Friday, May 24, 2019

Craig mysteries slowly unraveling

Alex E. Proimos [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On Monday I did the unthinkable. I accidentally left my laptop at work, so in the evening I had only my phone for genealogy. Today's smartphones are amazing, and you can download wonderful genealogy apps, but, in both screen size and flexibility, they are still inferior to a laptop. But I had to make do, so I opened up the FamilySearch app and began scrolling through my "Ancestors with Tasks" list, looking for relatives I know readily enough to easily determine if a source applies. (And, might I add, it drives my pedantic side nuts that the app calls them all "Ancestors" when most of them aren't ancestors at all, but collateral lines?)

The first few tasks I went through weren't memorable. Finally I clicked on Barney Robbinnult, my 3great-grandfather. The possible record match that popped up was a marriage license naming him as the father, and my 3great-grandmother Julia Kimmey as the mother, of the bride. The marriage took place in California in 1916, and the bride was Mattie Craig.

My 2great-grandmother was Martha (Robinault) Craig, sometimes called Mattie. Up until the moment the significance of this marriage record dawned on me, I knew only what was written in one of the articles on her first husband's, my 2great-grandfather's, murder: "For about two years [John Stephen Craig] had been separated from his wife, who is now said to be remarried and living in California." But California is a big place, Martha Craig is a common name, and I had no idea what her married name might be.

Marriage record, trimmed from the original at FamilySearch

And here was the record that would solve that mystery. She married a man named Paul Ruther. He was a painter, born in Germany, and his parents were named, too. The date was before John Craig's murder, and both parties selected "Divorced" as their marital status. That meant that somewhere there has to be a divorce record for the Craigs. But where? In California, Nebraska, or somewhere in between? My initial survey for records of that period being unsatisfactory, it occurred to me that divorces at the time often appeared in newspapers.

I knew that just searching for "John Craig" at Chronicling America would yield little; many times I had tried unsuccessfully to find his murder that way. Looking for a divorce record, the logical search terms would be "Craig divorce," so I set the search parameters to Nebraska and tried that, but found nothing of interest. I remembered having tried "Martha Craig" in the past, so I tried her nickname "Mattie Craig." Apart from being reminded that there was another Martha/Mattie Craig in Omaha at the time, apparently highly respectable and working as a schoolteacher, there was nothing of interest again. I racked my brain, thinking what would have appeared in a divorce notice in the 1910s. Unless the parties were prominent (as mine were most certainly not) or the divorce had some other special interest to the public, the notices were usually quite succinct. Just names and addresses.

So I tried their address: "Tenth and Paul." And there was the jackpot. Many of the articles that the OCR had failed to recognize as "John Craig" or "Martha Craig" or "Mattie Craig" suddenly began to appear. Their divorce has still failed to materialize, but something else did show up. The headline in the Omaha Daily Bee read "Had a Premonition He Would Be Killed," and I knew immediately what the article would be about. Here was one of the long-sought-after articles on John Craig's murder.

The article duplicated much of the information that is contained in the first article of the Omaha World Herald, which I transcribed on a former post, "A Murder in the Family." But there were a few differences. For one, this newspaper dubbed him with the nickname of "hermit expressman." Although the idea that he was an expressman who was a hermit was not new, using it as a nickname was. Secondly, this paper identified the neighbor who had last seen him alive by name. This article was also much more definite on the information about his wife having divorced him and remarried. It stated as a fact that "[h]e was divorced from his wife, who remarried and is now in California." However, the article also gave the wrong name for his son Matthew, calling him Martin instead.

A few more articles on the subject appeared in the Daily Bee for the next several days, although not a single one of them comes up in the results when searching for "John Craig." The second article in the series, "Police Believe Craig Murdered," which was published the following day, made the interesting observation that

For years John Craig conducted a little grocery store near his home, Tenth and Paul streets. He was never known to have given customers credit on purchases and is said to have made many enemies as a result. It is thought that perhaps one of these persons may have committed the deed.

This is the first I have heard of the idea that one of his customers killed him. It is also the only article I have seen that elaborates on what kind of store he ran. Knowing that he was an expressman, I had imagined his store to be more on the lines of stationery or carriage riggings. Seeing that it was a grocery store took me by surprise.

The newspaper search for "Tenth and Paul" also revealed some more color to add to the already colorful characters in the Craig family. From the articles I had already amassed from the World Herald, it was well established that they did not get along smoothly with their neighbors. The Daily Bee cemented that impression, and managed to top everything with my own 2great-grandmother, at the late date of 1906, accusing her neighbor of being a witch!

Since my search was for the location, not names, there were also many results that had nothing to do with my ancestors, but with the neighborhood in which they lived. It seems to have been an area with frequent police intervention, and one 1911 article explicitly said, "The neighborhood is regarded as a tough one by the police."

I began to be curious to see the layout of the neighborhood. The various articles had made it clear that it was near the railroad tracks, and some of the businesses mentioned made it sound like an industrial area. The Library of Congress website has a nice collection of Sanborn maps available to view for free, so I narrowed down the collection to those of Omaha, and then began scanning through them for the neighborhood. Although I have not mentioned it yet in this post, the Craigs' address was variously given as "Tenth" or "Eleventh" and "Paul" or "Nicholas," so I figured that they must have lived within in a block defined by those four streets. 

Excerpt from 1901 Sanborn map of Omaha, showing intersection of Eleventh and Nicholas.

Only two of the maps of Omaha contained that part of town, and the one dated nearest the time of John Craig's murder was published some 16 years earlier, in 1901. But there is one thing very baffling about both these maps. It is easy to see that Nicholas and Paul streets do parallel one another, and are one block apart. Likewise, Tenth and Eleventh; and they are perpendicular to Nicholas and Paul, as expected. The intersection of Nicholas and Eleventh is easy to find. But Paul street seems to fade away before it can cross Tenth! Yet multiple newspaper articles, not only in 1917, but also at the time this map was published, refer to the intersection of Tenth and Paul.

So there we have it. My Craig ancestors lived at a nonexistent street intersection. Although some of their mysteries are slowly unraveling, they only give rise to new mysteries. I guess they know how to keep a person intrigued.


Los Angeles, California, "California, County Marriages, 1850-1952", Licenses & certificates v. 261-264 1916: 130 (image 859 of 1443), Ruther-Craig, 12 Sept 1916; digital images, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch ( : accessed 20 May 2019).

"Craig is Found Dead; How Killed Mystery," Omaha World Herald, 22 Feb 1917, p. 1; digital images, GenealogyBank (

"Had a Premonition He Would Be Killed," Omaha Daily Bee, 23 Feb 1917, p. 7, col. 4; digital images, Chronicling America ( : accessed 21 May 2019), Historic American Newspapers.

"Police Believe Craig Murdered," Omaha Daily Bee, 24 Feb 1917, p. 11, col. 3-4; digital images, Chronicling America ( : accessed 21 May 2019), Historic American Newspapers.

"No Light Shed on Death Of John Craig at Inquest," Omaha Daily Bee, 26 Feb 1917, p. 5, col. 4; digital images, Chronicling America ( : accessed 21 May 2019), Historic American Newspapers.

"Manzer is Seriously Cut," Omaha daily bee, 16 July 1911, p. 5, col. 2; digital images, Chronicling America ( : accessed 21 May 2019), Historic American Newspapers. 

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Omaha, Douglas And Sarpy County, Nebraska. Sanborn Map Company, Vol. 2, 1901. Map.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Musings on Mary Ann Reeve

The dog loved the surprise snow.
One morning a few weeks ago I sat, gazing out the bedroom window at the surprising yet beautiful vision of spring snow falling on the desert, enjoying a mug of homemade chai, and listening to the latest edition of the History Extra podcast. The subject of the podcast was "The women killed by Jack the Ripper" and consisted of a fascinating interview with Hallie Rubenhold, who authored a soon-to-be-released book entitled The Five. As she spoke of the lives of these victims and their poverty as women in nineteenth century Britain, I found my thoughts repeatedly wandering to my great-great-great-grandmother Mary Ann (Reeve) Valentine, about whom I have already written one blog post, and who still retains a fair amount of mystery.

Strictly speaking, the blog post was about her daughter, Mary Ann Valentine, but it touched greatly upon the life of the elder Mary Ann. It spoke of the confusion about her marriage with Charles Valentine: how the man usually believed to be her husband never resided with her during a census, and was even recorded as single. It also spoke of her youngest daughter, Harriet, conceived apparently during a temporary reconciliation or else out of wedlock. Both of these mysteries, since the writing of that post, have been resolved to some extent. I finally located Harriet's baptismal record, and it reports that she was baptized on 23 Jan 1846. Her parent's name is given as Mary Ann Vallentine, residing in the Union Workhouse in Bocking. Harriet was indeed illegitimate. Later I located a burial record for a Charles Valentine, age 35, in White Notley on 21 Aug 1836. Since the family  lived in White Notley, this Charles Valentine makes more sense as Mary Ann's husband than the Charles Valentine who was baptized and buried in Fairstead, generally accepted as her husband. Moreover, his death date is the same year as the birth of their youngest son Charles, and just a few years before the 1841 census. Therefore, it is quite possible for him to have fathered Charles, but explains why he fails to appear in the 1841 census. In addition to all that, extrapolating his birth year from his age makes him born about 1801. Mary Ann had been born in about 1807. The other Charles Valentine was born in 1812. Without researching actual customs, just relying on my assumptions about Victorian England, it seems more likely that Mary Ann would have married a man six years older than she would a man five years younger. 

These are things I knew and remembered while listening to the History Extra podcast. Naturally, when I began listening, I had no thought in my head about Mary Ann Reeve, or even family history. I merely intended to wile away a pleasant hour learning about an aspect of the Jack the Ripper cases. I was on vacation, I had yummy homemade chai, and it was snowing. There were few clothes in my suitcase suitable for snow--I had done my packing during a particularly summer-like spell, and packed accordingly--so most of the day would necessarily be spent indoors. I intended to enjoy the morning.

As soon as Hallie mentioned women, poverty, and Victorian England, my thoughts began their inclination toward Mary Ann Reeve. "The way in which 19th century society operated was that women were never designed to be breadwinners," Hallie Rubenhold stated on the podcast. Mary Ann Reeve had been obligated to become the family breadwinner. "The types of work that women could engage in was very very poorly paid and they were not designed to support a family," Hallie continued. I thought of how Mary Ann had plaited straw for a living, how little it could pay, and how grueling it could be. I remembered reading that moistening the straw in the mouth often resulted in scarring on the corner of the lip, and cringed in sympathy. Hallie Rubenhold went on: 
A woman's role was instituted. It was woman as mother, woman as wife, woman as caregiver, not woman at the head of the family. And so the problem was that a lot of women found that if they were abandoned by their husbands, if their husbands died, if their husbands got ill, if their fathers died, if their fathers got ill, they could not bring in enough money to actually sustain a family. 
I thought of 1851, when Mary Ann's daughters, Sarah and Mary Ann, were in the Braintree Union Workhouse at Bocking. And only a few years before, when her daughter Harriet was baptized, Mary Ann the mother had been in the workhouse herself. This woman could not manage to support a family on her own.

The former Braintree Union Workhouse
Robert Edwards / St. Michael's Hospital, Braintree, Essex, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of the workhouse, where my thoughts had already strayed, Hallie explained, "The workhouse was designed to punish people. You went into the workhouse and you were shamed. It was shameful that all your neighbors knew that you were there, and you were taught to feel ashamed of it as well." Those poor Valentines. I'm not sure that I took the social stigma into account when I wrote the first blog post. I wrote of how the institution functioned, but not of the emotional toll it would have taken on its inmates.

Hallie Rubenhold went on to sing the praises of the census, a set of documents with which any genealogist is familiar. However, she was looking at more than just the households of her subjects. Her rhapsody reminded me that I need to look at more than just the Valentines' household; I need to look at their neighbors. What sort of economic conditions were they experiencing? Was the whole area depressed, or were the Valentines among the few? In the poor households, who were the heads? Were they mostly women and disabled men, or were most people poor? 

"What were the sizes of the rooms they inhabited? What were the conditions of the houses? What was sanitation like?" asked Hallie. I remembered reading, I think in a newspaper, about the appalling sight and smell of raw sewage running along the street, past the pub, and draining into one man's field. This was in one little town in Essex, although I don't recall which one. It could have been White Notley. It was an article I read in passing, while looking for something else, but did not record anywhere. I need to go back and look at the evidence for the living conditions where Mary Ann and her family resided. Was sewage running past their door as they were getting cuts on their mouth from moistening straw? Or were they poor, but enjoying fresh air and flowers? Hallie Rubenhold mentioned poverty maps. She was speaking of London, but do poverty maps exist for other places as well? Could there be maps showing the economic conditions of Essex?

Hallie Rubenhold also said, "I think there's a lot to be said for the fact that, for example, Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, and Catherine Eddowes all lived out of wedlock with men." She spoke of refuges for fallen women, and of marital separation. This reminded me again of Mary Ann Reeve. My initial conjecture (before finding the 1836 burial record) had been that she and her husband had separated. "They are still married," Hallie explained, "they separated from their husbands, there's great shame surrounding that, but in order to survive because financially they can't support themselves, they have to shack up with men." I thought of Harriet Valentine and her illegitimacy. Did Mary Ann have to resort to "shacking up" with a man? Was that how Harriet was conceived? If she were widowed, as I now suspect was the case, would she still have needed to shack up? Wouldn't she have been more likely to remarry? But she didn't remarry, and Harriet was illegitimate. Did Mary Ann, perhaps, have to resort to prostitution? Or was she simply having an affair with someone?

As you can see, some aspects of Mary Ann (Reeve) Valentine's life are coming into clearer focus, but more questions are arising. A few avenues of research have presented themselves, and perhaps they may answer many of these questions.


1841 census of England, Essex, Fairsted parish, Witham registration district, folio 7, page 8, household of James Valentine; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Mar 2011); citing PRO HO 107/343/6.

1841 census of England, Essex, White Notley parish, folio 19, page 9, household of Mary Valentine; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 21 Oct 2007); citing PRO HO 107/343/12.

1851 census of England, Essex, Braintree Union Workhouse, Bocking parish, Braintree registration district, folio 330, page 12, Sarah Valentine; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Jan 2015); citing PRO HO 107/1785.

1851 census of England, Essex, Fairsted parish, Witham registration district, folio 377, page 13, household of James Valentine; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Mar 2011); citing PRO HO 107/1783.

1851 census of England, Essex, White Notley parish, village of White Notley, Braintree registration district, folio 426, page 10, household of Mary Ann Valentine; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 8 Feb 2010); citing PRO HO 107/1785.

1861 census of England, Essex, White Notley parish, Braintree registration district, folio 157A, page 14, household of Mary Ann Valentine; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 8 Feb 2010); citing PRO RG 9/1115.

Ancestry, “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Jan 2015), entry for Charles Valentine’s 1836 baptism; citing FHL Film Number 560909.

Ancestry, “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Jan 2015), entry for Mary Ann Reeve’s 1807 baptism; citing Boreham, Essex, England, reference; FHL microfilm 1,702,171.

Ancestry, “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Jan 2015), entry for Mary Ann Valentine’s 1834 baptism; citing FHL Film Number 560909.

Ancestry, “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Jan 2015), entry for Sarah Valentine’s 1833 baptism; citing FHL Film Number 560909.

Ancestry, “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Jan 2015), entry for William Valentine’s 1830 baptism; citing FHL Film Number 1702171.

Clarke, Andrew. “Strawplaiting.” Web log post. The Hysterical Hystorian. The Foxearth and District Local History Society, 12 June 2005. Web. Accessed 1 Apr. 2011.

FamilySearch, "England, Essex Parish Registers, 1538-1997," database, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Feb 2019), entry for Charles Valentine's 21 Aug 1836 burial; citing, White Notley, Essex, England, Essex Record Office, England; FHL microfilm 560,909.

St. Michael the Archangel (Braintree, Essex, England), Bishop's transcripts for Braintree, "Baptisms, 1831-1833, 1844-1864; burials, 1831-1833, 1844-1863; marriages, 1831-1833," Harriet Vallentine's 1846 baptismal record, p. 78, no. 620; digital images, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Oct 2017).

Monday, February 11, 2019

52 Ancestors Week 4: I'd Like to Meet

The prompt for Week 4 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this year was "I'd Like to Meet." 

Like any genealogist, there is a long list of ancestors I would like to meet if I could. But I think that number one on that list would have to be the subject of my previous post, Grandpa Red Brosius.

Sitting on Grandpa Red's lap, Easter 1980

To be quite technical, I did meet him. He was still alive when I was born, and, I am told, was crazy about me. But he passed away from emphysema before I was even a full year old, and I have no recollection of him at all. I have photos of him, an audio of his voice saying "Merry Christmas" in the 1950s, and numerous stories told to me by my parents and the few other surviving relatives who knew him.

Sadly, he was an alcoholic, and the stories I hear could almost be the stories of two different men. But it is clear that my parents (or whoever is telling the story) loved him. They paint a picture of a man who was caring, quirky, fun-loving, and intensely human. He fixed everything with duct tape--including plumbing. He insisted on watering the lawn, even in the middle of a drought (for which he made the local news as an example of what not to do! Wish I could find a copy of that). He chewed snus and used it to wash the car's windshield: he would squirt it between his front teeth onto the glass. He also smoked and, when an ash tray wasn't handy, would tap his ashes into the cuffs of his pants. (Grandma hated that!) He had injured a finger years earlier on a piece of glass, so that he had only one half of his fingernail, which he would whittle away with a pocketknife. To this day my mom treasures that pocketknife, which he sharpened so many times that the blade itself is little more than a sliver.

But I wish I had more than just these stories, and more even than the mementos. I wish I had a memory of him.

Friday, February 8, 2019

52 Ancestors Week 3: Unusual Name

The prompt for Week 3 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this year was "Unusual Name."  

The six eldest Brosius kids: Marshall, Lee, Ormond, Wayne, Searle, and Susie.
Missing are the two youngest: Lowell and Vinis.

I don't have to go very far back in my family tree to find an unusual name. Those Brosius boys had some interesting ones. Among them were an Ormond, a Searle, and a Vinis.

To look at the name Ormond, it doesn't appear all that unusual. Uncommon, yes, but not strange. It has something of the look of the hero of a Regency novel. One imagines it spoken with a posh accent, and sounding similar to Armand. But Uncle Ormond's name sounded much more folksy, with an emphasis on the first syllable.

Searle, on the other hand, appears unusual when written, but when it was spoken, sounded the same as if it were spelled "Cyril." I have met people with Searle as their surname, but Uncle Searle is the only one whose first name I have seen spelled that way.

And then there's my grandfather, Vinis. Now, that is truly an unusual name. In all my research I have never yet run across another person, related or not, named Vinis. It was not pronounced like "Venus," as one may suspect at sight, but with a long i sound, as "Vine-iss." I can't help but wonder where my great-grandparents found this name for their son. In Latin, it seems to mean something about wine, although I have a hard time imagining that my great-grandparents understood Latin. My great-grandmother was literate, but her spelling and grammar, judging by a copy of a letter she wrote, was appalling. Perhaps her husband had a more classical education. None of my research, however, has indicated that he had.

Grandpa Vinis usually went by his nickname, Red; a very common nickname for a redhead, but Grandpa was a brunette. I asked my dad once why his dad was called Red, and he said it was because he used to wear a red hat. (If that is true, there does not seem to be photographic proof in our family albums.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

52 Ancestors Week 2: Challenge

The prompt for Week 2 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this year was "Challenge."

Of all the many challenges our forebears faced, perhaps one of the worst was war. Thanks to the advent of photography, the United States' Civil War immediately conjures up images of dead soldiers strewn across silent battlefields. These grim scenes were only the aftermath of brutal fighting, the likes of which few of us have seen.

I have several Civil War soldiers in my various family lines, all of which must have faced any number of challenges I shall never know. Undoubtedly, these challenges did not end with the war, as they all had to piece their lives back together and cope with the changes wrought by the conflict. Much of this will forever remain undocumented, and, with the passage of time and its consequent loss of oral history, undocumentable. However, my great-great-grandfather Allen C. Wade's ongoing struggle was to some extent recorded. Thanks to a cousin who long ago sent me a nice, fat packet of paperwork, I can tell his story.

He enlisted in the Nebraska militia during the Civil War. According to his own report, he was in Company B of the 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade. On 20 Oct 1864, “his horse fell down pitching him forward to the ground and breaking bone in left wrist at same time producing left Scrotal Hernia.”(Ouch!) One assumes he would have received medical aid of some sort before returning to his duties, although no records have yet been found containing these details. He was discharged from the service a little less than a week after the conclusion of the war.

Robert Furnas, colonel of the 2nd Regiment Nebraska Cavalry
JustHopeIcanHelp at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The preceding information all came from his pension file. I have not yet found documentation, apart from his own claims, for Allen's service in the 2nd Regiment, and most online sources don't even acknowledge that there was a 2nd Regiment militia. There are indications here and there, however, that it may have existed. Additionally, it is unclear whether Allen would have served in the militia infantry or cavalry. The fact that he fell from his horse suggests the cavalry, but the 2nd Cavalry does appear online, and he does not appear in any published roster. Unfortunately, finding the records that prove Allen's service, if they exist, will require archival searching in Nebraska, which is not exactly a day-trip drive for me. For my present purposes I will accept Allen's word regarding his service, although I must admit I have reservations.

Twenty-seven years after his injury, he was still feeling the effects.On 19 March 1891, while residing in Lone Elm Township, Anderson county, Kansas, he appeared before a Justice of the Peace to swear to his injury and "that since having ‘Lea Grippe’ he is not able to do a days work + the last named disease he had about one year ago + That he is not addicted nor ever was to any vicious habits that would produce the above named diseases." (I can't help but chuckle at the "vicious habits" bit.)

Later that same year, his pension still unresolved, he relocated to Sedan, Chautauqua county, Kansas. According to the local newspaper, he "purchased the McNight place lying west of the city. This is one of the best suburban places in the city." On 30 June 1892, his neighbor Alva Russell swore "That he knows of his own personal knowledge that said Allen C. Wade organized Co ‘B’ 2nd Regiment 2nd Brigade Nebraska Militia in the year 1864 and that he was in the service of the United States for more than 90 days in the war of the Rebellion." Although I have not yet verified my supposition, I am reasonably certain that this Alva Russell was the same Alva Russell who was Allen's brother-in-law as well as a cousin of Allen's wife Angeline.

Evidently the War Department had the same difficulty I had in locating Allen's regiment. On 3 March 1893, it informed him “It does not appear from the records of this office that such an organization as Co B 2' Reg’t 2' Brig Nebr Militia was mustered into the service of the United States.” By 1899, the Bureau of Pensions flatly rejected his claim “on the ground that the records of the War Department show that you were not in the military service of the United States as alleged.”

One can almost hear the frustration and anger in Allen's reply:
Mr Evans what departement was in if iwaente in the ware departement whate did the govnere comition mee for what rite had he to call mee in to serves whoes serves was in it was in the teritory of Nebraska an it belonged to the united states ihave my commition an all the testamony requeired they have falde to share my nam thare iff the govneres nam ante good whoes name is good
Sadly, Allen passed away just a few days over a year later. His obituary stated that "For some time Mr. Wade had been confined to his bed and was very feeble."


I am currently working from notes taken from the xeroxed copies of the pension file sent to me by my cousin, and do not have access to the papers themselves, which have not yet been scanned. Neither have I yet written source citations for them. I will return to this post at a later time, when I again have access to those papers, and cite that source.

Entry for Allen C. Wade, image #459 of 828; "Enrollment of Ex-Soldiers and Sailors, their Widows and Orphans, 1889"; digital images, Operations, Inc., "Kansas, Enrollment of Civil War Veterans, 1889," Ancestry ( : accessed 24 Dec 2016). 

