Elizabeth Tilley, child of the Mayflower

Elizabeth Tilley was 13 years old when she walked up the long wooden planks and boarded the Mayflower. Born about 1607, she had already lived in two countries and was now on her way to her third and final new country. This time though, she wouldn’t have to learn a new language and a new culture. Today it is thought that some of the problems the Pilgrims had with life in Holland was the idea that their children were becoming more Dutch than English. More worldly than Christian. When you really think about it, it is not so different from the fears parents have today of their children choosing today’s culture over the values taught by family.

So what was life like for 13 year old Elizabeth Tilley? There were a few other 13 year olds on the ship with her, they were Love Brewster (a boy), Mary Chilton, and John Cooke. There were two 14 year old boys, Francis Billington and Constance Hopkins and two 12 year old boys Samuel Fuller and Giles Hopkins. These were Elizabeth’s playmates and if you read the list there is only one other 13 year old girl, Mary Chilton.

Although history tells us very little about the children of Plymouth we can infer that whether they might have wished it or not, Mary Chilton and Elizabeth Tilley were likely often thrown together because of circumstances. And might have been confidants or in today’s vernacular, bff’s.

The passengers traveled below decks. Think about that for a moment. They weren’t in nice staterooms on Princess Cruise Line. They were in a dark, stinky, room filled with people and animals. This was Elizabeth’s home for 66 long days. Imagine no bath or bathroom, no privacy for months. And this was life for the children and their parents on the Mayflower.

I’m sure that there were times when the weather was nice and they were allowed on deck. Can you smell the ocean air? See the sunshine as the children would have? They must have been excited to walk out into that fresh air, maybe just to sit and read or listen to someone else read a book aloud. Those other days below deck would have been difficult indeed. Bad weather, animals to care for, sick people who needed tending. That is what would have taken up most of Elizabeth’s time on the Mayflower.

Elizabeth’s parents, John and Joan, died soon after landing in Plymouth. Elizabeth married fellow passenger John Howland sometime around 1623 when she was about 16. They would become the parents of 10 children and 83 grandchildren. John and Elizabeth Howland have millions of descendants today and have left a lasting legacy on the United States. Their descendants are preachers and presidents, actors and teachers leaving their own mark on our country.

Elizabeth Tilley Howland died December 21, 1687. Learn more about Elizabeth and John at Pilgrim John Howland Society and General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

Elizabeth Tilley is my 9th great-grandmother.

America: A Nation of Explorers

It’s November. That’s the month I choose to pester my family with Facebook posts about our Mayflower ancestors. It’s been my tradition the last few years to post tidbits once or twice a week to help inform the next generation about the trials and tribulations faced by those who paved the way for us.

I wonder sometimes why we have such a reverence for certain groups of people, such as those who traveled on the ship called Mayflower. What made them more special than those who traveled on the ship called Fortune? Nothing really. Each and every one of them faced the same hardships. Sickness, lack of food, winter. Hardships that I can’t even fathom as I sit here in my warm home typing away on my computer.

Thinking of those who forged the way in America reminded me of a conversation I had with a woman I had just met while I was living in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is a unique place of proud people. Some who still hold tight to the ideas of the Antebellum South. I met this woman one night while I was at work. We chatted for a couple of minutes while she was dropping names right and left. I’m sure you’ve met that type of person before. One who thinks their worth is made from who they know, not who they are?

The conversation was such that I was able to drop a few of my own by first naming my ancestor James Whitecotton who fought in the American Revolution under General George Rogers Clark (Clark is still a big deal in Louisville even today). After that I tossed in a couple of Mayflower ancestors and we turned the conversation towards the settling of America.

This woman made a comment then that struck me and has stayed with me even years later. She said that it was her opinion that the American people as a group are a people who are always striving for the next great thing, be it science or exploration. Always wanting to expand West. Her reasoning was that the earliest settlers were made up of mostly second and third sons who wouldn’t inherit land and so of necessity moved to the New World.

Thus she said, began a mindset that continued for each generation. Exploration. Land.

Looking at my family tree I see the truth of what she said. From those who traveled on the Mayflower and Fortune to America and created a New World, to those who moved from Germany to Russia to America to provide a better life for their families. I see the idea that things are always better over the horizon. I see in my family a single family line in which each generation moves a little further west until they finally end up in California.

So to begin my yearly Mayflower tidbits for my Facebook family I will share a story about a boy named John Billington, Jr. John was a mischievous young man of about 16 years old when he traveled on the Mayflower with his parents John Sr. and Eleanor and his younger brother Francis.

He and his brother were known for their pranks on board ship and once they landed in Plymouth they continued with their trouble-making ways. At some point, young John became lost in the woods outside of town and was found and returned by the local Indians. This was the setting for the book, John Billington: Friend of Squanto. John Billington, Jr became sick soon after this incident and died at a young age. His father John Sr. is another story for another day. All the Billington descendants are through son Francis.

