I never got to meet my mom’s older sister. She passed away three and a half years before I was born. Genevieve Vesta Johnson was born on June 9, 1920 in Anderson, Indiana. She married John F. Steffen in May 1942. My aunt was a nurse – a profession that her granddaughter and great-granddaughter also chose – women she never got to meet. Aunt Genevieve died on Friday, May 2, 1958 in Dayton, Ohio. Her funeral was held at St. Anthony’s in Dayton. She was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Kettering, Ohio. She was survived by her two young daughters and son as well as her husband, her parents, a brother (my Uncle Glen) and her sister (my mom) along with two nieces and two nephews. She was always remembered and spoken of very often.
Archive for the ‘Life and Death’ Category
Posted in Life and Death, personal, Photographs, stories, Travel Thursday, tagged Air Force, Air Force Academy, Alexander, Arizona, California, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Disneyland, Grand Canyon, Ohio, Schuster, travel, Travel Thursday, vacation, Victorville on August 2, 2012 | 1 Comment »
So sorry that there has been a bit of a lag between Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. This should be the final chapter of what I call “My Trip Out West” – or as the title suggests – “Over the Rainbow.” After all, I was only four years old – almost five. So everything about this trek from Ohio to the Pacific Ocean and back was magical!
In the last installment, Mom, Dad, and I were finishing up our time at Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and Marine Land in California. From there we drove to Victorville, California which sits on the edge of the Mojave Desert in San Bernadino County.
We spent September 21 and 22 at the home of Captain and Mrs. H.B. Alexander, friends of my parents. September 21 was my mother’s birthday. I thoroughly believed my mom was 29 because as is common, once she passed a “certain” birthday milestone, she always said she was only 29. Wow – imagine my surprise a couple of years later when I realized that she was much older than 29! I was also confused when I realized my grandparents were also in the area! They were on a tour of the western United States as well and it was probably by design that they were able to celebrate their daughter’s birthday.
Leaving the Alexander home, we traveled to the Grand Canyon. Breathtaking, beautiful, scenic, awesome are only a few words to describe what a magnificent wonder it is. When we had left California, the temperature was over 100 but as we got to the rim of the Canyon, the temperature had a drop of over 40 degrees. I remember wearing a sweater as we stood gazing out over such a majestic sight.
Leaving the Grand Canyon, we drove northeast toward Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy. We stayed with the R.G. Schuster family and toured the Academy.
While there we saw 1800 cadets marching in formation and the beautiful Chapel. It is one building I will never forget being inside. On September 26 our western trip was complete and we began the drive back to Ohio, arriving on September 28.
There are many things I remember very well about the trip – items that weren’t part of a tour or a national park or a wonder of the world. Mom had packed a hot plate because even though we were able to stay in the homes of so many family and friends, we were also in a lot of motels! The hot plate enabled her to heat up oatmeal for breakfast or a can of soup for lunch.
A lot of my breakfasts (when not at a home or in a restaurant) were Keebler Cinnamon Graham Crackers and milk (hey, I loved it and still eat it!!). I can remember restaurants we ate at or purchased food to go from: Jerry’s (I think it was like Denny’s), Kentucky Fried Chicken (before it went by it’s initials!), and Howard Johnson’s (which is a hotel chain but we’d eat at the restaurant). I remember laundry mats – and oh goodness, there were many laundry mats that Mom and I were at washing clothes. Well, she washed and dried, and I sat and watched. I believe a lot of them were a dime. Mom would always need dimes. I remember lying across the backseat of the Pontiac either sleeping or trying not to give in to my car sickness. Every once in awhile, Dad would rouse me so I could “see the sights” – something he knew that I just had to see! Except for the accident. I don’t know where it was but we were bumper to bumper on the road. As we got closer, and my parents saw the ambulance (back then, they looked like a hearse) and the emergency vehicles, my Dad realized that whatever it was – was very, very bad. He told me to keep lying down and not to look. I think later after I was older, Mom told me that it was a fatality and there was lots of blood. I also remember the little Wet Naps we always got – especially at KFC. And guess what I thought those little sudsy napkins were for? Cleaning the car windows!! That was a big mistake! Those windows I so carefully “cleaned” were loaded with streaks and probably were dirtier than when I started!
Oh – and going over the rainbow? Yes, I feel as if I certainly did! At one point, after my mother could not stand to listen to me asking if we were in Kansas and where was Dorothy’s house, she pointed to a run down farm house and said – “That’s Dorothy’s house!” I spent many years believing that I saw the actual house! (Ok, then I thought that maybe it was the “actual” house from the film until Mom told me she just could not stand to hear me ask that question one more time!) So I don’t know if we were in Kansas (which would have been on the way back to Ohio – so I think we were probably in Montana or Idaho when she did that!). I was young enough to see Disneyland as a child would but old enough to be able to remember quite a bit about that trip. And I have tons of pictures to help me remember!
I hope you have enjoyed my Travel Thursday series of Over the Rainbow! I hope to begin a new series soon!
Personal knowledge and written description published in the Beavercreek News (Beavercreek, Ohio), Oct. 19, 1966.
Wikipedia Article online for “Victorville California”, 27 July 2012.
Photo of Cinnamon Graham Crackers: Keebler.com, 2012. Kellogg.
Photo of Rainbow: Rainbow in the sky by Jonathon Coombes (Public Domain)
All Other Photos taken by Gene or Mary Amore, digital or original slide/print owned by Wendy J Littrell, address for private use.
Copyright for this blog post 2011 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog
In April of this year, one of my distant relatives (by blood – close by choice!), sent me an email to let me know that she had ordered a 67-marker DNA test from Family Tree so that her first cousin (again, a distant cousin to me) could take it in order to get some information on the ancestors of our ancestor – Jacob Johnson born December 11, 1787 in New Jersey. Johnson, according to Wikipedia, is the 2nd most common surname in the United States. Good Grief! At least it’s not Smith! My cousin told me that the Johnson project had 1000 members!
At the end of May, I received another communication from my cousin. She reported that the common 12 marker test showed that we belonged in Hapologroup R1b1a2 – common to Europe, the United Kingdom. That didn’t surprise me. The variation showed R1b1a2a1a1a – the country is “unidentified.” Good Grief!
Fast forward another month and a half to July, and more information came back – including the names of some other men who “matched” my distant cousin. Several emails have been traded back and forth and family information has been shared. However, there aren’t any known relationship between their ancestors and our Jacob Johnson. We did see that there are a lot of the same given names: Jacob, John, James, and William. But then again, those names are almost as commonplace as Johnson! Good Grief!
I have tons of information to try to sort out – I think I have finally straightened out all the emails so I have a way to read all of them without resorting to different folders in my email. Now, I just need to decide on a good way to sort out all of this information.
I do feel that I’m not “pulling my weight” as far as research right now. The gal who started the ball rolling on this DNA project and one of our other cousins, have been digging into tax lists, land records, and other types of documents to glean as much as they can out of them while I have been reading and feeling pretty overwhelmed! Perhaps once I am able to sort names, places, and dates, I’ll have a better handle on what still needs to be done!
Source: Family Tree DNA image from www.familytreedna.com, 2001-2012 Genealogy by Genetics, Ltd. 28 July 2012.
Source: Emails from Virginia Nuta: April 10, 2012; May 24, 2012; July 2, 2012.
Source: Johnson surname rank – Wikipedia.
Blog post copyright 2012 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog.
I found my paternal grandparents, Loyd and Ella (House) Amore, living at 1236 E. Vine Street in Tuscarawas Township of the City of Coshocton, County of Coshocton, Ohio, in the 1940 Census. They are the only occupants of the home that they are renting for $16 a month.
My grandfather, Loyd, appears to be the person who responded to the enumerator by way of a check mark at the beginning of his name. He is listed as the Head of the family and my grandmother, Ella, is listed as his wife. Both are shown to be White, and he gives his age as 58, with her age shown as 57. Grandpa was born on March 5, 1882, and Grandma was born June 22, 1882, so their ages match up. She was just a couple months away from being 58. They are shown as married. Their education was a little surprising for me. My grandfather completed the 8th grade whereas Grandma completed two years of high school. They were born in Ohio and resided in the same house in 1935. They are not living on a farm. Grandpa was at work for pay in his own business as a Painter for 32 hours during the week of March 24-30. He worked 52 weeks in 1939 for a total income of $1000 and did not receive money from other sources. My grandmother was enumerated as being at work in the home.
Other than the education information, none of the answers on my grandparents’ 1940 Census surprised me. What is sad for me is knowing that this would be the last census my grandmother would be enumerated because she died of breast cancer six years later. I would never get to know her and my sister was just a baby when she passed away. My grandfather would be enumerated in one more census: 1950, before he died in February 1955. How sad that he would be listed as a widower.
Now, if I can just locate them in the 1930 Census living at 720 S. Fifth (5th) Street in Coshocton, I’ll be all set!
When I began this quest to delve into family history, especially by creating a genealogical website and writing a blog, I knew that there would be three types of people that I’d run into. The “We Are Related!” people are those cousins – distant and close – who want to know what has been found and will share stories and pictures and be open. The “Why Bother?” people are those who do not understand what all the fascination is about dead ancestors or relatives that you’ve never met. Cemeteries bother them. Skeletons in the closet are NOT to be dug out. And don’t ask them any questions because they don’t remember – but (and this is a big but!) – they will respond to here and now topics – just not ones that have anything to do with genealogy. Then there are the “Not Talking To Anyone on THAT Side of the Family” because of real or imagined slights. And yes, this is real – this is current and this happened to me a few days ago. And since I am not one to shy away from controversial family skeletons or issues – although I will keep that person’s anonymity because of their children/grandchildren – who hopefully have nothing to do with their parent’s unbalanced nature!
My father comes from a large family – he is the youngest of seven. As is usual, coming at the end of the children meant that at least one or more of the siblings were already adults. Even though there was eighteen years difference between him and his oldest sibling, they grew close as adults – though the older one did seem to treat him as a “child” – probably because Sibling A took care of him quite a bit when he was an infant. Sibling A married, had children, and stayed somewhat close to their hometown. My dad joined the military, moved away, married, had children, visited often, moved out of the country, moved back to the home state (yet still far from the hometown), attended reunions, stayed closely connected to all the siblings, retired from the military and then had a child at middle age (that child being me!)
So as a child born when my father was 40, and he being the youngest of seven, most of my first cousins on the paternal side were much older – some were already married and Sibling A’s daughter – my oldest first cousin – was even a grandmother by the time I was a few years old. So not only were our ages a couple of generations apart but our interests were different, the times we lived through were different, and we lived a good distance apart. I saw this woman – whom I will call Cousin A – at least twice a year – sometimes three times. I never really had an opinion of her – she was just another adult who told me what to do, how to behave, and to play nice.
Several years down the road, my parents divorced. I didn’t see Cousin A after that due to circumstances that I had nothing to do with. I would hear about Sibling A and Cousin A from my dad but nothing earth shattering.
My dad remarried and after fifteen years plus, his wife passed away. About that time, he’d returned to where he had grown up to visit his few remaining siblings still in that area. Apparently, Cousin A was in the process of building a wall – brick by brick – between her parent – Sibling A and every one of the other Siblings – including my dad. Apparently, there was a lack of communication between my father and his sibling and the next thing anyone knew Cousin A was spreading gossip and rumors that my Dad treated Sibling A horribly. What?! So Dad decided that he was done – done trying to correct the wrong. He stopped speaking to his eldest sibling. Consequently, Sibling A with the help of Cousin A began to build a wall, too. Cousin’s A’s brother wasn’t even allowed to speak to his own mother! My dad’s sister, my Aunt Marie (who I’ve written about and spoken so fondly of), tried time and time again to reach out to Sibling A and even Cousin A but was treated horribly.
When Sibling A passed away in 2003, the obituary didn’t even list my dad or the other siblings still living. It was as if there weren’t anyone on that side of the family – that they were all “dead”. I guarantee that Cousin A’s brother wasn’t allowed to write that obituary because at the end Sibling A told the son, that there were many regrets – especially about cutting my dad out.
In the interim – since 1999 – I’ve mailed letters to other cousins on that side of the family and now enjoy wonderful relationships with first cousins. However, Cousin A has never written me back nor acknowledged my condolences when my dad’s sibling died. So a couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Cousin A’s cousin on the other side (no relation to me). I explained about the falling out and how I hadn’t had any contact with that person. So the very nice gal said she would contact Cousin A for me – and she did.
Imagine my surprise on Monday when I arrived home from work to find a letter from Cousin A! And guess what that letter basically said? That our side of the family never treated Sibling A right so therefore Cousin A wanted no contact.
And guess what else? I am just as stubborn as Cousin A so I will be sending a follow up letter because for one thing – I always treated Sibling A correctly and another – life is too short for grudges. I really want to build a bridge and tear down that wall!
On May 1, 2009 I lost my mother. Each year my sister and I have a beautiful silk arrangement placed in the vase on her grave. Since we are in Texas and the grave is in Ohio, I have to rely on the cemetery office to pick out the correct silk arrangement (made especially for the types of vases on the headstones) and make sure they are placed in the vase. I’ve requested a photo be taken and emailed to me so that I know it has been done. It’s also a way for me to see her grave since I’m so far away.
Mom was not a “pink” person – her signature color was red. So when I order the silk flowers, I make sure to stress that the flowers not be any shade of pink. They have to be mainly red. I think she’d appreciate this arrangement that was placed in April. These flowers will remain there until mid-November when the cemetery removes all flowers in the vases and puts the vases upside down so that way they don’t get water in them and freeze in the Ohio winter.
(Photo taken by staff at Glen Haven Cemetery, New Carlisle, Ohio on May 3, 2012 and emailed to Wendy Littrell, address held for private use).
Unless you have been living on another planet, then you know tomorrow marks the release of the 1940 U.S. Census. Many people hope to find their parents for the first time. My parents were both born before the 1930 census, and I found my mom as an 8-year old in that one. I still can’t find my dad or his parents.
Only a few States will be ready for indexing tomorrow. One is Oregon. My maternal great-grandmother, Martha Jane (Stern) Clawson was living in Lane county, Oregon. I have an address & enumeration district so I’m ready to roll on that one.
When more States are ready for indexing, I’d like to be able to work on Ohio because so many of my relatives were living there in the following counties: Greene, Coshocton, Champaign, and Muskingum.
Unfortunately, I won’t get to stay home and start at 9 a.m. (8 a.m. Texas time) because I’ll be in class & then at work until noon. But guess what I’ll be doing after I get home?
Happy 1940 census day!!!!
The USA Today article, Orphan Train Riders, Offspring Seek Answers About Heritage, (posted 25 Jan 2012) by Judy Keen, describes the search that descendents of those who rode the Orphan Trains in the early 20th century find themselves on. They want to find out more about those train riders, their parents, siblings, and heritage. Even some of the Orphan Train riders themselves are searching.
While researching my own family history, I came across two brothers who rode the train from New York until they arrived in Columbus, Kansas and were adopted by James William Goul (my maternal grandfather’s relatives). J.W. Goul was born in Ohio about 1839 to John and Martha (McManaway) Goul. James William was the 2nd to youngest brother of my 2nd great-grandmother (Malissa Goul). He married Mary McAdams (b. 16 Sep 1840) and they had Martha E. and George Edward Goul. Before 1894, the family moved to Cherokee County, Kansas.
The Star-Courier newspaper of Columbus, Kansas of June 21, 1894 mentioned that two young brothers who did not want to be separated from each other were taken by “one kind hearted man.” These two brothers were Matthew and Clarence Brown of New York. Matthew was born about 1887 and Clarence was about 3 years younger. Both reported on the 1910 Census that their parents were born in Italy.
Discovering there were Orphan Train riders in the family history, led me to find out more about these children and the reasons they were sent from New York to other parts of the country. The short version of the “why?” includes the fact that these children were abandoned or orphaned so the Children’s Aid Society and New York Foundling Hospital decided these children needed homes somewhere else. Children were sent to Canada and the other 47 states. Some were adopted while others were foster children. Others were made to be “servants” to whomever chose them. Children were picked the same way that slaves had been a century earlier – checking their muscles, sturdiness, and temperament. Some were loved dearly while others were beat constantly.
There are many places on the internet to read the history and stories of the Orphan Train movement including: Orphan Train History (has many links included), Children’s Aid Society, PBS Documentary, Iowa GenWeb Orphan Train project, Orphan Trains of Kansas, and Adoption History: Orphan Trains. There are some videos: Orphan Train in Michigan and Orphan Train Movie (1979).
With all of the newly digitized records on free and subscription databases, I sincerely hope that the descendents of the “riders” will find the answers they so desperately seek. Perhaps they will be the recipients of Genealogical Acts of Kindness!
Do you have Orphan Train riders in your family? Have you learned about where they came from? Did they remember their background and parents? Were they treated like members of the family upon their “adoption” or was their life very difficult? And what about the family they left behind or were torn from? What is their story?
A week and a half ago, I posted a picture on my Wordless Wednesday post that showed my mom riding a camel. Where? When? How?
From the time I was young, Mom had always wanted to travel to far off countries. She got an opportunity when my dad was stationed twice in Japan in the 1950s with the Army Air Corps (US Air Force). However, I remember her mentioning that she always wanted to go to Australia. Why there? I don’t know because she never gave an explanation. There were other countries she wanted to visit, too.
In the late ’90s, Mom became very excited when she realized that she might be able to take a trip to the Holy Land as part of a church group. She told me that she had always wanted to see Israel, although I don’t ever remember her mentioning that. Perhaps it was due to the fact she was getting older or it was something she hadn’t ever shared because it was so personal to her and her faith.
She was working full time and had put money back for the trip. Her minister and another lady from her church would be part of the group. At least she had another woman she knew to room with. Mom was still in pretty good health although I was concerned about the distance and speed at which any walking would take place, and if she would be able to keep up.
Then the time came – even though there was still quite a bit of unease in the Middle East (this was prior to the War) – she told me that if security was too risky, they wouldn’t have been allowed to go.
I waited until she returned from her trip, anxious to hear that she was okay and it had all been worth it for her. She loved seeing places where Jesus had taught and preached during his life. She had taken several rolls of film that she promised she’d send to me – just to look at but I’d have to immediately mail it back afterwards – as soon as they were developed. The only hitch of her trip had come afterwards when they landed in Egypt for the international flight home. She had stepped off the debarking stairs and twisted her ankle. If it had to happen, I was glad it was after the trip instead of before.
Finally the box of information arrived. Pictures, pictures, and more pictures – along with small posters, travel guides, and purchased pictures and postcards. It took me over a week to absorb it all. Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever “got” the entire picture at that time.
No, it would be years and years later – after she passed away – that my sister and I were discussing her trip – that the emotions she must have felt finally seeped into my heart. She had taken a pilgrimage to Israel – alone – without any blood relatives with her. It was Mom and her faith and love of the Lord that had carried her to see the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the hill where Jesus was crucified on the cross, the tomb that he had left after his resurrection. These places and the emotions she felt would never be something she could explain. Yet, she had all the reminders that she could look at every day through the photos she took and the maps of places she had seen.
While in Israel, she rode the camel. It was probably dirty and smelly but that was her way of being “really there.”
After her death, I became the keeper of all her mementos and photographs. She loved being able to travel there. I wish I could have been with her so I could have seen her face as she saw all those things up close. That would have been part of my memory. The camel photo was one that was used on the DVD I made for her memorial service. It showed her in a humorous setting (Mom on a Camel!) and in a country that she repeated over and over again as she aged that she was glad to see before she died.
When I was a young girl, my mom mentioned something in passing about my Grandad’s brother. What? A brother? I thought my grandfather was an only child. So I pressed her for some elaboration. The story she told (which had to have come from her dad or his parents) was that Letis Johnson was 13 years older than my grandfather, and that he was “crazy”. My grandparents had to commit him several times to the Insane Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Sometimes Letis would come home for visits. One time he threw a brick through the chicken coop. Another time he was so engraged he tried to cut off my grandfather’s ear. Grandad carried the scar the rest of his life. Mom also mentioned that it was believed Letis had falled at some point in his infancy or early childhood, and it was thought the fall had caused some sort of brain problem.
As a young girl and teen, this story was fascinating. A loony great-uncle who died at the age of 28. As a budding family historian over ten years ago, this was the type of information that needed to be delved into. But as a mother – it was heartbreaking. I wrote about this in Katie’s Story.
On the Friends of Allen County website (Friends of Allen County), I found information that showed that Letis had been admitted to the Fort Wayne State School (Home for Feeble Minded Youths) due to epilepsy (probably caused by the fall), and he died from pneumonia. What makes this story even sadder, is that it happened decades before there were medicines to help with epileptic seizures. Today, Letis could be a functioning member of society. I don’t know if he attended enough school to be considered educated. I don’t know if he ever felt romantic love for someone. I don’t know if he felt all alone when he was far away from his family. And until two years ago, I didn’t even know what he looked like. Then I found the pictures. Suddenly I had a face to go with the name.
So the question I still go back to – was Letis really “mad” or just suffering from a medical condition? Epileptic seizures have ocurred in many people throughout history – from Biblical times until now – sports figures, celebrities, and normal people trying to live their lives. How debilitating one must feel when a seizure strikes – especially in a time when others wondered what the person had “done” to be cursed with this illness. Did Katie and John (my great-grandparents) blame their son for having epilepsy? Themselves? The universe? Or did they just feel helpless? They weren’t wealthy enough to travel to a “big” city to have a fancy medical doctor treat Letis – if there even was a treatment then. All they could do to protect themselves, their younger son, and their home was to send him to a place where he would be treated, cared for, and kept from hurting himself or others. My heart goes out to my great-grandparents because that type of decision must not have been made lightly.
So the Great-Uncle I didn’t know much about, has aided me in the way I look at the other members of his family.