52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 23: Bridge

Bridge. Such an ominous theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I didn’t know what I could possibly write about. A bridge – I don’t know enough of the specifics of my ancestors to see if a bridge made any sort of impact in their lives.

So I kept thinking – and it finally occurred to me that I am the bridge, I am the link between my family’s past and present. So this week I am not going to write about an ancestor, I am going to talk about me.

My Childhood

I was born in the early 70’s in Akron, Ohio, the exact same city as I live right now. Though I was raised in the Akron suburb of Cuyahoga Falls (it means “crooked river” in Indian). I am the youngest in my family – my only other sibling is my older sister, who was 5 when I was born (read between the lines here that she wasn’t happy with the attention I took away). I don’t think my sister ever realized how envious I was of her – she got dance lessons and I had…. nothing.

Not that I was upset, but I what I wanted to learn more than anything was to play the piano. I use to pretend that the end of my bed was a piano and I would “play” music for hours (it was me, humming the music). My mom always told me she wanted to get me lessons, and it’s not that they couldn’t afford them, they couldn’t afford the piano. Oddly enough, as I am typing this “from the hip” I ordered up a 36-lesson course to teach myself to play, and it just arrived, so maybe my inner child’s dream will come true.

Me on the left, my sister on the right, 2 October 1976

My childhood was nothing extraordinary – if anything it was extra ordinary. My sister and I had our spats – she pulled me by my feet around and around the two entrances into our living room giving me a horrible patch of rugburn on my chin (yes, the chin was what was on the ground) while I ended up pushing her off the top bunk of her bunk beds when she finally gave me a minute to get up there (she went to push me but I pushed first – don’t worry, Grandma Blair took care of the situation – which means I didn’t get in trouble at all).

I remember learning a bit of math early on because I saw my sister doing it so I wanted to do it too. When I started to learn how to read in elementary school I went at it with everything in my being because my dad and sister were big readers, so I wanted to read too.

But there came a point when I saw where my sister didn’t always get the best of grades and I saw how upset it made my mom and so the “watch and learn” period began. I did my best to get good grades as that made my mom happy. Maybe not ecstatic but at least it gave her less to be upset about.

It’s funny, my sister pointed out how I tried to be better than her on a road trip to me within the past year. She thought I was doing it to be better than her, and I guess after a certain point it was, but it really started out trying to keep up with her. I didn’t think about not being as old as her, I only wanted to be on the same level as her, and being 5 years younger I had a lot of catching up to do.

In fifth grade I began my love of history. For some reason Ms. Roberson made history entertaining. None of my other teachers really had, and my history geek self was born.

In sixth grade I gave a complete answer to a substitute teacher in Social Studies and so the nickname of “Becky the Brain” was born. And instead of trying to put it out of my mind, I attempted to live up to it every year. Though I wasn’t very good in math so I couldn’t understand how anyone would think of me as a “brain” but I tried to keep the moniker alive. All the way through high school.

The College Years

College was my troubling time. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (and face it, time was running out, what am I talking about, I am still trying to figure that out). I opted to get a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration/Marketing in Management, not sales. But everyone assumes you want to do sales. I enjoyed marketing research. I find it thrilling to analyze information and detect trends. But you needed an MBA to even get your foot in the door and I was sick of school.

My goal was to move to New York City. I was born in Ohio but I was meant to be a New Yorker. The city brings a confidence in me that I have never experienced anywhere else. The energy makes me feel more alive and that’s why I tried to find a job there. But every job I was offered didn’t pay enough money, and though my mom didn’t tell me I shouldn’t go, she just offered one bit of advice: Do you really want to live somewhere that you have to work 3 jobs to get by? The answer was no, because then I’d never be able to enjoy living in the city I’d so wanted to be a part of.

In 1999 I returned to school and earned my Bachelor of Arts in History with my focus being American History. I don’t think I ever read so much in 1 year (well, except for the year I chose to read a certain number of books – and though I started off with a goal of 100 books, I condensed it down to 60 in June realizing I did need more of a life than just working and reading). While going back for my history degree, one of the classes had us getting internships at the local historic house, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. This class changed my life, as one internship turned into a second, which turned into a job. Best place to work to this day and it was all because of my co-workers. Many I am friends with on social media, but they were all genuinely good people. I just wish I could have continued working in the history field as I know I’d probably be a bit happier. What is that saying – if you do what you love you never work a day in your life?

Married Life

I met my husband while working at Stan Hywet. Anyone who is willing to try burnt hot chocolate to impress you must not be so bad, right? We got married in 2003 (the photo to the right below is of the English Garden at Stan Hywet, where hubby proposed) and have had two wonderful children (isn’t that what you are suppose to say???). Actually I can’t complain, I nag about grades (for some reason the more I nag the less interested they are – and they weren’t like this in elementary school, and they are both so smart which makes it that much more infuriating).

We do the simple things – eat dinner together, go on camping trips as a family (well, the heat of Myrtle Beach did me in so now I prefer hotels), or go to places like Washington, D.C. (that was our last vacation – last year we were contemplating things but Covid-19 nipped those plans).

Our house isn’t fancy but it is home. We have a dog as well. Max, a Jack-Russell who is now finally almost 13 and starting to mellow for our standards.

My Love of Family History

My love of family history began when I was in 6th grade and had to do a genealogy project. It was simple, you had to either get to a different state or a different country. I had it lucky – my dad’s parents had both been born in Pennsylvania and my mom’s grandparents were either Pennsylvania or England, so score me extra points for getting out of the country.

