Sunday, July 31, 2011

Monday Madness: Weird Google Searches That Lead to my Blog

One of the fun things about keeping a blog is paying attention to the stats surrounding my visitors. Don't worry, I can't see who you actually are, but Blogger (the Google property that hosts this blog) shows me some interesting statistics surrounding my readers. For example, I can see by hour, day and month the following:
  • Page views
  • Which posts are viewed
  • Traffic sources (which websites have led you to my blog)
  • Countries where my visitors are at the time of their visit
Some of the most fascinating statistics, however, that Blogger shares with me are the actual Google Search strings that lead various visitors to my posts. Some of them make complete sense, such as the searches on specific names or locations that are mentioned in my posts. Some are so completely random, though, that I've started keeping track of them (spelling/grammar errors and all). Since they crack me up, I thought you all might get a kick out of them, too. Who knows, you may even recognize a search string that originally led you to one of my posts! Please do enjoy:
  • james genea cars trick 
  • christian lilienthal and gena 
  • mayo cake like grandma use to bake 
  • family tree hello my name is lables 
  • actual treasure chest 
  • what is heather locklear grandfathers name 
  • genealogy song about my grandpa was a horse theif 
  • what to give a grandfather for his 100th birthday 
  • old photograph baby image 
  • navy seals iv identification card 
  • thursday baby
  • updated discharge certificate 
  • fun adventures at night 
Ok, I did write a post about mayonnaise cake and, yes, I mentioned Heather Locklear in an old post (although, we are not related in any way). But I can't imagine that those strings would bring Shaking Leaves to within the top of any Google search results. The last search string is my favorite. I had no idea someone might think of my little family history blog as a source of "fun adventures at night"! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: John Bruhns' 1903 Solo Card Club

This clipping is taken from a more recent issue of my hometown newspaper, the Tracy Press, in Tracy, California. I love that the Tracy Press does a regular "Remember When" series, when they re-tell stories that were local news ten, 25, 50, 75 and even 100 years ago. I don't have the date of this particular issue (drat whoever neglected to make note of that on the clipping), but I'm guessing it's from 2003 since it refers to a photo that was taken in 1903.

See the distinguished looking man seated on the right? That's my great great grandfather, John Bruhns (1848-1934).
I'd never heard of Solo, the card game to which the story refers. However, a quick Google search, and knowing that most of these men hailed from Germany, lead me to believe that they played a game known as German Solo that looks like it might be fun.

This photo, and the story that goes along with it, also makes me wonder if this was strictly a men's game, or if women were ever invited to join in the fun. There's one woman in the photo (Mrs. Prusser, seen peeking over the shoulders of a couple of tall men), but since it was taken at her home, I'm guessing she was being a gracious hostess while the men played their game. I wonder what the other wives were doing while their men were out playing cards. I sure hope they had a fun club of their own that I can tell you about in a future post!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

(Not so) Wordless Wednesday: Dutch & Grace Bartram

Here's a great photo of my great aunt and uncle, Grace Bartram Zwissig and Raymond "Dutch" Bartram.

Dutch (1907-1954) and Grace (1913-1975) were two of the many (actually, 16) siblings of my maternal grandfather, John Bartram. They were both born in Harveyville, Kansas, and ended up in Northern California by the 1920s (along with their parents, Grandpa John, and their sisters, Eunice and Lorna).

Uncle Dutch, along with Grandpa John, was a successful and popular rodeo cowboy in the Livermore Valley. He and Grandpa worked for Harry Rowell, who was a well-known rodeo stock contractor and owned the Rowell Ranch in Eden Valley, along what is now Hwy. 580. Aunt Grace married another stock contractor, Carl Zwissig, and was also a major part of the Livermore Valley rodeo scene.

As you can see, Uncle Dutch and Aunt Grace both shared the same zest for life that my Grandpa John had.

Talented Tuesday: Grandpa John and the Sunken Patio

Here's another wonderful poem from my very talented Auntie Brenda. Her dad (who also happened to be my Grandpa John Bartram) was also talented in many ways -- including finding ways to get himself into trouble:


By Brenda Bartram Cairo

One Saturday morning bright and early
Dad set out to do Mom’s bidding
Not so happy at this task, he was feeling burly
Now “no drinking today” said she, not kidding

What was that in the bushes I spied...
A gallon of Red Daggo hidden with care
If Mom saw that bottle he would have died
Or maybe worse, Oh, Dad beware!

Now cement mixer's truly humming
Dumping loads of cement and smoothing it out
Every few minutes he’d do a little slumming...
Grab Red Daggo and pull the plug out
Somehow he knew when mom wasn’t looking
Right about noon he really was cooking

His eyes bright pink his words all slurred,
“Hey Mommy, come out, I’m stuck in the center”
There sat that drunken fool all interred
Trapped in cement that was starting to fetter

“What are you doing you drunken fool”
Out in the center oblivious of all, what a lark!
There was my Dad with his cement tool
Making mud pies like a kid in the park
“Mommy look at me! Oh can’t you see...
I didn’t know how much fun laying cement could be”

Into the house stomped Mom, to call Hans and Nina
When they arrived, she’s ready to kill...
Hans bellowed, he laughed “John’s heading for China!”
Then with a tug Dad came out, oh! What a thrill
Everyone laughed, thought, what a lark
Except our Mom, who had no sense of humor
She flew at him like some Great White Shark
She was out for murder, that is the rumor

