Tuesday, November 29, 2011

JAMES RYLAND - 1820 - 1902

Thanks to my cousin Kenny Ryland in Kansas, I have this lovely photo of my great-great grandfather.

One of the first things genealogists hope for in starting their research is a published biography on their ancestor from an old county history book. We all know that what we find will only be partially true, but it certainly gives us a beginning framework and it is imperative that we must prove each statement either correct or incorrect. Outrageous lies have been printed in these bios (though thankfully not in this fellow's) so early on we learn to use them merely as a theory. So let's see what this one, from the History of Noble County, Indiana, says about James Ryland:

James Ryland was born in Belmont County, Ohio, March 31, 1820. He is the son of Samuel and Hannah (Myers) Ryland, both natives of the Keystone State. They had two children - James and Matilda. They moved to Belmont County in an early day, where the father died when James was about four years of age. After her husband's death, Mrs. Ryland went to live with her parents in Wayne County, Ohio. Here she was married to Thomas Appleton, and after some years they moved to Summit County. There James was reared, receiving but a limited education. He was married to Miss Charlotte Bond, April 20, 1841. This lady was born in Genesee County, New York on December 25, 1820. In 1847, Mr. Ryland moved with his family and settled on the place he now owns in Allen Township. The land was covered with timber, but they were frugal and industrious and soon were comfortably situated. In their family were six children, viz.: Francis M., James A., George W., C. Albert and Alfred A., living, and Olive C., deceased. Francis M. went out as a private during the late war, and was promoted to a Lieutenant. Mr. Ryland owns 159 acres of well-improved land, which he and wife have obtained by their own endeavors. They are reading, intelligent people, and have given their children good educations. Four of the sons are experienced and successful school teachers.

Now just a few words to update and correct the above paragraph, 1)Though it would appear otherwise, Matilda was the older of the two children by two years; 2) James and Charlotte moved their family to Noble County, Indiana, in 1847; 3) George W. suffered a brain injury in his youth and was handicapped for the rest of his life; Alfred A died at age 31, never having been married; 4) Olive died at 1 year of age. No one has yet to discover the full story of Hannah Myers Ryland Appleton, though it hasn't been for lack of trying! She did have Appleton children, but that fact never made it into the Ryland legacy that was left for us.

This marriage record shows our James, age 21, marrying Charlotte Bond. Charlotte's father was an "exhorter" in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and James joined that church at age 18 and never changed. An interesting discovery is that in their youth I found all of James' sons held membership in the Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church, not the ME church of their parents. James Ryland's farm abutted that of Ephraim Myers, and Ephraim was an early deacon in that Lutheran church. Since James' mother was a Myers, there may have been a family connection that drew James' boys to that denomination.

The death of old James in 1902 generated an early death certificate, showing as #59. Rarely do we find death certificates that early. Also this certificate is unusual in that Charlotte, his wife, was the informant and every single piece of information she gave is correct. It is amazing how wrong some informants' information is, but not hers.

And while early obituaries often spoke in extra-flowery language, his obit shows how he lived his life, and as near as I can tell, it shows a true measure of the man.

He commenced his life with no help but his own energy and industry. He succeeded well, educated his children, left them a legacy of sterling honesty, integrity and honor. His word was always as good as his bond. No one ever heard him profane or falsify. Among his many prominent characteristics his humaneness was striking. He would never turn anyone away from his home hungry or in need of a resting place. He has been known to entertain strangers overnight and then to remain up all night in order to guard his home from being plundered. If he found a tramp in an outbuilding he would bring him in and entertain him. He would never willingly permit a stranger to depart on Sunday. Were any of his neighbors in need at any time, they would find his best at their service. Another characteristic was his scrupulousness. He was close in his dealings, but exact and honest. On one occasion a merchant took his word as to the number of bushels in a load of corn, and was surprised later to receive money which a subsequent measurement of his wagon by Mr. Ryland showed to be due. This was the man.

Friday, November 11, 2011



James "Jim" Alexander Dobbins, oldest son of Robert B. and Catherine Alexander Dobbins, asked for and received a letter of Dismission in 1856 from his home church in Fulton, Illinois (Bennington Presbyterian Church in Ipava) and headed off somewhere with his family, according to church minutes left by his pastor father. He and his family left no family bible and no one at a Dobbins family reunion in 1911 left any notes about him. He died long before Death Certificates had come into use. Documenting his life has been hard, frustrating, and mostly unrewarding.

He had a wife, Elizabeth, and four children - Robert Gaston, Paulina Jane, Elizabeth Caroline and James Sellers. I can tell you interesting stories about all of his children, but not about him. The picture was given to me by Percy Dobbins, my dad's cousin, and it had been handed down to him from his father. At the time I received it, no one in the family even knew what his name was or anything at all about him. Even if I haven't found out much about his life, at least I now have a name for him.

Jim was the first child of Robert and Catherine, born in Ohio in 1805. His father was a circuit-riding Presbyterian minister whose territory encompassed Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. While he was out ministering, it was up to his wife and children, (predominately Jim, being the oldest) to run the family farm in Clermont county, which provided for their needs and also provided money to sustain his father's ministry.

In 1826 the Clermont County marriage books show the following:

In 1835 Rev. Robert Dobbins bought acreage in Fulton County, Illinois, and he and his now-mostly married children moved there. Rev. Dobbins retired from the circuit riding but he established a local Presbyterian church, composed mostly of his own family members, and in 1837 the church records show that Jim's youngest son, James Sellers Dobbins, was baptised by his own grandfather, the Rev. R. B. Dobbins.
Those same records indicate that at two different times Jim asked for and received a request to remove the family from the church in good standing. The first time was in this same year (1837) and they were gone for four years before returning. In 1851 Jim's oldest son died. In 1856 Jim asked for and received a letter of dismission again; this was after the old Rev. died, and I'd guess Jim now felt free of the burden required of the oldest child. He took his family, just as his own father had, and traveled west, settling in the tiny town of Prairie City in Kansas, just a tinch southwest of Lawrence. No sooner did he get established there than his wife died, his oldest daughter died in childbirth, his second daughter married and headed east with her husband, and his youngest son associated himself, by his own admission, with old John Brown.

It is at this point that James Alexander Dobbins pretty much disappears off my screen. Many of the Douglas County records are missing because of all the problems that area had during the early settlement of Kansas, but it was in one recorded deed in the Douglas County Deed book that I was able to find him again. In 1871 he sold property he owned in Lawrence to the leaders of the Presbyterian Church and the deed showed he was in Maineville, Warren County, Ohio; the deed also showed he had a wife named Eliza Dobbins. A subsequent check of the marriage record showed that he had, in 1861, married the widow Eliza Gant.

Jim died in 1873. I know absolutely nothing of those final years. I have always had the feeling that this fellow, my great-great grandfather, did not have such a happy life. Too many deaths. Too many burdens. And I have always hoped that he found happiness with Eliza; nothing would make me happier than finding an obituary that said so -- but he is as remote at the end of his life as he was during it.

The one thing I have always treasured is a hand-written family chart that was sent to me many years ago by a distant relative I found back in Illinois. It is dated 1922 and is the only record I have that places James Alexander Dobbins in with the rest of the Robert B. Dobbins kids. It's not the kind of proof I would like, but I do believe it to be factual. This fancy chart was drawn then from a simple chart that had been generated at the 1911 reunion; on the older one, James Dobbins was called "Jim." So I've always felt confident that I could put my finger on the name "James" and say "He's mine!" And because of the picture, know what he looked like.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Julius Herman Teitelbaum was the second child of Abraham and Rose Flox Teitelbaum. He was born in Chicago on November 14, 1902. He had a sister, Sarah, who was five years older than he was. His father was an insurance salesman and his mother a homemaker.

The earliest picture we have of him was taken for his Bar Mitzvah when he was thirteen. Shortly after this milestone he entered Harrison Technical High School, and with the scant information we have of him in those early years, there is nothing to indicate that he had settled on a career path yet. He graduated from High school in the spring of 1920.

By 1923 the family relocated to Los Angeles, leaving Sarah, now an adult with a job in Chicago. Julius, now called "Julie," enrolled in the USC School of Pharmacy, attending school at night and working as a clerk during the day. He received his license as a pharmacist on July 31, 1926.