I then began gathering information and doing stuff when I first began college. I really wish I would have stuck with it in the early-to-mid-nineties because I could have asked both grandmothers so much information. But I am not always so smart. My cousin, Darlene, who also worked on genealogy, sent me family group sheets and such to help me get started. Of course working and going to school ended up taking up a bunch of my time and it once again got put on hold.

Fast forward to 10 August 2016, the day I decided to Google family history or genealogy, who knows, but it was the day that I signed up for FamilySearch.org and I have never looked back. It started because on this particular day, I missed my Grandma, and I figured a way to get close to her was to learn all I could about her family.

I have learned so much about so many members of my family. And the more I learn the more mesmerized I am. These people were so strong and lived through so much. Life today would seem like a cake-walk (well unless family history became their hobby and they had some of the brick walls I do about them).

I’ve had DNA lead me to a branch of my tree that no one even knew about (well, unless I’m totally wrong). It’s amazing what a powerful tool a simple spit test can be.

Between attending conferences, family history days at the Family History Centers, and webinars and other online/in-person presentations, and Facebook groups, I have learned so much about this hobby of mine, and just how generous people in the genealogy community are, always willing to jump in and research from a different angle.

I Am the Bridge

I am the bridge because I then tell my family about what I have found. I deal with the eye rolls and whatever else may come my way for that person who says “wow, that’s interesting” and it makes it all worth it. I know my dad enjoys hearing what I find, often telling me he would never have the patience himself to do it, but he loves to hear about it.

I firmly believe in the Russian proverb I posted a while back, “You live as long as you are remembered” and I try to keep each and every one of my ancestors alive.

So I will do my best to work on my tree, break down walls, and do my best to fill in the dash between the years, attempting to bridge the present with the past. All along, hoping to make my ancestors proud.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 22: Military

This weeks post for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is all about military and who better to write about than my 3rd-great-grandfather, George Henry Fesler who fought in the Civil War.

His Early Years

Born on 18 October 1824 in Brush Creek, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, George Henry Fesler was the oldest child of William Frederick Fesler and Mary Polly Evans. George was the oldest in their family of at least 7 children: John, Mary, Matilda, Sarah, Alexander, and Samuel followed.

By the 1840 Census it appears that George, all the way to 15 years old, is no longer living with his parents. In 1844 he is selected as a private in John B. Alexander’s Wells Valley Riflemen (also referred to as Wells Valley Union Rifle Company), a group commissioned by Pennsylvania Governor Porter. Their first muster was 4 July 1844.

On 10 February 1847 he married Mary Elizabeth Oakman, the sister of one of his fellow Rifleman, Squires Oakman. He and Mary had a total of 11-children: Sara Jane (my 2nd-great-grandmother), John Oliver, Mary Isabelle, James Squires, Rebecca May, Margaret Elizabeth, Frances, Harry Franklin, George Henry, Jr., William Gilmore, and Lilly Mae. The last 2 were born upon his return after the Civil War.

In some documents George is listed as a farmer, in others a stone mason like his dad.

The Civil War

The first war where Congress passed an act for the first wartime draft was the Civil War. All men between the ages of 20 and 45 were to register. The difference between then and now was that you could buy your way out of the draft. For $300 you could avoid it all together (which is what wealthier men did) or you could hire someone to take your place.

It appears George was a draft dodger, and they caught up to him in September 1864 where he was arrested and forced to serve in the Union Army.

George mustered in as a Private on 19 September 1864 becoming a part of Company G of the 61st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry on 2 November 1864. From December through the end of the war in June he served by defending Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. was defended by 68 enclosed forts that surrounded the capitol city.

Post-War

After his return to “normal” life, George and Mary had their last 2 children only for her to pass away in 1872.

At some point in time, George became acquainted with his neighbor, Fayetta Ann Childers, who was also the sister of his son-in-law, Randall Childers (Randall is my 2nd-great-grandfather and was married go George’s oldest daughter, Sara Jane). In 1883 George and Fayetta had the final piece of the Fesler family, Edgar Sheridan “Sherd” Fesler.

George and Fayetta never married legally, but theirs would be considered a common law marriage.

He filed to receive a pension in 1889 where medical reports have him as having chronic diarrhea and other rectum diseases which declared him an invalid (or at least made it difficult to work as one never knew when one of these bouts were going to hit. This was a common ailment among Civil War veterans).

George passed away on 14 October 1911 with Old Age being listed as his cause of death, he was 4 days shy of being 86 years old. He is buried with most of his family (as well as many of my Childers relatives) in Wells Valley Methodist Church Cemetery.

The Pension File

I purchased George’s pension file 2-years ago after I came home home from the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Conference. A gentleman I met there, Brian, has based a good portion of his business travelling to the Archives in Washington, DC to help genealogists such as myself get the military records for their ancestors. (If you are interested you may want to check out his website at www.civilwarrecords.com).

I will admit, I paid for everything (he had a discount for those attending the conference, and afraid I’d miss some detail if I didn’t get it all). I had glanced at everything a few times but will confess truly began dissecting the file when doing this post.

Take my advice, however you get your hands on your pension file (as you can order through NARA yourself), find the portion that tells you when they enlisted. The pension file for George included the entire war for Company G for the 61st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry. As I read through their start in 1862 I am tracking their movements through Virginia in Newport News, how they fought at the battle of Fair Oaks and then Gettysburg, and I was so enamored that I started mapping a vacation to follow in his steps.

