Widows and Orphans

Alvah Burns the elder was born in 1808, lived in Marcellus until 1843 when his account book begins to mention being in Charlotte, Chautauqua County, New York.  At age 35 he met Anna Maria Link who was 22 years old.  They had Lydia and George and from the change of handwriting in this one book, I think Alvah the elder may have passed away around the summer of 1861 leaving Anna with little ones.
On the bottom, I think, is an early example of a girl practicing the writing of her married name

By November 1861, the journal is no longer an account book but turns into Anna's diary.  Her first entry is a number of bible verses that suggest she is very sad.  The next few days she writes

 "one word in kindness spoken, a motion or a tear oft time has healed the broken heart or made a friend sincere".

 "the backslider in heart shal be filled with his own ways; and a good man shall be satisfied from himself".

"Sorrow is better than laughter for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better".

"The heart of the wide is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth" .

After Anna allows herself these few pages of sorrow she does not return to the book until she is 12 years older.   Again, her sadness urges her to write "feel very lonsom have since father died".  Her father Phillip Link died earlier in the year (1873).  Records show her mother had died in 1867.  Anna Maria is 52 years old and on top of these major losses, her youngest brother Orlando who moved to Iowa has died as well.  I don't know what tragedy befell the Links of Iowa but their homestead did not last.  Records suggest Orlando didn't die until 1876 but in this journal his youngest son Omer is already living with his Aunt Anna who adopted him.  I can't find what happened to Orlando's wife Nancy but I presume she died as well--why else would the 4 Link children have been back in Chautauqua County and scattered around by the 1880 Census.

1880 census:

Omer, age 10, was adopted by his Aunt Anna Burns and was the little scamp who wrote about catching rats to his cousin/brother George that same year.

Nettie, aged 16, was a servant in the Fenner household.  I assume she was a mother's helper.  The Fenner name came up in the journal a bit as someone with whom Alvah the elder conducted business when he was alive so I'm sure they invited her into their household as friends as well.

Norman, aged 16, was living with Uncle Lyman.  According to the census Norman had lost his left hand and was marked as invalid.  I'm guessing he and Nettie weren't twins but born so close they'd have the same age a few months a year.

Evelina, aged 21, is married with two boys the youngest is named after her father Orlando.

All of these children grow up to marry and have children of their own so I'm sure their is more information out there somewhere.



  1. I have enjoyed your blog, and kind of hung to see why it was called Checkered Chicken. The diary is interesting, almost like a novel reeling me in.

  2. I'm glad you've been enjoying it. As for the name, there's no obvious reason. Long before any thought of the blog I thought the name Checkered Chicken would be a cool name for a little store. I liked the alliteration of it. The chicken in the photo is actually known in the family as "The Lucas Chicken".


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