The family lived in Boyle Heights, a part of the city of Los Angeles east of downtown. His first job was at W. J. Milmet Pharmacy on Brooklyn Avenue in Boyle Heights. In 1929 he was in a partnership with Lou Finklestine on Venice Boulevard (that is when he shortened his last name to Title, and his partner became Fink). He met his future wife, Bertha Mark, about that time, as she worked nearby at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. They married in 1928 and took their honeymoon on Catalina Island. Their son Jerry was born in 1929 and daughter Judy in 1933.

In 1932 or 1933, Julie leased a store on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills adjacent to the Fox Wilshire Theater and set up a pharmacy as a sole proprietor. He often had movie stars in his store, sitting at the soda fountain with a cup of coffee - or in the back room, where Julie let them "hide out" from their pesty fans, or occasionally to sober up!

His lease expired in 1936, and at that time he bought some property on Garey Avenue in Pomona. The family bought a house in Ontario, a small town near Pomona, and that is where the Title family lived until the children finished high school. Once the kids left high school, the family relocated to Pomona.

Although Julie was going by the name "Title" at the time his son was born in 1929, he did not legally change his name until 1940. During his prime working years, Julie participated in many community activities. At one time he was President of the Pomona Valley Pharmaceutical Association and the Elks Lodge. One of his Committee assignments for the Elks was to head the "Transit Committee." In those days there were many homeless men "riding the rails." The Transit Committee, in the person of Julie, made sure that every hobo who asked for a meal was given one, along with a bus ticket to his choice of either Los Angeles or San Bernardino. It was felt that the larger cities would have more opportunities for employment. It also appears that it was a way to get these men out of Pomona! Julie also belonged to the Ontario-Pomona B'nai B'rith, the Compass Masonic Lodge 590 and also served on the board of Temple Beth Israel in Pomona.

In the mid 1960s Julie was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, so he leased out the big pharmacy and opened Title's Prescription Pharmacy near Pomona Valley Hospital. He was known in all of Pomona as "Doc Title," and he was able to work for 9 years after his Parkinson's diagnosis. The last few years of his life were difficult and he died on April 28, 1974 at the age of 71.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Roger Livingston Hall was the youngest child of John A. and Martha Susan Jeffries Hall. He was a brother of my great-grandmother Louise Hall.

My mother remembered little family bits about Roger -- that he lived in Oklahoma and was a senator or “somebody political,” she said. Mother’s half-cousin Verne in Kansas told me he was a doctor but mainly worked with the Indians and became very wealthy because of some tie-in with oil that the Indians owned. Those were just little bits of the story. Whether they were true or not I probably will never know. But in a story written by his daughter Martha and printed in an Osage County (OK) Historical Society publication in 1964, I read the following:
LuLu Maud Murphy [future wife of Roger] was born in Missouri and later she moved with her parents to both Kansas and California. She graduated from the Southwest institute in San Diego (now the University of Southern California) and moved to Caldwell, Kansas with her parents where she took a teaching position.

While staying with Mrs. Richmond [Nancy E.] LuLu met her youngest brother, Roger Hall, who entertained her with the stories of his life as a rider on the Chisholm Trail. They began an engagement that lasted four years while he studied at the Missouri Medical School in St. Louis (Now Washington University). He graduated in 1894 and they married in 1895.

When he made the ‘run’ in the 1893 Cherokee Strip Opening, he staked his claim on land he saw and desired while driving cattle on the Trail. It joined what was to become the town of Medford, OK. It was to a cozy house he built there that he took his bride. A country doctor’s life was hard in those early days with no hospital nearer than Wichita, Kansas. Drought and depression followed in the ‘90s, making life even more difficult. My father’s health broke, and he was forced to go to Colorado to recuperate.

Uncle Frank Frantz, the Indian Agent in Pawhuska and later Territorial governor of Oklahoma was instrumental in bringing my parents and brother, Livingston, to Osage County in 1904. In Pawhuska two more children were born – Edmund and Martha….

My father took an active part in organizing the town of Pawhuska. He built the first brick building. Instead of practicing medicine, he turned to cattle raising, and acquired a large ranch west of Pawhuska which he sold in 1917 to the Santa Fe Railroad. Later there were other ranches and farms. My father was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 1916.”

According to Martha’s article, all three of Roger’s children were college educated. Son Livingston served as Osage County Treasurer and died in Pawhuska in 1974. Edmund ranched with his father until Roger’s death in 1935 and then ranched in Pershing until he himself died in 1968. And daughter Martha Hall Lloyd, writer of the article, graduated from Wellesley and taught until her marriage.

Obituary from Blackwell Morning Tribune, April 24, 1935.

A descendant of Bessie Hall Richmond (Roger's other sister) sent me a photocopied portrait of John A. Hall holding his grandson Livingston, Roger’s oldest boy who was born in December of 1899.

Monday, September 12, 2011


~ A Dobbins Family ~

Continuing with the story of the five little orphan girls, their dad was part of a very large family, and when these girls lost their parents, there were lots of aunts and uncles who stepped in to the breech and took over raising them.

By looking at census records, both the Federal Censuses which were taken every 10 years and the Kansas State censuses, which were taken in the 5th year between the federal censuses, I was able to find all the orphans.

Jemima went to live with her Uncle William and Aunt Margaret McGee Corel

Julia went to live with her Uncle James and Susanna McGee Corel

Margaret went to live with her Uncle Frank and Aunt Nancy Corel LaHay

Louisa went to live with her Uncle William and Aunt Cosby Jane Justice

Rebecca first went to live with her Uncle Jake and Aunt Olivia Corel McGee. And then when her sister Jemima married, Rebecca went to live with her. We know this latter bit of information from Agnes Hall’s manuscript…”Rebecca was married from Mama’s (Jemima’s) house.”

And as you would expect, as the orphan girls got older they married. Jemima married John Salathiel in 1861 and they ultimately settled in Montgomery County, Kansas. Julia married Willis Myers in 1864 and they settled in Labette County, Kansas. Louisa married Thomas McGee in 1867 – and eventually they settled in Hidalgo County, Texas. Rebecca married Giles Gilbert Parman sometime around 1870 (that’s a guess) and by 1880 they were in Wilson County, Kansas.

What happened to the orphan Margaret? We can only guess. She lived with my great-grandmother Nancy Corel LaHay at least until she was 19, for at that time she was enumerated with her on the 1865 census. If you’ve read my earlier post about Francois “Frank” LaHay (Nancy’s husband) you’ll remember that both he and their two children died between 1862 and 1864. In 1867 Nancy moved to town (Lawrence) and married a second time. No mention was made of Margaret. In Agnes Salathiel Hall’s manuscript, there is no mentioned of Jemima having a sister named Margaret. And since there is no marriage record in Douglas County, Kansas, of a marriage of Margaret Corel, one assumes that Margaret died.

So now there were four orphans.

But even all that is not enough of a story for a good genealogist! What I wanted to do was learn more about their lives and, if possible, find living descendants of each of them.

Here’s where I started: Agnes Salathiel Hall’s manuscript again. Finding a family history like this, even though it may not be 100% accurate, provides a great starting place to begin research and is one of the reasons why a genealogist wants to find living descendants...maybe THAT family ended up being the keeper of the family history. So as noted in the earlier portion of the orphan’s story, I had been able to locate one of Jemima's descendants who shared this manuscript with me. Because in those days the role of the wife was pretty much that of a housewife, about the best we can do is to know a little of what the husbands were doing and then think of how it affected his wife.

So what did Jemima’s husband do? During the early years he was married to Jemima, John Salathiel was active in the anti-slavery movement, was a personal friend of James H. Lane and was enumerated among John Brown’s followers. Later he served with the Kansas Militia. After the civil war the family moved to the town of Independence in Montgomery County, where they raised their children and where John Salathiel had a grocery business. Ultimately, Joe Cullen’s line, which descends from daughter Margaret Salathiel Newcomb’s line, came to California.

Julia’s marriage certificate states that she was married “at the house of Jacob McGee.” This would have been her Aunt Oliva Corel and Uncle Jake’s house. Her husband, Willis Myers, was also among the earliest residents of Douglas County. Both the Myers and the Corel names appear on the territorial census records of Douglas County pre 1860. After their marriage Willis and Julia settled in Chetopa, Labette County, where Willis also became a grocer. They had four children: Edgar Myers, Ida Myers Columbia, Alma Viroqua “Roqua” Myers Milner, and Helen Gertrude Myers Crotty. According to Julia’s obituary of 1930, the families of both Ed and Helen Gertrude lived in Nevada, MO; Roqua in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and it wasn’t clear where Ida Columbia lived. I have never found any present day descendants from Julia.

The orphan Louisa was noted in Agnes Halls ms this way: “Lida lived in Texas and died in a storm. Her married name was McGee. Her son, Robert lee McGee visited us.” Between 1984 when I started my genealogy until this last year, I hunted and hunted for Louisa, keeping in mind that the name might appear as “Lida.” It wasn’t until May of 1910 that a Corel cousin, also a genealogical researcher, was contacted by a descendant of Louisa who was able to provide all the information we had hoped for. While Louisa is listed as “Eliza” on many of the documents the family had, that same family is enumerated on the census records with a mother called “Louisa” so one assumes that she went by both names. The family settled in Hidalgo, Texas – and the descendent who contacted us lived in Florida. He provided a death certificate of “Eliza” who died of “acute pulmonary congestion” – I suspect not as a result of a storm, as the Hall manuscript stated, but then one never knows! Needless to say, I was delighted that the little orphan had finally, after a 26 year hunt, had been found.

Finally, the story of the orphan Rebecca was also sketched out in Hall’s manuscript. In 1882 Giles and Rebecca Parman and their family (Ethelyn, Sarah, George, Lloyd and Julia) set out with three other families on the Oregon Trail. These four families filed on their homesteads in 1884, and in 1885 the town of Condon was laid out. But in 1886, Rebecca (called “Betty”) died in giving birth to twins. One twin died at birth, the other at three months. Interestingly, for whatever reason, Betty’s tombstone identified her maiden name as Carl, not Corel, so when I finally located a descendant, I had to tell her that although Betty’s family may have remembered her name as Carl, her heritage will be found under Corel. There are still Parman descendants living in that area.

So now the story of the five orphan girls ends. It has always concerned me that the heritage of orphans is usually very difficult to trace, so my goal in all this research on these firls, five nieces of my great-grandma Nannie Corel LaHay Dobbins, was to make sure the story was told somewhere.

To wrap up a few loose ends, in the year 2000 I received some information from a woman in Lawrence who had for many years been keeping her eyes open for Corels and Dobbinses. This information was that the Watkins Museum in the city of Lawrence had just turned over some old burial reinterment cards to the Museum. These cards indicated the following people were among those from the old Pioneer Cemetery on Mt. Oread who had been reinterred in the big Oak Hill Cemetery, also in Lawrence. The following people had been placed in the Corel plot in Section 1, Plot 32. I have made notes as to who these people were (or who I suspected they were.)

Rebecca and John Corel – d 09 Nov 1860 (Matriarch of the family; John not known)
Margaret – died about 1865 (probably Henry’s orphan)
Henry and Nancy Corel - d about 1855 (the orphan’s parents)
William Corel – died about 1855 (the orphan’s brother)
Margaret Corel - died about 1860 (probably Margaret Corel Puckett, adult daughter of Rebecca Corel.)

I think all the Corel orphans except for the oldest, Sarah Corel Oney, are all accounted for.

Friday, September 9, 2011



If you look at the 1850 Federal Census in Missouri and the 1855 Territorial Census in Kansas you will see that Henry and Nancy Corel had the following children: Sarah, William, Jemima, Julia, Margaret, Louisa and Rebecca. Sarah does not appear on the 1855 census and Rebecca doesn’t appear on the 1850 census but a little more nosing around produces a marriage record in Missouri for Sarah Corel and James Oney, and in 1855 the census shows Rebecca as the last child, obviously born after 1850.

And then, here’s the next thing one sees in Douglas County, Kansas records:

In case you can’t read it clearly, it says “On this 2nd day of October, AD 1855 before me personally appeared James P Corel, and makes oath and says that according to his knowledge and belief, that the following are the names and place of residence of the heirs of Henry Corel, deceased: Jemima Corel, Julia Corel, Margaret Corel, Louisa Corel, Rebecca Corel, residence Douglas County, Kansas Territory. Sarah Jane Oney, daughter of said deceased, residence not known, and that deceased died without a will ….

OH, NO. Is mother Nancy not considered an heir? And where is the only son, William?

When I was doing my early research back in the 1980s, I had only recently learned that my paternal great-grandmother’s maiden name was Corel. I knew nothing of the family beyond what I was able to find on the censuses. Nothing was on the internet then because there was no internet. For research, you either wrote letters or hired a researcher in the area you were interested in. In place of the internet, there was one major genealogy magazine – The Genealogical Helper – and it was from putting ads in this magazine that I finally found someone else who knew something about this family.

Joe Cullen, who lived in Northern California, answered one of my queries and sent me a copy of a Family History written by his Grandmother’s sister, Agnes Salathiel Hall, back in 1929. Agnes is descended from Henry through his oldest daughter Jemima. Here’s what I learned.

Nancy Corel, Henry her husband, Will their teenaged son, and Nancy’s sister Jemima all died within a week of measles. The epidemic of measles at Lawrence was in the Kansas History I studied in school. Many died, as they did not know what it was. They survived an epidemic of smallpox and died of measles. All four of them lay dead in the house – one room – at the same time. The neighbors came in and built coffins of native walnut lumber so abundant in Kansas in an early day…. Speaking of her parents, Mama said she could still hear the hammers building the coffins. Mama was fourteen.

All of those who died in the measles epidemic were buried on Mt. Oread. Later this was vacated as a cemetery but the graves being unmarked it is likely their ashes are still there. So many years passed before it was vacated.

Genealogists learn that not everything that is remembered is accurate. Sometimes there is speculation that turns out to be not the case. Nevertheless, Henry, Nancy and William disappear from the censuses, the county has record of probating Henry’s estate, and we soon learn what happens to the children, so we have to credit Agnes’s account as fairly accurate.

With five little girls orphaned all at once, it was up to the aunts and uncles to take in the girls and raise them. Tomorrow I’ll write about what happened to the girls.

But for today I’ll finish up with an overview of the family Henry was born into.

William and Rebecca Oney Corel married in Tazewell County, Virginia in 1806 and had fourteen children: Jemima, Henry, Martha, Mary, Sarah, Margaret, Rebecca Ann, Louisa, Cosby Jane, William, James , Nancy, Emily, and Olivia. Three of the children, Martha, Sarah and Emily died in childhood. Sometime in the late 1840s the family decided to move west.

The youngest five children (William, James, Nancy, Emily and Olivia) were still living at home with the parents. The remaining children were married. All the married families except for Rebecca Ann’s came west. Again, Agnes Salathiel Hall gives us an idea of how they did it.
“Henry Corel, my mother’s father, and brothers and families [as well as William and Rebecca Corel, their parents], their stock, etc. came to Kansas. They came from Virginia by flatboat down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The boat foundered and they unloaded at Wyandotte and drove by schooner to Westport, Missouri, using ox teams. Mama was seven years old. Kansas City was not started then.

They began a homestead on Little Blue, now Kansas city’s famous Cliff Drive. But finding themselves in slave territory they moved on to Lawrence, the main seat of anti-slave activity…. Mama said she had seen a steamboat on the river at Lawrence in a time of high water. This is a disputed subject but Mama stood pat.”

Again, not everything in this description is accurate, but it is simply a recollection of someone of old family stories.

(The story of the 5 orphans to be continued)

Sunday, September 4, 2011



Paulina Jane was the oldest daughter and second child of James Alexander Dobbins and his wife, Elizabeth Perkins Dobbins. She was born in Clermont County, Ohio on November 8, 1829. Following her birth were those of Elizabeth Caroline Dobbins in 1831 and James Dobbins Jr. in 1836.

Paulina's father was the oldest son of Rev. Robert B. Dobbins, a Presbyterian minister who rode circuit in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Because Rev. Dobbins was gone so much, Jim became the primary manager along with his mother of the Dobbins farm property. While ministering in Illinois, Robert B. bought some property near Ipava, and in 1835 the entire family moved there. It was here that Paulina grew up and where, in 1850, she married Levi S. Sperry.

In Illinois Levi and Paulina were to have two daughters. The first, Emma, was born in January of 1852, but she died eight months later and was buried in the Dobbins Cemetery. Daughter Unicia (sometimes spelled Eunice) was born on July 7, 1854.

In spring of 1856 Jim and Elizabeth Dobbins, Paulina & Levi Sperry, and Elizabeth Caroline Dobbins Kinsey, a divorced daughter of Jim and Elizabeth, joined with a Dr. Rankin and headed west, initially intending to go to Texas but stopping when they reached Douglas County, Kansas. Levi took up some land just east of the new town of Lawrence, while his in-laws and Elizabeth Caroline chose to go on to Prairie City, a tiny town southwest of Lawrence but still in Douglas County.

There are not many records left from the early Lawrence area, but in driving through Oak Hill Cemetery I found a simple record of what happened to the Sperrys.

The largest tombstone shows that Paulina Jane Sperry, Levi's wife, died on June 6, 1857 . There is a smaller tombstone that also says "Paulina Jane Sperry", but the dates show she was born on May 29, 1857 and died on June 27, 1857. Levi lost both his wife and his new baby within the first year of being in Kansas.

The death of his wife left Levi with little three-year-old Unitia. Luckily there is an extant Lawrence newpaper that announces the marriage on August 13, 1857 to Nancy Jane Anderson, the daughter of a neighbor. But it is sad to see a third tombstone in the same row in the cemetery that is Unitia's, giving the date of her death as March 26, 1865. She was 11 years old.

That was the end of Levi's relationship with the Dobbins family. Except that a few years later, in 1867, after Paulina's brother Jim Dobbins returned from the Civil War, Jim boarded at Levi and Nancy's farm, and it was there that he met the widow Nancy Corel LaHay, who upon marriage to him would become my great-grandmother.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


~ Ryland family ~

Sophronia Stevens, born in 1824 in Almond, New York, was a sister of my great-great grandpa Chester Dana Stevens. Often researchers have a difficult time finding information about the distaff side of their families, but by virtue of Sophronia’s marriage to Stephen A. Hurlbut and her own father’s exploits, she has left a bigger footprint than the usual woman does.

Her father was George Stevens, for whom Stevens Point, Wisconsin is named. Her husband was first an attorney and later was appointed a Brigadier General by Abraham Lincoln. The town both families lived in was Belvidere, Illinois, a “Yankee village, settled largely by New Englanders. The settlers, for the most part, averaged high in intelligence and culture. There were cheerful homes and genuine hospitality.”

On May 13, 1847 Sophronia married Steven Hurlbut. She was described as a charming and stately woman who was to be entirely at home in the distinguished future her husband was building. On June 7, the Illinois 2nd Constitutional Convention was held at Springfield and Hurlbut was elected a delegate. This convention was of major importance in his life as it marked his introduction into state politics.

Lincoln and Hurlbut were great personal friends. In 1855 Hurlbut organized the Boone Rifles, a Military Company and he became a Captain. In 1858 Hurlbut was elected State Representative, and he and his wife went to Springfield. In 1860 he was re-elected to this office. Lincoln was now President. During the fall of 1860, he was sent to Charleston, ostensibly to visit his sister but it was actually to discover how much Union sentiment existed in the South and how best to appeal to it. His report when he returned to Washington was “Nothing to appeal to.” He was serving in the Illinois state legislature when shots were fired on Fort Sumter. He was quickly appointed to Brigadier General of Volunteers by Abraham Lincoln on June 14, 1861.

Many letters still exist between Lincoln and Hurlbut. And as a matter of fact, Brown University has one that Lincoln wrote to Sophronia. I have been unable to get a copy of the handwritten letter but in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 4, it provides the contents:

To Mrs. Stephen A. Hurlbut

Mrs. S. A. Hurlbutt Springfield, Ills.,
My dear Madam Oct. 29, 1860

Your good husband, who is making speeches for us in this county, has desired me to write you that he is well, which I take great pleasure in doing. I will add, too, that he is rendering us very efficient service. Yours very truly A. LINCOLN

Hurlbut took full advantage of his political connections throughout the war, leading to many difficulties. On September 17th, 1862, most likely through political connections, Hurlbut was promoted to major general, before his military career even began. Hurlbut commanded the 4th Division of the Army of the Tennessee at Shiloh and Corinth, after which he commanded the XVI Corps. In 1864, he was placed in command of the Department of the Gulf. While in this role, Hurlbut tried to further his own position, and caused problems with the government, which had been set up by the North to run Louisiana after Confederate soldiers were forced out of the area. His action brought forth an order from E. R. S. Canby for his arrest, but the case was quieted, and Hurlbut was mustered out of the army on June 20, 1865.

In the summer of 1866 Hurlbut resumed his law practice and started building a large and handsome house on the street now named for him. The house was demolished in the 1930s, but copies of newspaper articles showing the house can provide pictures of it.

Although the newspapers of Belvidere reported only good news about Hurlbut, his career both during and after the civil war was fraught with controversy including harassment of the loyal government of Louisiana, corruption (which had a solid foundation,) drunkenness, and embarrassment of government officials, and a local scandal that surely must have rocked Belvidere – a dalliance with one of his servants, which produced an illegitimate child.

Learning about Hurlbut’s activities give you an idea of the life of Sophronia. As you can tell, she faced many ups and downs in her married life.

Sophronia had a sister Serena Crandall, and a newspaper article from February of 1864 describes a train accident that they were in. She and her sister were riding in the last car on a mail train when a flange broke on one of the wheels at it descended down an incline. “The car in its descent turned completely over, smashing the top and sides, and landing right side up.” The list of passengers makes note of passenger injuries: Mrs. Crandall of Marengo, bruised, severe; and Mrs. S. A. Hurlbut, bruised, slight. The article indicates that it was a new car with a new type of wheels and was very valuable; it cost about twice as much as the common kind. The article ended with, “It is to be hoped the builders don’t always furnish that style of wheels.”

On February 11, 1887 Sohronia died after suffering from a lingering illness, and although it does not indicate what that was, it says that from the outset it became apparent that recovery was doubtful. Her obituary indicated she was “somewhat older than 62.” The obituary also indicates she had been a member of the Belvidere First Baptist Church for nearly 40 years.

Stephen and Sophronia had only one child, a son George Henry Hurlbut, who was born in 1848 in Belvidere, Illinois and died in New York City on February 15, 1930. George, in turn, had two sons, Stephen A., a professor of Latin and Greek at St. Albans School in Washington, and William J., who first became a Broadway playwright and in 1930 moved to Hollywood and took up screenwriting. His most famous movies were Imitation of Life and Bride of Frankenstein.Neither son married nor had offspring.

Monday, August 22, 2011

FRANCOIS E "FRANK" LAHAY - ab 1829-1862


In the scheme of things, Francois E. “Frank” LaHay lived a short life that really appears like a cipher in among a bunch of relatives. He was my great-grandmother’s first husband. They were married long enough to have two children, but unfortunately within a short period of time he died, and within a couple of years both children died. So there are no living progeny.

From a genealogical standpoint, there’s not much to document about his life, other than a few things I was able to find. But I think there is enough interesting that I should let him take his place among the Immortal Nobodies, even though we will never know what he looked like.

Frank’s father was Toussaint LaHay, and Frank had siblings Eugenie, Martha, Mary, David, and Antoine. The family appears on the 1850 census in St. Genevieve County, Missouri; all show that they were born in Missouri. The only unusual thing is that their last name appears as “Lihaise” and “Lihais.” When I first discovered “Toussaint LaHay” I was surprised to find such an Irish surname connected to the obvious French given name. To my surprise, I was to learn some years later that this LaHay line went back into Canada as Lihais and then further back into Ireland where the name was actually LaHaie. Catholic Church records were used by others to follow this line.

