2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy Thanksgiving

Although Thanksgiving is a holiday very much about family, I have not uncovered any stories that have been passed down in my family about the day. Many genealogy bloggers are taking this opportunity as we, in a sense, reenact the First Thanksgiving (in America) to share their descent from Mayflower passengers.

My research into my own family history has not found (yet) any verifiable connection to 103 individuals that sailed aboard the Dutch cargo vessel, departing Plymouth, England and arriving in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. There are, however, some potential connections, which include descent from Richard Warren, Francis Cooke, and Stephen Hopkins. They are potential connections because I not only have these surnames in my ancestry, but those baring these surnames in my line are traceable to Massachusetts in the mid- to late 1600’s and through the 1700’s. I have not been able to make a definitive connection, however.

Although I have not established a link to the Pilgrims that celebrated the First Thanksgiving,  and perhaps I never will, I still enjoy the holiday as a time to be thankful, reflect on our national heritage, reflect on my own heritage, celebrate family, and EAT LOTS OF FOOD! A great genealogy related quote I came across reminds me of Thanksgiving: “Generations pass like leaves fall from our family tree. Each season new life blossoms and grows benefiting from the strength and experience of those who went before.” ~ Heidi Swapp

8 Years Ago Today

On November 2, 2004, eight years ago today, Mildred “Milly” Holt (1923-2004), died in Fullerton, Orange Co., California. Although Milly is not a relative of mine, she was a wonderful person, neighbor, and friend to my family for nearly two decades. In many ways, Milly became a family member, as she was always there when we needed her and we were always there for her when she needed us.

A photograph of Mildred “Milly” Holt

Milly was originally from New Jersey. She had a small family, most of which preceded her in death, including her husband, Ashton, and her two sons, Daniel and Garry. In Mid-2004 she was diagnosed with lung cancer, a fact which made such a strong, independent woman very scared, as she remembered how her son, Garry, suffered with the same disease. However, if cancer can ever be merciful, it was in Milly’s case, as she passed away soon after being diagnosed.

Although Milly was not very religious, she took great comfort in kind of a “prayer” (as she called it) or “statement of forgiveness” possibly from or inspired by Catherine Ponder’s The Dynamic Laws of Healing, as I later learned it may have been. The following is a handwritten copy of this “prayer” Milly gave my sister, when my sister was having some personal problems.

A handwritten forgiveness prayer Milly often took comfort in.

The text of this prayer reads: “All that has offended me, I forgive. Things past, things present, things future, I forgive. Whatever that has made me unhappy, bitter, resentful, I forgive. I fully and freely forgive. I loosen and let go. I let God do his perfect work in healing in my mind, body, and soul.”

Holiday Family History: Halloween & My Great Grandmother Irene

Although I have only a few holiday family history stories for Halloween, one in particular stands out, which involves my maternal great grandmother, Irene Vera (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006).

When my great grandmother was a young girl, between ten and thirteen years old, she and her family lived in Texas. In the weeks prior to Halloween, the one room country school she attended decided to hold a Halloween dance, for which students were encouraged to dress up. Growing up in a rural area and being one of eight children born to Hungarian émigrés, there was no access to or money for party dresses or Halloween costumes. Being a resourceful and creative young girl who liked to sew and make things, she was able to get enough purple, black, and orange crepe paper to make herself a Halloween costume dress. She was very proud of the dress because it looked like a real Halloween paper dress and didn’t really cost here anything to make it.

Despite the fact that it was October and clouds were in the sky, she did not leave the house with a coat, because she didn’t want to flatten down the dress she had worked so hard on. While walking to the dance, it began to rain; and by the time she reached the dance, she was soaked and her homemade paper dress was ruined, with the purple, black, and orange dye in the crepe paper running all together and all over her legs and arms. Her older brother, Alex, was already at the dance. Seeing her soaked and looking like an absolute mess, he gave her his coat to wear and immediately took her home. According to my great grandmother, neither of them were very pleased to leave the dance, and her brother even threatened to whip her. Of course, he didn’t and the whole event was something the two laughed about in later years, particularly my great grandmother.

