Thursday, December 31, 2015

Here Lies Dirck Under the Floor of the Church

Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar!

If you've followed this blog the past 4-5 weeks, you know that the Fonkert family first appeared in the 1500s on the Hoekse Waard, an island of reclaimed land in the Rhine delta just south of Rotterdam.

The western part of the island was still swampland when the Count of Egmont gained ownership in 1531. The Westmaas-Nieuwland polder, where Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert lived (see Dirck Fonckert: "He Lived in a Former Monastery of Monks," 10 December 2015), was drained by 1539. The two polders to the west where later generations of Fonkerts lived -- Oud Beijerland and Nieuw Beijerland -- were created in 1557 and 1583, respectively.*

The earliest Fonckert known with certainty is Adriaen Willemsz Fonckert, who died at Rhoon, on the next delta island to the north (IJsselmonde) in 1594. He was married to a daughter of the schout (sheriff) of Rhoon and had there at least four children, including Dirck. While his parents and birthplace are not known, it is estimated that he was born about 1535. Dirck and his two married sisters moved to the Hoekse Waard to farm the new land.

They were landholders of some means. Dirck was an alderman in de Group and in 1622 was appointed dijkgraaf -- dijk sheriff. As a man of some status, he was buried in the Westmaas church upon his death in 1641. The outer part of the stone reads: "HIER LEIT BEGRAVEN DIRCK ADRIAENSZ FONCKERT IN LEVEN DYCKGRAEF VANT WESTMAES" -- Here lies buried Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert  who during his life was dijkgraaf of Westmaas. His first wife, Bastiaantje Zegers Craenendonck, who died in 1626, is also buried in the church. At the base of their bas-relief stones are the family wapens, or arms. They were badly damaged in 1795 by French revolutionaries  who sought to destroy symbols of nobility. A corner of Dirck's gravestone is hidden under the choir "loft."I don't seem to have a photo of Bastiaentje's grave.

Dirck's daughter, Haasje, married Symon Huygen Splinter and is buried in the church at Mijnsheerenland, less than a mile from Westmaas. I do have a photo of her gravestone.

As noted above, Dirck Adrianesz Fonckert came to the Hoekse Waard from Rhoon. There were several Fonckerts at Rhoon in the 1500s, but details about them are fuzzy. Next week, I will kick off the new year with some fairly wild, yet, I think, credible speculation about the origins of these Fonckerts.

And, if you haven't figured it out yet, "Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar" means "Happy New Year." For good measure, I also wish you "een verspoedig Nieuw Jaar.

* It is not clear whether drainage of these polders began, or was finished, in these years. This short description the polders and the role of Adriaen Willems Fonckert is from

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My 4th Great-Grandparents and the Silver Baptismal Bowl

Fröliche Weihnachten, God Jul, Merry Christmas, and Vrolijk Keerstfeest!

My sixth-great grandfather, Zegert Dirksz Fonkert (1685-1737) had established a farm in the Oud Beijerland polder by the early 1700s. His grandson, Pieter Dirksz Fonkert (1762-1865) had inherited the farm and expanded it to 129 hectares -- an impressive estate in those days. When Pieter's son, Dirk Pietersz Fonkert died in 1860, the farm was sold at auction. A third son, Pieter, received an unknown cash settlement. Pieter was my great-great-grandfather.

The Dirk Fonkert whose Zinkweg farm was sold at auction in the 1860s had married a daughter of one of the richest farmers in the region. Neeltje was a daughter of Klaas Rochus Schelling and Jannetje de Koning. This was no random marriage. Dirk Fonkert and Neeltje Schelling were first cousins. The bride's and groom's mothers were daughters of Ary Klaas de Koning and Jaapje Bastiansdr de Vroom.*

Lasting evidence of the Schelling wealth is a silver baptismal bowl still in use in the Klaaswaal Dutch Reformed Church. Klaas Rochusz Schelling and his siblings gave the bowl to the church in honor of their parents, Rochus Arysz Schelling and Neeltje Troost. Set side-by-side in the bowl are the Schelling and Troost wapens. An inscription on the bottom of the bowl honors the legacy of Schelling and Troost, who had died in 1786 and 1776, respectively. The outside rand, or edge, named the heirs, all parishioners of the parish, including "Klaas Schelling Gehuwt met Jannetje de Koning."**

Why does this Schelling-Troost bowl matter to me? Because Klaas Schelling and Jannetje de Koning were my 4th great-grandparents. Put another way, they were my immigrant Fonkert great-grandfather's great-grandparents. A bit distant, yes, but to see something of such value still in use after 225 years is a treat that few family history researchers experience.

The problem is, I haven't yet seen it. The church was closed the first time we visited Klaaswaal in 1993. When my brother and I went back several years later, we timed our visit to stop by the church right after the Sunday service, but the church had emptied and been locked faster than we anticipated. Thankfully, a few years later, I was able to help a New Mexico cousin arrange for a visit, and her husband brought back photographic proof that the baptismal bowl is still there.

Ancestors of the Iowa Fonkerts moved only a few miles over 400 years.

Adriaen Willemsz Fonckert lived in the 1500s at Rhoon, a settlement on IJsselmonde, and island in the Rhine delta. A well-to-do farmer, his father-in-law was sheriff. He died in 1594.

Dirck Adriaensz Fonkcert was born about 1565. By 1610, he occupied the house that still stands just outside Westmaas in the Hoekse Waard -- an island diked and drained during the 1500s. Appointed dijkgraaf  is buried in the church at Westmaas.

Seger Dirksz Fonckert, born about 1600, farmed at least 50 hectares (124 acres) in the Nieuw Beijerland and Zuid Beijerland polders in the Hoekse Waard. He was a member of council (heemraad).

Dirk Segersz Fonkert farmed on the south side of Nieuw Beijerland polder. He died before 1690.

Zegert Dirk Fonkert was the first Fonkert to farm at the corner of the Plaastsweg and the Zinkweg dike in Oud Beijerland. By 1730, he had 65 hectares (160 acres).

Dirk Zegers Fonkert (1723-1768) worked his father's farm in Oud Beijlerland.

Pieter Dirksz Fonkert (1762-1815), the youngest son of Dirk, inherited his father's farm at age 6, and enlarged it to 139 hectares (319 acres).

Dirk Pietersz Fonkert (1789-1860), with the Fonkert's growing wealth, married into the rich Schelling, but at his death the Zinkweg farm was broken up at auction.

Pieter Fonkert (1815-1882) did not receive any of his father's land; he instead farmer nearby at Klaaswaal.

Pieter Fonkert (1845-1891), with diminished prospects in the Hoekse Waard, emigrated to Iowa where he farmed.

* N. Vels Heijn and F. M. van der Kolk, Kwartierstaat Fonkert-Steehouwer, self-published (Zeist, Netherlands, 1986); available at Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, Den Haag.
** Bas Schelling, Pieter Schelling, and Bert Schelling, De Familie Schelling uit de Hoeksche Waard (Schoorl, Netherlands: Priola, 1994), p. 22.

Photo of baptismal bowl courtesy of John Puckett, Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Fonkert Mystery on the Zinkweg

The day -- 16 August 1993 to be exact --  had exceeded my fondest expectations. We had stood in the house where Dirck Fonkert lived in 1610 (see 10 December post). We had, completely by accident, found a ninth cousin under the Fonkert Technoservice sign in Klaaswaal (see 3 December post).

