klkellick: Gules, a chevron argent, accompanied by three trefoils or (tozer)

The thing about doing this research is, one doesn't exactly expect to have 400 years of history dumped in their laps all at once. Yet this is exactly what happened to me about 10 days ago.

My dad's paternal grandparents were named Arthur Tozer and Agnes Armstrong. Arthur died in some sort of tragic car accident on Hertel Ave in Buffalo about 10 years before my father was even born, so Dad never knew him. Agnes seems to have lived with her middle son in a Buffalo suburb for a while after that, but eventually relocated back to her native Ontario until her death in approx. 1958. All I really knew was that she had three sons; the youngest was my grandfather, who died suddenly when I was 8. I found it odd that the oldest was SO much older, and born in Canada rather than Buffalo like the younger two, but stranger things have happened, so I went with it.

About two weeks ago, I found a marriage license for her oldest son that pretty much had me panicking that I had the wrong Agnes. Why? Because this child, Richard Tozer, listed his father's first name as John (not Arthur), and Agnes' maiden name as Cavenagh. His DOB and POB matched up, his mother's first name was right, his wife's name was right. John? Maybe I could have gone with that, as Arthur occasionally used J as his middle initial. Maybe he went by John? But why hadn't I seen that anywhere else? The Cavenagh part as Agnes' maiden name is what really freaked me out, as I seriously deleted about 15-20 people from her family tree, convinced that I must have somehow severely messed up in my ignorance early on.

The next day, I found a post by utter chance that mentioned Arthur Tozer taking a train to Buffalo from Pennsylvania, to meet an Agnes Armstrong from Canada, where they had agreed to meet up and get married. This post was years old, like early-to-mid 2000s. I've posted, and responded to, other bulletin board postings before, but usually it's like a freaking message in a bottle: you hope someone, the right someone, sees it and responds with something useful. With that sort of mindset -- "this post is years old, who knows who this guy is, or if he's even using the same email account. But the names are right, there can't possibly be two Agnes Armstrongs and Arthur Tozers who lived in Buffalo at that time." So I responded, that I was pretty sure Agnes and Arthur were my paternal-paternal great-grandparents, and if he had anything useful on them, I'd be happy to trade what little information I'd been able to find.

Twenty-four hours later, the original poster responded. A few hours later, he'd given me enough information to trace Arthur's father and grandfather, back to a William H. Tozer who lived in the southern tier of New York, born in 1814. Wow, that's pretty cool, that's a whole century before my mom's family immigrated from Austria. Who knew the Tozers had been in the U.S. that long?

I had no idea.

(He also was able to clarify for me that Agnes' oldest son, Richard, had actually been the child of her first marriage -- to John Cavenagh. After they separated (divorced, I suspect, based on what I've found since then), and Agnes married Arthur, Richard started going by Richard J Tozer, rather than Richard Cavenagh. There may or may not have been a formal adoption, but as I understand from the bit of adoption history I've researched on my own, adoptions weren't always formal legal agreements until post-WWII.)

Within another 24 hours, I basically hit the genealogy jackpot. )

As you can probably imagine, I am STILL processing through the details of what landed in my lap. But suddenly, I have a very rooted sense of my dad's side of the family, something I never really had before. I am SO glad I was able to get in touch with my dad's cousins, and through them finally be able to figure out how we fit into things.

klkellick: A large tree with very small silhouettes of people gathered underneath. (Default)

Oh my goodness. In the last 2-3 days, a whole bunch of things fell together, and I've ended up with a whole lot more Tozer history than I ever expected.

Um. I think I technically qualify for DAR. O_O

I also got some Barlow goodness in the mail from Howard's grandmother, which I haven't finished transcribing into Ancestry yet.

But holy crap. I've gone from thinking my family were nobodys from nowhere to finding out we helped settle the NY/PA border. And that's after we came over much earlier, pre-Revolutionary War.

Ho. Lee. Crap.

klkellick: A large tree with very small silhouettes of people gathered underneath. (Default)

Growing up, I always heard that Mom's family was Austrian, and that Dad's family was vaguely British, with a strain of Scandinavian. There were other details, such as the name of the village both my maternal grandparents' parents had come from, and a supposedly "colorful" character on Dad's side who had once owned a circus.

I've often been curious about filling in the holes -- sometimes rather large ones that the most knowledgeable didn't want to talk about. But those people are dying off, and that history is being lost.

I've toyed with genealogy in the past, but while I was out of work for nearly a year, I really started pursuing some of these leads. The release of the 1940 U.S. Census was another push -- that census, taken just before the U.S. got involved in WWII, contains the names of my grandparents, the people I'm most likely to know their full names and birthdates. I now have a family tree that goes several generations back on my mom's side, and at least back to my great-grandparents on my dad's side. From there, things get tricky as emigration comes into play; without a paid account, I generally only have access to free material from the U.S. on the larger, more well-known sites. Records from overseas, or even just from Canada, are harder to access.

But I'm also finding the names and dates don't do justice to the dramatic, everyday stories of those people. Divorce, remarriage, even a murder/suicide. Family members who disappear from available records after they leave home -- what happened to them? Was one of them really married multiple times, or do the historical documents have different names/nicknames for the same person? Plus, so many national borders changed with each war that what we call ourselves now is not necessarily how our ancestors thought of themselves -- that small village in Austria? Was actually part of Hungary before WWI, with a very different name. That makes a difference when you're trying to find records from the "wrong" country!

So here I am, just trying to dig up and preserve what I can; honor those people who made my family what it is now; and saving that information for my generation, and those after me. And who knows, someone even just "locally" famous might turn up. I might even find the truth of that circus story -- which I think might have been what got me interested to begin with.


klkellick: A large tree with very small silhouettes of people gathered underneath. (Default)
Kristen Kellick

May 2013

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