Christmas Came Early In Genealogy-land

This past weekend has been an absolute whirlwind of activity and discovery for me.  I had to travel to Fort Worth, Texas for work Thursday and Friday and I took the opportunity to go see the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.  Dealey Plaza is where President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963.  The Sixth Floor Museum is the former Texas Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK from.  It was a very interesting site.  I also did the walking tour of Dealey Plaza and the surrounding area.  I highly recommend both.


The former Texas Book Depository Building, now known as the
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

 


Dealey Plaza as viewed from the Triple Underpass.  The
Texas Book Depository Building is on the left behind the
trees on the infamous grassy knoll.

As I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight back Friday night and checking my email to see if there was anything interesting going on, I saw an email from the Registrar of the Daughters of the American Revolution chapter I had applied to join.  She was letting me know that my application for the DAR had been approved by National and I would be receiving my paperwork soon!  How exciting!!!!!  It only took me a few months to gather my documentation and complete my paperwork, from May to December.  Luckily my patriot had already been proven through a different branch of the family so I only had to prove back to the son of my patriot, Guian McKee.  Guian McKee was a Private serving under Captain James Montgomery and Colonel McKay, Colonel Brodhead and Colonel Bayard.  He was from Pennsylvania and most likely somehow related to Colonel McKay.  It seems that the name McKay may have morphed into McKee somewhere between Ireland, Scotland and America.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, a few weeks earlier I had been contacted through my blog by a non-relative who had purchased a batch of my family’s ephemera from a flea market.  I was floored and couldn’t imagine how some family items could have ended up in a flea market in Oklahoma.  So I went to the only source I could think of that might have some knowledge of how this could have happened.  According to the maternal unit, a cousin who lived in Oklahoma had passed away and the children of this cousin had sold off all contents of the shed of the cousin’s property without looking through it.  And so, the items had ended up with someone unrelated who began researching my family.

I haven’t written about this part of my family much simply because I have been working on other parts of my genealogy.  Tombstone Tuesday afforded me the opportunity to touch on them briefly when I highlighted my grandparents, Edward Bell Conwell Jr. and Edith M. Brown Conwell.  My Tombstone Tuesday post on my grandfather, Edward Jr., is what caught the attention of the gentleman in Oklahoma.  What was it about the post that caught his attention?  It wasn’t Grandpa Edward but his relation to Frank R. Conwell that caught this gentleman’s attention.  Frank Russell Conwell was my great-uncle.  I remember meeting him when I was younger.  He was a widower who was living in a trailer in California when I met him.  To me, he was a distant relative whom my Grandpa Edward wanted to visit.  I was more interested in cool stuff we were seeing while we were traveling to visit Frank than I was in Frank himself.  And what a shame that was, since Frank had quite a few interesting experiences I didn’t learn about until later.

Frank was born 1 August 1912 in Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri to Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. and Zella May McCabe, who I’ve been using as guinea pigs in my posts about what you can find on the U.S. census records (so far we’ve looked at the 1930, 1920, 1910 and 1900 census records.  I’ve also used Zella as a guinea pig for a post on death records and Edward Sr. and Zella as guinea pigs for a post on marriage records).  He married Maybelle Victoria “Mabel” Boileau 19 November 1940 in Norwich, New London, Connecticut.  They didn’t have any children together and Mabel died 27 May 1988 in Jamul, San Diego, California.  Frank lived several more years and died 13 April 2001 in El Cahon, San Diego, California and is buried in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, California.

So what makes Frank such an interesting individual that a non-relative would want to learn about him?  Frank was a Navy-man, as were his brothers, Edward and Milford.  He assisted in the salvage recovery of the U.S.S. Squalus, a submarine that sank off the coast of New Hampshire on May 23, 1939 and he was awarded the Navy Cross for his work on the salvage recovery.  And that is what made him such an interesting subject for research.  As a child I knew he’d been a Navy diver, but I was never aware that he’d helped salvage the wreckage of a submarine or that he had been honored with a medal.  I learned of it when I was older and of the fact that he saved a woman who had fallen overboard while watching the recovery of the Squalus.  My family never made a huge deal over these two instances that I can remember.  It was just a fact added to our genealogy and accepted as what needed to be done.  My family has always just done whatever was necessary to get things done without making a big deal out of it.

