Surname Saturday - Anderson

I thought I'd use the most common surname in my family tree for my first Surname Saturday post.

Anderson is (somewhat obviously) a patronym meaning "son of Anders," used in Scandinavia. According to the Census Bureau, it was the 12th most common surname in America in 2000. My Anderson line in America begins with Gustav (or Gustof, or Gustain) Anderson, born in Sweden in 1825. According to family lore, Gustav was a sailor who left Sweden and settled in Australia. It was there he met his future wife Catherine Skehan, who had left Ireland to work as a maid. At some point they left Australia, probably for Ireland first, but eventually settled in Iowa. They bought farmland there with Australian gold. As of the 1860 Census, they were living in Lincoln Township, Page County, Iowa. Gustav and Catherine had six children: Thomas, Agnes, Herman, Albert, James Henry, and Celia. Though I've never been there, my branch would see three more generations of Andersons were born in Iowa after Gustav.

Above is a picture of Gustav Anderson and family. It is a photocopy that belonged to my grandparents. They corresponded with many relatives, and I'm guessing that's where they received this. I would love to see the original.

Gillian Anderson
Actor Gillian Anderson, credit Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.
Ian Anderson
Rock Idol Ian Anderson, Wikimedia Commons
PT Anderson
Auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, Wikimedia Commons


Sorry for the long absence. I hope to post more frequently in the near future.

For now, I thought I'd share this interesting list from the Guardian of 10 literary works about ancestors. I've occasionally thought it would be fun to one day write historical fiction (or creative non-fiction) centered on one of my ancestors - similar to the excellent book The Wettest County in the World.


Family Tree

A new show on HBO combines two of my favorite things: Christopher Guest mockumentary humor and genealogy.

Here, Chris O'Dowd's character finds out a little about his great-grandfather.


Demographic Collapse, or Why We're All Related

There's an interesting article I found via the browser that discusses recent research on demographic collapse. It makes the case that everyone currently living shares an ancestor 2,000-3,000 years ago. Moreover:

It doesn’t get any less weird when you look at it from the other angle: While you more than likely have four distinct grandparents and eight distinct great-grandparents, past a certain number of generations back, your number of ancestors stops growing exponentially, because they start being the same people. By the time a couple who married in 1450 in Holland, has had a few hundred descendants over the span of several generations, those people are distantly related enough that some of them start marrying (and, yes, reproducing with) each other.

I have found one instance of third cousins marrying in my family tree.


Technology, Census Records, and the Kindness of Strangers

Here's a confession I have: I don't think I would be interested in genealogy if not for technology.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy libraries, but I've yet to actually use them for any genealogy research. The thought of spending hours looking through microfilm or making special trips to courthouses and the National Archives does not appeal to me, and I applaud my literal and figurative forebears who did such work. Fortunately, there are now plenty of online options for a young and casual researcher like me to get started.

The drawback is that it becomes doubly frustrating when you "hit the wall" - when you have a relative who should be in a particular place in a given year but Ancestry.com or Familysearch are just not turning up any results. One example of this is my 2xGreat Grandmother Sarah Margaret (Maggie?) Medley (née Corfee). I knew from her obituary that she was born in Leon, WV and eventually lived in Morgan County, OH. But I had not found her or her family in any Census results, and, since this was the "shortest" branch of my tree so far, I was eager to learn more.

The Times Recorder, Zanesville, OH

Then one day, I unexpectedly received a message on Ancestry.com. Another user had been searching for someone else, came upon a Census page that was not accurately transcribed, searched for the listed people and found that one of them was my relative. She sent me the page in question - and there they were: Joseph and Sarah M. Corfee in Mason County, WV; farmer and housekeeper in 1880. I quickly responded with many thanks - and this person went further and found the Corfees in the 1870 Census as well! It seems the Corfees moved from PA to WV around 1860, with Joseph possibly being born in Germany.

Excerpt from 1880 US Census, via ancestry.com.

Despite these discoveries, I have yet to learn about Joseph and Sarah's respective parents. But I'll explore that more in the future. For now, I'll reiterate that technology is great, but the combination of technology and people is truly amazing. Thanks, curlygirl_3d.


Hello World, hallo Welt, Hej Världen, Dia duit ar domhan

Hello, and welcome to my blog. I've been casually researching my genealogy for several months, and decided to start this site where I can organize my research, share my findings, and (hopefully) connect with others.
1854 Ohio Railroad Map, Library of Congress

From what I've gathered, most of my family has roots in America going back to at least the early 19th century and, in some cases, the colonial era. Specifically, I have lots of ties to Ohio, with other branches in Tennessee, Iowa, and elsewhere. While this makes me jealous at times of others with more recent immigrant ancestors and their many cultural traditions, having a sense of personal connection to the different times and places in this county is very rewarding. I hope to learn more about my family tree not only to better know myself, but also history in general.

Surnames of interest: Albright, Anderson, Barnes, Bibler, Corfee, Cutter, Hartman, Irick, James, Keys, Medley, Moore, Parrish, Shaeffer, Shaw, and Stratton.

Thanks for stopping by.