Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rogue Valley Genealogical Society Library Serendipity

Almost a year ago I wrote a post about solving a mystery for the Taylor family of Ashland, Oregon. Two days later I was in Medford, Oregon teaching three classes for an all day seminar for the Rogue Valley Genealogical Society. Unfortunately there was not enough time to visit their research library. Since that time they moved into a new facility which provides a wonderful place to conduct family history research. It was likely they might have information about the Taylor family that we need.


This past week we spent five days with my mother-in-law Jean in Gold Hill, Oregon celebrating her 80th birthday. We arrived late on Tuesday and enjoyed the evening visiting in her home. The next day was her birthday, so we went to dinner that evening with her other son Mark, his wife Sharon and Jean's boyfriend Ray. That night as I was reading emails and pondering the possibility of a visit to the RVGS library, it became a guilty struggle of how the others would accept my doing so. On Thursday morning after breakfast we discussed what we would do with our day and I got the nerve to ask about going to the library. Jean seemed very willing to have me go, as it would give her some time to get things done. My husband seemed very willing, as he wanted to do some shopping in Medford. With their support I was on my way.

Before leaving I called the library to make sure that they were open. Ann answered the phone and immediately encouraged me to come, pulling books off the shelf as we talked about the Taylor family and a mystery I would like to solve. In less than thirty minutes my husband dropped me off at the door of the library, telling me to call him when I was finished or he would check in before heading back to Gold Hill, so we could avoid making two trips. The library is open from 10-3, so there were about four hours of research time left.

Ann greeted me with the other volunteers. She escorted me to the area where the materials were that would be of most interest to me. For the next three hours I went through the books:
Records From Ashland Tidings 1876-1895; 1896-1906; Jan.4, 1909-Dec. 27, 1909, and Jan. 2, 1911-Dec. 31, 1911. These books were compiled by Ruby Lacy and Lida Childers in 1992, and they list newspaper birth announcements and other articles. There were 35 listings for the Taylor family.
Birth Records of Jackson County, Oregon 1863-1910, compiled by RVGS in 1985. There were 13 listings for the Taylor family.
The old ledger books from Jackson County, that they disposed of on the steps of the courthouse and were rescued by a genealogist. Some of these books were so large that I could not lift them. Within one there were the tax records for John B. Taylor and John A. Taylor for 1863 and 1864.

The family of focus was John A. Taylor, his wife Margaret Adaline McGee and their daughter Thelma Majorie Taylor. The reason the family intrigues me is that Thelma was adopted and she knew her birth family, who supposedly are relatives of the adoptive parents. According to census records knowledge of her adoption was open and the mother Margaret had two children who died prior to the adoption. In the Ashland Times there are three births that might be these children. In 1876-1895 are the following:
Page 63 Friday Jan. 22, 1892, Born to Mr. and Mrs. John Taylor on Jan. 20, 1892, a son.
Page 64 Feb. 5, 1892, Taylor at Central Point, January 29, 1892 to Mr. and Mrs. John Taylor, a son. (Different location for parents)
In 1896-1906 the following:
Page 90, Taylor in Ashland, December 13, 1903 to Mr. and Mrs. John Taylor, a daughter.

One other find that caused me to feel a serendipity moment was this listing in the Birth Records 1863-1910, page 42:
Thelma Ellis born Steinman, 21 March 1909, father Carroll Edward Ellis born California and mother Eve Taylor born Oregon, Farmer, Residence Steinman, Oregon, 1 child.
Unfortunately after returning home and doing further research on this family it became obvious this was not Thelma the Taylor's adopted daughter. This family does appear in my database, so the information was relevant to the search.

While I did this research, Ann was very busy making copies for me of any documents associated with the family. This really doubled the amount of work accomplished this day. The copies included:
4 death certificates
6 copies from the above books
2 pages from The Medford Sun 1 July 1913-12 June 1914 page 77, an obituary for John B. Taylor (different family)
2 pages from Ashland Tidings 1 July 1897-29 Dec. 1898 page 107, an obituary for John B. Taylor (correct family)
1 page from Wills-Probates-Guardianships-Estate Files page 1
(Four family related listings; probate for John B.; incompetent case for their daughter Ellen; will for his wife Elizabeth J; and will for William his brother. These case files were earlier copied at the Oregon State Archives)
1 page from the Rogue Digger V. 2, pg. 10, obituary information for James Taylor, son of John B. Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor.

It will take some time to review the records and incorporate them into the database. In return for the generous assistance of the volunteers, it dawned on me that I should add the known family history information into the manuscript collection of the library. With my name and contact information on a pedigree chart and family group records including notes and sources, maybe another family member will benefit from this research, which of course needs to be updated now. After writing this post other questions have surfaced, so I will call Ann and utilize her expertise.

The next step in the project is to call the Jackson County Courthouse and find out what records they might have and if they are accessible. The serendipity did not last for finding Thelma's birth parents, but someday I may feel it again. She is after all my husband's grandmother. Unfortunately she died before we were married. Being married three times and having children by all three husbands, there may just be someone out there who knows the answer to this mystery.

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