WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

BillionGraves.com

Happy New Year, everyone!  Surely 2021 will be better than 2020 – it has to be!  It will be a strange day indeed when I go to the grocery store and see everyone’s faces unmasked.  I’m not excited about going to restaurants again and being seated next to a loud, noisy table but the alternative this winter has been sitting outside in freezing weather with a coat and a fire pit.  There is something to be said for indoor seating.

I’m back to “Website Wednesday” after taking a couple of weeks off on blogging to celebrate (sort of) the end of the year holidays.  My plan this year is to have two posts a week, with the other post being about my ancestors or perhaps something historically or genealogically interesting.  I’ve been spending time learning to use Evernote for genealogy and also really going back through all the family work I have done for the past 40 years, making sure I have good sources and citations.  I also have quite a few documents and photos that need to be scanned.  Never a dull moment!

This week’s website is BillionGraves.com. I imagine most of you are familiar with Find A Grave, owned by Ancestry.  Find A Grave has had more of my family members recorded than BillionGraves, but I still use BillionGraves when I need to.  It is a free site, although they do have features available for a subscription fee.

MyHeritage has partnered with BillionGraves so if you have a family tree on MyHeritage, you can access records for your family on that platform, similar to accessing Find A Grave on Ancestry.com.  They have also partnered with FamilySearch and Findmypast.

You can volunteer to take photos of tombstones for BillionGraves.  They also have volunteer opportunities for transcribers.  I have not yet tried this feature, but it does seem interesting.  There is also a family tree feature on BillionGraves.  This is a four-generation chart if you have a free account, extended generations for BillionGraves Plus.  They will provide suggestions for you to look at to see if they have graves for your ancestors.

As for the search features, you can search by person or by cemetery.

I searched for the last name Popplewell in Kentucky.  I have a few Popplewell ancestors buried in Russell Springs, Kentucky.  Here is an example of the page for Mary E. Popplewell:

Besides the tombstone information, nearby graves are listed and a life timeline for Mary is provided on the right-hand side.  For Plus accounts, there will be GPS coordinates provided.

Below this section is even more information.

There are helpful links to find more about Mary Popplewell and her family relationships.  Further down there is information on the cemetery.  The Plus account gives you access to other Popplewells on BillionGraves.  Of course, Mary does not have 639 birth records.  The links point to MyHeritage and cover all possible Mary Popplewells.  You will need a paid subscription to MyHeritage to view the records.

Anyone is free to edit the record with the editing links on the top toolbar, as long as you have signed up for a free account:

A subscription to Billion Graves Plus includes everything in the free lookup, plus additional information such as family plots, global family, nearby graves, and priority support.  There are also no ads.  A subscription costs $59.99 per year.  At this time, they are offering a 50% off MyHeritage subscription for subscribing to BillionGraves.

With a subscription, the tombstone information will look like this:

If the cemeteries that your family members are buried in are here and you have a subscription to MyHeritage, this is a great resource.  The free version is fine if you can find your ancestor on here and get more clues.  Unfortunately, BillionGraves does not yet have the widespread reach of Find A Grave so I have not been able to connect with many of my ancestors and relatives on this site.  As more volunteers photograph more tombstones, more ancestors and cemeteries will be added in the future.

LAST TURN OF THE KEY

I never knew my Great Grandpa Hochstetler. My mother never knew him, either. He is a shadowy figure in my mind. I’m not even sure what He looked like. He passed away on March 6th, 1926, before my mother was born.

I’ve always pictured him stern for some reason. I know he was Baptist. His family was Amish, but I’m not sure when he actually left the church. I know they had financial issues when the last child, my mom’s mother, was born. The census shows he was an engineer at a foundry. Until last night, that’s all I knew. At some point, I was going to research him more but I’ve been spending my time unearthing my husband’s relatives.

I sourced a short bio of him on WikiTree last night, realizing that I don’t know this man at all. Ancestry showed an obituary existed but the link was obsolete. I did some searching and found an obituary on NewspaperArchive.com. I was surprised, stunned, and sad when I read the headline: Massillon Man Dies Beneath Car In Garage.

My first thought was that the car fell on him. Reading through the article, I found that he had died of heart failure and he was found dead under the car. He was only 54.

Who found him? His wife or one of his kids, calling him in for dinner? He left 5 children. His only son had married 3 years earlier. At home, there were 4 daughters. The youngest was 8.

