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Genealogist Amy Johnson Crow has a fascinating podcast series at “Generations Cafe” (you can listen to it via any number of platforms – I use Spotify), and her latest is The Truth About Millennials and Genealogy. Yesterday, as I listened to Amy  and her daughter in conversation about what millennials think when it comes to genealogy, I found myself thinking about my own millenials.

First, Amy explained who the millennials are (those born from 1981-1998) which means that all four of my kids fall into that label. They are all adults with families and/or careers, bills to pay, and responsibilities. However, I probably only categorize my youngest as a millennial and even then, most of the time, she comes across as older in her thought processes.

Second, I was born toward the tail end of the baby boom. Some days I consider myself a baby boomer and other times I do not. Now that I’m getting closer to 60, I feel more and more like one! My parents were born prior to the depression so they lived through that as well as WWII. Could their life experiences have influenced how I perceive not only the world but my role as a family historian? Consequently, could it be the same for my children?

As I thought about topics that Amy had brought up during her podcast, I reflected on not only my experience but also my children’s. One thing that was mentioned had to do with heirlooms and reasons the younger generation may or may not want those items. Growing up, my mother would always mention how she ended up with certain items: “Mom Amore gave that to me” or “that used to belong to Gramma Clawson.” Often times I would hear stories to go along with her pronouncements. Then there were the items she used – the candy dish that always held M&Ms and the cookie jar that only held a certain type of sandwich cookie. There were things that my grandparents always had around – the Swiss kitchen scene plaque that hung in their kitchen (photo above), the Christmas bell that played “Jingle Bells,” and the wooden shoes they bought on a trip to Holland. There were always stories to go along with the items of note. I passed those stories – my stories – to my children. So when it came time to clean out my mom’s home after she died, the items we kept meant something – not only to my sister and I but to her children and to my children. Had it not been for the constant stories or the memories surrounding certain items, those heirlooms wouldn’t have meant much to us.

Another point in Amy’s podcast was the concept of “doing” genealogy. I grew up hearing family stories – all of the time. That didn’t mean I paid as much attention to them as I wish I had, but I’d listened just enough to inspire a spark of wanting to know fact from fiction. My sister enjoys hearing about what I find, but she doesn’t want to do the research. Most of my kids like hearing the stories – especially about black sheep relatives, but they don’t want to do the research. My son, however, likes the mystery and working the puzzles as much as I do. Reaching out to unknown cousins carries a certain risk – rejection or even finding that “crazy” relative – but it might mean making a new family connection that is wonderful.

The third item that Amy’s podcast brought to my attention was how to attract not only millennials to genealogy or historical societies – but people of all ages. Rachel even mentioned food! That’s good because my local historical society puts on a pretty good spread for everyone at our quarterly meetings! What will people get out of the societies? What’s in it for them? Are they artistic? Maybe they could be asked to volunteer some time to paint a sign for a special event? Do they want to read about what their parents or grandparents did 20-50 years ago in the newspapers kept at the historical society? Are they aware that their great-grandparents donated this really cool (insert item) to the historical society? Have they seen it? Do they know the story behind it? These and many more things are something I think my historical society can brainstorm about to come up with other ideas to get everyone more involved.

Perhaps there are members of a historical society who aren’t part of the Facebook (or other social media) crowd; maybe they don’t even have email or smart phones. I bet they have kids or grandkids who are. Pick an afternoon and have the grandkids pull up some information for you so it can be a tag team learning event. Pull out that item from the back of the closet the next time your millennial son/daughter/grandson/granddaughter/niece/nephew come over, and tell them the story behind it. Pull up a historic map and overlay it with a current one to show them where the great-great-grandparents lived in the 1800s and what that area looks like today.

I think one of the biggest thing genealogists and family historians can do to help millennials feel comfortable about learning more about family history is to not talk down to them when they do ask questions. Not everyone knows what FTM stands for or that ethnic breakdowns of a DNA test are just estimates. Not everyone knows what a Family History Center is or where one can be found. When they ask a question – in person or on social media – it’s best to find out what they do know in order to give them an answer that is neither over their head nor condescending.

I want to thank Amy and her daughter Rachel for a well done and thought provoking podcast. Please go listen – and then listen to the rest of her podcasts.

Just less than 20 years ago, my friend Barbara mentioned that she was working on her family’s genealogy. She had one of the first versions of Family Tree Maker and showed me how it worked on her computer. She had notebooks full of research.

Within a year and a half, my mom had given me a few small boxes of old photos. We sat at her dining table going through each one and labeling them to the best of her knowledge. Around the same time, my sister-in-law – with some collaboration from a distant cousin as well as my father-in-law – had completed two family history books on my husband’s line. I talked to my friend more about this software program she had. Before too long, I had gotten a copy and was using it. Through dial-up, I was able to get on the internet. Cyndi’s List was the first “genealogy” website I found. At my local public library, I also found another website run by the Church of Latter Day Saints – FamilySearch before it was really called FamilySearch! Then the site mainly had family histories acquired by the church – no real census records or anything else.

I don’t remember how much longer after that it was that Barbara suggested she take me to the Dallas Public Library to the Genealogy section. She had been there many times so I wouldn’t feel like a complete newbie! We set a day, she picked me up, and made the trek just south of us into downtown Dallas.

Once we got to the 8th floor, Barbara helped me sign in and showed me the procedure for pulling microfilm as well as finding which one I needed via census index in the books. We found two empty microfilm readers and settled in for the day. First, I was struck by how many items there were on the shelves to look at. Second, I figured it was going to take me a long time even with the right microfilm roll to find what I was looking for. I had brought some blank census record research sheets that I had gotten out of my copy of “The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook” by Emily Ann Croom in order to write down my findings. (I hadn’t planned to spend much on making copies of microfilm pages.)

I found a name on my matenal family line in one of the census indexes so I carefully retrieved the microfilm and threaded it through the reader. After going backward and forward a few times (a little too fast!), figuring out how to bring the image into focus at the size I wanted, I finally saw my great-great-grandmother’s name on the 1870 census record.

The image above is the first time I found Melissa (Malissa) Goul Blazer on any official record. I think I smiled the rest of the day! She was real. She was counted. And not only that but my great-grandmother Katie was the 6 year old living with her. I knew it was the right family because I was aware of the names of the other children. I was a little confused why Melissa’s husband wasn’t living with her (it would be many more years before I realized that Melissa was a young widow). Suddenly, there was a need for me to find others: other ancestors of mine. And that drive is still there – except with a more discerning eye. But that name written on the census record – that was probably the turning point in my family history research. And it all began with a trip to the library!

The prompt for Week 4 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is: “Who I’d Like to Meet.” Most of my genealogy friends would agree with – all of them! I’ve written about several of my direct ancestors so I didn’t want to post a repeat.

The woman I would like to meet would be my great-great-grandmother’s birth mother. I don’t have the name of the woman who gave birth in 1846 to Frances V. who married my great-grandfather James Emory House. Frances was listed under the maiden name of “Foster” in the 1850 census – as a 3 year old as well as the 1860 census although she was living with Evan and Susannah (Fritter) Ogan. As a cook living at the Eagle Hotel in Guernsey county, Ohio, she went by Frances Ogan.

I would like to meet the woman whose daughter – Frances – was left with an older couple. I would like to time travel back in time to before she gave birth so I could ask her about her baby. Was the young woman married? I’d want to hear what kind of life she wanted for her daughter. Did she look forward to teaching her how to keep house, sew, garden, and prepare meals?

I may never have definite answers but via DNA, I may be knocking down the brick wall as to her identity. When I have that answer, perhaps by looking at the community in which she lived will give me a little bit of an answer. Whoever you are, my great-great-grandma, I do thank you because from what I can tell, Frances was a wonderful woman who raised three step-children and eight children – you would be proud.

