Some recent discoveries

Young officer
My grandfather Frederick Jackson Bell (1903-1994), named for his mother’s family

I have written here about some of my research strategies, and I thought it might be interesting to inventory a few of my recent discoveries (and brick walls).

It is easy to get distracted, and for the last decade or so I have kept a lot of my research notes in a Word file called “Notes on 1790–1930 Censuses.” (Yes, it predates the publication of the 1940 Federal Census, although I have begun to add information from that source as well.) Built around appearances in various censuses, the Notes document keeps me organized, as it is really my ahnentafel (or ancestor table), listing ancestors along with their children and their children’s spouses. In the footnotes, I keep track of my ancestral aunts’ and uncles’ children and their descendants.

This habit can lead me to discoveries I had no inkling might exist out in the Internet ether. For example, I was struck by the fact that I was missing the date of my great-aunt’s fourth marriage. With no real expectation that I would find it, but mindful that she lived in California, I went to, and there it was, helpfully listed under her maiden name and the name of her former husband: Nancy Bell or Nancy B. McNamara married Claude D. Horne in Humboldt County on Christmas Eve 1955.

Aunt Nancy’s parents were married in Virginia in December 1902, and I had always understood that the wedding took place in Norfolk. Perhaps so, but here it is in the Richmond Dispatch of 17 December:  “Miss Estelle Jackson and Mr. J. Frank Bell were married this afternoon at ‘River Grove,’ the country home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver D. Jackson. The Rev. Richard Heber Bennett, of Richmond, officiated. The best man was Mr. Ralph C. Lewis, of Washington, D. C. and Misses Bessie Snyder and Mabel Williamson acted as flower girls. There were no other attendants.”  As for where River Grove was, I’m not sure, and the chaotic state of O. D. Jackson’s finances meant that the Jacksons didn’t hang on to it for long!

I’ve already written about another great-aunt, Elizabeth Brawner Grimes, who died in 2012 at the age of 102. Again, it was the Notes document that reminded me that I was carrying her date of birth as 1910; it seemed likely, reviewing it in 2014, to think that she might have died at some point, perhaps years ago. A few minutes with Google led me to her death notice.

This same impulse drove me to look for my grandfather’s stepmother, Margaret A./Marguerita/Marguerite (Feller) (Glickert) (Stegall) Bell (1884–1954), whose biography continues to evolve: I recently found her as the president of the Florence Crittenton Home in Norfolk in 1931.

I will have more to say about brick walls at some point, but a comparatively recent one concerns the siblings of my great-grandmother Minnie Estelle (Jackson) Bell (1876–1935), the only daughter of Oliver Dodridge Jackson (1848–1915) and Rebecca Jane (Eggleston) (Jackson) Waterman (1856–1937). Estelle had five younger brothers, the eldest of whom was William Walter Jackson (1878–1909), buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Norfolk.

By the date of the 1910 Census, Frederick Hollister Jackson (1880–1946) was a married boiler maker living in Los Angeles, but then he disappears from the records of until his appearance, 36 years later, in the California Death Index, 1940–1997, born in Ohio, the son of a father named Jackson and a mother named Aggston [sic].

Edward Buchtel Jackson (b. in 1881) appears in the 1910 Census as a laborer in Hanson County, South Dakota. In 1930 he was a poultry man in Elko County, Nevada. A man of this name, born in Ohio in 1881 and living in Oregon, appears in the World War II Draft Cards 1942 database, but with the wrong date of birth.

Emmet Eggleston Jackson (1884–1944) was living in Phoenix in 1918 and 1920; with his wife Gladys/Lydie he kept a soda fountain. When he died in 1944 he was living in Los Angeles County, and according to The Los Angeles Times (1 July 1944) his daughter Marjorie M. Gee was his only survivor.

Finally, there was Oliver Deshler Jackson (1886–1943?). In 1910 he was a newly married market gardener living in Norfolk County with his wife Lillie. In 1917 he was a telephone lineman in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. He appears to be the Oliver D. Jackson living in Mendocino County, California, in the 1940 Census, and I would guess he is the man of that name who died in San Francisco 22 January 1943.

My grandfather – the son of Estelle Jackson Bell – said that he had only one first cousin on his mother’s side, presumably Marjorie M. Jackson, born in New York ca. 1912. I wonder what became of her, to say nothing of her parents and her uncles and aunts!

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

11 thoughts on “Some recent discoveries

  1. Scott, how do you keep your notes? Are they in an Excel spreadsheet? If so, what are the column and row headings? Do you place people alphabetically or group them in families? Do you keep a separate book for each of your 4 family lines? (or) Do you use another format? I am wondering if the format you use opens up the ability to see lots of information, where you have holes, and where you find hints. This seems like a good research strategy. It would help to have the “how to” specifics. Thanks!

    1. Dear Kathy: While I certainly do work on specific family projects (and thus in a variety of formats), for this AT it really is a classic ancestor table-with-children — and thus pretty straight forward. The parent paragraphs are made up of census data and information from newspapers; it’s with the children’s entries that I give dates and list marriages. The document is footnote-heavy, and the order is chronological. My aim is to see, at a glance, what a given family group looks like: it’s not the last word, but as I say it helps me see where I’ve got holes. All my best, Scott

  2. I started with a similar Word project but quickly moved to an Excel spreadsheet broken up by census years. It allows me to more easily see relationships across a span of generations; I use a specific ink color for key families. Sometimes I will use a second “sheet” to further detail a relationship line.

      1. I have used Family Tree Maker for a decade or more and it works fine for me to place and store information forever (so far) and have a central reference for everything. I go years not doing anything and when I restart: there it all is!

  3. And I don’t know others’ experiences with Ancestry, but I bought a trial subscription and found that it was first trying to sell me more and more services. I hated that. And their actual information provided wasn’t really very useful. Perhaps I didn’t read the initial details enough.

    1. Ted, I think it’s important to think of Ancestry, and any other subscription service, as one of a number of research options. Ancestry has an enormous number of databases, but it should always be used in conjunction with other online and library sources. Most research questions will not be answered by a single search, or by a review of a single source – so in that sense, you will want access to Ancestry, etc., for the possibilities it offers to complement your other research options.

  4. I’m a firm believer in Not only can I search the censuses and other primary sources (and see many of the original documents), but I can come up with things I would never find otherwise. For example, my Barker family came from England in 1838 and settled in Washtenaw County, MI. On Ancestry, I found the boat they came on – then went to Ellis Island to get an image of the manifest. It listed way more family than I knew of… I spent lots of time finding Barkers, but not all. Then, on Ancestry, up popped a Barker in Mendocino, CA — it turned out to be one of the missing family members. Contacted the researcher, who sent pictures of the family — he only knew the name of one sibling, a name I had found, but with no proof of a connection. Their family knowledge confirmed that girl as a Barker sibling. Still haven’t pinned her down, but is the one subscription I will never allow to lapse. Not all of the site is reliable or wonderful, but I find it a great resource.

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