His legacy

I have three big obsessions: sewing fabric bags, tracing my genealogy, and supporting Ethos Pueblo. Lately my genealogy obsession has been primary since I discovered a trove of early English wills on FamilySearch. Many of the testators were helpful when they wrote those wills, explaining exactly who each person is.

Thomas Robinson of Lancaster, merchant, the nephew of my late wife.

My wife Ann Walker’s first husband’s children.

Thank you. From reading these wills, I’ve been able to fill out my tree, correct some errors I made, and even get back one or two more generations on a few branches.

Some of the wills also tell a story, but the story isn’t always clear.

My 5 great grandfather Robert Roskell was a farmer in Overton and then in Cockerham, Lancashire, England, born about 1734. This area, north of Manchester, between Preston and Lancaster, was largely agricultural. The River Lune, flowing southwest from Lancaster, separates Overton and Cockerham with broad sand flats. My ancestors were prosperous farming families, prosperous enough that they left wills.

In 1758, at age 24, Robert married Elizabeth Grey, who was 21. I have identified seven children of this marriage, all baptized at St Helen’s church in Overton, Lancashire. Robert’s wife Elizabeth, or Betty, died at age 51 in 1788. She was buried in the churchyard of St Michael’s church in Cockerham.

Robert outlived his wife by over 15 years and may have felt the challenge of raising his children alone. When Robert’s wife died, their daughter Sarah (my ancestor) was 27 years old and already married with three children of her own, their daughter Betty was 24, I cannot trace their son John who would have been 20, two children had died young, and the two other surviving children were girls, Mary aged 12 and Dorothy aged 9. Robert may have felt responsible for getting Betty married (four years later she did marry) and for raising Mary and Dorothy. Sadly, in 1794 Mary died at age 18. Now the household was just Robert, aged 60, and his youngest daughter, Dorothy, aged 15.

On 16 Feb 1801, when she was 21, Dorothy’s natural son Robert Roskell was baptized at St Michael’s church in Cockerham; no father was named. 

Over a year later, on 28 August 1802, Robert Roskell wrote his will; his daughter Dorothy and her son Robert are his only descendants referred to by name. He directed that the interest from a legacy of twenty pounds be given “unto my Daughter Dorothy towards the bringing up and Maintenance of her son Robert Roskell until he attain to the age of twenty one years …” He wrote that he had given a bond to the parish of Cockerham in the amount of 100 pounds “to indemnify the said Parish against the said Robert Roskell Son of my said Daughter Dorothy ever becoming chargeable to the said Parish.” Next he wrote, “Now it is my Will and Mind and I do direct and order that my said Daughter Dorothy shall from and out of her share of the Money to arise from my Effects indemnify and save harmless my other children and their Issue from all costs charges Damages and Expences that may at any time happen to arise or be made on account of my having given the said Bond.”

Was Dorothy taken advantage of by some man or had she made unwise choices? Was her father showing strong love for her and her child by ensuring their support? or was he acting to protect his other children from having to support them? I think he was probably doing both.

Robert Roskell died less than a year after writing that will and records show that the executors he appointed were duly sworn so probably the terms of his will, including the fund for the maintenance of his grandson, were followed.

Just over a year after her father died, when her son Robert was four years old, Dorothy married Joseph Proctor, a farmer, and they had at least five children. I cannot confidently trace her son Robert.  

A stone in the cemetery at St Michael’s church in Cockerham reads:

Treasured memories of Elizabeth, wife of Robert Roskell, who died February 24th 1788 aged 51 years.

Also Mary, daughter of the above who died November 9th 1794 in the 19th year of her age.

Likewise of Robert, husband and father to the above who died May 21st in the 70th year of his age.

Someone had “treasured memories” of Robert, enough to add these lines about him to the stone.

100 years ago today

One hundred years ago today, on 4 October 1923, my father, seven years old, arrived in Boston on the Cameronia with his mother Annie and his sister Mary. They were emigrating from Scotland to join his father and his three older siblings, who had made the voyage across the Atlantic six months earlier and settled in Brooklyn. My grandmother had decided that economic opportunities for her children would be better in the new world.

