very apologetically saying they weren't sure how to begin their request.  Also recently, someone requested information which I sent with a request to reciprocate which hasn't happened.

Our modern world has lost a lot of etiquette.  On the other hand, there have been time and, certainly, individuals that carry their personal sense of etiquette too far.  So, I thought I'd write a little about my sense of etiquette in family history.

For me, etiquette is both selfish and generous in its bases.  

You know the old saying:  "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Well, if you want something from someone; in this case, family information, and if you assume that person may continue to be a source of information, then you want to treat them with respect and appreciation for what they can provide you. So, you ask politely, "please", and give them the "thank you"; as most of us were taught.

If you have information that others may want, you understand the value of what others may be able to give to you and you value that and give to them, "thank you", what you would want to be given to you.  The golden rule.

If you fail to understand the value of what others give to you, whatever it might be, at some point you will find yourself ignored and I'm not talking just about me.

It's really just a matter of common courtesy that all children used to be taught at a very young age:  Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank you, Excuse me.  Nothing difficult.  

There's no reason not to ask but remember that no is a possible response, so yes merits a thank you.  There's no right way to ask, just ask.

Visit the Beismer page (see top menu) to see a little nugget that I found.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Notes on our Beismer family are on their way to the Sullivan County Historical Society where, I assume, they will be available to everyone.  They're printed on acid-free paper so, hopefully, they'll last a while.  The packet of notes don't include everything but they're too long to post here.  The notes include working notes and charts for the families.  I'm not finished with any of the research but I'm stuck at brick walls for nearly every family and thought I should get these notes out where, maybe, some other relatives or researchers can find them and, maybe, fill in some holes.

I started compiling these notes for families that have lived in Sullivan County because I'm a member of that historical society and they've already told me they accept this kind of donation.  I'm moving back and forth between my maternal and paternal lines.

In the process of getting the Beismer notes together, I found out that there's a book on the family and I'm trying to find out if there are copies available somewhere.  I'll let you know if there are.

If you would like your own copy of the notes I've just completed, it will be $8.00, which barely covers the cost of printing (paper and ink), the binder and shipping. The notes are about 63 pages long.  You can contact me at familytracker@yahoo.com.  I prefer to accept PayPal payments.

I will be contacting the Ulster and Delaware County Historical Societies, where the family also lived, to see if they accept this type of donation and will post here when they're sent there.

I'm now working on similar notes for the Odell/Oliver clan.

I'll post here whenever I get notes sent out.

Friday, April 3, 2015


Excellent article about something I recently discovered on a couple of web sites, on my own.  Not everything, in all online databases, are indexed.

In addition, there are many, many transcription errors.  I've found relatives' and ancestors' names transcribed incorrectly because, of course, I know their names and I'm looking for them but the transcribers have only the written, microfilmed, digitized images to work with and do their best to transcribe and index what they see.  Some have been so obvious to me that I react incredulously, at first, then realize that I have the advantage of knowing exactly who a particular family is.

On Ancestry, in particularly, you can submit corrections, although I only seen a few of my corrections implemented.  Again, consider the size of the collections at Ancestry and imagine the number of staff they have to deal with all of them and with the submissions.

Just another example of size limiting quality.

So, browsing the images of individual databases is a solution to overcoming the limitation of indexing of online databases.  For example, if you know a person was living in a particular town in Sullivan County, NY in 1850 and the same town in 1860 but the index for the 1855 NYS census doesn't show that person or anyone in their family, there's a chance that they're not indexed.  There's also a chance that the census taker or the transcriber misspelled their surname. If you need the information from that census, you have to go the 1855 NYS census, to that town and look for them.  If you still don't find them, it might be worth your time to browse other towns nearby.

Another tactic is the following:  Say you have a John Whatever, age 49, in Town X, Sullivan Co., NY on the 1850 census.  You've also found him, age 59, same town, on the 1860 census.  In 1855, he would have been 53-56, depending on his birthdate.  Say his surname was Spate but, the census taker had bad handwriting and his surname looks like Spole on the 1855 census and that's how his name was transcribed and indexed.  Unless you make a wild guess that was the mistake, you'll never find him.  But, you can try this:  At Ancestry, do a search in the 1855 NYS census database for John, no surname, and his birth year.  Since you know that he was living in Sullivan County before and after that census, you can add that in the search.  You can add the name of his wife, as well.  Using wildcards in this particular search is not advised.

You'll get a substantial list of individuals but the more information you include in the search, the shorter the list.  The list will be partially alphabetized.  

Happy searching.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I very recently purchased another genealogy software package, about $40.  It got me started thinking about the expenses I’ve had over the years, doing family history research and I thought it might be of interest just how much some of us obsessed with this put into it.

I’ve been researching ALL my families since my mid-20s, over 35 years.  I research All my families because we are all related to all the families we are genetically linked to, not just our father’s direct line.

I used to have to run around to various libraries, Mormon family history centers, historical societies, cemeteries, and relatives and, if you think about it, that costs money as well; gas.

I’ve “borrowed” (rented) microfilm and books from various collections.  I’ve occasionally stayed overnight in order to visit some library or historical society.  I paid vacation time driving to some place to find out something.

I’m a paying member of Ancestry.com (just the US material) and that costs a lot.  I’m a member of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society even now, years after they gave the bulk collection to New York Public Library (heartbreaking for me).  I have and still occasionally travel into Manhattan (not cheap) to visit both collections.

I’m a member of a few historical societies in New York state as much to support the organization as to hope to get any useful information from them.
I’ve purchased a number of vital records of family members, the cost of which has nearly quadrupled during these research years.  I just sent for Stephen Wormuth’s military records; $30.

I’ve had copy negatives made from borrowed family photos, including quite an expensive one from a tintype of Grandma Margaret “Maggie” Wormuth Beismer.  I’ve printed copies of scanned photos I have and given them to relatives.

Grandma is front left and it occurs to me that it's Charles, front right, and that might be one of the older sisters behind them.

I’ve written to more relatives and other researchers than I’ve kept track of; postage, paper, ink.

Over the years, I’ve probably spent a few thousand dollars doing all this.  I don’t mind, I love it.

However, every once in a while you encounter someone who makes you stop and think about what they’re asking for and how much time, effort and expense you’ve invested.  Every once in a while you realize that most of your relatives are not nearly as excited and interested as you are.  Every once in a while you wonder if anyone realizes how much you’re interested in this and how much you’ve put into it.  That’s all.

See new post on Wormuth Page.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Historic Note:

Albany:  The history of Albany began with early Dutch settlements in the 17th century when Fort Nassau and Fort Orange were built in the area.  The village of Beverwijck was established near Ft. Orange and was later renamed Albany by the English.

“Albany is one of the first cities in the world to have installed public water mains, sewer lines, natural gas lines and electricity, infrastructure and utilities….”  -- from Wikipedia.


Who was Orlando Oliver and how is he related?

On July 17, 1865, Mary Lord Oliver Warner, widow of Alanson Oliver, applied for widows’ benefits.  Appearing with Mary were Orlando Oliver and his wife, Phebe Oliver, residents of Taylor, Cortland Co., NY, who served as witnesses to the application.  Mary was also living in Taylor at the time of the application.

[Interestingly, the judge who presided over the application was Hiram Crandall; Crandall being the maiden name of Alanson’s mother.]

It’s very easy to jump to the conclusion that Orlando was some kind of relative of Alanson; the impulse is almost immediate.  And, while I don’t rule out that strong possibility, I can’t make that leap.  More research is necessary.
Orlando is not in my database of nearly 3,600 individuals; therefore, he has not previously appeared on any other documents or census records associated with my immediate Oliver family.

I’d had a copy of Alanson’s pension papers for some time before I got back to the name of Orlando Oliver; about 4 years.  There are other pieces of family information on the application papers that I added to my database but I had nowhere to put Orlando’s name.  I try to be methodical and move carefully and chronologically to be as accurate as possible.

For some time, there has been a disagreement about the parentage of Alanson’s father, Ezra Oliver.  I have no parentage listed for him because I have found no clear, concrete information, despite what other family members and researchers have told me.

For some time, it has been thought, by others, that an Aaron Oliver was Ezra Oliver’s father, Alanson’s grandfather.  I, however, had dismissed him as a possibility since the dates for his birth are very close to Ezra’s.  There is a rule of thumb, even back a couple of hundred years, that 20 is an average age to begin having children; give or take 5 years.  Simple logic should clearly be that 2 males, 5 or 10 years apart in age, cannot be father and son.

Oliver is a very common surname.  While the given name, Ezra, is not so common, we have 3 Ezra Oliver’s in our family.  There were other Ezra Olivers in the State of New York.  It doesn’t mean that we are related to them; just as all William Smiths are not related to each other.

However, Orlando Oliver is there, on a pension application for Alanson Oliver.  Is he related or did Mary, Alanson’s wife, just happen to know Orlando and Phebe Oliver and ask them to be witnesses?  I have just begun the research; this is what I’ve found so far and Aaron Oliver (which Aaron Oliver?) has reared his head.  Family history is an odd and surprising activity.

