My name is Amanda, and I created this space to share the creative ways I’m telling my family’s story. I hope this space will inspire you to find ways to preserve and share the legacy of your own family, too.
You can expect to hear from me about once a week, when I’ll cover updates on my current projects, including Women of Legacy and Salt of the Earth. I’ll be sure to share new ideas, my most recent quilt block, or new resources to aid your storytelling.
In the coming weeks, be sure to check out my Welcome page, and the pages I’ve built for my different projects. These pages are currently under construction, and I’ll add to them as I build out my projects and my blog.
Please leave a comment! I’d love to know know how you found my blog, what you’re most interested in discovering, or topics you’d like to see me cover.
If you don’t follow me on Twitter @patchworkgenea you don’t know I’ve been participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. As I am sullenly staring at a mismatched point that needs to be fixed, I’m delayed on my next Women of Legacy quilt block. Instead I present Week Four of 52 Ancestors where I’m exploring the theme of Curiosity.
I think one has to be inherently curious to pursue genealogy. So when I saw the prompt of curiosity, I felt a bit overwhelmed at the many directions I could take. Then I remembered junior high writing lessons in basic journalism and the accompanying W question words: Who, What, Where, When, Why… and the outlier, How.
These question words helped me organize my thoughts on the curiosity that drives my interests in genealogy.
There are so very many who questions I could ask. Here’s the question that started it all:
Who was the father of James Marshall Vint?
It really is the question that launched my curiosity in my family history. My great-grandmother, Crissie Myrtle, was a Vint. She had fair red hair, like her daughter – my grandmother Mildred. For as long as I can remember, the family lore was “the Vints were Scotch-Irish.” I had no idea what Scotch-Irish meant – originally thinking it meant a marriage of a Scottish person and an Irish person, creating a Scots-Irish child. Forgive my naivete – I was probably about 12!
As I learned Scottish history, I discovered that the Scots-Irish were primarily Scottish Protestant lowlanders resettled in Northern Ireland (sometimes willingly, sometimes not) beginning in the reign of James I of England and VI of Scotland as a way to quell the Catholic Irish. Other waves of Scots – lowlanders and highlanders – continued to transition to Northern Ireland, primarily the Ulster region, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. To a degree, they maintained their own culture because of religious divisions, and many emigrated to America in the late 17th and 18th centuries, often settling in the Appalachian regions.
Something about Celtic cultures – including both Scottish culture and Irish culture – deeply resonates with me. With family surnames that include Shine (Scheine), Snider (Schneider), Caughman (Kaufman) and Hodde – and very little resonance with what I know of German culture and history, I longed to delve into family legend of the supposedly Scotch-Irish Vints.
Only to ram my head against the same brick wall my family historian uncle has been hitting for years. William Marshall Vint was almost undoubtedly illegitimate, and was most likely the bastard son of a married man. His mother was Frances “Fanny” Moyers (Meyers?) Cross, and he was probably raised by her husband James Cross. It isn’t until WMV’s marriage record that he acknowledges his father as “William Vint.” With multiple interrelated William Vints running around the neighborhood, tracing his true father has proved impossible to date.
And curiosity of this burning WHO question lingers.
As a long lover of history and once-avid reader of the American Girls series, the Little House series, the novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett, and every piece of literature I could find on the Holocaust – the abiding what question for me will always be:
What was life like for my ancestors?
I’ve spent my life with my nose in history and historical fiction books, poking around antique stores, playing dress-up in historical costumes, and longing to be qualified for a job as a re-enactor at a living museum. Getting over the hump of wishing all my ancestors to be wealthy little princesses like Victorian era Samantha Parkington or Sarah Crew – I’ve found myself coming to grips with women who look much more like me: who work hard, who have enough but not a lot, who make do without, who love their children, who suffer grief, who are deeply religious.
Discovering these women and what their lives were like – the food they cooked, the clothes they wore, the places theY lived and shopped and worshipped, the tools they used – has inspired, encouraged, and strengthened me. And it continues to fuel an unending quest to find out more, including my Genealogy Reading Challenge.
If your ancestors were immigrants or migrants, the question of where is unavoidable. One of my current side projects – when I’m not doing a deep dive into one of my Women of Legacy – is tracking down my immigrant ancestors, fueled by the question:
Where do my people come from?
Unlike the families of recent immigrants, there’s nothing in my Apple Pie American Life that looks like the Old Country – wherever that old country may be. My husband, as the son of an Ecuadorian immigrant, knows so much about music and food and dress and holiday traditions of his dad’s family. I confess having longed for St. Lucia celebrations, or step-dancing lessons, or a family Bible printed in German, or plum pudding, or tartan, or something – anything, that looked more like the “Tossed Salad” version of America rather than the “Melting Pot.” Folks – I am thoroughly melted, as American Mutt as they come. To my knowledge, my most recent ancestors came too the US in the middle of the 19th century: James and Elizabeth (Spence) Green from Yorkshire, England, in 1857; and William Frederick and Henrietta (Spree) Hodde and son William, Jr., from Prussia in 1864-1865.
Most of my family lines have been in the US since before the American Revolution. I’ve at least 44 male ancestors who (based on estimated age and known location) could have participated in the War of Independence. There’s much pride to be had in having family long established here, who helped build a new country – but it leaves me with the enduring question of where, exactly, my family lines come from. Documentation of immigration is difficult when going back to the 17th century, so the work is slow and challenging.
When is the question most associated with where – it is natural to ask when someone immigrated along with asking from whence he or she came. But I have a companion question:
When did my ancestors settle in Ohio?
Most of my ancestors didn’t settle directly in Ohio. Given the early dates of their transitions to the New World, Ohio was wild and woolly frontier on the other side of the Appalachian mountains and many of them began their life in the New World in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Tracking their settlement in Ohio – where I grew up – has been an interesting venture. The latest settlers were James Vint & Salome Hess, along with my great-grandmother Crissie Myrtle, in the early years of the 20th century. Many others, however, can be found named in early settler records for multiple counties in Ohio – folks who planted churches, drained swamps, tore out acres of forest land to farm, and watched Native Peoples leave their homelands. One of these ancestors recorded the sorrow he felt at seeing a particular tribal group leave and recorded the anger and resentment of a son of one of the indigenous women who later returned to the area with his mother and his white father. It’s one of the troubling parts of my family tree.
Ah, yes – the eternal why. So, so many why questions:
Why did the Cook family adopt 10 year old Louis Hodde and employ his 20 year old brother William? Related: why are there no records of the Hodde boys’ parents?
Why is Andrew Livingston presumed to be buried in Wisconsin? Related: why did he move around so much?
Why didn’t Dan Kaufman marry again after his wife died so very young?
Why did Benjamin Shine wait a whole year to marry Cinderella Hews instead of before she had his baby?
Why did some of the Kaufmans change their name to Caughman and others didn’t?
Why didn’t anyone know that Little Grandma (Mary Elizabeth Mowery) Snider had a second husband?
The list could go on and on. So many of these answers may never be found; they certainly aren’t recorded at the county courthouses. Piecing together context may help answer some of these questions, but it’s likely speculation and creative story telling will be the closest I’ll ever come to answers.
I know it isn’t a W-question-word, but we always lump it in. Most of my how questions center around the women of my family tree, and the significant tragedies they faced. They could easily be summed up as:
How did you do it?
How did you survive? How did you persevere? How did you get out of bed the next day? How did you cope? How did you manage? How did you grieve? How did you say goodbye? How did you find the courage to pick up and move on? How did you manage to do the next thing?
I suspect their answers would be variations on two themes: “Because God is still good” and “Because we had to.”
These don’t always feel like the most helpful answers. But curiosity requires that we accept the facts we find and keep pushing to uncover more truths. We don’t get to pick and choose what is true, but we do get to keep looking for more nuanced and fulfilling answers.
There is a lot of grief in any family tree, but like Betsey Gensel, this particular ancestor’s story caught my attention as profoundly heartbreaking. So here is my sixth Women of Legacy Block in her honor.
Name: Cinderella Hews Shine (1863-1929)
Block: Flower Basket
Relationship: Paternal great-great grandmother
Cinderella Hews was born to John Hews and Teressa Wasser Hews (sometimes spelled Hughes) in Union Township, Hancock County, Ohio. There is some confusion over her birthdate, as no birth certificate has been found yet. Her gravestone indicates November 17, 1865, while her death certificate indicates November 17,1864. The Hews lived with John’s parents – Prior and Elisabeth Hews – who owned a substantial farm, valued at $12,000 real estate in the 1860 census (maybe as much as 500 acres). John worked his father’s farm and the three generations of Hews lived together.
Very little is known about Teressa Wasser Hews. The daughter of Eli Wasser and Lucy Ann George of Allentown, Pennsylvania, she died between 1865 and 1870, when Cinderella was very young. In 1870, Cinderella and her father, along with four of her uncles and aunts, were still living with Prior and Elisabeth Hews. In August of 1870, Cinderella’s father remarried a young woman named Emeline Kimerer. They had four children together; Cinderella was her mother’s only living child.
I feel like I know this story. A young girl loses her mother, her father remarries, step-siblings enter the picture. I can’t help hoping my Cinderella finds a prince with a glass slipper.
By 1880, when Cinderella was 15, her father was head of his own household. He lives next to his brother George and his father Joseph, perhaps indicating the farm has been divided up between the brothers, or only that they’d built their own homes on Joseph’s land and they continued to farm together.
Cinderella, at age 19, gave birth to her eldest son, Joseph Otto Shine in October of 1885. The baby’s father was Benjamin Franklin Shine, a young widower of 27 and father of two. Benjamin’s wife Clara Ellen Lanning had died sometime in 1884.
It wasn’t until September 2, 1886, that Benjamin and Cinderella married.
The relationship between Benjamin and Cinderella leaves room for a good deal of speculation. Were they living together? Did she perhaps nanny his children after his wife died? Why didn’t they marry right away when they found out Cinderella was pregnant? 140 years later, with no letters, diaries or family histories, we’ll never know.
No matter how this marriage came about, Cinderella went from single mother to wife, mother and step-mother, raising Benjamin’s oldest two children as well as her own son.
Benjamin was the son of Civil War veteran and blacksmith Christian Benjamin Shine and his wife Ann Van Atta Shine. Remember my post on Annetje van Etten? Ann was her descendent, the name morphing into Van Atta over the hundred-and-fifty-odd years separating them. Benjamin was a laborer, possibly in construction, and they settled in Mount Cory, Union Township, Hancock County, Ohio. Not exactly a fairy tale prince and a castle, but given how things could have turned out for an unmarried mother in the late 19th century, this is a fairly happy circumstance.
In August of 1887, Cinderella’s daughter Tressa Ann was born, presumably named after Cinderella’s long deceased mother. Caring for four children, her hands were full.
The missing census of 1890 leaves a large gap in information about the Shine family at the end of the 19th century. Two things are known about Cinderella’s life between 1887 when Tressa was born and 1900 when she next appears on a US Census.
On March 29, 1891, Ella gave birth to twin boys. They passed away within two weeks of their birth. The boys were never named and they are recorded only by their last name in the birth register for Hancock County. Death records haven’t been found yet. Evidence of these little brief lives is found in Clymer Cemetery, Mt Cory, Union Township, Hancock County, Ohio.
I wonder why they were never named – and I suspect it was because they were born sickly or prematurely and likely to die. It is a strange world to me to not name one’s child right away, but it seems that isn’t as uncommon as I would image. Baby No Name Bastard Hess was also 2 weeks old and unnamed. I wonder if parents found it less difficult to bury their little ones if they hadn’t named them yet.
I doubt it.
Cinderella was 27. She’d lost a mother, been raised by a step-mother, had an illegitimate child, became a second wife, and lost twin boys. What tremendous grief and pain she had known. Perhaps her step-mother was kind and loving, many are. Perhaps Benjamin was a loving husband who cared deeply for his second wife; I’ve seen that happen, too. But I feel a sense of desperation in Cinderella’s story that hurts my heart.
It is eight years until Cinderella has another child. I wonder if her grief was so great she couldn’t contemplate having more children. I wonder if she was sick and weak after the loss of her twins. I wonder if her delivery of twins was difficult and she thought she couldn’t have more children. I wonder if there are more unnamed Shine babies gone too soon.
Whatever happened in those eight years, I’m glad Cinderella had one last surprise baby. At the age of 36, Cinderella gave birth to my great-grandfather, Benjamin Gail (Gail or B.G.). He was 13 years younger than his older sister Tressa. In many ways, he must have felt like an only child. His sister married when he was five, leaving him the only child in the house with his parents.
In 1900, the Shine family lived on the west side of Railroad Street in Mt Cory. There is no Railroad Street in Mt. Cory today, although a set of tracks runs by the town. Benjamin lists his occupation as “paper hanger and [something illegible].” He’s been out of work for 3 months of 1900, so perhaps his work is seasonal. He owns the family home, free of mortgage.
By 1910, Cinderella had opened a boarding house, lodging her elderly mother-in-law Ann Van Atta Shine, 27-year-old boarding house servant Florence Keister and railroad ticket agent 21-year-old Donald Fruchey. Gail was 10 years old and in school. Cinderella’s daughter Tressa lived down the street with her family, and step-son Henry is also close by. Husband Benjamin worked as a plasterer, work that appears to keep him employed full time.
By 1920, Cinderella had closed her boarding house, and Benjamin was supporting the family as a wallpaper salesman running his own business. Young Benjamin Gail was also employed as a clerk in the railroad yard. I imagine a little boy who grew up near the railroad tracks, running for the window every time a train came by. He worked his entire career with the railroad. The family remained in Mt Cory on Railroad Street. The years between Gail’s birth in 1899 and the 1920 census seem to have been fairly stable and peaceful for Ella and her family. It didn’t last.
On an icy January morning in 1923, Ella’s husband Benjamin left the house, presumably to go to the store and collect his mail from the post office. His obituary tells the rest (the full text is below if the image is hard to read):
Hangs Himself in His Garage Ben F. Shine, Mt. Cory Citizen, Ends Life – Leaves Note.
WIFE DISCOVERS BODY Despondent Over Ill Health, Believed to Have Been the Cause
“There is something wrong with my heart and all this work to do I am not able to do. So good bye.”
Scribbled on a small piece of linen writing paper, these words were a message from the dead to the living, found on the lifeless body of Ben F. Shine, prominent citizen of Mt. Cory, who ended his life yesterday by hanging himself in his garage.Dr. Porter C. Pennington, county coroner, who held an inquest following the discovery of the body at 10:30 a.m., returned a finding of suicide. The coroner found the note in the dead man’s pocketbook which also contained nearly $36 in money and a small amount in check.
Appeared Jovial When Mr. Shine ate breakfast with his wife yesterday morning he appeared to be in good health and somewhat jovial. “I’m going to the store to buy some medicine and get my mail,” he told his wife on leaving the house later. After several hours had passed and her husband had not returned, Mrs. Shine became worried, thinking that he might have fallen on the ice. Accompanied by a neighbor, Mrs. E. B. Patterson, she went first to the garage by the home on the supposition that he might have fallen there. Opening the garage door she saw the lifeless form of her husband suspended by a rope from a rafter. He had climbed a ladder leading to a loft of the garage formerly a barn, and after tying a rope around his neck and fastening the rope to a rafter, he had jumped through a small opening in the loft floor. His neck was broken by the fall.
Been in Poor Health Although Mr. Shine had appeared despondent on several occasions, members of the family had no premonition that he would take his life. He had been in poor health. On Wednesday, fire had damaged his store, where he sold wallpaper and paint in Mt. Cory, and he had been depressed by that. The funeral will be held at 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon from the Mt. Cory Evangelical Church, the pastor, Rev. O. D. Myers officiating, assisted by Rev. Smith, of Rawson. Burial will be in Pleasant View. Mr. Shine was 62 years old. He was a paper hanger, a plasterer and mason by trade. Surviving besides the widow are three sons and two daughters: Harry Shine, L.E. and W. agent at Mt Cory; Gail and Otto Shine, of Lima; Mrs. Earl Runkle, of Rawson; Mrs. W. G. Edwards of Van Buren. Otto Shine had been with his father Wednesday night when he seemed particularly despondent. He was a member of Masonic Lodge No. 418 at Rawson and Knights of Pythias Lodge No. 495 at Mt. Cory.
This article left me heartbroken.
A fire at his business, heart trouble, depression. Cinderella walked by Benjamin’s side through all of that, and at the end found herself staring up at her husband’s lifeless body hung from a rafter in his garage. Words escape me.
The remaining years of Ella’s life were painfully difficult. In June of 1924, her father passed away at the age of 83. In the same year, Ella was diagnosed with uterine cancer. By the 1920s, cancer treatments could have included radiation or immunotherapy, or possibly even early phases of hormone therapy. Whatever treatments Ella received were not successful, and in 1925 she had surgery – presumably a hysterectomy.
It seems the surgery was also not successful. On August 22, 1929, Ella passed away at the age of 64 from uterine cancer. She may have been in the hospital or a care home in Bluffton, Ohio, at the time.
Ella was buried near her father, her husband, and her twin boys in Pleasant View (Clymer) Cemetery in Mt Cory, Ohio. Her daughter Tressa was buried there in later years as well.
Ella knew grief and loss from her earliest days. Her life ended with a great deal of sorrow and pain. When those we love are sick or grieving, it can feel there is nothing we can do for them. Nothing that will take away the sting of illness, impending death, or sorrow. And in some ways this is true. But there is a reason we send flowers to those in the hospital or who are grieving. This gentle, simple act of loving kindness can give a moment of respite from the weight of difficult moments.
