Sunday, October 31, 2010

John Charles Slowey - Wisconsin to South Dakota - Part 7

I think we left off with a letter going to the Register's office for John Charles' birth certificate, and having discovered a completely different birth date - roughly a year prior to what was contained on all his other records.  While waiting for the Register's office to respond, and since it's Halloween, I thought I'd try to find out where he is buried.  Cemetery searches ... doesn't get more spooky than that, right?

His death certificate says he is buried in Catholic Cemetery in Mayfield, South Dakota.  I started with a search at one of my favorite FREE sites: Find-A-Grave.  They had a total of 2 Sloweys for Yankton County, South Dakota ... and those were two that I added myself not too long ago.

I headed over to South Dakota Gravestone Photos and did a general search for "Slowey" in Yankton County.  Wow!  There are a LOT of Sloweys buried in Yankton, South Dakota!  Sadly, not any of the ones listed are my great great grandfather.  Keep in mind, this is only a list of the graves that have had photos taken, not a complete listing of all the graves in all the cemeteries.

While I was revisiting some of my saved websites, I ran across a listing at South Dakota State Historical Society that I had not noticed before.  They keep cemetery records.  It can't hurt to search, right?  So I searched for all the Sloweys in Yankton County.  What returned is a list of 23 individuals buried in three different cemeteries:

There he is, buried at ... Mayfield Catholic Cemetery in Irene, South Dakota ... not Mayfield, South Dakota.  There are his parents, too, Patrick and Catherine.

So, I headed back over to Find-A-Grave and did a cemetery lookup for Mayfield Catholic Cemetery.  It had one individual listed.  One.  So, I went ahead and added John Charles Slowey to the record. 

Once he was added (and this is the best part about this site), I went to his listing and clicked on the button that says "Request a Photo."  Now, someone who lives up there near the cemetery can swing by when they have a few minutes to spare and take a photo of the grave marker and upload it to the site.  I will get a notification by email that my photo request has been successfully fulfilled, and then I can click on the link to view the photo.  Hopefully, it will only take a few days or so.  I will also put in requests for Patrick and Catherine's graves.

Speaking of Find-A-Grave, I strongly encourage you to check it out.  It's a great service that is completely volunteer driven.  Every once in a while, you can find me traipsing around a few of the Chattanooga cemeteries and snapping photos.  You don't have to have a request to get the photos, either.  If I see an interesting grave marker, I'll use my Find-A-Grave Droid App (beta), which I downloaded for free from the Android Market, to make sure there isn't already a photo on the site.  If there isn't, I'll snap a photo and upload it to the site when I get home.  (I rarely use my camera phone to take cemetery photos).  Check it out, become a volunteer.

Next time, the hunt for an obituary.  Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

FamilySearch Indexing

All you folks out there who are interested in getting started on your family history, are already working on your family history, or are just interested in history in general ... this is for you!

FamilySearch (a service provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) needs volunteers to help index millions of rolls of microfilm from over 100 countries so they can be posted at for free searches.  If you are interested in volunteering for this worthy cause, head over to and sign up.  It's super easy to get started, and they even provide training and have folks on hand to answer questions if you get stuck.

There's a community of indexers online and they have a chat on Skype ( that you can join, and there are indexing message boards at

I encourage you to volunteer.  Aside from just being plain interesting, the more volunteers we have, the faster we can get these records indexed and out for searching.  You never know ... it might even help YOU break down a brick wall!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mystery Photos

This photo was discovered in the box of photos Mary Jane's mom gave her.  The only thing inscribed on this photo is "Yankton, South Dakota."  Does anyone recognize these children?

The only clue given for this one is the name "Slowey."  Any ideas?

It's short and sweet today.  I'll be working for the next week on writing a Bill to be presented at the Tennessee Intercollegiate Student Legislature (TISL), and an appellate brief for the Appellate Moot Court Collegiate Challenge (AMC3) in Nashville in November.  In case I don't have time to post anything new in the next week, happy hunting!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

John Charles Slowey - Wisconsin to South Dakota - Part 6

Well, I think I may have figured out why I'm having such a hard time finding records for John's birth.  You remember back in the beginning, I used math (I think I may have even called it "simple") to calculate John's birth date from his death certificate?  The information on the death certificate was wrong!  This just reinforces two things I already knew: (1) I really shouldn't do math; and (2) Don't take every document at face value (in other words, confirm, confirm, confirm!)

I headed over to the Looking 4 Kin ( website and hopped into the chat room.  I had never been in the chat room there, and thought I would just check it out.  Everyone there was so nice!  I told them about John and what a problem I was having finding him in Wisconsin.  Two very nice people, sonofedd and Spivey, actually did a couple of searches and found him on the 1860 federal census!  His name was indexed as "Sloway" on Ancestry and as "Slowny" on HeritageQuest.

So because the census shows that John was 3/12 years old in July 1860, we know that he was probably born in April 1860.  I'm not sure this information will help me find a birth certificate any easier, but at least with more accurate information and some alternate spellings of Slowey, I might be able to repeat some old searches and uncover something else!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Treasures from the Attic (well, basement)

I feel like I've been touched by an angel.  Her name is Mary Jane and she is a cousin of mine I never even knew I had.  My first cousin, twice removed, to be exact.  I saw a post she made on the message boards on for the Slowey surname.  I read her post and thought, "those are MY Sloweys!"  I then looked at the date on the post.  Wow ... 2001.  A lot of time has passed ... what are the odds she's even still looking?  I thought, "what the heck," and sent her a message anyway.

You can imagine my surprise when I received an email from her ... the very next day!  John Charles Slowey is her great grandfather.  We decided that we would share information and see if we could make any progress on our little family.  It turns out she had a box of her mother's photos and some other papers in her basement for years and just never went through them.  It was indeed a treasure trove!  Just look:

According to the inscription on the back, this is (from left to right):  Mary Christopher, Theresa Burns, and John Charles Slowey.  This photo was taken in 1928, about 3 weeks before John died.

Inscription on photo says John & Theresa Slowey with Katherine and Peter.  This photo had to have been taken sometime between 1888 and 1891.
This photo is of John Charles Slowey's brother, Patrick Edward Slowey, II.

The inscription says that this is a photo of (left to right) Ellen Slowey Murray (1867-1945), Patrick Slowey (1866-1942), Pete Slowey (1870-1950), and Kate Slowey Cunningham.  These are four of John Charles Slowey's brothers and sisters.

I've never understood why no one ever smiled for photos back in the day.  Whatever, I'm just so glad that we are able to put faces with names now!  She sent me some other photos, but I will have to post them separately (apparently, there is such a thing as too much blog!)

If anyone in Helena, Montana is reading my blog and you run into Mary Jane, give her a big ol' hug for me!

John Charles Slowey - Wisconsin to South Dakota - Part 5

I thought I would try to dig up some more information on my great great grandfather.  Since I don't have a primary source for his birth, I thought I'd try to find a birth record of some sort.  According to all the documentation I have, he was born in Wisconsin.  The 1870 federal census puts the John living with his parents in the town of Kendall, Lafayette County, Wisconsin. 

I consulted my Resource Book for Genealogists and discovered that pre-1907 birth records are indexed and available through the Wisconsin Historical Society.  Luckily, the WHS has a website!  (

Lots of Sloweys ... not the one I need.  It's entirely possible that because John was born in 1861, his birth was simply not recorded.

Just to be on the safe side, I did a search on to see if maybe I could find his family in Kendall or Lafayette County.  I even looked for Darlington, which is now the county seat of Lafayette County.  Nothing.  If anyone has a link to a website that has city directories for Wisconsin indexed, please let me know!

Since I seem to be striking out on the birth record, I guess I'll search for the record of John's marriage to Theresa Burns.  Remember the South Dakota state census said that they were married in 1886, but we don't know when.  I headed over to GenWed ( to see if they had any records for Yankton County, South Dakota.  Nada.  Well, I'm just not getting anywhere today.  Looks like I'm going old school.  Snail mail.

