The majority of the ancestors that I have found originated in English speaking countries – America, England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland – so I don’t often deal with documents in other languages.
However, I have a little German ancestry on both my mother and father’s sides. My 3rd great grandfather, William Althauser, immigrated to the U.S. from Baden in 1853 when he was 7 years old. Over the past two years, I have done quite a bit of research on his German family, during which I first encountered German records. One of my minors in college was German, so I have some basic knowledge of the language, but working with German written in the 19th century and before was a whole new experience!
In the 19th century, German people wrote in the Kurrent script, an alphabet based on a medieval cursive script. This makes reading documents so much more difficult. Not only are the records written in German, but in a completely different alphabet! I worked on translating some of the Althausers’ immigration records, but I finally had to give up and ask the help of a translator. However, church registers are a little easier to decipher because they typically follow a pattern and use the same basic vocabulary for each entry.
Besides working with traditional German records, another resource that I have found particularly helpful for German-speaking ancestors is the Ortsfamilienbuch. An Ortsfamilienbuch (literally translating to place family book) is a book put together by individual towns that trace the genealogies of all the people who have lived in the town using church records, military records, homage lists, and other resources. These books also give short histories of the towns, the demographic makeup, and short overviews of some of the records used.
The length of the books depends on the state of the records in each town. For example, my Althauser family came from Opfingen, and the church records survive from the mid 17th century. So for many of my German families, I can trace them back to the early 17th century just by using the published Ortsfamilienbuch for Opfingen. The Ortsfamilienbuch is written in German (modern German thank goodness!) but it still took me quite a long time to get through the introductory material and tracing the families. Now I need to take what I have found in the book and double check it with the church records. But for that, I need to make a trip to Germany!
This is not the case for every German town. Some towns only have church records going back to the early 20th century, and some back to the Reformation. These books can be purchased, but they are a bit pricey. If you would rather not purchase, some larger libraries (even in the U.S.) have them in their collections. I have found the Ortsfamilienbuch to be an invaluable resource when studying German families, and I hope others find them useful as well!
And with this post, I am finally caught up after my vacation!
This week’s prompt about Mother’s Day is so special because I have wonderful relationships with the three most important mothers in my life – my mom and my two grandmothers. I feel very fortunate to know them as well as I do, and to have had them in my life for almost 29 years. For this post, I combed through my family tree looking for other mothers that might be fun to write about.
I chose Hannah Rockwood Chapin, who gave birth to 13 children, if not more! If that doesn’t make her an impressive mother, I don’t know what does! Hannah is another female ancestor that I don’t know very much about, but the few details I do have make me want to travel to New England and Pennsylvania to do some more research.
Hannah was born on December 3, 1755 in the town of Mendon in Worcester County, Massachusetts. Her parents were Reuben and Lydia (Green) Rockwood. Hannah was the oldest of several siblings including Lydia, Joshua Green, Beulah, and Jason. She and her family moved from Mendon to Tyringham in Berskshire County by the time she was 20 years old. In Tyringham, she met her husband, John Chapin. They married in Tyringham on 7 December 1775. John Chapin was born on 23 September 1755 in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, the son of Solomon and Joanna (White) Chapin.
Hannah and John’s first child, Lydia was born in May 1776, just 5 months after their marriage, which means Hannah was likely several months pregnant when she married John. In total, Hannah gave birth to her thirteen children over a 23 year period:
Lydia, born 1776
Samuel, born 1778
John, born 1779
Alta, born 1781
Mary, born 1783
Mercy Ester, born 1784
Lois, born 1786
James, born between 1786-1791
Joanna, born 1791
Lucinda, born 1793
Ammi, born 1793
Reuben, born 1797
Ezra, born 1799
Hannah must have been a very strong woman. In 1793, She had back-to-back pregnancies, and both Lucinda and Ammi were born in the same year. What is even more impressive is that all 13 children lived to adulthood! These 13 are just her recorded children. It is possible that she had more children that went unrecorded, especially if they died at birth.
By 1790, Hannah and John had moved from Tyringham to Huntington Township in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. They lived in Huntington for the remainder of their lives. Hannah died on 20 Jan 1829 when she was 73 years old, and was buried in the Town Hill Cemetery. John died 10 years later. I don’t know what Hannah’s personality was like, or even if she was a good mother, as having 13 children doesn’t automatically make her a good person. But I hope she was a good mother, and that her daughters found her inspirational, just as I’ve found my mother and grandmothers to be so.
This is a story about a close up encounter between my ancestors, Lieutenant Henry Adams and his wife Elizabeth (Paine) Adams with Native Americans during King Philip’s War. Metacomet was a chief of the Wampanoag Indians, and the son of Massasoit who had been very friendly with the New England colonists. However, Metacomet and other Native American tribes resented the fact that they were becoming dependent on the colonists, losing their land, and losing large portions of the population to disease. Spurred on by Metacomet, who the colonists called King Philip, several tribes including the Narragansetts, Wampanoags, and Pocumtucks banded together and tried to drive out the English.
The Native Americans attacked many English towns, including Medfield, the home of my 9th great grandparents, Henry and Elizabeth Adams. Henry was born in Barton St. David in Somerset, England to Henry Adams and Edith Squire. He immigrated to Massachusetts during the Great Migration, and married there Elizabeth Paine, daughter of Moses and Elizabeth Paine of Tenterden, Kent, England.
Henry did well for himself in Massachusetts. He was the principal military commander in Medfield in charge of a trainband, or militia company, served as the town clerk for over ten years, was chosen a town selectman, and was a representative to the General Court in 1659, 1665, 1674, and 1675. He and Elizabeth had eleven children, including my ancestor Moses Adams, who was born in Medfield in 1654.
King Philip’s War broke out in June 1675, and in February 1676, the town of Medfield expected to be attacked by the Native Americans at any time. Reinforcements were sent to Medfield to help protect the town, but during the night of February 20 or the very early morning of February 21, under the cover of darkness, the Indians entered the town. They set fire to many of the houses, barns, and other buildings. Henry Adams heard the attack from inside his house, and when he opened his front door, he was shot in the neck and died. The Indians then burned down both his house and his mill. His wife Elizabeth did not witness his death as at the time she was staying in the upstairs room in the house of the local reverend. A soldier who was also garrisoned in the reverend’s house accidentally fired his musket, which traveled through the ceiling and struck Elizabeth. She died from her wounds the next day.
King Philip’s War essentially ended with the death of Metacomet in 1676, even though sporadic fighting continued until 1678. This war was very bloody, and many tragedies occurred on both sides. This particular tragic, close up encounter in Medfield left eleven siblings without parents and the younger ones without a home.
I do not know if Henry and Elizabeth’s son Moses was living in Medfield when the attack occurred, or how he found out about his parents’ deaths. By 1684 he was living on land that Henry Adams had owned when he lived in Sherborn before moving to Medfield. As far as I know, he never returned to Medfield.
As an avid genealogist, I have spent a lot of time in cemeteries. There is something very peaceful about them, and whenever I am in one, I feel particularly close to my ancestors. Not just because I am literally in close proximity to their graves, but because those are places where my ancestors experienced great emotion and some of the most difficult days of their lives.
Besides cemeteries attached to churches, I am fascinated by cemeteries inside churches. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to England to visit some parish churches that some of my ancestors attended. One of my favorite churches was All Saints Church in Cople, Bedfordshire. It was built in the first half of the 1400s, and the chapels were added in the 16th century. Quite a few of my Dad’s ancestors are buried in vaults beneath the floors of the church and some in tombs above ground. The brasses and plaques near their graves tell a lot of important information about their lives, spouses, and children.
Two of the oldest brasses, or brass plates commemorating the deceased, are of Sir John Launcelyn, who died in 1435, and his wife Margaret. My 17th great grandfather is depicted in full armor with a lion at his feet, and my 17th great grandmother is wearing a long dress and headpiece. The brasses are affixed to the floor of the church, and Sir John and Margaret are buried in a vault underneath.
