Monday, September 22, 2014

#1 - A Beginning

Frank's Family Findings

#1 - A Beginning

I have long wished to do a better job of sharing with family members some of the
fascinating discoveries made in the course of my family history research.
As  with any type of historical research, there is a great deal of minutiae involved - 
birth, marriage, and death dates, census listings of residency, wills probated, cemetery records, etc. Ultimately, however, those findings tell a life story, and better yet, lead to further discoveries of interesting, some times exciting tales and an occasional photo that tells a story in itself.

Perhaps you have watched those slick, carefully constructed television shows where celebrities "find" a distant ancestor - sometimes heroic, sometimes tragic. The producers do not bore us with tedious details of the endless but necessary hours of background research done, and I won't either.  The results of my research are on my site at, if you are inclined to check them out.

My goal for these blogs is to highlight the numerous stories of exceptional interest or of historical significance, and to share some of those marvelous old photos when available.

My research has been broad-based, effectively amounting to five family trees. Rather than writing five different blogs, I will combine them into one, with headings for each so you can skip over material relating to the other families, if you wish.
  • My paternal tree (Thompson and Hamar)
  • My maternal tree (Hackney and Holmes)
  • Nancy's paternal tree (Staker and Morris)
  • Nancy's maternal tree (Glidewell and Hendricks)
  • The Rowell Tree, and associated Miller and McCready lines (both daughters married into the Rowell family; I have done far less with these lines, but still have some interesting finds)
The tricky part may be keeping straight for you these different family lines. How are you related to this guy?  I may have to try different approaches to that, and will rely on your feedback if there is confusion.


Visiting Cumbria/Westmorland - the Ancestral Homeland of the Thompsons

In the early spring of 2013, Nancy and I made a trip to the United Kingdom. One of our goals was to visit the England's beautiful Lake District, and specifically the village of Askham. It was there that my 3rd great-grandparents, John Thompson (1757-1842) and Sarah Bowman (1770-1846)  were married and buried at St. Peter's Church, Church of England. Their son Bowman (1811-1865), eighth of nine children and the youngest male, would immigrate to Illinois in 1830, marry Elizabeth Cannon, and become my 2nd great-grandfather. 

Ashness Farm B&B, set amongst the fells
Our lodging for five days and nights was at Ashness Farm B&B, a charming 500 year old farmhouse on a 750 acre working farm outside Keswick, about an hour from Askham. From there we made road trips into the surrounding countryside, awed by the beauty of the fells (Cumbrian for these mountains) and the waters.

We planned our visit to Askham on a Sunday morning so we could attend services at St. Peter's, and having missed our exit on a roundabout, arrived a few minutes late. The church was close to full, but smiling parishioners gladly moved over to make room for strangers. The bishop from Carlisle was on hand today, as were members from a neighboring church.  The singing of familiar old hymns (to them, anyway) was hearty  and strong, while a sweet little old lady did her best to keep up on a rickety piano that may have been older than its player.

The bishop delivers a message of hope.
 The plaque seen on the upper right hand corner of the photo above honors the faith and service of my 3x great grandparents. An online contact had sent me a photo of it many years ago, but this was finally my chance to see it in person. See it close-up, below, and click on the image to see it larger:

I should point out that the current St Peter's Church was built in the early 1800s, after the marriage of John and Sarah, but before the death of each. Due to the size and location of this memorial, it might be a good guess they were involved in the building of the present church. Anybody volunteer to go the England to research that?

After the service, tea and biscuits (cookies) were served and there was a time of fellowship in which we had the opportunity to chat with a number of welcoming persons. They were delighted to learn of my connection to the John and Sarah Thompson honored on the wall, and informed us there were still numerous Thompsons and Bowmans in the area. It was a pity that we were due at our lodgings near Loch Lomond, Scotland on Monday evening, as it would have been interesting to follow up on that. In the photo above, I am cheesing it up with the Bishop of Carlisle, a pleasant fellow and interesting conversationalist who was eager to learn about the worship styles at the church where we worship.

 We hung around as folks were leaving in order to get some photos of the church and the graveyard. There were lots of Thompson and Bowman grave markers, but we never did find John and Sarah.

We headed off to the local pub for Sunday roast - an English tradition. Perhaps Askhams' locals eat at home or head off to nearby Penrith to eat at McDonalds, as we didn't have to hurry to get to the restaurant before the Baptists let out.

The Queen's Head Inn and Pub has been around for a long time - 300 plus years, I think, but can't find information to support that. If the food is always as good as that served to us at Sunday noon, it should be around for a long while yet. Nancy had beef roast, I had venison, both served with the traditional veggies and Yorkshire Pudding. Shown below is the venison roast.

Prior to leaving the Queens Head, we fell into a conversation with another of the patrons. At one point I expressed my surprise that anyone one should purposefully leave such a beautiful setting to strike off for the unknown wilderness of the American west. His reminded me that if my ancestor was the youngest male in the litter, there was no land, no livestock, no apprenticeship, no money, no inheritance of any kind. That was it - Bowman Thompson was the youngest boy, so striking off for America was the best choice he had.

With that questioned answered, we set out to look around Askham. Below are a few images of the village - quaint and charming are overused terms when describing such places, but appropriate nonetheless.

Due to the length of my introduction and Thompson - Hamar posting, the remaining family stories will be kept short this time:

Hackney - Holmes

The Hackney family has left us with a treasure trove of stories, some passed along orally, much in unpublished writings, and even some which has been uncovered in history books.

No Hackney has been more written about than William Patrick Hackney (1842-1926). William was the brother of OJ Hackney (my great-grandfather on my mother's side). Whether all the accounts are true is still a matter of conjecture. We know that he was wounded in the War of Rebellion (Civil War), a frontier lawyer, politician, and an early advocate for a strengthened merchant marine. (Strange, but true for a Kansas legislator)

Relating one of the more intriguing, but unproven anecdotes: William Patrick Hackney once told a
gathered crowd that he was born Patrick William Hackney, but his friend Abraham Lincoln had advised him that William P was a better name for one going into the practice of law, so the name was changed.  We do know for a fact that he was well-acquainted with the Great Emancipator, and that his father Jacob and Mr. Lincoln were on a first-name basis rare in those days - Jake and Abe. As to the name change? Your blogger has no answer for that at present.

You can be sure that you will read more about this character in upcoming posts!

Staker - Morris

The Stakers and Morrises are Nancy's paternal line. Some of the related names in this tree are: Brinker, Br├╝cks, Kuhlmann, Lee, and Minard.

Below is a photo of Maria "Mary" Katherine Brinker Staker, great-grandmother to my wife Nancy.

Mary was born in March of 1855 in Warren County, Missouri, an area favored by German immigrants such as her father, Johannis. On the first of May, 1873, she married Johan Friedrick Kuhlman Staker. For awhile, they lived in St. Louis, where John, as he was now known, worked as a clerk in a dry goods store. Longing for land of his own, John Staker rushed off to join the Oklahoma Territory Land Rush in 1893, running the race in his covered wagon. He settled on land near the present site of Cherokee, Oklahoma, in Alfalfa County. Mary and their ten children would soon join him at their new home, and one more son would be born there in Oklahoma Territory.

Nancy's father, Fred C Staker, writing in his memoirs in 1988, recalled trips to Cherokee every March to celebrate his grandmother's birthday. Although she had learned to speak English quite well, Mary had never learned to read it, so subscribed to one of the German language newspapers common on the frontier.

Glidewell - Hendricks

These are the family lines of Nancy's mother, Edith Glidewell Staker. Some of the names found on this tree: Glidewell, Pope, Williams, Dick, and Hendricks, Foltz, Lightfoot, Lukens.

When I first saw the name Lightfoot, I thought it was a Native American name which would be challenging to research. Much to my surprise, however, I found the Lightfoots to be an old English family. Daniel Lightfoot was the first to emigrate to America, and here, folks, is his story:

Daniel Lightfoot was convicted of theft in London and sentenced to transportation to the Virginia colonies in 1732. The theft was considered a major theft because it involved items taking a multitude of items used by others in their everyday work and trade. He had an accomplice that was sentenced to death which seems very severe but I suspect that these two individuals must have had a lengthy history of violations for one to be sentenced to death and the other to be kicked out of the county. [courtesy of Brian L. Lightfoot].- (Source: Roy Ruppert, York County, Pennsylvania)
Yes, we have have a few stinkers and scoundrels swinging around in our family tree. Everybody does!


Rowell - Miller - McCready, etc

These are the family lines associated with my sons-in-law, who are cousins as well as brothers-in-law to each other. It's an Arkansas thing.

The Rowell line has been traced back to Valentine Rowell, born 1565 in Atherstone, Warwickshire, England. His first son with wife Elizabeth was Thomas "Deacon" Rowell (an actual deacon?). Thomas was the first Rowell to come to America, arriving in Massachusetts in 1638, at a time when those nasty Puritans still ruled the colony with iron fists and iron-clad laws. [More about the real lives of the Puritans in a future blog.] Valentine and Elizabeth Hampton Rowell also had twins, a boy named Francis, and a girl named Frances in 1608. How confusing would that be? (The girl died the following year.)


Your input and suggestions are always welcome.

Frank Thompson, 23 September, 2014