Wednesday’s Leaf: James Alonzo Holman

Today we feature James Alonzo Holman, my third great uncle. James was born on September 1, 1835 in Beaver, Pennsylvania. As the oldest boy in the family, he developed a sense of responsibility at an early age. This was particularly true when the family was driven from their home in Nauvoo, Illinois.

In 1851, James and his family settled in Santaquin, Utah. During this time, James became a minute man and member of the cavalry. He also met and married Sarah Ann Mathis.

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James Alonzo Holman and Sarah Ann Mathis

James was also involved in different enterprises, including grading and building railroads. In fact, he was present when the famous Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Summit, Utah.

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James Alonzo Holman (third from the left) and His Brothers

James died on September 24, 1920 at the age of 85. He was the father of 13 children and 78 grandchildren.

*Wednesday’s Leaf celebrates ancestors recently added to a growing family tree.

Named After A U.S. President

The other day I noticed an interesting trend in my family tree: ancestors named after U.S. presidents. For example, there is my third great uncle George Washington Crum (1853-1942). Today, however, I want to focus on my fourth great uncle Andrew Jackson Allred.

Andrew Jackson Allred (1831-1899)

Andrew Jackson Allred was born on February 12, 1831 in Monroe County, Missouri. At that time, Andrew Jackson was the president of the U.S. Known as “Jack” all his life, he was the twelfth (and last) child born to James Allred and Elizabeth Warren. Jack’s family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints one year before his birth.

As an early pioneer in the church, Jack experienced intense persecution at a young age. Eventually, Jack and his family arrived in Salt Lake City in October 1851. They settled in Manti, Sanpete County, Utah. It was here that Jack became interested in Native American culture and language and eventually became an interpreter.

On November 3, 1855, Jack married Chloe Stevens. Five months after their seventh child was born, Chloe died at the age of 34.

Andrew Jackson Allred 1831-1899 and Chole Stevens 1838-1872

Andrew Jackson Allred and Chloe Stevens

In July of 1873, Jack married his second wife, Elizabeth Ivy. They had two children together. In the spring of 1876, Jack was called by Brigham Young to settle in Rabbit Valley and establish a trading post. Jack did so and initially built his home east of the Fremont River. However, the winter was so harsh that year that the river froze over and flooded most of the valley. So Jack moved west to the top of the hill, which is now known as Allred Point.

In 1888, Jack’s second wife, Elizabeth, died. He later married his third wife, Martina Nielson Anderson, and had two more children.

Jack died on October 10, 1899 at the age of 68. He is buried with his second wife Elizabeth in the Fremont Cemetery (Wayne County, Utah).

Named After A President: A U.S. Tradition

It turns out that parents often named their children after U.S. presidents. Here are some fun facts from the Social Security Administration:

  1. In 1933, the name “Franklin” jumped to No. 33, up from No. 147 in 1931.
  2. The name “Dwight” climbed in the 1950’s; similarly, “Lyndon” surged in the 1960’s (going from No. 635 in 1962 to No. 348 in 1964).
  3. “Theodore” peaked in the first decade of the 20th century.
  4. “Lincoln” (for boys) and “Reagan” (for girls) became very popular in the 1990’s.
  5. In 1928, the name “Hoover” came in at No. 367 for boys’ names. However, in 1931 (in the midst of the Great Depression), the name dropped to No. 945.
  6. “Clinton” was a fairly popular name in the 1970’s and 1980’s and ranked No. 211 in 1992. Following the Monica Lewinsky scandal, however, the name plummeted to No. 664.

Naming your child after a U.S. president was a way to honor the prestigious office while expressing a form of American pride. Following the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s, however, the tradition started to fade as people began to view the office with a cynical eye. Despite this, it seems the tradition is gaining in popularity, especially in the African American community following the election of Barack Obama. Hopefully this is an American tradition that will live on through the ages.

Wednesday’s Leaf: Sarah Earl

Today we feature Sarah Earl, my third great grandmother. Sarah was born on July 2, 1835 in Scarborough, York, Ontario, Canada. Sarah’s grandfather, Henry Earl, belonged to a group of Loyalists who left America in 1783 to found New Brunswick, Canada.

Sarah Earl

Sarah Earl (1835-1927)

Around 1836, Sarah’s family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and moved to Kirtland, Ohio. Eventually, the Earl family moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, where Sarah was baptized in 1843. After being driven out of Illinois, Sarah and her family arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 11, 1850.

