Sunday, December 12, 2010

William Ham

I found him!

My Maternal Grandmother, Ethel Elizabeth Johnson, was a love child between my Great-Grandmother Alice McCoy and Mr. William Ham.

The story basically goes, Alice McCoy married a man by the name of Samuel Johnson approx 1890 (still cannot prove that marriage yet) and from the union she had two children, Walker Johnson (who at one time I thought was named Walter) and Katherine Johnson. Sometime around 1899 and 1900 either Samuel Johnson died or they separated (still working on that proof as well).

Well I'd always heard my mother tell me her Mother's father's last name was Hamm, but because her Grandmother wasn't married to Hamm she couldn't "legally" put her under his name. So she had to carry the name her mother had which was Johnson (her supposed married name). Even on my Grandmother's birth certificate it lists her father as William Samuel Johnson.


After several interviews with my Aunt Sally, each time its a new bit of information, or clarification of information previously given.

Perfect example: Walker (Walter) Johnson.

I have an Uncle named Walter James Johnson, this would be my mother's brother. Well the story I was always told is that my Uncle Jimmy was named after his Uncle Walter Johnson.


In 1900 & 1910 census in Columbiana, OH - Alice Johnson was listed with her 2 children, WALKER Johnson and KATHERINE Johnson. I took it to be a mispelling of his name - hey because the story I had always been told is Uncle Jimmy was named Walter James Johnson after his Uncle, my Grandmother's brother.


On my most recent interview with Aunt Sally in discussing her "Uncle Walt" I mentioned to her what I found in the census - that each time they listed him as Walker and not Walter - she grabs her forehead and screams, well Mom always called him Walker, but his nickname was Walt.


More confusion? No wonder I couldn't find his death certificate as per Aunt Sally he died approx 1941-1943 in Philadelphia, PA - I had been searching for WALTER JOHNSON. So basically my Uncle Jimmy was named after his Uncle WALKER who they nicknamed WALT.

Now... back to the Ham/Johnson love child...

How I found my Great Grandfather William Ham is by dropping the additional "m" in the name Ham and my Aunt Sally finally dropped some info on what Mr. Ham's sister's name was was Marie Jackson (she called her Grandfather Mr. Ham). Finding Marie Jackson led me to 1910, 1920 and 1930 census with William Ham, who didn't live too far from My Great Grandmother Alice McCoy Johnson - so in 1911 they got cozy and created that Love Child Grandmother of mine Ethel Elizabeth Johnson.

Summary of this blog:

  1. Don't assume names. My main mistake w/ Ham was searching for HAMM. I assumed that it would be w/ a double m as it was a name and not an actual Ham...
  2. Don't always go by what they "called" people. The census people had it right. His name was WALKER - they called him Walt as I guess calling someone Walk wasn't popular then.
  3. Always continue to ask questions - even when you think you've got the tip top total truth - you never know what else is lingering out there and what someone remembers in the first 7 meetings, trust by the 10th a new bit of info will emerge.
Family History is lovely and surprising all at the same time... gotta love um...

Have a great holiday.