Friday, January 15, 2010

FamilySearch - It Just Keeps Getting Better

I stopped by the FamilySearch Pilot site for a ‘week’ yesterday.  The visit was planned for only a few minutes to look for a birth record for one of my ancestors who was born in New Hampshire.

Browsing directly to that collection, success was almost immediate.  That was easy!  While there, why not refine my search and search for the rest of my ancestors who were born in New Hampshire too? That’s when the ‘week’ started.  Success, success, success, mixed with some failures.

The successes continued all the way back to the mid-1600’s.  Thinking the ‘touch’ was with me; I started looking for the children of my direct ancestors.  A lot of their records were there too.

The saved images were added to each source entry in my database as I went along.  A quick preview of family group sheets for the families looked great with the primary sources and their related thumbnail sized images included.

“One more family”. “Just one more family” I murmured as the sun of the new day came over the mountain.  Of course I didn’t need to work all night. The records will still be there for a little while until they are removed when the indexing of them is complete.  Eventually, they’ll be included in the rewritten site, but when will that happen – exactly? 

It will happen.  The WHEN is the “I Can’t Wait For It” question.

The same is true for most if not all of the records that are being Indexed by volunteers like you and I who are working on that massive project at FamilySearch.

If you haven’t searched the primary source records on the Pilot site yet,, give it a try this week.

FamilySearch Wiki

The FamilySearch user community is contributing excellent knowledge articles to help all of us in our ancestral quest.  See it at:

If you are having problems in your research, be sure to stop by the site and see if there is a posting to help. If you have knowledge about any specific location research tools, hints and tips, sign in and add an article.

The wiki grows daily. Don’t forget to add it to your browser bookmarks.

Community Trees

Well documented family and regional family trees have been added as yet another FamilySearch site. The site uses my favorite web based genealogy software - Darrin Lythgoe’s “The Next Generation.”  Take some time to look through it and see if information about your family has been included in the database.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The History of Thomas Ashton

Ashton Thomas.jpg Thomas Ashton, the son of Joseph and Catherine Callis (Cowley) Ashton, was born in the township of Parr, Lancashire, England, 7 Nov 1813. His father Joseph Ashton was a silversmith by trade. Thomas had one sister, Eleanor, who was nine years his senior.

At the age of fifteen years, he was apprenticed for six years to the trade of wheelwright, carriage builder and a ship carpenter. At the expiration of this apprenticeship, he went to work on the London railway which was being built at that time.

On 20 Nov 1836 he married Mary Howard, daughter of James and Mary Howard of Leyland, Lancashire, England at Prescot, Lancashire, (Merseyside) England. He and his wife were the first citizens of St. Ellen's to be baptized members of the Mormon Church. They were baptized by Samuel Cryer at St. Ellen's, Lancashire, England 28 Jan 1841. They emigrated to America in 1841 and made their home at Skunk River, Iowa. The family was driven away by the mob and went to Nauvoo. He returned to Skunk River to sell his property, but the mob had possession and compelled him to sign a deed to the property.

His wife died 26 Aug 1849 at Pottawattamie, Iowa. She was the mother of five children, Joseph, Catherine, Margaret, Mary Ann and Elizabeth Eleanor who died a few weeks after her mother.

The same year Thomas Ashton built a log house about five miles north of Kanesville, Council Bluffs, his family consisted of his wife and two children, Joseph and Mary. He left them in the care of John Mills while he went down the river in search of work. Mary, his wife took sickly with ague. She was sick about three weeks gave birth to a baby girl (named Elizabeth Eleanor) 13 Aug 1849 and died 26 Aug 1849. She was buried at Kanesville, Iowa. Her father, Brother Mills wrote to her husband of her illness, but he did not get home until after she was buried. She was a good woman and loved by all who knew her. The baby died 5 Oct 1849 and was buried inside the coffin of its mother.

Ashton Thomas Obituary 23 Jan 1903 Thomas Ashton stayed home and took care of his four children that were left without a mother, with the aid of Sister Mills and her daughter Sarah. He married Sarah Mills 25 Sept 1849. She died 3 Sep 1850 leaving one child John Mills Ashton. On 17 Feb 1851 he married Arminta Adelia Lawrence at Council Bluffs, Pottawattomie, Iowa. Before his final move to Nauvoo, he went there to work and worked under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He assisted to build the noted Mormon Boat, the "Maid of Iowa." The family moved to Nauvoo after the death of the Prophet. Brother Ashton took part in all the events of the trying times until the final expulsion.

He worked in the big wagon shop where the wagons were made for the trip westward. He assisted in the last defense of Nauvoo against the mob and helped to work the noted cannon that was made out of a steam boat shaft. A sythe of his that he used to protect the prophet now hangs in the museum in Lehi, Utah.

The family left Nauvoo at the final expulsion and trouble and went to Winter Quarters, passing through all the events that happened there until the breaking up of Winter Quarters. Not having means enough to continue on to Utah, they moved back across the Missouri River to Council Bluff, Pottawattomie, Iowa. Here they lived and raised crops until the year 1851. Then the family moved to Utah, traveling in the company of Morris Phelps. The company arrived in Salt Lake City 27 Sept 1851. They came to Lehi arriving 6 Oct. 1851 and have lived here since that date.

Eleven children were born to Arminta Adelia Lawrence and Thomas Ashton. They were, Thomas, Rhoda Jane, Esther, James, Eleanor, Henry, Henrietta, Emma, William, Daniel and Orin.

Brother Ashton was ordained a Priest by Theodore Curtis Jan. 1841 and a Seventy at Nauvoo in 1844 and a High Priest by Daniel Thomas Aug. 22, 1875 at Lehi.

Brother Ashton took a very active part in the planning and making of our first water ditch and was one of our first water masters when no salary was attached to that office. He was also very active in planning and building our first bridge across the Jordan River and other places, also our first meeting house. He was six times elected a member of the Lehi City Council and was also prominent in adding his means in the outfits of all of the boys growing on Indian raids. He lived to a grand old age of eighty-nine years, two months and fifteen days.


“Lost” Garden Varieties Grown By Ancestors

old_gardener_sm My maternal grandfather was the last living farmer by profession in my lineage.  We’ve ‘advanced’ since then and make our living using the technology of today. 

My paternal grandmother was a farmer too, with 200 acres of fruit trees, hay and vegetables.  Cash was always a problem, but there was always food on the table, even if it was plain fare at times.

Of course my siblings and I have gardens and small orchards at our homes, but they are considerably smaller than the acres of ground that grandma and grandpa planted to feed and support their families.

Grandpa grew Utah celery, sugar beets and potatoes as cash crops.  Grandma grew varieties of apples, berries and other basic food varieties. 

At our home, we grow apples, pears and have a raised box gardens.  The apples produce a far larger harvest than our family, kids and grandchildren can use, so we give the surplus to other families in our area who are in need, or love fresh fruit and are smart enough to bottle their own fruit each year.

Ancestors a generation or two farther back in time basically grew the same crops although they did grow a few varieties that we don’t see very often today.

Our Redwood City Seed Company catalog came last week.  I found some of the ‘lost’ varieties while perusing its pages.  We are going to plant some of them this year to enjoy and possibly add to our annual planting list.

Raised_bed_garden_sm From my Calaveras County California grandparents garden: Miner’s Lettuce.  One-foot tall California native succulent whose leaves are used in salads.  Great grandpa was a gold rush miner and enjoyed eating the fresh ingredient of these leaves during that period and later in life.

From my New Zealand ancestors garden:  New Zealand Spinach.  Introduced in N.Z. by Europeans in 1770, the leaves of the plant are eaten like spinach.  The catalog says the taste is mild and full of flavor. 

From my father: Horseradish: My father always made his own horseradish sauce.  it wasn’t the watered down, tamed stuff you buy at stores today.  It had BITE.  In fact, I remember getting an instant bloody nose when I curiously took a deep whiff of a newly opened bottle when I was a wee young man.  Even Kerr jar lids and rings were corroded by this rattle snake venom, but Dad loved it.  I learned to just wave my knife over an opened jar a few times and spread the smell on my roast beef as a kid.  My taste buds have largely died off as I’ve aged, so I like the store bought stuff today.  I don’t think I could take the horseradish that Dad ate though – not even the variety that he diluted with ground turnips.  I guess I never grew up to be the man he was.  Maybe this year. 

From my paternal ancestors:  I don’t know which ones but my father told my stories of them loving the large varieties of Lima Beans.  He loved them.  I like them.  My wife hates them.  We are going to grow a few bushes of the Incan Giant White Lima Beans this year.  1” long in the pod.  2” long when cooked.

Of course, we’ll continue to grow many heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruits this year and save the seeds for next years crop.  Hybrid varieties don’t produce fruit well in future generations of their seeds, so growing varieties from proven heirloom seeds is just smart planning.  We might as well live in the ‘prepared’ mode rather than having to learn it in an emergency and not having the skills and the right seeds.  The seeds harvested from last years plants will be used this year and the new varieties will be added to the annual seed storage rotation cache if we like them.

cherry_tomato_smWe won’t grow parsnips this year.  I’m the only one who likes them.  We won’t grow watercress either, with no running water to support these wonderful peppery plants.  We’ve substituted nasturtium leaves for water cress in our salads, but they don’t make a good sandwich like the cress does.

Five gallon buckets with the bottom knocked out will be home to some of the vining tomatoes.  They’ll be full of compost, nested in 12” of garden soil and placed adjacent to tall trellises to support the 6 –12 ft high vines.  If you don’t have a garden, everyone can grow cherry tomatoes at home using pots. 

Today, our gardens are relatively easy to grow compared to those of our ancestors.  We have to rediscover some of the varieties and methods they used but the effort is well worth it.  Nothing tastes as good as produce that you’ve grown yourself, even if it was grown in a flower pot on the porch. 

Spring will be here before we know it.  If you haven’t ordered your seed catalogs yet, do it now.  When they arrive, you’ll find yourself reading them and envisioning warm weather and vine ripened tomatoes.  The cold and white outside will vanish from view for a few minutes.

Here are a few catalogs that include heirloom varieties:

The Redwood Seed Company

Johnny's Selected Seeds

Heirloom Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Amishland Heirloom Seeds

Territorial Seeds



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