Oud Beijerland polder, 1810*
With a few more hours of summer daylight, I had one more lead to follow. The family history passed to me by a New Jersey cousin included a map showing the location of two 19th-century Fonkert farms a mile or two west of Klaaswaal on the Zinkweg. One farmhouse had burned in the late 1800s, but been renovated in 1903. According to the family history, a stone table stated: "The first stone was laid by Nelia Jansje Fonkert, 24 years old, 1903."

We found a farm house at 277 Zinkweg that seemed to fit the location indicated by the map, but it was getting on toward dinner time, so I drove wife and daughter back to our hotel in Oud Beijerland before returning on my own to investigate.

There were people in the yard so I walked down the driveway to make inquiries. They knew little English, but eventually a young woman figured out that I was asking about Fonkerts. She pointed to a tablet set, perhaps, 12 feet high on the north exterior wall.  Sure enough, it read:
OP DEN 5 MEI 1858

No complaints, but it was not the tablet I was looking for. The current ownders said they knew of a Fonkert family up the road and led me to 276 Zinkweg, where a knock on the door brought out a real Fonkert. Aart invited me in, but language remained a challenge. Luckily, Aart's sister soon arrived and helped with the translating. Looking at the family history that had led me to the Zinkweg, she recognized their great-grandfather: Dirk Fonkert, born 1833 to Dirk Pietersz Fonkert and Neeltje Schelling. According to the family history, after the elder Dirk died in 1860, the younger Dirk bought the parental farm house and 24 hectares of the 100-hectare farm (about 247 acres).

Aart drove me to a second farm house, the next house south of the first house I had visited. The first was about 500 feet north of where the Plaastsweg, now called 2nd Kruisweg (crossway), dead-ends into the Zinkweg. The second house was on the south side of the Plaatsweg. Aart's sister thought her father's cousin had lived there until 1960. My journal, written later that evening, says there, "sure enough, was the 1903 Nelia Fonkert stone I had been looking for." There is a problem, however: from the photo I took, the inscription appears to read:

DEN 12 JULI 1800

Something is wrong. The name is slightly different (Jansje instead of Jannetje) from the translation above, but more importantly, it is in error by 103 years. (My journal entry says "1903," but I probably copied the name and date from the family history later that evening at the hotel.) The "8" in 1800 might possibly be a "9," but the lower loop seems to be closed in the style of an "8." Is it possible the stone should read "1900?"

Aart Fonkert had said that Nelia was his grandfather's sister. Indeed, civil registrations document that Nelia Jannetje Fonkert was born at Oud Beijerland 31 December 1875, the daughter of Dirk Fonkert and Jannetje Saarloos; she would have been 24 in 1900. The family history says the farm house was rebuilt in 1903 after a house fire, but "1903" might be the author's typo. Possibly, Netherlands property records might clarify the date.

The day already had delivered more "happy dance" moments that a family history researcher could ever expect, but more surprises were in store. The Zinkweg is a dijk-road -- that is, it runs on top of the dike forming the west boundary of the Oud Beijerland polder. In front of the second house, a small arched stone and brick bridge connects the farm house to the the Zinkweg. It, too, has a stone tablet. It reads: "DEN EERSTEN STEEN GELEGD DOOR DIRK FONKERT DZ OP DEN 26 JUNI 1856." This was likely Nelia Jannetje's father, Dirk, son of Dirk Fonkert and Neeltje Schelling.

The biggest surprise was back at the hotel. I had been gone longer than I should have been. When I belatedly returned, I found wife and daughters sitting in the dining room with the woman from Marienhof (see "Dirck Fonckert," 10 December 2015). An unfamiliar man was with her. He, too, had a notebook. He was Henry den Hartigh, the local historian who had researched the farm history. He told us that 17th-century house (now used as a garage) we had visited at Marienhof was the oldest surviving building in Westmaas. He had photos of the hearth, ceiling timbers, windows and other architectural features of the 1610 house.

But, what about those houses back on the Zinkweg? The two sons -- Dirk and Klaas -- who bought the two farm houses were brother of my great-great-grandfather, Pieter Fonkert. Pieter got cash, but apparently no land from the 1860s auction. My Christmas Eve post will summarize 300 years of Fonkert history in the Hoekse Waard, including two sets of cousin marriages and the gift of a valuable silver baptismal bowl to the Klaaswaal church.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dirck Fonckert: "He Lived in a Former Monastery of Monks"

The Fonkert Technoservice sign (see December 3 post) was pure serendipity. What happened earlier that day was founded on a little preparation.

(Before correcting myself, I typed: "What happened next..." Let this be a lesson about memory. When I wrote last week's post, I was certain in my memory that the first extraordinary event of the day back in 1993 had been the Fonkert Technoservice sign. Looking back at the journal I kept, I now realize that the story I'm about to tell actually happened first. This tendency of memory to warp is precisely why genealogists are so cautious when using records created long after an event).

 From the family history I had received from the New Jersey cousin, I understood that the original Fonckert homestead was just west of Westmaas, a small town less than two miles from Klaaswaal.  Here's what it said about Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert:

He lived at Westmaas in a former monastery of monks who since 1538 opened up new land, but who pulled out when Protestantism got the upper hand. Parts of this building still exist, mainly the former chapel, now a large barn. It is situated some miles west of Westmaas, where the Smidsweg crosses the canal Vliet, in the area which is called the Group.*

Not familiar with the territory, we struck out on what seemed like a westerly course from Westmass. I tried to converse with a kindly landbouwer (farmer) at the first farm we came to. "Fonkert" didn't seem to mean anything to him. We continued, taking a couple of left turns, which left us headed back toward Westmaas.

As we crossed a small canal -- a mere drainage ditch by Midwest standards -- I wondered: could this be the Vliet canal?  A sign at a driveway just past the canal announced the Marienhof farm. With some trepidation, I turned in and stopped in front of a fine brick farmhouse, leaving wife and daughters in the car. A middle-aged woman answered my knock on the door. Again, the best I could do was a few words in German. Just when the conversation, if it could be called that, seemed to be going nowhere, she stopped and said, "Fonkert?"  "Yes," I said. She said something that I interpreted as "wait." She went into the house and returned a couple of minutes later with a large black notebook.

It was a history of the farm. The first paragraph reported that the first owner of the farm had been Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert, who had lived there in 1610. We were instantly invited in for tea and given  a tour of the 17th-century house -- now garage -- with the original hearth and ceiling timbers intact. Few words were understood, but much meaning got through. Just to be clear, the chapel was not converted to a barn, but to Dirck Fonckert's house. The attached barn was built later.

The location described in the family history had been good enough to get us there, but was not completely accurate. Marienhof is only about two-thirds of a mile (about 1 km) west of Westmaas; a visit to Google Maps shows "Greup" a bit more than a mile farther west. Greup is a dijkdorp -- small settlement on a dike -- between Westmaas and Oud Beijerland. Without the described geography, we would never had found the home of Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert.

Left to right: new house, barn, original house (garage)
A door in the back of the original house leads to the attached 1750 barn. Yes, the barn is more than 250 years old. In the old world style, the barn is attached to the new house, built about 1850.

I have since been back to visit Familie Quartel and stayed overnight in the "new" house. A few years ago, I took my brother back for a visit to our Dutch ancestral homes. I will be forever grateful for the generosity of Jaap and Mevrouw Quartel.

 "A day to be remembered" is an understatement. In one afternoon, we had, with some preparation, found the original Fonckert homestead on the Smidsweg. A few miles away, complete serendipity led us to the home of a 9th cousin -- whose family had moved less than two miles over the course of nearly 400 years.

The sun had not yet set. The day was not yet over. The story of one incredible family history day continues next week.

* Dr. Nicholaas Vels Heijn and Fenny M. Vels Heijn-van der Kolk, Pedigree Fonkert, 1988, prepared for Phyllis Good (deceased) of Butler, New Jersey, who gave a copy to the blogger. This English version is drawn from a more detailed Dutch-language version, Kwartierstaat Fonkert, which is held by the Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie in den Haag (The Hague). The sketch-map is from Kwartierstaat Fonkert.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

At the Right Place at the Right Time: Meet the Fonkerts

You had to be there.

You have to make your own luck.

Would you believe that a Google search for "make your own luck" returns 322,000 hits?

What does all this have to do with genealogy?  Well, sometimes you have to prepare to be lucky, and sometimes, you just have to be there.

Back in the olden days, before I knew anything about FamilySearch or, I had some amazing luck. On my family's first European trip in 1993, I had the most memorable family heritage day of my life. I had been in touch with a 2nd cousin in New Jersey, who had shared a copy of a family history that said that, going back to the 1600s, Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert (yes, with a "c") had lived just outside the town of Westmass in Zuid Holland.*  That's South Holland in the Netherlands. I was prepared -- at least a bit.

Westmaas is on an island in the Rhine delta called de Hoekse Waard, just a few miles south of Rotterdam. We crossed under the river (through a tunnel) and came to the exit off the A29 freeway for Klaaswaal -- another town that appeared in the Fonckert history. A left, and a right, and another left brought us to the corner of Oud Cromstrijendijk and Molendijk. When I pulled off the road to get my bearings, my wife pointed up at a sign on the building on the corner: "Fonkert Technoservice." Klaaswaal is less than two miles from Westmaas. I thought, this must be my family! (O.K., the sign in the photo does not say "Technoservice," but I'm pretty certain the sign at the corner of the building did say Fonkert Technoservice; it was was a small electronics shop.

A short (actually, rather small) man was just locking up. I jumped out and accosted him (so it must have seemed to him), pointed up at the sign, and then pointed back at myself and said, "Fonkert aus America" (yes, that was German; I knew no Dutch). I swear, he nearly fell over in surprise. Language was no barrier. Rokus gestured for me to follow him. He led me a couple of doors down the street, entered a "Fonkert" bicycle shop, walked through, and passed through another door that opened into his home.

He pulled down a three-ring binder off a shelf above the couch. It was a lengthy Fonkert  family history (not the one I received from my cousin). I scanned through the notebook, but did not recognize any family connection. Language was now becoming a problem, so Rokus called his daughter, who came over to help translate. I don't remember a lot else, but I left with the name and address of the nephew of Rokus who had done the family history.

We ran out of time to track down the nephew, but after our return home and an exchange of letters we determined that the nephew and I are 9th cousins. That's a completely un-close relationship, but we were both Fonkerts! We have since had the pleasure of visiting Pieter Pot and his parents in 's-Gravendeel.

I must tell you that a good friend who can not resist a good joke likes to tell this story for me, but in his version the Fonkert Technoservice sign translates to mean "no parking." And, to be honest, I do think I was probably illegally parked.

Quite a day, but this was just the beginning of my good luck. I was in the right place at the right time, and there was more genealogical good fortune around the corner -- which means there is another blog post coming next week.

* At left, is an illustration of the Fonckert wapen, or arms from Dr. N. Vels Heijn and F. M. Vels Heijn-van der Kolk, Kwartierstaat Fonkert-Steehouwer, 1982. A condensed English version was given me by Phyllis Good (deceased) of Butler, New Jersey.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Eat Turkey, Give GenThanks

This blog usually comes on on Thursdays. Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday. What is a blogger to do?

Get the blog out early so that the Fonkert and Tidball families can read it before traveling over the river and through the woods to wherever they might be headed.

What is a genealogist to do on Thanksgiving? Eat turkey. Maybe watch some football (although the game that really matters is Friday). Give GenThanks.

Genealogists are thankful for all the usual things -- family and friends, good crops, plenty of food on the table, a roof overhead, beautiful land, and  the luxury of living in a civil society, to name a few. But, this is a genealogy blog, and genealogists give GenThanks for all the things ancestors have passed forward across time to us. Things like:

  • Names -- what is your favorite ancestral name?
  • Memories -- what story do you like most to re-tell?
  • Traditions -- what is your favorite holiday meal?
  • Recipes - Which side of the family does the scalloped corn recipe come from?
And, then there are genes -- those wonderful, hard-to-imagine sequences of nucleotides that chromosomes pass forward across generations. Genealogist give GenThanks for genes. I'm not going to wax eloquent, or wax at all, about DNA. But, on this Thanksgiving, I want to give brief mention to the four sets of great-grandparents that helped make our two daughters who they are. They are the eight individuals in places 8-15 on our daughters' ahnentafel charts.

Jan (John) Fonkert (8) and Trijntje (Kate) Zorgdrager (9). This set of great-grandparents make our daughters one-quarter Dutch, but Jan and Kate were American-born. Jan Fonkert's parents came from Zuid Holland -- his mother in 1848, his father in 1870. Kate's parents were born on Terschelling, a barrier island in the North Sea off the coast of Friesland.

Johan Emmanuel Månsson (Hanson in America) (10) and Edith Romkee (11). A 19-year-old who had lost an eye in a farm accident, came from Hyssna, Sweden, to Tingley, Iowa, in 1908. (Previous blogposts tell some of his story). Edith, or Eda, was born in Tingley to German parents -- Ernst Friedrich Wilhelm Römbke and Cahta Gerloff. Yes, Römbke was Anglicized to Romkee or Romkey. The Römbkes came to southeast Iowa from Windheim on the Weser River. Cahta Gerloff, 17 and single, landed at New Orleans in 1846; her parents and birthplace are not known -- yet.

Aubrey Tidball (12) and Carrie Ehlenbach (13). Aubrey was born in Steele County, Minnesota, to John Tidball and Mary Ann Lee, who had emigrated from Bristol, England, just days after their marriage. Born at Arcola, Illinois, Carrie was a daughter of James Frank Ehlenbach and Elizabeth Ann Fawkner. Yes those Fawkners, the Fawkners I have spent much of the past six months blogging about. I'll be getting back to them soon.

Carl Ferdinand (Charles) Falk (14) and Barbra Kolberg (15). Swedish Charles Falk married Norwegian Barbra Kolberg in Two Harbors, Minnesota in 1919. Charles was one of 10 children born to a family that emigrated about 1890 from the parish of Drev in Småland. Barbra was born at Drøbak, south of Oslo. Barbra's mother, Anna Marie Morstad, brought five children to America in 1906 after her husband, Marthin Kolberg died. There are stories in the Morstad family to rival the Fawkners; perhaps I will eventually get around to telling some of them.

If my math is correct, this all adds up to my American daughters' heritage being one-fourth Dutch, one-fourth Swedish, one-fourth German (with a little Danish mixed in), one-eighth Norwegian, and one-eighth English (with some Irish and Welsh behind the scene). It's not the most exotic heritage, but it is what it is.

