Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Book of Me - All Saints Day

In El Salvador in 1978, Halloween (or All Hallows' Eve) was not celebrated.  The day of celebration was November 1:  All Saints' Day, or Dia de los Santos.  We were told it was celebrated as a holiday throughout the country. 

All Saints' Day was a happy day for the people of El Salvador because they believed that their dead children had become angels and were in Heaven with the saints.  Nearly every family had at least one little angel to remember and honor.  Though they missed and sorrowed over their little lost ones, they celebrated the child's place in Heaven.
On the morning of November first, we found vendors in the town square selling both fresh and paper flowers and greenery.  There were beautiful wreaths of fresh jasmine.  There were equally beautiful bouquets of crepe paper flowers of all colors and kinds.  They had a beauty all their own because they had been very finely handcrafted by women in the village.

With arms full, there was a steady passage of people going to the graveyard that morning.  Families walked together with their flowers and wreaths; with shovels, machetes, and other tools; with paint and paintbrushes.  At the cemetery they cleaned the gravesites and chopped the grass.  They repaired and painted the wooden crosses or put new ones on the graves.  Then they added the wreaths and flowers for their dear infant-angels.  No doubt tears were shed, prayers offered, and memories shared in family circles while at the gravesites.

Going to the cemetery was a beautiful and unique experience, but we were to learn that All Saints' Day was not over and neither was the celebration.

The children celebrated the evening of All Saints' Day by begging door to door for pennies or pieces of cooked squash.  They were happy to be given either.  The squash they ate.  The pennies they used to buy candles which they took to the entrance of the church and lit.  Taking turns, several children kept vigil with the lit candles while others continued to beg.  As candles burned low and went out, the children replaced them with new ones.  It was a beautiful sight.  There was a peaceful serenity, an unselfishness to the evening celebration of the children's own making.  As far as I could tell no adults were involved other than providing squash or pennies and keeping the little shops open to sell candles.  The families in the community were generally very poor and any celebration was looked upon with eagerness.

November 2 was Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Defuntos.  It was a much quieter day without celebration of any kind.  On this day they remembered the adult family members who had died by offering prayers in their behalf.  Prayers were needed because they believed that the adults had probably not gone to Heaven. 

My childhood Halloweens were celebrated by dressing up in old clothes to look like a beggar, an old woman, an old man, etc.  There were no purchased costumes other than perhaps a mask, usually a black half-mask that covered the upper half of the face with holes for the eyes.  We went door to door to trick or treat carrying a paper bag.  The joy of Halloween was in having a bag of candy, a rare purchase at our house.  Always, whenever we knocked and the door was opened, the man or lady of the house insisted on guessing who we were.  If he or she couldn't guess, we had to take off our masks and show our faces.  If we weren't recognized we had to begin by saying our names and continuing with who our parents were and where we lived until the person at the door finally figured out our place in the village.  Of course the Ridge was such a small community that nearly everyone knew everyone else.

When I was very young I remember the teens of the neighborhood soaping windows and throwing dried kernels of corn onto the porch and at the windows.  It made such a clatter.   These tricks and the begging for treats often began a day or two before Halloween.

Halloween is my least favorite holiday and I don't celebrate it these days.  In fact I generally ignore it except for buying candy on sale.  I think the celebration in El Salvador changed my perspective.

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


Monday, October 28, 2013

The Book of Me - Being a Good Ancestor for a Future Descendant

Time capsules do not capture my interest.  Then I thought about finding a time capsule created by one of my ancestors.  Now that would be exciting and I would be very grateful.  My approach to this topic, then, is from the perspective of finding a time capsule instead of creating one.  It's been very thought-provoking.  Below are several lists which may change over a period of time -- if I continue to think about them.

Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen's time capsule:
- photographs of herself and her family through the years
- a piece of needlework, a thimble, a workbasket
- an item of clothing
- a description of one of her ordinary days
- several recipes or menus (written by someone else because she was illiterate)
- a retelling of her life in England, before she came to America
- a price list for items she regularly purchased at stores

Tressa Froman Doyle's time capsule:
- descriptions of the quilts she's made and how she learned to quilt
- a dozen small pieces of fabric
- a sample of some needlework
- a brief biography and story of your childhood and youth
- a photograph of her kitchen
- a kitchen utensil
- a letter telling 10 of the most important things she learned in life
- her signature

Elvira Bartley Gerner's time capsule:
- a hymn book she used
- a dress
- a letter describing the personalities & attributes of her husband and her children
- photographs of her home including kitchen, living room
- her signature
- a list of the things in life she's most grateful for

Gust Doyle's time capsule:
- names of his cows, horses, and other animals on the farm
- a calendar, planting schedule, seed packets or description of seed purchases
- his signature
- the story of how he met his first wife, Beulah Gerner
- a tool
- a newspaper of the time

Henry Meinzen's time capsule:
- a ledger from his confectionery shop
- a box or wrapper from some of the candy, cigars, and other things he sold
- a price list from items in his shop
- one of his tools (he had been a carpenter)
- a newspaper, specifically the one in which he appeared for the large radish he grew
- a calendar for any year
- a letter describing his physical self, his thoughts on life
- wisdom from his life experiences for his descendants
- a description of his experience emigrating from Germany to the U.S.A.

Thinking about how kind it would have been for an ancestor to leave a time capsule and how much I would have appreciated it makes me realize that it would probably be kind for me to leave one for future descendants.  (Whether or not I actually make one is a different story.) 

Items for my time capsule might include:
- a journal
- a calendar book in which I've recorded my to-do lists, appts., and activities/events
- a sale flyer from the store where I usually buy groceries
- a grocery shopping list
- photos of my husband and me and our daughters through the years
- several favorite recipes
- prints and a flash drive with photographs of family, ancestors, and descendants
- a spool of thread, a small hand-made item, a sewing tool or two

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


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Refreshing an Indelible Image - A Sepia Saturday Celebration Repost

Fanfare, please!  Sepia Saturday is celebrating its 200th round today and those of us who have participated during that time are celebrating, too, by reposting one of our favorite, earlier Sepia Saturday posts.  I first participated in May, 2010, and have published over 60 posts, which makes it terribly hard to choose a favorite.  In the early years there were no themes (such fun that way!):  we just chose a photo from our collection and wrote about it, then linked up.  Thank you to Alan and Kat for creating Sepia Saturday and to Alan and Marilyn for keeping it going.  It's been fun.

But back to the subject at hand:  which post to repost for this celebration?  The post about the clocks in our home?  The one about my great-grandfather's confectionery?  About the student nurses?  About my grandmother and her lovely waistMy father as a young man?  None of those, after all.  It's this one:  a moment in time, an action repeated time and again.

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~

In my life there have been events that were continually repeated, events I saw so often that I learned them by heart and they became indelible images in my brain.  I begin to notice, as time passes and I grow older, that a light fog sometimes comes between me and the memories.  And then I see a photograph and the scene is as fresh as the last time I saw it in real life.

Our house was a house of order and part of that order was this closet in our kitchen next to the back door.  As soon as we came in the house, we hung our coats and put our hats and mittens on the shelf, ready to wear them when we left again.  My mother also stored large, lidded metal cans of sugar and flour in this closet, ready to refill her canisters on the kitchen counter.  In the fall, there were always bags of Northern Spy apples sitting on the floor of the closet.  They stayed cool and fresh there because the unheated closet was against two outside walls.  Apples were our after-school snack -- our only after-school snack.  So "you won't spoil your dinner," my mother used to say.

This is my father, Lee Doyle, standing in front of the closet getting ready to leave.  Dad always wore a hat when he went outside:  summer, winter, rain, snow, heat, humidity, he always wore a hat, though not always the same hat.  In summer he wore straw or cotton.  In winter he wore felt or wool.  His work hats were caps with a brim on the front.  He wore those to work at Copperweld Steel or when he was working at home cleaning gutters, mowing the lawn, or painting the house.  Otherwise, his hats were always grey or black fedoras.  When he was younger the brims were wider; as he grew older, he chose hats with slightly narrower brims (as in this photo).  His hats had no feathers.

He took the jacket or coat out of the closet, put it on, adjusted it, then zipped it.  Or if it was a sweater, he buttoned it.  When he put on his hat I remember him adjusting it just so:  it didn't perch, neither did it sit too low, but it was low enough and tight enough that the wind didn't blow it off.  He took the car keys from on top of the refrigerator (to the left in this photograph) and then out the door to the car or the garage or to walk to the post office he went.  I suspect that because it was April when this photo was taken, it was warm enough outside that he didn't need a jacket.

Things we see thousands of times we learn by heart.  By heart I remember my father putting on his jacket and hat.  What a commonplace thing to remember.  What a commonplace thing to photograph!  And yet it brings pleasure -- and sometimes just a touch of melancholy -- to clear the fog and refresh my memory of that small action.

Join the celebration and visit other Sepia Saturday posts.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

William and Susanna - Wedding Wednesday

William Bickerstaff and Susanna Holmes were married on March 4, 1830, in Tuscarawas County, Ohio.

Wedding Dress, c. 1830
And I have some (unanswered) questions:
  • How did William and Susanna meet?  William lived in Jefferson County and they were married in Tuscarawas County.  Carroll County on the north and Harrison County on the south separated Jefferson and Tuscarawas Counties.   From the 1830 U.S. Census we know that William and Susanna lived in Cross Creek Township, Jefferson County, after their marriage.
  • Might Susanna have worn a wedding dress like the one at right?  Wedding dresses were not common at that time.  Women of that time wore a best dress but not usually a wedding dress.
  • Were they married in a church?  Was there a large gathering to celebrate or was it just the two them and a few other people?
  • What was the weather on March 4, 1830? 

I wish for more details but will probably never find them.

Below is a copy and transcription of William and Susanna's marriage record from Tuscarawas County (Ohio) Marriage Records and Index, 1808-1844, Volume 1, p. 156, Record No. 1244.  It is available on FamilySearch.

No. 1244
In the Matter of
William Begerstaff
Susanna Holmes

State of Ohio, Tuscarawas County, ss.
I hereby certify that on the 4 day of March in 1830, by virtue of a license from the Clerk of Court of Common Pleas, I joined in the Holy state of Matrimony, William Begerstaff and Susanna Holmes.
Elias Crane
I also wish the record named both of their parents.  Much research has been done on both lines.  I'll use others' research as a guide to find the sources and images for my own records.

Image of the wedding dress comes from Vintage Textile.


Monday, October 21, 2013

The Surprise in Fred Gerner's Death Certificate

Below is an image of the death certificate of my father's maternal grandfather, Frederick K. Gerner.  Below that is a transcription.  Fred has been an elusive character for more than a few years.  I kept finding leads, only to realize they were dead ends.  And now, finally, this.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Department of Health
Bureau of Vital Statistics
File No. 29357 [stamped numbers]
Registration District No. 279, Primary Registration District No. 1110
1. Place of Death
County of Butler
Borough of Bruin

2. Full Name  Fredrick K. Gerner

3.  Sex  Male
4.  Color  White
5.  Single, Married....   Married
6.  Date of Birth  Sept. 28, 1847
7.  Age   78 years  2 mos.  27 da
8.  Occupation
(a)  Trade, profession or particular kind of work   Farmer
(b)  General nature of industry, business....    Oil producer
9.  Birthplace   Germany
10.  Name of Father   Christian Gerner
11.  Birthplace of Father   Germany
12.  Maiden Name of Mother   Don't know
13.  Birthplace of Mother   Germany
14.  The above is true to the best of my knowledge.
(Informant)   Mrs. Fred K. Gerner [signature]
(Address)   Bruin, Pa
15.  Filed  [illegible]

16.  Date of Death   March 26, 1926
17.  I Hereby Certify, That I attended deceased from March 5, 1926 to Mar 26, 1926 and that death occurred on the date stated above, at 5 P.M.
The Cause of Death was as follows: 
Chronic Interstitial Hepatitis
129 [written before (Duration)....]
Signed   R. L. Sheets M.D. [signature]
March 27, 1926   (Address)  Bruin, Pa
18.  Length of Residence [blank]
19.  Place of Burial or Removal   Bear Creek
Date of Burial   Mar 29, 1926
20.  Undertaker   J. W. Knox
Address   Bruin Pa

Observations and Comments
  • Fred's given name is spelled inconsistently from record to record.  Sometimes it is Fredrick, other times it's Frederick.  But most often his name appears as just plain Fred.
  • Fred's birth year still seems uncertain.  This record gives 1847.  A photocopy of a page from a family Bible gives the date as 1848.  Birth year calculated from census records would indicate that either 1848 or 1849 could be his year of birth.  Is it possible that a some future date a birth record may be found?  I can only hope.
  • The surprise for me in this death certificate is Fred's cause of death:  chronic interstitial hepatitis.  It is now known as cirrhosis of the liver.  When I mentioned that to my family their immediate response was, "Maybe he was an alcoholic."  It's possible but if so, he was a very productive one.
Further research about cirrhosis of the liver tells me it is a disease that progresses slowly by replacing healthy liver tissue with scar tissue.  The scar tissue eventually prevents the liver from functioning as it should.  "The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver and slows the processing of nutrients, hormones, drugs, and naturally produced toxins.  It also slows the production of proteins and other substances made by the liver."

Common causes of cirrhosis of the liver include:
  • fatty liver associated with obesity and/or diabetes.  I have only several photos of Fred but in all of them he is a very thin man.  Diabetes is a possibility.
  • hepatitis or some other chronic viral infection of the liver
  • blockage of a bile duct causing bile to back up in the liver
  • alcohol abuse

Unless Dr. J. W. Knox's records are preserved somewhere and are available for viewing and research, I'll never know details of how Fred came to have cirrhosis of the liver.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Book of Me - My Grandparents

I had just two grandparents.  They were (and still are!) William Carl Robert "Bob" and Emma Virginia (Bickerstaff) Meinzen.  How I wish I knew about their younger years, how they met, how they ended up in Mineral Ridge instead of the Steubenville, Ohio, area.  Not a word of their younger years was passed on to me.  Not one word.  What I know I've put together because of my family history research.

They both grew up in the Steubenville area, my grandmother in Mingo Junction, my grandfather in and around Steubenville.  Gramma was the oldest daughter and second child of Edward Jesse and Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff.  Research tells me that her parents and grandparents had been in Ohio for several generations.  Grampa was the 11th of 14 known children.  Both of his parents immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1860s.  His father was German, his mother from England.  I don't know how they met though I know that both of their fathers were (or had been) carpenters.
Gramma's family moved to the Ridge in about 1911 or 1912.  Grampa's family stayed in Steubenville.  Gramma and Grampa were married in Mineral Ridge.  Perhaps it was true love that caused Grampa to move away from family to marry Gramma.

I knew my grandparents well because they lived just two doors down the street from us.  I was a regular visitor in their home and loved my grandmother dearly.  Grampa was a barber with his own shop.  I remember him being at home only in the evenings and on Sundays.  He used to keep the shop open till after the supper hour.  Gramma made dinner and one or two of the older grandchildren walked Grampa's supper up to him at his barber shop.  He retired just before I was old enough to have my turn.

I said I had only two grandparents but, of course, it's not true.  I thought so because I knew only my maternal grandparents.  I was at least 10 or 11 when I was surprised to learn that other children had two sets of grandparents.  I asked my mom or my grandmother about the situation and learned that my father's parents were dead.  In recent years I've learned only a little more.

Dad's parents were Gust and Beulah Mae (Gerner) Doyle.  They lived on a farm outside Stoneboro, Pennsylvania.  Beulah died a few weeks after giving birth to my father and he grew up a half-orphan with an unkind stepmother.  Gust died of colon cancer (or possibly an infection as a result of a colonoscopy) when my father was 21.  Dad moved away from the farm and, as far as I know, never returned.  He visited his grandparents in Stoneboro and two of his step-siblings after they were older and married but he never went to the farm. Dad was silent about his father, his childhood and youth, and life on the farm.

Gust was the son of William and Tressa Rose (Froman) Doyle.  He was a kind-hearted farmer and coal miner who did what he could to protect my dad from his stepmother.  Beulah was the daughter of Frederick and Elvira (Bartley) Gerner.  Her father was a farmer.  She grew up in Butler County and, as an older teen or young adult, lived in Mercer County when her family moved there.  I suspect that Gust and Beulah met while she was living in Mercer County.

