Tag: washington county pa

Historical Imaging 2



This follow-up post presents the historical imaging I’ve done focused on maps and location. Actually, I’d say that it’s most correct to say that this is imagery driven not by simply the “location”, but by the agenda of attempting to locate a thing; to impart a sense of how and where the thing in question is located–oriented–to the viewer.

To locate a thing so that it fits with the audience’s world.

Obviously this can’t always work.

It turns out (of course) that usually at least some sort of context is necessary. For images of a place (whether from a map, an aerial photograph or other rendering, crude diagram in the sand…whatever!), for it to mean a ding dang thing, your intended audience much of the time needs to have at least some basic geographical knowledge.

But that said, it’s a very interesting and multi-faceted challenge to try and make an image conveying a sense of place if you consider your audience consisting of people who don’t know…don’t really care. lol

When & Where… & when, again?

  1.  Basic “when & where” map for an individual or familyMD2MA-1
  2. Tighter focus on the “where” (central Massachusetts in this case; a father and son located)
  3. Placing the very specific in the macro
    1. Farmstead of 4x-great-grandad that served as homebase for 3 generationswashcozoom1
    2. City unfamiliar to coast-dwelling typesLOUISVILLE 1 copy2
    3. When the exact part of a foreign place is important (for some reason)Jura copy
    4. Using cool maps cooly. For this one, the only context necessary is that this is the east coast of Ireland, just south of Dublin and that north is to the right.
      Wicklow 3D2 copy
    5. Tighter focus–after you’ve given some context
      1. Tober Townland was directly referenced on the map above, so now  you can zoom in there to see detail. The inset maintains the tether to the broad knowledge base you’re attempting to access.TUBBER1 copy 2
      2. southwestern Wisconsin, a couple miles off the Mississippi River & 5 or 7 miles from Illinois, showcasing an original land grantee whose descendants carried on in the location; 4x-great-grandkids remain in 2017.T DUSTIN LAND copy
      3. Various specific spots within a larger, but still relatively small (and not commonly  nown) location, the Dordogne in southwestern France. In the upper right of this one is Jumilhac, the castle seen in the last post.
      4. one place, Haverhill, Massachusetts and vicinity…

        image2212 copy

        … variations on perspective

        HAVERHILL SALEM copy

      5.  One place in detail: Foley, Minnesota

        FOLEY copy

Foley sits nearly smack dab in the middle of the state, among the flat, flat fields 15 miles east-northeast of the mini urban hub of St. Cloud and the bend over which it presides of the still quite wide Mississippi River. The tiny hamlet FLC LHC FOLEY copyof Foley has given the world doctors, lawyers, Indy 500 participants, lumber, all-night jazz dances in barns once upon a time, and been home to retired farmers, aspiring capitalist fashionistas, former religious zealots & their kids, descendants of royalty and lots and lots of regular people who very well might’ve been born in other countries or been the kids of those who were.

Rockefeller had a gas station here (like 10s of thousands of of other places in these United States); women turned out nearly to a 100% here in 1924 the first occasion they GnG OGG FOLEY copywere permitted to help choose the President. Foley is a stand-in for whatever your little town is, or was. Our Town is the most performed play (or close to it) in America because 100s of millions of us came from our towns like this. “I didn’t, but my mom did”,–we’re all from it together.

These small towns, whose children and grandchildren have flocked and flown out to the gothams and metropolitanias  were in their way, factories of the ever-new, ever-renewing people, of us all–factories of Americans.

The sprawling and ever interconnected suburbs and ex-urbs where so many millions of us now reside and have for some time–they are built by the developers and they are inhabited by the dwellers on the model of the myriad iterations of “Small Town America” like Foley, Minnesota. It was in these places that generations of people learned and were taught how to be Americans. Despite the regional differences that might inculcate one attitude or another toward or about other people, the style of day-to-day interaction and pacing and level of attentiveness to the people around you, it’s all very similar in this small town substrate of our collective sense of ourselves and how and who we are.

It is from this America that in many critical ways we came. And it seems to me worth knowing in order to figure out into what America we are, might, or can decide to be going.


Movements of Some Grandpa’s…Movements of the Nation


Genealogy — family history — is ever but a small rear-view mirror on the collective history that brought us all here, now. Like the small mirrors on the sides of cars, the objects reflected to us through the “mirror” of Fam-tracking may indeed be closer to us (in time and importance, in this case) than they might appear, or seem to be, given their being framed, not only as “the past”, but even more so, as our personal and individual(ized) *family* history. I think most people perceive the pursuit of family history (genealogy) as quite self-absorbed, and it’s perfectly self-evident and not at all shocking why and that they would. But even though it might be admitted that by 15 to 20 generations back, one’s ancestors are entirely no longer merely one’s own, but shared with 100s of millions of others (and thus genealogy skeptics might admit that studying them pretty much equals studying history), because of the characteristic tight focus on individual lives it’s easy to forget that everyone — parents, grandparents and our grandparents’ grandparents — was and in their lives’ doings enacted events, trends, material culture and more that define and describe the history that gets studied and continually rewritten in the halls and annals of academe.

Yes, this 1828 campaign item says: “Protector & Defender of Beauty & Booty”.

And so this post begins a bit of a summary of the movements around America of my surname-sake 3X-grandparents and their kids. They launched from southwestern Pennsylvania in 1830 (two years after Andrew Jackson was elected 7th US President), crept across the Midwest and landed in southwestern Wisconsin 14 years later, (two years before Abe Lincoln was elected to the US House of Representatives). As these two parents’ choices to change life & work venues correlate to A, B & C aspects of widespread goings-on in America, so, too do the subsequent movements of their sons. Two of the five relevant kids left to California at first opportunity, starting in 1851, and the three others all ended up leaving the family’s landing spot in southwestern Wisconsin after making hay for as long as they each could, departing in 1869, 1879 and 1880, to California, Colorado and northern Wisconsin, respectively. (A previous post details the one and only reuniting of those three in Colorado in 1905.)

Again, the facts tracing these isolated individuals turn out to be illustrative of qualitatively and usually comparatively quantitatively similar  facts and characteristics of altogether larger and generally widespread trends. So even though there are perhaps only 500 to 600 or so people alive today descended from this particular guy and his particular wife, (Geo Campbell & Rachel Bilderback) there were about 194,000 other people who moved from some place in America to the same place they did — Wisconsin — at the same time.

I’m a very poor mathematician, and thus no statistician, but going on very rough guesstimates, if we assume about half of those 194 thousand (domestically born) people added to Wisconsin’s Popspopulation from 1830 to 1850 were kids, that’s about 97,000 adults. And dividing that # in half to account (very roughly) for married couples, we come up with about 48,000. (Which turns out to be incredibly close to the actual figure of 44,190 males of voting age and right in 1850 in Wisconsin. What ever accuracy my guesswork held would be a function of my having spent far too many hours with this kind of material over the years…so that you don’t have to! lol )

So even though only 500 to 600 or so people are descended from the man and woman in question, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 million living Americans are descended from the people who were doing the same thing in the same place at the same time. And since it also turns out that this story correlates to the populations of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois at least, we’re talking about the lives of more like 215,000 people back then that share general reflection with these particular gr-gr-gr-grandparents of mine.

In other words, their story is relevant to roughly 107 million living Americans, or about a third of our country.

So   just    *listen*! 😉

It’s the story, after all, of how we got here, now, all of us. Cuz even those also here, now, who come from people who came here later and/or differently, they arrived in to circumstances resulting from what was engendered in America by the grandkids etc of the people I’m talking about. We are all connected.

Ok, the historico-demographic rant is over, now on to the meat!

George and Rachel, as reflected in previous posts, are a pet project within my wider and general genealogical interest. They’re the source of my last name, they’re the 1st ones I sorta knew about, so I feel some weird, semi-arbitrary affinity for them and their goings-on.

We don’t know the details yet of George’s origins. But a meticulously kept and copied “family record” consistently shows him having been born just after xmas, 1800 in Pennsylvania. A bio of one of his sons in one of those late-19th century county boosterism books relates that George’s dad immigrated from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and this is corroborated in a hand-written note from another of George’s sons.

We know more about his wife. In the same “family record”, Rachel’s related to have been born in mid November WashCoZoom1in 1812 in Washington County, Pennsylvania. And indeed there’s a lovely record of her dad getting a 250 acre plot there in 1809. They appear to have married on Aug 16, 1829, and about 10 months later become parents to a baby boy in the same location. And indeed, the 1830 census shows them living as the next family after Rachel’s dad, Thomas Bilderback (and after whom that 1st baby boy was named). I think it’s safe to assume that they were on his property. And this assumption comes after having had the chance to briefly visit the area, and w/ the later help (admittedly) of GoogleEarth, to note that there are only a certain number of places anyone can have a house or farm, cuz the area is really hilly and wooded.

The next kid’s born Feb 2, 1833 only about 10 miles away, but we haven’t isolated the location in or near GC Ind Land loc-1Wellsville, Ohio, yet.

However, thanks to the availability of records from the General Land Office, we GC Ind Land loc-CUhave (I believe) accurately located their next homestead in Indiana where their next two sons were born, George P.B. and Columbus (1835 & 1838).

A Bicentennial for Gramma!

(Great-Great-Great-Gramma, that is)

The usually scheduled post for this time of year (click these words for Veteran’s Day) has been pre-empted by the following regarding Monday’s date.

It just so happens that yesterday, Nov 12, 2012 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of my gr-gr-gr-grandmothers, a lady named Rachel Bilderback Campbell. The picture up top is of a farm home that is pretty much smack dab in the middle of the property owned 200 years ago by her father, Thomas Bilderback. It’s conceivable that it’s the same location as the family home back then, but even if that’s not the case, the picture above is within the bounds of the property where she was born in southwestern Pennsylvania in 1812.

Her dad had been born somewhat close by around 1764, perhaps 30 or so miles south of this spot. By 1800, however, he appears with his family in the census at what we can presume safely to be this location. (He secured the patent for the property in 1806 from the General Land Office.) And on that spot he remained until he passed away at the end of 1831.

He’s buried less than half a mile from that land, just a couple of ridges to the east.

But — almost symbolically — it was due west from this spot that his daughter, Rachel would travel…accompanied, of course, by America, right? Indeed, since she and her husband, some neighbors, cousins on both her parents’ sides and even her maternal grandmother all embodied the very growth of this new nation to be summarized, lionized and otherwise collectivelly classified by later historians.

Two years before her father Thomas died, and about two-&-a-half months before her 17th birthday Rachel had married a 28-year-old local boy, son of Scots-Irish immigrants, named George Campbell. She successfully bore a baby boy the next summer — June 11, 1830 — who was duly named Thomas Bilderback Campbell. And after her dad’s passing at the end of 1831 it seems like the nascent family made its home base some 10 miles away on the Ohio side of the river so named, for it was there, when their baby Thomas B. was just past two-&-a-half years old, and Rachel was 20, that she bore their second boy, John Alexander Campbell (Alexander being George’s dad’s name).

Since their third boy — and great-great-grandad to me and many others — was born in northern Indiana in July, 1835, I think it’s somewhat logical to imagine that they must have departed from their native home  in 1834; point being: to get an accurate picture of the situation, what we need to imagine is being a 21-year-old girl with a year-old baby and a 3-year-old, being in a wagon for some weeks. Now she was hardly alone in this. George Campbell was following work, and from a range of sources including census records, land patents, and legal documents we know that they were with a veritable community of cousins and cohorts from the area where they’d grown up that were moving right along with them together. (In fact, one of Thomas B. Campbell’s sons bore the middle name “Causland”, which was a remembered version of the last name of Thomas Bilderback’s neighbor, George McCausland.)

George, who from sources we know plied the trade of millwright, seems also to have been a bit of a civil engineer — which means he must have been tossing up lumber mills to facilitate the clear-cutting required by the construction of roads, canals and towns across the Midwest, and that he almost certainly contributed a hand and/or a plan to the actual building of various bridges, roads and canals as necessary. The fact that the family’s land in Indiana was in close proximity to Logansport, Indiana for precisely the duration of bridge and canal building   there, would indicate this rather strongly. As you can see in the map, above, and though I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, since we’re commemmorating her 200th birthday it bears repeating, Rachel was having babies along their slow route westward. Rachel bore a third and fourth son in Indiana, then they moved to southern Illinois where she bore a daughter and another son. They moved in July, 1844 to the spot that would be the end of the line for Rachel and George: just a few miles from the Mississippi River, on its eastern banks, in the extreme southwestern corner of Wisconsin, and two years later Rachel bore their seventh baby, a sixth boy they named William. She was two months shy of her 34th birthday. And I can imagine you know what’s coming next.

Rachel died about two weeks later, on Oct 8, 1846. Their oldest boy, named for her father, remember, was 16 by then. John was 13. George — my ancestor — was 11, Columbus was 8, the girl, Amanda, was 5, and her little brother Henry was 3. And there was a 2-week-old baby boy, as well. The obvious benefit of large families comes to the fore at this point, since the older boys were of immediate value as labor to their dad, and/or to others who would pay them, while the younger kids must have been of some help in caring for the baby. What ever scheme they had only lasted three years, when the mill-building father George Campbell departed this life, Dec 2, 1849, just shy of his own 49th birthday. The then orphaned kids are found 9 months later in the 1850 census in various locations nearby, but clustered to some degree near each other.

But I’m not posting this as a tale of woe. Every one of the 7 kids would make it to adulthood, and 5 of them went on to have kids of their own. Three of those five ended up in California. Thomas, the eldest, landed in Colorado, and through George P.B. remained in Wisconsin, his kids and theirs spread about the nation. Although neither George or Rachel got to see or meet any of their kids’ kids, they were eventualy the grandparents of 43 grandchildren. The last two of those 43 died in 1972 and 1973; one was a daughter of Thomas, the other a son of George P.B., 160 years after their grandmother had been born. To me, that’s wild.

No accounts have surfaced that directly relate anything about this great-great-great-grandmother; no pictures, of course, either. To get any idea of what she or at least her life was like there are various very general resources about, for instance, groups in which she fit, like Pennsylvanian American Protestants, and there are things one might reasonably infer about her from such sources, as well as from what we know of how other similar people responded to the “challenges of daily life” in that period and place. But one should be intellectually honest enough to admit that we can never (most likely) really know much at all about this person.

I think more might be gained by looking at the things, the consequences, the results, the patterns of actions that she left behind. It’s super easy to feel a helluva lot of compassion for this lady — I do — this girl who died when she was 33 years old, after bearing 7 babies while moving house and home via horse, wagon and barge every year or two. And it seems hard to match “33-year-old woman” with “grandma”, much less with “great”-etc-grandma. But such as it is, that 33-year-old lady was our gr-gr-gr-gramma, and there are effects in the world of the people she left behind which make her legacy not a light one. I can’t know what precisely, but something of this woman came down through time to her descendants.

I am one of a group of 7 first cousins descended from Rachel and George; we’re in the 5th generation of their descendants. But there are 213 others in the 5th generation, at least 100 in the 6th generation, similar numbers in the 7th, and most of the 4th generation are still alive, too; 124 of them at last count. (Note, that count is definitely still incomplete, but not far from what’s likely to be the total.)

What ever it is that I’m suggesting can be known of Rachel may not be directly noticeable in the 500 or so living descendants. But I don’t think it’s ridiculous to posit that what she imparted as a mother (above and beyond the obvious genetics), and as a person, could be discerable in the lives of her kids and her 43 grandkids. I never would have had such a thought until recently, and it emerged after I’d collected a large batch of new life stories. I’m referring to the lives I’ve discovered within the last six months of the fellow descendants of hers and George’s as I’d set a course of trying to track down all lines of their descent and have had greater success than I really thought possible. Story after story piled up, and I began to see a pattern.

From the stalwart perserverance of the sickly oldest child of George and Rachel’s oldest child and of her daughter after her, to the care and raising of a grandchild by their youngest (who went on to have kids), there are similar and often identical threads, themes, tropes and stories of triumph in the face of odds that were challenging to the say the least. Can that be isolated as a trait? Can we say that it came from Rachel and not from George, or elsewhere? No, we certainly cannot make such claims. But I think that something of it, something of strength of character in spite of it all, some yearning for something better might be in her legacy.

If nothing else, I’ve recently learned through genetic testing and meeting another person descended from Thomas Bilderback that I inherited a gene from him through his daughter Rachel that confers exceptional resistance to bacterial infection. (And indeed, I almost never get sick; maybe once a year, if that. Thanks, gr-gr-gr-gramma! 🙂

Anyway, the stories of her grandchildren are marvelous and thoroughly American. More next time. For now, I’ll depart with this funny thought that (I hope!) helps to collapse those 200 years and make her life more tangible:

Since my kids (in the 6th generation of Rachel and George’s descendants) are well acquainted with my mom, and since she was well acquainted with her grandpa Campbell, and he was a grandson of R and G, that means my kids know someone who is only seperated by two degrees from someone who was born when James Madison was re-elected for a 2nd term!

Part 2 in a jiffy… plus, here’s a link to a video I made about my cousins’ and my descent from the past, specifically, from Charlemagne et al… Enjoy!

Ode Part 2: A Glimpse of Faces Unseen

My last post featured that excellent shot of the headstone of one of my 64 fourth-great-grandparents, one Mister Thomas Bilderback, who lived and died in the rolling and wooded hills bounded on the east by Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh), and on the west by the due-southerly bit of the Ohio River. He was born just before the American Revolution sparked and would live into the winter of 1831; he would have been about 30 when every grown man in the area seemed to be up in arms (literally) against the new US government in what would be called the Whiskey Rebellion (protesting the government demanding a tax on locally produced whiskey; the protestors tarred and feathered a few tax collectors before the situation subsided.)

Thomas holds a special place in my genealogical journey. When I did the obligatory 7th grade family tree assignment I was referred by my mom to a thin manilla folder containing a decent amount of info on her parents, grandparents, and back to their great-grandparents, ie, back to a few folks who were my great-great-great grandparents. I dutifully recapitulated the info for school but what the school assignment didn’t reveal was that I had also fully been bit by the genealogy bug. I was hooked BIG TIME, and thus began my personal, utterly fulfilling and educational journey. Yadda yadda.

Among those 3rd-gr-grandparents were a couple whose names were George Campbell and Rachel Bilderback. And they were, that personally fateful Sunday-afternoon-before-the-assignment-was-due the “Primae Ancestori”, the unwitting recipients of my family-tree hunting engine. They were the ancestors I identified with, were my vicarious guides into the past of my family that was the past of America, too. This trip (and it surely was – and remains – a total trip!) was given through these two a precise physical location on planet Earth; a place from which to embark.

They were born, he two days after Christmas in 1800, she in mid November twelve years later in a place called Washington County, Pennsylvania.

And where the heck was that????!

It was the 80s. I was in Scottsdale, Arizona. Rand McNally helped me see that this hoary old land of my ancestors was about 15 miles due west of Pittsburgh…which was just as without any experiential referent for me at that time as the someone’s birthplace being handed down as a county.

I jest a little, but at the time the place really did take on some almost             mystical depth of meaning for me. It was, for all intents and purposes, “where it all began”, in the personal epic I was discovering/navigating for myself. I, a Campbell, was born in Washington, District of Columbia, and it seemed somehow fitting and just that my furthest-back Campbell ancestor known right off the bat in the genealogy discovery journey was born in the nice and even year of 1800 in a place also named for the Father of Our   Country.

George Campbell and Rachel Bilderback were my talisman.

That very summer after getting the family tree bug I went to spend a few weeks with my aunt and her family who still lived in DC. She’d paved the genealogy road  before me and not without a full understanding of the solemnity due the occasion opened up her work to me. No single, thin, manilla folder, this.

And the first thing I learned was that… I could barely contain my excitement… there were others. She’d discovered further ancestors and pushed the collective knowledge back another generation or more here and there. And the first name I learned, the first “next generation” ancestor was Rachel’s father, Thomas Bilderback. If George and Rachel were the ones who seduced me into the whole new world, then Thomas was the first “elder”, the Obi Wan, the first handhold that would allow going further back, further into the past, mine, his, and others’. I also learned of my aunt’s source, a fellow traveler, as it were, but hardly the novice I was. (And if Thomas was the abstract “elder” in my mind, then Harry Liggett, a 4th cousin, and forty years my senior, was the real world analog. He’d been researching for some time already, back in 1984, and as one does in this endeavor, had shared much with my aunt. And remember, these were the days way before “online”. Harry and I communicated on some topics directly in due time, and it was he who took the photo of our ancestor Thomas Bilderback’s tombstone that appeared on my previous post. Hi, Harry! 🙂

Fast forward.             

I had my actual DNA analyzed last year. The service (23andme.com) facilitates communication between oneself and other people whose DNA has matches; i.e., people to whom one is related. So one of these people with whom I shared a match, well, the match was a little more than infiniesmal (as many such matches are) and we both noted many of the same names in our backgrounds.

After a little poking around in this person’s family tree (they’d posted on Ancestry.com) I found the link. Lo and behold we were both descended from Thomas Bilderback!

Just like when you finish reading a book or suchlike and all the details about the book, story and author take on more significance by dint of each thing having been given context, so after realizing who our common ancestor was I again examined this newfound relative’s family tree and the picture of her great-great gradnmother immediately jumped out at me.

See, in having been into this for so long I’ve spent untold amounts of time staring into pictures of my ancestors and their relations. Those who know genealogy also, of course, know that we will never see photographs of ancestors who died before the 1840s (roughly) because photography was not invented until then. But almost everyone who was alive since then had their picture taken. So even after the great moment when you verifiably push your family tree further into the past, beyond your great-great-grandparents, you have to live with the fact of never ever seeing those ever-so-slightly-more-distant predecessors. For those immersed in this genealogy thing, we can’t help but wonder “what did they look like?” because it’s the counterpart of “who were they?”

Back to our tale of the Unseen Face.

So my newly-found relative had a picture posted of her great-great-grandma, which caught my eye. The woman in question, named Lacy Jane Miller (nee Campbell, which, no relation, oddly) was first cousins to my great-great-grandpa, a guy by the name of George P.B. Campbell, pictured here:

What caught my attention, however, was Lacy Jane’s resemblence to the older brother (Thomas) and younger sister (Amanda) of my gr-gr-grandpa. Here are all three, together. From left, Thomas B. Campbell and his sister Amanda R. Campbell, and then Lacy:

Again, the two on the left are brother and sister. The woman on the right is their first cousin. (Despite the “Campbell” surname — both fathers bore the last name Campbell but were not closely related — the two on the left along with their brother George, my gr-gr-grandpa, and the woman on the right are related through their mothers, Rachel and Margaret Bilderback, daughters of Thomas Bilderback.)

The resemblence is, at least to me, huge. And so the immediate implication is that since these three share the shape (if not the setting as well) of their eyes, that can only be through their mothers, who were sisters, and by extension, from the sisters’ parents.

Was it said, within these people’s families, that they looked like grandma or like grandpa? Either way, they inherited those eyes from their Bilderback grandparents. In all likelihood, 200 years ago, either Thomas Bilderback or his wife Margaret Preston Bilderback, was doing their thing, looking very much like one of these three people, their grandchildren. And their unseen (never to be seen) faces bubble up and back to us…to be seen, through the past dimly.


…to one of my 4th-great-grandfathers (of whom there are 32, out of all 64 of the ancestors that happen to be 6 generations preceding me).

A guy named Thomas Bilderback. He was born just before the American Revolution sparked, and lived through to 1831. His dad had been in the wilderness of western Maryland, Pennsylvania and (as it was then) Virginia, and even all the way out to the Mississippi River in the 1760s, and had hailed from the community near Philadelphia of the grandhchildren etc of Swedes who’d attempted to make a go of “New Sweden” near what’s now Philadelphia. This Ephraim Bilderback was also an eighth Indian (one of his four great-grandmothers was the daughter of a Lenee-Lappe chief). Which makes his son and the subject of today, Thomas Bilderback a sixteenth Native American. Fascinating.

The impetus for posting this picture of the sole remaining physical artifact of his life known to me is my recent discovery of a 4th cousin and our being related through this particular person. What’s more, and I’ll explain in the next post in more detail, is that this was learned through genetic testing…and what’s more, when I looked up the actual, precise genes this cousin and I share, they turn out to be genes that have what I call “tangible” expression; ie, not just genes for excruciatingly specific and mystifying functions on such a small scale that you can’t notice or care about it, but top-level, big stuff. And these neato nifty traits I’m referring to came down from the guy buried in the ground in front of that very tombstone! Fantastic!

Details and more in Part 2 and in Part 3.