Beniah Case died at 28, a new enlistee in the Union Army

civilwarsoldierBeniah Case was born on October 15, 1834, to Obadiah James Case and Louisa Royalty Case. He grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa, not far from the Mississippi River. Beniah died in 1862, at age 28, far from home in Arkansas.

Beniah was my 3rd great uncle. I’ve happened upon his story in bits and pieces over the years as I’ve researched his father Obadiah, my 3rd great grandfather. At first, as one of many children in that family, Beniah was mostly a distraction, but lately his information has been breaking through to capture my attention, and now seemed like a good time to piece his story together.

I sometimes stray from the main trunk of the family tree, branching out to “collateral ancestors,” because it gives me a more down-to-earth sense of history generally and more context for my own ancestors specifically. I did not initially seek out Beniah’s brief and simple story; it just found me, so I’ve decided to tell it. My late father told me that his family spoke about an uncle’s experience in the Civil War, and I began to wonder if Beniah’s story was the source of some of the memories that were passed down.

CaseFamilyBeniah’s first name is a form of the Biblical Benaiah. He had close to a dozen siblings, among them Joseph, who was his older brother and my great-great grandfather. I have no photos of Beniah, but I do have photos of his father and two of his siblings, pictured here. From left: Beniah’s father Obadiah, his older brother Joseph, who was in his 30s with at least two children at the time of Beniah’s death, and his younger sister Harriet, who would have been only about 11 at that time. 

Beniah was the fourth child and third son of Obadiah and Louisa. Depending on the source, he was born in Indiana, Kentucky, or Iowa, with Indiana being most likely. By 1850, just a few years after Iowa attained statehood, the family was living on a hundred-acre farm in Elk River township, Clinton County, in eastern Iowa, according to the U.S. Census. Beniah was 15 years old, had seven siblings by the time, and was identified as a farmer on the census form, the only one of his siblings to be so identified.


By 1860, Beniah was 25 and living with his wife Mary Jones Case, age 18, in Elk River. He is also listed in the 1860 agricultural schedule for Elk River, along with his father Obadiah. Beniah and Mary were married in 1858, with no children listed in the 1860 Census. Strikingly, a son may have been born in 1863, shortly after Beniah’s death, but I’m as yet unable to confirm it.

After the 1860 Census, the next we see of Beniah is in August 1862, the year he enlisted in Company A, Iowa 26th Infantry Regiment, on the roster of Iowa soldiers in the “War of Rebellion.” He was just above the average age of 25.8 for a Civil War soldier. Beniah soon ended up in Helena, Arkansas, and died in December of that year, being “mustered out” as a private on December 13. He is listed in the Iowa Remembrance Project as “killed in action,” while other sources indicate he “died of disease” or of “intermittent fever.”


Elk River, Iowa, to Helena, Arkansas

Because I’m the farthest thing possible from a Civil War expert and don’t know the details of Beniah’s war experience, I informally researched secondary sources to find out what Union forces, especially those from Iowa, could have been up to in Arkansas. Most Iowa soldiers fought in the western Confederate states of Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, according to a PBS article. In the early years, most apparently thought the war would end quickly and those “first departing men” from Iowa were said to be “inadequately armed, clothed and trained.” In 1862, the year Beniah died, apparently Union forces marched from southern Missouri to Helena, but the town would not be fully occupied by the Union until the Battle of Helena in July of 1863, several months after Beniah’s death.

An excerpt on IowaGenWeb reiterates that the 26th regiment of the Iowa volunteer infantry had a short time for instruction and drill before the regiment was “ordered to take the field.” They arrived in Helena, by way of Missouri, in October 1862. In November, some were sent on expeditions intended to divert the attention of Confederate fighters. We learn that the regiment “suffered much from sickness, the inevitable result of the bad weather conditions which prevailed and … the hardships and exposure inseparable from the life of the soldier on active duty in the field.” The piece points out that conditions for the troops encamped near Helena were “uncommonly bad.” It may well have taken enough of a toll on Beniah Case to end his life.

I’ve little doubt that Beniah was missed by Mary, by Obadiah and Louisa, and by his many siblings. At the time of his death, he had about a dozen brothers and sisters. Beniah’s father Obadiah would survive him by about five years, dying at 67. His mother Louisa survived him by about 15 years, also dying at 67. Both parents are buried in a small, rural pioneer cemetery in Clinton County, Iowa.

A pension application, with “Bennaiah Case” of the 26th Iowa regiment as the principal, appears to have been made in March 1863 for both a widow and a minor, but I do not yet have access to the full file (stay tuned) and am studying how to interpret the index card. It is likely but not confirmed (by me) that shortly after Beniah’s death his widow Mary gave birth to his son, then remarried in 1878.  I have many clues and paths to pursue from there, none of it certain, as it is sadly a challenge to find Mary in public records for several years after Beniah’s death. One can only speculate, at this point, about Mary’s years as a young widow, probably with a young child.

I know nothing about what Beniah witnessed or participated in that took his life during his brief time in the Civil War in Arkansas, nor how much of the battle he saw before falling ill. I only know he was a farmer who left Iowa in 1862, perhaps for the first time in his adult life, as a member of the Union Army and never returned.

The twenty-sixth Iowa regiment: By one account, Iowa had 76,534 men in the Union Army, more, in relation to its size, than any other state. Of those, 13,169 died, more from diseases than in combat. After Beniah’s death, the 26th Iowa regiment remained in battle until the end of the Civil War in 1865, participating in the Battle of Helena and other battles farther east. Of the 965 men in that regiment, by one account, 47 were killed, 165 wounded, 27 captured, 33 died from wounds, and 208 died from disease. A monument to the 26th and other Iowa regiments was built in Tennessee to commemorate the 1863 Battle of Lookout Mountain. From an historical excerpt on Iowa Genweb: “At Helena, Arkansas Post, Vicksburg, around Chattanooga, between Resaca, Atlanta and Lovejoy, and along the line of its march through the Carolinas and Virginia, the dead of the Twenty-sixth Iowa lie buried. … The advantage and benefit accruing to posterity in the preservation of the history … will be appreciated by all the loyal sons and daughters of the State of Iowa, and especially by those who, in the generations to come, can trace their ancestry to the brave men who fought to preserve and transmit to their posterity the best form of government that the wisdom of man has been able to devise.”


IOWA STATE MONUMENT – LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN. In the Chattanooga National Military Park. Photo by Brent Moore (flickr)

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Inscription: “Iowa remembers her patriot sons who went forth at the call of duty to honor their country in the dreadful carnage of war.”

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Sorting the genealogy room, finding family history

box o photos3In some areas of my life, I am highly organized. As yet, my genealogy has not been one of them. This is in no way an indication of its importance to me … it’s just that I kind of stumbled into genealogy and, since then, have tended most of the time to follow my muse more than any thought-out plan. I’ve accomplished a lot of genealogy this way, but the fruits of it are … shall we say … scattered among many boxes and stacks. For one thing, I am still trying to figure out the best way to preserve the nearly 100-year-old photo album, at right, that we inherited from my paternal grandparents.

After my dad passed away in the fall of 2018, I had an intensely busy season at work, after which my mom moved into an independent living apartment and I moved to be closer to her. With the move, I welcomed the prospect of a room I could devote to my genealogy resources and family memorabilia. I transferred boxes, bags, and stacks into the room to be quickly put away at a future time … all part of a grand vision for a “genealogy room.” Then … life took over as I popped in and out of the room to grab things from those boxes, which I continued stepping over, rather than emptying and sorting.

Now, many months later, working from home during a pandemic and inspired by the Legal Genealogist, I took a day off to start getting things in order. It was intended as a distraction from the disappointment of not being at the tulip festival in Iowa that I was meant to attend this week in my mother’s hometown, which, like everything else, was cancelled. Instead, I decided, I would sort. This is Day One.

When you keep your family history memorabilia in the same room with your genealogical resources, however, it is easy to get distracted. I knew this was likely when I started this morning. I was not wrong. The good news is that I have cleared a path and found general areas in the room for: 1. photos and memorabilia, 2. genealogical resources, 3. office supplies, and 4. electronic equipment and paraphernalia. I also cleared a path I can walk through without stepping over boxes. It’s a start.  The bad news is that’s about all I’ve accomplished so far.

I’ve decided to allow myself the satisfaction of re-discovering things that have been boxed up for, in some cases, years. I have also discarded odd things taking up room and causing clutter … stuff that managed to cling pointlessly to my files, like a room service menu from the Amway Grand left over from the NGS conference in Grand Rapids in the spring of 2018.

KoreaWoundClipIn the midst of it all, though, I re-discovered a small, fragile, yellowed news clipping that I assume is from 1950 or 1951 and which I may have really looked at only once or twice in my life. It’s a brief announcement that my then 20-year-old father had suffered a minor arm wound in Korea. There is no date on it, nor any indication of the newspaper in which it appeared, but I assume it was the Sioux City (Ia) Journal. It indicates that Dad was “getting along satisfactorily.” Yes, that sounds like him.

Pfc. Richard W. Hendrickson, 20-year-old marine, suffered a minor hand and forearm wound recently in Korea, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carl H. Hendrickson, 3910 Ridge Avenue, have been advised by the defense department. The nature of the wound was not revealed, but the marine has written his parents that he is ‘getting along satisfactorily,’ they said. Pfc. Hendrickson, a sophomore at Morningside College, was called to active duty in late October. He went overseas February 15 and landed in Korea March 5.

marineinsigniaIt must have been shortly after he arrived in Korea, and he may not yet have known how hard things would get. With the clipping was some sort of metal pin or fastener that appears to be the Marine Corps insignia and is quite worn and weathered, as well as a news clipping announcing the death in Korea of 21-year-old Pfc. Lawrence Hansen, who must have been a family friend. It will all find a safe place in the genealogy room.

Then, from the other side of the family, I discovered some maps about which I had almost forgotten. They were part of the “grand vision” for the genealogy room just a year ago, although I don’t think I’d even looked at them in a long while. They are three small, mid-19th-century maps of towns and provinces in the Netherlands from which my Dutch ancestors immigrated (to the town I was expecting to be visiting this week). I bought the maps online from a print collector in the Netherlands several years ago, with the intention of framing and hanging them, but since then they have remained in the boxes in which they were mailed. I have hope for them, though, if I ever get this room sorted.

We’ll see what Day Two brings.


Map of Rijssen, Overijssel, the Netherlands, 1865.


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Peder Malum: Hale and hearty

PederMalum3It’s hard to believe my grandfather’s grandfather was born almost two centuries ago. This week is the 196th anniversary of the birth of my 2nd great-grandfather, Peder Malum. Peder was born in Oyer, Oppland, Norway, in 1824, to Arne and Marit Hovren Mahlum, and died in Kamrar, Iowa, United States, in 1900.

As the nation wrestles with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been thinking about my ancestors even more than usual. Illness and death that could have been avoided in our current era are something every family historian wrestles with when looking at a death record, given the less developed systems of medicine available to our ancestors and the occasional epidemic claiming multiple lives. The current crisis has been truly humbling that regard … almost like a glimpse into an earlier time. Nevertheless, Peder Malum is one ancestor who seems to have defied the odds of his era by living to the then-advanced age of 76.

Peder married Christina Roening in Norway in a year unknown to me. He moved south to the village of Faeberg, just north of Lillehammer, where his daughter Petra, my great-grandmother and presumably Peder’s namesake, was born in 1867.

Peder and Christina migrated with their family, which eventually included four children, to the United States in the mid 1870s. The family is believed to have arrived first on the coast of Quebec, and by some accounts, first made their way to Chicago by water and rail, before arriving in Iowa. Peder’s first days in Iowa were spent in Linn County. The 1880 U.S. Census places him in Monroe township, just northwest of Cedar Rapids.

By 1885, Peder had settled with his family in the central Iowa town of Kamrar, in Hamilton County, and this is where he would farm and live for the remainder of his life. Peder helped to organize the local Lutheran cemetery, where his own grave is now located. I’ve visited this country cemetery twice. It is a lovely and peaceful little place surrounded by farmland. The family seems to have moved between the Lutheran and Methodist denominations, and at the time of his death Peder belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

I obviously never knew Peder. The first of his descendants who was known to me was his grandson, my grandfather, Carl Hendrickson. For that reason, I’ll let Peder’s obituary in the Webster City Tribune of April 13, 1900, tell his story:

Malum_Stone“The death of Peter Malum last Wednesday near Kamrar, Iowa, was indeed a sudden and unexpected blow to family, friends and neighbors. He was an old man, beloved by all who knew him; hale and hearty, apparently, but like a wise man, prepared for the future while well, by getting a heart knowledge of the Great Savior of men.

He left his home Wednesday morning, telling his daughter, Mrs. Hendrickson, with whom he lived, that as he felt unusually well, he would walk over to Kamrar. He had gone nearly the entire distance of two miles when he stopped at a friend’s home and chatted for a few moments, in his light, lively manner and took luncheon, when suddenly, as he was about to leave, he fell dead. His death was caused by heart disease, and though sudden, was easy.

“Peter Malum was born in Norway, in 1824; came to this country in 1872, and settled in Linn County, Iowa. In 1882 he removed to Hamilton County, where he has since lived.

“At the time of his death he was a member of the M. E. Church, of Kamrar, and was always considered a good, faithful Christian man. The funeral took place Friday at 2 p.m., and was conducted by his pastor, Rev. E.S. Benjamin. He was buried in the Lutheran cemetery, four miles south of Kamrar. His daughters, two of whom reside near Kamrar, and one near Thornton, Iowa, and his son of Des Moines, were present at the funeral. Besides his immediate relations, Mr. Malum left a large circle of friends who will sincerely mourn his death.

“His daughters and son have lost a good Christian father, but their loss is only temporary. Their ultimate gain is eternal. The sympathy of the whole neighborhood goes out to these in our midst who weep. May God bless them, and may they receive divine sympathy from on high, so freely offered to them and to all who mourn.”

He sounds like someone I could have learned from and would have enjoyed knowing. Rest in perfect peace, Peder Malum. And happy 196th birthday.

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What would Grandma Hattie have made of 2020?

JLGrandmaK_croppedToday, March 20, is the 110th anniversary of the birth of my maternal grandmother, Henrietta (“Hattie”) Van den Bosch Kreykes. I’ve been thinking about her a lot today, in the midst of navigating the effects of the coronavirus crisis in my personal and work life. Everyone in my family seems to be doing fine so far, but the social distancing has affected us all in one way or another.

What would my grandmother have thought of it all? She was born in 1910 and, like everyone in her generation, lived through some difficult personal and historical times … the loss of her mother at a relatively young age, the loss of a younger sister, the Great Depression, World War II, you name it …

grandma's afghanMy grandmother was a quiet woman when I knew her, and one talent she had that I always admired was her needlework. Today I took out the afghan she made for me years ago, just like the ones she made for all of her grandchildren, and a table covering, much like the doilies she made in abundance. They are comfort items. Once when she was visiting us from Iowa, I was impressed that she sewed Bluebird/ Campfire Girl uniforms for both my sister and me in one day. She probably took this talent in stride, but I was always impressed by it and remain so. It was a practical talent, not a self-indulgent one.

I still have an image of Grandma sitting quietly in her house, engaged almost incidentally in some needlework project. While I didn’t know her during any of the difficult historical times of her life, my sense is that she faced them the way most of her generation did … with resolve, faith, and no particular sense of entitlement. I suspect she’d have done the same today. Miss you, Grandma. Happy Birthday.