Then I clicked on another folder that had his enlistment papers and it was then I discovered he didn’t begin to serve until late 1864 and all the “cool” battles his regiment had been in were done.

My trip will just be visiting our nations capitol and visiting a barricade that still exists on the outside of the city.

I learned quite a bit about George while writing this post. He was the last surviving member of the Wells Valley Union Rifle Company, and a great hunter (various newspaper articles about this).

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 21: At the Cemetery

Growing up my parents never took me to cemeteries to view the headstones of our dearly departed. My grandfather, Leroy Blair, who passed away when I was 2 years old, was cremated, so we didn’t have any gravesite to visit.

The first death that affected me was that of my great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar. She passed away 8 January 1982 which was my cousin Jaclyn’s birthday, who turned 4 that day. My mother always remembered Jaclyn sitting on her lap, telling her that she bet “Great Grandma probably already has her wings”. It was the perfect sentiment for my mom about one of her most favorite people in the world. Mildred did have a gravesite but I only ever remember visiting a couple of times. There was extremely frigid weather taking place around her death, so it took a bit before she was able to be buried, if my memory serves. There was no cemetery portion of her funeral, it all took place at McGowan-Reid & Santos Funeral Home in Cuyahoga Falls (I don’t think it’s called that anymore).

Then I remember hearing issues about Mildred’s gravestone. They kept setting it incorrectly and water kept accumulating all around it. No matter what they did it just never seemed right. Both times we went, there were puddles.

Sadly as an adult I haven’t gone to visit my Great-Grandmother’s grave, but in the past year someone has added it to Find a Grave. The photo above was taken by Kedillow.

My next gravesite I found was that of my grandma, Anna Maria Morgart. She had everything all arranged prior to her passing so my parents had little to do but the finalized ceremony. I don’t think my parents ever went to my Grandma’s gravesite after the ceremony at the cemetery. We didn’t have the one at the gravesite, but my brother-in-law stood by while the men buried her. Apparently he did that as one of his past jobs. I’m often glad my parents skipped that portion, I don’t think I could have handled watching my Grandma be put into the ground.

It has been a few years (not sure exactly how many) when I decided one day to go find my Grandma where she was buried at Rose Hill Burial Park in Akron. My husband pulled in and all I could remember was that she was under a tree, and I knew she had chosen a good spot because she would have liked the shade. But as we tiptoed trying to find her from a memory at least seven years prior, I was so happy when I finally found her headstone. It was a flat one in the ground. And though I had stepped so lightly and was so cautious to not step on anyone, lo and behold I was standing right on top of Grandma. But I laughed, if anyone would have forgiven me it would have been her.

Once I began getting involved in my genealogy seriously, I became extremely focused on finding my Great-Great-Grandmother, Mazie Lorenia Warner, and found her I did. It took a while as she is not listed on any of the cemetery sites, and the cemetery she is buried in, Mount Peace Cemetery, also in Akron, Ohio, doesn’t have her listed. But I contacted the office and they were able to send me over the invoice copies of when she purchased both plots back in 1938 when her second husband, Samuel Randol, unexpectedly passed away. I was so excited when I went on a whim with my husband to find her, I did it so I could show my mom more easily on a lunch hour one day.

But that lunch hour excursion never happened. I found Mazie and Samuel in September 2017 and my mom wasn’t feeling up to ever meeting me at the cemetery. I figured I would the next year, but just 8 months later, she had passed away too.

Like my Grandfather Blair, my Mom opted to be cremated. I understand, there is a great deal of expense when burying a loved one. But I will admit, I wish I had a cemetery plot to visit so I could hash out the worldly problems with my her. Especially on days like today, the 3rd anniversary of her death.

Two years ago I went back to Pennsylvania and spent an entire day visiting the graves of my direct line ancestors on my paternal side (with some bonus extras I found in the same spots). There was something so wonderful to be so close to where they had their final resting place, to be so close to them. But in that one day I was able to visit with at least 22 direct-line grandparents (probably more as I know some where buried in the vicinity where I was standing, but probably didn’t know for certain where they were buried due to their headstones being gone).

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree

Week 19: Mother’s Day

In a hope of finding traditions within my immediate family or even lingering memories or traditions they have had of Mother’s Day, I turned to my mom’s siblings and their offspring to see if anything interesting would turn up.

What I learned was there are no Mother’s Day traditions, we are just doing our best to let Mom know we love her.

However I did learn some things. My cousin, Emily, told me about the memorable Mother’s Day she had a few years ago when her mom (my Aunt) asked her to start going to church… and she has ever since!

She also added that my Aunt would often work on Mother’s Day as her kids were grown and let the new Mom’s enjoy the day with their kids. I did the same when i worked retail in college for the Mom’s (and the dad’s on Father’s Day!).

My cousin, Tracy, mom of 5, just remembers that Mom could do whatever she wanted on Mother’s Day… but remembers a couple of years ago her kids all making her jump into the pool to begin the day. How refreshing!

Growing up we always had my Grandma Blair (aka Anna Maria Morgart) over for dinner, and if my Grandma Metzger (aka Alberta Lou Fleming) was here she came over as well. Dinner has always been the tradition.

The last few years of my Mom’s life I often hosted dinner where my husband and I had a Mexican fiesta of homemade enchiladas, tortilla chips and queso sauce, the final year we were adventurous enough to have guacamole (my mom wasn’t a fan but we are in my household).

We haven’t done that since 2018 though. In 2019 we went out to a restaurant as the old tradition was going to be difficult. That Mother’s Day signified so much… but most of all almost an entire year without my Mom.

202o was all about Covid and so it was just me and my kids. This year was the same, though I encouraged hubby to let his mom have lunch with 2 of her 4 kids. He claims she really enjoyed it.

So to all the Mom’s out there I hope you enjoyed your day. And below I salute all the Mom’s in my tree, because without each and every one of you, I would not be the Mom I am.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 17: Lucky Place

My “lucky place” in my world of genealogy is Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Not only is it home to a majority of my dad’s family, but even a branch of my maternal side leads to Bedford County, too.

However, the term “lucky” can also be quite sarcastic as Bedford County is not always the easiest of counties to find the information you are seeking. But this week I am going to try to give a brief history lesson of the county, and give some statistics of Bedford County’s influence on my genealogical world.

A Little History about Bedford County, Pennsylvania

Bedford County started out as a trading post called Raystown after it’s first settler, Robert MacRay, a Scots-Irish immigrant. This began in 1750 and wasn’t the friendliest of places as they often dealt with raids from Indians, and then in 1754 by the French and British during the French & Indian War (or if you are from European descent you would know this as the Seven Years War).

Fort Bedford

The County ended up getting it’s name from Fort Bedford, built during the French & Indian War it was named in honor of John Russell, the Fourth Duke of Bedford. It was an essential base for the British as they expanded the war westward into the Ohio Country, primarily being used for supplies.

This photo found at By Internet Archive Book Images.

Tall tales with some supported facts claim that Fort Bedford was the first fort to be taken in the early stages of the American Revolution by James Smith. Some evidence states there is truth to this, others feel the fort was simply evacuated in 1766.

By the time George Washington came to Bedford County in 1794 during the Whiskey Rebellion, the fort had already been razed, as this was the general area where his troops stayed.

Mother Bedford and Her Baby Counties

Bedford became the 9th official county of Pennsylvania on 9 March 1771, formed from Cumberland County. It’s population had a boost due to the migration of people westward, and the large county it began as (known as Mother Bedford) slowly made way for new counties: Huntingdon on 20 March 1787, Somerset on 17 April 1795, Cambria on 26 March 1804, Blair on 26 February 1846, and lastly Fulton on 19 April 1850 (some of these new counties were also created with lands from adjacent counties, too).

The Whiskey Rebellion

The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest that began in 1791 when the newly formed United States decided to chose alcohol as it’s first domestic product to tax to assist in raising money to pay off the debt the country incurred during the Revolutionary War. The farmers of the western frontier (which at this time was Western Pennsylvania) resisted paying this tax, as many were veterans of the American Revolution.

In 1794 the protest came to a head when General John Neville, who was the tax inspector, home was attacked by over 500 armed men. President George Washington rode to the area with 13,000 militiamen to confront the protestors, but all had left by the time he arrived.

Despite there not being a formal confrontation, 20 men were arrested but were later pardoned. This instance showed that our new government was not a force to be reckoned with. And for the record, my fifth great-grandfather, Peter Morgart, was one of the men who resisted paying the tax, but did pay his fines.

The “whiskey tax” continued to be a difficult tax to collect and was later repealed during the Jefferson administration.

The Bedford Springs Hotel

One of the large and fancy hotels that still stands in Bedford County is the Bedford Springs Hotel. It was built in 1806 near a spring with a high mineral content and was said to have “healing powers” by Native Americans who would come from miles to drink and bathe in the waters.

It soon became a vacation destination for those from the east as their cities were beginning to become polluted due to increase in industrialization. Bedford still offered a country feel.

It became a meeting place of presidents including William Henry Harrison, James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor. During James Buchanan’s presidency it became known as the “Summer White House”, with the first trans-Atlantic cable sent from England to the United States being received at the Bedford Springs Hotel as that is where President Buchanan was at when it came on 12 August 1858.

The Bedford Springs had different medicinal qualities. A “Bedford Cure” was given to guests over their 3-week stay which included the “Magnesium Spring” for tummy ailments, or the “Iron Spring” for healthy bones and iron deficiencies.

The Bedford Springs Hotel is still an operating hotel and is owned by the Omni Hotels & Resorts.

Not the world’s greatest photo, but I took this photo of the Bedford Springs Hotel from the front seat of my husband’s truck when we visited in 2019. I wish I could have gone and checked it out more thoroughly.

Coal Mines

There were 2 coal fields that were in Bedford County. The Broad Top Field was located in the northeastern area of the county. With many of my relatives coming from and living in Broad Top I believe this is the area where many of them worked.

The second field was in the southwestern border, Georges Creek Field.

My Genealogical Statistics

I chose Bedford County because I’ve often told my children as I enter source citations into my Legacy Family Tree that I wish I had a dime for every time I entered Bedford County (well, Pennsylvania in general would have me sitting pretty about now). So I decided to run a report of my family that has the name “Bedford” in their birth or death location.

I have 424 ancestors out of 1,871 that I know had a birth/death location of Bedford County. That is almost 25 percent of my people. Mind you, I have lots of people with “, , Pennsylvania, United States” because I do not fully have proof what county they were born in (but there is a good chance Bedford could be it). And I am sure I have more people still to add (I have collateral people that descend from Peter Morgart that I know will add more people, and others that are in the 4th-great to 5th-great area).

Included in these 424 people, 36 of my direct line ancestors either were born or died in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. One of these includes my 4th-great-grandfather on my maternal side (because having just my dad’s side wasn’t enough, my mom had to get it on Bedford too).

