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.

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Time Travel Tuesday: The Murrell Family Farm in 1880

Tipton, Cedar Co. Farm- Engraving
Tipton, Cedar Co. Farm- Engraving (relatively near to Jasper Co. and the Murrell Farm.)


It is seldom that we can travel to a time and place long ago, and almost hear the sounds, smell the odors, touch the items in the scene, and have it seem so very real. Unless we have a diary, journal, or detailed written account such as in a county history, it is hard to imagine exactly what life was like for our ancestors.

The Agricultural Schedules of the U. S. Federal Censuses are just the vehicle to take us to a place unknown except to our ancestors. While there are still ag censuses being taken, the ones most interesting to today’s genealogists will be those taken during the 1850-1880 U. S. Federal Censuses, and for any states that also took a census in 1885. Very few of these images have been digitized, and there are also Manufacturing Schedules, Social Statistics Schedules, and even a Business schedule completed in 1935. Not all farms or businesses will be found listed, however, as the criteria for inclusion changed throughout the years, for example, in 1850, small farms producing less than $100 of products annually were excluded; in 1870, to be excluded a farm had to have less than 3 acres or produce less than $500 worth of products.

The following is a simple narrative transcription of the raw data found in the 1880 Agricultural Schedule for Wiley A. Murrell’s farm, using the column headings of the Schedule and including the data for WA’s farm. This information could easily be woven into the story of WA’s life, and that of his family, with richer language to make it a bit less dry. Also, looking at the data for other farmers on the same page will help give a sense of relative income and possessions owned by your ancestor. The Agricultural census may even help to distinguish one person from another with the same name.

Page No. 8 (D.), Supervisor’s District: No. 3, Enumeration Dist: No. 96, Line No. 6. Enumerated 08 June 1880.
W.A. MURRELL rented for shares of production 240 acres of improved land [Tilled, including fallow and grass in rotation, (whether pasture or meadow.)] and 0 acres unimproved land. The value of the farm included land, fences, and buildings worth $6,000; the value of farming implements and machinery was $300; and value of livestock was $2,200. The cost of building and repairing fences in 1879 was $50, and there was no cost for fertilizers purchased in 1879 listed.
The amount paid for wages for farm labor during 1879, including value of board was $150, with no value listed for the weeks hired labor in 1879 upon farm (and dairy) excluding housework.
The estimated value of all farm productions (sold, consumed, or on hand) for 1879 was $1600. [equivalent to about $36,000 in 2010.]
Of the farm grasslands, in 1879 30 acres were mown, 10 acres were not mown. Hay production was 40 tons, with no clover or grass seed harvested in 1879.
There were 7 horses of all ages on hand June 1, 1880 and no mules and asses.
Neat cattle and their products:
On hand June 1, 1880 were 22 working oxen, 3 milch [milk] cows, and 23 other cattle. 6 calves were dropped. [born] None were purchased, 20 cattle sold living, none listed as slaughtered, and 2 died, strayed, [or] stolen and not recovered. No milk was sold or sent to butter and cheese factories in 1879. 300 lbs. of butter were made on the farm in 1879, but no cheese.
No sheep were on the farm but it included 100 swine and 50 poultry (not barnyard) on hand June 1, 1880. 100 dozen eggs were produced on the farm in 1879.
There was no barley or buckwheat grown in 1879. The farm had 85 acres in Indian Corn, producing 4,000 bushels; 6 acres of oats which produced 225 bushels; 4 acres of rye that produced 100 bushels, and 37 acres of wheat produced 540 bushels of crop. There were no crops of pulse [legumes- soybeans], flax, or hemp. No sorghum or maple sugar was produced, nor broom corn. No hops, potatoes (Irish or sweet), tobacco, or orchard trees (apple, peach) were grown. There was no acreage in nurseries, vineyards, market gardens, or forest products (wood cut and sold or consumed) in 1879. No honey or wax was produced by bees kept on the farm in 1879.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) To determine the non-population schedules of the US. Federal Census that are available, and where they may be found, see

2) The FamilySearch Wiki has an article on the Agricultural Census:

3) Source citation: Census Year: 1880; Census Place: Mound Prairie, Jasper, Iowa; Archive Collection Number: T1156; Roll: 25; Page: 9; Line: 6; Schedule Type: Agriculture.

Accessed online 22 May 2011: ohn+M&ln=Mench&st=r&ssrc=pt_t4049043_p-1651968883_kpidz0q3d-1651968883z0q26pgz0q3d32768z 0q26pgPLz0q3dpid&pid=577872

4) Even soil fertility and differences with modern agricultural practices may be compared with these schedules. In 1880 the farm produced 4,000 bu. of Indian corn on 85 acres, for a yield of 47 bu./ac. Today’s yields, with modern planting equipment, herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer, provide yields up to 225 bu./ac for various corn varieties.

George Anthony Roberts- A True Iowa Farm Boy


This image of George A. Roberts was cropped from a family portrait. It was taken circa 1904.
This image of George A. Roberts was cropped from a family portrait. It was taken circa 1904.

George Anthony Roberts Jr. was the second of four children born to George A. Roberts, Sr. (1861-1939), and Ella Viola Daniel (1866-1922). Their first child, John Robert, was born 14 Mar 1888 in Jasper Co. and died just three months later, in June. George (Jr.) was born the next year on 11 June 1889 in Monroe, Jasper, Iowa, and was always called Georgie. He was a farm boy, and worked hard his whole life on the family farm. He had knee problems and thus was not able to enlist in the military during World War I. When we visited in the 1960s, I remember him having his knee wrapped as he worked throughout the fields and stock areas of the farm. It must have been very painful for him to do such hard physical labor his whole life.

Georgie Roberts with his great-nieces about 1963,
dressed fashionably to gather eggs in the chicken house.


George married Irene Artie deBruyn about 1915 in Knoxville, Marion, Iowa. They had been neighbors as children, and Irene kept a journal that mentioned him numerous times. (More about that in an upcoming series of posts.) They lived in an old Victorian farmhouse on one of the land parcels the Roberts children (George and his two sisters) inherited. Georgie and Irene never had children. They did divorce before the 1960s, and one of George’s sisters tried to take care of him, and always brought him baked goods and other foods when she went to visit. He farmed her land for her and they were very close.

George Anthony Roberts passed away 30 Jun 1965 in Jasper Co., Iowa.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Family oral history

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Copyright 2013 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Mystery Monday- Jasper Co., Iowa Students, circa 1899?


Ah, the delightful pictures with no names, no dates, but you just KNOW there is someone in the picture that belongs in your family…

This is another one of those pictures. It was found in with old photographs of the George Anthony Roberts (Sr.) family. After much study of this and other images over the years, I now believe the boy on the left of the picture is George Anthony Roberts, Jr. I do not know the other children, nor why they were in the uniforms they wore, nor why they had the broom handles. I wonder if this had to do with the Spanish-American War? We would love to hear from anyone who can explain this picture.

Georgie and his sisters Ethel Roberts and Edith Roberts attended a one-room schoolhouse just down the road from one of the family farms. Might this be a picture of his whole class?


[OK, this Mystery Monday post got published on a Tuesday, but I hadn’t thought of that topic when this was originally published.]


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Welcome to “Heritage Ramblings: Musings on Family History”!

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., with his grandfather George A. Roberts, about 1926.
Edward A. McMurray, Jr., with his grandfather George A. Roberts, about 1926.

 What does one write in a first blog post? Seems like it should be epic and scintillating, entertaining and stimulating, enticing and tempting, and make a reader yearn for more from this blog. Don’t know if we can do all that in this post, but we are going to try to do at least some of that on a regular basis with our family stories we so want to share.

“We” are two married-ins to a wonderful family and have become the unofficial family historians and genealogists and are, of course, totally addicted researchers. We both have been researching our own family lines for a very long time as well, so we DO have a lot of names on the list to blog about- hence the “Ramblings” portion of the blog title. We hope this blog is a good way to share our family stories with those far and near, and a way to get all the generations knowing and understanding their rich heritage. It is really through the stories that we connect to our ancestors.

Of course, we also hope this blog will be “cousin bait”! If you are related to any of these families, we would really love to hear from you and share even more information than possible to include on the blog. Just click on “Contact Us” to send us an email.

Please click on “Follow Our Ramblings” to stay updated on the latest posts. We don’t know how frequently we will be posting, as each time one starts to write a story, it seems there is more research required to fill in newly found holes. Hopefully, though, we can stop researching and tell the stories on a regular basis!

For both of us, family heritage has been a part of our lives for most of our years. We both grew up with grandparents and great-grandparents telling the stories of our families. My grandmother would always tell us, especially when it seemed like we were “in a pickle” in our lives,

“You come from strong pioneer stock. You can do anything you set your mind to.”

This knowledge that was instilled from a young age has helped me conquer many a challenge throughout my lifetime, and I have tried to pass that heritage wisdom on to newer generations.

Grandma even wrote about a dozen stories of growing up on a farm, and gave details about the personalities of each of her beloved family members. These stories are priceless- I feel as if I almost know her parents and other family members, and can feel the drive to make life better, even if it meant moving the family across the Midwest in a covered wagon to new fertile lands. THIS is what family history research is really about- not just dates and places as in a traditional genealogy, but learning the stories and context, and then using that knowledge and connection to enrich our own lives. It is one of the best legacies we receive, and one of the best we can leave behind.

So with this blog we also hope to inspire you to search your own piles of papers and pictures; look for forgotten albums and boxes in the back corners of a closet; talk with family members still around who lived the stories and have the answers to our questions; and make connections with other family members (like us!) who may know a part of the puzzle that you did not. Our family research and our lives have been so enriched by the wonderful cousins we have met along our ramblings, and have helped us embrace the rich heritage that has helped to make us who we are today. We hope that we can do the same for you!


Notes and references:
1) George A. Roberts Family Homestead and Farm, Jasper County, Iowa, c1900.

2) Family oral history.


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Copyright 2013 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.