30 Years Ago Today

On May 15, 1983, thirty years ago today, my 2nd great grandmother, Lois Beatrice (Agee) Wellin (1897-1983) died at the age of 86 in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon.

Funeral Card of Lois (Agee) Wellin
Funeral Card of Lois (Agee) Wellin

Following her death, Lois was buried on May 20, 1983 in Skyline Memorial Gardens in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon. She was buried next to her husband Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977), whom she married in 1914.

Headstone of Wilhelm & Lois Wellin
Headstone of Wilhelm & Lois Wellin

Lois and her husband Wilhelm had four children together, one of which was my paternal great grandmother, Alice Lucretia (Wellin-Lapham) Graber (1916-1985). Alice first married Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955), with whom she had three daughters, one of which is my paternal grandmother, Margaret Ann (Lapham) Kernan (1936-2004).

46 Years Ago Today

On April 28, 1967, forty-six years ago today, Tirzah Olive (Stephens-Agee-Horton) Martin (1873-1967) died in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon at the age of 93. Following her death, Tirzah was buried in Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery in Portland.

Headstone of Tirzah Martin
Headstone of Tirzah Martin

Tirzah was married three times and was three times a widower. She was first married to Otto W. Agee (1868-1904), whom she married in 1893 and had four children with. Following Otto’s death, she married Francis M. Horton (1856-?), whom she married in 1909. She was married for a third and final time in 1931 to John T. Martin (1865-1931).

109 Years Ago Today

On April 10, 1904, one hundred and nine years ago today, Otto W. Agee (1868-1904), my 3rd great grandfather, died in Lane Co., Oregon at the age of 35. According to his obituary, Otto died from “congestion of the lungs.”

Obituary of Otto Agee
Obituary of Otto Agee

Otto was born on August 14, 1904 in Wilbur, Douglas Co., Oregon the son of John Agee (1839-1912) and Mary Elizabeth Thornton (1847-1920). On October 24, 1893, Otto married Tirzah Olive Stephens (1873-1967) in Klickitat, Klickitat Co., Washington. Otto and Tirzah had four children together. Throughout his life, Otto worked as a laborer in industries such as logging in Oregon.

Believed to be part of a funeral card for Otto Agee put together by his sister, Kathyrn (from Atterbury Family Photo Album)
Believed to be part of a funeral card for Otto Agee put together by his sister, Kathyrn. (From the Atterbury Family Photo Album)

Fearless Females Challenge: March 18 – Shining Star

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month. (Note: Because I started this challenge late, I will be continuing it beyond March 31.)

Prompt for March 18 — Shining star: Did you have a female ancestor who had a special talent? Artist, singer, actress, athlete, seamstress, or other? Describe.

Although I have not yet found any female ancestor who was famous for her talents, I do have many women in my ancestry that were talented. Many of my female ancestors were very talented cooks, with many of their recipes being handed down for generations. This is particularly true for my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. My maternal grandmother, Alberta (Sebok) Hamilton (LIVING), her mother, Irene (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006), and her mother, Julia (Molnar) Balla (1885-1962) were all accomplished cooks, making all kinds of Hungarian dishes and desserts. This seems to have run in the family, given the fact that Julia’s sister, Elizabeth, was a professional chief in New York.

In addition to cooking, I have some female ancestors with artistic leanings. My paternal grandmother, Margaret Ann (Lapham) Kernan (1936-2004), was a talented artist. She enjoyed painting, particularly murals. In my grandparents home in California before they sold it, there was a large willow tree mural my grandmother painted. Sadly, no photos appear to exist of this. She also enjoyed drawing. I recall my father telling me that she drew portraits of several members of her family, including her mother. Additionally, several female ancestors were also talented in knitting, crocheting, and quilt/afghan making. My maternal great grandmother, Irene (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006), made many doilies, quilts or afghans, and other items. I have a few of them, including a pillow she made me.

I am not certain how many female ancestors in my ancestry were musically talented, but I do have at least one. My 2nd great grandmother, Lois Beatrice (Agee) Wellin (1897-1983), was talented at playing the piano, particularly the organ. She enjoyed playing for her family and guests at parties at their home in Portland, Oregon. I am told she loved to play songs like “Alley Cat” during these parties. 🙂

Although I already mentioned it in a previous post in this challenge, another talent of a female ancestor I uncovered is writing poetry. My 2nd great grandmother, Anna Margaret (Leishman) Lapham (1875-1951), wrote numerous Christian themed poems.

