#52Ancestors | Surprise

The prompt for this week, Surprise, was leaving me feeling a little stumped. I’ve had some minor surprises in my research (what do you mean s/he was born in Illinois/Canada/etc?!?!) and thankfully no major surprises when it came to DNA testing. So I wasn’t sure what to write about. And then this weekend happened.

I’ve long been stalled on further researching my Italian ancestors who came from Pisticci, Basilicata, Italy. Italy has this nice “Antenati” website with birth, death, and marriage archives, if you know the town from which your people came. And I did. My great grandfather, Francesco DeCarlo, was born in Rosali, in the Calabria (toe of the boot) region. I’ve used those records to trace his family back about 4 more generations.

But his wife, Maria Teresa Bianculli was a different story. She was born in Pisticci, in the Basilicata (instep of the boot) region. However, those records were not on the Antenati website. Every time I went to the website and looked in the Matera province, Pisticci was not one of the towns available. I looked on Family Search and found out they had some Pisticci records available, but only if viewed at one of their libraries. So a few weeks ago, I gathered my notes and visited the local family history center. Going in, I knew Maria Teresa’s date of birth, as well as the names of her parents: Nicola Bianculli and Grazia DiTursi. I pulled up the Pisticci records but they were out of order, with no real rhyme or reason to them that I could figure out. I tried to find the birth record for Maria Teresa or one of her two brothers, Donato and Domenico. No luck. I basically skimmed the records looking for surnames I recognized and I did stumble upon one useful record….their mother’s death record.

I learned that Grazia Maria DiTursi died June 26 1908 at the age of 53. She was born in Montalbano Jonico and her parents were Donato, a farmer, and Maria Borraccia. She was the wife of Nicola Bianculli. Her current residence was #18 Via Cavour in Pisticci.

So I didn’t walk away with the birth records I’d gone in search of, but I did find something I hadn’t been looking for. And it added a generation to my family tree. Fast forward to this weekend. Since I knew Grazia was born in Montalbano Jonico, I thought I’d check the Antenati website for those records. I was able to find her birth, as well as the birth of two of her siblings. At some point I backed out of the records for Montalbano Jonico and then I saw it:


To my great SURPRISE, Pisticci was listed among the towns in the Matera region. This was never there before. I swear. I’ve check multiple times. I don’t know if there was some recent update, but there it was, like magic. I almost didn’t believe it, but I clicked on Pisticci, expecting there to be nothing of use. Instead, I saw this:


So there were many types of records available. But I was most interested in the births, or nati. Again, I clicked on it, fully expecting they wouldn’t have the year I wanted available, 1889. I’m pretty sure I held my breath until the page loaded. But there it was, 1889, plus births from 1816 to 1900. So I clicked through until I found her birth record:


Again, I knew her birth date and her parent’s names already, but I still wanted this record in my files. I also learned that her grandmother, Maria Teresa Borraccia, is the one who reported her birth, and that her parents lived at #1 Via Ruggiero Settimo. After finding this, I browsed the preceding years and found births for her known siblings, Donato and Domenico, and also found 4 additional siblings. Yay! I then searched for her parent’s marriage record, starting at the year of birth for her eldest sibling and working backward.

Nicola Bianculli and Grazia Maria DiTursi were married on 6 February, 1873. Nicola was 21 years old, a farmer, and single. His parent’s were Domenico and Rosantonia Di’—. Grazia was 17 years old, a weaver, and single. The marriage record confirmed her parents’ names which I’d previously learned from her death record.

Since I now knew Nicola was 21 when he married in 1872, that led me to his birth record. He was born 28 August, 1851. Parents’ names were again confirmed, along with the new information of their ages. You can see the new rabbit hole I’ve fallen down.

If you also have Italian ancestors, here are a few tips I’ve learned in my many perusals of the Antenati records:

  • You need to know which town they came from. The records are not indexed and require you to browse. You should also have lots of time on your hands. And patience.
  • Most record sets have an index. When you open the births/deaths/marriages for a given year, the index is either at the very beginning, or the very end. I usually check the index for the surnames of interest, take note of the date and the Numero di Registro. Depending on my goal, I will look at every entry for a given surname to find unknown-to-me siblings. (some years are missing an index. Ask me about that time I paged through 200+ pages until I found the birth record I was looking for).
  • Women are listed by their maiden names. I thought this was just because the Italians were superb record keepers, but someone else has told me it is because Italian women didn’t take their husband’s surnames. Either way, it works for me!
  • Most entries follow a certain format. This website has a helpful template for births and deaths. Not all years have the same template, and I’ve found that earlier years may just be a handwritten paragraph. Handwriting is the most difficult part of this.
  • Birth records often have additional people listed. There is often someone who is reporting the event. This could be the father, the midwife, or another family member. There are also often 2 additional people who are serving as witnesses.
  • The records often list profession. This website has list of useful translations.
  • Keep Google Translate open. It’s useful for months, dates, etc.
  • Check Google Streets for those addresses!

#52Ancestors | I’d Like to Meet

This post is a slight continuation of the previous post, At the Library, though it can be read separately.

One of the people in my family tree that I’d like to meet is Catherine “Kate” Keegan Fitzgerald, my 2nd great grandmother.

Kate was the 4th of seven children born to Hugh and Margaret (Cavanagh) McKeegan. She was born in Ormstown, Quebec, Canada but the family moved to Morris, IL around 1870, when she was 6 years old. In the next census, she isn’t enumerated with her family. Instead, she is at the home of George Jones, a furniture dealer. She is 15 years old and listed as a servant.1 Her older sister Mary is also residing in another home as a servant.

At 19, she married my 2nd great grandfather, William J. Fitzgerald.2 Charles Thomas was born about 10 months later, and William John, my great grandfather, arrived in 1889. The following year, she moved with her husband, children, parents and four of her siblings to Sand Coulee, Montana.3 Sand Coulee’s mining industry was just beginning to pick up, and Kate’s father and brothers were working as coal diggers in Illinois, so I suspect this is what precipitated the move west.

By the 1900 census, her husband is back in Morris, IL with their son, Charles. Except he is no longer Kate’s husband. He is remarried to Margaret.4 Their other son, William John, is enumerated with his grandparents, Hugh and Margaret, back in Sand Coulee, MT. His aunt, Kate’s sister, Martha is also living with them.5 By 1910, William John is living with his Aunt Martha and her husband Louis. So what happened to Kate?

Between 1890, when they moved to Sand Coulee, and the 1900 census, Kate has disappeared. I searched local newspapers and was shocked to find my answer:

“Mrs. Kate Fitzgerald, a highly esteemed lady of Sand Coulee, died about 6 pm. Monday of pneumonia, after an illness of but one week. She numbered her friends by hundreds She was foremost in any movement that had for its object the assistant of the needy of the advancement of any worthy cause.”6

She was 32 years old when she died from pneumonia on Feb 4, 1896. William John was 6 years old, his brother 11. I found Kate listed in the Sand Coulee Cemetery in an unmarked graved too. For some reason, I wanted to know more about Kate so I continued to scour newspapers and found out more about her before her untimely death.

“A restaurant was opened in this city a few days ago by Mrs. Fitzgerald and is known as the Bon Ton Restaurant. This is the only first-class eating establishment in the Coulee and meals may be had at all hours. A this establishment a person can get a meal that would be the delight of an epicure. The meals are served by ‘maidens fair with golden hair whose smiles so sweet the hours beguile’-so sweet, in fact, that one almost forgets that he has called for dinner.”7

I find the description of the restaurant funny in an odd way. I haven’t been able to find out more about this restaurant, besides another mention of it in reference to another business, “Andrew Jenson…is building a new store between Fitzgerald’s restaurant and the livery stables.” An 1896-97 City Directory lists the owner of the restaurant as a Mrs. Christina Stevenson.8 I suspect she took over the restaurant when Kate died or maybe was her partner?

Then I stumbled across even more shocking information9:

fitzdivorce (3)

So William Jr. was apparently a less than nice man. At least according to Kate, and worth printing in the paper. I find this interesting, because it’s the opposite of how he was described when he returned to his hometown of Morris, IL and married Margaret Magner. The paper there described him as “one of Morris’ best young business men, possessing sterling qualities of character.”10 I haven’t found any divorce records for that time so I don’t know if they were officially divorced before she died, and if so, did she gain custody of both children? Why did William John stay in Sand Coulee when his brother and father returned to Morris? Was it because he was younger and therefore “better off” with an aunt rather than his father? On the flip side, why didn’t Charles stay? Did he choose to go with his father?

For some reason, Kate’s short life has always moved me and for this reason she’s someone I’d like to meet. Her life was filled with lows: working as a servant by the age of 15, a (presumably) abusive husband, divorce, illness; but also some highs: children, owning a restaurant. She had so much happen during such a short time span that I would like to ask about. As I made dinner tonight, I found myself wondering what her favorite meal to cook was. I would also ask if I could take her picture.





  1. 1880 United States Federal Census, Morris, Grundy, Illinois. [database online] Ancestry.com 
  2. Marriage record for William J. Fitzgerald and Katie Keegan, copy from my records, obtained from the Grundy County, IL. courthouse. 
  3. Morris Herald, Morris, IL. 23 May 1890. Page 8, column 1. Microfilm roll #19. Accessed 19 Nov, 2015 at Morris Public Library. 
  4. 1900 United States Federal Census, Morris, Grundy, Illinois. [database online] Ancestry.com 
  5. 1900 United States Federal Census, Sand Coulee, Cascade, Montana. [database online] Ancestry.com 
  6. Great Falls Weekly Tribune, Great Falls, MT. 7 Feb 1896, page 5, image 5. [database online] chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. Accessed 21 Nov, 2015. 
  7. Great Falls Weekly Tribune, Great Falls, MT. 4 Aug 1893, page 5. [database online] chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. Accessed 3 Dec, 2015. 
  8. Erickson, George I. A History of Sand Coulee, Montana 1880 Through 1900. Bozeman, MT. December 2008. 
  9. Great Falls Weekly Tribune, Great Falls, MT. 3 Aug 1894, page 2. [database online] chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. Accessed 28 Nov, 2015. 
  10. Morris Daily Herald, Morris, IL. 4 May 1898, page 3, column 3, microfilm roll #25. Accessed at Morris Public Library, Nov 19 Nov 2015. 

#52 Ancestors | At the Library

The prompts for week 5 and 6 are I’d Like to Meet and At the Library, respectively. The people I’ve decided to write about for these prompts are related, and it makes more sense, chronologically, for me to write about the At the Library prompt first.

About five years ago, when I first started my genealogy research, I decided to focus on my dad’s side of the family. We knew little information about his paternal side. Dad’s father was born in Washington and eventually moved to Montana where Dad was born and raised. We sort of expected that prior generations were from Washington too. However, when I found my great grandfather, William John Fitzgerald, in the census, his birth place was listed as Illinois. Surely it couldn’t be our guy. But records were consistent and the SS index and his funeral home record identified his birth place as Morris, IL. Soon enough I had acquired his birth record and his parent’s marriage record from the courthouse in Grundy County, IL. His tree was growing and so was an idea…a road trip. We live in Wisconsin, and Illinois is right next door. So one weekend in November, dad and I took that road trip.


By this time, we’d identified William’s parents, brother and grandparents. Since William comes from a line of William Fitzgeralds it’s easy to confuse the generations. I’ll refer to them as William John, William Jr (born 1863), and William Sr. (born 1830). Catherine’s parents were Hugh and Margaret Keegan. She and all but one of her siblings were born in Canada before the family moved to Morris around 1870. Kate, as she was known, and William Jr. married in 1883 and had Charles in 1884 and William John in 1889. We had determined that at some point between the 1880 and 1900 censuses (thank you, missing 1890 census), some of the family had moved from Morris, IL to Sand Coulee, MT. William John was born in 1889, so it had to be after that, but how far after? And why?

We’d planned to visit the local library, which I knew had some local historical and genealogical records, as well as the Catholic Church, the courthouse, and the cemetery. The library was our first stop. I’m pretty sure Dad and I looked either like kids in a candy shop or a ball in the pinball machine. There was a card catalog with indexed newspaper articles, funeral home records, books, registers etc. I didn’t know where to start first, wanting to see it all at once.

The funeral home records were from Fruland Funeral home. Here we found the record for William Sr. and William Jr. as well as an unknown Mrs. Catherine Fitzgerald, maiden name Lynch. This provided us with death dates, as well as cause of death for William Sr. (gradual exhaustion). His occupation was listed as laborer while his son’s was listed as undertaker (new information).

The Morris Herald was indexed by surname, so we flipped through those, recording any and every mention of the Keegan and Fitzgerald surnames. Dad and I loved the seemingly mundane happenings that were recorded in the papers, our favorite being “news is scarce today,” but it paid off with this finding:


So we had our answer. The Keegans, including William Fitzgerald Jr., left Illinois for Sand Coulee in May of 1890. This didn’t explain why, but I suspect it was to work in the mines in Sand Coulee. Coal was discovered in Sand Coulee in 1881. The town gained its first Post Office in 1884 and railroad access in 1888, which then stimulated the mining boom in the town.

William Sr. and wife Mary stayed in Morris, along with William Jr.’s sister Anna and brother Charles. The newspaper index allowed us to easily find mentions of our family, which we were then able to access using the microfilm readers. Some mentions included:

  • Mary’s death and funeral in 1893. She had suffered a “severe attack of La grippe” several years prior, which was an indirect cause of her death. Her son, William Jr., was in Sand Coulee and not expected to make it back in time for the funeral. Her funeral procession was “lengthy” and she was described as a “hardworking lady” and “beloved.”
  • a fire at the Fitzgerald home in 1898. The fire was put out before the “fire laddies” arrived. It was caused by a defective flue and burned a small hole in the roof.
  • William Jr. later returned to Morris from Montana and remarried. His wedding to  Maggie Magner in 1898 was reported and he was described as “one of Morris’ best young business men, possessing sterling qualities of character.”
  • Anna’s marriage to Rome O’Connell in 1913
  • Charles’ marriage to Dolly Mears in 1914
  • William Sr.’s death in 1910
  • William Jr.’s death in 1922

We also found William Sr. in the US Civil War Draft Census for Grundy County, IL which listed able bodied men aged 18-45 years. He was listed as being 32 years old, born in Ireland, and a R.R. Employee.

One thing I don’t recall looking for at the library is local directories for the time period our family lived in Morris. It’s possible I looked and didn’t find anything, but I don’t recall. I have since found directories from 1878 and 1917 online.

Overall, I think our trip to the library was very successful. I haven’t found online archives for this time period for the Morris Herald, so this index at the library was very valuable. We were also able to take the death information from the funeral home records  and newspaper to the courthouse to obtain death certificates.

A few notes:

  • The local history and genealogical records we accessed at the Morris Public Library have now been moved to the Grundy County Historical Society.
  • I have researched the family of the Mrs. Catherine Fitzgerald (maiden name Lynch, same as my Mary Lynch Fitzgerald) we found in the funeral home records and by comparing DNA matches, I believe we have determined that there is no connection between our families. Bummer.


#52Ancestors | Unusual Name

Finding an unusual name in my family tree wasn’t the easiest task. Sure, some of my ancestors who came from Italy have names that seem unusual to an English speaker, but were very likely common for their time and place. So I scoured the tree some more and came up with:

Freeborn Brown Ellwanger,

my first cousin, 3x removed. This is an unusual name to me because it isn’t particularly ethnic sounding, just…uncommon. And thankfully for me, its spelling isn’t very unusual either, so it made finding him in records a breeze.

Freeborn was born to Charles William Ellwanger and Uniety Elizabeth Parris in 1893 Maryland.1 So mom had an unusual name too, and looking back in records, Brown seems to be a middle name common in her family. But I did not find any other Freeborns on either side. His siblings were: William Hartley (Hartley being a family name), David Howard and Hannah. So only Freeborn was graced with an unusual name. Freeborn makes me think of slaves and perhaps naming someone who was, well, born free. But my Ellwanger family was white and Freeborn was born well after the Civil War, so I don’t have any explanation for his name.

At the age of 22, he married Isabelle Bice Carrow. Their wedding was described as “very pretty” with the happy couple marching from the room “to the strains of Lohengrin,” then heading to the train station where they “took a train to points north” for a honeymoon. Isabelle wore a brown travelling suit with matching hat and gloves. They settled near Whitleysburg, where he took up farming.2

In the next eight years, five children were born to them: Elizabeth, Mildred Isabelle, Brown, Eleanor and Aubrey. So the Brown name continued on, though I don’t know if little Brown shared his father’s first name and therefore went by his middle name. I haven’t found birth records for this time period, and the only mention of the last three children is at their untimely death.3


After the death of three of their children, three more arrived: twins, Margaret and Mary Ellen, and James Alan.4 In 1935, Isabelle was pregnant again, but at around 5.5 to 6 months, she delivered twin boys prematurely. One lived for an hour5, the other for one day.6 In a ten year time span, the family had suffered the death of five children.

In 1943, another scare, which likely hit too close to home. The Ellwangers had the fire department called out to their house, not once, but twice, for chimney fires.7

Isabelle passed away November of 1946.8 After her death, Freeborn gave up farming. He sold his farm, including the farm equipment and his household goods. He placed an ad in the paper, listing the items for sale.9,10 Among others, they included:

  • 1 Singer sewing machine
  • 1 Majestic cook stove
  • 1 Maytag electric washer
  • 10 gallons housepaint (battleship gray)
  • 1 McCormick-Deering tractor
  • 1 South Bend plow
  • 1 McCormick-Deering mower
  • 1 John Deere manure spreader
  • 1 rubber tired buggy on harness
  • 14 milk cans
  • 1 electric Wilson milk cooler
  • 1 set electric milkers

The following year, Freeborn married again. Laura Towers became his second wife in a quiet ceremony at the Pilgrim Holiness Parsonage. Their attendants were his sister, Hannah, and her husband. Freeborn and Laura then left to spend a month in Florida.11

Despite having retired from farming, in 1951 Freeborn and others helped to plant corn for a neighbor who had suffered a fractured leg.12

In 1957, at the age of 64, Freeborn passed away. 13 While he had many mentions in the paper during his lifetime, I did not find a notice announcing his death.







  1. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. Greensboro, Caroline, Maryland [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. 
  2. Denton Journal, Denton, MD. 15 Jan 1916, page 5. [database on-line] Newspapers.com, accessed 18 Jan 2019. 
  3. Denton Journal, Denton, MD. 6 Jun 1925, Page 5. [database on-line] Newspapers.com, accessed 18 Jan 2019. 
  4. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. Greensboro, Caroline, Maryland [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. 
  5. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Dover, DE. Delaware Death Records, 1855-1961, image 1866. [database on-line] FamilySearch.org, accessed 19 Jan 2019. 
  6. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Dover, DE. Delaware Death Records, 1855-1961, image 1867. [database on-line] FamilySearch.org, accessed 19 Jan 2019. 
  7. Denton Journal, Denton, MD. 6 Mar 1943, Page 2. [database on-line] Newspapers.com, accessed 18 Jan 2019. 
  8. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current. Entry for Isabell Ellwanger. [database on-line] Ancestry.com. 
  9. Denton Journal, Denton, MD. 24 Oct 1947, Page 11. [database on-line] Newspapers.com, accessed 18 Jan 2019. 
  10. Denton Journal, Denton, MD. 20 Aug 1948, Page 9. [database on-line] Newspapers.com, accessed 18 Jan 2019. 
  11. The Star-Democrat, Easton, MD. 21 Jan 1949, Page 5. [database on-line] Newspapers.com, accessed 18 Jan 2019. 
  12.  Denton Journal, Denton, MD. 1 Jun 1951, Page 10. [database on-line] Newspapers.com, accessed 18 Jan 2019. 
  13. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current. Entry for Freeborn B. Ellwanger. [database on-line] Ancestry.com. 

#52Ancestors | Challenge

This week’s prompt is “challenge.” I think the most obvious way to interpret that is the challenge of researching brick walls (for non-genealogy folks, those are the dead ends, when ancestors seemingly appear out of nowhere or disappear off the face of the earth). I have written about a few challenges already, such as my Mysterious Martin (who appeared out of nowhere) or the challenge of sorting through conflicting records to determine which George VanSant is mine. So I thought I’d take this in a different direction and write about the challenge of verifying or corroborating another researcher’s work.

In this case, we are talking about the research of my 1st cousin, 3x removed. She started her research at the age of 11, when she started collecting stories she overheard her older family members talking about. She is currently 97 years old, so most, if not all, of her research was done prior to the internet. She wrote letters and took many trips to other parts of the US to track down records. My dad and I had the opportunity to meet with her for a few hours several years ago. She shared her albums of information and while she talked, I took photos of the pages in the albums. She had many photos, newspaper articles and a typed up history of our common ancestor, John Theobold Seyer. After I came home and culled through the photos, I started to wonder about sources or proof of what she’d written. I don’t doubt her research, but I mostly had the final version, but not the evidence. So I’ve slowly been going back and trying to find sources.

My 3rd great grandfather, John Theobold Seyler, was born June 22, 1834. He is the grandfather of the cousin mentioned above. She wrote that he immigrated from Bavaria, Germany to the US with his parents and siblings, settling near Marietta, OH in 1848. He was educated in Germany, and once in the US, worked as a shoemaker for three years before moving the Lake Superior area to work in the mining industry for three years. In 1856 he sailed from New York to San Francisco via the “Isthmus of Panama,” a trip that took 24 days. He was involved in placer mining for about ten years, then drove some cattle from California to Nevada in 1864. He then ended up in Virginia City, MT where he purchased a claim and was successful in mining. In 1869 he went to Texas to purchase some Texas Longhorns and drove them back to Montana, returning in 1871. He eventually settled near Twin Bridges, MT, married Jane Dempsey and raised his family.1 [this is the nutshell version]

Looking at this information, I wonder how much of this was gleaned from oral history and how much came from records? Remember, John T. Seyler was Cousin’s grandfather, and though he died before Cousin was born, it’s possible relatives were talking about him and his life. So I looked at the information and tried to determine which facts I could prove.

I have John in the 1850 Census with his family in Ohio. I need to see if I can find any sort of directory listing him as a shoemaker. I am also not sure of any mining records that may exist for the Lake Superior area. I’ve done a brief look for passenger records for this trip to San Francisco and haven’t come up with anything. The fact that it took 24 days is a pretty specific detail.

In 1860 he was likely in California, mining. I’ve searched the 1860 census in California and come up with the following:2

  1. John Seiler; age 34; born in Wurttemberg; residing in Long Barn, Yuma, CA; occupation: miner. Enumerated in the same household is Mary Caroline, age 33, same birth location as John. This John is older than my John by about 8 years. Wurttemberg is the region next to Bavaria. But he is a miner!
  2. John Seller; age 27; born in Germany; residing in San Francisco; occupation: “segar maker.” Age and birth location are correct. What’s a segar maker? Is that cigar?
  3. J. Saylor; age 34; born in Ohio, residing in Grass Valley, Nevada, CA; Occupation: miner. Again, older than my John, Ohio would be a plausible birth location, though incorrect, but he is a miner.

Moving on, according to the history above, he purchased a placer mine in Montana. Again, I need to look to see if there are records for this. In 1870, he could have been anywhere between Texas and Montana, the written history stating he arrived back in Montana in 1871. That being said, in the 1870 census, I’ve got a John Sahler, age 36, born in Bavaria/Bayern, working as a miner, in German Gulch, MT.3 So maybe that trip to Texas didn’t take as long as someone thought?


Regarding Texas, the card pictured above references a source Cousin used on a trip she took to Texas. The name, Jacob Seyler, is John T. Seyler’s father and brother’s name. I don’t know which one the note is referring to, though I have no knowledge of either of them being in Texas.

So I emailed the McAllen Library and shared the photo with them, essentially asking for a needle in a haystack. They couldn’t find the exact source that the card referred to, but did find a book, Pennsylvania German Immigrants 1709-1786, with the following information:

On page 319

From Zweibruecken in the Palatine

1752- Jacob Seyler of Birlenbach with wife and five children.

So the name and the 1752 match what Cousin had written. But I’m not convinced it’s the same source, though it could be the same information. Though I also have no knowledge of our Seylers coming to Pennsylvania first, it’s possible they did. Of note, Birlenbach is not in the Bavaria region. So I’m still not certain which information she got from the source noted on her card. Was there information related to the sale of the cattle? I will also need to check newspaper archives to see if I can find a mention of the sale of this cattle to a John T. Seyler.


Montana Stock Growers’ Association. 1894. Brand Book of the Montana Stock Growers’ Association For 1894. Helena, Mont. : Independent Publishing Co. pg 107. mtmemory.org. 

After Texas, John settles in Montana for good, raising his cattle. I have several mentions of him in the papers buying and selling cattle in Fergus County. In her write up, Cousin does reference “Mrs. Lott’s Manuscript,” so I looked into that as well. I found this manuscript listed in the archives at the library at Montana State University (my alma mater, go Bobcats!). Among these manuscripts are “Twin Bridges history, clippings, biographies” so I’ve sent off for those records. Many of my family came from this area, so I am hoping to find more than just John Seyler’s name here.

Finally, I will mention that I noticed John T. Seyler’s obituary reads much the same as the history written in Cousin’s album. I also found a book, Progressive Men of Montana, which, guess what? It also reads the same as the obituary and Cousin’s history, with the exception that it mentions John in present tense.4

Mr. Seyler recalls many interesting incidents in regards to the early days in Montana.

The family are highly esteemed in the community and their pleasant ranch home is one of western hospitality.

This book was published circa 1903. John died in 1908. This leads me to believe that all the versions of John’s story came from the source…John. T. Seyler himself. And lest you think I tried to reinvent the wheel when I didn’t need to, I still want documented proof of as much of his story as I can. We all know that sometimes the records disprove the stories our ancestors told.

John married my 3rd great grandmother, Jane Dempsey, in 1877.5 Together, they had six children, including my 2nd great grandfather, Amos Alonzo Seyler. In 1880, John became a citizen of the United States.6 He was prominent in the Twin Bridges area, serving a Trustee for the Twin Bridges Cemetery Association7 and apparently also owned an Opera house and a hardware store in the county.1 He owned a ranch in Fergus County, but sold his interests there in 1899.8 John passed away 18 March, 1908 of creeping paralysis.9 In his will, he left half interest in his ranches to his wife, Jane, and the other half to his son, Edwin. Edwin also received the hardware store. Three other sons received equal shares of the remaining real estate, as well as the horses and cows. His remaining children received anywhere from $250 to $1500.1 Of note, $1500 in 1908 is equivalent to about $41,500 today.10

Cousin wrote that her father recalled John as being strict with discipline, using a black snake whip to punish the children. He also recalled that John stored his tobacco in a leather pouch. Sometimes the kids would snitch some tobacco from the pouch. They thought they went undetected, but then John would hold up the pouch, then eye the kids, letting them know he knew what they’d done.1

  1. HSCM. 2016. Seyler family history, unpublished. 
  2. 1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Database online: Ancestry.com 
  3. 1870 U.S. census, population schedules. NARA microfilm publication M593, 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Database online: Ancestry.com 
  4. Progressive Men of the State of Montana. 1903. Chicago. A.W. Bowen & Co. Page 842. https://archive.org 
  5. Ancestry.com. Web: Western States Marriage Index, 1809-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. 
  6. Original naturalization certificate, in possession of HSCM. Twin Bridges, MT. 
  7.  The Anaconda standard. (Anaconda, Mont.), 21 Feb. 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84036012/1898-02-21/ed-1/seq-7/
  8.  Fergus County argus. (Lewistown, Mont.), 02 Aug. 1899. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84036228/1899-08-02/ed-1/seq-3/
  9. Madison County Monitor, Twin Bridges, MT. 20 Mar 1908. pg 1. 
  10. Friedman, Morgan. The Inflation Calculator. https://westegg.com/inflation/&#160;

#52Ancestors | First

It’s a new year with 52 new prompts for #52Ancestors. The first prompt of the year is…First. There are many ways to interpret that prompt, but it dawned on me that my maternal grandfather was a New Year’s baby, so I thought I’d write about him. If he were still living, he would be celebrating his 87th birthday today.

Thomas DeCarlo

“To Mary Ellen, All my love, Tom”

Thomas DeCarlo was born on January 1st, 1932 to Frank and Maria Teresa DeCarlo.1 He was the youngest of 10 children (that lived beyond infancy; there were at least 4 more who died in infancy) and at the time of his birth, his eldest sister was 21 years old. The family lived in New Jersey at the time and he was baptized at Our Lady of Libera Church in West New York twenty days after his birth.2

He married my grandmother, Mary Ellen Warner, on April 6, 1954 in Maryland.3 They were both in the Army at the time, so it is likely that is how they met. Together, they had eight children, one of whom died at age 20 months while Thomas was in Vietnam.4

Thomas was a 19 year veteran of the Army. He was stationed in Germany shortly after enlisting in 1948. He enjoyed boxing and was apparently a flyweight champion while in Germany. His career would later take the family to Milwaukee, WI; Honolulu, HI; and Panama. He worked as a helicopter mechanic. He also managed the NCO club when they lived in Panama. My mom recalls going to the club for spaghetti dinners. She also remembers that her parents liked to throw pizza parties and that her father was planning on opening a restaurant when he retired from the Army.

Unfortunately, Thomas would never have that chance. He passed away of a heart attack at the age of 36 while the family was stationed in Panama.5 His seven children were between the ages of two and twelve. My mother has few memories of her father, but recalls that he took medications for his heart and didn’t drink alcohol for this reason.

Thomas’ body was shipped back to the US. My aunt recalls that when they flew home, they were escorted by “some man” and received “preferential treatment” on the airplane. She also recalls someone on the plane saying “Man, that guy has his own baseball team.”


The above photo came from my aunt. She thinks this photo was taken on New Year’s Eve which would mean Thomas’ birthday was the next day. I like that this is a candid photo of my grandparents and their friends.


  1. Panama Canal Zone, Gorgas Hospital Mortuary Records, 1906-1991, death record for Thomas DeCarlo. Online database: Ancestry.com. 
  2. Our Lady of Liberas, West New York, NJ., c. 1932, baptism record for Thomas DeCarlo. 
  3. Maryland State Archives, Department of Health, Division of Vital Records and Statistics, Marriage Certificates Female Index 1954, pg 9886. Record for  Mary Warner and Thomas Decarlo. https://msa.maryland.gov, accessed 19 Mar, 2016. 
  4. The Daily Times, Salisbury, MD; 28 Sept 1963, pg 12. Online database: Newspapers.com, accessed 28 May, 2018. 
  5. Panama Canal Zone, Gorgas Hospital Mortuary Records, 1906-1991, death record for Thomas DeCarlo. Online database: Ancestry.com. 

#52Ancestors | Resolution

Last post of the year! And in true end of the year fashion, it’s time to make some resolutions. Before I do that, I’d like to look back at 2018 and my progress with the #52Ancestors prompts. Amy Johnson Crow’s prompts came at a time when I was wanting to compile the research I’d done and start writing about my ancestors.

I didn’t complete all 52 weeks; this post is my 31st of the 52 prompts. I struggled with some of the prompts, and in an effort to keep writing, I went rogue and strayed from the prompts a few times. For those posts, I wrote about:

Originally, I was thinking I would go back and write about the missed prompts for 2019, but then Amy announced she was going to continue the prompts into the New Year, so I am going to do my best to keep up. Outside of that, my genealogy goals for 2019 are:

  • Research my great-grandparent’s lines in Southern Italy. I have already found my great-grandfather’s line in Calabria (the toe of the boot), but am stuck on his wife’s line in Pisticci, Basilicata (the instep of the boot). My mom, sister and I are hoping to take a trip to visit these areas later in 2019.
  • I’d like to get some of the extended family involved with recalling memories. We have a family reunion group on Facebook and I’d like to post some prompts there to get people talking.
  • Find a better organization system for my research. This will likely be a combination of digital and physical storage.
  • “Attend” some genealogy webinars. I have already registered for 1 webinar for each of the first 6 months of the year.
  • Volunteer with the local historical society.
  • Continue to chip away at all the Find-A-Grave requests at one of the local cemeteries.

Happy New Year!