Dad’s limp was a problem since he had been diagnosed as affected by tuberculosis of the bone and he would be allowed into the US only after an inspection. If he were not allowed to stay, the plan was to send him back to Scotland to be raised by his eldest sister, who had remained behind with her new husband. Dad always resented the P chalked on the back of his best blue suit by the inspectors to indicate throughout the landing process that he had been passed to stay. He maintained a healthy hatred of Boston from that episode.

At first the family lived with Uncle Willy McBride, Annie’s brother, in his small bungalow, and then they got their own place. They were disappointed by the new world, where oranges did not, as Uncle Willy had told them, grow freely on the trees in Brooklyn.

But the family had help. At one point, Dad shoveled coal for the furnaces in three apartment buildings, in return for a reduction in rent. His 8th grade principal saw potential and sent him to take the test that led to his admission to Brooklyn Technical High School. My parents had $2 in their pockets when they returned from their honeymoon in the Catskills using a borrowed car. After they had my older sister, they lived for several years in an apartment in the house of a large Italian family, the Itris. The Frasers stayed in the US because they didn’t have the money to go back to Scotland, and when they did, well, things were looking up, weren’t they?

My grandfather, a tailor and an alcoholic, did not give up the drink as his wife had hoped he would in the new world, but his children were hard working, and they thrived.  Dad, the youngest, was the only one of his six siblings to go beyond an 8th grade education, but Ness became a fine fur buyer for Lord & Taylor, Jean a seamstress for a Fifth Avenue tailor, Mary an executive secretary in a Wall Street firm, and Bill a mechanical engineer by on-the-job training. 

Unlike my father, my mother was born in the US, but she was the daughter of an immigrant; her father came from England in 1911 at age 24. He married the daughter of one of his work colleagues and their four children also prospered. My cousins include an emergency room physician, a PhD in molecular genetics, a retired chief engineer for Nabisco, and a director of regulatory affairs for a medical manufacturer.

Perhaps because of my immigrant roots, I have a fascination with the movement of people and with the things they took with them. My grandmother brought this thimble with her in 1923.

My partner, Mark, and I used to explore Ohio woods when we lived in Columbus, searching for traces of the old canals and locks. Now that we live in Colorado we’ve become interested in old trails. We just returned from our second symposium of the Santa Fe Trail Association, this one held in Independence, Missouri.

We worried that this Association would be white people talking about white people’s history, but it is much more diverse than that. James Pepper Henry, vice president of the Kaw Nation (or Kansa tribe, after which Kansas is named) gave a fascinating and moving talk about the Grandfather Rock. Before being forcibly moved from Kansas to Oklahoma in 1872, the tribe often visited this 24-ton boulder on the banks of the Kansas River. In 1929 the rock was moved to Lawrence, Kansas, and, adding insult to injury, had a plaque affixed to it commemorating the hardships faced by white people crossing the plains.

In 2020, the Kaw Nation requested the return of the rock; the Lawrence City Commission said “yes,” and the Mellon Foundation is funding its relocation to Allegawaho Park near Council Grove, Kansas, on land now owned by the Kaw Nation. There are many more fascinating details to this story and the park is beautiful (we visited it on our way to the symposium).

I write this post to honor my grandmother for her foresight in moving her family and to ask you to reflect on the past, present, and future of migrants. I find wisdom in the work of HIAS (originally the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society)  and the advice of the United Nations.

My tree full of Annies

When my father married my stepmother in 1991, Helen brought a dachshund named Megan to that union. When Megan died, they adopted another dachshund and named her Annie. When my father told me this name, my first thought was: he named his dog after my grandmother? But my second thought was: he named his dog after his own mother; if he isn’t offended, I shouldn’t be either.

As I have filled out my tree, I have found many Annies related to my father, including his mother, his grandmother, and his sister (called Nan, perhaps to distinguish her from the other Annies). In addition, his mother’s cousin was Annie NEILSON, and there were two more Annies, his aunts on his father’s side.

When I remarked to him that he had many Annies in his tree, he agreed and said it was confusing, but I loved what happened when I told him about Annie Louise HANDLEY WALKER, who was married to his grandmother’s brother, William WALKER. I explained to Dad that William had been a seaman and must have met his wife in Ireland since they married in Cork, had children there, and then moved to Glasgow about 1900. My Dad laughed and said: she must be Cork Annie! He had heard his mother and grandmother talk about Cork Annie (even after the family came to the US in 1923) but never knew what the phrase meant. Now we knew that Cork Annie was so named because she came from Cork and that was how she was distinguished from all the other Annies.

Mark and I have adopted this method of distinguishing among people with the same name. So, for example, we have Pueblo Arleen (who does Mark’s hair) and Columbus Arleen (Mark’s cousin, sadly, his late cousin as of last year). We highly recommend this method of referring to people.

Of course, many families reuse names, to the consternation of genealogists trying to keep everyone straight. Before Glasgow, my FRASER / FRAZER roots are in County Roscommon, Ireland, (and then back further in time to Scotland), and the favorite male name was Archibald. Dad thought he was lucky to have been named John after his mother’s brother, not after any of the many FRAZER relatives named Archibald. My great grandparents were Richard FRAZER and Jane FRAZER, second cousins, and both their fathers were Archibald FRAZER.

I was named Jane because, my parents told me, they liked the name, not because I was named after anyone. But my research has shown that my father’s sister, known always as Jean, was baptized as Jane, and I have two great grandmothers and one great great grandmother named Jane. I like the name, too.

Nicknames or name variations are sometimes recorded in documents; my aunt used Jean on legal documents throughout her life; it was only when I found her birth certificate in Scotland that I learned her name was actually Jane.  Polly, Molly, Jack, Sandy, etc., can be nicknames for Mary, Margaret, John, and Alexander. Or something completely different.

Surname spellings vary. My FRASER / FRAZER ancestors used both spellings in Ireland (where FRAZER is the common spelling), then used mostly FRAZER while in Glasgow (perversely, since the Scottish spelling is FRASER), and then switched to FRASER when they moved to the US. Go figure.

The lesson I draw from all these examples is not to get hung up on having names match exactly but also not to assume that finding someone with the same name as your relative means you have actually found your relative.

I’ve been reading the excellent book Mastering Genealogical Proof, by Thomas W. Jones, available from Heritage Books. The five components of the standard include answering a research question through (1) thorough searches, (2) informative citations, (3) analysis and comparison of the sources, (4) resolution of conflicts, and (5) a written statement supporting the answer to the question. Similar names and discrepancies in names can create problems with no simple solution except care; this book is teaching me how to exercise that care in genealogical research.

Finally, here is a Life Pro Tip: When your parents are in their 80s and get a puppy, that dog is going to be yours some day. Sure enough, when I flew to visit my parents after both had medical episodes in the same week, I ended up buying a dog carrier and taking dachshund Annie home with me.

She became loved by my partner Mark and me. She was not loved so much by our other dog, Maude, named – you’ll love this – after my other grandmother. And, to be honest, Annie was often rather annoying. We sometimes speculated that “dachshund” is German for “pain in the neck.” I have decided that should we ever – please no – end up owning a dachshund again, we will name her Nervensäge (literally “nerve saw”), which Wiktionary tells me IS the German equivalent of “pain in the neck.”  

High class grifters

r/family_history - High class grifters in my tree. Litigious high class grifters.

Genealogy is my hobby and since I am now retired I am spending HOURS tracing my ancestors. I have been working on getting more information on my 5x great grandparents Samuel STEVENSON and Cecilia MILLAR from Scotland. They were, I think, high class grifters. He was a merchant and a Burgess in both Glasgow (1726) and Edinburgh (1742), which is very establishment – being a Burgess was a big deal.

So what did he sell? He made an excellent living selling Anderson’s pills, which seem to be quack medicine. A Dr Anderson developed them in the 17th century from a secret recipe from Venice. How did my Samuel get the recipe? Cecilia, before she married Samuel, worked for the family that made Anderson’s pills and it seems she stole the recipe; she was actually fined and imprisoned for selling the pills in Edinburgh.