I’m sure this was a shock to the family. The funeral was held at their house in Ohio. I have an address and I will definitely look for it on Google Earth. I want to know more about him and his legacy. My great grandma did eventually remarry and move to Illinois where her youngest daughter met her husband. Without that event, I wouldn’t be here.

Sobering thoughts. According to my mom, my great grandma was a wonderful person. I’m even named after her! I think I will try to flesh out a better picture of her first husband’s life. It seems like the right thing to do.

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

ATLAS OF HISTORICAL COUNTY BOUNDARIES

The holidays are almost here!  I know many of us do not have a lot of time right now to pursue our genealogical passion (or we’re turning that passion into creating lots of family history-themed presents – printed books with family photos, clever ornaments with ancestors on them, and collections of family recipes from our grandparents, to name a few.)  I’m not that creative with crafts per se, but I did spend a little bit of time baking cookies and I’m debating about making a loaf of banana bread.  I’ve also managed some time to continue my Website Wednesday theme and write a few notes about a great resource that I discovered before I go looking for the Christmas cards and the ornaments.

The Newberry Library has a website for historical and current county boundaries, along with other interesting state-related geography.  The URL is https://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/ and the first illustration you will see is an interactive map of the United States.  According to the instructions, you can click on any state to see “content related to that state, including shapefiles, chronologies, and metadata.”  Clicking on Colorado, for example, brings you to another page where you can view an interactive map, an index of counties and equivalents, individual county chronologies, bibliography, sources, historical commentary, and metadata (data about data – information on the data used to provide these county boundaries).  A treasure trove of information indeed!

If you click on View Interactive Map you will see a map of Colorado highlighted in blue.  There are dates on the far left that you can click on to see Colorado at a specific period of time.  Clicking on the date 12-29-1866 changes the map to see the county boundaries of Colorado at that time, along with information about the state.  If you hover your mouse over a specific county, you will see information about that county.  Summit County, for instance, has a paragraph explaining that the eastern boundary was not fixed until 1886 when it was determined the Continental Divide was to be the border. 

Going back to the Colorado detail page, you can click on the index of counties and equivalents.  I noticed the “State of Deseret” listed.  I know that would have been Utah.  Clicking on that link showed me that at one time, the State of Deseret (Utah Territory) included part of present-day Colorado.

There is quite a bit of county information on this site.  Going back to the main page, you can click on the map for National Data and there are several maps for county boundaries.  (Unfortunately, I was unable to get any of these to play on my browser.)  There is a tab for instructions on using the interactive maps and FAQs.  There are also tabs for how to use the download feature and a history of the project.

Going back to the states, I chose North Carolina.  Scrolling toward the bottom, there is a KMZ file that you can download and use on Google Earth Pro. This is a zip file that I downloaded to my downloads folder on my PC. Once downloaded, I unzipped it.  I opened Google Earth Pro and then double-clicked the .kmz file.  Going back to the Google Earth Pro program, I saw it zoom into the North Carolina area and it overlayed the historical county map over the earth.  Once on there, I can zoom in or zoom out.  Google Earth Pro is free to download and it’s a fantastic tool to use.  You can put in coordinates of the land that your ancestors owned and it will zoom right to them and you can drill down and see what the lay of the land looks like right now.

Google Earth Pro V 7.3.3.7786. (December 13, 2015). Eastern United States. 34° 33’ 16.73”N, 75° 25’ 21.36”W, Eye alt 2672.43 feet. SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO. Image Landsat / Copernicus 2020. http://www.google.com/earth/ [December 15, 2020].

The Newberry Library website itself is very helpful.  They have a beta Internet Archive search (another amazing website) along with their own digital collection.  I did have some trouble opening up the images that showed up on the digital search page, but when I searched by collection, I was able to pull up many issues of The Chicago Genealogist, all fully searchable.  Of course, this will have to wait for another blog post!

I hope you are all able to have a good holiday, even though we can’t all get together as we have in the past.  Meantime, Search Smart!

Sara N Martin

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

ArchiveGrid

Someday, we’ll be able to visit archives and libraries IN PERSON. When that time comes, ArchiveGrid is your friend. (Of course, you can always contact an archive you are interested in visiting – they may have open hours or have someone available to you for research, even during the time of COVID.)

Not everything is online; not everything is digitized. ArchiveGrid, according to their website https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/, “includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.”

