Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Benjamin F Troutman's estate file and a genealogical good deed

I'm always amazed at the willingness of strangers to come forward and offer help to fellow traveler genealogists! It warms my heart when I hear of such tales but when it happens to me, honestly, words fail. Here's what happened.

I was stumbling around and not getting very far establishing a connection between my gg grandmother, Nancy Anna Troutman (1826 - 1882) and her father Benjamin Franklin Troutman (1780 - 1856). Oh, there was no doubt in my mind that they were father and daughter, but proof was what I was after. (You can read about that proof here.) Ever have that happen, when you just know there's a familial relationship but the documents elude you? Well, that's where I was.

I knew exactly what I needed, and it was in Benjamin F. Troutman's estate papers. He had a will, so there was that, but it stated "all my children", which is of no use to us at all. "What are their names," I kept asking him in my mind. Why couldn't he have taken a minute and had the foresight to just name them all? But he didn't. Yeah, sometimes it's like that.

So where was I going to find that list of children? Had to be in the estate papers. I looked around the internet in the usual places for mention of the estate papers and a list of heirs and sure enough, clues indicated that there were estate papers and they named all the children.

I picked up a clue that the genealogical and historical society in Benjamin's residential county had them so checked their web site. Sure enough they provided a research service for a fee. I filled out their research request form and mailed it with a check with a fee for copying the rumored 27 pages in the file. I know these things take a while so I waited and waited. Finally there was a letter that said they lost some staff and were backlogged and it would be even longer before they could work on it. Too bad for me.

Now what? I put out some feelers to folks I had met online in my search for the Troutman family and someone suggested going right to the county courthouse. It was rumored that if you could find the right person they would copy stuff for you! Wow! Couldn't wait to call.

I called. Found the right person. Jeff was his name. He did it, he found the pages I needed and scanned them, and ... drumroll please... emailed them right to me right then! I couldn't thank him enough. It was easy for him to do, so why not, he said in an email. And he really would rather not have to print out a copy, slide it into an envelope and use postage to mail it. Free and easy all around, and one super happy customer.

Sure, I know that this isn't the only county that does this and Jeff isn't the only county clerk to jump in and find a record. It's just that when you really want a specific record and it means a lot to you, and then one person come to the rescue it feels like so much more. I know you "get this".

Nancy Anne (Troutman) Workman (1862 - 1882).

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Fishing for Troutman and catching some links

The adventure continues as I amass documents and make links along my Troutman line. Dad's mother, Helen (Zeller) Kelly's mother's line climbs back up the family tree to two notable families of Western Maryland, the Troutman family and the Workman family. Both are listed on the DAR patriots list so I wanted to know more about their service and what else I could find out about their lives. Add to that the fact that these two families lived about 12 miles from each other in the mid to late 1700s and... how could I not investigate?!

The game was to crawl back in time and look at each generation as I go knowing full well that the terrain gets more challenging back past 1850 and that wonderfully delightful 1850 census. (After working in the "dark ages" before 1850 for a while and then moving up in time to the glorious 1850 census, it feels to me like someone opened a window!)

I started with my Grandma Kelly making sure all vital records that were available for her and husband Gustav Zeller were in the file and scanned as well. At this point, the name of my overall genealogy game is to double and triple check to make absolutely certain that I've requested every available vital record for each ancestor. As you've probably found out, the archives and state vital records folks too quickly run out of goodies for us and we face that ugly message, "the first death certificates were required in Maryland in 1898." So I want to make absolutely certain that I have grabbed all the low hanging fruit that I can. But I digress from fishing.

Grandma Kelly's mother was Moretta (Workman) Zeller (1859-1946) and her mother was Nancy Ann (Troutman) Workman (1826-1882) who married Elisha Workman (1816-1864), and I blogged about Elisha recently and you can read that here. Nancy Ann sported a number of names throughout her life and that was not a help when tracking her in records, I want to tell you! While with her birth family she was Nancy but once she got married she was either Anna or Anne, except for a little while when she was Angeline as she is listed in the 1860s census. Some legal documents and her will show her as Anna A. Go figure.

Anyway, that name thing was a bit of a problem because how do you prove that the Nancy in the estate papers of her father, Benjamin Franklin Troutman (1780-1856), is the same person as Anna A. in her will? How, indeed! Then I found Daniel.

Daniel Troutman was Nancy Anna's brother, and you can see that relationship in the way the names are listed in her father's estate papers. Did I tell you about her father's estate papers? No? OK, let me get back to that in another blog post because it's a heart-warming story about genealogical kindness. Here's a look at a the disbursal list from Benjamin's estate.

As you can see there, Nancy Anne is listed as "Nancy Workman". There, on the list above her name is Daniel, listed as "Danl". Presuming as we do that "heirs" is children unless otherwise stated, he's her brother. Having her listed as Nancy Workman is a lucky find because it narrow down the possible candidates who could be "Nancy Workman" and points directly to our girl. Oh, and did I mention that one Daniel Troutman is listed as the administrator of Nancy Anna's husband, Elisha Workman? There ya' go. The two generations are linked.

In looking for and finding the vitals of an ancestor I sometimes get so excited when I find gold that I forget to look for records that link the generations. Gotta stop doing that. The links the thing.
Nancy Anna (Troutman) Workman (1826 - 1882).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

He died of syphilis

During WWI the first cause of absence from duty was Spanish influenza and the second most prevalent reason for absence from duty was due to syphilis. There was no penicillin then and one of the most commonly used "cures" was injections of mercury. As you can imagine, that didn't go well. It wouldn't be until after 1943, just in time for the Second World War, that science would ride to the rescue with penicillin. But before that it was pretty much take your pick: die from the symptoms of syphilis or from the symptoms of mercurial poisoning. Even when penicillin appeared, it was only effective in the primary or secondary phase of the disease. Once the disease reached the tertiary stage and went to the nervous system or the brain, you were a gonner.

Our ancestor went off to WWI as did so many of all of our ancestors. I've written here previously about Mom's Uncle Jimmy who was gassed during that war and it's definitely not him I'm writing about now. No, this is a very distant cousin of Mom's who served overseas and possibly brought home an unwanted "present" for his wife, although I don't know for sure about her. He died of complication of this deadly STD at the Veteran's Hospital in the state where he lived, and he died about 1940-ish, just a couple of years before the widespread use of penicillin, which is too bad. The records indicate that he'd had it for at least 20 years, and the last three years of his life were the worst of it as it spread to his brain in the third stage, thus necessitating institutionalization.

Of course you know how we are as genealogists. We learn of something such as this in our family, even if it is out on a sort of remote branch of the family tree, and have to go search about it! Our neighbor down the street is a doctor who worked at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) before he retired, and while walking dogs I asked him what he did there and he said that his area was sexually transmitted diseases or STDs. In an effort to make small talk, we chatted about the prevalence of syphilis now. (Stop laughing, we did!) He said that these things go around in certain populations in waves and that a couple of years ago syphilis was the most common STD right here, locally. Really?! I guess I thought these things were all but eradicated due to condom use and easy cures. Not so, he said. (For more about brothels and the British Expeditionary Force during WWI, click here. Did you know that officers were given condoms but enlisted men were not?)

The dangers of STDs were known during WWI and recruits were trained not to succumb to temptations and not to visit brothels while being shown some pretty scary pictures of those who did not resist. Sometimes that scare tactic worked and more often it didn't.

As I often remind myself, we weren't there and we don't know what happened, so I don't judge.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's been a while.

Gosh, it's been a couple of weeks since I've posted here and there were some big doings in the family that kept me away. My brother got married thus adding another leaf to the family tree, and this is a lovely one. They've known each other 40 years and now it's official. The families and friends were thrilled. Mom's thrilled too, and she stole the show when she answered, "I do" with my brother! I don't know whether she was afraid that he'd forget the answer or if it was just pure enthusiasm. Here's Mom, now 96 years old, smack in the middle of the happy couple.

They were married in St. Michael's Catholic Church in Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland, the same church where Mom and Dad were married and where Dad's parents were married on 30 September 1913. 101 years of family weddings in the same church!
So that lovely wedding took up most of my time while visiting Mom. Last time I visited which was last summer, she and I made plans for this trip which included trips to cemeteries and a historical and genealogical society over the boarder from Western Maryland where she lives and into Pennsylvania in Somerset County. But as you see, all that went out the window, happily, as we took the bride to have her hair and nails done the day before and then went around to check on details. It was a whirlwind time with family!
When I got home, the boxes of Mom's genealogy materials that I'd packed and shipped arrived not long after the suitcase was empty. Three good sized boxes packed full of treasures arrived on my doorstep and I unpacked them with uppermost care. Lovingly, each item was placed into its new home. There was about one-third of Mom's surname binders, a book about the Troutman family, paper dolls given to Mom by Aunt Marg about 95 years ago, and Mom's high school graduation picture in its original paper folder. Mom's copies of Western Maryland Genealogy, a small format publication that's no longer in business is now with me and I can't wait to dig into those.
And there's one last binder: Mom's collection of death records and obits for the family. I dusted it off and got a cup of tea and curled up to read about the adventures of one family's members. I love reading death certificates because they give up so much information. I sipped my tea and learned and learned. Connections were made, causes of death revealed life style and genetic disposition, maiden names were verified. I can only imagine how much fun I'm going to have looking at the dozen or so other binders!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Elisha Workman c1820 - 1864: Fun with probate files

I'm digging around two of my ancestral families on my father's side, namely the Workman and Troutman families. If you look at a map of Western Maryland and find the little town of Frostburg and it's neighboring village of Mt. Savage, then follow the road up 12 miles into Pennsylvania and see Southampton, you'll have traced the path between the Troutmans in Southampton and the Workmans in Mt. Savage.

Nancy Ann Troutman lived in Southampton with her parents and her father Benjimin Franklin Troutman was a famed gunsmith. Somehow she met and married Elisha Workman, from down in Mt. Savage, of the Workman family who were big landowners in that area. The patriarch of this landed group in Maryland was Isaac Workman (1742 - 1827). One of his sons was John (1779 - 1859) and his son was our Elisha (c1820 - 1864). When Isaac came to the area he grabbed up as many of the military lots from the Revolutionary War as he could. In the end he and his sons owned a cool dozen of those 50 acre parcels given to the soldiers who fought. How he managed to get that many contiguous lots together, I can't even guess!

A section of the Frostburg State University military lot maps in Western Maryland.
Notice "Workman's  Desire" just to the left of center.

It was long thought that all of those Workman men had fought in the Revolutionary War and had been awarded lots for service but further examination of the records show no such thing. Isaac did however swear an Oath of Allegiance.

For a while the boys all farmed together but some decided to move to Knox County, Ohio, so when old Isaac decided that farming was probably a younger man's game he sold or gave some of his lots to his sons. Some of those sons later moved to Ohio and rented out the land to Isaac's grandsons. By the time Elisha came along he had to rent two parcels from his uncles in Ohio.

When Elisha died in 1864, he was renting at least two parcels from his uncles Cuthbert and John L. Workman. I wouldn't have been able to piece all of this together without the probate papers. He died intestate and so his property moved through the usual probate system, leaving a dandy trail behind for me to eventually follow. I'm thinking that because this family all left extensive wills designating the ownership of their land, Elisha might have died unexpectedly and suddenly and had no time to make up a will. A farming accident, perhaps?

Elisha must have had quite the big farming operation because a reading of the estate inventory provides a dandy window into their property. I find about two dozen cows, a dozen horses, so many pigs I stopped counting, wagons and other farm equipment. The household items were sold back to the Widow Workman, but the bulk of the heavy farming equipment and most of the livestock were sold to other farmers.

It was interesting to find that while Elisha Workman rented the land he worked from the uncles in Ohio, he purchased a couple of hundred acres in the not too distant area of Accident, Maryland, which he rented out.

I'm willing to bet that Elisha over on The Other Side felt bad about leaving this world without having made a will. But, on the other hand, it sure did give me a dandy picture into his life and family!

His wife was Nancy Ann Troutman and she's interesting in other ways. Guess I'll have to write about her too.

Partial inventory from property sale of Elisha Workman's estate.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Too hard to read? Fixed it!

See that image up top? How would you like to spend some time trying to read and transcribe that? No? Me either.

Mom was doing some research back in the early 1990s on our Revolutionary War ancestor, Peter Troutman who lived most of his life in Southampton, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. She needed to get up to the Historical and Genealogical Society and History Center there but couldn't right then so she wrote to them and outlined what she needed. They sent her a package, for a very reasonable contribution. I'm now working on Peter Troutman and have that packet sent to Mom. And that image up top is what all the pages look like. Ugh, I thought, this is gonna get ugly.

That first image used to be called a reverse stat or photostat. It was cheap to make and served well when a copy was needed but at the lowest possible cost. Thank goodness that the inexpensive desktop copier is everywhere today and we don't have to deal with stats any longer!