The Week 3 prompt for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is “Unusual Name.” I’ve been thinking about this most of the week – not sure what name I was going to pick. I mean, I have an Uncle Bervil (my dad’s brother) and a cousin to my maternal grandfather was named Urmine. Those are pretty unusual. In my family tree database I have some “Z” names – Zilpha, Zora, Zerilda, and Zellica. Then there’s the ones that start with “V” – Valorous, Vaughna, Vashti, and Valley. How do I pick just one?

That’s when I remembered my maternal grandmother’s first cousin. She was the daughter of William Frank Clawson and Margaret Ellen Stern. I’ve seen her name as Nancy on some records. Well, that’s pretty common. Nothing unusual about that! On the back of a picture my grandmother had the label gave her name as “Nanny” Clawson. Then a few years ago, I found her memorial on Find a Grave. Her headstone reads Nana Jane Welch (her married name).

What I find also interesting is that my grandmother went by “Nana” as her grandma name, as do I!


W.F. Clawson, Nana Clawson, and Margaet Ellen (Stern) Clawson

Nana Jane Clawson was born on August 19, 1886 in Noblesville, Indiana. She was the oldest daughter and second child in the family. Her older brother died at 13 months and her younger two sisters and one brother all died as infants. Nana and her youngest brother Ralph survived to adulthood. She married George C. Welch on November 29, 1905 in Madison county, Indiana and then moved to California where their two daughters, Dorothy and Leonore were born. Nana died at the age of 34 on April 19, 1921. She is buried at the Santa Maria Cemetery in Santa Barbara, California. Her husband George lived until April 5, 1966 and is buried in Cypress, California at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

(Images: Name pins – Creative Commons; Clawson family – Original photo in possession of Wendy Littrell.)

My great-great-grandmother Louisa Bookless is the ancestor closest to me with the surname of Bookless. She was born to David Bookless and Mary Cartmell in Coshocton, Ohio on April 13, 1834. She was the fourth of five children; the others were Anna, an unnamed infant daughter, William, and James Scott. In early Coshocton county records, the surname was often spelled Buckless. At the age of 5, Louisa lost her mother and at 12 her father. She was living in the James Rice household at the time of the 1850 census along with her older brother William. When she was 18, she married William Washington Werts. The couple had 2 chidren – my great-grandmother Mary Angeline Werts and George Wesley Werts. In April 1857, Louisa’s husband died leaving her with a 4 year old son and 2 year old daughter. Louisa sent her children to live with relatives as she was unable to provide for them.

Louisa married John Simon on April 28, 1861, and the couple had one daughter, Sarah Ellen Simon – my great-grandmother’s half-sister. Louisa died on July 26, 1912 at the age of 78. The obituary in the Coshocton Tribune on July 27, 1812 on page 8 is filled with errors. She is listed as “Mrs. Eliza Simmons” instead of Mrs. Louisa Simon. My great-grandmother often went by a shortened version of her middle name – Annie –  but she is listed as Anna, and her widower is not listed in the obituary even though he also lived with my great-grandmother. John died two years later. The couple are buried together at St. Paul Cemetery in Coshocton, Ohio.

David Bookless was born in Coshocton county in 1808 and only lived to the age of 40. While in Coshocton, David became it’s very first coroner as referenced by a news article in the Coshocton Tribune on May 6, 1952. Before he died, David moved to Iroquois county, Illinois – even though he still had minor children in Coshocton. Perhaps he went looking for work. He and his wife Mary are buried in the Bookless Cemetery in Iroquois county.

David’s father was William Bookless, and presently I do not have any documented information on him.

The  Week 2 prompt for “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” is Challenge. And do I have a challenge ahead of me! In October 2017, I accepted a position on the Board of Directors for my local society – Chariton County Historical Society. At the first board meeting I attended, I was asked if I would accept the role of Vice President/Program Coordinator. I was excited about helping the organization find new and exciting programs for their quarterly meetings.

Fast forward to July 2018 when the President of the Board resigned after many, many years of being very active on the Board and with the museum. At the July board and quarterly meetings, as Vice President I stepped up to chair the meetings. October is the month to elect new officers. Besides the one new member who was asked to serve to fill the empty spot, the other seven and I agreed to continue on the board. I really enjoyed my position and said I would continue as VP, but then one other lady said she could be VP but not President. So I consented to the position.

At the October quarterly meeting (our “big” meeting), the slate of Board members and Officers were approved and without any nominations from the floor, were elected. Immediately, I realized that I was really out of my comfort zone. I didn’t grow up in Chariton county. I didn’t know that much about most of the artifacts in the museum. I didn’t have a clue about the “business” of being President. I did however know that several of the board members and our hostesses are a wealth of information, advice, and guidance. And I can delegate! (Insert maniacal laughter!!)

This year will be challenging, but one thing I learned many years ago is that a challenge is just another opportunity. Missouri is coming up on the 200th Anniversary of statehood in 2021. Every group, society, and organization will be having some sort of birthday celebration of sorts. And in 2020 it will be Chariton County’s anniversary! I foresee many amazing things for the Chariton County Historical Society, its members, the community, and all the visitors!


Wheelwright Shop Display at Chariton County Historical Society & Museum


General Store exhibit in “Main Street” area

I can’t conclude this post without inviting all of you to come visit us at 115 E. 2nd Street in Salisbury, Missouri. The museum (which has a genealogy library and a large Veterans area) is open from the first Tuesday in April until the last Saturday in October, Tuesday through Friday from 1-4 p.m. or by appointment. Check out the website for Chariton County Museum and our Facebook Page.

If you would like to join the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge by Amy Johnson Crow, please click here to be taken to the link. (Hint: you don’t have to write about an ancestor – as this post shows – nor do you need to have a blog. This is a way for you to just start writing!)

(Images: Top – digital image use via Creative Commons; all other photos: photographer – Wendy Littrell, original digital images in possession of Wendy Littrell.)

My most recent common ancestor with the surname of Mullis would be my great-great-grandmother, Amanda Eveline Mullis. She was born in North Carolina about 1833 to John Mullis and Darlett Stanley. She was the seventh of their eight children who included: Reuben, Nancy, Lucinda, Sophia, Dollie, Thomas, and Margaret. She was the last child born in North Carolina for shortly after her birth the family traveled from their home in Wilkes county, North Carolina to Rush county, Indiana.

Amanda was about 19 when she married my great-great-grandfather James Wilson Johnson in Rush county on December 26, 1852. Soon the family was blessed with children: Martha Emily, Clara (who died at 7 months), John Lafayette (my great-grandfather), Florella (who died at six weeks), Olive Belle, and an infant who died soon after birth on February 11, 1868. Almost six weeks later, Amanda died and was buried in the Little Blue River Cemetery in Rush county.

Although Amanda is my direct ancestor, she was not the only Mullis who married a Johnson. Her sister Dollie married James’ brother, John J. Johnson, on March 4, 1848 in Rush county. Dollie was eight years older than Amanda. She and John had five children: Ann Marie, Elizabeth Ellen, Mary Jane, Rosa Alice, and John Marshall.

Dollie and Amanda’s parents John and Darlett Mullis lived in Rush county for the remainder of their lives. John died in June 1863 at the age of 73 and Darlett died six years later at the age of 82. The couple are buried in Center Church Cemetery in Rush county.

John Mullis was the son of George Mullis and Margaret Polly Owens, born in North Carolina. There were 12 chidren in the family.

The name has also been spelled Mulles. I don’t have an origin for the Mullis family nor do I have information on George Mullis’ parents. For now, this is as far as I’ve been able to go on that line.

(Digital image of marriage record: Ancestry.com. Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
Gravestone: photographer Virginia Nuta, digital photo used by permission.)