Samuel and Cecilia married in Edinburgh about 1722, had 3 children there, then moved to Glasgow, where Cecilia died in 1728. That same year Samuel started marketing the pills. By 1736 he moved back to Edinburgh and in a 1739 ad actually bragged about Cecilia stealing the recipe: “… Tho. Weir only communicated the Secret to his Spouse, who out-lived him; and Mrs. Weir was assisted in making up the said Pills, for several Years, by my deceas’d Spouse, who revealed the Secret to none but myself, after Mrs. Weir’s Death. …”

Samuel traded insulting ads with Mrs Weir; at one point he likened her to a snake. At some point he lost a lawsuit brought by her (I am still trying to get those details). But he made enough money that he left a complicated will with money going regularly to his 5 grandchildren, who ended up suing each other after his death. That lawsuit dragged on for years. It came out in the lawsuit that one of the grandchildren (another Samuel STEVENSON, a surgeon and my ancestor) was not considered fit to administer the affairs of his not-quite-right sister Cecilia, so the cousins had to do it. That Samuel was known to be bad with money apparently.

One of the other grandchildren, Samuel Stevenson GRAHAM, became the Lt-Governor of Stirling Castle (a big deal) and is buried there. His biographer claimed that Cecilia (his grandmother) was related to some posh MILLARs, but I am beginning to suspect she lied because I cannot find that connection (and that MILLAR family is filled with ministers who I cannot believe would associate with my people). An early member of the other MILLAR family was actually the wife of John KNOX. I am not making this up.

Then there is the lawsuit by Ann McILWRAITH against her husband, Samuel’s son Alexander STEVENSON (another surgeon), to declare that the couple actually was married (although there doesn’t seem to be any record). They must have reconciled since they had 5 children (including my ancestor the second Samuel STEVENSON) after that lawsuit. Ann’s father was Andrew McILWRAITH a semi well known portrait artist and a Burgess in Edinburgh in 1735. And Andrew’s wife was Ann MOSMAN, the sister of William MOSMAN, another portrait artist, who some say was of Jewish descent.

There seem to be other lawsuits about various properties owned or in the possession of Samuel and his son Alexander STEVENSON; I am trying to figure all of those out.

I think I have enough material for a TV show. But who would believe it? I hope you find it all as amusing as I do. I just wish my father (who was born in Glasgow) were still alive because he would think this was all really entertaining.

WEBER/WEAVER siblings in the 1800s in Ohio

I am tracing the ancestors of MW, who is descended from Henry G WEBER, born 1825 in Germany and died 1901 in Ohio. In this post, I describe my evidence for the hypothesis that Henry WEBER had at least three brothers and one sister who also moved from Germany and who also settled in Ohio. I first describe the evidence from DNA and then describe other evidence that links these five people.

I have access on Ancestry to the DNA matches of MW and his half-cousin AS, whose relationship is shown in the figure below.

The five people I believe to be siblings are:

  • Peter WEAVER, b about 1812 in Germany
  • William WEAVER b 19 Oct 1813
  • Magdalena WEAVER, b about 1822
  • George WEAVER, born Nov 1823
  • Henry WEBER, b 24 Jun 1825 – ancestor of MW and AS

While Henry used the surname WEAVER in the 1840s and 1850s for civil records and WEBER for church records, he and his descendants then stuck with the German WEBER. The other four similarly used WEAVER for civil records and WEBER for church records in their early days in the US, but their descendants used and still use the surname WEAVER. Most search engines do not return records with surname WEAVER when the surname WEBER is searched, so I believe these siblings were hiding in plain sight.

For the first WEAVER, Peter, I have no DNA evidence of a connection to Henry. I present evidence later for why I include him in this list. For the next three, I have DNA evidence of a connection to Henry, using the DNA of MW and AS on ancestry.com

The DNA evidence for the second, William, is shown in this figure, showing a match (in cM, or centiMorgans) of MW or AS with descendants of three of William’s offspring. Surnames of William’s offspring include LEMMEL, MUTCHLER, SNYDER, STRANG, SMITHHISLER, WANDER, and HUNTER, primarily in Holmes County.

