Monday, December 19, 2011

Talking With Chickens

BR: John Henry Baker, Frances Ellen Baker, Robert James Baker Chicken, Charles Webster Baker; FR: Lena Heppenstall, Frances Ann Bolton Baker Heppenstall, Thomas Heppenstall, Mary Jane Baker
As my long time readers may recall, I've written about the Baker family numerous times in the past as I beat my head against the genealogical brick wall that is my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Baker who is not pictured above. His wife France Ann Bolton would remarry a few years after Joseph's death at age 35 in 1882 to Thomas Heppenstall and go on to have one more child, daughter Lena, to go along with the five she had with Joseph. You may also recall, that after Joseph died, two of the children, Robert and Charles would go to live with the Robert and Prudence Chicken family. Charles would officially change his name back to Baker but Robert would keep his last name as Chicken even with frequent visits with his mother and siblings until the day he died and is buried under the Chicken surname.

In an effort to someday break down the brick wall of Joseph Baker's past, I thought I might try tracing down some descendants of Robert Baker/Chicken again. I had tried in the past but never could get farther than his deceased children for whom I hadn't been able to  find obituaries. There is a large black hole of records between records considered historical and thus scanned into online databases and modern day records that are immediately part of the digital record that makes searching for information hard to find without trips to distant places.  This time around I found an online obituary for one of their children that was only three years old and it listed the three surviving Chicken children. A quick online search and I had the phone numbers for two of the three.

I called (George) Chicken first because he lived only forty miles away and it was certainly interesting trying to start that conversation. How do you introduce yourself to your 2nd cousin 2x removed and tell them that their last name technically might not be Chicken but Baker. Fortunately George informed me early on in the conversation that his sister and he had always wondered about their ancestry and how the Baker family was related to theirs. He wasn't the keeper of family information but he said his older sister was and as it happened, she was the other phone number I had found.

I called up (Mary) Chicken after a couple days so that I could give George time to call her and prepare her for my call so she wasn't surprised. We had a long talk about our ancestors and how the Bakers and the Chickens were all tied together and in fact, were one and the same. We exchanged email addresses and I spent a few hours writing her half a dozen emails filling her in with what I knew and sending her pictures of her grandfather Robert Chicken/Baker for whom she didn't have a picture. She has some information along with more that her other sister is mailing her that she is going to send to me via email and snail mail, most likely after the holidays, so I'm excited to receive that but now have to practice waiting patiently, something I find very hard to do when waiting for genealogy stuff. She didn't know of either Joseph Baker or Frances Ann Bolton Baker Heppenstall so I'm not expecting anything that will shatter my brick wall but perhaps if I'm lucky, I might get a clue that I can pursue to create a crack in that wall.


Anonymous said...

I find that extra Chicken chap fascinating. I'd never come by it as a surname and when I put it in the google as a family name all it spat out was the usual spammy commercial crap that google is getting very good at. I cannot get over the feeling that there is a translation sitting in this. We in Ireland, together with the Scot and the Welsh don't find that unusual at all as all the native names have been Anglicised. MacCloud would be an example where the ACTUAL name is MacLeoid. Huhn seems a good bet for me for a name change. There was a time when the Dutchy nametag was almost as bad as being Irish.

R. Sherman said...

I think Vince may be on to something. A lot of German names were Anglicised that way, including mine: Schuermann to Sherman. The immigration people were pretty lazy back then.

Ed said...

Vince - In my genealogy sites, Chicken is an old English surname and according to the census records, the adopted family of Robert Baker Chicken came from England in the early 1800's. But in general you are correct, many immigrants Anglicised their names upon arrival.

R. Sherman - I think that and our population transitioned from a largely illiterate one to one that can read which also caused some changes in family names.

Eutychus2 said...

Ed............. I'm excited for you; I know the 'agony' of waiting for genealogical information, especially when you know its in the 'mail.'
I just found out tons of family info never before known by a fourth cousin twice removed emailing me.
Good luck!

A couple times I've found family info by searching extended family relations not thought of before.

Ed said...

Eutychus2 - I have too which is why I suppose I kept trying to track down the Chickens. Someday I will track down the right descendant of Joseph Baker and my brick wall will fall down in a pile of rubble.

Anonymous said...

There are eight casualties carrying the name of Chicken for the WWI. I carry a name that is scarce, very scarce but there are 68. Just saying.
Now there is the possibility they were Quakers or some other form of Anabaptist that are pacifist. But there is no other reason why the numbers would be so low. Remember there was no conscription on the island of Ireland.