Monday, April 28, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #17 Mary Arvilla Crispen Infield

If I could go back in time and visit any one ancestral family, it would be the Crispen family. Tracing them has been challenging, as it seems they never formed a family unit during census years. My grandmother's Aunt Mary has not been found in a census with any other family member. However, she had a pivotal role in selecting a hometown for other family members.

Quick drop page from Random Doorways kit, ClubScrap, January, 2013

Mary Arvilla Crispen was born in Pennsylvania on November 20, to Jacob Crispen and Nerinda Margaret Kerr. Her birth year is probably 1861, though it is documented as 1862 in many records. With a younger brother born in March, 1863, the later year is impossible. Her birth likely was in Clarion County or Venango County.

Mary's parents separated by her 5th birthday. Family legend tells us that life was hard for the children, but exactly where Mary went and how she grew up is unknown.

She married Harry Newton Infield of Mercer County after the 1880 census. Harry and Mary were trained as pharmacy workers. Mary held a pharmacy assistant certificate from Pennsylvania, while Harry applied for a pharmacist license in Illinois. I suspect they met through their work. Mary had Kerr relatives who owned a pharmacy in Clarion County, but I can't find a census record to show that she lived near or trained with that family.

Mary and Harry were living in Chicago when her father, Jacob Crispen, died in 1885. She declined to administer the estate, but returned to Mercer County to obtain her pharmacy assistant certificate in October, 1887. Harry failed to obtain his license in Illinois in 1885, likely contributing to their return to Pennsylvania.

The 1900 census is the first census where Mary has been found. She was living in Chicago and listed as widowed, having borne one child, with none living. Harry didn't die until 1902, but his whereabouts in 1900 are unknown. The couple had certainly separated. Harry Infield died in Chicago in 1902, and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Sandy Lake Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

I wonder if the death of a child pushed the couple apart, as so often happens. No family legends have reached me about this child.

After the death of her younger sister in 1900 and the death of Harry in 1902, Mary grew concerned about her mother living in the unhealthy city of Chicago and decided to move her to a healthier environment. Mary had been working steadily at a variety of occupations. One of her bosses had pointed out that she would not achieve financial security working for a wage. He got her started investing and she had been growing a healthy stock portfolio. 

After exploring options, Mary bought a house at 861 McGuigan Street in the then-popular Lake Michigan resort community of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Mary's mother, Margaret, and stepfather moved to the home, where they lived until Margaret's death in 1923. Mary, who had remained in Chicago, then kicked out her stepfather and moved herself into the home.

Mary's younger brother, Clark, relocated his family to the Benton Harbor area by 1909. Finally the remaining family came together in the same community, rebuilding their family as a Michigan family. My grandmother and mother were both born in that area. Descendants of Clark still live near Benton Harbor, thanks to Mary's decision.

Mary died on June 10, 1927, in Benton Harbor. She is buried in Crystal Springs Cemetery, Benton Harbor, Berrien County, Michigan.

Mary's stock portfolio was left to Clark at her death, but it was wiped out in the crash of 1929. I have in my possession just a few cherished mementos that have been passed down from Aunt Mary, a woman with a special place in our family history.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #16 Erik Edward Fors

My great-great-grandfather Erik Edward Fors was a railroad man in Sweden. Not being an expert with the language, I can't determine his exact job. He was either a Line Master or Station Master. Either way, he was in management. Rather than staying close to his birthplace, he and his family moved around quite a bit, most likely due to his position with the railroad.

Template and elements from Orient Express kit, ClubScrap, September, 2011

Erik Edward Fors was born in the parish of Björnlunda in Södermanland on July 11, 1840. His father, Anders had adopted the Fors surname before his birth and Erik kept the name. His mother, Catherina Andersdotter, had come from Vårdinge parish in Stockholm.

Erik was working for the railroad when he married Matilda Wilhelmina Wiberg in Vårdinge parish on July 10, 1864. They lived in Södertälje parish in Stockholm, where their eldest child was born. Four children were born in the Vårdinge parish and one was born in Nyköping parish in Södermanland. They lost one daughter in infancy, but the other five children lived to adulthood.

The couple lived in several parishes in Stockholm, Södermanland and Östergötland. Erik retired to Frustuna parish in Södermanland, where he died on April 17, 1927.

Monday, April 14, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #15 Mollydine Alexander Cole and Twin

We don't talk much about the family of my maternal grandfather. Most of what I know has been gleaned from records, newspapers and very distant cousins. But I do recall one conversation about my great-grandmother, Mollydine Alexander Cole.

My Mom was telling me that only her mother's stubbornness stood between herself and the name Mollydine. She  was grateful that she had been named Molly, rather than Mollydine after her grandmother. I didn't ask about the spelling. Instead I wrote the name down as Molly Dean, thinking it was a clue to another ancestral line.

Quick drop page from ArtPlay Palette Family by AnnaAspnesDesigns
for Digital Scrapper, March, 2012

When I saw the 1880 census for Weakley County, Tennessee, I figured out how the unusual name came to be. Mollydine had a twin, Josephine. Can't you just see their parents trying to rhyme a name with Josephine? Give it a try -- I did!

The exact date of the twins' birth is fuzzy. Mollydine and Josephine were born on January 31, 1873, according to Molly's obituary. Josephine's typed death record gives a birth date of January 13, 1873, but I suspect that is a typographical error. Josephine Alexander Stacks showed a birthdate of February, 1875, in the 1900 Weakley County census. Molly showed January, 1874, for her birthdate in the 1900 census taken in Clay County, Arkansas. The twins never had identical ages in any census after 1880. Based on all the evidence, I believe that their most likely birthdate is January 31, 1873.