Irene as a Young Girl (She is not wearing the dress she made–sadly, no photo exists of her wearing it.)

In recalling this story from her childhood, my great grandmother never mentioned where she received her inspiration or if she had heard that others made these kinds of costume dresses. Growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s my exposure to crepe paper was mainly party decorations, while costumes for Halloween were made from fabric or plastic. I have since learned that crepe paper dresses and costumes were widely used in the 1920’s and can still be found today. Martha Stewart even has a video on “How to Make Crepe Paper Costumes” on her website. An interesting article, entitled “Have a Crepey Halloween,” about Halloween and crepe paper costumes can be found on Jonathan Walford’s Blog, A Fashion History Perspective. The Kansas Historical Society’s Kansapedia website also features an article about Halloween that talks about crepe paper costumes.


I always enjoyed this story as a child, and hope that you do as well. Do you have any Halloween related stories in your family history? Have a Happy Halloween!

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).

171 Years Ago Today

On September 26, 1841, one hundred and seventy-one years ago today, Kerstin Nilsdotter (1841-1870), my 4th great grandmother, was born in Svineberg Otternäset, Sunne Parish, Värmland Co., Värmland Province, Sweden. Kerstin was the second of six children born to Nils Nilsson (1815-?) and Ingeborg Persdotter (1814-?). Her father was a farmer in Svineberg Otternäset, where she grew up.

Birth Record for Kerstin Nilsdotter

Kerstin married Lars Magnus Nilsson Stålberg (1842-?) in 1863, with whom she had five children, one of which was Anna Elizabeth Stålberg (1869-1918). Anna was the mother of Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977), the father of my paternal great grandmother, Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955).

Family History Through the Alphabet – T is for Twins, Trails, and Thornton

This week’s Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge focuses on the letter T. In researching my family history, I have run across a few noteworthy T’s.

T is for Twins:

Twins are two offspring produced in the same pregnancy, and are either identical (monozygotic) or fraternal (dizygotic). Pregnancies resulting in more than two offspring are polyzygotic. According to statistics, twins occur in 1.1% of births, while triplets occur in 0.013% of births. As a fraternal twin (my brother’s name is Gerad), I was fascinated to learn of the other twins in my family when I began researching my family history.

Twin brothers, Frank and Kit Graber

The following is a list of the twins I have discovered in my family (excluding living persons), some of which are biologically related to me while others are not:

  • William Phylitis Davis (1876-1960), the adopted father of my paternal great grandmother Maxine Elizabeth Davis (1912-1992), and his sister Lucy Davis (1876-?) were twins.
  • Inga Maja Stålberg (1863), the older sister of my 3rd great grandmother Anna Elizabeth Stålberg (1869-1918), and her sister Kristina Stålberg (1863) were twins. Both died soon after birth, with Kristina dying under a month old and Inga at nearly eight months.
  • Emil Conrad Andersson Lowenburg (1875-1930), the husband of my 3rd great grandmother Anna Elizabeth Stålberg (1869-1918) and step-father of Anna’s son Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977), and his brother Samuel Oskar Andersson (1875-?) were twins.
  • Frank Balla (1912-1920), the brother of my maternal great grandmother Irene Vera (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006), and his brother John Balla (1912) were twins. John died at nearly four months old. Frank died at eight years old of congenital heart disease. According to oral family history, Frank and John were blue babies. Additionally, oral history states that Frank’s death followed him witnessing a horse get caught in barbed wire, after which he went into shock and died.
  • Pauline Katherine Rains (1913-1997), my step-great grandmother who married Delmar Clair Kernan (1908-1979), and her brother Paul Robert Rains (1913-1978), were twins.
  • Kit Carson Graber (1875-1962), the father of my step-great grandfather Willard Pershing Graber (1918-1988), and his brother Frank Robert Graber (1875-1949) were twins.
  • Esther Balla (ca. 1888-ca. 1889), the sister of my 2nd great grandfather Alexander Balla, is said to have been the twin of her sister Vera Balla (ca. 1888-ca. 1905). Apart from oral family history, I have not been able to find any evidence (possibly due to the fact that they both died in Hungary).
  • Ann Eliza Backer (1854-1919), my 3rd great grandmother and the mother of Maudena Elizabeth Stearns (1885-1936) who married George Edward Kernan (1884-1960), is said, according to oral family history, to have been one of a triplet. The other two, one a boy and the other a girl, died young. One is said to have died soon after birth, while the other in infancy. However, I have not yet been able to find any records for them.
  • Oral family history claims that my 2nd great grandparents Frank Sebok (1875-1951) and Roza Mari Peto (1871-1937) had a couple sets of twins that died at birth or in infancy, possibly due to a cholera outbreak. However, I have not yet been able to find any records for them.
My fraternal twin brother, Gerad (left), and I sometime in the early 1980’s dressed as ALL twins should, alike!

