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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.

FEMALE ANCESTORS

FEMALE ANCESTORS

How many generations in your direct female line do you know? This question is for females. The way records were kept men can generally go further back with data on male lines than females with their female lines. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited solely from the mother and thus enables the trace of your maternal line back in time. Unfortunately it can’t put a name to the members of the line.

Obviously you are #1 and your mother is #2. My maternal grandmother #3 was Leona Ethel Ryan Downing who was born in 1892 and died in 1975. Her mother was Lillie Margaret Wood Ryan #4. Lillie was born in 1871 and died in 1956. I knew all of these people. Lillie’s mother, #5, was Sarah Katherine Lucas Wood. Sarah was born in 1835 and died in 1896. Sarah’s mother was Mary Turner Lucas #6. She was born in 1813 and died in 1855. Lillie, Sarah and Mary are buried in the same area of Lake Bank Cemetery, Lake Fork Township, Logan County, Illinois.

Mary’s mother was Margaret Low Turner. Margaret #7 was born in Maryland around 1793, had 13 children and died, presumably, in DeWitt County, Illinois, after 1870. Her husband Allen had died in DeWitt in April 1846. Margaret’s mother was Mary Low, maiden name unknown. We know her name was Mary from land records in Ohio. Mary #8 was born about 1771 in Maryland, married Nathan Low and died after 1827, presumably in Madison now Clark County, Ohio, where her husband died a few years later.

William Henry Downing Probate

William Henry Downing Probate

William Henry Downing’s probate file came from the Logan County Circuit Clerk. Parts of it could be found at IRAD and the whole probate would be in the FamilySearch files.


On December 2, 1903, in the typhoid epidemic, William Henry Downing died. He was the only child of William Nelson Downing, who died in the Civil War, ironically of “typhoid pneumonia,” and Delilah Downing Downing. He was 40 years old, not expecting to die and had no will.





His heirs were his widow Eliza Harding Downing, sons Clarence, Charles Ellis, Ennis and Floyd. Clarence was 17 and Floyd was 7. [Floyd isn’t in the picture.]


The widow was named Administrix on December 8, 1903. David Shellhammer, husband of Delilah Downing Downing, and James Shellhammer, Delilah’s first son by her second marriage, stood as sureties. Appointed as appraisers were Lewis Upp, Charles Brooker and William Beckers, all three very close neighbors. Brooker would become the father in law of the eldest son Clarence. Upp was married to a Lincoln, descendant of the same immigrant ancestor as the more famous Lincoln.


They finished up their work promptly and reported on December 28, 1903, valuing the property of the estate at $4,700.25. The list is four pages long and is quite specific at times – “6 rocking chairs, 1 bay mare named Brownie, 1 red steer, 1 gray mare, 66 hogs” – and less specific at others – “1 lot of chickens” [which I first read as “a lot of chickens”]. 


The value of the widow’s property as prescribed by law, which included school books, a sewing machine, beds, one fourth of a cow for every family member [fortunately for the cow there were four members], two sheep for every family member, one horse, etc., was $1,281.50. 


The Administrix reported on March 23, 1907. There was $4,700.25 in receipts which included $599.37 for “property not sold but kept…to make up amount shown on appraisement bill.” In the long list of bills totalling $3,704.76 we learn that funeral expense was $263.75 and the stone cost $1,140. The balance after all bills was $995.49, less than the widows’ amount.





The land apparently passed separately. It is not mentioned. Each son received 80 acres which was farmed by son Ellis until the early 1970s. Most of it is now farmed by his grandson, Roy Downing.

Delilah Downing Downing Shellhammer Will

Delilah Downing Downing Shellhammer Will

Delilah Downing Downing Shellhammer was the youngest child of Robert Downing whose probate was previously discussed. I had never considered that she had a will or probate but I found it in the probate records posted online at FamilySearch. These probate files are more work to collect, not being word searchable, but they are also free. Help with the records





Delilah died June 22, 1909. She first married William Nelson Downing who died in the Civil War. She then married David Shellhammer. She had a son, William Henry Downing, by her first husband. William Henry died in 1903 leaving four sons. She had two sons, James and Albert, and two daughters, Sarah Jane Shellhammer West and Augusta Shellhammer Park, by her second husband. 


On June 1, 1909, Delilah executed a will. Delilah couldn’t write and had to sign it with her mark. Whether Delilah couldn’t write or was too ill to write at the time is unknown.


Delilah very carefully and specifically divided her property into fifths giving one fifth to each child and the remaining fifth to be equally among the heirs of her deceased son William. Her estate consisted of her personal effects and furniture and land in Section 1, Mt. Pulaski Township. She directed that one heir buy out all the others and that the others cooperate to do that.


Finally she named T. A. Scroggin executor of her will. There were no claims against the estate. Everyone cooperated and probate closed November 1, 1909. 


Some of Delilah’s descendants should have taken a lesson from her will.

Robert Downing Probate

Robert Downing Probate

This is the first of several planned posts on probate. This probate file was obtained in the standard way from the Logan County Circuit Court Clerk.



On June 14, 1887, Robert Downing died. The War of 1812 veteran and one of the earliest settlers in Logan County, Illinois, was 93 1/2 years old. He died without a will. Letters of Administration were not issued to his eldest surviving son, Robert Harden Downing, until January 3, 1888. As he died with little money, no land and two of his daughters were given a lump sum by agreement of all other heirs it would appear he had carefully divested himself of most of his property, probably beginning after the death of his wife Jane Morrow Downing on May 16, 1882.


