Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday's Tip: Transcribing Letters

Several years ago I visited the Manuscript and Rare Book Library at Emory University, Decatur, Georgia.  My purpose was to study the Camp Family Papers in their collection and, hopefully, to learn more about my 2nd GreatGrandfather Thomas Lumpkin Camp.

The documents were written by a variety of people and in different handwritings.  I was grateful that the staff at MRBL permitted users to photograph the photocopies in the files available for public research.

After I downloaded the photos to my laptop, I was anxious to transcribe them.  I first tried opening a letter photo in my laptop's photo viewer with the plan to transcribe each letter as a Word document.  I tried using both horizontal and vertical split screens to view the photo and my Word document at the time; I even tried using a second monitor with my laptop.  All of these methods were rather cumbersome, especially with all the "extras" at the top of the Word screen.  Frankly, it seemed to take a long time to transcribe a single letter, and I abandoned the transcription project after a few weeks.

Recently I came across an easy to use freeware program, Transcript, version 2.4.  Transcript 2.4 is just like the web site claims, it really "makes transcribing easier".  With it, I've finally been able to transcribe a number of the Camp letters and have found several interesting stories which I plan to share in future posts.

The screen shot above shows Transcript's clean, uncluttered work surface.  In the light blue box at the top of the screen is the document I plan to transcribe.  The white box below is my transcription area.  The center bar dividing the two boxes can be adjusted to divide the screen just as you want it.

Beneath the "File Edit Format ... " menu row is one ribbon of icons, primarily pertaining to the document you are planning to transcribe.  A box in the middle of the ribbon lists the title or image number of the document you are transcribing.  The small green arrow buttons (circled in green) let you move back and forth through a series of images.  This feature has been particularly helpful when I have had four or five images to cover one letter.

Another nice feature (circled in red) is the ability to zoom in or out of a document.  The brightness of your document can also be adjusted using the buttons circled in yellow.  Sometimes just a change in perspective helps clarify a word.

The actual transcription is done without any of those spelling errors or punctuation reminders that are part of using Word.  I like this because I'm trying to transcribe the actual spelling, punctuation, and capitalization used in each document.  No wiggly red or green lines, no auto correct to get in the way of an accurate transcription.

Each transcription is saved as a Rich Text File.  The RTF, in turn, can be opened in Word for formatting, spell check, or any other type of correction you may wish to make to your document.

Transcript is free for noncommercial use.  If you plan to use it for any transcriptions for which you will receive pay, a pro version is available, costing $15 Euros, about $21 US dollars.  Jacob Boerema, the programmer, will also accept donations from users of the program.  If you have handwritten documents to transcribe, Transcript will certainly make the job much easier.  Visit the Transcript web site  to download your copy.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mystery Monday ... But Where Is She Buried?

As I have been researching the Smiley family, I'm been taking the time to see that I have sources and citations for the facts I have recorded.  Things were going smoothly until I tried to verify the death date and burial information for my 4GGrandmother Nancy Tucker Smiley.

First stop was findagrave.com to see if anyone had photographed her grave marker.  Imagine the shock to find two different grave markers.  In two different cemeteries.   In two different states.

Exhibit A:  findagrave.com actually had two memorials for Nancy Tucker Smiley which referred to a burial in the Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Hilliard, Franklin County, Ohio.  One of the memorials was for a Nancy Smiley who was born in 1761 and who died 30 Nov 1856.  The second memorial listed the name of Nancy Tucker Smiley, born 22 Jan 1762, died 10 Nov 1856.  Fortunately both memorials included a picture of the same gravestone.  The stone pictured below is inscribed "Nancy, wife of the Late Rev. Thomas Smiley, died Nov 30 1856, aged 95 years."

Grave marker, "Nancy Smiley"
findagrave memorial #26406212, photo by dave

The information on the grave marker pointed to this being the burial location of my 4GGrandmother Smiley, the wife of my 4GGrandfather Thomas Smiley.  Thomas Smiley had died in 1832 so it was possible that Nancy Tucker Smiley had moved from Pennsylvania to live in Ohio.  But did she, and if so when?  Where?  And why?

It took looking for information about all of Thomas and Nancy Smiley's children to come up with a possible answer.  Ancestry.com had a digitized copy of one of those interesting community history books, Pioneer and Patriot Families of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, 1770-1800.(1)  Included in the brief biographical sketches was one for Thomas and Nancy Smiley which listed the names, birth dates, some death dates, and marriage information for their eight children.  According to the book, son David Smiley "removed to Ohio".

