The Internet is a tremendous--if perilous--resource for research, genealogy included. But there is much to be learned by venturing out, and something especially satisfying about visiting actual places that connect with your family history. With the rain coming down outside today, giving me an excuse to stay in and blog, I will set down some of the genealogical outings I've made in the last couple years.
While researching a maternal 3x great-grandfather on my grandmother's side, Frederick D Ketchum (6 Apr 1811 - 21 Jan 1888), about whom I have written often, I came across mention of a book, The Schooner La Petite: Journal of Captain Oscar B. Smith, reprinted from "Inland Seas" in 1970. La Petite was one of the ships Grandpa Ketchum built.
I found and purchased a copy--online--and promptly read it through, eagerly looking for bits about Frederick Ketchum. Alas, although he built the eponymous schooner, he does not figure into the book itself, a reprint of journals Capt Smith kept for several years during the late 1870s. Capt Smith (21 Sep 1835 - 14 Aug 1916), a longtime Huron, Ohio resident, does mention many other relations of mine, however, including George Cherry Ketchum (Frederick's oldest son); Minnetta Amelia Ketchum (George's daughter); James Vance Bennett (husband of Frederick's oldest daughter, Frances Mathilda, known as "Fannie,"), who owned docks on Mackinac Island; and even the Huron Lighthouse, run for many years by Minnetta's great-uncle, Richard Lloyd Mansell.
"Inland Seas," the magazine that reprinted Smith's journal, was established in 1945 by the Great Lakes Historical Society. I figured a visit to their National Museum of the Great Lakes was in order. I emailed first, letting them know my particular interest in the museum and familial connection to the lakes. I was thrilled to receive a reply that said
Did you know we have the capstan cover to a ship named for Mr. Ketchum on display at the Museum of the Great Lakes? It might be something you are interested in. There is a also a small section about his involvement in Toledo shipping, etc.
"Might be..."? How exciting! And Toledo? That was definitely new information about Frederick Ketchum. It was time to hit the road....
|At the museum, excited about seeing Grandpa K's capstan.|
Alas, when I got to the Museum, the aforementioned capstan cover was named for a different Ketchum--in fact, a Mr Ketcham. Toledo surprise, indeed. These near misses are becoming their own kind of family tradition....
Anyway. The museum is lovely, and we spent a couple very entertaining and informative hours admiring the exhibits.
Although the capstan cover was a disappointment, I was all the more surprised, then, to see they did have an interactive exhibit about La Petite, taken from Capt Smith's journal. The journal had led me to the museum, so it seemed the circle was complete, as round as a capstan cover, no matter to whomever it belonged.
|Different virtual bookmarks led to different pages; |
this one featured a picture of the ship.
Before leaving Toledo, we also stopped at the Toledo Botanical Garden, which was gorgeous, despite some rain. I got a picture with a symbolic family tree to commemorate the outing.
|Your humble blogger with "Monument to a Tree" (1994) by Carl Floyd.|
Inspired by seeing second-hand information about my family, I wanted to see if I could get a bit closer. A few months later, another Road Trip was ready to roll. Next stop, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
I began my trip at the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library. It was a large, wonderful facility, but I did not learn a great deal there of note, in part because I wanted to move on and see sites associated with my family.
I headed out to Lindenwood Cemetery, to pay respect to my 1st cousin, 3x removed, Minnetta Amelia Ketchum (2 Jul 1865 - 25 Aug 1953) and her husband, Frank Bursley Taylor (23 Nov 1860 - 12 Jun 1938). You may remember her name from a few paragraphs ago. She is Frederick Ketchum's grand-daughter, and features in Capt Smith's journal; she was a playmate of his daughter.
Besides being buried in Fort Wayne, the Taylors lived there for many years, when not exploring the geology of the Great Lakes, which you can read more about here. Frank Taylor's parents moved to Fort Wayne in 1859, and soon became one of the prominent families. Robert Stewart Taylor (22 May 1838 - 28 Jan 1918) was first a lawyer, and later judge. The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne (B.J. Griswold, 1947) referred to Judge Taylor as "the dean of the bar of Allen County." He introduced a bill to bring streetcars to Fort Wayne, and ran--unsuccessfully--for Congress twice; in 1881 he was appointed by President Garfield to the Mississippi River Commission.
Looking for the three homes the Taylor families owned in Fort Wayne over those years, I discovered that one was under a parking lot, ditto another, while the third was now just a vacant lot surrounded by houses. If nothing else, I wanted to imagine the tree was from their time, so I gave it a solemn pat and headed home.
|Erstwhile Taylor home, and possible family tree.|
My elusive ancestors.... I felt like I was getting closer, but still at a remove. Displays and empty lots are all well and good, but can't provide much context or elicit much feeling.
