May-June 2009

Field Trips Can Be Fruitful

I spent a couple days at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN, last week. I have wanted to get there for a while and decided it would make for a nice two or three day excursion. Besides all it was doing here in Covington was raining and I could not work on the garden or lawn anyway.

As always I went with a list in hand; there is always so much information, one gets side-tracked very easily. I had been wondering about the McKeeby’s and trying to finish up my data for them. I needed Byron J. McKeeby’s mother’s name. I had found the family in the 1920 census, but by that time Byron’s mother had died. I could not find them in the 1910 census.

I knew that Byron J. McKeeby who married Miriam “Mimi” Douglass had lived in Cedar Rapids in 1920. His father Byron H. McKeeby was a dentist there. (In fact Byron H. has some notoriety having posed for Grant Wood’s popular painting, “American Gothic”) So I looked at Directories for Cedar Rapids on microfilm and was able to establish that Byron H. McKeeby was indeed a dentist in Cedar Rapids inclusive of years 1903-1912 and his wife’s name was Belle. So back to the 1910 census. I finally found them. The census taker had been distracted, or else Byron H. used a nickname, because on the census it says McKeeby, M.C. and then goes on to list Belle, Gerald, 11, and Byron, 8. Interestingly, in years 1904-06, Byron H. is listed as dentist and druggist. Dentists had long been sources for potions and pain killers but I did not realize that practice reached into the early 1900s. He had an office at 1508 1st ave. Cedar Rapids, IA. They bought the Blake avenue house about 1911.

So now I had his mother’s first name, but I could not find any marriage record. Then I started looking in the large collection of books and found one titled “Linn County and Cedar Rapids, Iowa Records.” And there, practically the first item in the book, is a listing of all the names from a McKeeby Bible record giving the births, deaths and marriage of Byron H. McKeeby and Belle Metcalf. The Bible that supplied the records was in the possession of Gerald R. McKeeby, Byron J.’s brother.

So this mission was successfully accomplished. (Lineage: Mimi McKeeby-6, Wm.Gordon-5, John G.-4, Robert-3, John-2, Alexander-1)

The next item on the list was what happened to Fernando Douglass’ daughter, Ida? You may remember Fernando; he was one of the first pioneers to settle in Medford, Steele County, Minnesota, and wrote back exultingly to his parents that he was growing wheat and getting top dollar for it. (In my book, Only a Week Away, you will find the story of his losing his mill in Greenboro, Oswego County, NY, after which he departed for MN) I wrote in my February 2007 Digest about Fernando’s son, Earl, who gained prominence for his discovery of dinosaur skeletons. And I knew that Fernando’s middle daughter, Nettie, never married and was living with Earl in Utah when she died. Ida was the third and oldest sibling and in 1885, at age 27, she was living with her parents in Medford. I had checked and re-checked the 1910 and 1920 census on Ancestry, online, for an Ida of her age who might have married and had a different surname but could not find anyone that seemed to fit. So I decided to try the 1895 MN State census.

The 1885 and 1895 State censuses are valuable because the 1890 federal census was almost completely destroyed by fire so that means tracking by census leaves a big gap between the census of 1880 and the census of 1900. The states usually held their censuses between the federal census years, and if it was a territory being settled, census was taken even more often.

I carefully scrolled the 1895 census, Town of Medford, and there were only two Ida’s in the whole town, one a child, and one listed as Ida D. Battin, 37, wife of Alfred Battin, with children, Greta, 17, Jay, 10, and Viola, 5. Aha! I liked the middle initial D.; it could stand for Douglass. She could not be the mother of Greta and probably not Jay, but she could have married Alfred as a second wife and Viola was hers.

Alfred reported he had lived in the state of MN for 42 years but in the local enumeration district only 4 years, 6 months. I found him in the 1880 census with 1st wife, Mary, in Sibley county, MN. So with this framework of names and dates, I checked with Rootsweb Family Trees and was amazed to find the Brasfield-Brassfield Genealogies tree with all the information I had just teased out of the census for the Battin-Douglass family and more besides. Someone has spent a good deal of time and effort putting this information together. The genealogist had Ida’s death date (1910) and the fact that she is buried in Union cemetery, Medford. Also Viola’s marriage to William Cecil Gates in 1917.

I had suspected Ida died before her father, Fernando. Otherwise he would have likely lived with her instead of going, in his eighties, to Massachusetts to live with his brother Orlando’s widow. But now I know she had a daughter and even have the daughter’s married name. Fernando had only a couple grandchildren and I am still trying to find any great grandchildren. The Brassfield tree says Viola had two children but I need to find documentation of her marriage to Gates.

(Lineage: Ida Battin-5, Fernando-4, Alexander-3, John-2, Alexander Douglass-1)

I might have found Ida in the Rootsweb Family Trees if I had looked for her there. I undoubtedly did look at some time in the past but I forget that more names are being added to that database all the time and I need to check it out again every few months or so.

Anyway I was pleased with my time at the ACPL and there is plenty of info there when I have the inclination to go back. I left there to visit the graves of Cy and Isobel (“Issy”) Douglass Parker (sister to Mimi Douglass McKeeby) in LaPorte, Indiana. I spent the night at a campsite and had breakfast in downtown LaPorte at Louie’s Cafe. I love to have breakfast where the “locals” do. They know all the best places. I had a good chat with my waitress, spent an hour at the cemetery searching for the graves, taking pictures and talking to cemetery staff and then headed south to the Crown Hill cemetery in Indianapolis.

When I was planning my trip to the Allen County Library, I was dismayed to learn that both David and Rosemary Parker Laycock had died last year. I had talked with Rosemary on the phone years ago and she sent me some information for their family tree, but I never did meet her. David and Rosemary’s urns are stored in a beautiful mausoleum in the Crown Hill cemetery. I have seen mausoleums before and they never appealed to me much, but this open construction and adjoining garden gave me a great feeling of airiness and beauty and peace. You can find the Laycock pictures and obituaries in the Photo Gallery.

(Lineage: Rosemary-7, Isobel Parker-6, Wm. Gordon-5, Dr. John-4, Robert-3, John-2, Alexander Douglass-1)

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