The 1850 census listed a David Smiley living in Norwich, Franklin County, Ohio, but there was no mention of Nancy Smiley living with his family.  Instead Nancy was listing as living in Norwich, Franklin County, Ohio but with her daughter Harriet Smiley Laird, Harriet's husband, and their seven children.  At least, Nancy being buried in Franklin County, Ohio had started to make some sense.

Exhibit B:  findagrave.com had one more memorial for a Nancy Smiley, death date 1856, this one in a Pennsylvania cemetery.  The Pennsylvania memorial indicated a burial at White Deer Baptist Church in Allenwood, Union County, Pennsylvania.  White Deer Baptist Church just happened to be the church where Thomas Smiley had been the minister for a number of years.  In addition, the grave marker for Thomas Smiley, or "Elder Thomas Smiley" as inscribed on his marker, is located in the White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery.  The marker for Nancy is inscribed "Nancy, wife of Elder Thomas Smiley, died Nov 30, 1856, aged 95 years".

Grave marker, "Nancy Tucker Smiley"
photo by  miranda, findagrave memorial #36898736, 

Two grave markers in two different cemeteries in two different states with essentially the same inscription.  Surely, one is just a memorial marker while the other actually marks Nancy's grave.  But which?

The White Deer Baptist Church still is an active church in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, celebrating its bicentennial in 2008.  An article in the Williamsport Sun Gazette told of plans to celebrate the historic event, but there was no mention of anyone placing a memorial stone in the cemetery in memory of Nancy Smiley, wife of the founding pastor.  Nor was there mention of a memorial stone in details of their White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery tour.

There are several plausible explanations for Nancy's two grave markers.  Perhaps after her death in Ohio, she was buried in Ohio but her remains were later moved to Pennsylvania.  Or maybe the Pennsylvania marker was added at a later date near that of her husband's grave marker as a memorial to this early husband and wife.  Or possibly someone (family, the church perhaps) added the Pennsylvania marker at a later date, thinking that Nancy had been buried there in an unmarked grave.  I'm sure there are other suppositions that haven't crossed my mind yet.

So for now, Nancy Tucker Smiley's actual final resting place remains a mystery.  Until I actually know the burial site, I'll have to contend with having two different Burial "facts" listed for Nancy Tucker Smiley in Family Tree Maker.  Maybe I should just call them Burial "possibilities".

(1)  Heverly, Clement Ferdinand.  Pioneer and Patriot Families of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, 1770-1800, Towanda, PA : Bradford Star Print, 1913-1915; accessed www.ancestry.com

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Workday Wednesday: Thomas Smiley, Missionary and Minister

White Deer Batist Church, Allenwood, Pennsylvania
photo by Miranda, findagrave.com

When I  last posted about my 4GGrandfather, Thomas Smiley, he had suffered the indignity of being tarred and feathered by those opposed to his peace efforts during the Yankee-Pennamite Wars in Pennsylvania.  At the time of that event, Thomas was the minister of the Chemung Baptist Church on Towanda Creek in eastern Pennsylvania.(1)  To learn what happened to Thomas and his family after they left the Towanda Creek area, I ended up finding a lot of information in books of Baptist church history.  And once again, HathiTrust provided the access to this type of historical information.

Interestingly, Thomas Smiley had been raised in a strict "Seceder Church", an offshoot of the Presbyterian Church, and his beliefs had earlier caused controversy within his own family.  When Thomas became a Baptist, "he became a stranger to the rest of the family and so remained behind when [his parents and siblings] crossed the mountains to ... Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1785".(2)  Until the tar and feather incident, Thomas had remained in the Towanda Creek area where he farmed and served as both a missionary and a Baptist minister.

After leaving the Towanda Creek / Wyoming area, Thomas and his family moved to the White Deer Valley in central Pennsylvania.  There Thomas Smiley founded the White Deer Baptist Church, a church which is still active today.  According to an article in the Williamsport SunGazette, "White Deer was the second Baptist church established in the area, but is the oldest existing church along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.  It was founded Oct 23 1808, with just 10 members."(3)

In 1810 this area of Pennsylvania was still considered to be part of our country's western frontier.  The Philadelphia Baptist Missionary Society listed Thomas Smiley as one of its frontier missionaries in 1810 and recognized his work along the western boarders of the Susquehanna River.(4)  In a letter to the American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society written in 1814, Thomas told the group, "I do not entertain a doubt but that if it were in our power we would be among the first to assist in the propagation of the gospel among the heathen".(5)  It sounded as if Rev. Smiley considered himself to be both a  minister to the Native Americans as well as to others who had settled in that area.

