Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Photos of Couples, 1852-1974

So this isn't a terribly substantial post, but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. The semester is coming to an end and I find myself incredibly busy, so this is the relatively simple project that is getting tackled this month. I put together all the photos of couples in my family tree. Many are aunts and uncles or cousins, but several are my direct ancestors. They are arranged in chronological order.

Mary Elizabeth Redding & Russell Howard McKee
married on October 13, 1852

James Wilkinson Gammon & Armilda Eliza Myers
married on November 19, 1852 in Monroe, IA

Isaac Newton Morrison & Lydia Josephine Gammon
married in December 1879 in Centerville, IA

Anna Mary Seufer & Newton Franklin Gammon
married on February 14, 1880 in Decatur County, IA

Katharine Rebecca Wilson & John Overington
married on November 5, 1889 in Philadelphia, PA

married on November 16, 1903 in Philadelphia, PA

Walter Smart McKee & Willie May Maxson

Albert Clate Gammon & Abigail Ruth Lester
married on January 1, 1907 in Ringgold County, IA

James Mathias Gammon & Carrie Bernice McKee
married on November 9, 1921 in Los Angeles, CA

Edgar Percival Jones and Claudia Overington

Howard McKee Gammon & Claudia Overington Newman
married on June 3, 1944 in Roswell, NM

Gisele & Walter Leonard McKee
Jack Leroy Upper & Claudia Overington Reid
married in 1950

Shirley Bubadias & Victor Carl Fetzer
married on August 2, 1953 in Neptune, NJ

Jim Gammon & Wanda Starnes
married on November 25, 1974 in Bel Air, MD (shown)
and on July 16, 1983 in Belmar, NJ

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Incredible AncestryDNA Story

A few weeks ago, I spit in a tube and mailed it to Ancestry.com. No, really. It's part of their new program, now in the beta stage, called AncestryDNA. I won't go into the details because their website does a much better job of it here. It's just become available to the general public for $199 or to Ancestry.com subscribers for $129. The test traces your genetic code back hundreds of years. I am not in any way compensated for my promotion of AncestryDNA, I simply find it a very worthwhile investment. My results were, to say the least, shocking.

Screenshot of my actual AncestryDNA results. Click to enlarge.

I'm almost three-quarters Scandinavian! If you'd have asked me before I took this test, I would have told you I was three-quarters British and one-quarter German and who knows what else. As you can see on the map, sixteen of the ancestors in my family tree were born in the UK and two in Germany. Everyone else that I know the birthplace of was born in the United States or Puerto Rico.

As baffling as this was at first, it has come to make a certain amount of sense. Over the last thousand years, Scandinavians made various invasions into the rest of Europe. The most likely scenario is that my ancestors were Scandinavians that migrated into central and southern Europe, married the locals, and then moved, as many people did, into the UK in later generations. It seems a colossal coincidence that they then married other people of Scandinavian descent, particularly once they made it the US, but it's not impossible. I hope to get my parents and grandparents to take the DNA test as well to get a more detailed view, as my DNA contains only a selection of each of theirs.

Now, I promised you an incredible story and although so far it's been a strange and unexpected one, I wouldn't call it incredible. The real story here is in another feature of AncestryDNA, which shows you a list of members that share genetic markers with you and are likely to be your cousins. They're sorted by the estimated distance of the relationship. My very first result was a user named Terry_Cott. I didn't even think twice about his name until after I clicked on it and Ancestry suggested that, based on our trees, we shared a common ancestor - Joseph Cott.

Joseph Cott has always been something of a mystery to me, and someone I thought I'd never know the full truth about. That's probably still true, but in the past week I have learned far, far more about him than I ever thought I would. So, a little background is required. Joe was my great-grandfather - my mother's mother's father. We knew him as Joseph Cott Bubadias, a truck driver. He was my great-grandmother's second husband, and they had six children together before he abandoned the family. He moved to north Jersey, changed his last name to Cott, and had another family, including two daughters. I knew from my research that Joe was married to a woman named "Kath" after my great-grandmother. I knew his birth year varied depending on the record, as did his birthplace - sometimes it was Oklahoma, sometimes Puerto Rico. On one record, he even indicated his race as Cherokee. I was hopelessly lost in contradicting information. I felt like he was laughing at me from beyond the grave, as if he had intentionally muddled the trail to stop me from knowing the truth.

