52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 9: Where There Is A Will…

William Henry Stevens, Sailor in Civil War

William Henry Stevens 1843-1926

“So that is who he is,” I told myself as the mental clues gelled in my head.  Throughout my childhood, I had heard my grandmother say, “Oh, she/he is related on the Stevens side.” At that age, I had no idea what those words meant nor was I curious. As I fast forward to my “genealogy years”, I was finally able to grasp an understanding and make an introduction.

I first met William when I started grafting branches to my family tree. He was a name with attached dates and places. He had a wife and nine children. He was born in England and died in Kansas. Was that the beginning and end of his story, or was there a crucial middle to his life’s tale? As writers and readers, we know that the middle of a narrative piece holds and embraces the details…genealogists learn that, too.

As I fast forward again, I was to meet live, now-to-me cousins on Ancestry. Here were gals who were related to me on the Stevens side. They held the keys to the middle part  of Will’s life story along with the glorious details. They had portrait photos, wedding photos, letters, family photos of Will and his family. Through them, I met the flesh and blood William Henry Stevens, my second great grandfather.

Where there is a will would certainly be a motivational cry for young Will Stevens. He came to America in 1864 while the Civil War was still waging…an immigrant at the age of twenty-one.  He had been in the British Navy. After being in New York City for six months, he joined the Union Navy. He was assigned to three different ships which were often engaged in blockading Confederate harbors. He spent much time in the crows nest and reported on what he saw. As a result of that job and being close to cannon blasts, he became deaf in one ear. He also sported alligator and cross tattoos…a fun fact for me. After the war, he made his way back to Manhattan, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey. He worked as a laborer for the American Gas Company.

Isabella Anna Couchman 1860's   Where there is a will…a year after the war, he married his sweetheart, Isabella Anna Couchman. She, too, was an English emigrant; she was a seamstress. They lived for a time in New Jersey as their family grew. Whatever the calling and attraction, the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Again, he chose work with a gas company. After the war, Memphis was a place of unrest and Reconstruction change. Did Will and his family feel that? Is that one of the factors that led him to the next family move?

Where there is a will…President Lincoln and Congress’ Homestead Act enabled settlers to gain free land in the Midwest. Will accepted that invitation when he claimed land in Kill Creek Township, Osborne County, Kansas, in 1872. I wonder what he knew about farming…an English emigrant, sailor, former resident of four major cities, gas company employee. He came to Kansas by himself and settled in a dugout on his property. A year later, the rest of his family followed. Besides a strong will, what other virtues guided and strengthened him? Did his family feel isolated out on the farm? How did he learn to plow and sweat under the harsh plains’ sun? Did he hunt and fish to feed this family? Buffalo were hunted by early Kansas settlers…were he and his sons hunters…city boys? A family story revolves around Indians coming to their farm and stealing baby clothes from a trunk…clothes surely made by seamstress Isabella’s hands. Strong willed people often possess resiliency and perseverance; surely, Will carried these qualities in his soul, mind, and heart. Were these passed along to his children…and to me? The value of hard work flowed through his veins. Family talk has it that he was a man of few words. But was he a man of many thoughts and feelings?

Harvest on Stevens homestead

Where there is a will…Will lived 83 years which is lengthy for a Civil War veteran. In 1916, he and his beloved Isabella celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. One of the treasures shared by my new cousins is this picture taken at that party. What joy the couple must have experienced when surrounded by their children and grandchildren! Where there is a will, a man wraps strength and serenity in his familial arms.

sepia 50th wedding anniversary of William and Isabella Stevens

Post Script: My grandmother, Isabella Mary Boultinghouse (named after her grandmother), is to the right of the woman in the striped dress in the center of the photograph. Yes, she is the one with the flowery hairdo.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 8: Heirloom



Edward Ralph Boultinghouse (1896-1943)

Sometimes, Kansas farm boys hear the call of wayward wind voices directing them to new horizons. At the beginning of the last century, my great uncle Edward “Jack” Ralph Boultinghouse heard those voices.  He followed them to the vastness of Wyoming cattle ranches and to booming oil fields where purple mountain majesties embraced him. He has been introduced to this land when he came with his father on a hunting trip in 1916. His father returned to Kansas…Jack stayed. He became a real cowboy who could wrangle and rope. Eventually, he became a roustabout on those oil fields.

