52 Ancestors Week 41: Context

+9 votes

Time for the next 52 Ancestors challenge!

Please 52 Ancestors and 52 Photos sharing challenge badgesshare with us a profile of an ancestor or relative who matches this week's theme:


From Amy Johnson Crow:

Our ancestors are more than names and dates on a chart. This week, share something that you've learned that brought more context to an ancestor's life. Have you learned why she moved from one area to another or why he held a certain occupation? Tell the story this week.

Share below!

Participants who share every week can earn badges. If this is your first time participating and you don't have the participation badge, or if you pass a milestone (13 in 13, 26 in 26, 52 in 52) let us know hereClick here for more about the challenge. 

in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)

34 Answers

+14 votes

Oh my I guess I just answered for the previous year week 41 - Sports crying

I knew my grandfather Frank McCarty Mathews Jr. was a chemist at a DuPont plant. But, I never knew he'd worked at a munitions factory or been employed in Canada in the explosives industry. The WWI draft card showed he'd asked for an exemption due to work in munitions. After the war, he migrated from Ohio to Indiana when he took the job with DuPont.

by Diane Hildebrandt G2G6 Mach 2 (25.2k points)
+15 votes
Adding context to your genealogy is what adds the life and color to the stick figures that are created with the names and dates.  My example is my great great grandfather, Squire West, b. Hampton NY 1799, died 1883 Rutland VT.  He was a carpenter.  Photographs exist, and in his later years he had a lot of white hair, styled quite a bit like Mark Twain.   He was a carpenter by trade.   Two things we knew about this generation of Wests -- they tended to be religious, and they tended to be carpenters.   Here is where my work ended for quite a while, but later work gave me more context.   Squire was a member of the Prophet William Miller's congregation.  Miller was the Baptist preacher who believed the world would end in a certain year in the 1840s, and preached widely to warn the people.  Some people sold their farms and waited on a rock for the world to end.  Squire might have been there.  Why?  A.  Miller was his uncle by marriage.  B.  Squire's grandfather was an extremely devout Baptist who moved from RI to NY to Vermont, always following the Baptist church.  And, there is evidence of Wests being carpenters going way back to before the Revolution in Rhode Island.   So, these identifying characteristics had context, going back generations, along some interesting paths. That is what makes genealogy fun for me.
by Carolyn Adams G2G6 Mach 1 (17.6k points)
Very interesting.  A few years ago I saw a documentary about doomsday groups (some cults) and it seems that these have gone on since biblical times.
Some say all religions are cults.  In the case of this family, I have noted a trend for some descendants to be "overly" religious.  I don't know if this is a nature or nurture question, but certainly if there was religious extremism in the past in your family, you will either go toward it or away from it.
+16 votes

I have learned so very much more about my ancestors, and have found so many people with such interesting lives. I always knew my great great grandfather, Edward McCauley Long, was murdered, but his life was so much more than the night he was shot coming home from work. I never knew he was in several battles in the Civil War, he worked for Wells Fargo, how he worked as a carriage maker with his brother, and how he had a thriving lumber business in Kansas. I now know what financial ruin his death, at age 43, was to my great great grandmother Delia. How she kept applying for a Civil War pension, and she eventually went to live with her daughter in Oregon.

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Mach 8 (88.1k points)
Isn't it amazing all that we can find all these years later?
You are so right SJ!
+15 votes

Thomas Montgomery is a good example of why it is worth going that extra mile to try to find sources for someone beyond the usual BMD and census records.

Thomas was a farmers son from Antrim, Ireland and the only thing in early records that suggested he might not follow the usual path and become a farmer himself was the fact he was a National School Teacher in the 1911 census.

However, within a few years, Thomas had qualified in medicine and joined the Royal Air Force Medical Branch and over time he became one of the most senior Medical Officers in the Royal Air Force.

by Ray Hawkes G2G6 Mach 2 (25.1k points)
+12 votes
Context applied in understanding why so many of my family either left the mountains for jobs in the cotton mills in Gastonia, NC, or moved to the Pacific Northwest for jobs in the lumber industry (at least in the second, they had some experience under their belts).

Life was tough up here, and more people meant less land and opportunities, hence the moves to elsewhere.
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
+13 votes

Ancestors Week 41 - Context

Context is important to me to include whenever I can.  It makes the profile so much more interesting.  Often I can't find anything interesting to add but occasionally I get lucky. I found some letters published in a book online last week that were written by my 4x great grandfather in 1832.  I haven't starting working on his profile but the letters will be a nice addition.

My 3x grand uncle is William Hamilton Pruett.  I found an "ancedote" attributed to Rev. Pruett that was published in Baptist Annals of Oregon in 1905 that included a cool illustration of him on horseback.  The story was that he was unarmed and came upon a group of warriors who spared him.  He said it was due to the grace of God.  The editor of the book commented that when he passed the war party he heard the words: 'Tlosh Boston!' (Good Man) and said that he was spared for the comfort and care he provided to a older woman of that tribe months earlier when she was sick and in need. 

by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Pilot (143k points)
You're always quite the sleuth and you turn up the most amazing things!
+15 votes

When I joined the Shaules family I kept hearing a lot about William Arthur Shaules, my husband's grandfather.  Much of what I heard sounded like "tall tales".  But after researching and studying the material I came across about him, I was able to bring these stories into context.  Though I'm not sure of all the stories, I now believe this man was more fact than fiction.

From the time he was very young there was some dysfunction in his family.  When he was five years old he was living with his grandfather and his wife.  It appears that he remained there until his grandfather died in 1878.  William was about 14 at that time.  When he was 15 we find him in the Detroit House of Corrections for petty larceny.  His sentence was 90 days.  There is family "talk" that he was "turned in" by a family member.  When he was released he left the environs of Detroit and his family, never to return.  One of his daughters told us that when she was small he told her that he had been "found on a doorstep". He never spoke of his Detroit family and all that we have about them has come about through research.

From a synopsis of his life, that he wrote, he went West and became a cowboy in Wyoming and Montana.  He states that he was shot a couple of times, he was the undersheriff in Lewistown, Montana, a miner, an assayer.  We have sources that show that he was a lawman in Alaska, that he worked in a gold mine, helped developed the town (now ghost town) of Kendall, Montana.  He built a hotel in that town as well as ran another in Lewistown, Montana.  He and his wife were divorced and he relocated again in San Diego, California.

In San Diego, he remarried and had six more children, was the developer of a neighborhood in San Diego which is still in existence with a street called Shaules Ave.  He also owned a gas station.  

He served in the military three different times; once during the Spanish American War, and twice during WW1.

There are more stories -- I've said enough for now, but this man's stories seemed to prove mostly true and the genealogy work that has been done has brought it into context.

by Robin Shaules G2G6 Pilot (434k points)
William certainly was an amazing man. It is wonderful that you have so much information about his life.
Thank you, Alexis. Yes, we have managed to find a lot of information on him. I would have liked to have known him.
In reality, most people live out straight-forward lives.  Marriage, work, children, death.  Once in a while we get a star who has a sprinkle of wanderlust and they go and do amazing things.  I know one such person and when he tells his story to people they roll their eyes in disbelief.  Sometimes he shows them a few photos and their eyes bulge in amazement.
Yes, SJ, the amazing are few and far between. Too bad they have to prove themselves to be believed. Thank you for your words of truth.
SJ, I think the reason people love the movie Forest Gump is because it had so much we can relate to. Forest tells his story to the couple sitting on the bench in Savannah, and they only believe him after they see his photo on the cover of Fortune Magazine.
+10 votes

I go a little bit deeper than I usually do in this week's blog as I look at the immigrant experience in 1880 Haverhill, Mass and try to figure out what the historical context is for two French Canadian families living in a small apartment together. The answer has some sharp contrast with today's world https://allroadhaverhill.blogspot.com/2019/10/52-ancestors-week-41-context.html

We really need to stop repeating history.

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (255k points)
edited by Chris Ferraiolo
+13 votes

Newlywed couple tragedy:

Husband abducted and murdered by Indians.

New bride then abducted and sold as a slave.  She returned to town months later, pregnant.  She was released, or escaped depending on who's telling the story.

But, there were no Indians in Iowa after the Civil War.  And descendants have 0.00% Native American DNA.

It turns out she ran off with another man and left her husband behind; to this day we don't know if he knew his children were alive or if he ever saw them again.

While working the Connect a Thon a few months back I sourced the rest of the family and found that her sister did the same thing.  Looks like they both ran off together.  At least she brought her kids, her sister left them behind.  I found her mentioned on the Ancestry tree profile of her husband, "James' wife Lovina, after several years of marriage, ran off to be with someone else, leaving her husband to raise their children. Have not found much info on her - don't know if story is true," and "Lovina was born into a Mennonite family? Story goes that she met a traveling salesman and left her children behind with her husband. Marriage must have been dissolved at some point."

In talking with 2nd, 3rd, 4th cousins, they can't believe that the Indian story isn't true.  "Who would make up a story about being abducted by Indians?"

I always reply, "You have to look at it in context: Who would take their kids away from the other parent and never come back?"  And that argument has now morphed with the additon of, "... I'll tell you who, someone who's sister did it also!"

Lucinda Carlina (Klinepeter) George (bef. 1846 - 1902), child abductor, who was featured in week 26 "Legend."

and her sister who ran off with the salesman:

Lusina Lavina (Klinepeter) Youngblood Darrow (abt. 1851 - bef. 1894), home and child deserter.

by SJ Baty G2G6 Pilot (636k points)
+12 votes

When I first began researching my genealogy, I was informed about the earlier research which my mother's cousin had made on the Mayoh family. When, I received a copy of the research he had distributed to interested family members, in it, was reference to a newspaper article about a Mutiny on board the ship Brothers, which bought Thomas Mayoh and his family to Australia in 1841. This was finally put into context last week when I found two newspaper articles, about the Mutiny, written at the time. 

ago by David Urquhart G2G6 Mach 5 (54.5k points)
+11 votes
I have found a number of interesting tales about my ancestors.  One was that Jesse Crowe was lynched by a mob in 1870 in Estill County,Kentucky.  This mob lynching was even recorded in the local phone book. By the way, he slso married his first cousin.

Another ancestor,Jonathon Pitts, ran home naked after excaping from Indians.
ago by David Hughey G2G6 Pilot (601k points)
+10 votes

I've selected an interesting case for this week's theme of 'Context'. I've selected my 9th great aunt on my father's side, Mercy Tuttle (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Tuttle-36). Mercy was born in 1650 and died after 1695 in New Haven, CT. Her parents arrived during the PGM. Mercy married Samuel Brown when she was 17 and had at least three children with him. I noticed that there is very little information about her on Wikitree, and will have to add some additional sources and information about her. When she was 41 years of age, Mercy killed her seventeen-year-old son, Samuel, Jr. with an ax in 1691 in the town of Wallingford. Samuel was wounded on June 23, and died six days later. Some of the information that I have, especially the deposition from the trial, will add context to this story. Her husband commented that she had slept poorly for the 3 days prior to the incident. We now know that sleep deprivation can contribute to impaired judgement and rash behavior. Her husband talked about how she was rational on the day of the incident, then said how she talked irrationally the day before saying she would bury the children in the barn. Other members of the community described her as 'distracted.' Her defense attorney emphasized this distraction and said there was an asylum for the 'distracted'. The judge felt she should die given that she was prompted by the devil to commit this unnatural act. The townspeople felt that she should be exonerated, which she was, given her 'insanity.' She escaped execution and was still living in 1695. I have been searching records to see if she was placed in the 'asylum' or at least kept her away from axes. To this day, there are people and cultures who still equate mental illness with the devil and don't realize that this is a mental health issue. 

The other interesting part of this story, and to add context to mental health, Mercy's brother, Benjamin, was executed for murdering his sister, Sarah, with an ax in 1677 (one record says because she was not pious enough)--yet when sentence was pronounced it was for Benjamin's going against God. Benjamin was 29 when he was hanged. The context in both cases was Puritan times and their beliefs about murder being an unnatural act against God. We now know that schizophrenia onset generally occurs after the teen years usually in the early to mid-twenties and that there is a strong element of 'religiosity.' 

One difference between the two trials is that 'insanity' was included in Mercy's trial, but not with Benjamin. Were the Puritans a tad more enlightened 14 years later?

ago by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (101k points)
edited ago by Carol Baldwin

Were the Puritans a tad more enlightened 14 years later?

Probably they were.  Other colonies (Pennsylvania for example) had escaped the Witch Trials and Quakers condemnded the Puritans for the whole affair.

It is not clear when Mercy was tried, and apparently Carol has not posted details to the profile yet, but the crime occurred in 1691.  The notorious witch trials occurred in 1692, and I think it took the Puritans a while after that to realize the immensity of their errors and to apologize.

