Category Archives: family history

The Spirit of Anna Wickline Knight

First, a brief history of the Wicklines:

Johann Georg Wickline was born, just before 1700, in Alsace or the Black Forest of Germany. He immigrated to Philadelphia, by way of Rotterdam, arriving on the Palatine German brig John in October of 1736 and married Anna Christina Rietenauer, also of Alsace, in 1741 in Berks County, PA. We can tell that Johann Georg was literate, because he signed his oath to the American government with his signature, not an X mark. All of the Wicklines in America are descended from Johann Georg, my line through his son Jacob George, born 1750 in Montgomery County, PA, and Jacob’s wife Maria Catharine Spahr of Berks County, PA.

Jacob and Maria moved their family south to Sweet Springs, Virginia, right on the border between present-day Virginia and southern West Virginia, where the Wickline family stayed until the late 19th century, when Anna Mazuria Wickline moved to central West Virginia and married William Clinton Knight of Braxton County.


Though she is not a grandmother to either one of us, my mom and I both call her “Grandma Knight.” She’s my grandmother’s grandmother, my mother’s great-grandmother, and my great-great-grandmother. And she was a West-Virginia-hills-country homestead-woman, who shot her own meat, chopped her own firewood (and probably called it “fahrwood”), quilted, gardened, and boasted a canning cellar that was apparently quite a delight to visit. Her whole front yard-patch was nothing but a flower garden. She must have been the embodiment of the old saying about “idle hands,” because I’ve never once heard of her sitting idly. And I could probably deduce that my pricklyness is an Annie Wickline trait, diluted by a couple of generations and tempered extensively by a recent injection of Avery good humor.

If there’s one really great thing about knowing the oral history of both sides of your family, it’s that you can recognize when you honestly come by certain traits in yourself. It’s the old nature versus nurture argument, but as a small-time genealogist that’s half the romance of digging up these old stories — not just figuring out whence a dimpled chin or prominent nose, but personality traits or interests shared with long-gone, unmet ancestors. And sometime last summer, I became possessed by the spirit of Grandma Knight, or at least her DNA. The desire to plant something, and make a mark on my tiny landscape, became an undeniable itch. I finally got Jim to build first one and then a second raised bed, I put in berry bushes and flowers, started planning fall bulbs,* and got Jim to rip out most of our lovely-but-blah box hedges and call in a landscaper for new stone edging and perennial summer and fall bloomers. I honed home-canning skills and plotted out a year of grander canning designs. I tried to figure out where (and how) to start a small vegetable garden. I bought a share in a friend’s farm CSA, and started to research summer fruit and veggie CSAs.

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Town Hall

I’ve become quite the connoisseur of local Massachusetts town halls in the last three months.

  • Town of Weymouth (Nice digs, could use a better parking lot, frankly.)
  • Town of Norton
  • Town of Easton (Thank-you to the nice woman who volunteered to comb the attic for old birth records!)
  • Town of Canton
  • Town of Stoughton
  • Town of Hingham (Twice! There are some very lovely ladies in the office there.)
  • Town of Hanover (Thank-you to the lady who visited the sub-basement looking for marriages from 1852 and had to call me back!)
  • Quincy City Hall

Ok…so the last one was to renew Amy’s dog license and rabies shot info…not do family history…but still…

And I may or may not still have to visit Abington’s town hall! I feel like there should be a FourSquare badge for this, or at the very least, a punch card: “Visit 9 town halls and your 10th one is free!” I’d be well on my way to a complimentary town hall! 🙂

This exercise in tracking down official vital records has been quite an adventure.

Firstly, the Maps function in my smartphone has been essential; if I didn’t have GPS, I don’t think this would even be possible. I went from Amy’s vet drop-off to the Hingham Town Hall to the Hanover Town Hall, back to Hingham town offices by way of a Starbucks, then home (and then back to the vet to reclaim my ball of fluff) all in one day, and if I hadn’t had the driving directions app on my phone I would never have made it all in one trip. At best, I’d have had to come home in between to get directions to the next place and print them out, then start all over again, but all I had to do was spend a few minutes at each stop preparing directions to get to the next stop. And off I went!

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Family Trees

I just finished making a new page for the website: Genealogy. You can see it, up there in the navigation bar at the top of the page.

In related news: my mom is coming to visit at the end of April! We’re going to have a party and look for people in the new-to-us 1940 Census! Is it pitiful that I salivate when I think of it? O the stories that Census will tell us! Is it pitiful that I’m looking forward to helping my friend with her adventures in the 1940 Census, for the sheer pleasure of unearthing the stories of her ancestors too?

Total nerd. Yup. That’s me.

While she’s here, we’re also going to do normal things, like have a girls’ night at the local Paint Bar and go see colonial embroideries at the MFA. That’s normal mother-daughter stuff, right? Sure it is. I’ll just keep telling myself that.

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Remembering the Ladies

Dear Genealogists, Amateur and Otherwise:

Remember the Ladies. I know we live in a patronymic society here in the West, so the default for genealogists is to follow the line of the surname — the men. This is great, but were there no foremothers among our forefathers? Did the Founding Fathers have no Founding Wives? For the most part, the women in our modern genealogies are just names, sometimes birth years, sometimes birth dates, sometimes birth places. They themselves have no parents, no siblings, no histories, they just pop fully formed in to our family trees. But having inherited a basically complete paternal family tree, I felt there was not much I could do besides just keeping it updated with marriages and babies — not much I could own, no digging I myself could do. Until I thought about the women, and decided to find out who they were.

If you are a family genealogist and you want to try to find the women in your family tree, I have one excellent piece of advice for you: Look among someone else’s sisters. Often a genealogist will have the names of all a person’s siblings recorded, but they usually only focus on their own (male) ancestor. That leaves a lot of siblings floating around, and after women marry, they tend to fall out of their family trees forever, having lost the patronym. Frequently you can break out of a genealogical doldrums and find the woman who married in to your family languishing among someone else’s “lost” sisters. Look for matching birth dates and familiar names — if you know the names of a woman’s children, look for similar names among potential maternal relatives. Usually the second son will be named after her father or a brother. Or a daughter may be named after the mother’s mother, grandmother, or sisters. I was working on a female line and discovered that an Alice of mine probably got the name from her mother’s mother and grandmother, also Alices. This convinces me I probably have the right line.

I also discovered a woman I am descended from twice over. From one of her sons, a daughter married in to my dad’s patronymic line, and from another son, a line of men resulted in a woman who gave birth to a woman who married in to the same patronymic line. I wouldn’t know this if I hadn’t tried to trace my foremothers’ families. Hello, Avis Deacon Reed, I am your many-great-granddaughter twice-over, it’s so nice to finally know about you.

Dear Future Genealogists: I’m trying to help you out. I’m making sure that any of the records you’d be looking for — like my marriage record — are as full of pertinent information as I can make them be. I made sure full birth dates and places were filled in, and mothers’ maiden names. My husband didn’t know why I was insisting he fill in his mother’s maiden name, and I said, “Two hundred years from now, a genealogist will thank you.” You can’t forget the ladies. I will continue to do this as much as I can, tucking bits of family history away for posterity, clues for intrepid archaeologists to find and signposts for them to follow.

Below the jump, I’m listing every woman I know I’m descended from, with her married name in parentheses. If you have found this site by a search engine because you are looking for one of these women, drop a note in the Comments section and I’ll try to help you out with whatever information I’ve managed to glean about her. Some of these women are so far back in history they almost don’t exist, but some of them are near and dear.

“x2” indicates descent from two of the woman’s children.

Alphabetical by first name after the jump…

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