Since I have written about my great-grandmother Boothby, I decided I would also write about my great-grandmother in the Salt family. This is about Katie Justice Coffin Salt. Some other time I will write about her parents, and more about the Salt family. I started out to write about her mother, Catherine Elizabeth Justice, earlier and got so distracted by a number of other things that I wrote about that instead. One of my biggest brickwalls is the ancestor in the Salt family who migrated to this country, and I intend to write about him in the future.

Katie Justice Coffin was born in Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, on November 26, 1852 to Catherine Justice Coffin and Zebulon B. Coffin. Her older sister was 12 and her brother was 6. I don’t know much about her growing up years. The Federal population census of 1860, when Katie was 8, shows that the household then consisted of her father and mother, her brother Henry, 2 females listed as “domestic” both born in Ireland and 1 male domestic who was born in Germany. Katie’s older sister Jessie, already married, was living with her husband in the next house. Her grandmother Susan Justice, uncle Harrison Justice, and Anthony Burton (adopted into the family group) lived on the other side of Jessie. Anthony was adopted as a boy (probably not formally) first by Susan Justice, and he lived the rest of his life with various family members. He never married. He worked for Zebulon in his grocery business and served in the Civil War.

In the 1870 Federal census, Katie is not enumerated with her family and I have not yet found her anywhere else. She would have been 17, and her mother had died 4 years previously.  Her recently widowed father, Zebulon was living with his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and Anthony Burton with his older daughter’s family listed as a separate family group (possibly living upstairs), and three domestic servants. Interestingly, one of these servants, a young woman named Sophie Karewald, spent the rest of her life working for various family members. My current guess is that Katie was off visiting a friend or relatives when the 1870 census was taken, and either not listed or more likely was mis-indexed. By 1880, the households had again reconfigured. Katie and her widowed father lived with Jessie’s family.

Katie Coffin, circa 1880

Next door lived Katie’s grandmother Justice and uncle with 2 servants. Anthony Burton was not living with either family at the time of the census.

In May 1883 Katie married John Clifford Salt and went to live with him on his family farm in Saltair, Clermont County, Ohio.

John Clifford Salt, circa 1880

His mother also lived with them on the farm. This was across the Ohio River and about 30 miles east from Cincinnati. Cliff and Katie were second cousins on the Justice family side. His mother Ann was first cousin to her mother Catherine. I don’t know how they met originally. Not only were they cousins, but they probably knew each other from a young age because there was a certain amount of visiting by the young people to the “country” (from the Cincinnati area to the more rural area where the Salt family farm was). Living out in the country was a big change for Katie.

At the time they married, Katie was 30 which seems relatively old to be marrying for the first time, in that era. I never heard any family stories about why she didn’t marry at a younger age, Perhaps she felt responsible to run the household for her widowed father.

Katie and Cliff had 3 children: Anna (who died before she was 2), Henry (my grandfather), and Susan. When the children were very young Cliff developed mental problems and was committed to a state hospital in Dayton, Ohio. In 1893, just 3 months after the birth of her daughter Susan, Katie was made his guardian and he lived the rest of his life institutionalized. A cousin was told and repeated the story that he was cutting ice to put in the icehouse and slipped and fell, injuring his head. He developed mental problems after that and it was thought that the accident had contributed to his problems. I have never heard any good description of what his mental problems were. Cousin Ruhama’s mother, who was a first cousin of Cliff’s, would go visit him when she could, traveling via the electric trolley to a train. Ruhama also said that she had been told that in the hospital he had charge of the bakery, and generally was fine, but that sometimes “the pressure would build up and he would ask to be confined.“ One time he was not confined quickly enough and he threw dough all over the kitchen even onto the ceiling.

Katie and the 2 children continued to live on the farm,

Katie, Henry, Ruie Salt

with her mother-in-law, until Henry was old enough to be out on his own. This picture shows the three of them, either at the farm or perhaps visiting in Newport. It is one of my favorites because one of my brothers looked so much like Henry at a similar age. Once Henry was out of the house, sometime before 1910, Katie and Susan (who was known in the family as Ruie) moved into Bethel for Susan to attend the high school there. By 1920 the two of them were across the river in Newport, Kentucky and Susan had finished nursing school.

Katie had few financial resources and needed support from her children and her brother. She lived the rest of her life in Newport, and died November 1, 1928. Susan lived with her until her death, and only then did she leave Kentucky and later marry. While there are no mysteries about Katie as there are about some of my other female ancestors, with the exception of where she was in 1870 for the census, there is also little that describes her as a person. I am left wondering what she was like, how she spent her time, what she enjoyed or disliked. She must have been a very strong woman to have managed to raise her two children alone.

I’ve been sorting through yet another pile of mixed pictures, snapshots, ephemera, a letter or two (recent), etc.  Somehow this pile landed on my desk.  It may be an orphan-pile, left over from the boxes I was going through earlier in the year.  I am really not sure at this point.  What I do know is who the pile came from.  One of the pack-rats in my family, my Cousin Jessie, managed to pass lots of family stuff along to me; some of it came directly from her to me.  Some of it came via one or another of my siblings or from my parents.  Some of came from her long-time companion, Sister C.  Cousin Jessie never married and had no closer relatives than my parents and our family.   She also lived a long and full life.  She also came from a long line of women who saved things and left those things to others.  And finally, she was also interested in family history (particularly the Coffin family) and she was the last in several family lines, so she had lots of stuff.

Unfortunately, or maybe it wasn’t completely unfortunate if you ask my husband, much of Cousin Jessie’s collected treasures got lost to the family (read: me) when she died and left everything to her companion.  My sister and I had been in contact with Sister C., and visited a couple of times but never were informed when she was sick for the last time and when she died.  So the entire household was cleared out and property sold before we knew it had happened.  Perfectly reasonable given that it all belonged to her.  But there were a few treasures from our family that I would have loved the chance to buy from the estate.  And a few historical objects that I would like to know had been preserved but fear went into a dumpster.

Regardless of lost possibilities, I still possess a lot of things from Cousin Jessie and her family.  Just to place the people in this post:  Cousin Jessie’s grandmother (Jessie Malvina) was the older sister of my great-grandmother (Katie Justice) who married a Salt, both of whom were the daughters of Zebulon B. Coffin of Cincinnati and Newport, Kentucky.   So the keepsakes are from these combined Coffin lines.  The majority of what has come to me is paper: pictures both formal and snapshots; cards from a variety of occasions; newspaper clippings that include marriages and obituaries (often of people who are not related) but also include stories of the day; postcards and other mementos of trips; baptism cards, at least one high school commencement exercises program, many invitations to weddings or “at home” evenings; etc., etc.  And being the good family historian and genealogist as well as archivist, I try to sort through and figure out how to preserve what is important.

And that is part of the problem I have.  What is important?  What do I need to keep and what can/should I get rid of?  Here’s an example:  Do I really need to keep 6 identical cards of “Godly Resolutions” (that I think were purchased for use in a Sunday School class)?  They’re pretty little cards  but do I need to keep all six?  And if I don’t keep all of them, am I being stupid to just throw out the other 5?  Maybe they’re worth something to someone else and I should try to sell them on eBay.  I don’t want the next generation to be faced with a similar dilemma, at least not about the same stuff just because I couldn’t make up my mind.  I also have a tendency to get to a point going through piles that I start to throw out everything.  And I don’t want to find that I have trashed something that I want later (which happens to me all the time with books and sometimes with clothing), or that someone else wanted.  Not that anyone in my family does want any of this stuff.  That’s why I have it in the first place.

