Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Lost Journals

My mom moved into a care center in 1995 or 1996.  She had lived in the home she left for 55 years, since a year or two after she and my dad married.  When it became certain that she would never be able to return to live there, my siblings and I got together to decide what to do with what was left in the house. 

Saturday after Saturday I drove the three hours back to my childhood home so we could discuss what to do with everything.  Some things one or the other of us wanted to take home, some things none of us wanted.  It was a sad, stressful, emotional time, made harder by the fact that Mom was still alive but but not there to have a say in what we were doing.  Some Saturdays I had more to take home, others less.  I was always exhausted when I left and had yet three hours' drive home.

One Saturday we loaded part of my father's desk into the back of our little car.  (I say part because it was a roll-top desk and the top and base separated.)  There were some other items and boxes I decided to leave until the next Saturday when I was sure I wouldn't have such a full car.  One of the boxes contained a stack of inexpensive spiral notebooks (very like my mother not to spend too much money on notebooks) which we were surprised to find were diaries or journals my mother had written.  I didn't count them but the stack was probably 8 to 12 inches high.  I didn't look through them so I don't know what she wrote, and I have no idea when she began writing.

When I returned the next Saturday, the box and journals were gone and neither of my siblings seemed to have any idea where the notebooks went.  They may -- or may not -- have been a treasure.  Mom was a very private person and shared few of her thoughts or feelings with us.  Perhaps she was just as frugal with the written word as with the spoken word.  But, on the other hand, she may have written all kinds of interesting stories and memories.  I often wonder what I missed by not taking those spiral notebooks home with me the Saturday we found them.

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


Image Credit:  JudyGilmore from Pixabay 

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


Friday, June 14, 2019

Flag Etiquette for Flag Day

Happy Flag Day to all of us who live in the United States of America.  This day commemorates the adoption of the flag in 1777 by the Second Continental Congress.  If my math is correct, this is the 242nd anniversary of that date.

"Wonder What the Flag Thinks About (A Lesson)" was published on page 5 of the June 14, 1922, issue of The Youngstown Vindicator.  A little flag etiquette is good anytime, but especially on Flag Day, right?

The flag's words in the boxes from left to right, top row, then bottom row.
Please Mister - Remember to hang me like this with the blue field in the upper right hand corner - the position of honor - also when I am hung horizontally.

In the first place I should never be draped but hung flat.
This picture of me is wrong because my stars and field of blue are in the wrong position.

And when you use my colors on a shield don't have a thing like this because it is wrong!  All wrong!  It should have no stars and there should not be seven red stripes.

Now this is correct.  The field is blue with no stars!!  And just the reverse of the flag it should have seven white and six red stripes.

Please don't drape me.  I am not a decoration.  If you must use my colors as draped decoration use strips of blue, white and red with my blue on top.

Do not use me as a mere background to set off the picture or bust of anybody - not even Washington or Lincoln.  It is an insult to both of us.  Don't let storekeepers use me in a window display.

And don't applaud when the National Anthem is sung.  It would be just as correct to applaud a minister's prayer.  The man who wrote of "the red, white and blue" was merely exercising his license as a poet.  Blue comes first.  There are as many folks ignorant of my proper use as there are folks who don't know the words to the National Anthem.

Happy Flag Day!  May it proudly wave forever.


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


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Namesakes, both Male and Female

Sometimes the namesakes among my ancestors skipped a generation.

William Doyle (~1802-1838)
-- Andrew Doyle (1836-1908)
    -- William Doyle (1863-1941)
        -- Gust Doyle (1888-1933)
            -- William Doyle (1925-2015)
                -- William Doyle (living)

Emma V. (Nelson) Bickerstaff (~1845-1878)
-- Edward Jesse Bickerstaff (1871-1945)
    -- Emma Virginia Bickerstaff (1893-1973)

Tressa (Froman) Doyle (1867-1936)
-- Gust Doyle (1888-19330
    -- Tressa Doyle (1921-2003)

Other times, the naming pattern was only two generations long

Henry Carl Meinzen (1837-1926)
-- Henry Carl Meinzen (1870-19580

Abel Armitage (~1821 - ??)
-- Abel Armitage (1869-1928) (not my ancestor)

Christian Gerner (~1820-1899)
-- Christian Gerner (1854-1935)

Martha (Reay) Doyle (1809-1869) had two daughters with her name.
-- Martha Doyle (1833-1838)
-- Martha Doyle (1839- ??)

Yet other times, there were several in a generation who were namesakes.

