Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mapping Out a Life: Joseph Travis

Courtesy Jack Cavanaugh -Kent, WA
Last spring, we went on a roadtrip to visit relatives in the Seattle area. While there we had a mini-reunion for my mom with her Proctor cousins. During the get-together, our host, Cleo Proctor Cavanaugh's son Jack allowed me to go through his late mother's photo albums and scan family photos. Over the next few months, I am going to post some of them here and discuss the people in them.

This photo is of Joseph Travis and his wife Florence Byram Travis of Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa. He was the brother of my great grandmother Amelia "Millie" Travis Proctor. As you can see from the writing on the photo, it was taken in July 1913. It is a Real Photo postcard and was sent through the mail from Sidney to Seattle. On the back, it discusses Millie and Joe's father Abraham Travis' deteriorating health, who died on January 5, 1914. Their mother was Ruth Ann Stolebarger Travis who passed away June 23, 1901.

Joe (26 Dec 1866-21 Nov 1942) lived his entire life in Fremont County, Iowa. Like most of his siblings, he didn't marry until relatively late for that time and did not have any children. He and Florence married on October 6, 1897.  He appears to have lived a pretty simple life, running a farm and spending time with his eleven siblings. Most of the Travises stayed in Sidney and they remained a very close family.

Julia M. Travis' book All in the Family discusses this family in great detail and is, undoubtedly, what first sparked my interest in genealogy when it was published at the end of 1975. Detailing the many descendants of Asa Travis, the book included me and my family in its pages - very exciting for a six year old.

To get a better look at Joe, I cropped and enlarged the photo below. His horses made the cut since they were probably an important part of his family.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sepia Saturday - My Norway Connection: The Herstad Family

The Herstad Family of Trondheim, Norway c. 1885
My father was 25% Norwegian through his mother's mother, Fredrikka Herstad Allen (1871-1953). She was the daughter of Peter Martin and Sofie (Einersen Vibe) Herstad. Pictured above is her family in Stjordalen, Norway. Fredrikka is seated on our far right. Next to her (moving to our left) is her sister Petra, her mother Sofie, her sister Ann, her father Peter and then two unknown people who may be Fredrikka's brother Axel and maternal grandmother Henricha Myhre.
This was a well-to-do family who owned and operated a store in Trondheim, Norway. Family records claim that Peter's father was a standard bearer for the king and his mother was a Danish baroness. I have not been able to substantiate these claims and strongly question their authenticity. However, I am not very experienced with the Norwegian records, so I am sure there is a lot more research to be done before I discover all that I can about the Herstads.
I have pored over the details in this photo in an attempt to get to know this family better. Notice the incredible pipe in Peter's hand and please don't overlook the cute potted plants on the window sill. Their clothes are just exquisite and the vines covering the house are really beautiful. The biggest mystery is the two people on our far left. This certainly appears to be a family photo, so I would think that they are both family members. From the arrangement, one would think that the elderly woman seated next to Peter is his mother, however from researching the Norwegian records, I have found that Peter's mother died when he was only 4 years old. Sofie's mother Henricha Myhre could be the woman pictured. She was only 16 at Sofie's (illegitimate) birth in 1838, so she would be about 63 in this photo. Another possibility is that she is Peter's stepmother Serine (Skott) Herstad who raised him after his mother died, but she would be about 83 in this photo. The person standing behond her is a real enigma to me. Is it a woman or a man? What is he/she wearing? Is it a dress or some kind of uniform? The hair parted in the middle leads me to believe it is a woman, but there are no other women in this family that are not already pictured and the person looks more like a young man to me. Axel was born in 1868, two years before my great grandmother. That would make him about 17 in this photo. Since I learned from an article in the New York Herald that he went to sea when he was 16, this photo might have been taken before he left in 1884. Comparing this person to the drawing of Axel in the preceding link leads me to believe that they are one in the same. What do you think? I welcome any input on this photo.

You can visit other interesting Sepia Saturday posts here.

Axel Herstad "discovered" by Mrs. Frederick W Vanderbilt, 1894

My paternal great grandmother Fredrikka Herstad had an older brother named Axel Herstad who was born on 19 May 1868 in Hommelvik, Trondheim, Norway.
He was an artist.
A rather lengthy article appeared on November 27, 1894 in the New York Herald, the headline of which is above. This article explained that Axel was a sailor on a ship called the "Conqueror" when his artwork was noticed by Mrs. Frederick Vanderbilt (Louise Holmes Anthony Torrance). She decided to sponsor his art education and placed him in the studio of the successful New York artist Robert Reid (misspelled in the headline). The article is a wealth of information on Axel's life and, judging from it, his future sounds very promising. In 1895, he was living in Brooklyn and in 1896 married Helga Ihle there.  It is difficult to determine what happened next since by 1900, he is back living in Trondheim, Norway. Sadly, he is recorded as a steamboat driver in this census. What could have happened to his promising art career? The article mentions that his painting of Christiansand Harbor was then hanging in the Scandinavian Sailors' Home in Brooklyn, New York. I imagine, as his patron, Mrs. Vanderbilt must have also owned some of his artwork. I am hoping that one day I can track down one of his paintings and witness, with my own eyes, his talent that so impressed Mrs.Vanderbilt. How incredible that would be!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mapping out a Life: On the Trail of John Armstrong Moore...

