Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Pinkham Family: Where did they come from? And where did they go?

This is a story about finding a family that seemed to move around southwest Devon quite a bit. The following will take readers through the process used to find answers about a Pinkham family.

I had a request through my Online Parish Clerk website to check the 1851 census in one of my parishes for a family by the name of Pinkham or Pinkem, parents William and Elizabeth. The researcher had a marriage entry from St. Andrew, Plymouth from 1832 between William Pinkham and Elizabeth Glanville. She also thought they had a daughter, Mary or Maria but was not sure of the birth date. The father might at one time have been a land steward. And that was it!

Without much to go on the task was a bit complicated. The family did not appear in the 1851 census taken in any of my parishes but I did find similar names in nearby areas. Those, however, turned out to be the wrong people – either because of information that did not fit for ages, birthplaces, children’s names, etc.

The person looking for information had done some preliminary searches, and had certainly found my OPC website, but needed some extra guidance on using the sources of Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast and FreeBMD.

I asked a few more questions about how the search had ended up with this family. Was there any information about other family members that might give us a clue where to look? Did she know where any of the people were born or married, besides this one 1832 record? The marriage entry for William and Elizabeth did not give their ages or occupations but one of the witnesses was Ann Glanville who I thought might have been a relative of Elizabeth’s. That might be useful in any search for her family.

More helpful information came back from the researcher. She had a “scrap of paper that said a possible daughter Emma was born in Plympton St. Maurice” on March 10, 1833. There was no explanation of from where that scrap of paper had come but at least now I had a place to start.

Using this bit of information, I checked the baptism register for Plympton St. Maurice parish and found Emma Anne Pinkham, and two other daughters, Ann Maria (that fit with the original request) and Fanny Elizabeth: Emma Anne baptized in 1833; Ann Maria in 1835; and Fanny Elizabeth in 1837. For the first two, the parents were indicated as living in Plympton St. Maurice parish; on the entry for the third girl they were living in Underwood, Plympton St. Mary parish. William’s occupation was shown as servant in 1833 and 1837 and publican in 1835. Those dates fit with the 1832 marriage in nearby Plymouth so it looked now like we had the right people.

With these dates and place of baptism (birth) I could now search other census records. I have found that it is sometimes useful to look for children on censuses, especially those with less common names, like Fanny or Emma, if the parents are hard to find and have names like William and Elizabeth. I did find one other Pinkham family where the parents were William and Elizabeth so that confused the issue. There was no Emma in that group, though.

As I said, the family was not in the Plympton area on any census; so I had to look elsewhere for any of the five people. Looking for just William and Elizabeth was difficult since I did not know at the time where they were born or when and there were other Pinkham families with parents of those names.

Now that we were focused a bit more I did another search of the 1851 census on Ancestry and found Mary Pinkham, born in Plympton in 1835. She was living with an aunt and uncle, John and Mary Cutts, in Kelly parish, Devon, which is in the Tavistock Registration District, about 28 miles northwest of Plympton St. Mary. An Emma Pinkham was recorded in Poplar parish, Middlesex, in 1851, also living with an aunt and uncle, Joseph and Sarah Medland, if we can believe the place of birth shown on this record. It was transcribed as Plumpton on Ancestry, which gave me a clue but was actually Plympton when I looked at the image.

I did not find Fanny Pinkham on the 1851 census but when I looked further at other census summaries, she was shown, in 1841, living with Elizth. Pinkem (in this case), and her presumed sisters, Emma and Mary, in Milton Abbot in 1841. The 1841 census does not record relationships but one can surmise familial connections by the ages of the people in a household.
Portion of 1841 England census for Milton Abbot civil parish, Devon (series HO107, piece 249, book 2, Enumeration District 2, forlie 11, page 17) showing Elizabeth Pinkem (Pinkham) and her three daughters; copyright The National Archives; downloaded August 28, 2013 from Ancestry.com
There was no sign of William with the family but I did find a William Pinkham on the 1841 census, working as a male servant at Kelly House, in Kelly parish, Devon. Milton Abbot is just four miles from Kelly by road (about a 10 minute drive today) so we seemed to have a geographic fit now. It is certainly possible that this is not the right William Pinkham (he is shown as 10 years older than Elizabeth in 1841) but it was curious that a man of that name lived so close to Elizabeth and her daughters. William may have died before 1841 and the widow and her family moved back to be closer to other relatives for support.
Portion of 1896, one inch to the mile, Ordnance Survey map showing Milton Abbot, Kelly and Bradstone parishes, Devon, England; downloaded November 24, 2014 from National Library of Scotland
Having seen the girls were living with relatives, I thought perhaps looking for one of the aunts or uncles might prove useful in finding their ancestors. I found the marriage of Joseph Medland and Sarah Glanville in 1831, in St. Andrew parish (the same place as William and Elizabeth Pinkham were married) so we seemed to have a connection between Elizabeth and Sarah.

