The Ellisons in Knox County


Ancestor of the Week: The Ellison Family
Prompt of the Week: 52 Ancestors week 8 – (Feb. 19-25): Prosperity

Let’s revisit my 3rd great-grandfather, Thomas Ellison, born in Kentucky 10 July 1809 and moving to Illinois by 1835. He lived the rest of his long life of 87 years in Orange Township, then Cedar Township, and then Abingdon, all in Knox County. In those early days, everyone lived in log cabins and in 1836 he taught school in a log building with unplastered walls.

Annals of Knox County - first school, Thomas Ellison

From the Annals of Knox County.

After combing through some Knox County histories, I’ve failed to find much about his life. In 1836, he married Nancy Huddleson in Illinois. Later, I find a mention of a Captain Thomas Ellison who had an early hotel in Knox County but I’ve found no military records to verify the Captain. Perhaps he was involved in the Black Hawk War of 1832, but I have no record for that either. Is it a cousin, uncle, some unrelated person, or our Thomas Ellison?

The Ellison Family Prospered in Knox County

The distant cousin in Maryland sent me some more photos. Several appear to be Thomas Ellison. He looks like a prosperous man. The 1850 census says he is a farmer with land valued at $2,000. By 1860, his land is valued at $30,000 with personal real estate of $1,500 and his 20-year-old son James Milton Ellison is working the farm also and there is a 16-year-old hired man as well.

ellison skaggs maybe 4

Unlabeled photo from distant cousin

Ten more years pass and at age 60, Thomas is no longer farming. He is a pattern rights broker. His real estate is valued at $14,000 and his personal estate at $3,000. That combined value is equal to $334,730 in 2020 dollars when adjusted for inflation. At a wild guess, I’d say a “pattern rights broker” may have had something to do with patents.

The photo mats above and below say “Abingdon, Illinois” and the hairstyle and face certainly look like the same man as the earlier photos (see them further down the page). The next question is who are the other people in the photo.  I’m speculating that the woman is one of his daughters and the little girls would be Thomas’ granddaughters. His wife died in 1879.

The Ellison Daughters

  • Mary J. Ellison 1837–1912 – She married David Andrews and they had six children. Three were daughters (Olive E Andrews born 1867, Lizzie Andrews born 1868, and Stella Andrews born 1872). I’m not finding photos of them for comparison.
  • Elizabeth Ellison 1838–1917 – needs more research
  • Sarah Ann Ellison 1839–1887 – my 2nd great-grandmother who married Thomas Coleman Martin in Illinois in 1854. By 1860, they were in Kansas Territory. Three of their children were born in Illinois and one in Emporia, Kansas. I don’t have a photo of Sarah Ann or Thomas Coleman Martin to compare.
  • Minerva Elizabeth Ellison 1846–1921 – She married John Christopher Marion Redmon in Greenwood County, Kansas, but later they returned to Knox County, Illinois. I didn’t find any children for them.
maybe thomas ellison and grandchildren

Unlabeled photo that I believe is Thomas Ellison and maybe, just maybe, his daughter, Sarah Ann

Earlier, Identified Photos

Here’s what we already have (below) that we determined was Thomas Ellison. For more about the painting, check the earlier posts on Thomas Ellison and his granddaughter Effie. I’m guessing that there is still another photo of Thomas Ellison because the grandchild in the painting below doesn’t look like a good match for the photo above.

That leaves us with the puzzle of who are the children and the woman in the group photo? Two of the children have thick dark hair like the woman but the little girl on Thomas’ lap matches neither of the children nor does she look like round-faced little Effie in the painting. The two youngest children could actually be boys since it was customary to put them in dresses at that time.


Amy Johnson Crow challenges genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” This is week 8 of the 2020 challenge.

Discovering a School Record Book


Ancestor of the Week:  Vining children in Oklahoma
Prompt of the Week: 52 Ancestors week 7 – Favorite Discovery

I placed the flat, oversized package on the table and carefully started removing the brown wrapping paper that protected it in the mail.

