Search This Blog

Follow by Email

24 Nov 2013

Old news travels slowly

My secondary title could read: but it arrives eventually.
In the initial rush to document all the new entries of the family tree, we google, we cut, paste, punch the same data into the same search engines in the hope it'll give us different results.  (Er - which it might...)
Only afterwards is there time for us to question the data supplied, to consider the original sources and to turn a jumble of facts into a coherent story.

This particular story takes in a huge number of really quite disparate places.  I shovelled them all onto the tree and never really expected to get an explanation of what was going on.
Bayford, England
Joe Feltham was born at the main street of Bayford, England in 1823.  I'd known that for years, as soon as I'd ventured into the parish of Stoke Trister's baptismal pages.  3 of his sisters I'd resolved but not him, nor the fourth one, Anna.  Plugging his details into familysearch showed him living with Anna, by now married, in Springfield Illinois - rumoured to be home of the Simpsons.  He later leaves Springfield for the Black Hills of Dakota where he dies.  Here's the gravestone, put up by a granddaughter:

So what on earth was Grandma (and Grandpa) Feltham doing in Buffalo Gap in this tufty-grassed cemetery? Surely moving to the Prairie State met their needs, without moving to some actual prairies, a view of Mount Rushmore - and little else.

(And here is the information from GenealogyBank):

I'd been ignoring the Historical Encyclopaedia of Illinois.  Possibly a worthy enterprise.  I have been speculating that these treasure troves of genealogical information may not have served a wider purpose - and this article on American County Histories does refer to these volumes at times as 'mug books'.  You had better stump up the publishing costs as a subscriber if you want your family's flattering biography to make it into print.

I then had to play a game of cat-and-mouse with Google, having decided after all I did want to play with its Books collection.  The rules of snippet view are - if Google has 30 million books, then a whole page of information about your family is definitely way less than a snippet.

We've already seen elsewhere in this article how GenealogyBank's excellent newspaper collection can render up short articles in full with a little neat typing.  Google Books is less predictable.  However, to figure out how Joe Feltham went from pretty Bayford to opportunistic Springfield to windswept Buffalo Gap, we needed to have a go.  Here is our snip.  Initially the snippet view served me up this:
Page 1678

Pretty useful - we're looking only at the right-hand column here.  But we want more!  We plug the left-hand column biography into Google Books search and it kindly spits it all back out again, with the extra few words 'prevented by ill health'.  Great - new text.  Let's search for that inside the book, and hey presto the next episode of the Feltham saga is revealed!
I indeed ended up with the whole page, which is reproduced on Richard W. Feltham's page.  Feltham drove cattle across the plains to Flintstone's Bedrock (Custer County, S.D.) - but his wife missed home.  Though his father by contrast thrived out there in the drier air.  All this is to be found.

The Daily Alaska Dispatch (29 Apr 1915), adds a little more: R. W. Feltham, one of the pioneers of the interior of Alaska, passed through Juneau last night on the Admiral Evans.  Mr. Feltham came to Alaska in 1907, but left a few years ago for the flesh pots of the south.  He is representing the Seattle Grocery company and will return to Juneau in about two months.

We can add that the journey from Seattle to Juneau was a week, and that the steamship Admiral Evans ran aground 3 years later off Juneau with 91 passengers on board (taken to safety).
Admiral Evans steamship (c) State of Alaska
The saga is by no means complete.  Despite the rosy glow portrayed in the paid-for biography of Sangamon County, all was not well.  The eldest daughter had died 1907 from typhoid fever.  Mrs Feltham used her husband's letter from him being frozen in the Klondike 1898, as evidence for desertion and divorced Richard in 1909.  In 1910 as only child of Rebecca Van Deren, Mrs Feltham was entitled to sell her mother's estate.  She had some small private income as a nurse, and two young girls at home.  When she fell ill, Richard (by now in Seattle), received word and returned to Springfield and remarried Mrs Feltham.  The whole family moved to Seattle to run Feltham Groceries on the corner of 700th and 7th Ave NW, and Richard was within easier reach of Alaska.  Many years later Margaret died at Bremerton Hospital across Puget Sound from Seattle, and was sent for burial back in Illinois.  But Richard, to no-one's great surprise, lies at anchorage in Alaska, two years after the cemetery was opened.
Richard Welch Feltham
To find his girls, I searched for all women born in Illinois living west of Puget Sound, finding one, who worked in the Navy Yard at the time of her marriage.  He does leave family, still in the Bremerton area of Washington State.  But they may not know of this relentless travel and betterment and of the pleasant places found along the way.  It's old news, and it's taken awhile to get here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting on my blog! Your comment will be live once moderated. You don't need to log in - just select 'anonymous' from the dropdown menu.