Current piles

Current piles

This picture shows the current set of stuff I am trying to deal with.  You can see that I have divided things into several piles.  I am trying to achieve the state of being able to throw some of it away and to know how and where to store the rest of it.  You can also  see a stack of inboxes all of which contain other family stuff I am trying to sort.  This stuff has already gone through the process of being in piles on the desktop.  Some of it has made it into sheet protectors and there are a couple of folders there.  But it is all still sitting on my desk.  I wish once I sorted through the stuff and decided what stays and what goes, that the keepers would encase themselves in the appropriate archival container and leap into files or binders or boxes!  I don’t know why, but it takes me several passes to get this kind of mess looked through and considered and then actually *put* someplace besides my desk top.  I know that the organizer people, you know the ones who are experts at time management or organizing other people’s stuff, say that you should only touch something once.  Not move it from pile to pile the way I currently do.   This may be the beginning of a resolution or goal for next year.  May be.

Update Note: As originally posted, this did not link to all of the sites I mentioned and one of the blog names was incorrect. I have made changes to correct these mistakes.

In reading about the 2010 GeneaBlogger Games, and the current COG, I decided to start a timeline for a couple of my female ancestors and see where it took me.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  While it has become clear that I won’t be writing the Genealogy Gals’ COG entry this time around, this post will explain why.  You will see just how distractible I am in doing this work.  (I never knew how distractible I can be until I started thinking about how I do my genealogy research!)  To borrow an idea from the Gene Notes blog, I think I have Family Research Attention Deficit Disorder (FRADD which is not yet listed in the DSM but may be in the one coming out in 10-12 years).  So, over the course of the past week, this is what I’ve been doing.

Actually I started with one timeline, for Catherine Justice Coffin (1821-1866), and then something inspired me to start another, Laura Denman Booth (1828-1920).  Truthfully, what made me start the second one was looking at how little information I had about Catherine and remembering that I have a copy of a memoir written by Laura which should give me all kinds of details.  Opportunistic?  Yes, but she is an ancestor and I do have that memoir.  Now just where is it?  I know it’s here on one of the bookshelves…  Before I got too sidetracked looking I thought I’d just list the dates for Laura that I have information for in my computer program.  So I did that.  Now I have 2 little text files of dates and events to work from.

Then, I got distracted by the timeline file Miriam at AnceStories had suggested as an easy timeline form to use.  Some time later I finally had a computer file I thought I could use (either printing it out or filling it out on the computer).  Decided to try it out with my information on Catherine, so I printed one and started writing dates and events.  When I looked at the years I realized I had an 1850 census for her family so went back to my computer file to enter that information for her and source it.  Done.  Thought about the fact that I don’t yet have the other censuses that she should be in.  Contemplated going to look for them and decided that this would really be a distraction.  Better put it on a to-do list.  Then, when I looked at the deaths of some of her siblings when she was young it occurred to me to look at causes of death for them (I have cemetery card images for them).  This raised the question of cholera and when there were epidemics in southwestern Ohio.  Use my search engine to look for epidemics and cholera.  Read that cholera was introduced into the United States in 1832 and there were epidemics by 1833 (when one of Catherine’s infant brothers and a sister died).  Interesting.  There is a family story about one of Catherine’s cousins nursing a neighbor through cholera and  coming home to die of it herself just a brief time before she was to marry (one of my Salt ancestors).

Ok, so I refocused on Catherine’s information and remembered that she had died at a pretty young age (she was 44 in 1866) in Yellow Springs, Ohio (not where she lived) and I had a vague idea that there had been a health spa or something like it in Yellow Springs.  Looked at her cemetery card told me that she was said to have died from pulmonary consumption (probably tuberculosis).  That would fit with having gone to a health spa for treatment.  So I tried, using my trusty search engine, to find out about health spas and Yellow Springs.  With some, but not great, success.  So I thought of my friend the archivist at a college in Ohio who might know.  So I emailed him.  And got a couple of suggestions about where to look for information about the early history of Yellow Springs.  Stopped to look for a book I thought I remembered had been published on the history of Yellow Springs by the newspaper there.  Found it – shall I order it or not?