Nina grabbed Mom’s hand just in the nick of time
Grabbed the hammer she swung at Dad’s drunken head...
Mom stomped to the house, while Dad said, so  sublime,
“Mommy I have not touched one little drink” he solemnly pled

So goes the story, that still lives to this day
When Mom forced Dad, a folly, to build
On that long ago, fateful, warm day in May
Our Great Sunken Patio, where, he almost was killed
Red Daggo most likely refers to the old Red Dagger wine. Grandpa liked cheap wines, so this would make sense. Hans and Nina were good friends of our family for many, many years. I'm sure they were quite amused at the site of Grandpa John drunkenly sinking into his wet cement patio...

Here's one of the only photos I've seen with Grandma Donna, Grandpa John and all their kids together. I love it for that reason, but also because Grandpa looks like he may have been hitting the old bottle a bit just before the photo was shot. 
Back Row, L-R: Clinton James, Brenda Rae, Rebecca Elizabeth (my Mom)
Front Row, L-R: Clayton John, Grandma Donna, Grandpa John

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: The Story of Harmon Parks Brittain

Amanuensis Monday is a blogging prompt used by many of my fellow geneabloggers. An Amanuensis is a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

Today, I've copied down for your enjoyment the story of my first cousin, four times removed, Harmon Parks Brittain. I typically write about my direct ancestors, or at least collateral relatives that I actually knew, but when I read Harmon's story, I knew I had to share it. He was an interesting guy who lived through interesting times. I don't know who wrote this story. I found it, typewritten, in my Grandma Edith's genealogy records. She must have thought he was pretty interesting, too.
Harmon Parks Brittain was born in Clark County, Indiana, February 6th, 1832. He was a farmer at Halfrock (not on modern maps), MO (on the Iowa border), in the years immediately prior to and at the outbreak of the Civil War. During this period, pro-slavery forces and abolitionist forces were each feverishly loading the territories of Kansas and Missouri with their own adherents because Congress had decreed that when these territories became states, they would be slave or free depending on a majority vote of the citizens  at the time of statehood, and if they both went the same way, it would tip the balance of power in the Senate. The result was that the war was truly a Civil War in these territories because of many situations where radical partisans for one side lived next door to radical partisans for the other side.

Harmon Brittain was a fighter, a man who had strong pro-Union convictions. Leaving his wife (Zilpha Theresa Hill Brittain) and three-year-old daughter, Emma, to live with Zilpha's parents, he joined the 13th Missouri Cavalry. (His brother James also joined up, was taken prisoner at the Battle of Shiloh and died in the infamous southern prison camp at Andersonville.) Emma Brittain Chastain said that one of her very earliest memories as a child, was hiding behind her mother's skirt when someone knocked at the door, and watching big-eyed as her mother opened the door with one hand while the other held a pistol concealed under her apron.

Harmon Brittain survived the formal hostilities without injury. However, after Lee surrendered and the army began to disband, he was faced with another problem. The extreme bitterness in Missouri made returning soldiers from both armies targets for vengeance. Many of them who had survived years of war were murdered as they returned home. Warned by his wife that he would be safer in the army than in his own community, he enlisted for another two years in the cavalry.

His wife and later his daughter Emma saved the letters he wrote home during that time, but unfortunately they have since been lost or destroyed. Included in his letters were a number of poems. They were not literary masterpieces by present-day standards, but were impressive when you realize they were written by a man who did not learn to read and write until after he was married (to a school teacher). One of these letters gave a graphic account of how he was sent out one day on a scouting mission and spied a huge cloud of dust moving toward him,which he was sure could only be generated by the largest army of Indians ever assembled on the Western plains. After nearly killing his horse getting back to camp to warn the small company, he was very embarrassed, but greatly relieved when his Indian army turned out to be a herd of buffalo. He titled the account, "The Cowardly Sergeant".

He returned home in 1866, moved his family to Kansas, then back to Missouri and finally, in 1875 joined a wagon train headed for Oregon. A significant commentary about the kind of man he was is made by an incident that happened on that trail. Being a careful man who was well acquainted with the harsh, unforgiving country he was to pass through, he had his animals and equipment in top shape. (He used oxen because of their superior survivability). Only a short way out on the trail, they came upon a family that had started poorly prepared. Their wagon was broken down and beyond repair. Unloading some of his not-so-essential items, he loaded up the family's essential items in of of his wagons and hauled them clear to Oregon. In the process, his daughter, Emma, who was sixteen and healthy, was obliged to walk the whole way -- all but the first two weeks without shoes.

He first settled in the Willamette Valley. But after losing most of his livestock to a mysterious ailment, and the family suffering from "ague" (malaria?), both of which they associated with dampness, they packed up and went looking for a drier place. They headed back over the Cascade Mountains to Wamic, where Emma met her husband-to-be, William Chastain. In 1882, his wife Theresa traveled to southern Oregon to visit family members who were living there, contracted Typhoid fever and died.

Harmon Brittain never remarried. He built himself a house near Wamic and spent the rest of his days there, with his children settling in the near vicinity. Being a man of small stature, he saw no reason for 6' 8" doors in his house. He made them tall enough for him, and if a tall man came to visit, he had to stoop to get through the door.