In looking at the 1890 Veterans Schedule for someone else, I saw Orlando and remembered that he was listed on Alanson’s pension application.  On that census, an address is usually given.  Orlando Oliver’s address in 1890 was Ledyard, Cayuga Co., NY.  So there’s a good possibility that he may also appear in Cayuga Co. on the 1880 US census and/or on the NYS 1892 census n that place; and, he does.

One of the joys of online family history research is the amount of information that has been gathered, organized, digitized and made available.  I’m a paying member of Ancestry.com so I have access to a great deal of information.  Unhappily, despite all that Ancestry, the Mormon church and a multitude of other online resources, I am still stuck at brick walls on most family lines.  Still, one of the things that Ancestry offers is the ability to upload your family tree to their site and make it available to the public (mine is not there).  I always check to see if someone has done so with each and every individual I have in my database.

The thing to remember with these personal family trees is that, like the insistence that a particular Aaron Oliver was Ezra Oliver’s father, much of this personal information is NOT necessarily researched or documented but is simply information that families have been passing along for who knows how long.  Anything found in these family trees, if one wants to be accurate, has to be researched and documented.

Still, these personal family trees can provide a jump to other possibilities if you’ve reached brick walls, as I have.  So, I looked to see if someone has Orlando and Phebe Oliver in their family tree and, yes, someone has; many people, apparently, have.  And, here’s where coincidence, family weirdness and serendipity begins.

According to quite a few family trees at Ancestry, Orlando was married to Phebe [Phoebe] Lord.  Funny, Alanson Oliver’s widow’s maiden name was also Lord.  Remember?  Mary Lord [maiden name] Oliver [first married name] Warner [ second married name] was applying for widows’ benefits which is where I first became aware of Orlando Oliver.  Coincidence?  Maybe; maybe not.

Some of those same family trees list Orlando’s parents as Aaron Oliver – maybe that Aaron Oliver that several people thought was Alanson Oliver’s grandfather – and Rebecca Crandall.  Again, Alanson Oliver’s mother’s maiden name was Crandall.  Coincidence?  Maybe; maybe not.

So, now I have Alanson Oliver, son of Ezra Oliver and Hester [Esther] Crandall and Orlando Oliver, son of Aaron Oliver and Rebecca Crandall.  Alanson is married to Mary Lord.  Orlando is married to Phoebe Lord.  Relatives?  Maybe; maybe not.

What I can tell you, after decades of this kind of research, is that it’s almost as possible that it’s nothing more than coincidence as it is that there’s a relationship between these families.  But, I’m not going to tell you that either is the case; I’m going to continue researching until I know.  There’s more information in these family trees for Orlando and I’ll go through my usual steps of tracing Orlando from birth to death and each member of his family and his in-laws until I know what’s what.  And, I’ll report back.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tracking Joseph Odell; a work in progress

Individuals in my database, to date - 3,527

Historical Note:

Walton - "Settled in 1785,... formed from Franklin in 1797....incorporated in 1851.  Gardiner Place...is a National Historic District."  from The Encyclopedia of New York State

This is lengthy....

Joseph Odell, the first; is designated the first, by me, because he is my Odell ancestor that I have been able to trace the furthest back.  He was my great, great, great, great grandfather.  He was born approx. 1810-11.  Where he was born is a question because his birthplace appears different on various censuses.

I have been trying to trace each direct line ancestor from birth to death and to collect documentation for each.  I have no documentation for Joseph Odell, except on the censuses.

So, to review my methodology:

I began collecting family information from relatives, as many relatives as I could find and the oldest relatives I could find.  Family information is usually iffy.  Our memories are often faulty.  I often questioned the same relatives more than once; asking the same questions.  I sometimes got different information and had to ask additional questions to try to determine which answer was more accurate.

After sketching families trees and family charts, I looked for documentation to verify the information I was given.

Those of us with ancestry in New York State are fortunate because in addition to the federal census that was done every decade, on the decade, beginning in 1790, New York State also did a state census every decade on the 5 years and at least one, 1892, in addition.  This means that we can track our New York ancestors every 5 years for much of their lives.

So, I was recently asked, online, how I know that a particular individual is the individual, with that name, in our family.  Here’s the sequence:

I know the name of my paternal grandfather.  I know when he was born and when he died.  I know his father’s and his grandfather’s names.  I got this information from family information.  Usually this is all I’ve even been able to get from the oldest family members in a particular family line.

Each of these people was born and died at some point in time, in some place.  The furthest back I had from family information was Joseph Odell who lived in Meredith, Delaware County, NY.  His son, George, my great grandfather, died in the early 1920s.

