Wendelynn Darnold Gunderson has a truly American family story. Her main family lines are Darnold, Gorrell, Anderson and Tollman, which spread coast to coast as New England immigrants became Midwestern pioneers and ancestral Virginia landowners and farmers turned their eyes westward to fertile lands along the Pacific coast.
My second great grandfather, Levi Henshaw Gorrell, must have been an interesting guy to know. He lived a long , active life that’s well documented in the Iola, Kansas newspapers. Even at age 99, he was out working the farm, riding horses and being a worry to his children! He was at varying times a blacksmith, a veterinarian and held numerous civic positions. There are so many news clippings about him. He’s a genealogists dream. Almost. You see, there’s something about his age that just doesn’t make sense. In 1922 the Masonic Home in Wichita Kansas was home to both the oldest and the youngest residents of Masonic homes in the state. That’s Levi in the photo, at 100 years old. They even threw him a big birthday party that made the paper. He made the paper again on his 104th birthday. The problem is that Levi died on June 23, 1926. In his obituary, his birthday is listed as Oct. 8, 1832. That makes him 94, so in 1922 he would only have been 90. Still, pretty darn old for the era, but not exactly a centenarian.
So far, I’ve not found any documentation on his birth but what I I have seen include census records and newspaper articles with various dates; 1822,1831,1832, 1833,1838. Now, I know our ancestors sometimes played fast and loose with dates, just like the spelling of names but this is just silly. I keep looking for a birth record. One day it will turn up. In the meantime, I think of him as having a good laugh at us in 2014 trying to solve an old man’s birth date.
Rice enlisted on the fourth Monday in July 1814 ( July 25th) at the Orange Courthouse as a private in Captain William Smith’s company of the Virginia Militia’s 1st Regiment, Crutchfield’s division. He was discharged on December 19, 1814 in Fredericksburg, VA without written documentation. His brother, James F enlisted just days later in the same company.
But what about that mysterious connection to Anthony Wilkerson? On page five of the file, is a notation that Rice has become a substitute for the mysterious Anthony Wilkerson on October 10 1814. I’m not sure just how this might have worked at the time, but at least we now know the Rice was the substitute. Still no clue who Anthony is or why Rice became a substitute.
And as it always happens when doing research, discovering Rice’s file leads us to more questions. For instance, there is a document from 1855 involving one of the Ohio land bounty claims given to Rice. It’s witnessed by Archibald Darnell. He appears no where in our family tree, well at least that we know of yet! Is he a relative? Did he just happen to be in the office when they needed a witness and isn’t connected at all? Always something more….
One of the challenges to documenting my Darnold ancestors in the 1800s and earlier is that everyone seems to have just spelled names however they heard them. So there are many variations, all for the same family group. Take my 4th great grandfather Rice, for instance. I’ve found him as Darnel, Darnal, Darnell, Donald and even Daniel. Even his siblings have variations within the same documents! By the time the name reached me, it’s now Darnold for my direct line. Having lived in as many places as I have, I can easily hear the pronunciations of Darnell with varied accents.
Anyway, however it’s spelled or transcribed, there are lots of Darnell’s in Orange County, Virginia in the 1800′s. But back to Rice.
Rice C Darnell is a very tricky man to hunt down. Rice is the son of Moses Darnell and Frances Clarkson, born in about 1784 in Orange County, VA. He married Mary “Polly” Ahart on Dec 25, 1804. I suspect his middle name is Clarkson, following the tradition of naming first sons with the mother’s maiden name, but that’s just my hunch at this point.
Today I found muster cards and a pension record for him! There is just something about finding images of the actual paper that makes my heart sing.
Rice C Darnel War of 1812 Pension Record
But now there is another rabbit hole to explore.
Who the heck is Anthony Wilkerson? Is Anthony is a hired substitute?
This little guy needs a name. His photo was found in my great grandmother Lillie Johnson Darnold’s photo album, but unfortunately there’s nothing to identify him. Fortunately, most of the photos are identified so we do have some hope of finding who this little cutie belongs to. My sister (lucky duck that found the album online!) and I are sure he’s family but we need your help.
The families that are included in the album are all descendants of Jonathan Townsend Johnson and Sinar (Sinah) Amelia Bell and James William Darnold and Elizabeth Ann Mullenax. Both families had several children and lived in the areas of Villisca, Iowa, Taylor and Montgomery counties in Iowa before they spread further out. Here’s a listing of surnames: Johnson, Bell, Darnold, Combs, Cusick, Burch, Rogers, Moore, Frost, Erickson, Smith, Shipley, Kent, Jerrell, Ross.
Finding official records is a EUREKA! moment for me and every other genealogist. Today I found an image of the Orange County, Virginia Marriage Records 1757-1938 on Family Search.org. It’s hugely exciting because:
1. It verifies Dealen’s first name, something that has been somewhat difficult to do. It’s such an unusual name that for a long time I’d wondered if it hadn’t suffered some damage as a result of multiple gedcom uploads and merges in the decades before I became interested in genealogy. I’ve also seen her recorded as Helen Smith, which I can see as an easy transcription error. Now I have solid proof that even if it is a nickname, it is the right name!
2. I now have another ancestor’s name to search with. Her mother (my 4th great grandmother!) is Hannah Hensley. A notation next to Hannah’s name is “signed permission”, does this mean Dealen was underage or maybe that Hannah was illiterate and someone signed for her? Dealen is also listed as “Spinster”. I’ll have to see what I can find out about the use of spinster at that time.
3.The bondsman listed is Cypress Hensley. Another clue to work with’ Is he Hannah’s son, brother or husband? Is Dealen’s last name Smith because of a previous marriage of her mothers or perhaps her own?
4. The record also shows that Jacob Watts performed the marriage in St. Thomas Parish, Orange County, Virginia on December 24, 1809 and their marriage license was issued on December 21, 1809. This isn’t really a clue per se, just an interesting bit of info. I did find when I looked up Jacob Watts that performed many marriages at St. Thomas Parish and it lead me to a photo of the church. The church, as it turns out, is a key location in the rich history of Orange County Virginia.
Seeing how important this area is to Colonial and Civil War history, it’s started me on a new search… to find Garland Quinn’s military history. I’ve never seen anything, but I do know that my Darnold great grandfather of the same era was in Orange County as well and he served in the War of 1812. I’m betting I’ll find that Garland did too.
So I guess the location of their marriage turned out to be a clue after all.You just can’t dismiss any single bit of information in this ancestor hunting game.
Irish ancestry wasn’t ever a thought in my mind as I began my family research. Growing up I learned that our families were German, Scot, Czech , French and English, so discovering Darby Quinn, one of my 7th great grandfathers and an Irish immigrant was a delightful surprise. I immediately conjured up an image straight from a Little Golden Book I had as a child, Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
To the best of my knowledge, Darby Quinn arrived in Virigina about 1712, settling in Culpeper County, Virginia. In his will of 1754, he identified himself as a planter of Brumfield Parish in Culpeper County. It is signed with X “his mark”. No mention is made of his wife although two children, Richard Quinn and Elizabeth Bruce are named. My direct ancestor is Richard. The will has been archived at the Library of Virginia, transcribed and can be read here.
Other documents located at the Davis and Shaw Families of North Carolina website help tell Darby’s story. We learn that his wife is Mary Ashworth, identified as his wife 10/21/1741 per DB 6, pg 272, Orange Co. VA. Residents of St. Thomas Parish, Orange Co. VA. Deed witnesses were John Quinn, George Taylor and Thomas Jones. I don’t know who John Quinn is at this point, perhaps a brother or uncle?
In 1747, the Quinn family was living in Orange County Virginia. I have many families in this area. A recorded deed shows Darby giving a large gift to his daughter, Elizabeth.
Deed of Gift to Elizabeth per DB 10, pgs 517-18; Orange Co. VA; dtd 7/23/1747.
Know all men by these presents that I, Darby Quinn of Orange County, do by these presents for several good Causes and consideration and for the love and goodwill me thereunto moving Give Grant bargain make over and confirm unto my well Beloved Daughter Elizabeth Bruce all and singular the parts and parcels of my Estate as follows: (viz) Negro Robin and Negro Jane and all the time of service hereby indenture of a … woman named Catherine McCoy, nine head of cattle, one mare, one horse, four head of sheep, sixteen hogs one featherbed and furniture two iron pots one small chest one table and pewter dish one pewter bason two pewter plates two chairs one washing tub two pails one Great Bible two..axes one candlestick ten pewter spoons one raw hide one side of tanned leather one large bottle two Earthen Muggs seven mislings of bason, sixteen hundred pounds of Tobacco twelve barrens of Indian corn two geese one handsome great augre one spinning wheel ten pounds of cotton unspon one iron pestle one iron … one grubing hoe, two weeding hoes two hilling hoes one frying pan one fine wheat sive one coarse sive one plough hoe one iron chair one pint bottle one iron form one brick band three case knives and forks one cotton and Haymes one rendering (?) tub, four bushels of rye, four wooden noggins, one pepper box, which said above Negroes, good and chattels, I give to my daughter Elizabeth Quinn with all the Increase for the future of the said negroes same with all the future increase of the above said cattle and all the future increase of the said mare to have and to hold the said Given and Granted Negroes, Good and Chattels to her by said Daughter Elizabeth Bruce her heirs and assigns.
