Monday, April 30, 2012

Mystery Monday - Why Do I Have These Photos?

Recently, put a helpful set of records online: Saint Dennis Catholic Church records from Lockport, Will, Illinois. Saint Dennis is the home parish of my McWeeney and Riley lines.  As I was browsing through some of the entries, I found several 1860's and 1870's baptisms with parents Ellen McWeeney and Charles Runyan or Runyon.  I have four documented McWeeney children, but none of them are an "Ellen". In addition to having another possible relation, the name "Runyon" also carried some nagging familiarity.  But why?

Then I remembered some old family pictures.  I dug around and found them.


This photo was taken by my grandmother in 1979 when the "California cousins" were visiting Lockport.  The inscription on the back is in my grandmother's hand:

Riley clan taken at ancestors graves in Lockport

Now I have been researching the family for quite some time and this was news to me.  What ancestors? And where were these graves located? And who are the people in those graves?

I learned the graves were in a tiny family cemetery on the north side of Lockport called the Runyon Cemetery. The patriarch, Armstead Runyon, was one of the first settlers in the area. When the I & M Canal became a possibility in the 1830's, Runyon hoped to sell his land to the canal commissioners. It was not to be, and the canal office was opened in what is now downtown Lockport. Runyon moved on to California, but not before his first wife Anna and some of his young children died in Lockport.

I am excited to chase down this connection between the McWeeney's and Runyon's. I suppose this is why I have these photos!

Next post: Runyon Cemetery
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Sole Soul on the Prairie

On a recent visit to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, I learned there are 5 pioneer cemeteries on the property.  They are only open for visiting by escort or during special programs in the summer.

There is one grave that is open to visit: that of George Newton.

Newton Cemetery
George Newton's grave marker

Like many of the early settlers, George Newton was a young man from Vermont.  The local stories say that Newton was a farmhand who died along the trail on which he is now buried.  A stone marker was erected, and the Newton Cemetery and single grave has been cared for ever since. George's life is short on details but his death is marked forever.

1860 Federal census: Illinois, Will County, Town of Wilmington, p 99, line 15

along Newton Trail, the cemetery is after the far stand of trees
Newton Trailhead

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie trails
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is the first national prairie established under the auspices of the US Forest Service.  Located about 40 miles from Chicago, Illinois, it has seen many changes over time.  Midewin (mi-DAY-win) was home to Native American tribes, including Potawatomi, Sauk, Ottawa, and others, for hundreds of years.


Settlers from the Eastern US began arriving in 1829.  Included on the present Midewin property are 5 pioneer cemeteries. Unfortunately, they are still on government land and only available to visit by escort. During the World War II era, the land was purchased by the federal government and the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant was created.

Munitions and ordnances were manufactured here and the safety bunkers still dot the landscape. It was a little odd, hiking along, and then...boom!  There's a bunker hidden in the earth.

Midewin is from a Potawatomi word for "healing". The land is now being reclaimed as a natural prairie. And a beautiful place to visit on a spring day.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie website

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - McWeeney Family

I recently introduced my McWeeney line.  These are the tombstones of the siblings John and Andrew.

John McWeeney 
Andrew McWeeney 
Andrew McWeeney's family lot
Nellie Berney (1860-1935) is his sister-in-law

Stones for Andrew's wife Rose, the youngest brother Patrick, sister Mary Ann and her husband Thomas Riley, and their parents Patrick and Mary have never been located.
South Lockport a/k/a/ St. Dennis Cemetery, Lockport, Will, Illinois
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Surname Saturday - McWeeney

One of my original lines in the US is McWeeney from Ireland.  My oldest known ancestor is Patrick McWeeney, who appears with his family on the 1850 Lockport, Will, Illinois census. 1850 Federal Census, Illinois, Will County, Lockport, p. 30, lines 28-34 
Patrick also appears in the Illinois Land Tract Sales database as purchasing a parcel of land in the village limits of Lockport in 1848.  The parcel is only steps from the Illinois & Michigan canal, so my speculation is that he came from Ireland to work on the canal like so many others.  These are the only records I've discovered in which Patrick appears.

