Monday, September 3, 2012

How Far We've Come

James Foote Jeffers or James F Jeffers

My topic for this week is families that have moved away or changed a lot from where and who they used to be. I traveled down this track via my mom's family tree. Maybe it's just my impression from my grandfather's stories, but my sense was that his family was made up of "Pennsylvania Dutch" immigrant farmer stock. Well that was only partly true even of the Conrad/Coonradt line that gave him his name. They had been Americans since the late 1600's and had actually lived in New York for most of their time in the U.S. Only the last Coonradt, Daniel ever lived in Pennsylvania, and he only lived there for a few years before he was killed in the Civil War.

The other names on Grandpa's family tree don't sound German at all. Instead, they are the descendants of English settlers, with names like Greene, Bailey, Jeffers and Foote. These families certainly were rural folks when they came into contact with the Conrad/Coonradts, but their origins are actually the same stock as my Dad's - New England Colonial settlers. I haven't found a crossover yet between these families and my Dad's, but I won't be surprised when I do.

One of these families sparked my interest, the Foote family, in particular, Christiana (or Christina) Foote and her son James Foote Jeffers (pictured above). The Foote family in general is great because they can trace their history back to the 1500's, (see the Foote Family). That was my initial find. But then I was thinking, how did these folks end up out in Iowa? Christiana was born in far Western Massachusetts in a little town called New Ashford. Even today the town only has about 250 people. She was born in 1772, just before the Revolution. In fact, both her father James Foote and her father-in-law, Robert Jeffers fought in the Revolutionary War. So think of her as being part of that generation. By the time she has her children starting in 1790, she has moved to central New York between Rochester and Syracuse. She lived in very small towns, Seneca Falls, and Rose.

Christiana's last surviving child was James F Jeffers, born in 1814. He was born, like all his brothers and sisters in rural upstate New York. He gets married and has his first several children in Rose, New York. However, by 1851 we find his entire family out in Lockport, Illinois. Despite his already large family, James has three more children that are born in Lockport. Lockport is an interesting place because it was the headquarters of the Illinois and Michigan Canal which was completed in... 1848. It's not hard to imagine that James and his very large family came west to Illinois based on the promise of economic good times. Interestingly, his siblings also spread to the wind as well, with three ending up in Wisconsin, and two others in Michigan. Times must not have been so great in New York.

James and his family didn't stay in Illinois, though. By 1858, when his daughter Amanda (my ancestor) is married, they're out in Iowa, near Waterloo. And in 1862, the 48 year-old James, who must have had at least five children at home still, enlists in the Union Army from the state of Iowa. I don't know how long he served, but imagine that - both his grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary War and here he is fighting in the Civil War. He and his family must have been comfortable out in Iowa because they settled in, and James died in very rural Douglas in 1890. And Iowa is where James's granddaughter Grace Greene would ultimate meet and marry Harry Conrad (who has a fascinating adventure story of his own).

I can't say I know exactly why all these moves happened when they did, but I think I understand a little bit of what brought these folks West, a trend that continued with my grandfather, Leighton Conrad, coming out to California in the 1920's and my Mom and Dad moving us north in the early 70's.


Kathy said...

Very interesting stuff and amazing that you could dig up all that cool history about your family.


Ritu said...


Brenda Stevens said...

Great to have this info and share with your friends and family, tho i don't get where deja vu fits..maybe from Grandmothers stories? :0)