To have and to hold the same forever from me the aforesaid Darby Quinn my certain attorney or assigns forever.
In witness whereof I have hereunto sit my hand and seal this 31st day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and forty-seven.
Signed Sealed and Delivered
in the presence of us
The Quinn family appears to have been a prosperous, important family of early Virginia. Darby’s son Richard (my 6th great grandfather) is to be found in many court documents and military record show him participating in the Revolutionary War. My Quinn family lineage begins with Darby, to his son Richard (6th great grandfather), to his son Richard (5th great grandfather), to Garland Quinn (4th great grandfather) to
Lucinda Quinn (3rd great grandmother) who married William Wallace Darnold, also from an old Virginia family.
Their son James William Darnold (my 2nd great grandfather), had a son George Burton Darnold (my great grandfather) who had a son Russell Raymond Darnold (my grandfather), who had a son, my father Wendell George Darnold.
My dad didn’t know this story. I think he would have liked hearing it. I can see the twinkle in his blue eyes as I am telling it now. Just like Darby O’Gill dancing with the little people.
Unless you are in my family circle, I’d bet you a whole nickle, as my grandpa Archie would say, that you’ve never heard of Marsland, much less know where on earth it is. So you might imagine my surprise when during an insomnia induced fit of late night random Googling, I found myself at this page on ghost towns. Even more surprising, I found myself looking at a photo of my own great grandparent’s home.
My great grandparents were James Mundy Tollman and Flora Caroline Maika. They built this home in 1912 of cement blocks made on site. This was their second home in Marsland, the first being on a homestead nearby. This photo was taken just after its completion and the farm eventually expanded to include a large barn, cattle pens, a smoke house, an ice house, huge garden area, silo, and hog pen. A family letter written by one of the children, James Perry Tollman, written in his retirement details life in Marsland and on the family farm in vivid memories. One of the amusing comments is that the neighbors were always stopping by to check on the building progress and they were quite perplexed by the modern bathroom that was being installed…apparently one of the first in the county…especially since there was a perfectly good two holer not far from the kitchen door!
Marsland is located in western Nebraska in Dawes County. It’s pretty remote. In its heyday, the population was about 800, according the the Nebraska Historical Society Virtual Nebraska. The nearest large town is Chadron.
Today, Marsland is just a shadow of itself, perhaps deserving of the ghost town designation to the outside world. Not for me, a woman who hears the whispers of long gone ancestors. And apparently not for the Nebraska Historical Society; shortly after seeing the house on the ghost town site, I came across it again while doing genealogical research on a Tollman aunt. The Nebraska Historical Society has done an excellent job incorporating the internet with their holdings and I found the house listed in a survey of historic buildings in Nebraska, shown as an unknown home. Since it wasn’t identified, I contacted them was not identified, offering details should they be interested.
A very enthusiastic response followed the next day and I’ve sent them several photos and other bits of family information to help them document and preserve this part of Nebraska history. The Tollman family has deep roots in Nebraska and although it is scattered across the USA today, family reunions are still held in western Nebraska and always include a stop at the old house. The old house may not last forever, but it sure feels great to have helped it become a part of Nebraska history. UPDATE: Another big surprise! The Tollman home was included in a New York Times photo essay in December 2013 called Life Along the 100th Meridian that captures the essence of life in Nebraska’s far west panhandle.
Family history became important to my grandparents as they grew older. Both sets of grandparents spent a great deal of time and money on genealogy research. They made field trips across the midwest to visit homesteads and hunt for long forgotten hand dug wells. They paid researchers to create lineage documents and relied upon their credentials as professional genealogists.
My grandpa, Russell Darnold, thought he and my dad, Wendell Darnold, were two of only five or six male Darnold’s alive during the 1970′s. He’d have been shocked at the truth! Thanks to the ease of document sharing and source verification that our technological age provides anyone who wants to know more about their family history has a free pass to get started.
One of my grandmas, Opal Gorrell Darnold, had an expensive and exquisite lineage that proved her family line going back through the kings of France and England. Not that it made life any easier, but it was fun to think about being “royalty”.
I’m glad she’s not here today to learn that not only are we not descended from royalty, she was caught up in one of the biggest genealogy scams going… at least according to a columnist in one of the family history magazines. Despite that, I do think she’d ultimately come to agree with me that the true stories about our ancestors are grand enough as we share immigrants, patriots and pioneers who all played their part in a greater American story.
This blog is how I’ll help keep my family history alive for generations to come. I’ll share the stories I’ve heard from my parents and grandparents as well as the history and details of my ancestors gleaned from researching. I inherited a great deal of material from my grandparents. Not all of it is documented and updating the family tree with provable facts has become one of my goals. I’ll share some of my process as I work to correct errors in my family tree and expand the scope of their work.