Closing in On William Boyd Hill’s Origins

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This past week, Ancestry.com has made its immigration and naturalization records available for free. I already had access to most of these records with my subscription, but I was spurred to pay closer attention to them thanks to the special offer.

I decided to try one more time to find out more about one of my paternal great-grandfathers, William Boyd Hill. From census records, I know he was born around 1840, that he was a grocer in Philadelphia and that he hailed from Ireland. I hadn’t had any luck finding out when and/or where he entered the United States though.

I was a bit disappointed with the search function for the immigration and naturalization records, at least as they were set up for the free access this week. You didn’t have a chance to limit results by exact spelling, etc. The results included way too many bad hits. I was already dealing with a rather common name and didn’t want to have to weed through still more extraneous information.

I decided to narrow my results by record type instead and that led me to what I hope was the jackpot. First, I selected the Citizenship and Naturalization records from the choices on the left-hand side of the Ancestry results page. I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me. Either the name was right and the country of origin was wrong, or vice versa.

Next I selected Immigration and Emigration Books. Drilling down still further, I saw that there was a listing for Philadelphia, 1789-1880 Naturalization Records. Bingo. I didn’t have any evidence that my great-grandfather ever left Philly once he settled there. If he applied for citizenship, it would have been in that city.

Sure enough, when I clicked on the link, the very first result was for a William B. Hill from Great Britain/Ireland who filed a Declaration of Intent with the Court of Common Pleas in 1873. I’m still not sure he’s my William Hill, but I read more about the record and how to get copies of the original records.

First, Ancestry has a page about these records. It gives a lot of background about the source behind the record and where to request the originals. I also looked up the repository itself — the Philadelphia City Archives (link goes directly to the Naturalization Records section). This page was helpful because it gives still more background about the records it holds and its fee schedule.

Now, I’m getting ready to send off my request to the archives to see if they can send me more information about this William B. Hill. Fingers crossed that he’s the right one and that the original information will contain more tidbits to tell me about his origins!

Photo Puzzler

This blog has been quiet because I was on vacation the past week with my fam on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Below is a photo of four cousins (including moi, on the right). One of them is my sister and the other two are sisters. Can you guess who is who? If you know already or played along on Facebook, please refrain from posting a comment. I will update this post with the answer in about a day (Answer now posted below!).

Four cousins, two sets of sisters. Can you figure out who is who?

UPDATE: That’s my sister, Carolyn, in the bright blue tank top. The other two, Shannon on the left and Kelly, are sisters as well. Kelly and I strongly favor our dads in appearance, though our fathers were not related except by marriage (we also have almost the exact same food allergies). Shannon and Carolyn both have their moms’ darker hair.

Benjamin William Franklin Corley

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Today, July 12, is the anniversary of the death of my second great-grandfather, Benjamin William Franklin Corley in 1891. So, I thought I would list what I know about him:

- While he was born in Kentucky, he spent most of his life in Shelby County, Illinois
- He had a twin brother, Henry William Washington Corley
- His parents were Jonathan Cheatham Corley and Delilah Basham (Delilah’s father, Obediah, is my ticket into the DAR, eventually)
- He was a farmer and a “local preacher” with the Methodist Episcopal Church, but transferred to the Free Methodist Church after a dispute with the local minister of the former church
- He married Lois Wakefield in 1842
- He passed away at his wife’s funeral — here is the story from A Genealogy of Corleys (page 150):

“While the service was being conducted, Mr. Corley leaned his head over on the shoulder of his son Joseph*, and expired. The further service was adjourned, and a joint service for both of them afterwards was conducted.”

*Joseph was my great-grandfather.

Thanks to A Genealogy of Corleys, I have a picture of Benjamin and Lois.

July 12 also is the anniversary of the death of my grandmother Ida Bole (Hill) Corley in 1943. I’ve written about the Hills extensively.

The Friends Album Has Found a Home!

I just received a call from one of the descendants of the Young family from the Friends Album. This is the gentleman to whom I mailed a letter with a photo of Cornelia Morris (his 4G-grandmother) and a copy of the family tree that I put together.

He said he just returned from out of the country and my letter was waiting for him amidst a huge stack of mail. He called me as soon as he opened it. He confirmed that I had the right family.*

He said both of his parents are still alive and in their mid-80s. He confirmed the family has strong connections to Danbury, Conn., and Yonkers, N.Y. (where this gentleman was born).

They are thrilled to have the album coming their way — I hope to send it to them this weekend. I can’t even describe how elated I am to be reuniting these photos with the family!

* Updated 7/1/2011: I spoke with Stanley Young III again last night and he said he was mistaken and he actually hadn’t seen the photo of Cornelia Morris before. Nevertheless, he now has the Friends Album and couldn’t wait to show it to his parents over the 4th of July weekend.

Tuesday’s Tip: Local History News Alerts

This past weekend, there was a huge celebration in the town of Easton, Md., surrounding the placement of a sculpture of Frederick Douglass in front of the Talbot County Courthouse. Douglass once gave a very famous address on the steps of that courthouse.

The events this weekend got me thinking about the likelihood of similar events taking place in towns across the country. With all of the patriotic holidays during the summer, there are many celebrations of local and national history throughout the country during this season.

Local newspapers tend to preview such events with articles about area history. What a great way to learn about the hometowns of your ancestors! Might your ancestor get a mention? Here’s one way to find out: set up a Google News Alert for your ancestors’ hometowns and add keywords like ‘history’ to the search string.

Use the AROUND operator to make results more relevant. When I did a search for “San Antonio” and “history,” the results weren’t what I’d hoped for. I changed the search string to ‘”san antonio” AROUND(5) history’ (meaning where ‘history’ appears within five words of ‘San Antonio’) and got much better results.

You can add other keywords to the search string too. Were your ancestors farmers? Miners? Play around with other keywords to narrow your results.

I had trouble getting relevant results from one of my searches. You can click on Advanced Search to narrow the results by source location OR by coverage of a certain location.

I tried out a Google News search for one of my ancestral hometowns, Elizabethton, Tenn. I typed ‘Elizabethton Tennessee history’ into the search bar. The results varied from calendar items for workshops at local history landmarks to an article on local sports history. I set up a news alert so that future articles about the area come to my attention.

When you set up the news alert, you are presented with a number of options that will affect the results you receive. You can have the alert cover everything from blogs to video. I usually select “Everything” from the Type drop-down menu. Likewise, I also select “All Results” under Volume.

I have dozens of news alerts set up for my day job, and I find it can be overwhelming to receive all of those emails. Since I already have Google Reader set up for keeping track of genealogy blogs, I elected to receive these local history updates in my feed there, rather than receiving still more email.

Don’t forget to navigate around the Google News results using the menu on the left. I hit Archives and found articles about presidential candidate Herbert Hoover visiting Elizabethton in 1928. Another article, from 1957, detailed the homecoming of conjoined twins (joined at the head, no less), who had been successfully separated just in time to return home for Christmas that year. Note that some of the archive hits may require payment to view the full article, depending on the publication.

None of these stories involve my ancestors, but what great snapshots of local happenings over the years.

It also pays to search for county names and not just town names. I found this article on a flood that swept through Elizabethton (spelled ‘Elizabethtown’ in this article, which is why it didn’t show up in my previous search) in 1901 by searching for “Carter County.” Surely my ancestors were affected by this flood.

Another interesting find was this reprint of a letter by Abraham Lincoln.

Another bonus to performing these searches is you may discover newspapers you didn’t know existed. This could lead to more fruitful searching later on.

Elizabeth HART Crow

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On May 1, 1902, my third great-grandmother Elizabeth HART Crow passed away. At least according to her FindaGrave memorial. Alas, there is no photo of her gravestone (I’ve requested one), nor have I been able to find an obituary or other record confirming this information. Yet.

Elizabeth and her husband Isaac D. CROW had no less than 12 children together, including my second great-grandfather Daniel B. Crow. The family lived in Carter County, Tennessee, where I still have distant relatives to this day.

I need to spend more time on Elizabeth and her family. All I have on her so far are census records and the FindaGrave link.

Happy Birthday, Herman Wild (Sr.)

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My great-grandfather Herman Wild’s birthday was only two days after his father’s. Herman Wild was born in San Antonio, Texas, 8 Mar 1877, to Fridolin Wild and Lena Hoyer. Like his father, Herman went into sales and worked at a department store named Wolff and Marx for almost 30 years.

Herman married Susan Campbell Bennett 15 Jan 1908.

There is no photo of his grave on FindaGrave (yet, I requested one), but there is text from his obituary, which provides a wealth of information. He apparently died of pneumonia on 20 Mar 1928.

Google Street View of 232 Lotus Ave. in San Antonio, Texas.

His obit and other records list his address as 232 East Lotus Ave in San Antonio, Texas. There is a neat old house at that address on Google Maps Street View (if Street View can be trusted–I find it to be often inaccurate).

Happy Birthday, Fridolin Wild

Depiction of Aibling (Wikimedia Commons)

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

My great-great grandfather Fridolin Wild was born on 6 Mar 1844 in Aibling, Germany. He arrived in the United States in 1868, via Buenos Aires, and lived in San Antonio, Texas, until he died in 1919.

Fridolin held various positions in sales throughout his life. He was a traveling salesman and returned to Germany briefly in 1889 according to a passport application and ship passenger list. The 1910 census appears to show that he was a partner in the wholesale liquor business. I hope it wasn’t Prohibition that did him in.

Fridolin married Lina Hoyer in 21 Sep 1872. Her parents were from Germany as well.

His grave can be viewed on FindaGrave.

Friendly Find

Last weekend, I dropped by a new antique store here in Easton and was drawn to a much loved old photo album. What was once apparently a velvety cover has worn down to bare fabric. I was ecstatic to see that it was filled to the gills with old photos of various types. The price was right too, for such a treasure, and I snapped it up.

The proprietor of the shop knew which family had possessed the album before it made it to the store. As you can see from the cover, however, it’s not a family album (at least not their family) — it’s supposedly filled with their friends.

One of the spreads in the photo album. Most of the photos are cabinet cards, but there is a smattering of other types of images.

After a preliminary examination of the photos, many have information written on the backs or margins. Most of the photos appear to be from one family from New York. I’m going to go through the photos and the information they contain to see if I can track down the descendants of that family.

People of all ages are pictured in the album.

Sentimental Sunday: The Kitchen at Lillian Lane

From the time I was 9 until my senior year of high school, my family lived in a rambler in a wooded neighborhood called Sherwood Forest in Silver Spring, Maryland. We spent a ton of time in the kitchen, which had a huge bay window. We ate most of our meals at a large wooden table in front of that window, despite the fact we also had a formal dining room. We had a good view of our street since our house was at the top of a hill.

In high school, after dinner was over, I usually finished my homework at that table. Lots of humanities essays were composed there. My sister still has the table and chairs.

When we first moved into the house, the kitchen had an ancient turquoise refrigerator with a pedal-operated freezer on the bottom (this was from waaaay before bottom freezers were the in thing). We eventually had to replace it with the fridge you see pictured above.