Monday, April 30, 2012

But I Thought They Were Wealthy Land Owners! - The 1915 Scottish Valuation Rolls

Around the same time as the excitement of the 1940 U.S. Census release was the much quieter release of the 1915 Valuation Rolls for Scotland (available on a fee basis through the ScotlandsPeople website). As described by the ScotlandsPeople website, "The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854 established a uniform valuation of landed property throughout Scotland, establishing an assessor in each of Scotland’s 35 counties and 83 royal and parliamentary burghs (eventually 90 burghs produced valuation rolls). The assessors compiled annual valuation rolls listing every house or piece of ground, along with the names and designations of the proprietor, tenant and occupier, and the annual rateable value."

Unlike a census record, the Valuation Rolls do not list all occupants of a property but just typically the head of the household. However, like a census record, the valuation rolls are terrific for seeing where your Scottish ancestors were living and under what circumstances.

I looked at two of my ancestors (with many more to find) and was actually surprised by some of the results.

First, my great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden can be found on Page 591 of the city of Aberdeen valuation rolls. He is listed as being a tenant at 42 1/2 Charles Street which is described as being a house. His occupation is listed as 'seaman' (he was in fact a steam engineer on numerous ships in the merchant marine) and was paying an annual rent of 7 pounds for what was likely a flat or apartment. I noticed in particular that the rent being paid was slightly higher than that paid by the other tenants perhaps indicating that the Hadden apartment was a bit larger than average. Or perhaps there is another explanation? Below is a photo of what Charles Street looks like today (captured from a screen shot on Google Maps - street view). Although the location of No. 42 1/2 is the newer looking building in the photo, I suspect there was an older building, more closely resembling the building further down the lane, that was the home of the Hadden family in 1915.

Next, I looked at the 1915 Valuation Rolls listing for John Gaull, my great great grandfather, an Aberdeenshire dairy farmer. More than 30 years ago, I interviewed a great uncle who had spent considerable time on the Gaull farm, visiting his grandparents and apparently being mischievous from time to time. I have photos of John Gaull and his family from the 1920's taken at the farm so I thought I knew a lot about John and his farm. What I didn't know was that he didn't own the farm, he rented it! I confess I hadn't even considered that possibility.

The listing for John Gaull in 1915 can be found on line 72 for the parish of Kemnay in the valuation rolls. The property was owned by John Alexander Burnett of Kemnay and John rented the croft and house at Glenhead for 27 pounds, 16 shillings, and 9 pence annually. The size of the farm is not listed however based on a comparison of the rents paid by John and his neighbours, the Gaull farm was one of the more substantial, but far from the largest, pieces of property occupied in the area. John's occupation is not given in the listing which for the parish of Kemnay is typed and not in what I should think was it's handwritten original form.

Just like a census record the valuation rolls provide a glimpse of the state on ancestral residence almost 100 years ago, including a look at who your Scottish ancestors neighbours and friends (or enemies?) might have been. Well worth the look if you have Scottish ancestors living in Scotland in 1915.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Avoiding the 1940 U.S. Census - Almost

You could feel the excitement and anticipation building to an end of March crescendo as genealogists with American ancestral connections awaited the release of the 1940 U.S. Census images. Social media was abuzz as the April 2nd release date approached for what some described as a genealogy 'Christmas Day'.

With both my paternal and maternal families firmly established in Canada, I thought it easy to ignore all of the build-up. The closest I was coming to the 1940 U.S. Census was my mother's family who lived in Detroit, Michigan in 1930 but they moved to Toronto, Ontario around 1937 or 1938. This lack of ancestral connection to the United States in 1940 meant that I didn't participate in any of the pre-release abundant number of webinars, forums, and learning opportunities made available. Why would I with no one to find?

I was able to relax and jealously hear from predominantly American genealogy community friends as they happily found their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in the census. In Canada, the most recent census records to be made available on a national basis are from 1911 (although the 1916 census records of the western provinces is also available). I likely have to wait until the latter part of 2013 to view the 1921 Canadian census.

I eventually realized, of course, that I had neglected to give enough thought to my wife's family which I also research. Although her Wagner ancestors had immigrated from Germany to western New York state and her second great grandfather, Jacob Wagner, had eventually settled in Berlin, (now Kitchener), Waterloo County, Canada West (now Ontario), I knew that there were numerous collateral branches of her ancestors who remained in the United States.

As an example, I started looking at Floyd John Wagner, my wife's second cousin twice removed. Both Floyd and my wife are descended from Heinrich 'Henry' Wagner and his wife Anna Marie 'Mary' Eckhard. Floyd was born 12 April 1900 in New York state, probably in the city of Buffalo. By the time Floyd was 18 years old he was working as a clerk at a local company and by the time he was 20 years old, he was a chauffeur and mechanic for the U.S. Motor Vehicle Service. In 1930, Floyd can be found in the census records for that year listed as a mechanic for the U.S. Post Office. Floyd served as my 'guinea pig' for delving into the 1940 U.S. census records.

The 1940 U.S. census is not yet indexed but that process is well underway and I expect the indexing to be completed in about six months. However, using the enumeration district from the 1930 U.S. Census along with Stephen Morse's "One-Step" finder tool to obtain the corresponding 1940 enumeration district, I was rather quickly able to locate Floyd in the 1940 U.S. census.

Hmmm, I thought, if there was one person in my genealogy database living in the United States in 1940 maybe there are others to find. Using the new "Who Was There" report in my RootsMagic database and I generated a report of all individuals who were or possibly were living in the United States in 1940. The report is 99 pages long! Oh, my. I didn't see that coming!

I guess I have more work to do with the census records that I didn't need to learn about because there was no one in my family tree to find.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Surprising Connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder

My wife's uncle, Gordon Wagner, spent several years in the 1970's and 1980's travelling and researching his family history. I have recounted in past posts how Gordon donated the original source documents that he gathered to the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

Following his family history research, Gordon, a retired land surveyor, took up writing, a pursuit that resulted in a couple of books being published. In 1986, Gordon attended classes through "Elderhostel" and wrote an article about his experience that was to be published in the newspapers of Comox, British Columbia (where Gordon lived) and Andover, Massachusetts (where Gordon attended his Elderhostel classes). While I don't know if the article was ever published, I am in possession of a copy that Gordon provided in the summer of 1986.

In his article, Gordon explains that a part of his family history quest involved collecting a stone, essentially a piece of the land, from each significant ancestral farm. He had found the farm in Lyons, New York where the Wagner family had settled after their immigration from Germany around 1830. He had also found the farm of Sylvester Faulkner, settled around 1790, north of present day Belleville, Ontario and the land settled by Johann Jacob Hailer in 1832, located in present day Kitchener, Ontario. The missing piece for his collection was something from the farm of the Edmond Faulkner, the first of the various family lines to come to North America, settling in Andover, Massachusetts around 1635.

Elderhostel, a program that offered week long college courses to seniors, provided Gordon with an opportunity to attend courses and spend some time at Salem State and Merrimack College in Massachusetts with the hope of finding that original Faulkner land. Through serendipity, Gordon met with Forbes Rockwell, an engineer and local amateur historian who had meticulously mapped the original Andover settlement and traced each successive ownership of the lands. Forbes escorted Gordon to the Faulkner land, now the site of the Kittredge Elementary School in North Andover, Massachusetts.

Aside from reviewing and analyzing Gordon's research, I recognized that I did not know enough about colonial Massachusetts so I began exploring. Edmond Faulkner is one of my wife's 7th great grandfathers. Edmond's son John married Sarah Abbott, the daughter of my wife's 7th great grandparents George Abbott and Sarah Farnum (spelling variants include Farnham, Farnam, Farnaum, Farnem, and Farnom) in 1681. This George Abbott, a tailor, died intestate on 22 March 1689. Records show that his estate was later probated with his widow Sarah receiving the sum of 25 pounds. The records also show that Sarah remarried just a few months after George's death. Her new husband was Henry Ingalls, the 6th great grandfather of Laura Ingalls Wilder. So while Laura and my wife are not related by blood, there is a connection through marriage.

The new pet name for my wife - "Half-pint."

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