Author Archives: Lauren Mahieu

Finding the families of Ernest Loren Simpson

I had other plans for today, but as I began organizing my office, I became distracted with this photo:

Deloise Jessie Pearl Simpson

Since finding this picture, I’ve been captivated by it.  I’ve cropped it down, but the full portion of the back is shown below:

Jessie Pearl's note to her sister-in-law, Abbie (Dalton) Simpson

Jessie Pearl’s note to her sister-in-law, Abbie (Dalton) Simpson

She writes:

Please give this to Abbie -


Dear Sister I would like to here from you.  I just got back from Peoria.  had a fine time come up and see me some time  hope you are not mad.

Born Jessie Pearl Simpson, she was the daughter of Ernest Loren Simpson and his first wife, Rowena Maude Wiley.  (By 1920 she’d begun to go by the name Deloise, but also used her middle name, Pearl.)  She was my grandmother’s half sister, and one of many half siblings she’d never had the occasion to meet.  In fact, there were several siblings of whom she was unaware.

Ernest married Rowena Maude Wiley on 23 May 1891 in Fort Dodge, Webster Co., Iowa.

Marriage certificate for Ernest and Rowena

Marriage certificate for Ernest and Rowena

Page 2 of marriage certificate

Page 2 of marriage certificate

The following children were born to them:

  1.  Clarence Vernon Simpson, b. 11 Nov 1892 in Iowa
  2.  Jessie Pearl Simpson, b. 17 Mar 1895 in Fort Dodge, Webster Co., Iowa
  3.  Horace Wiley Simpson, b. 12 Aug 1896 in Ringgold, Ringgold Co., Iowa

The marriage was short; on 16 October, 1901, Ernest married his second wife, Maggie M. Hoag, in Fort Dodge, Iowa.  They had a large family, with all children born in Iowa:

  1. Margaret M. Simpson, b. abt. 1902
  2. George D. Simpson, b. abt. 1906
  3. Mamie Alice Simpson, b. abt. 1907
  4. Frank Simpson, b. 21 Feb 1909
  5. Edna M. Simpson, b. abt. 1910
  6. Dorothy Simpson, b. abt. 1911
  7. Viola Simpson, b. abt. 1913

Postcard given to Ernest by his first wife, Maggie.


Back of postcard

Quite faded, the penciled handwriting is difficult to read, but clear when blown up.  It says:

From All -

Margaret said lets us send this to papa he will think it is pretty I bet.  Love & kisses from all.

M and children

This marriage was also short-lived; by 1915, Margaret and children were living on their own.  Whatever happened to end this marriage was painful.  He never disclosed to my grandmother that she had seven additional half-siblings in addition to Clarence, Jessie and Horace.

Marriage certificate for Ernest L. Simpson and Susan B. (Stanwood) Clark

Marriage certificate for Ernest L. Simpson and Susan B. (Stanwood) Clark

So much of Ernest’s life before his marriage to Susan is a mystery.  He shared with my grandmother little about his own parents, and even less about his former families.  He was a passionate, emotional man who wrote poetry but was known for having quite the temper.  Nevertheless, my grandmother loved him dearly.  He died when she was only 17 years of age, taking with him his untold history.

Chocolate boxes can be used for pictures too!

Chocolate boxes can be used for pictures too!

The box above holds little treasures from Ernest’s life, such as the pictures of Deloise Jessie Pearl, and the items below:

Ernest's book which holds notes from his jobs as a painter

Ernest’s book which holds notes from his jobs as a painter

Inside the book contains his notes:
And other miscellaneous items:

An empty envelope with Clarence's address penned in Ernest's handwriting

An empty envelope with Clarence’s address penned in Ernest’s handwriting

The photo below shows Ernest holding a baby. The identities of the two young men are still a mystery:
The following two pictures are possibly of Deloise Jessie Pearl:

Pearl and Rowena?

Pearl and her mother Rowena?


Pearl and ?

Pearl and her brother Clarence or Horace?  Or someone else?

Mysteries do not end with Ernest. So little was shared with his children, and several of them seemed to keep their own family history a secret from their descendants. It is hoped that we can all eventually connect and piece together the Simpson mysteries.

Evidence-based Reasoning Reveals the Parents of Cynthia (Day) Bursley

As Elizabeth Shown Mills states, often we will never find the “smoking gun” – that single document which states the parentage of an individual. This is certainly the case with Cynthia (Day) Bursley, who was born in rural Maine in the early nineteenth century, in a place and time in which few records were kept. In fact, the first known record directly naming Cynthia was the 1850 Federal Census, in which she was enumerated in Bangor, Maine at the age of 37 with her husband, Benjamin Bursley.1 Despite this obstacle, however, using evidence-based reasoning, along with the genealogical proof standard, one can deduce Cynthia’s parentage with a high degree of confidence.

Cynthia (Day) Bursley

Cynthia Bursley died 13 May, 1874, in Santiago, Sherburne County, Minnesota, at the age of 60 years and 3 months.2  (We can thus extrapolate her birth as approximately February 1814.) The certificate of her death states she was born in Maine to parents simply listed as “________ Day.”   This document also indicates her parents were natives of Maine as well.

Cynthia (Day) Bursley death certificate

Cynthia (Day) Bursley death certificate

Nearly twenty years later, in 1892, Cynthia’s daughter, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, began the process to probate Cynthia’s estate.3 These documents confirm that Benjamin Bursley, with whom Cynthia was enumerated on the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses, was in fact, her husband. Continue reading

Mystery photo – are these Day family women?

