Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

This Thanksgiving Day, 2014, is nearly gone but I wanted to take a few minutes to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and to write some of my thoughts.

In my half asleep/half awake state the other morning my mind focused on Thanksgiving, and then it focused on some of the things and people and events for which I'm thankful.  It wandered both broad and deep, racing through past centuries then back to the present.

I'm thankful for the Mayflower travelers and the Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving.  As far as I know I'm not a descendant of a Mayflower Pilgrim but nonetheless I'm thankful for their endurance through the hardships they faced and their willingness to leave all things known and travel into the unknown.  Without them, I might not be here. 

And then I thought of the early Patriots and soldiers, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the men and women who fought so bravely to create a free country.  I'm thankful for their courage to stand and fight, and sometimes die, for their beliefs.  Of course I'm grateful for all our service men and women who sacrifice and have sacrificed to preserve our nation's freedoms.

To my mind came Johannes Gutenberg, his printing press, books, the printed word in books, the virtually printed word, libraries, bookstores, and the ability to read and write.  How grateful for those blessings I am!

I'm grateful to my Savior, Jesus Christ, for living, for being an example, for being strong enough and committed enough to die so that we could have eternal life.

And what would I do without my ancestors?!  I wouldn't be here, of course.  I'm thankful to them for weathering the lean and difficult years, grateful to those who were strong and forward-thinking and to those who may have struggled to be strong.

I'm grateful to have living relatives.  My siblings and their spouses have become friends, as have my adult daughters.  All bring joy to my life.  I'm also grateful for friends both near and far.

I'm thankful to be alive on this wondrous and beautiful earth and to have lived through difficult times as well as easy times.  The easy times give me the strength to face the challenges; facing the challenges makes the other times easier.  And both give me a richer perspective and more understanding, patience, and desire to be grateful.

The list could go on for a very long time . . . .

I hope you, dear readers, have had a Happy Thanksgiving, rich with blessings, memories, and gratitude.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dixon and Rebecca - Sunday's Obituaries

Dixon and Rebecca (Smith) Bartley are my great-great-grandparents.  Their daughter, Elvira, was my father's maternal grandmother.  Both died at their home in Bruin, Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

Obituary of Rebecca (Smith) Bartley
The Butler Citizen, January 4, 1900
BARTLEY---At her home near Bruin,
    Friday, Dec. 29, 1899.  Mrs. Dixon
    Bartley, aged about 85 years.
    The interment was at Bear Creek
cemetery.  Her death makes the first
break in a trio of old couples living at
Bruin.  Harvey Gibson and wife, John
Daubenspeck and wife, and the Bartleys
lived on adjoining places, were all over
80 years of age and all had been married
over sixty years.

Obituary of Dixon Bartley
The Butler Citizen, April 26, 1900
BARTLEY---At his home in Parker
    twp.  April 22, 1900, Dixon Bartley,
    aged 95  years.

It's unfortunate that Rebecca's death notice does not state her first name or her maiden name.  If I were searching for her and knew only her maiden name and not her husband's name, this obituary would be of no use to me.  Thank goodness I found other sources that give her maiden name and information about hers and Dixon's marriage.

From other sources I know that Rebecca died of cancer.  Less than four months later, Dixon died of pneumonia.  It could be just me but I have to think that Dixon and Rebecca were really close.  My romantic self imagines that after his beloved wife Rebecca died, Dixon had little reason to keep going, to carry on. 


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Work, Lice, My Ancestors, and Me

I did not have much foresight when I was younger.  As my husband and I were preparing to leave for Peace Corps service, my father said, "What are you two doing?  You should be planning for retirement."  I was 28 at the time and retirement seemed in the long-distant future:  no need to think about it on the verge of a new adventure.  And off we went. 

When we returned home I worked for several organizations, both full-time and part-time for varying lengths of time, but none long enough to obtain enough retirement credits in either the public retirement system or in social security.  I'm now approaching retirement age with the need to earn five quarters (spread over at least two years) to quality for social security, the system with which I have the most amount of time.  Needless to say, I've been seeking employment this year to earn one of those quarters.

While job hunting I've seen some interesting job titles:  security engineer, web front end developer, benefits management practices consultant, animal husbandry supervisor.  Technology seems to be in the forefront.  I've seen some jobs with more old-fashioned, common names, too:  carpenter, salesman, accountant, nurse.  As I was browsing through the lists I began to think of the work titles my ancestors listed on census records:  farmer, carpenter, wagon maker, gardener, barber, to name a few.

Times have changed.  Life was simpler during the time of my ancestors.  Men farmed the land, owned mills, made shoes, herded sheep, cut hair, built buildings.  Women were housewives, homemakers, midwives, milliners, seamstresses, or, in more recent years, secretaries, clerks, or teachers.  Depending on which decade you consider, technology may have included new farm apparatus, sewing machines, typewriters, cement mixers, washing machines, electricity, or telephones.  What would my ancestors think of these jobs currently available online?  (I don't know what I think because I don't know what some of them mean.  What does a web front end developer do, anyway?)

The most interesting, or maybe most unusual or most surprising, job title I saw was this:

I did not click the link to learn more about this job.  My imagination went wild and I began scratching my head. 

I'm fairly certain that at some time in the lives of at least one of my ancestors, a mother had to deal with lice on the head of at least one of her children.  Could she possibly have imagined a person with the job title "head lice removal technician?"  What would she have thought of calling in a specialist to de-lice her child's head?  It boggles the brain.

I'll finish one quarter of work this year and will work next year to earn four quarters.  But no matter what other job I have to take, I will not be a head lice removal technician.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 17, 2014

When Motivation Has Stalled . . .

. . . nothing does it like finding a new website to search.

Yesterday evening I was looking at photos posted on my hometown's Mineral Ridge Historical Society Facebook page.  As I scrolled through the entries I noticed that someone had posted a link to Niles newspapers.  Niles was the nearest larger town with a newspaper which covered news of the Ridge.  The Niles Daily Times, as it was known when I was a child and youth, was one of those newsy papers that told who ate dinner at whose home; who had guests from where; who visited out of town and where they went; etc.  When I went to the link I learned that the newspapers are online, are OCR searchable, and are free.

It was very fun to type in several family surnames and learn that my grandfather sent Christmas greetings to the patrons of his barber shop on the day before Christmas via an advertisement; that one of my aunts had major surgery on a Monday in 1955; that my grandmother advertised the sale of a kitchen cabinet and a porcelain sink; that my mother and my brother, her first baby, spent time in the home of her parents a few months after the baby was born; that my grandfather was installed as a Noble Grand in the local IOOF; and who my grandparents hosted for Christmas dinner in 1955.

The Niles Daily Times, November 28, 1958
And then there were the three of us siblings in the paper.  It's surprising that my mother, the great newspaper clipper, did not clip and save theses little gems.

The Niles Daily Times, August 2, 1958
The Niles Daily Times, August 2, 1958
I remember so many events from my childhood but usually don't remember when they happened.  It's interesting to learn from an old newspaper published online, the dates of those very events I remember.  I wonder what else I will find about my childhood and youth as I search this collection.

Obviously, the news articles I found are not about distant ancestors but, having found them after only a few minutes of research, they give me encouragement that I might find information about great- and great-great-grandparents in earlier issues of the Niles newspapers.

I had given up hope of  The Niles Daily Times ever being available online because it was such a small newspaper.  With sincere gratitude I thank the Niles McKinley Memorial Library.  Great job!


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thanking Veterans

Thank you, Veterans, for your willingness
to step forward to serve America and Americans.  Thank you for sacrificing your personal goals and  time with your family to serve in the armed forces.

Thank you for keeping America free -- and for so much more.  Those two words, thank you, just never seem enough for such enormous generosity.

My gratitude goes to those who are living and those who have served in years and ages past.  You are heroes and we are in your debt.


Monday, November 3, 2014

A Puzzle:  Could Ernst Be Henry?

I'm pulling out a puzzle that's been at rest for a few years.  It came to mind after reading posts on The German-American Genealogist Blog and writing a list of my German-American ancestors

My great-grandfather Henry Carl Meinzen's history seems shrouded, elusive.  I jokingly say he doesn't want people to know about his past before he came to America.  When he arrived here at the age of 28, it's possible that he was a widow.  He could have served an apprenticeship.  Maybe he had served in the army.  And there are any number of other possibilities.  I know nothing about his life before he arrived in Ohio.

When the passenger information below surfaced, I began to wonder if Henry chose to be called by a different name when he arrived in the U.S.  As far as I know, proof of identity was not required in 1866.  And there is the challenge of German multiple given names.

Various U.S. records and documents tell me that Henry Carl Meinzen
  • was born in Hanover/Prussia on July 25, 1837.
  • came to America in 1866. 
  • was a carpenter, among other things.
  • lived in Ohio from October, 1867, until his death in 1925.

I have been unable to find immigration documents or transcriptions of documents for Henry Carl Meinzen.  But I found this for Ernst Meinzen:

Could Henry and Ernst be the same person?
  • Henry would have been 28 in 1866.  Ernst was 28.
  • Henry immigrated in 1866.  Ernst arrived in 1866.
  • Henry was from Germany.  Ernst was from Germany.
  • Henry was a carpenter.  Ernst was a carpenter.
  • Henry lived in Ohio.  Ernst's destination was Ohio.

This is obviously a transcription and it could be wrong.  If it's correct, it seems too coincidental that everything but the first name matches.  (I think I've seen a scan of the ship's manifest but was too new to family history to make a copy or to record the names of other passengers.)  Of course I won’t assume they are the same person.  But still, I wonder about it even as I continue to search for more information about Henry Carl Meinzen.

Do any of you readers have any thoughts about how to solve this puzzle?  If so, please share.  Do you have experiences with first name changes like these?  Have you made a connection between a known ancestor and an uncertain name?  If so, how did you find the connection?

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.  I appreciate it.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

First Movie, Favorite Movies

Once, when I was young, possibly 4 or 5, I remember my father taking my older brother and sister to a movie.  I didn't know what movies were or why my mom and I were staying home.  It must have been a Monday night because the next morning my mother ironed.  I ironed, too.  I practiced ironing on my father's handkerchiefs and some other small items.  It was not the first time I'd ironed but it was the first time I burned my finger.  Of course I cried.  My mom took me upstairs, administered to my finger, then brought out a box of popcorn that my father had brought from the theater the night before.  It was my first introduction to popcorn and became an instant favorite.

My first experience attending a movie theater was when I was perhaps 5 or 6.  My parents took me to a double feature.  I think the first movie was for people older than I was.  I don't remember its title but I remember that men were on a sailing ship and one of them was whipped.  It was a dreadful experience, especially seeing those images larger-than-life in a place where I couldn't run and hide. 

Thankfully, the next movie was light, joyful, and fun.  It was Walt Disney's "Song of the South" and I loved it.  I haven't seen it since that first viewing.  I understand it's not sold in the United States but is available in England and one or two other countries.

As I was searching online for a video to post I learned that there's a great controversy over "Song of the South."  It's sad that it is so.  In my memory it's a joyful movie about two children and the antics of several personified animals told by a loving and lovable grandfatherly gentleman.  How I wish adults hadn't adulterated it with their narrow and prejudiced views.  My thoughts here, of course, are based my viewing of the movie decades ago when I was a child.  Perhaps I would have a different view of the movie if I watched it now.

This was one of the first movies to combine animation and live actors.  In the well-known song, "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," you can see Disney's success.  Here it is for your viewing and listening pleasure.

At Song of the South you can learn more about the movie, the actors, the characters, the music, etc.  And here you can read more about the controversy that surrounds "Song of the South." 

Some of my other favorite movies include (in no particular order)
  • "Temple Grandin"
  • "Cranford"
  • "Hobson's Choice"
  • "Letters to Juliet"
  • "Fiddler on the Roof"
  • "The Whales of August"
  • "Anne of Green Gables"
  • "Wives and Daughters"
  • "A Room with a View"
  • "Fried Green Tomatoes"
  • "Second-Hand Lions"
  • "Sabrina" (with Julia Ormond)

Did you see "Song of the South" as a child?  If so, what did you think?  What are your favorite movies?

This is another post in The Book of Me series, created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dried Corn and Bars of Soap

During the last week of October when I was a child our quiet evenings at home were interrupted.  Neighborhood kids -- usually teen boys -- collected dried ears of corn from the fields on the outskirts of town, removed the kernels, and, by the handfuls, threw them at our house.  They clattered and banged against the windows then clattered again as they fell onto the porch.  The quantity of kernels and the force with which they were thrown varied the announcement of Halloween.  "Those kids are out already!" my mother would say.  I assume that having an attractive teenage sister encouraged the boys to run by the house with their pockets bulging and their hands overflowing.  The next five or six mornings my mom swept off the porch after having heard the clatter the night before.  Then magically, it all stopped after October 31.

A quieter trick involved soaping windows.  Kids would pilfer bars of soap from their closets or sinks at home.  During the week before Halloween they roamed the streets of our community, stealthily crept onto porches, and rubbed the bar of soap across the windows.  I don't remember that they wrote any messages or drew pictures.  They just left scribbles and marks.  My mom disliked the soap more than the corn because it was so difficult to remove.  She determinedly cleaned the windows but I think I remember her once insisting that my sister help.  (As if my sister had any control over the other kids.)

My mom would never have considered spending money on a pattern and fabric for a costume, nor taking the time to cut out and sew one.  Consequently, our costumes were simple affairs:  what we could make from clothes at home or from a trunk of old clothes in my grandmother's closet.  The most common costumes were hobos, gypsies, clowns, or old women, but really, anything that made us look unlike ourselves worked.  We hid our faces behind half-masks that covered our eyes and the tops of our noses.  They wrapped around our faces, held in place by an elastic band that stretched around the backs of our heads.

There were only about a dozen homes on our street and only about 4 or 5 more streets in our village, each with as many or fewer homes than ours.  Trick-or-treating was slim when I was a child.  When I was 5 or 6 my mom walked with me to several houses and stood on the street while I walked up the steps and knocked on the doors.  At every home the person who answered the door tried to guess who was behind the mask.  If unsuccessful after about 3 or 4 guesses, we were asked to remove our masks and identify ourselves.  We received a treat only after the person at the door knew who we were.

Our community was so small that we never collected much candy, but always I sorted mine:  chocolate; other desirable-but-not-delicious candy; and the stuff I wouldn't eat (including chocolate with coconut or almonds).  I can't remember but I doubt I was allowed to eat more than a few pieces a day.

When I was 10 or 11, I sometimes went trick-or-treating with a friend or two.  But by that time throwing corn and soaping windows had completely gone out of style.  I missed my chance.

Happy Halloween to  you.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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