52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 4 — Close to Home

I didn’t forget about this challenge, though I did put it off for a long time. You may also notice that I have not posted week three yet. My primary reasons for delaying were:

1. Initially that I knew week three was going to be long, complicated, and possibly difficult.

2. In light of that fact, I wanted to be able to come at it with a clear head, which I couldn’t do with a medical issue I was dealing with at the time.

Then the coronavirus really took off in our area (my loved ones and I are all fine, though we are mostly in the high-risk population), followed by uprisings for racial justice. I did eventually start working on week three, but it’s something I’ve had to do in stages, and I’m not done yet. But meanwhile, I’m falling further behind, and I want to post more topics. My Ancestors and Beloved Dead deserve more. So I’m going to go ahead with some of the shorter weekly prompts, as well as some of the less complicated and/or less emotionally charged ones. When I finish week three (which I have been writing long-hand), I will post it here.


So, without further ado, Week 4 — Close to Home:

This is more family rumor than anything I can currently verify as a fact. But my grandmother was told by her mother that my great-grandmother’s father’s family used to own a considerable amount of property near where I now live. “Owned most of the town” is the phrase my grandmother used. This would have been my (maternal) third great-grandfather and his family. Supposedly, they raised horses, and may have been involved in breeding and/or racing them. We tend to believe it due to the fact that my great-grandmother would have had no reason to lie about it, and it seems to stack with the only photo I’m aware of of my second great-grandfather. In the picture, he is a child, who is well-dressed, wearing a riding outfit, and posing with a riding crop. We also have a photo of my second great-grandmother (who married my second great-grandfather) as a child. My mother has large and fancy looking portrait versions of both pictures, and as a very small child, I thought that the picture of my second great-grandmother was a boy and that the one of my second great-grandfather was a girl because my second great-grandfather was wearing a much more elaborate outfit, and he had longer hair. Supposedly, part of his family (although not necessarily the same part as those who supposedly lived near me and raised horses) lived next door to the Wannamakers* on Spring Garden St. in Philadelphia, which at the time was probably a fairly prestigious area. Because of all of these things, we tend to think that his family was fairly wealthy, but we don’t know for sure. And as I said, we don’t even known for sure if they did own a lot of property in this area. That’s one of those Ancestral and genealogy mysteries that I’d love to find out. For what it’s worth, while I’ve lived in my general area for most of my life, I’m not really from where I live now, so it’s not like they owned property in the town I grew up in, which is probably a more common thing in some other families. Beyond what I’ve said so far, I know very little about them.

My second great-grandfather was, like many  members of recent generations in several branches of my family tree, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (in the United States of America, for anyone reading internationally). He was born on the 27th of December in 1879. He died on January 18th, 1946. He definitely had two brothers, who were also born in Pennsylvania (probably also in Philadelphia). Ancestry is convinced that he had another brother, listed as a half brother, but I don’t recall hearing about him, and I don’t think my relatives mentioned him, so I’ll have to check and see what I can find out. His parents were John W. (probably Willis) Stewart, born in about 1853, and Sarah Johnston, born in November, 1860. They were also both born in Pennsylvania, and I am currently assuming in Philadelphia, though I have no proof of that — it’s just a semi-educated guess, mixed with intuition and common sense. I don’t know when either of them died, nor when any of their other sons did, though I know at least one of their other sons married.

E.J.S., J.E.S., W.S., E.S., James W. Stewart, and Sarah Johnston, you have living relatives who tell what we know of you. We speak your names. Thank you for being my Ancestors.




*I’m no relation to the Wannamakers (that I know of), but it occurred to me that I should probably include some context because they aren’t as well known outside of my regional area. Several of the Wannamakers were well known for different things, but the most famous is probably John Wannamaker, who among other things, established some of the first department stores in the United States, and what is considered to be the first in Philadelphia. He had two sons, one of whom, Thomas B., apparently had radically different politics than his father. The Wannamakers wound up with a considerable fortune.