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Friday, January 31, 2014

A Family Letter From a Voice of the Past Part 2

Continued from last week's post - Focusing on the remainder of the letter from M.C. Bates to his nephew,  Dr. Joseph H. Downing :

Madison states that he wondered who was the father of Joseph Bates (as I learned prior to reading this letter, Joseph  was a father of a Revolutionary War veteran),  and where he came from to America.  He supposes that this family had gone into the wilderness area of Virginia a bit before most new settlers, as there were American Indians in the area, and they were forced to head back to the east where European settlers were more prevalent.  Madison goes on, "we know that James Bates was born in Prince Edward County in 1764.  We also learn from the Revolutionary War records the James Bates, first son of Joseph, was listed among the soldiers from Halifax County.  So, we are justified in concluding that the ancestral home of the Bates family was in Prince Edward and Halifax Counties and in that region." Now, if I wanted to find if Madison's conclusion has some basis, I'd check the databases on the website for the New England Historic and Genealogical Society website,

Let's take a look at the second page of this letter :

Madison Bates writes that there is no doubt that the above mentioned James Bates had a son, also named James Bates, who served with the Virginia troops for three years.  I am not sure that this is correct but I believe that NARA  and Fold3 just might have something that could confirm or disprove his theory.  Fold 3, found at, is a fabulous website that has a main focus on military records, but other valuable items are also on this site.

Immediately after this statement, Madison writes that he is not sure of any resource to confirm this military service.  He refers to the daughter of Dr. Downing, who apparently is involved with the DAR, and is interested in this research.  Could it be that Dr. Downing originally wrote to his uncles in Illinois, on behalf of his daughters research for the DAR.  Probably. He supposes that James Bates, both father and son, could have served in the military during the Revolutionary War, but that they would not be in their direct blood line.

Madison changes subjects at this point in the letter.  He's glad to have this opportunity to communicate with his nephew, and to learn of the good health and prosperity of the family.  Dr. Downing must have mentioned having some discouraged feelings in his life, but Madison replies that it is a common feeling.  "Perhaps it is better for us that it is so, lest we might neglect to prepare for the life to come after this is over, a life that I have no doubt will be better than the one we live now", writes Madison Bates.

He signs off as " I am as ever your uncle, M. C. Bates".

Madison Bates, author of this letter, passed away 16 years after he wrote to his nephew, Dr. Joseph H. Downing.  His is buried in the Cherry Grove Cemetery in Knox County, Illinois.

Dr. Joseph H. Downing, born 1856, passed away in 1942, and is laid to rest in Circle Mound Cemetery, in Rising City, Butler County, Nebraska.

One can only wonder if these two men ever communicated again, and if any further correspondence revealed that either of them were able to answer their questions from this letter.

This letter was such a neat find.  To hold a letter written in 1911, over 100 years ago.  Wow.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Family Letter from a Voice of the Past

As I posted last week, I was able to scan some old personal papers and photos that had been in a suitcase belonging to my in-law family.  Among the fascinating papers was a handwritten letter from one M. C. Bates,  of Illinois, which was written to my husband's great grandfather, Dr. Joseph H. Downing, of Rising City, Nebraska.  The letter was dated 11 March 1919 :

As the letter begins, " My dear Nephew", it is apparent that Bates would have been a sibling of  Dr. Downing's parent or grandparent.  After searching for M. C. Bates in, I found that he was indeed Madison C. Bates (1836-1927), son of Joseph C. Bates and Nancy Bryan Goodpasture.  He was a younger brother of Mary Elzada Bates, mother of Dr. Joseph Downing.  So now we know the relationship between the author of the letter to the recipient...indeed an uncle who was writing to his nephew.

The letter begins stating that Dr. Downing had previously written to Madison's brother, T.J.   Again, checking the family tree on, I find that Madison was referring to his older brother, Thomas Jefferson Bates (b. 1833).  T.J. had given the note from Dr. Downing to Madison, asking that he make the requested reply.  Evidently, Dr. Downing had sent an inquiry to his relatives in Illinois, regarding the genealogical history of the Bates family.  In his response, Madison  refers to a book of the Bates family, that Dr. Downing had in his possession.  Really?  I wish I could find that!!!

"Mary Murphy was the maiden name of my grandmother, who was the wife of my grandfather, James Bates", Madison writes.  "...only the given name is given of my great grandmother, who was the wife William Bates,  my great grandfather", he goes on.  Now, I suppose that Madison is referring to the Bates family book that he spoke of, but without a copy of that, I am not sure.

I will end this post here.  We will pick up where I left off next week. We have already uncovered much information in  just a short period of time.  Meanwhile, I will make an inquiry to to find a copy, or a reference to this Bates family book that Madison has referred to in his letter.

And the suspense continues....til next time.

As for you readers....don't throw out those old family papers!!!! Look for your family history in the hand-written words of your family members.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A 1910 Wedding Invitation Adds Family Data

Over the past Thanksgiving holiday, my husband's family shared a suitcase full of old photos and documents.  After opening the suitcase, my eyes glazed over just at the sight of what seemed like tons of photographs from so many years ago.  The majority of them were from the World War I career of my husband's grandfather, Leroy Hessler Reif.  But, then I saw some envelopes stuffed with old documents.  I thought to myself, "Jackpot!!!"  As I flipped through the yellowing papers, I realized that I had just been handed some very interesting pieces of information....just the thing that you can't get from any book or website.

