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52ancestors

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small issued a challenge to the geneablogging world recently: to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, etc. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  As I had mentioned in my previous post, I’m hoping to write about one ancestor a month; however, I want to start now while I have a moment.

Franklin Blazer is my second great-grandfather on my maternal side. He was born on June 2, 1836. The only source I have for this is his gravestone. When he died he was 33 years old 2 months 23 days. He died on August 25, 1869 and once again, the only source is the date on his gravestone. Some reports indicate he was born in Ohio and others in Indiana. I believe he was born in Indiana to parents John Blazer and Mary Ann Nelson. He was the oldest of five. Following him in the family were Elizabeth born in 1837; John P. born in 1840; Mary Jane born in 1842; and George W. born in 1844. Franklin’s siblings were all born in Indiana.

Franklin married Melissa Goul between 1855 and 1859. I have not located a marriage record in Indiana or Ohio. Melissa was born in Ohio and moved to Indiana after the census of 1850. Melissa’s oldest son (of which she was a single mother in an age when that wasn’t at all common) was born in 1855 in Indiana. Franklin and Melissa’s oldest child, John F., was born September 17, 1859. The couple went on to have several more children: Martha Ann born in 1860, Philip Wesley born in 1862, Katie J (my great-grandmother) born in 1864, and Rachel born in 1867.

By the time Rachel was not quite two, Franklin passed away from unknown causes. I can not find the family in the 1860 Census so I don’t know where they were living. Franklin is buried in Grovelawn Cemetery in Pendleton, Indiana.

My research challenges for Franklin Blazer include gathering source information on his place of birth, finding a marriage record for him and Melissa, making an exhaustive search of the 1860 Census in order to make sure I’m just not “seeing” them, locating any news articles surrounding Franklin or Melissa, locating any land records or deeds for Franklin, and locating any documents concerning his death – especially a will.

My relationship to Franklin: Franklin & Melissa (Goul) Blazer > Katie J (Blazer) & John Lafayette Johnson > Glen Roy & Vesta Christena (Wilt) Johnson > my mom who married my dad > me.

Image from Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small

New Year, New Goals

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll notice that I have listed some goals at the beginning of each year – fully intending to complete at least a few of them. Unfortunately, by the time February comes around, I have other things that take my time away from blogging. I know this year won’t be any different. Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Maybe if I start with 12 Ancestors in 12 months I might be able to stick to writing. Stay tuned to see if I can accomplish that!

question_mark

As I was researching my maternal Johnson family ancestors this weekend, I decided to focus on what I don’t know about my 2nd great-grandfather’s siblings. As I came to Jacob M. Johnson, I saw that I didn’t have very many documented sources – only information from other family members (who said they found the information at such and such). I had a wife’s name – Nancy Kirkpatrick – and a birth year for Jacob. He was the 2nd youngest child of Jacob Johnson and Ann Shields. Searching FamilySearch, I located a marriage record for Jacob M Johnson to Nancy J Kirkpatrick in Rush county, Indiana on January 21, 1858. I found the couple in the 1860 Census living in Union township of Howard county, Indiana along with their one year old daughter, Mary. After that – nada! There is nothing on Find a Grave for Jacob, but there is an entry for Nancy J Kirkpatrick Cook. The information shows that Nancy J Kirkpatrick had married Allison Cook in 1865 in Howard county, had three children, and died on September 23, 1914. On her memorial is a picture. She is buried in Center Cemetery in Mays, Rush county. Her birth date is listed as July 10, 1844, which would have meant she was 13 years 6 months and 5 days old when she married Jacob M Johnson. So . . . is that the same Nancy Kirkpatrick? What happened to Jacob? In the 1900 Census the Nancy married to Allison Cook lists that she is a mother of 5 with three living. Not being able to find a Mary Johnson in her household leads me to believe that IF this is the same Nancy, then Mary was deceased. I could not find Nancy J Kirkpatrick/Johnson/Cook in the 1870 census so I don’t know if Mary was still alive, if that would be the census to show that this is the same woman, or anything else. On the Find a Grave memorial, there isn’t anything that lists Nancy being married to Jacob. If it is the same woman, did she marry Allison Cook after Jacob died? Did the couple divorce? There is a Jacob Johnson purchasing a scoop shovel, 3 barrels, one doubletree and two single trees, 1 hoe, 1 harrow, 1 wheat fan, 1 fork, 1 barrel, one wagon, at the estate sale of Jonathan Gordon, in Rush county. Jacob M Johnson’s sister-in-law (my 2nd great-grandfather’s second wife), was Margaret Gordon, daughter of a Jonathan Gordon (not sure if this is one and the same either). If it is the same Jacob M Johnson and that is the same Nancy J Kirkpatrick, then the couple had split up prior to her marriage to Allison Cook. Or this could be neither of them. Questions and more mystery until I find more conclusive evidence!

