Monthly Archives: September 2006

You Look Familiar

I read a quote today: “Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future.” -Gail Lumet Buckley.

I think it’s very true. I went to a family reunion a few years ago, and met some 5th (or so) cousins from Oregon. They were shocked to meet me because they had a grandson that looked just like me. Isn’t funny how genetics play out?

If I had the means and know-how, I would build a website that allowed people to post old family photos with names, dates and geographic information. Each photo would be indexed with these tags, and would be fully searchable. Many times, families only had one nice portrait of their family, and no one knows who inherited it. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to find a scan of that photo on the internet and be able to download a high-resolution copy of it? Just an idea that is floating around in my head. It would also be nice to have a feature that linked photos together in sets or groups once it was determined they were from the same family. 

There is a website, that is attempting to begin a face recognition project concerning genealogy. Users can create a website for their family and upload family trees and photos. In theory, their software can “learn” each face in these photos and will be able to find other families who might be related simply by the characteristics found in faces. Sort of creepy, but I think this might actually be a great way to potentially identify “unknowns” in old family photos. I’m anxious to see how it works. This could either be a huge success or flop terribly. The thing is, thousands of people would have to submit thousands more photos for it all to even have a chance to work. I guess we’ll see how it all turns out. They’re not quite ready for it to get off the ground, but I’ve requested an invitation to be one of the first to try out the site.


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Posted by on September 21, 2006 in Genealogy


Thomason Family Mystery

Last night while sending marriage dates to Sara (my future mother-in-law) for family wedding photos we will display at our wedding, I ran across my photo of Nancy Ellen Johnson Thomason. This led me to once again pick up the quest of the Thomason Family History Mystery.

Nancy was born in May of 1865 in Illinois. I’m not sure when or how she wound up in Georgia, but she married into the rather large Thomason Family of Hall County, GA. Her husband, William John Foster Thomason, was the son of Zacharias and Mary Malissa Cavendar Thomason. After the death of Zacharias, Mary wed his brother, Hiram.

Nancy married WJF Thomason in 1885. They had two children: Alice Arizona Elizabeth “Lizzie” and William Zachariah Thomason. WJF died in Georgia in 1899. According to the 1900 census, Nancy and her children, plus her in-laws, are living with Mary Malissa’s parents, John Deadmon Cavendar in Georgia.

Soon after, Hiram & Mary, Nancy, Lizzie & William Z. all headed for Oklahoma. Nancy buys land in Jackson Township, Comanche Co. This is near Walters, Oklahoma, and her 160 acres is now located smack dab in the middle of I-44, which goes to Wichita Falls, Texas.

This fact gives credibility to a later story of LizzieThomason Davis (my grandmother’s grandmother) told to my grandmother about riding in a covered wagon and seeing Geronimo. This makes sense, because the Apaches were all over that area. Lizzie married Robert Wallace Davis in August of 1904.

So here’s the mystery. Written on the back of this photo is “HD and Ellen Thomason. Mama’s mother and second husband.” What?!? I have never seen anything to suggest that Nancy remarried. Ever. She was a widow with two small children in the 1900 Census. In 1910, she was still a widow, living with her son in Comanche Co., Okla. In the 1930 census, she was living in Edmond, Okla. with another widow as a servant/housekeeper. She died around 1940.

I don’t think I could find her in 1920. I’ll look again.

I guess she could have married HD between 1910 & 1930. And he could have also died in this time frame. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. This photo looks older than that era. I would date this photo to be around the late 1880s. Or possibly 1885, the year she married WJFT. She would have been 20 years old.

Nancy is buried ALONE in the Frisco Cemetery, which is south of Piedmont, Oklahoma. This is the same cemetery where her in-laws, Hiram & Mary Thomason are buried. Wouldn’t she be buried with HD if he had died here in Oklahoma?

Who is HD Thomason? Could this photo be of William John Foster & Nancy Ellen Johnson Thomason? Something makes me believe this might be a possibility. Alas, the mystery goes unsolved.

Edit, 04 April 2012: I have since learned that she did in fact marry Henry David Thomason and they were living in Johnson County, Missouri in 1920. He was a first cousin to Nancy’s first husband, William John Foster Thomason. Apparently they divorced as she is later back in Oklahoma and is buried alone.

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Posted by on September 20, 2006 in Genealogy


A long overdue post.

A few weeks I was perusing my family’s book of genealogy and had an idea. I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before. I’m going to contact distant relatives in hopes of updating the book. The “Swart Book” was compiled in 1960 by Myrtle Clarissa Picking-Nanninga, (b. 1884). The book outlines the descendants of my great, great, great-grandfather, Martin Hinderk Swart, who was born in Mitling-Mark, Germany, in 1814. He had a total of 17 children with two wives. His two oldest daughters stayed in Germany, while all the rest of the clan came to America in 1867, 1872, 1894 & 1895.

My great, great grandfather Hinderikus Martens Swart, stayed in Germany until 1894 to run the family bakery. His wife and children arrived in Ellis Island on April 15, 1895. They lived in Riley County, Kansas until 1910, when his family moved to Washita County, Oklahoma.

Since that time, my family has lost contact with Hinderikus’ brothers and sisters. One brother, George, settled in Salem, Oregon. Others stayed in Riley County.

I’ve gone through the book and found about 22 distant relatives and their addresses. Thank you!

So far, I have been in contact with about 5 of these. They have sent me numerous updates and photos on the various branches of the family. It is very exciting to re-establish connections with the various branches of this family after so many years. These cousins have sent me family updates, photos and hand-written letters dealing with this family.

Slowly but surely, I will be able to update the Swart Family Tree. I will forever be in debt to Myrtle Nanninga for her early research. Without her efforts, this endeavor would be almost impossible.

Dr. George Gerhardt SwartA photo of George Gerhardt Swart, brother of Hinderikus. His daughter Renska, is seated on the left. Apparently, Renska and her brother Hedda, were prominent citizens of Salem, Oregon. George was a medical doctor of some sort. In a letter he wrote to Hedda in 1917, he mentioned his own research on the “incurables” in the world such as cancers and tuberculosis. 

My  only hope is that other descendants in this family might be as generous with their information and family heirlooms. It is only with their cooperation that this great effort will be a success.

In other genealogical news, my grandmother, LaWana Davis Swart, called me yesterday to inform me of the arrival of the Davis/O’Bryan family record. Aunt Pearl, who had passed away earlier this year had a hand-copied version of this book. Her daughter mailed us this book from California. This is the book that contained the information about the slave auction in Georgia in the 1840s. I am very excited to see what bits of information this family register holds.

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Posted by on September 19, 2006 in Genealogy