Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eyes That Engage the Viewer

What do you see when you look at this young man? I see a shock of very dark hair that doesn't lie flat, dark eyes that engage the viewer, and just a hint of a smile. I wonder what he was thinking. Do you think maybe he was a tease?

This is my father, Lee Doyle, and I'm remembering him on his birthday. He was born on a farm in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania, on this date in 1913. He had a twin sister, Leila, who died 3 days after birth. And then, just a few short weeks later, his mother passed away. He was raised by his grandmother until he was 3, when his father remarried.

I don't think this photo gives the least indication how intelligent my father was. Had he had the opportunity, I believe he could have become an engineer or had a career in some other scientific or mechanical field. As it was, growing up on a farm and coming of age during the Great Depression, his options were limited. His schooling ended at the 8th grade because he was needed on the farm. I believe he regretted not being able to have more formal education. He claimed that he didn't read well and didn't enjoy reading, but I often saw him reading the newspaper or a book. His ability with numbers was phenomenal. No need for a calculator with my father: he multiplied triple digit figures in his head more quickly than I could punch the numbers on a calculator. He was able to repair any- and everything that broke as well as figure out creative ways to make things better or easier. He just seemed to have a mind that understood the workings of things.

He was stubborn -- not necessarily to have his own way, but in the pursuit of a goal. Generally, when he determined that he would do something, he did it no matter what obstacles were thrown in his way. His children joke about how they inherited the Doyle stubbornness, though they don't always necessarily associate it with overcoming obstacles.

I wish I'd had the opportunity of knowing my father when he was younger -- a child, a youth, a young adult -- or as a contemporary. What would I have known about him then that I didn't know as his daughter?

Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Leila, Infant Daughter of G. & B.

A weathered grave marker.
A barely legible death certificate.

They are the only tangible evidence I have of my father's twin sister who died three days after she was born.

I have heard that she was the first-born twin, the stronger twin, the one they expected would live. And yet 3 days later she was gone.

What unutterable grief for her little family, Gust and Beulah (Gerner) Doyle, and her twin brother, Lee.

So that her life won't be forgotten, I'm commemorating her birthday today, February 27. She was born 97 years ago.

Happy Birthday, little Leila.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I love this photo! I love their clothes. I love how similar their stances are. And I especially love the angle of their heads. Truly, like mother, like daughter.

Everything I know about this photo can be stated in these few words: This is my great-grandmother, Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, and her daughter and my great-aunt, Mabel.

I know neither the location, the circumstance, the date, nor the photographer. Perhaps they are in work clothes. They could have been spring cleaning, or gardening, or preparing food for a July 4th celebration, or any number of other activities.

When I look at this photo I wonder what kind of a relationship this mother and daughter had. Were they friends? Did Gramma Elvira possess a maternal attitude? Did they enjoy working together? Did they joke and have fun as they worked, or was work serious business?

I wish photos could reveal more than what's apparent to the eye.

I wish, wish, wish someone had written details on the back of the photo -- at the very least a date and location. However, I'm not complaining because I'm thrilled to have the photo, a gift of the generosity of my cousin, Don D.

Bless them all!

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Annie's Ghosts

I just finished reading Annie's Ghosts. A Journey Into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg. I can't remember who recommended it, but whoever it was, thank you.

It is a great read.  It isn't exactly --and it really is-- a family history book.  The author learned after his mother's death that she had a sister who was hidden away in an asylum until 20 years before his mother passed away.  He determined to search out the hows and whys and who knews of Annie and her life.

Luxenberg ferreted out every avenue for learning about Annie and in the process uncovered other family secrets.  I think his work is a good example for family historians, not only of the search, but also of seeking out individuals who can help answer questions, of interviewing, documenting, putting the events in context of the time period, and of sharing the results of his research.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

Just as secrets have a way of breaking loose, memories often have a way of breaking down.  They elude us, or aren't quite sharp enough, or fool us into remembering things that didn't quite happen that way.  Yet much as a family inhabits a house, memories inhabit our stories, make them breathe, give them life.  So we learn to live with the reality that what we remember is an imperfect version of what we know to be true. (on page 3)

Like so many of my questions, I had to believe that the answers were out there, and that with the right combination of luck and determination, I would discover them.  But sometimes, I felt like someone rummaging through a lost and found:  You go there looking for one item, and then you come across something else you didn’t even know was missing. (on pages 150-151)
All it takes is one–one name, one address, one correct piece of information–to wipe away weeks of frustration. (on page 177)
Has anyone else read Annie's Ghosts?  If so, what did you think?


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Does Evidence Equal Proof?

I've been earnestly searching for my ancestors for about 4 years, gathering every piece of paper I can find that has one of their names on it, hoping to prove relationships.

It has recently occurred to me that perhaps from a distance of 100 years or more - my time to their time - there isn't really any way for me to "prove" a relationship. Perhaps the best I can do is find evidence of a relationship and rely on that to call an individual a relative.

I appreciated the post and responses to Is Your Family Tree the Truth? on Crista Cowan's blog, Family History in Real Life. She briefly discusses the importance of finding documentation and recording sources.

Still, I wonder.... Sources are evidence, but does evidence equal proof?

What do you think?

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Augustine Bickerstaff, RIP

I thought about titling this post, "Remembering Augustine Bickerstaff," but since I don't really have a memory of him, I thought that might be misleading. While I don't have an actual memory of him - because he was born in the 1700s and died on 15 February 1857, I do want to remember that he lived.

Augustine is my 4th great-grandfather, the father of William whose birthday was yesterday.

What I know about Augustine is almost non-existent and mostly comes from others who have done more research than I have. I do have a copy of an obituary for his daughter, Sabra (Bickerstaff) Nash, who passed away in January, 1879.

Sabra was born on 15 August 1798 in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Augustine and Elizabeth (no maiden name given) Bickerstaff. The obituary goes on to say,
Augustine and Elizabeth Bickerstaff... emigrated to this State, March, 1799, when it was a territory, and located in Cross Creek township, this county, not far from where the union cemetery now is. At that time there were but three log houses in Steubenville, one being located on the corner of High and Market streets. Mr. Bazeleel Wells, the founder of the city was camped on the river bank, and was engaged in laying out lots for the town. Indians were as common here then as negroes are at the present day.
The obituary also mentions Sabra's siblings (and, therefore, Augustine & Elizabeth's children): William Bickerstaff, Mrs. Joseph Lowden (also spelled Louden elsewhere), and Mrs. Mary Johnson. Sabra's will was also published in the newspaper and mentions additional siblings who had already passed away.

One other bit of information I have is a BLM GLO record which tells me that Augustine bought 81 and 10/100 acres of land on 20 October 1824 in what was then Carroll County. In this record his name is recorded as "Augustin," which makes me wonder how he pronounced it.

I obviously have more research to do if I want to do more than mention Augustine as a gggggrandfather.

Sabra's obituary and will were both published in "The Steubenville Weekly Gazette," Friday, January 17, 1879. The obituary was on p. 1, column 6.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

William Bickerstaff, born 1807

I first learned of my 3rd great-grandfather, William Bickerstaff, while searching census records a few years ago. I was actually searching for Ellis, my 2nd great-grandfather - and found them both.

I don't know much about William yet:

He was born in 1807 in Cross Creek Township, Jefferson County, Ohio

His parents were Augustine and Elizabeth (unknown maiden name) Bickerstaff.

He married Susan Holmes in either 1829 or 1830.

He was the father of 13 children.

On November 18, 1833, he bought "public lands" from the U.S. government - 80 25/100 acres - in Jefferson County, Ohio.

From his obituary at right I learned that
- neighbors called him Uncle Billy.
- that his wife, Susan, was still living when he died.
- he was a Methodist.
- he was Democrat.

Another obituary indicates that he was the last of his birth family to pass away and says, "The deceased lived in Cross Creek township all his life following the occupation of farming.... He was always highly esteemed by his friends and neighbors, and his death breaks another link which bind the present to the early days of this community."

He was born when the state of Ohio was barely 4 years old and primarily forest with few towns or cities. How simple and primitive must have been the conditions in those days.

I wish Grampa William a very happy birthday, and I look forward to hearing his memories about the changes across time from Ohio's early days till the latter days of the 19th century. Happy Birthday!

Obituary shown above is from "The Steubenville Weekly Gazette," Friday, March 24, 1839, p. 12.
Referenced obituary from "The Steubenville (Weekly) Herald," Friday, March 24, 1893, p. 4.
Information about purchased property from BLM-GLO Certificate #3217, dated 18 November 1833.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ancestors and Valentines

Happy Valentine's Day!

This year I've been thinking about love and marriage in years long gone - the years of my ancestors.

I wonder, but don't know, how or if my ancestors celebrated Valentine's Day. No postcards nor candy boxes nor love letters remain in my possession or in the possession of any distant relative I know.

In the care and work of a day 50 or 100 or more years ago, perhaps Valentine's Day was not a topic of conversation. Perhaps it warranted not a passing thought. And yet I can't help but believe - and hope - that the love that Valentine's Day represents was a part of their lives.

And so with love and marriage and Valentine's Day in mind, I'm sharing marriage dates and the lengths of marriage of some of my known ancestors.

Lee Doyle and Audrey Meinzen were married 48 years, 8 months, and 4 days.
Married on 15 September 1938. The marriage ended at Lee's death on 19 May 1987.

William Carl Robert Meinzen and Emma Virginia Bickerstaff were married 58 years, 4 months, and 30 days.
Married on 8 September 1914. The marriage ended at Emma's death on 7 February 1973 (which happened to be the day before her husband's birthday).

Edward Jesse Bickerstaff and Mary Thompson were married 49 years, 5 months, and 22 days.
Married on 15 March 1891. The marriage ended at Mary's death on 6 September 1940.

John Thomas Thompson and Lydia Bell were married 50 years, 5 months, and 9 days.
Married on 23 September 1872. The marriage ended at John's death on 4 March 1923.

William Bickerstaff and Susan Holmes were married 63 (or 64) years and 18 days.
Married on 4 March 1829/30. The marriage ended at Susan's death on 22 March 1893.

Henry Carl Meinzen and Elizabeth Armitage were married 50 years, 2 months, and 2 days.
Married on 24 April 1870. The marriage ended at Elizabeth's death on 26 June 1920.

Gust Doyle and Beulah Mae Gerner were married 1 year, 3 months, and 22 days.
Married on 19 Dec 1911. The marriage ended at Beulah's very premature death on 2 April 1913.

William Doyle and Tressa Rose Froman were married 51 years, and 10 days.
Married on 17 March 1885. The marriage ended at Tressa's death on 27 March 1936.

Andrew Doyle and Elizabeth Jane Laws were married 46 years, 8 months, and 12 days.
Married on 11 November 1861. The marriage ended at Andrew's death on 23 Jul 1908.

Frederick Gerner and Elvira Bartley were married 53 years, 8 months, and 2 days.
Married on 24 July 1872. The marriage ended at Fred's death on 26 March 1926.

Dixon Bartley and Rebecca Smith were married 63 years, 5 months, and 13 days.
Married on 16 July 1836. The marriage ended at Rebecca's death on 29 December 1899.

Happy Valentine's Day to my ancestors - and to you, dear readers!

Card at upper right is an 1862 Valentine's card from Wikimedia Commons at
Marriage dates are from various sources including family records, county records, transcribed records, and obituaries. If you want specific information, please contact me.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Young Love

Lee Doyle and Audrey Meinzen
c. 1938

I love seeing the joyful, carefree expressions of young lovers. For this couple, care-filled times overtook the joy, but the love grew from youthful to mature love. They were married 49 years and 8 months.

This blog post was created for the 20th edition of Smile for the Camera: Valentine, a blog carnival hosted by footnoteMaven of Shades of the Departed. Thank you, footnoteMaven.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

From Inside My Father's Desk

I sometimes wonder how I came to have so many of the small objects from my father's desk. But here they are, in my home, still in his desk.  Maybe you will enjoy seeing some of them.

As a side business, my dad was a jeweler who repaired and sold wind-up watches, clocks, and jewelry.  It seemed that there were always watches and clocks in various stages of repair at our house, along with the several clocks on the walls and the ones we used in our bedrooms.  Names like Elgin, Gruen, Swartchild & Co., Bulova, and Regulator were common in our home.  Also common was the ticking that was never silent, that kept us company night and day.

A childhood schoolmate once asked me how many clocks I thought we had wound and running at our house.  I told him probably a hundred.  He scoffed.  I went home and counted.  I was never very good with numbers:  there were about 40 clocks that were in process of repair or that were ours, and about half of them were ticking.

My father seemed to have a penchant for small containers, mostly boxes of metal, cardboard, and wood, and chests of little drawers.  Watch repair parts arrived in tiny tins.  The tins were packed inside cardboard boxes which had metal tabs on the sides.  The tabs slid into holes on the box top, then folded over to hold the lids in place as they bounced through the mail.  The tins and boxes were probably a necessary by-product of his work, but if he didn't like or appreciate them, surely he could have passed them on.  Most of them came to me empty, the parts used to help some watch tick along.

These photographs are deceiving.  The blue tin on the left is about 1 1/2" across.  The other two are about an inch at their widest.  The tin at the top of this post is also about 1 1/2" across.

Tools My dad must have had excellent manual dexterity and fine motor skills to manipulate these tools to work with the tiny watch parts.  In the round glass box at top, those little watch hands are perhaps 1/4" long, maybe shorter.  Miniscule!

In the photo on the left, the longest hammers are about 8" long.  In the photo on the right, the tweezers are 4 1/2 " long.  You can approximate the lengths of the other tools.

Some tools he bought, some tools he made as the need arose.  I understand that he made the littlest hammer in the photo on the left.  He also made the little "poker" with the flat spiral handle in the photo on the right.

The screwdriver is laying against a metric ruler with millimeter markings and centimeter numbers.

The plastic of these loupes is worn and broken.  They were very well- and often-used.  However, the magnifying lenses themselves are in perfectly good condition and I sometimes use them to remove splinters or pick out threads or see fine detail.  They can be combined to increase the magnification as needed.

And then there was the Sen-Sen.  I suspect that anyone who's ever tasted Sen-Sen remembers either liking it or disliking it.  People usually have a strong reaction to it.  My dad kept one of these little packets with its tiny black gems of pungent flavor, not in the desk itself, but in the chest of small drawers on the right hand side of the desk top, bottom drawer.  I think there was always a packet there but only occasionally did Dad offer us the black bits, and I don't know what prompted the offer.  I only recently learned that Sen-Sen was (and still is) marketed as a breath freshener when I searched for it on the internet a year or so ago.  I was thrilled to learn that it is still made -- and that it tastes the same!

Perhaps I have these items because I happened to be at the right place at the right time when my mom was cleaning out Dad's desk; or perhaps my mom realized that I would appreciate them and saved them for me; or perhaps no one else in the family wanted them.  I think having these objects rest in the home that was always theirs, my father's desk, is the perfect place for them.

You might also like My Father's Desk.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Grampa Meinzen's Birthday

This is my favorite photograph of my grandfather. You can't tell height from this photo, but Grampa was 6' or a little taller, the tallest of his living siblings. The rest of the aunts and the uncle were much shorter.

My grampa, William Carl Robert Meinzen, was always called Bob or Robert. He was born on February 8, though I can't say for sure which year. Various documents give one of two different years, either 1891 or 1892, and I can't remember which year he claimed as his birth year.

He was the son of Henry C. and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen. He grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, with 10 other living siblings of various ages. His oldest sib, Henry, was 21 years older than him, and his youngest, Naomi, was 6 or 7 years younger. What a "gang" of kids that must have been! No doubt they all had chores and responsibilities to help home life succeed.

He saw the deaths of 5 of his adult brothers and sisters. The first happened when he was 15, when an older brother died in a gruesome mill accident. The others, including his next youngest brother, passed away before Grampa turned 26.

An older brother, William, passed away in 1888, at the age of 16, about 3 years before Grampa was born. Then a stillborn infant was born, and then Grampa. It seems that Grampa's first name is a necroynm - a reminder to the family of William's life. Grampa, as far as I can tell, never went by the name William. Even in the early census records he was called Robert.

He learned the barbering trade as a young man in Steubenville and was a barber a good part of his life. He had a little shop in Mineral Ridge, Ohio. A haircut cost a quarter, but every haircut was the same: short.

I remember Grampa as a man of few words who didn't interact much with us children. He grew a huge garden and liked to harvest his vegetables when they were at their very largest (read tough and chewy corn on the cob) and very beautiful. He ate the same thing for breakfast every morning - eggs, bacon, and toast - always fixed the same way.

Whenever anyone asked him about his parents or his brothers and sisters, he always referred the questioner to his sister, Mina, who, unfortunately, lived a day's drive away in those days. These days I wonder if he didn't want to talk about his family because there were so many tragedies when he was younger.

I wish Grampa and I had had a more communicative relationship. I could have learned a lot from him, I'm sure.

Happy Birthday, Grampa!

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Differences Between Men and Women Genealogists/Family Historians?

I have had a few discussions with men and women working on their genealogy/family history which have lead me to wonder if there is a difference between the way men and women approach the subject.

I'm not saying this is so.  This is just an observation I've made among several others who are also searching for family:

Men want to go in a direct line back to the oldest forefather they can find, generally branching out to collateral lines only if it helps them go back in their direct line.

Women want to go back to their oldest living foreparents but try to find all the children/siblings in each family as they go back.

Is this generally true?  Have you noticed differences in the way men and women approach genealogy and family history?  What is your experience with this?  If you are a guy, what is your approach?  If you are a female, what is your approach?


Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Interments in the Union Cemetery Lot of Henry C. and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen

When searching for Henry and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen's unknown infants and children a few years ago, I contacted Union Cemetery in Steubenville, Ohio, where I knew Henry and Elizabeth were buried. I hoped to find the rest of her 15 children there.

I corresponded with cemetery employees several times and each request was returned with information. I finally asked it they would please send the names and information of all individuals buried in Section Q, Lot 203, the Meinzen lot.

These are the names of family members from their records:

Meinzen, William, age 16, interred 1888/11/27
Meinzen, Infant, stillborn, interred 1891/01/25
Meinzen, Infant, stillborn, interred 1904/08/20
Hendricks, Hannah E., 35 years, 6 months, 3 days, interred 1910/09/06
Meinzen, Edward C., 32 years, 9 months, 10 days, interred 1911/11/17
Meinzen, Elizabeth, 68 years, interred 1920/06/29
Meinzen, Henry, 88 years, 5 months, 5 days, interred 1926/01/02

Was the infant born and buried in 1904 Elizabeth's and Henry's. Elizabeth would have been 52. Her previous child was born in 1898 or 1899 when she was either 46 or 47. Or was the infant the child of their son and daughter-in-law, Henry and Helen/Ella (Dray) Meinzen?

These are the names of the additional individuals they sent:
Brison, Infant, stillborn, interred 1893/08/23
Easman, M. A., 5 months, interred 1894/06/15
Potts, David, 4 years, interred 1905/11/26

I have not yet identified these as family/not family, though research so far would suggest they are not family: I've found no connection between individuals with these last names and Henry and Elizabeth. Of course that's not to say there isn't a connection - just that I haven't found one. If they are not related, I assume one of two things: either Henry sold sections of his lot to them or he was very generous at a grievous time for their parents.

Perhaps I will never know if the infant who was stillborn in 1904 is Elizabeth's. I'd like to know, though, because it means the whole family would have been found!

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Born of the Sunbeam and the Dewdrop

WAFFLES:   Did you ever attend a church supper where, baked to a glorious brown, they were served hot from the irons and as they came steaming to your plate you could almost hear the babble of the brook and see the blue sky and the bright sunshine which entered into their making.  And then you covered them over with a layer of rich maple syrup and as your whole being responded to the delights of the palate, you could hear the song of the bob o' link and see him, swaying in the field of golden grain, while the spirit of his song bursts from its prison and steals o'er you like a tender memory from a half forgotten lullaby.  There may be other foods, born of the sunbeam and the dewdrop and glorified by the music of celestial choirs but as for us---well, pass the waffles, please.
Sometimes when I'm searching for obituaries and news articles about family in the old newspapers, other articles catch my eye.  This came from The Steubenville Herald-Star, published Saturday, February 6, 1915, in Steubenville, Ohio.  The older issues of The Herald-Star always seemed to have a few long columns of short paragraphs with news or editorials - tidbits, I call them - of which this is one.

I only occasionally print items like this because the microfilm readers available for newspapers usually print "dirty" copies.  I can't remember who I was trying to find when I found this.  I do know that my mother was not yet born, and my father would have been nearly 2, though neither of them nor their parents were in Steubenville when this was published.

With snow headed to Ohio today and tomorrow, I particularly like the imagery of this little article.  I also appreciate the chuckle I can't avoid when I read it.  (How language of newspapers changes!)  Maybe you'll want to make yourself some waffles?  I think I'll go make mine now.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy

Monday, February 1, 2010

Accents and Name Variations

What do you think? Do accents affect name variations, especially in regards to the spelling of names before spelling was standardized?

I'd never really thought much about this until I began looking for my Bell relatives who lived in eastern Ohio, across the Ohio River from West Virginia.

The line from me to my Bell family goes like this:
me --> my mother, Audrey --> Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen --> Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff --> Lydia (Bell) Thompson --> Jacob & Lydia (Fithen) Bell
Finding Lydia (Bell) Thompson's death record in West Virginia led me to her parents, which caused me to look for her siblings.

Lydia Bell had a brother identified in various census records as Crusin, Cruson, and an illegible "C_ _ _ _ _ _" in one census record. From those records I learned that he was born between 1850 and 1853. In the 1880 census I found him living in Wells Township, Jefferson County, Ohio, with his wife, Mary, and son George. His age was not completely legible but could be 26. On the 1900 census, taken in June, he was living in Mingo Junction, working as a laborer in a steel mill, still married to Mary, with sons James and Walter. His age was listed as 47, born 1853. I did not find him on the 1910 census.

Through more searching, I found a city directory for Mingo Junction, Ohio, which is located in Wells Township. The date on it was November, 1900. In it I found
Bell, Mary, (wid of Crewson,) 213 n Commercial st.
So then it looked like Crewson/Crusin/Cruson died after June 1900 and before November 1900. I didn't think a death record should be too hard to find with a first name like Crewson/Crusin/Cruson (even though "Bell" is such a common last name). So I looked through the death record transcriptions for 1900 searching for Bell in Wells Township, Jefferson County. He was not there.

I continued to look through the "B" section, hoping perhaps the alphabetization was incorrect. I came upon
Beall, Robison Cruzen, mar., steel worker, born McIntyre Creek, died Mingo Jct., 20 Nov 1900 ae 47 years of inflammation of the bowels
Is it possible that this is my Crewson/Crusin/Cruson? It's such an uncommon name. Of course I have more research to do.

To any of you readers who may have experience with how accents change the spelling of names, or to any of you who may have Southern/West Virginia-ish accents: do you think that a northern "Bell" may sound like a Southern-ish "Beall?"

Thanks for any ideas, thoughts, or opinions.

1850 U.S. Census
1870 U.S. Census
1880 U.S. Census
1900 U.S. Census
Official Directory of Mingo Junction, November, 1900
Deaths Recorded in Jefferson County, 1889-1908

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.
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