The other piece of information I noticed in my RootsMagic file was a note that I had a piece of silverware that had been Catherine’s, with her initials on the front and date on the back.  The date was what would have been their 25th wedding anniversary, so I’m guessing that this was a present for that important date.  I wanted to look at it to remind myself, so I went looking in the silverware drawer in the kitchen.

Didn’t find the small knife I was looking for but did find a pickle fork and it too has her initials and the same date on the back.

Catherine's butterknife and pickle fork

Finally found the knife put away in another drawer for safekeeping.  No legible mark on the back to tell me who the manufacturer was or the pattern.  Back online I went to try to track this down – I want to know about these pieces.  Hours later, I may have figured out the manufacturer but haven’t found a picture of the pattern I have yet.  Decided that I should take pictures with my digital camera of the two pieces to add to my files on old family possessions, and to add to the genealogy file on Catherine.  Got several that I thought are all right, downloaded them to the folders I want them in, made a version to attach to my genealogy file on Catherine.  And that is where that project stands.

Except that I read a comment on Miriam’s blog from someone (Michelle Goodrum) who left a link to show how she had used the timeline and when I looked at her site I realized that she had made the form landscape instead of portrait and added a Sources column to the others.  What a good idea!  So I’m off to edit my form.

I recently made a day trip with a friend, to visit her brother and sister-in-law.  My friend’s family is related to the Coffin family and I am too.  Her sister-in-law is very interested in genealogy and so it makes sense to get us together.  I think that my line of Coffins diverged from theirs long ago (moved from Nantucket to southwestern Ohio – wish I knew why).  I think my friend’s line flows from the families that did not move to Nantucket permanently but stayed in New Hampshire/northeastern Massachusetts.  Still the same family but not connected very recently (may be as far back as the original emigrant ancestor who came between 1640-1643).  So, now I’m trying to figure out what I want to find out from these new cousins, and what to take with me on this visit.  What questions do I want to ask?  This is a line I haven’t researched much because so much has already been done.  I know, I know, you always do your own research.  And truthfully much of my direct line in this family hasn’t been well researched (or at least the information hasn’t been sourced).  That’s why I don’t know why they moved from Nantucket to Cincinnati Ohio in the early 1800s.

What I learned was that Massachusetts is a good state for having records that go back to very early days, and that they are findable.  My friend’s brother (who has gotten more interested in genealogy in the last few years) showed me copies of several registers or ledgers and talked about what he has learned about going into town offices.  Check before you go to find out about what hours and days they are open (some small towns don’t have offices open 5 days a week).  Go early in the day and be ready to wait or to come back at a later time in the day if the clerk is already busy.  Don’t be the next person after someone has been demanding or nasty with the clerk.  Try bringing coffee for the clerk if you leave and come back.

While I have learned and heard all of these tips before, hearing them from a newly-enthusiastic genealogist was useful.  And all of what he said and showed me increased my motivation to follow up on this family line and do my own work.

Well, we had the family here for Thanksgiving and a good time was had by all.  And I noticed (as I do every time family comes to my house, but then I forget again) that the painting of my great great grandfather Zebulon Coffin and the various family pictures that I have on my dining room wall elicited interest and questions.  One wall in my dining room is a sort of collage of various family pictures from both my side and my husband’s, some older and some more recent.

Now, like many genealogists, I have found that if I raise the topic and start asking questions about family history people’s eyes glaze over and they back away.  However, when they look at the pictures as they sit at the table or wander around waiting for dinner they get interested and ask questions.  Some of the questions I can answer and others I can’t (at least not yet).  And people even tell stories or talk about what they remember based on the pictures.  This year, non-direct family members also asked questions and told their own family stories.  It was wonderful!  I wish I had been part of each of those conversations, but just knowing that they happened makes me happy.