Seeing as I’m on statistics, I opted to run a report of how many of my ancestors were born in Pennsylvania (my mother’s side comes from northern Pennsylvania in Potter County so I knew this would be interesting). The total of my 1,871 people in my program that are born in PA: 1,297.

And this is why I may never get out of Pennsylvania.

That’s okay, it’s a great place to be (even if I wish it had records like Massachusetts – that is where some of the Potter County people came from, others came down from New York).

My Sources

I did get an abundance of my information from the following locations:

Wikipedia – Bedford County: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedford_County,_Pennsylvania; Bedford Springs Hotel – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omni_Bedford_Springs_Resort; Fort Bedford – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Bedford

History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania. Chicago, Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1884

Other stuff is just in my head now from all my research over the years (like the tidbit about Peter Morgart – I found it in a book at the Bedford County Historical Society).

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

If you are into genealogy and want to begin writing about your family, you should check out Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. Each week she gives you a prompt to help encourage you to think out of the box when writing about your people. You can sign up here.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 16: DNA

This week’s prompt for Amy Johnson Crow’s writing challenge, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, is DNA. It has been almost 2 years since I took my DNA test on AncestryDNA in order to solve a family mystery (you can find that story here). But it has given me the opportunity to meet extended members of my family I may have never had the chance to know. A few I have begun corresponding with on a regular basis and like to call them friends.

I’ll give you a heads up now, I am writing this but respecting my cousin’s privacy, so they will be referred to as “her” as they are all girls.

My Second Cousin

One of my first contacts I reached out to from my DNA match list was my 2nd cousin who is the great niece (grand niece?) of Anna Maria Morgart (aka my Grandma Blair)!

Going through my Grandmother’s photos I have a lot of pictures of “her” grandparents (my Grandma’s sister and her husband), but sadly only a few of her dad, but it was so nice to reach out and communicate with family from my Grandma’s side. We both have vague memories of Gammy (Margaret “Maggie” Dora Wise) as she is both of ours Great-Grandmother.

The below photos were from the collection of Anna Maria Morgart Blair – the one on the left is a photo of Virginia Morgart Dipko and Anna Maria Morgart Blair in 1940, and the one of the right is a photo of Anna Maria Morgart, Joe Dipko and Joseph Dipko, Jr. in 1930 (Joe Jr would be about a year old).

My First Cousin Once Removed

One of my more recent matches was a first cousin once removed on my maternal side of my family. My mother always had happy memories of “her” parents, which her mom was the youngest sister of my grandfather, Harold Fairhurst.

When she came up as a match, it took me a few weeks to summon the courage to message her. I’m not sure why as she is quite lovely. She even supplied me a photo of my great-grandmother, Phoebe Boone, which was just tremendous as I had no idea what she looked like. My mom had no photos and my aunt (my mom’s youngest sister) only recalled ever seeing her in her coffin (I believe my aunt was only about 8 when Phoebe passed away in 1962).

I have attempted to keep the lines of communication open with her as I want to be able to keep our families in touch.

Phoebe Boone

My Second Cousin Once Removed

I’ve actually discussed each lady as I have come into contact with them. My last cousin I saw her for some time listed amongst my DNA matches on Ancestry and then I attended RootsTech and there she was again, on my list of family members that they had. FamilySearch expanded their “relatives around you” feature and let you see the relatives that you are most likely related too (assuming the one big tree was accurate) that were attending RootsTech.

And there she was, my DNA match (she had the same nickname on FamilySearch as she does on Ancestry) and I decided to contact her at once. And I am so happy I did because we have gone back and forth first via FamilySearch messenger and now we are Facebook friends.

My message to my DNA Match – my 2nd Cousin 1x Removed

I am so happy that I sent that message and hope to learn more about her (she was very nice and gave me all the information on her family for my software this evening, too! Yay!).

We are related on my Boone side. Her grandfather, Isaiah Boone was the older brother of Phoebe (they are back to back siblings), and he died in a mine explosion at Wolf Run, Ohio, in 1935.

Why Reach Out?

You obviously can’t befriend every DNA match on your list, but there are so many things you can learn by taking a moment and reaching out and learning more about other parts of your family.

Two of the matches I referred to I’ll admit I know nothing about that side of my family. I was always dumbfounded when my mother told me that she thought she had only met her paternal grandparents at most 5 times her whole life, which leads to the lack of information on two branches of my tree. That made me so sad (not the lack of information, though that is sad, but that she never knew anything about an entire side of her family).

Granted, I discuss my Grandma Blair (Anna Maria Morgart) more than my Grandma Metzger (Alberta Lou Fleming) simply because Grandma Blair was always there (my dad was an only child so Grandma Blair went everywhere with us). Grandma Metzger had moved to Florida when I was 3 or 4 years old and stayed living there until I was in high school.

But it is so easy for families to become estranged, maybe DNA will be able to bring families closer together. I know I will do my very best to try and bridge the gaps.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 15: Brick Walls

With Amy Johnson Crow having a prompt like “Brick Walls” for week 15 you all probably think I’m going to write about Andrew Blair and Susanna Akers. Well you’re right. And I’m going to throw their son, George Washington Blair into the mix as well (though to be honest I contemplated writing about someone else, but then I started to laugh).

Andrew & Susanna

Andrew Blair and Susanna Akers are my 3rd-great-grandparents on my paternal side of the family. When I began working on my family history again in college, Andrew and Susanna (also found as Susannah, Suzanna, and Susan) were also the brick wall of my cousin, Darlene. So here is what we have, because when her daughter sent me the gedcom file for her research, we had the same information.