#52Ancestors|Nice and Thankful

This week’s prompt is “Nice,” in contrast to last week’s “Naughty.” I’d like to think that most of my ancestors were “nice,” so this week I decided to write about those relatives who were nice enough to share something genealogical with me. I suppose this post would also qualify for the “Thankful” prompt back in November that I skipped.

I am leaving out names of these relatives, who are still living, but will tell you about what they shared with me.

A paternal great aunt, who met with my dad and me several years ago and allowed us to interview her. At the end of our visit, she gave me a bracelet that belonged to her mother (my great-grandmother).

A first cousin, 3x removed, (aged 94 at the time!) who also met with my dad and me, with only a day’s notice. She started researching her family history at the age of 11 and has many albums of photos and records documenting her research. She even pulled a photo of my 2nd-great grandparents out of her album and gave it to me “because they’re your family.”

A great aunt who gave me my grandmother’s high school senior yearbook.

A great uncle who provided his saliva for a DNA test, and the aunt who helped facilitate this.

A first cousin, 1x removed, who sent me documents and photos and spoke with me on the phone about our shared family.

A 2nd cousin, 1x removed, who spoke with me on the phone, filling in some blanks on ancestors with whom our family had lost touch.

Many aunts, uncles and cousins who have shared photos at reunions and on family Facebook groups.

And lastly, my parents, for readily agreeing to submit their saliva for DNA testing, and for filling out a “Daily Journal of Childhood Memories.” For taking research road trips with me and answering my unending questions.



#52Ancestors | Naughty


The theme this week is “naughty,” and while I may have some ancestors who would have ended up on the Naughty list, I’ve instead selected my great-grandmother, who was pestered by some naughty children(?).

Olive Mae (Magee) Seyler was born in Dillon, Montana in 1913 to Patrick and Olive (Smith) Magee.1 She grew up in Madison County and married Edwin Seyler at the age of 21. Together, they had three daughters. By 1952, the family was living in Butte, MT where Edwin worked as a miner.2

In 1961, the troubles with the naughty vandals began.

In March, Mae told police an aerial was broken off her car, which was parked outside her house. 3

In May, she reported that vandals  let the air out of all eight tires of their two cars.4

Finally, in Dec of 1962, Mae told police that someone had burned the clothes she had hanging on her three clothes lines in her yard.5 (admittedly, this makes me giggle)

I don’t find any more entries after that, and I don’t know who the vandals were, or if they were even the same vandals. I wonder why they pestered poor Mae. Was she an easy target for some reason? Her children were grown and at least two of them were out of the house. One daughter still resided at home, working as an aide at the hospital. Could it have been her friends?


  1. Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services; Helena, Montana; Montana, Birth Records, 1871-1919; Box Number: 45. (online database, Ancestry com ). 
  2. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA. 
  3. The Montana Standard, Butte, MT. 20 Mar 1961, page 5. Newspapers.com, accessed 28 Jan, 2018. 
  4. The Montana Standard, Butte, MT. 1 May 1961 , page 3. Newspapers.com, accessed 28 Jan, 2018. 
  5. The Montana Standard, Butte, MT. 16 Dec 1962, page 30. Newspapers.com, accessed 28 Jan 2018. 



Mary Ellen Warner was born on the tenth of June, 1934 , to James and Mary Warner.1

She attended school in Bridgeville, Delaware. On a recent visit to Delaware, my great aunt gave me Mary’s senior yearbook. I learned she was president of the Fix-It club, in the chorus, The Hobby Club, Dancing Club and FHA. Her nickname was “Tiny.” The senior class wrote a poem about their classmates and she was described:2

Mary Ellen will make a good wife

Her husband will lead a fine life,

For a seam she sews very straight

And in cooking she sure rates.


Mary later joined the Women’s Army Corp, graduating in January, 1954, and then was assigned as a clerk-typist in Washington, D.C.3 She was in the WAC for less than a year before she married my grandfather, Thomas DeCarlo. Together, they had eight children, one of whom died as a toddler. Thomas was also in the Army, and they were stationed in Panama at one point. Their stint in Panama came to an end in 1968 when Thomas died of a heart attack at the age of 36. Mary and the kids then returned to Delaware.

Mary died when I was 8 years old. I don’t have many memories of her because we always lived in a different state. Mostly I have memories of her house. I interviewed my mom and her sister about their memories of Mary. My aunt recalled her as being very handy, often refinishing furniture or other similar projects. She liked to decorate the Christmas tree with different themes. My mom also mentioned how Mary made all the kids’ clothes too. Years later, when I decided to teach myself to sew, my mom said I must have “inherited” the skill from her mother. 

  1. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA. 
  2. Bridgeville Consolidated School, The 1952 B-Hive, Bridgeville: Graduating Class of 1952. Print. 
  3. Denton Journal, Denton, MD. 5 Feb 1954, page 2. Newspapers.com (database online, accessed 5 Dec, 2018).