31. Three Printed Books

Although my blog entries have emphasized downloadable publications, Bolesbooks actually offers three printed books that are otherwise unavailable in electronic form. Yes, that’s right: Real paper and real binding! They’re described below, but for access to indexes, prices, and ordering information, please visit the Bolesbooks web site.

Barth-Hickey Ancestry

(358 pages, softbound). With the additional familes of Bodine, Bowman, Brown, Brownlee, Burnett, Crocheron, Drury, Finch, French, Greiner, Gullett, Heisdorfer, Housh, Langham, Malmberg, Martin, McClain, McMurtrie, Millard, Mills, Phillips, Reynolds, Robinson, Rung, Russell, Shercliffe, Sinnott, Spinke, Swanson, Wilson, and Wolcott. Includes pictures.  Limited copies remaining; will not be reprinted.

The Barth-Hickey Ancestry covers a particularly strong concentration of families from St. Mary’s co, Md, especially Catholic families in the 1600s and 1700s. Other major geographic areas variously inhabited by Protestant or Catholic ancestors were Iowa, Ind, and NJ; Macon co, Ill; Nelson co, Ky; Washington co, Pa; Somerset co, Md; and Augusta co, Va. Other names, areas, and periods are also represented.

Speece-Robinson Ancestry

(222 pages, softbound). Co-author Harold W. Boles. With the additional families of Addams, Altruth, Auliffe, Bailey, Brown, Cole, Conklin, Cunningham, Dick, Dobbs, Doors, Flexney, Gobels, Hinds, McIntire, op den Graeff, Pletges, Princehouse, Rossiter, Tarpley, Tomey, and Williams. And Addenda on the Adams, Bachiler, Dungan, Holbrook, Large, Latham, Swift, Weaver, and Wing Families. Includes pictures.  Very limited copies remaining; will not be reprinted.

The Speece-Robinson Ancestry covers a number of families from Champaign and Shelby counties, Ohio; Frederick co, Va; Berkeley and Morgan counties, WVa; Bucks and Philadelphia counties, Pa; what is now Union co, NJ; New England; and England, Ireland, and Germany. The American coverage is particularly strong in the 1700s and 1800s, but there is a substantial segment of material from the 1600s as well. Other names, areas, and periods are also represented.

Withers-Davis Ancestry

(427 pages, hardbound). Co-author Harold W. Boles. With the additional families of Abraham, Babb, Bachiler, Chandler, Collet, David, Davies, Hollingsworth, Hussey, Jefferis, Lewis, Martin, May, Nash, Nowell, Perkins, Powell, Ree, Roberts, Sloper, Tarrant, Wise, Wood, and Woolaston. Also numerous Welsh families ancestral to William, David, and Ralph Lewis, and John Bevan, plus their royal descents.  Will not be reprinted.

The Withers-Davis Ancestry covers a large concentration of families from the area of Chester and Delaware counties, Pennsylvania; New Castle co, Delaware; New England; co. Wilts, England; and co. Glamorgan and surrounding areas of Wales. Many though by no means all of the families were Quaker. Coverage in America is particularly heavy in the 1600s and 1700s, making the book indispensable to those seeking their colonial roots. Other names, areas, and periods are also represented.




30. Three Valentines: The Snyder / Snider Family of Germany, Rockingham County, Virginia, and Champaign County, Ohio

Some years ago while researching the Snyder / Snider family of Champaign county, Ohio — my mother’s ancestors — I ran across an unusual signature. It was on my ancestor’s court declaration concerning his service in the War of 1812. Following his brief testimony, he signed:


That stylized, unnecessary extension of the V in Valentine — sorry, I have to say it — stole my heart. It particularly did so because its author was 77 years old at the time. My ancestor was apparently a lifelong romantic!

By the 1870s when he made his declaration, the association of the heart glyph with Valentines was already well established. Accompanying is a picture of a Valentine card from that very decade. While the expression of sentiment seems a little tone deaf by modern standards, the association between love and the heart is clear.


The man with the heart-melting signature was John Valentine Snider, Jr. He was born in 1793 in Rockingham county, Virginia, the son of immigrant John Valentine Snider, Sr. — our second of three Valentines. Exactly when across the generations the heart glyph became associated with the given name will probably never be known. What has recently been discovered, however, is a third Valentine, far back in the family in Germany.

His discovery is actually the important part of the tale in this edition of The Genealogist’s Craft. For a number of decades, my father and I were stymied in identifying the exact German origin of Valentine, Sr. But then in 1992 an extraordinary revelation came by way of the mailbox. A new correspondent residing in Ohio sent along photocopies of two handwritten pages of birth information.  He wrote that they had been referred to in a 1904 letter as having been copied from “a family Bible since lost.”

The document contained the family record of the father of Valentine, Sr., as well as that of Valentine himself. It named the children of both generations and gave their birthdates. For the most part the transcription appeared to be literal, though judging from instances of fractured English grammar it had likely been translated from German by someone not fluent in that language.

An unusual feature of the entries is that they gave zodiac signs for each of the children, but in a manner that was unfamiliar. For example, the entries for two of the children of Valentine, Sr., born in the two very different months of January and October, both gave “Steer” as their sign. It now seems clear that in accordance with a practice previously noticed in Pennsylvania German custom [1], the zodiac of the birth records was lunar based, with signs changing roughly daily instead of monthly. Thus children with birth dates in separated months could indeed share the same sign.

A final notable feature of the document was that it stated that the “book” (i.e., Bible) had been purchased in Rissmuhl, Germany, in 1730. That was likely Rißmühl, a locality about a half mile NW of Stallwang, itself about 40 km east of Regensburg, Bavaria. Was this perhaps the geographic origin of the family? At the time the question could not be answered.

When I published the Snyder-Harbour Ancestry in 2005, I saw no reason not to give credence to this record, and accordingly provided an account of the father and siblings of Valentine, Sr., as well as what biographical information was available. I also photographically reproduced the two-page document in the book itself, because as I wrote in the text, the record was in danger of being lost to posterity. Annoyingly, however, when I searched the on-line databases of the time, corroboration of the birth records in the handwritten document continued to elude me.

In the decade since the book’s publication, however, databases have become more and more complete as extracts have continued to be made. It was with pleasure, then, that just before I first published the Omnibus Ancestry, I rechecked and finally found the children’s birth records, neatly laid out in extracts from German church records. The third Valentine was revealed, the grandfather of John Valentine Snider, Sr.

And Rißmühl? Most good genealogical stories leave a loose end or two for further investigation. That is certainly true in this case, for Rißmühl is almost 300 miles from the now-known German home of the Sniders. What on earth was one of my ancestors doing so far from home in 1730? Research will continue — my Valentine to the lives of our ancestors.

For more on the Snyder/Snider family, please see The Omnibus Ancestry, available for preview and download through Lulu.com at this link.  The Snyder-Harbour Ancestry is also still available there.


[1] Wertkin, G.C. (2004). Encyclopedia of American Folk Art. NY: Routledge.

Picture attributions: Public domain

NEW BOOK! Origins and Descendants of James Bole

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book, The Origins and Descendants of James Bole of Westmoreland and Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania.  At this Lulu link, under “More Detail”, you can obtain a preview before deciding whether to buy.

Many years in the making, and coming in at 411 pages, the book covers the revised ancestry and descendants of James Bole (1752-1836), who married Mary Painter and settled in Westmoreland and Armstrong counties, Pennsylvania. The couple have left family spread throughout the nation. The book contains full references and an every-name index. Maps and photos are included. The volume supersedes the obsolete 1986 publication by providing the true origins of the family, adding many descendants, and correcting a number of errors.  The Scottish and Irish background of the family is treated at length.

There is a full index in the Lulu preview, or you can consult it using the link provided at my Bolesbooks publication website.  I’m happy to introduce so many long-lost Kelburn Boyle descendants!

29. Seven Gateway Ancestors to Royalty

All of these lines are extensively traced and referenced in the Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu).

Recently researchers unveiled a reconstruction of the face of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland (1274-1329, reigned 1306-1329), having applied anthropological forensics techniques to a cast of his skull. The lifelike result can be seen at this link. It does not particularly resemble the much-reproduced, ahistorical portrait illustrated here, which was painted in 1633.


In my family, the reconstruction’s announcement led to a discussion of our relationship, if any, to King Robert. As it happens we do descend from him, and many times over, through one of our seven gateway ancestors to royalty. In this article, I describe some of Dugal McQueen’s royal descents as well as as those of our other six “gateway” ancestors. A gateway ancestor is an immigrant progenitor whose own ancestry traces to royalty — and all of whose descendants accordingly do as well.


The Gateway Ancestors

  1. Dugal McQueen

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Dugal McQueen (ca 1666?-1746) and his family have been the subject of several articles on this blog, especially 4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty; and 26. A Visit to the Home of the McQueens of Pollochaig. In the listing of gateway ancestors, he has pride of place, because he descended from the most recent of all of our royal ancestors, King James II of Scotland (1430-1460, reigned 1437-1460). This makes the descent rarer, because in general, the later a king lived, the fewer descendants he has and the harder it is to find a line of descent from him.

Through James II, Dugal descended from Kings James I, Robert III, Robert II, and Robert II’s maternal grandfather Robert I, “the Bruce”. However, there are not just one but many descents from Robert the Bruce, because Dugal descended from multiple children of each of those kings. All but the most recent, that is. His one connection to James II was through James’ daughter Mary Stewart, who married Sir James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton.

Others of Dugal’s relatively recent royal ancestors include Jean II, “the Good”, King of France (1319-1364, reigned 1350-1364), through his son Philip II, “the Bold”, Duke of Burgundy; and King Edward III of England (1312-1377, reigned 1327-1377), through Edward’s son John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Aquitaine.

  1. Ralph Lewis

An ancestor of my mother’s mother, Ralph Lewis (ca 1649-1712) was a Quaker of co. Glamorgan, Wales, who removed to Pennsylvania in 1683. He owned land in what is now Delaware county, and was the subject of a blog entry, 25. The True Parentage of Ralph Lewis, of Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pennsylvania .

Ralph was technically the second most recently royally descended of our gateway ancestors, at least when reckoned by birth year. One of his ancestors was King Pedro, “the Cruel”, King of Castile and Leon (1334-1369, reigned 1350-1368). The line of descent is through Pedro’s daughter Isabel of Castile, who married Sir Edmund, of Langley, 1st Duke of York, son of King Edward III of England (who with a birthyear of 1312 was older than Pedro, and thus less recent). The descent is unusual because it comes through Edmund’s and Isabel’s daughter Constance Plantagenet by way of her scandalous live-in relationship as the unmarried “wife” of Sir Edmund de Holand, 4th Earl of Kent.

  1. Mary Need

An ancestor of my mother’s mother, Mary Need (1645-aft 1708) was the wife of Edmund Cartlidge, a Quaker immigrant to Philadelphia. Her grandfather, a member of the yeomanry of co. Nottingham, England, had converted to the Quaker faith in 1647. In turn he was a descendant of the Lords Clifford, of Shakespearian fame, and through them of King Edward III of England (1312-1377, reigned 1327-1377).

This descent is somewhat unusual because it passes through Edward’s son Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence and Earl of Ulster, who left relatively few progeny.

  1. Elizabeth Gerard

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Elizabeth Gerard (1630-1716) was a native of co. Lancaster, England, whose Catholic birth family immigrated to Maryland in 1638. She married as her first husband, Robert Ellyson, of James City county, Virginia.

Elizabeth was a descendant of King Edward I of England (1239-1307, reigned 1272-1307). The line runs through Edward’s daughter Elizabeth Plantagenet, who married as her second husband, Humphrey de Bohun VIII, Earl of Hereford and Essex, and Lord High Constable of England, and then down through the Fitz Alan and Goushill families.

  1. Susannah Gerard

An ancestor of my father’s mother, Susannah Gerard (ca 1632-1677) was like her sister Elizabeth (above) a descendant of King Edward I of England (1239-1307, reigned 1272-1307). She married as her first husband, Robert Slye, of St. Mary’s county, Maryland.

  1. George Yate

An ancestor of my father’s father, George Yate (aft 1636-1691) immigrated to Maryland sometime before 1666, where he became a large landowner of widespread properties in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, and Prince Georges counties. He was of an old Catholic family of Berkshire, England.

George was a descendant of King Henry III of England (1207-1272, reigned 1216-1272), through Henry’s son Edmund Plantagenet, called “Crouchback”, Earl of Lancaster and titular King of Sicily. From Edmund, the line runs down through the Beaumont and Botreaux families.

  1. Lawrence Dameron

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Lawrence Dameron (1615-1660) was an immigrant from co. Suffolk, England, who became a large landowner in Northumberland county, Virginia. His Dameron ancestors held a manor in co. Suffolk as early as 1552, but his royal ancestry was through his grandmother Marjorie Clench. Her ancestor was Robert de Vere, 5th Earl of Oxford, whose most recent royal line of descent appears to be to Henry I, King of France (1006-1060, reigned 1031-1060) via the Quincy and Beaumont families. This is the most remote of the gateway ancestries.


Some Thoughts About Gateways

The fact that there are seven gateway ancestors in my family history does not mean that it’s easy to identify a royal descent. For many years from around 1950, when my father began genealogical research on our family, we discovered one “gateway” descent after another that proved not to be true. In part this was due to the tendency of amateur genealogists to insufficiently source their information — one big reason why I emphasize sourcing so much today in my book-length publications.

Another aspect of the difficulty traces to the long, serial nature of such descents. With so many generations lined up one after another to get back to a royal ancestor, and with every generation needing to be accurate, it is easy to make an error somewhere along the way. Sometimes it’s as simple as attributing a child to one wife of a male ancestor, when the child was actually by a different wife. Sometimes there are confusions of similar names, so that evidence seeming to link an ancestor to a preceding generation actually concerned an entirely different person. Finally, for Americans there are particular difficulties associated with “hopping the pond”. Immigrant ancestors often left little or no evidence about their origins, and so mistakes are easily made when attempting to identify the correct individuals in European records.

There are nevertheless ways to improve your chances of tracing a royal line. One of the most important is to trace every ancestor possible. Every generation back doubles the number of ancestral lines, and you never know where a gateway will open up. Our first discovery of a gateway ancestor – I mean a real discovery, one that has thus far stood the test of time – was Ralph Lewis, and it didn’t occur until 1994, almost a half century after my father started his research. It occured only because I was determined to trace my mother’s Withers ancestors, opening up a host of Pennsylvania Quaker lines. Even then we got some details wrong, as I have written in 25. The True Parentage of Ralph Lewis, of Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pennsylvania.

All of these lines, and much more, are documented in my book The Omnibus Ancestry. The culmination of almost 70 years of effort, it contains nearly 600 interconnected ancestral lines. Many thousands of dollars went into its research. By investing in the book, you invest in the ongoing research that has made it possible, and that will continue to support updated editions going forward. For those who have made and are making the investment, I am truly grateful. For others considering it, here is the link to The Omnibus Ancestry.


Picture attribution: Public domain.

28. The Kelburn Thistle and the Boyle Family

On this day, October 2nd, 753 years ago – in 1263 – a small Scottish force met an equally small invading Norwegian force on a beach near Largs, Ayshire. Although the Norwegians were able to hold the field after fierce back-and-forth fighting, they were subsequently forced to gather their dead and retreat to their ships. It was the beginning of the end of Norwegian overlordship of the western seaboard of Scotland. Three years later, by the Treaty of Perth, King Magnus VI Haakonsson of Norway ceded the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to King Alexander III of Scotland.

By military standards the action had been a small one, tactically inconclusive even though it ultimately proved strategically significant. In a sense the invasion had even been accidental, for while the Norwegians had amassed a vast armada of ships, it had been a storm that prematurely drove some of the boats onto the beach, triggering the Scottish reaction. Similarly, it was weather that forced the armada to retreat to Norway.

A Fateful Thistle

Beyond the bare historical account there is a curious, romantic story about the Battle of Largs that holds great cultural significance for Scotland. According to tradition, the Norwegian presence on the beach at Largs was unsuspected until one of the barefoot Norsemen stepped on a thistle, crying out in pain. The Scottish troops were alerted, and the battle was on. As a result the thistle has become a symbol of Scotland itself.

Is the thistle story true? There appears to be no primary source for it. But as early as 1470, King James III used the thistle as a national symbol on coinage. In 1540, King James V created the Order of the Thistle, an honorary title for Scottish knights. The thistle today is regarded as the oldest of the national flowers, and it decorates many a coffee mug and T-shirt in tourist shops in Edinburgh.

Kelburn in the Battle of Largs

The thistle tradition holds a special place in my heart, because tradition also places the Boyle family of Kelburn Castle at the Battle of Largs, aiding King Alexander [1]. Possibly commemorating that, in the 19th century, Kelburn Castle had a turret that terminated in what was said to show “the finishing personality and nationality of Scottish architecture — the crest of the Laird surmounted by the thistle.” [2]

Was the fateful thistle a Boyle one? Largs is only two miles from Kelburn Castle. Given that the site of battle is not entirely certain, and that lordly domains extended over large distances, it is not out of the realm of possibility. However, most likely not. In the middle and late 13th century, the lordship of Largs was held by the Baliol family [3], and that likely encompassed most if not all of the possible battle sites.

Thistles at Kelburn

Nevertheless there are still thistles at Kelburn. Earlier this year my wife and I toured the castle gardens. We found among the proliferation of flowers in the Plaisance, the brilliant rose of the thistle (photo). Whether the traditions are true or not, my ancestral estate of Kelburn recognizes its place within the colorful, historical Scottish landscape.


Postscript: Developments in the Boyle of Kelburn Ancestry

This is only one of several blog entries I have written on the Boyles of Kelburn. Others include “8. The Kelburn Castle Origin of the Boles Family: A DNA Success Story”, and “24. Tartan Day and Our Scottish Origins”.

As outlined in the first of those blog entries, there is Y-DNA evidence that my ancestor James Bole (1752-1836), of Westmoreland and Armstrong counties, Pennsylvania, was descended from the Kelburn Boyle family. In a book I expect to release in January 2017, I include a lengthy “Origins” chapter that outlines the most likely line of descent of James from the Kelburn family – and beyond.

The story runs through known Boyle settlers of the Plantation of Ulster under King James I of England (VI of Scotland), back to Boyles of the west coast isles, before coalescing with the ancestry of the Boyle Earls of Glasgow around the year 1495. The book is titled, “The Origins and Descendants of James Bole of Westmoreland and Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania.”

Meanwhile, if you are a Boyle or Boles, please consider Y-DNA testing! Any male bearing the Bole/Boles/Bowles/Boyle name, of these or other spellings, who is thought to have Irish origins and a Protestant background but whose background is otherwise unknown, has a legitimate shot of descending from the Kelburn family.

You can obtain further information from the project webpage at http://www.ancestors-genealogy.com/bowles/index.html. Clicking on the “visit this site” link provided there will show the range of tests available. It is strongly recommended that 25 or more genetic markers be tested, as the 12-marker test is not very diagnostic. Besides providing you with evidence bearing on your own origins, your test results will be of considerable benefit to the Bowles DNA Project — even if you know little about your exact ancestry.