We thought that was the end of the story until Terry got back to me. As it turns out, Joe's birth name was Jose Cott, and he was born in Puerto Rico. Terry is Joe's grandson through his first marriage, a marriage that my family didn't know anything about. His father is my grandmother's half-brother. He is my mother's first cousin. Terry and I are still exchanging emails and photos. It will take some time for both of us to adjust to knowing one another. Maybe someday we will meet.

For now, this is just the incredible story of how my DNA connected my grandmother and the brother she's never met.

My grandmother Phyllis in 1952.

My great-aunt Shirley in 1953.

Terry's father Allen Cott in 1943.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Real Estate Appraisal of Oaklands, 1950

I was at the Overington Family Reunion last weekend and brought some of my family documents. This one was a favorite and I was asked to scan it and post it here so that everyone can have a copy. It's the real estate appraisal of Oaklands on August 4, 1950, two months before William Overington, Jr. passed away.

You can read it for yourself; it's pretty self-explanatory.

The last paragraph there on the back is blocked by the photos and reads:
Valuation based on its Best Possible Usage. Dwelling is very old & in very poor condition. Would not pay to re-condition or remodel same. Eventually dwelling will have to be removed so that building can be developed to its Best Usage. (Apartments or dwellings, or both.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Free Access to U.S. Censuses 1790-1940 on Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com has recently finished indexing the 1940 census that was released to the public earlier this year. In celebration, they are opening up over 713 million census records to free public access until September 3, 2012. To give it a whirl or for more information, go here. They've also uploaded a free guide that you can download in PDF to help guide you through your search.

There's also a nifty little device called the 1940 Time Machine that, with some basic information about you, will put your face into a short video about what your life may have been like if you lived in 1940. It's quick, easy, and rather charming. Try it out here

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oaklands Photo Album

I wrote a post about Oaklands nearly a year ago now, with what I knew about the house. In that post, I said that there aren't very many pictures of the house. As it turns out, that is a completely untrue statement. I simply had not found (or identified) many of them yet. In this post, I am including photos from my personal collection as well as photos from the Philadelphia Department of Records. This latter set were taken when the city took possession of the property, to document it before demolishing the house.

I have reused the map from my previous post, but not any of the photos so refer to that post, as well, for more pictures.

Let's start with a plan of the property from a 1920 atlas of the city. This is oriented so that the top is NE, bottom is SW. The house faces southeast - towards Leiper Street - and has a curved drive up to the back of the house on Pilling Street. The other large building is the stable or barn.

On to the photos! I've put in a jump break because this is a long list of photos, so click "Read More" to see the rest of the post.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Documenting a Marriage, Part 2

The Marriage of William Overington, Jr. and Claudia Wetherill Fries, my great-great-grandparents

I'm still looking at the Overington family for now but this time around I'd like to show how useful newspaper clippings can be. Now, I don't have access to these newspapers on microfilm and so I can't give you advice on going through old papers, but my point here is that you shouldn't throw away any scrap of paper among your family's things without actually reading it. This clipping and another were tucked into a family bible and were falling to pieces - I am forever grateful that I didn't just toss them out, especially because I do not have a copy of their marriage certificate so all my information comes from these articles.

If you remember last month, I mentioned my genealogist great-great-grandfather. I was looking at his parents' marriage and this month, I'm looking at his.

