26 December 2016

Genealogy Roadtrip

Here is another long-time coming post. Back in early June I took a solo genealogical road trip across the states of New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri to Wellsville and Ottawa, Kansas. That was a 1300+ mile trip. It took approximately 23 hours to drive that distance considering I had to take a couple of naps in order to continue. Now why would I drive to Kansas from Albany? I was on a genealogical quest that began in the early 1990s. Years later when more family information was found I felt the need to do some on site research on my third great grandparents, Robert and Ann White and their family. Their story follows.

Robert White and wife Ann Strong were both born in Ireland. Robert circa 1813 in County Cavan and Ann around 1815 believed to be born in County Kings, now County Offaly. They were married around 1833 and had the following known children born in Ireland, Joseph, 1834; Charles, 1835; Elizabeth, 1838, and Robert, 1840.

Passenger list from the Salem, page 1, 1843

Passenger list from the Salem, page 2, 1843

On 2 November 1843 the family sailed into New York near the Battery area of Manhattan aboard the bark Salem. Below is a photo of a bark ship. As of today I have not found a photo of the Salem.

Example of a Bark

Previous to 1855 immigrants simply sailed into port, a passenger list was given to customs, and the immigrants went on their way. In 1855 Castle Garden opened as America's first immigrant processing center where over 8 million people entered America. Castle Garden was in operation by New York State until 1890. In 1892 the Federal government took over immigrant processing and moved the operation to Ellis Island, which was larger and more isolated. Ellis Island saw another 12 million immigrants come to America until it closed in 1954.

By 1846 the White family was living in Albany. Robert and Ann also had the following children who were born in Albany. William Henry, 1846; James, 1850; Frances Ann, 1852, Thomas Edward, 1854; and Sarah Jane, 1859. Below is a scan of Robert White's declaration of intent to become an American citizen.

Robert White's Declaration of Intent

Tracing Robert through census records and Albany city directories, he was listed as being either a laborer, a teamster, or a farmer. According to census records in 1860, 1865, & 1870, Robert was a farmer living in the Town of Watervliet. Further research will be conducted to find the location and acreage of the former farm. The 1875 New York State Census has Robert and family residing in the northern district of the tenth ward in the city of Albany. Additional research finds his address as living at 180 Sherman Street. His occupation was a teamster. By 1880, Robert and most of his family completely disappears from all local records. What happened to him his wife, Ann, and most of their children? They simply vanished. They could not be found anywhere. Not in census records, city directories, church records, or any local cemeteries.

Robert's sons Charles William and Joseph were the only White's that continued to be found residing in this area. Charles became a prominent butcher in Albany until his death in 1917.

Charles William White, 1835-1917
Older brother, Joseph was a farmer. He lived in the Colonie area and after his death he was buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery, which was in the vicinity of today's Central and Lincoln Avenues. Joseph was re-interned in Troy's Oakwood Cemetery in 1919 when his family bought a plot there.

Joseph White plot at Oakwood Cemetery
Daughter, Frances Ann married a "mullato" man, G.L. McCarter, at the Methodist mission on 18 December 1873 and completely disappears from all records also.

Fanny White marriage record 1873

It was known by family lore that son William Henry White lied about his age and enlisted in the Civil War against his family's wishes. His father paid someone and got him out of the military and then the boy went and re-enlisted again infuriating his father. Later research found that he joined the New York State Volunteers 134th Infantry and was severely injured in the head at the Battle of Gettysburg. After the war William Henry and his family moved to Kansas. It was said so that he could get away from his father.

William Henry White, 1846-1896

In the early 1990s I took a ride out to the National Archives in Pittsfield to search out of state census records. I found William Henry White living in Kansas City, Missouri with his family in the 1880 Federal Census. They were all listed as being born in New York. Also found was his widow Josephine and children in the 1900 Kansas Federal Census living in Argentine, Wyandotte County, Kansas.

Josephine Elizabeth Parker White, 1849-1921

One of William and Josephine's later children who was born in Kansas was Grace White. Somehow the method in which I tracked down her death certificate slips my mind but I purchased her death record around 1992. As luck would have it, her parents names were listed on the certificate and better yet the informant of this information was listed along with her address. It was found that the address of the informant was old and had changed by this time and at this time Google was not around. I unsuccessfully tried searching for the phone number for my informant, Ruth. A call was made to the operator who said that Ruth's phone number was unlisted and I could not have it. I practically begged the operator to call Ruth and let her know that there was a cousin from New York researching his family tree and if you were interested here is his phone number to contact him. A few hours later Ruth did call me and we compared notes and she said that she was very aware of her grandfather and some of his children originally being from Albany. At this point I was happy that I had found a descendant of William and had a point to work from. Ruth and I corresponded numerous times more.

