The news from the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah seemed to come out of nowhere, but after years of research and study, the FHL will no longer be sending microfilm or microfiche to its various family history centers across the United States.
This has caused quite a bit of an uproar in the genealogical community with people on both sides becoming upset over what it could possibly mean for researchers. What does this mean for us as genealogists?
This switch will save money for both the FHL (in postage) and for those who are renting the microfilm and microfiche. These savings for the researchers can now be put into funds for purchasing other vital records.
This change indicates a step forward in the genealogical community as a whole. No longer are records going to be available to only a select few or those that have access to microfilm/microfiche, but they are working to make all of these records digitally accessible by 2020.
Online access to digital images of records allows FamilySearch to reach many more people, faster and more efficiently.
As when any big change happens within our community, we get a chance to sit together and talk about what this means for us and what we do and how we can move forward to make the transition for everyone — from amateur to professional to expert — easier.
Out of all the comments, blog posts and explanations I’ve seen, accessibility to specific records has been the biggest hurdle to this conversation. Many genealogists and researchers rely on microfilm/microfiche to access specific records that may not be available online.
Financially is both in pros and cons as this will also cause many genealogists and researchers to spend more money on obtaining vital records that they cannot simply get from the rented microfilm/fiche any longer.
What are your thoughts on the change in microfilm and microfiche? As someone who has never really used it unless, at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, this doesn’t affect me very much at all. I’ve been lucky enough to gather most of my vital records and original source material from various online sources.
Sound off below on your opinions concerning this change!
Author’s Note: This information is as accurate as found in my current research.
Some men had one wife, others 56. Elias Gardner (son of William and Ann Gardner of Massachusetts) landed somewhere in the middle. He had nine wives — Harriet, Amy, Betsy, Diantha, Ruth, Ellen, Ann, Emily + Martha. This is their story.
Wife #1: Harriet Snow Smith
Harriet Snow Smith was the first of Elias’s wives, only 17 when they married on the 1st of January 1826 in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. A few short years later, in 1830, at the age of 22, Harriet Snow Smith died, leaving Elias with two small children — a toddler son by the name of Walter Elias and a five-month-old baby daughter by the name of Harriet Elizabeth. There was no indicator of death and the only mention of the possible cause we have is ‘suddenly’ as indicated on Vital Record Transcripts (seen below):
Harriet died before her husband became a Mormon polygamist with eight other wives. One would wonder what she would have thought or said about his actions after her death. Little else is known about Harriet except the words left on her tombstone by her husband which reads:
“In Memory of Harriet Gardner Wife of Elias Gardner Who died March 2, 1830, in her 22-year. Sleep, till death doth silence all, Nor wake again, till Jesus calls Then from the grave, in haste arise, And soar to worlds above the skies.”
Wife #2: Amy Pritchard
Amy was Elias’s second wife after his first died at a young age. According to family lore, the two met at some sort of dancing event, and that between the two of them, they could clear the dance floor. The two were married the day before Valentines on the 13th of February in 1832.
In 1840, Amy, her husband Elias and her step-son Walter joined the Mormon Church where her husband began to learn about the secretive teachings of polygamy that the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith taught and practiced.
The family began to move around and follow the Mormon migration patterns from Massachusetts to Ohio (Portage/Kirtland) to Illinois (Nauvoo) and lastly to Nebraska (Winter Quarters) where Amy Pritchard passed away on the 24th of November 1846 after taking sick with the chills — this mother of four (three daughters and one son) was buried in an unmarked and unnamed grave along with others that had died so quickly in the winter season that year.
Her children’s names were:
Wife #3: Betsy Elizabeth Markham
Before Elias’s second wife, Amy passed away, Betsy and Elias met, but it wasn’t until a scant seventeen days after Amy died that Elias married Betsy Elizabeth Markham at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, she was thirty-two years old when she became his wife.
The two traveled across the plains with Harriet’s son Walter and Amy’s living children. Betsy bore two more children to Elias (bringing his total of children to eight at this point). A son named William Kimball (died in infancy) and a daughter named Vilate.
Betsy was the first wife to make it past the age of 45. In fact, Betsy didn’t die until she was 91 years of age in Payson, Utah from bronchitis, in 1906.
Wife #4: Diantha Hanchett
Less than a year after he married Betsy, Elias married a young 17-year old girl by the name of Diantha Hanchett, who at this time became Elias’s first polygamous marriage and his fourth wife.
To this union, seven children were born:
While living in Utah Territory, (which eventually became the state of Utah), this particular polygamous group of the Gardner family clashed with local indigenous tribes as they began to encroach upon their lands.
