Claim Your Ancestor #53: There is a story here.

Dear Students,

I found this record on Caroline Burkee, who seems to have become a physician at the time that most medical schools and board examinations etc were closed to women.  

There is a story here. 

Either she wasn't a physician  (and there's a story there! was she a midwife? was her husband a physician and they practiced together? Did she learn about medicine at schools or from her mother or father? ), or she actually really was one, and if so then her story really needs to be told. 

Claim Your Ancestor #52: The Whole Country Was Worried about Her

Dear Student,

Does this person belong to you and your family?

The first document I found on Edith / Mrs Floyd Godschalk was her death certificate, strangely torn and half empty.   The coroner notes, "Injuries to the head at the hands of Frk Amree who is fugitive."

I can't let this go.

Death certificate Edith Godschalk Andree

So I googled Edith Amadee and found in the Woodland Gazette that people in CALIFORNIA were worried about the her fate.  

 The newspaper wrote SLAIN WOMAN KNOWN PHILADELPHIA  "Body found dead in sack is that of Edith Andree."

 Oh my. 
I can only imagine tens of thousands of people across the continent breathing a sigh of relief that it wasn't their missing sister, mom, daughter.  

And then I bet a lot of them fell back into a different pain  that comes from just not knowing where someone is and if they are OK. 

Screenshot from SLAIN WOMAN KNOWN

Ohhh this is good. 

Edith -- Mrs. Floyd Godshalk -- was separated from her husband and.... well, the rest is history.

 Please note the dropdown menu in the screenshot below 
which opens all the death certificates for 1906-1966.
 I am downright giddy.  

Claim Your Ancestor #51: One Cow, Her Choice

Dear Student,

I found a will where your ancestor Robert Anderson tried to take care of his potential widow in all sorts of ways (permanent tenancy on the farm) short of giving her the farm because under most circumstanc)s women were not citizens and could not own property.

 He leaves his widow one of their cows, "the cow of her choice," as though that is a substitute for equality and citizenship. (See the last sentence)

Anyway, the Anderson family sounds awesome. You should look them up.

Claim Your Ancestor #50: Patience King

Dear student,

Your 8th great-grandmother was arrested for something quite interesting in 1728.  (see below)

You should investigate and find out how to get the court records*

Pandora's Safe #10: Is 13 His Lucky Number? Complex Marriage etc

During the 19th century Americans - especially those on the western frontier were on fire to find new ways to be as families and communities. 

 Check out this map which shows settlement along the Erie Canal and Great Lakes as tens of thousands of people -- then hundreds of thousands -- shifted from farm to factory, 
and from factory towns to the frontier.

People who chose to join the  Shakers 
would lead lives of strictly segregated activities, chastity and communal ownership.

Oneida was a much different community.  Founded by John Humphrey Noyes and based on complex marriage.   If you were in class for the lecture on the 2nd Great Awakening, millenialism and perfectionism you remember how Noyes came up  with "Complex Marriage." 

The rest of you can try reading about it: 

This isn't everyone who lived in the Oneida commune, just the people who hammed for a picture in the 1870s

So if you look John Humphrey Noyes up on Ancestry you get this --->

I'm not sure 13 is the right number, but it sounds lucky for him.

John Humphrey Noyes was a religious leader, philosopher, economist and most of all he was someone who wrote about all of his great ideas, even "male continence" during sexual intercourse. 

The Oneida community grew and grew and then fell apart. 

Never before did I wonder what happened to the children of Oneida.

But then I was looking through almost 1400 admission forms to Blackwell Island in New York City and I found one card that said  "Occupation: Writer" (Green arrow)  My eyes then went to see the poor writer's destiny --  "Future doubtful" (yellow arrow) before they moved up to see that her father was also a writer (blue arrow) and finally I saw her last name was Noyes (pink arrow) and I may or may not have howled in celebration. 

I cannot find an exhaustive list of John Humphrey Noyes' children, but I do believe Deborah believed that he was her father, which probably shaped how she saw herself and the choices she made,

 I hope that she left us  stories we have yet to discover. 

Pandora's Safe #9: "She Seems to be ignorant and orphaned" - Just a Few More Files until we get there

We are almost to the part where I tell you what I found in the New York Almshouse archives this weekend.

What I found will make more sense after we look at a few more admissions to New York asylums (Albany and Blackwell Island) from 1885 to 1890.

Katy Dillon, 19 - pregnant. The person with the super posh swirly  script  - was it the questioner or a clerk sitting by the side? - wrote, "This person was seduced by one Mich McLaughlin of  230 Jefferson Street. She says he is the father of the child."

Mary Doe - July 14: The mother if this child is dead and was abandoned by it's father whose whereabouts are unknown.

Brought her by the aunt whose husband would not allow her to keep him. (Hmm, I have no way to truth-test that one, but hmmmm)

July  15: Taken by Aunt for adoption.

(I bet you one drink at EPCOT that the Aunt is the Mom but we can discuss that later*)

Ann Brady-  55, an Ireland-born widow, admitted for "insanity."

 This one shocked me.

 Under remarks it says, "This woman committed suicide."

I sat quietly for a little while, fearful of what the next click would bring.

Susan Tappin, 35, born in  Ireland. The notes say that her husband has a very violent temper and it is impossible for to live with him.  Please note it shows she has 6 kids -- 5 are at the orphanage and then the youngest is with her at the asylum.  What a brave woman --  I hope they all found safety.

