Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

A letter written by Granddad X. T. to Nana on her sixty-seventh birthday:

Jan. 22, 1966

To My Sweetheart —

I do not want to appear nostalgic, but I have many memories of our lives together. School days — summer nights. The first time I kissed you. Separations — Reunions, misunderstandings, understandings. Moments of ecstasy — Disappointments and on and on, but all of these have helped us to build a life together. Thru it all we have clung together and become as one and from this union, our children came and dwelt among us. You were always closer to them, because you gave so much more than I — They were nestled in your bosom. You nurtured them. You suffered with them, but somehow God in his infinite love and wisdom has made me, too a part of the plan and when you and the children suffer, I suffer too. I love you and I love them. Sometimes I think I am almost selfish for all of you. I feel so inadequate, but I hope you and the children will all understand and when time ends on earth, I trust we will all extend our hands to the Divine and walk together, serving him who has been so gracious, so kind, and so forgiving.

My love — my all, and many more Happy birthdays!


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I found these quite accidentally on Ancestry.com while researching my Scott and Tennant lines today. What a thrill I felt when I realized for sure they were my 3rd-Great Grandparents!

Susannah Scott Tennant

Susannah Scott Tennant (1813-1886)

George Alexander Tennant

George Alexander Tennant (1807-1892)

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(A recent story addition to my Great-Grandparents Glasier and Louisa‘s pages on my online family tree.)

Louisa and Glasier were my father’s paternal grandparents. I never knew them, but heard stories about them over the years from those who loved them.

Louisa moved from Pennsylvania to Iowa with her very close family in 1867.  On the 1880 census, several of the children in her family were recorded incorrectly. She is listed as Mariah L. Sams, age 15. She was also Mariah L. on a previous census, but was known in married life and by her descendants as Louisa Maria, or more affectionately, as “Lou.”  With her name written variously on different records, I am not certain which was her middle name and which was her first, or if Maria was spelled with or without an ending “h,” but I recall seeing her name written as Louisa Maria in a family Bible and my grandmother noted in writing that her name was pronounced “Lou-eye-sa.” She worked in a millinery shop in Mount Ayr before marriage.

Eli Sams Family

Eli Sams Family (Louisa: back row, center)

Glasier and his siblings, born in Indiana during their parents’ residence there, moved with them by covered wagon to Delphos, Iowa where they settled on a 120-acre unimproved prairie farm. Their mother was killed in a run-away buggy accident at the Ringgold County Fair in 1884, and their father, being ill with “lung fever” (pneumonia) for some time, died only a few months later in 1885. Orphaned, Glasier and his siblings went to live with their aunt named Mary L. (Glasier) Walker.

It was in Ohio that Glasier first married Eva Ellet (pronounced “Eh-va”). They soon moved to Iowa where they had son Fenton, but when he was only eight months old, Eva also took ill with typhoid and died. Not long after her death, Glasier married Louisa. On their honeymoon, they traveled to Bedford, Ohio to pick up little Fenton, who had been staying with his Great-Aunt Mary Walker since his mother’s death. Fenton was by then probably about two years old.

Louisa was a good wife and gave him three more children, but as Dad’s sister Anne wrote many years ago, Louisa was remembered as being “especially kind in the way she accepted Fenton as her own child” after the death of his natural mother. My grandfather and his three full siblings never considered Fenton a “half” brother; There was never a distinction made between the children. Sons X. T. and Fenton even looked more like one another than Glenn.

Louisa was a very good cook and love to bake pies. My grandfather remembered having pie on the table every morning after their main breakfast, which they ate after chores.

Glasier had suffered the loss of many loved ones early in life. As a result, he was often quite somber, but as Anne wrote, he was a “good, substantial farmer of excellent repute.” She added that he was “rather stern and almost never allowed his children to sing or speak at meals, except to ask for food,” although apparently he was less strict about this with daughter Florence. He loved nature and enjoyed roaming the timber in pursuit of a “bee tree.” When found, “a special occasion was made of cutting the ‘bee tree,’ and after the harvest, huge dishpans of honey were often gathered. Glasier was a good fisherman and served in several township and school officerships. He always hoped his son X.T. would run for and be elected to the State Legislature, which did eventually happen. He was a religious man and was always faithful to the Christian Church.”

Glasier Edwards Prentis

Glasier Edwards Prentis

In the 1920s, Glasier became a police officer. Deciding he could earn a better living in a larger city, in about 1926, he and Louisa moved to Detroit, Michigan. Apparently Detroit was violent with race riots at that time. Concerned for his safety there as a police officer, their children eventually convinced Glasier and Louisa to return to Iowa to operate one of my grandfather’s chicken hatcheries in Leon, Iowa.

My father (Ray Prentis) said that while he couldn’t recall her being as affectionate as his maternal grandmother, he had mostly good memories of Louisa and her sisters. After Glasier died in 1936, Louisa lived for a time with each of her children. When she lived with my dad’s family, their home was the two-story house next to their hatchery in Mount Ayr, between the railroad tracks and the school. In years following, that same house was the home of my dad’s brother. Louisa’s bedroom was upstairs and the only access was a very narrow staircase. Louisa was a large woman in her later years, so Dad and his siblings, at the ring of her bell, ran up and down the stairs whenever she needed things.  Aunt Jean recalls some embarrassment whenever she had to hang her grandmother’s significantly sized undergarments on the back yard laundry line to dry, cringing at the thought of everyone passing by on the train being able to see them.

Also while Louisa lived with my dad’s family, there was an obvious and unfortunate rift in the family concerning her. My father, being young, was never informed of the reason, but at some point, her daughter Florence’s husband refused to even let her visit their home.  My grandfather and his sister were very close, but after that, Dad recalls that Florence had to “sneak” visits to see her mother and Granddad so as not to upset her husband. He apparently didn’t mind so much, as long as he didn’t have to be involved with her in any way. It must have been soon after that she moved for about a year to an apartment at the Lamb Hotel on the square in Mount Ayr. During her residence there, it was my father’s job to stop by every evening after school to carry out the ashes from her stove and to run errands for her groceries and other needs. Then, sometime after her widowed sister Ollie moved from Liberty Township (within the same county) to a house in Mount Ayr, Louisa and another sister Delphene, who had never married, moved in with her, each remaining there for the rest of their lives.

Louisa (Sams) Prentis

Louisa (Sams) Prentis

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(A recent story addition to grandmother’s page on my online family tree.)

By friends and adult relatives, my grandmother was always referred to by her middle name Gladys or by her nicknames “Glady” and “Ten,” which was short for her maiden name Tennant. Her tombstone bears the name Gladys and many mistakenly believe that was her first name.

One summer day in my childhood, when I was visiting and we were busying ourselves making hollyhock dolls, I asked her why everyone called her Gladys instead of Victoria. She replied, “My mother wanted me to be elegant so she gave me an elegant name, but I was never elegant.” She peeled one side of a freshly picked hollyhock bud to make the doll’s face, handed it to me with a look of amusement and continued, “So I was just Gladys.” I fastened the bud to its open, bloomed skirt with a toothpick, plopped it into a bowl of water along with others we’d already made, smiled back, and finished her story with, “And now you’re just Nana!”

I spent many childhood summers visiting my grandparents, and many hours learning to knit and crochet or reading project directions to her so that she could crochet a toy animal, a scarf, mittens, or sweaters for me in just a few hours. She was the maker of the many crocheted afghans and well-worn knitted pot holders I still have and use, and the last thing I remember her making was a yellow knitted sweater-vest for my son, Joel, when he was a young boy. Nana was a “lefty” and I was a “righty,” but everything she taught me was the left-handed way, including knitting and crocheting. She played card games with me and taught me to deal left-handed. When my dad taught me to tie my shoes, he taught me the left-handed way she had taught him. Apparently my mom had repeatedly tried to teach me, but I just couldn’t do it until my right-handed dad showed me his left-handed way. Although I write right-handed, my many left-handed tendencies seem to have come from her. My brother also has many left-handed tendencies and even wanted to write left-handed, but that was discouraged by teachers.

Nana played the piano and sang hymns and many children’s songs to us. She loved poetry, wrote little poems herself that she called “doggerel,” and was often quoting humorous sayings, like “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” I also heard her laugh to herself and respond to something on occasion with, “Go to Father.” I didn’t understand this seemingly random retort until years later when I asked my Uncle Dick Prentis why she’d sometimes say that. He belly-laughed, explained that it came from a rhyme she knew, and recited it to me:

Go to father, she said
When he asked her to wed
‘Though she knew that he knew
That her father was dead,
And she knew that he knew
Of the life he had led,
And she knew that he knew
What she meant when she said,
“Go to father.”

So it seems that Nana had a mischievous sense of humor!

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(A recent story addition to grandfather’s page on my online family tree.)

My grandfather X.T. was named for his grandfather, Xavier Thomas Prentis, but was only called by the initials, and to his knowledge, so was his grandfather. In fact, Granddad didn’t even know he had a full name until while serving in the Iowa Senate,  a news reporter, frustrated that Granddad would not reveal his full name, bet Granddad that he could find his full name on his birth certificate. Granddad didn’t think he had one of those either! The reporter had done his homework and had either already found a copy, or then went and searched for it, but much to my grandfather’s surprise, a birth certificate bearing a full name of Xavier Thomas Prentis was later produced.

Apparently when he was born, his “Uncle Doc,” Percy L. Prentis, was the physician who delivered him. When Percy asked Granddad’s parents what name he should put on the birth registration, Glasier told him to name him after their father. With those instructions, Percy wrote down the full name, but thereafter, his parents and everyone else only ever referred to him as X.T.  On all official records besides his birth certificate, he was, as Granddad would always say when asked for his full name, “X.T. Prentis. Just X.T.” In unofficial matters, he was sometimes just “X”.

X.T. was an Iowa State Senator for fourteen years, holding the office of State Representative four times in succession, and serving a number of years as Iowa State Tax Commissioner.  His uncle Percy was also an Iowa State Representative for three consecutive terms.

