52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Oldest

Among the treasures of my oldest childhood memories is my first home in Falls Church, Virginia. This is where I came home from the hospital after my birth. This is where I met and bonded with my first playmates. This is where I learned to roller skate and ride a bike. This is where I made mud pies and played in the dirt. This is the Westlawn neighborhood.

I decided to take an online journey back after discovering old photos. It would be simple to just type in the address of 1008 Westlawn Drive and my old home would magically appear. What!?! The house numbers had all been changed to digits beginning with 6700. (Weird since my part of the street started Westlawn Drive…a current map even showed that.) How would I mentally retrieve images of the houses on the street by thinking of old neighbors down to the corner? I could not do it. Where to go now?

I googled the street name and tried to find where my home could be. I looked at real estate listing and Zoom. No answers. I typed in “neighbors on Westlawn Drive”…bingo I found a listing of names. I remembered that our next door neighbors had never sold their house and had passed it on to their daughter. Their daughter had never married. I knew their last name started with a P and was Italian in ethnicity. Well, double bingo! There was their name…yes, the daughter still lived there. At our house, the people that bought it from my parents in 1956 still lived there. Well, holy cow! I looked at the houses on Zoom. My home had 2 bedrooms and 1 bath and was a rancher. The current owners had added a second story, 3 more bathrooms, and 3 more bedrooms. My parents had paid $7,000 in 1950. This home was valued at over $850,000! My parents always said that if they had to buy that house again, they would not have been able to afford it…true.

In looking through my first neighborhood, many houses had been updated on the outside while others had not. My old neighbors had not updated the outside. I had remembered that there was a big rock at the end of their walkway…the rock was still there.

My next question about my oldest memories…why did the city of Falls Church change the house numbers…and where is that answer? I am going to find out.

PS I did use Ancestry to see if I could find any of my first neighbors. I found high school yearbook pictures of some of my friends. I could a death certificate for my neighbor, Tony P, in addition to his marriage certificate. I found neighbors on FindAGrave. I thank them for being such good people.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Namesake

Stevens 50th Wedding Anniversary: My grandmother is the girl in the middle row with a flowered hairdo.

Well, bless my bloomers…nobody ever told me that. I had to figure it out all on my own. The clues were right there calling out my name to pay attention to the details. Right there, by golly! Why was I so slow in figuring it out? So here is my story.

Climbing up the family tree is an awesome adventure. Gathering names, dates, and locations fills out the branches. Getting the big picture of how we all fit together in our families is an honorable task. It is only natural to notice who is named after whom as names are often repeated. For some confounded reason, I never gave thought to these ladies. I was too busy checking out the male namesakes.

There she stood, my maternal grandmother. Her name was Isabella Mary Boultinghouse. She was the baby sister of the four children…three girls and one boy. Her two older sisters were both originally named…first time that there were a Pearl and a Helen. The boy’s first name, Edward, was shared with his father’s middle name. It wasn’t until I looked over a picture from 1916 when a family photo was taken of Isabella’s grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Her maternal grandparents were William Henry Stevens and Isabella Anna Couchman…Isabella, Isabella. My wheels were turning. What about her middle name of Mary? Why, her paternal grandmother was Mary Magdalina Kramer, who had married Amos Howell Boultinghouse! Now, my brain was making the connection. It was clear how she was named.

When I was a little girl, my mother told me that I was named after my grandmothers. Hmmm, how could that be…their names were Grammy and Babcia? I was too young to know that those were their “grandma names”. Later, I would make that connection of Mary (Isabella’s middle name) and Anna, my father’s mother. I am Mary Anne Slabik-Haffner. The connections one makes as she touches the leaves on her family tree.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Family Legends

Discovering family legends is like finding a gold nugget. Some nuggets are right on the surface and staring the finder in the face. Some are buried beneath the surface and waiting to be assayed. Some are merely pyrite, fool’s gold, with no great truth or value.

The journey taken was not a call to the gold rush of family discoveries. The little nuggets of stories were hidden among bedrocks of facts and dates. Nothing shiny lie on the surface. It took a keen eye and focus to spot the nuggets.

The legends were discovered in sifting through digitized copies of a small Kansas county weekly newspaper, The Western Empire. The print was so tiny that it needed enlargement to view the sparkle of the nuggets. The nuggets belonged to my second great grandfather. He was touted as a pioneer in having settled newly established territories in what would later be the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Kansas. On those Kansas plains, he was recognized as a sheep farmer, who prospered by selling parts of his flock each year along with their fleeces. Raising hard working, God fearing children was a sparkling character trait of both him and his wife Mary Etta. Using a grant from a Mississippi agricultural college, he raised cottonwood trees on his property as the plains yielded only a small amount of tree groves. Tiny nuggets of his life story that may have gone unnoticed…undiscovered…untapped.

These nuggets of truth and value were left behind by Andrew Storer (1817-1895). He came with his wife Mary Etta Soule and family to Osborne County in the 1870s. One tiny nugget was that he brought the first pig to the county…that little piggy rode in a covered wagon to its new home.

A lesson learned is that flecks of gold and little nuggets of truth lie right in front of the genealogical miner…find your treasures!

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Beginnings

The beginnings of love affairs are always revisited, recounted, and remembered. Over 65 years ago, I experienced the beginnings of such an affair. To this day, I remain in love. This love has grown to a vastness all its own.

It all began when I was a toddler. There was something magical that lived right in our home with me. I was curious as I longed to discover what was hidden inside my toy chest. My mother treated those treasures with respect as they were carefully laid in the top of the chest. When they came out at bedtime, they were glorious in holding my attention. Excitedly, I looked forward to each nightly visit. I was in love! They were picture books whose story lines and illustrations cast a spell over me. The objects of my affection were Mike Mulligan who had a steam shovel named Mary Anne…that was my name, too. My other new love was a bull named Ferdinand, who was a peaceful soul. When my mother presented these stories to me, she was cracking a code called reading. I could not wait to be able to do that on my own.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel:
Virginia Lee Burton, 1939
The Story of Ferdinand:
Munro Leaf, 1936

As I grew in age, I fell deeper in love with reading. We had our own secret rendezvous spots. A favorite meeting place was my town’s library. What a sacred place that was! It was filled with the most glorious books. To add to my thrills, I received my own library card which entitled me to borrow my selected treasures…only to return them to savor more.

John Handley Library: Winchester, Virginia

Since my childhood, I have never stopped loving my books. The beginnings of my literacy journey have taken me far and filled me with the joy of reading.