"Of the builders and steerers of ships..."

Frederick Dillazone Ketchum (6 Apr 1811 - 21 Jan 1888), a maternal third great-grandfather, is one of my favorite ancestors, and one about whom I would love to learn more. He lived his entire life along the Great Lakes: born in Oswego, New York, then moving to Huron, Ohio, and finally retiring to Mackinac Island, Michigan. His origins are unclear, but he apparently began work as a ship's carpenter at an early age, then worked his way up to Master Shipbuilder, owning a shipyard, and receiving the honorarium "Captain."

O Captain, My Captain.

It is not known for certain who his parents are, although I believe his father was Elijah or Elisha Ketchum (abt 1871 - aft 1840). We know that Frederick was born in Oswego, New York; and Elisha appears on the U S Federal Censuses of Oswego prior to 1840. In 1840, both Frederick and Elisha appear on the same page of the US Federal Census for Huron, Ohio. Tracing Elisha's census information, it appears that Frederick had five siblings, but I have not been able to attach names to any of them.

Detail of the 1840 U S Federal Census of Huron, Erie, Ohio.
 Besides Elisha and Frederick Ketchum, other family names on this page who are
 (or would become) relatives of the Ketchums are Goodell, Cherry, Bennett, and King.

Since I have made the Elisha/Frederick connection, others have found a source that suggests that Frederick's mother might have been a much-married woman named Roxanna Billings (? - 13 Jan 1865), one of whose husbands was an Elisha Ketcham [sic]. Unfortunately, neither the dates nor locations of Roxanna's Ketcham match with the Elisha Ketchum who seems to be Frederick's father, so this--to me--has been satisfactorily disproved.

The question of Frederick's parents still unanswered, I am also fascinated by his middle name: Dillazone. I can only assume it is some sort of family name, but Google searches reveal no other Dillazones, not even as place names, or anything else. Another mystery. I am planning a Road Trip to visit the sites of Ketchum's life and attempt to learn more.

Although we do not know much about Frederick Dillazone Ketchum's antecedents, we do know a good deal about his career. He built schooners, and steamers, and brigs (oh my!), including Fashion and West Chester in 1846, Plymouth and Susquehanna in 1847, Charter in 1849, Sarah J Eason in 1851, and Aldebaran in 1852.

From the Sandusky [Ohio] Clarion, 2 Feb 1847
. Ketchum's "perfectly modeled" ship is probably the Plymouth.

Orion and Arcturus followed in 1853. Arcturus was notable for being one of the largest schooners on the Great Lakes for its time. Despite its size, its travails are typical of ships of the time. There is this, from the Buffalo Daily Republic, 9 Sep 1853:

     A GALE. - The Chicago Tribune of Wednesday says:- The wind commenced blowing a gale, accompanied with heavy rain, early yesterday morning. The white capped waves told plainly that the storm was felt on the lake, and a fleet of vessels from Buffalo and the timber ports were soon in sight and making for our harbor, like frightened birds. We notice the following disasters to the shipping:
Schooner ARCTURUS, from Buffalo, while endeavoring to make the piers at 3 P.M., struck on the south end of the bar, under full headway. The Captain let go his anchor, lowered his sails, and remained quiet until the tug SENECA went to his assistance at dusk, and towed the vessel into port. The ARCTURUS carried away her jib boom in St. Clair River, and was obliged to throw a locomotive overboard in a heavy gale on Lake Huron, to free her deck.

Yes, you read correctly: "throw a locomotive overboard." And that was just within Arcturus' first year. In December 1854, it collided with a propeller ship, Mayflower, and needed repairs. In 1859, "large repairs." Likewise in 1859, 1862, and 1876. By 1879 it was not insurable, and had changed hands numerous times. In 1881 it was repaired again, this time converted into a barge, which finally sank "wrecked, total loss," in 1888.

1854 saw Ketchum another ship of interest: Mount Vernon

Believed to be Mt Vernon.