The family structure, as known, is:

Patrick, born about 1815 in Ireland, dies possibly before 1860

Mary, born about 1820 in Ireland, appears in Lockport 1860 and 1870

Mary A(nn), born 1843 in Canada, died 1922 in Lockport
married John Patrick Riley

Andrew, born 1845 in Illinois, died 1910 in Lockport
married Rose Anna Stanners

John, born 1849 in Illinois, died 1920 in Lockport
married Isabella Daly

Patrick, born 1850 in Illinois, died unknown

There is likely a relationship to Charles and Elizabeth Clifford, who appear with members of the McWeeney family on several census records.

Other spellings of this name are:

If you are familiar with this surname in Illinois or in Ireland, leave me a message.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

After The 1940 Dust Settled...

Like so many other curious researchers, I was waiting for the release of the 1940 US census on April 2, 2012. I had my primary targets lined up:  my four grandparents, who were all recently wed in the 1930's, and my Dad. This is the first time someone so close to me has been enumerated. Now, I can just call him or drive a couple minutes to visit him, but actually seeing him listed in a document like the census has a whole different meaning as an amateur genealogist and not just as a daughter.

I called my Dad just to double-check which address I should try first. "Dad, where did you live when you were four?" I used the Enumeration District (ED) maps on the Archives website to learn the boundaries. Dad's Gardner Street in Joliet, Illinois was a "main drag" and a boundary for several ED's. I guessed right on the second try. There were my grandparents, Dad, and aunt. Everything on their listing is what I expected. Still, seeing them all brought a big smile to my face. I printed the pages before and after, and while he really wasn't all THAT excited like I was, Dad enjoyed looking over the names of his old neighbors.

I had more difficulty locating my maternal grandparents in Lansing, Michigan. My grandmother was of West Prussian descent. Her grandparents and many distant relatives immigrated from West Prussia to Lansing in the 1870's and 1880's. The families all settled in the same small enclave on the southeast side of downtown Lansing. Most worked in the blossoming automotive industry.

I knew exactly where I thought I should start. I found my 3 great-grandparents, and lots of other distant relations, but no grandma and grandpa. I really hoped I could pick the right ED, but because there were so many options, that didn't work. I checked my mom's birth certificate and baptismal records, as she was born at the end of 1940. Nope, they weren't at that address, either. Finally, I located a city directory with an address across town. There they were! Since they wed in 1939, maybe they were really trying to escape the German fold to their own corner of town. Or maybe my grandfather's job with the State of Michigan as a bridge engineer took him closer to downtown.

I have found all four grandparents, and my six living great-grandparents. I have had one supplemental set of questions answered by a great-grandmother (with my great-grandfather's data!). The questions regarding education and rent/mortgage are the most interesting to me on this new census.

I have given the searching a rest over the last week. As was expected (and not!), the rush to download and subsequent crawl of the pages took it's toll.  In due time, I will be back at it.  When my real life lightens up a bit, I will start indexing as well. Until then, enjoy the new 1940's resource!
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - A Tree in the Trees

This tree trunk monument is perfectly positioned under large evergreen trees. It is well over six feet tall. It certainly looks appropriate for its woodsy surroundings, complete with a little green moss. The gravestone memorializes two of the Bly sisters, who each lived an extremely long life. Curiously, neither of their life dates are on the stone.

Harriet Bly McCall
Age 95 Yrs
Orma Bly Mennie
Age 96 Yrs

Harriet Bly McCall lived 1877-1972 and her sister Orma Bly Mennie lived 1886-1983.  This gravestone is located in Aux Sable Cemetery, Kendall County, Illinois.
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Thursday, April 12, 2012

THIMBY Thursday - The History In My Backyard - Canal Multimedia

As I was contemplating my next post about the I & M Canal, I read this area newspaper article.  A Local History teacher at Minooka Community High School has published a book covering the history of the canal.  I will be buying this soon!