T is for Trails:

T is also for trails. By trails I mean wagon trails used by pioneers in the mid-19th century to settle throughout the American West. There are three historically important trails that many researching their family history look into, which include the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the California Trail.

The Oregon Trail began as early as 1811 by fur traders, and became a full wagon trail by 1836. It was widely publicized by 1843. The trail traveled through the modern states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and then Oregon. The Mormon Trail began in 1846 in Illinois as a westward movement of members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, which passed through the modern states of Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and then Utah. The California Trail began in about 1841, and traveled through the modern states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and then California. With the discovery of gold in 1848 the California Gold Rush was soon underway, during which time the trail saw a significant increase in use.

These three trials progressed along interrelated routes collectively known as the “Emigrant Trail,” starting in the Missouri River area until reaching South Pass in Wyoming, at which point they branched off. The Mormon Trail branched southward into modern Utah, while the Oregon Trail and the California Trail continued along interrelated routes until reaching Fort Hall in Idaho, at which point they branched off in different directions as well.

A Map Showing All Three Trails

The journey along the two longer trails took about six months. Conditions along these trails were arduous. Pioneers faced rough terrain, disease, Indian attacks, harsh weather conditions, and supply shortages, among other challenges. Estimates of deaths range from 9,000 to 21,000, with disease (particularly cholera) being the leading cause of death. Despite these conditions, pioneers blazed these trails in large numbers. Between 1840 and 1849, nearly 19,000 people traveled along these trails, the majority of which did so by way of the Oregon Trail. Between 1849 and 1860, nearly 280,000 braved these trails, the majority of which did so by way of the California Trail. While researching my own family history, I discovered that several of my ancestors were among these pioneers, and that I have connections to all three of trails.

My Agee and Thornton branches, which connect to my Lapham branch via my Wellin branch, have a connection to the Oregon Trail. My 5th great grandfather, Isaac Agee (1811-1900), his wife Cordelia Thornton (1815-1893), and their children left DeKalb Co., Missouri along the Oregon Trail in 1852, eventually settling in Gopher Valley, Yamhill Co., Oregon. Traveling with them along the trail were members of the Thornton family, also from DeKalb Co., Missouri. One part of this family was that of Simeon Toney Thornton (1818-1917) and his wife Elizabeth “Betsy” Ann Adams (1818-1852), their children, and Simeon’s mother and step-father. While still traveling on the trail, but after they had arrived in Oregon in 1852, Simeon’s wife Betsy went into labor and died during delivery. Oral tradition states that she was weak from the arduous trip, and had a difficult delivery. Another batch of Thorntons traveled from DeKalb Co., Missouri across the Oregon Trail to Yamhill Co., Oregon in 1865: the family of Jeptha Thornton (1821-1889) and Martha Ragsdale Walker (1820-1899).

A Map of the Oregon Trail

My Dunton branch, which married into my Kernan branch, has a connection to the Mormon Trail. Although I have not discovered if any of my direct Dunton ancestors were Mormon, a sibling of one definitely was. James Harvey Dunton (1829-1901), the brother of my 3rd great grandmother, Harriet Rose (Dunton) Kiernan (1836-1927), was a Mormon and traveled on the Mormon Trail from Hancock Co., Illinois to Utah, where he died in 1901. I have discovered no evidence (so far) that Harriet, herself, was a Mormon, as her husband, Owen Francis Kiernan (1836-1901), was a Catholic. As for Harriet and James’s parents, James Cyrus Dunton (ca. 1800-1845) and Mary Comfort Knowles (ca. 1801-1845), I am uncertain. I have not discovered any hard evidence that states they were in fact Mormons; however, they left Steuben Co., New York (where Harriet and James were born) and ended up in Hancock Co., Illinois, where they died within months of each other in 1845. It was also in Hancock Co., Illinois that Joseph Smith and the Mormons established a community and temple at Nauvoo in 1839-1840, after fleeing persecution in Missouri. By the mid-1840’s, persecution of Mormons in this area of Illinois grew, as did internal struggles within the Mormon community. In 1844, Joseph Smith was assassinated by an angry mob that had stormed a jail where he was being held. Apart from violence, many Mormons starved or died from illness in Nauvoo and surrounding areas. Following his death, the violence did not stop, which ultimately resulted in Mormons setting out on the Mormon Trail for Utah. Where James Cyrus Dunton and his wife Mary among the Mormons who died due to violence, starvation, or illness? I have yet to determine that.

A Map of the Mormon Trail

Moreover, my Stearns branch, which married into my Kernan branch, has a connection to the California Trail. Lyman Stearns (1803-1879), my 4th great grandfather, was living and running a boarding house in Linn Co., Missouri in 1850, along with his wife Rebecca and their children. By 1852, they had left Missouri for California, undoubtedly hearing of the fortunes to be made in California gold mines, as they are enumerated on the 1852 California State Census living in Placer Co., California, which is among the counties of “Gold Country,” a region in California famous for its gold mines. Although no oral history accounts exist regarding their journey, most traveling to California at this time did so along the California Trail, the routes of which terminated in “Gold Country.” By 1860, Lyman and his family were living in Tuolumne Co., California, another county in “Gold Country,” where he had a worked a quartz mine called the “Riverside Quartz Mine.”

A Map of the California Trail

A wonderful historical account of the major westward trails in American History is John Unruh’s The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840–60 (1993). A free preview of the book can be found on Google Books.

T is for Thornton:

T is also for Thornton, a surname of English, Scottish, and Irish origins. My Thornton branch traces back to Westminster, London, England before their arrival in Virginia in about 1660 and Fulham, London, England. According to available research, moreover, the Thornton surname is a habitation surname, deriving from the Old English words “þorn,” meaning  “thorn bush,” and “tun,” meaning “enclosure” or “settlement.”

The Thornton surname is a maiden name in my ancestry that connects into my Agee branch (a branch of my Lapham branch) in three different ways, as shown below:

  • Mary Elizabeth (Thornton) Agee (1847-1920), my 4th great grandmother, was the wife of John Agee (1839-1912), and the grandmother of Lois Beatrice (Agee) Wellin (1897-1983), who married Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977) and was the mother of my paternal great grandmother, Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955).
  • Anna Elizabeth (Thornton) Stephens (1842-1925), my 4th great grandmother, was married to Thomas Prigmore Stephens (1830-1910), and was the mother of Tirzah Olive Stephens (1873-1967), who married Otto W. Agee (1868-1904) and was the mother of Lois Beatrice (Agee) Wellin (1897-1983), who married Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977) and was the mother of my paternal great grandmother, Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955).
  • Cordelia (Thornton) Agee (1815-1893), my 5th great grandmother, was married to Isaac Agee (1811-1900) and was the mother of John Agee (1839-1912), who married Mary Elizabeth Thornton (1847-1920), who is the same Mary Thornton that was mentioned above in the first bullet point.

Mary, Anna, and Cordelia are all related to each other, as they are descendants of William Thornton (1766-1843) and Martha Ann “Patsy” Owen (ca. 1766-?), my 7th great grandparents. Mary and Anna were both great granddaughters of William and Patsy, while Cordelia was a granddaughter.

Click here to learn more about Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge (Clicking this link will take you to another site.)

85 Years Ago Today

Horace Lapham’s Death Certificate

On September 18, 1927, eighty-five years ago today, Horace “Harry” Irving Lapham (1869-1927), my 2nd great grandfather, died in McMinnville, Yamhill Co., Oregon at the age of fifty-eight.

Horace was a laborer, working as a blacksmith, rancher, and day laborer throughout his life. This often required him to live apart from his family, which he was doing at the time of his death—working in McMinnville while his family was living in Portland. According to his death certificate, he died from exhaustion following a bone plate operation to repair a fracture in his left femur, and injury he undoubtedly sustained while working. (His son Wilbur died about seven years earlier in a logging accident.)

Two days after his death, on September 20, 1927, Horace was buried in an unmarked grave in Masonic Cemetery in McMinnville, Yamhill Co., Oregon.

Horace was born in 1869 in Michigan, and was the first child born to William B. Lapham (1838-1925), a Civil War Veteran, and his first wife, Emoline Pauline Reynolds (1844-1886). He married Anna Margaret Leishman (1875-1951) in 1895 in Nebraska, and had by her eight children. Horace and Anna (a.k.a. Margaret) were the grandparents of my paternal grandmother, Margaret Ann (Lapham) Kernan (1936-2004), who married William Kernan (LIVING).

Family History Through the Alphabet – S is for Surnames and Surnames that Start with S

S is for Surnames:

William Shakespeare famously asked in his play Romeo & Juliet, “What is in a name?” The poetic and romantic nature and meaning of this question aside, those who undertake researching their family history know that there is a great deal in a name, particularly surnames. Thus, I will focus on surnames in general in this week’s “Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge” and close with some of my own surnames that start with the letter “s.”

A surname is a part of a personal name, which is usually shared in common with members of a family. Thus, the word surname is usually synonymous with “family name.” In most Western countries, the surname is typically placed at the end of a personal name, which is why it is commonly called a “last name.” In Hungary and many Asian countries, the surname is placed at the start of a personal name, before the given (or first) name. In my Hungarian ancestry, I encountered the practice of placing the surname first in personal names in my 2nd great grandparents’ family Bible.

In many Western countries, there are generally five categories for surname types: patronymic names, location (or habitation) names, occupation names, nicknames, and ornamental names. Understanding which of these your surname falls in can provide important information about your family and provide clues to tracing your ancestry.

  1. Patronymic surnames are those that derive from the first name of the father. These often involve either the addition of a suffix (e.g., s, sson, son, ez, dotter, etc.) or a prefix (e.g., O, Mc, Mac, Fitz, etc.), which translate as “son of” or “daughter of.”
  2. Location (or habitation) names are typically either generic, referencing a general geographic feature, or specific, referring to a specific location.
  3. Occupation surnames have as their meaning a reference to a particular occupation, as in the surname Schindler which refers to the occupation of shingle maker. Additionally, occupational surnames can also have as their meaning the particular occupation of a person’s employer or master, particularly if an “s” has been added, as in the surname “Vickers,” which refers to a servant of a vicar.
  4. Surnames deriving from nicknames, can either be “pet names” for given names, or derive from words referencing appearance, temperament, and personality.
  5. Ornamental surnames are surnames that were adopted for no real specific reason, have no specific reflection on the person who first bore it, were often made up by or appealed to the person selecting it, and in some cases have symbolic meaning. Ornamental surnames were mostly adopted in the 18th and 19th centuries when laws required the adoption of a fixed surname (as opposed to a traditional patronymic surname), and are common among Jews and Scandinavians.

Ancestry.com has a helpful searchable database, which may help you uncover the meaning and origins of your surname.

Additionally, there are many genealogical resources available that involve surnames as an important aspect of the research.

  • One type of these resources are “one-name studies.” As opposed to a particular family history or pedigree, a “one-name study” is a project researching a specific surname that can range from a study of that surname in a particular geographic location to all occurrences of the surname world-wide. These projects are important genealogical resources as they are often a collection of data for persons that bare the particular surname in question. The Guild of One-Name Studies is an organization that was established to help preserve and centralize these studies. Their website has a free surname search, which includes contact information for those researching a given surname.
  • Another important genealogical resource involving surnames is surname distribution maps. Usually, these maps graphically display the frequency of a particular surname in a given location. This is useful in tracking possible locations your ancestors may have been from, if they are unknown to you. There are some free searchable surname distribution maps available online for several countries. Ancestry.com’s surname search displays the frequency in the United States, England & Wales, and Scotland. Irishtimes.com has one for Ireland. Dynastree has several that appear to still be working, including for Germany, Poland, and Switzerland. Genevolu has another one for Germany. RadixIndex has one for Hungary based on an 1891 directory. A fun one is WorldNames, which shows the frequency of your name around the world. If you click on a specific country, it will show you how your surname is further breaks down in that country and so forth.
  • Related to one-name studies and surname distribution maps are surname DNA projects, which use genealogical DNA tests to trace lineages of particular surnames. These projects can reveal more about the roots and family groups that bare a particular surname, in addition to identifying the genetic place of origins for a particular surname and line.

S is for Surnames that Start with S:

S is also for surnames that start with the letter S, of which I have six: Sebok, Sheridan, Stearns, Stålberg, Seely, and Stephens.

Sebok (or Sebök) is the maiden name of my maternal grandmother, Alberta (Sebok) Hamilton (LIVING) and thus one of the “cardinal branches” discussed on this blog. The surname is Hungarian in origins, though it is also found today in regions of Romania with large numbers of Hungarians. My Sebok branch traces back to the village of Székelyzsombor (now Jimbor, Romania), a rural village located in the historic region of Transylvania. According to available research, moreover, the Sebok surname derives, possibly as a nickname, from the personal name “Sebestyén,” which is the Hungarian form of the name “Sebastian.” Because of the prevalence of the name Sebastian in Christian tradition, the name probably emerged in Hungary following the adoption of Christianity. However, the name Sebastian historically originated to identify someone from Sebastia, an ancient city in the Black Sea region of Pontus. It is interesting to note that many accounts claim that Hungarians originated from the Black Sea area.

Sheridan is the maiden name of my 4th great grandmother, Martha Rose (Sheridan) Kiernan (ca. 1797-?), who married Felix Kiernan (ca. 1796-1882). The surname is Irish in origins. My Sheridan branch traces back to one of the northern counties of Ireland, possibly Longford or Cavan.  According to available research, moreover, the Sheridan surname is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic surname Ó’Sirideáin, which means “descendant of Sirideáin.” Sirideáin (and Siridean) is a personal name of unclear origins. There are two accounts given, however, for its possible meaning. The first states that the personal name Sirideáin derives from the word “siride” meaning “elf,” making the surname a nickname for the original bearer’s personality, that of mischievous (which was the nature of elves in Irish myths). The second states that word derives from to important elements within the personal name, “sir,” meaning “search,” and “dean,” meaning “act,” “do,” or “perform,” giving the surname the meaning of “one who searches” or “a searcher,” which may be a reference to either an occupation or a personality trait.

Stearns is the maiden name of my 2nd great grandmother, Maudena Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Stearns) Kernan (1885-1936), who married George Edward Kernan (1884-1960). The surname is English in origins. My Stearns branch traces back to Yarmouth, England before their arrival in Massachusetts in 1630. According to available research, moreover, the Stearns surname is a patronymic surname that derives from personal name Stern, which is itself a nickname based on personality for a strict or austere person, coming from the Middle English word “stern(e),” meaning “strict” or “austere.” (The surname has a different meaning for those of German and Jewish ancestry.)

