Every once in a while we find written entries in our ancestors records that make our day. Yes, it may be ‘THE’ record that crumbles one of our ancestral brick walls or it may be a piece of information that although important, is just a piece of an overall well-sourced record.
Then, there are the men who entered information in records with a flare. Sometimes the flair consists of fancy script embellishments, at other times it is concise handwriting that fills the page of a census record. And then, there are the men who spent long hours entering the facts associated with births, deaths and marriages but still had the blossom of art in their hearts and pens.
William A. Guyselman was one such fellow.
I first encountered his entries as a recorder in the Marriage Books of Macon County, Missouri while looking for the marriage date of my great granduncle, Alfred Farrar.
There it was … on page 69. Alfred Farrar married Emma F. Sawtell on the 7th day of June 1869 in Macon County, Missouri. William’s script was beautiful, readable and structured to be attractive to any future reader.
While the tall, leather-bound book would never be a best seller, William Guyselman took pride in his work and frequently embellished its stark pages with hand drawn works of art to commemorate the extremely important marriage event in the lives of citizens of Macon County.
Page after page of superbly written flowing text and art unfold as you scroll through the pages he wrote.
His own marriage to Nancy Jane McKee is recorded with an eagle comprised of scrolls and flourishes from his pen.
I feel an affinity to William and wish I could tell him ‘thanks’ face to face. I’ve spent more than five decades puzzling out the scribblings and markings of tens of thousands of recorders. Every time I encounter a document written by a recorder who had good penmanship and used it in the performance of their duties, I offer a verbal ‘Thanks’ hoping it will wend its way to them.
Wondering what happened in William’s life, I spent a little time seeking his records.
In 1850, he was listed as a 10-year-old son of John and Sarah Guyselman in Warsaw, Kosciusko, Indiana.
By 1860, the family had moved to Wayne, Buchanan, Missouri, where the family was recorded as ‘Gisleman’ in the census.
1870 found him as a young married man in Macon, Macon County, Missouri. He is listed as being 30 years of age and a school teacher by occupation. His wife, Nancy was 17 and their son John as two months. His short stint as the recorder for Macon County may have already been over.
In 1880, he was forty, lived in Breckenridge, Colorado with his wife Nancy and three children, William Jr., Lou and Emma. He reported that he was an attorney by profession and was born in Ohio, while Nancy was born in Indiana and their children in Missouri.
My uncle Alfred Farrar was married in 1869, thus, William Guyselman was about 29 years of age when he served as the recorder of Macon County, Missouri.
In 1900, he still lived in Breckenridge. The census says that he was born in November 1839 in Ohio, still worked as an attorney, but unfortunately, Nancy had died. Two sons still lived home with him, 13 year old McKee and 10 year old Plain.
During the Civil War, William served as a corporal in the Union Army. He enlisted in Company A, Illinois 113th Infantry Regiment on 15 August 1862 in Chicago until he mustered out on 19 October 1863 and transferred to the U.S. Signal Corps.
His military service proved to be providential because in his 70’s he was able to both claim a military pension and assistance from a military home, the front runner of today’s veterans hospitals.
By 1923, William had been in and out of a military home six times. He had served in the army as a private from August 1862 through the end of the ward after 1865. His military training in the U.S. Signal Corps served him well in later life as his occupation was listed as a telegraph operator during his stays in the military home.
I haven’t found a death date and location for William yet, but think that the event took place in or near Breckenridge.
Because I can’t tell him ‘Thanks’ in person for his clear writing, entertaining and reverential treatment of marriage records in the Macon County, Missouri vital records he maintained, this post is my way of remembering William.
Thanks to all the recorders and government employees past and present who took the time to write clearly. Family history enthusiasts everywhere not only thank you but appreciate your work. That’s a praise you probably didn’t receive on the job.