For my first dinner I will travel back to January 31, 1912 to crash a birthday party in Phelps, Ontario County, NY. On that day Milantha Hall Marsh (my 1st cousin, 4 times removed) celebrated her 100th birthday.
I’m certain I’ll wear her out with my questions. What does she remember about her grandparents, William and Ruhamah (Andrews) Hall? How did William come by the title Captain? Who were her three siblings besides Olney Hall? Was Olney’s marriage to Lucretia the cause of the rift between him and his children or was it something else?
Accidents seemed to besiege the family. What can she tell me about these tragedies and others. Her father, John Hall was killed by a kick from a horse; her nephew, Orson Hall, died from a fall from a horse; a cousin, James Hall died at the age of 3 when he fell into a bucket of hot water; her niece, Helen Elizabeth Hall lost her husband, David Brusie (Brazze, Brezee, Brasie) in a horrible threshing machine accident; and her own son, Henry Marsh, died in a fall from a tree while coon hunting.
Where did all of her aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins move to? Did she visit any of them in her travels? Did any of them return to visit her? I’d specifically like to know what she remembers about her aunt, Tamesin Hall who married David Glover (my 3rd great-grandparents.) When Milantha’s father died David Glover owed him money which was never paid. Did this cause hard feelings between the families? Did she ever meet the family of Daniel and Zipporah (Wheeler) Carlisle?
I would love to see her loom and would love to see how it worked. How did she receive her education? What inventions during her lifetime were most important to her? How did her daily activities change over the decades? How did the town change over time? How many of my other relatives that passed through or settled in the area near Phelps did she know?
Will she cut off my questions as she is old and tired or will she invite me to stay the night and chat some more in the morning? I’m certain that her lifetime of experiences could fill a book.
My next dinner will be with my great-great-grandfather, Michael Camfield. I’ll invite him to meet me at the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, NY before we drive down Erie Blvd for a nice dinner at the steak house located directly across the street from the cemetery where the grandparent’s (Anthony and Mary Elizabeth (Bookhout) Badgley) of his wife, Sarah Ann Wisner, are resting.
As we tour the museum I’ll ask questions about his time working the tow path along the canal and about his courtship of Sarah. Where did he live? Did he drive horses, mules or both? What was it about Sarah that caught his eye? How did he propose and where and when were they married? Was he welcomed into the family by his in-laws?
During the drive to the restaurant I’ll ask him what his name was before it was Anglicized and who his parents and siblings were. I’ll ask questions about his memories of childhood in Alsace Lorraine and why the family came to America. When did they come? What ship did they travel on and what was the voyage like? Did he ever see any of them again? I’m certain that the answers to these questions will lead to many more.
Over dinner we’ll talk about how he and Sarah came to take in a little girl and raise her as their own. Who were Sarah Ann’s biological parents? Did they name her Sarah or was she renamed for her foster mother? Was she ever formally adopted?
I’ll next ask about the move to Illinois and later Michigan. Did he really have gold sewn into his pockets? What work did he do in Chicago? Why did he leave Illinois for Michigan? What were his children like? Did they have other children that died young? Did he see much of his grandchildren? Maybe he’ll remember the names of his daughter-in-law’s parents, the Graham’s. I’ll want him to describe his farm and share any other memories he may have.
After our dinner is done we’ll retire to the bar where I’m certain our talk will continue until last call.
My next dinner will take place in a public house in Westmoreland, Cheshire Co, NH, we’ll shoot for the summer of 1790. The place is run by my 4th great-grandfather, Capt. Daniel Carlisle and his 2nd wife Lydia Pierce. Will I be fed some wild game or perhaps fresh fish from the Connecticut River?
I’ll try to wait for a time when Lydia is busy to ask about my ancestor and Captain Dan’s first wife, Lydia Conant. I think she was the daughter of Ebenezer and Ruth (Pierce) Conant, making his wives cousins (1st, once removed) and I’d really like to lock that down. I’d also like to know how she died.
I'm hoping he’ll volunteer the tales of some of his adventures. Did he really break Samuel King out of jail in Keene in 1782? What other civil disobedience did he get up to? I want to hear about his military career, from serving as a private at Bunker Hill to receiving a commission as Captain of the second Company in Col. Timothy Bedell’s regiment. I want to hear all about Quebec and the battles of Lake Champlain. Will he be willing to talk about being cashiered? Did he draw his gun on General Sullivan or was it a sword on Col. Waite?
Maybe before getting him reminiscing about the war I should ask about his parents and where they were from! I have no idea what his mother’s maiden name was and some say they were from Ireland but others say Scotland.
My last dinner will be with William Wisner but where and when? Since I hope to learn much about his ancestry I think it would be best to have dinner with him in the late summer of 1834 in Manlius. All of his children were born by then but being only in his early 50’s his memory should still be sound and perhaps Adam Wisner would be visiting then. Hmm. If I visit that early I won’t be able to ask about his grandchildren that I have questions about. So maybe 1870 when he is 83 would be better. His grandchildren George and Julia were living with him then and may be able to help out if he gets stuck. So Avon, Lake Co, IL it will be. If there is not restaurant there we’ll head into Waukegan.
My first question will be WHO WERE YOUR PARENTS!!!! I’ll apologize for shouting but they have been frustrating my every attempt to locate them for years. Will he answer Anannias, Adam or someone else? His mother I haven’t begun to look for since I can’t pin down a father. Next I’d like to know who his grandparents were and continue backwards. Do I descend from Johannes Weesner or some other Wisner!? Depending on his answers I’ll come up with more questions.
I have questions about where and when he met Betsey Badgley. Did they know each other in eastern NY or did they meet in Onondaga County? When and where did they marry? Why did he move to Onondaga Co? Did his father have a claim in the Military Tract? Did he have any connection to the salt industry? Why did he decide to leave for Lake County, Illinois and how far did they travel by water? What was the trip like? Did one or more of his children go first? Again the answers to these questions will lead to many others.
How did he really feel about his son-in-law, Michael Camfield? His son William Abner Wisner had two or three wives? And how did his grandchildren come to be living with him. Why did none of his sons stay in Lake County?
If we have time I’d love to hear stories of his time in Onondaga County and more about the Badgely’s. Did he help Betsy’s uncle, Henry Bogardus, and brother-in-law, David Merrill with the tavern at Bogardus Corners? Why did the tavern fail and what did Henry and David do after that? (Bogardus Corners eventually became the city of Syracuse. The tavern stood where the Post Standard Building is today.)
This was written for the 41st edition of the Carnival of Genealogy:
If you could have dinner with four of your ancestors who would they be and why? Here's a chance to exercise your imagination... Would you have dinner in the present day or in one of their eras? Would you dine out or opt for a home cooked meal? What would you discuss at the dinner table? What would you most like to share with them about your life? This topic was suggested by footnoteMaven who I'm sure you've heard is feeling poorly. Let's cheer her up with some interesting reading while she's convalescing!Thank-you fM for suggesting this topic! I hope you are on the mend. To date this has been the most fun edition of the COG for me. I focused only on my maternal side here and may to do this again for my paternal side.