Tuesday, July 21, 2009

No Pioneers?

Levi and Laura
G-G-Grandmother Ann

Cousin Luther/ G-Grandfather Eddie and his sons
A few years before my Mother went into a nursing home, she handed over some old family photos. She had labeled ones she knew, but I am left with unsolved mysteries, faded sepia faces to which I can put no names. On the back of the photo with the oval inset is written, "Luther Andrews, your cousin in the midwest." Mother had also copied in her neat teacher's hand the sparse family notes which survived from her late brother's delving in family history. My g-g-grandmother's maiden name was Andrews.
I posted the family surnames on a genealogy forum for the relevant county in upstate New York and had a detailed reply regarding those of that lineage. The respected researcher provided such clues as he could document, along with some intelligent guesswork. Still, I couldn't create a sound link to "Cousin Luther." At some point I traced Luther to Iowa, but put the puzzle aside to work on other family lines.
I have been blessed over the years of family research by the generous sharing of information compiled by others interested in the area where my mother's people settled prior to 1800. High on that list of helpful individuals is "Cousin Bruce" who has compiled a vast amount of data. A few weeks ago, he happened to mention in an e-mail exchange that Iowa seemed to be a popular destination for those inhabitants of Warren County who were taken by the urge to go west. I remembered Cousin Luther and resolved to revisit his story.
In 1860 Levi and Laura Andrews and their two sons lived in that upstate NY village with Laura's parents. A family tree published on Ancestry puts the families' move west sometime in 1864. Levi was a man in his late 40,s; his father-in-law was over 70. Luther would have been in his late teens. It appears that this journey to the "west" involved a number of extended family who all settled in the area of Linn County, Iowa. It is possible to locate them in the 1870 census and find Cousin Luther with wife and children. His father, Levi is listed as age 62 in 1880. Although Luther's grandmother had died, his grandfather was still a part of the household at 93. The above mentioned "tree" at Ancestry.com states that Levi's father-in-law was dead within the year. I have learned to be wary of undocumented family lineage, but this offering, nicely done and documented with family stories gives Levi's death in 1899 and Laura's in 1920. The above photo from the collection of my cousin Barb, shows Laura and Levi in their old age. Cousin Barb has the scrapbook started by our g-g-grandmother Ann and continued by Barb's grandmother. It would seem the two families stayed in touch for many years.
Removal from a hill farm in a small NY village to Iowa doesn't seem like much of a journey compared to the hardships of the Oregon Trail. In imagination I see them boarding a train, laden with sachels and bags. Would they have culled the household goods, packing the best in wooden crates to be shipped in the baggage car? What about the farm animals, the cattle, the chickens, a pig? I speculated that the family farm may have been sold, the animals might have been bought by neighbors, or maybe they stayed with the farm. My husband suggests that the livestock may have been loaded onto the train and hauled west. I wonder, had Levi gone ahead to purchase a new farm with the intent of his family joining him? Perhaps Cousin Luther, nearly a man, journeyed out with his father, while Laura packed up the last of their belongings and travled later with her parents, her younger son, her brother. I spread the pieces of their story in my mind, trying to join them in the way that I lay out the colorful patches of a quilt block. I look again and again at the photos and note the oval faces, the deep set eyes shared by Ann and Luther, whom I have come to beleive are the first cousins. I see those features echoed in the face of Ann's son, the great grandfather who died a decade before my birth.
I could take the bare bones of known facts; I could fashion them into a story as interesting and lively as many I have read. I will continue to wonder about those who went "west" and those who stayed.
The link below will take you to the website which Cousin Bruce has created to honor the families of our Adirondack town. The family names and the place are particular, but if you enjoy tales of older times, you may want to read Mrs. Hoyt's memoir. Choose Early Incidents of Hague.


  1. What a fascinating post, I'm a family historian too and love to read this kind of thing. Trying to piece together past their lives and wondering why and how are part of the pleasure of doing family history. How lucky you are to have such wonderful family photos too. I'll follow the link later when I have time to settle down and read it.

  2. I love going through the history of my Ancestors! I love them all even though I'm sure there has to be some, who were probably unlovable! HA! Great post!

  3. I made some adjustments to this post after more investigation of the ancestry tree which follows some of this family. The creator of the tree has included some great stories and documentation. I have initiated contact with him and hope he responds. This may be a round about way for me to discover more about my g-g-grandmother's family. The joys of family research--so much more appealing than to clean the cat hair from the floors!