Upon hearing of the upcoming arrival of the Antiques Roadshow in Tulsa, I immediately placed my name in the virtual lottery bucket. A weekly ritual of viewing the show, lead my husband and I to jump at the opportunity to attend, and we were delighted when our names were picked and tickets arrived. At first feeling the thrill of the 'win', our enthusiasm eventually settled into reality, which lead to the perplexing question: What treasures will we take?

As the weeks leading up to the Roadshow passed, my mind shifted focus from one treasure to the next. Artwork was reviewed; decades old jewelry was examined, and a sweat-dripping, overheated attic visit was made. But as each week passed, the indecisions grew until the obvious was realized: I do not and never will have an undiscovered, one-of-a kind, king's booty found hidden within my possession.

The last, rare, million dollar doodle of Picasso is not stuck between the pages of yellowed books stacked away in storage and the pages of Shakespeare's long-awaited play will not show up in the bottom of that antique chest of drawers I just purchased.

Won't happen. Not to me.

But as the week of the event was in my grasp, self-awareness of my fascination with the Roadshow became evident. The family treasures brought to the show with ancestral stories attached, create memories of attic heirlooms I rummaged through in my home as a child. But most of our family's heirlooms were abruptly lost due to a fire, leaving only a precious few within my possession.

So with that, my Roadshow choices were clear: my father's antique fishing gear and a porcelain bowl passed to me from my mother. Pieces not of great monetary value, but both hold intrinsic value: family memories and connections to generations past. As I told my husband: "I want the stories, the information of date and place of these pieces," in hopes of bringing more ancestral discoveries to my family tree.

The big day came and we loaded the car with our treasures. Briskly walking toward the long line of lucky participants carrying their own prizes, I felt tingly with anticipation. And then after weaving our way around, a Roadshow staffer quickly ushered me into the "bullpen," placing me in front of a table of "bored out of their mind" appraisers.

Opening my bag and retrieving my dad's antique fishing lures, the appraiser shook his head; "nothing there" he said, and motioned to the next in line.

I quickly picked up my loot and moved on to the next appraiser's table: Pottery and Porcelain. Carefully unfolding the newspaper away from my  bowl, the appraiser barely gave it a look.

"This is marginally interesting," he blandly stated.

"Its transfer-ware, not worth more than about 30 dollars."

"When was it made?" I asked, wanting to make sure I understood the date.

"About 1910."

And with that, I walked away feeling a glimmer of fulfillment. The antique porcelain bowl I presented for appraisal was not purchased at a flea market or at an estate sale. It was not bought with the dream of great monetary value. Instead, it has been held in my family's possession for over a hundred years, survived a devastating fire and passed to me by my mother. It is a piece of my family history linking me to several generations, at least to my great grandmother Jennie or perhaps even further: A priceless value of heritage, when there are few possessions left to our family's past.

This week's Tulsa Antiques Roadshow made national news, reporting "the most valuable find in the appraisal show's 16 year history." The five Chinese carved rhinoceros horn cups were valued at 1 million to $1.5 million. Unfortunately, the media alert failed to include another thrilling appraisal:

Small, antique porcelain bowl: priceless.

Keep searching for answers,

(Source: The Tulsa World)
It was 6 o'clock on a Friday and the day could not have finished any sooner for Samuel Rolston. He stood patiently at the end of a long line of men; faces and hands blackened with soot and filth. Irish men of all ages, ending their tireless week in the iron mill , with only a few pounds for a week's wage.

As Sam waited, he noticed a man in a suit speaking with a few of the older gents at the front of the line. The clean, well-dressed American stood out from within a crowd of men drenched in black dust. But the well-dressed American was attracting the worker's interests, and the men began to crowd toward him, entranced with his words.

At first more interested in snatching his wages and heading to McCrary's Pub for a pint, young Sam moved closer to catch a glimspe of this most intriguing American who was recruiting skilled iron workers from Ireland.

It was the 1820's and the Morris Canal in New Jersey had just been completed. The waterway would open doors to the rising industrial revolution in America and the antiquated ironworks in Morris County were being rejuvenated along the newly built canal. A group of New York businessmen had developed the New Jersey Iron Company, bringing the best of the iron industry to Morris County: Iron mill equipment and skilled workers from Great Britian and Ireland.

The man spoke a good game; an opportunity for better wages than the measly coins Sam Rolston just dropped in his pocket. Stories of wealth and riches in America had reached Ireland, already peaking the imagination of young Sam; and this man, this well-dressed American, appeared to provide the golden key to Sam's dream.

As the men drifted in to McCrary's Pub, talk of the American's offer seeped through their conversations. Some were curious, a few were doubtful, but others such as Sam could not turn away from opportunities promised; and so they signed. The iron men in McCrary's Pub, overcome with a feeling of instilled hope, signed their names to the papers handed by the well-dressed American. A turning point in the lives of Irish iron workers, looking for their promised "pot o' gold".