And so, for the One Who Grieved, I’ve made a flower basket block, wishing I could give Ella a hug and tell her how very sorry I am for all she endured.
If you don’t follow me on Twitter @patchworkgenea you don’t know I’ve been participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. For my first week, I shared the post about The Snider Quiltas my Foundations post. My second week, I shared in the private Facebook group that my grandmother’s marriage certificate was my favorite genealogy find. But this week’s post – my favorite photo – needed more context. So while I’m slowly finishing up my next Women of Legacyblock, I’m here to share with you a favorite photo and a brief excerpt from my novel in progress.
I have so many options when I think about favorite photos I’ve found on my genealogical explorations. There’s this photo of Salome Hess and James Vint, one of the first I found from a distant relation. One that taught me how caring and helpful the genealogy world can be.
Or perhaps this photo of my grandmother from her senior year of high school. I discovered it while researching for my novel in progress, and a kind soul on Twitter freshened it up for me. Again, the genealogy world is full of wonderful, giving people.
But over Christmas, I found a photo that made my heart sing, tucked in among countless family photos stored at my parents’ house. This photo:
The photo is dated 1950, and was taken at Christmas time at my great-grandparent’s (Alva and Crissie Myrtle [Vint] Snider) house. It shows my grandmother – Mildred Snider Wren – to the far left, with my grandfather Ivan Wren standing behind her. In the middle is my Great-uncle Marvin Snider and seated before him his wife Dortha “Maxine” Kent. To the right is my Great-aunt Irene, with her husband William “Pete” Brickles.
My mother hadn’t been born yet when this photo was taken, so my grandmother at age 37 would have had at this time four children who aren’t pictured, ranging in age from 16 to 4. Neither my Great-aunt nor my Great-uncle had children, so there were no cousins for the Wren kids to play with.
It seems like your common, everyday sort of family Christmas photo. But as the age of Instagram has taught us more clearly than ever, there’s always so much more behind the scenes than a photo can show.
What I love about this photo is my grandmother’s smile. A real, open, genuine smile. It’s a smile I remember seeing on her face when I was a girl – when my sister would make her laugh, or the time she caught me reading in the middle of the night during a sleepover. It’s one of the things I remember most clearly about her – her smile and joyful laugh. My grandmother loved to laugh.
When I found this photo, I remarked to my mom how happy Grandma looked. Her response was “Let’s see, 1950… those years were probably about as good as things got for mom and dad.”
What this photo doesn’t show is the years of financial struggle, the toll it took on Grandma and Grandpa – fighting through the Great Depression, endlessly searching for work, trying to make ends meet, raising young children. By 1950, Grandpa had a stable job and they’d even built their own home. The exhausting years of infants and toddlers had ended (well – until my mom showed up and surprised everyone!). Long existing tensions between my grandmother and her parents had eased somewhat, and perhaps for the first time she felt truly relaxed and comfortable.
I rejoice in these happy moments of Grandma’s life, because when I look at this photo I know what she doesn’t. The coming years of health problems for Grandpa, her own struggles with anxiety, the tragic death of my Aunt Carol.
My grandmother’s life is a constant reminder to me to lean into the good moments, to seek out the best in dark times, to “do the next thing” even when it’s hard – to laugh so you don’t cry.
This photo encapsulates so well for me the grandma I remember, the challenge she gives me to face each day head on (with a smile and a laugh if you can manage it), and the legacy she leaves me and my family of strength, tenacity, and joy in the darkest moments.
I thought you might enjoy this brief excerpt from Sunny Side (working title) – my fictionalized biography of my grandmother. It sums up so very well the many feelings I have when I see this photo of her.
In my mind, my grandmother, young with light auburn hair and a straight back, stands over her kitchen sink. She’s looking out the window, noting a goldfinch has stopped to visit her feeder. She’s singing softly, watching the children run in the backyard. She can see my grandfather coming up the sidewalk, his tread slow after a long day on his feet. Her voice isn’t yet altered by cigarettes, and she has a lovely, lyrical quality to her voice.
“Keep on the sunny side,” she sings to no one in particular as she wipes up the dinner dishes. “Always on the sunny side. Keep on the sunny side of life.”
There hadn’t been quite enough to eat for dinner that night, and she’s thin and still a bit hungry. But the summer sun is shining down on laughing children in the back yard, glinting in Sheila’s and Bruce’s fair hair and shining off Larry’s bold black curls.
I know she’s singing to keep the tears away. The tears that come with the frustration and fear and discouragement that seem to creep in with the shadows. Storms have broken all her life, and the empty bank account and bare cupboards were just another storm that would – in time – pass away.
So, she keeps singing, chuckling quietly to herself as Larry’s chubby legs give out and he plants face first in the grass…
Honoring the perseverance of my ancestor Elizabeth “Betsey” Gensel with my fifth Women of Legacy block. I speculated a good deal about Betsey in my last post about The Snider Quilt. Here’s more of her story.
Name: Elizabeth Gensel Mowery Shuler (1820-1908)
Block: Tree of Life
Relationship: Maternal 4th Great-grandmother
I sat down and cried last night. I knew my post about Elizabeth (Betsey) Gensel was going to be a difficult one. Maybe inspiring, but difficult. But I was digging around the Allen County (Ohio) Museum’s website in their collection of online records – and I found the obituary that broke me. But I’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s start Betsey’s story at the beginning.
Elizabeth (Betsey) Gensel was born on August 15, 1820, in Saltcreek Township, Pickaway County, Ohio, to John William Gensel and Susanna (Helwig) Gensel. She was the youngest of nine in a farming family, and grew up in a predominantly German Lutheran community. Her parents were natives of Berks County, Pennsylvania – her father a weaver by training and a veteran of the War of 1812, who became a farmer. The family moved to Ohio after the War of 1812, around 1815, which is when John took up farming. They farmed land not far from Circleville, Ohio, south of Columbus.
I don’t have any vital records of Elizabeth’s birth, but her parents are recorded in published histories of Paulding County and Henry and Fulton Counties, which provide biographies of prominent county residents. I discovered free digital text of these hundred-year-old, out-of-print texts through Genealogy Express – and couldn’t be more delighted with that particular resource.
Betsey’s grandfather, Johann Adam Gänssel, was a German immigrant from Thaleischweiler, Bavaria, appearing along with his parents on the immigration and passenger lists in 1763 at the age of 5. Like many German immigrants, they settled in Pennsylvania; it’s possible Betsey’s family still spoke German while she was growing up. According to family lore contributed to FamilySearch.com by Marcia Young Fletcher, Grandfather Johann was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, serving in 1776 as a corporal in the Battle of Long Island. An Adam Gansel is listed in the Daughters of the American Revolution Patriots Database, so something of the family legend may be true.
On the 27th of February, 1840, at the age of 19, Betsey married Samuel Mowery, Sr. in Pickaway County, Ohio. Two years her senior, Samuel was also a native of Pickaway County and his parents – Jacob Mowery and Catherine Stableton – were also natives of Berks, Pennsylvania. There’s a high degree of probability that the Mowerys and the Gensels were members of the same religious community, and may have even made the move from Pennsylvania to Ohio together. I like to imagine Samuel and Betsey as childhood sweethearts.
Father Jacob Mowery, Mother Catherine and their children all spoke German in the home, as Samuel’s family was also of German origin. The Mowerys also have connections to the American Revolution, as Samuel’s grandfather John (Mauer) served as a private on the PA Line of the Continental Army and is documented in the Daughters of the American Revolution Patriots Database.
Samuel Mowery was trained as a tailor, but after marrying Betsey, he took up farming. I’ve not found Samuel and Betsey on the 1840 US Census, suggesting they were probably living with family – remember, the 1840 Census lists only head of household and headcount by age.
In June of 1841, Betsey’s first child, John Franklin Mowery, was born in Pickaway County. Between 1841 and 1858, Betsey and Samuel have 8 children together: John Franklin, Jacob, Susannah (Susan), William Henry (Henry), Laura Leanna (Leanna), Samuel, Caroline and Mary Catherine (Cassie). All the children but Cassie are presumed to have been born in Pickaway County.
In 1850, Betsey is found on the US Census, living on a farm in Washington Township, Pickaway County, Ohio (near Circleville) with real estate valued at $2,400 with Samuel and their five oldest children. Agricultural tables suggest this might have been roughly 180-200 acres of land.
According to Allen County History, Samuel and Betsey relocated from Pickaway in 1858, shortly before their youngest child, Cassie, was born. Samuel took out a mortgage of $1,500 to buy his farm. This move to Allen County begins a harrowing time in Betsey’s life.
Eighteen months after moving to Allen County, Samuel contracted the measles. According to his children, he didn’t die of the measles, but he developed consumption as a result of having the measles – in today’s medical terms, he probably had pneumonia, a relatively common and severe complication of the measles.