In April, 2009, I received the following comments from a distant cousin on my grandmother’s side, Richard L. Stephens, related through Cora (Tennant) Trimble, a sister of George Alexander Tennant (Nana’s father):

“I knew X.T., his wife, and son Dick and wife well. I went to school with their kids and we attended the same church. X.T. helped me with one of my high school assignments and the sly old fox taught me more on that project than any teacher I have ever had.

“The assignment was about property tax. Since we were in the same church and he was a State Senator at the time, I thought it would be a slam dunk. I told him all of the information I needed and he said he would get it for me. Instead of the neat, concise report I expected, X.T. gave me a stack of books, pamphlets and reports six inches thick! It was all there, but much of it had to be compiled and correlated to make it what I needed. I learned so much in the process about the Iowa property tax system, and more importantly about research and data compilation. I got an A, but got a lot of much more valuable education. He could have just given me the information, but instead he gave me an education! I finally grew up enough to realize it while he was still around and thanked him for it! Sly old fox!”

In addition to his long political career, Granddad also owned and operated chicken hatcheries in Bedford, Leon, and Mount Ayr, Iowa for fifty-four years. In 1924, the Prentis Hatchery was opened in Mount Ayr with a capacity of 2,400 eggs and by 1936, this had been increased to 100,000.  It was at that time, the only state-inspected hatchery in the county.  The modern hatchery used electric equipment to incubate as well as to hatch, and a good part of its business was “custom” hatching for local farmers and poultry raisers. The hatchery was later operated by his son, Richard, and finally by Richard’s son-in-law.

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I’ve had so many issues with my Family Tree Maker program this past couple of weeks. I had version 16 working smoothly for a couple of years, but my genealogy file got corrupted somehow after recent new data entries. I was able to restore most of it, but will have to re-enter a few things. Well, the restored copy got corrupted again, so I had to resort to my Time Capsule once more and purchase the new 2009 Family Tree Maker. It all seemed to be working smoothly and a couple of days ago, after much frustration, I FINALLY had success in uploading my 17,000-plus person tree to Ancestry.com — no thanks to their technical support team who never did follow up on a promise to upload it for me after several failed attempts.

Eureka! My tree is now online, but you need Ancestry.com membership to view, and my upload duplicated some record sources for many individuals or put a few things in weird fields, so there’s some cleanup to do and some additions to make over time.

Okay, so now I’ve noticed a quirk in the new FTM…

Because my tree is so large that my family lines reconnect here and there, and even with my husband’s several generations back, my relationships with people become very complicated. The new program is supposed to list my closest family relationship with each person, but (I find this pretty humorous actually) the siblings of some of my direct ancestors become distant cousins for some reason instead of varying degrees of aunts and uncles. For some lines it seems to confuse my farthest relationship with my closest. For example, my mother’s natural siblings should simply be my aunt and uncle, but instead, my closest connection with them is listed as being 23 generations back, making us twenty-third cousins 6x removed! This has happened in one of Steve’s lines too, and I don’t know how to fix it. I’ve emailed again for technical advice, but haven’t yet had a response. Did their tech support pack up and leave, or what? (This problem only affects the program, and doesn’t reflect in my online tree, thankfully.)

I joined a freelance genealogy site and have been bidding on research jobs for others now too. My first bid was accepted a few weeks ago and I delivered on the request right away. I’ve also been connecting with several people to collaborate on my own family research, so with all that, I’ve been feeding my genealogy addiction rather well. I’m now in the process of uploading photos and documents to my online family tree, and writing stories about various family members, so for those of you who are interested, be expecting those to be posted here as well.

I’ve been up all night again.


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Since I recreated a six generation photo montage for male descendants in my dad’s family several weeks ago, he asked me to try to come up with something similar for the girls in the family. There weren’t as many photos of the women in his family, at least not in the same line of descent, but I am lucky enough to have six generations of women’s photos from my mom’s family, including my daughters and me. The oldest photo, of my 2nd great-grandmother Emma, turned out fairly well considering the condition it was in, but as I brought the photo to life with  digital colorization, I was taken with her uncanny resemblance to myself — almost as much resemblance as Dad had to his 2nd great-grandfather!

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Happy Birthday

Raymond Prentis

Raymond Prentis

This photo was originally colorized, but terribly faded after many years. I restored the colorization in honor of Dad’s 79th birthday. Happy birthday, Dad!

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My great-granddad Stephens had uncles Henry and Samuel who left Iowa and went to California during the gold rush days. Apparently they didn’t have much contact with those back home, but I’ve recently been in touch with a couple of their descendants via email after I posted some information about the family on Ancestry.com message boards.

From our correspondence, I learned that Samuel’s daughter Mary Sophia married John Quincy Will and they had a son named Glenn Efrom Will. Glenn was a cowboy and bronco buster who performed in the California state fair during the 1920s and maybe later. One of Samuel’s descendants, the wife of one of Glenn’s grandnephews, sent me the following story that I thought was interesting:

In August 1952, Glenn decided he wanted to visit Tombstone, Arizona and wrote the following addressed to the Tombstone Postmaster:

August 14-52

Postmaster, Tumbstone, Ars.

