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Archive for May 14th, 2008

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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For the 48th Carnival of Genealogy the theme is: Mom, how’d you get so smart?  The challenge was to write about how Mom got so smart whether it was through book learning, self-study courses, or the school of hard knocks. 

My mother is primarily a very private person, and it took me three tries to write something that I think she would approve of just in case someone she knows reads this and tells her!  She hasn’t always been a hero to me – just ask my teen-age self 20+ years ago!  But as a mother with four grown children now, I look back on what my mother has endured over her 80+ years and realized just what a hero really means.  So here’s my take on what made my mother so brilliant in my eyes.

Highest School Attended: High School – received diploma in 1939.

 Domestic Skills: Learned the basics from her mother – cooking, cleaning, sewing, running a household

 

Parenting: Dr. Spock wasn’t around when Mom started having babies so she learned on the spot with some sage advice from her parents.

 

What College Might Have Meant: Had Mom gone on to college, she probably would have made one heck of a great CPA.  She could do bookkeeping and math in her sleep.  During her employment in Civil Service she moved quickly up through the job grades because of her accounting ability.  It also meant that later in life when she had to leave a job she didn’t want to leave, the company had to replace her with two people.

 

Unique Skills and Talents: Mom was the best seamstress I have ever met.  I didn’t say “designer”.  She could look at a pattern and know how to tweak it to make it fit a person the right way.  Shoulder seams where they were supposed to be (not halfway down the upper arms), the inseam just right (not too tight or loose), the hem perfect all the way around.  Nothing she ever made fell apart or ripped at the seams (unless the person tried really hard to rip it).  She’s the only woman I know who will walk into a department store, turn the clothes inside out to see if they are “made right”.  Most of the time – they weren’t.  She made most of my clothes when I was growing up.  I’d complain because I wanted to wear “store-bought” clothes.  True to Mom’s word, when I do that now – I see myself coming and going.  Most of my clothes became hand-me-downs to my niece, who is 6 years younger than me and some of those clothes I got back for my own daughters!  And the seams and stitching were all still in perfect condition.

 

Other Handicrafts: Mom wanted to knit so my dad bought her this big knitting machine that she had to take classes to learn to use.  But the things that she produced from that machine were amazing!  She taught herself needlepoint as a grown woman and that became a passion for her.  She didn’t just stitch “samplers” – she’d find the most elaborate needlepoint designs and when they were finished, had my brother frame them.  They truly are works of art!  She was also making all sorts of things when I was growing up: a Christmas wreath in pinecones or folded newspapers spray painted gold, hand painted Christmas ornaments, embroidered items, she’d arrange flowers like a professional florist – she was like that home decor goddess with the initials of MS – only BETTER!

 

Flying: Mom learned to fly when my parents lived in Japan (Dad was stationed there twice in the ‘50s).  At that time and in that place and thanks to the NCO Flying Club, lessons and pilot licenses weren’t that hard to obtain.  It was amazing to watch an insurance salesman almost fall off his chair when he asked her if she had a pilot’s license and went to mark the box “no” when she said “yes.”  He stared at her in amazement until she produced said license for him.  True, by then, she hadn’t flown in a number of years.  But it was still amazing and I was filled with admiration that she could “awe” someone else!

 

Fixing a Car: When Mom faced the future without a husband (or a male family member who knew much about auto engines), she enrolled in an Adult Community Class that taught basic mechanics to women.  No mechanic was going to pull the wool over her eyes.  It came in handy a few times when she actually showed the mechanic what was wrong for him to fix!

 

Pop Culture: If I hadn’t been a late in life baby, Mom would probably still be ignorant of so many pop culture influences.  I was (and still am) a huge fan of Alice Cooper.  Of course in the 70s, most parents thought he was evil incarnate.  I actually made my points clear enough that Mom not only likes some of his softer songs but watches him whenever he plays golf! 

 

Sports:  Mom played on her high school basketball team (still has the scars to prove it!), played golf for recreation, tunes in to pro baseball and college football and basketball games.  She is up on the all stats and knows who the up and comers are.

 

 

 

Religion: Mom was raised in the Evangelical and Reformed Church (which has since merged with the Congregational Christian churches to become the United Church of Christ).  She attends every Sunday that she is able to and has attended many adult Bible or study classes.  She’s served on the church’s council and as a delegate to their association and conference meetings.  She reads her devotionals every morning and has listened to or watched services on the radio or television. 

 

Languages: During their years in Japan, Mom learned quite a bit of the Japanese language.  I grew up hearing phrases that became standard vernacular in our household.  She learned more about the culture, language and people of Japan by living it.

 

Teacher: Without college or a degree, Mom couldn’t be a teacher.  Yet, she served as a substitute teacher many times at my elementary school and was a Girl Scout leader for many years.  My friends always wanted to be at my house instead of their own because Mom, through her words and actions, cared enough about them to teach them right from wrong.  Even after I’d left home for another state, many of my friends continued to visit Mom seeking her advice and counsel.

 

My mother may not have gone on to college or higher education, but she has learned through doing and experiencing.  If not for the low points in her life, she wouldn’t be the same person she is today.  If not for the happiest moments of her life, she wouldn’t have raised three children to “live today like it’s your last”.  She is a storyteller, a confidante, a friend, a teacher, a world traveler, a cook, a seamstress, a pilot, an accountant, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a grandmother, and a wonderful Mom!

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