Gathering the leaves on a family tree that are laced with tragedy is a journey seeped in sadness. Which story bears retelling? Which recounting poses a moral? Which remembrance bears the greatest measure of grief?
Riding the trails of my family tree, I come to many forks in the road. These forks lead to different families and their histories. What tragic loss will I revisit and review? The cries of anguish of those grieving souls beg for attention.
Consider the first wife and child of my second great grandfather who were lost in childbirth fever. Look at the second great aunt who died in an accident when a shotgun blast left her children motherless. Think about an uncle whose home burned to the ground, whose child died from a snakebite, and whose orphaned children were split apart when adopted by strangers. Remember aunts and uncles who lost their farms during the Dust Bowl and the Depression likened to chapters from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Recall wives and mothers who sent their loved ones off to war, not knowing if they would return with untouched souls. Mourn for little toddlers lost to childhood diseases. Their stories are affixed to the leaves…one sorrow as far-reaching through the generations as the next.
Every family owns tragedies…which one would you share?
Re: Messages Received and Sent To/From My Ancestry Account
Ancestry has a wonderful message center attached to each account. Fellow members can reach out and ask questions about your public trees. Cousins can meet…information and photos can be exchanged. Help can be gotten and given. That is until (drum roll and sound of a drum cymbal here) you receive messages that are confusing, confounding, and comedic. (I have four public trees on Ancestry.) Let me just share some messages with you that will tickle your funny bone…they are written exactly as they were received…no content is missing.
Received: I see Catherine is in your tree. How are you related to her?
Received: Where did you find that picture of Uncle Jim’s tombstone?
Received: Can you share your information on James Smith who was born in Walker County? He was born in 1852. His father was John Smith (1856-1900) and his mother was Jane Howard (1857-1903).
Received: We are a DNA match. How are you related to me?
Sent: I noticed that you have W. I. Warner on your family tree. He is my great grandfather. How are you related? Answer Received: I am not related to him. He is my first cousin’s wife’s fifth great uncle. Somehow, I connected our trees.
Received: You can find my uncle’s tombstone by looking in the third row, fourth grave. You can also look for his parents. (No prior messages had been received.)
Do not get me wrong: I have received some very informative messages and have made many cousin connects. It is just once in awhile that some messages are cryptic and comedic.
PS The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Imagine spending nine months alone with your brother…your twin brother…as you listened to your mother’s heartbeat. Then, take that imagining a step further…you came into this world when you were born in a cave on your parents’ farmstead. (Pioneers often had to make temporary homes until the house could be built.) Andrew Earl Storer and his sister Angie Pearl were born on 10 June 1896 in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas. Their twin connection would extend over their lifetimes.
In birth order, Andrew and Angie were the second son and the second daughter in the Wash and Mina Storer family. In learning to care and manage a farmstead, each would be under the wing of a different parent to learn skills and develop talents. Andrew would always have a love for horses while Angie would always have a love for needle crafts. As the two completed eight grades in the local one room schoolhouse, they had perfect attendance records. Their formal educations were end there, but family forever taught the values of hard work, perseverance, and resiliency.
In 1917, Angie married a friend of her brother, Carl Otto Britt. They planned to settle on their own farm. When the U.S. entered World War I, both Andrew and Carl were called into the service. They were stationed for training at Camp Funston near Fort Riley, Kansas. Whenever Carl had a pass, Angie would meet him and spend the weekend. Surely, she visited her brother. Both Andrew and Carl remained at Funston during their Army experience…they were not sent overseas. Both men never considered themselves real war veterans.
In time, Andrew married Isabella Boultinghouse. They settled on a farm in Alton. Andrew and Isabella had two daughters while Angie and Carl had three daughters…no sets of twins. On Saturday nights, all four would meet for square dancing. On Sundays, they would have family dinners. Angie and Isabella belonged to the same ladies’ club. Andrew and Carl belonged to the Masons.
Andrew passed away in 1977 while Angie lived until 1989. How do you measure the loss suffered when the twins were separated?
“You are college material,” she noted as I stood by her desk. This was the first time ever my 5th grade Catholic school girl brain had heard those exact words from anyone. At that moment, my whole world got bigger: I was going to college! Sister said so! It had to be true!
My mentor that year was Sister Mary Charles of the Sacred Heart. She was a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. We were together at Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester, Virginia. She opened many doors to me. She instilled in me the belief that I could accomplish much with the talents I had been given. I adored her!
I always loved school…loved learning…loved reading and writing…loved working and studying hard. When Sister planted that seed about going to college, I knew to choose that fork in the road. That school year, Sister helped me realize my potential in many areas: writing stories, praying, goal-planning, risk-taking. I enjoyed each day being in her presence and under her wing.
At the end of the school year, Sister was transferred to a school in Tampa, Florida. It hurt that I would not get to see her the following year. We kept in touch by letter from that time until her death in 1995. During the 1970s when religious sisters changed their habits, each one had the option of reverting back to her baptismal/family name. Her name became Sister Gertrude Roberts.
Sister Gertrude did know that I went to college. She also knew about my career choice: I was a teacher in a Catholic school for 38 years. Saint Andrew the Apostle Catholic School, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, was where I taught. It was my turn to mentor and encourage my students. I loved every minute of it!
Footnote: The above picture is not one of Sister Charles, but another sister from her community. I wanted to show how her habit looked when we spent our time together. Also, Sister played with us at recess…she wanted us to enhance our jump-roping and baseball playing skills.
Imagine having a big brother who loved nature, hunting, and fishing. That same brother enjoyed climbing on the roof of the house so your mom could not find him to do chores, and he taught you that same trick so you could do the same. As an adult, that brother brought his family by motorcycle and sidecar from Wyoming to Kansas to visit you. That brother was my great uncle Jack whose legal name was Edward Ralph Boultinghouse (1896-1943). His sister was my grandmother, Isabella Mary Boultinghouse (1903-1996). They had two other siblings, Pearl and Helen.
Jack is another leaf on my family tree who had the gift of wanderlust. Like his dad Lafe, farming was not for him. In his late teens, he moved from Osborne County, Kansas, to Casper, Natrona County, Wyoming. There he wrangled horses for a rancher as he loved riding and roping. He also worked as a roustabout on the oil fields. There he met the daughter of a Swedish immigrant and married her. Her name was Zola Snyder. Together they became the parents of Betty Lou. After a few years of marriage, they divorced…being a family man was not his true calling.
After a time, Jack moved on to Nebraska. He had a new wife, Marie Hammer. He managed a wildlife preserve. He was very much at home in this environment. He seemed to have found a home, but…
World War II happened. Brother Jack was an expert on Remington rifles due to all his hunting experiences. He was hired by Remington Arms in Denver, Colorado, to help in the designing of new military rifles. Unfortunately, Jack developed cancer and spend much time in the Saint Anthony Hospital. He was often delirious from the painkillers. To ensure that he not blurt out any military secrets armed soldiers supervised his hospital room. Jack died quietly in May 1943 at the age of 47.
Once her big brother Jack left Kansas, my grandmother saw him every few years. What did she miss the most about him? What stories did she wish to share with him?
In the end, Jack came back to Kansas. He is buried in the same cemetery as his parents and little sister Isabella. Big brother Jack, you were one of Isabella’s heroes.
Having devoted this month’s blogs to my 4th great grandparents, Joseph Story/Storer and Rachel Low, I have researched their lives beyond the basic facts. Attempts have been made to flesh them out and bring small details to the surface. Questions about them guided me on my research travels.
Much of this journey has been easy due to finding excellent birth, baptism, marriage, and death records for them. It appears that those New Englanders in the 18th Century were great record keepers. Many of the clerks possessed super penmanship that made discoveries easy to read. Since the Storers were early settlers in New Hampshire and Maine, local history writers were precise in relating the exact location of the lands where they built their farms and homesteads. The names of their children were shared. In addition, records of Joseph’s enlistment in Captain Benjamin Sias’ regiment during the Revolution were well presented.
Thank you to those who are guardians of these records…for preserving, for digitizing, for managing. Thank you to authors that compose digests about settlers’ every day living so information is easy to read and comprehend. Thank you to historical societies that readily answer questions and emails. Thank you, dear ancestors, for bringing your life stories to mine.
The summer of 1961 brought free from school fun. Jack and Jackie headed the First Family and the nation. Patsy Cline cried “I Fall To Pieces” on the radio. The Mercury 7 astronauts were America’s new heroes with Alan Shepard being the first man in space. Barbie Dolls had been born two years before. I was 11 years old. All in all, it was the perfect time for our family to hit the road.
Our departure point was Winchester, Virginia…the home of Miss Patsy Cline and the “Apple Capital of Virginia”…just to add a side note here. Our destination was Livingston, Montana…the home of my aunt and uncle and near Yellowstone National Park. We would roll up almost 2,400 miles as we traveled in an auto with six people, no air conditioning, no radio. Along the way, we had picked up my grandparents who farmed in Osborne County, Kansas…they completed our half dozen passengers.
My dad was the master planner for the trip. He loved to collect road maps and plot out routes. Also, he researched points of interest to visit along the way. We took in the breath-taking splendor of the Rockies and the Grand Tetons. We visited the Buffalo Bill Cody Center and Whitney Western Art Museum. There I fell in love with the paintings and sculptures of Frederic Remington. I was much impressed that stores gave customers silver dollars as change instead of one dollar bills. Often, I would ask my dad to buy me state map postcards so I could trace our routes. I shivered when the temperature dipped to 32 degrees at night in the mountains.
The highlight of our trek was visiting the grandeur of Yellowstone. Erupting Old Faithful, bubbling hot springs, mama bears scaling trees with their cubs in tow set the foreground of our visit. Antelopes and elks basked in the background. To this day, I still wonder what happened to these tourists: they were frying bacon over a fire next to their camper while unbeknownst to them, bears were running down the road toward them.