Mt Vernon was one of the only propeller ships built by Ketchum, so consequently was through a partnership with an "itinerant" shipbuilder, Joseph Keating, about whom more later. Just a few years after its' completion, Mt Vernon, en route from Detroit to Buffalo:

exploded her boiler and became a total loss. Her stern was blown to pieces and she sank in 20 minutes, a total loss. The survivors of her crew climbed her rigging as she went down and were rescued by the schooners FOX and LOOKOUT.... Her wreckage was struck by several vessels in the months that followed, causing the loss of at least the scow OTTOCA of Saginaw.

Pages from a longer document about the Mt Vernon.
Left: Builders Ketchum & Keating ; right: Captain James Bennett was Ketchum's son in-law.

Last year, during a trip to Washington D C, I was glad I had already encountered (and remembered) Keating's name in conjunction with my ancestor. At the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History there was an exhibit, "On the Water," which went into great depth (you should pardon the pun) about the sinking of another of Keating's ships, Indiana. It was built in 1848, and sank in 1858, those dates book-ending the time of Keating's collaboration with Capt Ketchum on Mt Vernon. Although my third-great grandfather was not mentioned in the exhibit, it was still thrilling to see. You can take a virtual tour here: http://amhistory.si.edu/onthewater/exhibition/4_3.html

1855 brought Canopus, the apparently eponymous Ketchum ("masts carried away in a storm crossing Saginaw Bay," in 1860; capsized in 1861, sunk in 1864, rebuilt again in 1874, ultimately wrecked in 1883) and Live Oak. Shook and Clyde (again with Keating) were built in 1856.

Not pictured: later clippings describing Canopus' collisions with the brig
 Champion in 1857,  propeller Globe in 1858, schooner Collingwood
 in 1861;  nor running aground in 1863 and sinking in 1865.

The last known ship of Capt Ketchum's was La Petite, built in 1866, although the 1870 U S Federal Census still lists his occupation as "shipbuilder." A few years later, he retired to Mackinac Island, Michigan, where he lived with a daughter and son-in-law until his death in 1888, at age 76.

La Petite
Photo courtesy of Historical Collection of the Great Lakes,
Bowling Green [Ohio] State University.

Unfortunately, none of the ships designed or built by F D Ketchum have survived, at least above water.... (In researching my ancestor, I have learned there is an entire underwater underworld--so to speak--of shipwreck aficionados, who research, locate, dive for, and study sunken ships on the Great Lakes, whose fervor and attention to detail rival that of any genealogist; see links.) Typical of his era, all of Capt Ketchum's ships were lost to storms, sinking, collisions, and explosions. Happily, the eight children he fathered during those years fared better. But more about them next time....

1. Frederick Dillazone Ketchum (6 Apr 1811 - 21 Jan 1888), son of Elisha Ketchum and ?, married Mary Ann Cherry (17 Dec 1813 - 11 Nov 1853), daughter of John Wallace Cherry and Clarissa Adams, on 13 Feb 1835, in Huron, Erie, Ohio.

2. Caroline Clarissa Ketchum (30 Sep 1848 - 7 Feb 1920) married Phillip Jacob Runser (30 May 1845 - 22 Mar 1921), son on Philippe Jacob Runser and Anna Marie Brunner, on 19 Feb 1871, in Black River Falls, Jackson, Wisconsin.

3. Isabelle "Belle" Runser (21 Oct 1881 - 30 Mar 1960) married John Jacob "Jack" Severin (11Jul 1878 - 2 Jan 1965), son of Jacob S Severin and Anna Margaretha "Annie" Nissen, on 13 Feb 1903, probably in South Dakota.

4. Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jan 1997) married Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984), son of Clarence Edgar Brown and Cora Mabel Kinman, on 21 Oct 1933, in Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota.

5. Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010) married [Living] Burnett, son of Leroy Stanley Burnett and Hazel Lucille Erickson, on 4 Mar 1961, in Long Beach, Los Angeles, California.

