Libraries as a Resource

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Today, I want to highlight the importance of libraries in genealogical research. Often, local and university libraries hold historical collections that may prove valuable in your search.

The value of libraries is not limited to historical collections. The librarians are equally if not more valuable. More often than not they know local history and can point you in directions previously unknown to you.

I urge you to get acquainted with your local library.

Libraries may have indexes online of obituaries along with many other records.

Recently while researching for a friend, I came across the Lexington Public Library. What an amazing library.

I emailed them with an inquiry about an obituary. Within two hours they responded with a digital copy of the obituary and the front page of the newspaper.

If you have research to be done in and around Lexington check out the library’s website. I was highly impressed and want to say thank you to all the workers there.

Here is a few library do’s and don’ts for beginners:

  • Do be polite. A little politeness goes a long way.
  • Do be specific. Librarians are busy people.
  • Do look at their online resources before you make a personal trip to the library.
  • Do ask questions if you are not sure.
  • Do remember to thank the librarian.
  • Don’t expect a librarian to help you with your entire tree or even a whole family. Choose one or maybe two (max) individuals to research.
  • Don’t get impatient. Again librarians are busy people.
  • Don’t treat librarians as your researcher. That is not in their job description.

 

Libraries are a tremendous genealogical resource. Are you utilizing your local library?

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

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Tall Tales Debunked

 

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We all have stories that are passed down from our grandparents or great-grandparents. These tales have a way of enticing our imaginations.

All too often, as we dig a little deeper into these fantastic tales, they prove only partially true or not true at all. As a consequence, a bit of magic from our childhood evaporates. However, through research new exciting tales take their place. That is the real magic of genealogy.

Recently, my father asked me to check into a story told to him by a scruffy old logger from Alaska. His name was Jack Johnstone. The old logger’s story had inspired dreams of living the frontier life that lasted a lifetime.

When my Dad was fourteen years old, he and his father worked as loggers on the islands around southeast Alaska during the summer of 1968. While sitting around a campfire after a long day of work Johnstone told stories of his connection to Jeremiah Johnson, the famous frontiersman who was made even more famous by Robert Redford.

 

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Robert Redford as Jeremiah Johnson

As a child, I remember having to watch the movie Jeremiah Johnson over and over. As a consequence, the movie is forever committed to my memory.

It was apparent that the tales told to my father so many years ago still inspired his imagination.

Jack Johnstone of Ketchikan Alaska claimed he was a direct descendant of the infamous Jeremiah Johnson.

The first step in debunking or confirming this tale was to learn as much about Jeremiah Johnson’s life. Here is what I found:

Jeremiah Johnson, was in fact, born Jeremiah Garrison to Isaac and Eliza Garrison in July 1824 in Little York, New Jersey. He had a very rough childhood with a father that was abusive.

Isaac Garrison thought nothing of sending his small children out to work off his debts. Jeremiah had at least one brother who died while fighting during the Civil War and two sisters, both of whom had children.

Due to the abuse suffered during his formative learning years, Jeremiah grew up scrappy, a fighter and a survivor. A skill which would serve and hinder him throughout his life.

At the age of twelve, Jeremiah left home to work on a schooner hunting whales. After a while, Jeremiah became bored and joined the Navy. His violent nature got the better of him, and he knocked out his commanding officer. It was thirty days before Jeremiah could go ashore. Once on dry land, he disappeared.

Fearing reprisal of desertion Jeremiah changed his name to Jeremiah Johnston and ventured out into the wilds of the west. Trapping and gold mining became his new occupation.

He wandered all the way to California, then back to the east towards Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. As he went, he gained a bad rap as a violent drunk and was known to be a skilled fighter.

During his travels, he met up with his friend and business partner J. X. Beidler. The two men hit it off immediately. Together they started bootlegging alcohol to Native tribes.

In the 1880’s Jeremiah quit his rough and dangerous lifestyle, opting to become a lawman around Billings Montana. At the age of 70, he retired and took one last trip to Tombstone Arizona.

On his return, he took sick and was shipped off to Los Angeles California where he spent the last year of his life. He died in January 1900.

Of Note: At this time Jeremiah had no known children.

For a more in-depth look at the life of Jeremiah Garrison Johnston check out this website dedicated to this colorful mountain man.

 

Now on to the storyteller Jack Johnstone.

Jack was the son of Charles Roscoe Johnstone and Dora Ida Hanna.

Charles Roscoe Johnstone was born 6 Aug 1861 in Pineville, Kentucky. He was the son of Stephen Johnson of Virginia and Abigail W Johnson of Ohio.