[1] Tales From Scottish Lairds (1985). Norwich: Jarrold Colour Publications.

[2] Millar, A.H. (1885). Historical and Descriptive Accounts of the Castles and Mansions, of Ayrshire. Edinburgh: William Patterson.

[3] Chalmers, G. (1890). Caledonia: Or, A Historical and Topographical Account of North Britain. Paisley: Alexander Gardner, v. 6.

Picture attribution:

Personal photo.

27. Late Immigrants Anders Persson Malmberg and Emma Swanson (Svensson)

As far as can be determined, I have no ancestors who immigrated to America after the Revolutionary War. This has been a great boon for my genealogical research since it has guaranteed that in every line traced back from the present, several generations of records can be found — and in English, and relatively locally.

Not so my wife. Her ancestors came to this country over a wide swath of time, ranging from 1623 to 1893 with many gradations between. Among the earliest were the following [1]:

  • Roberts 1623
  • Parker 1633
  • Thurlow ca 1635
  • Emerson ca 1637
  • Assiter 1638
  • Martin bef 1640
  • Burnet(t) 1640/1
  • Walcott/Wolcott/Woolcott bef 1654
  • Polhemius 1665
  • Sebring bef 1660
  • Trotter bef 1664
  • Barber bef 1667
  • Hayden bef 1667
  • Pride bef 1669
  • Crocheron bef 1671
  • Gullett 1671
  • Brown bef 1675
  • Bodine 1677

But my wife also descends from a number of relatively late immigrants coming variously from Ireland, Luxembourg, Germany, and Sweden [1,2]:

  • Russell 1852
  • Sinnott ca 1853
  • Heisdorfer 1855
  • Rung 1865
  • Barth 1874
  • Malmberg 1891
  • Swanson 1893

All of these families and more, early immigrants or late, are covered in the Omnibus Ancestry, available for download through Lulu.

Embracing the Past

Recently on a pleasure trip to New York City we decided to embrace the pasts of a couple of the late immigrants, Anders Persson Malmberg and Emma Swanson (Svensson). Anders was born into poor circumstances in 1866 in Södra Sallerup parish, Malmöhus county, Sweden, to a couple living in Sallerup village. His surname, meaning “iron mountain”, was assigned to him when in 1886 he enlisted in Regiment 2, Sandby Squadron of Royal Swedish Hussars [1,2]. Anders’ eventual wife Emma was born in 1872 in Osby, Kristianstads county, Sweden, the daughter of crofters. According to family legend they met while working for the same family, he as an outdoor laborer and she as a maid [1,2].

After his discharge in 1891, Anders immigrated to America, according to his later naturalization record arriving in New York in November of that year. He passed through to the Midwest, where according to legend he made money working on Mississippi River levees and helping build an iron staircase for the upcoming World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Removing to Iowa, he sent for Emma to join him. After one false start foiled by an epidemic on board her ship, she arrived at New York in 1893. They married the following year, and raised a large family in southeastern Iowa [1,2].

As family records go, these lent an unusually good start to learning more about the immigration of this couple.

Anders Comes to America

One of the first questions raised by the family records was whether or not either of the pair immigrated through Ellis Island. In Anders’ case the answer is simple, and negative — since he had arrived in Nov 1891, he could not possibly have come through Ellis Island, which opened in Jan 1892.

Nor, oddly, would he have come through Castle Garden in Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan, which is often represented as the earlier version of Ellis Island. For between Apr 1890, when Castle Garden closed, and Jan 1892 when Ellis Island opened, a narrow slice of arrivals passed through the Barge Office in Battery Park, which had been temporarily pressed into service as an immigration center.

Barge Office, New York City, circa 1901

Unfortunately while pictures of the Barge Office survive (above), the office itself does not. The building was razed in 1911 [3].