Their daughter Anne Launcelyn, who married Sir Walter Luke, is buried with her husband in an above ground tomb in the chancel of the church. A plaque showing Anne and Walter is above the tomb. The inscription reads:
“Here lyeth Sr Walter Luke, Knyght, one of the Justyces of the Pleas holden before the most excellent prynce King Henry the eyght, and dame Anne his wyffe Norysthe (nurse) unto his seyd magesty and one of the doughters and heyre of John Launcelyn, Esquyer, whyche seyd Sir Walter decessyd the xxith day of July in the xxxvith yere of the reygne of our Sovraygne Lorde, and the sayd dame Anne decessyd the ix day of September in the xxx yere of the reyne of the seyd most gracyus sovrange lord. On whos soulls ihu have m’cy, a.”
Anne Launcelyn had the interesting occupation as the woman who nursed King Henry VIII after he was born. As a thanks for her service, the king awarded her a 20 pound a year pension in 1515.
Nearby, another plaque designates where my 15th great grandparents, Nicholas Luke, Esquire, and his wife Cecily Wawton, are buried. Nicholas was the son of Sir Walter and Dame Anne Luke. Nicholas and Cecily’s plaque show them, their five sons, and four daughters. The inscription reads:
“Here lyeth Nicholas Luke, esquyer, one of the Barons of the Exchequer at Westminst’r and Cecyle his wyfe, one of the daughters and heyre of Sr Thomas Waulton, knyght, which Nicholas decessyd the xxii day of October in the yere of our Lorde God mccccclxiii. On whose soules Jesus have mercy.”
Two other brass plaques mark the burials of my 15th great grandparents, Robert Bulkeley and his wife Jane Gascoigne. The first plaque describes the death of Robert, and it shows him, Jane, and their sons and daughters kneeling with their coat of arms in the center. The inscription reads:
“Hereunder lyeth Robert Bulkeley, esquer, and Jone his wyfe hauynge betwene them vi sonnes and foure daughters, wch Robert decessyd the xviii day of June in the yere of our Lorde God mcccccl, on whose soules Jhesu have mercy. Amen.”
The second brass plaque was installed when Jane Bulkeley died six years later. The inscription reads:
“Here under lyeth buryd ye bodyes of Robert Bulkeley esquier, and of Joane his wyffe, doughter unto Syr William Gascoyne, Knyght, who dep’tyd this lyffe ye yere of our Lord God, 1556, on whos soules, O Lord Jesu Crist have m’cy.”
Robert and Jane’s daughter, Anne, married Thomas Spencer, also of Cople. Thomas and Anne Spencer, my 14th great grandparents, are also buried under the floor of All Saints Church. They used to have a brass, but the majority of it is now missing. The inscription reads:
“Here lyeth Thomas Spencer of this towne, gent., and Anne his wife, da. to Robert Bulkeley, esquire, which Thomas deceased the 3rd of December, 1547, and Anne departed the 28 of January, 1590, having had between them two sonnes and two daughters.”
Monumental brasses were popular forms of sculpture found in churches from the 13th century to the 16th century. They portray the deceased in various costumes and positions, with family members, heraldic symbols, and inscriptions describing basic genealogical information and vital dates. Because the brass could be melted down and sold, they were often stolen from churches, and only a little over 4,000 are still in English churches today. These brasses taught me about the arms the families held, how many children they had, when they died, and information about their careers in Tudor England. So not only is the church in Cople a sacred place where my ancestors worshiped for centuries, but the building is also their resting place. I hope to go back in the future for another visit!
I am a few weeks behind in my ancestry blogging journey, so this week, I am attempting to play catch-up! My husband and I were able to take a much needed vacation, and part of that vacation was putting anything that even resembled work on hold. While it was fun to take some off, I am excited to get back to genealogy.
This particular prompt was a bit difficult for me. So far, I haven’t uncovered many stories in my family history in which storms play a large part, so I am afraid this post will be a bit short. But there was one weather related incident that I discovered that affected my family in an exciting way.
On 26 January 1940, Nashville experienced an extreme cold snap and the temperature dropped to 6 degrees below zero. It was so cold that the Cumberland River, which runs through Nashville, froze solid. This was a pretty amazing feat! The Cumberland River had frozen over several other times before 1940, including in 1779, 1876, 1893, and 1905. So when it froze in 1940, the newspapers in Nashville ran several articles about how Nashvillians reacted to this exciting phenomenon. People walked, ran, played, and drove cars on the ice despite the safety warnings.
My several times great aunt Bert, uncle Mike, and some of their friends walked out onto the ice on 27 January to pose for a photograph. Although it was quite cold, in the photograph, aunt Bert looks warm in her huge fur coat. For various reason, I am not able to post the photograph on my blog at the moment (hopefully soon!), but I love how fearless they both were! My 2x great grandmother Jessie, aunt Bert’s sister, wrote a letter to her son on the same day, complaining about the cold weather. The letter doesn’t mention if she was one of the group of friends who went to the river that day, but it is possible that she was!
Eventually the ice thawed, but my relatives kept the fun postcard photograph that forever commemorated the moment.
Life in eighteenth century Pennsylvania was difficult, and this is illustrated very well through the tax records of my sixth great grandfather, George Cochran (1728-1786). The son of immigrants from Northern Ireland, he was trained as a blacksmith and lived the majority of his life close to where he was born in West Fallowfield, Chester County. I thoroughly enjoyed tracing his life through the tax records, as it game me a more complete picture of what his life was like.
George was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania to James Cochran (1698-1766) and his wife Isabella Cochran (1699-1760). James and Isabel were descendants of James Cochran and Janet Burns, making them third cousins. The Cochrans were originally from Paisley, Scotland, and the family immigrated to Northern Ireland in 1570. James (1699-1760) married Isabella in 1723, most likely in or around Londonderry, Ireland, where Isabel’s father was living. In about 1723 or 1724, James, Isabella, Isabella’s father Robert, and Isabella’s mother Jean immigrated to Chester County, Pennsylvania. James and his father-in-law both paid taxes in Chester County for the first time in 1724/25 as landholders in the towns of Sadsbury and Fallowfield. Robert only paid twice more (based on the extant records) in 1730 and 1735/36, before his death in 1740.
James continued to pay taxes, buy land, and apply for tavern licenses for many years. Consistently, he was one of the wealthiest men in the community, often paying more than a pound in taxes each year. James and Isabella had seven children, of which George was the third. George married Nancy Henry, the sister of Reverend Hugh Henry, in 1751. Nancy’s family was from Maryland, and from all evidence, it seems that George and Nancy made their home in Maryland during the early years of their marriage. George is completely absent from tax records in Chester County from the year he came of age until 1765 when he was 37 years old. Unfortunately, Maryland’s tax records are not in the best shape, so I have been unable to locate him between 1749 and 1764.
For the first time in Chester County, George appears in tax records for 1765 living in London Grove, close to where he grew up in West Fallowfield. The assessment, taken between December 10, 1764 and January 4, 1765, recorded George Cochran as a blacksmith who owned a dwelling house and 1 lot valued at 8 pounds, 1 cow, and 1 horse. That year, he paid 9 shillings and 6 pence in taxes.
The following year, George seems to have fallen on hard times. He is again listed as a blacksmith living in London Grove, but he no longer has a dwelling or a lot. He was supposed to pay taxes on 2 horses and 1 cow, for a total of 4 shillings. That year, he was given a tax discount because he was “poor” and paid only 1 shilling.
1766 through 1769 seem to have been difficult ones for George. Not only was he struggling financially, but his father James died. George did receive “one full and equal fourth part” of the earnings that should arise from the sale of the remainder of James’s personal and real estate not otherwise devised following his decease. It wasn’t very much, as the bulk of James’s land went to one of George’s brothers. Three years later, George’s wife died, and he decided to send his youngest child, Ann (and my ancestor), to live with his older sister in Lancaster County.
The next extant tax return is for the year 1771. By now, George had improved his circumstances. He had purchased 180 acres in West Fallowfield and had improved it with buildings. It shows that he had a tavern on his property, but this may be a mistake by the tax assessor. George did not petition for a tavern license in that year, but his brother Stephen, who was still running their father’s old tavern, did. George paid 16 shillings 3 pence for his property that was valued at 18 pounds per acre.
Over the next few years, George’s property fluctuated. In 1774, George only owned 45 acres valued at 3 pounds per acre, as well as 1 horse and 1 cow. He paid 4 shillings in tax. The following year, George had purchased 55 additional acres, valued at 6 pounds per acre, and he had purchased an additional cow. Although the 1776 tax returns no longer exist, George was responsible to recording the assessments for that year, and he was paid accordingly.
By the 1781 tax returns, George had purchased the 186 acres that he would hold until the end of his life. He also paid tax on 1 horse and 2 horned cattle. His taxable property was valued at 308 pounds 10 shillings, and he paid 3 pounds 17 shillings 1 1/2 pence.
The last assessment in which George appears is 1785, taken between July 22 through August 18, 1785. He owned 190 acres, 2 horses, and 2 cows, with a total property value of 322 pounds, for which he paid 1 pound 10 shillings in taxes.
George died on 23 March 1786 at the age of 57, a few months before the next tax assessment. He wrote his will a mere eight days before his death, but he did try to leave equal amounts of property to his children. To Ann, he left a “Young colt and the colt the bay mare is with one bed and furniture, likewise a cow and calf.” He desired that the rest of his personal and real estate to be sold, and after his executors paid his funeral expenses and debts, the profit should be divided among his five children, with his four daughters receiving equal shares, and John receiving double the amount of each sister.
I really enjoyed combing through the taxes in search of George as they really illuminated the hardships and successes of his life (materialistically speaking). He worked hard, but he didn’t achieve financial stability until the end of his life, which was probably a constant worry for him. One of the most telling pieces of evidence of his struggle was that he was forced to send his youngest daughter away to be raised by more wealthy relatives until 1775 when he was able to support her again. George’s life as a blacksmith and a small scale farmer was completely different than that of his father and his two brothers Stephen and John. His father was well-off, owned property, ran a tavern, served as an elder in multiple churches, and helped found a school. Stephen ran the tavern, became a wealthy farmer, and served in the Pennsylvania legislature. John was a physician, became the Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and married into one of New York’s oldest families.
But money isn’t everything, and it makes me wonder what kind of a person George really was. Was he a kind person? A good father? And in the end, he was able to leave his children a small inheritance, which was particularly important for his daughters. That is one of the most frustrating but intriguing aspects of genealogy; research always brings up more questions than answers!
This particular maiden aunt is one of my favorite people, even though I never knew her and I am not directly descended from her! Anna Louise Preston was the younger sister of my 3rd great grandfather, Charles Preston. She was an interesting character, very progressive in some ways, yet still very conservative in others.
Early Years and Family
Anna Louise Preston was born on 8 October 1862 in Beverly, Ohio, the youngest of 9 children born to Washington Preston and his wife, Rachel Ann (Jordan) Preston. Washington seemed to be a man of many talents. He was a farmer and pattern maker. A pattern maker was a specialized form of carpentry. Most of his career he spent working for the W. F. Robertson Company, which later became the Marietta Manufacturing Company. Anna first appears on a census record in 1870 in Beverly, Washington County, Ohio with her parents and older siblings George (23), Charles (21), Henrietta (19), Curtis (17), Frank (14), Marion (12), and Nora (10). She was attending a private school in Beverly at the time and was 7 years old.
