14. Agnes V. Tolle – “The Singing Harpist”

WEEK 29: MUSICAL. The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “Musical.” I thought I would re-blog this post I did last year on Agnes Tolle, the only musician that I am aware of in our family.

Shaking The Tree

This past week, I was enjoying browsing through Newspapers.com and GenealogyBank.com finding old newspaper articles about various ancestors. That is when I stumbled on to this distant cousin, and immediately knew that she would be this week’s post for the 52 Ancestors challenge.

Advertisement from The Springfield Republican, Springfield, MA. March 17, 1946.

Agnes V. Tolle is my 1st cousin, 2xs removed. Her mother, Agnes Donnelly, was a sister to my great, grandmother, Elizabeth Donnelly. Their eldest sister was Mary Ann Donnelly, who was the grandmother of comedienne, Imogene Coca. So, I had always known there was a little bit of showbiz on that branch of the family tree.

She was born on February 1, 1905 in Philadelphia, the daughter of Albert and Agnes (nee Donnelly) Tolle. Agnes began playing the harp at the age of seven.

“Well, my mother decided that I should play the harp, and after all, it’s an…

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It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything about my participation in Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. That is because it has been keeping me so busy, that I have not been able to drag myself away to post an update about my progress. But I wanted to take the time to write gush about how this has been such an eye-opening and re-vitalizing experience this has been for me

First of all, I had realized that I had some of the holes my research and documentation when I started back in 1990. Documents concerning information on my own grandparents are a perfect example. I’m sure my mindset back then was, “Well, I knew Grandmom, I know what dates she was born, I have copies of her death certificate and marriage certificate. All the spaces are filled in on the family group sheet. I can move on.” However, when I looked at Grandmom’s death certificate, and began to ANALYZE the information on there, I discovered something that could potentially baffle any future researchers. I remember that my grandmother died in Virginia, where she was living with my aunt. She was cremated, and my aunt and her uncle drove her ashes up to my hometown in Pennsylvania, so that she could be buried alongside her parents in the family plot. I was there for the memorial service and I also remember visiting the cemetery once and seeing where she was buried. However, her death certificate from Virginia does not indicate any burial for her, since she was cremated. If a future researcher saw this death certificate, they would never know that her ashes were then actually buried in Pennsylvania. So, I knew that I would need to get some documentation to support my firsthand knowledge. So on my to-do list for my next trip to Pennsylvania, will be to stop at the cemetery office for information on her burial, get a photo of her headstone (which I never, ever had) and also stop at the library to get a copy of her obituary, because I had never had a copy of that either.

I had also discovered that there was a discrepancy in the date of birth of my great grandfather. I had always had his birthdate as April 16, 1882, because that was what was stated on his death certificate. However, on a church baptism record that I had found on Ancestry.com, his date of birth was listed as April 25, 1882. However, his baptism took place 2 years after his birth. So, coming to a conclusion as to what his true birthdate is, will need more analysis. And, truth is, I may never find certain proof that one date is the true date over the other.

Screen shot 2015-05-10 at 8.39.16 AMAnalyzing each document is probably the biggest change for me. I use Family Tree Maker as my base for keeping all my data. In addition to properly citing the source within the program, I’ve also learned to utilize the “Notes” feature more within the program to transcribe the information of each source I find. This was a tip that I had picked up from watching a youtube video by Crista Cowan of Ancestry. I cannot begin to tell you how eye-opening that has been. I think I’ve discovered new, little facts that I have not noticed before, for ancestors that I had felt I had all bases covered.

I’ve also decided to take on learning Evernote as a support tool for my research. As I mentioned, I use Family Tree Maker as my primary tool to keep all my family research data in. However, I feel that I also need a research log and correspondence log, just so I can keep track of what I had researched already, and who and where I had written to to get church records, court records, etc. This was something I had actually started doing back when I first started in 1990, however I wrote them on paper log sheets that I had purchased from Ancestry back in the early 90s, before they even had records online. But, I wanted to start keeping online logs, because I felt there wasn’t much room on the paper ones for notes. I tried to utilize the “task list” on Family Tree Maker, but I felt that feature wasn’t working for me like I had wanted it to do.  I was inspired to try Evernote after attending a genealogy conference back in March. I found some templates online, and used those to craft my own. I am so far happy with the results. I also use Evernote to create my research plans.

Screen shot 2015-05-10 at 10.40.48 AMI just want to note that I use Evernote as support, and it is by no means what I use to store my family history. I just use it to keep track of when and where I got my information as well as places I had searched and did not find a single thing. It helps me to not only know to not look at that place again, but also helps me when I cite my sources. I also know that many people are not familiar with computers and learning a new software program is very intimidating. There is nothing wrong with keeping track of such things on paper sheets. There are many sites where you can download those for free. The whole point is that you are keeping track of where and when you are getting your information from. Just do it the way you feel most comfortable doing!

One of the points covered in Thomas’ blog for week 6 is Online Education options. I have been looking into these before this week. There is so much out there and so much material covered. I will typically listen to a podcast or just listen to a youtube video while I’m at work. They’re always easy to stop and back up again if you find yourself interrupted or you just want to listen to one part again. I highly recommend Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems podcast, Ancestry’s Crista Cowan’s Barefoot Genealogist on YouTube, and DearMyrtle on YouTube. In fact, YouTube.com, in general, has a WEALTH of information on there if you do a search for “genealogy.”

I also recommend checking out your local genealogy and/or historical society. Last winter, I had felt like I was in a rut with my research and felt I needed new tactics. I discovered the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society’s website and was pleased to find that they were having a conference in Madison, WI, where I live. I attended in March, and it was definitely worth the time and money. It was exactly what I needed to get out of my rut. Not only do you benefit from great speakers, but you can meet other genealogists and talk to them about methods, strategies and just genealogy in general. In fact, it was there that I had learned about Genealogy Do-Over.

Since then, I had also bought a membership to the society, where they hold free live webinars once a month (last month Thomas was the featured speaker), and members have access to previously held ones. So, my plan is to keep continuing to educate myself on the genealogy proof standard, analyzing evidence and citing my sources through the online sources I had discovered in the past few months, as well as a few new ones that were listed in Week 6’s blog post.

Week 8 – 2015: Jacob Weber (1792-1840, Lehigh County, PA). How his good deeds were rewarded.

This week’s 52 Ancestors theme is “Good Deeds.” I decided to write about my 4th great grandfather, Jacob Weber (or Weaver) and how service to his country triggered a series of good deeds through the generations.

Jacob was born July 31, 1792 to Heinrich Weber and his wife, Magdalena Schmidt in Lynn Township in what is now Lehigh County, PA.

Payroll for Jacob Weaver, private. 71st Regiment, Pennsylvania Militai.

The United States was still a fairly young country, and tensions were still high with Great Britain. America found itself at war once again with Britain in the War of 1812. Jacob was 22 years old when he and other young men living in Lynn Township, decided to help defend their country and headed to Marcus Hook, PA to enlist. On September 17, 1814, Jacob became a private in Captain George Coldovy’s Company of Infantry, 71st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Militia.

However, Jacob’s service was very short and he was discharged 3 months later on December 20, 1814. The war ended 4 days later when the Treaty of Ghent was signed.

Jacob returned home to his father’s farm in Lynn Township. Three years later, he married Susannah Weber on May 26, 1817. Together they had 9 children. My 3rd great grandfather, Solomon, was one of their children.

Jacob died on December 4, 1840. He is assumed to have been buried in the Ebenezer Church Cemetery in New Tripoli, PA. After his death, Susannah moved to Lower Towamensing Township in nearby Carbon County with her son, Jacob. Their son, Solomon, lived nearby in Franklin Township.

Fast forward to present day, when I was starting to learn more about my 3rd great grandfather, Solomon Weaver. I had posted a query on the Carbon County, PA message board. A cousin replied to my query, and exercised his good deed when he shared a wealth of information on not only Solomon, but also about his parents, Jacob and Susannah. Among the gems he shared with me was a scan of a bounty land warrant certificate of 40 acres from the Department of the Interior that was awarded to Susannah as widow to Jacob Weber, who had served in Pennsylvania Regiment during the War of 1812.


