Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Mystery of Lena Stanley Myers – Solved


We think. Over six years ago one of my hubby’s high school friends asked for help in finding out who her grandfather was. Her father was adopted, and he let the family know that he never wanted to know who is birth parents were. Years after his death, his children did want to know.

Our friend’s brother had a couple of documents that got us started, but it took a number of months (years) and much searching to figure out that the mother – Lena Stanley of Trumansburg, New York, but we could never be sure who the father was. We found out that Lena married Cornell prep school student Joseph Myers of Des Moines, IA, and that they had took a steamer to Texas for their honeymoon. These events were reported in the newspapers.

When Joseph’s father found out he had married, Joseph was pulled out of Cornell in Ithaca, NY and sent to Harvard. A year and a half later Lena had a child – our friend’s father.

The adoption situation of this child created questions. But the bigger question was – Who was the father of the baby born in 1906? We developed a number of scenarios.

The baby was born in February 1906; Lena and Joseph’s annulment proceedings were in the fall of that year. The annulment documents state nothing about a child. Instead, Joseph agreed that the marriage had never been consummated (remember the newspaper articles about their honeymoon cruise), and the reason was he was being treated for venereal disease at the time of their marriage. The annulment took place in a county away from where the couple would have been known. So many twists and turns to this story.

The mystery continued all these years, until recently when our friend’s brother had his DNA tested through Ancestry.com and someone contacted him with a close match. Our friend received an email recently with a photo attached – Here is your grandfather!

The man identified as the father is Gonzalo Martinez-Fortun, a Cuban, possibly in the area attending Cornell University. The census shows him living in Trumansburg, New York a couple of blocks from Lena’s residence. Gonzalo returned to Cuba 1 July 1905, eight months before the baby was born. His family suspects he never knew Lena was pregnant.

Our friend sent a photo of her father, and a photo of Gonzalo, and we can see the similarities.

And so another mystery solved. It took years of research and the miracle of DNA to finally five our friend the closure she desired.When Gonzalo's eldest grandchild was told of the story, she now wants to come to New York and meet everybody. What fun that would be.

For more on this story, scroll down and click on the links to Lena Stanley of blogs written In February and April 2011.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Frances Wortman and Madison Covert


Frances Wortman, second daughter of Lewis Halsey and Phoebe Ann Wortman was born about 1839 in Jacksonville, New York. In 1869 she married Madison Covert. Frances and Madison moved to West Troy, Albany County New York where Madison worked in manufacturing.  While there Madison’s brother Frederick lived with them.[1]  During their years in Albany Madison became involved in the Republican Party and was named their Fourth Assembly District delegate. He remained active in politics for many years.  Madison had also fought in the Civil War and attended reunions of his Company C of the 126th Regiment of the New York Volunteers.[2]

            Twenty years later when Madison was 63 and Frances age 61 they had been married for thirty-one years, had no children, and were living in Dix Township, Watkins Village, Schuyler County, New York. In 1900 Madison claimed he was a capitalist. 

            On March 20, 1907 the Elmira Star Gazette reported, “Mr. and Mrs. Madison Covert who have been among Watkins’ most esteemed residents have disposed of their handsome residence here and left for Newark where they will reside with their niece, but they will travel extensively for some time.”[3]  The 1907 Newark, New York Union reports that, “Mr. and Mrs. Madison Covert are now nicely located with Dr. and Mrs. D.D. Le Ferre’s. Mrs. Le Ferre is Mrs. Covert’s niece. He is a retired manufacturer.”

Frances and Madison continue to move and by 1910 we find Frances and Madison Covert living with their niece/nephew’s family in Horseheads, Chemung County, New York, Elbert and Claudia Mundy, and their son, Arthur M. Mundy.  Elbert and Claudia had been married twenty-seven years (1883) and he earned a living as a mail carrier.

            They did not continue to live with the Mundy’s however. By 1920 Frances and Madison had moved north to the town of Covert in Seneca County. By this time Madison is 83 years old and Frances is 80. They are now living with their grand niece of nephew, H.S. Miller (age 35), his wife Alice (age 29), and her mother Fran C. Miller, a widow (age 60). 

            Madison passed away in June 1920; Frances passed away November 1922.


[1] 1880 Federal Census. Frederick was age 16 at the time, born 1864. Fred Covert died March 1911.
[2] Fulton County Postcards – Newark, NY Union 1907-1908.
[3] Fulton County Postcards – Elmira Star Gazette

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Isaac Howell Obituary

Hubby is working hard on his Decker and Howell family of Cayuta and Sullivanville, NY. He has had incredible success working with the wonderful town clerks in these towns. 

In his research he came across a sad obituary in The Telegram, Elmira, NY, April 14, 1906.

This place was stirred Thursday by a report that Isaac Howell, a well-known and highly respected resident had died by hanging. Mr. Howell was about to change his residence and his household goods were at the time all in readiness for transfer and Mrs. Howell, looking out of the window, remarked to her husband that the man was coming to move them. At this remark, Mr. Howell exclaimed that he would not move and at once left the house. When his assistance was desired in a few minutes, he was nowhere to be found and a search revealed the fact that he was dead in a building near by. Several years ago, Mr. Howell lost his wife by death and since that time he has acted strangely at times since He was fifty-eight years of age, a veteran of the civil war and a carpenter by trade. He is survived by three sons and a daughter by his first marriage, Horace of Catherine, Harry of Newfield, Fred of Sullivanville, Mrs. Arthur Dickens of Newfield; his second wife to whom he was married some eight years ago and two little girls, aged six and four years; two brothers, Emmett of Horseheads; and Harry of Sullivanville. The funeral will be held tomorrow at this place and the burial will be here.





Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Baby Genealogist Grows Up – Part II


I spent the weekend celebrating Fredericksburg history by serving as a head hostess for the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc.’s 46th Annual Candlelight House Tour. Not the easiest of tasks as I was on my feet for 10 hours on Saturday, with five of those outside in 40 degree temps, followed by another six hours on Sunday. Over those two days we hosted 1400 people through the 1906 house that has a very interesting history – the original house was purchased in 1881 by a former slave, Hester Tuckson (widow of Abraham Tuckson). Pooling her husband’s Civil War pension of $31.00 a month and working as a washerwoman she was able to purchase the house for $600. After she moved to DC, Alpheus Wilson Embrey tore the house down and rebuilt it in 1906. During that process they discovered remains of a Union Soldier. That unidentified soldier was buried in Fredericksburg’s National Cemetery at Marye’s Heights.

With that responsibility behind me, I now focus on my own family history and continue to think about how best to organize/prepare my files for publication and for future generations.

I will continue to work on monographs for each family line, but also provide a segue into the next family for the larger volume that weaves together all my family lines.

My immediate task is to work on an overall index for the larger volume. Just this week hubby found a maiden name he has been searching for – Ennis. The name Cora Ennis popped into my head. Where did that come from? I looked in all the appropriate places and couldn’t find Cora listed anywhere. I will figure this mystery out at some point, and wonder if an up-to-date index would help in finding these elusive ancestors.

I do have a genealogy software program, but tend to write my family history first, and then when I have time I input the names, dates, etc. into my software. If Cora is indeed part of my family, she didn’t make it into the software program, poor girl.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Baby Genealogist Grows Up – Part I


I started to seriously research the various lines of my family in 1997. One of those lines was of my great-grandmother Laura (Wortman) Hardenbrook.  At the time an Internet search brought me to the Wortman line “documented” by a fellow researcher. I contacted him and he sent me the family chart which starts with William Wortman b: bef 1810 up through my grandmother Maude Emma (Hardenbrook) Agard.

The Wortmans of Jacksonville, NY
This was great! I copied the information from the chart into my Word document and started researching William and Mary (Gordon) Wortman’s eleven children. That was all well and good until this weekend, when I revisited this family line and found I had no valid citations as to how these lines are connected. When I was a baby genealogist, I had taken what another researcher had done (without citations of how he proved this family line) and had thought it gospel.

I have to start again – a genealogy do-over – and carefully trace this family line back through the census and then into books and archives to see if my Wortman line indeed goes back to the family of William and Mary C. (Gordon) Wortman, who I believe came to Upstate New York from New Jersey. This revelation was discouraging, but on the bright side, it forced me to pull out my original binder and read what I had written many years ago.

The good news – My Binder
My large 3 ring binder holds write-ups on my various family lines. I was pleased to see that I had a nice title page, a beautifully written introduction (featuring the genealogical lines that were united when my parents were married in 1941), a table of contents (organized starting with the earliest arrival of Rev. John Lowthropp in Barnstable, MA in mid-1600s to my Nunn/Doyle side arriving New York City late 1800s), disclaimer page, family and social history time line. Somewhere I have a medical history chart started as well. I will have to find that and include. My binder has separation tabs for each family line, some chapters have family charts, some have a draft index, and I have an overall draft index at the end.

I’m Encouraged
Although discouraged by the state of my Wortman family research, I am encouraged by what I have accomplished overall in writing my family history book. I have finished monographs on my Hardenbrook and Nunn lines. I've been working on the Tucker family, and now, of course, I'll have to add the Wortmans to my to-do list.

New Resources
What I love about genealogy is I keep learning new things, and I know I will never be done. Whether you are just starting or a seasoned researcher, take advantage of two new books: Genealogy Basics in 30 Minutes by Shannon Combs-Bennett and Planning a Future for Your Family’s Past by Marian Burk Wood. Both books are well written and reasonably priced. Both books found on Amazon.

Part 2 of this blog will discuss file folders, indexing, and decisions I have to make for the next steps. In the meantime, I wish you happy researching.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Writing your Family History


It wasn’t until I was asked to write a 600 word newsletter article about how to write a genealogy monograph that I realized how difficult that particular assignment was going to be. There are so many details to share that I didn’t know if I could accomplish it in only 600 words. But I did!

Our genealogical society recently sent out an opinion survey asking members what topics they would like presented at future meetings. The top subject in the returns was – Writing a Family History.

The challenge is breaking down this process step-by-step so those who are uncomfortable with writing, or have absolutely no idea where to start, are given that confidence. Over the winter I’ll work on a Keynote presentation about the different forms of sharing family histories. In the meantime, here is what I wrote for our society’s newsletter:

As genealogists we know that genealogy is more than names and dates. It’s about your ancestor’s lives. It’s about family stories that might or might not be true. It’s about social history and how your ancestor was affected by what was happening around them. In your research you will discover what they did for a living, their religion, what social organizations they belonged to and even health history.

At one conference we attended the speaker urged his audience to write up their family history now. Concentrate on one ancestral line; share it with family and repositories.  We are never done, but the information you have now (carefully cited) could help others in their research. An important benefit of writing your family history is that process will quickly tell you where the holes are in your research.

A monograph is a “written account of a single thing.” A monograph is similar to writing a book - to capture the reader’s interest, start with some interesting fact, character or event. I began my Hardenbrook monograph with a photo of my great-grandmother, Laura (Wortman) Hardenbrook and a quote I remembered her saying, “I will never give up the Hardenbrook name!”
Harry and Mary Nunn

I began my Nunn monograph with an “I imagine” prologue of what my grandfather, Harry Nunn, might have felt when he learned of his sister’s death:

“He sat down and closed his eyes as flashbacks of his childhood overtook him. They had survived, most of them, because of Lizzie. The acrid smell of unwashed bodies, dirty diapers, overcooked onions and cabbage in that small crowded Manhattan tenement came back to him like it was yesterday. Eleven babies had arrived; some didn’t survive.  Despite all this Lizzie cared for them when their mother couldn’t. Harry never mentioned his childhood. He didn’t remember much about his parents, but he never forgot the day the authorities arrived.”[1]

We learn later in the monograph that the “authorities” was New York City’s Department of Public Charities Out-Door Poor. Harry and his siblings, except Lizzie, were scooped up and sent to St. Joseph’s Home in Peekskill, NY. The story is tragic and it took me nine years to uncover it.

Once your readers are hooked, you then fill in the back-story, and write about what happened to each of the family members.

I develop a descendant line, and then research each family member, adding as much social history as I can find. Where they went to church, what organizations they belonged to, their occupation, and any other interesting facts.

Writing my Hardenbrook monograph I learned about the Willard Psychiatric Hospital (originally intended to be the location of Cornell University), and the Seneca Ordnance — that land was taken by the government at the start of WWII in a similar fashion as Quantico. Writing my Nunn monograph I learned about the number of children orphaned during the late 1800s, the orphan trains, and St. Joseph’s Home. In 2010 I was able to stand on the land where my grandfather and his siblings once walked and played. Was it coincidental that our visit to Peekskill was on All Saints Day?

A table of contents will help you stay on track. When you’re done, develop an index. If this is something you don’t know how to do, find someone who can help.

If you aren’t sure about a fact or what your ancestor might have done in a situation, you can always use the words probably, or I imagine …

Good resources are Producing a Quality Family History by Patricia Law Hatcher and You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack.

I am happy to help anyone wanting to write a monograph and with indexing.



[1] I imagine this scenario happened when Elizabeth died 2 January 1947.  Harry (Pop) kept his growing up years carefully concealed. The passing of Elizabeth must have affected him deeply.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Lesson Learned: Dates and why we should carefully cite those


Diaries of William Lanning Tucker (1839 - 1929)

I received another notice this weekend from FamilySearch.org that a date had been changed on my G-G-Grandfather William Lanning Tucker. Sigh.

With my Tucker family draft monograph in hand, I went to my FamilySearch Family Tree to see what exactly had been changed.  Another researcher in this family line had changed his birth year from 1839 to 1840. My monograph had his birth date as 19 September 1839. But where exactly did I get that? I have a number of citations, including his granddaughter’s “Black Diaries” and “Information taken from 1830 family bible pages,” but that was more of a general citation for William’s parents, Ezra and Caroline (Lanning) Tucker. I did not have a citation attached to William’s birth date per se.

We have been told that a citation should accompany every date. What a pain! But excellent advice since it saves time later when verifying where the date came from.

So last night I spent time going back through what my Great Grandmother, Jessie (Tucker) Agard had written from the Tucker Family Bible, where she had noted her father’s birth date as 19 September 1839 and then just to make sure I retrieved William Lanning Tucker’s diaries from the archival box.

William Lanning Tucker kept diaries from 1919 through his death in 1929. I picked three years and went to 19 September. On that date for each of the three years I randomly chose, he wrote that it was his birthday and how old he was. That brought the year of his birth back to 1839.

The confusing issue is the 1900 census that states the day and year of birth is clearly 1840.  I changed the date back to 1839 on FamilySearch, stated my sources and also wrote in that the U.S. Census for 1900 states the year 1840.

Is one year’s difference really that important? To me, no, not for that family tree. My monograph will have what I believe is his correct date of birth, and in the footnote I have already mentioned the census discrepancy.

Unfortunately, this is the same family line that was mistakenly merged with New Hampshire people. Hopefully that won’t happen again, but now I know how to reverse the information back.

This time was not wasted. It is good to have someone challenge your information. It makes you go back and double check where your information came from. In the midst of the thrill of the hunt, you (or I particularly) can make mistakes. Typos happen as you sleep, and even when you are awake. This situation also prompted me to pull out William’s diaries again. They are small books, and he doesn’t have much relevant genealogy information, but I realize I need to scan through them all for the hidden gems or births and deaths and other family activities.