Sunday, January 31, 2010

Madness Monday: Austis Button, wife of Kenyon Larkin

No ancestor has driven me more mad than great-great grandma Emma.

However, I have written enough about her (twice - here and here).  For now. So on to another difficult-to-find woman.

Austis Button

One of my husband's maddening ancestors is the woman who appears in most online family trees and censuses as Austis Button.

Austis is the wife of Kenyon (aka Kinney) Larkin, son of Edward Larkin and Hannah Parker, who was born 21 June 1783 in Richmond, Washington County, Rhode Island (found in Arnold's book or online at NEHGS), and died 3 October 1865.  He is buried in Munyan Cemetery in Putnam, Windham County, Connecticut.

Sometime around 1803, he married Austis.

The discovery of the cemetery in which they are buried was only a recent one. This family never resided in Putnam, so I would never have expected that to be their final resting place.

Censuses & Clusters

As for Austis, her name also appears as Austress in the 1850 census, in which she is 64 years old.

The problem seems clear: this is not her first name. More than likely, it is her middle name.

In 1860, she is listed as "Sarah", age 70.

I have cluster genealogy and the 1870 census to thank for adding another clue. Normally I would not trace anybody but direct ancestors. However, when a problem ancestor (a brick wall) is presented, one must exhaust all possible research avenues.

We only know for certain of 3 daughters of this marriage (but the 1820, 1830 and 1840 censuses tell us there must be more, and I have been researching those possibilities; I have yet to locate the family in the 1810 census - they may have been living in another household; also, there seem to have been no sons born to this family). 

In following daughters Rebecca and Susan (my husband descends from their older sister, Irena, who married William Wilcox, 15 July 1821 in Griswold, New London, Connecticut), I found Austis in the 1870 census in Glocester, Providence County, Rhode Island.

Another Name Possibility

At first, I was confused because Austis didn't show up as Austis in 1870.

Who was this "Susan Larkin", age 85 (born about 1785) and listed as the "housekeeper", living with Susan (Larkin) Place, age 43?

The lightbulb went on over my head. Clearly this was Austis, wife of Kenyon, now his widow, living with their daughter and son-in-law. 

The daughter, Susan, had a middle initial of "A." It only took a moment to realize that Austis's full name was probably Sarah or Susan Austis Button.

So we have 3 different names for Austis in 3 different censuses, yet most online family trees or data regarding this couple tend to give no further information than "Austis Button."

Looking for a Death Record

Upon locating the information about where she was buried, finding that she died in 1870, and knowing she was living in Glocester for the 1870 census, I wrote to the town in hopes of obtaining a death record.  Unfortunately, they did not have one. They suggested I write to the town of Putnam, since she is buried there.

And so I shall in the very near future.

Meanwhile, I wonder if she is this Sarah Button in Rhode Island Vital Records:

1785 BUTTON BUTTON Sarah, of Samuel, Dec. 28, 1785. Member

Then again, this could very well be Samuel's wife, as there was a Samuel Button in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, whose wife was Sarah Lamb. That couple had daughters named Sarah and Susan, so it is possible that Samuel and Sarah (Lamb) Button are "my" Austis Button's parents.

Plenty of research remains to be done, but somewhere out there is the answer to the question: Who are the parents of Susan Austis Button, born about 1785 in (perhaps Hopkinton, as per the 1850 census) Rhode Island?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mayflower work

A woman's work is never done.

I have been working on my aunt's application to the Mayflower Society and finally have gotten my rear in gear to finish it!

My own was done 5 years ago, and I have so many supplementals to submit, it isn't even funny.  One of these days, all 60+ of my Mayflower lines will be on file with the Society.

My aunt and I share a few generations of her line back to William Brewster.  This is one of the reasons I feel fortunate to have the Mayflower silver books in my home.

You see, the wonderful challenges of the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy have been great for me - they have gotten me to actually check our library here, and I have learned that there are very few books available.  They are all general genealogy guides, which might be nice for reference on occasion.

However, my own personal genealogy library at home is of the greatest use to me.

For those who don't, the Mayflower "silver books" cover the first 5 generations of many of the people who were passengers during that fateful 1620 voyage.  I own the volumes pertaining to my ancestors.

The pink books are "in progress" books.  I have William Brewster, George Soule, and also the Francis Cooke book in white (as well as Robert Bartlett, Richard Church, Philip Delano, and Robert Cushman, who were not Mayflower passengers, but they and their descendants married into Mayflower families).

Then I have assorted books on royal ancestors and various New England families (Benson, Bartlett, and Kempton).

My aunt's paperwork needed to be organized for her Mayflower application.

This was accomplished, despite my cat's persistent efforts to munch on birth, marriage and death records (guess who ended up closed in the laundry room for the time it took me to complete my work).