In 1843, Sarah married Alma Harris and eventually settled in Logan, Utah. Sarah was often described as sweet, gracious, and intensely interested in life. She also had a deep love for music.

Sarah passed away on June 19, 1927 in Logan, Utah.

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Sarah’s Obituary (June 20, 1927)

 

Sarah Earl Headstone

Sarah’s Headstone (Logan Cemetery)

 

Family Headline: April 12th

On this day in 1978, I was born!

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Celebrating My 2nd Birthday

Sharing my birthday is David Letterman (born in 1947).

April 12th also has some historical significance – it was the day that marked the beginning of the American Civil War. Shortly after 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, the newly formed Confederate States Army (led by General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard) bombarded Fort Sumter, near Charleston, South Carolina.

Discovering Mental Illness In Your Family Tree

People are generally reluctant to discuss the less desirable aspects of family history. This is particularly true when it comes to mental illness. First of all, the topic is incredibly complex, and most of us do not fully understand the ins and outs of mental health. Secondly, we fear the genetic implications of mental illness. Will I inherit my ancestor’s disorder? Will my children? This post discusses the discovery of mental illness in my family tree and how that can help you.

Leo Ivan Lundquist (1895-1975)

Leo Ivan Lundquist, my first cousin twice removed, was born on December 4, 1895. Leo was the second son of Emanuel Richard Lundquist, who immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden in 1881.

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Leo Ivan Lundquist (seated child), About 1897

I was first drawn to Leo after examining his draft registration card from World War I.

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World War I Draft Registration Card (June 5, 1917)

As you can see, the Registrar lists Leo as “insane” and specifies that as an exemption from the draft.

After digging a little deeper into Leo’s history, I found a very interesting census record from 1920.

1920 Census

1920 Census Record

According to the record, Leo was a patient of the Utah State Mental Hospital in Provo, Utah. He was approximately 24 years old at the time.

Utah State Mental Hospital

Originally called the Territorial Insane Asylum, the Utah State Mental Hospital opened its doors in 1885. Early documents describe the hospital as being eight blocks from the nearest residence in Provo and separated from the city by swampland and the city dump. The Asylum was renamed the Utah State Mental Hospital in 1903. In 1927, it adopted its current name, the Utah State Hospital, in an attempt to lessen the negative connotation associated with the word “mental.”

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The Utah State Mental Hospital (Provo, Utah)

Attitudes Toward Mental Illness

Mental illness was highly misunderstood in the 1920’s (arguably, it is still misunderstood). Our ancestors probably used the words “insane” or “idiot” quite differently than we do today. An individual was sometimes labeled “insane” if he behaved in a way that society could not comprehend (e.g., he suffered from anxiety or depression). In addition, asylums were sometimes known to house individuals who were not mentally ill – the elderly, for example, or those with untreatable conditions such as epilepsy.

By today’s standards, many of the “treatments” performed on patients were archaic and cruel. During the 1930’s, frontal lobotomies were quite common. In fact, early medications designed for the treatment of mental illness were not developed until the 1950’s. The 1950’s also saw a shift in attitudes toward the mentally ill. Treatment generally transitioned from institutional care to community-based care.

Leo’s Move To Wyoming

The 1930 census provided more details on Leo’s life. According to the record, Leo had moved to the U.S. Veterans Hospital in Sheridan County, Wyoming. Again, Leo is listed as an “insane patient,” but something more interesting stands out. Under the “Occupation” column, Leo is described as a “Clerk.” This leads me to believe that although considered “insane” in 1930, Leo was able to perform basic job responsibilities. Also, I discovered that Leo was a veteran. Eventually, I learned that he enlisted in the U.S. military on February 23, 1915 and was released on September 28, 1916. It is very possible that his condition is directly connected to something that occurred while serving in the military.

