Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Friends, Neighbours and Relatives

Often on census documents, especially those from rural areas one might find several related families. People in the 19th century did not generally move far from home unless the opportunity for advancement was lacking. Children commonly also took up the occupations of their parents. Growing up together, neigbourhood children ended up marrying each other as well, especially if their parents socialized or worked together.

Certainly there were periods in history, especially in Canada and the United States when new parts of the countries were opening up for settlers and families were enticed to join the land rushes. Railroad construction was a major part of and spurred the development of new territories.

In many of my own family lines we have found that extended families moved together, or at least within a short time period. One family might have gone ahead to “scout” out areas and were then followed by siblings and cousins. Friends and neighbours also joined together to established new communities.

About several of my ancestors, my aunt wrote in 1971:

In 1866, when the wagon train headed for Kansas,[from Indiana] included in the group were: the little [Daniel and Hannah] Watson family; Hannah's youngest son, John Miller; two married children of John and Clarinda Mayfield [Hannah’s brother], Thomas W. and Keziah, whose husband was Charles N. Lewis, a son of Harriet (Keith) Lewis [my 2nd great-grandaunt, and daughter of my 3rd great-grandfather, Samuel Adkins Keith], (Charles N. was a first cousin of our Alice Jane (Keith) Miller [my great-grandmother]); the oldest daughter of Isaac Mayfield [my 2nd great granduncle, and son of my 3rd great-grandfather, Thomas Mayfield], Virginia, and her husband; and Isaac's youngest daughter, Catherine, then 15, who married in Kansas in 1871, Daniel T. Lewis, another son of Harriet. [Hannah Watson was my 2nd great-grandmother. She married Daniel Watson after the 1846 death of my 2nd great-grandfather, John Conrad Miller]

Isaac Mayfield's middle daughter, Florella, married in Indiana in 1867, Silas Butler. They removed to Kansas in 1880. In 1897, their daughter, Alpharetta, married Isaac Perry Mayfield, son of John and Clarinda, and first cousin of Florella.

Others in this Kansas-bound party were John W. Keith who was a son of Samuel R. Keith, twin to our James B. Keith.

In 1878, when Isaac Mayfield, with his 3rd wife and their small daughter Ellen, decided to follow their relatives and friends to Kansas, he took along his son, Benjamin, and nephew Isaac Perry and niece Hannah, children of John and Clarinda. Isaac settled in Randolph, Riley County, where he opened a drug store and also practiced medicine. In this 1878 party also were Hannah's daughter, Matilda Ann, and her husband, Calvin Hudson, and their family (this couple undoubtedly related to Calvin Hudson and to David T. Tobias, husband of Ann Mayfield).

The Mayfield, Miller and Keith families are all part of my direct family lines that came together in southeast Indiana – Jefferson, Jennings and Scott Counties – and then moved west to Kansas. It seems all very complicated what with the marriages between cousins, childhood friends and neighbours, both before and after the migrations.

I have discovered over the years of researching that, when encountering a roadblock in finding a particular family, it is useful to look for siblings, cousins or former neighbours to see if they had all moved to other locations together and set up households near to one another. Indexing of censuses and other lists often contain errors in the spelling of names that only direct observation of copies of the original documents can resolve. The people you are searching for are where they are supposed to be but not identified correctly, so if you can find an old friend or neightbour, or relative, you might also come across the very person you were looking for to start with.


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 in several family history society journals. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

My Family in Maryland

I am just beginning to learn about my ancestors’ history in Maryland, USA. I knew, of course, that several of my lines originated there – or at least lived there, many for several generations. All of them had come from Europe, primarily England and Scotland and most in the 17th century. It was not until the late 1700s and early 1800s that many families started moving west, to Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana.

The precise locations in Maryland where many direct-line ancestors were born, married and buried are not yet known. Several researchers show different places for the same people, sometimes mixing up parish and county names.

What is instructive is to look at historical maps of the region to see what areas were developed and when. There are a great set of historical maps of Maryland on the JSCHOLARSHIP website.

The map below shows the approximate time frame when my 8th great-grandfather, George Keith #1 probably arrived in Maryland. We call him #1 because there are four successive generations of men with the name George. The only way to keep them straight is by using a number.

We don’t yet have documentation that confirms his migration. According to information in a database of immigrant servants on the Price & Associates website an indentured man by the names of George Akeith came to St. Mary’s Colony in 1665 with his wife, Dorothy. While we are not sure of the spelling of his surname (It is probably a mis-transcription) it certainly sounds like my ancestor.


By the time their son, George #2, my 7th great-grandfather, was born, they were living in Charles County. The families remained in that area for a couple of generations.

George #4 and Monica Pidgeon were apparently married in Prince George’s County. The birth information of their first three children is confusing as some researchers have shown birth places as Charles and St. Mary’s Counties. Their last seven children appear to have been born in Prince George’s County, between 1761 and 1774. We know George #4 sold land in Charles County in 1755 so that may mark his move to Prince George’s County.


My 4th great-grandfather, Richard Keith (born 1756 in St. Mary’s County) married Sarah Mason in Prince George’s County, in 1784. She had been born there. Their first child, Samuel Adkins, my 3rd great-grandfather, was also born in that county in 1786. Their next four children, however, were born in Montgomery County next door, between 1788 and 1794. Around 1795 the family packed up and left for Kentucky. Five more children were born after their move to Bourbon County.

Development in Maryland was progressing rapidly during the latter half of the 18th century and eventually became too crowded for the growing population. Expansion of the mid-west USA attracted many families, including the Keith families to go in search of new opportunities. By 1800, George Keith #4 and all of his children had moved west, eventually settling in Kentucky, Indiana or Missouri.


We can track the dates of the moves by the births, marriages and deaths of family members. George #4 and his wife, Monica, must have been in Kentucky by 1790 as she died there that year. Richard Keith, his brother, Gerard, and sister Joanna Carrico, were in Kentucky by 1796 as they all had children born there about that time. I will be looking for information on their siblings now to see when they moved as most died in Kentucky or Missouri.

Gradually I am sorting out where various families lived in Maryland and, from that, how members met and married. Since several of my family lines overlapped in time in various Maryland counties I wonder if they ever met. They all went quite their separate ways and never connected through marriage until they were out west. Without copies of actual documents one has to rely on the work of others, not always a safe choice.

Some data from other researches show different counties for births, marriage and deaths. Even within individual families the data is mixed up. Tracing them using maps such as those shown here has given me a much better idea of where they lived and how and when they moved. I have adjusted some data entries for several individuals based on the patterns emerging from the maps. I still need good documentation but perhaps using the maps might help in locating the appropriate record repositories that might have them.


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 in several family history society journals. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

School Curriculums of the Past

Our children – actually our grandchildren – are now out of school for the year, having achieved another level of education and hopefully with great success. With respect to our grandchildren, how could it be otherwise!

Anyway, it got me thinking about what children are taught today versus what was in the curriculum a century or more in the past.

Our system in Canada is based largely on the models developed in Britain, modified to fit our unique nationalism and geography, of course. In England, the modern, nationally-based educational system really only dates back to the latter part of the 19th century.

It developed gradually due to pressures from the middle class who saw education and formal training, outside of apprenticeships, as being mandatory to secure the future of their children. Compulsory apprenticeship was abolished in 1814. Previously, schools, particularly higher grades were available only to the well off. Child labour was still common well into the late 1800s as working-class families needed the extra revenue from their children’s jobs to sustain them.

Religious differences also played a role in the building of a consensus regarding public education as various groups sought to have their own beliefs included as part of the curriculums being taught to their children. The established Church of England in many ways controlled schooling through enrollment to accreditation of teachers.

The Education Act of 1870 (Forster Act) established the national, nondenominational, education system, running parallel with private schools which usually aligned with specific religious groups. School attendance was made compulsory to age 10 years. In 1893 that was raised to 11 years, and later to 13.

The basic curriculum in the 18th century involved teaching children to read and then to learn the catechism. Some schools included Latin and Greek classes, as they related to Biblical writings. In 1840 the Grammar Schools Act resulted in the addition of science and literature courses.

