Thursday, March 29, 2012

THIMBY Thursday - The History In My Backyard - Canal Boats

Last week, I posted about how the modern-day I & M canal affects my life.  It is a great Illinois resource.  The canal also had a huge effect on my past: from the Irish ancestors who worked on the canal.

This is one of my favorite census records, showing my ancestor Thomas Riley working as a canal boat captain and wife Mary Ann working as the boat's cook: 1870 US census, Lockport Village, Will, Illinois

This photo, from the Canal Corridor website, shows a typical early canal boat being towed along the towpath:
I'm sure it was hard work, but the picture looks very idyllic.  Here is another website with many old photos and postcards showing life working on a canal boat.  For you archaeology buffs, here is a website showing excavation of a canal boat.

I rather like the idea that Thomas Riley left Ireland and worked on the I & M Canal, and now, 150 years and several states later, I use the canal amenities on a weekly basis.

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Riley

I recently posted about my oldest known Riley ancestor.  These are the gravestones of two of his children:

Son of T. & M.A. Riley
Died July 9, 1889
Aged 9 yrs

Dec. 23, 1868 - Aug. 30, 1906
May His Soul Rest In Peace

These two stones are next to each other in St. Dennis a/k/a South Lockport Cemetery, Lockport, Will, Illinois.  Andrew's stone is a cross made of logs, with a small ivy vine, probably signifying a short life.  James's stone is more traditional, also with an ivy etching.

No stone has been located for their parents.  There are many empty areas in this cemetery which could easily be graves that have grown over.
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Surname Saturday - Riley

Thomas Riley is my oldest known Riley ancestor.  He is also one of my least known, genealogically speaking.  I have him fairly well documented for the last 40 or so years of his life, but his beginnings are a mystery.

Thomas Riley's first appearance in a US record is his marriage to Mary Ann McWeeney on 3 June 1865 at St. Dennis Church, Lockport, Will, Illinois.

He appears on the following US censuses:

1870 Lockport, Will, Illinois, age 40, Ireland, canal boat captain
1880 Lockport, Will, Illinois, age 45, Ireland, laborer
1900 Lockport, Will, Illinois, age 59, October 1840, Ireland, laborer, emigrated 1844, owned home
1910 Lockport, Will, Illinois, age 75, Ireland, own income, emigrated 1855, owned home

Thomas and Mary Ann had four known children:

Elizabeth (1866-1948) never married
James (1868-1906) never married
John Patrick (1872-1955) married Rena Clara Blanchard
Andrew (1880-1889)

Thomas died in 1915 and is buried without a gravestone in St. Dennis a/k/a South Lockport Cemetery.  His death record at the church states he was 75 and born in West Meath, Ireland.  Is there a "West Meath" or does this mean County Westmeath?  Thomas's birth ranges from 1830-1840 and his immigration from 1844-1855.

His last name can also be spelled differently.  The census records alone have Riley, Reilly, and Rihley.

I have a lot of clues but not a lot of certainty.  Are you related?  Do you have experience with Riley's and/or County Westmeath?  Let me know!

Riley Family in Lockport, circa 1913
Mary Ann McWeeney Riley (far left) and Thomas Riley (far right)

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Thursday, March 22, 2012

THIMBY Thursday - The History In My Backyard - I & M Canal

The heyday of the I & M Canal is long over, but its rich history influenced northern Illinois from the 1800s through the mid-1900s.

The name is an acronym for the "Illinois and Michigan Canal", linking Lake Michigan to the Illinois River, and the Illinois on to the mighty Mississippi River.  It may not be as famous a waterway as the St. Lawrence Seaway or the Erie Canal, but it was important for the time.  I'll share some history in the upcoming weeks.

The major modern feature of the canal is the towpath. The towpath is literal - horses towed vessels down the canal using the trail. The canal stretches over 60 miles and the towpath has been preserved for hiking, biking, and winter snowmobiling.  The local high schools use the path for cross country and track practice.  The grade schools use it for nature field trips.  My family and I use it for walking, biking, and discovering little creatures.  This is one piece of history that I use often and truly appreciate!

configured canal path along Cemetery Road, near Morris, Grundy County, Illinois

stretch of towpath with a hint of canal waters in the distance

 my son trying to catch dinner

locktender's house along Cemetery Road near Morris

Here is the link to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website and to the I & M Canal page with maps and more information.

What can you share from your backyard?
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Look Below

In some cases, the base of the gravestone is almost more interesting than the stone itself.  These gravestones are in St. Mary Nativity Cemetery, in Joliet, Will County, Illinois.  Look closely at the bases.  They are carved with diamonds, hearts, clovers, stars, and crosshatches.

This cemetery is primarily residents from Eastern European countries who emigrated to Joliet in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

Why were they carved this way?  What is the meaning of the symbols?
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Surname Saturday - My Irish DNA

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Sláinte!

Of my eight great-grandparents, three of them are of full Irish ancestry.  Using my basic math, that makes me 3/8ths Irish.  In other words, 37.5% of my DNA is probably* green.
*No scientific sources for that fact!


from County Tyrone
oldest known ancestor is Daniel McBride, born circa 1805
his son Daniel, born circa 1840, left Ireland for Birtley, County Durham, England
he married Mary Ann McAleer in Birtley
Daniel, Mary Ann, and son Joseph arrived in Illinois in 1880
Daniel had two known siblings:
Jane (c1838-1912), married Michael McCormick in Durham
Edward (c1843-1903), married Ellen Dinnery in Durham


from unknown county in Ireland
oldest known ancestor is Joseph Kerr, born circa 1790
his son Robert, born 1829, left Ireland for Kilbirnie, Ayr, Scotland
his son Robert, born 1853, wife Sarah, and infant daughter Margaret arrived in Illinois in 1876
Robert worked in the coal mines of Braidwood, Will, Illinois


from County Westmeath
immigrant and oldest known ancestor is Thomas, born circa 1840, died 1915
arrived in Illinois as a child with unknown family members
settled in Lockport, Will, Illinois during height of I&M Canal construction
married Mary Ann McWeeney in 1865

I need help with these lines!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

THIMBY Thursday - The History In My Backyard - Boom!

Progress is inevitable.

It happens in every time period and for every generation.  Something bigger, better, or shinier is always around the corner.

This past December, I learned the shocking orange watertower in Minooka, Grundy, Illinois, was going to be felled. Apparently, it cost too much to upgrade.  It is not the prettiest of landmarks, but it was a fixture in Minooka for at least 50 years. You could see it for miles around, even from the interstate.

I happened to be in Minooka when the end came.  It was quick and LOUD!

Maybe it's worth it to photograph or otherwise memorialize these "landmarks".  Who knows how long they will last?  Won't you miss them when they're gone?  Grab your camera!

What can you share from your backyard?
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Spotted Root

I photographed this stone years ago just because it was so...different.  I've been around plenty of cemeteries, but I have never seen a gravestone like this.

JULY 20 1820 - DEC 7 1873

OCT 9 1798 - MAY 21 1872

Root family stones

You can see how much larger this stone is than the surrounding traditional gravestones.  This unique stone and the couple to which it belongs is in Oakwood Cemetery, Bennington Township, Shiawassee, Michigan, just east of Lansing.  Roswell Root is the father-in-law of my distant aunt, Susannah Maxson Root.

I wonder where this stone came from, since its final resting place is in Midwestern farm land.  What kind of stone is it?  If you know, please share!
©2012 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Heed the (Backup) Cries!

Dear readers, prepare yourselves for a tale of woe.

My laptop, with my photos and family tree data, is dead.

Let it sink in.

Now, fear not, but this story has a sort-of happy ending.  You probably read the posts from various bloggers to back up your data on a regular basis.  I am living proof that you should DO THAT.

I don't have a backup schedule, per se, but I am pretty conscious about doing it.  Over the winter I scanned and re-scanned dozens of old family photos.  In addition to my laptop, they are saved on a CD and an external harddrive.  My family tree data is the same way:  CD and external harddrive.  Even years ago when I used a different family tree program, I kept a final copy of the data when I transferred to a new program.  Another trick I use is to occasionally save my tree as a GEDCOM and email it to myself.

This weekend's tale of woe began when I powered up my spiffy new laptop that Santa delivered.  My old Dell was perfectly serviceable, but it was slow and 7 years old, so I figured I deserved it.  I did my comparison shopping and for the first time in my life, bought a notDell.  It was fast, well-reviewed, and in my budget.  It was running great, until yesterday.  I powered it up and had no screen.  I shut it off.  I powered it up and heard no component hum and had no screen.  I shut it off.  I powered it up again.  This time it had no hum, no lights, no nothing.

Commence freak out.

Fortunately we have several computers in our house, so I started Googling my problem.  Of course, dozens (hundreds?) of people had the same problem.  It was clearly a power issue and not a harddrive issue, which was a good thing.  I do not fear computers and have swapped out harddrives and components before.  I decided to try to salvage my data first, then worry about the laptop.  The area electronics store sells a transfer cable, so I picked that up, popped out the harddrive and copied all my files to another computer...and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Welcome back, last week's saved family tree data!

The laptop, however, may be another story.  The customer service repair nightmares go on and on, ad infinitum, on message boards.  I may end up with a metallic paperweight.

1.  Back up your data.  In lots of formats.  Often.

2.  Don't fear your computer.  Many problems are cheap and easy to fix on your own.  I personally would never go to the big box fixit shop.  Ever.  Find a teen geek.  Use Google.

3.  Time to investigate cloud back up services.

Heed my tale of woe, dear readers!

© 2012 Sally Knudsen  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Follow Friday

In many ways I feel like the New Kid in the world o' genealogy blogging.  I have "had" this blog since 2009, but only really made a concerted effort to post last fall.  These are two reasons that helped me get back on track:

I follow Thomas via posts to Geneabloggers, on Facebook, and on Twitter.  His blog is so helpful for us little guys. I most appreciate his well-organized posts and ideas using technology in genealogy.  By following some of the blogging prompts, I can keep on top of my own posting.  It's kind of my mental posting calendar right now.  I even started my own weekly prompt: THIMBY Thursday spotlighting The History in My Backyard.  Thanks Thomas!

For a cosmic reason I have yet to understand, I spend an inordinate amount of time in cemeteries.  When I lived in Michigan and was able to visit ancestral cemeteries, I took lots of pictures.  We have since moved to Illinois, so I treasure those paper reminders of my ancestors.  Now I photograph area cemeteries just because they're there! Find A Grave is the lucky recipient of most of my work.

When I came across Amy's gravestone blog, I knew I wasn't alone in my cemetery travails.  She posts many interesting old stones with stories and epitaphs.  Her blog is simple but compelling.  I enjoy seeing stones older and dissimilar to the ones in my area.  We even discovered a genealogical connection, and she probably thinks she has a stalker!  Thanks Amy!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

THIMBY Thursday - The History In My Backyard - A Bush and A Plow

I was recently wandering around Lockport Cemetery in Lockport, Will, Illinois.  I photographed a few of the really old, interesting stones.  Just because.  You cemetery walkers know what I mean.

This stone was old and and repaired and not particularly interesting, but I'm glad I photographed it.  When I looked through the downloaded photos and saw how the bush was growing behind it, I knew artistically it was a keeper.  I will have to go back in the summer to see what it looks like "alive".

July 21, 1883
Aged 79(?) years

A little research shows that John Griswold was instrumental in the creation of the first steel plow.  The plow was invented, but not patented, by John Lane of Homer Township, Will, Illinois in 1833.  An area history states that Griswold helped mount the plow to a useful wooden frame.

And there is yet another example of history everywhere. Or happy coincidence.

What can you share from your backyard?
© Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - A Sweet Old Pair

Recently, my cemetery walking and photography took me to Lockport Cemetery in Lockport, Will, Illinois.  Lockport is located along the I & M Canal, and the canal was a vital part of the area's history.

I spotted this pair of stones which are still in excellent shape.  They are located in the older part of the cemetery, where many of their neighbor's stones are illegible.

MAR. 4, 1859
Æ 72 years
4 months

Wife of
Dec. 23, 1862
Æ 81 years

Almon M. Norton and Eleanor Vedder were native New Yorkers.  Almon is probably the elder brother of Hiram Norton, a wealthy Lockport merchant and overseer of the canal construction in the mid-1800's.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Who Do You Think You Are?" with Reba McEntire

I am a little late to this episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" - family obligations and all :)

Reba knew a considerable amount about her father's McEntire line, so she chose her journey to focus on her mother's side, the Brasfield's.  I appreciated that early on, she asked one of the genealogists to help her find her earliest ancestor to step foot in America.  I think this is a very common theme among American researchers.  She also encountered times when the family name was spelled differently than what she was used to - that happens to me frequently.  Remember my Blanchard's or Blanchette's?

Reba was able to follow her Brasfield line back to a village in England.  I also have lines in England, who came via Ireland.  On my genealogy bucket list is a trip to Birtley, County Durham, England.  I don't know about you, but I want to see where my people lived.

This was overall a good episode, but honestly didn't grip me like some do.  Perhaps it is because I am not a fan of country music, so I wasn't as invested in Reba.  I am glad to learn the ratings were up.  As a way to keep genealogy and history in front of the general public...keep them coming, NBC!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

THIMBY Thursday - The History In My Backyard - Gaylord Building

Lockport, Will County, Illinois is a lovely town situated along the I & M Canal, southwest of Chicago.  The original canal, opened in 1848, is no longer in use for shipping, but retains much of its history through educational markers along the route.  The original towpath is now a hiking and biking trail.  Some of the buildings along the canal still remain.  One is the Gaylord Building, built in 1838 and purchased by George Gaylord in 1878.  It served as his dry goods store and grain mercantile.  Here is a great site with a detailed background of this landmark.

The Gaylord Building presently houses a restaurant, canal museum, and office space.

George Gaylord's monument and family plot 
Lockport Cemetery, Lockport, Will, Illinois

George Gaylord (1820-1883)
Ann A. Lull Gaylord (1825-1915)

What can you share from your backyard?