Home > Circus of Life, Family, Genealogy > Genealogy – the plot thickens

Genealogy – the plot thickens

In researching this family mystery of mine, I was able to get help from a woman who has done genealogy for the past 26 years, and helps out “newbies” as a hobby.

She and I spoke on the phone, in addition to emailing each other. She was able to pull up some records that I hadn’t been able to find, and she taught me some tricks and tips to searching on Ancestry.com, which was very helpful.

She said that, since slavery had been abolished in 1865, at the end of the Civil War,  it was unlikely that my G-Grandfather, Frank HOLSTON (b.1880), or his siblings were sold into slavery in the 1880’s. However, she did acknowledge that, even though it was illegal, it still may have happened. She also has another theory: that since my G-G-Grandfather, James J HOLSTON (b.1814) died sometime after his son David HOLSTON was born (1883), and before the 1900 census (the 1890 census burned and was about 99% destroyed), and that my G-G-Grandmother Elizabeth L SCOTT-Holston (b.1843) was working as a laundress, that she may not have been able to financially support the children since she was listed as “widowed”, so she may have sent them off to live with families that could afford to care for them. That may be what was meant by the statement “David was sent to live with a well-to-do family and was educated”, that my father remembers his mother telling him.

My dad was telling me, that in the early 1980’s, he and my Aunt went to a Pow-wow in NJ, and he spoke with an elderly Indian (Nanticoke?) there (whom dad said was at least in his 80’s), who said that the Delaware Indians weren’t officially acknowledged because they were “unsavory people” because they sold their children into slavery. So, there has to be something more to this story … I mean, what are the odds of my dad hearing that story growing up, AND an elder relating much the same story to him many years later?

Dad and I were thinking of making a trip to Dover Delaware, to see if there are state archives, or newspaper archives, or anyone familiar with the history of the Delaware Indians. But I want to have a LOT more info before we make the 3+hour trip, so that I can do a thorough search through any records once we get there.

To add to the mystery, my G-G-Grandfather James J HOLSTON was listed as being born in Delaware on several censuses. However, he’s listed as being born in Maine, on the birth certificate for my G-Grandfather Frank HOLSTON. Also, Frank’s BC states that Elizabeth L SCOTT was born in Scotland, yet on one census, it says she was born in Sweden. I think that, since Frank didn’t get his official birth certificate until he probably applied for something that required it (Social Security, maybe), and that David signed as a “witness” on it, that things may have been written on it that weren’t accurate, and only sparsely remembered by the time they were old men. That may account for the Scotland/Sweden mystery. There are so many inconsistencies, but I’m determined to make sense of it all.

I’m hoping that we can find the birth certificates or death certificates for Frank and his siblings. I would assume we could get a copy of them from Delaware. That might help narrow things down, since there would be more information about their parents.

And, as if this wasn’t enough of a thickening plot, I also found out that my G-G-Grandfather James J HOLSTON was married 2 (maybe 3) times, and that his final wife, my G-G-Grandmother Elizabeth L SCOTT-Holston, was the housekeeper/servant of James and his previous wife! Wow! How does that happen?!

  1. Jenny
    April 22, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    All those little mysteries are what make genealogy so fascinating. A couple of things to keep in mind – the census takers did not always have completely legible handwriting, and they were not always able to completely understand the accents of the people they were recording. Were you able to see the original, handwritten census? Sweden and Scotland COULD possibly be a mixup of horrible handwriting, or whoever transcribed it may have just misread the words. I have a couple of cases where the family name is misspelled and/or Americanized, and where even first names were obviously written down as they were heard, not as they were spelled. And one family apparently moved during the summer months and appeared on two censuses that year. Same family, all the info correct, but must have moved a couple of counties over. Kind of confusing.

    Another thing to remember – not all immigrants were proud of their heritage. I’ve heard stories about a gg grandmother who did not want to be associated with ‘the old country’. This family listed their place of origin differently on two censuses, I don’t know if they thought one country sounded better than the other ??? It is definitely the same family – same names, same address, just listed a different country of origin. Perhaps they originally lived in one, then the second for a short while before coming over?

    I think it was probably pretty common for kids to be raised by different families. My grandmother was taken in by her aunt and uncle after her mother died, although her brother remained with their father. Guessing he thought a girl needed a mother more? And HER mother had a couple of siblings farmed out to different relatives after their mother committed suicide. Kids were seen as useful little workers back then – another g grandmother was farmed out at 12 and returned home with an illegitimate baby a couple of years later. Apparently when she was able to hide the pregnancy until she gave birth, then the older couple she was living with no longer needed her help. 😦 I think they may have even still used the old ‘indentured servant’ type of thing, where they would raise the child in exchange for the labor they could get out of them.

    Lots of little (and big scandals) in my family tree that make the people seem more interesting and real. Reading of your findings, I think I should go check in with my tree again. You’ve intrigued me. 🙂

    • April 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      Oh boy do I know about the enumerators horrible handwriting! Yikes, some of it has been beyond atrocious! LOL However, on the census and birth certificate that has the Sweden/Scotland discrepancy, the handwriting was near perfect. That’s what makes it so perplexing.

      I’ve also seen the spelling mix-ups with the name HOLSTON. Some have spelled it Holsten, some Halsten or Halston. But all the other info matches up, as far as children and dates, etc.

      That’s pretty much the theory I’m working on now, that the kids were farmed out, used as indentured servants, and that’s how the “slavery” story took hold. Especially since the one brother, David, went to a rich family who didn’t use him as a servant, but instead had him educated.

      I’m still surprised at how much info I’ve been able to find in such a short time.

  2. April 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Dear Shelli, My wife is researching many of the same things about our families. We know where are grand parents were born and much about have the got to the United States. One of the things that I do know is that my last name is not real. The story that my father told me was that when my grandparents got to New York they didn’t speak any English and the people the did their papers didn’t speak Russian so they agreed on a name. My sister and I don’t even pronounce them in the same manner.

    I do think that finding out about our past, tells us about our future. I do know that much of who I am comes directly from my parents by way of my grandparents. Peace, howie

    • April 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      Howie, I don’t seem to have come across anything like you’ve experienced in your family. At least not yet. The surname SCOTT would be pretty difficult to get screwed up, I’d think.

      “I do know that much of who I am comes directly from my parents by way of my grandparents.”

      That’s what I’m thinking, too, and why I think I’ve become so interested in researching my family history.

  3. TJ Wellman
    May 29, 2011 at 2:35 am

    Dear Shelli,
    I think we might be related. I’m the great-grandson of Frank Holston via his daughter Frances’ daughter Eileen. I was raised with many of the same stories told by my grandmother and mother – sometimes confusingly mixed – about Frank’s childhood (my mom has a cookbook owned by his wife containing Frank’s practice signatures as he was learning to sign his name). If you’d like, please email me, as I’m also very interested in tracing out how this story fits together.
    TJ Wellman

    • May 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      Wow TJ! I will definitely be emailing you! That is so awesome! I have some pictures of Frank that I’d be happy to share with you. They came from another relative, who’s been helping me trace this history. And for the record, I remember Frances … we spent some time with her in Florida back when I was a teenager. For whatever reason, I will never forget the “Teddy Ruxpin” doll that she used to have, and that my younger siblings wore out the batteries on that thing. 😀

  4. June 16, 2011 at 7:15 am

    With the help of a single relative in my family I am beginning to piece together some of my family’s history. Currently looking forward to getting in the mail from her some stuff on my G-Grandfather and his brothers in the Civi War.

    • June 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm

      That’s great news, Temy! Can this family member help with your mother’s whereabouts?

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