Andrew and Susanah show up out of nowhere on the 1850 Census living in Conemaugh, Cambria, Pennsylvania. He is a laborer aged 35, she is a housekeeper aged 25, and neither can read nor write. They have 2-children at this time, Sarah Catherine age 4, and William age 1 and they were all born in Pennsylvania (I have boxed their information with a red square).

1850 Census – Conemaugh, Cambria, Pennsylvania

Our next document is the 1860 Census. They have moved to Huston Township, Blair, Pennsylvania and there are more of them. Andrew is still a laborer and is suddenly 50 years old (yes, he is 15 years older in just 10 years), Susanah is 34 (which could be possible as 1850 census was taken in November, and the 1860 census was taken in June). Sarah is 14, William is 10 while we have three boys to add to the family: Andrew J (my direct descendant) is 9, George Washington is 6, and Samuel A is 4. With 4 out 5 children attending school, we now only have Andrew being unable to read and write (I’ve often wondered did Susanna learn as her children did?). The value of his personal estate is $50 and again, everyone was born in Pennsylvania.

1860 Census – Huston Township, Blair, Pennsylvania

In the 1870 Census Andrew, Susanna and family are once again in a different town and county, Broad Top Township in Bedford County Pennsylvania. Andrew is still a laborer and is 59 with a personal estate of $800, Susanna is “Susan” and is 44, the oldest child living at home is now Andrew who is a wood chopper and is age 19, next is George who is an apprentice shoemaker and age 17, and lastly is Samuel who is 13 and still in school (outside info: Sarah has married and is the next family listed under her parents and siblings; William has passed away, but I don’t know from what). I question the marks for Andrew and George about being blind, deaf, dumb or idiotic (being a direct descendent of Andrew, no one wants to see that of their ancestor, it also says they can’t read or write but the previous census did have them in school).

1870 Census – Broad Top, Bedford, Pennsylvania

Our last census is 1880 where Andrew and Susanna are living in Coaldale, Bedford, Pennsylvania. It is just the two of the now, all of their children have married. Andrew is still a laborer but has been unemployed for 8 months of that year, and he is 68 years old. Susanna is 54. Both are listed as having been born in Pennsylvania, and both are listed as having their parents being born in Pennsylvania too. Their son, Andrew, and his family are living 2-households away (oddly enough a non-direct descendent on my grandmother’s side lives between them, with another member of my Wise branch living on the other side of son Andrew).

1880 Census – Coaldale, Bedford, Pennsylvania

After this I have nothing on Andrew and Susanna other than the death certificate of their son, Samuel Alexander Blair in 1932 (or as the death certificate states, SA Blair). This is the only document I’ve seen with Susanna’s last name of Akers being identified.

This death certificate was part of the Pennsylvania Death Certificate collection on Ancestry.com

My Search for Andrew

Since multiple census proclaim that Andrew and his parents were born in Pennsylvania, I have tried to use previous censuses to find his parents. But with having the hash ticks and just the head of house hold available on the censuses from 1790 through 1840, I have not been successful. It probably doesn’t help that Andrew has had a wider range of ages on the different censuses from 35 in 1850, to 50 in 1860, to 59 in 1870 and lastly 68 in 1880, so with tick marks it could end up being in a wide variety of columns throughout his life depending on what year is the correct year.

I did come across a family tree on MyHeritage where it was noted by someone that Samuel (Blair) had told one of his son’s that his dad was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Of course I am unable to find this statement on MyHeritage at the moment but I’m going to guess that I read it somewhere as I wouldn’t have it in my mind otherwise.

Sarah Permelia Blair

My biggest puzzle is that while using the MyHeritage Library Edition (I can use it free at home using my library card) I found someone’s tree that lists a Sarah Permelia Blair as Andrew’s sister.

An excerpt of someone’s tree using MyHeritage Library Edition giving Andrew a sister,
Sarah Permelia Blair

And then last year when I began playing with my DNA and grouping people into 8 groups and lo and behold I have a match with a person. Below is my Thrulines with her on my AncestryDNA (she is represented by the red square box), and she is related to me via Sarah Blair. When you click on Sarah she is married to David Points same as the above Sarah from MyHeritage.

I have done my due diligence researching Sarah Permelia Blair but more than half of the records I have come across state she was born in Maryland, Washington County to be exact. What makes this somewhat interesting? North of Washington County, Maryland is Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

I decided to then look to see what Blair’s were in Washington County, Maryland in both 1810 and 1820 census, on the chance they were there 6-years before Sarah was born, or 4 years after. There were 2 suspects: James Blair who is aged “over 45” in both, and Andrew Blair. Obviously with so many other Andrew Blair’s in my tree, I’m sure you have guessed who I liked for a possible person (that, and I honestly think that Andrew is one of James’ older sons who married and moved out first, in the 1830 Census there were many more Blair’s in the area and less in James’ house).

In the 1820 and 1830 Census, there are children (even with Andrew’s wide range of birth dates) that line up for this to be a true person of interest to be Andrew and Sarah’s dad. I will go on to further check out this Washington County, Andrew Blair, who disappears by 1840 (at least from Maryland, and I’m not having any luck in finding him in Pennsylvania either).

But I feel I’m on a good track so I’m really liking that I had this prompt. Fingers crossed that maybe I can tie people together once I work on more of the tree, maybe I have another DNA match that could wrap everything together in a pretty little bow.

Okay, I am laughing again.

