Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Joel Johnson, Biographical Sketch

In the previous post Joel Johnson, Finding the Facts I was able to learn about the facts of my maternal 4th great grandfather Joel Johnson.  These bits of facts contained in census records, church records, legal documents or in the newspaper help me recreate his life story.  

Unfortunately, I can't call him up or go visit him and ask him all the questions I would love to in order to learn more about the person that he was: What made you happy in life? What frustrated you the most? What was it like clearing the land for your farm?  What did you like/hate about growing up in the wilderness?  What made you laugh?  

Sometimes, we get very lucky and we find a great obituary or a biographical sketch that tells us about our ancestor.  I was very fortunate that I was able to find the following information about Joel in the book History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania: with biographical selections by H. C. Brasby on page 924 and published in 1891:

(click on image to enlarge)

How interesting that this sketch talks about him lumbering, building a sawmill and even driving a stagecoach and in all the census records he is only listed as a farmer.  I wonder, did he do the lumbering in the Fall and Winter when he wasn't farming?  Did it supplement the family income as he developed his farm?

I am very proud to hear of his "sterling integrity" and his being known for his hospitality, something I would never learn from the 'facts' I found.  He was accustomed to toil and hardships.  I would believe that since he survived and prospered in a wilderness area.  But it was important for the storyteller to comment on this about Joel.  

Along with the facts I had already learned about Joel's life this biographical sketch tells me more of the character of my ancestor.  I am so grateful to learn more, beyond the facts, about my ancestors.

Remember to look for histories of the areas where your early American ancestors lived for information.  Brasby was attempting to present "an immense array of facts concerning nearly every prominent family in the county, both the living and their departed ancestors."  While there is no mention of who or how he gathered the biographical information I am VERY grateful for his history of Bradford County and the biographical selections he provided.

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share, I look forward to hearing them.

Enjoy the journey,