Putting Names to Faces

Never published but written around September, 2016.

One thing that I have neglected to do is put pictures of my ancestors up on ancestry.com. I don’t know why I haven’t done it, but I recently found a picture of a common ancestor on another person’s tree and I was excited. I recognized my ancestor!

I thought it was important to put up the pictures so that others could find them. It was also nice to organize everything and see who’s pictures I had. Honestly, I didn’t have a lot. I’m not saying that I don’t have a lot of pictures, I have many of those, but I don’t have many pictures of people I know. It’s sad that most of the pictures I will never identify. It makes sense, because I’m sure that whomever owned the pictures that I now have knew who was in them. Now it’s easy to tag people in pictures and figure out who they are. Not so easy in 1900. As I firm up my trees on ancestry I will add the pictures of people that I do know and hopefully someone will recognize them.

Game Plan: Jehial Stanton

First published on September 14, 2016.

Here is my game plan for Jehial Stanton. He definitely need[s] some work, I had his birthday wrong on ancestry. Here is what I’m almost positive is a picture of him (taken from a group shot):


I though[t] he would be a good candidate for research, I have pictures and new clippings related to him, census data on him would be more substantial (mid 1800s to early 1900s) and I had no idea who his parents where. There is a lot more information to find. Without further ado, here is the list I created to help focus my research on Jehial:

  • Compile all the information I currently have, especially about his first and last name (find Jehial in 1900 census)
  • Find other Stantons who moved at the same time
  • Look at information from his children
  • Find more information about his wife (Rebecca Wright Stanton)
  • Look at Stanton Genealogies
  • Find books about the area of NY where he was born
  • Find books about the are[a] of IA/IL that he lived
  • Find out what information I can get from libraries if I go in person
  • Look at wills of family members
  • Look for diaries, church records in Scott (IA), Clinton (IA), Rock Island (IL)
  • Death date and place?
  • Look up nephew Edward Remer
  • Look up Old Settler’s Association of Rock Island County
  • Look up Rev. H.B. Cox

This is my list so far. I will try to follow this list as I research. The next few posts will be about the information that I have now. Hopefully I can get closer to Jehial’s origin story.

I’m Back And I Have Some Plans

First published on September 10, 2016.

I’m back to posting, hopefully regularly. This seems kind of counterintuitive but recently I’ve taken on a lot more responsibilities outside of work. Self care is really important to me, especially with the work that I do, and working on my ancestry is part of my self care. So I’m going to try to keep doing work on my trees and posting as regular as possible. To help with this, I’ve decided to focus my research and thus my posts on one person for now. This is Jehial Stanton. I’ve mentioned him in other posts, and I have a picture of him but I don’t know who his parents are. I’ll post my check list for my research soon and then my research as a get into it.

I’m also going to research how he got from New York to Iowa/Illinois, I have other ancestors who went from Connecticut to Iowa at the same time as well. I was talking about his story to a friend recently and she asked how he got to Iowa and I didn’t have that answer. I don’t know what I assumed. I think I was always imagining a Grapes of Wrath sort of scenario with all of the furniture plus grandma on top in the back of an old truck, but obviously in 1850 that would not be possible. She wondered if they had gone in a covered wagon akin to the Oregon Trail and that was something I never considered. So I’m also going to look into what that journey would have been like.

Like I said, I am going to try to keep up and keep researching.


First published on May 28, 2016.

I haven’t posted in awhile and I’m sorry. The truth is, I kind of got burnt out doing my research (Warning for the post, it may be a little sad and existential). I can dig and dig and dig through records to find a birth date or how many times someone was married but I’ll never really know who they really were. I won’t know what made them happy, how they acted, if they liked to bake or ride horses or read. Life now is drastically different than it was 100 years ago and somethings I will never understand. Yes, somethings are the same, but most of them aren’t. The social codes that we operate by today are different than they were even 25 years ago.

I wish that my five year old self could have asked my great grandmother what her parents were like. As much as records get me, I definitely yearn for more information, and not the kind that you can get from a census. Now we have so many ways to express ourselves. My ancestors have only to look at my Facebook or this blog to know what I was really like, and not be left the bare bones of my life.

I know that this information might be out there, but it’s probably not. It makes it more important for me to interview my family, to see what they can remember about their parents or great grandparents, to find out more about their personalities. I’ve got some interviews with my grandpa and my great-uncle so I’ll listen to those and see what I can drum up.

I work in a nursing home, dementia and memory loss are something that I encounter multiple times per day. Reminiscence is something that I try to encourage everyday at work, and I can see the light that it brings to people’s eyes when they recount a fun story about their loved ones, little quirks they may have had, trips from their childhood. It’s made me realize that the past is important. You can get stuck there, and that’s never good. But it’s important, at least for me, to know where I come from. It’s a major part of me whether or not I acknowledge it. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all these thousands of people who lived their lives.

I wonder if my ancestors would like me, or if I would like them. Thanks to all of my family, I live a great life. I have the Internet, I can spend time researching my family, and I don’t have to toil anywhere. I have access to health care and as a woman, I was able to get a graduate degree. Certainly things that it would have been hard for my grandmother to do. I think this is where my fear of disconnection comes from. I’m a different woman that I would have been had I been born in 1890 instead of 1990. Would my ancestors be able to understand my life and would I be able to understand theirs? That’s why I want to know their personalities, because that’s something that everyone has had and will have and I think that it is the easiest way to understand them at least from my perspective.

I know that this post is angsty, I’m trying to explain why sometimes digging into my ancestors burns me out. I still love to do it, and it always makes me excited. I can spend hours trying to find something and I can block out everything to the point where if my partner asks me a question, I’ll get startled. I’m going to try to organize my research, finish working on the pictures that I have and try to interview more of my family. It might be awhile yet until I post again, but I haven’t given up on discovering my origin stories.


First published on February 5, 2016.

Sorry! I haven’t posted for awhile. I was starting a new tree, and got kind of sucked into that. It’s nice to start new trees on ancestry.com because I can avoid the mistakes I made with my first trees. The biggest mistake I’ve encountered when making my trees is importing information from other trees. Sure this information might be correct but there’s no telling where that information came from. What I do now is check each tree that has been “hinted” to me, to see what sources they got their information from. Maybe this isn’t important to everyone, but I like to have an original source for all of my ancestry “data”.

Here’s an example: James Kelly, my fifth-great-grandfather was born some time (give or take 10 years) around 1760. I don’t know his actual birth year but there is a American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI) record for a James Kelly born in Massachusetts in 1760. The AGBI is a huge data base of genealogical information from genealogy records and family histories. On ancestry, this just shows as an index only record. The problem with this record is that I’m sure there was more than one James Kelly born in the state of Massachusetts in 1760. Furthermore, I can’t collaborate this information with any James Kelly in the Massachusetts Vital Records. That doesn’t mean that this James Kelly didn’t exist, it means that I can’t find any cross references to his birth or any information to narrow down his birthplace to a specific town.

Since I couldn’t find a record of a James Kelly born in this time frame, I also knew I was going to have a hard time finding out who his parents were. But when I looked at the other trees that had my James Kelly,  his parents were listed as George and Margit Kelly. Now George and Margit Kelly lived in about the same area where it would make sense that James was born and they had children that were listed in the Massachusetts Vital Records but as I said earlier James does not show up in those records. Again this doesn’t mean that James was never born but it could mean that they lived in another town when James was born and those records were lost. However I can’t verify that they were his parents through the Vital Records, and when I went to go check to see what source that this information came from, I found that it came from another tree, and then another tree and then another tree. That’s a problem I have with ancestry.com is that it is so easy to import other trees, but what ends up happening is that mistakes get compounded upon. I’m not saying that this is a mistake but even through searching archives.org, I found no genealogy that would back up this claim, so I have no idea where the information comes from.

So I guess, the moral of this post is be careful if you use ancestry.com. Make sure you check the sources of your information, and if you are going to import another tree into yours, maybe jot down some of the information first and see if you can quickly verify it, or check the sources and records of the other trees.

Quick Update

First published on October 12, 2015.

I am back from my Columbus Day Weekend trip and I have tons of new (old) photos and documents to go through, maybe more than my great-grandmother’s box. However, preliminarily these photos seem to have more names on them than the others. This collection also belonged to my great-grandmother, and was in another family member’s house. I don’t want to go too crazy scanning and preserving these photos all at once, so I’m going to take my time. I also need to try to investigate the photos that I already had. My new plan is to have two new posts a week, one will be a photo investigation and the other will be an ancestor profile. I’ll also throw in a few updates or short little posts from time to time. Hopefully through this approach, I can post more consistently.

From the Dwinells Side of Things

First published on August 31, 2015.

I’ve been focusing lately on my Husted lineage, partially because that’s the most recent research that I’ve been doing and partially because I have a treasure trove of pictures from that side of the family. However, I started my research, maybe two years ago, by following my last name, Dwinells as far back as a could.

You would think that this would be easy because my last name is unique, but because my last name is different, it was spelled so many different ways: Dwinell, Dwinnell, Dwinels, Dwinnells. You get the picture. Some of these variations in spellings are caused by error on the part of the census taker, transcriber or even the part of my ancestors. If they weren’t literate, it might be hard to spell your last name. However some of the variations are due to different parts of the family estranging themselves. I remember by grandmother saying that some parts of the family moved away and changed the spelling of our last name to even further distance themselves from relatives that they didn’t like.

Although this created a lot of confusion for me, I was able to uncover a wealth of information about the Dwinells family that goes as far back in America as the Husteds. While doing my research, I found that there was a book out there about my family genalogy, The True Genealogy of the Dunnel and Dwinnell Family of New England… by Henry Gale Dunnel, written in 1862. (I also want to mention that Internet Archive is amazing). In his introduction, Henry Gale Dunnel writes that he started his research because of the discrepancies between his father’s last, Dunnel, name and the last names of his uncles, Dwinnell.

Henry finds that his ancestor, who also happens to be my ancestor came to Topsfield, Massachusetts in the 17th century. His name was Michael and his last name varied. You can see on the genealogy that I posted, how many different spellings of his last name there are. There is some more information about Michael that I will talk about in a later post. Michael is my eight-times great-grandfather and when I discovered him, as with most of my discoveries, I was amazed. I knew the name of my eight-times great-grandfather. I knew where he lived and some of what he did. For me, that’s a big deal.

To lay the ground work for the Dwinells side of my family, I made a quick tree:



First published August 18, 2015.

I got really excited once because I thought one of my great-grandfathers name was Woolcat, which is pretty much the coolest name ever. Unfortunately, it was just a transcription error and his real name is Wolcott. That is still a cool name but not as cool as Woolcat.

Some other cool names that I have found while researching:

  • Lyman (male)
  • Jehral (male)
  • Squire (male)
  • Elnathan (male)
  • Odle (male)
  • Bethia (female)
  • Prudence (female)

I’m sure that I will find some other cool names as I continue my research, but I don’t think any would be as exciting to me was Woolcat was.

First Post

First published on August 14, 2015.

Recently, I’ve been doing some research into my family history. For my first tree I followed my last name, Dwinells, as far back as I could in the United States. I found a lot of information, especially because my last name is unique. I worked on my mother’s side of the family, following up on work done by my uncle and cousin. Finally, because we found a box of old pictures that belonged to my paternal grandfather’s mother, I followed her family tree as far back as I could in the US. Initially I used Ancestry.com but I’ve also been finding information from historical societies and ebooks that are public domain. I’m really excited about the work I’ve been doing and I thought I should start a blog, detailing my processes some interesting stories, pitfalls, successes and questions that I still have about my family.

The Journey Begins Again

I stole this title from the first generic post that word press gives you but I thought it was appropriate. I had a genealogy blog about three years ago on tumblr and I kind of stopped doing the work for many reasons. Recently, I attended a family reunion for my great-grandmother’s side of the family (my first ever family reunion!) and I was able to share my work with family I had never met. I was so excited to point out ancestors in pictures.

I think that there is so much more information for me to dig up and uncover, so I want to begin again. I’m going to start off by reposting the information from my first blog (also to give me time to make some new posts) and then keep going with my journey. I’m excited to see what I can find and the connections I can make.