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My husband, grandson, and I began a new adventure recently – selling our home and moving 600+ miles away to another state. The knowledge of the move was known for quite awhile but the logistics and details were filled with stressful moments. How long would our home need to be on the market before it sold? How much would it cost to make sure the home was ready to be sold (cosmetic and other repairs)? Would there be enough “profit” for us after the sale? Move ourselves? Hire a moving company? What to take? What to pitch? What to give away? When to start packing? Where to put the boxes that were packed? And for the love of everything – what is this going to cost? (If you have ever moved, you know what I’m saying!)

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U-Haul with some boxes in the over cab

Luckily for us, the selling of the house was almost the easiest part – we closed even before we had to move. Then it became a matter of how quickly can we get everything packed. Once we started packing boxes, it became pretty clear that there wasn’t any place to put them and be able to pack more! So we decided to rent a U-Haul truck in order to start getting things out of the house. 

 

My husband very meticulously figured out the best way to maximize the space inside the truck in order to pack everything in to it. There were some (in retrospect) funny moments such as when my husband and son-in-law was moving our reclining sofa and loveseat from the house into the truck. Our daughter mentioned that hers came apart to make it easier to move but since the company who delivered our furniture years ago brought each piece in as one piece and not apart, no one bothered to check. (It was only after they about killed themselves getting it out of our house, into the truck, off loaded from the truck at our new home and just before figuring out how to get it from an outbuilding on the property to the basement of the house, did my husband realize that yep – they did come apart!)

Time seemed to be our enemy on the day my husband had wanted to get on the road. Without any place to sit or sleep, we ended up staying in a local hotel overnight before braving the last bits of cramming more items into the truck or the vehicle I was going to be driving and being sure to leave enough room for our traveling items (luggage and a couple bags of “important paperwork”).

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Husband and I with our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons

With good-byes, hugs, and tears shed, we finally hit the road and left our home north of Dallas in the afternoon of June 11th. We stopped for the night at a nice hotel in a small Oklahoma town and enjoyed a delicious meal at the diner next door. The next morning, we began the last leg of the journey to our new home.

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That picture and the one below is what it’s all about! Big sky, rows and rows of corn, soybeans, and wheat! Gravel roads and country lanes. Barns and tractors. People who wave as they drive by. Neighbors who bring corn, corn, and even more corn! Furry critters and feathered friends to watch and marvel over. Small towns and big hearts.

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Our life is a little more slower paced these days – at least until our grandsons starts high school soon. My deadlines are 7 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. (breakfast, lunch and dinner – oh wait, here it’s called breakfast, dinner and supper!). There’s always laundry to be done, weeds to be pulled, flowers to be watered, and new places to discover. It’s not quite retirement but it’s pretty dog gone close!

Stay tuned for more stories of our life in Missouri – and what this means for my genealogy research (hint: I’m really excited!!)!

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Mid-Hiatus

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I’m just “sort of” back right now. Isn’t that a beautiful sight? That’s our new view looking down the road.

We’ve moved. To Missouri. To a farm. Up-sized – not down-sized. This is land that has been in my husband’s family for 5 generations.

Many stories to tell. Stay tuned.

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Indefinite Hiatus

Due to a big change in my personal life (all good!), my posts haven’t been as frequent as I’d hoped they would be. It may be awhile before I can post again. Thanks for sticking around !

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Martha – Vesta – Mary – Wendy

For this week’s 52 Ancestors post, I decided to focus on the similarities between myself, my mom (Mary), my maternal grandmother (Vesta), and my great-grandmother (Martha).

Becoming a Mother: All of us were 20 years old or younger when we had our first child. Martha Jane Stern and Vesta Christena Wilt both gave birth to their first child – sons – when they were 19 1/2 years old. My mother was a little more than 18 when she had my brother. I had just turned 20 when I had my first child – a girl.

wilt1Martha and Joseph Wilt with sons Clarence, John and Jesse

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Vesta with son Glen Jr.

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 Mary with first child, Jim

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 Wendy and daughter, Shannon

Number of Children: Martha had six children – four boys and two girls. She was also a stepmother to her second husband’s two children (who were also her niece and nephew). Vesta gave birth to four children – one son and three daughters. The youngest, my aunt Lois Evelyn, died at six weeks of age due to being born when my grandmother was only seven months along. My mother had one son and two daughters but she also miscarried a baby boy. I gave birth to three daughters and one son.

Marriage: Martha married for the first time at the age of 18 years and three months. My grandmother married my grandfather when she was 18 years and 7 months. My mom married her first husband at the age of 17 years and 7 months. I married for the first time at 18 years and 24 days. We were all very, very young!

Marriage Duration: Martha and my great-grandfather, Joseph N. Wilt, were married for about 18 years before he left and they were divorced. Her second marriage, to her sister’s widower (W.F. Clawson) lasted a little over 13 years before he died. My grandparents were married for 67 years with a very, very short term rocky part at one point when my grandmother chose to go stay with relatives for a number of months while deciding what to do about her marriage. My mother and her first husband were married a very short time before separating. They eventually divorced just before their two year anniversary. She and my dad were married almost a week shy of 30 years before they were divorced.  I was married seven years before separating and another 10 months before the divorce was final. I have now been married going on 27 years.

Interests: All of us have found hobbies that kept us interested – some of them out of necessity. Sewing, needlework, embroidery were done not only on an as needed basis but as a way to keep hands busy. My mother and I shared a love of theatre – it was only in my mom’s last few years that I learned that she performed in her school’s theatre production just as I had when I was in high school!

Names: As Mary and Martha were fairly common names, Vesta and Wendy weren’t as common. Within my family, there are about three of us with the name of Wendy. I am the oldest. The only other Vesta in my family is on my grandfather’s side – one of his cousins.

Ages at Death: Of course I can’t speak for myself (thank goodness!). Martha was 84 years and 4 months when she passed away from congestive heart failure, arteriosclerosis, and diabetes in 1956. My grandmother was 85 years and 8 months when she died in January 1984 due to heart failure. My mom died on May 1, 2009 of respiratory failure (lung cancer) at the age of 87 years and 7 months. They were all in their 80s when they died.

Residence: We all did not live most of our lives in the same place we were born. Martha was born in Hamilton county, Indiana but spent most of her life living in Leaburg, Oregon. My grandmother was also born in Hamilton county but considered her home the Fairborn and Dayton area of Ohio. My mother was born in Anderson, Indiana but spent most of her life in Greene county, Ohio. I was born in Greene county but have lived most of my life in the Dallas area.

Siblings: None of us were “only” children. We had siblings. Martha was one of eight. My grandmother was one of six. My mom had an older brother and sister – just like me.

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 Four of six siblings: Clifford, Vesta, Nellie and Clarence

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 Siblings: Genevieve, Glen Jr. and Mary

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 Me and my sister and brother

Becoming a Grandmother: Martha became a grandmother for the first time at the age of almost 46. She was the oldest of us. When my mom gave birth to my brother, my grandmother was almost 42 years old. When my nephew was born, my mom was almost 44 years old. When my first grandson was born, I was 39 years old.

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 Vesta and oldest grandson

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 Mary with her second grandchild

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 The day my first grandson was born

Although there are many ways in which we had very different lives, it means quite a bit to find the similarities.

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time! The theme for this week is “Same” – same name, most like you, etc.

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franklin blazer grave

(Photo of gravestone by Gaye Dillon taken on 23 July 2009)

A year ago I wrote about my great-great-grandfather Franklin Blazer in Week 1 of the 2014 Edition of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Up until today, the cause of his death was a mystery. He died on August 25, 1869 so I thought he may have died due to injuries sustained in the Civil War or perhaps he was killed in a farming accident or died of some disease. I was so very wrong.

What could only be termed a tragedy is what befell poor Franklin. He and Malissa Goul had been married at least ten years and possibly upward to 14 years. Their children, two boys and three girls, ranged in age from 2 years to 9 years old. In fact the oldest son, John F., was a month from turning ten – not yet a teenager and definitely not ready to be the “man of the house” at such a young age. Malissa’s son from a previous relationship, James Oakland Goul, was about fourteen.

Thanks to a post on Genea-Musings by fellow geneablogger Randy Seaver, I learned about a new free search tool call Genealogy Gophers. It searches for names in texts of Google books. I plugged in the name of Franklin Blazer and the first result that popped up listed not only Franklin Blazer but Malissa Goul. I knew I had found the correct person. I clicked on the snippet and lo and behold it was an entire book that included tons of information on those with the surname of Blazer and everything within the soundex of B-426 written by John Allison Blazer from Hendersonville, Tennessee. There isn’t a date on it except for the filmed date of 2000.

The information concerning Franklin reports that he was married to Malissa Goul and listed her birth and death dates and they lived in Pendleton, Indiana. It listed their children – four correctly: John, Philip Wesley, Kate and Rachel but listed Martha Ann erroneously as Matthew. Of course when I saw that, I thought perhaps there was another son that I hadn’t heard of but then realized that Martha had been left out. (She is also listed further in the book – still as Matthew – with a child named Chase – so I knew that the name had been mangled). But then I saw something I didn’t know: Franklin died “when struck by lightning in his home.”

I can’t even imagine what the rest of the family went through after that. Did Malissa and any of the children witness this? Did they try to revive their husband and father after he had fallen dead? Was a physician summoned quickly? The weather must have been pretty fierce. It was still tornado season so I wondered if they were also terrified of what else Mother Nature had in store for them.

Franklin had just turned 33 years old. He would never be able to enjoy a life of watching his children grow up and get married. His wife, my second great-grandmother – would never celebrate another wedding anniversary. She remained a widow the rest of her life. Martha, Katie and Rachel all married without their father giving them away. John and Wesley grew into men quickly in order to take on what their father had once done. Twenty-six years after his father’s tragic death, John died of self-inflicted gunshot wound.

As I think about my great-grandmother, Katie, who lost her father when she was almost five years old, I wonder if she had been a “daddy’s girl” and missed him terribly the rest of her life. Or was she so young that she barely remembered him? Did losing Franklin at such a young age change Malissa – her outlook on life, personality, or how she handled sorrow from then on?

His tombstone stands in Grovelawn Cemetery in Pendleton, Indiana. It reads:

FRANKLIN
son of
J & M BLAZER
DIED
AUG 25 1869
AGED
33 Y. 2 M & 23 D.

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I have three pictures of my Johnson ancestors with mules – two of them in particular. I can’t say for certain these two mules were used to plow the fields.  The first photo (above) wasn’t easy to scan – it is in a frame, and I don’t want to take it out in fear of damaging it. The only way I could digitize the picture was to take a digital photo of it. The “bubble” glass isn’t conducive to that (and without the flash the photo wouldn’t have come out at all). This is my maternal great-grandfather, John Lafayette Johnson, born in Howard county, Indiana on March 2, 1861. The first census (1880) I found for him shows him as a 19 year old man working as a laborer on the Isaac Goble farm in Rush county. (I have been unable to locate the 1870 census for him.) In 1900, he is married to Katie J Blazer and living at 1524 Forkner Street in Anderson with their two sons, 13 year old Letis, and 1 year old Glen (my grandfather). His occupation is listed as “rod roler.” Ten years later the family is still living in Anderson but at 434 17th Street. This time Letis (age 23) and Glen (age 11) are joined by baby sister, Mary, age 1, and John’s father, (James) Wilson, age 80.  John’s occupation is listed as huckster – a salesman. In 1920, John and Katie have lost their oldest son and baby girl but have added Glen’s wife, Vesta (my grandmother), and a foster daughter, Eva, to the family along with a grandson (my uncle – age 2 1/2). John’s occupation is Vendor – Retail and my grandfather’s occupation is Expressman.

johnson mules 001My grandfather, Glen R. Johnson, with the mules
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So about those mules?

The only thing I could come up with is that the family probably did have a garden – more than likely a very large garden. Perhaps they used the mules to plow the garden or maybe they just had mules! Notice that I don’t have pictures of the mules AND a plow. Just mules. Some people have horses – my Johnson ancestors had mules.

I tend to prefer this cute little mule: donkey on farm

Mule and Flower Box on the Littrell family farm in Missouri

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time! This week’s challenge is “Plowing Through” – do you have an ancestor who had to plow through – fields, snow, a tough time?

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52ancestors-2015

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time!

The theme for Week #2 is “King” and Amy noted: “January 8 is Elvis’ birthday. January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Do either of these “Kings” remind you of an ancestor? Or, taken another way, do you have a connection to royalty? Did you ancestor flee from an oppressive king?”

Of course the first thing I saw was “Elvis Presley” and all other thought went out the window!  My sister-in-law was an Elvis fan – a very big one! She was born Phyllis Anne Pearson on August 9, 1941 to Forrest Orville Pearson and Helen Jane Manning in Troy, Ohio. When she was born, her older brother was almost three. Her parents were divorced and by 1952, Forrest had remarried and was expecting a child with his wife. Unfortunately, the little boy was born prematurely and didn’t survive. Phyllis also had a younger half-sister. Her mother had also remarried. As a child, she contracted polio; consequently, one leg was a tad shorter than the other and that foot was half the size of her other one.

By the end of 1960, Phyllis was working at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton and met my brother, Jim. He had tried to enlist in the US Air Force but due to his eyesight and a bad shoulder, he was honorably discharged. Unable to follow in the footsteps of our father and grandfather, he found work at the same hospital as Phyllis. On February 1, 1961 the two of them married at the parsonage of the First Reformed Church of Xenia (Ohio) by Rev. Russell Mayer. Their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Fuchs, were their attendants. The reception was held at my parents’ home in Beavercreek, Ohio. My brother had turned 21 years old a month previous – on January 2 – and Phyllis was 20.

I wasn’t at the wedding – because I wasn’t even born yet!  When my mother asked my grandmother on Easter of 1961 how she would feel about becoming a grandmother again, everyone looked at Phyllis, who immediately exclaimed, “It’s not me!” So Phyllis had been a part of my family even before I was born. She and my brother would keep me at their house on weekends here and there. I was at their house when I broke out in chicken pox at the age of six. They would get real ice cream for me from the ice cream truck whenever I spent time with them.

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My sister, brother Jim holding me and Phyllis

Phyllis’ personality was big. Everyone knew when she had entered a room. She had a voice that carried and a laugh I still hear in my daughter – who laughs a lot like Phyllis. She was tall and carried quite a bit of weight but she could dress in lovely skirt suits and blouses. Her blonde hair was always coiffed. I remember her purse – she always had a big one. We always teased her that she needed an even bigger one! To her family, she was Anne, but to us – Jim’s family – she was Phyllis. She and my brother took me to see “Jaws” when it came out in the movie theaters. I can still hear her yell when that shark came up out of the water!

When she and my brother adopted their son, she was so happy – they both were. I had a new nephew, and he was a darling. Phyllis was always laughing and making jokes. And she would talk about possibly going to an Elvis concert. It was after he had released “Moody Blue” but then he died. She was in shock – along with half of country.

She and my brother divorced in 1998 but she would always be my sister. Whenever we traveled to Ohio to visit my family, I always made sure to see her. She was a passenger in a car accident which badly damaged her polio stricken foot. The doctors weren’t sure if she would be able to keep it but she did. By that time her weight had ballooned, and she spent a lot of time in a wheelchair. She was afraid to use her foot as damaged as it was. Then came the answer we all thought would help – gastric bypass.

After the surgery, she would write to me that she wasn’t sure it was worth it. She wasn’t able to keep anything down and some of her family members were treating her differently. I kept teasing her that soon she could go bikini shopping! When we saw her in the summer of 2006, she still had that wit and laugh, but truth be told, her appearance was startling. She had gone to from at least 400 lbs to under 200 lbs. Her face, which had always been round and “jolly,” had lost that roundness. Then when we saw her the following summer, she was walking with a walker and seemed to have a breathing issue, as if any movement just wore her out. She didn’t speak much, and I can’t remember if I heard her laugh that evening. She seemed to have a hard time sitting. Her face was devoid of joy and happiness. I know she was still in mourning after losing her mother earlier that spring. Looking back on that evening, I should have realized something was off but I chalked it up to her grief and not seeing her for a year. She had lost even more weight.

In 2008, we were in Ohio in June, to visit my mother who had her own illness to battle. I called Phyllis to ask her if we would be able to see her but she said that she just hadn’t been feeling well and wanted to rest. I thought she might have a kidney infection or something but the following month I received a call from my nephew who told me that Phyllis had been hospitalized, and it didn’t sound good. He didn’t go in to detail but I could tell that he was scared. The next day – July 27, 2008 – my cousin called in tears to tell me that Phyllis had died. I just couldn’t believe it. She had been so full of life for as long as I had known her. I wondered if having the gastric bypass had done her in since she hadn’t been able to eat very much after she had the surgery. It wasn’t until that fall when my sister and I were visiting our mother in Ohio that we asked my nephew exactly what happened. He said the doctors had told him that she had kidney cancer. I wonder if she even knew and had chosen not to endure chemotherapy. Now, I believe that when I had seen her in the summer of 2007, she probably had the cancer then, and was starting to feel the pain. I think she had just given up.

I miss getting letters from her – I miss her laugh and the way she could tell a story! I miss her because even though she and my brother had divorced, she was a link to him after he passed away – to the life they had lived happily when I was a child. Not only did my mother survive her son but also her daughter-in-law. My nephew had already lost his father, then his maternal grandmother, then his mother and the following spring, my mom – his paternal grandmother. A few weeks after my mom died, Phyllis’ brother passed away. My nephew endured a lot in a short span of time. It was times like that, I wish we were closer.

So, on the anniversary of Elvis’ birth, I remember my sister-in-law, Phyllis Anne Pearson Amore. I hope she’s at peace and laughing.

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