In 1906, a school teacher in Oklahoma Territory neatly wrote the name of my grandmother and her older brothers and sisters into the column for students in this school register. The teacher was Miss Stambaugh. The school was District No. 72.

There she was, Ruth Vining, age 7. Above and below her name, there was 15-year-old Luther Vining,  12-year-old Scelia Vining, and 11-year-old Albert Vining. The children lived with their mother, Nancy Jane Vining in a house that was partly frame and partly a dugout sod house.

vining house woodward oklahoma

The sod house with a frame house attached.

Above their names in the register, I spotted their half-sister Sarilda Jane (Ashlock) Mikesell’s children; Ines and Colie Mikesell. Sarilda’s husband died suddenly in 1896 and she had moved back to Woodward County, Oklahoma in 1903 to prove up a land claim. The next year, she was finally able to get a widow’s pension from her husband’s Civil War service. Then she married for the third time to John Augsburger in Haskew, Oklahoma.

1905 ruth vining school list

The other children on the page do not match our family. Perhaps someone is looking for them, so I’ll list them here.

  • Martha Brown 12, Leslie Brown 13, Beatrice Brown 9, Dorothea Brown 7
  • Walter Blevins 8, Howard Blevins 6
  • Lena Mills 12, Dale Mills 9, Claud Mills 6, Chloe Mills 15
  • Ree Mix 10, Elmer Mix 14
  • Glen Allen 6
  • Kelley Stout 7, Willie Stout 5
  • Rosa Herons (or –erons) 6
  • Clifford Pingry 9
  • Jacob Brankel 11, Charley Brankel 9, Bertha Brankel 6

school record page

I tried searching in the 1910 census for some of the families and also in the Haskew Enterprise newspapers. Possible parents or relatives found were Earl Clifford (mentioned as going to Coffeyville, KS), Tobias R. Mix, and R.K. Stout. Perhaps some of the families had moved away by that time. By 1910, the Vining family was in Montgomery County, Kansas.

How did I get this wonderful piece of family history? Fortunately, a collector of vintage pieces who had this school record sought me out to sell the item. They were able to find me since I’ve written several blog posts about my grandmother and the Vining family.

Amy Johnson Crow challenges genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” This is week 7 of the 2020 challenge.

Same Name – Abraham Bates


Ancestor of the Week: Abraham Bates

Prompt of the Week: 52 Ancestors, Week 6 – Same Name

My great-uncle Roy Bates McGhee really disliked his middle name. Bates happened to be his grandfather’s middle name also (Abraham Bates Tower).

A.B. Tower had an uncle who was also named Abraham Bates Tower. The two Abraham Bates Towers lived in the same area of Southern Indiana back in the early 1800s. That led to some confusion for descendants in sorting out documents, dates, and news tidbits. My Abraham Tower married Nancy Angeline Long in 1858. His uncle married Delila Lynch in 1820.

I had to hunt quite a distance back to find where the Bates name entered the family tree. Nabby Bates, daughter of Abraham Bates, married Matthew Tower in Cummington, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1791, when she was 18 years old. It’s not surprising that the name Abraham Bates passed down through the Tower family for generations as a combination.

The First Abraham Bates on My Tree

Abraham Bates is my 5th great-grandfather. He was born on February 29, 1724, in Weymouth, Massachusetts and he married Sarah Tower on January 1, 1749, in that town. He died on August 7, 1806, in Cummington, Massachusetts, having lived a long life of 82 years. They had 12 children in 26 years, one was named Abraham Bates after his father.

1776 map Hingham, Weymouth - library of congress

1776 map showing Weymouth and Hingham, Massachusetts. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

You probably noticed my 5th great-grandmother was a Tower. The Towers and the Bates married into each others’ families quite a bit. It’s likely in small colonial towns you didn’t have a lot of choices when you reached marrying age.

Here’s the line

Abraham Bates 1724-1806
5th great-grandfather
Abigail Nabby Bates 1773-1833
Daughter of Abraham Bates
Jonathan Warren Tower 1809-1884
Son of Abigail Nabby Bates
Abraham Bates Tower 1837-1930
Son of Jonathan Warren Tower
Viola Matilda TOWER 1873-1964
Daughter of Abraham Bates Tower
Clarence Oliver MCGHEE 1895-1973
Son of Viola Matilda TOWER
Gail Lee MCGHEE 1924-2013
Daughter of Clarence Oliver MCGHEE




Amy Johnson Crow challenges genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” This is week 6 of the 2020 challenge.


Fun in the Good Old Days


Every Saturday, I get a photo prompt from the Sepia Saturday challenge. This time they showed a vintage photo of children on a playground. The hard part is for other bloggers to find a photo in their own family album with that theme.

I grew up in the country, so our playground was the pastures, the creek, and the woods. We did have that red wagon which served both for fun and also was useful for bringing firewood for the woodstove that heated our poorly-insulated farmhouse.

cindy in barrel wagon

Looking back to my mother’s generation, they were oil camp kids in the 1930s and 1940s.  They appear in the picture below to be out on the prairie. Perhaps just taking a walk. That almost looks like a lake behind them so perhaps this is a photo from a trip.

They don’t look like they are having much fun at the moment the photo was snapped. Hopefully, after that, they scampered about picking wildflowers and chasing butterflies.

Gail, Carol, Treva Mae, Viola Matilda McGhee

This photo might be 1936, as that’s Gail Lee McGhee with her arm around her little sis, Carol Jean. A cousin Treva Mae Davidson, and their grandmother, Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee are on the right.

children and milk barrels

What can you do with a milk can? For Kansas kids, it becomes a horse to ride.

Here’s the photo from the Sepia Saturday challenge that inspired my search for kids having fun.

Viola Bolte – Photo


The Sepia Saturday blog prompt for this week was a 1920s photo of a smiling young lady. It reminded me of my great-aunt, Viola Bolte McGhee. This photo would have been before she married Roy McGhee.

I’d say from that hat and fur that the photo goes back to the end of the 1920s or early in the 1930s, so almost 100 years old.


Here’s her quickie bio: When Viola May Bolte was born on October 24, 1913, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, her father, Edward, was 31, and her mother, Bessie Vining, was 26. Viola married Roy Bates McGhee on June 18, 1932, in Baldwin City, Kansas. They adopted two children during their marriage. She died on June 13, 1969, in Wellsville, Kansas, at the age of 55.

Here’s the photo prompt for Sepia Saturday.

Sepia Saturday Prompt Image 501 : 4 January 2020

The Heirloom Wedding Dress


Ancestor of the Week: Cora Joy and her great-grandmother, Eleanor Dunn Rosebaugh
Prompt of the Week: Week 1 – Fresh Start

I thought about resolving in the New Year to follow a plan and approach the family history in an organized fashion. Right away, that was shoved aside in pursuit of a shiny object when a first cousin, Lorna Stafford Geist, brought out some family heirlooms she had in her care.

dress made by rosebaugh 3

My cousin’s photo of a dress she has

We debated the identity of the seamstress who made this beautiful dress in 1840. Was it the same dress worn by our grandmother, Cora Joy when she married Charles Lorenzo (Ren) Martin in 1915?

dress made by rosebaugh - label
The label clearly attributes the gown to our Kennedy/Rosebaugh line. I’ve put their names and dates below to help us sort this out.  If this is Cora’s dress, then the label might have been made by her mother, Marie Kennedy. Cora’s great-grandmother would be Eleanor Dunn Rosebaugh.

Transcription of the Label

“Made by great grandmother Rosebaugh

Mrs. Elizabeth Kennedy

Made in 1840

By Grandmother Rosebaugh

Marie Kennedy”


Line of Descent

Eleanor Ellen Dunn 1792-1850
3rd great-grandmother (married George Rosebaugh II)
Elizabeth Jane Rosebaugh 1826-1918 (married David Greacen Kennedy)
Daughter of Eleanor Ellen Dunn
Marie C. KENNEDY 1864-1945 (married Alfred Joy)
Daughter of Elizabeth Jane Rosebaugh
Cora Myrle Joy 1896-1969 (married Charles Lorenzo Martin)
Daughter of Marie C. KENNEDY
Vivian Martin (married Edward Stafford)
Daughter of Cora Myrle Joy
Lorna Stafford
Daughter of Vivian Martin
Here’s the puzzling part:
  • If the dress was made in 1840 by Eleanor, who was it made for? Maybe her daughter Mary who likely married around that time. Perhaps the dress was passed along to other sisters (Jane and Elizabeth) who married later.
  • A dress from 1840 would be in a completely different style with a very full skirt while the dress Lorna has is slim in silhouette like the decade leading up to the 1920s.
  • How did the 1840 dress get preserved through a wagon trip to Kansas in pre-statehood days and survive to be passed down through 4 more generations? It would currently be 180 years old.
  • Who wrote the inscription? Do we have any samples of Marie Kennedy’s handwriting?

Sample of Marie Kennedy’s handwriting

I had this list of Marie Joy’s siblings and parents that she wrote. It gives us something to compare to the inscription on the dress. Note the curlicue on the capital E and the way she writes the capital M. Also the letter B is open at the bottom of the handwriting example below and you’ll see the same open capital B in the inscription on the gown.

I’m comfortable that we have enough matches to confirm that Marie Kennedy Joy wrote the inscription that goes with the dress.

marie kennedy joy list family dates

List of family members written by Marie Kennedy Joy

Now, let’s compare the two dresses using the photos from my cousin and the studio wedding picture that I have of our grandparents, Cora and Ren Martin. I’ve used the Topaz Gigapixel AI software that I have. It uses artificial intelligence to enlarge photos, adding pixels. I was able to increase the studio photo to 3 MB to see the details better.

Comparing the Two Photos

My cousin’s photo is on the left and the vintage studio photo enlarged with Gigapixel AI software is on the right

I believe the dress that Cousin Lorna has is the 1915 wedding dress of Cora Joy. the beadwork has darkened over the years making it more visible in the 2019 photos.

What confused us was the inscription by Marie Kennedy about 1840 and Great-Grandmother Rosebaugh. Here’s my best guess on that:


This old saying meant that brides should include each of those things in their wedding attire. I believe the inscription is from a much older cotton or linen dress and was attached to Cora’s 1915 wedding dress to satisfy the “something old” part of the saying.

The dress is now 105 years old. My cousin was worried about the care of the dress and how fragile it is. My thinking is the logical place for the dress to receive the preservation and care that it deserves is the local history museum.

Writing Our Own Stories


Featuring family stories is the purpose of this blog. In some cases, I’ve had to hunt down clues, comb through newspapers, and learn some local history for background information. Other times, a post was easy to share as an ancestor had thoughtfully recorded on a piece of paper their memories and family history some years ago.

Now, it’s our generation’s turn to leave some stories for descendants. You may think your life is pretty ordinary, your childhood not special in any way, but think again. One hundred years from now will a great-grandchild of yours need to hunt through Facebook archives looking for elusive bits of your history or for some photos? Will there even be such archives for them to see?

pixabay memoir write

Take the time to write at least one story to leave behind. An easy one would be a story that been told around the dinner table over and over. Maybe it was funny or tragic or carries an important lesson that made it worth repeating. Write it down. Otherwise, oral history gets lost in a generation or two.

Once you’ve captured that story, think about creating a timeline showing where you lived and where you worked over the years. Add in some important dates like births, marriages, and deaths. Once you start, hopefully, you’ll keep going and write more memory pieces.

Your descendants will thank you for it.

Here are some examples of childhood memories I’ve saved on paper and online: