GOLD DIGGERS IN JEFFERSON COUNTY, OHIO

Picture in the public domain at the Library of Congress (ppmsc 01699 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.01699).

#OhioHistory #GoldMining

When I began going through census records of Cross Creek Township, Jefferson County, Ohio, using the FAN method (Family/Friends, Associates, Neighbors) to find more information about my ancestor George Lewis, I came across three men whose occupation was given as “Gold Digger”.  I had no idea that there was gold in Ohio.  Coal, yes.  But gold?

1850 U.S. census, Jefferson County, Ohio, population schedule, Cross Creek Township, p. 110 (stamped), dwelling 1577, family 1651, entry for David Foster; database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MX39-TDC : accessed 23 September 2021), citing National Archives microfilm publication M432, Roll 699.

Shortly after this, I was reading an old county history of Jefferson County, Ohio, written in 1910.  This book was published during an era of flowery, sentimental language with an emphasis on appealing to the reader’s emotions.  Writers sought to persuade their audience that their opinion was the correct one.  Thus, we find the following interesting paragraph (emphasis mine):

Jefferson County has been specially favored as regards mineral resources, of which those interested have not been slow to take advantage. It is scarcely necessary to add, however, that there are no lead, silver or gold mines in Jefferson County, never have been and never will be, as the geological formation is absolutely prohibitory. There have been reports of that kind occasionally, some of them based on old Indian tales. They are delusions or frauds, not deserving of the slightest consideration.[1]

The author of the book, Joseph B. Doyle, seems to take these gold diggers and their occupation personally!  He definitely wants us to know not to take the reports of gold being found in Jefferson County seriously and perhaps use our working hours for wiser pursuits.  Since there were three gold diggers in just one township in Jefferson County, Ohio, there were probably more in the county as a whole, enough that 60 years later the author of the county history felt he needed to reiterate the point that gold-digging in Jefferson County was a waste of time.

If there was no gold to be found in Jefferson County, why were there so many men looking for it?  I sensed a story here and did some research on this metal in Ohio.  My search brought me to a 1995 Division of Geological Survey GeoFact pamphlet by Michael C. Hansen.[2]

Michael Hansen mentions that there has been interest in finding gold in Ohio since the 19th century. The theory is that the gold that has been found in Ohio has come down from Canada during one of the ice ages as it is associated with glacial deposits.  He also says that gold is found in the glaciated areas of Ohio but there has never been enough to make commercial mining of gold financially lucrative.  Interestingly, Jefferson County is in a non-glaciated area of Ohio.

Hobbyists find gold in Ohio today and there were several online resources for information about this when I did searches for it.  I was curious to know more about the gold diggers in the mid-19th century in Jefferson County so I turned to old newspapers to see if there were any articles of note.

In a 1905 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (just 5 years before Joseph Doyle’s diatribe against gold-digging was published in the county history), a splashy headline reads: “Ohio Gold Field Rich in Legend:  Indians Knew and Jealously Guarded Secret of Wayne County Treasures – Stores of Spectral Guardians Current to the Present Day.”[3]

The article, clearly written in the prejudicial tone current at that time (I mean, why WOULD the Native Americans just spill out the source of their gold to the people conquering their land?) talks about gold being found on some farms in Mt. Eaton, Wayne County (northwest of Jefferson County) and people recounting the old superstitions about ancient gold.  There was an old trail between Steubenville (in Jefferson County) and Sandusky and gold and other metals had been traded on that passageway.  White settlers had apparently sent out spies to find out the source of the gold but were never able to find it.  An old gold digger named Joseph Grant was being interviewed to find out more about the Wayne County find.  An old stage road ran near a place called Rocky Dale and, along with stage robbers, the travelers were often frightened by the haunting sound of chains coming from some subterranean cavern nearby.

The end of the article says that nobody in Mt. Eaton is coming forth with the location of the newly found gold.  Supposedly, there is a secret map in someone’s possession but no one is talking.

This was not the only report of people finding gold on their property and trying to keep it a secret.  Gold was supposedly found in Morrow County in 1921.[4] Most of the articles that I found concerned gold discovered in other areas of the country such as California and Alaska.  I was entertained by harrowing adventures of survival and ghostly legends of haunted treasure.