The twins were born to Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Alexander and Rebecca Ann Maynard. Josephine's death certificate says that they were born in Weakley County.  They grew to womanhood there and were also married there. Mollydine married William J. Cole on December 6, 1891. Josephine married William Edward Stacks on January 19, 1899. Their lives diverged when Mollydine and her family moved to Clay County, Arkansas, leaving her twin behind in Tennessee.

Mollydine gave birth to four sons: Carlos, Noble, Clifford and Seborn. She and William apparently had marital problems. In the 1930 census, "widowed" Molly and son Seborn were living in Michigan, near her sons Noble and Clifford, while "widowed" William was living in Arkansas with son Carlos.

Mollydine Alexander Cole died in Arkansas on January 24, 1956, and was buried in Piggott Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Piggott, Arkansas. She was buried in a different cemetery and even a different town from William J. Cole, who had predeceased her.

Josephine Alexander Stacks died on July 19, 1948, in Hardeman County, Tennessee. Her place of burial was not given on her death certificate.

Monday, April 7, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #14 Sarah Ann Wyllie Cushnie

Returning to my step-ancestors, this week I present Sarah Ann Wyllie Cushnie. Born in Scotland on September 26, 1875, to Hugh and Ann Soper Wyllie, Sarah emigrated in 1893. Her father had already come to Philadelphia and Sarah sailed with her younger siblings to join him and his bride in America. She married Charles Christey Cushnie on December 4, 1895.

Template and digital elements from Everlasting Love by Studio Manu for Digital Scrapper, February, 2014.

The Cushnies made their long-time home in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, raising five daughters and one son. Sarah sang in the choir at the First Baptist Church and was a member of various ladies groups.

Sarah died on July 26, 1945, and was buried in the Oak Spring Cemetery in Canonsburg.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #13 Gustaf Ekstrom Comes to America

"Grandma Beth, why did our family come to America?"

I mentally flipped through my immigrant ancestors for a story that would be simple for my eight-year-old granddaughter to grasp. My great-grandfather, Gustaf Emil Ferdinand Ekstrom, is my most recent immigrant ancestor and the one about whom I know the most. He came to America in 1891, from Sweden, a country with fabulous records for genealogical research.

Sweden in the 19th century had a problem with growing enough food for the growing population. The soil was depleted and there just wasn't enough good land to grow adequate food. Gustaf and his younger brother Ernst made the difficult choice to move to the rich land that was America, leaving behind their parents, siblings and their homeland.

Gustaf was born at a place called Kristineholm. Holm means a small island, and so it seems the family lived on a small island in Lake Risten in Östergötland. Adolph Ekstrom and Anna Charlotta Svensdotter had seven children, of which Gustaf, born on May 09, 1862, was the fourth.

Adolph was a skräddare, a tailor, and he raised two of his sons to also be tailors. Gustaf moved to the nearby city of Linköping to practice his trade, while Ernst stayed with his parents in Kristineholm.

On September 29, 1883, Gustaf married Johanna Sofia Pihltrad Gustafson at the Linköping Cathedral. Of their three children, two died before their first birthday. Johanna died just a few days before the third child, in January, 1887.

Left a widower with a toddler, Gustaf remarried on May 20, 1888, to Agnes Emilia Fors. This marriage was celebrated in a Methodist church, an unusual choice in a time when the Swedish state religion was Lutheran. However, this change from Lutheran to Methodist has never been mentioned in the family as a reason for leaving Sweden. The family believes that famine was the only driving force.

The first child born to the new marriage was in 1889, with the second child, born in May, 1891, dying within three weeks. Picture Gustaf and Agnes grieving over this tiny baby. In the span of eight years, Gustaf had buried three babies and a wife. In addition to those family members, he also had lost an older sister to an early death. Agnes had also lost a young sister. I imagine them thinking that there had to be some way to have a healthy and well-fed family. Their thoughts would have focused on America.

Ernst had already left Sweden, emigrating to Chicago in 1889. He would have written to Gustaf about the wonders of America and the opportunities for a skilled tailor to make a good life. Agnes had also traveled to America as a teenage servant. Gustaf and Agnes must have talked at length about America during the spring and summer of 1891.

With their two children, Gustaf and Agnes left Linköping in mid-August, sailing first to England. From Liverpool they sailed in steerage on the ship Alaska, landing in New York on September 14, 1891.

Template and elements from Destinations digital kit by ClubScrap

Gustaf and Agnes settled in the Lakeview area of Chicago to raise their family of two girls and three boys. They lost another little girl to an early death and their second daughter died at age 28, due to complications of diabetes.

Gustaf opened his own tailor shop in the suburb of Evanston and Agnes assisted him, as did one of his sons. He did well, buying a small apartment building. Gustaf and Agnes were also able to travel back to Sweden for a visit in 1924, this time sailing in second class.

Gustaf was remembered by the family for being a strict disciplinarian, for being very hard of hearing, and for being a very fine tailor. He died before the Great Depression impoverished his family. His death notice was carried in the Swedish newspaper.

Svenska Amerikanaren 
Torsdagen Den 14 Juli 1927
Dödsfall i Chicago
Gust Ekström, 1469 Winnemac ave., make till Agnes, fader till Gertie Johnston, Fred, Edward och Alver Ekström, afled den 4 juli.

Gustaf was buried, along with his wife and daughter, in the historic Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.

I've recently finished researching all of Gustaf's siblings and have discovered that there are no living descendants of any of his siblings. Those who stayed in Sweden continued to experience high rates of infant mortality and low numbers of pregnancies. His brother Ernst had two healthy daughters born in America, but neither had children. I truly believe that Gustaf's decision to immigrate to America was critical to the survival of his branch of the family. In my generation there are over twenty cousins descended from this one Swedish tailor.