Apparently when Kansas territory opened up for settlement, the Toussaint LaHay family moved from St. Genevieve, to Douglas County, Kansas, where Toussaint and his three sons took a section of land on the the Wakarusa River about eight miles west of Lawrence. In a document held by the Kansas State Historical Society there is mention of the LaHay boys by the author, Henry Hiatt. “Mr. LaHay (referring to Toussaint) had a wife, two sons and two or more daughters. His boys were pro-slavery and rough and always ready to fight….Sometime in 1856 a party of free-state men…robbed his house of furniture, clothing, etc. and burned it to the ground.” The LaHays were Southerners who moved to Kansas for the same reason that the New England Emigrant Aid Society members did – to add their votes to either bring Kansas into the Union as a free or a slave state. This period of time became known as “Bloody Kansas.”

In 1853 the Corel family, originally from southwestern Virginia but more recently from Kansas City, Missouri, also moved to Douglas County. Because of the difficulties experienced in Kansas Territory during that time, only spotty records are available; there is no record of the marriage of Nancy Corel (my great-grandmother) and Frank LaHay. However, in a Civil War Widow’s Pension file held by the National Archives, Nancy writes, “I was prior to my marriage to James S. Dobbins married to Frank E. LaHay on December 19th 1856 near Lawrence, Kansas. Mr. Lahay died on February 13, 1861 (note: this affidavit was done in 1904 and Nancy misremembered the date) and was buried on his father’s place near Lawrence. Frank E. Lahay did not serve in the Army or Navy.”

About the only other records we have are three articles from the Lawrence newspapers:

Lawrence Republican, April 17, 1862: Francois LaHay, 31 years, 3 mos. Of Clinton Twp., Douglas County, died on 9th inst. In Missouri of lung fever.

Kansas Weekly Tribune, February 11, 1864: Died. Ella LaHay, daughter of Mrs. Nancy LaHay, aged 2 years 5 months, 9 days in Clinton Twp., Douglas Co., KS.

Kansas Weekly Tribune, March 3, 1864: Died. Olla (Oliver) LaHay, son of Mrs. Nancy LaHay on March 1, aged 6 years 1 month.

Skip to 1986:

In that year a researcher I’d hired in Lawrence, Kansas sent me a 1972 newspaper article that stated the following:

“The bodies from the LaHay Cemetery probably will be moved to the Clinton Cemetery by December 1, federal officials said today. The moving is necessary because the one-acre tract where several persons were buried during the last century will be covered by the waters of the Clinton Reservoir…..Federal regulations provide that all cemeteries which will be covered by waters impounded by dams must be moved – that the cemeteries not be covered by the flood waters.”

I sent to the Corps of Engineers to get their documentation for this move, and later Jerry and I took a trip back to Kansas to see for ourselves what had transpired. The original tall cemetery marker had been moved to the new cemetery. On one side it said “T. LaHay, d Mar 2, 1868, ae 68 years 2 months. And below that it says “T. LaHay reserved this acre of land during his lifetime for his family cemetery.”

On the other side it says “Frank LaHay, d Apr 9, 1863, ae 34 years.” And under Frank’s name it says “Ollie and Ella, Children of F & N LaHay.” There also is a newer flat marker that simply says “Ollie and Ella LaHay.”

That’s it for Francois “Frank” LaHay. It was a life cut short. Who will remember Frank LaHay? I know he appeared on some deeds, and his name appeared in the report prepared by a House of Representative Committee to investigate the “Troubles in Kansas”. But none of that was significant.

He was not a well-known person, nor was he recorded anywhere either for good or for bad. He left no descendants and no legacy. But he was a part of my great-grandma’s life, and even though he is not my blood relative, I want him to count somewhere. And since he’s truly an immortal nobody, here is where he shall be.

Sunday, August 7, 2011



The story of Henry Ber Kaufman is an incomplete one. What we know is gathered from little odds and ends, and there are many unanswered questions about his heritage. I guess it is often that way with orphans. Henry is not my relative nor is he my husband's. But he IS family, because Jerry was married to his granddaughter for many years until her untimely death at the age of 44. I needed to research her family line in order to give Carole a voice in the genealogy that has been so pervasive in our house these last 24 years. So here we have the family heritage of Carolyn Kaufman Title.

The picture above is of Henry Ber and his wife Caroline Gottlieb Kaufman. Shown are their first three children, Theo, Rachel (Ray), and Lewis. Later Ed, Fannie and Gertrude came along. Ed was Carole's father.

Son Lewis wrote a short family history and I'll quote from his notes: "My father, Henry Kaufman...was born in 1854 in New Orleans. During the year 1855 there was a yellow fever epidemic and both of his parents died. My father, an orphan, was adopted by a Mr. and Mrs. Ber, who had no natural children. Later Mr. Ber died, leaving the widow with the adopted son whom they had named Henry Ber Kaufman. Widow Ber, Mathilde Godchaux Ber, somewhere met widower Solomon Gottlieb and they married. So Henry Ber Kaufman, the orphan, was brought into a large Gottleib family and became 'one of the boys', being the same age as Charles Gottlieb." Apparently Mr. Gottlieb had children from an earlier marriage, so Henry fit nicely into the family.

Backing up a bit, on August 1, 1855 the Home for Jewish Widows and Orphans opened in New Orleans as a result of this yellow fever epidemic. Mr. Ber was one of the early sponsors.

In a hunt for the orphanage records I went to New Orleans, where I was able to locate these records. To my great surprise, in looking at them I found several things of note: 1) Henry's name was actually Kaufman, which means Mr. Ber did not change Henry's name when he adopted him but used Ber as Henry's middle name, 2) the "Biography 3" indicates that Henry was the third child to be placed in the orphanage, 3) Henry was admitted on August 1, although the formal record states the orphanage was opened on August 7; and 4)Henry was adopted when he was three years old.

So little Henry was one of the reasons that the orphanage was needed. There is no birth record for Him, except that the orphanage records says he was born in Louisville, Kentucky. That is more likely than the family saying he was born in New Orleans. However, I have never been able to corroborate that.

Henry did fine growing up in the Gottlieb family. Solomon had a daughter named Carrie about Henry's age, and Matilda was sure that Henry and Carrie would make a good match. The family always remembered her saying to her step-daughter Carrie, "Nuh, dare is nothing like dat Heinie." Over the years Carrie came to believe her, and she and "Heinie" (Henry) married on February 22, 1890 in Baton Rouge.

This is a picture taken in 1945 of those Kaufmans who were still living in Baton Rouge.

Henry Ber Kaufman has many descendants, four of whom are my lovely granddaughters, Stacey, Carley, Jill and Katie. The research on the Kaufman side of the family is for them.

Monday, August 1, 2011



I didn't have either of my grandmas in my life for very long. My dad's mother, who lived in Colorado, died when I was 6, and this grandma, my mom's mother, died when I was 11. But this is how I remember her looking: very grandmotherly, I thought. She was 62 when she died, and I am now 76 and I don't think I look nearly as grandmotherly! But perhaps my own little grandchildren think so. It's hard to see oneself as old.

Jessie did not have the easiest of lives. Her father, Joseph Clinton Davis, deserted her mother, Nellie Stevens Davis, shortly after Jessie was born in Kansas. In 1887 her mother met James Eungard, a railroad man, and after securing a divorce, Jim and Nellie moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where they married. Sometime before this picture was taken Jessie took sick with typhoid fever and she lost all her hair. This photo has been in our family for many years and I was told that Jessie's hat covered her bald head.

As with many railroad families, the Eungard family moved from place to place, sometimes in Kansas and at least once to Oklahoma, where her stepbrother Chester Eungard was born. In 1900 the Eungard family was enumerated in Wichita, where Jessie was shown as 15 years old. By 1905, the family was in Caldwell, Kansas, where she met and married Byrd Worthington Ryland, the youngest son of James A. Ryland. In 1906 her first child, a son named Nevalyn Eugene Ryland (called Bob) was born.

She and Byrd would go on to have 6 more children besides Bob: Florence Vivian, Virginia Louise, Marie Eleanor, Byrd Worthington Jr., Hugh Sterling, and Marjorie Ellen.