6. Your humble blogger.

"...stuff'd with the stuff that is fine"

Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959), a paternal great grandfather, was by all accounts a very average man. His World War I Draft Registration card states that he was of medium height and medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair. The third of six children, he attended school, worked on his father's farm, and for most of his life lived just a few hours away from where he was born. His mother died when he was fifteen; he was not married until he was twenty-six, to Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891 - 15 Apr 1979).

Jennie Arleta Eaton Burnett & Alfred Nathaniel Burnett,
probably in the late 'forties or early 'fifties.
 It is the only picture I have of him.

He was hard-working all his life. After his marriage, he worked variously as a liveryman, machinist, farmer, and gasoline salesman. It was not until his forties that he could afford to buy, rather than rent, a home for his family. Even into his fifties, he was working sixty hours a week. His final job was as a night watchman.

He was the father of eight children. Like many of his generation, he lost one child, Irvin Claire Burnett (1919- 29 Apr 1922), very young; another son, Charles Victor Burnett (27 Oct 1914 - 7 Feb 1945) was killed in active duty in the Philippines.

Hewitt Cemetery; Hewitt, Todd, Minnesota.
 Photo by Phyllis.
Fort Snelling National Cemetery;
Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota.
Photo by Steve Edquist

Not particularly well-off, not especially educated, his life was not exactly exceptional. There was, at least, one bit of minor glory: his daughter Ella Jane Burnett (1 Jan 1927 - 15 Oct 2012) was the first baby born in Todd County, Minnesota, in 1927, although perhaps that reflects more credit on his wife....

Researching my great-grandfather, I did not find anything especially compelling about him. He was no doubt a fine and good man, but there was nothing that stood out; nothing, certainly, that would make him an interesting blog post subject. (Although that in itself might make for an interesting rumination; there are, by definition, far more mundane people and stories out there than otherwise: the quotidian as exemplar.... But I digress.)

So poor, ordinary Alf seemed unlikely to ever make it to this blog. Then just a few days ago, with the help of a cousin (thanks, Caralee!), I was able to knock through one of those brick walls that too often occur (especially in my Burnett line), and was able to push past one of his paternal second great grandmothers, Mary Polly Lombard (11 Feb 1874 - Jun 1822).

The key.

And that is when Alfred Nathaniel Burnett became interesting. Knowing who Mary Polly Lombard's parents were led me back several more generations, deep into Maine, then Massachusetts. Soon I was discovering Hamblins, Dunhams, Linnells.... But wait!--these names were already oddly familiar. As well they should be: they were surnames I already knew from Alfred's maternal side. Some (seated) legwork, lots of scribbling and flipping between pages, and at last it all became clear. Sort of.

Take a look: the first group of names are ten generations of Alfred's newly-discovered ancestors on his father's side; the next grouping shows ten generations on his mother's side.
10. Robert Linnell & Jemimah Howse   James Hamblin & Ann Scott    John Dunham & Dorothy Day   James Hamblin & Ann Scott
9.  John Davis & Hannah Linnell           James Hamblin &                   Mary Dunham                          John Hamblin & Sarah Bearse
8.  Joseph Davis & Mary Claghorn         Jonathan Hamblen &                                                            Esther Hamblin
7.  Capt Simon Davis &                         Priscilla Hamblen
6.  Zephaniah Harding & Mary Davis
5.  John Lombard & Priscilla Harding
4.  Aaron Colman & Mary Polley Lombard
3.  Samuel Squire & Lovina Colman
2.  Nathaniel Burnett & Rachel Squire
1.  Charles Burnett & Ella Swarts (see #1 below)

10. John Dunham & Dorothy Day
9.   John Dunham & Mary Smith               James Hamblin & Ann Scott                    Robert Linnell & Jemimah Howse
8.   Ebenezeer Dunham & Anne Ford        Eleazer Hamlin & Mehitabel Jenkins       Henry Atkins & Bethiah Linnell  
7.   John Doty & Lydia Dunham                Joseph Hamlin & Mercy Howland            Sam'l Atkins & Emmeline Newcomb
6.   Ebenezeer Doty & Mercy Whiton        Southworth Hamlin &                             Tabitha Atkins
5.   Amaziah Doty &                                Bethiah Hamlin
4.   Stephen S Doty & Polly Holmes
3.   Stephen Addison Davenport & Alma Holmes Doty
2.   Charles Swarts & Henrietta Davenport
1.   Ella Swarts & Charles Burnett

As we can see from the admittedly somewhat confusing chart above, Hannah ( side) and Bethiah Linnell (♀ side) are sisters; James (), John (♂), and Eleazer Hamlin (♀) are brothers; and Mary () and John Dunham () are siblings as well. Alfred has three couples who do double duty as his seventh or eighth great grandparents twice over.

Almost four hundred hundred years ago in Barnstable, Massachusetts--before the U S was even a nation--these various English families married and had children. Over two hundred years--and nine or so generations--later, with no apparent connection in between, two of their descendants met, fell in love, and had children of their own in Minnesota, not long after it became our thirty-second state. One of those kids was my great-grandfather. Wow.

Alfred Nathaniel Burnett: farmer, father, American... and a very special man.

Charles A Burnett (Feb 1856 - 17 Jan 1930) married Ella Swarts (1 Sep 1861 - Apr 1899) on 1 Sep 1879 (her eighteenth birthday!), at Spring Lake, Minnesota.
Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959) married Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891- 15 Apr 1979), daughter of Dor Henry Eaton (May 1869 - 31 Dec 1945) and Anna B A Miller (Jan 1867 - aft 1920), in 1909 in Minnesota.
Leroy Stanley Burnett (31 Aug 1910 - 11 May 1980) married Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002), daughter of Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948) and Johanna Maria "Marie" Svard (5 Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914), on 21 Jun 1933 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
[Living] Burnett married Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010), daughter of Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) and Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), on 4 Mar 1961 in Long Beach, California.
Your humble blogger.

"Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago"

In April I attended my first Genealogy conference. It was only my second family history event, the previous one being a family reunion I attended in 2011, about which I have posted elsewhere. Stephen had given me a membership to the Ohio Genealogical Society for Christmas, as well as registering me for the conference, held in nearby Cincinnati. Three days of learning, networking, and--perhaps--not feeling like the biggest genealogical bore in the room (appearing boring to non-genealogical friends and family being a recurring joke at the convention).

The big day came, Day One, and I really had no idea what to expect. I had pored over the syllabus, and chosen the sessions I thought would be of most interest to me. This year's theme was "Expanding Your Ancestry Through Technology," so there were--aptly--a couple of classes on blogging. Needless to say, I glommed onto those. And--from at least one class--learned that, apparently, I do very little right; something about my style. Nonetheless, I find digressive and discursive writing highly entertaining, and have no plans to change merely due to one instructor's opinion, albeit a famous and successful instructor.

Anyway. As it turned out, most of the folks leading the sessions were famous and successful, at least within the relatively small world of ancestral research. [Big leaves on a small family tree? There is a joke here, but it eludes me at present.] I recognized many of their names from bylines in Family Tree Magazine (I renewed); the founder of Roots Magic was there (I bought it), as well as the delightful fellow who runs Geneablogger.com (see badge to left). After a run through the vendor displays (stupefied by the seemingly endless array of tomes of minutiae with their inversely proportioned prices), I also bought a t-shirt that says "Genealogy: Life in the Past Lane," one of any number of whimsically phrased items from which to choose.

Along with the sessions on blogging, I attended one on using Facebook as a genealogical tool (versus simply a place to document one's every move, or forward "clever" memes about Jesus, wine, dogs/cats, or factually dubious political screeds....). So, being one with the zeitgeist, I posted comments on Facebook in "real time," as the kids say. Here are some samples:

    Thoroughly enjoyed the keynote speaker, but occasionally got distracted by the elderly woman in front of me: her continual tremors made me afraid she was going to shake off her wig. 

    DNA... it's not just for cheesy cop shows anymore.

    As interesting as the content is, I am realizing I like neither ballroom chairs nor fluorescent lights.

   You know you're a nerd when you get excited by a session about source citation formats at 8 a.m. on the third day...

   I (unfairly) think of cousin Moe and giggle every time one of the more pretentious speakers says "Jenny illogical."

And, in keeping with the theme of self-reflexivity:

I wanted to post on Facebook that my first session today is about posting on Facebook...

While hardly Nabokovian, it got a fair number of "Likes," and that must be worth something. And although I may be only so-so at tossing off terse quips, I am becoming something like a master at throwing out "Cousin Bait." For you non-bores out there (although, if so, I cannot conceive why you would be reading this) who wish to pick up some of the jargon, "cousin bait" is a term used by bloggers and others who pepper their blogs, Facebook posts, forum comments, and other such outlets with as many names, dates, and factoids as they can, hoping to snare other family members who may be doing an online search for family information. 

Providing one example of my success at cousin-baiting also means sharing a failure. In a previous post, I had conjectured that one of my fourth great-grandfathers, Eliakim Eaton (1800- 24 May 1881), had been married twice: first to Elizabeth Hart (9 Jul 1803 - 28 Oct 1874); next, to a woman known as Betsy E. I was quite proud of this theory, having based it on several things:

The photograph below, showing Eliakim's wife with different birth and death dates than Elizabeth Hart;

The troublesome monument.
Ludington Cemetery; Ludington, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Photo by Terri Woodford.

That Eliakim Eaton was shown as a widower on the 1880 U S Federal Census;

And that Elizabeth Hart was never listed as Betsy on any documents, and likewise, there was no evidence of a middle initial E.

Alas, it was totally wrong. But it made for excellent Cousin Bait. Two cousins independently came forward, Judy and Tom, to clarify a number of things, specifically that Eliakim had just one wife. Tom even provided sources and proof (although--ironically--one of the key pieces of evidence had its own mistake, an obituary referring to Eliakim as "Eliphalet").

The troublesome obituary.

Apparently the cemetery monument has been baffling Eaton scholars for years; astute readers will note that not only are Elizabeth's dates wrong, but so is Elipahlet's Eliakim's death date. Is there a cousin out there with an explanation?

Although providing helpful answers, Judy and Tom also brought up further questions. Tom pointed out that although Eliakim is understood to be the son of Nathaniel Eaton (22 Jan 1772 - 22  Sep 1860), there is no DAR/SAR-approved evidence that he is; nor that he is the brother of Elijah Eaton (22 Jan 1796 - 22 Feb 1877), Elisha Eaton (1798 - 12 Jan 1893), or Nathaniel Eaton (16 May 1803 -27 Mar 1884), all of whom are well-(and apparently accurately) documented. Anyone?

Judy's information was the more startling. Although I have written about the Eatons and Harts intermarriages elsewhere (a common occurrence of that period), I did not assume it led to any consequences other than general genealogical confusion. In an email, Judy casually mentioned that "[t]he 1870 census showed that Betsy [Elizabeth Hart] was insane. Also, Elizabeth Hart's sister is listed on the 1855 New York census as insane." Okay then!

Verifying this, I saw that the U S Federal Census for 1870 does indeed list Elizabeth Hart thus: "Eats opium. Insane." Her sister, Mary Polly Hart (9 Nov 1800 - 16 Dec 1891), who married Nathaniel Eaton--brother of Eliakim, Elizabeth's husband, is "insane" in 1855, but apparently back to normal by 1860. Perhaps she had laid off the opium by then.... I like to believe it was the drug use rather than any in-breeding that led to the insanity, temporary or otherwise, for obvious reasons....

Judy also offhandedly offered another provocative line of investigation, which I long to research further:

I have often wondered what went on in the hills of Ludington. My grandmother... did not like the idea of her boys growing up around the Eatons because she thought they were hellions. Her parents were very respected in Polk Co, Wisconsin. She went to her father and begged him to get them away from Ludington.

Hellions, drug abuse, insanity....

Genealogy may be many things, but boring?