My Grandma Kreykes was born in 1910 in Capel Township, Sioux County, Iowa, married my grandfather in 1930, had four children, and passed away in Orange City, Sioux County, Iowa, in 1995. I wrote a fuller birthday profile of her last year, which can be found here.

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Grandma’s college diploma

readingwithgrandmah_croppedYesterday, March 5, was the 116th anniversary of the birth of my paternal grandmother, Dorothy Clausen Hendrickson.

A few weeks ago, my mother found Grandma’s 1925 college diploma amidst some of my late father’s documents. Mom has been going through boxes of personal items since my father passed away in September of 2018, and the diploma turned up unexpectedly not long ago. I had not ever seen it and did not even know it was in our possession.

In fact, although I knew my grandmother had been an English teacher and had graduated from college in Iowa, I knew few of the details. One of my real regrets is not talking to my grandmother more about her college years … and her teaching years. Although my grandmother, who was a quiet and reserved woman, did not talk much about those years, she did once tell my sister and me that when she was in college the girls spent their spare time playing bridge. A lot had changed about college in the intervening years, but that’s my strongest memory of her college memories. I never did learn to play bridge, but maybe my mother can still teach me.

GrandmaH_diplomaI have so many questions for my grandmother now that are better than the ones I had when I was younger. It makes sense that as an English teacher she passed on a love of reading to my father, who passed it on to me, and for that I am sincerely grateful.

I am happy that we now have the diploma. Although it seems to have gotten folded at some point since she graduated in 1925 and has several deep creases, it is otherwise in good shape. Grandma graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in education from Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa, in Cedar Falls, in 1925, then taught high school English in Iowa for a few years. She married my grandfather, Carl Hendrickson, in November 1927, gave birth to my father in 1930, and passed away in California in 1991.

I wrote a more complete profile of Grandma Hendrickson last year on the 115th anniversary of her birth.

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Favorite Discovery? Too many to choose

The theme for week 7 of 52 ancestors in 52 weeks was “favorite discovery.” Of course, I cannot choose just one favorite. Being somewhat behind in these posts, and racing to catch up, I finally settled on a brief discussion of a few of my favorite discoveries that I can actually show you: some letters, a book, a picture, and an organ.

JanLetterFourThe letters. Discovering that my 2nd great grandfather, Jan Willem Kreijkes, had written a series of letters from Iowa to the Netherlands around the turn of the 20th century — and that they were available to read and copy — was one of my earliest and most cherished discoveries. The letters are included in a collection of Dutch immigrant letters housed in the archives of the Christian Reformed Church at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They were translated from Dutch to English by an unknown translator. I acquired copies a few years ago and not only enjoyed reading them as a way to get to know Jan Willem better, but I am still mining them for clues and information about the Kreijkes/Kreykes family. I have a series on this blog, Letters to the Netherlands, with excerpts from the letters.

Books3The book. Another early discovery was a book called Sleeps Not the Valley by Carmen Moe. The series of events that led to me discovering this book were so swift and unexpected that I don’t even remember how they originated. The book was self-published by a distant cousin and includes an introductory section on Norwegian history and a full chapter about my direct ancestors, the Malums of Øyer. The information was drawn from Norwegian records and bygdeboks. Bygdeboks are local histories that were written by Norwegian communities and sometimes included rich details of people’s lives. Sleeps Not the Valley was out of print, and at the time I was able to find only one available pre-owned copy from a book seller online. I bought it, and from that book I learned not only more details of the Malum genealogy but a little about what their home was like and about their involvement in the Haugean religious movement. It opened up my understanding of my Norwegian ancestors.

arne_marit2The pictures. All of the photos I’ve discovered that I never thought I would, especially the oldest ones, have absolutely been among my favorite discoveries. But speaking of the Malums (above), the pictures that came to light of my 3rd great grandparents, who never left Norway, truly caught me by surprise. I call them “pictures” rather than “photos” because they seemed to be a combination of photo and illustration and thus intrigued me. I had come to terms with Arne and Marit Malum remaining silhouettes in the family tree — because after all, they were born in the 1780s and never left Norway — but then their pictures emerged. It started me on a quest to find out how such pictures were produced, and I even wrote a post speculating that the pictures were a form of charcoal portrait.

