Monthly Archives: August 2014

Find a Grave Discovery

Find a Grave has provided me with information, photos and leads for every branch of my family tree. The Find a Grave website was created by Jim Tipton in 1995 because he could not find an existing site focused on his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. Jim soon found a whole community of people who shared his passion. The site is largely filled with information and photos from volunteers. Every day, contributors from around the world enter new records. It has grown from a site to find out where famous people are buried to an invaluable tool for family history research.

While I have found many facts and dates on Find a Grave, the most emotional find for me was a listing for my Aunt Trixy. Aunt Trixy is my mother’s sibling. She was born and died in New Mexico many years before my mother was born. As a child I was always aware of this aunt whom I had never met.  I knew that she died very young and that my other aunts and uncles had memories of her. My mother’s family moved to Roswell, New Mexico in the early 1900s and then back to Oklahoma before my mother was born in 1920.

The 1910 census in New Mexico lists Trixy’s name as Della B and shows her age as three years old. Based on that I guessed her birth year to be 1907 . My mother thought she had died at about two years of age. So I thought she must have died shortly after this census. I looked for a listing on Find a Grave hoping to be able to fill in some details about dates of birth and death and her full name. Nothing came up in my search.

Aunt Trixy

Aunt Trixy

I am fortunate to have photos of each of mother’s siblings when they were young. One day, about a year after first searching for Trixie (how I thought her name was spelled at the time) on Find a Grave, I was scanning and entering a photo for each of my mother’s siblings on my Ancestry family tree. When I added Trixy’s photo a hint came up for Find a Grave. A memorial had been added for her nine months earlier that had not been there when I conducted my initial search. The listing had her full name which I had never known, Della Beatrix West. There were no photos with the listing. There was a year of death but no birth date listed. It appeared that the person adding this info had added it based on cemetery records and not headstone photos.

This brings me to how Find a Grave is administered. Hundreds of volunteers worldwide access cemetery records where they live and add information to the Find a Grave site. Some volunteers take a photo of each headstone and the entrance to the cemetery and add those photos and any information that can be found on the headstone. Anyone accessing the site can put in a request for a volunteer to go to a cemetery, take a photo of a headstone for a particular listing and add it to the listing.

Della Beatrix West Headstone

Della Beatrix West Headstone

People who use Find a Grave for research sign up as volunteers for the area in which they live and when a request is made they get an email asking if they can fulfill that request. I put in a request for a volunteer to take a photo of Trixy’s headstone for me. It was a very emotional moment for me to when I awakened the next morning to an email saying to check Trixy’s listing for an update. I found that a photo of her headstone had been added and a photo of the cemetery. The headstone showed her birth and death dates. The headstone was a loving tribute from her parents, sweetly inscribed and with a lamb resting at the bottom.

I could not help but think what it must have been like for my grandmother to leave New Mexico and her daughter’s grave behind when they moved back to Oklahoma. I also thought about that grave sitting there for all of those years, with no one ever visiting.

I uploaded the one photo of Trixy that I had to her Find a Grave memorial. Now anyone browsing her listing will see her adorable face. The memorials on Find a Grave have banner ads on the page. You can permanently remove the banner ads from an individual listing for a onetime fee of $5.00. I did that for Trixy’s page.  I hope one day to go to New Mexico to research more about my grandmother’s time there in the early years of her marriage. I now have a place to go and remember Trixy for my grandmother and all of her siblings who were not able to go to her gravesite after they moved in about 1915.

Since making this find I have signed up to be a volunteer for Find a Grave and have been able to fulfill two requests for photos from my local cemetery. I know from my personal experience how much it means to the person making the request.

The most important lesson in this story is to never give up on a lead. New material is being added to the internet every day. I had searched for Trixy in Find a Grave before and found nothing. Months later a volunteer had entered enough information for me to be able to discover the missing details about Trixy’s short life.

In a future article I will talk about how to use Find a Grave in your family research and how to make use of the information that you find there.

