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Mapping My Ancestors

Mapping My Ancestors

Mapping your family’s historical residences comes up from time to time. Recently blogger Randy Seaver wrote about it in his Genea-Musings. Genealogist Lisa Louise Cooke did an excellent webinar on the subject for RootsMagic. I have her  CD set “Google Earth for Genealogy.” It covers more than just mapping. There is a genealogy program “Map My Family Tree” which works with many genealogy database programs.

Randy started in 1900. My rule of thumb is start with grandparents to protect privacy. Another reason is programs like “Map My Family Tree” and Google Earth have issues with names of locations that aren’t the same as they are today – it may be Logan County now but then it was Sangamon County – or no longer exist. Yankeetown and Bakerville, both of which were just west of what is now Chestnut, come to mind.

Here is the movement of my maternal grandfather’s paternal line, 1850-1975. I can tell you the rest of the lines look about the same although a couple did go out to southeast Kansas and look around temporarily before turning around and heading back home. Let me tell you, it is not terribly exciting to map moving across the field. There were no addresses, street or otherwise, so Downing Cemetery is pivotal to this story.

In 1850 my great great grandfather Samuel lived in a house (which still stands) next to Downing Cemetery. His son William Nelson, a minor, lived with him. William Nelson’s mother had died in 1847 which is the reason for Downing Cemetery. In 1862 William Nelson married Delilah Downing (yes, her maiden name was Downing). A couple months later he went off to the Civil War. William Nelson returned from the war to Downing Cemetery.

William Henry, my great grandfather, lived with his mother Delilah and her new husband David Shellhammer about a mile down the road east which was not far from where she grew up. When William Henry married in 1886 (to Eliza Harding who lived a little further down the road east in the next township) they moved to a house on land he owned across the field from his grandfather’s house, the one next to Downing Cemetery.

Things went well. Four sons were born. William Henry then built a new house across the field and down half a mile on a little high spot. High means a couple feet above the surrounding land. The new house was a mile due south of Downing Cemetery. In 1903 William Henry died in the typhoid epidemic. In 1910 his son Ellis married  Ethel Ryan and moved his wife into the house. Shortly before she died in 1975 Ellis and Ethel moved to a house in town. Ellis lived in that house in town until he died in 1978. Moving to town – probably two miles if you are a bird, about three by road – was the longest move of his life.

These places can all be viewed on one screen of Google Earth. That same screen can show the cemeteries where all of these people are buried, including Delilah’s parents, and the resolution will be high enough you can pick out houses.