Friday, July 13, 2018

Travel....week 28

In my living room sits an old 'steamer trunk', I use it for storing linens and guest towels, tablecloths
and cloth napkins. When I was a child, it was upstairs at grandma's house, in a cubbyhole, out of the way.  I and my cousins spent hours on the floor in front of it with our paternal grandmother, Lottie Kiehn, listening to her tell the stories that went with the items she would pull out of it. There was a scrapbook for each of our dads that she had kept since they were small, with every newspaper article from the small town paper, the fair ribbons for showing sheep, school papers and pictures. There were items that had been sent from my father when he was in the Air Force during the Korean War, and the pictures, the lace doilies, the christening was a treasure trove to a little girl who already loved the family history and stories.

My grandmother got the trunk from her mother, who was the original owner. Grandma told the story that her mother had brought the trunk with her from the Volga region of Russia and the German Colony of Frank, Russia. My great grandmother Anna Elizabeth Crystal had packed all her clothing and a few pretty linens in the trunk and she and her husband George Frick were going to America. When they got to Hamburg Germany (which was a very long trip by wagon) Anna was ill and they wouldn't let her on board the ship. Grandpa was willing to go on ahead and send for her but she was having none of that and insisted that they go together. They finally arrived at the port of Galveston Texas in 1905, just 5 years after the devastating hurricane had leveled the seaport. They then took the train to Loveland Colorado where grandpas uncle was already living. There was a large community of Germans from Russia there, my grandma was born there and when she was old enough to start looking she found a young man whose family was from the same village in Russia but had taken a different path to America, at almost the same time.,,,


I have not found my grandad Kiehn's family on the passenger lists, but great grandpa's naturalization paperwork shows that they came in to New York.  From there took a train to American Falls Idaho and then covered wagon to Washington to a little town called Ritzville, which was one of many German-Russian towns in the area. When grandad was about 10 they moved to Loveland, Colorado so he could meet my grandmother.

Most, but not all, of the two families managed to leave Russia before the Revolution. One of my favorite stories of the immigration process was told by my great uncle Henry Meinzer. He would say “If anyone tells you they found my name in the records they are lying!” Uncle Henry's story is that he was sick when they got to New York and they were afraid they wouldn't be allowed in, he always swore he came into the country hanging onto his mothers leg under her voluminous wool skirts! Another story that I have never been able to document was the story that Uncle Adam Bernhardt helped the family get out of Russia, as they couldn't afford the tax required to leave. The family story was that he helped them across the border...somehow. He was the last of the family to make it to America.

The trunk is a reminder to me of the hardships, the travel, the sacrifice that went into my family becoming Americans.  The most memorable item in grandma's trunk was a beautiful doll.  She was 'Little Red Riding Hood' and she was fairly new, she was grandma's doll and we might - if we were good and very careful - get to hold her and touch her red velvet cloak.  Grandma never said it out loud, but we all knew that this was the doll she never had as a child. As immigrants making a new home, working in the fields, hiring out to other's when still a young girl, there was no money for pretty dolls.  This doll was her dream, and it was special. It helped those of  us who were benefiting from the sacrifices to appreciate them a little more.

They certainly came a long way...

Friday, June 22, 2018

Same Names.....over and over and over...

At some point in my genealogy journey I came to a realization, and then developed a theory to go along with said realization.

           .....there were only about 10 names in use at any one time, 5 for men and 5 for women.  I am convinced there was a board of names somewhere and they chose the names for that current generation.  This went on until the mid 20th Century when lots of people bought radios and TV's and started wanting to be unique....

I first started noticing this when I was working on my Dads side of the family who were Germans from Russia aka Volga Germans.  I searched for a 'village list' at the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) I got the list and started looking for my relatives.  There were hundreds of people listed but aside from a few outliers, these were what I found-
The men were;

And for the ladies;

Within a 200 year period there were only 5 men and women who were not sharing these names!  I think I can be forgiven for thinking it was a conspiracy, ages in the making!

I would look at a family and see combinations of these names, sometimes more than once in the same family.  Corresponding with other Volga German family trackers I found that it was common to use the name of a child that had died on the next child born of the appropriate gender.  That can get real confusing, I have seen a name used for 3 different children in the same family with only the youngest living beyond childhood.  There were families with all of the children of each gender having the same first names with different middle names, reminding me of George Foreman!

Thinking this was just some German aberration, I moved on to my mothers side of the family.  there had been some work done on this side before by a cousin, so I was trying to add to what she had, working on the early Americans.  John, James, William, Henry, Samuel...I'm not kidding!  The ladies  were the same - Sarah, Elizabeth, Mary, Jane, Catherine.  This became something of a joke when I shared with my family.

Then I noticed other naming trends.  Desperate souls trying to break out of the mold.  In the time of the "Great Awakening" (1730 - 1777) everyone had a biblical name, Sarah Hannah, Matthew, Jonathon, Solomon, Abraham and Moses.  Some were even more obscure - Abiathar; yes it's in the Bible.  In the deep south, in my husbands family there was a well educated family with money, a whole generation of cousins named Flavius, Octavius and Maximus!  The Fathers/brothers were all doctors and obviously studied Greek and Latin. (I always wondered what their wives thought!)

The oddball naming conventions taught me some lessons:
- Check the birth dates  - we have all seen the family tree online that has the mother born after the child.
- If there are Biblical names I look for a local church to see if there are records.
- As with the roman names, something unusual warrants closer examination.
- When I find a trend, I check to see if it is a cultural thing or a family thing.

Of course we have gotten past these sorts of names and trends - My brother and I for instance are Kathryn (Catherine) and Shawn (John).......ahem!

Monday, June 11, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, trying this.

I have joined Amy Johnson Crow's '52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge' nearly in the middle, but I am determined to try and keep up now. This weeks' prompt is 'Going to the Chapel'.

The song that lent it's title to this weeks prompt is a happy one - not one of those 'lost love' songs. It made me think of how fortunate I was to be surrounded by happy marriages in my childhood, which made me think about all the people I knew who made it to a 50 year anniversary. Voila – my story!

Starting with the most recent generation, my husband and I both have parents who made it to 50 and a little beyond before death parted them.

My in-laws - Mel and Charline (Herring) Gates met at his parents market in Los Angeles. She was hired on when the boys went to war, and when Mel got home a friendship developed. He was going to school after serving in the Army in WWII. They started dating in 1946, got engaged and got married in 1949, they were engaged for a little over 2 years, during which time they renovated/built a home in Chatsworth Canyon together. They had two children, a boy and a girl and were happily maried until Charlines death in 2002. Just over 53 years
(l-r) Niel and Irma, Me and Hubby, Charline and Mel

My parents - Niel and Irma (Medlin) Kiehn on the other hand had their first date on Valentines Day 1955, got engaged over spring break, and married on July 30th 1955. Just in case your mind goes there, the first child (me) didn't come along until 15 months later. They lived in married student housing until Niel graduated from Westmar College (now the home of Blue Bunny ice cream) Irma granduated from High School at 16 and was a senior when they met. Although Niel was two years older he had spent 4 years in the Air Force during the Korean conflict and had a couple of years to go. They also had a boy and a girl and they were happily married until Niel's death in 2008. Just over 53 years.

My paternal grandparents - Fred and Lottie (Frick) Kiehn were both first generation Americans of Volga German stock. They met and married in Loveland Colorado. They arranged the ceremony so that they were married and said “I Do” at 12:01 am on January 1, 1929. They raised 2 boys on a farm outside of Berthoud Colorado and were happily married until 1992 When Fred passed away. They were married 63 ½ years.

My maternal grandparents - George and Nellie
(Quint) Medlin married April 8, 1931, they had 3 girls and farmed over 600 acres outside of Unionville MO. George was a self taught geologist and wildcat oil driller as well and they managed to travel quite a lot. Nellie lived the longest of all of these as a widow living until shortly after her 102 nd birthday. She mowed her own lawn until she was 98 when her health began to fail. She and George were married for a little over 53 years.


Maternal Grandmother's parents – Walter and Charlotte (Hamilton) Quint were both born and raised in the northeast corner of Missouri, near the town of Unionville. They farmed and raised cattle and children – 9 in all, one was a stillborn twin, one died at 47 in an accident, the rest all lived to be at least 70, and most older. Married in February of 1896 Walter and Charlotte were married until Charlottes death in 1947. Just over 51 years.


Paternal Grandmothers parents – George and Anna (Crystal) Frick were both born in Russia, to Volga-German parents. They married in 1905 and immigrated to America in 1906, they raised 10 children and were married until Anna's death in 1960. A total of 55 years. (Somewhere there are photos of them but I have not found the relative that might have them yet.)

There were more, farther back, I was surprised at how many. These, though, are the family members I knew well or at least met even if I was small. I had never paid attention to the number of years each had been married and did not realize that only one couple made it past 55 years, 3 couples got to 53 years, and being born in the old country didn't shorten the lifespan of my couple born in Russia. They did all have in common working hard!

This was fun!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Stories

I think the thing that worries me the most at this stage of my life and genealogical research is the stories that we lose with each passing of a family member.  I realized the other day while doing some much needed dusting that I am letting the stories of my own 'treasures' go untold.  I have not even documented my trove for my kids - how will they know that "this is so-and-so's tea pot" if I never write it down?  And the really scary thought is that I may not remember all the stories myself.  I have decided to remedy the situation with my own version of an estate sale/antique auction booklet!

I plan to take pictures of each item, write a description of the item including any monetary value/antique status/other than sentimental information, and then add the information on where I got it, who it belonged to and where they are in the family tree.  While this could certainly eat up a lot of my so called 'spare' time, I think it will be a worthwhile project.  Some things I have collected specifically for each of my children and it would be kind of sad if they never knew why!

Here is my idea for the type of page I will make and how much (or little) information it can include and still be valuable for posterity, most pages will include several items.

This set of china has dinner plates, cups, saucers, creamer and sugar bowl and a serving bowl.  My husbands maternal grandmother (Irma Belle Guyton Herring Olson) owned these dishes and they were passed to me by his mother early in our marriage, this was my first set of 'good' dishes.

They are fine china from Japan with a stylized M and the words 'Arbor' and # '5566'.  The retail value is between $400 and $500 as replacements.I believe them to be from the 1950's as that was a common time for china to come from Japan.

This set of dishes has a little more history.
My paternal grandmother (Charlotte Frick Kiehn) owned these dishes.  Not long after my parents married, my mother commented on how pretty they were, grandma replied that she was thinking of getting rid of them as she never used them, my mom said she didn't think her mother had ever owned any pretty china plates. Grandma sold her the plates, which she in turn gave to my maternal grandmother (Nellie Corinne Quint Medlin) who had them until her death in 2014 at the age of 102.  I never remember her using them but they were there with her 'pretty things' for all the years that I remember.  When my mother asked me if I would like them I just laughed!  They were owned by both of my grandmothers and they have purple flowers - of course I do!!

They were manufactured by Homer Laughlin china and Distributed by Cunningham and Pickett, Inc. warranted 22kt gold hand decorated Alliance, Ohio. and the pattern is Spring Violets.  They were produced between 1953 and 1968.  The value of the set is around $300 - $400 as a set (retail)

I think this may be a lot of fun if I don't try to finish it all in one day (I have tendencies) and it may also get the whole collection of dusted!

Let me know if you have hints for preserving the info on your collectibles.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Project finished!

I had written before about doing the genealogy for our friend Jim, and now it is done!  I have it in a binder, photos copied and labeled, family trees done and headstones for all I could find.  I have also compiled some of the stories that I have found, with the verified and unverified marked accordingly. 

dividers in place!

photos labeled and referenced to their page in the tree!
This was a lot of fun for me as I have really only worked on my own family.  Starting from scratch and not having any "lore" to use in the research was a new experience. 

I also found out some of the tricks that my photo programs will do that I was unaware of (thank you to the oldest son - also known as the family computer guru) so that in the future I will be able to add captions and size the images much easier than before.  I found that both Picasa and Gimp are fun to use, fairly easy to figure out and did a lot more than I thought I was capable of.

It also turned out to be fun to find the 'nuggets' in another persons tree, and I did find a few,  I am very grateful to the New England Genealogical Society for doing the ancestry charts on all the presidential candidates in the past as I was able to show that my friend is related (distantly) to Presidents Bush 41 & 43, President Obama and Governor Sarah Palin!  Who knew those 4 were related?!  I found that his ancestors lived close to Johnny Appleseed, and some of them were captured by indians and escaped.  Half of his family were here on the 5th ship to the Plymouth colony and the other half came after the Civil War.  His story turned out to be like so many - the story of America.

So Jim now knows that some of his ancestors helped build this country and some escaped to America fairly recently, I hope he enjoys knowing about their contributions and that it gives him a real sense of belonging to the bigger picture!

For my part  I learned new things and had fun and really what more could I have asked for?!

Monday, January 26, 2015


Surrilda Cornelia Jackson Hamilton

(photo of - front - Robert Hamilton, Hollis, Surrilda Jackson Hamilton, back row - Ben, Will and Frank)

This lady has been driving me crazy for awhile.  This is my grandmothers mothers (Charlotte Hamilton) mother who married Robert Hamilton.  There were all kinds of theories but all we really knew was that her parents were William Jackson and Mary Bennett and that she was born in Benton, Des Moines, IA in 1852. 
I found a census report from Iowa in 1856 that listed the family all intact living in Benton, but then they are gone as a group.  I will keep looking for the family story, but for now this is what I have found;
Surrildas daughter Anzina Pearl 1886-1890

Wm Jackson
Mary Jackson
Calvin age 16
Evaline age 12
Harvey age 6
Surrilda age 4
Manerva age 2

My Aunt Evelyn had shared a lot of photos with me and in them was a copy of a picture of "Anzina McLain - the McLains raised Surrilda"  was written on the photo.
Anzina McLane Stone and family

I started tracking her (Anzina- this just had to be the source of Charlotte's sisters name - Anzina Pearl, who had died so young)  and found her grave in Yakima Washington, Stone was her married name and McLaine (McLane) was her maiden name I started tracking census reports and trying to find any reference to Surrilda or the Jackson family.  I got stuck, as her father had, unbeknownst to me, married twice and Anzina was from the first wife, whom I found through Anzina's sisters obituary and there it was - her mothers maiden name was Bennett! The same name as Surrildas mother Mary. Now it looked like it was a family situation.  When I started looking in the census for the Bennett family I also found Harvey (Surrilda's brother) living with the Aaron Bennett family in Memphis MO.  From there it has just been tracking down and proving.  So here is Surrildas family as I know it so far.  I have not been able to find any information on her parents and their deaths yet, but I know who her mothers family was and why she was in Missouri.

Anzina McLane is the daughter of Daniel McLane and Drusilla Bennett (Buried at Prairie View Cemetery, Azen, Scotland Co, MO)

Drusilla Bennett is the daughter of Aaron R Bennett  4/15/1815 VA - 4/5/1882 MO and his wife Hannah Mitchell 3/29/1817- 9/3/1865  (Hannah was a little difficult to track as Aaron's second wife had put the phrase "husband of S.E. Bennett" on the headstone!  A lesson about trying to be the last one to die!)

 Aaron Bennett is the brother of Mary Bennett and they are 2 of the 11 children of John Bennett 1/3/1790 VA - 1832 VA and his wife Sarah Raines 1/7/1789 VA - 2/9/1870 VA  (Aaron has Harvey Jackson in his house in 1860)
John Bennett is the son of Joseph Isaac Bennett (maybe Jr) 5/10/1732 Cumberland NJ - 5/7/1808 Pendleton VA and his wife Hannah Starnes. 8/4/1747 VA - 3/18/1814 VA

So the McLanes that raised Surrilda were her mother's niece and her husband who had a child (Anzina) 9 years younger than Surrilda.  Surrilda's older brother Harvey went to live with the uncle Aaron.  Aaron, Hannah, Drusilla are all buried at Prairie view Cemetery.

A note - Drusilla's daughter (Anzina's sister) Florence Emma died in the State Hospital for the insane in Fulton MO according to her obituary. 

I have learned a lot from this search and one of those things is that no piece of information is too small and even if it looks unrelated it may help you someday.  The photo with the legend on it and the obituary of someone who is not an obvious relative were the break-throughs in this search.  Not too sure this is a good thing to have in my mind as I really have a lot of paper already and probably will die with some of it still  unfiled!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

For Those Who Don't Do This Alot

So there we were at the Christmas table with our friends who also had no family coming by for the holidays - our orphans group.  Our friend Jim mentioned in the course of the conversation that he didn't even know the name of his grandparents on either side of his family.  I was of course understandably horrified! (smile) I grew up knowing the 3 past generations and hearing the stories of others so it is a foreign concept to me.  He said he would like to know something about them if only their names, so I volunteered!  I figured there would not be much, sounded like a small family and know the rest of course.  He has a huge family and I was making painstaking progress and then I got back to a point and he has relatives of famous people and I was able to add a whole section that would have taken me a really long time on my own to find.  I have now traced all his family lines back to the first immigrant to America and will begin to put them together.

And it occurs to me that to give a report to some one that is not immersed in this like I am I need to be careful, I need to watch that I don't use abbreviations that are obscure, that I don't make references that are unknown to the general public (when I first got interested I had no idea what a GEDCOM file was, and had a hard time finding it!) and that the "tree" format that I use is easy to understand and follow.  Makes me realize how much 'jargon' I have fallen into.

Ah well, learning new tricks means I'm not an old dog yet?