Category Archives: My Family Lines

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


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


Charles M. and Julia C. (Veland) Uphouse

My great grandparents, Charles Madison Uphouse and Julia Christine Veland, have always been somewhat of a mystery. So few stories have been passed down about them, and so little is known of their lives. Here are some photos and documents recently sent to me by my wonderful aunt.

Charles M. Uphouse, in uniform

Charlie was born 4 March 1889 in Davenport, Thayer County, Nebraska.  The couple had one child, Charles W. Uphouse, who was killed in an automobile accident on his way to California in 1949.   Sometime after his marriage to Mary Belle, Charlie enlisted in  Company H, 5th Nebraska Infantry: Continue reading


Finding family treasures – better than the lotto!

I received a box of pictures of and documents from my aunt on Thursday. It was like winning the lotto, but 1000% better.   My grandmother had given to me all of her family pictures and documents before she died, so I didn’t think there was much else left to find. WRONG! My aunt sent me photos of my grandfather, Harold T. Uphouse, as a child that I’d never seen. There were photos of my grandmother, Goldie (Simpson) Uphouse Edwards as a toddler. Pictures of Harold’s mother, Julia (Veland) Uphouse as a child and young woman. And pictures of Julia’s parents, grandparents, and one of her great grandparent. There were letters written in Norwegian that I need to have translated. I am beyond thrilled.

Julia (Veland) Uphouse

My great grandmother, Julia (Veland) Uphouse.

Elizabeth "Lizbett" (Gravdahl) Veland

My great-great grandmother, Elizabeth “Lizbett” (Gravdahl) Veland

John Veland

My great-great grandfather, John Veland

John and Elizabeth (Gravdahl) Veland

John and Elizabeth (Gravdahl) Veland

Haldor Gravdahl

My third great grandfather, Haldor Gravdahl

Gunhild (Laude) Gravdahl

My third great grandmother, Gunhild (Laude) Gravdahl

Front: Haldor, Gunhild, Elizabeth and Anna.  Back: Gabriel, Margret, Lars, Ole, Martha, Cecilia, and Harry.

Front: Haldor, Gunhild, Elizabeth and Anna.
Back: Gabriel, Margret, Lars, Ole, Martha, Cecilia, and Harry.

Johanna Elizabeth (______) Gravdahl

My fourth great grandmother, Johanna Elizabeth (Haldorsdatter) Gravdahl


The hunt for Days, and the importance of original records

I’m a homebody who prefers the company of my dogs and computer to travel. However, there is one thing that is sure to motivate me to hop on a plane, and that’s GENEALOGY! A week ago Thursday I flew to Maine to do some research on my Day family, and then met up with my husband in Boston the following Saturday. I had two goals for this trip:

1)   Find any additional documents that may list relationships for Cynthia Day’s parents, siblings, aunts and uncles; and

2)   Find the original church records that were used as the source of information for Aaron Day’s baptism, which was listed in the Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts to the end of the Year 1849.

While I did find some early deeds, maps and other cool stuff, I bombed on goal #1. (I think I’ve pretty much gleaned all relevant records pertinent to Cynthia Day’s family and it’s time to start my proof argument for her parentage.)

All was not lost, however. I struck pay dirt big time on goal #2! Buried for several hours in the Ipswich, Massachusetts Archives, I was able to view the microfilmed church records for the First Church and the South Church. While not an original, these transcribed, hand-copied records are nearer to the original than the published vital records, which I highly suspected to be in error.

Below is the entry for Aaron Day’s baptism in the published Ipswich Vital Records. As you can see, it states he was the son of John and Eunice Day.

 

Aaron Day's baptism in the published Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts

Aaron Day’s baptism in the published Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts

This seemed highly unlikely. John Day and Eunice Burnum published marriage intentions on 5 May, 1722, more than 60 years before Aaron’s birth. The only John Day with a wife of childbearing age in Ipswich in 1793 when Aaron was baptized was married to his cousin, Sarah (Day) Day. Numerous other documents pointed to Sarah (Day) Day as Aaron’s mother, not Eunice. The transcribed, microfilmed church record is consistent with this – no mother was listed:

 

Microfilmed records from the South Church of Ipswich.

Microfilmed records from the South Church of Ipswich.

Where did the published Vital Records obtain the name of Eunice as Aaron’s mother? We will probably never know, but it seems likely that a tired transcriber simply added the mother’s name, having completed data entry for other children of the earlier couple. Unfortunately, as can be expected, multiple family trees published online and on paper erroneously list Aaron’s mother as the mysterious Eunice, wife of John Day. This exercise, however, underscores the importance of using original records, whenever possible.

After visiting the archives, my husband joined me in the hunt for Aaron’s maternal grandparents – Aaron Day and Sarah (Goodhue) Day. It was an overcast, rainy day, and the pictures turned out lovely. Cemeteries – some of my favorite places. Even more special when they contain an ancestor.  :-)

Headstone of Aaron Day who drowned in 1790.

Headstone of Aaron Day who drowned in 1790.

Highland Cemetery, the new section of the Old Burying Ground.

Highland Cemetery, the new section of the Old Burying Ground.

Old Burying Ground where Aaron Day and his wife Sarah (Goodhue) Day are buried

Old Burying Ground where Aaron Day and his wife Sarah (Goodhue) Day are buried


Cordelia Stanwood, unmarried: a hidden gem in the family tree

beyondthespring

Cordelia Stanwood, my favorite non-ancestor!

New genealogists often overlook the unmarried folks in their family trees.  After all, there are no offspring to track or trace.  However, these unmarried aunts and uncles, cousins and kinfolk, can have stories just as interesting as those of our ancestors, and just as deserving of being told and preserved for generations to come.   Just as important – often these unmarried relatives hold pieces to our genealogical puzzles, or have interesting information that make our own ancestors come alive.

Cordelia J. Stanwood is my third cousin, four times removed.  (It is her great grandfather’s headstone I’m posed next to in the post, Twenty Tips for Living with the Obsessed Genealogist.)  I never met Cordelia – she was born in Ellsworth, Maine on 1 August 1865, and died in 1958, several years before my own birth.  However I would have enjoyed meeting her.  One of the first female ornithologists in the U.S., she was also an author, a photographer, and….drum roll please…a genealogist. Continue reading


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