My Search for Susanna

The elusive search for my 3rd-great-grandmother has been a slightly more difficult journey than Andrew. At least with him I’m fairly confident of his last name. Trouble with Susanna is that most census records indicate she was born in 1826 repeatedly, so I truly feel that is her birth year. But all the Akers that I have found in the Bedford County area don’t have a daughter that matches up to Susanna’s age. This is how I have begun to doubt her maiden name.

This is where my search for her second youngest son, George Washington Blair, comes in to play. Like his parents, George and his wife, Julianne (July Ann, possibly Julia Ann) disappear after the 1880 census. His daughter, Amanda, married John Lear and I have records for her, and the death certificate for his youngest daughter, Elizabeth born in 1882, but nothing after 1880 for George, Julia or their sons, Harry and Alexander.

I came to realize that George was also a brick wall when it came to my recollection that if I found his death certificate, it would give me either the same name for his mom’s maiden name, Akers, or give me another possible lead.

When Andrew Jackson Blair of 1851 passed away, the death register at the Bedford County Courthouse just has listed “Susannah Blair”.

My only real lead for thinking that George survived the 1880’s and as still living in Pennsylvania was his younger brother, Samuel’s, obituary (by the way, George and Samuel married sisters – Julia Ann was the sister of Samuel’s wife, Margaret). If you notice the second paragraph, it says, “He came to this city to live with his brother 18 months ago after the death of his wife, Mrs. Margaret (O’Neal) Blair”.

Taken from the Altoona Tribune, Saturday, September 27, 1932 edition from Newspapers.com

At this point in time Samuel’s only surviving brother was George. William passed away in 1865 and is buried in Hopewell Cemetery, and Andrew Jackson Blair in 1899 of a paralytic stroke (he is buried in Duvall Cemetery, which is also where Samuel and his family are laid to rest).

But I have yet to find any record of George Blair living in Blair County, Pennsylvania at this time. It does not help that there is another George Blair who is living in Blair County with a wife named Annie, but I am 99% certain this is a different George (though it is coincidental that my George’s wife’s middle name is Ann).

A Census Search for Akers

Another logical step I’ve done is do searches for male Akers in the 1830 and 1840 Census that would have females in their homes of the proper age with a basis of Susanna being born in 1826 (3 out of the 4 census documents that I have from 1850-1880 insinuate 1826 being the year of her birth). Only 1 individual in the greater Bedford County area seems to match up and that is a gentleman by the name of John Akers. But seeing as these census are only the tick marks and no names, it is hard to know for sure. Add on that I am not even 100% certain that her last name is Akers and it makes me doubt things that much more.

I have found some probate records for when John Akers passed away in 1866 but it is primarily just inventories. Oddly enough, when I did my searches on Ancestry someone does have a middle name of Andrew listed for John Akers (all the more reason my great-great-grandfather could have been named Andrew).

Making Some Cracks

I know I still have a great deal of work to do on my search for Andrew and Susanna’s parents. But each day I feel I am making more progress. If I ever begin to knock it down it will be such a happy day. If you remember the tv show “Perfect Strangers” I imagine it will be similar to Balki’s dance of joy.

But that day is not today. But hopefully I will get my dance, whatever it is, and share if that blessed day ever comes.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 13: Music

The theme for Week 13 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Week’s is Music. I know I myself absolutely love music – all kinds from pop music, classic rock, alternative, classical, Broadway tunes, and due to my son being in a volunteer band while learning to play the trumpet in school, I’m evening expanding into jazz.

But when I think of my relatives and music, both of my grandmother’s come to mind and below you will read about these special ladies and their love of music.

Alberta Lou Fleming

My maternal grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming, loved music. She was one of those people who loved to dance and listen to the big band music of the 1940’s. When chatting with my Aunt she was able to tell me how when she was growing up, every Sunday they (Alberta, and her children) would go over to their grandma’s (Mildred Laura Dunbar) for dinner and they would put on the big band music and sing their heart’s out and dance. That must have been something to see in her living room.

Alberta Lou Fleming, New Year’s Eve at her friend, Margie’s, house (I love how she is all dressed up to dance and party, just wish the photo hadn’t looked like it had partied too)

I know my Grandma’s (Alberta) favorite song was “In the Mood”. I can’t say that I blame her, when I hear songs from that era, it is one of the ones that really gets my toes tapping as well. I can imagine it would be hard to not get up and dance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CI-0E_jses

Terry Mildred Fleming

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it came to a love of music. My Aunt, who would have been 72 years old today (April 2), loved music as well. Her younger sister told me that her favorite was music by the Beetles. Here is a photo of my Aunt Teri (she changed the spelling over the years) from her High School Yearbook – she was always so fashionable and I love this photo.

Can’t you just see her dancing? Photo from the Cuyahoga Falls High School Yearbook

Though I was unable to confirm it, I thought I remembered my mother telling me how she had bought my aunt a life size doll to dance with. I asked my other aunt (my mom and aunt Teri’s younger sister) and my own sister, but neither remember. Initially I wasn’t going to add it, but it seems to me I wouldn’t have ever thought to make something like this up, but I like what my aunt also said, it totally sounded like something my mom would have done. So if she didn’t, I’m sure she must have thought about it.

Anna Maria Morgart

My Grandma Blair (as I know her) loved to hum. It didn’t matter what she was doing, she hummed. When she did dishes. When she crocheted. She could be sitting in a chair and daydreaming and she would hum. Even when I called her on the phone and there was that slight lull in the coversation.

She would also listen to her radio to church music and the like as well. But when I think of her I think of her humming. And there are times now that I am older when I am doing something and I don’t have music on, I hum too. (Just to add, today, April 2, would have been my Grandma’s 107th birthday).

Grandma Blair (aka Anna Maria Morgart). Not necessarily a moment when she was humming, but it is a photo that makes me smile (I believe she had finished dishes and was flinging water at us with her fingers). Not sure when this was taken, but it was in the mid-late 1980’s in her kitchen)

To me nothing brings back memories better than music. Often a song will come on the radio and it’s as if I am going through all the emotions of the that moment as if it just happened. No other sense is as powerful for me. So when I hear “In the Mood” I think of my Grandma Metzger (aka Alberta Lou Fleming) and how she made me laugh with her fabulous sense of humor that I wish I had, or when I find myself humming in a room by myself, I smile as I know wonderful people before me did the same.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 11: Fortune

The theme for this week’s 52 Ancestor’s in 52 Weeks is “Fortune”. To my knowledge none of my ancestors were rich. They all were hard workers, many working in the mines (south central Pennsylvania relatives and those who immigrated from England to Jefferson County, Ohio), or were laborers, waggoneers, chairmakers, soldiers, farmers, stenographers, store owners, truckers, firemen, construction workers, sheet metal workers, rubber workers, nurses, and apartment managers.

The real fortune for me are the records and documents that my family left behind. Each and every piece, from a photograph to a census to a newspaper article all help give me a better perspective of all the people who help me become me.

This is why I do my family history. And though this is probably one of the shortest posts of these themes, I am grateful for each and every ancestor, because without them, I wouldn’t be here.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree

Week 10: Name’s the Same

For this week’s theme of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks I’m going out of my comfort zone and headed to a part of my family I haven’t done a great deal of research on. Part of it is because all (or at least most) of these people are based in Lancashire, England. And I’m actually pretty sure I may have more than the William Fairhurst’s that are listed here. But because I haven’t properly focused on my family across the pond as I should have (I may have mentioned it before, but my goal has always been to focus on England research when I get other branches there as well – but I should probably start because I may never get out of Pennsylvania, and I suppose that is a fact I should begin to face).

This photo was taken from the FamilySearch Wiki page on Lancashire, England. Lancashire is the county highlighted in red.

So this week for my “name’s the same” post I will focus on at least 4 William Fairhurst’s and how they are all about 20 years or less apart and how it’s so incredibly easy to get them confused,

William Fairhurst (1870-1943)

My first William Fairhurst was born on 22 July 1870 and is the older brother of my great-grandfather, James Fairhurst. William was the second oldest of my great-great-grandparents, Thomas and his wife, Rachel Topping (James was their 2nd youngest of a total of 10 children, William was 20 years older than James).

On 16 Dec 1893, William married Elizabeth Ann Seddon. They had a son, Frederick, who was born in 1897.

William decided to head to Jefferson County, Ohio to make a better life for his family. William sailed to the United States via Boston, Massachusetts on the Saxonia from Liverpool, England on 29 June 1909. His destination was Amsterdam, Ohio to join his brother and friends to be a coal miner. (As a note, 7 out of 10 living siblings of William’s emigrated to the United States, including my great-grandfather, who headed there in 1913). His wife, Elizabeth, joined him later in 1916. His son Fred opted to stay living in England.

William became a naturalized citizen of the United States on 21 May 1915.

By 1930 William was no longer working in the mines but was working for the Saalfield Publishing Company in Akron, Ohio, which was one of the largest publisher’s of children’s books in the world between 1900 and 1977. William continued to work here until he died of cancer on 3 February 1943.

William Fairhurst (1841-?)

Our next William is our last William’s uncle. Born in 1841, he was the older brother of Thomas Fairhurst, my great-great-grandfather (making this William my 2nd-great-grand-uncle).

He had a son named William C. Fairhurst, so this brings my total to 5. I was unable to find a definitive death date for William. One that came up repeatedly was 1915 – but I hate to commit when I’m not really certain that it was the same William.

William Fairhurst (1829-1876)

William Fairhurst was the fourth child of my 4th-great-grandparents, William Fairhurst and Alice Winnard. He was born on 27 May 1829.

In 1850 he married Ellen Bentham and they had 12 children (and yes, one was named William, so there is a 6th!). He was a coal miner by trade. He passed away at the age of 46 in 1876.

William Fairhurst (1797-1875)

This William is the only one that is my direct descendant – my 4th-great-grandfather who was born on 27 Jan 1797 in Pemberton, Lancashire, England. He married Alice Winnard on 26 May 1819 in Wigan, Lancashire, England and they had at least 7 children before Alice passed away in 1856.

William was an agricultural laborer. His oldest son, John, is my 3rd-great-grandfather who did not follow in his dad’s footsteps and became a coal miner.

William died in February 1875 outliving all but 2, possibly 3, of his children (I haven’t found a date of death of his son, Thomas).

What I Learned About Looking into my William’s

I haven’t worked on the Fairhurst and Boone branch of my family tree much over the 4.5 years I’ve been working on my genealogy. Trouble is, I should start looking into these people. Yes, the records are confusing because I’m not as familiar with the places and set-up of documents as I am in Pennsylvania where I recognize towns. But this is all about learning, and maybe it’s time to leave my comfort zone.

I do know that it was really easy to start down the rabbit holes and I have so much to learn about this branch. The thrill of finding new people in just a few days of researching brought back part of the reason I got into this hobby – the huge puzzle of it all. Sometimes I get caught up working on citations and adding documents, and (shocker) that’s not always fun.

So here is to finding more Fairhurst’s in the future.