November 26, 2014

Do You Have Favorite Family Members?

Minnie Smith age 12

Are there favorite family members you like to research or write about?  Until someone else posed this question, I hadn’t really given it much thought just who I seemed to write about the most.  I think about several of my ancestors quite often though, and wish that I could have met them.

Minnie Smith Yates

I’ve written about my two grandmothers before in Growing Up Grandma-less where I explain how much you lose when you never get to know your grandmother.  I think about my Grandma Minnie Yates quite often, especially now that I have two granddaughters of my own. What would I have learned from her? I wonder…

Donald, Helen, Joan, Jeane and Joyce Moline

My maternal grandmother, Helen Nordgren Moline, had a very short life, but she left us with a mystery.  Well, several mysteries.  She was killed by a hit and run driver as she stood on a corner in Seattle in September of 1929.  At the time, she was already living away from her husband, two adopted children and three biological daughters.

In 1930 Grandpa Moline and the three girls are living with another young woman in the house, presumably the adopted daughter.  But where was the adopted son Donald Moline?  And, why two adopted children when they had three girls? Did Grandpa want a boy so bad to carry on his name that he wanted Grandma to keep having babies till she ‘gave him one’, and when she had my mother, the youngest and another girl, did they decide to adopt?

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There are plenty more people for favorites in Jim’s family too:

Henry Skaggs, one of the “long hunters” who ( I was told) had an unnatural relationship with his granddaughters.  He’s not my favorites because of that, just the long hunter part because he was one of the pioneers who went into Kentucky with men such as Daniel Boone.

My husband Jim is a descendant of Henry Skaggs through Henry’s marriage to Susan Scott. Their daughter Nancy Skaggs married Peter DeSpain. Of that union a son, John DeSpain married (3) Mariah Perkins. John and Mariah’s daughter Mary Elizabeth DeSpain married John W. Whitmore, a Medal of Honor recipient in the Civil War. The DeSpain and Whitmore families settled in Des Moines County near Pleasant Grove, Iowa.  Peter DeSpain and Nancy Skaggs had 19 children.  I know she probably had no choice, but I sure admire that woman!

Mariah Perkins DeSpain

Who are your favorite ancestors? Let me know by leaving a comment, please.

Tombstone Tuesday: The Wilkersons of Pleasant Grove, Iowa

George Wilkerson gravestone

Headstones of Joshua, George and Amanda Wilkerson

Back in 1995, Jim and I thought we hit the jackpot when we found this cemetery at Pleasant Grove, Iowa.  It’s located at Shinar Cumberland Presbyterian Church not far from the now deserted town of Pleasant Grove where so many of Jim’s Wilkerson, Whitmore, DeSpain and other allied families settled in the 1840’s.  These three headstones are in what they call the ‘old’ section of the cemetery which runs alongside the road to the church.  Further along that road was the old town.

The reason we thought we hit the jackpot was that we were looking for Jim’s GG-Grf Joshua Wilkerson and we didn’t know it at the time, but the George Wilkerson was ‘our’ Joshua’s younger brother, and the headstones for Amanda and Joshua are for George’s children.

Using Census Records To Trace Family Migration

Joshua Wilkerson (Sr.) was born in Delaware in 1812. We don’t know when he married, but he left DE with his brother George b. 1814 and George’s wife Margaret (Lamar) (both also born in DE) most likely in the mid to late 1830’s and settled for a time in Indiana.  We know this because later Iowa census records show some of George’s children having been born in Indiana.  Checking census records is a good way to trace a family’s migration patterns.

Joshua Goes To California To Look For Gold

George and family settled in Washington Township in Des Moines County and stayed there for the rest of their lives.  Not so with the elder Joshua Wilkerson! Looking in the 1850 census for Iowa in the Pleasant Grove township there was no trace of Joshua.  It looked like he had perhaps helped George and family move to Iowa when the state opened up for settlement and then he was called by the lure of Gold.

Our family story is that Joshua, as a single man, went off to California to find his fortune.  His descendants that still live in that part of Iowa tell of Joshua coming back with thousands of dollars, but that over time he made bad loans and ended up with a chest full of IOU”s.  We know there was a ‘fortune’ because his daughter’s sued for a portion of it.

In looking at some old Hawkeye newspapers for that time frame I found that two of the DeSpain family also were on a train to the gold fields.  In 1856 Iowa had a special census and I was able to find Joshua again, this time living with the Bedwell family who also happen to have been born in Delaware and two of their older children were also born in Indiana.  The really surprising thing in that census record was that Joshua was listed as a widower, age 44.

I’ve not established yet whether or not Joshua and the wife of Samuel Bedwell, Mary, were related, or just someone Joshua might have known in Indiana.  Either way, he was single with no children and we were just shy of the beginning of the Civil War.  I don’t think that Joshua served in the war, and he married his second wife Sarah Jane True 22 March 1860.  Their first child, Elizabeth was born eleven months later in 1861. Eight more children were born to Joshua and Sarah Jane, the last in 1875.

That day in the cemetery we searched in vain for headstones for Joshua and Sarah Jane.  Knowing we were wrong to think the others mentioned at the beginning of this story, it wasn’t until we got to know a descendant that lived there, Jim’s cousin Anita, did we find out they had no headstone.  Soon after, we began asking Jim’s family to chip in to buy one and the result is the stone you see above.

If you would like more information on this family, please visit Ancestry and search for Wilkerson and Allied Families or try this link to the tree.  Visiting trees on Ancestry is FREE.

 

 

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