Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

#200--Context Matters.

When I started to do genealogy, I was very content to build my family tree--to put all those ancestors with their vital records into it.  Pretty soon though, I became much more interested in who they were and what they did. 

While the vital records are interesting, they really do not paint a picture of who these people were or what their daily life was like.  I have found several sources that have been helpful in that regard. 

One is newspapers.  Chronicling American from the Library of Congress has newspapers from cities all over the United States.  I was delighted to discover that The Butler Missouri Newspaper, The Butler Weekly Times and the Bates County Record were on line.  While you can browse a particular issue, you can also do a name search for all the issues.  Since Butler is a small town, there is a lot of information about its residents and their activities.  When I searched John W. Hannah and the Palace Hotel which he built, I got over 100 hits.  One of my favorites is the description of John and Jennie (Willey) Anniversary Party. 

Fulton Postcards has newspapers from all over New York State.  Since I have many family members who lived in that state, for me it is a great site.  Using it I was able to find an ad for the Hannah-Ross Shoe company in Auburn, New York, a company that I did not know my grandfather was involved in.  I have also been able to read about my grandmother and grandfather’s wedding, various parties, funerals, etc. 

Another source for finding out what life was life for my ancestors is books covering the towns or counties where they lived.  I have used those books from a variety of places.  Most useful have been the town records of Dedham, Massachusetts.  The records go back to the early 1600.  In those records I found that Edward Richards who settled in Dedham in about 1632 was given more land because there was a defect in his
current property.  However, I have also used the History of Edgar County, Illinois and the History of Brown County Ohio.  Both of these books are available on Google Books. 

I have also used books that focus on life at a particular time in our history, e.g., Frontier Living by Edwin Tunis for my Hannahs and Mears who lived in Brown County, Ohio and Edgar County, Illinois in the 1800’s. Since my ancestors moved from place to place Walking with Your  Ancestors by Melinda Kashuba was particularly useful.    While these books do not specifically deal with my ancestors, they do describe what their lives might have been like. 

When I was a little girl, I loved to hear stories from my mother and grandparents about what their lives were like when they were my age.  So I really would like to talk to my relatives and have them described what their lives were like. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

#199 Harvest time with Sarah Ann Hannah

The theme for this week is harvest.  I have many relatives who were farmers; the vast majority of them were men; however, a several were women.  Previously, I blogged about Jane Mears Calvin, my 3 great aunt who also ran a farm.  So my blog this week focuses on Sarah Ann Hannah Mitchell , who ran the family farm after her husband, Joseph, died. Sarah is my great great aunt. 

Sarah Ann Hannah was born on February 17, 1823, in Brown or Clermont County, Ohio,.  Her parents were John M. and Charity (Mears) Hannah. She married Joseph Mitchell and they had five children together. Joseph died in 1857.  Many years later she  married Samuel McCampbell on October 24, 1892,. She died on February 24, 1906, at the age of 83.

The Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales indicate that Joseph Mitchell did not buy any land of the from the federal government.  However, he did buy land from some of his relatives, e.g. John M. Hannah, John Wesley Hannah, etc.  The land was mostly in Ross Township in Edgar County and where he and his family lived and farmed. 

The 1860 Agricultural Census Schedule lists Sarah Mitchell as the owner of a farm.  The farm consisted of 80 improved acres and 32 unimproved with a value of $2000.  $100 was the value of the machinery and farm implements. Sarah had 5 horses, 3 milch cows, 1 other cattle, 20 sheep and 12 swine.  The livestock was valued at $570.  The farm produced 1500 bushels of Indian corn and 86 pounds of wool. The farm produced 100 pounds of butter.  The animals that were slaughtered during the year were worth $30. When I looked at the other farms which were listed, Jane’s farm was pretty typical, not the largest, not the smallest, just kind of in the middle. 

