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: Earl Leslie Nickell

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Earl Leslie Nickell

I’m a little behind on the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge but I’m going to jump in with ancestor #1 and play catch up.  This week I’m highlighting my husband’s maternal grandfather.

Some basic facts:
Name: Earl Leslie Nickell
Born: 24 July 1918
Parents: Delbert A. Nickell and Allie (Maiden Name Unknown) Nickell
Spouse: Shirley Ann (Bowlby) Nickell
Marriage: Date Unknown
Died: November 1965

Earl was born 24 July 1918.  World War I was raging in Europe though, unknown to most of the world, it would end in a few month.  He was born to Delbert A. Nickell and Allie (Maiden Name Unknown) Nickell.  He married Shirley Ann Bowlby sometime before 1943.  Earl and Shirley had children but in the interest of privacy I won’t list their information.

Earl lived most of his life in Kansas.  I believe he was born near Long Island, Phillips, Kansas because he’s listed on the 1920 census with his family at the age of one in Long Island, Phillips, Kansas.

Delbert Nickell family listing in the 1920 U.S. Census

Earl served in the military during World War II.  His enlistment date is shown as 4 November 1943 and enlistment location was Denver, Colorado.  From his enlistment record on I can see he completed four years of high school and was skilled in woodworking occupations.

Earl died in November 1965.  He’s buried next to his wife, Shirley, in Resthaven Cemetery in Wichita, Sedgwick, Kansas.

Earl L. Nickell Tombstone
Resthaven Cemetery in Wichita, Sedgwick, Kansas

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


  • 1920 U.S. census
  • 1925 Kansas State census
  • 1930 U.S. census
  • 1940 U.S. census
  • Listing from U.S. World War II Enlistment Records from
  • Find-A-Grave Listing


  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Death certificate

Challenge Accepted: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Challenge Accepted!

I’m a member of several different genealogy groups on FaceBook.  You might not normally think of FaceBook for genealogy but it’s a great platform for communicating with other genealogists!  While browsing the posts of the Genealogy Bloggers group, I ran across a post from one of the members talking about this blog challenge she was going to join called 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  Someone else had linked to their blog in the comments and I wandered over to her blog and found the link to the original poster’s challenge post.

The premise of the challenge is to have a weekly blog post devoted to a specific ancestor.  This post can contain anything: a research problem, photograph, stories or a combination of anything focusing on that ancestor.  And it’s not just limited to blogs!  In her challenge on No Story Too Small, Amy Johnson Crow encourages people who don’t have blogs to post on FaceBook, send an email to family members, write something in a journal or anywhere else for that matter.

After reading some of the blog posts I was inspired to participate in this challenge.  My “blog fodder” for 52 Ancestors is going to be my husband’s family, who I’ve just begun researching.  I’m excited to be participating in the 52 Ancestors challenge.  Why don’t you take the plunge and join me?  Anyone can participate in the fun!


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 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: The 1940 Census

Census records.  Every genealogist uses them at one point or another.  They’re a great source of information as long as you keep in mind the possibility for errors to be found within the census records.

The United States has taken a federal census every 10 years since 1790.  The first census enumeration contained a limited amount of information.  Each following enumeration asked for a little more information each time.  Today we’re going to take a look at some information you can find in the census records.  Since you always want to start with the latest record available we’re going to start with the 1940 census and work our way back.

The 1940 census was enumerated in April.  Let’s look at a copy of a census record for my family.  I know my grandfather was living in Kansas City, Missouri when the 1940 census was enumerated.  Here’s a copy of the record, broken down into two parts so it’s readable:

First half of Edward Bell Conwell, Jr. family listing on the 1940 U.S. Census


Second half of Edward Bell Conwell, Jr. family listing on the 1940 U.S. Census

Columns #1 and #2 are the location information:

  • Street, avenue, road, etc.
  • House number (in cities and towns)

The house he’s listed at is still standing and I was fortunate to spend summers there growing up as a child.

Columns #3-#6 are household data:

  • Number of household in order of visitation
  • Home owned or rented
  • Value of home, if owned, or monthly rental, if rented
  • Whether the household is on a farm

It surprised me to discover that grandpa Edward’s house is listed as rented and he was paying $18 per month rental fee.  I was always under the impression that he was purchasing the house.  Add finding out when he purchased the home to my list of things to research.

Column #7 is the name of each person who’s residence was in the household at the time of enumeration and column #8 is the relationship of the person to the head of household.  Grandpa Edward is listed with his (first) wife, Ada J., and…SURPRISE!…mother-in-law, Stella (so if I didn’t already know Ada’s maiden name, I could have gotten it from this census).  Grandpa Edward didn’t talk much about his first wife, so I never knew that mother-in-law resided with them.

Edward Conwell listed with wife, Ada J., and mother-in-law, Stella Correll

Columns #9-#12 are the personal description fields:

  • Sex
  • Color or race
  • Age at last birthday
  • Marital status

Grandpa Edward and Ada were 35 and 36, white and married, while mother-in-law, Stella, was 58, white and widowed.

Columns #13 and #14 are questions regarding education:

  • Attended school or college since March 1, 1940
  • Highest grade of school completed

While Grandpa Edward completed high school, Ada completed seventh grade and Stella completed fourth grade.  None attended school during the year.

Column #15 is the person’s place of birth and column #16 is whether the person is a U.S. citizen or foreign born.  The whole family was born in Missouri and they were all U.S. citizens.  Columns #17-#20 are questions regarding the residence:

  • The city, town or village having 2,500 or more inhabitants or “R” for all other places
  • County
  • State or territory/foreign country
  • Whether the residence was a farm

I can’t say these columns were very informative since they were either left blank or filled in with the words “Same Place”.

Columns #21-#34 are all questions about employment status (for persons 14 years old and over):

  • Was this person at work for pay or profit in private or non-emergency government work during the week of March 24-30?
  • If not, was this person at work on, or assigned to, public emergency work (WPA, NYA, CCC, etc.) during the week of March 24-30?
  • If not at work or assigned to public emergency work were they seeking work?
  • If not at work or assigned to public emergency work did they have a job, business, etc.?
  • If the person answered no to any of the previous questions, indicate if they were engaged in housework, school, unable to work or other
  • If at private or non-emergency government work (from column #21), number of hours worked during the week of March 24-30, 1940
  • If seeking work or assigned to public emergency work (from column #22 or #23), duration of unemployment up to March 30, 1940 – in weeks

That last section is pretty large.  Sometimes the columns are fully completed, sometimes they’re not.  In this case, the columns are mostly filled in and I learned that Grandpa Edward was working for pay and Ada was keeping house.  Yet another surprise, Stella is listed as working for pay as well.  As we move down the census form we discover that Stella is working as a seamstress in the wholesale clothing industry and Grandpa Edward is working as a plumber in (of course) the plumbing industry.  Both Stella and Edward are listed as “PW” under class of worker, which meant they were a wage/salary worker in private work (a chart of symbols/explanatory notes for the 1940 census can be found here).

The final columns are questions regarding income:

  • Amount of money wages or salary received (including commissions)
  • Did this person receive income of $50 or more from sources other than money wages or salary?
  • Number of farm schedule

It’s interesting to see that Grandpa Edward was making just over $1300 per year in 1939.  Stella wasn’t doing too bad as a seamstress at just over $575 per year.  They were not included on a farm schedule.

The 1940 census contains a wealth of information for genealogists.  There are several ways to access the census records, from using (if you don’t have a paid subscription to Ancestry, check out your local library or Family History Center for free usage opportunities) for indexed images to using some of the non-indexed sites and paging thru the census record pages one by one.  I prefer the indexed version, however, going through page by page can wield treasures of its own.  Additional family members have been discovered in this manner and it can also give you a picture of who was living around your ancestor.

Have you made any surprising discoveries about your ancestors from the 1940 census?  What piece of information are you glad the government included on this census?

Next up, what’s on the 1930 census?