Friday, March 9, 2012

Crossing Paths

In my attempt to maybe someday solve the genealogy brick wall of my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Baker, I purchased a book dedicated to providing strategies to do just that. The first couple chapters dealt with census records, death and probate records to find out more information on my ancestor. I've researched the census records to death and can only find one record with Joseph Baker listed, two years before his death. I have searched in three different counties he has lived in and have been unable to find either a death record or even some sort of probate record. In fact, other than a census record, all I have is indirect evidence through obituaries of his children and wife of where this family lived. Onward to the next chapter. The next chapter was all about researching the collateral family, i.e. those people who would have known and interacted the family. I started doing that and I have a feeling I'm on to something but I'm not sure yet how so I thought I would lay it out here in an attempt to maybe clarify things by the act of writing it down.

Joseph Baker's story begins somewhere in England, location unknown and after the Civil War, surfaces in the town of Colchester, Illinois. I only knew the name due to the obituary of Joseph's oldest son and my 2nd great grandfather. However, despite a research trip there, I never turned up any evidence to prove this. Again through obituaries of his children, I learned that Joseph Baker moved up to West Union, Iowa and then to Parkersburg, Iowa, two counties over, where he was caught for the 1880 Federal Census. Two years later he was buried in Cedar Falls, in the county between West Union and Parkersburg and two of his five children were evidently given up to the Chicken family for adoption, whether it was formalized or not remains unclear at this point. Joseph's widow Frances Bolton Baker would marry a man named Thomas Heppenstall who materialized from Colchester, Illinois to where ever Frances was living in 1886, a fact that seemed to confirm that the Baker family had indeed lived in Colchester. So I began my collateral search by learning about Thomas Heppenstall.

Thomas Heppenstall was the son of a coal miner Daniel Heppenstall who worked the mines of Colchester according to the 1870 census. Daniel was also an immigrant from England sometime between 1851 and 1860. But the fact that glistened in my eye was that Daniel Heppenstall came from Huddersfield, England the same place where Joseph's wife France Bolton Baker Heppenstall came from, even though she was born in Wisconsin. To adequately explain this, I need to take a step back and explain her migration route first.

Frances Bolton's parents John and Mary Shaw Bolton immigrated from Huddersfield, England in 1844 and settled down near Willow Springs, Wisconsin. Frances and her older sister were born here but their younger brother Jeremiah was born in California in 1954. This is because John Bolton went west seeking gold in the famous California gold rush with a group of people from Willow Springs and at least initially left his wife and children behind with the family of Elias Pilling. Not surprisingly, the Pilling family also comes from Huddersfield, England. John Bolton's wife Mary would eventually join him since I know their son was born in California but something would happen to John. The next record I have of the family is of his wife Mary along with her three children back to the Huddersfield area of England by 1861 where they show up in a census.  Mary was also listed as a widow on that census.  Mary and two of her children would remain there but Frances Bolton, future wife of Joseph Baker would return before 1869 and end up in the same town as the Heppenstalls. No doubt in my mind, she knew Thomas Heppenstall during her time in Colchester.

I pondered this thread for awhile wondering if Joseph was from the same part of England but have been unable to locate a likely Baker family there during that time frame.  So I next turned my attention to another thread. I decided to look into the Robert Chicken family. After Joseph died, two of his five children were given to this family and raised into adulthood. I suspect that Joseph died broke and his widow Frances just couldn't raise five children on her own without a job. The Robert Chicken family lived in West Union where Joseph Baker lived for a time before moving to Parkersburg but were they more than just former neighbors. I looked into the Chicken family ancestry and was quickly rocked back with surprise.  Robert Chicken and his parents came from Willow Springs, Wisconsin, the same place of Joseph Baker's widow Frances Bolton. I also learned the Robert Chicken was born in England and immigrated here from the Durham county area of England.  I checked but it is a long ways north of the area that the Bolton and Heppenstall families came from.

So as you can see, I have five familes, the Bakers, Boltons, Chickens, Heppenstalls & Pillings who have crossed paths over the years and are all intertwined. I'm guessing that if I keep pursuing these collateral families and how they weave together with my Baker family, perhaps someday I may be able to break through the brick wall of Joseph.


R. Sherman said...

It's amazing all the information that's out there, if one knows how to get it.


R Johnson said...

I'm getting more and more lazy about genealogy, I compensate by reading yours.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - I am amazed too but have pondered what will our descendants be able to find about us. The reason I've been able to find out so much is because my ancestors largely left behind paper records that are still around. Since my paper trail is largely digital, what will remain in another 150 years?

3 Score - Thank you. My only worry is that my hobby turns into an obsession. Perhaps it already has.

Vince said...

In England the county isn't, or at least wasn't the secondary interface after the parish. It was the estate. But you might try the Victoria counties series. Or this and this

Vince said...

Sorry I had to go out before I'd finished the point.
Two or three things. He wouldn't have the vote so would have no impact on the administration of the county. There is census for that period and they sit, for you, with the Mormons at their archive.
I do believe though that the connection is with the military grants. And your best bet is to scan read the obits in the local newspapers to gain an impression of the true geography. Bakers in England aren't exactly scarce.

Ed said...

Vince - I do have access to the census records for both here and England but like you said, there are so many Bakers that it is hard to know for sure if you have the right one, especially since I don't know of any sibling names of Joseph. The best I can do is look for a Joseph Baker in close proximity to one of the families I wrote about in England but to date, I have not found one.

I do have plans to scan local papers but in his time frame 1847-1882, there are precious few to be found online which means a trip to the area. I think my next plan of attack it to make a trip up to West Union where he initially lived and check out the probate records and such there looking for info and then poke around Cedar Falls where he died and Parkersburg where he lived in 1880. If I have enough time, Willow Spring township Wisconsin is only a couple hours from there, I want to swing up there and look through probate records for all the families. I'm sure I'll find something and hopefully one of them might give me a clue on Joseph Baker.

Vince said...

I'm betting that the settlements that he ended up were part of his wider connections. Peoples rarely do the adventurer thing in reality. They almost always go to the known.

sage said...

Is baked chicken an old family favorite? Probably not, eh? Sorry, I couldn't resist.

R. Sherman said...

BTW, I note you'd have turned out perfect if your forefathers had veered a bit more southwest.



Ed said...

Vince - That is the very reason why I really started looking at the collateral group of Joseph Baker to see if I could find them in other census records. If I find them, Joseph might have been nearby. I don't find any of them in the 1880 census of Parkersburg where Joseph lived. But after his death the rest of his family moved back to the collateral group. In the 1870 census, I can find the collateral group and know that Joseph Baker was there through obituaries but there is no census record. In 1860 I also can't find him with the collateral group but being an immigrant, he may have not came over yet or perhaps he once again missed a census taker. I hope someday to be able to write that I solved this mystery.

Sage - Especially chicken cooked with a little spirits. The Baker family had the village saloon keeper as their boarder during their time in Parkersburg!

R. Sherman - Oddly enough, most of my ancestors made it to Iowa and called it good, choosing to not migrate any further. I only have three direct ancestors that made it further west after reaching Iowa, one to Kansas, one to North Dakota and one to Wyoming. The Kansas one came back to Iowa after five years and the children of the Wyoming and North Dakota ones came back to Iowa. The force of Iowa must be too strong to resist. I should know, I only made it to Minnesota for a half dozen years before being pulled back!