Diantha ended up being a queen-of-all-trades. She learned how to make candles as a teenager. She home-schooled each of her seven children and taught many neighbor children over the years. Not one to follow all the rules, Diantha enjoyed a good cuppa tea and even told her children and grandchildren on occasion, “Better a poor bellie burst than good tea waste.”
It did not take long until Diantha was no longer the newest sister wife in the family. After only five years into her marriage to Elias, he added another wife to the family.
Wife #5: Ruth Markham Abbott
Like many of Elias’ polygamous wives, Ruth Abbott (née Markham) was kin to his other wives. Ellen Elizabeth Abbott and Emily Ann Abbott were Ruth’s daughters from her first marriage to Joshua Chandler Abbott.
In this case, Elias married a mother and her two daughters — having 14 children in combination with those two daughters. Ruth became grandmother to these particular children, twice over. In addition to being the mother of two of Elias’ wives, Ruth was also the biological sister of another of his wives, #3 Betsy Elizabeth Markham.
According to one family story, “Ruth finally agreed to marry him [Elias], but she would never live with him as a wife as long as he was married to her daughter. She couldn’t stand the thoughts of sleeping with her daughter’s husband.”
Ruth and Elias never had any children together.
Wife #6: Ellen Elizabeth Abbott
In February of 1852, Elias took a 6th wife and third in his polygamous series of wives. Her name was Ellen Elizabeth Abbott and she was only 14 years old. Elias was 43 – a 29-year age gap. To this union, eleven children were born.
Why was she so young? It turns out the Ellen Elizabeth had traveled across the plains with Elias and her aunt Betsey Elizabeth Markham (wife #3) at the age of nine. Which gives question if she was being groomed for a position as one of Elias’s many wives. While official records state that Elias was ‘called’ into polygamy right before he married Ellen Elizabeth, it is clear that he already had two other wives before her. Their children were:
Iris and Ira (twins)
Wife #7: Ann Elizabeth English
Out of all Elias’s nine wives, Ann Elizabeth English was the only foreigner he married and there was a reason for that. Elias met Ann and her mother Martha while he was a missionary for the Mormon Church in England.
Ann was born in South Shields, County Durham, England and married Elias when she was only 18 years old and he was 47. She was his seventh wife and fifth polygamous marriage.
Ann Elizabeth arrived in the states in 1855, and in later November of 1855, she married Elias. About five years later, her mother Martha Todd English (Elias’s last wife) died when Ann was only 23-years of age. The union between Elias and Ann Elizabeth produced 12 children:
When Ann and her mother first came to the states, it was thought (according to family lore) that through tradition she would marry one of Elias’s sons, possibly Walter or Henry, but Ann told her granddaughter years later, “I did not want to marry Walter or Henry, I wanted to marry your grandfather.”
Wife #8: Emily Ann Abbott
The last of his living wives, Emily Ann Abbott was the younger sister wife (number six) and daughter of wife number five. The story goes that Emily Ann had spent most of her life growing up in Elias Gardner’s household and that because of her poor health, she was encouraged to marry a much older man in polygamous marriage.
When they married she was only 19, but Elias was 60, a 41-year difference in age. On the same day that Emily Ann was married to Elias, he was also “married” to the deceased mother of his seventh wife.
To the marriage of Emily Ann and Elias, four children were born:
Due to what seems to be her poor health, Emily Ann passed away in 1880, at the young age of 31 years old, her husband was 72 years of age.
Wife #9: Martha Elizabeth Todd
Martha Elizabeth was Elias’s last wife, and also the mother of his sixth wife Ann Elizabeth. Martha’s marriage to Elias wasn’t one that you would commonly see in society other than in Mormon-run circles. Martha was never physically married to Elias in the flesh, but after she passed, using Mormon rites, she was ‘married’ to him for the afterlife.
This is a curious type of marriage as according to family stories, Martha declined to marry Elias while she was alive, even though Elias assure her that she would always be cared for.
From all accounts, it appears as if Elias wanted to keep his sister wives a literal family matter and married into two families — The Markhams and the Abbotts, which were in turn, related to each other. Now, much of this data has been retrieved from the Mormon Church and still is being verified, so if you have any additional documentation, please share with us below!
I am sixteen years old and I just made the road trip from Bellingham, Washington to Sumas to cross the border at the Port of Huntingdon in British Columbia. I had never been across the border before and have been working as a domestic (housekeeper) before I decided to make this trip.
The trip from Bellingham to Sumas is about 50 miles by road if you follow the old Everson-Goshen Road through the small communities of Dewey, Van Wyck, Everson, and Nooksack. The small town of Sumas was only 43 years old during the time that I passed through.
