Wednesday, March 13, 2019

#52Ancestors - BACHELOR UNCLE - How I Almost Wasn't

This prompt from Amy Johnson Crow taught me two things.  One, I need to do more descendancy research to find these bachelor uncles (or maiden aunts).  Two, my existence - like many others - depends on fleeting moments of chance.  Here's the story of a bachelor uncle who became my grandfather.

This is the only picture anyone seems to have of Walter Caswell Brooks.  He was born 15 February 1874 in Pope County, Arkansas.  His father, William, was 50 years old at the time, and his mother, Rebecca,was 18 years younger. Remember that age difference as it will recur!  They had 13 children together, in addition to the 7 children that William had with his first wife.  As a farming family, I would assume there was plenty of work and not so plenty of food.  And no money for pictures!

William died when Walter was only 9, leaving him in the care of his mother and many older siblings.  He continued farming in Pope County and, as the years passed, it seemed likely that he would be a confirmed bachelor.  But his sisters had other plans.  Some of his sisters became teachers and had the opportunity to move away.  They met another teacher named Ruth Autry and invited her home.

Ruth was 18 years younger than Walter- sound familiar?  But they courted and contemplated marriage.  However, she wasn't the first woman he had considered marrying.  There was another woman and he went to see her.  But when he approached her house, there was a car in the driveway.  He assumed she must, therefore, already be married and never contacted her.  So the wedding took place between Ruth and Walter on 2 December 1822.  Ruth was 30 and Walter was 48!  By the way, the other woman actually was not married, according to the story told by his sister Selma.

My father was born 6 and 1/2 years later when Walter was 55.  I'm certainly grateful to whomever parked their car in his former girlfriend's driveway.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn't be here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

#52Ancestors - AT THE COURTHOUSE - Travel Not Required

Researching at an archive like a courthouse is supposedly a mark of a "true" genealogist.  But I've always been too intimidated to give it a try.  Or maybe it just seems overwhelming.  Every time I visit my husband's family cottage in western New York I mean to spend time in the Geneseo County courthouse.  Maybe next year?

In the meantime, I have found courthouse records online - through  So I am able to turn the pages of those legal tomes without having to leave the comfort of my own home!  PJs optional - though definitely preferred.

While searching for the will of Phil's 2nd GGF, Asahel Norton, I found the will of his wife Sarah Stedman.  It was recorded on 11 September 1876, ten days after her death.  It lists three daughters by name and one son.  Interestingly, it does not list her husband (still living).  It does provide that anything left after caring for these three women plus other debts should be distributed to "any children not herein before named" to be divided "share and share alike".   As the mother of 12 children (I'm not sure how many were still alive), I would think she might know that could be problematic!

So as always, any new genealogical find raises more questions - where is her husband & where is his will?  what were her assets?  why do three daughters get special mention?

I'm just happy I can do more research from the comfort of my home!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

#52Ancestors - FAMILY PHOTO - Who's Who?

Family Photo

I haven't done a very good job of organizing my ancestral photos.  My computer has a folder called "Family Pictures and Info" where I dump everything I find.  Of course, I always mean to go back to sort and label.  But that hasn't happened yet.  That's how I ended up with this series of photos with the following tags:

Levi Byram Hammon family

Hammon Family 1940s

Hammon Sisters

Sadly, I don't even know where I got these pictures from though I am assuming I took them from either or  I am fairly confident that they are the same family and I vaguely remember that at one point my mother told me who these people were.  There is one thing I do know - the man in the middle photo with the hat (in the middle of the top row) is my grandfather.  But, of course, I don't know how I know that.  

After some review on FamilySearch, here's what I found out:

Top Photo
Front Rose: Martha Jane Belnap, Levi Byram Hammon, Polly
Middle Row: D Glenn (my grandfather), Jane, Lettie, Frank
Back Row: Amasa, Rhoda, Robena, Ethel
I am grateful to the contributor  who added this information.  I found several copies of this picture but there was only ONE person who added the names.

Middle Photo
This photo was labeled Frank Hammon's Brothers & Sisters - August 1937 by a contributor on FamilySearch.  Now I'll just need some amazing facial recognition skills to figure the rest out.

I haven't yet found out which sister is which in the last photo.  Time to turn to Ancestry - wish me luck.  So PLEASE when you upload a photo, identify as much as you can of people, place and time.  If you do, I promise to keep a record of that!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

#52Ancestors - LIBRARY - Surname Books


I've only had a few opportunities to research in a genealogical library.  There were a couple of rushed visits to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and a longer, more focused, visit to the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, IN.  It's definitely something I would love to do again.

But genealogy books have always been in my home, both as a child and as an adult.  So I am happy to use them in the libraries I visited.  I was especially excited to find the book that my father had worked on with his distant cousin, Mayo Bundy.

These kinds of books are invaluable when trying to dig deeper into family lore and relationships.  It was a thrill to find a copy in the ACPL.

There are also several books on my mother's side written by those studying the Hammon and Belnap family.  Here is one I've had on my shelves through the years - Gold Medal Pioneers - full of journal entries from when they crossed the plains to Utah.

When you run into a deadend while looking for records, search for a book instead!  Or at least visit a library.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

#52Ancestors - I'D LIKE TO MEET - Gone too soon


This week's prompt from Amy Johnson Crow really made me think.  There are so many of my ancestors that I would love to meet.  Only one of my grandparents was still alive when I was born, so I never was able to feel that connection to my past.  Though I was blessed to have wonderful great-aunts and great-uncles, they were always someone else's grandparents.  