Dear Sir:

Just a line to ask a favor, and I hope you have time to grant. I am wondering if this is the Tumbstone town where the rich silver mines were and the water drowned them and before it did water was sold for a dollar a glass. I have heard some tails that roor a Tumbstone town that it hapened that way.

I wish you would rite and let know if this town of yourn is that town if it is I will pay you a visit in the spring of 1953 as I like to visit old mining Camps if this is the place I wihs you wood give me some data about it. Thanking you in return for any favors shone me I remain your friend. I am enclosing one of my Photoes ana wood thank you for one of yourn.

Glenn Efrom Will
1130 Curtis Street
Albany, Calif.

The Postmaster didn’t know what to do with the letter and eventually sent it to the Chamber of Commerce. They replied, sending Mr. Will a brochure with some information about the town. Pretty soon they received another letter, this one even stranger:

Just a line to let you no your nice letter was gladly received and I was more than glad to here from you and the infermation it contained. I wood say the Chamber of Commerce are doind a good job, working for the good of soiety in lotting the worald no of the wonderful sun shine and altude they have. I Bronco Bill and the Rodeo Kid think that Dr. Sun lies a wonderful healing power it works it cures through the skin as an grate tonic and helth builder. It increses the activity of the mind. It strengthens the power of the Will. It quiets the nervis system. It studies the muscular action of the body and its warm glowing rays southes and relieves paine.

How far is it to a producing oil field. The only Cowboy that could shoot a horse fly on the wing and the inventor of western moves was Bronco Bill. Thanking you for an early reply.

‘Bronco Bill’, Curtis St. Albany, Calif.

May the Chamber of Commerce life be long and happy and may they build a bigger and better Tumbstone before they say their through. And I sincerely wish the best of everything to you Bronco Bill Bids them all a do.

That was the last letter they received from Mr. Will, a.k.a Bronco Bill, and they forgot about him until March 19, 1953 when the Railway Express Agency called them to say they had a package waiting with $1.92 postage due.

Edna Landin, the Chamber of Commerce President, went to pick up the mystery package. It was an urn from the Oakland California Crematorium, with a permit attached reading “Removal Permit For The Cremated Remains of Glenn Will, A La ‘Bronco Bill’, for interment of said remains in Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone, Arizona.”

They eventually tracked down Will’s son (the Rodeo Kid mentioned in the second letter) and asked him why he had sent them his father’s ashes, to which he replied: “Well, he planned on going there long about this time so I just sent ‘im.” They then asked why he had sent him C.O.D. His answer was, “I didn’t have no money.” When they asked what he wanted them to do with the remains, he said, “He was a Donker and my mother was a hard shell Baptist. Do what you will with ‘im. He wanted to go to Tombstone so bury ‘im or put ‘im on a shelf. Won’t make no difference to ‘im now.“

Though the circumstances were quite unusual even for Tombstone, arrangements were made for interment at Boothill on March 27, 1953. The Hubbard Mortuary of Bisbee took charge of the services without charge. Tombstone’s Mayor was an honorary pallbearer. The Rose Tree Museum provided white roses from the largest rose tree in the world. A number of Tombstone’s senior citizens appeared for the services which were conducted by Reverend William Baker, Minister of Tombstone’s First Baptist Church.

Bronco Bill came back to Tombstone to spend eternity. His grave in Boot Hill is marked with a plaque that reads:

1871 Glenn Will 1953

After his burial the city council announced that burials at Boothill would henceforth be prohibited as Boothill had actually closed since 1883, when it was declared “full up.”

Glenn Will, alias “Bronco Bill” was the last person to be planted in Boothill.

NOTE: The year of his birth is incorrect on his grave, as he was born in Bangor, Butte, California on April 20, 1881, not 1871.

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And I thought PRENTIS was a difficult name!

A 2nd great-grandmother of mine was a CASTETTER, but my genealogical research has turned up so many variations of this family name: Castetter, Castator, Castater, Castteter, Carsteter, Casteter, Castor, Kirstaetter, Kestiter, Kearstuter, Kerstetter, Kierstaetter, Kirstätter, Kirschstatter, Karstetter, Kastetter, Kastater, Kastator, Kaster,  Kostatter, Kostetter, etc. Census takers and transcribers created even more unusual variations in spelling (Custaton, Casteller, Castelter, Casteator, Castrater, etc.), making it very difficult to find available records!

From J. R. Baker: “The surname seems to have originally been Kerstaetter. It was spelled that way, plus Kirstetter, Kerstetter, Karstetter, etc. in German church records in Pennsylvania. When the family reached Kentucky and Ohio, the officials, of English descent, spelled it Castator or Castetter. I’ve been told that it is pronounced similar to Gestapo (cas-TAH-ter).”