Not long after 9/11, I wrote an article on my personal web site to express my thoughts and my actions on the events that occurred on that horrible day. Then five years later, I wrote an update. Here are my words:

eaglecrying

FIVE YEARS LATER
September 11, 2006: Five years after the attack that claimed thousands of lives and shattered the illusion of safety that America had strived to achieve for so long, the question seems to be “are we any safer now?”  Most of the editorials seem to believe that we are not.  The threat is still there around the next corner.  We have been fighting the war on terror almost as long now – on the battlefront, in a middle eastern country that some believe we are right to be fighting and some believe its wrong – we fight terror on the information superhighway, over the telephone lines, through our many forms of media, and for some people – in their own homes.  Measures the government and private industry has instituted in the last five years include: airport safety, immigration arguments, thorough background checks of some employees, the Patriot Act and much more.  More importantly – what hasn’t changed?  What safety measures are lacking?  Many entered churches (some for the first time) after 9/11 to pray for the country, for those who had perished, for comfort, and for themselves.  How many of those are still worshipping regularly?  How many have turned away from our Creator as the war in Afghanistan and Iraq continues?  How many mothers have listened in fear to news reports of roadside bombings in an area where their sons and daughters are deployed?  And the biggest question – how do we fight an ideaology that wants only death for free Americans?  We can push education – educate others to be tolerant and compassionate.  America, however, can’t dictate what other countries are teaching their young people.  What does it tell the world, when Americans can’t even begin to be compassionate to one another?  Each day there are still horrendous acts taking place – right in our cities, in our suburbs, in the rural communities, in our companies and industries, and right in our backyards.  Not only do strangers murder each other but parents and children talk to each other with venomous hate.  What do we show the rest of the world when we can’t even get along?
Are we safer today than 5 years ago?  Not really.  We all like to think we are.  We like to cling to that illusion that was shattered so instantly on 9/11 that we are a little safer.  Can we live our lives in fear and terror?  No – because as soon as we start – they have won the battle.  We have to live – go to work, to play, to worship, to school, to enjoy our families, create friendships and be friends – or we aren’t really living.  If we throw up our hands and say “why bother”, we have handed those terrorists our lives.

THEN
This page is dedicated to all those men and women, ordinary citizens, police heroes and fire fighter heroes, airline pilots and flight attendants, business travelers and military personnel who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. And for the families of the thousands of victims – not only has this been your tragedy – but a world’s tragedy – a nation’s tragedy – and for each of us, our own personal tragedy.

I grew up in the home of parents who had both lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They had lived in Japan after the war and saw the aftermath of the bombs. My grandparents had lived through World War I and had visited many cities in Europe and saw the aftermath of the wars there. My great-grandfather, James House, fought for the Union in the Civil War. My grandfather, Glen Johnson, served in WWI and was in the service during WWII and the Korean War. My father served in WWII. Several cousins and family members went to Viet Nam. Another cousin was active during the Gulf War. I grew up listening to stories about the tone of the world before December 7, 1941. I heard and have seen news stories showing the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My family relayed their own personal opinions and how that day affected them. Until September 11th, I never completely understood their words. And unfortunately – at 8:45 a.m. that morning – I realized exactly what their words meant. I realized how their world had changed – just as mine changed that morning. I realized from that moment on – nothing I had ever known would hold the same meaning for me. I realized that I had not been desensitized by the media. I cried and my heart wept for those who died, those who fought the hijackers, those who were left without spouses, those children who lost parents, and the world.

Less than two weeks previous to September 11th, I lost my brother to cancer. I was already feeling sorrow and sadness. As events unfolded on every television channel the morning of the tragedy, I was too numb to put down in words exactly what I was seeing, hearing and feeling. I emailed my husband with each new piece of information. A few days later, when my mind began to sort everything out, I wrote my feelings in a journal I keep.

Emails that I wrote to my husband:

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Subject: Bomb at Pentagon
Honey, Now I just heard & am seeing on NBC that a bomb has exploded at a heliport by pentagon. Lots of smoke – said a significant blast.  Looks terrible. Pentagon shook & windows rattled. Reporter said could smell acidic smell (like when a florescent light goes bad) – now they are saying highly sophisticated attack. Later, Love, Wendy

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Now they are saying – might be another plane – that crashed into heliport at pentagon. Getting too scary. White house has been evacuated – Bush is in Florida but he will be leaving soon to get back to DC – reporters are getting jumpy when they hear aircraft. Hope Cheney is underground – just in case Bush’s plane is targeted upon his return trip.

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Supposedly the people they’ve heard that are claiming responsibility is people for Palestinian Liberation. One of the airplanes that hit World Trade Center was an American Airlines jet hijacked going from Boston to LA (I’m glad you’re not traveling right now!)

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
FAA has shut down ALL air traffic Nation Wide

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001

Subject: Another one
Reporter just said & just showed on NBC – another explosion at WTC – don’t know if this is residual or not. Another explosion on both sides (left & right) buildings of WTC. Felt 2 blocks from there. Manhattan is covered in smoke right now. Pictures are horrible. People are running – reminds me of Independence Day when everyone starts running away.. Now showing from harbor view. Confirmed that a plane was what went down at the Pentagon. Can’t even see one of the WTC buildings – only smoke & flames. Evacuating all critical buildings (probably in DC as well as NY).

Emails I sent others:

To my sister – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Watching the news this morning – very disturbing. Pretty scary as well.

To my sister – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
I know this will sound horrible – I’m glad none of this happened last week or we would have had to figure out another way there.[referencing our brother's funeral] Very hard to comprehend. People are filling reunion arena to donate blood.[referencing the big arena in the area] My mother-in-law called while I was at work to make sure Charlie wasn’t traveling. I called her back & told her we were all here & okay & no one was in the air. Later, Wendy

To my sister – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Emailed one of the Johnson cousins – Virginia – she’s an atty in DC. She’s okay & emailed me about leaving one courthouse & going to another one when they closed it & listening to the military jets overhead. Charlie has flown on Flt 11 from Boston Logan before – I thought it was one of those that he’s been on before. Told him I was glad today that he’s not with Nokia or traveling at this point.

To one of my genealogy cousins – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Thanks for replying, Virginia. I’ve found out everyone I’m related to or know who are in / around NY or DC or flying are okay. My niece is a flight attendant with Frontier & she was on the ground in Portland when all you know what broke out. Wendy

To my sister – Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001
Well – I had to get out of the house for awhile today. This morning during a lull in getting stuff done around here – everything just hit me from the past couple weeks, . . .  what is going on in this country. Went to the library & looked at all their genealogy stuff. Just needed to do something else with my mind.

To my sister – Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001
Only worked until noon today. My heart just isn’t in it. The church was also opened for anyone to come in during the noon hour for prayer. I went into the sanctuary after I turned my computer off & there were already several people there including a couple who just happened to wander in – glad they felt they could.

From my Journal:

14 Sept 01
Three days ago the world fell apart. 9-11. After dropping [my son & daughter] at school & getting gas, [my youngest daughter] & I were at Main St. crossing the bridge over I-35E when the breaking story hit KLUV that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trace Center towers in NY. First they thought it was a small plane & not even a jet. I immediately told [my youngest daughter] that terrorists had struck the center again. That they’d tried to bomb it in 93 and now this. She wanted to know what that would do and why there. Tried to explain world economics, etc. No way could I believe it was an accident. Once back at home I called [my husband] to give him news & then turned on NBC news. The pictures were bad. Smoke pouring out of the #1 tower not quite at the top. Then horribly as I & the nation watched 20 minutes after the first crash came a 2nd one into the 2nd tower. How many had died just in those 2 crashes? As I typed on the email my thoughts could not begin to comprehend the destruction. 20 minutes from that 2nd attack came a 3rd – directed this time in DC at the Pentagon. Bush had already spoken to the nation from his stop in Sarasota, Florida. My concern was to get the Pres. someplace safe as well as VP Cheney. If terrorists could strike the Pentagon, they could hit other DC places. Air travel was stopped. All planes grounded. Then word came that a missing flight had crashed in PA. In an empty field. People on board that plane had decided to stop the terrorism at the cost of their own lives but not taking the lives of other innocent people. I hadn’t been at work too long when not only the 2nd building that was hit collapse to the ground but so did the 1st one. How many rescuers were already in there? How many lives lost? The reporters kept calling it surreal because that was the only description. It looked like something out of a spy movie. Except it was all real. No Spielberg behind the camera. No Bruce Willis or Rambo who was going to take out the men responsible. No good guy to win over the bad. The 1st name on everyone’s lips was Osama bin Laden – the mastermind. Not Carlos the Jackal this time unless he was doing this from wherever they have put him. No Harvey Keitel in a movie costume. Just pure evil. I wasn’t alive when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I’ve heard about it all my life from parents who were alive then. But I don’t think this could compare. Then we knew who had hurt us. We had a geographic location to strike back at. This is not a country who has struck. It is a faction. I wasn’t sure if Hollywood had desensitized me against such brutality, destruction & evil but it hadn’t. Yesterday it felt as if my life had crumbled. I lost Jim over a week ago on Aug. 31st. My family was emotionally torn by other stuff this week. I just cried & cried & cried. Keeping busy at home wasn’t helping. I left the house for the quiet of the library. No TVs there & no radios. For over an hour I poured over immigration lists and settler books. Those ancestors of mine, long dead – who faced war in the form of the Revolution – the war that created the Patriotism we are witnessing today. The Civil War – which tried to bring a nation torn apart by different political views together. The wars of the 20th century. WWI which Granddad was a part of. WWII – which my father was a part of. Korea – Viet Nam – the Persian Gulf War. What type of war will this now be? Can we stop the terrorism for future generations? Can we ever return to the carefree life we had before Tuesday morning? Can we ever see a plane overhead & not wonder or think about the 4 planes that were hijacked? Can we ever see a new picture of the Manhattan skyline & remember the twin towers that graced the picture & remember those who lost lives & loved ones in that terrorist massacre?

16 Sept 01
Sunday morning. I’m sure the church will be full today. There was a prayer service Friday at noon. Pres. Bush declared that a National Day of Prayer and Mourning. I stopped work at noon & went into the sanctuary. There were already several folks there. I prayed and cried. Then I went home. We watched “Independence Day” – at least in that movie we know what & who we are fighting. Couldn’t get to sleep last night. Tossed & turned. Last night took me a long time to get to sleep.

30 Oct 01
This weekend will be 4 weeks since the US started bombing Afghanistan. That really doesn’t bother me. I’m just hopeful that all the “new” security measures we are implementing don’t go too overboard & encroach on the freedoms we do have. Isn’t that the reason we are trying to defeat the terrorists? So we can keep our freedom? Feel like October has just whooshed by. People are still rasing money to send to the victims of the 9-11 terrorists attacks. Only problem is that it becomes such a normal part of every day life that people may start to forget the terrible thing that brought us to where we are. At least I’m back to sleeping at night.

11 Nov 01 Veterans Day.
Time to think about all those military persons who have gone before us making sure our nation is safe. My g-grandfather, James House, who I never knew, fought for the Union in the Civil War. Granddad – active roles in WWI, WWII & Korea. Dad who served during WWII – his brothers doing the same. My cousin in Vietnam as well as [other cousins].

TODAY – 12 Years Later

Not long ago we were watching a program on the Smithsonian Channel about 9/11 and before too long I felt tears in my eyes. Even though twelve years has passed, I still feel the sorrow that I did on that day. Though I didn’t lose anyone in that attack, it was personal. Less than two weeks prior to 9/11, my brother passed away (I have referenced this above). I never wanted to lose my brother but if he had passed away at any time after 9/11, we would never have been able to grab a flight, get to the airports at the last minute and make the funeral the day after his death. My niece was a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines during that time. I spent that morning with my heart in my throat until I knew that she was on the ground and safe. The fall of 2000 my husband had accepted a job with another company. He really didn’t want to leave Nokia but the salary offer, benefits, and signing bonus was too much to walk away from. The job ended in 2002 – but – if he had stayed with Nokia, he quite possibly could have been on one of those doomed flights as he had flown on EVERY SINGLE ONE of them prior to leaving Nokia. My first born grandson – born just months prior to 9/11 – has only known America after 9/11. He will never know what it’s like to have loved ones see him off from the terminal of an airport. He won’t be able to carry a pocketknife – something most men just always did – even on an airplane. It was as common as carrying their wallets. The term “Al Queda” will always be a part of the world’s vocabulary.  Each time people see a low flying aircraft – especially over New York City or Washington D.C. – they will fear another 9/11.

