Friday, July 8, 2016

Step By Step : The Naturalization of Peter Peterson Myren




Recently Lisa Alzo presented a most informative webinar concerning naturalization records.(1) In the webinar Lisa covered the steps involved for an immigrant to become a naturalized American citizen, starting with the filing of a Declaration of Intent and ending with the awarding of a Certificate of Naturalization. It was particularly helpful to see actual documents, examining the information presented on each, and noting that different states had slightly different documents used for the process.

However familiar I felt I was with the naturalization process, I knew I wanted to take a new look at some of my naturalized ancestors and relatives. Using the information Lisa presented, I wanted to revisit what I already knew about my Great Grandfather, Peter Peterson Myren. I also wanted to apply some of her research tips to see if I could learn more about Peter's path to citizenship.

One strategy suggested in the webinar was to develop a timeline of events in the naturalization process. All events that I have recorded in my Family Tree Maker software appear in chronological order, but it helped to set up a smaller, separate timeline to look at only those events related to Peter's immigration, residence, and naturalization.

My timeline included the following events. From Norwegian church records, I knew that Peter had notified that church of his plan to emigrate from Noway to America in 1870.(2) Having an approximate date of departure had enabled me to locate Peter and his brother John and their arrival at the port of Quebec in late June of 1870.(3) This 1870 date was confirmed in subsequent census documents. The 1900 US census recorded Peter as arriving in the US in 1870 and having been in the country for 30 years. This 1900 census also listed Peter as being a naturalized citizen. Information in the 1910 US census recorded Peter as having immigrated in 1878, a date I consider to be a transcription error as 1870 is the date shown in all other records I have found. The US census for 1920 also listed his arrival as being in 1870 and that he was naturalized in 1890.

My timeline confirmed that Peter had followed the established sequence of events, but I also wanted to see the documents associated with his becoming an American citizen. Several years ago, I had located Peter's naturalization record through the index available online through North Dakota State University Libraries. The information provided in the index - name, county of residence (Traill), and date of naturalization (May 1890) was specific enough that I ordered a copy of the record.

The one page record had three distinct parts. First was the signed statement by two witnesses that Peter Peterson Myren had lived in the United States for five years, lived in the state of North Dakota for one year, and that he was of good moral character. The second part of the record (shown below) was Peter's signed statement that he was renouncing all allegiance to the King of Norway and Sweden.



The third part of the record was the signed statement of a judge that "Peter Peterson Myren be, and he is hereby admitted to be A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES", the caps being straight from the printed form. Rereading this section of the document caused me to focus on the handwritten statement that "said Peter Peterson Myren [was] the same person who took out his Intention Papers in the name of Peter Peterson before the Clerk of Circuit Court Eau Claire County, Wisconsin". After all, I had recently learned that the marriage of Peter and his wife Kari took place in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, in 1880. I should not have been surprised to see that his first step toward citizenship had also started in Wisconsin.

FamilySearch.org provided me with the chance to find Peter's Declaration of Intention, sometimes referred to as First Papers. Their digitized Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807-1992 are not indexed, but they are easy to browse if you know the approximate date and county in which the Declaration was filed. From the Eau Claire County records, I selected the volume of Declaration of Intention 1871-1880 as most likely to contain Peter's declaration.(4) Thankfully, this volume contained an index which listed four Peter Petersons has having filed a declaration during that time period. Of the four records, two records listed a Peter Peterson born in Norway in 1848 and immigrating to the United States in 1870; this matched what I already knew about my Great Grandfather. The other two records had dates that eliminated them as possibilities for my Peter.

Looking back at the book's index for Peterson/Pederson, I noticed a listing for a John Petterson. His declaration indicated that he was born in Norway in 1843 and immigrated to the United States in July, 1870. This matched with what I already know of Peter's older brother John, especially as these two brothers had immigrated together. John's record was on page 83 of the book. One of the possible Peter records was on page 84. Plus John (page 83) and Peter (page 84) had both made their declarations on the same day, 7 Nov 1871. It was looking as if I had found my Peter's declaration.

I spent time looking back at the second possible Peter Peterson record. This second record showed a filing date of 5 Jul 1872. The signature also provided another thing to question. The record on page 148 was signed Peder Pederson, while my Peter is more frequently listed in church, immigration, census, final naturalization record, obituary as Peter Peterson / Myren. It was enough for me to feel that the declaration signed by Peter on page 84 was that of my Great Grandfather, Peter Peterson Myren.

Using a specific timeline helped me to see how and where my Great Grandfather had followed that path to citizenship. Immigration in 1870, filing a Declaration of Intention in 1871, and appearing before the court for his second papers, his actual citizenship papers, in 1890. In twenty years, Peter had made life changing decisions that lead to his becoming an American citizen. In just over twenty years, one of his sons would follow a similar path, leaving the United States and becoming a citizen of yet another country. But that's a story for another day.

Lessons Learned:

  • Reading all the information of a record can sometimes lead you to find new information.
  • A timeline can help to clarify the sequence of events.
  • Once again, Legacy through its free webinars, added to my knowledge of research tips and resources.

(1) Alzo, Lisa. "Navigating Naturalization Records"; accessed through Legacy Family Tree Webinars (free through 13 July 2016) http://familytreewebinars.com/download.php?webinar_id=380.
(2) Oppland Parish (Lesjaskog Lesja, Norway). Minister Book no. 9 (1854-1889), Espress Expatriate 1870, p. 289, entry 2, 24 Mar 1870; accessed through Digital Archives of Norway.
(3) Passenger Lists, 1865-1922, ships manifest for Mercator; accessed through Library and Archives of Canada.
(4) Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807-1992 Eau Claire > Declarations of intention 1871-1880, various pages; accessed through www.familysearch.org.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Slave Name Roll Project* : Estate of Joseph Harrison, Jones County, Georgia


"Power of Words" by Antonio Litterio,
via Wikimedia Commons

Some documents are filled with information concerning the names, ages, and family relationships of slaves. Others, such as these few documents related to Joseph Harrison of Jones County, Georgia, provide only limited information. Perhaps the basic information available might prove helpful to others.

In his will signed in 1827, Joseph Harrison of Jones County, Georgia, mentioned only one slave.(1) This slave was a negro girl Eddy. The will stipulated that following his death, Eddy was to be given to Joseph's youngest daughter Mary Harrison.

During 1828 as part of the probate of Joseph's will, an inventory was made of all his goods and property. This inventory included a list of his slaves.(2) The inventory provided only the following information concerning these slaves. 
  • Sam, a boy age 17
  • Harry, age 18
  • Dick, age 20
  • Judah, age 15
  • Ally, age 37
  • Amy, age 9
  • Avelm, age 7
  • Mary, age 5
  • Eady, age 4
  • Eliza, age 2
Sam is the only person identified by sex. There is also no indication as to whether the Eady mentioned in the inventory is the same person named Eddy in Joseph's will.  Probate records did not include any information as to the eventual disposition of these individuals.

Blogger Schalene Dagutis, through her blog Tangled Roots and Trees, developed the Slave Name Roll Project in 2015. This project is a means for listing the names of slaves as individual names are located through our research of wills, probate records, and property records. It gives us the opportunity to provide information so that present day descendants can make a connection to their enslaved ancestors.

(1) Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990, Jones County Wills 1809-1864 vol A-D, p 167-168, will of Joseph Harrison; accessed through www.familysearch.org.
(2) Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990, Jones County Inventories and Appraisements 1826-1838 vol F-G, p 189-190, estate of Joseph Harrison; accessed through www.familysearch.org.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June - a Month for Wedding Discoveries, part 2 : Love at the World's Fair



"Visitors to the 1893 World's Fair" credit C D Arnold
source: Wikimedia.org

It was one of those things on my To-Do-List. Find out more about the possible marriage of my Great Grand Aunt Cornelia Anna Andrews. This made my To-Do-List because there was just one reference to a husband on a family tree and one listing in a census record. Her death certificate, however, listed her by her maiden name, no married name, yet indicated that she was a widow at the time of her death. So once again, trying to answer one simple question was to send me down an interesting path.

The family tree of another descendant of this same Andrews family I’m researching had listed Cornelia Anna Andrews as the “possible” wife of Ira Wasson. Sure enough, there was an Ira Wasson and a Cornelia Wasson listed in the 1900 census as residents of St Cloud, Sterns County, Minnesota.(1) The age, birthday (Sept 1856) and birthplace (Pennsylvania) agreed with what I already knew about my Cornelia. The census record also indicated that the couple had been married for 6 years (possible marriage date of 1894) and listed no children residing in the household.

I was not so successful in searching for verification of their marriage through the marriage databases available on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. When all else fails, think like the middle school students I was with for many years, and just Google it. It worked! Searching for “Ira Wasson” and “Cornelia Andrews” lead me to a listing for a newspaper article in The Chicago Tribune titled “Marriage Result of World’s Fair Meeting”. Kudos to the one who wrote that headline! Unfortunately the article was available through Newspaper.com with whom I do not have a subscription. Again, Googling “Chicago Tribune Archives” lead me to a wonderful surprise. The Tribune had recently added FREE access to their online archives so I was able to read the brief but charming article below.(2)


I couldn’t help wondering why this article was in the Tribune and on its front page. After all, Pleasant Lake is a suburb of Minneapolis, over 400 miles from Chicago. Had The Chicago Tribune taken a special interest in yet another World’s Fair related event, small though it might have been? Later, having a date and location, I found their actual marriage record in FamilySearch.(3)  Finally, enough to validate their marriage.

When I read of their connection to the 1893 World’s Fair, I immediately had visions of a period piece movie, filled with the sights and activities so vividly described by Erik Larson in his novel The Devil in the White City. And I really wanted to find a happy ending.

According to various city directories available on Ancestry.com, I learned that Ira Wasson was still living in Stearns County, Minnesota in 1899, moving in 1900 to St Louis, Missouri where he continued to work as a music teacher for some years.

The last official document for Cornelia was her death certificate.(4) This was what had lead to the initial note on my To-Do-List. According to her death record, Cornelia was a widow who has come to Nashville from St Louis 10 days prior to her death, apparently to visit her brother Howard Andrews. Cornelia died at the Andrews family home on 9 May 1904. Her cause of death was listed as ulceration of the stomach and bowels. Had Cornelia been in poor health for some time? Had she decided to come to Nashville to be with family in her last days? Was her death an unexpected event for the family? More questions.

With Cornelia listed as a widow, I wanted to learn a little more about her late husband Ira Wasson. Imagine my surprise to find many indications that Mr. Wasson was very much alive at the time of her death and for years beyond – a FindAGrave memorial, city directory entries, later census records, even another marriage in 1903 (before Cornelia’s death). The rest of Wasson’s story I’ll leave to his descendants to pursue.

Returning to the St Louis city directories, I did not find anything to shed light on Cornelia’s life between 1899 and her death in 1904. I did not find any listing for Cornelia Wasson, Cornelia Andrews, or possible version of her name with initials. However, between 1899 and 1904, there were very few listings for any women in the St Louis directories nor was the name of a wife included with the listing for a man. Presumably there had been a divorce before Wasson’s second marriage in 1903. Perhaps those years brought the beginning of serious health issues for her. Certainly, I had another check mark on my To-Do-List, but it had not led me to the happy ending I had hoped for.

So once again, as we often find in researching our family’s history, answering one question can lead to more questions. After all, we are dealing with real people, real lives, not just names and dates on a tombstone.

(1)  1900 US Federal Census, T623 roll 792, Minnesota, Stearns, St Cloud City, p 150A, Ira Wasson [and family]; accessed on Ancestry.com.
(2)  “Marriage Result of World’s Fair Meeting”, published Chicago Tribune, 7 Aug 1894, p 1; accessed on www.archives.chicagotribune.com.
(3)  “Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949”, citing Stearns County, p 519, record #6521; accessed on www.familysearch.org.
(4)  Tennessee, City Death Records, 1872-1923”, citing Nashville, record for Cornelia Andrews #761, dod 9 May 1904; accessed on www.ancestry.com.
                                                                                             

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Slave Name Roll Project* : Estate of Samuel Slade, Pike County, Georgia



"Power of Words" by Antonio Litterio,
via Wikimedia.org

* Blogger Schalene Dagutis, through her blog Tangled Roots and Trees, developed the Slave Name Roll Project in 2015. This project encourages the listing of the names of slaves as their names are found through our research of wills, probate documents, and property records. It gives us the opportunity to provide this information so that present day descendants can make a connection to their enslaved ancestors.

Over the past year I have been researching wills and probate records as to a means of learning more about my ancestors. I contined to come across information which indicated that some of my southern ancestors had been slave owners. Included in some of the wills and probate records was very specific information about individual slaves - their names, ages, physical descriptions, sometimes even a mention of family relationships. Some wills also specified what was to happen to specific slaves following the ancestor's death. Probate returns sometimes documented the person who purchased a specific slave during the settlement of the estate. 


This type of information from ancestors' legal documents could prove helpful to those exploring their African-American roots. I also realized that posting this type of information is something important to do. Participating in the Slave Name Roll Project has presented the opportunity to share this information, information which might otherwise remain difficult for others to find.

The first will I revisited was that of Samuel Slade of Pike County, Georgia.(1) Samuel's will was signed on 25 June 1858 and filed for probate 6 August 1860. In his will he makes specific mention of the following slaves:

  • Frank, age 11, dark complexion, to be given to Slade's daughter Frances Ann Bankston
  • John, age 13, dark complexion, to be given to Slade's daughter Abi Hall
  • Henry, age 18, yellow complexion, to be given to Slade's son Samuel Slade
  • Lawrence (a woman) to be given to Slade's daughter Abi Hall
  • Susan to be given to Slade's daughter Aletha S Keneday
Later probate records and returns for the administration of Samuel Slade's will contained another list of slaves.(2) These named slaves were Dave, Joe, Susan, Larance, Hester, Willis, Lewis, Mandy, Hannah, Emily, Ned, Clark, Jordan, Elijah, Vilot, and Jane; no age or physical description was given for any of these listed. There was nothing to indicate whether Susan and Larance were the same individuals listed in Samuel's will or if they were other people.

Thank you to blogger True E. Lewis. Her quote expresses a powerful reason for participating in this project.(3)
"It's honorable to do .. You're RELEASING their Names and their Souls for their Descendants to hopefully find them one day. Every time this happens they are REJOICING. They have been in a book or what have you for so long."
1. Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992; Pike County Record of Wills, Book C-D, 1844-1912, p 203-205; accessed on Ancestry.com.
2. Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990; Pike County Returns and Inventories 1861-1883, vol BA, p 224-225; accessed on FamilySearch.org.
3. Lewis, True E. "A Quote For the Remembered and Released Slaves", 
http://mytrueroots.blogspot.com/2015/08/slave-name-roll-project.html