Malachi's Promise "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers...." Malachi 4:6

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Of Orphans and Widows

After I learned that John Froman died between 1870 and 1880, I learned that his children had been assigned a guardian through the court even though their mother was alive.  I was new to family history at the time and wondered if their mother, Catherine (Saylor) Froman, was unfit to care for her children for some reason:  perhaps she had a physical handicap, emotional problems, or some medical condition that prevented it.

I recently obtained the Orphan's Court files for all of John's children which caused me to further question the reasons behind assigning a guardian to children whose mother was still alive.  When I wrote about Tressa Froman's petition for guardianship I mused about this situation.  Thank you to my brother, Bob, for his insight that women in that time period essentially had no rights and, therefore, could not guard the rights of her children.  An adult male would need to become their legal guardian.  I had not thought in legal terms, only in terms of the modern dictionary definition of the word orphan:  a child who has lost both parents.  Knowing the standing of a widow in the late 1800s and the legal definition of orphan changed my understanding of the situation of both Catherine and her children.

Wendy of Jollette, Etc. also responded and provided a link to Orphans and Guardians at Bob Baird's Bob's Genealogy Filing Cabinet.  Thank you, Wendy. 

Bob gives a history of the legal aspect of an orphan, discusses the role of guardian, guardianship versus custody, and the rights of orphans.

Several of his statements added insight and answered questions:
  • The "guardian's responsibility was focused on the property of the orphan "rather than on the orphan himself."  His primary purpose "was to provide for management of the orphan's estate...."
  • "The guardian’s primary role was management and preservation of the inherited property until the child reached majority and could manage it themselves."
  • "It should be noted that guardians could be at considerable financial risk, for they were personally liable for loss of the child’s property.  (That was the purpose of the guardian bond.)"
All of those statements helped me understand the situation of Tressa Froman and her siblings after the death of their father.  It's true their father died with property but considering other circumstances it seems to have been essential for them to have a guardian.  All things considered, $100.00 does not seem as large a sum of money for bond as I originally thought.

If you're interested in this topic, I encourage you to read Bob Baird's post, Orphans and Guardians.


Monday, March 31, 2014

August 18, 1920 - A Day for the Ladies

This is one last post for 2014 Women's History Month, beginning with the briefest of history lessons about the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution.


Proposing an amendment to the Constitution extending the right of suffrage to women....


The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex....

The resolution that become the 19th amendment was submitted to Congress for ratification on May 19, 1919.  In less than a month, on June 16, Ohio ratified it and just a week later, on June 24, Pennsylvania ratified it.  (Those are important states to my ancestors.)  But in order to become an amendment, three fourths of the states had to pass it.  It wasn't until August 18, 1920 that Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment.  Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby, certified the ratification on August 26, 1920.

What of my direct-line female ancestors who were living at the time?  Were they eager to vote for a president during their first time in the voting booths?  Did they follow politics?  Did they have strong opinions about local events?  I don't know and probably never will unless I find one of their names in a newspaper.  Still, I'm interested to think of these first-time female voters in my family.

I have eight direct-line ancestors who were living in August, 1920.

My mom, Audrey (Meinzen) Doyle, was born on June 5, 1915.  She would have been five in 1920.  Although she grew into an adult who was avidly interested in politics I'm positive that she couldn't have cared less, or understood less, what women having the right to vote meant.  As an adult she was grateful to have the right to vote.

My grandmother, Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen, was born July 6, 1892.  She would have been nearly 28 the first year she would have been able to vote.  At the time she had two small daughters and a strong-will husband.  Was she interested in politics?  Did she have opinions as strong as her husband? 

Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff was born on 26 Oct 1872.  She would have been 47 when the amendment was passed but probably 48 by the time she first voted.  She lived in small, peaceful Mineral Ridge.  She may have kept up with issues and candidates through local newspapers.  She may have been thrilled to be able to vote.  She had 19 more years to enter a polling both.

Lydia (Bell) Thompson, born May 8, 1851, was 69 years old when the amendment was certified.  As far as I know, Lydia was literate but at 69, would she have been interested in women's rights, in politics?  She lived until February, 1930, so she would have had nearly 10 years to cast her vote in elections.

Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen was born on August 24, 1852.  During the year and months that the 19th amendment was being ratified, she was dealing with cancer on her face.  She died two months before women were given the right to vote.  Was she interested in women having the right to vote?  As an illiterate adult, would she have voted?

