Author Archives: Kevin Boyles

A Major Genealogy Event



12 April 1861, 4:30am.  P.T.G. Beauregard orders the firing on Fort Sumter.  A major historical event, not to mention a major genealogical event.  Great numbers of our families were touched, at least in some way, by the Civil War.  And 150 years ago that happened.  Nothing for anyone in our country would be the same. 

I wanted to have something more pithy to say, but the event literally speaks for itself.  I just ask everyone to take a few moments to reflect upon the event, and try to consider what it means for them. 

Well, that was going to be fun…

I was supposed to gone all last week on a research trip up to Humboldt County, Ca.  Two days before we were going to leave, this became US 101 between here and there.

Well, so much for my research trip (From McKinleyville Press)


Needless to say, I didn’t quite make it.  CA 1 was closed (but was south of this anyway), and the “alternate” root was already half in the creek, and CalTrans was desperately pouring rock trying to save the rest.  Somebody really didn’t want me to go!

With All Their Technology…

I finally got around to buying FTM 2011 the other day.  I had my evening clear, and was looking forward to playing with some of the new features it has, and I foolishly assumed that I would be given a link to download it and I’d be on my way.  Nope!  All the technology Ancestry has, and their flagship product being an online service, yet they have to ship it to me.  So I also got to pay extra for the shipping and sales tax (if I could have just downloaded it, since there was no physical item, it would not have been subject to sales tax).  I can’t think of a single software vendor that hasn’t gone to downloading software instead of handling physical media.  Come on guys.  You already have 99% of the technology in place, just a little further…

Day Late, Dollar Short?

With every passing day, I regret my “waiting” (I wasn’t so much waiting, I just wasn’t exposed to this “Genealogy” thing) as long as I did to start researching.  I have a couple of brick walls that I have found posts on Ancestry or some other site, from people who are writing about some of the very people I am trying to find!  But these are dated 1998, 1999, 2002.  I’ve tracked down some e-mail addresses, but some get bounced, others just go unanswered.


My 2nd Great Grandmother Augusta (Bewig) Harston (Married Clay O Harston), Great Grandmother Gertrude Harston, my Grandmother Gertrude Florance Harston, and what I am guessing are “cousins” of my Grandmother, taken at “Grandma’s house” in St. Louis.  I have a friend in St. Louis that was going to go out the house and take a picture of it form (I have the address).  This part of St. Louis is apparently , not the safest anymore.  😦

If I had “caught the bug” earlier, I could worn my Grandmother out of them.  Now I am just hoping for some luck (and Google Alerts!)

Ah, Happy Monday….

How Did They Do It?

I was browsing Facebook the other day, and some person I had “friended” (for Mafia Wars no doubt.  Yeah, I played it for a while) knew somebody who had lost their six year old daughter after tonsil surgery.  They posted a video that they had done for her “Celebration of Life,” and I watched it.  Being a “family historian” (it’s only been a couple of years.  That “title” carries too much weight to use it already, but I don’t know what else to say), while I was watching it (even though I don’t really know anybody involved, I was moved)  I started thinking about my ancestors and how they themselves lost children.  I know specifically of two, and suspect a few others, children my Great Grandparents lost in infancy or soon after.  Up until fairly recently, this was not an uncommon occurrence (not to the surprise of genealogists).  I have a few ancestors who were named after their dead siblings.  A hundred years ago, parents lost their young children all the time (assuming a large statistical population).  Farther back in history you go, the worse it gets.  How did they do it?  Nowadays the loss of a young child is a tragedy.  In earlier generations, it was almost expected.  How did they get past it?  I’m emotionally moved by [essentially] a total strangers loss.  What would I do if it were my own?  It really makes you think.

Going Through Grandma’s Stuff

After my Grandmother passed 11 years ago, things got pretty hectic.  My cousin was running the ranch, and Grandma’s house was the closest to the barn (hard enough getting up at 3 in the morning to milk cows, much less have to add a drive to it), and his then wife was somewhat of a “patriarch wannabe.”  So before my Mom could get her self ready to “go through Grandma’s house,” said then wife had most stuff moved across the lane into my Uncle’s house and they moved in. 

As one can imagine, this caused, shall we say, “issues.”  With a few exceptions, most of the the items that were moved are still in my Uncle’s house, and we’re aren’t 100% sure the attic (attic in this case meaning space upstairs that nobody ever got around to turning into a room) is empty.  This has been somewhat of a festering sore over the years.


