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Workday Wednesday: Tilling the Soil, Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Workday Wednesday: Tilling the Soil
Barns on the Old Homeplace in Jasper County, Iowa, circa 1996.
Barns on the Homeplace in Jasper County, Iowa, circa 1996.

Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

I’ve got dirt under my fingernails and mud caked to the lugs of my work boots. My body aches, but it is the tired throb of hard physical work well done. My soul is satisfied and my heart filled with promise, too, for I have been gardening.

Yes, technically it is not ‘dirt’ under my fingernails- the ‘dirt’ under one’s fingernails would actually be the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life. The phrase, however, has more literary panache than ‘soil’ under my fingernails. Though that is what was actually there- soil, a living, breathing organism that gives us all our very life.

I do say ‘was’ there, because I have actually cleaned up since digging and fertilizing and planting and mulching and watering. I did shirk a bit on the watering- I am letting Mother Nature mostly take care of it since big thunderstorms are forecast for tonight. While I was working, though, my connection to the earth and to my ancestors filled me. Much of this post was composed in my head as I listened to pileated woodpeckers announcing their territory. I observed a jagged slime path glisten in the sun as it lengthened, carrying a snail toward my tender young plants for a delightful repast. I rescued a plump Lumbricus to be an Earthworm Engineer for me 24/7/365 and create tunnels for water and nutrients while creating rich soil and fertilizer for my new gardens. I gently tucked in my new plants with compost and topsoil, mulch on top, using my hands for a final grounding into the earth so the roots could grow well and heartily. How many times had my ancestors done the same?

The "Homeplace" of george A. Roberts and Ella V. Daniel, Jasper County, Iowa. Image taken circa 1900 and hand colored.
The “Homeplace” of George A. Roberts and Ella V. Daniel, Jasper County, Iowa. Image taken circa 1900 and hand colored.

So many of our ancestors were farmers, and they may have not waxed poetic at the long, back-breaking labor required to feed their families and take produce to market to provide supplies into the next crop year. But they loved the soil and the earth- Edith Roberts Luck would tell stories of her father and his connection to the land, and one could see it in her as well. In addition to the crops and animals grown on the farm, she gardened to supply food for the family, like most women with a patch of land did in bygone years. She had a big garden at the family farm, a smaller garden on land she rented at the edge of town, and then a garden at her house that took up most of the back yard of her little Craftsman bungalow in Newton, Iowa.

Edith Roberts Luck in her garden, circa 1980s?
Edith Roberts Luck in her garden, circa 1980s?

She grew vegetables such as Burpee Big Boy tomatoes- so good warm from the field that they were a meal in themselves, requiring just a touch of salt to make one’s taste buds burst with joy. Big ears of corn would be snapped off the tall, big-leaved plant, with a pot of boiling water already on the stove when we got back from picking; one shucked quickly and dropped the ears into the scalding water to stop the change from sugar to starch that happens the moment an ear of corn is severed from its stalk… they were so full of milky sweetness that an ear only required a hint of butter. Digging little red potatoes was amazing as a child- how could roots become such deliciousness? Edith grew more raspberries and strawberries than a family could eat, but that was so she could share with the birds, freeze some to enjoy during the long cold Iowa winter, and then there was the amount she knew would be eaten while harvesting, never even making it to the table.

Edith Roberts Luck in her garden with the fruit of her labor, circa 1980s?
Edith Roberts Luck in her garden with the fruit of her labor, circa 1980s?

Beautiful cut flowers filled Edith’s home with color and scent, and no visit out to one of the gardens would end before a bouquet was cut of irises, gladiolas, roses, or one of many other flowers she grew in rows just for cutting. She always had little vases on a windowsill or side table too- perfect for grandchildren to fill with pansies, or the beautiful-to-us clover and dandelions that plagued her suburban yard. Those little painted glass vases we filled, probably from the Five & Dime, are priceless to us today. It always amazed me that she spent time and energy on growing flowers rather than only food, practical woman that she was. But throughout history, women would grow flowers and gather them to make home smell just a bit sweeter, make a log cabin a bit warmer to one’s heart, and life just a bit prettier.

So many of today’s children do not have opportunities to grow plants, to see where our food really comes from- that it doesn’t just magically appear in the supermarket- or to appreciate soil for the life-giving properties it has. Digging in the soil and observing those who call it home was a favorite pastime for our son. When he was just five and visited the family farm in Iowa, of course he had to take a bucket and shovel. Sitting in between rows of corn taller than himself near the old homeplace, he happily scooped the fertile soil into the bucket and held it in his hands. All of a sudden he looked panicked- “Mom, something is wrong with this soil.” (Yes, he really said ‘soil.’). “It’s black, not red like our soil. The corn won’t be able to grow very well.” Being raised on the red clay of the south, our son had only seen black soil in the flowers we potted together each spring. He was relieved to learn that the corn would grow even better in the richer, looser soil, but we did fill a jar, and brought it back with us as a reminder that our roots grew in that soil too.

 

Next: some of our farming ancestors.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Family photos.

 

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Thankful Thursday- A Thanksgiving List

Edith Roberts Luck with her first granddaughter in 1954.
Edith Roberts Luck with her first granddaughter in October, 1954.

As a family historian and history buff, sitting down to write a list of things I am thankful for is daunting, even when I limit it to genealogy- there are so very many.

1. Of course, I would need to start with the family that was close, and who shared their stories with me from the time I was a young child. I always wanted to hear more of the good stories, and had a thirst for digging deeper into them. The budding journalist even back then always asked the 5 W’s and How: Who was it? What did they do for a living? Where did they live/move? When was it exactly? Why would they do ___? and How do you know that? How did they accomplish that? Questions, questions, questions… (Sorry, Mom, Dad, grandparents, etc.)

Family stories integrate history and help children better understand context, timelines, and their place in them. A fifth grader I knew had trouble understanding which persons he was studying in social studies were still alive- he couldn’t remember if Ben Franklin or George Washington were still living. This was a child who sadly did not have family stories…

David Allen Lambert recently wrote a good post discussing this on the blog Vita Brevis entitled “The gift of family history.” As I read it, I remembered how the Civil War came alive to me in my classes only because I knew I had a great-great Uncle who was “the youngest drummer boy in the Civil War” per family stories. My mother would bring out his picture occasionally, and he looked so young and vulnerable in his new Union uniform and cap. As we learned about boring battles, I could imagine dear little Abram Springsteen marching off, beating his drum with head held high, with his mother and sisters shedding briny tears, and his father proudly knowing that he would come back a man, even though he was only 12 years old as he left. I was proud that my family fulfilled patriotic duties, and relieved to know that Abram survived. The story of him stealing eggs and putting them in his drum to take back to camp for a delicious repast for his comrades in arms turned out to be true; as a child, it made me realize that I too could do things that mattered and that helped adults. Part of his legacy was thus given to me- a gift of family history passed down through the years.

Studies show that children who know the family stories have a better sense of who they are, where they came from, more confidence, etc. The best part is that they can pass on those stories to their children and grandchildren too. A person’s history is usually lost within three generations, since the fourth most probably will never have met the eldest. Using images and the wealth of the family stories and current availability of genealogical data, we can keep that from happening.

Grandma Edie (above) always told us, “You come from strong pioneer stock- you can do anything you set your mind to.” That sentence has kept me going through adversity from the we-thought-it-was-the-end-of-the-world silly junior high sort to much bigger, scarier, life altering things. I think I finally truly believe it.

Franz Xavier Helbling (1800-1876) and his wife Mary Theresa Knipshield (1810-1891)
Franz Xavier Helbling (1800-1876) and his wife Mary Theresa Knipshield (1810-1891). Photos sent by a kind distant cousin who paid to have the Helblings researched in Germany. She very kindly shared all her research with me, even though I had nothing to contribute except a bit of an update on more current family.

2. Back in the days before computers, genealogical research was a slow task with so many dead ends, and it depended on strangers being interested enough to answer your query if you could not travel to every needed repository. I cannot imagine the reams of paper and piles of envelopes I mailed out  after reading a query in a genealogy magazine, enclosing my SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope, so the person did not have to use their own stamp to reply- quaint, isn’t it in these days of instant emails and messaging?), or writing to a local courthouse or historical society. Often, by the time one got a reply months later, one had almost forgotten the details of why they wrote. Despite all that, the kindness of strangers and very distant family was often overwhelming, and helped advance my research one family at a time.

