Saturday, September 26, 2009

Unidentified Photos - Maybe Lucases

Do you know this couple? How about the child below?

These are some of the unidentified pictures at the Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society in Lincoln, Illinois. Someone said they thought these and several more were Lucases. Abraham and Marcy Kelsey Lucas were prolific and their children took after them so there are thousands of Lucas descendants. I don't know these. If you have a clue let me know.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Charles Harper, Choctaw Indian, in Logan County

Several years ago I received this story from Valerie Anlage of Maryland. It is about her ancestor Charles Harper, a Choctaw Indian who settled in Logan County. The narrative includes John Andrew and Esther Jane Scroggin Buckles, my ancestors.

"In 1903 many of my ancestors applied to the Dawes Commission for identification as Missisippi Choctaws with the hopes of obtaining land in Oklahoma. They all claimed to be descendants of Charles HARPER, a full-blooded Choctaw Indian. One of the applicants requested that the Commission secure testimonies from Esther Jane (SCROGGIN) and John BUCKELS, aged 75 and 80 years respectively, of Mt. Pulaski, Illinois in support of his application.

"That the testimony of the said witnesses is material to affiants claim; that each of said witnesses if present would testify that he and she knew Charles Harper, through whom petitioner...claim(s) (his) Indian blood; that they also knew the wife of Charles Harper, and the children of Charles Harper and his wife, and many of their grand children and great grand children; that Charles Harper and his wife lived together as man and wife and were known and respected as such in the community in which they lived; that Charles Harper was a full-blood Choctaw Indian..."

Other witnesses named include Leonard K Scroggins, aged 83 of Mt. Pulaski, Polly Ridgeway and Robert Cass, each over 80, both of Buffalo Hart Grove, and Lydia Burke, also over 80 and living in Cornland.

As far as I know, Charles HARPER arrived in what would become Logan County in 1828.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

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.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Samuel Day and Family

Samuel Day was the son of Mary "Polly" Matthews and her husband Thomas Day. They were married May 5, 1821, in Ohio and he died in a flood four months later in August. Samuel was born March 6, 1822. Mary's sister Margaret was married to Samuel Downing. They had six children before she died in 1836. Mary and Samuel wed 16 months later and had two children, William Nelson and John Clark. The whole group migrated to Logan County and settled along the south side of Salt Creek on the Chester/Mt. Pulaski Township border. Also in the group were various Matthews, sometimes spelled Mathews. Mary died in 1847 and was buried in Downing Cemetery.

In 1850 Samuel is living four farms from Samuel, his uncle and stepfather, with his wife Sarah. In 1855 he is living next to Samuel. There are eight in his household. In 1860 there is a Samuel Day living in Lincoln. In the 1862 Military Census he is in Madison Precinct. In 1870 this Samuel Day is living in Aetna Township with wife Sarah, sons Thomas, 19, and John, 13, and daughters Lydia, 5, and Axey, 1/2 year. Neither he nor Sarah are in the 1880 census in Logan County or anywhere else that I could find.

Thomas is the only child who could have been counted in 1855. That leaves a total of eight children unaccounted for. What happened to this family?

Friday, June 05, 2009

A Happy Group in Mt. Pulaski

This group of people happily posing for the camera raises so many questions. The people I can identify, which is only a handful, are all residents of Mt. Pulaski, all related in the same line and all members of the Christian Church. Since there are so few that can be identified none of those connections is necessarily the correct one. Several items, including the ages of the known people, indicate the picture was taken about 1930.

A couple years two of those I can identify were still living. Although side by side [they were cousins] in this picture they didn't have the same story about the picture.

If you see this picture and can identify any of the people please let me know.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Where is Amanda Allender Beidler?

Henry M. Beidler was the brother of Samuel “Linn” Lindamuth Beidler of Mt. Pulaski and Dr. Jacob Hoke Beidler of Lincoln. Descendants of S. Linn Beidler owned the newspaper in Mt. Pulaski for decades.

Henry married Amanda J. Allender and they had one child, Henry Roy Biedler. Amanda died in August 1888. They were divorced at the time but Henry handled her estate. Apparently Henry thought one Frank Spears, who apparently played a part in their divorce, murdered his former wife. He put a notice in the paper saying he was having her body exhumed and an autopsy performed to find the actual cause of death.

Within days of this notice in December 1888 Frank Spears' son shot and killed Henry Beidler. Amanda's body disappeared before the autopsy could be done. Apparently Henry had feared someone would try to snatch the body as he had hired guards to watch over her for two days.

Henry ended up in the mausoleum but what happened to Amanda? That's what the descendant wants to know. Research has not located any newspaper accounts saying her body was ever located. Remember, his family owned the local newspaper. That may or may not be related to the silence. Was she located and quietly buried in the mausoleum? Was the break-in at the mausoleum an attempt to steal her body again?

Can you help solve this mystery?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Vital Records and Alternates

In 1900 only 18 states [including future states] registered vital records. It was not mandatory in all of those, but it was encouraged.

Thus you might find vital records in Vermont back to 1779, Massachusetts 1842, New Jersey 1843, Connecticut 1859, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Virginia 1853, Delaware 1861, Florida 1865, Michigan 1867, Arizona, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York 1880, Illinois 1887, Maine 1892, North Dakota 1893, Maryland 1898.

Illinois did not mandate the registration of vital records with the state until 1916. Marriage records were always kept but birth and death were not. Logan County has marriage records back to 1857 but marriage records also exist for 1820-1839 under Sangamon County at IRAD. The only missing records are those for 1839-1856 due to the courthouse fire.

Logan has sporadic birth and death records dating to 1878. Probate records go back to 1855 and, again, there are earlier records at IRAD. Deeds go back to 1829. Court records date to 1857. Initial land purchases from the beginning are at the Bureau of Land Management.

The 1855 Illinois State Census for Logan County exists as well as the federal census records for all years. There is also the 1862 Military Census. Remember that Logan County is covered in the 1830 Sangamon County federal census. Census images for 1830 Sangamon, 1840 and 1850 Logan are online free along with lists for the 1855 Logan County state census and the 1862 military census. Go to the Logan County ILGenWeb site for links.

Cemetery lists for many cemeteries are online at the Logan County site. The Decatur Genealogical Society has cemetery listings made in the 1960s and early 1970 for most cemeteries in books which they sell quite reasonably. The Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society has some cemetery books and several history books with name indexes.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mystery Pictures

Last year I scanned all the paper. Bits and pieces keep showing up but, for the most part, I am current on scanning my documents. See Ancestor Hunting if you are interested in the details of how I did it.

Pictures are another story. I mentioned late in the series that the pictures were not done. They are still not done. In the interim one of my brothers [who never used a computer until very recently] has taken all the pictures he had and scanned them. Yes, he put me to shame. He has the same problem we all do -- we don't know who a lot of these people are.

If the picture is from my lifetime I can make a pretty good guess and probably find someone who agrees or recognizes themselves. Before that it is a guess. It may be an educated guess but it is often a guess. Further, others may disagree and there is no way to determine the truth. I need to work out some details [posting multiple pictures is not my greatest skill] but I think I will do it. If it works maybe other pictures can be added.

So I was thinking, almost all of my pictures came from Logan County so maybe posting them on a web site with a Logan County connection will help identify some of them. Maybe it would encourage me to get cracking on the scanning too.

In the interim, do you know these people? I know a couple people so I can safely say it is about 1905-1909.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Where's Callie?

The Case of the Missing Poet

Decatur Daily News, Decatur, Il, Thursday, 30 July 1914

Miss Callie Harcourt of Chestnut, well known in this locality for her writing of verses, died suddenly Wednesday morning at her home.

That's all the researcher knows. His original question was why couldn't he find her listed at Laenna Cemetery in Chestnut.

Callie's father Stillwell, who was still alive at the time of Callie's death, is buried there. He died July 11, 1926. Also buried at Laenna are G. W. and Caroline Harcourt. The dates on their stones would lead me to think they are Stillwell's parents, Callie's grandparents. Caroline died in 1922, days short of her 88th birthday. Callie clearly had surviving family members.

A search of my records seems to indicate Callie is not buried at Laenna nor anywhere else in the county.

Upon inquiry, the research stated Stillwell was a piano tuner and salesman for the Kimball Piano Company in Chicago. He held a number of patents for improvement to the piano. The mother is not buried at Laenna with the father or elsewhere. Mercedes or Martha, as she sometimes went by, disappeared from family records about the same frame as Callie's death. Phillip, Callie's brother was born in Chicago; Dorothy, her sister, as born in Missouri; Callie was born in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. The Stillwell Harcourt family moved a great deal at the turn of the century. Callie's siblings are not buried at Laenna.

It would seem there was a divorce -- or at least Stillwell and Mercedes split -- about the time of Callie's death. Perhaps it was the precipitating event.

Death certificates were not mandatory in Illinois until 1916.

Where's Callie?

Monday, January 05, 2009


A common question is "why can't I find my ancestor's birth/death/marriage certificate?"

The answer to no birth or death certificate is generally simple. The State of Illinois did not MANDATE such records prior to 1916. After that it is a bigger issue and the subject of a different post.

Marriage records were always required and yet many times they cannot be located.

Obviously, they may not have gotten married where you think they got married. For Illinois marriages prior to 1900 researchers are in luck. The State Archives database, online, free and searchable, lists most marriages prior to 1900. You do not have to know the exact year. You can search by bride or groom's name, then by county or statewide.

Start your search here:

The State Archives volunteers are working on 1900-1915.

My great grandparents have no marriage record in Illinois. I have searched statewide by their real names and assorted different spellings. I have been to the county courthouse in the county where one would assume they married and checked the county courthouse where his obit says they married. There were no courthouse fires between then and now.

Their first child was born more than nine months after the marriage, almost two years before if you believe the one census that lists it, the 1890 census being lost. [I don't.] I can think of no reason to hide or otherwise destroy the record.

They married in the winter, Valentine's Day. There is a formal portrait of the couple, probably not taken on the wedding day but undoubtedly shortly thereafter, before her first pregnancy was visible.

Less than 20 years later he was dead and she was left with four sons. There are court records certifying her as the widow. So where the heck is that marriage certificate?

Perhaps the minister lost the return before he had a chance to turn it in. Perhaps the clerk lost it. Perhaps it was lost sometime in the next 100 years that passed before anyone noticed it could not be found. Maybe they weren't ever legally married. I find that idea intriguing although if it true I don't think they or anyone else in the family knew it.

This is one of those mysteries I don't think we will ever solve.