Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Another Family

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Giddy with excitement over discovering my 2nd-great-grandfather Stephen once lived in the same area as we do now, my immediate focus narrowed to primarily his family during those years. After additionally coming upon the land records of a William Hays –of whom I had no previous knowledge– I decided to revisit the Pierce County census records for 1880 to see if I could find an entry for this man who had purchased multiple plots of land.

That search resulted in two surprises. First, that I came up empty on any additional Hays families in the 1880 census for this county. It’s certainly possible that the William Hays family was no longer here by the end of the decade when the counting occurred.

It’s frustrating for the puzzle builder in me. I end up searching for pieces that don’t exist. Genealogy is so much more complicated than jigsaw puzzling.

Minnie Church, date unknown.

The excitement that resulted from my second surprise made up for the lack of evidence I was hoping might clarify the mysterious William Hays. In the very same 1880 census where I found my 2nd-great-grandfather –just five “structures” away from him on the list– I came upon the family of my great-grandmother Minnie Church.

If you can keep track of this, Stephen’s oldest son, my great-grandfather John W. Hays, married Minnie Church in Minneapolis in 1888. Minnie’s family lived in Pierce County, Wisconsin!

Now I need to go back to the courthouse to investigate land records for her father, Charles F. Church, to see if that might clarify a question of whether they were actually near “Esdaile” or “El Paso” at the time of the census.

Although, at this point, the significance of the actual locations is fading for me.

Cyndie and I decided not to bother going for that drive yesterday to explore the area where we think Stephen’s property was located because I figured out I have already been riding my bike past there for years. It’s near 450th Street as it descends into the Rush River valley on the way to Vino in the Valley restaurant.

The surprise of discovering two different families of my ancestors have lived in Pierce County has imbued a sense of belonging that I find comforting. At the same time, it also complicates recent contemplations about the possibilities of putting this land up for sale and moving somewhere else.

My inclination continues to lean significantly toward living here. I’ve got roots!

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Written by johnwhays

February 9, 2020 at 10:53 am

Unclear Results

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Today I am consumed with a different kind of puzzling challenge in the form of filling in details of my ancestry, and unlike my jigsaw puzzles, I don’t have all the pieces. Yesterday, Cyndie and I did enjoy some success in our visit to the Register of Deeds office in the Pierce County courthouse in Ellsworth.

In a search to learn where my 2nd-great-grandfather, Stephen W. Hays may have lived in Pierce County around 1880, we scoured the records of land Grantees starting in the time we believe he arrived here from Red Wing.

The first ember of hope sparked when I came upon a record of a William Hays buying an unspecified acreage. Soon after that, another entry for William buying 20 acres. Then another for 40 more acres. As I was marveling over this to Cyndie and the clerk assisting us in our search, my eyes noticed the very next line on the page was for Stephen W. Hays!

Of course, this gives a strong impression that there might be a connection between these two individuals with the same less-commonly spelled surname.

While the records for William indicate he had purchased over 60 acres by that point, the details for Stephen were a little less impressive.

To find the deed, we followed the trail from the Grantees book to two other large books, finally reaching the goal of the hard to decipher legal description of the land in classic period handwritten script.

Commencing at a stake in the line on the North West side of the Highway from which a stake set in the quarter line twelve chains Twenty three links South of quarter past in North line of Section Thirty (30) in Township No. TwentySix (26) of Range No. Sixteen (16)West, bears north fortyeight degrees East (41) chains Thirteen (13) links, hence South forty eight degrees West four chains and fifty links to the centre of the highway, Thence North SixtyEight & one half (68 1/2) Degrees West three chains and forty five links to a stake set in the centre of the highway, Thence North fortyeight degrees east four chains and three links to a post, Thence South fortytwo degrees east three chains and eight links to the place of beginning. Containing one acre be the same more or less. (Magnetic variation Eight degrees East)

This is all well and good, but the census information we were working from placed him in Esdaile and the description for this property happens to be in El Paso, WI, about 17 miles to the north and east.

Stephen purchased that whopping one-acre plot for five dollars.

Now, there were seven years between the deed and the census, so the difference of location is certainly possible, but we weren’t able to find any other record of land transactions with Hays names on them for the years we believe Stephen and family lived in Pierce County. Maybe they rented a place toward the end of their stay here.

In fact, we couldn’t even find evidence Stephen sold his one acre. Eventually, years after he had moved the family to South Dakota, someone bought that one-acre parcel from the county for less than a dollar.

We plan to take a drive to see the land in El Paso, wondering if we will even be able to identify it by that complex old legal description of chains and links. If it mattered that much to me, I’d have this converted to GPS coordinates, but it doesn’t. I’ve already received the rush of simply knowing one of my ancestors roamed the local hills where we have come to reside.

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Surprisingly Close

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It didn’t take me long to find the 1880 US census record for my 2nd-great-grandfather, Stephen W. Hays in Pierce County. In an almost comical confirmation of the unreliability of name spellings when doing research, the record I found was listed for “Stiven” Hays. I’m not clear whether that was attributable to an initial misspelling, the handwriting of the actual census recorder, or the loose interpretation by the subsequent person(s) scanning and labeling the originals into digital form.

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The Hays family of Stephen and Judith and two of their sons are counted on the pages for Esdaile, Wisconsin. I was stunned to find this previously-unknown-to-me community is on the equivalence of 650th Street just about 13 miles south of our current home. Our driveway is also on 650th Street, which is an amazing bit of synchronicity and surprisingly close, in my opinion.

This opens up the next level of investigation, as I strive to discover just exactly what address they resided at during the thirteen years from 1871 to 1884 that they were in Pierce county, as reported in Stephen’s obituary article.

I don’t have deep knowledge of this period of history, but my intuition senses that relocating as often as the article indicates they did probably wasn’t an insignificant feat. It’s possible that it wasn’t as big a deal for them as I imagine, but I doubt I would be up to that frequency of big moves. At the same time, if it was actually a huge task for them, it begs the question to me of why they moved as often and as far away as they did.

The 1880 Census lists Stephen’s occupation as “Wagon Maker.” A quick review of wagons and wainwrights reveals that the 1880s were a boom time for that mode of horse-drawn transporting of both humans and goods so maybe Stephen was simply following opportunities in his field.

The accompanying portrait of the man evokes more of a Lincoln-esque stature than the shorter, rounder impressions of male Hays faces going back from me to my dad, to his dad, all the way to Stephen’s son, my great-grandfather John W. Hays. Maybe it’s the beard. I couldn’t grow something like that if my life depended on it.

Maybe there was more influence on appearance from the maternal sides of those generations after Stephen.

Cyndie and I hope to take a drive to explore the properties around Esdaile this weekend to see if we stumble on anything that looks over a hundred years old. If I see any antique-looking wagon wheels propped up somewhere, you can bet I’ll start asking questions.

I’ve ordered a historic map from the Pierce County historical society and plan to do some research on land records. As long as we’ve discovered they lived this close, it would mean a lot to me to also learn if they owned property that I could now visit knowing my forefather had once walked that same land, too.

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Written by johnwhays

February 5, 2020 at 7:00 am

Relative Proximity

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I recently received new information on a detail of my family history that adds intrigue to the fact Cyndie and I ended up living in Beldenville, Wisconsin. The pertinent morsel is revealed near the bottom of the first column of my great-great-grandfather, Stephen W. Hays’s (b.1829-d.1910) obituary.

After my great-grandfather, John W. Hays was born in 1860, the family moved from Vankleek Hill, Ontario, to Red Wing, Minnesota. Six years later, they moved to Pierce County, Wisconsin, where they stayed for 13-years before moving again, this time to South Dakota.

Beldenville is located due north of Redwing and is positioned near the center of Pierce County.

I have a new inspiration to see if we can discover where in Pierce County my ancestors once lived.

I’ve also gained a new interest in exploring the possibilities of relocating to the land between Ottawa and Montreal where my most-likely-Irish ancestors owned a farm, in case I finally act on a mostly-idle threat to flee this country’s dreary governance.

In an interesting genealogy note, I’ll point out that the surname, Hays, is misspelled several times with an added “e” in my great-great-grandfather’s obituary, even though the correct spelling also appears farther down. This was a burden for me when I first began my genealogy research because my initial goal was to find out why our name didn’t include the “e” which so many people seem to want to insert.

I struggled to grow comfortable with accepting all varieties of spellings in the quest to identify actual blood relations on the tree. I have come to realize how much more the person matters than the versions of surname spelling.

Based on information gathered from my Y-DNA, the closest connections of Hays matches have a very common origination in the counties of southern Ireland. Although I have a high percentage of English ancestry (a more common origin of the surname Hayes with that “e”), the lineage of my surname points toward Irish, where there is a chance the original moniker may have been “Hay.”

All the more appropriate that we have been growing hay on our Beldenville property, ay?

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Written by johnwhays

February 4, 2020 at 7:00 am

See It?

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Alright, you jigsaw puzzlers… can you see what happened to me here? (You may need to click on the images to get a better view.)

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As I made progress on the lower right corner, it became increasingly obvious that something was wrong. Certain pieces weren’t meshing properly, despite the majority of obviously matched pieces in the immediate vicinity and beyond. I can understand having one piece occasionally placed incorrectly, but this implied there had to be many pieces wrongly placed.

I took the picture on the left with the intent of describing my plight here, but after posting that image, I noticed the obvious open pattern in the upper right corner. Could it be?

I went back and checked.

Yep. Six pieces across on the right, for about three-quarters of the height of the puzzle, needed to move up two positions. The image on the right was taken after I fixed the problem.

This puzzle has a lot of pieces that are cut too similarly in addition to enough repeating patterns of darkness that it has me struggling a bit to ensure I’ve placed them in the correct spot.

Regardless, I continue to enjoy it immensely and was able to use some of my reclaimed blogging time of the previous few days to puzzle, in between tending to all the other responsibilities of the ranch and my day-job while Cyndie is in Florida.

The little break I’ve taken from daily blogging has served me well thus far.

Thanks for bearing with my change to a less predictable posting routine!

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Written by johnwhays

January 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

Slowing Down

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I’m going to try something new. With apologies to those of you who have told me how much you enjoy checking in every morning to read or view my daily “relative somethings,” I have decided to readjust my energies to free up time that I have been holding in reserve every day for over a decade.

I am not going to commit to how this change will play out, other than to announce that I am moving away from my old priority of striving to assure a new post every single day. This isn’t the first time I have considered making this sort of change, so I already have some ideas I may try out going forward.

One possibility I have favored in the past would be to post a single picture. That seems like it wouldn’t take much time. However, I have learned from experience that my picture-taking often goes in spurts and days can pass when I don’t get out with the camera. If I committed to posting a daily picture, I would still be in the mode of reserving some time every day to achieve that.

There are also fewer daily stories to tell about our adventures here since we returned the horses and Wintervale activity has dwindled, so, to spare you repeating versions of ‘me walking Delilah’ or ‘me plowing snow’ (two things that have commanded my time and energy recently), allowing some quiet time between tales will hopefully germinate new content of more intriguing substance.

One can hope.

Of course, one other option I considered was to just cease blogging altogether, but being so “all-or-none” extreme was an older trait of mine that has softened with time. There is no reason I can’t keep this blog space open for use as more of a periodical. Weekly? Monthly?

Who knows?

That sort of mystery is one of the fun aspects of creativity. I will be creative about slowing down my rate of publishing posts.

Before I step away for my initial pause from daily posting, I’ll leave you with two images that made their way onto the SD memory card late yesterday afternoon…

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No critters were harmed in the recording of that adventure (but not for lack of intent).

I’ll be back before long. In the meantime, send your precious love out into the world during the minutes you would have been perusing new Relative Somethings in the days ahead.

Namaste.

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Written by johnwhays

January 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

Pet Fatigue

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Getting up at zero-dark-thirty, driving an hour to work and another hour home upon completing my hours of day-job duties leaves me a little drained for the full-time dog and cat duty that I’m faced with while Cyndie is away. When I walk in the door, Delilah is all fired up to get her pre-dinner jaunt around the property and guard the barn while I check on the chickens in their coop. At that moment, I’d prefer to get off my feet and close my eyes for a spell.

Luckily, the fresh air rejuvenates me and we have a good outing, but back in the house after that excursion and I am even more exhausted than I was when I arrived home the first time.

Cyndie’s been gone almost a week, with a second week left to go before she is scheduled to return, and I’ve been experiencing a contrasting mix of reactions to my return to solo (sort of) living. Having the whole bed to myself is a bit of a luxury that I am enjoying but it comes at the expense of missing another warm body to ward off the chill of cold toes. Stretching out at every possible angle and not feeling like I am bothering anyone is sumptuous, though, I just have to say.

I hate to admit that only half-way through this current assignment of tending to the animals had me wondering yesterday if there might be someone young and adventurous who would love to have a dog like Delilah live with them.

After Delilah repeatedly bothered me for attention the other night, I finally just stopped what I was doing and sat down on the kitchen floor to interact at her level. In no time, I had drooped to completely laying on the floor and she settled on one of her favorite spots under the table.

The thing is, when I get up, she does too. No rest for the weary.

I breathe a little sigh of relief after securing her in the crate that is her den for the night, but the respite is short-lived.

Pequenita recognizes the instant the dog is confined to quarters and happily steps up for her dose of undivided attention. If I am upright, she reaches up and sinks her claws into my pantlegs and if I am reclined, she begins delivering the headbutts.

She is not subtle about asking for a little of her own undivided attention.

I feel like the mother of infants who never gets a break from constantly having a child clinging to them. At least children eventually grow out of that phase.

I dare say, if I end up living alone someday, I have a strong suspicion I would end up choosing to do so without pets, much as I love the ones we have acquired in our years here.

This becomes significantly more obvious to me when Cyndie is away for extended amounts of time. Thinking back, the year she lived in Boston while I stayed home in Eden Prairie, I don’t remember needing to care for any pets. I don’t think I realized how easy I had it at the time.

Although, I wonder what I would end up writing if I didn’t have dog/cat/chicken tales to blather on about anymore.

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Written by johnwhays

January 23, 2020 at 7:00 am