Saturday, April 8, 2017

SNGF: Family Numbers

Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF) challenge this week caught my attention.

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is to:
1) Pick one of your sets of great-grandparents - if possible, the one with the most descendants.
2) Create a descendants list for those great-grandparents either by hand or in your software program. 3) Tell us how many descendants, living or dead, are in each generation from those great-grandparents.
4) How many are still living? Of those, how many have you met and exchanged family information with? Are there any that you should make contact with ASAP? Please don't use last names of living people for this - respect their privacy.
5) Write about it in your own blog post, in comments to this post, or in comments or a Note.

1) I've selected my mother's father's father and mother, John Hiram Richmon Sharpe SWICEGOOD and Marth Elizabeth COFFEY for this challenge. I've actually been working on this line, and John Hiram's siblings lines, recently.

2) I created an outline descendant chart in Family TreeMaker.

3) Children: John and Martha had four children. One died at birth. The other three are all dead.
    Grandchildren: 7; one (my uncle, age 91+, still living
    Great grandchildren: 17; all living except 2
    Great great grandchildren: at least 14; all living; probably more from a line I can't seem to trace
    3rd great grandchildren: at least 10; all living; probably more from a line I can't seem to trace
    4th great grandchildren; none that I know of

4) I am in contact with all of my first cousins, at least to some extent. As a child, I met both of my grandfather's sisters. They scared the heck out of me. My grandfather's older sister had no children. His younger sister had one son, who I apparently met as a young child. He died in Colorado in 1975 and I have not had much luck tracing his descendants. Total increase is at least 48.

I need to try harder to track down the descendants of my grandfather's younger sister. I'm pretty sure my living uncle is the only descendant of his grandparents on both sides still living.

Friday, March 10, 2017

100th Anniversary of Mother's Birth

Today, March 10, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of my mother's birth.
She died in 1996, so didn't make it to 80.
For the last several weeks, my mother keeps popping into my head.
And I keep thinking how different her life would have been if she'd been born in 2017 instead of 1917.
Mother, Nancy Leah Swicegood, was born in the small Ozark town of Weaubleau, Hickory County, Missouri.

Fairly soon after she was born, Mom's family moved to Otis, Washington County, Colorado. Her father, William Earl Swicegood had gotten a lead on work from his brother-in-law, Clio Vanderford (husband of his sister, Pearl). According to local newspapers, Earl got quite a few contracts with the county for concrete work. The family stayed in Otis until at least 1922, but mother Fay returned to Weaubleau several times. In August 1918, Fay somehow spilled a pot of boiling water over Leah, then a tiny toddler. Fay's mother and sister came out to Otis and they took Leah back to Weaubleau to nurse her burns. In 1919, Fay and daughters returned to Weaubleau for the birth of a third daughter, Nina Lee (born November 1st). At the time of the 1920 US Census, the family was still living in Otis and Earl was working as a contractor on a bridge project. Leah was listed as "Leo F." a male. From the photo at left, it's not surprising that the census taker might mistake her for a little boy!

The family of five returned to Weaubleau by fall 1922 so that the eldest daughters, Dee and Leah, could start school. It's not clear whether they both started school that fall or just Deloris. By all accounts, Mom excelled in school. One of her first cousins often told a story about how they were in the first grade together one day and the next day Mom was promoted to the second grade. Unfortunately, she would not talk about her childhood. I know she was a very good debater in high school and apparently the smartest person in her small graduating class.

But by the time she graduated from high school on May 10, 1934, she was deeply in love with a man a couple of years her senior, L. Jay Thomson. She apparently turned down an all-expenses-paid scholarship to the University of Missouri in favor of working as assistant Postmaster to her mother at Weaubleau. She and Jay were married on October 12th, 1935, but I'm not sure where or by whom. Their license was issued in Camdenton, Camden County, Missouri, but was not returned there. A daughter, Elsie Ann Thomson, was born on February 11th, 1936 and died five days later. She is buried in the Weaubleau Congregational Christian Church cemetery in Weaubleau. Jay was not present at the birth, as the couple was already estranged at that time. Mom filed for divorce on April 14th and the divorce was granted on Nov. 16th, 1936 on the grounds of "unreconcileable differences." Jay clearly did not want the child and insisted that she either abort it or give it up for adoption. Mom disagreed, but never once talked about this phase of her life or even admitted to this marriage and baby.

As far as I can tell, Mom left Weaubleau fairly soon after the death of her daughter and filing her application for divorce. She spent time with her grandparents in Jefferson City (Nov 1936-Jan 1937), attended comptometry school in Springfield (Feb-April 1937) and went to work for the Soil Conservation Service in Columbia, Missouri (April 1937-April 1942), and lived for a short time with her older sister in Jefferson City. At the time of the 1940 Census, she was rooming with a family and two other girls who all worked as comptometers. She did not admit to being divorced or having had a child. Her salary was $1169 per year. Curiously, the 1940 Columbia City Directory shows her renting an apartment at 109 Price ave. (same as census address) with her younger sister, Nina, a student.

On May 21, 1942 the Women's Army Air Corps was authorized by the U. S. Congress to recruit 25,000 women in 62 occupations. Comptometry was not one of them. Mom went to Los Angeles to enlist on Feb. 3, 1943. Her favorite aunt and uncle were living in the L.A. area at the time, so I assume that's why she went to L.A. to enlist. On May 1, 1943 the Army announced a new program where qualified women could enroll in the WAAC and receive Signal Corps training as radio operators and repairmen. Mom was in the first WAAC Signal Corps class, arriving in Hollidaysburg, PA on April 3, 1943 and graduating on August 6th. She was sent to Camp Crowder in Neosho, Missouri as a radio instructor for about three months, then reassigned to Vint Hill Farms Station near Warrenton, Virginia (1 Dec 1943).

My siblings and I have been told different stories about where Mom and Dad met. Dad was also in the Army, serving in the Signal Corps. Unfortunately, most of Mom's records and about half of Dad's cannot be found by the Army records service. We know they were both assigned to Vint Hill Farms and to Fort Monmouth, NJ, but don't have specific dates. They were married at Fort Monmouth, NJ on June 24, 1944 and Mom was mustered out of the Army on Sept. 21, 1944 at Vint Hill "for the convenience of the United States Army."

For the next twenty years Mom was an Army wife, following Dad to duty stations in California, Eritrea, Virginia, Japan, Massachusetts and probably locations I don't know about. She had four more children and was a "stay-at-home" Mom until 1962, when she went to work at Penn State to qualify for dependent tuition reductions (allowing us to pay $25 per quarter instead of $100).

To be continued...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

SNGF: Age At Death for Female Ancestors

Since I haven't done one of Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF) challenges for awhile, I thought I'd take a whack at this one. The challenge is:
1) Review your Pedigree Chart (either on paper or in your genealogy management software program) and determine the age at death of your female ancestors back at least five generations (and more if you want to).
2)  Tell us the lifespan years for each of these ancestors.  Which of your female ancestors in this group lived the longest?  Which lived the shortest?  

Here's mine:
3. Nancy Leah Swicegood (1917-1996) age 79

5. Virginia Corine Meldrum (1896-1980) age 84
7. Mollie Fay Brookshire (1894-1966) age 71

9. Nora Estella Ryason (1873-1898) age 24
11. Matilda Elizabeth Sonnen (1871-1921) age 50
13. Martha Elizabeth Coffey (1867-1947) age 80
15. Nancy Jane Collins (1873-1966) age 92

2nd Great-Grandmothers:
17. Mary Ellen McFarland (1836-1890) age 53
19. Susanna Sults (1837-1932) age 94
21. Nancy Maria Stark (abt 1845-abt 1913) age 67
23. Elizabeth Mohr (1838-1888) age 49
25. Sabray E. W. Owen (1819-1892) age 73
27. Drucilla A. Parker (1833-1901) age 67
29. Mildred Melvina Woolery (1850-1886) age 35
31. Rebecca Jane Campbell (1842-1882) age 40