The DNA links with the third WEAVER, Magdalena are shown below. MW or AS has links with three descendants.  Surnames include HEATER, RICKETTS, DEAN, SHEPARD, and BROOKS, primarily in Logan County, Ohio.

The links with the final WEAVER, George, are shown below. MW and AS have links with three of George’s descendants; MW and AS both link to one of the descendants, BR. Surnames include HENRY, KESTER, PITTS, and SULLIVAN, in Logan and Champaign Counties, Ohio.

All these matches are in the expected range of cM for the relationship, according to the table from the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). For example, AS and LN are fourth cousins, which has a range of 0 to 127 cM, a range that contains their actual match of 13 cM. As shown in this table, again from the ISOGG, there is approximately a 40 to 50% chance that fourth cousins have no shared DNA.

Because Ancestry does not have a chromosome browser it is impossible for me to determine if these matching segments are on the same portions of the same chromosomes. For example, I don’t know if the 11 cM that MW and AS share with BR, the descendant of George WEAVER, are the same 11 cM. Most importantly, some other explanation could exist for all these matches, but the sheer number of matches makes it likely that these five people are related to each other. If not siblings, they could be cousins. 

In addition to DNA evidence, I also have evidence of some interactions among these people. In this list I use WEBER or WEAVER as used in the original document.

  • In 1846, a Magdalena WEBER was the witness on the baptism of Magdalena, the daughter of Peter WEBER and wife Dorothea. This baptism took place in St John’s Lutheran Church in Holmes County, Ohio. (This church is listed in ancestry.com records as located in Greer, which is just into Knox County from Holmes County, but I believe the church was actually located in Holmes County, at the location of what is now called Kaylor Ridge Cemetery; see map below.)
  • In 1847, Peter WEBER was a witness on the baptism at St John’s of Caroline WEBER, daughter of William WEBER and his wife Salomea SPRANG.
  • In 1849, Wilhelm WEBER was the witness on the baptism at St John’s of Wilhelm WEBER, son of Peter WEBER and his wife Dorothea.
  • In the 1850 census, Peter WEAVER is in Richland Township, and William WEAVER is in Knox Township, Holmes County. These are adjoining townships.
  • In 1851 the second child of Henry WEBER and his wife Magdalena SCHMIDT, Magdalena WEBER, was baptized at St John’s. A witness on that baptism was Salomea WEBER, nee SPRANG, wife of William WEAVER. Magdalena was the only child of Henry baptized in that church.
  • Peter WEAVER and his wife Dorothea SPRANG and William WEAVER and his wife Salomea SPRANG attended St John’s church for decades. All four are buried in the church’s cemetery, now known as Kaylor Ridge Cemetery, in Holmes County.
  • In 1875, Caldwell’s Atlas of Holmes County shows adjacent lands owned by W WEAVER and P WEAVER in Knox County, south of St John’s Church. Other similar maps exist for other years, showing Peter and William living nearby each other. Note the church in the top left corner of this map, now the site of Kaylor Ridge Cemetery.
  • In 1882, the third child of Henry WEBER and Magdalena SCHMIDT, Jacob Frederick WEBER (1853-1920) married Caroline SCHNEIDER, a member of St John’s. Henry WEBER and family had moved from Holmes County by the time of Jacob’s birth, but must have kept in touch for decades.

These facts indicate a close connection, I believe, among Peter WEAVER, William WEAVER, and Henry WEBER. Thus, despite the lack of DNA match to descendants of Peter WEAVER, I include him in the list of relatives, probably siblings.

The following county map shows that the five people all settled in areas around Franklin County, Ohio. Henry WEBER settled in western part of Franklin County. Peter and William WEAVER lived in Holmes County, northeast of Franklin County. Magdalena and George WEAVER lived in Logan and Champaign counties, northwest of Franklin County.

Source. Licensed under a GNU Free Documentation License.

I am now working on tracing forward more descendants of the four WEAVER families. I am also tracing backward in time from all five to try to determine the WEBER roots in Germany. I welcome feedback from people related to any of these families. In this blog, I have obscured the names of recent descendants, but I will share that information with people who can help me with this research.

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