Very little of this led me to an understanding of the livelihood of the Jefferson County gold diggers.  Were they making enough to earn a living? I have my doubts.  A search for the 1860 census does not show anyone with the specific job title of “gold digger” but there are plenty of laborers.  The three individuals who were looking for gold in 1850 are no longer living in the county.  I did find one man whose occupation was listed as “hermit”.  A blog post for another day!


[1] Joseph B. Doyle, 20th Century History of Steubenville and Jefferson County, Ohio and Representative Citizens, (Chicago: Richmond-Arnold Publishing Co., 1910), 275.

[2] Michael C. Hansen, “Gold in Ohio”, GeoFacts No. 9 (Ohio Department of Natural Resources, November 1995); digital image at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsm9_005733.pdf, accessed 23 September 2021.

[3] “Ohio Gold Field Rich in Legend”, Cleveland (Ohio) Plain Dealer, 14 March 1905, p. 6, col. 5; image copy, GenealogyBank (https://www.GenealogyBank.com : accessed 23 September 2021).

[4] “Search for Gold in Morrow County”, Cleveland (Ohio) Plain Dealer, 21 August 1921, p. 16A, col. 1; image copy, GenealogyBank (https://www.GenealogyBank.com : accessed 23 September 2021).

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

DAVID RUMSEY AND HIS MAPS

George Willdey, “A New and Correct Map of the World”, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com : accessed 9 February 2021), originally published by George Willdey, London, 1702.

I love maps. All kinds of maps. Old maps from the days of “terra incognita” to modern-day Google street view maps. The calendar I used last year showed pictures of medieval and renaissance maps and I have a box (somewhere!) full of old gas station maps of various states with an emphasis on Colorado.

There are a few websites out there with maps. One favorite of genealogists is David Rumsey’s collection found at https://www.davidrumsey.com/. David Rumsey started collecting maps about 30 years ago and he has now acquired about 150,000 maps. At this point, about 105,000 have been digitized and made available to the public. Some of these images are included in Google Earth so that you can overlay an old map of a city on top of the current city.

These maps can be reproduced and transmitted but not for commercial use. There is a section titled “Copyright and Permissions” under the About tab to read when you first log in. For catching up with new additions or other news, there is a Blog tab. You can check out the Help tab to learn about the Luna Viewer and Georeferencing, among other topics.

The View by Collection tab has several choices. For this example, I chose “Browse by Categories”.

In the Search box, I typed Jefferson County Ohio. This brings up results that match to Jefferson and County and Ohio but since the search engine is searching the metadata, not all results will be for “Jefferson County Ohio.” You can also do an Advanced Search found on the left-hand side on the bottom of the Refine window after you do a search, or by clicking on the down arrow of the search bar on the upper right. There are many fields in which to choose if you use the Advanced Search and you may have to play with the fields to find exactly the criteria you need to find your desired map.

I chose the field “Full Title” and in the section “find all these words” I chose Ohio Jefferson. There were 13 results.

I specifically wanted to find a map of Jefferson County, Ohio around the year 1850 when my ancestors, George Lewis and Sarah Neal Lewis, lived there. I was able to find a map of the county from 1868 and I enlarged it to see the detail.

Here is the map that I found.

Henry Francis Walling, “Counties of Columbiana, Jefferson, Carroll, and Harrison”, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com : accessed 9 February 2021), originally published by H.H. Lloyd & Co. for Henry S. Stebbins, New York, 1868.


And here is the map with a closeup of the section in which I am interested:

The detail is incredible when the map is enlarged. My ancestor’s family lived at the bottom of Cross Creek Township, near the Alexandria Road outside of New Alexandria which is not mentioned on this map.

You can also view this map in the GeoReferencer. This overlays the 1868 map over a modern map and you can vary the opacity to see the differences between the two maps.

Here is the same map overlaid with partial opacity on a modern map of Ohio:

I could stay on this website for hours, looking at maps of the world and the United States. Here is another that I found in the collection. This showed up in a search for Colorado, but the entire map encompasses Fort Worth to Cheyenne and Denver. This is a segment of the map.