I scanned the documents recently, and found one that kept my interest more than the others.  Here it is :

A wedding invitation that had been sent to my husband's great grandparents, Dr.and Mrs. J.H. Downing, dated 1910

I was only familiar with the surname Tipton, as that was the maiden name of Mrs. Downing (Anna).
So, naturally, I thought that Mr. Claudius Jones Tipton, mentioned here as the groom, would have been related to her.  But I had no other information.  Time to do a little magic with my fingers and check to see what I could find on  I found  plenty.

Claudius was the son of Frank Tipton (brother of Anna Tipton Downing) and Harriet Jones, making him the nephew of Mrs. Downing.  He was born in Seward, Nebraska.  Harriet, his mother, passed away in 1906, and his father, Frank, had remarried by the time of this wedding in 1910.

Claudius was rather handsome.  Here is a photo of him

His bride, Florence Cattle, was the daughter of Walter and Bessie Cattle, of Seward, Nebraska.  Walter and his brother were operators of the State Bank of Nebraska in Seward.  The grandfather of Claudius Tipton, who was Claudius Jones, operated the bank until he became ill in the late 1870s.  He sold the bank to another businessman, who then sold the bank to the Cattle family.  Walter Cattle, father of the bride Florence, became one of those bank owners.  Funny how these banking families had close ties.

The union of Claudius Tipton and Florence Cattle seemed to work out well.  They raised a fine family.

The bank remained in the family, being named the Cattle National Bank and Trust Company.

See what you can find out about people who just seemed to be names printed on a wedding invitation.  How nice it is to put faces with those names in your family tree.

Now, if anyone in your family says that they have a suitcase full of old photos and papers, don't turn down the opportunity to take a peek at just what is in there.  You, too, just might hit the "Jackpot".

Friday, January 10, 2014

Extracting Data from Vital Records

How many copies of vital records do you have?  Birth, Marriage and Death records are the bread and butter of genealogy research and family history.  Do you really read everything that is mentioned on those documents?  I thought that I did...until I read the Sicilian matrimony records of my 2nd great grandparents one more time.  I had glazed over something very important the previous times that I read these wonderful pages.

I had assumed that my 2nd great grandmother, Salvatora LoCoco, was born in Campofelice, the same town that she had been married.  You know what happens when you assume something.....don't you?

Here is the copy of the document that had revealed what I had missed :

Salvadora Coco, highlighted in mid page location, is followed by her information :
She was single and at the age of Twenty-two (ventidue), born in Villalba (nata), living in Campofelice (domicilate), daughter of Nicolo (figlia di) etc.

So now we know, she was born in Villalba, not Campofelice.  But where is Villalba?  A quick search tells me : Villalba (Sicilian: Villarba) is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Caltanissetta in the Italian region Sicily, located about 51 km northwest of Caltanissetta.

The couple was married in 1857.  The documents mentions that the bride was age 22 years.  To find her birth record, I would have to search for the nascite (birth record) for approximately the time period of 1834-1836.

Remember, read, and read and read once again. Don't miss out on important information.  Don't Assume any piece of information.  Documentation is paramount.

End of lesson.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year Resolutions.....Sigh

Here we are now, in 2014.  Yes, I am about to say that nasty word.....Resolution.  Who keeps them?  I usually don't.  But, as I look at my age, and my past record of crapping out on previous decades of New Year Resolutions, I decided that I had better make good on a group of resolutions for this year, 2014.
If I don't make good on them, then I will prove to myself that I am just a lowlife.  A person who talks, but doesn't walk the walk.  So, I am challenging myself this year.  And kicking my own butt if I fall off the wagon.

Here is a list of my new 2014 Resolutions, that I challenge myself to keep :

1.  In an attempt to lose weight this year, I challenge myself to walk on the treadmill and ride the recumbent bike machine for 30 minutes each, at least 3 days per week.  I already enjoy a MWF warm water exercise class and a TTh chair aerobics class.  I am supposed to join my group of fellow walkers on TTh mornings, but don't often make it to the walk.  I hope to increase my attendance to this activity, too.  If I lose weight with this plan, great.  If not, oh, well, at least I tried.

2.  I will write on this blog page every Friday of every week throughout 2014, no matter what.  Okay, this is one task that will require a swift kick in the butt.  I will post whatever I have been working on regarding research, and perhaps I will be able to enlighten someone out there with their research, too.

3.  I will work with the FamilySearch Italian Transcription project on 5 days each week.  The plan is to transcribe one batch of records each time I log onto the website.  I don't think this will be very hard for me as long as I plant little reminders for myself.

4. I will add photos and memorials to the FindaGrave website at least 5 days each week.  I have been doing this for a little while now, in tandem with the item 3 resolution above.  I have over 10,000 photos from a local cemetery, and have added almost 4,000 of those already.

5.  I will scan all of my vital record documents that I have gathered for my family trees, and add them to my FTM and account.  It will eliminate so much paper that I have accumulated.  And, it will hopefully get me organized and happy with what I have uncovered over the past 12 years.

OK.  That is enough.  I don't want to overwhelm myself.  And I don't want to make anyone laugh too hard, either.  I will try to keep these resolutions, and at the end of the year, be very proud of myself.  My self esteem will be bursting at the seams.  oh, yeah, if any unforeseen accident happens that may keep me from fulfilling my  resolutions, then I release myself from any of the obligations I have mentioned above.

Smiling as I write this.......