193 Years Ago Today

On March 18, 1820, one hundred and ninety-three years ago today, Martha Ragsdale (Walker) Thornton (1820-1899), my 5th great grandmother, was born in Smith Co., Tennessee the daughter of Edward Walker (1776-1848) and Mary Griffin (1781-1853).

Martha (Walker) Thornton
Martha (Walker) Thornton

Martha was the wife of Jeptha Thornton (1821-1889), whom she married in 1840 in Missouri; and with whom she had ten children, one of which was Mary Elizabeth Thornton (1847-1920), who married John Agee (1839-1912). Mary and John were the paternal grandparents of Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983), who married Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977). Lois and Wilhelm were the parents of Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955). Alice and Theodore were the parents of my paternal grandmother, Margaret Ann (Lapham) Kernan (1936-2004).

Family History Through the Alphabet – A is for Adoption, Agee, and Addiction

This week’s Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge features the letter A. Some noteworthy A’s I have run across while researching my ancestry include Adoption, Agee, and Addiction.

(Note: Although I already posted my entry for the letter Z, I started this challenge with the letter G. So, I have yet to do posts for A-F.)

A is for Adoption

When I began researching my ancestry, I had no idea that my paternal great grandmother, Maxine Elizabeth Davis (1912-1992), was adopted. As I began piecing together my notes, my grandfather sent me scans of a letter that was published in a newspaper in Oregon that Maxine wrote. The article, which used aliases to hid identities, recounted what Maxine had learned from her adopted parents about her biological parents and the circumstances that led to her adoption. Because of her initial contact with the newspaper, she was able to get in touch with her biological mother. She always wanted to meet her biological father, but never got the chance as no one knew, as I later learned, that he returned to the state of his birth, Ohio. Through her biological mother, Maxine was able to fill in some details about her past. The following photo shows Maxine (center) with her adopted mother, Linnie (left), and her biological mother, Gladys (right).

Maxine’s Reunion with her Biological Mother: Maxine (center), Gladys (right), and Linnie (left)

Adoption, as I have come to understand it, is just another wonderful surprise in undertaking genealogical research. It has been fascinating to learn about the family that raised and shaped my great grandmother into the person she became (the Davis family who adopted Maxine), and it has been equally fascinating to learn about the family that brought her into the world (the Beeney family). I take the advice of many who research and discover adoption and are able to find the biological ancestry, in that I include both the adopted and biological families in my research, for both are important to the life of my great grandmother.

A helpful article for those just starting to research adoption in their ancestry is Maureen Taylor’s “All About Adoption Research” on Genealogy.com.

A is for Agee

Agee is the maiden name of my 2nd great grandmother, Lois Beatrice (Agee) Wellin (1897-1983), who married Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977) and was the mother of Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955). Although the Agee surname, or rather its original spelling of Agé, is French in origins, little is known with certainty regarding its meaning.

There are a number of theories regarding the surname’s meaning, however. One argues that the surname derives from the French word “âgée,” meaning “old,” and is thus perhaps an ornamental surname. Another theory argues the name derives from a Biblical name—that of Agee the Haratite, who was the father of Shammah, one of King David’s “might men” (II Samuel 23:11). In this account, the name is said to mean “fugitive, a valley, or deepness.” Another theory attempts to claim that the surname derives from “Ajean,” an adaptation of “á Jean,” which means “of Jean.” This theory has been refuted as Agee or Agé has no etymological connection to “Ajean.” Another theory argues the surname is of Visigoth origins, with a meaning that is unknown. A final theory argues that the surname is a variant of the French name “Augé,” which derives from “Agér,” a name that is Germanic in origins and derives from “Adalgar.” This Germanic name, which is similar to the English name “Edgar,” is composed of two words, “adal,” meaning “prosperous,” and “gar,” meaning “lance” or “spear,” giving the image of a successful warrior.