At some time in his life, Harmon's feet were so severely frostbitten that some of the flesh dropped off and bared some of the bone in the first joint. This gave him no end of pain. One day, while plowing, he decided he had had enough. He took his pocket knife and separated the first joints and removed the offending bone. Why didn't he pass out during the operation or die from infection? Too tough, maybe?

For many years he lived frugally in his house in Wamic, drawing his Civil War veteran's pension. He died January 18, 1916, at the age of 84 in Tygh Valley, Oregon. Some time after the funeral, his family began to try to find his money, knowing that he had been very saving and did not trust it to banks. The money was never found. Too late, it was remembered that he had a habit of putting money in the lining of his coat and that nobody had thought to check that when they buried him. The presumption is that he took it with him.

Children born to Harmon Parks Brittain and Zilpha Theresa Hill Brittain were: Emma Nancy, Aug 23, 1959 at Halfrock, Mercer Co., Missouri; Orange Colman, Mar 4, 1864 at Halfrock, Mercer Co., Missouri; Flora E. at Halfrock July 6, 1865; Myrtle Pleasant, Feb 4, 1871 at New Albany, Wilson Co., Kansas; Hattie E., Nov 21, 1873 in Taney Co., Missouri.
Harmon's story tells us a lot about the man, but also about the times he lived in. For example, when we think about the Civil War, we don't often consider the severe partisan differences between citizens who may have lived just next door to each other. We tend to assume that, once the war was over, everyone just went home to carry on with their lives. I can't imagine what it must have been like for Harmon to be afraid to to back into his own home, for fear of being murdered by neighbors who might not agree with what he fought for.

I'm also in awe of the story of his family traveling to Oregon via wagon train. Can you imagine what it must have been like to walk from Missouri to Oregon, over mountains and rivers and who knows what else, with NO SHOES? I keep imagining something out of "Little House on the Prairie" and thinking about how amazingly tough these folks were.

I'd love to thank the person who wrote this account of Harmon Parks Brittain's life, but I have no idea who that was. If there are any other Brittain cousins out there who can tell me, please drop me a line!

OH! Here's how I'm related to Harmon: his paternal grandfather, Parks Brittain, was my 4th great grandfather. Therefore we are first cousins, four times removed!

Sentimental Sunday: The Women in My Family

A few months back, I posted a photo of some of the important men in my family, including my Dad (William Lee Brittain), Grandpa John Bartram and three of my uncles. Here's a photo of some of the amazing and beautiful women who all helped raise my sister, cousins and me:
L-R: Aunt Bobbie Bartram (Uncle Jim Bartram's wife), Rebecca Bartram Brittain (Mom),
Great Aunt Rae Madsen Christensen and Aunt Brenda Bartram Cairo
Our family spent a LOT of time together when I was growing up. From the outfits the ladies are wearing in this photo, it looks like they must have been together for a special event. I think that they are at Aunt Rae and Uncle Rob's house in Livermore, California, and I'm guessing it was in the late 1960s. All of our time together, however, was fun and full of laughter, good food and lots of love!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: My 16 Great Great Grandparents

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings offers this mission for some Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

1)  List your 16 great-great-grandparents with their birth, death and marriage data (dates and places).  [Hint - you might use an Ancestral Name List from your software for this.]

2)  Determine the countries (or states) that these ancestors lived in at their birth and at their death.

3)  For extra credit, go make a "Heritage Pie" chart for the country of origin (birth place) for these 16 ancestors. [Hint: you could use the  chart generator from Kid Zone for this.] [Note: Thank you to Sheri Fenley for the "Heritage Pie" chart idea.]
Since my sweetie is away for the weekend, and I'm on my own this Saturday night, I thought it would be fun to play along! I went one step further and, where available, added photos for each set of great-greats.

My 16 great-great grandparents are:

1. Frederick Harmon Brittain, son of Milton Price Brittain and Nancy Garriott, was born on 20 January 1859 in Keokuk County, Iowa, USA. He died on 6 February 1921 in Van Buren County, Arkansas, USA. He married Mary Jane Rooks on 14 September 1879 in Lowery City, St. Clair County, Missouri, USA.

2. Mary Jane Rooks, daughter of Thomas J. Rooks and Serena Jane Ishmael, was born on 3 March 1862, in Grundy County Missouri, USA. She died on 28 March 1904 in Lincoln County, Oklahoma, USA.
Frederick and Mary Jane Brittain
3. William Leroy Halstead, Jr., son of William Leroy Halstead and Ann Dobson, was born on 6 March 1859 in Pocahontas, Pocahontas County, Iowa, USA. He died on 27 November 1944 in Avery, Lincoln County, Oklahoma, USA. He married Nancy Catherine Campbell in 1880 in Missouri, USA.

4. Nancy Catherine Campbell, daughter of George Thomas Campbell and Mary Jane Carter, was born on 13 November 1856 in Palo Alto County, Iowa, USA. She died on 14 March 1940 in Avery, Lincoln County, Oklahoma, USA.