Union Pacific Railroad Company, “Birdseye View of the Texas Pan Handle”, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com : accessed 9 February 2021), originally published by Knight, Leonard & Co., Chicago, 1890.

Not all of the maps have to serve a genealogical purpose. I enjoyed this one:

The University of Arizona, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, “Field Index, Rectified Lunar Atlas”, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com : accessed 9 February 2021), originally published by the Aeronautical Chart and Information Center, United States Air Force, St. Louis, 1963.

Have fun checking out this site. I know that just writing this blog led me off on many tangents.

Search Smart,
Sara N. Martin

EISENHOWER, PORK CHOPS, AND GRANDMA

Election Eve on November 4th, 1952, Urbana, Illinois.  My mom’s favorite meal is coming out of the Magic Chef oven – pork chops with dressing.  My mom wasn’t able to be here for this meal so Grandpa snapped a picture of Grandma to send to her.  My grandparents would have been happy with the results the following day as they voted for Eisenhower.

When I rented an old apartment in Denver, Colorado, there was an old Magic Chef stove in the tiny kitchen. The stove was electric and it wasn’t this old, but it reminded Mom of Grandma’s stove.  She gave me the picture (which I have had stuck on whatever refrigerator I have used since 1989) and her Magic Chef cookbook, copyright 1937.

The stove was purchased in 1941.  Grandma Hostetler was so excited to get this.  She cut out the ad from the Better Homes and Gardens magazine which featured her stove, the new 1941 Magic Chef Hit Parade Model. My mom recently gave the cut-out ad to me.

 Advertisement for Magic Chef stoves, “You’re invited to see a Hit Parade!,” Better Homes and Gardens, March or May, 1941, page 18.

This new stove had an easy-to-use swing-out broiler, a Red Wheel regulator, and a lifetime burner guarantee.  The Red Wheel regulator was something Magic Chef was proud of.  It is featured prominently on the cover of their cookbook. Directions for using the Lorain oven heat regulator (aka the “Red Wheel”) are in the preface.  The Red Wheel was labeled with temperature degrees and once you set the oven at say, 375°, the gas flow would automatically reduce when 375° degrees was reached.  You wouldn’t know except by experience how to tell when the oven was sufficiently preheated.

I take an oven knob for granted nowadays.  I have had stoves that didn’t ding when the oven was preheated, but they’ve all have knobs.  I became interested in the history of cooking after receiving my antique Magic Chef cookbook over 30 years ago and now my collection runs into the thousands.  This is the first vintage one in my collection and therefore my favorite.

Dorothy E. Shank, Director, Magic Chef Cooking (St. Louis: American Stove Company, 1937.
Shank, Magic Chef Cooking, fly leaf

Grandma penciled in some measurements at the beginning of this cookbook.  The section on “Pies” is well splattered and worn with a cryptic 3523420 written boldly across the header in that section.  A phone number?  That seemed too modern for the time, but I can’t actually date the note as she had this cookbook for more than 30 years.  A quick online search in city directories in Champaign, Illinois in the 50s showed Fleetwood (35) being one of the exchanges, although when my mom lived there, she only had to dial the last 5 numbers to call out.  She knows the phone number is not her grandparent’s number (which she still has memorized after all these years) and it probably dates from the 1960s.

I was inspired to write this post about “In the Kitchen” because I am participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge.

Does anyone else have pictures of their ancestors cooking something yummy?

Bon Appetit, and Search Smart,

Sara N. Martin

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

CYNDI’S LIST

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

You may already know about this wonderful resource for genealogy links online known as “Cyndi’s List” (https://www.cyndislist.com/).  When I first started doing online genealogy in the late 90s, I ran across this website and I loved it.  Searching online was vastly different than it is today and finding a compendium of source links like this was greatly appreciated by those in the genealogical community.

Fast forward twenty years into the future to when I once again decided to spend my free time on my family history.  I discovered that it was a brand-new world out there in cyberspace as far as genealogy was concerned.  I was happily surprised to find that Cyndi’s List was still online and still being updated!

Cyndi Ingle maintains this website by herself, every day.  She is an amazing woman who has done so much for us, her fellow genealogists.  At one time she had a mailing list for this website but it was hosted by RootsWeb which shut down the mailing lists about one year ago.  (I think RootsWeb will be the subject of one of my future blog posts.) Eventually, Cyndi plans to have another mailing list up and running so check back periodically.

So, what can you find on Cyndi’s List?  Almost everything.  Her home page features a welcome message and explains “A comprehensive, categorized & cross-referenced list of links that point you to genealogical research sites online.”[1]  On the left side of the webpage, there is a link to “Categories”, along with other links to her social networking sites, new links, and a place to report broken links.

Clicking on “Categories” brings you to a whole list of topics.  If something is new, there will be a green flag next to it to alert you to check it out.

There are categories here that you may not even have realized could be relevant to genealogy such as Antarctica, Oil and Gas, Outer Space, and Pets and Livestock.  As an example, I chose “Ports of Entry” to see what resources are available.  There are 329 resources to choose from.

You will notice that it is not just a list of ports, but related categories are also included, such as Canals, Rivers, & Waterways, Passports, and information on the Mayflower.

If we choose the category “New Orleans, Louisiana”, we discover 13 links, including Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild volumes 1 – 6 (passenger lists for specific ships), and several links to passenger list indexes.   

Another category example is the United States subcategory of “Colorado”.  There are 2,336 links from birth records to wills and probate.  If we choose the “Schools” link, we have two links – the records held at the State Archives and the records for the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind in the 19th century.  The link to the school for the deaf and blind refers us to a website for the school (http://holsclaw.net/CSDBPupils/csdbproj.htm) with more links to search and some history of the school located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as to what links you will find on this site.  It’s convenient, and stopping here to search can save you time on merely googling to see if you can find something relevant.

Take some time and explore the website.  You may find some resources that you did not know existed.

Remember to Search Smart!

Sara Martin

Smart Canyon Genealogy


[1] Cyndi Ingle, Cyndi’s List (https://www.cyndislist.com/ : accessed 3 February 2021), home page, para. 1.

Can Anybody Choose Just One?

Mishmash of my own family photos on Facebook

Do people really have ONE favorite photo?  One and only one?  I am participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors challenge and this week the challenge is rough – pick ONE favorite photo.

Should I pick one of a beautiful landscape from a vacation, the sunrise coming over the foothills as seen from my back deck, or the first snow on the hills?  What about one of the pictures from when my husband and I got married?  Or a family photograph of all of us having fun in my parent’s backyard?

One of the issues of sharing a favorite photo is, of course, digitization.  I was an avid amateur photographer for many years and I came into the digital age with mountains of photograph albums.  I still have them.  Most are not digitized.  I get ambitious occasionally and start scanning them to Facebook, my hard drive, or Ancestry, but my enthusiasm soon wears out and I put the project to bed for a good long rest.

The end result?  Most of my favorite photos are not yet in digital format!  That should be a wake-up call.  I need to take the time to get the best pictures uploaded to the cloud and my computer.  In the meantime, I took a look at some of the ones I DID have online.  I found a great one of Dad and me on Christmas Day in 1965.  The weather is beautiful – it was sunny southern California.  I love this photo, although it’s not digitized properly yet.  I merely took a picture of it with my phone.  It’s off kilter but someday I will produce a better scan.

Unfortunately, I can’t colorize my photos with MyHeritage at this time.  I come from a family of redheads and MyHeritage makes us all brunettes which gives us an odd look.  Black and white film is classic though.  It gives the illusion of my childhood being spent in a film noir movie.

Make sure your favorite photos are digitized and available to view for the long term.  If I can drag myself away from my genealogy research, maybe I can actually get all of mine scanned!

Search SMART!

Sara N. Martin

Smart Canyon Genealogy

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

TOMBSTONE TRANSCRIPTIONS FROM INTERMENT.NET

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

It’s Wednesday again!  Where does the time go?  We’ve had some snow here in the Colorado foothills and I’ve heard there were snowstorms in other parts of the country.  It’s winter and it’s cold outside.  It’s a good time for indoor hobbies – like genealogy.  (Actually, I could do genealogical research 12 months of the year but that’s for another blog post!)

Many of you may have been using Find A Grave and BillionGraves to find your ancestor’s tombstones in your research.  There is another free site called http://www.interment.net that also provides information about your forbears taken from various cemeteries in the United States and other parts of the world.

Interment.net has a very interesting history.  It is worth scrolling to the bottom of the home page and clicking on “history”.  In March 1997, Steve Johnson began hosting a website that provided links to other sites on the web that had cemetery records.  Through the years, this website has morphed into providing cemetery transcriptions that have been provided by cemetery offices, church offices, and other genealogists.  This isn’t crowdsourcing like Find A Grave.  Once a transcription is submitted to Interment.net, only the submitter can update the information.  Another summary of the history of the website is available by clicking on About Us at the top of the Home page.

At the bottom of the Home page, next to HISTORY is HELP.  This gives a great overview about how to use this site with links to the cemetery record search (also reached through a tab at the top of the site), a blog entitled Cemetery Column (which hasn’t been updated in several years, but still has quite a few good articles), and a tutorial link.

Once you have taken a moment to browse the site, such as checking out SUBMIT TRANSCRIPTION and LINKS at the top, choose your country of choice from the tabs or click on MORE which will bring up all the countries in which there are records.  Many cemeteries are not yet represented in this database, but judging by the number of new records and the dates that they were updated, more are being continually added.  You can also subscribe to a newsletter that provides updates about the new cemeteries being added.

Here are some examples of the type of information that I found on this website:

United States – Colorado

Not all of the counties are as of yet represented, but there are links in red for the counties that do have transcriptions.  In Jefferson County, for example, there are 5 cemeteries listed.  Clicking on the Arvada Cemetery link reveals 13 records and the name and email of the contributor.  This is not a complete list of all of the gravesites in the cemetery, but it does list the Woodmen of the World Burials.  This can be valuable if one of these people is your ancestor.

United States – California

Again, not all of the counties are represented here.  Clicking on Humboldt County brings up a map and two cemeteries.  There are 646 transcriptions for the cemetery in Blue Lake, along with a description of the cemetery.

United States – Kentucky

I have relatives buried in Russell County, Kentucky.  On Interment.net, there are 3 cemeteries listed:  Lucinda, Tarter, and Wolford.  Tarter and Wolford cemeteries appear to be complete transcriptions.

The Search function on this website uses the same search operators like Google.  If you click on Advanced Search Tips on the home page under the Search bar, there is a list of some of the operators that you can use on this site, such as quotation marks around your ancestor to bring up that name exactly, such as “William Johnson”.  (Be careful as this may not bring up an ancestor who is buried with a middle initial or middle name.)

One caveat on this site is that it is supported by advertising for GenealogyBank.com.  If you have a subscription, this is great for ease of access.  There are links with green leaves to their newspapers, obituaries, and funeral notices.  If you don’t have a subscription, then you will be given an opportunity for a 7-day free trial on their site when you click on one of these links.

Enjoy browsing and checking out this site.  In the meantime, search SMART!

Sara N. Martin

Smart Canyon Genealogy

FRANCIS ASBURY: METHODISTS AND MY FAMILY

Image by Dale Forbes from Pixabay

I am taking part in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors Challenge this year.  This week’s theme is “Namesakes”.

It is a very common practice to name children after relatives.  In my own family, the middle name of Arlen or Arleen has been passed down to successive generations.  I have the same name as my great-grandmother Sarah Lewis Hurt and she has the same name as her grandmother, Sarah Neal Lewis.

Sometimes children are named after famous people.  As I do genealogy, I sometimes see president’s names or other prominent people’s names in the family group sheet.  My 4th great grandfather, Francis Asbury Johnson (1805-1865), was possibly named after a Methodist Episcopal minister named Francis Asbury (1745-1816).  I don’t have any concrete evidence that this was the case but my uncle pointed out that it is a possibility.  Always interested in history, I decided to investigate the life of this bishop and see why he might have been a candidate for a namesake.