There was a problem in the marriage, however. Byrd Sr. couldn't settle down. In the course of the marriage he couldn't seem to stay in one place for very long, uprooting the family while he tried to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He apparently was not in good health and often the move was between Caldwell, Kansas, and Colorado Springs. But there was something else wrong besides that. In 1929 Jessie filed for divorce, in the Complaint noting that "Since the marriage of plaintiff and defendant, defendant has been extremely and repeatedly cruel towards plaintiff..." Later in the papers it notes that "Defendant is not a fit person to have the custody of said minor children." The divorce was granted, and instead of alimony, Jessie accepted a cash settlement and the farm property in Mulvane, Kansas.
By 1929 the three oldest children were out of high school and on their own. Grandma Jessie took the four youngest to the farm and attempted to make a go of it there. I can remember as a child being told that Jessie raised chickens and children, and loved them both. But in the picture below, a snapshot, you can see that life was not easy for her.

To make matters worse, in 1930 the farmhouse caught on fire and burned to the ground. Jessie took the children to her aunt's house in Wichita, where they stayed until she got on her feet again. About this time her son Bob, who had gone to California to become a movie star, encouraged her to come out where he could help her. Grandma asked my mother, who was in Colorado Springs working at a photography studio, to help her with the children on the trip, and in late 1930 they headed to California. I am not sure where in her life the picture below actually belongs, but I like to think that this is how she looked when she began her great California adventure, putting her divorce and her farm loss behind her.

California was in the grips of the depression like the rest of the country, and since Bob's movie career had failed to materialize, the little Ryland group - Jessie, Virginia (19), Marie (15), Bert (11), Hugh (9) and Margie (4) did their best to survive. Jessie used her settlement money to buy a little ice cream shop in North Long Beach, which failed. She then worked at a farmer's roadside vegetable stand, did some odd jobs as a live-in attendent for old people - and my mother took care of all her little siblings. The four younger children always had a very close relationship with my mother, because she was their de facto mother for those really tough depression years.

For many years various family members lived together in Long Beach in a big old house while Bert and Hugh served in WWII. Florence's husband was overseas also, and she and her baby daughter came to California for a while. As things got easier financially for the family, Grandma's cheery disposition took over and in spite of working hard each day, she went dancing at night and certainly must have captured some of her lost fun! She met and became engaged to a fellow dancer and plans were in the making for a wedding when she was felled by a heart attack at age 62 and died.

I have always felt that Grandma Jessie had a tough life. Of course I didn't know much of this when I was a kid, but being raised around all my aunts, uncles and cousins we of course knew some of it. But I will say this for the Ryland Family: None of us second generation kids ever heard a bad word spoken about our Grandpa Byrd. The siblings may have talked among themselves, but they were completely close-mouthed about family matters to their kids. All that I learned about my Grandpa Byrd, who died in 1935 just before I was born, was from my own genealogical research.

Many years later after my own mother died, I asked my dad if he knew what the problem was with Grandpa Byrd. He said my mom never would tell him. But he assured me that for his money, Jessie was the best woman he'd ever met, next to my mom, of course. He said that Jessie cried something awful when she learned that Byrd had died in Colorado. He said he figured she really, after all those years, carried a fondness in her heart for him, the father of all her children.

Monday, July 25, 2011



It is often thought that divorces didn't much happen in "the old days." But people being people, it happened then just as it does now. The record above (which I will "translate" in part below) is found in the Court Records of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas, Divorce Packet 5532 and dates to September 9, 1884.

Nellie, daughter of Levi J. and Nancy Anderson Sperry, filed for divorce from her husband, Charles S. Perry. In this petition she says that she married said Perry on October 1, 1879 and was a good, faithful and obedient wife. However, she adds, beginning about May 1, 1884 her husband went to a house of prostitution known as "Moll Butler's" on 3rd Street in Kansas City, Missouri and committed adultery with "a certain woman whose true name is unknown to your petitioner but who is known by the name of 'Blondeyes' and 'Ella' and who is an inmate of said house of ill fame." She adds that he's continued committing adultery with her ever since that time.

She asks the court for a dissolution from the marriage bonds and that she be restored to her maiden name of Nellie D. Sperry. The court granted her request.

I know from further records that she married again, but she is so loosely connected to my Dobbins family that I really haven't spent a lot of time researching her.

Her father, Levi J. Sperry is written about in my blog of April 2011. He was married the first time to Paulina J. Dobbins, who was my great-grandfather Dobbins's sister. Levi, Paulina and a daughter Unitia made the trip west with the Dobbins Family, but Paulina and a newborn baby died in early 1856. Unitia died when she was about 11 years old, so there is no one left in this family related to the Dobbinses. But my great-grandfather remained friends with his former brother-in-law,and in fact was working on Levi's farm when he met his future wife, the widow Nancy "Nannie" Corel LaHay. I have always considered the Sperry family to be emotionally but not biologically connected to the Dobbins line. That's not very good genealogical practice, but sometimes it just happens!

The Sperrys had marriage problems all around. Levi and 2nd wife Nancy had a major divorce scandal. Levi married a third time, and after his death, that wife sued a besotted neighbor for breach of promise.

In genealogy, sometimes you find other people's relatives are far more interesting than your own!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


~ A Ryland Relative ~

Is it important to document the existence of a person who is (or was) your half-first cousin twice removed? Or to document a person whose only extant image appears on two passport applications in the National Archives, one dated 9 June 1919 and the other 30 August 1924?

In the scheme of things it may not be all that important, but since starting genealogical research in 1984 I had tried to find this fellow and it took until August of 2010 to find him - 36 years! That makes it important to me.

NOTE: You can double-click the photo above to see the Application more clearly.

Let me see if I can simplify how we relate: My great-grandma Nellie Stevens Davis Eungard (a twice-married lady) and Frank's father, Edward Whitters, were siblings. Their mom, Ellen, had two marriages. Little Frank Whittiers was from the first marriage (his natural father died young) and Nellie Stevens was from her second marriage.

Nellie's daughter Jessie (my grandma) and Frank Whitters were first cousins, both born and raised in Kansas. As far as I can find, Frank never married or had children. So here's how all the "halves" and "removeds" are figured.

Jessie and Frank were half-first cousins.
Jessie's daughter Virginia (my mom) and Frank were half-first cousins once removed. This means that Virginia was still a first cousin but just one generation further down the line.
And because I am Virginia's daughter, I am still a first half-cousin but twice removed. I'm two generations down the line.

Frank was born on April 9, 1884 in Raymond, Rice County, Kansas. In September of 1918 he registered for the WWI Draft and at that time stated his occupation was a farm laborer on his brother-in-law's farm in Kansas. (Frank had a married sister Jenny Whitters Caywood). He may already have done some work in the oil fields, but I have no proof of that. I imagine in between jobs he helped on the farm.

There is an interesting Affidavit in his 1919 Passport Application from his father that sheds some light on his background. It says:
I, E. R. Whitters, being first duly sworn, depose and say upon my oath that I am the father of Frank Edward Whitters, who was born April 9, 1884, at Raymond, Kansas; and that the attending physician was Dr. Burton of Raymond, Kansas; I was born on July 1st, 1854 at Boston, Massachusetts, and that the mother of said Frank Edward Whitters was also a native born American. All of the above mentioned places are in the United States of American.

Other interesting items on his passport are that the passport was to be sent to hm in care of Empire Refining Co., in Ponca City, Oklahoma. His plans were to leave from Laredo Texas on board the Southern Pacific Rail Road on June 20, 1919. A letter from the Anglo Mexican Petroleum Company Ltd. was also included which said he had been engaged by them for a three year period on a salary basis and will be engaged in drilling for Oil in the vicinity of Tampico, Mexico.

We also know that his passport was renewed in 1924.

In 1930 Frank lived in Newton County, Missouri and was listed on the census as a well driller. But in the Thursday, August 24, 1933 edition of the Alice (Texas) Echo News there is a notice as follows:

The Body of Frank E. Whittier (sic), 49, is being held at the Moyer Mortuary, pending instructions from relatives as to where the body is to be shipped. Whittier was a driller for the T. G. & M. Drilling Company and had been employed in the Freer Oil Fields."
There was no further information in the newspapers, but Charles Roberson of Roberson's Funeral Home in Alice, Texas was able to tell me that he checked with the Alice Cemetery and found that Frank E. Whitters was buried in Section D, Lot 6, Space 6. The death certificate was issued in Duval County, Texas. An autopsy was perform which indicated angina pectoris, coronary occlusion and arterio sclerosis.