My proven Mayflower ancestors are Allerton, Billington, Brown (2 lines), Cooke, Howland (2 lines), Tilley, and Warren. I’m always happy to meet new cousins so let me know if we share an ancestor.

Finding John Humphreys Covey

I wasn’t looking for him when I found him. That’s the way it is many times with genealogy, you find an ancestor or relative in the least likely place or when you least expect. I was filling in some information on my 4th Great-grandmother Rebecca Covey b. about 1825 in Virginia and died sometime after 1870 most likely in Missouri. Rebecca was married to George W Graham, a grandson of James Whitecotton. While looking at my notes and the information I had for Rebecca’s siblings I could see that I was missing death dates for a number of them. So I set out tracking that information.

Census records for 1850 and 1860 show John Humphreys Covey b. 1812 in Virginia and married to Susannah Petty and living in Missouri.1850 Census John Humphreys Covey1860 John H Covey MO

Pretty cut and dried, don’t you think? There he is in black and white, children being born right along, so obviously he is in Missouri. In the 1870 census, still in Missouri, John has a new wife and some step-children. Not uncommon. After 1870 though, there are no more records of John and his 2nd wife Jane in Missouri. All of the online trees I consulted showed both John and Jane as dying in Missouri sometime after 1870.1870 John H Covey MO

I left the dates blank and went on to the next sibling, Benjamin Covey. Benjamin was born in 1817 in Virginia and is in the 1850 Federal Census living in District 75, Ray County, Missouri, near his other siblings, just where I expected to find him. However, in 1860, Benjamin is living in Consumes, Sacramento County, California. California? Sometime earlier, I found a John H Covey in the 1852 California Census but discounted him because I found it difficult to believe he went from Missouri to California and back again in just a matter of 2 years. I thought it was most likely another man named John H Covey.

But armed with this information on Benjamin I took a closer look. My goodness! John is on page 42 of the 1852 census and his sister’s brother-in-law, Axton Graham is on page 49 of the same census. No mistake. 1852 John H Covey CAJohn traveled the Oregon Trail (about a 3 month trip one way) sometime about 1851 and was in the goldfields of California in 1852, then he took the Oregon Trail back to Missouri about 1853. John however, must not have been content to stay in Missouri after his second marriage, because armed with this new California link, I looked for him again and found John and Jane living in Shasta County, California in 1880. 1880 Census John H CoveySo once more, John traveled the Oregon Trail, this time about 1871, now with a wife and small children in tow. They settled in the Millville/Whitmore area, a small mining and logging community in the foothills above Redding in Northern California. John died in 1883 and is supposed to be buried in the Whitmore/Josephine Cemetery. Jane died in 1925.

Maps show the cemetery as just a 50 minute drive from where I live, so I asked my sister how she would feel about celebrating her birthday with a picnic lunch while searching out a cemetery in the foothills. She thought it was a grand idea, so we packed up the car, picked up our mother and set off for an adventure. And adventure it was. We found the cemetery, sadly disappointed to find it decayed and almost forgotten, a victim of vandals.   Whitmore CemeteryThe community of Whitmore (population 160) has surrounded it with a fence for protection, but they don’t have the funds for restoration. I couldn’t locate John’s grave but am confident he is indeed buried in Whitmore. There are descendants still living in the area but I haven’t connected with them yet, hopefully sometime in the future.

Ancestor Appreciation Day – September 27, 2015

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Today (September 27, 2015) is Ancestor Appreciation Day. The ancestors I’ve chosen to remember today are my great-grandparents John McWherter and Jennie Toledo Cox. I didn’t get to meet them, but I grew up hearing stories about them and their lives.

John was born on February 5, 1865 in Clyde, Jasper County, Iowa to Aaron McWherter and Martha McQuiston, the 2nd of 11 children. He spent most of his early years in Iowa but the family did go back to his father Aaron’s hometown of Elkhart, Noble County, Indiana for a time around 1880. In 1895 however, John is living in Jasper County, Iowa. In the 1900 Federal Census John is listed as a farmer and living with his brother-in-law James Hale.

Featured imageOn November 23, 1904, 39 year old John McWherter married 18 year old Jennie Toledo Cox. Jennie was born November 10, 1886 in Braymer, Caldwell County, Missouri to George W Cox and Malinda Jane Lee. Not long after the marriage the couple moved from Missouri to St. Anthony, Fremont County, Idaho where their first child, Virgel Irene was born on October 19, 1905, the first of 13 children born to John and Leda as she is known in our family.Featured image

John died on April 6, 1951 in Blackfoot, Bingham County, Idaho and Leda followed him on June 19, 1954. They are buried in Grove City Cemetery in Blackfoot, surrounded by family members.

I grew up knowing or having met all of those children except Florence Roseline who died in 1949. Every year my family would travel from Southern Nevada (where my father had been stationed in the Air Force) to different parts of Idaho (one year in Wyoming) to attend the McWherter Family Reunion. All of the brothers and sisters and their families would be there and stories would be told and we would catch up on the news of the previous year.

John and Leda were hard-working farmers raising a family that has stuck together through the years. I still keep in touch with second cousins and third cousins or first cousins once and twice or even three times removed. John and Leda built a home and a family. I’m sure that one reason I have such a love of family and a desire to know as much as I can about my family and those who went before me is due in part to ancestors such as John and Leda.Featured image

A Tale of Two Trees

I’m sure I’ve said it before, my mother passed the genealogy bug to me. I was living in Kentucky when I first became really interested and began doing my own research. Far from my family in Nevada. Not wanting to completely reinvent the wheel, I asked my mother to send me a gedcom of her existing tree so I could install it on my computer. Once I had that tree installed I set off doing research on my father’s lines. Meanwhile, my mother focused on her own lines. We would talk on the phone frequently, sharing updates on our individual progress.

In theory, this should have worked well for us, two different trees focusing on different parts of the country and different heritages. Or so we thought! One night my mother called to tell me about a story she had stumbled upon regarding Abraham Lincoln and the possibility that he might have been fathered by an Abraham Enloe and that an Enloe woman was the midwife at his birth. The reason this was interesting for my mother is that her 3rd great-grandmother was Rachel Enlow, also from Kentucky, Rachel would be related to those Enloes supposedly involved with Lincoln’s birth.

So, while my mother was telling this story, I opened my program to search for those Enloe/Enlow names so I could have a point of reference. I found Rachel and her father Joseph Enlow, but I didn’t have parents listed for him. A conundrum for me since the index showed many other Enloes listed on my family tree. Confused, I interrupted my mother and said, “Something doesn’t look right”. I told her I couldn’t find those Enloes and I said, “Let’s start with the first Enloe so I can see what happened with my tree”.

She said the immigrant Enloe is Hendrick born about 1632 in the Netherlands. “Odd,” I said, “I have Hendrick and he has a daughter Hester”.

“No,” she said, “He has a son Abraham”.

“That’s weird” I said. “Who’s Hester then?” I looked down through Hester’s line until I recognized the names Christiana Ditto and Nicholas Day Amos. “Oh oh!” I said. “Mom, I’m looking at Dad’s family. Dad is descended from Hendrick’s daughter Hester and you are descended from Hester’s brother Abraham. You’re cousins!” (Interjection: I had to shiver and go eww for a moment, because let’s be honest here, who wants to learn their parents are related?)

What did we do about our tree problem? Well, my mother and I combined our two separate trees into one large tree, finding two other instances where my parents have shared ancestors. To make it easier to know which line we are following, my mother and I have come up with a naming system that works for us. My father’s line has capitalized last names i.e.: Mildred MCWHERTER and my mother’s line has both names capitalized i.e.: KENNETH CHAFFEE. On those lines where they share, I’ve tried to be funny by listing the names oppositely i.e.: JAMES Draper.

Going back to Abraham Lincoln though, even if the Enloe connections are unproven, my mother does get to say she is related to him through her 10th great-grandparents Obadiah Holmes and Kathryn Hyde, making Abraham Lincoln my mother’s 6th cousin, 4 times removed.

I know there are many researchers who have separate trees for each family line, but I find it difficult to track all the ancillary people when they intersect my other lines in so many places. Working with just one tree helps me to better see the patterns that one needs to keep in mind when doing any kind of research.

From Farm Boy to Cult Leader

I’ve started this post many times but have found myself unable to complete the task. What is so difficult you might ask? Well, I find it hard to write about a man that I see as a user, a deceiver, a man who abandoned his family. And I think it is that last item that bothers me the most. I abhor the idea of men and women, mothers and fathers abandoning their children and when I find it happening in my family as I research my ancestors it bothers me.

Hiram Erastus Butler was born July 1841 in Lee, Oneida County, New York to Solomon Butler and Sarah Duel. He grew up on a farm in Oneida County and had little formal education. Hiram was the first cousin of George Robinson Duel, my 3rd great-grandfather. Although George might have known of Hiram, I see no evidence that they would have ever met.

Hiram, or H.E. Butler as he was also known, served in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War. He suffered some kind of injury because he is in a hospital in Pennsylvania where he is nursed by one Sophia Agnes Wilson, they marry about 1864. Their son Elmer is born in Pennsylvania in 1865, daughter Olla Elutheria is born in Delaware in 1867, and daughter Sophia Agnes is born in Pennsylvania in 1870. And in 1870, H.E. Butler has left his family and is living in New York beginning his new life as an Occultist and Spiritual leader. For a scholarly and more in depth look at H.E. Butler and his beliefs read Mark Demarest’s blog at http://ehbritten.blogspot.com/.

H.E. Butler created the Society for Esoteric Culture and preyed on women first in Boston and run out of that town for what the local newspaper euphemistically alleges as sexually assaulting the students, he heads next for San Francisco and tries once more. It is the 1890’s and so his previous dealings in Boston are quickly found out causing H.E. Butler to leave town once more and so he finds himself in Applegate, Placer County, California. Near Sacramento, Placer County is the home of the 1849 Gold Rush and in the 1890’s is still a wild, unsettled place. Here Hiram purchases land and creates his lasting legacy, The Esoteric Fraternity. What? You’ve never heard of it? I promise that you have most likely participated in it at some time. Don’t believe me?

Hiram Erastus Butler, user, deceiver, abandoner, maybe even a rapist, wrote a book in 1897 entitled, “Solar Biology” and that book and his beliefs are the foundation for today’s horoscope as found in most daily newspapers and many magazines in the United States. H. E. Butler left his children to grow up in a Home for Abandoned Children, apparently thinking only of himself, I think he has received his “just desserts” in that he created something that is used around the world and yet no one today remembers his name.                                                                                                                                       Esoteric Foundation

A Volcano Among Us

Featured image                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Last week, our county had a 100th remembrance of an event that very few other places in the world can share. The eruption of a volcano. On May 22, 1915, Mount Lassen, the volcano that sits quietly overlooking our town erupted with vengeance, wiping out settlements, farms, and animals. Were you aware that a volcano erupted in California just a hundred years ago? Neither was I. What a surprise it was to learn that the gentle mountain looking down at me held such a secret.

I grew up in the neighboring state of Nevada and I remember being told in school that volcanos in the continental U.S. were extinct. That the only active volcanos were in Hawaii. Not true, I know now. When Mount Lassen began its long 48 hour eruption it was night. The mountain began rumbling but the people took little notice. It was the giant mud-slide that got their attention. The Red Bluff Daily News has a wonderful pull-out section on the Anniversary, giving the history and actual news accounts of the day at www.redbluffdailynews.com under Special Publications.

What could have been a disaster for the people of Tehama and Shasta Counties was avoided because people cared about each other. They warned one another of the coming danger and helped others escape the path of mud heading down the mountain. This episode made me curious about the dangers we face in our towns and counties today. Do you rely on your local government to help you face the onslaughts heading your way or do you turn to friends, neighbors and family when you see floods, fires, and volcanoes?

Remembering the 100th Anniversary also caused me to wonder about other disasters that might have happened in areas in which my family lived in the past. If I didn’t know about a volcanic eruption what other disasters have I missed in my research? It isn’t always very easy to find out about those local disasters if they didn’t make the national or international news. Sometimes though, you might see clusters of information that help you decipher what really happened. If you see family members moving suddenly from one area to another, look at county histories and try to learn what caused people to move in or out of the area. Was it a flood, a famine, or disease? Did a new opportunity spring up in a new area, like gold being discovered in California? Or maybe land was now available in an area that previously belonged to another country?

To understand our family and our past we have to understand what drove those original settlers. Knowing what circumstances made them into the people they were can only better help us to understand the person we are today. Learn more about that volcano sitting in your backyard.                                             Featured image

Interruptions of Life

Yes, I know I’ve been gone a while, life interrupts. I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom life intrudes on plans and goals and at times makes complete changes to pathways and roads on which we travel. As I travel to my job out of town, I drive down an old highway that meanders over to the coast of California. I don’t get to travel that far, my stop is just forty miles from home. But in that forty miles, I travel from a populated, wi-fi, cell phone enabled area to an area that modern time has not yet found.

I see animals that still make their homes in Northern California, I see mountain creeks and trees that have grown in odd places. And I see wilderness. The wildness around me helps me to better picture how my ancestors lived in this same area 150 years earlier. I think of Marietta Henshaw Merritt. I think of Eujane and Roswell Graves. I think of those others I have yet to write about.

On my daily drive to work I see abundant game animals such as turkeys, geese, ducks, and deer. The water is plentiful. Eagles flying overhead tell me there are even more animals that I don’t see. In all that beauty I also see the hardships. Disease and hunger. Loneliness. Cemeteries.

I drive down this road that has twists and turns, hills and valleys. Times in which I don’t know what might be around that corner or over that hill, but I take the chance. The road on which I travel led men to seek out gold, and to create logging camps, to build cities and states. To build families and legacies. Today, I think of all those who came before me, sacrificing so much, working in conditions we will never truly understand, so that I have the freedom and luxury to choose where to live and where to work. And how to worship.

I think of my family tree and what it means to be just one small part of such a large group. Today, stop and look around, feel what life must have been like for your ancestors. And think on them.