Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Proving the Ancestors of John T. Griffin


We all know that Ancestry Member Trees are a double edged sword.  They can be helpful for hints, but are so full of frustrating errors and unproven links.  Last week, I stumbled upon an Ancestry tree that seemed to include my third great-grandparents, Thomas Griffin and Eliza Carpenter.  Moreover, it had several generations of Griffin ancestors attached.  This was very exciting, as the Griffins have been a difficult family to research.  If correct, this tree had potentially handed me four generations of newly-found ancestors.

Just to recap, John T. Griffin was my biological second great-grandfather.  He and my second great-grandmother, Annie Dickson, were married less than a year, and divorced before their son, George, was born.  George was adopted by his stepfather, Malcolm Rutherfurd, and no words were ever spoken about John Griffin.  When my grandmother and I started collaborating on genealogy, she'd already uncovered John Griffin's name and the Griffin-Dickson marriage registration, but she wanted to know more.  We were able to learn much about John's first wife, Ellen Pearsall, and their five children, but John's ancestors remained frustratingly mysterious.  On his marriage registration, John listed his parents as Thomas Griffin and Eliza Carpenter of New York.   I was pretty confident that a family I located in the 1850 census, living in Brooklyn, showed John with his parents and siblings. From there, it got complicated.  Every single road I went down led to a dead end.  Could this Ancestry Member Tree help?

The member tree in question asserted that Thomas Griffin's parents were Stephen Griffin and Jerusha Thorne. Of course, like so many public trees, there were no sources attached proving this was true. I set out to determine whether there was any evidence that could prove Thomas' parentage.



Location, Location, Location

At first glance, the location of the potential parents, Stephen Griffin and Jerusha Thorne, appeared to be correct.  In the 1855 New York State Census, Thomas Griffin and his wife Eliza Carpenter both stated that they were born in Westchester County, New York.  The supposed parents of Thomas, Stephen and Jerusha, were from Mamaroneck, in Westchester County.  Their families had considerable roots in this area, having lived several generations in Mamaroneck and nearby Chappaqua and New Castle.  This potential link was looking promising!

Thomas and Thorne

The Ancestry Member Tree asserted that Thomas Griffin's middle name was Thorne.  This would make sense if he truly was the son of Jerusha Thorne Griffin.  In reviewing census records, I looked again at the 1855 New York State Census, and found that the entry for my Thomas Griffin was not actually "Thom Griffin" but "Thorn Griffin."  I had assumed that the r and n were a crudely shaped m, but in looking more closely, the name was clearly spelled Thorn.  Ancestry even indexes the name as Thorn.  Why had I not noticed that before?  A case for Thomas' parents was slowly starting to build.

Death

On Family Search, I located a death record for Thomas Thorne Griffen. Griffen is a known alternate spelling of Griffin which shows up in John T. Griffin's records, as well. This record, from New York, New York City Municipal Deaths 1795-1949, lists Thomas Thorne Griffin, born about 1802 in New York State, died 1 January 1881 in Manhattan and buried 3 January 1881 in Mamaroneck, New York. He is listed as married, but the record does not give the name of his spouse. I was then able to locate a Find A Grave record for Thomas T. Griffin, 1802-1881, buried in Barker-Quaker Cemetery, Larchmont, New York.  Google informed me that Larchmont is actually a village located within the boundaries of Mamaroneck, New York.  If this is my Thomas Griffin, his death record reinforces his connection to Mamaroneck and potential parents Stephen Griffin and Jerusha Thorne.

The red circles indicate Brooklyn, Mamaroneck and Scranton.  Thomas Griffin lived in each of these cities.


But Then...

...it all got more complicated.

For one, I could find no census records showing Stephen Griffin of Mamaroneck in a household with a child the age of Thomas Thorne Griffin.  While I see tax records for Stephen Griffin in the early 1800s, I don't see him in census listings at that time.  I also could not find a will or deed for Stephen Griffin that mentioned his children.  So, there was no slam dunk bit of paperwork connecting Stephen and Thomas.  At least not that I've been able to find yet.

