Sunday, March 26, 2017

School projects and family history serendipity

Marion Taylor Bird driving "Shiwea"
29 March 1924 - Citronelle, Alabama
My son is reading The Great Gatsby at school and has an assignment to do a major project relating to that era. He is a car buff and so chose 1920s cars to research. Last week our family watched the PBS documentary on Henry Ford. Great program, and particularly interesting because my dad was born in Detroit.

 As he was working on his project yesterday, I had a very clear memory come to mind of a photograph of my grandfather (mother's father) driving a very interesting car. I found the photo and was pleased to see that it was taken in 1924: perfect for the project! We will have a nice print made to go on his project board. 

The serendipity gets better! Later that day I was documenting descendants of one of my dad's mother's ancestors, hoping to help an adoptee that is one of my closer DNA matches. After exhausting all the usual databases and coming up empty, I googled the woman's name and got a hit that was a snippet view of an obituary available on I signed up for the 7-day free trial and read the obituary (which turned out to be full of wonderful details about her siblings and children - score!). 

As I studied the obituary, I realized it was from a Detroit newspaper. My dad's ancestors have lived in Detroit since the 1870s. The Detroit Free Press via is a gold mine in you have Detroit ancestry! I quickly found obituaries for many Berger family members, as well as a variety of interesting news stories. (Might just need to add another website to the annual genealogy budget...)  Then I stumbled across this gem:

It seems clear Adolph Berger was kind of a character. My dad never knew his father, and he wasn't raised in Detroit, but there must be some of Detroit in the family DNA! Cars were important to my dad. My son (who carries his name, which is also Adolph Berger's middle name) has a passion for cars that would definitely make both my father and his father smile. 

If I hadn't been trying to help someone else find something, I would never have learned about my grandfather's connection to my son's Great Gatsby project!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Henrietta Keefner and the Diphtheria epidemic

Daily State Register [Springfield]
9 Dec. 1902, p.5.
NewsBank And/or the American Antiquarian Society,
2004. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.
There haven't been many epidemics that have impacted me in my lifetime. Over the past year or two, we have chuckled at the way doctors' offices and hospitals quiz patients about recent travels to West Africa. When my husband answered "yes" (following a business trip to Nigeria), no one seemed to know what to do. Ebola was a serious risk in a number of parts of the world, but not within thousands of miles of where we lived.

Diphtheria, on the other hand, was a very real threat to families and communities at the turn of the 20th century and for centuries before that.  A diphtheria epidemic in the Springfield, Illinois area took the life of my great grandmother's niece. Newspaper, census, and interment records help tell the story. 

"Diphtheria at Keefner Home - Contagion's Second Visit
There, Other Residences Quarantined."
Daily Illinois State Journal [Springfield]
11 Dec. 1902, Part 1 sec.: 4.
NewsBank And/or the American Antiquarian Society.,
2004. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.

Just days after Henrietta died, her older sister Elizabeth also contracted the disease. Because of the risk to others, such details were published in the local newspaper. Local board of health laws required that "all houses where either disease [scarlet fever or diphtheria] exists must be placarded for six weeks from the time the disease is determined."1

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dr. Plumer Morton Woodworth

I was finally able to identify another photo from the Warrenville Historical Society this evening. The mystery man with the long beard turns out to be Plumer Morton Woodworth, eldest child of Dr. Jacob and Ellen Douglas Bird Woodworth.

The clue came from a photo of Dr. Woodworth in later life, published in A History of the City of Chicago: Its Men and Institutions. Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens (p. 419) and available digitally at Google Books.

Take a close look at the two photos. Notice the hairline, the shape and set of the eyes, the nose, the ears.  I'm comfortable with saying that the unlabeled photo is definitely Plumer Morton Woodworth. This conclusion also fits with the photo's placement in the album. (It follows individual photos of Jacob Woodworth and Ellen D. Bird Woodworth.)

Dr. Plumer Morton Woodworth
about 1878
Dr. Plumer Morton Woodworth
about 1900
Like his father, Plumer Woodworth was a doctor.  He is mentioned in a number of family letters, including one written in 1882 by his grandmother, Louisa Goddard Warren Bird, to his uncles Byron and Henry Bird. (My connection to Plumer?  His grandmother is my third great grandmother, making him first cousin to my g-grandfather F.J. Bird.  Plumer did not have any descendants, and so passed some of his photos and a scrapbook along to F.J. Bird, which were eventually passed along to me. My collection of old family photos overlaps the Warrenville Historical Society albums, so I'm working to identify all of them.)

Plumer has something else in common with his father: an impressive beard!  The resemblance is really remarkable, beards included.

Dr. Plumer M. Woodworth
Dr. Jacob Woodworth
There is a photo of a woman taken at the same studio at what appears to be the same time.  (Possibly engagement or wedding photos?)  I'll venture a guess that woman is Plumer's wife, Esther H. Teare.  But that's a story for another day!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Peter Warren, and a Massachusetts Birth in New Hampshire birth records

"New Hampshire, Birth Records, Early to 1900,"
index and images,,
GSU Film #1001056: accessed 5 June 2012.
Daniel Warren
My 4th great grandfather Daniel Warren was an early settler of the town of Warrenville (DuPage county), Illinois near Chicago. In fact, the town was named for the Warren family.  Daniel was born in Massachusetts, but I discovered a birth record for him in the New Hampshire Birth Records collection at  

Oddly enough, the New Hampshire birth record gave his birthplace as Townsend, Massachusetts.  Why would a New Hampshire birth record list a Massachusetts town as a place of birth?  I read what I could about the database, then read more about New Hampshire and Massachusetts state boundaries, and still couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation.

Then I discovered the Town Records of Hancock, New Hampshire in a small collection of free records at (which used to be my favorite site,  Hancock was where Daniel Warren’s Massachusetts birth had been recorded, so I searched for him there and found two really interesting documents.  The first one was a hand-transcribed copy of an earlier record from the town authorities telling the Warrens (listing the parents and children all by name) to get out of town within 14 days! (This order is recorded on pages 39 and 40 of the volume Births and Marriages 1749-1821, 1788-1793.)
The “get out of town” order still baffled me, but I had recently seen similar records from Vermont for the same time period, so I knew it wasn’t really unique.  Thanks to Google Books, I think I have an answer, and more:

According to William Willis Hayward in his book, The History of Hancock, New Hampshire, 1764-1889,

"For a town to refuse to receive newcomers on the face of the transaction seems to have been an inhospitable act.  It was, however, the custom in those years. Persons warned out were not expected to leave.  If in after years they became dependent, it simply relieved the town of their support, or at least it was supposed to do so…  Many, who afterwards were known as being among the substantial citizens of the town, were among the number thus received, simply because they brought but little wealth with them.  No disgrace is therefore attached to the fact that any person was so received."

Hayward goes on to say something incredible:

"…No man was more respected than Peter Warren.  To him we are indebted for the almost perfect manner in which our early records were preserved, and in various ways he was a valuable citizen; yet he was one of those who were warned out, and in his bold and legible handwriting is the record of the fact preserved."

My 5th great grandfather, Peter Warren, was the one who wrote the records of Hancock, New Hampshire!  No wonder the birth dates of his own children, the ones born in Massachusetts as well as the ones born in New Hampshire, were carefully recorded!

This one-paragraph summary of the Peter Warren family in the records of the town of Hancock, New Hampshire, appears to be the likely source of the New Hampshire birth record that I found on
As I have pondered the significance of this connection (me using a digitized copy of what my 5th great grandfather painstakingly recorded with a quill pen more than 200 years ago), I feel a certain sense of responsibility to be a vigilant record-keeper myself.  Peter Warren’s efforts have blessed many lives.  His descendents became community-builders and community-leaders.  They were people of faith who valued education, freedom and opportunity.  (Those are claims I can support with the records, by the way!)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fourteen Women, Two Photos, and a Small White Ribbon

Clara Amy Smith Bird was born in 1841 in frontier Illinois. Her parents were Joel and Amy Bartholomew Smith, early pioneers of DuPage County, Illinois. This photo of her is dated 1891. I had the photo for quite a few years before I noticed the small white ribbon pinned to her dress. It didn't look like a piece of jewelry or other embellishment. Why was she wearing a white ribbon?

While scanning old family photos in Chicago a couple of years ago, I came across this picture of a group of fourteen women. There was no explanation of the grouping on the back of the photo, and I took it to be some kind of family gathering.

I'd looked at that image quite a few times before I noticed the photo that one woman near the front is holding. When I enlarged it enough to take a good look at the small photo in the woman's hand, I was amazed to realize that I had seen that face before! It was the same 1891 photo I had of my great-great-grandmother, Clara Smith Bird. Only then did I realize that ALL fourteen women in the photo were also wearing small white ribbons.

So what did the ribbons represent?

A quick Wikipedia search for "White Ribbon" lead me to information about the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1874 in Ohio. Frances Willard, a prominent Chicago suffragist, was elected national president of the WCTU in 1879. Clara and her husband Edwin R. Bird had many Chicago relatives, and likely traveled there on many occasions. E.R. Bird's parents had come to early Chicago from Chautauqua County, New York, birthplace of the US women's suffrage movement, and site of a WCTU pre-organizational meeting in 1874.

An undated newspaper obituary for Clara that I found in my great-grandfather F.J. Bird's album connects the two photos:

"During the twenty-seven years that she has resided in this city, she was identified with every work that had for its object the purity of society and the salvation of men. She was an active member and a staunch supporter of the W.C.T.U work. The cause of temperance was near to her heart, and by prayer and influence she sought to advance it in our city.... The obsequies held in Woodstock were in keeping with the occasion. The local union of the W.C.T.U. attended in a body."

Any good "find" generally leads to more questions, and this one is no exception. Now I'd like to identify all the women in the photo, and confirm that it really is the Woodstock union of the WCTU. I would love to know if my g-g-grandmother's Chicago and Chautauqua connections meant that she actually knew some of the leaders and reformers.

Tags : E.R. Bird , Clara A. Smith , Warrenville , Illinois , WCTU , White Ribbon , Woodstock , Temperance

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sophie Turns out to be Daphne!