1930 Census

1930 Census Record

Research Tips

Researching a mentally ill ancestor can be quite challenging. First of all, family members may be reluctant to talk about that individual. Secondly, source documents may be hard to find, and there may be privacy law restrictions if your ancestor was in a mental institution. Here are some tips to overcome these hurdles:

  1. A court proceeding may have been held before your ancestor was institutionalized. Search court records for more information on the nature of your ancestor’s condition.
  2. Your ancestor’s death record may list the informant as someone who worked at the mental institution. This can at least inform you as to where your ancestor was living.
  3. If you know where your ancestor was hospitalized, try to contact that institution for any available records. Again, privacy laws may come into play, and some hospitals do not release really old records as they are considered closed. I recently contacted the Utah State Hospital and am hoping to receive a response soon.
  4. Look for nontraditional records, such as social history sources, newspaper articles, or articles on the particular institution where your ancestor was housed.
  5. Don’t necessarily equate the word “insane” with mentally ill. It may be that your ancestor was merely eccentric or misunderstood by his community. Dive deeper into records to learn the true nature of his condition.

Above all, persistence is the key. Learning about our mentally ill ancestors is extremely important because it allows us to understand the hardships they endured. And family history is just like any kind of history – it reports the good and the bad, and our mentally ill ancestors deserve to be a part of it.

Wednesday’s Leaf: Hiram Swinfield Large

Today we feature Hiram Swinfield Large (1908-1968), my first cousin three times removed. Hiram grew up in Virginia and was a miner by profession. In October 1931, Hiram married Garnet Mullins (1910-2002).

Hiram Large and Garnet Mullins

Hiram Large (center) and Garnet Mullins (right, with guitar)

Hiram Large

Hiram Swinfield Large (taken in 1954)

 

*Wednesday’s Leaf celebrates ancestors recently added to a growing family tree.

Painting Pictures Through Draft Registration Cards

We’ve all been there. We are drawn to a particular ancestor but can’t locate a photograph of him. But we are still curious. Do we have the same eye color? The same build? Sometimes one’s features can be “displayed” without pictures. One example of this involves draft registration cards from World Wars I and II.

I do not have a picture of my second great uncle, John Harlan Hunley (6/28/1894 – 7/19/1994). However, he was required to register for both world wars, and I was lucky to find his draft cards.

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World War I Draft Registration Card (June 1917)

The first section of the draft card lists basic facts about the individual (date of birth, birth place, occupation, etc.). However, I am fascinated more by the second section.

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As you can see, the Registrar describes John as tall, of medium build, with blue eyes and dark brown hair. Perhaps more interesting, however, is the fact that John was missing a toe on his right foot!

John’s draft card for World War II paints the picture about 25 years later:

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World War II Draft Registration Card (April 1942)

Again, John is described as having blue eyes and brown hair, but this time we get a more precise height – 5’11 1/2″. We notice that John has a “light brown” complexion and a scar on the left side of his face.

Although a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes all we have is words. By looking to unexpected sources like draft cards, we have the ability to paint a mental picture of what our ancestor looked like – missing toe and all!

The Obituary: An Unexpected Family Tree

Once thought of as a form of small-town communication, obituaries provide valuable information for genealogists and family history enthusiasts. Obituaries are generally divided into two sections: (1) life summary of the deceased, and (2) relatives of the deceased (both living and dead). For example, here is the obituary of my grandmother, Erma Funk Lundquist, who died on October 9, 1997.

Obituary_Erma Funk

Published in the Deseret News (October 12, 1997)

As you can see, the first section provides basic facts (Erma’s birth date, place of birth, and parents’ names) – the start of a family tree without diagrams! The obituary continues by highlighting Erma’s accomplishments. We tend to focus on these details because we are drawn to stories and their emotional impact. However, if we read further, we see the family tree growing with the description of Erma’s living and deceased relatives.

Here are five reasons obituaries are extremely valuable to the family historian:

  1. They tend to be pretty accurate as they are generally written by a close family member.
  2. They sometimes reveal information previously regarded as family secrets (like an illegitimate child).
  3. They can put you in contact with living relatives who have their own family stories.
  4. They can help you document migrations of ancestors.
  5. They may clarify confusing census records.

Recently, I stumbled upon the obituary of Verl Allen Bair, who was married to my second cousin once removed, Agnes “Madge” Harris (pictured below).

Agnes Madge Harris

Agnes Madge Harris (March 11, 1925 – August 28, 1990), pictured in the center

Although Verl and Madge were on my family tree, I had no information regarding their children and grandchildren. I also lacked Madge’s death date. Thanks to the obituary (pictured below), I was able to fill in the missing pieces.

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I can’t emphasize enough the importance of obituaries. They are unexpected family trees, expressed with words only. There are numerous ways to search for obituaries; however, I have had a lot of success with FamilySearch Obituaries (https://familysearch.org/obituaries/).