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

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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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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