Morris Daily Herald article

The article mentions the canal museum collection at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.  This is another item on my local history bucket list. Unfortunately for me, the collection is only open on a by-appointment basis, so working sort of precludes a drop in visit.  But I will get there!

Lewis University - Canal Collection

Finally, the Joliet Area Historical Museum has a 2-story replica canal as it might have appeared during construction.  The museum houses lots of the everyday items and tools of the mid-late 1800's, specifically relating to the Joliet area.

Joliet Area History Museum

These are only a few of the things I've uncovered as I learn more about the I & M Canal.  I hope you can find and share local history information as well!

locktender's house along canal
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Grand Cayman

It's a sort of Spring Break this week on Tombstone Tuesday.  These are photos I took some 20 years ago on Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Sea.  Even back then I couldn't pass a cemetery without taking a picture.

The Cayman Islands are made of lava, dolomite and sand, so underground burial is almost impossible.

 beachside cemetery on the western shore

 graves memorialized with coins, pebbles, flowers and conch shells

pirate graves in Bodden Town

Link to National Trust - Watler Cemetery

Link to Find A Grave Cayman Islands cemeteries

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

A typical Easter morning in the 1960's, when my brother and I wore the matching outfits our mother made.  Now where are the eggs and jelly beans?!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

THIMBY Thursday - The History In My Backyard - Dresden Barn

This is the Dresden Mule Barn, situated along the I & M Canal, near Minooka, Grundy County, Illinois.  It is one of the canal's last remaining original structures.  The barns were used as a resting and changing place for the mule teams pulling the canal boats.

The barn is located across the road from the Dresden Cemetery.
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Dresden Cemetery

Dresden Cemetery, or St Anthony's, is a small cemetery in a long-forgotten place along the I & M Canal.  Located on a hillside near Minooka, Grundy County, Illinois,  Dresden was a waypoint during the canal's busy time in the mid-1800's.  The area was settled by Jacob Hansel of Dresden in Germany. While there are a handful of very recent burials, most of the graves and stones are now only memories.

view from the road of the remaining Dresden graves

the unknown...

the neglected...
the old...

and the really old.

A Native of 
Queens County, Ireland
May 25, 1872
Aged 81 Yrs

Rest in peace, early settlers.
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I Love Technology ... and New Toys

After reading about the Flip-Pal® mobile scanner on almost every genealogy-related website, I finally decided to treat myself by ordering one.

I ordered the scanner, a zipper storage bag, and a set of rechargeable batteries.  I did not order the extra software bundle.

At first, I tried it around the house with items on the glass flatbed.  It scanned as well, if not better, than my large Epson flatbed scanner.  The more interesting part was scanning without the lid:  truly using the "flip" ability of the scanner.

O. M. G.  It is amazing!  Today, I carried it around an old archives room scanning deeds.  It was as simple as laying the deed on a flat surface, gently flipping the Flip-Pal on top of it, and pressing the green button.  The forms I scanned were letter and legal size.  I made several passes with the scanner and returned the documents.  Done!

The best part came later.  I transferred the scans via the included 2G media card to my computer.  I selected the Toolbox and "EasyStitch" software (and admittedly didn't even read the directions).  I chose four scans from my deed, waited about 2 minutes, and there on my computer screen was a complete deed.  I am stunned at how well it seamlessly joins the photos.

Another plus is there is no power cord, so no restrictions on where you can scan.  I am still on the original pair of batteries.  I feel that occasionally changing batteries is worth not being plugged in.

I cannot recommend this enough and can't wait to use it more!  Great job, Flip-Pal®!

Flip-Pal® website

Disclaimer:  I purchased this product with my own funds.  I have no financial stake in this company.  My opinions and reviews are my own.
© 2012 Sally Knudsen