At some point during the previously mentioned time, my oldest Cousin met his current Girlfriend.  I can’t say enough good things about her.  My maternal Grandfather was from Denmark.  She lived in Denmark.  She can read and write Danish.  She found a living relative in Denmark (she’s into Genealogy as well.  Just so you know Smile).  She has even been “pestering” me to get her scans of those pictures my Mom does have.


I say all of this, because I finally made the decision, to make the trek up to Ferndale, and to go through all that “stuff” of my Grandma’s (with my Mom of course), I am going to actually have a face-to-face meeting with this “non-relative” who has made such strides in my Danish linage, and even going to go to the graveyard to see where several generations of my family are (I’m not a “graveyard” kind of person).  While Grandma tended to “purge” things as she got older, I know there is still a load of boxes and such, both in my Uncle’s house and in the attic.  With all the podcast listening and blog reading I do, I hear of all these amazing family history discoveries folks have made.  I just hope I get to be one of them!

My Boys Are “Related” to U.S. Grant?

Early in our relationship my Wife had told me that she was told that Ulysses S. Grant was a “cousin” of some kind.  I never thought much of it, but eventually I got a copy of a letter her Grandmother wrote where she not only mentioned this, but stated the possible relationship:  Grant’s father and a particular Grandfather of hers were “brothers.”  Haven’t gotten farther than that, but an intriguing puzzle to follow no doubt.  First cousin, four times removed or something like that?  Yeah, it’s a stretch…  Smile

The Proverbial “Axe Murderer”

My wife’s Mom had an uncle, where apparently there had been stories about him spending time “on death row,” but they didn’t know much more than that.  After a few times of hearing about this, I decided I was going to find out the details they had been wondering about.  A trip to the Library of Congress’ newspaper archive (website.  I live 3000 miles away from DC, so no, I didn’t go in person!), and an additional search at the New York Times; I had my answers.

Boy Slays Subway Guard.

Severs Thayer’s Head Because of Attentions to His Mother
(New York Times.  25 March 1916)

When Mrs. Hattie Greene came home yesterday evening to her house at 1733 Victor Street, in the Van Nest section of the Bronx, she was led by a barking terrier to the room of Henry Thayer, a subway guard, who had been boarding with her for about two years.  She found Thayer lying dead in his bed, partially dressed, with his head severed with an axe.  Dr. M.H. Bracker of 1811 Amethyst Street and Dr. Dourmanshkin of Fordham Hospital, who were summoned by Patrolmen Theil and Delaney of the Westchester Station after Mrs. Greene’s screams had given alarm, said that he had been dead for about two hours.

The axe with which he had been killed was one belonging to the family, which was later found covered with blood in the kitchen.  Mrs. Greene had many photographs of Thayer in the house, and every one of these had been torn to pieces.  Matthew Buhler, the other boarder, had been away all day at his duties as assistant janitor of the Public School 54, on Amethyst Street, and the last persons known to have been with Thayer were Mrs. Greene and her 18-year-old son Emil, an electrician out of work.

He was originally given the death penalty, which was eventually commuted to life in prison (Charles Seymour Whitman, Governor, Public Papers of Charles Seymour Whitman – Governor – 1918 (Albany, New York, USA:  J.B. Lyon Company, Printers, 1919), Page 268-270. Governor explains his reasons for commuting the death sentence.) and eventually had his sentence further reduced and was subsequently released (NY Times.  August 13, 1933.  Page 16).  I married into a family who literally had an axe murder in it.  Little did I know how much better it got.  Just to give you a teaser, think “Salem witch trials.” 

The Essence of “Blogging”

While I never used to really understood the point of “blogging,”  because in it’s essence, it is something that nobody really cares about  (you just aren’t that important, or most of us least).  But it finally occurred to me, I’m just talking to myself (yes, something I tend to do quite a lot).  It is basically a journal, just one I need to make sure I don’t put anything in that I don’t want others to know about (surely a major problem!  Not).  If somebody eventually DOES care, so much the better.  But being worried about anybody actually reading this?  Pbstpbstpbstpbst! 

I’m off to play the lottery.  Odds are better.  Smile

Official Band of Genealogists

Pink Floyd.

“All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”