According to an article in Christianity Today[1], Francis Asbury was born in England and became a Methodist minister about the time that he turned 21.  He felt called to go to the British colonies in America in 1771[2] and preach the faith.  His ministry lasted 45 years and he traveled the country in sickness and in health, staying through the American revolution.  He was especially interested in getting his message to the people in the frontier lands of Tennessee and Kentucky.  Circuit riders were important at this time – there were too few churches to serve the people in these areas.  Francis traveled thousands of miles in his lifetime.

The Methodist Church grew from 1200 people to 214,000 members during his time and he has become known as “The Father of American Methodism”.[3]  He founded Bethel Academy in central Kentucky in 1790 near the town of Wilmore.

My ancestor, Francis Asbury Johnson, was born about 1805 in Kentucky, 15 years after the founding of this academy.  The Christian History Institute claims that over 1000 children were named after him.[4]  My 4th great grandfather’s name may give a clue as to the religious leanings of the Johnson family.  They may have heard him speak in person and felt him to be a great man of God and passed his name to their son.  Incidentally, my Francis had a brother named Wesley.  There is a good indication that this family was Methodist which gives me something to pursue in my genealogical research.

Anyone in your family named after someone famous?  Religious, political, or even infamous?  Doing some googling might bring some surprising results!

Search Smart!

Sara N. Martin


[1] “Francis Asbury:  Methodist on Horseback”, Christianity Today, undated, online archives, Christianitytoday.com (https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/denominationalfounders/francis-asbury.html : accessed 21 January 2021)

[2] “Francis Asbury”, Asbury University, online archives, Asbury.edu (https://www.asbury.edu/academics/resources/library/archives/biographies/francis-asbury/ : accessed 21 January 2021),para. 1

[3] “Francis Asbury”, para. 1,2

[4] “Francis Asbury:  Did You Know?”, Christian History Institute, online archives, christianhistoryinstitute.org (https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/did-you-know-asbury : accessed 21 January 2021), para. 1.

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

BYU FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY WEBINARS

Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

I love watching webinars.  Before COVID, I thought webinars would not be the ideal medium for learning because I learn more through reading than with someone speaking.  I found out I was wrong.  I do retain many things from listening to a speaker, viewing the slides, perusing the syllabus, and joining in on the question-and-answer sessions at the end.

I discovered there were many, many free webinars available online through societies and genealogy websites.  I came across the BYU webinars early on during COVID.  I signed up to receive an email the day prior to each webinar so that I can watch it if I neglected to put it on the calendar.

On the BYU Family History Library homepage (https://fh.lib.byu.edu/), the schedule of webinars for the current month is displayed.  There is a link to all of the free webinars in the upper right corner, plus there are links under the calendar not only for the webinars but for other genealogical sites and information.

The webinars are very good.  Clicking on the box “Free Classes & Webinars”, brings up a page with a link for the live webinar schedule:

Once the “webinar schedule” is clicked, the link to join the webinar at the scheduled time is displayed.

If you are unable to watch the webinar at the scheduled time, you can view the recorded webinars with another link below the schedule.

The topics vary.  In this past month, there have been webinars on stepping up your family history game, German records, Irish records, and English records.  The list of recorded webinars is extensive and includes using Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.com, Findmypast, DNA, legal records, military records, etc.

Back to the home page, there are links to the various state archives, historical societies, and libraries.  There are links to other sites such as newspapers, databases, and vital records.  Not all of these records are available for public access.  Some will have the notation “BYU Access” next to them which means you are required to have a BYU login to access those records.

Most of these sites that can be reached through the BYU website can be found independently on the Internet but this site can be useful as a checklist to see if you are overlooking something as you search for your ancestors.

The BYU library is generally open to the public but is closed right now for COVID.  You can contact the library for virtual assistance for family history.  Joining the email mailing list will alert you to future webinars in case you do not come back and check the website.

Check this site out, stay safe during these COVID times, and Search Smart.

Sara N. Martin

AMEY AND THE OUTLAWS

Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay

I am participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  This is week 2 and the topic this week is Legends.

Most families have some sort of story or legend about their ancestors, some really cool tale about famous people their family members knew, about a family fortune won and lost, about some horrific sea journey made under duress.  Maybe your family claims native American ancestry.  Maybe your ancestor fought in a famous Revolutionary War battle.  Whatever it may be, most of us have these myths in our family.  Some turn out not to be myths at all, while others turn out not to have any bit of truth to them.