Now everything is tabbed and in an envelope, ready to go to my aunt so she can submit her application.  I just need to drop it in the mail to her on Monday, and another person can fulfill their wish to belong to a lineage society.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pedigree Charts & Community

I think one of the things all genealogists use is the pedigree or ancestor chart.

Even though we make extensive use of technology to organize and store information, these charts help us see what we have already discovered (with regard to basics - birth, marriage and death), and what blanks still need to be filled.

Personally, I have the handwriting of a fourth-grader.  It isn't graceful or even feminine looking, much to my despair. 

Fortunately, I have a laser printer, and hopefully that will keep future generations from having to squint at my badly-written charts in fruitless attempts to decipher them!

As I go through the family and print the charts (using my son as the starting person for chart #1), I will also be taking the time to add more brick walls to my sidebar.  Hopefully by having them front and center (or front and left!), someone may recognize a name or place, and be interested in working on a family together.

One of the things I love about genealogy is the sense of community.  How I miss walking into the FHL in Dover, Delaware, and chatting with the volunteers as I sat down to crank through the microfilms I ordered on a monthly basis!

I miss being able to "talk genealogy" to someone who is just as enthusiastic as I am about it. 

However, I know there must be somebody here who shares my interest.  How do I know?  Because I have been bringing my no-longer-needed genealogy periodicals (mostly New England and Mayflower centered) to the library and placing them in the book swap, and somebody has been taking them!

Armed with that knowledge, I have approached the community center on base about establishing a genealogy group.  Even though I move in 9 months, it would be nice to meet other genealogists here.  I am planning for a once-a-month meeting schedule, but am flexible and open to changing it to greater frequency and different days.

My idea is to have casual discussion, workshops, and perhaps even a field trip to the FHL in Pyongtaek (yes, there are LDS Family History Libraries in South Korea!).

While my husband is always willing to listen to me explain a genealogical puzzle or rave about a new discovery, I miss hearing the same stories from others.  I have my fingers crossed that the group will attract at least a few people, and that we can give each other that same sense of community that seems so much easier to find back in the U.S.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Levi Benson of Wareham, MA

Levi Benson was born sometime between 1755 and 1770. He married Susannah Bumpus (daughter of Samuel Bumpus and Elizabeth Maxim) on 24 April 1793 in Wareham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

Levi died 25 January 1815 in Wareham.

He is found in the 1798 Massachusetts and Maine Direct Tax, the 1800 census in Rochester, MA, and the 1810 census in Wareham. He and his children are covered on page 440 of The Benson Family of Colonial Massachusetts by Richard H. Benson.

With this information, however, there is certain information we don't have - the names of Levi's parents or where he was born.

A variety of 1880 census entries and death records for Levi's children give a variety of answers on where he was born.

Where Was Levi Born?

My 4th great-grandfather, Eliel Benson (the 8th child of Levi and Susannah) gives his father's place of birth in the 1880 census as Pennsylvania.

Levi's daughters Laura and Mahala give his place of birth as Massachusetts.  Massachusetts is also given as his place of birth in Laura's death record. 

His daughter Lucy's death record gives his place of birth as Benson, Rutland County, Vermont.

Considering the fact that the Benson family of Massachusetts migrated to both Pennsylvania and Vermont, these are all possibilities for Levi's place of birth. 

He may fit in well with other Rochester or Wareham families, but no record of a birth or baptism for Levi Benson has been found as of yet in that area.

For this reason, I have put a great amount of time into the cluster genealogy method with this family, tracing Levi's descendants for a few generations in hopes of finding other clues as to his origins.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Library, Schmi-brary

I am very excited to participate in Amy Coffin's fabulous 2010 challenges - 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy.  What a great way to stretch our mind, maybe look in directions we have no considered, and do something productive each and every week.

The first challenge was to visit our local public library and see what kind of genealogy books are available, including the reference section.

Unfortunately, I have left the libraries of the U.S. behind.  Gone are the days when I can sit with my laptop in the Dover Public Library's "Delaware Room" or, even further in the past, the Bridgewater Public Library of my childhood and young adulthood in Massachusetts (and that said, the Bridgewater one is suffering terribly - it is nothing like it used to be; it is only open 14 hours a week).

For the next 10 months, I have the Osan Air Base Library at my disposal.

And the genealogy books?

Sadly lacking.

There are roughly half a dozen genealogy how-to books.  End of story.  (However, in contrast to the library in Bridgewater, the Osan library is open 7 days a week, and I am incredibly grateful for that!  I am a regular patron and make frequent use of their children's section for my son and homeschooling.)

That said, I do think there is a small, untapped genealogy-community here.  I visited the Community Center today and am going to try to facilitate a genealogy group to meet once a week or twice a month for discussion and workshops.  Perhaps as people meet one another, they would be able to share resources.