Between 1820 and Thomas' death in 1832, the number of Baptist churches was growing in that area of Pennsylvania.  The churches began holding yearly associational meetings in which Thomas Smiley often played an important role.  For a number of years he give the opening sermon for the meetings, as well as sometimes serving as moderator and / or clerk for recording the meeting's activities.  The chart below, taken from a book on the history of this part of Pennsylvania, lists Thomas' part in these annual events.

Thomas Smiley's role in the Northumberland Baptist Association, 1821-1832 (6)

Elder Smiley, as Thomas was referred to, remained  the pastor of White Deer Baptist Church until his death in 1832.  Shortly before his death, Thomas wrote a history of the Chemung Baptist Association.(8)  His manuscript had a daunting title, History of the Chemung Baptist Association: containing an account of the rise of the churches, a sketch of their travel, together with the cause of some of them disappearing, including also, a Narration of the Association, the substance of the circular letters and other business done.  A copy of the Chemung manuscript remained in the Smiley family for a number of years.  According to WorldCat, the University of Wisconsin in Madison today holds a copy of the manuscript on microfilm.

Following his death, Thomas was buried in the White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery.  Later a marker was placed there in memory of the church's first minister.  Although parts of his earlier life had been tumultuous, once Thomas Smiley and his family come to the White Deer Valley section of Pennsylvania, he founded a new church and apparently found a more peaceful and rewarding life.

Elder Thomas Smiley grave marker
White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery, Allenwood, Pennsylvania
photo by Dave on findagrave.com

(1) Vedder, Henry C.  A History of the Baptists in the Middle States.   Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1898; accessed through www,hathitrust.org.
(2)  Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens and of Manh of the Early Settled Families.  Chicago: J H Beers, 1893. 
(3) Long, Eric.  "White Deer Valley Baptist Church Observing Bicentennial Year", Williamsport SunGazette,  17 Mar 2008.
(4) Spencer, David.  The Early Baptist of Philadelphia.  Philadelphia: W Syckelmoore, 1877; accessed www.hathitrust.org.
(5) American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.  Proceedings of the Baptist convention for missionary purposes: held in Philadelphia, in May, 1814.  Philadelphia: Printed for the Convention, by A Coles, 1814; accessed www.hathitrust.org.
(6) Meginness, John Franklin.  Otzinachson: Or, a History of the West Brance Valley of the Susquehanna ...  Philadelphia: H B Ashmead, 1857; accessed  www.hathitrust.org.
(7)  Bailey, Edward L.  History of the Abington Baptist Association: From 1807-1857.  Philadelphia: J A Wagenseller, 1863; accessed www.hathitrust.org.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thomas Smiley, Adventures on the Western Frontier

Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania by Jasper Francis Cropsey
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So many times when I am researching an ancestor, I find I am also researching the ancestor's time period.  This has been so true as I have been learning more about my 4GGrandfather, Thomas Smiley.  Thomas, born in 1759, was the grandfather of George W Smiley, the subject of a previous post.  He lived virtually his entire life in the area of Pennsylvania, being there as it changed from being the western frontier of America through the years of the Yankee-Pennamite Wars to statehood and the growth of cities and towns in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia, in 1782, was a bustling city, but 130 miles away in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania was still the frontier.  In April, 1782, Thomas Smiley was living in the Hanover Township section of Wyoming County, Pennsylvania.  A band of Indians had come into the area and captured a Mrs. Franklin and her four children.  Thomas and eight other settlers tracked the Indians for several days in an attempt to rescue the Franklins.  During the morning of the third day, the settlers and Indians exchanged gunfire a number of times.  When the skirmish had ended, the older Franklin children had been rescued.  Sadly, Mrs. Franklin had been killed apparently by the Indians, and the baby had disappeared, never to be seen again.  The townsmen then built a raft and returned by river to Hanover, traveling at night, until they finally returned home.  This account had been related to Joseph Eliot  by Thomas Smiley in 1831; it was later published in the Annual of the Bradford County Historical Society.(1)

A second article in the Society's Annual"Bradford County Pioneers: Men Who First Entered the Wilderness and Carved Out Homes", also mentioned Thomas Smiley.(2)  This time Thomas was listed as an early resident of the Franklin Township in Bradford County, arrived in that area after 1796.