Tips for searching ArchiveGrid are in the top right on the “How to Search” tab. I decided to search for something locally so I typed in “Golden Gate Canyon” Colorado. (Without adding Colorado, my search brought up a canyon in Montana.) Several interesting search results popped up, including an oral history discussing the Coors family, an album of photographs from a trip to the American West in the late 19th century, and a view of the entrance to Golden Gate Canyon from the Denver Public Library. Interested in the view of the canyon, I clicked on “View the Catalog Record”.

The item’s description is listed, along with a link to WorldCat to see if this item is available elsewhere. In this case, WorldCat shows that this item is specific to the Denver Public Library and there is no link to an online image. The Contact Information link brings me to a form that I can fill out and request information about the collection (including COVID restrictions for the archive). If I want to visit the DPL in person, clicking the Archive Map link brings me to a map and specific GPS coordinates.

To view a collection whose description has links to online images or sound recordings, add “has_links:1” to a search. Along with the details on a page, there will be a “Finding Aids” link to the repository that has the record. Unfortunately, many of these links are broken but you can see the repository that houses the item and search there.

I also keyed in “Russell County Kentucky” in the search bar to see what records appeared. Quite a few search results were returned, including one for church records.

These records are at the Russell County Historical Society. The detail informs me that this collection includes the Creelsboro Church of the Nazarene records from 1913-1934 and that they are photocopies. If I had ancestors that attended this church, I would definitely want to check this out. Clicking “Contact Information” takes me to the Kentucky Historical Society website with information about their hours and COVID-19 precautions and I can also find on their website how to request copies of records if I am out of state.

This website also lets you find archives nearby. Choose your state on the main page under “Search for a location or zip”. Under Colorado, there are 21 archives. Clicking on any one of these will bring up a dialog box and the choice is to Search the Collections or Contact Information”. For the Colorado School of Mines, there are 1,789 collections. These collections primarily concern mines in Colorado. There is quite a bit of historical information in these records so if you are searching for one of your entrepreneurial ancestors who went west to seek their fortune, this might be a good collection to check out.

Remember, it’s not all online. Sometimes we have to actually visit places or have someone in that repository look at records for us. After the danger of COVID-19 has passed, I look forward to spending some in-person time at the Denver Public Library, and to make the best use of my time, I will be perusing some of their holdings before I make a trip.

Happy Hunting!

Image by kropekk_pl from Pixabay

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

ANCIENTFACES.COM

The website AncientFaces is a free website dedicated to sharing biographies and photos of your ancestors or of historical events and the people who made those events history. This is a collaborative/crowdsourcing website where you can choose to add to existing biographies or upload your own photos of your family. They’ve been around for 20 years but I must confess I didn’t realize this website existed until the last few months. According to their About AncientFaces tab, they have over 1 million images and 200 million biographies which is definitely well worth checking out!

Starting an account is free on their site. You can choose to subscribe to emails detailing new features or comments made on your posts. Their landing page tells you “Everyone deserves to be remembered” and shows you photos that have been recently uploaded or topics of interest or families that have new information. When you find a topic or picture that you like, you can click on the heart and add it to your favorites. You can unclick on the heart and they are removed.

Don’t be fooled by what seems like only a handful of names in the biography section. If you were searching for the last name “Popplewell”, for example, in the “Search Biographies” section on the home page, you would click on a name ending in P that is closest to your surname. In my case, I clicked on Bonnie Pinson. This brought up a list of names from Pinson to Purchase but I don’t see the name Popplewell in this list. I clicked on a name close to Popplewell – Joseph Poppolardo – and I see a list of names from A. Popplewell to Zoe Popplewell. Scanning this list, I can click on the name of someone who interests me, read what has been written about them already, and add more information or a picture if I choose. (Clicking on someone will automatically add them to your favorites. If you do not want them added, just unclick the heart on their profile picture.)

Of course, you can always find people by using the search function at the top of the screen. If you use the search bar, you can choose to look for a person or a photo. Just typing in a last name will bring you to a family page that will let you know how many bios and pictures of people with that last name exist. If you see someone who might be an ancestor, you can click on that specific person. (I wouldn’t recommend that route if you’re looking for the last name “Smith” but it works well on unusual surnames.)

If you are adding regional research to your genealogy hunt, you can look for pictures of the area in which you are searching. For instance, I can search for “Jefferson County Colorado” and choose “photos” to see what pictures of this area have been uploaded by members. Currently, 9 photos appear when I do that search and each one is of a family or person. The pictures may not be specific to the place you are researching, but for them to appear in the search, there is a mention of the area in the photo description, such as the birthplace of the ancestor in the photo. When I choose “Denver Colorado” and “photos”, many more images appear, including a great photo of the highway from Denver to Idaho Springs in 1941, years before it was I-70.