Agee Monument in Wilbur Cemetery, Wilbur, Douglas Co., Oregon

A is for Addiction

While researching my ancestry I have discovered that genealogy can be rather addicting. I had no idea when I started researching my ancestry for a school project nearly a decade ago that I would still be doing it. I’m not totally sure why genealogy is addicting, but I suppose it is fascinating to learn where you come from and what the lives of your ancestors were like. Or perhaps Van Wyck Brooks is correct in that there is something selfish in researching our ancestry, for as he puts it, “Nothing is so soothing to our self-esteem as to find our bad traits in our forebears. It seems to absolve us.”

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My Ancestral Connection to James Rufus Agee

James Rufus Agee

In a recent comment to one of my posts made by Braman’s Wanderings, I was reminded of a “famous ancestral connection” I have to Pulitzer Prize winning author, James Rufus Agee (1909-1955). I first became aware of the connection after coming into contact with several relatives researching the Agee family.

Throughout his career, James Agee was an author, journalist, poet, screenwriter, and film critic. He is recognized as one of the most influential film critics, and some have arguably credited him with establishing film criticism as a genre. As a critic and journalist, he worked for the Times, Fortune, and The Nation. His more notable literary works include Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), which is about the daily lives of poverty-stricken sharecroppers in Alabama; and screenplays The African Queen (1951) and The Night of the Hunter (1955), both staring well-known actors. He is, however, best remembered for his autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), which was both published and won Agee the Pulitzer Prize (1958) after his death in 1955.

My research into the Agee family reveals that my ancestral connection to James Agee comes by way of a branch in my paternal grandmother’s ancestry, stretching back to Anthony Agee (1719-1799), my 8th great grandfather. However, both James Agee’s and my grandmother’s descent from Anthony Agee comes by way of two different wives. Anthony was born in 1719 in Manakintowne, Goochland Co., Virginia the son of Mathieu Isaac Agè (ca. 1670-1735), a Huguenot émigré, and Cecelia Ann Gandovin (1691-1761). In 1740, he married Nancy Jane Binion (1723-1750), with whom he had at least five children, one of which was Matthew Agee (1747-1823), my grandmother’s 5th great grandfather. After Nancy’s death, he married Christian Worley (1727-1815) in 1751, with whom he had at least seven children, one of which was Isaac Agee (1752-1845), James Rufus Agee’s 3rd great grandfather.

The following is a chart that shows the descent of James Agee and my paternal grandmother, Margaret Lapham, from Anthony Agee (1719-1799):

James Agee’s Line: My Grandmother’s Line:
1 Anthony Agee (1719-1799) m. Christian Worley (1727-1815) 1 Anthony Agee (1719-1799) m. Nancy Jane Binion (1723-1750)
2 Isaac Agee (1752-1845) m. Mary Ann Smith (1755-1823) 2 Matthew Agee (1747-1823) m. Mary Ligon (1749-1824)
3 James Agee (1788-1843) m. Elizabeth Tudor (1793-1865) 3 Matthew Agee (1787-1856) m. Sarah Mary Coats (1792-1836)
4 James Harris Agee (1827-1892) m. Mary Comer (1830-1918) 4 Isaac Agee (1811-1900) m. Cordelia Thornton (1815-1893)
5 Henry Clay Agee (1850-1916) m. Moss Lamar (ca1860-1943) 5 John Agee (1839-1912) m. Mary Elizabeth Thornton (1847-1920)
6 Hugh James Agee (1878-1916) m. Laura Whitman Tyler (1885-1966) 6 Otto W. Agee (1868-1904) m. Tirzah Olive Stephens (1873-1967)
7 James Rufus Agee (1909-1955) 7 Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983) m. Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977)
8 Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985) m. Theodore A. Lapham (1910-1955)
9 Margaret Ann Lapham (1936-2004)

Based on the generations of descent from Anthony Agee listed above, my paternal grandmother, Margaret Lapham, and James Agee are 5th cousins, 2x removed. This makes James Agee my 5th cousin, 4x removed.

Genealogy Source: Constance J. Christopherson Barnum’s Agee Lineages: Descendants of Mathieu Agee, the Immigrant, and Related Families (2008).

Family History Through the Alphabet – W is for Weddings and Wedding Anniversaries

This week’s Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge features the letter W.  Noteworthy W’s I have run across while researching my ancestry are weddings and wedding anniversaries.

W is for Weddings:

Weddings are an important and joyous event in anyone’s life, and no less so for the generations that came before us. Although I have records for marriages throughout my ancestry, I have few photographic, oral, or written accounts of the weddings that took place. The following are some of the ones that I have uncovered in the course of researching my ancestry.

