Louise Seewer: Just Your Average Female Farmer (52 Ancestors #39)

Louise Seewer turned out to be an interesting ancestor to research.  I began looking at her because I was at a loss as to whom I should write about next.  Being the left-brained person that I am, I printed a fan chart of my ancestors and marked off all of the ones about whom I had already written.  I then picked the next person closest to me on the chart, thinking that person would theoretically be easiest to research.  Louise Seewer was the lucky winner.

I began as I always do, by looking to see what records I already had for her.  I had Grandma’s pedigree chart, a few census, a marriage record, and a printout of her FindAGrave.com memorial.  From all of this, I knew that Louise was born in Switzerland on October 26, 1879.1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,11,12  Her parents were Johann Jakob and Lucia (Gander) Seewer.1,2,9,11,12  She came to America in 1881.1,2,4,5,6,7,8  Louise married Edward Von Allmen on October 29, 1902 in Louisville, Kentucky.3  They had eight children:  Louise Marie, John Edward, Theodore Adrian, Frederick, Victor Emmanuel, Robert Alfred, Margaret Elizabeth, and Lena Mae.5,6,7,8,9,11  Louise died on September 22, 1949.9,11,12

Edward and Louise Von Allmen

Edward and Louise (Seewer) Von Allmen, 1902.

Louise (Seewer) and Edward Von Allmen, circa 1930. Photo courtesy of Douser on FindAGrave.com.

Louise (Seewer) and Edward Von Allmen, circa 1930. Photo courtesy of Douser on FindAGrave.com.

A former neighbor of the Von Allmens told me that she remembers “old Mrs. Von Allmen” delivering milk from their dairy farm.  I began to get curious about her, so I examined the census more carefully.  In 1910, 1930, and 1940, her occupation is “none.”  However, in 1920, she is listed as a farmer.  I thought about how unusual it is to see any occupations for females other than “none,” “housekeeper,” “servant,” “teacher,” “nurse,” or “seamstress.”  I looked into it and it turns out that it really isn’t all that unusual for 1920.

At this point, I tried to find Louise in the 1900 Census.  She wasn’t married yet and she was no longer living with her parents.  I found a Louisa Seever living in the household of Laf Joseph in Louisville, Kentucky.4  Her occupation was “servant.”  As Louise married in Louisville in 1902, I believe this is her.

While I was looking for her in the census, I accidentally stumbled upon her immigration record!  I had looked for it before, when I researched her father, and couldn’t find it.  I had been looking for Johann Seewer.  It was under Jacob Sever.  Soundex just couldn’t pick it up.  When I looked for Louise, I looked under both Seewer and Seever.  That’s when it turned up.

Louise came over with her parents in April of 1881 on the S.S. Labrador.  She was listed as an infant.1,2,10

S.S. Labrador Passenger List, April 1881

S.S. Labrador Passenger List, April 1881

Image from Ships of Our Ancestors by Michael J. Anuta, 1983.

Image from Ships of Our Ancestors by Michael J. Anuta, 1983.

I love the ancestors that lead to breakthroughs.  These are the days that make it all worthwhile.

As I sat down to write about Louise, I realized I had no documentation to confirm her death date.  I only had the pedigree chart and FindAGrave.com.  Not good enough.  I managed to find an obituary and a death record for Louise, with conflicting information.

The obituary, which appeared in the New Albany Tribune on Thursday, September 22, 1949, says that she “died at 5 a.m. Thursday,” meaning that morning, the 22nd.11  The death record says that she died at 5:00 am on September 23, 1949.12  So, either the paper miraculously reported her death a day early, the coroner pronounced her dead a day after she actually died, or whoever was writing the record had his days mixed up.  I’m guessing the latter, though she lived out in the county and the second option is feasible.

Louise died on September 22nd, but September 23rd is the commonly accepted date of death.  Why?  Because vital records are more official than newspaper articles.  After all, we all know newspapers get things wrong sometimes.  But in all truth, vital records can be, and often are, wrong too.  It’s on us to figure out what really happened.  This is a case in point why one source document just isn’t enough.


  1. “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVSK-TTLJ : accessed 13 September 2015), Louise Sever, 1881; citing NARA microfilm publication M237 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm .
  2. “United States Germans to America Index, 1850-1897,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KD75-TCL : accessed 13 September 2015), Louise Sever, 13 Apr 1881; citing Germans to America Passenger Data file, 1850-1897, Ship Labrador, departed from Havre, arrived in New York, New York, New York, United States, NAID identifier 1746067, National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
  3. “Kentucky Marriages, 1785-1979,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F43W-8XC : accessed 15 July 2015), Edward Von Allmen and Louise Sewer, 29 Oct 1902; citing Louisville, Kentucky, reference ; FHL microfilm 826,072.
  4. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.  Year: 1900; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: 530; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0056; FHL microfilm: 1240530.
  5. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.  Year: 1910; Census Place: Albermarle, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: T624_483; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 0026; FHL microfilm: 1374496.
  6. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.  Year: 1920; Census Place: New Albany, Floyd, Indiana; Roll: T625_429; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 62; Image: 15.
  7. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.  Year: 1930; Census Place: Lafayette, Floyd, Indiana; Roll: 587; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0006; Image:626.0; FHL microfilm: 2340322.
  8. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.  Year: 1940; Census Place: Lafayette, Floyd, Indiana; Roll: T627_1043; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 22-6.
  9. “Louise Seewer Von Allmen (1879 – 1949).”FindAGrave.com. N.p., 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 27 May 2011. Memorial# 46948695.
  10. Anuta, Michael J. Ships of Our Ancestors. Menominee, MI: Ships of Our Ancestors, 1983. Print. p.158.
  11. “Deaths (Obituaries)” New Albany Tribune 22 September 1949, Thursday ed.: 1. Print. column 3.  Accessed 22 Sep. 2015, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  12. Floyd County Health Department. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Deaths (1943-1950): book H-11, p.62. Retrieved 22 Sep 2015 from Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

Mary Susan Henderson: Not Forgotten (52 Ancestors #26)

One of the things I find interesting about genealogy is how easy it is for me to develop tunnel vision.  I find that I focus so much on one person or one line that I forget one of the basic rules:  research your collaterals.  What is more discouraging for me is that I often forget to research my matrilineal ancestors.  A case in point is Mary Susan Henderson.

I don’t know why, but I’ve just never thought to myself, I need to research her.  She’s always just been on the periphery.  I have a tendency to think of her as Milton Rakestraw’s wife who remarried after he died, which is crazy.  She is my fourth great-grandmother by blood.  I have certainly researched more tenuous relations, why not her?

I had done a minimal amount of research on her that was required for the First Families project.  Once I had moved on to her son, the rest didn’t matter to me.  Until she came up again…

On May 25, 2015, my dad and I visited a few cemeteries for Memorial Day.  While at Fairview, Dad said he would like to find Mary Susan Rakestraw’s grave.  Knowing she had remarried to James Hand, I looked her up on the very handy (no pun intended) Find A Grave app on my phone.  Dad had a vague memory of where she was and the app confirmed the location.  Even so, we could not find her.  Perhaps the stone is no longer there, or perhaps we couldn’t find it because the rows aren’t clearly marked.  Either way, we left a little disappointed.

We next visited Mt. Tabor Cemetery.  I checked the app and saw an open photo request for a Jacob Stites Hand, so I filled it.  The requester contacted me, which sparked a conversation that caused me to finally realize that I had done almost no research on Susan after her first husband died.  At this point, I really felt as though Susan was saying to me, “Don’t forget me.”

On the way home from the cemeteries, I looked at the entry on the Find A Grave app again.  A partial transcription of her obituary was on her memorial page with the source citation NALS 28 Feb 1879 (Thanks, Sue!).  That citation might not mean anything to most people, but I happen to work at the library in which the microfilmed newspapers are housed.  The next time I had a break at work, I looked up the February 28, 1879 issue of the New Albany Ledger Standard and found her obituary.  I saved a copy to my flash drive to look at later.  I also saved a copy of the marriage record for James Hand and Mary Susan Rakestraw.

Then, as I prepared to write this post, I thought about what else I could possibly turn up on Susan.  Working backwards, as I was taught to do, I considered death records.  However, Susan died in 1879 and Indiana didn’t require death records until 1882.  There were a handful of records before that date, but none were Susan Hand.  I had her marriage records already, so I moved on to births.  She was born circa 1830 in Kentucky, and the earliest recorded Kentucky birth (according to FamilySearch.org) was in 1852.

I thought about census records.  The earliest I had for her was 1850.  I am unlikely to find any earlier without knowing her father’s name, since 1850 was the first year that recorded everyone living in a household and she was married by that time.  The latest I have is 1870 and she died in 1879.  It then occurred to me that I had not checked the Fairview Cemetery indexes.  I found her, though it yielded little new information.

As I read over all of my information to see how complete a story I had for her, I really focused on her obituary.  It broke my heart a little.

Susan Hand, Obituary, New Albany Ledger Standard, Friday, 28 February 1879, p. 3, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Susan Hand, Obituary, New Albany Ledger Standard, Friday, 28 February 1879, p. 3, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

“A poor woman named Mrs. Hand.”  Did nobody know her given name?