As for my own family, when I was younger, I heard that we might have some Native American heritage but I have yet to find that.  I have an ancestor whose last name was Wooton but he changed it to Ooton.  They say that he had a falling out with his dad and dropped the “W”.  That may be true, or maybe it was just a quirky pronunciation to which modern spelling adapted.  I found an interesting legend about my husband’s family on the internet.  It was convoluted, but it was something about a man who was a baron overseas and forced to leave his home country due to politics or religion. He settled on the Isle of Jersey where his wife died, he came to America, he buried his treasure in the ground during the Civil War and it was never seen again.  Entertaining?  Certainly.  True?  Well, to be honest, I never actually researched that far back on this particular line. It has the appearance of being one long tall tale.

One intriguing tale that I will research though, is the association of my husband’s maternal grandmother’s family with Jesse James, the outlaw.  This is one of the more common family legends out there.  (Considering that this man was a bank robber and criminal, it is interesting how a myth has built up around him.) Will this turn out to be “just talk”, or is there some truth that one of my husband’s ancestors actually did know Jesse James when he was young and maybe grew up with him as kids?

First, there’s place.  Where did the James family grow up?  What area of the country?  Next, there’s time.  In what decade did the James children grow up?

Jesse James was born in 1847 in Clay County, Missouri, near the city of Kearney, northeast of Kansas City. Jesse was about 3 years old when the 1850 census was taken.

Sure enough, Jesse and his brother Frank and sister Susan are in Clay County, Missouri with their parents, Robert and Zarelda in 1850.

1850 U.S. census, Clay County, Missouri, population schedule, Platte Township, p. 351b (stamped), dwelling 732, family 732, family of Robert James : digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 14 January 2021); from National Archives microfilm publication 432, roll 396.

In 1860, Jesse and his family are living in Clay County, Missouri.  Zarelda has remarried a man named Reuben Samuel.  Jesse should be about 13 years old.  His entry on the census has been marked (before microfilming!) with an arrow.  Apparently, someone was excited to find the entry.

1860 U.S. census, Clay County, Missouri, population schedule, Washington Township, p. 969 (stamped), dwelling 920, family 920, Jesse James in family of Reuben Samuel : digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 14 January 2021); from National Archives microfilm publication 653, FHL 803614.

By 1869, Jesse James was in the news as an outlaw and eventually, the governor of Missouri set a reward for his capture.  He probably did not answer the census taker’s questions when they came around in 1870.  His family, though, is still living in Clay County, Missouri.

My husband’s family, meanwhile, is living in Jackson County, Missouri, just south of Clay County.  His great-great-grandmother, Amey Odile Gates, was born in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, about 30 miles away.  She was 8 years younger than Jesse James, born in 1855.  In 1860, the Gates family was living in Sni-A-Bar Township, Missouri which is approximately 25 miles away.  She was married in 1874 in Sibley, Missouri which is 16 miles from Kearney, Missouri.  (These distances are “as the crow flies” and do not take into account any roads existing at that time.)  Amey and her husband John Ames made their home in Fort Osage, south of Sibley.

This information does place the Gates family (later the Ames family) in the right place at the right time to have heard the news of the James-Younger Gang.  The robbery of the Liberty Bank was relatively close to their home in Jackson County. Amey was about 11 when that robbery took place in 1866. Her age makes her a bit too young to have been a playmate of James himself.

Looking through sources, I realize that there were quite a few men involved in the gang at different times.  Many of these men grew up in this general area, including Jackson County.  These men are also about the same age as Amey and her siblings.  I may have been so focused on just finding the association with Jesse James that I have overlooked his accomplices.  I have my work cut out for me with thoroughly researching everyone involved in these notorious crimes in Missouri and the background of their families. 

This family legend may have some validity to it.  At this point, all I can do is more research.  I enjoy the hunt and the history lesson.

Search Smart!

Sara N. Martin

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

GENERAL LAND OFFICE RECORDS FOR GENEALOGY

Hirschfield, F. Map of Nebraska published by the Burlington Route , compiled from the official records of the government and rail road offices
. Omaha, 1886. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/98688509/.