But, here's the thing with those genes: because father's and mother's DNA recombine every generation, not all ancestors' genes get passed down equally. Thus, these heritage fractions are not precise. The Swedish might have won out over the German. Let's just say this is a plain old Northern European heritage.

I leave you with one thought: Ancestors are not optional. We are here because they were. For better or worse.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Ringgold Swedes: So, Who was Erik Anderson?

About a month ago, when I wrote my first blogpost about my Swedish grandfather, John Hanson (Johan Månsson), I really didn't think there was much to his story. I had not actively researched him for several years, but when I went back to review my files, I realized his story was richer than I remembered. This is the case of a young man, who lost both parents by age 14, lost an eye while working on a neighboring farm in Hyssna, Sweden, boarded a ship bound for Hull, passed by rail to Liverpool, landed in Quebec, and made his way to Ringgold County, Iowa, where a judge dismissed his petition for citizenship because in America he chosen to use his father's patronymic name as a surname.

Last week's post told the story of Andrew Swanson (Anders Svensson), who apparently recruited Johan Månsson to work as a farm laborer near tiny Tingley, about 15 miles from the Missouri line. This week, I am digging a little deeper into the immigration story. The same day (17 February 1912) that John Hanson declared his intention for citizenship at the courthouse in Mt. Ayr, another Swede, Erik Anderson also made his declaration. Who was Erik? What relation did he have, if any, to John Hanson?

The first clue came from Erik Anderson's citizenship file. A witness for his 1914 petition for citizenship was J. W. Fender, who stated he had been born in of Mercer County, Illinois -- the same county where Andrew Swanson had farmed before coming to Iowa. This was perhaps mere coincidence, but having followed the same migration path, perhaps the Fenders and Swansons knew each other. In 1910, Erik was a "servant" on the Fender farm in Liberty Township.

So, who was Erik? American immigration and Swedish emigration records reveal his identity. Erik Andersson landed at New York 21 March 1909 on the Baltic, which had sailed from Liverpool on the 12th. He had told authorities he was destined for Lamoni, Iowa (about 15 miles from Mt. Ayr), where he would be met by a "friend," A. W. Swanson. He gave his birthplace as Sätilla -- a parish a mere three miles west of Johan Månsson's home parish of Hyssna. Göteberg records list the 9 March departure of Erik Andersson of Sätilla.

The Baltic manifest stated that Erik's nearest relative at home was his father, August Anderson. Indeed, Sättila parish records list the birth and baptism in March 1886 of Erik, son of Carl August Andersson and Anna Charlotte Andersdotter. The 1925 Iowa state census of Ringgold County named the parents of Eric Anderson: Carl Anderson and Anna Anderson. Bingo!

It appears that Erik Andersson, like Johan Månsson, was recruited to Ringgold County, Iowa, by farmer Andrew Swanson. Johan had crossed with Swanson in the fall of 1908, and Erik followed the next spring. They had met on Swanson's farm the spring of 1909. If either ever worked on Swanson's farm, it was probably for only a short time. Both seem to have soon struck out on their own. By 1910, Erik worked on the Fender farm in Liberty Township, while Johan, now known as John Hanson, was on the Ashenhurst farm in Tingley Township. Eric Anderson married Luella Loy 5 September 1917. John Hanson married Edith Romkee 13 August 1918. The marriage records of both accurately named their fathers, but did not name their mothers; both stated they were born at Göteberg (spelled differently).

Here's the maddening part. I remember clearly that the packet of letters that produced the postmark that led me to my Hyssna cousins(see October 22 post) included two postcards sent him by Erik Anderson. From Boston, as I recall. Alas, I can not find them. We moved two years, and things are still appearing in the oddest places, so I'm confident that when they surface, they will help me wrap up the story.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Question in Hyssna: Why Iowa?

Johan Emmanuel Månsson was the youngest child of Måns Hansson and Christina Andersdotter. Måns was 49 when he married 27-year-old Christina in 1871. (Yes, Måns had not married before). He was 67 when Johan was born. You can probably guess what comes next.

Johan was only 10 when his mother died in 1899. Four years later, in 1903, his father died. Johan was just a lad of 14. From the journal I kept on our 1996 trip comes this story, from the neighbor lady, of Johan's father's death. "The clock in the parlor started chiming when he died and would not stop until someone opened the clock and stopped it. Also, the door to the house started banging by itself." On our first trip in 1993, we had heard the story about Johan's mother's death. She, we were  told, died from pneumonia after standing under the downspout of a gutter to cool of in the rain after working in a hot field all day.

About the time of his father's death, Johan went to work just across the road for the owner of the Löcko farm. Most of the stories that might have been told from the next five years have gone to the grave. We do know that Johan lived with the family across the road and worked as a farmhand, and we gather that he lost his left eye in a farm accident (see 5 November 2015 post).

Probably with only a single trunk of belongings -- the one that sits in our family room, Johan boarded the S.S. Ariosto 11 September 1908 at Göteborg bound for Hull (view photos of the Ariosto). He held a ticket through to Chicago. After a train ride across England, he sailed from Liverpool on the S.S. Kensington 17 September and arrived at Quebec 28 September. From there, he entered the United States by train and likely went to Chicago by train, and eventually on to Iowa.

His emigration and immigration records tell two interesting stories. First, as described in this blog two weeks ago, Grandpa Hanson was listed as Johan Emanuel Månsson. That was his patronymic name -- he was Johan, son of Måns Hanson. This caused a problem when he petitioned for U.S. citizenship as John Hanson (see 29 October post).

Second, both his Swedish departure record and the passenger arrival record indicates that he was traveling with Andrew E. Swanson, a U.S. citizen who was returning to the United States, destined for Mt. Ayr, Iowa. The Göteborg port police records show that Johan and Andrew sailed under the same contract number. While the departure record said both were traveling to Chicago (probably the endpoint in their contracts), the arrival record stated that both were destined for Mt. Ayr, Iowa. In the column naming the passenger's nearest relative at home, the manifest stated that Andrew Swanson had been naturalized in 1896 in Mercer County, Illinois. Removing any doubt that the two were traveling together, the second page of the arrival record states that Johan was traveling with "Andrew Swanson (friend)" of Mt. Ayr.

Andrew did first settle in Mercer County, Illinois, where he married Amelia Johnson 12 December 1894. By 1899, he had taken his family 240 miles west to Ringgold County, Iowa, where the 1900 U.S. Census listed a son born 1896 in Illinois and a second born 1899 in Iowa. Andrew Swanson told the census-taker that he had immigrated in 1885.

Why was Johan Mansson traveling to Mt. Ayr with Andrew Swanson?  The 1908 passenger arrival record did not name Andrew Swanson's home parish because he was a U.S. citizen. However, a search in 1885 Göteborg departure records reveals that 21 year-old Anders E. Svenson from Hyssna parish sailed on  6 March 1885. Hyssna parish records state that Anders Emil, born 28 February 1864 to Sven Jonasson and Anna Britta Andersdotter, had departed Hyssna 27 February 1885 for Illinois.

Was Anders/Andrew related to Johan Emanuel Mansson? Working back through the Hyssna parish records to the baptisms of Andrew's father and mother in 1827 and 1833, respectively, gives no indication of a family relationship. This may simply have been a case of a Swedish immigrant Iowa farmer returning to Hyssna for a visit after 20 years in America, during which time he induced Johan, a man with one eye and few prospects in Hyssna, to join him in Iowa, possibly to work on the Swanson farm.