One reason I'd like to meet my grandparents is to ask all those troubling research questions of who, what, when and where.  But when I really thought about it, the main reason I would like to meet them is to get to know what they were like.  That made me realize that the one person I'd love to meet most would be by maternal grandmother, Virginia Slater.  She died a very young woman, leaving behind 3 small children.  One of them was my seven year old mother.

Virginia Slater Hammon

Virginia was born in Slaterville, Utah, a town founded by  her great-grandfather, Richard Slater, whom I wrote about here.  She was the 4th of 7 children, though only 6 great to adulthood.  I think their's must have been a hard life.  In the 1910 census, her father is listed as a laborer in the "salt works".  By 1920, he is listed as not having an occupation. 

She married Daniel Glenn Hammon on 28 February 1923, when she was just 20 years old.  Her first child, my mother, was born in December 1925.  By 1930, they were living in Mohrland, Utah, where Glenn had work as a miner.  Mohrland was a company town which my mother recalls fondly.  It is now a ghost town.  This is where Virginia died, pregnant with her 4th child.  My mother came home from school and found the door locked.  She could see Virginia lying on the floor.  A neighbor had to let her into the house.  Virginia lingered for 18 days before dying of "mitral insufficiency".  Her heart gave out.

It was a devastating time for her three remaining children, my mother Jean and her siblings Sharon and Donald.  Now in her 90s, my mother often speaks of her own mother.  I would love to meet Virginia and let her enjoy the large family that is hers.  If my count is correct, she had 10 grandchildren - one named after her - with dozens of great-grandchildren.  I only knew Virginia through her two sisters, Thelma and Marvel, who were surrogate grandparents to me.  They were down to earth, loving, hard working, thrifty and kind. 

I love this picture of Virginia and Glenn.  She is so beautiful with a shy smile.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

#52Ancestors - UNUSUAL NAME - Collateral Lines


One of the nice features of is the frequent emails (or Facebook messages) with fun facts or important dates from my ancestors.  A while back I received an infographic listing some of the unusual names in my family tree.  The one that caught my eye was SHEREBIAHI had never noticed that name and certainly had never heard of it!

But finding this person in my tree was harder than I expected.  My personal tree on is mostly about my husband's side so I couldn't search there.  On, the search was too broad and produced too many Sherebiahs.  Fortunately I was able to search my cousin's tree on Ancestry and that's when I noticed not one, but TWO Sherebiahs!!  One of them is a direct ancestor and the other is from a collateral line.  I will talk about that one first.

Sherebiah  Butts

Sherebiah Butts lived his entire life in Canterbury, Windham, Connecticut where he was born on 11 February 1733 and died on 27 November 1807.  He served as a captain in the Revolutionary War, commanding forces at Lexington and Bunker Hill.  It is wonderful to have such a patriot in our family tree.  But how am I related?  Sherebiah Butts is the husband of my 7th great-aunt!  He, therefore, is from a collateral line, meaning he is not a direct ancestor such as a grand-parent or great-grand-parent.  This is how our relationship looks:

It would be fun to see how many descendants this couple have - that is called descendancy research and I will leave that for another day.  I do know that this isn't the only Sherebiah Butts - there were several others in the family, including his son, grandson and a great uncle.   Here's the list I found:

So what about the other Sherebiah I found?  Is he direct line?  Amazingly, yes and completely unrelated to our friend, Mr. Butts.   

Sherebiah Lee

Image result for massachusetts minute man

Born 5 November 1747 in Barre, Worcester, Massachusetts, he died in Lenox, Madison, New York on 31 January 1843.  And, as you may suspect he also served in the Revolutionary War.   His service was as a Minute Man, part of the volunteer militia who were ready to serve at a minute's notice.  After the war, he became part of the Shays Rebellion, an uprising in 1786-87 against taxes and poor economic conditions.  This Rebellion was a major impetus for the Constitutional Convention.  Wow,  I have so much more research to do on this gentleman who is my 5th great-grandfather.

I also learned that Sherebiah, though not common, does have a biblical origin.  Sherebiah was a priest connected with Ezra and Nehemiah in Jerusalem.  He is mentioned in the 8th chapter of Ezra.  The name means "flame of the Lord".

Friday, January 11, 2019

#52Ancestors - CHALLENGE - Focusing my Research


This week I am sharing another research tool that helps me determine where to focus my research.  It’s called a Fan Chart because it resembles a fan. And it quickly destroyed my belief that all my family’s research was done!

A Fan Chart is a simple and colorful way of looking at our family tree. Most of us are used to trees that start with one person at the bottom (or on the left side) and have branches growing up (or to the right). First there are two branches, then four, then eight, etc as we go back through the generations. These types of trees - called portrait or landscape - can show only direct lines. But they usually get more complicated as children are included through the generations. 

Here is a portrait view of my family tree (a screen shot from

You can see how the screen quickly fills up as each individual takes up space. I can only choose to see one branch of my tree at a time for any generation past my great-grandparents.  I also get a false sense of completion as this is all filled in. 

But when I use a fan chart version of my tree, I can easily see back to my 4th great-grandparents and all at the same time. Here’s what that looks like, also taken as a screen shot from

Do you see what I see?!?  People are missing! I have a hole in the great-great-great-grandparent generations. And I have plenty of wasteland in the great-great-great-greats!

This truly surprised me because I knew my father had spent years researching my family. He’s even published a book on his mother’s ancestry.  It does, however, give me direction And on how to focus my research. 

So what is my CHALLENGE?  To identify the maternal grandparents of Rebecca Melinda Cooper, who was fondly called “Da” by her grandchildren. Her mother, Christina Shoffner, is from North or South Carolina and lived from about 1812-1860. And that’s where the trail ends. 

Rebecca Melinda Cooper (Brooks)