Five unknown ladies, about 1905

Five unknown ladies, about 1905

I love old pictures, and love to solve the mysteries associated with them. Who are the subjects? When was the photo taken? It doesn’t even have to be my own relatives in the picture – the challenge is just is fun. However, the reward of solving the mystery is greater when it is my own family, and it makes the individuals I’m researching come alive.

The photo above is quite a mystery. The picture recently came to me by way of my aunt, who had priceless treasures that she entrusted to my care. Here is what is known:

  • Cormany photo studio, where the photo was taken, operated in Duluth, Minnesota from 1887 to 1888.
  • The studio apparently moved locations in 1889, and continued 307 West Superior in Duluth through 1890.
  • In 1894, the studio was situated in Minneapolis
  • In the 1880s and 1890s, Cormany Studio had photographers in Princeton, Minnesota.
  • The studio continued as late as 1914, when Gilbert Maggert published in the Princeton Union his rental of the studio’s premises and equipment “in all its locations”

Continue reading

Back when

Before this:


I drove two hours one way to get here to view census records:

National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California

National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California

Yep, genealogy was way different back then. It kinda reminds of me Tim McGraw’s song “Back When,” in which he reminisces about life in the good ‘ol days. In an era of immediate gratification, where we can download our favorite songs from iTunes and play them nearly anywhere, any time of the day, Tim laments:


I love my records
Black, shiny vinyl
Clicks and pops
And white noise
Man they sounded fine
I had my favorite stations
The ones that played them all
Country, soul and rock-and-roll
What happened to those times?
Continue reading

New England, slavery, and Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark

Anti-McClellan broadside gives impression the Union was always the friend of the slaves.

Anti-McClellan broadside gives impression the Union was always the friend of the slaves.

Growing up my mother spoke passionately against racism. She abhorred prejudice of all kinds. It surprised me as a child, as I never observed anything close to racism in the quiet little southern California town in which I grew up. However, my mom’s passion likely grew from the time she spent in the south, serving in the Army in the early 1960s. It was an era of horrendous discrimination and segregation, and it clearly affected her.

In my naiveté, I was so proud of my mother’s New England heritage. Clearly my mother’s ancestors had no role in slavery. We were Yankees. My ancestors served on the Union side in the Civil War. However, as I studied more, I came to understand that New England has fought hard to rewrite history, trivializing their role during those critical years. Many of New England’s many ship captains earned their wealth transporting slaves to the U.S. New England’s farms supplied produce to those involved in the slave trade. During the colonial era, one in four New Englanders owned at least one slave. Okay, so my Yankee roots aren’t as great as I once thought.

However, my father’s southern roots pain me no end. My ancestry there is firmly planted in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. In addition to the Yankees, I have Confederate soldiers in my family tree. I am afraid to know what role my southern forefathers played in the issues surrounding slavery, and how their descendants treated their dark-skinned neighbors after the end of the Civil War.

Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, abolitionist and first president of the Freedman's Aid Society

Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, abolitionist and first president of the Freedman’s Aid Society

So it was with great joy that I recently learned that my second cousin five times removed, Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, a Methodist minister and renowned author, was a devoted abolitionist.  Born in 1812 on Mount Desert Island, Maine, Davis was the first president of the Freedman’s Aid Society, which provided education for freed slaves and their children. They were instrumental in raising the literacy rates of blacks immediately after the conclusion of the Civil War, a priority for slaves to be able to find profitable occupations. Clark College was named in his honor, and later merged with Atlanta University to become the Clark Atlanta University. More details can be found on the NAACP website at

Davis Wasgatt Clark was not the only outspoken person in his family. His grandfather and namesake, Davis Wasgatt, had alienated himself from friends and neighbors in Eden (now known as Bar Harbor), Maine, when he became a staunch Anabaptist. Davis was also a Revolutionary War soldier, a solid patriot, and one who felt that actions spoke louder than words.

While New England was far from innocent in the evolution of slavery in the U.S., and my ancestors likely did have some sort of role that I will eventually discover, right now I’m pretty proud of my Maine ancestors. Of course, my Wasgatt family stands out prominently among them.

The life expectancies of our ancestors

My grandmother never told her age. Ever. When I was a kid, she made it into a game but would never give me enough hints to guess. She said she’d be dead by the time I was 21, but that she would leave a note for me which I could open on my 21st birthday letting me know how old she was.  (She didn’t need to – I was nearly 40 by the time she died!)  Obviously, my grandmother clearly thought she would die young, and as her own mother was only 61 when she passed away from a heart attack.  I can understand – my own mother was only 63 when she died, and now that I’ve reached the half-century mark myself, my own mortality is even more real.   So….I decided to do a simple pedigree chart showing  my ancestors’ ages at death:

death genogram

Of course, while I’m pleased to see those who enjoyed extended golden years, like most families, I also have my fair share of ancestors who went to the pearly gates in their 50s and 60s.  Analyzing this a bit further, the life expectancy of my grand parents, great grandparents and great-great grandparents looks like this: Continue reading

MacBridge for RootsMagic – two thumbs up


I’ve been a longstanding RootsMagic user.  Even after making the move to a Mac a year ago, I continued to use RootsMagic, a Windows-based program, by running it with Codeweaver’s CrossOver application.  It worked pretty well for the most part – except for one extremely annoying issue.  Despite setting up my default folders for my media files, RM didn’t remember the locations.  Consequently, each time I went to link to a picture or a document, I had to navigate to the correct folder on my hard drive.  It was a MAJOR inconvenience.  Aside from that, I really didn’t have any complaints.  So, when RootsMagic released the MacBridge program earlier this week, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth trying it out.  But I’m sure glad I did!  My folders are now retained in RootsMagic’s memory, and the program is operating as it should.

You can learn more about RootsMagic’s new release, MacBridge, here.



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