I've written many posts about all of these grandparents.  If you'd like to know more about any of them, type one of their names into the search box on the left sidebar which is located just about "About Me."

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


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Three Wives of Ellis H. Bickerstaff

Sources are essential but I love to have images of documents.  I know it's not always possible to find images but I always hope -- and I know it would have been impossible to get copies before 40 or 50 years ago. 

Bickerstaff researchers are plentiful:  some share sources, others don't; but none that I know of share images.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was to find images for marriage records for my great-great-grandfather Ellis Bickerstaff's second wife, and a clear copy of the marriage document for him and his first wife. 

Wife #1:  Emma P. Nelson - Emma is my direct-line ancestor.
Married September 1, 1861 in Jefferson County, Ohio
Source:  Jefferson County Ohio Marriage Records, 1850-1866, Volume 7, p. 465, No. 10580.  Found at FamilySearch:

Wife #2:  Sarah J. McCune
Married April 15, 1880 in Jefferson County, Ohio
Source:  Jefferson County Ohio Marriage Records, 1866-1883, Vol. 8, p. 673, No. 16568.
Found at FamilySearch:

Wife #3:  Lucy (Umbarger) Irwin
Married January 15, 1883 in Homestead, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Source:  Civil War Pension File of Ellis H. Bickerstaff
(I don't have a marriage certificate for Ellis and Lucy but don't feel the need since she's not my direct-line ancestor.  For me, this CWPF is sufficient.)

  • It's interesting that Emma's name is "E. P." in her marriage certificate but "Emma V." in the Civil War Pension File (CWPF).  I have no other documents to indicate which middle initial may be correct.  Ellis's granddaughter, who is my grandmother, was given the name Emma Virginia Bickerstaff.
  • From the CWPF I learn the date of Emma's death, the names of Ellis and Emma's 3 children and their birth dates, as well as that a child was born to Ellis and Lucy.
  • It's curious that in the CWPF, Ellis mentions only his first wife and his current wife but makes no mention of second wife, Sarah J. McCune.  Perhaps, because there was only space for one previous wife, Ellis chose his first wife to whom he had been married longest.
  • It's interesting how less, shall we say, attentive I am to the non-direct-line-spouses of my direct-line ancestors.
  • You gotta love an organization that gives you free images of sources that would have taken a month of Sundays to find plus at least several weeks' wait and several SASEs in the process.  Thank you, FamilySearch, for providing images of two of Ellis's marriage records, and so much more!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

FamilySearch Branches Out

Most of the readers of this blog are probably already aware of FamilySearch's newest features but are you using everything that's available on FamilySearch?  I know I'm not -- at least not yet.  You can learn more here.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fishing with My Father

When I was about 10 or so my father bought a fishing boat.  It was a little wooden boat, certainly not longer than 15 feet long, painted red, white, yellow, and blue.  It was ugly.  I don't know how he came to the decision to buy this boat or where he found it.  And I don't remember its homecoming or its beginning in our family.  For years it was just a part of our lives.

Dad never did anything halfway:  he dived into whatever project he set his mind to with all his might, mind, and free time.  The boat was one of those projects.  The results of the purchase of that boat go broad and deep through several years of my childhood.

I'm sure dad realized that the boat was in need of repair before he bought it.  In addition to repairs he had some changes in mind.  Some of the ribs were rotted and the outer finish was in need of repair (or at least Dad didn't like the finish that was on it).  He removed a section of the top (I don't know boat terms here, so look at the photos) so more of the boat was open toward  the front.  And the back of the boat where the motor attached was completely rotten.

After he removed the rotten ribs he cut new oak to size.  The new ribs didn't slide into place through the slots that held the old ones:  they needed to be hammered in and they needed to be pliable enough to bend.  To prepare them my father set up a steam trough at the back of our yard using metal rain gutter filled with water.  He placed bricks under either end and built small fires underneath to heat the water, then heat the oak strips.  When they were pliable he positioned them into the slots in the boat, then used a mallet to hammer them into place.  What a lot of work!

After the inside was in good order, he removed the paint from the outside of the boat then he stained it and put on some kind of finish.  But that first summer the boat never saw water. 

The next spring my father got the boat ready to use.  To make it water-worthy, he poured water inside.  It might as well have been a sieve.  He explained that the water would make the wood swell, thereby making a tight seal.  He repeated the drenching several times until no water dripped from the outside.  He was right.

For my dad, the sole purpose of the boat was to go fishing.  He bought oars, a motor, life jackets, and, most importantly, fishing gear.  He bought me a tackle box and filled it with all the fishing gear a "fishergirl" would need:  hooks, line, sinkers, and plenty of other accessories.  There was a discount store on McKinley Avenue in Niles that we haunted for tackle.  Of course he had his own tackle box and we both had our own poles and reels.

My father nearly always took me fishing with him but sometimes my mother went fishing with us, too.  As a non-swimmer she was very uncomfortable around water.  It didn't help that Dad occasionally rocked the boat to tease her.  Dad sometimes took my grandfather, often took my brother, but never took my sister fishing.  Her only interest in the boat was whether it would pull water skiers.  It never did.  Skiing didn't fit into my Dad's plans or purpose for the boat.

To save money on our fishing activities Dad started a worm bed.  Now I think "Ugh!" but at the time it was an interesting challenge to catch worms.  He sank two washtubs into the ground and filled them with dirt.  At night after a heavy rain, flashlights in hand, we headed to the back yard where we let the light glance over the top of the ground.  If the light shone directly onto a worm, zip, it was gone.  We had to be really quick!  (We didn't know about covering the flashlights with red cellophane.)  We learned to look for the worms that were furthest out of their holes and tried to be quicker than they were.  We dropped the worms into 3# coffee cans, filling them over half full after an hour or so.  Dad took the cans to the washtubs, removed each worm individually, and placed it into one of the worm beds.  Worms are very messy creatures!  The worms were inexpensive but our favorite bait eventually became "minnies" which Dad bought at a store near the lake.

With boat, bait, motor, and gear, we were ready to take the boat on water and begin fishing.  To my mind there were several challenges.  As I mentioned earlier, every body of water was at least 30 or 45 minutes away.  My father's working turns didn't make finding a block of time easier.  Dad worked at Copperweld Steel 5 days on, 2 days off, rotating from days to afternoons to night turns.  At the end of that cycle he had an extra day or two off before beginning the cycle again.  When he worked days we ate an early supper, then took the boat out.  When he worked afternoons, we could go in the morning if we went early enough to be back for him to eat lunch and clean fish before leaving for work at 2:30 or so.  When he worked nights (midnight to 7 a.m.), he sometimes came home and slept a few hours, then we drove to the lake. 

abt. 9 miles long, 1 1/2 miles wide
Mosquito Lake was Dad's lake of choice.  It was (and still is) a long, narrow, man made lake.  It seemed huge to me and I could never tell where we were but my father was a good navigator and we always arrived where he wanted to fish and back to the parking lot without a problem.  The best spot for fishing was often over a submerged bridge, left there from before the lake had been built.  Dad said the fish congregated there. 

Occasionally, when in the middle of the lake, Dad let me man the engine and steer the boat.  It was great fun.  We started out with a small motor but at least once or twice, Dad bought more powerful motors which allowed the boat to move faster.  I remember that sometimes the front end of the boat tipped higher than the back end where the engine was in the water.  We always carried oars and used them to help guide the boat to shore.  My father also gave me the experience of rowing:  I was a sad failure.  It was just too big a job for a 10-year.

I had no problem baiting a hook, reeling in the fish, and removing the hook from the mouth of a fish -- except for catfish.  My father took care of the catfish.  We caught crappie, blue gill, walleye, perch, and an occasional catfish.

Sometimes we returned home empty-handed after hours of fishing and many changes of fishing spots.  Other times the fishing was excellent.  It will sound like the proverbial, exaggerated  f---i---s---h     s---t---o---r---y  when I say that we sometimes caught so many fish in such a short amount of time that it  took longer to clean them than it took to catch them, but I'm grateful that my brother can attest to the truth of the story.  We loved fishing on those days.  It was a continuous cycle:    bait the hook, drop the line, wait a minute, pull up a fish and repeat.  It was very exciting.  Only once in a while did we catch large fish.  We never photographed anything about our fishing experiences except the photos of Dad and the boat and this one particular catch at right.  It doesn't look very big to me now but it probably seemed big at the time.

When we first started fishing my father cleaned the fish in the old way, by scaling, cutting off head and tail, then gutting.  He eventually bought a filleting knife which alleviated the need to gut and allowed us to eat without worry about swallowing bones. At first my job was removing scales but I gradually advanced to gutting then to filleting.

We never ate fresh fish.  After the blood and gore of gutting and filleting, my father wasn't interested in eating them right away.  So all the wonderful fish we caught in summer my mother froze until winter.  She packaged it so that we could eat to our hearts' content.  She breaded the fillets in egg and cornmeal and pan fried them in just a bit of oil.  And then we ate fish!  Delicious!

I never tired of fishing but after four or five summers we quit going.  I don't know what happened.  Perhaps my father lost his fishing companion when I grew into a teenager who was busy with friends.  More likely it was that my father's interests moved from boats and fishing to wood and clock-building.  We all have seasons and times in our lives.  The boat stayed in the garage.  I probably secretly hoped he'd take it out again but we never did.  He finally sold it, years later.

My father did a lot of things when I was a child that I just took for granted.  He seemed to know how to do nearly everything (and without the benefit of internet research).  It never occurred to me that the things he did were hard, unusual, or uncommon.  Looking back from my adult view, when I think about the work on the boat it seems like a huge job.  And yet I doubt anything was impossible for my father.

As I consider the lessons my father taught me and as I think about him and the boat, I realize that perhaps, without intention, he taught me that work should come before play, and that the measure of effort one puts into something determines the amount of pleasure one gets out of it.

I'm thankful for the years we went fishing and for the memories the experiences created.

This is a Sepia Saturday post.   Head over to see others' contributions for the week.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Book of Me - Journal Joy

I love my journals.  I love being able to look back through the years and read about events, challenges, thoughts, inspiration, and, over time, progress (or lack thereof).  Rereading my journals takes me to a previous time, a different place, and gives me a perspective of past events that I may not have understood at the time I wrote the entries.  Sometimes I am surprised at my emotions, recorded at the time I was feeling them; at the poignancy with which I wrote some entries about tender events; and the details of some important event in my life.  Truly, my journals bring me joy.

I have kept journals off and on since I was a young teen.  Most of the early ones, kept in notebooks or binders, are gone.  For a few years I made and used large wall calendars to record daily events, usually without reflections or thoughts.  Finally I transitioned to typing journal entries.  I found it so much easier and faster than hand writing.  I wrote my thoughts with more accuracy and detail when I typed and it was easy to erase when the word didn't exactly mean what I wanted to say.  On days when I wasn't able to type, I wrote entries by hand but they were shorter and less neat.

Most pages are only words but I also like to embellish journal pages.  I'm not really much of an artist so when I find a picture that I like or that is meaningful, I may cut it out and save it to paste onto a journal page when it fits the entry.  

I also include quotes, added in a larger font size, which are usually reminders or words of encouragement.

After I type a journal entry I save it with the date as the name.  I may print it that day or I may wait and print a week's or month's worth at a time.  I'm not a perfect typist so I try to proofread what I've typed before I print it but sometimes I miss mistakes.  I go back and correct them with pen unless there are several on a page or entry, in which case I correct the mistakes on the computer and reprint as necessary.

By the end of the year I have a sheaf of loose papers.  I store them in a folder until I'm able to bind them.  I have bound some of my journals by hand.  At right you can see two book blocks awaiting endpapers, boards, and covers.  I think I love the hand bound journals best.  I can choose the paper and/or fabric for the covers and the endpapers to go with them.  If I've done a good job with the binding they look beautiful.  It is a time-consuming process and, unfortunately, I have about seven or eight that are either completely unbound or in the process of being bound.  (I'm sorry I don't have photos to share.)

For a few years I used  9" x 12" wire-bound artists' sketch books.  I liked the paper, the fact that the pages laid flat, and that there was a binding method.  I disliked that I had to undo the wire comb, remove the pages, and fold the sides near the holes so the pages would fit into the printer.  Not only that, the pages were so wide that I found I needed to print in two columns or use very large type.  Needless to say, four years was enough for that method.  I guess I haven't found the perfect physical method for binding typewritten journals.

The pages above detail part of my daughter's and my experience while driving from Ohio to Rexburg, Idaho.  Her car died going down a hill at 80 mph on the interstate in Wyoming.  I'm so grateful to have written the details of that horrific 3-day-experience of being left "destitute" in the middle of nowhere.  We can laugh now but not so at the time of the events.  You may be able to read it by clicking on the image, then clicking the enlarged image again.  (Let me know if you want to know/read the whole story.)

For the last about two years I haven't written a journal.  I don't know why I stopped but I've been feeling the urge to begin writing again -- and will, soon.  There have been so many events in the last two years that I will probably not be able to remember most of them, let alone write detailed accounts.  My sad loss.

I love these quotes about journals and ancestors.

From Dennis B. Neuenschwander, Ensign, May, 1999
A life that is not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory.  What a tragedy this can be in the history of a family.  Knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills within us values that give direction and meaning to our lives.

From Spencer W. Kimball, New Era, October, 1975
Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully.  You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life.  There may be a flash of illumination here and a story of faithfulness there.…  Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available.…  What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved?  Some of what you write may be humdrum dates and places, but there will also be rich passages that will be quoted by your posterity.…  Get a notebook, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.  Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies....  This is what the Lord has commanded and those who keep a personal journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives.
I have no journals of any of my ancestors.  My mom kept a journal, written in inexpensive, spiral-bound school notebooks.  When we cleaned my parents home they were there.  I wanted to take them home the weekend we found them but the car was full.  When I returned the following week they were gone.  I can't guess that my mom wrote more than the barest detail but I would have liked to at least read them.  I don't know how many years she wrote or whether she wrote them for herself or for us.  I'll never know now.

Do you keep a journal?

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


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bunny Wish

My sister Marsha can't remember if the events recorded here happened at Easter or on her birthday but with her permission to share, I'm posting it on her birthday.

Marsha was 4 or 5 years old and she desperately wanted a bunny -- a real, honest-to-goodness, living bunny.  It was the desire of her young heart that she have a bunny of her very own to hold, hug, and enjoy.  Had she told her parents this?  Had she only mentioned wishing for a bunny?  Did they realize the depth of her desire for a bunny?

Her father told her that he a great surprise for her.  She was to wait at home and he would bring it.  The anticipation must have been great, 
waiting for the arrival of that precious bunny, for she was sure it would be a bunny.

The disappointment was as bitter as had been the anticipation when the great surprise brought home by her father was not a bunny but, instead, a brand new tricycle!

As far as I know there was never a bunny, at least not a living bunny, in her life.  She eventually got over the disappointment and enjoyed the trike as you can see in the photo at right.

Here's to a year with no disappointments!  Happy Birthday, Marsha.  Love you.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Most Common Date:  October 9

I have less than 500 names in my family history program.  About a quarter of them don't have exact birth and death dates yet, just years, and some are the names of living people.  So to me the phenomenon of five different events happening on one date seems amazing.  There may be other dates with two events but none with as many as October 9.  It is the most common date in my family's history.

The following events happened on October 9.

My sister was born on October 9.  Celebrating her birthday when I was a child was my first awareness of the date.

Brendice Gerner Davis
When I was in my teens I was surprised to learn that our great-aunt Brendice's birthday was the same date.  Brendice Gerner Davis was born in 1895 in Butler County, Pennsylvania.  She is the youngest sister of my paternal grandmother, Beulah Gerner Doyle.  I didn't know the year of her birth until I began working on family history a few years ago.

Ida Adelia Gerner
Then I learned that Brendice's oldest sister, 31-year-old Ida Adelia, died of consumption in 1904 on Brendice's birthday.  How sad, I thought.  Brendice was just 8 years old at the time.  If she was like most 8-year-olds, the eager anticipation of a birthday celebration, however small, must have been dashed when Ida died.  Perhaps during the days before her birth she suspected there would be no birthday celebration when extra care was probably devoted to Ida.  How sad for Brendice to remember her birthday in conjunction with the death of a sister.

Christian Gerner (younger)
Brendice's paternal uncle, Christian Gerner, died of cerebral degeneration in Anaheim, California, on Brendice's 40 birthday in 1935.  Christian and his wife Amanda had moved from Butler County sometime before 1910.  Chances are Brendice and Christian didn't have much contact after he moved.  She had moved to Ohio where she was living at the time of his passing and may not have received word of his death until days later.  Christian was 81 and left his wife, Amanda (Daubenspeck) Gerner, and their two sons, Maurice L. and Russell D.

Josephine Bell
On my maternal side of the family my great-grandmother's aunt, Josephine Bell, passed away of chronic myocarditis in 1932 in New Alexandria, Jefferson County, Ohio.  She was the 73-year-old widow of Eli Porter.  She left five adult children and two sisters.

Do you have a date that appears more frequently than any other among your ancestors' events?


Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Brief History of Indexing

I think this is an interesting overview of indexing.  Can you imagine typing a transcription with a typewriter?  Or by hand?!  I can't.  I'm so grateful to be able to use a computer to index.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Those Blurry Old Photographs - A Sepia Saturday Post

I'm thrilled!  How else could one share all the horrible photographs in an ancestor's collection but for a Sepia Saturday when the theme for the week is less than perfect photographs:  blurred, scratched, undefined, etc.  My collection of photographs spills over with images such as these.  Let's begin!

Who could throw away a photo like this?  Certainly not my mother.  I haven't thrown it away either because, let's face it, when else will I have a photo of a curtain frame with my father's cousin, Evie Leathers McClelland, attaching a lace curtain to it to dry?  This is the only photo of Evie that I have -- though I only know it's her because my mom told me.  (I may have guessed what she was doing even if I hadn't been told.)  It seems strange that she had guests and was doing house work, unless my parents dropped in unexpectedly.

Do you remember curtain frames with tiny nails or tacks around the edges?  After a gentle wash the edges of the lace curtains were pinned to the frame to block them to prevent shrinkage and to ensure they kept their shape.

Those Brownie cameras ensured ease in the taking of photographs but there was no guarantee how good (or bad) the photos would be.  There were so many variables -- light, angle, focus, frame, holding the camera steady. . . .

Next up is a photo of my mom on our back porch.  I can't throw this away because it says so much about the home where I grew up.  We often sat on the porch steps when I was a child, either taking a rest from a hot summer game, watching others play, or sitting with others to visit.  The porch steps were a gathering place.  And then there's the little clothesline with what look to be towels hanging there.  There's the broom to the right of the door, standing on it's handle so as not to warp the bristles.  All so familiar.  Besides all that, the porch was sometimes our fort, our store, our kitchen, our school room when we children played pretend.

Guaranteed my mom didn't take this one so she's not the only bad photographer in our family.

There are blurred photographs of couples and groups, . . .

. . . photos of pets and children, . . .

. . . and those early color photos whose color degraded to some ugly shades and tones.

These are just a few of my "treasures."  As bad as they are my mother kept them and I'm keeping them, too.  Not on paper, at least not yet, but digital images stored for possible future use (I've already used them once, today!) and because they are images of family members. 

There's no help for the blurred photos but the crooked photos, the ones that are too light or too dark, and the ones whose color has faded may be helped with the magic of a digital photo program.  I wish these were the only bad ones in among all the photos I've gathered but, sadly, they're not.  They make me extremely grateful for the good photographs!

This post was written as a contribution to Sepia Saturday #197.  Click through if you'd like to see more blurred, out-of-focus, poor photographs and read what others are saying about them.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Book of Me - The House Where I Grew Up

A recent photo of 16 and 18 Furnace Street
I lived at 16 Furnace Street in Mineral Ridge from the time I was born until I left for college.  (The address became 1431 Furnace Street sometime during the 1960s when the county changed the street numbers.)  The front of the house faces south.  My parents bought the duplex in about 1939 and lived there their whole lives.  They rented the other side of the house for extra income.

Dad made some structural changes between the time they bought the house and the time I was born.  On the second floor he removed the dividing wall between the two sides so that our side had the whole length of the upper floor.  On the first floor of our side he removed a wall that created two rooms thereby creating one long room at the front of the house which we used as a living room.

My strongest memory of our house is how clean it was.  My mother was nothing if not a cleaner and the house was clean enough to eat off the floors.  Truly, I think it was!  "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," she used to say and went on to dust, scrub, scour, and sweep every surface in our home on an all-too-frequent basis.  (I love clean but I did not inherit her deep love of the cleaning process nor a cleaning gene and am happy with a house that's "clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.")

On the first floor were three rooms:  the kitchen, the long living room (that had been two rooms), and a small room beside the kitchen where my father's desk was.  Upstairs there were four bedrooms off one long hall.  In the basement was a bathroom, the washer and dryer, and the furnace.

Let's see if I can do a photograph tour of at least the first floor. . . .

the back porch
Family nearly always entered the house from the back door.  The driveway was beside the house and a narrow sidewalk led from the driveway to the back porch so it was very convenient to come in that way.  We went up four steps onto the porch, then into the kitchen. 

Both the screen door and the back entry door opened to the right.  Standing just inside the back door, on the right and facing west, were cupboards, counter, sink, refrigerator, and closet, which are more or less shown below.  The refrigerator is just barely visible between the photos of my father and the one of my brother and his wife. 

the west wall of the kitchen with counter, sink, refrigerator, and closet; back door at right faces north
Opposite the wall in the photos above sat the kitchen table.  At first it was an enamel-topped table but later my parents bought a formica-topped, chrome-legged table and chair set.  We used that during the time I lived at home.  For a while my parents had a large chest freezer which stood to the right of the back door.  It cramped the kitchen a little but it was very convenient.

To the left of where my mom is standing in the photo above is a narrow section of wall then a short, narrow hallway.  On the right of that hallway is a door to the cellar and through the hallway is the living room.

Once through the hallway, look right (shown below) and there is the stairway going upstairs, the west-facing window at the bottom of the stairs, and then the wall to the left of the window.

west wall of living room with stairway on the right; corner to south wall is just past the left side of the photo
Going counter-clockwise around the living room from the photos above, there's a corner (and then you're facing south), a narrow window, a section of wall, the front door, a wide window, and the corner (some of which are shown below). 

east wall of living room (on left) and south wall with wide window and door (on right)
Turn the corner after the large window and face east.  In the center of the east wall is a section where the chimney extends slightly into the room.  In the left photo, above, one can't see the end of the couch but there's just a little more to it than is shown and then we're at the end of the living room.

Below continues the view from the living room, around the corner, then facing the back of the house (north).  On the right and left photos below are the end of the living room.  There was a wide doorway between the two rooms.  In the center is the view into the room where my father's desk with his clock repair equipment resided.  In the photo on the left, looking through the wide doorway, you can just see the open door (but not that doorway) that leads back into the kitchen.  You can also see two of my father's grandmother clocks awaiting new homes in the background of that photo.

north wall of living room on left and right, facing into the room with my father's watch repair business
My mother occasionally rearranged the furniture and put up new photographs.  You'll notice the differences in the photos above because they were taken over a number of years (or even decades, in some cases).  She always changed the curtains for summer and winter:  lighter in the summer, heavier in the winter.

front steps & porch
When I was a kid the porches and first floor of the house seemed to be higher than they look in the opening photo of this post.  Was it my perspective or did they regrade the yard and build new steps? 

In the front yard were two large maples trees, one on either side of the steps.  Consequently, the south-facing front porch was shaded from summer's heat and gave joy during autumn's glow.  Mom kept a little table and some chairs on the porch and I often sat there with friends on hot afternoons to play cards or with the rest of the family during summer evenings.  The porch was the very best place to watch a thunderstorm!  It was a joy to sit there and watch the lightening thrusts and the rain hammer down.  The porch during thunderstorms is probably one of the things I miss most about that house.  I've never found its equal.

Mom & Dad facing our house, looking west on Furnace St.
Furnace Street is a narrow Macadam road which was repaved every few years.  One truck would pour or spray tar, another would pour gravel, and then a roller would press the gravel into the tar.  Invariably sections of tar would be left uncovered.  It was very tempting to touch it with my shoe but doing so would bring on a scolding.  I stepped carefully while walking to my grandmother's house.

The second floor of our house had a long hallway with small casement windows on the left side and four bedrooms on the right, one for each of us children and one for my parents.  I have no photos of the hallway or bedrooms.  We slept, stored our clothes, and got dressed there but did little else.

When my parents moved to the house there were only outhouses.  In the 1950s my father added a bathroom (and tore down the outhouses).   Either because my parents did not want to give up living space or because of my father's abilities and/or finances, the bathroom was put in the basement.  It was a small space with toilet, sink, and bathtub.  I didn't realize the inconvenience it was to have the bathroom in the basement but I remember counting the steps from second floor to first and from first floor to basement so that I wouldn't fall when I walked downstairs at night.  When I was a kid with little experience of the world, I accepted things as they were.  I never gave a thought to the strangeness of a bathroom in the basement. 

For many years water was purchased by the truckload and stored in a cistern.  Mom called to order a load of water, it arrived, and the man took the cover off the cistern and transferred the water through a large tube.  I remember occasionally running out of water before the water man came.  Once we collected snow and let it melt.  My parents were very frugal when it came to water use and the excitement of getting "city water" in the Ridge.  It cost less and we weren't limited to an inch of water in the bathtub for a bath!

At first there was a coal furnace in the basement.  Coal was purchased by the truckload, hauled, and shoveled into a coal room at the bottom of the basement stairs.  I remember my parents carefully tending the fire in the furnace to be sure it didn't go out during the night.  There must have been other intricacies involved with a coal furnace that escaped my young understanding.  I think it was a juggle to keep the house warm enough but not too warm.  It seems that the heat just rose but I think there were several heat ducts to the first floor, but I know there were none to the second floor.  We used plenty of blankets on the beds to stay warm in the winter.  The favorite and warmest heat duct was claimed by my sister.  It was in the kitchen near the top of the basement stairs.  I remember her bringing her clothes down, sitting in front of the duct, and then getting dressed there on winter mornings.

You can guess that with a coal furnace there was no air conditioning in our home.  The upstairs was as hot in summer as it was cold in winter.  Fans were our only recourse for summer's heat.

My father eventually removed the coal furnace and installed baseboard radiators.  I don't ever remember being cold in our house (except in the bedrooms), so the radiators must have provided effective heat.

My father passed away in 1987.  My mother remained in the house until the last few months of her life when her health prevented it, sometime in the late 1990s.  The house was sold in about 1996 to a man who, we understand, intended to remodel it.  I haven't been inside since a month or so before it was sold.  I hope he's taking good care of the house where I grew up.

This is the fifth post in The Book of Me, Written By You series, created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.

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