The heirs of Robert Downing were the four daughters of his deceased eldest son John, son Robert Harden who was the administrator, daughter Mary Downing Roberts, son Lorenzo, son Alexander, the son of his deceased son Henry Clay, daughter Melita Downing Downing [correction added March 23, 2012] daughter Elizabeth Downing Downing, daughter Delilah Downing Downing Shellhammer. One child, Hannah, had died young.


At the time of his death Robert was receiving a pension of $24, apparently per year, for his War of 1812 service. In the estate was an uncashed check for $24 which was characterized as “utterly worthless” as the government refused to pay it.


Daughters Elizabeth and Delilah, the youngest of the children, were given $200 each which all of the other heirs agreed was proper so that they “might equally share the estate.” This seems to indicate the others already had their $200 at the time of death. Each heir signed off on the agreement. Their individual affidavits tell us where they were located at the time as well as their name. 


The stone for Robert cost $23.75. I would have to guess this is the “Father” stone at the side of the major stone for Robert and Jane. In the foreground is the War of 1812 marker.





When all was said and done, exclusive of the $400 above, each of the eight heirs received only $53.28. The four daughters of John each received $13.32. Elizabeth died after her father but before the disbursement. Each of her eight children got $6.66.

Final Four – Who Are They?

Final Four – Who Are They?

This picture, taken during my lifetime, continues to baffle me. I am looking for the final four pieces in the puzzle. 


I can date the picture by the oldest and youngest. Edward Daniel Ryan died at Christmas 1950 and the infant is Jacqueline Green, born October 1949, making this warm weather after May 1950. From the background I would guess it was taken at Emagene Veech Green’s home in the country between Mt. Pulaski and Illiopolis.


There are 19 relatives in this picture. I identified 13. Emagene Green was able to identify two more. That leaves four we don’t know and yet we know they are almost undoubtedly descendants of Benjamin B. and Sarah Lucas Wood or the spouse of a descendant.





Back row, Irma Mae Ryan Sapp, Margaret Ryan Rentchler Graul, Janet Downing Rubin, Thelma Volle Downing, Vera Brown Downing, Ethel Ryan Downing, no clue, no clue, Bessie Wood Meade, Cora Ryan Lipp, no clue, Marie Wood Havener Heard, Mary Ryan Veech.


Front row, Betty Downing Rothwell Atwood, Lillie Wood Ryan, no clue, Edward Daniel Ryan, Emagene Veech Green, Jacqueline Green Kapper. I’m sure the two younger women in the front row got to sit because Emagene was holding a baby and Betty had had one in May.


Cora, Ethel, Mary and Margaret are among the 10 children of Lillie and Edward Ryan. The unknowns are not from their families. Bessie and Marie are daughters of Lillie’s brother Caleb Wood and his wife Marcy Conaway. The unknowns may be connected to them.


And, I wonder, where are the men and the rest of the children. Without a doubt I was there. 


If you know the answer to this puzzle PLEASE let me know.

How Did You Meet Grandpa?

How Did You Meet Grandpa?

Sunday, April 14, 1907, was Ethel Ryan’s 15th birthday. Although not a member, she went to the dedication of the new Mt. Pulaski Christian Church building with her friend. There was a social. Also at the event was Ellis Downing whose minister ancestors and their family founded several of the Methodist Churches in Logan County and across central Illinois. Ellis enjoyed music and dancing, which the Methodist Church in 1907 did not, so he and his brother were attending the Christian Church. The couple met that day.

Ellis was the second of the four sons of William Nelson and Eliza Sciota Harding Downing, our Lida of prior posts. Ellis’ father, who farmed land his family originally settled, had died of typhoid in 1903.

Ethel was the third daughter of Edward Daniel and Lillie Margaret Wood Ryan [“A Family Affair”]. Teddie was a bricklayer whose ancestors came from Ireland in the 1830s. Both of Lillie’s parents were descendants of Abraham Lucas. To be kind, Teddie liked his drink. The families did not know each other, certainly were not in the same social or economic circles. Most would have said the couple had nothing in common.

Ellis’ older brother Clarence was dating Lena Drake. Her stepfather was Charles Brooker. The Brookers lived half a mile west of the Downing household. The families were friends and the couple seemed well suited.

Eventually the talk to turned to marriage and it seemed natural to have a double wedding. Lena could afford a wedding. Ethel could not. In order to have the double wedding Ellis paid for Ethel’s dress. The couples, joined by their mothers, went by horse and buggy to Lincoln on January 19, 1910, where they were married at the Lincoln Christian Church. Both couples settled down to farming.

Ellis and Ethel had five children. She died on January 8, 1975, 11 days short of the couple’s 65th wedding anniversary. Ellis wrote his family story to be placed in the cornerstone of the new sanctuary of the Mt Pulaski Christian Church, starting with the story of their meeting in 1907. He witnessed the dedication of that new sanctuary in 1977 and died on June 28, 1978.

Clarence and Lena had one son, Darwin. They eventually divorced. One September day in 1942 Clarence showed up at Ellis and Ethel’s’ home and said he felt ill. They put him to bed and called the doctor but Clarence died on September 28, 1942. Lena died in October of 1985.