William and Nancy Halstead
5. William Calhoun Hunt, son of James Sanders Hunt and, possibly, Arnetta Sellers, was born on 9 September 1870 in Prentiss County, Mississippi, USA. He died on 26 March 1915 in Jackson, Coal County, Oklahoma, USA. He married Georgia Frances Ann Purser on 4 March 1891 in Lee County, Texas, USA.

6. Georgia Frances Ann Purser, daughter of James Monroe Purser and Nancy Susan Hodge, was born on 7 October 1871 in Searcy, White County, Arkansas, USA. She died on 14 July 1956 in Henderson, Rusk County, Texas, USA. 
William and Georgia Hunt and their family
7. Riley Harrison Martindale, believed to be son of James Jancey Martindale and Sarah ____, was born in 1876 in Sebastian County, Arkansas, USA. He died on 17 April 1899 in Canadian, Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, USA. He married Nancy Dezina Jaggers on 19 February 1896 in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, USA.

8. Nancy Dezina Jaggers, daughter of Jessie James Jaggers and Louiza Jane Turman, was born on 1 September 1877 in Sulligent, Lamar County, Alabama, USA. She died on 14 September 1944 in Vinita, Craig County, Oklahoma, USA.  
Nancy Dezina Jaggers Martindale with her daughter, Ethel
9. John Bartrem, son of Samuel Bartram and Harriet Boste, was born in 1815 in Kelsale, Suffolk County, England. He died about 1882 at sea (en route from England to USA). He married Esther Meredith on 12 July 1846 in Welsh Newton, Herefordshire, England.  

10. Esther Meredith, daughter of Joseph Meredith and Sarah ___, was born in 1814 in Welsh Newton, Herefordshire County, England. She died in March 1888 in Monmouthshire County, Wales.
James and Esther Meridith and their family
11. George Elmer Veale, son of Andrew Jackson Veale and Elizabeth Miller, was born on 5 August 1850 in Pike County, Indiana, USA. He died on 20 September 1928 in Emporia, Lyon County, Kansas, USA. He married Margaret Harriman on 7 February 1872 in Daviess County, Indiana, USA.

12. Margaret Harriman, daughter of Jacob Harryman and Catherine LeFevre, was born on 12 November 1850 in Indiana, USA. She died on 23 January 1932 in Richmond, Contra Costa County, California, USA (while visiting family). 
Margaret Harriman Veale in 1931
13. Laurits Hansen Madsen, sone of Hans Madsen and Sidsel Marie Christensen, was born on 21 May 1839 in Risemark, Ærø, Denmark. He died on 1 October 1934 in Risemark, Ærø, Denmark. He married Kristen Kristen Terkelsen on 1 April 1869 in Risemark, Ærø, Denmark. 

14. Kristen Terkelsen, daughter of Hans Terkelsen and Kirsten Christensen, was born in 1850 in Graasten, Denmark. She died in 1925 in Risemark, Ærø, Denmark.
Laurits and Kristen Madsen and their family in Denmark
15. Johann Bruhns, son of Frederich Bruhns and Marguerite ____, was born on 20 July 1848 in Holstein, Germany. He died on 24 July 1934 in Tracy, San Joaquin County, California, USA. He married Christina Marguerita Schlichtmann, on 3 November 1881 in San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, USA.

16. Christina Marguerita Schlichtmann, daughter of Claus Schlichtmann and Anna Sophie Vanderleith, was born on 20 March 1862 in Hannover, Stadt Hannover, Niedersachsen, Germany.  1 December 1952 in Tracy, San Joaquin County, California, USA.
Wedding photo of John and Christina Bruhns
The birthplaces of my 16 great-great-grandparents are:

*  USA - 10 (3 in IA, 2 in AR, 2 in IN, 1 in AL, 1 in MO, 1 in MS)
*  England - 2
*  Denmark - 2
*  Germany - 2

Here is my "Heritage Pie" chart:
 Well, that WAS fun! Thanks, Randy, for the inspiration!!

Happy Birthday to my Grandma Donna M. Madsen Bartram (1919-1916)

Today would have been the 92nd birthday of my maternal grandmother, Donna M. Madsen Bartram. Grandma was born July 16, 1919, in Livermore, Alameda County, California, to Louis Hansen Madsen and Johanna Bruhns Madsen. She grew up as a cowgirl in and around the Livermore area with her sister, Rae, and brother, Lloyd.

As a young girl, Donna met a dashing cowboy named John Bartram, and they were married in Reno, Washoe County, Nevada, on March 26, 1918. Grandma and Grandpa raised four children: Clinton James (1938-2001), Brenda Rae (living), Rebecca Elizabeth (my mom, living) and Clay John (living).

Sadly, Grandma and Grandpa were in a tragic car accident in 1959, in which they were hit by a drunk driver. They both survived the accident, but Grandma was left with severe brain damage. Complications from the accident, along with diabetes, led to Grandma Donna's passing at too young an age. She died on February 12, 1966, at the Napa State Hospital in Napa, California.

I was still a baby when Grandma Donna passed away, so I didn't get to know her in person. However, her memory lives strongly in our family and I still love hearing stories about this strong woman who raised four kids -- and her handful of a husband --  with an iron will (and sometimes iron pan...). Her presence is still greatly missed in the family, by her family who knew and loved her as well as by her grandkids who wish we could have got to know our Grandma Donna.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Family Recipe Friday: Mom's Vanilla Chip Fruit Tart

One of the things I love about Summer is the abundance of fresh fruit that is available. In San Francisco, we have farmers markets around the city just about every day. How lucky can a girl get?

