Recreating family history one piece at a time.

Pay It Forward

One of my things I do as part of my family research is pay it forward. I have researched for others.  Another of my favorite things is to transcribe digitized images into a searchable index.   It is fun to be the first person in years to review files.

If you are a genealogy buff I would suggest you sign up and become a transcriber of records, or  go to a cemetery that is not longer being maintained and transcribe the tombstones.  We all need to help make records available and preserve records before they are lost.   We have all tapped into things like this that others have done for us and it is up to us to pay it forward for others.


Presevation of History

Old Montana Homestead

Yesterday we went hiking and came across an old homestead.   It made me think about the family homestead of my Timms family and how we debated how old it was.

Many in our family  had all heard and been told stories about the Timms place; many similar others quite different.   As this debate went on we fortunately had someone in our family who is in the architecture business.  His knowledge and insight really helped us when we were asking questions and when historical folks came out to look at the family site.

In the Midwest the preservation of a family homestead, such as the one my Uncle Sherm lived in, even if covered and added on to is unusual.  Many original homesteads and structures no longer exist.   I think that they were lost to progress.  I can remember growing up as  farms got larger and absorbed other farms, older homesteads were torn or burned down to make row for more corn and beans.   It always seemed sad to me and I wanted to walk through them before they were gone,  down to feel and see the history before it was lost.

In Montana there seem to be an abundance of abandon homesteads still preserved.   I think two things contribute to this abundance.   First our dry weather causes very slow rot and decay.  Second we have much less cultivated ground here.   In open range, ranchers don’t have the same need to get rid of a homestead as you do when your livelihood is based on the number of bushels of corn and acre can produce.   Cattle wander in and out of old homesteads until nature and time causes them to collapse.

I love to find old ranch and mine sites and wander through them.   I wonder what made the family choose this spot to stop and build a home, how long they stayed and why they left.   Usually not much is left there but my imagination and questions.

Dr. Edna Davis Timms is one of my proudest finds in researching my family history.  She was a women’s activist and a revolutionary thinker of her time. Edna was born just two years after the close of the Civil War in northern Illinois where so many of our family resided.  The Harvey Mann Timms family would eventually leave Illinois and make their way to the west coast.  The first to arrive was Edna’s twin brother, Eugene in 1893, and Edna came just two years later.  It appears that the rest of the family arrived in Portland by 1897 or 1898.

Edna’s first job in Portland was as an artist for the newspaper, The Oregonian.   I do not know when she entered medical school, but by 1897  city directory  her occupation was medical student. In 1899, at age 32 Edna graduated from the University of Oregon as a medical doctor.

As a physician she specialized in  gynecology.  She travel to Vienna to further her studies in 1901.   Edna  was the first woman listed as an instructor at the University of Oregon medical school in 1910.   She appeared to have been highly respected and presented often presented papers to the state medical society about women’s gynecological health and childbirth.   She was elected to multiple offices, treasurer and vice-president for the Oregon State Medical Association.   She also belonged to the AMA, the Women’s Medical Association and the Portland public health board.

Dr. Timms was the mistress of ceremonies in 1905 for the placement of the cornerstone of the building of the Oregon Nurses Association.   I think she was respected by nurses as she often spoke in their favor, to the outrage of some male doctors.   She once stated at a state medical association that she would rather deliver a baby in a home with a good nurse than in a hospital.  Boy  that got lots of comments from the floor.

Edna most pivotal contribution came after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Many of the refugees from the disaster left California and headed to Portland.  Once in Portland  the refugees found aid in the form of free medical care, clothing, food and more at a new organized The People’s Institute.  After the crisis abated these Edna continued on with the fledging organization as one its first physicians.   The People’s Institute at the turn of the century recognized that women’s health was an important issue.   It started  in one of Portland’s poorest and seedier neighborhoods.  The People’s Institute, with support of  financial benefactors and  physician’s like Edna, would establish  a kindergarten,  well baby clinics, social services, medical clinics, visiting nurse services, parks, nutrition programs  and more.   The People’s Institute  would eventually become the outpatient clinic of the University of Oregon medical school.

Unfortunately Edna’s  fullest potential may have never been known.  At the age of 43, only ten years after she became a doctor she was killed, when the auto she was riding in making an emergency call  was struck by a street car.  She made such a difference I am sure on so many lives, though it was cut short in what was the prime of her life.  If you are a member of the Timms family you should stand proud to be related to Edna Davis Timms,M.D.

