Character Studies


Needless to say I’ve gotten behind in my blogging—my move, projects, work and such have derailed me a bit. I had fully intended to mark the 176th anniversary of the birth (and 95th anniversary of the death) of my 4th great grandmother, Mary Byrne Cunningham a couple of weeks ago. Better late than never…

Mary was born 21 July 1838 in North Burgess Township, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada to Owen and Ellen (Dowdall) Byrne. She married James Cunningham (formerly of County Armagh, Ireland) on 07 Jan 1863 in Perth, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada. The couple started their family immediately welcoming my 3rd great grandmother Ellen Cunningham in late October 1863. They relocated to homestead in Platte Township in Benzie County, Michigan in 1865—leaving Ellen with her Byrne grandparents. The rest of Mary’s children: Michael, John, George, James, Mary, Sarah, and Anna Clara, were born there. By 1884 Ellen had joined the family in Michigan and then married Cornelius Shea a year later in neighboring Manistee County.

Ellen Cunningham Baptism, 1863

As early as 1895 the Cunningham family had moved on to Antigo, Langlade County, Wisconsin—again with the exception of Ellen. The remaining children largely settled in Wisconsin. Mary was widowed in 25 January 1906. She then settled in with her youngest daughter, Annie (Cunningham) Nixon in Antigo, Wisconsin. Mary died 25 July 1919 in Langlade County, Wisconsin.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Still… chugging (or maybe puttering) along at my 52 Ancestors… I haven’t totally given up. We’ll see how far I get by the end of the year.

Mom, Carol and I in Detroit, 1985It seems like many people (especially as viewing the world through children’s eyes or memories) have a family member around that they are sure their related too—they’re at all the family gatherings, everyone knows them, etc.—but you don’t quite know how they’re related. Now, yes, not all of them really are related but mostly in my family they have been.

For my Trotter side of the family that was Cousin Carol pictured to the left with my mother and I. This is a detail from a larger group shot I’ve shared before here. She was a regular face at my grandparents’ house. I remember her at Thanksgiving (our big annual Detroit gathering) and at all the in-between visits. But for the life of me I didn’t know how she fit into the family—especially after I started researching them. I didn’t even know her last name. Come to find out she’d been in my database all along but she (like many people in my family) didn’t use the name given in “official” sources within the family.

Cousin Carol was in fact my Grandfather Levi’s older first cousin through Great Grandfather Harrison’s sister, Pearl Trotter. Pearl married George Washington Webb on Christmas of 1905 and had a passel of children in Bradley County, Arkansas. Carol, born Calidona Webb, was the sixth child and second daughter, born in 1913. She married Robert Nickolson in 1935 (recorded as Nixon—though he clearly signed Nickolson) in Bradley County, Arkansas. After that it’s a bit of a blank for me.  She may have had a child named Charles? As I mentioned, she was family. I saw her often in Detroit. But I never really knew how she fit.

Nickolson-Webb Mg 1935Aunties, if you’re reading this I have more questions!

Happy hunting,

Jess

CoryEdwardGettysburg1863My interest in visiting Gettysburg was peaked when I learned about my 4th Great Uncle Edward M. Cory. He was born around 1826 in Ontario County, New York one of the younger children of Gideon and Ruth Cory and the younger brother of my 4the Great grandfather John B. Cory (father of Augusta Cory). The family appears to have moved to Michigan sometime between the 1830 and 1840 Census settling in Wayne County. I know nothing of his early life but on 21 Dec 1848 Edward married Clarissa A. Gates in Plymouth, Wayne County, Michigan. Within a year the first of two daughters was born—Miss Mary Ann Cory. Two years later she was joined by Josephine A. Cory. In the 1850 Census Edward was listed as a Farmer but come the time of his enlistment in August of 1862 he was occupied as a carpenter.

Edward mustered in15 Aug 1862 as a Private in Company C of the 24th Infantry. As mentioned in yesterday’s post he was mortally wounded in on 1 Jul in the opening salvos of Gettysburg. He was wounded “through the thigh by a ‘Minnie ball’ and died 14 Jun 1863 of gangrene per his company Chaplain’s testimony in Clarissa’s widow’s pension file. The Champlain states that he was buried at the old burying ground at Gettysburg but there is also at least a stone at Riverside Cemetery in Plymouth, Michigan.

Clarissa was granted a widow’s pension including some funds to aid in raising Josephine as a minor (under the age of 16). I haven’t been able to trace what happened to Mary Ann, but Josephine married Albert M. Button 25 Dec 1868. The couple had one child, Edward, born 22 Jan 1870. At the time of the Census they lived in Plymouth and Clarissa was part of their household. Josephine and Albert appear to have divorced sometime between then and 1880 when she and Edward resided with Clarissa in Plymouth. At the age of 18 Edward married Minnie E. Pulcifer in my hometown of Lansing, Michigan. From what I’ve found so far they had no children—creating yet another dead end in my Cory family.

Happy hunting,

Jess

I’m well off pace but I still hope to complete the challenge! These next few ancestor profiles will hook into my recent roadtrip.
I’m 99% certain that Philip Helsel is my 6th Great Grandfather and the father of John Helsel who brought his family to Michigan in in the 1840s. I believe—but have been unable to conclusively prove—that he is the son of Johan Tobias and Engela (Mohr) Heltzel. I do not know the name of his wife (some researchers have suggested Catherine) but their children included John (above), Jacob and Catherine (who married William McFall)—who brought their families to Michigan around the same time; Peter whose family thrived in Mahoning County, Ohio; and then I believe there were at least two other sons: Philip Jr. and Joseph. Philip was born in Pennsylvania in 1769 in York County, Pennsylvania. He is the Philip who lived in Fallowfield Township, Washington County in 1810. In 1820 and 1830 he is enumerated in Boardman Township, Mahoning County, Ohio. I believe that he died  before 1840.1830 Census HelselWhile I am fairly confident that my gut feeling that the connection between Philip and Johan Tobias is correct, I wasn’t able to make any progress in proving the connection on this trip. I found a tremendous amount of material on the Helsel/Heltzel/Hoetzel families including a fair amount of supporting material on collateral lines—particularly in Bedford and York Counties—but nothing concrete came to light. I’m hoping that backtracking and doing more research in Ohio will get me farther.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Here’s one of those family finds that brings a painful truth of history to life…  Not everyone made it across the pond.

Rosetta Suffling was the younger sister of my 4th Great Grandmother and the second known child of William and Elizabeth (Pegg) Suffling. She was born 8 Apr 1805 in Lessingham, Norfolk, England. She married Samuel Gibbs at St. Mary the Virgin Church, Hemsby Parish, Norfolk, England on 25 December 1829. The couple appears to have settled in Hemsby where Samuel worked as farm labor. They had nine children: Samuel Jr, William Suffling, Isaac, Elizabeth, Edmund, Mary Ann, Alfred, James, and Matthew.

GibbsPassengerList1849On 1 May 1849 the family started their journey to the United States boarding the Bark Gov. Hinckley or George Hinckley under the command of Captain William Loring at London. Unfortunately around the middle of May (165 years ago this month) there was an outbreak of cholera aboard ship and by the time the ship arrived in New York on the 12 Jun 1849 10 individuals had died including Rosetta and daughter Mary Ann (both died 21 May), and her sons Edmund and Matthew (both died 23 May).

 

Samuel Gibbs and their remaining children made it to New York and Samuel married Lovina Huff to help raise them. Samuel and Lovina ended up in Barry County, Michigan in the vicinity of their Johnson cousins, my 3rd Great Uncles Matthew (who married his cousin, Elizabeth Gibbs) and John.

Happy hunting,

Jess

For more information on the 19th century sailing lines between America and the world see: Cutler Carl C. Queens of the Western Ocean: The Story of America’s Mail and Passenger Sailing Lines. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, 1961.

To date Sandy York (my 2nd Great Grandfather)  is my earliest identified York ancestor. Per the Census he was born a slave in March of 1837 in Virginia to slave parents also born in Virginia. He married his wife Agnes in 1861 and the couple settled in Palestine Township, Bradley County, Arkansas. And according to the 1900 Census they had 13 children, only 10 of which were still living. So far I’ve identified:

  • Susan who married Charley Martin and Henry Webb
  • Albert
  • Philip Henry (my Great Grandfather)
  • Daniel G. who married Elizabeth Martin
  • Edward who married Eliza Martin and Millie Hamilton
  • Mary Lee who died young
  • Agnes or Maggie who may have married Alexander Charles Cabean*
  • Julia who married Joseph Trotter
  • Ida Jane who married Harvey Ross

Sandy York Household, 1880I have had trouble locating Sandy in major sources prior to 1870 but I have found him listed among registered voters in 1867. He also appears frequently in land transaction indexes. In 1871 a sale of cotton to E. B. Turner was recorded. In 1885, 1888, 1890 he bought lots of land from J. T. Johnson, B. F. Previtt, and John D. Pugh. The only sale I found was to his son Edward in 1903. In a compilation of material created by the Bradley County Genealogical Society as an 1890 substitute he was noted as the owner of 160 acres. He was also named as a witness in an inquisition on what was deemed an accidental drowning in 1886.  And as late as 1905 he is listed as having paid his poll tax. He is also listed in the county Index of Marks and Brands on page 122 (which I would dearly love a copy of but haven’t tracked down yet).

Sandy died in (at least) his 70s on 7 May 1909 (105 years ago tomorrow) and was buried at Johnsville Cemetery.

Happy hunting,

Jess

AlisonSarrellMg1863Today marks the 142nd Anniversary of the death of my 4th Great Grand Uncle, a strange, and interesting, figure in history whom I only learned about by accident.

Charles Wright Parker Alison was the second son of Captain Harry and Frances (Sinclair) Alison and the brother of my 4th Great Grandmother Jane (Alison) Massy. Charles was born in 1811 (possibly on St. Vincent in the West Indies) and raised around the world while his father served as a Paymaster for the 90th Regiment Light Infantry (the Perthshire Volunteers). His youngest brother in a memoir credits Charles as being “the only one of the family that left his mark in the world.” Where his older brothers followed their father into the military, Charles took another route to service. He instead joined the Foreign Service and had a highly successful if eccentric career as an envoy for the British Empire.

Charles early career included stints in Albania, Egypt, Syria, Samos, Serbia, Bosnia, and Wallachia. On 20 Feb 1857 he was appointed Oriental Secretary at Constantinople and in December was promoted to Secretary of her Majesty’s Embassy there. In 1858 Queen Victoria appointed him Her Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Shah of Persia and in 1860 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Bath.

After likely meeting while he served in Constantinople, Charles married Eliza (Sarrell) Baltazzi, the widow of banker Theodore Baltazzi, on 28 Feb 1863 in Paris, France. But the marriage was short-lived. While Charles was on assignment in Tehran, Persia, Eliza traveled to Cairo, Egypt with her daughter Helen Baltazzi, fell ill and died on 27 Dec 1863 at the Hotel D’Orient. Charles did maintain some connection with her family as her nephew Henry Hardy Ongley was appointed with him in Persia as well as served as his personal secretary for a time. Charles was also one of the godparents of another nephew, Philip Charles Sarrell, in 1866.

In The English Amongst the Persians historian Denis Wright notes that Charles did “acquire an Armenian mistress” and with her had at least one child, Victoria. He also spends a bit of time on his career and rumors about his conduct in Tehran.1 In fact there is an interesting Chancery case noted in The Weekly Reporter in January of 1875 regarding both Alison’s alleged children and a subsequent marriage between his mistress, Vardine Rafael, and his nephew Henry Ongley.

By contrast to Wright’s descriptions, one of Alison’s contemporaries and friends, Sir Austin Henry Layard described him thus:

He had real genius and was singularly gifted. He was, perhaps, the man the most highly endowed by nature that I have ever known. His qualities of head and heart were equally remarkable. He was generous, affectionate, and unselfish, of the most amiable disposition and the most equal temper. He was an accomplished linguist, speaking and writing Turkish, Persian, and Greek, and several European languages, with perfect facility, and having a sufficient knowledge of Arabic. He was a skillful musician, playing on several instruments, and would have been an excellent artist had he given himself seriously to art. His memory was singularly tenacious, and although he had not read much, he had retained all that he had read.2

A description that echoes the list of accomplishments his brother described of most of their siblings as well as their mother.

Charles served in Persia until April of 1872 where after a twenty day illness he succumbed to pneumonia attended by the British Doctor to the embassy and the Shah’s own chief physician, as well as the tender ministrations of his sister Mrs. Julia Dixon (Alison) Hill. He died the 29th of April and was buried in the Armenian Church of Saints Teddy and Bartholomew in Tehran, Persia.

I’d love to find out more about Charles and I am very curious to know if his line (the children of Vardine Rafael) survived.

Happy hunting,

Jess

  1. Wright, Denis. The Persians Amongst the English: Episodes in Anglo-Persian History. London: I.B. Tauris, 2001, p. 26.
  2. Layard, Austen H. Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia: Including a Residence Among the Bakhtiyari and Other Wild Tribes Before the Discovery of Nineveh. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, 439-440.

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