Here's a recipe from my mom, Becky, that showcases the best of Summer's fruit. And, you can customize this recipe to include the fruits that you like most. We've made this delicious tart in the past for special occasions, and it was always a hit!

Vanilla Chip Fruit Tart

From the kitchen of Rebecca Bartram Brittain Santos

¾ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cup flour
½ cup confectioner’s sugar

10 oz. bag vanilla chips (found in the baking aisle of your favorite grocer)
¼ cup whipping cream
8 oz. cream cheese

Fruit Topping:
½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbls. corn starch
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp. lemon juice

Crust: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, blend in flour. Press mixture onto bottom and side of 12” pizza pan (or tart pan). Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.

Filling: In microwave-safe bowl, microwave vanilla chips and whipping cream at high for 1 ½ minutes or until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Beat in cream cheese. Spread on cooled crust.

Fruit Layer: Select from Summer’s great fruits, such as blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, peaches, nectarines, etc. Slice and arrange over filling. This is where you can get really creative with layering and colors. Make it your own!

Fruit Topping: In small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in juices. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Cool completely. Pour over fruit layer. Serves 8-10.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Those Places Thursday: Mapping my Family in Marion County, Alabama

I love maps!! Just about as much as I love military pension files. It's so much fun to see where my family lived as well as their migration paths. With Google Maps, you can even see beautiful satellite views of where your folks once resided.

The other day, I was messing around in, and found that they've recently made available some amazing plat maps in 12 states, including Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Oregon. Plat maps are like candy to a genealogist -- these are the maps that show the exact parcels of land that our ancestors may have owned at a given point in time. I delved into the collection and almost immediately came up with the 1859 plat maps for Townships 12 and 13 in Marion County, Alabama -- right in and around the little town of Sulligent, where a good portion of my Sandlin, Turman and Noe ancestors lived during that time. (Note: as county lines were shifted over time, this part of Marion County eventually became Lamar County).

I've known for a long time that these families resided near each other for years because I consistently see them on the same pages as each other in the US Census documents. They also intermarried quite a bit, and stuck very close to each other. I didn't realize just how close, though, until I was able to view them on the land ownership -- or, plat -- maps for Marion County, Alabama. Here are the two maps, for Range 15, Townships 12 & 13. The Sandlin, Turman and Noe families straddled both maps -- they are at the very bottom of Township 12, and throughout the top half of Township 13 -- above the Buttahatchee River (no fart jokes, please!!).
Marion County, Range 15, Township 12
Marion County, Range 15, Township 13
Here, I've stitched the two maps together, zoomed in a bit, and color coded the land that each of the families owned: Noe is coded as Green, Sandlin is Blue and Turman is Red. By the way, you can click on each map to view it larger (and zoom in to see details).
Three of my 5th great grandfathers, Jesse Littleton Sandlin (1801-1863), Milton Anderson Turman (1802-1890) and Thomas R. Noe (1806-1867), are represented on this map. One of the great things about these maps is that they also included the land patent numbers that were granted when each of these families purchased their land. For example, here's the land patent document (#30112) for my 4th great grand uncle, H. Littleton Sandlin. Can you find his parcel of land on the map, above?

OK, one more map for you to check out. This one is a satellite map I found on Google Maps, and it shows what the area looks like today. Beautiful, isn't it? One of the coolest parts of this map is that it points out two important cemeteries in my family: the Sandlin Cemetery, where Jesse Littleton and Mary Nabors Sandlin are buried, and Pine Springs Cemetery, where my 5th great grandparents, Thomas R. and Mary Fitzgerald Noe, were buried after they were murdered together in their home in 1867.
Can you see the Buttahatchee River winding its way below
Lost Creek Road/County Road 35?
Plat maps and land patent documents are getting easier to find online. I've found a ton of land patent documents at the Bureau of Land Management's website. I have to dig a little harder to unearth plat maps (Google is my friend), and I'm thrilled that Ancestry is making it easier for us to find these gems that help us to tell our families' stories.

I hope you enjoyed this little "tour" of my ancestors' homeland in Marion County, Alabama!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

(Not so) Wordless Wednesday: Lars Hansen Madsen at Work in 1937

My ancestors were farmers. Just about all of 'em, and with just a few exceptions. Going back centuries, and in several different countries. Not sure how I ended up being such a city girl. Someone had to break the mold, I guess!

I recently found a photo in my Mom's collection of her maternal grandfather, Lars Hansen Madsen (Grandpa Louie, to us), working out in the field with his team of eight horses. The photo is dated 1937, and it looks to me like this is on the land he owned in the Altamont Hills just west of Livermore, California.
Lars Hansen Madsen (1893-1971). Photo taken in 1937.
Great Grandpa Louie was a dapper man, even when toiling on his land -- I just love the hat and pipe he's sporting. The sight of his pipe actually brings back old memories of how he smelled when I was a little girl.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Talented Tuesday: How Young James Brittain Died

Harmon Parks Brittain
A few weeks back, a distant relative reached out to me on with some questions regarding the family of Harmon Parks Brittain, who was a first cousin of my great great grandfather, Frederick Harmon Brittain (and, therefore, my first cousin, four times removed). Surprisingly, I remembered that I have quite a bit of information regarding Harmon Parks Brittain from my Grandma Edith's genealogy files. This weekend, I finally dug up his file and found that he was quite an interesting man, and a talented poet, to boot.

