Researching, Preserving, and Sharing Genealogical Information For Future Generations
Author: Carrie Brown
Carrie Brown is a genetic genealogist, hobby blogger, and long-time history enthusiast with a passion for genealogical research. Currently she is working on her degree in business from Western Governors University. Carrie is a member of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy and volunteers her time as a research volunteer for SearchAngels.org
Last week I pulled a recipe out of my Great Grandmother’s recipe box for my first family recipe Friday blog post. It was my paternal Grandmother’s recipe, Loree’s barbecue sauce. This week I have my own out of town family coming into town so I am turning to a family favorite tried and true for generations.
I got this cookbook from my maternal Grandmother for Christmas the second year I was married. She had a matching copy in her own collection. The Leroy United Methodist Church published it in 1996. Honestly, I cannot imagine a world in which my maternal Grandmother ever needed a recipe. Even now, she is 91, bedridden, and has not cooked in several years but if I have serious cooking question she would be my go to person. The kitchen was her domain and most people were thrilled to get a chair at her dinner table.
On page 22 of the cookbook, there is a recipe for Tater Tot Casserole submitted by Alberta Houseman. Tater Tot Casserole has about a million variations and this one looks very similar to how I make my version of it. I may have used this recipe when I first made the dish a couple decades ago.
Over the years, I have made the dish so many times I could do it with my eyes closed. I have taught my own grown children how to make the dish and my daughter has perfected it. We have adapted it and made a few changes to make it how it suits us so here is my tweaked version of Tater Tot Casserole.
TATER TOT CASSEROLE
1 pound ground beef
2 pounds of Tater Tots
½ large onion
2 Cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 Cans Milk
2 Cups Shredded Cheese
1 Can Green Beans
I start mine by putting my tater tots in the prepared baking dish to brown in the heated oven while I brown my ground beef. I also like to add garlic to my ground beef while I am browning it.
After the ground beef is brown drain off the excess fat. Layer the meat on the tater tots, then the green beans, follow with the soup then place back in the oven to bake for 45 minutes.
After dish is finished baking add a layer to cheese and put back in for 5 to 10 minutes until the cheese melts. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve hot.
My love for genealogy was born in an old family cemetery so it seems only fitting that many of my blogs are about old cemeteries. Cemeteries are the one public place where I skip around like a kid in a candy store excited to see what is around the next bend. Even as a young kid, I was always quick to tag along while someone went to visit a loved one’s grave. I have climbed mountains, crossed the country, and trudged through snake-filled pastures to visit certain cemeteries. To me cemeteries are like a giant open-air genealogical archive.
During a trip to Michigan a couple years ago, I decided to visit the cemetery where my maternal Grandmother’s relatives are laid to rest. She grew up in a small village called Lake and she wanted to see the headstone of a brother that had died in recent years since she lost her mobility. I took my camera and headed off to get the next best thing to a visit…a photo of Uncle Russ’s headstone.
I had never been to the North Brinton Cemetery in Coldwater Township of Isabella County, Michigan. Aside from a couple of my Grandmother’s brothers most of the relatives in the cemetery were either distant or passed away before I was born. Truth be told, until just a few years ago I had not spent much time researching her line and as I wandered stone to stone most of the names were unfamiliar. When she explained it was a family cemetery I assumed more in the aspect of it is where family was buried not that it was a literal family cemetery.
Fast forward a couple years. I have dedicated more time to researching the ancestors of my maternal Grandmother and some of the many collateral lines through the generations. I have a much better picture of how all those many surnames are all connected in one way or another and while the name is not “Spence Cemetery” it has at times been called that through the years in various obituaries published through the area. The actual history of the land and cemetery itself has kept popping up in my research so I decided it was time to give the history of the North Briton Cemetery a blog post of its own.
Brinton is the name of an unincorporated community in Coldwater Township of Isabella County, Michigan. The community was founded in 1862. Originally, it was known as Letson for a local storekeeper who was the first postmaster for the community. In 1886, the town was renamed for Oscar T. Brinton. Records show that James Spence arrived in Coldwater Township after 1890. A land transfer published in the 1893 Isabella County Enterprise show purchases for two sections of land. One of the plots of land James Spence purchased was from Oscar T. Brinton.
Further research shows that James Spence later donated the five acres on which the North Brinton Cemetery sits in 1905. The earliest dated grave in the cemetery is from 1905.
Today the cemetery is still in use. James Spence was buried in the cemetery on the land he donated in 1940. There are several generations of Spence descendants in the cemetery. There are over 800 graves with countless stones dating over a century in age.