When we reached my aunt and uncle’s, we visited and had family time together. One night at dinner, it was announced that we were having steak. That got my taste buds primed! As we were eating, I thought that this steak was a little different so I asked about it. I learned what it was venison…I did not know what kind of meat it was…imagine my horrid surprise that we were feasting on deer.
Today as I look at the photos my mother took, I remember that she bought her first rolls of colored film…we would appear in living color, not black and white. Today as I replay the details of that road trip in my mind, I smile to myself and feel blessed for living such a family adventure.
What remains challenging is in the eye of the researcher. As a family history writer, I have often challenged myself to go beyond the obvious genealogy fact finding. Just who were my ancestors? Just how did they live? Stepping back in time to get into their minds, worlds, and lives presents a challenge in finding resources and clues for my ponderings.
My focus the past few blogs has been on my 4th great grandparents, Joseph and Rachel (Low) Storer. Having challenged myself to finding out about farming in Maine in 1820, I located a great resource. (The website is cited at the end of this blog.) After studying the article, a clearer picture of life for the Storer family came into focus.
The Storers had settled in Weld, now Franklin County, Maine, in 1807. They would have found temporary shelter near their homestead until the wilderness could be cleared and a log home built. This took four years of labor. Before heading into the wilderness, the Storer men would plant at their temporary home a garden which the wife and small children would attend. With his three oldest sons, they would work together to clear 5-6 acres during the first year. During the second year, the men would burn the slash and build a log cabin. Corn would be planted among the stumps. During the third year, a barn would be constructed as well as clearing 5-6 more acres. In the fourth year, rye and English hay would be planted and harvested.
For livestock, most farms had 2-20 Devon cattle and oxen. Most farms did not have horses. The Devon cattle’s milk nourished the family plus added to the autumn making of butter. Oxen served as draft animals. Livestock that was raised for food were turkeys, sheep, chickens, ducks, and geese.
It is challenging to fuse together this information to get the truest picture of my beloved Granddaddy and Granny Storer’s daily lives. The challenge comes from wondering about their thoughts, their daily conversations, and their family decisions. These questions will never be answered.
Last October, I had walked down the lane to my fourth great grandparents’ home…to Joseph and Rachel (Low) Storer’s farm. As I ambled around the bend in my dreams and imagined wanderings, I anxiously awaited my initial meeting with them. The time was about 1820. I had told them of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who in the future would migrate and pioneer themselves across the nation.
Today, this second visit would be a reunion of sorts. I was interested in why they had moved on from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to Maine. What drew them on to start over twice? To clear the land and build homes? To be self-sufficient in meeting all their family’s needs? To raise children devoted to the land and to the new nation?
I was curious about what encompassed Joseph’s day with farm work. How and what did he teach his sons? In what ways did he share his knowledge about animal husbandry and livestock management? What services and goods did he use to barter with his neighbors?
I was curious about what encompassed Rachel’s day with child care and food preparation. How and what did she teach her daughters? In what ways did she share about gathering herbs and wild berries? What did the girls learn about making clothes? How did her family socialize with neighbors, or were they isolated?
As parents, did they share God’s Word by reading from the Bible each evening? By praying together? Could they themselves read and write? Many, many questions would be asked.
A reunion is a cherished time with those one loves. Sometimes, that time is short and brief. Sometimes, questions go unanswered. Sometimes, much is shared and divulged. Always as the parting ends the visit, hugs and blessings are exchanged.
After the French and Indian War, many citizens of the colony of New Hampshire yearned for a different relationship with the Crown. Why not play by their own rules? Ideas, discussions, and debates took place among those citizens… the winds of revolution in Boston blew in their direction. By 1774, they were ready to prepare themselves to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. A year later, gunpowder would ignite as the King’s Army faced the Minute Men. Joseph and Rachel Story would receive word that their nephew Jesse Story had been killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
The Joseph Story family lived in Hopkinton, Merrimack, New Hampshire in 1776. He and Rachel had been married for three years; he was 25 years old with two small children. They farmed the land. In that year, the colony requested that those who sided with the Patriot cause sign an association test. Joseph along with his family members Jeremiah and Zechariah signed the test. The pledge reads as follows: “WE, the Subscribers, do hereby solemnly engage, and promise, that we will, to the utmost of our Power, at the Risque of our Lives and Fortunes, with ARMS, oppose the Hostile Proceedings of the British Fleets, and Armies, against the United American COLONIES.”
Joseph wanted to do more than sign the test. How could he pledge his sacred honor? He joined the fight by enlisting in Captain Benjamin Sias’ troops who were under Stickney’s Regiment of Militia. He enlisted in April 1777 and stayed with the troops until they disbanded in that October. What all he faced in battle and on the field was not been recorded by him…perhaps, he told those tales when he returned to his family.
His tale of standing with the Patriots as his wife took care of family and farm was a common one from those revolutionary times. “Independence!” was their cry and creed. Thank you, Joseph and Rachel.