Of course, as in all immigration stories, the question remains: What drew Anders Svensson, aka Andrew Swanson to Illinois in 1885.  Did he have friends or relatives already there? And, if so, why did they chose Ogle County? Andrew is not my ancestor, so I'll let someone else tackle that question.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Glass Eye: Memories Fade, Records Preserve

On the scale of family history, memory is an ephemeral thing. Facts that are recorded -- for example, births, marriages, deaths, inheritances, or military service -- can be rediscovered generations later.  Oral history fades quickly, if not recorded, a memory can fade within a single lifetime.

I think that is why I am compelled to write this week. The only grandfather I knew died when I was in junior high school. I remember too little about him. The story about killing rattlesnakes. Walks to the Breckenridge's general store in Tingley. His old Model A Ford. The awful cigar smoke. Watching the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night  and the Friday night fights (boxing) on TV. The great Swede, Ingemar Johansson, was his idol. (When I looked at Wikipedia just now, I was surprised to learn that Johansson died only five years ago). I laugh when I remember the time he proudly made his first batch of popcorn (my parents were out for the night), using vinegar instead of Wesson Oil.

Oh, I also remember him taking out his glass eye to show my brother and me.  I don't recall ever wondering why he had a glass eye. I don't remember really thinking about what it was like to see with only one eye. I might have even thought he could see with through the glass eye.

John E. Hanson World War I draft registration, Ringgold County, Iowa
Over time, I might have forgotten about the glass eye, but unbeknownst to me, at least part of the story was preserved in records. I wish I could remember when and how I found the records, but I was just a hobbyist genealogist at the time and didn't keep a research log. John Emanuel Hanson's World War I draft registration described him as tall (an exaggeration, I think), of medium build, with blue eyes, and light-colored hair (not bald) -- a fair description of a Swedish young man. The form also asked about any lost arms, hands, legs, feet, or eyes. The answer: "lost one eye."

After my mother died, I remember finding a small box with the glass eye and a receipt from the  American company that sold it to him -- I think I am remembering correctly, but I honestly don't know what happened to the items. In any case, I assumed Grandpa must have lost his eye after coming to America.

S.S. Kensington passenger manifest, Quebec,28 September 1908
Wrong. He crossed the Atlantic on the S.S. Kensington with only one eye. The passenger manifest forms asked about physical defects of immigrants. In the case of Johan Emanuel Mansson: "lost left eye through accident." This record also gave a slightly different physical descripton: 5' 9", "fresh" complexion, reddish hair, grey eyes.

Remember the neighbor woman in Hyssna who told the story about Johan selling all his belongings before leaving for America? My memory is fuzzy, but I think I remember her also telling me that Johan had lost an eye in a farm accident. I am not a journal-keeping type, but I did keep a daily journal of our family trips to Sweden in 1993 and 1996. Had the neighbor lady told me the story, you would think I would have written it down. I did record some other interesting stories (next week's post), but perusing my journals today, I don't find the story of how Grandpa lost his eye.  However, the journal tells me that my memory was mostly correct when I wrote last week about Johan selling everything and his family worrying that he would not survive the trip. According to my journal, the neighbor woman didn't tell the story; Åke did.

Memories warp, then fade. Or, perhaps they fade, then warp. Anyway, unless recorded, they eventually go bad. A memory worth preserving is a memory worth writing down. This is why people  should write down family stories, but also why family history researchers are thankful for records that preserve information about their ancestors.

Next week, I will return to the Kensington passenger manifest for clues that will help unravel how Johan Mansson ended up in Iowa, where he was known as John Hanson.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Though he killed Rattlesnakes, he was Denied Citizenship

Johan Emmanuel Hansson, aka John Hanson, was the only grandfather I knew. (My Fonkert grandfather died five years before I was born.) Last week, I told the story of how a postmark from old family letters led me to my second cousin's home in Hyssna, Sweden, where a photo in my cousin's mother's photo album drove home the fact that Åke and I were, in fact, cousins.

Grandpa and Grandma Hanson lived in the small -- actually, tiny -- town of Tingley in Ringgold County, Iowa.I have fond memories of twice yearly visits to their small wood frame house along the main street of the town of perhaps 300 souls. My father was a teacher, so there was usually a summer trip to Tingley. At least several years, we also made the 200-mile trip from "North Iowa" to "Southern Iowa" on Thanksgiving Eve. Leaving after school on Wednesday, we usually made it just past Des Moines by the time "The Wizard of Oz" came onto the radio. Winding up and down the hills of Southern Iowa in the dark, I was terrified by the Wicked Witches. (Oh, I have no idea why the northern part of Iowa is called "North Iowa" and the southern part is called "Southern Iowa.")

John Hanson, circa 1920s
Grandpa was a gentle man. The two things I remember most about him in Tingley were his ancient Model-A Ford (maybe it was a slightly newer model, but I swear I remember him cranking it), his cigars, and his stories about killing rattlesnakes in his pasture. With a pitchfork, as I recall. He was an honest man.

Born in Hyssna, Sweden, in 1888, he worked on a farm across the road from his home. On our 1993 trip, a descendant of the farmer told me that Johan sold everything he owned to pay for his passage across the ocean in 1908, under the name Johan Emmanuel Månsson -- son of Måns Hansson. He had taken no food with him and his family worried he wouldn't survive the trip

Record of Departure from Hyssna Parish

Passengers leaving Göteborg
He did arrive and soon was crossing another ocean, this time of grass, on his way to Ringgold County, where Swedes were a novelty. He filed a declaration of intent for citizenship in February 1912.He went back to court in October 1915 to file his petition ("second papers") for citizenship. The judge rejected the petition in part because, in the judge's eyes, Johan/John had used an assumed name.  In a motion to dismiss the petition, the Chief Naturalization Examiner for the State of Iowa concluded that Johan/John's application "was not made in his full and true name as demanded by statute" and that Johan/John used "an assumed and fictitious name."  In response to a question, Johan/John had admitted "his true name in his native country was Manson." You see, my grandfather had chosen to use Hanson instead of the patronymic Månsson, just as his siblings back in Sweden had done about that time. Patronymics were going out of style, and no true American would use them.

S.S. Kensington Manifest, Arriving Quebec
To be fair, the judge also ruled that the required witnesses "must cover the full period of residence" and in this petition did not. Why not? Because John Hanson told the court that he had been gone from Iowa for two short periods, the first from August through October 1911 and the second from late July through October 1915. Why? To earn money helping with the wheat harvest in South Dakota.

I felt a deep sense of injustice when I read the file. He must have subsequently appealed and received his citizenship because the 1920 census stated he was a naturalized citizen and he later received a Social Security number. There should be court records to confirm this; I need to search for them.

Why did a 20-year-old young Swede go to Southern Iowa to live among English, Germans, and Americans? I will try to answer that question next week.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hyssna Magic: You Really are My Cousin!

It all started with a postmark.

I remember asking my Swedish grandfather from where in Sweden he came. I seem to remember that he said Gothenburg. At the time, that seemed good enough.

 Johan Emmanuel Hanson died in 1964 in Iowa. His World War I draft registration said he was of medium build, but I remember him being on the slender side. He fit my stereotype of Swedish, with blue eyes and "light" (tending toward blond) hair. I don't know what possessed me (I was at most 13 years old) to ask him where he came from, but beyond his answer to that question, I don't remember him talking at all of Sweden or his family back home.

