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Everyone May Be Someone

Everyone May Be Someone

Some people just want to find out about their direct ancestors. They think that will be enough. They ignore all the external people they find: siblings of in laws, neighbors, business associates, anyone who isn’t their direct ancestor. They don’t know how addictive this “little” genealogy hobby will become.


Don’t fall into that trap. When you find a person who married into your line and you see something about his brother write it down. Often when a person married into a family other siblings and/or cousins also married into the same family. Or maybe they didn’t but their children did. You may not know why now but someday you’ll wish you had made the notes when you had the chance.


Originally I busily entered my ancestors into my database. This is a time consuming and, I admit, sometimes semi boring process. Naturally I avoided “unnecessary” people. I quickly learned that, sooner or later, I would need those unnecessary folks. Now I enter all sorts of people, even people who are totally unrelated to me [as far as I know today] but who were living in the area. I am no longer surprised when I eventually find a connection.


About 13 years ago I “met” Neal Downing. Back in the 1850s and 60s three children of Samuel Downing married three children of Robert Downing. These lines were previously unrelated, from different parts of the country, but ended up a mile apart in Logan County. I am a descendant of one of those marriages. Neal descends from another. His ancestors left Logan County and moved west – long gone but once they were closely related.


Last winter Neal commented he didn’t know as much about his wife’s family. In an amazing coincidence her ancestors had also lived in Logan County but moved west. They met in California. He sent me the line they knew, no names I recognized as they were from a different part of the county – until I got to her ancestor Charity Bowman. I did a double take.


I am related to both Neal and his wife. Charity was a sister of Hannah Bowman, my 4th great grandmother. Their mother Mary Senteney Bowman is my 5th great grandmother and Jackie’s 4th great grandmother. Hannah, Charity and their mother are all buried in Steenbergen.


Take the time to write down those names and whatever else you run across. You just never know.

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.

Scanning Update

Scanning Update

Ok, Ms. Smarty Pants, are your files perfect someone asked? Nope. And my system is not perfect to begin with, rather it is one that works for me and may work for you.

In my defense I have computer files dating back to 1987. Most have had had their file form changed a couple times. I used WordPerfect then – and still do – but I didn’t have Windows. I don’t remember if they had Windows yet at that time. Yes, hard to believe. These days when I have time I convert non photo files to pdf and try to rename them at that time.

I also have multiple lines with the same name. I have maternal and paternal Wood lines, unrelated. Ditto Harding and others. There are the Downings who were unrelated until about 1855 when they began intermarrying. Then there are common ancestors where I have multiple lines of descent. Abraham Lucas and David Clark [the mystery man who never got out of New Jersey] are two examples.

You need to make a basic plan, using logic that makes sense to you and that you can remember, and adapt it to your situation as these things arise. Consistency is the most important element.

How are the pictures coming? I have maybe – maybe – half of the boxed photos scanned. We are talking literally thousands of pictures. Only a small portion are named. I have an idea for the that when the scanning is done. I have found duplicates and pictures that there is no reason to save – I had a fine time when I first got a digital camera. Not all of the pictures are genealogically related of course.

I have found some amazing old photos I didn’t even know I had. There are people I don’t know who are probably related. There are people I don’t know but I am certain they are not related. And there are so many photos of one cute little girl that even I am getting tired of her. At this point I feel like just scanning and naming all the pictures will keep me busy until at least 2025. And with the SnapScan the scanning is now easy.

Why name in the same order, ie, surname, first name, type, date, location? One reason is to make sure you put everything in the name. Another useful reason is to sort them. Example, if named properly the following files will sort as follows:

Downing John census 1790 Westmoreland Pennsylvania.pdf
Downing John census 1810 Madison Ohio.pdf
Downing John census 1820 Madison Ohio.pdf
Downing John census 1830 Logan Illinois.pdf
Downing John land 1803 Madison Ohio.pdf
Downing John land 1821 Logan Illinois.pdf

and so on. It makes it handy to see what you have.

