Tuesday, January 28, 2014

52 Ancestors #4 Bonnie Selb - Codebreaker

My aunt, Bonalyn Wiedrich Selb joined the WAVES during WWII. She was selected for Project Ultra. This project was a secret project for breaking the coded German Enigma messages. She worked on an early computer called the Bombe. It was an exciting time in Washington DC. She was invited along with some other WAVES to have tea with Eleanor Roosevelt. No one in the family not even her husband, Leo know what she did in the war due to its top secret. Then in 1980 when the top secret was lifted she could tell us all.
Bonnie and I volunteered on the Battleship New Jersey Memorial Museum in Camden, NJ. Together we did a program about women in the military for the Girl's Encampment Program. She was loved by the girls and they all wanted their pictures taken with her. Me too! Below is our picture. Even though I'll be doing the program by myself she'll still be a part of it in my heart.

52 Ancestors #3 Sarah Norton-Murdered!

Sarah Norton – Murdered!
It was a terrible end for Sarah, a 76-yr-old widow. She lived alone in Indian Falls, Genesee County, NY. She had gone to bed early on that Friday night in early December, 1875. Between 9 and 10PM she heard a knocking at the door. It was Thomas Burton Quackenbush. From here there are somewhat differing accounts. One states that he asked directions and left. A short time later Sarah heard a noise in the wood shed attached to the house. She had a piece of beef hanging there and thought a cat may have been trying to get to it. When she went into the shed she was grabbed, beaten and raped. The other account was that when she opened the door he pushed his way in and attacked her. In both accounts he left saying he would return. Sarah, wearing only her night clothes, ran from the house and hid in the outhouse. Later she heard him return and search for her. Not finding her he left. Sarah then made her way to her nearest neighbor 3/4th of a mile away. She arrived at Mr. Washington Wards house at 5am, wet and thoroughly chilled from the winter western New York state weather. She told her neighbor the story of her attack. A doctor came and she was taken back to her house. She died on Monday morning, December 6. In the meanwhile, Quackenbush was arrested. The evidence against him was that he was drinking at the Indian Falls Hotel and had asked about Sarah Norton and whether she lived alone. He left the hotel a little past 9PM and didn’t arrive back at Mr. Mook’s farm, where he was a laborer, until after 2AM. His clothing was smeared with blood. He was a large, powerful man around 30 years of age. Evidence also suggested he was the same man who was a fugitive from a crime in Herkimer County. He eventually admitted to raping Sarah Norton but claimed he had no intention of committing murder. Quackenbush was tried in June of 1876 and found guilty of First Degree Murder and sentenced to death by hanging. He appealed to the governor of NY for clemency but on 8 August the governor declined to interfere in his sentence and on 11 August 1876 at 11AM he was hanged at the county jail in Batavia.
Sarah had been born in Connecticut around 1799. She later moved to Michigan where her daughter, Matilda was born. By 1850 she was living in Oakfield, Genesee County, NY, where she was listed as a servant in the Census. In 1870 she lived with her daughter and son-in-law but by 1876 she was living alone in Indian Falls.
Sarah was my 3rd great grandmother and I remember my great grandmother, Sarah Wiedrich telling me about this event. She was 7-yrs-old at the time of her grandmother’s death. In the 1960s we took her to the Holland Land Office museum. We told the curator about her grandmother and were asked to wait a few minutes. She brought out the rope that Quackenbush was hanged with. She wanted to hand it to my great grandmother but she was not having anything to do with it. More than 125 years after the death of Sarah Norton while I was visiting a friend in Batavia, NY I saw an advertisement about the hangings in Genesee County. It was for a display at that same Holland Land Office Museum. They had the gallows and rope that Quackenbush was hanged on and the admission ticket to the museum was a reproduction of the actual ticket to Quackenbush’s hanging.
1850, 1860, 1870 Federal Census
Oyer & Terminer Record Book,1871, p171/176, Holland Land Office, Batavia, NY
“The Progressive Batavian”, Batavia, NY, Dec. 10, 1875 and Aug. 18, 1876
“Republican Advocate”, Aug. 10, 1876 and Aug. 17, 1876

Monday, January 13, 2014

52 Ancestors #2 Sarah Corsett Wiedrich - Bathing Beauty

My great grandmother, Sarah Corsett Wiedrich was a amazing person. She was born in 1868 and for most of her life didn't travel more than 30 miles from home. When my grandparents moved to Gloucester City, NJ during the 1940s she visited and when they moved to Tampa, Florida in 1945 she wanted to visit again. This is a picture of her in September of 1946 in Tampa sunbathing. She's in a two piece bathing suit. Pretty amazing for a 78 year old woman born just after the Civil War during the Victorian Era. She lived a rich life and died at the age of 100.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

52 Ancestors #1 Sarah L. Babcock

Sarah L. Babcock

   Shortsville (one of seven villages that make up the town of Manchester), Ontario County, New York was the birthplace of Sarah L. Babcock on October 12, 1852.[1] The 1860 census lists her parents as George W. and Mary A. and a sister, Martha A. That census also lists their residence as Manchester, Ontario County, New York. This was an important town on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The Erie Canal also passed through northeast corner of the town.[2] Her father was listed as a miller and her mother a domestic in that census.

            On February 2, 1870 she married George A. Hadley in Canandaigua, NY. It would be seven years before her first child was born. George is listed in the 1870 census but with no occupation. They were living with Sarah’s father. The father was then listed as Washington Babcock and what must be a second wife, named Fanny since she is much younger with small children. Sarah has three half-brothers in this census, George W.-7-yrs-old, William W.-5-yrs-old and Samuel C.-2-yrs-old. Her father is listed as a farm laborer.
            Sarah and George’s daughter, Mattie B., was born on January 24, 1877 in Shortsville.
George Hadley died on May 30, 1880 of Sciatic Rheumatism. His occupation was harness maker and his cause of death was reported to have been contracted in the army.[3]

Life must have been difficult for the widowed Sarah trying to support herself and a young daughter. It wasn’t surprising that she was willing to marry Spencer Downey on January 17, 1883. Spencer was a widower raising two sons, John Henry and Frank Oliver. They had a daughter, Clara about 1889. Clara died young.
Sometime between their marriage and the 1900 census they moved to Batavia, NY.[4] Her daughter also was living in Batavia and married to William Augustus Bristol at this time too.
On October 12, 1926, Sarah died in Batavia and was buried in the Manchester Cemetery in Shortsville, NY.[5] Her husband, Spencer was alive at the time of her death. 

[1] Database online. Year: 1860; Census Place: Manchester, Ontario, New York; Roll: ; Page: 448; Image: 449. Also the 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920 Censuses and her obituary
[2] “History of Manchester, NY”, History of Ontario County New York, 1893, http://history.rays-place.com/ny/manchester-ny.htm and “Manchester, NY”, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester,_New_York, 1/6/2014
[3] 1880 Federal Mortality Schedule
[4] Year: 1900; Census Place: Batavia, Genesee, New York; Roll: 1038; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0006; FHL microfilm: 1241038
[5] Sarah Downing obituary


Ancestors! Some are easier to track than others. Some are elusive and make us wonder where they lived and who they were and who they were hiding from. And now family historians here we are researching and recording all that family history and making history of your own. Amy Johnson Crow has issued the 52 Ancestors Challenge in her blog "No Story Too Small". The challenge is to write about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. I'm taking up the challenge and hope for success.