So Frank had a short life. But at least he is now counted among my other relatives, the Immortal Nobodies, and can be found again, should anyone else be looking.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

UBERTO WRIGHT - 1813-1889


No family pictures exist of Uberto Wright or his second wife Susannah Jane Smith Wright, from whom I descend. His first wife, Sarah Allen, died young, leaving two small daughters (Miriam and America.) Uberto and Susan had six children: Frances Narcissa, called Fannie, James, John, Jacob, Minerva and Lily. Fannie was my great-grandmother on my dad's side.

You would think a diligent researcher would find some kind of explanation as to where such an usual name as Uberto came from. But no, in 27 years of researching I have not found an earlier source. I have found descendants with that name, along with themes and variations: Ulberto, Uberdo, Alberto, Alberta, Huberto and so on. I've decided people want to understand the name by making it be something else. But it is, plain and simple: Uberto.

Uberto was born in Barren County, Kentucky in January of 1813 and was reared principally in Warren County, which borders Barren on the west. He was a farmer and did surveying. He also became a minister in the Christian Church (aka Church or Christ or Campbellite) and in the 1880s he was employed by the State Board of the Christian Church as an evangelist. He also served as Justice of the Peace several times. He was called on to become a candidate for the Legislature but he refused, not being interested in things political. He had a plantation of some 255 acres on Peter's Creek in Barren County. He was a slaveholder prior to the Civil War.

The 1870 Federal Census for Barren County, KY is quite interesting as it pertains to our Wright family. Take a look at it. The slaves have been emancipated. The first column counts houses and the second number counts family. So you see first Uberto and Susan's household and then you see Felix and America Wright's family.

In the Uberto & Susan Wright family we find James, Jacob, John, Lilly and Polly, Uberto's sister. The three oldest daughters, Mary Ann, America and Narcissa are already married and living on their own. I do not know who Sallie Vaughn is, but there are also three black Wrights: Malinda, a maid; Rufus a farm hand,and Fannie, a child. In the house next door we find another family of Wrights - Felix and America, with children Samuel, Uberto, Luther, Sera?, and Zack.

You can see the names "America" "Fannie" and Uberto appear in both famlies. And my great-grandma Fannie Wright McConnell named one of her sons "Luther."

Narcissa (the oldest child of Uberto and Susannah) was my father's grandma. She and her husband left Kentucky about 1880 and went to Texas and then to Colorado. My father and his sister (my Aunt Dorothy), who were born and raised in Colorado, knew their grandma, who was called "Bonnie." When I started into genealogy my questions spurred Aunt Dorothy to write a Family History of what she remembered about her family. Here is one sentence in her story that pertains to the Uberto & Susannah Wright family:

The family (Narcissa and husband) moved to Waco, Texas in 1880, living on a small farm. Mama said one of the former slaves from the Wright plantation came with them. Many stayed on after the war ended and were treated as members of the family.
The picture of the family as shown in the 1870 census gives a hint that Aunt Dorothy's recollection just may be right.

All my reading about Uberto leads me to believe he was a kind Christian man. I would guess (and hope) that he treated his slaves well and was first in line to give them their freedom when the time came. I also would suspect that my Aunt Dorothy was right in what she remembered and the now-freed slaves chose to remain close to Uberto and Susan.

Another plus for Uberto is that he gave his wife "power and authority at his demise to make sales of land and deed by general warranty, the same to the purchaser or purchasers to have the full force of a deed from myself and her jointly, and any other small matter than I might or may owe that my wife pay the same as in her judgment may be deemed proper." I was pleased that he gave his wife credit for having some brains!

And finally, his last words in his will were these: "May God bless my family." A will rattling around with family skeletons is fun to read, but how much better to read one that contains a blessing!

Uberto died in 1889 and Susannah Smith Wright in 1903. They are buried in the Smith Cemetery (near Etoile) in Barren County. With them are their children, John C. Wright and Minerva Wright, as well as Susan's father and mother, James D and Rebecca D. Higdon Smith.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


~ A Ryland Family ~

It is a lucky day for a genealogist when the tombstone carries magical information.

Here is what my third-great grandfather's stone says:
Sacred to the Memory of Stephen Madden
Died May 28, 1877, aged 75 years
Born in the Parish of Kilbragen
Town of Bandon, Co. Cork, Ireland.

And his wife's says:
Sacred to the Memory of
Wife of Stephen Madden
Died August 23, 1870 age 72 years 3 mo.
Born in the Parish of Kilbragen
Town of Bandon, Co. Cork, Ireland

And the following inscription is on both of them:
When the hours of life are past
And death's dark shades arrives at last,
It is not sleep, it is no rest,
'Tis Glory opening to blest.
N. Imus

These stones are in the Madden plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Mendota, Illinois.

Stephen and Hanorah (found sometimes as Honorah, and occasionally shown as "Nora") arrived in the United States sometime between June of 1830 and July of 1834. They brought three children with them: Julia, b 1825; Timothy b abt 1828; and John C., b 10 June 1830. Settling in Taunton, Massachusetts, their last child, Ellen, was born there on 10 July 1834. She was my second-great grandmother.

On the 1850 census records Stephen is shown as a "laborer." By this time son Timothy had gone to California (and was never heard from again,) and daughter Julia had married Peter Donohue. In 1853 the records in St. Mary's Church show that son John had married Mary Sullivan and Ellen had married Robert Whitters, a young man from Ireland. Unfortunately Robert died in 1855, leaving Ellen a young widow with Edward, a year-old child.

All the Madden family except for Ellen moved to Mendota, LaSalle County, Illinois in 1853. But after her husband's death she took Edward and followed her family. It was there that she met and married Chester Stevens in 1857. Edward Whitters retained his birth name but was raised in the Stevens family as the oldest son.

Stephen and Hannorah were devout Catholics and were not too pleased at their daughter Ellen marrying outside the faith, according to a letter in the possession of granddaughter Lucile G. Fulton York in 1969. Written to a grandson of Julia Madden Donohue, these are the salient parts:

My Grandmother, Ellen, was, I think, the only member of her family born in this country. She married Robert Whitters and they had a son before he was killed, leaving her a young widow with a baby son....I think, but am not sure, that Grandfather [Chester]Stevens was in the same business as Uncle Pete and was selling machinery - traveling around. Grandfather was from English parents and Steven's Point, Wisconsin is named that because they founded the town. When they were married, Grandfather and Grandmother migrated to Raymond, Kansas.

The reason our branch of the family knows little about Grandma's people is that Grandfather was not Catholic and her people were displeased. He died around the turn of the century so I didn't know him. His sister, Sophronia, married Gen. Steven Hurlbut and he and Grandma were frequent visitors at the White House after Grant became President. Grandma was a great gal, walked like a queen, and had a combination of Irish and Bostonion accent that was really something....I have a remnant of a paisley shawl, which was a wedding gift and which I am putting in small antique frames for the grandchildren, along with the records I have...."
Nothing more is known about Steven and Hanorah

Sunday, June 5, 2011


A recent picture posted on LA Weekly purported to be the face of genealogy, but it was a less than flattering picture of two young boys. Frankly, it was a tasteless illustration and whoever chose that picture was no friend of genealogists.

I offer here my take on the face of genealogy - my Uncle Bob Ryland and my Aunt Florence Ryland, sitting for the photographer in Caldwell, Kansas in 1908. This Ryland line goes back to Paulus Reylandt - who died in Berks, PA in 1789.

Thursday, June 2, 2011



I am always afraid that relatives who die either young or at least before they marry and start a family will get lost both in the memory and in the record. Robert Gaston Dobbins was my great-grandfather's brother. He died when he was only 23 years old and unmarried. Although my great-grandfather named his first son after him, (Robert Gaston Dobbins 1872-1929) by the time I started genealogy in 1984 no one in the family had any inkling that there had been an earlier relative by that name. I am hoping that my record of him will here always be available to anyone running a search on that name. He is truly an Immortal Nobody.

