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30 November 2017

Genealogy, History and Love of Family: The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen

Photo credit:
by Virginia Turner

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Frederick “Rick” S. Sherman’s book, The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen. Rick was a long-time member and benefactor of The California Genealogy Society. While I did not know Rick personally, as a member of the manuscript committee I felt admiration for his talent as a genealogical researcher and his compassion to his family. This admiration deepened as I assisted in sorting his collection of family history and saw the immense amount of data he was able to gather over his lifetime.

I was struck with the feeling that his book was obviously a labor of love. He uniquely expressed his appreciation for his family by brilliantly illustrating, even though they lived many years apart, how each of his forbearers was a companion in his own life. The fact that he used an easily readable typeface throughout, no need for magnification by the average reader, made me enjoy it even more.

Who was Rick Sherman?
He begins with a modest introduction of himself, leaving the reader wondering whom this “new friend” might be. To find more about “Rick”, the reader should turn to the very last portion of the book, “Appendix D”, just before the index, to see an appreciative memorial message, composed by his friends and co-workers at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a multi-talented person, who spent many hours in research, through many fields of study. This experience enabled him to think thoroughly in every area—genealogy being one area that interested him from early in his life.

His family story begins
Rick begins with the stories of his parents, Samuel S. Sherman and Mary Ware Allen. It was unfortunate that his father died at the age of 35 years, due to a sudden infection. Luckily his mother, Mary, did all she could to teach their three young children about their father. You’ll find family photographs of Mary and Samuel with the children, as well as one portrait of Samuel as a young man. 

Collecting leads to a book
Rick was passionate about saving photographs. They are reproduced in this book in enlarged form, and date from the nineteenth century through the twentieth. Although several of the subjects were born before the beginning of the art of photography, they are pictured in this book from painted portraits and miniatures, and even one as a silhouette. 

Cooperation from Rick’s family members helped both identify and add to the collection of photographs. As he writes of the lives of his ancestors, stories worthy of a fictional storybook are produced, with photographs making them come “alive”. In my opinion, they bring the subjects to life and really enhance the enjoyment of the readers.  

Organization as a guide
To keep track of how each one relates to Rick, and other family members, turn to the several pedigree charts in the Appendix B. If you think you may have mutual ancestors, then these charts will help you find them. Rick’s genealogical talents are on full display here and may help researchers in their genealogical searches.

I particularly appreciate the circular charts, each blank space totally filled out by Rick, using his own pen for the lettering.  While portions of the charts are blank, Rick intended to fill them with the ancestors in Appendix A, his Unfinished Chapter. There are beginnings of some of them, but not enough information to be considered finished.

The lighter side
As you read through the pages, look for the bits of humor interwoven with the factual material, such as the nickname of his grandmother, “Dambo” (aka, Ellen Bradford Copeland Allen). Portions of the complete, written account of her journey are quoted in this book.

Eleanor Allen on Dambo's trip to Baja, California (1906)
For example, Rick writes, “In 1906, she bravely took her sons Morris and Dick, age seventeen and sixteen and daughter Eleanor, age nearly fifteen, and two teenagers, on a tour of Baja, California to the little port of San Quentin, leaving behind the youngest child, our mother, Mary, who was nine years old.  Mary made up for it by going to Baja on her honeymoon in 1924.”
Lemuel Smith Hardin with his military title
Civil War buffs will enjoy the interesting story of great grandfather Lemuel Smith Hardin, who told of being the “only man to serve in both the Confederate and Union armies”. He had to be smuggled (while his mother's voluminous dress covered his Confederate uniform) to Canada to escape arrest by his own brother, a Union General, Martin Hardin, due to visit their mother. The puzzle deepens when in the 1890 census of Union Veterans, his name appears, even though he was known to have served in the Confederate army.

If you’re researching this family’s genealogy
As for using this book by the genealogical researcher, first check out our online manuscript index under "Sherman, Frederick S." (listed in alphabetical order). If you then want to see the actual manuscript files, please come to The California Genealogical Society’s library and ask to view The Sherman Collection.

The collection is held in archival boxes and can be used by request when you visit the library. Next, check the index of names found in the book. You may also search the box title names, by checking Appendix C in the book. The boxes contain family letters and some photographs which do not appear in this book, along with other written materials and charts. Members of the society who serve as library volunteers will be happy to give you assistance.

Online Library Catalog and more
Even if the Sherman Collection holds no interest for your family history research, please look at our online Library Catalog. This catalog also has an option to search that enables you to utilize the OCLC catalog of books, articles, and other materials in libraries worldwide. Not familiar with this?  From OCLC’s website, “The OCLC is a global library cooperative that provides shared technology services, original research and community programs for its membership and the library community at large.” The end result is that you will probably find something that will help you!

What else would be helpful to the genealogy researcher? Many useful maps are catalogued in the library and I recommend spending time with the library’s index of holdings. These can  be useful for searching names and localities, and history. 

The Rick Sherman book can be a source of historical and genealogical interest, plus its information, humor, and enjoyment of the beautiful photographs give it recreational value as well. 


About the Author

Virginia Turner has for about five years served as a member of the manuscript committee of the California Genealogical Society and Library. She has studied her family's history since 1968, and has used this library as a researcher for many years. 

The genealogical collections there have assisted her with preparing and publishing the book, "Ruffcorn, An All American Family" (1995) with two supplements in 1997 and 2001. She has also written portions of collective genealogy books, and a few magazine articles. Virginia lives in Oakland, but her roots are in Iowa.

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