Samuel died at the age of 40 in May of 1859. Betsey was left with a mortgage and eight children ages 18 to 1. Between the two oldest boys – John (18) and Jacob (17) – and the help of their younger brother- Henry (11) – they were able to keep the farm and eventually pay off the mortgage.
But not before tragedy would strike Betsey and her family again.
One year later, in May of 1860, 7 year old Caroline passed away. No death records have been found, but along with the measles, cholera, smallpox and typhoid were all rampant in Northwest Ohio during the 1850s and 1860s. Caroline is buried in Bethlehem Cemetery, Bath Township, Allen County, Ohio, near her father Samuel.
One month later, in June of 1860, 2 year old Cassie also died.
One mother later, in July of 1860, 14 year old Susanna died as well.
Susan and Cassie are buried in Bethlehem Cemetery near Caroline and Samuel.
Four deaths in 12 months. A 39 year old widow relying upon her teenage sons. Her life partner and three of her four daughters gone. An entirely new community and a barely established farm with a hefty mortgage.
I keep staring at that “39.” My age. Betsey Mowery was my exact age. I wonder if she watched her sons coming in from the fields and mistook one of them for Samuel. I wonder if she looked in 10 year old Leanna’s face and saw Caroline, Cassie or Susan peering out from her eyes. Did she imagine hearing her little girls giggling together at night when she couldn’t sleep? Did she ever hold a son’s hand during church and close her eyes and wish it was Samuel instead?
Tragedy like this pulls families together or drives them apart – it seems this heartbreak knit the bereaved Mowery family together. Knowing that Betsey’s sons worked her farm and paid off her mortgage tells me something about the kind of young men she raised. Knowing that her boys always made sure she had a home with one of them is truly significant. It’s the kind of young men I want my sons to be.
In the 1860 census, it appears that neither Leanna nor Henry were living with Betsey. With Caroline and Mary recently having passed, and Susannah ill, they were probably sent away to live with relatives or neighbors to keep them healthy. The older boys – John and Jacob – and the youngest boy Samuel, were kept at home. Betsey’s farm is not small – she is listed as head of house in her own right, with real estate valued at $7,000 and personal property valued at $660, maybe as much as 300 acres of farmland. That is substantial responsibility for a widowed woman and two young men.
In 1862, Elizabeth found some happiness again when she married Daniel Shuler. Daniel was a widower and father of three grown children. A native of Pennsylvania, he was a farmer as well – and presumably Lutheran. A delightful surprise came for Betsey and Daniel in February of 1863, when baby Emanuel Wesley Shuler was born. Betsey was 42, and her youngest living child was 7. I imagine Betsey must have felt a great deal of joy in this baby of promise after so much loss and the stresses of living in a country at war with itself.
When the Civil War came, Daniel did not fight – nor, does it appear – did any of Betsey’s sons. She did have a brother (Gideon) and four nephews who fought. All but one nephew fought in the Ohio Infantry for the Union; the fourth nephew fought for a Mississsippi unit in the Confederate Army. One nephew was killed, brother Gideon was wounded and discharged for disability, and the nephew fighting for the Confederate Army was captured and imprisoned in Chicago. It was, undoubtedly, a difficult time for the Gensel family.
After the war, there must have been hope that life would settle down, that an age of peace and relative prosperity would come for Betsey and her family. It did, for a while. In 1870, Betsey was living with Daniel, 14 year old Samuel and 7 year old Emanuel on Daniel’s farm in Beaverdam, Bath Township, Allen County. She had approximately $1,600 in real estate of her own (approximately 50 acres), in addition to the $4,800 in real estate (approximately 150 acres) and $675 in personal property Daniel owned.
Tragedy was poised to strike again.
In 1872, Daniel was walking along a train bridge and was struck by an express train.
This was the moment I just couldn’t hold it together any longer. It feels catastrophically unfair. In the space of a little over a decade Betsey lost two spouses and three children, and lived through a bloody Civil War – no one should have to face that much loss and turmoil. Yet Betsey did.
I wonder how she did it. Did she face it with resolve and matter of factness? Did she have days she didn’t want to get out of bed? Did she question God or rail against fate? Did she look coolly at all of her losses and simply say “that’s how life is?” If I get the opportunity to meet her in the Hereafter, I will absolutely say “Oh, Granny Betsey – tell me. Tell me how you did it. How did you hold on?”
I wish I could ask her now.
At the age of 51, Betsey was left alone with a 16 year, a 9 year old and a farm. That farm was probably the entirety of young Emanuel’s inheritance from his father; she had to keep it for his sake.
By 1880, Betsey is found keeping house for her son Samuel and his wife Anna; she is listed as head of household, so this is presumably her farm – or perhaps Emanuel’s farm for which she is guardian until he comes of age. Her son Emanuel is 17 and living with them. Next door can be found her son Jacob (my 3x great-grandfather), his wife Clarissa and seven of their children, including my 10 year old great-great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth.
Betsey continued to hold on. In the 1900 Census, at the age of 80, she is found still living in Bath Township with her youngest son Emanuel, his wife Talitha, and their four children. Their home was near where the Lima Branch campus of the Ohio State University is today – just around the corner from where I lived growing up.
Allen County History records that by 1905, Elizabeth had moved in with son Samuel, probably in 1902 when Emanuel and his family relocated to Henry County. In 1908, at the advanced age of 87, Elizabeth Gensel Mowery Shuler passed away.
She is buried next to her first husband, Samuel Mowery, in Bethlehem Cemetery, near her daughters who died so young.
Betsey’s life touched me quite deeply. Having known the horrors of losing one child, I cannot image the toll it must have taken to lose three. Knowing the anxiety I often experience wondering what would happen to my family if I lost my spouse, I cannot imagine the fortitude it must have taken to gather herself together and keep going after being twice widowed.
I imagine Betsey must have held tightly to the promise of eternal life. She must have found solace in the hope of heaven, where she could be reunited with Samuel, Caroline, Susan, Cassie, and Daniel. I imagine she walked as resolutely into death as she seems to have walked in life, knowing there were familiar and loving arms waiting to meet her.
For this hopeful promise of eternity, and the strength it must have taken to hang on for so many years to achieve that promise – I’ve made Betsey’s Tree of Life block for my Women of Legacy Quilt. What a legacy to leave.
I’m not a huge fan of mystery novels. Classic who-dunnits aren’t really my style, although I’ve read my fair share of Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Whimsy. But a real-life mystery? That’s another story altogether.
Family heirlooms sometimes come with all sorts of mysteries to be solved, and I’ve been working on one that keeps me up at night!
In the 1940s, my grandmother, Mildred Snider Wren (1913-1996), was gifted an antique bed by her grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Mowery Snider (1866-1945). She was told it was made by her grandfather, Solomon Snider, for his wedding to Mary in 1886. At some point of which I am uncertain, Grandma was also gifted a quilt.
This quilt has been referred to as “The Snider Quilt” for as long as I can remember. My aunt, who remembers seeing the quilt for the first time when she was a girl in the late 1940s, told me that Grandma was very proud of that quilt. The quilt and the bed symbolized something more than just a precious heirloom. For the first time in her adult life, Grandma and her family settled into their own home. She had been married nearly 15 years, and spent many of those early years living with friends or relatives, or in less-than-prepossessing rented apartments.
The quilt, along with the bed, eventually went to my aunt. It uses the quilt block known as Fox and Geese, and is set in pinks and browns, with a wide array of scrap fabric in the pieced blocks. Today, my aunt has the bed, while my mother is the keeper of The Snider Quilt. It was commonly believed by my mother and my aunt that the quilt had been made by Mary Elizabeth Mowery Snider – their great-grandmother.
Surprises, however, were in store for us when my aunt had the quilt appraised.
The quilt, the appraiser insisted, showed all indications of having been made during the American Civil War – the 1860s. Both the quilting style (double rows spaced a quarter of an inch apart) and the fabric selections indicated this.
This appraisal shook up all of our preconceptions about the actual maker of the quilt. For, you see, the quilter couldn’t be my Great-Great-Grandmother Snider. She was born in 1866, around the time the quilt was made.
Next suspicion fell upon her mother – my 3x great-grandmother Clarissa Heffner Mowery. Clarissa was born in 1844 and she married in 1863. Another possible candidate is Rachael Delilah Roberts Snider, born in 1839 and married in 1862. It seemed a lovely idea to suspect that one of these women made it for her own wedding in the 1860s.
Except this seems unlikely. The quilt appears to be made by a skilled and mature quilter, rather than a young bride. But more than that, the appraiser revealed something else to us.
Although the quilt and the fabric dated to the 1860s, there was one piece of fabric which was much older – dating to the 1840s. It is reasonable to believe this particular piece of fabric came from a special garment. This isn’t to say it’s impossible for Clarissa or Rachael to have used an old piece of fabric, but we’ve indulged in other speculation.
A women possessing fabric from the 1840s, who was an accomplished quilter in the 1860s might actually indicate not Clarissa or Rachael – but instead opens up a whole generation of women who may have made the quilt.
Clarissa’s mother, Mary “Polly” May Heffner, born in 1807 and married in 1832. She would have been in her late 50s when her daughter married Jacob Mowery.
Clarissa’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth “Betsey” Gensel Mowery, born in 1820, and married in 1840. Betsey would have been in her early 40s when her son Jacob married Clarissa.
Rachael’s mother, Catherine Horn Roberts. Born in 1795 and marrying in 1817, Catherine would have been 67 at the time of Rachael’s marriage to George L Snider.
Rachael’s mother-in-law, Rhoda Schofield Snider. Rhoda was born in 1803, putting her at age 59 when her son married Rachael.
Three of these women (Rhoda, Betsey and Polly) come from a Pennsylvania Dutch/German Brethren background – traditions that are still known today for incredible quilting skills. The quilt displays a “humility block” in one corner, a religious tradition practiced by many women of this heritage in which one sets a block incorrectly so as not to inadvertently create something perfect and thereby offend God. Although Catherine is more of English extraction, she does have German forbearers as well, and came to Ohio from Pennsylvania Dutch regions.
We may never know who made the quilt, although I want to keep exploring ideas. I personally have a strong preference for Betsey Gensel Mowery – and here’s why.
The early 1860s were incredibly painful and difficult for Betsey. Along with his older brother, her 17-year-old son Jacob took on the responsibility of running the family homestead and paying off the mortgage on Betsey’s farm after the death of her husband Samuel in 1859. Her own marriage was in 1840, and her son Jacob was born in 1843 – two major events that could be indicative of a special garment or piece of fabric. I love to imagine that Betsey had saved her wedding dress (or pieces of it) all those years, and used it in Jacob’s wedding quilt. Betsey was, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, pregnant at the end of 1862 and beginning of 1863. Maybe this kept her in a chair more than usual and gave her extra time to be busy with her hands – it would not have been easy being an expectant mother at the age of 42 in 1863.
I’ve even wondered if Betsey made it for her own second wedding in 1862. Did she perhaps want to hang on to just a bit of Samuel as she moved into a new marriage?
And then again, perhaps I’m over-romanticizing the past. The storyteller in me can’t resist just a bit of romanticizing. Perhaps that one piece of old fabric was simply making do after running out of new fabric – ingloriously dug from the rag bag in an effort to finish that one last block, the quilter telling herself no one will notice!
I confess myself biased toward Betsey Mowery, which isn’t a very good basis for solving a mystery. I’m currently working on her Tree of Life block for my Women of Legacy quilt, and her story is utterly gut-wrenching. I’m fascinated by her life and her persistence and – possibly – her ability to create something beautiful in the wake of heart-break and tragedy.
No matter how we dice it, The Snider Quilt is a family treasure. My mother and my aunt are so fond of it – and indeed so proud of it – they’ve both made replicas. My mother’s version is on display in her great room, and I like to study it when I’m home to visit. I like to think about the hands that made the original, and the hands that made the replicas; about the ways their lives were so very different, and so very much alike. About the ways my life is also so very different, and so very similar.
I like to think about the heirlooms I will leave behind. A quilt. Some jewelry. A treasured photograph. More importantly, I like to think about the legacy I’m leaving behind and the ways I’m following in the footsteps of those who come before us.
You see, genealogy is so much more to me than names, or dates, or interesting places, or famous ancestors. It’s even more than the next “big find” in a death certificate or probate record.
The stories of those who come before us tell us something of who we are. I read once that personality is 80% inherited. 80% of who I am today comes from parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. Not just the color of my eyes, or my height, or my health – but my perseverance and strength, my proclivity to cry, my need to create and keep my fingers busy.
Knowing *who* I come from has become even more important to me than knowing *where* I come from.
More about Betsey Gensel Mowery is forthcoming in my next Women of Legacy post. Be sure to stop back to learn more about the woman I believe made our heirloom family quilt and also inspired the kernel of an idea that became Women of Legacy.
In 2021, I created a reading challenge for myself, based on some of the many reading challenges floating around out there. I gave myself 26 prompts, plus 10 wild cards. I didn’t quite complete my challenge. I FAR exceeded my 10 wild cards, left a few books unfinished, and missed on a handful of prompts.
This year, I’m creating a Genealogy Reading Challenge for myself, and thought I’d invite my readers to join me. I tried to keep my prompts somewhat general, so you can fit them to your genealogical and literary interests. If you follow me on Twitter (@PatchworkGenea), I’ll start using the hashtag #GeneaReads22 – feel free to follow along and share your genealogy reads. I’ll also create a tab on the menu so you can see my reads there too.
My 2022 challenge theme was inspired in part by recently reading Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset and A Scots Quair: The Mearns Trilogy by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Both are trilogies following women through their lives, and exploring the history and culture that impacted them – Kristin in Norway (presumably the home country of my ancestor Aeffi Eva Pieterse Kinetis) and Crissie in Scotland (from whence hales – supposedly – a number of ancestors on both sides of my family). Crissie’s life in the early years of the 20th century reminded me in many ways of my grandmother – Mildred Snider – and helped me feel a great deal of connection both to my grandma and to Scotland.
I’ve slowly been realizing how little connection I have to countless numbers of ancestors – particularly those of German heritage. I know almost nothing about life during the 17th century Holy Roman Empire, or about immigration prior to the 19th century. My grasp of pioneer life is limited to Laura Ingalls Wilder, and my understanding of the term “Scotch-Irish” is exceedingly poor.
I’m challenging myself to 36 books again this year, breaking it down into 12 fiction books, 12 non-fiction books and 12 wildcards (which may or may not be genealogy inspired!)
Here are my prompts, if you want to join me – or make up your own!
A novel set in a location from which many of your ancestors originate
A novel about a culture/nationality you recently discovered in your family tree
A novel set in a location you’ve never explored before, which is relevant to your ancestor(s)
A novel set in a war or battle in which your ancestor(s) participated
A novel set in a time period relevant to an ancestor you’re currently researching
A novel set during a significant cultural/political/religious event that impacted your ancestor(s)
A novel that explores a significant personal/family event that impacted your ancestor(s)
A novel with a hero or heroine who reminds you of one of your ancestors
A saga featuring the home country of your ancestor(s)
An alternate history novel
A novel one of your ancestors read, or might have read
A novel about families, family history, or genealogy
A history of an ancestor(s)’s home country
A book about a religion, sect, denomination or philosophy an ancestor(s) followed
A biography of a social or political leader who had significant impact on an ancestor(s)
A family history of one branch of your family tree
A history of a political event that impacted an ancestor(s)
An exploration of an industry in which an ancestor(s) participated
A religious or philosophical text that an ancestor(s) read or might have read
A book about genealogy
A local history of your hometown
A book about an invention/scientific advancement that changed an ancestor(s)’s life
A book about narrative writing or genealogical writing
A book about a famous landmark (natural or manmade) an ancestor(s) would have known
PS: I don’t get any kickbacks from products or websites I share, but I am a frequent Thriftbooks shopper. As much as I love a new book, a used book saves money that I can then use to purchase more books!
During the week of Thanksgiving, I wrote at length about the world my early Dutch ancestress Annetje Arians van Etten inhabited. Annetje’s story is far more interesting than just the churches she attended or the ship upon which she might have sailed. Here’s more of what I’ve learned about Jongejuffrouw (Young Lady) Annetje while working on her quilt block.
Block: The Flying Dutchman
Name: Annetje Arians Tach van Etten (1645 – 1715)
Relationship: 9x-great-grandmother on my paternal side
On August 27, 1645, Annetje was born in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands to Adriaen Gelijns and his wife Grietjen Jansen. Her surname – Arians – essentially means “Daughter of Adriaen,” and there are a wild number of variations of her name due to the naming practices of 17th century Hollanders. On August 29, 1645 Annetje was christened in Oude Kirk in Amsterdam.
Sometime prior to 1652, Annetje’s father Adriaen died. Records are not particularly clear to indicate when he died, but it seems relatively certain it was before 1652, possibly even before 1650. We do know Annetje’s mother Grietjen married Jan Lambertzsen shortly after Adriaen’s death. It is also around 1650 when Grietjen, Jan and Annetje emigrated to the New World. These were significant events for a child approximately five years old. Annetje appears to have been Adriaen and Grietjen’s only child; and records sparsely indicate that Grietjen and Jan may have had one or two children in the New World.
In 1660, Annetje’s step-father Jan, died as well, leaving Grietjen a widow caring for a teenage girl and two young children. This may have been the motivation behind Annetje’s marriage at age 15 to Aert Pietersen Tach. Aert was almost 20 years her senior.
Aert was an indentured servant in the Van der Donk household. Unlike many Dutch settlers of the 17th century, Aert appears to be Catholic rather than Dutch Reform. There is something curious about this, as Annetje was baptized Calvinist Dutch Reform and seems to have remained a part of that religious sect throughout her life. This is even more indicative of a possibly hasty or desperate marriage to secure a decent future for Annetje. Her marriage took her from New Amsterdam to Albany where Aert finished out his indenture in 1661.
At the completion of this indenture, Aert and his family moved from Albany to Wiltwyck (now known as Kingston thanks to the British). He set himself up here with his family as a tenant farmer. In August of the same year, Annetje has her first child – son Cornelius Aertszen Tach. Aert’s work as a tenant farmer thrives, and he is able to build a house for his family in Wiltwyck by 1662.
And now, because Annetje hasn’t had enough excitement in her very young life (remember – she’s not yet 20), things are going to get interesting.
On June 7 of 1663 the neighboring Esopus tribe raided the village of Wiltwyck. There was misunderstanding and disagreement over the expansion of the Europeans into tribal lands, and the Esopus sought to drive the Europeans off the disputed territory. Annetje, age 18, was 8 months pregnant and home alone with 2 year son Cornelius. Her home was burnt to the ground, along with her church and a number of other buildings in Wiltwyck. She was lucky to escape with her life and her children.
As a result of this raid, approximately 70 individuals from Wiltwyck went missing – including Annetje’s husband Aert. In the wake of Aert’s disappearance, Annetje is left with a substantial amount of debt, no home, destroyed crops, and no way to support herself.
In August, two months later, she gives birth to Aert’s daughter Grietjen Aartz Tach. When Grietjen is baptized, one of her sponsors is a man named Jacob Jansen. Remember him – he’s important. Aert remains missing, his body never discovered among the dead after the Esopus raid.
By February, things have become very bad for Annetje and her children. Aert – missing and presumed dead – had left behind debts for which Annetje found herself responsible. She was brought before the courts for unpaid debts, and the legal accounts of her situation are desperate. She was unable to afford meat to feed her children and as a result of legal action is forced to sell off everything. Court records show she sold off what small amount of her harvest was left along with household goods, including even broken kitchen implements. This type of desperate poverty of a young mother of two children is horrifying to consider, particularly in the depth of a Hudson Valley winter.
There aren’t any records that tell us how Annetje survived that winter, or fed her children, or managed to put crops in the ground the following spring. We don’t know where she lived, or if she subsisted off the kindness of neighbors, or if the villagers helped one another out in reconstructing destroyed homes.
The surprises for Annetje weren’t over yet. In the summer of 1664, after a year of assuming her husband is dead, Annetje learned that Aert was alive and well in Amsterdam – with another wife! Under the circumstances of bigamy, Annetje was freed to receive a divorce from Aert, which was granted on August 21,1664. A few months later, Annetje married Jacob Jansen Van Etten. Remember him? He was little Grietjen Tach’s baptismal sponsor.
Jacob Jansen was the head farmer of Aert Tach’s land. He emigrated to New Amsterdam from Etten in Brabant, approximately 1658, thus his surname van Etten (of Etten). He served as a corporal in the militia, and appears to have been a constant in Annetje’s life since she and Aert moved to Wiltwyck. It is probably thanks to Jacob – also known as Jacob de Long, probably due to his height – that Annetje was able to survive for a year without her husband. Whether Annetje married Jacob out of gratitude, necessity, affection, or some combination thereof – they were wed on January 11, 1665.
The Van Ettens moved to Marbletown after their marriage, and in January of 1666 their first child Jan Jacobszen Van Etten was born. Things seem to quiet down for the Van Ettens for a while.
Until Annetje gets herself in trouble. We can perhaps blame it on pregnancy hormones (she was about four months pregnant at the time). Or the stresses of a rather adventuresome life. Or maybe a rude neighbor who probably deserved a bit of a dressing-down.
On October 25, 1667, Annetje was brought to court for physical assault on her neighbor Madaleen Dircx. The assault, resulting from some petty altercation, left Madaleen bruised and angry. Both women were brought before the court and told to leave off their squabbling. They escaped without punishment, with promises they would be treated harshly if they were brought up again.
In March of 1668, Annetje’s daughter Sytje was baptized in Kingston. The following years are full of moves and babies: Adriaen in Rhinebeck in 1670; Altje in Staten Island in 1672; Pieter in Hurley in 1673; Petronella in Marbletown in 1675; Neeltje in Kingston in 1677; Heyltje in Marbletown in 1679; Emanuel in Marbletown in 1681; Tryntje in Marbletown in 1684; Jacobus in Kingston in 1686; and Geesje in Kingston in 1688. Annetje is 43 when her youngest child is baptized.
Annetje’s husband Jacob died in Hurley, New York in January of 1690 at the age of 55. Annetje would have surely missed her life partner, but was also not alone as she was 25 years earlier when Aert abandoned her. Her oldest children have reached adulthood, and it is to be believed that Jacob must have provided for Annetje well – no further records of debt or poverty have been recovered.
Annetje is believed to have died in 1715 – approximately 70 years old. There are conflicting records as to where she might be buried, but the most common belief is that she lies in the cemetery at Hurley Dutch Reformed Church, possibly near her husband Jacob and two of her children who predeceased her (Adriaen at age 32 and Altje at age 40).
When I started this genealogical journey, one of my aims was to find my emigrating ancestors. I am profoundly curious about the cultural traditions that make up my family background. As German and English ancestors predominate my heritage, I was excited to discover Annetje, her wild Wiltwyck life, and to honor her in my Women of Legacy quilt with the Flying Dutchman block.
I am indebted to the diligent WikiTree researchers who have done incredible work pursuing Annetje and her family line. You can read more of their work here: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Ariens-10
Last week in my post Chasing Scotland, I shared just a bit about my great-great-grandmother Salome. Today, as I’ve finished up her block for my Women of Legacy quilt, I’m delighted to share a deeper dive into her life.
Block: Pinwheel and Nine-Patch
Name: Salome Hess Vint (1867-1953)
Relationship: Maternal Great-Great Grandmother
Let’s start with the basics – her name. I had always read, in my head, her name to be the same as the notorious Bible character who contributed to the death of John the Baptist: SAL-oh-may. It was curious to find her listed on census records, then, as Loma or Lomy. It turns out that her name was pronounced Suh-LOH-mee, and she apparently went by Loma or Lomy. As would I, if my name looked anything like She-Of-The-Seven-Veils from Mark Chapter 6. (Note: apparently, there is another Salome in the Bible who wasn’t nearly so notorious. I’m going to assume this is her true namesake.)
Salome Hess was born in Mole Hill, Rockingham, Virginia, to Frederick Hess II and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Spitzer Hess. Sarah was Frederick’s second wife, and Salome grew up in a very large and impoverished family. Frederick’s first wife – Susannah – had eight children. Frederick was a prolific fellow, for after Susannah died at the age of 46 (presumably of sheer exhaustion) he married Sarah, who was 20 years his junior. And he proceeded to start all over, building yet another family of eight children. Salome was the fifth of Frederick’s SECOND batch of eight, born on July 31, 1867.
According to Elwood Yoder’s Blog, Mole Hill is a predominantly Mennonite/Brethren area. This is no surprise, knowing the religious affiliations of the Snider/Vint side of my family tree. If you recall from my post on my DAR Patriot Jacob Snider, they were Brethren-affiliated pacifists during the Revolutionary War. Mole Hill is rather aptly named – a large volcanic-rock hill poking out of Virginia farm land. It does look suspiciously like a mole hill in one’s backyard:
Frederick was a farmer, and in 1860 seemed to have a modestly sized farm (fortunately for him, given the substantial brood he was responsible for feeding and clothing). By 1870, however, the Hess fortunes (what little there was) had changed. The family is recorded on the census as living in the Central District of Rockingham County, and in the ten years between 1860 and 1870 lost over $1,000 in real estate value and $700 in personal property value. In today’s money, that’s approximately $35,000 in assets. For a modest farming family then or now, that is a tremendous amount of money.
It seems unlikely Frederick fought in the Civil War. Mennonites and Brethren (of which the Hesses were probably Brethren) are typically pacifists, and may have additionally been abolitionists. I’ve not yet found any records of his service if he did fight. The logical but as yet unproven conclusion is that the Civil War, which destroyed much of the South, ravaged the fortunes of the Hess family. Whether through destruction of farmland and personal property, devaluation of currency, or other war-related catastrophe, finances were a struggle for the Hess family. In spite of being school-aged, none of the Hess children were indicated as attending school in 1870. This is common in their neighborhood, suggesting that there was no school, or that children were kept home to work farms. (There is, of course, the possibility of a lazy census keeper. It would not be the first time I’ve encountered one!)
By 1880, Salome, age 13, was living with her family in the Ashby District of Rockingham County, not far from where she was born. This census no longer tracked the size of Frederick’s farm, but it is worth nothing that the school-aged children are now all in school. The census-taker has indicated Salome’s older sister Pheby (or Phoebe), age 16, is in school but is still considered illiterate (unable to read and/or write). This 1880 census shows me one of the strangest, saddest, and maybe (just a little) humorous bits I’ve turned up.