Emma Comes to America

With Emma we enjoyed quite a bit more luck. Even before our trip to New York, I was able to access the on-line immigration records at the Ellis Island site. I found what surely is a match: Emma Svensson, age 21, native of Sweden, servant, arriving with one piece of luggage on 8 July 1893 on the ship New York from Southampton, England (presumably after transshipment from Sweden). True, my wife’s ancestor was actually 15 days short of age 21 on that date. But no one else was a better match in name, place, age, and date [4,6]. Arriving when she did, she of course must have been processed through Ellis Island.

Her ship, shown in the accompanying picture, was notable for being at that time (1892-3) the fastest in the world. Built in 1888 for the Inman & International Steamship Company as the ship City of New York, it was sold in 1893 to the American Line and renamed simply New York (picture below). It was destined to undergo other name changes as well as brief service in the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American war, before being scrapped in 1923 [5].


Arriving at Ellis Island, Emma would have been processed through the original wood-framed immigration facility, shown below.


An interesting woodcut of the Great Hall inside this building is also available for viewing online [8].

Unfortunately the station burned in 1897, at which point immigrants were again received at the Barge Office. A new station was built at Ellis Island in the same spot, with the proviso that it not be of wood, and came into service in Dec 1900. It is the building that tourists visit today (below).

Ellis Island, 2016

According to Emma’s daughter Hulda Malmberg Barth, Emma had once worked drawing patterns for fashionable coats while in Sweden. However, Hulda also stated that Emma did not arrive in Chicago until Christmas or New Year’s Day. That leaves a period of about 6 months unaccounted for. It therefore seems possible that instead of drawing coat patterns in Sweden, Emma instead did so in New York, saving money before passing onward to Chicago. Perhaps she found employment in the Garment District, which by the late 1800s was already known for the production of clothing [7].

Our Visit To Ellis Island

Ellis Island is reachable only by ferry. We made reservations a day or two in advance, a necessity given the large tourist crowds of July. Although initially cowed by the size of those crowds, we found the park service intake on the tip of Manhattan to be efficient, moving people quickly through the airport-like security screening. Then it was simply a matter of getting on the boat.

We had only part of an afternoon for our trip due to an evening engagement and limited choices of ferry departures. (Lesson: Make reservations more than a day or two in advance!) Deciding to forgo the first stop, at the Statue of Liberty, we passed on to Ellis Island and disembarked there.

The main building was fully accessible, and the size of the crowds quite tolerable. There were extensive displays of immigrant stories, passports, and pictures of ships. We appreciated seeing the hospital-like inspection rooms, where the immigrants were screened for disease and “mental defect”.

All in all it was a very worthwhile experience. It was also a very American experience, the melting pot in evidence in the diverse faces of the crowd. Yet there was also a substantial contingent of international tourists, interested in the story of Ellis Island.

We did not, it must be said, find a lot on Swedish immigration in particular. Much of the emphasis seemed to be on Eastern Europe and Russia. However, it is true we only saw a fraction of the exhibits in our limited time.

At the return jetty the crowds were large and pressing. But the ferry service performed well, bringing on an empty boat after few passengers could get on a crowded boat carrying people from the Statue of Liberty. The weather cooperated, with a heavy storm starting while we were in the museum, then letting up just as we walked to the jetty to leave. How many times, I wondered as we walked, had our footsteps crossed those of Emma Swanson?

The Malmberg Family, circa 1917-8.  Emma and Anders on the ends; Hulda near the middle in the white dress.


[1] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry: 589 Documented American and European Lines, 2nd ed. Available for immediate download through Lulu.

[2] Boles, D.B. (1993). Barth-Hickey Ancestry. Troy, NY: Private print. Available for mail order through Bolesbooks.

[3] Information retrieved from http://www.shorpy.com/node/17266 (2016). Another picture of the Barge Office is published at this site, interesting to inspect because it has very high resolution, revealing details such as a lunch wagon and a sign for the Ellis Island ferry.

[4] Other minor discrepancies from family legends include the “Minn” destination stated on her immigration record, i.e., Minneapolis; and that she came on a ship of the American line, not the White Star line (Barth-Hickey Ancestry, see note 2). However, out of ignorance of American geography she may not have known her exact destination, and so Minneapolis may have been entered simply as a “ballpark” midwestern place west of Chicago.   The White Star ship may have been the ship of her epidemic-shortened first effort to sail, or it may have been the one that brought her to Southampton for transshipment (see text).

[5] Information retrieved from http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org & linked pages (2016).

[6] The closest were two 19-year-olds: Emma Svensson, arriving 5 May 1893 on the ship Servia, destination Chicago but an English citizen; and Emma Ch. Svensson, arriving 30 June 1893 on the ship Virginia but of “Forslofs” (Förslöv), Sweden, a location nearly 60 road miles from Osby. Neither ship was of the White Star Line (ibid).

[7] Information retrieved from https://zady.com/features/the-history-of-the-new-york-city-garment-district (2016).

[8] Image retrieved from http://www.alamy.com, using search terms “ellis island great hall 1897”.

Picture Attributions:

Barge Office: From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York (https://collections.mcny.org).

S.S. New York: Personal photo of public-domain postcard.

Original immigration facility: Public domain.

Ellis Island, 2016: Personal photo.

The Malmberg Family: Personal photo, public domain.

26. A Visit to the Home of the McQueens of Pollochaig

The ancestry of Dugal McQueen is extensively traced and referenced in the Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu). Other blog entries on the McQueens include 4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty; 18. Witches, Wizards, Ghosts, and Things That Go Bump in the Night; BRIEFLY NOTED: A McQueen 300th Anniversary; and 24. Tartan Day and Our Scottish Origins.

On June 15th I was privileged to visit Pollochaig in the Scottish Highlands, the home of my mother’s McQueen ancestors. My wife Joan and I had slated the location for a special visit while on our vacation in Ireland and Scotland.

We parked at a sheep gate at the two-house settlement of Ruthven above the town of Tomatin, Inverness-shire, and hiked in. In retrospect, we could have opened the gate and driven most of the way, but walking certainly set the scene for what would come.

The day was a wild one, with constant rain showers and cold, blustery winds. Though wearing ponchos and jackets, our legs and feet were quickly soaked. We passed along the Findhorn River, its green banks grazed by sheep.


A couple of miles in, the first view of the ruins took my breath away. The dark remains of buildings against impossibly green pasture, the multitude of bleating sheep, the towering dark hills in the background with cloud-obscured tops, and the small burn in the foreground leading down to the river, made an impression that a sunnier day could not possibly have equalled. Joan would later call it her “Quintessential Scottish experience.”

On inspection it became apparent that the upper, more distant structure had been a house, because a hearth and the lower remains of a chimney were built into the north end.  One entrance, at least, had been through a door on the east side.


The lower structure was more enigmatic to our amateur eyes. There appeared to be one large chamber with an attached byre, an inside corner of which is barely visible to the right of my picture below. There was no evidence of a hearth at any of the walls. Also the walls did not appear to be thick enough for the structure to be an older home of the blackhouse type [1], which would have had no chimney and a possibly less detectable central hearth. Perhaps the structure was simply a barn, larger than the house up above.


Records suggest that Pollochaig was “probably in sheep before 1800” [2]. Certainly it has remained so, with dozens if not hundreds of sheep bleating in greeting as we arrived. They all mysteriously went silent as I started capturing a movie, so that bit of geographical magic remains unrecorded!


A bit up the road after we left, I turned for my last misty view of Pollochaig. Inevitably I thought of my ancestor Dugal McQueen, looking back while taking much the same route in 1715 as he left to join the rebel army [3]. It would be his last glimpse of home. A lump came to my throat, unbidden.


[1] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackhouse (2016).

[2] Information retrieved from http://theses.gla.ac.uk/3914/1/2002EppersonPhD.pdf (2016).

[3] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry: 589 Documented American and European Lines, 2nd ed. Available for download through Lulu.