137 Years Ago Today

On December 21, 1875, one hundred and thirty-seven years ago today, Theodore Frelinghuysen Stearns (1844-1930) married Anna Eliza Backer (1854-1919) before a Justice of the Peace in Alameda Co., California. Both were living in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland in Alameda Co., California.

Marriage Certificate of Theodore Stearns and Anna Backer

Following their marriage, Theodore and Anna moved to Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon, where they four children between 1885 and 1891: Maudena, Vena, Theodore, and Curtis. Theodore and Anna’s marriage did not last much longer after 1891. Theodore, according to statements Anna made when she filed for divorce, “willfully and without cause deserted [Anna Stearns] on October 2, 1901; and has ever since remained away from [her], and that [he] treated [her] with cruelty and inhumanity, thereby rendering [her] life burdensome.” Anna’s request for a divorce was granted, and their marriage was “dissolved” on November 7, 1902. Both Anna and Theodore remarried following their divorce.

Photo of Theodore and Anna Stearns in Portland, Oregon
Photo of Theodore and Anna Stearns in Portland, Oregon

Theodore Frelinghuysen Stearns (1844-1930) and Anna Eliza Backer (1854-1919) are my 3rd great grandparents, and were the parents of Maudena Elizabeth Stearns (1885-1936) who married George Edward Kernan (1884-1960).

Family History Through the Alphabet – J is for Journey

Tracing one’s ancestry is indeed a journey; and one that is not only rewarding but also very enlightening. However, by journey here I mean the journey from the various places one’s ancestors were from and all the stops along the way down through the generations leading to ourselves and where we were born. In short, our ancestral journey in the world.

Arriving in America

In tracing my ancestry, I was fascinated by this. In looking into the ancestries of my four “cardinal branches” (Kernan, Lapham, Hamilton, and Sebok), as well as their related families, I uncovered that there are numerous journeys. Being from a country of immigrants, the United States, it is not too surprising that most of my ancestral lines have not only a journey to the United States, but also a story to tell behind it. The following is this for my four cardinal branches:

  • My Kernan branch journeyed from Ireland to Québec, Canada sometime between 1830 and 1832 likely because of early indications of the coming famine or changes in religious laws; and by 1857, they journeyed from Canada to Minnesota likely because of economic reasons.
  • My Lapham branch journeyed from Devonshire, England to the Colony of Rhode Island in about 1660 because of the persecution of Quakers in England, a religion my early Lapham ancestors were actively involved.
  • My Hamilton (originally Heldman) branch journeyed from the Grand Duchy of Hesse (now Hesse, Germany) to Ohio in 1835 for economic reasons, as Hesse was going through something of an economic depression at the time.
  • My Sebok branch journeyed from the small village of Székelyzsombor in the then Kingdom of Hungary (now Jimbor, Romania) to Indiana between 1903 and 1905 because of economic reasons. Székelyzsombor was a small village mainly involved in horse training for the Imperial Army and small-scale farming, with little opportunity for a better life.
Location of Lyman Stearns’ Quartz Mine

In addition to the journey to the United States, I was also fascinated to look at my ancestral journeys within the United States. Although it may be uncommon in some countries around the world, for those of us from the United States it is not too surprising to find that one generation was born in one state (like New York) and that the next was born in a state thousands of miles away (like California). For me, it was fascinating to uncover these journeys and even discover why they embarked upon them in the first place. For example, in researching my Stearns ancestry, which is a related family to my Kernan branch, I uncovered that my 4th great grandfather, Lyman Stearns (1803-1879), married his wife, Rebecca Hines (1816-1875), in Howard Co., Missouri; and that they raised six children together in Linn Co., Missouri, where Lyman was a farmer and ran a boarding house. I also uncovered that Lyman and Rebecca, as well as all six of their children, died in California. But why did they move to California? After additional research, I uncovered that they did so by 1852 during the California Gold Rush. Lyman was a miner in Tuolumne Co., California at this time, where he had Quartz mine.

In closing, the following is the ancestral journeys of my four “cardinal branches” from their ancestral origins down through the generations to me and where I was born, California.

  • Kernan Branch: journeyed from Ireland to Québec, Canada by 1832, to Minnesota by 1857, to Missouri by 1884, to Oregon by 1895, and to California in 1961.
  • Lapham Branch: journeyed from Devonshire, England to Rhode Island in about 1660, to Massachusetts by 1682, to New York by 1795, to Ohio by 1834, to Michigan by 1835, to Nebraska by 1880, to Idaho by 1911, to Washington by 1917, to Oregon by 1930, and to California in 1961.
  • Hamilton Branch: journeyed from Hesse to Ohio in 1835, to Missouri by 1912, to Arkansas by 1933, and to California in 1952.
  • Sebok Branch: journeyed from Székelyzsombor, Hungary (now Jimbor, Romania) to Indiana by 1905, and to California in 1920.

Our ancestral journeys, whether from one country to another or within one, are certainly a fascinating part of a family history, and one worth exploring.

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