My ancestor Samuel C. Rolston immigrated to America in the late 1820's, forging and rolling iron for the Boonton Ironworks of Morris County, New Jersey. Were young Sam Rolston's dreams answered? Was a "pot o' gold" waiting for him in America? Research in genealogy reveals many unknowns, but intrinsic questions such as these: our ancestor's happiness; fulfillment of dreams, will most likely go unanswered. Finding Sam Rolston's records of his family provide insight that a life was built, but certainly not a life of wealth.

But yet I wonder.

Did my ancestor, the Irish iron man of Boonton, New Jersey, feel satisfaction that his dreams in America were fulfilled? His voice will never be heard, yet his words will be remembered:

"That once loved form now cold and dead,
  Each mournful thought employs,
  And nature weeps her comforts fled,
  And withered all her joy."

An Irish poem on an Irish iron man's tombstone: A young man's dream of a "pot o' gold" melded into a real life; most likely a hard life, but one well lived.

Keep searching for answers,

(Source: Boonton.org)

As family historians, we all have them: The lineages that stop dead in their tracks, without a clue of direction. At first inspection, all the evidence is there; an immediate outpouring of ancestral names, flowing freely with each click of the mouse. The spaces on the tree branches are quickly filled in, until suddenly and without warning; the new names cease. What was once an overflowing abundance of evidence is now a black hole of dismal nothingness.

A genealogical cold case: Zero. Nothin'. Nada.

The cold case I am currently wrangling with is the lineage of a one Henry H. Clark, my gg grandfather. The first records found of Henry H. Clark, was the 1850 US Federal Census in Commerce, Michigan, living with a married couple and their daughter: I.C. and Lydia Clark and little three year old Mary.

"Interesting name; I.C.", thinking to myself as I examine the record.

But as I embark on my forensic study of the evidence and squint through my overused magnifying glass, it becomes clear that I.C. Clark is actually J.C. Clark, and the hunt begins.

The two thirty-something men owned the Commerce, Michigan dry goods store in the early 1860's and further records were found of tax filings, giving proof that the alias J.C. Clark was actually John C. Clark. As the men in question seemed to share a business, were close in age and both born in Connecticut, an assumption (and only an assumption) can be made that these two gentlemen were brothers.

"So what?" you might say.

Well...really nothing. It was just an interesting little side-story, finding my ancestor Henry sharing a business with his brother John. But the Clark lineage was still floundering dead in its tracks, and rather than going upward it went sideways, landing right back where it started: with no revelation of Henry H. Clark's parents to progress the lineage forward.

But then I recalled a little investigative tool that many genealogical sleuths use when faced with such an annoyingly frustrating case: guilt by association.

Rather than spinning my wheels searching for records on my ancestor Henry, I refocused my investigation on John and forged a hot pursuit on his trail. I began to twist and turn my way through websites; digging into surname publications; peeking at land records, and taping every genealogical site found. Until finally piecing the slivers of evidence together: The Clark lineage.

I paused and scanned my eyes across a lineage that extended from my ancestor's alleged brother John, all the way to Col. James Clark of 1730. A beautiful genealogical masterpiece full of names and dates, with an occasional record sprinkled in-between.

So...case closed? No. Not even close.

It is a shaky case built on circumstantial evidence and there is not a genealogical 'court' from here to Casablanca that will even consider it. But and only but...it is a working case. What was once a sad, bleak, miserable cold case; the Clark lineage has now been given life. But the assumptions will need to be turned into facts, developed with real records pointing their fingers to my ancestor Henry rather than John.

So with this newly inspiring CSI revival, I forge ahead. A lineage taking new life, though desperately gasping on a respirator, is no longer dead-on-arrival, and it is now my responsibility to build a case of fact.

The old genealogical 'guild by association' trick; you just have to use it when there is nothin' on your subject in question.

Keep searching for answers,

P.S: When searching for records in Connecticut and New England, I stumbled across these unbelievable websites. Check them out: Ray's Place and Jane Devlin's Site.

Jennie Knowlten paced back and forth through her parlor room, glancing at the mantel clock as she passed. Expecting a letter from New York to arrive on Friday, the day had faded into Saturday with nothing delivered from the post. "If you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself" demanded Jennie as she pushed open the front door and stomped toward the barn.

Quickly harnessing her horse to the wagon, Jennie eyed her husband George, peeking around the back of the barn. Shaking his head as he listened to the barks coming from his wife's mouth, George bit his lip attempting to conceal laughter at Jennie's remarks. Married to a headstrong woman, George knew his wife well; and no one could stand in her way, especially the United States Postal Service.

It was 1910 and the cross-country railroad had provided faster and more efficient delivery of mail to rural America. But Jennie Knowlten expected no less than flawless service; and mail delivery from the post office in Vida, Missouri was not living up to her lofty expectations.

Jennie whisked her horse-drawn wagon from the barn, making her way from their farm to the town of Vida. Approaching the little Post Office, Jennie stormed the entrance, demanding to speak with the Post Master. "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today," she mumbled, holding her head high. But as she glanced around the small room, Jennie sensed a feeling of disorganization: finding boxes of letters sitting haphazardly against the wall, waiting to be delivered.

An older gentleman approached the counter, looking disheveled and haggard. Asking if she could be helped, Jennie snapped with "well its about time!" Remarking that her mail had not arrived for several days, the gentleman explained that the Post Master had unexpectedly quit, leaving Vida's little US Post Office in disarray.

Well...the conversation that transpired between Jennie and the disheveled gentleman in Vida's little Post Office has been left to everyone's imagination. A few towns-people were certain they overheard some stern and distasteful words passed between the two: but it is not what was said on that fateful day in 1910; but what occurred in the end that is remarkable:

Jennie Knowlten walked into the US Post Office as a farmer's wife and left as the Vida, Missouri Post Mistress!...As she said earlier in the day: "If you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself!"

Finding my great grandmother Jennie on the 1910 US Census listed as a Post Mistress, brought a quick smile to my face. Listening to stories of Jennie told by my mother, described a headstrong woman with a know-it-all personality. And taking charge of a Post Office in the early 1900's when only 10% of all married women in America were in the work-force, fit her personality to a tee.

How did Jennie Knowlten actually become the Post Mistress of Vida, Missouri? I haven't a clue. But a more thorough inspection of her listing on the 1910 US Federal Census provided a little golden nugget of detail that can be used to tell her story, enriched by her notoriously funny sayings and spitfire personality.

When writing your family history, search for the little 'tidbits'; the golden nuggets. Read your ancestor's US Census records with a keen eye and then weave in your discoveries to build their story. Think of each census record as a chapter in your ancestor's life.

Look closer at the details and you will most certainly, 'get the job done right!"

Keep searching for answers,


Morristown Presbyterian Church
Hur Osborne, weakened from fever, stumbled out his house and slowly walked toward the center of town. Uncertain of his destination, he clasped on to others as he passed, creeping through the fog of sickness. But none of the other villagers could help Hur, as many had succumbed to their own feverish state.

Approaching the entrance to the Presbyterian Church, Hur could hear the faint moans of men echoing from within its walls. Peering through the doorway, he saw rows and rows of bodies: some moving, some not. It was May 1777 and another war was being fought within the village of Morristown, New Jersey: The deadly Smallpox epidemic.

The War of the Revolution had been raging for a year and following the Battle of Princeton, Col. George Washington marched his troops to Morris County, New Jersey. An area surrounded by swamps and mountains, Col. Washington surveyed the Morris County area, feeling certain it would be a good strategic base for his 2000 troops to winter. But the deadly killer, Smallpox, was unfazed by the protection of the landscape, leaving the soldiers with little defense.

As the 'fever' drifted from soldier to soldier, the victims began to outnumber the village's doctors and nurses and supplies for the sick diminished. Unprepared for such a devastating disease, the town leaders searched for alternate facilities to hold the sick and dying; converting many churches into hospitals.

Which was where Hur Osborne found himself standing, limp and exhausted, in the doorway of the Morristown Presbyterian Church on the 15th of May 1777.

Hur slowly scanned his eyes across the room filled with men seemingly stacked on top of the other. He pleaded for a doctor or nurse to come to his home, as his was also filled with disease. But there were none who could go. The doctors and nurses were already overburdened with the care of the sick soldiers; leaving few to help the villagers of Morristown.

Feeling conquered, Hur struggled to walk back toward his home, knowing he had little respite for his family. Approaching his house, he was frightened of what lurked behind the door and his fears became reality as he entered. Rebekkah, Hur's 15-year-old daughter had just passed. His wife, devastatingly weak from her own sickness, was swept away with grief but her demise would soon come, just three days after their daughter's death.

Hur Osborne and the villagers of Morris County, New Jersey experienced more death from disease during the year 1777 than most will know in a lifetime. Four days after Hur's wife died, an older daughter, my ancestor, also succumbed to the 'fever'. The enemy continued to seep through every village of Morris County; often crushing entire families within the same day. In all, 200 parishioners in the Presbyterian Church of Morristown, New Jersey died in 1777; just one church out of many, experiencing the same evil epidemic of Smallpox.

The story composed of my colonial ancestor's battle with the Revolutionary War Smallpox epidemic, was derived from published town histories and the 'Bill of Mortality' lists of the community churches. In colonial times, more than a century prior to mandated recording of vital records, the churches compiled and stored volumes of combined registries. Many are now in the collections of county libraries and historical societies; books rich with baptismal, marriage and mortality records. I found the 'Bill of Mortality' church registries of my ancestors on the Morris County Genweb site. Many of these church publications are now digitalized and searchable on Ancestry.com, Google Books and Archive.org.

During this week's celebration of the American Revolution, discover your colonial ancestor's records by searching their church registries and 'Bill of Mortality' publications.

The colonial churches; gatekeepers of the historical registries.

Keep searching for answers,

(Source: Thayer, Theodore, Colonial and Revolutionary Morris County; The Morris County Heritage Commission; 1975).