This road trip was made with my dear friend Edith Christianson from Everett, Washington who was four years older than me (20) and making the same trip to visit our friend Nick Samuelson at 751 Beatty Street in Vancouver, British Columbia — which was going to add another hour and a half onto our drive…but we never made it.
At the Sumas border, we were questioned on our comings and goings into the country of Canada with questions about our ages, country of residence, heritage, whether we had been in the country before, our religion, our occupations and who we were visiting.
And then do you know what they told us? We couldn’t come across! How rude. Edith and I had to turn around and make the passage back home and inform Nick later on that we couldn’t come and visit him because they denied us at the border.
The only clue to why? This code:
That’s about it for now, but I’m hoping we can make another trip up to Canada soon, I owe Nick a visit!
As genealogists, there is plenty of terms we come across that we may have never heard before. While I had come across the term ‘unincorporated community’ while researching the area of Pyrmont, Indiana, I wasn’t quite sure what an unincorporated community was.
According to the definition, an unincorporated area or unincorporated community is a region of land that is not governed by a local municipal corporation but is administered as part of a larger division, such as a township, parish, county, city, etc.
This can vary from country to country, but in the United States, these places tend to fall outside of large cities in the rural areas with low populations. Some such communities are:
In the United States, due to the difference in state laws regarding the incorporation of communities, there is a great variation in the distribution and nature of unincorporated areas. In the seven Northeastern states, unincorporated regions are essentially nonexistent.
What other unincorporated communities have you come across?
My name is My name is Jane Angela Smith (née Dart) and I’m about to tell you my story. At least I lived a long life — many of the victims of that horrible storm had barely begun their lives that were lost to the terrible disaster of mother nature in Galveston, Texas in August of 1915.
But let us back up a little, and see what brought me here. I was born in Herrick Township, Pennsylvania in 1840 to parents Simeon Spencer Dart and Mary Elvira Dart (née Kent). Unlike many of my sisters (Sarah Candance, Orpha Elvira, & Addie Diana), I didn’t get married until later in life — in fact, I was 36 when married my husband, Eugene A. Smith in 1876.
After being a small town gal for so many years, Eugene and I traveled all around the Atlantic — from Florida to Kansas to Texas we went, dragging our two children, Roy Ford and Eugenia Louise around.
In 1915, I was living in San Leon, Texas, a former pirate-owned stronghold. About 15 years prior to that time, in August and September of 1900, the deadliest (of all time) of hurricanes hit Galveston and killed upward of 6,000 – 12,000 souls. After this horrific storm, the Galveston Sea Wall was built to try and prevent another such tragedy, and this time it helped, but 400 lives were lost to it.
On the 5th of August 1915, the storm was formed in the Atlantic Ocean, quickly picking up speed and destruction as it grew to Category 4 storm by the time it hit Galveston, and my tiny town of San Leon, situated in Galveston Bay on the 16th of August.
It honestly happened so fast and so violent that my cause of death was officially labeled as “Storm Victim of the Storm of Aug. 16 1915” with no clues to the exact nature of my death.
I was seventy-four years old and left behind my by husband and two grown children when I died. This is my story, what’s yours?
This week we are interviewing one of my favorite genealogists and genetic experts, Blaine Bettinger author of The Genetic Genealogist. I first came across Blaine’s work with his book The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy that my mother purchased me for Christmas this last year. On a quest to understand more bout what makes me, well, me, I delved into the science behind DNA and absolutely loved what I found. Read on to find out more about the man behind the genes.
How do genealogy and DNA intersect for you?
Although I was a genealogist for many years before DNA arrived on the scene, it was DNA that really made me a genealogist.
In 2003, I was in grad school studying biochemistry and I somehow saw an ad for a DNA test. It combined science and genealogy, the two things I love the most. It was actually an autosomal DNA test, unusual at that time. The results came back, wildly inaccurate I now know, but that started my obsession with genetic genealogy. mtDNA and Y-DNA testing soon followed, then asking family members, and much more.
A few years later I found that there were no online resources available for genealogists who were taking these early DNA tests, so I started my blog, The Genetic Genealogist, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary. I didn’t know it at the time, but starting that blog would change the entire future direction of my life.
How did you get started in genealogy?
In middle school, my English teacher assigned a short family tree, just 3 or 4 generations. This was before the days of the internet, so I had to actually call up relatives to ask about our family tree (thank goodness for the “good old days”!). I called my grandmother to help, and she recited numerous generations entirely from memory! I attached the extra paper to include all those ancestors.
She’s the reason I’m a genealogist. My paternal grandfather died before I was born, and I had little knowledge of or interaction with the very few people that remained. My grandmother was a gateway to that family and she gave me so much.
Needless to say, I was hooked on genealogy after just one phone call.
What is your current study or area of passion?
It’s probably no surprise that it’s DNA. I spend every spare moment of every day thinking about, writing about, or teaching others about DNA. Thankfully I don’t see any end in sight!
Tell us a little quick story about your family history!
In the 1890’s, my 3rd-great-grandmother was elderly and mostly blind. While visiting her daughter and son-in-law, they had her dictate and sign a will. However, the document she signed was actually a deed turning over the entire family farm to the daughter. The trick was soon discovered when the daughter’s brother – who lived on the farm – saw the transaction in the newspaper. Following a short court action brought by the mother and the brother, the deed was overturned. I have some of the court records, and they are fascinating. They contain a transcript of testimony, almost allowing me to “hear” my ancestors’ words. For example, my 3rd-great-grandmother gave the following testimony in court:
“I remember the day I went from my home to New Haven to visit my daughter Betty Van Alstine. My husband had been buried the 30th day of August, which was on Sunday, and two weeks from that day I went to visit her. It was about the middle of September….After we got there, Betty said something about my making a will or disposing of my property. I was there two weeks. William and Betty thought I had ought to do it, or wanted me to do it—make a disposition of my property. They didn’t say much the first week; it was the second week that they importuned me. Betty had told me never to deed away a foot of land while I lived; she said that just a short time before I went there. She was out to my house, back and forth, while her father was sick—both before and after his death. She told me never to sign a note; if I did I would have it to pay. I said to her: “Betty, don’t worry. I shall never deed away a foot of land while I live. If my children can’t trust me, I can’t trust them.” That was the first conversation.”
Some years afterward, the daughter apparently wrote several heartbreaking letters to her mother, apologizing and begging her to forgive her. They never reconciled and the mother died a few short years later. Although those letters existed as recently as 30 years ago, they’ve since been lost. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to see them.
What advice would you give to genealogists?
If at all possible, go to a conference or an institute. The educational opportunities are unparalleled, and it is so affirming to see other people as crazy as you are! These are gatherings of hundreds of people that also yearn to explore the cemeteries they driveby, and have boxes of family heirlooms they’ve been meaning to catalog and preserve for years!
Why is genealogy important to you?
I can’t begin to list all the ways that genealogy is important to me.
Our lives on earth are so fleeting. Studying and recreating the lives of my ancestors gives us a perspective that others may not ever gain. I think we see life as relationships, as friends and families and acquaintances, and we realize that although we may leave a legacy behind, it is over all too quickly. All too soon, the two dates on either side of the hyphen are filled in.
I think that some people have a genetic drive to be the story collectors and storytellers. Genealogists preserve and share the past to help future generations. Maybe there’s even an evolutionary reason we have this drive. For most of human history we collected these stories mentally and shared them orally, and now we use paper and software.
And to me, one of the most important aspects of genealogy has nothing to do with dead people. It’s about the living, the many friends I’ve gained since immersing myself in genealogy. For whatever reason, most genealogists tend to be the friendliest and most fun-loving people I’ve ever met. I’ve found my people, as someone recently said to me, and I am loving every minute of it!
A big thank you to Blaine! You can find him at the wildly popular The Genetic Genealogist website here and on Facebook + Twitter.
The names Kitty Mesler and do I have a story to tell you. I was born to my ma and pa around the turn of the century, in the year 1901. When I was a young gal of 15 my parents sold me to a man named Andrew Stacy in marriage for some horses and wood.
He was no good man, I tell you. I didn’t want to marry him and the man never provided for me. He abandoned me and even though he promised to take care of me, left me destitute So I sold those horses, took the money and ran away from him.
I was able to divorce him a few years later but it wasn’t easy, he tried to accuse me of all sorts of inappropriate and scandalous behaviors, but in the end, the judge listened to me and granted me a divorce on the 13th of October 1919.
But back to the tale at hand, Andrew wasn’t my bootlegger, Happy Willette was. Happy was actually born Alixis Willette in 1893 and we were married in November of 1925 proceeding his first time in prison — which was earlier that year in February at the Flathead County Jail in Kalispell, Montana.
Prohibition was a way for us to make a little money, and I knew what he was doing, in fact, I assisted at times with my pet hog. You see, we had this really neat trick to lead the coppers off our scent. The bottom of our truck bed was hollow, but I’d put that big old hog over that area and the men would be too afraid to move him — they never suspected me, but Happy wasn’t that lucky.
In addition to his arrest on the 13th of February in 1925, Happy was arrested and/or jailed at least five other times during the rest of our marriage. Not even a year after we were married, Happy was taken to the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana on the 24th of July 1926 on charges of possession of liquor, he was only to serve six months.
I saved his arrest record from that time period which you can see:
He was let out of prison in late January of 1927 and our Stanley was born six months later on the 20th of June 1927, followed by our daughter Stella in 1928. By April of 1930, Happy was back behind bars at Flathead County Jail. Our son Lloyd was born on the 15th of December 1932 and little more than a month later Happy was issued a poor order for groceries totaling $4.31. About 10 months later, he as behind bars again at the county jail.
Five years after the mentioned stint in county, our last daughter Shirley was born in Billings, Montana around 1937. Happy was able to stay our of jail for 14 years until he was arrested for the last time at age 63.
Even though Happy went to jail so many times, he was a good man, a kind man, and I loved him very much. He died on the 10th of May 1965, I will miss that bootlegging man of mine.
P.S. That pet hog I told y’all about? He got me kicked out of church once.
My name is Eva Wilcox. While I was born in New Brunswick, Canada in July of 1887. I’m not a full-blooded Canadian. My father (James Robert Wilcox) was born in Maine in 1848 and my dearest mother (Lucinda T. Plant) was born in New Brunswick in the year 1866. I was born in the small parish of Grand Manan with four other siblings (Phillip, Arnold, Victoria + Hatzell) to a Free Will Baptist family.
Even though I was married to my dear husband Raymond M. Huntley in Portland, Maine on the 13th of June 1907, it wasn’t until the birth of my second child, my daughter Myrtle, that I lived in the United States as an American again. Before I died, I had three other children, one other daughter named Phyllis and two sons, Milton and James –but we called him Jimmy.
Sometime around the birth of my second daughter, Phyllis, I contracted tuberculosis of the lungs. Even with this illness, I still bore two more children with my husband Raymond.
It seems around my 27th birthday that I contracted tuberculosis — I am still not sure or how this happened, but it began to affect my life and landed me at the local doctors who sent me to Central Maine Sanitorium, there was no cure for me.
I don’t know how long I spent at the sanitorium, but at the time the Central Maine Sanitorium in Fairfield, Maine was where they sent the sickest of all of us. When I died, I was only 32 years old and left my four children in the care of my husband.
And that, my dearest readers is all I can tell you about myself at this time.
Eva H. Huntley (née Wilcox)
P.S. I’ve included an artists rendition of what the Sanitorium would have looked like only about five years before I died there.
I’ve always wondered what happened to old and unclaimed photos — this past weekend I found out. As I was perusing through an adorable little vintage shop in Olympia, Wash., I saw some old photos for sale. Being the genealogist that I am, I couldn’t just walk away and I picked the one I felt had the most potential.
I know little to nothing about this photo other than the inscription on the back, which reads:
To my always Evalene
Helen and her “legal man”
April 20, 1930
I often wonder if anyone misses the long passed in photos like these or if anyone is trying to find them. What do you do with old photos? If you know who this photo might be, please comment below so we can find it back home.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance and I wanted to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our country. I couldn’t think of a proper way to do so until I ran across an old posting about pennies on gravestones.
It may seem like an odd idea, but leaving pennies on the gravestones of those who have served in our countries military is a tradition that dates back to Vietnam War.
Before I go and place them on the graves, I like to take the time to clean them and make them shine. It is a really simple and easy project and a way to reflect on those who have passed.
Here are my pennies, some are shiny, some are not, and some even have a few spots on them. What was fun about this little project was looking at all the different years on the pennies. They ranged anywhere from the early 1960’s (I think I found one from 1961) to the current times.
You’ll need some white vinegar for this project, or I’ve read that you can use lemon juice, but I just didn’t have that available. You will need to make sure it is white vinegar and not any other kind because white vinegar is a diluted form of acetic acid which reacts with the oxidized copper that forms on the coin’s surface.
Pop your pennies in your glass, jar, bowl, or whatever you have laying around. I used these canning jars that I have sitting around and they work fabulously.
Add 1 teaspoon (you can add more, but this is what I used) of table salt to the water and mix your pennies, vinegar, and salt around. Leave sit for anywhere from 5-15 minutes. I left my pennies sitting for 5 minutes, but I think they could have been a shinier if I would have let them sit for longer. Take them out and wash off with cold water and pat dry.
After the pennies were dry, I went to Bayview Cemetery, one of the local cemeteries and left several dozen pennies on the graves of those who had served.