Itching to get on the road again, but not knowing where, a little digging in another branch of the family tree, ancestors of my maternal grandfather this time, led me back to Indiana, this time to the magically named Spice Valley.
My Conley kin came here from Ireland, the first to emigrate being my 6x great-grandparents, John Conley, Senior (28 Jun 1744 - 24 Jul 1798) and his wife, Sarah Wilson (16 Apr 1746 - 12 Jun 1824), although they probably did not marry until they were in the US of A. I know little about them (whether they met here or in Ireland, for example) until after they arrived, when, like a good many Scotch-Irish, they settled in North Carolina.
Son John Conley, Junior (30 Aug 1776 - 31 Jan 1853) was born in North Carolina, where he married Catherine Miller (15 Oct 1782 - 5 Aug 1845) on 7 Mar 1799. Eighteen years--and eight children--later, following brother Josiah Connelly [sic] (21 Aug 1783 - 20 Feb 1870), they had left North Carolina for Indiana, landing in the nascent Lawrence County in 1817.
The Conleys/Connellys, along with allied families, among them the Maxwells, Isoms, and Tollivers (all of whom are my ancestors), were a strong presence in the early years of the region. Josiah was the first constable of Spice Valley, others holding posts such as Overseer of the Poor, and School Superintendent. Another brother, Elijah Connelly (7 Jul 1779 - 28 Sep 1831), was the first deacon of the Spice Valley Baptist Church, established on 1 June 1822. The congregation met first in the barn of William Maxwell (1765 - 1832), a 5xgg, before a church was erected a few years later. Although the current church building is the third on that site, being built in 1888, the original cemetery behind it is filled with Conleys and Isoms.
It was fitting that I met my fifth cousin, twice removed, Susan there; she is descended from my ancestor John Conley's brother, the deacon Elijah Connelly. My excitement upon meeting her was tremendous, not just because I had driven around lost for an hour, but because she is the first relative I have met face-to-face through genealogy research, rather than knowing all my life.
We clicked instantly, and shared family stories, both pulling out charts to better see our connection. Then came the real treat: I followed her a few miles up the road to the farm that has been in our family for two hundred years.
|Conley farmland, Spice Valley.|
The current farm is on land originally owned by John and Elijah's brother Joel Connelly (10 Mar 1788 - 8 Jun 1853). Although the Conley/Connellys and their in-laws owned much of the area, this parcel is the last to have stayed in the family, despite many of the pioneer Connellys deciding in the late 1830s to move further west to Clay County, Illinois. Family lore has it that the Connellys and their kin, always clannish, felt that too many newcomers were moving into their valley; that side of my family--down to myself--have always been a mix of gregariousness and the desire for near-hermitic privacy.
Anyway. Cousin Susan gave me a tour, of the property, which has been given a Hoosier Homestead Farm designation by the state of Indiana.
|[I was so excited, I did not get a picture of their sign on property; |
this image--from a different farm--came from the web.]
We passed by a charming cabin, built in comparatively more recent years as a sort-of playhouse for the many boys in the family.
It had been raining, so we did not venture to the natural spring, but did pause for a picture by one of the barns.
I was captivated walking through fields that my family has walked for two hundred years. Pictures, exhibits, and stories are all wonderful, but there is something so forceful about really being there. Amidst a whirl of emotions, we reached our final destination, a small hilltop that is the resting place of many of our family.
Although weathered with age, here was the headstone of our six-times great grandmother, Sarah Wilson, who came from Ireland to America in the 1700s, joined her family on their pioneering move to Indiana in the early 1800s, and finally came to rest here, in Spice Valley, in 1824.
Several other generations of Connellys join her on the hillside. I have visited grave sites before, but this was special, knowing that the view I had in all directions was one they had shared.
Looming clouds and a long drive ahead meant it was time to say goodbye. Susan recommended I visit the Connelly Cemetery in nearby Marion Township, but I decided to save that for next time. We stopped and ate some windfall persimmons from an ancient-looking tree as the sky darkened. After a big hug from Susan, I got into the car, taking a few persimmons home with me.
In part, I wanted to share some of the Conley persimmons with Stephen, who was not able to join me on this trip. But I also had another idea.... I saved some of the seeds, and planted them this spring. Who knows if I will ever get to taste my own home-grown Conley persimmons, but I can at least enjoy, no longer symbolic or supposed, my own little family tree.