52 Ancestors #4: Hixie Garner Clymer

This post could be subtitled the “Mystery of the Move.”

While I love discovering historical documents and references to back up the family stories I’ve heard about my ancestors, I really wish I could just interview a few of them to get the missing details and motivations.
Hixie Garner Clymer (though it could be Climer as I’m not sure of the family spelling) would definitely be on my list.
She moved her family to Missouri from Hickman County, Tennessee, in 1857, about seven years after her husband, Andrew, died.
That sounds like quite a feat to me and I’d love to know more about how and why she chose Commerce.

  • What prompted their move?
  • Were their other relatives in Missouri?
  • Was the farmland more fertile? Did they get more land for a cheaper price?
  • And, if you don’t have any connections to the new place — at least I can’t find that she did — how do you decide where to start over after your husband’s death?

I have lots of questions for her about raising seven children, too. Her children were May, Charles, Nancy, John D. Samuel, James and Lewis. And I really want to know more about her younger sons, all of whom fought in the Civil War — some for Missouri, and some for Tennessee.
I imagine that this woman would have been a great interview, full of ripe stories and funny anecdotes.
An excerpt from the “History of Scott County, Mo.,” by Royal E. Ford says: “This family’s roots reach back through North Carolina and Virginia to Bristol, England.”
My research doesn’t quite extend that far, but I did piece together the family’s move to the rich farmlands of Commerce, Mo., using census records on Ancestry.com.
Hixie — or maybe spelled Hixey — was born sometime around 1815 in Tennessee. One census records indicates it could have been as early as 1809.
She married her husband, Andrew, in 1833 in Tennessee. He died in 1850.
In 1857, the family has relocated to Commerce.
Hixie will continue to live as head of the household on the family farm until 1880. She is counted in the census that year and records indicate she died within the year.
I wish I could discover more — and just might by looking at some county records and farm deeds — to see what else I might learn about this woman and her life.


52 Ancestors #3: Emma Chandler Simpson

For at least part of her life, Emma Chandler lived by the land.

She could easily have been born into farm life in southern Illinois — I have no idea. But I do know she lived as a wife and mother on a farm at Grays Point, Mo., near the banks of the Mississippi River.

I imagine she worried, as most people would have who lived in the vicinity, about rising floodwaters in the spring. She was aware of the change of seasons, how much rain was needed to make the crops grow and how much would soak them too heavily. She likely canned her own food and put up enough to feed the family during the winter.

She and her husband, Joseph Joel Simpson, farmed in both Illinois and Missouri. He raised crops, notably popcorn, that was sold to the movie theater in Illmo. Some old family records show his logs for the farm, where he marked expenses and receipts.

I have no idea how much Emma was involved in the farm operations, but I imagine she knew a little about hard work. She married at age 23, and raised six children  — three boys and three girls.

She was born Oct. 3, 1872, at Grand Tower, Illinois, a small community situated on the banks of the Mississippi River. Census records show she lived there until at least 1900, moving to Missouri by 1910 to be counted there in the census.

My records search has found only census documents, which help fill out a bit of her story.

Emma Chandler Simpson

Emma Chandler Simpson, year unknown

She and Joseph Joel Simpson were married in 1894; their first child, Aaron Lloyd (my great-grandfather) was born a year later.  (His obituary states that the couple married in January 1895 and they moved to Missouri in 1910.)

Her last child, Robert, was born in 1908, making him just 12 years old when his mother died.

Emma died Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1920, at her home. Her obituary stated that she was age 48 years, 2 months and 25 days. Her obituary notice published the following day in the Jimplicute newspaper. In part it reads:

“The deceased was a most excellent woman, kind hearted charitable and loved by all who knew her, and her death caused sadness to many hearts.

The Jimplicute extends sincere sympathy.”

I’ve been unable to find an actual death certificate for Emma Chandler Simpson with the Missouri Archive. I might renew that search again because I’m curious about the cause of death since she was so young.

I’d like to share the story of her life one day with my daughter, Emma, who is named after this relative. And it would be nice to have a bit of back story to go with the photograph that’s been passed down for generations.

52 Ancestors Challenge #2: Flu pandemic of 1918

I’ve been preoccupied with getting my daughter a flu shot this week after seeing media reports of young people dying from the H1N1 strain.

This reminded me of a family story about a female relative who died young, leaving behind a young child and husband. For a long time, all I knew about Mary Elizabeth Chandler Schlifckin was that she was buried in Lightner Cemetery in Scott County, Mo., near her sister, Emma Chandler Simpson.

When we went to the cemeteries to visit graves, my grandfather would often share the stories of the deceased’s life. Of course, when telling the story of Mary Chandler Schlifckin, my grandfather mostly emphasized that she married a man of Russian and Jewish descent. He left out the part about how she likely died during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Mary Chandler SchlifckinIt took me a long time to figure out that her death at age 27  is most likely linked to the pandemic. And a lot of that help came from those shaky leaves and hints on Ancestry.com. It turns out that those hints helped me find a cousin who knew much more about Mary Chandler’s story than I’d ever been told.

According to this cousin, who was the grandson of Mary’s other sister, Minnie Mae Barber, Mary died in 1918 during the influenza epidemic. She had an infant daughter, possibly born near the time of her death. The child’s father was Russian (my grandfather did have that detail right) and wanted to take the baby back to Russia.

Apparently, Mary’s family “hid” the infant from him. The baby girl, known as Mary, was later adopted by an aunt, whom I believe is May Manning Chandler, and raised in California.

One part of Mary Elizabeth Chandler’s life that I haven’t figured out is whether she also had a son, Boris Schlifckin, Jr. The last census records that I can find for her indicate she was still unmarried and living with her parents at age 19. She died a short eight years later.

This story reminds me of the powerful ties families have — I’m sure that one of the reasons I even know about Mary Chandler is because her sister, Emma, wanted to keep her memory alive. Emma was the oldest child and first daughter in the family and Mary was the last, so I can only guess there was a strong connection between them. Emma Chandler Simpson, my great-grandfather’s mother, had her first son about four years after Mary was born.

I don’t know how much truth there is to the part of this story about the family hiding the baby but I recognize how sensitive the Chandler family might have been to losing connection to this child. Mary’s death came during the height of the influenza pandemic and at the close of the Great War as it was often called then. Grief abounded.

My great-grandfather —  Emma’s son and Mary Chandler’s nephew — fought in France during World War I and was gassed. His family received an initial telegram telling them he had died. I can empathize with their fear and loss at Mary’s death and the thought of losing their only connection to her — an infant daughter — so shortly after what they had believed to be another casualty.

I know little about the baby’s life or what happened to

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks: #1

I’m starting over on my ancestry blog after a short-lived attempt to blog every day for a month last year. I read a blog yesterday that mentioned a new challenge for 2014 — 52 ancestors in 52 weeks —  and I decided to take a look. The idea of lining out all my research and writing the story of one person at a time seems much easier and within my abilities to accomplish with a busy toddler in the house.

So here goes:

Ancestor No. 1 is my grandfather, Harold L. Simpson. He was born in 1924 in Commerce, a small river community in Scott County, Mo., the son of Aaron Lloyd Simpson and Amy Ruth Duckworth Simpson. He was the second son.

Image: Harold Simpson, grade school picture

My grandfather rarely talked about his childhood and early life, but I know he lived on a farm for some time near his grandparents, whom he called Mam and Pap. He was twice married, divorcing his first wife, Frances, in 1950 in St. Louis. He then married Betty Sue Coats in 1953 in Arkansas. My mother, his first daughter, was born about a year later. A second daughter was born in 1956.

My grandfather liked to tinker with cars and machines. Maybe that came from trying to fix things around the family farm, but it was a skill he kept throughout his life. It served him well during World War Ii when he served with an engineering battalion in Europe.

Like his childhood, he seldom talked about the war. He did have photos that he’d occasionally pull out, and some stories about how the men would adopt a dog or play jokes. He never spoke about his work or what atrocities he saw. I’d like to believe that he didn’t have to shoot or kill anyone, but I’m sure that’s naive.

I know that he saw Adolf Hitler once because he kept a photograph of the event. He would often look at that picture, and dozens of others from the war in the last years of his life. He lived with Alzheimer’s and I think the photographs helped him remember some of his life’s events. Several of my childhood memories of him include him reading books about World War II and Nazi Germany. It was as if he was trying to find ways to understand the history that happened around him.
After he returned from active duty, he worked for the Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis. He must have had a photographic memory because part of his job was to try to memorize photographs and maps that were taken from around the U.S. He even had some topographical maps of the moon and photographs taken by the shuttles that my brother and I thought were amazing to look at when we were kids.

Image: Harold and Karen

My grandfather lived with me and my mother for a time after his partner, Karen, died. He had Alzheimer’s and couldn’t really live alone at that point. I think I got to know more about him and my family because of that experience. He’d tell more stories as we’d look through photos or sort through is belongings for the move (which we sort of knew about a year in advance).

He was the family historian so I was able to piece together some information from the photographs and notes I found after he died in 2010. What I wish I’d done was record more of his stories — like the one about him being asked to play for a semi-pro baseball team, or his adventures of driving cross country. Even details about his childhood and life on the farm would have been useful to me as I dug deeper into my genealogy research.

I’m happy to have the memories I do, and all the information he collected about our family tree. It’s been really useful, somewhat detailed and offers me a connection to him that I cherish.

I’ll be trying to write every week about one of my ancestors, probably from his line on my family tree since it’s the richest and most complete.