5 Year Old Edwin Lee Evans



Edwin Lee Evans


Edwin Lee Evans was born 2 July 1930 in Burbank California.

His father was Paul Monroe Evans who was a career police officer for the Burbank Police Department. Edwin’s mother was Jewell P. Shields daughter of Lawrence Wilbur Shields and Ethel Corine Taylor.

The picture dates to about 1935, making Edwin around five years old.

Almost certainly the location is near Burbank California. As with all children, in any era, he is showing off some of his best clothes while squinting into the sun.


Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

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Tennessee Marriage Record



Image Source: FamilySearch



Tennessee has surprisingly good resources for genealogy researchers. These include extensive marriage records. On Family Search (a free LDS site) has over a million records in their Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950 database. In this database, there are images you can view and save to your computer.

Looking at an image of the original document is valuable. You may find transcribing errors or pick up a tidbit of information that can help you in your research.

This database is invaluable for anyone researching their Tennessean roots.

The marriage record above belongs to Steven Kitsmiller Lowe and his bride, Pearl Myers. Their marriage took place on 23 June 1907 in Carter County, Tennessee.

Steven Kitsmiller Lowe was born 10 February 1881 in Carter County, Tennessee. He was the son of George J. Lowe and Jemima Jane Colbaugh.

Pearl Myers Lowe was born 20 August 1889 in Tennessee. I have not researched Pearl’s family, and I do not have much background information for her.

Steven and Pearl had two daughters, Edith (b. 1908) and Ethel (b. 1910) both born in Carter County, Tennessee

Around 1912, They family pulled up stacks and moved across the country to Southern California, Kings County. Making their home around the small town of Lemoore where they stayed for the rest of their lives.

If you are researching your family tree in Tennessee, take a look at the Family Search Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950 database. It is free and provides helpful information.


Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

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Ties From The Past


A few months ago, my daughter Elizabeth, freshly graduated from High school, left for an extended stay in Germany, eighteen months to be exact. Recently, she has taken up baking. To be honest, this new found interest in cookery caught me by surprise. Cooking and baking have a long tradition in my family of which, while growing up, my daughter wanted no part.

She also claims no interest in family history. Do you hear the sad sigh from my heart?

You can imagine my delight when she asked me for a couple of cookie recipes. She already had my chocolate chip cookie recipe which I got from my mother. Here was my chance to be sneaky by slipping in a family history tidbit while recipe sharing.

I sent her my great-grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe along with a short history.

She did not say anything about the small history lesson. However, she was happy with the recipe, although finding Cream of Tartar in Germany was an adventure. A few days later, she sent me pictures of the cookies.

She may not yet realize the significance of the sugar cookie recipe. It bonds her together with her 2nd great-grandmother Annabelle Evans Pinkerton, a lady she never met.

Food is a part of our genealogy. Recipes, cooking and baking techniques and flavor profiles get handed down from one generation to the next. My daughter is baking cookies for her friends with a recipe that is over 80 years old.

Someday, I hope she understands that she is a part of a living family tradition and one day passes it on to her children.

How often do we forget that food is a living history that connects us with our past?


Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

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Vintage Sailor Boy



William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr.



Children are adorable in any era. The little boy in the picture above is my great-grandfather, William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr. He is around four years old dating the photograph to 1901 in what is believed to be Iowa.

According to the United States Federal Census of 1900, William’s family is living in Newell which is a small town in northwest Iowa. Young William’s father, William Brown Pinkerton, was working as a minister for the First Congregational United Church of Christ at the time.



First Congregational United Church of Christ       Image Source: Buena Vista County Iowa Genweb


His mother was Agnes Ellen Gurney who came from an old musical family in Massachusetts. Agnes’s mother Mary Williams Orcutt was a trained singer. Her father, Ebenezer Henry Gurney was a music teacher. Her grandfather, Ebenezer Bourne Keen Gurney directed the first all brass band in the United States. Agnes’s great-grandfather, Thomas Gurney, was a composer.

William had a younger sister, Mary Louise, who was about two years old at the time. The family had a live-in servant named Ida Griffel who was twenty years old from Illinois.

By 1905 the Pinkerton family had moved to Wabasha Minnesota, 276 miles away from Newell, where they are recorded in the 1905 Minnesota State Census.

In the picture, William is wearing a sailor suit, which was very stylish in many parts of the world at the time, with high button up boots. Those boots are amazing.

It is hard to imagine that sixteen years later, William would enlist in the United States Army to fight in France during World War I.


Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen


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William Brown Pinkerton 1883



William Brown Pinkerton 1883


William Brown Pinkerton was the son of David M. Pinkerton, Jr. and Mary Ann Hitchcock. He was born on 16 August 1861 in Waupun Wisconsin.

In the picture above, William is about 24 years old, the year being 1883. His future wife, Agnes Ellen Gurney, wrote about William during this time in her later reminiscences:

“That fall of 1882 I entered the preparatory department of the college and the conservatory. I used to see a fine-looking young man walking past our house often and soon learned to recognize his quick, brisk step. Then I became acquainted with his sister, Lillie, and sometimes went to their home. Occasionally Will, a senior, or maybe Winnie, a high school boy, brought me home. I shall have to confess that before long my heart lost its steady rhythm when Will was near, and somehow no one ever was a competitor for my heart. But it was a secret which I never admitted to anybody for a long time, for you see I was only fifteen years old then — much too young to fall in love!
That fall of 1883 he went away to study at the Chicago Theological Seminary. He remained there three years, then transferred to the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover Massachusetts.”

According to Agnes’s account, the picture above probably was taken in Chicago Illinois.

Will and Agnes were not married for another seven years. Both were graduates of Grinnell College in Grinnell Iowa. They married on 25 June 1891 in Grinnell.

I have to agree with my 2nd great grandmother, Agnes, William was a good-looking young man.


Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

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Libraries as a Resource

lexington library

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



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.


jeremiah johnson

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



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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