William's older brother Thomas Edward married Agnes Jane Laing on 3 January 1884 according to the Albany City Marriage Register. August 18th of the same year Agnes died of Bright's Disease at age 33. Burial records from Albany Rural Cemetery list her residence as Kansas. Now it appeared that another son moved to Kansas.

Agnes Jane Laing White, burial card from Albany Rural Cemetery

Years pass and I only know of the two brothers who moved to Kansas; but then last year by chance while name surfing on Google looking for a Robert and Ann White in Kansas I stumbled upon online cemetery records for the Wellsville Cemetery in Wellsville, Franklin County, Kansas. In that cemetery was a Robert and Ann White with ages and dates of death which fell in line with what could fit my ancestors. Then Find a Grave was searched and a photo of their small obelisk was found. Awesome! But I was still not 100% sure that they were my ancestors.

The 1880 Federal Census for Kansas was searched and bingo the family was found living in Hayes Township, Franklin County, Kansas. Listed were Robert and his family. The family was found again in the 1885 Kansas state census living in the same place. Now I know where my ancestors were. They moved to Kansas with their sons leaving sons Joseph and Charles behind in the Albany area. But were the people in the Wellsville Cemetery my ancestors? Their names are very common.

1880 Federal Census, Kansas

Still chasing this lead I contacted the Franklin County Historical Society to see if they had any information on a Robert White family. The archivist, Susan Geiss, for the society contacted me and noted that she would conduct some research for me. I sent her what information I had and within three weeks most questions were answered. She found some farm records and the last will and testament of Robert White. It was the same Robert White who was buried in the Wellsville Cemetery. In the will all of Robert's children were mentioned by name. Now I could rest after tracking down where my great great great grandparents had gone. Rest, not for long!

Page from Robert White's will

After thinking about this new found information new questions arose. First, why would a man in his late sixties uproot and move from Albany to Kansas between 1875 and 1880 after living in the Albany area for over thirty years? It was decided that I would journey on a road trip out to Kansas to conduct research, hopefully find answers, and to meet some cousins.

Robert White's last will and testament also answered another question. What happened to daughter Elizabeth? Did she die locally or did she marry and who did she marry? The will hinted to her marrying a Kelly. Census records were searched for her in Albany, New York and also for her in Kansas. The census records for both states show that she married a William Kelly. Their family also moved to Kansas. Find a Grave was searched and I discovered that she, her husband, and some of their children were buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri.

1875 NYS Census listing William Kelly & family

1880 Missouri Census listing William Kelly & family

After putting together an itinerary of the research stops that I wanted to make and after contacting a cousin, Terry, grandson of the granddaughter, Grace White, of William Henry White, I was now on my way.  My gear and food were packed. It was decided that my first stop on the way to Kansas would be to visit the graves of the Kelly's in the Forest Hill Cemetery. I arrived at the cemetery around 2 PM in the afternoon. The office was visited for additional info and I set out to the plot for some photos. The grave site was in extremely good condition. None of the stones needed any attention from me. D2, water, buckets, and brushes were brought along because I knew from a photo on the Find a Grave site that the White obelisk in the Wellsville Cemetery needed cleaning.

Elizabeth White Kelly, burial card from Forest Hill Cemetery
Kelly Headstone at Forest Hill Cemetery

After leaving Forest Hill Cemetery I headed directly to Wellsville, Kansas. It was about 45 minutes away. When I arrived in Wellsville I thought, wow, look at this older mid-western city. It was very quaint and one could vision a scene of "Bonnie and Clyde" robbing a bank and tearing through the streets here. Below are photos of the city of Wellsville.






The downtown section of the town was very small and I quickly circled through downtown to find where the city clerk's office, public library, and historical society were located. Then off to the Wellsville Cemetery I went. The cemetery is located about one mile outside of town. The cemetery is fairly small and I had no problem locating the grave of my ancestors. By this time it was almost 5 PM and I went about cleaning the small obelisk. The setting sun made it difficult to take decent pictures so I decided to come back the next day for a photo shoot.

