Everything’s Relative October 2002

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Not-So-Distant Cousin

For some reason, I did not begin researching my mother’s side of the family tree until much later in our lives. I think part of the problem was Mother’s negative attitude toward genealogy. Her family was not very close and many were already dead when I finally persisted in getting a few names. To make matters worse, my grandfather and his siblings all had inexplicably different surnames. Then along comes the Internet and its message boards. I posted my brick-wall surname and went on with other lines.

Months later I received an e-mail from a not-so-distant cousin. We share the same great-grandmother (our grandfathers were half-brothers). She signed her e-mail and added her address and phone number. Was I surprised to see that we lived only 30 minutes away from each other! We both live in a small rural area on the Oregon coast and had probably stood in the grocery store line together at some point in the last 10 years. Since then we have shared stories, pictures, family lines and laughter. She even introduced me to some octogenarian cousins an hour and a half away. I never dreamed I would find the living among the dead!


Astoria, Ore.

Quaker Quest

Since I became a Quaker and a genealogy hound about the same time, I was intrigued by a Quaker librarian friend’s assertion that if one can trace one’s European ancestry in the United States back to the 18th century, there is a very high probability that one will discover Quaker ancestors.

Excited, I dived in. The first Quaker I found was my fourth-great-grandfather Evan Evans, a Revolutionary War medic from New Jersey, who traveled West to claim his bounty lands and co-founded a Quaker colony in Highland County, Ohio, in 1803. True to his pacifist beliefs, he made friends with the local Indian chief Wah-Will-Away. I was hooked!

As satisfying as that discovery was, I was even more tickled to learn that my ninth-great-grandfather William Sutton, a Quaker born on Cape Cod in 1641, was put on trial in Barnstable in 1666 for stealing the Bible from the Meetinghouse. Convicted, he was fined one pound for the crime, “and for telling a lye about the same, 10 shillings.”

I can’t wait to find out what’s next!


via e-mail

Start ‘Em Young

Hayden is my 3 ½-year-old grandson. When he is visiting at my home, we often sit and look at old family photographs. I spend as much time as he will allow me telling him who all the different people are. I tell him the relationship to him and to me because I want so much for him to be interested in his family history as he grows up. I phoned to tell my son something one evening and Hayden answered the phone. After we talked for several minutes, I asked him if I could speak with his dad. “Yes, Nana, I will call him,” Hayden answered. Then I heard him call out, “Dad, your mother wants to talk to you.”


via e-mail


When I began my search for ancestors, I had the notion that my Cramers were Cramers, spelled the way my grandfather had spelled them, and Welsh was Welsh, and Roux was Roux and so forth. I was having a difficult enough time finding them, until a lookup volunteer in Canada found my Cramers listed as Creamer and Cremer — same family, different census years. And Roux became Rowe, according to one creative census transcriptionist. Rupe and Rux were also variations. Then came Welsh, which should have been Welsh, but it turned out to be Walsh. OK, so I gave up on my purist approach. Bernette is Burnett and Nowlands, Newlands; Hawthorn can be Hawthorne; and Raycroft, well, Roycraft, Reycraft and many other variations will do. Now that I’m so enlightened, I’ve gone much further in my research. However, another researcher just informed me that in Scotland, the Gaelic was anglicized and MacKendrick could be Henry or Hendry, and MacVouran, Morrison! Luckily, my Scotland MacNeills were MacNeills and my Campbells were Campbells … or at least I certainly do hope so.


Crawford, Texas

Double Trouble

My great-uncle Oswald told this story about his mother, Margaret Stillwell Alexander, who had an identical twin sister named Frances. The twins were born in 1847 near the town of Charlotte, NC. Early in their adult lives, they lived together or close to one another, but in 1895 my great-grandfather bought a farm several counties away. In the meantime, Frances and her husband moved into town. Apparently Margaret never went back for a visit until 1924, when Frances died, and she took the train to Charlotte to attend the funeral. She arrived after dark and caught a streetcar to her sister’s house. When she walked in the front door, Frances was laid out in her coffin in the parlor. The neighbors, who were gathered there for the wake, didn’t know Frances had a twin. They were so startled when they saw Margaret standing in the door that several people jumped out the windows.


Durham, NC

A Turncoat Uncovered

All my life I’d heard my grandmother mention Uncle Marion, my grandfather’s uncle. However, it wasn’t until my father was checking our family genealogy that we found this out: Uncle Marion had joined the Confederate Army in Newton County, Ark. He was shortly captured by the Yankees and was imprisoned somewhere in Illinois. When released (for what reason I don’t know), he promptly joined them.

When my father told me this, I said, “You mean we have a turncoat in our family?” Recently, however, I found out that wasn’t all that unusual. I still think that is funny!


Maryland Heights, Mo.

A Bear of a Tale

Many years ago, my aunt told me that a set of my fourth-great-grandparents, John and Rachel McIntire, had been killed and scalped by Indians near Clarksburg, WV, in 1791. She even had a copy of a page from a book, telling something about the incident. While looking for proof and more details last year, I came across another telling of the story in a newspaper article about a related family. What really thrilled me, though, was mention of a “family legend” about how John and Rachel’s children survived. According to the story, the McIntire parents had gone out to visit neighbors, leaving their children at home. When a small band of Indians passed the McIntire house, they heard such a racket, they decided there must be too many people in the house to risk attacking and continued on their journey. In an apparent example of “when the cat’s away…,” the children supposedly brought a pet bear into the house and were romping with it, creating the noise that misled the Indians! If this story is true, the bear saved their lives! Having never heard this tale before, I brought it up at the next family reunion, and one of my dad’s cousins said her father had told them that story many times. While John and Rachel were definitely killed, the bear part sounds awfully farfetched, but it still makes a great story.


via e-mail

Uncle Who?

Hunched over in the dim light of the microfilm reader at the National Archives regional center in Chicago, I slowly scrolled through the 1920 census. Knowing only that my mother was horn in Hast Moline, Ill., I hoped to find some clues to her family history. As I scanned down the faded entries, my eyes froze on one toward the bottom of the page. Although the family name was misspelled, the parents’ names and ages matched family records. Also, my grandfather’s occupation was listed as “moulder” (or molder), which we knew was so. Could this be the entry for my mother’s family?

I studied the list of children. Their names also matched the names of my aunt and uncles. That is, until I got to the last entry. Child number six was listed as “Balestasi.” I blinked in amazement. Who? This should have been William, or my uncle Bill.

My sister consulted her Polish-English dictionary, and that gave us a clue to solving the mystery. Later I called my uncle Bill to inform him that his given name was Boleslaw (the proper spelling), which is Polish for William.

“What?” he exclaimed. “You know, now that you say that, I remember my mother calling me ‘Boli.’ I thought it was just her nickname for me.” No one in the family had ever mentioned Boleslaw as my uncle’s given name, to him or anyone. Had I skipped over that entry in the census because the family name was misspelled, I would have never discovered this wonderful bit of family history.


Milwaukee, Wis.

From the October 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine