Thursday, June 23, 2011

Clues, Wherever They May Go, I Will Follow

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I found clues hiding in Everett Gaskill’s Civil War pension file.  I love clues.

From that file I learned that Everett had moved from New York to Pennsylvania in 1868 and that he had gotten married in New York.  That seems like such a small bit of information, doesn’t it?

It’s when it was added to the mix of what I already knew that things started percolating.  From other search results, I knew that in 1870, his future wife was living with her parents in New York and I knew they had married in 1871.  But, I hadn’t found Everett in the 1870 census.  Now, with the new information, I figured he was most likely in Emporium, PA in 1870, so I made another stab at a census search.  I found a John Gashill, right age of 25 and right birthplace of New York, living with a Norman Whitmore at the home of Chester Eldred, both of these men also from New York.

That Whitmore name surely was connected to a family history book I had and to a previous bit of census information.  Included in some of my mom’s family records I acquired was the Genealogy of the Whittemore Family and had come across the name Whittemore in the 1860 census when Everett was recorded at a neighbor's home--Whittemore.  I asked my mom about the Whittemores last year when I first looked at the book.  I didn't see any immediate family connection,  She only knew that the families were close and didn’t know of a specific connection.  At one point I thought about putting the book on ebay for some Whittemore researcher to find, but I decided to wait, just in case I found the connection.

After the name popped up in this 1870 connection with a possible Gaskill, I decided to pull out the book to see if I could find Norman and to see where that might lead me.  As I scanned the book, before discovering any Norman, another name under the heading of ISAAC WHITTEMORE BRANCH jumped out at me—Isaac’s wife, Jane Ditmars.  I had a great-great-grandmother by the name of Ellen Ditmars (Everett’s mother-in-law), so I slowed down to read that section.  

It listed Jane and followed with the names of their children.  In the very first of line of the text, it said her mother and father were George and Charity Ditmars.  They were my 3x great-grandparents! Jane was Ellen’s sister.  There followed a brief explanation of George and Charity as aging parents moving to be with one of their children in Michigan.  I had wondered about that during my Ditmars research.

Then came the text of an 1851 letter from George and Charity to Jane.  There was nothing surprising in the letter; just a newsy, family update.  It was just great to rediscover it and recognize it for what it was, happening so soon after my Ditmars exploration.  I’m sure I saw it when I began family research last year.  I just didn’t know who they were at the time.  This book is definitely NOT going to ebay.

After all that excitement, I went back to finding Norman in the book.  And I did.  He was the above-mentioned Isaac Whittemore’s nephew, just a few years older than Everett.  There was even a note mentioning that Norman had moved to Emporium, PA.  Interestingly, Norman had a half-sister and also a wife by the name of Perna, and much later, Everett named a daughter Perna—my grandmother.  In reviewing the 1860 census again, I noted Norman Whitmore lived six houses from where Everett Gaskill’s family lived.  And on that the day of the census I finally realized Everett was actually at Norman’s brother’s house, halfway between Everett's home and Norman's.

I’m not sure I’ll ever have proof that the John Gashill in the 1870 census was actually Everett Gaskill.  But I am comfortable agreeing with my mom that the families were “close”, even though Norman and Everett had no blood relationship.  The connection was that they were both nephews of Jane Ditmars Whittemore--Everett was the son of her sister and Norman was the son of her brother-in-law.  I don’t know where that falls on a relationship chart and, in the end, I’m not sure it matters.

I do find myself wondering if Norman might have sent this postcard to Everett.

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