Charles and Dora’s first child, Forrest, was born in 1891 in Kansas. By 1892 their second child, Frank was born in Saguache Colorado.

Wyoming was the Johnstone family’s next stop. There they stayed for at least three years before moving north towards Canada.

Jack Johnstone was born in 1903 in British Columbia. Three more Johnstone children were born in Canada before the family finally settled in the small southeast Alaskan town of Ketchikan around 1915.

In conclusion, there seems to be little to no evidence of a connection between Jack Johnstone of Alaska and the infamous frontiersman Jeremiah Johnson.

Jack Johnstone’s lineage is readily available to any researcher. His father was Charles Roscoe Johnstone.

Maybe Jeremiah Johnson was an uncle of Jack some may ask? A more distant connection is not the case. 

Jack’s grandfather was Stephen Johnson who was born in 1816 in Virginia and died in 1894 in Kansas.

Stephen was born eight years before Jeremiah Garrison Johnston and in a different state. Also, we must remember that Jeremiah’s original surname was Garrison. Stephen was born with the surname of Johnson.

The closest connection the Johnstone family has with the legendary Johnston is proximity. They were living in the same area at the same time.

Steven Johnstone and his sister Ruth were born in Wyoming in 1894 and 1896. Jeremiah G Johnston was a lawman in Billings during those years. There is a possibility that they may have crossed paths or at the least, the Johnstone family heard about the already famed man.

Unless Dora, Jack’s mother, had an unknown affair with Jeremiah, who was nearing seventy years old at the time, it is highly doubtful there is a blood connection.

It is easy to see how this story became a tall tale within the Johnstone family while sitting around a campfire after a long day of work with an impressionable teenager like my father soaking in every word.

Unfortunately, this tall tale is debunked.

Do you have a family legend you would like investigated? Maybe I can help. Check out my services page for more information.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

 

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Headstone of an Infant

 

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Image Source: FindaGrave

 

Helen E. Gurney, born in 1852, was the youngest infant daughter of Ebenezer Bourne Keen Gurney and Almira Jane Josselyn who were members of the Hanson Massachusetts community.

According to Massachusetts death records, Helen died on 7 August 1853 of a severe case of whooping cough.

She was only eight months and fifteen days old. She is buried with her family in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Pembroke Massachusetts.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

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American Legend – Cherokee Heritage

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When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that she was a 1/16 Cherokee. I thought having a bit of Native American blood was cool. It wasn’t until I started my research as a young adult that I question the validity of our said Cherokee ancestry.

I asked my mother where she got the story. It came from her mother. Then my mother showed me a picture I knew well. The lady in the photograph was my 2nd great grandmother Martha Matilda Morgan. She had beautiful long brown hair.

I remember spending long moments looking at the picture in one of the numerous albums on the carpet of my maternal grandmother’s house. My mother told me Martha looked Native American. She had to be the source of our Cherokee heritage.

However, through intensive research, I found no hints leading to a Native American ancestor. I was 95% sure that we had no Cherokee blood running through our veins. And yet, my mother was insistent we did.

Then came the DNA tests came. They held the secret to our heritage. My grandmother, my mother and I all took the Ancestry.com DNA test. All three tests came back negative for any Native American ancestry.

In my family history research, like many other genealogists, I have heard numerous stories like my own. Why is claiming Native American, in particular, Cherokee, so prevalent in the America?

The following article Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood? by Gregory D. Smithers who is an associate professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University helped to shed light on this subject.

Hopefully, it helps you to know why many of us have the I-am-part-Cherokee family myth in our histories: Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood?

 

 

Thank you for reading,

J. R. Findsen

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A Lazy Afternoon

 

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William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr.

 

Can you imagine anything more pleasant than lounging, back up against a blanket-covered rock next to a lazy river on a warm sunny day reading a magazine? Apparently, neither could my great-grandfather, William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr. I am not sure on the dating of this picture, most likely 1930’s.

The Pinkerton family had a painful past with rivers. William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr.’s father William Brown Pinkerton lost two older brothers, James Herbert Pinkerton (19 yrs old) and Edward Payson Pinkerton (18 yrs old) who drowned in the Iowa River the same day. William, only sixteen at the time, went in after them almost drowning himself trying to save them. Luckily, friends pulled him from the river in time. The tragedy of that day had a significant impact on his life.

Later in life, while enjoying a day of leisure with his family, William Brown Pinkerton decided to take a swim. He got in trouble and his son William, just a teenager, (the man in the picture) rescued him. Rivers were not friendly to this branch of the Pinkerton family.

A little bit about the family:
William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr. was born 14 August 1896 in Rock Rapids, Iowa to William Brown Pinkerton (b. 1861) and Agnes Ellen Gurney (b. 1867). He served in the Army during World War I in France.

A few years after returning to the United States he met and married Annabelle Evans on 5 September 1925 in Santa Barbara, California. Together they had three children.

The family moved to Southern Oregon where they settled. William died 23 April 1981 in Grants Pass, Oregon.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

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Henry Lang Moreland

 

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Henry Lang Moreland

 

Henry Lang Moreland, son of David Moreland and Isabel Lang, was born 8 August 1824 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

He married twice. First, he married Almira Jane Burr then Mary Margaret Belt. Henry had a large family, 11 children between the two wives.

He passed away 17 August 1907 in Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana at the age of 83 years old.

 

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J. R. Findsen

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Long Time Lawman

 

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Unknown Newspaper and date

 

Long Time Lawman

Burbank Police officer Paul Evans, right, the oldest member of the department, celebrates his 30th anniversary with officer Robert Stentz, who has been on the force for six months. Evans wears badge number 1 and joined the department in July of 1936.

 

Police officer Paul Monroe was the son of William Manson Evans and May Belle Moreland.

 

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J. R. Findsen

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The Bowens of Tazewell

 

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Captain William Bowen Plantation House
Built around 1787, the Bowen House is truly a Tennessee treasure. Captain William Bowen was awarded land grants for military services during the Revolutionary War. He and his wife, Mary, brought four young children to the frontier, and soon Captain Bowen and Mary had 10 children. Through his hard work and own ambitions, Bowen became prosperous in the new settlement and eventually owned over 4,000 acres. William Bowen died in 1804, and Mary died in 1827. The house was then occupied by their son, William Russell Bowen, until it was sold in 1835.

 

 

Reece Bowen was the brother to my sixth great-grandfather Henry Bowen who married Ann Cunningham.

The following account is from a book called A History of The Middle, New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory by David E. Johnston (1906).

The Bowens, of Tazewell

This family is of Welch extraction, and the immediate ancestors of those that came hither were, long prior to the American Revolution, located and settled about Fredericktown, in western Maryland. Restive in disposition and fond of adventure, like all of their blood, they sought, fairly early after the first while settlements were made in the Valley of Virginia, to look for homes in that direction. How early, or the exact date, that Reece Bowen, the progenitor of the Tazewell family of that name, came in to the Virginia Valley from his western Maryland home, cannot be named with certainty; doubtless he came as early as 1765, for it is known that for a few years prior to 1772, when he located at Maiden Spring, he was living on the Roanoke River, close by where the city of Roanoke is now situated, then in Augusta County, he married Miss Louisa Smith, who proved to him not only a loving and faithful wife, but a great helpmeet in his border life. She was ev idently a woman of more than ordinary intelligence and cultivation for one of her day and opportunity. She was a small, neat and trim woman, weighing only about one hundred pounds, while her husband was a giant in size and strength. It is told as a fact that she could step into her husband’s hand and that he could stand and extend his arm, holding her at right angle to his body.

 

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Maiden Springs

 

Prize fighting was quite common in the early days of the settlements, by which men tested their manhood and prowess. The man who could demolish all who chose to undertake him was the champion, and wore the belt until some man flogged him, and then he had to surrender it. At some period after Reece Bowen had settled on the Roanoke, and after the first child came into the home, Mrs. Bowen desiring to pay a visit to her people in the Valley, she and her babe and husband set out on horse-back along the narrow bridle way that then led through the valley, and on the way they met a man clad in the usual garb of the day-that is, buck-skin trousers, moccasins, and hunting shirt, or wampus. The stranger inquired of Mr. Bowen his name, which he gave him; proposed a fight for the belt. Bowen tried to beg off, stating that he was taking his wife and child, the latter then in his arms, to her people. The man would take no excuse; finally Mrs. Bowen said to her husband; “Reece, give me the child and get down and slap that man’s jaw.” Mr. Bowen alighted from his horse, took the man by the lapel of his hunting shirt, gave him a few quick, heavy jerks, when the man called out to let him go, he had enough.

It is also related of Mr. Bowen, that in a later prize fight, at Maiden Spring, with a celebrated prize fighter who had, with his seconds, come from South Carolina to fight Bowen, and when he reached Bowen’s home and made known to him his business, he, Mr. Bowen, did what he could in an honorable way to excuse himself from engaging in a fight; but the man was persistent and Bowen concluded to accommodate him and sent for his seconds-a Mr. Smith and a Mr. Clendenin. The fight took place and the gentleman form South Carolina came off second best.

