A Phenomenal Photo Find – A Picnic in a Chicago Cemetery

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 25 Oct 2015.

Hope you enjoyed the genealogical synchronicity links in my last blog.  For some reason, many of my strange experiences tend to revolve around photos and I’m going to share 2 odd occurrences that happened in the same week which completed a prediction made 18 years earlier.

The Christmas before my first child was born, my in-laws gave me a book to record family history. My mother-in-law asked me 3 months after my child was born if I had the book completed as she knew I was extremely interested in genealogy.  Overwhelmed with motherhood, I told her no. She said she expected that I would have it completed back to the American Revolution by the time my child graduated from high school.  Little did I know how right she would be and the odd timing of an important discovery in that line that made her prediction accurate.

I was always intrigued with my husband’s 2nd great grandmother, Drusilla Williams DeWolf Thompson.  No one else in the family was named Drusilla so where the name came from we don’t know.  I liked to call her Grandma Dru because Drusilla makes me think of one of Cinderella’s mean stepsisters.

Hubby’s parents didn’t know much about Grandma Dru; their knowledge was that she was a seamstress in Chicago and that she had arrived there via Conestoga wagon from upstate New York with her husband.  She was supposedly the youngest of 21 and her father, John Hicks Williams, a sea captain, died from a bad shave in the Orient.   Turns out much of that story isn’t fact.  Some of the wrong information came from an undated letter written by a family member who though Drusilla’s sister was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Mayflower Society. No one in the family questioned the accuracy of the information until the early 2000’s when a second cousin decided to join the DAR and found their was no link in the line.

I came into contact with the cousin’s daughter via an internet posting on Rootsweb Gen Forum seeking info on Dru and I agreed that I would help research the family.  Separately, the cousin, her daughter and I made several trips to Long Island and Troy, New York seeking records as back in those days, internet searching was difficult.  We were able to prove descent from Dru’s paternal grandfather, Wilson Williams, and that Wilson was a member of the Hempstead Harbor, Long Island Militia during the American Revolution.  Along the way we discovered another cousin via the internet who filled us in on her line.

We had documentation from the family, census, military, church and civil authorities but what we longed for was a picture of Drusilla.  Dru died in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois in 1898 so it was probable that she had been photographed in her lifetime.  I have all of the pictures of my husband’s family and none were of Dru.  The cousins had no picture, either.  We decided to search collateral lines.  Dru had one son, John Calvin, with her first husband, Calvin DeWolf, who had died in 1852.  John Calvin had 4 children, Sadie, who died in 1953 had no children. Caroline died as an infant in 1883. Nellie died in 1908 during childbirth and Henry, who died in 1924, was unmarried.  The cousins and I would joke that the best chance of finding a picture would be for me to search antique shops locally as Sadie had died not far from where I live.  Instead, we decided to search other collateral lines.

Dru had 3 birth children and 1 adopted child with her second husband, Thomas Coke Thompson.  The adopted child, Nellie, seems to have vanished after age 11 so we assumed she had died.  Dru’s oldest child, Lewis Warren, died in 1883.  He married twice and had one child, Louisa, with his second wife.  Louisa also married twice but her only child died at age 3 in 1910 so this was another dead end.

Dru and Thomas’ second child, James, had 2 children.  Daughter Rose died as an infant in 1883.  Jeannette, their other child, died in 1944.  She married but had no children.  No picture would be found here, either!

If a picture existed it would be in the possession of a descendant of Dru’s youngest child, Mary, who both my husband and his internet found cousins’ descend.  Mary and Andrew Cook had 7 children but we could quickly eliminate 6 of the children’s descendants from having a photo.   Lulu May, who is my husband’s grandmother, can be eliminated since I have all of the family pictures.  To be sure, I double checked with all of his living relatives and no one could recall ever seeing a picture of Dru.

Oldest son, John Thompson, who one of the cousins is descended from, and second oldest son, William DeWolf Cook, who the other 2 cousins descend from, can be eliminated as none of those families had a photo.  Three of Mary’s children died without marrying – Drucilla in 1897, James Andrew in 1906 and Whitney Calvin in 1924.

This left one of Mary and Thomas’ children to find – Grace Gertrude Cook, the author of the undated family letter.  This was our last hope!  We knew that Grace had married John Honaker and they had 2 children.  I had met one of their children, John Sheridan Honaker, who had retired not far from where my husband and I lived when we first married and my in-laws would visit John when they came to see us.  He had 2 children we had never met.  Grace’s second child, Anne Virginia, married and also had 2 children we had never met.  My sister-in-law thought the family lived somewhere in the midwest.

Finding an obituary for John Sheridan Honaker, the cousins were able to get a phone number for one of his children.  This newly found cousin hadn’t ever seen a photo of Dru, either.  She doubted anything was left as a tornado in 1974 had blown the roof off her family’s home and there were only a few pages of the Family Bible that had survived.  She promised to check with her uncle who had been the one to clean up after the tornado.

It took several months for the cousin to be able to convince her uncle’s son to look in the attic.  The son insisted that everything had been lost and he really didn’t want to climb around his dad’s attic as the uncle was too old to look himself.  She volunteered to look but was politely told no.