fred wilt track and field

Frederick Wilt was born the middle of December in 1920 in Madison county, Indiana to Jesse and Inez (Franklin) Wilt. He was my mother’s first cousin as his father and my grandmother were siblings. He attended Indiana University and went on to Purdue for his Masters. At the age of 28, he competed in the Olympics held in London and then four years later, in Helsinki, Finland. Google him – “Fred Wilt” and Olympics and see what you find. My grandmother was quite proud of her nephew. His book, Run Run Run, is in my collection. Talented, breaking records in track, and then going on to a successful career as a Special Agent in the FBI. I saw Fred, his wife, and his three daughters each year in Indiana at the annual Wilt family reunion. He was tall (at least to me as I was a child), had red hair, and a smile on his face.

Wilt Reunion - Fred Wilt family

Here is a picture of him in October 1969 with his wife, Eleanor and their daughters at the Wilt Reunion in Noblesville, Indiana

When he passed away in 1994, a very nice biography was printed on his memorial page. I have a memorial bulletin, and I would suspect that his wife and daughters were the ones who wrote the memorial. I give them all the credit for the written biography and the funeral home  the credit for placing it on the bulletin and printing them. I do not intend to devalue their words or make them my own by using the following information.  In part, this is what it reads:

Mr. Wilt, a prolific author, wrote over twenty books on the subjects of Track and Field athletics and physiology. His programmed physiology text Mechanics Without Tears is used in many colleges. Mr. Wilt received numerous accolades During his lifetime. He was chosen the 1950 James E. Sullivan Award winner, presented to the outstanding Amateur Athlete in the U.S.A. He was named to the Indiana University Hall of Fame, Purdue University Track & Field Hall of Fame, the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame, and in 1992, to the New York Athletic Club Hall of Fame. He represented the USA on two Olympic teams, London in 1948 and Helsinki in 1952. He held the world record for the indoor two-mile run in 1951. He won the NCAA two mile and cross Country titles in 1941 while competing for Indiana University. He won eight national titles in cross Country, the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, and the U.S. indoor mile from 1949-1954, running for the New York Athletic Club. He established Five American records at distances from 3,000 to 10,000 meters.

(Original photos, slides, and digital images owned by Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

Mom & I, 1969

I have many names and titles:

  1. Mom/Mother/Momma/Mommy/that Woman – I have been called one of these or a variation of (and sometimes not in a good way) by one or more of my four adult children from the time they were born.
  2. Nana – the name my grandsons call me because they know better than to call me by the other “G” name (shivers!)
  3. Honey/Sweetheart/Babe/Darling/Bride – these and similar words are  what my wonderful husband has called me since we’ve been married.
  4. Sis – this is what my brother always called me or our sister and since his death, what my sister and I call each other.
  5. Mike-Wendy – It has to be said really fast and the person has to pretend that the first part hasn’t been uttered.  I was many years younger than my sister (Mike) so growing up, my mother – who only had one daughter for a long time – always called me by my sister’s name before realizing I had my own name. I even have caught my Dad calling me the same thing!
  6. “Aunt” – I put this title in quotes because my niece and nephews and I all grew up together as opposed to being born after I was either an older teen or an adult. One child calling another slightly older child “Aunt” was just too ludicrous to consider so now whenever one of them says “Aunt” – you can hear the quotes around it! However, the quotes come off for my 2 great-nephews and niece and for the children of my husband’s nieces and nephews.
  7. Daughter to my parents.
  8. Sister to my brother and my sister and the name some of my friends and I gave each other as we were growing up.
  9. Granddaughter to my maternal grandparents.
  10. In-law (daughter-, sister-, granddaughter-, cousin-, niece-) to all those in my husband’s family.
  11. Mother-in-law to my sons-in-law.
  12. Cousin to many.
  13. Niece to seven aunts and uncles and their spouses who were living at my birth.
  14. Friend to many.
  15. Wendy – the name given me at birth.
  16. Student – I became a student again (after high school) after my youngest daughter was born for a short time and then again four years ago when I returned to college for a few years.
  17. Woman of faith – Though there were a few years during my young adult life that I was not a member or regular attendee of a church, I have always had a deep faith and have relied on prayer and my relationship with God through most of my life.
  18. Waitress/Clerk/Publications Specialist/Typesetter/Paste-Up Artist/Graphic Artist/Technical Illustrator/Customer Service Rep/After Market Sales Rep/Administrative Assistant – these are all titles I’ve had through my varied employment history.
  19. Girl Scout Leader/Troop Coordinator/Cookie Mom – The different “hats” I wore when I was involved in Girl Scout Leadership.
  20. Group Coordinator/Treasurer/Public Relations Coordinator – More volunteer titles during my seven years with ToughLove International.
  21. Christian Education Board member, Cemetery Board member, Sunday School Superintendent, Board of Deacons member, Women’s Fellowship Secretary, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teacher, kitchen worker, usher, greeter, refreshment volunteer, and many more – the types of volunteer activities I have participated in at my church as an adult.
  22. Student Council Secretary and Youth Fellowship President – offices I held at my Junior High School and in High School at my church.
  23. PTA Board member and Room Mom – volunteer activities I was involved in when either my kids or my grandson was in elementary school.
  24. Band / Choir Mom – cheering on from the sidelines at all the performances.
  25. Webmaster – for my ToughLove International group and my high school class many years ago, and presently for my church.
  26. Scrapbook artist and designer – a hobby that I loved until I ran out of room or time or desire to participate in.
  27. Digital scrapbook artist – what my “paper” hobby grew into!
  28. Family Historian and amateur genealogist – A “hobby” that I am quite passionate about because I love to seek out and solve mysteries, help others in my family learn new information, and to learn more about those who came before me.
  29. Blogger – I tried a journalistic type of blog many years ago after reading several types of “mommy” or “woman” blogs but I soon realized that not everything in my life is blogger material. For one thing, I don’t need to write about every aspect of my life and for another, I’m not as comedic as the ladies whose blogs I really enjoyed. I didn’t have that X-factor type of material to bring traffic to my blog. On April 19, 2008 I wrote the first post for this blog and “officially” became a member of Geneabloggers!  Participating in genealogy memes, carnivals, and other blog prompts, helped drive traffic to my blog. Those looking for a surname would find my blog. I realized that what I was doing was also “cousin bait”!  What a great feeling it is when a distant cousin contacts me and lets me know that I have given them information that they’ve been searching for over a long period of time!
  30. Cook/cleaner/laundress/chauffeur/referee – Cooking for a large family, cleaning up after children and grandchildren, chauffeuring kids and grandkids to their respective activities or even to their jobs, and refereeing arguing children or a neighborhood squabble.
  31. Dreamer!
  32. Wannabe writer/actress/teacher – growing up my “real” career field was always going to be teaching elementary school but my “dream” careers were always being a best-selling author and actress.
  33. Me!

Whew! That list makes me very tired! Have I really worn all those hats? Some I still try to balance. Yet, if it wasn’t for all the strong women who came before me, I may have never had the possibility of doing some of those things. For instance:

mom_xmas8Mary Helen Johnson Amore
Born to Glen R Johnson and Vesta C Wilt in September 1921 a year after women won the right to vote, she had never know what it was like to not be able to vote for the person of her choice. The first president she voted for was FDR during his second run for the White House, and he was her choice the following two times. I believe she only voted for one or two Republicans in her lifetime because she was a Democrat through and through. Mom worked from the time she was old enough and most of her early adult career was spent in civil service and then in middle age she engaged in hard physical labor sewing draperies or cargo covers for a company contracted by the military. In her later life she worked in accounts receivable and in office environments. The only time she wasn’t working outside of the home was after I was born until I was about nine, a few times when she was laid off and looking for another job, and when she finally was forced into retirement at the age of 70+. My mother also did a lot of volunteer work for Girl Scouts during my sister’s younger years and when I was in Brownies, for her church, for her Parents Without Partners group, for the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, and for school and community programs. She was opinionated, blunt to a fault, loved deeply (and consequently was hurt deeply many times over the course of her life), and was a brilliant seamstress and homemaker. When she was in high school she was on the girls’ basketball team and enjoyed watching sports of all kinds. Before she died, I found a photo of her on stage in her school’s drama production. Color me amazed as I didn’t know that she and I shared the love of theater. Divorced twice – the first time as a very young adult with a small son to support – she learned to “do” for herself and not depend on someone else. She loved to travel but wanted to put down roots where she grew up. And my mom was always right – always! That was just something those of us who loved her knew. She was the main caretaker for her parents in their last few years. Many things I learned from my mom, I learned from her example (well, except sewing – she will always be the best in my eyes).

wilt_vcVesta Christena Wilt Johnson
Her parents, Martha J Stern and Joseph N Wilt, divorced when in 1909 when she was just over 10 years old. My grandmother knew what it was like to be a child of divorce so as I struggled during my parents’ divorce when it seemed as if all the other kids I knew didn’t know what it was like, my grandmother would offer me words of love, support, and encouragement. She really never held a job except to help her step-father run his store when she was an older teen and before she married. One thing I ended up with in her honor was her grandmother moniker of “Nana.” She was the only grandmother I knew who did not go by “grandma” (that is until my own mother became a grandmother – she was “Grammy”). Each time one of my grandsons say “Nana” – I think of her – so that means I think about her about 100 times each day! And when I introduce them to her via her photo on a table in my living room, I tell them that she was my Nana and she is their Great-Great Nana!  And she was pretty terrific!  Nana was loving and patient. My cousin recently expressed that she remembers the “unconditional love she showed to us” and that was true. I don’t think there was anything any of us could have done to make her withdraw her love and affection for us. During some of my darkest days as a teenager, she always made sure I knew just how much she loved me and was in my corner. I think that was one of the reasons I didn’t go completely off the rails. Nana kept a very neat home. She had oodles and oodles of “stuff” but everything had a place. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of living through the depression, was the tendency to keep everything. Recycling, upcycling or re-purposing items are wonderful and frugal. But saving every piece of wrapping paper – even ironing it to make sure it folded nicely to be used the next time – is a little much. Saving every dry cleaning bag she ever had was also a little much. But that added to who she was plus it gave some of us stories to tell. As the wife of a military officer, she learned to live wherever my grandfather was sent. From being a girl from a small town in Indiana to a world traveler, entertaining other officers and their wives, she made the transition seamlessly. She was always concerned with the impact she had on others. When she was ill and hospitalized, she was always “sorry” to interfere in everyone’s lives and take away their time when they visited her in the hospital. When she relied on others to drive her and my grandfather somewhere, she felt like she was putting others out. But her loved ones and friends gave willingly because she had given of herself so effortlessly and willingly.

clawson_mjMartha Jane Stern Wilt Clawson
My great-grandmother – whom everyone called Grandma Clawson – was born to Emanuel Bushong Stern and Nancy Caylor in Hamilton county, Indiana in 1872. I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet her as she died five years before I was born. What I know is that she did what she could when my great-grandfather up and left her and six children – the youngest was about three. When she couldn’t get financial support, she went to court. Her oldest son, Clarence, was an adult and her second son, John, was living with his paternal aunt, Sarah Wilt Hofherr and her husband, John. The next son, Jesse, was living in another family’s home and on the 1910 census he was listed as “orphan” which was not true but makes me wonder what the thought process was in order to put that down. My mother had told me that John and Jesse had been “farmed out” by Grandma Clawson because she couldn’t provide for them. However, by 1910, she had married her sister’s widower, W. Frank Clawson, so I am not sure why Jesse and John remained living apart from the family. She and Uncle Frank managed to keep the other three children – which included my grandmother, her younger sister Nellie, and the baby of the family, Clifford – under their roof. However, my Aunt Nellie was asthmatic (according to what my mother told me) and the doctor had suggested that she should go “out west” in order to help her pulmonary problems. Finding Nellie in the 1920 census living with friends of the family in Oregon (they had known them when they lived in Indiana), before my great-grandmother also relocated to Oregon, gave me pause as I wondered how Grandma Clawson felt having her 17-year old daughter living so far away. Other things that I know about this woman include the fact that she wasn’t in the best of health herself. She had diabetes and my guess would be that she developed Type II diabetes in adulthood. She died of congestive heart failure due to arteriosclerosis. She spent the last thirty years of her life a widow and with her sons, John and Clifford, living with her in Oregon.  She never had to bury a child as they all outlived her, but she did have to live through the years that her son, Jesse, was away in WWI and in the hospital after he was injured with mustard gas. She met at least five of her grandchildren and eight to nine of her great-grandchildren. I don’t know if she ever met her son, Jesse’s four children or any of their children. I have one of her recipe’s and several pictures.

nancycaylorNancy Caylor Stern
Born to Abraham Caylor and Susannah Miller in 1840, she lived in an age where women didn’t vote and rarely worked outside of the home – especially in any field that men dominated at that time. She and my great-great-grandfather, Emanuel Stern, had eight children, and they all outlived her – almost a rarity to have that many children without a loss in infancy or early childhood from a disease, epidemic, or accident. Around 1898 (just about the time her granddaughter – my Nana – was born), she and her husband divorced. She moved in with her son, Samuel, where she lived until her death in December 1900. My two times great-grandfather was known for wandering around town with his potions and “medicines” and a local paper ran a poem about him called “Doctor Stern” so I wonder if Nancy was fed up with his potion-pushing. I have a picture of her with some of my grandmother’s brothers so I know she loved her grandchildren.

Susannah Miller Caylor
My three times great-grandmother was born to Joseph Holzafle Miller and Catherine Botafield at the turn of the nineteenth century on June 12, 1800 in Dayton, Ohio. She was the oldest of nine children. Until she was an adult and married to my Abraham Caylor, she remained in the Montgomery county area. Then the couple moved to Hamilton county, Indiana during the early part of their marriage where they remained until their deaths. They had eleven children and minus two that I don’t have death dates for, it appears they all lived to adulthood and outlived her.  That tells me that she and her husband probably kept a clean and (as much as possible) germ free home and environment for their family. They lived on a farm so if there were any farming accidents involving the children, they weren’t fatal.  I don’t have very much information about Susannah. When her husband died in 1855, she was entitled to one third of his estate or the sum of almost $346. Since she made her mark in acknowledgement of receiving the money, I believe that she could not read or write. (Source: transcription of Probate in Probate Order Book, Hamilton county, Indiana and posted on Rootsweb)

Catherine Botafield Miller
I don’t know hardly anything about my four times great-grandmother. She married Joseph Holzafle Miller in Pennsylvania about 1798 when she was about eighteen years old. They moved from their birth place of Pennsylvania to Montgomery county, Ohio before their oldest daughter, Susannah, was born in 1900. She and her husband both died in Tippecanoe, Indiana. Joseph died in 1833 and Catherine followed 22 years later. From her move from Pennsylvania clear to Indiana in her lifetime, I would imagine she was a strong and capable woman and prepared to endure whatever hardships that came her way. She was living in a “new” America as she was born soon after the Revolutionary War. Catherine is the last female I’ve been able to trace on my matrilineal line. She was the “mother” of many strong women. She and Joseph are buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Tippecanoe county.

These six women, their life experiences that were passed down to the next, helped to forge the person that I am and will be, whether it was due to the daughters doing opposite of their mothers or by doing the same. Just as I know that these woman and I also have created the people my three daughters are and will be. They will do some things the same as I, some that they will do completely different, and other things a combination (in their minds “better” than I did it).

This was written in honor of these women – Mom, Nana, Grandma Clawson, Nancy, Susannah and Catherine.

(all photos – original and/or digital owned and in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

To Be Completed:

  • Two blog posts – right now they are sitting in my draft folder waiting on me to finish them.
  • Attaching Media Files – Slowly and methodically I am attaching media files (images of censuses, newspapers, vital records, and photos) to individuals in my Family Tree Program.
  • Sourcing – I have tons of sources that need to be entered correctly (do I hear a collective gasp from my fellow genea-bloggers and Elizabeth Shown Mills at the same time?!) Before anyone hyperventilates, let me explain. Yes, it’s true that most of my documentation is not sourced according to Mills’ Evidence Explained – but they are all sourced in such a way that anyone can find the source. Using FTM 2011, it’s sometimes not very easy to figure out exactly what template to use for the source (I know, it’s an excuse but I was busy researching!)
  • RootsMagic – I downloaded the free version of RootsMagic Essentials. After reading so many positive reviews about this software – especially when it comes to sourcing, I wanted to try it out. It is a very slow process because after each fact, I am listing the sources correctly!  I may never make the switch from FTM, but I will be able to list the sources correctly by the time I’m done!
  • Organize – I have a four drawer filing cabinet that needs serious reorganization. Several file folders are filled with paper reports that are out of date and since I want to lessen the amount of stuff in there, I need to add them to the circular file!
  • Scanning – Tons of photos need to be scanned and metadata added to them.

Accomplished:

  • Found a 1931 letter written by my grandfather’s foster sister, Eva (see this article that I wrote about her). The letter was written to my grandparents detailing how she met her father for the first time. The story can stop there, but it doesn’t – I scanned it & emailed it as quick as I could to Eva’s daughter – the daughter she gave up at birth just as she had been given up.  Now perhaps my cousin can knock down some of her own brick walls!
  • Well – wasn’t that enough for the week?

 

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