He Ate Himself to Death

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A few years ago, my daughter and I were in the dentist’s waiting room, waiting for my son to be done with his appointment. Since the kids had back-to-back appointments, I had some time on my hands. I brought along my laptop and was abstracting mortality schedules for my  genealogy society. (Because it’s perfectly normal to abstract mortality schedules while waiting at the dentist’s office.)

1850 mortality schedule, Logan County, Ohio. Downloaded from Ancestry.

1850 mortality schedule, Logan County, Ohio. Downloaded from Ancestry.

My daughter was curious what I was working on. I explained that the mortality schedule was taken with some censuses and that it was a basically a death record. She looked through the entries as I continued typing. Suddenly, she sat up straight and exclaimed:

“He ate himself to death?!”

I gave her that look that only a parent can give. You know — the one where you don’t want to stifle their curiosity, but you have no earthly idea what your child is talking about.

I was also thankful that there was nobody else in the waiting room.

“Who ate himself to death?”

“That man there. It says he died of consumption.”

That’s my daughter. The one who has always been excellent at using context clues to figure out unfamiliar words.

I smiled and explained that “consumption” was what they used to call tuberculosis. I’m not sure if she was relieved or disappointed.

My son walked into the waiting room just after that, proud that he had no cavities. I was happy that we could leave before I’d have to explain what “bad blood” was.

52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 47 Recap

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52ancestors-week47I would blame the tryptophan for the delay in this recap, but since it was supposed to go out the day before Thanksgiving…

Last week, I wrote about my great-great-grandfather Peter Starkey, who seems to have lived life just under the radar.

Fix yourself a yummy turkey sandwich, leave a link to your post from last week, and gobble up the good stories from last week. It’s much better than fighting crowds at the mall.

Peter Starkey: Living Just Below the Radar (52 Ancestors #34)

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Have you ever researched an ancestor and had the feeling that he wanted to stay anonymous? Not to say that he didn’t want to be found, just that he didn’t want you to find out too much about him. That’s the feeling I get with my great-great-grandfather Peter Starkey.

Peter was born in Ohio (probably in Perry County) 3 November 1830, the second son of John and Mary (Monroe) Starkey. He married Elizabeth Denune 21 June 1854. Throughout his entries in the census, he is listed as a farmer. Yet, like John Kelley, his 1860 agricultural census entry didn’t tell a whole lot. He had $50 worth of farm equipment, 2 horses, and 1 cow.

He registered for the draft in 1863, but as far as I’ve been able to determine, he never served.

Ohio started keeping death records in 1868. The earliest records were kept in the county Probate Court in ledgers. While I’m thankful they started keeping them, these earliest records typically do not name the parents unless it was an infant who died. (It wasn’t until December 1908 when Ohio started with more “modern” death certificates that we start to see parents listed as a matter of course.)

So when did Peter die? December 11, 1907.

(Yes, I know that I’ve identified his parents and that I really don’t need a modern death certificate for him. I think that dying in December 1907 was his final way of “Ha! You’re not going to find out much about me!”)

Peter is buried in Olivet Cemetery in Perry County, not far from his son Edward.

Peter and Elizabeth Starkey tombstone, Olivet Cemetery, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow, 30 May 2004.

Peter and Elizabeth Starkey tombstone, Olivet Cemetery, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow, 30 May 2004.

52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 46 Recap

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52ancestors-week46Do you remember the song “Movin’ Right Along” from The Muppet Movie? It got stuck in my head when I started to put this post together. (Apologies if it’s now stuck in yours.)

Week 46. Only 6 more. 6!

This week, I featured Martha Hibbs, the first wife of Philip Mason. (You know, the Civil War vet who married his second wife less than 2 weeks after she divorced.)

Be sure to take a look at the posts from Week 45. Leave a like to your recent post in the comments below.

Happy blogging!

Martha Hibbs: The First Wife (52 Ancestors #33)

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My last post featured Philip Mason, my third-great-grandfather who married his second wife just days after her divorce was granted. Seems only fair to feature his first wife this week.

Martha Hibbs, my third-great-grandmother, was born 31 August 1837 in (West) Virginia, the daughter of John and Jane (Amos) Hibbs. She and Philip married in 1858 in Marion County, (West) Virginia.

In 1860, Martha, Philip, and their 1-year-old son Eber were living in Doddridge County, (West) Virginia. They had no real property and just $75 in personal property.

P. [Philip] Mason household, 1860 U.S. census, population schedule, Doddridge County, Virginia, page 549, household 690, family 691.

P. [Philip] Mason household, 1860 U.S. census, population schedule, Doddridge County, Virginia, page 549, household 690, family 691.

By 1870, the family had grown; daughter Mary Delpha (or Marydelphia) was born in 1861, Eunice in 1866, and Elizabeth in 1869. They were living in Monongalia County, West Virginia.

By 1880, the family had moved again, this time to Ritchie County, West Virginia. The family continued to grow, with daughters Mahala, Lumi Viola, and Emma.

According to Philip’s Civil War pension file, Martha died 28 March 1893; I have found no death record for her.

Questions that I have about Martha: What must she have experienced when Philip went into the Civil War, leaving her with Eber and Mary? Is Philip’s pension file accurate regarding the information about her death?

52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 45 Recap

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52ancestors-week45Cold and snow are hitting much of the U.S. right now. I can’t say that I’m thrilled about that. But I suppose that means that we should all stay inside and do more writing! (You should also do some reading — lots of good posts last week!)

A few days ago, I posted a survey asking for your opinion on doing 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks again in 2015. If you haven’t already, please take a moment and let me know your thoughts.

Last week, I highlighted my third-great-grandfather Philip Mason, who was a Civil War veteran. His pension file surprised me.