I don’t remember, at this point in time, which piece of information I used to begin my research but let’s take the vague date of death of George Odell.  We knew he was alive before 1920.  The best censuses are from 1850 through the currently available censuses to 1940 because they list the names of everyone in the household at the time of the census.  Before 1850 only the name of the head of the household was listed; everyone else in the home was listed by gender and range of age.

So, we don’t know when George Odell died, exactly, but early 1920s.  So, let’s look for him, on the federal census, in the next previous census, in Delaware County where he lived. BTW, we also knew that his first wife, Fannie Flowers, my great grandmother died very young, my grandfather her only child and that George remarried.  So, we find George, in Meredith, on the 1910 census with his 2nd wife, Ella.

In order to go back through the generations, it’s necessary to follow George backward through the censuses, identifying him and each parent.  George is found on the 1900 census in Delhi.  Knowing the area, I know that Delhi and Meredith are right next to each other and, in fact the address is Meredith St., Delhi.  On the census, there is usually a number for the sequence of houses visited and a number for the sequence of the family visited.  In many cases, you will see a number for the house and several numbers for the several families in that household, usually they’re related families, sometimes it’s a boarding or apartment house.  In this case George and first wife, Fannie, were living in the same house as his in-laws, her parents, along with Fannie’s sister’s family.

So, this is a sample of what’s necessary to track somebody.  Back to Joseph Odell, the first.

I traced George Odell, back to his father, Joseph K.[King] Odell.  I traced Joseph King Odell back to Reuben Odell in Sullivan County.  I traced Reuben Odell back to Joseph S. Odell, the first.  I traced Joseph Odell back to Windham, Greene County on the 1840 census and forward to Rockland; Morsston Post Office, Sullivan County, 1870 census.  Joseph isn’t found on the 1875 NYS census or the 1880 US Census.  So, I’m assuming that he died between 1870 and 1875, or at least 1880.  Even if someone doesn’t appear on a particular census, doesn’t mean they’d died.  Sometimes they just weren’t home and some people just don’t want to be counted.  Some censuses were lost, through fire, flood, whatever.

Vital records were not officially required to be kept, in the state of New York, until 1880 and even then, for quite a few years, births, marriages and deaths were not necessarily recorded.

The next possible recording of a death would be a cemetery record.  So far none has turned up.  He lived in Rockland with a Morsston address.

Tracing him back further than 1840 is a challenge.  The 1840 shows Joseph listed as head of household in Windham, Greene County and the oldest male, that would be between the ages of 30-40;  the oldest female between 30-40; everyone else in the household is age 15 or younger.  So, Joseph and his wife, at the time, were between 30-40 years old.  Ten years later, on the 1850 census, Joseph is 39, so he must have been 30 on the 1840 census, allowing for birthdate.

NOTE:  not necessarily.  I have found many ancestors whose ages have ranged wildly from census to census.

However, Joseph’s age on the various censuses is very consistent.  So, he was 30 in 1840; would have been 20 in 1830; 10 in 1820; and born 1810.

A rule of thumb in family history research, particularly going back in time:  most people married in their 20s, give or take up to 5 years, many left home at that point.  This, of course, didn’t hold true for every individual but it’s a good starting point. 

So, in Joseph’s case, had he married at age 20, or a little before, there’s a possibility that he was also head of household in 1830 when he would have been 20 – but not necessarily.

Another thing to keep in mind, looking at any particular individual; how much did that person move around?  Did they, over time, live in the same place, or did they relocate and how far away from where they were born?

1840, Joseph was in Windham, Greene Co.  Sometime between 1850 and 1855, Joseph, most family members and many of the related Oliver family relocated to Sullivan County.  We’re guessing it was for work.  Later, some members of both families relocated to Delaware County.  A few family members remained in Greene County.

So, 1840, Joseph is in Windham, Greene Co.  1830, 20 years old, where was Joseph?

The 1870 census says Joseph was born in NYS; 1860, the same.  That’s not helpful.  The 1855 census says Joseph was born in Del. Co.  That’s more like it.  The 1850 census says Joseph was born in PA.  Surprise!  But, there’s a Delaware County in PA as well.