Robert Gaston Dobbins had been born in Clermont County, Ohio to James "Jim" Alexander and Elizabeth Perkins Dobbins. In 1834 the Dobbins family, headed by the Rev. Robert B. Dobbins, a circuit-riding Presbyterian Minister, left Ohio for Illinois, where Rev. Dobbins had purchased enough land to ultimately deed some to each of his children. The family settled in Vermont Township, Fulton County, Illinois.

The Mississippi River is the western border of Illinois
and many rivers feed into it. The dot on the map below shows approximately where the Dobbinses settled and you can see the waterways that course through it. The two biggest are the Illinois River and nearer to Fulton County the Spoon River.

My friend Carl Peterson, a retired history professor, a superb genealogist and a terrific social historian, told me that the Mississippi Valley, of which west-central Illinois is a part, had a terrible cholera epidemic in 1851, and it is possible that this is what Robert died from. Of course we don't know for sure. We do, however, know that it was from an illness, as one of the charges against his estate was a bill from the doctor that read: “To P. S. Secor, Dr. For 20 visits, advice and medicine per self in last illness - $33.25,” Carl noted that is is unlikely that someone dying in a cholera epidemic would have had occasion for 20 visits to the doctor.

What we do know is that Robert did not leave a will, but he had enough assets that his estate had to be probated. Robert's father Jim was the administrator and he had to declare all of Robert’s assets and all of his liabilities.

Although this record is difficult to read, Robert apparently loaned money to Levi J. Sperry, who was married to Robert’s sister Paulina Jane; Robert was holding two notes, one for $20 and the other for $12.50. As administrator of the estate Jim noted that it was “doubtful” that these were collectible. I suspect that this was a way to “forgive” the notes. After all, Levi was his son-in-law, and what father hasn’t helped out his kids? The husband of daughter Elizabeth Dobbins Kinsey owed seventy-five cents, but Jim didn’t “forgive” that debt. (Claudius Kinsey had deserted Elizabeth some years earlier). And Jim himself owed $8.87, which he said he was good for. The total money outstanding was $78.57.

Among the bills that Robert’s estate incurred was one for $8.00 from Thomas Grewell for making the coffin and one for $2.00 paid to John Marshall “for crying Sale of the Estate of said deed.” “Crying” is a word used when there is an auction or sale – the auctioneer “cries” the sale.

An inventory was taken of all Robert’s possessions, and among the items on the list were some fairly uncommon items for a young man who lived on a farm on the Illinois prairie:

1 leather trunk
1 silk plush cap
1 pair pantaloons
1 satin vest
2 silk neck handkerchiefs
1 pr hose
1 mole skin hat
1 fine shirt
2 pair cashmere pants
1 gold ring
1 umbrella
1 Missouri Harmony

Of course there were the usual undershirts, underpants, jackets, hats, etc. that you would expect. All the inventoried items were sold at auction. Purchasers included family members and a few neighbors.

I originally thought a “Missouri Harmony” was a harmonica. But I learned that it was a shape-note singing book that had been used since the 1820s in the various singing schools that were held in many areas during that period of our country’s history. They were created for people who didn’t read music; singers could identify the tune by observing the shapes of the notes. Sometimes they are called “wheat notes.” There also was another book that was popular at that time called “Sacred Harp.”

In my investigation to learn about the Missouri Harmony, I was able to purchase a reproduction from the University of Nebraska book store for $1.00 – a closeout price. They had one copy left, obviously waiting for me! Here’s what it looks like.

I know nothing more about young Robert Gaston Dobbins except that he was buried in the Dobbins Cemetery in Vermont Township, Fulton County, Illinois. No picture exists.

Monday, May 23, 2011



Charlotte was the third of six daughters and one son born to New Englanders Elijah and Catherine Whipple Bond. She was born in Genessee County, New York. Her parents were from New Hampshire.

It's possible to get an idea of the family's movement west by looking at birth and marriage places. Elijah and Catherine were married in Kingston, Vermont in 1816. The first daughter, Mary Angeline, was born in Vermont. The next five daughters, Philena, Charlotte, Harriet, Jane and Marinda, were all born in New York. Son John was born in Summit County, Ohio in 1836.

Sometime around 1847 the senior Bonds, along with several of their married daughters, moved to Noble County, Indiana, and that is where they settled. Charlotte and her husband, James Ryland, lived near Kendallville and Charlotte's sisters, Harriet Graham and Marinda Ihrie lived near Lisbon, where their father, Elijah, became an exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

It is unfortunate that in that time period women's stories are mostly the stories of their husbands, especially when they settled in somewhat rural areas. So Charlotte's life was circumscribed by being the wife of a farmer and the mother of 5 sons - Francis Marion, James Arthur, George Washington, Charles Albert Eugene, and Alfred Adelbert - and 1 daughter, Olive Clerzen, who died as an infant.

Son Alfred died unmarried at the age of 29. George Washington had some sort of accident that left him somewhat brain damaged and he lived with his parents until they died, after which time he was cared for by his brother Charles.

As her sons married, some moved away - James to Kansas and Francis to Ohio. Charles stayed in Indiana until both Charlotte and James died, and then he and his brother George moved to Mississippi.

Charlotte was widowed in 1902 and our family has letters from her written in 1907 where she admits she is going deaf and that she is lonesome to see her sons who have moved away. She chides her sons for not writing often enough and praises her grandson, Byrd Ryland (son of son James) for continuing to write letters to her, the last one about the birth of Byrd Jr., her grandson, in Kansas. She died in 1908.

She and her husband are buried in the Kendallville, Indiana cemetery. Two obituaries exist, one from the Kendallville Sun on 11/5/1908:

Ryland, Charlotte, 87, died at Lima Ohio where she was visiting her sister, Monday. She was the widow of James Ryland of Allen Twp who died about 6 years ago. She had resided in Allen Twp since 1847, coming to this county from Ohio. She leaves 4 sons, C.A. and G. W. of Allen Twp., F.M. of Cincinnati, and J.A. of Caldwell, Kansas.
A second larger obituary was printed on November 11, 1908 that added the following information:

Charlotte Ryland: Daughter of Elijah and Catherine Bond, she was born in Genessee County, NY Dec. 25, 1820. She with her parents came to eastern Ohio in 1832 and was married to James Ryland in 1841. On July 24, 1902 her husband died, aged 82 years 3 months and 23 days. They had 5 sons and one daughter. The daughter died in infancy and one son in early manhood. She died November 3, aged 87 years 10 months and 8 days.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011



Lillie Jane (sometimes Jennie) McConnell was the first of eight children born to John B and Narcissa Frances "Bonnie" Wright McConnell and one of only three who survived to adulthood. She was my Grandma Maud's sister. There was 8 years between Lillie and Maud another 8 years before brother Harrie Uberto "Bert" was born. The first seven children were born in Glasgow, Barren County, Kentucky. Sometime before 1880 the McConnells left Kentucky and settled in Kosse, Texas, where John took up farming.

The family records that Lillie spent a year teaching school in Texas and then in 1886 married Benjamin Franklin McCammon, a train engineer. They shortly moved to Colorado City (now part of Colorado Springs) and by 1892 four children had been born. The oldest baby died, but the other three children, Hazel, Floyd and John all lived.

Ben either purchased or had a house built at 1804 Colorado Street, which remained in the McCammon family until 1977.

In 1893 Lillie was widowed when her husband was killed in a train wreck. A local newspaper gave the details:

Lillie's family came from Texas to help her, and it was decided that her younger sister Maud, now nearing 18 years old, would stay and help her sister with the children.

Once they got to be of school age, Maud took a job at a bookstore in town, and in 1898 she met and married Scott Dobbins, a rancher and musician. The wedding was held at Lillie's house. A year later, Lillie married Charles Wheeler, a building contractor and in 1900 she gave birth to their only child, Lucy Eleanor Wheeler.

Maud's husband died in 1917, leaving two children, Dorothy 13, and Scott Jr. 9. Maud had to go to work full time, so Lillie returned the favor and became a loving caretaker to her own sister's children. Lillie died in 1939 and Charlie in 1940.