I did a search for the Register of Deeds for Yankton County, and I will give them a call on Monday and find out their fees, etc. and send a letter.  While I'm waiting for that information to arrive, I'll try to solve another mystery: where is John buried?

John Charles Slowey - Wisconsin to South Dakota - Part 4

Now that I have tracked great great grandpa John back to his childhood with federal census records, I can see if any state census records are available.  I went to ( and found three South Dakota state census records for him, 1925, 1915, and 1905.  The writing is a bit faded on the 1925 enumeration sheet:
But I can make out that he was 64 years old, lived in Mayfield township, Yankton County.  His occupation was "agriculture."  I guess he got fancy in his old age.  His parents were both born in Ireland, and his wife's maiden name is Theresa Burns.  That will come in handy later.  It shows that they were married in 1886.  Well, that narrows down my search for their marriage certificate ... and shortens the time that they were married before Katie was born in November 1886.  It also tells me that he is Catholic.  Perhaps church records can tell me about their marriage if I can't find it at the county level, since South Dakota didn't start keeping marriage records as a state until 1905.

On the 1915 enumeration sheet, we find even more information:

We see that yes, John is a farmer and he owns his farm. We also see that he was born inWisconsin (which we already knew from the federal census, but always good to confirm).  We also know now that John was never in the military.  Down in the lower left corner, it shows that he has lived his entire 54 years in the U.S., but only 43 years in South Dakota.  Aha!  We now know that he arrived in South Dakota at age 11! 

The 1905 enumeration sheet confirms the information from the other two years:
John is living in Mayfield township, Yankton County, is married, can read and write, was born in Wisconsin, and has lived in South Dakota for 33 years.

I know that South Dakota conducted a state cenuses in 1895 and a special Dakota Territory census was conducted 1885 (thanks to a handy-dandy little book called The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists which can be found at Family Tree Magazine's store:, but I haven't had any luck finding either.  It appears that the 1895 census only included 6 counties, not Yankton.  The 1885 census appears to not include most of the southern part of the territory (which, of course, includes Yankton County).  Looks like I'm going to have to find another way.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

John Charles Slowey - Wisconsin to South Dakota - part 3

The 1900 federal census is probably my favorite.  It includes a plethora (don't you just love that word?) of information such as the month and year of birth, along with the age.  Sometimes it's a good idea to check the math of the census taker.  It tells you how many years of marriage, as well as how many children the females have borne, and how many are still living.  This will help determine if there have been any stillbirths, or deaths in infancy/childhood.

So now we have our happy couple ... with fewer children.  But wait!  Who is this Trasey person showing up as John's wife?  Was he married to someone else?!  Probably not.  Trasey ... Theresa ... it's more likely that (1) the enumerator was a terrible speller, or (2) Trasey was a nickname.  If you look down the list, you'll notice that the children are the same ... and there's another Trasey.  See?  A nickname. 

The census tells us that Theresa has given birth to 8 children, and 8 are still living.  Hmmm.  There are only 7 listed on this census.  We'll definitely have to investigate that further.  I'll put that on my list. 

We have an additional child, Katie, who appears to be the oldest now, at age 13.  We can see that John and Theresa have been married 14 years.  We can deduce that they were probably married in 1886.  Also notice that Katie was born in November 1886.  Shotgun wedding?  The census was taken on June 15, 1900, so John and Theresa would have had to marry before June 15 in 1886, but after June 15, 1885.  Obviously, another fact we will need to corroborate, especially with the missing 8th child.  I love a good scandal!

I found John on the 1880 federal census, living with his parents Patrick and Katherine, in Yankton County in the Dakota Territory (South Dakota didn't become a state until 1889).

You're probably thinking ... "Wait just a minute!  You skipped 20 years there!  What about 1890?"  Well, the 1980 federal census was destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Department in Washington, DC in 1921.  Of the roughly 62 million people enumerated in 1890, only about 6,000 records survived.  The Veterans and Widows census scheduled survived, and can sometimes be used as a substitute for the lost records.

Ok, back to our census record.  John is a 21-year-old living with his parents and siblings.  You will also notice an odd name at the bottom ... Georg Meter, age 3, listed as "adopted son."  I wonder where he came from.  He was born in Dakota, but his parents are from Prussia.  Something else to put on my list of facts to check.  That list just keeps getting longer and longer ...

The last census record John will appear on is the 1870 census.  Apparently, they weren't real big on getting a lot of information in 1870.

The family lived in the town of Kendall, Lafayette Co., Wisconsin.  So now we know that at some point between 1870 and 1880, the family moved from Wisconsin to South Dakota.  I will have to try to find some state census records in either Wisconsin or South Dakota to try to narrow down the time frame.

Friday, October 22, 2010

John Charles Slowey - Wisconsin to South Dakota - Part 2

The federal census has been taken every 10 years since 1790, and is very helpful in genealogical research.  (Although sometimes they create more questions than they answer!)  Probably the easiest place to search census records online is or (both paid services), but you can also search for free the non-digitized census microfilms at the National Archives in Washington, DC or one of the regional facilities, or at the State Archives.  The LDS Family History Centers around the country can obtain the rolls via interlibrary loan from the National Archives as well.  Your local library may be able to get them too.  You may also find the records you are looking for as part of the USGenWeb Census Project:

So I managed to locate several federal census records for my great great grandfather.  The 1920 census shows John Slowey and wife Theresa, ages 58 and 54 respectively, still living with two sons, Clarence and Clement (ages 17 and 15 respectively) in Mayfield Township, Yankton Co., South Dakota as of January 10, 11, and 12, 1920.  It shows that John is a grain farmer and son Clarence is a farm laborer (likely working for dad).  John was born in Wisconsin and Theresa was born in Missouri (aha! more info on Theresa!).  Both boys were born in South Dakota.  We also know from this census that John's and Theresa's parents were born in Ireland.  Another clue!
The 1910 (May 4, 1910) federal census for Mayfield Township, Yankton Co., South Dakota shows our beloved John and wife Theresa, but with many more children! 
Peter, Mary E., Theresa, Ellen, Thomas P., John E., Clarence, and Clement - ranging in age from 5 to 21.  Obviously, six of the children flew the coop over the next 10 years.  We'll have to find them on their own census records.  We can tell from this census that both parents and all the children can read and write, and that John owns his home (with a mortgage).  We can also see that John is not a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy (obviously because he was only a toddler during the Civil War).

You'll notice that the actual census forms are fairly difficult to read, so it's hard to determine what each of those columns identify. has some handy-dandy census extraction forms that help determine what each column is for, and you can use them to transcribe the information you find (very helpful when you don't have the option to print or save to your computer/laptop right away).  They can be found (for free) at:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

John Charles Slowey - Wisconsin to South Dakota

John Charles Slowey is my 2nd great grandfather.  He was born February 24, 1861 in Wisconsin.  I believe this to be true - not because his death certificate shows his date of birth (oh no, that would be too easy) - but because his death certificate DOES give me his exact age of 67 years, 2 months, and 0 days.  John died on April 26, 1928.  I simply did the math.

It turns out that death certificates are chock full of information!  John died on April 26, 1928, in Yankton Township, Yankton County, South Dakota at Sacred Heart Hospital at 2:15 a.m.  He was the husband of Theresa Slowey and was a farmer.  His father was Patrick Slowey, born in Ireland, and his mother was Catherine McCabe, also born in Ireland.  He was sick from March 29, 1928 until April 26 when he died.  It looks like his cause of death was "multiple abscess of the lung" as a result of pneumonia that he contracted while in Irene, South Dakota.  He was buried on April 28, 1928 in Catholic Cemetery in Mayfield, South Dakota.  The undertaker, Joseph Frick, signed the certificate.  I wish I could read his doctor's name.  The "informant" for the certificate is listed as "Mrs. John Nooney."  I wonder how she fits into this puzzle ...

Whew!  All that from one piece of paper (which, it turns out, I have had in my possession since January 2000).

Obviously, I have some serious digging to do in order to discover more information about my great great grandfather.  Next stop ... census records!