I would love to talk to Sarah  and find out how she ran the farm.  Did her children do most of the work?  Did she hire people to help her? How did she learn to manage the farm?  Did she make changes to the farm as time when on?  Her sister-in-law Sarah Ann Hannah Mitchell also ran the family farm after her husband died in 1857 (See blog on the right side of this page).  I am wondering since Jane had been running her farm for some time, she provided any advice to Sarah.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

#198--Touring Auburn, New York

My great aunt, Anne Hannah, married Charles Ross and moved from Butler, Missouri to Auburn, New York.  When her father, John Wesley Hannah (1839-1899) died, her brother William and her four sisters, also moved to Auburn.  William married Gertrude Cochrane, who came to Auburn to visit her cousin, Lucy Pingree.   My father and his sister were both born in Auburn.  They lived at 187 Genessee Street with William sister, Anne Hannah and her husband, Charles Ross.

Auburn is in upstate New York, in the Finger Lake Region, more specifically on north end of Owasco Lake.  I have never been to Auburn, but it occurred to me that I could use Google Earth, 
Goggle Maps, and Google Images to learn about Auburn and see what it looked like. 

I started by going to Google Maps.  I put Auburn, New York in the search box and when the map came up, I started at Genesee Street and South Street, and drove down South Street.  I was impressed that South street was a mix of older buildings and new ones.

                                                                              Right out of town was the Auburn
Auburn Correctional System
Correctional System, a very large prison, which was established in 1816. The Hannahs lived on South Street, at 136, very near the prison.  The fact that it was near the prison and prisoners did escape made my grandmother very nervous as her husband often traveled so they moved to back to Genesee Street.

I tried to find a picture of that house, but as luck would have it, the house was behind one very big tree, but I did find a postcard of the street in the
early 1900’s.  As I continued down Genessee Street, I came upon The Cayuga Museum of History and Art and Case Research Lab Historic Site.

Head Stone of Anne Hannah Ross

Close by I found Fort Hills Cemetery, where my Aunt Anne Hannah and her husband Charles Ross are buried.  I took a quick look at Find a Grave and was able to locate her headstones.

Harriet Tubman House
When I got to the corner of Genesee and South Street, I turned onto South.  A little way down I drove by Harriet Tubman’s House, the former
slave turned underground railroad conductor.

As I drove on , I found the home of William Seward, a  New York State Senator, Governor of New York, a U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State for President Lincoln.
Seward Home


 I also saw The Cayuga Museum of History and Art and Case Research Lab Historic Site and the Schweinfurth Art Center.
St. Peter's Episcopal Church 

In downtown Auburn, I saw St. Peter's Episcopal Church, where I think my father may have been baptized.

I also saw the Old Post Office and Courthouse.

I was curious to see what was outside of Auburn so I took South Street out into the country.  Not surprisingly, it is very rural with plenty of farm land and vineyards.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


This week’s theme is cousins.  While doing genealogy, I have met several new cousins.    I am going to blog about the two I have worked with the most.  I met Anna when we were both working on our Hannah lines.  One of the first things we did was figure out how we were related.  As it turned out, we were both descended from John Wesley Hannah and his wife, Jennie Sophia Willey.  He was my great grandfather, and Anna’s great great grandfather.  But there was more.  Her  grandfather’s family was in the military and was often stationed overseas.  When that happened, her grandfather stayed with my father’s family. 

The real fun began when Anna and I started to post Hannah family pictures and we tried to figure out who the people were.  Some we knew right off the bat--others were a puzzle--Like the picture to the left.  We know that the man is John Wesley Hannah , we think the woman in the back on the right is his daughter, Marinda--the other two are a mystery, perhaps friends of Marinda.  We sent pictures  back and forth, comparing the faces with those we knew were correct or until we decided we just did not know.  Eventually Anna and I met when I went to Washington D. C. on a New England Historic and Genealogy Tour.

Harry and Perry Willey
Then along came Pam.  Pam is a granddaughter of Jennie Willey and was able to fill in a great deal of information about that branch of our tree.  Jennie had  8 brothers and sisters.  The one that was most confusing was James Willey, whose name was once in a while written as James "Sig Montanio "Willey.  Then one day, Anna was looking at a census of the Willeys and founds a Sig Montanio.  The age, birth location etc. all matched James Willey.  So the three of us started in to figure out this little puzzle.   We were able to figure out the genealogy and why the name change.  It turned out that James joined a circus as an acrobat, wire walker and later running a traveling circus.  We found pictures of his two sons, who worked as clowns and acrobats, information about the circuses he ran and numerous newspaper  articles about the performances.

I love to work with others on a family line and am happy to share what I know.   I know only certain information and often they know different information. 


Monday, September 16, 2019

#196 So Many John Hannahs

This week’s theme is mistakes.  Errors are easy to make in genealogy, particularly when you do not have a lot of information or when a number of people have the same name.

I have 11 John Hannah’s in my tree.  I also have several with a different first name, but John as their middle name, e.g. John Hannah Turner. In some way or another they are all related, often lived in the same area and farmed.  The ones I am most interested in are John M. Hannah and John Wesley Hannah, my great great and great grandfathers.

It was easy for me to mix them up.  So I had to come up with ways to separate them. 
John Wesley Hannah with his daughters, Tim and Toots

One way to keep them straight is to use their middle names, if they have them.  So John Gates Hannah, John Gray Lawrence Hannah,  and John Bayard Hannah are easy to keep straight as long as they are referred to  with their middle names.  If not, dates of birth can distinguish them.  The dates of birth range from 1799 (John M. Hannah) to John Clifford Hannah (1919).  Location also helps.  The earlier John Hannahs tended to live in Brown County, Ohio or Edgar County, Illinois.  As time passed, some moved to places like Missouri or Colorado.  So if a John Hannah turns up in California, I will check him out, but can be pretty sure he is not one of mine.

The lesson I learned from all these John Hannah’s is be careful and check to make sure you have the correct one.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

#195-- Richards Hannah Goes Back to School

Poly Prep

This week’s theme is schools.  How appropriate as most students are now back at school.  I have previous blogged about my grandfather attending Wentworth Academy and Dickinson College as well as my great Aunt going to Baird.  So I decided I would blog about Poly Prep County Day School (Poly), where my father was a student.

Poly was started in 1854 at 99 Livingston Street, Brooklyn.  The academic program was very strong and equal to the programs at elite boarding schools. A variety of extracurricular activities evolved:  a newspaper, drama society, debate. Students wanted more athletic opportunities.  In 1916 part of the Dyker Meadows Golf Course was purchased and the school was incorporated as the Polytechnic Preparatory Country Day School.  350 students arrived in 1917.  Students stayed after school to engaged in after school activities, typically sports.  Poly was all boys until 1979, when girls were admitted.

Richards Hannah in Lacrosse Sweater
In the family that does not throw out anything of sentimental value, I have the yearbook, The Polyglot, from my father’s senior year.  It is a pretty typical yearbook—pictures of students by class, pictures of the faculty,  pictures of various athletic teams, clubs, etc.

I knew that my father played hockey and lacrosse at Poly, but I learned that he was also on the soccer team, and was its captain.

He was  Vice President of the Oasis Society.  According to the Poly website, the Oasis Society “recognizes leadership and accomplishment that benefit our school, aiming to promote school spirit and service to the school community.” In addition, he was in charge of refreshments for the Senior Dance.

Oasis Society--R.W. Hannah--Second Row Second from Left

When talking about his time at Poly, my father tended to talk about the sports he was involved in and his friends.  I wish I had asked him more about the academic side of his experiences there.

Lacrosse Team  R. W. Hannah-First row third from left.

Monday, September 2, 2019

#194--Shoes and More Shoes

My grandfather, William D. Hannah was in the shoe business.  He had a shoe factory in 
W.D. Hannah Shoe Factory--Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Newburyport, Massachusetts and another in Dobbs Ferry, New York in the early 20th century.  He also had a showroom on Duane Street in New York City.

 At that time, the way to advertise was to send catalogs or flyers to businesses.  I am fortunate to have  several of his catalogs.  Some were fairly simple and others were rather elaborate.

 Here are a couple of my favorites:

I love to look at the shoes in the catalogs. There are shoes for women as
well as boots. I would love to wear either of these pink shoes.

Just look at all the colors those shoes come in.

I am not sure whether this is a shoe or a boot.  I love the buttons, but think it would take me a long
time to get them buttoned up.  Want to know how much they cost?  See that number at the button.  That is the price, but you have to read it backward.  The shoe/boot costs $1.60.