Sunday, July 10, 2011

Family History - Benjamin Viles

While we were in Washington, I spent time on Bonnie's computer and account.  It is amazing how much easier family history work is now than when I took a class on it at BYU in 1995.  So many of the records are online and easily searchable.  Other people have posted their pedigree files, photos, stories, and documents.  The LDS church websites also have gotten better and better with more interactive ways to look up ancestors, view possible duplicates, and share research results. 

I found that I was more interested in trying to find out about some of the people than hunt for the next ancestor.  I kept trying to fill in the story behind the pieces of records I could find.  In some cases, you could see quite a lot from the census records, tracing my great-great grandmother Delsie Orcutt after her divorce when she moved home, still living under her married name, then as a housekeeper under her maiden name, to her second marriage to John Campbell.  In other cases, there are more questions than answers.  Too many of my ancestors have changed their names, with no records of why or who they were. 

One ancestor that I knew nothing about previously, that I was able to find quite a bit on was Benjamin Viles:
From, based on later pictures, this is probably him.

Benjamin Viles was born July 9, 1831, the son of Alfred Viles and Thankful Norton. He was born in Massachusetts July 9th, 1831, a descendant of  John Hancock, but not the John Hancock, and died in Prosser, Washington in 1908. One census has his birthplace as Wisconsin, but others as Minnesota, with his father from Massachusetts and his mother from Maine.  He was a farmer in Minnesota and Washington. He met his wife, Emily Rock, while farming in Minnesota and were married before the Civil War.  During the war, he joined the 6th Minnesota infantry company C and was a private in the army. From the little I have read, the 6th infantry fought Sioux Indians during the first part of the war and then moved to Arkansas - where they all got sick of malaria and then further south to New Orleans for the last battles of the war. Benjamin though was injured in 1863 and was discharged due to disability. When he died, his wife applied for his military pension.
This was posted by an user. I love the beard. I wish I had such a beard.

His daughter Anice married Henry Lyons while they were in Minnesota and then they moved to Washington along with a sizeable portion of their extended family, including Benjamin.  From the 1910 census, just after Benjamin died, Anice and Henry lived almost next door to the Rock family, the Viles, and other Lyons.
Benjamin Viles, Anice Viles (Lyons), Myron and Luella Lyons.

According to an member this is a picture of Anice Lyon's house in Rattlesnake Hills. 

According to his death certificate he suffered died of old age due to complications from asthma in 1908.

The problem with the past is that it takes such effort to hold on to. The present is so demanding and it is easy to forget. It is sad that even stories about my own grandparents are not written down and will fade in memory, unless written down and remembered. Time is truly like a river, always moving downstream with the present like a leaf floating in its current. 

I don't have any personal stories about Benjamin Viles that would say what kind of man he was. Was he religious? Was he funny? Did he smoke a pipe? Was he kind to his children? How did he and his wife meet? What did he enjoy doing? Did he enjoy farming, or did he desire something different? How was he injured in the Civil War? Why did they move to Washington? 

I found the photos of him and his family on along with his death certificate, headstone info, and census records.

I would like family history to be something more than names and dates. It is a way to remember, to keep the past from being forgotten, but it takes effort and the present responsibilities tug at me and it is easy to put off. But, every year I do, the less likely it will be that I can find people in my family that remember personal stories. So I am going to try to work on this once a week and will post here some of what I have found.


Bonnie said...

Saw a marriage certificate for Jessie Viles at Washington Digital Archives. Is she the daughter on Benjamin?

Anonymous said...

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."

L.P. Hartley, THE GO-BETWEEN(1953)


Ed Alexander said...

Hi.... I'm also a descendant of Benjamin Warren Viles - he was my paternal grandmother's grandfather. Her mother was Elvira (Vida) Jane Viles and I've been trying to get information on her to no avail. If you have any information regarding her I'd be very interested.

Ed Alexander (

Janet Olson said...

Hi, Benjamin Warren Viles was my GGG Grandfather. My maternal Grandfather's Great Grandfather... I am in fact a cousin of Ed Alexander, who also commented. Just wanted to share with you Benjamin's obituary from find a grave. There is a good deal of information there.
Hope the link is readable