Monday, January 20, 2020

A Long Time Ago, for More than a Century

A long time ago my Doyle ancestors were coal miners.  The date of the earliest known coal miner is more than two centuries ago, beginning in ~1812, though earlier historical records could indicate a different date.  Our line of coal miners ended more than 80 years ago, in 1934. 

William Doyle was a coal miner, a pitman.  He was born about 1802, probably in Northumberland, England.  I have no records that tell me when he began working in a mine but at that time, with no child labor laws, it was common for boys to begin in the mines before the age of ten.  Let's say 1812 is my first known coal miner.

William's son, Andrew Doyle, was a coal miner.  Andrew was born in 1836 in Northumberland, England, two years before his father's death.  I do not know when his mining career began but both the 1880 and the 1900 U.S. Census give his occupation as miner.

Andrew's son, William Doyle, was a coal miner.  William was born in 1863 in Northumberland, England.  Again, I don't know when he began mining.  He immigrated to the U.S. with his parents after the 1870 U.S. census and before England's 1871 census.  The 1880 census, his first in the U.S.,  tells me that at age 17 he was mining and the 1900 census indicates the same.  By 1910 he'd become a farmer.

#7 Mine - Inside - Stoneboro Pa.
Gust Doyle is at center back
William's son, Gust Doyle, was a coal miner.  Gust was born in 1888 in Pennsylvania.  He never claimed mining as his profession but, rather, farming.  Yet he worked in #7 Mine, as evidenced by the photo at right and his daughter's information.  With his father and his son, he dug a mine on the farm property he owned.  His daughter Tressa wrote, "Dad and Pap [William] worked in the mines.  This was the main source of income." 

Gust's son, Lee Doyle, my father, was a coal miner.  His mining experience was not in the commercial mines but he helped dig the 35-foot shaft in the pasture of his father's property where he dug the coal by hand and hauled it to the surface using a hand-built tipple, hoist, and cars or buckets.  A year after his father's death in 1933, he left the farm and the coal mine behind. 

I have five known generations of coal miners in my family who mined beginning a long time ago from ~1812 until 1934, for more than a century.  That's 122 years.  How many tons of coal did they mine?  How many families and businesses did the coal warm?  How many mouths did they feed because of this dirty, hard labor? 

Thinking over the lives of these five men I see a gradual progression from coal miner to other forms of work. 
  • The first William died at the age of 38 having never left the mines.  
  • Andrew owned a small grocery store in addition to mining.  
  • William mined for several decades but added farming to his work until he left the mine and depended on farming for a living.  
  • Gust mined and farmed until he could leave mining behind.  
  • My father Lee was a farm boy whose father and grandfather needed his help mining coal.  He quit both mining and farming, though he traded those labor-intensive jobs for a different kind of labor-intensive job in a steel mill.

I'm grateful for these forefathers who worked so hard to provide for their families and for my own family of birth.  I'm also grateful they were able to gradually leave mining and move to other occupations, grateful it was a long time ago that there were miners in our family.

There are several British coal mining groups on Facebook.  There is a camaraderie among the men who post that one rarely sees in current life.  So many of them talk about the good times in the mines.  As a lover of light I have a hard time imagining giving up the daytime hours and the sunshine.  Yet I admire them for going into the mines and doing the hard and dangerous work they do. 

This post was written for Amy Johnson Crow's 2020 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic was "Long Line."

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2020, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Speedy Service from the U.K. GRO

Late Sunday evening, January 5, I ordered death records for Robert Laws and Elizabeth (Thompson) Laws from the U.K. Government Records Office (GRO).  I understood that they would arrive within about two weeks.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email on Tuesday morning, the 7th, telling me that my records were ready.  And, there they were ready for download at the GRO website.

GRO has expanded their search resources and offers the purchase of pdf certificates for £7.00/$9.12 (currently).  I've ordered a few and have been pleased with the quality of the scans.

To use the GRO create an account with email and password and then choose from these offerings:
  • Place an Order
  • View a recent order
  • Search the GRO Indexes
  • Find out about researching my family history
  • Find out about GRO services
  • Contact GRO
The indexes are a little challenging to maneuver through but definitely worth the effort.  GRO is one of my favorite places to buy records.

Robert's and Elizabeth's certificates did not give me all the information I hoped they would but in conjunction with other records they will be helpful.  I have some work to do on the Laws family. 

–Nancy.

Copyright ©2020, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

A Favorite Photo (or Three)

It is almost impossible to choose just one favorite photo.  I don't have a lot of photos but I have many favorites of the ones I have.

First:  My grandmother, Emma Virginia (Bickerstaff) Meinzen
This photo was taken in about 1907 or 1908 when she was 15 or 16.  I have no history from her about the photo but I did a little research on her waist (blouse) to help determine the date.  You can read the post here.

Second:  My parents, Lee and Audrey (Meinzen) Doyle
I believe this was taken in a photobooth but the original photo is larger than most photobooth photos.  I don't have a history of this photo but I believe it was taken in the late 1940s.  I love the fact that they book look so happy, expressions I rarely saw during my lifetime.  I enlarged this photo and framed it for my mom a few years before she died.  She didn't like it because of her hair and kept it in a drawer.  When I was visiting about a year after I gave it to her I noticed that she had it on a table.  I suppose my dad's smile won her over.  Or perhaps it was the remembrance of happier times.

Third:  Children at the swimming hole
I chuckle every time I look at this photo.  If you look closely, you can see that someone on the far side has splashed water toward the swimmers in the middle, as evidenced by the water spray.  I think it's amazing that cameras of the 1920s could capture those water droplets in midair.

In this close-up you can see this little imp, at left, ready to hit the water with her outstretched arms to splash back.  She's the smallest of the group but, perhaps, has the biggest attitude.  She's ready to give as good as she gets.

Thanks for visiting!

This post was written for Amy Johnson Crow's 2020 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic was "Favorite Photo."

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2020, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Monday, January 6, 2020

Beginning Again / Picking Up Where I Left Off

We have so many fresh starts in life.  A new love, a new marriage, a new baby, a new home, the purchase of property.  A move to a new country, learning a new language.  I do wonder why January 1 has become the time when we nearly always think of fresh starts, consider resolutions, and try to make changes for the better.  Why are our expectations of change so high for the beginning of the new year?  Why not the first day of spring when the world is just coming alive again (at least in the northern hemisphere)?  Or why not June 1?  Or why not every new day?  Why wait?   

As for me, I'm not a proponent of  New Year's resolutions.  In my younger years I think I gave them a try but they always went by the wayside within a week or two.  These days I stick with a to-do list, which isn't always successful, either.  Sometimes an item on my list may be pushed ahead for a few days or a week until I eventually get tired of seeing it unfinished and actually do it.

But, I made a beginning yesterday afternoon (or, really, I picked up where I left off) by searching FamilySearch and the GRO website for Robert Laws and Elizabeth (Thompson) Laws, my third great-grandparents.  I ordered death certificates for both. 


I'm hoping these certificates will have more information than just dates and locations of death.  Ideally, they will give birth locations and parents' names.  I can only hope.

I have certificates I received last year that I still need to add to my genealogy program.

I hope I can keep up this early burst of family history energy.

Happy New Year to you!

This post was written for Amy Johnson Crow's 2020 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic was "Fresh Start."

–-Nancy.

Copyright ©2020, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Friday, January 3, 2020

A Question of Longevity

I suspect I am tied to paper for the rest of my life.  I love using a computer for some things but others just need paper and pen.  For example, a calendar book.

About a dozen years ago I bought a book similar to the one to the right.  It suited me perfectly with its monthly and weekly 2-page spreads.  Monthly for a quick glance at major events, weekly for to do lists and appointments.  I tried to buy one the next year but that style was not to be found in stores nor online.  I guessed they discontinued making them.  Even then there were probably few people like me who loved the physicality and ease of paper calendars.

So, being resourceful and having enough computer and word processing skills to create a similar book, I set out to duplicate the calendar book I loved.  I succeeded and have been making them annually ever since.

These books get pretty racked up by the end of a year:  I shove the book into and pull it out of my purse, make notes, pencil-in and erase entries, and sometimes paste in bits of paper.  The wire binding and flexible cover allow me to put a pencil between the pages before I close the book.  Handy.  It's all very handy.  If you like paper.  And probably faster than your digital calendar.  My doctor once asked me when I'd had a particular exam.  When I couldn't remember the date, she started looking through my digital records on her computer.  I pulled out my calendar book and found the date in no time.  She bemoaned needing to change to digital medical records.  I find computers are faster for some things, paper is faster for others.

I've probably made at least a dozen of these books.  I cut the paper to size with a paper cutter, punched the holes with a hand paper punch (about 5 pages at a time), used a punch to round the outer corners of all the pages and the cover, made divider tabs for the months, and made tyvek envelopes with holes punched along the side to go at the back of the book for miscellaneous items.

This year I learned of a local company who, for a price, would cut a ream of paper to size (3 calendar book pages per 8½" x 11½" sheet) AND punch holes in all the pages AND include the wire bindings cut to size.  I considered the cost of all of this and the time I spend to make one calendar book each year.  Imagining a whole ream's worth of calendar pages ready for printing and binding almost made me giddy.  It seemed like a dream come true.

And then I realized that having a whole ream of paper cut to size for calendar books would give me 1500 pages and allow me to make 18 books!  Eighteen!  I started to chuckle when the absurdity of having paper and bindings for 18 years' worth of books hit me.  I'll be turning 70 in a few weeks.  Will I still want calendar books like these when I'm 88?  Will I even be able to make them at that age?  Will I even be alive in 2038?

I had the whole ream cut and hole punched.

But the idea of longevity has been swirling around in my mind.
  • How long will I live?  Will I be alive in 18 years?
  • How long will I be physically capable of creating these books?
  • How long will I be mentally capable of creating these books?
  • How long will I have a computer/computer program capable of making the calendar pages the way I want them?  The longevity of computer programs seems to be decreasing quickly.  Perhaps the old WordPerfect word processor I use will not be compatible with some new computer I'll need in a few years.
  • Will we even be using computers in 18 years, or will we all be using small devices like cellphones and tablets?
  • How long will my interest in jotting down to-do lists and appointments last? 
  • In 15 or 16 or 17 years, will I have finally converted to a digital calendar?
  • And no, I'm not in the least concerned about the longevity of the paper in these books.  They're for my use, not for posterity's sake.  If they last longer than I do, my daughters will probably throw them away, or, if they look through them first, chuckle at what they find inside.

My most recent ancestors have lived only into their 70s or early 80s, but I have earlier ancestors who lived into their 90s.  Am I as healthy as they were?  Or are there other factors at play in their long lives?

We never know how long we'll live, what our life span will be, what we'll be able to accomplish in a lifetime or near the end of our lives.  I guess, long or short life, the point is to live it, enjoy it, do our best and try to keep getting better from one day to the next.  That's my plan.  And I hope to continue making and using my paper calendar books.

Wishing you a long and happy life!

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2020, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Belated Merry Christmas Wishes


I was so heartily enjoying my four little grandchildren, my daughters, and my son-in-law this past week (making family history  memories) that I missed wishing you, my blogging friends, a Merry Christmas.  But since I'm still celebrating the joyous event of His birth, I don't think it's too give you my belated wishes for a ...

Merry Christmas!

I hope it was a joyous holiday for you.  If this is a struggling time for you, I hope you found some small joy during this season of celebration.

Nancy.
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Monday, December 23, 2019

An Old Tradition, A New Tradition

Traditions have such variety and frequency.  Some are once in a lifetime events:  celebrating the birth of a baby, a marriage, a baptism or bar mitzvah.  Some traditions happen annually, like Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, or celebrating a birthday.  Others may happen weekly, such as a family game or activity night or attending  church.  And some, though perhaps not thought of as traditions, happen daily. 

The Old Tradition
Not an everyday meal but Christmas dinner 1958.
I had not thought of daily family meals around the table as a tradition until my daughter was in college and thanked me for keeping that tradition in our family.  We always ate dinner together except on the rare occasions when my husband worked late.  Some meals were more fun than others.  Not everyone like the food at every meal and there was a good chance that one or the other of us was short-tempered, tired, or crabby on occasion.  Even so, it was a time in the day when we were together and interacting.

The tradition of eating meals together didn't start with me, though.  During my childhood our family always sat down together for lunch and dinner.  (Maybe the others ate breakfast together, too, but if so, I must have been excused because I was not a morning person, not even as a child.)  Not all of us were there for lunch but whoever was, we sat and ate.  And since my father worked turns, every third week he worked what we called afternoon turn (3 to 11) and wasn't home for dinner.  Those weeks we all sat together for dinner at noon and had a lighter supper in the evening with all of us except my father.

I'm not sure families do this so much these days.  So often children and youth have activities after school -- sports practice, musical lessons, part-time work, etc. -- which would make it doubly difficult for everyone in the family to sit together for every dinner.  So it goes.  Times change and families adapt and create their own traditions.

When my daughters were younger we had several traditions during December, focused on Christmas.  Most have since gone by the wayside:  children become adults and move away; interests change; etc.

A New Tradition
About five or six years ago we began attending Merry TubaChristmas on one of the Mondays before Christmas.  One of our daughters schedules her time off to be able to attend.  If the other daughter can be here with her family, they also attend with us.  (The bonus to this tradition is eating bagels at Block's Bagels before the concert.)

If you haven't been in a concert hall with a stage full of tubas playing Christmas music you've really missed something.  My imagination tells me the sound is like hearing music through layers of whale blubber -- a deep bub, bub, bub -- and oh so fun.  Every year I laugh when the tubas sound the first notes of the first song.  It's just delightful.  Here's a video my daughter made, though the sound is much less satisfying on the video than in real life.  And only a few tubas are playing.


Tuba players are serious about tubas.  This particular song is "Santa Wants a Tuba for Christmas."

I like traditions.  They offer a break in the dailiness of life and give one an event to look froward to.  And they usually bring family members together.

This post was written for Amy Johnson Crow's 2019 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic was "Tradition."

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2019, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 
    






Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Quilts They Made

Fabric, needle, and thread are the physical essentials to make a quilt.  The other essentials are a person who knows how to use the tools to good advantage to create a warm quilt that won't fall apart with years of use.  My mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother were such women.  I can attest to the fact that quilting is an adventure that requires some effort to learn, especially when it comes to the fine hand-quilting stitches.

A Dresden Plate quilt made by my mom, Audrey (Meinzen) Doyle, in about 1956.














The Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt made by my grandmother Emma Virginia (Bickerstaff) Meinzen, probably in the mid-1900s.

My great-grandmother Tressa Rose (Froman) Doyle's Double Wedding Ring quilt, made sometime before her death in 1936.

I have the first and last quilt in my possession and cherish them, though my mom's Dresden Plate has been used so much it's almost threadbare.  I no longer use it but pull it out occasionally to enjoy the blocks I enjoyed so much when I was a child.   My mom made two of these quilts, one for my sister and one for me.  I'm grateful to have mine.

This post was written for Amy Johnson Crow's 2019 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic for the week was "Craft."

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2019, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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