This little pixie captured my attention because the picture had substantial clues (and darling little leather shoes), but not certain identity. The photo is part of an album belonging to the Warrenville Historical Society in Warrenville, Illinois. The album includes photos of Warren family descendants, including some of my direct-line ancestors. I had never seen the photo before (unlike some of the other photos, which were duplicates of photos that were part of my great-grandfather Frederick Joel Bird's collection).

What I knew: The photo was of a little girl named (I thought) Sophie who was three years old in 1896. That much was handwritten on the photo. On the back of the photo was the name and address of a photographer in St. Louis. What I didn't know was Sophie's last name and her relationship to the Warrens.

I tried searching HeritageQuest for little Sophie, but could not find anyone who matched the details I had from the photo. This week, though, all that changed. I had been doing some exploring on (FamilySearch Labs at the time I wrote this post) searching the new 1900 census index for others that I had been unable to locate through HeritageQuest or Ancestry. After a couple of attempts, I studied the photo more carefully to look for anything else that might help me identify her.

As I scrutinized the photo, I realized that I had misinterpreted the handwriting. The last two characters of the name weren't "ie" as in "Sophie." It clearly wasn't "Sophia" and I couldn't think of any other "Soph-" name. It was then that I realized the first letter was a D, and not an S. Viewing it as a "D-something" name with a "ph" in the middle lead me to "Daphne." Yes, it seemed to be Daphne, and not Sophie!

Well, still no Daphne appeared on the HeritageQuest 1900 census index. However, the 1900 census index gave me several possibilities. In the end, it was a dim recollection of a newspaper clipping I had seen in my g-grandfather's things that helped me identify Daphne. The census had one Daphne living in a household with both parents and grandparents. I would never have recognized any connection to her parents, but her grandmother's name struck me as familiar. Even though I can't find the particular wedding announcement I was remembering, it mentioned a marriage between a McKee and a Fisher. The albums that contained the photos had been donated by a McKee descendant. It made sense that the albums might contain photos of relatives other than Warrens.

The Daphne I found in the 1900 census was living with her parents Katherine F. and George M. Brown, and her grandparents, Daniel and Caroline Fisher. I searched the Illinois Statewide Marraige Index and found the marriage record (two, actually!) for Caroline (Carrie) McKee and Daniel Fisher. There are two listings, a year apart, in two separate counties!

Now that's a story for another day, if I can figure out why they are listed as having married twice!

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Tags : Warrenville Historical Society , Frederick Joel Bird , James McKee , Daphne Brown, Katherine Fisher Brown , George M. Brown , Daniel Fisher , Caroline McKee , Genealogy , Family History

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Looking for Lockwoods

Hattie W. Woodworth (1861-1948) was the daughter of Jacob and Ellen Bird Woodworth. In 1882, she married Henry Lockwood, a farmhand who worked for her family in McHenry County, Illinois. Hattie's grandmother (and my g-g-g-grandmother), Louisa Goddard Warren Bird, mentioned the marriage in a letter to her sons Byron and Henry in December of 1882:

"Hattie was married the 5th of Sept. to a Mr. Lockwood a poor young man we like him very much perhaps he may have 6,00 dollars laid by he is a farmer, worked for Eddie, a year before they were married, so they became well acquainted with him."

Henry and Hattie spent the first 30 years of their marriage in Illinois, and somehow ended up in California in the early 1900's. Henry died between the 1920 and 1930 censuses, probably in California. She died in Los Angeles in 1948.

Hattie was a cousin to my great-grandfather, Frederick Joel (FJ) Bird. In the 1940's, FJ Bird began corresponding with Hattie and several other cousins, collecting family history information. Between 1940 and 1947, she wrote more than a dozen letters to him. The letters are rich with details - a sister-in-law's passing; a granddaughter's husband gone off to war; commentary on the weather, grandchildren, and aging. Hattie's handwriting is distinctive, although not particularly easy to read. Each letter is a work of art with ruler-straight lines of carefully formed characters.

Some time after my g-grandfather's death, the correspondence files were passed on to his son (my grandfather) Marion Taylor Bird. Nearly 30 years went by, and then my grandfather retired and began his own effort to correspond with a variety of cousins and relations. Several years after my grandfather's death in 1980, my grandmother shared the files with me. I'm not retired yet, but I did end up waiting nearly 20 years before I began to study the letters carefully. (Something about small children and historic documents - not a good combination!)

Hattie and Henry had only one child, a daughter Bertha. At the time the letters were written, Bertha had three grandchildren. My guess is that there are living descendants somewhere who would enjoy reading these letters, too. Maybe they've never seen a picture of their g-g-g-grandparents, or maybe they have albums full that I'd love to see. Maybe one of those descendants has the other half of the seven year "conversation" my g-grandfather had with Hattie, since I only have her replies (not his letters to her).

So I'm off to find descendants of Henry and Hattie!
Tags : Warrenville Historical Society , Frederick Joel Bird , Jacob Woodworth , Ellen Bird , Hattie Woodworth , Henry Lockwood , Bertha Lockwood , genealogy , family history