However, I had a packet of letters addressed to my grandfather in Iowa. Written mostly between 1910 and 1912, they were stamped and postmarked in Sweden and, of course, written in Swedish -- a language that was Greek to me. But, I did understand postmarks. At some point as a child, I had actually collected postmarks -- I'm not sure where I got the idea or what happened to the piles I collected. These letters were boldly postmarked "Hyssna."

 Hyssna was not obvious on any small-scale maps of Sweden. In 1992-93, one couldn't just Google "Hyssna" or type "Hyssna" into Google Maps or the Geonet Name Server (  Instead, I phoned the American Swedish Institute across the river in Minneapolis and asked for help. They gave me the postal code and told me that Hyssna was a small town of about 700 people about 25 miles southwest of Gothenburg.

I knew no Swedish, but could make out that at couple of later letters from the late 1950s came from Hildur Edberg. So, I did the obvious thing: I addressed a letter to "Family Edberg" in Hyssna, 55102 Sweden. (Wouldn't you know, my current U.S. Zip Code is 55113?). I had no idea if any Edbergs were still in Hyssna, but figured it's a small town, so maybe.

This was, perhaps, January. A few months later, about March or April, a letter postmarked Hyssna came back in the mail.  It was from Hildur's son, Åke. Yes, he remembered his mother saying that she had a cousin (my mother) in America. I wrote back, "Can we visit you in Sweden this summer?" Of course, he answered.

In August we drove up to an ordinary, commonplace red frame house on the edge of Hyssna. Åke and his brother Rolf where there to greet us. Dinner was on the table almost immediately. I have no idea what we had, but I'm sure it was good. (Sandwich cake came later).

After dinner, Åke went upstairs and brought down his mother's photo album. He turned to the first page and asked, "Do you know who these little boys are?" "Of course," I answered. "That's my brother and me."

We had already figured out the genealogy -- Åke and Rolf were my second cousins -- but, the proof was in the picture.  Somehow, a picture of my brother and me had found its way to Hyssna. My mother had sent a picture of her two young boys to her cousin whom she had never met.

Apart from the letters, there had been no contact between the Swedish and American families since Johan Emmanual Hanson emigrated in 1908. He had not returned to Sweden, none of his Swedish family had been to America. Finally, in 1993, the families had reconnected.

 Oh, yes... here's the photo.  At least, I think this is the one that was in
Åke's mother's album. This was 23 years ago, and I didn't think to take a photo of the album page. This photo is from the right time-frame, and it is what I picture in my mind's eye when I think about that evening in Hyssna.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Monty Python is not my Ancestor

As they used to say on Monty Python's Flying Circus,* "And now for something completely different."

A handful of you might have noticed that this blog went AWOL a few weeks ago. The author went car-tripping across the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, where he communed with bison, geysers, and granddaughters. He was in no position to do any serious blogging.

Before he hit the road, your blogger had spent five months working through the Fawkner family. He still has a long way to go. Some of greatest Fawkner foibles and tragedies are yet to come, but intrepid as he is, the blogger is simply not ready to tell some of the remaining stories the way they ought to be told.

For a mental break and to buy some time to figure out how to proceed with the Fawkners, the blogger plans to wander through some lighter Fonkert and Tidball family heritage stories over the next several weeks. This Thursday, he will tell how a 1910s postmark led to a photo album in Sweden with a 1950s photo of the blogger and his brother on the first page of his Swedish mother's photo album. The following week he will tell how, on the same trip, he met a 9th cousin in The Netherlands.

If you are exclusively a Fawkner follower, you might want to tune out for a while.  But, if you simply enjoy stories of family history discoveries, the blogger invites you to stay tuned over the next month or so while he comes to grips with the Fawkners.

* If you know about about the Flying Circus and things completely different, you are probably over 50.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chapter 23: Cyrus Dies at the Sailors and Soldiers Home

Military pension files can be rich sources for biographical information because applicants had to establish details of their physical condition and, oftentimes, the facts of marriages and family relationships. Physician's reports and affidavits regarding personal habits dominate Cyrus Fawkner's file.

Cyrus had multiple physical ailments, including heart disease and a double oblique inguinal hernia. Several affiants -- all using the same language -- attested that the hernia was not caused by "any vicious or immoral habits." They said the hernia was not any fault of the veteran. In a May 1895, while a resident in the Sailors and Soldiers Home at Quincy, Illinois, Cyrus swore that the hernia was sustained about 1884 while working with hogs. Cyrus said that he could secure no testimonials for the cause of the hernia because his wife and daughter "who knew of it are dead and no one here knows about it." He said it happened some 200 miles away (in Fairbury) and consequently he could not witnesses who knew of it. In August, he stated that the injury was sustained in January 1888 when he took a severe fall in the hog lot.

Details of the accident may be sketchy, but Cyrus most certainly was in the hog business. A February 1881 newspaper reported that Thomas Weeks of Fairbury had sold "to Fawkner & Hanna this week, 20 head of hogs that averaged 480 pounds each. A run in with a 480 pound hog could do a man some damage!

An acquaintance from Fawkner's Fairbury days observed that he "was a drinking man but her never saw him drunk and that he [claimant] might have been drunk a good many times and affiant not know it." Genealogists understand the logic: just because there is no evidence of something happening doesn't mean it didn't happen. Another affiant state,"the claimant is a moderate drinker.” The Special Examiner for the Pension Bureau responded: “The claim will probably bear investigation.”

It is not clear how long he lived in the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy. He may have lived in St. Louis at least part of the time between 1900 and 1910, because he was examined by doctors there in April 1905 and February 1907.

He apparently recovered enough to be able to live semi-independently for at least a short time. The 1910 census recorded him as a boarder in a private home in St. Louis, Missouri. At age 72, he was still working as a saddler in a harness shop. However, he soon moved into the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Danville, Illinois – a mere 60 miles from his hometown of Danville, Indiana. Cyrus died at the Soldier’s Home 22 June 1911.[14 Burial was in section 6, row 8, lot 1,478 of the Danville National Cemetery.

NOTE: The 4Gen Genealogy blogger is hitting the road again this morning for a visit to Wyoming and Colorado to commune with geysers, hot springs, and granddaughters. He expects to resume blogging in the last half of October -- perhaps venturing into entirely new territory. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chapter 22.1: Breaking News: Cyrus was Thrice-Married!

Breaking News: Cyrus W. Fawkner married three times after all.

I have more than once told genealogists that writing is a good way to clarify what you don't know. Sometimes, that paragraph needs just one more piece of information to tell the real story. Well, something similar can be said about cleaning off your desk. Sometimes, you rediscover that forgotten file that reminds you that you should have known more than you remembered when you were writing that paragraph.

Last week's post (Chapter 22) is a case in point. First, you probably haven't noticed, but I sneaked been back into my Blogspot account to the next day to "update" the article about Cyrus W. Fawkner. While playing around in an online historical newspaper index, I found a one-paragraph article documenting the death of Cyrus' second wife, Ann Ogden, and added that piece of information to last week's post. A convenient thing about digital publication is that it is easy to quietly edit what you published the day before.

