My great great grandparents, John E. Congleton and Almira Almy had a large family. But like most families in the 19th century, not all of their eleven children would make it to adulthood. Learning where each of them had been born allowed me to trace the meandering migration path they took across America which finally lead them to settle in California.
My father’s family has been in the United States for several generations and in some cases since before there was a United States. Both sides of his family arrived in Sonoma County, California fairly early on in the local history. His mother’s side of his line arrived in the 1850s, while his father’s side arrived in the 1870s.
THE LIVES OF TWO FAMILIES INTERSECT
Both John Call and Mary Fulton were born in Scotland in the 1820s. Mary immigrated with her family to Canada while still a child. The family subsequently relocated to Rhode Island where Mary met and married John Call in 1844. They then moved to Massachusetts where their son, Finley, was born in in 1846. But unfortunately, the couple would not be blessed with any additional children of their own.
My great great grandmother began her life on February 14, 1861 in the tiny snow-bound village of Moscow, Minnesota as Agnes Vanderwalker. Sadly, her mother, Clarinda Stokes Vanderwalker, died in childbirth leaving her father, Isaac Vanderwalker, with six young children. When the Civil War broke out two months later, he decided it would be best to hand the infant over into the care of a local couple who wanted to expand their family. And after being adopted by John and Mary Call who, in 1870, relocated to a farm on Bailhache Avenue outside of Healdsburg, California, Agnes Vanderwalker Call did enjoy an idyllic childhood. [More details here.]
By the time Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton was 26 years old, she had already experienced a lifetime of tribulation. She had lost her mother at birth, been given away to the neighbors by her father, been relocated 2,000 miles from home by her adoptive parents, endured a “shotgun marriage” to a handsome ne’er-do-well, given birth to three children, lost a son to illness, and managed to obtain a divorce under the repressive laws of the 1880s.
In 1870, when Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson was a small girl, she travelled from Minnesota to Healdsburg with her adopted parents John and Mary Call.
Throughout the decades, my Great Grandmother encountered numerous challenges, but she was always able to persevere while at the same time still finding enjoyment and purpose in her life. The 1930s were a tough time for the whole country but, as always, Agnes made the best of the bad situation.
In October 1903, Eugenia Selestine Hoar, daughter of Benjamin Franklin and Eugenia Chichester Hoar of Healdsburg married A. Claude Congleton, son of Agnes Call Congleton Wilson of Bailhache Avenue. The young couple set up housekeeping in Healdsburg and on February 13, 1905 their son Claude Franklin Congleton was born. Eugenia, better known as Jennie or Birdie, and baby Claude kept the home fires burning while Daddy Claude was away working as a brakeman for the Railroad.
One very basic building block of family research is to catalog your family’s movements via census records. These reliable documents provide us not only with evidence of where our people lived across time but also indications of family relationships, countries of origin, occupations, etc., etc. However, every family historian soon learns that the information contain is not always 100% accurate nor is it always complete. I suspect we all have that branch of the tree consisting of people who, by all appearances, were intent on hiding from census takers.