Today is Friday and for the month of March that means it is Family Recipe Friday. Recently a forgotten recipe box that belonged to my Great Grandmother decided to make reappearance. It gave me the idea to make some of the recipes. I came across a blog prompt suggestion by the Armchair Genealogist Lynn Palermo and the idea took root.
I decided to start the series with Loree’s Barbecue Sauce because I had all the things needed to prepare it around the house. Loree was my paternal Grandmother. It was a very simple recipe.
1-Cup catsup (ketchup)
“a little” sugar
The recipe directions instruct me to “heat and pour over meat or chicken.” I added the ingredients to a small saucepan and heated on low heat stirring frequently until it was hot. I used about half a teaspoon of sugar.
My take away from the sauce was that it was missing something. I served it over grilled chicken breast like a dipping sauce. It was not bad but it was too much like fancy ketchup. I would definitely make it again in a pinch if I were low on other ingredients and ran out of barbecue sauce.
I could see it being popular during the baby boomer years of a house full of young kids and fewer spice options in the local grocery store. Above any missing flavor layers, it was enjoyable to revive something that my Grandmother prepared ages ago and serve it around my own dinner table.
This was my Great Grandmother’s recipe box. I’ve had it since she died in 1999 and for the last several years it has sat forgotten in the cupboard above my refrigerator gathering dust.
I don’t recall ever using any of the recipes to cook with either growing up or over the two decades I have had it in my possession. By the time I started making lifelong memories with my Grandma she was already getting up there in years, a widow living alone, and many of her meals were from meals on wheels. The one thing we always made together…each and every time I stayed at her house…was canned biscuits and sausage gravy and that didn’t require a recipe.
I can’t help but find myself drawn to that old recipe box. Many of the yellowed slips of paper are scrawled in her shaky handwriting instantly recognizable even after so many years with her gone. Many of them are stained with decades old food stains.
Later in the same day while searching through a list of blog prompts I see listed a suggestion for Family Recipe Friday and it was too much coincidence for me to ignore. An idea was born.
For the next several weeks, I will be featuring a family recipe in my Family Recipe Friday series. Stay tuned.
Between family events and trying to kick some version of the seasonal plague, I have struggled to get my next blog post done. With no further delay, I introduce Jacob Sowle.
I decided to feature Jacob Sowle recently upon discovering he was a Civil War soldier that rests in an unmarked grave in an abandoned family cemetery. He was my third great grandfather on my maternal grandmother’s side, a link in generation chain leading to George Soule, a passenger on the Mayflower.
Jacob Sowle was born on 10 August 1831 likely in the Montgomery or Fulton County area of New York. His parents were William Dickerson Sowle and his wife Susan. During his lifetime Jacob’s branch of the Sowle family would move west first to Ohio and then onto Michigan.
On 5 May 1852 in Trumbull County Ohio Jacob Sowle married for the first time to Mary Ann DeLong. The couple had four children over the next several years. During that time, the couple followed Jacob’s parents as they left Ohio to settle in Eaton County, Michigan.
The 1860 federal census shows Jacob and Mary Ann Sowle living in Brookfield, Eaton County, Michigan. In the household are two sons, William and Riley, and two daughters Susan and Mariley. Jacob lists his profession as carpenter.
Tragedy struck the family not long after this census was taken. In 1863, Jacob signed up for the Civil War draft. He reported himself as single at the time. His wife Mary Ann died, cause of death and exact burial location are unknown, but it is likely she is likely buried in an unmarked grave in the abandoned Sowle family cemetery in Eaton County, Michigan.
Jacob was spared the worst of any of the Civil War but he was drafted into the Union Army in 1865. He would serve nine months and seventeen days in C Company 195 Ohio Infantry. His term of service started on 13 February 1865 and ended on 30 November 1865. His rank was private. Jacob farmed his children out to friends and relatives during his time in the service.
After Jacob’s service in the war, he returned to Michigan. In Michigan, he remarried and fathered five children with his second wife, Esther Loisa Gurnee. Domestic bliss was not in the cards however and by the 1880 census the couple was living apart. Jacob was living in Eaton County as a divorced father raising three of their children. Esther was living in a nearby town with the couples other two children.
Jacob married again for a third time on 15 March 1881 in Eaton County, Michigan to Catherine Ann Wixon. The two would remain married for the rest of Jacob’s life.
Jacob died 21 August 1904 in Coldwater, Michigan. He was survived by 8 of his 9 children and his son William Sowle provided the information for his death certificate. Jacob Sowle is buried in the Sowle Family Cemetery in Eaton County, Michigan. The grave is unmarked and the cemetery is now abandoned.
