Category Archives: Iowa

Disturbing. Secluding misbehaving grade-schoolers? Reminds me of prisons like Gitmo.


No doubt I would have been locked away for awhile if my my elementary schools had these. Kids are rambunctious. It’s normal.

I want to know what behavior is considered aggressive, because I’ve met people who accused me of such for vociferously complaining about asinine policies and incompetent bureaucrats.

Thankfully, I am not the only thinking this policy needs review. Some parents and the paper’s staff have questions.



Every year, a journey through Iowa, each time different.


Every year Iowa hosts a cycling event called RAGBRAI, which crisscrosses the state. The route changes every year. This year it’s passing through a few towns and counties with personal significance to me.

Shenandoah is one such place. It’s a town in southwestern Iowa where my great-great grandfather lived. It’s where my great grandparents, George Hay and Geneva Darling, married in 1913.

My great-great uncle lived and worked there, as a reporter for the local paper, before shipping out for Camp Dodge, New York, and then Europe to fight in the First World War. Sadly, he was mowed down by German machine gun fire in July of 1918 while on the Western Front in France, where his remains have been ever since.

A few hundred miles later, to the east of Shenandoah — two hundred and twenty-five to be precise — the route passes through Washington County and the county seat also named Washington. This is where the Darling clan lived for many years, starting in 1853 or so, when Ezra Darling came from New York looking for farmland and opportunity.

Maybe one of these days I will do at least part of the route. I will definitely need to train a bit. Perhaps an electric bike would help. Would that be acceptable? I know nothing about the rules.

That’s an idea! Doing genealogy throughout the country, maybe even the world, by BIKE! Sounds like too much work though.


The Conners — Always On The Move

John W. Conner, uncle and namesake of my great-great grandfather, John W. ‘Pap’ Conner, poses with his wife Catherine Sheets and their dog.
John W. Conner, uncle and namesake of my great-great grandfather, John W. ‘Pap’ Conner, poses with his wife Catherine Sheets and the family dog.

The father of my great-great grandfather, John ‘Pap’ Conner, was born in May of 1819 in Virginia, probably in Augusta County. That’s according to multiple sources, including the 1900 census, on which the census man had mistakenly recorded John’s father name as John Senior. For years I thought his name was John Conner, Sr. But it was a mistake. Whether the census man had poor hearing or Grandpa Conner had dementia, we will probably never know the circumstances behind the story.

For years I’d been wondering why I could never find any trace of the family. I was looking for a patriarch with the wrong name. I developed all sorts of theories. Was it because they were hillbillies who shunned society, including the census man? Did they harass him? Did they scare him away, perhaps taking a shot or two at him, refusing to cooperate with the federal census? Or was it because they were a bunch of illiterates?

Well, none of these theories proved correct. They may have been illiterate hicks, but there was no avoiding the census man. They were there all along, recorded with just about everyone else.

I include these details not to denigrate the Conner clan, but to record what their lives were like. Not being able to read and write I’m sure was a huge burden.

The clue that broke through the brick wall was finding information from Pap Conner’s death certificate, which I was about to order from the vital records folks in Iowa, and which I may do anyway to confirm what I’ve learned. Someone had transcribed details from Polk County death certificates, including maiden names of the mother’s of the deceased. And, lucky for me, this included John Conner’s mother. Her maiden name was Reed.

A cursory search of Ancestry and other genealogical databases brought up only one couple with the names Conner and Reed, and they fit perfectly into the time frame. And they had a son named John who was born in Ohio in 1846. A perfect fit, besides of course, the name confusion from the 1900 census.

This was enough to convince me that James Conner and Nancy Reed were John ‘Pap’ Conner’s ma and pa. A few days after this terrific discovery I tried tracking them through the census. It took a little effort because they seemed to always be on the move.

In 1850, James and the family were living in Trenton Township, Delaware County, Ohio. This is probably where John was born in August of 1846. A decade later, in 1860, they had moved further west to La Harpe Township, Hancock County, Illinois. They continued pushing west. In 1870, the family was recorded living in Jackson Township, Andrew County, Missouri. Ten years later, in 1880, the Conners were still in Missouri, in Polk Township, Nodaway County, minus son John, who was living in Iowa.

By 1900, John Conner had been in Iowa for at least 25 years. He had married Ellen Lint there in 1875. James was still alive, living with John and his family on a farm in Washington Township, Polk County, Iowa. Of course, the census man recorded his name as John Senior, resulting in years of futile searching on my part. Now, however, the puzzle has been solved.


John Conner’s Ma

I’ve been looking for the parents of my great-great grandfather John ‘Pap’ Conner for years. The 1900 census records his father as John Sr., but I haven’t been able to confirm this. I’m beginning to think the census man got it wrong.

Yesterday while at the monstrosity that is the central library in downtown Seattle, I continued the pursuit and, after all these years, discovered the maiden name of Pap’s mother. The name is Reed. Someone with the IowaGenWeb Project has transcribed many death records and put them online, including his.

There’s a James Conner who married a Nancy Reed who lived in Delaware County, Ohio and who had a son named John who was born in 1846. This may be the family. I will have to dig around some more when I have a day off.


The second link has been updated from, which is now broken, to I wish these numerous GenWeb volunteers would grandfather these links into their site design. Stop moving material! Keep these links as active.

And Yet Another?

Earlier today I came upon what looked like yet another sister of my great-great grandmother. While following up on Wednesday’s revelation that a sister named Dora Blanche lived in California, I discovered a woman named Clara Ellen Seay, maiden name Boal.

She was born on November 7, 1870 in Iowa and died in 1951 in Los Angeles. Her mother’s maiden name was Foster while her father’s surname was Boal. That would make for five sisters: Clara, Dora or Blanche, Jennie, Stella and Nettie, my great-great grandmother.

Yet, in digging a bit deeper I’ve found that Clara’s parents are not the same as the other four. Clara’s father was Robert Boal, a stone mason, and her mother was Lydia Ann Foster.