Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Crowdsourcing Our Research:
How We Sharpen Each Other's Skills


As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

There are some things we "know" as researchersbut then go right on, acting as if we had forgotten what we know. That's when it helps to have a fellow researcher gently remind us to reach back into that store of what we need to remember.

That's how it was when I first connected with Lee in Minnesota, the Hopkins researcher who shared the old photograph of William Hopkins' drug store with us yesterday. In piecing together the possible story of how William and Kate Hopkins' photograph ended up in northern California, Lee offered a reasonable hypothesis: look for the connection one generation up and on the other side of the family.

As Lee explained,
We inherited a good deal of info on [the Hopkins family] from Alice Sharp Greer who was the family genealogist. She was the daughter of Adelia Hopkins Sharp who was William Bernard Hopkins' sister. Alice's last known residence was in Concord, Contra Costa County.

The minute Lee mentioned looking at William's siblings, I saw the error of my ways. I had presumed that the only family members who might have passed down a photograph of William and Kate would be relatives from Kate's side of the family. After all, Kate had died young, and William went on to raise a family with his second wife. While I should have known better than to remove anyone from my "suspects" list, I had prematurely narrowed my searchand thus, my results.

If, the minute you saw Lee's explanation that the Hopkins family genealogist Alice Sharp Greer had moved to Contra Costa County, bells went off in your mind, you are on the right track. However, we need not rush to conclusions on just whom the recipient of the Hopkins photograph was; as it turned out, there were other descendants who headed west to the same neighborhood, as well.

I was careful to heed that prompt by Lee, and built out a Hopkins family tree which provided a few other possibilities. Not only had Alice Sharp Greer moved to northern California, but so did her older sister Ruth and their brother William. Admittedly, these were descendants of only one of William Hopkins' siblings, but those nieces and nephew of William Hopkins introduced enough possibilities to explain how a photograph of a Kentucky couple would have made its way to California.

There is only one glitch in that assumption, though: Alice Sharp Greer had no children of her own. If she was the recipient of William and Kate Hopkins' photograph, who kept it between the time of Alice's passing in 1966 and the date, decades later, at which it ended up in the antique shop where I found it in Lodi, California?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What I Learned from Lee


It's always a delight to meet another researcher who shares that passion for genealogy. It's even better when I discover that researcher will truly value the orphaned photograph now being sent on its way home.

In the process of meeting and talking with Lee from Minnesotathe family history researcher whose tree on Ancestry.com convinced me this was the right person to receive the photograph of William and Katie HopkinsI learned a few things about that Hopkins couple that, with Lee's permission, I'd like to share.

The first time I encountered Lee's tree was through a hint on Ancestry. It was not for the ubiquitous shaky-leaf reminder to look at the other trees on the website, but it led me to a picture of William Hopkins in front of his drugstore.

Let me amend that: one of his drugstores. Thankfully, Lee had appended an explanation at Ancestry.com alongside the photograph (which you can see below):
William B. Hopkins owned drugstores in five states, but I believe this photo was taken in Kentucky around 1923. William B. Hopkins is the portly gentleman standing between the two women. I believe the younger woman on the left is his wife Katie Seeger Allen and the woman on the right is LeNorah (Dixon) Thornburg who became his second wife after Katie died in 1928. The young girl and older boy next to LeNorah are her Thornburg children, Ellen R. & John V.

Drugstores in five states? When I first saw that, I tried to do a search on the newspaper archive services I use, but nothing substantive came up, other than the Merck wedding mention that "Iggy" found for me a few days back. Now that Lee and I have connected, I wanted to ask a few more questions about the Hopkins businesses.

It was apparent from census records that William and Kate moved to locations other than Kate's home in Louisville. Could this have been due to William building his business? According to family members, William may also have had a store in Piqua, Ohio. In fact, at first, Lee was not sure whether the store photo was from Louisville or Piqua, but resolved the puzzle this way:
I got the brilliant idea to check the name (Denhard) on the side of the drug store building with names in Louisville and Piqua, Ohio. No Denhards in Ohio and lots of them in Louisville. Found a court case for Brooks Denhard who owned a surgical instrument company in Louisville. Makes sense to advertise on the side of a drug store. So I've decided the building in the photo is William's drug store in Louisville and not the one in Ohio.

It pays to pay attention to all the "superfluous" details you can find in a photograph. Not to mention, I'm sure it paidat least in William Hopkins' caseto have those ads put up on the side of his building. A clever businessman, indeed.

I picked up a few more ideas from Lee while we were discussing the Hopkins familylike where to look for the likely nexus that resulted in finding William and Kate Hopkins' photograph in Californiawhich we'll take a look at tomorrow.

In the meantime, off that photograph goes, on its way home to Minnesota!



Above: Photograph, circa 1923, of William Bernard Hopkins' Drugstore in Louisville, Kentucky; photograph in the possession of Hopkins family member Lee in Minnesota; used by permission.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Making its Way to California


As I repeat this process of rescuing orphaned photographs once again, I'm beginning to learn the patterns that shape these now-familiar results. First of all, for the three original mystery photographs I foundthe photo album from Ireland, the portrait of the Kansas salesman, and now, the picture of the young couple from Louisville, Kentuckyeach was sold by the same northern California antique shop. No matter where the item originated, its final resting place was in the city of Lodi, California.

Apparently, the place where the shopkeeper got each of these photographs was also a consistent location. I discovered that fact when I was first puzzling over how the Irish photo album ended up in a place as small as Lodi. The shop owner explained the process: hers was a consignment store, and she kept track of the various sellers through a simple code placed on the back of each item for sale.

Sure enough, looking on the back of the photo album, alongside the price was another entry: "#51." I cropped the image I used on this blog so as to cut the tag off the back of the photo for William and Kate Hopkins, but if you look closely, you can see the top of its slight mark just below the "g" in Seegar. Number 51, as it turned out, was the code for an antique distributor with whom our shopkeeper did businessand that dealer happened to live in the Bay area around Contra Costa County.

The trick is, of course, to find the nexus between the supplier's range of services and the extended Hopkins family's descendants. Somehow, that dealer number 51 needed to have come across an estate sale within (I suspect) driving range of the Bay area in northern California.

The catch is, as we've already mentioned, that William and Kate apparently had no children of their own. Furthermore, Kate's brother William Allen had no children who ventured out west, and it seemed unlikely that her half-siblings' descendants did, either. Since William Hopkins, after Kate's passing, had married a woman with children of her own, it seemed unlikely that that would be the line to cherish and pass down a photograph of William's previous wife. I wasn't sure which way to turn next in unraveling this puzzle.

However, someone popped up over the weekend to remind me that I neglected another obvious resource: the siblings of William Bernard Hopkins, himself.

That someone was named Leethe researcher in Minnesota whose Ancestry tree contained so much documentation on this entire family line. In addition, Lee passed along a few stories of the family in an email I received on Saturday, which prompted me to do some more searching on my own.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Leap Into a New Year


It wasn't on account of any special planning that I concluded my final biweekly review of 2017 on the very last day of the year; it just happened that way. Still, I wrapped up the year with 11,967 people in my mother's tree, 13,930 in my mother-in-law's tree, a puny 452 in my father's tree and 1,392 in my father-in-law's tree.

And then, I had to wait an entire two weeks before the next count. With that, the first month of the year is halfway over before I got to sit down and see where I was for my first tally of 2018.

There was a bit of paperwork to attend to, of course. I had to revamp my charts with this year's dates for each of those biweekly reports to come. And I needed to add columns to make provisions for my latest new project: DNA tests for both my husband and myself at MyHeritage. I bought the test kits during the company's Black Friday sale$49 per kit if I bought at least two of themso the results are not quite ready yet, but they will be, by the time I do my next report.

Since our family's holiday celebrations startedand thus, endedlater than usual, I wasn't exactly the most diligent of researchers for the past two weeks. I increased the count in my mother's tree by thirty five to reach 12,002, and my mother-in-law's tree by an even one hundred to reach 14,030. Once again, absolutely nothing of substance showed up on either my father's tree or my father-in-law's treea problem I'm determined to rectify this year.

Now that the holiday DNA sales results have started making their appearance on the tallies for the three companies where we've already tested, I'm hoping for some significant connections in the weeks ahead. As usual, we once again saw a decline in the numbers at 23andMethe ongoing mysteryso I now have 1,107 matches (down ten) and my husband has 1,164 (down seven). I'm up twenty six at Family Tree DNA and twenty three at Ancestry.com DNA, giving me 2,638 and 820 matches, respectively. My husband's tests jumped nineteen and thirteen to yield 1,682 at FTDNA and 420 at Ancestry. I expect those increases will hold steady for another few weeks. Here's hoping they include some significant connections.

January being a month in which people's thoughts often turn to new year's resolutions and plans, I can't really say I have any special projects waiting in the wings. My overall goal of fleshing out the details on each of the descendants of my third great grandparents (and my husband's, as well) is a massive endeavor and I am far from completing that. It may take me another year before I can declare that one anywhere close to being  accomplished. Even then, I may miss several dozen of our contemporaries. Before I take on any other research commitments, I want to do a thorough combing through all available documentation to insure that this goal has gotten the diligent attention it deserves. We have too much invested in all these DNA tests. If nothing else, we owe it to ourselves to do so.

That, however, doesn't mean I don't have other research dreams. Put on hold by recurrent issues, I still want to get to Florida to research my McClellan ancestors in tiny Wellborn, a trip which will require time spent at the state archives. I also want to follow up on the incredible story of John Syme Hogue, my grandmother's fourth cousinthe man with several alias and a rap sheet full of crimes committed throughout the mid-western United States and Canada. And I want to revisit the saga of that lost family photo album which recently found its way back home to Cork, Ireland.

With a research platter as full as this one, who needs to add any new projects? I think I'll have enough to keep me busy as it is for 2018.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Now Indexing: Illinois Church Records


It's the start of a new year, and I just realized I fell off the genealogical record indexing resolution bandwagon last month. I guess I was just having too much fun in December to remember my promises to myself.

Now, I'm back on track to start the year afresh. For a change of paceand, to be honest, I was looking for something I could race through with only half a brain engagedI decided to switch tracks. Instead of working on naturalization paperwork in the New York home of my paternal roots as I have for the past few months, I headed west to Chicago to see if I could provide a boost to research on my father-in-law's ancestors.

Of course, that brought on a steep learning curve. It seemed like there were pages and pages of instruction to read before I could even get started. And while clerks hired in the 1800s to work in government positions generally could be expected to display some semblance of neat handwriting, I haven't been able to say the same for clerics in the religious world. This, I found out, was bound to come back and slap me out of the running, just when I thought I was on a roll.

Lesson number one in this month's installment of indexing education: church records that qualify for indexing include births and baptisms, marriages, and deaths or burials. Not confirmations. Nor church business meetings.

So what do I encounter on my first page up? Confirmation records. Question: "Should this image be indexed?" Answer: "No." Boom! That wiped out an entire record, and the automatic confetti started falling from the top of my computer screen. Easy peasy. I felt so good about that one, I sprung for a repeat.

The next record set was for marriages. Despite the format asking for all sorts of details genealogists would love to get their hands onnames of parents for both bride and groom, not to mention even the city in which the ceremony was to take placedo you think the record provided any information so I could fill in those blanks? No. And so it repeated, times twelve, until I was able to submit that batch in record time, as well.

Figuring I was really on a roll now, perhaps I got a bit too cocky. I went for a third batch. That was my mistake. Bringing up a page of chicken scratch that looked vaguely like German, not Englishremember, this was in Illinois, the kind of good, flat farm country a German immigrant could pay good money forI took one look at the prospect in front of me and chickened out. Perhaps I had, after all, bitten off more than I could chew. Or at least process on FamilySearch's handy web-based indexing system.

Perhaps another time.

In the meanwhile, at least I'm back in the groove, reintroducing myself to the useful habit of regularly giving back to the genealogy community which has, for so many years, been so helpful to me in all my early attempts to discover my family's stories through the documents holding their names.



Above: "Winter Getaway," oil on canvas by Norwegian artist Axel Ender (1853 - 1920); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Friday, January 12, 2018

No Children = No Grandchildren


It may seem like a no-brainer of a statement, but the fact that William and Kate Hopkins had no childrenat least none that any online documents revealedmeant that they had no grandchildren. In other words, there were no descendants who, upon their passing, had their belongings heaped into a pile which subsequently was disposed of by estate sale where they'd be distributed to those who might purchase on a whim a trifling token like an old photograph.

William did have step-children from a subsequent marriage, and Kate's brother and half-siblings also had children. But in none of their descendants did I find a path from their Kentucky location to any home near northern California, the place where I found the Hopkins photograph.

The easy part, of course, would have been if William and Kate, married in 1899, had children who, by the 1920s, would have had children of their own. These, easily, would have lived until perhaps the last ten years, when a quick search of the many now-online obituaries would have helped pinpoint which grandchild's estate might have included the very family photograph I'm now holding in my own hands. But it isn't working out that way.

Not that I have another ten to twenty mystery photographs burning a hole in my genealogical pocket, but I decided to take the quick-and-easy way out: I looked up the other Ancestry subscribers who are researching this couple. From that resource, I looked at their publicly-displayed trees and selected the one which seemed to evidence the most meticulous research style.

And then, I wrote a letter.

The message was simple: Hi, I'm a fellow researcher, and I found this photo you might be interested in. If it's your family, I'd be happy to send it to you. Just let me know.

Easy. All except for the waiting part. I really want to talk to this particular researcher, who happens to have posted another photograph of William and Kate that I would love to be able to share with you.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Getting Here From There


If the subjects of that photograph I found in a northern California antique store lived and died in Kentucky, how did their picture get here? Before I can find an appropriate (and unsuspecting) candidate upon whom to bestow the rescued photograph, I need to figure out just how William and Kate Hopkins' relativesor maybe friendshad come to be its recipient.

There are, I have noticed, several Ancestry.com subscribers who include either William Bernard Hopkins or his wife, Kate Seegar Smith-Allen Hopkins, in their family tree. Some, however, use that company's less-than-helpful device of affixing other tree entries into their own, thus preventing me from discovering the true source of their information. I prefer to look for someone who has done their own homeworkthus, someone whose paper trail helps me see the documented connection from the present to the past.

Barring enough leads from these other trees to see the connection from Kentucky to California, the next best thing is to build out a tree of our own.

Looking at the Hopkins family from the point of their marriagein Louisville in 1899through the rest of their brief lives, one thing was clear: according to census records, they moved at least once every decade. A wedding announcement in a business publicationbrought to my attention through the research prowess of one of our readers, "Intense Guy"mentioned briefly that
William Berbard [sic] Hopkins, a well-known young druggist of Louisville, and Miss Katie Smith Allen, of Lagrange, were recently married at the home of the bride's parents. Mr. Hopkins has opened a store at Smithland, Ky., and the young people will go there to live.

That was according to Merck's Report for December, 1899, one month after the Hopkins wedding. Less than a year later, however, the 1900 census counted them as residents of New Albany, Indiana, just across the river from Louisville, a good two hundred miles from Smithland.

Long commute.

Another interesting detail emerged. William, whose report in the 1900 census appeared on the page preceding his wife's entry, was indeed shown as a "druggist." However, by the time of the subsequent enumeration, William and Kate were living farther away from Kentucky in a boarding home in Seymour, Indiana, where he was shown as merely a clerk in a drug store. Another ten years later, the couple was finally back home in Louisville, where things seemed to be looking up: William was now listed as a pharmacist in a drug store, and Kate was working alongside him as a "sales lady," presumably at the same establishment.

By the time of the 1940 census, neither William nor Kate showed in the records. Kate was long gone by that point, having died in 1928. William, married again by the time of the 1930 census, subsequently passed away in 1935

There was one more detail about that sprint through the decades of census records: in none of those reports did the Hopkins couple report any dependents. Scratch that chance to trace any children from Kentucky to California. If the picture arrived in my hands via a family member, it would have to be through a more distant relationship.
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