If I look at the bottom of the page, I see that this photo is in an album titled “The 1940s”. Clicking on that link, I find more links to photos about Christmas, Life in the 40s, and the Holocaust.

Take some time and have a look at this site. Keep in mind that your bios can be edited by others as this site is collaborative and your photos will be available for everyone with a free account to view. I would advise not putting information about living people on this site. Take a look, though. Who knows? Maybe some distant cousin has that picture of your great-great-grandfather you didn’t know existed!

Happy Hunting!

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

AncestorStuff.com

The idea of researching my family tree while wearing an “I Love Family History” t-shirt while at the same time drinking coffee from a “Genealogy is Great” mug is motivating and exciting. Doing my essential grocery shopping each week while wearing a “Genealogy Equals Happiness” mask makes that task a little less drudging. While on the hunt for wearable genealogy, I found this website: AncestorStuff.com.

The apparel store on this site is full of genealogical goodies: mugs, totes, phone cases, magnets, t-shirts & all sorts of stuff. Initially, I was only looking for items with slogans, but this site also has a lot of books, e-books, charts, and forms.

As an example of some of the books available, they have The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy 4th Edition by Val D. Greenwood at a great price. I have this book and although I haven’t yet finished it, I am learning a lot from it. They also have about 7,000 other books, such as a new book titled Remembering Anabaptist Ancestors: Amish Migrations and Family Stories by Gerald J Mast. This book contains stories about some of my direct ancestors. There are also books specific to states, such as The Lost Cities Of Colorado by Laurel Michele Wickersheim and Rawlene Lebaron.

Don’t forget to check out the clearance section. For a few bucks, you can find books such as After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans by  Donald R. Shaffer and London: A History by  Francis Sheppard.

By the way, I don’t get any kickbacks from this site. I’m glad they exist and I wanted to share my latest find with you. They currently have a sale going on, too.

Meanwhile, on the genealogy research front, I have started a spreadsheet listing all the neighbors of my great-great-great-grandfather, George Lewis, on the 1850 census for Cross Creek Township, Jefferson County, Ohio. I plan to cross reference these names with the ones on the 1855 Illinois State Census in Cumberland County and see if I find any matches. I do not know the father of George Lewis, although there is a suggested ancestor on Ancestry.com without documentation. I’m curious to know if the Lewis’ moved to Illinois with any family members or groups. I know his in-laws moved out to Illinois and perhaps I can find some other collateral relatives. I’m sure I’ll be writing a blog post on this in the future.

Meanwhile, Happy Hunting and Happy Thanksgiving!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY

ANCESTORS AT REST

Cemeteries have always fascinated me. On a trip to Boston when I was in college, I couldn’t walk by a graveyard without going in. I took so many pictures of tombstones of people both famous and non. (Somewhere I have a collection of tombstone pictures waiting to be uploaded to the net!)

Here in Colorado the tombstones are not quite as old as they are on the east coast. I still occasionally wander through the graveyards, reading the stones, wondering about the people and whether anyone out there still remembers them or pays a visit once in a while. When I was younger, I’d climb over the walls if I ran across an old cemetery to check it out. Sometimes the stones were vandalized and that always made me sad.

I discovered a website called “Ancestors At Rest”. The URL for this site is http://ancestorsatrest.com/. At first glance, it looks like a website from the 1990s and I wondered if it was actually still being updated. I’ve clicked on some of the links and found most of them are still valid. There are links to the Olive Tree Genealogy website and Facebook pages which are alive and well. I will be discussing the Olive Tree Genealogy website in a future post.

I was not able to find a Search box on this site, but I looked at some of the links available and what is posted on the site. There is also a Site Map at the bottom of the website which came in handy.

So, what types of records are there on this site? Coffin Plates. What is a coffin plate? I didn’t know. I learned from the site that “The history of Coffin Plates or casket plates is a long but not very well documented one. Coffin plates are decorative adornments attached to the coffin that contain free genealogical information like the name and death date of the deceased.” So why are these floating around and not buried in the ground? Apparently, they used to be attached to the coffin and buried (and some have been removed when graves have been relocated), but gradually people started to take them off before burial or even just display them on a stand next to the coffin. This website has a list of coffin plates that have been found, alphabetized by last name. I had to click on a coffin plate for a Sarah M. Martin. I found a picture of a beautiful plate with her birth and death dates – 1830 to 1866. The creator of the website, Brian L. Massey, has a personal collection of 500 of these.