For example, I have a personal library with more than half the Mayflower silver and pink books, as well as other books (such as the Philip Delano, Robert Cushman and Richard Church books).  I also have a small number of other genealogy books and CDs purchased through NEHGS, Heritage Books, and directly from the authors.

I depend heavily on my personal library and NEHGS for long-distance research, and hope I can help other genealogists here, since our library lacks these resources.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Black Sheep Sunday: Meet Joe Brown

Or at least his children:

Frank St. Onge, Gertrude St. Onge and William (St. Onge) Perry
Frank, Gertrude and Bill

Joseph William St. Onge, Jr.
Joseph Jr.

Mary Ellen St. Onge

The photographs above are the children of Joseph William St. Onge, born 30 August 1893 in Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Joseph St. Onge and Mary Emily Fortier. 

Joseph and Mary (Fortier) St. Onge died in 1911 (age 49) and 1913 (age 50) respectively, leaving their young family of 7 children to take care of each other.

Joseph William St. Onge married twice, first on 15 February 1915 in Rockland, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.  His first wife, Amanda Angelina Jean (b. abt 1894 in Montreal) divorced him, citing "cruel and unusual treatment" as the reason.

Joseph married a second time, sometime between 1918 and 1922, to Mildred Marian Burrell.  They had the 5 children in the photographs above, none of whom were willing to say much about their father during their lifetimes.

The children and grandchildren of Joseph Jr. (1919-1978), Mary (1920-1985), Gertrude (1921-2000), William (1924-?), and Frank (1925-1996) have all asked the question:

What happened to Joseph St. Onge?

The answer has often been "You don't want to know".

Of course this makes them all the more curious.

And me as well, as Mildred and Joseph apparently divorced at some point, and Mildred then married Herbert Benjamin Haley.  Mildred and Herbert had two children - my great aunt Lorraine and my grandfather Herbert, both of whom are still living.

Working together, two St. Onge cousins and I have pieced together stories from our parents and grandparents.  Here is what we know about Joseph St. Onge:

-- He was a cruel man; he once put his daughter, Gertrude, in an oven (we don't know if the oven was on) (we have tried to track down Gertrude's children - one of my cousins did call Gertrude once, but Gertrude refused to come to the telephone to talk about her father);

-- He disappeared when Mildred was pregnant with Frank, or not long after Frank was born in 1925;

-- Family rumor is he was a rum-runner during prohibition;

-- Family rumor is he changed his name to "Joe Brown";

-- Family rumor is he went to New York; or

-- 2017 edit - he died in Chicago in the 1960s or 1970s according to a cousin, but no one held on to the information.

As you can see, we still have quite a bit of research to do (find marriage record on Mildred and Joseph, find divorce record, learn more about rum-running and prohibition in general for better perspective, etc.).

We are still trying to put together the pieces of this story and hope somebody to know the truth about Joseph St. Onge!

Organizing the Research

I'm always curious about how my fellow genealogists organize their research. 

I admit it - I'm an old-fashioned sort of gal.  I prefer to write letters on stationary and put them in the mail, to use a notebook for my writing and then transcribe my work later, and to read books (often from the library!).

My record-keeping system is not ultra-organized, but it works for me at the moment. 


My software of choice is Legacy.  The source citation fields offer the best guidance, I think, and it is this feature that won me over from Family Tree Maker (I plan to donate my FTM software by leaving it on the book swap shelf at the library, because I *know* somebody has been picking up the issues of Family Tree Magazine, Mayflower Quarterly, and New England Ancestors I have been leaving there!  That said, I want to check in with the community center on base and see about starting a genealogy group).

Paper Records & Charts

In addition, I store all of the vital records and other precious family documents in archival-quality sleeves in 3-ring binders.

I keep pedigree charts in those same sleeves in their own binders.  For me, working from paper pedigree charts offers a visual.  I don't write anything on a pedigree chart that is not yet proven.  If I don't have a source, I don't commit it to paper. 

I have considered a more complex system of folders and indexing, but I'm not sure it is necessary for me.

However, now I am considering printing out my pedigree charts.  One reason is that my writing is horrible.  My husband has lovely, perfect handwriting and printing.  However, mine resembles that of a first grader.  Well, perhaps a third grader...

Pedigree Charts

Another thing on my mind is that our pedigree charts are separated into two families - my family and my husband's family.  Thus, the Hawksley side starts with my husband's name, and the Wood side begins with mine.

Yet, I'm wondering if it would be best to start from our son now if I decide to start printing the charts.  It would be nice to think about preparing for grandchildren...  Then again, what if our son decides he doesn't want children?  The charts for the Wood side could easily be passed on to my sister's children, should any of them choose to have children, or my little brother if he ever has children. 

The same goes for the Hawksley charts - they could go to one of my husband's siblings.

So here I am considering that little dilemma...  Are my husband and I each "number 1" for our separate lineages (despite many shared ancestors), or is our son now "number 1" for our combined lineages?