In 1880, the family was still living in Beverly at a house on Third Street. The majority of the Preston siblings were still living at home, including the unmarried oldest daughter, Henrietta (29), who was working as a “tailores,” unmarried Nora (20), and unmarried Anna (17). Anna was still attending the private school and was the only child still in school. The next year, the W. F. Robertson Company relocated to Marietta, Ohio, a town about 16 miles away on the Ohio River. Washington, Rachel, Nora, and Anna moved to follow the company. There, she attended and graduated from Marietta High School.
Department of Medicine and Surgery
Between 1881 and 1892, I am unsure what she was doing. At some point, possibly during those years, Anna became interested in studying medicine. At the age of 30, she applied to and was accepted to the Department of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Michigan. Anna was a diligent student, and four years later, she graduated and officially became Dr. Anna Louise Preston, M.D. Her graduating class was mostly male, but including Anna, there were 13 women who also graduated. Her beautiful graduation photo is below. I really love this photo because not only does she really resembles her mother Rachel (my 4th great grandmother), her niece, Jessie (my 2nd great grandmother), but also me!
The town of Marietta and Anna’s family were all very proud of her. The following article was placed in the paper when she came home from the University of Michigan:
Anna set up her medical practice immediately in Marietta. In February 1897, the Marietta Daily Leader reported that Dr. Anna Preston was treating one of her brothers while he was ill with grip. On 9 December 1900, Anna placed her first business advertisement in the paper. She was a general practitioner who specialized in women’s health and performed small surgeries. She shared an office space with Dr. Hart and Dr. McClure.
Career and Later Life
In 1900, Anna was still living at 211 Franklin Street in Marietta with her parents and unmarried sister, Nora. She continued to live in this house until she died, and she and her sister Nora likely inherited it from her parents upon their deaths. Each year, Anna appeared in the Marietta City Directory as a local physician. In 1921, Anna returned to the University of Michigan to attend a class reunion. She took a picture with some of her classmates, which was printed in the Michigan Alumnus No. 27.
One of the most interesting resources that I have found for Anna is her entry in the Woman’s Who’s Who in America in 1914. This was so impressive that she was chosen as one of the most successful women in America. It contains her educational history as well as her interests outside of medicine. I was completely shocked to find out that Anna was the president of the Marietta Auxiliary Opposed to Woman Suffrage. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I absolutely assumed that she would have been pro suffrage as she was very independent, never married, was very educated, and had her own medical practice. This was still several years before women received the vote, so I suppose it is possible that she changed her mind by then. But I suppose I will likely never know! She was also an active member of the Ladies of the Maccabees, the auxiliary of the Knights of the Maccabees, a fraternal organization. She also loved gardening, something that she shared with her brother Charles.
She was always very dedicated to her family. Besides caring for female patients in Marietta, Anna was also many of family members’ personal physician. She took care of her siblings and parents when they were ill, and she signed off as the attending physician on her mother Rachel’s and brother George’s death certificates. Anna also kept in touch with her nieces Jessie and Bertha Preston who lived in Nashville. The girls traveled to Marietta to visit their father’s family fairly regularly, and Anna and Jessie exchanged letters over the years.
Anna practiced medicine in Marietta for close to forty years, but by the 1940 census, Anna had retired. She and her sister Nora were living in peaceful retirement in their house on Franklin Street. Sadly, Anna watched as her parents, brothers, and sisters died before her. On 20 September 1944, Anna’s older sister, Nora, died. I do not know for certain, but I assume that they must have been very close. They had lived together their entire lives, except when Anna was living in Ann Arbor attending medical school, and it must have been very difficult for Anna to lose her.
On 29 August 1950, Anna died at the Washington County Infirmary at the age of 87. She was buried two days later at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta, sharing a headstone with her sister Nora.
I never found out why she never married (or why Nora didn’t marry, either). Was she not interested in any of the men she knew? Was there a tragedy that prevented a marriage? Did she just enjoy her independence and want a career? I wish I knew! I am very proud of this maiden aunt, and her story reinforces how inspiring and complex female ancestors can be!