Title Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993 Author Ancestry.com Publisher Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Publisher Date 2016 uPublisher Location Lehi, UT, USA Repository Information Name Ancestry.com
Year: 1860; Census Place: Brookfield, Eaton, Michigan; Roll: M653_542; Page: 579; Image: 83; Family History Library Film: 803542
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshall
Genealogical research is a fun adventure. Decades into the hobby, I still frequently find myself discovering new terms and learning new things. Gretna Green is the term I learned recently.
Gretna Green is a town in Scotland that was famous for being a runaway wedding destination. The town gained its reputation when English marriage laws prohibited marriage under the age of 21. Younger English couples crossed the Scottish border and the first town they arrived at was Gretna Green, Scotland.
The term Gretna Green came to be associated with any locale that drew residents from nearby areas to skirt more restrictive marriage laws where the couple lived. Las Vegas, Nevada is a modern day Gretna Green. Various places served as Gretna Green locations at different periods. Angola, Indiana was a popular Gretna Green destination for residents of Michigan.
The first time I encountered a Gretna Green marriage was when I located the marriage license of my Great Grandmother and her second husband. I searched for that record for years before I finally discovered it. When I looked at the information provided it was no shock I had such trouble. My Great Grandmother provided details that were less than honest and they married far from the city they lived their lives together in. Overall, I found it rather easily considering the details she provided.
Lillie Mae Weatherspoon and Moman Harold Fulkerson wedding photo
Marriage License from Angola Indiana
Normally I would discard the incorrect facts as a case of poor record keeping. In this instance, I am certain the details recorded were as my Great Grandmother provided them. The details she provided, and the reality of the situation as ferreted out by actual supporting documents and records, tell the rest of the story. I have little doubt my Great Grandparents married in Angola, Indiana to avoid too many unwanted questions about their…primarily her…past. Indiana law required them to both be over the age of 18 and unmarried. No documentation was required to prove the facts as presented were accurate. Good thing, she could not have provided documents to prove the facts she provides unless she made them!
Couples had various reasons for Gretna Green weddings. Some like my Great Grandmother had a history that she was trying to escape. Others may have been just looking for the excitement of eloping, or just avoiding family involvement in the ceremony. Whatever their reason Gretna Green weddings have been a genealogy roadblock challenge to overcome since the dawn of time.
A name is the first thing in life most of us receive that stays with us forever. Often times it has been a carefully selected after hours of deliberation by at least one parent and sometimes even larger groups of relatives. Siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents all have suggestions when a new baby is born.
Genealogists get the rare opportunity to see how deep some names go in our families by looking at the broader family landscape. For instance, I have a cousin that is my Grandmother’s namesake. In the bigger picture, however her name is a much older family name. My Grandmother is her own Grandmother’s namesake. The earliest Sarah in that naming streak was born in 1861 and the latest in 1997, 136 years apart.
I am a namesake for my mother’s paternal aunt, Carrie Jamison. She was the wife of my Grandfather’s half-brother. She lived in West Virginia where my Grandfather’s family lived in a rural mountain community and I only had a few opportunities to meet her as a young child. She passed away at the age of 76. I was 9 years old at the time. Despite the fact that Aunt Carrie and I shared no actual genetic material the fact that she gave me her name has made her a topic of research interest for me.
Carrie was an interesting research project before I even looked for a single record. The few stories told about her typically present more questions than answers. Her early history seemed shrouded in mystery and shadowed heavily by whispered “scandal” even while I was a child. All these years later, she still presents many unanswered questions.
Carrie was born to Lula Lawson on 7 February 1912. Lula was a nineteen-year-old woman, recently divorced, living in Prince, Fayette County, West Virginia at the time of Carrie’s birth. Carrie was Lula’s first and only known child. The birth was more than a year after Lula’s separation from her previous spouse, David Brantley, and prior to her marriage to her second husband, Burk Adkins, by more than two years. Carrie’s biological father is currently unknown.
Census records show Carrie, using the last name of Adkins, living with her mother and stepfather in 1920. She was living in Fayette County, West Virginia. Her stepfather worked on the railroad.
The census record for 1930 still eludes me but by 1940, she was again in the household of her mother and stepfather in Fayette County, West Virginia and she is claiming a marital status of divorced. A marriage license registered in Raleigh County, West Virginia in 1935 records her marriage to a cousin on her mother’s side, Fred Lawson.
