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Articles by Conrad Wilcox - Connie
Submitted by Connie Wilcox with permission for reprinting on the Tri -County Genealogy Sites of Joyce M. Tice
Joyce's Search Tip - November 2008
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By Conrad H. Wilcox

DCGS Publications Committee Chairman

Take Your Pedigree Chart to the Museum

A couple of years ago, I was watching the very fascinating audio-visual display and film of the story of the Chicago Fire at the Chicago Historical Society Museum on Clark Street at North Avenue in Chicago. I felt like I was right there reliving that most dreadful experience of 1871. I suddenly remembered that my wife had a great grandmother, who had immigrated from Sweden and was living in Chicago at the time of the fire. She had rushed out into the waters of Lake Michigan, with her apron over her head, to escape the sparks and flames. I was frustrated that I couldn't remember her name, dates and location and vowed that, in the future, I would take a copy of my pedigree charts with me on all my visits to museums. On arriving home, I checked and found her to be Christine ANDERSON, born in 1851 and married to Claus LARSON from Boros, Sweden. So, on a recent visit to The Museum of Science and Industry at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, I had a copy of my charts nicely tucked under my arm. The first thing that I spotted was a G. E. radio from 1939 that looked just like the one my parents, C. Hildreth and Lina KNAPP WILCOX, had in our home when I was about ten years old, back in Horseheads, NY. As I came to the section that presented the history of transportation, I opened my charts and by checking the dates on my charts as well as those on the displays, I was able to visualize most of my ancestors riding on the various means of transportation right there before my eyes. There before me was an actual Eastern Coach built in 1865 for Vermont roads. I could visualize several of my great great grandparents living in Vermont in the 1800s who could have ridden on that very coach. There was Rev. Nathan S. WHITING and his father Danforth, who lived in Readsboro, Vermont before going to Tioga County, PA. Also, there was Samuel WELCH who married Hannah DOYNE in Royalton, Vermont before migrating to Tioga County, PA. There, riding along as well, was Asa DIKE and his wife Jane EATON, who were born in Vermont before they also ended up in Tioga County, PA. I laughed out loud as I read the sign by the coach, since it said that the passengers paid by the pound. It cost my Vermont ancestors $1.00 per 100 pounds of weight to ride on it, so if one of them was over 200 pounds they had to pay double fare. I felt sorry for my mother's great grandfather, Alfred Metcalf KNAPP, who as a young orphan boy, walked from Springfield, Vermont to Owego, NY. Even though my ancestors, who all originated in early New England or New York, never did journey across the Great Plains to the Far West, it was fun to see the Conestoga Wagon and the Prairie Schooner. Some on my charts likely used similar covered wagons to get their families and belongings to the early frontiers of central and western New York and Pennsylvania. Realizing that by 1800 there were more than 3000 miles of railroads operating in the eastern United States, I could well imagine many of those on the chart boarding for their first trip on an eastern train. Right there before me was the actual engine from Albany, New York, the 999 Empire State Express with an original cost of $13,000. My eyes lit up, since I could see on my charts, that every one of my 16 great great grandparents had at least some connections with New York State before they arrived in Tioga County, Pa, and could have been pulled by that New York engine. Those 16 surnames are WILCOX, WHITE, WHITING, GATES, HARVEY, JEWELL, WELCH, DIKE, KNAPP, MIDDAUGH, HOLDEN, FULLER, CALHOUN, MIDDAUGH (again), DELAMATER and BROWN. Next, I stood in front of the horse drawn "Rock a Way" from 1871, a coupe coach pulled by one or two horses at a whopping six miles per hour. Since it carried four passengers inside with the driver outside, I peeked inside and saw my maternal great grandfather Robert Elnathan KNAPP who was born in Lawrenceville, PA in 1846 but later was an insurance man in New Bedford, MA. Finally, I stood in front of a Model T Ford built in 1914 and there riding in that fancy vehicle were my grandparents, Herrick and Blanche HARVEY WILCOX from the beautiful hills of Sullivan Township, Tioga County, PA. A high point on my museum tour was to see an actual 1884 doctor's office. I looked on my chart and walked into the office with my great grandparents, James and Eliza DELAMATER CALHOUN. And then there was a dentist's office dating from 1899 to 1907. Somehow, I knew that my mother's dad, Fred Fuller KNAPP, went into that office in Lawrenceville, PA in 1907, the year after my mother was born. There he received his first casting gold inlays for his own individual fit. I could see all of the equipment and materials along with the dental chair made in 1882. Nearby was a replica of a 1901 drug store where great grandpa went to get his medicine and ointment. Next, I saw a public pay phone that was installed in 1878. That was the very year that my grandpa, Herrick WILCOX was born in Covington, PA. So, maybe his folks, Fred and Emma WHITING WILCOX, used a phone just like that to get out the great news. The sign said that the call was 5 cents and that the average wage then was 25 cents per day. I was intrigued by the display that depicted how Paul Reuter began the first international news service in 1849 and operated a pigeon post between telegraph lines. I could see on my charts that all eight of my great grandparents were able to realize the benefits of that simple beginning. And I walked by an actual 1804 post office and could clearly see my great grandparents sending their mail from such an office. Since I had so many on my charts that were in colonial Boston, I remember wondering what a post office almost 200 years earlier would have looked like and then I saw it. There it was, a replica of the very first post office in the home of Richard Fairbanks in Boston in the 1630s. I had to flip over my charts to the 1630s in New England and immediately spotted perhaps my most interesting and famous immigrant ancestor, Anne MARBURY HUTCHINSON, my 10th great grandmother. Anne arrived in Boston with her family in 1634 and was at the heart of the antinomian controversy that split apart New England in the 1630s. She was called everything from an instrument of Satan to a saint, was expelled from the church and Massachusetts. With Roger WILLIAMS, she helped start Rhode Island and was later murdered by the Indians in New York. Then I spotted Samuel COLE, my 10th great grandfather. He definitely used this first post office in Boston. He had arrived on the Winthrop Fleet in 1630 and opened the first house of entertainment and inn in Boston in 1634. It was probably the first one in America. It was Samuel's son, John COLE, who in 1651, married Susannah HUTCHINSON, the daughter of William and Anne HUTCHINSON. Thus, John and Susannah were my 9th great grandparents. Just looking at this 1639 Boston Post Office here in the museum, reminded me again that this Susannah, when a nine year old girl, was the only survivor in that Hutchinson family Indian massacre of 1643. That museum visit convinced me that I should always take my ancestor charts with me. Since then, not only have museum visits become much more personally meaningful and interesting, but also all of the names, dates and places on my charts have been resurrected from the dead and have been given new life. So, grab your charts and pick out a good museum. Your ancestors are just begging to ride along.

THE REVIEW of the DuPage County (IL) Genealogical 

Reprinted with permission of Connie Wilcox
The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933