Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Life of Sheffield Wilcox, Sr.

My maternal 6th great-grandfather, Sheffield Wilcox, Sr. would travel over 1,000 miles in his lifetime. What could I learn about his life as he grew up and became a man as the colonies began to desire and fight for freedom from Great Britain?

Sheffield was born on 2 April 1746 in Washington County, Rhode Island to Edward and Esther Wilcox. Sheffield would meet Eunice Ross and they would marry on 11 Dec 1771. Their children would also be born there before deciding to leave for parts west.

In the 1774 Rhode Island Census Sheffield his wife and daughter Lois are living in Richmond, Rhode Island, British America.

Following the Revolutionary War the Wilcoxes, Sheffield Sr., his wife Eunice and children Lois (my 5th great-grandmother), Thomas, Rowland, Freeman, Sheffield Jr., Amy, Desire, Eunice and Jemima first went to the Cooperstown, New York area on Otsego Lake and remained a short time before moving down the River. I wonder why they decided to move to the Cooperstown area in the first place and why they then left?

In the 1800 US Federal Census Sheffield his wife and 5 children are living in Burington, Otsego, New York. Otsego county was officially established in February 1791. The town of Burlington, NY was organized 10 April 1792. Burlington was an area with ridges being about 400 feet above the valleys. In 1795 then Governor of New York, George Clinton, established common schools throughout New York State.

Next the family went down the Susquehanna River to Monroe township, Bradford County, Pennsylvania. They lived there on the west side of the Towanda creek, about ¾ mile below the Monroeton bridge. Sheffield and his sons scouted out locations in the area called Albany for their new home.

In the Spring of 1804 Sheffield moved his family to Albany, Bradford County, Pennsylvania. To get to this new home in Albany township they had to cross the Towanda creek 11 times. Sheffield and three of his four sons were among the first group of settlers in Albany township, PA. According to Clement Heverly in his book Pioneer and Patriot Families of Bradford County Pennsylvania 1770-1800 “the country was a wild and dreary prospect, inhabited only by savage animals. The woods were full of deer and brook trout were found in myriads in the streams.” Their nearest neighbors were several miles away. Sheffield built his cabin on a little plateau. The cabin reportedly had all the novelties of pioneer style and was a one story building floored with split plank with a huge fireplace at one end.

In the 1810 US Federal Census Sheffield, his wife and 6 members of his family are living in Towanda, Luzerene County, Pennsylvania. Bradford County was created in February 1810 from parts of Lycoming and Luzerne Counties. Census day was August 6th, 1810. Interesting that the County was still listed as Luzerne County in the Census.

His wife of 42 years, Eunice, died suddenly on 29 Oct 1813. Sheffield gave his house to son Rowland after the death of Eunice and continued to reside there with his son and family.

In the 1820 US Federal Census Sheffield and 6 family members are living in Asylum, Bradford County, Pennsylvania.

Sheffield died a few months short of his 80th birthday on 27 Feb 1826 in Albany, Bradford, PA. According to Heverly’s book Sheffield was described as a “very strong man, medium height and well proportioned with the reputation of being a great worker”. Sheffield is buried in the Wilcox Stevenson Cemetery in New Albany, Bradford County, PA.

I still find it so interesting to see how much my ancestors moved around in the late 1700-early 1800s. Sheffield moved by horse from Washington County, RI to Burlington, NY to Albany, PA a distance of over 1,000 miles.

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

Enjoy the journey,

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Snow, Snow, Snow, What Do You Do With It

Have the times changed?  Maybe or maybe not depending on what you are referencing.  This morning while talking to my parents on Eastern Long Island in New York I heard the latest winter weather update…snow yet again tomorrow.  Afterwards I came across a letter that my great-grandmother, Carrie (Terry) Warner had written on January 15, 1893 to her brother Forrest Terry [17 years old] and thought of all the wintery weather happening across the United States. 

  • Carrie was living in Baiting Hollow, Suffolk County, New York with her husband John B. Warner and 2 young sons.  Ella [20 years old] is her sister. Carrie’s parents and siblings lived in Peconic.  Today the temperature in Baiting Hollow will have a high of 36 degrees, a low of 23 degrees and is overcast.  While snow is not predicted for today it is predicted again for Thursday and Friday.


Here are two excerpts from Carrie’s letter in 1893:

“Snow, snow, snow, what do you do with it.  I guess Father [Gilbert Terry] has got the old sleigh down this winter has he not.  Ella I suppose is sleigh riding.  There is entertainment in the sleigh now instead of the buggy.  Cannot indulge very much however unless it stops snowing.  In that case, a little ride might be taken before it comes on again.  Perhaps it is too cold.  I have been out of the house but twice since I came from “P”[econic],once to church and the next day after my return, over to mother’s [mother-in-law Eleanor Warner] for a few minutes.  I would make a poor thermometer, staying by the stove all the time.”