I looked at her Fairview record.

Fairview Cemetery, Volume 2, p. 41.

Fairview Cemetery, Volume 2, p. 41.

She was buried by the county in a grave owned by her former father-in-law and former brother-in-law.  This all gave me the feeling that she was poor and friendless at the end of her life.  Although, one would think that since she had so many children that somebody would have taken care of her.  I’m sure there is much more to Susan’s story than I will ever know, but I’m glad I finally took the time to research her.

Mary Susan Henderson

Born circa 1830 in Kentucky.3,5,6

Married Milton Rakestraw on March 8, 1845 in Floyd County, Indiana.1,2

Children with Milton:  Francis Marion (1847), Charles H. (c.1848), and George William (c.1849).3

Married James Hand on April 16, 1857 in Floyd County, Indiana.4

Children with James:  Elza (c.1858), Alice (1860), Annie (c.1861), Julia (c.1864), and Mary (c.1869).5,6

Died on February 27, 1879 in New Albany, Floyd, Indiana of consumption.7

Buried at Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, Floyd, Indiana on March 1, 1879.8


1.  Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume B (1845): p.147.  Accessed 23 Sep. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

2.  “Matrimonial Matters” New Albany Public Press 01 March 1882, Wednesday ed.: 8. Print. column 3.  Accessed 12 Aug. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

3.  1850 United States Federal Census (database-online). Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 12 Jun. 2011. Jeffersonville, Clark, Indiana. pp.313-314.

4.  Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume 4 (1857): p.340.  Accessed 09 Jun. 2015, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

5.  1860 United States Federal Census (database-online). Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 16 Aug. 2014. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.134.

6.  1870 United States Federal Census (database-online). Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.72.

7.  “Deaths (Obituaries)” New Albany Ledger Standard 28 February 1879, Friday ed.: 3. Print. column 4.  Accessed 09 Jun. 2015, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

8.  Clipp, Mary Cuzzort, Richard Clipp, Jackie Murray Nance, Wanda Perkins Stepp, and Shirley Wolf, comps. Fairview Cemetery, January 7, 1866 to December 31, 1880, New Albany, Floyd County. Vol. 2. New Albany, Indiana: Southern Indiana Genealogical Society, 1991. Print. The Indiana Southern Counties Collection. p.41.

James Roscoe Wiseheart: One Little Shoe

James Roscoe Wiseheart was born to parents Sanford Wesley and Mildred Gertrude (Springer) Wiseheart on November 13, 1930.  He had two older sisters and two older brothers, one of whom was my grandfather.  The family lived in Clark County, Indiana at the time.  Jimmy didn’t live long and I know very little about him.  Grandpa said that Jimmy was given his middle name, Roscoe, after his father’s good friend, Roscoe Treece.  Jimmy died at the age of two from convulsions due to a fever that was brought on by lobar pneumonia.¹  He was the first of two Wiseheart children to die young.  The other was Mary Katherine, who was born after Jimmy died.

Recently, as my dad, my uncle and I were going trough the Rakestraw trunk, we came across a photograph of Jimmy in his coffin (which I will not post) and one little shoe that had been found in the potato patch just four months after his death.  How heartbreaking it must’ve been to find the shoe, and how precious.

The note that had been tucked into the shoe.

The note that had been tucked into the shoe.

Jimmy's shoe.

Jimmy’s shoe.

2015-02-22 12.46.49

1.  Clark County, Indiana Deaths, Roll 20, Book 2, p.11, Jeffersonville Township Public Library.

Mary Katherine Wiseheart: Nearly Two and Too Young

Mary Katherine Wiseheart died at the age of one year and nine months.  She drowned in the neighbors’ fish pond.  What little I knew of Mary Katherine came from my grandpa.  Recently, as the family were going through things at Grandpa’s house, my uncle opened a book and found a piece of paper folded up.  The note on the outside indicated that it was a lock of Mary Katherine’s hair.  He opened it and it was indeed a lock of hair.  I find it very hard to describe colors between blonde and brown, but I suppose it would be called ash.

This discovery prompted me to want to know all I could about her, but since she died so young, I felt sure that I wouldn’t be able to find much.  As always, I began my search at the library.  I looked for a death record.  It didn’t yield any new information.  It did, however, have a note that read “coroner inquest.”  I looked for the coroner’s inquest, but she died in July of 1936 and the inquests on microfilm stop at February of 1936.  I’ll have to check with the original repository to see if they have later inquests.  I also checked the newspaper index to look for an obituary.  Nothing had been indexed for Mary Katherine Wiseheart or variant spellings.