Having convinced myself that Elisabeth and Sarah were sisters I went looking for their births. On FindMyPast I found Sarah Glanville baptized in 1807 in Kelly parish and Elizabeth baptized in Bradstone parish, both with parents named John and Mary. Bradstone is less than a mile from Kelly – an easy, 16 minute walk. Looking further I also found an Ann Glanville, baptized in 1808, in Bradstone, also to John and Mary. Perhaps she was the witness to William and Elizabeth’s marriage.

I have not yet found a relationship to John and Mary Cutts, though. Mary was John’s second wife and, according to an 1844 marriage entry in the Kelly parish register, her maiden name was Jackman. They were both from Milton Abbot, as probably was John’s first wife, Susannah, so it is possible that any one of them is related to either of William Pinkham or Elizabeth Glanville.

The fact that at least two of the children were living with relatives suggests that one or both parents were taken ill or had died. FreeBMD showed the death of a William Pinkham in 1851 and an Elizabeth Pinkham in 1867, age 63, both in Plymouth which might have been the parents. Death certificates were ordered for these two people by our family researcher that proved they were husband and wife, but not the right parents for the three girls. So it was back to the drawing board!

Not having William or Elizabeth Pinkham clearly identified on the 1851 census meant we could not confirm their ages, birth places or occupations. There was a William Pinkham baptized in Plympton St. Mary in 1796 but that seems a little early to be the individual we want, though not impossible if the 40-year old(age rounded) man living in Kelly parish in 1841 was the husband of Elizabeth.

Not all genealogical projects have complete endings. In this case I believe we have narrowed down at least the origin of Elizabeth’s family in the Milton Abbot/Kelly/Bradstone area of west Devon. William’s roots are still a mystery. Perhaps one of the listed marriage or death records after 1851 for people with the Pinkham name, or another family researcher looking at this or other branches of the family will help us focus in on where they went after 1841.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The August Henry Becker Family – Part 3

In my last post I described how I had found members of August Henry Becker’s first family in Florida. My client (Eileen) was even more interested now in learning about her half-siblings and cousins.

Robert Becker, August’s youngest son from his first marriage, had shown up in several lists on Ancestry. Besides the censuses, his name appeared on a US Petition for Naturalization form which gave his birth date, birthplace and then current address. He was also on the Florida Death Index, the US Social Security Death Index, US Public Records (city and area directories and telephone directories) and several military records pertaining to his service in the US Army during World War II, all of which gave additional addresses for him.

There were similar public records, mainly local area directories and the death records for Robert’s wife, Mary Agnes, his mother, Nellie, and his sister, Emily and her family who, as I mentioned before, also lived in Florida.

I did specific searches for Robert’s and Emily’s children, whose names I had from the censuses and found marriage records and directory listings for them with relatively up-to-date addresses. On a general Google search I found a remarkable site called Florida Memory, which had a photograph of “Sisters Judy and Susan Becker with their dog – Miami Beach, Florida” (see below). That discovery was a real surprise. The photos were contributed to Florida Memory by Susan. The website is associated with the Division of Library and Information Services, part of the Florida Department of State, and has a great collection of photos, videos, audio recordings and other material pertaining to the region’s history.
Susan, Judy and Scat. Photofrom print collections of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memorycontributed by Susan Campbell. Reference: http://floridamemory.com/items/show/13091
I joined a discussion list for the FLMiama-Dade group, hosted by Google Groups, with the hope of making contact with other family historians who might help in the search for the Becker families. I posted a request for information indicating what I knew about the individuals. A participant responded with a copy of an obituary for Robert Becker, from the Orlando Sentinel, that mentioned several members of his family, including their addresses, and the funeral home which handled his interment. That same discussion list-participant found and sent me a 2006 roof-repair permit, of all things, from the City of Miami records, for the home of one of Robert’s daughters. The address matched what I had from the directory lists so I believed I was really on the right track.

I emailed the funeral home that had handled the services for both Robert and Mary Agnes and they indicated they would forward my query to one of Robert’s daughters. I also looked up the daughters on White Pages to confirm present-day addresses and then sent them letters by post introducing myself and Eileen, their long-lost half-aunt. We were soon in contact with each other and exchanging information about the two families of August Henry Becker.

Of great interest was the number of family photographs and important documents of which Judy and Susan were able to give us copies. They included Nellie’s birth and death records as well as the marriage license and divorce papers for her and August. Eileen had never known the details of the breakup of her father’s first marriage so this information really added to his story and filled in many blanks.

Eileen has stayed in touch with both Judy and Susan the last few years. This past summer Judy made a trip to Alberta to visit Eileen and meet her family and, of course, to take in the festivities of the Calgary Stampede. Both Judy and Eileen have expressed to me their pleasure in being able to meet and to learn so much more about their common family members. It is one of those real success stories – to tie together family history events and help forge ties with relatives who might never had had the opportunity to meet.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

More About August Becker’s First Family

As I indicated in my last post, there are some interesting stories about the family of August Henry Becker that we were able to unearth in a variety of ways and places. Much of the information came serendipitously as I moved from source to source, searching for anything to do with the man and/or the surname.