Stålberg is the maiden name of my 3rd great grandmother, Anna Elizabeth Stålberg (1869-1918), who was the grandmother of my great grandmother, Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore “Ted” Alexander Lapham (1910-1955). The surname is Swedish in origins. My Stålberg branch traces back to Soderhamn Parish, Gävleborg Co., Hälsingland Province, Sweden before coming America, and Nyed Parish, Värmland Co., Värmland Province, Sweden before that. According to available research, the surname is an ornamental name composed of the words “stål,” meaning “steel,” and “berg,” meaning “mountain” or “hill.” The surname was first adopted in my line by my 5th great grandfather, Nils Larsson Stålberg (1810-1899), in about 1834. Nils was born in Värmland Province, which is known for its picturesque scenery, particularly the mountains which are rich in iron ore. This likely explains the choice of Stålberg as a surname, though Nils was also a blacksmith one point in his life, which may also explain the choice.

Seely (or Seeley) is the maiden name of my 3rd great grandmother, Betsy “Bettie” (Seely) Williams (1858-1947), who was the grandmother of my great grandmother, Maxine Elizabeth Davis (1912-1992), who married Delmar Clair Kernan (1908-1979). The surname is English in origins. The exact origins of my Seely branch is not presently known, as the furthest backI have been able to trace is to my 5th great grandfather, Obadiah Seely (ca. 1794-ca. 1852), who was born in Ontario (now Genesee) Co., New York and died in Pennsylvania. My people with this surname in America appear to trace back to Warwickshire, England. According to available research, moreover, the Seely (or Seeley) surname is a nickname based on personality for a person with a cheerful disposition, deriving from the Middle English word “seely” meaning “happy” or “fortunate,” and the Old English words “gesælig,” meaning “happy,” and “sæl,” meaning “happiness.”

Stephens is the maiden name of my 3rd great grandmother, Trizah Olive (Stephens) Agee (1873-1967), who was the grandmother of my great grandmother, Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore “Ted” Alexander Lapham (1910-1955). The surname is English in origins, though variations can be found in Scotland, Holland, and German. The exact origins of my Stephens branch is not presently known, as the furthest back I have been able to trace is to my 6th great grandfather, Phillip Stephens (ca. 1755-1830), who was born in Virginia and died in Tennessee. According to available research, the Stephens surname is a patronymic surname that derives from the personal name Stephen, which is a variation of Steven, a name popular in Christendom due to the martyred Saint of that name, which means “crown.”

Click here to learn more about Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge (Clicking this link will take you to another site.)

191 Years Ago Today

Jeptha Thornton

On September 11, 1821, one hundred and ninety-one years ago, Jeptha Thornton (1821-1889), my 5th great grandfather, was born in Auxvasse, Callaway Co., Missouri.

Jeptha was the fourth of eleven children born to William H. Thornton (1792-1858) and Sally Todd (1793-1891. Jeptha grew up in Callaway Co., Missouri, where his father ran a steam powered saw and grist mill. In 1840, he married Martha Ragsdale Walker (1820-1899), with whom he had at least ten children. In 1865, Jeptha, Martha, and their children left Missouri along the Oregon Trail for Oregon, settling in Yamhill County and then Douglas County, where he was a farmer.

While still in Missouri, religion became increasingly a part of Jeptha’s life. His mother, Sally, was said to have been a “professed Christian” and a member of the Baptist Church, while his father had no real religion to speak of. Jeptha determined at a young age that he would not be involved in religion unless he could preach it himself. He became actively involved in the Baptist Church in Oregon, and eventually, he became involved in the Primitive Baptist Church, where he became an Elder and preacher, traveling by horseback to preach at various churches in the area. Jeptha died in 1889 at the age of 67 in Roseburg, Douglas Co., Oregon.

There is a great biography written by Ralph J. Turner about Jeptha Thornton’s life, particularly his spiritual life, which can be found by clicking here.

Jeptha Thornton (1821-1889) and Martha Ragsdale Walker (1820-1899) were the parents of Mary Elizabeth Thornton (1847-1920), who married John Agee (1839-1912). Mary and John were the grandparents of Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983), who married Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977); and was the mother of Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), my great grandmother, who married Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955).