Personal Chatterings

What is Death Positivity?

In our particular field of talking about the dead (genealogy), we have very few conversations about the act of death itself. We tend to wax on about the causes of death, and how long someone lived, but straight talk about death doesn’t come easily to many of us.

And why would it? In our Western culture, for many years, death has not been something celebrated, praised or even talked about in polite company. Unlike other cultures, we Westerners tend to go by “out of sight and out of mind” mantra when dealing and discussing the idea of death.

But one group is trying to change that, and I’ve become part of that change. The Order of the Good Death was founded by L.A. Mortician and author Caitlin Doughty. Through this group, morticians, artists, writers, pathologists and other individuals involved in the positive death industry help bring these ideas, stories and unique ways of death to the forefront of our culture.  On their website they say:

Since becoming a genealogist, death has always been on my mind. It is something that no matter who you are, where you live or how old you are will happen to you. It’s the only constant in life.

Death is natural.

This is something I have found out first hand after landing a job at a local funeral home a few weeks ago. Every day I come face-to-face with death. Every day I come face-to-face with the people who are the stories we tell to our families. Every body that comes through my care had a life, had a story to tell and a journey they went on.

I feel honored to be caring for these individuals in their last stages of their mortal journey by taking care of their bodies with respect.

Not everyone can do this job (as I found out very quickly) but it is one that feels very natural to me.

So join me, be part of this positive death movement:


  1. I believe that by hiding death and dying behind closed doors we do more harm than good to our society.
  2. I believe that the culture of silence around death should be broken through discussion, gatherings, art, innovation, and scholarship.
  3. I believe that talking about and engaging with my inevitable death is not morbid, but displays a natural curiosity about the human condition.
  4. I believe that the dead body is not dangerous and that everyone should be empowered (should they wish to be) to be involved in care for their own dead.
  5. I believe that the laws that govern death, dying and end-of-life care should ensure that a person’s wishes are honored, regardless of sexual, gender, racial or religious identity.
  6. I believe that my death should be handled in a way that does not do great harm to the environment.
  7. I believe that my family and friends should know my end-of-life wishes and that I should have the necessary paperwork to back-up those wishes.
  8. I believe that my open, honest advocacy around death can make a difference, and can change culture.





Interview with Sara the Skeleton Whisperer

It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve had a blog post at The Hipster Historian, but summer vacations, pirate camps (yes, really), and “real life” jobs have gotten us a little busy here.  But we are back with a new posting schedule (3x a week) and a surprise new venture (a podcast!) on the horizon. Be sure to check back as we update you with the newest later this week. In the mean time, meet the newest interview in our Genealogy in the Works series, Sara Cochran — The Skeleton Whisper.
Sara Cochran Genealogist and Proprietor - The Skeleton Whisperer
Sara Cochran, Genealogist, and Proprietor – The Skeleton Whisperer
What is the Skeleton Whisperer?
 The Skeleton Whisperer is a genealogy research business, and I rattle the bones in the family closet, lifting the veil on long buried secrets and stories. I do this by offering record retrieval in Southern California as well as general family tree research. I’ve researched in most of the United States as well as Ireland. I also speak at local genealogical societies on topics like organizing your family photos and getting the most out of newspapers.
How did you get started in genealogy?
Like many genealogists, I have my Grandmother to thank for getting me into genealogy. She had gathered up some of the family photos and organized them into albums, which I got to see at a family reunion.  Seeing the faces attached to the names and stories were really captivating, I was instantly drawn in and wanting to know more about them!  
Tell us a story about your family or a family you have researched!
A client of mine hired me to learn more about someone in her family tree; the family legend was that he went insane and murdered his family and she wanted to find out if the legend was true.  I located several newspaper articles about the incident which ended up confirming the legend.  It was July of 1893, and Wisconsin was in the grips of an unprecedented heatwave, which was ruining the crops. William, who felt he had run out of options to support his family, simply couldn’t cope any longer, murdered his wife and children before attempting suicide.  He ended up spending the rest of his life in an insane asylum.
What would you say to other genealogists?
My best advice is to be inquisitive and intentionally seek out the whole truth of your ancestors’ experience.  It’s very easy to find a single piece of the puzzle and stop there, but it’s very rare to learn the whole story all at once.  I have a Catholic ancestor who divorced her husband in the 1930s, which was pretty unusual. I wondered for a long time why she made that decision – so I kept digging and eventually learned that, among other things, that he was physically abusive to her and their children.
What is your favorite thing about genealogy?
I’ve always been fascinated by the ancient Egyptians, who believed that as long as you were remembered, you were immortal. I like to think that when we seek our ancestors and learn their stories, we give them that immortality. But even more than that, I love watching my clients discover connections to their roots and see similarities between themselves and those long-gone family members. I’ve seen real healing happen as my clients learn the reasons behind decisions their ancestors made. It’s humbling and inspiring.
Thank you so much to Sara the Skeleton Whisperer. If you want to check out other interviews in our Genealogy in the Works series, click here and be sure to e-mail us at thehipsterhistorian (at) gmail (dot) com if you know of anyone that would be perfect to feature on our blog.