Eileen (my client) recalled that a man had shown up at her home in Edmonton, possibly in the 1930s or ‘40s, claiming to be her father’s son. The man was rushed off by Eileen’s mother and not a word was ever spoken again about the visit or the individual’s claim of a connection to August. We are pretty sure the individual was Robert Becker, August’s youngest son from his first marriage.

In the process of searching for data, I checked the usual sources for August Becker, primarily on Ancestry. We knew he had been born in Pennsylvania, so that bit of information was useful in finding immigration and settlement documents.

The 1911 Canada census listed both August, Nellie and three children – Joseph, Emily and Thelma – living almost next door to the family of Henry Needham, in the Provost area of Eastern Alberta. Two of August’s brothers had also immigrated to Alberta and lived in the area. The article in Early Furrows, mentioned in my last post, had noted that Nellie and August had come to Canada in 1906 to join Nellie’s parents – Henry and Susan Needham – and brothers in homesteading in Eastern Alberta. It also described a fourth Becker child, Robert. By 1921, August and Nellie were in Edmonton, with August working as a photo engraver, which was his first and main occupation. He apparently was not cut out to be a farmer.

Interestingly, a search of Henderson’s Edmonton Directory on the Peel’s Prairie Provinces website found August working as a photo engraver at McDermid Engraving Company, proprietor Mr. F. G. McDermid. August worked there from at least 1919 through 1922. In 1920 Mary Moller joined the firm as a photo retoucher – and so they met! In 1922, August’s daughter Emily also worked at McDermid’s, as a stenographer. We speculate she was a friend of Mary’s at the time as they were of similar age.

Border-crossing information showed that August, along with Mary Moller, his future second wife, had travelled to the US on January 4, 1923. I also found another border crossing document for Nellie Becker, who went to the US on January 8, 1923. She was going to “visit” her father, Henry Needham, in Ohio. Nellie was accompanied by two of her children, Thelma and Robert. Her parents had previously returned to the US in 1921. The address he gave at the time of his trip to the US in 1923 was the same as the one shown in the directories so things were tying together.

By 1923, as we saw on the border crossing forms, it appears August’s marriage had broken up and he was now in love with Mary Moller. Nellie had indicated on the border crossing document that the last person she had visited or been friends with in Canada before she left was one F. G. McDermott. I did not think the similarity of names was a coincidence and she was actually referring to F. G. McDermid of McDermid Engraving. That seemed to tie the individuals even closer.

The censuses, border crossing forms and community history book gave us names of the four children from August’s first marriage along with their birth dates – the 1911 Canada census shows month as well as year – so I searched for them, mainly to see what had happened after they returned to the US. I found Nellie and the children on the 1930 and 1940 US federal censuses, living in Pensylvania.

On further review I discovered Nellie, Emily and Robert, quite by accident, on a 1945 census from Florida, of all places. That set off a whole new investigation which I will discuss in my next post. The 1945 census showed Robert, was married, with one daughter who had been born in Pennsylvania in 1943. Nellie was living with the family as well. Living in the same house was Emily, also now married and with two sons of her own, also born in Pennsylvania. Joseph and Thelma appear to have remained in Pennsylvania.

On Ancestry, I came across August on a private Family Tree. I wrote to the owner of the tree and found she was related to August through one of his sisters. She had a great deal of information about his siblings and I was able to give her more data on August’s life and second family in Canada. Not only did she have the data on family members, she also had photos of them which she kindly shared with us.
Photo of the family of August John and Amelia (Herchenbach) Becker, taken at their Mt. Carmel home in Pennsylvania
We believe the family picture was taken about 1925, on the occasion of August’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Nearly all of August’s brothers and sisters and their children, including his daughter, Emily were shown in the photograph. Eileen was surprised and delighted by this piece of information. She had previously thought, and had possibly been told, that her father had travelled to Pennsylvania in the 1920s for a funeral of one of his parents. She was even more shocked when I showed her that they were both still alive and well on the 1930 census and then came up with copies of the obituaries notices for both of them – her grandfather’s in 1932 and her grandmother’s in 1936 – again kindly given to us by the Ancestry family tree-owner.

Eileen knew that her paternal grandparents had lived in Pennsylvania after migrating from Germany in 1880. They were part of a very large population of Germans recruited to work in the region’s coal mines. Eileen had found some information in the Mt. Carmel Catholic church records but had never met her grandparents. She had met one aunt who had visited Canada in 1951, but she had never knew much about her father’s other siblings. She thought he might have been cut off from the family following his divorce from Nellie. The family photo demonstrated this was not the case at all.

Eileen was now very curious about her half-brothers and sisters and we set about finding out more about them. In my next post I will detail some of the other surprising things we found out about those half-siblings and cousins.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.