Finding Mary Simmons & Her Ancestors, Part One

I thought it would be impossible to find the parents of the Mary Simmons who married Leaming Hawkins Bradley in 1830 in Litchfield, Litchfield County, Connecticut. Right after the Revolutionary War, there were several Simmons families in that county. Fortunately, I was wrong. The saga of finding Mary and her ancestors offers several helpful genealogy research lessons.

First discoveries about Mary
When Leaming and Mary’s son Sherman Abernethy Bradley married Hannah M. Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 6 January 1859, the person taking down Sherman’s parents failed to get Mary’s maiden name. They were recorded as Leman H. Bradley and Mary C. Bradley. So that was my first brickwall concerning Mary: no maiden name.

As an aside, Leaming is a surname turned into a given name, and it is misspelled in many different ways including Leman, Leming, Leyming and more. Leaming Hawkins Bradley apparently insisted that his middle initial H. be included whenever his name was recorded. This gave me a helpful clue that a record was for my third-great-grandfather, even if the spelling of his first name was mangled. He also went by L. H. Bradley.

Then one day, while reading about the importance of doing research on all members of a family, I remembered that Sherman A. Bradley married a second time. I wondered if his mother’s maiden name would be on that second marriage certificate. To my great delight, it was.

When Sherman married Mary Schneider on 11 January 1882 in Plymouth, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, his parents were recorded as L. H. Bradley and Mary Simmons. Now I could learn more about my third-great-grandmother and confirm that Sherman A. Bradley was from Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Her own marriage record
Once I had Mary’s maiden name, I recalled a curious entry in the Barbour Collection of the Vital Records for the Town of Litchfield, Litchfield County. It read: Seyming Bradley and Miss Mary Simons, both of Litchfield, married there on 18 September 1830. Knowing how often the old script letters L and S are confused for each other, I was pretty sure that this really was Leyming Bradley and Mary Simmons. [I now have a certified copy from the town clerk of the original document and can confirm the name is Leyming, a phonetic version of Leaming].

This marriage was the best match I had found for the parents of Sherman A. Bradley whose place of birth on his 1859 marriage certificate was “near New Haven, Connecticut.” But could I found any other source for this being the marriage of Leaming H. Bradley and Mary Simmons?

Leaming’s birth in Barbour Collection
Fortunately, the birth of Leaming Hawkins Bradley was recorded with the Litchfield Town Clerk and was transcribed correctly in the Barbour Collection. He was born 10 October 1808 in Litchfield to Horace Bradley and Hannah who was recorded there as Hannah Hawkins but actually was Hannah Twitchell. Her mother’s maiden name was Hawkins, the source of the middle name for Horace and Hannah’s first son Leaming.

The Cutter genealogy book
While I believed my theory about Sherman A. Bradley’s parents was a sound one, I really wanted another source for confirmation. That came in the form of an item in the Bradley genealogy section in a major book, Genealogical and Family History of Central New York, Vol. III. The editor was William Richard Cutter.

On page 1224, listed first among the children of Horace Bradley and Hannah Twitchell, was “Leaming, married Mary Simonds and had several sons.” Here was Leaming’s first name spelled correctly, his marriage to Mary Simonds, another variation of Simons and Simmons – and the mention of sons.

With these multiple sources, I was convinced I had found the name and the birthplace of my third-great-grandmother on my father’s side of the family. The next challenge would be to try to find her parents and further ancestors. We’ll take that up in Part Two.

Please follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBPetura

Why not check out my helpful Genealogy Resources webpage: http://bit.ly/GenealogyResources

Please join my group Finding Family for Free at GenealogyWise:
http://www.genealogywise.com/group/findingfamilyforfree

Thank you! And good researching!

Ancestors on Wikipedia

Do you have an ancestor who has made a significant contribution to his or her community, field of business or profession? Were they an inventor or artist or civic leader of note? Then consider developing a biographical sketch for them — using encyclopedia format — and add it to Wikipedia.

Why is this a worthwhile step in your family history? First, you will need to organize many details about your noted ancestor in a thorough and coherent way to share with others. Second, it will go onto the website well known for being the place to turn for information on all important topics.

Of course, most of our ancestors are not likely subjects for Wikipedia, no matter how good they were as citizens and family members. But if there are distinctive and influential features to their lives and careers, you should consider taking this step. To do this, you should sign up for a Wikipedia account and learn the basic formatting steps for a Wikipedia entry. Or find someone to help you.

Some years ago, I visited the Benjamin Church House that today is a pioneer museum in Estabrook Park, Shorewood, north of Milwaukee. It was built in the early days of Milwaukee, 1843-1844, not far west of the Milwaukee River by my third great-grandfather for his family. He used the distinctive Greek Revival style for the house, one of the reasons it was rescued and turned into a museum. I wrote a Wikipedia article about the Benjamin Church House because it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public in the summer.

Sometime later, I wrote a Wikipedia entry about Benjamin F. Church himself. He was one of the earliest white settlers in Milwaukee, was a carpenter and builder, filled several public offices in the early city — and of course built the Benjamin Church House that still stands today.

Recently, I had time to write a Wikipedia entry on William George Bruce, a Milwaukee publisher, historian and influential civic leader. I had done considerable research about him as he was the oldest brother of my great-grandfather Martin P. Bruce. I had the details on his career, public service contributions and family, as well as his many recognitions and awards including being called “Public Citizen No. 1″ for Milwaukee. I also had many sources, very necessary for the References or Notes section of a Wikipedia entry. Luckily I had found a copy of the book I Was Born in America: Memoirs of William George Bruce that helped me with my family genealogy as well as the Wikipedia entry.