The next recorded adventure for Thomas Smiley concerned his involvement with the Yankee-Pennamite Wars.  This was a series of three wars, both verbal and physical among groups of settlers in northeastern Pennsylvania.  The Yankee-Pennamite Wars occurred between 1769 and 1799.  Both The Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut and the Luzerne County (Pennsylvania) web site provide background about this period in Pennsylvania history.  A fascinating blog, "Philadelphia Reflections" summarizes the nature of the conflicts.
The matter boils down to the undisputed fact that King Charles II gave what is now the northern third of Pennsylvania to Connecticut in 1662, and in 1681 the same king gave it to William Penn. Eighty years after that, in 1769, Connecticut moved in, and Pennsylvania threw them out. It all happened twice more, and the Continental Congress became distressed that two of the thirteen colonial allies were fighting each other instead of the British. So it had to be resolved in court, and therefore we all have to get a little education in the fine points of real estate law in order to understand why Pennsylvania won the case. In short, Connecticut claimed that Charles II had cruelly and unjustly reversed himself, while the Penn Proprietorship simply maintained they were nonetheless legally entitled to the property.(3)
During these years, Yankee referred to those who supported Connecticut's claim to the disputed lands, while Pennamite referred to settlers claiming the land due to William Penn's grant.  Thomas Smiley ended up getting caught in the disturbances while attempting to be part of a solution.

In 1799 the Pennsylvania legislature passed an act which would essentially buy tracts of the disputed land from Pennsylvanians then give it to the Connecticut settlers living on the land who would then own it and agree to withdraw from taking part in any further land disputes.  A number of affected Pennsylvanians were not wanting to sell their land.  Thomas, now a minister in the area, offered to be a deputy agent in order to talk with some of the settlers about the sale of their land to the state of Pennsylvania.  As Clement Heverly related in his book History of the Towandas, 1776-1886 ...

July 7th [1801], [Rev. Smiley] obtained the signatures of nearly forty to their relinquishments.  A meeting was held and the "Wild Yankees" determined that the business must be stopped.
Mr. Smiley stopped for the night at Jacob Granteer's then living on the Towanda Creek. The party [of Wild Yankees], learning of [Smiley's] lodging-place,  followed him, broke into his room, compelled him to burn his papers, took him near the creek, poured a bottle of tar over his head and beard, then adding feathers, the leader after giving him a kick told him that he might go, but must leave the country.(4)
A second relating of the story mentioned that it was a group of about 20 men in disguise who pursued Thomas.  Six men were eventually brought before a grand jury for the offence against Thomas but no punishment was given to any of the men.(5)  So there was the Reverend Thomas Smiley, tarred and feathered, being told to leave that part of Pennsylvania.  This all happened because he was trying to be a peacemaker.  The upshot was that Thomas Smiley and his family left that area of Pennsylvania.  Thomas Smiley was later compensated for his sufferings related to this experience when he was granted $250 by the Pennsylvania legislature in 1819.(6) 

The rest of his ministry provided a much more peaceful story.

(1) Hallock, Mrs. H J, "Some Wyalusing Pioneers."  Digital images.  www.hathitrust.org, citing Bradford County Historical Society (PA). Annual. Towanda, PA : The Society, 1906-1917.
(2) Heverly, C F, "Bradford County Pioneers". Digital images. www.hathitrust.org, citing Bradford County Historical Society (PA). Annual. Towanda, PA : The Society, 1906-1917.
(3) Fisher, George R, "The Pennamite Wars: Who Had the Last Word?" http://www.philadelphia-reflections.com/topic/43.htm.
(4) Heverly, Clement Ferdinand. History of the Towandas, 1776-1886: Including the Aborigines, Pennamites, And Yankees, Together With Biographical Sketches .... Towanda, PA : Reporter-Journal Print Co, 1886, accessed through www.hathitrust.org.
(5) Bradsby, Henry C.  History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  Chicago: S B Nelson, 1891; accessed through www.hathitrustorg.
(6) Craft, David.  History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  Philadelphia: L H Everts, 1878; accessed through www.hathitrust.org.