Along that journey, he joined the Wyoming National Guard. The United States was drawn into World War I in 1917 despite all of President Wilson’s actions to maintain our neutrality. Suddenly, Jack the bronco buster became Jack the wagoner. His military unit was the 116th Ammunition Train, 41st Division. He lead mules and horses that pulled wagonloads of artillery rounds to cannons in battle zones.

His unit was formed from men from Wyoming and Oregon. These men were chosen to be wagoners because of their experiences with handling horses and mules. The Brits and the French were quite happy to have these Yanks join them in the fight. World War I would be the last war to use horses and mules…the Yanks had lots of these animals to lend to the fight.

Jack and his company left for France on December 12, 1917, aboard the commercial steamer Antigone. How did it feel to be crowded on a ship with a vast ocean before him…how did he compare that ocean to his beloved Grand Tetons? Did he suffer both seasickness and homesickness?


Once in France, he was responsible for caring for his team of mules and driving a wagonload of ammunition. What did that sound like as caravans of teams moved forward through dirt and mud? How did the soldiers’ voices boom out with commands for the animals? When were the days most frightful as the distant thunder of battle filled the air? Did Jack write letters home to reassure his family that he was safe…his hometown paper carried little news of the war?

After the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, Jack and his unit remained in France until 24 June 1919. How did his unit spend their days after the war? Was there a somber mood or a celebratory air as they sailed home? How did he envision his future?

After his return, Jack did go back to Kansas for a brief time. Those wayward wind voices called him to return to his beloved Wyoming. Throughout the remainder of his life, he would also live in Nebraska and Colorado…working as a wildlife preserve manager and as an Army consultant for Remington Arms.


My grandmother, Isabella Mary Boultinghouse,  was Jack’s little sister as he was seven years older. How she came to receive his World War I dog tags I do not know. Did he give them to her when he returned from war? How they were passed onto me I do not remember. This little aluminum disk is a precious heirloom to me…it once hugged the neck of my real cowboy and soldier Uncle Jack.



52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 7: Valentine

Background Music: “Unforgettable” as recorded by Nat King Cole in October 1951   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXjdMV7SOfE

He was the first man with whom I fell in love. He loved me at first sight and knew I would always be his. He nicknamed me “Punkie” and enjoyed making me laugh and smile. He was also totally in love with my mother so all three of us formed a family until my two brothers would complete that circle. He was my first Valentine…my dad, Edward Joseph Slabik (1924-2007).

My father would pass many interests, talents, and gifts along to me. He filled our home with music, and the stereo would boost the stylings of Frank Sinatra, Joni James, and our favorite Nat King Cole. He would sing along in a rich voice that added to the magic of enjoying the songs. I learned to sing along, too. I became a lifelong music lover. Also, he introduced me to the joys of reading…reading everything from detective novels to road maps to almanacs. Getting my first library card was pure joy to me…I became a lifelong reader. Because my dad read five or more newspapers a day, he would often write letters to the editor to give his slant, opinion, or support to the issues. I learned that writing can be a powerful outlet. I became a lifelong writer.

I miss my father greatly. There is so much more to tell about our father-daughter relationship. Those memories I chose to treasure alone in the recesses of my heart and spirit. One time, my mother told me that I was my daddy’s little girl who grew to be his daughter…a supreme compliment to me and my precious dad.9906463d-2f01-4502-bd96-cce212540337

Exit music/lyrics: “That’s why, darling, it’s incredible that someone so unforgettable thinks that I am unforgettable, too.”






52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 6: Favorite Name


Lafayette Edward Boultinghouse & Family

During our weekly genealogy get-together, Amy turned to me and said, “So…which of your ancestors bears your favorite name? Whom do you pick and why?”

Without hesitation, I responded, “My great grandfather, Lafayette Edward Boultinghouse. I never met him, but I was introduced to him by my mother. If I silence myself, I can hear his name whispered in the wind as it rustles the shafts of wheat across a Kansas prairie. I can see his face up in the stars of night…just as God had told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as those stars. He used to be a mystery to me, but I sought out his company in old photographs and family history. Now I can pass on his story to you.”

Smiling and nodding, Amy prompted me to continue. “Tell me about the grandfather you met.”

“Lafe’s story…his family’s nickname for him…begins as the end of an adventure. In 1871, his parents, Amos and Mary, had gathered up their youngest children and come by wagon train across Illinois and into Kansas to settle in Osborne County. Mary was pregnant with her 10th child so the trip must have been a challenge for her. When they arrived at their Homestead Act property, a tent was pitched to shelter them. Inside the tent, Mary gave birth to Lafayette. He was the first white male born in that county. Why he was named Lafayette is only my guess. Amos the father came from a patriotic family. Mary the mother came from a French emigrant family. In American and French histories, the Marquis de Lafayette was a hero to both American and French peoples. Was the name a way to celebrate both family origins? Having the middle name of Edward is a puzzle…no Edwards in either family existed. And so, Lafe grew in age and wisdom,” I said with a smile.

Encouraging me to continue, Amy asked, “Who did Lafe become? What makes him special to you?”

“Young Lafe learned to hunt and fish from his father, who had lived on the Midwest prairies and survived the Civil War. The Kansas farmland gave them buffalo to hunt, and the river and streams to fish. Lafe learned what it takes to feed a family. Throughout his life, hunting and fishing became his passion. He really did not fall in love with farming. At one time, he obtained 14 acres of farmland through the Homestead Act. A few years later, he sold off the land and farm equipment. He and his wife Naomi opened a general store and cafe in the little town of Bloomington. He did discover another love…carpentry. He could build anything. He added tourist cabins to an area by the store-cafe. He would pass on his love of hunting to his son Edward while his daughters, Pearl, Helen, and Isabella, learned flower gardening from mother Naomi. When grandchildren blessed his life, they called him Grand B,” I responded.


Lafe & His Catch

Amy asked her final question, “How does his name endear him to you?”

“I envision him as a person with a distinguished name who led an ordinary life in an ordinary town. He sought no greatness other than to serve his family, friends, and community. I wish as his great granddaughter, I could have sat at his knee and savored his stories and, perhaps, tall tales. I wish…”








52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 5: In The Census

sheep ranch

My 2nd great grandfather, Andrew Storer, must have had wanderlust in his soul. Born in Maine in 1817, he would settle in seven different territories and “infant” states before he died in 1895. He would work in a brickyard, operate a sawmill, work on the Erie Canal and Mississippi River, and own a farm. His name can be found on cash sales of land in newly settled territories and on Homestead Act documents. He was active in local government councils wherever he settled.

The 1880 Federal Census contains a Schedule 3, an agricultural record. By that year, Andrew would be settled in his last home in Osborne County, Kansas. He had moved there in 1871 so this schedule measures nine years of his success in settling on the plains. I had wondered what his farm was like…this schedule would complete the picture for me. That year, he reported that his farm and buildings were worth $5,000 while his livestock were valued at over $4,600. His sheep herd was comprised of 1,100 sheep that had yielded over 4 tons of fleece that year. He had 400 lambs with five being killed by dogs. In addition, he had 16 swine…two of his pigs had traveled all the way from Iowa when the family came by wagon train. Also of importance on the farm were 40 acres of forest trees. At that time, trees were still scarce on the plains. The Kansas Department of Agriculture asked farmers to devote lands to the cultivation of trees. Andrew was known for caring for hearty cottonwood and walnut trees. In total, Andrew answered 100 questions about his farm. (A copy of the schedule form can be found at https://www.archives.gov/files/research/genealogy/charts-forms/1880-agricultural.pdf  .)

Many of our ancestors were farmers. The U.S. government recorded agricultural statistics from 1850-1900 on these non-population schedules. These records promise to cultivate and produce glimpses into the lives of those ancestors. What seeds will be planted into the quest for ancestral findings when one reads them?

Postscript: those two pigs were also famous for something else…they were the first pigs brought to Osborne County, Kansas. Never underestimate the value of a porker.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 4


This week’s challenge from Amy Johnson Crow is the theme of “Invite To Dinner”. As soon as I read this prompt, I knew who was coming to dinner: my maternal 2nd great grandparents. Amos Howell Boultinghouse and Maria Magdalina Kramer were born worlds apart…one a member of a patriotic Illinois plains family, and the other from the Alsace region of France. One was educated at home and taught how to hunt and survive; the other was educated in a convent school in the art of fine embroidery work. How they would meet and marry is written in the beginning chapters of their life stories.

Graciously inviting them to dinner, my aim is not the setting of the table and the presentation of a special dinner. Conversation loaded with thinking questions directed at each of them would be the menu. Welcoming them and embracing them for the first time would bring instant tears of joy. I have never found pictures of them, and I would be most anxious to glaze into their eyes and whisper “Grandpapa … Grandmere”.

Amos came from a family that had migrated from western Pennsylvania, settled for a time in Ohio, and made a home in White County, Illinois. His father passed away when Amos was five years old. “What impact did your father’s death at your early age have on you? How did your mother compensate for this loss? How did your stepbrothers take you under their wings?”  Amos came from a patriotic family whose grandfather served in the American Revolution and his father in the War of 1812. I would ask, “What steered you toward enlisting in the the Army in 1837 (age 19) and again with the Illinois Infantry during the Civil War (age 43)? What were your lessons of war? What did you regret?”  Finally, when he was 53 years old, he took advantage of the Homestead Act to move his family to Osborne County, Kansas. “Describe moving your family and going by wagon train to your new home. What challenges presented themselves to you and your family? What did you tell yourself so you could succeed in Kansas? What was the measure of that success? Surrounded by your children and grandchildren, share your memories of the later years of your life.”

Maria was born in a part of France near the German border. Her surname is of German derivation. Even her first and middle names are in the German naming pattern. At times, this land switched hands between the two countries. “Who are your parents as I have found nothing about them? Why did you immigrate to America? Do you speak French, German, or both? Tell about your convent school education.” Maria, who would go by Mary, married Amos when she was 15 years old, and he was 25. “How did you meet Amos? On your marriage license, you stated that you were 22 years old…you were only 15…what prompted you to falsify your age? What prepared you to move from the bustling streets of Manhattan to the plains of Illinois? What prior knowledge did you have about being a farmer’s wife? What skills?” As the years advanced, Mary moved with her family to Kansas. Some of her children were married adults who did not join them. She was with her 10th child. “Describe the trip by covered wagon. Did you fear giving birth along the journey? What did you tell yourself so that you would remain positive, strong, and resilient? Surrounded by your children and grandchildren, share the memories of the final chapters of your life.”

It would be a great blessing if this dream dinner would come to pass. As a spiritual person, I know that one day we will dine at the banquet table of the Lord…all these questions will be answered.


The Case Of The Baffling Babcia

Turning to my Aunt Emily as the family historian, I had asked her when her parents/my grandparents had immigrated to America. She responded that my grandmother had come in 1911 while my grandfather came in 1912. She further stated that my grandmother had gone from Ellis Island to Rye, New York, to become a domestic.

A few years later, my father passed away. I decided to create a heritage scrapbook about his life; I felt that it would be great grief therapy. Where to begin his story? Why, with his parents, of course! I headed for the Ellis Island records to look for Anna Mroz in 1912. When coming across her records, I read and studied the ship’s manifest very carefully. Yes, Anna was from Galicia. Yes, Anna was born about 1892. Yes, she was meeting her brother-in-law to go to Connecticut. (So far, the facts checked off with what I knew.) The document showed that she had purchased the ticket herself and had $9 in her pocket. She traveled with other young women from her village aboard the S.S. George Washington from Bremen, Germany. On the double spread scrapbook pages dedicated to Anna, I created a beautiful display of pictures of Ellis Island and her story. I patted myself on the back for my great detective work and storytelling abilities.

As I advanced in my researching skills, I found Anna in the 1920 Census…remember my story about that search? One of the questions was, “Year of immigration to the United States.” Right there in Anna’s row of answers was the year 1906. What?! Who reported that? Is that right? My Aunt Emily said… After regaining my thinking processes, once again I headed to the Ellis Island records. There she was…Anna Mroz on the 1906 records. She claimed to be 16 years old when she was actually 14. She had come with other girls from her village. She would be meeting her brother Jan. She had boarded the S.S. Georgia in Trieste, Italy. She had little money, but had at least the $25 that was required to make the journey. Her parents were deceased as recorded on the manifest. Was this really my babcia (Polish for grandmother)? How did this little teenager get from a tiny village in Poland to the seaport of Trieste? How did that feel to walk away from her family to the big unknown of America? Our immigrant ancestors must have been made of strong mettle.

As time went by, I was able to obtain a copy of my babcia’s naturalization papers. Applicants were asked to supply the name of the ship, departure point, and date of arrival in New York. Her answers complemented the information that I had found. Success…Anna did immigrate in 1906. The Case of the Baffling Babcia had been solved!

Oh, those beautiful scrapbook pages…they are waiting to be corrected.

Genealogical lessons learned: family stories need to be verified with documents…be prepared for some errors and surprises.



Hidden In Plain Sight

Franciszek and Anna

My father’s parents, Frank and Anna Slabik,  married in 1914 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They lived in the section of the city called Nicetown. It was a neighborhood heavily populated with Polish immigrants and their families. At that time, Philadelphia was the third largest city in the United States.

Since I knew little about these grandparents, I looked to the U.S. Federal Census records to find out more about them. I started with 1920. Some questions asked were, “When did you immigrate to U.S.?” and “Are you a naturalized citizen?” The answers would be important to my research. I was also interested in whether they could read and write since English was not their native language. Filling out the search form on Ancestry, I was ready to push ENTER to unlock the answers. No information found was the response. What!? Where are they? I tried various spellings of the surname…no luck! Deciding to move on to 1930, I was certain I would find them. Once again, my heart sank when no information was found. I tried different strategies to crack the code…once again, I was on a mission. Months went by with no results.

As a member of Ancestry, I had access to webinar broadcasts. One of the presenters was Crista Cowan who is a topnotch genealogist and teacher. I viewed her presentation on searching census records. Her suggestion for not locating a family was to enter on the search form just the first names of the family members, not their surname. Could this really work? This is Philadelphia. How many hits will I be checking until I find them…if I find them. Submitting and entering the information, I pushed ENTER. There they were! I could not believe it. Frank, Anna, Emily, and Stanley Slobick…as opposed to the spelling Slabik…my grandparents, aunt, and uncle. Crista’s suggestion worked, and I was thrilled.

Next, I tried Crista’s tip for the 1930 Census. My father had been born in 1924 so he would be in the listing. Once again, her tip worked. This time, their surname of Slabik was spelled Slavik. My dad Edward was there at the age of 5 years old. I also discovered that they owned no radio set, could speak and write English, married at the ages of 28 and 20. Neither grandparent was a naturalized citizen.

A couple of years later, the 1940 Census was released. One had to wait for each state to have their records digitized so I waited patiently for Pennsylvania to appear. This time, I found my Slabik family right away…their surname was finally recorded with the correct spelling…alleluia!

Genealogy lessons learned: Be patient…seek help…be persistent.

The Journey Begins…

Finding my roots is a continuing work in progress that requires patience and planning, research and revision, study and steadfastness. In continuing my quest to find my families’ stories, I have come to a fork in the road of that journey. Should I take the turn in the road that leads to creating a journal? Journaling would give me the freedom to tell stories in no particular order…the freedom to share…the freedom to question.

Thank you for joining me. Questions and comments are welcome at any time. May I encourage you to begin your own blog to share your family stories.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks:

Following along with Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors, this third week enjoys the theme of “longevity”.  What information for my tree took the longest time in locating? What puzzle piece was missing and needed to be found?

When I first started the search for my father’s family, I had little clues…just family facts related by my aunt. My grandparents had emigrated from Poland at the beginning of the 20th Century. Their names were Frank Slabik and Anna Mroz. They did not reach Ellis Island together; in fact, at that time they did not even know each other. In combing through Ellis Island records, I found my grandmother…or so I thought. Where was my grandfather Frank listed on these ship manifests? I searched for many, many months. Could his records be missing? One Sunday morning as I sat at the computer once again, I told myself, “Today I am finding my grandfather!” I understood that he had come to America in 1912. I read the entries slowly and deliberately. Then, I came upon a name that made me stop and wonder…Franciszek Stabik. Yes, this Franciszek was from the same region of Poland as my grandfather…same possible age. Suddenly, I realized that his surname was written in Polish with the second letter as the letter L with a line diagonally across the top part of the letter. The recorder for the manifest listing had written it like our letter T. Also, Frank’s first name was written as Franciszek, the Polish name for Francis/Frank. There he was…found at last!