August 21, 2013

Milwaukee Legal Families: Miller and Peckham

While meandering around the Miller-Peckham family of Milwaukee I became intrigued by the lawyers and judges.  Pennsylvania born Andrew Galbraith Miller (1801-1874) brought the family (including son Benjamin then 8) to Milwaukee upon his assignment there as a Territorial Judge in 1838.  Benjamin too became a lawyer and married Isabella Peckham, daughter of Albany NY lawyer George Williams Peckham 1796-1873 who moved the family to Wisconsin in the mid-1850s. Isabella was surrounded by lawyers: her father, 2 brothers, her father-in-law, her husband and 2 of her 3 sons.

There were some notable lawyers in the extended family such as her paternal uncle Rufus Wheeler Peckham 1809-1873 lawyer, Congressman and NY Supreme Court judge and his son Rufus 1838-1909 who served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Isabella’s fascinating brother George Williams Peckham 1845-1914 not only trained as a lawyer, but as a doctor, then pursued teaching science in Milwaukee and became a spider expert. He certainly broke the pattern. His sons did not pursue a legal career.

August 20, 2013

Should You order a Civil War Pension File?

I would certainly say YES -- IF the soldier or his widow and children are important for your research. They are expensive ($80) and can vary in size enormously depending on the soldier's situation and whether they were injured or killed. 

I ordered the file for one of my ancestors earlier this month and received the DVD with scanned images through the mail in 10 days !! WOW.  The NARA website advises that requests will be fulfilled in 42+ days.

This particular file was much smaller than 2 others I ordered previously since this soldier died only months after his enlistment.  However, it provided good evidence for his wife's maiden name and confirmed the birth dates of 3 minor children, and documented the death of his widow. Those items were worth quite a bit to me.

I should mention that the file for soldiers who survived, but were injured and claimed disability can be much larger and very rich with information:  affadavits from friends and associates before and after the war detailing the work they did, their physical capabilites (and diminishments), where they lived, marriage date & place, birth dates of family members, detailed medical exam records with blood pressure, weight, changes in health status. The file may or may not also include information about where and how the soldier served. For one of my soldiers, I learned that he was illiterate through statements from his letter writer/reader.

It's up to you -- but for selected individuals in my family history quest they are essential.  

August 12, 2013

Searching Census Records – Compare Sources

It can be very frustrating when tracking a family group in the federal census and they suddenly disappear.  Perhaps they moved or died … or maybe they were incorrectly indexed or the census taker’s spelling or handwriting was awful.

I have found it most helpful to check and compare census holdings on Ancestry, Family Search and Heritage Quest.  Most public libraries will provide free access to Heritage Quest (I can check in online from home).  Each of these websites used different transcribers, so their interpretation of the written page may produce different results.

I have been working on the Kelder family in Ulster County NY and thus far have found them as Kelder, Elder, Keller, Calder, Cowder and Kelde.  If one member of the family has an unusual first name,that might be the most direct way to find the various versions of the surname.  But when you have many named John with a wife or daughter named Sarah, checking all three online options has proven best for me.

By the way, when looking for Gertrude who was born in Holland, I found her listed as something like Cornelia  born in New York.  Her husband was Cornelius and I believe she was widowed in that particular census … so maybe it was meant to be Mrs Cornelius. Be certain you evaluate your potential matches, even the odd ones … they might be just what you are looking for.

August 1, 2013

Confusion over Lake Children in Kerhonksen NY

The 1870 census for the Wawarsing district shows various Lake family members in the same household in Kerhonksen, but the 5 children aged 4 to 12 are not recognized as belonging to either couple seen there.

The record states that they were all born in New York State:

            John                Age 12 (1858)

            Schuyler          Age 10 (1860) as Schnyder

            Caroline          Age 8 (1862)

            Patty               Age 6 (1864)

            Nancy             Age 4 (1866)

The adults in the grouping are George and his wife Nancy (sometimes called Helen) and his brother Reuben with wife Sarah Ann. The parents of George and Reuben were Schuyler and Caroline which is what convinced me that the 2 children named above are from the family and that the boy’s name was incorrectly recorded.

Reuben and Sarah were recently married and did not yet have children.George and wife had several young children who are NOT listed here, nor have they been found with other family members (as had their son Byron). Missing are:

            Alice                Age 13 (1857)

            Orrin               Age 12 (1858)

            Ida Jane          Age  5 (1865)

            Frank              Age  2 (1868)

Since the mysterious 5 children have Lake as a surname, their father must be a Lake. Wondering if he could be the missing brother Harry born 1833. There was some suggestion that he might have moved to Michigan … but I can’t find him there either. Are they playing tricks on me and temporarily changing their names and years of birth? Not likely.

Sometimes I find it so frustrating to work with common names (Lake) -- but even when you get an unusual name to go with it (Schuyler) the problem may not be resolved.