My paternal grandparents, William Kernan (LIVING) and Margaret Ann Lapham (1936-2004), were married on June 28, 1952 in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon. The wedding took place at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, and the service was conducted by Rev. Patrick J. Dooley. The service was reported in The Milwaukie Review, a local paper in Oregon. The following newspaper clippings provide some details, such as a description of my grandmother’s wedding dress, the names of those who attended and the roles they played during the service, in addition to the only surviving photos from their wedding.


My paternal great grandmother, Alice Lucretia (Wellin) Lapham (1916-1985), married Willard Pershing Graber (1918-1988), her second husband, on December 13, 1947 in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon. Although I have few details of their wedding, I do know, from their wedding book that contains their certificate of marriage, that they were married in a Methodist church, and the services was officiated by Rev. Henry E. DuVall. The witnesses were Willard’s brother, Noel Graber, and Alice’s aunt, Althea (Agee) Morgan. Apart from these facts, I have some nice photographs from their wedding.


Perhaps the oldest image I have run across for a wedding in my ancestry is for that of my 9th great grandparents, John Bigelow (or Biglo) (1617-1703) and Mary Warren (1624-1691). John and Mary were married by a Mr. Nowell on August 30, 1642 in Watertown, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. The following painting is said to be of John and Mary dancing at their wedding party (unverified by me).

Although I have no photographs for their wedding, I have an oral family history account regarding the wedding of my 2nd great grandparents, Alexander Balla (1886-1950) and Julia Molnar (1885-1962). According to this account, Alexander and Julia, who were from the same village in Hungary (Eszény) immigrated to the United States separately, with Julia coming to the United States first (1902), as she was offered a job working in the same household as her sister, Elizabeth, in Manhattan, New York. This family, whose name has unfortunately been lost to time, was fairly well off financially—they could afford to have a personal cook (Elizabeth) and at least one maid (Julia). Julia and Alexander were eventually reunited at a Hungarian Church social, which sparked a relationship that resulted in a marriage proposal in 1907. When the family Julia had been working for since her arrival in 1902 learned of this, they offered to pay for the wedding because they had grown very fond of her over the years. Alexander and Julia’s wedding took place on September 9, 1907, at which Julia is said to have been given away by the head of the household she worked in.


W is for Wedding Anniversaries:

Related to weddings are, of course, wedding anniversaries, milestones of which are often important events in the lives of our ancestors, as well for us today.

My 2nd great grandparents, Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977) and Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983), were married on December 2, 1914 in Vancouver, Clark Co., Washington. On December 2, 1964, Wilhelm and Lois celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, for which they had a family gathering and open house. This milestone in their marriage is recorded in the newspaper clipping below. By the time their marriage vow of “until death do us part” was realized in 1977, Wilhelm and Lois were married for nearly sixty-three years.

Kit Carson Graber (1875-1962) and Iva Mae McKeehan (1879-1950), the parents of Willard Pershing Graber (1918-1988), the second husband of my great grandmother Alice Lucretia (Wellin) Lapham (1916-1985), were married on February 27, 1893 in Mount Pleasant, Henry Co., Iowa. By the time their marriage parted in death in 1950, Kit and Iva were married for nearly fifty-seven years. The photograph below was taken on the occasion of their fifty-fourth wedding anniversary.


The following is a table of some of those in my ancestry that celebrated the milestone of making it to their 50th wedding anniversary:

Husband Wife Years
Wilhelm Percy Wellin Louis Beatrice Agee 1914-1977
Isaac Agee Cordelia Thornton 1831-1893
Kit Carson Graber Iva Mae McKeehan 1893-1950
Thomas McLaughlin Margaret Wilson 1833-1891
William Phylitis Davis Mary Magdelene Williams 1906-1960
Jesse Beeney Mary An Wys 1803-1857
Jacob Worthington Elmina Couch 1865-1920
Boyd Ferguson Seely Rebecca Allen 1857-1909
William Kernan (LIVING) Margaret Ann Lapham 1952-2004

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220 Years Ago Today

Headstone of William H. Thornton

On October 8, 1792, two hundred and twenty years ago today, William H. Thornton (1792-1858), my 6th great grandfather, was born in North Carolina the son of William Thornton (1766-1843) and Martha Ann “Patsy” Owen (1765-?).

