With the deepest gratitude

As this Orphan George blog illustrates, my interest in genealogy goes far beyond any chart of names and dates. I want a story of their lives, an understanding of their passions and perceived purpose. Maybe I even want my ancestors – or at least some of them – to somehow speak to me, today. And maybe they have, in part through distant relatives who’ve become part of the project.

My interest in family roots came rather late – my mid-30s – and then by way of two unexpected facts related second-hand from a family reunion. The first was that our common ancestor had come from North Carolina (I’d long thought straight west from Pennsylvania – at least Yankee, nothing Southern) and second, more crucial, that the family had been Quaker, rather than the Wesleyan-based Evangelical United Brethren all of us seemed to attend through my formative years. All along I’d thought we were simply homogenized Midwestern American – a culture I largely rejected in a loop that had led me, by way of hippie-era yoga, to independently worship with the Society of Friends, or Quakers, starting in my late 20s. In my evolving Quaker practice, I’d heard mention of the family records the denomination had traditionally recorded and, after inquiring about them and being handed one very fat published directory, I plunged into my first index to some of those minutes – one of the six volumes of William Wade Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. My quest had begun. As you’ll find in my postings, though, my particular ancestry had its own twists; my direct line may have lived and worshiped within the Quaker culture, but we weren’t always members. Not officially, where we would have been recorded. We were in the informal shadow. What Hinshaw definitely did for me came in his opening a full range of questions I needed to explore.

Since you’re already reading this on a genealogy blog, I’ll assume you have a similar story to relate. Just what piqued your interest? How much had already been gathered when you began your research? How have you gone about working the puzzle?

Continue reading

Men in the wild

Unidentified hunters with deer. Photo from Joshua Hodson's collection.

Unidentified hunters with deer. Photo from Joshua Hodson’s collection.

Their identities remain lost, but Joshua Hodson apparently knew them well enough to go off hunting along a frozen river. For a father of a growing family, it was more than sport. It could mean meat on the table. I’d love to know who they are and how they connected to the family.

It’s a more active site than I expected

The frequency of hits on the Orphan George Chronicles continues to surprise me. When I started posting my research findings, I figured they might attract one or two curious family members or stray genealogists in a month. Instead, the site attracts daily hits, and readers who show up here typically delve into multiple chapters.

Sure beats having all of this work sitting in a dusty filing cabinet, especially if any of it can come to the aid of a fellow researcher or inform a curious member of the family.

I feel I’ve taken this about as far as I can in a lifetime, and it’s time for others to pick up in extending the field. So what can I do now that I’ve largely retired from active research?

One is to look at some lessons gleaned that might help other genealogists, especially those just starting out. And some issues where we, as researchers, just might open up a discussion. So I think that’s where we’re headed.

Along the way, we can expect to have some fun, too. Who says history has to be deadly serious?

Thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to your returning.


While we’re at it, any other sites you want to recommend or have found especially useful in your own work? How about your own? Sharing and swapping is the basis for genealogy puzzle-solving, right? Don’t be shy!

Rockford girls who took sleigh ride

Rockford girls who took sleighride (likely one is Alice McSherry

Rockford was the town in Van Wert County, Ohio, where my McSherry ancestors lived. Presumably, one of the girls in this undated photograph is Alice, who would become my great-grandmother. I am presuming this was a special occasion, with the image being taken by a commercial photographer. I’m also wondering if one of the other girls is her good friend Josephine Jones, who would become Joshua Hodson’s first wife.

More from the westward expansion

Zimri Hodgson homestead

Zimri Hodgson homestead

From Carol Ann Hodgson comes this 1893 photo of her great-grandfather Zimri Hodgson’s homestead in Illinois. She notes that Zimri is seated and her grandfather, Albert, stands second from the right.

Born in Clinton County, Ohio, in 1829, Zimri was the son of Jonathan Hodgson (son of Hur and Achsah Dillon Hodgson) and Rebecca Hodgson (daughter of Amos and Mary Barnett Hodgson). He moved to Streator, where he owned land, and then later purchased land and moved near Forrest, Illinois, in Livingston County about 1860. He died in 1902.

Carol Ann was struck by the similarities in the photo to those of another of Hur’s grandsons, William, who relocated to Tazewell County.

Her  brother, Loren, farms that homesteaded family farm and has lived in the farmhouse since the early 1960s.


If given a choice …

You know the old conversational question, “If you could go back in time to meet anybody in history, who would it be?”

The bold answer would be Jesus or Abraham Lincoln or some other monumental historic figure, though we’d likely be too awed to do anything but mumble and grovel in their presence.

For me, the alternative that initially springs to mind is Orphan George, to hear him tell of the ocean crossing, his early years and later movements, and more of his wife’s background and influence.

But I realize the importance of going back yet another generation, to his father, who could confirm or correct what is now the weakest link in my Hodgson genealogy. Do I have it right, for starters, that his parents were John and Elinor Hodgson? Crucially, what were his wife’s given name and surname? Where were they married? What were her parents’ names? What was his life like? How did he view his faith?

This, even before getting into the fateful ocean crossing. What would go through a father’s mind and heart once the pirate ship was sighted? Or in the ensuing travails and terrors?

Into Illinois

Many of the descendants of George and Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson migrated to the Midwest from North Carolina. One result was the William and Phoebe Hodgson farm in Tazewell County, Groveland Township, 4 miles east of Pekin, Illinois.

Tim Sangalli, who provides the artwork, believes the property was the first of several farms Amos and William Hodgson homesteaded circa 1836.

It was purchased by Jack and Amelia Sangalli in the late 1940s.

1870s rendering.

1870s rendering.

Farmhouse circa 1950.

Farmhouse circa 1950.

1949 aerial view.

1949 aerial view.