New Relative Located

New Relative Located

I have a relative I have never met who, like me, is a double Downing. We are descendants of one of the three marriages of children of Robert Downing to children of Samuel Downing. Although these families settled within a mile or so of each other on Salt Creek they were not related prior to the marriages.

My “cousin” said he’d like to find out more about his wife’s genealogy. Her ancestors are also from Logan County. I said send me what you have, you never know, I might know something that would help. Her ancestors lived in Lincoln so it was a long shot. He did.

Imagine my surprise when I read his list of names. His wife is also related to me. Her ancestor Charity Bowman was a sister to my ancestor Hannah Bowman. Both ladies, along with their mother, are buried at Steenbergen Cemetery.

It’s a small world.

The Dress

The Dress

This is the dress made for Ethel Ryan for her marriage to Ellis Downing on January 19, 1910, at the Lincoln Christian Church. Check out that waist – 18 inches.

In 1910, as told in an earlier post, Ethel, her two older sisters and her mother were pregnant. Ethel’s sister Cora had made the dress. When Cora’s daughter was born she cut up the dress to make baby dresses for her daughter. Ethel was not thrilled. Cora said Ethel would not be needing a wedding dress again so what was the big deal. It always rankled but the two remained close until Cora’s death less than 14 months before Ethel’s.

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.

A Family Affair

A Family Affair

In 1910 the three oldest daughters of Edward and Lillie Wood Ryan were “in a family way.” Sarah Katherine Ryan Kinert, the eldest, already had a young son, Floyd. It would be the first for Cora Ryan Lipp and Ethel Ryan Downing. Their mother was also expecting.

On August 9, 1910, the Ryan sisters’ youngest sister Margaret was born. On August 26 Ethel’s eldest son Orville was born. On December 1 Cora’s only child Dorthalene was born. On January 18, 1911, Sadie’s daughter, Adela, was born. Then things went terribly wrong. Eight days later Sadie died, apparently of sepsis.

The widower was unable to take care of the children and work too. Floyd went to live with Cora. Adela was raised by another family.

Cora and Ethel lived past 80. Floyd died of an infection at 28. I never knew Adela. My mother never met her. I don’t recall hearing her mentioned except in response to direct questions. By the time I had enough information and the internet to track her down she had died.

Old and New Stone

Old and New Stone

William Nelson Downing married Delilah Downing [no evidence of them being related has ever been found] and soon departed for service with the 106th Illinois. She was pregnant. He never returned, never saw his son.

He’s buried at Downing Cemetery with his father and other relatives. She’s buried at Bowers Templeman with her parents, grandparents and other Downing relatives. She and her second husband have an imposing stone. More than 20 years ago some of his descendants decided to give him a better one. His father got a new one also.

A New Vaccine

A New Vaccine

We are thinking about swine flu vaccine. In the early 1950s polio was the deadly threat. In Logan County there was a woman who had worked tirelessly for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis – you know it as the March of Dimes – since its founding in 1938. When the Salk vaccine was made available in 1953 and shots were to begin they chose Ethel Ryan Downing to select the first first or second grader in Logan County to receive the shot. Before she could chose it was discovered one of her many grandchildren was in fact a first grader at Mt. Pulaski. She didn’t want to chose him, feeling it was selfish, but the organization insisted.

Thus it was that on his mother’s birthday in 1953, Ethel Downing’s grandson Terry, dressed in his cowboy shirt, got the first polio vaccine in Logan County, followed closely by all the other first and second graders in the county.

No one knew why she was so devoted to that particular cause. Her husband Ellis said she volunteered for so many organizations but that one had a real hold on her. He didn’t know why either. The organization was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt but Ethel was a staunch Republican. She knew no one with polio. She continued to work for the organization until polio was conquered. They didn’t forget her. When she died in 1975 one of the biggest wreaths came from the March of Dimes.