Some time ago, while researching my Castetter/Castator line, I found a wealth of information in Stephen Arlington Kerstetter’s online publication: THE KERSTETTER FAMILY: THE EARLY YEARS, 1727-1850. Part V refers to Michael and Dorothea Kerstetter (a.k.a. Johannes Mikael Kirstaetter and Maria Dorothea Dietz), my 6th great-grandparents. They were the parents of Martin Kerstetter (a.k.a. Johan or Johannes Martin Kerstaetter) who married Abby Elizabeth (a.k.a. Appolonia and Abigail). Martin and Abby were the parents of Michael Castator (a.k.a. Castater, etc.) who married Anna  (“Anne”) Thomas. Michael and Anna’s oldest son, George Washington Castator (a.k.a. Castater and Castetter, etc.), married Elizabeth (“Eliza”) Anne Watson, 24 Aug 1840, in Ripley County, Indiana. George and Eliza Anne are my 3rd great-grandparents.

I was very grateful to the author for all his effort and found it extremely helpful to my own research; however, it dead-ended for my branch of the family with a snippet of information that piqued my curiosity:


(p. 55 )

Michael Born about 1798 in Tennessee
Married Anna Thomas on Jan. 16, 1817 in Butler County
Died in Ripley County, Indiana after 1840

(p. 58 )

• Michael and his wife Anna apparently moved from Butler County to nearby Ripley County, Indiana, not long after their marriage in 1817. The 1820 census in Ripley County shows Michael, his wife, and two daughters and one son under the age of ten. At the time of the 1850 census, an Anna Castator, age 49, was living with the family of George Washington Castator in Ripley County.

George Washington Castator married Eliza Watson on Aug. 24, 1840. George
Washington was born about 1817 in Ohio and Eliza about 1820 in Indiana. Eliza
apparently died after 1850. The 1870 census listing includes a Louisa Castator born in Indiana about 1821.

Born where, you say?

None of my own information suggests that Michael was born in Tennessee; however, Anna’s birthplace is listed as Tennessee in the 1850 census. As with most families, a lot of public information is conflicting. Parental information on census reports between 1880-1920 for some of their children confuses me further with birthplaces listed for both Michael and Anna as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Germany, Kentucky, “the United States of America,” or left entirely blank.

I had concluded that only Anna was born in Tennessee, and that Michael was probably born between 1797-1801 in Northumberland Co. (or adjacent Snyder Co.), Pennsylvania, as were his other siblings (from various family records). Do documents exist (Tennessee land records, etc.) that suggest Michael was born there instead of Pennsylvania?

Castetter, Kerstetter… Where are you?

As for Michael living past 1840, I’ve located a Mikael Castator residing in Ripley Co. in 1830, but haven’t yet found any record of him still living there in 1840. I did find record of a Michael Castater in Ross, Butler, Ohio in 1840, but the ages in the household aren’t right for him at that time (must be some relative though!). My records agree that he was married 16 Jan 1817 in Butler County, Ohio to Anna Elizabeth Thomas (born abt. 1801-02 in Maryville, Blount, Tennessee*, and died after 1850 in Ripley Co., IN). They had seven known children: George Washington, Abigail, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Malinda, Susannah (“Susan”), and Ira Ishmael. The 1830 census records another son, while a known daughter was overlooked. Was there another son we don’t know about, or did the census taker mistake their youngest daughter for a boy?

*I assumed Anna was from Blount County, Tennessee since Michael’s sister Christina / Christiana was supposedly married there in 1808, and have recently found more evidence to support this. According to another researcher for this family, Tracy Bischoff, who found land records, the Castator family was living in Butler Co., Ohio by 1811, and apparently Anna’s family also moved from Tennessee to Ohio, where she and Michael were married in 1817. They may have known one another in Tennessee, but without documentation proving otherwise, I tend to believe she was the only one of the two actually born there. There are several marriage and land records for people with the surname Thomas in Butler Co., Ohio and Ripley Co. IN, which are thought to be relatives, but the names of Anna’s parents have only recently been discovered. (See updates below.)

Almost all family histories indicate that his father died about 1814, but C. R. Mapes gives an unsourced date of 1 Sep 1815, in Snyder Co., Pennsylvania, and Tracy Bischoff gives information extracted from Michael’s father’s will. An unnamed source gives the date of  20 Aug 1814. Abby (recorded incorrectly as Abegail Castrater) was still living as of 1820, as evident in Butler Co., Ohio census records. Since she was a widowed landowner there, it seems logical that Michael died there instead of Pennsylvania, as Tracy Bischoff believed.

Tangled Roots…

When I read on page 58 that Eliza was assumed by the author to be dead after 1850, I wondered how many other family researchers had the same misconception. She was still living in 1860, and I had already seen the 1870 census with “Louisa J.” as George’s spouse and knew it was a mistake. Also still living in the household at that time were daughter Ida, son John, and their married daughter, Margaret Jane (“Jennie”) Bone, whose husband was either temporarily away or living elsewhere for some reason. Apparently wherever one was living at the time the census was taken, was where one was documented, whether it was a permanent residence or a temporary one — so the inclusion of a married daughter without her husband (or children, if there were any) could also be evidence of an extended visit there without her spouse.

I wasn’t sure when George died, but I knew Eliza lived past 1881. Census mistakes were common.  I have a Louisa in another family line whose name was pronounced in a way that rhymes with Eliza — so with this in mind, I believe the census taker may have simply misheard her name. Eliza was still married to George in 1870, and did not die until sometime after 4 Oct 1881, when she was married 2nd (probably in Ripley Co., Indiana) to William Hobbs.

