Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lunch with an Ancestor

Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.
March 16 — If you could have lunch with any female family member (living or dead) or any famous female who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?

I know I'm a couple of days late with this one. It took a little thought.

I would go to lunch with my cousin, Lela Carson Johnson Burge. Lela was my dad's half first cousin. Lela's mother and my grandmother were half sisters. Growing up, Lela always told us we were "distantly" related. Hah! She was a special person in our lives and in mine particularly. Lela was also the storyteller in the family circle. We hung on her every word. She lived through the depression. She lived in Colorado and California as well as in Ohio. She lost her only son in a WWII flight training accident. She was a music teacher. She was a grand lady standing not quite 5 foot tall, if that.

I would love to have lunch with her - again - and talk about our family to learn even more. She had insisted that her grandmother had not divorced her first husband to marry a second time. (That is a whole different story). Yet, I did find the divorce record. I would want to know more about her grandmother and her second husband (and the first husband, too) I would love to tell her how much I have learned about our family - the good and the bad. She might be a bit appalled that I found the divorce record, though.

I always thought of her as a third grandma. An overnight at her place was always an experience. Lela lived to be almost 106 years of age. She had a lifetime of stories of her own to tell.

We would go on a picnic in a park with a river or water flowing neaerby. Sandwiches and lemonade with plenty of pickles on the side. Cookies for dessert.


Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.
March 14 — Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Why? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?

My mother's sister, Norma Werner Kraps, was an avid bird watcher. When my sisters and I were young, we would go hiking in the local park with the Audubon group to seek out our feathered friends. We learned the calls of the birds, and the colorings and markings of the birds. My aunt could tell from the song she heard what was in the area. She worked with scouting groups and was a guide to many.

In 1958 the Elyria Audobon Society was formed (Ohio) and in 2008, Norma was among a handful of members being recognized for their long-time association with the organization. Norma held all offices in the society.

Her special bird watching apparel was a pink hat and her binoculars. As her eyesight deteriorated due to macular degeneration, she got stronger binoculars until she could only recognize the songs of her feathered friends telling of their presence.

She traveled the United States always alert for new sightings and new adventures.

Thanks, my dear Aunt Norma, for the love of your feathered friends.

Norma Werner Kraps in 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Six Word Memoir

Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.
March 15 — Write a six-word memoir tribute to one of your female ancestors.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

March 13 - Moment of Strength

Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.
March 13 — Moment of Strength: share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.

I have to admire the strength and courage of my great-grandmother, Augusta Sprengel Werner. She and her husband, Anton, lived in the most northern part of Germany near Koningsberg. It is said that they were peasants on a farm and had little food to eat. The landowner would lock the excess food away so his peasants wouldn't be able to get to it. 

In March of 1888, Anton set out for the United States. Former tenants on the same farm had previously come to the United States and urged Anton and his family to come for a better life. Anton left behind his family knowing they would re-unite soon.

Anton made his way to Grafton, Ohio where he worked in the sandstone quarries. He worked very hard to have a home for when his family when join him.

Either just before, or just after Anton departed Germany, Augusta gave birth to their second son, Otto. The records indicate that Otto was either 2 weeks old or 2 months old when Augusta and her two sons set sail for America in April of 1888. The church record from Elyria, Ohio indicates that Otto was born in March of 1888.

It is not known if Augusta traveled with friends or family. It is known that she had two small children with her. She was leaving the only life she had ever known for an unknown future. Augusta was 27 years old. Family stories tell us that on the ship, Augusta became very ill. They were traveling in steerage. Her worldly possessions were only a feather bed and a wicker trunk. It is said that without the help and assistance of the other passengers, she would have died on that trip. 

This is a picture of the ship Trave that Augusta and her sons traveled to America on

Augusta did survive the trip. She never learned to speak English very well and insisted her children speak German at home. Of course, being born in the United States, they were only learning German from their parents. It was difficult for the children. Six more children were born including my grandfather after they settled in to a life in Grafton, Ohio.

Would I have the same courage to make that kind of a move on my own? To move away from my family and all I knew? Time and circumstances dictate our choices in life. Perhaps it is just knowing you would have the opportunity have a better life or make a change that would be worth it in the end.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 12 - Working Outside the Home

Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.
March 12 — Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

For the first 22 years of her married life, my mother was a stay-at-home mom. My parents were married in 1939. Three daughters were born between 1942 and 1945. My father made a living as a machinist in a factory and was a musician on the weekends which brought in extra money that was used for our yearly vacations. My brother was born in 1956 when I was 14 years old. He had four mothers! In the summer of 1961 my parents decided to move from Ohio to Prescott, Arizona.

This move meant that my dad was giving up a secure job and only a few short years until he earned his full pension right. The house was nearly paid off. They sold the house to my mother's sister and her family. They packed up the trailer, and looking like a gypsy caravan they started out on their new adventures.

Once in Arizona, dad found it difficult to find a job. Prescott, Arizona, even in the 1960's was considered a retirement community. There were no factories or major industries. He started teaching music and playing dinner music in restaurants. There were still two children at home.

In order to supplement the household income, mom found a job as a "nanny" or babysitter to her doctor's family of 5 children. She bonded well with that family and was with them for several years. She finally found a job working with the local public library. Because she loved books so dearly, this was the perfect job for her. She rarely worked the front desk preferring to be behind the scenes. She learned to repair book bindings and often traveled to the branch libraries to give instructional classes to other librarians. She truly loved what she did.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Early Demise

Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.
March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

Today's prompt will lead me to my husband's great-grandmother Elizabeth Ann Blanchett Cheney.  Elizabeth was born in Portsmouth, England in 1830. She came to America with her family while a young girl. Her family moved to Avon, Lorain County, Ohio. In 1862, at the age of 32, she married Reuben Cheney. This was Reuben's second marriage, as his first wife had died in October of 1861. She left behind three young girls born in 1857, 1860 and 1861. Only one of those daughters lived to adulthood to raise her own family.  The other two daughters died in 1879 and 1880.

Reuben need a mother for his three young daughters. He was living in Coldwater, Michigan at the time. However, before that first marriage, he had also lived in Avon, Lorain County, Ohio which is where he undoubtedly met Elizabeth. He returned to Lorain County to marry Elizabeth and took her to Coldwater.

Elizabeth and Reuben had 5 children, including two sets of twins. The oldest daughter was born in 1863, the first set of twins in 1865, and the second set of twins on June 2, 1867. There were four girls and one boy. On the 13th of June in 1867, Elizabeth died from complications of childbirth.

Reuben was distraught. He now had eight children to take care of including newborn twins. He returned to Lorain County for his third wife, Matilda Chester, who was 45 years old. They were married in October of 1867. They had no children. They had no children. This was Matilda's fourth marriage. She had at least one daughter by a previous marriage.

Sometime, before 1870, the only son of Reuben and Elizabeth was sent back to Ohio to live with his mother's parents, Henry Howe and Elizabeth [Reed] Blanchett. The family was being shifted around. Some of his sisters were living with brothers and sisters of Reuben in the Coldwater area. Only three of Reuben's daughters were living with him in the 1870 census. His third wife, Matilda, is not listed with him in the 1870 Census. By 1870, Matilda had filed for divorce.

The last set of twins also died early, one at the age of 7, and the other at the age of  22, a wife of two years, and the mother of an 11 week old baby.

The son sent to Ohio, Charles Cheney, was my husband's grandfather. We know that he went back and forth to Michigan as he got older to help his father on the farm. Charles' remaining sisters often came to Ohio to visit him as well. If Charles had stayed in Michigaan, his family line could be much different. Fortunately, he married a girl from Avon, Ohio and they stayed in Ohio to raise their family.

Reuben married at least once more, if not twice after the 1871 divorce. He died in 1888 in Coldwater, Michigan. He was 64 years old.

It is hard to imagine your family being raised by other people. Even in today's world, these situations still occur. When I see my own family around me, I am so thankful that life's circumstances have been kind to us.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Religion in the family

Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.
March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

My great-great-grandmother, Sophia Reugger Pfeiffer, and her husband Charles were early supporters of the Evangelical and Reformed Lutheran Church in Valley City, Ohio. Sophia's father had been instrumental in building the church as had Charles Pfeiffer. Sophia and Charles eventually transitioned to the Belden Methodist Church where a stained glass window remembers their presence in the church.

Sophia's daughter-in-law, Cora Benton Pfeiffer was very active in promoting missionary work  though the Litchfield Congregational Church. She was also active in many of the women's groups.

Cora's daughter, my grandmother, Viola Pfeiffer Werner was active in later years in the Sullivan Congregational Church with the women's organizations of her church.

My father's mother, Flossie Wallington Lance, was active in the Sullivan Christian Church her in ladies' circles.

My mother, Allene Werner Lance, was active in both the Christian Church and Congregational Church in Elyria, Ohio where she taught Sunday School and was on the buildling committee of the Christian Church.

At one time I was a Sunday School teacher at the First Congregational Church of Elyria, Ohio and supported many of their social activities for families. I also sang in the choir there.