Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Genealogy and What It Means to Me

Genealogy and What it Means to Me
by Lynne Wilson
    When my mother passed away in 1974, I found a large box of pictures that I had never seen before.  After looking through all of them, I realized they not only had belonged to my mother, but also my grandmother.  There were old pictures and documents dating way back in my grandmother's past; pictures of her when she was a child and up through her life, including pictures of her husband and their four children (one being my mother).  Among those documents I found a Wolcott family tree.  I was 39 at this time and genealogy had never entered my mind.  It was just a word to me.  After reading this hand typed record of my family from 1578 until 1935, I became very interested. 
    It is always a question of where to begin when a person gets ready to put together their family history.  I am no different.  Where do I begin?  With this document, written on several pieces of stationary from The Boot Shop in Billings, Montana, with a handwritten note that says, "Owned by Uncle Linus Shelton Wolcott", I proceeded to add as much family history as I knew and have been adding to it ever since. This Linus Wolcott was my grandmother's brother.
    Among my Grandmother's papers was a letter from a group called the Descendants of Henry Wolcott dated March 17, 1938 written to my grandmother.  The purpose for the letter was to inform her she was eligible to belong to the D.A.R.  There was an empty envelope addressed to Mrs. Mildred Chapman from L. S. Wolcott (I believe this was Linus, Evelyn's brother, who lived in Billings, Montana.)   
    We have all learned the immensity of the Internet and the information that can be found on this vast Information Highway.  I started searching for the Wolcott name and it was not long before I had made contact with distant relatives that directed me to the Society of the Descendants of Henry Wolcott.  I filled out my membership form on 12/9/1999 and joined with a lifetime membership.  The Wolcott family has had an enduring interest in their ancestry.  The first genealogical compilation was completed in 1881.  There have been several updates since that time.  They have published huge books on the history of this family.  Many projects have been completed through the years to keep this heritage alive.  The first gathering of the descendants was in 1907 and they made plans to complete the genealogy; restore the Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut; repair windows bearing the Wolcott coat of arms in the Old Church in England; restore two early cemeteries in Connecticut; and repair the tomb of Henry and Elizabeth Wolcott in Windsor, Connecticut.  The Society has been meeting every year since then (except the war years of 1918 and 1942-1945). 
   When Henry Wolcott left England in 1630 he carried with him a small wooden chest measuring twelve inches in length, seven inches in width, and six and three-quarters inches in height.  Its slightly curved lid exhibited the initials H. W. formed with brass nails.  Covered with leather and lined with paper, this deed chest contained Henry's valued papers.  The box and much of its contents exist to this day.  The box and the documents remain in the care of the Connecticut Historical Society.
    A favorite pastime of genealogists is to visit ancestral homes; walking the same ground as one's forebears adds a sense of reality to the persons known only through records.
    I knew there was a lot of my family history in the Midwest, so I planned to retire in Iowa in 2000.  My daughter lived in Russell, so I followed my dream and came to the state where I could continue my research while being close to my daughter and her family.
    After I was here a short time, I discovered the Lucas County Genealogical Society and joined the group.  Although I had no family history from Lucas County, they helped me immensely with ideas of how to do my research.  The Genealogy room at the Chariton Library is a very interesting place with all its histories, obituary files, school and church records.  There is always a volunteer who is willing and happy to help.  They certainly have helped me through the years.
   I remember occasional visits with relatives and some of the stories that were told.  One summer when I was around six, my brother and I spent several weeks at my Aunt's house in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  That was the summer when I was riding my bicycle and ran into a fence, which resulted in my falling off the bike and scraping my knees.  My Aunt and Uncle worked for John Deere in Waterloo.  The family was very close and gathered together for Sunday meals and lots of conversation. 
   These memories told me there was lots of information in Iowa to help me begin my research on the Stockdale/Salisbury side of my family. 
   On 9/23/2002 I visited my cousin in Reinbeck, IA.  We have the same great-grandfather, Stephen F. Salisbury.  Sisters, Florence and Bertha were his daughters.
   My cousin is full of stories about the family moving to Iowa.  He has lots of letters from our great-grandfather, Stephen F., written to his wife, Margaret, during the Civil War.  Here is where I learned the story of the Salisbury family and how they traveled to Door Creek, WI and later to  Reinbeck, Iowa.  Bill still has great-grandfather Stephen's Civil War musket, which he brought to Iowa to help protect his family from the Indians, which he later learned were not hostile.
   Stephen and his brother George Warren and their families all came out to Iowa together.   Stephen did not like farming and soon ended up in Waterloo and ventured into the woodworking business.  Almost all of the George Warren family lived with, near and around each other in the Reinbeck, IA area.  Bill took me to the property and I saw all the farmland they farmed and the house they lived in, which is still standing and being lived in today.  The house sits right on the county line road.  One side of the road is Black Hawk County and the other side of the road is Grundy County.  They lived on the Black Hawk County side. 
   Another story Bill talked about was regarding Carleton Salisbury, George Warren's son.    He went by horse back out to Idaho and obtained a piece of land in Bonneville County, Idaho.  Carl's canoe is now on display in the Grundy County Museum in Morrison, IA.  Carl wrote down everything he did in little journals.  These journals are also on display at the museum.  The homemade snowshoes that Carl made and used are also on display along with some other articles of Carl's, including his saddle.
   Many members of these two families are buried in the Lincoln Township Cemetery right next to the farm where the family lived.  It is a very small cemetery, but is very well taken care of by different family members still living in the area.
   Bill told of our great-grandparents living by the railroad depot.  Our great-grandmother Margaret rented out rooms while great-grandfather Stephen was away from home for long periods of time.  She rented to railroad dignitaries and let Carl have a room when he had ridden his horse in from Boise.  One time when Carl rode up to Margaret's boarding house, after riding for days without cleaning up, he rode across a neighbors yard.  This man was noted for yelling at the kids for walking on his yard.  The neighbor came out of his house ready to fight Carl for what he had done, but when Carl got down off the horse and turned to the neighbor and asked him what he wanted, the neighbor decided not to push the issue and turned and walked away.  The kids thought this was wonderful.
    On July 26, 2002, I visited Waterloo, IA to try and obtain more information.  I went to the Waterloo Library and looked at microfilm, which contained information about my paternal grandparents and great grandparents.  The information was on the Waterloo City Directories microfilm, dated 1888-1898 and 1899-1900.    There was no information regarding my grandfather on the next microfilm roll dated 1899-1900.
   I also spent some time at the Northeast Iowa Genealogy Association at the Grout Museum in Waterloo and obtained more information about the family. 
    On September 11, 2002, I went to Madison, Lake County, South Dakota.  At the Madison Library and the Karl Mundt Library, on the University Campus, I found many articles and obituaries about the Salisbury/Janssen families.  I was able to obtain burial records at the Elsworth Funeral Home and the Weiland Funeral Home.  At the Lake County Courthouse I was able to obtain many birth and death records.
   I then drove out to the property owned by the Salisbury families.  Located just below the Lake and McCook county line road.  I took pictures of as much of the land as I could see.  There were two farmhouses near the road.  According to a Janssen cousin, the Janssens still live on the same property purchased years ago by Henry and Nicholas.  She and her husband live on that land.  I then drove on down to Salem, SD to the County Courthouse.  I got copies of all the land records I knew about for the Janssen's and the Salisbury's.
    I later visited Montrose, SD.  It is a very small town.  I would guess the population is around 400 people.  I did not find anyone to ask questions of.    That was the end of my trip.
    From all these articles, obituaries, funeral records and birth records, I was able to get my genealogy started.  At home, I used the Internet and letters and emails from other relatives to fill in much of the other information I now have in my Salisbury Family tree.
    To me Genealogy is as important to a family as the historical data that is gathered for a country.  Researchers have worked very hard to gather the data for their families and to let it just end because future generations are not interested in continuing the history, is a shame.  Several members of my family have opened up an interest in this family's history and are trying to carry it on.

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