Joseph Rakestraw: A Colorful Claim (52 Ancestors #41)

Long have I heard stories about George Washington having commissioned a weathervane from Joseph Rakestraw, my seventh great-grandfather.  If true, this would be a pretty cool addition to the family history.  But how do I prove or disprove it?

I began by looking for information on George Washington’s weathervane and any mention of a Joseph Rakestraw.  As it happens, Washington wrote a letter to a Joseph Rakestraw of Philadelphia on July 20, 1787, requesting that a weathervane be crafted.  This weathervane was to have the shape of a bird with an olive branch in its mouth.1  A weathervane of that description can be found on the cupola at Mount Vernon today.

Cupola and weathervane at Mount Vernon. Courtesy of MountVernon.org.

Cupola and weathervane at Mount Vernon. Courtesy of MountVernon.org.

Now, I have been researching Rakestraws for a long time.  In 1787, there were about five or six Joseph Rakestraws in and around Philadelphia.  Most likely all related somehow, but still, how do I know which one fashioned the weathervane?

As I continued my research, I found that the Joseph Rakestraw to whom Washington had written was not a metalworker, he was a carpenter.2,3  This narrowed it down some.  I know at least two Josephs were carpenters and one was a printer.  I am unsure about the others.  Of the two I know to be carpenters, one had moved out of Philadelphia in 1786, leaving only one that I know for sure was a carpenter.4,5  This one is the one I believe was my seventh great-grandfather.

The Joseph Rakestraw who produced the weathervane was a member of the Carpenters’ Company.  Indeed, he was president of the Company, which is probably why Washington wrote to him.  Joseph was born circa 1735 and Carpenter’s Hall records state that he died of yellow fever in 1794.6,7  The man I believe to be my seventh great-grandfather was born circa 1735 and died in 1794 at the age of 62.  He was buried on the 10th day of the 5th month in 1794.8  He was a Quaker.  Quaker records show that he was married to Rachel Ogilby (or Ogilbey) and had children:  Justinian, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Joseph.9,10

Joseph Rakestraw, who was married to Rachel Ogilby and died in 1794, was the man whom Washington commissioned to create a weathervane for Mount Vernon.  I believe this to be the same Joseph Rakestraw who is my seventh great-grandfather, but I am still trying to prove that his son Joseph and my sixth great-grandfather Joseph, who married Rebecca Gilbert, are the same person.


Sources

  1. The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition, ed. Theodore J. Crackel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.  Accessed 07 October 2015.
  2. Manca, Joseph. George Washington’s Eye: Landscape, Architecture, and Design at Mount Vernon. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins UP, 2012. Print.
  3. Greenberg, Allan C. George Washington, Architect. London: Andreas Papadakis, 1999. Print.
  4. Walton, William. A Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of Benjamin Gilbert and His Family, Who Were Taken by the Indians in the Spring of 1780. Third Edition. Philadelphia: Printed by John Richards, 1848. pp. 222-223.
  5. Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Haverford College; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Minutes, 1768-1789; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes.
  6. Moss, Roger W. “Rakestraw, Joseph (c. 1735 – D. 1794).” Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 2015. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.
  7. Karsch, Carl G. “The Yellow Fever Connection.” Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, 4 July 1995. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.
  8. Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Haverford College; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Births and Deaths, 1754-1806; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes.
  9. Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Women’s Minutes, 1744-1765; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: MR-Ph 561.
  10. Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Haverford College; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Minutes, 1768-1789; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes.

John Wiseheart: Which John Are You? (52 Ancestors #40)

I’ve been trying to source the Wiseheart line on the pedigree chart that my grandma gave me.  It’s been very difficult.  I can get it back to my third great grandfather, but proving his connection to the man that I believe is his father is, so far, impossible.  The pedigree chart says that my fourth great grandfather is John Wiseheart (1775-1837), who was married to Catharine Razor (1787-1850).  John was born in Pennsylvania.1

Here’s where my biggest problem comes in.  There were two John Wisehearts (or Wisehart) born in Pennsylvania in 1775, at least.  But of the the two I’ve come across, is he John, son of John, son of John, or John, son of Hans Nicholas, son of Henrich?  The only thing I’ve been able to find for John Wiseheart and Catherine Razor is a marriage record, which does not give his father’s name.

The only thing I have been able to find about John is that he married Catharine Razor in Jefferson County, Kentucky on October 9, 1798.1,2,3  According to the transcription on Ancestry.com, Catharine was born in 1787, which would have made her eleven years old.1  Now, this isn’t totally unheard of, but it seems highly unlikely to me, as the print index done by The Filson Historical Society does not list consent given.  That would have been a requirement for an eleven-year-old.  Having read some old handwriting myself, I think it’s far more likely that a 6 looked like an 8 or a 1 looked like a 7, or some combination thereof.  John Razor was the bondsman.3  Perhaps trying to find John Razor and Catharine Razor on a record together will yield some information.

In the end, all I really know about John Wiseheart is that his wedding anniversary is in two days.


Sources

  1. Yates Publishing. U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.  Source number: 4178.015; Source type: Family group sheet, FGSE, listed as parents; Number of Pages: 1.
  2. Dodd, Jordan. Kentucky Marriages, 1802-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1997.
  3. Dawson, Nelson L., ed. Jefferson County, Virginia-Kentucky, Early Marriages, Book I, 1781-July, 1826. Owensboro, KY: Cook-McDowell Publications, 1980. Print. p. 32.

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.


Sources

  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.

Milton Rakestraw: Circumstantial Evidence and Corroboration (52 Ancestors #37)

As I was researching to apply for a First Families of Floyd County, Indiana certificate last year, I came across one ancestor in the line who proved difficult.  Milton Rakestraw.  I always “knew” he was the son of Charles and Syntha (Irey) Rakestraw simply because my grandparents had said so.

When I gathered all of my documentation, I had very few actual facts about him.  He was born circa 1825 in Ohio.1,2  He was a ship carpenter.1  He married Mary Susan Henderson on March 8, 1845 in Floyd County, Indiana.3  They had three sons, Francis Marion, Charles H., and George William.1  Milton died circa January 1855 in Little New Orleans (now Orleans), Orange County, Indiana and was interred in Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana on January 26, 1855.2

Luckily, Milton was born into a large family and I was able to research his siblings for more information.  I began with the one census record he appeared on.  In 1850, he was living with his wife and three sons in Jeffersonville, Clark County, Indiana.  A William Rakestraw was also living with them.  Based on William’s age, birthplace, and location on the record, I believe this is Milton’s brother, William Arlie Rakestraw.

I looked for information on William Arlie and found a marriage record.  He married Mary C. Neighbors in Floyd County, Indiana on November 3, 1867.4  I then found William and Mary C. Rakestraw living in New Albany in 1870.  An Elizabeth Flora was living with them.5  This could be his sister, but there is an age discrepancy.  Additionally, Elizabeth seems to have disappeared after 1850, when she appeared on the census with her father and three of her sisters.

I came across an obituary for William Arlie, which indicated that he died in Clark County.6  The Archivist/Indiana Room Librarian at Jeffersonville Township Public Library was kind enough to e-mail a copy of the death record to me.  Unfortunately, his parents were “unknown.”7

I decided to look for the daughters of Charles Rakestraw that were listed on the 1850 Census.  I started with Adeline.  From the census, I know she married Henry Hardy.8  I found their marriage record, dated August 26, 1847 in Floyd County, Indiana.9  Henry and Adeline lived in Lawrence County, Indiana in 1860.  Also living with them was Arvine Rakestraw.10  Based on occupation, age, and name similarity, I believe this is William Arlie.  I have been unable to find William Arlie in the 1860 Census with his first or middle name, which lends credibility to this theory.  The 1860 Census also shows that Henry and Adeline have a son named Milton.10  Presumably, this son was named for Adeline’s brother.

I moved on down the list and looked for Susan Rakestraw.  Susan married John Flora on March 6, 1851.11  I couldn’t find any information that would link her to Milton.

I looked for Minerva next.  Minerva married Charles Ennis on June 12, 1864.12  Again, I found no evidence linking her to Milton.

At a loss, I decided to compare the make-up of the 1830 and 1840 Charles Rakestraw household to what I know of his family.

I first filled in Charles and Syntha, and then all of the children I could prove.  Next, I added the children I couldn’t prove.  They all fit, with no children left over.13,14

My speculation on the Charles Rakestraw family in 1830 and 1840.

My speculation on the Charles Rakestraw family in 1830 and 1840.

There is other evidence, or perhaps lack of evidence, that I believe confirms Milton as a son of Charles.  I searched the 1840 Census for all Rakestraws living in both Floyd and Clark counties.  Charles is the only one.  I performed the same search for 1850.  Charles and Milton are the only Rakestraw patriarchs in both counties.  From this, I think it’s safe to say they are at least related.

When taken individually, none of these pieces of information can prove Milton’s lineage.  However, taken as a whole, they make a pretty compelling case.  It’s often difficult for my analytical mind to keep all of these abstract details together, so I created a logic diagram of the circumstantial evidence and how each piece corroborates the rest to form the conclusion that Charles Rakestraw is the father of Milton Rakestraw.

Milton Rakestraw logic diagram.

Milton Rakestraw logic diagram.