Of course there are other places to post such biographical sketches, including your own family history website. But if you have an ancestor whose contributions are influential and distinctive — and if they don’t yet have a Wikipedia entry — consider doing it. You will add to the store of knowledge we all share through Wikipedia.

Please follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBPetura

Why not check out my helpful Genealogy Resources webpage: http://bit.ly/GenealogyResources

Please join my group Finding Family for Free at GenealogyWise:
http://www.genealogywise.com/group/findingfamilyforfree

Thank you!

Online Genealogy Courses

Genealogists and family historians enjoy the quest of adding more generations to their family trees. We always face the key questions: But who were their parents? And what was the woman’s maiden name? Where did the family come from, where did they move, and why?

If you’ve been doing genealogy research for some time, you know that solving those genealogy brickwalls takes not only new online databases and books, but also new insights on how to approach our research. Here’s where free online classes and lectures can be a big help. They’re a great supplement to workshops presented by genealogy societies where you can ask the experts face to face.

Today I watched the three video segments of an excellent presentation by Bernie Gracy, founder of AncestralHunt.com. In them, he discusses how understanding place and geography and demographics can help you find key relationships among your ancestors. Locations – whether a small rural village or a city neighborhood – often influence the selection of marriage partners, and thus genealogy and family history. Proximity in an ancestral location in Europe may well determine proximity in America, for example.

These short videos are among the best genealogy lessons I’ve seen and heard. They add depth to the insights I gained from Donna Potter Phillips, a genealogist from Spokane, Washington, who gave a very fine workshop on using place in family history research. [See story.] She gave it recently for the Whitman County Genealogical Society.

You can watch these three helpful video segments from Bernie Gracy free on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ancestralhunt

There are many other sources of online genealogy classes, often free. Some are videos, some are text only. Consider using these to help you advance your own research:
- Introduction to Genealogy
- 85 lessons at Genealogy.com
- Genealogy Research Classes Online from FamilySearch

Links to other free classes and tips on improving your genealogy research can be found on the Genealogy Resouces page at my website: http://www.workingdogweb.com/Genealogy-Resources.htm

Or try a Google search for the words “genealogy on youtube” with or without the quotation marks to find more classes and videos for genealogy. Or search for genealogy on the YouTube site itself. Here are examples of what comes up:
- Genealogy Gems: http://www.youtube.com/user/GenealogyGems
- Genealogy Guy: http://www.youtube.com/user/GenealogyGuy

Some important topics include using Flash drives to back up all your genealogy documents and pictures including how to find your computer’s USB ports; organizing and preserving your genealogy papers materials and resources; and much more.

Here’s to great success in finding your family’s ancestors by learning new research skills and strategies!

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 8:02 pm  Comments (2)  
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Seeking Ancestors from Germany

Many Americans have ancestors from Germany, but are unsure how to find what area of Germany they came from, and who made up the earlier generations of the family.  Strategies to begin your research will depend on what you know so far.

The first thing you should do is talk to your relatives to see if there are records or memories of where in Germany the ancestors came from. And about when.  And where they settled in America. If relatives don’t know a great deal, you can search ship passenger logs or try to obtain the naturalization papers for the earliest male to arrive.

Or you can use Interlibrary Loan at your local library to get the relevant volumes of the Germans to America series and look up the family. There are 67 volumes covering 1840 to 1897.  Click to see the full list of volumes.

Depending on when your German ancestors arrived, the census records can contain references to specific areas of Germany, rather than just Prussia or Germany. 

For my research, the 1870 Census for Calumet County, Wisconsin, contained an invaluable clue.  The elder Ferdinand Hachez, who settled in New Holstein in 1854, was recorded in the 1860 Census as being from Holstein, as so many of the settlers there were. 

But in 1870, he told the German-speaking census recorder that his actual place of origin was Bremen, a free city in Germany. With help from an expert genealogist in Germany, I have found his family in Bremen, a exciting moment in my research. Click for more about the Hachez family.

Depending on when your German ancestors arrived, these sites are worth searching:
> Castle Garden immigration:  http://www.castlegarden.org/
> Ellis Island immigration: http://www.ellisisland.org/

When you have a pretty good idea of where the family originated, you can join one of the genealogy email discussion groups for that part of Germany — and ask for assistance. Most of the genealogy email discussion lists are in English or in both English and German — and the genealogists who help people in the USA speak and write English very well.  For example, here are all the Rootsweb mailing lists for different areas of Germany

You might have luck with a list member knowing of your family. Or you may find a genealogy researcher on the list who offers to help, for a fee. I have had excellent assistance from Klaus Struve, an expert genealogist in Schleswig-Holstein who also has a splendid Web site about people who emigrated from that far northern area of Germany. He now has 63,000 names of emigrants listed. See his Rootdigger site here for a wealth of resources.

With his help, I now have this branch of my family back to the 1700s. The money spent was worth it, for I received transcripts of each of the German originals, followed by an English translation.

Finally, there are additional resources on German Americans — including books on German American genealogy — to be found on this Web page about German Americans and genealogy.

Best wishes in researching your roots!

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research articles to help you find your family and ancestors, often for modest or no cost.

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