Sunday, June 4, 2017

From Rome to Cherokee

This is the continuation of the story of how my great great Grandfather, Robert Winslow Ellis, traveled with his family from Rome, Maine to Cherokee, Iowa in the late 1860s. They were introduced in the last post

After finding that the Ellis family had moved from Maine to Iowa, I had a question: Who did they travel with? After all, this was a journey of at least 1400 miles, and that estimate is the direct mileage now via I-90 West. The journey was no doubt much, much longer in the 1860s, before the advent of paved roads and bridges, etc. 

So, we have the Robert W. Ellis family consisting of: 
Robert, the father, age 50; and Eleanor, the mother, age 48
Helen, age 15
Henry, age 12
Cora Bell, age 8
Ellsworth, age 6
Robert, age 2

Looking at the 1870 U.S. Federal Census again, we find that in Cherokee County they are living right next door to three families that were related to them, and who had all lived in Rome, Maine previously.

Living in Dwelling #26, we find Eleanor's brother, Joseph Rankins, Jr., together with his wife Abby and daughters Adella and Lula. Next door in Dwelling #27, are Eleanor's father and mother, Joseph and Joanna Rankins, who are living with Eleanor's sister, Lydia, her husband, Obed Wells, and their child, Zula.*

Note (added 6 May 2017): I just discovered that Eleanor had another older sister, Mary Carroll Rankins, who married Isaac Whitehouse and apparently also made the journey to Iowa with the rest of the family members. Mary and Isaac were accompanied by their sons, who were listed in their household in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census as Eldward (Eldorous), age 17; Joseph, age 11; and Samuel, age 22. Their oldest son, Julius, must have made the trip also. By the time of the census, he was married and in a household of his own. His marriage took place in Iowa on 12 Aug 1869, which may indicate that the family had traveled to Iowa sometime earlier than that date. 

Yet another Rankins sister, Adah, her husband, John Burgess, and their two children also made the trip. Neighbors Bickford and Whitehouse families, also intermarried with the Rankins, went to Cherokee at the same time. The group is growing!

We can assume that they all made the journey together. It gives me a real feeling of kinship to discover that Robert's family of seven wanted to travel with more family members. When heading off to a strange and possibly wild place, it seems like a very good idea to travel in larger numbers, and that's what they did.

Next post: How they traveled all those miles

*Off-topic note: Lydia and Obed's child, Zula, is shown as being three months old, the same age as Lula in the Joseph Rankins, Jr. household. Were they twins? I suppose it's possible, though Lula was later referred to as Emma L. Rankins, always giving her parents as Joseph and Abby, and Zula always gave her parents as Obed and Lydia.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

My Father's Ancestors: The Midwest Connection

When I asked my mother in the late 1950s about my father's family, she wrote out a sheet that explained what little she knew about them. There was an "Ellice" in Maine, and there was my father's grandmother, "Ellen" whose maiden name was unknown.

And there was a note about a midwest connection, which I always thought referred to my paternal grandfather, Albert Harris. As it turns out, it may well have referred to the family of my paternal grandmother, Eva Ellis Harris.

There wasn't a lot to go on, but my mother's information was the springboard for my research on my father's family. I eventually found my great grandfather Oscar J. Ellis (see Finding Oscar, which appears elsewhere on this blog).

Oscar's father, my great great grandfather, Robert Winslow Ellis (1821-1876), was born in Maine and married a Maine girl, Eleanor Ruth Rankins (1822-1914). Their ten children were all born in Maine, but some time after the birth of the youngest, Robert C., in Dec. 1867, they moved to Cherokee County, Iowa, where they appeared in the 1870 U.S. Census on June 8: Robert, Eleanor, and their five youngest children, Helen, Henry, Cora Bell, Ellsworth, and Robert. (See Robert and Eleanor's family chart in the Notes at the end of this post for clarification of who is who).

1870 U.S. Federal Census, Willow Township, Cherokee County, Iowa

Of their five oldest children, two--Isaac and Anna--had died young in Maine. Thomas R. (1848-1910) apparently stayed in Maine. My great grandfather, Oscar J. Ellis (1852-1907) and his brother Edward (1841-1916) went from Maine to Rhode Island to Massachusetts. Oscar's daughter was Eva Ellis Harris, the mother of my own father, Daniel Harris, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1907.

With Robert Winslow Ellis, I now had a midwest connection for my father's family! Of course, in family history research the answer to one question just generates even more questions. How did exactly the Ellis family get to Cherokee from Rome, Maine? Which route did they take? What means of transportation were available? Did they travel alone, or did others make the journey from Maine with them? And what did they find when they arrived at their new home?

Next time: How they got from Rome to Cherokee


1. How Robert is connected to me:

Robert Winslow Ellis (1821 - 1876)
2nd great-grandfather

Oscar J. Ellis (1852 - 1907)
son of Robert Winslow Ellis

Eva Josephine Ellis (1888 - 1943)
daughter of Oscar J. Ellis

Daniel Lawrence Harris (1907 - 1972)
son of Eva Josephine Ellis

Clair Marie Harris
That's me, the daughter of Daniel Lawrence Harris

2. Robert and Eleanor's family: