Saturday, November 3, 2012

CVGS Program Summary - 31 October 2012

The 31 October General Meeting of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society featured CVGS member Randy Seaver presenting "Discovering Jane's Roots in California, Australia and England."

In this case study, Randy described his search for the ancestry of Jane (Whittle) McKnew (1847-1921), who was born in Australia of English parents, married Elijah McKnew in 1865 in Tuolumne County, California, moved to San Francisco in about 1875, and raised a family of 11 children there.  One daughter, Edna McKnew (1884-1974) was Randy's wife's grandmother.  

The story starts with a large 1906 photograph, rescued from the trash bin by Linda's brother, of the McKnew family outside their home after the 1906 earthquake.  In the California records, the search included Jane's death certificate (which listed her parents as Joseph Whittle and Rachel Moore), census records from 1920 back to 1860, San Francisco City Directories, California Voting Registers, and early California newspapers (all online).  In the search, a Joseph Whittle in San Francisco (died in 1871) was found, as was a Joseph Whittle born in Australia in census records in Calaveras County.  The key find was the 1852 California State Census that included a Rachel "Wadle" in San Francisco (born in England), with three children - Elizabeth born in England, Joseph and Jane born in Australia.

The Australian records, all found on the Internet, included birth records for five Whittle children in Sydney, New South Wales, including Jane Whittle in 1847.  However, their parents were listed as Alexander and Rachel Whittle.  Articles in the Sydney newspapers in the 1840s indicated that Alexander and Rachel owned a pub, and that Alexander left for California (gold fever?) in 1850.  The key puzzle piece was the ship passenger list from England to Australia in 1841 - it listed Alexander Whittell and Rachel Morley, both from Bolton in Lancashire, with a daughter Elizabeth.  

Back to California records, Randy found articles about Rachel in San Francisco and Sacramento, indicating that she married again in 1854 and was arrested for being drunk, disorderly and more.  A newspaper article in 1853 documented Alexander Whittle's suicide in Angel's Camp in Calaveras County.  

In English records in Lancashire, the marriage of Alexander Whittle and Rachel Morley in 1840 was found, and their baptism records were found in parish registers.  Rachel was born out of wedlock to widow Jane Morley (formerly Haslam and Bury) in 1821.  The ancestry of Alexander going back several generations and the parents of Jane (Haslam) (Bury) Morley were also found in parish registers, as was the out-of-wedlock birth of Rachel Morley's first child, Elizabeth, in 1839.  

During the presentation, Randy showed the newly found information of Jane's roots using a pedigree chart.  At the end, he summarized the families of Elizabeth, Joseph and Jane, and showed a comparison of the house in the 1906 photograph with the same building in Google Maps Street View.  He also noted that posting his research online on his blog ( really helped solve the challenges - readers suggested resources and even did research.

Lessons learned included:

*  There is a wealth of vital records, church records, census records, immigration records, historical newspapers, city directories, etc. in online record collections (both free and subscription)

*  There is a wealth of records available on Family History Library microfilms.
*  Many paper records are held in National Archives, State Archives, county/city/town archives, public/private/university libraries, historical/genealogical societies, businesses, churches, schools, homes, etc.
*  Not every record is available online or on microfilm. Maybe 5% are online, and maybe 40% are
on microfilm?
*  Posting information online (in a message board, a blog, an online tree, etc.) can provide “short circuit” help – advice on resources, links to online collections, lookups in records
*  Many records have inaccurate information – do a Reasonably Exhaustive Search for every record possible, apply the Genealogical Proof Standard to evaluate evidence to draw conclusions.
*  The “sins of the father...” can be overcome by descendants even in the first generation.

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