Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Christmas Heirlooms: 52 Ancestors, #60

This one is overdue ("Heirloom" was last week's prompt), short, and not about a new ancestor. But I already blogged about my one real heirloom – an Ingraham mantel clock – in part 2 of my series about my grandfather in the original 52 Ancestors challenge. So I decided to write about some special mementos from my mother.

Each Christmas, my father would bring home a Christmas tree. Somehow it always turned out to be just a little bit too tall for our nine-foot living room ceiling and had to have the trunk trimmed a few inches. And then we'd decorate the tree. ("We" being Mamma and us kids. Daddy got the tree and set it up. The rest was up to us. There was a clear division of labor.) I don't think "themed" trees had been thought of back then, and if department stores had aisles of color-coordinated ornaments and lights, I never saw them. The boxes of decorations that had been there forever (as far as I was concerned) were brought down from the top shelves in the shed, and we began.

There was a strict order to follow. The lights went on first, ancient strings with huge bulbs and aluminum star-shaped reflectors. A few bubble lights, about 6 inches long. I'm pretty sure none of them were UL-approved. Next came the tinsel garlands and paper chains, wound around the branches between the lights. Then it was time for the glass and paper ornaments: large ones first, distributed evenly around the tree, and then the small ones to fill in the spaces. Last was the strands of tinsel or "icicles," which we were supposed to install one by one all over the tree. (We usually ended up stuffing handfuls onto the branches.) Some of that tinsel was real metal (possibly lead) foil, slowly replaced over time with static-clingy plastic ones.

The most precious of my mother's treasured ornaments were the small silvered glass balls – less than an inch across – in red, green, blue, silver, and gold. Scarce in wartime, they had been bought for Mamma and Daddy's first Christmas together, and were to be handled with the utmost care. But she also proudly displayed the ornaments that her children made for her at school, like these "bells" made from paper egg carton wells, painted and sprinkled with glitter.

The silvering in the balls is pitted and dulled with age, and some of the delicate wire hangers have been lost and replaced by clunky new ones, but Mamma was still hanging them on a downsized tree long after we had grown up and left home. I now have one of the two boxes, as well as the egg-carton "bells," in my own ornament collection. How many generations does it take to make an heirloom, anyway?

(This post was inspired by the "Heirloom" prompt for Amy Johnson Crow's 2018 "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Valentine's Day Marriage: 52 Ancestors, #59

Valentine's Day has been around for a long time, and while I don't know if it was because of that association, at least half a dozen couples in my collateral lines chose the 14th of February to get married.

The most recent of these Valentine's Day marriages (that I know of) took place 131 years ago, when my third great-granduncle Thomas (Damase) Robida took Caroline Mariage as his second wife on 14 February 1887.

Thomas was the youngest child of Jean-Baptiste Robida and Divine Louise Girardeau, born 29 Mar 1833 in Pointe-du-Lac, Quebec.1 At 23, he married Louise Brown on 16 Sep 1856 in Saint-Micolas, Levis County.2 (Two of Louise's sisters married two of Thomas's nephews, Joseph and Hubert-dit-Philibert, sons of Thomas's brother Joseph. Joseph was the oldest child, 18 years Thomas's senior.) They lived for several years in Saint-Camille, Wolfe County, Quebec, but by 1869 had moved to Stoke in Richmond County.

Thomas and Louise had seven children (at least; there's an eight-year gap between Thomas and the twins where I haven't turned up any baptisms, highly unusual for a French-Canadian Catholic family):
  • Louise (b. 1857, probably d. young)
  • Marie Lumina "Lumina" (1858-1914), m. Joseph BeauchËne
  • Marie Louise Délinas "Délina" (b. 1860)
  • Thomas Oliva "Thomas" (1861-1902), unmarried
  • Martiel Alfred "Alfred" (twin, b. 1869)
  • Rose Victoria "Rose" (twin, b. 1869)
  • Jean Alphonse "Alphonse" (1873-1941) m. Léda Benoit
Louise died 23 Apr 1885 and was buried in Saint-Philémon-de-Stoke Parish cemetery.3

Almost two years later, Thomas remarried on Valentine's Day 1887, at Saint-Jean-Baptiste church in Sherbrooke.4

Marriage of Thomas Damase Robida and Caroline Mariage, "le quatorze fevrier mil huit cent quatre vingt sept"
 His second wife, Caroline Mariage, nearly 20 years his junior (and only 9 years older than her oldest step-son Thomas), immediately began providing him with a second family, giving birth to seven children over the next eight years:
  • Marie Victoria Antoinette "Marie"(b. 1887), m. Zacharie St. Cyr
  • Marie Rosa "Rosa" (b. 1889), m. Joseph Marchand
  • Unnamed son (1890-1890)
  • Marie Anne Emérance "Emérentine" (1891-1917), unmarried
  • Jean-Baptiste (b. 1892), m. Alexina Robidoux
  • Unnamed son (1894-1894)
  • Marie Louise (b. 1895), m. Honoré "Henry" Longchamp
Thomas died, probably in Stoke, sometime between 12 Aug 1912 (when his daughter Marie Louise married, she was described as "fille mineure de Thomas Robidas" - not "feu Thomas")5 and 15 Oct 1917 (when his daughter Emérentine was buried and described as "fille de feu Thomas Robidas").6 I have been unable to find a burial record for him, but he is almost certainly buried in Saint-Philémon Parish cemetery in Stoke-Centre, with his first wife and his daughters Lumina and Emérentine.

Caroline removed to Bromptonville, Richmond County (probably with her son Jean-Baptiste), and remarried there in 1919, to Nazaire Croteau.7 She died 24 Jan 1937 at St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Sherbrooke and is buried in Sainte-Praxéde-de-Brompton-Falls Parish cemetery in Bromptonville.8

(This post was inspired by the "Valentine" prompt for Amy Johnson Crow's 2018 "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.)

  1. La Visitation Parish (Pointe-du-Lac, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, vol. 3 (1828-1840), folio 77r, B.12, baptism of Damas Robida, 30 Mar 1833; digital images, "Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1979", Family Search (https://familysearch.org : accessed 20 Nov 2015) > Pointe-du-Lac > La Visitation-de-la-Pointe-du-Lac > Index, baptêmes, mariages, sépultures 1749-1825 Baptêmes, mariages, sépultures 1744-1840 > image 625 of 731.
  2. Saint-Nicolas Parish (Saint-Nicolas, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, vol. 1856, folio 20r, unnumbered marriage of Thomas Robida and Louise Brown, 16 Sep 1856; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 Jun 2012); Saint > St-Nicolas > 1856 > image 20 of 29; citing Gabriel Drouin, comp., Drouin Collection, Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.
  3. Saint-Philémon-de-Stoke Parish (Stoke Centre, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, vol. 1885, folio 5r, S.6, burial of Louise Brown, 25 Apr 1885; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 Feb 2018); S > Stoke > Centre > 1885 > image 5 of 15.
  4. Saint-Jean-Baptiste Parish (Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, vol. 1887, folio 4v-5r, M.4, marriage of Thomas Damase Robida and Caroline Mariage, 14 Feb 1887; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 Dec 2014); S > Sherbrooke > St-Jean-Baptiste > 1887 > image 5 of 30.
  5. Saint-Philémon-de-Stoke Parish Registers, vol. 1912, folio 10r, M.6, marriage of Honoré Longchamp and Marie Louise Robidas, 12 Aug 1912; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 Feb 2018); S > Stoke > Centre > 1912 > image 11 of 21.
  6. Ibid., vol. 1917, folio 10v, S.17, burial of Emérentine Robidas, 15 Oct 1917; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 Feb 2018); S > Stoke > Centre > 1917 > image 12 of 16.
  7. Sainte-Praxède-de-Brompton-Falls Parish (Bromptonville, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, vol. 1919, folio 10r-v, M.3, marriage of Nazaire Croteau and Caroline Mariage, 24 Mar 1919; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 Feb 2018); B > Bromptonville > St-Praxède > 1919 > images 11-12 of 46.
  8. Ibid., vol. 1937, folio 2r, S.2, burial of Caroline Mariage, 27 Jan 1937; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 Feb 2018); B > Bromptonville > St-Praxède > 1937 > image 3 of 33.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Favorite Name: The Good, The Bad, and the Mis-Indexed – 52 Ancestors, #58

The good thing about an ancestral line with a rare and/or unusual surname is that your ancestors are not readily confused with unrelated people of the same name. As I pointed out in Andrew Sukeforth: A Hessian in the Family, I can be virtually certain that anyone named Sukeforth, anywhere in the U.S., is my fourth or fifth cousin, or perhaps second or third once or twice removed. This is, to put it mildly, a great advantage over my Murphy forbears. That makes Sukeforth my favorite surname.