Myth Meets Research
The 1940 census entry seems like a good time to broach the topic of whispered scandal. When I was growing up it was common knowledge that Aunt Carrie had been married before our Uncle and that she had children. According to family stories, Aunt Carrie’s own mother had assisted in her losing custody of her children. The details of the situation so long ago are murky.
The 1940 census shows Carrie living with Burk and Lula, a divorced woman at the time. She shows no children living in the household. I located a death record for a Vern L Lawson, son of Fred Lawson and Carrie Atkins, who was born 2 February 1934 in Fayette County, West Virginia. Vern died in Los Angeles, California on 29 April 1993. I am still seeking Vern’s location on the 1940 census. I hope to learn what family raised him and to identify the names of more of Carrie’s children if they are in the home with their brother. I believe she had at least one daughter and two sons.
Rumor has it she managed to reunite with at least one of her children but I am unsure who the child was and when in life they reconnected. By all accounts, the loss of her children was something that caused her heartache until her death and she collected dolls to help fill the void.
Carrie and Steward
I do not know at what age Carrie met my Grandfather’s half-brother, James Steward Jamison. I can only wonder if the fact that both of them grew up raised by a stepfather was one thing that drew them together. Whatever the case may be they were together as early as the late 1940’s and in 1973 they officially married in Alleghany, Virginia. The two never had children together. They are buried side by side in the P.A. Shuck Cemetery in Fayette County, West Virginia.
I have been sharing military related history about my Grandfather, a Korean War veteran, in the lead up to Veteran’s Day. In his collection of photographs and documents, he had several certificates that dated to his time in the service.
The Domain of the Golden Dragon is an unofficial Navy award. It is awarded when the receiver crosses the International Date Line. During the Korean War, the troops were transported by ship to the distant battlefield. One of the few stories he mentioned during our rare discussions of his time in the service was watching a volcano erupt as they went by on the ship.
My Grandfather completed his Army training at Fort Meade, Maryland. He was a member of the Quartermaster Corps and served as a cook. As a child, I loved when Grandpa would invade Grandma’s kitchen and make his “S.O.S” recipe from his time in the service.
While the brothers were all serving in Korea they had the opportunity to all get together while in the combat zone. This article announcing the event made the local paper in Fayette County, West Virginia in October 1953.
My Grandfather always had an interesting sense of humor. This “memo” he wrote regarding employees who refused to fall over after they were dead.
I wish I had taken more opportunity to ask him so many questions now that he has been gone for several years. If you have aging veterans in your life consider taking a moment to see if they are willing to discuss their time in service.
Growing up my Grandfather was one of the influential people in my life. I knew he had been in the Army but he never cared much to discuss his time served during the Korean War.
He always told us he was “just a cook” and played off the fact that he enlisted to calm his fretting Mother after his brother decided to join. In all 3 Shuck brothers would serve at the same time in the Korean War.
November is one of the all-star months when it comes to opportunities to preserve and share family history. Veteran’s Day gets everyone thinking about service members and the conflicts they may have served in while protecting our nation. As Veteran’s Day passes, we transition into Thanksgiving preparations and family gatherings where we try to remember to be thankful. On the heels of Family History Month in October, now is a great time to work on preserving family history for the next generations.
Veteran’s Day is Saturday November 11, 2017. The holiday will be rife with opportunities to research military records at discounted rates. Ancestry, Find My Past, Fold3 and countless other sites will likely have specials this weekend.
More than an opportunity to get free access to some records, Veteran’s day is a great chance to focus on preserving our veteran’s history for future generations.
Did you know?
On 12 July 1973, a fire ravaged the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St Louis, Missouri. The fire destroyed 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF). An estimated 80% of Army records for personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960 are gone. The Air Force lost records for 75% of personnel discharged between 1947 and 1964. The loss was catastrophic; most of the records lost had no duplicates.
As time passes, we lose more and more of our Veterans who served in early wars. At this point every WWI veteran known to be living in the world has officially died, the last one on 4 Feb 2012 at age 110. Of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, only approximately 550,000 are still living today. As seniors in their 80’s and 90’s these great veterans are dying at a rate of 362 every day. Coming fast behind the decline of the WWII veteran’s are the 5.7 million American Korean War vets of which 2.25 million are still living. With each passing day, we lose more and more of these generations.
Do You Know a WWII Veteran?
Each of us can play a part in preserving the heritage and history of these earlier generations. Ancestry.com has announced that they are working to capture the stories of as many of the last living half a million WWII service members as possible. Ancestry is inviting everyone to interview any WWII veterans willing to tell their story, record the interview, and upload it to the free searchable database they are creating. If you know a WWII veteran consider checking out the new project and adding their story to the database.