Then, a couple of days later, while sorting through piles on my desk, I discovered two documents that proved something I had written wrong. I had written about Cyrus' two marriages -- to Laurie Came and Ann Ogden -- and remarked that Cyrus hadn't matched his brother, James, in the marriage derby. I also told of Cyrus' son, Charles W. Fawkner, marrying Ellen Robinson 27 February 1890. While writing last week's blog post, I had glanced at an index entry for the 1890 marriage (Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900, At first I thought, oh my, Cyrus had married a third time. But on second thought, knowing that in his Civil War pension documents Cyrus had specifically said he had been married only twice, to Laurie and Ann, that "C. W. must have been Cyrus' son, Charles W. Fawkner. Born about 1869, he was a just the right age for an 1890 marriage.

Yes, he was, but guess what I found in my files? I found copies of both the application for license and the marriage return. The groom was 51 years old and the bride, 37. The marriage registration clearly states that the groom's parents were Jno. C. Falkner and Ann Faulkner -- the John C. and Ann Fawkner who lived in Hendricks County, Indiana, in the 1830s, and had a son named Cyrus.

So, now I know that Cyrus, like his brother James C., married three times.  I'm still not sure what happened to his son, Charles W. That research question is not high on my list of research priorities, but I would like to know if he produced any more Fawkner descendants.

Yes, I will now go back to last week's blog and add a correction note.

LESSON: Nothing you write is perfect. Don't let the fear that you might have made a mistake keep you from writing. But, also look back through your files from time to time to see if something new catches your eye.

Image source: Livingston County, Illinois, Marriage Applications, Book 5, p. 442, Family History Library microfilm no. 1,401,629.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chapter 22: Cyrus W. Fawkner, Horse-dealer, Saddler, Harness-Maker

Remember Cyrus, the deaf barber in Minneapolis (Chapters 15-16)? He was probably named after his Uncle Cyrus, the Indiana-born brother of James C. Fawkner. Born 21 May 1837, Cyrus Fawkner was the fourth child of John Fawkner and Ann Faulconer. Compared to his brother, James, Cyrus seems to have lived a more ordinary life. I say "seems to" because we only get brief glimpses through the fog of time of moments in lives lived more than a century ago.

Cyrus was 22 when he married Launie Cames 22 June 1859 in Hendricks County. There is some uncertainty about the bride's name because the 1860 census (June 1860) recorded Cyrus Fawkner  with an apparent wife, Mary, age 18, born in Kentucky. "Launie" likely was a mispelling of Laurie, because a Laurie Fawkner was buried in the East Danville Cemetery about 1860. Possibly, she was possibly the 7-year old Laura E. Cames in the 1850 household of Richard and Eliza Cames of Madison in Jefferson County, Indiana. 

In 1860, Cyrus lived in the county seat Danville. The census enumerator did not record an occupation for Cyrus. His apparent wife, Mary, was 18. Mary probably was Laurie; in response to a pension bureau questionnaire in 1898, Cyrus stated he had been married only twice -- to Laura Cames and Ann E. Odgen (see below). While the pension file obfuscation about James C. Fawkner's marriages puts a researcher on guard, no evidence has been found for a marriage of Cyrus to a woman named Mary. Some doubt remains because he 1860 census reported that Mary had been born in Kentucky, while the 1850 daughter of Richard Cames was born in Indiana (her brother was born in Kentucky). The 1860 census was taken 1 June, so if Laura/Launie’s death date is later than June 1, the two women are likely the same. The death date may be carved on the gravestone, but has sunk below ground level.

Much of what is known about Cyrus comes from his Civil War pension file (application 1,051,754, certificate 916,816). Having lost his young wife, Cyrus probably had little reason to stay home. He enrolled in the Kentucky Cavalry, 8th Regiment, 21 August 1862 and mustered out 23 September 1863. He held the rank of private and regimental saddler. He was received to duty as “Syrus Faulkner." During May 1863 he suffered from typhoid fever. Why did Cyrus enlist in Kentucky? Good question; no good answer yet.

Back home after the war, Cyrus probably sold horses with his brother George. An 1863 IRS tax assessment list for Hendricks County listed “Fawkner & Bro.” as horse dealers. In 1865, C. W. and G. S. Fawkner were listed as operating a harness manufacturing business.

Toward the end of the war, he enlisted again in the Indiana Volunteers, 154th Regiment in April 1865. A saddler, he was discharged August 4 as a private at Stevenson, Virginia. Soon after coming home, he married Ann Ogden 8 October 1865, and rejoined George in a harness-making business in Danville. IRS assessment records show that they were still in business together in March 1866, but by June, Cyrus had moved to Fairbury in Livingston County, Illinois, where Cyrus opened his own saddlery business. Cyrus had probably left Danville by April, when the Danville business was known as Fawkner and Dunnington.

Cyrus and Anna had two children in the next few years: Alice (about 1866) and Charles (about 1869). Both the 1870 and 1880 censuses reported Cyrus' Fairbury occupation as harness-maker. Cyrus and Anna had two more children: Minnie, born about 1872, and Frank, born about 1879. The family lived in town on Locust Street. His pension application indicates that, sometime between about 1888 and 1891, he moved to Naples in Scott County, Illinois, where he again was a saddler.

It is not known if Cyrus has any living descendants. His son, Frank, married a Missouri woman abut 1907, but censuses don't indicate any children. When an April 1898 Pension Bureau questionnaire asked "Have you any children living?" Cyrus listed only the two sons -- Charlie W. and Frank J. The daughters might have died young. He also told the Pension Bureau that the only two people -- his wife and daughter -- that knew how he had sustained a hernia had died. A Bloomington (Ill.) newspaper reported that Cyrus' wife, Ann, died 2 January 1888 of consumption. An 1891 newspaper article reported that Minnie, "afflicted with the consumption," had returned home to Fairbury after being sent away for a year to southern Illinois.

Charles married Mrs. Ellen J. Bowers Robinson 27 February 1890 in Livingston County. (Update: The C. W. Fawkner who married Ellen Robinson was not Charles, but his father, Cyrus. See Chapter 22.1, 24 September 2015). For the moment, nothing more is known about Ellen.was possibly living in St. Louis in 1900. Charles Fawkner died about 1915, buried Naples Cemetery, Scott Co. Illinois, but has not been found with certainty in the 1900 or 1910 censuses.

Frank was possibly in Jones County, Iowa, in 1900, and was in St. Louis in 1910. However, he was soon back in Scott County, Illinois, where he married Mary Hoffarth in 1911. Censuses don't report any children. . Frank Fawkner died 5 Feb 1945, Beardstown, Cass County, Illinois, and was buried in Antonia, Jefferson County, Missouri.

Ill-health forced Cyrus into the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois, where he lived in 1900, Quincy, Adams County. Cyrus applied for a pension 26 August 1891. All in all, he appears to have lived a mostly ordinary life for a Civil War veteran in the last decades of the 19th century. Next week, we will dig deeper into his Civil War pension file and learn about his later years in soldiers' and sailors' homes in Quincy and Danville, Illinois.

LESSON: Writing this week's post reminded me of a simple lesson. We just can't know everything about all the members of an ancestral family. We can't follow every descendant. There just isn't time. We have to pick and chose and focus on energy on questions we most want to answer.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Chapter 21: Back to the Beginning -- Elizabeth A. K. Fawkner

After a week off with the loons Up North, it's hard to know where next to take this blog. I certainly didn't think I'd still be spinning out the Fawkner story after 20 weeks. Let's backtrack a bit before moving forward.  Way back in Chapter 4, we used guardianship records to identify James C. Fawkner's four siblings: Elizabeth A. K., John E., Cyrus W., and George S. Learning something about them might help us better understand James' family. (You might want to go back and review Chapter 19 to recapture the big picture).