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Just when Reece Bowen first saw the territory of what is now Tazewell County cannot be definitely stated. Whether he was one of the large hunting party organized of men from the Virginia Valley, North Carolina and New River, which rendezvoused at Ingle’s Ferry in June, 1769, and hunted on the waters of the Holstein, Powell’s River, Clinch, and in Kentucky, is not known; his name does not appear among the number, but the writer, “Haywood’s Civil and Political History of Tennessee,” does not profess to give all the names of the party. Nevertheless it is highly probable that Bowen was along, or he may have gone out with the party the next year, or he may have met with the Witten’s, and others, on their way out in 1771, and joined them. He seems not to have made his settlement at Maiden Spring until the year of 1772. He went with Captain William Russell’s company to the battle of Point Pleasant, in 1774, leaving home in August of that year, and leaving Daniel Boone in command of that part of the frontier. As already stated in this volume, Boone had been forced to give up his journey to Kentucky in September 1773, on account of the breaking out of the Indian War, and had spent the winter of 1773-4 in the neighborhood of Captain William Russell, near Castleswoods.

Captain Russell’s company belonged to Colonel William Christian’s Fincastle Regiment, the greater part of which did not participate in the battle of Point Pleasant, being in the rear in charge of the pack horses carrying provisions for the army; but Shelby’s and Russell’s companies went forward with the main body and took an active part in the conflict. Moses Bowen a relative of Reece, was with Russell’s company, but died on the journey, from smallpox. (Moses Bowen was Reece’s youngest brother. He died at the age of 20 years old.)

 

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Battle at King’s Mountain

 

From 1774 to 1781, when Reece Bowen marched away to the battle of King’s Mountain, the border on and along the Clinch was harassed by bands of marauding Indians, and in many of the skirmishes and troubles Reece Bowen took a hand. During the period from the date of Bowen’s settlement at Maiden Spring until his death, to procure salt, iron, and other necessary materials he had to travel across the mountains to Salisbury, North Carolina, carrying them on a packhorse, and would be absent for weeks, leaving his wife and children alone. His trips, however, were always made in winter, when there was no danger from the Indians. He left rifle guns and bear dogs at home, and with these his wife felt safe from danger, for she was a good shot with a rifle, often exceeding the men in ordinary rifle practice. Mr. Bowen had selected a lovely country for his home, and around and adjacent thereto, prior to the fall of 1780, had surveyed and secured several thousand acres of that valuable land, of which his descendants today hold about twelve square miles.

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When it was known that Lord Cornwallis’ Army was marching northward through the Carolinas, and that Colonel Ferguson, who commanded the left wing of his Army, had sent a threat to the “Over Mountain Men” that if they did not cross the mountains and take the oath of allegiance to the King, that he would cross over and destroy with fire and sword, Evan Shelby, John Sevier, and William Campbell determined to checkmate Colonel Ferguson by crossing the mountains and destroying him and his army. Colonel Campbell commanded the Washington County Military Force, and William Bowen (William Bowen was the brother of Reese Bowen) a company that belonged to Campbell’s Command, though a part of his company lived on the Montgomery county side of the line. In this company Reece Bowen was a First Lieutenant, his son John a Private, and James Moore a Junior Lieutenant. When the order came for Bowen’s company to join the regiment it found its Captain William Bowen, sick of a fever, and this situation devolved the command of the company upon Lieutenant Reece Bowen, who led it into the battle of King’s mountain, and there, together with several of his men, was killed and buried on the field. His remains were never removed, for the reason that when the opportunity was offered for their removal the spot in which he was buried could not be identified. Campbell’s Regiment lost in this battle 35 killed and wounded; among the killed, other than Lieutenant Reece Bowen, were Captain William Edmondson, Robert Edmondson, Andrew Edmondson, and Henry Henninger from the upper Clinch Waters.

 

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Colonel Henry Bowen, son of Reese Bowen

 

Reece Bowen has in Tazewell County many highly respected, prominent and influential descendants, among them Mr. Reece Bowen, Colonel Thomas P. Bowen and Captain Henry Bowen, all brave and distinguished Confederate Soldiers; the latter, Captain Henry, being frequently honored by his people as a member of the Legislature of Virginia, and a Representative in Congress. The present Mr. Reece Bowen married Miss Mary Crockett, of Wythe; Colonel Thomas P., Miss Augusta Stuart, of Greenbrier, and Captain Henry, Miss Louisa Gillespie, of Tazewell.

 

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Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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