Healing Through Stories

I have ancestors on both sides of my family tree who fought against each other in the American Civil War. My Dad’s family was from the South, my mom’s family was from the North. My ancestors fought against each other in this gruesome, brutal war. Stories about wars often paint one side as heroes and…

When Your Family History Connects with History

First flight, 120 feet in 12 seconds, 10:35 a.m.; Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Source: Library of Congress On this day in 1903, the Wright brothers successfully flew an airplane for the first time in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The following year, after repairing their airplane, they conducted flight tests in Huffman Prairie, just outside their…

Happy Mothers’ Day

The mother in this picture is my grandmother, Margaret (DeWitt) Gile. The tiny baby is my mother. Being a mother now myself I realize how difficult it really is. I only have one kid right now and she is so demanding I can’t even imagine how hard it is raising five like my grandmother did,…

The Cliffords, Part 2: Family Scandal

This is a continuation of my account on the Clifford family. For more information, see Part 1. In 1878, Sophia Clifford sold the land that she and Lewis had bought in Iowa. Apparently her sons (Fred was 20 and Charles was 15) wanted to seek more opportunities out west rather than stay and work the…

The Cliffords, Part 1: Brick Wall Immigrants

Featured Image: Hamburger Hafen (Port of Hamburg) by Adolph Friedrich Vollmer, 1840. Ah, yes. Clifford. Kliefoth. The family that made me want to study German Genealogy in college. And I studied for four years and still didn’t find them. But they will be found. Someday. They originated in Germany as Kliefoth (pronounced like “klee-fote”), and…

Research Summary: Andrew

Featured image: John Wesley Andrew sitting on his porch in Geneva, Nebraska Surname summary: I have decided to devote my research time each month to one direct line surname that exists in my five-generation pedigree. My surname for the month of November was Andrew. This is one of the few lines on my grandmother’s side…

I give and bequeath to my son William J Ray my yellow boy slave Allen until my son Benjamin F arrives at the age of twenty one years, at which time my boy Allen is to be set free.

Allen Ray

My brother recently uncovered the will for my ancestor, William Calvin Ray in Murray County, Georgia. In it he mentions “my yellow boy slave Allen.” this is my first encounter with a slave owner in my family tree. I have a lot of ancestors in the South, so I figured a slave owner would turn…

Finding Families in Testate and Intestate Probate Records

It is relatively easy to find ancestors in the United States from 1850 on because of the availability of Census Records on multiple genealogy websites. However, before 1850, only the heads of households were listed on the census, making it hard to find all the members of a family and very difficult to trace your family back for…

Little Jonnie Lathrop, or, Life and Death on the Prairie

This is my great-great-grandmother, Caroline Jane (Webber) Gile. I love this picture. Usually in pictures this old the people don’t really smile, and old photos of babies usually have them by themselves or in mother’s lap, and half the time baby is blurred out because she is moving too much for the camera to focus.…

The Handwritten Past

My Grandpa lives in a little brick house in north-central Kansas in a small town with a population of about 300. Just outside of town is the land where his grandfather built a homestead when he first moved to Kansas from Ohio. Grandpa has driven us grandkids around on those dirt roads in Kansas and…