Elvira (Bartley) Gerner turned 66 in 1920.  Of all of my direct-line female ancestors, I can imagine her being interested and opinionated about women being able to vote.  She was a midwife, had her own buggy, and hitched her own horse to help women in need in her community.  She lived another 23 years.

Tressa Rose (Froman) Doyle was born in 1867.  She was 52 or 53 when she would have had the first opportunity to vote.  Family tradition says she was strong-willed, but there's no information about whether she was interested in politics or interested in being able to cast her first vote for a president.  She would have been able to vote 15 more times.

Catherine (Saylor) Froman is my oldest female ancestor who was alive when women were given the right to vote.  She was 76; born in Germany on June 5, 1844.  Her husband, also born in Germany, became a natrualized citizen which, I believe, gave both of them the right to vote.  Catherine became a widow at a very young age, left with 7 little children.  Perhaps she was too overwhelmed to be interested in voting, or perhaps her English was limited.  Or maybe she was thrilled to be in America and have the right to cast a vote in the first election in which women in America could vote.  She would have been able to vote for eight years.

Having written this post I realized that I truly know nothing about my female ancestors' voting habits.  I wonder if voters lists are available for the areas in which they lived.  It's a new area of research for me so I will have a lot to learn when I begin that search.

Do you know if any of your female ancestors voted in the first election in which women in America could vote?  Do you have any ancestors who actively participated in the efforts to help women get the right to vote?  Do you know the voting history or political leanings of any of your female ancestors?

You can read more about the 19th Amendment on NARA's Featured Documents.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Overlapping Lives

During this Women's History Month I've been thinking about the mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters among my ancestors and how much time - how many years - their lives overlapped. 

Audrey, Emma, Mary
My mom, Audrey (Meinzen) Doyle, was born in 1915.
Her mother, Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen, died in 1973.
Audrey was 58 when her mother died.

Emma was born in 1893.
Her mother, Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff, died in 1940.
Emma was 53 when her mother died.
Audrey was 25 when her grandmother died.

Mary was born in 1872.
Her mother, Lydia (Bell) Thompson, died in 1930.
Mary was 58 when her mother died.
Emma was 37 when her grandmother died.
Audrey was 15 when her great-grandmother died.  Again, she didn't have much contact because this grandmother lived a day's drive away.

Beulah, Elvira
Beulah Gerner, my father's mother, was born in 1888.
Her mother, Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, died in 1943.
Unfortunately Beulah died in 1913.  They had only 25 years together.

Elvira was born in 1854.
Her mother, Rebecca (Smith) Bartley died in 1899.
Elvira was 45 when her mother died.

Tressa (Froman) Doyle, my father's paternal grandmother, was born in 1867.
Her mother, Catherine (Saylor) Froman died in 1928.
Tressa was 61 when her mother died.

. . . . .
I been thinking, too, about what skills and values the older generation taught their daughters and granddaughters.  I know some things my grandmother taught my mother, and can imagine some things my great-grandmothers taught my grandmothers, but I need to do a little more research before writing that post.  The times in which they lived, especially two generations apart, would have changed some of the details of their lives.  A post for another time.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Section of Real Life & Family History

In the telling of a story the narrator takes a bit from life as definitely and completely as one would cut out a paper doll, trimming away all of the flimsy sheet excepting the figure.  A section of real life is not so detached and finished, for the causes and consequences of it reach backward and forward and across the world....

There are those who would call it the end of the story....  To say the story is finished is not true, for no mere story can ever be complete, no family history contain a beginning or an end.  One may only cut out a bit from life, trimming away all that went before and all that will come after.

first and last paragraphs of the novel
 Spring Came On Forever by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mom's Pies, The Great Depression, and Rationing

I'm sure you've heard others praise their mother's pies.  They talk about the perfection of the filling -- just enough sugar, a perfect combination of spices, not runny but not dry; and the crust - tender, flaky, melt-in-your mouth.  Perhaps your mother was one of those ladies who baked perfect pies.  But my mother was not.  Her pie fillings were generally good; but the crusts were another story completely.  The crusts were tough, sometimes cut-with-a-knife tough, sometimes almost cardboard tough.  (Forgive me, Mom, if this truth hurts your feelings.)  If I could manage it under the watchful eye of my mother, I ate the filling and left the crust on my plate. 

I knew my mom didn't learn to bake pies from her mom, my grandmother, because my grandmother's pies were perfection.  Everything about her pies was perfect.  They were delectable with just enough thickening to keep the filling from being runny; not too sweet, not at all sour but tart when necessary.  And her crusts truly did melt in our mouths.  I thought perhaps my grandmother had tried to teach my mom to bake pies but my mom just didn't have the touch. 

Imagine my surprise when I saw a 4-H blue ribbon among my mother's things.  She never once mentioned having been in 4-H.  Imagine my even greater surprise when I discovered the ribbon was for a pie she'd baked!  A blue ribbon for a pie my mom baked?!  Maybe the blue ribbon pie was a fluke.

I mulled over that pie and blue ribbon for a while.  It gradually began to make sense.

My mother was a child of the depression.  She turned 14 just a few months before that awful Black Friday in October, 1929.  Everything must have changed for her and her family after that.  Plentiful was probably no longer a word in their vocabulary nor a description of food in their larder.  What food they had was probably not used for such treats as delectable pies.  Surely the blue ribbon had been won the year before.

Having been a child of the Great Depression, she became a mother during that same Depression, then during the rationing of World War II.  What her mother may have been able to obtain during the Depression could have been beyond my mother's reach during the time rationing was enforced. 

During those difficult years, my mother seemed to have adopted an that she carried throughout the rest of her life:  an attitude of  "make do or do without," an attitude of scrimping and saving (of food as well as all other necessities) for some future possible need.  An attitude that a pie is still edible even if the crust is tough.  Several pies with less shortening could mean a cake or cookies later or shortening for some other purpose.  After all, having lived through the depression, World War II, and rationing, one could never tell what the future might bring and what would be needed to survive through it.  

As a descendant it's easy to take things at face value or to assume I understand situations based on my own experiences.  But the times in which my ancestors lived is very different from the time in which I live.  I keep learning, in new ways for each ancestor, that things aren't always as they appear.  There may be more to the story than meets the eye. 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Beulah and Gustave - Wedding Wednesday

          Hark!  the bells were ringing but
       they were not Christmas bells.  Gus-
       tave Doyle and Miss Beulah Gerner
       were married on Wednesday evening
       the 20th.  Some 200 guests were in-
       vited and an elegant wedding supper
       was served.  We wish them a long
       and happy life.

Weddings are a cause for joyful celebration.  It is the beginning of a  new life together, often in a new home for the wife and sometimes for both spouses, the beginning of a new family.  In Beulah's case, she moved to the farm where her husband had been born and raised.  Having grown up on a farm she surely was accustomed to the work, chores, and routines of a farm. 

I can imagine the joy they and the rest of their families must have felt on that wedding night and at the wedding supper.  But from the perspective of 100 years, I feel sorrow for subsequent events.

If only the sentiment in the newspaper, "We wish them a long and happy life," had been prophetic instead of only a wish, the lives of many would have turned out much differently.  Beulah and Gust had a short marriage.  Beulah died in April, 1913, little more than two years after her marriage and four weeks after the births of twin babies and death of one of them.  She was just 24.  Gust remarried a few years later and was the father of several children.  He died of cancer (or complications of surgery) 20 years later in 1933.  He was just 44.

No descendant survives who can tell me whether Beulah and Gust's marriage was happy, whether Beulah enjoyed her new home and life on a different farm.  I can only imagine and hope there was joy....

This newspaper article from the December 26, 1911 issue of The (Greenville, PA) Record-Argus was a gift from Dayna, a cousin who recently found my blog.  Her line and my line meet at Gust's daughter, Tressa Doyle Wilson.  Thank you, Dayna.

Seeing my grandfather named as "Gustave" took me by complete surprise.  His descendants who I know have always given his name as Gust or Gus. 

Civil records give the marriage date as December 19, 1911.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Those Little Arrows on FamilySearch Search Results - Tuesday's Tip

Am I unobservant or are those arrows at FamilySearch new?  Do you know the ones I mean?  After you've typed in a name and the search results appear, there are little arrows on the far right side for each name.

See, on the way far right, below where it says "Preview?"  There are little downward facing arrows.  If you mouse over an arrow is says, "Show Preview."

Look what happens if you click on that arrow.

All the extracted information is shown with a single click.  No need to unnecessarily click back and forth between screens.  By looking at the preview information I can generally tell whether I want to look at the actual image.  If so, I can click on the individual's name.  If I find this is not the person I'm trying to find, I can click the arrow again and hide the preview.

FamilySearch keeps finding great ways to make things easier for us!  Thank you, FamilySearch.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...