William H. Thornton (1792-1858) married Sally Todd (1793-1891). William and Sally were the grandparents of Mary Elizabeth Thornton (1847-1920), who married John Agee (1839-1912). Mary and John were the grandparents of Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983), the wife of Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977), and mother of Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore “Ted” Alexander Lapham (1910-1955).

In a previous post, I discussed more of William’s life. Click here to view this post.

Family History Through the Alphabet – V is for Voter Registrations, Vermont, Virginia, & Van Nieukirk

This week’s Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge features the letter V. The following are a few noteworthy V’s I have run across while researching my ancestry.

V is for Voter Registrations:

Voter Registration records are an often overlooked source of information relevant to genealogical research. These sources can provide, depending on the location, not only name and date of registration, but also age or birth year, occupation, time frame of naturalization status, marital status, and place of residence. This information may fill in gaps in your research on a particular ancestor. While researching my Stearns branch, for example, I discovered that my 4th great grandfather, Lyman Stearns (1803-1879), was living in Sonoma Co., California between the 1860 and 1870 U.S. Federal censuses.

Click here to read “Did My Ancestors Vote?” by Kimberly Powell of About.com.

V is for Vermont:

V is also for Vermont. The State of Vermont was the 14th state to join the Union in 1791. It was first inhabited by Europeans in 1535. In researching my ancestry, I have discovered at least one connection to “The Green Mountain State.”

My Dunton branch traces back to Vermont to about 1800 when my 4th great grandfather, James Cyrus Dunton (ca. 1800-1845), the father of Harriet Rose Dunton (1836-1927) who married Owen Francis Kiernan (1836-1901), was born. James’s parents, David Dunton (ca. 1758-1829) and Polly Stoddard (ca. 1762-1845), were originally from Massachusetts, but moved to Vermont on their way to Steuben Co., New York, where they both died.

V is for Virginia:

V is also for Virginia. The State of Virginia was the 10th state to join the Union in 1788. The first permanent European settlements began in 1607 with Jamestown. In researching my ancestry, I have discovered a few connections to the “Old Dominion” State, one of which, my Agee branch, I will focus on here.

My Agee branch traces back to Mathieu Isaac Agè (ca. 1670-1735), who was born in Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, France. As a Huguenot (French Protestant), life in France became very difficult for Mathieu and his family by the reign of Louis XIV, who revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had ensured Protestants the right to worship, in 1685. Undoubtedly motivated by religious persecution, Mathieu left France for the Netherlands. It was there that he was, like many other young French Protestant immigrants, conscripted into the invasion force of William of Orange (1650-1702), King later King William III, for invasion of England during the Glorious Revolution. For their service, many French Protestants took advantage of 10,000 acres land grant in the Virginia Colony. Mathieu was among those, arriving in 1690. Mathieu settled in Manakintowne, Goochland, Virginia, where he was a prosperous land owner. It was also in Manakintowne that he married Cecelia Ann Gandovin (1691-1761) in 1714. For three generations in my line, the Agee family remained in Virginia before moving to Tennessee, then Missouri, and finally Oregon.

Mathieu Isaac Agè (ca. 1670-1735) was a direct ancestor of Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983), who married Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977), and was the mother of my great grandmother, Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955).

V is for Van Nieukirk:

V is also for Van Nieukirk (or Van Nieuwkirk, among other spellings), a surname that is claimed to be the ancestral family name of my 7th great grandmother, Hannah Cornelison (1757-1844). My Cornelison branch, and the Van Nieukirk family, trace back to New Netherlands prior to British rule. Hannah’s grandparents, Garrett Cornelison (ca. 1700-1779) and Marietje Lammerse (ca. 1704-1785) were married in New Harlem. It is claimed that the surname was changed to Cornelison after the British gained control of the area. Many Van Nieukirk changed their name to Cornelison (because it was a common first and middle name in the family) or some variation of Nieukirk. However, I have not yet been able to find what branch Garrett belongs to.

The Van Nieukirk surname is a habitation name, deriving from Nijkerk, a municipality and city in the Gelderland province of the Netherlands, which is where the Van Nieukirk family is from. The word Nijkerk is a variant of Nieuwekerk, which means “new church.”

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