Sources

  1. 1850 United States Federal Census. HeritageQuestOnline.com, 2009. Web. 12 Jun. 2011. Jeffersonville, Clark, Indiana. pp.313-314. Family #256, lines 40 and 1-5.
  2. Ang, William, Marguerite Ang, James Thornton Eiler, Jackie Murray Nance, and Shirley Wolf, comps. Fairview Cemetery: September1, 1852 to November 18, 1865. Vol. 1. New Albany, Ind. (P.O. Box 665, New Albany 47151): Southern Indiana Genealogical Society, 1989. Print. The Indiana Southern Counties Collection. p.62.
  3. Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume B (1845): p.147.  Accessed 23 Sep. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  4. Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume 6 (1867): p.372.  Accessed 13 Jun. 2011, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  5. 1870 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 17 Aug. 2014. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.9. Family #70, lines 20-23.
  6. “Local Gatherings (Death Notice).” New Albany Evening Tribune 21 November 1904, Monday ed.: 4. Print. column 2.  Accessed 18 Aug. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  7. Clark County Health Department. Microfilm. Clark County, Indiana Death Records, Book H-28 (1904): p.16.  Accessed 03 Sep. 2014, Jeffersonville Township Public Library.
  8. 1850 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.421. Family #549, lines 5-12.
  9. Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume 3 (1847): p.101.  Accessed 09 Sep. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  10. 1860 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 09 Sep. 2015. Shawswick, Lawrence, Indiana. p.126. Family #858, lines 1-8.
  11. Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume 3 (1851): p.332.  Accessed 09 Sep. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  12. “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VKJD-CWT : accessed 17 August 2014), Charles Ennis and Minerva T Rakestraw, 12 Jun 1864; citing , Lawrence, Indiana, county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,317,626.
  13. 1830 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 15 Dec. 2014. Hanover, Columbiana, Ohio. p.486. Line 18.
  14. 1840 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 09 Sep. 2014. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.255. Line 16.

Johann Jakob Seewer: They Will Know You By Your Deeds (52 Ancestors #36)

One day, as I went through one of the many fruit boxes full of documents formerly belonging to my grandparents, I happened upon an undated, uncited obituary for J. J. Siever.  It took some time and re-reading of the article for me to make the connection that J. J. Siever was Johann Jakob (or John Jacob) Seewer, my third great-grandfather.

Up to this point, I had my grandma’s pedigree chart, which gave his birth year as 1854, his death year as 1917, his parents as Peter Johann Jakob Seewer and Susanna Catharine Reller, and his wife as Lucia Gander.  I also had two photographs, which indicate that he enjoyed smoking a pipe.

John Jacob and Lucia (Gander) Seewer (ca. 1912)

John Jacob and Lucia (Gander) Seewer (ca. 1912)

Johann Jakob and Lucia (Gander) Seewer.

Johann Jakob and Lucia (Gander) Seewer.

I examined the article further.  Flowery descriptions aside, there was a lot to be gleaned from it.

Obituary, J. J. Siever

Obituary, J. J. Siever

  • He died of heart trouble.
  • He lived near Gruenheim Church.  (I didn’t know where that was, but I could find out)
  • He was about 60.
  • Lucia was still alive.  (Unless he had remarried)
  • He had several children still living.
  • One daughter was married to Christ Camenisch.
  • He immigrated from Europe.  (With a name like Siever/Seewer, probably Germany or Switzerland)
  • He was a citizen of Lincoln County.  (Another location clue)
  • He was a farmer and stock raiser of Jersey cattle.
  • He was a good man and a fair businessman.  (Not necessarily a relevant fact, but the kind of thing you like to find out about your ancestors)
  • He had several medals for expert marksmanship.

I looked him up on Find A Grave.  His tombstone gave a birth date of October 10, 1854 and a death date of September 18, 1917.  The biographical information confirmed what was on the pedigree chart.  I trust this information because it was added by one of my cousins, who has done extensive research on this branch of the family.  Find A Grave also gave me a location for Gruenheim and Lincoln County.  They are in Kentucky.1

I looked for census records after that.  With Ancestry, sometimes less is more, so I looked for John Seewer, born circa 1854, living in Kentucky.  I found him in 1910 in Hustonville, Lincoln County, Kentucky, with his wife and a son.  From this census, I learned that he and Lucia married circa 1878.  He was born in Switzerland and immigrated in 1881.  He was a farmer.  Seven of his children were still living.2

Since he immigrated in 1881, he wouldn’t be in the 1880 Census.  There are no surviving Kentucky fragments of the 1890 Census.  I was still missing him in 1900.  I tried the search again but I changed Seewer to Siever.  Soundex wouldn’t have picked it up in my initial search because the codes would be different.  Sure enough, there was J J Seiver.  This record didn’t give me much new information, but it did confirm previous discoveries.3

It’s strange.  I only have a handful of sources for him, but I know more about him than I do about other ancestors for whom I have lots of sources.  That’s the value of a well worded obituary, I suppose.


Sources

  1. “Peter Johann Jakob Seewer (1854 – 1917) – Find A Grave Memorial.” FindAGrave.com. Douser, 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 29 Mar. 2011. Find A Grave Memorial # 46950505.
  2. 1910 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. Hustonville, Lincoln, Kentucky. p.8A. Family #152, lines 22-24.
  3. 1900 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com, 2009. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. Turnersville, Lincoln, Kentucky. p.1B. Family #11, lines 55-60.