organThe organ.  It was a 3rd cousin who first pointed me to the small pipe organ built by my 2nd great grandfather, Harmen Van der Maaten, a Dutch immigrant. I learned that it was housed in a local historic home (unrelated to the family) in Orange City, Iowa, that was open to the public. However, because the home was only truly open certain times of the year, some very kind people in the community arranged for me to be let in, see the organ, and even try to play it a little. I have been back a couple of times since, during the annual Tulip Festival when tours through the home are ongoing, and I always stop to take another look and pay respects. Here is a more information about the organ.

Final thoughts. A more disciplined writer — and one with more time — would have settled on a single favorite discovery and written on it in more detail. I just couldn’t do it, though, and as it is, these discoveries just scratch the surface. Family history is a never-ending quest for answers … which leads to more questions … punctuated by occasional discoveries that sometimes seem to fall from the sky right into my lap … and all of them are my favorites.

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To colorize or not to colorize …

With so many people experimenting with and sharing the colorized versions of their black-and-white family photos through MyHeritage In Color™, I decided to take a few minutes to experiment and get in on the action.

MyHeritage provides a feature that allows you to upload a black-and-white photo, then wait a few minutes to see a colorized version. A nifty slider between the two versions allows you to compare them. It’s an impressive feature, and the creators have apparently anticipated concerns by providing an embossed symbol in the bottom left corner of each colorized photo to indicate that it is a colorized version and not an original.

Still … I wonder if in our eagerness to acquire authenticity we risk somehow losing it. The colors are not necessarily true to life , although in most cases they are probably close. I am sure it will become technically better over time, eliminating problems like the strange tint created by the shadows on my grandfather’s arms or the darkened lips on the two girls, both shown below. As far as I can tell, when the program is uncertain it defaults to a grayscale tone, at least for now. I’d be more concerned about colors coming to be seen as true that weren’t … us starting to see colorized versions as reality, when they aren’t. It’s also possible I’m overthinking this because I do that.

I tend to be overly careful with things like this … and maybe I’ve just become unnaturally attached to the black and white versions of my ancestors … but while I’m sure I’ll have fun experimenting with this feature, I suspect I will use it sparingly, at first, with anything I might share. Many people are loving it, though, and I’m open to being persuaded that I should give up any reservations.  A few of my colorized ancestors appear below.

Family of Arie and Mattie Kreykes, my great-grandparents, Sioux County, Iowa.



My grandfather, Carl Hendrickson, with my father as a baby, Sioux City, Iowa.



My mother, left, with her cousin, right. Plymouth or Sioux County, Iowa.

cousins cousins-colorized

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Dutch naming traditions in the Van den Bosch family

I’m a little late with my first “52 ancestors in 52 weeks” posting.  Last week’s prompt was “same name,” and it took me a while to wrap it up. In response to the prompt, I looked at a Dutch naming tradition I learned about only in recent years and how it may have been used by my Van den Bosch ancestors.

I have tons of families in my tree who used the same names generation after generation. The Case family favored Obadiah, Separate, and Keziah. The Kreykes family liked Jan (or some version thereof). The Hendricksons often used Lars and Oliver (Haldor).

I only recently realized, however, that my Van den Bosch family in the early 20th century closely mirrored a Dutch tradition in which the eldest son is named after the father’s father (Hendrik became Henry); the eldest daughter is named after the mother’s mother (Lubbigje became Lucy); the second son is named after the mother’s father (Harman became Herman); and the second daughter is named after the father’s mother (Hendrijke became Henrietta).

Because in this case all of the grandparents were born in the Netherlands and their grandchildren born in America, the Dutch names became Americanized, even as they passed them on. Some of the grandchildren received American names and others a Dutch name that later became Americanized.