"Of Local and General Interest," Freeman's Lance, 4 Dec 1891, p. 1, col. 2; digital images, America's GenealogyBank (www. : accessed 15 Aug 2011), Historical Newspapers.

[Obituary of A. C. Wade] Sedan Lance, 8 Feb 1900, p. 5, col. 3; digital images, America's GenealogyBank ( : accessed 15 Aug 2011), Historical Newspapers. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

52 Ancestors Week 1: First

Although I am a little late beginning, I thought I'd try the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this year. Briefly speaking, in this challenge, created by Amy Johnson Crow of the Modern Genealogy Made Easy blog, each week has an open-ended prompt to inspire that week's blog post. The prompt for Week 1, which was actually four weeks ago, was "First." Since four weeks doesn't sound like an inordinate amount of extra work, I am going to try to catch up.

Apart from tulips and wooden shoes, what represents Dutch culture (at least to an ignorant American like me) more than a windmill? This one is located in Boekel.
Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Joannes Gres or Henkels or Hendres (all three surnames appear in records) is the first ancestor I have found to have likely been born in what is now the Netherlands. He is my 6great-grandfather, through one of my Luxembourg lines:
  •  Joannes Gres / Henkels / Hendres (father of:)
My discovery that he was born in what is now the Netherlands came embarrassingly late. I located the church records of his children quite some time ago, and he is described therein as "ex Boekolz." But it wasn't until late last year that I finally got around to figuring out where "Boekolz" was. Finally, one day on my lunch break at work, I decided to solve the mystery. After some searching on Google, I determined that "Boekolz" most likely referred to the town of Boekel, located in the province of North Brabant in the southern Netherlands. 

As far as I can grasp from a cursory examination of the quite convoluted history of the area, Boekel was already a part of the Netherlands at the time of Joannes' birth, estimated to be in the mid-1720s. However, it was something of a disputed area or a buffer zone at the time.

The discovery of this first Dutch ancestor is both surprising and exciting. Perhaps it should not be as surprising as I found it; Luxembourg and the Netherlands are geographically very close to one another, and historically have been parts of the same political unit. Yet somehow I hadn't expected to find anyone in my tree born there. However, according to my quick overview of the region of North Brabant, it did remain predominantly Catholic at the time of Joannes' birth, which strengthens its cultural ties to Luxembourg. I also find it exciting to be entering the realm of research in an area of the world in which I have no experience. I will have to learn a whole new set of records, written in a whole new language. Daunting, yes, but a challenge I look forward to tackling! ...when I have enough spare time to dedicate to it.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Military Monday: WWI Veteran Frank Amos

The Amos family. Frank Amos is the young man on the left.

In her typescript, Aunt Elsie remembered that her uncle Frank Amos was “killed while he was in the infantry, World War No I.” This was one of the instances in which Elsie was less accurate. Frank Amos did, indeed, serve in World War I, but he was not killed in the war.

The service records of the millions of English soldiers who served the WWI were stored in the War Office, which sustained bomb damage during WWII, destroying about two-thirds of the records. But some of the records were salvaged. These are known as the “Burnt Records.” Frank Amos’ record was among these fortunate ones. And it is very lucky for me, indeed, because I owe much of what I know about Frank and his family to these Burnt Records. And, also due to these records, I can trace his service with more completeness than any of my other WWI veterans.

Firefighters putting out a blaze in London after an air raid during The Blitz in 1941.
By New York Times Paris Bureau Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Frank Amos was called up for service on 2 Mar 1917, and his physical fitness was approved the following day. He reported his age as 30 years and 4 months, and he was 5 feet and 6 ¾ inches tall. His profession in civilian life was “barman,” which is no great surprise. He had been born and raised at a pub, after all. (See my posts on the Creeksea Ferry.) He was married to a woman named Frances Daisy Appleby, whom he had married on the 19th of some month in 1912 (there is a hole burnt through the month; there is a reason these are known as the “Burnt Records”), and they had a son, William George, born 19 Oct 1913.

Frank was posted on 3 Mar 1917 to the 4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment. He is again recorded as being posted to the 4th Essex on 9 Mar 1917. I am uncertain why both dates are recorded, but at this time I still have little experience in deciphering these service records. At any rate, the 4th Essex was crossing the Sinai Desert to participate in the Palestine campaign at the time. It proceeded to engage in all three battles of Gaza. But Frank would have been with them for only the first two, because on 23 May 1917 he was transferred to the 301st Depot of the 5th Labour Battalion.

Egyptian Labour Corps landing stores near Gaza during World War I
By C. Guy Powles (1872–1951) [1][2] [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Labour Corps was manned in part by soldiers who had been wounded or otherwise rated below the “A1” condition required for front line fighting. Therefore, I have to wonder if Frank had been injured in battle. His Medical History in his service record is difficult to read, much of it apparently having been written in pencil. However, there are a few clues. Under “Slight defects but not sufficient to cause rejection,” which would seem to have been recorded at the time of his enlistment, is written “states trouble with left ankle.” Perhaps the trouble with his ankle had increased and disqualified him. There is also an entry indicating that he had been examined on 4 May 1917. This is a few weeks after the second Battle of Gaza, which would seem to indicate that he was probably not injured in that battle, as he would presumably been examined much sooner. (This is just me making assumptions, though. As stated before, I am no expert on these service records, nor am I particularly knowledgeable about military procedure.) But it is only a few weeks before his transfer to the Labour Corps, so it would seem quite possible that the transfer was a result of the examination. The full entry reads
Examined by No 1. TMG. + placed
in Cat B II.
Strangely, the first line is dark and clear, as though written in pen, but the second line is faded and appears to be in pencil, or at least a lighter shade of ink. Together, though, they would seem to say that he is no longer considered to be in A1 condition, but in B2. In that case, his transfer to the Labour Corps makes sense. But the two different writing materials still confuse me. (I am pondering the effects of the heat of fire on ink, and wondering if that may explain the difficulty in reading some portions of this record.)

I have not been able to locate details on the relevant companies of the Labour Corps, so cannot trace with any precision Frank’s movements up to the end of the war. It seems that little research has been done on the companies made up of Englishmen. The Labour Corps also made use of hundreds of soldiers of other ethnicities, in segregated companies, which are beginning to be examined for their historical significance, especially in regard to British colonialism. Without dismissing this important research, I can’t help but selfishly hope that more information on the English units soon appears. All I can currently manage is to list the companies (or as much as could be read of the companies—some of their names were partially burnt) in which Frank served:
Employ Coy, 363
H. S. Emp Coy, 246, 363, 586, 587
Agric Coy, 435
E. C. L. C.
H. S. E. Coy, 583
Although I could not verify this supposition, I think that “Coy” is an abbreviation for “Company.”

While Frank was with the 586th or 587th Employment Corps, on 11 Aug 1918, his wife Daisy passed away at the Union Infirmary in Rochford, Essex. Her cause of death was certified as “phthisis,” which is a type of tuberculosis. Frank evidently acquired leave in order to be at her side, as he is the recorded informant on her death certificate. Their son William George would have been a few months shy of five years old. But Frank did not get to stay with his son. The war was not yet over, and Frank had to return to his duty. 

Rochford, Essex, England
By Terryjoyce [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

He was posted to the 435th Agricultural Coy on 24 Aug 1918, and was apparently serving with them when the armistice was signed. He remained in the Labour Corps, however, moving through two more companies, until 23 Mar 1919, when he was transferred to the East Kent Regiment, the “Buffs.” There appears to be a detailed comment in regard to this transfer, but the ink is so faded I was unable to make out any of it. He was transferred to Class “Z” Army, a reserve contingent of discharged soldiers authorized in case of violations of the armistice, on Christmas Eve of 1919, hopefully just in time to celebrate Christmas with his son.


Elsie Crocker, "Elsie Crocker" (typescript, 1990s); copy in possession of Amber Brosius.

England, "Soldiers’ Documents, First World War ‘Burnt Documents’," Frank Amos' enrolment papers, et al; digital images, Operations Inc, Ancestry ( : accessed 25 Mar 2011).