Sunday, May 24, 2009

Because the Boat Rocked?

Note: Mildred Jane Thacker and Frances Thacker lived beside each other with their families in 1850. They, as well as their families, are listed as “mulatto” in this census. They married cousins Weatherfoot Napper and Nimrod Nicholas Thacker. Were Mildred and Frances cousins? Were they sisters? Why are the descendents of one white, and the other black?

Raccoon Creek starts softly in the southeast corner of Hocking County below the Hocking River. It travels down 109 miles flirting with Athens County and the northwestern tip of Meigs County. Full bodied it runs into Vinton County before it reaches the Ohio River just north of Raccoon Island in Gallia County. The creek has always attracted boaters and fishermen.

In 1857, a trio of men were enjoying the day, paddling a canoe on the creek near Hawks Station in Vinton County. Dennis McKinniss, Malachi Dorton and Weatherfoot Napper were all Wilkesville Township boys. According to the 1850 census, Malachi and “Wed” lived next door to each other. Conspicuous by his absence was another neighbor, Nicholas Thacker, the nephew of Malachi and cousin to Wed.

On another day, it could have easily been Nicholas in the canoe, with Wed back on dry land, but on this day, the men rowing the narrow boat were Dennis, Malachi and Wed. The account of the incident, found in “A Standard History of The Hanging Rock Iron Region of Ohio, Volume 1” is painfully sparse, stating only, “The last three men were drowned at Hartley’s Mill in 1857 by the upsetting of a canoe in which they were rowing.”

After the death of her husband, Wed Napper, Mildred Jane moved her family to Pike County where she worked as day laborer. Francis, the wife of Nicholas, stayed with her husband and family in Vinton County. Family tradition says that the Dorton, Napper and Thacker families were part Native American. This originally set them apart from their Ohio neighbors when they first arrived from Virginia.

Eventually, after many decades of living, working and marrying their white neighbors, those that stayed in Vinton County crossed the threshold of race and disappeared forever into the white community. This is what happened to Francis and her descendents.

In Pike County, however, it was the surrounding black community that opened its arms to Mildred Jane and her family. And so Mildred and her descendents passed forever into the African American community.

Two descendents, one black, one white, research the same branch of a family tree. Is it possible they owe not only the color of their skin, but their very existence to a boat that rocked and a canoe trip not taken?

The Postman Sometimes Comes Twice

The postman was very nice to me in the last two days. He gave me an envelope with four obituaries and one envelope from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Whoopee!

I know you are too polite to ask, “Terry, how much did all of this largess cost you?” But it’s okay. Go ahead - ask me. ASK ME!

A buck twenty cents is how much it cost me. That’s $1.20 for all of you specific types. The obituaries came from the Special Collections Division of the Akron-Summit County Public Library, which charges a $1.00 processing fee plus $.05 per copy. The payment is already in the mail and on its way. Thank you, Special Collections Division!

Today, I received the package from the USCIS. I’ve looked through it twice and there was no charge. Back in August, I challenged myself to do “7 Requests, 7 Days,” mainly because I am a devout masochist. This was Day 2 of my self-challenge marathon. I used the Freedom of Information Act to request the complete immigration file for each of my great grandparents, Emma and Leo Schrader.

Emma and Leo, who immigrated to this country from Germany in 1906, never became citizens. When World War I and World War II broke out, they were considered Enemy Aliens. The majority of registrations for World War I are no longer in existence, but there are some states, such as Kansas, whose records still exist. NARA has compiled a list of 5928 files, digitized them, and allowed access to them through ARC.

In today’s mail was Emma’s file. It is eight pages long. I made the request on August 5 of last year. On August 13, a new genealogical service went into effect at the USCIS. The new format charges $20.00 to do an index search. You now must have a valid USCIS file number before you can request a file. The file itself now costs an additional $20 or $35 depending on the type.

You must pay in advance, and if you request the file without a valid USCIS file number they will refuse to do the search and they will not refund your money. (If you already have a valid number, which luckily I did, you can skip the index search and save yourself twenty bucks.)

The date stamp for my request was August 19, so I wondered if I would get the request back, telling me I needed to go through the correct procedure. Fortunately, at least in the case of Emma, I did not, and instead of paying $20 or $35 dollars, I got mine free! (This helps dampen slightly my pain at having to pay NARA $75 for an ancestor’s civil war pension packet. No, I am still not ready to let that go.)

Below I have scanned all eight pages I received from the USCIS. You can decide for yourself, if you want to go through the process. To read more about the new genealogy program offered by the USCIS, you can click this link.

Until Next Time - Happy Ancestral Digging!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An Award - How Lovely

I was honored recently by two of my favorite genealogy blogging friends, Harriet at Genealogy Fun and Judith at Genealogy Traces with the One Lovely Blog Award.

I was particularly pleased to be so honored by these two ladies, who along with being terrific, talented writers, are also the essense of the lovely blog ideal. You'll see exactly what I mean when you go and check out each of their blogs.

Harriet has a unique, lovely background design which frames each of her posts. And she always has out the "welcome mat" for friends and strangers alike.

Judith Richards Shubert has a lovely banner, framing her blog. It's filled with beautiful family pictures and is quite stunning to behold.

So you can understand, why being named by these two wonderful ladies would be an honor.

I may have been tardy on my thank you, but I am touched none the less. Thank you dear friends, for thinking of me!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mikey Boy!

Ah, Michael, you are the child who is so unlike me. Sometimes I have looked at you in awe, wondering how it is that I have produced such a child. By the age of two, it was obvious that you had outstripped me in mechanical genius, when you took it upon yourself to replace a dead battery in the toy train engine, that had finally, blessedly gone silent after weeks of constant use.

You opened up the battery compartment of the toy, took out the old battery, went to the drawer where we kept batteries, pulled out the right size battery, put it in the correct way, closed up the battery compartment, and went toddling away with that pleased smile I’ve come to know so well and the train engine running, pressed noisily up to your ear. I watched the whole thing in shock. I, a woman who barely knew what a straight edge screwdriver was, had produced this child.

I remember one particularly trying day, when I had gotten out late from class. I had to pick your brother up at day care, you at preschool and your sister at elementary school. Nothing was going right.

We were finally on our way, racing across town to get to the elementary school when we were stopped at a railroad crossing waiting for an approaching train. You had been begging me to turn the radio on, which I finally had done. Now, you were tugging at my sleeve asking me to turn the radio off.

But, Mikey,” I said with all the exasperation I was feeling, “you just asked me to turn it on!”

Mommy, just listen.”

So, I turned off the radio, and did just that. Wrapped in the cocoon of our car, you and I sat listening in companionable silence to the clickety clack of the train. You with that silly precious grin pasted all over your face, and me suddenly engulfed by your pure sense of joy. There are so many little slices of the world that I would have missed, my son, had you not been there to show me.

Today is your birthday, Michael. I celebrate it not only for you, but for what having you has brought to my life. Happy Birthday, Mikey Boy!