  • My paternal great-grandparents, Carrie and John B. Warner had two sons at this time.  Terry was almost 5 years old and Wesley was about 2 1/2 years old.

“Terry has fine times with his sled.  His father [John] gets on the horse’s back and takes hold of a string fast to the sled and away they go.  Took Wesley out riding so one morning.  The children go out every day and have not taken cold yet.  Wesley can not stand it but a short time, this cold weather.”

The following is a paragraph from the Orient section in The Long Island Traveler, January 20, 1893 on page 3:

“Snow storms have been so many we have lost count.  Cloudy weather it snows, and when the sun shines it snows some more.  Then the clouds obscure old Sol and the flakes flutter softly down upon us some more.  Really, some of us  (younger children) never, never saw the like before or since.”

Despite the dreariness of this never ending winter season many kids and adults are still managing to have fun just like they did 128 years ago.  Others are just done with the cold and snow.  I hope you are all managing through this crazy weather we are having and staying safe.

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

Enjoy the journey,

For additional posts about Carrie’s Letters click on the second tab at the top of the page entitled Carrie’s Letters.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Celebrating the Life of Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson
Stephen is my paternal 3rd great grandfather and in honor of the 216th anniversary of his birthday I set out to see what I could learn about him.

Stephen was born 14 February 1805 to Moses and Susan Gould Robinson in Southold, Suffolk County, New York. I believe Stephen was the 3rd of 7 children born to Moses and Susan.

  • The town of Southold, Suffolk County, New York is located on the north eastern end of Long Island, about 95 miles east of New York City. Southold proclaims to be the oldest English town in the State of New York and was originally settled by Puritans from New Haven, Connecticut in 1640. This land was originally purchased from the Corchaug Indians. From what I can tell Stephen was in the first generation to be born in Southold. The War of 1812 occurred with little effect on the town of Southold as Stephen was growing up.

Stephen (20 years old) married Caroline F. Overton (14 years old) on 24 January 1825. They had 10 children: Barnabas, George W., Perry S., Almeda V. (my 2nd great grandmother), Dolisca, Alonzo M., William S., Arthur M., Huldah J., Carrie E. (Wolf)

1830 US Federal Census shows Stephen is living in Riverhead. Stephen appears to be living with his wife. Living nearby is Gideon Robinson. A cousin perhaps?

1840 US Federal Census shows Stephen is living in Riverhead. Stephen appears to be living with his wife, 1 male under the age of 5, 2 males aged 5-9, 2 females under age 5, and another male aged 30-39. Living next to David Robinson, near Hiram Robinson and Richard Robinson. Cousins perhaps?

1850 US Federal Census on 16th of September shows Stephen living in Riverhead. He is 45 years old, Occupation Farmer in Industry Agriculture, Value of Real Estate $3000 living in Riverhead, New York with wife Caroline and children Barnabas, George, Terry, Almeda (my 2nd great-grandmother), Dolisca, Alonzo, William and Huldah.

See blog post US Federal Non-Population Census-Agricultural for information on the crops, animals, value of the land, etc. for Stephen in the town of Riverhead for 1850 and 1860. See blog post Caroline Overton Robinson for a photo of Stephen and Caroline outside their farmhouse.

1860 US Federal Census on eight of July shows Stephen living in Riverhead. He is 53 years old, Occupation Farmer, Value of Real Estate $2000 living in Riverhead, New York with wife Caroline and children: Perry, Alonzo, William and Huldah, Arthur and Caroline E.

1865 New York State Census shows Stephen is 59 years old, Occupation: Farmer living with his wife Caroline and children: Alonso, William, Arthur and Carrie E. (Caroline). All born in Suffolk County, New York. Married once and currently married. Owner of land and Voter-Native. Bowker and Jemima Robinson live next door. I wonder what he thought of the Civil War?

I have been unable to locate Stephen in the 1870 US Federal Census.

Stephen died 11 June 1871 in Manorville, Suffolk County, New York.

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

Enjoy the journey,

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Tombstone Tuesday–Catherine “Katie” Hein Hamman

My maternal 2x great-grandmother Catherine “Katie” Hein Hamman was born in Luxembourg and died in Remsen, Iowa.  Last summer I was able to visit her gravesite and see her tombstone in person.

Katie is buried next to her husband Jacob in St. Mary’s (Roman Catholic) Cemetery in Remsen, Plymouth County, Iowa.


 Katie Hamman


June 21, 1908


63 Yrs

For information about Kate’s obituary and Will see post What’s the Correct Information? and  Amanuensis Monday-A Will but…Whose Signature is That?

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

Enjoy the journey,

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Reviewing a Death Certificate and Mortality Statistics for William Way Browning

Sometimes it takes a lot of work to find a death certificate or just the listing of a death in a ledger.  For my maternal 3rd great-grandfather I was easily able to find a copy of William’s death certificate on-line. 

(click on image to enlarge)

Now that I have a copy I wanted to really look at the certificate and see what information there is on this certificate.  Does the information match what I have already learned and what is new information?

I already knew: William lived in a rural area and he was a chairmaker.  William’s date of birth and death, occupation, father’s name and birthplace.  When I look at the mother’s information I see there is an error.  William’s son who gave the information (E.I. Browning) gave the name of William’s wife Amanda (son’s mother) instead of William’s mother (Lucy Welles Weaver).

What I learned:  the death certificate number, cause of death, duration of illness, who gave the information about William for the death certificate, the address where William lived with his son, date of burial and the Undertaker’s name.  Interesting that William was buried 10 days after he died.  That seems like a long time in 1908.

Frequently, in genealogical research, we get sidetracked with something that takes us down a path that we commonly refer to as a ‘rabbit hole’ and we may get lost there for hours. I wanted to learn more about William’s cause of death and went down a new rabbit hole but it gave me some interesting information.

On the death certificate it looks like the cause of death is ‘Urae’… something? Hmm?  As I googled and searched and reviewed the spelling I decided it must say ‘Uraemia’.  Well, what exactly does that mean? 

  • Uraemia"  is a dangerous condition that occurs when the kidneys no longer filter properly. It's likely to occur when a person is in the final stage of chronic kidney disease.

So, William was 92 years old and had chronic kidney disease lasting for 10 days as well as Arterio Sclerosis which he’d had for about 10 months.  Well, as I was researching ‘uraemia’ I had looked at common listings of death in 1908 hoping that would tell me something about ‘uraemia’ and before I knew it…I went down the rabbit hole and learned about death rates and causes in 1908.  How did William’s death fit into the statistics?

  • In 1908 life expectancy for men was just 49.5 years.  Wow, William had lived 43.5 years longer than the average life expectancy for a man of his time.
  • “The year 1908 was a year of remarkably low mortality throughout the United States," according to a comprehensive report called the "Bulletin" from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor titled Mortality Statistics: 1908.

I wondered what the Mortality Statistics were and if they would add something additional to William’s story?

  • According to the Mortality Statistics (for the states that supplied information) the top 5 causes of death for males were:  All other and unknown causes, Tuberculosis of the lungs,  Other diseases of the digestive system, Other accidents and injuries, and heart disease.  I am thinking based on the list that William’s cause of death would fall in the first category of ‘All other and unknown causes’.

Looking at the deaths in Bradford County, Pennsylvania (#410) in the age group 90-94

(click on image to enlarge)

I see there is only one reported death.  That one must be William.  He was the oldest person to die that year in Bradford County.  He truly lived a very long life as compared to the general public.  Very interesting.  There were a total of 93 people that died in the county that year that were above the 50 years of age expectancy for men.  Did the rural life or genetics or lifestyles of the residents add to their high rate of longevity?

I would definitely use the Mortality Statistics again, especially to see how my ancestor’s cause of death compared to the general population.  This would also show deaths due to epidemics.  In 1908 the country was starting to look at occupations of those that died to determine if there was a correlation between occupation and cause of death.  Looking beyond the general information in a record can tell us so much more about the times in which our ancestor’s lived.

To learn more about William see posts Celebrating the Life of William Way Browning and The Joys of a Comprehensive Obituary – William Way Browning.

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

Enjoy the journey,

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Joys of a Comprehensive Obituary - William Way Browning

For a researcher an ‘Obituary’ can give us valuable information about the life of an ancestor we never knew.  A comprehensive obituary can give us valuable vital statistics, names of parents, siblings and possibly tell us about the occupation of our ancestor.  For me, the best obituary contains information about the personality of my ancestor.  I can generally locate information elsewhere about the facts of their life but where, outside of an obituary, can I learn about the person they were?

The following obituary for my maternal 3rd great-grandfather William Browning is one of the most comprehensive that I have found to date:

(click on image to enlarge)
obtained from the Files of the Bradford County Historical Society


One of Towanda’s Oldest Citizens

William W. Browning, one of Towanda’s oldest and most highly respected citizens, passed from mortal ken Friday night. He had been in poor health for a long time and in bed for five weeks, with ailments incident to old age and peacefully passed away at 11:45 o’clock at the home of his son, Councilman E. I. Browning on Mechanic street.

William W. Browning was born in Orwell township on Jan. 20, 1816, his parents being pioneer settlers in that township. When a youth he learned the trade of chairmaking, a vocation he followed in Orwell township until 1874, when he came to Towanda and entered the employ of the late J. O. Frost, continuing with the firm of J. O. Frost Sons until failing health compelled his retirement. His wife died six years ago, since which time he has made his home with his son on Mechanic street.

Deceased was of a kind, friendly disposition, honest as the day, and firm in his friendships. His allotment of 92 years were quietly spent in humble pursuits, he being content with the simple life, as it were, doing his very best always. All during his residence in Towanda, he was a good citizen, a man worthy of respect and esteem at all times. He was a charter member of the Towanda Universalist church.

He is survived by one daughter, Mrs. L.M. Coolbaugh of Lockwood, N.Y. and two sons, E.I. Browning of Towanda, and Gay Browning of Susquehanna. There are no brothers of sisters of the deceased, he being the last of his immediate family.

The funeral was held on Monday afternoon at 2 o’clock at the Browning home on Mechanic street, and interment was made in the Riverside cemetery.

Unfortunately, I am not sure of the newspaper this was found in.  I am, however, so grateful for this account of William’s life especially the third paragraph which gives me such rich information about the character of my third great-grandfather.  I wonder what his ‘humble pursuits’ were?

To read more on the life of William see post Celebrating the Life of William Way Browning.

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

Enjoy the journey,

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Celebrating the Life of William Way Browning

William Way Browning

Today is the 205th birthday of my maternal 3rd great-grandfather William Way Browning.  I wanted to remember him on his birthday and see what I could learn about him.

William was born 20 January 1816 in Orwell, Bradford County, Pennsylvania to John Wilkes and Lucy Welles Weaver Browning. William was the 5th of 6 children.

William (25 years old) is first found in the 1840 US Federal Census living by himself in Towanda, Bradford, PA employed in Manufacture and Trade.

William (age 32) married Amanda Johnson De Leon (age 26) on 1 November 1848 in Orwell, Bradford County, PA and had the following children: Harriett (my 2nd great grandmother), Eustace, Guy. I believe this may have been a second marriage for William as well as Amanda.

1850 US Federal Census on the 20th day of September shows William (34 years old) living with his wife Amanda and baby daughter Harriet, 3 months old (my 2nd great grandmother) in Orwell, Bradford County, PA with his occupation listed as a Chair Maker working in the Industry of Furniture and Fixtures. His Real Estate is valued at $400. His birthplace is listed as Pennsylvania. William and family are living next door to his inlaws-Joel and Sophronia Johnson. William’s brother Ephraim Browning (aged 31) is listed as living next door and his occupation is also a Chairmaker. I wonder if they worked together?

1860 US Federal Census on the 26th of July shows William (44 years old) living in Orwell, Bradford, PA with his wife Amanda and four children. His Occupation is Chair Maker and his Real Estate is valued at $1400 and his Personal Estate is valued at $740. There is a Chair Maker apprentice, Edwin Sherman, aged 17 living with them also. William’s birthplace is listed as Pennsylvania.

1870 US Federal Census on the 15th of August shows William (54 years old) living in LeRaysville, Bradford, PA with his wife Amanda and two children. His Occupation is Hotel Keeper. His Real Estate is valued at $2000 and his Personal Estate is valued at $1000. William’s birthplace is listed as Pennsylvania. I wonder how many hotels there were in LeRaysville in 1870?

1880 US Federal Census on 19th of June shows William (62 years old) living in Towanda, Bradford, PA (Paptor Road) with his wife Amanda, one son and one granddaughter Flora DeLeon. Their daughter Amanda had a child by her first marriage named Florence. When she remarried it looks like her daughter went to live with her parents. (see post Followup-Hattie Browning DeLeon Coolbaugh) His Occupation is Chair Maker. William’s birthplace is listed as Pennsylvania. His mother and father’s birthplaces are listed as Massachusetts. Interesting, I have information that says his parents were born in Rhode Island?

1900 US Federal Census on 20th of June shows William (84 years old) living in Towanda, Bradford, PA (19 Mechanic St West Side) His Occupation is Cabinet Maker. William’s birthplace is listed as Pennsylvania. Year of Birth-1816. His mother and father’s birthplaces are listed as Rhode Island. He can read, write and speak English. He Rents a home. He married Amanda in 1848. His son Eustace and his family live next door.

William’s wife Amanda died 23 June 1902.  They were married 5 months shy of 54 years when she passed.

William died six years later on 11 Dec 1908 at the age of 92 in Towanda, Bradford County, PA His Occupation was listed as a Chairmaker (death certificate). His son Eustace gave the information for the death certificate.

William is buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Towanda, PA.

I wonder what type/style of chairs William made and if any of them still exist?

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

Enjoy the journey,