For a moment, I was at a loss.  I thought about it and realized that I did have her date of death, 9 Jul 1936.  I decided to look for the obituary manually.  I pulled the roll for the New Albany Tribune that included July 1936.  I started with the 9th and moved forward.  To my surprise, there was a large, front page article on her death in the paper for the 10th.  I believe that the only reason she was so prominently featured was because there had been another drowning the day before.

New Albany Tribune, Friday 10 July 1936, p.1, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Tribune, Friday 10 July 1936, p.1, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

I cried as I read it, feeling only a small measure of what her family must have felt.  And I wondered at Sanford’s reaction.  For a father who just lost a baby girl, he seemed to me to be calm about it.  But the paper did say he was shocked.  More than that though, as I researched Sanford for a future post, I learned a lot about his character and the things he had been through before this point and I now understand his reaction.

Mary Katherine, though not quite two years old, touched lives in such a way that those of us who never had the opportunity to know her have still grown up hearing of her.

Josephine Sellers: A Wedding, A War, and A Pandemic

Several years ago, as I was sitting with my cousins after having eaten lunch, my grandpa brought a document into the room for me to look at.  It was a Certificate of Death for a Josephine Sellers Wiseheart.  Josephine was not a family name with which I was familiar.  Grandpa said she was Pap’s (his dad) first wife.

In 1918, there was an influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people.  Josephine Sellers Wiseheart was one of these people.  She was sixteen and a half.  She and Sanford Wesley Wiseheart (Pap) had been married for almost a year and half.  For such a short marriage, it was certainly an eventful one.

I have no idea how they met or exactly when, I just know that Josephine was living with her parents and two brothers in Vincennes, Indiana in 1910, so they couldn’t have been in New Albany for more than seven years.  In any case, Sanford and Josephine were married by the pastor of Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church on July 20, 1917.  Josephine’s birthdate was listed as May 15, 1901, which would have made her sixteen at the time of their marriage.  She was born in Daviess County, Indiana.  Her parents were Charles A. Sellers and Maud Padgett.  Charles Sellers consented to the marriage.

Just four months later, the couple separated and Josephine filed for divorce, rather her mother filed for her because she was a minor.

New Albany Daily Ledger, 10 Nov 1917, p.4, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 10 Nov 1917, p.4, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Family legend is that Sanford, or Sandy as he was known around town, filed for divorce because he found out that Josephine had lied about her age.  I haven’t found any evidence that he ever filed for divorce.

On April 22, 1918, Sandy was inducted into the Army, having already filled out a draft registration card in June of 1917.  In August of 1918, he left for France.

In December of 1918, Josephine caught the flu.  Dr. Schoen attended her from December 2nd until her death on December 11th.  Her Death Record shows that she was married to a J. Wiseheart at the time of her death.  I’ve found no record of the divorce having gone through and I’ve found no record of Josephine ever having married again.  I believe that it was supposed to have been S. Wiseheart.

Floyd County, Indiana Deaths, Book CH-24, p.104, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Floyd County, Indiana Deaths, Book CH-24, p.104, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Her death record also states that she was born on May 24, 1902.  So, either she (and her father) lied about her age when she married or the clerk made an error.  Or, the death record is incorrect.  I’ve tried to find a birth record to verify the date to no avail.  I searched first in Daviess County, since that’s where the marriage record says she and her mother were born.  Then I searched Orange County, where her father was born, and Knox County where they lived before moving to New Albany.  I also searched the surrounding counties of Pike, Martin, Dubois, and Greene in case she had been born while they were moving from one place to another.  Lastly, I searched Floyd County, since that’s where they ended up.  No birth record.

Josephine was buried in Sandy’s plot at Fairview Cemetery on December 14, 1918 as Josephine S. Wiseheart.  Her father had her moved to the Sellers family plot in Holy Trinity Cemetery just two months later.

Fairview Cemetery, Volume VI, 1910-1919, p.127, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Fairview Cemetery, Volume VI, 1910-1919, p.127, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Her tombstone reads Josephine Sellers, 1902-1918.  I wonder if he moved her because she was posthumously granted the divorce or if he just really wanted her to be separated from Sandy even in death.  I’m keeping an eye out for any documentation that a divorce was granted, but everything I’m finding says that Sandy was a widower.

Such was the short, dramatic life of Josephine Sellers.  Even though I’m not directly related to her, I sometimes wonder about her.  What did she look like?  What was her personality?  Why did she marry at fifteen or sixteen?  What really happened to cause her to file for divorce?  When I think about her in terms of being my great grandfather’s first wife, it doesn’t seem so long ago, but looking at dates, it was nearly one hundred years ago.  These are questions to which I will probably never know the answer.