When I heard about this tradition and applied it to this family, I was interested to see that it fit so well for the first two boys and first two girls. It’s a little more complicated to figure out how the later children received their names. The third daughter was named Hermina. I don’t find that name in the family tree, though I wonder whether it was a feminized version of her maternal grandfather’s name, Harmen/Herman. When Hermina was born, it was the maternal grandfather’s turn to pass on his name, but a second boy had not yet been born who could be named Herman. A couple years after Hermina’s birth, a boy was born who was indeed named Herman. It took me a while to consider this connection for Hermina because she was always called “Mina” by everyone I knew.

The source of names for the younger children remains somewhat of a mystery, although one could certainly speculate that “Gertie” may have received a form of her father’s name Gerrit or perhaps the name of two of her great-grandmothers who were named Gerritje. Margaret, who died at age 5, may have received a form of her mother’s name Merrigje, although her mother’s own name was Americanized to “Mary.” Daughter Stella may have received an Americanized form of the name of her great-grandmother “Stintje.” The biggest mystery is the name of the daughter Winifred, for which I am unable to find a source in the family tree, although it certainly is a pretty name. It almost seems they ran out of ancestors with names that had not yet been passed on to their children. Perhaps there is a namesake I’ve yet to discover.

Unfortunately, this is all speculation because I never really discussed this with my grandmother. I’d love to know. The Van den Bosch siblings appear below in adulthood. Henrietta, second from right in the back row, was my grandmother. It seems likely that she was named after her paternal grandmother, Hendrikje Top Van den Bosch, who died in the Netherlands in 1901.


Two of my sources for the Dutch naming tradition were FamilySearch and Dutch genealogist Yvette Hoitink via Dutch Genealogy.

Here in February, I’m late to the party in blogging about “52 ancestors in 52 weeks.” Still, I’m giving it a try, even though I can’t promise to respond to every weekly prompt (in fact, it is unlikely I will carve out the time to do so). It will be a helpful tool, though, in filling those gaps between ancestral birthdays and exciting new research discoveries. 🙂

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Genealogy in fiction: What to read?

Black silhouette of open book. Vector illustration.I recently learned of a series of books that feature a forensic genealogist solving family history mysteries. How could I not snatch up the first in the series and read it?

That’s what I did last week with Hiding the Past by Nathan Dylan Goodwin. It was a fun read, to be sure. It does require one to suspend disbelief on some of the less plausible scenarios, but I was quickly taken with the idea that a genealogist’s work can make for some fascinating stories. Of course, those of us who do family history already knew that.

HidingPastCoverI won’t provide any spoilers here, but this series is set in England … relatively present day. It’s fun to follow a character in a novel who logs into Ancestry and visits local archives. And as is to be expected, the answer to one question always leads to a brand new question. The main character gets into some pickles, and I question some of his methods … but it is fiction. I’ve read only the first book, but the series has eight. I bought the first three as a single volume in the kindle version for the pretty economical price of $9.99 and will read all three.

In the meantime, this has piqued my curiosity about other series or novels that might feature genealogists. The “recommendations” one gets online after reading a similar novel, plus a little googling, provide more information than I can sort through with any efficiency. Still, I will be looking through the online suggestions. If anyone has recommendations that will get me to a great novel sooner, though, please share them.

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Obadiah Case and the hazy past

Obadiah_Louisianna_Case_burned2Obadiah. The name shows up more than once in my family history, but today’s focus is my 3rd great grandfather, Obadiah James Case, who was born on this date 219 years ago … at the dawn of the 19th century. Thomas Jefferson became president that year, and Abraham Lincoln had not yet been born.

Getting to know Obadiah — to the extent I have — has been a gradual process. I know little other than a few facts of his life. Nobody alive during my lifetime was alive during his. However, the more I learn, the more I see him as key to the westward migration of this line of my family.

ObadiahAncestor2Besides, Obadiah is probably the most frequent “common ancestor” among my DNA matches on Ancestry (example at right). When a distant DNA cousin turns up on my dad’s side, our connection can frequently be traced back to Obadiah. This is not uncommon for ancestors born in America when the country was still relatively young and families were still relatively large. Obadiah was the great grandfather of my maternal grandmother, Dorothy Clausen Hendrickson.