3rd Great-Grandmothers:
33. Anna Mary Thomas (1795-1851) age 55
35. Nancy Stilley (abt. 1804-1876) age 72
37. Susanna Buscark (1811-1883) age 72
39. Sophia Howell (1812-1885) age 72
41. Emma Braithwaite (1815-1888) age 73
43. unknown
45. Anna Elisabetha Dierdorff (1800-1848) age 47
47. Margaretha Hahn [no dates]
49. Magdalena Harmon Nunley (1791-1818) age 27
51. Elizabeth Winchester (1780-
53. Rachel Boone (1794-abt 1885) age 80
55. Matilda Roberson [no dates]
57. Sarah A. Varnell (1803-1885) age 82
59. Emily Cordry (1830-1860) age 30
61. Susannah Bartshe (1829-1912) age 82
63. Sarah Anne Crabtree (1817-1856) age 39

So, in five generations (ignoring my 4 3rd great-grandmothers for whom I don't have information) my longest lived female ancestor was Susanna Sults at age 94 (on my father's side) and shortest lived was Nora Estella Ryason at 24 years (also on my father's side).

Averages and ranges by generation are:
Grandmothers   77.5  (71-84)
Great-grandmothers   61.5  (24-92)
2nd great-grandmothers   59.8  (35-94)
3rd great-grandmothers   60.9  (27-82 for 12 women)

I didn't realize what a huge range in ages at death there were in my ancestry.
Quite amazing!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Finding Family

This has been an amazing couple of weeks.

Not only have I been in contact with two first cousins on my father's side, now I've found someone who has provided me with a photo of my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather. It's like Christmas and birthday rolled into one!

In the photo below (left to right) are my great-grandfather, Alvah Clyde Sharp, his step-daughter Norma, his father, Morris T. Sharp, another step-daughter, Ella, and his second wife (and mother of the girls), Rose Kathmann Andrews Sharp.

For years I have thought that Ella and Norma were Clyde's daughters. I finally found their marriage record last week and discovered that the girls pre-dated his marriage to Rose. As it turns out, her first husband died in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 after being struck by a street car. Rose returned home to Quincy, Illinois, where she met and married Clyde. Ironically, Clyde worked as a street car conductor in Wichita, Kansas (hence the uniform).

This photo and a lot of information on the Andrews girls was provided to me by Ella's youngest son, who I tracked down last weekend. His mother was a school teacher for many years and wrote multiple stories about her life. They are absolutely fascinating. For someone who is no blood relation to me, Ella and her son sure have helped me understand my family.

Monday, April 25, 2016


I was shocked to look at this blog yesterday and see that I hadn't posted anything in over a year. How embarrassing is that? To be fair, I haven't really been doing much genealogy lately. Quilting has taken over my life.

But that changed this week.

My Sharp family tree on WikiTree, which I uploaded back in July 2013, has finally led me to two of my first cousins on my Dad's side of the family. I've never met any of his relatives. Ever. So I was totally astounded when I received an email a few days ago from the son of one of my Dad's brothers. His father had just died, the last of that generation and over 37 years after my own father died. Yesterday another son in this family emailed and he is actually interested in genealogy. Woo-hoo! I'm looking forward to much more contact with these two in the future, and hopefully seeing some photos of Dad's family.

I've also been corresponding with a semi-relative who contacted me through WikiTree. She descends from the second husband of my 3great-grandmother, from his marriage to his first wife. She noticed in my sources a reference to a pension file. When I was working I made several trips a year to Washington, DC and often added a day to research in the National Archives. I was happy to scan and share the 17 pages of this Civil War pension file that I had copied. She, in turn, likes to collect clippings from online newspapers and has sent me a pile of great articles. It's been a great win-win for both of us.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

SNGF: Bright Shiny Genealogy Objects

Randy Seaver, author of the GeneaMusings blog, has come up with yet another interesting Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF) challenge this week:

1) Do your research activities get sidetracked by Bright Shiny Genealogy Objects (BGSO?)  You know, an email, a record that pops up about an ancestor, something that you just have to look at?
2)  Provide an example of a recent BSGO and what you did with it.  How much time did you spend on it?  Was it worthwhile?
3)  How do you deal with them?  Do you always follow them, or do you pick and choose, or do you have the discipline to put it aside and finish what you planned to do?
4)  Share your responses in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a post on Facebook or Google+.

The short answer is "Yes, of course."
I get sidetracked in numerous ways.
An email from a potential DNA match for me or the 4 other people I have tested will send me off on a multi-hour (or day) research tangent.
A call or email from a tangential cousin will send me off searching for an answer.
A newspaper obituary for a name or person in a location will get me researching their family (and trying to tie it to mine).
Every trip to the Family History Library I've ever made (at least a dozen) reveals records not connected to my direct line that I just "have to" search.
Obviously, I am not a very focused researcher.
And I'm fine with that.

I get Legacy obituaries sent to me daily for several surnames and one location. On Tuesday I got one for a QUIGG who died in Michigan and ended up spending a good 5 hours trying to connect this gentleman to my indirect Quigg line. As it turned out, I was able to make the connection and sent the information off to a 4th cousin once removed (a direct Quigg descendant). She was thrilled to learn about another cousin and will be calling the man's window in a few weeks (although it's going to be hard for her to wait that long).

I almost always follow up on questions from cousins, curious obituaries, and new record sets.
I'm getting more disciplined in my responses to potential DNA matches. I send them information on my line, but don't research theirs for them any more. I rarely hear back from them.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Searching for James Braithwaite Meldrum in Texas

My husband and I are planning a road trip to Texas in the next couple of weeks. He'll be meeting a friend to go birding and I am looking forward to 3 or 4 days of research time in central Texas. Last Fall I spent a week at the Family History Library focusing on my father's lines, but couldn't figure out what happened to my great-great grandfather, James Braithwaite MELDRUM.

James was born in Leeds, England on 15 Nov 1840, the second of six children of David MELDRUM and Elizabeth BRAITHWAITE. His older brother, William, had died 4 months earlier, having lived just less than a year. I have a copy of his birth and christening records.

The family emigrated to the US between 1847 (reported in 1900) and May 1849 (when daughter Catherine was born in New Jersey). shows a David Mildrum, b. ca. 1819, occupation = grower, as arriving in New York on 5 March 1849 (Source: Irish Immigrants: New York Port Arrival Records, 1846-1851). Unfortunately, it is just an index, so I can't tell for sure if this is the correct person/family.

In any event, the Meldrum family settled near Easton, Pennsylvania, and stayed there until the mid-1860s, when they moved to Pittsburgh. Father David worker primarily as a gardener and landscaper.

James B. Meldrum enlisted as a private in Co. D, 1st Infantry Regiment of Pennsylvania on 20 April 1861 for a period of three months. He then re-enlisted on 16 September 1861 in Co. A, 47th Infantry Regiment of Pennsylvania for three years. Records found at the National Archives suggest that he deserted on 24 January 1863 at Key West, Florida.

James apparently returned to the Easton area, as he married Nancy Maria STARK on 29 August 1866 in Easton. In 1867 he is listed in the Pittsburgh City Directory (as is his father) and he is enumerated in Ward 20 of Pittsburgh in 1870, along with his wife and two young sons. Another son and a daughter were born before the end of 1873 in Pittsburgh. James Meldrum, gardener, is listed in Pittsburgh city directories in 1870, 1876 and 1877. There is a Declaration of Intention filed 17 Feb 1873 and Petition for Citizenship dated 3 July 1876 in the District Court of the US for the Western District of Pennsylvania for a James Meldrum. (I am not positive this is the same James Meldrum, as there was another one in Pittsburgh at this time, but he was a tailor.) He then disappears from Pittsburgh records.

The 1880 US Census lists James' four children with their remarried mother in Williamson County, Texas. I found only one deed mentioning James in the microfilmed deed records of Williamson County. On 7 March 1878 James and Nancy sold a lot in Taylor to A. Bisang. I did not find any listing for when they purchased this property. 

What's curious is that the David Meldrum Bible lists James as dying on 15 March 1876.

But it also says James was age 37 when he died, which he could not have been in 1876. My suspicion is that he died 15 March 1878, barely a week after he sold the property in Taylor (originally called Taylorsville).

I hope to find records in Williamson County to confirm his 1878 death. There should be guardianship records for his 4 children, who were all minors in 1878. None have been microfilmed by the Family History Library. I also hope to find the deed record for when David purchased the lot that was sold in 1878.

I'd also like to know more about his widow's other two husbands. She married a man named A. T. Minor on 7 Jan. 1879 in Williamson County, but I haven't been able to find any records for A. T. (not even his full name). She then marries Frank J. Tomkins around 1885, probably in Houston, Texas (definitely not in Williamson County), but is living alone again in 1900. I don't know exactly when she died, but hope to learn that.