I'll start with the oldest, Elizabeth -- a convenient beginning because the Thursday deadline is looming and I know less about her than James' brothers. Seventeen year-old Elizabeth married Eli Morgison, 5 April 1849 in Hendricks County, Indiana. The name variously appears as Margason and Morgason. Little is known about their life together, but several pieces of fragmentary evidence offer a sketchy outline. In 1850 and 1860, they lived near Wesley and Ann Sears in Marion Township. By 1870, they had moved to Bowdre Township in Douglas County, Illinois. Eli and Elizabeth had 10 children: John W., L. A. (female), James, Edgar, Nancy, Joseph, Dan, A. J. (m), and Kemp, and a baby girl.

The family likely went west to Douglas County about 1864, between the births of Dan and A. J. ("Jackson" in the 1880 census). The Morgison's presence in Douglas County might explain James C. Fawkner's move to Coles County in the early 1870s. An 1875 land ownership map showed Eli or E. Morgason owning about 433 acres just east and southeast of the town of Hinesboro.

Eli Morgason probably died about 1874. When Nancy, using the name Nannie, applied for a passport in 1918, she stated that her father was born at Lexington, Kentucky, and lived continuously in the United States from 1824 to 1874. (She had previously applied for a passport in 1910 as an unmarried dentist). Nannie was living in Coles County, Illinois, when she made her application. In 1920, Nannie was living in Oakland, Coles County.

Absent a photo of Elizabeth, Nannie's passport application photo -- indistinct as the image is -- may give some idea of what Elizabeth Fawkner Morgason looked like.

Her son, Kemp Morgason, was still living in Bowdre Township in 1900. The household included wife Adelia, 29, Helen, 3, and  Blanche, 1.  Kemp moved back to Terre Haute Township, Vigo County, Indiana, by 1910. He married Adelia Watts, daughter of George Watts,  21 February 1890 in Coles County, Illinois.

That's all, folks. That's all I know for now about the Morgison/Morgason family. However, the family's residence in east-central Illinois provided an important piece of evidence in the story of James C. Fawkner's life. It was Elizabeth whose 1892 affidavit implicitly denied her brother's second marriage to Elizabeth Stephens (see Chapter 11). Elizabeth stated that she had been present at the funeral of James' first wife (Elizabeth Sears) in the spring of 1854. Elizabeth Morgason, of course, knew James's third wife (Julia Ann Angell) well, but told the pension board that James "was never married to another except the claimant and surviving widow (Julia Ann).

LESSON: It almost always pays to follow siblings of your main person of interest. In this case, following the Morgason family to Illinois helps explain why James C. Fawkner moved from Missouri to Coles and Douglas counties of Illinois.

Source for photo of Nannie Morgason: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 449; Volume #: Roll 0449 - Certificates: 250-499, 03 Jan 1918-05 Jan 1918.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Chapter 20: Doubling Back to the Montrose Graveyard

Note: This post is revised from the author's article that appeared in The New Montrose Journal, 7:4 (June 2011), p. 3 and was reprinted in the Keokuk (IA) Daily Gate, 19 May 2011, p. 5.

You may recall that the story of James C. Fawkner's life passed through the quiet Mississippi River town of Montrose, Iowa (see Chapters 8 and 9).

The satellite view of Montrose on Google Maps on my computer screen looks much like what I saw a a few years ago from 30,000 feet on a flight from Memphis to Minneapolis-St. Paul. I see a pleasant-looking town with a square-grid street layout fronting on the Mississippi River. On the north side of town, I see the roof-top of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. What I can not see is a gravestone that helped solve a family history puzzle.

I had never seen Montrose from ground-level, but I knew I needed to visit. As I knew then, and you know now, my wife's second-great-grandfather, James Fawkner, lived in Montrose from about 1856 to 1860. He and his wife Elizabeth lived next door to river pilot William Owens. As you also know, after his first wife died in the early 1850s in Hendricks County, Indiana, he remarried to Elizabeth Stephens, and the couple set out for Montrose.

Why Montrose? A look back to the 1850 U.S. Census gave a clue. James Fawkner had an older stepbrother, Cornelius Fawkner. Cornelius had been born about 1822 from one of their father’s previous marriages in Kentucky (see blogger's article in National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 99 (September 2011), 165-84). Cornelius Fawkner (spelled “Faulkner” in the census) was living in Montrose in 1850. He was a boatman living with – yes the same William Owens, a carpenter at this point in time.

Cornelius Fawkner had married Elizabeth Kite in Hendricks County, Indiana, in 1841. Oddly, with the appearance of Cornelius’ half-brother James in Montrose in 1856, I lost track of Cornelius and Elizabeth. (I later learned that Cornelius died in the 1860s in St. Louis, where he was a river boat pilot).

I knew that Cornelius’ Fawkner’s mother was Ida Cozine, whose family was part of what is known as the “Kentucky Low Dutch.” My curiosity about Montrose went up a notch when I attended the 2009 “Dutch Cousins” gathering in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. There, I met Linda Hayes of Montrose. Linda’s family was descended from the Low Dutch.

I have since learned that a handful of Dutch families – notably the Dorland and van Arsdal families – had settled in or near Montrose. I began to wonder about possible relationships between the Fawkners and these Montrose families. So, in April 2011 I posted an article on this blog (in its formerly active days) about some Dutch families that migrated from Kentucky to Montrose in the 1840s and 1850s.

The Internet connects people with common interests at warp speed. The next day, I got a phone call from a Montrose history buff who had seen my blog. She was Barbara Macleish, who lives just a few miles across the Mississippi from me in Minneapolis. She knew about Fawkners in Montrose. She told an amazing story about the St. Barnabus graveyard stones having been removed some 40 years ago and mostly lost. Then a few years ago, four stones were found under a row of trees near the old graveyard (which existed before St. Barnabas was established). Barbara put me in touch with Mary Sue Chatfield, a Montrose resident who had photographed the gravestones. It was my good fortune that one of the four stones reads:

Wife of
July 15, 1850

Elizabeth had died six weeks before the census-taker visited on August 28. I now knew a little bit more about the life of Cornelius Fawkner. I still didn’t (and still don't) know if he and Elizabeth had any children.

I did know, however, that I needed to visit Montrose to see the place that young Cornelius and James Fawkner brought their families. Although I had missed Montrose, I had been to Lee County before. In one of those serendipitous twists of family history, ancestors on both my and my wife’s side of the family passed through Lee County in the mid-1800s. My Romkey and Gerloff ancestors spent time a few miles north on either side of the Skunk River. So, Lee County has a strong family history pull for both my wife and me.

I have now been to Montrose, where Mary Sue and her husband gave me a grand tour around the small, history-rich community across the river from Nauvoo. And, I now have my own photographs of Elizabeth's grave -- not as good as Mary Sue's.  Elizabeth Kite Fawkner is not related to me.  She is only distantly related by marriage to my wife, but she has given me one of my most memorable family history research experiences.

The blogger will be vacationing next week in an Internet wilderness, so this blog will also take a one-week vacation. The anticipated next post will be September 10.