The Frankford Gazette, 16 November 1903

Wedding Bells at Old Oxford Trinity Church. Brilliant 

Reception at "The Pines," the Home of the Groom. 
One of the most beautiful and impressive weddings of the season took place in the historic "Old Trinity Church, Oxford," on Monday evening at 6 o'clock, when Miss Claudia Wetherill Fries was united in Marriage to Mr. William Overington, both well known young people of Frankford. The picturesque little church was artistically decorated with palms and choice chrysanthemums, and was filled to its utmost capacity. The ceremony was performed by the rector Rev. Horace F. Fuller. To the ever beautiful and solemn strains of the march from Lohengren, played on the organ by Mr. James Baird, the bridal procession, in perfect rymth moved up the aisle of the church the bride leaning on the arm of her brother Mr. Horace Teese Fries, who gave her away. The best man was Mr. John R. Savage, a life long companion of the groom. The ushers were Mr. Arthur G. Singer Mr. William W. Foulkrod, Jr., Mr. Henry K. Fries, Mr. George R. Wilson, and Mr. John A. Page. The first three are the sole surviving bachelors of the Thirteen Club of which the groom had been a member for many years.
The bride wore an exquisite gown of white panne crepe de chene, with veil and orange blossoms, a magnigcent diamond sunburst, the gift of the groom, and a shower boquet of lillies of the valley. Miss Louisa Fries, sister of the bride, was maid of honor and wore a beautiful gown of pink crepe de chen. THe bridesmaids were Miss Helen E. Fries, Miss Edith E. Good, and Miss Sarah C. Goodfellow, who wore gowns of white mull most effective in their simplicity.
Immediately after the ceremony, the bridal pair returned to the "Pines," their future home at Leiper and Orthodox streets, where an elaborate reception was held. The grand old mansion is an ideal place in which to entertain, for while over five hundred persons were present at no time was the stairway or hall crowded. Refreshments were served most bountifully on the spacious porch which had been enclosed and the interior illuminated with small incandescent lights and twined with smilax, for the occasion. A most joyous spirit of good cheer seemed to pervade the entire assemblage. 
The bouquet thrown by the bride as her final message of good will to her young friends was caught by her younger sister, Miss Helen, and if there be anything in signs, we know who our next bride is to be. The bride and groom left on their wedding trip midst a shower of rice and confetti, and will be gone about two weeks. The gifts were exceedingly numerous and were particularly noticeable for elegance and refinement; there were also a number of bank checks of large denomination. Many good wishes follow the happy pair wherever they may be, and a host of true friends are ready to greet them on their return.
I love this clipping. It's a perfect example of how a family and a community represents itself at a wedding. From a genealogical standpoint, there is detailed information on the whole family and it mentions all their friends. It describes the wedding gown, which is an amazing companion to the photograph I have of it. A textile historian (Leimomi Oakes, to be specific) graciously looked at this photo for me last year and informed me that the style was the height of fashion in 1903 and likely to have been quite expensive.

Claudia Wetherill Fries in her wedding gown, 1903
The two newspaper articles about the wedding (the one above and another from the Frankford Dispatch), even though they are local papers, seem to back up the idea that it was an extravagant wedding and meant to make a very clear statement of status to the community. It's a good thing they got those "bank checks of large denomination," because I'm sure they needed help paying it off!

William and Claudia, early 1900s (poss. 1901)
I believe that they were honestly a happy couple. Just look at that tintype and try to tell me he doesn't adore her! You may also remember the goofy newspaper photo they took in 1901 (in this post).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Documenting a Marriage, Part 1

The Marriage of Thomas Fogden Overington and Jane R. Burns, my great-great-great-grandparents

Thanks to my genealogist great-great-grandfather, I have a great deal of information regarding my family's history. Among all the photos and papers are some incredible references to weddings. Today I'm looking at his parents' wedding.

This is a letter from Thomas Rowland Jr., apparently a friend of the family. It is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek request for the services of a Reverend George Sheets at the wedding of Thomas Fogden Overington and Jane Burns. What I find particularly humorous about this is that I'm fairly certain Thomas Rowland's brother Benjamin and Thomas Overington's sister Sarah had married two years earlier. Here is a transcription:
My friend T. F. Overington about making a change from the life of a Bachelor to that of a married one; desired that I would write requesting your services on the reason of his wedding. Prompted in making this request for the desire of his intended Bride (Miss Jane Burns), as well as in accordance with his own feelings on the subject, his esteem & affection towards a leash & divine from early association being centered in yourself, a favourable answer would be particularly desirable. Tuesday the 5th day of June at about 10 o'clock is the day & time appointed for the ceremony. Please address care S&B Rowland Co. undersigned at 61 South Second St. Very respectfully, Thomas Rowland, Jr.
As it turns out, Rev. George Sheets was available to perform the ceremony because I also have this document:

Here Rev. Sheets puts their marriage into writing:
Whereas application has been made to me by Thomas F. Overington and Jane Burns, both of Frankford, Philadelphia, Pensylvania [sic], to be unified together in holy Matrimony, and find upon due examination that there is no legal let or impediment by reason of precontract consanguinity, affinity, nor any other just cause whatsoever, to hinder their marriage; This is therefore to Certify that the said Thomas F. Overington and Jane Burns were joined in wedlock by me. Given under my hand this fifth day of June, AD, 1855. George Sheets, Rector of St. James' Church, Stanton, Delaware
And finally, here are the happy couple (albeit individually and at different times):

Jane "Jenny" R. Burns (1836-1927)

Thomas Fogden Overington (1828-1877)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Melancholy Letter

Today, I want to share with you a letter written to my great-great-grandfather Dr. Robert Burns by his father, also named Robert. He was clearly a deeply troubled man by the time he wrote this letter on June 20, 1833 in Philadelphia. He was born in Ireland, married in Scotland, and then moved back to Ireland before leaving for America. Here are some excerpts:
Dear Robt, not finding myself fit to go to-day, I’ll try to give you that promised account of my parentage, and even this I’m scarcely fit for: these some days past there has been such a weight on my spirits, such a pressure of thought on my mind that I could hardly bear it: It has been painful to me to speak or lift my eyes. [...]
My grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s age, I don’t recollect, but they died without any stain on their character that ever I heard. [...]
My father moved to Kells Daid Co and commenced business, carrying on the hatting trade for twenty-two years. Here we were all born, nine children, three boys, Sampson, Richard, and Robert; and six daughters, Margaret Anne (who came to Philadelphia), Rachel, Elizabeth, Nancy, Mary and Jane. My mother died of her last confinement, when I was about seven years old. My eldest sister, Margaret, was brought home from boarding school after my mother’s death, having got a good education; she married at sixteen years of age one of my father’s journeymen; they went into business for themselves, leaving my father exposed to strangers, to conduct his household affairs; he would not marry again, and being grieved for his losses, gave up business, and wrought journey work, nearly the remainder of his days. My two younger sisters came under the guardianship of the Cox family, while I was supported and educated by my father’s industry, until I was fourteen years of age, at which time I was bound to my trade. [...]
Then I moved to Newtownards, here Elizabeth, Mary, James Jr., and two infant children who died were born. In Newtownards I carried on my trade to pretty good effect for fifteen years, when I conceived the foolish and unwise project of coming to Philadelphia; and within three years I have lost two of my children. It is useless for me to relate or comment more, I’ll leave the remainder of my life to you to conclude, trusting in that Merciful Being, who has brought me through the various scenes of the part of my life, that he will conduct me through the remainder in such a way as my fathers were, viz: that no stain will blot my character, as to my duty towards God, and as to my duty towards my neighbors. As to my duty towards God, it is so blotted that nothing but the all-atoning merits of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ can wipe away my sins.
Unfortunately, I don't know when  he died so I can't tell you whether this was shortly before his death or not. It does seem that he believed his death was imminent. My best estimate is that he was born in 1786, making him about 47 years old when he wrote this.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

1940 is coming!

From Ancestry.com:
The National Archives and Records Administration will open the 1940 U.S. Federal Census on April 2, 2012—the first time this collection will be made available to the public. Once we receive the census, we will begin uploading census images to our site so the public can browse them. Initially, this collection will be what we call a browse-only collection. This means a person can scroll through the pages of the census districts much like you would look at a microfilm or a book. At the same time, we will be working behind the scenes to create an index of the census that will eventually allow people to search for their family members by name as they currently can with all other censuses onAncestry.com. Note also that the 1940 U.S. Federal Census will be accessible free of charge throughout 2012 on Ancestry.com.
 Ancestry.com has made me one of their 1940 Aces - I'll be one of the first people to get information about the upcoming release of the 1940 census on their website, as detailed above. I will be sharing that information here as I receive it, so check back soon for more news!

In the meantime, Ancestry.com has a microsite up for the 1940 census, which you can get to by clicking on my Ace badge below or in the sidebar on the right.