A National Curriculum, prescribing what was to be taught in the government-sponsored schools, was not introduced until 1988. It has two objectives: “to provide opportunities for all pupils to learn and to achieve”; and “to promote pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and prepare all pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.”

The current National Curriculum consists of:


1 English is not statutory in Key Stage 1 in Welsh-medium schools in Wales
2 New Computing curriculum replaced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in schools (computing is now counted as a science in EBACC).
3 ICT is not statutory at KS4 in Wales or Northern Ireland.
4 Simply "Foreign Languages" at KS2.

The addition of Computing as a major course of study is certainly indicative of the modern world. What might be of concern is the absence of the subject of History for older age groups as well as any emphasis on music and the arts.

To get back to Canada – over the past century our educational system has developed and expanded to match the technology and demands of our society.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the high school curriculums, if not the actual marks, in schools members of my family attended over several generations. It would tell us how (well) we were/are educated as well as what we were/are good at.

My father excelled in math and science. Being educated in a rural school he took subjects that dealt with the local environment such as agriculture that we city kids never knew about. He was an average to an above average student in History, English and French. The sheet below shows the province-wide subject list, however, many options were not offered in the country schools. He went on to a technical school instead of finishing grade 12.


My final reports cards in high school, in fact pretty much all through school, were letter graded, except for the final marks based on written, province-wide, departmental examinations: basically starting at Ds for abject failure (below 40%) and moving up to As for exceptional work (65% to 79%) and Hs (80% or higher) for honours achievements.

By the time I was in high school (30 years after my father), in the city, we had options for music and typing. Physical Education was also emphasized. My marks paralleled my Dad’s, with my strengths also in Math and Science.



Our son, according to one teacher in grade 10, was “a natural athlete with a super attitude.” He got the attitude from his mother! He was also educated from Kindergarten through grade 12 in French Immersion, meaning he took all his courses, except for English, in the French language. We thought that particular program was exceptional in the public system and we also believed being fluent in a second language would be of great benefit to him down the road. And it was!

His marks were much like mine and my father’s, with a talent for Math and Science as well, and having a little less interest in the Arts and Social Sciences. He was, alas, never a musician but he did learn to dance.


Our daughter also excelled at school and, again with better results in Math and Science. Curiously she did very well in Accounting courses but she would tell you today she understands little about the subject.


My grandchildren are super-sharp students. How could they be otherwise with this pedigree? 

Only one has reached high school level, so we don’t have too much to compare with yet. His strengths lie in many areas: Music, Social Studies, English and Science but he does very well in Mathematics, French and Woodworking, another option available in today’s schools.

It’s hard to compare exactly what the content is in each of the subjects over the years. There has been much advancement in the sciences that schools have tried to keep up with. I know from hiring people and seeing current writing examples over the past few decades that the level of accomplishment in using the English language has declined. At the same time use and understanding of technology has increased significantly. My grandchildren have used devices for years that baffle us.

These are signs of the times, though, not measures of intellectual capacity. Had my father owned a computer in the 1930s, I am sure he would have been a whiz at using it. His post-secondary education at the Coyne Electrical School in 1936 (blog 24 March 2015) is evidence he understood the latest technology for his time.

Currently our local public school board says this about High School Success: “In the increasingly independent setting of high school, students explore new ideas, develop additional interests, build relationships, and pursue their goals. All of our high schools work together to give students more flexibility in accessing various programs and courses across our system.” That’s pretty much what schools have always tried to do and be so it is not really all that helpful. What we hope and expect is that they will turn out well-rounded people capable of independent thinking.

What that seems to mean to many of us in the “older” generation is that they think the students can teach themselves and progress at their own rate – rather than always actually receive direct instruction from teachers. they seem to less insistent on getting feedback by way of assignments and exams that measure what they have learned. There is no doubt that the subject matter has grown exponentially but the goal of public education should be still to teach the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, so that students learn to communicate and are able move forward with confidence in their field of choice.

For genealogists learning about how their ancestors were educated might go a long way to explaining their life choices, or controls. It’s worth investigating.


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 in various family history society journals. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated