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Archive for May, 2008

I was first introduced to the concept of “swimming” when I was just a wee little one.  Here’s a bathing suit, there’s the water, stick your feet in.  Something like that.  As a young child I had various experiences with water.  I had a small, child’s pool that during the summer Mom and Dad filled up with water.  She’d put my hair up in pin curls so it wouldn’t get wet.  My hair was so curly and unmanageable that she’d do anything to keep it from getting wet and frizzy.  There was also hotel swimming pools as Mom and Dad traveled a lot before I started school and we were always staying at hotels with pools.  Then there was the lake in Michigan.  My uncle (Glen Johnson, Jr.) lived in the old Kellogg mansion off Lake Goguac.  Every summer we would visit my aunt and uncle I would want to go “swimming”.  My excitement always faded with those first steps into that lake.  I wasn’t thrilled to feel the sand and muck on my bare feet.  I especially didn’t like it when fish swam by.

 

I was about six when my parents decided to put in a backyard swimming pool.  A genuine pool!  Below ground, 17×36 with a shallow end of 3 feet and a deep end of 8 feet, including a diving board.  Wow!  I remember that it seemed to take forever for them to dig the pool, shape it out, put in the metal frame, line it with a vinyl liner, and get the walkway poured and tiled.  Then an 8 foot chain link fence was erected around the whole thing to which my parents put out a call to family members.  Whoever wanted to swim in the pool needed to come and help finish everything.  We had quite a few family members show up to help!  We put slats in the chain link fence which made it very hard for the neighbors to peer into our pool area.  We had a gate with a lock so no one could help themselves to a swim.  Finally it was finished.  But it wasn’t warm enough yet to try.  Then I came home from school one day in April and my parents asked me if I wanted to swim.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  The water was cold – barely warm enough to stay in for any length of time.

 

That first summer my parents tried to teach me to swim or at least learn how to hold my breath to go under water.  No dice!  No one was going to hold me on my stomach while I tried to perfect the technique of swimming.  It wasn’t until a neighbor boy was over and showed me that he could swim.  No boy was going to show me up!  From that moment on, I swam!  I jumped into the deep end from the diving board and used the side of the pool to learn to dive.  I was in that pool every moment possible!  A couple years later I became part of the “Flying Fish” swim team at the base.  I spent a couple afternoons a week learning new techniques – the butterfly stroke, the breast stroke, swimming backwards, dog paddling, swimming underwater and for my first race I had to use the butterfly stroke.  Swimming was my life and I was good at it!

 

The pool became “the” place for family and friend gatherings.  Sometimes we found out just who our real friends were.  Did they want to visit with us or did they just want to swim in the pool?  My parents hosted family reunions that always involved swimming or being out by the pool.  I stayed so tan that my bronze glow didn’t dim even during the long winter months in Ohio.  As I grew older, I learned how to skim the water for leaves and other stuff, test the pH and chemical levels, and tried to learn how to actually clean and backwash the pool to keep the filter running smoothly.  So it came as a great disappointment when we had to move when I was 15.  The house, the half acre lot, the pool – all of it was becoming way too expensive for my divorced mother to keep up with.  I’m sure she was also thinking of a time down the road when I’d leave home and then there wouldn’t be anyone to help her mow the grass, do the housework, or take care of the pool.  Unfortunately my swimming suffered as well.  Spoiled as I was by having a backyard pool that I didn’t have to share with anyone I didn’t want to share it with, I decline invitations to the community pools.  People there just want to sit, splash and play.  I want to swim and dive.  I don’t want to see other people in their bathing suits (or lack of them).  In a way child hood with its lack of worries and woes, ended when we moved from that house. 

 

Picture 1: Backyard Pool; Picture 2: Dad and I in the pool; Picture 3: Family Reunion – my nephew (in life vest), Aunt Margaret, friend Nancy, and me (chasing beach ball).

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The summer months signal the end of the school year, the smell of chlorine as we spend time at our backyard or community pools, the sound of ice cubes melting in the tall glasses of water or iced tea, and the call of our nomadic beginnings as we think about travel plans.

Many families will travel from several locations to the “old homestead” or a centralized location for the annual Family Reunion.  Fundraisers may have been held to help pay for the festivities.  Extra hours worked for the overtime pay in order to purchase the airline or bus tickets or to put that (high priced) gas in the tanks of vehicles.  Invitations via email or internet message boards have been sent or posted and replies received.  Luggage will be packed and travel “entertainment” chosen for the young ones.  Genealogy information has been downloaded, compiled and printed out to be shared.  Photo CDs have been copied for those who have requested them.  The agenda for the reunion has been planned – probably a catered meal or pot luck; games to enjoy; a side trip to the cemetery, homestead or Civil War Battlefield; and the business meeting – how much in the reunion treasury, recording of the births, marriages, divorces, and deaths of the past year, a formal portrait of the participants, the planning of the date and place for the next reunion; and then the good-byes.

For those who have never attended a family reunion or can’t understand why anyone would care who their third cousin twice removed is, this is a mystery they really can’t fathom.  For those who have enjoyed or endured at least one family reunion, there was at least one thing that happened that has stuck with them.  Possibly it was trying to hide from a cousin who always has picked on you or being excited to see your favorite aunt.  Maybe there was a terrible storm and rained everyone out of the picnic area.  Or you collected recipes of dishes you’ve been dying to have.  Or you discovered other relatives have the same interests you do and now live close to you.  There is something for everyone.

My experience with reunions was (as the Carpenter’s song goes) Long Ago and Far Away.  As a child I attended at least four reunions a year.  One was a reunion of my dad’s siblings (the descendents of Lloyd and Ella Amore).  We would meet at one of the brother’s or sister’s home for a weekend of food, fun, laughter, drinking (if you were of legal age), poker, singing (courtesy of two of my cousins), puppet shows (courtesy of my Aunt Marie), and arguing from someone!  I remember reunions at my Uncle Paul’s and Uncle Gail’s (both in Detroit), my Aunt Gertie’s (in Zanesville, Ohio), my Uncle Norman’s (in Chicago), and my childhood home in Beavercreek, Ohio.  One of my dad’s brothers, Bervil, made it to (I think) one of the reunions but generally just stayed away.  Most of the pictures I have of the siblings don’t include him – so instead of seven there is only six.  One other thing I remember very clearly was there was a scrapbook or photo book that everyone spent time looking at and reminiscing about.  I don’t remember any pictures that were in that book – I do have photos of people looking at it.  I believe my cousin has that book and unfortunately no one has been able to obtain the rights to even look at it in the last 35+ years. 

The second reunion was the Amore-Baker reunion (formerly Amore-Wertz) reunion.  These were the descendents of Henry and Annie Amore and their daughter Clemmie and her husband Benjamin Baker.  We would meet every August at the Coshocton Fairgrounds at the Grange for a day or eating, meeting, and playing.  I remember one year (one of the last I attended before my parents’ divorce), I was enthralled watching some other girls about my age playing across the way.  I asked my mom if I could go play with them and she told me they were related to me.  Unfortunatley I don’t remember their names or who they “belonged” to.  They were part of my great-aunt’s clan of Bakers.  I thought it was sad that our two halves of the family never ate together or met together.  We were just sort of at the same spot.

The third reunion I attended was my Grandmother’s family.  This was the Wilt Reunion and we would travel from our home in Southwestern Ohio across the Indiana border to Noblesville.  It was at the same place every year except the last few I heard about.  Up the hill was an elementary school with a playground.  That’s normally where I would spend most of my day instead of listening to the business meetings or folks trying to “entertain” everyone with their singing or joke telling.  As a child, I wasn’t much interested in how anyone was related to anyone else.  I knew who my first cousins were and I even knew who my mother’s first cousins were and who my grandmother’s siblings were.  The rest of them sort of got lost in the crowd.  One year the Wilt reunion was held at my Grandparent’s apartment party room and pool area.  I wasn’t able to attend as I was already living far from home.  Another year it was held at my brother’s home.  I showed up pregnant with my second child which no one had heard about yet.  I just remember that my mother didn’t attend that year.

The fourth reunion I attended was as an older child and teen.  It was my grandfather’s maternal side – the Johnson – Blazer reunion.  My great-grandmother – who I wrote about in Katie’s Story - was Katie J. Blazer.  We met at the Glen Blazer home in Urbana, Ohio or at our home in Beavercreek.  Glen was the son of Katie’s brother – making him my grandfather’s first cousin.  He and his sister, Ada, were the last of my grandfather’s first cousins, whom my grandfather knew about, who were around.

The last reunion I attended was a Cousin’s Reunion designated as such for we are all cousins and descendents of my maternal grandparents, Glen and Vesta (Wilt) Johnson.  We met the summer following my brother’s death at my first cousin’s home in Ohio.  Three of us who live in other states (my sister and I and the daughter of a cousin) were the only “out of towner’s” to attend.  Two other cousins and their scattered children were unfortunately not able to attend.  Needless to say we didn’t have a business meeting or any agenda to decide how often we wanted to “reunite”.  Several of us started the day out by caravaning to the cemetery where our grandparents and my mom’s baby sister are buried and to the cemetery where my aunt and her husband are buried.  We took dozens of pictures and ate a lot of good food.  There were eight of us “first cousins” and now that my brother is gone, there is seven.  The last time all eight of us were together was my grandparents’ 50th anniversary in 1966 at their home in Kettering, Ohio.  Since then, at least one of us haven’t been able to attend an event.

This year, as you prepare or plan for the big reunion or family event, make sure you make your list of what you want to get out of it.  Do you want to digitally record each family member sharing a story or a memory?  Do you want photos of the whole gang or just the principal family members or the patriarch/matriarch with separate families?  Do you want to share family history research?  Visit a prominent spot of your family history or ancestory?  Then how do you stay in touch the rest of the year? 

Family reunions are important.  It’s a way to connect and actually meet those who share the same ancestors.  However, what’s most important is how do we keep those connections?  We can cultivate them through frequent phone calls, individual visits, or email/snail mail.  One reason is because – someday that family photo book may belong to the individual who has felt “outcast” from the family and you may never see it again!

(Pictures: Top – My dad & his siblings minus my Uncle Bervil; Detroit 1967; Bottom – Amore Sibling Reunion at my house with most everyone in the picture).

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One of the items that I treasure is the Christening Gown my great-grandmother Katie J. (Blazer) Johnson hand made.  I first saw this gown when I was in high school and needed something that had been passed down through the family for an oral report.  Mom dug it out of the storage trunk and handed me the box.  Inside was this off-white gown and some pictures.  In the old photos were babies wearing this gown: my grandfather – Glen R. Johnson; his son – Glen R. Johnson, Jr.; my aunt – Genevieve; and my mother.  I’m not really sure they were all actually baptized or “christened” in this gown as I have other documents and oral histories about each one being baptized as an older child.

The gown is actually in 2 parts.  The slip which is plain gets put on the baby first and then the “dress” goes over that.  It has hand tatted lace and exquisite handiwork.  There are been some rust stains scattered here and there and Mom actually soaked the dress is carbonated water to remove most of them (old laundry hint!).

The dress remained at my mother’s and when it was time for my nephew’s first child to be baptized, the gown came out of storage and used.  When my first born grandson was to be baptized at six weeks, my mother shipped the box from Ohio to Texas to me.  Then my youngest grandson also wore the gown at 2 months when he was baptized.  The Christening Gown has been worn by 3 out of five generations (I don’t believe any of us – children of my mom, aunt or uncle or our children - have worn the gown).  It truly is a treasure that I will keep for future babies to use.

(Picture is of my youngest grandson wearing the gown at his baptism in October 2006.)

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As referenced in the post “A Butcher, A Baker, a . . . Harness Maker?” my family consists of several ministers.  My great-uncle, Rollo Werts Amore, was commissioned in the Salvation Army in 1918.  He performed many duties as an officer in the “Army”.  One of those was to officiate at my parents’ wedding in 1943.  He retired as a Senior Major in 1950 after serving in several Ohio cities.

My dad’s first cousin, Raymond E. Amore, son of Herbert Irwin Amore, went to seminary and received his theology degree in 1953 from the Olivet Nazarene College in Illinois.  He served the Warsaw Church of the Nazarene for about three years and the Hebron Church of the Nazarene for at least ten years.

My dad’s sister, my Aunt Marie, went to the Salvation Army Training College in New York in the late 1930’s and became an officer.  She is currently (I believe) a Major.

 A great-niece of my maternal great-grandmother went to school at the Ursuline Academy in San Antonio in the early 1930’s and went on to take her vows and become a nun.  A first cousin of mine was all but short of taking her final vows to become a nun when she and a man about to take his final vows to become a priest ended up getting married.  They serve the Lord now as lay persons in their parish.

My great-uncle, Isaiah “Zade” Henderson Amore, was a minister in the United Evangelical Church and the Methodist Church.

 

My paternal side – the Amore and House families – was pretty consistent on what churches they attended and the denominations they affiliated with.  William Amore – the first of my family of Amore ancestors I have located – attended the Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Coshocton County before switching over to the Salvation Army.  That became the primary denomination within that family although others attended churches that were Baptist, Methodist or Nazarene.  One thing is for certain – there was a calling within members of the Amore family to attend seminary or theological training to minister to others.  My House ancestors primarily were affiliated with the Nazarene Church.  My paternal grandmother, Ella House Amore, devoted much of her life to the Nazarene Church. 

The Johnson family on my maternal side was primarily of the Reformed or Christian faith.  In 1957 the Evangelical and Reformed churches and the Congregational and Christian Churches merged to form one denomination – the United Church of Christ – of which I have been a member since my confirmation in the mid-1970s. 

The Stern side of my maternal branch came from the old German Dunkards or the Church of the Brethren.  The men grew their beards and were conservatively dressed in dark clothes.  The women didn’t cut their hair, wore no make-up, little or no jewelry, and wore modest dresses and covered their heads.  They didn’t conform to the world’s ways nor didn’t allow instruments in worship.  They frowned on those who enjoyed frivolity for its own sake or women who dressed “immodestly”, and those who enjoyed alcoholic drinks. 

 

In my previous post, I questioned how our ancestors’ views on religion and faith shaped our lives and the lives of their descendents.  I can only say for sure how my grand and great-grandparents’ views have played a part in my own life.  From the more conservative traditions of the Brethren, I was taught by words and actions that your reputation can be ruined just by one improper deed.  That a person could and probably would be judged by the way they dressed, wore their hair, how they spent their leisure time, and talked to their elders.  I learned at a very early age to speak to those older than I with respect and that persons in authority were to be held in high regard.

My father with both the Salvation Army and Nazarene background, attended some sort of church or religious service more days of the week than not.  He learned by listening to the strict doctrine of what to do, what not to do, how to behave, how not to behave and then once leaving the place of worship seeing all those rules broken, that there is much hypocrisy within the church.  To hear a sermon on how to love everyone and that God should be the only judge and then being faced with gossip and judgments behind others’ backs, was what prompted him as he got old enough to decide that organized religion wasn’t for him.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t ever been able to find that “happy medium”. 

 

My mother’s sister converted to Catholicism upon her marriage so many of my cousins are members of the Catholic Church.  From that, I’ve learned tolerance for other denominations.

 

While the United Church of Christ (UCC) seems quite liberal, there are many congregations that are still very conservative.  Our Synod meets every two years and votes on items that have come up for review.  Some of those items are very controversial and unfortunately the press reports on the votes as if the delegates at Synod are speaking for the entire UCC – they are not.  Our denomination is autonomous on each level.  The Synod doesn’t tell the prior levels what the “creed” is, the Conference level doesn’t speak for the Association or the individual congregations nor does the Association speak for the churches within it.  In the UCC we are primarily free to follow our Christian faith based on our previous faith experiences.  My congregation consists of families whose members have come from different denominations yet neither will “give in” to the other’s creed or doctrine. 

No, I do not keep my head covered as my great-great-grandmother, Nancy Caylor Stern, did.  Nor do I wear remarkably conservative dresses.  I do wear (sometimes) flashy jewelry and I enjoy hearing the piano, organ or other instruments during Worship.  I like to dance and just have fun – just for the sake of having fun.  However, I respect my elders (and not just those who are related to me), I strive to serve the Lord in word and deed, and I hope my actions speak toward my reputation.

For it is not those around us who will have to judge us – but the Lord, Our God, has that final say on our lives.  He is the One who knows my heart and He is the One I serve.

For more information on the denominations from above click on any of the following:

 

 

United Church of Christ (UCC)

Dunkard Brethren

Church of the Brethren

United Methodist Church

Methodist Episcopal Church

Reformed Church

Evangelical Church

United Evangelical Church

The Salvation Army

(Picture 1: Rollo Werts Amore; Picture 2: my Aunt Marie; Picture 3: Isaiah (Zade) H. Amore; Picture 3: Central Christian Church, Anderson, Indiana where my Great-grandparents John & Katie Johnson were members; Picture 4: Nancy Caylor Stern with her grandchildren, John and Clarence Wilt) 

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Whether or not you are a religious person or attend any religious service on a regular basis, it is a known fact that our ancestors’ religious views shaped our heritage.  Persecution due to their views concerning God, Christ, Buddha, Nature, or Atheism defined where they lived, where they traveled, how they dressed, who they married, what they celebrated, and even how many or how few children they had.

 

Everyone who has attended a U.S. History class in high school or college knows some of the reasons the Pilgrims chose to leave King George’s England for the shores of the New World.  They wanted to practice their own brand of religion – not one dictated by the King.  We all know the atrocities committed during WWII against the Jewish people because of their race and their beliefs.  During the Cold War we heard the stories of how people were fleeing their homes from behind the Iron Curtain in order to continue to practice their religion.  We also know how divided the country has become over the right to prayer in schools, the right of some members of religions to stop work and pray several times a day, and what exactly our forebearers meant as they worded the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 

 

If you have traveled through Lancaster, Pennsylvania or any of the Amish or Mennonite communities in the Midwest, you’ve seen the men driving their horse and buggies, perhaps tasted the bounty of their harvests in the Farmer’s Market, or heard the stories of “rumspringa” when the Amish teens are allowed to live amongst the outside world for a period of time.

 

Maybe you’ve taken a trip and followed the “Mormon Trail” and heard the stories of the difficulties Joseph Smith’s followers had as they set up their homes at each new place before finally moving farther west and transforming Salt Lake City into their own.  All because they believed in their religion so passionately.

 

How we celebrate holidays certainly extends from traditions that we were accustomed to as we grew up.  Christian church services on Christmas Eve?  Good Friday Mass?  Passover Seder?  Fasting for Ramadan?  There are other traditions as well – arranged marriages, bris for newborn male children, a menorah lit during Hanukkah, sitting “shiva” upon a death, not eating meat during Lent . . . all of these are a part of our vastly different heritages and ancestry.

 

When you are doing your research, make sure to learn what you can about the places of worship your ancestors attended (or didn’t attend), what type of community they lived in (melting pot or one made up of similar race and culture), what their celebratory or holiday traditions were, and also if they converted to a different religion (Christian/Jew; Catholic/Protestant; Christian/Atheist; Wicca/Christian; etc.) and why.  Did they emigrate from their home country to America for religious reasons?  Did they migrate from one place in America to a different one – such as the Mormons did? 

 

This information will give you a little more detail into your ancestors’ lives and the ideals they had.  What beliefs and traditions are you passing on to your children or grandchildren?  Do they reflect your religious beliefs or non-beliefs?  Do you want to allow your children to grow up learning and practicing all different forms of traditions and beliefs so they can choose for themselves where they fit in the grand scheme of things?  Do you have relatives or ancestors who were “cast out” of their parental home due to a religious conversion?  Dig deeper to see if you can grasp the bigger picture.

 

My next post will reflect my ancestral religious roots. 

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As a young child growing up in a “growing-out-of-a-rural-farmland-township” in Southwestern Ohio, my parents owned a home on a half-acre lot.  We didn’t have privacy fences or alarm systems.  We knew every one of our neighbors on our street, some of them behind us, and knew everything about them.  Our township had once been rural – farmlands spread out, creeks gurgling as the water traveled over rocks and banks.  In fact several of the towns in Greene County around us had names associated with water in them.  I lived in Beavercreek.  There was also Ceasars Creek Township, Silver Creek Township, Spring Valley, Sugar Creek Township, Bellbrook, and Yellow Springs.

My parents loved to garden.  In one corner of the backyard was our vegetable garden.  I remember being able to eat tomatoes right off the vine.  They were warm from the Ohio summer sun, the juice and seeds running down my hands and arms after taking a big bite from them.  No other tomato has tasted as good.  Then there were the peas.  Right out of the shell, raw and full of flavor.  The most amazing thing I ever ate.  There were also the green onions, bell peppers, and other assorted vegetables. 

In the opposite corner was my mom’s flower garden.  Black-eyed Susans, snap-dragons, poseys in many different colors transformed that area into a sea of beauty.  Mom would tenderly clip flowers and place in vases scattered throughout our home.  We always had fresh flowers every spring and summer.  There were other flowers and plants that Mom and Dad planted.  The peonies (which I never pronounced right until I got older – I always called them “pennies”!) that sat at our property line between our yard and our next door neighbor’s yard.  The lilac bush that produced beautiful purple blossoms every year.  The Japanese Gingko tree with the funny looking green leaves.  The “christmas tree” evergreen and blue spruce trees in our front yard.  The honey suckle plant that snaked itself around the trellis at the side of the yard by the garage.  The snowball bush with the white blossoms that truly did look like snowballs.  The lilies that bloomed every Easter underneath our front picture window.  Pots and pots of geraniums that when the red petals began to fall, it looked like a red carpet.  The marigolds that bloomed early.  The crocuses that foretold winter was over.  The tulips that lined our sidewalk.  The ivy that crawled up the side of the house.  All of these were testaments to my mother’s talent for nurturing plants and flowers.  I did not inherit her green thumb!

Until I started growing flowers (or had them given to me), I never understood the fascination my Dad had for taking photos of them.  I have so many pictures of flowers, of my former child self holding a flower, smelling the flower, standing next to flowers.  But now, I too, take pictures of the flowers.  Living things that won’t last but a season if I’m lucky.  To hold on to the memory and the moment of that beauty, I get my digital camera out and snap pictures.  Two things that tie me to those summer days of my childhood, the flowers and the pictures of them.

(Having a bit of trouble uploading pictures.  Check out the flickr site to the right).

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Please make sure you go to Creative Gene: 48th Carnival of Genealogy” if you haven’t already and read all the amazing stories.  This CoG’s topic was “Mom, how’d you get so smart?”.  My contribution is listed there too!  Thanks, Jasia, for hosting these wonderful Carnivals.  Please leave comments on those posts you read and let others know how much you enjoyed reading about their moms (or mothers-in-law!).  And if you would like to contribute to any of the CoG’s – bookmark the Creative Gene blog and stay tuned for the call for submissions. 

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I was very excited several months ago when I came across “Google Books” - especially since there are many books that you can see the Full Preview.  If there are any other search engine sites that have this feature – please alert me so I can check them out as well. 

If you type “genealogy” into the search box at Google Books, there are 49,700 hits – some are full books, others are Limited or Snippet previews.  For myself (as an example), I want to see full books so in the box next to the word “showing” – I want to use the scroll down menu to show “Full View Only”.  Then the hits are 12,300.  Still too many to look at.  I’m interested in Indiana Genealogy so I qualify by search terms to “Indiana genealogy”.  That only shows 1 item – not anything I am interested in.  Let’s take the quotes out and see what happens.  Without the quotes it returned 1032 hits.

Try it with surnames that you are researching.  When I research my HOUSE ancestors, I actually have to add a first name or I’ll get a lot of hits having to do with actually houses.  Let’s try “Lazarus House” (my 3rd great-grandfather).  I receive 53 hits with that search term.  Some of them are talking about “the” Lazarus House which seems to be a hospital or clinic.  Others are talking about the Biblical Lazarus’ home.  These hits: “New England Historical and Genealogical Register”, “Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society”, “Genealogy of the Loveland Family”, “Glastenbury for Two Hundred Years” - all mention my ancestor. 

I’ve also tried it with “Madison County History” Indiana, “Brown County” Ohio, and others.  It’s another good research tool to be used.

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Ohio Genealogy Blog

I just came across the Ohio Genealogy Blog – probably have seen it before.  However, I wanted to provide the link here – just in case you would like to go digging around.

http://genealogyohio.blogspot.com/

 

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Stories have filtered down through the family that my great-grandmother, Frances, was left on a doorstep as a baby. Her maiden name has been reported as Ogan – according to her husband’s, James House’s, application for invalid pension and her obituary – and Ogelvey – according to my dad and her son, (Alva) Lester House. Where did Frances come from? Obviously she wasn’t dropped to earth by the proverbial aliens! Was she left on a doorstep? Or did she get “farmed” out as so many children did back in the mid to late 1800′s due to financial reasons? Another theory leans to the fact that one of her parents died (or both) and she was brought up by relatives, god-parents, or neighbors.
Born on November 29, 1846, her obituary states that Frances was born in Guernsey, Ohio so that is where the census search began. She was found in the 1850 Census in Richhill Township, Muskingum County, Ohio living in the Evan & Susannah Ogan household at age 3 – her name is listed as Francis Foster. In the 1860 Guernsey census, Frances Foster (female), age 13, was living in the home of Evan and Susannah Ogan – both in their 70′s. In 1870, Frances Ogan, age 23, was living at a local hotel as a cook. After that she is found living in the House home. It is still unknown if the Frances in either of the 1850 or 1860 censuses is the woman being searched for – although her age matches with what is known. Evan and Susannah Ogan may have been related to Frances or another thought is she married their son or grandson before 1870 and he either died or the marriage ended. It has also been reported that she went by “Frankie” and her middle name was Virginia. Except for the census reports, most of these theories are conjecture and not to be taken as documented proof.

Frances daughter, Ella (my paternal grandmother), had auburn hair and since her father, James E. House, had dark hair and a dark complexion, it is possible that Frances had either auburn hair or was brunette with auburn undertones.  Ella is the only one documented to have auburn hair until her great-granddaughter (my niece) came along.

Frances’ son, Lester House, wrote a letter to my aunt detailing what he could about his mother’s mysterious origins.  It reads in part, “My mother was born some place near Cambridge, Ohio, her name was Frances Oglevey. As to her parents I don’t know much about. She was raised all around the County. She had to go out and work when she was only a child. The last place she worked over there was with people by the name of Blackson.”

In her adult years, there is more that is known.  When my grandfather’s first wife, Barbara Shyrock, died leaving him with three little ones under the age of six, he employed Frances as his housekeeper and possible nanny to the children while he worked.  Nine months after Barbara died, Frances and James had their first son.  One month later, they were married.  I often wonder what their explanation for that could have been!  I also wonder how long James had known Frances before Barbara died.  It isn’t known how Barbara died – whether she’d been ill for awhile or if it was sudden.  Possibly if she had been unable to tend the home, James may have employed Frances prior to his wife’s death. 

The couple went on to have seven more children.  One son, Elmer, died at the age of four.  Another son, Charles, died at age 12 in a farm accident.  One daughter, Julia, died during childbirth at age 27.  Frances had to endure so many losses – not only those of her children, but of her foster parents, Evan and Susannah.  She had to sit by while her oldest son, Florus (named after James’ father), had symptoms of “lung fever” at age 15, was hurt in a mining accident a few years later, and was sent to serve during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Did she ever wonder about her parents or did she accept the life she had been given?

Her obituary claims that she was a well known woman throughout the city of Coshocton and that her death brought much sorrow to many hearts.

Perhaps my great-grandmother’s origins will never be solved but then again, she may be just waiting to be found.  It’s just a matter of time.

(Left: Gravestone of James E. and Frances V. House, Prairie Chapel Cemetery, Coshocton County, Ohio)

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