I have always found it fascinating that two of my ancestors, Sarah Nurse (Nurse-378 https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Nurse-378&public=1) and Samuel Putnam, were great grandchildren of a condemned person and one of her chief accusers at Salem.  I don't know if people got over it, or if it was just such a small town that choices of spouse were limited.

I posted my context via Android as I'm attending a conference on the east coast. I mentioned that the crime occurred in 1691 when Mercy was 41. I tried to recall and access as much of the deposition information per Android to provide context to this ancestor's story. I will add sources and more info when I return. I think there is a difference between the Salem trials and Mercy son dying as a result of her delivering blows by ax. Salem resulted from Mass hysteria in the community started by a couple of young girls accusing community members of witchcraft. My grandsons on their father's side are direct descendants of the Proctor family that housed one of the girls. It seems that greed was involved in the witch trials and naming names because of coveting neighbor's goods or property. This is a reason why Arthur Miller based his story, The Crucible, on the Salem trials during the McCarthy era. Salem was an insane time. Alternatively, Mercy Tuttle was very likely insane...schizophrenic.
All I was trying to say was that the Puritans didn't seem too enlightened in those days, not that Mercy's case was comparable to the witch trials.

I wondered if maybe Mercy got more sympathy due to being a woman?

As for Salem, there have been a great many theories over the years as to why it happened, everything from ergot poisoning to mass hysteria to class conflict.
Being a woman may have some merit! I think there is speculation in  that they were reluctant to hang a woman. It seems that the testimony of her erratic behavior by neighbors played a big role though. It's frustrating because I don't have internet and can't access all my sources until I return home. Once I contact the PM about updating and make additions I'll send a message you. Thanks!
+9 votes
Mine is Jonathan David King and his profile is https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/King-29197. I learned that he was married before he married Amanda (Fine) Leonard and had kids also. Find out about the Jonathan David King family it was a lot of help. Also was given a photo of Jonathan David King and his first wife. Since I moved up here to Jonesborough, Tennessee last November I have learned a lot about both sides of the family especially the Barnett and Jones side.
ago by Linda Barnett G2G6 Pilot (401k points)
+11 votes

I seem to me mentioning him quite a bit, but Leonard Charles Utting - my great-grandfather - immigrated to New Zealand while in the service of the Royal Navy. He was discharged in Wellington at his own request. I knew through family tales that he was in the Navy, and that he came here prior to the Great War, but gaining full access to his New Zealand Expeditionary Forces record really brought it into context. Finding out the little things, like his hair colour—brown—or his eye colour—blue—or even the fact that he was shorter than me—5'3" 1/2—really seemed to turn him from just another ancestor, as he passed away around the time my father was born, into a three-dimensional figure that suddenly seemed so much more real. Definitely an emotional day.

ago by Amy Utting G2G6 Pilot (151k points)
+9 votes

I made a discovery several years ago that added significant context to the life of my 11th great-grandfather Edmund Scarburgh and also to that of his son Sir Charles Scarburgh; for over a hundred years, American genealogists had assumed that the maiden name of Edmund Scarburgh's wife was "Butler", based on nothing more than the fact that his son Edmund claimed a headright for the transportation of one "Robert Butler, servant". I discovered that his wife was actually Hannah Smith, daughter of Rev. Edmund Smith, rector of Tenby and formerly headmaster of the Merchant Taylors' School in London; Hannah Smith was the sister of Dr. Edmund Smith (who served as physician-in-ordinary to Charles I at Oxford during the English Civil War, and was a close personal friend of William Harvey, who first described the circulation of blood) and was also the niece of Lording Barry, an erstwhile playwright turned pirate and then privateer, who was part-owner of a ship called the Edward of London (the principal owner of the Edward was Edward Bennett, owner of Bennett's Plantation, the largest English landholding in the Colony of Virginia). The family connection to Edward Bennett provides a plausible reason for Edmund Scarburgh's emigration to Virginia in the 1620's (Edmund Scarburgh's grandson Charles would later marry Elizabeth Bennett, daughter of Edward Bennett's nephew Richard Bennett); Edmund Scarburgh's son Charles was studying at Cambridge and left to join a Royalist regiment, and was persuaded to Oxford to study medicine by his uncle's friend Harvey sending him a letter saying "pray leave off thy gunning and I will bring thee into practice" (Sir Charles Scarburgh would later serve as physician-in-ordinary to Charles II).