General Land Office (GLO) records at the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are wonderful if you happen to have an ancestor who purchased public land.  The website is https://glorecords.blm.gov/.  They have over 5,000,000 land title records starting in 1788.  Not every single land title record will be on this site, but it is a worthwhile search if your ancestor’s land does happen to be mentioned.

There is a good description of the types of records that are on the BLM-GLO site on their home page. Land patents on this site include cash entry (individuals paying cash for the land), homestead (1862-1976 – 160 acres issued to those who would “improve” the land), and military warrants (land issued to veterans for their military service).  Keep in mind that this site is for the transfer of federal land to individuals, not for land sales between individuals.  There are survey plats, field notes, and land status records, along with a land catalog that enables you to search for your ancestor’s land.

Be sure to read the Reference Center section found at the top of the page for information about the records on this site.  The BLM only has records for states that were surveyed by township and range and not by the older metes and bounds survey method; therefore, this website does not have records for the original 13 colonies and the states of Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Texas.[1]

Clicking on the Search Documents tab takes you to a screen with three options:  Search Documents by Type, Search Documents by Location, and Search Documents by Identifier.  Depending on the information that you have on your ancestors’ land, you can choose any of these to search.

Searching by Identifier is useful if you have very specific information about your ancestor’s land (serial number, survey ID, etc.).  Searching by location can give you a list of your ancestor’s FAN club (friends, associates, and neighbors) by showing everyone in the township that obtained land directly from the Federal Government.  For example, if I wanted to see who were the original recipients of one of the townships in Yuma County, Colorado, I could look for Yuma County on the map and right-click on the area in which I am interested.  In the following example, I chose Main Street in Wray, Colorado.  I right-clicked on that area and the township appears in the left search box under Mapped Townships.  The information given is Colorado, 6th prime meridian, Township 1N, Range 43W.

Clicking on the Search button reveals 15 pages of people who acquired land from the Federal Government in this township from 1879 until 1920.  The list can be sorted by any of the columns.  Here, it is sorted by name (default):

You can click to view the information on the land for each individual.  Some of the records will have images and some will not.

If you would like to see if your specific ancestor had acquired land, you can use the feature Search Documents by Type.  This search engine accepts wildcards and there is a search help on this website in the reference section.

I was curious about one of my husband’s ancestors who farmed in Pawnee County, Nebraska.  I typed in the state, county, and his name – John Curtis.

There was one John Curtis in the search result, and after reviewing the information, I found him to be the correct ancestor.

I was able to read the patent details and view the patent image.  (This can take a while to load.)  I can download or purchase a certified copy of the patent image.

I now know that the claim of John Curtis was established for the “North West quarter of Section twenty seven, in Township three North of Range nine East”.  This information can be put into Google Earth and so you can see exactly where this homestead was located.  An easy way is to go to the website https://www.earthpoint.us/townshipssearchbydescription.aspx and key in the coordinates and click on “Fly To On Google Earth”.  A screenprint of this website is shown:

If you want to view the place on Google Earth Pro, you can download the .kml file that pops up in a separate window after you click on “Fly To”.  Once you are on Google Earth Pro (a free download from Google), you can do a File – Open to choose the .kml file and you will “fly” to the place on the map where your ancestor lived.  The section in which his homestead is located is framed in purple on the map below.  From here, you can determine the NW ¼ of section 27 and see what is now there.  (It is still a farm.)

There is still more to discover with the land patent search.  If you click the Related Documents tab, you can see several more documents to look at.

The other Curtis’ mentioned here could be family members.  The other men may be associates.  A search by location, pinpointing this township, may show other people that could be neighbors and associates.  The original survey of the township can be found on the left-hand side by clicking on the word “Surveys”.

This is a valuable tool for research, and if you enjoy maps, this can also be fun.  Check this website out and remember – Search Smart!

Sara Martin


[1] Tom Huber, A Location Guide to the General Land Office (GLO) Survey Plats (https://www.lib.niu.edu/1999/il9904232.html : accessed 13 January 2021, para. 4.

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