Bounty lands were often used since colonial times, to encourage enlistments and reward them for their service (or “good deed”). It appeared that Susannah had decided to file a claim under the Bounty Land Act of 1850, which extended bounty lands to men who had enlisted and served in the War of 1812 on June 12, 1852. Forty acres was the awarded to anyone who served from 1 to 3 months. The certificate that my cousin had said that Warrant number 83753, was awarded to Susannah on March 3, 1853. For whatever reason, Susannah never took advantage of the claim. According to my cousin, she gave the claim to Solomon, and it was never used.

This information prompted me to email the National Archives to find out more about Jacob’s service during the War of 1812. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email back from an archivist who said he was mailing me a packet of information. The packet included copies of Jacob’s muster roll and payroll documentation, as well as paperwork that was submitted with Susannah’s bounty land application. The archivist wrote a very informative letter about the documents he had sent (for free). He also commented that he also had an ancestor that served in the same regiment as Jacob.

I still have much to learn about Jacob and his branch of my family tree. But thanks to a couple of “good deeds” from a distant cousin and someone who works at the National Archives, I know a little bit more about him.

Week 2 – 2015: Adam Brouwer – Ancestor of a future “king”

So this week’s theme for the 52 Ancestor’s challenge is “King.” Of course, my husband likes to think he’s the king around here, but I don’t think I’ll write about him. Instead, I looked into his family tree, to see if he had any “real” kings to write about.

This led me to go way back to someone I believe to be his 10th great grandfather, Adam Brouwer. He was born around 1620 and I found that he is the subject of many articles and books by other genealogists. However, no one seems to agree on his exact place of birth or heritage. Some believe he was born in Cologne, Germany or Berckoven, Netherlands.

Adam was employed as a soldier for the Dutch West India Company, a chartered company formed by Dutch merchants with the purpose of setting up trading posts in the West Indies. Their ships would hire 40-50 soldiers in order to defend themselves against enemy ships or hijack them. Adam was first sent to Brazil in 1641, then came to America to settle in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (now New York) possibly in 1642.

On March 21, 1645, Adam married Magdalena Verdon. The marriage was recorded in the records of the Reformed Dutch Church of New Amsterdam. Adam and his wife relocated to the Dutch settlement of Gowanus (now Brooklyn). He and a partner, Issac de Foreest, built the first grist mill on Long Island. Adam bought out his partner in February of 1661. On May 26, 1664, Adam, along with other residents, petitioned Director-General, Peter Stuyvesant, to dredge a canal so they could get water to supply their mill. The mill remained in the Brouwer family for 3 generations. The mill was destroyed during the very bloody, Battle of Long Island during the Revolutionary War.

But where does the “king” fit in? Adam and Magdalena had at least 14 children. My husband is a descendent through their daughter Fytie Brouwer (born in 1656). Another one of Adam’s daughters, Sarah, had a descendent who was born on July 14, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska as Leslie Lynch King, Jr. He eventually changed his name to Gerald R. Ford and became the 38th President of the United States.

I know, it was a stretch to find a connection to a king. However, it motivated me to take a closer look at someone who was just sitting way back in my husband’s family tree.

A little behind

I am a little behind on my 52 Ancestors posts. I’ve had to set aside my “ancestor time” to take care of my little descendant. Two weeks ago, about 5 days before her 21st birthday, my daughter had a mild stroke. This came as a complete surprise to us all. In fact, when she called me to say she “didn’t feel well”, I thought perhaps she just slept on her left side too long, or perhaps she got bit by a spider. I was not expecting her next text from the E.R. to be “The doctor said I had a small stroke.” Thankfully, she lives with a very level-headed and quick-thinking roommate who took her to the E.R. 

She is fine now, and fortunately, there was no damage done. However, an EKG did reveal that she has a small hole in her heart. So, she will have to see a cardiologist and talk about the possibility of getting that repaired. Apparently, about 25% of people have this small hole there since birth. It is something that is supposed to close up as you grow. But for some people, it never does. Some people can go through their entire lives not knowing it’s there. But in other cases, such as my daughter’s, a clot could go through there and cause a stroke. Perhaps it’s a blessing that this happened to her while she is still young and strong. Her body was just giving her a warning.

Things seem to be back to normal for the time being. So tomorrow, I will go back to posting about my (and hers) ancestors.