I started researching my husband’s maternal Maish and Horton lines about 3 years ago. Over the years it has provided some of the most interesting stories and colorful characters I have run into. I have also spent tens of hours doing ‘sideway’ research.
It all started with the story of Sherman Maish, my husband’s great grandfather blowing himself up while detonating dynamite in the town of Blackduck Minnesota. While a tragic event, the newspaper story about the incident mentioned that his son-in-law, Ole Lukken, had recently drowned. My mother-in-law did not know about the drowning of her uncle, but, she did know that an aunt, Lottie Maish, had died suddenly at home. There was also had an interesting story she told about a cousin, Walter Johnson, who had died while being ‘on the run’ from the authorities.
If this was not enough to get my researcher’s inquiring mind going a hundred miles an hour, there was the entire Horton family in Wisconsin and Maish family in Iowa that little was known about.
Since both the Maish and Horton families were large I started looking at the various message boards on Rootsweb and have made connections with other Maish / Horton descendents. While I made quick progress on Sherman Maish’s direct lines, I never found more information on the drowning, sudden death or escape convict. While these folks were not direct lines, they intrigued me. I also met other Maish / Horton researchers that had their own brick walls. If only I had the time, I could break down those walls.
A Two Edged Sword - Unemployment
In the spring of 2008 the contract I was working under ended and I did not have another job lined up. Suddenly I found myself at home with time on my hands and a laptop ready for research! Thanks to careful planning I had subscribed to all my favorite websites while employed, so I was ready surf. I spent the next four months doing as much or as little genealogy research as I wanted. This was a real luxury.
The Mysterious Victoria
During this time I took on a brick wall that had stumped one of my fellow Horton researchers for years. There was a young lady, Victoria, which we could not find after the 1905 Wisconsin census not matter where we looked. One afternoon, while relaxing on the couch, I decided to start going through every family tree I could find on Ancestry or Rootsweb that may or may not have a direct connection. The tricky thing with both databases is that there is a lot of old information and there is always new information so you cannot be sure if you have really read it all.
After two hours of putting in variations of the surname (and switching to my power cord) I found her! According to a family tree I discovered that Victoria had married her cousin’s father in law! I repeat the Maish and Horton lines are never dull!
I spent the rest of the evening verifying and enhancing the information found. The next day I emailed Victoria’s grand niece the information. She has since contacted Victoria’s last living child and other family members. This has enabled her to fill in more of Victoria’s life story, including two more husbands. My mother in law had heard the family name, but had not direct knowledge of the family.
Where is Mahala
My mother-in-law is the grand niece of Mahala Horton, another mystery or brick wall I hit. While documenting the children of Charles Horton I was able to trace most of them through the 1930 census, except Mahala. I was able to document her marriage in 1889 but then unable to find her or her family in the 1900 census. Then in the 1905 Wisconsin State Census her husband is living next door to Mahala’s mother, but Mahala is not listed with either family. Albert’s status in that state census is ‘married’. When I moved forward to the 1910 Federal census, Mahala is missing from the family. I was unable to find Albert in the 1920 census and by the time of the 1930 census he is living with a niece, still listed as married.
The previous fall I had received Charles Horton’s Civil War pension file. Since I was working at the time, I had skimmed through the file to find the most obvious information. The file was about two inches thick, so I had never read it in its entirety. Now, with time on my hands I started to read the depositions in more detail. There in Nancy Horton Sanderson’s (Victoria’s mother) deposition it stated that her sister Mahala had been committed to an asylum in Mendota in 1903. While I am still researching the asylum, another mystery was solved and I had the information all that time. And more information that I have passed on to researchers of this branch of the family, but also recorded in my database. Mahala and her family were not known to my mother in law, but she was interested in the fact that she was committed.
A Drowning, a Sudden Death and a Multi State Man Hunt
All the while I was doing the sideway research described above I was never able to document the three stories my mother in law had originally told me. Sometimes you just need to go to the source. The opportunity presented itself in the form of a family reunion in Blackduck Minnesota. The Minnesota Historical Society has microfilmed the Blackduck American and one of the two copies is at the local library.
During two visits to the library I was able find many obituaries to augment research on my direct lines. However I was also able to find the story of Ole Lukken’s drowning and the search for his body, Lottie Maish’s seizure which resulted in death and Walter Axel Johnson’s escape from a Montana jail which led to a three state manhunt.
I have found that doing sideway research keeps my skills tuned and my mind active. Every researcher works from the 1860 or 1870 census forward and documents their various uncles, aunts and grandparents. But if that was all I did I would not find these colorful and truly interesting stories, such as Edward Maish who was killed in Iowa, at the age of 36, by a couple driving across county on their honeymoon while he was riding a bicycle.
Edward, by the way, is my mother in law’s cousin, once removed. And no, she has never heard of him either. She is getting concerned about who or what I will find next.