One of the things that has been hardest about researching this family is that they moved more than once between New York City and Scranton, Pennsylvania.  John T. Griffin and all but one of his siblings were born in Scranton between about 1830 and 1847.  The 1850 US Census shows the family living in Brooklyn, New York, and clearly lists that seven children were born in PA, but the parents and oldest son were born in NY.  This means that Thomas and Eliza were born in Westchester County, had their first child somewhere in New York, then moved to Pennsylvania and lived there for over a decade before relocating to the New York City boroughs.  They were definitely in New York during the period of 1850-1855, as they were noted in the federal and state census records for those years. However, in the 1880 US Census, I located a listing for a Thorn Griffin and Eliza Griffin living once again in Scranton.  Both were born in New York and were living with a 33-year old son named Charles J. Griffin, who was born in Pennsylvania.  This matches perfectly with the information provided in the 1850 and 1855 census records, so I'm certain this is the same family.  However, Thomas Thorn Griffin's death record indicates that he died in New York City in January 1881.  At such an advanced age, would Thomas Griffin have undertaken a trip or a move to New York City, some distance from Scranton?  Making this even more complicated, there is a death record for Eliza Jane Griffin in Scranton on March 13, 1881.  She was buried shortly thereafter in Dunmore, PA.  Did Thomas Griffin take a trip to New York and die there, while Eliza remained behind in Scranton?  Are we dealing with two different Thomas Griffins?

So, I started digging into the Scranton connection a little more.  I've always wondered why the Griffins were going back and forth between New York City and Scranton.  They aren't exactly neighboring cities.  John T. Griffin and at least one of his brothers were involved in boat building and sailing, for which there were no opportunities in Scranton.  Why did his parents move there repeatedly?  Some simple searches on the history of Scranton opened up a whole new can of worms that took me even further away from the proof of parentage I was hoping to find.

To be continued....


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: Mark Lacey

I've been a little slow to get back to blogging in the new year.  I made some exciting discoveries at the end of 2015 and was writing a lot, but after the holiday break, it's been hard to get back in the swing of things.  The good news is that I think I'm on the precipice of a major breakthrough with my very challenging Griffin ancestors, and I hope I'll be writing about that soon.  In the meantime, there's nothing like a GeneaBloggers Daily Blogging Prompt to force one to just start typing.

The tomb of Mark Lacey on Omey Island


Mark Thomas Lacey

Mark Thomas Lacey was my second great-grandfather.  His son, Thomas Mark Lacey, my great-grandfather, left their hometown of Rossadillisk, Ireland in the early 1900s, sailed to San Francisco, and started the California branch of the Lacey tree.

Mark Lacey was born about 1848 in Rossadillisk, on the far west edge of Connemara in County Galway.  He was married first to my second great-grandmother, Bridget Feeney.  She died young, after bearing two children, Thomas and John.  Mark then married his second wife, Mary Coyne. They had seven children together.  Three of their sons would die in the Cleggan Disaster in 1927.  Only Mary would witness that tragedy, however.  Mark Lacey died on August 10, 1908, nearly twenty years before the terrible storm at sea.

Mark Lacey and Mary Coyne Lacey are buried on Omey Island. Buried in the same plot is their daughter Mary Lacey O’Toole, son-in-law Patrick O’Toole and grandson Michael O’Toole.

Close up of Mark Lacey's stone
Omey Island is a tidal island located on the southwestern portion of the peninsula where the Laceys lived in County Galway.  To get there, you travel to Claddaghduff, wait for the tide to go out, and then walk or drive across the sand to the island.  It's then important to get back off the island before the tide rises.  Omey Island was once the home of an ancient monastery.  Today, it's visited primarily for the graveyard and an annual horse race.  The gravestones that are still legible date back into the 1800s, but this island was a burial ground long before then.  This is a tough environment for tombstones, though.  Between the ocean salt and the fierce wind, engraved stones are soon wiped clean.  Most of the markers on the island are just that--- round pieces of rock, worn down, without words.

