Tombstone Tuesday: John Elam Whitehead, a case study for finding elusive ancestors (On a Wing and a Hunch)

It’s been awhile since I posted an article.  I’ve been busy with other projects — writing and research.  From my latest ancestry research project I’d like to share a case study for finding elusive ancestors.  If you’re searching for some of those, perhaps it will encourage you to keep digging. When I begin a research project I never know what I’ll find (don’t we all know that!)  My client had begun her search awhile back and recently received her Ancestry DNA results, yet still didn’t know a whole lot about her family history.  In her possession are two books representing significant research published several years ago on two lines:  Belshe and Minear. Those types of books can certainly be helpful, but if you don’t understand how to interpret the research what good are they.  Still, once I found the names of the ancestors I knew were part of her line, it rolled out quickly. That was great to get a line or two started and begin exploring more in-depth research (and verification), but there were still many mysteries to be solved.  One in particular was my client’s great grandfather John Elam Whitehead, a Methodist Episcopal minister. John Elam Whitehead:  Who Were His Parents? I like to start out with census records, particularly for anyone born in 1835 and after because they usually begin to show up with their parents in the 1850 census.  I had an approximate date for John’s birth (around 1852) and soon found his grave stone at Find-A-Grave.  The inscription only contained birth year and death year (1852-1937). Of course, I first began searching, not only...

Tombstone Tuesday: Zilpha Etta Scott Dockery (1796-1903)

She was born on September 8, 1796 in Virginia and moved with her family to Spartanburg, South Carolina at the age of three, an event she remembered vividly in 1902 when interviewed by the Dallas Morning News.  John Scott was a farmer and the father of three sons and eight daughters. While most of her family appears to have died young, Zilpha would more than outlive all of them, her life spanning three centuries.  When she was born George Washington was serving his second term as the first president of the United States.  Although Napoleon Bonaparte had just married Josephine his rise to power had not yet evolved. “My people were hard-working people,” she declared.  “We worked in the fields with plows drawn by oxen and made crops that way for my father the year before I was married.”1  Her childhood dresses were made of flax cloth, although she fondly remembered the first calico dress she made. “Calico was so skeerce and expensive we couldn’t afford any flounces and frills and trains them days.”  Instead, Zilpha wove flax cloth and traded it yard for yard for calico.  It was “purty”, she remembered in 1902, and she herself was “naturly purty”.  In those days folks didn’t wear their shoes on the way to church, corn shuckings, logrollings, weddings or fairs.  They would walk barefoot until reaching their destination, put their shoes on and take them off again before walking home. Zilpha married William Hiram Dockery in 1818, with whom she had nine children – six sons and three daughters.  From Spartanburg, they moved and settled among the Cherokee Indians in...

Tombstone Tuesday: Carbon Petroleum Dubbs (a “for-real” name with a rags-to-riches story)

Carbon Petroleum Dubbs was born in Franklin, Pennsylvania to parents Jesse and Jennie (Chapin) Dubbs on June 24, 1881.  Jesse was born in the same county (Venango) in 1856, around the time the country’s first oil was discovered, and grew up during the early boom years.  It wasn’t surprising that Jesse, son of druggist Henry Dubbs, developed a fascination with the oil industry, nor that he named his son after one of oil’s elemental components.  Carbon later added a “P.” to his name to make it more “euphonious”.  When people began calling him “Petroleum” (perhaps people assumed that’s what the “P” stood for)  the name stuck, thus he became known as “Carbon Petroleum Dubbs” (“C.P.”). Jesse set up a “dinky” chemistry lab in a small oil field and began experimenting in an attempt to discover a way to produce gasoline from crude oil.  In 1890 his neighbor, Senator Richard Quay, had him arrested for “maintaining a common nuisance” – the stench was more than the senator could bear.  A trial was held a few months later and a split decision resulted – yes, he was guilty of creating a nuisance but on the second charge of continuing a nuisance he was exonerated.  However, as the newspaper headline asked – “Will This Stop the Bad Odor?”1 As an “inveterate tinkerer”2 Jesse was constantly discovering new ways to use petroleum.  Like his father Henry he was a druggist by trade, inventing a protective jelly for miners, as well as inventing a process to extract sulfur from crude oil.  His experiments took him far and wide around the world, despite once being...

Tombstone Tuesday: The Lakin Brothers (R.I.P. December 7, 1941)

They may have joined the Navy a little over a year before that fateful day in December of 1941 to “see the world”.  President Roosevelt was vowing to keep America out of the growing European conflict, but in November 1940 two brothers, Donald Lapier Lakin and Joseph Jordan Lakin, Jr., enlisted in the Navy. Donald and Joseph were both born in Kansas, the sons of Joseph and Blanche Lakin.  Donald was born on June 7, 1917 and Joseph on October 17, 1919.  Joseph, Sr. was a Marine veteran of the Spanish-American War.  Born in Kansas, Joseph migrated back and forth between Doniphan County, Kansas and Ontario, California where he worked as a laborer or farmer. The family was living back in Kansas in 1930 and Blanche passed away in 1935, buried in Doniphan County.  Mary, Joseph and Blanche’s daughter, had already married and was residing in San Diego County in 1940.  Joseph, Jr. was enumerated with his father in Ontario on April 26, 1940 and employed at a bowling alley. The whereabouts of Donald is unknown, however, although newspaper accounts would later state the family had moved to California in 1937.  Nevertheless, Seaman First Class Donald L. Lakin and Seaman First Class Joseph J. Lakin enlisted in November and by December 31, 1940 were assigned to the USS Arizona.  The battleship had been transferred from California to Hawaii in April 1940 along with the rest of the Pacific fleet, but from October 1940 to January 1941 was overhauled at the Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington. Since the presence of the entire Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor was meant to...

Tombstone Tuesday: Thomas Jefferson Pilgrim

Thomas Jefferson Pilgrim was born on December 4, 1804 in East Haddam, Connecticut, the first child of eleven born to Thomas and Dorcas (Ransom) Pilgrim.  His family were devout Baptists and T.J. Pilgrim would spend a lifetime devoted to religious education. After receiving his license to preach Thomas entered Hamilton Literary and Theological Institute, part of Colgate University, at the age of eighteen.  Even though his health was delicate he joined a group of sixty colonists and migrated to Texas following the completion of his education. The migrants traveled to Cincinnati by water, via a raft built in two pieces and led by Elias R. Wightman.  The first day was trouble-free although by that night they were cold and wet.  After seeking shelter in an Indian village along the north bank, an old chief had pity and escorted them to a small cabin. Although small (about twenty square feet), the cabin had a good floor and fireplace and the colonists had a warm place to sleep that night and food to eat.  The raft trip continued past Pittsburgh and upon arrival in Cincinnati the migrants purchased provisions.  Planning ahead in preparation for residing in Texas, Thomas bought a set of Spanish books so he could learn the language prior to arrival. After waiting two weeks for a ship, a vessel from Maine run by three men became available for rental for a sum of five hundred dollars.  However, it was determined only one of the crewmen proved capable of delivering the passengers to their destination.  The captain instead offered to sell the vessel to the migrants for the same...

Tombstone Tuesday: William Cobbledick

   William D. Cobbledick was born in Whitley, Canada in 1849 and moved to Marshall, Michigan with his parents at the age of six months.  While early records for William and his family are scarce, I believe his parents were John and Mary (Derbuiny?) Cobbledick.  Other than the 1870 census the only other family record might have been one for Mary Cobbledick of St. Clair County whose name appears in an 1860 Federal Population Schedule index.  There were other Canadian-born members of the Cobbledick family enumerated in St. Clair County, Michigan that year as well, but no John or William. In fact, there seems to have been a large contingent of the Cobbledick family members who had migrated to America as evidenced by compiled census records at Ancestry.com.  The surname  originated in England, but as of 2014 only 737 people in the entire world bore the name (South Africa – 274; Australia – 156; England – 151; Canada – 83; United States – 72; Latvia – 1).1 The Internet Surname Database notes the surname and its various spellings include: Cobbledick, Cobledike, Cobbleditch, Copleditch, Copeldick, Cuppleditch (perhaps) and Cobberduke (now extinct).  The name may have been locational, perhaps derived from a region of East Anglia and referring to ditch or dike/dyke built of cobble.  Cobble was an early form of construction used in Norfolk and Suffolk. Charles Bardsley, a leading Manchester minister, published Our English Surnames in 1873 and later claimed the name meant “Cobbalds dyke” – Cobbald was an early first name.2  The Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, also by Bardsley and published in 1901 by his widow,...