I put it off diving into the packet of dark papers for a while, maybe too long because I was starting to feel guilty every time I glanced at the bundle sitting atop the scanner. When I get problems like this standing in the way of progress, my way of moving forward is to just ask myself what the heck the problem really is. I just couldn't get past the total darkness of each page. So how could I overcome that? I Googled.

After trying a couple of different search terms he word "invert" arrived. Seems that Photoshop, including the ubiquitous Photoshop Elements, has a invert tool. Actually the invert tool is pretty cool stuff. You'll find it under the Image > Adjust tool group. See  a demo here. You can also find it if you're using Paint and here's a quick demo here.

It's super easy to do and I'm glad I did it. Once the scanned document was inverted, it looked pinkish so it got converted to grayscale. In Photoshop you can find that under Image > Mode. All three images are above so you can decide which you like best.

You'll probably want to file each under a different file name so if you need to, you can backtrack to the earlier version.

I breezed through the transcription and my eyes were happy about it too.

Here's a bonus just for fun. Used the Paint invert tool on a photo of my orchids! Cool, huh? Imagine what you can do with pictures of the kids in their Halloween costumes!! Now that's scary.



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Just finished Mom's DAR application and I have to say...

It's finally completed and I have to say, as a genealogy nut, I'm probably hooked for life! I should explain. Back in 1987 Mom had been doing genealogy for about 15 years and realized for quite some time that my sister and I were qualified to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, if she got busy and put that application together for each of us. I was working full time and trying to run a business and doing too much travel and my sister was going to graduate school so neither of us had the time or energy to do it for ourselves.

I recalled this time and Mom's efforts on our behalf recently when I was at my DAR chapter luncheon and meeting. The member sitting next to me was putting the final touches on the applications for her two daughters. She said that they weren't yet interested and I replied that it was a wonderful gift she was giving them and they'll be thanking her later, just as I thanked Mom!

A while back I thought it would be nice to turn the tables and fill out an application for Mom, and I have written about that here recently, and you can find those posts here, here and here. The application Mom put together for me used one of Dad's Revolutionary War ancestors. At the time Mom might have joined but had no qualifying ancestor, the main requirement for membership. Recently, one of Mom's ancestors was verified so now Mom is good to go!

The weeks passed and I worked hard on it, finding proof documents, ordering birth and death certificates, checking the census records, examining probate documents. There was a mad chase while looking for Granny Whetstone's death certificate that turned out to be an object lesson all unto itself about the spelling of a name throughout a lifetime! It was a ton of work and I loved every moment of it.

I don't know how this will turn out and if my hard work will be deemed worthy by the powers that be and the genealogists who review applications at the NSDAR headquarters in Washington, D.C. Be that as it may. All I know is that I loved it. Loved the rigorousness with which documents needed to be examined and mined for little tid-bits of information. The precision demanded when it came to the simple yet confoundedly frustrating task of copying a date and repeating it in at least three places! Why should that be so hard for me? Is it because I am a tad dyslexic around the edges? Yeah. My brain tends to transpose numbers. Can you imagine how frustrating that little quirk of my brain can be when filling out a form with plenty of dates? Yet I loved it.

I can see how DAR daughters get hooked on this. The entire process is seductive and addicting if you love this work. Proof! That's the name of the game. Proof: it taxed me sorely. At the heart of it was proving the most simple things about an ancestor. For the male is was date and location of birth, date and location of death. Then for the female it was the same date and location of birth, date and location of death. And a record of the marriage. Last, for the line leading to the patriot, a connection to the next generation. Proof. Never have I felt so close to understanding the meaning of that word.

And here's the cool thing. If it got done right and is passed on and verified, Mom earns admission to the DAR and the right to a pin with the ancestor's name on it. How cool is that? I must confess here, I want those pins with the ancestor's name on it. I want a lot of them. Is that bad? I don't think so!!

I need to include a disclaimer here. I don't speak for the DAR, and really, that should be pretty obvious. But they like it when you let the world know that it's just you speaking and not them. And I do want you to know that the DAR is way more than genealogy. They're all about serving and volunteering in the community and helping out where they can. If you're interested, check out the main web site and click on through to register your interest. Or let me know and I'll help you find a chapter near you. Or you can use the web site to find out if your ancestor is already listed as one of their patriots. Here are some links, in case you want them:)

The main DAR web site:
How to join:
Chapter locator:
Membership interest form:

Just interested in the genealogy? Click on this:

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