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory

News & Reviews

The Big DNA Upset — Ancestry’s Change

Earlier this week broke the genealogy world by introducing a new policy surrounding their DNA tests. This news has caused many a person to express their views concerning the subject, and as any good genealogist would do, I’m jumping into the fray to separate fact from fiction.

Picture of DNA test

According to the new policy released by Ancestry on the 13th of July, :

“Every adult who takes a DNA test is the Owner of that test. The Owner is in the driver’s seat and can assign people to specific roles. The Owner can choose to allow a family member or a trusted friend to manage the test results and direct messages, be a collaborator or just the view the results. If you manage your own test, you will see your role on the test change from Manager to Owner within the next several days. Learn more about the roles an Owner may assign below.”

But what does this really mean for genealogist — professional, amateur and otherwise? And for the future of DNA tests.

This means that each user on Ancestry’s website can have ONE DNA test attached to their specific account.

This DOES NOT mean you won’t be able to access other accounts DNA tests. The user of that account can invite you to view their DNA test through easy instructions that you can find on Ancestry’s website, and Ancestry even gives you this handy chart on how to see the different roles that a user can have pertaining the DNA tests.

Dna Roles
Picture by

So what do we do?

First. Let’s calm out collective genealogical butts and see what this policy really means. You will still have access to all of your DNA tests. That isn’t going to change.

Second. This will give the access back to the owner of the test, which is where it should have been in the first place. If this is an issue for you, I would ask yourself….why? Is it

Is it the age of the user? Create a new ancestry account for them. That way they can access it, as well as their family members in the future. They can also give you access to the test. This doesn’t ban us from accessing the tests, it just gives the ownership back to the owner of the DNA.

Third. Embrace Change. Seriously, if you can’t flow with the changes, then what are you doing in this field? We may think that genealogy is a static and none moving field, but in reality, people die every day and we are continuing to change, add more and build our family trees. Technology changes and we can learn to embrace this.

Those are the facts and those are the opinions. Sound off in the comments below on how you feel about this change.

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory





The Falling Sickness of Ruby S. McComb

Note:Ruby Walker Smith did not actually write this letter, but I am presenting the information in a way that lends itself to storytelling.

My Dear Readers,

I wanted to take this precious time I have been given in my short life to tell you a little bit about what trials and tribulations I went through as a young woman. My name is Ruby Walker Smith, and I am the daughter of the Hyrum James Smith and Cornelia Elvira Walker — and the granddaughter of the great Samuel Smith, probate judge of Box Elder County and former mayor and postmaster of Brigham City.

Ruby McCombs
Ruby McCombs

My life started in Riverdale, Idaho where I was born in May of 1901. I was the second to last child of my parents, and sixth of seven children. This was a new dawn for the world and the beginning of the 20th century,  but my day wasn’t to last. I was quickly diagnosed with the falling sickness and it has affected me from a very young age and caused me to have such frail health throughout the years.


It saddens me because my dear son Armin was diagnosed with the same sickness as me. Did I somehow pass this defect of my health and body onto my dear son?

When I was only 36 years old, I was out and about and had a spell of the fainting sickness. When the shaking started, I fell into a rock-bottomed ditch, and because I was unable to control the spasms and seizures of my body, I couldn’t get up and drowned, leaving my children and husband alone.

After I passed, my husband left my son in an institution, something I didn’t do while I was still alive. Even with this afflicting disease, I bore three children (Zelda, Mamie, and Arnie) to my husband Archie Ezekiel McCombs. About 15 years after my own death,  my son died in the institution my husband placed him in and followed me into the grave with the same disease.

There isn’t much more to say, but this is my story and this was my life.



You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory








The Statement of Hyrum James Smith by his daughter Ruby S. McCombs

The core of my genealogical research is transcription, and I’ve even built a business around it (Life Stories Transcription Services). So when I get to see images of original handwriting or journals my historian senses get to tingling and I just have to share with my readers.

Today’s images come from the statement of Hyrum James Smith as recorded by his daughter Ruby S. McCombs (née Smith). Hyrum was the son of a famous Mormon pioneer by the name of Samuel Smith. Samuel was the postmaster, probate judge and mayor of Brigham City, Utah — all at different times of course. But this story isn’t about Samuel, that’ll be for another time.

Hyrum James Smith
Hyrum James Smith

I’ll let Hyrum do the talking about the only transcription of his words that we have found do this date….

Hyrum James Smith 

Page 1:

“Riverdale. Oct 28. 1912

Statement by Hyrum Joseph Smith

I was born in Davis County Iowa, and am the second son of the late Judge Samuel Smith of Brigham City who was baptized Dec. 26, 1841 at London, England by Lorenzo Snow and sailed for America on Jan. 15, 1843. And from the time of his landing in the United States, he was closely connected with the prophet Joseph Smith. And was living four miles south of Nauvoo. At the time of the Prophets death, and with the rest of the Latter-day Saints he left Illinois and came to Iowa. He afterward and in 1850 came on to Winter Quarters and in 1850 crossed the Plains in Aaron Johnson’s company landing in Salt Lake City on the second day of September 1853.

He settled in Big Cottonwood that same fall, stayed there until the Spring of 1855 when he moved to what is now Brigham City. He with Lorenzo Snow and others being called to go there and build up that place.”

Page 2:

“Apostle Lorenzo Snow was President of Box Elder Stake and Johnathan C. Wright and my Father were his counselors. My father assisted Jessie W. Fox in laying out the city which was named for our Great Leader Brigham Young.  My father also acted as Post Master for 14 years at Brigham City and served two terms as Probate Judge and was Mayor of Brigham City. At the time of his death was President of the Box Elder Stake. Having been requested to State what I know concerning the Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will first state what my Parents have told me, concerning Brigham Young. They said they were present at the meeting when there was several claiming to be the one to lead the Church. But when they heard Brigham Young speak they knew that he was the man for they said if they had not seen him, they would…”

Page 3:

“…have thought it was the Prophet Joseph Smith himself speaking to them. I was well acquainted with President Brigham Young. I traveled with him considerab[ly] and as I grow older and the counsels that he gave us, I know as well as my parents did that he was the right man. I was also acquainted with President John Taylor, President Wilford Woodruff, President Lorenzo Snow, and I know that they were the men to do the work that they did. As for Joseph Smith, I am only slightly acquainted with him, but he is still with us and we can all see his work and hear his counsel and it does not my testimony or anyone else’s as his work is a living testimony of its truth.

H.J. Smith by Ruby S. McCombs.”

What transcriptions of family documents have you come across? Be sure to share with us below in the comments!

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory




Genealogy In The Works: Found Photos with Kati Dimoff

Have you ever read a story that was just so fascinating you had to know more? I knew when I read this story about Kati Dimoff of K Dimoff Photography who found undeveloped photos in a vintage camera of the Mt. St. Helen’s explosion from 1980 — I just had to get in contact with her.

And, lucky for all my readers she responded and we have an interview with Kati Dimoff on the blog today. Be sure to read on and leave comments below about what Kati does and what you think of the Genealogy in the Works interviews. Thank you again to Kati for the interview.  -BC

Kati Dimoff
Photographer Kati Dimoff

How long have you been developing photos from vintage cameras and what prompted you to start doing this? 

When I’m in thrift stores, I’m always looking for vintage prints or slides.  A few years ago I found my first roll of undeveloped film during a search, and I’ve been checking for them ever since.  Every time I’m in SE Portland, I stop into the Goodwill on Grand Ave and check all their film cameras for exposed but undeveloped rolls of film. If I find one, I buy the camera and take the film to Blue Moon Camera and Machine in the St Johns neighborhood to have it developed.

Karen Purvis, Grandmother Faye, Tristan Purvis, Mel Purvis.
Karen Purvis, Grandmother Faye, Tristan Purvis, Mel Purvis.

They are one of the best labs in the country for developing old, expired, or out-of-production film. on may 26th, I bought an Argus C2, which would have been produced around 1938, and it had a damaged roll of Kodachrome slide film in it. Blue Moon developed it for me (Kodachrome was a color slide film, but since 2010 the process for developing it has been discontinued, so it must be developed in black and white) and when I picked up the prints on Monday, June 12th, there was a note on the package that said “Is this from the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption?”

Mt. St. Helen's erupting
Mt. St. Helen’s erupting

Some of the shots showed Mt. St. Helen’s way off in the distance with just the little puffs of ash from the beginning of the eruption, with the Longview bridge in view, so it must have been shot from just off Highway 30.

Two of the shots showed a larger ash cloud, with John Gumm Elementary school in the foreground (in St. Helen’s, Oregon). Another shot included a family in a backyard. That family turned out to be Mel Purvis, his wife Karen, his grandmother Faye and his son Tristan. Mel contacted the Oregonian and told them that the camera had belonged to his grandmother, Faye. I will be mailing to Mel the camera (and negatives and prints).

Mt. St. Helen’s is my favorite place. I grew up on the Oregon coast and would have been almost 2 years old when Mt. St. Helen’s erupted. My parents remember ash falling in our yard even though we were hundreds of miles away. It’s always been a formative childhood event (even though I don’t personally remember it).

My family makes a day trip up to Loowit Lookout every summer. It feels sacred there. The landscape, both what is still damaged and what has grown and come back since the eruption, is awe inspiring. So, when I realized my found film had images of the eruption, it felt like it was meant to be. Also, I was curious how it could be that anyone would shoot images of the eruption (which was such an iconic time here in the Pacific Northwest) and not run right out and get them developed. Instead, leaving them in the camera and somehow forgot about it for 37 years.

I’m a very sentimental person, and I love old photographs. This chance happening has been really special. I think people need to see some good news. The photos themselves aren’t that special in terms of new perspective on the eruption, but the serendipity of it all and the fact that the family was found so quickly is what makes the story. Mel Purvis’s mother passed away last Saturday (she’s the one who would have taken the family photo on mel’s grandmother’s camera). One of my friends commented that his “Mama called to tell her son that she is ok!” Could it get any better than that?

Other than your infamous Mt. St. Helen’s explosion photos, what other types of pictures have you found?

I have found photos of people’s pets, vacations in England, the Portland International Raceway in the 70s or 80s, vacations in San Francisco.

If someone wanted to start doing the same thing you are doing, what would you suggest to them?

Estate sales and thrift stores are great places to look for vintage prints and/or film.

Argus C2, c. 1938
Argus C2, c. 1938

Tell us more about your photography business and how you got started? 

I’ve been shooting professionally for 8 years now. I mostly work with families, though I also do commercial work. I want your photos to feel like the early childhood scene sequence in Terrence Malick’s film, The Tree of Life —  earnest,  timeless, like life is moving at three-quarter speed. Hair and curtains caught in the wind that is almost as loud as the blood rushing in your ears and the leaves rustling above. Weighty and heart-achingly beautiful.

What part of history and genealogy fascinates you the most?

I’m just very sentimental. I want to fill in all the blanks!

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory

News & Reviews

The Big Switch – No More Microfilms

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?


  • Financial
    • 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.
  • Accessibility
    • 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.
  • Community Conversation

    • 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.


  • Accessibility
    • 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.
    • Financial

      • 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!

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory



The Sister Wives Saga: The Gardner Girls

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 (see below):

Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988
Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records

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.”

Gravestone of Harriet Snow Smith Gardner
Gravestone of Harriet Snow Smith Gardner

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:

  • Nancy Maria
  • Mary Amelia
  • Henry Erastus
  • Permelia Frenette

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 Elizabeth Markham Gardner
Betsy Elizabeth Markham Gardner

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.

Betsy Elizabeth Markham Gardner Death Certificate
Betsy Elizabeth Markham Gardner Death Certificate

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.

Diantha Hanchett
Diantha Hanchett
from the BYU University Lee Library


To this union, seven children were born:

  • Sarah Diantha
  • Susan Locretia
  • Joseph
  • James
  • Marilla
  • Betsy Ann
  • Nathaniel

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.

Ruth Markham
Ruth Markham

In this case, Elias married a mother and her two daughters — having 14  children in combination with those two daughters. Ruth became the 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.

Ellen Elizabeth Abbott
Ellen Elizabeth Abbott

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:

  • Elias Jr.
  • John
  • Ellen Elizabeth
  • Ruthette
  • Joshua Abbott
  • George
  • Orawell
  • Iris and Ira (twins)
  • Martha Jane

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 English
Ann Elizabeth English

Ann Elizabeth arrived in the states in 1855, and in late 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:

  • Eliza Roxanna
  • Verona
  • Elizabeth
  • Annie
  • Thomas Francis
  • Edna Mae
  • Lewis Edward
  • Emeline
  • Lorena Jane
  • Benjamin
  • Martha Ann
  • John William

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.

Emily Ann Gravestone

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:

  • Lois Ann
  • Harriet
  • Franklin
  • Emily

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!

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Dear Diary: I Wasn’t Allowed in Canada

August 27, 1934

Dear Diary,

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.

Thelma Bolin’s occupation on a border crossing record

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.

Sumas Washington, C. 1950
Sumas Washington, c. 1950

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.

Canadian Border Crossing
Canadian Border Crossing, Aug. 1934

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:

Action Taken for Border Crossee's
Action Taken for Border Crossers

That’s about it for now, but I’m hoping we can make another trip up to Canada soon, I owe Nick a visit!

Sincerely yours,

Thelma Bolin

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What is an unincorporated community?

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.

Pyrmont, Indiana
Pyrmont, Indiana

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:

  • Hovland, Minnesota
  • Ceresco, Michigan
  • Nutbush, Tennessee
  • Yucca, Arizona

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?

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