Which led me to this past weekend.  I made a trip with the most wonderful mother-in-law to pick up all the ephemera which the gentleman from Oklahoma so kindly sold to me.


Family items picked up in Tulsa, Oklahoma
this past weekend

I’m so excited about these items.  Some of them are about my cousin, some about my great-aunt and some about my great-uncle.  I’ve just begun going through and sorting the items but this is one of my favorite.


Hand painted picture of Zella May (McCabe) Conwell

This is a picture of my great-grandmother, Zella May McCabe (who was married to Edward Bell Conwell, Sr.)  It’s a picture I’ve never seen before; I’ve only seen her as an elderly woman in black and white photographs.  She was very beautiful when she was younger and I feel very privileged to have been able to bring this picture back into the family.  With all these goodies I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to scan, share and preserve them.  It feels like Christmas in Genealogy-land!!!!  Stay tuned to see some follow up posts on Grandpa Edward, Uncle Frank, Uncle Milford, Aunt Edna and some of the other cousins who are intertwined with these individuals 🙂

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #2 – Shirley Ann (Bowlby) Nickell

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Shirley Ann (Bowlby) Nickell

We’re getting some freezing rain in Kansas City this weekend so I decided to post another catch up for the 52 Ancestors challenge.  Today I’m hightlighting my husband’s maternal grandmother.

Some basic facts:
Name: Shirley Ann (Bowlby) Nickell
Born: 25 January 1924
Parents: Sherry Victor Bowlby and Gertrude Viola (Warren) Bowlby
Spouse: Earl Leslie Nickell
Marriage: Date Unknown
Died: April 1982

Shirley was born 25 January 1924.  She was born to Sherry Victor Bowlby and Gertrude Viola (Warren) Bowlby.  She married Earl Leslie Nickell sometime before 1943.  Earl and Shirley had children but in the interest of privacy I won’t list their information.

I suspect Shirley lived most of her life in Kansas.  I believe she was born near Wichita, Sedgwick, Kansas because she’s listed on the 1930 census with her parents at the age of eight in Wichita, Sedgwick, Kansas.

Bowlby family listing in the 1930 U.S. Census
 

And then again at the age of sixteen in Clark County, Kansas.

Bowlby family listing in the 1940 U.S. Census

Shirley died in April 1982.  She’s buried next to her husband, Earl, in Resthaven Cemetery in Wichita, Sedgwick, Kansas.


Shirley A. Bowlby Tombstone
Resthaven Cemetery in Wichita, Sedgwick, Kansas
 

I don’t have much more information than that on Shirley.  Here’s my genealogy list for Shirley:

Have:

  • 1930 U.S. census
  • 1940 U.S. census
  • Find-A-Grave Listing

Need:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Death certificate
  • Check for appearance in Kansas State census’

Surprise!

With the time off from work I had around Christmas time I devoted some time to beginning work on D1’s genealogy.  I had no idea what I would find or if it would be difficult to find information on his family but I was prepared for some quality time on different genealogy sites in search of information.  I was pleasantly surprised with my first foray onto Ancestry.com to discover there were others out there who had done quite a bit of research into different parts of his family.

Like a good genealogist I began entering the information to prove into my database.  I’m always hesitant to use GEDCOM files I find online.  I’m just a little overly cautious, so I choose to re-enter the information manually.  It’s more time consuming but it also allows me to get to know each and every person I enter so I can usually remember one or two things about each person I add, plus I can verify the information I add.  In my opinion, those reasons alone balance out the time and effort it takes to enter the information manually.

I spent hours each day on my time off looking at different family trees on Ancestry, checking source documents and adding names to the family file.  D1 thought the amount of time I spent doing genealogy over Christmas break was pretty humorous and he began to joke about it with his family.  It’s all good though, because I got the last laugh.  I made it back to his 10th great grandfather and began entering the information and was surprised to get the following error message from Family Tree Maker:

Whaaaaa?????  What was this??  This was an error message I’d never received before!  No, there was no way we shared an ancestor.  I was sure I’d made a mistake in my entry of individuals.  So I checked the list of children for each Caleb and Hannah Knapp…and they matched.  To the name, date and place of each event listed for each child.  So I checked the source documentation to make sure these were the correct connections.  And they were.  Unbelievably, my husband and I share a common relative from the mid-1600s!  My 8th great grandfather was his 10th great grandfather.  I couldn’t help it, I started to laugh.  Poor D1 didn’t really find as much humor in it as I did.  He just didn’t get why it was so funny, but it was hilarious for me.  The maternal unit thought it was pretty funny and dear brother thought it was pretty funny, so maybe it’s a genealogy humor thing.

I haven’t done any research into the Knapp side of my family but after I told the maternal unit about my discovery and the possibilities of additional Daughters of the American Revolution patriots, she mentioned she had heard they were a pretty large and prominent family in early American history.  I’m having a very hard time focusing on just one genealogy project right now, LOL.  I want so badly to start working on supplemental patriots for DAR, even though I haven’t even received notification of acceptance of my initial DAR paperwork.  On the other hand I really want to see what else I can find on D1’s family.  His 2nd great grandfather died in France during World War I and is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.  I definitely want to look into him a little more and see what I can find out from the National World War I Museum’s research center.  Then there’s the rumored Native American connection in D1’s family, the woman who lived in the dugout that my mother-in-law remembers, and the part of the family my mother-in-law would like to know more about.  I feel so ADD right now, LOL.

So many projects, so little time for genealogy…what surprises have you found in your family?

Genealogy Basics: Death Certificates

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve talked about birth records and marriage records, which can be used in your genealogy.  Today I want to talk about death records.

Before getting started I want to rewind to last week’s post about marriage records.  In that post I neglected to mention a valuable piece of information.  If you’re searching for a marriage record by the bride’s last name and you’re unable to locate it, consider the possibility she may have been married before and didn’t use her maiden name on her new marriage license application.  This happened to be the case with my grandparents’ marriage record.  It was a good thing I was able to provide the names of both the bride and groom when I requested the record copy because my grandmother used her last name from her previous marriage (Woods), not her actual maiden name (Brown).


Edward Bell Conwell, Jr. and Edith M. (Brown) Woods’ marriage license

Now, back to the intended subject of this post: death certificates.  Now, keep in mind that prior to 1900, many states had incomplete vital records.  Most birth, marriage and death records were kept by churches prior to when standardization occurred in the U.S.  A good resource to refer to when trying to determine if you’ll find birth or death records in the state you’re looking at is the ProGenealogist website.  You can pretty much assume the East coast states are going to have earlier standardized records than the Midwest or West coast states, simply because of when the states and state governments were formed.

So what type of information can you find on a death certificate?

  • Name of deceased
  • Age of deceased
  • Date of death of deceased
  • Place of death of deceased
  • Time of death
  • Cause of death
  • Place of burial
  • Date of birth of deceased (if known)
  • Place of birth of deceased (if known)
  • Name of parents (if known)
  • Birth locations of parents (if known)
  • Spouse’s name (if spouse is a wife it may include the maiden name)
  • Current residence
  • Occupation
  • Marital status
  • Name of physician or medical examiner
  • Name of informant and relationship to the deceased

Let’s take a look at an actual death certificate.  We’ll be using my great-grandfather’s death certificate as an example:


Death certificate for my great-grandfather, Edward Bell Conwell, Sr.

This death certificate is a veritable gold mine of information.  It shows most of the information on the bulleted list above.  The only thing I don’t see on the certificate that is listed above is the place of birth of his parents.  In addition I can tell that he only resided in Kansas City, Missouri for 6 months and the time between the claimed onset of the cause of death and his actual death was 2 months.  This would lead me to believe he moved from his prior residence to the place of death for health reasons.  I happen to know the place of death was the house my grandparents owned at the time, so he died while living with his son.