He was born in 1801, likely in Tennessee or Kentucky. Like I said … hazy.  Federal Census forms indicate Tennessee as his birth place, while less formal sources sometimes say Kentucky. I need to research whether those borders were shifting at the time. Still, finding my ancestors in these regions came as a total surprise to me, and I have long had on my agenda a potential blog post for my “Genealogical Surprises” series on that “Kentucky root.” They clearly lived among a community of people who were gradually moving westward into the prairie.

The best theory of Obadiah’s genealogical origins so far is that he descended from a group of English Puritans who settled the community of Southold on the north fork of Long Island in the 1600s before later generations began migrating westward. There is a fair amount of evidence for this, including DNA support, but certain links remain unverified, so the research continues.

Obadiah’s parents were Separate Case and Lydia Moore Case. He lost his father when he was just a young child, and yes, his father’s name was Separate Case. Or Seperate. Or Seprate. The best, and really only, theory I’ve heard of his father Separate’s given name points to Scripture:

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord …”           (II Corinthians 6:17 (KJV))

The theory is that Obadiah’s immediate forebears were involved with the Separate Baptist denomination that began in Massachusetts but grew strong in places like Kentucky and Tennessee. If so, they would be the only Baptists I’ve discovered in my ancestry thus far. However, Obadiah had not only a father, but a brother, a son, and a nephew who received the name Separate. Subsequent generations in my line of descent from this family were Nazarene, then mainline Methodist, so it is a plausible evolution.

In 1825, Obadiah married Elizabeth Louisiana (“Louisa”) Royalty, granddaughter of a Revolutionary War soldier who had migrated with his family from Virginia to Kentucky after the war, a common scenario at the time.

Obadiah and Louisa’s young family continued the westward migration begun by their ancestors. Some of their children were born in Kentucky, some in Indiana, and most in Iowa. Obadiah’s family finally settled in far eastern Iowa, near the Mississippi River. An 1848 land record places Obadiah in Iowa just two years after it attained statehood. The 1860 Census places the family in Elk River, along the Mississippi, in Clinton County. Obadiah appears in the agricultural schedule for Elk River that year with a farm valued at $1,200 and various amounts of livestock, wheat, corn, and oats.

Obadiah and Louisa had about a dozen children, including my ancestor Joseph Case. I could stay busy for at least a year exploring the stories of Obadiah’s children. It is highly likely that one of his younger sons, Beniah (Benaiah), died in the Civil War as a Union soldier from an Iowa regiment … six years before Obadiah himself passed on.

migratorygroupIt’s always challenging to write a profile of a person you’ve never met … and that nobody you’ve known in your lifetime has ever met. However, the more research I do, the more real Obadiah becomes to me. His family’s migration story runs through the generations … culminating in Iowa, where most of his children were born, where he is buried, and where a new chapter of family history takes root. The story starts putting real people to my late father’s DNA results that place him with an American westward migratory community (see above). Obadiah was one of the key figures in this movement for my family.

Louisa_Obadiah_cropA few years ago, I made my first trip to eastern Iowa and visited the little McClure Cemetery in Charlotte, Iowa, where Obadiah and Louisa (Louisiana) are buried. With them in that cemetery were a few ancestors related through other lines. The gravestones were very old and mostly unadorned — a few were even broken — but Obadiah and Louisa had a symbol on their shared grave marker that was fairly common for the era — pointing skyward, hope of heaven.

I have no reason to think Obadiah’s life was filled with anything other than the common struggles of his era. I’m grateful for his courage and fortitude, and that of his family, in forging into new and relatively unsettled territory, while realizing also that, like men of every era, he no doubt had flaws that, for now anyway, are lost to time and grace.

Happy Birthday, Obadiah James Case. Rest in perfect peace.

This is the twelfth in a series, Birthday Profiles, which includes descriptions of ancestors on the anniversary dates of their births. It is one good way to slow down on gathering data and focus on individuals in their totality.

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