The Rabbit Hole I Fell Down and Lost a Day

I started my morning with my first cup of coffee and what I intended to be a quick look at Facebook, just while I waited for my brain to wake up.  When I came across the entry from one of my favorite archivists (Scott Sanders, you have a lot to answer for!) who had posted the last picture and brief biography in celebration of Women’s History Month, I stopped and read it.

He had a picture and bio for Electra Collins Doren, a librarian from the sourthwestern Ohio area as his entry for today.  Her name caught my eye, as did his statement that she was originally from the Cincinnati area.  I have Collins individuals in my family tree and thought I recognized the name Electra Collins.  So I opened my RootsMagic tree and looked.  Yes, I have Collins, no, I do not have Electra.  I know I’ve seen that name though, even if not entered in my family tree.  What I do have is John Collins, a minister from New Jersey who married Sarah Blackman and moved to Clermont County in the very early 1800s.  I haven’t put any of their children in the tree because it is not a direct line.

So I didn’t have anyone already in my tree, but I wanted to know if Electra C. Doren was related to my Collins line.  I started looking on which has a lot of Ohio records since I knew she had been born and lived in Ohio.  I thought she had been born to a Collins family and based on her date of birth that she must be a generation down from John Collins.  However, as I looked and looked for her I couldn’t find any Collins that matched her.

After trying all the Collins birth and marriage records, and census records, I finally looked at family trees on familysearch and lo and behold!  there were two family trees listing her as the child of John Gates Doren and Elizabeth Bragdon Doren.  So she hadn’t been a Collins who married a Doren as I assumed, but Collins was her middle name.  Her mother’s maiden name was not Collins it was Bragdon (assuming the tree to be correct), so I tried looking for Elizabeth Bragdon.  That was my “ahha!” moment:  Elizabeth Bragdon was the daughter of George Bragdon and Electra Collins!  Plus, Electra Collins was listed as a daughter of John Collins and Sarah Blackman.  Sarah Blackman is my 4th great grandaunt and her parents are my 5th great grandparents.  Electra Collins Doren is my 3d cousin 3 times removed.

With this new information I was able to find death certificates for both Electra C. Doren and her father John Gates Doren (which she signed as the informant).  I also just found her mother’s death certificate, which Electra also signed as informant and which reports Elizabeth’s parents as George Bragdon and Electra Collins.  I lost most of the day to this distraction but had great fun finding out about this peripheral branch of my family.  I wonder if Scott would be interested in what I found?

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A Pioneer Story: Pioneer Days, Part 4, Heading West

By J. S. Fillmore (Library of Congress – Maps Division) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As Laura wrote, J.W. Booth wanted to investigate for himself the rumors of gold in the Rockies.  He presented the argument that “a trip over the plains would be beneficial to his health and result a permanent cure for the chills and fever which had afflicted him for  months past.”   He really wanted to move on from the Iowa farm and so they began to make their plans.

This would be different than his first trip looking for gold, when he was a younger and single man.  This time the young family would all go: J.W., Laura, and the two very young children (Willie and Nettie).  Since the farm had no livestock left, there was nothing required but to outfit themselves with enough to stay at least one year.  Laura did not say that they sold the land they owned, and a plan to stay at least a year suggests they intended to be able to come back if they did not find what they were looking for.  Based on Bureau of Land Management records J.W. owned at least 160 acres of land at the time they were preparing to leave for the Rockies.  I have not searched the land records further to see if or when they sold the land.

With a wife and children along they would need “two teams to transport the necessary amount of provisions and household goods for so lengthy a stay.”  In the two months they had to wait for winter to be past and the roads to have dried, they learned from experienced travelers “that horses could not endure the trip as well as oxen, as the latter could graze at night and thus obtain most of the necessary food… taking for granted that what we heard was true, we accepted the inevitable…”  They planned to travel with their horses to the southern part of the state to visit a relative there ”with whom we had arranged to exchange our horses for two yokes of oxen.”  Laura does not say who this relative was or exactly where, but she did say it took them a week’s travel to go a distance of about 150 miles.

I had thought it might have been Laura’s aunt Jane Denman’s family that they planned to make this exchange with.  Jane Denman had married first Miles Wheaton in New York and on his death she married Perry Durfee in Illinois.  She had joined the Church of the Latter Day Saints, perhaps in order to marry Perry Durfee or perhaps that was how she met him.  At any rate, although the Durfee family was in Pottawattamie County, Iowa in 1850 (by the census), by 1860 they were in California (also by the census).  Thus it seems unlikely that this was the relative.  There was also a William H. Denman who had bought land (based on Bureau of Land Management records) in Iowa, in two different locations, one of the Pottawattamie County, however there is no evidence that he ever lived there.  Furthermore, I do not yet know how he fits into the family tree.

The Booth family was enumerated in Plattville Township, Mills County, Iowa (just south of Pottawattamie) in June for the 1860 census, having left “our uncles” on about the 12 of May.  It was at this point that they had truly started the long journey across the plain, and in the first month with the slower oxen teams they had not yet crossed the Missouri River into Nebraska.  An interesting note from the census: although Laura had mentioned two family names of people accompanying them (a minister named Gilliland and his family, and the Booth brother-in-law George Beed whose wife was visiting in Ohio), they do not appear to have camped together at the time of the census.  Neither of these names showed up on the 1860 census with the Booths, but showed up in another area of Plattville Township together, on an earlier date (June 2 as compared to June 8 for the Booth enumeration).  Also interestingly, although George Beed was reported to be traveling on his own with his wife in Ohio, he listed his wife and young son.  Marinda (called Clarinda on the Iowa enumeration) and Arthur W (or A.W. on the Ohio enumeration) were clearly counted twice.  They were also enumerated on the Ohio 1860 census in her father’s household (on July 2).

Laura described the travel, the camping and sleeping arrangements, and a runaway team that enlivend one day of their early traveling.  Although she described the great interest of the party in reaching and seeing the Missouri River, she also noted that she did not remember “the manner of crossing the river but suppose it was by ferry”.  With that crossing they reached Plattsmouth, Nebraska and received their mail, the first since leaving home she notes (although she says first for the two weeks since leaving their homes,  which doesn’t fit with what she wrote before and I think she meant two months).  All were glad to hear from friends and family, and Laura reported that their “English brother” received a letter from his wife pleading with him to return home and out of the danger all feared from the Indians.  He was reported as dutifully doing so, abandoning his trip and returning to Ohio to take his family back to their Iowa home.

For now I will leave the Booths and their companions as they begin the trek across Nebraska toward Colorado.  Next time I will follow them as they made their way West.

Note: the map at the top was done in 1861; the red arrow shows where Plattsmouth, Nebraska is and the Booth homestead isn’t shown, being in the central northern part of Iowa that isn’t shown on the map.

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Portrait of Z. B. Coffin – One Mystery Solved

This oil portrait of Zebulon B. Coffin, my second great grandfather, has hung in my living room since shortly after we moved into this house in 1983.  Before that it spent I don’t know how much time in several attics.  When it was passed along to me there wasn’t really much of anything known about it: not who painted it, or when, or why it was painted.

A number of years ago, I discovered in reading through a set of family diaries from his family that it had been done for his daughter Jessie’s birthday one year, but at the time I was originally reading through them I did not make any notes or entries anywhere so I could remember the details.  This past year I added the specific task to my 25-minute tasks of going back and finding that specific entry so the information can be added to the back of the picture (at least a date).

I recently began reading the first family diary again in my search for the remembered entry, and lo and behold! I found it in the first year of the first diary being kept, which was started the end of August 1885.

“Friday Nov 20/85  Mamma’s birth-day.  Mamma was able to come down to breakfast and when she got to the dining-room was surprised to see an oil painting of Grandpa, hanging over the mantle.  Grandpa had it painted by Mr. Weber, to have for a surprise on ‘this day’.  When Mamma went to sit down she found her chair occupied by some boxes of paper from Sister, handkerchiefs from Papa, gloves from Grandpa, a table scarf from me and some silk stockings and shoes from Burtie which we had stuffed with cotton and made look very funny.

Uncle came over to supper and brought a gold scarf-pin.  We all enjoyed the Supper and afterwards, cream & cake.”

