Friday, April 13, 2018

Dead End Branches: 52 Ancestors


Every family tree has them: aunts, uncles and cousins who had no children. When you come to the end of a line, how do you react? I feel disappointed, relieved and disoriented. There will be no new cousins and no new clues. Perhaps a child died, a women died in childbirth or a soldier in a war. Conversely, the research on that line is at an end, fortunately. What branch is next? How many generations back is the next branch to research?

The Swedish part of my tree is full of those dead end branches. One branch came to America, yet still ended with no living descendants. My great-grandfather's younger brother, Ernst Viktor Leonard Ekstrom, came to America in March of 1889. He was born at Kristineholm, Björsäter, Östergötland, Sweden on January 27, 1865. Ernst trained as a tailor and brought that skill with him to the thriving Swedish community in Chicago.

A Swedish seamstress named Maria Charlotta Wenberg found her way to America in 1893. Lottie was born in July, 1868, in a parish yet to be discovered. I don't know how Ernst and Lottie met, but it may have been through their work. They married in Chicago on July 18, 1896. To their union two daughters were born.

Grace M Ekstrom was born on July 25, 1898, and her sister Lillian Efrusine Ekstrom followed on October 21, 1899. Grace and Lillian were second generation Americans with one foot in Sweden and one in Chicago. They and their mother traveled several times between the two countries.

The girls, rather than marrying and raising a few children, instead helped raise hundreds of Chicago-area children. They both became teachers by the time of the 1920 census. Grace married Fredrick F Lech between 1932 and 1935. By the time of the 1940 census, she was no longer teaching. When I interviewed their cousin after her death, he said that Grace never had children. I've found very little about her online.

Lillian taught for many more years, as she never married. She attended Northwestern University during summer sessions and, in August, 1935, was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Education degree. She taught physical education at Kelvyn Park High School for many years. Lillian had signed the 1953 yearbook that was scanned into the Ancestry yearbook collection.




Lillian acquired from her parents the small apartment building that they owned at 4107-09 N. Greenview Avenue. The address is seen throughout the records for the family, starting in 1920. Based on the census, it appears the building had four to six apartments. Lillian lived there for most of her life.

Ernst Ekstrom died in Chicago on August 30, 1939. His obituary was carried in the Swedish American newspaper.
Svenska Amerikanaren Tribunen
Torsdagen 7 Sep 1939
På Ravenswood lasarett avled den 30 augusti f. skräddaren Ernest Ekström, boende i 4107 Greenview ave. Slutet föregicks av en tids sjuklighet. Den avlinde var född i Sverige och omkring 74 år gammal. Han sörjes av sin maka Lottie samt av dötterna mrs Grace Ekström Lech och Lillian Ekström. Hans begravning ägde rum den 2 sept. och omhänderhades av Edgars likbesörjningsbyrå i 4821 N. Damen avenue. Platsen för jordfästningen var Rosehill.

Lottie Wenberg Ekstrom died in Three Lakes, Oneida County, Wisconsin, in August of 1958. There was a brief funeral announcement in a Chicago area newspaper.
Marie C. Ekstrom. Three Lakes, Wis., beloved wife of the late Ernst; loving mother of Grace Lech and Lillian Ekstrom. Services Wednesday, Aug. 13, 11 a.m. at funeral home. 5303 N. Western avenue, corner Berwyn. Interment Rosehill cemetery.

Lillian Ekstrom died in Chicago on March 30, 1992, and is buried at Rosehill Cemetery.

Grace Ekstrom Lech died on April 28, 1993. No further information.

And so ends the Ernst Ekstrom branch of the Ekstrom family from Björsäter, Östergötland and Chicago, Illinois.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Where the Blacktop Ends: 52 Ancestors


One of the fun experiences during a genealogy field trip is visiting the homestead where your ancestors lived. Visiting with a local guide enriches the experience, as they can add so much context that otherwise you would never know. For this week's prompt -- Homestead -- I'm dusting off one of those wonderful visits.

Barb Dahman of the then Morgan County Genealogical Society took my cousin and me on a tour of Scott County, Illinois, including a visit to the Maddox farm. She had talked to the current owner in advance of the tour, so she was able to tell us all about the farm as we drove through in 2003. A couple of years later, in a family history writing seminar, I wrote the following paragraphs about my impressions.
If you follow Merritt Blacktop Road west from Merritt and turn north on Turkey Farm Road, you will find yourself sliding on dirt and gravel. Of course, the turkey farm at the top of Maddox Hill has long been abandoned, Maddox Pond next to Mauvaisterre Creek holds no water and the Maddox farm and the Maddox family have disappeared, absorbed into neighboring farms and into the soil of Scott County. As you descend the steep hill to the creek, a fine brown cloud will rise up and surround you with the smell and taste of the rich Illinois farmland.

In summer, you will find wild roses blooming red, wrapping round the broken gatepost north of the creek, to mark the old entrance to the farm. No trace remains of the house and barn, their bones carried away long ago by scavengers. The house is now found only as a dot on the surveyor's plat in the foreclosure file at the Winchester courthouse. Weeds and brush have reclaimed the apple orchards that once climbed the hill north of the house. Much of the long forty acres that once comprised the widow's portion  is now overgrown, occupied only by snakes and other wild creatures.


South of the house site, a few fertile acres sprout corn on land that has been repeatedly flooded by the creek. It was here that the pond ebbed and flowed before the creek was dammed upstream at Jacksonville. The banks of the creek and the adjacent bottom land are a dark red-brown, in contrast to the lighter brown of the surrounding land. The covered bridge that once spanned the creek has been torn away and dragged downstream, leaving only a concrete and timber crossing barely wide enough for one car.


Across Turkey Farm Road to the east, two hundred acres that once were farmed by the Maddox family are now covered in soybeans, guarded by a large sign that announces this is private property. The owners have built a large house in the midst of the soybeans and you will wonder if the wood from the Maddox farm has burned in their fireplace. They will tell you they don't know anyone named Maddox. Yet they will also tell you, over 125 years after the Maddox family moved north to the next county, to drive down past Maddox Pond and climb up Maddox Hill to get back onto the blacktop road.

Nancy Jane Webb Maddox was the widow that asked for the long 40 acres on the west side when the farm went to foreclosure. That request resulted in a survey that shows the layout of the farm in 1876.


Nancy was born in Maryland about 1821. Her mother, Nancy Townson (Townsend?) died young and Nancy and her father, Elijah Webb, moved to Ohio by 1830.

Nancy married William W Maddox on February 21, 1840, in Pickaway County, Ohio. She had at least seven children: John, David, Louis (Lewis), William, George, Joseph Allen and Margaret. Only three of those are known to have descendants: Louis, George and Allen. Each of those three gave her one grandchild prior to her death.

After William's death in 1869, Nancy had to keep the farm running. She also had to raise the money to bail out and defend Louis and William, who were charged with killing their father. The family mortgaged the farm, but lost most of it to foreclosure, due to inability to pay their legal bills.

Nancy became the fifth wife of Joseph Pease in Brown County on September 15, 1878. Tragically, she died of pneumonia in Versailles Township just a few months later, on February 4, 1879. She was buried in the Lavina Henry Cemetery in Versailles Township.