There are links to Funeral Cards/Memorial Cards, a handful of Funeral Home records, some Family Bible records, and Obituaries. There are a few Death Certificates, Church Burial records, Wills, and a few Cenotaph Ontario records (war memorials). Of course there are cemetery records, but other surprising records such as naturalizations and censuses.

Of course I had to find out what Colorado records were there. I found “Search Free Death Records by Country” and the United States is organized by state. All of the cemetery listings were for Logan County. I’ve lived in this state for 50 years and I do not know where Logan County is – shame on me! It is in the NE part of the state and the county seat is Sterling. (I’ve been to Sterling several times.) I clicked on the link for the St. Petersburg Cemetery and found a good sized list compiled by a lady named Peggy.

There are links throughout this website for other sites that have free or paid genealogical info. This site is definitely worth looking into to see what is available for the area you are searching even though these are not extensive collections. There is a link to the Ancestors At Rest Blog but that has not been updated since 2017. On that blog is a bio of Brian L. Massey, the creator of the website.

Happy Hunting!

Sara Martin/Smart Canyon Genealogy

Image by ju-dit from Pixabay

Website Wednesday

ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY

I was thinking that this particular Website Wednesday wouldn’t happen due to all of the computer problems I’ve had this last week. Take note: make sure you back up your files to a cloud service. You will be very glad you did! My computer may need to go in for service but I was still able to write this up.

This week, I wanted to take a look at the Allen County Public Library. The URL for this library is https://acpl-cms.wise.oclc.org/genealogy. This library is not just a local library for Allen County, Indiana. It happens to be the second largest genealogical library in the United States.1 The focus is on North America, but they happen to have some British and European records, also. They hold 11,000 periodicals from genealogy and historical societies all over the United States, some defunct and some still publishing. Because of this, they have created PERSI – The Periodical Source Index. The PERSI Index can be found at Findmypast.com. It is free to search, but you need a subscription to view any images. You can always contact the Allen County Library if you see something that you would like copied.2 Currently, it is $7.50 for 6 articles, plus .20 per page.3

One of the great things about ACPL is their free webinars that you can view. I have watched several and they provide some valuable information. For instance, this month they are having webinars on such topics as Revolutionary War Pension Records, Finding Your German Family History, 19th Century Military Records, and Free Newspaper Sites to Assist Family Historians.

They offer both free databases and on-site databases if you can visit. Examples of free databases include African American Gateway, Family Bible Records, Our Military Heritage, and Other States Resources. Being as I live in Colorado, I am always curious to see what Colorado records are available elsewhere. They have available online the Canon City Daily Records Index from 2014 to 2016 which appears to be typewritten births, marriages, and obituaries from Canon City.4

You can also subscribe to their free newsletter, Genealogy Gems, which gives updates about their collections plus research tips. The back issues from 2004-2019 are currently available to view online.5 I would encourage you to check out their newsletter, watch some webinars (the people who present them are great!), and look around on their site.

Happy hunting!

1FamilySearch Wiki contributors, “United States Archives and Libraries,” FamilySearch Wiki, https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/index.php?title=United_States_Archives_and_Libraries&oldid=4038289 (accessed November 10, 2020).

2FamilySearch Wiki contributors, “Periodical Source Index (PERSI),” FamilySearch Wiki, https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/index.php?title=Periodical_Source_Index_(PERSI)&oldid=4131553 (accessed November 10, 2020).

3“The Genealogy Center – Our Services “. 2020. Acpl-Cms.Wise.Oclc.Org. https://acpl-cms.wise.oclc.org/our-services (accessed November 10, 2020).

4“Canon City Daily Record Index, Fremont County, Colorado – ACPL Genealogy Center”. 2020. Genealogycenter.Info. https://www.genealogycenter.info/search_codailyrecord.php (accessed November 10, 2020)

5“The Genealogy Center – Genealogy Gems”. 2020. Acpl-Cms.Wise.Oclc.Org. https://acpl-cms.wise.oclc.org/community/genealogy-gems (accessed November 10, 2020)

Website Wednesday

I’ve amassed quite a number of favorite genealogy websites under my “Ancestry” bookmarks folder on Chrome and I thought I would take the time to share some of them with you.  There will be websites that are fairly well known but others will be a bit more obscure.  I intend to go in alphabetical order as I post each week but I can’t promise that I won’t skip around!

