Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bickerstaff Sisters, Thirty Years Between

A trio of sisters, aging before our eyes....  The lady on the right in the top photo and on the left is the bottom photo is my grandmother.  She was the second oldest in the family and the oldest daughter.  She seems to have a somewhat motherly, protective air toward Cora.

~1925, left to right
Mame, their mother, Cora, and Emma Bickerstaff

~1955, left to right
Emma Meinzen, Cora Bickerstaff, and Mame Morris

The style of dresses vary from one photo to the other but dresses with fitted waists remained constant.

I'm linking this post to Sepia Saturday 192 where you can find other like-minded lovers of old photographs who may share photos of men in ties and striped pants in the 1940s, groups of three, or any number of other topics.  Hurry over and take a look!


Monday, July 29, 2013

The Hundred-Days Men of the Civil War - Military Monday

My great-grandfather, Ellis Bickerstaff, served in the Civil War from May 2 to September 2, 1864, in the 157th Ohio Company D.  I wondered at his short service and decided to learn more.  It turns out that he was one of the Hundred-days Men. 

Ohio Governor John Brough
As the Civil War continued to rage during the early months of 1864, there was no clear victory for either side.  And yet victory seemed within reach of the Northern armies:  there had been some encouraging successes.  With this view, Ohio governor John Brough (pronounced Bruff) proposed to President Abraham Lincoln that regiments be formed with men who would serve for 100 days.  Short-term enlistments were not uncommon at the beginning of the war and during special emergencies.  Men enlisted for three months might be just what the Union needed to overcome the last hurdles to victory.

Brough proposed that members of the state militia, which had recently become known as the National Guard, would guard Northern bridges, railroads, and forts, thereby relieving the trained soldiers from those duties and allowing them to fight at the front and finish the war in 100 days' time.  Brough visited Pres. Lincoln in Washington, D.C., and offered 30,000 or 40,000 Ohio men.  He also proposed that the states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin join him and offer men for 100 days of service.  Jointly, those states committed to send 85,000 men:  Ohio, 30,000; Indiana and Illinois each 20,000; Iowa 10,000; and Wisconsin 5,000.    

Ohio had already sent 10 percent of its entire population to the war.  The men who enlisted for these 100 days were
  • boys too young to serve at the beginning of the war
  • men who had previously paid others to serve in their places
  • men who had already served and come home, either injured or because their time commitment had ended; and 
  • older men 

The call came on April 25.  Men were to report for active duty on May 2, prepared to serve for 100 days.  Nearly 36,000 Ohio men reported ready for duty but only about 25,000 of them served.  They came from all walks of life:  farmers, business men, tradesmen, factory workers, etc.

For my farmer grandfather May was an awful time to leave.  Spring and summer are a farmer's busiest time.  He was undoubtedly in the throes of spring planting on either his own or his father's farm.  He left behind a wife, whom he'd married just three years earlier, and one, possibly two, young children.  And yet he answered the call along with several of his brothers.

In the introduction to A Hundred Days to Richmond:  Ohio's "Hundred Days" Men in the Civil War, Jim Leeke wrote, "The Buckeyes knew what might await them.  Few answered the call with blind enthusiasm or innocent patriotism...."  As I've learned more about where my Ellis served, I've wondered if he really knew what would await him.  More on that to follow.

Other posts in this series
Ellis and the 157th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Fort Delaware Prison and the 157th Regiment OVI in the Civil War
Coming to Terms with History - Musings on Ellis's Service in the Civil War

A Hundred Days To Richmond:  Ohio's "Hundred Days" Men in the Civil War, Jim Leeke, ed.
"Hundred-days men left checkered Civil War legacy"
Hundred Days' Men at Ohio Civil War 150
Hundred Days Men at Wikipedia

The Romance of War, a brief remembrance/journal written by one who served from Beloit, Wisconsin


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge Posts

You wouldn't think that one post per week would be too much of a challenge.  For me the challenge came in choosing a topic that met the alphabetical guideline for the week rather than actually writing the post.  Some weeks I came up nearly empty and scraped through by the skin of my teeth.  It was definitely worthwhile to participate -- I had to push myself a little -- but I'll think really carefully before deciding to do an alphabet challenge again.

All in one place, here's a list of the posts for the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge that I wrote between January and July, 2013.

A is for Abel Armitage
B is for Bradford Cathedral C is for Census Dates
D is for Details
E is for Ephemera
F is for Farmers and Fraternal Organizations
G is for Gerner
H is for Homes, Houses
I is for Immigrant Ancestors and Inventions
J is for Jewelry
K is for Killed (or Died) in Childhood
L is for Language
M is for Matrilineal Ancestors
N is for Names
O is for Occupations P is for Patience and Persistence
Q is for Quilts
R is for Rootsweb Mailing Lists
S is for Signatures
T is for Timelines
U is for Ubiquitous
V is for Vital Records
W is for Weddings
X is for x
Y is for Yes!
Z is for Zerelda


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Z is for Zerelda - Family History Through the Alphabet

With a name like Zerelda, I think she deserves a post of her own -- and this is the perfect time and place to share her story.  I wish I had a photograph of Zerelda but I haven't been able to definitively identify her in any of my Meinzen photos.

When I was a child Zerelda nearly always came to the Ridge with the Steubenville aunts when they drove to Mineral Ridge to visit my grandparents.  The aunts were my Grampa Meinzen's sisters, Belle Hashman, Mina Harris, Lula Sticker, and Naomi Rhome -- great-aunts to me.  In the photo at right, left to right, are Mina, Lula (standing), Belle (sitting), Grampa, and Naomi.  These aunts, especially Aunt Lula, are part of Zerelda's story. 

Zerelda seemed much older than my mother though not quite so old as the aunts.  I never understood how she fit into the family.  She wasn't an aunt or a great-aunt but no one explained her relationship to me.

It wasn't until I began researching our family that I learned more about her.  I received vague and unclear information from a distant cousin when he quickly and haphazardly named my grandfather's siblings and their children.  Then I spoke with my aunt to see what she remembered.  Bit by bit I was able to place Zerelda and learn about her life.

Zerelda's mother and my grandfather were siblings.  Her parents were John and Hannah Meinzen Hendricks.  Zerelda was born on May 27, 1909.  Her older sister, Edna, had been born in January, 1908.  Another sister, Anna, came along in August, 1910.  Stair-step children if ever there were, each born less than a year and a half of her older sister.  Within two weeks of Anna's birth, Hannah was dead, leaving three motherless little girls.  Edna was 2 1/2; Zerelda, 13 months; and Anna, 2 weeks.  It seems that the girls' father, John, was either not prepared, not able, or did not wish to take care of the girls.  Edna moved to the home of her maternal grandmother and/or an aunt and Zerelda moved to the home of another aunt.  Baby Anna went to the home of her paternal grandmother.  (Anna died the March after her birth.)

In 1920, Zerelda was living with her Aunt Lula and Uncle Charlie -- Charles and Lula Sticker, a couple without children of their own.  Also living with them was Zerelda's cousin, William O. Henderson, son of Bertha Meinzen Henderson who had passed away in 1918.  Zerelda and William O. were about the same age.

In the 1924 Steubenville city directory Zerelda was listed as a student living still with Aunt Lula at 618 Brady Avenue in Steubenville.  She would have been about 15.  I've been unable to locate information about her life between that time and her marriage to Leonard Fair on May 10, 1937.  Leonard and Zerelda were both 28 when they married.

In May, 1939, Zerelda gave birth to a baby boy whom they named Charles E.  He was either stillborn or died soon after his birth.  Five years later, in June, 1942, Leonard met with an above-ground coal mine accident and was killed.  I can understand how Zerelda must have relied on her aunts during the difficult times in her life.  It was kind of them to include her during their travels to visit my grandfather.  There must have been a close bond between them but especially between Zerelda and Aunt Lula.

Zerelda died at the age of 88 on August 15, 1997.  She's buried in Union Cemetery, Steubenville, Ohio.

A few interesting side notes:
  • Zerelda's given names were Elizabeth Zerelda.  But everyone I know called her Zerelda. 
  • Jesse James's mother's name was Zerelda.
  • Zerelda is a derivative of the German name Serhilde which means "armored warrior maiden."  Did her parents sense how challenging Zerelda's life might be when they chose the name or did they just like the sound of it?

When I think of Zerelda as I knew her it's hard to believe that she was only 6 years older than my mother.  Perhaps the challenges in her life weighed her down and aged her more quickly.  No matter her age, I'm grateful to know our relationship and to have learned about her.

This post was written to participate in the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created and hosted by Alona Tester of Genealogy & History News.  Thanks, Alona.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Y is for Yes! - Family History Through the Alphabet

I hope you've had this experience.

You search and search and search for your ancestor's parents.  You have nearly nothing to go on except the name and last location of your known ancestor.  You search in unnumbered locations, databases, and indexes.  (Of course, you could count them because you did keep an excellent research log and then you'd have a number, but you don't because it might be so discouraging.)  You find nothing, nothing, nothing.  This ancestor practically drives you to distraction.  Then you find possible leads that turn out to be someone else, a different person, someone else's family.  It begins to feel as if you will come up empty-handed forever, as if you will never find this contrary ancestor.

And then, suddenly, there's just the littlest hint of a real possibility.  Maybe it's nothing but maybe it's something.  You follow the lead, you search.  You search some more.  You find names, birth dates, marriage records, death dates, a will.  You make possible connections between your last known ancestor and this new one.  One little hint leads you to another possible source, then more and more until finally, finally....

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!

And you want to celebrate like crazy because you found another set of x#-great-grandparents.  It seemed to take forever but you did it.  Sing it on the housetops and invite the rest of the genea-world to celebrate with you!

Family history is fun without the difficult searches but there's such a feeling of joy and satisfaction when the search is long, ardent, and (finally) successful.  I hope you've had that experience at least once.

This post was written for the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created and hosted by Alona Tester of  Genealogy & History News.  Thank you, Alona.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

That Little Building on the Left

I've always wondered about the little building on the left in this photo.  At first I thought it might be a garage but considering that it's first floor is several feet about ground level, decided it probably wasn't.

The house in this photo belonged to my great-great-grandparents, Dixon and Rebecca Smith Bartley, who lived in Bruin, Pennsylvania, from the mid-1800s until the turn of the century.  I discovered the approximate location of the home on a map a few months ago and my brother and sister-in-law found the house and took photos.
It was while looking at their photos that I realized the little building was probably a summer kitchen.  (I haven't been in the house but I assume the door on the left leads to the main kitchen.)  Dixon and Rebecca had at least eight children and a summer kitchen would have been a blessing.  These extra kitchens were used during the summer months; at times when much cooking and baking was needed such as holidays or during canning season; and at other times as extra sleeping quarters for hired hands or temporary help.  The heat of summer cooking and canning would have been moved to this little building and the home itself would have remained cooler.  It's possible that this building was not a summer kitchen, but equally possible that it was.

On July 10, 1888, a golden wedding anniversary celebration was held for Dixon and Rebecca.  A newspaper article records that by early afternoon "250 people had dined sumptuously under an arched canopy alongside the farm house" and that it was a "feast ... in the fullest sense...."  Certainly a summer kitchen would have been very convenient at a time like that.  In our day, among my circle of friends, having 250 people attend a party or a picnic would be no small thing.   In the Bartley's day, the magnitude of it boggles my mind. 

It's likely that a committee of women planned, prepared, and served the food.  It's also possible that guests brought food to share as we sometimes do with potluck dinners.  I wish I knew what foods were prepared and eaten!  I'd also like to know if there were tables and chairs set up and whether there were tablecloths.  Did people take their own plates and eating utensils?  No paper plates and plastic forks in 1888!

I'm still hoping to arrange a tour of the Bartley Homestead and hope that I can see the inside of that little building on the left, the one I believe is the summer kitchen.

This post was written in honor of Dixon and Rebecca's 125th wedding anniversary.  Happy Anniversary, Gramma and Grampa!

For more about summer kitchens:  
 "Summer Kitchen Brought to Light" at Wolcott House in Maumee, Ohio
Traditional Buildings by Allen G. Noble, pp. 221-223
West Essex, Essex Fells, Fairfield, North Caldwell, and Roseland by Charles A. Poekel, p. 49
Kitchens in Colonial Williamsburg in "Kitchens:  Places Apart" by Michael Olmert


Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Trio of Birthdays on July 6

My grandmother Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen's birthday is today, July 6.  If she were still alive she would have been 120.  She usually resisted having her photo taken so it's surprising to have this one, and with a lovely smile besides.  It's a good likeness, though not very clear.

Today is also the birthday of my twin niece and nephew.  My sister read Gramma's birthday blog post last year and sent an email with a memory of that day in 1966 when her twins were born.  She gave permission to share.

"Holly and Jeff were born on Grandma's birthday, July 6th.  She was so in awe that they had arrived on her birthday.  She and Grandpa came to see them about a week after they were born.  We lived in the second floor apartment on West Park Ave. in Niles, and it was so warm that summer.  They climbed the stairs to our place, and both the babies were in one crib, end to end, as we were preparing shortly to move out to Mineral Ridge."

My sister probably has great photos of the twins as newborns and probably also a photo of Gramma holding them, but I don't.  This was the best I could do.  I think they're a few months old in this photo.  They lived next door to us for several years and provided plenty of joy and  entertainment. 

Happy Birthday, Gramma, Jeff, and Holly.  I love you all.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

For Independence Day

     I'm feeling grateful for the freedoms we enjoy here in the United States and for
     the Founding Fathers who had the insight and inspiration to claim independence.

This painting, Declaration of Independence, is by John Trumbull.  It is a very large 12' x 18'.  If you can get your hands on a $2.00 bill, you'll see a green and white image of this painting on the back.  You can learn more about the painting, the men included in the painting who signed the Declaration, and the men who signed but are not in the painting here.

I hope you've had a great Independence Day. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

X is for x - Family History Through the Alphabet

An x was the mark my illiterate ancestors used to sign documents.  I remember being appalled when, as a beginning family historian, I learned that one of my great-grandmothers was illiterate.  No, not possible, I thought.  Then I learned that it was common for people of earlier centuries to be unable to read and write.  I learned that more and more of my ancestors had been illiterate.

The image below is from a deed in Jefferson County, Ohio, Deed Book No. 67.  The date the property was sold was February 20, 1892.  I doubt that this is Elizabeth's x.  I think the records in court books are usually transcriptions.  It must have been impossible to distinguish between signatures.  Witnesses must have been relied upon to verify that they'd seen an individual sign a document.

Illiteracy seems to have been familial.  Neither Elizabeth nor her father, Abel Armitage, could read or write.  My great-great grandmother, Lydia Bell, nor her father, Jacob Bell, nor her husband, John Thompson, could read or write.  My great-great-grandmothers Catherine Saylor Froman and Rebecca Smith Bartley were both illiterate.  I'm sure I'll learn of more as I continue research. 

Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like for them but I find myself imagining them in my time and place instead of in their own situations.  I remind myself that illiteracy was more common then than now, that books and newspapers were probably not available as readily as now, and that they may have had little time to sit and read.  I can't imagine not being able to read and write but I'm sure their lives were filled with living life instead of reading about it.

This post was written to contribute to Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge on her blog, Genealogy & History News.  Thanks, Alona.

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