Who did you write about this past week? Leave a link in the comments below.

Philip Mason: Civil War Vet… and Ladies Man? (52 Ancestors #32)

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For Veterans Day, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight Philip Mason, my third-great-grandfather and veteran of the 14th West Virginia Infantry. Philip was born 20 November 1834 in Monongalia County, (West) Virginia, the son of John and Elizabeth (Everts) Mason.

Philip married Martha Hibbs in 1858 in Marion County, (West) Virginia. (Of course, theirs would be among the three marriage records on the page that don’t have the exact date filled in. Thanks, Marion County clerk.) Martha died in 1893.

Not too surprisingly, Philip remarried after Martha’s death. On 3 July 1894, he married Amanda D. Lowers in Ritchie County, West Virginia.

Philip Mason and Amanda Lowers

Philip Mason and Amanda Lowers

As was typical for widows of Civil War veterans, Amanda applied for a widow’s pension after Philip died in 1909. It was in her declaration for a widow’s pension that I got a bit of a surprise:

philip-mason-pensionPhilip and Amanda were married on 3 July 1894. (Yes, I knew that.) Amanda D. Mason was divorced from Weeden N. Lowers on 21 June 1894.

What? Not only was Amanda married before, but she divorced her husband a mere 12 days before marrying Philip.

I haven’t tracked down the divorce file for Amanda and Weeden, but the dates makes me wonder how it played out that Philip married Amanda just 12 days after the divorce was finalized. Was Philip a bit of a ladies man?

Philip died 10 January 1909 in Washington County, Ohio and is buried in the veterans section of Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: The Sequel?

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questionsAs we approach the end of 2014, I have had several people ask me, “So, Amy, about the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge….  Are you/we going to do it again next year?” Here’s my answer…


Here’s my question for you: Do you want to do the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge in 2015? If so, should the format change? Currently, there really isn’t a structure — you decide who to feature and you write about them. Some people found that liberating; others found it frustrating. (“I can’t decide who to write about!”)

Going into 2015, we could continue the Challenge just as it is. We could also start an optional weekly theme (announced at the beginning of each month). You could choose to use the theme or not; it would just be a way to spark ideas on who to feature or what story to tell.

Of course, there’s the option that we don’t do the Challenge next year.

Let me know what you think by taking this quick poll. Feel free to leave a comment, too!

Do you think we should do 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks again in 2015?

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52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 44 Recap

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52ancestors-week44Week 44. It’s starting to feel “really real” right about now!

My ancestor this past week was John Kelley, who frustrated me because of the lack of information about what he raised on his farm. I’ve always said that No Story Too Small readers are the best. Be sure to check out the follow-up regarding why I don’t know what he raised.

Week 44. Hmmm, if I’m going to meet my own challenge, I need to step it up into high gear…!

Who did you write about this past week? Tell us and leave a link in the comments below. While you’re here, take a look at what some people wrote in Week 43.

Read the Instructions… If You Can

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Yesterday, I mused about my great-great-grandfather John Kelley and why he’s listed on the 1860 agricultural schedule with no livestock and no crops. I gave three theories why this might be:

  • He raised something completely different, something that isn’t listed on the schedule.
  • He didn’t tell the enumerator what he raised.
  • The enumerator didn’t write it down or didn’t copy it over from his notes to this final copy.

No Story Too Small readers are awesome! Some came up with additional theories. Jade pointed out that the schedule was supposed to report the activity of the year prior to the official census date of June 2; perhaps John had recently acquired the land and hadn’t yet harvested anything. Great suggestion! In this case, however, John had acquired the land after his mother died in 1852.

Jade also wondered if there was a crop failure. We can’t discount that. (I’ve often said that if you want to gamble, don’t go to Vegas; just own a farm.)

Purslaneforever wondered if perhaps John leased the farm to someone else and that’s why the crops don’t show up. That got me wondering — how would a leased farm show up in the 1860 agricultural schedule? Would it be under the land owner or the person leasing it?

I couldn’t find the enumerator instructions for the 1860 agricultural schedule. There’s good reason for that. According to the Census Bureau, “No printed instructions were issued with reference to the schedules of 1860.” (Instructions for 1850 – 1900 are available as a PDF from the Census Bureau).


Really? They give the enumerators a form with 48 columns without any instructions?!

There were instructions for the 1850 schedule:

“1. Under heading 1, entitled ‘Name of individual managing his farm or plantation,’ insert the name of the person residing upon or having charge of the farm, whether as owner, agent, or tenant.”

The enumerator in 1860 (Dawson (?) Teal) was not the same enumerator as 1850 (J. Shelley). Would he have followed the 1850 instructions and listed farms under the name of the person having charge of the farm (in other words, the lessee/tenant)? Or would he have listed everything under the owner, regardless of who had charge? Or would he have split the two: listing the land under the owner and the crops and livestock under the lessee/tenant?

Unfortunately, we may never know. My experience with Perry County land records is that leases were not commonly recorded in this time period. Also, there would be informal arrangements that wouldn’t even have been written down, let alone recorded at the courthouse.

So, we should add a fourth possibility to why John Kelley didn’t have any livestock or crops listed:

  • He leased the land to someone else and the enumerator opted to list the crops and livestock with the lessee.

I’m a big proponent of going through the enumerator’s instructions to see how they were supposed to record things. It would have helped had the 1860 agricultural schedule had some instructions!

Not John Kelley's farm, but for some reason, this is how I picture it. Maybe I'm just bitter that I don't know what he raised in 1860.

Not John Kelley’s farm, but for some reason, this is how I picture it. Maybe I’m just bitter that I don’t know what he raised in 1860.