Beth O'Neill, 22 Under comments it says: This woman is the mother of Edward O'Neill inmate record No 1576; she seems to be ignorant and orphaned; this will be the second child born out of wedlock and of different fathers. 

It is among hundreds of stories about servant women and widows and maidens that the word "writer" caught my eye on a particular admission record.

Under the prognosis it wrote: Future doubtful.

I giggled at that and then looked  up to see what was written for the parents.

It said that her father was also a writer.

 I held my breath and looked up at her name.

Oh heck yes. Hello.

 The dates of her age and her condition match up with what I know about her father, his writing and his decline.

 She wasn't like any of these other women; by her last name and her father's occupation I knew right away that Deborah was homeless and destitute because she had been raised in an American utopian experiment.


Pandora's Safe #8: Blackwell Island - Occupation - Writer

I am not sure if I spent 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 hours going through the intake data for Asylums in New York, 1880-1890.  My dog probably kept count by how many specific times I let her down, but she forgives me and we move on. 

What I found is worth sharing.

This isn't the treasure, not yet.

This is just the journey. the bridge from here to there.

So here we go. Please look at these documents with me: they represent about 1% of the forms that I went through.

Celia Gleason, aged 11 months, was taken back by her mother six days after arriving at the poorhouse. Hooray!

This homeless and destitute guy is a German-born widow who was a jeweler. He has no children, no family.  This breaks my heart. 

Katie Darcy had malarial fever; the intake person notes that recovery is doubtful.  Ouch.

John Fitzgerald - 70 - says that he  has sisters in New York but he can't remember their addresses.

Elizabeth Doran has 6 sons and 6 daughters and her husband is at sea but history cannot be trusted because she appears partially demented.

Three children abandoned by parents and then claimed days later.  This is everything.

77 year old Ireland-born widow Ann Hamilton sprained her ankle and lost her money. She was judged a state case.

John Butler - one of the few black patients/residents - died one hour after being admitted.

I could go on for ten more posts like this, or I could save it for a book.

Either way we eventually get to the one that I click on that had been waiting for me (for us) this entire time.

It first caught my eye when it said for occupation: Writer. 

 Usually it said laborer, peddler, housekeeper, servant, horseman, domestic, cook, carman, mechanic.

Out of 1500 only one said Occupation: Writer.

 And the name -- to me --  was recognizable immediately.

I doubled checked ...and ... for Father's Occupation it also said "Writer."

So it had to be.

I just had to be.

 I found her.


Pandora's Safe #7: Blackwell Island - This woman is married to a colored man. She is ignorant, cannot obtain any further information from her.

The best part about doing independent research with my students is teaching them (showing them?) the joy of hunting through data, not knowing exactly what you will find.  

This is the opposite of the History Project mentality where a student would propose WHAT they were going to write about and then set out to find information on their subject. If is already widely known that (for example) that a book or a person or a speech is important because it (insert thesis X Y Z), what real value – or excitement? Or sense of contribution? – could be eeked from the time spent reiterating what is already known?

The most important and valuable part of doing independent primary source research with students this semester is finding all these points of curiosity.  We pull out globes and flip through books and google “Galicia” and wonder if someone’s great-great-grandmother could have been Anne Frank’s schoolmate. I ask the student if they knew who Anne Frank is; they said they’d heard of her but… no… and we spent a bit of time having a talk that we never otherwise would have had in a traditional lower-level survey college course.

I personally love data. I love big stacks of letters and lines of census questions and questionnaires documenting each admission into asylums. Lately I’ve been spending my free time looking through admissions to Blackwell Island, New York City’s asylum for the destitute and poor. I pour through over 1300 entrants (more in the colder months), noting that the characteristics most of them shared was being foreign-born (Ireland, Germany/Hanover/Prussia, Canada) and widowed/single.

Most of the applicants appeared to men, and most of the women were over 45 and widowed.  The clerk noted the person’s occupation and habits (intemperate or temperate) as well as those of their parents. There was a line asking “Existing cause of dependence” and one asking “What is the probably destiny of the Person?” followed by a big space for Remarks.

I read all the cards and took multiple screenshots for you. I was fixated; while Zoe and her boyfriend watched the end of the FSU game I’m lost in 1890. “THE MOM CAME BACK FOR THE BABY!” I shout, then minutes later, “Ohhhh no, she died. Just three days later.”

Omg they just called this woman feebleminded!

Hey! This guy is a jeweler!! How did he end up poor??

 Zoe half listens and half shssshhhs me as FSU loses and I hit gold.

Or at least it’s shiny like gold, and it’s definitely not what I would have expected to find, not in any way possible but if you've been in class for the lectures on Shakers and Millerites and Oneida  you will get it right away.

 But until we get there, here are examples of what I’ve been reading (and my comments). 
Isn't research grand? 

PS: *

Wife is in penitentiary; hadn't eaten in 9 days - dies
86 year old Rosa Donelly says she has no friends.

Thomas Winchester is paralyzed. Both of his parents are dead. 

Mary Costello has "intemperate habits," a broken jaw, and is destitute. 

Charles Perham has lost both of his arms. 

Selinona Bellota, born in Italy, Paralyzed and cannot understand English

16 Year Old Edmund Moll is on his way back to Germany

This woman is married to a colored man. She is ignorant, cannot obtain any further information from her. 

Heavy and Old; sent to an old soldier's home.