Friday, September 7, 2012

Call Me Chicken... Perhaps

Over the years I have written a lot of blog posts on the subject of my family ancestry, not because I expect my readers to be extremely interested in the subject but rather in hopes that one day, someone with the answers I seek might find the post and write me an email. A few days ago, this very thing happened though instead of being along one of those branches I know a lot about, it happened to be about the branch that contains my biggest brick wall.

I have written tons of blog posts about Joseph Baker and my search for knowledge on him and his ancestors. Some of my more recent posts on the subject are:

On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part One
On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part Two
On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part Three
On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part Four
Bakers, Chickens, Proctors
Crossing Paths
Talking With Chickens
Across Oceans and Continents: Part One
Across Oceans and Continents: Part Two
Bakers Chicken

I have taken several trips over the years in my attempt to turn up a clue that might solve my brick wall ancestor Joseph Baker but have struck out every time. So for the last couple years, I have focused on his collateral group of people who would have known him when he was alive and have found several interesting stories. One story was that two of his younger sons were 'adopted' out to the Robert Chicken family after Joseph's untimely death at age 35. One of the sons changed his name back to Baker but the older one kept the name of Chicken. I have been in contact with a couple of these Chickens and gently let them know that they technically were Bakers and not Chickens and showed them all my proof. It made for interesting discussions.

Then a few days ago, I got the email from a third Chicken who found my blog and reached out to say hello. In the course of the hello, she happen to mention that she had Joseph Baker's immigration information, a piece of information I have never been able to find. So I mentioned that I was skeptical but would love to see what she had and that is when she dropped the bombshell. Joseph Baker may have changed his name to that from his original name of Joseph Chicken.

This immediately sent the hairs on the back of my neck to tingling for many many reasons. First off, it makes a lot of sense and explains so many things. Having traced the Chicken family in America as part of my collateral family group, I remembered that there was a Joseph Chicken in that group that disappeared from records about the same time my Joseph Baker appeared in them. It explains perhaps how the two Baker boys went to live with Robert Chicken (who would be Joseph Chicken's brother) after Joseph Baker's death. It would explain why my 3rd great grandmother Frances Ann Bolton, born in America but ended back in England after her father's death in the California Gold Rush, came back to America to marry Joseph Baker. The answer is that she knew him as a Chicken when he lived just down the road from her in Wisconsin before the Gold Rush.

So many things about this bombshell theory just feel right to me and at last, I think I may be on to something for the first time in nearly five years of searching. But I've been burned so many times in the past by believing things that I want to believe without proving them so for now, I will just call this a theory that needs proving. The person emailing me theorized that Joseph Chicken changed his name to Joseph Baker for the obvious to us connotations of being named Chicken when fighting in the Civil War. I wasn't sure that the coward/chicken connotation even existed back then and still don't know that answer but quickly found Joseph Chicken's Civil War records. I have requested them but as you may have remembered from my earlier blog posts, it is a long wait to receive them. Regardless, even though he may not have changed his name because of the war, he may have had good reason to do so later.

So now comes the fun/difficult part. All these myriad of records and places I have searched over the years looking for Joseph Baker need to be re-searched again for Joseph Chicken. A couple months ago I blogged about a trip I made up north tracing the path of Joseph Baker's life after he came to Iowa. I had planned to swing up to SW Wisconsin where his wife to be lived if I had time but never made it, mostly because I wasn't expecting to find anything on Joseph Baker there. Now I'm kicking myself because if this theory proves to be true and Joseph Baker was actually Joseph Chicken, not only did he live there for many years, but he probably got married there and thus left records behind. I suspect another trip will be in order.

Once again, my genealogical trail of breadcrumbs has been found and I may learn some interesting information on my family tree that I would never have known had I not blogged about it. I guess that dooms you my reader to more posts on my family tree.

5 comments:

Vince said...


The way you've constructed this it's virtually impenetrable. Why don't you a time line where they are marked when they come on OR when they come off. Get the kid to help you for she'll pull knowledge out you didn't even know you had. I really don't know how you've managed it on the computer but you've recreated the box of family photographs with these posts.
Family trees though are pretty much useless beyond the 3^. You simply cannot see into it.

I googled the family name Chicken and there seems to be a healthy group in NJ.

Vince said...

Sorry that reads a bit odder than I intended.
Ha, and there I was telling you about making things clearer.

Ed said...

Vince - It is a constant struggle writing posts like this trying to keep it short so that it doesn't take someone an hour to read through it all but yet have enough information to make it clear. Once I have solved the riddle conclusively, I'm sure I will write one last post with everything I know in it and in order.

I think how far down the family tree one can remember depends on how deeply you are into genealogy. Me, I can rattle off everyone in my tree from third great grandparents down and where they are buried and other facts about their lives. But I could go further on some branches, especially those that I have spent lots of time researching.

Vince said...

It's not the length it's that each post is a snapshot of one aspect or person where only you know the connection. You see it's as if you are making a tin box where you know everyone but should you hand the box over to another they would be utterly lost.
As to the tree, I'm talking visibility. Simply, once it gets beyond a certain number it becomes indecipherable to the eye.
When I said timeline what I'm thinking is a spreadsheet with the years fit to manageable sizes, four cells to the twenty, that kind of thing. Then 'I'-or anyone other than you- could see the slot in time that this fellow fits in. Then upload it as a link in the sidebar. You see what's hard for me is keeping the personalities apart. The 'at a glance' is what's missing. So I can say, 'ah, thats who he is and that's his wife/ cousin brother and that's when he lived. And oh, he lived ten years longer that the other So and so.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Love your geneaology posts. I don't do much of the stuff myself, (most of mine, except the stuff from Sweden was done by a family group and published in six volumes). but my wife is into it deeply and some of her experiences mirror yours closely.