A single cardstock photo and a cryptic set of family history notes launched a family history adventure several years ago. Jim Fawkner, with a bayoneted rifle, stovepipe hat, and G.A.R. ceremonial uniform faced the photographer sometime about 1870. The notes named James Coleman Fawkner and Julia Ann Angell, describing Julia as a southern girl standing at the top of a stairway. James apparently saw her standing there and declared, "I'll be back to marry you."
In this case, there at least was a simple starting point. Elizabeth Ann Ehlenbach died 3 February 1952 in Superior, Wisconsin. Her obituary said she was born in Missouri and came to Duluth, Minnesota, in 1893. Her death certificate named her parents: James and Julia Ann Fawkner. A third document filled in some of the blanks. A handwritten funeral memorial booklet stated "Mrs. Ehlenbach was born in Sturgeon, Mo., July 25, 1870. Her father James Coleman Fawkner, and mother Julia Ann Angell, both born in the U.S., were married near Sturgeon, Mo., Nov. 10, 1862. Her father, a Volunteer from Illinois, served four years in the Union army.
The memorial booklet placed the family in Arcola, Illinois, prior to the move to Duluth. The first order of business was to find the family there. The Fawkner name is not common, but many variants of the name, including Faulkner and Faulconer, are. The 1880 U.S. Census enumerated the family of James and Julia "Falkner" in Coles County, Illinois, just a few miles across the county line from Arcola, which lies near the southern border of Douglas County. The family consisted of:
- James Falkner, 51, born Kentucky,
- Julia, 38, born Missouri,
- Grant, 16, born Missouri,
- Cyrus, 10, born Missouri,
- Elizabeth, 9, born Missouri,
- Mattie, 6, born Illinois,
- Attie, 6, born Illinois, and
- Henry, 3, born Illinois.
The family had apparently moved to Illinois between about 1871 and 1874. Finding the family in Missouri was not quite as easy because Soundex searches for Fawkner (F236) or Faulkner/Faulconer (F425) do not turn up the family. Instead, a page-by-page search found the family of James C. and Julia A. "Falker" in Township 51 North of Boone County; the post office was at Sturgeon.
I was a beginner at the time, so I was quite pleased with my census sleuthing. I had no clue toward finding James Fawkner ("Falkner?") prior to 1870, so the next step required a little luck. The next installment of this blog will take James Fawkner back to 1850 -- although his whereabouts in 1860 will remain unknown through several more installments.
LESSON: Start with a certainly known ancestor. Work back a generation at a time.