Discovering that one relationship helped provide significant context to this family (probably more than any other single genealogical discovery I've made).

ago by C Handy G2G6 Mach 5 (50k points)
+8 votes
My great great grandfather was in the newspaper once. No one ever said anything about my great grams side of the tree until I started to do research. I found out from his obituary that he had went missing and searchers found him at a nearby farm. Reading the obituary and then his death certificate is even worse to imagine. He was so unhappy that he shot himself with his 22 twice. So did he miss the first time? What could have caused him to be so unhappy? There are so many questions but I honestly don't think anyone would be able to tell me or anyone else. It hits close to home when I think about my best friend's death.

ago by Christine Preston G2G6 Mach 2 (21.6k points)
+10 votes

The towns where my Serbian grandparents grew up were about 5km apart and there were always connections between the towns. I'm reading a book about the history of the town where my Serbian grandpa grew up. The book was edited in 1985, so the communist desire to show how the Fascist Germans were made problems during WWII is imminent and obvious. 

One day I read in the book and found a familiar name. I was not 100% sure so I asked mum if that was my maternal grandaunt. "Yes, that is her." She hosted at home a meeting where Serbian partisans planned among other to destroy telegraph poles and railroads to make communication and transportation for Germans and the helping Croats impossible. 

This was in early 1943. Her daughters were nearly 18 and 16. On 16 Oct 1944 Belgrade was freed after WWII, but my grandmother asked nearly every soldier she could identify as Partisan, if s/he knew something about her two nieces, who were actively fighting for the freedom of their home soil. 

When I had the confirmation that it was my grandaunt who had hosted the meeting I said: "Well, now I understand, why her daughters went into war and stayed their whole working life working for the Yugoslav army." 

ago by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (257k points)
+8 votes

Good timing. Previous to last week one of my ancestors John Harmon was a profile with essentially b.m.d. I made a trip to the library last week and discovered quite a few items of context. He and his brother were considered rowdy (my expression) teens and were assigned a seat in the meeting house where they could be kept an eye. He lived in Springfield, Massachusetts and was granted 40 acres of land, fought during King Philips War, became a freeman and that some illness took he and his wife and many other people of Springfield in the winter of 1711/12.

ago by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+9 votes
For context I guess I'll just say that context actually came from recent documentary PBS has been putting on regarding country music.  During the show it reminded me of the great depression and the dust bowl affecting people all over the great plains.  As why that's relevant, I've been building my larger McDaniel family tree and I've seen on numerous occasions that people who were living in Oklahoma or Iowa had moved or vanished in the 1920-30s and appeared in Texas, Washington, and California.  Well now I know why, it was probably because their farm was no longer viable.
ago by Eric McDaniel G2G6 Mach 3 (32.7k points)
Eric, I've been watching that program also. I'd seen the episodes out of order. Just the other day I finally saw the first and, you're right, it provides so much "context," not just to the development of country music, but to the life our ancestors who would have been living at the same time as those profiled.
+9 votes

Why would people living in relative comfort in South Carolina travel hundreds of miles to settle in a relatively primitive area of Alabama in the 1830's? A large part of the context of my ancestors' move is the rise of Methodism in the United States. (None of my Dowling forebears have profiles for which I am manager.) Reverend Dempsey Dowling, my 4th great-uncle, seems to have been a persuasive preacher and others were caught up in his zeal for Methodism. His son-in-law Elisha Matthews had seen the land of southeast Alabama while serving during the War of 1812 and as a teacher to some of the earliest settlers there and he described the richness of the soil and the lushness of the timberland. Dempsey Dowling's sister, Jemima, had married Reverend Benjamin Hildreth, another Methodist preacher. (They were my 3rd great-grandparents.) So the combination of the yearning for more fertile lands on which to farm, more timber to harvest, and new populations to whom to preach Methodism spurred the Dowlings, the Matthews, the Hildreths, and other families to sell their land in Darlington, South Carolina and organize a "wagon train" to make the six-month journey to Dale County, Alabama where they settled and established a new life. 

ago by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (131k points)
Very interesting.  I read a dissertation last year by a grad student and she follows Quaker families as they pushed west every two generations or so.  It seemed, they came and settled an area, a town grew up, non-Quakers moved in and non-Quaker thoughs became mainstream and then the Quakers moved to wilderness to start anew.  Each time before they uprooted, we saw a lot of excommunications for marriage out of union.  Being a Quaker isn't easy, especially when there are competing faiths that are less stenuous.  The best way to keep the flock is to move to an area without competition.

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