At that point in reading the Kerstetter genealogy, I checked for contact information for the author and planned to offer “new” information and correct what I knew to be inaccurate — but first I thought it best to locate Eliza in public records after 1870.

With some difficulty due to the many variations of the family name, I finally located Eliza in the 1880 census, divorced —not widowed as I’d always believed — and living in Ripley Co., Indiana with her youngest son, John T. Castator (their last name transcribed as Castater on the census). Who knew? Not only was I surprised at this discovery, but the idea of divorces being recorded in census records of that time period had never even occurred to me. Incidentally, John T. is also recorded as John F. on the 1870 census, and on the 1860 census, the family name is spelled Castteter [sic].

Besides the name of Eliza’s second husband and their date of marriage (provided years ago by my grandfather), I have no other information about him from family records. Online records for Ripley County marriages also only go through 1880, and they were married in 1881. According to Granddad, Eliza died in Delaware Township, Ripley Co., Indiana (no date given), but I find no record of her there past the 1880 census. Unfortunately, 1890 census reports were mostly destroyed by fire, and she’s nowhere to be found by 1900.  It appears that both Eliza and her second husband were deceased by 1900.

My family records never gave any indication of their divorce. I don’t know if there was a deliberate “cover up” of this information by subsequent generations, but it was definitely not shared with me.  While contemplating this new information, it occurred to me that the notation of divorce could be incorrect, and then it also occurred to me that even if they were divorced after 1870 and George had since died, Eliza’s marital status in 1880 would probably be “single.” Since it was neither single nor widowed, then George must have still been living and there should also be an available census record for him in 1880. Maybe this is why social networking sites like Facebook include the relationship status “it’s complicated.” Census forms apparently needed the same option back then, and probably still do today!

Unable to find any record for a divorced George, I wondered if he had already remarried by then. With further checking, I found an 1880 census record in Fairmount, Grant, Indiana under the name George Custaton (Castator, transcribed incorrectly) that could belong to him with a much younger wife, Margaret — but also with three children (the oldest a teenager and the youngest born in 1879). Because none of the children were recorded as stepchildren to George, I dismissed it at first, but after much more searching, that was the only George I could locate that could possibly be him! By then I felt like I was playing a game of Clue.

It was Colonel Mustard, in the conservatory, with a revolver…

Recalling that in 1870, married daughter Margaret (“Jennie”) was listed as a household resident, I tried to make the 1880 record a better match for our George by considering that maybe Margaret was again (or still) living with her father without her husband (Did his occupation involve frequent or extended travel?), that perhaps she was recorded incorrectly as wife instead of daughter, and that the children were actually grandchildren to George — but her birth year was off by four years, she was more commonly known as “Jennie,” and if the name I have for her husband is correct, she was in her own household in 1880 with different children. All that pretty much ruled out this Margaret being a daughter rather than wife.

The wrong family name and the fact that both of this George’s parents were “born in Ohio,” should not discredit the possibility that this is our George. Names and census information were often poorly recorded or transcribed, and it is apparent that several siblings of George who lived past 1880 also gave erroneous information for their parents’ birthplaces. Our George’s youngest brother Ira, a Civil War veteran who lived at least through 1920, changed his response for that section of the form on every available census after 1880!

If there are any real inaccuracies on this census, what are they? Did the census taker mean to write “W” for “widowed” rather than “D” for “divorced” on Eliza’s original form, or if George was still alive and married to this younger Margaret, were all or at least two of the children really adopted stepchildren, but not recorded correctly?  If George was still living in 1880, but this wasn’t the right George, where is the correct census record? If the record I found is the right record and there are no errors, then our George may have fathered two or all of these children illegitimately before his divorce from Eliza, and that would have been quite the scandal!

One factor that supports this being the right record for our George is that the youngest child, Ira, has a name common to our family line and could have been named for his brother Ira. Another is that in 1900, this same Margaret (now widowed) is Margaret CASTETTER, living with her married, oldest daughter’s family. CASTETTER is the way of spelling the family name that by that time was preferred by all of George’s children and at least some of his siblings.

Divorces at that time were not so common, especially late in a marriage. Why would a woman married forty years prior to 1880 divorce her husband? An adulterous relationship with a much younger woman and 1-3 illegitimate children would certainly explain a divorce, a change in location, and why vagueness or a possible “cover story” may have led future generations to assume George had died before Eliza married a second time.

Forgive me, George, if I have unjustly shamed you!

Although there are many unanswered questions regarding this family, the real story is probably not nearly as complicated as incorrect or missing information makes it seem. No family is perfect, but it was not my intent to let my curiosity fabricate or unearth an unsavory family tale. What I have or haven’t yet found is definitely not enough to conclude without doubt that George had a second family with adulterous beginnings — but it does raise the possibility.

It’s all relative

Apart from all the mystery surrounding George and Eliza’s final ten years, it’s interesting to note that except for one unnamed brother who (if he existed at all) apparently died in infancy, all the rest of George’s siblings survived into adulthood and married.

George’s oldest sister Abigail married Eliza’s older brother, Henry Watson. They had ten children.  George’s sister Mary Ann creates yet another mystery: Did she marry William Culver, Culyer, or Cuyler, and did they have any children? George’s sister Elizabeth married John Morris and then nothing more is yet known. The sister Malinda (or was it Melinda or Belinda?) married Levi Tucker. They had eight children. The sister Susannah (“Susan”) married Richard Lyons (a.k.a. Lions and Lyens). They also had eight children. George’s brother Ira, born a decade or more after all the rest married Florence J. and they had nine children.

George and Eliza’s firstborn was my 2nd great-grandmother Sarah who married Josephus Main. They had eight children, including my great-grandfather John Dwight. The rest of George and Eliza’s children included William Montgomery who married Belle Little, Margaret Jane (“Jennie”) who married Mr. Bone (probably James Milton Bone), George Washington Jr., Franklin Marion who married Sarah A. Brinegar, Ida May who married Martin Van Buren Brown, and John T. All this makes for quite an extensive descendant outline covering eight generations beginning with George and Eliza. There are also eight known previous generations in this lineage.

The Source of the Matter…

My sources for this family line include online Ripley County Indiana marriage records (site linked above), personal records, and genealogical records of my maternal grandfather, Weldon C. MAIN (J. Dwight MAIN3, Sarah E. CASTETTER2, George W. CASTATOR1) compared with various family trees, marriage records, military records, census data, and public records available through Ancestry.com and other online searches.


Update: (14 Jan 2009)

Since originally writing this entry, I have attempted to connect Michael Castator’s wife, Anna Thomas, to others of that name in Blount County, Tennessee. My findings indicate there were several Thomas families residing in Tennessee by 1800, some with Welsh ancestry and some with German. Our Thomas line would more likely be German, and with Blount County ties, I zeroed in on the most likely family to be that of Anna’s father. A Jacob Thomas of that location had five sons and one daughter. The daughter (Margaret) and two of his sons (Jacob and Adam) remained in the area and their descendants have been fairly well documented. The remaining three sons (George, Henry, and John) were mostly unaccounted for. Other than their mention in Jacob’s will, there was apparently no further record of them in Blount County.  I emailed Bettye Heinrich, a known descendant and she very kindly offered assistance in checking census and marriage records for the areas in which they were believed to have lived. The 1820 Ripley Co. census revealed Anna living near a Henry Thomas old enough to be her father and a George Thomas, old enough to be her brother. The 1820 Butler Co. Census revealed Abigail Castator living near another George Thomas. Butler Co. marriage records revealed a possible sister Elizabeth.

Bettye Heinrich directed me to a Thomas Family website that had archived the findings of now deceased Barbara Fitzmaurice. In the last years of her life, Mrs. Fitzmaurice made several forum posts on genealogical sites regarding the Thomas family of Blount Co., TN. As I became more convinced that Anna was a daughter of Henry, I recalled seeing in one of her posts that Henry’s wife was named Mary, but couldn’t relocate it. Attempting to find that, I instead found another, and there, among Henry and Mary’s children were Anna, George, Elizabeth, and others.

Combining data from government documents and several family histories available online, I have concluded the following:

Jacob THOMAS (farmer) b. abt. 1739-43, Northumberland Co., PA; d. bet. 20 Jun – 28 Aug 1804, in or near Maryville, Blount, TN; m. abt. 1760-61, Pennsylvania, to Margaret ____, who was still living as of 1808, and d. in or near Maryville, Blount, TN. They had the following children:


  • Margaret THOMAS (F) b. abt. 1762, Northumberland Co., PA; d. aft. Jun 1836, Blount Co., TN; m. abt. 1789, Blount Co., TN to Jacob NEIMAN, b. bef. 1759, PA; d. May 1793, Knox Co., TN (now called Blount Co.); issue.
  • George THOMAS (M) b. abt. 1763, Northumberland Co., PA; d. aft. 1820, probably in Ross, Butler, OH. (Probably father of George THOMAS, b. abt. 1790, Tennessee;  who m. Margaret ____, b. abt. 1790, Tennessee; both probably d. in Ross, Butler, OH.)
  • Henry THOMAS (M) b. bet. 1764-67, Northumberland Co., PA; d. aft. 1820, Rush Co., IN; m. abt. 1783, Pennsylvania to Mary ____, b. 1767, Pennsylvania; d. Rush Co., IN; Issue. (See list below.)
  • John THOMAS (M) b. abt. 1768, Northumberland Co., PA; d. __, probably in Indiana. (Likely one of the first land owners of Ripley Co., Indiana, along with other Thomases.)
  • Adam THOMAS (M) b. 1 Jan 1770, Northumberland Co., PA; d. 10 Jan 1855, Blount Co., TN; m. 1st,  abt. 1790, Blount Co., TN,  Anna B. ____, who d. abt. 1840, Blount Co., TN; issue; Adam m. 2nd, 13 Nov 1849, Blount Co., TN, Jane Ralston, b. 1826.
  • Jacob THOMAS (M) b. abt. 1780, Northumberland Co., PA; d. 10 Sep 1855, Cleveland, Bradley, TN; m. 20 Feb 1812, Blount Co., TN to Margaret Elizabeth NEIMAN, b. abt. 1787, TN; d. 10 Jun 1888, Cleveland, Bradley, TN; issue.



Children of Henry and Mary THOMAS:


  • Jacob THOMAS (M) b. 30 Oct 1784, Pennsylvania
  • Henry THOMAS (M) b. 1786, Pennsylvania; Served in the War of 1812.
  • Margaret THOMAS (F) b. 1787, Pennsylvania
  • Elizabeth THOMAS (F) b. 9 Apr 1790, Tennessee; m. 8 Feb 1810, Butler Co., OH to Stephen SCUDDER, b. abt. 1785; Stephen may have d. in War of 1812, as there is no record of him beyond that. Another Stephen Scudder in Liberty Twp., Butler, OH proves by later census records not to be him, but is probably a cousin. Elizabeth may have remarried.
  • Barbary THOMAS (F) b. 16 Nov 1792, Tennessee
  • Mary Ann THOMAS (F) b. 1794, Tennessee; d. 1855, Rush Co., IN; m. 1813, Butler Co., OH to Jacob BOLSER / BALSER, b. 1789, York, PA or Butler Co., OH; d. Aug. 1844, Rush Co., IN; issue.
  • George THOMAS (M) b. abt. 1798, Tennessee; d. 1869, Rush Co., IN; m. 27 Nov 1818, Butler Co., OH to Elizabeth ELDER, b. 17 Jul 1797, Tennessee; d. 18 Jan 1869, Rush Co., IN; issue.
  • Anna Elizabeth THOMAS (F) b. abt. 1801-02, Maryville, Blount, TN; d. bet 1850-60, Delaware Twp., Ripley Co., IN; m. 16 Jan 1817, Butler Co., OH to Michael CASTATER / CASTATOR; issue.
  • Susannah THOMAS (F) b. 8 Jan 1802, Maryville, Blount, TN; m. 2 Mar 1819, Ripley Co., IN to James Stevens, b. abt. 1799.





Eliza’s 1880 census supports the information I had from my grandfather’s records that Eliza’s parents were both from England. Granddad’s information included that she had a brother Henry Watson (b. 11 Apr 1817), who married Abigail Castator (oldest sister of George W.).  Abigail was b. 8 Sep 1819 In Delaware Twp., Ripley Co., IN, and died 5 Dec 1880, in Union, Worth,  MO. After her death, Henry married 2nd in 1882, to Elizabeth _____ (born 21 Apr 1829 in VA; d. 15 Aug 1905 in Grant City, Worth, MO).

From Henry’s 1900 census, his place of birth is England and his year of immigration is 1818. (His sister Eliza was born abt. 1821 in Ripley Co., Indiana). Henry is listed as both Henry Watson and Henry Walton on Ripley Co. marriage records (alphabetically, he’s Walton, and by date, he’s Watson). Henry and his second wife are buried in Grant City Cemetery, Grant City, Worth, MO. Abigail, some of their children, as well as Abigail’s sister Balinda (as spelled on her headstone; a.k.a. Belinda and Malinda) and brother-in-law Levi Tucker are buried in Bethel Cemetery, Union, Worth, MO. The Tuckers’ daughter Elizabeth married Ellis Denver Watson, whose grandmother was born in England, so was probably indirectly related to Henry. Her family is also buried in Bethel Cemetery.

I don’t know the names of Eliza and Henry’s parents. I suspected they were children of Eber and Phebe (Thompson) Watson, since Eber was the only Watson on the 1820 census for Ripley County, but a marriage record for Eber in Phebe in Butler Co. Ohio says they were married there in 1805. They do have ties to Ripley Co., Indiana though, so may be related in some way. Perhaps Eliza was born in an adjacent county where other Watsons resided and moved to Ripley County later.

I found a reference for James V. Watson, born in London, England in 1814, and “when quite young his parents removed to Indiana.” This Watson moved around a lot, but was somewhere in Missouri about 1832. Our Henry was in Worth County, Missouri by 1855 as one of its first settlers. Since Eliza and Henry’s parents came to Indiana from England in 1818, this James could fit into their family as a brother. I will try to research this possibility further.


EDIT (22 Apr 2014): I was contacted yesterday by Sarah E. North, saying she was a descendant of Henry Watson’s sister Sarah Joanna (Watson) Jackson. I had never heard of Sarah in all these years. How did I miss her? She also said, “The whole family is listed in THE EMIGRANT’S GUIDE by William Cobbett, an English reformer.” I had also never heard of this book, so I began searching online for where to find it. I love the Internet! The book is available online: The Emigrant’s Guide, and there on page 50 is my third great-grandmother’s date and place of birth, as well as correcting her middle name for me (it’s not Eliza Jane as my grandfather believed, but Eliza Anne, short for Elizabeth!), and finally giving me the names of her paternal grandparents and several other relatives. I had guessed completely wrong about her paternal grandfather. The family correspondence is amazing! PLEASE READ THE LETTERS and see my updated genealogy!

EDIT (1 May 2014): You know my methods, Watson

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