52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Non-Population

 

 

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When you are a child, places and spaces seem bigger, gigantic, enormous. The world beckons you to new discoveries, adventures, curiosities. Children know the world through a tiny window of experiences that grow each day. When I was a child during the 1950s, I vacationed every other summer with my grandparents Andrew and Isabella (Boultinghouse) Storer on their farm in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas. I explored their world and was in awe. Fields of wheat and corn populated the plains. I vividly remember my grandmother setting up a makeshift dining room with tables made with sawhorses and plywood. Here she would feed the farmhands who came to harvest the wheat. Most farmers could not afford the cost of owning combines. A neighbor owned one; with a handshake to seal the deal, that farmer would come on an appointed schedule to help his fellow neighbors harvest their fields. My grandparents and their daughters were a team in raising food for “America’s breadbasket”. A culmination of the harvest was taking the grains to the elevators where the farmers met on Saturdays to gab and grab a pop bottle from the cooler. Conversations at the elevator included gossip, local goings on, and farm prices.  Also, big in my memory was my Gramps letting me ride on his John Deere with him to do cultivating…we had to keep the rows straight, according to his instructions. All those details form pictures in my recollections of time spent on the farm.

In 1940, ten years before those memories began to form, the State of Kansas conducted a county census. Part of the census focused on farmers: acreage rented or owned; acres of winter wheat, corn, oats, barley, rye, spring wheat, Irish potatoes, and sweet potatoes. When I found the entry for my grandparents’ farm, I discovered the facts about his farm which he rented from an uncle who lived in Mississippi. He had 630 acres with 82 acres in winter wheat, 20 acres in corn, and 40 acres in oats and barley. That left about 500 acres some of which was used for pasture land for Black Angus and goats. Those were the facts and figures about the farm. This information gives me an idea of the real size of that childhood  sense of  bigness.

In my memories, the sweetness of the vacation visits overshadows those pure facts. To me, finding the facts is the role of the genealogist while collecting memories is the job of the storyteller.

 

 

 

 

 

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Family Legends

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Legends can be plucked as fruit from every family tree. The tastes can be sweet, sour, savory, salty,  or bitter. When bitten into, they can bring smiles, laughter, sighs, or tears to the one indulging in their flavors. This fruit is always in season. As they are consumed, pits or seeds lie at the core. The core holds the truth of the legend…the real story. The following legends can be picked from my family tree, and then the core truth will be told.

Legend: On my mother’s paternal side, it has been told that an ancestor came from England on the Mayflower…as the story goes, it was not on the maiden voyage but after the Puritans came in 1620.   Truth: Our ancestor George Soule did arrive on this ship. He was the indentured servant of fellow passenger Edward Winslow. He came in 1620.

Legend: The Story family arrived in the Colonies in the mid 1600s. In time, male members of the family would join the Patriots’ cause during the American Revolution. As the expression goes that when someone tells a “story”, that person is telling a lie. Hence, the Story family changed the spelling to Storer so these Patriots would be known as true to the cause and not “story-tellers”.   Truth:  In the 1820s, a branch of the Story family moved to Franklin County, Maine. When going to the land office to register their property, the clerk recorded their surname as Storer. It seems that their Maine accents made the spelling of their name sound like “Storer”. To this present time, different branches of the family spell it either way…we are all related.

Legend: Two brothers, John and Joseph Boultinghouse, emigrated from England. They entered through the port of Boston in 1773 just as the Boston Tea Party was happening. They were witnesses to the protest of taxes on tea. Later, John would head west and Joseph to the east.  Truth: Both brothers were born in the colony of New Jersey in the 1740s, where their parents had also been born. The family is thought to have emigrated from either France or Germany. After their participation in the American Revolution, they received land warrants for property in the Ohio Valley.

Legend: Daniel Boultinghouse was one of the first settlers in Ohio in the late 1790s. Later, he moved on to Illinois where he was part of a militia that protected white settlers from Indian raids. During one of these raids, he was scalped and killed. His grave in on an unknown place on the prairies. He was killed in 1818.   Truth: Daniel died from unknown causes in 1823, and he is buried in a cemetery in White County, Illinois. He was preceded in death by two wives. His third wife and 13 children survived him.

Legend (of a different sort): Melvin M. Storer was a Kansas farm boy who married and started a weatherstripping business. He became interested in genealogy way before  modern technology would make it easier for him. His records were organized papers and folders. When he retired, he decided to travel across the country to meet members of this family. Each person was asked to fill out a 5-page questionnaire about his/her place in the family. He rejoiced in all the genealogy findings he had uncovered. He kept many files in a special briefcase which he carried when he traveled. One day at the airport, he set the briefcase down and turned to speak to a fellow traveler. When he turned around, the case was gone…it had been stolen! Melvin had spent hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours on his work. He lost heart because he would not be able to duplicate his travels and gather the information again. He was devastated…he did not return to his work. He is known in the Storer family as a legendary genealogist.  Truth: The legend continues today with another family member who glories in finding branches on the tree. She is blessed to be able to use modern technology and DNA findings to locate aunts, uncles, cousins. She dedicates her work to her cousin Melvin’s memory…the honest-to-goodness truth of the story.

 

 

 

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Youngest

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Pearl, Helen, Edward, Isabella Boultinghouse

Baby sisters can be the delight of the family. Baby sisters can be tag-alongs on siblings’ adventures. Baby sisters can be cute and adorable and/or annoying. Baby sisters can copy the behavior and mimic the words of their siblings much to everyone’s delight or chagrin. Little Isabella Mary Boultinghouse was all of that, plus she was the apple of her family’s eye. Born in 1903, she would live for 93 years and remain a little sis.

Little Sister grew up on a small Kansas farmette (as it would be called today)…it was just 14 acres. She learned to do “girl” farm chores, such as gathering eggs, feeding livestock, and learning to cook and bake. Her grandmother Isabella, after whom she was named, was a skilled seamstress so she acquired sewing skills along with crocheting and embroidery needle work. Her father and brother loved to hunt and fish so she was accustomed to frying fish and preserving meat. She was quickly learning to become a farmer’s wife.

Lil Sis also enjoyed the childhood play as she loved on her favorite dolly. She and brother Jack (Edward) climbed like monkeys on the side of the house so they could make their way up to the roof and look out across the plains. When mother Naomi could not find them, she knew to look up to spot her mischievous youngsters sitting up there, giggling, and trying not to give themselves away. The little joys of pretending and imagining!

During the school year, Isabella rode horseback with Jack to the one-room schoolhouse (Riverside School) they attended. Each term, the pair earned certificates for having no tardies or absences.  At the end of 8th grade, she graduated with her formal education completed. Later on, the regular teacher at Riverside would require a substitute; Isabella would be the guest teacher.

Isabella had a way to escape the hum-drum of living in the country. Her sister Pearl had married and had four children with the family living in Kansas City, Missouri. Many times, Isabella took the train to visit them and help care for the children. In the summer, she would go to get one or two of the children and bring them back to spend part of the summer with their grandparents. Then, she could escort the children back to their home. Kansas City had many attractions and activities to interest the teenage girl.

At the age of 15, Isabella became the charter member of a ladies’ sewing circle. The group named themselves The Busy Bee Club. They met in members’ homes on a regular basis with lunch being served and then a choice of sewing or card playing. She completed many embroidery and quilting projects. She would be a member of the club for the rest of her life.

Isabella turned 17 in 1920, not long after the end of World War I. Several of the single veterans returned home and wanted to court and eventually marry the county girls. That year, she caught the eye of 24 year old Andrew Earl Storer who lived within a few miles of her. They courted and married two years later.

Little Sister was all grown up and settled as a farm wife. All her experiences of girlhood contributed to the woman she became. But…she would always be a little sister.

Epilogue: Isabella Mary Boultghouse was my mother’s mother. Her daughter Merna Mae Storer became my mother. Unlike my grandmother, I would not be a little sister. I would be the big sister…that story will remain for another time.

 

 

 

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Oldest

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A simple man. A simple life. A simple story. He was the oldest child in my great grandparents’ (Wash and Mina Storer’s) family. He was born in 1891 in Louisiana where his father worked on the levees on the Big Muddy. The little family only stayed there a few months and returned to their former home in Kansas. His father felt that he was better suited working the land than near the water.

Once back in Kansas, the family home was in a cave until the little family could save up to buy lumber for the building of a real home. So the boy Roy Eugene grew up learning to love the land, to nurture the soil, and to respect God’s handiwork. He learned to use his heart, hands, and mind to learn farming from his father and grandfather. He attended a one-room schoolhouse until he reached 7th grade. He was the big brother to four brothers (including Andrew, my grandfather) and three sisters.

When he turned 22, he married his sweetheart Myrtle Alice Britt. He and Myrtle married in a double wedding celebrated with his sister Myrtle and her beau Earl. The year was 1913. Roy and Myrtle settled down on their own 440 acre farm where they would raise three sons. They passed on to their boys their simple faith and love of the land. He and Myrtle would be married for 44 years, and she would pass on to Heaven 18 years before him. He continued to stay on the farm and live out a simple life.

During his adult life, Roy lived to serve God, his family, and his community. He was the member of a school board, a Mason, a leader in soil conservation, and a Sunday school teacher. He earned a reputation as a kind and helping neighbor…there to help when needed. His nieces and nephews called him “Uncle Dad” because of these qualities. Then, his friends and neighbors began to call him “Uncle Dad”, too.  “Uncle Dad” Storer was a simple man with a simple life…he was my oldest great uncle. He went home to the Lord in 1975…to the rich rewards of a God-fearing and loving man. His grey eyes and sweet smile will always be treasured by his family.

 

 

 

 

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Colorful

Maybe it was winning an art poster contest with a free trip to Topeka when she was in 8th grade…maybe that is when her journey into painting and creating began. Maybe it was that McCall’s magazine ad for correspondence courses in acrylic painting. No matter how and when, the artist turned a hobby into a much loved craft business…painting with lots of primary colors…colorful.

It was the late 1960s, and a young housewife wanted to expand her horizons. Setting up a makeshift studio in her basement, she first learned to paint leaves and roses. She practiced on wax paper so if she made too many mistakes, her papers would land in the trash. My goodness, she had a knack with the painting! Then, she practiced on bottles so if she made too many mistakes, her bottles would land in the trash. As her experience and expertise with the paints and patterns grew, she knew it was time to pick a medium on which to create her version of colorful kitchen decor.

Having grown up as a Kansas farm girl, she never stopped loving old kitchen utensils, coffeepots, wash boilers, and such. This would be her medium…she would be a tole painter. (Tole is the decorative painting of tin and wood.) She determined that she could find loads of old utensils at farm sales in the Pennsylvania countryside where she now lived with her family. Auctioneers would sell boxes of utensils for a quarter which she scarfed up. Her favorite auctioneer would call out at a sale, “Hey, Merna, here is a box with your kind of stuff!” In her own way, her paintings were becoming popular with the locals.

The time came when she wanted to set up a craft business and needed a name. Being a Kansas girl and loving  college basketball, she decided to call it The Jayhawker. (Jayhawker is a nickname for Kansas plus the mascot for University of Kansas.) She began setting up at craft fairs and gaining loyal customers. She set up a shop in her basement with hours by chance or appointment. She loved meeting people and making new friends. Credit for the success of her business also extended to her husband Ed who primed tin items for painting and accompanied her to craft shows.

She joined the National Tole Painters Association, an organization that she truly enjoyed. Each spring, a national convention was held in a major city…a chance to take daily lessons with nationally known artists. The conventions also featured tours and outings in the cities with travel right up Merna’s alley. When she returned home, she brought along fresh and colorful ideas. She flourished in her talent and craft.

The Jayhawker was in business for 30 years. She painted each day until midnight so she could have inventory for her next show. She estimated that she earned about a quarter an hour! But…she was ecstatic about her colorful creativity. She had found her artistic niche…Merna Mae (Storer) Slabik, tole painter!

That colorful painter was my mother. When we talked on the phone, she spent most of the conversation telling in details what her new pieces looked like. One day while on the phone, she said, “I have decided to put my paintbrushes away and retire…I am going to be a socialite!” Thus, began another chapter in her colorful life.

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52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Music

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“Music is the soundtrack of your life,” touted Dick Clark. And so its lyrics and melodies resonated through her girlhood with its changing cadences and nuances. Her beloved songs changed and evolved as she grew and became her own person. Her playlist would become varied and expand with the times and culture.

In kindergarten, her little record player played “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?” (Patti Page) and “A Teddy Bear’s Picnic” (Rosemary Clooney). She sang and danced as she played the songs over and over. She often threw in “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (Gene Autry), no matter the season. She listened to songs played by her dad on the stereo and radio, and she sang right along with him while in the bigger company of Nat “King” Cole, Keely Smith, and Frank Sinatra.

In grade school, she had other music mentors. Her babysitter introduced her to Elvis. Her friend’s big sister welcomed her to the world of Maria and Tony in “West Side Story”. A good friend had a stack of 45s that would be played so an older neighbor boy could teach them to dance… Dion, Little Richard, Chubby Checker, Dee Dee Sharp helped the girls learn to do the Mashed Potatoes, Twist, and Pony.

42d75efc40efc1d4b4d10a145b3ed689  Then, her music world really opened wide…a rite of passage would take her there. One Christmas, she received the ultimate teen gift…a transistor radio. This gift signified that she could be connected to any teen radio station on the East Coast. Nighttime was the best part of the day! Why, she could party with Cousin Bruce Morrow on WABC in New York. She could listen to the Top 40 with Dick Biondi on WLS, Chicago. She could follow Jack Kelly on WKBW in Buffalo, New York. Those AM stations were rockin’ and rollin’ with hit after hit along with teen talk. She was in teenage music heaven. When nightly reception was poor and could not draw in the stations, she tuned in to the local station WINC with DJ Joe Pasquale…why he took requests and dedications. Maybe, a secret someone would send a special song her way.

Life for her was dismal after the assassination of her beloved President Kennedy. She moped, she fretted, she mourned. Then, one midwinter day all those emotions were replaced by the sound of screaming teenage girls at an airport in New York City. Some British group named The Beatles was invading American shores. Their music brought along other Brits who stole her heart and freed her from some of that grief. Her musical taste was changing once again.

4821c417ae8bc13a7ea876e4f9f4dfefOther cultural changes influenced the songs that were sung from her lips and mirrored her teenage emotions. She absolutely adored soul: the Temptations, the Four Tops, Mary Wells, the Supremes. Her teenage dating woes and loss of first love were matched to the songs belted out by Miss Aretha Franklin, whom she revered and loved. The British songstress Dusty Springfield also sang for her.

During her late teen years, America was taking another turn into war protests, hippies, psychedelics which changed the music scene…but none of that was for her. She gravitated to the raspy, bluesy voice and emotional style of Janis Joplin. She grooved on Creedence Clearwater Revival, Three Dog Night, and Chicago Transit Authority (later name changed to Chicago).

Now 50-60 years later, she has an iPod. What music is on her playlist, and whose songs invite her to sing and dance with them today? Of course, her beloved artists from her girlhood!

“Call me a relic…call me what you will…say I’m old-fashioned…say I’m over the hill…today’s music ain’t got the same soul…I like that old time rock’n’roll.”                               ~Bob Seger

 

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52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Travel

 

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She would not keep a diary about the trip as she could not read nor write. She would not leave behind parents with tears running down their cheeks when she departed as she was an orphan. She would not daydream about returning to this village one day as she was never going back. It was spring 1906, and she was walking to a train station. That train would lead her to a ship. That ship would lead her to her brother and to her new home in America.

There would be four girls from her Polish village who would be traveling together. She was named Anna, and her three girl friends all had the first name of Franciszka. One man named Jan, age 23, traveled with them. The girls claimed to be 16 years old, but Anna was actually 14 years old. Who had paid the $10 each for their tickets? Had Anna’s older brother Antoni sent it to her from America?

From their village, the quintet traveled to a train station to head for Trieste, Italy. They carried their belongings. Perhaps, they walked the part of the way to the station. Perhaps, they went by wagon. Perhaps… How many days were they on the road, so to speak? Train schedules did not coordinate with ship schedules so waiting and praying must have been part of their journey…there would be much waiting.

Once they arrived in Trieste, they would be subject to two weeks of medical and mental examinations…two weeks of observation…two weeks of waiting and praying. Shipping companies were required to look after their future passengers during that time. Meals could be bought along with bunk spaces for the nights. They would handle their money wisely. As part of their preparation, the shipping company would list each person on a manifest (list). Each would be asked 31 questions: sex, age, marital status, literacy, occupation, former residence, quality of physical condition, mother county and tongue, cost of ticket along with the name of the person who would meet them in America. My Anna stated that she was a labourer, and she was illiterate. She was listed as being in good physical condition.

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On Monday, 30 April 1906, Anna and her friends boarded the S.S. Georgia to take their place in steerage. They would be crowded into unsanitary, foul-smelling, cramped, noisy quarters. Bunks provided little room on which to sleep. Food was distributed from large kettles. There was no privacy. The journey would take 25 days…25 days of waiting and praying. Did the girls talk among themselves to dispel each other’s homesickness and anxiety? Did they stay close together for protection and safety? My Anna, only 14 years old, must have clung to her beliefs in God to remain resilient.

On Thursday, May 24, 1906, she and her friends saw Lady Liberty in New York harbor for the first time. What this lady sacred to her? Did she cry knowing that she would soon see her older brother? Did she fear what lie ahead in the great halls of Ellis Island?b3ef8d57ff01e833e8abd4dab35545ad

As the girls entered the great hall of Ellis Island, their ears would be bombarded by many voices and many languages. Many hands would examine and prod them. Many strangers would look into their eyes to determine if they could leave or be detained. Were their hearts pounding as they waited and prayed? Did they fear being separated from one another as they met family members?

At last, Anna would depart for the final part of her travels: her brother Antoni would claim her. She would be traveling with him to a strange place called Connecticut. For this time, her waiting and praying were over. What lie ahead for my dear Anna?

 

Anna Mroz would become my father’s mother and my grandmother. I have searched the 1910 census for evidence of her time spent with her older brother in Greenville, Connecticut, before her marriage. I have found no hint of her for that time period. I have searched immigration records and census records in looking for Antoni…no trace of him. No family members heard Anna speak about a brother or know of his contacting her. Perhaps…after waiting and praying…he will travel through time to me.

 

 

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Independence

 

6436309381_292e3fda1f_b.jpgIn January, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a State of the Union speech in which he enumerated four freedoms that complemented our Constitution. These four freedoms reminded all Americans that these ideals defined independence in different ways and on different levels. FDR reminded us that we have the inalienable rights to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Later that year, America and her citizens were tested to safeguard those freedoms for themselves and for the world…independence and its richness for all. Much earlier in our nation’s history, we had sought and obtained independence and freedom.

As we celebrate our country’s birth-day, let us remember and revere those members of our families who won us that independence. Some were born here…some came here…all gave every ounce of their beings so we could become the independent United States of America. Also, let us celebrate our four freedoms.

 

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Black Sheep

Black sheep, huh!? Are they referencing “dyed in the wool” black sheep…”bad to the bone” black sheep…or perhaps, “poor choices and indiscretions” black sheep? My family tree has every one of these varieties.

“Dyed in the wool” black sheep: Being a specie of this type depends on who is doing the judging. In this case, King James I of England is the judge of this case. Meet our defendant George Soule who is an indentured servant. He and his master are what are called Separatists. They do not wish to belong to the Church of England of which King James is the head. Loyal subjects of the realm must be loyal to this church. George and his master are not. In James’ humble regal opinion, these men are black sheep among the sheep he shepherds. When these Separatists/Puritans wish to come to the New World, James is most happy to be rid of them. So, this flock leaves the fold. George, who is my 9th great grandfather, will board the Mayflower in 1620. His descendants will populate New World with even more “dyed in the wool” black sheep Englishmen and women.435px-Mayflower_in_Plymouth_Harbor,_by_William_Halsall

“Bad to the bone” black sheep: These bad boys are rebellious, disloyal, unfaithful. They will take up arms against their king, their motherland, their fellow English citizens…no matter the cost. If their King George III finds them guilty, they will die the traitor’s death of being hung. Their fortunes and lands will be denied their remaining families. How dare they turn against Great Britain and all she embodies? How can they be so ungrateful to the King’s good protection? Just who do they think they are? These anti-loyalists would be termed “patriots”. Joseph Story, Benjamin Dows, Ebenezer Newman, Thomas Newman, Conrad Rhodes, Joseph Boultenhouse, and John Nichols are my 4th and 5th great grandfathers who opposed the king during the American Revolution. Their descendants would fill the newborn nation with others who would also be rebellious. Are they too “bad to the bone”?RevWar2

“Poor choices and indiscretions” black sheep: What was once a family story, related by my mother to me,  turned out to be a real life soap opera. The story went that our great aunt had run away with the parish priest. Researching the story, I found newspaper accounts in several Midwestern newspapers. She had! She stole her husband’s car and headed to her sister’s home in a metropolitan city. The priest was with her along with her 5 year old daughter. The husband went to the local police and asked to have a warrant for the priest’s arrest…the car was registered to him alone so the pair were guilty of auto theft among other crimes. Once captured after a high speed chase by the police in another state, the pair and child spent the night in jail. When the husband arrived, he reclaimed his wife and struck the priest. Later that year, the wife filed for divorce…the priest took off for parts unknown after failing to come to court for the trial. Some think he ran to Mexico…defrocked and disgraced.

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No matter who the black sheep are…no matter what they did…no matter at all.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Same Name

Naomi Ruth Stevens is the name this aunt and niece shared. They both came from pioneer stock and learned early to care for others. They both carved out names for themselves which would be based on their talents and characters.

The aunt of the duo was my great grandmother, Naomi Ruth Stevens Boultinghouse. She was born on a farm in Kill Creek Township, Osborne County, Kansas in 1875…just four years after her family settled under the auspices of the Homestead Act. Her parents were English emigrants who had migrated across this nation from New Jersey, Tennessee, and into the Sunflower State. Her father was a Civil War veteran of the Union Navy. Her mother was a talented seamstress. From them, she learned the virtues of hard work, perseverance, and resilience. At the age of 19, she married my great grandfather Lafayette Edward Boultinghouse and became a mother to four children. She was most dedicated to her family. She and her husband Lafe had a small farm for a few years, but farming was not to their liking. Together, they established a small general store and cafe. Friendliness was part of the service, and Naomi (nicknamed Mamie) enjoyed visiting with customers. She was noted as a master gardener and earned fame among

the locals for her roses and other flowers in her yards surrounding her home. People said that she could turn a mess into a masterpiece. She also enjoying taking pictures of her family, including her grandchildren. Toward the end of his life, she shared her home with her ailing father, William Henry Stevens. When she passed away in 1947, it was my parents’ wedding day. When her husband Lafe passed away in 1949, it was the day after my birth.

The other Naomi Ruth Stevens Lindley was born in Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1915..she is my first cousin. Her parents had migrated from Kansas, and she was their last born child. Not much is known to me about her. From 1942 to 1946, she was a first lieutenant in the U. S. Army Nurses Corps. She preciously had cared for others as a public health nurse so caring and nurturing were part of her spirit. Her pioneer spirit shown forth when she was willing to be a woman in the military. She met and married her husband John while serving her country. She lived until the age of 80 and is buried in a military cemetery.Naomi Ruth Stevens

Same name…same charisma…same fortitude…remarkable and remembered.