John Armstrong and Clara Moore c.1921, Seattle
I found this photo in my mother's box of family pictures. Luckily for me, someone long ago identified it on the back as "Grandfather's oldest brother John Moore and wife".  In this case, "grandfather" refers to Willard Calvin Moore, my great grandfather. He was the youngest son of Calvin Benjamin and Mary (Armstrong) Moore of Tuscola, Michigan. John Armstrong Moore was their oldest son. This photo inspired me to investigate John's life a little further. Using Ancestry.com and Family Search, I was able to map out an outline of John's life.

The Basics:
I already had the 1860 Federal Census of the family, where John appears as a one year old with his parents, grandmother and paternal aunt in Kalamo, Eaton, Michigan. Then, in 1870, the growing family appears intact in Columbia, Tuscola, Michigan. In 1878, John's mother Mary died, so when the family appears on the 1880 Federal Census farming in Akron, Tuscola, Michigan, it is without her. Unfortunately, I can't be sure what John was doing in most of his early adulthood because we don't have the 1890 Federal Census and I haven't found him in any state censuses yet. However, the 1900 Federal Census does give me an approximate marriage date for John and his wife Clara McDowell of 1885. Since, I found Clara working as a schoolteacher (perhaps teaching John's younger siblings) and living near John's family in the 1880 Census, this probably means that he stayed in Tuscola until, at least, 1885 when they married. By 1900, John and Clara are found farming all the way in Surry, Virginia. None of their family members appear to have moved with them, so I will probably never know what motivated that move. This census does list a birth month/year for John of Oct 1858. Since, I have not found a birth record for him yet and it seems to fit with the 1860 Census, I will go with that until I have additional information. Going on to the 1910 Federal Census, I find John and Clara all the way on the other side of the country in San Francisco! John is working as a carpenter and Clara is listed as the mother of 0 children. Then, in 1920 John and Clara have moved to Seattle. John is still a carpenter and Clara is working as a "special nurse".  I found Clara's death certificate on Family Search, which lists her as having died on October 16, 1923 in Seattle. Next, John is found in 1930 as a widower working as a farm laborer in McKee, Marion, Oregon. I was unable to find a death record for him.

By integrating the family stories that have been passed down with the records above, I am able to make sense of some of this information.
John and Clara sure moved a lot! This could possibly be explained by John's father's remarriage. After Mary's death, Calvin married a neighbor, whom none of the children liked. This caused the family to split. In fact, my great grandfather left home at fifteen for this reason, traveling all over the country. In 1900, he is found in Cascade, Montana. A letter from my grandfather Fred Moore explained that Willard was following his much older brother John when he left home. From this, I could surmise that John may also have spent some time in Montana during the "lost" years of 1885-1900 on his way east to Virginia. I don't imagine they had any money to buy property, so there may not be many records to document their whereabouts, unless they happened to be recorded on censuses. The commonness of John's name and his state-hopping also makes it difficult to track him. The letter goes on to say that Willard later spent time in the San Francisco area, attending business school. Perhaps, he and John met up out in San Francisco sometime between 1900 and 1906 when Willard was married in Washington. It is clear that both men were forced to make their own way since circa 1900 their father Calvin, fed up with his second wife, left Michigan and all of his possessions, including the family farm, to her and her son. Willard settled in Seattle and was able to forge a very successful career as a businessman, but it seems that John may have struggled. He often appears as a boarder on the censuses and, judging from his frequent moves, was never completely settled anywhere. I was happy to see that he was in Seattle in 1920 near his brother Willard. Hopefully, my great grandfather was able to help him during his time there. The photo is labeled as 1921-22, so they were clearly in touch with each other. However, the next part of John's story gives me pause and tugs at my heart a bit. I can't help but wonder why John, a 72 year old widower, was living in Oregon alone, working as a farm laborer in 1930. Why wouldn't he have stayed close to his successful little brother in Seattle after his wife's 1923 death? Willard died suddenly in 1933, but that doesn't explain John moving away, by himself, before 1930.  Could they have had a falling-out? I sure hope not!

With the resources immediately available to me, I was able to piece together much of John's life on the surface, but many questions remain. I plan on continuing to look for some of the missing records at a state level - any record of his birth and marriage in Michigan and his death record in Oregon. I checked both Seeking Michigan and the Michigan marriage collections on Family Search, as well as the Oregon State death records on Ancestry.com and Family Search, with no luck. More is coming online every day and, as I have so often learned in genealogy research, patience and persistence pays off. Although I may never get the answers to some of my questions, you never know what will pop up on the Internet tomorrow!