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Home is Where Your Second Cousin Thrice Removed Lives

I have mentioned before that my mother’s father left the family when she was about two years old.  Trying to find out more about him and his family was part of my genealogy quest as mother knew nothing but his first and last name.

My mother had about a half dozen photos of her parents early life which she passed on to me when I started researching our history. My goal was to find out more about who my grandfather was and to research my grandmother’s Cherokee ancestry for my mother’s 90th birthday. While searching on ancestry.com I came across a photo someone captioned as Grandma Brewer on Ancestry. Grandma Brewer’s parents appeared to be the same as my grandfather’s parents.

I wrote the person who posted the photo and she wrote back saying I should call someone named John from whom she got the photo and provided me with his phone number. I looked up the area code location and saw that he lived in the area where my grandmother was raised and where she lived for a while with my grandfather.

Something told me this was going to be a big breakthrough and I anxiously dialed the number. Through this call I met my cousin John who is the grandson of my grandfather’s sister. We formed an instant connection and have exchanged hundreds of emails in the past three years.

Sally West Brewer and Eliza Crittenden West, Our Grandmothers

Sally West Brewer and Eliza Crittenden West, Our Grandmothers

Last October I went to Tahlequah Oklahoma to continue research on my grandmother’s Cherokee heritage and met with John on the first day of my trip. During my time in Oklahoma John’s cousin (and mine) hosted a huge family barbecue where I met more than a dozen relatives I never knew I had. They shared many family stories/legends about my grandfather, known to them as Uncle Jim. Most had only seen him once or twice but had numerous family tales as he was a somewhat notorious character.

The info I have found on my grandmother and grandfather is a source for many future stories. However, I wanted to share two small tidbits that are were so meaningful to both my cousin John and me.

In our email conversations John told me that he had inherited a rolling pin from his grandmother when she died. It is the rolling pin she used to make numerous pies and cookies at large family dinners which were held every Sunday until she died and attended by all of John’s aunts, uncles and cousins. On this rolling pin an aunt had tied a note, “carved for your grandma on her 10th birthday by her then 15 year old brother Jim, her favorite brother”. Jim was my grandfather.

Me and cousin John with Rolling Pin

Me and cousin John with Rolling Pin

The second very emotional connection was that John asked if he could see a photo of my grandfather when he was young. I said I had only a few photos from that time that I had not looked at in a while but I would go through them and see what I could find. In those photos was an old oval photo of my grandmother with another young woman. On the back my mother had written, “mother with Aunt Sally”. This photo was of my grandmother and John’s grandmother as very young women. They would have been sisters in law. I scanned and sent the photo to John who called me in tears saying he had no photos of his grandmother as a young woman.

Me and cousin John with our Grandmothers

Me and cousin John with our Grandmothers

This family journey has been astounding and I have found amazing things. Including the fact that my grandmother, who we were always told had “some Cherokee blood”, was raised as a Cherokee and never stepped foot out of Indian Territory until she married my grandfather in 1903. Her father was an Old Settler who migrated to Arkansas and then Oklahoma under the New Echota treaty.

The facts I have gathered are interesting. However, what is most meaningful is the connections that I am making.  I saw a cartoon on Facebook a while back.  The caption was “Home is Where Your Second Cousin Thrice Removed Lives”.

After my trip to Oklahoma, and meeting John and other extended family members, a piece of my heart is there.  I am looking forward to returning in a couple of months and making more memories.  Watch in the next couple of weeks for a post about a cousin I just met through my blog site.  She is one of my Crittenden cousins and I cannot wait to meet her in person.

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Finding the Unexpected

About a year into my research on Moses Crittenden I had a good overview of the basics. He was born in Georgia in 1825. He died in Wagoner, Oklahoma in 1899.

He had been married to Eda Quinton and together they had eight children. After Eda died Moses married Margaret Howell, my great grandmother, and they had nine children, including my grandmother Eliza Jane Crittenden.

The basic information makes a great foundation for research. For me, what I am always searching for is the story of their lives. What is the context of the time in which they lived? Who were they as people? And each photo that I find is like a treasure.

One lesson I have learned in my years of family research is that when you think you have the facts part completed, there is usually a surprise around the corner. Previous marriages and families that you never knew about or finding that the family that raised the person, while having the same last name, was actually their aunt and uncle and not their parents, are a few examples.

While at the Cherokee Family Research Center within the Cherokee Heritage Center at Tahlequah, Oklahoma I came across a family genealogy on the Crittendens.  It had been researched a few decades earlier and was a great find for looking into extended family and family connections.  There are many branches of the Crittendens so I was delighted to find a detailed chronology of my grandfather Moses’ life.  Included were details on the Old Settler Roll, the 1880 Cherokee Roll and other information that I had not yet located.

I was most interested in an entry listed as taking place about 1853.  The notation was short:

Met Emily Crittenden b. 1838 I.T.  d. 1908 OK.

I was perplexed about why the author of the document would think it worth mentioning that in 1853 Moses met his relative Emily.  Then I read the footnote stating that Emily Crittenden was a slave and belonged to Elijah Phillips and Sidney (Moses’ sister) Crittenden Phillips.  The only other information was that she was buried in Proctor Cemetery in Adair County, Oklahoma.

Those of you less naïve than me may have already figured out that “met” was the language of the times for “had sexual relations with”.  It was not until I read another note about the birth of Anthony Crittenden that I figured this out.

Anthony Crittenden

Anthony Crittenden

Anthony Crittenden (son of Moses and Emily) was born in Polk County, Arkansas about 1854 and died April 9, 1909. He is buried at Bennett Cemetery in Warner, Oklahoma.  I was very lucky to find a photo of Anthony in a family tree on Ancestry.com  He is one of only three Crittendens from this generation of whom I have a photo.

He applied as Cherokee by blood before the Dawes commission but was denied since he had been a slave of Elijah Phillips and was enrolled as freedman through his mother Emily (Crittenden) Weaver.  I am as interested in finding out more about Anthony and his descendants as I am all of my grandmother’s siblings and half siblings.  Anthony and Emily are two of the people I hope to find out more about on my next trip to Oklahoma.  I will definitely pay my respects to both by visiting the cemeteries where they are buried.

Anthony Crittenden Headstone

Anthony Crittenden Headstone

Finding another great uncle that I did not know that I had is but one of many surprises I have found on this journey.  What are some of the surprises that you have encountered?

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Tracing my Great Grandfather Moses Crittenden in Cherokee Nation West

The journey of the early settlers to Cherokee Nation West is a complicated one.  My great grandfather Moses Crittenden was born in Cherokee Nation East Georgia in 1825. The next record that I have found for him is the 1850 census that shows him living in Freedom Township Polk County Arkansas at age 25 with his wife Eda Quniton, age 22. I believe Eda (Edith) is Moses’ niece, his sister Lydia’s daughter.

I am on a constant quest for records that will help me determine exactly when Moses moved from Georgia to Arkansas. His father William Crittenden is shown on the 1835 census as living in Talking Rock Creek, GA.  Both Moses and his father William are listed on the Old Settler Roll of 1851

In the 1850 census in Freedom, Polk County AR there are six Quinton family households listed on the same census record with the Moses Crittenden household.  Moses is listed as a farmer.

In the 1860 census in Freedom AR the Moses Crittenden household is surrounded by six Quinton family households. Moses’ father William, then 80, is living with Moses.  Two important facts are found on the 1860 census.  Moses is now listed as a merchant and in the column under Value Real Estate is the figure 2000.

In November 2013, now knowing that Moses owned real estate in Arkansas, I started a search to try to find information on land owned by Moses Crittenden.  I accessed the following sites which eventually led me to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Federal Land Record site.

http://www.ark-ives.com/documenting/

http://www.arkansasgenealogy.com/

http://searches.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/arkland/arkland.pl

http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Federal Land Record site includes a searchable database where I found a copy of Moses’ land patent signed by President James Buchanan.  I also found two patents for land owned by James Quinton.

http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/search/default.aspx

Moses Crittenden Search Result BLM Land Patents

Moses Crittenden Search Result BLM Land Patents

I sent for a hard copy of the document for under $5.00 I received a printed copy on parchment paper along with a copy of the plat map.

Copy of Moses Land Patent

Copy of Moses Land Patent

My next genealogy research trip in November 2014 will take me back to Oklahoma and then on to Arkansas.  Finding the exact location of Moses’ land means that I will be able to search local archives, libraries and museums for additional information on my great grandfather’s time in Arkansas.  I will also be able to go to the site of his land, surrounded by the echoes of my great grandfather Moses Crittenden and his extended family.

 

 

 

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Family Mystery Solved – What Happened to Uncle Frank?

One of the interesting and frustrating things about genealogy is thinking that you have a clear picture of facts, then you find one more source of information and things you thought you knew are proven to be false. That is the case with my grandfather’s older brother Frank.

When I started searching for my grandfather’s family there was a lot of trial and error, travels down the wrong trails,  and moments of thinking I would never find who my grandfather James West’s parents were. Then, several things came together to prove that I at last had the correct family.

As many of you know there are often families with almost identical family member names, living in the same state, that can add much confusion to your search.

I did, however, at last have the correct family. My grandfather met and married my grandmother in Oklahoma. His family migrated there from Alabama sometime between 1880 and the late 1890s. Once I had identified the correct family in Oklahoma living in the same neighborhood as my grandmother, I was able to work backward and find an 1880 census for my grandfather West’s family in Alabama.

That census showed my great grandfather Ben West, great grandmother Sarah West and their four children, listed as follows.
Frank West – 17 years old – son
David West – 11 years old – son
James R West – 5 years old – son
Sarah West – 4 months old – daughter

The 1900 census in Oklahoma has son David living in his own household and, nearby, Ben and Sarah living with children James R and Sarah. I wondered what happened to the eldest son Frank? I could not find Frank West in Oklahoma nor in Alabama.

Through my online genealogy research I was fortunate to meet my grandfather’s sister’s grandson and develop an active relationship of exchanging what information we had about the West family. My cousin said he had been told as a child that the eldest brother Frank had started to Oklahoma in a covered wagon but had never completed the journey and the family never knew his fate.

We talked about how much we would like to find out what happened to him on his way to Oklahoma and wondered if that would ever be possible. Fast forward about a year and a half and I made the discovery that our great grandmother, Frank’s mother, had been married previously to a man named Pleasant Frank Johnson, something we had not known. I recently found the marriage certificate for that first marriage. I also found the 1870 census for the West family in Alabama fairly recently.

Much to my surprise, Frank is listed as William Johnson age 7, along with his sister Molly Catherine Johnson. So the reason I could never find a record of Frank West in Alabama after 1880 is that 1880 is the only time he was listed as West and not Johnson on a census. Whether the family did not give his name as Johnson, or the census taker just did not write it down, I don’t know.

This week a search for Frank Johnson in Alabama turned up the following astounding information!

Frank Johnson lived with his married sister Mollie Catherine and is listed in her household in 1900, 1920 and 1930. He died in 1932 one year after her and is buried in Alabama.

Cousin John and I no longer have to worry about our poor great uncle Frank and what happened to him in that covered wagon on the way to Oklahoma. He lived with family in Alabama until his death at age 59.

I wonder how some of our family lore gets started. In that 1870 census where I discovered that Frank and Mollie Johnson were the children of my great grandmother’s first marriage, there is also a 5 month old Arthur, son of my great grandparents, on the census. Arthur never appears again, so apparently died in Alabama sometime before his 10th birthday.

I think somehow a brother’s death in Alabama and Frank’s staying behind in Alabama when the family moved, over the years, combined into one brother who died on the way to Oklahoma.

Have you solved any family mysteries in your search for your roots?

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Online Resources for Getting from Dawes Roll# to Allotment Plat Map

Dawes Final Rolls

The first step in the process of identifying Dawes land allotments is to have the Dawes Roll # for the person whose land you are trying to identify. If you do not have the number, go to http://www.okhistory.org/research/dawes and fill in as many of the blanks as you can and you will find the following information.

Name, Age, Sex, Blood, Card No., Tribe, Roll No.

The Card No. is the same for each member of a household. Each individual in the household will have a different Roll No.

Dawes Enrollment Packets

You can find the packets at http://www.fold3.com/title_70/dawes_packets/. You must be a member to access the images.

You can also access the files on https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1852353. You will need to sign up to use this site but it is free.

Search by name. Having the roll number will help you to identify that you have the right file as there are many duplicate names on the Dawes Rolls.

Each piece of paper in the packet has been scanned. There is a lot of interesting information in the Dawes Enrollment Packets. In addition to the application forms there are often transcripts of interviews with applicants and other family members or friends.

Allotment Applications

After the final Dawes Roll was published, each individual had to complete another application to apply for their land allotment. The applications can be found in Oklahoma Applications for Allotment, Five Civilized Tribes, 1899-1907 at https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1390101.

On Aug 1, 2014 they were indexing this site to include some previously missing applications that have been newly digitalized. Try again if you cannot access the records the first time. I will keep checking the site and update this information when the site is functioning again. You will need a Dawes Roll number to use this collection. You cannot search by name.

Use the land description information from these applications to search for your allotment plat map. The allotment applications contain the legal land description of the final allotments to each person who was approved to receive an allotment.

Allotment Maps

Allotment Maps can be found at http://www.okhistory.org/index. They are a little tricky to get to, so follow the directions exactly.

On the home page click on “Research Center”. From the dropdown menu choose “Maps”.

In left-hand column at the bottom of the Maps page click “Search Catalog”.

On the Search Catalog page click “Archives Catalog”.

You will see a Search Dialog box. Under that box in small letters it says “Core Collections”. Click on the small arrow to the left.

An alphabetized list of core collection will appear next. Halfway down the alphabetized list click “Indian Archives”. The next page is slow to load so be patient.

On the Indian Archives page in the left hand column click on the plus sign next to the last entry, “Maps”. Do not click on the word Maps, click the plus sign.

Next click the plus sign next to Cherokee Nation maps (or whichever tribe is appropriate).

You will see a list of maps that are in PDF form. The plat allotment maps are images #69 – #305 in the Cherokee Nation section. They are not numbered so you have to count your way down the list to get to that general area. You will know you are in the right spot when you start seeing maps listed by Township and Range.

Click on the description of the correct Township and Range to see a PDF of the map with allotment names. You can then download and save the map to your computer.

Allotment maps are organized by Township and Range. Each map shows the sections for that range and with a little practice you can find NE4 of NW4 of SE4 of Section 11, Township XXN, Range XXE.

Each of the maps has the name and roll number of the person allotted each plot of land written by hand on the plot. In some cases, including one of my grandmother’s plots, the land was awarded after the maps were completed. If you follow the description you have from the Land Allotment package and do not see the name you are looking for you will usually find a little blank square where you can then write in the name of your relative on a hard copy of the map.

In Conclusion

It is getting easier and easier to accomplish these tasks.  When I first started my research not all Dawes Application Packets were digitalized and online.  Every month I would go to the site again and enter my grandmother’s information and hope her packet would be there.  For over a year I always got a message saying that those records were in the process of being digitalized.  And then one day, success!  Genealogy research involves a lot of patience and persistence which, in most cases, eventually results in finding the information that you are seeking.

 

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