I had moved on to other lines and really wasn’t thinking about Dru when I dropped off at Walgreens a baggie filled with undeveloped film and disposable cameras I had found while spring cleaning in a spare closet.  It was a Sunday afternoon and I knew I had too much for the harried clerk to develop in an hour so I told her to call me whenever she got the film developed.  As I turned from the counter I ran smack into another customer who I hadn’t known was standing close behind me.  I apologized and asked if she was okay since she clearly looked rattled.  She said she was fine but she certainly didn’t look it; she was scowling and tense.  I told her that I hoped the rest of her day would be calm and beautiful.  As I walked past her she asked if she could have a word with me.  I turned and she sputtered that she was psychic and did I know that I had a lot of dead people surrounding me.  The store clerk was taken aback but I just laughed and told the customer that I was a genealogist and that they were most likely all my relatives.  The woman told me she had never seen anyone surrounded by so many dead people.  I laughed again and told her I had a big family and that I hoped they were all listening because I really needed their help in finding their records, especially their pictures.  I shared what happened when I got home with my husband who shook his head and remarked that the strangest things happen to me. Every time I see this cartoon I think of that experience:

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I got a call several days later from Walgreens to pick up my photos.  While I was gone my husband was checking email.  When I returned from the store hubby was excited and told me there was an email I just had to read right away – it was from the Midwest cousin.  Here’s a transcription of the email dated 5 April 2001 but  I have used initials only as I don’t have permission to use their names:

“Found it!!!!! Actually J. found it.  It is very faint and has some water damage.  I will send you all copies (I’ll take it in tomorrow).  I have never been to Graceland [Cemetery] but there is a tall white stone with what looks like an urn on top.  On the left side of the picture is a young girl with a fancy dress.  Seated next to her is a bearded man with a top hat.  To the right of him is a girl with her head resting on her hand.  Two boys are seated on either side of the monument.  On the back in a flowery script it says:  Graceland  Cemetery 1870 Thomas Thompson Drusilla Thompson Lewis Thompson James Thompson Mary Thompson.

I will have the back photocopied so that I can send that along with the prints.  Hope this does it for you.  I actually jumped up and down when Uncle B. handed it to me.  He did not want me to take it from the house, but I insisted… Congratulations! S.”

I shouted and jumped up and down, too and thanked all the dead people who supposedly were following me.  Later that evening I received the following email from the Midwest cousin:

“I had a long talk on the phone with Uncle B tonight about Aunt V. and we were rejoicing over the good news from the doctor.  Then he says, “S., did you pray about this picture?” (He is a religious man.  I don’t pray about pictures.)  I said, “No, but it means a lot to I. and her daughter, and to Lori.  Why?”  And he says, “J. didn’t go up to find the picture.  He was just going through some old things cleaning up.  Then he came upon a box that he had never seen that had been up there before the tornado because it had water damage.  He went through it and found old clothes and things, and there in the bottom of the box was this picture.  The only picture in the box.  Somebody’s prayers must have been answered.”

“Well, I’ll leave that last part for you to decide.  But this is very weird because J. has been through those attics time and time again and he said this box was just sort of sitting there.  This makes the tape thing* of mine even spookier.  Anyway, J. brought the picture down not eve (sic) knowing what it was because it was so faint, and wouldn’t you know.  It’s the picture.

Just thought I would share that part of the story with you.  You can make of it what you will. S.”

And you, dear readers, can make what you will of this odd story that happened to me.  Here’s the picture:

dru

From a later email, here’s further information about the photo:

“…I asked what they [the photography shop] could do to make it clearer and they said that I would be pleasantly surprised because it was made before there was film so there is no grain and should enlarge perfectly.  I had them make a 5 x 7 with some cropping of tree tops from the top; a  5 x 7 that focuses on the family and the monument and an 8 x 10 that includes as much of the picture as possible in the original, which is about 7×6…”

The miracle of this picture is that it survived not only the 1974 tornado but also 131 years of no heating or air conditioning, the Chicago fire (1871), and several moves across three states.

But the story doesn’t end there….

Six months after the photo was discovered my eldest child was inducted into the DAR; it was her senior year in high school as my mother-in-law, long dead, had predicted would happen.

As I was writing this blog I decided to take a break and look at some of the hints that had popped up on ancestry. I have disabled most of the hint feature so when I get some, I tend to take a look.  I can’t explain how there was a hint for Find-a-Grave for Uncle B, the man who had the picture in his attic.  I didn’t even know he had died 3 years ago.  Someone had posted his and his wife’s gravestone photos just 2 months ago.  I have no idea who made the memorial or the relationship of the person who posted the photos.  Why that hint showed up a few hours after I had written most of this blog I can’t explain, either.

So just maybe all those dead people behind me in Walgreens are still around helping me keep my tree updated.  I don’t understand how it all works but I certainly appreciate the help!

*I’ll save that strange story of the tape for another day!

Creepy Creepy October

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 22 Oct 2015.

As we approach Halloween, I’m thinking about the weird and unexplained that happens in the world of genealogy.  I’ve had several strange situations occur which I’ll be sharing over the next few posts.

Since I know I’m not alone I wanted to share with you some coincidences I’ve discovered in the past few weeks written by other genealogists.

The first was from Crestleaf.com – if you don’t subscribe to their free email newsletter you really need to as it’s filled with useful posts.  In their September recap there’s a link to their interesting finds for the month and one written by Vicki Noels-Cornish, The Ginger Genie, who shares a serendipitous find.  Click on Crestleaf to read about it.

Don’t know if you saw the History Channel show last year about the violin that was discovered to belong to one of those who perished on the Titanic.  I’m not a big Titanic fan but I loved how the show followed the trail to discover that the violin was in fact one used on the ship.  I was astounded to read the rest of the story – recently posted by the Daily Mail in the UK.  This you’ve got to read if you’re not aware of the update.  Warning – there’s a spoiler in the headline so scroll down before you begin reading!  View it here.

My Mother was quite superstitious and one of her favorite saying was “It always comes in 3’s.”  So here’s the 3rd coincidental story – I’ve discovered recently that Genealogy Today has short stories submitted by users about Serendipity.  I really enjoyed “Marriage Arranged By Ancestors” as my husband and I met accidentally through friends.  Over the years we’ve discovered that we are “cousins” several times, the most recent in the 1500’s.  Before researching my ancestors I would have said I was Croatian and German and he would have said he was Swedish.  Little did we know we are also Irish, English, Welsh, Scottish, and French. Enjoy!

Your Tree Posthumously

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 18 Oct 2015.

Being that it’s Geneanet’s A Cemetery for Posterity Weekend, I’ve been thinking about ways to have me tree live on after I do.  Geneanet had an interesting blog on the 5 October 1915 by Jean-Yves regarding your genealogical tree after you’ve died.  I don’t have a tree on Geneanet but I may want to investigate doing so.  You can read the blog here:  What Happens To Your Data…

And then there was this interesting post in Myrt’s blog about ancestry’s disappearing records.  It happened to me trying to retrieve my husband’s 3 times great grandfather’s obit info.  I recently blogged about John and Mary “Mollie” O’Brien Cooke (A New Genealogy Society – What Fun! 11 October 2015).  When I was checking my saved sources on ancestry.com for the couple I couldn’t retrieve the info for John’s obit.  On the bottom right hand corner on the old ancestry version I could see the link under Source Info but when I clicked nothing appeared.  I tried to do a search through the card catalog for Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 using John Cooke but there were no hits.  I had a hard copy so I dug through my records and found it.

I’m not sure if ancestry reactivated all the records they had blocked a few weeks ago because I tried it again yesterday and I was able to access it.  Very weird!  Having records here one day and gone the next is frustrating.  That makes me want to save what I find in multiple locations to insure that the data isn’t lost.

If you’re a member of the National Genealogical Society one of the new benefits is obtaining access to the United States and Canada records FREE on Find My Past.  I tried last week to upload my tree as a gedcom to the site but I kept receiving an error message.  Although my tree is large it’s well within the limits of the Find My Past site.  Going to try it again today. If you’re interested in getting Find My Past, the first crack at registering for the upcoming Family History Conference to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida the first week of May, 2016, and very useful periodicals, you can join here,

Another though I had was the idea of creating ebooks on my lines once I’ve obtained genealogical certification.  I could then download the ebook and print a hardcopy.  I would include snips of the pertinent records in the text so if the original disappears there would still be a picture available.

So many ideas – so little time!

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree – The Real Life of Johnny Appleseed

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 16 Oct 2015.

When I think of fall I don’t think about pumpkins and leaves like most.  Instead, I think of apples.  I loved apple picking as a child and I knew what would come soon after, my grandma’s apple strudel. We bobbed them, tried to bite chunks out that were dangling from the ceiling and dunked them in caramel.  My neighbor, Carol, and I would twist the core while reciting the alphabet to determine the initials of who we would marry someday. Sweet or tart, there’s an apple for every one’s taste.

When my in-laws moved to a rural part of northeastern Indiana in the 1980’s, hubby and I always knew where to turn on the unmarked road – just look for the old abandoned apple orchard on the corner.  The trees were gnarly and the fruit small and withered.  It always looked creepy to me, even on a bright sunny summertime day.  I remarked to my father-in-law that it was a shame the trees were neglected.  He said that he had heard that they were once owned by Johnny Appleseed.  Little did I know how right he was.

I knew Johnny Appleseed was a real person named John Chapman.  With a romantic notion of him traveling the west to plant apple seedlings so that pioneers could benefit from the delicious fruit on their journey, I knew little else about him.

I passed on the story of Johnny Appleseed to my children every fall when I made my mother’s apple salad. They wanted us to plant an apple tree but in our part of Florida, that wouldn’t work.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this newspaper clipping with my father’s papers after his death in the late 1990’s:

Like most everything my family has left me, I have no idea of the source.  Grrr-no newspaper name or date. Did Dad save it because the name Leininger was mentioned or was he, too, related somehow to Johnny Appleseed?  Dad and I weren’t close but there was an apple tree on my grandparent’s farm in Hobart, Indiana that I used to climb.  Wouldn’t someone have told me if Johnny Appleseed was a relation?

John and George Leininger are common names in the family – I’ve got 19 John’s and 18 George’s. In addition, I’ve got combined John George and George John.  I knew John Chapman never married and I had no Chapman’s in my tree so I assumed the clipping was because of seeing the Leininger name. Yet, there was some other oddities that made me wonder.  My step-grandmother was from Michigan, close to Hastings, and the Leininger family first settled in Ohio, though it was not Ashtabula.  My aunt’s name was Bonita and she once lived near Columbia City, Indiana.  Hmmm.

It wasn’t until a distant cousin emailed me his Leininger records that I learned that John Chapman was involved with the Leininger family and that spooky old orchard did in fact once belong to him.

“According to a deed signed by President Martin Van Buren, John Chapman owned 74.04 acres in the South 1/2 of the N.W. 1/4 Sec. 3 Twp 24 Range 15.  The deed was dated March 11, 1836. This land is located in the far northeast corner of Jay County, on the Wabash River.  It was on this land that he planted a nursery of appletree seedlings…. John Leininger purchased through a deed, entered July 1, 1839, 128.60 acres of the S.E. fraction of Sec. 15 of the same township. This land was located about two miles south of Chapman’s land.  John Leininger also purchased eight acres of land in Mercer Co., Ohio, on the other side of the State Line from his larger purchase.  He built his house and buildings on the eight acres, so that he could send his children to Ohio schools, which were better at the time than Indiana’s.  Please realize that this area was practically wilderness at this time.”1  My dear readers know I’ve written earlier about my family’s interesting ways to get their children into the best school districts – see blog of 20 August 2015 Education Across State Lines.

Map of Johnny Appleseed's farm (John Chapman) and John George Leininger's farm
The John Chapman and John Leininger Farms – Map courtesy of Robert LeRoy Leininger in his book, Leininger Family History and Genealogy (1970) p. 7F

So here’s how John Chapman is connected to the Leininger Family.  John’s step-sister, Percis Chapman (15 Nov 1793-28 Jun 1859), married William Broom (1792-1 Mar 1848).  Percis was known as John’s favorite sibling so he remained close to her, even after her marriage to William. Percis and William had 4 daughters, Mary, Lucy, Elizabeth and Harriet.  Elizabeth (10 Sep 1829-2 Jun 1863) married John George Leininger (7 Feb 1826-31 Mar 1917).

Elizabeth Broom
Elizabeth Broom Leininger Photo courtesy of Jill on Find-a-Grave

John George and Elizabeth had 6 children before her death.  He remarried to Sarah Hough in 1864

Sarah Hough and John George Leininger Photo courtesy of  Robert LeRoy Leininger

and had 5 more children.  John George is my 2nd great uncle, sibling to my 2nd great grandfather Jacob Leininger.

Henry Leininger and Jacob Leininger
John George’s brothers Henry (left) and Jacob (my 2nd Great Grandfather-right)  Photo courtesy of Robert LeRoy Leininger

I’ve written about John George in a previous blog (see 26 June 2015 Planes, Trains, Automobiles & Barges, Oh My!) and how difficult it must have been for my 3rd great grandmother, Marie Gasse Leininger, to have to journey to America with young children.

Marie Margaretha Gasse Leininger Photo courtesy of Robert LeRoy Leininger

According to family recollections, Johnny Appleseed lived with Percis and William when he came back to Indiana.  William tended Johnny’s land in his absence and when Johnny died in 1845, Percis inherited Johnny’s 1200 acre nursery.2  Johnny was a wealthy man at the time of his death.

I don’t know what religion Percis and William followed but their daughter, Elizabeth, married into a Lutheran family.  Johnny, however, followed the tenets of theologian Emmanuel Swedenborg.  At the end of his days, Johnny was a barefoot vegetarian who preferred to treat everyone and everything with respect.  Since that included Native Americans, animals and insects, Johnny was viewed as eccentric.

Here’s some things I bet you didn’t know about Johnny:

  • Johnny’s dad was one of the Minute Men in Boston during the American Revolution.  When Johnny’s mom and brother Nathaniel died in 1776, his dad returned home from the war.  Johnny was raised by his step-mom.
  • If you were a Girl Scout and sang the Johnny Appleseed blessing you really were singing Johnny’s favorite traveling song. (Ohh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me, the things I need, the sun, the moon and the apple seed, the Lord is good to me.)
  • The trees he planted weren’t designed for eating – they were designed for drinking.  Yep, Johnny was helping the settlers produce hard apple cider.  No wonder they loved him! Johnny didn’t believe in grafting which is the only way you can get an edible apple.  Planting apple seeds produces a fruit that may be just plain awful (but not if you’re going to use it for an alcoholic drink).  Apple liquor was easier to make than corn liquor and cured quicker.
  • He didn’t just sell apple trees – he also had a business selling herbs.  Native Americans purchased their herbs from Johnny.
  • Johnny was the “Paul Revere of the Western Frontier.”  During the War of 1812 he warned settlers in Mount Vernon, Ohio that the Native Americans were planning an attack by racing 30 miles through dense forest.  His actions saved the entire town.
  • His pet was a wolf that he once freed from a trap.
  • The west that Johnny ventured to was what we consider the midwest.  He planted in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.  There is some who think he went as far south as northwestern West Virginia, then known as Virginia, but that hasn’t be authenticated.
  • Johnny was the first person to travel between nursery sites.  He’d plant, stay a bit, then travel back to nurture a site he previously planted, move to a new site to plant and then move on to visit one he already planted.  This enabled him to have supplies in various places and not lose a crop due to poor weather conditions.
  • He’d rip out pages of his Bible to give to settlers and the remains of the last one he wore stuck in his belt was last known in 1970 to be in the possession of Waldo Dock, a descendant, in Celina, Ohio.

So the real Johnny would have fit right in the 1960’s as a hippie type that would have approved of Boone’s Farm Apple Wine with his special herb mixture.

Oh, and that newspaper article – seems that it was from the Ft. Wayne, Indiana newspaper around 1931 when Robert Harris was interested in finding descendants.  So it wasn’t cut out by my dad after all.  Most likely either my grandmother or grandfather clipped the article as that is where they were living at the time. Robert Harris published a book in 1946 about Johnny.

One more mystery remains – that apple tree I used to climb on the family farm.  I wonder if it was one of Johnny’s.  We couldn’t eat the fruit as my mom said it was “bad” and my grandparents were from the Ft. Wayne area so it just might have been one of Johnny’s.  Too bad we’ll never know.  The farm is now a subdivision and the apple tree was cut down in the


1 Leininger, Robert LeRoy Leininger Family History and Genealogy Two Centuries of Leiningers Manchester, IN:  Self Published, 1971, Appendix F.

2 The Straight Dope:  “What’s the story with Johnny Appleseed?” Straightdope.com.  Retrieved. 11 Oct 2015.

A New Genealogy Society – What Fun!

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 11 Oct 2015.

My sister-in-law called me last week and wanted to know if she was Scotch-Irish. I laughed and told her she was of Scottish and Irish heritage.  I then explained that the term Scotch-Irish is derogatory and only used in the U.S.

She was happy to find out that she was indeed Scottish as a new genealogy society is being established in the city where she lives and she wants to join with her friends.  The first organizational meeting is today so she doesn’t have a membership application to complete or much information on the requirements.

I looked at a similar organization and, knowing that I’m going to be extremely busy with my day job and trying to get my genealogy certification portfolio put together, I told her I’d pull the records for her as an early Christmas present.

Oh what fun it was to review my older research notes on one of my favorite couples on my husband’s side!  I really wish I could have met these folks as they are just endearing to me with their spunk, love and acceptance of each other’s differences.

John Cooke was born in  Whees, Stirlingshire Scotland about 1827.  I have him with his family in the 1841 and 1851 census in Scotland.  I’ve never been able to locate an emigration record but he must have come to New York City shortly after 1851 as he married Mary “Mollie” O’Brien in 1854 in Newark, New Jersey.  Mary was born in 1835 in Limerick, Ireland and thanks to the Irish records now available online, I have her Roman Catholic Baptism record.  Of course, it is on the right side towards the bottom of the page that is most difficult to read!  Mollie and her step-sister, Ellen, emigrated in February 1853 as domestic servants with another girl from her parish.  This was during the potato famine and there is no records of land ownership by Mollie’s parents so times must have been tough.  Coming to a new country at 18 years of age with nothing takes spunk!

Newark, New Jersey, being just across the river from New York City, was the perfect place to elope and take the train to Chicago.  I don’t know for fact that Mollie and John eloped but it’s awfully odd that there were no traditional wedding banns posted, which was a common Roman Catholic tradition. Also strange is that step-sis Ellen wasn’t the witness.  It appears that two unrelated parishioners did that job.  The birth information that was given at the church doesn’t quite match reality, either.  With no relatives around to question, John shaved off a few years, making him the same age as Mollie.

The couple remained together until John’s death in 1889.  Mollie lived until 1903 and never remarried. I believe they truly loved one another and their respect goes way beyond what a lot of folks can’t do even today.  The couple made an arrangement prior to their marriage – all female children would be raised Roman Catholic and all male children would be raised Protestant.  I’m not sure how Mollie got the Roman Catholic Church to agree to this since the rule was if you were married in the church you were agreeing to raise ALL of your children in the faith.  I also have to give John credit for marrying Mollie in her church and giving 50-50 in regards to the children.  I’m really impressed this agreement was made 160 years ago and both parties kept their word.  With integrity, they didn’t need a written pre-nuptial

The couple had 3 children – 2 Protestant boys and 1 Catholic girl.  I’ve been in contact with the girls descendants and they are all Catholic to this day.  All of the boys descendants I’ve been in contact with continue to be Protestant except for one and that was due to marrying a Catholic girl (me).

Interestingly, when John died he was buried in the Protestant cemetery, Calvary, in Cook County, Illinois.  Mary’s death certificate noted that she was going to be interred in Calvary, too, but she wasn’t.  She was buried in Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Cemetery instead.  After 15 years of being apart the children decided the couple needed to be together so John was re-interred next to Mollie. Unfortunately, there was no stone.  I assume because the cost of re-interment was considerable at the time.  I wish I could afford to put a stone there cause this is a true love story that needs to be long remembered.

Genealogy and Addiction

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 4 Oct 2015.

Today an important event is happening in our nation’s capitol – 600 organizations are uniting to take a stand concerning a serious problem that must be addressed in our country.  UNITE TO FACE ADDICTION is focused on finding ways to help the 22 million Americans who are addicts, 23 million who are in recovery and put a stop to the death toll of 350 individuals a day who die from addiction related causes.

Dependency on drugs in the U.S. is not a new problem and my family, like scores of others, have been affected.  The Washington Post recently published an article on current research in the field.   “… addiction — to drugs, alcohol, or any other destructive habit — doesn’t come as the result of some personal failings.  Its the result of some pretty serious brain chemistry.”1  Unfortunately, for generations, families have felt the need to face the problem in secret due to society’s repercussions and erroneous beliefs that addicts are people who simply make poor choices and lack willpower.  I applaud the millennial generation who are getting the message across that is not the case.  Addiction is a disease and effective treatment is possible.

My maternal lines and my husband’s maternal and paternal lines are filled with alcoholics.  Not knowing much about my father’s side I didn’t think much about his abstinence from alcohol.  When I began researching his lines I was shocked to discover the following newspaper accounts of his maternal grandfather from the 3 Jul 1909:

“Perry Long and Frank Landfair, arrested at Celina charged, with selling liquor to Harry Karr, a habitual drunkard, after they had been warned not to do so, were found guilty and each fined fifty dollars and costs.”2

The 1910 US Federal Census shows Grandma Emma Kuhn Landfair as divorced.  Was the divorce due to the conviction or was Frank Landfair also an alcoholic and the conviction was the last straw for Great-Grandma?  Although we may never know for sure, Frank’s brother, Charles, experienced his own problems with addiction.

Charles’ issues with alcohol led to a divorce, loss of his medical license and a prison sentence.

I can find no documentation that 3 other brothers who survived into adulthood were affected by the disease.

Thinking about the siblings, I’m thinking that’s why many people today do not view addiction as a disease; when one sibling is an addict people think, if addiction is truly a disease, than the others siblings should also be addicts.  That’s faulty reasoning.  My mother’s two sisters had breast cancer but my mother did not.  Everyone would agree that cancer is a disease.  Why the assumption is often made that every family member would be an addict is erroneous but the believe exists.

Let’s hope that the millennials are able to finally move forward regarding acceptance and support of individuals who are or have experienced addiction.  It’s time.


1Feltman, Rachel. “The Sinister Science of Addiction.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 14 Sept. 2015. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.

2 The Lima News 3 Jul 2009 Accessed through Newspaper Archives Web 20 Feb 2010.

For the Love of School

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 1 Oct 2015.

I’ve been blogging a lot about education as I’ve shared my husband’s grandmother’s 8th grade final exams. As I continue to do research for the Kinship Determination paper in fulfillment of one of the portfolio requirements for obtaining accreditation as a Certified Genealogist, I found several references to a severe teacher in the early 1800’s in Pennsylvania.  I can’t share much due to following the directions for the submission but it’s hard for me to get the meanness of that teacher out of my brain!  He was well remembered nearly 50 years after he taught but those memories from his students weren’t at all pleasant.

We hear so much today about infusing rigor and insuring accountability in public education.  In the earlier days of our country, that was not a concern. Developing “good” citizens was what was most important. There were no teacher certification programs, curriculum standards or laws related to compulsory student attendance.  Yet students learned.  We moved from an agrarian society to a factory model and now, to a technological one.  Certainly different skills are needed today than in the early 1800’s, however, the basics are just as relevant as they were in the past. Instilling a desire to become a lifelong learner and teaching a student how to seek out needed information remains vitally important.

My grandfather received little formal education in his native Austria-Hungary (now Croatia).  Today, we would consider him to be illiterate.  My grandmother received 3 years of formal public education in the United States after she emigrated.  My mother was the oldest child of this immigrant couple. Mom received little educational support at home as the focus was on bringing money into the household to insure security.

My mother’s elementary school years were at Glen Park Elementary in Gary, Lake County, Indiana:

Glen Park Elementary School, Gary, Indiana

I took this photo when I last visited the area in December 2001.  My mom had wonderful memories of the warm teachers who instilled in her not only the basics but the culture of the community.  Mom said she cried when she graduated from the school and had to attend Franklin Junior High.  She was taken under the wing of the Home Economics teacher at Franklin and continued to love school.

Unfortunately, the Great Recession occurred and it was necessary for her to help her family financially so mom quit attending Lew Wallace High School in 10th grade to go to work.  At the time, she was the most educated individual in her family.

Being a second generation away from immigration, my educational experiences were very different than my mothers.  Noncompulsory kindergarten was available so I attended a church school’s half day morning program.  I was fortunate to start my schooling with a phenomenal teacher, Bethel Ebelglebin Mattingly.  “Miss E” was the founder of the Jack and Jill Academy at Augustana Lutheran Church in Hobart, Indiana.  I was reading, printing and could add and subtract two digit numbers by the time I finished her program. Once a month we went on a field trip – to the community library, the movie theatre (where Miss E. had kicked off her shoes and they happened to roll down the aisle.  We had a hunt to find them when the movie ended!), my father’s farm, picnic in the park, and fishing at Lake George are all fond memories.  The most important skill Miss E. taught us, though, was how to work with others.

One morning, about a month into the school year, Miss E. decided to move student seats around.  I was devastated to be moved away from my then best friend, Melanie, and placed between two boys.  These boys were alot slower than I was academically and would probably be called ADHD today.  When my mom picked me up from school I informed her I wasn’t going back if I had to sit at the new table.  Mom said that Miss E was very smart and must have a good reason to have made the seat changes so we had to respect the decision.  I didn’t care, I was not going to go back.  I had been bumped into all morning long, had felt the need to pick up all the crayons they dropped and didn’t like the noises they made.  Mom said she would speak with Miss E. but I was going back to school.

Mom followed through on her promise.  I stayed the next morning and was sure my seat would be changed. Except it wasn’t.  Mid-morning when the class went out for recess Miss E. told me we needed “a chat.” She explained to me that I was a model student and that she had hoped that I would help out the boys who needed to develop some of the skills that I had.  She asked if I wanted to be a teacher some day.  I told her I was going to be a cowgirl.  Miss E. said sitting between the boys would help me be a better cowgirl as cows needed extra effort to get them to go where you wanted.  Personally, I didn’t understand how the boys needed to be moved along like cattle nor did I care to move them but Miss E. was so kind and made me understand that the class was a team and we needed to move forward together.  My seat remained and I learned to get along.

Mrs. Mattingly passed away in 2009.  We kept in touch over the years and she was very pleased to learn that I did, indeed, become an educator and not a cowgirl.  Towards the end of her life, we would chat monthly.  If she called me when I wasn’t home she would leave a message on my answering machine that said, “This is Miss E.  I’m sorry I missed you, Lori dear.  I hope you’re being a good girl.  We’ll talk soon.”

My husband loved those messages since I still tend to be feisty (as the Walgreens clerk labeled me last Sunday but that’s another story) and he still kids me about being a “good girl.”  He saved on tape one of the last messages she left and I’m so glad he did.

Below is a picture of Mrs. Mattingly on her birthday:

Bethel Ebleglebin Mattingly

My parents separated during my kindergarten year so my mother and I moved back to the family home in Glen Park.  The next 8 years were spent at St. Mark’s School.  Grades 1-4 were in the old building and grades 5-8 were in what was then the new building (below).  Only headstart is offered currently:

Former St. Marks Roman Catholic School, Gary, Indiana

Although I received a rigorous education at St. Marks it didn’t include the loving nature of Miss E.  Our early grades had 50 students in a class, 2 classes per grade level so the teachers didn’t have alot of time for warm and fuzzy.  My teachers were either extremely old and I was in the last class they were teaching, or very young and they didn’t have the process of running a classroom down.  I had one exceptional teacher in middle school who left to seek fame and fortune in California and was never heard from again.

I developed a great dislike of math due to an incident at the chalkboard below (which is now a church office):

Former 1st Grade Classroom, St. Marks Roman Catholic School, Gary, Indiana

Our teacher would place math problems on the board and we had to go up to the board in line based on the row she called to complete the problem.  I didn’t like the feel of chalk on my hands and I hated the squeak it made.  My goal was to get done as quick as possible.  I was able to do that by figuring out which problem I would get ahead of time, calculating the answer in my head and then quickly writing the answer and returning to my seat.  Except one late fall day the student in front of me needed to tie his shoe so Sister Martina made him get out of line and told me to go around him.  I did and went to what should have been my problem. Sister told me to move to what would have been his problem.  I completely blanked out.  I stood there and couldn’t process.  She spoke louder to me which didn’t help.  I began to cry.  She told me I could stand there until I got the answer.  This wasn’t said in a threatening way but I felt added pressure to complete what I couldn’t so I cried louder.  Some sweet girl whispered the answer and I wrote it down and returned to my seat.  I decided that moment that I didn’t like math, would never like math and couldn’t do math.  I’ve been battling those thoughts ever since. I know I’m not alone; I guess that’s why I relate so well to the comment my husband’s grandmother wrote on her failed 8th grade Algebra exam “Not that old story again!”  (see blog of 10 Sep 2015 More of Elsie’s Exams – An Indiana 1910 End of Course Math Assessment)

In reflecting on my education, what I know of my mom’s, and Elsie’s from her exams, I’ve reached the conclusion that the most important part of education is not the rigor of the curriculum.  What matters most is that the student feels it’s safe to tackle the rigor and that the instructor listens and cares.

Funny how this is apparent in the historical records, too, but widely ignored. Reminds me of the quote by George Santayana,

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In education we constantly look for the new big idea instead of looking to the past and finding the answer was there all the time.

Elsie’s Music Exam

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 27 Sep 2015.

Below is a copy of Elsie Johnson’s 8th grade music final from 1910, Lake County, Indiana School District.  Music is taught today as an optional elective and the course title would be either Chorus, Band or Orchestra.  Classical composers aren’t usually covered, either, as “noted musicians.”

The music class content is extremely basic, much like is taught in our elementary curriculum today:

This is the last document I have on Elsie’s school experience.  In addition to the final exams I’ve published (Reading, Grammar, Math, Geography, History and Music) Elsie was tested on spelling and penmanship.

Ahh, penmanship.  In Florida, penmanship is no longer taught.  I’m sure, like many of you dear readers, you learned cursive using the Palmer method.  D’Nealian became in vogue in the 1990’s as it was a transition between printing and cursive.  In the last 5 years, cursive is no longer taught in elementary in Florida.  The reasoning is that keyboarding is more important, printing is more legible, there is less time due to the increase in rigor of core courses and a student can learn cursive on their own.  It will be interesting to see if signature lines disappear from documents when the present generation reaches adulthood!

Elsie’s History

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 24 Sep 2015.

Elsie Johnson was my husband’s maternal grandmother.  She graduated as an 8th grader in 1910 from the Hobart Township, Lake County, Indiana school district.  With the start of a new school year I’ve been posting her final exams and comparing education then to now – 105 years later.

In 8th grade today in Florida, students continue to study American History.  The difference is they have a whole lot more history to learn since Elsie’s day!  I was surprised to see that Elsie’s test only measured through the Colonial Period.  No American Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American War or Reconstruction.

Perhaps the focus on the French and Indian War was due to Indiana’s location.  Father Marquette and many fur traders were the earliest Europeans in Elsie’s region. I was surprised that Elsie’s answer to the cause of the French and Indian War was slavery.  Huh?  It wasn’t marked wrong, either. My answer would have been similar to that of today’s historians, “The war began because Britain felt they needed to prevent the French from gaining control over trade and territories that the British thought were rightfully theirs.1″

I believe that tension between France and Great Britain was even the primary reason noted back in Elsie’s day as I was recently reading a speech written for the American Centennial (1886) that was presented in Franklin, Pennsylvania and the author stated that the French, worried about the British moving farther west, had told local Native American tribes to distrust the settlers, thus causing attacks on homesteaders and thus began the war.

I was quite surprised to see a question (#2) regarding naming and locating 3 early colleges.  Eighth grade was the terminal year of education for most students in Indiana at the time.  Was this a way to encourage further education?  I laughed when I saw that question because that is something I currently do with my 7th and 8th graders but I require them to explore 20 colleges.  My thinking is it’s never too early to start post-secondary exploration!  

On page 2 of the exam Elsie writes “god” and it wasn’t corrected to show capitalization.  For awhile in the education world (early 1990’s), points were taken off if English usage wasn’t also correct. Clearly, the exam only measured the history curriculum.

1“The French & Indian War.” Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.

Elsie’s Exams – A 1910 Geography Final

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 20 Sep 2015.

Elsie Johnson was an 8th grade student in Hobart Township, Lake County, Indiana in 1910.  My past several posts have been highlighting her state mandated final exams.  Today the focus is geography.

The test questions are glued to the upper left hand corner.  It appears that 8th graders were required to complete the 7th and 8th grade year questions.  I like that as retention of material presented in the previous year can be measured.

The continents of Africa and Australia were studied extensively in 7th grade.  The 8th grade test questions were determined by the teacher; please view the third test page for those responses.  In 8th grade, students studied South America and Asia.  How interesting Europe is barely mentioned, especially since many of Elsie’s generation would find themselves there in just a few years under the adverse circumstances of World War I!  I also find it odd that there is such a limited study of North America and no mention of Antarctica,

Geography is still taught in middle school today through Social Studies but recently in Florida, civics was incorporated into the 7th grade curriculum which cut out some Asia and Africa material.  Those lessons were transferred to high school.  Since Elsie terminated her education in 8th grade, she would not have learned those lessons today.

Of all the tests analyzed I have the most criticism for this one.  Question 7 hints at an answer for question 2.  Question 10 asks about tobacco.  My readers know that the dangers of tobacco use was a test question on Elsie’s Physiology exam.  I equate asking where tobacco was grown to asking today’s students where heroin is produced.  To test knowledge of export items I think other crops could have been selected.

My most surprising reaction was to item 9. I understand that the test was developed in 1910  but I still was shocked at asking students to classify people based on color. Was the objective to make geography “scientific” as in the world of science where one would classify species?  I don’t know.

Think about this – the test was administered during the Jim Crow, 45 years after the end of the Civil War.  It took another 50 years, the 1960’s, before this thought process began to change and yet we still classify students. Today, parents are asked if their children are Asian, Hispanic, Multi, Native American with Black and White remaining as options.

Genealogists know that the vast majority of our DNA is multi.  My blue eyed blonde hubby shows ancestry from Chad yet he would be classified as white.  I personally think it’s time to move past the labels.  I understand in the health world nationality can be important in identying serious health conditions that need to be addressed.  Yet, looking at someone’s skin tone could miss important information, such as sickle cell anemia or lack of Vitamin D absorption. Beyond health, there is no reason to be concerned with skin color.

As the world’s first melting pot, I think it’s time that the US moved beyond racial classification.  With the current changes taking place in Europe, I think the US needs to set this practice into a new direction. In 100 years from now what will the genealogical community say about us as a society?