Something that stuck out at me on this death certificate was the answer to his marital status at the time of his death.

The answer itself is not odd.  Great-grandma Zella died two years before in 1948.  What’s interesting to me is that is looks like the number two is listed in that box with his widowed status.  I’m possibly reading too much into that because I’ve never heard of great-grandpa having been married before he was married to great-grandma Zella, but stranger things have happened.  I also double checked the family history book my grandparents made for me when I was a child and nothing is listed there for a second wife so I suspect it may have just been a notation of some sort but I’ve added it to my list of things to ask the parental unit in the future with the hope that she’ll know for sure (just in case I’m wrong).

The other thing that was included with the scan of this death certificate was the statement by licensed embalmer.  However, as you can see it wasn’t actually completely filled out.  I wonder if they chose to not embalm him or if the embalmer just didn’t bother to fill out the appropriate blanks on the form?


Statement of licensed embalmer from Edward Bell Conwell, Sr.’s death certificate

 


Great-grandpa Edward Bell Conwell, Sr.

Typically death records are some of the first records genealogists will try and locate.  This is because it’s usually the most recent record of the research subject and can contain a great deal of information.  But genealogists should always make an effort to verify the information provided on the death certificate before assuming it’s correct because the information being provided isn’t being provided by the subject of the record but by a person who knew the deceased and that person may not have all the information or completely accurate information.

It’s also important to remember that information included on death certificates may vary by location so the information you would find on a Kansas death certificate may very well be different than the information you would find on a New York death certificate.

Genealogy Basics: Marriage Certificates

Today we’re continuing to talk about vital records.  Last week we talked about birth certificates and some of the information you can find on them.  This week we’re going to talk about marriage records.

If you’ve been married you know how obtaining a marriage license works.  You fill out an application, get the license, the ceremony is performed, license is signed and returned to the state office to be filed.  At some point in time, some genealogist, somewhere in the world realized how great of a resource these documents were.  Most of the information you’ll find will be located on the actual application for the marriage license.  Let’s take a look at what kind of information we might find on a marriage license:

  • Full name of bride
  • Full name of groom
  • Date of marriage
  • Location of marriage
  • Name of officiant
  • Names of witnesses
  • Birth date of bride
  • Age of bride
  • Birth date of groom
  • Age of groom
  • Age of groom
  • Whether single, widowed or divorced for each party
  • Number of previous marriages for each party

God bless the Jackson County Recorder of Deeds because they’ve digitized their records and have made them searchable.  I was able to locate a copy of the marriage record of my great-grandparents just by going to the Recorder’s website.  Below is a copy of the application for their license.  As you can see it lists some, but not all, of the information from the list above.  Keep in mind, different states had different information requirements for their vital records but some of the information is standard across all states, so what information Missouri requests on their applications may be less information that what you might find on the application from, say, Illinois.

Application for marriage certificate for
Edward Conwell, Sr. and Zella McCabe

Another important point to remember: while the majority of licenses filed for were used by the couple, there were instances where the couple filed for the license but never held the ceremony and, therefore, were never legally married.  Marriage licenses expired if they weren’t used within a certain time period.  Keep this in mind if you find the application but never find the filed certificate.  I was happy to discover that Edward Sr. and Zella’s marriage license had been used and filed and was included with the application when it was digitzed.  Below is the copy of their marriage certificate:

Marriage certificate for Edward Conwell, Sr. and Zella McCabe

So just from this record I was able to learn the names of the bride and groom, their ages, when they were married, who married them, and where they lived when they applied for the license.

Typically these records have not been digitized and have to be requested from the state or county where the marriage occurred.  There is usually a fee attached and the fee typically covers the search time and a copy of the record if it’s found.  Marriage certificates may look different from state to state but the basic information is standard across the states.

Now for an interesting bit of information I discovered after I found this marriage certificate: I learned that my great-grandma Zella was living in Wyandotte County, Kansas when she married my great-grandpa.  I always thought they were both living in Jackson County, Missouri.  Yay for new and interesting finds!

Tune in next week for information on death certificates!