Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sweet Cheeks

My grand-niece, Lina, turns 2 today. I met her for the first time a few weeks ago when she was visiting her grandparents.

She is bright and eager and energetic. She has about the sweetest cheeks I've ever seen and is just as cute as can be. In a word, she's charming.

Happy Birthday, Lovely Little Lina! I hope you have lots of fun on your birthday and that those cheeks get lots and lots of kisses.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maw's Quilt

My favorite quilts have always been the ones stitched from the colorful fabrics left after cutting patterns to sew dresses and shirts and aprons. Scrap quilts. Their brightness and variety thrill my soul. The rhythm of pattern and the plain background soothe my mind. And the intricacy of the prints and plaids pleases my eye. As a child I loved looking at the fabrics in a Dresden Plate quilt my mother had made. It became a game to see where the same fabric landed in different "plates." It's no wonder then that I love Maw's quilt. But that's not the only reason I love it.

Maw was Tressa (Froman) Doyle, my father's grandmother. She was the lady who took care of my dad after his mother died when he was but a month old. Perhaps Maw was Dad's comforter when his father remarried and he realized that his new stepmother would not love him. I don't know how close Dad's and Maw's relationship was but I know that they loved each other. I can feel her love for him in her quilt.

Dad was 21 when he left the farm in 1934 after his father, Gust Doyle, died of colon cancer. Maw died on March 27, 1936. Perhaps she made the quilt before my father left the farm. Perhaps, when he moved to Ohio, where some of his maternal aunts lived, he carried Maw's quilt with him. I like to imagine that the quilt spoke to my father of Maw's love for him. Considering that the quilt's pattern is a "Double Wedding Ring," she must have imagined a future time when he would marry and use this beautiful quilt on his and his wife's bed.

There is more to the history of this quilt. I don't remember my parents using this quilt but I know it's been washed and used because of the gentle wear that shows on some of the blocks. At some point in time my mother must have decided to take it out of use to protect and preserve it. I'm grateful she did or we wouldn't have it now. Years later, when my brother and sister and I cleaned out my parents' home, we had to decide who would get which possessions -- which were treasures we wanted, which did none of us want. Maw's quilt went to my brother for two reasons: he is the oldest and his wife had been a master quilter. It seemed the best new home for the quilt. He took good care of it.

When I went home earlier this month, my brother surprised me with the gift of Maw's quilt. I was -- I still am -- without words to describe how I feel about his generosity to entrust its care to me, as well as to have her quilt in my home. I am overwhelmed with emotion. Thank you, Bob.

I know that relatives who knew Maw said she had a difficult personality. But when I hold this quilt I know that inside her gruff exterior was a loving heart. I sense the love for my father that she stitched into every inch of the quilt.

Below are some photos of the charming printed fabrics Maw used. As I look at them I wonder if the prints were scraps from sewing dresses or aprons or curtains. Maybe she bought eight yards of the prints specifically for quilting. Or perhaps she traded fabrics with other ladies who quilted. I will probably never know. Not knowing does not in the least diminish the joy I feel when I look at Maw's quilt. I love Maw's quilt because she made it and gave it to my father.

Do you possess items that ancestors have made? Can you feel or sense their love?

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Do You Grieve?

Are there other family historians out there who are like me? Are there any of you who grieve when you learn of the means of death or the age at death of some of your ancestors?

When I learned that my great-uncle Jacob Meinzen died as the result of a 100-foot fall while working, I burst into tears. Right there in the microfilm room at the historical society. He died nearly 100 years ago. When I learned that his brother, Walter, died in the same factory when a piece of equipment broke and flew into his head at high speed and killed him, I once again burst into tears. He was killed more than 100 years ago. And when I learned that my great-great-grandfather killed himself, also more than 100 years ago, once again I cried. When I learned of all of these, I felt like I'd been socked in the chest, the wind knocked out of me. And I grieved - for lives cut short, for family left behind without husbands and fathers, for all the pain they felt.

Because of my response to the deaths of some of my ancestors, it surprised me, while watching Lisa Kudrow on "Who Do You Think You Are?" last night, that her response seemed so mild when she learned the means of death of her ancestors.

And so I'm wondering.... Do you grieve when you learn about the death - too young, or too violent - of an ancestor?

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

William and Tressa: Celebrating 125 Years!

Let me introduce you to my great-grandparents, Maw and Pap Doyle. You already met Maw and Pap when we celebrated their birthdays earlier this month. Of course they were known by their real names at the time these wedding photos were taken, so let me introduce you again.

Here are my great-grandparents, Tressa Rose Froman and William Doyle. They were married on March 17, 1885. Before their marriage, William lived in Stoneboro, Mercer County, Pennsylvania and Tressa lived in Orangeville.

Orangeville is one of those strange little towns that straddles two states. If she lived on the west side of Orangeville, she lived in Trumbull County, Ohio. If she lived on the east side, she lived in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. We haven't been able to definitively identify her residence at the time of her marriage, but family sources say it was Ohio.

I don't know how they met, and I do wonder. Traveling today's raods, their towns are about 27 miles apart. That seems like a long distance to travel to court someone. It must have been true love.

After they were married they lived in a log cabin on family property on Strawberry Hill, now known as Fredonia Road, in Stoneboro. Three children were born to them while they lived there:
  • Emma, born on December 25, 1886
  • Gust, born on November 17, 1888, and
  • Hazel, born on December 9, 1891
A granddaughter, Tressa, remembers hearing relatives talk about the log cabin burning. She said that would have been when the farmhouse on Fredonia Road was built.

Pap was known as Billy to neighbors and friends, as Pap to grandchildren. Tressa was known as Maw to the grandchildren. They thought "gramma" and "grampa" sounded too old. I agree, considering that they were just under and just over 40 when their first grandchild was born. But these days, "Maw" and "Pap" sound old, don't you think?

Happy Anniversary, Maw and Pap! I hope you have a huge celebration today! I love you.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Aunt Before She Was Born

Flora Thompson, author of Lark Rise to Candleford, writes of her mother,

One of her outstanding distinctions in the eyes of her own children was that she had been born an aunt, and, as soon as she could talk, had insisted upon her two nieces, both older than herself, addressing her as 'Aunt Emma'.
In Lark Rise Thompson recounts her experiences growing up in several small towns and a hamlet in Oxfordshire, England, in the 1880s. (For the book the author chose to call herself and her brother by different names, and to give fictional names the towns where she lived.)

In times past when families were often very large, parents were young when first children were born and child-bearing years were long. It was often possible for the oldest sibling to have married and had children while her mother was still bearing children.

I know of one "aunt before she was born" in my family history. My great-gramma Meinzen gave birth to her first child, Henry, in 1870, her last, Naomi, in 1898. Henry's first child was born in 1897. I think there may be some others because two great-grandparents had such large families.

Do you have any women in your family who were aunts before they were born? Or men who were uncles before they were born?

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Kind and Generous Woman

Elvira with her husband, Fred, and 12 of their children.

From left to right:

Della, Alfonzo/Alonzo, Alma or Leota, Alfonzo/Alonzo, Lana, Edward, Fred, Paul, Elvira, John, Mabel, Warren, Beulah, and Brendice.

Strength.  Courage.  Commitment. Fortitude.  Happy.  Kind.  Generous.  These are some of the words I associate with Elvira Bartley Gerner, the woman who is my great-grandmother.  Read on to learn a little about her life and times.

On May 17, 1873, five days after Elvira Bartley turned 19, she had her first baby, Ida Adelia.  She and Frederick K. Gerner had married 10 months earlier, on July 24, 1872, in Sugar Creek, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  Fred was 5 years Elvira’s senior.

In those times, young women married and began their families at a young age.  I know very little about Elvira’s early years except that she attended school and learned to read and write.  I can guess that she spent time with her mother, learning the mothering, cooking, and household management skills that would be essential when she became a wife and mother in her own home.

Sometime during the 14 months after Ida’s birth, Fred and Elvira moved from Butler County, Pennsylvania, to Putnam County, West Virginia.  Pioneers!  West Virginia had become a state just 11 years before.  What prompted the move of such a great distance?  Had Fred been there before?  Had they already bought land?  Elvira’s older brother, George Washington Bartley, and his wife, Ursula, were next-door neighbors during at least some of the years Fred and Elvira lived in West Virginia.  Perhaps they traveled together.  Did Elvira find comfort in having a neighbor who was also a family member?

What would that trip have been like?  I imagine a horse-drawn wagon packed with the essentials to begin a new life.  I imagine, not the level ground of today’s roads, but stony paths over all kinds of terrain.  The distance between Butler County and Putnam County these days is about 290 miles.  If a horse with a wagon travels about 5 miles per hour, the trip would take nearly 60 hours - just for travel alone.  There would have been extra time and stops needed for food preparation, for water, for possible wagon repairs.  If they traveled 8 hours per day at 5 miles per hour, the trip would have taken 7 days.  Where did they stay along the way?  Was there a house, a home, a cottage, a cabin ready for them when they arrived?  What was the settling in experience like?

Whatever difficulties they faced, settle in they did.  In her home Elvira filled the role of farmer’s wife and mother.  She quickly became the mother of more than little Ida.  Twins Alonzo and Alfonzo were born 14 months after Ida, in July 1874.  Then there was a succession of babies:  Lana was born in November 1875; Edward in July 1877; Della in February 1879; Mary Alma in January 1881; and John in November 1882.

Elvira and Fred and their growing family remained in Putnam County until sometime between 1882 and 1884, though they seem to have moved at least once.  U.S. census records for 1880 and birth records for seven children indicate living locations of both Scott District and Winfield, the county seat.

Sometime between John’s birth in 1882 and the birth of Bessie Leota in June 1884, Elvira and Fred decided to move back to Pennsylvania.  This move, which included eight children between the approximate ages of infant and 10 years, certainly would have been harder than the move south with just one infant.  What a trip that must have been!  Perhaps it was a wonderful adventure for the children, but it was one which would have required much planning and preparation by their parents.

Elvira’s youngest daughter, Brendice, wrote that her mother’s life must have been hard the first few years and added, “as soon as the children were able to stand, we were told that our feet were to stand on....  Everybody pitched in as soon as they were able and, no doubt, sometimes a little before.”

The move to Pennsylvania took them back to Butler County, specifically to the small town of Bruin.  Eight more children were born to Elvira while they lived in Bruin:  Bessie Leota in June 1884; Mabel in May 1886; Beulah in September 1888; Warren in July 1890; Ethel in May 1892; Netta (or Meta) in June 1894; Brendice in October 1895; and Paul in April 1898.

Elvira was 44 years old when her last child was born.  She’d been pregnant 16 times and nursed 16 babies.  About 22 of her 44 years had been lived either pregnant or nursing.  How many sleepless nights must she have lived through?  How many skinned knees were doctored; heads of tangled hair combed; baths given; clothes sewn, washed and dried by hand; beds made; and meals prepared?  All without the modern conveniences of electric stoves, washers, dryers, and sewing machines.  A mother doesn’t count, but a mother sometimes gets tired.  I am in awe when I think of her stamina and devotion.  Brendice commented, “My mother had all us kids, never was seriously ill, [and was] never in the hospital even when she had the babies....  She was a big (not fat), strong woman.”  She was physically strong, and she must also been a woman of stamina, fortitude, and strength of character.

Elvira lost two children when they were young:  Netta (or Meta) when she was 3 months old, in September 1894; and Ethel, who died of poisoning, in April 1897.

In June, 1900, Elvira and Fred had 11 children, ages 2 to 25 years old, living at home.  Ida, Alonzo, and Lana had already married and were gone.  Sometime soon after June 1900, Elvira and her family moved to a farm in Fairview Township, Mercer County, where they lived for about 9 or 10 years.

Of those years Brendice wrote, “My parents were just honest, hard-working farmers on a 144 acre farm [with] an eleven room house, and everybody worked.”  I don’t know much about the farm and its crops and animals, though I know there was a vegetable garden and there were chickens.  Brendice remembered, “Mother thought of the holidays in the fall.  She put up some especially nice things to have, like special peaches.  Always had a hubbard squash.  Since we had chickens she had several nice fat hens instead of turkey and we had all the trimmings.  My mother was an excellent cook and loved to put on a big meal....  Since we had all this stuff on the farm I think we lived ‘high on the hog” as the saying goes.”  She added, “When I was growing up we never sat down to the table with less than seven or eight people.”  Did Elvira ever get out of the kitchen?!  How did she manage to prepare meals to feed her large family?!  A girl or young woman learns skills in the home of her mother but she comes into her own through practice in her own home.  Elvira had lots of practice!

Elvira had her own rubber-tired buggy and her own driving horse which she used to go to the grocery or to visit friends.  I imagine Elvira also used her buggy when she served her neighbors.  Brendice wrote that her mother “liked everybody to a point.  If you needed help, call Mrs. Gerner.  She was a midwife to the neighborhood [and] also dressed most of the people who died in the vicinity.  They called it ‘laid them out.’  All for free.  Her good neighbor policy.”  What a great example!

Elvira’s oldest daughter, Ida, died of consumption in 1904, leaving an infant daughter, Lucille.  Elvira took over the care of Lucille.  Having birthed and cared for 16 children, I wonder if, when she was 50, Elvira felt like she still had the energy to care for an infant.  Of course there were 6 daughters still at home to help with little Lucille.

Elvira and her family moved again in about 1908.  They returned to Bruin, this time to a smaller farm.  By 1910, there were only five children and granddaughter Lucille living with Elvira and her husband.  Brendice commented that as the older siblings married and moved away it was lonely without everyone around.  Did Elvira feel the same way?

Elvira lost her granddaughter, Lucille, to typhoid fever in 1912; in 1913, her daughter Beulah passed away not long after giving birth to twins; and in 1917, her son Edward died.

By 1920, Elvira and Fred were living alone in a house in Bruin.  I wonder if Elvira, 65 at the time, missed having the farm.  Surely she wouldn’t have missed all the work, but without the farm work, I wonder what occupied her time.  Did she read, embroider, quilt, knit, sew?  Did she relax, or was she a woman who stayed active and involved?

Brendice shared other of the attributes of her mother.  She said that Elvira was “Scotch Irish (Orange Irish, she would say) and had that Irish wit....  She enjoyed life and people.”  She also said that she was “a very happy and kind woman but she ruled the roost.”  Wouldn’t the mother of 16 children need to rule the roost?

After Elvira’s husband Fred passed away in March 1926, she remained in Bruin for a time.  In April, 1930, she was living on Washington Street, paying $19.00/month rent.  During the last years of her life she lived with various children for several months at a time.  Two of her living grandchildren remember her staying with their families.  Both commented that she was a very pleasant person, that she had a beautiful singing voice, and that she often sat reading the Bible.

I have a photograph of Elvira in old age, sitting in a wheel chair surrounded by adult children and their spouses.  She is no longer big and strong, but tiny and almost unrecognizable.  During the last several years of her life Elvira suffered from senility.  It seems to be the round of life that we begin small, grow large and healthy, become strong adults, and then often begin to lose strength, health, and vitality.  I feel particularly sad to know that my great-grandmother, Elvira Bartley Gerner, once so vibrant and independent, lost her mental facilities.  I’m grateful that she lived 88 years and that so many of them were lived with health and vigor.

Elvira passed away in Struthers, Ohio, at the home of her daughter, Leota, on February 3, 1943.  She is buried in Bear Creek Cemetery near Petrolia, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

I look forward to visiting with Gramma Elvira.  I hope to ask her these questions:
– What is your favorite scripture?
– What machine invented during your lifetime affected you the most?
– What were your favorite foods to make?
– Did you sew, knit socks and sweaters, quilt, and/or do other handiwork?
– What was the most challenging experience in your lifetime and what did you learn from it?

Thank you, Gramma, for being such a great example!  I love you.

This post was created as a tribute to my great-grandmother, Elvira Bartley Gerner, in conjunction with a timeline, Elvira Bartley Gerner: Her Years from Birth to Burial and was submitted to the 91st Carnival of Genealogy, "A Tribute to Women!"

Thanks to Jasia at Creative Gene for organizing the Carnival of Genealogy and to footnoteMaven for the beautiful poster.


Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Elvira Bartley Gerner - Her Years from Birth to Burial

12 May 1854
Born to Dixon and Rebecca (Smith) Bartley in Butler County, Pennsylvania (family Bible)

17 June 1860
Lives at home with parents, Dixon and Rebecca, is 7, attends school (1860 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Butler County, Parker Township, M[illegible] Post Office, Dwelling 316, Family #320, Lines 22-31, June 17, 1860)

22 July 1870
Lives at home with parents, Dixon and Rebecca, is 15, attends school (1870 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Butler County, Parker Township, Post Office Bruin, Written Page 6B, Lines 13-19, Dwelling #41, House #41, July 22, 1870)

24 Jul 1872
Marries Frederick K. Gerner, Sugar Creek, Butler, Pennsylvania (family Bible; Bible marriage record)

17 May 1873
Ida Adelia born Butler County, PA (family Bible)

between May 1873 and July 1874
Moves to Putnam County, West Virginia. Elvira’s brother and his wife also moved to WV, though possibly before or after Elvira & family moved there. Travel on today’s roads require 287 miles of travel in 4 hours 48 minutes from Butler, PA to Winfield, Putnam Co, WV. (1880 U.S. Census record (citation below) and children’s county birth records)

25 Jul 1874
Twins Alonzo J. and Alfonzo F. born Putnam County, WV (County birth record; family Bible)

16 Nov 1875
Lana Ellen born Putnam County, WV (County birth record; other records give birth years between 1874-76)

16 Jul 1877
Edward G. born Putnam County, WV (County birth record; family Bible)

15 Feb 1879
Della Virginia born in Putnam County, WV (County birth record; family Bible gives birth date of Feb 17)

9 Jun 1880
Lives in Scott District, Putnam County, WV, with husband Fred (farmer), children Ida A (7 years), Alonzo (5 years), Alfonzo (5 years), Lana (3 years), Edward (2 years), and Della (1 year). (1880 U.S. Census, West Virginia, Putnam County, Scott District, S.D. 1, E.D. 112, Printed Page 75, Written Page 19, lines 35-42, Dwelling #13, Family #13, 9 June 1880)

20 Jan 1881
Mary Alma born Scott District, Putnam County, WV (County birth record; family Bible give birth date of Jan. 29)

29 Nov 1882
John N. born Winfield (county seat), Putnam County, WV (County birth record; obituary in “The Youngstown Vindicator,” Wednesday, December 9, 1970, p. 27, column 6. The family Bible gives birth year as 1883; obituary gives year as 1882.)

between Nov 1882 and June 1884
Elvira and her family move back to Butler County, PA (specifically to Bruin, according to her daughter, Brendice) (letters of Brendice Gerner Davis; 1900 U.S. census)

17 Jun 1884
Bessie Leota born Butler County, PA (family Bible)

17 May 1886
Mabel Lodenia born Butler County, PA (family Bible; California Death Index, 1940-1997)

13 Sep 1888
Beulah Mae born Butler County, PA (family Bible)

10 Jul 1890
Warren Franklin born Butler County, PA (family Bible)

15 May 1892
Ethel Clair born Butler County, PA (family Bible; transcribed birth record)

23 Jun 1894
Netta or Meta Mildred born Butler County, PA (family Bible; transcribed birth record)

9 Sep 1894
Netta/Meta Mildred dies Bruin, Butler County, PA (family Bible; transcribed death record)

9 Oct 1895
Brendice Kathryn born Butler County, PA (family Bible; transcribed birth record)

16 Apr 1897
Ethel Clair dies Butler County, PA. Cause of death: poisoned (transcribed death record; family Bible)

30 Apr 1898
Paul Victor born Butler County, PA (family Bible; transcribed birth record)

9 Jun 1900
Lives in Parker Township, Butler County, PA, with husband, Frederick and children, Alfonzo (25 years), Edward (22 years), Della (21 years), Alma (19 years), John (16 years), Bessie (15 years), Mabel (14 years), Beulah (11 years), Warren (9 years), Brendice (4 years), and Paul (2 years) (1900 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Butler, Parker Township, S.D. 19, E.D. 86, Printed Page 214A, Written Page 6, 9 June 1900)

9 Oct 1904
Daughter Ida Adelia Heppler dies. Ida’s infant daughter, Lucille, lives with Elvira & Fred. (family Bible; obituary in “The Butler Eagle,” Tuesday, October 11, 1904, p. 4)

Fred sells the large farm and buys a small farm (Letters of Brendice Gerner Davis, February 27, 1988 to January 2, 1990)

6 May 1910
Lives on Old Meadville Pike, Fairview Township, Mercer County, PA, with husband, Fred, and children Leota (25 years), Beulah (21 years), Warren (19 years), Brendice (14 years), and Paul (12 years) and granddaughter, Lucille (6 years). She is the mother of 15 children. (1910 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Mercer County, Fairview Township, Old Meadville Pike, E.D. 145, Sheet No. 114B, lines 77-84, 6 May 1910)

2 Feb 1912
Granddaughter, Lucille Heppler, dies of typhoid fever (obituary; cemetery inventory)

2 Apr 1913
Daughter Beulah Mae Doyle dies, Stoneboro, Mercer, PA. (family Bible; Pennsylvania death certificate)

Lives in Fairview Township, Butler County (near Petrolia) (1916 Butler County Farm Directory)

13 Nov 1917
Son Edward Gerner dies in Mercer County, PA (family Bible)

19 Jan 1920
Lives in Bruin, Butler County, PA with husband, Fred K. (1920 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Butler, Bruin Borough, S.D. 19, E.D. 4, Sheet 3B, line 68-69, Dwelling 61, Family 61, 19 January 1920)

26 Mar 1926
Husband, Frederick K. Gerner, dies, Butler County, PA (family Bible; newspaper notice, “Bruin Man’s Will Filed For Probate,” in “The Butler Eagle,” Friday, April 2, 1926, page 17, column 1)

4 April 1930
Lives alone on Washington Street, Bruin, Butler, PA; rents house/apartment for $19.00/month (1930 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Butler, Bruin Borough, Washington Street, S.D. 7th, E.D. 10-4, Sheet No. 2A, Printed Page 243, Line 27, Dwelling 37, Family 40, 4 April 1930)

21 Oct 1940
Son Alonzo dies (family Bible; obituary in “Butler Eagle,” Tuesday, October 22, 1940, p. 11)

3 Feb 1943
Dies at the home of her daughter, Leota (Mrs. Fred) Holland, 561 Fourth Street, Struthers, Mahoning County, Ohio (family Bible; Ohio death certificate; obituary in “The Youngstown Vindicator,” Thursday, February 4, 1942, p. 11, col. 5; and obituary in “The Butler Eagle,” Friday, February 5, 1943, p. 2)

6 Feb 1943
Buried, Bear Creek Cemetery, Petrolia, Butler, PA (cemetery inventory, obituaries named above)
This timeline was created in conjunction with the post A Kind and Generous Woman which will be submitted to the 91st Carnival of Genealogy: "A Tribute to Women!"


Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

A Sad Realization

I think I spend a lot of time thinking about my ancestors, where to find them, and more information about them. Do you, too? I think there are relatively few of the world's people who focus on genealogy like some of us do, but every once in a while I imagine that everyone else is looking for their ancestors as enthusiastically and energetically as I am.

Those thoughts were rolling around in my mind this morning when I suddenly realized that there is probably no one else on earth who is trying to find my Henry Carl Meinzen. Probably not another single soul. Unless that soul is looking for collateral lines. Henry had a brother named Fred, and a father named Carl - but if no one is looking for them and their families, they won't be looking for my Henry, either.

It's important to me that others look for my great-grandfather because if they are, they might help me find his father and mother.

One of the sad realities of life is that not everyone on the planet is interested in genealogy and family history.

I'll be patient. Sometime in the near or distant future, somewhere in local or far off lands, more information about Henry and his family of birth will surface. I just know it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Little Miss Hannah Turns Four

Were you expecting a photo of a child? I know this blog is about ancestors and living family members - but I couldn't resist commemorating the birthday of our Airedale, Hannah, a furry part of our family. Unlike most Airedales, she seems to be an introvert and would probably be appalled to find herself in public view on a blog. But if you don't tell her she has photos here, I won't either.

Hannah is a rescued girl who came to us 2 years ago from a situation of abuse and neglect. She'd been tied to a tree with her brother, had never been in a house or a car, and wasn't housebroken. When she first arrived she was afraid of everyone and everything - doors, steps, paper, kitchen utensils, loud noises, quiet noises, the tv - everything! - and especially men! Every noise sent her diving for cover.

She bonded to me when I spent the first night on the floor with her cuddled in my arms. (I couldn't let her go for fear she'd get up and pee on the oak floor!) I suddenly became her source of comfort, food, and all good things. The initial plan was that we would foster her, help her adjust to life in a home, and then she would move to a forever home. She didn't have to move after all!

She's overcome lots of fearful things and we find that she's very smart. Once she learns that whatever we want her to do won't harm her, she'll practice with us till she can do what we ask. I consider it a great accomplishment that she'll push our kitchen door open from the outside when given the command; and a greater accomplishment that she'll take the kerchief on our bedroom doornob and pull it open, into herself. (Of course, the doors are pulled closed but aren't latched. I don't think I want to teach her to unlatch doors!)

It's been rewarding to see her steps toward becoming a secure, confident Airedale. And it's been great fun to have her in our home. When she's with my husband and me she has loads of personality and often does things that make us laugh or to engage us in play.

Happy Birthday, little Hannah! We'll try to make it a fun day for you.

Photos above, left to right: either apprehensive or sleepy during her first weeks with us; Hannah the digger; asleep - we don't know why she sleeps this way but often she does; ignoring the camera.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mom's Photo Album and the Out-of-Focus Photos

At the moment I am the care-taker of my mother's old photo album. When my sister asked to borrow it (twice!), I told her I wasn't finished with it yet. Last week I decided to scan the photos I want to save and print, or use for this blog. And then I decided it would be good to scan every page to have as a reference. When I'm finished and I see her again, I'll give it into my sister's care for a while.

I think the cover of the album is beautiful with its rich, dark green color, the embossed decoration, and the gold lettering. The album is also attractive for its size, 10" by 7", and the cord that ties on the side.

From the time I was a child I thought my mother was very, very particular about things. Perhaps that wasn't so if this album is evidence. I was surprised to see the haphazard way in which the photos were put in the album, some askew, others hodge-podge on the pages. Perhaps she had to hurry to finish a page or two because a toddler had just awoken from a nap....

The paper of old black pages has not held up well through the years. As I turn the leaves to look at the photos I find specks and crumbs and dust and flakes of black on the table and on my hands. I think the photos need to be ever-so-carefully removed (if that's possible because of the glue that attaches them to the pages), new pages cut, and the photos reattached in some non-destructive method. I didn't think I should undertake the job without the approval of my sister and possibly my brother, and especially without researching options. Perhaps we will agree that it should be done. Or perhaps research will suggest that it shouldn't be done. I'll think about that problem later.

My current predicament, though, is this: probably a third or more of the photos in this dear old album are out of focus. They look like this:

Some of the blurry photos I don't give a wit about, but there are others.... For instance, the photo of the lady and child on the above, left page. That's my mother with a smile! A smile! And my brother, on the right, is also smiling.

On the pages in the middle and on the right are "twin" photos: my father on the left, perhaps taken by my mother; and my mother on the right, perhaps taken by my father. Same location, doing the same thing. Twins. Maybe it was a new camera and they were trying to get the hang of holding it still.

Again, on the middle page, left side, that's my father's cousin, Evie McClelland - the only photo I have of her that's almost not a photo at all - putting a curtain on a curtain stretcher. Why exactly anyone would want to take that particular photo, I don't know. But now that we have it, I do certainly wish it were in focus!

What to do about these photos? Of course the originals will stay where they are (unless we decide to change the paper). But what about copies? Make copies and lay them aside since (as far as I know) there's no way to fix them? Or forget I ever saw them?

Did your family save out-of-focus photographs or did they throw them away? If you have blurry photos, what do you do with them?

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Celebrating David

Although he didn't become a football player, he is a great husband and father. And he's just as good-looking as ever.

Happy Birthday, David!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Going Home

This weekend my husband and I traveled several hours to return home to the village of my childhood.  I hadn’t been there for at least 10 years, perhaps longer - probably not since my mother’s passing.

I once heard Mineral Ridge described as the longest and narrowest town in Ohio.  I’m sure that’s not true, but it is long and it was narrow when the statement was made.  It’s main street is on a state route running north and south.  I suppose Main Street is perhaps a mile long, and all of it runs downhill to the south - or uphill to the north, depending on your perspective.  One long, straight, gradual hill.  On either side of Main Street are short side streets - the shortest ones on the west side, the longer ones on the east side.  These days, the Ridge has expanded eastward into what used to be beautiful fields and country roads.

We drove northward from the freeway, through the (new) light at the south end of Main Street, up the hill through what was now unfamiliar. Stores and buildings that had been there were gone.  Empty spaces had new buildings.  A few original-to-my-childhood buildings remained: the post office; the building that once housed a hardware store; the high school; the Methodist Church.

At the church we turned down my street.  Our house was still there but the beautiful maple trees that had shaded my bedroom window were gone, replaced with small, weeping trees.  We passed the next house, then came to my grandmother’s and grandfather’s home.  Oh!  It had been remuddled almost beyond recognition.  I learned that it had been condemned, then purchased with the intent to fix it, then abandoned.  It sat empty, alone - home to no family.

A few minutes later we arrived at my sister’s and her husband’s home.  We were warmly welcomed.  They’d invited lots of family to come visit with their son, his girlfriend, and their daughter, who had come to visit from California.  There were about 20 of us from that side of the family, including my only living aunt, my brother and his wife, my niece and her family, and cousins.  It was good to be in the bosom of family again where love and acceptance allows us to overlook imperfections, short-comings, and differences of opinion.

I usually think of home as a place, but realized, again, that home may not always be a place.  But when one is with family one is always home.

Thank you, Marsha and Chuck, for welcoming us to your home.  You are great hosts.


Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tressa Rose

Tressa Rose (Froman) Doyle is known to her family as Maw. She is Pap's wife and my great-grandmother. I could have chosen any day in March to remember her birthday because there seems to be no record of her exact birth date -- just March, 1867 -- so I'm choosing today to honor her.

Maw's parents were John and Catherine (Saylor) Froman. From census records it appears that John was a coalminer in western Pennsylvania. Though I have found no record or other evidence of his death, I believe he died between 1870 and 1872 for two reasons: he's on the 1870 census, but not on the 1880 census; and indexes of Mercer County probate records on film at the FHL show that S. W. Mannheimer was appointed guardian to Tressa and Jacob Froman in December 1872. Tressa was a few months shy of 6 years old at that time. What would life have been like for her, in the 1870's, without a father?

I was told by a family member who knew and loved Maw (other than my father, who never mentioned Maw's personality) that she had an unpleasant disposition. Aunt Tressa said Maw didn't like children and didn't talk about her own childhood or her parents. Could it be that Maw's childhood, like my father's, was difficult, possibly even tragic? Perhaps it was better not to remember and relive hard times -- living through them once is enough to change one's outlook.

Maw took care of my father from the time his mother died when he was a month old until he was about 3, when his widowed father remarried. I suspect that Dad and Maw developed a special bond during those years.

Aunt Tressa wrote that Maw was a beautiful housekeeper, a good seamstress, and that she liked to quilt. My brother has a quilt Maw made for my father. It is a lightweight summer quilt. The quality of the quilting varies. Maybe age and ailment were contributions to the quilt, along with the love I'm sure Maw felt for her grandson, my dad.

Perhaps Maw's disposition changed over time. We know she had palsy and wore a shawl which she used to cover her face when the palsy occurred. What other ailments might she have had as she grew older that could have caused her to be unpleasant? We never know how another feels, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. I'm giving Maw the benefit of the doubt: unpleasant disposition or not, I love and respect her.

Happy Birthday, Maw! I hope you have a wonderful birthday, whichever day in March it is.

This post was created to honor Maw, Tressa (Froman) Doyle, and is being submitted for the "I Smile for the Camera" blog carnival "Give Their Face a Place." Maw has a place in my heart.

Quilt photograph Copyright © 2010 by Eva Doyle.
Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thoughts about Searching for My Ancestors

I've been watching the Faces of America series. I think it's wonderful that genealogy has become popular and that people are interested in knowing about their ancestors.

As I was watching the
4th program in the series last night I pondered the question: What if someone handed me 6 or 8 generations of my genealogy? How would I feel? What would I think?

My first thought was - how exciting!

And then I thought about all I've learned about my ancestors because I've been searching for my them myself:

> I've become acquainted with them them and learned something about the lives they lived. By learning about the times in which they lived, I can place them in context of their environment.

> I know, to some extend, their occupations.

> I recognize the names of their neighbors and community members from having looked at page after page of census returns, birth/marriage/death transcriptions, and cemetery inventories.

> I know the names and ages of other family members and who else lived in their home with them, whether the children attended school or worked, and whether the parents could read and write.

> I know things that were important to the community from having read the same newspapers accessible to my ancestors.

> I know the stores where they might have shopped and the clothes they might have worn.

> I know where they buried their dead.

> And so much more.

I also think I've grown to love my ancestors as I've searched for them. After all, they are not just names and dates, but individuals with lives - my foremothers and forefathers, foreaunts and foreuncles. I have some of their blood running through my veins.

I would have missed learning these things about my ancestors if a genealogy had been handed to me. Now if Faces of America, or anyone else, wants to help me with a brick wall now and then, I'd be grateful. But as for the real searching, I'll do it myself, thank you.

How about you? Would you like to have your genealogy handed to you? What are some of the things you've learned in the search for your ancestors?

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pap, Because "Grandpa" Sounded Too Old

When I was a young child, I remember my father mentioning "Pap," but I didn't know who he was - except that he was someone I'd never met. As a young adult, I learned that Pap was my father's grandfather, William Doyle. I sensed that Dad held Pap in very high regard, but Dad didn't say much about him.

A number of years ago, after my father's death, I began corresponding with my father's half-sister, Tressa. I learned that she also held Pap in very high regard.

She said that Pap was "an extremely kind person and loved children." He was "short and just a little on the stocky side." My mother remembers hearing him make this comment to someone, maybe her: "You might be good for something if you weren't so tall." I don't know if the comment was made in jest or not. Aunt Tressa wasn't sure whether Pap held a bias against tall people, but said that Pap was "outspoken and definite in his opinions."

I asked Aunt Tressa how her grandparents came to be called Maw and Pap, she said they "didn't want to be called Grandma and Grandpa -- they thought it sounded 'too old.'" The grandchildren called him Pap, but the neighbors, his friends, and possibly adult relatives, called him Billy.

Pap was the oldest child in his family. In 1869, his father, Andrew Doyle, came to America from Northumberland, England. Then in October, 1870, at the age of 7, Pap came to America with his mother, Elizabeth Jane (Laws) Doyle, and 3 siblings. They lived in several different towns in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, until they eventually settled in Stoneboro.

He married Tressa Rose Froman on March 17, 1885. If you're interested, come back on the 17th and learn a little more about them as a couple and family.

Pap farmed, mined coal, and grew strawberries for a cash crop. After his widowed son, Gust, remarried, Pap and his wife built a home in Stoneboro and moved into town. Every day Pap travelled the 2 miles from town to the farm to help on the farm: he drove the car in the summer, walked in the winter.

This photo is of Pap standing outside the home of his closest and next youngest sibling, Elizabeth Jane or, as she was usually called, Liz Jane. A closeness developed on the ship from England that remained throughout their lives.

Pap was born on this day in 1863. Happy Birthday, Pap! It hope it's a grand one. I look forward to meeting you.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.
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