Friday, July 13, 2018

Remembering Our Ancestors

Sometimes we accidentally stumble onto something special. That was certainly the case with this book, Passed and Present by Allison Gilbert. Frankly, I checked it out relating more to memories of my late husband, but I found a lot of ideas that connected with sharing memories of anyone we cherish. I wanted to share a few ideas Gilbert presented that spoke to me as unique or interesting, or special ways to remember our ancestors.

For starters, the book is filled with a number of ways to use items that has belonged to others but in new and more usable ways. Why not make a "Family Fossil" (Gilbert's term) as a way to display old buttons, pendants, ID badges, etc. by casting small items in clear plastic resin for new use as a paperweight. Another suggestion was to present jewelry, tools, other memorabilia in a shadow box, together  with a picture of the ancestor. Or cover a picture frame with old keys once belonging to a special person. Her repurposing projects range from easy and child-friendly to advanced or for skilled crafters, some referring to professional services for completion. I appreciated the wide variety of suggestions and the artwork by Jennifer Orkin Lewis presented in the book's list of "Forget Me Nots".

Other suggestions are more personal such as simple Random Acts of Kindness done in memory of an ancestor, things like baking cookies for someone as a memory of baking with your grandmother or a family hike to pick up litter along a favorite trail. Allison Gilbert also suggests that sometimes passing something on to others is the best use for an item, far better than the item gathering dust on a shelf or being stuck away in a drawer. During a recent family visit, complete with accompanying the grands for a tour of the attic, one of my grandchildren kept looking at a wooden gavel made by her great grandfather. Others had seen it on previous trips, but no one had been very interested in the gavel before.  After seeing my granddaughter's smile when I shared the story about the gavel, I knew it was the right time to pass it on to her. And so I did.

Technology can help family connect in ways when geography might otherwise be a hindrance. Posting old family photos to a Facebook family group page on Throwback Thursday can share special memories in a way that might interest even those not specifically involved in genealogy. Or, the author suggests, this might be a good time to digitize family recipes hand written by loved ones and use these treasured recipes to create a family cookbook.

The book left me with a number of ideas to consider as special ways to remember my husband as well as to remember other ancestors. Besides arts and crafts projects, Gilbert also has a section of ways to remember others on holidays as well as a collection of memorializing traditions from other cultures. I spent several weeks reading (and rereading) the ideas presented in the book, photocopying a few pages, even getting a friendly email overdue notice from my library, but it was time well spent.

Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive by Allison Gilbert is filled with great ideas, all the while being sensitive to the emotional impact of dealing with family treasures and the personal possessions of loved ones. Perhaps this book will give you some ideas on meaningful ways to share your family treasures and help keep those memories alive.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Slave Name Roll Project* : Estate of John Ballenger, Spartanburg District, South Carolina, 1848

"Power of Words" by Antonio Litterio,

Details found in the Estate of John Ballenger, Spartanburg District, South Carolina, petition for probate filed 18 Dec 1848.1 Included in the listing of bills of sale for this estate were a number of records of the sale of slaves from Ballenger's estate. These individuals are listed below.

[sold] to B. F. Montgomery, a boy Clark, [sold for] $666
to Wm Ballenger, a girl Mary, $301
to Thurren Montgomery, a boy Elias, $250
to Andrew McMakin, Sary and child $505
to T. C. Carson, a Negro boy Frank, $315
to Jno. Wheeler, a boy Edmund, $550

Blogger Schalene Dagutis, through her blog Tangled Roots and Trees, developed the Slave Name Roll Project in 2015. This project is a means for listing the names of slaves as individual names are located through our research of wills, probate records, and property records. It gives us the opportunity to provide information so that present day descendants can make a connection to their enslaved ancestors.

1 "Administrations, Boxed 1-3, 1804-1847," South Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1670-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Operations, 2015, citing original date: South Carolina County, District and Probate Courts.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Taking a Closer Look ... at Ruth Edith Smiley

Ruth Edith Smiley Andrews
from personal collection of Mary P Nelson

March, being Women's History Month, seemed like a good time to look more closely at the lives of some of my female ancestors. And in looking, I learned a few things that have somehow never registered with me as I focused on learning more about my Great Grandmother Ruth Edith Smiley Andrews and my 2Great Grandmother Minerva Melvina Hammond Smiley.

My first task for Ruth Edith Smiley was to locate some census records that I had missed for her timeline. I had previously found her living with her parents, Thomas Bainbridge Smiley and Minerva Melvina Hammond Smiley. The census records for 1870 and 1880 had provided that information. 

What was missing for Ruth Edith Smiley, however, was a census record for 1900, the first census record following her marriage to my Great Grandfather William Howard Andrews.(1) Edith and Howard were not to be found anywhere using any variation of their names in their home county of Crawford, Pennsylvania. 

Pointing me in another direction was the transcript of a letter Edith had written in December, 1900, to a relative. According to the letter, given to my mother at an Andrews family reunion in the 1990s, Edith and Howard were living in Celina, Tennessee that December. She mentioned that the family had
"spent three months on the farm with our folks this summer. I sold our Bradford house and went home to wait for my husband. He had come here [Celina, TN] last year to get cross ties ... We moved here the last of August [1900]."(2) 
I headed back to census records for Bradford, Pennsylvania, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and Celina, Tennessee, looking without successful for any mention of Edith or Howard, or their being listed with an incorrect surname as living with or near Edith's parents back in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. I still have not located that elusive 1900 census record for the family, but I have come away with a new admiration for Edith selling her home and dealing with six young children back in Pennsylvania while her husband Howard was traveling in and from Tennessee in his business as a lumber dealer. Not an easy situation in today's time or in 1900.

Fast forward to 1930, the year of another missing census record for Edith. My Great Grandfather Howard had died in 1928, and this would have been the first census record of Edith as a widow. Previously the census records had always listed Edith as Ruth Edith or Ruth, but I decided to search this time for her as Edith Andrews as this was the way she had signed the 1900 letter. And surprise, there she was, continuing to live in the family home at 1312 Woodland Street, Nashville, Tennessee. And this time, I learned something I had never heard before about Edith. According to the 1930 census, in addition to her 20 year old daughter Edith, there were five women, ages 26-40, each listed as a "roomer" in the house.(3) Remembering this house from many family visits there through the years, I can easily image the boarders staying probably two or three to a room in the spacious upstairs bedrooms, sharing the one upstairs bathroom.

I wondered how long Edith had been having boarders in her home so I looked through several years of the Nashville city directories available on According to the 1929 city directory, Edith was the only person listed for the 1312 Woodland Street address. Again she was the sole listing for 1931. In addition, none of the boarders were listed in the 1931 city directory which suggests that the five boarders resided in the home only in 1930.

By 1933, according to the city directory, Edith's daughter Bessie Andrews and her husband Herbert Andrews were now living with her in the family home.(4) And yes, Bessie Andrews had officially become Bessie Andrews Andrews when she married a husband who shared the same last name, a fact my uncle Herbert liked to smile about. Bessie and Herbert Andrews, along with their growing family of four children, lived with Edith until she died in 1940, and then Bessie and Herbert continued living in the family home until near the end of their lives. The family home, built according to family information in 1903, had served the Andrews families well for close to 70 years.

According to my Great Grandfather Howard Andrews' will, the house had been left to his wife Ruth Edith.(5) I also spent time looking at both Ancestry and Family Search will and probate records in hopes of finding a will for Edith following her death in 1940. Although I spend the better part of a day browsing the available online will and probate records for Davidson County, Tennessee, I was not able to find any record of a will or probate proceedings for Edith in either 1940 or 1941, the last year of accessible online records. For now, I do not know the details of how or when Bessie and Herbert became owners of the family home. Visiting there as a child, the house was always referred to as Bessie and Herbert's house. It was some years later when I began to hear stories of Edith and Howard from my mother and other family members.

Taking a closer look at Ruth Edith Smiley involved some fruitful research as I finally found that 1930 census record and learned of the boarders in her home. There was also that negative research as I still cannot locate a 1900 census record or will / probate information following her death in 1940. When I really gained with a closer connection with a Great Grandmother who, like me, dealt with selling a house, moving away from family, and raising young children in a home where her husband was away from home on business at various times, as well as making adjustments in her life following her husband's death. I am also so appreciative of the Andrews relative who had that 1900 letter Edith wrote, transcribed the letter, and shared it with other family members years ago. Census records, a letter, city directories, and court records, all part of Edith's story, all making her more real to me.

As for her mother Minerva Melvina Hammond Smiley, that will be a story for another day.

#AndrewsGenealogy #SmileyGenealogy #GenealogyResources

(1) Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1885-1950, Crawford County Marriage License Docket, license #473, W H Andrews and Edith R Smiley, m 23 Dec 1886; accessed on
(2) Letter from R. Edith Andrews to Aunt, 9 Dec 1900, transcription in personal collection of Mary P Nelson.
(3) 1930 US census, population schedule, T626, roll 2241, Tennessee, Davidson, Nashville, p 122, dwelling 43; accessed on
(4) Polk's Nashville City Directory, 1933, p 120; accessed on
(5) Tennessee Wills and Probate Records, 1727-2008, Davidson County Tennessee, Will Book #45, 1928-1929, p 398, will of William Howard Andrews; accessed on 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Who ARE these people?

This picture is a real family treasure. That is, except for one thing. I don't know who everyone in the photograph is or even might be. I recognize my Great Grandmother Kari Syverdatter Myren (#3  front row) from the different pictures I have of her. As for the other eight ladies, I have no idea who they might be. 

On the back of the picture, my mother had carefully written the following note "Grandmother #3 Kari Myren, LaCrosse, WI". Looking at the remaining women, I do not recognize any of my Myren aunts (Kari's daughters) nor do I have any information in my research of Myren or Syverson/Syvers family living in LaCrosse, WI, in the 1930s. The 1930s time period is my guess based upon the fashions and Kari's death in 1938.

So, if anyone recognizes any of these women, I would love to hear from you. This mystery is almost enough to make me start labeling every photograph in our house with names, date, and place. In the meantime, perhaps I need to look more closely for any relatives who might have been in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, all those years ago. 
#Myrenancestors #whoarethesepeople #LaCrossWIgathering #mysteryphoto