Harmon and his younger brother, James, both fought for the Union in the Civil War. Harmon was a Quartermaster Sergeant in Company B, 13th Missouri Cavalry, and James was a Private in the 23rd Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment. While Harmon survived the war without injury, his younger brother did not. James fought in the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) and was taken prisoner. He died a P.O.W. (I'm not yet sure in which prison) on May 23, 1862, at the tender age of 16 years.

James' death obviously weighed hard on Harmon, who wrote this poem about his little brother's bravery:
How Young James Brittain Died
By Harmon Parks Brittain (date unknown)

When Davis and his rebel crew
First armed the fatal blow,
At Anderson the brave and true,
At Sumter as you know.

The north awakened, then well knew,
That war was close at hand.
And then the noble, brave and true,
Soon rallied to a man.

They rallied round the stars and stripes,
The red, the white, and blue.
And through the long and dreary night,
They kept the flag in view.

The 28 men, well I know,
Then answered to the call.
To meet the then invading foe
And face his cannon balls.

At Shilo then, they met that foe,
He'd overwhelming powers.
Contendants swaying to and fro,
For many, many hours.

And there they stood for many hours,
Combatting five to one.
The Rebels using all their powers,
With cannon, sword, and gun.

The battle raged, the cannon roared,
And still the foe pressed on.
And men while weltering in their gore,
All o'er the ground were strewn.

Brave Tindal was an officer,
The regiment did command,
His voice raising loud and clear,
While cheering on his men.

For hours they checked the monstrous foe,
Upon the battlefield.
The regiment swaying to and fro,
And yet they would not yield.

There stood a boy on that ridge,
And a noble boy too.
Was scarcely sixteen years of age,
Whose heart was brave and true.

James Brittain was this young man's name,
He'd by his comrades stood.
The rebel bullets as they came,
Was spilling half their blood.

Undaunted, still young Jimmie stood,
His comrades round him fell.
He lent them all the aid he could,
And used his musket well.

While standin' all this shock of arms,
There came no helping aid,
The rebels round the regiment ran,
And they were prisoners made.

Farewell my country, I must go,
Down in the south to dwell.
In pens of misery and woe,
It's like a living hell.

Farewell Father, you'll ne'er see me,
Your young and cherished son.
Do not let it grieve thee,
Although you know that I am gone.

Farewell brothers, farewell sisters,
Oh do not weep and cry,
How proudly would I now have kissed thee,
Oh e'er I here must die.

My food it is the coarsest bran,
Made up with slop and brine.
The pen is worse that most of men,
would keep around their swine.

Farewell Father, farewell brothers,
A mother I have none.
Farewell sisters, farewell country,
The fever coming on.

And now my brother I would ask thee,
whatever may betide.
You write a verse in memory,
Just heartbreaking!! I love to read about the Civil War, and I watch a lot of Civil War documentaries, but it really hits home to read about my own relatives' experiences in that horror.

I was also quite impressed to find out that this poem was written by a man who did not even learn how to read and write until he was married (to a school teacher, of course!).

I have several poems and letters that were written by Harmon Parks Brittain, as well as a story that was written (by someone else) about his life. While he's not one of my direct ancestors, he's still part of my Brittain heritage, and I look forward to sharing more about this very interesting man with you all in the future.

Military Monday: Benjamin Ishmael's Revolutionary War Pension Application

I love researching my Revolutionary War patriots and learning about their lives during that important period of our history. Each of my patriots had different experiences. Some served for a short time, while others served for several years, even after the end of the war. Some didn't live long to see much action, while others fought in, and survived, many important battles. Fortunately, most of the patriots in my lineage lived through the Revolutionary War and were able to go home to their families. Each soldier has his own story to tell, and I'm proud to be able to share their experiences with you here.

Here's a small part of the Revolutionary War pension application for my paternal 6th great grandfather, Benjamin Ishmael (July 1736 - July 10, 1822). He served in Pennsylvania, but eventually migrated west to Kentucky, which is where he applied for his pension.

Here's the transcript (exactly as written, including grammar and run-on sentences) of the second document, which details Benjamin Ishmael's service in the Revolutionary War:
District of Kentucky (??)
On this 1st day of October 1818, before me the undersigned, one of the circuit judges for the Commonwealth aforesaid, personally appeared Benjamin Ishmael aged 82 years resident of Nicholas County, in the said District, who being by first duly sworn according to Law doth on his oath, make the following declaration in order to obtain the provision made by the late act of Congress entitled, "An act to provide for certain persons engaged in the Land and Naval Service of the United States in the Revolutionary War" that he the said Benjamin Ishmael in the year 1776 enlisted Canegagig Settlement in the State of Pennsylvania in The Company Commanded by Captain Abraham Smith of the 6th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Line Commanded by Colonel Irwin a continental Establishment for one year and that he continued in the service for the term of one year in the Company Regiment and line aforesaid when he was discharged from service in Albany in the State of New York and that he again enlisted about a year afterwards at the place aforesaid under (??) Blueford [note: I think this may be Colonel Bluford] of the Cavalry and was transferred to Gen'l Count Pulaski's Independent Legion and continued to serve therin for more than one year that he belonged to his first troop under Captain Peter Bentlow when he was discharged at Williamsburg in Virginia and that he was in several skirmishes one at Eggharbour and he is in reduced circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his country for his support and that he has no other Evidence now in his power of said services.

(??) to before (??)
sworn and declared before me the day and year aforesaid

                                                                                         John Trimble
After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin went back to being a farmer in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and was found on the 1780 tax records in that area. It is written that Benjamin Ishmael also received a land grant of 160 acres from Virginia for services rendered in the Revolution. By the 1810 US Census, Benjamin and his family appeared in Fleming, Kentucky. They were in Nicholas County, Kentucky, by the 1820 Census, which is where he died on July 10, 1822. 

Benjamin initially applied for his pension in 1818, but was not officially awarded it until January 15, 1823 -- about six months after he had died. Benjamin died in relative poverty, and wasn't able to enjoy the assistance of his country that was finally awarded to him. According to a transcription of his will, he left what very little he had to his wife, Jenny (I had always thought he was married to a different woman and will be researching this more!) and his many children. What he was owed for his pension was prorated to his date of application in 1818 and finally paid to his family.
While digging through Benjamin's Revolutionary War records, I found some other intriguing stories about this man and his descendants. One other researcher noted that he'd been sued for "Bastardy" and that the the document is on file in Nicholas County (yes, I'll be looking that!). A book has also been written about some of Benjamin's descendants who "were discovered in the slums of Indianapolis in the 1870s and became a symbol for all that was wrong with the urban poor." Yep, it's on my summer reading list!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: My Two Great Grandmas

Here's a photo of my two paternal great grandmothers: Jessie Luetta Halstead Brittain (Dad's paternal grandma) and Ethel Modena Martindale Hunt Dobbs (Dad's maternal grandma).
Jessie Luetta Halstead (1898-1974) and Ethel Modena Martindale (1896-1977)
They don't look terribly thrilled to be having their picture taken...
The photo was taken at my grandparents' (Woodie Brittain and Edith Hunt Brittain) home in Livermore, California. By this time, Ethel lived in Oklahoma (where both my grandparents were born) and Jessie lived in Oregon, so I think it was rare that they actually were in the same room together.

My sister, Cindy, and I were fortunate that we both got to know our great grandmas and spend time with them when they visited our family in California. They were sweet little ladies who liked to dote on their grandkids. =)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Family Recipe Friday: Grandma Donna's Divinity Fudge

Donna Madsen Bartram
I'm still having fun going through my Grandma Donna's high school home economics textbook. It's fun to see the notes that she took and, especially, the recipes that she wrote down in her own hand. I was excited to find a recipe for one of my all-time favorite candies: Divinity Fudge!

Divinity Fudge
From the kitchen of Donna Madsen Bartram
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup white syrup (I think she means corn syrup)
  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Boil sugar, water and syrup until it cracks when drizzled in cold water (this would be hardball stage, or 250 degrees with a candy thermometer). Add slowly to egg whites. Add nuts and vanilla and beat until creamy. Be sure to boil and beat long enough (I’m not sure what Grandma meant by “long enough,” but I’d start with about five minutes on high speed).

Grandma didn't write down what to do next with this concoction, but my guess is that it should be spread out into a pan to cool and harden, and then cut into pieces. Or, you could spoon the mixture out into bite-sized drops on a sheet of wax paper. Either way, I’m sure this Divinity will taste truly divine (ba-DUM-bump!)
Too bad I've sworn off sugar for the time being -- just typing this up for you all has my sweet tooth craving some!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

(Not so) Wordless Wednesday: James, Ethel and baby Edith Brittain in 1920 Oklahoma

Here's one of my favorite photos from my Dad's family. It's a picture of my great grandparents, James William Hunt (1881-1961) and Ethel Modena Martindale Hunt (1896-1977), and their baby daughter, my Grandma Edith Vivian Hunt Brittain (1920-1993). It appears to have been taken soon after Grandma Edith was born (April 1, 1920, in Slick, Creek County, Oklahoma).
It looks like James is looking lovingly at his new little girl. I had always heard he was a sweet man.
I wonder if they were living in the tent. There appears to be furniture inside it, and the person taking the picture seemed to make sure that he or she got the entire tent in the shot. The 1920 US census, in which they were enumerated in January of that year, shows them living next door to James' brother, Melvin Dean Hunt, and his wife, Veatrice. Perhaps the tent was on their land? James and Melvin were both laborers in the oil fields, and not wealthy, so it's entirely possible that the young couple made their first home in a tent. By the 1930 census, both couples had moved from that area. Makes me feel grateful for the four solid walls and roof that my parents were always able to put over our heads.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Military Monday: Bible Record of Revolutionary War Patriot, Jesse Bentley

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! In honor of our nation's Independence Day, I'd like to share with you part of the widow's pension application of my 6th great grandmother, Mary Scott Bentley. Mary was the wife of Revolutionary War Patriot (and my 6th great grandfather), Jesse Bentley (1748-1836). Jesse was a Private in Captain Gray's Company, 11th Virginia Regiment. He entered the Continental army in about 1767. He was present at the siege of Savannah and Augusta, and served throughout the war. Jesse died on May 23, 1836.

According to Mary's pension application, Jesse and Mary's house burned down in 1805, and everything was lost. They were, however, able to save one incredible genealogical treasure: the family bible. Mary tore out the family record pages from the bible and sent them in with her pension application. The entire application, along with the bible pages, lives at the National Archives and has been scanned and made available on the internet (I found this file at both and 

The top left record on this page shows the birth of
my 5th great grandfather, John T. Bentley

The top left record shows the marriage of my 5th great grandparents,
John T. Bentley and Mary "Polly" Maxey (m. October 23, 1807)
I love discovering documents that detail my family's part in the early history of our nation. It's even more fun when they offer information detailing important family details and relationships. I'm learning a lot about my 6th great grandparents, Jesse and Mary Bentley, and will share more with you all in future posts.

Meanwhile, have a great Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Obituary: Great, Great Grandpa John Bruhns (1848-1934)

Here's the 1934 obituary of my great great grandfather, Johann (John) Bruhns. He was born July 20, 1848, in Holstein, Germany, and immigrated to Tracy, San Joaquin County, California, in 1872. You can still see the barn on his old land out on Corral Hollow Road in Tracy, and I still love driving by it when I visit my old hometown. He passed away outside of Tracy on July 24, 1934.

Here's the text from the obituary that ran in the Tracy Press newspaper just after John Bruhns' death:

John Bruhns, for Fifty Years a Leader in Local
Farming Activities Passed Away
After Long Illness
With sorrowing friends and relatives from far and near in attendance Thursday afternoon, John Bruhns, pioneer resident of this territory for 50 years, was laid in his last resting place at Tracy cemetery, after a solemn and impressive ceremony at the DeMark Funeral Chapel, conducted by Rev. H. D. Soyer.

John Bruhns, known by old and young alike for many years, passed away at his ranch home four miles southwest of Tracy at 7:30 Tuesday morning after a lingering illness. He was 86 years of age and had just celebrated his birthday last Friday, July 20.

Deceased came to the Tracy section in 1872, two years after he had left his native land of Germany. He was born July 20, 1848, and in 1870 went from Hamburg, Germany, to Liverpool, England, where he took passage for New York. After spending two years in that city he came to California and in 1881 began farming in the Lammersville district near Bethany. In 1884, he moved to the ranch near here, where he spent his remaining days.

In 1881, deceased was married to Christina M. Schlichtman at the ranch home near Bethany. The couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary November 3, 1931, at the present home where they entertained a host of friends and relatives for the day.

There were five children from the union, Mrs. C. A. Christiansen of Livermore, Mrs. L. H. Madsen of Altamont, Mrs. Fred Von Sosten and John Bruhns of Tracy, and Mrs. J. H. Bargeman, deceased. There are 11 grandchildren, John, Carl, Irma and Thelma Von Sosten, Mildred, Doris, Lois and Elmer Christiansen, and Lloyd, Dona and Rae Madsen.

John Bruhns was one of the first members of the West Side Lodge, #118, Knights of Pythias, and has always been an active member. He has for many years been one of the leading farmers in this section and took an active part in all civic interests up until the time illness made it impossible for him to do so to any great extent.

It was indeed a sad blow to the countryside when the news of his death was heard. The entire community is in mourning for one of the oldest settlers in the valley and one who was known and loved by all.

The pallbearers were: Adolph Linne, Ben Canale, Dan Canale, S. S. McLean, Fred Goetjen and Thomas P. Ohm.


John Bruhns, pioneer of Tracy, who passed away at his ranch home four miles southwest of here Tuesday morning after a lingering illness. Bruhns celebrated his 86th birthday July 20
It's nice to read that my great great grandfather was so loved by his family and those in the community. I have quite a few photos of him, and he seemed like a person who truly loved life and his family. 
John Bruhns, surrounded by his large family

Friday, July 1, 2011

Family Recipe Friday: Aunt Rae's Brown Beans

Growing up, our family always had such fun Fourth of July parties. We usually gathered at my Uncle Jim and Aunt Bobbie's house in Livermore. They lived in a cul-de-sac that was perfect for lighting our own fireworks, and their wonderful neighbors always let us kids swim in their nice, cool swimming pool.

As with every family gathering, there was always too much delicious food, including grilled meats (burgers, hotdogs, tri-tip steaks -- you name it, our family likes meat), salads, desserts and beans. Today, I found my Great Aunt Rae's Brown Beans recipe, and think it would be perfect for a July 4th picnic or barbecue!

Aunt Rae on Chee Chee
Rae's Brown Beans

3 pounds pink beans, cleaned & rinsed
2 1/2 large yellow onions, diced
2 pounds slab bacon
1 large head of garlic
3 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
1 1/2 gallons water
5 tsp salt
3/4 Tbls pepper
3 tsp Crystal hot sauce
9 oz. Rosa Rita chunky salsa, mild or medium

Clean and rinse beans. Cut bacon into 1-inch squares, down to the rind but not all the way through. Add all of the above ingredients to large pot with lid. Bring to a light boil, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Check and add water if needed, and check for doneness. Keep lid ajar when not serving.

Serves about 36.
 Happy Fourth of July!!