Robert & Ann White, obelisk at Wellsville Cemetery

There were no motels in Wellsville so I headed to Ottawa, about a 15 minute drive away. Ottawa was on the itinerary anyways. A motel room was secured, sandwich and a beer for dinner, then it was crash-time (bed).  It was a very long day; most of it was driving. The next morning at 9:30 AM I met, Terry, my third cousin, one time removed at the cemetery. After taking pictures and talking with Terry at length we parted and I headed to the Wellsville city clerk's office to try to determine if anyone else was buried in the White plot aside from Robert and Ann. Their names are the only names on the obelisk. The records indicated that it was a large plot, with room for eight burials. But the records listed Robert and Ann as the only burials. Later research indicates that son Robert was also buried there in 1923.

The Wellsville Historical Society was closed and would not be open during my trip. Research at the Wellsville City Library was successful. Its holdings for local individuals and businesses was decent but my research time frame pre-dated what they had. A search of the local newspaper, the Wellsville Globe, found Robert White's obituary.

Robert White obituary from the Wellsville Globe

At this point I started realizing that although I made a decent itinerary plan, I should have left at least a day earlier. It was Friday and all historical societies and court houses were closed Saturday. I could not justify staying over the weekend with really nothing to do. So I kicked in high gear. I headed back to Ottawa and checked out the Ottawa Library. The library had an outstanding genealogy and local history section. Not being able to spend a lot of time there I glanced over what they had and then headed for the Franklin County Courthouse in Ottawa to check for land/farm purchases.

At work at the Franklin County Courthouse

Immediately upon searching the grantor/grantee land records, I started hitting gold. Very quickly I found the deed indicating where and when Robert White bought his farm in Hayes Township. On 26 April 1879 Robert purchased 85 acres of farmland from William and Ann Eliza Boddy for $428. Also found were the deeds for Robert's purchase of his cemetery lot in Wellsville for $8 on 12 March 1885 and the deed for his son, William Henry White's, farm purchase.

Robert White Hayes Township farm deed

While at the courthouse I decided to try to find out where the farm was located. The assessors office helped with that task and gave me exact locations and a map. Below is a map scan of the farm area today.

Area of the former White farmland

Armed with this info I decided to go to the farm after stopping by the Franklin County Historical Society in Ottawa. It was now 4 PM and the society was closing in one hour. Although I did not really know where to begin searching there, the staff was extremely helpful and its holdings are impressive. We found a map of Hayes Township that listed the land owners and the boundaries of all the former farm lands. The boundaries are pretty much the same today as they were in the 1880s.

At 5 PM I started out in the direction of my ancestor's farm. It was about 8 miles outside of Ottawa and half-way to Wellsville. This was true flat farmland and plenty of dusty gravel roads. Quickly I found the address and an older farmhouse. As I drove by I noticed a couple of guys in the driveway. I stopped and introduced myself and told them what I was up to. They rented the property from an out of state owner; so they were not familiar with the history of the farm. I was curious if the house dated back to the 1880s-1890s. While I was there I was asked if I wanted to go inside the older abandoned portion of the farmhouse. I passed on the offer but I did take photos of the farmhouse and land. Below are three views of the farmhouse.





It was suggested to me that I stop by farmer Seiler's house about a mile away. He was familiar with everything in that area I was told. I did; and Seiler was very familiar with the farm. His father was born in the old farmhouse but we were not related. The farm was sold by my family earlier. Seiler indicated that the farmhouse did date back to at least the 1890s. I was ecstatic that I had found my ancestor's farm. Now I was wishing that I had checked out the inside of the old home. Aside from taking photos, I also scooped up a bag of farm soil. So now I have a part of the farm. Below are three different views of the 85 acre farm that Robert White owned and farmed.






It was getting late again so I headed back to Ottawa to crash and to organize my new found records at the motel. The next morning I would begin my trip home but not until after checking out another cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas, Highland Park Cemetery. Many relatives were buried there and my plan was to attempt to get copies of all of the burial cards for my relatives who are resting there and to visit each site to take photos. I was at Highland Park from 9 AM until noon and then I headed home. Yes, I found everything and everyone whom I was looking for except for the burial location of William Henry White. His wife, Josephine, is buried there and perhaps he is also. When he died the cemetery was just in its infancy and there are no burial records dating to that era.
Below is a photo of the plot where Josephine is buried. She unfortunately does not have her own grave marker.

Duffendack/White lot in Highland Park Cemetery

Below are photos of Josephine Elizabeth Parker White's burial card and a photo of the lot card indicating who else is buried in that plot.

Josephine Elizabeth Parker White burial card

Interment card for White plot at Highland Park Cemetery

Now, my trip was finished and it was time to head back home. I finally got home around 2:30 PM Sunday afternoon and began organizing, entering, and filing my new found family history. Asked if I would do it again.... absolutely!