This entry was written by Mamma’s younger daughter, Mary Alice Dalton.  Mamma was Jessie M. Coffin Dalton, daughter of Z.B. Coffin (Grandpa) and wife of Richard J. Dalton (Papa).  Their older daughter, often called Sister by Alice, was named Jessie Belle and usually called Belle.  Burtie was Anthony B. Burton, an “adopted” member of the family who worked in the store with Z.B. and lived with them.  The family diary was an idea he (I am guessing it was his idea not Alice’s) adopted from a newspaper article and he and Alice were to be the family keepers of said diary.  Alice was only 16 when they started this project and still a student in high school.

It is this blended family that started me on my quest for knowing more family information, as I wrote in the first days of this blog.  In fact, it was Alice Dalton herself (or a picture of her) that was my first introduction to family history.  The family diary that was kept (mostly by Burtie or ABB after about the first 6 months) provides a full picture of what life was like for them in the late 1800s, living in Newport Kentucky on one side of the Ohio River and Z.B. having a store over the river in Cincinnati.  I hope in future to transcribe more of the entries and write about the family’s doings here.


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February Genealogy To-Do

Perhaps the most important thing I need to do this month is not directly a genealogy project, but certainly is related to my ability to do online genealogy research.  My body has a love/hate relationship with the computer, currently hitting me with a repetitive strain injury in my shoulder that requires some adjusting to how (and how long) I use the computer.

The second item on my list is to go spend a weekend with my niece in Maine.  There are still Boothbys in Maine, and as I have posted in the past, one of them was a Mayor of Portland and has a small square with his name on it.  More importantly I haven’t had much chance to really catch up with this niece lately and I want to know what’s going on in her life.

With the optimism that I am solving my body-computer issue, I will also continue to work on my family computer files which represent the digital equivalent of my piles of paper collected in my search for family information.  I can see progress happening on this project but I would surely like to be done with it, so I can accurately see what evidence I have already and what further evidence I need to be searching for (without collecting evidence again that I already possess but couldn’t see).  Yes, I know already that I have collected various birth, marriage, and/or death records more than once and I’d like to stop doing that!

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Jeanette Yellin Serling (1904-1999)

I wrote years ago about the Yellin children and a brief summary of their arrivals in the U.S. (here), but am prompted to write more about Jeanette (Scheine Toby) today. Recently Cousin Ron (another family researcher) has sent around an audio file of an interview done with Sheine by another cousin and a transcript of an interview he did with her a year or two following the first. He also summarized his interview and research on her migrations. So this is intended to be sort of a public service announcement for any family members who are interested. The Yellin sisters married men named Killian, Rosovsky (or Rose), Golub, Braude, Levin, and Serling. The sole Yellin brother, Samuel, married a woman named Gold.

Jeanette, or Scheine Toby, and known to some of the next generation as Tante Scheine, was the youngest of the Yellin children. By the time she was born, two of her older sisters had already migrated to the U.S. A third left when she was about seven years old. Of the seven living children, only one married and stayed in the Jalowka area (Friedel who married Herschel Levin). Friedel’s story deserves a post of its own.  This picture shows the family of Abraham David Yellin circa 1910, with Jeanette to the right of her father and in front of her mother Chaia.

Scheine was the only child left at home by the time her father, Abraham, died in 1922. The family in the U.S. started working to have Jeanette and their mother migrate to the U.S. but ran into immigration roadblocks. The result was that mother Chaia could come into the U.S. because she had children here, but Jeanette could not. This led to a lengthy and complicated set of arrangements. Jeanette ended up being able to migrate to Canada. Her sister Esther and brother-in-law Morris Killian worked to find a way she could also come to the U.S. and managed to get her a one-year visa. So Jeanette was able to spend one year in Syracuse with the family and then returned to Montreal. An arranged marriage to an American cousin a couple of years later allowed her to return to the U.S.

There are many twists and turns to this story, some of which are known and even documented, but make for a complicated and long tale. The end of the story is that Jeanette and her arranged-husband divorced, Jeanette married Israel Serling and they lived in first Syracuse and then the Detroit area for the rest of their lives.  As far as I know they did not have any children but Jeanette was known by many of the children and grandchildren of her sisters and brother.

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