The bad thing about an ancestral line with a rare and/or unusual surname is that it confuses everyone else, including census enumerators, town clerks, and present-day record indexers, all of whom can seriously mangle such a name in diverse ways. That makes Sukeforth sometimes my ... less than favorite ... surname.

Andrass Suchfort, 1790 census
To begin with, the name started out as the German surname Suchfort. One of the very few times this family appeared in the records in that form is the 1790 census, before beginning its Americanization, first to Suchforth, then to Suckforth, and finally to Sukeforth.

Ebenezar Suchforth, census   E.G. Suckforth, census
So these three versions are all legitimate spellings; generally speaking, Andreas's children spelled it Suchforth or Suckforth, and their children transitioned to the standard modern spelling of Sukeforth. It was probably always pronounced with a long "oo" sound, i.e., "Sue-kforth" (not "Suck-forth"), and I wouldn't be surprised if the Sukeforth spelling evolved precisely to avoid the pronunciation that (you'll pardon the expression) "sucked."

Those legitimate spellings have spawned a wide range of misspellings and transcription errors over the years.

Wrong Spelling, Faithful Indexing

Sometimes the name was misspelled in the record by the census taker or clerk. This could be a case of phonetic spelling, like the first three examples, or a slip of the pen.

Leaving out the "e" is a fairly common phonetic error, as in Ernest Sukforth (census).

Less common is a misspelling of the second syllable, such as Frank Sukefourth (census).

My favorite phonetic spelling is this marriage register entry for Rachael R. Sookforth.

Here it looks like the census taker tried unsuccessfully to convert an "a" into a "u", resulting in Charles H Slakeforth.

The census takers in Alga Sukeforth's neck of the woods had a hard time with the name. One year he got carried away with the letter "f" and produced "Alga Sufeforth."

Another time they got it almost right, just missing an "h": Alga T Sukefort.

Right Spelling, Wrong Indexing

More frequently, the name appears to be correctly spelled in the record but an indexer, confronted with an unfamiliar name and bad handwriting, misinterpreted one or more easily confused letters.

Another rare instance of the original Suchfort spelling was mis-indexed as Andrew Suchford.

I think this was probably spelled correctly, but in such dreadful handwriting that the indexer came up with Arthur Sevkaforth (census).

Possibly written as Soukeforth, the ascender on the k was obscured by a descender from the line above, generating an index entry of Mary L. Soursforth.

More sloppy handwriting turned Lucius M. Sukeforth into a Sukefath.

In this census record the indexer morphed "fo" into "p" and "r" into "e", yielding Charles Sukepeth.

Easy to mistake a cramped "e" for an "i" and see Gertrude Sukiforth in a census entry.

That "k" masquerades as a variety of other letters, such as "h" in Carrie A Suheforth (marriage record)...

... "ln" in John Sulneforth (census)...

... and even as "r" in Benjamin Sureforth.

Or the "k" may be read as a "b", giving us Fred Subeforth (census)...

... Peasley [sic – Pearley] Suberforth (census)...

... or Racheal P. Subreforth (marriage record).

If the downstroke of the "k" is too long, it may even look like a "p" as in Lincoln A Supeforth (census).

This entry for Anna Sukeforth may actually have started out like Lincoln's, with the census taker misreading his own original "k" as a "p" to make another Supeforth in this final copy.

Wrong Spelling + Wrong Indexing

Finally, an original misspelling may be compounded by an indexer's mistakes.

The census taker misspelled Bessie Sukford, who was then indexed as Bessie Sukeford.

Probably that's a "k" in the "e"-deprived census listing for Sadie Sukforth, but the indexer saw a "p" and she became Sadie Supforth.

L = D = Z = P = S ?

A special case of the "misread letter" type of error is a misreading of the initial "S", resulting in such constructs as Lukeforth, Dukeforth, Zukeforth, and – my personal favorite – Puckforth. The most common of such variants by far is Lukeforth (or Luckforth), as a script "S" and "L" may be very similar, depending on the clerk's handwriting.

Earl L Luckforth [Suckforth], census   Thomas Lukeforth [Sukeforth], census
Harry I Dukeforth [Harry T Sukeforth], census   [Illegible] Zukeforth [Sukeforth], census
Eben. Puckforth [Suckforth], census

Not all instances of Lukeforth are due to a modern indexer's misreading. At least a few of them sport a clearly handwritten "L" on the census sheet or vital register page. Since the two examples shown below each include another L in the name for comparison, it's hard to believe the initial letter of the surname could actually be a misread S. I suspect these stem from transcription errors when a census taker made his final copy, or a vital record was copied from the original marriage license or register into a compiled register.

Earle L Lukeforth, census
[yes, his middle initial really was L]
   Harold Lamont Lukeforth, birth register
And then there are the cases where the clerk's "S" and "L" are so similar that it's a toss-up whether the name as written is actually Sukeforth or Lukeforth. In this example from a marriage register, the bride two lines down from Maud E. Sukeforth (indexed as Lukeforth) conveniently has both letters in her name for comparison. I think Maud's name is actually spelled with an L here, but it's hard to tell for sure.

Unfortunately, those "Lukeforth" entries sometimes get carried over to compiled indexes and printed city directories as well, making it impossible to find the hidden Sukeforth either in an OCR index of the source or by looking at the page images, unless the researcher thinks to check for "Lukeforth" every time.

Gardner E Lukeforth, death index   Abraham B. Lukeforth, marriage index

Harriet Lukeforth, city directory
Sukeforths That Aren't

Of course, this can work in the other direction, too – occasionally some other name somehow gets interpreted and indexed as Sukeforth.

Here, an overwritten census listing for Preston Cutsforth was indexed as "Ruston Sutsforth", and then had an "alternative" interpretation as "Huston Sukeforth" added by a user.

The most bizarre name I've found indexed as Sukeforth has to be Cozette Evangeline Zikefoose.

So that ancestral line with the rare and/or unusual surname can be a blessing... or a curse. But on balance, a name like Sukeforth is a pretty good one to have in your family tree.

(This post was inspired by the "Favorite Name" prompt in Amy Johnson Crow's 2018 "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.)

  1. All image snippets clipped from Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Feb 2018).

Monday, February 5, 2018

(Not) In the Census: 52 Ancestors, #57

This week's (OK, last week's – I'm running a little behind) 52 Ancestors prompt is "In the Census." I thought about writing about my ancestors who aged erratically (or, in some cases, not at all) from one census to the next; or the ones who were double-enumerated at one time or another; or some of the folks who turned up in unexpected places. But what really fascinates and frustrates me is the folks who don't turn up at all, even when you know exactly where they should be.

My primary examples of this phenomenon are close to home, indeed – my father and his sister in the 1920 census, and my mother's entire family in 1930. These anomalies occurred in the same city: Lewiston, Maine.

Where's Your Daddy?

My father was born in May 1919, and would have been less than eight months old when the census enumerator came around in January 1920. His sister, born in March 1917, was just under three. So where, in the dead of a 1920 Maine winter, would an infant and a toddler be, other than with their mother?

And yet, the census1 reports the only members of the Kirk household (which is exactly where expected, at 30 Ware Street) to be my grandparents, Chester and Mary, and Mary's widowed mother, Kate Hodsdon (the children's only living grandparent, by the way, so they weren't off visiting granny and grampie). Even supposing that the family wasn't at home, and a neighbor answered the enumerator's questions, it hardly seems possible that any of the neighbors could have failed to mention two children in a family that had been at that address for over a year.

1920 U.S. Census, Lewiston, Maine, Chester F Kirk household
I have searched the entire enumeration district page-by-page, just to make sure they weren't in some addendum on a later page. I have also searched the Ancestry index for any Roger born in 1919 or any Geneva born in 1917, in the entire city of Lewiston, on the off chance they were with a relative that day (they did have an adult, married half-sister in the city) and got recorded with the wrong surname. Nope, those kids just aren't there. I have to assume this was a case of the enumerator leaving something out while making the final copy.

Ten years later, both children are right where they should be, with their parents. On the other hand, my mother's entire family is nowhere to be found.

The Missing Murphys of Middle Street

Bill and Glenna Murphy, with their daughter Kathleen (my mother), moved from Berlin, N.H., to Lewiston, Maine, before May 1923, when their second daughter, Theresa, was born. They moved from one rental to another for several years (they're listed at three different addresses in the 1924, 1926, and 1928 city directories, and a newspaper article indicates there was a fourth somewhere along the line), before settling permanently in a tenement apartment at 124 Middle Street.

1930 Lewiston, Maine city directory, William G. Murphy entry at 124 Middle Street
The first concrete evidence of their residence at 124 Middle is a listing in the city directory "for the year beginning October 1930."2 This probably means they could have moved there after the April census date. However, I have another piece of evidence from a somewhat unusual source: a life insurance application for William G. Murphy, dated 19 Feb 1935, giving his current residence as 124 Middle St., Lewiston, Maine, and stating that he had lived there for 6 years. That would place his move to that address in early 1929. I'm inclined to consider this accurate, because someone who couldn't recall the exact year would be more inclined to round it off mentally and say, "I think it was about 1930 – say, 5 years ago."

So in 1930, I'm expecting to find the Murphys at 124 Middle Street. Only trouble is, they're not there. 124 is occupied by the Rudolf Parent household, and furthermore they're listed as owning – not renting.3 (The 1930 city directory, however, places them at 104 Ash Street, about five blocks away.) A page-by-page search of the ED, once again, turned up no William Murphy family. I backtracked to the Murphys' last known previous address – 17 Webster Street – but they weren't there either. And city-wide searches on Ancestry for anyone named Murphy, Glenna, Kathleen born 1921, or Theresa born 1923, failed to turn up any sign of a misindexed family.

1930 U.S. census, Lewiston, Maine, sheet 13A, for 124 Middle Street. Not William G. Murphy!

In this case, I'm forced to conclude that the enumerator somehow missed them completely. They may have been a second, overlooked household at 124 Middle (a possibility, since nearly every directory around this time period lists two families at that address), or perhaps it was simply a matter of timing – i.e., they moved before they could be enumerated at a previous address, but after Middle Street had been counted. Or ... there may be another explanation.

There are some definite oddities about that Middle Street census, if you compare it to the numerical street listings in the 1930 city directory. The previous page (sheet 12B) lists several families at 118 Middle (including the "Hodgon" [sic - Hodgdon] and Banville famiies which are also listed there in the directory), and then goes on to list a household at 120 and 122, followed on the next page (sheet 13A) by the Parent household at 124. This is then followed by six households at 128 and one each at 130, 132, 134, and 136; then a line is drawn and the rest of the page (and the following page) is Ash Street. And going back one more page, sheet 12A claims to cover 178, 174, and 166 Middle Street, followed by 158, 154, and 150 Ash Street – but sheet 12B starts with 150, 151, and 148 Middle Street.

1930 Lewiston, Maine directory numerical
listing for Middle Street (part)
What's wrong with this picture? Well, according to the numerical directory listing,4 after 118 there is a plumbing supplier at 120 (no individual householders); no 122 at all; two households at 124 (McEachern and Murphy); and the Dingley School (technically it has an Oak Street address, but it takes up the whole corner lot so there are Middle Street addresses there). And after Middle crosses Oak Street, the next house number is 143. In other words, there don't appear to be any such addresses as 128-136 Middle Street. As for the supposed Ash Street households on sheet 12A, many of the names appear in the directory at the same or nearby numbers on Middle Street, which seems to indicate that the enumerator simply wasn't keeping track of where she was! If that's the case, then I have to question whether the supposed Middle Street listings on sheet 13A – including the one for 124 Middle – are really for Middle Street at all. It may be that 124 Middle was missed completely, and the 124-136 households are for some other street entirely.

All things considered, it would appear that both my father and my mother, long before they met, were completely missed in the census as children, a mere mile – and 10 years – apart.

 (This post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow's 2018 "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.)

  1. 1920 U.S. census, Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston, ED 17, sheet 19B,  dwelling 299, family 357, Chester F Kirk household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 Aug 2014). 
  2. Manning's Lewiston, Auburn ... (Maine) Directory for the Year Beginning October 1930 (Boston: H.A. Manning Co., 1930), p. 240, entry for William G. Murphy; database and digital images, "U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995," Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 Apr 2012). 
  3. 1930 U.S. census, Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston, ED 1-26, sheet 13A,  p. 153 (stamped), dwelling 201, family 247, Rudolf Parent household, labeled as 124 Middle Street; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 Feb 2018). 
  4. Lewiston, Auburn ... (Maine) Directory ... 1930, p. 501, numerical street listing for Middle Street; database and digital images, "U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995," Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 Feb 2018).