Access Genealogy

The URL for this free site is https://accessgenealogy.com/.  Their home page is full of pictures and articles and is frequently updated.  I have been subscribing to their blog posts and the topics vary from “Czechs in Cleveland” to “The Heritage of Clarks, Nebraska” to “An Account of the Captivity of Hugh Gibson”.  This website was started over 20 years ago.

According to their home page, they specialize in Native American genealogy, but they also have links to free databases and sources online for all types of genealogical records.  The home page explains how to do searches on their site for these records.

Besides Native American, the tab headers include Black Genealogy, Cemetery Records, Census Records, DNA, Military Records, and Vital Records.  There are also links to records for US States on the side.  I looked up Colorado and saw an interesting title: “Highway 83 Abandoned Cemetery, Arapahoe County, Colorado”.  Four individuals are buried there. With a bit of googling, I found that this abandoned cemetery is (or was, not sure if it is still there) somewhere between S. Parker Road and S. Jordan Road and is known as the Lewis Cemetery.

Under the Military Records tab, I discovered that the National Park Service has a database for all of the prisoners of war in the infamous Andersonville Prison.  I was able to find my great-great-grandfather, John A. Johnson, who served in the 38th Illinois Regiment, was captured, sent to Andersonville, and miraculously survived.

Key in the search term Biographies in the search bar and many biographies will pop up in the results section.  You can narrow the search results by location.  For instance, there are 470 biographies of people from Ontario, Canada.

Many of the links direct you to FamilySearch.org, the largest database of genealogical records not behind a paywall, but some of the links lead you to transcriptions such as the Register of St. Philip’s Parish, South Carolina which I arrived at through the South Carolina link on the right-hand side of the home page.  Unfortunately, some of the links will also direct you to a paid site such as Ancestry.

I encourage you to check this out, especially if your subscription to Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast, etc. has lapsed and it’s driving you bonkers not being able to do your genealogy the way you were doing it before.  There is plenty out there to find, you just have to do a bit of creative hunting!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Murder on the York Road

Image by Alicja from Pixabay

The year is 1861. George Lewis, a 47 year old man who is not too old but no longer young, is hauling freight in a wagon on the York Road outside of his home in Greenup, Illinois. Maybe he is hauling supplies like timber staves that are needed for his shop back home where he makes barrels, buckets, and casks. Perhaps he is thinking about his family: his beautiful wife Sarah, with her long red hair, or his new baby girl, Ezube, or maybe his oldest son, Jacob, already 14 and becoming quite the young man.

Watching his horses and the road, he is startled by a shout. He looks around and catches sight of some outlaw band of men, intent of robbing him of his money and his cargo. He shouts at the horses but too late – they are on him. Too quick for him, they seize his property and take his life, leaving George laying there lifeless on the road.

At their house, Sarah waits, along with 7 children, for a man that will never come home. The two youngest girls will never remember their father. Jacob will have to assume the responsibilities of the man of the house. Their 17 year old daughter, Mary, will have to help assume the burden.

This man is my great-great-great grandfather. I was aware for many years that he died relatively young in his forties. Was it an accident, I wondered. Did he succumb to cholera, typhus, diphtheria? Did he have a weak heart? I never knew. I just recorded the facts as I saw them. His last mention on a census was in 1860.

I do not yet know who his parents were. He was born in New York around 1816 and he migrated west to Steubenville, Ohio where he was a cooper, falling in love and marrying a woman named Sarah Neal. After a few children were born, the National Highway was calling out, promising a new life in a new state. This was the road that ran from Cumberland, Pennsylvania to Greenup, Illinois – the first federally funded road, since replaced by I-70 and US-40. The highway was popular in the 1840s and 1850s before the advent of the railroad and George and Sarah knew they could make a good home and prosper farther west in Greenup, Illinois, located in Cumberland County.

Upon looking at some Ancestry trees that included my George Lewis, I discovered that a couple of my cousins had mentioned George was murdered on the York Road. What?? I had never heard this story. My family members are great story tellers and surely they would have related this to me as I was growing up! I had to ask my uncle if this could possibly be true and he was skeptical. He had never heard the story before. He had to ask HIS uncle if this was true and surprise! My great-uncle said that yes, George Lewis was murdered by robbers while he was hauling freight on the York Road. He had never felt the need to tell us, apparently.

I had to soak that in! What a surprise. I had just made a post on social media that I didn’t have any murders in my family that I was aware of. Be careful what you say!

Have any of you been surprised by something you discovered in your family tree? Let me know in the comments below.

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