This is George Banks, looking considerably happier than he did the morning Mr. Dawes sacked him at the bank and his nanny, Mary Poppins, left his employ (something to do with the changing wind…)
When we last saw old George, he was in the park flying kites with his children, Jane and Michael. He was jobless and nannyless, and Mr. Dawes had punched a hole in his hat. I know, he was singing a cheery song, but things could not look much bleaker. And then he moved to Nebraska. You can be sure of it. The Fairy Tale Genealogist has the Homestead records to prove it!
Proving you can’t keep a good man down, George packed up the family and bid farewell to No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane for the promise of 160 acres of Nebraska prairieland, thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862.
We see that his slice of the public domain was claimed at McCook Land Office, Nebraska, and his Homestead file fills us in on some little-known facts about the former buttoned-down-banker-turned-farmer. For example, we learn he established residency on his land on 10 April 1886, along with his wife and eight children–something that apparently ended up on Disney’s cutting room floor. One can hardly blame Mary Poppins for her “Oh my, the wind has changed and I must be off!” exit. She saw her opening and she took it!
But back to George…
We also learn a bit about George’s farm from his file. He had a house, barn, cave [?], corral, well, and a hoglot. Well done!
And in case you were wondering if a British citizen was eligible for a Homestead claim, George’s file sheds some light on that:
That’s right, George, of Imperial (Chase County, Nebraska), was a naturalized citizen of the United States! And to prove his point, he included a certified copy of his naturalization certificate from Lucas County, Iowa, obtained the month before he filed his Homestead claim. There it is in black and white: George Banks, a native of Scotland, has renounced allegiance to Victoria Queen of England.
Homestead files are full of all kinds of gems such as this. If you pay attention to the contents of a file, the names of witnesses and neighbors can provide clues to family relations. Five years after George filed his claim, he posted notice of his intent to file his final proof, and named four witnesses, all of Chase County, Nebraska: Edward Edwards, James Gardner, Fred Halstead, and Fred Bremer.
His file contained affidavits from each of them, and later land ownership maps identify parcels owned by two individuals surnamed Bremer, in addition to a John L. Banks.
These maps show us land owned by a George Banks, but not in Section 18 as was identified in the Homestead records. What does this suggest to us? We need to consult deed records for Chase County, Nebraska to find out what became of the parcel in section 18. Deed records might provide family relationships, including the name of George’s wife and children, especially if this parcel was sold, or inherited by heirs. Is this map’s George our George Banks or an offspring? Who is John L. Banks? Each neighbor or witness is a potential relative or source of more clues.
Every record raises new questions and suggestions for new records to search. Census, tax, probate, court, marriage, and county history records are just a few that come to mind.
I hope George made a go of it on the Nebraska prairie, and for the sake of his wife, Winnifred, I hope they found a new nanny!