My great-grandmother Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen's first name was given to more descendants than any of my other known ancestors.  Two daughters had Elizabeth as either a first or middle name.  Three granddaughters were named Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen (1852-1920)
-- Hannah Elizabeth Meinzen (1875-1910)
    --  Elizabeth Zerelda Hendricks (1909-1997)
-- Elizabeth Meinzen, daughter (1885-1986)

Other granddaughters with Elizabeth as first or middle name include
-- Elizabeth (1897-1899), daughter of Henry C. Meinzen
-- Elizabeth (1917-2015), daughter of Jacob Meinzen

There are, no doubt, other ancestors whose children were named after them who I have yet to discover.

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


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


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Hannah, the Airedale Who Loved Me

One of the things I love about family history is that its scope is broad enough to include stories and photos about all aspects of a person's life, including their pets.  If I had a photo of an ancestor with a pet, and especially if I had a story to go with the photo, I would consider it part of my family history.  With that in mind, I'm sharing a personal experience.

The two-year-old Airedale who came to our home as a foster girl in spring, 2008, was rough around the edges, to say the least.  She'd been tied to a tree with her brother for the first two years of her life, neglected, and most likely abused.  Thankfully, her rescuer had groomed and clipped her so she was clean and fresh.  But she did not know her name or recognize any words or commands.  She was not housebroken.  And she was afraid of everything -- steps, doors, walls, kitchen utensils, the computer mouse, lights, the TV, a sheet of paper, a change in flooring, men, hands, noises both loud and quiet, anything that moved, and anything new....  And everything was new to her!  We recognized fear when she tried to move away or hide, and worse, we could see the fear in her eyes.  It didn't take two hours for me to begin thinking about how soon we could find her a forever home (that wasn't ours).

I spent her first night sleeping on the floor with her because I wanted her to feel as comfortable and safe as possible in this new situation.  I was surprised that she nestled right next to me.  When the sun rose the next morning Hannah yawned, stretched, stood, almost smiled, and did a little playbow.  Her eyes were alight with joy and, dare I say it, love.  I sensed that she recognized me as pack leader and felt that she belonged to this new place in her world.  That was when I began to fall in love with Hannah.

Airedale Hannah
So Hannah stayed and blossomed.  Her timidness with new people continued but she overcame so many of her other fears.  She gained confidence little by little -- safe throughout the house, safe in her fenced-in yard, safe for a walk, safe with me.  She learned her name and the basic commands:  come, sit, down, wait, and stay.  She also learned to "say please" with a sweet head bob.  (At mealtimes I asked her to sit and wait, say please, then I kissed her on the forehead and gave her the okay to eat.)  She loved squeaky and stretchy toys and often invited us to play.  Sometimes she was just as pleased to play by herself, grabbing a tissue box or one of her stuffed toys and tossing it around.  We used to laugh when she did this, which only encouraged her to continue or repeat the behavior.  Never laugh at an Airedale's antics:  it only encourages them.  Airedales have a great sense of humor and never seem to mind playing the clown if someone's laughing.

I consider it no small compliment that Hannah chose to love me above everyone else in our home.  She liked to be wherever I was, watching or interacting with me, and came to find me if I moved from a room while she was napping.  She gave wonderful hugs.  There's nothing like a hug from an Airedale!

In December, 2018, Hannah was diagnosed with kidney disease, spindle cell cancer, and the dreaded lymphoma.  Dogs with lymphoma usually live only four to six weeks after diagnosis.  We had the blessing of nearly six good months with her.  The past few weeks her health declined until we had to make the sad and difficult choice to let her go.  

I spent most of Hannah's last night on the floor nestled next to her.  I didn't want her to feel alone and I especially wanted her to know that she was--and is--loved.  It seemed like we'd come full circle.

Being Hannah's adoptive mom has been one of the best experiences of my life -- both a blessing and a joy.  How I love and miss her!  I'm beyond grateful for Hannah, the Airedale who loved me.


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


Monday, May 27, 2019

In Grateful Tribute to Those Soldiers Who Gave Their All

Oh, beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!

from "America"


Sunday, May 19, 2019

His Natural Abilities

When I think of the word "nature" in relationship to family history and my ancestors, it calls to mind phrases such as "he's a natural at..." and "she has a natural inclination toward...."  We all have individual abilities and natural tendencies that make us who we are and which are integral to our very beings.  Without even one of them, we would be different people (which may be why a person who has had a traumatic brain injury can seem like a different person).

It's hard to know the natural abilities of ancestors I've never met, so for this post I thought about relatives and ancestors I've known in person.  The best example of someone with strong natural abilities I can think of is my father.

Dad grew up on a farm, ended his public education at the 8th grade, and worked at a steel mill most of his adult life.  He had natural abilities in several areas, in ways that amazed me when I was a child and amaze me even more as I think about them now. 

He was a natural at math.  In the days before calculators, adding a column of 10 triple digit figures or a list of money sent most people for pencil and paper.  Not my father.  Within a brief moment he'd mentally added the numbers and told us the answer.  Likewise, with multiplication.  He could multiply four digits by three digits faster than I can put the numbers into a calculator.  I wish I could do the same. 

Dad's fine motor skills were phenomenal and, from what I can tell, innate.  He learned the watch repair trade by mail and opened a repair shop in our home.  At that time wristwatches had tiny gears and springs and minuscule hands, all so small one needed tweezers to pick them up.  Taking apart a watch that didn't work, determining the problem, and putting all the tiny parts back together to restore a working timepiece seemed an easy task for him.  

His abilities to determine why a piece of equipment didn't work -- a car, an electric motor, a water pump, an engine -- and repair it were a part of who he was.  I don't know that he loved to fix broken things but doing it seemed second nature to him.  He grew up at a time when it was more common to repair than to replace.  He was handy with all kinds of tools.  Plumbing?  No problem.  Car engine?  Solved.  Home repairs?  Done.  I never remember him calling someone to come to our home to make a repair or him taking our car in for repairs.  He just seemed to know how things worked and, when broken, he fixed them.

Dad had other natural abilities but those are the ones that still create awe for me.

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


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


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Remembering Mom, Mother's Day, 2019

Being my mother's daughter was not usually easy.  By the time I knew her -- that is, by the time I was aware of her as an individual, perhaps when I was 5 or 6 -- the joy I see in photographs that were taken when she was younger -- a young adult, wife, mother, and even when I was a young child -- had seeped away.  It was as if she had wrapped herself in a protective cloak to keep others from getting too close, from knowing her well, to keep her thoughts, emotions, and worries bound tightly inside.  Perhaps having the unwanted third child precipitated this change.  No matter the cause, she was not outwardly affectionate, nor was she one to offer praise.  Doing well, doing the right thing, and doing it without being asked were expected and, therefore, not reasons for praise or even comment.  Her children were not pampered in any way.  Sometimes I wondered if I was really loved.

Though not a perfectionist, she was exacting and particular, especially when it came to her children's choices and decisions.  I think she didn't want us to make mistakes and so there were narrow, specific, and definite boundaries.  She generally made the decisions, both large and small – decisions that would have helped a child learn, grow, and develop decision-making skills.

Having said all that, I believe she did what she thought was the right and best thing to do for her husband and children.  I believe she had our best interests at heart.  I have to believe she did the best she could in her situation.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

This post is a contribution for Amy Johnson Crow's 2019 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic for the week was "Nurture."


This is an edited and updated version of a post originally published on May 13, 2012.
Copyright ©2012-2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved.  
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission of the owner. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Few Churches Where My Ancestors Worshipped

Our family, including my parents, siblings, and I, and my maternal grandparents' family, were all members of the Mineral Ridge Methodist Church when I was a child or, in the case of the adults, at some point in their lives.  My grandmother's brother, William Bickerstaff, was the contractor and primary builder.  It was dedicated in 1930.

I remember the sanctuary as a quiet, peaceful, reverent place with a high ceiling and long stained glass windows on the sides.  To me, the most delightful part of the church was its a beautiful rose window at the front.  When sitting inside on a sunny day the window glowed (and was always pleasant to look at when the minister's sermon was beyond my interest or understanding).  In the evenings, when the lights were on inside, the window glowed as we walked by.

The church of my German ancestors in Steubenville, Ohio, in the late 1800s and early 1900s was the German Evangelical Church or Zion Lutheran Church.  Henry Meinzen and his children were members but I don't find evidence of Henry's wife, Elizabeth, being a member.

After a series of merges with other churches in the 1900s, Zion Lutheran Church finally merged with and became Zion United Church of Christ.  They have maintained and still hold the early records from at least 1870, when Henry Meinzen's first son was born and baptized there.  His obituary, published in December 20, 1925, in The Steubenville Herald Star states, "He belonged to the Zion Lutheran church, taking an active interest in all church activities until his last illness."

The funeral services of my grandfather, Gust Doyle, were performed by Rev. C. C. Clark, pastor of the Franklin Baptist Church.

My great-grandmother Elvira (Bartley) Gerner's funeral services were performed by Rev. H. A. Sayers of the Methodist church of Bruin, in 1945.  I've been unable to find even an obituary for her husband, Fred, who died in 1926.

My third great-grandparents, John and Catherine (Saylor) Froman, were associated with the Good Hope Lutheran and Reformed Church in West Salem Township, Mercer County, Ohio.

My great-great-grandparents, Dixon and Rebecca (Smith) Bartley, attended St. Peter's Reformed Church in Fairview, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

It is a little leap to say that an ancestor was a member of a church where his or her funeral service was held but it suggests, to my mind, some affiliation of the deceased or a member of his or her family.

Church affiliation is not a topic I've spent much time researching.  As I find records and see a church mentioned in a news article or obituary, I note it in.  It would be interesting to research and note the churches where ancestors worshipped.

I sometimes find church associations (hinting at the churches where my ancestors worshipped) in a variety of places and documents.
  • Obituaries have been the most common source for finding church associations.  They usually name the pastor who performed the service and sometimes the church affiliation of the deceased.
  • Marriage records sometimes give only the name of the minister who performed the marriage.  A little sleuthing (in a city directory of the time) may help determine the name of the church over which the minister presided at the time of the marriage.  It's important to note that a couple may change church associations several times during the course of their lifetime.  A marriage record is not a true indication of church association in the later years of their lives.
  • Baptismal records can sometimes be found transcribed and published in books or online.  If one knows the church affiliation already, a letter or email to the church may reveal whether they maintained the old records and whether they will provide a copy.
  • Newspaper articles, especially social news, often name attendees at church events and give information about social activities, especially for women.  They may also name who hosted an event and who attended.
  • County histories will often give a history of churches of the area.  If your ancestor was an early or founding member, his or her name may be mentioned.  If your ancestor submitted a biography for inclusion in a county history, he will probably have mentioned his church affiliation (if it was important to him).
  • Online church records collections can be helpful sources if there is one for your ancestor's church.  United Kingdom church records (found in FreeReg) are a great source of information about church association.

I notice that my RootsMagic program offers "Religion" as one of its fact types.  I think I'll begin using it.

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


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


Monday, April 22, 2019

Out of Place Records

A few years ago I performed a broad search at Ancestry for my great-great-grandfather, Dixon Bartley.  Based on other research, I believed he was born in Butler County, Pennsylvania, in about 1806, lived there his whole life, and died there in about 1900.  If I found any information other than census records in my Ancestry search, I expected his name to be in records for Butler County.

So it was a surprise to see Dixon's name as a result in Ancestry's Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985 in the Durham Reformed Church, Durham, Bucks County, Pennsylvania collection.

I almost ignored the link thinking it couldn't possibly be him.  To my surprise, I found the names of Dixon along with other citizens of Butler County.  Could they all have moved together from that area to Bucks County?  If so, why would Dixon have moved more than 300 miles in his later years?

It took a bit of investigation to discover that the record I saw was from the pastoral record book of Rev. Charles F. Althouse, who had been assigned to St. Peter's Reformed Church in Fairview, Butler County, Pennsylvania, from February 15, 1897, to June 30, 1902.  Dixon and friends hadn't moved.

Rev. Althouse served in eight different locations, the last being Durham Reformed Church in Durham, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  I assume that whoever catalogued these records at Ancestry checked the location at the beginning and end of the Rev. Althouse's record book but not the locations in the middle of the book.  It seems that because Rev. Althouse's last location of service was in Durham, these records were included in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records at Ancestry. 

Because I have more than a few ancestors who lived in this location at this time, Rev. Althouse's book was a boon to my research.  I found Dixon, his wife, Rebecca, and their son's father.  The records in the book also added some social history and context to the lives of those ancestors.

Don't be fooled by search results.  Just because the record seems like it couldn't possibly be for your ancestor because the stated location of the record is not where your ancestor lived, don't ignore it!  Some records are just out of place.  

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


Related Posts
Mixed/Misidentified Church Records on Ancestry - Church Record Sunday
Dixon Bartley - Church Record Sunday 

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


Sunday, April 14, 2019

My Grandparents Never Took a DNA Test

The rising star of genealogy seems to be DNA, the scientific aspect of family history that suggests relationships between people.  If none of my grandparents ever took DNA tests how would my taking a DNA test in any way connect me to them?  If their genes are not currently available for testing it seems like a closed case.  I'm more than a little skeptical about how a DNA test can tell who my ancestors are and where they lived when there is no DNA for those ancestors (unless, of course, someone dug up a cemetery plot and found a few strands of hair still intact).  I acknowledge that DNA testing might help me find living relatives but I doubt it will connect me to ancestors.

I'm a novice to DNA but there are a few things I've learned as I've researched.
  • There are three types of DNA tests:  mitochondrial/mtDNA (passed from mothers to their children); Y-DNA (passed through the male line); and autosomal.  Autosomal gives the most results. 
  • If I were to take a DNA test, the testing company would identify living relatives only if they had also taken a DNA test with the same company. 
  • The ethnicity estimates continue to change as companies add more and more individuals' DNA result.  Because each company who offers testing has its own collection of DNA samples ethnicity estimates can vary from company to company.  Estimates will change as more people take DNA tests.

Resources (interesting and helpful though, obviously, not all-encompasing)


For now I believe I'll follow the lead of my grandparents and other ancestors by not taking a DNA test, though perhaps I'll take one sometime in the future.

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


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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