Our Ancestors and a National Pastime, by Mary Penner

First Nine of the Cincinnati (Red Stockings) Base Ball Club, 31 July 1869“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” Rogers Hornsby, the great hitter whose playing career lasted from 1915-37, voiced that sentiment about baseball.

Many other baseball lovers, like Hornsby, pine for spring and the beginning of the season. For me, though, October is the real showcase for baseball. Sure, we sweat it out all summer long with our favorite teams, but when October rolls around, things get serious. The playoffs, the World Series–there is great drama wrapped up in our national pastime.

Pinpointing baseball’s beginnings is a perpetual problem. Despite his colorful name and respectable military accomplishments, the dubious Abner Doubleday didn’t invent baseball as popular culture has enticed us to believe.

Baseball historians continue to uncover references to baseball-like games dating back more than two centuries. Who knows when our ancestors first started playing the game? Perhaps various forms of baseball have been played ever since cave-dwelling kids hit rocks with sticks, and that was a long time ago. The modern game, however, traces its roots to Hoboken, New Jersey where a group of upper-middle class New Yorkers came to play their games on the Elysian Fields in the 1840s.

Like most sports that we play today, baseball has evolved over the years. Back then pitchers threw underhand; the first team to score twenty-one runs or “aces” won; and, each team was allowed only one out per inning.

When you’re watching the playoffs and the World Series this month, remember the boys of summer in the 1800s who sweated it out on unmanicured fields, without gloves or helmets, without trainers, managers, and multi-million dollar salaries.

And, remember that baseball played a role in many of your American ancestors’ lives. They played in vacant city lots and on plowed country fields; they played in their Civil War camps and prisons. They played in Little League, on town teams, on club teams, and on high school and college squads. And a few lucky ones made it to the big leagues. Continue reading

Tips from The Pros: Have You Checked All Years in City Directories? from Paula Stuart-Warren, CG

Be sure to check for city directories from all the places where a family resided and try not to miss a year. This may mean checking multiple libraries and websites with digitized images. If you skipped some years, what have you missed? The year in which the oldest son has the designation “USA” after his name meaning he was in the military service? Those missed years may give the death date of the head of the family, tell that Uncle Horace moved to St. Louis, and give the name of the railroad grandpa worked for instead of just the term “laborer.” For the son, Malcolm, it might tell that he attended Kansas Wesleyan University, and that leads to the alumni office. A recent check at the 1890 Census Substitute at Ancestry gave me some surprises for a great-granduncle, Fred Slaker.

The 1890 census substitute includes information from city directories generally around 1888-92. Among the many other places to search for directories are the WorldCat, Family History Library,
Allen County Public Library, and of course, libraries and historical societies in the actual geographic area.  

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Your Quick Tips

Land Grant Applications
Don’t overlook land grant applications as they can be goldmines of information. We have the original land grant and attached application for my great-great-grandparents for land in Arkansas in the early 1800s. My grandfather received 120 acres. The application provided information on where he was coming from, who was traveling with him, what household goods they brought, livestock, slaves, and more. Our ancestor brought “wife, 3 children, wagon, 2 mules, general household and personal goods, a milk cow, a goat, and 1 slave” from Tennessee.
This land is still owned by a member of our family, and these documents are a valued documentation of what they had when they started clearing and building on the land, and the hardships they faced.
Jerrie Sanders Continue reading

The Year Was 1841

Wagons used in frontier day. Wagon train now on display at the Bird Cage Theater Museum in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona.The year was 1841 and after a two-year internment in the United States, thirty-five surviving slaves from the ship Amistad were freed by a Supreme Court ruling following a four and a half hour address by former President John Quincy Adams who led the defense. The slaves stayed for a time and toured New England states as abolitionists raised funds to ship them home to Sierra Leone.

Yellow Fever swept through southern states; the Adams Sentinel of 15 November 1841 gives the following account:

“Yellow Fever at New Orleans–We are informed by a letter from New Orleans, published in the New York Commercial Advertiser, dated October 29, that the yellow fever has taken its departure from that city; and that those who had fled the city are now returning. The writer in order to demonstrate most conclusively the fatality of the epidemic during the past season, has taken the trouble to sum up the total mortality, since the outbreak of the fever, commencing on the 1st of August, and ending on the 29th October, comprising a period of twelve weeks and five days, which he states to be 2,699 of whom, 1,722 were carried off by the fever, showing an average weekly mortality of 211 deaths, of which 135 were of yellow fever.”

In November of 1841 a trader named John Neely Bryan settled on the east bank of the Trinity River to set up a trading post. That trading post would grow to be a small settlement and eventually the city of Dallas. By 1860 it would be home to 2,000 people.

In August, another group headed out West with California as their destination. A wagon train gathered at Independence, Missouri, and on 15 May, fifteen wagons and two carts set out on the Oregon Trail. The party split with some of the group heading to California, while others went to Oregon. This was the first of many wagon trains that would make the journey West on the Oregon Trail.

Edgar Allan Poe thrilled readers with the first fictional detective story when The Murders in the Rue Morgue was published.

Image: Wagons used in frontier day wagon train now on display at the Bird Cage Theater Museum in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona. (From the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry.)

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Photo Corner

Donald Farrington, born and died in Winchester, Illinois (1838-1912). Contributed by D.L. Cohagan, M.D., Bentonville, Arkansas
I am attaching a photograph (ca. 1900) of my namesake and great-great grandfather, Donald Farrington, born and died in Winchester, Illinois (1838-1912). He was a blacksmith and had ten children with his wife Minerva Gibler (1848-85). Don fought throughout the Civil War with the 129th Regiment, Illinois Infantry, mustering in 1862 as a private, and mustering out as a Corporal in June, 1865. He lost his left arm but remained strong enough to swim across the Illinois River near Winchester.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

John Hemm (born 1834, Loretto, Pennsylvania) and his wife Elizabeth Fox (born 1839, Ohio)Contributed by Melvin R. Ward, Saint Cloud, Florida
This is a photo of John Hemm (born 1834, Loretto, Pennsylvania) and his wife Elizabeth Fox (born 1839, Ohio). The photo was taken in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Elizabeth was a strong energetic woman. When they had trouble with cattle rustlers in the 1890s, she would grab a rifle, saddle a horse, and keep watch over the cattle all night long, so that the men would be able to work during the day. She would have been in her sixties at that time and was around 100 when she died.

Photo Corner: Butterflies-Gertrude Harris and Marie Crow, ca. 1902

O.K., everyone say “Awwww!” They are so cute! :-)

Gertrude Harris Jensen and Marie Crow, ca. 1902Attached is one of my favorite pictures of my Grandmother (born 1896), Gertrude Harris Jensen. Based on othe age of the two girls in the picture, it was taken about 1902 in Greeley, Greeley, Nebraska. On the back in Grandma’s handwriting is “Marie Crow and I – Butterflies.” Grandma is the girl on the right wearing glasses.

Grandma had hundreds of photos in her home, almost all with names on the back, so I have a treasure trove of ancestor-related photos.

Robbi Ryan

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“Fairy Tale” Adoption Reunion Story

The other day I was looking through some of the news sites and I ran across this story of a serendipitous family reunion between an adoptee and her birth parents. Through a twist of fate, the birth mother and adoptee found themselve working together and that was how they found each other. It’s a really neat story, so if you like happy endings, you can read the whole article at ABCNews.com.