1920 US Federal Census for Elsie Janis (Beerbower)
1920 US Federal Census for Elsie Janis (Beerbower). I had been only able to find the 1910 census for her  even though I searched for years. Yesterday’s look on FamilySearch.org turned up the family in the 1920 census, and I was then able to find the image on Ancestry.com. Knowing some of the servant’s names helped me to actually find the image- it did not come up in a search for Elsie nor Josephine (AKA Jane Elizabeth Cockrell Beerbower), her mother. The chauffeur’s name led me then to the 1930 census for Elsie and her mother. Still searching for them in the 1900 census…

3. I have been researching since a teen, and thirty years of personal visits to families and repositories plus SASE were totally eclipsed once I found Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and the myriad other online databases now available. In just a few months my family tree doubled in size, reaching many generations higher. Of course, it would not have been an accurate tree without all the information I had so painstakingly gathered in all those previous years. Indexers have made this material accessible, and I hope to be able to do more indexing in the future myself. Online databases are the gift that keeps on giving- more comes online daily and I just love the newspapers now online-  they give such interesting details about daily life, something dry vital records cannot do.

Obituary of Margaret Ann Hemphill, 23 December 1915, Prairie City News, Prairie City, Iowa, page 1.
Obituary of Margaret Ann Hemphill, 23 December 1915, Prairie City News, Prairie City, Iowa, page 1.

4. Being able to write about my research and findings has been the culmination of all my research- what good is all that paperwork/pixels if it doesn’t tell a story to someone? Writing it down has helped me to realize where there are holes, and then I research some more- it’s a wonder that I ever get a blog post finished. (I think my fastest was only 8 revisions and I know there are still typos and awkward sentences here and there- sorry.) Writing out the stories is also a way of analyzing what one knows, and sometimes new connections are evident. I am still challenged by some of the technicalities of using a blog, and it isn’t the pretty blog I visualized because I don’t have the skills to make it so, but overall it makes me happy to share these stories of family.

c1914- Edgar Helbling reading.
c1914- Edgar Helbling reading.

5. Having people who actually read the blog is so wonderful. Writing a blog IS a lot of work (thank you, dear husband, for your patience when I am writing), and it saddens me that there are not very many readers out there. It is a niche blog though, written for family, so I really don’t expect large numbers. (It would be nice though to get as many real people comments as spam comments.) We have found some cousins through the blog (one of the reasons we started this), and I am sure there are others reading but not commenting, subscribing, or sharing. Oh well, I do hope that they will one day, but in the meantime, I have been charged with telling these stories for current and future generations, and that is what I will do. Thank you to Uncle Jim who pushed me to get this thing started. To the family and friends who read the blog, I say a heartfelt thank you- you keep me inspired to keep telling the stories.

My genealogical journey has been a part of me for a very long time and I am grateful to be able to share it with family.  I am so thankful for all the assistance along the way, from the kind humanity of researchers and government employees to the non-human databases that contain so many tidbits of clues and information. I am grateful to all the wonderful ancestors who came before to make me who I am and keep me busy at the computer and off the streets because I am so deep into research I cannot stop to eat or sleep or get in trouble.

In the end, though, the thing to be most thankful for, this day and every day, is… family.

 

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Family photo archives.

2) 1920 US Federal Census for Elsie Janis: Source Citation: Year: 1920; Census Place: North Tarrytown, Westchester, New York; Roll: T625_1276; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 68; Image: 599. Ancestry.com. Accessed 11-19-14.

3) Vita Brevis, a blog of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)- http://vita-brevis.org/2014/11/gift-family-history/#more-2593

 

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
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The Anniversary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Birth

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, c1880. Wikipedia, public domain.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, c1880. Wikipedia, public domain.

Quick- who is Elizabeth Cady Stanton?

No, she is not a relative of mine. (I wish!)

You may have dozed off during the maybe two minutes of your high school history class that focused on her and the movement which she helped found.

If you are female in America, or African-American (male or female), you owe many of your rights to her tireless work for suffrage and abolition.

If you are male, she helped gain rights for your sister, mother, wife, and daughters, and helped make all persons in our society more equal, which benefits all.

 

Today is the anniversary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s birth. She was born to Daniel Cady and Margaret Livingston Cady on 12 Nov 1815 in Johnstown, New York. Her father was an attorney and state Supreme Court judge, and Elizabeth was formally educated in a time when few women had that privilege. Despite her father owning slaves, she also was an abolitionist, temperance worker, and a leader of the early women’s rights movement.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the principal author of the “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments,” first presented in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention. Based on the Declaration of Independence, it listed the ways that women did not have equal rights in the United States of America: they were taxed without representation, subject to laws they were unable to have a voice in, etc.- the same as the grievances colonists had with Great Britain around 1776. The Oneida Whig stated later that the convention’s ‘Declaration’ was “the most shocking and unnatural event ever recorded in the history of womanity.”

Elizabeth was different from many in the women’s movement because she addressed other women’s issues, not just suffrage: divorce and custody (men automatically got the children in the few divorces of the time, even if they were bad parents), work and income, property rights, and even birth control. She worked closely with Susan B. Anthony who is now the better known suffragist. They had an equal partnership, however, with Elizabeth writing speeches and Susan delivering them, since she was unmarried and had no children and could travel more easily than Stanton, who had seven children.

So why is a post about Elizabeth Cady Stanton on this blog? Yes, she is one of my heroes, but her work affects all the women in our family who came after. Edith Roberts was in college the year women got the right to vote- I once asked her what she remembered about it, did she go out and exercise her right to suffrage right after it became law, did she also protest and write to get women suffrage? She replied that she didn’t even remember the event, as she was so busy in school and with her sorority. (I was disappointed.)

Also, Edward B. Payne, our McMurray ancestor, was active in the woman’s suffrage movement in Berkeley, California in the 1890s. More about this in a future post.

Women's Suffrage- women are not too emotional… Article in Marion Daily Star (Marion, Ohio), 08 May 1897. Volume XX, Number 143, Page 7, Column 6.
Women’s Suffrage- women are not too emotional… Article in Marion Daily Star (Marion, Ohio), 08 May 1897. Volume XX, Number 143, Page 7, Column 6. NOTE: Women did have the vote in Wyoming in 1897, thus the reference to lunatics there being only men.

Although she married, Elizabeth had the phrase, “I promise to obey” removed from her portion of the vows, later writing, “I obstinately refused to obey one with whom I supposed I was entering into an equal relation.”

Over 70 years after the beginnings of the women’s suffrage movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton died  on 26 Oct 1902 without ever having voted in the United States of America.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Wikipedia article on Elizabeth Cady Stanton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton 

2) North Star, July 28, 1848, as quoted in Frederick Douglass on Women’s Rights, Philip S. Foner, ed. New York: Da Capo Press, 1992, pp. 49-51; originally published in 1976, cited in Wikipedia article on ‘Declaration of Sentiments’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_Sentiments

 

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Sentimental Sunday: Murrell Family Bible, Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Murrell Family Bible

MURRELL Family Bible-Births
MURRELL Family Bible-Births        [click to enlarge]
Edith Roberts (see Murrell Family Bible, Part 1would not have known her great-grandparents Wiley Anderson Murrell and Mary Magdalen Hons Murrell as they died about 15 years before she was born. I do not remember hearing any stories about them, but she told- and thankfully wrote- much about the family she did know. She did lovingly keep the Murrell family bible though, and now it is time for another generation to share for other related family to see. (Grandma would be so astounded at how we can share today!) It is now up to us to find the actual stories of the Murrells, and pass them on to our children.

[I did procrastinate and have gotten so involved with the live streaming of RootsTech that I did not get the Murrell Bible posts up, but will publish all in the next few days- really.]

The Murrell Family Bible does not have a title page or publication date- the first pages are missing. Many, but not all, of the entries were written in the same hand. The births look as if they were all written at the same time- maybe after all the children were born, after 1845? The marriage record and the first recorded death appear as if the same pen and ink were used as is on the births page. This makes me wonder if the bible was purchased around November 1846, when their daughter Mary Catharine died at the young age of 7 years. We start to see the possible stories of this family as we analyze just these three pages of Bible records. One can almost feel the grief of a mother, setting the family’s history into their Holy Book, to pass to subsequent generations.

The ephemera within the bible, which I will also post this week, gave clues that it was owned by the Roberts family in the 1930s, and we know it was passed to Edith Roberts Luck in later years. The bible was transcribed in 1966 with a purple Flair pen (the newest and coolest thing then), with Grandma Edie by my side to explain who each person was and how they were related. I have added notes of more information found in subsequent years, and corrected some of the things I did not know about transcribing when I was a new to genealogical research.

Transcription of the above Bible page:

Births

Wiley A. Murrell

was Born in the

year of our Lord

Feb the 3 day 1805

 

 

Mary Honts was

Born in the year

of our Lord Sep 9th

1806

 

 

Elizabeth Ann Murrell

Daughter of Wilee Murrell

was Born in the year of our Lord Feb the [1? Or 4?]

1835

 

 

John Henry Murrell

was Born in the

year of our Lord

July the 2 Day 1837

 

 

Mary Catherine

Murrell was Born

in the year of our

Lord Sep the 18

1839

 

 

William Anderson

Murrell was Born

In the year of our

Lord May the 25

1841

 

 

[next column]

 

 

James Edward

Murrell was Born

in the year of our

Lord Nove the 15

1842

 

 

Ann Elisy Murrell

was Born in the

year of our Lord

December the 21

1845

 

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) RootsTech.org is streaming video of wonderful speakers from the 2014 RootsTech conference, and they will be available on the website for a short time after. The theme of many of the speakers is, “Tell your stories!” which is exactly why we started this blog. If  opportunity presents, watch the Keynote from Saturday, 2/7/14 with Stephanie Nielson- it is a powerful story and was very moving. For some reason the videos are not available yet as I write this (and it’s a genealogy and tech conference??? Oh, the irony…) but it is all free online so am very grateful for that.

2) Wiley A. Murrell- born in Virginia; parents John (?) Murrell and ?; mother or grandparent possibly ___ Anderson since Anderson is used as his and son’s middle name?

3) Mary Honts- Parents were Henry Honts and Catherine Coffman; name Mary Magdalene Huntz/Hunts/Honce/Hance.

4) Elizabeth Murrell- Note: Feb 1 is date in other documents; middle name was Ann. Elizabeth Ann m. John Roberts in Roseville, Illinois, 08 Mar 1857 and d. 02 Feb 1917 in Prairie City, Jasper, Iowa.

5) John Henry Murrell- b. Botetourt Co., VA; m. Lydia Raburn by 21 Dec 1862 and d. 23 or 25 Mar 1880.

6) Mary Catherine Murrell- died young- see deaths

7) William Anderson Murrell- “of Roseville, IL” per obit of his sister Eliz. in 1917. Married Cordelia Talley 1 Oct 1867 in Warren Co., IL, and d. 1 Aug 1922 in Roseville, Warren, IL.

8) James Edward Murrell-  m. Mary E. Robinson 17 Nov 1867; “of Leavenworth, KS” per sister Eliz’s obit in 1917.

9) Ann Elisy Murrell- m. Aaron Brown; she d. 02 May 1892.

10) Murrell Family Bible, possibly c1845.

 

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Copyright 2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

 

Sentimental Sunday- Murrell Family Bible, Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Murrell Family Bible
Edith Roberts Luck, c1970
Edith Roberts Luck, c1970

I was never close to my grandmother when a child- she adored my sister and brother, but thought that my youngest brother and I were spoiled and she did fuss at us quite a lot. She loved talking about her family history, though, so even as a young girl, I realized that was one way to have good experiences with her. (I really was interested, too; thankfully we became close in her later years.) I can remember climbing the steep steps to the hot attic- the door is seen just to the left in this photo- with its old smell and intriguing items from the past. The house was a small 1920s bungalow, by then 40 years old, with beautiful Arts & Crafts wide woodwork and a breakfast nook. We always visited in August- there was no air conditioning until later years, and Iowa does have hot summers! (Very cold winters too- a wonder all that paper survived so well.) But Grandma’s house will always be a special place in my heart.

The Murrell Bible was stored in a big trunk, along with many pictures, newspapers, and other family treasures. I still get sentimental, and ‘shed a briny tear’ (something she said she always did as we drove away), thinking about being with Grandma as she opened the trunk. She would become a young girl again, off within her memories, talking about her days growing up on the farm and the family she loved so much. She had a wonderful childhood, rich with the mundane things of life, but all were cherished, every day.

Grandma would tell us, “You come from strong pioneer stock- you can do anything you set your mind to.” Her words still drive me when I can no longer keep going, and I know she is helping me to take that next step.

The smells, the movements, the look on my grandmother’s face as she relived her younger years and loved her family anew, and the time with her as she shared our family history come back to me in such a powerful way. Every time I open an old family bible, turn the pages of an old newspaper, and hold the old photos that were a part of her legacy, she is with me. Thank you, dearest Grandma Edie, for sharing our heritage, and loving family so much. And thank you for making such sweet memories while you were sharing them.

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Murrell Family Bible, possibly c1845.

 

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Copyright 2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.