One of my favorite finds in researching my family history was Edna Davis Timms,1st cousin 4x removed.

For those of you unsure what all this cousins and so much removed means here are a couple of things you should know.

First cousins and the sons and daughters of Aunts and Uncles.   It makes no difference if it is your  Great Uncle or your Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Aunt, their children are your 1st cousins.  Second cousins are the sons and daughters of 1st cousins.  Third cousins the children of 2nd cousins and so on.

The times removed talks about the number of generations they are from you in a common ancestor.   In Edna’s case her grandfather was also my 4th great grandfather; hence the 4 times removed between us.

It gets sometimes a little hard to figure out when when you get further away from your main tree.  Fortunately almost all the softwares for family tree will calculate the relationship between two people for you.

Today I requested the service records of my Great Uncle Sherm who also served in the CCC. I only recently found out that he was in the CCC. He went in just as his brother came out. I imagine that they were swapping places. One boy coming home to work on the farm while the other went to the CCC for the money that was sent home to the family.

Since the time I got my Grandfather’s records, they have been transferred from one agency to another, and it is unclear if or how the request procedure has changed. We will see. I have also found this great video on the CCC. It was eye-opening on the CCC, and the world at that time for me. It makes me want to know more about my Grandpa’s camp. It makes me wonder more about how the $25 a month impacted the family and the farm. It is well worth the time to watch it on the computer, and plays very well with almost no buffering even and slower speeds.

WGBH American Experience . The Civilian Conservation Corps | PBS.

Thanks to PBS and the show American Experience for making this show available free online.

Uriah is related on my Grandma Mae Davenport Virtue side, for those in my family who are following.   This story was generated from census records and  his Civil War Pension files

Uriah was the third child of Alfred and Lucinda (Tolley) Davenport.  who at the age of 18 enlisted in the Union Army.  He was assigned to the Mississippi Marine Brigade.  No it is not the state of Mississippi, but the river.   This group of solders patrolled the Mississippi River with gunboats.  Based on the dates of service, Uriah was likely involved in no great battles.   He mustered out September 18, 1865.

Uriah was by 1890 at the age of 45 applying for invalid pension for general disability and hemorrhoids.  His pension of $10 a month started in November 1890 and continued until his death in 1901.  In the pension file there is a record of a doctor’s exam who explains them as “…worst kind of piles… as large as quails eggs”  The doctor goes on to say this would greatly disable him from manual labor.   His disability was rated a 10 on a scale of 18.

Uriah and his wife,Mary, had 12 children, three who were still minors when Uriah passed away.   The bulk the pension file is Mary asking for the pension to continue for her and the 3 children.   Because so few records were kept at the time she had to get affidavits from people regarding her marriage and her children.   Not just one but several for each fact, marriage, birth of each child, and  relationship status.   The board of pensions looked at the reputation of not only Mary, but the people who completed affidavits.   These affidavits are sometimes difficult to read but full of information on the family.  Co-habitation was asked about for Mary.  The children except for one were born at home without a doctor or midwife.  In one case a daughter provides a statement about her mother’s delivery of a sister.   They question her economic means.   Her address was given as a house near the coal mine shaft; I doubt anyone with even meager means would choose to live there.

Mary went through all of  these trials to only die two years later.   There were still minor children.  Again the documentation trail started as the guardian of the children asked for their pension to be continued.

This file is over 100 pages long and full of information.   I may come back to Uriah later, but this is the first part of his story

National Archives

The United States National Archives are an amazing collection of stuff most of us never even scratch the surface when we seek family history.   It is in some ways cumbersome as you need to know what they have in order to know to ask for it. There is no single magical index of the National Archives, and some of the indexes are far from logical.

One of the things that folks hear about when people talk about  when doing genealogy and the National Archives is often Civil War records.   The Civil War era  collections are just plain amazing. I  have ordered several of the pension records, both Confederate and Union along with other pensions prior to the Civil War, including the Revolutionary War .   If you have a family member who served and either they or their survivors collected pension, I encourage you to get your pension file.

The first item that you will find in every pension file is a page of apology for the quality of the photo copies.   I think this is quite a hoot as the files are likely nearly 150 years old so even older!

Pension files can be as few as 20 or so pages or into the 100s.   This all depends on how early they applied for pension, and how long they were on the pension.   It is full of information as they  needed Davidson about their service, their marriage, their children, doctor’s exams and more.   If it is like most you will learn lots of information about your family member.   My next posts will be about the pension files I have and what I have learned about family members.

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