Driving across the sand to Omey Island
Looking towards Claddaghduff from Omey Island
Memorial to the Cleggan Disaster on Omey Island







Thursday, December 31, 2015

My 2016 Research Goals




I'd like to share my genealogy-related goals for 2016.  I set goals for both 2014 and 2015 and found that this helped me stay focused on my top priorities throughout the year.

I made quite a lot of progress on my goals in 2015.  For the past two years, I've been working on uncovering the lineage of my fourth great-grandmother, Amelia Brown Bellangee.  In 2015, I not only learned who her parents were, but was able to connect her to her grandfather, a Revolutionary War veteran.  One of my other goals revolved around my husband's Pinto ancestors.  This year, I was able to find documentation connecting Miles Augustus Pinto and his father, Isaac Pinto.

Hopefully, the success will continue in 2016!  Here are my top priorities:

1. GRIFFIN
The Griffins continue to be a major brick wall.  I worked on this family quite a bit in 2015 but still cannot prove the parents and siblings of my second great-grandfather John T. Griffin.  I believe I know who his parents are, but haven't found much in the way of actual proof.  I also can't seem to determine the parents of those supposed parents, which might help.  This family lived alternately in New York City and in the areas surrounding Scranton, Pennsylvania.  However, I haven't been able to find much in the way of census records, birth/death/marriage records, or probate documents.  This will be my primary focus in 2016.

2. SMITH
This is another holdover from 2014 and 2015, which I haven't worked on much due to the focus on the Griffin family.  We are missing a generation in our Smith family tree. I know that my fourth great-grandfather, Samuel B. Smith of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was the grandson of Captain Samuel Smith of Winchester, New Hampshire. We have land deeds and other family records proving as much. However, I don't know who Samuel B. Smith's father was with certainty. I am pretty certain his name was also Samuel Smith, but looking for a Samuel Smith in New England is like a needle in a haystack.

3. MATTHEWS
In 2014, I was able to prove the parentage of my third great-grandmother, Temperance Burns.  I now know that her parents were Absolom Burms and Nancy Matthews.  However, I can't seem to go any further back than that.  Right now, I'm focusing on Nancy, since she is the last known ancestor in my direct maternal line.  All I know about Nancy is that she was born about 1800 in North Carolina, and married Absolom Burns in Tennessee before moving with him to Illinois.  My next step will be to try to locate a marriage record for Nancy that might name her parents.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Heritage Day: Helping Children Celebrate Their Ancestors

Part of the Heritage Day display at my son's school.


Among my friends who are interested in genealogy, the topic of how to interest our children in family history is a recurring one.  I've written before about sharing your family history with children and young adults, but am constantly looking for new ways to engage the next generation with stories of the past.  That is why I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the second grade at my son's school would be celebrating what they called Heritage Day.

Just before Thanksgiving, the second grade teachers sent home a family history questionnaire and a blank paper doll.  The children were tasked with interviewing a family member about their ancestry, and then working with a parent to decorate the doll to reflect their heritage.  My son interviewed me, and I told him stories about both mine and my husband's lineage.  He wrote parts of it down, choosing what he thought was most interesting to share.  We worked together on the doll, which featured a green yarn cap and shamrock shirt buttons.

Cambodia, Greece, Japan, Mexico and Ireland were all represented here.


The completed questionnaires and dolls were displayed in the school's multipurpose room, and parents were invited to join the second grade classes for a celebration of heritage and culture.  The children sang four songs about immigration and family roots.  The parents brought food items reflecting their ethnicity.  We ended up with three big loaves of Irish Soda Bread, including mine, but fortunately, other families came through with Danish Aebelskiver, Filipino Lumpiang Shanghai, Japanese Mochi, Guatemalan Estofado and German Bratwurst, among many delicious offerings.

It was a lovely event, and such a fun way to involve children in their family history.  The parents were amazed by the care that had gone into all of the heritage dolls, and as we stood reading the stories on our children's questionnaires, we learned a lot about each other.  We started swapping stories about our ancestors and how they came to America.  We were surprised to find that friends we'd assumed were German were also Sicilian; that some families had only moved to this country recently.  The children learned from this exercise, but parents did, too.  It brought us all together, happily celebrating our diverse backgrounds with our kids.  I can only hope that other schools will also choose to host Heritage Day.  I can't think of a better way to engage young children in their family history.


Dolls representing Trinidad and Tobago and Scotland.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Five Reasons to Write a Family History Blog





Lately, I've been reflecting on the evolution of this blog and everything I've learned in the past two years.  Writing about my family's history in this format has been a wonderful way of continuing and sharing the genealogy research my grandmother started.  It's been such a positive experience for me that I'm always telling fellow genealogists that they should start a blog, too.  In an effort to persuade anyone who might be reading this blog but not writing their own, here's a list of why you, too, should be writing a family history blog.

Five Reasons to Write a Family History Blog


1. Blogging helps you re-evaluate and correct your previous research

Every time I write a post about an ancestor, I must re-examine all their documentation and make sure that what I have is correct.  There have been instances where I've found that my past research is a little flimsy and I have had to go looking for further proof of that ancestor's relationships. In one circumstance, preparing to write about my third great-grandmother led me to believe that half the information I thought I knew about her was wrong. Also, with every single post I've written, I've had to dive deeper into that ancestor's life and look more closely at the place and time they lived. In the process, I have learned new things and been able to share them in the post.  I didn't know nearly as much as I thought I did about my ancestors until I began writing about them.

2. Blogging allows you to tell the story of your ancestors

Too many of our ancestors are just names and dates on a page.  When you start trying to tell a story about them, they become so much more interesting.  Even if you think you don't know enough about them, in almost every circumstance you can, with a little research, pull together enough information to create a narrative.  These stories make ancestors much more compelling.

3. Blogging helps to engage younger family members

As I wrote in my post about involving children and young adults in your research, writing a blog is a great way to engage the younger generation.  These short format histories can easily be shared via email and social media, which is exactly the way young people like to receive their information.

4. Blogging is a great way to meet new cousins and others who can be helpful to your research

In the two years I've been writing this blog, I've had a number of people stumble across it because they were researching shared ancestors.  One of these new cousins was able to help me break through a brick wall relating to my Burns ancestors.  Others have provided photos and details about family members that I wouldn't have had access to, otherwise.  In the case of Gil Cook, I was contacted by a historian who has gathered people interested in the 7th Bombardment Group on Facebook.  As a part of this group, I have gained new acquaintances who have provided further details about Gil's service. Putting information about your family online in a publicly searchable fashion can lead to many beneficial connections.

5. Blogging is an easy and effective way to share your work for posterity

You work hard researching your family.  It makes sense to share that work with other people.  Writing a book about your ancestors is a good and lofty goal, but one that most researchers don't achieve.  It's very time consuming and sometimes overwhelming work.  Writing a blog enables you to share the same information in a piecemeal way, and get that information out to your family members now, not 20 years from now.

Bonus #6: Blogging has reinvigorated my genealogy work and helped me to fall in love with researching again.  In fulfilling a promise to my grandmother to organize and share our family's history, I've remembered why we bonded over this in the first place.  It reminds me why I'm doing this work and how much it matters, not just to my immediate family, but to people all over the world who may have a connection to my ancestors.

I hope I've convinced you!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Major Breakthrough: How Searching for a Surname Solved Two Big Mysteries and Revealed an American Revolutionary

The March to Valley Forge (1883) by William B.T. Trego


I learned two important things this week.
  1. In genealogy the answer is often right in front of you.
  2. One small discovery can create a chain reaction of secondary discoveries.
Also, sometimes you go looking for an ancestor and unearth a connection to some of the most important events in American history.


DAVOCK

I was looking for a Davock family in Buffalo, New York.  My second great-grandmother, Annie Dickson, had an older sister whose middle name has always puzzled me.  Elizabeth Davock Dickson was clearly named for someone, but Davock wasn't a surname I recognized.  It appears nowhere in my family tree.  Earlier this year, I discovered a 1865 census record that showed Elizabeth Davock Dickson's parents, George W. Dickson and Mary Elizabeth Bellangee, living with a Maria Davock and her children in Buffalo, New York.  I guessed that perhaps Maria and her family had been special to George and Mary for some reason, and they had named their daughter in this family's honor.  Still, I had no proof of this or knowledge of their actual relationship.

BROWN

Concurrently, I was looking for the parents of my fourth great-grandmother, Amelia Brown Bellangee.  Amelia was the mother of Mary Elizabeth Bellangee and grandmother of Elizabeth Davock Dickson.  She has caused me no end of headaches over the years, as her lineage simply could not be uncovered.  I knew that Amelia was born somewhere in the vicinity of Buffalo, New York and likely died in Cincinnati, Ohio, but searches in New York and Ohio turned up no credible leads for her parents.

DICKSON

I've been writing about my Dickson ancestors for most of this year.  Recently, I profiled my fourth great grandfather, William Dickson, in a series of blog posts.  While reading through a biography of William Dickson written by his son, William Dickson Young, one line stopped me in my tracks.

"He [George W. Dickson] married Mary Bellangee of Milwaukee, Wisc., a niece of Mrs. Davocks [sic] who lived on Delaware Avenue, in a house where the Westminster Parish House now stands."

I'd read this biography in the past, but for some reason, had never picked up on the mention of Mrs. Davocks.  Why had I never recognized the significance of this surname?  Immediately, I started researching.  Who was Mrs. Davocks?  Was she related to Maria Davock?  How were they connected to the Dickson and Bellangee families?

THE SEARCH

My first step was to do some research on Maria Davock.  I went back to the 1865 New York census and found Maria Davock living on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo with her five children, John, William, Ella, Harlow and Hattie.  There were George Dickson and Mary Elizabeth Bellangee Dickson in her household, just as I remembered. Since no husband was listed with the family, I guessed that Maria had been widowed prior to 1865.  Online family trees suggested her husband was John W. Davock, a tanner who had died in 1853.  I made a note of this and continued to look around for proof of Maria's family relationships.  Fortunately, this family is fairly well documented.  I found multiple census records and city directory listings that confirmed their location and relationships, plus a cemetery photo showing John W. and Maria's shared headstone, complete with full names and dates. Everything was coming together.  The record that finally made all the pieces snap into place was an unusual one, though.  In the Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications 1889-1970 database, I found an application submitted by Maria's son, Harlow Palmer Davock.  In paperwork requesting membership, Harlow listed the names of his parents, maternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents.

Harlow Davock named his parents as Maria Brown Davock and John W. Davock.  That's right, Brown! William Dickson Young had claimed that Mary Bellangee was a niece of Maria Davock. This means that Maria Brown Davock was the sister of Mary's mother, Amelia Brown.  Suddenly, multiple branches of my family tree collided.  It makes sense that the Dicksons, Browns and Bellangees all knew one another, but I'd never been able to put it together until this moment.

Harlow Davock did me another favor by listing in his application the names of his maternal grandparents and great-grandparents.  This allowed me to corroborate his claims using census records and published histories of Connecticut and the Brown family.  Amelia and Maria Brown's parents were William Brown, M.D. and B. Palmer Brown.  I later determined that their mother's full name was Bridget Palmer.  William Brown's parents were Joseph Brown and Elizabeth Gary.  Joseph Brown was the ancestor that Harlow Davock knew would gain him membership in Sons of the American Revolution.



THE REVOLUTIONARY

Joseph Brown, my newly-discovered sixth great-grandfather, was a farmer in Killingly, Connecticut. When tensions reached their peak between American colonists and the British in 1775, he fell firmly on the side of the rebels. After the opening shots of the Revolutionary War were fired in Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Brown joined a hastily-assembled Connecticut company that marched north to Massachusetts to support the colonists fighting there.  Brown served in Elwell's regiment only a short time during the Lexington Alarm, but his participation in these early days of the American Revolution was an exciting revelation for me.

I'm a history buff who has been to Lexington and Concord and stood on the spot where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired.  I still inexplicably remember every word of "Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, decades after being required to memorize it in elementary school. This is a period in time that has always captivated me.  Discovering that my ancestor volunteered immediately after the skirmish at Lexington, and participated in the opening salvo of what was to be the Revolutionary War, was thrilling.

When the British troops, after a night of marching, reached the village of Lexington, they saw through the early morning mist a grim band of 50 minutemen-armed colonists-lined up across the common. There was a moment of hesitation, cries and orders from both sides and, in the midst of the noise, a shot. Firing broke out along both lines, and the Americans dispersed, leaving eight of their dead upon the green. The first blood of the war for American independence had been shed. 
The British pushed on to Concord, where the "embattled farmers" at North Bridge "fired the shot heard round the world." Their purpose partly accomplished, the British force began the return march. All along the road, behind stone walls, hillocks, and houses militiamen from village and farm made targets of the bright red coats of the British soldiers. By the time the weary column stumbled into Boston its losses totaled nearly three times those sustained by the colonists. 
The news of Lexington and Concord flew from one local community to another in the thirteen colonies. Within 20 days, it evoked a common spirit of American patriotism from Maine to Georgia. [source: The Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut]

Joseph Brown was swept up in that spirit of American patriotism.  After the Lexington Alarm, he reenlisted, serving in Captain Joseph Elliott's company.

In 1777-1779, Joseph Brown served as an ensign in the Fifth Regiment Connecticut Line Formation. He fought in the Battle of Germantown in October 1777, a devastating American loss which resulted in the city of Philadelphia temporarily remaining under British control.  However, recognizing the American effort in this battle, the French resolved to more strongly support the colonial army.

That the battle had been fought unsuccessfully was of small importance when weighed against the fact that it been fought at all. Eminent generals, and statesmen of sagacity, in every European Court were profoundly impressed by learning that a new army, raised within the year, and undaunted by a series of recent disasters, had assailed a victorious enemy in his own quarters, and had only been repulsed after a sharp and dubious conflict. [source: History of the American Revolution Volume IV by Sir George Otto Trevelyan]
Having survived the Battle of Germantown, Joseph Brown was assigned to Huntington's Brigade and spent the winter of 1777-1778 in the infamous winter camp at Valley Forge.

That's right, my sixth great-grandfather was at Valley Forge.  With George Washington.

This was the turning point of the American Revolution.  When we think of Valley Forge, most of us think of those bloody footprints in the snow, the starving and freezing men passing a bitter winter without sufficient food, clothing and shelter.  But of course, Valley Forge was also the place the colonial army regrouped and became better-trained soldiers.

The suffering and sacrifices of the American soldiers at Valley Forge are familiar, iconic images, but there is another side of the picture. Valley Forge was where a new, confident, professional American army was born. Three months of shortage and hardship were followed by three months of relative abundance that led to wonderful changes in the morale and fighting capabilities of the Continental Army. France would enter the war on the side of the new nation. Valuable foreign volunteers and fresh replacements would trickle into camp. Most important, it was at Valley Forge that a vigorous, systematic training regime transformed ragged amateur troops into a confident 18th century military organization capable of beating the Red Coats in the open field of battle. [source: ushistory.org]



My family tree gained several generations this week.  I wish my grandmother was here to discuss this discovery with me, because I know she would have been thrilled with the breakthrough and the connection to some of the most important moments in American history.  This makes all these years of fruitless research on Amelia Brown completely worth it.  Rarely in genealogical research do you experience a breakthrough quite this rewarding.  I'm savoring this one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Memoirs of Elizabeth Dickson Young (Part 2)

In my last post, I shared portions of an autobiography written by Elizabeth Dickson Young. Elizabeth was the youngest daughter of my fourth great-grandparents, William Dickson and Mary Ann Browning.  Her memoirs are some of the best insights we have into the Dickson family's life in Buffalo, New York.  In this post, I will continue to transcribe Elizabeth's recollections.

Elizabeth Jane Dickson

In the mid-1800s, horses were the primary method of transportation in Buffalo.  William Dickson's horse Billy seems to have been a local character, as he was also mentioned in the autobiography of Elizabeth's son, William Dickson Young.  Transportation, modernization and the old horse Billy feature in Elizabeth Dickson Young's memoirs, as well.

We at old Barker Street had a farm in a small way.  We always had two horses and often three.  Old Billy, father's horse, and Kate, the one my sister Esther used for horse back and driving, and almost always one of those devilish little western ponies father brought down from Chicago for the boys.  There was always some excitement with them.  About once a week they would toss one of the boys off or father would try to break them to harness and mother usually in hysterics in the house, sure some of them would be killed. 
Everyone knew the old white horse Billy.  Father would go downtown in the cutter.  He would meet some of his friends and they would go somewhere to play dominoes and rather than to have the old horse stand in the cold, father would fold the fur robes in the bottom, fasten the lines and tell Billy to go home.  He always arrived with a cry to be let into the barn, robes all tight; no one stopped him because everyone knew Billy.  Mother would not ride with father because he would drive fast and pass everyone and mother was afraid.  So the last few years of his life I always went with him.  He would take me for an hour's skating on the Rumsey Pond, then we would ride and father would have his fun. 
When I was a little girl the only way of reaching the city, unless one drove his own horse, were the omnibuses, which were owned by Jake Miller, Charley Miller's father, and they only went as far as Cold Springs (Ferry and Main streets), turning about there and going back down Main St.  I think it was sometime between my eighth birthday and my tenth that the first horse cars were put on Main Street.  There was a little box in front to drop your money in and the driver kept his eye on each passenger until he had put his money in the box, for there was no conductor.  They stopped anywhere then, at the corners or in the middle of the block. 
When I was about ten years old we had the first illuminating gas put in the house at Barker Street, but when it was time to light it no one dared to do it.  Esther said it will surely blow the house up.  They would light matches, begin to turn it on and then back away.  Finally they let me try and as I was not much afraid of anything I was successful and we felt pretty smart.  


Horse drawn street cars in New York (left) and Ohio (right) in the late 1800s.


When the Dickson family was living on Barker Street, their neighborhood was a rather rural environment.  These days, that intersection is much more urban.  The location where the Dickson house stood now features a large apartment complex.

When my father bought on Barker Street and built there, there were very few houses about.  In my early girlhood there were quite a number.  On the corner of Main and Barker, southwest corner, Mr. Guyes B. Ritch lived, on the northwest corner Mr. Gibson T. Williams.  On the northwest corner of Barker and Delaware Mr. Stocking and on the southeast corner Mr. Stevens.1  All these lived there many years. 
My father owned a large piece of land bounded by Delaware, Bird, Forest and Lincoln Parkway-- 21 acres.  We pastured our cows there as did Mr. Castle.  Tommy Castle and Rob took them to pasture and I often went with them, riding in Tommy's little gig.  We would take our lunch and stay all day.   
I was born in the downstairs bedroom [at the Barker Street house], which faces Delaware Ave., on October 6th 1847, and was the seventh child.  Six of us lived to grow up, but I am the last one left alive, and all are buried in Forest Lawn lot, in the same lot, except my brother George, who died in California and is buried there. 
It was all country out there then and we all had such good times.  Mattie Williams and I had seven boys for playmates and we certainly could keep up with them in everything they undertook, even to playing billiards, bowling, walking tight ropes and climbing to the top of everything.  Nothing stopped us.  After Linwood Ave. was cut through, the water would collect in winter on the sides of the road and freeze and we would start at Barker Street and skate up to North Street on one side and back on the other.

The Dicksons' neighbor, Gibson T. Williams.  Photo: "History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County" by H. Perry Smith.


Above, Elizabeth mentions her brother George, who was my third great-grandfather and the ancestor who brought our family to California.

Elsewhere in her memoirs, Elizabeth notes a visit to her Aunt Sarah.  This is Sarah Dickson Armstrong, the elder sister of Elizabeth's father, William Dickson.

When I was eight years old, I took my first railroad journey (1855), with my mother, to Drumbo, Ontario, to visit my Aunt Sarah, my father's sister.  It was winter.  My mother and I left in the early morning and arrived at Paris about noon, where we had to sit in a sleepy cold railroad station for four hours for a delayed train, which would take us to Drumbo, which we reached after dark.  My cousin William was there to meet us.  It was cold winter weather, with the snow piled up everywhere.  William said, "I have come for you with a yoke of oxen," which were fastened to a large flat sleigh, with hay in the bottom, and mother and I crawled in.  I was much tickled to ride in this way. Of course they walked very slowly and as they lived some way from the station we were some time reaching there.  When we did, and the door was thrown open for us, there was Aunt Sarah, with a cap, with a very full ruffled edge on her head sitting in front of a big log fire, the kind where the logs are so big they have to be rolled on, and with a large spinning wheel in front of her, spinning.  I shall never forget it.  Outside the white snow banked up everywhere and the open door with that picture inside.  We had supper in a very large kitchen.  I should say thirty feet square, with corn in bunches hanging from the ceiling and apples dried and strung in long festoons back and forth.  It was all new to me.  We were there two for weeks and something new to see each day.

The cousin William she mentions is almost certainly Sarah Dickson Armstrong's son, William Thomas Armstrong (b. 1825).

Finally, Elizabeth recalls a brush with royalty.  On September 10, 1860, the Prince of Wales embarked on a royal tour of Canada and the United States.  The eldest son of Queen Victoria would later become King Edward VII, and the great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.  It seems that the Dickson family had two audiences with the future king during his tour.

When I was about twelve years old the Prince of Wales (who was afterward King Edward VII) came to this country.  I saw him at Collingwood [Ontario].  Father, mother, Esther and I had gone up on one of the boats and the three older ones (not me) were asked to a dinner given at the hotel.  We had a fine place to watch the Prince and after the exercises Mr. McCoy, the conductor on his train, said to father, "While you are at dinner I will take your little daughter for a ride in the prince's car."  We were out about an hour and I do not think there was much I did not see.  The next day we went to Tornoto, and on the morning after the big ball were taken to the Crystal Palace to see the decorations of the ball (my sister Esther was invited to the ball) and I regretted that I did not have some bottles in my pocket, as there were two fountains of cologne and I could have filled them.

A complete account of the Prince of Wales' visit can be found in Visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to the British North American Provinces and the United States in Year 1860 by Robert Cellum and Royal Spectacle: The 1860 Visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada and the United States by Ian Radforth.

A silver-printed dance card from the Prince's reception at Osgood Hall in Toronto, which was attended by Esther Dickson.


The autobiography of Elizabeth Dickson Young provides wonderful anecdotes about her childhood in Buffalo and life in the Dickson family home.  Without her memoir, these colorful stories would be lost to time.  I am very grateful that we can still read them some eighty years after Elizabeth's death in 1935.



1 The Dicksons' neighbor, Mr. Stocking, was Thomas R. Stocking, a politician who served as a member of the Erie County Legislature and was a Buffalo city supervisor. Another neighbor, Gibson T. Williams, was a noted banker and industrialist. The neighbor referred to as "Guyes B. Ritch" was actually Gaius Barrett Rich, President of the Buffalo Commercial Bank and a well-known New York financier. The final neighbor mentioned, Mr. Stevens, was Frederick P. Stevens, a judge who served as Mayor of Buffalo from 1856-1857. He was also a member of the New York State Assembly.