Who Were the Immigrant Ancestors? # 5 George Westfall and ???

I’m on a mission to identify the immigrant ancestors in my family and my husband’s family.

These are the questions I’m asking:
* Who were our ancestors who first immigrated to the United States?
* How many of them have I already identified?
* Did the family follow a pattern of family reunification (what is being described negatively as chain migration) with one person or family arriving, getting settled, and sponsoring a family member or family unit?
* Can I determine (or make a good guess) about why they left their native country?
* How might our ancestors have fared if a merit-based policy had been in place at the time?

It was easy – so easy! – to identify the immigrant ancestors in my Grandmother Eveline’s line. Her parents! Joseph Coates. Mary Ann Harris. Mary Ann’s parents William Harris and Celia Jenkins. Easy peasy.

Turning to the line of Eveline’s husband, my grandfather Thomas Hoskins – I can only identify one: George Westfall (or Westall), my 4th great-grandfather.

“History of Perry County, Ohio” written in 1838, includes a biographical sketch of John W. Westfall, grandson of George.
” … George Westall, was born in London, England, and after a 42 days voyage, full of peril, landed in Rockingham county, Virginia, in time to serve in the Continental army as a drummer.”

Sometimes you have to take these county history bios with a grain of salt, but I tend to believe the naming of a grandparent as an immigrant. I looked some yesterday for a record of George serving as a drummer in the Continental army, but haven’t come up with anything to verify that yet.

It was finding transcribed letters online between George’s daughter, Hester Jane Westfall (my 3rd great-grandmother) and her sons that gave me the genealogy bug years ago. Thank you, Hester Jane and whoever kept those letters for posterity!

The rest of the immigrant ancestors in my grandfather Hoskins line are a mystery to me.

3rd great-grandfather John Franklin Bryan (married to George Westfall’s daughter) was born in 1794 in VA.

I have a 4th great-grandfather Jones Stokes born about 1775 in VA.

And I have a 3rd great-grandmother Mary Keeling born about 1794 in VA.

It’s the end of the line for now identifying the immigrant ancestors in my mother’s family line.

So a review of my mom’s family for immigrant ancestors yielded two “recent” coal mining immigrant families from England, some folks born here before 1800, one “confirmed” immigrant who may have arrived young enough to be a drummer boy for the Continental Army, and a bunch of unknowns.

Many of these families arrived before there was a formal immigration/documentation requirement.

I have one old photo from this side of the family: Jones Stokes’ granddaughter, Sarah Stokes. She was my 2nd great-grandmother.

The search continues …

Who were the Immigrants?
Who were the Immigrants? #1 Joseph Coates
Who were the Immigrants? #2 Mary Ann Harris, #3 William Harris, #4 Celia Jenkins

Sepia Saturday – Miners who Fish

SepSat8Nov14Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images.

When posting the prompt photo for this week, Alan suggested that we might consider miners or anglers with fishy tales or three men. It’s hard to tell that these men are miners when not dressed for work and no mine in sight, but the source of the photo, the Provincial Archive of Alberta reveals their identity by the photograph’s title: “Miners’ fishing trip.”

My grandfather, Thomas Hoskins, was a miner – as was his father, his wife’s father, some uncles and cousins and assorted in-laws. He left school after completing the 8th grade to work in the coal mines in Mystic, Iowa.

And he loved to fish.

Here he is as an older man, many years removed from the mines. You can see his fishing rod beside him.
Tom at the lake copy

Like the men in the prompt photo, Grandpa is reclining on a hillside and doesn’t appear to be actively engaged in fishing. Perhaps it’s all about the the fresh air, the sound of the water, the time just to relax above ground in the light of day – fresh fish for supper an added bonus or perhaps a necessary source of food for the family.

My uncle told me that Grandpa once took him down in a mine so that he could experience the total darkness and stifling confines and the ever-present sense of danger. My grandfather did not like working in the mines and when he found an opportunity to leave the coal mines in Mystic, he moved his family to another town where he worked in a meat processing plant.

I can imagine that fishing was a pastime enjoyed by many miners.

Thomas Hoskins at lake copy

Lake Rathburn May 30,1971

Please wade on over to Sepia Saturday to enjoy some other fine fish tales.

Sepia Saturday – A Parade of Musical Memories

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. 

This week’s prompt dates from 1915 and shows Scottish soldiers at the entrance to their hut on the Western Front. The photo suggests several themes and I was torn between men wearing flat hats or music. Music won.

I’ll begin with a picture of my mom in her high school band uniform. Mom  played French horn at Ottumwa High School in Ottumwa, Iowa. I don’t recall ever hearing Mom play an instrument of any kind, but she looks proud and dignified in her uniform.



















Mom and I lived with her parents when I was young and the person I do remember playing an instrument at home is my grandfather, who played the harmonica. I always felt happy when he got out his harmonica and played a few tunes and I danced around the small living room to his music. The Tennessee Waltz comes to mind. (I’ve included a link to Patti Page singing it at the end of the post. She passed away a couple of days ago. Grandpa played it at a faster tempo.)

In this picture he is playing along with my cousin one Christmas, probably 1978, so grandpa would have been about 82. Wish I had been there to enjoy their music making.


My own music-making began on a sour note. When I was in 1st grade, my teacher asked if we had a piano at home. I told her that we did, although no one played it. She instructed me to have my mother play the C scale for me every day and that I should sing along. I’ve never heard of anyone else assigned singing homework in the first grade, so I must have sung terribly off key!

In the 4th grade we were living in Great Bend, KS and I was excited to learn that I had the option of learning to play a band instrument at school. I wondered what instrument I should play – maybe the French horn like my mother?

That was a decision I didn’t get to make. Dad(Jim) came home one day with a used cornet. Decision made. If I wanted to play an instrument, this was what I would play. It was shiny – in a few places – and came pre-dented.

I always knew that the cornet and I were not really a good match. I didn’t have the chops for it. My embouchure was inadequate. I had trouble with the high notes. But that old horn and I played together through my sophomore year in college.

Another move landed us in Joplin, MO. In junior high, all of my electives were music – band, orchestra and choir (I had mastered singing on pitch by then). Hal Barlow directed both the band and orchestra and I took private lessons from him after school. (Mr. Barlow died a little over a year ago and I was so tempted to insert the picture from his obituary. Here it is, if you’d like a look. It’s just as I remember him.)

My lesson was scheduled after one or two others, so I would wait in the band hall. I told Mr. Barlow that I might like to be a band director one day and would like to try out some other instruments. He gave me simple instructions for fingering and technique and provided music whenever I showed an interest in a particular instrument and allowed me to play the school instruments while I waited. Timpani, cello, and French horn are the ones I remember. Sometimes he gave me the sample scores and records he received in the mail.

I loved playing in the band and orchestra but hated solos. My mouth would get so dry that I feared I couldn’t produce a sound. Once I lost the music to a solo I was scheduled to play at a school concert and Mr. Barlow accused me of losing it on purpose. I didn’t – although I would have liked never to have found it.

(I tried to embed google maps street view here, but can’t make it work. Don’t know what I’m doing wrong!)

I was usually 2nd or 3rd chair (those difficult high notes kept me out of 1st chair) and the first three chairs of the trumpet section stood at intersecting hallways on the 2nd floor of South Junior High at the beginning of every school day to play To the Colors. The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag followed our echoing call to attention.

South Junior High School was hit by the Joplin tornado and has been demolished. It was not in use at the time of the tornado.

We moved to Texas in the fall of my junior in high school. Friday nights in small towns in Texas mean one thing – football. If not for band, my friendless “new kid” self would have been sitting home alone for weeks on end. Instead I was at the football games, surrounded by people, not in need of a date, riding the school bus to out-of-town games, chanting “Um! um gawa! Tigers got the powa!” and making friends.

Texas was a bit of a culture shock for me, having spent all of my life in the midwest. When we arrived in 1969, there were two high schools in town. Although there were a few black students at the school I attended, there were no white students at the other high school. A new high school was being built to finally complete integration of the schools and I was in the first class to attend and graduate from the new high school. And so we had a new “integrated” band as well. There were occasional fights in the school hallways and a contentious cheerleader election, but the band hall seemed to me to be free of any racial tension. Music, I think, is a unifying force and band provided us with a diverse social group and facilitated connections and a communal purpose. Rivalry was limited to congenial “chair” contests.

The size of our band doubled in the new school. Most, if not all of us, hung out in the band hall when we arrived at school until the bell rang for the first class of the day. I was usually trying desperately to finish my homework.

I found my place in this small Texas town in band and had the honor of being elected an officer in the band and the first “Band Sweetheart”.

I briefly considered a music major in college, but realized that what little talent I had would need to be supplemented by hours and hours and hours spent in practice rooms. Instead, I enrolled in marching band for the fall semesters of my freshman and sophomore years as a member of the Baylor University Golden Wave Marching Band (playing 3rd part and probably sitting last chair among a lot of true musicians!)

I have quite a few more “musical memories” but I won’t bore you with any more today. I didn’t meet the guy in the picture in band, but I married him anyway. I still have my old cornet, but the valves are frozen. I once planned to make it into a lamp but never did. One of my children stayed in band through high school so I got to experience a little more band life vicariously through her.

March on over to the Sepia Saturday blog to see what others have done with today’s prompt.