Take a close look at that last entry, the youngest member of the Hess family in 1880. It reads: (Hess) No Name Bastard W[hite] M[ale] 13/30 May (Son).
That’s right. This poor two-week old bairn, born in May, is known for all of history as “No Name Bastard (Hess)” – as he’s begrudgingly handed his mother’s surname in absence of his father. While he’s marked “son” I suspect he’s probably a grandson and I assume him to be illiterate 16-year-old Pheby’s child. It’s unlikely 44 year old Sarah has been tripping the lights fantastic and delivering an illegitimate child. And while the child could be Frederick’s (the fella’ hadn’t produced offspring in 5 whole years, which was something of a record for him), most illegitimate children would have remained with their mothers; and the poor baby’s surname would at least have been certain rather than put in parenthesis.
Little No Name disappears from the records that I can find. He may have died, been adopted out, or given a proper name that I haven’t yet discovered. It’s very difficult to research “No Name Bastard (maybe possibly could be Hess).” Poor soul. I imagine in Granny Salome’s strict religious family and community, the humiliation of an illegitimate child would have been significant.
I have to confess I also feel sorry for the census taker. I can’t help but laugh at the though of the poor fellow walking into a dirt floor farm house, cooing over a sweet little two week old bundle, and then meeting the embarrassed pink cheeks of Phoebe and the steely cold eyes of Frederick Hess. It writes itself as tragi-comedy, as the Census Man fumbles trying to decide how to record No Name Bastard (Hess, I suppose) on his census pages.
Enough about poor No Name – back to Gran Salome. Her mother Sarah died in 1883 when Salome was 16. Along with sisters Mary and Pheobe, she presumably took on many of the household and childcare chores (there would have been four or five children younger than her still living in the home). Salome would have worked hard, and probably was no longer attending school.
On September 23, 1886, she married James Howard Vint. His father- James Marshall Vint – was a notorious Confederate soldier, who deserted his southern comrades and then switched sides to fight for the Union. He went by an assumed name for at least a short time, trying to escape the title of deserted, which followed him for the rest of his life. He was probably the illegitimate son of William Vint (Vent?) and Frances Moyers (Meyers?) Cross. As the son of an illegitimate deserter, James Howard probably didn’t bring much in the way of respectability or wealth to his marriage.
James Howard was a laborer, probably on a farm, and was born Augusta, Virginia. He married Salome in Rockingham and the couple settled near Hess relatives. I suspect Salome may have been grateful to escape the responsibilities of her father’s house and her siblings, and settle her own home.
Salome had two daughters in rapid succession: Josie in September of 1887 and Annie in October of 1888. Both girls were born in Dale Enterprise, Rockingham, Virginia.
It was four years before Salome had another child. These gaps in child-bearing raise speculation for me. Miscarriages or stillbirths are always my first conclusion, particularly as miscarriages have no records attached to them (stillbirths sometimes did if they were late enough in term). I wonder if two babies in two years after the chaos of her very large birth family left Salome with fragile nerves and a need for recovery that her husband respected. Perhaps pregnancy and childbirth were difficult for a young woman who grew up in poverty and appears in photos to have a spare, thin frame. I also wonder if James went off to explore opportunities for his family outside of Virginia and was perhaps gone for some time. There is fertile ground here for the budding historical fiction writer!
On June 15, 1892, my great-grandmother Crissie Myrtle – the last of the Vint girls – was born in Hinton, Rockingham Virginia, in what is now the George Washington National Forest.
Granny Loma would have felt at home here in my neck of the Western New York woods, with our rolling hills and colorful fall foliage.
In 1900, Salome and James, along with their three girls, are found living in the Central District of Rockingham, Virginia. James continues to work as a farm laborer, and they are not terribly far from both Vint and Hess relatives. The three Vint girls attend school full time, and it can be certain they spent hours working in both the house and on the farm assisting their parents.
Between 1900 and 1907, the little Vint Family of five moved from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Allen County, Ohio. They traveled the 450 miles in a covered wagon, according to young Crissie, who would have been between 8 and 15 when they moved. She had a small camel back trunk that carried her belongings. I imagine the challenges of crossing the Appalachian Mountains in that wagon – and the relief they must have felt at reaching the flat farming lands of Northwest Ohio, a journey that today would take 7 hours by car but would have taken 4-6 weeks by wagon. The flatness of NW Ohio must have felt disorienting, after a life of navigating by knoll and hill and valley.
The covered wagon feels incongruous in 1900. The Wright Brothers were testing airplanes at Kitty Hawk in 1903, and Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908. Trains had been travelling to Allen County since before the Civil War. It is probably indicative of the poverty of the Vints that horse and wagon was their means of transportation, as wagon travel cross country has been diminishing since about 1860.
The Vints rented their farm, working of their own accord, settled in first in Jackson Township, Allen County, Ohio. Josie married in 1907 in Lima, Ohio, which is how we know the family had moved from Virginia by that year. Annie and Crissie were still at home in 1910, helping their mother on the farm. I wonder if Salome felt she had reached pleasant pastures. After the poverty and crowds of her childhood days, and the relative poverty of her early married life – to work for one’s self, to answer to no employer – that must have felt like luxury, ease, a sort of arrival. The Vints wouldn’t have been well-to-do, and maybe not even comfortable, but life in Ohio had to have been better than the life they left behind in Virginia.
By 1920, all three daughters had married and grandchildren were joining the family (including my grandmother Mildred, born in 1913 to Crissie Myrtle). James and Salome owned their own house and farm, keeping a general farm and supporting themselves. They lived in Auglaize Township, Allen County, to the south and east of Lima near Westminster and Harrod. Into their late sixties, James and Salome worked their own farm. Their oldest grandchildren have memories of Salome smoking a pipe and working in her garden (often neglecting to use indoor facilities and simply relieving herself in the garden – perhaps as she would have done in the hills of Virginia as a child).
On March 1, 1933, Salome’s husband James – her partner of nearly 50 years – died of pulmonary apoplexy. It would have been a nasty, but hopefully quick, way to go. Nearly 70, Granny Loma was left with her farm to tend on her own. Her great-grandchildren recount that their mother – Mildred – recalled Granny Loma as somewhat mean. Mildred, Crissie’s oldest daughter, recalled caring for Salome during a bout of illness, and having to take her oldest son – a toddler at the time – with her. Granny Loma was short-tempered with a curious little boy who touched her fragile things and left fingerprints on her furniture. Thank God she is not here to see how MY curious little boys behave! She is – no doubt – rolling over in her sainted grave.
My Auntie recalls Granny Loma owning a small pressed glass dish, which was always set on the table with either applesauce (undoubtedly homemade) or smearcase – a Pennsylvania Dutch dairy item similar to cottage cheese and frequently served with apple butter. My auntie still has that dish, and to this day still serves either applesauce or cottage cheese from it.
When she became unable to care for her farm any longer, Salome moved to a small apartment in Lafayette, Ohio, and there is a vague memory of that apartment being located over the town’s post office near the railroad track. She was rather poor, having only whatever was left out of James’s estate to provide for herself. Around 1950, Salome was no longer able to live on her own. For a short while she lived with at least one of her daughters – Crissie – until dementia-related behaviors (including threatening Crissie’s husband Alva with a knife because he made her mad) revealed the need for Salome to have more professional care than could be provided by her children. In June of 1952, she moved to the Ada Rest Home.
In April of 1953, suffering from hardening of the arteries and encephalomalacia (a softening of the brain, possibly caused by a stroke), Salome passed away in the Ada Rest Home at the age of 85. Salome is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Lima, Ohio, next to her husband James.
Her obituary records her as a member of the Lafayette Congregational Church – a church still actively worshipping today, which I probably passed thousands of times on my way to childhood piano lessons, never knowing how close I was to a part of Granny Loma’s life.
I imagine the memories of Granny Loma’s “meanness” are really memories of early stages of dementia surfacing. Illness, confusion or memory loss, and the disorientation of an unfamiliar living space can certainly bring out the worst in any of us. But her photos show her to be a woman of dour mien, spare frame, and firm resolution. The firm resolution that stares both unsmilingly and fearlessly at the challenges of life, the developed habits of frugality passed on through generations (sometimes to a fault), and the simple life she led as a farmer’s wife led me to create for Granny Loma one of my darker and simpler Women of Legacy blocks: the Pinwheel and Nine-Patch. Created with mottled greens and dark purple homespun, I can’t decide if Granny Loma would be pleased at the no-nonsense practicality of it, or somehow disappointed that I purchased new fabric to make it instead of using up old bits of what I already had.
Either way, for smearcase and apple butter and homemade applesauce; for the freedom to smoke a pipe or pee in my garden if I wish; and above all, for the strength to face poverty, burdensome responsibility, and tremendous change with a stolid resolution – it’s a privilege to honor Granny Loma – Salome Hess Vint – as a true Woman of Legacy.
Let’s be honest – don’t we all want to be a little bit Scottish? Whether you love Lymond, Braveheart, Outlander, or Rob Roy; or perhaps just enjoy a good dram of whisky, the pattern of a tartan, or the sound of bagpipes – there’s a romance and magic about Scotland that seems to call to many of us.
My interest in my ancestry began many years ago, hearing the stories of my great-great grandparents, James and Salome (Hess) Vint. The family legend is that The Vints were Scotch-Irish, possibly what most of us refer to today as Ulster Scots – lowland protestants settled in Ulster by the English.
James and Salome came to Ohio, my native home, from Virginia in the early years of the 20th century. They traveled by wagon with their three daughters, Josie, Annie and my great-grandmother Crissie Myrtle. Census records and birth records show both Salome and James were from the Shenandoah Valley in Rockingham County, Virginia, not far from Harrisonburg.
It’s the Vints who have provided one of the more intriguing Brick Walls in my family. It’s impossible to say if they’re Scots-Irish or not, thanks to a commonly named ancestor William Vint/Vent and the possibility that his son, born to Frances Moyers (Meyers?) Cross was illegitimate. He may have even been married to another woman when their son was born. The surname Vint is possibly Scottish, English, Norman-French, or maybe even Danish – although my genealogical DNA testing indicates Scottish or English to be most likely.
The mystery of the possibly-Scottish Vints sent me on a quest to find out where my Scottish DNA comes from. I followed a couple of wrong turns – including an exciting young lassie born in the heart of Highland whisky territory who turned out to be a direct line from an ancestor’s first wife, and not related to me at all (sorry, Clan Carmichael, I really did want to belong!)
I am entranced by an immigrant ancestress named Agnes Elizabeth McTavish, who married Halbert Samuel McClure. Certainly a McTavish and a McClure would result in some Highland connections. Nine generations back is a long time, and whatever Scots connections exist haven’t yet been found – both are natives of Ulster, Ireland. This, of course, suggests the possibility of Ulster Scots heritage, but I haven’t found the connection between Ulster and Scotland for either my McTavishes or my McClures.
And then I found Andrew Livingston. The name doesn’t sound Scots to my American ears hoping for a Mac-Something-or-other, but what scanty records I’ve uncovered indicate Andrew hails from Edinburgh, christened in Saint Cuthbert’s in 1780, his parents Alexander Livingston and Alison Cairncross.
Andrew appears again in Virginia (today West Virginia) in 1800, in a marriage record uniting him to Jane Davis.
The poor soul disappears from found records for almost a century, when his name is again found on some of his children’s late 19th century death certificates. He is assumed to have died around 1828, either in Ohio or in the then-territory of Wisconsin, where a number of his children settled and where his wife Jane was buried as Jane McGinty near her son John Livingstone.
Census records, death records, burial records, and immigration/naturalization records have proved difficult to locate. The early census records indicate only the head of household, and with three different Andrew Livingston(e)s identified in Ohio, and none of the family structures matching what I know about my ancestors, finding him in that way has been a dead-end.
Andrew’s daughter Lydia belongs to me, my fourth-great-grandmother on my maternal side, and the second of nine children believed to be born to Andrew and Jane. Like her father, Lydia is notoriously difficult to document, and I don’t have any records yet proving she is, in fact, Andrew and Jane’s daughter. The earliest record I have is her marriage record to Reuben Winget in 1824. No parents are listed.
Lydia and Reuben are presumably buried in Stevely Cemetery, Auglaize County, Ohio – also known as Two Mile Cemetery, Wheeler Cemetery or Stuevely Cemetery. Associated with Two Mile Christian Church, a number of the Winget family are buried there. I say presumably – they both have rather new-ish looking gravestones there, but none of the local funeral homes have records of their burial, nor are there any death or probate records for Lydia. The local genealogical society speculates she may have died out of state and local relatives had a headstone put up near other family members.
Still, my elusive Scots ancestors prove too slippery to document. Yet.
Here’s my research task list to try to track 5x-great-granda’ Andrew Livingston from Edinburgh across the pond to his marriage in (West) Virginia, to his death in Wisconsin (?) or Ohio (?):
Research available church records from Two Mile Church in Cridersville, Ohio, to see if there are burial records for Lydia that indicate her parents
Research local histories of Auglaize County, Ohio; Mineral County, West Virginia; and Rock County, Wisconsin, for any indications of Andrew Livingston
1820 Census records suggest Andrew and his family may have been living in Monroe County or Licking County, Ohio, at that time, so local histories and tax records of that area may have useful information as well.
Read up on the early years of immigration in the United States; determining where or when Andrew may have come to the US, probably sometime around 1795-1800, before he married Jane, might lead me to clues to find his immigration records.
Research death records in Oklahoma, where Lydia Livingston may have died while staying with some of her children. A death record may indicate her parents and their respective birth places.
Research the Livingston family on the Scottish side to find what records may be available to indicate I indeed have the correct Andrew Livingston coming to the United States.
Reach out to Livingston descendants to determine if they have additional research or family records that might help me learn more about Andrew, Jane, and Lydia
What would you add? How else could I discover more about the Edinburgh Livingstons and their presumed immigrant son Andrew?
This week, with American Thanksgiving forefront in my mind, I’m excited to share a bit about my ancestor Annetje Arians Tack Jansen Van Etten, my earliest known ancestor to arrive in the New World. I’m working on my quilt block for Annetje, so I won’t share all the good stuff now – and she has some delightful tidbits – but with Annetje, I’m thinking a lot about researching place. Discovering where our ancestors lived and walked is a important part of connecting to them.
For recent ancestors, this is much simpler. I’ve seen houses in which my grandparents and great-grandparents lived. I’ve had ancestors in Ohio since it was a territory, and when I’m home to see the flat expanses of cornfield, or explore the local county history museum, their lives feel real to me.
Annetje, however, is different. Annetje was born in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands in 1645, and came to the New World around 1660. Aside from a recent reading of Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates, I have to confess my knowledge of Dutch history and culture isn’t particularly strong. That is to say, it isn’t very good at all. The significant turmoil politically and religiously in 17th century Europe is difficult to follow, and I’ve spent most of my life an Anglophile busily exploring the history of the British Isles. With profound apologies to the Netherlands, I promise to do better – starting with Annetje.
I found Annetje’s baptismal record – she was baptized at Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, the daughter of Adraien Gelijns and Grietjen Jans. With the staying power of the great stone edifices of European cathedrals, Oude Kerk still stands.
Oude Kerk, Amsterdam
From what little I can find on the church on both the museum and congregation websites, it seems that the church structure has seen little change since it was constructed in the earliest years of the 14th century. The church, founded as a Catholic Church with Saint Nicolas as its patron, became Dutch Reformed in 1578. The austerity of the Reformation saw the removal of significant amounts of great religious art.
A Dutch Reformed congregation has met continuously in Oude Kerk since that time. Visitors can attend services along with parishioners today – although I suspect the services look and sound nothing like those Annetje experienced.
The neighborhood is distinctly different, too. I understand Oude Kerk is in the heart of Amsterdam’s largest red-light district, De Wallen.
Annetje would have attended very strict religious services here until approximately age 14, when she sailed to New Amsterdam with her mother and stepfather. The settled in Ulster County, up the Hudson River Valley. She might have sailed on something like this:
Annetje, during a rather wild life on the frontiers of the New World in Wiltwyk, (or as the British preferred, Kingston) attended the First Dutch Reformed Church. Originally built in 1660, the church was destroyed in the Esopus Indian raid in 1663. 1663 was an eventful year in Annetje’s life, too – and that raid had significant impact on her life.
A new church was built in the following years, and Annetje appears in multiple baptismal records of her own children and children she sponsored.
Sadly, the new church Annetje would have known in Kingston burned down in 1777 during the American Revolution. The current structure dates to 1852, and surely bears little resemblance to the building Annetje where would have attended services.
There seems to be a great deal of disagreement on the location of Annetje’s burial. While Find A Grave indicates Annetje is buried in church cemetery here in Kingston, the church’s burial records don’t list her under either Jansen or Van Etten (both surnames of her second husband). It is possible her stone had been destroyed prior to the 1852 structure and that unknown her resting place is somewhere under the building.
Other sources seem to indicate Annetje didn’t die in Kingston, but rather in Rhinebeck or even possibly Marbletown. If Annetje died in Rhinebeck, her grave is probably lost, as the Rhinebeck Reformed Church dates to only 1731, and Annetje most likely died prior to that date. Likewise, Marbletown church records date back as far as 1746, and are unlikely to have any references to Annetje Arians Tack Jansen van Etten.
It seems a trip to the Hudson Valley is in order. Annetje’s final resting place is only likely to be discovered by some very long walks through some very old tombstones, if it is in fact still in existence.
What favorite place of your ancestors have you discovered? When did your earliest ancestors emigrate to the New World? Drop a comment – I’d love to hear your family story!