So, where was Joseph in 1830?  There are 5 Joseph Odells on the 1830 census, shown as heads of households:  2 in Westchester County, NY where there was a prominent Odell family; 1 in Massachusetts; 1 in New Hampshire; 1 in PA.  Is one of these Josephs our Joseph?  It's also possible that Joseph was still with his parents, in which case, he wouldn't appear as head of household and another Odell needs to be found.  Quite a bit of additional research is necessary to find out.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Brick Walls

I research ALL my family line and I have reached brick walls on pretty much every family line.  The following is a list of the individuals that are the furthest back I've been able to get:

Maternal Grandfather's line:

BEISMER Family - Casparus Besemere married to Sarah Van Vliet - However, I haven't connected our immediate family with this couple.  Casparus and Sarah were in Rochester, Monroe Co., NY.  The best connected, furthest back ancestors are:  Cornelius Beesimer married to Maria Catharine Vandermark living in Debruce.  There is a Cornelius Beesimer living in Rochester, Ulster Co. but I have not yet verified that they are the same person.  The surname has been a problem.  As you can see there are three variation in this paragraph; I have about two dozen variants.

VANDE(R)MARK Family - Simeon Vandemark married to Mary Jane Hogancamp.  Simeon's parents may have been John Vandemark and Janneke Ennest but I haven't verified that yet.

Mary Jane Vandemark

Maternal Grandmother's line:

WORMUTH Family - Peter Wormuth married to Harriet Barecolt.  Peter was born approx., Montgomery Co. (undocumented) which connects us to the Montgomery County Wormuths but the connection is not clear.  Barecolt is not a surname that can be verified and probably sounds like the actual surname.  The name, so far, is only found on the death certificate of her son, Joseph Wormuth. Peter was married at least twice, possibly 3 times.  I have been trying to find death certificates of Joseph's other brothers, hoping to find additional documentation of their mother's name.

HULSE Family - Samuel H. Hulse married to Mary Schoonover.  Our family line comes through son, James David Hulse married to Mary Hendrickson.  There is a published Hulse family history that I wasn't able to acquire and I think the line is traced back much further.  There is a large Hulse genealogical network out there.

Paternal Grandfather's line:

ODELL/OLIVER Families - These 2 families are intertwined so much that it's difficult to look at one family without looking at the other.  Joseph S. Odell married to Catherine M. ?  Joseph was born 1810, 11.  He's first seen on the 1840 census in Windham, Greene Co., age 30-40.  Where was he before that is the current question I'm working on.  Various censuses show him born in PA, Del. Co. (PA or NY) and NYS; that's no help.  He's last seen on the 1870 census, Sullivan Co., Rockland (Morsston P.O).  He died between 1870 and 1880.  I have absolutely no documentation on him; no birth, marriage, military or death documentation.

Ezra Oliver married to Hester Crandall, later to Abigail Marshall (probably her previous married name).  First seen in Greene Co., later relocated to Sullivan Co.  Last seen on the 1860 census, Sullivan Co., Rockland, with Abigail and children, age 55.  I have no idea what happened to him after that.  Again, no documentation.

Members of the Odell and Oliver families married throughout the years.  Joseph and Catherine's son, Reuben, married Ezra and Hester's daughter, Emily. Joseph and Catherine's daughter, Hannah, married Ezra and Hester's son, Darius. Some children of Hannah and Emily married their cousins and so on down the generations.  It becomes very tangled at times.  There are a handful of researchers of these families who are related to Joseph, Catherine, Ezra and Hester.

George Odell

FLOWER(S) Family - Joseph Flowers, no wife identified yet.  Joseph is undoubtedly descended from Lamrock Flowers but I haven't made the connection yet.  My great grandmother, in this line, was Fannie Flowers married to George Odell.  Unhappily, Fannie died when she was 19 and my grandfather, William Joseph was about 7 months old.  George remarried and, while I'm related to my grandfather's half sisters:  Rachel, Fannie and Beatrice and their children, I'm not related to the Zurner ancestors and I don't research that family; only the descendants.

Paternal Grandmother's line:

MATTICE Family - The Mattice family has been thoroughly researched and the family history published.  It's my only family line that has been.  The family has been traced back to what is now modern Weisbaden when it was a tribal area conquered by the Romans.  A local tribe, called by the Romans, Mattiaci, made themselves an obstacle.  Apparently, the name stuck and evolved into Mattice. Henry Mattice (modernized) emigrated to England in 1709, then to America in 1711.  I'm satisfied with this line.

Roman bath house - Aquiis Mattiacis

BUTLER Family - Barnabas (Barney) Butler married to Hannah Chase.  Barney is first seen on the 1840 census, Del. Co., Roxbury, 40-50 yrs old.  I haven't been able to find him before then although he may have been born in CT.  He's last seen, 1875, NYS census, still in Roxbury, age 68.  No death certificate or cemetery record so far.

There are, of course, additional related families going backward but these are the most direct lines.

I'm quite frustrated, at this point, and, so far, unable to around, under, over or through these brick walls.

Anyone related to any of these families can contact me.  I'm always happy to communicate with potential relatives.